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

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

Brandon Wade/AP Images for NFLPA
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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

AP Photo/Chris Brashers
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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.