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Unranked USC upends No. 3 Utah in 42-24 blowout

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This was how it was supposed to be this season for USC. Speedy wide receivers slicing up defenses, while a running game chews up yardage and clock thanks to a dominant offensive line. A defense that matches the offense with big plays of its own. And a top five opponent sent home to lick its wounds. But thanks to a topsy-turvy, inconsistent start to the season, USC’s 42-24 win over Utah will go down as the upset that wasn’t.

Despite carrying in three losses to Utah’s none, bookmakers saw underachieving USC for what it was: a team capable of doing exactly what it did to the third-ranked team in the country.

The Trojans trailed 14-7 after the first quarter, but completely dominated from there. Cameron Smith got the ball rolling with a 41-yard interception return early in the second quarter, setting Soma Vainuku up for a game-tying one-yard touchdown plunge. Ronald Jones II gave the Men of Troy the lead with an 18-yard touchdown run with 3:40 to go before the half, and Smith added to it by snaring another Travis Wilson pass and racing it 54 yards for a touchdown.

Utah’s Andy Phillips added a 35-yard field goal just before the half to bring the score to 28-17, but that proved to be a brief respite in the midst of a route.

USC added to the lead by moving 83 yards over 17 plays and nearly nine minutes, culminating in a one-yard Cody Kessler sneak, then marched another 92 yards over eight plays and four minutes, capped by a 25-yard pass from Kessler to JuJu Smith-Schuster. The second score was set up by – you guessed it – another Smith interception. The true freshman was Wilson’s second-leading receiver on the night with three grabs for 122 return yards and a touchdown.

Utah added a cosmetic score with four minutes remaining when Wilson hit the Utes’ only bright spot of the evening, Britain Covey, for a 66-yard touchdown. Covey snagged seven receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns and set up Utah’s other touchdown with a 40-yard punt return.

Make no mistake, this night was about USC, and USC performing like the team it’s capable of being. Kessler hit 21-of-28 throws for 264 yards and a touchdown, Jones and Justin Davis combined to rush 34 times for 139 yards and two scores, and Smith-Schuster contributed eight grabs for 143 yards and a score.

So, what now? USC sits at 4-3 overall and 2-2 in Pac-12 play, good for fourth in the Pac-12 South. But the Trojans hold tiebreakers over Utah and Arizona State, and UCLA waits ahead on the schedule. Utah owns control of the Pac-12 South despite the loss, but the team that took the field Saturday night has at least one more loss ahead on the schedule.

The USC team that took the field Saturday night is absolutely capable of winning out, winning the Pac-12 South and avenging its loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game. The USC team that lost to Washington is capable of losing any of its final five games. Which version of these Trojans will win out? Only time will tell.

Clemson sees third player grad transfer out in less than a week

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For the third time in less than a week, the Clemson Tigers football program has fallen victim to the transfer portal.

First up was quarterback Chase Brice entering the NCAA transfer database late last week.  Next?  Defensive tackle Xavier Kelly hitting the portal over the weekend.  Monday, a Clemson Tigers football official confirmed that wide receiver T.J. Chase is portaling as well.

Matt Zenitz of al.com was the first to report the development.

According to 247Sports.com, Chase is on track to graduate in May.  That would give him immediate eligibility for what will be his final college football season in 2020.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class, Chase was rated as the No. 43 receiver in the country.  He was also the No. 33 player regardless of position in the state of Florida.

During his time at Clemson, Chase caught 25 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns.  He set career-highs in 2018 in receptions (13), yards (101) and touchdowns (two).  This past season, in Clemson’s run to another College Football Playoff championship game, Chase caught seven passes for 70 yards.

The receiver-heavy talent at Clemson shows no signs of abating anytime soon.  Last month, the Tigers added a pair of four-star wide receivers to the roster.

Kerry Coombs officially returns to Ohio State as DC

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The Ohio State Buckeyes football program has, as expected, brought back a familiar coaching face.

Speculation has been growing of late that Ryan Day would be adding Kerry Coombs to his OSU staff. Monday afternoon, the Buckeyes confirmed that Coombs has indeed returned to the program as defensive coordinator.

Coombs will replace Jeff Hafley, who left last month to become the head coach at Boston College.

In January of 2018, Coombs left OSU to take a job with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.  Prior to that, he was on Urban Meyer‘s staff for six seasons.

“Kerry Coombs is the coach I was really hoping we could hire and bring back to Ohio State,” the Ohio State Buckeyes football head coach said in a statement. “He is an excellent coach and he has had two outstanding seasons in the NFL on Mike Vrabel’s staff with the Tennessee Titans.

“I’ve spent a season on staff with Kerry and I really like his coaching and knowledge of the game, but I also like that he knows Ohio State and he knows how to recruit to Ohio State. He’s recruited some of the players currently on the team and he coached a handful of Buckeye defensive backs who went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.”

All six seasons he was at OSU, Coombs was cornerbacks coach.  He was promoted in 2017 to assistant coordinator, defense. He was also special teams coordinator from 2013-17.

Five corners who had Coombs as their position coach  — Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby and Denzel Ward — went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.

Coombs, a longtime Ohioan, spent the past two seasons as the Titans’ cornerbacks coach.

This will mark the 58-year-old Coombs’ first job as defensive coordinator at any level of football.

Jalen Hurts to represent both Alabama and Oklahoma at Senior Bowl

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The departure of Jalen Hurts from Alabama to Oklahoma was nothing but class. Not surprisingly, his departure from the college game will be just as classy — with the help of all-star game officials and a helmet company.

In January of last year, Jalen Hurts announced that he would be transferring from Alabama to Oklahoma for his final season of collegiate eligibility.  At the time, Nick Saban lauded the quarterback for “[t]he way he managed [the 2018 season]… and I think he showed a tremendous amount of class.”

After leading Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff — and with Alabama sitting out the CFP for the first time ever — and being named as a Heisman Trophy finalist, Hurts saw his collegiate career end with a throttling at the hands of LSU.  As he gets set to embark on what he hopes will be a career in the NFL, Hurts will take a huge first step in that direction by competing in the Senior Bowl.

Traditionally, the all-star game, which is played in the state of Alabama, features players who wear the helmets of the school from which they came.  Hurts will do the same, albeit with a twist.

On one half of the helmet, Hurts will wear the Alabama shade of Crimson with his old No. 2 on the side.  The other half, Hurts will have the Crimson of Oklahoma with the OU logo on it.

Hurts was surprised with the helmet, specially-made by the Riddell company, at a press conference in Mobile Monday evening.

Riddell actually made two of the custom helmets.  One will be worn by Hurts during the game.  The other will be auctioned off, with the proceeds benefitting charity.

For those interested, the Senior Bowl will be played this coming Saturday.  Kickoff is set for 2:30 ET.  The game will be televised by the NFL Network.

Miami lands AAC Defensive Player of the Year as grad transfer

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It has been quite the day for the Miami Hurricanes football program on the personnel front.

After some initial uncertainty, D’Eriq King announced earlier Monday that he will be transferring to the Miami Hurricanes football team.  Not long after, Quincy Roche announced that he will be doing the same.

The Temple defensive end entered his name into the NCAA transfer database earlier this offseason.

“This was not an easy decision, but without a doubt the best decision for me and my family,” Roche wrote on Twitter. “I am ready to bring leadership, toughness and [hard work] to the University of Miami Hurricanes football program as we push to win the ACC championship.”

The decision to transfer to Miami came after Roche took a weekend visit to Virginia Tech.  According to 247Sports.com, “[t]he elite edge rusher also drew interest from schools like Ohio State, Florida, North Carolina, Baylor, Ole Miss, N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Texas and Rutgers amongst others.”

Roche, a three-star 2016 signee, was tied for third nationally in sacks with 14 and 11th in tackles for loss with 19 this past season.  Following the regular season, Roche was named as the AAC’s Defensive Player of the Year.

As is the case with King, Roche will be coming into the Miami Hurricanes football program as a graduate transfer.  This coming season will be the lineman’s final year of eligibility.

The twin transfer additions did not go unnoticed by UM head coach Manny Diaz.

There’s an interesting twist to Roche’s addition to the roster.

Roche, as previously stated, comes to Miami from Temple.  Diaz was named as Temple’s head coach on Dec. 12 of 2018; exactly 17 days later, he abandoned the Owls to take the same job with the Hurricanes.

Miami’s opponent to open the 2020 season?  Temple, at home.