NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Ohio State vs Arkansas

OSU vacates ’10 wins, doesn’t self-impose bowl ban, scholarship losses

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Ohio State released its response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations Friday and it’s, to say the least, an interesting tack the university has chosen to take.

In the response, OSU “acknowledges that this case is major due to the ethical conduct citation” in regards to former head coach Jim Tressel, but it “believes that little institutional responsibility exists for the preferential treatment violation in allegation #1”, which involves the players and impermissible benefits they received as well as — and this will be the crux of their argument in front of the NCAA in August — distancing themselves from allegation #2, which involves unethical conduct on the part of Tressel.

“While the University recognizes that the institution must take responsibility for its employee’s actions with respect to Allegation #2, the responsibility is upon Tressel,” the report read.

“No other institutional personnel were aware of the preferential treatment violations, and Tressel had an obligation to report the potential violation to the appropriate institutional officials.”

As a result, OSU has self-imposed the following sanctions on its football program, which the NCAA can sign-off on or add to:

a. Vacate all victories during the 2010 football season, including the 2011 Allstate Sugar Bowl;
b. Vacate the 2010 Big Ten Conference Football Championship (co-champions);
c. Imposed a two-year probationary period effective July 8, 2011;
d. Withhold four current student-athletes named in Allegation #1 from the first five games of the 2011 football season (additionally, one student-athlete who would have been withheld for five games has departed the institution to pursue a professional football career);
e. Withhold one student-athlete named in Allegation #1 from the first game of the 2011 football season and withhold another student-athlete named in Allegation #1 from those number of games resulting from the decision of the SAR Staff; and
f. Sought and accepted the resignation of Tressel on May 30, 2011

The punitive actions mentioned in “d” and “e” have been known for months, while “f” was revealed by athletic director Gene Smith during an interview that appeared in the Columbus Dispatch today.  What’s most interesting, however, is what’s not contained in the punitive actions self-imposed by the school, namely no bowl ban and no loss of scholarships.

Based on the message sent by the NCAA to USC around this time last year, it’s hard to fathom that the OSU football program will be permitted to skate without one or both of those sanctions being slapped on the program by the time all of the NCAA dust clears.

In addition to the punitive measures, the university has also instituted, or will institute, several corrective actions, including an increase in the number of full-time compliance officials from six to eight; waiting until a player’s eligibility has expired to issue institutional awards, including the storied “gold pants”; and further educate both players and Columbus-area businesses on preferential treatment.

Add it all up, and OSU firmly believes that the sanctions they imposed on themselves should be enough and asks that the NCAA take no further action while once again stressing their lone-wolf characterization of Tressel.

Regarding Tressel’s penalties, the institution’s analysis was that Tressel’s penalties should reflect the seriousness of the position in which he placed both himself and the University. One of his penalties was suspension for the first five games of the 2011 season, which was the same as the student-athletes’ penalties. The University also intended to prohibit all of his off-campus recruiting activities for one year, which reflected the seriousness of Tressel’s failure to report. The University eventually determined that it was in the best interest of the University and Tressel for Tressel to resign, and he agreed to do so.

In summary, the University believes that the corrective and punitive actions are appropriate and negate any competitive advantage gained by the institution as a result of these violations. The University asks the Committee on Infractions to accept these penalties and take no further action.

Ohio State is schedule to appear before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on Aug. 12, with a decision from The Association expected at some point during the 2011 regular season.  After some initial uncertainty, it was reported today that Tressel will appear in front of the COI.

For OSU’s full response, click HERE.

Greg Ward Jr., to Heisman voters: ‘Psssttt, I’m still here, don’t forget’

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs past Connecticut defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi, left, en route to a 30-yard touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Deservedly so, most of the Heisman focus these first four-plus weeks of the 2016 season has been squarely on Lamar Jackson and the stunningly phenomenal season the Louisville quarterback is putting together. There are others, though, who merit mention.

Case in point? Greg Ward Jr.

In No. 6 Houston’s Thursday night 42-14 romp over UConn, the quarterback completed just over 84 percent of his passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 65 yards and two scores for good measure. The win was the Cougars’ eighth in a row, with the last loss coming Nov. 21 of last year to… these very same Huskies.

On at least one occasion in avenging the loss, though, Ward Jr.’s sterling completion percentage got a little help from one of his receiving friends.

The latest virtuoso performance, which included his third 300-yard passing game of the season, pushed Ward Jr. to 1,503 yards of offense (1,325 passing, 178 rushing) and 13 total touchdowns (eight passing, five rushing) in four games while also battling a lingering shoulder issue. For comparison’s sake, and you know we’re not alone in doing so, Jackson will enter Week 5 with a statistical ledger that’s straight from a teenager’s video game: 1,856 yards of total offense and a ridiculous 25 total touchdowns in his four games.

While it’s still quite a ways down the road, Ward’s Cougars and Jackson’s Cardinals will square off in what’s shaping up to be a monumental mid-November Thursday night game that could go a long way in determining not only the Heisman race, but helping to shape the playoff picture as well.  In between, voters, don’t forget about the kid from Houston.

Report: Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel undergoes surgery, out as long as a month

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Sojourn Shelton #8 of the Wisconsin Badgers, Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers, T.J. Edwards #53 of the Wisconsin Badgers react to a interception during the second half of a game against the USC Trojans in the National University Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Just in time for their toughest stretch of the season, No. 8 Wisconsin may be without one of the team’s most important defensive players.

Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel is set to miss the next several weeks after undergoing surgery to insert a screw in his cracked foot.

“He’s been playing on it for the last couple weeks, and it was bothering him a little bit,” Biegel’s father Rocky told ESPN. “He had X-rays last night and confirmed it was cracked. He either plays on it, and then if he breaks it, then he’s going to be out for eight weeks. Either way, he’s got to have surgery on it. So he can keep playing until it breaks or try to go through the season with it and try to fix it. At any time, he could break it all the way through. It was just a crack and they’re just putting a screw in it. It’s a very, very minor crack.”

No matter how minor it is, losing Biegel for as long as a month is a huge blow to a defense that has been among the best in the country this season. Wisconsin does have a bye week after traveling to No. 4 Michigan on Saturday but also have to play No. 2 Ohio State and division rivals Iowa and Nebraska to close out October.

Biegel has nine tackles on the year and a sack but is among the most experienced players on the team having played in 46 games at Wisconsin, including 32 starts. Redshirt freshman Zack Baun is expected to take his place.

If there is one bright spot for head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox however, it’s that the Badgers’ linebacking corp is one of the best in the country. Still, as good as Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards and T.J. Watt have been this year, they’ll have to step up their games with an imposing schedule coming up.

Houston missing four starters for AAC matchup against UConn

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Duke Catalon #2 of the Houston Cougars runs against Brandon McDowell #6 of the Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).

Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.

Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.

Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett officially withdraws from school

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.

After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.

“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”

Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.

Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.