UCLA v USC

USC gets their own Luck: Barkley to return for another year

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In early January of this year, Andrew Luck surprised some observers by announcing that he was eschewing a shot at a certain spot inside the Top Five of the NFL draft and returning to Stanford.

Nearly a year later, another Pac-12 school has officially become the beneficiary of an even more surprising decision by the leader of its offense.

With an ornate Christmas tree setting the seasonally-themed scene: Matt Barkley announced at an on-campus press conference Thursday afternoon the one gift Trojan fans have been wishing for over the past few months: the quarterback will be returning to USC for one more season.  Barkley told his coaches and teammates of the news of his decision earlier in the day, a decision that was made after extensive conversations with his family, school officials and other advisers from the professional level.

“I know in my heart that I have not yet finished my journey as a Trojan football player,” the junior said. “Our USC football team has been through some tough times and we have persevered.  But the 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to, and I intend to play a part of it.

“So, yes, I have firmly decided to forego the NFL draft in 2012 and finish this exceptional and unique journey that I’ve had here at USC.”

Based on the early draft projections, Barkley was a near-lock to be one of the first 10 players selected in the April NFL draft and, pending the pre-draft workouts, perhaps even a top-five selection.  Instead, he’s returning to solidify his legacy as one of the greatest Trojans in the football program’s storied history.

With the decision, Barkley immediately becomes one of the front-runners for the 2012 Heisman Trophy — perhaps the front-runner pending the NFL decisions of 2011 winner Robert Griffin III and this year’s other finalists, all of whom are draft-eligible — thanks to a 2011 season that saw him pass for more than 3,500 yards, 39 touchdowns and just seven picks.

More importantly is what Barkley’s decision means for the Trojans as a team.  Add Barkley’s return with the fact that 16 other starters from a 10-2 squad are expected to return as well, and it will likely equal the Trojans starting the 2012 season deep inside the Top Ten of the major preseason polls.

And, with the school finally eligible following a two-year bowl ban, a run at a Pac-12 championship and berth in a BcS bowl are certainly not out of the question and should probably be expected.  In fact, and even with the final chapter of the 2011 season not yet written, the Trojans would have to be considered one of a handful of legitimate national title contenders eight months or so out from the start of next season.

Thanks to Barkley’s unexpected decision, such talk is far from premature, regardless how far the start of the 2012 season is off in the distance.

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Houston Nutt steps out of the shadows following Ole Miss Notice of Allegations

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Ole Miss dropped its long-awaited Notice of Allegations, which revealed the spin of the majority of the 28 allegations being against non-football sports and former head coach Houston Nutt‘s staff to be technically true but also just that — spin.

Of the 13 allegations against the Rebels’ football program, nine came against current head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff. However, the majority of those were relatively minor in nature (free rental cars, comped hotel rooms), and the largest did come against two former assistants. Former defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn and former operations staffer David Saunders were accused of setting up a fraudulent ACT system to get players into school.

“We usually know about who is going to make it in by May,” Nutt said of the players whom those ACTs got into school. “We were gonna place them in junior college.”

Still, Nutt told Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports he felt a twinge of validation from Friday’s release.

“It’s the most frustrating thing there is,” Nutt said, “to be on the sidelines and hear your name keep getting mentioned and mentioned. It’s hurtful. It makes you mad.

“I don’t have a major violation in 30 years of coaching.”

Nutt won 75 games at Arkansas and led Ole Miss to a 19-8 mark and back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories in his first two seasons in Oxford — read: with Ed Orgeron‘s players — and fell to 6-18 (1-15 SEC) in his final two seasons. That, plus the sting of these violations falling on his record, is likely to continue to keep Nutt out of coaching — at least at the highest levels of FBS.

Still, he remains optimistic.

“I’m going on five years without a team,” he said. “There were a few opportunities I went after. I’d love to coach again. I feel like I’ve got 10 more seasons in me.”

Former Texas Tech OL Robert Castaneda arrested on burglary charge

STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 25:   The Texas Tech Red Raiders flag flies outside the stadium before the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys September 25, 2014 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys defeated the Red Raiders 45-35.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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Former Texas Tech offensive lineman Robert Castaneda was arrested Friday in Lubbock, Texas, jail for burglary of a habitation.

Bond was set at $5,000 but he was out of jail within four hours of booking according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

A three-star prospect out of Round Rock, Texas, Casteneda redshirted in 2014 and appeared in all 13 games as a reserve last fall before being kicked off the team May 5 for “failure to uphold student-athlete expectations.”

Sophomore linebacker Dakota Allen and redshirt freshman offensive tackle Trace Ellison were also dismissed at that time.

Sun Belt adds affiliation with Arizona Bowl

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The Sun Belt is consolidating its membership to the south and east, but its postseason profile has struck far out west.

The conference has announced an affiliation with the Arizona Bowl, bringing the New Orleans-based league’s bowl roster to five.

The inaugural Arizona Bowl infamously could not find two conferences to pit against each other, so Nevada and Colorado State faced off in an all-Mountain West affair. That embarrassing scenario will be avoided moving forward as the Sun Belt will play opposite the Mountain West from 2016-19.

The 2016 Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl will be played on Dec. 30. Time is still to be determined, but organizers think an afternoon kick will lead to a better experience. “If you were at the game last year, the suites were packed,” bowl organizer Ali J. Farhang told the Tucson Citizen. “It was warm and comfortable. If we can get that kind of environment in the stadium too …”

The 2015 game kicked at 5:30 p.m. local time, with a temperature of 44 degrees. This year’s game will kick off between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

As recruits jump ship, Baylor WR KD Cannon, RB Terence Williams stick with Bears

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One of the more interesting subplots to follow as Baylor moves into the post-Art Briles era will be the reaction from recruits and current players.

Speculation exists the NCAA will — or at least should — allow current Bears out of their scholarships without penalty, similar to how the NCAA treated Penn State players in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But, for now, the NCAA has offered no such provision, and as such players are still bound to remain at Baylor or sit out a year.

On Friday night, wide receiver K.D. Cannon announced he will remain in Waco for what will most assuredly be his final season as a collegian. A rising junior, Cannon caught 50 passes for 868 yards and six touchdowns, and figures to gobble up much of the 74 grabs, 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns Corey Coleman left behind.

Running back Terence Williams made a similar proclamation as well on Friday. A rising sophomore, Williams rushed 88 times for 556 yards and three touchdowns in 2015.

While current players are compelled to remain in Waco, recruits are under no such obligation. An already light 2017 class has seen two defections with decommitments from three-star offensive lineman Jayden Peevy and four-star tight end Kedrick James, a Waco product.

It may also be a matter of time before the prize of this year’s class, four-star quarterback Kellen Mond, succumbs to an avalanche of pressure to leave as well.

Caught somewhere in between the current and future Bears is the class of 2016, players who have inked themselves to Baylor but have yet to enroll in the school. The top two players from the Bears’ 17th-ranked class have publicly wavered on their desire to play for Baylor. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement; one player has wavered, and one has outright refused to report.

Four-star offensive lineman Patrick Hudson, the second-ranked offensive lineman in Texas, tweeted Friday he is reconsidering his stance with Baylor.

(Update: Gerry Hamilton of ESPN reports Hudson will not enroll.)

Meanwhile, four-star running back Kameron Martin will not enroll according to Max Olson of ESPN.

Whether Baylor grants Martin’s release will perhaps set a precedent for other 2016 Bears who may be inclined to join Martin but have not spoken out yet.

One thing is certain, though: the mess in Waco is only just beginning to sort itself out.