Getty Images

Biletnikoff Award whittles hunt for nation’s top receiver down to 12

5 Comments

The Biletnikoff Award on Monday announced its list of 12 semifinalists for the 2019 award. The award specifies that any player who catches a pass is eligible to win — not just wideouts — but only wideouts have won the award through its 25-year history.

And for what has to be the first time in Biletnikoff history, both LSU and Alabama have two semifinalists, including 2018 winner Jerry Jeudy.

The semifinalists are:

Rashod Bateman, Minnesota: 44 catches for 945 yards (21.5 yards per) and seven touchdowns
Omar Bayless, Arkansas State: 73 catches for 1,262 yards (17.3 yards per) and 14 touchdowns
Ja'Marr Chase, LSU: 57 catches for 1,116 yards (19.6 yards per) and 13 touchdowns
Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty: 64 catches for 1,244 yards (19.4 yards per) and eight touchdowns
Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State: 73 catches for 1,021 yards (14 yards per) and 13 touchdowns
Justin Jefferson, LSU: 71 catches for 1,010 yards (14.2 yards per) and 11 touchdowns
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama: 64 catches for 867 yards (13.6 yards per) and nine touchdowns
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma: 44 catches for 983 yards (22.3 yards per) and 12 touchdowns
Michael Pittman, Jr., USC: 82 catches for 1,118 yards (13.6 yards per) and nine touchdowns
James Proche, SMU: 88 catches for 1,008 yards (11.5 yards per) and 12 touchdowns
Devonta Smith, Alabama: 56 catches for 1,026 yards (18.3 yards per) and 11 touchdowns
Sage Surratt, Wake Forest: 66 catches for 1,001 yards (15.2 yards per) and 11 touchdowns

The notable snub here is Devin Duvernay of Texas, who is one off the lead for catches (87) but could not crack the voters’ top 12. (Full disclosure: I am a Biletnikoff voter and had Duvernay on my semifinalist list.)

The 12 semifinalists will be chopped down to three next Monday, with the winner announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 12.

Wake Forest loses ACC’s leader in receiving yards, touchdowns to season-ending injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wake Forest lost much more than a football game this past Saturday.

In the fourth quarter of the Week 11 loss to Virginia Tech that, along with Clemson’s win later that night, cost Wake any shot at the ACC Atlantic championship, Sage Surratt went down with some type of upper-body injury and didn’t return.  Tuesday, during his weekly press conference, head coach Dave Clawson confirmed that the redshirt sophomore wide receiver will miss the remainder of the 2019 season because of the injury, which he again declined to specify.

Clawson added that Surratt will undergo surgery to repair the unspecified damage.

Surratt’s 1,001 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns are the most of any player in the ACC, and are good for fifth and tied for fifth, respectively, at the FBS level.  His 66 receptions are second only to Pitt’s Maurice Ffrench‘s 75 in the conference.

In addition to this Saturday’s game against No. 5 Clemson, Surratt will miss regular-season games against Duke and Syracuse as well as whichever bowl at which Wake lands.

With No. 19 Wake Forest’s loss, ACC likely down to No. 5 Clemson as only team in CFP Top 25

Associated Press
1 Comment

No. 5 Clemson is about to be alone.  Again.

The ACC entered Week 11 with exactly two teams ranked in the first College Football Playoff Top 25 — Clemson and No. 19 Wake Forest.  Exiting it, that number will likely be sliced in half as Wake, three-point road favorites coming in, was overwhelmed in the second half of a 36-17 loss to Virginia Tech.  After taking a 10-6 lead into the halftime locker room, the Demon Deacons were outscored 30-7 over the last two quarters to turn a close game into a rout.

The loss drops the Demon Deacons to 7-2 overall and 3-2 in ACC play.  Barring something unforeseen, Wake will spend exactly one week in the CFP rankings before falling out when the next Top 25 is released this coming Tuesday.

That would likely mean that not only will Clemson be the only ranked team in the conference, the Tigers will, at the moment, have exactly zero teams on its 2019 schedule that are currently ranked.  Texas A&M was ranked 12th when the two teams played in early September; the Aggies are now 6-3 and unranked.  Wake is next up for Clemson, and they too will (probably) join A&M in the ranks of the unranked.

At 7-3, Virginia might be able to slip into the lower end of the CFP Top 25, but the chances of that happening seem remote.

One final note: Wake still remains alive in the ACC Atlantic race.  If Clemson loses to NC State tonight… if Wake beats Clemson next week… and if Wake beats Duke and Syracuse the two weeks after that, then the demon Deacons would claim the division.

And, yes, I almost made it through typing that entire last sentence with a straight face.  Almost.

Ohio State, LSU top initial College Football Playoff rankings; Clemson at No. 5

Getty Images
37 Comments

The first edition of the 2019 College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and Ohio State and LSU came in first and second, followed by Alabama and Penn State to round out the top four. Defending champion Clemson checked in at No. 5, one spot ahead the highest-ranked 1-loss team, Georgia.

It is the first time in 25 edition’s of the committee’s rankings that Clemson has not been in the top four.

Obviously, the most significant game of the season to date arrives Saturday when No. 2 LSU visits No. 3 Alabama. No. 4 Penn State visits No. 17 Minnesota, who checks in four spots lower than their AP ranking.

In the biggest departure from the AP poll, Oklahoma State checked in at No. 23. The Cowboys received only 11 votes in Sunday’s poll, putting them seven spots ahead of where the AP placed them.

Another significant point of intrigue heading into Tuesday was the Group of 5 rankings amid the most competitive race to date. Cincinnati leads the chase at No. 20, followed closely by No. 21 Memphis, No. 22 Boise State, No. 24 Navy and No. 25 SMU.

The full rankings:

1. Ohio State
2. LSU
3. Alabama
4. Penn State
5. Clemson
6. Georgia
7. Oregon
8. Utah
9. Oklahoma
10. Florida
11. Auburn
12. Baylor
13. Wisconsin
14. Michigan
15. Notre Dame
16. Kansas State
17. Minnesota
18. Iowa
19. Wake Forest
20. Cincinnati
21. Memphis
22. Boise State
23. Oklahoma State
24. Navy
25. SMU

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

Getty Images
30 Comments

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.