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Ew, Pig Sooie! Virginia Tech scores 35-unanswered points to win Belk Bowl, 35-24

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For one half of football, it appeared as though Arkansas (7-6) could do no wrong in the Belk Bowl against No. 22 Virginia Tech (10-4), but the Hokies roared back from a 24-0 halftime deficit with 35 unanswered points in the second half to capture a wild bowl victory. It may be a tad cliché, but this truly was a tale of two halves that showed why football games are 60 minutes long.

Bud Foster coached up his defense to tighten things up in the second half, and they responded with flying colors. The Hokies sacked Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen six times in the second half, with Mook Reynolds notching two. Reynolds and Tremaine Edmunds each recorded an interception as well to help turn the game around in Virginia Tech’s favorite. With the defense doing its part to prevent Arkansas from scoring again after taking a short-lived, yet commanding 24-0 lead, the Hokies offense had to do their part as well. And oh boy did they.

The Hokies scored five touchdowns in the second half, starting early in the second half after the defense forced an Arkansas turnover on the third play of the half. Jerod Evans completed 21-of-33 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns and he led the Hokies on the ground with 87 rushing yards and two more touchdowns. Travon McMillian had 34 key yards as well, including a six-yard scoring run one play after rumbling 21 yards for a big gain. McMillian’s touchdown run was likely the final nail in the coffin for the Razorbacks, who went from being down four points to down 11. Arkansas went three-and-out on their next drive and fumbled the football away on their next offensive series after that.

The play of the game may have been a one-handed touchdown snag by Sam Rogers to help cut the Razorbacks’ lead to 10 points.

The comeback from Virginia Tech goes down as the third-largest comeback in a bowl game over the last 10 seasons. Last year’s Alamo Bowl saw TCU dig its way out of a 31-point deficit against Oregon. Texas Tech also played its way back form a 31-point deficit in the 2006 Insight Bowl against Minnesota, going from trailing 38-7 to winning 44-41 in overtime.

The ACC’s impressive bowl season continues

With Virginia Tech’s victory over the Razorbacks, the ACC improved to 5-1 in the bowl season. No other conference has won more than four games so far in the bowl season. The ACC’s lone bowl loss so far was suffered by Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl (the Panthers lost to Northwestern of the Big Ten). The ACC has winning records against the SEC (2-0) and Big 12 (1-0), is even with the Big Ten (1-1) and owns a victory over the AAC champion (Wake Forest beat Temple in the Military Bowl). The ACC is close to clinching a winning record this postseason with six postseason games to go (seven if Clemson advances to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game).

The SEC drops to 1-4 this bowl season after South Carolina and Arkansas each lost today. The SEC still has a very good chance to see Alabama win a national championship and there are still six additional games to be played to turn things around this bowl season, but this is a bit of a sloppy start to the bowl season for the SEC.

Looking ahead

So, where do we go from here? At Virginia Tech, the Hokies will go into the offseason very positive about the future of the program under the leadership of Justin Fuente. In Fuente’s first season on the job, Virginia Tech won 10 games to capture the ACC Coastal Division and gave Clemson a good battle in the ACC Championship Game, and it all ends with a victory over an SEC school in a bowl game. The 2017 season will commence in Landover, Maryland against former Big East rival West Virginia from the Big 12 on September 2, 2017. The Hokies will play an ACC schedule that includes a home game against Clemson in addition to North Carolina and Pittsburgh and road games against Miami and Georgia Tech. The Hokies should be one of the teams to watch in the ACC once again in 2017 as Fuente’s offense continues to come together in year two.

Arkansas will go back to the drawing board and contemplate just how this season went so up-and-down and ended the way it did. The Razorbacks will still be a team worth paying close attention to and not take for granted in 2017, and if they can find any positive consistency next fall they should be at least a mnild factor in how the SEC West plays out. They won’t be likely to de-throne Alabama, of course, but they can mess with teams like LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn. Of course, Arkansas will only play Auburn at home, while Alabama and LSU will be played on the road and Texas A&M will be played in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Arkansas begisn the 2017 season at home against Florida A&M on September 2, 2017 in Little Rock, and the Razorbacks host TCU of the Big 12 on September 9, 2017 in Fayetteville.

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.