BYU’s quest to reach CFB Playoff remains intact after victory over Houston

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BYU’s Thursday night meeting with the Houston Cougars had all the makings of a trap game for the home team.

Bronco Mendenhall‘s squad was coming off a season-defining 41-7 victory over the Texas Longhorns. BYU then returned home for first game at LaVell Edwards Stadium this season. The team brought a national ranking with it for the first time in two seasons. The No. 25 BYU Cougars could have been overconfident and let the visiting Cougars sneak away with a victory. Instead, BYU overcame mistakes to win the contest 33-25, while showing exactly why they have the potential to earn a bid as the non-Power Five qualifier for one of the New Year’s bowl games.

It starts with BYU’s quarterback, Taysom Hill. The senior didn’t have his best game by any stretch of the imagination. Hill was intercepted twice by the visiting Cougars. But he still amassed 360 total yards and a pair of touchdowns. The signal caller now has 689 passing and 356 rushing yards through three games. Hill provides BYU with an advantage every week, because he’s the best player on the field during each contest.

BYU surrounded Hill with the caliber of weapons that can make the Cougars’ offense special. Hill has his choice between multiple massive targets, including 6-6 wide receiver Mitch Mathews and 6-6 tight end Devin Mahina. The offensive line is a good combination of talent and experience. Running back Jamaal Williams is a tough runner between the tackles who ran for 139 yards Thursday. And the Cougars even adjust their tempo to control what opposing defenses can and cannot do against their offense. It makes it very difficult to adjust to what BYU does when it has the ball.

On the defensive side of the football, BYU’s scheme is flexible and has plenty of talent at each level. Senior Alani Fua is the wild card. The 6-5 linebacker can line up as an edge rusher and beat opposing offensive tackles to get pressure on the quarterback, or he can line up in coverage over a wide receiver. The team’s secondary is also very physical, and the play-calling is always aggressive. This unit sets the tone for everything the team does each week.

Finally, BYU has gotten past a possible stumbling block against Houston. Mendenhall and his squad can now look to the future and a schedule that sets up nicely in the coming weeks. The Houston contest was the first of three straight home games. The Virginia Cavaliers and Utah State Aggies are next on the docket. If BYU can avoid losses at UCF on Oct. 9 and Boise State Oct. 24, the Cougars will likely face the Pac-12 Conference’s Cal Golden Bears with perfect season on the line during the last week of the regular season.

The talent is finally in place for BYU to make the run that’s been expected of it since Mendenhall took over the program.

Stanford adds linebackers coach with NFL experience

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Stanford added a new coach to the program on Monday with the hiring of Eric Sanders. Sanders was named Stanford’s assistant coach for inside linebackers.

Sanders comes to Stanford following a season with the NFL’s New York Jets. Prior to his brief stint with the Jets, Sanders was a defensive assistant for three seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Sanders has also coached with the Oakland Raiders.

This is a return to Stanford for Sanders. Sanders coached with the program in 2015 as a defensive assistant.

“Eric was with us for our 2015 Rose Bowl Championship season and he was so smart, energetic and detailed that I knew someday we’d bring him back,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said in a released statement. “Eric has great comprehensive knowledge having worked with the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs throughout his career, and he’s spent the last three years with Gregg Williams who is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL.”

Sanders has also held college coaching jobs with his alma mater, UC Davis, and Utah State in addition to Stanford.

Wisconsin TE Luke Benzschawel medically retires after fourth knee surgery

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Wisconsin redshirt senior tight end Luke Benzschawel is calling it a career. The senior announced he is medically retiring from the sport of football following his fourth knee surgery.

I consider myself fortunate to have been part of the Wisconsin football program for the past four years. I have not been as fortunate when it comes to my health,” Benzschawel said in a statement shared on his Twitter account on Monday. “However, after undergoing a fourth procedure on my knee, and despite giving everything I have to get back on the field, my doctors and I have decided that the time has come for me to step away from the game.

Benzschawel played in 15 games during his injury-plagued college career with the Badgers. Benzschawel is the younger brother of former Wisconsin offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel. Benzschawel injured his knee during fall camp last August and did not see the playing field during the 2019 season as a result.

Alabama strength coach Scott Cochran leaving Tide for new on-field coaching role at Georgia

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One of Alabama’s most recognized sideline personalities appears to be heading to another SEC program. Alabama strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran, a man whose identity has become as well known as any strength coach can possibly be over the last few years, is reportedly heading to Georgia to take on a brand new role.

There have been many reasons for Alabama’s overall success with Nick Saban as the head coach. Having Cochran on his staff has certainly been one of the key reasons because he has been recognized as one of the nation’s top strength and conditioning coach (he’s won the award for top strength coach twice). And it may not be much of a coincidence that Cochran has been one of the only assistants on the staff for each of Saban’s national championship seasons between Alabama and LSU. His voice and energy seen on the field in warmups and on the sidelines has become a draw for television cameras in more recent years and he has been one of the leaders in the movement to recognize more strength and conditioning coaches during gamedays.

It should come as little surprise Cochran would be an attractive option for Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, a former Alabama defensive coordinator who worked alongside Cochran in Tuscaloosa. What role Cochran will be taking on remains to be confirmed, however, as reports say he will not be Georgia’s strength and conditioning coach. That role is currently held by Scott Sinclair in Athens.

No matter what role Cochran takes at Georgia, and how that ultimately pans out for the Bulldogs, this is a notable loss for Saban and Alabama. Granted, Alabama should be able to find a more-than-qualified strength and conditioning coach to take over the very lucrative (and high-paying) job, so it’s not like this will turn Alabama football into a doormat (much to the dismay of Alabama haters around the SEC and beyond).

UPDATE (6:38 p.m. ET): Alabama head coach Nick Saban has issued a statement regarding the departure of his longtime strength coach:

Ole Miss QB John Rhys Plumlee, RB Jerrion Early also starting for Rebels’ baseball team

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John Rhys Plumlee and Jerrion Early were two of the best athletes on Ole Miss’s football team in 2019. The pair, both true freshmen, led the club in rushing; Plumlee rushed for 1,023 yards and 12 touchdowns while also throwing for 910 yards and four touchdowns, and Early ran for 722 yards and six scores on nearly seven yards per carry.

But it’s actually an understatement to limit the backfield mates’ athletic ability to just the football team. They’re two of the best athletes at the school, period.

The Rebels’ baseball team, ranked No. 13 in the country by Baseball America, is off to a 6-1 start with both Plumlee and Early contributing.

Early, a 31st round selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Jackson Prep in Walnut Grove, Miss., has appeared in five games with three starts at center field. He’s 1-of-8 with four walks, three runs scored and three stolen bases in as many attempts.

Plumlee has appeared in four games to date, starting Saturday’s win over Xavier in left field. He’s struggled at the plate thus far, going 0-for-7 with five strikeouts, though he has scored one run and stole a base in his only attempt.

The Hattiesburg native is not only juggling college classes while playing two sports, but he’s also in the midst of a quarterback battle with fellow rising sophomore Matt Corral while learning a new offense under new head coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

Both players are giving it a go on the diamond, but their new head coach has made it clear where their bread is buttered.

“We want that to be (Plumlee’s) first priority, because if you’re going to be in something, I just think you go with it, and whatever time he has left he’ll come to us,” Kiffin told OM Spirit.

“I talked about it with baseball…let’s see how it goes,. They’re (Plumlee and Ealy) all in right now on baseball, and then let’ see. If they’re having a significant role, they’ll stay in there. If they’re not, then they’ll probably come back and do more football,” said Kiffin.