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No. 7 Penn State completes comeback for the ages to claim B1G title

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On Sept. 24, Penn State was 2-2 on the season, 0-1 in Big Ten play after a 49-10 undressing by Michigan in Ann Arbor. Their Big Ten title hopes were left for dead. As we know, they managed to rally and win the Big Ten East.

And then, with 5:15 left in the second quarter, the Nittany Lions trailed 28-7 and their chances of actually winning the game were again left for dead.

But the Cardiac Cats rallied. Again. The seventh-ranked Lions closed the game on a 31-3 run to race past No. 6 Wisconsin for a 38-31 Big Ten Championship victory.

Of course, this win means much more than that. At 11-2 on the season, winners of nine in a row and winners of college football’s best conference, the question now becomes whether the College Football Playoff selection committee chooses the Lions over 11-1 Ohio State or Pac-12 champion Washington on Sunday.

But first, the comeback.

Penn State simply could not get out of its own way — or get Wisconsin out of its way… or get in Wisconsin’s way, for that matter — over the game’s first 25 minutes. The Badgers opened by forcing two three-and-outs and launching two long touchdown drives to grab a 14-0 lead a dozen minutes into the game. After a McSorley touchdown pass put Penn State on the board, the Nittany Lions allowed an errant snap to be returned for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

James Franklin elected to go for a fourth-and-short in his own territory on the ensuing possession and was rebuffed. Wisconsin again capitalized on the mistake to grab a 28-7 lead with 5:15 remaining in the first half. Penn State again failed on a fourth-and-short near midfield on the next possession, but this time the Badgers failed to cash in. And that proved costly.

Because that failure to land the death blow allowed Penn State’s Cardiac Cats persona to awaken.

The Lions’ comeback started when McSorley hit Saeed Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown catch with 58 seconds left in the half to pull within  a more manageable 28-14 deficit at the break.

After Wisconsin missed a field goal to open the second half, McSorley answered by finding Blacknall for a 70-yard scoring strike on the very next play. Then Penn State tied the game on its next touch as Saquon Barkley punched in a 1-yard score at the 4:22 mark of the third quarter.

Wisconsin re-gained the lead with a 23-yard Andrew Endicott chip shot, but only after Bart Houston missed what would have been a walk-in touchdown to tight end Troy Fumagalli on 2nd-and-8 from the 10-yard line.

Given the opportunity to take the lead, Penn State took full advantage, marching 81 yards in only four plays as Barkley hauled in an 18-yard wheel route from McSorley.

McSorley finished the game hitting 22-of-31 passes for 384 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions — against a defense that came in allowing eight touchdowns while swiping 21 interceptions. Compared to Houston’s numbers — 16-of-21 for 174 yards — quarterback play proved to be the difference in the game. McSorley’s play allowed Penn State to win a game in which it was out-rushed 241-51.

Wisconsin punted on its next touch, and Penn State missed its chance to deliver a knockout punch, instead settling for a 24-yard Tyler Davis field goal with 5:14 to play in the game.

Wisconsin would need a touchdown to force overtime, while Penn State would need a stop to complete its 21-point comeback. The Badgers moved to the Penn State 24, but, facing a 4th-and-1, Corey Clement was stuffed for no gain.

Penn State expired the final 58 seconds and secured the largest comeback ever in a Power 5 conference championship game.

ACC endorses free one-time transfer for all student-athletes

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The ACC is now on-board with the idea of allowing student-athletes in all sports a chance to have a free one-time transfer without having to sit out a season. The conference released a brief statement on Monday afternoon confirming the ACC supports a one-time transfer opportunity.

“During the league’s annual winter meetings (February 12-14), the ACC discussed the transfer environment and unanimously concluded that as a matter of principle we support a one-time transfer opportunity for all student-athletes, regardless of sport,” the statement from the ACC said. “As a conference, we look forward to continuing the discussion nationally.”

It is important to understand this does not mean players in the ACC will now be given a free transfer. This is merely a step in the direction toward allowing the free one-time transfer and shows the ACC would support any potential adjustment to the NCAA transfer rule. As the transfer rule currently stands, any player transferring from one school to another at the same level of competition (FBS to FBS, for example), is required to sit out one full season before being ruled eligible again. This takes away a year of eligibility or burns a redshirt season, barring any potential exemptions granted by way of a waiver. Graduate transfers are generally the only transferring players allowed to play immediately at a new school.

The Big Ten quietly proposed just such legislation last year, but no movement was made on the proposal. The NCAA instead opted to have a committee spend additional time reviewing the current policies regarding transfers with the intent of continuing the discussion this year as rule changes begin to be reviewed.

That gives us two power conferences that appear to be ready to embrace the one-time transfer rule. Don’t be shocked if more join the party, and expect the transfer rule to be altered soon enough. Maybe even as early as this upcoming year.

The NCAA modified the redshirt rule two years ago. The transfer rule appears the next most likely rule to be altered regarding a player’s eligibility.

Indiana completes coaching staff with Tulane DL coach Kevin Peoples

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After being left at the altar by a Michigan State assistant coach, Indiana had found a way to plug its hole at defensive line coach. Kevin Peoples is reportedly leaving Tulane to join the Hoosiers, multiple reports said on Monday. News of the coaching hire in Bloomington was first shared by Football Scoop.

Peoples will be taking on the job on the Indiana coaching staff previously set to be filled by Michigan State assistant Ron Burton. Burton decided to remain in East Lansing with the Spartans and new head coach Mel Tucker over the weekend before officially making his way from one Big Ten school to another. With the addition of Peoples to the coaching staff, the Hoosiers will now have a full coaching staff barring any potential adjustments before spring football begins.

With Peoples in charge of the defensive line, Tulane was not among the conference leaders in sacks and tackles for loss in the American Athletic Conference in 2019, but Tulane did have the conference’s fourth-best rushing defense; Tulane allowed 156.31 rushing yards per game in 2019, an averages that is inflated slightly from playing Navy in conference play (allowed 385 yards to the triple-option Midshipmen) and Army in non-conference play as well as a road game against Auburn. Tulane allowed just 58 rushing yards in its bowl victory over Southern Mississippi.

Peoples is filling the role previously held by Mark Hagen. Hagen left Indiana to accept a coaching position with Texas this offs

Utah, LSU to play home-and-home in early ’30s

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The SEC and Pac-12 are in a bit of a love affair right now. Actually, scratch that. They’re full-on obsessed with one another.

More than 30 SEC v. Pac-12 games are on the docket for future years, and two more were added to the ledger on Monday when LSU and Utah inked a home-and-home.

Utah will host LSU on Sept. 6, 2031, and LSU will return the favor on Sept. 11, 2032.

“Our aspirations to continue to grow and elevate our football program make opportunities like this especially important,” Utah AD Mark Harlan said. “For our student-athletes it is an incredible opportunity to play a high-profile opponent in two fantastic environments. It also is incredibly attractive to our fans to host a team like LSU at Rice-Eccles Stadium and to go on the road to Baton Rouge and cheer on their Utes.”

Utah has two more home-and-homes against SEC schools coming, against Florida in 2022-23 and Arkansas in 2026 and ’28. LSU has home-and-homes with UCLA (2021, ’24) and Arizona State (2029-30) on its docket.

The schools have met twice previously, with LSU winning in Baton Rouge both time, 35-10 in 1974 and 35-7 in ’76.

Bret Bielema reportedly interviewing for Colorado job

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Bret Bielema is interviewing for the Colorado head coaching position, according to reports Monday from NFL Network and ESPN.

Bielema tried to get in on the Michigan State job that, obviously, went to Mel Tucker, so now he’s in the running for the job Tucker left.

The former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach joined Bill Belichick‘s witness protection program after his 2017 Arkansas firing, working for a year as “consultant to the head coach” in New England. He was promoted to defensive line coach and reportedly told friends he was in the running to become the defensive coordinator after Greg Schiano stepped down, but Belichick wound up giving that job to himself.

He wound up following Joe Judge from Foxboro to the New York Giants, but now has apparently decided he’d rather be back in college than work as a position coach at the NFL level.

Bielema went 68-24 at Wisconsin before his 29-34 flameout at Arkansas. His teams famously stuck to a ground-and-pound philosophy that worked like peanut butter and jelly in Madison but peanut butter and salsa in Fayetteville. So, should Colorado be as interested in Bielema as he apparently is in them, his offensive philosophy would figure to be question one in the interview.