Make room: Urban joins Saban on the college coaching mountaintop

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Go ahead and make all of the “family” and “sabbatical” jokes you want; Urban Meyer will just continue winning football games and defying the detractors, thank you very much.

Entering the College Football Playoff title game, Meyer was already considered one of the best head coaches in college football. Exiting it, he’s cozied up side-by-side with the current king of college football coaching.

The resounding 45-20 win over Oregon in the College Football Playoff title game marked the third of Meyer’s career, with the first two coming at Florida.  The only other head coach in the history of college football to win national titles at two different schools?  Nick Saban, who’s won three at Alabama after winning one at LSU.

What sets Meyer apart from Saban, or anyone else for that matter, however, is this latest title.

Never once did Saban win a title at either school with a backup quarterback; Meyer’s third title came with his third quarterback of the year.  It was, simply put, one of the greatest coaching jobs in recent college football history.  Or ever.

And it wasn’t just overcoming the losses at such a key position.  There was the inexplicable loss on the field — double-digit defeat to Virginia Tech in Columbus — and an unbearable loss off of it — the suicide of walk-on Kosta Karageorge — that Meyer and his coaching staff were forced to navigate, each requiring different, nuanced approaches to get the team back on track and pointed toward what became an increasingly obtainable postseason goal.

Even coming into the season there were question marks, with the offensive line needing to replace four starters and the running game searching for a replacement for All-Big Ten running back Carlos Hyde.  At season’s end, OSU’s line was one of the best in the Big Ten if not the country while Ezekiel Elliott (76-696-8 in three postseason games) made fans say “Carlos who?”

Despite all of that tumult and turmoil, Meyer and the Buckeyes began the postseason by curb-stomping Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten title game, then beating the Nos. 1 (Alabama) and 2 (Oregon) playoff seeds to win the program’s first championship in a dozen years.  Viewed through the prism of a third-string quarterback, it was as epic of a run that you may ever see from a team that, from the inside, wasn’t really expected to do much even prior to Braxton Miller‘s injury.  As I wrote earlier, the scariest part for college football in general and the Big Ten specifically is that Meyer himself acknowledged during the early portion of the season this team was a year away from contending for a national title.

Instead, that internal plan was accelerated by a year in very public fashion, with Ohio State, given the copious number of returning talent, likely entering 2015 as the No. 1 team in the country.  And, after the way the 2014 season began, it’s astounding that statement can be made in anything other than jest.  After seeing the buzzsaw Meyer’s Buckeyes became, it’s anything but.

On the field, with the win in the semifinal, Meyer and Saban are now 2-2 in head-to-head meetings.  On the recruiting trail, where wins are nurtured and cultivated, Saban remains the king — but Meyer’s not far behind.

Provided this year’s class remains where it’s at, the Tide will pull in the No. 1 recruiting class for the seventh time in the last eighth cycles.  In Meyer’s first three years, the Buckeyes finished third (2014), second (2013) and fourth (2012); this year’s class is currently seventh, although it’s expected to be Top-Five in caliber by the time Signing Day rolls around next month.

Along with Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Meyer and Saban will continue to battle it out for years on the recruiting front.  How many years will that battle continue?

Saban is 63 years old, while Meyer is 50.  Both coaches are within reach of tying, or even surpassing, Bear Bryant‘s individual record of five national championships.  How long Saban wants to continue coaching remains to be seen, although it doesn’t appear that the desire will burn out anytime soon.  Perhaps, even, the ascension of Meyer and the Buckeyes will help that fire burn a little hotter.

Saban then Meyer, or Meyer then Saban?  I don’t really know; I’ll let others put one ahead of the other if that’s the tack they want to take.

What I do know is that they are both the best the game of college football has to offer right now, and are among the best in any sport.  Something else I know?  If I had a son, I’d want him to play for either coach.  That’s the highest compliment I can pay either man.

The coaching legacies will ultimately work themselves out, but there was one certainty prior to Monday night: if Meyer hadn’t caught Saban, he was nipping at his heels.  Post-Monday night? At bare minimum, Meyer has pulled up side-by-side with his former, current and future nemesis.

Let the debate rage.  Being nearly a decade and a half younger and after further bolstering the résumé to near-Nicktator proportions, though, it’s no longer a given that when somebody asks who the best coach in college football is, the name “Saban” is automatically blurted out.

WR Weston Bridges is fourth Michigan State player to enter portal

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In the offseason, Weston Bridges changed positions.  Midway through the 2019 season, it appears Bridges is now set to change schools.

On his personal Twitter account Monday afternoon, Bridges indicated that he has decided to take his leave of Michigan State and transfer to an undetermined elsewhere.  It has subsequently been confirmed that the wide receiver is headed into the NCAA transfer database.

A three-star member of the Spartans’ 2017 recruiting class, Bridges was rated as the No. 31 running back in the country and the No. 24 player at any position in the state of Ohio.  During the spring this year, Bridges moved from running back to receiver.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Bridges carried the ball 16 times for 53 yards last season.  He was suspended for a late-September game because of unspecified violations of team rules.

Bridges is the fourth MSU football player to enter the portal since the 2019 season kicked off, joining linebacker Brandon Bouyer-Randle (HERE) as well as a pair of running backs in Connor Heyward (HERE) and La’Darius Jefferson (HERE).

Louisville’s season-opening QB starter to undergo year-ending surgery

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Jawon Pass began the 2019 season as Louisville’s starter under center.  After a couple of weeks of uncertainty, the redshirt junior will end it on the sidelines.

Pass suffered what turned out to be diagnosed as a case of turf toe in the season-opening loss to Notre Dame.  It wasn’t severe enough, however, to keep the starting quarterback out of the Week 2 win over Eastern Kentucky.

The past four games, though, Pass has been sidelined because of the injury.  Tuesday, it was confirmed by the football program that, as some have speculated, Pass will undergo surgery and, as a result, miss the remainder of the 2019 season.

With Pass sidelined, Malik Cunningham had started all four games in his place.  The redshirt sophomore, though, has been dealing with his own injuries, including a knee issue, that at least temporarily knocked him out of a pair of games.

True freshman Evan Conley replaced Cunningham both times, and was even named as the ACC’s Quarterback and Rookie of the Week for his performance in the upset of Wake Forest this past weekend.

For the season, Cunningham has completed 44-of-66 passes (66.7 percent) for 820 yards, seven touchdowns, one interception.  Conley is at a 64.9 completion percentage on his 37 attempts, throwing for 422 yards, four touchdowns and a pick.  Cunningham is the Cardinals third-leading rusher with 226 yards, while Conley is fifth with 84.

As of today, head coach Scott Satterfield has not named a starter for this weekend’s game against No. 3 Clemson.

USC’s leading rusher set for knee surgery

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Vavae Malepeai tolerated the pain as long as he could, until he couldn’t.

A knee injury sidelined Malepeai for most of USC’s summer camp.  Even as he had played — and played well — in all six games, the issue lingered on into the regular season; this weekend, the pause button was hit on Malepeai’s year as Clay Helton confirmed that the running back will undergo surgery to repair the damage to his knee.

No timetable for a return was given.

“Vavae is a warrior,” the head coach said according to the Los Angeles Times. “[He was] dealing with a sore knee and really fighting through it for his team. It’s just gotten to the point where it’s gotten too sore, so we’re going to go ahead and take care of it now.”

Malepeai’s 406 yards rushing and four touchdowns currently lead the Trojans.

With Malepeai out for the foreseeable future, Markese Stepp and Stephen Carr will see their opportunities in the running game increase.  Stepp is second on the team with 241 yards rushing, Carr third at 233.  Both players have a pair of touchdowns each on the ground.

Mike Leach banned Wazzu players from social media

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With this development, just how Washington’s State’s “fat, dumb, happy and entitled” football players will communicate with their “fat little girlfriends” is the great unknown.

After starting the 2019 season 3-0, dropped two straight games heading into the bye — the first an embarrassing collapse against UCLA and then a 25-point beating on the road against then-No. 19 Utah.  Following the loss to the Utes, Tracy Claeys stepped down as Wazzu’s defensive coordinator.

Leading into this past weekend’s game against Arizona State, the Pac-12 Network confirmed, Mike Leach banned his players from using social media late last month because of the distractions such activities bring.

“I think we entertain too many distractions,” the head coach explained to the network, by way of the Yakima Herald, “and if I had it to do over again, I would’ve done it when we started camp. But no, I think we entertain too many distractions. I think we’re a little too distracted right now, but I think there is a team-wide determination to be less distracted.”

The social media ban wasn’t an immediate elixir for what ails Wazzu, however, as they fell to No. 18 Arizona State 38-34 in Week 7.  The Cougars jumped out to a 10-0 lead and held leads of 31-24 (early in the fourth quarter) and 34-31 (late in the fourth quarter) before allowing the game-winning touchdown with less than 40 seconds left on the clock.

With the loss, Wazzu now sits at 0-3 in Pac-12 play.