2015 could be the year of the running back in college football

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College football has been a game for quarterbacks over the last decade or so, but the 2015 college football season could be a big one for the running backs. The young running backs that have taken the big stage during the 2014 season have shown glimpses of what could be one of the finest seasons for fans of the running game in quite some time.

Just look at some of the names coming back to line up in the back field with authority in 2015.

Now a couple of years removed from the SEC’s best quarterback class in some time, the SEC should be heavy on the run in 2015. The SEC’s leading rusher returning in 2015 will be Georgia’s Nick Chubb for his sophomore season, and LSU freshman Leonard Fournette could also be worthy of striking his Heisman pose. Chubb rushed for 1,547 yards and an SEC-leading 14 touchdowns this season, and most of that came while backing up Todd Gurley until he went down to injury. Fournette also rushed for over 1,000 yards, including 143 yards in a bowl game loss against Notre Dame. If you need more running power from the SEC, look no further than Arkansas with sophomore Alex Collins. Collins is coming off a 1,100-yard season with 12 touchdowns and should be a big piece of the offense for Bret Bielema in 2015. If there is one thing Bielema knows how to do, it is run the football. With Collins on the field, Arkansas will do just that. Alabama will look for a big year from  too. Henry was 10 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season but he did rush for 11 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

Up north, the Big Ten should continue to see plenty of production on the ground. In 2014 the Big Ten running game was the story with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon earning a nod as Heisman finalist and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah a household name. But the Big Ten also saw great seasons from Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Minnesota’s David Cobb and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford. The Big Ten will lose all of these players to the draft, but there are some talented running backs ready to pick up the steam. Right now there is no hotter name among young running backs than Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, who turned in a postseason run worthy of Mr. January consideration. Wisconsin has Corey Clement ready to be the next running back in line in Madison. Two other sophomores to keep an eye on in the Big Ten will be Michigan’s Derrick Green, who could have a big impact if he bounces back healthy in 2015, and Penn State’s Akeel Lynch if the Nittany Lions firm up on offensive line.

Move just west of Penn State and you may find the best running back in the state with Pittsburgh’s James Conner. The sophomore led the ACC in rushing with 1,765 yards and his 26 touchdowns were twice more than the ACC’s next leading rushing touchdown leader, Boston College’s Jon Hilliman (a freshman). Florida State’s Dalvin Cook could have a huge role in 2015 as well.

Out west it is easy to get caught up in the quarterback action in the Pac-12. This year was certainly the case with players like Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, but next year could see some big years from running backs as well. Paul Perkins of UCLA led the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,575 yards this season and will be back in 2015. So will Arizona’s Nick Wilson, the conference’s fourth-leading rusher as a freshman, and Oregon’s Royce Freeman. Freeman did not have a great championship game against Ohio State, but he should take on a heavy load without Mariota leading the offense in 2015.

The pass-happy Big 12 is not without some impact running backs in 2015 either. Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine led the Big 12 with 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman in 2014. Baylor’s Shock Linwood was second in the Big 12  as a sophomore with 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns. West Virginia’s Rushel Shell is also capable of doing some major damage if the Mountaineers have more faith in him.

Quarterbacks will likely remain the face of many programs, but the 2015 season could be a huge season for the running backs.

Heisman favorite Joe Burrow headlines Davey O’Brien Award semifinalists

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When it comes to the semifinalists for one of the most prestigious quarterbacking awards in college football, they are who you thought they’d be (for the most part).

Wednesday afternoon, the Davey O’Brien Award released its list of 16 semifinalists for a trophy named in honor of the former TCU College Football Hall of Famer.  Headlining this year’s group is LSU’s Joe Burrow, who enters Week 12 of the regular season as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2019 Heisman Trophy.

One finalist from a year ago, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, is a semifinalist this year as well.  Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts is the only two-time semifinalist again in the mix, although this is his first time as a Sooner as the first two came while he was a member of the Crimson Tide.

Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence are also former semifinalists who are up for this year’s award.

The Big 12 leads all conferences with four semifinalists, followed by three apiece from the AAC, Pac-12 and SEC.  The Big Ten accounted for two while the ACC had one.

The 2018 winner of the Davey O’Brien Award was Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray.  Below is the complete list of semifinalists for the 2019 award.

  • Charlie Brewer (Baylor)
  • Shane Buechele (SMU)
  • Joe Burrow (LSU)
  • Sam Ehlinger (Texas)
  • Justin Fields (Ohio State)
  • Jake Fromm (Georgia)
  • Anthony Gordon (Washington State)
  • Justin Herbert (Oregon)
  • Tyler Huntley (Utah)
  • Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma)
  • Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)
  • Tanner Morgan (Minnesota)
  • Malcolm Perry (Navy)
  • Brock Purdy (Iowa State)
  • Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama)
  • Brady White (Memphis)

Miami (OH) one win away from first MAC East title in nearly a decade

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It’s been quite the conference turnaround for Chuck Martin‘s Miami (OH) squad the past couple of years.

In the head coach’s first four seasons, the Redhawks went 14-18 in MAC play.  With Wednesday night’s dominating 44-3 win over Bowling Green, Miami improved to 5-1 in the league on the season; the past two years, that record now stands at 11-3.

Not only that, but Miami is one win away from claiming its first MAC East title since 2010, closing out the regular season against winless Akron and a road trip to 4-5 Ball State.

At 6-4, the Redhawks could be going bowling for the first time since 2016 and just the second time in nearly two decades.  Two more wins would give the football program its most victories in a season since the 10-4 2010 squad that won the division and the conference championships.

Miami’s four losses this season, incidentally, have come to No. 2 Ohio State, No. 17 Cincinnati, No. 20 Iowa and Western Michigan, which currently leads the MAC West division.

In the latest win, a 27-point second quarter fueled Miami’s 37-3 halftime lead en route to its most lopsided win of the season over a non-FCS school.  Their previous four FBS wins had come by a combined 25 points, including three by seven points or less.

Bowling Green, meanwhile, was officially eliminated from the postseason as the Falcons’ record now sits at 3-7 on the season.

Texas makes Chris Del Conte the highest paid public school athletic director in the country

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We’re only a few weeks away from USC’s upcoming potential coaching search resulting in a bunch of raises for folks around the country but the Trojans’ now-filled athletic director chair may have produced one mega-deal for somebody who was of reported interest to Southern Cal earlier this month.

As the Austin American-Statesman notes, the UT System Board of Regents is all set to formally approve a new contract for Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte that will be among the richest in the country for his position and certainly tops among public schools.

“One of the things I do with all my people is look at where the market is and make sure that our best people are where the market is for those positions,” school president Gregory L. Fenves told the paper. “We got a great deal with Chris when I hired him two years ago, and I want to make sure that we’re still providing competitive compensation to the marketplace as a whole.”

The contract runs through 2027 and is worth over $18 million guaranteed for Del Conte, including a raise to $2.08 million beginning in 2020 and escalating from there. There is a steep buyout for Del Conte should he want to leave for another gig (just shy of the total amount left) or if the Longhorns want to fire him too, a clause more commonly found in the coaches contracts he will be tasked with handing out.

It’s not like the school can’t afford it though as Texas is regularly one of the three richest athletic departments in the country, generating over $200 million in revenue each of the past several years alone (the Statesman says the school took in $219.4 million last season). Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick is likely the only other AD in the country to make more with a reported salary of nearly $3 million to lead the Irish.

Del Conte, who arrived in Austin after successfully leading TCU into the Big 12, has been busy since taking over the gig, fundraising hundreds of millions to help expand Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium and recently to build a new basketball arena for the school.

Florida State players take to social media to support Odell Haggins as permanent head coach

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The Florida State coaching search has seemingly gone off the rails before it’s even begun but if the players themselves have a say in the matter, there’s a pretty clear choice as to who they would like to replace Willie Taggart full-time.

And it’s not the ex-FSU star that has been thrown out in various reports either.

In what appears to be a somewhat coordinated campaign on social media, defensive linemen Cory Durden, injured DL Marvin Wilson, linebacker Jaleel McRae and cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. were among several dozen members of the current 2019 team to have Tweeted their support for interim head coach Odell Haggins getting the permanent gig.

Haggins is in his second stint as interim head coach, having taken over for Jimbo Fisher when he left for Texas A&M and now again in the wake of Taggart’s firing. He’s 3-0 in charge of the program, including an impressive victory at Boston College last weekend. The Florida native played at FSU from 1985 to 1989 and after an All-American career and brief foray into the NFL, has spent his entire coaching career in Tallahassee at his alma mater as a line coach.

While it remains to be seen if he’ll get serious play for the gig given some of the big names being tossed around, former interim head coaches do occupy the top three spots in the latest College Football Playoff rankings and Haggins is as much Mr. FSU as anybody. It’s pretty clear the players support his candidacy and can certainly help things along on that front by winning out the rest of the regular season.