'Worst of the Weak' — Houston's ranked here

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No. -10 Penn State’s schedule . . . As if opening the season with four straight home games, three of which were against Akron, Syracuse and Temple, wasn’t enough, the Nittany Lions are at it again. After mixed results in Big Ten play, Penn State goes back to its bread-n-butter, hosting Eastern Illinois. Joe Paterno defended this victim rental by saying: “HOUSTONutep.jpg

No. -9 Houston . . . A week before hosting Houston, UTEP’s only score in a 64-7 loss at Texas came on a 49-yard interception return, which nearly matched the 53 yards of total offense gained by the Miners on the day. So after going 2-0 against powerful Big 12 teams, what did the Cougars do in their Conference USA opener? They allowed Miner running back Donald Buckram to rush for 262 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries, leading his team to an amazing 58-41 upset of what was the No. 12 team in the nation. When you throw for 536 yards, earn 42 first downs and lose by 17 points to a team that came in ranked 109th in scoring offense, something is terribly wrong.

No. -8 LSU fans’ phone fetish . . . I guess Tiger fans really believe that their prank calls and texts two years ago to Tim Tebow, prior to Florida’s last visit to Death Valley, made the difference in LSU’s 28-24 victory. They’re at it again. This time targeting head coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, quarterback John Brantley and wide receiver Riley Cooper. Hey! What about pestering someone associated to the defense? LSU ranks last in the SEC in total offense and 99th in the nation. The Tigers on that side of the football will need all the help they can get versus the Gators.

No. -7 Florida International at Western Kentucky . . . You’ve been waiting patiently and it’s finally here — “Worst of the Weak” Super Bowl III. The Golden Panthers are a not-so-golden 0-4 and the Hilltoppers are equally low at 0-4 as well. Someone has to win this Sun Belt slugfest! May the weakest team lose.

No. -6 Bobby Bowden supporters . . . When Deion Sanders (aka, the most hated man in Stillwater today) is a major player on your side of the debate, you’ve got serious problems. His “funeral” quote was off the charts. Anyway, let’s get back to reality. FSU is 2-3 for the first time since 1976, which incidentally was Bowden’s first year in Tallahassee. Can’t these people see that the bookend has created itself. What’s wrong with taking the next step in the “head coach in waiting” situation that’s already in place for Jimbo Fisher? It’s not like you didn’t know that this day would come. What’s wrong with doing it sooner than later? Don’t you know how this murky situation has already affected recruiting?

No. -5 Bobby Bowden detractors . . . They rank a tad lower than the supporters. South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt hit a home run when he said: “What’s going on up there, I think is ridiculous. I think, to me, it’s embarrassing. I remember growing up here, when Florida State was a teacher’s college and didn’t have nearly the significance it has now. What he’s done for that program is legendary, and to me, he has every right to retire whenever he wants to retire.” Yes, if not for Bowden, Florida State would probably be something akin to Alabama State, Tennessee State, South Carolina State and Texas State. FSU Board of Trustees chairman Jim Smith should be ashamed of himself for unprofessionally using the media to say: “Enough is enough.” Leave Bowden alone for a couple months to make a decision on his own. Your team has averaged eight wins per season since 2004, so this isn’t anything new. Relax. Have patience. Then, pray that the next stage of Seminole football isn’t worse.

No. -4 Pete Carroll’s bromance with Barkley . . . Is it just me or does the Trojan boss seem to continually rewrite the book on how coaches should treat players? His latest declaration exhibiting extreme bias toward freshman quarterback Matt Barkley is a doosy. In response to a question asking why he didn’t bring in Aaron Corp to mop up for his golden child at the end of last Saturday’s 30-3 victory at Cal, he actually came up with this: “I just thought (Barkley) should finish it. He needs to play and be out there when the game is winding down.” Is this guy really serious? People buy this stuff?

No. -3 SEC officials . . . Responding to a request by Big Ten officials to get them off the hook for a week, the SEC zebras made total jackasses of themselves at last Saturday’s LSU-Georgia game. Everyone knows about the asinine “excessive celebration” penalty they called on Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green. But how about keeping their flags in their pockets on the vicious helmet-to-helmet spear that Tiger defensive end Rahim Alem laid on Bulldog running back Caleb King, who fractured his jaw and sustained a concussion on the play?

No. -2 Cal . . . Holding steady here in the second spot, the Golden Bears laid yet another egg. This time at home to USC, 30-3. Cal hasn’t scored a touchdown since Sept. 19. And there’s no telling how long this malaise will last. Here’s a dose of reality. Since Oct. 14, 2006, Cal has won only two Pac-10 games on the road — and one of them was against Washington State, so that doesn’t count. Good luck in your next game on Oct. 17 at UCLA.

And finally, the absolute “Worst of the Weak” . . .

No. -1 UNLV . . . As you might expect from a team that was winless on the season, Nevada had four turnovers
and 15 penalties for 169 yards last Saturday against UNLV, but the Wolf Pack easily overcame those errors and routed the Rebels, 63-28. Nevada converted on all seven of its third downs, but it’s amazing that they faced any in the first place, considering that the Wolf Pack gained 773 yards of total offense, averaged 10.2 yards per rush and threw only three incompletions. As you can see, UNLV was barely present.

Amidst medical mystery, Georgia’s Trenton Thompson withdraws from spring semester classes

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 19: Anthony Jennings #11 of the Lousiana-Lafayette Rajin' Cajuns is pursued by Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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While the details are very hazy at the moment, a member of the Georgia football team has apparently suffered a health scare recently that calls into question his short-term future with the football program.

First reported by WSB-TV, defensive end Trent Thompson suffered an unspecified medical emergency very early Thursday morning and was rushed to an Athens hospital. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Thompson was released from the hospital Thursday morning, his mother confirmed to the television station. No specifics have been released publicly, although the Journal-Constitution, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that no drugs or alcohol were involved. It’s also believed that the issue isn’t related to football.

In the wake of those reports as well as others that indicated he had a run-in with Athens police immediately prior to the hospitalization, UGA released the following statement, which reveals that Thompson will be withdrawing from classes this semester because of the unspecified medical issues:

Based upon recent events, Trenton Thompson’s family has authorized UGAAA to release the following information. Trenton has been dealing with a significant medical issue which required emergency hospitalization and extended hospital stay. Trenton was recently discharged from the hospital and remains under close medical care. With respect to last night’s incident, the physical appearance and behavior described in the UGA PD report is solely related to an adverse reaction to medications prescribed specifically for his medical condition. The adverse reaction required emergency transport to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released. Toxicology tests performed at the hospital were negative for OxyContin. We cannot release any further information at this time due to federal privacy laws. Due to the medical issues, Trenton is withdrawing from classes this semester, and his family requests privacy during this time.

As a sophomore last season, Thompson started seven of the 13 games in which he played. His 9.5 tackles for loss led the Bulldogs, while his five sacks were tied for the team lead and the 56 tackles with which he was credited were tops among linemen.

Capping off that breakout season, he was named MVP of UGA’s Liberty Bowl win over TCU.

Iowa State DB Mike Johnson suspended amid domestic violence arrest

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 19: Wide receiver Keke Coutee #20 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders blocks defensive back Mike Johnson #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones as he rushed for yards in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Iowa State has suspended defensive back Mike Johnson after he was arrested Thursday on the accusation that he choked his girlfriend.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Johnson and his girlfriend were fighting over social media posts and music playing over each other’s phones when each tried to reach for the other’s device. That escalated to the point where Johnson allegedly had both hands around the woman’s throat, to the point where told police she “saw stars” and had trouble breathing.

She also had, according to police, bite marks on her right cheek, on her neck and behind her left ear, a swollen upper lip and had what appeared to be dried blood on her. Johnson also said he was bitten during the altercation.

“We are aware of Mike Johnson’s arrest and allegations associated with his arrest,” head coach Matt Campbell told the paper in a statement. “Our program has zero tolerance for domestic violence. Mike has been suspended from all team activities, including practice, under the student-athlete code of conduct policy as we gather more information. His long-term status with the team will be determined once we gain more facts.”

Johnson posted 44 tackles, three pass breakups and 1.5 tackles for loss in 12 games last season.

Report: Former Pitt RB James Conner given clean bill of health

James Conner
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James Conner will head to next week’s Combine with a clean bill of health, according to a report Thursday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“Pitt RB James Conner, who missed most of 2015 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, received a clean scan today, a week prior to combine, per source,” Schefter tweeted.

Conner led the ACC in rushing in 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 5.92 yards per carry with 26 touchdowns in 2014, before a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis caused him to miss all but one game of the 2015 campaign. (And in that one game, Conner still rushed for nearly 10 yards per carry and two touchdowns.)

He battled back to return to the field in 2016, again leading the Panthers with 216 carries for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns while finishing third on the club with 21 grabs for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

Conner will compete at the Combine for draft positioning with fellow running backs Leonard FournetteDalvin Cook and D'Onta Foreman, among others.

Willie Taggart no longer speaking with Oregon beat reporter

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Willie Taggart walks the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on September 28, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Oregon strength coach Irele Oderinde is now back at work after serving a 1-month, unpaid suspension resulting from three players being hospitalized after Oderinde’s first supervised workout with the Ducks, but the story is not over in Eugene.

According to Oregon’s student paper The Daily Emerald, Taggart is no longer speaking with the reporter who broke the story, The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

“When you’re not fair and honest, then to me that’s personal,” Taggart told the paper. “When you do something that’s negative and it’s going to be personal, then I won’t have shit to do with you.”

Greif, for his part, stands by the story and says the paper will not issue a retraction, as Taggart requested:

“Though the description of the workouts is understandably subjective, ultimately what has never been in doubt is that three UO players were hospitalized after the first week of offseason workouts and received treatment for several days,” Greif said in an email to the Emerald.

Complicating matters for Taggart is that the university commissioned faculty athletics rep Tim Gleason, a journalism professor, to review the report. In speaking with players, coaches, trainers and AD Rob Mullens, Gleason found the report not to be inaccurate.

“It’s not an unfair characterization; it’s just that the way it gets interpreted is regrettable,” Gleason said. “In the shorthand of journalism, it resulted in an impression that may not have been completely accurate.”

Also contradicting Taggart are members of his own staff, who said off-the-record that the workouts were “military-style.” Greif quoted them anonymously when inserting that phrase into the piece:

Players this week were required to finish the same workouts, which were described by multiple sources as akin to military basic training, with one said to include up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs.

It’s not clear where the story goes from here, except that Taggart made clear twice in his interview with the Emerald he has no plans to answer questions from Greif in the future.