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Utah takes control of Pac-12 South with dominating win over reeling USC

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There’s just one team among the six who occupy the division who has not yet represented the Pac-12 South in the conference title game. That might be about to change.

Utah beat up and bullied defending champion USC 41-28 on Saturday night in Salt Lake City — in a game that wasn’t even that close — as the Utes managed to wrestle control of the division standings and finally start looking like the team that was expected to play at this level.

The outing continued a string of encouraging performances for the Utes on offense as they may finally be able to say they’ve turned a corner on that side of the ball. QB Tyler Huntley had only a few misfires in throwing for 341 yards and four touchdowns in guiding the team to a win in what might be his best overall game so far as a starter. For good measure the dual-threat added a touchdown on the ground as well to go with his 33 yards rushing, forming a nice backfield tandem with running mate Zack Moss toting the rock 25 times for 136 yards.

Defensively the group was just as stout as we’ve come to expect from Kyle Whittingham. In addition to holding the Trojans to only 3.8 yards per play and 3-of-14 on third down, the Utes really only gave up one sustained scoring drive in the contest and should have had an interception that passed through the hands of two defenders on another score they allowed. If not for two turnovers that put them in bad spots, the runaway score could have been even more lopsided.

Equally to blame was the USC offense though. J.T. Daniels looked every bit like a true freshman QB on the road in going 6-of-16 for 89 yards, a score, and two picks. He missed most of the fourth quarter after leaving with a concussion and backup Matt Fink showed why he might be the go-to under center for the team next week with a 6-of-7 outing that included a late touchdown pass.

Of course, neither signal-caller had any sort of time to throw from the pocket and the team managed to rush for only 2.4 yards per carry to compound their issues.

The loss, especially in such demoralizing fashion, is sure to increase fan frustration in cardinal and gold with head coach Clay Helton. While the program was expected to undergo a bit of a rebuilding campaign, the team has struggled in all three phases and looked fairly overmatched against the better teams they’ve faced. If not for a controversial win over Washington State, the Trojans would all but be out of the league race and will need massive help to rally and make it back to Levi’s Stadium for the Pac-12 title game.

That will not be the case for the Utes, who control their destiny at the moment and face winnable games in the next two weeks against UCLA and Arizona State before a season-defining stretch against Oregon (at home) and at Colorado. While the early returns were not good for Utah as they got off to a slow start to 2018, it appears they’ve shook the rust off and are now firmly looking like the team to beat in the Pac-12 South.

Texas ‘expecting’ Sam Ehlinger (shoulder) to play against Kansas

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As Texas looks to wrap up a spot in its conference’s championship game, it appears the Longhorns will have their starting quarterback under center.

In Saturday’s win over Iowa State, Sam Ehlinger aggravated the AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder that he had originally injured earlier in the season.  Monday, Ehlinger’s status was decidedly up in the air for this Friday’s game against Kansas.

Wednesday, however, there was a decidedly optimistic update from the football program.

“Ehlinger’s injured right shoulder continues to progress as Texas’ sophomore QB fully participated in practice on Wednesday,” a release from the school began. “He increased his workload to 40 live throws during UT’s final workout before heading to Lawrence on Thanksgiving Day.”

Most notably, head coach Tom Herman stated that he is expecting Ehlinger to play against the Jayhawks.  Should Ehlinger suffer a setback over the next 48 hours or so, Shane Buechele would once again step into the starting role.

A Texas win over Kansas would mean the Longhorns will face the winner of Friday night’s Oklahoma-West Virginia matchup in the Big 12 championship game the following weekend.

Former Penn State LB Manny Bowen transfers to Utah

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Manny Bowen’s winding roller coaster journey in his college football life will include the Pac-12 as his next stop.

On his personal Twitter account late Wednesday morning, Bowen announced that he “will be playing my final season of college football for the University of Utah.” Bowen, who announced his transfer from Penn State in mid-October, is set to graduate from the university next month.

The Utes subsequently confirmed the addition of Bowen.

In late August, James Franklin confirmed that Bowen had left his football program; that move came a little over three weeks after the fourth-year senior rejoined the team and was practicing with the rest of the Nittany Lions in preparation for the 2018 season.  Bowen was suspended late last season and then dismissed in late December for what were described as violations of team rules.

Bowen had started the first nine games of the 2017 season, before the disciplinary issues hit, after starting a dozen contests during the 2016 campaign.  He didn’t play in the Rose Bowl that season because of, you guessed it, unspecified violations of team rules.

At the time of his 2017 suspension, Bowen was third on the team with 51 tackles and tied for second in quarterback hits with four.

Rumored to have left Hurricanes, Miami says Jeff Thomas still ‘a member of the football team’

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Is he or isn’t he?  That’s a rather significant question that’s being asked regarding the status of one of Miami’s most productive players on the offensive side of the ball.

Earlier in the day, speculation was swirling that Jeff Thomas had left the Miami football team. Not long after, a UM spokesperson stated that the wide receiver would not be at practice Wednesday due to what were described as personal reasons but that he’s still a member of the football team.

It has been rumored that there was some type of issue between Thomas and unspecified members of the coaching staff earlier this week that led to the current situation.

Head coach Mark Richt is not scheduled to meet with the media Wednesday or Thursday.  It’s unclear if the football program will send out an update on Thomas’ status with the team, although it’s possible that could happen at some point today.

Thomas is currently leading the Hurricanes in receptions (35) and receiving yards (563).  The sophomore’s 16.1 yards per reception are second on the team while his three touchdown receptions are tied for third.

Miami closes out the 2018 regular season with a home date against ACC Coastal champion and 24th-ranked Pitt this Saturday.

USC’s Jake Olson named 2018 Walter Camp Award of Perseverance winner

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One of the most inspirational stories in college football the past few years has earned Jake Olson some much-deserved hardware.

Tuesday, the Walter Camp Foundation announced that Olson has been named as the recipient of the 2018 Walter Camp Award of Perseverance.  Olson, without sight in either eye since the age of 12, made history last year as a member of USC’s special teams by becoming the second legally-blind player to appear in an NCAA football game.

“Jake’s story is an inspiration to all, and our Foundation is honored to recognize him with the award of perseverance,” said Michael Madera, Walter Camp Foundation president, in a statement. “Jake has demonstrated courage and a strong will to succeed despite the challenges he has had to overcome.”

The award is merely a continuation of what’s been nearly a decade’s worth of touching moments for a remarkable young man.

In 2009, the Pete Carroll-led USC Trojans football team essentially adopted Olson, a teenage fan of the program at the time suffering from cancer of the retina in his right eye (he lost his left eye when he was less than one year old).  It was subsequently determined that Olson would need the right eye removed; on his final day of sight prior to the surgery that would leave him blind for the rest of his life, he chose to attend a Trojans football practice.

Fast-forward a few years, and Olson walked on to the USC football team as a long-snapper in 2015.  He took his first live-drill reps with the Trojans in September of that year, then snapped for the team in the 2016 spring game.  While he didn’t see any real-game action either year, in last season’s opener, at the end of USC’s closer-than-expected win over Western Michigan, Olson finally got to take his place on the field in an actual game with the rest of his special teams teammates as the long-snapper on an extra point — thanks in large part to a very classy assist from WMU head coach Tim Lester.

Olson remains a playing member of the Trojans football team, and is currently in his redshirt junior season.  He’s listed as the Trojans’ third-team long-snapper on the team’s most recent depth chart, although he hasn’t taken the field in a game this season.