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No. 19 Texas A&M closes Year 1 of Jimbo era by blasting NC State in Gator Bowl

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Jimbo Fisher is still finding his way in the big, bad SEC, but he’s still got this ACC thing figure out. His 19th-ranked Aggies scored the final 45 points to race past NC State 52-13 in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on Monday night.

Texas A&M opened the game with a 2-play, 71-yard drive that was all Kellen Mond. Texas A&M’s first snap was a 9-yard pass from Mond to Kendrick Rogers, and its second a 62-yard Mond touchdown run.

NC State (9-4) responded with a 13-0 run, aided greatly by a Mond interception inside A&M territory. His tip passed landed in the arms of Wolfpack defensive lineman Eurndraus Bryant at the Aggies’ 27-yard line, setting up a 9-yard Ryan Finley pass to CJ Riley. Two Christopher Dunn field goals, from 43 and 49 yards, put NC State up front 13-7 at the 10:45 mark of the second quarter, but Texas A&M seized the lead back with a run of its own.

A 28-yard strike to tight end Jace Sternberger and a 30-yard rush by Trayveon Williams put the ball at the NC State 2, leading to Williams’ 2-yard plunge to put the Aggies back in front.

After an NC State three-and-out, Texas A&M went 72 yards in 11 plays, closing on a third-and-goal 6-yard strike to Rogers with 32 seconds left in the first half. Mond led all players in passing and rushing, connecting on 13-of-23 passes for 142 yards with a touchdown and a pick while rushing for 82 yards and another score on four carries.

Finley tried to serve up more points to the Aggies by tossing a late interception, but Seth Small‘s 52-yard field goal on the final play of the first half sailed wide right.

That theme continued in the second half, when Finley was picked by A&M linebacker Tyrel Dodson, who took the ball 78 yards for a touchdown.

Williams put the game away for good by posting consecutive touchdown runs on A&M’s next two possessions, a 17-yarder and then a 93-yard that put the Aggies up 42-13 at the 13:56 mark of the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 19 carries for 236 yards and three touchdowns.

After a 35-yard Small field goal, the Aggies closed the game with a rushing touchdown by 12th man Cullen Gillaspia with 22 seconds left in the game.

Texas A&M out-rushed NC State 401-134, while Finley finished his college career hitting 19 of 32 passes for just 139 yards with a touchdown and two picks.

Fisher’s 9-4 debut matches the second-best showing by Texas A&M in seven seasons of SEC membership. The Gator Bowl’s Dec. 31 kickoff was perhaps fitting for the maroon and white, as they close 2018 with a sign that 2019 will become the Year of Jimbo.

Illinois lands former USC WR Josh Imatorbhebhe

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The Los Angeles-to-Champaign pipeline is alive and well.

After landing wide receiver Trevon Sidney and defensive end Oluwole Betiku, Jr., the Fighting Illini have added wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, he announced Monday.

“Transitions are never easy, but the support has definitely helped lighten the load,” Imatorbhebhe, No. 17 above, wrote in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Without further ado I’m pleased to announce my commitment to…

THE University of Illinois; with a plan to get my Masters (sic) in Strategic Brand Communications.”

A former 4-star recruit in the class of 2016 out of Suwanee, Ga., Imatorbehbhe redshirted in his first year on campus, then caught just two passes in his two seasons on the active roster, with his 2018 season slowed by an ankle injury.

Imatorbehbhe will have two seasons to play immediately for the Illini.

Trevor Lawrence once again says he has no desire to skip bowl games to protect NFL stock

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The trend of college football players with the NFL coming into view has become a growing one the last few seasons, but Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence says you won’t have to worry about missing him in a postseason bowl game.

“Sitting out bowl games and stuff, that’ll never be me,” Lawrence said in an interview with ESPN. “You won’t have to worry about writing those stories.”

This quote is nothing new from Lawrence. In March, Lawrence stressed a similar stance with regard to sitting out of college football bowl games to protect NFL draft stock.

From The Athletic‘s Grace Raynor in March:

Asked specifically if he would consider sitting out in an effort to protect his health for an NFL future, the Georgia native answered with two resounding “No’s.” That’s not in the cards, he says.

“Everyone’s talking about that, but I don’t really care about that,” Lawrence said Monday evening in his first public interview since the College Football Playoff.

“It’s definitely not coming from me, all that stuff, so (I’ll) just kind of ignore it. Just keep working.

Of course, there is something that needs to be pointed out here. A large majority of the players choosing to skip bowl games aren’t playing in the College Football Playoff and a national championship. While New Years Six bowl games are high in prestige even if not in the playoff rotation, they simply are not the same as playing in the playoff with a national title in sight.

Lawrence has played for and won the national championship in his freshman season and probably has two more seasons that could see Clemson continue to compete for a playoff spot. If Clemson is in the playoff the next two (or three years), the chances Lawrence skips a bowl game are reduced significantly.

Maybe Lawrence is just confident in Clemson’s ability to make the playoff the next couple of seasons. He’s not wrong though, right?

Syracuse seeing spike in football season ticket sales

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Dino Babers had Syracuse enjoying a 10-win season for the first time since 2001 last season. Fans of the Orange have had their enthusiasm for the football program rejuvenated and it shows in the season ticket sales this offseason.

According to a report from Syracuse.com, Syracuse has recorded 4,500 more season ticket sales this year than the school saw all of last year. To date, as of Friday, Syracuse has sold 6,800 season tickets for the 2019 season as the total inches closer and closet to a possible school record (8,000).

On top of the increased season ticket sales, Syracuse is also seeing a great retention rate through season ticket renewals. Syracuse has seen over 90 percent of season ticket holders renew their ticket packages for the 2019 season.

Syracuse ended the 2018 season ranked No. 15 in the final AP poll. IT is the highest Syracuse has ended a season in the AP Top 25 since the 2001 season (No. 14). Babers also ended Syracuse’s bowl drought in style by coaching Syracuse to a Camping World Victory in Syracuse’s first bowl game since 2013.

Syracuse opens the 2019 season on the road at Liberty on Aug. 31.

Auburn four-star linebacker Richard Jibunor enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal never takes a day off in college football. Auburn linebacker Richard Jibunor is one of the latest players to add his name to the list. Matt Zenitz of Al.com reported the transfer portal news, via Twitter.

Coincidentally enough, Auburn received a commitment from a four-star linebacker yesterday (Cameron Riley), but you can make your own guess as to whether those two developments were related in any way. Regardless, Auburn is still potentially about to lose a linebacker off the roster.

A player is free to make contact with any other football program looking to recruit him once his name is officially added to the NCAA’s transfer portal. But adding a name to the portal doesn’t necessarily mean this is the end of the line for Jibunor at Auburn, because a player can always take their name out of the portal and decide to stay with their current program. However, Auburn also has the option of dropping Jibunor from his scholarship now that he is in the transfer portal.

Jibunor was a four-star recruit in Auburn’s Class of 2018. As a true freshman last season, Jibunor appeared in 10 games and recorded eight tackles and two sacks. He also forced a fumble for the Tigers defense. The Athens, Georgia native chose Auburn, who seemingly had the lead in his recruiting for a while. He committed to the Tiger sin Nov. 2017 after two previous unofficial visits earlier in the 2017 season.

Jibunor will have to sit out the 2019 season if he transfers to another FBS program unless there is a waiver approval in the works with the NCAA offices. There is no suggestion at this time that is an option in play. Jibunor still has a redshirt to burn, so he will still have three years of eligibility to use beginning in 2020.