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No. 9 UCF remains undefeated but loss of QB Milton clouds outlook moving forward

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For the second straight year, No. 9 UCF (11-0, 8-0 AAC) will enter the AAC Championship Game without a loss on their record, putting them one win away from a likely trip to a New Years Six bowl game. The Knights finished off their regular season with a clean 11-0 record after securing a 38-10 win on the road against South Florida (7-5, 3-5 AAC) on Friday. The win, the 24th straight for the program, came at a price for UCF, however, as starting quarterback McKenzie Milton suffered what appeared to be a severe leg injury in the first half that required him to be carted off the field for further medical treatment.

Coming off the bench to lead the offense for UCF in the absence of Milton was Darriel Mack Jr., but the Knights could get by with the running game and a strong defensive effort to carry the load. Greg McRae rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns to power UCF past the Bulls. As a team, UCF rushed for 325 yards. McCrae’s third touchdown run, a 31-yard run, essentially slammed the door shut on South Florida after Charlie Strong made a puzzling decision to punt away from the USF 43-yard line on 4th & 1 with USF trailing 24-10 in the fourth quarter. Four plays later came McCrae’s long touchdown run. UCF outscored South Florida 14-0 in the fourth quarter and 21-7 after halftime.

Milton’s injury was severe enough to prevent him from returning to the game, but there was no updated on his status moving forward. However, odds are he will not be available next week for the conference championship game. As such, how UCF fares without their MVP quarterback in the near future will be scrutinized heavily as UCF is sitting in position to not only compete for a chance to play in a big bowl game, but how this potentially impacts their standing in the eyes of the College Football Playoff selection committee should a few breaks open things up for UCF down the line. But in order for that to matter, UCF has one more game to win first.

South Florida played the entire game without Blake Barnett, who was banged up himself. That led the Bulls to split the duties between Chris Oladokun and Brett Kean, but neither was able to spark the South Florida offense against a determined UCF defensive effort. Running back Johnny Ford had 16 carries for 120 yards, but that was the highlight of the offense for the Bulls. South Florida was stooped twice on fourth downs, including one at the UCF three-yard line that was followed by a 97-yard UCF touchdown drive in the first half. Getting stuffed twice on fourth down may have led Strong to decide to settle for a field goal deep in UCF territory in the second quarter when a touchdown would have been much more important.

UCF will host Memphis in the AAC Championship Game next weekend in Orlando. The game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff on Saturday, Dec. 1. The game will be a rematch of last year’s AAC Championship Game, won by UCF by a score of 62-55 in double overtime, and an earlier regular season meeting this year in Memphis won by UCF 31-30. A win by UCF next week at home will likely send UCF back to a New Years Six bowl, which would make the Knights the first Group of Five team to make consecutive New Years Six bowl trips in the College Football Playoff era.

South Florida will slump their way into the postseason after ending the season on a five-game losing skid. But the Bulls have enough wins to go to a bowl game, which will be determined at a later time.

Lane Kiffin completes first Ole Miss staff as Terrell Buckley is hired, two others retained

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The new head coach of the Ole Miss football team has put the finishing touches on his first Oxford staff.

Dec. 7, Lane Kiffin was hired by the Ole Miss football program.  Just over seven weeks later, the Rebels confirmed Monday that one new addition and two holdovers have rounded out Kiffin’s 10 on-field assistants.

The new hire is Terrell Buckley, who will serve as Kiffin’s cornerbacks coach.  Buckley, a former All-American at Florida State, spent the past four seasons coaching the same position at Mississippi State.  From 2014-15, Buckley coached corners at Louisville.

In addition to Buckley, it was announced that Freddie Roach and Derrick Nix have been retained off of Matt Luke‘s coaching staff.  Roach will serve as assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator, while also coaching the defensive line for the Rebels. Nix will be in charge of the SEC school’s wide receivers.

Roach has spent the past three seasons with the Rebels.  The last dozen seasons, Nix has been Ole Miss’ running backs coach.

With that trio of announcements, Kiffin’s first staff as the Ole Miss football head coach will be:

  • Terrell Buckley (Cornerbacks)
  • Randy Clements (Running Game Coordinator/Offensive Line)
  • D.J. Durkin (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers)
  • Joe Jon Finley (Passing Game Coordinator/Tight Ends)
  • Blake Gideon (Special Teams)
  • Jeff Lebby (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
  • Derrick Nix (Wide Receivers)
  • Chris Partridge (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties)
  • Freddie Roach (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator)
  • Kevin Smith (Running Backs)

“This coaching staff represents the winning mentality we are establishing here, and I’m excited to get to work as a full group,” Kiffin said in a statement. “We added dynamic recruiters, championship experience and outstanding football minds. This is a staff that will attract the best players in the country and help them reach their full potential.”

USC transfer QB Jack Sears backing off commitment to San Diego State

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It appears one USC football transfer will still be searching for a new home.

After finding himself fourth on the USC football 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, Sears landed at San Diego State.  In fact, he signed a grant-in-aid with the Mountain West Conference school.

Over the weekend, and a couple of weeks after a head-coaching change at SDSU, however, it’s now being reported that Sears is no longer going to attend the school.  However, 247Sports.com reports that the Aztecs are still in play for the transfer.

Per our sources, 247Sports has learned that Sears is “very comfortable” with Hoke as head coach and has no issues in the slightest about that decision. However, with the coaching turnover on staff and no offensive coordinator, quarterback coach, or defensive coordinator on staff at this time, Sears has decided to take a step back regarding his final decision and wants to keep an open mind. We’ve learned that he will not be enrolling early at the school for the spring semester. That said, San Diego State remains absolutely in play, but he wants to keep an open mind to make sure this next and final decision is the right one.

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

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.

Obviously, Sears didn’t attempt a pass this past season.

On three-year contract, Bo Pelini to make $2.3 million annually as LSU’s DC

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Not surprisingly, Bo Pelini will be paid handsomely for returning to LSU.

After a few days worth of speculation, it was reported earlier Monday that all signs were pointing to a Pelini reunion down on the bayou.  A few hours later, after Youngstown State announced it was losing its head football coach, it was confirmed that Bo Pelini is the new defensive coordinator at LSU.

Pelini replaces Aranda, who left earlier this month to take the head job at Baylor.

“We are privileged to have one of the top defensive coordinators in all of football in Bo Pelini join our staff,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement. “Bo has had some of the best defenses in football during his career and we are looking forward to him bringing his tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise back to LSU to continue to win championships.”

From 2005-07, Pelini served as the Tigers’ coordinator.  He went on to spend seven seasons as the head coach at Nebraska.  The past five seasons, he was the head coach at FCS Youngstown State.

According to reports out of the area, Pelini has agreed to a three-year deal that will pay him $2.3 million annually.  The man he replaced, Aranda, was the highest-paid assistant in college football at $2.5 million this past season.

At Youngstown State, Pelini was paid less than $400,000 in 2019.  Of course, there were also the millions paid to Pelini by the Cornhuskers as part of his buyout, so it’s not like he was forced to eat Hydrox instead of Oreos the past few years.

“The opportunity to return to LSU is truly unique,” Pelini said. “Culturally, with my prior experience at LSU, I know it is a great fit for me. The chance to work with Coach Orgeron, the ability to take charge of the Tigers defense, is something that I’m extremely excited about. All of that in a place that both my family and I immensely enjoyed when we were there before is very exciting for us. We are very honored and looking forward to this next chapter.”

Maryland QB Max Bortenschlager hits transfer portal

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Add another Big Ten quarterback to the NCAA transfer portal. Maryland quarterback Max Bortenschlager has placed his name in the transfer portal, according to a report form 247 Sports.

Bortenschlanger will be a graduate transfer, which means he will be eligible to play for any FBS team this fall. For Bortenschlager, a chance to play quarterback one final year could be at play. The graduating senior previously started for Maryland at quarterback in 2017 but was moved to special teams in 2018. Last season saw injuries interfere with Bortenschlager’s ability to get on the field.

Maryland’s quarterback situation should look similar to how it looked last season. Josh Jackson was named the starter after transferring from Virginia Tech. Jackson passed for 1,274 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions in 10 games. Tyrell Pigrome contributed as well with 719 passing yards and three touchdowns and 153 rushing yards with two touchdowns. Jackson and Piugrome each have one year of eligibility remaining.