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Northwestern enters November in first place in Big Ten West after win over Wisconsin

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Following a 31-17 victory at home over Wisconsin (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten), Northwestern (5-3, 5-1 Big Ten) will turn the calendars to the final month of the regular season with a chance to win the Big Ten West Division for the first time. The division is now officially in their control with just three Big Ten games remaining on the schedule.

Clayton Thorson struggled in the passing game at times but managed to do enough damage on the ground with two rushing touchdowns and a 27-yard run to help set up a score in the third quarter as he escaped from under pressure closing in on him to take advantage of a wide open right side of the field. It was the kind of gritty performance that bodes well for Northwestern, especially against a Wisconsin team playing without starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook and on a day where the fumble issues of Jonathan Taylor led to some self-inflicted wounds for the Badgers.

With Hornibrook out of the game due to not being medically cleared out of concussion protocol, Jack Coan made his first career start for the Badgers and was rarely asked to make too much happen through the air. Wisconsin relied on their running game with Taylor, Garrett Groshek and Alec Ingold leading the attack. But northwestern’s defense was ready for the challenge and played well at home to preventing Wisconsin from gaining an edge. If anything, Northwestern’s own running game leveled the playing field with  Isaiah Bowser continuing to fuel the Wildcat’ running game, with Thorson complimenting the effort.

Northwestern took a 24-10 lead into the fourth quarter and essentially put the finishing touch on the win shortly after Coan fumbled the football deep in the Wisconsin end early in the fourth quarter. The fumble recovery by Northwestern, the third of the day, was followed by a touchdown run by Bowser to build a 21-point lead.

The win moves Northwestern to 5-1 in the Big Ten West, which now includes head-to-head wins against Purdue and Wisconsin. Having played one more conference game than the rest of the division, the Wildcats will own no less than a half-game lead in the division after all games have been played on Saturday (Purdue was playing at Michigan State at the same time and Iowa was kicking off against Penn State later in the afternoon). Northwestern will host Notre Dame next week (looking to play spoiler against the Irish?) but the next Big Ten test for the Wildcats will come in two weeks on the road at Iowa. That game should be of much significance, as a win could potentially put Northwestern one giant step closer to playing in the Big Ten championship game at the end of the season. Northwestern has the road game at Iowa and then a road trip to Minnesota and a home game against Illinois to wrap up the regular season and the Big Ten schedule. It may all come down to what happens in that Iowa game for Northwestern.

Wisconsin, the runaway favorite in the Big Ten West and picked to win the Big Ten and play in the playoff by some in the preseason, now needs a good amount of help if the Badgers are going to make a third straight trip to the Big Ten championship game. At 3-2 in the Big Ten, Wisconsin will look for a rebound win next week at home against Rutgers before two straight road games at Penn State and Purdue. But Wisconsin now needs to finish ahead of Northwestern in the standings to avoid losing out on a head-to-head tiebreaker. That may be wishful thinking at this point.

Jeff Brohm adds Marty Biagi to Purdue coaching staff

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The Purdue Boilermakers football team is the latest to make an addition to its coaching staff.

Tuesday afternoon, Purdue confirmed the speculation that had surfaced over the past couple of days by announcing the hiring of Marty Biagi by Jeff Brohm.  Biagi will serve as the Boilermakers’ special teams coordinator.  According to the school, he’ll also hold an unspecified, as of yet, role as defensive assistant.

“Marty is one of the leading coaches and brightest minds in the area of special teams,” the Purdue Boilermakers football head coach said in a statement. “We are very excited to have him here.”

Biagi has spent the past three seasons as the special teams coordinator at North Texas.  Twice, the school noted in its release, Biagi was a finalist for the FootballScoop.com Special Teams Coordinator of the Year.

From the school’s release:

The Mean Green scored six special teams touchdowns, blocked nine punts, four kicks and had 10 players recognized with All-Conference USA accolades during Biagi’s tenure. North Texas won nine games in both 2017 and 2018, appearing in the New Orleans Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl, respectively.

Biagi’s special teams unit at UNT finished in the top 20 in the Football Bowl Division in blocked kicks/punts all three seasons in Denton, tying for 11th in 2017 (4), for 19th in 2018 (3) and for sixth in 2019 (4).

One of those six special teams touchdowns came in a 2018 upset of Arkansas on a wild trick play during a punt return.

Prior to his time in Denton, Biagi was a special teams analyst at Notre Dame.  He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Arkansas.

UNLV hires Stanford assistant Peter Hansen as DC

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Thanks to the Stanford Cardinal football team, Marcus Arroyo is closing in on filling out his first UNLV coaching staff.

Tuesday, UNLV announced the hiring of Peter Hansen as Arroyo’s defensive coordinator.  The longtime Bay-area coach will also be responsible for the Rebels’ inside linebackers.

Hansen served two different stints as part of the Stanford Cardinal football program over the past decade-plus.

In 2008, Hansen was part of the strength & conditioning staff.  From 2009-10, he was a defensive assistant.  After a stint in the NFL, Hansen returned to the Cardinal in 2013.  The past seven seasons, he was Stanford’s inside linebackers coach.

In between the two Farm stops, Hansen was a defensive assistant for the San Francisco 49ers.  He worked with both inside and outside linebackers during his two years with the NFL club.

Hansen, who played his college football and basketball at Arizona, was born in Palo Alto and began his coaching career at a high school in the city.  This will mark the assistant’s first coaching job outside of the Bay area.

Hansen and the rest of the Rebels defensive staff will have their work cut out for them.  At least, based on the campaign they will.

This past season, UNLV was dead last in the Mountain West Conference and 108th nationally as they gave up up 33 points per game.  In total defense, they were 13th in the conference and 105th in the country as they allowed 442.3 yards per game.  In passing defense, they were 13th and 104th.

With the Hansen hiring, Arroyo now has eight of his 10 on-field assistants in place.  The others already on the staff are:

  • Danny Langsdorf, quarterbacks coach/passing-game coordinator
  • Cameron Norcross, offensive line/running-game coordinator
  • Scott Baumgartner, running backs
  • Jordan Paopao, tight ends/special teams coordinator
  • Kenwick Thompson, linebackers
  • Damon Magazu, safeties
  • Tre Watson, cornerbacks

Boise State ‘weighing our options’ in regards to Mountain West membership

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The Mountain West landed a big TV deal earlier this month, a 6-year deal with FOX and CBS that will pay the conference $270 million in total.

Even better for the conference, it would be the last time Boise State would be treated as separate from the rest of the league.

Which was apparently news to Boise State.

“The Mountain West stated that this was the last time our deal would be negotiated separately,” the school said in its own statement following the conference’s announcement. “However, Boise State’s decision to join the conference was predicated on a number of negotiated provisions, including the right to separately negotiate material terms of media rights relating to our home games. This is stated in our conference agreement and cannot be changed by any vote of the membership or conflicting agreement. We will not support any change to this provision and are in the process of weighing our options to move forward.”

As we all remember, Boise State was set to leave the Mountain West for the Big East before it became clear the Big East they agreed to join was not the Big East they would actually join. That league eventually became the American Athletic Conference, and that league would undoubtedly be happy to have Boise State if this latest spat with the MW cannot be smoothed over.

Six years into the College Football Playoff system, only Boise State and Western Michigan have claimed the Group of 5’s New Years Six bid from the American, and between now and the new MW deal’s expiration in 2025-26, it would be an upset if anyone other than Boise State or the AAC won the bid.

Should the Broncos actually follow through with this threat, their Olympic sports would have numerous options between the WAC, the Big Sky and maybe even the West Coast Conference (which is made up entirely of private schools but may be willing to make an exception for a brand like Boise State’s), but football would have limited options. Boise State would look south to see BYU’s experience as an independent has not gone as planned, and Bryan Harsin is unlikely to find a Pac-12 or Big 12 invitation in the mail, no matter how fun that may be for all of us to watch.

So that pretty much leaves Boise State to try to make life work as the far, far westernmost output of the AAC or smooth things over with the MW.

Of course, none of this would happen until 2026 and who knows if we’ll even have conferences, or college football, or a planet in 2026.

RILEY TO DALLAS! SMU hires Lincoln’s brother, Garrett

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All you who were damn sure a Riley would be coaching in Dallas in 2020, come collect your winnings. SMU has announced Garrett Riley, Lincoln’s younger brother, as its new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“I think he’s a really good fit,” head Mustang Sonny Dykes said of Riley. “He’s comfortable teaching our system of play, particularly in the passing game. One of the things that intrigued me about him was the success that Appalachian State had running the ball and the unique ways they did so.

“He also has a great history recruiting in this area. He knows the coaches and he knows the players. He even knew a lot of things about our current players when we sat down and talked.”

Riley coached running backs for Appalachian State in 2019 but did not join Eli Drinkwitz in the conga line from Boone to Mizzou. That’s despite Riley helping Mountaineer running back Darrynton Evans win Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year honors after registering 1,740 all-purpose yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. He’ll now have to help Shane Buechele improve upon a season in which he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 34 touchdowns.

He’ll replace Rhett Lashlee, who left for a similar job at Miami.

Garrett started his career ahead of Lincoln, playing at Texas Tech whereas Lincoln just coached as an undergraduate. He then moved on to Stephen F. Austin before joining the coaching profession as an assistant in the Texas high school ranks. He worked under big brother at East Carolina before spending 2016-18 at Kansas.

In conjunction with the move, SMU has elevated offensive line coach AJ Ricker to co-offensive coordinator.