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Rematch on! Clemson shuts out Ohio State in Fiesta Bowl to book trip to title game

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Clemson kicked off 2016 at University of Phoenix Stadium by losing a heartbreaker in a thrilling national title game to Alabama.

The Tigers closed out the year with a bit of sweet revenge at the same site however, shutting out Ohio State 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl to book their tickets to the national title game in Tampa and a rematch with the Crimson Tide.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson threw two interceptions but was otherwise his terrific self behind center with 259 yards and a touchdown pass. The Heisman finalist also rushed for two more scores on a pair of keepers and led the team in rushing with 85 yards. It certainly wasn’t a perfect performance but it was an efficient one as he picked apart the vaunted OSU secondary aside from two ill-advised throws that wound up in their hands.

As good as Watson was though, his favorite target Mike Williams might have been the best player on the field Saturday evening. The likely first-rounder caught a team high six passes for 96 yards and came close to one remarkable long touchdown in the second quarter until he got tripped up. While he was the headliner, the deep receiving corps also showed up all game long with seven others catching a pass and tailback Wayne Gallman put the cherry on top of the outing with a seven yard rushing touchdown following a turnover.

Not to be out done, the Clemson defense truly paved the way for their return trip to the national title game with 11 tackles for loss and three sacks. Freshman Clelin Ferrell had the game of his young career with near constant pressure on every snap, recording three tackles for loss and a sack. Linebacker Kendall Joseph led the team in tackles and basically shutdown the middle of the field in holding the Buckeyes to just 81 yards rushing.

Not being able to run the ball was a big reason for Ohio State’s struggles, which were chiefly the result of the team’s offensive line not having an answer for the speed of the Tigers front four. Quarterback J.T. Barrett didn’t have a terrible game as one of the few offensive threats for the team but only managed to throw for only 127 yards with two interceptions. All-purpose threat Curtis Samuel did receive plenty of touches as the offense tried to get something going but managed only 110 total yards, most of which came on a handful of plays when the game was already decided.

The end result of yet another blowout semifinal was the worst loss Urban Meyer has suffered during his time in Columbus and, given the stakes, probably the biggest ‘L’ of his career. The team began the game with several nice kick returns to setup some early series but a pair of missed field goals in the opening quarter set the tone for a disastrous outing for the scarlet and grey.

Given how everything played out, it’s safe to say it just wasn’t the Buckeyes’ night as everything that could go wrong typically did. While a lot of those issues were self-inflicted, most had to do with a dominating performance by the Tigers that they controlled from wire-to-wire.

And with that, Clemson has punched their ticket for a return trip to the national title game and a never before seen rematch for the sport’s ultimate prize. It may not have been pretty for Ohio State, but on the other sideline there was nothing like that little bit of sweet revenge out in the desert for how this year began — and no better way to cap off the season than by ringing in 2017 with what should be a thriller in Tampa next week.

Wyoming AD taking pay cut through end of 2020 due to coronavirus

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Athletic department cuts will be coming to pretty much every athletic department over the coming months and the AD at Wyoming is taking a small, but important, step in mitigating things as much as possible.

In what is bound to be the first of several announcements like it, Cowboys athletic director Tom Burman announced on Twitter Wednesday that he was taking a 10% pay cut through the end of 2020 as the school deals with the fallout from the coronavirus.

Wyoming’s athletic department is on the smaller end of the FBS scale and faces inherent challenges due to its location and small (but fierce) fan base. USA Today’s college financial database lists the school as having a budget of just under $45 million in 2018 so Burman’s salary is still just a drop in the bucket but it does go to show what steps are being taken to reduce expenses.

Others, such as Iowa State, have already announced reductions on things such as coach bonuses and a general salary reduction.

Given how much the COVID-19 outbreak is already impacting the financial statements of programs across the country, such measures figure to become less newsworthy going forward because they’ll simply be commonplace. Such is, sadly, the state of affairs we’re in right now.

USF nets former SWAC Offensive Player of the Year QB as grad transfer

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USF apparently wanted to make sure Tom Brady isn’t the only signal-caller added to the ranks in Tampa this year.

According to 247Sports, the Bulls landed an intriguing name in Alcorn State graduate transfer QB Noah Johnson on Thursday. The move reunites the 2018 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year with assistant coach Pat White, who used to serve as the quarterbacks coach at the FCS program prior to joining Jeff Scott’s staff at South Florida.

Johnson was apparently granted an extra year of eligibility in order to make the transfer as he was knocked out of his senior year with an injury.

The addition of the former FCS star — he passed for over 2,200 yards and rushed for more than 1,000 in 2018 — makes for an interesting set of names behind center for Scott’s first season whenever college football does resume. Junior Jordan McCloud figures to be the incumbent after starting 10 games last year but, with a new staff, everybody’s job is open. A pair of freshman recruits are slated to arrive in the fall while ex-North Carolina QB Cade Fortin also transferred as the team remakes their 2020 roster even without spring practice or recruiting.

USF is scheduled to open the 2020 campaign at Texas on Sept. 5 but that’s a date that obviously could be in flux due to the coronavirus pandemic. While there’s hope things will go off as originally set, whoever winds up taking the first snaps for the Bulls will be fascinating to watch in the debut of the former Clemson assistant’s new team.

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history

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The sports world, including college football, has essentially screeched to a halt as countries around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there’s a dearth of college football news as spring practices have all but been canceled at every level of the sport. And there’s even some concern that the health issue could have an impact on the 2020 college football campaign.

In that vein, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on April 2, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2019

THE HEADLINE: Illinois becomes sixth B1G school to allow in-game beer sales
THE SYNOPSIS: Indiana subsequently joined Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue and Rutgers in Big Ten schools permitting alcohol sales at football games.  That’s exactly half of the conference.

2018

THE HEADLINE: LeBron James’ company challenges Alabama football over barbershop videos
THE SYNOPSIS: How I long for the days of inane offseason brouhahas.  Never thought I would miss things like this.  Until now.

2017

THE HEADLINE: New Tennessee AD John Currie says Butch Jones ‘on the right trajectory’
THE SYNOPSIS: Seven months, 10 days after that public vote of confidence, Currie canned Jones.  The head coach finished with a 34-27 record on Rocky Top.  What doomed him, though, was a 14-24 record in SEC play.  At the time of his dismissal, the Vols were 0-6 in the conference.

2015

THE HEADLINE: Cardale Jones comes full circle on playing school, and so should everyone else
THE SYNOPSIS: In October of 2012, the Ohio State quarterback famously tweeted, “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL? we ain’t come here to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.” Three years later, Jones tweeted, “still can’t believe I tweeted something as stupid as this but hey, we live and we learn.” In May of 2017, Jones received his degree from OSU.

2014

THE HEADLINE: FSU’s Nick O’Leary again involved in motorcycle accident
THE SYNOPSIS: The talented Florida State tight end suffered minor injuries in what was his second motorcycle accident in nine months.  O’Leary totaled 1,591 yards and 17 touchdowns on 114 receptions during his time with the Seminoles.  And, I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but his grandfather is golf legend Jack Nicklaus.

2012

THE HEADLINE: Updated: Petrino reportedly not wearing helmet at time of accident
THE SYNOPSIS: The only reason I’m using this?  It affords me to use the greatest.  Photo.  Ever. This was also before the fit hit the shan for Bobby Petrino in Fayetteville.

2010

THE HEADLINE: Irish recruit James dies in spring break accident
THE SYNOPSIS: Offensive lineman Matt James, who signed with Notre dame two months earlier, died after falling from a hotel balcony.  He chose the Golden Domers over his hometown Ohio State.

2009

THE HEADLINE: PISSY PETE SAYS BLASTING SANCHEZ WAS JUST A TEST
THE SYNOPSIS: Ah yes.  The good ol’ days.  When we could refer to then-USC head coach Pete Carroll as “Pissy Pete” for his treatment of Mark Sanchez, who had the audacity to leave the Trojans early for the NFL.

(*Yes, back in the day, we used to scream out our headlines at our readers in all-caps. The move to NBC a couple of months later mercifully ended that practice.)

Rutgers inching closer to Top 10 2021 recruiting class

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Rutgers, of all schools, is killing it on the football recruiting trail. Still.

When last we left Greg Schiano‘s Rutgers football crew, the Scarlet Knights held the No. 12 class in the 2021 team rankings. That upward move was launched by five commitments in a span of roughly a week. The highlight of the recruiting splurge was four-star linebacker Khayri Banton committing to the Big Ten school.

Tuesday, three-star wide receiver Max Patterson committed to Rutgers football as well.

With the flurry of commitments, Rutgers now holds the No. 11 2021 class in the country. Rutgers football.  Nearly a Top 10 school in recruiting.

That ranking, incidentally, puts them ahead of the likes of Georgia (No. 15), LSU (No. 16), Michigan (No. 17), Oklahoma (No. 19), Florida State (No. 24) and Auburn (No. 25), among others.

That No. 11 ranking also leaves Rutgers with the fifth-ranked football recruiting class In the Big Ten. The other four are No. 1 Ohio State, No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 9 Maryland and No. 10 Iowa.

The Scarlet Knights have never had a Top 10 recruiting class. Ever.  Or a Top 20 class, for that matter. For some perspective, the top-ranked Rutgers football recruiting class of the past two decades was No. 23 in 2012. The cycle immediately after Schiano left the school for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it should be noted.

Outside of that, the recruiting finishes have been decidedly pedestrian for the Scarlet Knights. Since the start of the 21st century, 18 of the Scarlet Knights’ 21 classes have finished outside of the Top 30. Of those 18, 15 finished 42nd or worse; 10 came in outside of the Top 50.

Seven of the current members of Rutgers’ Class of 2021 hail from the state of New Jersey. The other three come from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

If Rutgers is to continue making hay on the football recruiting trail, they’ll do so in an extended dead period. Wednesday, the NCAA announced that the ban on all in-person contact between schools and prospects has been extended out through May 31. That extension, of course, is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.