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No. 1 Clemson cruises to halftime lead over No. 7 Miami in ACC title game

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If there are any doubts about who the No. 1 team in the country is, Dabo Swinney and company may have used the first half of the ACC Championship Game to erase them. No. 1 Clemson cruised to a fairly effortless 21-0 lead at halftime over No. 7 Miami and do not appear to be done tuning up for the College Football Playoff either.

The Tigers marched right down on the opening drive of the game in what was quite the tone-setter, scoring off of a Travis Etienne four yard touchdown run to immediately put points on the board. Quarterback Kelly Bryant was really sharp through the first two quarters — 15 completions in a row to open the game — and threw for 164 yards, with another 15 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Tailback Adam Choice also added 21 yards and a rushing touchdown as well.

It didn’t take long for Miami’s vaunted turnover chain to make an appearance though, in what was Clemson’s lone mistake in the half after they went 7-of-10 on third down and scored on three of their five drives. Ray-Ray McCloud ended up muffing the first punt of the game and allowed Trent Harris to emerge from a scrum with the ball. That setup a long field goal attempt that missed to the left and otherwise spoiled the momentum from the big play, made even worse as the Tigers went right back down and scored another touchdown.

To add injury to the insult for the Hurricanes, wideout Darrell Langham — a hero in earlier wins and starting in place of the injured Ahmmon Richards — suffered a minor foot injury, defensive back Trajan Bandy was hurt and star defensive end Chad Thomas also had to be helped off.

Those injuries were compounded by the fact that the UM offense couldn’t do much at all against that feisty front seven from Clemson. Malik Rosier had just 27 yards passing and tailback Travis Homer was limited to only 28 yards on the ground.

There’s still plenty of time for a second half rally for Mark Richt’s team in the Hurricanes’ first trip to Charlotte for the ACC title game but it might take a miracle at this point given how banged up the team is and how well the Tigers are looking as they appear well on their way to locking up another playoff bid.

UTSA QB Bryce Rivers announces transfer

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Go ahead and add another quarterback to the transfer market.

UTSA quarterback Bryce Rivers announced his intent to transfer on Saturday night. “After long talks with close friends and family, I think it is in my best interest to transfer from UTSA,” Rivers wrote in a note posted to his Twitter account.

A San Antonio native, Rivers backed up senior starter Dalton Sturm in 2017, appearing in just three games and throwing eight passes. He competed with junior Cordale Grundy for the starting role heading into 2018 but lost that battle.

By appearing in just three games, Rivers could use this season as a redshirt and play elsewhere as a redshirt junior in 2020.

Jim Harbaugh: “I’m staying at Michigan.”

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Rumors popped up in the past week — from no less a source than former Ohio State wide receiver Cris Carter — that Jim Harbaugh was open to returning to the NFL. Tired of banging his head against the scarlet and gray wall in the Big Ten, the story went, Harbaugh would pack up his bags and leave Ann Arbor for a second time.

He was intrigued by the chance to coach Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, the rumors said. Maybe he’d cross Lake Erie and coach the Browns. Or maybe Dolphins owner and Michigan booster Stephen Ross could lure him to South Beach.

The story is wrong, Harbaugh said.

Speaking to ESPN on Sunday, Harbaugh said this:

“This is a choreographed message that comes up at this time every year before signing day. It’s people spreading messages to further their own personal agenda.

“But I’m on record right here, right now: I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying at Michigan. We have big plans here, and there’s a lot we want to accomplish.”

There are ways to deflect coaching rumors without outright confirming or denying them, but this isn’t that. It’s hard to be any more unequivocal than, “I’m staying at Michigan.”

Four years into his return to Michigan, Harbaugh has undeniably improved the program from where he found it, going 38-13 with two top-15 finishes and another on the way, though hasn’t lived up to the expectation that he’d wrest control of the Big Ten away from Urban Meyer and return the maize and blue to national prominence.

With Meyer leaving Columbus, the second stage of Harbaugh’s Michigan tenure will see even more pressure to push the Wolverines past the Buckeyes, once and for all. And it appears Harbaugh is open to the challenge.

Kyler Murray wins Heisman Trophy as Oklahoma goes back-to-back

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For the second year in a row, an Oklahoma Sooners quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy. Quarterback Kyler Murray was named the winner of this year’s Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in New York as he edged out Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the award down the stretch of the season.

Murray took on the starting role this season following in the footsteps of 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, who left Oklahoma a year early to be the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Already with a shot at baseball locked up with the Oakland Athletics, Murray was committed to playing at least one more year of football before getting set on his baseball career. Even though a game was played by his head coach leading up to the start of the season, Murray was clearly going to be the starting quarterback for Oklahoma this season, and he did not disappoint.

Murray passed for 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns with seven interceptions and rushed for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns in leading Oklahoma to the Big 12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff for the second straight year. The only game in which Murray failed to throw for at least 200 yards was a September home game against Army, but Murray produced three quick touchdown drives in a game that saw Army dominate the time of possession and not give Murray many chances. In that game, Murray completed 11 of 15 passes for 165 yards and he carried the football seven times for 71 yards with four combined touchdowns. Oklahoma held the football for just 15:19 in that game, a 28-21 overtime victory against a determined Army that found an advantage against Oklahoma’s defense.

The lack of solid defensive play put plenty of pressure on Murray all season long to find ways to put points on the board. Because Oklahoma’s defense was a constant weakness that could be exposed, Murray had to keep up the pace and rarely was given a chance to take a foot off the gas pedal. Whatever works in Norman, right?

On Thursday night at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show in Atlanta, Murray received the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s best quarterback, but Tagovailoa took home the Walter Camp Player of the Year and the Maxwell Award. The last Walter Camp Player of the Year not to win the Heisman Trophy was Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o in 2012. The last Maxwell Award winner not to win the Heisman Trophy was Alabama’s AJ McCarron in 2013. The last time a player won the Walter Camp Player of the Year and the Maxwell Award but did not win the Heisman Trophy was 2012, when Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel took the Heisman but Te’o took the other two individual awards.

Murray’s Heisman Trophy victory moves Oklahoma into a tie for first place with Notre Dame and Ohio State on the list of all-time Heisman Trophy winners. All three schools now have seven Heisman Trophy winners each. USC would also be tied for first place but the Trojans officially only have six Heisman winners with the 2005 Heisman won by Reggie Bush vacated from the record book. Now the Trojans are alone in second place, officially speaking. Murray’s Heisman Trophy means Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley now has two Heisman Trophy winners in his first two seasons as a head coach.

The stage is now set for a playoff showdown between this year’s Heisman Trophy winner and first runner-up as Alabama and Oklahoma will play in the Orange Bowl semifinal in the College Football Playoff in a few weeks. According to research by Associated Press college football reporter Ralph Russo, this will be the seventh bowl game featuring the Heisman winner and runner-up dating back to 1975.

Here is how the voting went down, with Murray running away from Tagovailoa with 517 first-place votes to Tagovailoa’s 299. Murray won the award by a total of 296 points.

Army makes it three in a row over Navy in annual Army-Navy Game

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For the third-straight year, Army (10-2) got to sing second after the Army-Navy Game. Army notched its third consecutive victory over Navy (3-10) with a 17-10 victory in Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.

Army scored a touchdown on the opening possession with Kelvin Hopkins completed a big pass on an early third down and ending the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run with a 51-yard run by Kell Walker between those two plays. The defense took care of things from there as neither team managed to get much going on offense for the majority of the game, but Army’s defense had the stronger outing in holding Navy to just 77 yards of offense through the first three quarters of play. Navy also had four turnovers, including a costly fumble by senior Garrett Lewis deep in the Army end in the fourth quarter.

Lewis would make up for his fumble on Navy;’s next possession. After forcing Army to go three-and-out following the Navy turnover, Lewis capped a quick drive with a one-yard push for a touchdown. Malcolm Perry ignited the drive right from the start with a 43-yard run from the Army 48-yard line. Now with a spark of life, Navy’s defense forced Army to punt the ball away again on the ensuing possession after a three-and-out, giving Navy the ball at their own 34-yard line to start the drive. But a false start penalty on a 3rd & 7 backed Navy up five more yards and a third down pass was broken up on the sideline. Knowing that a punt may not give Navy a chance to get the ball back, Ken Niumatalolo wisely chose to go for it on 4th & 12, but Zach Abey had the ball knocked out of his hand by Kenneth Brinson, who recovered the loose ball on the ground at the Navy 22-yard line.

The running trio of Walker, Hopkins and Darnell Woolfolk powered Army for much of the game, doing enough damage to give Army a two-score lead and running clock, although Navy eventually started to lock in a bit better.

The win for Army gives the Black Knights the first back-to-back 10-win seasons in school history, and now Army has a chance to record the first 11-win season in school history with an upcoming bowl game. The job continuing to be done by Army head coach Jeff Monken remains one of the best in the nation. Monken took over an Army team that had won more than three games just twice since 2006 and was in the midst of an extended 14-game losing streak to Navy. It took a few years, but Monken now has Army situated in the better spot with a top 25 team and back-to-back 10-win seasons, but the three-game winning streak over Navy is what Army fans will get to brag about for the next 365 days.

Army now has its longest winning streak against Navy since winning five straight meetings between 1992 and 1996.

Army’s season will see one more game played with the Black Knights heading to the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas. Army will play one of Navy’s AAC West Division foes, the Houston Cougars, in the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 22. Houston leads the all-time series with Army, 5-2, with the most recent game being played when both teams were members of Conference USA in 2004.

Navy’s season is now officially over. The Midshipmen are staying home for the bowl season for the first time since 2011 and just the second time since Paul Johnson coaches his first season in Annapolis in 2002. Navy’s 2019 season opener will be played on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 against Holy Cross.

Next season’s Army-Navy Game is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. It will once again be played in Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.