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College football reacts to the passing of Joe Paterno

Outback Bowl - Florida v Penn State Getty Images

As expected, the reaction to the passing of Joe Paterno has been swift, expansive and, in some cases, very emotional and heartfelt.

From all across the vast expanses of the college football world, tributes from Paterno’s contemporaries to those who grew up idolizing the coach have poured in, with some of the heaviest hitters in the game offering ofttimes poignant remembrances of the man who was considered a living legend in the game.

Here are but a few of the numerous statements — pay particular attention to the one released by the Ol’ Ball Coach; it’s pretty damn cool — that have been released since Paterno’s death Sunday morning.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Joe Paterno. His passing marks a tremendous loss for Penn State, college football and for countless fans, coaches and student-athletes.  Our condolences go out to the Paterno family and to the entire Penn State community.”

Alabama head coach Nick Saban, from an appearance on ESPN
“It’s just too bad for everyone that someone who had done so much for college football, his legacy would really end. Maybe the message that everyone out there could learn from this is that assistant coaches, players, everybody involved in programs have a responsibility and obligation to do the right things for the institutions, because people remember Joe Paterno as part of this more than they do anyone else.

“That may be the shame of it all. Maybe he made a mistake in how he managed it, but really wasn’t the guy who did the wrongdoing. But all of us need to understand that whatever profession we’re in, sometimes the people in charge can really suffer just as much as the people who made the wrong choices and decisions.”

Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne
“I am saddened to hear the news of Joe Paterno’s passing. Joe was a genuinely good person. Whenever you recruited or played against Joe you knew how he operated and that he always stood for the right things. Of course, his longevity over time and his impact on college football is remarkable. Anybody who knew Joe feels badly about the circumstances. I suspect the emotional turmoil of the last few weeks might have played into it. We offer our condolences to his family and wish them the very best.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer
“I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Coach Joe Paterno. He was a man who I have deep respect for as a human being, as a husband and father, as a leader and as a football coach. I was very fortunate to have been able to develop a personal relationship with him, especially over the course of the last several years, and it is something that I will always cherish.

“My prayers and thoughts go out to his wife, Sue, and to their family, and also to the family he had at Penn State University. We have lost a remarkable person and someone who affected the lives of so many people in so many positive ways. His presence will be dearly missed. His legacy as a coach, as a winner and as a champion will carry on forever.”

Texas head coach Mack Brown
“I’ve known Coach Paterno since I started coaching. Sally and I built a great relationship with him and Sue over the last 10 to 15 years, and we shared many great times. I know our lives are better because we had the opportunity to spend time with them. He was a gift to us, and when we heard the sad news today, we both openly wept, not only because college football lost a great man, but we lost a great friend.

“I appreciate all of the advice, the attention and the time he’s given us over the years. We will miss him dearly and will always cherish the wonderful memories. College football will be left with a major void because he has done so much for our game and for Penn State. It’s a very sad day, and with his passing, we have lost one of the greatest coaches our game, and all sports, will ever have. He leaves us with great stories, memories and records that may never be broken. There will never be another Joe Paterno. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sue and the family.”

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald
“The legacy of Joe Paterno will be long lasting — not only as a football coach and mentor, but as a family man. For 62 years, Coach Paterno poured his heart and soul into a football program and university, helping countless young men reach their dreams and goals on the football field before moving on to successful careers and lives as adults. It’s hard to fathom the impact that Coach Paterno has had on college football and at Penn State. His insight and wisdom will be missed. We at Northwestern send our condolences to Sue and the Paterno family.”

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier
“I have the utmost respect and admiration for Joe Paterno. I’ve coached around 300 college games and only once when I’ve met the other coach at midfield prior to the game have I asked a photographer to take a picture of me with the other coach. That happened in the Citrus Bowl after the ’97 season when we were playing Penn State. I had one of our university photographers take the picture with me and Coach Paterno, and I still have that photo in the den at my house. That’s the admiration I have for Joe Paterno. It was sad how it ended, but he was a great person and coach.”

Former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden
“You can’t ignore the great years he had at Penn State and the great things he did for Penn State. That university is known for Joe Paterno and Sue. It’s just a great tragedy.”

Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer
“We have lost someone with great and special talents. He had great and special talent as far as being a leader, which is very obvious by his winning record. And, he had a great and special talent in how he treated people. In my experience with him, he was always charming, gracious and thoughtful. I think he was a great fighter, and I know he fought this illness to the very end. College football will miss Joe Paterno.”

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke
“I am certainly saddened by the news today of Coach Paterno’s passing. College football has lost one of its greatest, a coaching icon. Even though I was just an assistant when our teams faced one another, I feel honored to have shared the field with Joe. His players’ love for him, it shows how he touched their lives and it tells who he was as a man. He will be missed. His mark on Penn State and college football will never be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Joe’s family and friends and the entire Penn State community.”

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez
“Today is a sad day. Joe made a difference. He impacted a lot of people. He made a difference in a community, in a college and in college football. He was truly special and an icon. For someone to continue to do what he did through different generations and for such a long period of time and be effective was amazing. I’ve considered Joe a friend and a mentor. This is sad day for college football and the Penn State community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them and the Paterno family.”

Wisconsin head Bret Bielema
“Coach Paterno obviously did so many wonderful things for a number of years, not only with the success of his teams on the field but the number of lives he shaped. I hope people remember his lifetime achievements. From day one, when I joined the head coaching ranks and was fortunate enough to cross paths with him at coaches meetings and various functions, he was always very engaging and complimentary of the way we did things at Wisconsin and how we played. I enjoyed competing with him at every level. Our Badger football family sends our condolences and deepest sympathies to the Penn State community and the Paterno family.”

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio
“On behalf of my immediate family and the Michigan State football family, we express our deepest sympathy to Joe Paterno’s wife Sue, his five children and 17 grandchildren, as well as his extended family, the Penn State football family and the entire State College community.

“Joe dedicated his life to Penn State and college football. He had unparalleled success during his 46 seasons as the head coach at Penn State. Joe was a major player who helped revolutionize the game of college football. In his six-plus decades at Penn State, he influenced and impacted countless numbers of players and people at a championship level.

“Over the past five years, my wife and I have had the privilege of spending time with both Joe and his wife Sue. We appreciated and enjoyed the time spent at our various functions together and will forever remember him as a steward of our profession.”

Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville

“When you think of college football and its tradition, you can’t help but picture those dark glasses, black shoes and plain uniforms that were his style and mark on Penn State University.

“I have had the great fortune to coach against Coach Paterno four times during my career and each time I came away from those contests with a greater understanding of the game of football.  A true highlight of my career, has been a 30-year relationship with Coach and his wife Sue.

“Like many coaches, I grew up watching and learning from one of the greatest tutors and mentors of the game.  I am deeply saddened to learn of his passing and wish to extend my condolences to Sue and the rest of the Paterno family.”

Former West Virginia head coach Don Nehlen
“First of all, my condolences go out to his wife, Sue, and his entire family. Joe Paterno was an icon above icons in the football coaching profession. What he accomplished as a football coach will never ever, ever, be threatened. When you think of a word to describe Joe Paterno and what he did at Penn State, the word unimaginable comes to mind. That a man could give that much of himself to coach football and shape young men’s lives at one school for that many years speaks volumes for what that man is about. He will be very sadly missed as a person, a friend and in the football coaching profession.”

Cal head coach Jeff Tedford
“With the passing of Joe Paterno today, we have not only lost a legendary football coach but a great person who had a tremendous effect on the lives of many people over a long period of time. I’ve always looked up to him and have a great deal of respect for what he accomplished. He also made me feel comfortable coming up through the ranks as a young coach, and I’ve always enjoyed my interactions with him throughout the years. Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Sue, and the rest of his family. Today, the football community has a heavy heart, and his legacy will be in our minds forever.”

Temple head coach Steve Addazio
“I am very sad to hear the news of Joe Paterno’s passing. He was someone that I had a great deal of respect for, both growing up as a young man and as a football coach. He did so much for college football, athletics as a whole, and education.  The positive influence he had over so many people and what he’s done for collegiate football and athletics will never be duplicated. He will be greatly missed. Our deepest sympathies go out to the entire Paterno family and the Penn State community.”

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini
“My condolences go out to Coach Paterno’s family and the Penn State community. I have so much respect for what Coach Paterno accomplished at Penn State both on and off the field. He wasn’t just a legendary coach, but a class individual and his record speaks for itself. I had the honor of getting a few chances to spend time with him since we joined the Big Ten, and those were special opportunities for me as a relatively young head coach in this profession.”

Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano
“Joe Paterno embodied the way college football was supposed to be. He educated young men by using the game of football, along with all of its challenges, in preparation for the real world. He was a great thinker, who was never afraid to say and act on what he believed. He leaves a tremendous legacy with the thousands of players and coaches he worked with. I will miss him deeply. My prayers are with Sue and the entire Paterno family.”

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UGA names UVa transfer Greyson Lambert starting quarterback

Greyson Lambert, John Huff

You get a starting quarterback! And you get a starting quarterback! And you get a starting quarterback!

Following announcements at Texas, Florida State, Army and Ole Miss, Georgia head coach Mark Richt announced Monday Virginia graduate transfer Greyson Lambert will start for the Bulldogs on Saturday.

“There may be other or others who get in the game. But right now the thing that I know that he’ll start the game,” Richt said of Lambert, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Very, very close competition. Still being contested in my mind. But at this point we felt it would be wise to name a starter and get him ready to play in this ballgame. …  We’ll start playing ball that way and see how it goes.”

Richt said he and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer were “pretty sure” on Saturday, but gave themselves a couple of nights to let the decision marinate. Lambert and fellow signal callers Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta were informed before Monday’s practice session. Richt, however, did not rule out letting either of the runners-up see action on Saturday. “So it was very close, but coach Schottenheimer and I have decided that it would be wise to decide on who it is right now so we could kind of get it over with, so to speak, and maybe within a day or two everybody can kind of settle down and play football, think about winning,” Richt said.

Lambert tossed 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a sophomore at Virginia last season. In what could be the best “go to class, son” message ever, Lambert moved from Virginia’s backup quarterback to Georgia’s starter over the course of one offseason.

“We didn’t invite (Lambert) blindly,” Richt said. “We watched his film and felt like he could function and do the things that we’re going to ask the quarterback to do here at Georgia. But we didn’t say: ‘He’s gonna come in and be our starter’ by any means. We told him he would compete for that job and legitimately have a shot to compete for that job.”

Georgia hosts Louisiana-Monroe Saturday in a noon kickoff on SEC Network.

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Jimbo Fisher names Everett Golson ‘Noles starting QB

Everett Golson

In news that we all expected upon his May announcement to transfer to Florida State, though we may not have expected to actually happen today given this afternoon’s piece of news, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher revealed Monday evening that Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson will be the Seminoles’ starting quarterback in 2015.

“Everett’s going to be our starter,” Fisher said after Florida State’s Monday practice. “It’s a tougher decision because of how  well (Golson and Sean Maguire) were playing, not things they weren’t doing.”

Golson threw for 3,445 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading the Fighting Irish to the 2013 BCS National Championship game.

Florida State hosts Texas State at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday.

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MAC coaches tab Northern Illinois, Bowling Green preseason favorites

MAC Championship - Bowling Green v Northern Illinois Getty Images

Seemingly about a month behind their colleagues from other leagues, the MAC’s 13 coaches have released their predictions for the 2015 season. And they don’t look that different from years past.

League coaches see Northern Illinois and Bowling Green clashing for the conference championship in what would be the third straight meeting between the two programs. Bowling Green upset Northern Illinois 44-27 in the 2013 MAC championship, and Northern Illinois returned the favor with a 51-17 whipping last season.

Northern Illinois has won the MAC West Division five years running and leads all active members with six all-time appearances in Detroit.

Toledo was a close second in the West with five first-place votes and 67 total points to the Huskies’ seven and 70, respectively. Western Michigan garnered one first-place vote and 55 total points.

In the East, Ohio came in second with 64 points, 25 behind Bowling Green, but fourth-ranked Massachusetts received the only pair of first-place votes not bestowed upon the Falcons.

Full rankings below:

East
1. Bowling Green – 89 total points (11 first-place votes)
2. Ohio – 64
3. Akron – 60
4. Massachusetts – 57 (2)
5. Buffalo – 43
6. Miami (Ohio) – 30
7. Kent State – 21

West
1. Northern Illinois – 70 (7)
2. Toledo – 67 (5)
3. Western Michigan – 55 (1)
4. Ball State – 36
5. Central Michigan – 32
6. Eastern Michigan – 13

The 2015 MAC championship will take place Friday, Dec. 4 at Detroit’s Ford Field.

 

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Starting Pitt DT Darryl Render not listed on depth chart

Darryl Render, Jordan Canzeri AP

It appears Pittsburgh will head into its opener without one of its key cogs in the middle of its defensive line.

Pitt Monday released its depth chart ahead of Saturday’s game against Bo Pelini and Youngstown State, and Darryl Render was not listed on it.  Instead, Render’s defensive tackle spot had K.K. Mosley-Smith and Michigan State graduate transfer Mark Scarpinato listed as co-starters.

Render has been dealing with an elbow issue and, given the fact that they’re facing an FCS program in the opener, the Panthers are likely erring on the side of caution.

Last season, Render started 11 of the 12 games in which he played.  The only regular season game he missed was the finale against Miami because of an ankle injury.

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Report: Starting UCLA CB Ishmael Adams arrested on robbery charge

UCLA v California AP

It appears UCLA may have a significant issue with which to deal in the week leading up to the opener against Virginia.

While the details are very scant at the moment, DailyBruinSports.com is reporting that Ishmael Adams was arrested after allegedly committing a robbery on campus.  To illustrate the serious nature of the charges Adams is facing, he’s being held in jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond.

UCLA has yet to comment on the potentially damaging development.

Adams has started all 26 games at cornerback the past two seasons, and last year he returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns.  Speaking of returns, he’s one of the top return men in the country and conference: last year, he returned 21 punts for a 9.2 average (26th in the nation) and returned 26 kickoffs for a 22.7-yard average (ninth in Pac-12).

This offseason, he was named to the preseason watch lists for both the Thorpe Award and Hornung Award.

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Joe Moore Award created to honor best offensive line UNIT

UAB Blazers v Arkansas Razorbacks AP

Each year seemingly dozens of postseason awards are handed out to honor the best individual performances in college football.  This year, a group of teammates will be honored for their play.

Monday morning the creation of the Joe Moore Award was announced, an honor that will recognize “the nation’s Most Outstanding Offensive Line Unit.” The award is named in honor of Joe Moore, the former Notre Dame and Pittsburgh assistant who is widely regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the history of college football.

The JMA will “annually recognize the offensive line unit that best displays toughness, effort, teamwork, physicality, tone setting and finishing,” and will be voted on by a committee comprised solely of individuals who either played or coached the position.

“I am honored to be a part of the committee charged with selecting the recipients of the Joe Moore Award,” said former Wisconsin head coach and current UW athletic director Barry Alvarez in a statement. “Joe was the best teacher of offensive linemen who I’ve ever been around and no one got more out of his players than Joe did. It is only right that this award honors Joe’s name and his legacy.”

Semifinalist for the first version of the award will be announced Nov. 16, with the five finalists being unveiled Nov. 30. It will serve as the only college football award to honor an entire unit rather than just an individual.

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Les Miles hospitalized for ‘precautionary reasons’

Les Miles

Fortunately, the headline reads much worse than the actual situation.

Les Miles was expected to make an appearance for his first Monday press conference of the season this afternoon.  Instead, and after a bit of delay, it was athletic director Joe Alleva who showed up to reveal that Miles would not be available for the press conference because he is “under the weather.”

So much so, in fact, that he was hospitalized, although that was apparently simply done out of an abundance of caution.

To punctuate just how precautionary it was, Miles is expected to be back at practice at five ET this afternoon and meet with the media afterwards.

LSU opens the 2015 season this Saturday night against McNeese State.

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‘Bama, FSU not quite ready to pull trigger on naming starter at QB

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Texas did it, Ohio State won’t, while two other big-name programs have decided to push it back.

The “it” in this case is publicly naming a starting quarterback, and both Alabama and Florida State were afforded the opportunity at press conferences Monday to go public with a decision. In both cases, the respective head coaches declined.

On the Tide’s depth chart that was released today, all five of their scholarship quarterbacks were included on the two-deep: Jake Coker, Cooper Bateman and Alex Morris — in that order — were listed as the co-starters, with Blake Barnett and David Cornwell separated by a slash; some, it should be noted, have speculated that all five were listed as co-starters. At various points throughout summer camp, Coker, the FSU transfer, has been viewed by the media as the front-runner… as has Bateman… as has Morris.

Lat year, Nick Saban waited until a couple of hours before the opener against West Virginia to anoint Blake Sims as the starter over Coker. If Saban decides to go public with the choice, expect a similar timeline prior to this year’s opener against Wisconsin Saturday.

Conversely, FSU could make its decision as early as today.

Jimbo Fisher, who said he’s already made a decision, will opt between a pair of experienced/familiar options, last year’s backup Sean Maguire and Notre Dame grad transfer Everett Golson. Because of his experience with the Irish, some (most?) have pegged Golson as the likely starter. Still others have stated that, due to his familiarity with the system, Maguire is the man to beat.

So, what’s Jimbo’s timeline for a decision to clear up the clutter?

Fisher added that, once the decision is made, he’s sticking with it.

FSU will open the 2015 season at home against Texas State Saturday.

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Swoopes there it is: ‘Horns tap incumbent as starting QB

Tyrone Swoopes

Not surprisingly, Texas will begin the season with a familiar face under center.

Charlie Strong confirmed the expected at his Monday press conference, acknowledging that it’ll be Tyrone Swoopes who starts at quarterback when UT travels to South Bend for Saturday’s game against Notre Dame.  Swoopes had been in a battle with redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, although most thought the nod would go to the incumbent.

In fact, Strong stated that he had known for a couple of weeks that Swoopes was his guy, but held off on publicly naming a starter to allow the competition to play out a little longer.

Taking over as the starter for a concussed David Ash last season, Swoopes started all but one game in 2014.  He had moments where he was brilliant — 300-plus yards passing Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State — and others where he looked absolutely lost — 24-point bowl loss to Arkansas, four interceptions in a 38-point loss to TCU.  Those latter two performances came in back-to-back games to close out the season, leading Strong to open up the competition in the spring.

Swoopes exited the spring as the No. 1 quarterback, and maintained that position throughout summer camp.  As he had previously stated, Strong reiterated that both Swoopes and Heard will see the field.

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Urban won’t name Buckeyes’ starting QB before opener vs. Hokies

Ohio State Spring Game Getty Images

To find out just who has won Ohio State’s much-discussed quarterback competition, you’ll have to wait until shortly after 8 p.m. ET next Monday.

At his Monday press conference, Urban Meyer revealed that he will not publicly name a starting quarterback prior to the Labor Day opener against Virginia Tech. Instead, the coach said, “[w]e will announce the starter when the first guy takes the snap.”

What is known is that the starter will either be 2014 regular-season record-setter J.T. Barrett or 2014 postseason hero Cardale Jones. As for the competition itself, Meyer described it as “still really close;” if it weren’t, the fourth-year OSU coach said, he’d publicly anoint a starter. While Meyer won’t disclose it to the media, he said he’ll know by Wednesday whether it’ll be Barrett or Jones who starts against the Hokies.

Not surprisingly, Meyer hasn’t ruled out playing both quarterbacks. Interestingly, though, the competition will apparently remain open on into the regular season.

I’ll still say that it’s Barrett who takes the first snap against the only team that beat the defending national champions next season. After that, Barrett’s performance will dictate whether he holds on to the job.

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Leading rusher one of two Toledo starters suspended for two games

GoDaddy Bowl - Toledo v Arkansas State AP

The season has yet to kick off and Toledo has already a suffered a pair of significant blows, one on each side of the ball.

The football program announced Monday morning that senior defensive end Allen Covington and junior running back Kareem Hunt have been suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season. Other than “violating team policy,” no reason for the twin punitive measures was given.

The players will miss Thursday’s opener against Stony Brook, as well as the following week’s home game against No. 18 Arkansas. Both will be eligible to return for the Iowa State game Sept. 19.

Of the two, the loss of Hunt will be the most damaging.

Last season, Hunt’s total of 1,631 yards rushing was tops in the MAC and good for 10th nationally. His 16 rushing touchdowns were tied for 14th in the country.

Covington’s four tackles for loss were tied for sixth on the Rockets last season. He was expected to start at one of the end spots on UT’s defensive line.

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CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Big Ten Predictions

Michigan State v Maryland AP

As the 2015 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC) and HERE (Big 12) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

BIG TEN EAST

1. Ohio State (14-1 in 2014; beat Oregon in College Football Playoff title game)
For the forseeable future, you can pencil in Urban Meyer‘s Buckeyes as the class of the both the division and conference, as well as an annual contender for a playoff spot thanks to the one-two combination of the coaching staff and its recruiting prowess.  Last year, Meyer thought his Buckeyes were a year away from contention… and all they did was run through Wisconsin, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon in the postseason to claim the inaugural CFP championship.  What can OSU do for an encore?  Given the returning talent, they could very well be the eighth team since the Poll Era began (1936) to go back-to-back — provided they can get past, among others, the very stout, tremendously talented and extremely motivated team directly below this blurb.

2. Michigan State (11-2; beat Baylor in Cotton Bowl)
The Spartans have several positives going for them entering the 2015 season, from one of the best offensive and defensive lines in the conference to one of the best quarterbacks in the entire country in senior Connor Cook to one of the most underrated head coaches in Mark Dantonio.  There’s every reason to think that the Spartans, ranked fifth in the preseason, will remain in that neighborhood for a sizable chunk of the season.  Losing defensive mastermind Pat Narduzzi, now the head coach at Pittsburgh, could negatively impact the season, as could the schedule: three of MSU’s toughest games are on the road (Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan) while they also play host to a Top Ten in Week 2 in Oregon.

3. Michigan (5-7)
Yes, I’m drinking the Jim Harbaugh-flavored Kool-Aid already, and there are two good reasons as to why.  One, and look no further than what he did at Stanford, he is one of the best coaches at any level of football.  In the five years prior to his arrival on The Farm, the Cardinal won just 16 games; in Harbaugh’s four years heading the program, and taking over a one-win squad, the win total jumped to 29.  Secondly, he and his staff aren’t exactly coming into the kitchen with a bare cupboard.  In 2013 and 2012, UM’s recruiting classes were ranked fifth and seventh nationally and second in the Big Ten, respectively, according to Rivals.com. Even in 2014, amidst much speculation that Brady Hoke was as good as done, he still pulled in a class that ranked 31st in the country and fourth in the conference.  The talent is there, the coaching there, so there’s no reason to think that an immediate improvement won’t be there as well.

4. Penn State (7-6; beat Boston College in Pinstripe Bowl)
The biggest thing the Nittany Lions have going for them this season, the thing that could have them too low in this East prediction?  Their schedule.  They will be heavily favored in all six games — three conference, three non-conference — before traveling to Ohio State in mid-October, plus the scheduling gods gave them Illinois and Northwestern as their cross-divisional games this season.  Should the defense, as expected, remain one of the best in the conference, and Christian Hackenberg can overcome any crisis of confidence caused by a subpar offensive line — he was sacked 44 times in 2014, a season in which he tossed more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (12) — the Nittany Lions could very well increase their win total from a year ago.

5. Maryland (7-6; lost to Stanford in Foster Farms Bowl)
Relatively speaking, and compared to much of Randy Edsall‘s first four seasons in College Park, the Terps got off to a rousing start in 2014, winning five of their first seven games.  They then limped home with a 2-4 finish, punctuated by a 24-point loss to Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl.  Like it or not, The Terps could very well be back in rebuilding mode, what with just 10 returning starters on both sides of the ball and a schedule that includes road trips to West Virginia, Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State as well as a home game against West power Wisconsin.  Given that combination, getting back to a bowl game would serve as a huge plus for Edsall’s program.

6. Indiana (4-8)
It’s very simple for the Hoosiers: either win and make a bowl game, or the program will be looking for a new head coach following the upcoming season.  In four years thus far, the Kevin Wilson experiment has netted just 14 wins, with seven of those coming against Power Five teams and six against conference members.  For IU to get back to a bowl game for the first time since 2007 — and just the second time since 1993 — they’ll need to take advantage of a slate that includes five very winnable games; if they can squeeze out an upset along the way, they could very well go bowling — and save Wilson’s job in the process.

7. Rutgers (8-5; beat North Carolina in Quick Lane Bowl)
If this particular prediction were to ultimately come to fruition, Rutgers would be the next Big Ten school looking for a new head coach.  Normally a coach that went 8-5 in the program’s first season in a Power Five conference wouldn’t even be remotely close to the hot seat, but Kyle Flood‘s recent off-field issue will place even more pressure on the fourth-year coach to win and win bigger than last season’s surprise total.  That, though, could prove to be an impossible row to hoe.  Not only do the Scarlet Knights return just 10 starters, they also lost 28 lettermen with varied amounts of experience and playing time, further exposing a glaring lack of depth compared to just one season ago.  Adding to the potential 2015 angst is that, in addition to the East heavyweights, RU also drew West stalwarts Nebraska and Wisconsin.  In fact, it’s conceivable and not even remotely out of the question that the Scarlet Knights could go winless in conference play.

BIG TEN WEST

1. Nebraska (9-4; lost to USC in Holiday Bowl)
The first season post-Bo Pelini in Lincoln is expected to be a breath of fresh air both on and off the field.  Mike Riley is a big reason for that, although how quickly the Cornhuskers adapt to his style of offense will likely determine whether or not this first-year prediction of success is overly optimistic.  NU was on the cusp of grabbing a divisional talent last season before dropping back-to-back November games against Wisconsin and Minnesota.  This season, the ‘Huskers get the Badgers at home, although they’ll have to make a mid-October trip to the Gophers.  One other question mark?  Replacing a handful of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.

2. Wisconsin (11-3; beat Auburn in Outback Bowl)
Whether it was Barry Alvarez or Bret Bielema or Gary Andersen, the Badgers merely locked and reloaded at running back, along the offensive line and on defense from year to year to year with great success.  Can they do the same under first-year head coach and former UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst?  The Badgers should again have one of the best defenses in the conference as well as one of the top running games in college football, although, again, the team will likely struggle to make gains through the air.  If they flip the script on the latter, though, they could be one of the most dangerous teams in the country and very well make it back to yet another conference championship game.  Another plus?  They avoid both Ohio State and Michigan State in the regular season, although they do have to travel to both Lincoln and Minneapolis.

3. Minnesota (8-5; lost to Missouri in Citrus Bowl)
How close were the Gophers to an absolutely epic 2014 season?  They held a four-point third-quarter lead in the regular-season finale against Wisconsin in a game that, with a win, would’ve meant a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship.  They lost that lead, then proceeded to lose both their bowl game (by double digits to Mizzou) and 12 starters, including leading rusher David Cobb, leading receiver Maxx Williams and their two most productive players on the defensive side of the ball.  Perhaps the best news?  They get both Nebraska and Wisconsin at home.

4. Northwestern (5-7)
Call this slotting a hunch.  Or a significant reach.  One of the two.  After going bowling for five straight seasons from 2008-12, the Wildcats have back-to-back postseason-less years from which they’re attempting to bounce back.  Returning 14 starters is a good start to the rebound; the schedule makers didn’t do the Evanston bunch many favors, though, as they’ll tackle Stanford in the opener, Duke and Michigan on the road as well as a home date against Penn State — and that’s in addition to the divisional games against Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.  While it won’t be easy, look for the Wildcats to get back to at least six wins and into a bowl game.

5. Iowa (7-6; lost to Tennessee in Taxslayer Bowl)
From 2002 through 2009, the Hawkeyes averaged nearly nine wins per season; in the five years since, they’ve averaged less than seven, and finished fourth or worse in the Big Ten in four of those seasons.  Last year, they didn’t beat a single FBS program that ended the year with a winning record.  Entering his 17th season at the school, and despite the lack of recent success, Kirk Ferentz has the benefit of a very loyal athletic department — and a hefty buyout that, in essence, handcuffs said department.  The 2015 season should serve up more of the same style of play on the field: running game-centric offense, brutish defense and just hanging around in games long enough and often enough to qualify for another third-tier bowl game.  How long the fair-to-middlin’ results will continue to be acceptable to the Hawkeye faithful — and boosters — remains to be seen.

6. Illinois (6-7; lost to Louisiana Tech in Heart of Dallas Bowl)
A two-game winning streak at the end of last season put the Illini into a bowl game and saved Tim Beckman‘s job; his alleged treatment of players, though, forced the athletic department’s hand and resulted in Beckman being dismissed exactly one week before the season opener.  Enter offensive coordinator Bill Cubit as the interim coach, although, from a projection standpoint, not much should really change. The Illini actually returns 15 starters — that’s in the top third of the Big Ten — including a starting quarterback in Wes Lunt who has the talent to be productive and thrive in this offensive system if he can only stay healthy.  Looking at the schedule, though, four wins seem to be a reasonable projection while five wins appears to be the best to which the Illini can aspire.  Should they get to 6-8 wins?  There may be no need to conduct a coaching search after all.

7. Purdue (3-9)
Let’s just get straight to the point.  Darrell Hazell has won a mere four games in his first two seasons in West Lafayette, including one lone win in Big Ten play.  His non-conference schedule this season includes Virginia Tech and a road trip to defending Conference USA champion Marshall, while there’s a better-than-average chance he will go winless in conference play for the second time in three years.  If the 15 returning starters can improve enough, there’s a chance the Boilermakers could, akin to a fat man shimmying into a pair of skinny jeans, squeeze its way into a postseason bid, which is likely the only way this branch of the Jim Tressel coaching tree gets another season.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Ohio State over Nebraska

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Miami RB Gus Edwards lost for all of 2015 with foot injury

Arkansas State v Miami Getty Images

Miami already knew it was going to be have to replace its all-time leading rusher in Duke Johnson.  Now, the ‘Canes will be forced to deal with replacing one of his prime replacements.

An injury originally described as minor turned out to be much more severe, with the football program confirming Sunday night that Gus Edwards will miss the entire 2015 season because of a foot issue.  The school declined to reveal the specific nature of the injury.

“Gus worked extremely hard for the last nine months to prepare for this moment,” head coach Al Golden said in a statement. “He set a high standard and did a great job leading and being unselfish. We are tremendously disappointed for him, but we will be there with him on the road to recovery and anxiously await his return.”

Edwards was third on the team in rushing last season with 349 yards. His six rushing touchdowns were second to Johnson’s 10 in 2014. He was expected to start and shoulder a significant amount of the running game load.

The good news for the Hurricanes is last year’s second-leading rusher, Joseph Yearby (509 yards), returns. Also on scholarship are Trayone Gray (24 yards, one touchdown as a true freshman last season) and four-star 2015 signee Mark Walton.  Yearby and Walton are listed as the co-starters on the depth chart released the same time as the Edwards injury news.

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Gamecocks to wear helmet sticker honoring church shooting victims

Emanuel 9

A tragedy that shocked both a state and a country will be commemorated by the former’s flagship football program.

South Carolina announced Sunday that its helmets will be adorned with a sticker honoring the nine individuals gunned down in cold blood in a Charleston church shooting this past June.  The inexplicably heinous act, committed by an individual with ties to hate groups, prompted a national discussion on the Confederate flag, and both the football program and the athletic department weren’t shy in letting their feelings be known on the issue.

“Whether it’s Greenville, Columbia, Charleston or any other cities in South Carolina, we feel a tremendous sense of pride in this state,” a statement from USC athletic director Ray Tanner. “The tragedy that happened in Charleston doesn’t just affect people in Charleston; it affects the entire state. We feel very much a part of that at the university. Coach Steve Spurrier and University President Harris Pastides felt very strongly that the ‘Emanuel 9’ should be recognized.”

According to Tanner, head coach Steve Spurrier had a significant voice in the decision to honor the victims.

“Coach Spurrier was very engaged in this process,” Tanner said. “Football coaches are usually focused on just getting ready for their season, and he very much is too, but he took the time to be engaged with what we were going to do. He is excited that we are going to do the helmet sticker.”

The sticker will be worn on every helmet for every game this season, the first of which will be the opener against North Carolina Thursday.

(Photo credit: South Carolina athletics)

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Knee injury to KO FAU WR Derek Moise for all of 2015

Florida Atlantic v Nebraska Getty Images

Unfortunately for both the player and the program, FAU’s worst fears when it comes to the status of Derek Moise have been realized.

Following up on speculation the past few days, Charlie Partridge confirmed this weekend that a knee injury sustained by Moise earlier in the week will sideline the wide receiver for the entire 2015 season.  The head coach declined to discuss the specific nature of the injury, although it’s believed the senior sustained a torn ACL in his right knee.

As is ofttimes the case, it was a non-contact injury that knocked out the receiver, with the Orlando Sentinel writing that “Moise said his knee buckled when he slipped and landed improperly after catching a pass from backup quarterback Jason Driskel.”

“As far as his spirit right now, he’s in a good place – as good as he can be,” Partridge said of Moise’s spirits. “It’s the same with the team. They’re disappointed for him and sad for him. But he’s in about as good of an emotional state as you can expect.”

Partridge also confirmed that Moise will seek a sixth season of eligibility through the NCAA.

Last season, Moise had career highs in receptions (10), receiving yards (74) and receiving touchdowns (one). Those totals are third among returning Owl wide receivers.

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