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2011: A look ahead

Carnac

What’s that you say?  It’s barely stopped raining confetti following Auburn’s BcS title game win over Oregon and we’re already talking about a 2011 season that won’t start for another eight months?

You damn right we are.  And you know why?  ‘Cause that’s how we roll.  Or something.

Anyway, here’s a brief look at how at how things may play out in 2011.  And, based on our look ahead to the 2010 season, you don’t have much to worry about if there’s anything negative about your school below.

FIVE COMPELLING STORYLINES

1. The Conference Shuffle
You may have forgotten, but several schools will be ditching long-time conference homes for some new league digs in the coming months.  Nebraska to the Big Ten from the Big 12.  Colorado and Utah to the Pac-12 from the Big 12 and Mountain West, respectively.  Boise State from the WAC to the Mountain West.  Perhaps the most intriguing angles will come from the two BcS conferences with new additions; specifically, how will the split into two six-team divisions and the addition of a conference title games affect the leagues as it pertains to the BcS?   It’s hard to say at this point in time how this mini-expansion apocalypse will impact the various conferences, but it’s certainly a new frontier these leagues will be plowing.  And something that bears watching as conferences like the Big Ten and Pac-12 continue to sniff around adding even more schools in the coming years.

2. Can the Big Ten Recover From New Year’s Day Bowl Embarrassment?
Last year at this time, we were asking if the Big Ten had displayed earnest growth based on their performance during the 2009-2010 bowl season or if it was merely just a one-year blip.  The 0-5 massacre on the first day of 2011 suggests the latter is the case.  We all know — or at least should know — that bowl performance is not indicative of conference strength one way or the other.  However, it’s a number that’s used to fuel national perceptions, and right now the Big Ten is back nationally to where they were two years ago: a sloth-like, middle-of-the-road conference that has a long ways to go before they climb even with the likes of the SEC.

3. Can Texas Two-Step Back to Their Rightful Place?
Any way you parse it, the 2010 season was an unmitigated disaster for the Longhorns.  Not only was UT 5-7 overall, but they finished an unsightly 2-5 at home — including losses to UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor.  Again, at home.  Following that disaster, Mack Brown overhauled most of his coaching staff either of his own volition or out of necessity, including bringing in new coordinators on both sides of the ball.  There’s simply too much talent on that roster for yet another disastrous year in what could very well be Brown’s swan song.  Oops, did we type that out loud?

4. Last Call for JoePa-hol… Maybe?
Despite rumors that were running rampant that Joe Paterno would be forced to step down due to health concerns, the legendary head coach will be back for his 147th season as Penn State’s head coach in 2011.  But, will it be his last?  Paterno is entering the final year of a three-year contract, and administration stated after a meeting with Paterno this past weekend that his future won’t be discussed until after the ’11 season.  He’s gotta go at some point; will this be the year?

5. The NFL Labor Issue
Based on the rhetoric coming from both sides of the NFL’s labor issue, there seems to be a very good chance that the players will face a lockout at the hands of the owners.  There’s also a very real possibility that the lockout could drag into the regular season, costing the NFL games… and leaving college football as the only “major” game in town.  We’ve heard from a couple of members of athletic departments that filling that football vacuum and sliding some games to Sunday “is something that has been talked about and will continue to be talked about if (the labor projections) continue” to look gloomy.  The NFL will always be king; college football, though, could very well be a big beneficiary of that league’s stupidity.

WAY-TOO-EARLY HEISMAN ROLL CALL

1. Andrew Luck, Stanford — The quarterback surprised some by returning to the Cardinal for another season.  It would be no surprise at all if he winds up in New York City in December holding the same stiff-armed trophy he finished runner-up for late last year.  With the coaching change at Stanford, this could be a dicey player to stick at the top of the Heisman list, especially if athletic director Bob Bowlsby decides to eschew the in-house approach for a replacement.

2. Darron Thomas, Oregon — The Ducks quarterback should’ve received more Heisman attention than he did in 2010.  That will be rectified in 2011 as the junior-to-be is too talented as a runner/passer to ignore much longer, the spotty play in the national title game notwithstanding.

3. Cam Newton, Auburn — After the way the quarterback dominated SEC defenses in 2010 on his way to winning the Heisman, why would he not start at the top of the 2011 list?  Simple: only one player has won back-to-back Heismans, and that happened way back in the seventies.  Of course, any inclusion of Newton is predicated on Newton returning — BIG if — instead of leaping to the NFL after just one full season as a starter at this level, which we will know no later than Saturday.

4. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina — We believe it’s a federal law to throw a curve ball into the middle of these lists, so why not toss the talented soon-to-be sophomore running back into the early mix?  Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns as a true freshman.  Logic would dictate that Lattimore will receive even more of the workload after proving himself to head coach Steve Spurrier to be a reliable cog in the offense.  Logic would further dictate that, with a year of seasoning and three-fifths of a solid offensive line returning, Lattimore will be able to improve his 4.8 yards per carry from this past season.

5. Kellen Moore, Boise State — Based on Moore’s first three years with the Broncos, he would appear to be a mortal lock for at least another trip to New York City, provided he can remain healthy and the wheels don’t fall of the BSU freight train.  The senior-to-be has averaged 3,600 yards, 33 touchdowns and just six interceptions in his three years as a starter, all the while completing just over 68 percent of his passes.

6. LaMichael James, Oregon — The nation’s leading rusher in 2010, James, like Luck, decided to eschew a shot at NFL riches for another season of college ball.  For whatever reason, despite his productivity, James does not receive the hype and/or love from the media that he seemingly deserves.  Is he being viewed as a “system back”?  We’ve gotten that impression from some and, although we believe it to be unfair, it’s not likely to abate at any point in the near future.

Bonus Pick: Matt Barkley, USC — Call this one a serious hunch, but we feel that the USC quarterback is on the precipice of fulfilling all of his immense high school hype and throwing some serious numbers out onto the Heisman table.  Plus, it will make NBC Sports.com‘s college football editor very happy, and could potentially help curb his incessant whining over the state of the Trojans.

RICH RODRIGUEZ MEMORIAL COACHING HOT SEAT

1. Paul Wulff, Washington State
The man is 5-32 in three years with the Cougars and barely made it to a fourth.  If he doesn’t show marked improvement in the won-loss ledger, you can bet he won’t get a fifth year and will instead be thrown out on his Wazzu.

2. Mark Richt, Georgia
During his 10 years in Athens, Richt has only finished a season with a winning percentage below .667 twice.  Oddly enough, both of those seasons have come in the past two seasons.  The native Dawgs are getting restless and, with a new boss sitting in the athletic director’s office with a winning mandate for the football program, Richt had better win this season.  Or else.

3. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA
Slick Rick returned to his alma mater with great fanfare… and has proceeded to defecate all over the bed.  All Neuheisel has done is wrap a pair of 4-8 seasons around a 7-6 second year during his three seasons with the Bruins.  Perhaps most disturbing is an utterly inept offense that spits and sputters despite the presence of a former quarterback in Neuheisel and an offensive genius in Norm Chow.  What it will take for Neuheisel to remain at UCLA beyond 2011 remains to be seen, but it sure as hell will have to be more than what Slick Rick has done thus far.

4. Ron Zook, Illinois
No coaching hot seat would be complete without the perpetually on-fire backside of The Zookster.  Zook bought himself a little bit of time with a seven-win season that included a bowl win, but he’s still just 28-45 in six years in Champaign.  Even more unacceptable is the fact that he’s 16-32 in the Big Ten and has finished above .500 in conference play just once — the Illini’s Rose Bowl season waaay back in 2007.  It appears Zook will get one more season to show the program is taking significant strides.  Then again, dude has the same number of lives as a couple of felines, so we’ll see.

5. Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
The fourth-year coach was thiiis close to getting the axe following the 2010 season, but received a reprieve.  Based on what we’ve been told, it will be his one and only commutation, especially since the Sun Devils are the early pick by some to win the Pac-12 South.  In other words, Erickson might want to consider winning post-haste.

FIVE RISERS
1. Alabama
C’mon, this might be the biggest no-brainer of the bunch.  Is there really any explanation needed as to why the Tide, which finished No. 10 following the blowout of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl, is very likely to find their way back into the Top 5 for the vast majority of the upcoming season?  Then again, the quarterback position…

2. Syracuse
Oh yeah; I went there.  Consider this my one flyer in this category.  And, no, I don’t see the Orange as a Top 10 team at any point during the ’11 season, but, given the strength — or lack thereof — in the Big East, Doug Marrone has the opportunity to do something special as early as this coming year.  Hell, UConn made a BcS bowl; why can’t the ‘Cuse?

3. Texas
Almost as big a no-brainer as ‘Bama.  Again, too much talent on that 85-man roster, and Mack Brown is too good of a coach, to allow yet another debacle to take place.

4. Mississippi State
OK, I lied; there’ll be two flyers in this category.  A 9-4 season that included close losses to Auburn and Arkansas, and a big blowout win in the Gator Bowl has the Bulldogs set up for a leap from perennial also-ran to legitimate contender in Dan Mullen’s third year in Starkville.

5. Florida/Florida State
A new head coach at UF seems to have reinvigorated the entire Gator football program, something we fully expect to carry over into a rebound ’11 season.  A first-year head coach at FSU has no doubt brought new life to Seminole Nation, as evidenced by a recruiting class that could easily finish in the top three in the country.  It’s a better sport when programs like these two are relevant.  Expect that to be the case in 2011.

FIVE TUMBLERS
1. Virginia Tech
Yes, Frank Beamer & Company seem to reload year after year, but losing one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country in Tyrod Taylor (no relation) as well as two of your top running backs to early entry is not exactly the optimal recipe for sustaining success.

2. Missouri
Blame this hunch solely on attrition.  When you lose your best player on the offensive side of the ball, especially when it’s at the quarterback position, and one of your best on the defensive side of the ball, there’s a very good chance for at least a brief step back for the Mizzou program.

3. Ohio State
Shocked at this one?  You shouldn’t be.  Four offensive starters suspended for, barring a successful appeal that results in a reduction, the first five games of the season does not portend well regardless of the schedule.  Down one-third of your starting offense, suddenly games against Miami (Fla.) and Colorado don’t look like such gimmes, and the game against Big Ten co-champ Michigan State gets that much tougher.

4. UConn
Randy Edsall was Huskies football.  As much as we didn’t like the hire for Maryland, we think his departure will have a very negative impact on UConn, which go only eight votes in the final AP Top 25 poll, at least for the short-term.  Then again, they do still reside in the Big East…

5. Michigan State
Personally, I thought the Spartans’ magical 11-2 run was a mirage.  They will prove me correct in 2011 as they have to go on the road to face Notre Dame — a team I nearly put in the Five Risers — Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa, as well as take on Wisconsin at home.

EARLY-BIRD TOP FIVE*

1. Oklahoma: I didn’t buy into the preseason Sooner hype last offseason; I’m ready to this year.  Wholeheartedly and unequivocally.

2. Oregon: Darron Thomas, LaMichael James & Company returning?  Something tells me that No. 2 might end up being too low.

3. TCU: Sure, the Horned Frogs lose some key performers — chief among them quarterback Andy Dalton — but the combination of a likely Top Five placement in the preseason polls, a “favorable” schedule and a helluva football program built by Gary Patterson has the private school poised to remain on the fringes of title contention for years to come.  Especially when their schedule really gets easy with the move to the Big East.

4. Stanford: Jim Harbaugh left a helluva foundation for whoever it is that takes over, especially if the Cardinal stays in-house — which they should — for a replacement.  Oh, and Andrew Luck somewhat unexpectedly returning for another year?  That’s enough to at least start them off inside the Top Five.

5. Boise State: The move to the Mountain West should help the Broncos’ “street cred”, even just a little and even with the loss of Utah from the conference.  Chris Petersen reaffirmed his commitment to BSU, and Kellen Moore returns for one more season on the blue turf.  What’s not to like about their chances of competing yet again for a BcS slot… and maybe a spot in the national title game in New Orleans a year from now.

(*With this Top Five, and unlike the early Heisman Roll Call, I’m going with the assumption that Newton will leave early; if he doesn’t, Auburn would be my No. 2)

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Report: Texas A&M reached out to LSU DC John Chavis

LSU v Washington

Texas A&M is currently without a defensive coordinator, a fact that may have cost the Aggies the nation’s top linebacker prospect and a five-star defensive tackle. Head coach Kevin Sumlin fired Mark Snyder on Nov. 28, and with a holiday week upon us and the Aggies’ Liberty Bowl date approaching, it now appears likely the one month mark will pass before Snyder’s replacement is hired.

That’s not to say Sumlin has sat on his hands, though.

Sumlin chased LeBron-in-a-headset free agent Will Muschamp, and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and Florida’s D.J. Durkin were also reportedly on the Aggie wish list as well.

On Sunday night, a report emerged out of Baton Rouge through The Advocate that Texas A&M has reached out to LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis.

Chavis has coordinated the Bayou Bengals’ defense for the past six seasons and is regarded as one of the very best in the business. Since his arrival in 2009, LSU has ranked 15th, 22nd, second, seventh, 27th and 18th nationally in yards per play allowed. Before arriving in Baton Rouge, Chavis served as defensive coordinator under Philip Fulmer at Tennessee from 1995-08.

Most importantly for Sumlin, Chavis’ defenses have completely flummoxed Texas A&M’s offenses in their three meetings since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012. LSU has won each of the three games while holding the Texas A&M to less than 20 points and more than 100 yards below their season average. Nabbing Chavis would be a major coup for Sumlin, bringing instant credibility to a defense that last in the SEC in total defense this season while simultaneously weakening a division rival.

Of course, they’d have to get him first. Chavis earns the third-highest salary of all college football assistants at just north of $1.3 million according to USA Today. (Snyder earned $708,000.) His contract expires after this season, and LSU has offered him a extension that Chavis has yet to sign, according to The Advocate.

However, when you’re blowing up half your stadium as part of a near half-billion dollar renovation project, in the long run busting the budget by a few hundred thousand dollars for an elite defensive coordinator is much less costly than putting a mediocre product on the field.

Texas A&M concludes its season in the Liberty Bowl against West Virginia on Dec. 29 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN), while LSU wraps up against Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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Ole Miss QB signee Chad Kelly arrested after scuffle with police

Chad Kelly

Chad Kelly was dismissed at Clemson this April for what Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney deemed “conduct detrimental to our program” but, after a season spent leading East Mississippi Community College to a national title, reclaimed his major college football destiny by signing with Ole Miss earlier this month.

For now.

Back home in his native Buffalo, Kelly was arrested early Sunday morning after fighting with bouncers at a local watering hole and later scuffling with police, reports the Buffalo News. According to Buffalo police, Kelly refused to leave an establishment known as Encore and punched a bouncer in the face. He then took on two bouncers and, according to the police report, said, “I’m going to go to my car and get my AK-47 and spray this place.”

Police officers later stopped a 2005 Ford F-150 pickup, where Kelly was a passenger.

“Kelly was forcibly removed from the vehicle, officers said,” writes the Buffalo News. “Police said Kelly kicked and tried to swing at officers as they removed him from the vehicle. They said he resisted getting into a patrol vehicle and struggled with staff at central booking.”

Kelly has been charged with third-degree assault, second-degree harassment, second-degree menacing, resisting arrest, fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree obstructing governmental administration and, along with a friend involved in the melee, third-degree criminal trespass. All charges are misdemeanors or violations, and Kelly has been released without bail.

“It remains to be seen who was the aggressor and thankfully it was a scuffle where no one was hurt,” Kelly’s attorney Thomas J. Eoannou said.

Kelly is the nephew of former Buffalo Bills great and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. He was named the New York State Sportswriters Association Class AA Player of the Year in 2011 and was regarded as the nation’s top junior college quarterback after throwing for 3,905 yards and 47 touchdowns this fall.

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Mark Richt raids Nick Saban’s staff for strength coach

Mark Richt

They say the strength coach is the most important hire a head coach will make. Between the end of spring ball and the beginning of fall camp, the strength coach is the main point of contact players have with their football program on a daily basis. With longtime strength coach Joe Tereshinski stepping down late last month, Mark Richt has raided Nick Saban‘s strength staff at Alabama to fill his all-important head strength coach role, as Georgia announced the hiring of Mark Hocke on Sunday evening.

“Mark received some outstanding recommendations from those in the industry and is known for his high energy, ability to motivate and relate to his athletes, as well as develop them mentally, physically, spiritually and socially,” Richt said in a statement.

Hocke served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach since 2009. At Georgia, he’ll join a growing roster of Bulldog coaches with Crimson ties (get it?), including defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (a former Alabama assistant), linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer (formerly Alabama’s director of player development) and offensive line coach Will Friend (a former Alabama player).

Hocke replaces Tereshinksi, the Bulldogs’ head strength coach since 2011 and a member of the Georgia program since 1982.

Prior to his arrival in Tuscaloosa, Hocke worked as an assistant coach and the head strength and conditioning coach at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.

Hocke will join the program in Charlotte before its date with No. 20 Louisville in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30. “This will allow him to be better prepared as we begin our training program in January,” Richt said.

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Gus Malzahn, new Auburn DC Will Muschamp haven’t discussed staff changes yet

In addition to the reported $1.6 million salary, one of the things that drew Will Muschamp to Auburn’s open defensive coordinator slot was the freedom granted by head coach Will Muschamp to select his own staff to work under him.

And while staff changes are likely coming for a defense that ranked 74th in yards per play allowed and 61st in scoring, they won’t happen before the Outback Bowl.

“We have not talked about it,” Malzahn told AL.com. “We’re just trying to give these guys the best plan to win the bowl game. We’ll talk about that at a later date.”

It has been widely speculated within the industry that Muschamp would like to bring Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson with him to The Plains, but a spot is not open for him at this time. Safeties coach Charlie Harbison is set to serve as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator in the Outback Bowl. And it’s possible that a few Gators assistants could look to follow their former boss to Auburn after new Florida head coach plucked Geoff Collins away from Mississippi State to coordinate his defense.

In the meantime, though, rival recruiters are pouncing as the Auburn defensive staff remains in flux. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College safety Tony Bridges chose Ole Miss over Auburn in part because of the uncertainty around the Tigers’ staff.

“(Muschamp) looked at tape of me and said ‘I really need you,’ this and that. I have love for them because they showed me love, so I can’t say nothing bad about them,” Bridges told the Sun Herald before inking with the Rebels on Wednesday. “That being said, it was too late. I didn’t know which way the defensive coaches, like (cornerbacks coach) Melvin Smith, was he going to be there or not?”

No. 19 Auburn will meet No. 18 Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl at noon ET on New Year’s Day (ESPN2).

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Report: Jim Harbaugh not the only NFL coach Michigan is chasing

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints

With the NFL’s own coaching carousel ready to start spinning in the next seven-to-10 days, we’re beginning to find out which college coaches that have caught the NFL’s eye and, apparently, the other way around. Michigan’s interest in San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is widely known, but he’s apparently not the only NFL coach that the Wolverines have an interest in.

According to a report from CBS NFL reporter Jason La Canfora, Michigan is aware that the former Wolverines quarterback is likely to remain in the NFL for the 2015 season, so interim AD Jim Hackett and company have shown interest in John HarbaughSean PaytonJason Garrett and Doug Marrone.

Of course, just because Michigan is interested in those coaches doesn’t mean those coaches are interested in Michigan.

Harbaugh has expressed no desire in leaving Baltimore, Payton already reportedly earns more than the $8 million the Wolverines are dangling in front of Jim Harbaugh, and Garrett is expected to sign an extension with the Dallas Cowboys after the season.

So it’s clear why those coaches wouldn’t be interested in Michigan, but it’s unclear why Michigan would even be interested in them. None have any recent experience coaching the college game. The only coach in that group that does have college experience is Buffalo’s Marrone, who went 25-25 in four seasons at Syracuse.

A .500 mark at Syracuse isn’t typically a stepping stone to Michigan, even if there is an NFL stop in between.

With Harbaugh reportedly using Michigan’s interest for leverage against other NFL suitors, it appears likely at this point that the Wolverines will find their next coach within the college ranks.

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Jameis Winston cleared in FSU Code of Conduct hearing

Jameis Winston; David Cornwell

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has been cleared of wrongdoing in his Code of Conduct hearing with the university, his attorney David Cornwell tweeted Sunday.

“In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for ANY of the charged violations of the Code,” he wrote.

The hearing was held Dec. 3, and a decision was not expected until next month.

Former Florida state supreme court justice Major Harding presided over the case.

“This was a complex case, and I worked hard to make sure both parties had a full and fair opportunity to present information. In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for any of the charge violations of the Code. Namely, I find that the evidence before me is insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof,” Harding wrote in a letter obtained by USA Today.

“As summarized in the preceding paragraphs, the evidence regarding the events that unfolded between you and (the woman) once in your room is irreconcilable. In light of all the circumstances, I do not find the credibility of one story substantially stronger than that of the other. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses. I cannot find with any confidence that the events as set forth by you, (the woman), or a particular combination thereof is more probable than not as required to find you responsible for a violation of the Code.”

While the alleged 2012 sexual assault will likely follow Winston through the civil courts and the NFL Draft process, it will not bar him from completing this season – and likely his college career.

Florida State’s Code of Conduct says that his accuser can pursue an appeal, but it would not be heard before the Jan. 12 College Football Playoff Championship. Moreover, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner is widely expected to declare for the NFL Draft by the Jan. 15 deadline.

Winston and the ‘Noles will meet Oregon in the CFP semifinals at the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

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How many FBS programs are still looking for their first bowl win?

A chance at history was missed on Saturday. Western Michigan and South Alabama had respective shots at winning their first bowl games in program history, but each fell short. Western Michigan saw a comeback effort squandered by a catastrophic scoop ‘n’ score in a 38-24 loss to Air Force in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and South Alabama blew a late lead in its first ever bowl appearance, falling to Bowling Green 33-28 in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.

The losses meant the Broncos remained on and the Jaguars joined the ignominious list of eight FBS programs that are 0-fer in their only bowl trips. Warning, this list is #MACtion heavy (via Winsipedia.com):

Akron – 0-1
Ball State – 0-7
Buffalo – 0-2
Kent State – 0-2
Louisiana-Monroe – 0-1
South Alabama – 0-1
Western Kentucky – 0-1
Western Michigan – 0-6

If you want to look at the bright side, those programs are fortunate. Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Texas State and UTSA have never enjoyed the fortune of even appearing in a bowl game, and poor UAB was axed with an 0-1 bowl record.

Western Kentucky has a chance to get off this list on Wednesday as the Hilltoppers will face Central Michigan (3-4 all-time in bowl games) in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (12 p.m. ET, ESPN).

 

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Boise State running back Jay Ajayi declares for NFL Draft

Jay Ajayi

Boise State running back Jay Ajayi will play his final game as a Bronco in the upcoming Fiesta Bowl against Arizona. Ajayi announced Sunday he will enter himself into the 2015 NFL Draft, passing on his final year of eligibility at Boise State.

Ajayi informed his teammates while in the huddle for the final rep in practice on Sunday. He reportedly made his decision to enter the NFL Draft without hearing from the NFL advisory group in place to assist with the decision-making for underclassmen thinking about leaving for the NFL Draft.

Ajayi was the second-leading rusher in the Mountain West Conference in 2014 with 1,689 rushing yards, but he was the conference’s leader with 25 rushing touchdowns. His 25 rushing touchdowns are second in the nation only to Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.

The NFL Draft has not been particularly kind to running backs in recent seasons. Last year there was not a single running back chosen in the first round of the draft. There was also a record number of underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft, which left many without a football home in 2014. Ajayi will be likely to be drafted somewhere between the second and fifth round of the draft, although exactly when he may go is difficult to predict.

Boise State has had six running backs drafted in NFL Draft history. Doug Martin to the Tampa Bay Bucaneers in 2012 is the most recent Broncos running back to be picked.

Boise State will face Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl on December 31.

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Oklahoma State AD wants to schedule Oregon and UNC

Mike Holder

Oklahoma State athletics director Mike Holder took note of the way the College Football Playoff selection committee seemed to punish Big 12 champion Baylor for its non-conference scheduling this fall. He wants to make sure that does not affect his Cowboys program in the future, and he is already talking about the possibility of scheduling future games with Oregon.

“I’ve never seen a game in Autzen (Stadium),” Holder said in an interview with The Oklahoman. “I’d love to see that. There’s a lot of those opportunities out there. Need to see some places that are different, rather than Austin, or Norman, or Manhattan, Kansas.”

Holder’s overall point is the entire Big 12 has to schedule tougher non-conference competition. More importantly, the Big 12 needs to win games against other power conference opponents on the schedule. This year the Big 12 failed to score a signature victory. the biggest win in non-conference play may have been TCU’s victory at home against Minnesota. While it may be tough for Holder to ensure Oklahoma State (who opened the season against Florida State) to improve on the non-conference slate in 2015, he knows it will be important for the Big 12 to step things up as a whole in the future.

Holder and his head coach, Mike Gundy, do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to non-conference scheduling.

“My football coach doesn’t want to play anybody any good, definitely, but jiminy Christmas, we looked pretty good against Florida State,” Holder said. “Until we beat OU, that was the highlight of our season.”

It seems everybody would love to take a crack at Oregon, but Holder has a wider scope as well.

“I’d really love to play North Carolina home and home,” Holder mentioned. “Find somebody from the Big Ten or Pac-12 to play us. Maybe even the SEC.”

The Big 12 plays nine conference games and does not currently require its members to schedule another power conference opponent the way the ACC and SEC will be regulating. The lack of a conference championship game may hurt a Big 12 champion in the playoff picture, as seemed to be the case this season, but it is far too early to suggest it is a make-or-break factor. One thing that is somewhat clear is the strength of a team’s non-conference schedule is a factor.

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UCLA’s Mora and Auburn’s Malzahn potential NFL targets?

Jim Mora

The college football world may be on Jim Harbaugh watch to see what happens with his coaching future (NFL or Michigan?), but two other college coaches could be ready to receive some NFL overtures as well.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora and Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn are two names of interest according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapoport suggests the San Francisco 49ers would be a team expected to have an interest in Mora, where he would replace Harbaugh. The 49ers have a knack for plucking coaches from the Pac-12, so perhaps that makes sense. Mora also has NFL coaching experience with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. Mora’s time in the NFL did not end well, but sometimes a return can ay off. Just ask current Seattle head coach Pete Carroll.

Malzahn would be a potential target for the Miami Dolphins, per Rapoport, if the team makes a coaching change. Malzahn has no NFL coaching experience, which can be of some mild concern. But if offensive innovation is the key to winning in the NFL, then perhaps Malzahn would be a good fit if he was interested.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports the 49ers could be expected to let Harbaugh go between 24 and 48 hours following the conclusion of the NFL’s regular season. So the wait may drag on for Michigan fans. If Michigan does not lure Harbaugh to Ann arbor, the coaching carousel in the college ranks could get into fifth gear one last time. Pittsburgh and Colorado State still have to find a head coach too.

Stanford head coach David Shaw will reportedly turn down any NFL offers that may come his way.

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Report: Stanford’s David Shaw will not entertain potential NFL offers

David Shaw

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has remained mostly silent on his potential coaching future despite reports saying his alma mater, Michigan, have gone all in on luring him to Ann Arbor. No matter what happens in the coaching carousel in the NFL, Harbaugh’s successor at Stanford plans on staying put at Stanford.

David Shaw will not listen to any potential NFL coaching offers that may come his way, according to a report by Adam Schefter of ESPN. Schefter says Shaw is committed to coaching in college despite having many tendencies that appear attractive to NFL franchises in need of a new head coach. Shaw is every bit a Stanford guy at this stage in his career, and his desire to stay put has been put on display in recent seasons since taking over for Harbaugh as head coach of the Cardinal.

We should never say “never” when it comes to coaching possibilities, although Shaw’s history with Stanford would suggest he really is loyal to the program. Born in San Diego, Shaw grew up in Michigan before his family moved back to California. Shaw went on to play wide receiver for Dennis Green and Bill Walsh at Stanford. After a few different coaching stops in his coaching career, Shaw returned to Stanford as an assistant coach and later was named the head coach of the program after Harbaugh accepted a job offer from the San Francisco 49ers in 2011.

Michigan would be wise to give a call to Shaw in the event Harbaugh leaves the Wolverines hanging, if they have not already, although Shaw seems very comfortable right where he is with the Cardinal.

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Jimbo Fisher once again asked about Jameis Winston’s NFL future

Jimbo Fisher, Jimbo Fisher

With Florida State’s College Football Playoff semifinal match-up with Oregon looming, Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher continues to be faced with questions regarding the playing status of his star quarterback, Jameis Winston. A ruling in Winston’s recent code of conduct hearing is expected before Florida State faces Oregon in the Rose Bowl on January 1, but at this point it appears very likely Winston will be available and eligible to play. even if the ruling from the university serves a punishment to Winston that would prevent him from playing, Winston would be entitled to appeal the decision and remain eligible until the appeal process plays out. The process, if enacted, could take another two to three months.

Bottom line, expect Winston to play against Oregon.

With that said, Fisher is also hounded by questions regarding Winston’s future. Will Winston head to the NFL or return to Florida State for the 2015 season? Depending on whom you ask, Winston is better off in the NFL or another year in Tallahassee. There is no real clear answer to what is best for Winston. Fisher suggests there is much more to the decision to turn pro that needs to be evaluated. Is it an easy decision? Not likely.

“Yeah, was it for Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck? See, everybody assumes you go, but Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning stayed,” Fisher said, according to The Orlando Sentinel. “It’s not just being a top-two pick. It’s about what you want out of life, to me. Is it to get to the NFL and be a top pick or be at the Hall of Fame, or to be a college graduate.”

There have multiple reports in the past suggesting Winston has the intention to return to Florida State to complete his degree before turning pro.

“We all assume that money drives everything, and it’s a very important factor, but at the same time, other people have a lot of value and things that we may not always see that they can do it.”

So, what does Winston value? That’s the big question that only Winston can truly answer.

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Johnny Majors, who once left Pitt for Vols, says Pitt is still a destination job

Johnny Majors

The University of Pittsburgh is in the midst of its fourth head coach search in five years, leaving the question of whether or not Pitt is still home to a destination job in college football to be answered. At least one coaching legend believes it is; Johnny Majors.

“It’s definitely a destination job, and I think it’s a job you can win the championship at, without question,” Majors while being interviewed by MLive.com. “If you have a strong, supportive, loyal president that wants to win at football as well as academics, and a strong A.D. that’s loyal and will support you, you can win championships at a place like Pitt.”

Majors, of course, coached at Pittsburgh two separate times. The first stint came from 1973 through 1976. His second tour of Pittsburgh came two decades later from 1993 through 1996. Majors won a national championship at Pittsburgh in 1976 (Pitt’s last claimed national title), after which he left the program to go closer to home to coach at Tennessee. So you can understand why his comments about Pitt being a destination job may come off a tad ironic.

Majors is not off-target with that last part of the comment though. Any job has the ability to be a long-standing destination job with the proper and supportive leadership in place on multiple levels. Right now Pittsburgh is looking for a permanent athletics director in addition to a head football coach, so there is undoubtedly some stability issues for the program to address. The same holds true at Michigan, with the Wolverines looking for a new AD and reportedly going all in on San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh .

In a way, every coaching job can be a destination job for the right candidate, and Pittsburgh is no different. Simply being in a power conference does not make any job a destination job for most, but it can be the right job for the right guy if the pair can be matched up.

Pittsburgh is looking to replace Paul Chryst, who accepted a head coaching offer from Wisconsin. Whoever becomes Pittsburgh’s next head coach will be the third coach hired to be head coach since the school parted ways with Dave Wannstedt, not including two interim head coaches.

What do you think? Is Pitt a destination job or not?

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Texas A&M brings down west end of Kyle Field

LSU v Texas A&M

Texas A&M took the next step in a massive renovation project on Kyle Field. The entire project is aimed to improve the facilities at Kyle Field and expand seating beyond 100,000 fans. The $450 million project is a two-year process and is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2015 season after getting started last year. Work began immediately following the conclusion of Texas A&M’s 2013 home schedule.

Today called for the tearing down of the west end of the football stadium, which took place this morning.

Texas A&M tore down part of the east side last year as the renovation project got underway. Texas A&M has already installed a new video scoreboard, the largest in college football. The school also approved a $16 million budget to improve other football facilities including locker rooms and training rooms.

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Colorado State University-Pueblo wins first D2 national title

Jarrod Lacey

Saturday may not have been a great day for Colorado State, but another Colorado program achieved the ultimate glory on the field. Colorado State University-Pueblo shutout offensive juggernaut Minnesota State to win the Division 2 national championship. The ThunderWolves scored a 13-0 victory in Kansas City to win the first national championship in program history.

Colorado State-Pueblo scored 10 points in the second quarter, which proved to be more than enough with the way the defense played. Chris Bonner completed a touchdown pass of 18 yards to Paul Browning in the final minute of the first half to put the ThunderWolves up 10-0. Kicker Greg O’Donnell kicked two field goals. The story was the defense though, with Colorado State-Pueblo holding Minnesota State to just four third down conversions out of 16. Defensive end Darius Allen was all over the field to lead the defense. He ended the season with 15.5 sacks

The last time the Division 2 national championship was a shutout was in 1997 when Northern Colorado blew away New Haven, 51-0. Perhaps it is something in the water in Colorado. This was the first time since 1997 played for the Division 2 title. This was also the first appearance in the championship game for Minnesota State. The game was the lowest scoring Division 2 championship game since Brian Kelly‘s Grand Valley State team defeated North Dakota 10-3 in the 2003 championship game. The CSU-Pueblo program was relaunched in 2008 after a period of inactivity from 1985 through 2007. It did not take long to rebuild the program from scratch into a national title program.

Will Colorado State-Pueblo head coach John Wristen be the next coach to make a move up in competition? Wristen is now 68-16 in seven years as head coach with four straight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships and playoff appearances. Now with a national championship on his résumé, perhaps Wristen will begin to gain some traction in some coaching carousel news.

Remember that another Division 2 coach from Colorado just got a new opportunity. Colorado School of Mines head coach Bob Stitt was recently named the head coach at Montana. Maybe the state of Colorado is becoming the next fertile ground for rising coaches.

As for that other Colorado State? The Rams went down in flames against Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl.

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