Getty Images

CFT Previews: Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual

Leave a comment

WHO: Oregon (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (10-3)
WHAT: The 106th Rose Bowl
WHEN: January 1st at 5:10 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
THE SKINNY: What better way to ring in a new year — heck, a new decade — than with ‘The Granddaddy of Them All?’ This year’s edition of Pac-12 vs. Big Ten under the afternoon glow in Southern California is particularly lovely as two regular visitors to the Rose Bowl meet for the first time in eight years.

“All the bowl games we’ve been able to go to, you appreciate and they’re great experiences. And yet this one is special,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst remarked at Media Day. “You know you’re going to face a great team. It’s in maybe the one of the best if not the best settings in all of football, nonetheless college football. And when we found out we had an opportunity to play in it, I was really excited for our players, because it is a heck of an experience. And now it’s our job coming up here where we’ve got to make the most of that.”

The Badgers are not going to surprise you by any means because they do so many of the fundamental things well. They run the ball behind Doak Walker Award winner Jonathan Taylor, who likely will cap off his record-breaking career in style out in Pasadena. Their offensive line is one of the best in the country and the defense ranks in the top 10 nationally in most major categories. While they inexplicably lost to Illinois earlier this season, they also won the Big Ten West and suffered their only two other losses to Playoff-bound Ohio State.

“They’re just the best team we’ve faced all year, without a doubt, in all phases, all areas,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said Monday. “They’re very well-coached. That’s a disciplined, tough football team that’s complemented with great athleticism, guys that have range, guys that can cover man-to-man. Guys that can play multiple schemes, multiple coverages, stunts and pressures. They present a lot of challenges and our guys are looking forward to that.”

Cristobal’s own team isn’t quite a mirror image of the opponent but they do take a number of traits from them, including building around both lines of scrimmage. Oregon’s offensive line features the best lineman in the country in sophomore left tackle Penei Sewell and have paved the way for a number of tailbacks as the year has worn on. They’ve also done a great job of protecting quarterback Justin Herbert, a potential first-round pick and Eugene native who is hoping to close out his days in a Ducks uniform with a win in the game that means just a little bit more to all involved.

The last time these two programs met on the hallowed ground under the San Gabriel Mountains, Russell Wilson nearly led an epic comeback over Chip Kelly’s Ducks but came up just short in a 45-38 thriller. Both defenses should make this one a lot lower scoring than that 2012 edition but we could see a similar back-and-forth between two of the most physical teams in the country facing off against each other. Oregon was slightly more consistent in 2019 than their Midwest counterparts though so they get the slight edge to ring in the New Year with a win and cap the season off in style.

THE PICK: Oregon 27, Wisconsin 24

Stanford adds linebackers coach with NFL experience

Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Stanford added a new coach to the program on Monday with the hiring of Eric Sanders. Sanders was named Stanford’s assistant coach for inside linebackers.

Sanders comes to Stanford following a season with the NFL’s New York Jets. Prior to his brief stint with the Jets, Sanders was a defensive assistant for three seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Sanders has also coached with the Oakland Raiders.

This is a return to Stanford for Sanders. Sanders coached with the program in 2015 as a defensive assistant.

“Eric was with us for our 2015 Rose Bowl Championship season and he was so smart, energetic and detailed that I knew someday we’d bring him back,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said in a released statement. “Eric has great comprehensive knowledge having worked with the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs throughout his career, and he’s spent the last three years with Gregg Williams who is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL.”

Sanders has also held college coaching jobs with his alma mater, UC Davis, and Utah State in addition to Stanford.

Wisconsin TE Luke Benzschawel medically retires after fourth knee surgery

Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wisconsin redshirt senior tight end Luke Benzschawel is calling it a career. The senior announced he is medically retiring from the sport of football following his fourth knee surgery.

I consider myself fortunate to have been part of the Wisconsin football program for the past four years. I have not been as fortunate when it comes to my health,” Benzschawel said in a statement shared on his Twitter account on Monday. “However, after undergoing a fourth procedure on my knee, and despite giving everything I have to get back on the field, my doctors and I have decided that the time has come for me to step away from the game.

Benzschawel played in 15 games during his injury-plagued college career with the Badgers. Benzschawel is the younger brother of former Wisconsin offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel. Benzschawel injured his knee during fall camp last August and did not see the playing field during the 2019 season as a result.

Alabama strength coach Scott Cochran leaving Tide for new on-field coaching role at Georgia

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
2 Comments

One of Alabama’s most recognized sideline personalities appears to be heading to another SEC program. Alabama strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran, a man whose identity has become as well known as any strength coach can possibly be over the last few years, is reportedly heading to Georgia to take on a brand new role.

There have been many reasons for Alabama’s overall success with Nick Saban as the head coach. Having Cochran on his staff has certainly been one of the key reasons because he has been recognized as one of the nation’s top strength and conditioning coach (he’s won the award for top strength coach twice). And it may not be much of a coincidence that Cochran has been one of the only assistants on the staff for each of Saban’s national championship seasons between Alabama and LSU. His voice and energy seen on the field in warmups and on the sidelines has become a draw for television cameras in more recent years and he has been one of the leaders in the movement to recognize more strength and conditioning coaches during gamedays.

It should come as little surprise Cochran would be an attractive option for Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, a former Alabama defensive coordinator who worked alongside Cochran in Tuscaloosa. What role Cochran will be taking on remains to be confirmed, however, as reports say he will not be Georgia’s strength and conditioning coach. That role is currently held by Scott Sinclair in Athens.

No matter what role Cochran takes at Georgia, and how that ultimately pans out for the Bulldogs, this is a notable loss for Saban and Alabama. Granted, Alabama should be able to find a more-than-qualified strength and conditioning coach to take over the very lucrative (and high-paying) job, so it’s not like this will turn Alabama football into a doormat (much to the dismay of Alabama haters around the SEC and beyond).

UPDATE (6:38 p.m. ET): Alabama head coach Nick Saban has issued a statement regarding the departure of his longtime strength coach:

Ole Miss QB John Rhys Plumlee, RB Jerrion Early also starting for Rebels’ baseball team

Getty Images
Leave a comment

John Rhys Plumlee and Jerrion Early were two of the best athletes on Ole Miss’s football team in 2019. The pair, both true freshmen, led the club in rushing; Plumlee rushed for 1,023 yards and 12 touchdowns while also throwing for 910 yards and four touchdowns, and Early ran for 722 yards and six scores on nearly seven yards per carry.

But it’s actually an understatement to limit the backfield mates’ athletic ability to just the football team. They’re two of the best athletes at the school, period.

The Rebels’ baseball team, ranked No. 13 in the country by Baseball America, is off to a 6-1 start with both Plumlee and Early contributing.

Early, a 31st round selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Jackson Prep in Walnut Grove, Miss., has appeared in five games with three starts at center field. He’s 1-of-8 with four walks, three runs scored and three stolen bases in as many attempts.

Plumlee has appeared in four games to date, starting Saturday’s win over Xavier in left field. He’s struggled at the plate thus far, going 0-for-7 with five strikeouts, though he has scored one run and stole a base in his only attempt.

The Hattiesburg native is not only juggling college classes while playing two sports, but he’s also in the midst of a quarterback battle with fellow rising sophomore Matt Corral while learning a new offense under new head coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

Both players are giving it a go on the diamond, but their new head coach has made it clear where their bread is buttered.

“We want that to be (Plumlee’s) first priority, because if you’re going to be in something, I just think you go with it, and whatever time he has left he’ll come to us,” Kiffin told OM Spirit.

“I talked about it with baseball…let’s see how it goes,. They’re (Plumlee and Ealy) all in right now on baseball, and then let’ see. If they’re having a significant role, they’ll stay in there. If they’re not, then they’ll probably come back and do more football,” said Kiffin.