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No. 21 Stanford beats No. 8 Notre Dame, advances to Pac-12 Championship

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A trio of fourth quarter touchdowns turned an already good night into a great one for Stanford, as the No. 21 Cardinal blew past No. 8 Notre Dame 38-20 to claim Stanford’s third straight win and seventh in the last nine meetings of private school powers.

Meanwhile in Seattle, No. 17 Washington’s blowout of No. 13 Washington State handed Stanford its fourth Pac-12 North championship and sent the Cardinal into a Pac-12 Championship rematch with No. 11 USC on Friday in Santa Clara.

Stanford entered the fourth quarter trailing 20-17, but a 19-yard pass from K.J. Costello to Kaden Smith handed the Cardinal the lead with 13:46 to play. Curtis Robinson intercepted Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush inside Irish territory on the first play of the ensuing possession, and Costello’s fourth touchdown pass, this one a 12-yarder to Dalton Schultz gave Stanford control of the game with 12:21 remaining.

Disaster struck Notre Dame again after C.J. Sanders fumbled the ensuing kickoff at his own 18-yard line, and Jordan Scarlett put the game away for Stanford with a 3-yard touchdown plunge with 10:10 remaining.

A Wimbush interception inside the Stanford end zone ended any hopes of a last-gasp comeback.

Notre Dame opened the scoring with an 83-yard snatch-and-dash connection from Wimbush to Kevin Stepherson, handing the Irish a 7-0 lead at the 3:40 mark of the first quarter. Stanford pulled even on the next drive, knifing 72 yards in five plays, the last 29 on a Trenton Irwin pass from Costello.

The Cardinal forced a three-and-out on Notre Dame’s next possession, then took the lead with a 6-play, 55-yard march, mostly on Costello’s arm. He hit J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to give Stanford a 14-7 lead with 11:29 left in the first half.

Notre Dame cut into the deficit with a 38-yard Justin Yoon field goal with 2:36 left in the half. The Irish grabbed their second lead of the night with another long throw, this one a 75-yard toss from Wimbush to Equanimeous St. Brown. After Stanford tied the game with a 24-yard Jet Toner field goal, Yoon nudged Notre Dame back in front for its final lead of the night with a 38-yard boot at the 1:23 mark of the third quarter.

Wimbush finished the night hitting hitting 11-of-27 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, with two throws accounting for 158 yards and the other 25 going for 91.

Though his numbers did not pop off the page, Bryce Love was perhaps Stanford’s MVP with a game-high 20 carries for 125 yards. Playing on a high ankle sprain, Love’s 20 totes were sprinkled in between hobbles to and from the Stanford sideline; Love would carry the ball, wait for the pain to subside and then run back on the field to carry the ball again and again and again.

While Stanford (9-3) will prepare for its rematch with the Trojans — USC won the first meeting, 42-24 Sept. 9 in Los Angeles — Notre Dame (9-3) will look to hold on its New Year’s Six bowl positioning.

Arizona State confirms Boise State’s Zak Hill as new OC

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At the end of the regular season, Herm Edwards fired the bulk of Arizona State’s offensive staff. Nearly two weeks later, the reshaping of the assistants on that side of the ball has commenced in earnest.

Following up on speculation that had been growing in recent days, ASU on Saturday announced that Zak Hill has been hired as Edwards’ new offensive coordinator. Hill will replace Rob Likens, who was a part of the post-regular-season purge.

“Zak is very well versed in offensive football,” the head coach said in a statement. “He comes from winning programs and he played the quarterback position. I like that. He’s good at building an offense around the personnel that he has available to him. He will force the defense to adjust with multiple formations and personnel groups. His style fits the DNA of what we want on our coaching staff. He’s an excellent teacher.”

The past four seasons, Hill served as the coordinator at Boise State. Prior to that, and aside from a one-month stop at Hawaii, Hill spent seven seasons as the passing-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at FCS power Eastern Washington.

“I am really excited about this opportunity and I truly believe it is a great situation for me at ASU,” Hill said. “I appreciate Coach Edwards believing in me and having the trust to bring me on and I am thankful to Ray Anderson and the Sun Devil administration for their support in making this happen. I am really excited to get down there and I know we have some exciting weapons on offense. I look forward to putting together an explosive, fun offense that our fans will love to watch.”

“I am humbled at this opportunity. I also want to thank everyone at Boise State for a great four years and I am grateful for all the support I have received from Bronco Nation,” he added. “I would especially like to thank Coach Harsin for his leadership and my years at Boise State and the opportunity he afforded me to grow as a coach.”

In addition to Hill’s, uhhh, addition, ASU also confirmed Derek Hagan and Prentice Gill as offensive assistants. Their specific titles and responsibilities were not detailed.

Hagan, who played wide receiver for the Sun Devils and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2015, was an offensive analyst at ASU this past season. Gill served in the same role at Oregon.

Dabo Swinney lays out new responsibilities for offensive staff

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Jeff Scott spent a dozen years at Clemson, including the last five seasons as co-offensive coordinator, before taking the head job at USF earlier this month. Despite his importance to Dabo Swinney‘s success, there won’t be too much change for the defending national champions moving forward.

Friday, Swinney confirmed that he will not be filling Scott’s co-coordinator position and will instead allow Tony Elliott to serve as the sole coordinator. Elliott and Scott have shared coordinating responsibilities each of the past five seasons.

Quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter will maintain his current responsibilities as well as add the title of passing-game coordinator.

Additionally, Tyler Grisham, who played for the Tigers from 2005-08, has been promoted to wide receivers coach, a responsibility previously held by Scott. Grisham had been serving as an offensive analyst for the program.

“We have a good plan for all that stuff and have a great group of people here,” the head coach said. “We’re excited about getting it all settled out.”

Swinney also reiterated that, as had previously been laid out, Scott will return to the team next Thursday and will remain through however long the Tigers’ postseason run lasts. Clemson will face Ohio State Dec. 28 in one of the two College Football Playoff semifinals.

Ohio State’s Justin Fields the way-too-early 2020 Heisman favorite

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You say the tears aren’t even dry yet from Joe Burrow‘s acceptance speech and we’re already looking ahead to 2020?  You’re damn right we are.

Saturday night, Burrow claimed the 2019 Heisman Trophy in record-smashing fashion, with the quarterback becoming just the second LSU Tiger to claim the most prestigious trophy in the sport.  Quarterback Justin Fields finished third in the voting, one of three Ohio State Buckeyes to land in the top six in the voting.

Speaking of Fields, one online sportsbook has the sophomore listed as a 5/2 favorite to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy.  Fellow sophomore Trevor Lawrence of Clemson is right behind him at 3/1.

The next closest is Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at 7/1.

A handful of the players who finished in the Top 10 in the voting — Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, Ohio State running back JK Dobbins, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — have eligibility remaining, but are expected to leave early for the NFL draft.  If any of them opt to remain in school, that would obviously change the odds moving forward.

USC transfer QB Jack Sears appears headed to San Diego State

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Jack Sears may have left USC, but it doesn’t appear he’ll end up leaving the state of California.

After finding himself fourth on the quarterbacking depth chart, Sears announced on his personal Twitter account in late August that he had decided to enter the NCAA transfer database.  A little over three months later, and after a flirtation with Oregon State, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that “Sears has committed to San Diego State as a graduate transfer who would enroll during the spring semester.”

As a graduate transfer, Sears would be eligible to play for the Aztecs in 2020.  He would also have another season of eligibility he could use in 2021 as well.

As of yet, the Mountain West Conference school hasn’t confirmed Sears’ intentions.

Sears was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2017 recruiting class, rated as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the country.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Sears completed 20-of-28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown the following season.