Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Oregon running back LaMichael James, two of the nation’s most dynamic players, will meet in the national championship game next month.
First, a stop in New York.
Newton and James were named finalists for the Heisman Trophy on Monday, and will be joined by Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore of Boise State for Saturday’s announcement in Times Square.
Newton overcame a pay-to-play scandal with a superb season on the field, piling up nearly 4,000 combined yards and 49 touchdowns in leading the top-ranked Tigers into the Jan. 10 national championship game.
James and the Ducks will be there waiting for them in the desert after he piled up more yards and touchdowns than anyone else in FBS, helping the second-ranked Ducks into their first national title game.
Newton is the front-runner, but the big question is whether voters will look past the scandal involving his father.
Colorado introduces Embree
Boulder, Colo. — Jon Embree believes he’s the right fit to unite a frayed family.
A former standout tight end and one-time assistant at Colorado, Embree returns to campus to take over a struggling program. He has surrounded himself with coaches steeped in the Buffs tradition in order to restore the luster as the team starts a new chapter by joining the soon-to-be Pac-12.
Embree was officially introduced as the new coach Monday after accepting a five-year deal that’s worth approximately $1 million a season, not counting incentives.
He steps in for Dan Hawkins, who was fired after going 19-39 during four-plus underachieving seasons in Boulder.
Joining Embree’s staff will be another former Buffs stalwart, Eric Bieniemy, who will finish out the season as the Minnesota Vikings running backs coach before returning as CU’s offensive coordinator.
Brian Cabral, a longtime Colorado assistant who served as the interim coach following Hawkins’ departure, also will stay put, taking his name out of the running for the head coaching position at nearby Northern Colorado.
Not only that but former CU quarterback Darian Hagan said he plans to be back as an assistant in some capacity, too. Hagan served as the running backs coach under Hawkins.
New Gopher coach a buzz Kill
Minneapolis — Jerry Kill landed in the Twin Cities late Sunday night and quickly realized Minnesota’s disillusioned fans were largely disappointed they didn’t get the big-name football coach they were promised two months ago.
Athletic director Joel Maturi admitted that Kill, who spent the previous three seasons at mid-major Northern Illinois and led the Huskies to 10 wins this year, wasn’t his first choice for the job.
Kill, a short, stout man with a bald head, mustache, glasses and large cheeks that actually make him look something like a gopher, went 23-16 in three seasons at Northern Illinois, leading the Huskies to three straight bowl games. He also went 55-32 in seven seasons at Southern Illinois before that, but he clearly doesn’t have the power-packed resume that Gophers fans wanted.
Texas shakes up staff
Austin, Texas — Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis has resigned and two other assistant coaches are retiring after the Longhorns’ first losing season since 1997.
Davis, who has been with coach Mack Brown for 13 seasons at Texas, had been under fire all season as Texas finished 5-7 and didn’t qualify for a bowl. It was Brown’s first losing season since 1989. The Longhorns finished last in the Big 12 South and went 2-5 at home, losing four in a row at one point.
Offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and defensive-line coach and special-teams coordinator Mike Tolleson are retiring.
Auburn aide top assistant
Fayetteville, Ark. — Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn won the annual Broyles Award given to the nation’s top college assistant coach on Monday. Malzahn is also the quarterbacks coach for the top-ranked Tigers, who will play for the national championship next month against Oregon.
Clemson DE wins Nagurski
Charlotte, N.C. — Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers was honored for his dominance Monday night with the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s top defensive player. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior leads the nation with 151⁄2 sacks and his 25 tackles for a loss rank second in the country.
Racial graduation gap widens
Orlando, Fla. — The disparity between graduation rates for white and black players at schools headed to bowl games grew again this year even as overall academic progress increased for both, a study released Monday found. The graduation success rate for black players went from 58 percent to 60 percent this year among the 70 bowl teams. But for white players, the graduation rates increased from 77 percent last year to 80 percent this year.
Trading begins; Gillick Hall-bound
Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Reynolds and Shaun Marcum switched leagues Monday as teams started trading at baseball’s winter meetings. Cliff Lee’s agent showed up, too, but said no telling when his prize pitcher might sign.
To Pat Gillick, this was truly the biggest deal of the day, and of his career: The 73-year-old executive whose moves helped build three World Series champions was elected to the Hall of Fame.
The Boston Red Sox completed their trade for Gonzalez, getting the All-Star first baseman from San Diego for minor-league pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Reymond Fuentes and a player to be named.
Baltimore added a big bat — and a bunch of strikeouts — by acquiring Reynolds from Arizona for right-handed relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio.
The Milwaukee Brewers boosted their rotation, getting right-hander Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays for Canadian infield prospect Brett Lawrie.
Gillick built World Series champions in Toronto in 1992-93 and won another crown with Philadelphia in 2008.
Former players’ union head Marvin Miller fell one vote short. George Steinbrenner finished far behind — “some people thought it’s too early,” Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, a member of the committee, said of the late New York Yankees owner.
Duke still No. 1; Baylor in Top 10
Another Duke victory over a Top 10 team and the Blue Devils’ win in a rematch of last season’s national championship game had them a unanimous No. 1 for a second straight week.
Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Kansas and Kansas State were second through fifth for the second week in a row.
Connecticut, which went from unranked to seventh last week in the second-best inseason poll jump ever, moved up one place to sixth.
Michigan State, Syracuse, Georgetown and Baylor rounded out the top 10.
It is the first-ever appearance in the top 10 for Baylor, which was 11th last week and moved up with wins over Prairie View A&M and Arizona State.
UConn women unanimous No. 1
Connecticut remained the unanimous choice at No. 1, while Michigan State shot up the Top 25. The Huskies have won an NCAA women’s basketball-record 86 straight games and received all 40 first-place votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll Monday. It was the 48th straight week they sat atop the poll.
Baylor’s Love out 6-8 weeks
Waco, Texas — Baylor freshman guard Stargell Love could be out for up to two months due to a stress fracture in his left foot.
The school announced Love’s injury Monday during an extended break between games for the 10th-ranked Bears (6-0) because of exams. Coach Scott Drew says Love will miss six to eight weeks.
Love has played in all six games. He has averaged 2.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists while playing 16 minutes a game. But he also has 14 turnovers to go with 16 assists.