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Mario Cristobal hired by Oregon-Leavitt status remains uncertain

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Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a tumultuous week in Eugene, OR. And, Friday afternoon, the Ducks football program went for stability in promoting former FIU Head Caoch, Mario Cristobal to the permanent position.

The 47 year old Cristobal takes over for Willie Taggart who left on Tuesday for the Florida State job.

At his press conference, he stressed his previous experience building FIU from the rubble of 0-12, probation, and no expectation into a bowl winning program. Plus, his four years (2013-16) with Nick Saban at Alabama, that included being part of two National Championships.

As we wrote earlier Friday, Cristobal was the overwhelming choice of the the Oregon players. Upon him being named the interim coach Tuesday night, they reportedly gave him a rousing standing ovation at their initial Wednesday team meeting.

Then, they were pushing so hard for Cristobal that on Thursday the players signed a petition for him to be named the full time head coach.

The players, recruits for the Ducks and even, Oregon fans, got the hashtag “#Cristoballin” trending on social media over the last 48 hours.

That obviously made an impression on Oregon AD Rob Mullens, who had been interviewing candidates since Wednesday, and, obviously by Thursday night, he was eager to put the week of uncertainty for the Ducks to rest.

Again, to demonstrate how popular this move was within their building, here’s quick video that a Duck defensive back tweeted at their Friday afternoon team meeting to formally tell the team Cristobal was getting the job permanently:

And it’s not as if Cristobal doesn’t have experience and credibility, as a former player and long time assistant at the University of Miami coahing under both Butch Davis and Larry Coker and is well known, as a big time recruiter in South Florida.

That’s when Taggart hand picked him to join his new staff at Oregon this past season as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

So, we now know that Cristobal will not be joining Taggart in Tallahasse, but we don’t know if defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt will join him. We wrote on Wednesday that the “rubber stamp” reporting of Leavitt coming with Taggart to FSU was at best pre-mature and possibly completely wrong.

Cristobal told the media and fans in attendance that Leavitt, just like all the Oregon assistants, is contractually committed through their December 16th bowl game with Boise State. He further said, “We’re doing everything we can to convince him to stay. He’s here through the bowl game at least….You have to let things play out.”

This, obviously means that Oregon is trying financially or otherwise to keep him in Eugene. Stay tuned on that.

For now, a Cuban born-Miami raised former Cane/FIU Panther now takes over one of the premier programs in the West.

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Coaches and rosters finalized for East-West Shrine Bowl

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL and the newly-renamed East-West Shrine Bowl are finalizing not only their player rosters, but their coaching staffs for next Saturday’s game in St Petersburg, FL.

Late this week, the longest running college all-star game, the East West Shrine Bowl, named its head coaches, both of whom have ties to the Tampa Bay Area.

Bucs inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell will coach one of the teams, while former Buccaneers and current Falcons tight end coach, Ben Steele will be in charge of the other.

Caldwell, who came to the Buccaneers in Bruce Arians’ first season has been in the NFL for a total of 11 years and had previously served as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach for the New York Jets under Todd Bowles for 4 seasons.

Steele, who has coached in the NFL for seven seasons reunited with Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter  in Atlanta after previously having been his tight end coach in Tampa Bay last year.

Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl, said in a statement about the coaching selections,

 “We’re very excited to have Mike Caldwell and Ben Steele as head coaches for our East-West Shrine Bowl all-stars,” said Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl. “Ben was a coordinator for our 2019 game and both coaches have ties to the Tampa/St. Pete area. They will lead two strong staffs of NFL assistant coaches that will be invaluable to our players as they begin their own journey to the NFL”

Meanwhile, the rosters do have some Florida flair, as several noteworthy names will be on the East team. That’s led by speedy UCF running back Adrian Killins, Gators wide receiver Freddie Swain and USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox. On the East defensive squad, FAU linebacker Rashad Smith, Miami linebacker Shaq quarterman and UCF defensive back Neville Clark are part of the roster.

This will be the 95th playing of the East-West Shrine Bowl and it boasts 71 Pro Football Hall of Famers that have played in their game. And, they also had more than 300 players who were on an NFL roster for Week 1 last year that have played in the East-West Shrine Bowl.

The game also announced that there will be four legendary mentors working with the players in practices later this week in St Pete. Those include: Hall of Fame offensive lineman Will Shields, Super Bowl Champion defensive end Willie McGinest, as well as, long time safety Bobby Taylor and long time wide receiver Amani Toomer.

The game will be played at Tropicana Field, the home of Major League Baseball Tampa Bay Rays and televised nationally on the NFL Network at 3 p.m., Eastern Time next Saturday.

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New Year’s Day has prominent teams in Florida Bowls

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As the new year begins, traditional college football bowl games will be taking place. And even though there are no Florida teams battling on New Year’s Day, there are two prominent bowl games in the state.

First, two of college football’s “Blue Bloods” play Wednesday afternoon, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan Wolverines will do battle in the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Both programs come off of disappointing end to their regular-season, as they both lost to their rivals. Alabama dropping a wild 48 – 45 game in the Iron Bowl to Auburn and Michigan losing badly 56-27 to Ohio State and their finale at home.

The Tide are without All American caliber quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who suffered a fractured hip late in the year. However, Nick Saban has arguably the best wide receiving corps in all of college football to compensate for Tagovailoa’s absence.

Michigan has perennially under-achieved under coach Jim Harbaugh, but would love nothing better than to score a head-to-head win against Bama in this one.

Meanwhile across I-4 in Tampa, the 25th playing of the Outback Bowl will take place and it’s a first-time matchup between the SEC Auburn Tigers and the big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Gophers were Darlings of the Big Ten late in the year that they got to 9 – 0 for only the second time in program history before faltering with losses to Iowa and Wisconsin which knock them out of the Big Ten championship game. Their coach P.J. Fleck is the Big Ten coach of the year and has done an amazing job of making Minnesota nationally relevant.

As for the Tigers, we mentioned the victory over Alabama which was particularly sweet for Coach Gus Malzahn, who has been under fire in recent years for not living up to success earlier in the 2010s. Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix, the son of the former Auburn star Patrick Nix, leads a high-powered attack that will look to finish the season on a winning note. The Tigers lost their three biggest games of the year to Florida, LSU, and Georgia, but wins over Alabama and Minnesota will help.

The Gophers have had their most important season since they played in the Rose Bowl in 1962 and would love nothing better than to upset the Tigers in this one.

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