SEC leads all conferences with Madden NFL video game covers

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There may no longer be an NCAA Football video game produced by EA Sports, but that does not mean the SEC cannot find one more thing to brag about. With wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants, and previously of LSU, being named the cover athlete for Madden NFL 16, the annual NFL video game published by EA Sports, the SEC now has four all-time cover athletes on the most popular sports video game in the country. No other active conference has more than two Madden cover athletes.

LSU’s Beckham Jr. is the first Tigers player to appear on the cover of Madden. He joins Georgia’s Garrison Hearst (Madden NFL 99, the first cover athlete in the franchise’s history), Alabama’s Shaun Alexander (Madden NFL 07) and Peyton Hillis of Arkansas (Madden NFL 12). The SEC actually ties the old Big East for most all-time cover athletes. The Big East is the only conference to have a former Big East player appear on the cover in three successive seasons with Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick (Madden NFL 2004), Miami’s Ray Lewis (Madden NFL 2005) and Syracuse’s Donovan McNabb (Madden NFL 06). The Big East’s last representative on the cover was former Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (Madden NFL 10).

The ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 all have had two cover athletes each. Joining the Big East in the defunct conference category of Madden cover athletes are the Big 8 and WAC, each with one cover athlete. Barry Sanders (Madden NFL 25; he technically appeared on the cover of Madden NFL 2000 too, but that was as a background image behind John Madden) of Oklahoma State played in the Big 8 and Marshall Faulk (Madden NFL 2003) played at San Diego State when the Aztecs were in the WAC.

One more note for those with an interest. Two players from independent programs have been featured on the cover of the Madden NFL series, and neither hailed from Notre Dame. UCF’s Daunte Culpepper (Madden NFL 2002) and Southern Mississippi’s Brett Favre (Madden NFL 09) have each graced the cover. At the time these quarterbacks were throwing passes on Saturday afternoons though, both programs were independent programs.

What about Heisman Trophy winners on the cover? There have been three of them on the cover of Madden. In addition to Sanders, Ohio State’s Eddie George (Madden NFL 2001) and Vince Young of Texas (Madden NFL 08) have appeared on the cover of the game.

Madden NFL 99 – Garrison Hearst, Georgia

Madden NFL 2000 – John Madden (Barry Sanders was in the background image, but not specifically featured)

Madden NFL 2001 – Eddie George, Ohio State

Madden NFL 2002 – Daunte Culpepper, UCF

Madden NFL 2003 – Marshall Faulk, San Diego State, WAC

Madden NFL 2004 – Michael Vick, Virginia Tech

Madden NFL 2005 – Ray Lewis, Miami

Madden NFL 06 – Donovan McNabb, Syracuse

Madden NFL 07 – Shaun Alexander, Alabama

Madden NFL 08 – Vince Young, Texas

Madden NFL 09 – Brett Favre, Southern Miss

Madden NFL 10 – Troy Polamalu, USC; Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh

Madden NFL 11 – Drew Brees, Purdue

Madden NFL 12 – Peyton Hillis, Arkansas

Madden NFL 13 – Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech

Madden NFL 25 – Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State; Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma

Madden NFL 15 – Richard Sherman, Stanford

Madden NFL 16 – Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

LSU students will go to class on Saturday to make up for national title game

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LSU students who got to skip class for the national title game (and the ensuing celebrations…) were hit with a dose of reality returning to Baton Rouge on Friday.

According to an announcement from the university, classes that were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday for the championship game have been rescheduled. As a result, students will have to go to class on Saturday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 8.

So yes, Saturdays in the fall have resulted in a few Saturdays of work in the spring.

The school had received a bit of criticism when it was announced that classes were cancelled on the dates surrounding the championship game. While the practice has happened elsewhere, the nature of the game being less than an hour from campus in New Orleans certainly made things unique for the Tigers and their large fan base.

While some students no doubt had hoped that the classes at the time were indeed cancelled, it turns out they were in fact just being rescheduled. Going to school on a Saturday probably isn’t what many had in mind when signing up for the spring semester but there’s probably not a soul in purple and gold will take issue with the change given that it comes as a result of hoisting the ultimate football trophy on Monday night in the Big Easy.

Virginia safety Chris Moore enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal has claimed another name.

As first noted by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Virginia safety Chris Moore has entered his name into the database as he explores a move out of Charlottesville.

Moore started five of his nine appearances for the Cavaliers in 2019 and wound up recording 42 tackles. While he was in line to become one of the key members in the secondary going forward, a prior  suspension for violating team rules back in November may have wound up playing a role in his departure and standing with the team.

The safety had previously missed all of the 2018 season with an injury as well.

Moore was originally a three-star recruit out of Ashburn, Va. in 2016 and, assuming the redshirt senior has a degree, likely has a season remaining as a grad transfer.

DL Jay Tufele, WR Tyler Vaughns skipping draft to stay at USC

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Clay Helton has a lot of issues to deal with at the moment. Having a talented USC football team is not one of them.

The Trojans received a rare bit of good news on Thursday evening as two key players announced they were skipping the 2020 NFL Draft. In back-to-back announcements, defensive lineman Jay Tufele and wideout Tyler Vaughns confirmed they would remain in Los Angeles for the 2020 season.

Tufele is one of USC’s best defensive players. He recorded 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as a redshirt sophomore despite dealing with a handful of injuries. With leading sacker Drake Jackson also back, there’s a nice tandem up front for whoever the team hires as defensive coordinator to work with going forward.

Vaughns returning also makes a dangerous receiving corps that much deeper. Michael Pittman Jr. was lost to graduation but the next three top wideouts are set to be back in 2020. Add in a group of solid tailbacks and both J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis at QB and USC will once again have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12.

Whether it will all help save Helton’s job again remains to be seen. If nothing else though, there’s at least there’s some positive news for the cardinal and gold this offseason with Tufele and Vaughns back in the fold going forward.

Nebraska and OC Troy Walters “mutually agreed to part ways”

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A year after significantly falling short of expectations, an offseason of change has commenced at Nebraska.

In one of the first big moves since Scott Frost took over at his alma mater, the Cornhuskers and offensive coordinator Troy Walters announced on Friday that they had ‘mutually agreed to part ways.’

“Troy has been a valued member of our coaching staff for the past four years,” Frost said in a statement. “Troy is a good mentor for his players, provides great energy on and off the field, and carries himself with a presence off the field that will be missed. I want to thank him for his work on our coaching staff, and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

The duo first came together when Frost was hired at UCF and led a number of prolific offenses, including the undefeated 2017 team for the Knights. Walters was a finalist for the Broyles Award that same season though has not called plays for either team.

Walters had a distinguished career as a player at Stanford that included All-American honors and a Biletnikoff Award in 1999. He spent several years in the NFL before going into coaching during stops at Texas A&M, N.C. State and Colorado.

The departure of Walters could interestingly lead to a reunion between Frost and a familiar name in Mark Helfrich. The latter was head coach at Oregon when Frost was elevated to offensive coordinator for the Ducks and is in search of a job after being let go by the Chicago Bears from a similar role.