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

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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).

For Chase Brice, USF would make for a familiar landing spot

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When it comes to Chase Brice and his future, it’s time to play connect the post-Clemson dots.

Thursday night, Brice confirmed on Twitter that he will be transferring from the Tigers and continuing his collegiate career elsewhere. Brice has spent the past two seasons as the backup to Trevor Lawrence, who will be entering his third, and presumably last, season as Clemson’s starting quarterback.

As for a potential landing spot, LSU makes sense on some level as the reigning national champions will be looking to replace Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. Making even more sense would be USF, if familiarity means anything.

Dec. 9, it was confirmed that Jeff Scott would be the next head coach at USF. Scott, of course, spent the previous 11 seasons with the Tigers before coming to the Bulls. The last five of those seasons, he was the team’s co-offensive coordinator.

Because of that built-in relationship, the speculation is already mounting that USF will be the grad transfer’s landing spot.

Even before he opted to transfer, though, there were rumors connecting the redshirt sophomore to Scott’s new school.

“I hear things too. I’m like, ‘Where did y’all hear that from? I didn’t say it.’ I’m really just focused on this game Saturday and being committed to the team,” Brice said in late December, ahead of the playoff semifinal matchup with Ohio State. “It’s funny because we don’t have social media. We can’t post. It’s just perception and ideas pop in people’s heads.”

Brice was a three-star 2017 signee.

In two seasons on the Tigers’ active roster, Brice went 75-of-124 for 896 yards with nine touchdowns against four interceptions while adding another 179 rushing yards. He memorably saved Clemson’s 2018 national championship run, stepping in for an injured Lawrence in the game immediately following Kelly Bryant‘s midseason departure, leading the Tigers from a 23-13 fourth-quarter deficit to a 27-23 win over Syracuse.

As he will play for his next school as a graduate transfer, Brice will have two seasons of eligibility to use wherever he lands.

In wake of Odell Beckham kerfuffles, CFP to review sideline, locker room access policies

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Odell Beckham may have just ruined it for everybody.  Or, at the very least, curtailed it for most everybody.

Monday night, LSU beat Clemson for its first national championship since 2007.  Odell Beckham, a former star wide receiver with the Tigers, was on the sidelines for the game.  And on the field and postgame locker room as well.

And that’s where the trouble began.

Beckham appeared to hand cash to at least two LSU football players on the field after the game; LSU is looking into the situation.  Beckham appeared to slap the ass of a police officer in the postgame locker room; a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

In the wake of all of that, College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock has confirmed that his group will review its sideline access policies for both the semifinals and title games.

“Being on the sidelines is a privilege,” Hancock told USA Today. “Along with any privilege comes responsibility, because the focus should be on the people playing and coaching in the game, rather than on any visitors. The CFP will be reviewing its policy for allowing guests onto the sidelines and into locker rooms at future games.”

Kudos, Odell Beckham.  At least you got the attention you so desperately crave.

Doesn’t matter that you’re taking the spotlight away from the players at your alma mater who just put up a historic season, right?  As it’s always been, it’s all about you. That’s all that matters.

Sleep well, basking in the knowledge that it’s (almost) all about you.  Not the team that won a title that you didn’t.

Leading rusher at FCS level declares for 2020 NFL Draft

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For the first time this year here at Ye Olde CFT, there’s an FCS player involved in a 2020 NFL Draft declaration.

On Twitter this week, Pete Guerriero announced that he will be foregoing his fifth year of eligibility and entering the 2020 NFL Draft. Guerriero said he came to his decision “after careful consideration [and] speaking with family and the people close to me.”

“This has been a dream of mine since I was a child and I look forward to what’s to come,” the Monmouth running back wrote.

This season, Guerriero led all FCS players with a school-record 1,995 yards rushing. He also set an FCS playoff record with a 93-yard touchdown run in a loss to James Madison this past postseason.

Guerriero came in third in the voting for the 2019 Walter Payton Trophy, the FCS equivalent of the Heisman. He was also a consensus All-American and two-time first-team all-conference honoree.

Guerriero will finish his collegiate playing career with 3,974 yards and 35 touchdowns on 610 attempts (6.5 yards per carry). The 5-10, 190-pound back also caught 69 passes for 551 yards and another three touchdowns coming out of the backfield.

“The impact he’s had been on our program has been tremendous,” said Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan. “His explosiveness and big-play ability and game production has helped to get us where are as a team and a program, and because of it we’re appreciative and support [his] decision.”

Former four-star Oklahoma LB Levi Draper enters transfer portal

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It appears the Oklahoma Sooners football team will have some depth in its linebacking corps pared.

Thursday, it was reported that Levi Draper is entering his name into the NCAA transfer database, the first step in leaving OU.  An Oklahoma Sooners football official subsequently confirmed that Draper will be entering the portal.

The linebacker’s time in Norman hasn’t officially come to an end, however, as he could always pull his name from the portal and return.

A four-star member of Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class, Draper was rated as the No. 5 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma.  On the 247Sports.com composite, he was the No. 118 prospect overall.  Only three signees in the Sooners’ class that year were rated higher than Draper.

Injuries helped lead to Draper take a redshirt as a true freshman.  The past two seasons, Draper played in 28 games.  Most of that action came on special teams.

When Draper does find a new school, it should be as a graduate transfer.  That would then leave him with two years of eligibility to use.

Draper is one of a handful of Sooners who have entered the portal of late. From the school’s student newspaper:

This is the second Sooner linebacker to enter the portal in the last two days, as Ryan Jones reportedly entered it on Wednesday. Along with the two linebackers, wide receiver Mykel Jones, safety Ty DeArman, defensive linemen Coby Tillman and Troy James will all be transferring.

It’s not all attrition at OU, however. Earlier this week, the program confirmed the addition of UCLA transfer wide receiver Theo Howard.  The receiver was honorable mention All-Pac-12 in 2018.

Howard graduated from UCLA in December, giving him immediate eligibility at OU this coming season.