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No. 3 Clemson loses Lawrence but avoids upset with fourth-quarter rally vs. Syracuse

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Some games just don’t go according to the script. No. 3 Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC) had to dig deep and rally in the fourth quarter at home after being down by 10 to avoid being upset at home by Syracuse (4-1, 1-1 ACC), and they did it despite losing starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the first half. Clemson scored a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of the game with Travis Etienne scoring his third touchdown of the game for a wild 27-23 victory.

Lawrence, in the same week he was named the team’s starting quarterback, was knocked out of the game for good in the second quarter when he took a blow to the head while running with the football. After an examination in the medical tent on the sidelines, Lawrence had his helmet taken away and he left the field to the locker room for more examination shortly before halftime. As the second half opened, it was reported he was done for the day. Chase Brice, another freshman, took over on offense, but the Tigers went to rely on the defense and the running game for the bulk of the second half.

Syracuse took a 10-point lead shortly after a muffed punt return by Clemson’s Amari Rodgers gave the Orange a 1st-and-Goal with a fourth down push up the middle with quarterback Eric Dungey handling the football early in the fourth quarter. Clemson running back Travis Etienne led the charge for a quick response though, cutting the lead back down to just three points on a quick six-play drive that took under fewer than two minutes to execute.

As the Syracuse defense was growing tired, Etienne became the difference-maker on his way to over 200 rushing yards. Etienne finished with 203 yards to go with his three touchdowns. Clemson needed it, as Syracuse played well defensively for much of the game until wearing down against a deeper team loaded with more talent.

Brice took a while to get comfortable, but came through with flying colors on Clemson’s late touchdown drive, completing a key pass on fourth down and picking up more yards on the ground on the very next play to get Clemson on the doorstep of a touchdown.

Next up for Clemson is a road trip to Wake Forest. The Tigers will wait to see what the status of Lawrence is, but Clemson will look to extend their winning streak against Wake Forest to 10 next Saturday regardless of who the quarterback is. Clemson has won 25 straight meetings against Wake Forest when the Tigers are ranked. The last loss to Wake Forest by a ranked Clemson team was in 1945, when No. 18 Clemson lost 13-6.

Syracuse will also be on the road next week. The Orange travel to Pittsburgh next weekend for another ACC matchup, this one a cross-division showdown between old Big East foes. Syracuse won last year’s meeting, 27-24, but the last time the game was played in Pittsburgh turned into an epic shootout. Syracuse lost their 2016 meeting at Pitt by a score of 76-61.

Arizona State confirms Boise State’s Zak Hill as new OC

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At the end of the regular season, Herm Edwards fired the bulk of Arizona State’s offensive staff. Nearly two weeks later, the reshaping of the assistants on that side of the ball has commenced in earnest.

Following up on speculation that had been growing in recent days, ASU on Saturday announced that Zak Hill has been hired as Edwards’ new offensive coordinator. Hill will replace Rob Likens, who was a part of the post-regular-season purge.

“Zak is very well versed in offensive football,” the head coach said in a statement. “He comes from winning programs and he played the quarterback position. I like that. He’s good at building an offense around the personnel that he has available to him. He will force the defense to adjust with multiple formations and personnel groups. His style fits the DNA of what we want on our coaching staff. He’s an excellent teacher.”

The past four seasons, Hill served as the coordinator at Boise State. Prior to that, and aside from a one-month stop at Hawaii, Hill spent seven seasons as the passing-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at FCS power Eastern Washington.

“I am really excited about this opportunity and I truly believe it is a great situation for me at ASU,” Hill said. “I appreciate Coach Edwards believing in me and having the trust to bring me on and I am thankful to Ray Anderson and the Sun Devil administration for their support in making this happen. I am really excited to get down there and I know we have some exciting weapons on offense. I look forward to putting together an explosive, fun offense that our fans will love to watch.”

“I am humbled at this opportunity. I also want to thank everyone at Boise State for a great four years and I am grateful for all the support I have received from Bronco Nation,” he added. “I would especially like to thank Coach Harsin for his leadership and my years at Boise State and the opportunity he afforded me to grow as a coach.”

In addition to Hill’s, uhhh, addition, ASU also confirmed Derek Hagan and Prentice Gill as offensive assistants. Their specific titles and responsibilities were not detailed.

Hagan, who played wide receiver for the Sun Devils and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2015, was an offensive analyst at ASU this past season. Gill served in the same role at Oregon.

Dabo Swinney lays out new responsibilities for offensive staff

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Jeff Scott spent a dozen years at Clemson, including the last five seasons as co-offensive coordinator, before taking the head job at USF earlier this month. Despite his importance to Dabo Swinney‘s success, there won’t be too much change for the defending national champions moving forward.

Friday, Swinney confirmed that he will not be filling Scott’s co-coordinator position and will instead allow Tony Elliott to serve as the sole coordinator. Elliott and Scott have shared coordinating responsibilities each of the past five seasons.

Quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter will maintain his current responsibilities as well as add the title of passing-game coordinator.

Additionally, Tyler Grisham, who played for the Tigers from 2005-08, has been promoted to wide receivers coach, a responsibility previously held by Scott. Grisham had been serving as an offensive analyst for the program.

“We have a good plan for all that stuff and have a great group of people here,” the head coach said. “We’re excited about getting it all settled out.”

Swinney also reiterated that, as had previously been laid out, Scott will return to the team next Thursday and will remain through however long the Tigers’ postseason run lasts. Clemson will face Ohio State Dec. 28 in one of the two College Football Playoff semifinals.

Ohio State’s Justin Fields the way-too-early 2020 Heisman favorite

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You say the tears aren’t even dry yet from Joe Burrow‘s acceptance speech and we’re already looking ahead to 2020?  You’re damn right we are.

Saturday night, Burrow claimed the 2019 Heisman Trophy in record-smashing fashion, with the quarterback becoming just the second LSU Tiger to claim the most prestigious trophy in the sport.  Quarterback Justin Fields finished third in the voting, one of three Ohio State Buckeyes to land in the top six in the voting.

Speaking of Fields, one online sportsbook has the sophomore listed as a 5/2 favorite to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy.  Fellow sophomore Trevor Lawrence of Clemson is right behind him at 3/1.

The next closest is Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at 7/1.

A handful of the players who finished in the Top 10 in the voting — Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, Ohio State running back JK Dobbins, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — have eligibility remaining, but are expected to leave early for the NFL draft.  If any of them opt to remain in school, that would obviously change the odds moving forward.

USC transfer QB Jack Sears appears headed to San Diego State

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Jack Sears may have left USC, but it doesn’t appear he’ll end up leaving the state of California.

After finding himself fourth on the quarterbacking depth chart, Sears announced on his personal Twitter account in late August that he had decided to enter the NCAA transfer database.  A little over three months later, and after a flirtation with Oregon State, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that “Sears has committed to San Diego State as a graduate transfer who would enroll during the spring semester.”

As a graduate transfer, Sears would be eligible to play for the Aztecs in 2020.  He would also have another season of eligibility he could use in 2021 as well.

As of yet, the Mountain West Conference school hasn’t confirmed Sears’ intentions.

Sears was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2017 recruiting class, rated as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the country.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Sears completed 20-of-28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown the following season.