Hogs still maintain shot at SEC title game berth

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Lost amid the hoopla surrounding the LSU-Alabama matchup Saturday night was another Top-Ten tilt involving a pair of SEC teams.

Thanks to No. 7 Arkansas’ win over No. 9 South Carolina, the Razorbacks have slipped into a virtual second-place tie with Alabama in the SEC West — the Tide at 5-1, the Hogs at 4-1. It’s long been assumed, though, that the representative from the West in the SEC championship game would come from either LSU or Alabama. Although that might ultimately be the case, it’s not a foregone conclusion.

If Arkansas were to win out against Tennessee, Mississippi State and LSU… if Alabama wins their two remaining conference games versus Mississippi State and Auburn… if LSU loses to the Razorbacks but wins their other remaining conference game against Ole Miss, those three would be tied for first place and we would head to the SEC’s system for breaking three-way ties.  Here’s the step-by-step process the SEC would go about deciding the West’s representative in the title game.

1. (Once the tie has been reduced to two teams, go to the two-team tie-breaker format.)
As you will see, this will take awhile.

2. Combined head-to-head record among the tied teams.
Based on the scenario laid out above, each team would be 1-1 against the others.  Thus, we move on to No. 3

3. Record of the tied teams within the division.
Based on the scenario laid out above, each team would be 4-1 against West opponents.  Again, we move on to the next step of the tiebreaking process.

4. Head-to-head competition vs. the team within the division with the best overall (divisional and non-divisional) Conference record and proceeding through the division. Multiple ties within the division will be broken from first to last.
Based on the scenario laid out above, each team would be undefeated against Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.  So, let’s skip to No. 5.

5. Overall record vs. non-division teams.
Only Arkansas has a game against an East team left, so, again, based on the scenario laid out above, each team would be 3-0 against the other division.  You know the drill at this point…

6. Combined record vs. all common non-divisional teams.
Again, provided the Razorbacks beat the Vols next weekend, all three would be unbeaten against the lone common East opponent this year — Tennessee.  And again, we proceed to the next step in the process.

7. Record vs. common non-divisional team with the best overall Conference (divisional and non-divisional) record and proceeding through other common non-divisional teams based on their order of finish within their division.
See any of the other steps that involve non-division records; all three would be unbeaten versus East teams.  So, we are down to the last step in the process, which involves everybody’s favorite system for determining a national champion.

8. The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the last weekend of regular-season games shall be the divisional representative in the SEC Championship Game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the SEC Championship Game.
This is where it gets tricky for the Razorbacks.

Based on my interpretation of the eighth tiebreaker, which was subsequently verified by an SEC official, Arkansas would need to beat LSU and have both themselves and LSU — in any order as long as the Hogs are within five spots if behind the Tigers– finish higher than Alabama in the final regular season BcS rankings in order to become the West’s rep in the conference title game.  Arkansas’ loss to Alabama earlier this year necessitates both the Razorbacks and LSU finishing ahead of the Tide in that last set of BcS rankings before the start of the conference championship game.

Of course, this is all predicated on Arkansas going into Death Valley the final week of the season and beating LSU after winning their next two conference games.  If not?  This is all a moot exercise as LSU would skate to Atlanta in early December.

Provided the current No. 1 team in the country goes unscathed the rest of the way, of course.

Family matter prompts Danny Hope to leave USF staff

during the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl  at Marlins Park on December 21, 2015 in Miami, Florida.
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Sometimes, believe it or not, there are things more important than football.

Earlier Thursday, speculation began making the rounds that Danny Hope might be forced to leave South Florida because of an unspecified “family matter.”  A short time later, USF announced in a press release that Hope is indeed leaving the Bulls “in order to be closer to his family.”

Hope had just completed his first season as head coach’s Willie Taggart‘s co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

“I would like to thank Danny for his significant contributions to the success of our program over the past season,” Taggart said. “We appreciated having him as part of our staff and I know he enjoyed being a Bull. He loved it here and I loved having him, but sometimes you have to make choices in regards to what’s best for your family. I respect Danny’s desire to do what’s best for him and his family. We wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

Hope was dismissed as Purdue’s head coach in November of 2012, spending two seasons on the coaching sidelines before joining Taggart’s staff in December of 2014.

Taggart had a pair of offensive coordinators on his staff, Hope and David Reaves.  Reaves will presumably be promoted to solo coordinator as well as maintaining the title of passing game coordinator, while Taggart intends to continue on as the Bulls’ primary play-caller.

“I expect to be able to complete our staff very quickly with an excellent offensive line coach,” Taggart said. “I will continue to call the plays and work closely with our offense, and we will build our staff around that same structure.”

NCAA rules committee votes to allow replay official to call missed targeting foul

Louisville v Wichita State
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The NCAA Football Rules Committee’s annual passage of potential new rules for the sport will once again include a potentially controversial measure.

Following four days worth of meetings in Orlando, the NCAA announced Thursday that the committee has approved several proposals that, if approved Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP), will go into effect for the 2016 season. As has previously been expected, one of the proposals the committee voted on and approved was to “expand the authority of the instant replay official, requiring them to review all aspects of targeting fouls.”

In a review of the controversial targeting rule, the NCAA found that, in what it described as a “small number of cases,” players were wrongly ejected from games. Those ejections came after the original targeting call on the field was reviewed by the replay official. Now? The committee has recommended that the same replay officials be given the power “to stop the game and create a targeting foul in situations where an egregious action has occurred” but was missed by the on-field officiating crew.

“The targeting rule is serving the game well, and has enhanced player safety,” said Bob Nielson, chair of the committee and head coach at the University of South Dakota, in a statement. “Because this is such a severe penalty, we are instructing replay officials to review plays to ensure that the required elements of targeting exist. We are also adding the ability for the replay official to stop the game when a potential targeting foul is not detected on the field.”

In another tweak that could ultimately lead to a significant technological development in the not-too-distant future, the committee has approved a proposal that would allow electronic devices — i.e. tablets — in the press box and locker rooms during game day. What will still not be permitted is such devices being utilized on the sidelines, something the NFL approved two years ago and which the college version of the game is expected to ultimately adopt. In that vein, the NCAA wrote in its release that “[t]he committee will continue monitoring the use of those devices next year in addition to other potential technology enhancements it believes could improve the game.”

Last year, the rules committee had approved a proposal that would’ve adjusted the ineligible receiver downfield rule from 3 yards to 1 yard. That controversial proposal was met with significant push-back from HUNH coaches, and was ultimately tabled by the PROP. The ineligible receiver downfield rule will remain the same as in the past, the NCAA has reaffirmed, although “the committee [has] decided to instruct officials to stringently enforce the 3-yard limit and adjust officiating mechanics to better officiate those plays.”

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Three additional proposals aimed at greater player safety were approved:

• First, the rules dealing with low blocks were adjusted to prohibit a player who leaves the tackle box from blocking below the waist toward the initial position of the ball.
• Second, the rules pertaining to a defenseless player will include a ball carrier who has clearly given himself up by sliding feet first.
• Finally, the deliberate tripping of the ball carrier (with the leg) was approved as a foul.

All of the proposals approved by the rules committee will be considered by the PROP on March 8. Again, if approved, the proposed changes would be implemented for the 2016 season.

Reports: A&M bringing back Jim Turner as O-line coach

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 17:  Offensive line coach, Jim Turner, of the Miami Dolphins coaches his players before their game against the San Diego Chargers at Sun Life Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Wednesday brought word that Texas A&M’s defensive line coach was hired for the same job at Indiana.  The dawn of a new day has brought word that Kevin Sumlin has addressed his line vacancy on the other side of the ball, and with a very familiar face at that.

Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com was the first to report that Sumlin has decided to bring Jim Turner back as his offensive line coach.  FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Turner would replace Dave Christensen, who “parted ways” with the program earlier this month.  According to 247Sports.com, Turner “was chosen over former Tennessee Titans offensive line coach Bob Bostad and current McNeese State offensive line coach Eman Naghavi” to be Christensen’s replacement.

Turner spent the 2008-11 seasons as the line coach at A&M under Mike Sherman.  After Sherman’s firing in December of 2011, Turner followed the ex-Aggies head coach to the Miami Dolphins, where the former was the line coach and the latter the offensive coordinator.

After two seasons with the NFL club, Turner was fired after getting swept up in the maelstrom that was the Dolphins’ bullying and harassment scandal.  Turner subsequently filed a lawsuit claiming “his reputation and career have been unfairly affected” by the reports commissioned by the NFL.

Turner spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons “in private business” before being hired earlier this year to be the line coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Irish WR Corey Robinson elected Notre Dame student body president

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 18:  Corey Robinson #88 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reacts to a touchdown that was called back for pass interference late in the fourth quarter during their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Regardless of how you feel about Notre Dame, this is really a rather impressive and refreshing story.

Late last month, we noted that Irish junior wide receiver Corey Robinson had tossed his hat into the campus political ring and was running for student body president.  Election Day on the South Bend campus was Wednesday, and it was officially announced Thursday morning that Robinson, the son of NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson, was the winner of the race and has been elected as the university’s student body president.

The first day in office for Robinson, along with vice president-elect Becca Blais, is April 1.

“It feels very humbling to be able to be announced the president and vice president of Notre Dame,” Robinson said according to the school’s student newspaper. “It’s [definitely something] we’ve been dreaming about for a long time, and to be able to be here and lead the student body is just something I am very thankful for.”

Robinson totaled 16 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown last season. With the departures of four of the Irish’s top five pass-catchers, Robinson is being counted on to be an integral part of the squad’s passing game in 2016.

When he announced his candidacy, Robinson addressed the time demands the new position would entail and how it should have minimal impact on the football side of his life.

“This spring, all of our practices are in the morning, so we practice from six in the morning until 10 a.m., and the rest of the day is free, and I have one class a day, no class on Fridays. In the summer, same kind of thing — we only practice for two hours a day, and I’m going to be here every day, all day, so that’ll be easy as well. I’m only taking one class,” Robinson said.

“In the fall, we practice to 2:30 to 7, so anything between those hours, I can’t participate in, but the rest of the day, I’m free. I’m going to have three or four classes … and the way my schedule works, only football and student body, so that way, I’ll be able to be fully invested in both, in those two aspects.”