Week One Winners & Losers

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OK, we’re gonna try this.  Let’s attempt to take a warp(ed)speed look at the weekend that was in college football.

As always, your winners/losers mileage may vary,

WINNERS

College football fansWho else could lead off the list of winners from this weekend than the ones who have waited patiently since early January for real football to return?  Sure, there were the requisite blowouts featuring ranked programs feasting on a variety of cupcakes, but that matters not right now.  College football is back, and the world is once again right.

Mark HerzlichActually, this probably should’ve led off the list of winners.  The Boston College linebacker who was the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 missed the entire 2009 season while battling a rare form of bone cancer, and then missed most of summer camp leading up to the 2010 season opener with a broken foot.  Saturday, Herzlich was back in uniform and back on the field in BC’s 38-20 win over Weber State.  Any other storyline fails miserably in comparison to this one this weekend.

Rich Rodriguez & Denard RobinsonBased on the first game of the 2010 season, Rodriguez has hitched his future as Michigan’s head coach to Robinson.  Based on the results of the first game, Rodriguez has hitched said future to the right quarterbacking horse. In front of 113,090 fans packed into the renovated Big(ger) House, Robinson was a spread-offense virtuoso in leading Michigan to a 30-10 win over UConn.  Robinson set a school record for quarterbacks with 197 yards rushing, while also going an efficient 19-of-22 for 187 yards.  Again, it’s one game, but that corner may be in sight.

Robert Bolden & Aaron MurrayPlenty of games lay ahead for the Penn State and Georgia quarterbacks, but, after Game One of their starting careers, Bolden and Murray gave at least a hint of hope at the position.  For more on those two young guns, as well as the not-so-stellar debut of another hyped rookie Swamp starter, click HERE.

College football fans, the sequelThe TCU-Oregon State game is exactly why college football fans loathe the eight months between the end of one season and the start of another.  That was college football at it’s finest.  And the Horned Frogs ultimately gave non-BcS fans a reason to squeal in delight with their 30-21 win.

Mark ManginoHe may have been a big ol’ meanie to his players, but the former Kansas head coach never, ever lost to a school like North Dakota State.  By the count of 6-3, no less.  Again, the Div. 1-A Jayhawks scored a lone field goal against a Div. 1-AA school.  At home.  Here’s a prediction: the ego of soon-to-be-former KU athletic director Lew Perkins will continue to haunt and set the KU football program back for years to come. 

MACrifice my…The Red Hawks of Miami didn’t play too well in their 34-12 loss to No. 4 Florida. They piled up 4 turnovers (one being a pick-six) and committed 9 penalties. But the valuable experience playing one of the nation’s best teams can only give Miami some insane confidence they won’t get from playing any MAC foe. The Red Hawks won just a single game last year, and three over the past two years. Let’s look for a better year from them now that they have a good game in their pocket.

Michigan State’s ground gameThe Spartans rolled up 297 yards rushing in their 38-14 win over one of the directional Michigan schools.  Last season, MSU eclipsed the 200-yard mark just twice, with their season-high of 219 yards coming against, you guessed it, their opponent Saturday, Western Michigan.  It was a historic day for MSU as well; Le’Veon Bell became the first freshman in school history to rush for more than 100 yards in his first game.

Jimbo FisherReplacing a legend is never easy.  Replacing a beloved legend and struggling with the dessert tray on the field in the opener?  Fortunately, the new Florida State head coach doesn’t have to play the what-if game as his Seminoles easily dispatched his alma mater Samford 59-6.  Quarterback Christian Ponder eased into his Heisman campaign with 167 yards and four touchdowns in his only half of work.

That K-State RB. ya know, Ol’ What’s His NameThe name would be Daniel Thomas, and the hidden Big 12 running back gem just continues to produce whenever he’s given the ball.  28 carries, 234 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-22 win over UCLA?  Yeah, one of these days his plain name will become a household one.

College football fans, the threequelWe still have Boise State-Virginia Tech on Monday night.  As the esteemed Zac Brown Band opined, life is good today.  Life is good today.

LOSERS

Ole MissI’ll let THIS and the following CFT tweet encapsulate what happened in Oxford Saturday: “Ole Miss just got Nutt’d by 1-AA Jacksonville State. Karma, she’s a nasty, nasty wench.

Les MilesMy Elyria homeboy embarrassed himself tonight.  His LSU team came within five yards of losing to a North Carolina squad that was down nine starters.  Nine.  Starters.  You play a team that’s dipping that far into the depth chart and only come out with a 30-24 win?  As much as I’m embarrassed for him, Miles should take that and pound the performance exponentially.

Florida’s offense: At the half, the Gat
ors had scored more points (
21) than they had total yards (12, 13 or 14, depending on which account you saw).  Anything that happened after that against a vastly inferior MAC opponent could not mask the stench still lingering from the first two quarters of play.  Yes, it was only one game, but it was so horrendously bad and disjointed and lackadaisical and sloppy that it has to at least raise a flag that’s off-red in color.  Following the game, head coach Urban Meyer said he thought coming in that this unit would struggle, but “I didn’t imagine the offense incompetence that we experienced today.” We think the coach may have gone a little easy on his offense after what it wrought.

Mike Pouncey and his attempts at shotgun snaps.  To use a golf analogy, the Florida center very closely resembled a 38-handicap attempting a Phil Mickelson flop off hard pan.  It was worm burners and skulls and shanks as far as the eye could see.  You could count on both hands the number of horrendous snaps by Pouncey, and would then need your feet or another’s hand(s) to finish tabulating.  No excuse from a veteran who just days ago called out the Gator freshmen to just play.

Oregon’s scoreboard operatorOregon scored 59 points and rolled up 429 yards of total offense on New Mexico in the first half.  The mercy rule was apparently in effect in the second half as the Ducks scored a meager 13 points, although they did finish with a staggering school-record total of 720 yards of total offense in the 72-0 win.

Tate ForcierThe sophomore was Michigan’s starting quarterback in 2009.  One year later, Forcier is buried behind a fellow sophomore (starter Denard Robinson) and a true freshman (Devin Gardner).  Expect those transfer rumors that have been floating around out there in recent weeks to pick up volume if the current pecking order remains the same.

Ron ZookStaked to a 13-3 halftime lead, the Illinois head coach executed a perfect play-to-lose strategy in the second half as the Illini allowed 20 unanswered Missouri points to come out with a 23-13 loss.  Take heart, Illini fans; the end of the Ron Zook Era is over in three months.  Or less.

Chris Fowler on ESPN‘s College Game Day In doing their analysis of the Oregon State-TCU clash, Fowler stated that the Beavers have “dribbled down their leg” of late in big games.  Given the 15 seconds of fame Rick Pitino achieved in an extortion case over the summer, “down the leg” might not have been the best choice of words.  Still too soon, we think.

Fowler, again  This time, the venerable Game Day host stated live on air that Jeremiah Masoli had not been cleared to play for Ole Miss and will not be eligible until 2011.  One commercial break and (probably) several really bad words later, Fowler corrected the gaffe.  In fairness to Fowler, it’s not like the Masoli situation was big news or anything.

Eye rollsI sprained that ability with the Masoli-Fowler thing.

John TaylorWhat kind of a jackass would pick Florida No. 1 in the nation?  The former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver/Duran Duran bassist, that’s who.  I don’t know what goes through some people’s heads sometimes.

Duke starting safety Jeremy McDuffie out indefinitely after surgery on fractured thumb

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What we do know is that Duke will be without its starting piece of its defense.  What we don’t know is for how long.

The football program announced Wednesday that Jeremy McDuffie underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured right thumb.  The junior sustained the injury during a recent Blue Devils practice.

As a result of the injury and subsequent surgery, McDuffie will be sidelined indefinitely.

McDuffie transitioned from cornerback to safety this past spring. Entering summer camp, the defensive back had been listed as a starter for the Blue Devils.  The past two seasons, McDuffie had played in 24 games.

Duke opens the 2017 season Sept. 2 against NC Central.  They will kick off ACC play three weeks later on the road against North Carolina.

Albeit with a disclaimer, Jim Mora doesn’t see Josh Rosen leaving UCLA early for NFL

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Most expect Josh Rosen to be one of the first quarterbacks selected when the next NFL draft rolls around.  Rosen’s coach, though, doesn’t see the outspoken junior being a part of the pool of available draftees.

“My firm belief is that he will not leave,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora told Yahoo SportsPete Thamel over the weekend. “I don’t think he’ll leave. …

“I want a disclaimer, I have an option to change my opinion. But as we sit here right now, I can really honestly say I don’t think he’s going to leave.”

Mora’s proclamation comes less than two weeks before the Bruins kick off the 2017 season and around five months before draft-eligible early entrants have to officially file their paperwork with the NFL.

Rosen flashed brilliance as a true freshman in 2015, passing for nearly 3,700 yards and 23 touchdowns.  His sophomore campaign was marred by a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder that sidelined him for the final six games of the season.  Rosen has resoundingly rebounded from that health issue, and will head into the 2017 season 100-percent healthy.

Whether he enters the 2018 season 100-percent Bruin remains, his head coach’s confidence notwithstanding, highly unlikely or even doubtful, especially given his recent comments that football and school don’t mix.

Report: Call to escort service coincided with a Hugh Freeze recruiting trip

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Not surprisingly, more details are surfacing in Hugh Freeze‘s unceremonious exit from Oxford.

Freeze resigned as the head football coach at Ole Miss last month in part because of Jan. 19 phone call to an escort service that was initially deemed to be a misdial.  According to the Wall Street Journal, that call came a few hours after a university plane landed in Tampa, Fla., as part of a five-day, 13-stop recruiting trip.  On that plane was Freeze as well as other members of the Rebels football staff.

The discovery of the link between the call and recruiting trip came after a review of phone records and other documents.

After Freeze’s “resignation,” Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork described an unspecified pattern of personal misconduct that led to the coach’s departure.  Bjork somewhat expounded on that pattern to the Journal.

Although school officials had previously declined to characterize the alleged misconduct, Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said in response to questions from the Journal about Freeze’s travel that the university’s investigation uncovered “calls of a similar nature” over the course of several years, often matching up with travel logs showing the coach’s use of the school plane. The school said it examined his travel logs from peak recruiting times—often November, December and January—when Freeze would travel out of state, using the school plane and other public resources.

“When we say pattern, we are describing other phone numbers that when you Google them pull up similar type websites, services, however you would describe them,” Bjork said. “We took action swiftly.

Speculation of late has there being more, potentially much more, to Freeze’s forced resignation.  Only time will tell how much more will ultimately come out — especially if another former Ole Miss head coach’s lawsuit, kicked out of federal court for lack of jurisdiction, is revived in the state of Mississippi as expected.

Reports: ankle injury likely to keep WR Michael Pittman out of USC’s opener

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In his college football preview Bible, the great Phil Steele had Michael Pittman listed as one of three starting wide receivers for USC.  With the start of a new season a little more than two weeks away, Pittman doesn’t appear set to make that magazine projection come to fruition.

According to multiple reports, Pittman suffered an ankle injury during practice Tuesday and was taken off the field via a cart after having a boot placed on his left foot.  While X-rays taken post-practice showed no break or fracture, the sophomore has been diagnosed with the dreaded high-ankle sprain.

As a result, the Los Angeles Daily News writes that “[i]t seems unlikely he would be able to play against Western Michigan.” Rivals.com tweeted that the injury “[p]robably keeps him out of season opener.”

At least for now, the football program has yet to officially rule Pittman out for the opener.

Pittman was a four-star 2016 recruit, rated as the No. 9 receiver in the country.  As a true freshman last season, he caught six passes for 82 yards.