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No. 16 Michigan State caps turnaround season by thumping No. 18 Washington State in Holiday Bowl

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After winning just three games in 2016, Michigan State spent last winter at home dreaming of warmer climates. Thanks to an incredible turnaround during the regular season in 2017, the No. 16 Spartans spent this winter enjoying the warmer climates of San Diego as they thumped No. 18 Washington State 42-17 in the Holiday Bowl.

And things didn’t even seem anywhere as close as that final margin would indicate.

Quarterback Brian Lewerke played a big role in the reason why the game was largely uncompetitive with a performance that could earn him a place on more than a few Heisman Dark Horse lists for 2018. The sophomore had one of the best outings of the season under center and was one point with his passing on nearly every dropback in throwing for 213 yards and three touchdowns. While he may not look like a noted dual-threat at first glance, he also paced the team with his legs for most of the night and wound up with 73 yards rushing.

Tailback L.J. Scott chipped in with 110 on the ground and scored two rushing touchdowns, while Felton Davis (118 yards, one score) and Cody White (two TD’s) helped pace the skill position players in terms of effectiveness.

Though the Cougars did get the offense clicking later in the game, they were behind the chains from the opening kickoff with sophomore Tyler Hilinski making his first career start behind center. Record-setting quarterback Luke Falk was one the sidelines in street clothes for the game but couldn’t make it back in time from a wrist injury he suffered in the Apple Cup.

Hilinski did make several nice throws down the field over the course of the game but was mostly forced to dink-and-dunk all night on his way to 272 yards, an interception and a pair of touchdowns. Several three-and-outs early put his defense in a bind however and a fumble in the third quarter that was converted into another touchdown seemed to be the back-breaker. The loss puts a damper on what was still an overall successful year for the Cougs but adds to the questions about the program going forward with a number of key players gone for 2018 and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch reportedly headed to Ohio State in January.

The same could not be said of the Spartans, which capped a seven-win turnaround this year and have plenty of momentum (and returning starters) as they return to East Lansing for the new year. While we tend to over-inflate bowl victories when it comes to the preseason outlook on some teams, the way that MSU has trended this year bodes well for them in what should be a rough and tumble Big Ten in 2018 that will likely have Mark Dantonio‘s squad right back in the thick of the title race again.

Maryland latest to put coronavirus-related halt to voluntary football workouts

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We can officially add Maryland to the growing list of football programs hitting the workout pause button.

As with other schools in the Big Ten, Maryland welcomed back student-athletes, including football players, to campus for voluntary workouts last month.  Saturday, those workouts for Terrapins across several sports have come to a halt.

The suspension came as a result of an increase in positive tests for COVID-19.  The school didn’t specify the number of Maryland football players involved.  Below is the university’s release:

Maryland Athletics, as part of a gradual, phased approach to the return of student-athletes to campus, is working with the University Health Center to conduct regular COVID-19 testing. In preparation for this ongoing testing period, we worked with State, county and university health officials to develop appropriate protocols in the event of positive test results, including education, contact identification and tracing, and self-isolation.

On July 7-8, the University Health Center conducted on-campus screening of 185 student-athletes and staff; nine individuals tested positive for COVID-19. These nine student-athletes and staff have been notified and are currently in self-isolation, monitored by university health officials. Contact tracing is ongoing through the Prince George’s County Health Department and all identified individuals will follow a mandated 14-day self-observation period, under the supervision of university health officials. Under guidance from the Prince George’s County Health Department, we have temporarily suspended voluntary, individual training for the football program.

In previous testing of 105 individuals in June, no individual tested positive for COVID-19.

Maryland football is the latest but certainly not the first impacted by the pandemic.  Or the last, more than likely.

Just last week, Ohio State announced and North Carolina confirmed they were putting a temporary halt to voluntary workouts because of the results of recent COVID-19 testing among its student-athletes. July 3, Kansas was the latest FBS program to pause voluntary workouts after 12 players tested positive for COVID-19.  Earlier in that same week, Arizona announced that it was pausing its phased return of student-athletes to campus.  Prior to that, eight individuals connected to the Boise State football program tested positive, forcing the school to temporarily scuttle workouts.  June 20, K-State announced that it is pausing all voluntary workouts as well.  The reason?  “[A] total of 14 student-athletes have tested positive for active COVID-19 following PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing of more than 130 student-athletes.” The weekend before that, Houston decided to put a halt to voluntary on-campus workouts after six symptomatic UH student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19.

Other programs have seen a high number of players test positive but continue workouts.  Among those are Clemson (37 players tested positive), LSU (30 players quarantined), Texas (13 confirmed positives for football players) and Texas Tech (23 positives for players/staffers).

Colorado LB Jashua Allen tosses name into the transfer portal

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Colorado football has already seen one portal reversal this offseason.  They are now hoping for another change of heart.  Maybe?

Earlier this offseason, Sam Noyer took the first step in leaving the Colorado football team by placing his name into the NCAA transfer database.  In early April, the quarterback pulled his name from the portal and remained with the Buffaloes.

Three months later, 247Sports.com is reporting that Jash Allen has entered the portal as well.  While the linebacker didn’t confirm the news specifically, he did retweet reports of his impending departure.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Allen began his collegiate career at the JUCO level.  In 2019, he was a four-star member of the Colorado football recruiting class that cycle.

His first season with the Buffs, Allen played in 10 games.  Most of that action came on special teams, although he did appear in three games on defense.  In that limited action on the defensive side of the ball, he was credited with four tackles and two quarterback pressures.  His official CU profile also notes he had “four special teams points on the season, one tackle inside the 20, one first down field and one knockdown or springing block on kick return.”

Allen will be leaving the Pac-12 school as a graduate.

It cost Indiana $44,000 to lose to Tennessee in the Gator Bowl

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Talk about adding financial insult to on-field injury for the Indiana football program.

Indiana faced Tennessee in the Gator Bowl this past college football bowl season.  Midway through the fourth quarter, the Hoosiers held a 22-9 lead.  IU was on the verge of claiming its first postseason win since the 1991 Copper Bowl.  The Vols, though, scored a pair of touchdowns in less than a minute of game time to come away with a 23-22 win.

For participating in the bowl game, Indiana’s athletic department received $2.125 million from the Big Ten.  The expenses surrounding the trip to Jacksonville, though, were $2,169,416.  So, in other words, it cost IU a little over $44,000 to lose that heartbreaker of a game.

From HoosierSportsReport.com:

Nearly $2 million of those expenses were for the football team specifically, with the most costly line item being travel. Flights to Jacksonville, Fla., cost $690,333, plus there was another $145,406 in ground travel.

Meals were the next biggest expense at $337,236. Hotel costs amounted to $219,240. Uniforms and bowl apparel were a nearly quarter-of-a-million-dollar expense, at $249,150.

There was also a $110,930 expense for awards, which includes commemorative rings for players in the game.

IU’s band and cheerleading team accounted for a combined $174,262 in expenses, including $156,272 for IU’s Marching Hundred.

If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that the 15 extra practice sessions that came along with the bowl trip — especially since spring practice was gutted by the pandemic — helped ease the financial loss.  For the head coach, at least.

Name of Wake Forest’s football home will be Truist Field moving forward

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A banking merger has led to a name change for the home of Wake Forest football.

Since 2007, the Wake Forest football stadium has gone by the name BB&T Field.  In February of 2019, however, BB&T and SunTrust banks merged.  Eventually, the company’s name was changed to Truist.

As such, Wake Forest announced this past week that, moving forward, its football home will be known as Truist Field.

“Wake Forest University is proud of its affiliation with the people of Truist and grateful for their longtime support of Demon Deacon student-athletes,” said Wake athletic director John Currie said in a statement. “As Truist continues its climb as one of America’s leading financial institutions, we are excited that the 21st century’s best college football program in North Carolina will now call Truist Field its home.”

The facility that now goes by the name of Truist Field was built in 1968.  It has a seating capacity of 31,500, although the record attendance is 37,623 set in November of 2013.  For that game against North Carolina, temporary bleachers were installed.

Wake is scheduled to open the 2020 college football season Sept. 4 at Old Dominion.  They’ll face Appalachian State the following weekend in the home opener.

Wake Forest is coming off an 8-5 2019 campaign in Dave Clawson’s sixth season with the Demon Deacons.  Wake has played in four straight bowl games for the first time in school history.  Last April, Clawson signed a contract extension that would keep him at the ACC school through the 2026 season.