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

Northwestern remembers Randy Walker 10 years after his passing

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Ten years ago Wednesday, the college football world was rocked by the unexpected and sudden loss of Northwestern coach Randy Walker.

The athletics department produced a touching video tribute to the man who suffered a heart attack at the age of 52, seven years into his tenure in Evanston.

Walker’s death unexpectedly thrust a young former Wildcats linebacker named Pat Fitzgerald into the head coach’s chair.

“I would prefer to be toasting to his longevity right now,” Fitzgerald says in the video.

Walker posted a 37-45 mark at Northwestern, including a surprising 8-4 campaign in 2000.

That followed a successful nine-year run at Miami University, the southwest Ohio school where he was a player.

Report: Ole Miss violations laid out to NCAA by stepfather of Laremy Tunsil

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The Mississippi football program might not find out its NCAA fate very soon, but the rest of the world learned more specifics regarding the accusations the Rebels face Wednesday.

Sports Illustrated published the results of its investigation, including specific allegations levied by a man in the process of getting a divorce from the mother of star offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil.

Lindsey Miller detailed several potentially serious violations involving Tunsil and his family, and SI was able to view some of the information he says he turned over to the NCAA during extensive interviews.

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations is consistent with Miller’s claims in numerous places, including 12 occasions of free lodging that totaled $2,253. Miller says he told the NCAA those nights were arranged by boosters he met through [Mississippi DL coach Chris] Kiffin, but the NCAA never found that link. Kiffin’s name appears 13 times in the Notice of Allegations, but none of those prove he set Miller up with boosters.

Tunsil was part of a surprisingly star-studded recruiting class in 2013, but head coach Hugh Freeze has consistently defended his program against accusations his recruiting success was thanks to illegal methods.

Freeze, who took over as coach in December 2011, may minimize the NCAA’s case, but nine of the 13 football allegations relate to his tenure there. (Four allegations, including fraudulent ACT scores, occurred under former coach Houston Nutt.) There are four Level I violations under Freeze and a significant Level II failure to monitor charge in which the NCAA says the athletic department and football program failed to monitor Tunsil driving three different loaner cars between August 2014 and June 2015. (That latter allegation is the one Ole Miss is disputing.)

Perhaps complicating matters is the fact Miller went to the NCAA only after having a fallout with Tunsil and his mother, Desiree Polingo, during the summer of 2015.

Polingo denied Miller’s accusations via a statement to SI, and in another statement a lawyer for Tunsil told SI, “You have to consider the source.”

Mississippi has already admitted to 12 of the 13 allegations and self-imposed penalties, but it remains to be seen if the NCAA Committee on Infractions will find the punishment sufficient or more is added.

The full SI story goes into deeper detail about the situations facing not only Ole Miss athletics but also the NCAA enforcement model itself.

NCAA announces common-sense change to bowl selection process

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Andy Janovich #35 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers jumps over Jayon Brown #12 of the UCLA Bruins during the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium on December 26, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The NCAA Division I council announced 5-7 teams will still have a chance to make a bowl this fall.

They will have to wait until all of the 6-6 teams have been picked, though.

The common sense rule tweak was announced Wednesday.

Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State all made bowls last season despite finishing the regular season 5-7, and coincidentally they all won.

In a statement, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who serves as chair of the football oversight committee, said the postseason selection process “makes sense and is fair to the schools and the bowls.”

APR scores will continue to be used to designate which 5-7 teams are eligible to take up the bowl slots left available after all of the 6-6 teams have been selected.

After swelling to 41 games last season, the postseason is not set to expand again until at least the 2020 season as a result of a moratorium on the certification of new bowls was established by the council in April.

NCAA inquires about additional Sandusky victims from Penn State lawsuit

BELLEFONTE, PA - OCTOBER 09: Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (C) leaves the Centre County Courthouse after being sentenced in his child sex abuse case on October 9, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The 68-year-old Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years and not more that 60 years in prison for his conviction in June on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, including while he was the defensive coordinator for the Penn State college football team. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Penn State and Joe Paterno‘s family have already done their part to return the tragic Jerry Sandusky saga to the news this year.

Now the NCAA apparently wants to join in.

The Centre Daily Times reports the college sports governing body has requested information regarding two men allegedly victimized by Sandusky, a long-time Penn State assistant coach, in the 1970s.

Their stories came to light in a court filing from a lawsuit involving Penn State and an insurer. The school tried to collect on a policy to help pay settlements it reached with more than 30 individuals who accused Sandusky of sexually abusing them.

The university tried to recoup money for those settlements from liability insurer Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, but PMA challenged that in court. The two men’s cases were revealed in an order by Philadelphia Judge Gary Glazer that referenced their cases, years earlier than the 10 Sandusky was convicted of in 2012. One said he told Paterno.

The CDT story does not give any indication the NCAA might want to revisit the sanctions that were handed down in 2012.

Rather, it is looking for defense fodder in a defamation lawsuit filed by the family of Paterno, the legendary Nittany Lions head coach

The estate claims the college sports oversight group defamed the man who helmed the program from 1966 until his firing in 2011 after the Sandusky story broke.

A key point is the NCAA’s acceptance of the findings of the Freeh report, the university-commissioned investigation of the Sandusky scandal, which placed blame on four Penn State leaders, including Paterno, who died six months before it was released. The NCAA then levied historic sanctions on the university, including stripping 110 wins from the Nittany Lions, dropping Paterno from first place in the leaderboard for most wins by a Division 1 coach.

But in new documents, the NCAA says it needs the information about the two claimants to refute the estate’s defamation claims.

Sandusky was convicted in 2012, and some of the sanctions Penn State agreed to accept from the NCAA were gradually lifted in the following years.

While Sandusky reportedly continues to work on getting his convictions overturned, it’s not hard to imagine Sandusky’s victims and plenty of members of the Penn State community would prefer to move on from the tragedy — allowing both time to heal in whatever way is possible.

The same can most likely be said of current coach James Franklin, who took the job two-plus years ago after coach Bill O’Brien endured the brunt of the storm and maintained solid recruiting despite the sanctions.

During the spring, Franklin told CBSSports.com, “This is really year one for us in a lot of ways,” citing a return to having close to a full allotment of scholarships.