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…..

Ole Mis AD: Hugh Freeze would’ve been fired for cause if he hadn’t resigned

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In the end, regardless of how he chose to play it out, Hugh Freeze‘s time in Oxford would’ve come to an end.

Thursday night brought the stunning news 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.  Freeze, to Yahoo! Sports, blamed the call on a misdial; Freeze’s now-former boss, athletic director Ross Bjork, led the same website to write that “further vetting of Freeze’s phone records disclosed a ‘pattern of conduct’ that led the school administration to confront Freeze this week.”

After meeting with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, the die had been cast for the coach.

Bjork said that if Freeze had not offered his resignation he would have been fired for cause, citing the “moral turpitude” clause in Freeze’s contract. Bjork said there was no buyout of the contract and no settlement.

“He admitted that conduct to us,” Bjork said. “None of us are perfect. Nobody in this room is perfect. I think we need to respect how he resigned and respect his privacy.

The infamous call in question — it lasted one minute, which gives at least some credence to Freeze’s claim that this one was a misdial — came to light as a result of Houston Nutt’s recently-filed lawsuit against Freeze, the university and other high-ranking school officials.  No other calls to that specific phone number were found in a review of an estimated 39,000 calls made from Freeze’s school-issued phone; “[h]owever, the school kept digging through the records and must have found additional troubling information,” the website wrote

Freeze’s admission to “that conduct” according to Bjork says as much.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigns after discovery of phone calls to escort service

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Forget about Hugh Freeze being on the hot seat in Oxford. He won’t even be coaching a single game for the Rebels this fall.

Hugh Freeze resigned from his position as head coach at Ole Miss suddenly on Thursday evening, just a week after SEC Media Days. The resignation is effective immediately, and the school has announced co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Luke will take over the head coaching responsibilities for the upcoming season as the interim head coach. It should be expected Ole Miss will conduct a search for a new full-time head coach as soon as possible, but an official hire being made before the start of the season remains in question.

The resignation comes after the school discovered a phone call to an escort service coming from his school-issued cell phone. And it apparently was not an accidental wrong number either.

According to a report from Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, Ole Miss reviewed phone records tied to Freeze as far back as 2012. Earlier in the day, USA Today reporter Dan Wolken reported Freeze had made a phone call to the number associated with a female escort service. The phone call in the report occurred in January of 2016. How many phone calls were discovered by Ole Miss is at this time unknown. Once confronted with the phone numbers by Bjork, Freeze is said to have offered his resignation. Whether he voluntarily offered to resign or if he was pushed to resign by the school may never be known for sure, but given the heat on Freeze already following recent headlines it may be pretty easy to see how this all played out behind closed doors.

It has been a troublesome summer for Freeze. Just last week, he was targetted in a lawsuit filed by former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, and Freeze has had to deny any members of his staff knowingly violated any NCAA rules following an investigation into the program. Freeze was previously targeted in a lawsuit filed by the stepdad of former Ole Miss player Laremy Tunsil just months after the NCAA discovered 13 violations against the Ole Miss program under the leadership of Freeze last year.

In five seasons at Ole Miss, Freeze was 39-25 and coached Ole Miss to a 2-1 record in postseason bowl games. Along the way, he recruited some of the best classes in school history, although how he and his staff managed to do so has been the subject of plenty of scrutinies and the findings continue to come together to suggest foul play was used. Calls to escort services will not help that look at all. Before being hired at Ole Miss, Freeze coached Arkansas State to a 19-3 record in 2011.

Luke, an Ole Miss alum from the Class of 2000, joined the Ole Miss coaching staff in 2012 with Freeze.

Todd Graham subtly names Manny Wilkins starting QB at ASU, says Barnett will have to win the job

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Arizona State picked up a nice addition to the depth chart with the addition of quarterback Blake Barnett this past winter. Barnett was given the chance to be immediately eligible to play for Arizona State this season rather than have to sit out a season, but he will have to get to work in order to win the starting job with the Sun Devils if Todd Graham‘s latest comments are accurate.

Speaking to media today at a facilities tour, Graham was asked about the quarterback competition. Graham not-so-subtly named Manny Wilkins the team’s starter for the 2017 season, barring any other changes between now and the start of the season.

“I didn’t make an announcement, I just didn’t want our opponent know who was going to play but I thought our opponent knew, I think everybody knew,” Graham said, referring to a season-opening game against New Mexico State. “We have a returning starter and he’s the starting quarterback until someone beats him out.”

Perhaps most notably, one of the quarterbacks who will look to knock Wilkins off the top of the depth chart will be Barnett, the transfer from Alabama who was a major recruit for the Crimson Tide not so long ago. Barnett started the  2016 season as Alabama’s official starter but lost the full-time job to Jalen Hurts right out of the gate with a shaky performance in the season opener while Hurts put on a show (and led Alabama to the national championship game). Barnett then opted to leave the program in search of a new opportunity to compete for the starting job.

“Right now, we have a starting quarterback and Blake knows he has to beat him out,” Graham said. “I’m looking forward to see that competition and a very physical, Sun Devil tough training camp.”

Report: Alabama RB B.J. Emmons, CB Aaron Robinson leaving program

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The Alabama Crimson Tide may not be hurting on the depth chart as a result, but two players are leaving the program in search of other opportunities. Running back B.J. Emmons and cornerback Aaron Robinson are both leaving Tuscaloosa, according to a report from AL.com.

As the news was breaking, multiple reports say Emmons has enrolled at Hutchinson Community College. Emmons missed some games last season due to a foot injury, but he is expected to be back to 100 percent health this fall. Of course, at Alabama, the running back position is stacked and difficult to get much playing time to begin with. Robinson was also expected to be a backup for Alabama this fall after working with the second team unit in the spring.

Emmons was Alabama’s fifth-leading rusher in 2016 with 173 yards and a touchdown in seven games. Robinson appeared in 13 games and recorded five total tackles as a freshman.

Both Emmons and Robinson will be eligible to play for another FBS program starting in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 season, due to NCAA transfer rules. They are eligible to play at a lower division school this fall, whether it is an FCS or lower program or a junior college. The junior college route appears to be the path Emmons is taking by enrolling at a community college.