A not-so-surprising Heisman Trophy first in NFC Championship Game

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The NFL’s conference championship weekend is set with another bout between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the AFC and the top two teams in the NFC, Arizona and Carolina, going toe-to-toe for the NFC championship. While there will be plenty of attention given to yet another meeting between Manning and Brady, the NFC Championship Game is making some history with a college football twist. With Cam Newton of the Panthers and Carson Palmer of the Cardinals set to start in the NFC Championship Game, we will see the first NFL postseason meeting between two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.

At first glance, that comes across as a surprising factoid to consume, but it should not come across as a major shock. Given the track record of Heisman Trophy winner sin the NFL, we already know the Heisman Trophy is far from a guarantee for sustained NFL success. This is especially true for quarterbacks, although the jury is still out on a number of the more recent Heisman-winning QBs (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota offer some good promise, and who knows if there is still time to save Robert Griffin III, for example). Also keep in mind that for the majority of the history of the Heisman Trophy, running backs were the dominant position before the turn of the 21st century gave way to quarterbacks taking control of the award more often than not.

Take a look through Heisman history and look at the quarterbacks who have won the stiff-arm trophy over the years. Just two quarterbacks won the award in the 1960s, Navy’s Roger Staubach and Notre Dame’s John Huarte. Staubach went on to have a stellar career. Huarte? Not so much. Two quarterbacks won the Heisman in the 1970s, and once again the careers of Jim Plunkett of Stanford and Pat Sullivan of Auburn took drastically different paths. Of the three quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy in the 1980s (Doug Flutie, Andre Ware, Vinny Testaverde), only Miami’s Testaverde proved to have a sustained NFL career, which included a couple of solid runs here and there, but he almost never faced another Heisman-winning QB during his lengthy career.

The 1990s saw four quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy. Ty Detmer was essentially a career backup. Gino Torretta‘s run in the NFL was brief. Danny Wuerffel did not fare too much better. And Charlie Ward went on to play in the NBA instead of the NFL. Ward may have been the best NFL QB out of that bunch had he focused on the NFL instead.

Even the quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy since 2000 have been farther from competing for an NFL conference championship more often than not. This weekend, 2002 Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer just won his first postseason game as a starting quarterback since blowing out Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl. 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke has an NFC Championship ring, but that came as a backup. 2001 winner Eric Crouch played four years in the NFL with three teams and ended his playing career in the short-lived UFL with the Omaha Nighthawks. 2003 winner Jason White was not even drafted and stepped away due to bad knees. 2004 winner Matt Leinart never lived up to his perceived potential in Arizona and moved on to Houston, Oakland and Buffalo before getting into TV. 2006 winner Troy Smith was a career back-up, for the most part, behind Steve McNair and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Sam Bradford has been plagued by injuries and Robert Griffin III is looking to rejuvenate his career in a new situation in 2016. And I’m even going to spare you the talk about Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel.

One more piece of information to keep in mind was the AFC and NFC Championship Game structure was not utilized until 1970 when the NFL merged with the AFL. For an award that was first handed out in 1935, that cuts out a number of quarterbacks from even having the possibility to play in an NFL conference championship game (Davey O’BrienAngelo Bertelli, Lee Horvath, Johnny Lujack, Paul Hornung, Terry Baker).

So yes, it is surprising we have not seen a matchup of Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in an NFL postseason game before, but it is not at all shocking given the history of the Heisman Trophy. And no, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady never won the Heisman Trophy either.

Maryland latest to put coronavirus-related halt to voluntary football workouts

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We can officially add Maryland to the growing list of football programs hitting the workout pause button.

As with other schools in the Big Ten, Maryland welcomed back student-athletes, including football players, to campus for voluntary workouts last month.  Saturday, those workouts for Terrapins across several sports have come to a halt.

The suspension came as a result of an increase in positive tests for COVID-19.  The school didn’t specify the number of Maryland football players involved.  Below is the university’s release:

Maryland Athletics, as part of a gradual, phased approach to the return of student-athletes to campus, is working with the University Health Center to conduct regular COVID-19 testing. In preparation for this ongoing testing period, we worked with State, county and university health officials to develop appropriate protocols in the event of positive test results, including education, contact identification and tracing, and self-isolation.

On July 7-8, the University Health Center conducted on-campus screening of 185 student-athletes and staff; nine individuals tested positive for COVID-19. These nine student-athletes and staff have been notified and are currently in self-isolation, monitored by university health officials. Contact tracing is ongoing through the Prince George’s County Health Department and all identified individuals will follow a mandated 14-day self-observation period, under the supervision of university health officials. Under guidance from the Prince George’s County Health Department, we have temporarily suspended voluntary, individual training for the football program.

In previous testing of 105 individuals in June, no individual tested positive for COVID-19.

Maryland football is the latest but certainly not the first impacted by the pandemic.  Or the last, more than likely.

Just last week, Ohio State announced and North Carolina confirmed they were putting a temporary halt to voluntary workouts because of the results of recent COVID-19 testing among its student-athletes. July 3, Kansas was the latest FBS program to pause voluntary workouts after 12 players tested positive for COVID-19.  Earlier in that same week, Arizona announced that it was pausing its phased return of student-athletes to campus.  Prior to that, eight individuals connected to the Boise State football program tested positive, forcing the school to temporarily scuttle workouts.  June 20, K-State announced that it is pausing all voluntary workouts as well.  The reason?  “[A] total of 14 student-athletes have tested positive for active COVID-19 following PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing of more than 130 student-athletes.” The weekend before that, Houston decided to put a halt to voluntary on-campus workouts after six symptomatic UH student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19.

Other programs have seen a high number of players test positive but continue workouts.  Among those are Clemson (37 players tested positive), LSU (30 players quarantined), Texas (13 confirmed positives for football players) and Texas Tech (23 positives for players/staffers).

Colorado LB Jashua Allen tosses name into the transfer portal

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Colorado football has already seen one portal reversal this offseason.  They are now hoping for another change of heart.  Maybe?

Earlier this offseason, Sam Noyer took the first step in leaving the Colorado football team by placing his name into the NCAA transfer database.  In early April, the quarterback pulled his name from the portal and remained with the Buffaloes.

Three months later, 247Sports.com is reporting that Jash Allen has entered the portal as well.  While the linebacker didn’t confirm the news specifically, he did retweet reports of his impending departure.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Allen began his collegiate career at the JUCO level.  In 2019, he was a four-star member of the Colorado football recruiting class that cycle.

His first season with the Buffs, Allen played in 10 games.  Most of that action came on special teams, although he did appear in three games on defense.  In that limited action on the defensive side of the ball, he was credited with four tackles and two quarterback pressures.  His official CU profile also notes he had “four special teams points on the season, one tackle inside the 20, one first down field and one knockdown or springing block on kick return.”

Allen will be leaving the Pac-12 school as a graduate.

It cost Indiana $44,000 to lose to Tennessee in the Gator Bowl

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Talk about adding financial insult to on-field injury for the Indiana football program.

Indiana faced Tennessee in the Gator Bowl this past college football bowl season.  Midway through the fourth quarter, the Hoosiers held a 22-9 lead.  IU was on the verge of claiming its first postseason win since the 1991 Copper Bowl.  The Vols, though, scored a pair of touchdowns in less than a minute of game time to come away with a 23-22 win.

For participating in the bowl game, Indiana’s athletic department received $2.125 million from the Big Ten.  The expenses surrounding the trip to Jacksonville, though, were $2,169,416.  So, in other words, it cost IU a little over $44,000 to lose that heartbreaker of a game.

From HoosierSportsReport.com:

Nearly $2 million of those expenses were for the football team specifically, with the most costly line item being travel. Flights to Jacksonville, Fla., cost $690,333, plus there was another $145,406 in ground travel.

Meals were the next biggest expense at $337,236. Hotel costs amounted to $219,240. Uniforms and bowl apparel were a nearly quarter-of-a-million-dollar expense, at $249,150.

There was also a $110,930 expense for awards, which includes commemorative rings for players in the game.

IU’s band and cheerleading team accounted for a combined $174,262 in expenses, including $156,272 for IU’s Marching Hundred.

If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that the 15 extra practice sessions that came along with the bowl trip — especially since spring practice was gutted by the pandemic — helped ease the financial loss.  For the head coach, at least.

Name of Wake Forest’s football home will be Truist Field moving forward

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A banking merger has led to a name change for the home of Wake Forest football.

Since 2007, the Wake Forest football stadium has gone by the name BB&T Field.  In February of 2019, however, BB&T and SunTrust banks merged.  Eventually, the company’s name was changed to Truist.

As such, Wake Forest announced this past week that, moving forward, its football home will be known as Truist Field.

“Wake Forest University is proud of its affiliation with the people of Truist and grateful for their longtime support of Demon Deacon student-athletes,” said Wake athletic director John Currie said in a statement. “As Truist continues its climb as one of America’s leading financial institutions, we are excited that the 21st century’s best college football program in North Carolina will now call Truist Field its home.”

The facility that now goes by the name of Truist Field was built in 1968.  It has a seating capacity of 31,500, although the record attendance is 37,623 set in November of 2013.  For that game against North Carolina, temporary bleachers were installed.

Wake is scheduled to open the 2020 college football season Sept. 4 at Old Dominion.  They’ll face Appalachian State the following weekend in the home opener.

Wake Forest is coming off an 8-5 2019 campaign in Dave Clawson’s sixth season with the Demon Deacons.  Wake has played in four straight bowl games for the first time in school history.  Last April, Clawson signed a contract extension that would keep him at the ACC school through the 2026 season.