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The Kercheval Files: week eight Heisman power rankings

Oh, how things change.

College football is a game where you’re only as good as what you did the week before and perhaps no one had a better week seven than Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, whose Vince Young-esque performance helped the Tigers hang 65 on Arkansas. Initially, I didn’t even have Newton on my list (shows how much I know), but now it’s hard to imagine anyone’s Heisman rankings without him.

On the contrary, no one’s Heisman stock has taken a bigger hit than Michigan’s Denard Robinson. A front runner just weeks ago, a series of injuries and losses have hampered Robinson’s status. Ironically, it was the great play of backup QB Tate Forcier that’s hurt Robinson the most, showing that maybe, just maybe, ‘Shoelace’ isn’t as necessary to Michigan’s success as was previously thought.

Here’s how Newton and the rest of college football’s best stack up.

1) Cam Newton, QB Auburn (last week — #5)

Okay, I’m buying into the hype. Newton has been a beast through the first half of the season and leads his team in passing (obviously) an rushing. He provides tremendous value to his team and, for a first-year starter at the D1 level, has adapted to Gus Malzahn‘s offense tremendously.

Now that I’ve jumped on his bandwagon, all that remains is for Newton to completely tank this weekend against LSU.

2) LaMichael James, RB Oregon (last week — #1)

James has been a workhorse for Oregon’s rushing attack, totaling over 800 yards rushing and 10 total touchdowns. Had it not been for Newton’s ridiculous performance against Arkansas, James would probably still be No. 1. Oregon was idle this week, but James has another opportunity to rack up big numbers against UCLA, who has allowed over 180 rush yards per game.

3) Kellen Moore, QB Boise State (last week –#2)

It was another solid, yet quiet, week for Moore, who tallied another 200-plus-yard game through the air against  San Jose State. It’s not that Moore hasn’t been great, but with Boise State rarely playing on television and late at night, it’s impossible to see how good he is.

4) Andrew Luck, QB Stanford (last week — #4)

Like James, the Stanford QB had a bye week, but takes the field this weekend against Washington State. The Cougars are 118th in the country in points allowed at 40 ppg, so Luck should have a field day chucking the ball down the field.

5) Tim Tebow, QB Florida (last week — NR)

At 4-3, the Gators sure could use another promise from Tebow. By the way, didn’t Urban Meyer have another big, mobile quarterback at Florida who was supposed to be Tebow’s successor?

Just missed the cut, but keep your eye on ‘em: Denard Robinson, QB Michigan, Randall Cobb, WR Kentucky, Matt Barkley, QB USC

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Three days after concussion, Mallett returns to practice

On Sunday, head coach Bobby Petrino was hoping Ryan Mallett would be able to return to practice Tuesday.

Today, that hope turned into a nice little reality for Arkansas.

Declaring himself 100 percent, the Razorbacks quarterback was indeed on the field for practice Tuesday, three days after suffering a first-half concussion against Auburn.

Not only did the junior say that he expects to play Saturday against Ole Miss, but he also attempted to shoot down speculation that he injured his shoulder on the same play he was concussed.

“My left shoulder is not bad,” Mallett said according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “I hit my head pretty good off the ground. That’s what happened. There can be all this speculation, whatever. It happens here and it’s always going to be like that.”

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Video: Dantonio wants Spartans to maintain perspective

Thus far this season, it’s been a magical ride for the Michigan State Spartans — well, except for that whole head coach-having-a-heart-attack thing.

The Spartans sit at 7-0, the first time since 1966 they’ve hit that mark.  They are ranked No. 8 in the USA Today and Associated Press polls, but, more importantly, they were No. 7 in the initial BcS rankings.

Coach Mark Dantonio, however, is hoping his players don’t get ahead of themselves and spoil what could be the first BcS bowl bid in the school’s history.

 

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FSU's Ponder still nursing an elbow injury

If Florida State had a game this weekend, there’s a fairly decent chance that their starting quarterback would be unavailable.  Fortunately for the surging Seminoles, they have a most fortuitous bye week scheduled.

Christian Ponder suffered an injury to the bursa sac in his right (throwing) elbow during the first half of FSU’s close-call win over Boston College.  He visited a specialist on Monday, and was deemed to have not suffered any more extensive damage to the elbow than what was already known.

For the time being, Ponder will be held of practice, with the player pointing toward Saturday as the goal for an attempted return.

And what of FSU’s next game a week from Thursday against North Carolina State?

“I’m going,” the senior said.

That would certainly qualify as good news for the ‘Noles as a win against the Wolfpack would put them in complete control of the ACC’s Atlantic Division; FSU currently stands atop the division at 4-0, while NC State is alone in second place at 2-1.

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Rose Bowl finds a new title sponsor

Nearly four months after losing their title sponsor, the Rose Bowl has reached an agreement with a new company to take over the prestigious “presented by…” slot.

According to the Associated Press, Vizio will become the new presenting sponsor for The Granddaddy of Them All beginning with the 2011 game and running through 2014.  An official announcement will be made Wednesday.

Vizio, an HDTV and consumer electronics company based in Irvine, Calif., will replace Citi, which ended its seven-year relationship with the game back in June.

For the next three years, the game will officially be known as the Rose Bowl presented by Vizio, while the 2014 game will be referred to as the Vizio BcS National Championship Game.

“The Rose Bowl game by itself is an incredible pull,” said Randy Waynick, Vizio’s chief sales officer. “The fact that it’s going to be the BCS game is icing on the cake.”

The 2014 game will mark the 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl.

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Wounded Ducks: No. 1 Oregon hurting on defense

Ohio State’s not the only team dealing with injury issues on the defensive side of the ball heading into this week’s games.  In fact, it’s the team that replaced the Buckeyes at the top of the rankings that may be even more depleted defensively.

According to Ken Goe of The Oregonian, the Ducks appear likely to be sans three starters on defense when they take the field against UCLA Thursday in Eugene.

The defensive trio that look to be in danger of missing the game, per the paper, are defensive tackle Zac Clark (groin), defensive end Terrell Turner (toe) and cornerback Anthony Gildon (ankle).  With that said, head coach Chip Kelly isn’t prepared to rule anyone in or out 48 hours or so before kickoff.

“I haven’t ruled anyone for Thursday,” Kelly said. “We don’t do that today. You’ll have to wait until the day before the game like we’ve done every game since we’ve been here.”

In addition to the injury question marks on defense, at also appears likely backup running back Kenjon Barner will also be unavailable.  Barner suffered a concussion as a result of a violent collision in the Ducks’ Oct. 9 win against Washington State.

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Buckeyes to be down a pair of key defensive contributors

If Ohio State’s going to bounce back from their thumping at the hands of Wisconsin last Saturday, they’ll have to do so without a couple of key pieces to their defense.

Starting linebacker Ross Holman suffered a foot injury in the first half of the loss and will not play against Purdue this Saturday.  Additionally, the senior could miss the following week’s game as well.

Jonathan Newsome is expected to take over for Homan in the starting lineup.

In addition to Homan, the Buckeyes will also be without nickel back Christian Bryant this weekend.  Bryant is suffering from a bacterial infection (cellulitis) in his right foot and will be unavailable.

The freshman, who saw his on-field role increase substantially when Tyler Moeller suffered a season-ending injury, is being treated at the OSU Medical Center and could remain there until Thursday according to head coach Jim Tressel.

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Ark. eye doctors offer free Lasik procedure to SEC officials

Compared to last season around this time, this year had been relatively quiet on the normally volatile SEC officiating front.

Then the Arkansas-Auburn game had to go and happen.

A pair of questionable calls — one that allowed a Tiger touchdown to stand despite seemingly indisputable evidence that the runner had fumbled before crossing the goal line, the other on an Arkansas fumble that was returned for another TD — left Razorback fans in an uproar following the 65-43 loss. Fans weren’t the only ones questioning the calls, however; the football program itself petitioned the SEC regarding the very questionable rulings.

And then there’s the McDonald’s Eye Associates.

Due to an overwhelming concern for the optical health of the officials involved in the controversy, and in a humanitarian gesture that cannot and should not be downplayed, the Fayetteville-based company has offered their services to the gentlemen in stripes who worked the game.

Here’s the press release by way of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

“The officiating of the game has come under much scrutiny among Arkansas fans because of two controversial calls that went against the Razorbacks. Both plays directly led to Auburn touchdowns.

“Errors and incorrect calls from the game could have possibly been avoided with better vision. McDonald Eye Associates believes that a laser vision correction procedure will result in fewer mistakes in the future.”

SEC football: Don’t lose an eye catching the fever!!!

Yes, the group is offering free Lasik procedures to the officials involved in the calls.  And people wonder how football can be considered a borderline religion in that area of the country?

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Penn State player popped for pot possession

(Alliteration: all the cool kids are doing it!)

Defensive end Sean Stanley has been held out of Penn State’s last two games, although no one outside of the football program was aware of the exact reason or reasons why.

Thanks to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, now we do.

According to the paper, the sophomore was charged Sept. 27 with misdemeanor possession of marijuana.  Another player, redshirt freshman cornerback Derrick Thomas, was named in a search warrant but has not yet been charged.

According to court documents, police seized various items from the players’ residence at Nittany Apartments during a search last month. They include a marijuana blunt, a marijuana roach, at least two dime bags and an empty can of Four Loko malt beverage.

Bags with marijuana stems and seeds and scented candles with marijuana ashes and residue were also seized during the search. 

(The Washington State Agronomists scoff in the general direction of two itty bitty dime bags and a roach.)

Stanley had played in the first four games (one start) of the season before being sat down due to what the school had previously described as “academic issues“.

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Irish in a bit of an injury pickle at the WR position

Injuries will knock out one of Notre Dame’s top offensive weapons and left another one questionable for this weekend’s game, head coach Brian Kelly revealed Tuesday.

Wide receiver Theo Riddick suffered a severely sprained ankle in the Irish’s 44-20 win over Western Michigan and has already been ruled out of Saturday’s game with Navy.

Kelly did not say how long Riddick would be out — “It’s going to take some time” — but there was at least a little bit of good news regarding the receiver; Kelly said that surgery will not be required after initially thinking it might be.

Unfortunately for the Irish, Riddick isn’t the only receiver with an injury issue.

Michael Floyd is hampered by a hamstring injury, and Kelly said the All-American candidate’s availability will be a game-time decision.

“Michael Floyd — we’ll rest him this week, relative to practice, but we are going to dress him for Saturday and see where he is,” Kelly said. “We probably won’t have a true understanding what he can do until game time. Kind of like we did with Armando (Allen) last week and we’ll go from there.”

Floyd leads the Irish with 44 receptions for 624 yards and six touchdowns, while Riddick’s 38/406/3 are all good for second on the team.

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Randall Cobb says 'my bad' for Tweet-blasting UK fans

Coming off a shocking upset win over South Carolina Saturday, Kentucky wide receiver Randall Cobb created quite the stir over the weekend by Randall Cobb Tweet I.PNG

Randall Cobb Tweet II.PNG

Randall Cobb Tweet III.PNG

Today, a contrite Cobb apologized for the rip job that he said was meant for a small percentage of fans but he shouldn’t have done regardless.

“First off, I just want to start off by saying I made a mistake,” Cobb said according to the Lexington Herald-Dispatch. “I did. I messed up. I take blame for everything I said. I know I was wrong. I was wrong for the fact that I took a small percentage of our fan base and lumped them all as one and made it all whole. 

“That’s not how our fans are. 99 percent of our fans are great fans. And they know that. They’ve been there supporting us throughout the years. I took a small chunk and made it something big, and I can’t do that. I made a mistake, I’m a man, I admit my mistake and I just want to let everybody know that I’m sorry and I hope they can forgive me.”

Perhaps the portion of the Twitter trifecta that got under the skin of the fans the most was the “basketball school” insinuation (it is, incidentally).  Cobb said he meant no disrespect to the storied basketball program.

“They know I have more respect for them than anybody,” he said of UK’s basketball program. “I hang out with half those guys. I’ve been over there to talk to Coach Cal. I have so much respect for that program. I’m trying to make this a program that’s similar to that one and try and have a football/basketball school. That’s what my intentions are. That’s what my goals are. It has nothing to do with them.”

While some coaches have taken to banning their players from Twitter and/or Facebook even before a controversy had surfaced, UK head coach Joker Phillips has no intention of keeping his players off the social media sites.

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The Boz says John Blake facilitated agent hook-up

With the exception of roles in a few very forgettable movies, Brian Bosworth has not been seen or heard from much since his NFL career flamed out in the late-eighties.

20 or so years later, Bosworth is back on center stage.  Or, at least, in one of the three rings this NCAA/agent circus has become.

In yet another article from Yahoo! Sports that digs even deeper into the NCAA investigation into the North Carolina football program in general and former UNC assistant John Blake‘s role in it specifically, Bosworth told the website that Blake, who was an assistant during Bosworth’s Oklahoma playing career, initiated contact with agent Gary Wichard prior to the linebacker’s junior season in Norman.

The relationship between Blake and Wichard has been under intense NCAA scrutiny, especially in light of a report from the same website that detailed a financial connection between the two long-time friends during his three years in Chapel Hill.  While Bosworth did not mention any financial incentive Blake may have had, he made it clear that Blake was very much the facilitator in the Sooner football program when it came to making introductions to Wichard.

“John said to me, ‘Hey, I’ve set a meeting up with a guy who I really think you need to know, because he’s going to change your world,’ ” Bosworth said. “The only way Gary Wichard got to me was through John Blake. John made it clear that Gary was the only guy I needed to be with. Every meeting that I had with Gary was set up by John. John would even pick me up and take me there, whether it was at a hotel or whatever.

“You have to understand, John was the eyes inside the locker room. He was the fisherman and Gary was the cook. You’ve got to have somebody out there who is going to get the bounty, and Gary’s the one who then goes and sells the bounty. I don’t understand why they would be trying to skirt the truth on that. That is what it was. It was so blatant. … And I know I wasn’t the only player who saw it.

“As time went on, as I realized Gary got Keith [Jackson] out of Oklahoma, then he got Cedric [Jones], and it was like, ‘OK, something’s going on.’ Then Gary got Stephen [Alexander] and then he’s got Aubrey Beavers. I was thinking, ‘OK, there’s a gravy train here, and I hope John isn’t involved in it.’ “

Alexander confirmed to Yahoo! that it was Blake who set up his initial meeting with Wichard.

Again, a coach recommending an agent to a player or giving counsel on representation — provided the school has what’s called a “Professional Sports Counseling Panel”* — is not against NCAA rules.  However, if money is exchanged because a coach is funneling players to a particular agent, the coach in effect becomes a runner and runs afoul of NCAA bylaws.

Since Blake began coaching in 1985, Wichard has signed at least 13 players whose college careers have overlapped with Blake’s tenure on college staffs. If the NCAA determines that Blake was acting as a “runner” to deliver players to Wichard, the coach could be subject to bylaw 10.1, which determines unethical conduct of staff members. That bylaw bars the “receipt of benefits by an institutional staff member for facilitating or arranging a meeting between a student-athlete and an agent, financial advisor, or a representative of an agent or financial advisor.”

Lawyers for both Blake and Wichard have denied that the former served as a paid conduit to steer players to the latter, saying instead that the financial relationship between the two — which included a $45,000 personal loan and a Pro Tect Management (Wichard’s company) credit card issued in Blake’s name — was that of a friend helping a friend.

Reportedly, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Darius, suspended for two games for his role in the agent brouhaha, told NCAA investigators that Blake had recommended Wichard to not only him, but to now-former South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders as well.

(*much thanks to the fine people at Synrgy Sports for the clarification.  Appreciate it guy(s).)

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UConn starting lineman abruptly leaves Huskies

Suspended for the first three games of the season for violating unspecified team rules, guard Erik Kuraczea was reinstated Sept. 19 and started the next two games at left guard for UConn.

This past weekend, however, and following the Huskies’ bye, Kuraczea wasn’t listed on the school’s two deep depth chart ahead of their loss to Rutgers.

Three days later, the redshirt sophomore is no longer listed in the school’s registry, either.

While he would not get into the specifics of the situation, head coach Randy Edsall confirmed Tuesday that Kuraczea has withdrawn from school and will seek a transfer when the calendar flips from 2010 to 2011.

“Erik Kuraczea has withdrawn from the university due to personal reasons and he will be looking to go to another college in January,” Edsall said. “That’s all I have to say on that situation, but he’s no longer with us. He’s withdrawn from the university due to personal reasons and what he told me is that he’ll be looking to go to another institution in January.”

With Kuraczea gone, Mathieu Olivier will slide back into the starting left guard role.

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Saban on today's players: 'They don't make 'em like they used to'

Given the current climate surrounding the game of college football, especially as it pertains to head injuries and with a Rutgers player paralyzed from the neck down still fresh in everyone’s mind, recent comments coming from Alabama head coach Nick Saban may not sit well with some.

For old-school souls, however, it will be music to their ears.  Or their hearing aids, as the case may be.

Following the Tide’s win Saturday over Ole Miss, Saban let loose a diatribe on the state of college football, railing against what he perceives to be the lack of toughness of today’s players as compared to the good ol’ days.

“That’s what I tell the players all the time, and they hate to hear it, but now I’m going to say it publicly so they can really get upset about it,” Saban said according to al.com, at which point a member of the school’s media relations was heard to utter “forget it, he’s rolling.”

“You’re telling the other guy you’re beating me up, I’m hurt and I’m going to stay down here. It’s just like a boxer. If you go down, get up. If you’ve got to come out for a play, come out for a play. But that’s just me. I’m old-fashioned. I know they don’t make ‘em like they used to. …

“But a guy lays on the ground and eight trainers go out there and everybody thinks he’s hurt and he gets up and runs off the field. When I played, my coach, you wouldn’t want to meet him on the sideline. So if you stayed down, you’d better really be hurt.”

While we certainly agree with a lot of what Saban said — to a certain extent — there’s also something that he’s either failed to take into account or simply forgot as he was trying to get his message across.  Today’s players are simply bigger, stronger and faster than anything the coach or his football forefathers ever had to face.

All of that mass moving at a greater velocity?  It’s the perfect recipe for not only more injuries, but more severe injuries as well.  That’s an opinion shared by at least one member of the Tide football program.

“They don’t really, because those guys are slower than we were,” wide receiver Marquis Maze said. “They don’t make guys like they make them now. That’s how I joke back with him. Back in their day, they played with leather helmets. Didn’t have much protection.”

Certainly some players may take advantage of the heightened sense of awareness surrounding the safety issues in the game by taking an on-field siesta after what may appear to be an innocuous collision, but the fact is there’s an atmosphere that leans toward erring on the side of caution these days.

Was Saban wrong for blasting the toughness of today’s players?  That’s for others to decide, although reigning Heisman winner Mark Ingram, perhaps with his tongue stretching toward one of his cheek,s agreed with his boss.  

“He’s our coach,” Ingram said. “Whatever he says, whatever he does, we’re always behind him. … If that’s what he says, then that’s what’s right.”

Ingram having his coach’s back notwithstanding, there’s little doubt that Saban, right or wrong, will likely catch some flack and a little heat for his most recent ascent to the pulpit.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Mr. SEC.com)

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Proposal would give USC, UCLA $2 million more than other league schools

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott will hold a press conference Thursday to announce, among other things, how the conference will be divided into two six-team divisions upon the arrival of Utah and Colorado in 2011.

One of those other things, however, may actually be more important to the vast majority of schools — how the league will divvy up conference revenues.  And, according to at least one report, two schools will make out better in the revenue distribution than their league brethren, at least initially.

According to Bud Withers of the Seattle Times, and citing sources familiar with recent discussions, conference presidents and chancellors will vote during their San Francisco meetings this week on a proposal that would give both USC and UCLA an additional $2 million annually above what the other schools in the conference will receive.

Those extra payouts would continue until the combined broadcast revenues reach a certain threshold, probably, Withers writes, in the range of $130 million to $170 million annually.  Currently, the combined yearly revenues for football and basketball come in at around $53 million.

The Pac-10 currently lags far behind the SEC/Big Ten and their $200 million-a-year , license-to-print-money deals, but there is good news on the horizon for the conference.  The conference’s current deal was negotiated three years before the other two financial powerhouses did their latest, and they will begin talks on new contracts shortly as the current ones expire next year.

There’s little doubt that the conference will far exceed their take from the last deal, but by how much remains to be seen.  The additions of the Denver and Salt Lake City television markets shoulder bolster the Pac-10′s value, not to mention the fact that, back in May, the ACC reached an agreement with ESPN/ABC that will pay the conference an average of $155 million annually in combined football/basketball deals.  Certainly the Pac-10 could approach if not exceed the ACC’s number.

We’ve been hearing for months now that both FOX Sports and perhaps another media entity would/will make a serious push for the Pac-10/12′s broadcast rights, so a bidding war could push the conference to the outer fringes of what the SEC and Big Ten are pulling in.  Of course, ESPN should not be counted out, either, which could further drive up the price.

Regardless, given the current market for televised sports, it appears that the proposal being bandied about that would give the two Southern California additional revenues may be short-lived if approved, if it’s even necessary at all.

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