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Sparty No: Arizona State rallies to pull off the upset of No. 15 Michigan State

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Herm Edwards heard all the naysayers about his hire at Arizona State. So did the rest of his football team.

All had a nice laugh Saturday night about those doom-and-gloom predictions while celebrating a surprisingly entertaining 16-13 upset of No. 15 Michigan State that gave the Pac-12 a badly needed marquee non-conference win in the process.

Not surprisingly, quarterback Manny Wilkins led the way offensively for ASU as he threw for 380 yards, a touchdown and an interception. While he was hit-or-miss with his downfield passing most of the night, he came up with some big plays down the stretch and was the team’s leading rusher on the night as well. Kyle Williams was his favorite target early but as the game wore on it was star wideout N'Keal Harry who started to gradually take over as the clock started to wind down and finished with 89 yards and a leaping touchdown catch.

Though it wasn’t an official stat, Harry also drew numerous pass interference penalties and was the focus of the Spartans defense from the opening kickoff.

The outcome spoiled the homecoming of Phoenix native Brian Lewerke, who was MSU’s only source of offense because they couldn’t really run the football at all. The quarterback finished with a solid 314 yards with a touchdown but threw an early interception in the end zone and didn’t get an opportunity to lead a game-winning drive like he did last week.

Mark Dantonio’s defense played fairly well all night but allowed 13 points in the fourth quarter and gave up a few big plays that led to ASU’s game-winning field goal at the gun. The loss is a big blow to a team that was a dark horse to make the College Football Playoff considering how many starters returned from last season’s 10-win team and the fact that a brutal Big Ten slate awaits over the coming months. The inability to finish will certainly be brought up on the long flight back to East Lansing as a season filled with such promise has so far fallen short after two lackluster performances in 2018.

If there’s one silver lining for the green and white, at least they’re not completely out of the hunt for hardware with a number of opportunities to get top 25 wins ahead but they’ll be in no position to do so if they don’t play better than they have been.

As for Edwards, the victory might just make his team the favorite in the suddenly wide-open Pac-12 South this year. The Sun Devils have a feisty defense with an active front-seven, a veteran quarterback who has knocked off his share of top 15 teams and a host of playmakers like Neal who are electrifying in space.

Suddenly all those laughing at ASU for making the outside the box hire of Edwards are now very much taking Arizona State seriously. As well they should after knocking off a team like Michigan State.

Star WR Michael Pittman confirms he’ll play in USC’s bowl game

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(Pardon us as we’ve been catching up on a few things due to some very significant technical difficulties.)

USC fans can assuage their anguish somewhat over the retention of Clay Helton with the knowledge that one of their school’s most explosive weapons on offense will be available during the postseason. There, feel better?

After some uncertainty and speculation, Michael Pittman announced on Twitter this week that he will be playing in the Trojans’ bowl game. USC will face Iowa in Holiday Bowl Dec. 27, the first meeting between the football programs since 2002.

Pittman led the Trojans this season in receptions (95), receiving yards (1,222) and receiving touchdowns (11). The catches and yards led the Pac-12, while the scores were second.

The fourth-year senior was named first-team all-conference and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

FAU makes hiring of Willie Taggart as Lane Kiffin’s replacement official

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A week ago, it was reported that Willie Taggartbadly wants a second act” at USF.  While that job ultimately went to a Clemson coordinator, Taggart still ended up landing yet another gig in the Sunshine State.

With rumors swirling throughout the day, Florida Atlantic confirmed Wednesday evening that Taggart has been named as the Owls’ new head football coach.  Taggart replaces Lane Kiffin, who left shortly after FAU won the Conference USA championship game Saturday for the Ole Miss job.

“I’m grateful to Brian White and President Kelly for their belief in me to lead the football program at Florida Atlantic University,” a statement from Taggart began. “I’m looking forward to long-term success here. I think our players and the university deserve that commitment. Family is extremely important to me. I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support and all of us are looking forward to being here in Paradise for the foreseeable future.”

After four years as the head coach at South Florida, Taggart left USF for Oregon — for one season as it turned out as he pulled up stakes from the Pac-12 school for the Florida State job in December of 2017.  Less than two full seasons later, though, Taggart was shown the door by the Seminoles in early November.

Taggart is a native of Bradenton, Fla. and has deep, extensive recruiting ties in the state, which will only aid him in taking over a football program that has won two conference championships the past three years.

Taggart has never won a conference crown during his 10 seasons as a head coach, although he did claim a division title at South Florida in 2016.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Coach Taggart on board to lead our football program,” FAU athletic director Brian White said in his statement. “Coach Taggart is a proven program builder who will develop strong relationships with our student-athletes and develop them as future leaders. His deep relationships around the state of Florida and the nation will be vital in recruiting as well. The traits he brings to the table will allow us to continue building upon our recent success.”

FAU’s Harrison Bryant named Mackey Award winner as nation’s best TE

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In a change of pace, we come to an award that doesn’t involve either Joe Burrow or Chase Young.

The John Mackey Award winner was announced earlier in the day Wednesday, with Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant claiming this year’s honor.  The Mackey is handed out annually to the nation’s top tight end.

Established in 2000, the 2018 winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson.

This past season, Bryant caught 65 passes for 1,0004 yards and seven touchdowns.  Bryant led all FBS tight ends in both catches and receiving yards.

Bryant beat out seven other tight ends for the 2019 Mackey.

  • Hunter Bryant, Washington
  • Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  • Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
  • Colby Parkinson, Stanford
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

Ole Miss announces future home-and-home with Oregon State

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With the 2019 regular season put to bed, there is some future scheduling news on which to hit — and some very rare news at that.

Wednesday afternoon, Ole Miss announced that it had reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series with Oregon State.  The Beavers will travel to Oxford Sept. 18, 2027, with the Rebels making the trek to Corvallis on Aug. 31, 2030.

The 2027 game will mark the first-ever between the football programs.

According to Ole Miss, they have played a current member of the Pac-12 just twice, with both of those games coming against Cal.  Those games, incidentally, came in the last three years, including this season.

Oregon State last played a team from the SEC in 1987 when they traveled to Georgia.  A team from that conference has never played in Corvallis.