Oregon Ducks make case to be ranked No. 1 overall


The College Football Playoff committee uses each week as an opportunity to reassess its entire rankings.

This week the Oregon Ducks should enter the conversation to be ranked No. 1 overall.

While a 47-19 victory during the Civil War against the Oregon State Beavers isn’t exactly a major resume builder, cracks were revealed in the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide’s exterior during this year’s vision of the Iron Bowl.

Alabama dug deep and earned an impressive 55-44 victory against the No. 15 Auburn Tigers. But the Crimson Tide was exposed in areas where the Ducks excel.

First and foremost, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the best player in the country. Even if an argument breaks out that Mariota isn’t the nation’s top player, he’s clearly a superior quarterback to Alabama’s Blake Sims.

Sims threw three interceptions against Auburn, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban considered pulling him from the contest. Sims redeemed himself during the second half, but Mariota hasn’t even thrown three interceptions all season.

The Heisman favorite was nearly flawless against the rival Beavers. Mariota only threw six incomplete passes. The Ducks quarterback also accounted for six touchdowns.

Oregon clearly owns an advantage at the game’s most important position.

Second, Auburn wore down Alabama’s defense by playing with constant tempo. Gus Malzahn‘s offense racked up 630 yards against Alabama’s vaunted defense. If Auburn capitalized on three early red zone trips instead of kicking field goals each time, the complexion of the game could have been very different.

Like Auburn, Oregon can play at a breakneck pace and cause plenty of problems for Alabama’s defense.

Oregon also has the play-makers to exploit the Crimson Tide’s lack of talent at cornerback. Auburn’s pair of starting wide receivers combined for 327 receiving yards.

While the Ducks’ skill players don’t present the same size mismatch outside, they are quick and difficult to cover in small areas if Mariota is given time to throw. Byron Marshall accounted for 165 total yards on only eight touches Saturday.

Finally, Oregon should have been ranked higher than Alabama initially.

Prior to the Crimson Tide defeating then No. 1 Mississippi State, Alabama was ranked fifth overall, while Oregon was sitting at the second slot. A loss to the No. 1 overall team usually allows the program just behind them to take over the top spot. Instead, the committee found a way to rationalize placing Alabama at No. 1 overall and leapfrogging the Ducks. However, Mississippi State is now a two-loss team after losing to the Ole Miss Rebels in the Egg Bowl. Alabama’s best win is not as impressive today as it was last week

Oregon’s only loss came at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats. The Ducks will have an opportunity to avenge their line defeat in next weekend’s Pac-12 Championship Game and roll into the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Thankfully, all of this will finally be settled on the field, whether Oregon and Alabama eventually meet in a a semifinal contest or the National Championship Game (as long as they don’t falter in their conference championship games).

Tennessee officially announces addition of USC transfer WR Velus Jones

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The newest member of the Tennessee Vols football team is officially onboard.

Earlier this month, Velus Jones announced on social media that he would be transferring from USC to Tennessee. Two weeks later, the Tennessee Vols football program confirmed the wide receiver’s addition to the roster.

The move continues what’s been a winding, twisting collegiate journey for Jones.

Originally committed to Alabama, Jones flipped to USC… then to Oklahoma… then back to USC before ultimately signing with the Trojans in 2016. In March of 2019, Jones placed his name into the NCAA transfer database. Three months later, however, Jones reversed course and remained with the Trojans.

Jones, a three-star 2016 signee coming out of high school in Alabama, was fourth on the Trojans in receptions (24) and receiving yards (266) as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. He also led the team with a 22.7 yards per kick return average. A year later, though, that production dropped to just 35 yards on six receptions.

For his career thus far, Jones has totaled 347 yards and a touchdown on his 36 catches.  He also scored a rushing touchdown in 2018.  On 82 kick returns spread out over three seasons, he averaged 23.7 per.

As a graduate transfer, Jones will be eligible to play for the Vols in 2020.  The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

Auburn announces new three-year deal for DC Kevin Steele

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When it comes to the defensive side of the ball, the Auburn Tigers football program has ensured some continued coaching continuity.  At least for now.

Earlier Wednesday, Auburn announced that defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has agreed to a new three-year contract.  The new deal would keep Steele on The Plains through the 2022 season.

The financial particulars of the new pact have not yet been released.  In 2019, the 61-year-old Steele took in $1.9 million in total pay according to USA Today‘s coaching salary database.  That figure placed him third in the SEC and fourth nationally.

“Kevin has done a fantastic job with our defense the last four years making it one of the best in the country,” Auburn Tigers football head coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement. “This will provide great stability and leadership for our defense in the future. I’m appreciative of Kevin’s hard work.”

In December of 2015, Steele was hired as Auburn’s defensive coordinator.  Prior to that, he held the same job at LSU.

From the school’s release:

During Steele’s tenure as defensive coordinator the last four years, Auburn’s defense has ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense. Auburn is one of only five FBS programs to hold opponents under 20 points per game in each of the last four seasons.

This past season, Auburn was sixth in the SEC and 17th nationally in giving up 19.5 points per game.  In total defense, the Tigers were seventh in the conference and 28th in the country as they allowed 337 yards per game.

Five Virginia Tech players, including three WRs, enter transfer portal in one day

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When it comes to the portal world, the Virginia Tech football program won the day.  Congrats?

As of this posting, three Virginia Tech football players announced on Twitter Wednesday that they have entered the NCAA transfer database.  Two of those entries are wide receivers — redshirt junior Hezekiah Grimsley (HERE) and true freshman Jacoby Pinckney (HERE) — to go along with running back Caleb Steward (HERE).

On top of that social-media attrition, it has been confirmed that yet another receiver, redshirt junior Phil Patterson, is in the portal.  As is defensive back Khalil Ladler, bringing the one-day total of Virginia Tech football players considering a transfer to five.

Five.  In one day.  The same day the program began winter workouts, it should be noted.

The trio of receivers in the portal actually pushes that group to four overall.  Earlier this month, Damon Hazelton signaled his intention to leave Blacksburg as well.

As for the recently-departed receiving corps particulars:

  • Grimsley — 53 career catches for 691 yards, three touchdowns. Stat line of 10-170-2 in 2019.
  • Patterson — 27 career catches for 269 yards, two touchdowns. Sta line of 6-72-1 in 2019.
  • Pinckney — Four-star 2019 signee who took a redshirt as a true freshman.  He was the No. 3 player regardless of position in the state of South Carolina.

As a redshirt freshman this past season, Steward ran for 85 yards on 19 carries.  Coming out of high school, Steward was a three-star 2018 signee.  He was rated as the No. 74 running back in the country and the No. 196 player at any position in the state of Florida.

A redshirt junior, Ladler played in 13 games each of the past three seasons.  During his time with the Hokies, the Georgia native was credited with 96 tackles, 6½ tackles for loss, five pass breakups, five passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumbles recovered.

Boise State, Mountain West release joint statement

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The developing situation between Boise State and the Mountain West Conference has taken yet another twist.

Earlier this month, the MWC announced a new six-year television deal that would significantly increase the annual revenue for league members.  The only problem?  MWC commissioner Craig Thompson stated earlier this month that Boise State’s sweetheart arrangement that allowed it to receive broadcast revenue above and beyond what other league members receive — originally part of a deal to remain in the conference after briefly going to the Big East during realignment’s heyday — would be coming to an end when this new deal expired.

That was apparently news to Boise State, which stated Tuesday that the university was “weighing our options to move forward.” One of those options, apparently, was the legal one as it was reported earlier Wednesday that Boise State filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the MWC.

Two hours or so after those reports emerged, a “joint statement” from Boise State and the Mountain West addressed the latest development.

Last week, Boise State filed a complaint regarding media rights against the Mountain West Conference; however, that action alone does not formally begin a lawsuit. The University and the Mountain West are currently in discussions in hopes of bringing this matter to a resolution without litigation.

In the agreement that allowed Boise State to return to the MWC after the Big East flirtation, the university was to receive an additional $2 million in conference revenue annually.