'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.

Forza Blu? Michigan reportedly planning spring practice in Italy

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines directs a drill during warm ups prior to playing the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on October 29, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Undeterred by recent NCAA legislation, Jim Harbaugh is reportedly going international.

As noted by the Detroit Free Press, a post on Rivals affiliate TheWolverine.com reports that Michigan is planning to spend the final week of football spring practice in Rome, Italy. The team would not only practice several times on Italian soil, but would allow the team to visit the sights in the area and even leave players in Europe to study abroad for a semester.

The move would no doubt ruffle even more feathers in the football and NCAA communities after Harbaugh famously took the Wolverines to the IMG Academy down in Florida for spring practice last March. That prompted recent legislation that was passed at the NCAA convention in Nashville this week — a Harbaugh Rule if you will — that prohibited off-campus practice during a vacation period outside of a playing season.

While it would seem that would rule out trips away from Ann Arbor for spring football practices, it appears the Michigan athletic department is going to push forward by exploiting a slight loophole in the language of the rule. While vacation periods may be off limits like spring break, it appears the Wolverines would be looking to leave town at the end of April, which would be after the semester ends  and does not fall into any scheduled vacation time.

We’ll see if anything becomes of this report and if Michigan indeed announces such an unprecedented trip. While foreign tours are common in sports like basketball at the NCAA levels, it really hasn’t happened in football aside from occasional games overseas so it will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend, or is just another case of Harbaugh being Harbaugh.

Wisconsin extends head coach Paul Chryst’s contract through 2022

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 2: Corey Clement #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers points toward head coach Paul Chryst  as the two celebrate following the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. Wisconsin defeated Western Michigan 24-16. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
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Winning a New Year’s Six bowl and outperforming nearly every preseason expectation typically results in a nice boost to a head coach’s bank account and that is the case at Wisconsin this year.

The Badgers announced on Friday that the school’s athletic board had extended head football coach Paul Chryst another year, running through January 31, 2022. Additional contract terms such as a potential raise or incentives were not announced, meaning this was likely just tacking another year onto the former Wisconsin quarterback’s original deal in Madison.

The move isn’t new for the program, which pulled the same extension almost to the day a year ago after Chryst led the Badgers to a 10-3 year in 2015 that was capped off with a Holiday Bowl victory over USC. The coach one-upped that performance in 2016, winning the Big Ten West title and getting selected for the Cotton Bowl, which the team won over previously undefeated Western Michigan.

Chryst’s original contract he signed two years ago was for a term of five seasons through 2020. He originally made around $2.3 million a year but should be hitting the $2.5 million mark heading into 2017 with various increases incorporated.

Vol legend Peyton Manning reportedly advising alma mater Tennessee on AD search

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 08:  Former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning walks across the field prior to the start of their game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on October 8, 2016 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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New College Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning is staying busy with various ventures now that he’s retired from the NFL and apparently the Vol legend doesn’t mind returning to Tennessee to add another thing to his plate.

According to a report from the Knoxville News Sentinel, Manning will be part of a search committee for the school’s chancellor as she attempts to find a new athletic director following the retirement of Dave Hart at the end of June. Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is also expected to be part of the six-person strong committee, which will assist recently hired search firm Turnkey Sports and Entertainment in finding the right candidate to lead the department.

Hart’s retirement has known for some time and the fact that Alabama surprisingly hired Greg Byrne away from Arizona without as much as a sniff from the Vols have made many in the fan base a little anxious about the state of the on-going  (and lengthy) search. Manning’s former head coach Phillip Fulmer has reportedly been mentioned as a candidate for the gig but the hire of a search firm and advisory committee suggests that a hire may be a few weeks or months away.

There are few folks connected to Tennessee football more fondly remembered around Knoxville than Manning and you can’t help but wonder if Vols fans longing for some stability and a big name in the AD chair wouldn’t mind pushing the quarterback’s name for the position. If so, perhaps joining the search committee is the first step toward that path and a move that would certainly make a lot more sense than bringing somebody like Fulmer back into the fold.

All Oregon football players released from hospital after offseason workouts

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 29: defensive back Tyree Robinson #2 of the Oregon Ducks dives into the crowd before the game against the Arizona State Sun Devilsat Autzen Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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All three Oregon football players hospitalized this week as the result of grueling offseason workouts have been released.

The news, first reported by The Oregonian,  concludes a dramatic week for the program and their new coaching staff after revelations surfaced on Monday that the three were sent to a nearby Springfield, Oregon hospital with symptoms of rhabdomyolysis. The condition primarily affects soft tissue and is triggered by overwork and can eventually lead to damage of the kidneys.

Senior offensive linemen Doug Brenner was actually released on Tuesday per the report, but it took until Friday morning for redshirt freshmen tight end Cam McCormick and offensive lineman Sam Poutasi to be sent home from the PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center.

As a result of the workouts, Oregon suspended new strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde for one month without pay and changed the structure on the staff so that Oderinde, who came over from South Florida with Willie Taggart, no longer reports to the Ducks’ coach but the school’s director of performance and sport science.

While you never want to hear about football players going to the hospital, it’s great to hear that the three players who were injured as a result of the workouts have been cleared and sent home.