Associated Press

If he were in Jim Harbaugh’s khakis, Brady Hoke wouldn’t have punted


Oh boy.

The second-guessing when it comes to the end of the dramatic Michigan State-Michigan game Saturday has been incessant and seemingly non-stop.  With 10 seconds left and up by two at 23-21, U-M head coach Jim Harbaugh opted to punt the ball back to MSU on fourth-and-two from his own 48-yard line.  Punter Blake O’Neill, of course, botched the snap and could do nothing but watch as the Spartans’ Jalen Watts-Jackson returned it 38 yards for the game-winning score with no time left on the clock.

Some thought Harbaugh should’ve gone for the first down.  The line of thinking goes that, even if the Wolverines wouldn’t have converted, the Spartans, without any timeouts would’ve had anywhere from four to six seconds left seconds to convert what would’ve been a Hail Mary from around midfield.

One of those who espoused that after-the-fact tack?  Harbaugh’s predecessor in Ann Arbor.

“Personally, if we have the No. 1 defense in the nation I’m going to test those guys,” Brady Hoke, now a SiriusXM College Sports host, said on his radio show Wednesday. “You’ve got to play to the strength of your football team and the strength of the Michigan football team all year-long has been their defense. …

Your playbook’s open then, it doesn’t matter if you throw the ball the clock’s going to stop anyway because it’s a fourth down. You have an ability to get De'Veon Smith the ball, challenge your offensive line or play-action pass because Michigan State’s going to be aggressive. You take some time off the clock, four or five seconds. …

“Look, I know it’s easy from where we sit right now. I’ve been on the sideline and had to make decisions.”

Of course, Hoke was fired from those very same sidelines following a mediocre tenure, so many (most?) will see his point of view as nothing more than sour grapes from a dismissed former Wolverines head coach.  It is, though, fair to at least bring up the point that Harbaugh could’ve rolled the dice by going for it on fourth instead of taking the chance on a bad snap from the long-snapper or, what ultimately happened, a muffed snap by the punter.

Harbaugh wouldn’t acknowledge that he made a tactical mistake, but earlier in the week he did allow that he would’ve punted from a different formation if he had to do it over.

“It’s been my experience, you would’ve done it a different way,” Harbaugh said after his radio show Monday night. “You’d certainly like an attempt to try it a different way.”

“The strength of the pocket was to catch it, take a step to the right and punt the ball. That’s where the protection (was supposed to be).”

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.