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Pac-12 Heisman hopefuls had a less-than-stellar Week 1

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Coming off a disappointing bowl season, the Pac-12 looked to turn the page and begin 2018 on a high note. As a whole, the conference of champions was 8-4, including a record of 1-2 against power conference opponents. There were some highs and some lows scattered throughout. Among the possible surprising disappointments, this weekend may have been the final box score for Heisman Trophy hopefuls Bryce Love and Khalil Tate.

Love, Stanford’s running back and a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2017, entered the new season as Bovada’s betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this fall, with 13/2 odds. After rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns last season though, teams will look to clamp down on him a little bit more this season. San Diego State did just that in their Friday night season opener on The Farm. Although Stanford won, 31-10, Love only managed to carry the ball for 29 yards on 18 carries, and he caught three passes for 18 yards. Love, a year after scoring a rushing touchdown in all but one game he played, was held out of the end zone in the season opener. Last year, in a loss to San Diego State, Love rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Is this a sign of what is to come from opposing defenses playing Stanford this season? We’ll see. Next up for Love is a big early-season matchup on national television against USC.

Late last night, against BYU, Arizona’s dynamic QB Khalil Tate (12/1 Heisman odds) ushered in the Kevin Sumlin era with a 28-23 setback at home, and Tate’s final line left room for some improvement as well. Tate completed 17-of-34 passes on an erratic night for 197 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 14 yards on eight rushing attempts. It was the lowest rushing total for Tate in his time at Arizona since back-to-back games against Colorado and Oregon State toward the end of the 2016 season as a backup. Credit BYU for not allowing Tate to get in a rhythm, but that was not the kind of performance that Heisman Trophy voters with a ballot may have wanted to stay up late to see.

Washington quarterback Jake Browning (25/1) had the toughest draw among the Pac-12’s top Heisman favorites according to the oddsmakers at the start of the season. Browning had two costly turnovers against a ferocious Auburn defense in Atlanta, and Browning and the Huskies returned home with a tough loss to open the season.

It has only been one week, and even Heisman Trophy winners have been known to have one letdown performance at times, so it would be unwise to rule out Love or Tate in the Heisman picture after just one full weekend of college football. There was a possible bright spot, however, with Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (30/1) helping Oregon shrug off a slow start against Bowling Green and celebrate a 58-24 win against the Falcons in Eugene. Herbert completed just 10 of his 21 pass attempts for 281 yards and five touchdowns, and he added 41 rushing yards and a touchdown to help overcome his two interceptions thrown.

Among the Pac-12’s finest, Herbert had the best opening weekend as far as the Heisman race is concerned, but this race is barely even just begun. If a Heisman Trophy cannot be won in early September, then it should not be lost in the first full weekend of college football either.

Status of Southern Miss’ leading receiver still up in the air

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Whether Southern Miss has a very key cog in its passing attack remains, at least for now, very much undecided.

In late January, it was reported that Quez Watkins had been forced to withdraw from Southern Miss and enroll at a junior college in an effort to get his academic house in order. According to Patrick Magee of the Biloxi Sun Herald, there is some positive news on the Watkins front as he writes that the wide receiver “is back on campus and taking classes at USM this summer.”

Magee adds that, “[i]f the redshirt junior hits all his marks in the classroom, he’ll be ready to take the field for the 2019 season.”

That said, the football program is still awaiting official word on Watkins’ status for the 2019 season, word that may not come until, at its outer reaches, sometime in August.

As a redshirt sophomore last season, Watkins led the Golden Eagles in receptions (72), receiving yards (889) and receiving touchdowns (nine). Watkins’ nine scores accounted for nearly half of the team’s 19 touchdowns through the air.

BREAKING! Baker Mayfield still not a fan of Texas Longhorn football — or UT QB Sam Ehlinger

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We’ve reached that point of the college football offseason where a former college football player spitting vitriol in the general direction of a former college football rival is a prominent part of the news cycle.

Or, put another way: You can take the player out of college football, but you can’t take the rivalry out of the player.

As a Heisman-winning quarterback at Oklahoma, Baker Mayfield went 3-0 as the starter under center against OU’s hated rival Texas. Even after his collegiate career culminated with a Heisman Trophy, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft wasn’t averse to throwing up a Horns Down gesture at the Longhorns…

In the here and now, Mayfield is set to enter his first full season as the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Also in the here and now, Mayfield is also/still not averse to teaching impressionable and aspiring young football players the proper permutations of a perfectly-executed Horns Down.

Doubling down on that Horns Down lifestyle a week later, Mayfield, during an interview with a Norman radio station Wednesday, scoffed in the general direction of the “Texas is back” sentiment that surfaced following UT’s win over Georgia in last year’s Sugar Bowl.

“They said that when they beat Notre Dame a couple years ago [in 2016] and they won two or three games after that. I’m sick of that crap,” Mayfield, a Lake Travis High School product, said, before going on to excoriate UT starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger, a product of Lake Travis rival Westlake who has been a previous target of the Heisman winner’s jabs.

“He couldn’t even beat Lake Travis, so I don’t really care. His opinion on anything winning [doesn’t matter],” Mayfield said of Ehlinger during the interview. “Westlake is a great program, but the two best quarterbacks to come out of there are Drew Brees and Nick Foles. Sam can stay down there in Texas.”

“That will stir the pot. He doesn’t like me and I hope he knows I don’t like him either,” Mayfield added.

For those keeping score at home, the Ehlinger-led Texas Longhorns will face the Mayfield-less Oklahoma Sooners Oct. 12 in the 115th renewal of the Red River Shootout this season.  That next day, Mayfield’s Cleveland Browns will play host to the Seattle Seahawks, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll see the Horns Down agitator at the State Fair of Texas that weekend.

Probably.

Three-star 2019 Michigan State signee signs MLB contract

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Michigan State has become the latest FBS program to lose a player, albeit not through what’s become the standard portal exit.

In December of last year, Jase Bowen signed on as a member of MSU’s 2019 recruiting class and had intended to play both football and baseball for the Spartans.  Earlier this month, however, Brown was selected with the 334th overall pick (11th round) by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Major League Baseball draft.

On his Twitter account Wednesday evening, Bowen, a shortstop in the stick-and-ball sport, indicated that he has signed with the MLB club and will be, at least for now, eschewing a collegiate football career.

“Michigan State will always hold a special place in my heart, but today a childhood dream of mine came true,” Bowen wrote as he shared photos of himself signing his professional baseball contract.

Coming out of high school in Toledo, Bowen, who had been committed to play baseball at Notre Dame before interest in him as a football prospect ratcheted up, was a three-star recruit who was rated as the No. 25 football player at any position in the state of Ohio.  Bowen was the lowest-rated of the three receivers MSU added in the most recent signing cycle.

It should be noted that, should Bowen’s MLB career not play out in the manner in which he hopes, he could always return to the collegiate level and play football, at either MSU or elsewhere.

ACC Network launching Hard Knocks-style show going behind the scenes at Clemson

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While most college football programs operate under a veil of secrecy that rivals the Pentagon, that hasn’t really been the case at Clemson under Dabo Swinney. Maybe more impressive is not just the general vibe of the place but how they’ve maintained that fairly open approach while finding nearly unprecedented success on the field with two of the last three national titles.

Now we’re about to get an even better look at what makes the Tigers tick. As announced on Wednesday by ESPN, the upcoming ACC Network will debut a new four-part series called ‘All In: The Clemson Football Family’ starting on August 25.

“As the new home for ACC sports, ACCN is the right place to show Clemson fans just how hard we are working and give them a front-row seat to what we believe makes our program unique,” said Swinney in a release. “I am excited to share some of the special moments from this offseason with Tiger nation – as we all get ready for another great year of Clemson football.”

The show will take place each night from August 25-28 and serve as a ‘Hard Knocks’ style look at the program as they prepare for their season opener against Georgia Tech on, you guessed it, the ACC Network. There will apparently be looks at the practices leading up to the game, various features on players from the summer, player and coach interviews plus behind the scenes looks at team dinners and more.

If that all sounds like a Clemson informercial, that’s because it is and a good reason why the ACC is joining the conference network party. Such shows are not uncommon nowadays as you can find similar things from Pac-12 Networks to Big Ten Network to even online from various school self-productions. What does make things slightly different is the fact that this will all be done in the lead-up to a pretty big conference game (it’s Geoff Collins’ debut with the Yellow Jackets too) and because it’s the defending champs’ first game of the season.

Tigers fans are bound to tune in either way but it does sound like a pretty cool look at Clemson as they embark on a new chapter in 2019.

Here’s a trailer for the series: