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Cincinnati edges Virginia Tech in Military Bowl that goes down to the wire

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The bowl season has not been particularly kind to the AAC, but Cincinnati (11-2) picked up a good win against Virginia Tech (6-7) in a Military Bowl that went down to the wire.  Michael Warren II scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:29 to play to give the Bearcats a four-point lead, and the defense held on for the win. An interception by James Wiggins essentially clinched the win for the Bearcats in the final minute of the game.

Cincinnati won the game despite losing starting quarterback Desmond Ridder to an injury in the fir half. Hayden Moore came in to lead the offense, and he completed 11 of 25 passes for 120 yards with an interception. That led Warren to put the team on his back with 166 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter. Virginia Tech’s defense had not been quite the normal defense you expect from a Bud Foster defense over the years, and the Bearcats continued that trend in the bowl game with some big plays and big runs in big moments. Cincinnati converted 6 of 13 third downs and was one-for-one on fourth down as well despite a sub-par passing attack.

Virginia Tech also had two turnovers, including one fumble on a busted fourth-and-one play near the Cincinnati goal line that really hurt Virginia Tech. Leading 31-28 midway through the fourth quarter and setting up the offense at the Cincinnati 12-yard line following an interception, the Hokies wasted an opportunity to create a two-score advantage. Ryan Willis was run back for a loss of 13 yards and fumbled the ball away on 4th & 1 just four plays after the defense came up with a big play. Cincinnati wound up having to punt the ball away, but being so close to a possible touchdown only to come away with nothing has to sting for Virginia Tech given the outcome.

The win was Cincinnati’s first bowl win since 2012 when the program won the Belk Bowl despite former head coach Butch Jones leaving the job before the bowl game to become the head coach at Tennessee. Cincinnati also pulled one game closer to a .500 all-time record against the Hokies, with Virginia Tech now leading the all-time series 6-5 dating back to 1985. Cincinnati has won four of the last five meetings with Virginia Tech since 2006, including a 2-2 record in bowl games.

Cincinnati’s 11-2 record is the best for the program since going 12-1 in the 2009 season, which was coached by Brian Kelly before he left before the Sugar Bowl to become the head coach at Notre Dame. Luke Fickell, unless anything changes in the ongoing coaching carousel craziness, should be staying put for now. And after coaching the Bearcats to a 4-8 record in his first season and tacking on seven more wins this season, he has done well for himself.

On the flip side, Virginia Tech suffered its first losing season since 1992, the second year Virginia Tech was a member of the Big East. Virginia Tech has now seen their win total drop each of the past two seasons since winning 10 games in the first year with Justin Fuente as head coach. no need to hit any panic buttons in Blacksburg yet, however. But don’t be surprised if Fuente takes some time to evaluate a few things with his program heading into 2019.

Ohio State DL coach Larry Johnson denies facilitating player payment at Penn State

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The ongoing federal corruption case against College Basketball, Inc., took an unplanned-but-not-unexpected swerve into college football on Tuesday when a witness for the government said he facilitated payments for numerous college football players from 2000 through 2013.

Pittsburgh-based financial advisor Marty Blazer, who has already pleaded guilty to defrauding clients, is now testifying on behalf of the government during the New York-based trial, and said he paid players representing a handful of programs ranging from Alabama and Michigan to Northwestern and Pitt, funneling them funds ranging from three to five figures.

Blazer did not name names for any coaches on Tuesday, but he did name the name of a player — former Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin — which led anyone who follows college football to figure out his coach — former Penn State defensive line, and current Ohio State defensive line coach, Larry Johnson.

According to Blazer, Maybin was considering leaving school early to enter the 2009 draft when Johnson (without naming his name) arranged a meeting between himself, Blazer and Maybin’s father. There, Johnson got Blazer to give Maybin’s father $10,000, with the hope that the cash-in-hand would keep Aaron Maybin a Nittany Lion while ensuring the player would become a Blazer client when he eventually went pro.

Maybin, as we all know, entered the 2009 draft and was selected 11th overall. Blazer said Maybin’s father later returned the money.

Johnson was reached by Yahoo Sports on Tuesday and vehemently denied the accusation.

“That is not accurate at all,” Johnson said. “That is absolutely false. I would never, ever ask anybody to do that. That is not me.”

“Why is it that something like that comes out and nobody says anything to me?” Johnson Sr. said. “This is the first call I’ve gotten. All of a sudden this Marty Blazer guy can just say whatever he wants? That is absolutely amazing. Wow.”

Johnson coached Penn State’s defensive line from 1996 through 2013 and has been at Ohio State since 2014. The 67-year-old is generally regarded as one of the best defensive line coaches in college football, and while it’s unclear if the NCAA would even take an interest in the case, Johnson obviously wants to make sure the testimony of an admitted fraudster does not ruin his reputation.

Clemson lands No. 1 overall player in Class of 2020

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Clemson has managed to dominate college football without really dominating the college football recruiting rankings. Since 2015, the Tigers’ classes have ranked, in order, No. 9, No. 11, No. 16, No. 7 and No. 10, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Those are good classes, to be sure, but not necessarily great ones; they’re the type of classes you’d expect to lead to a team competing for ACC championships and New Year’s Six bowls, not beating Alabama in the national championship game twice in three years.

Clearly, Clemson’s coaches have cornered the market on finding a few great players and a bunch of really good ones, then developing them to all play like great players. The question then becomes: What happens if Clemson starts recruiting a bunch of great players? What happens if, in addition to playing like Alabama, Clemson started recruiting like Alabama?

We’re about to find out.

The Tigers on Tuesday landed Bryan Breese, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound defensive tackle from Damascus, Md., who happens to be the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2020, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

“At the end of this little run I was really between Clemson, Georgia and Penn State and over that last visit everyone talks about you’ll feel it and I didn’t understand that till the last visit and I got the feeling and knew where I was supposed to be,” Bresee told 247Sports.

But Tuesday’s news wasn’t just about Breese. He became Clemson’s first 5-star commitment of this class, joining a group of 11 4-stars that vaults the Tigers over Alabama for the No. 1 spot in the 2020 team rankings, with three less players on board than the Crimson Tide. Beyond Breese, Clemson is also favored to land 5-star quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, 5-star defensive end Jordan Burch and 5-star Myles Murphy, all of whom rank in the top 10 nationally, plus 5-star linebacker Antoine Sampah, who ranks No. 31 in the country.

If all that comes to pass, Clemson could follow one of the best seasons ever with one of the best recruiting classes ever.

“This class could be by far one of the best classes ever,” Bresee said. “I think definitely one of the best classes for Clemson.”

Transfers from Rutgers, Coastal Carolina land at same FCS school

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The same FCS program has double-dipped in the NCAA transfer portal, FBS division, in bulking up the talent on its football roster.

Monday afternoon, Albany announced via social media that running back Alex James and fullback Max Anthony have officially signed with the program.  James, a redshirt junior, comes to Albany from Coastal Carolina, Anthony, a fifth-year senior, from Rutgers.

As both players come to the Great Danes from the FBS ranks, they will each be eligible to play immediately in 2019.

The past two seasons for the Chanticleers, James has rushed for 475 yards and seven touchdowns on 114 carries.  He also caught 16 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Anthony had started six of the 27 games in which he played for the Scarlet Knights.

Witness in hoops trial claims he paid football players from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, others

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A sweeping college hoops scandal that’s engulfed the sport has now touched its gridiron counterpart.

Marty Blazer, a Pittsburgh financial advisor-turned government informant after pleading guilty to securities fraud charges, took the witness stand Tuesday in the college basketball fraud trial and levied some potentially explosive allegations.  As part of his testimony, Blazer alleged that, between 2000-14, he paid football players from, among others, Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Pitt.  The payments, some of which were in the thousands of dollars, were aimed at convincing the player to remain in college and not enter the NFL draft in the hopes that they would retain him as their financial adviser when they did turn pro.

The names of specific players were, for the most part, not mentioned by Blazer.

The most damning of the accusations made by Blazer seems to involve Penn State during the Joe Paterno era.  Specifically, Blazer alleges that he paid the father of then-Penn State player Aaron Maybin $10,000, with the payment being made at the behest of an unnamed Paterno assistant coach.

If accurate, the NCAA would consider such an arrangement a major infraction.  It’s unclear what, if any, action The Association will take on the football side of the accusations made under oath.

Requests for comment from each of the football programs mentioned in Blazer’s testimony have not yet been met with a response.