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USC QB Sam Darnold declares for NFL Draft

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USC quarterback Sam Darnold is joining the list of early entrants to the NFL after declaring his intention to enter the 2018 NFL Draft. A Rose Bowl champion and the former Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year a year ago, Darnold could potentially be one of the top draft picks in the 2018 NFL Draft even after a bumpy 2017 season.

Darnold led the Pac-12 in passing in 2017 with 4,143 yards, with the conference’s third-highest passing yards per game (205.9 ypg). Darnold passed for 26 touchdowns with 13 interceptions in a bit of a roller coaster season that still ended up with USC in the Cotton Bowl as the Pac-12 champion. Despite some off moments and sub-par performances from one of the hottest quarterbacks coming into the season, pro scouts still see plenty of upside to Darnold at the next level. Darnold’s decision to turn pro likely is influenced by the confidence he will not have to wait very long to hear his name called this spring at the NFL Draft.

Darnold was a key player in USC’s second-half turnaround in the 2016 season. After a rough start to the season, Clay Helton opted to make a quarterback change and gave Darnold the chance to start. After a close loss to Utah, USC went on a roll and ended the 2016 season as one of the best-looking teams. Although the hot finish couldn’t quite wiggle USC into the Pac-12 championship game, Darnold delivered in the Rose Bowl as the Trojans rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat Saquon Barkley and Big Ten champion Penn State. With expectations incredibly high for the 2017 season, Darbnold and USC had to settle for a Pac-12 championship and a spot in the Cotton Bowl. Darnold had a rough performance in the bowl game against the Buckeyes, but that is not enough to suggest his draft stock plummeted. Darnold will be one of the top quarterbacks, if not one of the top players, selected in the NFL Draft as long as he has a solid scouting combine and draft-prep experience.

As for USC, the door is open for Matt Fink to start getting ready for the starting job this spring. Jack Sears, a four-star recruit in USC’s Class of 2017 could also start to lobby for the job in the spring.

Darnold’s announcement comes on the same day UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen announced his intention to enter the NFL Draft. Rosen and Darnold may be battling for the top spot in the draft.

LSU confirms promotion of Tiger great Kevin Faulk as RBs coach

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An LSU football legend officially has an on-field role at his alma mater.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Kevin Faulk would be promoted from his current position as LSU football director of player development.  Thursday, the Tigers confirmed that Faulk has been promoted by Ed Orgeron to running backs coach.

Faulk replaces Tommie Robinson, who left to take the same job at SEC West rival Texas A&M.

“We would like to thank Tommie (Robinson) for being a part of our national championship program and wish him the best in his future,” the LSU football head coach said in a statement. “Kevin is a great teacher and mentor and someone that has earned the respect and love of our players. We are honored to have one of the greatest players in LSU history as part of our coaching staff. This is a home run hire.”

Faulk played collegiately for LSU football from 1995-98.  He is still the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards (4,557) and rushing TDs (46).

Faulk was then a second-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 1999.  He spent 13 years in the NFL, joining his high school alma mater’s football coaching staff upon his retirement following the 2011 season.

In 2018, Faulk rejoined the LSU football program in an off-field role.  This will be his field on-field role at any level of college football.

“The day I graduated high school I knew I wanted to be a coach,” the 43-year-old Faulk said. “The coaches I had growing up meant so much to me and the community, and I knew I wanted to be that guy. To coach at my alma mater is the best thing I could ever hope for. I wear the purple and gold with pride every day, and I am ready to get going to help win another national championship.”

Ford Field to host even more MACtion in 2020

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The MAC title game isn’t the only bit of #MACtion that Ford Field will see in 2020.

The conference recently released their annual football schedule on Wednesday and among the notable league games is the rivalry contest between Central Michigan and Western Michigan. While this one figures to have division implications on Oct. 17, things are going to be slightly different this year.

Namely that it won’t be on either campus and will instead be played at Ford Field.

“Ford Field has been the location of many great experiences for CMU Football, and this is an opportunity to create another iconic experience for our program and our university,” athletic director Michael Alford said in a release. “CMU’s continued success means out-of-the-box thinking. Bringing this game — and the events surrounding it — to Detroit allows our athletics program to help engage thousands of people who are passionate about CMU.”

It’s an interesting move that will push CMU to over a decade without a win over their directional rivals in Mt. Pleasant. Still, the larger venue and the opportunity to make things an even bigger event in the state’s largest city seem to have won out.

The Detroit News reported on Tuesday that the Chips wanted to do a multi-year deal at the home of the NFL’s Lions but that WMU said no thanks.

The Broncos have won seven of the last nine meetings, including last year’s 31-15 win in Kalamazoo. Despite that head-to-head victory though, Jim McElwain’s squad got the last laugh by winning the MAC West in one of the biggest turnaround stories of the 2019 season.

They wound up playing at Ford Field in the conference title game where they eventually lost to Miami (OH) 26-21. The venue has been the home of the MAC championship since 2004 and will have the next edition played on either Friday, Dec. 4 or Saturday Dec. 5.

Georgia Tech adds 2023 game against Bowling Green, makes slight change to 2021 schedule

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Georgia Tech is loving itself some #MACtion.

The school announced a pair of future schedule moves against teams from the eponymous league on Wednesday. Among the most immediate actions for the Yellow Jackets is that their 2021 contest against Northern Illinois will be shifted to become the season-opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 4.

GT will then play FCS Kennesaw State at home and conclude the early non-conference slate with a trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 20, 2021. Their annual rivalry contest against Georgia will conclude the regular season the final weekend of November as usual.

Tech also added Bowling Green to their upcoming docket. The Falcons will head to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 30, 2023. A trip to Ole Miss and the in-state rival Bulldogs coming to Atlanta will round out the Jackets’ non-conference schedule with one more opening still to be signed (likely against an FCS opponent).

Head coach Geoff Collins’ 2020 squad will have their attention on a conference opponent to open the upcoming season as they take on ACC opponent Clemson at home on Thursday, Sept. 3. The two programs will also meet again in city for the 2022 season opener at nearby Mercedes-Benz Stadium as well.

While those big name opponents will get more attention from fans in the region, don’t discount a bit of that #MACtion heading South either.

Waiting to cancel game with FCS opponent cost USC an extra $500,000

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Keeping Clay Helton around wasn’t the only decision last year that upset USC fans. Now the school backtracking on a choice it just made has cost the program a pretty penny.

For those not in the know, cardinal and gold supporters up in arms last year when it was announced the program had agreed to a non-conference game with UC Davis for the 2021 season. Such a contest typically doesn’t draw much attention but it did in Los Angeles as it was the first FCS opponent the Trojans were to play in their illustrious history.

That would have left rivals UCLA and Notre Dame as the only two FBS programs not to play an FCS team.

Then things changed. The athletic director responsible for the deal, Lynn Swann, was shown the door. His replacement Mike Bohn has gone about trying to make amends and recently announced that USC had eventually backed out of the game against the Aggies.

In their place on the docket at the Coliseum that season is another Bay Area team, San Jose State. We already recounted how the Spartans made out quite nicely on the balance sheet as a result of this (and subsequent buyout from Georgia) swap. As it turns out though, they weren’t the only Northern California team to do so.

According to the Davis Enterprise, the buyout UCD was owed was only supposed to be $225,000. However terms called for that to jump to $725,000 after the start of the new year. Because the Trojans waited around they then had to pony up that extra half million for doing something they had been considering since the new administration came in.

“It’s pretty funny. We had every intention of playing that game,” Aggies senior associate athletics director Josh Flushman told the paper. “We just wanted to make sure (if there were) buyouts we were going to get the money.

“In December, (AD Kevin Blue) and I joking said, ‘Don’t take any phone calls from L.A. numbers until after the first.’”

The call didn’t come until February and the school is that much richer for it. On top of that they added a $400,000 guarantee game from Tulsa to replace Southern Cal on the schedule to boot.

Waiting may be the hardest part for some but it resulted in a nice seven-figure gain at UC Davis.