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No. 3 Clemson wins fifth consecutive ACC championship as they return to College Football Playoff

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The defending national champions are back for some more. No. 3 Clemson (13-0, 8-0 ACC) locked up a fifth consecutive ACC Championship Game victory Saturday night with a 62-17 victory over No. 23 Virginia (9-4, 6-2 ACC), and with that all but officially submitted their R.S.V.P. for this season’s College Football Playoff. What’s not to respect?

Trevor Lawrence passed for 302 yards and four touchdowns before getting an early exit in the fourth quarter, with Clemson leading 45-14 at the time. Travis Etienne rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown and star receiver Tee Higgins hauled in nine passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns. Virginia’s Bryce Perkins had some positive moments with 265 passing yards and two passing touchdowns with 52 rushing yards, but he was picked off twice. His first interception came at the end of the game’s opening possession in the end zone.

Clemson’s 62 points are the most point scored by a team in the ACC Championship Game, which was first played in 2005. Clemson has now outscored its opponents in the ACC Championship Game by a cumulative score of 229-102 over the last five seasons. Clemson has held each of their last three ACC Championship Game opponents to 30 points (3 vs. Miami in 2017, 10 vs Pitt last season, and 17 against Virginia). Clemson is now 5-1 all-time in the ACC Championship Game with their only loss coming as an underdog in 2009 against Georgia Tech.

After 13 consecutive wins this season, on top of the 15 straight wins Clemson had last season en route to a national title, Clemson is going to be riding a 28-game winning streak back into the College Football Playoff. With Alabama being knocked out of the playoff race last week, Clemson will now own the longest active streak of playoff appearances with five straight. That matches Alabama’s record set last year with the Crimson Tide’s fifth consecutive appearance. This will be the first College Football Playoff without Alabama. All that is left to determine is what seed the defending champs will have. Whether Clemson is ranked No. 2 or No. 3 ultimately wouldn’t matter as the Tigers wouldn’t get to have a say which bowl destination they’d prefer, nor would it change the opponent. While Clemson will feel they made a case to be considered as the No. 1 team in the field, that decision now rests with the selection committee, which will make their final decisions on Sunday. A matchup with either LSU or Ohio State is likely the pairing for Clemson. Dabo Swinney will certainly have his team ready for whatever comes next, as his fight for respect will continue even if nobody is actually disrespecting his program these days.

Virginia’s bowl outlook is also likely fixed. Win or lose, Virginia was likely to be in the Orange Bowl, either as the ACC champion or the bowl’s pick from the ACC. When the ACC champion is in the College Football Playoff and unavailable for the Orange Bowl, the next highest-ranked ACC team fills the slot. Virginia being the only other ranked ACC team this week by the committee seems to suggest Virginia will be the locked pick for the Orange Bowl, although if Virginia manages to slip out of the playoff rankings, the Orange Bowl could choose from any available ACC team that is bowl eligible. But even in that scenario, Virginia would likely still be the pick. Virginia would play a team from the SEC or Big Ten, with the opponent being the highest-ranked available team from either conference. The Florida Gators may be the most likely opponent, with Penn State as the alternative. Regardless of how the first experience in the ACC Championship Game went for Virginia, Bronco Mendenhall continues to be doing a terrific job in building the Virginia football program, and a chance to play in the Orange Bowl is a significant step forward.

BYU RBs coach AJ Steward takes same job at Arizona

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The revamping of Kevin Sumlin’s Arizona football coaching staff continued late last week. This time, though, the revamping is on the offensive side of the ball.

Friday, the Wildcats announced that AJ Steward (pictured) has been hired by Sumlin as running backs coach. Steward will replace DeMarco Murray, who left earlier this month to take the same job at his alma mater Oklahoma.

At 29, Steward will be the youngest member of Sumlin’s staff. The 32-year-old Murray had previously held that title.

“We couldn’t be happier to be welcoming AJ to the Arizona Football Family,” the Arizona football head coach said in a statement. “AJ brings a work ethic and experience that will impact the development of our student-athletes in a very positive way. His passion for the game, passion for making a difference and his recruiting background make him a great fit for our staff.“

The past two seasons, Steward was the running backs coach at BYU. Prior to that, Steward had served in the same capacity at Rice for three years (2014-17).

Steward, who played his college football at Kansas, began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Rice in 2012-13.

“My wife Virginia and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to come to Tucson and make the University of Arizona our home,” Steward said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to continue my coaching career under someone like Coach Sumlin, and I can’t wait to get to work with our young men!”

Four-star 2017 DB Deon Jones tweets transfer from Maryland

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A once highly-touted member of the Maryland football program is on his way out. Probably.

Late last week, Deon Jones took to Twitter to announce that he has decided to enter his name into the NCAA transfer database, the first step in a likely move away from Maryland football. According to the defensive back, he will graduate from the university in May.

Not only will he be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school in 2020, he will have another season of eligibility he can use in 2021 as well.

“I will forever be a TERP and I cannot thank this university enough for all of the opportunities they have afforded me over the past 3 years,” Jones wrote.

A four-star member of the Terrapins’ 2017 recruiting class, Jones was rated as the No. 3 player in the state of Maryland regardless of position. Only one signee in the Terps’ class that year, running back Anthony McFarland, was rated higher than Jones.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Jones appeared in 21 games the past two seasons. He started six of those contests, with all six of those starts coming this past season.

Jones will finish his time with Maryland football with 51 tackles, two forced fumbles, one tackle for loss and one pass defensed.

More than a dozen players have left the Maryland football program since last season began, including a pair of quarterbacks.

Ex-Wisconsin WR Marcus Randle El arrested, charged in double homicide

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A former member of the Wisconsin football program is at the center of a very sad and disturbing situation that began developing early last week.

According to multiple media outlets, Marcus Randle El turned himself in to police in Chicago Saturday afternoon after a warrant for his arrest had been issued in connection to a double murder in Janesville, Wisconsin. The 33-year-old Randel El is facing two counts of first-degree intentional homicide.

From the NBC television affiliate in Madison, WI:

Early Monday morning, 30-year-old Seairaha Winchester and 27-year-old Brittany McAdory were found shot near the intersection of Midvale Drive and Deerfield Drive in Janesville. They were taken to a hospital where they died.

During the news conference announcing the arrest, Lt. Charles Aagaard said investigators recovered video footage confirmed Winchester and McAdory went to the T.A. Express gas station around 2 a.m. that morning and left the store in McAdory’s black Jeep Cherokee. Investigators say their evidence indicates they planned to meet with Randle El, who was also in the area.

A little more than an hour later, a passing motorist spotted the victims lying in the road, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, Aagaard explained. They were both taken to Mercy Hospital for treatment where they both later died as a result of their injuries.

According to police, a murder weapon hasn’t yet been recovered.  Randle El has also denied responsibility for the murders.

From 2004-07, Randle El, whose brother, Antwaan Randle El, was a star quarterback at Indiana, played wide receiver for the Wisconsin football program.  He caught four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown during his time with the Badgers.  He also ran for another 29 yards on 11 carries as well.

Randle El also has an extensive criminal history dating back to his time as a member of the Wisconsin football team.  In 2005, he was arrested twice — once on a battery charge involving a female and another incident of battery involving a teammate.  In 2018, he finished serving what was originally a six-year sentence after allegedly kidnapping his three-year daughter at gunpoint.

Antwaan Randle El, incidentally, is entering his second year as an offensive assistant for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Vanderbilt QB Mo Hasan tweets transfer to USC

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For Mo Hasan, the quarterback is hoping that USC football, his fourth school, will be the charm.

In December, Hasan took the first step in transferring from Vanderbilt by entering his name into the NCAA transfer database. Nearly two months later, Hasan took to Twitter to make the surprising announcement that he has decided to transfer to USC football and continue his collegiate playing career with the Trojans.

The 2020 season will serve as the graduate transfer’s final year of eligibility.

Hasan, who began his career at Syracuse as a walk-on, came to Vandy from Coffeyville Community College in 2018.  His first season with the Commodores, the Florida native played in five games.  This past season, he played in two, including his first career start. That start, though, proved to be his last appearance as Hasan suffered a concussion in the Missouri loss and missed the last five games.

In his seven appearances, Hasan completed 11-of-17 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown.  He also ran for 79 yards on 16 carries.

In Nashville, Hasan will likely be missed most, though, off the field.

Hasan, a Miami native, also gained national exposure for spearheading Second Spoon, a non-profit organization that distributes extra food from the athletes’ dining hall to the homeless living on Nashville’s streets. He appeared on various national TV programs to promote Second Spoon, including NBC’s Today Show.

Given the makeup of the quarterback room, Hasan’s decision to transfer to USC football is surprising. To say the least.

JT Daniels, who opened the 2019 season as the starter before suffering a torn ACL after starting in 2018, and Kedon Slovis, who replaced Daniels and went on to set a slew of school records as a true freshman, both return in 2020 (probably). Fifth-year senior Matt Fink, who started in place of a concussed Slovis in one game last season, is expected to return as well.

Fink, though, flirted with a transfer to Illinois in the spring of last year. The quarterback ultimately opted to remain with USC football. Obviously, a move away from the Trojans at some point before the 2020 campaign kicks off on Fink’s part is not out of the equation.

For what it’s worth, Daniels’ dad stated in December that his son has no intention of transferring from USC football.