Melvin Gordon’s grand finale ends with Wisconsin topping Auburn in OT for Outback Bowl win

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Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns, inching closer to the NCAA single-season rushing record, to help power No. 18 Wisconsin (11-3) past No. 19 Auburn (8-5) to an overtime victory in the Outback Bowl. A missed field goal by Auburn secured a bowl victory for Barry Alvarez and Wisconsin, 34-31, on New Years Day in Tampa, Florida.

Wisconsin and Auburn traded scored from start to finish, but Wisconsin turned a game of touchdowns into a game of field goal kicking down the final stretch of the game. Down 31-28 with just under three minutes to play, Wisconsin drove deep into the Auburn end of the field in the final moments of the fourth quarter before having to settle for a game-tying field goal from Rafael Gaglianone. Gaglianone opened the overtime session with his second field goal of the game to give the Badgers an overtime lead on the first possession. Auburn was unable to move the football on offense on their overtime possession, forcing Daniel Carlson to attempt a long field goal that bounced off the goal post, giving Wisconsin the win.

Wisconsin tried dabbling with the passing game in the first half, but Joel Stave was picked off three times before Alvarez started going back to the big running game with Gordon and Corey Clement. Gordon turned in what may have been a game-changing play when he took off for a powerful 53-yard run on fourth and one. It was a gutsy call by Alvarez, but he was rewarded by Gordon’s amazing effort to stay in bounds to score a touchdown that put the Badgers in front at the time, 21-17. It was the second rushing touchdown of the quarter from Gordon, adding to his 25-yard score earlier in the half. Gordon was the story of the second half, but Auburn came up with an answer every time for a while.

Auburn struck right back with Nick Marshall playing well under center and making some very good throws. C.J. Uzomah hauled in a 20-yard pass down the right sideline once his defender was caught taking a look back. That allowed him to create just enough separation to race down field and score a touchdown to give the Tigers a three-point lead. With the ball back in Wisconsin’s hands, Alvarez stuck to what works best, and that meant running the football with Gordon and Clement. That move paid off with Gordon adding his third touchdown of the afternoon on a six-yard push up the middle to reclaim the lead. As was the story of the second half, the lead would be short-lived, as Auburn responded on the ensuing possession. The Auburn go-ahead touchdown — coming on a short run by Cameron Artis-Payne — was given an extra chance following a somewhat questionable defensive pass interference called on the Badgers in the end zone on a fourth-down play.

The win was a big one for the Big Ten, although the conference’s other bowl teams in action at the time were staring down some double-digit losses. Auburn was the fourth team from the SEC West to suffer a loss this bowl season, joining LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Arkansas and Texas A&M won their bowl games, and Alabama will take on Ohio State later.

Moving forward, Wisconsin will hand the program over to Paul Chryst. Chryst will take over without Gordon, but Clement is a nice option to have in the backfield. Quarterback play will have to improve under Chryst, but this is one of his specialties. Auburn is not going anywhere either. The Tigers will once again be a dynamic team in the SEC in 2015, and the addition of Will Muschamp to the coaching staff figures to help the defense improve.

USC safety C.J. Pollard enters transfer portal

USC safety C.J. Pollard has entered the NCAA transfer portal.
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USC safety C.J. Pollard announced he decided to enter the transfer portal. The redshirt junior posted on his Twitter account Monday morning he will begin evaluating his transfer options with the intent on being a graduate transfer.

“After considerable thought and prayer, I have decided to enter the Transfer Portal as a GRADUATE,” Pollard posted on his social media account.

As a graduate transfer, Pollard will be eligible to play for any other FBS program in the fall, without having to sit out a season. Pollard will have just one final season of eligibility to use this upcoming season.

Pollard appeared in 12 games for USC in 2019 and recorded 15 tackles, with one tackle for a loss. Pollard was listed second on the USC depth chart at the end of the 2019 season. Pollard was the first backup free safety listed behind starter Isaiah Pola-Mao, a redshirt sophomore set to return and (likely) continue being the starter for the Trojans in 2020.

DeMarco Murray returns to Oklahoma as running backs coach

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In the past, Oklahoma’s running backs coaches might have pointed to DeMarco Murray as an example of how it’s done. Murray redshirted, fought through multiple serious injuries, stuck around for his senior year, set numerous program records and then led a productive NFL career, including leading the league in rushing in 2014.

Now, Oklahoma’s running backs coach will be DeMarco Murray.

Murray was announced Monday as the newest member of Lincoln Riley‘s coaching staff.

“This is a really exciting day, being able to welcome one of our program’s all-time best players back to Norman,” Lincoln Riley said in a statement. “DeMarco had a tremendous playing career both at OU and in the NFL and has a passion for coaching and helping young men grow as players and people. He’s got an incredibly bright coaching future and will be an outstanding mentor to our players. I don’t think there’s anyone better to lead our running backs. Everyone in our program is excited to have DeMarco, his wife Heidi and their children as part of our family.”

A product of powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Murray signed with Oklahoma in 2006 and left school with the program’s record in all-purpose yards (6,718) and touchdowns (65). That means, in all of OU’s storied history of producing prolific offenses, no player carried the ball for more yards or crossed the goal line more than Murray.

“This is very surreal,” Murray said. “Obviously I never thought I’d be back coaching at the place where it all started for me. Having the opportunity to come back and be among great coaches and be with some of the people I grew up with is exciting. I’m thankful for the opportunity Coach Riley is giving me and I’m looking forward to being back home.”

Murray replaces Jay Boulware, who left to become the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator at Texas, his own alma mater.

Murray arrives in Norman with only one year of coaching experience, serving as Kevin Sumlin‘s running backs coach at Arizona last season. After a 7-year NFL career, Murray spent 2018 as an analyst for FOX Sports.

All signs point to Bo Pelini being next LSU defensive coordinator

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Bo Pelini (remember him?) is set to be the next LSU defensive coordinator, according to multiple reports on Monday, though FootballScoop was the first to report on the possibility a full week ago.

Pelini will return to a job he held from 2005-07, when he served as Les Miles‘ first defensive coordinator in Baton Rouge and helped LSU win the 2007 national championship. From there, he became the head coach at Nebraska, where he went 66-27 in seven seasons. Though he never brought a Big 12 or Big Ten title to Lincoln, Pelini’s Huskers teams joined only Alabama and Oregon in winning at least nine games each year from 2008-14. After being pushed out following the 2014 campaign, Pelini has spent the past five seasons as the head coach at Youngstown State, where he is 33-28.

The volcanic Pelini represents a stark departure from the stoic Dave Aranda, who left earlier this month to become the head coach at Baylor.

According to Sports Illustrated‘s Ross Dellenger, Pelini will make around $2 million a year, which represents a massive raise from his salary as an FCS head coach but a major savings for LSU, who paid Aranda a best-in-the-nation salary of $2.5 million. (Update: CFT has learned Pelini’s salary is likely to be closer to Aranda’s deal than previously reported.)

Though he’s spent the past 30 seasons in coaching, Pelini does not have a ton of experience as a coordinator. Aside from the three seasons in his first stint at LSU, Pelini spent just one season as the defensive coordinator at Nebraska (2003) and one as a co-coordinator at Oklahoma (2004).

Nevertheless, he takes over a defense that’s fresh off a national championship that both loses and returns a ton of talent. The Tigers will look to replace all four starting linebackers plus defensive ends Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko, safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Kristian Fulton, but the 2020 defense will be led by perhaps college football’s best defender in sophomore corner Derek Stingley plus safeties JaCoby Stevens and Kary Vincent, Jr.

Clemson lands commitment from No. 1 prospect in 2021 class

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We’re just days away from putting the finishing touches on the mostly-complete 2020 recruiting class, and as such most coaches have turned their attention to 2021.

And, wouldn’t you know, Clemson is off to a blazing fast start. After Dabo Swinney landed the school’s first No. 1 overall class in 2020 — with an eye-popping six 5-stars among its 23 commitments, including No. 1 overall player Bryan Bresse — Clemson is once again ranked No. 1 in the early stages of the 2021 rankings.

They got there thanks to the Sunday night commitment of Korey Foreman, who stands as the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2021 according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Foreman hails from Corona, Calif., and he stands as yet another example of the national appeal Clemson has right now. He’ll pair with 5-star quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, a 2020 signee, as Golden State anchors as Clemson looks to further expand its orange-and-purple empire across all 50 states. Foreman’s pledge gives Clemson the No. 1 overall player in three of the last four classes, dating back to Trevor Lawrence in 2018.

Clemson’s 2021 class now consists of Foreman and eight 4-stars, edging Ohio State’s class of one 5-star, six 4-stars and a pair of 3-stars. Notre Dame, Texas and Florida currently round out the top five.