UCLA 1954
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The last time the UCLA Bruins won the national championship…

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Imagine being declared a national champion without getting a chance to play in a bowl game. In an age long before having over 40 bowl games on the postseason schedule, this oddity happened to the UCLA Bruins in 1954. After an undefeated regular season, UCLA was prevented from playing in the Rose Bowl as champions of the Pacific Coast Conference (the earlier form of what we know as the Pac-12 today) because of an old rule that did not allow a team to play in the Rose Bowl in consecutive seasons.

It didn’t matter that UCLA ran the table of a 9-0 schedule and outscored their opponents 367-40. It didn’t matter that UCLA dominated USC, who did play in the Rose Bowl, by a score of 34-0. It didn’t matter that UCLA defeated the reigning national champions from Maryland in a regular season game in October. It didn’t matter that No. 1 Ohio State was the Big Ten representative playing in the Rose Bowl, which would have given the Rose Bowl a true national championship game. The rules were the rules, and UCLA didn’t have any other bowl game to participate in at the time. As a result, UCLA claimed the national championship in a handful of polls, including the coaches poll. Ohio State, following their victory over USC in the Rose Bowl, was crowned the AP national champion.

It has been a long time since the UCLA Bruins ruled the college football world. The hiring of Chip Kelly generated some buzz for the program as Bruin fans began to envision a rise for the program similar to what Kelly experienced at Oregon as a national championship contending program. Since staking a claim to a national championship in the 1954 season, the Bruins have finished in the top 10 of the final AP standings just 12 times. The last time the UCLA program played in one of the current New Years Six bowl games was in the 1998 season’s Rose Bowl, and the last victory in a major bowl game came the previous season in the Cotton Bowl.

Perhaps there was good karma working for UCLA in 1954 as this was the season the Bruins officially unveiled their signature powder blue uniforms, a look that remains in place today. Head coach Red Sanders had his first and only undefeated season as a head coach, but the matchup the college football universe deserved to see was prohibited from happening because of archaic bowl game rules with the Rose Bowl. Thank goodness we never have to settle for such idiocy anymore.

Last National Title Season: 1954 (64 years and counting)

Who was President?

Dwight D. Eisenhower was in his second year in office at the White House. Eisenhower had a long run in the White House to go for the next handful of years, with Richard Nixon as his Vice President. Nixon, of course, would have a bit more influence in the college football world years later. As for our current Commander-In-Chief, Donald Trump was just eight years old in the Queens borough of New York City.

What was on TV?

In 1954, there were not a ton of TV options, so you were stuck with the three big networks. But for the first time, you could watch the Rose Parade in color thanks to NBC’s brand new state-of-the-art mobile color TV studio. The parade’s broadcast becomes a huge advertising opportunity for RCA, which made sure their color TV sets were in accessible areas to show off the latest and greatest in television viewing. RCA was trying to push their new big screen TV sets, bringing 15-inch color sets to the market for the first time.

This year also marked the first time you could watch the Miss America Beauty Contest on TV. A total of 27 million tuned in to watch.

Among the notable shows on the air in 1954 include “Adventures of Superman,” “American Bandstand,” “Candid Camera,” “Dragnet,” “Howdy Doody,” “I Love Lucy,” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Making their television debuts in 1954 were “Lassie” and”The Tonight Show.”

What movies were hot?

Forget about Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. A Star is Born hit the big screen in 1954, starring Judy Garland and James Mason. Naturally, this was also a remake of a 1937 film, so don’t be shocked if this one is remade once again in another 50 or 60 years. This one was a big deal because it marked the return of Garland to film in four years. Over in Japan, the first Godzilla movie was introduced. It would go on to become the longest-running film series in history and is still getting new movies to this day.

A few other classics took in big numbers at the box office in 1954 as well, including the classic White Christmas and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

At the Oscars, Marlon Brando took home Best Actor for his role in On the Waterfront. Brando also won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama. John Wayne was the big money maker at the time, however, followed by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

What else happened in 1954?

The Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship with a blowout of the Detroit Lions in the NFL Championship Game. The Cleveland Indians were also in the World Series, but they were swept by the New York Giants.

The Minneapolis Lakers won their third consecutive NBA championship, and fifth in six years, with a seven-game series victory over the Syracuse Nationals.

Coming into the 1954 season, the Maryland Terrapins were the defending national champions despite losing to Oklahoma the previous season. Conference champions in 1954 included Ohio State (Big Ten), Arkansas (Southwest Conference), Ole Miss (SEC), Duke (ACC) and Oklahoma (Big Seven — SEVEN!). West Virginia took the Southern Conference and Texas Tech won the Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Wisconsin’s Alan Ameche took home the Heisman Trophy and Ron Beagle of Navy won the Maxwell Award.

Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe.

Legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden was in his sixth season as the head coach of the Bruins and had yet to get UCLA past a fourth-place finish. A decade later, Wooden won his first national championship. He would coach UCLA to nine more during his storied career.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was three years old. Chip Kelly was born nine years later.

The tough road back to national championship glory

UCLA is a program that has found it tough to build a national championship contender, although they have certainly had some good years. A possible shot at a national championship was washed away by the Miami Hurricanes at the end of the 1998 regular season. The No. 3 UCLA Bruins rescheduled a game at Miami for the end of the regular season and was all that stood in the way of a perfect regular season, but Miami sent the Bruins home with a 49-45 loss to eliminate the Bruins from the national championship picture. UCLA dropped from No. 2 in the BCS standings in the inaugural year of the BCS and Florida State moved into the second spot to face Tennessee in the BCS National Championship Game, which turned out to be Tennessee’s most recent national title).

Since 1998, UCLA has finished in the top 10 just once with a No. 10 finish in 2014 under Jim Mora. Mora fizzled out and was replaced by Kelly, who made his return to the college game after a rough run in the NFL. Kelly’s first season at UCLA was a tough one with a 3-9 record, but there were some signs of improvement as the season played out. Does that mean UCLA is ready to surge in the Pac-12? That may still require some work to improve the program and the roster, but things could be looking up for UCLA in the next few years.

Second App State assistant added to Eli Drinkwitz’s Mizzou staff

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For the second time Thursday, Eli Drinkwitz has added an assistant to his new Missouri coaching staff. And, for the second time, it’s a member of his old Appalachian State.

First, Charlie Harbison was announced as a defensive assistant whose specific duties will be spelled out later. Next, it’s Erik Link being the second confirmed addition as part of Drinkwitz’s 10-man on-field staff.

Unlike Harbison, though, Link’s role has already been defined — special teams coordinator. That’s the same job Link held with the Mountaineers in 2019, his first and only season with the Sun Belt Conference school.

“Erik is a man of high character with a background in teaching and coaching,” said Drinkwitz in a statement. “His special teams units are detailed and very sound, and his guys play hard. They focus on effort, execution and high energy.”

Link was the special teams coordinator at Louisiana Tech in 2018, his first season as an on-field assistant at the FBS level. In 2011-12, he was the special teams coordinator at FCS Montana State.

In two separate stints at Auburn, he served as a quality control assistant (2010) and special teams/offensive analyst (2013-15).

Lane Kiffin adds two to first Ole Miss staff, including OC Jeff Lebby

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The Lane Train is wasting little time rolling out members of his first coaching staff in Oxford.

Officially confirmed as Ole Miss’ head coach Saturday, Lane Kiffin on Thursday unveiled the first two members of his on-field staff — offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and offensive assistant Kevin Smith.

While Smith wasn’t given an official title, he spent the past three seasons as Kiffin’s running backs coach at FAU. That was the 43-year-old Smith’s first on-field role at any level of football as he had spent the previous three seasons at his alma mater UCF as both a coaching intern and quality control coach.

Smith, a consensus All-American as a running back at UCF, played five years for the NFL’s Detroit Lions and one season in the Canadian Football League.

Lebby, coincidentally enough, spent the past two seasons at UCF, the first as quarterbacks coach before being promoted to coordinator following the 2018 season. Prior to that, he was an assistant at Baylor for five years, primarily as running backs coach.

Lebby’s father-in-law is disgraced former Baylor head coach Art Briles. His brother-in-law is Kendal Briles, who was Kiffin’s offensive coordinator at FAU for one season before leaving for the same job at Houston and then, ultimately, Florida State.

In addition to those on-field hires, Wilson Love was announced as the Rebels’ head strength & conditioning coach. Like Smith, Love was a part of Kiffin’s Owls program the past three years.

LSU, Ohio State headline 130th Walter Camp All-American team

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Both No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Ohio State showed out well during the Home Depot College Football Awards Show Thursday night. Not surprisingly, both football programs did the same on one of the most prestigious teams in the sport as well.

Earlier tonight, the Walter Camp Football Foundation released its 2019 All-American teams, the 130th such squad recognized by the organization. LSU and Wisconsin led all schools with three first-team selections, while Ohio State led the way overall with five first- and second-team honorees (two on the first team, three on the second). LSU ended up with four overall, while Clemson had three (two first team, one second).

LSU and OSU were also one-two at the quarterback position, with Joe Burrow, also named the Camp Player of the Year, earning first-team honors and Justin Fields being the second-team selection.

Conference-wise, the Big Ten’s 15 selections on both teams led the way, followed by the SEC’s 13 and Pac-12’s seven. All told, eight of the 10 FBS conferences are represented — the Sun Belt’s Arkansas State (wide receiver Omar Bayless) claimed its first-ever Camp All-American — while 32 different schools claimed spots on one of the two teams. Two of those schools, Florida Atlantic (tight end Harrison Bryant) and Boise State (defensive end Curtis Weaver), had their first-ever first-team Camp All-Americans.

The AAC and MAC were the only FBS conferences without a player selected.

Individually, two players repeated as first-team All-Americans — Wisconsin running back and Doak Walker Award winner Jonathan Taylor, LSU safety and Jim Thorpe Award winner Grant Delpit. Taylor is actually a three-time Camp All-American as he was named to the second team as a true freshman in 2017.

Delpit’s teammate, defensive back Derek Stingley Jr., is the only freshman among the 51 All-Americans.

Mike Norvell brings Memphis DC Adam Fuller to Florida State

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Wednesday, Mike Norvell confirmed the identity of his offensive coordinator at Florida State. A day later, it was the coordinator on the other side of the ball who was identified.

In what amounts to a reunion after a very brief time apart, Norvell announced Thursday that, as had been speculated, Adam Fuller has been hired as Florida State’s defensive coordinator. Fuller spent the 2019 season in the same position for Norvell at Memphis.

“We are so very excited about the addition of Adam Fuller to the Florida State football family,” Norvell said. “Adam is one of the top defensive minds in college football and has been a part of developing some of the most productive defensive units in the nation throughout his career. Coach Fuller will bring an aggressive and detailed approach to our Seminole defense. It will put our great student-athletes in a position to showcase all their skills and talents while being developed at the highest level.

“Adam has recruited the state of Florida, specifically the Tampa area, throughout his career, which will assist in fostering relationships throughout the state. I am excited to see him elevate our Florida State defense back to one of the nation’s elite.”

Memphis was Fuller’s second coordinating job at the FBS level. The first came at Marshall the year before.

“My family and I are very excited to join the Seminole program,” Fuller said. “The history and tradition of Florida State’s defense brings a major responsibility. I look forward to embracing the pride that comes along with that.”

Fuller and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham are the second and third FSU staff additions for Norvell. The first was Odell Haggins, who served as the Seminoles’ interim head coach after Willie Taggart was fired and was quickly retained by the new head coach.