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No. 17 USC takes control of Pac-12 South after holding on for win over No. 22 Arizona

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A few weeks ago, No. 17 USC and No. 22 Arizona were like passing ships in the night, headed in opposite directions as their seasons took wildly different paths. On Saturday night at the Coliseum however, both appeared to get back on the course many thought they would be on.

The Trojans used a solid defensive effort combined with some big plays on offense to power to a 49-35 victory over the Wildcats and all but lock up an eventual berth in the Pac-12 title game as a result.

Clancy Pendergast’s group was swarming at the start of the game, blocking a punt in the first quarter for a touchdown and doing better than anybody in the country at slowing down dynamic quarterback Khalil Tate until the second half rolled around. The Trojans recorded five sacks on the night all told, as many as Arizona had allowed all year coming in.

The home side also got things going offensively too, mostly using their big offensive line to pave the way for tailbacks Ronald Jones (194 yards, three touchdowns) and Aca’Cedric Ware (122 yards rushing, one score). Quarterback Sam Darnold was also pretty sharp outside of a bad interception in the end zone, throwing for 311 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. The signal-caller did appear to injure his hip late in the third quarter but stayed in the game to see out the win.

Thanks to that early special teams gaff, Arizona played most of the night from behind. Tate seemed to be slightly off behind center in his Los Angeles homecoming early on but did help key a second half rally that made the game interesting and saw the team tie it up with a two point conversion in the fourth quarter. All told he finished with 146 yards passing and two touchdowns (two interceptions) while rushing for 161 and a score. Those numbers weren’t bad all told but they were well below his season averages — which says plenty about a player many have started touting for the Heisman Trophy.

Instead, the win by USC will all but secure them the division title they were heavily favored to win prior to the season starting. The Trojans are the only Pac-12 South team with one loss and have head-to-head wins over both of the other two teams behind them (the Arizona schools). With a trip to Colorado and crosstown rival UCLA at home being all that remains in the regular season, it seems like a lock that the cardinal and gold will head to Santa Clara to play for a New Year’s Six bowl bid.

The season hasn’t played out as expected for either of these two teams but at least they’re entertaining going on these rollercoaster rides each and every week.

Southern Miss offensive coordinator leaves to join Georgia staff

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How big is the gap between the SEC and Conference USA? So big that Buster Faulkner would evidently rather be an analyst in the SEC than a coordinator in C-USA.

The Southern Miss offensive coordinator is leaving Hattiesburg to join Kirby Smart‘s staff in Athens. Smart has already hired former Todd Monken (ironically, a former Southern Miss head coach) to be his offensive coordinator, and there are no spots open on Georgia’s on-the-field staff. So, according to Dawgs247, Faulkner will join as an analyst.

While nothing has been announced, Faulkner on Monday confirmed his departure out of Hattiesburg.

“Thank you Coach Hop for allowing me to be a part of something special in Hattiesburg,” he tweeted. “I was able to work with some incredible men on this offensive staff! To the players-I love you guys, thanks for everything. I had a blast working with y’all. I wish you guys the best.”

A former Valdosta State quarterback when Smart was on the coaching staff, Faulkner spent just 2019 at Southern Miss after spending the previous three at Arkansas State. He helped the Golden Eagles fly from 109th to 48th in yards per play.

Kerry Coombs set to return to Ohio State

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Ohio State has an opening for a defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach now that Jeff Hafley is Boston College’s head coach. And Ryan Day has found the perfect guy to fill that role — Ohio State’s old defensive backs coach.

Ever-popular assistant coach Kerry Coombs is set to return to Columbus as the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, according to multiple reports on Monday. (Letterman Row first reported the news.)

An original member of Urban Meyer‘s Ohio State staff, Coombs coached the Buckeyes’ defensive backs from 2012-17, a period that saw Ohio State rank among the top 13 nationally in pass efficiency defense four times, including 2017. Ohio State immediately slunk to 42nd in 2018, leading to Day’s hiring of Hafley. Ohio State immediately rocketed to first (they were second until LSU shredded Clemson last Monday), which led to Hafley’s hiring at BC and, now, Coombs’ return.

“I told the [defensive backs] last year at this time: ‘I am going to go get the best guy in the country.’ They didn’t know who Jeff Hafley was,” Day said last month. “Now they love him, they’re going to miss him. Going to do the same thing again next year, go get the best there is. You call around to different people that you respect. But usually the people you bring in are people that you know really well and you trust.”

Day spent the past two seasons as the defensive backs coach for the Tennessee Titans, and he’ll now return to a senior role he never would’ve gotten had he not left in the first place.

Phil Snow officially following Matt Rhule to Carolina

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise given he’s spent the past four years working for the man, but Phil Snow is officially following Matt Rhule to Carolina.

The team made the announcement Monday.

Snow had coordinated Rhule’s defenses at Temple and Baylor, and in 2019 became one of the most highly-regarded coordinators in the sport. A finalist for the Broyles Award and winner of the FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year, Snow would have had options had he chosen to remain in the college game. (Returning to Baylor likely not an option, with Dave Aranda now installed as the top Bear.)

Baylor was the only Big 12 team to hold opponents under 20 points per game and under five yards per play.

He has spent only four years of his four decade coaching run in the NFL, serving as linebackers coach for the Detroit Lions from 2005-08.

“I’ve coordinated in high school, junior college, I-AA, I-A,” Snow said. “My last challenge is the National Football League.”

“I haven’t won a game as a head coach without him as my defensive coordinator,” Rhule said of Snow.

Snow will pair with another hot college name in Joe Brady to serve as Carolina’s coordinator tandem, and Rhule likely isn’t done pillaging college football, either, as reports indicated Monday that Baylor defensive tackles coach Frank Okam will follow Rhule and Snow from Waco to Charlotte.

Ex-Georgia DB Otis Reese lands at Ole Miss

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Lane Kiffin landed a recruit over the weekend in the form of Georgia transfer Otis Reese.

A 4-star member of Kirby Smart‘s 2018 class, Reese appeared in 25 games in silver britches, including all 14 this season. He collected 16 tackles as a Bulldog, though he played primarily on special teams.

“Even in my darkest times, I have always believed, the light would shine & it’s TIME!!!” he tweeted over the weekend.

The Leesburg, Ga., native will presumably compete for playing time in the defensive backfield at Ole Miss.

Barring a waiver, he will have to sit out a year and will first compete for the Rebels in 2021.