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Kentucky’s Mark Stoops headlines list of potential candidates to replace Willie Taggart at FSU

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Willie Taggart is out at Florida State and it seems unlikely that the school will take long to begin their coaching search for a new leader of the Seminoles.

Who could the program turn to over the coming weeks as they search for a replacement? A few familiar names in FSU circles likely headline their shortlist of candidates but a few others who have made big strides in recent years at other programs will likely make their way to the top of every search firm’s roster of names as well.

Here are a few names to keep an eye on:

Mark Stoops, Kentucky

The first name many will bring up with the opening is the former FSU defensive coordinator. He obviously has head coaching experience in the South and his connections in the Sunshine State and other fertile recruiting areas are a nice feather in his cap too. He has done a great job in Lexington between the lines too, leading the Wildcats to their third-ever 10-win season last year and generally raising the floor of the program from the dregs of the SEC. One question is whether FSU can pony up for him after dropping $20+ million moving on from Taggart as Stoops’ salary escalates up to $6 million eventually and he has a buyout of just under $2 million if he wants to leave. Brother Bob, the former Oklahoma and current XFL Dallas head coach, is also likely to get traction and used to coach up the road in Gainesville as well.

Mike Norvell, Memphis

After his Tigers beat SMU to take the inside track at the Group of Five bid, Norvell’s stock has never been higher. He’s turned down SEC programs in the past but a gig like FSU could be something that garners his interest. He doesn’t have any deep state of Florida ties but that might be a good thing. His offenses have been among the most explosive in the country and he knows as well as anybody how to find under the radar talent and develop it.

P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

Can the boat be rowed to Tally? Fleck spent time in nearby Tampa as an assistant for the Buccaneers and has specialized in turning around programs at Western Michigan and now with the Gophers. He’s 8-0 this year and in the top 15 in the Twin Cities and has a ton of energy that could help with the transition. He’s recruited well in past stops and that would come in handy given the battles Florida’s big three have over players.

Brent Venables, Clemson defensive coordinator

The Kansas native has been extremely picky about taking his first head coaching gig but FSU is on the level of programs he would likely be intrigued by. He’s helped Dabo Swinney turn Clemson into a juggernaut and been a big part in some lopsided wins over the Seminoles. The familiarity with the ACC and the recruiting areas the school frequents is huge but there would be some questions as to what direction he would take with his staff and on offense.

Tony Elliott, Clemson co-offensive coordinator

All three of the Tigers coordinators (including fellow co-coordinator Jeff Scott) likely will garner interest on the coaching carousel but Elliott seems like a great fit. He won the Broyles Award in 2017 as the nation’s top assistant and his demeanor and workman-like approach could fit in well in Tallahassee.

Lane Kiffin, FAU

I mean, why not? He knows the state well from his time in Boca and has the kind of attitude that most ‘Noles fans would love to embrace in the gig. Highly regarded as a recruiter and play-caller, his ability to bring Nick Saban’s “Process” back to the program would also be viewed as a plus. A long shot sure, but you could also see it working out better than some others.

Willie Fritz, Tulane

Fans may wince at hiring another coach without a winning record (he’s 22-24 with the Green Wave) but Fritz has won at nearly every level of football and done a masterful job rebuilding in New Orleans and beyond. He’ll turn 60 next year which works against him but could well prove a stabilizing force as Florida State likely finds a new president and AD in the coming years.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Gus has been on a revolving hot seat during his time on the Plains and even with eight or nine wins this year might be given a golden parachute by the Tigers to finally end the rocky relationship. FSU fans know Malzahn can lead his team to the final game of the year after all and he can bring pedigree and coaching experience other candidates lack. It’s a bit outside the box but ticks a lot of boxes when you think about it.

A few that could get in the mix as well: Matt Campbell (Iowa State), Tom Allen (Indiana), Dave Clawson (Wake Forest), Luke Fickell (Cincinnati), Josh Heupel (UCF). One not to consider? Urban Meyer.

LSU confirms promotion of Tiger great Kevin Faulk as RBs coach

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An LSU football legend officially has an on-field role at his alma mater.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Kevin Faulk would be promoted from his current position as LSU football director of player development.  Thursday, the Tigers confirmed that Faulk has been promoted by Ed Orgeron to running backs coach.

Faulk replaces Tommie Robinson, who left to take the same job at SEC West rival Texas A&M.

“We would like to thank Tommie (Robinson) for being a part of our national championship program and wish him the best in his future,” the LSU football head coach said in a statement. “Kevin is a great teacher and mentor and someone that has earned the respect and love of our players. We are honored to have one of the greatest players in LSU history as part of our coaching staff. This is a home run hire.”

Faulk played collegiately for LSU football from 1995-98.  He is still the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards (4,557) and rushing TDs (46).

Faulk was then a second-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 1999.  He spent 13 years in the NFL, joining his high school alma mater’s football coaching staff upon his retirement following the 2011 season.

In 2018, Faulk rejoined the LSU football program in an off-field role.  This will be his field on-field role at any level of college football.

“The day I graduated high school I knew I wanted to be a coach,” the 43-year-old Faulk said. “The coaches I had growing up meant so much to me and the community, and I knew I wanted to be that guy. To coach at my alma mater is the best thing I could ever hope for. I wear the purple and gold with pride every day, and I am ready to get going to help win another national championship.”

Ford Field to host even more MACtion in 2020

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The MAC title game isn’t the only bit of #MACtion that Ford Field will see in 2020.

The conference recently released their annual football schedule on Wednesday and among the notable league games is the rivalry contest between Central Michigan and Western Michigan. While this one figures to have division implications on Oct. 17, things are going to be slightly different this year.

Namely that it won’t be on either campus and will instead be played at Ford Field.

“Ford Field has been the location of many great experiences for CMU Football, and this is an opportunity to create another iconic experience for our program and our university,” athletic director Michael Alford said in a release. “CMU’s continued success means out-of-the-box thinking. Bringing this game — and the events surrounding it — to Detroit allows our athletics program to help engage thousands of people who are passionate about CMU.”

It’s an interesting move that will push CMU to over a decade without a win over their directional rivals in Mt. Pleasant. Still, the larger venue and the opportunity to make things an even bigger event in the state’s largest city seem to have won out.

The Detroit News reported on Tuesday that the Chips wanted to do a multi-year deal at the home of the NFL’s Lions but that WMU said no thanks.

The Broncos have won seven of the last nine meetings, including last year’s 31-15 win in Kalamazoo. Despite that head-to-head victory though, Jim McElwain’s squad got the last laugh by winning the MAC West in one of the biggest turnaround stories of the 2019 season.

They wound up playing at Ford Field in the conference title game where they eventually lost to Miami (OH) 26-21. The venue has been the home of the MAC championship since 2004 and will have the next edition played on either Friday, Dec. 4 or Saturday Dec. 5.

Georgia Tech adds 2023 game against Bowling Green, makes slight change to 2021 schedule

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Georgia Tech is loving itself some #MACtion.

The school announced a pair of future schedule moves against teams from the eponymous league on Wednesday. Among the most immediate actions for the Yellow Jackets is that their 2021 contest against Northern Illinois will be shifted to become the season-opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 4.

GT will then play FCS Kennesaw State at home and conclude the early non-conference slate with a trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 20, 2021. Their annual rivalry contest against Georgia will conclude the regular season the final weekend of November as usual.

Tech also added Bowling Green to their upcoming docket. The Falcons will head to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 30, 2023. A trip to Ole Miss and the in-state rival Bulldogs coming to Atlanta will round out the Jackets’ non-conference schedule with one more opening still to be signed (likely against an FCS opponent).

Head coach Geoff Collins’ 2020 squad will have their attention on a conference opponent to open the upcoming season as they take on ACC opponent Clemson at home on Thursday, Sept. 3. The two programs will also meet again in city for the 2022 season opener at nearby Mercedes-Benz Stadium as well.

While those big name opponents will get more attention from fans in the region, don’t discount a bit of that #MACtion heading South either.

Waiting to cancel game with FCS opponent cost USC an extra $500,000

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Keeping Clay Helton around wasn’t the only decision last year that upset USC fans. Now the school backtracking on a choice it just made has cost the program a pretty penny.

For those not in the know, cardinal and gold supporters up in arms last year when it was announced the program had agreed to a non-conference game with UC Davis for the 2021 season. Such a contest typically doesn’t draw much attention but it did in Los Angeles as it was the first FCS opponent the Trojans were to play in their illustrious history.

That would have left rivals UCLA and Notre Dame as the only two FBS programs not to play an FCS team.

Then things changed. The athletic director responsible for the deal, Lynn Swann, was shown the door. His replacement Mike Bohn has gone about trying to make amends and recently announced that USC had eventually backed out of the game against the Aggies.

In their place on the docket at the Coliseum that season is another Bay Area team, San Jose State. We already recounted how the Spartans made out quite nicely on the balance sheet as a result of this (and subsequent buyout from Georgia) swap. As it turns out though, they weren’t the only Northern California team to do so.

According to the Davis Enterprise, the buyout UCD was owed was only supposed to be $225,000. However terms called for that to jump to $725,000 after the start of the new year. Because the Trojans waited around they then had to pony up that extra half million for doing something they had been considering since the new administration came in.

“It’s pretty funny. We had every intention of playing that game,” Aggies senior associate athletics director Josh Flushman told the paper. “We just wanted to make sure (if there were) buyouts we were going to get the money.

“In December, (AD Kevin Blue) and I joking said, ‘Don’t take any phone calls from L.A. numbers until after the first.’”

The call didn’t come until February and the school is that much richer for it. On top of that they added a $400,000 guarantee game from Tulsa to replace Southern Cal on the schedule to boot.

Waiting may be the hardest part for some but it resulted in a nice seven-figure gain at UC Davis.