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

Forza Blu? Michigan reportedly planning spring practice in Italy

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines directs a drill during warm ups prior to playing the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on October 29, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Undeterred by recent NCAA legislation, Jim Harbaugh is reportedly going international.

As noted by the Detroit Free Press, a post on Rivals affiliate TheWolverine.com reports that Michigan is planning to spend the final week of football spring practice in Rome, Italy. The team would not only practice several times on Italian soil, but would allow the team to visit the sights in the area and even leave players in Europe to study abroad for a semester.

The move would no doubt ruffle even more feathers in the football and NCAA communities after Harbaugh famously took the Wolverines to the IMG Academy down in Florida for spring practice last March. That prompted recent legislation that was passed at the NCAA convention in Nashville this week — a Harbaugh Rule if you will — that prohibited off-campus practice during a vacation period outside of a playing season.

While it would seem that would rule out trips away from Ann Arbor for spring football practices, it appears the Michigan athletic department is going to push forward by exploiting a slight loophole in the language of the rule. While vacation periods may be off limits like spring break, it appears the Wolverines would be looking to leave town at the end of April, which would be after the semester ends  and does not fall into any scheduled vacation time.

We’ll see if anything becomes of this report and if Michigan indeed announces such an unprecedented trip. While foreign tours are common in sports like basketball at the NCAA levels, it really hasn’t happened in football aside from occasional games overseas so it will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend, or is just another case of Harbaugh being Harbaugh.

Wisconsin extends head coach Paul Chryst’s contract through 2022

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 2: Corey Clement #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers points toward head coach Paul Chryst  as the two celebrate following the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. Wisconsin defeated Western Michigan 24-16. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
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Winning a New Year’s Six bowl and outperforming nearly every preseason expectation typically results in a nice boost to a head coach’s bank account and that is the case at Wisconsin this year.

The Badgers announced on Friday that the school’s athletic board had extended head football coach Paul Chryst another year, running through January 31, 2022. Additional contract terms such as a potential raise or incentives were not announced, meaning this was likely just tacking another year onto the former Wisconsin quarterback’s original deal in Madison.

The move isn’t new for the program, which pulled the same extension almost to the day a year ago after Chryst led the Badgers to a 10-3 year in 2015 that was capped off with a Holiday Bowl victory over USC. The coach one-upped that performance in 2016, winning the Big Ten West title and getting selected for the Cotton Bowl, which the team won over previously undefeated Western Michigan.

Chryst’s original contract he signed two years ago was for a term of five seasons through 2020. He originally made around $2.3 million a year but should be hitting the $2.5 million mark heading into 2017 with various increases incorporated.

Vol legend Peyton Manning reportedly advising alma mater Tennessee on AD search

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 08:  Former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning walks across the field prior to the start of their game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on October 8, 2016 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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New College Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning is staying busy with various ventures now that he’s retired from the NFL and apparently the Vol legend doesn’t mind returning to Tennessee to add another thing to his plate.

According to a report from the Knoxville News Sentinel, Manning will be part of a search committee for the school’s chancellor as she attempts to find a new athletic director following the retirement of Dave Hart at the end of June. Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is also expected to be part of the six-person strong committee, which will assist recently hired search firm Turnkey Sports and Entertainment in finding the right candidate to lead the department.

Hart’s retirement has known for some time and the fact that Alabama surprisingly hired Greg Byrne away from Arizona without as much as a sniff from the Vols have made many in the fan base a little anxious about the state of the on-going  (and lengthy) search. Manning’s former head coach Phillip Fulmer has reportedly been mentioned as a candidate for the gig but the hire of a search firm and advisory committee suggests that a hire may be a few weeks or months away.

There are few folks connected to Tennessee football more fondly remembered around Knoxville than Manning and you can’t help but wonder if Vols fans longing for some stability and a big name in the AD chair wouldn’t mind pushing the quarterback’s name for the position. If so, perhaps joining the search committee is the first step toward that path and a move that would certainly make a lot more sense than bringing somebody like Fulmer back into the fold.

All Oregon football players released from hospital after offseason workouts

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 29: defensive back Tyree Robinson #2 of the Oregon Ducks dives into the crowd before the game against the Arizona State Sun Devilsat Autzen Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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All three Oregon football players hospitalized this week as the result of grueling offseason workouts have been released.

The news, first reported by The Oregonian,  concludes a dramatic week for the program and their new coaching staff after revelations surfaced on Monday that the three were sent to a nearby Springfield, Oregon hospital with symptoms of rhabdomyolysis. The condition primarily affects soft tissue and is triggered by overwork and can eventually lead to damage of the kidneys.

Senior offensive linemen Doug Brenner was actually released on Tuesday per the report, but it took until Friday morning for redshirt freshmen tight end Cam McCormick and offensive lineman Sam Poutasi to be sent home from the PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center.

As a result of the workouts, Oregon suspended new strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde for one month without pay and changed the structure on the staff so that Oderinde, who came over from South Florida with Willie Taggart, no longer reports to the Ducks’ coach but the school’s director of performance and sport science.

While you never want to hear about football players going to the hospital, it’s great to hear that the three players who were injured as a result of the workouts have been cleared and sent home.