’10 finalists Luck, Moore headline preseason O’Brien watch list

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The just-released 2011 Davey O’ Brien preseason watch list is littered with familiar names as a total of nine finalists or semifinalists from last year’s process comprise this year’s group, the Davey O’Brien Foundation announced Friday.

Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Boise State’s Kellen Moore were finalists in 2010, and, obviously, make the preseason cut this year for the award that goes to the nation’s top quarterback.  A total of seven 2010 semifinalists also made the list — Matt Barkley (USC), Kirk Cousins (Michigan State), Robert Griffin III (Baylor), Landry Jones (Oklahoma), Taylor Martinez (Nebraska) (no relation), Denard Robinson (Michigan), and Darron Thomas (Oregon).

Additionally, Case Keenum, a 2009 finalist, is a preseason selection after missing most of the 2010 season with a knee injury.

Perhaps the most glaring “omission” from the 38-player list is South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia, who just yesterday was named to the coaches’ preseason All-SEC second team.

Conference-wise, the Big Ten and Conference USA lead the way with six apiece, followed by the Pac-12 with five; the Big 12 with four; and the ACC and Big East with three each.

The O’Brien is named for former SMU great Davey O’Brien and has been awarded annually since 1981.  The preseason field will be narrowed to 16 semifinalists on Monday, Oct. 24, with the three finalists announced on Monday, Nov. 21. The 2011 Davey O’Brien winner will be announced on The Home Depot College Football Awards on Thursday, Dec. 8.

Last year’s winner was Auburn’s Cam Newton.

Below is the complete list of the 2011 preseason O’Brien watch listers:

Matt Barkley, USC
Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Alex Carder, Western Michigan
Zach Collaros, Cincinnati
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State
Dayne Crist, Notre Dame
Austin Davis, Southern Miss.
Dominique Davis, East Carolina
Nick Foles, Arizona
Jeff Godfrey, UCF
Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois
Jake Heaps, BYU
Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Case Keenum, Houston
G.J. Kinne, Tulsa
Ryan Lindley, San Diego State
Andrew Luck, Stanford
EJ Manuel, Florida State
Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
Bryant Moniz, Hawaii
Kellen Moore, Boise State
Aaron Murray, Georgia
Danny O’Brien, Maryland
Kyle Padron, SMU
Dan Persa, Northwestern
Chris Relf, Mississippi State
Sean Renfree, Duke
Corey Robinson, Troy
Denard Robinson, Michigan
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
Geno Smith, West Virginia
Tino Sunseri, Pittsburgh
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
Darron Thomas, Oregon
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
Jordan Wynn, Utah

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco says league is being disrespected by Playoff selection committee

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Mike Aresco has gone full Rodney Dangerfield.

The AAC commissioner made the rounds with several national media folks on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after seeing a three-loss Mississippi State team jump the conference standard-barer Central Florida in the latest College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s Top 25 rankings. Not only is the American commish claiming that the Knights aren’t getting a “fair shake” by the committee as part of the disrespect shown toward his league, he’s also not happy that one-loss South Florida isn’t even making the cut for the top 25.

“I just don’t think our league is garnering the respect it deserves, period… I feel strongly about it. The evidence is in,” Aresco told ESPN. “We’ve tried to prove for five years how good our conference is. What do we have to do is my question, to prove that we’re a really good league, especially at the top? I just don’t like the notion that, well, strength of schedule, I don’t like to see UCF behind three- and two-loss teams, and I think they can play with anyone. I just don’t know what more we can do.”

Aresco later expanded on his comments and said UCF should be in the top 10 and ahead of two-loss teams like Ohio State.

The fact that Aresco is sticking up for his league and his teams are no surprise but the public way he is going about criticizing the selection committee is a much different tack than previously employed. The AAC remains all but a lock to secure the annual Group of Five bid, which should go to the conference champion among No. 15 UCF, No. 20 Memphis or unranked USF (which would have a chance to beat both of the others in the next two weeks).

CFP executive director Bill Hancock issued a very generic statement in response to Aresco’s comments but his latest salvos should make for some interesting questions next Tuesday when chairman Kirby Hocutt goes in front of the cameras to explain the next set of rankings.

Amid Jimbo Fisher rumors, Florida State continues to explore facilities upgrades

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Jimbo Fisher turned interest from LSU to be their head coach into one of the biggest coach-friendly contracts in the country. Could he be leveraging the same kind of interest from Texas A&M into further facilities upgrades? It appears so.

Hot on the heels of Houston Chronicle report that said Fisher is the top target to replace the eventually deposed Kevin Sumlin in College Station, the Orlando Sentinel says that the Seminoles are exploring a number of different options to give the football program their own sport-specific facility on campus.

“You have no idea,” Fisher told the paper on Monday when asked about the importance of a centralized complex. “Their days are strung out … the schedules they’re on and what they’re asked to do. When you’re wasting time in between, you’re wasting development time for them.”

The Sentinel reports that there are two leading options for the program, the first of which includes a renovation of the team’s current home, the Moore Athletic Center, that would also result in other Seminoles sports moving to a different area for office space and training facilities. The other option would include a brand new football complex that would be built right next to the current indoor practice facility. Things are still in the planning stage at this point but it certainly sounds like things are getting fast-tracked given everything that is going on in the college football world in Tallahassee and beyond.

Whether Fisher leaves or not, it’s pretty clear that Florida State will be looking to build a new football facility for the simple fact that they need to keep up with their peers in the state. Florida is set to break ground in December on their new facility and Miami should have their new indoor facility ready to go by the start of next season. Even USF has laid the groundwork for a $40 million project that will include the latest and greatest for the Bulls football team.

Kevin Sumlin says he has not spoken with Aggies’ AD this week

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While it seems like Texas A&M has been preparing to fire head coach Kevin Sumlin since this summer, it very much appears as though his tenure in College Station is going to officially come to an end at the conclusion of the regular season on Saturday.

A report on Tuesday evening from the Houston Chronicle said that Sumlin will be let go — win or lose — following the team’s game at LSU. Despite that definitive-sounding nature of the report from the well-sourced newspaper, the head coach himself says he has not spoken with athletic director Scott Woodward in nearly a week to discuss his status with the team going forward.

“I haven’t talked to Scott since Saturday at the game, so there hasn’t been any discussion about that,” Sumlin said on the SEC coaches teleconference. “It’s not like we haven’t dealt with this since the spring. I think our team has done a really nice job of focusing on games at hand, and we’ll continue to do that. Certainly we’ve had that experience since the beginning of the year.

“We haven’t really had a chance to talk to our team yet, because we haven’t practiced yet and all this information came out after practice. We’ll deal with it the way we’ve dealt with everything this year, and we’ll continue to do business as usual. Like I said, our staff and our coaches have done a nice job of handling it. In football, it’s not just about football. You try to teach lessons and dealing with adversity, that’s what life’s about.”

Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman said that players and coaches learned of the Chronicle’s report after practice on Tuesday and were upset at the timing and nature of the news surfacing ahead of the team’s game against an SEC rival like the Tigers. While it’s not like they couldn’t see things coming given the animosity on all sides following a disappointing, if injury-riddled, campaign for the Aggies, it’s still not the greatest feeling in the world to go into a game knowing it will be the coaching staff’s last no matter the result.

East Carolina suspends punter charged with drunk-driving, fleeing

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Punters are players too. And apparently drinkers and, in this case, runners as well.

According to multiple media outlets, East Carolina’s Austin Barnes (pictured, No. 17) was arrested on a handful of charges very early Sunday morning following an attempted traffic stop and apparent chase. Specifically, the senior punter was charged with driving under the influence, fleeing/eluding arrest and having no operator’s license.

No details of what led to the arrest and charges have been released.

As a result of the suspension, Barnes has been suspended by Scottie Montgomery. Below is a statement attributed to the head coach:

Representing East Carolina University is a privilege and any behavior that’s not in accordance with that is unacceptable. We have conduct standards and expectations in place for our program for a reason and it’s disappointing when individuals choose not to be accountable for their teammates, especially those who are perceived to be in leadership roles.

As Barnes is in his final season of eligibility, and as the three-win Pirates can’t become bowl-eligible, this ends the collegiate portion of the booter’s collegiate playing career.

With a 44-yard average, Barnes currently leads the AAC and is 19th nationally in yards per punt. Barnes came to ECU s a graduate transfer from Eastern Michigan.

(Tip O’ the Cap: ArrestNation.com)