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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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After Texas Tech dismissal, former three-star safety expects to transfer

A month ago, the Texas Tech Red Raiders lost a key contributor to their secondary when junior safety Josh Keys was kicked out of the program.

Keys, who was a three-star recruit from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, finally discussed the reason behind his dismissal with WreckEm247.com.

The safety was eventually removed from the program after a second failed drug test.

“I don’t like the way it happened,” Keys told WreckEm247.com’s Daniel Paulling. “I want to learn from my mistakes.”

Prior to the dismissal, Keys registered 14 tackles in five games while serving as the team’s primary backup at both safety positions.

The junior defensive back wants to start over again with another program. He’s currently taking classes at Texas Tech and expects to transfer during the spring semester.

“I’m still looking around; see what’s out there for me,” Keys said.

Keys originally chose to play at Texas Tech over offers from the Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, Baylor Bears, Georgia Bulldogs, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Ole Miss Rebels and Tennessee Volunteers. The safety held 20 total offers.

Whether or not those programs that were previously interested in Keys will remain so after his issues at Texas Tech isn’t known. However, it may be in Keys’ best interests to transfer to an FCS program in order to avoid the one-year transfer rule between FBS programs.

Although, his dismissal from Texas Tech’s program could allow him to be eligible next season based on the “run-off rule”, which allows an athlete to be immediately eligible if they’re still in good academic standing and the previous school files paperwork which confirms the athlete isn’t invited back to the program.

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Eight-team playoff system preferred by coaches

College Football Playoff Announces The College Football Playoff Selection Committee - News Conference

With less than one year in the new College Football Playoff system, coaches and at least one commissioner are already breaking ranks and not fully supporting the new setup.

According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, 44 percent of 103 coaches who participated in a poll preferred an eight-team playoff structure. Only 29 percent preferred the current setup. While 17 percent want to expand the playoff to 16 teams.

“Most of the coaches who want an eight-team playoff believe it should consist of the conference champions from the Power 5 leagues plus the next three highest-ranked at-large teams, or the top-ranked Group of 5 champion and the two highest-ranked at-large teams,” McMurphy reported.

The poll comes on the heels of ACC commissioner John Swofford saying teams — and, by extension, conferences — will be unhappy once the final playoff rankings are released.

“I don’t think all the controversy’s going to go away,” Swofford told The Herald-Sun. “You have four teams that get a chance to play for the national championship, which is twice as many as before, but whoever’s fifth or sixth is not going to be happy. There will be some conferences that won’t have a team in the playoff.”

Commissioners are already preparing for the possibility of not having a team among college football’s final four. Currently, the Big Ten and Big 12 Conferences would be left out of the mix based on the current rankings.

However, change isn’t expected any time soon. The current agreement for a four-team playoff is in place for the next 12 years, and College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said that “there has been no discussion of expanding.”

Even though Swofford views an eight-team playoff as “ideal” and the majority of coaches currently support that notion, it’s not going to happen any time soon.

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Brian Kelly, Dabo Swinney latest to deny interest in Florida opening

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Florida v Cincinnati

Since Will Muschamp was officially dismissed as Florida’s head coach — even though he’ll continue to coach the Gators for the rest of this season — multiple high-profile head coaches already denied any interest in the opening.

It started with Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops. Stoops, who is the favorite in Las Vegas to eventually claim the job, quickly squashed any rumors a day after Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley made his decision.

“All I want to be is a candidate at Oklahoma,” Stoops said during a conference call Monday. “I’m not a candidate anywhere else. I’m finished with that question.”

A 69-year-old Steve Spurrier isn’t making a triumphant return to Gainesville either.

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn followed suit Tuesday by saying he was “totally committed” to the Tigers program, per Al.com.

Two more denials came Friday.

Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly joked about the possibility of leaving South Bend for sunny Florida.

“I’m going to Florida — in about two weeks to get some sun,” Kelly told WNDU.com. “I’m getting out of here with this weather. What are you, kidding me? So you can write that down. I’m going to Florida. Write it down now, get it out there get it on the news waves.”

When reporters followed Kelly’s sarcastic response with a direct question about the coach’s interest in Florida, the Notre Dame coach continued to lay it on thick.

“Oh yeah. I’ve been interested in the Florida job,” Kelly said. “What else am I up for anything else? Can I be up for the Notre Dame job? Because we are 7-3 right now, [and] I’m hoping to hold on to this job.”

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney was more direct with his answer regarding any interest in the opening.

“The more you sit around and talk about that kind of stuff, the more of a distraction it is,” Swinney said. “I love my job. I just signed a long-term contract because of that. And this is a place that’s special to me. And I’ve invested a lot here. My focus is 100 percent on winning here.”

Two reasons prompt these blanket denials.

First, no coach is going to express interest in the middle of the season. It’s detrimental to his team’s progress on the field and recruiting off of it.

Second, Florida is no longer considered one of the elite jobs. It’s close, but it doesn’t fall in the same category as Alabama, Ohio State or Texas anymore.

“If those elite jobs are a 10, Florida is a 9.5,” a source told USA TODAY.

Despite being in a talent-rich state as one of the highest-profile programs in the nation, Florida has fallen behind in regards to facilities. It’s still a desirable job, but it’s not quite as enticing for these top coaches as it used to be.

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UPDATE: Weather forces kickoff shuffling in Houston but not in Waco

Thunderstorm Lightning

In Buffalo, it was massive snowstorm that first caused the postponement, then the rescheduling, and finally the cancellation of a MAC football game this week.  Saturday, it will be a different weather system affecting an AAC contest.  And, possibly, a Big 12 one as well.

Friday, Houston announced that the kickoff time for Saturday’s game against Tulsa has been moved up.  Instead of putting foot to pigskin at 2:00 p.m. ET, the start will come three hours earlier at 11 a.m. ET (10 a.m. local time).

From the UH’s press release:

Administration from the University of Houston Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has been in consultation with the National Weather Service, the American Athletic Conference and the University of Tulsa in making the decision to move Saturday’s game time.

Courtesy of the Weather Channel, here’s Saturday’s forecast:

Houston Forecast

It’s not just Houston, either, when it comes to the potential for severe weather in the state of Texas that could impact games.

Baylor and North Texas both play at home in Week 13. Especially when it comes to the former’s game against Oklahoma State tomorrow night, heavy rain — and perhaps thunderstorms — could be an issue during the contest, with talk that kickoff for BU-OSU could be moved as well.

According to ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, not only is an adjustment of the kickoff time being discussed, but there’s also talk of moving the game to Sunday. That, though, would be “a last resort” a source told McMurphy.

UPDATE (5:45 p.m. ET):  Baylor University released a statement Friday that Saturday’s contest against the Oklahoma State Cowboys will proceed as planned.

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Playoff committee chair Jeff Long tries to explain ‘game control’, effect on rankings

Jeff Long

One thing everyone has learned since the advent of the College Football Playoff rankings is that everything is subjective and there isn’t any real rhyme or reason behind where a team is eventually slotted.

The latest example came this week when the Alabama Crimson Tide jumped to the No. 1 overall spot after beating then No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Alabama claimed the top spot despite being ranked behind the Oregon Ducks, Florida State Seminoles and TCU Horned Frogs during the previous week. None of those teams lost this past weekend, yet Alabama still leapfrogged them in the rankings.

There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to theses new rankings. The committee simply takes into consideration certain aspects like strength of schedule, head-to-head meetings, etc. However, it’s at their discretion which team is ranked where. And it’s an inexact science.

The latest example came with a new buzzword emanated from the chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long. The term “game control” or some variation was used to explain the latest rankings.

While it’s an impressive sounding term to give everyone a reason behind certain decision, there isn’t any actual substance to it.

“There’s absolutely no metric involved,” Long told USA TODAY‘s George Schroeder. “It’s a discussion amongst committee members about controlling the game.”

The term was used in conjunction with Alabama’s 25-20 victory over Mississippi State.

“What I was trying to convey is that it wasn’t a three-touchdown blowout of Mississippi State,” Long said. “They were within less than two touchdowns the whole way. But we never felt Alabama was out of control of that game.

“It’s more of, the committee watches the games, and then we discuss the game and we talk about whether the game was a back-and-forth contest, whether someone assumes control in the game early and keeps it throughout, (or) whether they assumed (control) in the second quarter or the third quarter or the fourth quarter and controlled it to the end.”

This explanation was good enough to rank Alabama No. 1 overall, while Mississippi State only fell to No. 4 and TCU was ranked No. 5 after struggling against the Kansas Jayhawks.

When everyone clamored for a playoff system, it was supposed to solve all the problems the computers created during the BCS era. Instead, the process has become even more subjective and less defined as to what it takes to eventually earn a spot as one of the top four teams in college football.

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Indiana’s Kevin Wilson gets boss’ vote of confidence

Kevin Wilson AP

Whether it’s the “dreaded vote of confidence” remains to be seen.

With a 3-2 record to start the season, there was talk that Kevin Wilson had finally started turning around the Indiana football program.  With a five-game losing streak entering Week 13 — four of them by 16 or more points — the pitchforks are being gathered up and the torches lit in and around Bloomington.

Don’t look for Wilson’s boss to be in that mob, though.  At least not yet.

“To me, the answer is a resounding yes, notwithstanding the lack of wins this year,” IU athletic director Fred Glass said when asked by the Indianapolis Star‘s David Woods if the football program is head in the right direction.

“I just think it takes a little while. That’s why I gave Kevin a seven-year contract.”

Contractually, it’d cost Glass’ athletic department $1.5 million to rid themselves of Wilson at season’s end, which is far from a prohibitive amount.  On at least two occasions during his Star interview, however, Glass noted something that, at least in his mind, mitigates this season’s 3-7 record.

“I get that we’d like to win more games,” Glass said. “But I also think you just can’t overstate the impact of Nate going down. …

“Given the challenges inherent here, Kevin is going the right way. It’s just a shame Nate went down.”

The AD is referring to Nate Sudfeld, the starting quarterback who went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in the Oct. 11 loss to Iowa. That loss was followed by four more, with IU set to take a five-game losing streak on its road trip to No. 6 Ohio State.

When Sudfeld finished a game he started this season, the Hoosiers were 3-2 and appeared headed for its first bowl appearance since 2007 and just its second since 1993. Instead, with true freshman Zander Diamont mostly under center, Wilson’s seen his record tumble to 5-25 in Big Ten play in four seasons in Bloomington; Bill Lynch, the man Wilson replaced, was 6-26 in Big Ten play before he and the university “parted ways.”

“I think contracts need to mean something again at Indiana University,” Glass said in October of 2009. “He’s in the second year of a four-year contract … I hope that and really think that coach Lynch will be very successful.”

Exactly one year and one month later, Lynch was “replaced” as the Hoosiers’ head coach, with one year remaining on his contract.

Wilson is currently in the fourth year of his seven-year deal. Despite Glass’ public plaudits, it remains to be seen whether Wilson will see a fifth year.

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Outland Trophy goes on the offensive with semifinalists

Aaron Donald

The Lombardi Award finalists had a decidedly defensive lean. When it comes to another predominately lineman award, though, it’s almost all about the other side of the ball.

The Outland Trophy, handed out annually since 1946, announced its semifinalists for the 2014 award Thursday, revealing a pool of six potential winners. As you may have guessed from the headline, five of the six semifinalists are offensive linemen.

The lone defensive player is Texas tackle Malcolm Brown, who is also one of the finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award. What follows are the other five Outland semifinalists.

  • Auburn center Reese Dismukes
  • Baylor offensive tackle Spencer Drango
  • Oregon tackle Jake Fisher
  • Florida State guard Tre’ Jackson
  • Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff

Finalists for this year’s award will be announced next Tuesday.  Last year’s winner was Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

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Miss. St. suspends starting FS Justin Cox after domestic violence arrest

Auburn v Mississippi State Getty Images

Embarking on a two-game stretch that, with a pair of wins, could potentially earn Mississippi State an early-December trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game, the Bulldogs will, for at least one of those games, be without a key piece of its defensive puzzle.

Very late Friday morning, MSU announced that starting safety Justin Cox has been indefinitely suspended from the football program.  Other than it being related to “an off-campus incident,” no reason for the suspension was given by the school.

However, the Starkville Daily News is reporting that the suspension came a few hours after Cox was arrested and charged following an alleged domestic violence incident.  From the Daily News:

Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Brett Watson said deputies responded to a burglary call on Rocky Road in the Aspen Heights apartment complex at about 3 a.m. Friday. He said upon arrival, deputies found a female victim with an injury to her head.

Cox was ultimately charged with suspicion of burglary of a dwelling and aggravated domestic violence.

The suspension almost certainly means Cox will miss Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.  It also calls into question the defensive back’s availability for the Egg Bowl a week later, which could very well be the most important MSU-Ole Miss game in the rivalry’s history.

Cox has started eight of the 10 games in which he’s played at free safety this season, including the last six.  Cox has four passes broken up and five defensed in 2014.

Cox is in his first season in Starkville after transferring in from the JUCO ranks.

 

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A&M expected to get defensive help for Turkey Day game vs. LSU

Bo Wallace;Myles Garrett AP

And, yes, they could use it.

Ahead of its bye in Week 13, head coach Kevin Sumlin said that a pair of starting defensive linemen — end Myles Garrett and tackle Ivan Robinson — are listed as probable for the Thanksgiving Day game against LSU. Both Garrett and Robinson did not play in last weekend’s loss to Missouri due to unspecified injuries.

Additionally, linebacker Otaro Alaka, injured during the Mizzou game, is listed as probable as well.

All three are starters, although the return of Garrett should provide the biggest boost for an Aggies defense that’s at or near the bottom of the SEC in nearly every major statistical category.

Garrett, a sure-fire freshman All-American, is sixth in the country in sacks per game (1.1) and is tied for 35th in tackles for loss per game (1.3). His 11 sacks are an SEC record for a freshman, shattering the mark of eight previously held by South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney.

Robinson had started six games in a row prior to missing the Mizzou game, while Robinson has started the last three.

The Aggies are currently 77th nationally and 11th in the 14-team SEC — ahead of only Kentucky (30.1), Vanderbilt (32.4) and South Carolina (32.7) — in points allowed per game (27.7). When it comes to yards allowed, they’re even worse: at 445.2 yards per game, the Aggies are dead last in the conference and 100th in the country.

Based on performance, Mark Snyder‘s seat is decidedly hot, so much so that beat writers are already talking about the specifics of a buyout contained in his contract. To his credit, Snyder is not shying away from the speculation.

“I learned at about 30 years old, the second you take a job in this profession, you’re on the hot seat,” Snyder said Thursday according to the Houston Chronicle. “This is a production-based business. Period.”

Snyder does, though, have one very vocal supporter, with defensive leader Deshazor Everett tweeting that the onus for improved performance is on the players.

Whether such strident support will come from Snyder’s boss at season’s end remains to be seen.

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Out of the Hunt: ‘Cuse starting QB done for year

Louisville v Syracuse

Any hope Syracuse held out that Terrel Hunt would return before the end of the season has officially been dashed.

At his weekly Thursday press conference, Scott Shafer confirmed that the quarterback will not play in either of Syracuse’s remaining two games because of injury. Hunt sustained a fractured fibula in early October in the loss to Louisville, and has missed the last five games.

The Orange, at 3-7 not eligible for a bowl game, will close out their season against Pittsburgh and Boston College.

“Terrel’s down,” Shafer said. “He’s getting better, it’s just that bones heal differently in each kid. He won’t be available for the rest of the season, but he’s doing a nice job with school, he’s adjusted to the situation well and he’s helping us with the young guys. He’s been very attentive to meetings, but he won’t be available.”

Hunt, a redshirt junior who’s expected to enter spring practice both healthy and as the starter, started the first five games of the 2014 season, and was responsible for 62.6 percent (1,290 yards) of the Orange’s 2,062 yards of total offense in those games. His six rushing touchdowns are still five more than any other player on the team.

With Hunt out, AJ Long has taken over the lion’s share of the quarterbacking duties. A shoulder issue kept Long out of Syracuse’s last game, a Nov. 8 loss to Duke, but he’s expected to start Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh.

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Georgia Tech claims ACC Coastal crown with Duke’s loss to North Carolina

David Cutcliffe

When the Duke Blue Devils hosted the North Carolina Tar Heels Thursday, it was all about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

North Carolina’s dominant 45-20 victory over the rival Blue Devils handed Georgia Tech the ACC Coastal crown and placed Paul Johnson‘s team in the ACC Championship Game against the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles.

The school already released a statement with reaction to winning the ACC Coastal:

Meanwhile, Duke fell to 4-3 in the division, while North Carolina improved and now sports the same conference record.

The Blue Devils’ defense simply didn’t show up to play Thursday. North Carolina racked up a whopping 592 total yards. The Tar Heels were dominant at the point of attack and ran the ball for 316 of those yards. Three different players ran for at least 96 yards. Sophomore running back T.J. Logan led the way with 116 yards on 18 carries.

North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams also proved to be a difficult matchup for Duke. The dual-threat quarterback accumulated 374 total yards and four total touchdowns. Dukes’ offense only gained four more yards than Williams did.

Williams’ effort placed him in North Carolina’s record books:

The quarterback’s performance almost made everyone forget about the fact he also fumbled the ball three times.

The entire contest was plagued by mistakes. A combined six turnovers were committed. Duke was never able to recover from two early fumbles, though.

Blue Devils quarterback Anthony Boone also didn’t rise to the occasion. The senior signal-caller was 22-of-40 passing for 262 yards.

Once the first quarter ended, Duke was never in the contest. The Tar Heels went into Wallace Wade Stadium, ran their rivals out of the building and claimed the Victory Bell as their own.

Both teams are still bowl eligible, but the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t as bright as it once was for Duke. Instead, the Blue Devils ran smack into a Ramblin’ Wreck.

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Quarterback play defines No. 12 Kansas State’s 26-20 victory over WVU

Kansas State v West Virginia Getty Images

Bill Snyder‘s Kansas State Wildcats are known for playing fundamentally sound, ball-control football. Neither was the case Thursday against the West Virginia Mountaineers. Yet, the No. 12 Wildcats still found a way to beat WVU 26-20 in Morgantown.

Two leaders on Kansas State’s offense, quarterback Jake Waters and wide receiver Tyler Lockett, took over the game and never looked back.

Everything starts with the quarterback. Waters was forced to carry the offense due to West Virginia completely taking away Kansas State’s running game. The Wildcats gained one yard on the ground. Waters was forced to throw the ball 33 times. He completed 22 passes for a career-high 400 yards through the air.

Waters doubled as the team’s leading rusher. The quarterback was credited with 12 carries for 13 yards. And his seven-yard touchdown pass to running back Demarcus Robinson on the team’s initial drive was the only time the offense found the end zone.

Lockett was, as per usual, Waters’ favorite target.

The senior wide receiver caught 10 passes for 196 yards. His biggest contributions actually came on special teams, though. Lockett’s 43-yard punt return for a touchdown granted Kansas State a 17-3 lead in the second quarter. The talented receiver/returner finished the contest with 321 total yards.

Lockett completely outplayed one of the nation’s top wide receivers in West Virginia’s Kevin White. The Wildcats successfully bracketed White throughout the contest, and the nation’s third-leading receiver finished the contest with seven catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.

Waters’ play wasn’t the only interesting quarterback situation in this particular game.

West Virginia sophomore Sklyer Howard took over for senior Clint Trickett, and the underclassman may not hand the job to Trickett with only Iowa State remaining on the schedule.

Howard played much better than Trickett did once he was inserted into the lineup. The sophomore was 15-of-23 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns.

At 6-5 overall, the future is now for the Mountaineers.

As the Mountaineers contemplate their fledgling quarterback controversy, Kansas State still has an outside shot of claiming a Big 12 Conference championship.

The Wildcats are now tied with the TCU Horned Frogs at 6-1 overall in the division. With a contest remaining against the No. 7 Baylor Bears and TCU playing the Texas Longhorns this weekend, Kansas State can still claim an outright Big 12 title.

Snyder’s squad will have to play better than they did against West Virginia for the program to have a chance of that actually happening.

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MAC cancels contest between Buffalo Bulls and Kent State Golden Flashes

Record Snowstorm Pummels Buffalo Getty Images

Snowmageddon 2014 will prevent all of us from enjoying more MACtion.

With the city of Buffalo completely snowed over and suffering from blizzard conditions, a college football contest became a secondary concern.

The MAC announced Thursday that the meeting between the Kent State Golden Flashes and the Buffalo Bulls, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, has been cancelled.

The two sides hoped to play Friday, but the conference decided the game will not be rescheduled.

“Despite the best efforts of all involved, it will not be feasible to play the football game between Kent State and Buffalo on Friday,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement. “The game has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. The safety of the student-athletes and fans is paramount. We want to be respectful of the efforts of the emergency service personnel in the Buffalo area who are working to assist those in need.”

The two teams will finish their seasons under revised schedules. Both teams will play their final games on Friday, Nov. 28. Kent State will face the rival Akron Zips at Dix Stadium, while Buffalo will travel to Amherst, Mass. to challenge the UMass Minutemen.

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UNC dominates Duke 28-7 during first half as ACC Coastal starts to take shape

Mack Hollins, Ryan Switzer

If the Duke Blue Devils are trying to earn an Orange Bowl berth, the team has a funny way of showing it.

During a sloppy first half of play, the North Carolina Tar Heels dominated the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels built an impressive 28-7 lead, which appears to be an insurmountable lead due to the mistakes Duke committed.

Overall, the two teams combined to turn the ball over five times. North Carolina actually fumbled the ball three times, but Duke wasn’t able to take advantage. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, scored after both of Duke’s fumbles.

As soon as North Carolina built a lead, questions regarding the ACC Coastal standings started to surface.

A loss by Duke will hand the No. 18 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets an ACC Coastal crown and an appearance in the ACC Championship Game against the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles.

Duke still has the second half to redeem itself.

The Blue Devils have to start by stopping the Tar Heels offense. North Carolina amassed 391 yards of total offense through two quarters of play. If not for three fumbles by quarterback Marquise Williams, the score could be worse than it already is.

Sophomore Ryan Switzer proved to be North Carolina’s biggest threat on offense after catching two passes for 107 yards. Whereas Williams, T.J. Logan and Romar Morris combined to run for 203 yards.

Duke needs to get a strong second-half performance from senior quarterback Anthony Boone, who is 8-of-17 passing for 89 yards. If Boone and Duke’s talented corps of wide receivers can’t get the passing game going, the Blue Devils don’t have a chance in the second half and will concede the ACC Coastal to Georgia Tech.

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Fortunate calls allow No. 12 Kansas State to build 17-3 lead against WVU

Kansas State v West Virginia Getty Images

The ball bounced in favor of the No. 12 Kansas State Wildcats during the first half of play against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

A suspect touchdown call and another touchdown being called back proved to be the biggest difference for the Wildcats, who hold a 17-3 lead at halftime.

The fortunate calls in Kansas State’s favor started on the team’s initial drive.

After a 23-yard punt return from Tyler Lockett — and his presence on special teams will come up again — the Wildcats started their initial drive from West Virginia’s 49-yard line. Seven plays later, Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters drove his offense to the 7-yard line. On third-and-goal, Waters scrambled in the pocket and found running back Demarcus Robinson open for a touchdown pass.

However, Robinson dropped the football during the follow through of the catch. Despite the bobbled ball, the referees ruled he had possession before he went to the ground and the touchdown call stood. Kansas State gained an early 7-0 lead.

After the team’s traded field goals, the Mountaineers finally found the end zone on one of the wackiest touchdown catches of the season. Or so they thought.

Kevin White, the nation’s third-leading receiver, came up with an amazing tipped pass for the unlikely score (see: below).

The catch was eventually ruled incomplete upon review. One angle appeared to show the ball hitting the ground before it flipped into the air toward White. The situation was compounded by the fact West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert missed the ensuing field goal attempt.

Locket extended Kansas State’s lead with a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown. The All-American returner averaged 33 yards per punt return through two quarters of play.

As the teams enter the second half, Kansas State wants to return to playing sound football after a sloppy first half. West Virginia, meanwhile, needs to capitalize on its opportunities and find ways to get its vertical passing attack on track.

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