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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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Mack Brown, on coaching future: ‘If somebody calls, I’ll talk’

Kliff Kingsbury, Mack Brown AP

It remains to be seen whether Mack Brown will return to the sidelines as a head coach next season… or any season for that matter.

What remains clear, however, is that the coaching itch still appears to be there.  Probably.

Earlier this month, Brown’s attorney, Joe Jamail, acknowledged that his client “misses [coaching], frankly.”  During a College Football Playoff luncheon Wednesday, Brown was of course asked about his coaching future.  On that front, the current ESPN college football analyst left the door fairly wide open.

“I’m not going to call anybody.  I’m not going to pursue any jobs,” the 63-year-old Brown said, before adding, “If somebody calls me, I’ll talk to them.”

Brown made it perfectly clear that the right fit would be of the utmost importance as it pertains to a return.  That and the timing of the inquiries.

“I’m very happy with what I’m doing,” Brown began. “I talked to 10 coaches this spring and asked them their opinion of what happens when you get out of coaching.  Some got back in.  Some didn’t.  And they all said, ‘don’t put one minute’s thought into it until December, or late November.’

“And then, if somebody calls you and it excites you, you’ll talk to them.”

Whether that describes the SMU situation is unknown.

Brown, given his ties to the state, has been seemingly connected to that vacancy ever since it came open in early September.  His attorney acknowledged that the university expressed interest, even as athletic director Rick Hart said in a social media statement that “no one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives.”  There was also a report that “SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years;”  Hart flatly stated that there “has been no offer or discussion of compensation with any potential candidates.”

When asked about SMU specifically Wednesday, Brown stated “I haven’t talking to anybody about coaching football at this point.”

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Lawyer drops lawsuit against FSU’s Chris Casher

Caleb Rowe, Chris Casher AP

Four weeks after it was filed, a lawsuit against a current Florida State football player is no more.

According to ESPN.com, a civil lawsuit filed by Tallahassee attorney Adam Ellis against Chris Casher Oct. 1 has been voluntarily dismissed.  The suit stated that the defensive end had agreed to pay Ellis $2,500 for his legal services in connection to the May FSU student code of conduct hearing involving Casher; in a July letter, Ellis claimed he had received no payment.

A source told ESPN.com, however, that Casher had made restitution to Ellis, prompting the attorney to drop the suit earlier this week.  A pretrial hearing on the matter had been scheduled for Nov. 4.

Casher appeared at the hearing for his role in the Jameis Winston sexual assault allegations.  He was sentenced to one year of probation as a result.

In an unrelated matter, Casher was suspended for the Seminoles’ regular season opener before being reinstated in the days leading up to Week 2.

The redshirt sophomore has played in six games this season, with one start.  He’s listed as an “OR,” along with Jacob Pugh, behind starter Mario Edwards as FSU’s “Jack” linebacker on the depth chart heading into the Thursday night game with Louisville.

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Oklahoma WR announces he is leaving team via Twitter

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

Oklahoma’s wide receiver depth just got a tiny bit more shallow Wednesday night. Dannon Cavil, a redshirt freshman, has decided to leave the Sooners in search of a potential transfer.

Cavil announced his decision to leave the program the way all the kids do these days, via Twitter.

“After careful consideration and much prayer, I’ve decided to pursue a transfer from the University of Oklahoma,” Cavil tweeted. “This was not an easy decision to make however, I believe it is the right decision for me based on my goals and aspirations as a student-athlete.

As noted by The Oklahoman, Cavil never played a down for the Sooners despite enrolling early in 2013. Cavil sat out the 2013 season with a redshirt and had not seen the playing field this season for Oklahoma.

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

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Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett: I plan on playing Saturday

J.T. Barrett

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was roughed up against Penn State’s defense last week, but he has the full intention of playing this weekend. Barrett was reported to have a sprained MCL after Ohio State’s double overtime victory at Penn State.

“It would have to be something drastic that happens between now and Saturday, but I plan on playing Saturday,” Barrett said after practice Wednesday, according to Eleven Warriors.

Ohio State will host Illinois in Big Ten play this Saturday. His health will be of great concern for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes of course. Next week Ohio State visits Michigan State in what should be the Big Ten East Division championship game when all is said and done. It will also be Ohio State’s biggest chance to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee before a potential trip to the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes debuted at No. 16 in the first rankings released by the selection committee. Michigan State is in a much more favorable and respected position according to the committee, coming in at No. 8.

Barrett was kept in check by the Penn State defense for most of the night last weekend, but Barrett put the team on his back in the two overtime sessions by running for two touchdowns in the win.

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Jermaine Whitehead still earning his spot back at Auburn

Jermaine Whitehead

Auburn defensive back Jermaine Whitehead continues to work his way back into the mix on Auburn’s defense. This week he will continue to take over a spot on special teams as he gradually works back into the good graces under head coach Gus Malzahn.

Whitehead was welcomed back to the team last week after serving a team suspension. At the time, Malzahn stated Whitehead would have to work hard to earn his place back on the field. Whitehead previously started 26 games at safety for Auburn, so handling special teams responsibilities is clearly not the final goal for Whitehead if he is intending to earn his way all the way back.

Whitehead was suspended following a verbal confrontation with an assistant coach. The suspension ended up costing him four games.

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FSU RB Karlos Williams subject to Title IX investigation

Karlos Williams

Florida State will have to undergo a Title IX investigation connected to running back Karlos Williams. A statement from a university spokeswoman, Browning Brooks, confirmed to the Associated Press the university has a responsibility to follow-up on its own investigation after the incident in question was initially reported to police by the university.

“While each set of facts and circumstances is different, as a general matter notice of any Title IX-related issues would prompt an investigation,” the statement from Brooks said. Federal law states a university must investigate and possible Title IX violations if there is any awareness of possible violations. There is no confirmation Williams is guilty of any violations, and he has not been charged by police for any alleged wrongdoing at this time.

Williams is currently is being investigated by Tallahassee Police Department for his connection to an alleged domestic battery incident. The alleged victim has asked the police to discontinue the investigation, but the police department has continued with the case.

Florida State continues to be investigated by the Department of Education for its handling and response to possible Title IX violations related to quarterback Jameis Winston.

At this time, Williams remains eligible to play for Florida State this week. Head coach Jimbo Fisher said yesterday Williams is expected to play Thursday night at Louisville. The only thing that will change that at this point is if Williams is charged with anything by police.

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UCLA is only team perfect inside the red zone

UCLA v Colorado Getty Images

Successful teams tend to cash in once they enter the red zone, but which teams are doing the best once getting inside their opponents’ 20-yard line? So far this season, UCLA is the only team to have entered the red zone and put points on the scoreboard every time. The Bruins are currently on pace to edge Florida State’s red zone percentage of 97.26 percent. Florida State’s red zone success rate in 2013 en route to a BCS national championship was the best red zone scoring percentage dating back to at least 2008.

Florida State is once again thriving in the red zone this season as well though. The Seminoles are second best in the nation in scoring inside the red zone, trailing only the perfect mark established by UCLA. Auburn is also one of the best in the red zone, which may not be a shock given the offensive firepower the Tigers have to work with. Some of the other teams having good results inside the red zone might be a surprise at first glance. Iowa State and New Mexico State, each with two wins this season, are among the nation’s best at scoring in the red zone.

Top 10 Red Zone Scoring Percentages

  1. UCLA (100.00%; 30-for-30)
  2. Florida State (97.06%; 33-for-34)
  3. Iowa State (96.00%; 24-for-25)
  4. New Mexico State (95.65%; 22-for-23)
  5. Florida (95.45%; 21-for-22)
  6. Nevada (94.44%; 34-for-36)
  7. Auburn (93.55%; 29-for-31)
  8. Rice (93.33%; 28-for-30)
  9. Georgia Southern (92.86%; 39-for-42)
  10. Louisiana-Lafayette (92.59%; 25-for-27)
    Washington (92.59%; 25-for-27)

Red zone scoring success rates take into account all points scored, but which schools are maximizing their red zone opportunities the most? In other words, which schools have the best red zone touchdown percentages? Auburn, Georgia Southern and New Mexico State are the only three schools to rank in the top ten in top red zone scoring and red zone touchdown percentages s far this season.

Georgia Southern and Michigan State share the lead for most red zone touchdowns, but nine schools have a better touchdown percentage so far this season.

Top 10 Red Zone Touchdown Percentages

  1. Texas State (81.48%; 22-for-27)
  2. Arkansas (80.56%; 29-for-31)
  3. Old Dominion (77.42%; 24-for-31)
  4. USC (76.67%; 23-for-30)
  5. North Carolina (76.47%; 26-for-34)
  6. Texas A&M (76.47%; 26-for-34)
  7. Nebraska (75.00%; 27-for-36)
  8. Auburn (74.19%; 23-for-31)
  9. New Mexico State (73.91%; 17-for-23)
  10. Georgia Southern (73.81%; 31-for-42)
    Michigan State (73.81%; 31-for-42)

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Bowlsby doesn’t see “obvious candidates” for Big 12 expansion

Bob Bowlsby

The Big 12 is still sitting on a 10-member conference, which leaves the Big 12 without a conference championship game. It is unknown if the lack of a championship game will hold a Big 12 champion back from making the College Football Playoff, but the possibility does still have some concerned and wondering how this all plays out. For now, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is not focused on expanding the conference to 12 members to get a conference championship game back on the schedule because of the lack of ideal candidates available.

“In our case, I don’t know that there are a lot of obvious candidates out there,” Bowlsby said in a Q&A with The Oklahoman. “We’re distributing about $25 million per school through our distributable revenue, so anybody that would be considered for expansion in our league would have to bring at least pro-rata value.”

Schools that have been tied to some form of expansion rumor or another in recent years have included Florida State, Clemson, UCF, USF, Cincinnati and BYU. It has been a few years now, and there has been no movement from the Big 12 to expand after adding West Virginia and TCU. The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs were added following the departures of Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC, Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12.

“I don’t see much movement in the near- to mid-term,” Bowlsby said. “As we get near the end of some of these TV contracts, which would be 10 or 12 years down the road, there may be some renewed conversations. The only movement that is possible right now is from some of the secondary-level conferences that might move people into one of the five high profiles.”

Bowlsby also suggested any talk about super conferences — 16-team mega conferences that could potentially split from the NCAA model entirely — was nothing more than a fabrication crested by the media. He might be right about that.

“I have heard no serious conversation among people who do this for a living that the super-conference concept has got any traction,” Bowlsby said. “It’s always dangerous when the media starts to interview the rest of the media, and I think that’s where the super-conference thing came from.”

So, for about the 148th time in the past couple of years, the official company line from the Big 12 is the conference is not interested in expanding. At this time, there is no reason to suggest otherwise.

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Forget Marshall, where is Colorado State in new ranking?

Colorado State vs Utah State

Colorado State could very well go 11-1 this season, but even that may not be enough for the Rams to sniff a spot in one of the College Football Playoff affiliated bowls. We should still be paying attention to them though, just as we will East Carolina and Marshall.

As you hopefully are aware now, one spot in the access bowls will be reserved for the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference. In the initial College Football Playoff selection committee ranking unveiled Tuesday night, East Carolina entered the ranking at No. 23. Undefeated Marshall was unranked, and no other team from a non-power conference appeared in the poll either. This means East Carolina is now, I suppose officially, the team to beat in the rankings for the reserved big bowl spot.

Of course, East Carolina still needs to win the American Athletic Conference and still has games against UCF and Cincinnati to get by to make that happen. But the Pirates sit in a good position. Marshall is unranked but figures to be next in line if East Carolina happens to stumble. Although, an argument could be made for UCF or Cincinnati to pass the Thundering Herd if either gets by ECU in the American. We’ll worry about that down the line if it pops up.

But what about Colorado State? I previously discussed how Boise State is still an interesting cog in the race for the access bowl spot, and they are. So is Colorado State.

The Rams look to be one of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference and have two victories over power conference opponents, just like East Carolina. The rams have a neutral site victory over Colorado and flew across the country to Boston to take down Boston College earlier this season. The only team to beat Colorado State this season is Boise State, and herein lies the biggest obstacle for Colorado State to jump. And they can’t even do anything about it now.

Because Boise State defeated Colorado State, the Broncos own a head-to-head tiebreaker in the Mountain Division of the MWC. Both teams have one loss in conference play, so Colorado State needs to win the remaining games on their schedule. At the same time, Colorado State needs Boise State to lose at least once. Winning the division will allow Colorado State a chance to play for the Mountain West Conference championship, with a potential shot at a big bowl game on the line.

In theory, a 12-1 Colorado State team would have every bit as strong an argument to play in a New Years bowl as East Carolina. What’s more, the argument for Colorado State could also become stronger if East Carolina’s biggest wins (Virginia Tech and North Carolina) struggle down the stretch. If strength of schedule is an important factor in the rankings, and the evidence suggests it is, Colorado State could be on par with East Carolina. This should add a little more intrigue to this week’s ACC contest between Boston College and Virginia Tech.

Bottom line, Colorado State is still in the running. The Rams need some help along the way, and Boise State does appear to have a tougher final stretch than Colorado State, so there is hope.

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Texas A&M going really old school with uniforms this weekend

Texas A&M 1939 throwback uniform (2014)

The Texas A&M Aggies will be sporting some sharp throwback uniforms this weekend, honoring the legacy of the 1939 Aggies. At first glance, it looks like Texas A&M is going with a winged-helmet design similar to Michigan’s signature look, but the design is reminiscent of the design used on Texas A&M’s old leather helmets of the era. A handful of schools adopted this idea at the time, as it was supposed to make it easier to identify receivers.

The uniform is designed by Adidas, a company that has produced some uniforms on the receiving end of some ridicule with some regularity. That should not be the case here though. This uniform appears to have been thought out well and executed to near perfection. It is a terrific look that honors the past of the Texas A&M program, yet looks to fit in with today’s game. Adidas got one right here.

 

Texas A&M was named the national champions of the 1939 season by the Associated Press, although USC also claims a national championship that same season as the top-ranked team in the now retired Dickenson System. The Trojans began officially claiming that national championship as a part of program history in 2004, because that’s the thing to do these days. Led by College Football Hall of Famer and All-American John “The Haskell Hurricane” Kimbrough, Texas A&M went 11-0 in 1939, including a 6-0 record in the old Southwest Conference. The season ended with a 14-13 victory over No. 5 Tulane in the Sugar Bowl.

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Penn State o-line still waiting for return of Dieffenbach

Nebraska v Penn State

Penn State’s inability to get the running game going this season and provide adequate protection for quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been a result of a young and inexperienced offensive line, without much depth behind it. Not having one of its most experienced options on the line this season has hurt, but the return of offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach could be coming any time now.

Dieffenbach injured his knee in the spring and the rehab has kept him a spectator and cheerleader from the Penn State sideline this season. The fifth-year senior is hoping to be cleared by doctors to resume football activity before the season ends, but doctors have yet to provide the clearance needed to send Dieffenbach back on the field. With Penn State days away from hosting new Big Ten member Maryland, Dieffenbach’s availability remains in question for head coach James Franklin.

“It’s not just the physical aspects of it, it’s the muscle memory of technique and footwork he hasn’t done in six months and it’s also the confidence,” Franklin said this week. ”He’s practicing to a degree the last couple of weeks and hopefully he’ll have a bigger role this week and that will allow us to play him in the game a little bit.”

Penn State’s offensive line performed better against Ohio State than most games this season. A second bye week in three weeks may have helped the line find some identity in preparation for the Buckeyes, but there is no doubt having a fifth-year senior as experienced as Dieffenbach would give the entire line a boost.

Penn State hosts Maryland this Saturday at 12 p.m. eastern.

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Bovada pegs Mariota as its Heisman wagering favorite

Marcus Mariota AP

Thanks to the now-resolved NCAA situation involving Todd Gurley, Dak Prescott was pegged as Bovada‘s Heisman Trophy favorite earlier this month.

Now, another quarterback out West has taken over that mantle.

According to the wagering website Bovada.lv, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is a prohibitive 4/5 favorite to claim the 2014 version of the most prestigious award in college sports. Just a week ago, the junior Duck was a 3/2 favorite.

Prescott, meanwhile, has seen his odds lengthen to 3/1. In the immediate aftermath of the Gurley imbroglio, the Mississippi State quarterback was instilled as a 2/1 favorite.

Gurley, incidentally, is no longer listed.

The first non-QB to receive odds is Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (8/1). Gordon had been 6/1 seven days ago.

Alabama’s Amari Cooper (16/1, up from 18/1) is one of two wide receivers given odds, the other being West Virginia’s Kevin White (50/1, from 25/1).

The reigning Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, saw his odds plunge from 18/1 to 33/1. The Florida State quarterback entered the 2014 season as a slight 9/2 favorite over Mariota (5/1).

Below are the complete set of Heisman odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

Bovada Week 9 Heisman Odds

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Report: Miami’s starting LT undergoes procedure on knee

Miami v Boston College Getty Images

The injury bug has once again slammed headfirst into Miami’s offensive line.

Citing an unnamed source, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Wednesday that Ereck Flowers underwent a surgical procedure on his injured knee earlier today.  Flowers originally suffered the injury in last Thursday night’s win over Virginia Tech.

It’s unclear how long the offensive lineman will be sidelined, although it appears certain he won’t play in this Saturday’s home game against North Carolina.  The Hurricanes will release their weekly injury report Thursday, which will likely serve as the lone update from the football team on Flowers’ status.

“As soon as we get information, we’ll get it to you,” head coach Al Golden said in his only comments on Flowers’ status following practice Wednesday.

Flowers had started all seven games at left tackle for the ‘Canes this season. Jon Feliciano is expected to replace him in the starting lineup.

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Penn State’s Ryan Keiser underwent surgery to repair bowel injury

Northwestern at Penn State

Now, unfortunately, we have some details as to what led to the season-ending injury for one of two Penn State seniors.

Monday, the Nittany Lions announced that Ryan Keiser would miss the rest of the 2014 season because of an unspecified injury.  Tuesday, head coach James Franklin added some clarity to the situation by confirming that the safety sustained an injury to his bowel during practice last Thursday.

The injury was caused by a fractured rib, with small-bowel surgery being performed to repair the damage.

Franklin offered up the details to refute reports that Keiser was battling an infection and was in critical condition.

“Ryan’s family has our complete support,” Franklin said. “I’ve talked to his mother, talked to Ryan. Our trainers and doctors have been in constant contact or have been involved every step of the way, and I just want to clear that up because I know how the Penn State community supports one another.

“I wanted to make sure that everybody understands clearly what’s going on. The rest of it is up to the family and their personal information and what they want to share.”

Keiser is currently third on the team in tackles.  He was also voted one of the Nittany Lions’ team captains.

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‘Drastic improvement’ leaves TCU hopeful leading WR will play vs. WVU

Josh Doctson, Zack Sanchez

It appears TCU has dodged a rather significant injury bullet.

During Saturday’s humiliation of Texas Tech, wide receiver Josh Doctson rolled an ankle in the third quarter and did not return to the game.  Doctson hasn’t practiced since, although head coach Gary Patterson has seen what he described as “drastic improvement” and is optimistic the receiver will be available for the West Virginia game Saturday in Morgantown.

“It’s drastic improvement,” Patterson said. “He’ll make the trip.”

Speculation had been making the rounds that Doctson suffered the dreaded high-ankle sprain, which usually sidelines a player for a couple of weeks or more.  Citing a team source, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that’s not the case.

Doctson currently leads the Horned Frogs in receptions (35), receiving yards (573) and receiving touchdowns (seven).  In a week 8 win over Oklahoma State, Doctson fell one yard shy of tying the school’s single-game yardage record of 226.

The news wasn’t all positive on the injury front, however, as No. 2 quarterback Matt Joeckel has seen his season come to an end.  The transfer from Texas A&M suffered a knee injury in the win over Tech.

This is Joeckel’s final season of eligibility, which means his collegiate career is over.

“It’s a shame,” Patterson said. “We gave him an ovation in the meeting on Sunday because of everything he did for us as a team, the way he came in, the way he helped Trevone [Boykin].”

Freshman Zach Allen will move into the role of Boykin’s primary backup.

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