'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.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.