Larry Scott listening to schools interested in Pac-12

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I have to say this: it sure would be nice to sit down and actually watch and enjoy the first full weekend of college football.  Instead, there are additional signs pointing toward a thermonuclear version of conference apocalypse that simply can’t go unmentioned.

In the latest and most significant development, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott acknowledged that he has fielded calls from unnamed schools — one rhymes with “Schmoklahoma” — that have expressed an interest in joining his conference.  One thing Scott’s making perfectly clear, however, is he’s the one on the receiving end of phone calls from interested parties, not the other way around.

I will say schools have reached out to us,” Scott told reporters before the start of the LSU-Oregon game. “We are not doing anything proactively… schools have called us. We certainly are going to listen. …

“If there is any suggestion whatsoever that our conference is being predatory that’s just wrong. We’ve not had expansion as an initiative, as an agenda, for us at all. If there were any conversations going on, you can be sure there are not any we initiated.”

Earlier today, the Daily Oklahoman reported that Oklahoma’s sole focus is now on the Pac-12.  If the speculation comes to fruition, OU would make the first move to the Pac-12, causing a ripple effect that would bring Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech along with them, leaving the Big 12 with five schools and almost no shot at survival — especially after the Big Ten grabs Missouri as part of a counteroffensive to the Pac-12 morphing into the Pac-16.  And then Jim Delany reaches into the Big East before convincing Notre Dame to shed its football independence to get to 16 members.  And then the SEC responds as well, getting to 16 by swallowing up three schools from the ACC, forcing that conference and some of what’s left of the Big East and Big 12 to merge.

Such developments — well, maybe not those specific developments — would come as no surprise to Scott.

“I’ve also been clear,” Scott said, “that there will probably be further expansion at some stage.”

Of course, at one point last year Scott, after flying to a handful of Big 12 cities, thought he had the OU-UT-OSU-TT quartet all but signed, sealed and delivered before the then just-a-dream Longhorn Network played a significant role in scuttling those grandiose expansion dreams.  This time, the LHN isn’t expected to pose an obstacle to adding Texas.  Rather, this time it appears as if it’ll be up to the school in Norman to (mercifully) put the final bullet in the head of the Big 12.

Ex-USC DL Noah Jefferson won’t be transferring to Arizona after all

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In early March, Noah Jefferson announced on Twitter that he would be transferring from USC to Arizona.  Nearly five months later?

Never mind.

Wednesday, UA head coach Rich Rodriguez announced that Jefferson will not, as previously expected, be playing for the Wildcats this season.  No reason for the abrupt and unexpected about-face was given.

The coach did, though, intimate that a future pairing between the player and the program isn’t out of the question.

Jefferson wouldn’t have been eligible to play in 2017 for the Wildcats even if his move to the desert had come to fruition. He would’ve, though, had two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018 at his disposal.

A four-star member of USC’s 2015 recruiting class, Jefferson played in 14 games, starting one of those, as a true freshman. After starting the season-opening loss to Alabama last season, Jefferson never played another down for USC.

Hugh Freeze makes first public comments since exiting Ole Miss in disgrace

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For the first time since his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze has spoken publicly.  Somewhat.

In what was described as a brief interview with USA Today Sports Wednesday, the former Ole Miss head coach said his family and church have helped him get through the storm of the last few days. When asked if his family was standing by him, Freeze responded, “Oh, gosh, yeah.”

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze told the website. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” the former head coach added.

The stunning news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.

Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

Five-star 2017 Auburn signee undergoes ‘minor procedure,’ should be a go for start of summer camp

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It appears Auburn has dodged what could’ve been a significant injury bullet.

Citing a person familiar with the situation, Brandon Marcello of the Auburn arm of 247Sports.com is reporting that Calvin Ashley underwent a procedure on one of his eyes recently.  SECCountry.com described it as “a minor procedure”; both websites stated that the touted offensive tackle will be ready for the start of summer camp on July 31, this coming Monday.

The reports come a few days after Ashley posted a picture on social media of what appeared to be him in a hospital room.

The football program has not yet, at least publicly, addressed what if any type of health issue with which Ashley is dealing.

A five-star member of the Tigers’ 2017 recruiting class, Ashley was rated as the No. 6 tackle in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in Washington D.C.; and the No. 27 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Ashley was the highest-rated player in AU’s class this year, the only five-star recruit pulled in by Gus Malzahn and company this cycle.

The 6-6, 310-pound Ashley is expected to compete immediately for the starting job at left tackle.

USC the media’s choice to win 2017 Pac-12 title

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Thanks to how they finished the 2016 season, USC is getting substantial preseason love heading into the 2017 season.  Not surprisingly, that affection continued Wednesday.

At the Pac-12 Media Days Wednesday, 28 of the 52 media members covering the conference picked USC to win the league’s title this season.  Another 22 picked reigning champion Washington to defend its title, while there was one vote each for Oregon and Utah.

Both USC and UW received 49 first-place votes when it comes to winning the South and North divisions, respectively.  Oregon, Stanford and Washington State received one first-place vote each to win the North Division, while Colorado, UCLA and Utah received the same for the South crown.

Also of note from the opening of media days:

  • The Pac-12 Championship Game will remain at Levi’s Stadium through the 2019 season, with an option for 2020 as well.  The home of the San Francisco 49ers has been the venue for the conference’s last two title games.  New NFL stadiums in Inglewood and Las Vegas will be options beyond that.
  • Halftime of games broadcasted on Pac-12 Networks will be reduced from 20 minutes to 15.  In an attempt to further shorten the length of games, commercial breaks during those games will be reduced as well. “We are trying to be progressive and experiment with ways to manage the game presentation through a reduction of TV timeouts and some of the 30-second commercial spots,” commissioner Larry Scott said as the league targets three hours as the ideal game time.
  • The conference has centralized its replay reviews for all 12 teams this season after experimenting with centralization for two teams in 2016.