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No. 2 Penn State exacts revenge on No. 19 Michigan, advances to showdown vs. No. 6 Ohio State

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The trajectory of Penn State’s program changed with last season’s loss to Michigan. That 49-10 drubbing in Ann Arbor dropped the Nittany Lions to 2-2 on the season and 2-6 dating back to the close of the 2015 season and furthered the narrative that James Franklin couldn’t compete against the elite of the Big Ten.

Penn State is now the elite of the Big Ten. The No. 2 Nittany Lions entered Saturday night 15-1 since that blowout loss to Michigan, and improved to 16-1 with a 42-13 defeat of No. 19 Michigan.

Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead pulled out a wrinkle on the Nittany Lions’ second play from scrimmage, and it worked to perfection. Quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley shifted pre-snap, and Barkley took the direct snap and raced 69 yards untouched for a touchdown.

After forcing a three-and-out, Penn State moved 78 yards in four plays, keyed by a 35-yard rainbow heave from McSorley to tight end Mike Gesicki. Barkley scored his second touchdown of the first quarter one play later, a 15-yard burst around the right side. 

But Penn State’s offense stalled from there. The Lions’ next possession ended in a McSorley interception, and the possession after that was a three-and-out that lost nine yards. Penn State penetrated Michigan territory midway through the second quarter, but Barkley dropped a wheel route that would’ve put the Lions inside the red zone. Penn State turned the ball over on downs two plays later.

Meanwhile, Michigan turned McSorley’s interception into an 11-play, 59-yard touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard Karan Higdon run on fourth-and-goal. Quinn Nordin missed the ensuing PAT.

After the turnover on downs, Michigan marched 67 yards on a series of John O’Korn plays — a 14-yard rush, an 18-yard strike to Donovan Peoples-Jones, and 23 yards to Kekoa CrawfordTy Isaac powered in from six yards out to pull the Wolverines within one with 1:45 to play before the half. 

Threatened for the first time of the evening, Penn State ended its streak of three straight unsuccessful drives with a 7-play, 75-yard march that consumed only 52 seconds. McSorley accounted for 68 yards on the drive, including a 3-yard rush to put the home team back up eight.

That momentum continued into the second half. The Lions opened the second half with a 9-play, 80-yard march that closed with McSorley’s second touchdown run and, after a three-and-out, Penn State’s backfield battery put the game out of reach with a 42-yard touchdown connection from McSorley to Barkley. McSorley closed the night hitting 17-of-26 throws for 282 yards with a touchdown and an interception and 11 carries for 76 yards and three scores. Barkley rushed 15 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns with three grabs for 53 yards and a touchdown. As a team, Penn State racked up 506 yards of total offense, more than double the 223.8 yards per game Michigan’s FBS-leading defense entered the night surrendering — and Franklin allowed the clock to expire with Penn State inside the Michigan 10-yard line and three timeouts in his pocket, so it could have been worse.

Trailing 35-13 early in the fourth quarter, Jim Harbaugh put together a last-chance drive to claw back in the game, but O’Korn was sacked on fourth down near midfield. McSorley’s third touchdown run of the night, a 9-yarder with 7:53 to play, added the exclamation point.

The win pushed Penn State to 7-0 on the season (4-0 Big Ten) and advanced the Nittany Lions into the game of the year in the Big Ten and perhaps the entire college football regular season: a visit to No. 6 Ohio State next Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox).

Michigan dropped to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten play. Trailing Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State by two games and ceding the tie-breaker to the first two, the 2017 season officially takes on “rebuilding year” status as the Wolverines are now playing for positioning among the Tampa-Orlando-Jacksonville bowl games and 2018 preparation.

The Nittany Lions, though, are playing for much more, and they have Michigan to thank for that.

Both Alabama coordinators receive new three-year deals, including lucrative package for OC Steve Sarkisian

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After being let go by the Atlanta Falcons this offseason, many expected veteran offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to remain in the NFL after finding a solid amount of success at the next level. There were even a few rumors that he would be linking up with Kliff Kingsbury to serve as OC of the Arizona Cardinals.

Instead he turned a number of those opportunities down to return to Tuscaloosa for a more permanent role as Crimson Tide offensive coordinator, a position he briefly served in the national title game a few years ago following the departure of Lane Kiffin. Now we know one factor in the former Washington and USC head coach’s thinking: a lucrative three-year deal at the school that puts him in rare air among college assistants.

Per USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz: 

Sarkisian’s $1.55 million salary for 2019 would have made him the seventh-highest paid assistant in college football last year per the paper’s annual database and the highest paid offensive coordinator in the country. Ponying up such a contract is somewhat common place at SEC programs like Alabama but few other schools also have Nick Saban leading the staff as the highest paid head coach in the sport on a regular basis.

While every houndstooth-clad fan in the world will tell you Saban is worth every penny, there’s at least some apprehension over the figures tossed around for the other given the residual effects from Sark’s one-game stint calling plays in a tough loss on the big stage. New defensive coordinator Pete Golding, meanwhile, will essentially take the salary placeholder that former linebackers coach/co-DC Tosh Lupoi made last season. The latter assistant “left” for a job in the NFL after this year’s national title game loss to Clemson.

The two coordinators were not the only ones to receive either new deals or pay raises from the school either, as Berkowitz notes the most expensive staff in the country is getting even pricer in 2019.

Interim USC president sidesteps questions about AD Lynn Swann’s job security in wake of scandal

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News that USC was involved in yet another improbable athletics scandal was not a surprise to a lot of folks who had been following the Trojans in recent years but it seems that the school’s efforts to clean things up in the athletic department might mean nobody is safe. Even those at the very top of the org chart.

In a rare interview this week since several school officials were indicted several days ago, USC’s interim president Wanda Austin sidestepped questions about athletic director Lynn Swann’s job security in the wake of several calls for his resignation.

“My comments would be that we certainly are doing a complete investigation around athletics because of the admission scandal and concern,” Austin told Annenberg Media. “After we complete that review and find out the facts of who knew what and/or who should have known what. That obviously will be something that will be reviewed with the board.”

That’s… not exactly a vote of confidence in the AD. In fact, it’s a sidestepping of a question that would impress even the most seasoned of politicians.

While it should be noted that the university is expected to name a new, full-time president at some point in the near future that will ultimately have say in personnel matters like this, Austin definitely didn’t douse any hot seat talk surrounding the Hall of Famer turned administrator. Swann said last week that he would like to remain in his position for a total of 10 years but it seems that having three people in one’s department caught up in FBI investigations the past two years might mean nobody is actually safe in Los Angeles after all.

New Miami QB Tate Martell’s eligibility wavier reportedly received Ohio State support

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This normally dreary stretch of the offseason in college football was perked up quite a bit on Tuesday when Miami announced that Ohio State transfer Tate Martell’s waiver with the NCAA to play immediately was granted and that he would suit up for the Hurricanes in 2019. While many though this was a great example of free agency coming to the sport, that’s not truly the case given the byzantine process the NCAA typically goes through in cases like this.

However, there were some unique factors that went into the decision according to the Miami Herald and that included some serious weight given to the fact that the Buckeyes were not standing in the way of Martell leaving nor becoming eligible in South Florida right away.

“I think what you had here is a situation where the request was made in a way that Ohio State did not oppose what we put in our request and they were cooperative with Miami,” attorney Travis Leach told the paper. “That ultimately was helpful to us.”

While Miami sources did describe things as a bit of a divorce between signal-caller and OSU after ex-Georgia QB Justin Fields transferred in, it’s interesting that the story noted that the change from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day at head coach didn’t really play a factor. That was something that a lot of folks seemed to hang their hats on in this case but it seems that the NCAA listened closer to the circumstances surrounding Martell leaving Columbus and what the football program was doing in terms of roster management and not who was doing the managing.

Either way, it seems like everybody — sans perhaps some Michigan and Florida State fans — came out a winner from this whole player shuffle. It’s probably a lot more encouraging for the next high-profile quarterback thinking about transferring out for greener pastures too.

WWE “scout” showed up at Penn State Pro Day for second straight year

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‘We are’ is really channelling their ‘Woooo’ now a days.

If you’re too young to get that reference or never did follow wrestling back in the day, don’t worry. Just know that some sort of pipeline is being apparently developed at Penn State by the WWE.

At least it seems that way judging by the organization’s Pro Day attendance.

You will notice that the school separates out the WWE from the WWE-backed XFL spring football league that is being launched next year. That’s a notable distinction given that the wrestling company has shown up to Happy Valley two years in a row now for Pro Day. While one wouldn’t have had a big issue with them turning up to see the Saquon Barkley freak show last year, it seems that this is now becoming a bit of a trend with James Franklin’s program.

While you can bet that this will be a nice recruiting tool for the Nittany Lions to connect with a few recruits down the road, things might get a little strange if the WWE decides to recreate a ‘White Out’ for the next Wrestlemania or plucks a few lineman from the school to form the next tag team at the event.