WHO: No. 24 Iowa State (8-4) vs. No. 13 Iowa State
WHAT: The 26th Alamo Bowl
WHEN: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
THE SKINNY: Mike Leach is back in the Lone Star State.
Years after a contentious divorce from Texas Tech, the Washington State head coach is back and arguably better than ever as he and the Air Raid offense are aiming for win No. 11 against an old Big 12 foe in Iowa State. These aren’t the old Cyclones from Leach’s days in Lubbock however, as Matt Campbell has his team playing as well as just about anybody over the final few months of the season. There are only a handful of marquee matchups outside of the New Year’s Six and this game certainly qualifies as a pair of top 25 teams go at it hoping to close out the year in style.
Naturally, the quarterbacks are the star of the show. Wazzu’s Gardner Minshew II finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting and put together a stellar season as a graduate transfer from East Carolina, throwing for an FBS-leading 4,477 yards during the regular season. His play was a huge reason why the Cougars were in the thick of the Pac-12 title hunt for most of the year and why the signal-caller was an easy pick as the conference’s offensive player of the year. Though his mustache became as trending topic a few times on social media as the season wore on, the QB’s play is really a treat to watch and especially so given how well he spreads the ball around to a ton of different receivers and running backs. Keep an especially close eye on the two dynamic threats in the backfield when Minshew does drop back to pass as James Williams and Max Borghi have combined for over 1,800 total yards and have at least 350 through the air and on the ground.
On the opposite sideline, Brock Purdy has been a revelation for Iowa State ever since taking the reins under center (6-1 as a starter) and sparked the team to back-to-back eight win seasons for the first time since 1977-78. In addition to throwing for nearly 2,000 yards and accounting for 19 touchdowns, the freshman signal-caller has continued to elevate those around him and really helped open things up for star tailback David Montgomery (12 touchdowns rushing) in particular. Wideout Hakeem Butler might be a first round pick in the draft and if this is indeed his last game as a Cyclone, you can bet he’ll want to go out in style with a few more highlight reel catches just up the road from where he played his high school ball.
ISU doesn’t just pack a potent offense though as the team leads the Big 12 in scoring defense and enter the game giving up just 228 yards through the air. Corner Brian Peavy has been stellar in shutting down opposing receivers and defensive end JaQuan Bailey is hoping to move into first place on the school’s all-time sack list by getting to the quarterback at least once down in San Antonio. The Cyclones see versions of Leach’s offense weekly in Big 12 play so they know how to slow the Air Raid attack, which they have a good shot at doing despite the big play potential from Minshew and company.
THE PICK: Iowa State 30, Washington State 27
And then there were two.
Seeing the Justin Fields writing on the wall, Tate Martell transferred from Ohio State in mid-January and ultimately landed at Miami. Three months later, another OSU signal-caller, Matthew Baldwin, confirmed on Twitter Thursday night that he too has decided to take his leave of the Buckeyes and place his name into the NCAA transfer database.
“[S]pring was a tough time for me personally. My family and I have prayed and talked a lot about where I belong and what is best for me,” Baldwin wrote as part of a very classy Twitter post revealing his decision. “In the end, we feel like it’d be better for me to step away from Ohio State.”
A four-star member of OSU’s 2018 recruiting class, Baldwin was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country coming out of high school in Austin, Texas. Baldwin didn’t play a down for the Buckeyes as he continued his rehab from an ACL injury he suffered late in his high school career at Lake Travis.
With the twin departures of Baldwin and Martell, OSU is now down to two scholarship quarterbacks — the Georgia transfer Fields (HERE) and West Virginia transfer Chris Chugunov (HERE). Fields was widely expected to be the Buckeyes’ starter under center in the 2019 opener; Baldwin’s decision ensures that, barring injury, that will indeed be the case.
A week and a half after word broke Luke Jones was intending to leave Notre Dame comes the announcement Jones is going to be playing closer to home. The Arkansas native announced with a message on Twitter he is coming home to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
“I would like to thank the University of Note Dame for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dream of playing college football,” Jones said in a brief message on his Twitter account. “However, I have decided to transfer and play football for the University of Arkansas. I will be enrolling in the summer and am excited for this new chapter in my life!”
Jones spent a brief moment with the Notre Dame program as he was a member of the Class of 2018 in South Bend. Prior to committing to the Fighting Irish, Jones had been committed to the Arkansas football program in his recruiting process, but Notre Dame emerged victorious in the recruiting game during a coaching change with the Razorbacks.
Jones will be required to sit out the 2019 season under standard NCAA transfer rules, although those seem to be more like guidelines these days, so we’ll wait to see if there is a chance Jones gets to jump into the mix in the offensive line for the Razorbacks this fall.
Tight end Tyler Sear is hopping on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and heading from one metropolitan corner of the state to the next. Sear announced on his Twitter account on Thursday he is transferring from Pitt to Temple.
The Class of 2017 recruit of the Panthers left the program last October for what was simply described as personal reasons. It was unknown if the leave of absence was a short-term or long-term plan as the decisions about the status were being kept close to the vest within the Pitt program.
Sear did battle some injury concerns during his time at Pitt that prevented him from potentially reaching his full potential for the Panthers. He caught two passes for nine yards last season prior to his stepping away from the team.
Perhaps a clean slate with a new program will do Sear good as he steps in to try contributing with the Owls in the AAC. Sear will have to sit out the 2019 season due to standard NCAA transfer rules, unless an exception is granted by the NCAA. It is unknown if a waiver will be filed by Sear and Temple for immediate eligibility.
Sear has not used a redshirt year yet so he could burn that in 2019 while waiting to get back on the field if he is forced to sit out the 2019 season. That ould leave Sear with two years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2020 season.
Add another name to the growing list of players entering the transfer portal. This time it is Michigan cornerback Myles Sims. According to a report from 247 Sports, the former four-star prospect in Michigan’s Class of 2018 is evaluating his options.
Any player who adds his name to the transfer portal is allowed to make contact with potential programs of interest, but it does not automatically mean that player is gone for god. Sims will have the option of pulling his name out of the portal in the event he decides to stay in Ann Arbor. How quickly Sims will make any decision one way or the other remains to be seen.
Sims did not see the field last season for Michigan so he can use the 2018 season as his redshirt year. That gives the former four-star recruit four years of eligibility remaining, although he will likely have to burn one year of eligibility by sitting out the upcoming 2019 season.
Standard NCAA transfer rules require a player to sit out a full season before being ruled eligible to play again, although exceptions have been made a bit more frequently over the past year. Whether or not Sims will have the chance to play right away this fall will have to wait to be determined when he decides what his plans will be moving forward.