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Les Miles ‘coaching for his very job’ these next two weeks?

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If you’re inclined to lend credence to message-board chatter, a growing segment of the LSU fan base is, for whatever reason, growing weary of Les Miles‘ failure to get the Tigers back to their 2007 championship level.  Now, though, some that cover the team on a daily basis are beginning to think that the smoke surrounding Miles may in fact be coming from an ever-increasing hot seat.

Rewind a couple of weeks, and LSU was poised to take over the pole position in the race to the postseason, sitting at No. 2 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings with a date at SEC West rival Alabama on tap.  Fast-forward a couple of Saturdays and not only did LSU get beaten down in a 14-point loss to ‘Bama, but they were embarrassed the next week by Arkansas in a 17-point loss in Death Valley.

All of that leads us to Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Advocate, one of the most respected LSU beat writers in the business. In a column titled “‘Strong indications’ LSU’s Les Miles coaching for his job vs. Ole Miss, Texas A&M,” Rabalais lays out the case that Miles’ seat is trending from warm to increasingly hot in Baton Rouge.

It’s early yet, relatively speaking, and as can be expected, no one is eager to go public regarding Miles’ future at this point. But 25 years of covering LSU, cultivating a variety of knowledgeable sources, have led this writer to believe there is a serious threat to Miles’ tenure here.

But in the span of just two Saturdays, with humbling losses to Alabama and Arkansas, the ice has thinned under Miles’ feet to the point where strong indications are that he will be coaching for his very job at Ole Miss on Saturday and the week after that against Texas A&M.

LSU supporters have grown tired of what looks most of the time like a conservative offensive approach.  Pair that with habitual problems with penalties, delay of game issues, and this year’s special teams breakdowns, and it’s a recipe for dissatisfaction, on the verge of changing over to apathy.

Rabalais goes on to say that, in perhaps the most damning indication that Miles could be in trouble, “major boosters, big financial boosters of the program” are no longer congregated en masse in Miles’ corner.  That could prove beneficial as Miles’ buyout is a whopping $17 million if he’s fired without cause — $15 million for Miles, $2 million for his assistants.  The $15 million figure is somewhat mitigated by the fact that it’s payable over eight years, but that’s still a sizable amount of money on top of having to pay a replacement and his staff.  If well-heeled boosters are behind a potential move, however, money would likely be no object if they truly wanted to rid themselves of the Mad Hatter.

Some are absolutely stunned that anyone would want to get rid of a coach that has won a national championship and played for another, and won 78 percent of his games in what’s been an 11-year tenure.  Hell, he’s won 70 percent of his league games playing in arguably the toughest conference in the country.

However, his SEC record has gone from 6-2 following an 8-0 mark in the BCS title game season to 5-3 to 4-4 last season.  At 4-2 and games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M on tap, back-to-back .500 conference records are certainly on the table.

If, and it still remains a rather sizable if, the LSU job opens up, there won’t be a lack of potential replacements eager to fill the position.  Conversely, if Miles is kicked to the curb, the 62-year-old coach will have no problem finding gainful employment if he so desires.  South Carolina sure would be nice this time of year, wouldn’t it?

Michigan State RB Connor Heyward reverses course, pulls name from transfer portal

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Mel Tucker appears to have picked up his second personnel win as the Michigan State football head coach.

In September of last year, running back Connor Heyward took the first step in leaving the Michigan State football team by entering his name into the NCAA transfer database.  A little over four months later, after Mark Dantonio‘s abrupt retirement, Tucker took over in East Lansing.

On Twitter a week after Tucker came back to the Spartans, Heyward announced in a tweet that he has reversed course and will pull his name from the portal.  And, in his social-media missive, the running back credited Tucker for the personal reversal.

“After talking with [athletic director Bill] Beekman and Coach Tucker, I have decided to take my name out of the transfer portal and return to Michigan State University,” Heyward wrote. “It has been a long process, but I know this is home in my heart.

“I’m looking forward to what the future holds.  I can’t wait to get back to work with my brothers.

“Go Green!”

A three-star member of Michigan State’s 2017 recruiting class, Heyward was rated as the No. 72 player regardless of position in the state of Georgia.  In 2018, Heyward led MSU in rushing yards (529), rushing touchdowns (five), carries (118), all-purpose yards (1,065) and kick returns (13 for 287 yards; 22.1 avg.).  That year, he was named as a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the nation’s most versatile player.

This past season, Heyward ran for 79 yards on 24 carries.

All told, Heyward has ran for 618 yards and five touchdowns on 145 carries.  He’s also caught 43 passes for another 314 yards and two touchdowns.

Because he played in just four games in 2019, Heyward will be permitted to take a redshirt for last year.  That would make him a redshirt junior for the 2020 campaign and leave him with two years of eligibility to use.

USC officially replaces FCS school with San Jose State for 2021 game

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USC football has officially returned itself to elite scheduling company.

In July of last year, USC football angered a sizable portion of its fan base as well as former players by announcing that it had scheduled a 2021 game against UC-Davis.  The Trojans had been one of three FBS programs that had never scheduled a game against an FCS team.

Wednesday, however, new athletic director Mike Bohn confirmed that the Trojans are on the verge of canceling that football game and replacing it with another.  Thursday night, USC football made it official as both they and San Jose State confirmed a Sept. 4, 2021, game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

San Jose State had originally been scheduled to face Georgia on that date.  Last week, however, UGA canceled the game in order to play Clemson in that season’s opener.  For that cancellation, San Jose State will receive $1.8 million from UGA.

“Facing USC in Los Angeles is a great opportunity for our student-athletes and fans,” SJSU athletic director Marie Tuite said in a statement. “Southern California is an important footprint for us in recruiting and we’re very excited to add this game to our 2021 football schedule.”

Tuite was also very complimentary of her UGA counterpart for his transparency throughout the process.

“I’d like to thank Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity for being transparent with us during the process,” said the AD. “I’ve experienced the atmosphere in Athens on gameday and it’s a special place. Maybe one day in the future the Spartans will make the trip.”

As for USC football, they officially rejoin Notre Dame and UCLA as the only FBS schools that have never played a game against an FCS team.  They are, however, in denial about never having scheduled an FCS school.

Be that as it may, USC will pay UC-Davis $750,000 for the game-that-was-never-scheduled-but-actually-was.

USC and San Jose State have met four times previously, with the Trojans winning all four of those matchups.  The two schools are also scheduled to play in 2024.

Clemson, Georgia paying seven-figures to make 2021 opener happen

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Clemson and Georgia are both spending money to make money.

In the wake of the two schools announcing a highly anticipated 2021 season opener in Charlotte, news has now surfaced at just how badly the two programs wanted to play each other.

The total tab: roughly $2.9 million.

That’s the combined amount the Tigers and Bulldogs will be paying to get out of their previously scheduled Group of Five games set for the same date.

Per the Greenville News, Clemson is ponying $1.1 million to cancel their contract with Wyoming. The Athletic reports Georgia is cutting a $1.8 million check to San Jose State.

“This is another great opportunity to schedule a national non-conference game with a top-level opponent,” UGA head coach Kirby Smart said in a release announcing the game. “Playing a regular-season game in Charlotte will give our fans the opportunity for a completely new experience in a great city and top-level stadium. I know our coaches and players will be excited for the challenge to kick off the season in this kind of environment.”

Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. will host the regional rivals on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021.

Georgia and Clemson have met 64 times over the years, most recently in 2014. The 2021 date is a one-off but the programs are still scheduled to meet five more times between 2021 and 2033. This includes the 2024 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and a pair of home-and-home series scheduled for 2029/2033 (in Death Valley) and 2030/2032 (between the hedges).

The Tigers will also take on fellow SEC program South Carolina in those years and will host UConn and FCS South Carolina State to round out their 2021 non-conference slate. The Bulldogs have their annual game against Georgia Tech plus UAB and Charleston Southern in 2021 as well.

Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer says he could have coached Vols again but it ‘didn’t appeal’ to him

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Could Tennessee have had Phillip Fulmer back on the sidelines at Neyland Stadium coaching again?

There was speculation that he could have done just that from the moment he took over as athletic director at the school. Actually having it happen in Knoxville though? It apparently was not on the table due more to the necessity of Jimmy and Joe’s as opposed to X’s and O’s.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Tennessean about his on-going tenure as AD, Fulmer was asked if he ever considered putting the whistle back on for the team he led to the national title over two decades ago. Though it crossed the minds of many at the school, it didn’t for the man himself thanks largely to the rigors of the profession changing from 2008 to now.

“No. I mean, that energy level that it takes to do that. Could have coached and wanted to coach, that’s two different things, right?” Fulmer told the paper. “I certainly could have come coached the team or whatever, but the recruiting and the staffing and all those things, I’ve done my time, and I had a great run. That didn’t appeal to me, nor did I ever lose confidence that Jeremy (Pruitt) was going to do it.”

While that latter line is notable for the team’s current head coach after a historically bad start to the 2019 season, don’t gloss over his earlier comments. In fact, it says plenty about the situation on Rocky Top in recent years that Fulmer directly confirms that he “could have” come down from the AD box to the sidelines.

The only thing that stopped him? Not optics, but just the time a head coach has to devote to things like recruiting. While there’s no doubt that is pretty much a 24/7 operation nowadays at SEC schools like Tennessee, it’s interesting that was one of the few things preventing a move many in orange and white clamored (or at least expected) to see at some point.

Instead, Fulmer will have to make do with his 152–52 overall record at the school and a national title in the 1998 season. That forever cemented his status in Knoxville as one of the program’s greats and it appears he’s content to let things end there despite not having the ending he wanted back in the day.