Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

USC takes charge in Pac-12 South after upset of No. 10 Utah

6 Comments

Late Friday night saw the first upset of the weekend in college football. No. 10 Utah (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) was upset on the road by USC (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12), 30-23, despite the Trojans playing with a third-string quarterback and the Pac-12 officials throwing enough flags to fill five loads of laundry. The win by USC moves the Trojans into a comfortable spot in the Pac-12 South before even getting to October.

USC lost starting quarterback Kedon Slovis on the second play of the game. After Slovis left to be evaluated for a possible head injury, third-string quarterback Matt Fink stepped in to lead the offense. All Fink did was lead USC to touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game and then make some big passes in the second half to keep the Trojans in front of Utah. Fink ended his night off the bench with 351 passing yards and three touchdowns. Michael Pittman Jr. was on the receiving end of 10 of those receptions for a massive 232 receiving yards. The highlight of the night was a 77-yard touchdown pass that saw Pittman come down with a jump ball and then push aside a would-be tackler on his way to the endzone.

A win is a win, fo course, and USC will take them any way they can. On Friday night in the Coliseum, they had to overcome an onslaught of bad penalties. USC was flagged 11 times for 117 yards. Utah had their share of laundry too with 16 penalties called for 120 yards. Both teams were guilty of personal foul penalties as the game was certainly chippy at times. But some of the penalties were questionable at best. Neither coach will walk away from this game feeling great about the discipline or the officiating, as there was plenty of blame to go around in this one.

Utah had their chances to come away with the win, but an inability to defend deep jump ball passes by Fink killed them too often. The Utes ran for 247 yards as a team but managed just one touchdown on the ground. Quarterback Tyler Huntley put his team on the back for much of the night with 210 passing yards and 60 rushing yards, but it was not enough as defenders were able to get to him and bring him under pressure.

In the end, it was just USC’s night, and it was one Clay Helton really needed. For now, USC can live in the moment and not have to worry about distractions about the future of Helton. USC is already 2-0 in conference play with wins against Stanford and Utah. The road is not going to get any easier, with a road game at Washington coming up next week, followed by a trip to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame. But USC ha splayed themselves into a favorable spot in the Pac-12 by being 2-0 and owning a head-to-head tiebreaker with Utah. That gives USC a margin for error in conference play, and they look to be the best team within the Pac-12 South the rest of the season.

While we should be wise not to pencil USC into the Pac-12 championship game just yet (remember, third-string QB and they still have Washington and Oregon to play in a difficult crossover division rotation), but there have been some true signs of promise for the Trojans early on this season. And bouncing back from a hard-fought loss at BYU last week to knock off No. 10 Utah is quite a turnaround for USC.

As USC hits the road to challenge Washington next week, Utah will look to rebound at home in Salt Lake City against Washington State. As of the conclusion of the USC-Utah game, the Washington State Cougars were one of three undefeated teams in the Pac-12 left standing (Cal, Arizona State).

Miami lands commitment from three-star 2020 Washington State signee Keyshawn Smith

Miami Hurricanes football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The personnel roll on which the Miami Hurricanes football program has been on is showing no signs of abatement.

After some initial uncertainty, Houston quarterback D’Eriq King announced Monday that he will be transferring to the Miami Hurricanes football team.  Not long after, AAC Defensive Player of the Year Quincy Roche announced that he will be doing the same.  Hell, even the Florida International kicker who taunted Miami after beating them joined the Hurricanes.

A day after King and Roche hopped aboard, so did Keyshawn Smith — although his addition comes with a bit of a twist.

Writing “[m]y dream school is the University of Miami,” the Class of 2020 wide receiver announced on Twitter that he is committing to The U.  The twist comes in the fact that Smith had signed his National Letter of Intent with Washington State during the Early Signing Period last month.

Because Mike Leach subsequently left Wazzu to take the Mississippi State job, however, Smith’s old school released him from his NLI so he could join his new school.

“From the West Coast to the East Coast, I am ready to get it going in the 305!” Lewis wrote. “Let’s do this!

“Special thanks to everyone that supported me through this very long process.”

Smith is expected to enroll in classes at U-M this week.  That will allow him to participate in spring practice with his new Miami Hurricanes football teammates.

A three-star prospect, Smith was rated as the No. 152 receiver in the country and the No. 84 player in the state of California regardless of position.  Smith would be the third receiver added by the Hurricanes this cycle, the others being four-star recruits in Michael Redding III and Dazalin Worsham.  The former is the No. 28 player at the position, the latter No. 57.

Third NC State football player this month hits the portal

NC State football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Who does this NC State football team think it is, Clemson?

Citing an unnamed source, 247Sports.com has reported that defensive lineman Joseph Boletepeli (pictured, No. 99) has entered the NCAA transfer database.  The website did note that “Boletepeli is still on the active roster for the Wolfpack and can still return to the program despite entering the portal.”

No specific reason for the decision was given, although playing time certainly played a role.

A three-star member of the Class of 2018 for NC State football, Boletepeli was rated as the No. 27 player regardless of position in the state of North Carolina.  During his two seasons with the Wolfpack, Boletepeli played in seven games.  Four of those appearances came this past season.

Boletepeli started the first two games of his true freshman campaign.  This season, Boletepeli was a No. 2 defensive end who ultimately dropped further down on the depth chart.

Barring something unexpected, Boletepeli will have to sit out the 2020 season if he moves on to another FBS school.  That would then leave him with two years of eligibility he could begin using in 2021.

Boletepeli is the third NC State football player to enter the portal this month.  Jan. 7, linebacker Brock Miller announced on Twitter that he was leaving as a graduate transfer.  A week later, defensive end Jeffrey Gunter was reported to be making the same move.

Over the weekend, Miller announced that he would be transferring to Boise State.

Southern Miss co-DC Derek Nicholson moves on to Louisville

Louisville football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A familiar face has returned to the Louisville football coaching family.

In a release, Louisville announced that ACC Coach of the Year Scott Satterfield has hired Derek Nicholson to his staff as inside linebackers coach.  Nicholson will take over the void left by Dale Jones‘ departure for the defensive coordinator job at Appalachian State.

“Derek has an infectious personality that will blend well within our staff,” the Louisville football head coach said in a statement. “He will bring great energy to our program and is an excellent recruiter. He has shown that he’s a great teacher of defensive football and will be a great addition to our defensive staff.”

This will be Nicholson’s second stint with the Louisville football team.  In 2014, Nicholson coached the Cardinals’ outside linebackers and defensive ends.

In between his time at the UofL, Nicholson spent four years at Southern Miss.  The first two he coached the defensive line.  He was the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach the past two seasons.

Nicholson played his college football at Florida State.

“I’d like to thank Scott Satterfield, Bryan Brown, Cort Dennison and the rest of the Louisville football program for this amazing opportunity,” Nicholson said. “My family and I are extremely excited to be back at Louisville and in the Atlantic Coast Conference. I look forward to working with the coaching staff and coaching the inside linebackers. There is something special is brewing in Louisville and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Marshall WR Obi Obialo makes way into the portal

Marshall Thundering Herd football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

One of the best names in the sport, and a Marshall Thundering Herd football player to boot, is the latest to hit the portal.

Over the weekend, Obi Obialo announced on his personal Twitter account that he has decided to place his name into the NCAA transfer database.  The move is normally the first step in a departure, although the wide receiver could always return to the Marshall Thundering Herd football team.

“I want to thank all of the coaches and staff at Marshall for the opportunity to grow into the person and player I am today,” Obialo wrote.

Obialo also confirmed in the same post that he will be leaving the Herd as a graduate transfer.  The 2020 season will serve as his final season of collegiate eligibility.

Obialo actually began his playing career at Oklahoma State as a three-star 2016 signee who was originally a walk-on.  In May of 2017, Obialo opted to transfer from OSU.  A month later, he moved on to Marshall.

In 2017 and 2018, Obialo started 16 games for the Thundering Herd, including all 13 in the latter season.  In that 2018 season, Obialo was second on the team in receptions (42), receiving yards (505) and receiving touchdowns (four).

A foot injury sidelined Obialo for all but one game this past season.  In that limited action, he caught 18 passes for 244 yards.

Because he played in just the four games, that will allow Obialo to take a redshirt for the 2019 season.  The move also preserved a year of eligibility that he will presumably use elsewhere.