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Sloppy start in Rose Bowl redux as No. 4 USC holds slim lead over Texas at halftime

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The week leading up to Texas’ trip back to Los Angeles to play USC has been filled with highlights galore of the Longhorns’ triumph over the Trojans in the 2006 BCS National Championship Game. While the stars of that memorable college football game were out in force at the Coliseum for the rematch on Saturday — Vince Young, Matt Leinart and even Matthew McConaughey included — this year’s edition paid homage to that classic… by laying an egg in the first half.

Third and fourth down stops thanks to bad play designs? You got it. Turnovers? Check. Lackluster run games? Definitely. Mental mistakes? Tons.

As a result, No. 4 USC didn’t quite look like the College Football Playoff contender they were seven days ago after a sloppy 14-7 first half that saw them up just a touchdown on Texas at the midway point.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the fact that the Horns’ defense showed up in a way that Stanford could not in the same situation last week. The Longhorns stout front four were active for the first two quarters and helped clog USC’s running lanes, limiting star tailback Ronald Jones to just 33 yards on 13 carries. Heisman favorite Sam Darnold had to shoulder the load for the most part and put up solid numbers (173 yards passing on 12 completions and the only two scores on a pair of nifty touchdown throws) but was not helped by his young receivers dropping passes on nearly every drive.

Opposite number Sam Ehlinger, making his first road start under center as just a true freshman, was fairly uneven on the night. He threw an ill-advised interception from his own end zone and was on the run for most of the first two quarters of action when he dropped back to pass. Had it not been for the impressive defensive effort though, including a pick-six with 19 seconds left by DeShon Elliott to knot things up on the scoreboard, things could have been a lot worse for Tom Herman coming out of the locker room as a big underdog.

What will the second half have in store? Hopefully less of what we saw Saturday evening and more of that magic from a decade ago in the Rose Bowl. Perhaps the pair of touchdowns in the final 20 seconds will be a sign of things to come from the Coliseum.

Vanderbilt transfer DL Rutger Reitmaier receives all-clear from NCAA

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Vanderbilt got some good news Wednesday when the NCAA approved transfer Rutger Reitmaier to compete this fall.

The Nashville native signed with Oregon out of high school in 2017 but did not compete for the Ducks. He left the team after spring practice, sat out the 2017 season and enrolled at Vanderbilt in January.

“Adding Rutger to our roster is huge,” head coach Derek Mason told Vanderbilt’s official site. “He adds depth, athleticism and will be a key piece for us. I’m excited about what an impactful player he is, and it’s great to add another quality player from Nashville.”

A 4-star recruit, Reitmaier was recruited by the likes of Tennessee, Ole Miss and South Carolina, but favored Vanderbilt when leaving Oregon.

“Vanderbilt was the first school I considered after deciding to leave Oregon,” he said. “It was one of my top-three schools during my initial recruitment in high school. Defense wins championships, so having a head coach like Coach Mason with that background was attractive for me. I’m excited to get going.”

 

Northwestern announces slew of schedule changes, including future home-and-homes with Tulane and Rice

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Northwestern claims they have the best home schedule in the country for the upcoming 2018 season and they have a pretty good case with Duke, Akron, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Notre Dame all coming to Ryan Field. Based on the latest moves on their future schedules however, that good run of big names doesn’t quite continue.

The school announced a slew of new games in the coming years on Wednesday, including a pair of home-and-homes with AAC and CUSA opponents. First up is a date with Tulane in Evanston on Sept. 12, 2020, followed by a return game in New Orleans on Aug. 30, 2025. As a result of that first game against the Green Wave, the Wildcats had to move their previously scheduled contest against Central Michigan from Sept. 12 to Sept. 19 in 2020 (also at home).

Another school in the South was also added to the NU docket with a second home-and-home series with Rice way out in the future. The pair will play in Houston on Sept. 8, 2029, while the return game at Ryan Field is set for Sept. 6… 2031. Yeah, 2031. The two teams will also meet in 2024 and 2025.

A single home game against FCS power South Dakota State was also announced by Northwestern and will be played on Sept. 12, 2026.

The moves mean the Wildcats’ non-conference slate is pretty much set in 2019 (at Stanford, vs. UNLV and UMass), 2022 (vs. Duke, Miami (OH) and Southern Illinois) and 2024 (vs. Duke, Miami (OH) and Rice). The games announced Wednesday fill in some of the holes left in other years but outside of the trip to the Farm next season and a home-and-home with Colorado in 2026/27, there’s not a ton to write home about.

At least Northwestern will always have that 2018 home schedule to point to.

NCAA data shows number of graduate transfers in football nearly doubled last year

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The biggest issue the NCAA is tackling at the moment is an easy one to pick out: transfers. Coaches have chimed in about potential changes and new rules have been enacted but even as we approach the Media Days portion of the calendar next month, transfer talk has been one of the hot topics across all major sports at the collegiate level.

Perhaps that interest is one reason why the NCAA released a new study this week looking into the numbers of one particular category of players: graduate transfers. While the number of actual graduate transfers remains relatively low (about 1% of the total number of student-athletes), the number itself continues to skyrocket year-by-year as more and more players take advantage of rules that allow them to graduate and play immediately at their next school.

According to the NCAA, that number of grad transfers is five times bigger in 2017 than it was in 2011 for men’s sports alone and football in particular saw the number of players moving around nearly double from 117 total in 2016 to 211 the following season. The rates are higher in men’s basketball but the overall number is naturally much bigger in football given the vastly bigger roster size.

Data for 2018 was naturally not made available since we’re just in the middle of the year but a similar increase wouldn’t be too surprising to see given the number of big names that have made headlines prior to the upcoming season. That includes players like Michigan’s Wilton Speight (to UCLA), Cal’s Tre Watson (to Texas), Notre Dame’s Jay Hayes (to Georgia) and Alabama’s Brandon Kennedy (to Tennessee) all among those taking the grad transfer route. It seems like nearly every week we see one or two players announce their intentions to take a similar path.

While we might not have 400+ players listed as graduate transfers in football when 2018 comes to a close, it certainly doesn’t appear that this trend will be slowing down anytime soon and the coaches that are complaining about this brand of “free agency” in college football will just have to get used to the new reality of player movement in light of a number of new NCAA reforms on the subject.

Notre Dame LB David Adams stepping away from football for medical reasons

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Tough news out of South Bend this week as redshirt freshman linebacker David Adams is leaving the Notre Dame football program as a player to take a medical exception. He tweeted a lengthy statement discussing the departure on his Twitter account Tuesday night:

The Pittsburgh native was a former three-star recruit coming out of high school and was an Under Armour All-American. He redshirted during his first year with the team in 2017 but will sadly not suit up for the team going forward.

The list of injuries Adams tweeted about shows why this isn’t super surprising news given that he had suffered, among other things, concussions, a torn left labrum, a torn rotator cuff, a knee injury and severe patellar tendonitis. He will remain on scholarship at Notre Dame but won’t count against the football team’s 85-man limit going forward.

Though Adams was expected to help contribute some depth to the Irish defense this year, the team is pretty set in the middle of their defense at linebacker on the two-deep but could see incoming recruits Jack Lamb and Bo Bauer take some snaps earlier than expected if somebody else gets hurt.