Marcus Mariota emerges as Heisman favorite during Oregon’s 45-16 win over Stanford

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This was the game everyone was waiting for from the No. 5 Oregon Ducks and their quarterback, Marcus Mariota.

For both the team and its quarterback to take the next step, they had to prove they could beat the Stanford Cardinal after falling to them during the past two seasons. The Ducks may not have been undefeated this season, but they certainly proved they’re worthy of being named one of the nation’s top teams with a 45-16 victory over the one team they couldn’t previously get past.

While Mariota was already considered one of the top candidates to win this year’s Heisman Trophy, the junior signal-caller may have moved his way to the forefront of the conversation with his performance Saturday.

Mariota was 19-of-30 passing for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He also had his largest rushing output of the season with 85 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Oregon’s quarterback is now completing 68.2 percent of his passes for 2,541 yards, 26 touchdowns and only two interceptions this season. Plus, Mariota ran for 410 more yards and seven touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Mariota’s top competition, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, hasn’t kept pace despite leading the nation’s No. 1 team. Prescott is completing 61.1 percent of his passes for 2,025 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The biggest advantage for the Bulldogs’ signal-caller is his 725 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. But a two-interception performance in a shaky effort against the 4-5 Arkansas Razorbacks certainly doesn’t help Prescott’s cause.

While the Stanford victory was a major milestone for Mariota, the quarterback wasn’t the only reason Oregon was able to finally overcome the Cardinal.

The Ducks were able to run the ball effectively for the first time in three seasons. Freshman running back Royce Freeman ran for more yards in this year’s game than the entire Ducks team did last season. Freeman finished the contest with 98 yards on 19 carries.

Oregon’s defense also didn’t allow Stanford to control the game with its running attack. The Cardinal ran for 132 yards and only averaged 3.4 yards per carry.

This victory now becomes a major building block for Oregon as its pursues an appearance in the first College Football Playoff. With Ole Miss’ loss to the Auburn Tigers, Oregon should claim the fourth and final spot from the playoff committee this week. The Ducks will then control their destiny during the rest of the season.

Florida State OL Landon Dickerson reportedly enters transfer portal… a second time

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The NCAA Transfer Portal is one of the offseason’s more fascinating developments and it should probably surprise nobody who follows the topsy-turvy nature of recruiting nowadays that we now have a track record of players entering the portal more than once.

Via SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic, Florida State offensive lineman Landon Dickerson is looking to transfer out of Tallahassee for the second time in four months:

Dickerson was expected to be a starter for the Seminoles had he returned to the team in 2019 and is one of the most experienced linemen on the roster. Health has been an issue for the former four-star recruit however, as he redshirted last year with an injury after starting the opener and suffered season-ending lower leg injuries in both 2017 and 2016.

The (likely) loss of Dickerson further increases the difficulty ahead for an FSU offense that has struggled up front — to put it mildly — the past several years. Randy Clements was recently hired as the team’s new line coach as part of Kendal Briles taking over as offensive coordinator so there will be big changes in store either way and a veteran could have certainly helped manage the transition as the ‘Noles try to climb back to national relevance after such a disappointing campaign last year.

Either way, Dickerson pioneering the double-transfer portal entry is probably an outcome that was entirely predictable for those who follow college football closely and bound to be much more common going forward.

Division III MIAC conference kicks out St. Thomas for being TOO good

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Here’s a story one doesn’t see everyday. Or hardly ever. A Division III athletic conference is actually kicking out a school for being too good.

Yep.

Being too good has resulted in St. Thomas athletics getting booted from the MIAC after the 2020-21 season, as both confirmed on Wednesday in a surprising bit of news out of Minnesota.

“After extensive membership discussions, the University of St. Thomas will be involuntarily removed from membership in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). The MIAC Presidents’ Council cites athletic competitive parity in the conference as a primary concern. St. Thomas will begin a multi-year transition immediately and meanwhile is eligible to compete as a full member of the MIAC through the end of spring 2021,” the league said in a statement. “St. Thomas is one of seven founding members of the MIAC and will leave the conference in good standing with a long and appreciated history of academic and athletic success.”

‘Competitive parity’ is the key phrase in the above release and goes to the heart of the matter. St. Thomas has ruled the league in football (among other sports) in recent years and are an impressive 78-10 record with six of the past nine conference titles under head coach Glenn Caruso. The Tommies have also won the MIAC All-Sports Trophy every single season on both the men’s and women’s sides since 2008, which speaks to their overall dominance of the conference across the board. St. Thomas is also the biggest school in terms of enrollment in the league as well and that size advantage is reportedly another factor in the Tommies having to find a new home.

Based on the school’s statement, they seemed to be handling the disappointing news as best they can but will no doubt be scrambling to find a new home in short order. If there is any silver lining from all this, St. Thomas did expressly say they would try to continue to play fellow MIAC rival St. John’s in football (in one of the great D3 rivalries on the gridiron) for as long as they can.

While it feels like such an action could never be undertaken at the FBS level at this point, the MIAC’s actions have to at least plant the seeds of exploration in doing the same by at least one or two SEC and ACC schools who have to play Alabama or Clemson every season. Well, at least it could with a few rival fans after seeing this puzzling news emerge out of the lower levels of NCAA athletics.

Southern Miss and Miami add non-conference game at Hard Rock Stadium for 2022

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Miami continues to fill out its non-conference schedule as the Hurricanes try to play a little catch up when it comes to filling out dates far off into the future like their ACC peers.

The latest addition to the slate comes in the form of Southern Miss, which confirmed a game at Hard Rock Stadium in the Miami area for Sept. 10, 2022.

“We are excited to announce these future games for our football program,” said Southern Miss Director of Athletics Jeremy McClain in a release. “Our scheduling philosophy moving forward will continue to include regionally based opponents that provide great opportunities for fans to enjoy Golden Eagle football.”

The meeting of ‘The U’ and USM will be the programs first ever meeting on the football field. The announcement comes a week after Miami inked a 2-for-1 series with in-state rival USF starting in 2025.

Both the Golden Eagles and the Hurricanes still have work left to do in 2022 to complete their non-conference schedule. Miami will play at Texas A&M during the same season and have two more openings while Southern Miss compliments the trip to South Beach with games against Liberty and Tulane.

Pitt announces addition of Florida grad transfer LB Kylan Johnson

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Pitt is adding some SEC speed to their defense this offseason.

The addition comes in the form of graduate transfer linebacker Kylan Johnson, who arrives in the Steel City after spending the past three years at Florida.

“Kylan is a really smart player with a great nose for the football,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said in a school release. “He can play either outside linebacker position and is a great fit for our scheme. Kylan’s experience and athleticism will be immediate assets for our linebacker group.”

After arriving in Gainesville as part of the class of 2016, Johnson wound up making nine starts for the Gators over a total of 33 games and recorded a total 83 tackles and a sack.

Johnson has a single season of eligibility remaining with the Panthers and arrives to help out a linebacking corps that is probably thinner than Narduzzi would like heading into 2019. Middle linebacker Elias Reynolds is the only returning starter at Pitt and the defending ACC Coastal champs also have to replace several other key contributors in the front seven for the upcoming campaign.

Pitt opens the season at home against conference rival Virginia on August 31.