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Virginia Tech holds 16-9 halftime lead over Miami thanks to defense and big plays

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Miami and Virginia Tech got together for a big ACC Coastal clash and each squad’s defense stepped up with numerous big plays on Thursday night as the Hokies held onto a 16-9 halftime lead.

The biggest play of the first half came from a surprising source: senior fullback Sam Rogers, who was wide open on a pass over the middle of the field and rumbled 52 yards to set up the Hokies’ only touchdown. That score came one play later as quarterback Jerod Evans found Bucky Hodges in the end zone from seven yards out.

Evans eventually finished the half with 147 yards on 12-of-19 passing and chipped in another 36 rushing.

Virginia Tech’s defense was able to come up with some big plays of their own to limit the normally productive Miami offense. QB Brad Kaaya was pressured on nearly every snap but finished the half with 201 yards through the air. In addition to throwing an interception into triple coverage, he was also sacked three times. The UM ground game also couldn’t get going either, averaging less than a yard per carry.

The game’s momentum seemed to change completely for the Hurricanes when Kaaya hit  David Njoku for a big gain on a coverage bust but the speedy tight end was tackled by the Lane Stadium turf monster despite a wide open path to a touchdown. Miami eventually kicked a field goal on the drive but couldn’t get going at all until entering their hurry up offense with just over a minute left in the second quarter, scoring a late touchdown but missing the extra point to keep it a seven point game.

It should make for a fun second half if the visitors from South Florida can back into things like they did just before halftime as each team needs a win badly if they want to win the division.

Houston adding pair of P5 safeties via transfers

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New Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen is busy compiling his first football roster with the Cougars. Two new additions to the roster will come from a pair of power conference programs with the additions of safeties Thabo Mwaniki and Jordan Moore.

According to a report from Tulsa World, Mwaniki is heading to Houston after making his decision to leave Oklahoma State last November. After starting the first four games for the Cowboys, Mwaniki was reduced to a backup role in the Cowboys defense.

Moore, who previously played at Texas A&M, announced his decision to transfer to Houston on Sunday night with an image on his Twitter account. The image of Moore in a Houston football uniform included the message “New chapter,” thus noting he was ready to start with a clean slate with the Cougars. Moore announced his decision to transfer from the Aggies just before Christmas.

Moore will be required to sit out the 2019 season and will be eligible to play again beginning in 2020 due to NCAA transfer rules. However, because he only appeared in four games for Texas A&M in 2018, he can preserve a year of eligibility under the NCAA’s redshirt rule. That would make him a redshirt sophomore in 2020.

Mwaniki still has a redshirt option to use as well. Mwaniki appeared in seven games for Oklahoma State last season so he would have to use his redshirt year for the 2019 season, which he would have to sit out anyway due to NCAA transfer rules. Mwaniki will have two years of eligibility to use at Houston.

Taulia Tagovailoa jokes about taking starting job from older brother Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama

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Despite how the 2018 season ended for Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, there is absolutely no reason to suspect he is in any jeopardy of not being Alabama’s starting quarterback next season when Alabama opens the 2019 season in Atlanta against Duke. But perhaps there is something to be said about sibling rivalry?

After the conclusion of the Polynesian Bowl this weekend, incoming Alabama quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Tua, joked about the possibility of taking down his older brother for the starting job in Tuscaloosa.

In front of a camera, a teammate from the high school all-star game asked if Taulia was “going to beat your brother out for the spot?” Staring into the camera for a brief moment, Taulia responded “Tune in” with a smile as he walked away from the interview among laughter.

The remark was clearly in good fun and who would expect anything else from a little sibling rivalry like this? You have to love it.

Taulia is a four-star dual-threat quarterback in Alabama’s Class of 2019 and many expect he will be the successor to his brother once Tua Tagovailoa moves on. That could happen as soon as next year with Tua coming up on his junior season. With Jalen Hurts transferring to Oklahoma, it might be possible we see some of the younger Tagovailoa in a backup role in 2019, especially with the new redshirt rule allowing players to appear in four games while still preserving a year of redshirt eligibility.

The jokes are surely fun, but there will be no quarterback competition in Tuscaloosa.

Nebraska’s Super Bowl streak hits 26 and Georgia leads all schools in Super Bowl players

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The Los Angeles Rams captured the NFC championship yesterday with an overtime victory on the road against the New Orleans Saints. With the win, the Nebraska Cornhuskers saw their record of consecutive Super Bowls with at least one former Husker playing in the game extended to 26.

Former Nebraska standout Ndamukong Suh kept the streak alive for the Huskers as a fixture on the defensive line for the Rams. But even if the Rams had lost the game, Nebraska still would have seen their streak extended to 26 later in the day when the New England Patriots clinched the AFC Championship with their own road overtime victory against the Kansas City Chiefs. Patriots running back Rex Burkhead, a former Nebraska running back, had four catches for 64 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Patriots’ AFC title game victory.

While Nebraska maintains their impressive streak of Super Bowl participants, a number of colleges will be represented by more players in this year’s Super Bowl between the Patriots and Rams. Georgia has a total of five players in the game, edging out Cal, Florida, Miami, and Rutgers for the most players in this year’s Super Bowl. A total of 19 FBS programs will have at least two players in the Super Bowl this season.

As noted by the college football community on Reddit, Georgia could become the second school to have two starting running backs in a Super Bowl if the Patriots start Sony Michel (the Rams would have Todd Gurley). The last team to do that was Cal a few years ago when the Patriots (Shane Vereen) faced off with the Seattle Seahawks (Marshawn Lynch). Cal is also making some Super Bowl history as the Golden Bears will be the first school to have a total of five quarterbacks play in a Super Bowl with Jared Goff. Goff joined former Golden Bear quarterbacks Joe Kapp, Craig Morten, Vince Ferragamo and Aaron Rodgers in that Super Bowl QB lineage.

Goff could also be the second-straight Pac-12 quarterback to win a Super Bowl, following Arizona’s Nick Foles last season. Goff would be the third Pac-10/12 quarterback to win the Super Bowl since 2000, joining Foles and Rodgers.

Lincoln Riley finalizes defensive staff for 2019

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Oklahoma’s defense was flat-out awful in 2018, as we know. The Sooners were 114th in total defense (453.8 yards per game), 102nd in yards per play (6.13) and 101st in scoring (33.3 points per game). Their ineptitude indirectly handed Kyler Murray the Heisman Trophy as the Sooners’ signal caller had to pull his rabbit out of a hat on a weekly basis throughout the fall, but without Murray’s exploits Oklahoma might’ve been a 7- or 8-win team in 2018.

Murray is gone, so the defense has to improve or Oklahoma will take a significant fall in 2019.

Lincoln Riley has spent the past three weeks reshaping his defensive staff, and on Sunday he finalized his staff and their assignments.

New hire Alex Grinch will coach safeties while coordinating the defense. He spent 2018 as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ohio State. (The Buckeyes’ pass efficiency defense slipped from 13th to 42nd in Grinch’s one season on staff, but Riley hired him for his success coordinating Mike Leach‘s defenses at Washington State.)

Assisting Grinch in the secondary will be cornerbacks coach Roy Manning. He spent 2018 as the outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at UCLA but worked with Grinch at Wazzu from 2015-17.

Brian Odom was hired away from Missouri to coach the Sooners’ inside linebackers, where he’ll team with new outside linebackers coach Ruffin McNeill. Riley’s mentor, McNeill is one of two holdovers from the 2018 staff. He was hired upon Riley’s promotion to head coach as assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach but took over the entire defense following Mike Stoops‘ midseason firing.

The only Oklahoma defensive coach to coach the same position from 2018 to ’19 will be defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux. The OU graduate has been on staff since 2016, when he returned to Norman as defensive ends coach.