Ole Miss’ upset of ‘Bama, Marcus Mariota claim ESPYs

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In somewhat of an upset given the others in its category, it was a 2014 college football game that claimed one of the numerous honors handed out at Wednesday night’s ESPY awards show.

And, fittingly enough, it was Ole Miss’ shocking of Alabama last year that claimed the ESPY for Best Upset. The others in the category were Georgia State stunning Baylor in March Madness this past spring and the Kansas City Royals sweeping the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series last fall.

Heading into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in early October last year, the Tide was cruising through the first half of its slate at 4-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country in the coaches’ poll. An hour of game time after kickoff, however, the goalposts came tumbling down as the Rebels claimed a 23-17 win over the Tide.

That win provided a couple of firsts for the Rebels football program: first win over the Tide since 2003, and its first-ever over a team ranked No. 1 in the country.  As the season wore on, though, it looked less and less like an upset as the Rebels finished the regular season at 9-3 and ranked ninth in the final College Football Playoff rankings. The fact that the ESPYs were voted on via online fan voting, though, may have something to do with this SEC team coming out on top in its category.

Additionally, former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was named the Best Male College Athlete.  The 2014 Heisman winner — as well as the winner of the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien and Unitas awards — Mariota left the Ducks as the all-time passing leader in nearly every major statistical categories and led Oregon to the brink of the first national championship in the program’s history.  This past April, Mariota was the second overall pick of the Tennessee Titans in the NFL draft.

The other male college athletes up for the award were Boston University hockey player Jack Eichel, Wisconsin basketball player Frank Kaminsky, Ohio State wrestler Logan Stieber and Vanderbilt baseball player Dansby Swanson.

There were five college football individuals/teams up for four other awards, but they didn’t fare as well as Ole Miss and Mariota.

Ohio State’s Cardale Jones was up for Best Breakthrough Athlete; Ohio State’s Urban Meyer for Best Coach/Manager; the entire Ohio State squad for Best Team; and Central Michigan’s Hail Mary in the Bahamas Bowl and Ameer Abdullah‘s touchdown run vs. McNeese State in the tournament-style Best Play.  The awards instead went to Little League sensation Mo’ne Davis, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, the U.S. Women’s World Cup title team and former LSU and New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr.‘s ridiculous one-handed catch, respectively.

The night may or may not have been a total loss for Jones, though, depending on the response he received to the Twitter request sent out to a fellow ESPY nominee.

Star WR Michael Pittman confirms he’ll play in USC’s bowl game

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(Pardon us as we’ve been catching up on a few things due to some very significant technical difficulties.)

USC fans can assuage their anguish somewhat over the retention of Clay Helton with the knowledge that one of their school’s most explosive weapons on offense will be available during the postseason. There, feel better?

After some uncertainty and speculation, Michael Pittman announced on Twitter this week that he will be playing in the Trojans’ bowl game. USC will face Iowa in Holiday Bowl Dec. 27, the first meeting between the football programs since 2002.

Pittman led the Trojans this season in receptions (95), receiving yards (1,222) and receiving touchdowns (11). The catches and yards led the Pac-12, while the scores were second.

The fourth-year senior was named first-team all-conference and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

FAU makes hiring of Willie Taggart as Lane Kiffin’s replacement official

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A week ago, it was reported that Willie Taggartbadly wants a second act” at USF.  While that job ultimately went to a Clemson coordinator, Taggart still ended up landing yet another gig in the Sunshine State.

With rumors swirling throughout the day, Florida Atlantic confirmed Wednesday evening that Taggart has been named as the Owls’ new head football coach.  Taggart replaces Lane Kiffin, who left shortly after FAU won the Conference USA championship game Saturday for the Ole Miss job.

“I’m grateful to Brian White and President Kelly for their belief in me to lead the football program at Florida Atlantic University,” a statement from Taggart began. “I’m looking forward to long-term success here. I think our players and the university deserve that commitment. Family is extremely important to me. I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support and all of us are looking forward to being here in Paradise for the foreseeable future.”

After four years as the head coach at South Florida, Taggart left USF for Oregon — for one season as it turned out as he pulled up stakes from the Pac-12 school for the Florida State job in December of 2017.  Less than two full seasons later, though, Taggart was shown the door by the Seminoles in early November.

Taggart is a native of Bradenton, Fla. and has deep, extensive recruiting ties in the state, which will only aid him in taking over a football program that has won two conference championships the past three years.

Taggart has never won a conference crown during his 10 seasons as a head coach, although he did claim a division title at South Florida in 2016.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Coach Taggart on board to lead our football program,” FAU athletic director Brian White said in his statement. “Coach Taggart is a proven program builder who will develop strong relationships with our student-athletes and develop them as future leaders. His deep relationships around the state of Florida and the nation will be vital in recruiting as well. The traits he brings to the table will allow us to continue building upon our recent success.”

FAU’s Harrison Bryant named Mackey Award winner as nation’s best TE

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In a change of pace, we come to an award that doesn’t involve either Joe Burrow or Chase Young.

The John Mackey Award winner was announced earlier in the day Wednesday, with Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant claiming this year’s honor.  The Mackey is handed out annually to the nation’s top tight end.

Established in 2000, the 2018 winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson.

This past season, Bryant caught 65 passes for 1,0004 yards and seven touchdowns.  Bryant led all FBS tight ends in both catches and receiving yards.

Bryant beat out seven other tight ends for the 2019 Mackey.

  • Hunter Bryant, Washington
  • Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  • Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
  • Colby Parkinson, Stanford
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

Ole Miss announces future home-and-home with Oregon State

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With the 2019 regular season put to bed, there is some future scheduling news on which to hit — and some very rare news at that.

Wednesday afternoon, Ole Miss announced that it had reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series with Oregon State.  The Beavers will travel to Oxford Sept. 18, 2027, with the Rebels making the trek to Corvallis on Aug. 31, 2030.

The 2027 game will mark the first-ever between the football programs.

According to Ole Miss, they have played a current member of the Pac-12 just twice, with both of those games coming against Cal.  Those games, incidentally, came in the last three years, including this season.

Oregon State last played a team from the SEC in 1987 when they traveled to Georgia.  A team from that conference has never played in Corvallis.