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After slow start to begin the Cotton Bowl, No. 2 Clemson takes big halftime lead over No. 3 Notre Dame

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The College Football Playoff is finally here and the postseason veterans are looking primed to lock up another trip to the title game.

Following a slow start in the first semifinal game on Saturday afternoon, No. 2 Clemson hit halftime holding a 23-3 lead over No. 3 Notre Dame at the Cotton Bowl in a tense battle between the two heavyweights at AT&T Stadium.

The Tigers didn’t really get going until the second quarter but appeared to find their groove once they settled in. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence looked nothing like a true freshman on the big stage, throwing for 264 yards and two touchdowns while also proving to be quite the threat as a runner with 13 yards on the ground and a handful of key first down pick-ups. Fellow true freshman Justyn Ross was also big early on and wound up with 137 yards and two trips to the end zone.

If there was any area of concern it might be that tailback Travis Etienne only had 19 yards rushing but CU will certainly take that with the lead they have in the locker room.

As for Notre Dame, only having three points hid the fact that their offense was able to move the ball for stretches. QB Ian Book threw for 107 yards despite heavy pressure and Dexter Williams was up to 38 total yards after getting involved both rushing and catching the ball. Still, things slowed down considerably for the group after the clock flipped over to the second quarter after a decent debut.

One other storyline to keep an eye on? The Irish defense loosing a number of starters in the first half.

Cornerback Julian Love missed most of the second quarter for unspecified reasons and could be seen in the injury tent and riding the stationary bike on the sideline. That would be a huge blow because his replacement give up the Ross touchdown catch and to make matters worse, safety Alohi Gilman was shaken up for a few plays before returning and giving up a touchdown. Defensive end Julian Okwara missed time as well.

We’ll see if Brian Kelly’s team can get things into gear after the break but at least so far, we’re seen one of the elite teams in the country this season assert control of the Cotton Bowl to put Clemson 30 minutes away from return to the title game.

Wisconsin renews contract of Paul Chryst into 2024

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In what has seemingly been an annual tradition in Madison, Wisconsin has renewed the contract of head football coach Paul Chryst by tacking on another year. Chryst is now under contract through Jan. 31, 2024 with his latest renewal following approval from the University of Wisconsin Athletic Board.

Wisconsin renewed Chryst’s contract a year ago, extending his contract through the end of Jan. 2023. Wisconsin and Chryst originally agreed on a contract that was set to expire on Jan. 31, 2020 with a written agreement that the contract may be extended with a positive annual review beginning after the 2015 football season.

The Badgers may be coming off a relatively disappointing season with a record of 8-5, but Chryst has gone 42-12 in his first four seasons as head coach of the Badgers and it is expected Wisconsin will remain a consistent contender in the Big Ten West Division with a shot to play for and win the Big Ten championship in the years to come.

According to the USA Today coaching salary database for the 2018 season, Chryst was paid $3.75 million last season. Specific details of how much Chryst will be paid now were not announced by Wisconsin.

Wisconsin also renewed the contracts of volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield, women’s soccer coach Paula Wilkins, and men’s soccer coach John Trask.

Toledo losing RB Nevone McCrimmon to transfer

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One MAC school will head into the spring with a little less depth in its offensive backfield than they had at the end of the 2018 regular season.

On Twitter this week, Nevone McCrimmon announced that he has decided to transfer from Toledo and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere. In his social-media missive, the running back described leaving UT as “being the hardest decision of my life,” albeit one that he “and my family feels like… is the best decision to make.”

After redshirting as a true freshman, McCrimmon carried the ball nine times for 80 yards in 2017. He totaled 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 14 carries this past season.

Kent State adds a pair of Power Five transfers

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Thursday was potentially a good day on the personnel front for the Kent State football program.

The school confirmed in a release that it has added a pair of Power Five conference transfers — offensive lineman Bill Kuduk and defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight (pictured). Kuduk, a redshirt freshman, began his collegiate playing career at Kansas State, Knight, a redshirt sophomore, at Maryland.

Neither player is expected to be eligible to play in 2019 as they will be forced to sit out a transfer year as mandated by the NCAA.

“We are excited to add an exceptional person in Bill to our FlashFAST Family,” second-year head coach Sean Lewis said in a statement. “He comes from a great high school on the south side of Chicago and knows what it takes to win. His athletic ability and size will be a great addition to our O-line room. …

“Q is another high character individual who is going to be a great member of our family. He brings collegiate game experience with him and will add a lot of position versatility to our back-end.”

Knight played in 10 games as a true freshman in 2016 and a dozen the following season. He saw action in just four games this past season before deciding to transfer in November of last year.

Kuduk didn’t see the field during his brief time with the Wildcats.

Nick Saban poaches Florida, NFL to fill holes on Alabama staff

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After spending the last month as the poachee, Nick Saban has turned into the poacher as he looks to retool an Alabama coaching staff ravaged by attrition.

While it’s not yet been confirmed by the football program, multiple media outlets, including al.com, are reporting that Saban will hire Kyle Flood and Sal Sunseri as Crimson Tide assistants.  Flood would take over as offensive line coach for Brent Key, who left for the same job at Georgia Tech, while Sunseri will be taking an unspecified position on the defensive side of the ball.

Flood, the former head coach at Rutgers whose show-cause from the NCAA expired last September, would come to Tuscaloosa from the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, where he spent the past two seasons.  The offensive coordinator of the Falcons during that time, Steve Sarkisian, is expected to return in the same role with the Tide.

Speaking of returns, Sunseri spent the 2009-11 seasons as Saban’s linebacker’s coach and assistant head coach before leaving to take over as the defensive coordinator at Tennessee.  Sunseri just completed his first season as the defensive line coach at Florida.