An original BCS buster will not be doing the same to the College Football Playoff as the Pac-12 once again found a way to cannibalize itself on the national stage.
Not that you’d find No. 13 Oregon lamenting such woes for Larry Scott and company as they clinched roses between their teeth and hoisted a league title on Friday night, turning in a complete effort to upset No. 5 Utah 37-15 in the Pac-12 Championship Game’s swan song at Levi’s Stadium.
As has generally been the case most of the year, the Ducks defense was the real star of the show. Safety Brady Breeze was all over the place and notched an interception to go with his nine tackles while former No. 1 overall recruit Kayvon Thibodeaux was a terror off the edge, recording two and a half sacks while also blocking a punt in the first half. The group was fast, physical and, for most of the night, simply overwhelming in limiting the Utes to just 4-of-18 on third or fourth down.
That’s not to say that UO’s offense was just sitting around either. QB Justin Herbert delivered his hometown school their first conference title since 2014 and did so using his legs scrambling as much as his arm (193 yards, one touchdown pass). The run game was particularly impressive, quadrupling what their opponent typically gives up in a week by going over two bills when things counted most. C.J. Verdell notched most of that, running for 208 yards and three touchdowns — the last of which was a lengthy scamper that sealed the result in the fourth quarter and sent red-clad fans streaming toward the exits.
Utah played most of the game from behind as a result of those efforts that were combined with an inopportune time to make mental mistakes and look somewhat lost on key short yardage situations. QB Tyler Huntley tossed his third and fourth picks of the season and, despite leading a brief third quarter rally to close to within eight, had to labor to throw for 193 yards and two scores. Backfield-mate Zach Moss ran for 113 yards but most of that came on one play and he was otherwise stuffed near the line of scrimmage with some regularity in a big reversal from the past two months of 2019.
The lone bright spot for the Pac-12 South title holders? At least they scored a touchdown in this trip to Santa Clara after being kept out of the end zone by Washington last season. That’s not much of a consolation for Kyle Whittingham’s team however, as they blew a shot at Power Five glory and ending the Pac-12’s drought in the College Football Playoff (much to the delight of No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor as the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday turns into what could essentially be a quarterfinal game).
Instead, the conference of champions’ absence will be extended to at least three seasons on the outside looking in at the final four. Oregon at one point found themselves in that race but a trip to Tempe a few weeks ago derailed such hopes. Still, a return to the Rose Bowl for first time since thumping Florida State in the very first CFP semifinal in 2015 is quite the consolation prize.
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.”
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.
The Arizona State football roster is the latest to benefit from a player coming in from a Power Five program.
In early December, Kellen Diesch entered the NCAA transfer database, the first step in a move away from Texas A&M. A month later, Diesch has taken the next step as 247Sports.com has reported that the offensive lineman will transfer to the Arizona State football team.
In fact, the website notes that Diesch is in Tempe and already enrolled in school at ASU.
As a graduate transfer, Diesch will be eligible to play for the Sun Devils immediately in 2020. The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.
A four-star member of A&M’s 2016 recruiting class, Diesch was rated as the No. 11 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 17 player regardless of position in the state of Texas. The only signee in the Aggies’ class that year rated higher was strongside defensive end Justin Madubuike.
After redshirting as a true freshman, Diesch has played in 21 games the past three years. A dozen of those appearances came this past season.
Despite the recruiting pedigree, the 6-6, 298-pound lineman didn’t start a game for the Aggies.
The NC State football program is the latest to find out first-hand that Jeffrey Gunter may have an issue with commitment.
In January of 2019, Gunter opted to transfer from Coastal Carolina. Three weeks later, he tweeted he was transferring to Syracuse… before deleting the tweet. Two days later, however, Syracuse confirmed the defensive end’s addition to the roster. Feb. 26, though, Gunter reneged on that commitment, tweeting he would no longer be transferring to Syracuse and would instead move on to NC State.
That commitment stuck… for all of 11 months, as it turned out, as 247Sports.com is now reporting that Gunter is listed in the NCAA transfer database
During his one season with the NC State football program, Gunter was the Co-Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year. He had to sit out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.
After totaling 14 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2018, Gunter, a two-star 2017 signee, was named first-team All-Sun Belt Conference.
It’s worth to note that, in Gunter’s winter of decommitment last year, he had also considered moving to either North Carolina or Oregon. Whether those two schools will be in play this time around is unclear.