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Clemson starting Kelly Bryant; FSU goes with Deondre Francois

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Perhaps the two most notable quarterback decisions to be made in the ACC have now been made. At Clemson, Kelly Bryant will be the starting quarterback when the defending ACC champions begin the new season this weekend at home against Furman. At Florida State, Deondre Francois will make his return as the starting quarterback for the Seminoles on Sunday night in Tallahassee against Virginia Tech in an ACC clash.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had been keeping his distance from naming a starter for the upcoming season all summer. Bryant was battling to keep the starting job from freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence. While the future of Clemson football may look incredibly bright with Lawrence in the fold, relying on experience with Bryant may have been one of the deciding factors. Clemson’s 2017 season ended with a thud against eventual national champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl semifinal of the College Football Playoff, but Clemson had accumulated a 12-1 record with Bryant playing all 14 games for the Tigers last season. The only loss on the year prior to meeting Alabama was on the road at Syracuse, when Bryant was knocked out of the game with an injury.

Bryant completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Obviously, he had big shoes to fill in following Deshaun Watson as the starting quarterback, but the pressure to keep Clemson in the title hunt never really seemed to get to him.

Francois never really got a chance to get his 2017 started after being knocked out of Florida State’s season opener against Alabama last fall. Francois, a sophomore in 2017, completed 19 of 33 pass attempts for 210 yards and a touchdown against Alabama before having his season prematurely ended with a knee injury. Francois had come off an impressive freshman season in 2016, in which he passed for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns with seven interceptions and rushed for five additional touchdowns.

Francois has had an eventful offseason, of course. In April, Francois was suspected of possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. The quarterback later agreed to enroll in a pre-arrest diversion program as a result. In January, Francois was cleared in a domestic violence investigation involving his girlfriend due to conflicting statements and a lack of independent witnesses led to an inability to press charges. With no legal liabilities standing in the way and with Francois appearing to be the most ideal fit to run the offensive style Willie Taggart wants to bring to Tallahassee, it was likely just a matter of how healthy Francois was before a starter was named.

With Clemson and Florida State now settled on starting quarterbacks, the ACC Atlantic Division race is now set to begin, with the Tigers likely still the team to beat and Florida State hoping to bounce back from a rough 2017 season to make some noise in the ACC championship hunt.

Justin Fuente announces Bud Foster’s replacement as Virginia Tech DC

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While most of the focus on the Sunday after the regular season is reserved to teams finding out their postseason destination, Virginia Tech took the time to focus on the future beyond the next month.

Hokies head coach Justin Fuente confirmed that the was staying in-house to find Bud Foster’s replacement as the program’s defensive coordinator, tapping safeties coach and former player Justin Hamilton for the role.

“Justin has earned this opportunity to lead our defense and our football team,” Fuente said in a statement. “Everyone in our program has a great deal of respect for him and his abilities. Coach Foster has reiterated to me on several occasions that Justin is ready for this next step in his coaching career. I feel the same way and am convinced he’s exactly the right fit for this role at Virginia Tech. Coach Hamilton is a talented coach and recruiter with a deep passion for both the game and Virginia Tech. He possesses a great knack for connecting with our players. His voice carries tremendous weight on the field and in the locker room because he’s worn that helmet and experienced many of the same things the young men in our program are going through.”

Hamilton returned to Blacksburg last year in an off the field role before joining the coaching staff. He was a player at a number of spots under Frank Beamer and Foster from 2002-05 before spending some time in the NFL. Hamilton’s coaching career began at Virginia Military Institute and Virginia-Wise from 2011-2017.

There had been plenty of speculation that Fuente would tap ex-Missouri head coach Barry Odom as DC after the two had the same arrangement together at Memphis but it appears those rumors did not bear fruit.

Fuente also confirmed that running backs coach Zohn Burden and cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell will not return to the Virginia Tech coaching staff.

Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons wins 2019 Butkus Award as college football’s best linebacker

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It’s a pretty good day for Isaiah Simmons.

The Clemson linebacker woke up Sunday as an ACC Champion, found out later he was going to the College Football Playoff as the No. 3 seed and was also was named the winner of the 2019 Butkus Award as the best linebacker in the country.

“Simmons is one of the most versatile athletes to play the linebacker position. He’s an exceptional athlete with unique length and makes plays at all three levels, with terrific rush ability, blitz timing, cover skill and tackling range. He’s a modern-day linebacker with special match-up skills. For as good of a football player as he is, he’s a better person and will represent the Butkus Award with class,” a release confirming the news said.

The Kansas native has 93 tackles, seven sacks, a fumble and two interceptions on the season.

Simmons beat out Cal’s Evan Weaver, Wisconsin’s Zach Baun, Texas Tech’s Jordyn Brooks and Penn State’s Micah Parsons for the award.

LSU linebacker and top 10 pick Devin White won the trophy last year.

New Year’s Six matchups, full College Football Playoff top 25 unveiled

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The College Football Playoff is set, now it’s time for the rest of the postseason picture to shake out.

The CFP Selection Committee followed up the announcement of the Peach Bowl (No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma) and Fiesta Bowl (No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson) semifinals with the rest of the New Year’s Six matchups and there are some enticing games to take in over the coming month. Making some tough decisions and throwing in a handful of surprises, here’s the full lineup of the major bowl games:

College Football Playoff Semifinals — December 28, 2018

  • Peach Bowl: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
    4 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson
    8 p.m. ET, ESPN

New Year’s Six

  • Cotton Bowl: No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 17 Memphis
    December 28, 2019, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Orange Bowl: No. 9 Florida vs. No. 24 Virginia
    December 30, 2019, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Rose Bowl Game: No. 6 Oregon vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
    January 1, 2020, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Sugar Bowl: No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 7 Baylor
    January 1, 2020, 8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

The College Football Playoff National Championship Game is scheduled for Monday, January 13, 2020. Kickoff in that one is slated for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La.

The Selection Committee also released their final set of rankings for the 2019 season. They will not release a top 25 after the bowl games — as that’s left for the AP and Coaches Poll — so the members on the committee are done with their duties this year. In what is sure to be a controversial ranking (or two) for some schools, here’s the order they put teams in:

  1. LSU
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Georgia
  6. Oregon
  7. Baylor
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Florida
  10. Penn State
  11. Utah
  12. Auburn
  13. Alabama
  14. Michigan
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Iowa
  17. Memphis
  18. Minnesota
  19. Boise State
  20. Appalachian State
  21. Cincinnati
  22. USC
  23. Navy
  24. Virginia
  25. Oklahoma State

Report: South Carolina making ex-Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo the Gamecocks’ new OC

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South Carolina fans will soon be able to yell ‘Run the dang ball Bobo!’ next fall.

According to the Post and Courier, Will Muschamp is set to hire ex-Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo as the Gamecocks’ new offensive coordinator “barring a last-minute change of heart.”

Receivers coach Bryan McClendon is expected to remain on staff after serving as OC this past season while Bobo is likely to fill the role vacated by recently fired QB coach Dan Werner.

Bobo is no stranger to South Carolina or SEC fans, having spent eight seasons as the coordinator at his (and Muschamp’s) alma mater of Georgia. He won two conference titles and five division titles while with the Bulldogs and spent 15 years on staff in Athens.

The Rams and Bobo announced they had mutually parted ways after the end of the regular season last week after the head coach spent five seasons in Fort Collins.