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.

Davey O’Brien Award releases 2019 watch list

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The Davey O’Brien Award released its 2019 watch list on Tuesday and, unlike the Maxwell and Bednarik awards, it did not seemingly include every player in college football. Only half of them.

In truth, 30 players were selected to the 2019 watch list, which means 100 eventual starting quarterbacks were not. Chief among them is Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, possibly because the O’Brien Foundation took the directive from Lincoln Riley that Hurts is not OU’s starter, yet.

On the list are 2018 finalist Tua Tagovailoa as well as semifinalists Ian BookMason FineJake FrommJustin HerbertD’Eriq KingTrevor LawrenceJordan Love and Shea Patterson. The SEC led the way with six representatives, followed by the Pac-12’s five and the Big 12’s four. California had the most native sons with seven, followed by Texas’ six.

The list will be whittled down to 16 semifinalists on Nov. 13 and three finalists on Nov. 25. The winner will be named as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards show on Dec. 12.

The full list:

Jake Bentley, South Carolina
Ian Book, Notre Dame
Alan Bowman, Texas Tech
Charlie Brewer, Baylor
Joe Burrow, LSU
K.J. Costello, Stanford
J.T. Daniels, USC
Sam Ehlinger, Texas
Mason Fine, North Texas
Feleipe Franks, Florida
Jake Fromm, Georgia
Justin Herbert, Oregon
Kelvin Hopkins Jr., Army West Point
D’Eriq King, Houston
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Jordan Love, Utah State
Adrian Martinez, Nebraska
Cole McDonald, Hawai’i
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Steven Montez, Colorado
James Morgan, FIU
Shea Patterson, Michigan
Bryce Perkins, Virginia
Brock Purdy, Iowa State
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Nathan Rourke, Ohio
Nate Stanley, Iowa
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Khalil Tate, Arizona
Zac Thomas, Appalachian State

Marshall, North Texas tabbed as C-USA favorites

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Conference USA released its preseason poll on Sunday, and the league’s media sees some change at the top. UAB topped Middle Tennessee to win the conference crown a year ago, but voters don’t see either team repeating atop their respective decisions this season.

In the East Division, Marshall is a moderate favorite, garnering 14 first-place votes, ahead of FIU’s nine and 2017 C-USA champion Florida Atlantic’s three. In the West, North Texas was far ahead of the pack with 20 first-place votes, far outpacing Southern Miss’ four. Defending champion UAB earned three first-place votes, but Bill Clark‘s Blazers actually came in fourth place overall, behind Louisiana Tech.

EAST DIVISION
1. Marshall (14)
2. FIU (9)
3. Florida Atlantic (3)
4. Middle Tennessee
5. Western Kentucky
6. Old Dominion
7. Charlotte

WEST DIVISION
1. North Texas (20)
2. Southern Miss (4)
3. Louisiana Tech
4. UAB (3)
5. UTSA
6. Rice
7. UTEP

North Texas has yet to win the conference since joining the league in 2013, though Seth Littrell did guide the Mean Green to the West title in 2017. Marshall won the conference in 2014 and took the East Division in ’13.

One Nebraska DB cited for weed, another for driving under suspension following traffic stop

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One of these days, every single state in the Union — along with the federal government — will fall in line and come to their senses when it comes to weed.  Until then, we’ll continue bringing you stories like this one.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, two Nebraska football players, safety Marquel Dismuke (pictured) and walk-on defensive back Jeramiah Stovall, were cited by Lincoln Police Department officers Friday night. Stovall was cited for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana while Dismuke received a citation for driving on a suspended license.

The twin citations came after Dismuke’s vehicle was pulled over for failing to display  a front license plate.

“We are aware of the incident and are addressing it,” a Nebraska official said in a very brief statement.

After playing in 19 games (one start) the past two years, Dismuke is a front-runner for a starting job entering summer camp. This past season, Stovall was named as NU’s Special Teams Player of the Year.

Kentucky confirms addition of Troy transfer QB Sawyer Smith

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It’s now officially official.

In late April, Sawyer Smith took his first step in moving on from Troy by announcing on social media that he had placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  Two weeks later, the quarterback used social media to reveal that his next stop at the collegiate level would be at Kentucky.

Monday, Smith’s expected new home confirmed the player’s addition to the roster.

”We’re excited to have Sawyer join our program,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said in a statement. “It’s great to add a quarterback with his experience and success. He helped lead Troy to an outstanding season last year and we’re glad to have him here.”

As Smith comes to the Wildcats as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to compete for a starting job immediately.  Additionally, he’ll have another season of eligibility he could use in 2020.

Smith played in 13 games this past season, including starts in the last seven.  In those appearances, the Florida native completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,669 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with six interceptions. He also rushed for 191 yards and another touchdown.

Terry Wilson started all 13 games for the Wildcats in a 2018 season that saw UK reach double digits in wins for the first time since Jimmy Carter was sitting in the Oval Office. Wilson, though, was 10th in the SEC and 63rd nationally with a 133.9 pass efficiency rating.

For what it’s worth, Smith’s 139 rating was fifth in the Sun Belt Conference and 47th in the country.