No. 6 Texas A&M will replace Mond at QB with King or Calzada

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — For the first time since arriving at Texas A&M, coach Jimbo Fisher doesn’t have Kellen Mond at quarterback.

But with a veteran-laden defense and a powerful running game the sixth-ranked Aggies believe they can contend for their first national title since 1939 despite a new face at QB.

Fisher returns for his fourth season at Texas A&M after leading the Aggies to a 9-1 record last year with their only loss coming to national champion Alabama in the second game of the season.

Haynes King and Zach Calzada have both been taking snaps with the first team since camp started and Fisher wouldn’t say whether one of them leads the QB competition so far.

“We’re in a really, really good situation,” he said. “I love our (quarterbacks) room, however that situation turns out.”

Offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey also didn’t indicate who he favors for the job and raved about both players.

“Haynes is probably one of the best pure athletes on the team, but Zach has also got some athletic ability of his own,” Dickey said. “Zach may be one of the best throwers of the ball that I’ve worked with. He’s a very gifted thrower. Haynes is also a very gifted thrower. Both are very competitive.”

Regardless of who wins the job, Fisher and Dickey are counting on the team’s veterans to help make his transition to starter easier.

“The one thing you have to guard against with a new quarterback is the feeling they have to make every play, and everything is all on their shoulders,” Dickey said.

SPEEDY SPILLER

Running back Isaiah Spiller is expected to power Texas A&M’s offense after running for 1,036 yards as a sophomore last season. Spiller was a Doak Walker Award finalist in 2020 after ranking third in the SEC by averaging 103.6 yards rushing a game in a year where the Aggies ranked second in the league in yards rushing a game.

“He’s as good a running back as there is, as far as making people miss, running between the tackles, catching the ball out of the backfield, and then we can line him up in the slot,” Dickey said. “He’s a playmaker out there.”

Texas A&M’s running game should get a boost this season with the development of Devon Achane, a sprinter on the track team, who ran for 364 yards on just 43 carries as a freshman last season.

LEAL LEADS

DeMarvin Leal leads a defense that returns nine starters, and the defensive end is projected to be one of the top players in the country. The junior led the Aggies last season with eight quarterback hurries and had 37 tackles. At 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, Leal is a disruptive force whose fumble recovery against Florida last season set up Texas A&M’s game-winning touchdown.

ANCHORING THE LINE

Left guard Kenyon Green is the only returning starter on the offensive line. Green had a great 2020 season where he was named first-team All-America by FWAA and The Sporting News after helping the Aggies allow just seven sacks all year and rush for 205.1 yards a game. The 6-4, 325-pound Green started each game last season and has 23 starts in his career.

SCHEDULE STUFF

The Aggies open the season Sept. 4 against Kent State before playing Colorado in Denver on Sept. 11. They open SEC play Sept. 25 when they face Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The game already circled on many calendars is Oct. 9 when Texas A&M hosts top-ranked Alabama. The Aggies will try to snap an eight-game skid to the Crimson Tide and get their first win in the series since a 29-24 victory in 2012 in Johnny Manziel‘s Heisman Trophy-winning season.

The schedule also includes home dates against Auburn and South Carolina and visits to Missouri and LSU.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.