CFT Previews: Three X-factors for the National Championship

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You know about Marcus Mariota and Cardale Jones. You know about Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner and Ezekiel Elliott. You know about Urban Meyer and Mark Helfrich. You even know about Brutus and Puddles.

But here are three things you may not have considered that could paint the national championship trophy in scarlet and gray or apple green and electric yellow. We in the business like to call them X-factors.

1: Arik Armstead and Joey Bosa (and their friends). In a game that boils down to quarterback vs. quarterback, the team that makes the other guy’s signal caller most uncomfortable will likely win. Oregon pass rusher Armstead will look to get to Jones before he can get ahead of steam in the run game (or fire a 60-yard bomb to his plethora of speedsters on the outside). On the other side, constant pressure is the only proven antidote to beating Mariota in his three years as a starter.

2: Tyler JohnstoneIfo Ekpre-OlomuBralon AddisonDarren CarringtonDevon Allen and Pharoah Brown. Oregon obviously has fantastic depth to make it this far without the four listed above, but could there be a moment late in the game, with Ohio State fans joyous, Meyer cracking a smile and Puddles showing a longer face than normal, that you start to think, “Man, it’d be nice the Ducks had their top left tackle, top cornerback, top three wide receivers and/or top tight end, wouldn’t it?”

Chris Seisay did a fine job filling in for Ekpre-Olomu, and the Ducks limited Florida State’s Rashad Greene to six grabs for just 59 yards, but Ohio State’s receiving corps is better than the ‘Noles. The Oregon offensive line has charged along well without Johnstone this season, but they haven’t faced a defensive front as multi-faceted as Ohio State’s. Evan Baylis set career highs in the Rose Bowl with six receptions for 73 yards in the Rose Bowl, proving a capable replacement to Brown. But without Carrington, Allen and Addison (who hasn’t played at all this season), Oregon’s top remaining receiver is Dwayne Stanford, a sophomore who averaged 4.5 receptions for 44 yards in 13 games this season.

3: Sean Nuemberger and Aidan Schneider or Matt Wogan. These three anonymous gentlemen are your title game kickers. Ohio State has ridden with Nuemberger all year, to mixed results. The freshman has knocked in 13-of-20 field goals this year; he hit both of his tries in the Sugar Bowl but is just 5-of-10 from beyond 40 yards this season. Oregon has alternated between Schneider and Wogan this season, leaning on the former in the Rose Bowl. Schneider is 9-of-10 on the year, while Wogan is 7-of-9. Neither has been used a lot this season, and each squad’s dominance throughout the season means none of the three has been asked to make a game-on-the-line kick. Now there’s a greater than zero chance one of them will face that situation for the first time with a national championship on the line.

Purdue turns to Air Force for new D-line coach

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For the second time this week, Jeff Brohm has a new addition to his Purdue football coaching staff.

Tuesday, Marty Biagi was hired as special teams coordinator. Two days later, Terrance Jamison was hired as defensive line coach.

Jamison will replace Reggie Johnson, who wasn’t brought back for the 2020 season after three years with the Big Ten school.

“Terrance is a talented coach with a great background in defensive line technique and skill development,” the Purdue football head coach said in a statement. “He is an outstanding addition to our staff.”

Jamison spent the past two seasons as the defensive line coach at Air Force.

From Purdue’s release on Jamison’s hiring:

Jamison worked with an Air Force unit that finished in the top 20 in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision in a number of categories, including rushing defense (7th, 100.5), defensive touchdowns (12th, 3), total defense (17th, 319.6) and scoring defense (20th, 19.8).

Jamison has also spent time as line coach at Texas Tech (2017-18) and Florida Atlantic (2014-16). He’s also served as a defensive staffer at Wisconsin and Cal. With the Badgers, Jamison combined to serve four seasons as a student assistant (2008-09), quality control assistant (2011) and a graduate assistant (2012). With the Golden Bears in 2013, he was a quality control coach.

Minnesota’s Phillip Howard shifts gears, pulls name from portal

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For the third time in two days, this time to the benefit of the Minnesota Gophers football program, a player has reversed course on his portal intentions.

First, linebacker Andrew Pryts opted to return to Stanford. Then, it was wide receiver Kobay White shifting gears and making his way back to Boston College. Now, it’s Phillip Howard’s turn to pull his name out of the transfer database as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has reported that the cornerback will remain a part of the Minnesota Gophers football team.

Howard had first entered the portal earlier this month. On his Instagram account Wednesday, Howard seemed to intimate a change of heart by posting a picture of himself in a Gophers uniform.

 

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Trials and tribulations… My story different ⏳

A post shared by Phillip Howard (@_philllyyy) on Jan 22, 2020 at 3:37pm PST

Howard was a three-star member of Minnesota’s 2016 recruiting class. He took a redshirt his true freshman season.

As a wide receiver, Howard started seven of the 11 games in which he played in 2017. That season, he caught 11 passes for 132 yards. The following season, he caught two passes for five yards.

In between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, however, Howard moved to the defensive secondary. This past season, Howard played in 11 games as a cornerback. He had one interception and one forced fumble.

On social media, QB Jarren Williams confirms intent to transfer from Miami

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For Jarren Williams, his move on from Miami is unofficially official.

Late Thursday afternoon, it was reported that Jarren Williams had signaled his intention to leave Miami by putting his name into the NCAA transfer database.  The news surfaced three days after Houston transfer D’Eriq King, now the overwhelming favorite to win The U’s starting job heading into the offseason, transferred to Miami.

Thursday evening on his Instagram account, Jarren Williams confirmed in a statement that his intent is indeed to transfer from Miami.

First, I want to start by saying that these decisions are never easy. But, after prayer and counsel, I have decided to enter my name into the transfer portal.

“I want to thank all of my teammates for that everlasting brotherhood, the coaching staff for giving me an opportunity and the diehard fans for their support for UM. I cam here with dreams of winning National Championships and my only regret is that I will not be able to achieve that goal.

“Life is a journey and in this world you will be confronted with a fork in the road. I am at that fork and sometimes you can’t look back. I am looking forward to what God has in store for me next. With that being said, I wish UM all the best and a Championship year! #GoCanes

History would suggest there’s the slightest of possibilities that Jarren Williams could return to Miami. In December of 2018, the true freshman quarterback was set to transfer before being talked out of it by then-head coach Mark Richt.

It was the first of many ups and downs for Williams at the school.

Following a much-discussed quarterback competition, Williams began the 2019 season as Miami’s starting quarterback.  After starting the first five games, a shoulder injury knocked the redshirt freshman out for the next two; a non-football issue sidelined him for another.

Williams regained the job in the week leading into the Florida State game, helping the Hurricanes to its most lopsided win over its rival since 2001 and triggering the firing of FSU’s head football coach.  A week later, Williams led Miami, 2-3 at one point in the season, to its third straight win and fourth in five games as The U overwhelmed Louisville 52-27.

It was a historic performance for Williams personally in the win over the UofL as he threw six touchdown passes in just 21 attempts.  The half-dozen scoring tosses set the football program’s single-game record.

For the season, Williams threw for 2,187 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.  The Hurricanes went 4-6 in games he started.

With Williams’ departure, Miami could head into spring practice with five quarterbacks on the roster: King, rising redshirt junior N’Kosi Perry, rising redshirt junior Tate Martell, rising redshirt freshman Peyton Matocha and true freshman Tyler Van DykeEspecially when it comes to Martell, that sinal-calling roster is most certainly subject to change.

Michigan, USC added to Fresno State’s future schedules

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A common opponent has been added to the schedules of both the Michigan and USC football teams.

Thursday, Fresno State announced that it has reached an agreement with the Michigan and USC football programs for future games.  The Wolverines game will be played in 2024 while the Bulldogs will face the Trojans.

Obviously, both of those contests will be road games for Fresno State.

The game against Michigan will mark the first-ever meeting between the schools.  Fresno State and USC have met five times previously, the first coming the first in 1992 and the most recent in 2019.  The Trojans own a 4-1 record in the mini-series, with that lone loss coming in the first-ever meeting.

This past season, the Trojans got past the Bulldogs but lost starting quarterback JT Daniels to torn ACL.

Fresno State and USC had also been scheduled to meet again in 2022 and 2025.  According to USC, that 2025 game has been moved to 2026.