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The Huddle: Things are better in Happy Valley

Jabrill Peppers
Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers, left, runs for a first quarter touchdown past Michigan State’s Grayson Miller on Saturday.
(Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

Each week during the season, visit “The Huddle” for the latest in college football news, notes, conversation and opinion.

This is notable

Penn State can win its fifth consecutive Big Ten Conference game when it hosts Iowa on Saturday, a streak unseen in Happy Valley since 2011. That was the year Joe Paterno was fired as coach after his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested and charged with sexually abusing children. In Coach James Franklin’s third season, the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions are 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten.

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That was tweet

“Jabrill Peppers #beastmode”

—Reggie Bush (@ReggieBush)

“Man.. You are the reason I wear 5, I appreciate you man! ”

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—Jabrill Peppers (@JabrillPeppers), in a reply to Bush 

It wasn’t only kids in Southern California who grew up idolizing the former Heisman Trophy winner from USC. It had to be a surprise for Peppers, from East Orange, N.J., to earn a shout-out from Bush during Michigan’s 32-23 victory over Michigan State. Peppers rushed for 24 yards and a touchdown in five carries, had two tackles for losses including a sack, and picked up a fumble on a two-point try and returned it for two points for the Wolverines.

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Hot off the presser

“Pete Carroll, it took him his third coaching job for him to realize what kind of coach he wanted to be. This is my third coaching job and I feel we’ve identified some things.”

—Ed Orgeron, Louisiana State interim coach

No. 13 Louisiana State is 3-0 since Les Miles was fired and Orgeron was made interim coach. The Tigers play host to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday and if they pull off the upset, Orgeron probably will shed the interim tag. He was head coach at Mississippi for three seasons before being fired and returning to USC as an assistant. He became interim head coach for the Trojans when Lane Kiffin was fired, but didn’t stick after USC lost to UCLA and Notre Dame.

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“Everybody wants to push the panic button. There is no panic button. That’s football. We live in a week-to-week season.”

—Butch Jones, Tennessee coach

The status of the Volunteers’ coach might also be week to week after three consecutive losses in the Southeastern Conference and the announcement that star running back Jalen Hurd would transfer. Hurd led the Volunteers with 451 yards rushing and three touchdowns in seven games. He also caught two passes for touchdowns. 

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“We’ve had some things that you would scratch your head. Nothing systemic in terms of schemes or players as much as these are head scratchers. So, yeah, we’re taking our lumps right now.”

—Brian Kelly, Notre Dame coach

Special teams haven’t been so special at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are 3-5 and have suffered a major blunder from their kick and punt return teams, plus both coverage units, in at least six games. That includes, but is not limited to, opponents returning a blocked punt for a touchdown, an onside kick recovery, a kickoff return for a touchdown and a holding call against the Irish that negated a return for a touchdown. All just head scratchers, for sure. 

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“Football you can do every day. Baseball is almost too fun. It’s like ice cream. You couldn’t eat it every day.”

 —Jim Harbaugh, Michigan coach

The Chicago Cubs lost their first two World Series games at Wrigley Field and then the Michigan coach showed up. Harbaugh, with his father, mother and wife, watched as the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in Game 5. It was no surprise he had his glove with him and was ready for action.

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Fresh out the Pac

Colorado joined the Pac-12 Conference in 2011 and had failed every season since to win more than four games.

What a turnaround 2016 has been.

The Buffaloes are 6-2 overall and in first place in the Pac-12 South at 4-1. They also have earned a ranking, No. 15, for the first time in the three years of the College Football Playoff.

Once considered a gimme game on opponents’ schedules, Colorado is in position to make its first appearance in the conference championship game in December. 

“We have to keep climbing,” Coach Mike MacIntyre said. “It’s great to be acknowledged, but that ranking doesn’t win any games for you.”

The Buffaloes play host to UCLA on Thursday, travel to Arizona the following week and finish the season hosting Washington State and Utah. 

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My Thiry

The first College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday and it almost seemed too easy for the selection committee.

Four teams remain undefeated this season — Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington — the perfect fit for a four-team bracket.

But nothing is that simple.

Texas A&M, with its only loss in eight games to top-ranked Alabama, slipped into the fourth spot. Washington was No. 5.

It might be a surprise and even seem unfair to the Huskies, but the committee got it right by rewarding the Aggies for their difficult schedule and not punishing them for a loss to the top-ranked team.

There are still five weeks to play, including conference championship games, so a lot can change. And you can bet that Washington will be in the final bracket if they go undefeated and win the Pac-12 title. 

lindsey.thiry@latimes.com

Follow Lindsey Thiry on Facebook and Twitter @LindseyThiry


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