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No. 9 Notre Dame holds the lead at halftime in tight one with No. 14 N.C. State

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Saturday was quite the opportunity for teams to leave a lasting impression on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee prior to their first set of rankings being released next week. Based on how the first half went in South Bend, safe to say both No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 14 N.C. State are both firmly in the mix for a top 10 spot after a fun back-and-forth effort between the two teams that put memories of last year’s meeting far out of anybody’s mind.

The Irish managed to hold onto a 21-14 lead going into the locker room when all was said and done, but there was a lot going on for both sides in a half filled with big plays.

James Smith-Williams blocked a punt for the Wolfpack’s first points of the game, which was fitting given how dominant their defense was early. Bradley Chubb (four tackles, one sack) was nearly unblockable despite that fearsome Irish offensive line, getting into the backfield on nearly every snap.

Notre Dame responded every time they were threatened however, signaling this one would be a dogfight for both sidelines. QB Brandon Wimbush quickly threw a touchdown pass on the next drive and finished with 80 yards through the air and three total scores in the half. Tailback Josh Adams was held out of the end zone but was the typical workhorse between the 20’s, doing his best to keep pace with Saquon Barkley and Bryce Love in the Heisman race by racking up 102 yards on the ground against one of the best rush defenses in the country.

Despite losing running back Nyheim Hines to a leg injury — he was “questionable to return” after going to the locker room in the first quarter — the Wolfpack continued to move the ball offensively. They marched 71 yards in just seven plays to open the second quarter before signal-caller Ryan Finley (122 yards passing in the half) found Kelvin Harmon in the corner of the end zone, where the latter made a terrific one-handed touchdown catch. The normally productive all-purpose threat Jaylen Samuels wasn’t quite as involved in the game as he usually is but with others stepping up for State, it wasn’t quite as big of a deal as it could be for the team in the second half.

There’s a lot going on at the moment in college football but the best game of the bunch in this TV window seems like it has been at Notre Dame Stadium. Neither team is running away with things after two quarters — which bodes well for a second half that could be just as fun to watch as the first.

Iowa lands Division II graduate transfer

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The graduate transfer has become a great vehicle for Group of 5 and FCS players who over-perform at their level to shoot their shot at a Power 5 program. But Iowa this weekend added an extremely rare Division II-to-Power 5 graduate transfer.

Zach VanValkenburg on Saturday pledged his commitment to Iowa after being pursued by multiple Big Ten programs.

“So thankful for all the people who have gotten me to this point; my parents, my coaches in high school, and my coaches at Hillsdale,” VanValkenburg in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Leaving Hillsdale is bittersweet but I have reached the end of the road here educationally and my goals are uncompromising. I will always cherish the experiences I had here and the friendships I have made. With that said, I’m very proud to announce that I will be continuing both my academic and football careers at the University of Iowa this fall! Go Hawkeyes!”

Playing at Hillsdale College, a private college in an eponymous Michigan town, the 6-foot-4, 266-pound defensive end collected 70 tackles with 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2018.

He will be expected to add depth along Iowa’s defensive line after losing all four starters from last year’s team.

VanValkenburg will have two seasons to compete for the Hawkeyes.

Idaho WR diagnosed with kidney cancer

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Idaho wide receiver Collin Sather is battling advanced renal cancer, the program has announced. Renal cancer attacks the kidneys and most commonly attacks older men.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Sather began experiencing stomach pains on Jan. 17, and by Jan. 21 the pains had progressed to the point where he had to be hospitalized. He is currently undergoing dialysis and chemotherapy at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane, and once he is stabilized will be transferred to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

“We are with Collin every day during this fight,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said in a statement. “He is a great young man and the model of a great teammate. Everyone in our program cares a lot about him, and he will always be a valued member of this team.

“We keep Collin and his family in our thoughts and prayers each day. We are here to help him keep fighting, and we will be here to welcome him back when he wins his battle.”

A Spokane, Wash., native, Sather was an all-conference player in football and basketball at West Valley High School before signing with Idaho in 2018. He redshirted last fall.

Mark Dantonio approved for rolling 1-year extension

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Mark Dantonio signed a 6-year contract in 2016 that was essentially an indefinite contract. Under the provisions of the deal, MSU’s Board of Trustees each February have the option to tack another year onto the contract, making it essentially a rolling 6-year contract, and for the second straight year they have done just that, according to the Lansing State Journal‘s R.J. Wolcott.

Though he is 2-for-2 on automatic rollovers (the deal would remain a 5-year contract if MSU’s trustees for some reason did not approve the rollover), both extensions have come amid a fair level of turmoil around the program.

In 2017, Dantonio successfully rebounded from Sparty’s 3-9 2016 campaign to go 10-3 with a No. 15 finish in the AP poll, but he was dogged by accusations that he mishandled sexual assault allegations against a handful of Spartan players — amid a complete mishandling (to put it lightly) of sexual assault allegations elsewhere in the athletics department, against gymnastics trainer Larry Nassar.

In 2018, Dantonio watched Michigan State’s record slink to 7-6 and, instead of making changes on the offensive staff, he opted to retain his entire roster of offensive coaches, though in different spots.

Still, Dantonio secured his extension. The 2025 season would take Dantonio to his 19th season at Michigan State and past his 69th birthday.

He is 107-51 with three Big Ten championships, two AP top-5 finishes and one College Football Playoff appearance in a dozen seasons as the head Spartan.

Georgia State pulling new offensive coordinator from FCS ranks

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After losing Travis Trickett to his old country roads of West Virginia, Georgia State’s new offensive coordinator is a name unfamiliar to most fans, but not to Panthers head coach Shawn Elliott.

Georgia State will hire Brad Glenn as its new offensive coordinator, a source confirmed to CFT.

Glenn is currently the associate head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Western Carolina. Prior to that, he spent seven years on staff at Appalachian State, at times coaching the Mountaineers’ slot receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks. Elliott was App State’s offensive line coach from 2001-09.

Georgia State ranked No. 76 nationally in yards per play (5.57) and No. 104 in scoring (23.9 points per game) en route to a 2-10 season in 2018.