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Butkus Award watch list led by SEC’s 11 players with Pac-12, ACC, Big Ten close behind

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Award watch season in college football continues to be in midseason form with the Butkus Award watch list being revealed on Monday. A total of 11 players from the SEC were included in the preseason watch list for the award for best linebacker.

The Pac-12 had 10 players included on the watch list, and the ACC and Big Ten each landed nine players on the list. The Big 12 managed to get just two linebackers named to the watch list, which was one fewer than the total number of FCS linebackers appearing on the list.

Alabama’s Reuben Foster was named the 2016 Butkus Award winner, making him the third Alabama linebacker to win the award since 2009 (Rolando McClain in 2009, C.J. Mosley in 2013). As it just so happens, the 2016 high school Butkus Award winner was IMG Academy’s Dylan Moses, who is now at Alabama. Alabama has two players on this year’s collegiate watch list (Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion).

This year’s watch list includes one returning finalist from the 2016 award (Iowa’s Josey Jewell) and five additional semi-finalists (Ohio State’s Jerome Baker, Texas’ Malik Jefferson, Virginia’s Micah Kiser, Washington’s Azeem Victor, and Wisconsin’s Jack Cichy).

2017 Butkus Award Watch List

Genard Avery, Memphis
Jerome Baker, Ohio State
Davin Bellamy, Georgia
Keishawn Bierria, Washington
Eric Boggs, Appalachian State
Oren Burks, Vanderbilt
Jason Cabinda, Penn State
Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
Jermaine Carterq, Maryland
Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
Koron Crump, Arizona State
Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State
Devante Downs, California
Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
Rashaan Evans, Alabama
DeMarquis Gates, Ole Miss
Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
Shaquem Griffin, UCF
Porter Gustin, USC
Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama
James Hearns, Louisville
Manase Hungalu, Oregon State
Malik Jefferson, Texas
Josey Jewell, Iowa
Jordan Jones, Kentucky
Kendall Joseph, Clemson
Junior Joseph, UConn
Peter Kalambayi, Stanford
Arden Key, LSU
Micah Kiser, Virginia
Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
Mike McCray, Michigan
Skai Moore, South Carolina
Airius Moore, N.C. State
Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame
Uchenna Nwosu, USC
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
D.J. Palmore, Navy
Jacob Pugh, Florida State
Shaquille Quarterman, Miami
Tegray Scales, Indiana
Cameron Smith, USC
Sione Teuhema, Southeastern Lousiana
Matthew Thomas, Florida State
Azeem Victor, Washington
Fred Warner, BYU
Tré Williams, Auburn
Chris Worley, Ohio State
Trevon Young, Louisville
Kenny Young, UCLA

LSU opens as double-digit favorites on Oklahoma; Ohio State slight underdog to Clemson

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While definitely subject to change, the initial wagering odds for the degenerates in the reading audience are out.

Earlier Sunday, and in a surprise to absolutely no one, the four semifinalists for the 2019 College Football Playoff were released.  LSU was given the No. 1 seed by the selection committee and will face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl.  No. 2 Ohio State, which came into Championship Saturday ranked first in the country, will square off with No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

According to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, LSU is a 7/5 favorite to win the 2019 national championship.  Clemson is next at 2/1, while Ohio State sits at 3/1.  Oklahoma, which won its way into the playoffs at the expense of Georgia, is a decided underdog at 16/1.

Speaking of underdogs, the SEC Tigers are currently listed as a 12½-point favorite in their matchup with the Sooners.  Despite being the higher seed, the Buckeyes have opened as a two-point underdog to the ACC Tigers.

The over/under for Ohio State-Clemson opened at 63; for LSU-Oklahoma, it’s at 75.

LSU and Oklahoma have squared off just twice previously, with the most recent matchup coming in 2004.  Clemson and Ohio State have met three times in their collective histories, the most recent meeting coming in the 2016 College Football Playoff — a 31-0 win for the Tigers.

Arkansas confirms hiring of Georgia OL coach Sam Pittman as head coach

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When it came to replacing the fired Chad Morris, Arkansas, as it turned out, didn’t have to look outside of the SEC.

Sunday, with one of its top targets, Lane Kiffin, already having been locked up by SEC West rival Ole Miss, Arkansas reportedly pivoted its attention to Georgia’s Sam Pittman.  A few hours later, the Razorbacks confirmed that Pittman has been hired as the school’s next head football coach.

“Sam Pittman has been an integral part of successful teams that have competed at the highest levels, including for SEC and NCAA Championships,” UA athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s premier offensive line coaches, he has built a remarkable body of work thanks to his tremendous passion for his student-athletes, including teaching the fundamentals and developing his players on and off the field. Sam instills in his players the motivation, grit and determination required to compete and win. Throughout this process, I heard from many of his former players about the tremendous influence he had on them as a player and as a man.

“Sam knows the Southeastern Conference inside and out and is one of the nation’s best recruiters. His connections throughout football will enable him to build a quality coaching staff. In his previous tenure, Sam and his wife Jamie fell in love with the state of Arkansas and with Razorback fans. They know what a special place this is and are excited for the opportunity to come back to the Home of the Razorbacks.”

The hiring marks a return to Fayetteville for Pittman as he was a member of Bret Bielema‘s first coaching staff in 2013. In 2016, he left for Georgia, where he spent the past four seasons as the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach.  He also served as Kirby Smart‘s associate head coach.

The 58-year-old Pittman will be officially introduced as the Razorbacks’ 34th head coach Monday afternoon.

Mizzou zeroing in on Eli Drinkwitz as next head coach

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Once again, it appears a Power Five program will pilfer a Group of Five school for its next head football coach.

Sunday afternoon, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported that Applachian State’s Eli Drinkwitz “has emerged as a strong candidate” for the vacancy at Missouri.  Subsequent to that, ESPN.com reported that “Drinkwitz has reached an agreement to become Missouri’s next head football coach and a deal is being finalized.”

An official announcement of Drinkwitz becoming the permanent replacement for Barry Odom, who was fired late last month after four seasons at his alma mater, is expected no later than Monday.

The 36-year-old Drinkwitz is in his first season as the head coach of the Mountaineers, his first head-coaching job at any level of football.  App State stands at 12-1 on the season after claiming its second-straight Sun Belt Conference championship Saturday with a win over Louisiana.

Dec. 21, App State will face UAB in the New Orleans Bowl.

Georgia WR Dominick Blaylock reportedly suffered ACL tear in SEC title game loss

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A rough weekend for Georgia was underscored on Sunday as reports surfaced saying one of their key young players is done for the rest of this year and likely part of the next one.

As per Rivals’ Radi Nabulsi and a host of other beat writers in Athens, Bulldogs receiver Dominick Blaylock suffered a torn ACL in the loss against LSU in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.

The freshman from Marietta, Ga. had to be carted off the field in the first quarter after making a short catch and planting his knee awkwardly. The team’s top receiver, Lawrence Cager, was already out after undergoing knee surgery on Nov. 29.

Blaylock had made 18 catches for 310 yards and five touchdowns at UGA this season.