We may not find out for a while whether or not Kyle Whittingham was the one who called for a fake punt from inside his own 25 yard line, but it certainly summed up No. 7 Utah’s night against UCLA that the eventual turnover on downs resulted in no harm at all and actually worked out in the Utes’ favor six plays later.
Such has been life for most of the past month for the most dominant team West of the Mississippi as Utah trounced the Baby Bruins 49-3 on Saturday night in a throughly overwhelming outing in Salt Lake City.
Outside of that lone special teams gaffe, things otherwise went swimmingly for the home squad. QB Tyler Huntley was 14-of-18 for 335 yards and two scores through the air while rushing for another score in an impressive outing for the senior. Fellow member of the backfield Zach Moss wasn’t too shabby either with 127 yards on just 17 carries to go along with the tailback’s two trips into the end zone and another 73 yards receiving.
That one-two punch was good for the Utes… but perhaps the team’s defense was even better on the night as they forced five turnovers, held UCLA under four yards a play and recorded five sacks. The Bruins mounted seven dries inside their opponent’s 40 yard line and yet game away with just three points. Those giveaways played a role but so too did the tenacious tackling and ability to bend a little yet not come anywhere close to breaking.
As you can expect, that resulted in a very forgettable game for what had been one of the more improved teams in the conference the past month or so. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson had a rough outing in particular with 219 yards passing but a pair of both picks and fumbles, including more than one in the red zone. RB Joshua Kelley managed 78 yards on the ground, which was impressive given what the Utes were allowing coming in but that was about it.
In addition to stifling late season momentum under Chip Kelly and putting UCLA’s bowl hopes on thin ice, the final score also took the Bruins’ hopes of somehow winning the Pac-12 South out of their hands. Utah hasn’t quite clinched the division yet due to their tie-breaker loss to USC earlier in the year but they remain firmly pointed at a date in Santa Clara against fellow one-loss contender No. 6 Oregon for the conference title.
Who knows, given Tua Tagovailoa’s injury for No. 5 Alabama, it’s possible that the Utes even move up a spot or two in the rankings as well. They certainly will have earned it the way they’re are playing as they remain the buzzsaw nobody wants to face at the moment given how well things are going on both sides of the ball.
While most of the focus on the Sunday after the regular season is reserved to teams finding out their postseason destination, Virginia Tech took the time to focus on the future beyond the next month.
Hokies head coach Justin Fuente confirmed that the was staying in-house to find Bud Foster’s replacement as the program’s defensive coordinator, tapping safeties coach and former player Justin Hamilton for the role.
“Justin has earned this opportunity to lead our defense and our football team,” Fuente said in a statement. “Everyone in our program has a great deal of respect for him and his abilities. Coach Foster has reiterated to me on several occasions that Justin is ready for this next step in his coaching career. I feel the same way and am convinced he’s exactly the right fit for this role at Virginia Tech. Coach Hamilton is a talented coach and recruiter with a deep passion for both the game and Virginia Tech. He possesses a great knack for connecting with our players. His voice carries tremendous weight on the field and in the locker room because he’s worn that helmet and experienced many of the same things the young men in our program are going through.”
Hamilton returned to Blacksburg last year in an off the field role before joining the coaching staff. He was a player at a number of spots under Frank Beamer and Foster from 2002-05 before spending some time in the NFL. Hamilton’s coaching career began at Virginia Military Institute and Virginia-Wise from 2011-2017.
There had been plenty of speculation that Fuente would tap ex-Missouri head coach Barry Odom as DC after the two had the same arrangement together at Memphis but it appears those rumors did not bear fruit.
Fuente also confirmed that running backs coach Zohn Burden and cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell will not return to the Virginia Tech coaching staff.
It’s a pretty good day for Isaiah Simmons.
The Clemson linebacker woke up Sunday as an ACC Champion, found out later he was going to the College Football Playoff as the No. 3 seed and was also was named the winner of the 2019 Butkus Award as the best linebacker in the country.
“Simmons is one of the most versatile athletes to play the linebacker position. He’s an exceptional athlete with unique length and makes plays at all three levels, with terrific rush ability, blitz timing, cover skill and tackling range. He’s a modern-day linebacker with special match-up skills. For as good of a football player as he is, he’s a better person and will represent the Butkus Award with class,” a release confirming the news said.
The Kansas native has 93 tackles, seven sacks, a fumble and two interceptions on the season.
Simmons beat out Cal’s Evan Weaver, Wisconsin’s Zach Baun, Texas Tech’s Jordyn Brooks and Penn State’s Micah Parsons for the award.
LSU linebacker and top 10 pick Devin White won the trophy last year.
The College Football Playoff is set, now it’s time for the rest of the postseason picture to shake out.
The CFP Selection Committee followed up the announcement of the Peach Bowl (No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma) and Fiesta Bowl (No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson) semifinals with the rest of the New Year’s Six matchups and there are some enticing games to take in over the coming month. Making some tough decisions and throwing in a handful of surprises, here’s the full lineup of the major bowl games:
College Football Playoff Semifinals — December 28, 2018
- Peach Bowl: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
4 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson
8 p.m. ET, ESPN
New Year’s Six
- Cotton Bowl: No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 17 Memphis
December 28, 2019, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Orange Bowl: No. 9 Florida vs. No. 24 Virginia
December 30, 2019, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Rose Bowl Game: No. 6 Oregon vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
January 1, 2020, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Sugar Bowl: No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 7 Baylor
January 1, 2020, 8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
The College Football Playoff National Championship Game is scheduled for Monday, January 13, 2020. Kickoff in that one is slated for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La.
The Selection Committee also released their final set of rankings for the 2019 season. They will not release a top 25 after the bowl games — as that’s left for the AP and Coaches Poll — so the members on the committee are done with their duties this year. In what is sure to be a controversial ranking (or two) for some schools, here’s the order they put teams in:
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Notre Dame
- Boise State
- Appalachian State
- Oklahoma State
South Carolina fans will soon be able to yell ‘Run the dang ball Bobo!’ next fall.
According to the Post and Courier, Will Muschamp is set to hire ex-Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo as the Gamecocks’ new offensive coordinator “barring a last-minute change of heart.”
Receivers coach Bryan McClendon is expected to remain on staff after serving as OC this past season while Bobo is likely to fill the role vacated by recently fired QB coach Dan Werner.
Bobo is no stranger to South Carolina or SEC fans, having spent eight seasons as the coordinator at his (and Muschamp’s) alma mater of Georgia. He won two conference titles and five division titles while with the Bulldogs and spent 15 years on staff in Athens.
The Rams and Bobo announced they had mutually parted ways after the end of the regular season last week after the head coach spent five seasons in Fort Collins.