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Record performance by Dwayne Haskins lifts No. 6 Ohio State to Big Ten crown, playoff fate awaits

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Dwayne Haskins showed why he was named the Big Ten’ Offensive Player of the Year with a Big Ten championship game record performance to help No. 6 Ohio State (12-1, 8-1 Big Ten) set aside No. 21 Northwestern (8-5, 8-1 Big Ten), 45-24. Haskins passed for a Big Ten championship game record 499 yards with five touchdowns to lift Ohio State to back-to-back Big Ten championships. A trip to the Rose Bowl likely awaits the Buckeyes as a result.

The final line on Haskins was impressive with 34-of-41 passing for 499 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. It was a performance that showed why Haskins should at least be considered for a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist, and the Buckeyes needed Haskins to shine as Northwestern was not going to go away easily in Indianapolis.

Northwestern played close enough to Ohio State to avoid being on the receiving end of an Ohio State team in need of some style points. While Ohio State proved to have too many weapons on both sides of the football, the Wildcats made Ohio State keep pushing longer than Ohio State may have wanted. John Moten ripped off a 77-yard touchdown run early in the game to get Ohio State’s attention and a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter brought Northwestern to within 24-21 before Ohio State started to pull away a bit. A pair of interceptions thrown by Clayton Thorson hurt some chances for Northwestern to pull an upset in the Big Ten title game, as did a lost fumble. Ohio State had a couple of turnovers though to hurt themselves at times, but the defense stood up to make some key stops to stop the bleeding quickly.

In all likelihood, Ohio State’s chances of playing in the College Football Playoff may have been dashed, although the fate of the Buckeyes will be left in the hands of the selection committee on Sunday. With Oklahoma winning the Big 12 championship and chalk holding in the SEC with Alabama (over Georgia) and Clemson (over Pittsburgh), along with Notre Dame sitting at home with a clean 12-0 record, Ohio State is very likely to be left out of the playoff and heading to Pasadena to face Pac-12 champion Washington in the Rose Bowl. Despite the success of Ohio State over the years under Urban Meyer, this will be the first time Meyer has taken Ohio State to the Rose Bowl, and it will be Ohio State’s first Rose Bowl trip since the 2009 season. Ohio State would have played in the Rose Bowl last year but the Rose Bowl was the site of a College Football Playoff semifinal between Oklahoma and Georgia, which forced the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions to square off in the Cotton Bowl instead, with Ohio State defeating USC last season.

Northwestern’s bowl destination is a bit more up in the air as the Big Ten will wait to see if it can squeeze more than two teams into a New Years Six bowl game, although Penn State looks likely to be taking a spot in the Capital One Bowl as the first Big Ten team off the board after Ohio State and Michigan in the New Years Six. That leaves Northwestern as a team that could head to any number of bowl games in the Big Ten lineup. Because there are no slots assigned base don finish, the Big Ten and bowl partners will work to determine where Northwestern will go. As a division champion, Northwestern should still get a relatively decent bowl destination in the Big Ten bowl lineup.

USC ‘in final stages’ of canceling UC-Davis game, allowing them to rejoin Notre Dame, UCLA as only FBS teams to never play FCS school

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Fans of the USC football program, one source of pride has officially returned.

In July of last year, USC football angered a sizable portion of its fan base as well as former players by announcing that it had scheduled a 2021 game against UC-Davis.  The Trojans had been one of three FBS programs that had never scheduled a game against an FCS team.

Wednesday, however, new athletic director Mike Bohn confirmed that USC is on the verge of canceling that football game and replacing it with another.  Bohn revealed the development during a podcast appearance, as transcribed by 247Sports.com:

Well, I’m happy to tell you that we have informed UC Davis that we intended to cancel that game. We are in the final stages of formalizing an agreement with another FBS opponent to replace UC Davis, and I have to give our donors and fans a lot of the credit. When I arrived, I committed to listening and learning; and the feedback from our fans was clear. Preserving our history is critically important to us and to our fans, so we worked to make that happen.

Our fans didn’t like it and our fans recognize that we’re one of only three institutions to have never played a team at that level, and I think that says a lot about ‘SC and our commitment to wanting to make sure that our fans see viable games and ensure that they have a great experience watching those games. So, they were really clear about it and, to be honest with you, I think there were a lot of people on campus that encouraged us to ensure that we could fix that as well.

Unofficially, USC football rejoins Notre Dame and UCLA as the only FBS schools that have never played a game against an FCS team.

USC will reportedly be forced to pay UC-Davis for canceling the game.

Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian has reportedly interviewed for Colorado opening

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Very late in the churning of the 2019-20 coaching carousel, Nick Saban could find himself with a significant opening on his Alabama Crimson Tide football coaching staff.  Maybe.

When Mel Tucker left for the Michigan State head job earlier this month, it triggered an unexpected coaching search at Colorado.  Current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator and former Colorado running back Eric Bieniemy was immediately considered the front-runner, although it’s now expected that he’ll stay in the NFL.  Air Force’s Troy Calhoun has now taken that front-runner mantle in some corners — he interviewed for the CU job this week — while former Arkansas and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is in the mix as well.

Steve Sarkisian‘s name has been connected to the Colorado opening as well.  It was reported by CBS Sports that the Alabama Crimson Tide football assistant interviewed for the job Wednesday, with ESPN.com confirming that development Thursday morning.

Sarkisian, of course, has experience as a head coach in the Pac-12.  His unceremonious exit from his last job in the conference, though, could make him a hard sell to the Buff faithful.

In mid-October of 2015, USC announced that Sarkisian had been dismissed as the Trojans’ head football coach, one day after he was given an indefinite leave of absence because of alleged and ongoing alcohol issues.  It was alleged that USC had instituted a zero-tolerance policy when it came to Sarkisian and alcohol use.  Leading up to his dismissal, Sarkisian allegedly showed up to meetings intoxicated.

From 2009-15, Sarkisian was a head coach in the Pac-12 — at Washington (2009-13) and USC (2014-15).  He went 46-35 during his time in that league.  He also spent two separate stints totaling seven seasons (2001-03, 2005-08) as an assistant at USC.

Following his ugly exit from USC, Sarkisian joined the Alabama Crimson Tide football program as an offensive analyst for the 2016 season. When Lane Kiffin took the head job at FAU prior to the national championship game that year, Sarkisian served as the play-caller in the loss to Clemson.

Expected to take over as the Crimson Tide’s coordinator, and after reports that his relationship with Saban had deteriorated surfaced, Sarkisian instead left a month after the title game for a job in the NFL as the coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.  Sarkisian lasted two years in that job before he was fired in December of 2018.

A month later, he rejoined the Tide as offensive coordinator.

Florida State DB A.J. Lytton ‘has been removed from the team’

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Florida State football has seen its roster pared as we dive deeper into the offseason.

Wednesday, 247Sports.com reported that A.J. Lytton is no longer consider a member of the Seminoles program.  A Florida State football official confirmed that the defensive back “has been removed from the team.”

No specific reason, including whether it was voluntary or involuntary, was given for Lytton’s removal.

A four-star 2018 signee, Lytton was rated as the No. 3 recruit regardless of position in the state of Maryland.  He was also the No. 7 cornerback in the country.  Only one signee in FSU’s class that year, fellow defensive back Jaiden Woodbey, was rated higher than Lytton.

Over two seasons, Lytton played in a total of 22 games.  A dozen of those appearances came during the 2019 campaign.  He started one of those appearances, with that lone start coming this past season.

With two-year starter Stanford Samuels III leaving the Seminoles early for the NFL, Lytton had been expected to compete for a starting corner job.

Lytton’s departure continues the expected Florida State football roster churn since Willie Taggart‘s firing and Mike Norvell‘s hiring.  Norvell will be taking over a program that has gone 11-14 the past two seasons.  That two-year stretch is the worst for the school since they went 8-14 in 1975-76.

Mel Tucker adds former Michigan State WR Courtney Hawkins as Spartans’ receivers coach

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As Michigan State football continues to brace itself for potential NCAA sanctions, its new head coach continues to build his first coaching staff.

Wednesday, Mel Tucker announced that Courtney Hawkins has been hired as his wide receivers coach.  The move to add Hawkins will certainly be a popular one for the fan base as the newest assistant played his college football at MSU.

From 1988-91, Hawkins was a wide receiver for the Spartans.  Twice, he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors during his time in East Lansing.

“Courtney Hawkins was a phenomenal player here at Michigan State who went on to have a very successful career in the NFL,” the new Michigan State football head coach said in a statement. “He’s shown tremendous leadership serving as both the athletic director and head football coach at Flint Beecher High School. I’m really excited to get him here on campus.”

Since 2006, Hawkins served as the head football coach and athletic director at his alma mater, Beecher High School, in Flint, Michigan.  That tenure followed a nine-year career as a wide receiver in the NFL.

This will, incidentally, serve as Hawkins’ first job of any kind at the collegiate level.

The hiring of Hawkins is the fourth officially announced by the Michigan State football program.

This past weekend, it was confirmed that Ron Burton and Mike Tressel would be retained.  Shortly thereafter, Chris Kapilovic officially followed Tucker to MSU from Colorado.

Kapilovic will serve as offensive line coach and running-game coordinator for Tucker.  Burton is expected to continue on as defensive line coach.  Tressel has spent the past 13 seasons with Michigan State football as assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.