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.

Amidst medical mystery, Georgia’s Trenton Thompson withdraws from spring semester classes

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 19: Anthony Jennings #11 of the Lousiana-Lafayette Rajin' Cajuns is pursued by Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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While the details are very hazy at the moment, a member of the Georgia football team has apparently suffered a health scare recently that calls into question his short-term future with the football program.

First reported by WSB-TV, defensive end Trent Thompson suffered an unspecified medical emergency very early Thursday morning and was rushed to an Athens hospital. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Thompson was released from the hospital Thursday morning, his mother confirmed to the television station. No specifics have been released publicly, although the Journal-Constitution, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that no drugs or alcohol were involved. It’s also believed that the issue isn’t related to football.

In the wake of those reports as well as others that indicated he had a run-in with Athens police immediately prior to the hospitalization, UGA released the following statement, which reveals that Thompson will be withdrawing from classes this semester because of the unspecified medical issues:

Based upon recent events, Trenton Thompson’s family has authorized UGAAA to release the following information. Trenton has been dealing with a significant medical issue which required emergency hospitalization and extended hospital stay. Trenton was recently discharged from the hospital and remains under close medical care. With respect to last night’s incident, the physical appearance and behavior described in the UGA PD report is solely related to an adverse reaction to medications prescribed specifically for his medical condition. The adverse reaction required emergency transport to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released. Toxicology tests performed at the hospital were negative for OxyContin. We cannot release any further information at this time due to federal privacy laws. Due to the medical issues, Trenton is withdrawing from classes this semester, and his family requests privacy during this time.

As a sophomore last season, Thompson started seven of the 13 games in which he played. His 9.5 tackles for loss led the Bulldogs, while his five sacks were tied for the team lead and the 56 tackles with which he was credited were tops among linemen.

Capping off that breakout season, he was named MVP of UGA’s Liberty Bowl win over TCU.

Iowa State DB Mike Johnson suspended amid domestic violence arrest

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 19: Wide receiver Keke Coutee #20 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders blocks defensive back Mike Johnson #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones as he rushed for yards in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Iowa State has suspended defensive back Mike Johnson after he was arrested Thursday on the accusation that he choked his girlfriend.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Johnson and his girlfriend were fighting over social media posts and music playing over each other’s phones when each tried to reach for the other’s device. That escalated to the point where Johnson allegedly had both hands around the woman’s throat, to the point where told police she “saw stars” and had trouble breathing.

She also had, according to police, bite marks on her right cheek, on her neck and behind her left ear, a swollen upper lip and had what appeared to be dried blood on her. Johnson also said he was bitten during the altercation.

“We are aware of Mike Johnson’s arrest and allegations associated with his arrest,” head coach Matt Campbell told the paper in a statement. “Our program has zero tolerance for domestic violence. Mike has been suspended from all team activities, including practice, under the student-athlete code of conduct policy as we gather more information. His long-term status with the team will be determined once we gain more facts.”

Johnson posted 44 tackles, three pass breakups and 1.5 tackles for loss in 12 games last season.

Report: Former Pitt RB James Conner given clean bill of health

James Conner
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James Conner will head to next week’s Combine with a clean bill of health, according to a report Thursday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“Pitt RB James Conner, who missed most of 2015 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, received a clean scan today, a week prior to combine, per source,” Schefter tweeted.

Conner led the ACC in rushing in 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 5.92 yards per carry with 26 touchdowns in 2014, before a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis caused him to miss all but one game of the 2015 campaign. (And in that one game, Conner still rushed for nearly 10 yards per carry and two touchdowns.)

He battled back to return to the field in 2016, again leading the Panthers with 216 carries for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns while finishing third on the club with 21 grabs for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

Conner will compete at the Combine for draft positioning with fellow running backs Leonard FournetteDalvin Cook and D'Onta Foreman, among others.

Willie Taggart no longer speaking with Oregon beat reporter

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Willie Taggart walks the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on September 28, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Oregon strength coach Irele Oderinde is now back at work after serving a 1-month, unpaid suspension resulting from three players being hospitalized after Oderinde’s first supervised workout with the Ducks, but the story is not over in Eugene.

According to Oregon’s student paper The Daily Emerald, Taggart is no longer speaking with the reporter who broke the story, The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

“When you’re not fair and honest, then to me that’s personal,” Taggart told the paper. “When you do something that’s negative and it’s going to be personal, then I won’t have shit to do with you.”

Greif, for his part, stands by the story and says the paper will not issue a retraction, as Taggart requested:

“Though the description of the workouts is understandably subjective, ultimately what has never been in doubt is that three UO players were hospitalized after the first week of offseason workouts and received treatment for several days,” Greif said in an email to the Emerald.

Complicating matters for Taggart is that the university commissioned faculty athletics rep Tim Gleason, a journalism professor, to review the report. In speaking with players, coaches, trainers and AD Rob Mullens, Gleason found the report not to be inaccurate.

“It’s not an unfair characterization; it’s just that the way it gets interpreted is regrettable,” Gleason said. “In the shorthand of journalism, it resulted in an impression that may not have been completely accurate.”

Also contradicting Taggart are members of his own staff, who said off-the-record that the workouts were “military-style.” Greif quoted them anonymously when inserting that phrase into the piece:

Players this week were required to finish the same workouts, which were described by multiple sources as akin to military basic training, with one said to include up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs.

It’s not clear where the story goes from here, except that Taggart made clear twice in his interview with the Emerald he has no plans to answer questions from Greif in the future.