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No. 4 Clemson clinches third straight ACC Atlantic crown with win over Florida State

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It was much more difficult than it should have been, but it was a win. No. 4 Clemson topped Florida State 31-14 to claim the ACC Atlantic Division championship and take a step forward toward defending its national championship.

Clemson claimed a 17-0 halftime lead that could have been 28-0 without a pair of Kelly Bryant fumbles, and then found itself fending off an upset bid in the tail end of the fourth quarter.

With the score still 17-0 late in the third quarter, Florida State got on the board with a 7-play, 90-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a 3-yard Jacques Patrick run. After three straight punts, Florida State scored again, this time on a perfectly executed reverse-flea flicker from Blackman to tight end Ryan Izzo who bobbed and weaved his way for a 60-yard score, pulling the Seminoles within 17-14 with 8:53 to play in the game.

And then Bryant (151 passing yards, 60 rushing yards) fumbled — his third of the game — on Clemson’s next touch, giving Florida State the ball at the Clemson 40 with 6:36 to play.

However, Blackman immediately gave the ball right back. Florida State’s next snap was an interception to Clemson’s Van Smith on a throw where Smith was the only player in the picture. He returned the ball 38 yards to the FSU 44, and a rejuvenated Clemson offense sprung to life with a 6-play touchdown drive that killed half the remaining clock and Florida State’s chances of completing the comeback. Adam Choice added a punctuation mark score with 35 seconds remaining.

Both of Clemson’s first two touchdowns came with help from Florida State (3-6, 3-5 ACC). The first was set up by a fumble by Blackman (12-of-31 passing for 202 yards with one touchdown and one interception, five sacks), which Clemson’s Tre Lamar recovered at the FSU 20-yard line. Bryant rushed in from two yards out to put the Tigers up at the 2:51 mark of the first quarter.

Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) threatened to add a second score midway through the second quarter, but Travis Feaster fumbled the ball at the FSU 1, and Demarcus Christmas hopped on the ball for Florida State. However, Clemson forced a punt from inside the Florida State end zone, and Ray Ray McCloud returned the boot 35 yards to the FSU 28. Travis Etienne raced in for Clemson’s second score on play later.

Bryant nearly gave away another red zone fumble on Clemson’s final drive of the half, with three Florida State defenders touching a loose football inside the FSU 10. But Bryant out-hustled all three of them to get the ball back, allowing Alex Spence to bang in a 26-yard field goal with 1:39 left before halftime.

The win pushes Clemson into the ACC Championship for the third consecutive year — matching 2012-14 Florida State for the longest appearance streak in the 13-year history of the game — and the fifth time overall, which ties Florida State for the second most in the ACC. (Virginia Tech leads the league with six division titles.) All five trips have come under Dabo Swinney. The Tigers have won their last three ACC title game appearances.

Not coincidentally, the win also gives Clemson three straight victories over Florida State. That matches the Tigers’ longest winning streak over the ‘Noles, though the two ACC Atlantic titans did not play regularly until Florida State joined the ACC in 1992. (Florida State leads the all-time series, 20-11.) The victory also pushes Swinney above .500 (5-4) against Florida State since obtaining the full-time head coaching job in 2009.

Of course, Clemson’s program has progressed well beyond simply Florida State and winning their division. The Tigers are in the midst of defending their College Football Playoff championship, and now three more wins separate them from a third straight CFP berth.

Florida State, meanwhile, now must reel off wins over Delaware State, Florida and Louisiana-Monroe to keep its FBS-leading 35-year bowl streak alive.

Former four-star Clemson DB enters transfer portal

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A couple of weeks or so before kicking off summer camp, the defending national champion’s depth in the secondary has taken a bit of a hit.

Exiting spring practice, Kyler McMichael was listed as A.J. Terrell‘s back up at one of Clemson’s cornerback slots. However, as first reported by 247Sports.com, McMichael’s name is now listed in the NCAA transfer database.

It’s at this point in the program where we’re compelled to remind readers that McMichael can pull his name from the portal and remain with the Tigers, although entering is, more times than not, the first step toward a transfer. Taking a seat in the portal also affords other programs the opportunity to contact the defensive back without receiving permission from Clemson.

Should McMichael ultimately opt to leave the Tigers, it’s highly likely that he’d have to sit out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules if he lands at another FBS program.

A four-star member of Clemson’s 2018 recruiting class, McMichael was rated as the No. 8 corner in the country; the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Georgia; and the No. 56 prospect overall on 247Sports.com’s composite board. He was the highest-rated defensive back in the Tigers’ class that year.

McMichael picked Clemson over offers from, among others, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

As a true freshman, McMichael played in 12 games. During that action, he was credited with a pair of tackles in just over 100 snaps.

Oh, SHI? Cue Clay Davis because Rutgers announces new football naming rights deal for what will now be known as SHI Stadium

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Cue Clay Davis because the birthplace of college football has a new name and fans probably can’t wait to make fun of it.

Rutgers announced on Friday that they have agreed to a new stadium naming rights deal with SHI International Corp. that will see the Scarlet Knights’ home rebranded over the next seven years into SHI Stadium. The venue was officially known as HighPoint.com Stadium last year but the naming rights deal with what most know as High Point Solutions expired this offseason.

“As the State University of New Jersey, we are thrilled to partner with SHI,” Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs said in a statement. “Headquartered right here in Somerset, SHI proudly embraces its strong Rutgers ties. As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of college football here at the Birthplace, we are delighted to partner with a company that shares in our Relentless Pursuit of Excellence. This partnership will positively impact athletics, the university and the New Jersey community.”

Terms were not announced by the school but “a person familiar with the contract told NJ Advance Media it’s a 7-year deal starting at $1.25 million and increasing by $100,000 annually to $1.85 million in 2025-26.” At a total of nearly $10 million over the lifetime of the contract, that isn’t quite what other Power Five programs have fetched but a still significant bump over the previous $600,000 a year the school got.

The Scarlet Knights previously played at Rutgers Stadium up until 2011. The first football game at the newly renamed stadium will happen on Aug. 30 against UMass.

Rimington Trophy watch list is out for 2019 and it includes 80 FBS centers

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Are you a starting center for 2019? Good, because chances are high you made the Rimington Trophy watch list.

The Rimington Trophy Committee released their annual pre-season watch list for the award given to the nation’s best center and remarkably, 80 of the 130 FBS teams were represented on the list. While watch lists are always notable for their length and being sometimes too broad, it kind of feels like everybody who is in line to start was granted a place on this year’s edition.

Among the notable names were Clemson’s Sean Pollard, Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, Michigan State’s Matt Allen, Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, Notre Dame’s Jarrett Patterson, Stanford’s Drew Dalman, Washington’s Nick Harris and LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry III.

You can find the full list of centers nominated here.

The winner of the award will be announced in early December along with a host of other college football honors. The winner will then be recognized at the Rimington Trophy Presentation in Lincoln, Nebraska on January 18, 2020.

Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam, Oklahoma’s Grant Calcaterra lead off 2019 watch list for the Mackey Award

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Being a tight end in today’s version of college football means you’re a player wearing many hats.

While blocking is emphasized less than ever before, players at the position still need to do it in addition to splitting out wide, running reverses and lining up all over the field in a variety of offensive sets. This year’s annual watch list for the 2019 Mackey Award includes a host of players who can do it all and leave an impact between the lines that can make them a headache for opposing defensive coordinators.

While the entire list includes just about every starter at the position in the country, some of the headliners for the upcoming season include Washington’s Hunter BryantOklahoma’s Grant Calcaterra, Alabama’s Miller Forristall, Memphis’ Joey Magnifico, Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam, Stanford’s Colby Parkinson and Vandy’s Jared Pinkney.

The full list of players on the Mackey Award watch list can be found here.

Last year’s winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson, who later became a top 10 draft pick for the Detroit Lions the following spring.