SEC, Big Ten story lines & picks for Week One

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While just short of a handful of schools from two of the most powerful conferences in the country got a jumpstart on the 2010 season Thursday, the vast majority of the SEC and Big Ten will begin the year in earnest Saturday.

Here’s a quick look at a few of the story lines that could be spun throughout the day today.

Miami (OH) at No. 4 Florida (Noon ET)

THE LINE: Florida -38

THE PLOT: In Year One A.T. (Anno Timini), all eyes will be on John Brantley as he replaces a living college legend at quarterback.  And what better way to get your feet wet at a big-time football program than at home with a ritualistic MACrifice?  While you won’t be able to glean much from the results given the level of competition, there could be hints littered throughout the glorified scrimmage that Brantley, and thus the Gators, may very well be just fine.

THE PICK: Obviously, the only question here is whether or not the Gators cover in The Swamp.  Just as obviously, there’s only one answer to that question — a resounding yes.

THE SCORE: Florida 276, Miami (OH) -6

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UConn at Michigan (3:30 ET)

THE LINE: Michigan -3

THE PLOT: A renovated Big House.  Likely a new starting quarterback.  And the same old warmness below Rich Rodriguez‘ ass.

From NCAA investigations at two different schools to a horrific won-loss record his first two years in Ann Arbor, there’s little doubt that the hottest seat in America resides squarely underneath RichRod’s backside.  And the coach enters his third year with the Wolverines with not only a question at quarterback — expect Denard Robinson to start, though — but with numerous questions in a secondary that’s been decimated by injuries and transfers.

Starting off with a loss in a refurbished home in a must-win year?  That would not be the optimum result for a coach who could be pleading the case to keep his job at season’s end.  An “L” in this Game One would not look good on the résumé he tosses on his new athletic director’s desk.

THE PICK: Uh-oh, RichRod.  The Huskies return 16 starters from 8-5 squad, including their starting quarterback.  Somewhere, Zach Frazer is licking his chops at the thought of facing a pencil-thin secondary.  That said, the Wolverines eke out a win — I think — but do not cover.

THE SCORE: Michigan 21, UConn 20

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San Jose State at No. 1 Alabama (7:00 ET)

THE LINE: Alabama -37.5

THE PLOT: No Mark Ingram, no Marcell Dareus?  No problem, at least this week.  Much like with other games involving ranked schools today, the Tide’s main goal will be to come out of the exhibition game relatively unscathed health-wise, setting themselves up for a big non-conference game next weekend in Tuscaloosa against Penn State and the SEC opener at Arkansas three weeks from today.

THE PICK: After much thought and some serious numbers crunching, we’ve gone out on a limb and decided that ‘Bama will both win outright and cover.

THE SCORE: Alabama 55, San Jose State 10

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No. 18 North Carolina vs. No. 21 LSU (8:00 ET)

THE LINE: -10

THE PLOT: There may not be a coach in America with more pressure on him today than Les Miles.  Playing against a school that’s down seven defensive starters, two offensive starters, and 13 players total due to the lingering NCAA investigation into agent-related issues, there is simply no way that Miles can afford to drop this game.  Hell, given the fact that there are already rumblings that he has to win big this year in order to keep a secure hold on his job, there’s simply no way he can afford even a close win against such a gutted and decimated team.  No pressure, Coach Miles.

THE PICK: There’s a part of my soul, way down deep where utter evil and heartlessness lurks, that would like to see the reaction that would come with Miles’ Tigers stumbling and falling to the Tar Heels.  Not even Miles could stub his toes in such a horrific fashion, could he? I think not.  Maybe.

THE SCORE: LSU 34, North Carolina 14

Report: Oregon State paying search firm up to $200k to find new head football coach

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We’re all in the wrong business.

Earlier this month, Gary Andersen abruptly stepped down as Oregon State’s head football coach.  While cornerbacks coach Cory Hall was named interim head coach, the football program is on the hunt for a permanent replacement.

To aid in that search, OSU has hired the search firm of DH International, Inc.  And, according to information obtained by The Oregonian, that Chicago-based company could potentially get paid for its efforts.

DHR International, Inc. will conduct the search for a fee that “shall not exceed $200,000,” although Oregon State redacted the value of each fee installment in its response to a public records request.

The newspaper also wrote that “[athletic director Rick] Barnes… previously worked with DHR International when finding a new athletic director when he left Pitt for OSU.” It was DH International that also recommended Barnes for the Pitt job.

Alabama WR Donnie Lee Jr. charged with domestic violence, dismissed

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That didn’t take long.  At all.

According to WBRC-TV in Tuscaloosa, Donnie Lee Jr. was arrested early Thursday morning on one count of third-degree domestic violence.  It’s alleged that a verbal confrontation turned physical and resulted in his girlfriend sustaining unspecified injuries.

From the television station’s report:

Police responded to a domestic call in the 900 block of 12th Street around 1 a.m.

The arrest report states there was a verbal disagreement between Lee and a female he was dating. The disagreement resulted in a physical altercation and caused injuries.

Lee is — or was — a senior walk-on for the Crimson Tide.  He suffered a torn ACL during summer camp earlier this year, making it an easy decision for the football program to dismiss him from the team, which they did shortly after word of the situation surfaced.

“Donnie Lee Jr., a walk-on who has not been participating in team activities since a knee injury in August, has been dismissed from our football team and is no longer part of our program,” a statement from head coach Nick Saban began. “This behavior will not be tolerated from anyone and is not representative of our football program.”

Phil Fulmer can feel Butch Jones’ hot-seat pain

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With each passing week, the heat underneath Butch Jones‘ coaching seat only intensifies. One former Tennessee head coach, for what it’s worth, can feel the pain of a man who many feel will join him in the ex-UT coach’s club sooner rather than later.

Phil Fulmer, who played his college football for the Vols, was the head coach at his alma mater from 1992 to 2008, finishing with a 152-52 record, nine double-digit win seasons, two conference championships, six division titles and one national championship. Despite that success, Fulmer was fired following a 5-7 2008 season.

Butch Jones, in the midst of his fifth season at the school, has a 33-24 overall record and a 14-21 mark in SEC play, including an 0-3 start this season. The Vols have yet to place higher than tied for second in the SEC East under Jones, one of myriad factors that have him facing the firing squad at season’s end, if not before.

Asked this week about the storm of criticism enveloping the beleaguered coach, the former coach commiserated with one of his Rocky Top predecessors.

“I understand exactly where he is,” Fulmer told the Citizen Tribune of Morristown, Tenn. “It’s a tough time for him. …

“Nobody ever promised anybody that every day is going to be good. Everybody has difficulties, it’s just that in athletics, and particularly at a place like Tennessee, it is so exposed.”

When asked about quality replacements should the trigger be pulled on Jones, Fulmer told the paper “I wouldn’t begin to go there.”

“There’s so much football to be played and that’s not my responsibility anyway,” Fulmer said, adding, “My hope is that the players will run out, and make a good year out of it.”

For the record, the Vols are 56-51 and are on their third head coach since Fulmer was fired. That’s the worst 10-year stretch, winning percentage-wise, for the football program since the early 1900s.

Florida loses starting DE to season-ending hip surgery

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The injury-plagued career of Jordan Sherit (pictured, right) has come to an end because of, you guessed it, another injury.

Sherit suffered an injury in last Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M that dropped Florida 1½ games behind Georgia in the SEC’s East division.  Wednesday, Jim McElwain confirmed that the starting defensive end will miss the remainder of the year after undergoing season-ending hip surgery because of the injury sustained in that game.

As this is the lineman’s final season of eligibility, the collegiate portion of his playing career is over as well.

It’s a bad deal, man,” the head coach said of the situation.

Sherit’s 2.5 sacks are currently second on the Gators, while his five tackles for loss are tied for third.  The redshirt senior missed a handful of games in the 2014 and 2016 seasons because of a variety of injuries.  He also missed the last half of his senior season of high school because of a torn ACL