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Conference Power Rankings — Week 7

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Ok, so now the season is “officially” officially half over. I think. At any rate, and in case you missed it, the first BCS rankings are out, and we’re getting into the meat of the conference schedule. Who’s giving their conference cred? Who’s bringing it down? Check it out:

Our Conclusion:

1. Big 12 (last wk, No. 2)The Good: Okay, guys. This was actually, like, a super tough decision, y’all. The SEC has been rooted at the No. 1 spot for weeks and it took all my strength to pry that spot away from its kung fu grip. But, in the end, three undefeated teams is just more impressive. Good thing Nick Saban could(n’t) “give a $#!@ about all that“. The Bad: With their 38-26 loss to Oklahoma State, Texas has just one conference win in their last eight attempts. Also, Mack Brown still won’t answer quarterback questions. The Ugly: Before losing 47-17 to Oklahoma, Kansas’ defense was allowing roughly 60 points a game in their three previous losses. After losing to Oklahoma? Fifty-seven points per game. And who says Bob Stoops is ruthless?

2. SEC (last wk, No. 1)The Good: Alabama and LSU are just one game apiece away from an epic Nov. 5 showdown that some believe should be the SEC title game. Alabama gets Tennessee at home; LSU hosts Auburn. On paper, LSU has the tougher task, but the Tide need to take care of business and not look ahead. The Bad: Losing running back Marcus Lattimore for the year due to a knee injury is devastating for South Carolina. The Gamecocks can still win the SEC East, but putting it on Connor Shaw‘s shoulders is asking a lot. The Ugly: The post-game skirmish between Georgia and Vanderbilt was unfortunate. The fact it involved two coaches — Vandy’s James Franklin and Georgia DC Todd Grantham — is downright despicable. I don’t know who said what, and I’m not going to place blame on one over the other, but it’s a coach’s job to display the highest levels of decision-making, win or lose. Hopefully, both sides will learn from the experience.

3. Pac-12 (last wk, No. 4) The Good: One thing that’s always been so impressive about Chip Kelly‘s Oregon team is that they actually plug in the next guy if someone gets hurt without missing a beat. In a 41-27 win over Arizona State, Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas filled in admirably for LaMichael James, and Bryan Bennett was able to keep the chains moving with quarterback Darron Thomas on the sidelines with a knee injury. Great effort all around. The Bad: After notching their first win of the season over Arizona, Oregon State came back out and lost by 10 points to BYU. It’s been a really tough season for coach Mike Riley. The Ugly: It’s hard to believe, but Colorado has won a national championship more recently than Notre Dame. Granted, it was still over 20 years ago, but this program has fallen a long way over the past several years. The Buffs, 1-6 on the season, have a wonderful program. Here’s hoping they can get it turned around.

4. Big Ten (last wk, No. 3)The Good: Honestly, not much. It’s kind of a wonder that the Big Ten is even ranked this high based on some of the performances this past week, but Wisconsin and Michigan State are keeping this conference afloat. This Saturday’s matchup between the two should be a lot of fun. The Bad: Penn State is 6-1 now with a win over Purude, but it’s hard to see them winning any more than seven games this year with games against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin looming. The Lions’ offense is completely out of sync. The Ugly: Perhaps I’m beating this into the ground more than I should, but there’s something about Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson that worries me. Perhaps it’s the fact that he can’t throw the ball effectively at all. Robinson has 2010 written all over him as we get into the meat of Big Ten play.

5. ACC (last wk, No. 5)The Good: Okay, maybe Clemson is for real. Maybe. Possibly. For another week, at least. Conditions were perfect for the Tigers to fail against Maryland, but the No. 8 showed a ton of heart coming back from 18 points down to win against the Terps. The Bad: The ACC desperately needs some credibility in the form of a BCS bowl win and an upper-echelon of teams who don’t lose to teams they shouldn’t. For a while, Georgia Tech looked to be in that latter category — until they lost 24-21 to Virginia. The Ugly: Allowing North Carolina to make a late-game rally wasn’t the way Miami coach Al Golden wanted to win, but the ‘Canes (3-3, 1-2 ACC) needed the conference win.

6. Big East (last wk, No. 7)The Good: Rutgers has been one of the nicest surprises of the first half of the season, coming from behind to beat Navy 21-20 to give the Scarlet Knights a 5-1 record. Granted, they haven’t beaten anybody, but last year the Scarlet Knights lost to those teams. The Bad: I don’t know if “bad” quite defines Pitt, but it certainly nails down their offense. Outside of running back Ray Graham, the Panthers can’t do anything to score points other than leave their offense off the field and let special teams do it instead. The Ugly: a 16-10 victory by UConn over South Florida. ‘Nuff said.

7. Conference USA (last wk, No. 6)The Good: The first superconference! The Bad: UCF, Houston and SMU, who could all be leaving for the Big East. The Ugly: Um, I believe THIS qualifies. Where’s the fan support?

8. WAC (last wk, No. 9)The Good, Bad and Ugly: I don’t know what it is about Friday night football on ESPN, but some of the craziest games this season have been broadcast with Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore. The 28=27 San Jose State win over Hawaii was no different. The good part was that it was an exciting game that came down to the last minute; the bad part is that it was San Jose State and Hawaii; the ugly part is that there were 12 combined turnovers. Twelve! I don’t even…

9. Mountain West (last wk, No. 10)The Good: Boise State continues to roll along on their way to another BCS appearance with a 63-13 win over Colorado State. The Broncos play nobody of note outside of TCU in their conference slate, but damn if they don’t make college football more fun. The Bad: A 41-27 loss to San Diego State puts Air Force at a disappointing 3-3 through the first half of the year. Honestly, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling there were higher expectations from the Falcons this year. The Ugly: The spiral keeps getting getting more uncontrollable. UNLV and New Mexico are a combined 1-11. Ouch.

10. MAC (last wk, No. 8 )The Good: Ball State had just four wins last season; the Fighting Letterman’s have matched that total already this year. Extra kudos for Toledo and Temple, who continue to rack up wins. The Bad: Dan LeFevour was really something at Central Michigan. At 2-5, the Chips just haven’t been the same since him and Butch Jones departed. The Ugly: Here’s a MAC score for ya: Miami (OH) — 9, Kent State — 3. Yikes.

11. Sun Belt (last wk, No. 11) The Good: Louisiana Lafayette sits at 6-1. Far and away the best team in the Sun Belt. The Bad: The conference, on the other hand, needs Troy to be good again. The Trojans are currently 2-4 and just got blown out at home by Louisiana-Monroe. Rock bottom much? The Ugly: Florida Atlantic opened their brand new stadium with a 20-0 shutout to Western Kentucky. Uh…..

Jim Harbaugh becomes first coach to pay three assistants $1 million

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 21:  Jim Harbaugh head coach of the Michigan Wolverines run onto the field prior to the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium on November 21, 2015 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)
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According to the USA Today coaching salary database, a dozen assistant coaches took home at least $1 million in 2016.

That number will rise to at least 15 in 2017, and three of the coaches will wear maize and blue.

Michigan released contract information Tuesday that shows offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, defensive coordinator Don Brown and quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton will each take home $1 million in 2017. This comes on the heels of Jim Harbaugh taking home an industry-leading $9 million himself in 2016.

In another move that will not go unnoticed within the industry, Harbaugh has also handed lengthy contracts to each assistant. Drevno and Brown each inked 5-year deals, and Hamilton a 4-year one.

Brown’s deal stays at a flat $1 million through the first four years before jumping to $1.4 million in Year 5, with $1.4 million in retention bonuses built in. Hamilton will make $1.25 million in the final year of his contract, with $700,000 waiting after the second and third seasons. Drevno will make $1 million with no retention bonuses, but he has netted a $150,000 signing bonus.

Contract details oncoming:

The Wolverines are 20-6 in the first two seasons of the Harbaugh era.

Texas Tech adds former Red Raider center as O-line coach

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 14: The Texas Tech Red Raiders take the field before the game against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 14, 2015 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech won the game 59-44. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
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Brandon Jones‘ coaching career began in Lubbock after his playing days at Texas Tech came to an end, and now that career will continue on at his alma mater.

Jones, Tech announce via a press release, has been hired as the Red Raiders new offensive line coach.  The hiring of Jones comes a couple of days after Tech announced that Lee Hays would not be returning to Kliff Kingsbury‘s coaching staff in 2017.

“We’re excited to welcome Coach Jones to our staff,” the head coach said in a statement. “He’s regarded as one of the top offensive line coaches in the country, and our program will benefit from his leadership. We’re looking forward to our offensive line continuing to develop under him.”

The past two seasons, Jones served as the line coach and running-game coordinator at Cal.

Prior to that, he was the line coach at East Carolina from 2010-14. Jones started 22 games along the line for the Red Raiders before becoming a grad assistant with the football program in 2007.

ACC unveils 2017 football schedule

SYRACUSE, NY - NOVEMBER 12:  Detail view of ACC logo on Syracuse Orange uniforms before the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on November 12, 2016 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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The ACC ended this past football season as the home of the 2016 national champion as well as the best bowl record of any FBS conference as well.  Tuesday, the league turned its attention to next season as the conference released its schedule for 2017.

Wake Forest will kick off the ACC’s 2017 season with a home date against FCS Presbyterian on Thursday, Aug. 31.  The first game against an FBS program comes one day later as Boston College travels to Northern Illinois.  The first conference games will be played in Week 2, and includes Boston College-Wake Forest and North Carolina-Louisville.  Both of those games will be played Sept. 9.

ACC teams will play five neutral site games on the opening weekend of the season: Florida State-Alabama (Sept. 2) and Georgia Tech-Tennessee (Sept. 4) at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as part of the annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games; Virginia Tech-West Virginia at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland; Louisville-Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis; and North Carolina State-South Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte in the Belk College Kickoff Game.

As has been the case the past couple of seasons, there will be five games against Notre Dame: Boston College (Sept. 16), North Carolina (Oct. 7) and Miami (Nov. 11) all will play host to the football independent. NC State (Oct. 28) and Wake Forest (Nov. 4) will both travel to South Bend.

College Football Playoff champions Clemson will open defense of its title with a home date against Kent State.

“Our ACC football programs are coming off a record-setting season that was capped off with nine postseason wins, including Clemson’s National Championship and Florida State’s Orange Bowl Title,” said ACC commissioner John Swofford in a statement. “Our football success over the last few years has helped put the ACC in one of the strongest positions we have ever enjoyed as a league. As we look ahead to 2017, conference games will continue to be extremely competitive and our schools are once again playing what is arguably the top non-conference schedule in the country. This is a great tribute to our schools and programs, and it will be exciting on a weekly basis for our fans.”

For a complete look at the ACC’s 2017 football schedule, click HERE or HERE or HERE.

Luke Fickell adds two coaches to Cincinnati staff

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 22: Players for the Cincinnati Bearcats run on to the field prior to the start of the game against the East Carolina Pirates at Nippert Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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Six weeks after landing the head-coaching job at Cincinnati, Luke Fickell continues to make headway in completing his initial Bearcats coaching staff.

In a press release Tuesday, UC confirmed that Fickell has added Ron Crook and Al Washington as line coaches.  Crook will coach the offensive line, Washington the defensive line.

“I’m glad to wrap up a pair of key hires with great coaches like Al and Ron,” the head coach said in a statement. “You win and lose football games in the trenches and both bring an intense and physical mindset to their jobs. Looking at our staff top to bottom with a few hires still to come, we have attracted high-quality coaches who can teach the game and lead our student-athletes to success.”

Crook, who began his collegiate coaching career at UC as a grad assistant in 1993, returns after spending the past four seasons at West Virginia. He’s also spent time on staffs at Illinois and Stanford among others.

Washington, meanwhile, spent the past five seasons at his alma mater Boston College. He was the line coach as well as special teams coordinator last season after coaching running backs the three previous years.  His only other FBS job came at North Carolina State.

With the twin hires, Fickell now has seven of his nine on-field staff in place: Cook, Washington, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Denbrock (HERE), defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Marcus Freeman, special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Doug Phillips, wide receivers coach Joker Phillips (HERE) and safeties coach Jon Tenuta.