NCAA completes USC probe amidst new controversy

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On the day Pete Carroll is officially announced the new head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Yahoo! reports that the NCAA’s four-year probe into the Southern Cal football program is complete.

Per Charles Robinson and Jason Cole’s — the two guys that have been at the front of this thing since the beginning — the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions will meet February 19-21 to discuss their findings.

More from Robinson and Cole:

The meeting will be the apex in the NCAA’s probe into USC’s athleticprogram, as it represents the first determination on whether sanctionsshould be leveled against the school. The determination on a hearingdate also indicates USC has received a letter of allegations from theNCAA and that the school has responded in some way. According to NCAAprocedures, schools informed of infractions have at least 90 days torespond. After the response period has expired, a case summary iscompleted and a date is set for the Committee on Infractions to meetand determine whether there is a basis for sanctioning.

The NCAA’s investigation of USC has been ongoing since April 2006,when a series of Yahoo! Sports reports detailed allegations of extrabenefits given to running back Reggie Bush and his family by a failedsports marketing company. Since then, the probe has come to encompassformer Trojans basketball star O.J. Mayo and the men’s basketballprogram, after a report by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” detailed benefitsthat allegedly had been funneled to Mayo. Former Trojans basketballcoach Tim Floyd abruptly resigned after a Yahoo! Sports report detailedan alleged $1,000 cash payment from Floyd to a man who had helped steerMayo to USC. The investigation is believed to also include Trojansrunning back Joe McKnight, whose use of a 2006 Land Rover and ties to amarketing entrepreneur in Santa Monica also have come under scrutinyafter a recent report in the Los Angeles Times.

This news comes at the same time Sports Illustrated launched a special report on the drug abuse of former assistant coach Dave Watson, who used both team and university doctors to help him get thousands of prescription pain pills, an addiction that Carroll himself knew about.

I might be one of the last to think that Carroll isn’t fleeing the Titanic, but the timing of his jump certainly is fortuitous for the coach and potentially catastrophic for the university and the football program.

Auburn S Stephen Roberts arrested for unlawful gun possession, evading arrest

OXFORD, MS - NOVEMBER 01:  Stephen Roberts #14 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates with the Auburn student fans after defeating the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on November 1, 2014 in Oxford, Mississippi. Auburn defeated Mississippi 35-31.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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A Wednesday night traffic stop led to an arrest for Auburn safety Stephen Roberts. As reported by AL.com, a traffic stop just before 10 p.m. led to discovery of a handgun Roberts possessed without a permit to carry. Roberts bolted from the car in an attempt to evade arrest, but was apprehended and booked into Lee County Detention Center less than an hour later.

Auburn released a statement saying head coach Gus Malzahn was “aware” of the incident. “He is gathering all the facts and will handle the situation appropriately,” the program said.

Roberts appeared in all 13 games last season and was expected to start at free safety.

Malzahn offered praise to the junior less than a week ago.

“There’s no doubt Stephen Roberts, he was one of our better special teams guys last year,” Malzahn said last week. “He’s got experience at the safety position the second half of the year, had a very good spring. Just turning into one of those leaders of the defensive side that I know(defensive backs coach Wesley) McGriff has a lot of confidence in.

“He’s a savvy football player; he just understands football. He’s starting to develop into the player that we really expected when we recruited him and I’m proud of where he’s at right now. He’s got to go out there, he’s got to keep improving and all that but he’s a football player.”

Both charges are misdemeanors. The maximum sentences carry no more than a year in jail and $6,000 fines. He is due to appear in court Nov. 17.

TCU, Auburn, others name starting quarterbacks

COLUMBIA, SC - AUGUST 28: Kenny Hill #7 of the Texas A&M Aggies drops back to pass South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Game week is upon us, which means it’s time for those mired in quarterback derbies to declare a winner. At least for Week 1.

A number of announcements have come down the pike of late, so we funneled them all into one post here.

First, TCU announced that Texas A&M transfer and short-lived Heisman favorite Kenny Hill has beaten Alamo Bowl hero Foster Sawyer to win the Horned Frogs’ starting role next Saturday against South Dakota State.

“He’s in as good a shape as I’ve ever seen him,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Stronger, faster than he was coming out of high school. I mean, he’s done a great job of re-doing himself.”

Auburn has the unenviable task of opening against college football’s best quarterback in Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and the player charged with that task will be Sean White. The one-time Tiger starter reclaimed his role by beating former Florida State quarterback and Last Chance U. star John Franklin III and incumbent Jeremy Johnson.

“It feels really good,” White told Auburn Undercover. “I feel blessed to be in this position, and I feel responsible to lead this team against Clemson. I’m happy coach put this responsibility on me and my teammates believe in me. I feel like they have a reason to believe in me. We’ll be ready to go come Saturday.”

At Wisconsin, Bart Houston will lead the Badgers on the field as they open against LSU at Lambeau Field. In what may be a savvy karma play, head coach Paul Chryst selected Houston, a fifth-year senior named after Packers legend Bart Starr, over redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. “I felt like Bart did everything he needed to do and earned the right to get the start,” Chryst said in a release.

At Virginia Tech, new head coach Justin Fuente tabbed Jerod Evans as his starter over fifth-year senior Brenden Motley and true freshman Josh Jackson. A Dallas native and Trinity Valley College transfer, Evans is the first JuCo transfer to ever win the Hokies’ starting gig. Fuente indicated more than just Evans will play in the Hokies’ opener opposite Liberty.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Fuente said, via the Roanoke Times. “We have a lot of development, a lot of coaching, a lot of mentoring left to do with all three.”

Finally, Fresno State selected redshirt freshman Chason Virgil over Ford Childress and Kilton Anderson to start as the Bulldogs open at Nebraska. For Virgil, the announcement comes at the end of a sordid saga after Mississippi State pulled his scholarship offer late in the recruiting process.

“He earned the job. It wasn’t that we’re just selecting somebody,” Fresno head coach Tim DeRuyter said of Virgil, via the Fresno Bee. He clearly separated himself. If you look at the statistics, he had over twice the throws and less than half of the interceptions of any of the guys that were close to him. The longer we were in the system, the clearer it became.”

Baylor DB Travon Blanchard to miss season opener with knee injury

WACO, TX - AUGUST 31:  Matt Davis #4 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs runs the ball against Travon Blanchard #48 of the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on August 31, 2014 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Baylor defensive back Travon Blanchard will miss the Bears’ opener after undergoing knee surgery to mend a minor meniscus tear, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports. Senior Patrick Levels is expected to replace him in the starting lineup.

A junior, Blanchard earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 accolades after starting all 13 games as the Bears’ nickelback, where he posted 83 tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, three picks, six passes defended, two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.

Baylor trainers will monitor Blanchard’s progress before approving him to return to the lineup for the Bears’ second game with SMU.

Baylor opens its season next Friday night against Northwestern State.

CFT Previews: Playoff Darkhorses

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins throws a  pass against the Virginia Cavaliers at the Rose Bowl on September 5, 2015 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 34-16.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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How does one define a Playoff darkhorse?

Washington would have been a perfect example… eight months ago. The Huskies do have a good defense, a promising quarterback and a smart coaching staff, seemingly the building blocks of a team set to make a big jump in 2016. But eight months of people separately talking themselves into Chris Petersen‘s Huskies has congealed into a team coming off a 7-6 season now being overrated heading into the actual season.

So, no, in my book, Washington is not a playoff darkhorse. Not anymore. Neither is Houston. Or Tennessee.

Here’s a brief look at teams that could actually take us all by surprise this fall:

Florida: Remember how good the Gators were before Will Grier got suspended and everything fell apart? The Gators started 6-0 before a respectable 35-28 loss at LSU, then rebounded with a 27-3 thrashing of Georgia in the Cocktail Party before the offense spent November and December struggling mightily just to hit 20 points. But with another year under Jim McElwain, Florida should be deeper and much less Treon Harris-y. And then there is the fact that winning the SEC East places a team automatically just 60 minutes away from the Playoff.

Louisville: Bobby Petrino has his roster in a better position than anyone anticipated upon taking over for Charlie StrongLamar Jackson was a revelation at quarterback last season, and should only improve after a full off-season taking starter’s reps. Florida State comes to Louisville for an upset-ready noon kick on Sept. 17.

UCLA: No one’s going undefeated in the Pac-12, but an opening day win at Texas A&M would forgive an in-conference slip-up. USC, Arizona and Arizona State should be in transition years, and there’s a strong chance Stanford, Washington and Oregon beat each other up in the Pac-12 North. Jim Mora has done a nice job re-stocking the shelves in Westwood, starting with possible future No. 1 pick and Heisman darkhorse Josh Rosen.