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Big Ten could realign divisions yet again, according to PJ Fleck

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Whether he knew it or not, Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck broke news that will set certain circles of the college football blogosphere (including this one) by touching on the topic that is consistently gobbled up like Thanksgiving turkey: realignment.

“Change is inevitable,” Fleck told The Athletic. “I think we all know that. I think that the East and West have been around for a while. I like it, I like the division of it. But I don’t think it will stay the same. I think we’ll change it at some point because change is coming somehow, some way. And I think people are going to want to move it around, and shake it up a little bit.”

Fleck said the topic came up during the Big Ten’s spring meetings in Arizona; the conference did not comment on the topic.

The Big Ten split into divisions upon Nebraska’s 2011 arrival, memorably going with the idiotic Legends and Leaders alignment that was designed to protect rivalries and preserve competitive balance. That alignment lasted three years, until Maryland and Rutgers joined the party in 2014 and the conference rejiggered its alignment into a more sensible East and West split.

While a geographic divide does preserve rivalries and makes both logistical and logical sense, it has come at the price of competitive balance. The East champion has gone a perfect 5-for-5 in Big Ten title games under the current arrangement.

However, the East is a mere five games ahead of the West in regular season matchups, an average of one extra victory per season.

If — and at this point’s a very big if — the Big Ten does realign again, the conference could return to a Legends and Leaders format (hopefully with different names) or it could scrap divisions altogether, giving each school two or three protected rivals while putting the rest of the league in a regular rotation. The positive aspect of this alignment is it guarantees the top two teams would meet in Indianapolis, but the drawback is it could trigger an instant Michigan-Ohio State rematch.

It’s too early to report when and if a second realignment would happen, but as Fleck reminded us this week it is never too early to speculate.

LSU QB Joe Burrow wins Heisman Trophy for 2019

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LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has won the Heisman Trophy for the 2019 college football season. Burrow was officially named this year’s Heisman Trophy winner at a ceremony in New York City Saturday night.

The quarterback of the LSU Tigers has had a monster season. While leading LSU to a No. 1 ranking and seed in the College Football Playoff with an unblemished 13-0 record that includes a victory in the SEC Championship Game, Burrow passed for 4,715 yards and 48 touchdowns. Both numbers easily led the SEC as Burrow rewrote a handful of LSU and SEC passing records as the season unfolded. No other passer in the SEC threw for more than 2,850 yards, and the next closest in passing touchdowns was Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa with 33 touchdowns in nine games. Burrow also led the nation in completion percentage (77.9). That is currently on pace to be the highest season-long completion percentage since at least 2009, according to CFBStats.com (the college football stats website only goes back as far as 2009). Colt McCoy of Texas came close in 2008 with a 76.7 completion percentage.

Burrow is the second Heisman Trophy winner in LSU history. The only other Heisman Trophy winner for the Tigers was Billy Cannon in 1959. Burrow has already collected a good amount fo hardware this week as the winner of the Walter Camp Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, AP Player of the Year, and the Davey O’Brien Award.

Burrow beat out three other finalists for the award; Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Chase Young, and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. The final vote count showed Burrow won this one in a landslide.

A quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy in each of the last four seasons with Lamar Jackson of Louisville, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray of Oklahoma. A quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy in 16 of the 19 seasons it has been awarded since 2000. Burrow is the first quarterback from the SEC to win the Heisman Trophy since Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M won the award in 2012. He is joined by Auburn’s Cam Newton and Florida’s Tim Tebow as the only quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy since 1997, a year after Florida’s Danny Wuerffel ended the SEC QB Heisman drought since Auburn’s Pat Sullivan won the award in 1971.

UNC gives Mack Brown one-year extension on contract

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It appears North Carolina was satisfied with the return of the Mack. Mack Brown and UNC have agreed on a one-year contract extension, the school announced Saturday evening.

Brown is now under contract with UNC through the 2024 season as a result of this contract extension.

“Mack’s return has had an outstanding impact — not just in Kenan Stadium, but throughout the Carolina community,” UNC AD Bubba Cunningham said in a released statement. “Our students are winning on the field and doing well in the classroom, our fan base is energized, and we are all excited about building on the great successes of this season.”

“I want to thank the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Guskiewicz, Bubba and the athletics department for their great support,” Brown said. “You could really see things come together. Our fans have stepped up filling the stadium each week. I love what we’ve been able to do with our facilities and the excitement around the program has given us the opportunity to have one of the top recruiting classes in the country. North Carolina is a wonderful place and everyone can tell we’re building something special here. I’m having a great time.”

Brown coached UNC to a record of 6-6 this season, his first back on the sidelines since last coaching at Texas in 2013 and his first season back at UNC since 1997. Brown’s Tar Heels were the only team to give Clemson much of a battle this season as well, and UNC is heading to the Military Bowl to face the Temple Owls later this month. UNC has now won a bowl game since the 2013 season. Brown’s last bowl victory with the program came in the 1996 season with a win in the Gator Bowl (UNC played in the Gator Bowl game the following season but Brown left the program prior to the bowl game to take over at Texas).

 

Malcolm Perry powers No. 23 Navy past Army in Army-Navy Game

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After three consecutive years of having to endure the agony of singing its alma mater first, No. 23 Navy (10-2, 7-1 AAC) once again beamed with joy and the thrill of victory over rival Army (5-8). Malcolm Perry carried the Midshipmen to a 31-7 victory on Saturday in Philadelphia.

Perry, the game’s MVP, had big runs all game long for Navy as he broke record after record in the Army-Navy Game. Perry set a school record for most rushing yards in a single Army-Navy Game and set the new all-time Navy record for most career rushing yards in the Army-Navy Game after going off for 304 yards and two touchdowns. Perry’s first touchdown run of 55 yards tied the game at 7-7 in the second quarter, and it was all Navy from there.

Army had a 78-yard touchdown drive led by first-time starter Christian Anderson (who became the first Army quarterback to make his first career start in the Army-Navy Game), but Navy out-gained Army from that point 388-70. For the first time in a number of years, Navy looked like the bigger, stronger, and faster team compared to Army, which was a big part of the reason Navy turned a 3-10 season last year into a 10-2 season this year going into the bowl season.

Navy had just one passing yard in the game. It was thrown by wide receiver Chance Warren to fullback Jamale Carothers for a touchdown. Only in the Army-Navy Game does that stuff happen.

The win by Navy also awards the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy to the program, seizing control of the three-team trophy (between Army, Navy and Air Force) from Army for the first time since  2015.

Navy will now enter bowl mode as they prepare for their upcoming bowl game. The Midshipmen will take on Kansas State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 in Memphis, TN. Navy is 5-4 all-time in bowl games under head coach Ken Niumatallo. No head coach has won more bowl games at Navy.

Army will begin its 2020 season on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020 at home against Bucknell.

Following pregame speeches from President Trump, Navy leads Army at halftime

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For the second consecutive year, President Donald Trump is taking in the annual Army-Navy Game in person in Philadelphia. And, as is typically the case in this storied rivalry, it’s been a tight contest after 30 minutes of play in Lincoln Financial Field with Navy leading Army 14-7 at halftime.

Army quarterback Christian Anderson became the first quarterback to make his first career start for Army in the Army-Navy Game since T.D. Baker did so in 1979. It sure didn’t take long for the freshman to have an impact. After going three-and-out to open the game, Anderson rattled off a 21-yard gain on the ground on the first play of Army’s second possession. 17 plays later (yes, 17 plays later), Anderson finished off the drive with a five-yard run to the right edge of the field for a touchdown, the first score of the game.

Malcolm Perry provided a jolt to the Navy offense on the second offensive series for the Midshipmen, although in much quicker fashion compared to the lengthy Army drive. Perry took off to the right side and juked a defender en route to a 55-yard touchdown that tied the game up early in the second quarter. The 55-yard touchdown run also moved Perry into first place in the Navy record books for most single-season total offensive yards. He later became Navy’s all-time single-season rushing leader as he continued to rewrite the record books in Annapolis.

Perry provided another juke move in a very similar play on a 44-yard run late in the first half. That run setup the go-ahead score. Naturally, a play similar to the Philly Special run by the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl two seasons ago, Navy took the lead with a fake play that saw receiver Chance Warren complete a pass to fullback Jamale Carothers. It wasn’t exactly a Philly Special, but this gam,e being played in the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, it felt appropriate.

President Trump took a few minutes to address each team in the locker room prior to walking on the field for the national anthem and coin flip. A video message from Trump was also played in the stadium during the pregame routine.

Army has won each of the last three meetings and is looking for a long-awaited four-game winning streak.