Big East spring storylines

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Unscathed by the first round of conference realignment in 2010, the Big East was by far the most impacted by conference realignment 2.0 this past summer and fall. Now, Big East teams head into spring practice for the final time before dramatic changes alter the look of the conference beginning in 2013.

But there will be one noticeable absence, as West Virginia will be playing in the Big 12 this fall. The Mountaineers have acted as the Big East’s lifeboat since 2005, contributing to three of the conference’s four BCS bowl wins under the “new” Big East lineup.

That new lineup is about to get, well, newer. Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State and SMU will all join as either all-sports members or football-only members beginning in 2013. But what does the Big East have in store for the transition year? Can any of the seven remaining members* — or eight if Temple joins immediately — emerge as a Top 25 team and show up to the BCS party like the Mountaineers have done before?

Those answers begin in spring practices. Here’s what to watch.

New coaches, old philosophies
It’s easy to rag on the Big East, but consider the following: since 2006, at least one Big East school per year has gone through a coaching change, and Cincinnati, Louisville and Pittsburgh have endured a few. It’s tough, if not downright impossible, to achieve any kind of consistency with that sort of coaching turnover. Pitt and Rutgers are the latest Big East schools to see their coach depart, with Todd Graham going to Arizona State and Greg Schiano testing the NFL waters, respectively. But both programs rebounded with decent, albeit unproven, head coaching hires in Paul Chryst and Kyle Flood. For the Panthers, Chryst will look to re-establish the ground-and-pound identity that went on hiatus under Graham. Expect the Scarlet Knights to maintain similar offensive and defensive philosophies.

Quarterbacks club
With Geno Smith (WVU) and Zach Collaros (Cincy) gone, the Big East lost its two best quarterbacks. Now, the conference is left with a mixed bag of signal callers that are either young (Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and Munchie Legaux of Cincinnati come to mind), inconsistent (South Florida’s 10th year senior B.J. Daniels) or TBD (Rutgers, UConn and Pitt).  The quarterback is the most important position in football, and right now, there isn’t much star power at that position in the Big East. Who has a good spring, and more importantly, who carries it over to the fall, will be a storyline to watch.

Drinking the Orange Kool-Aid
Remember when Syracuse was good and the Carrier Dome was one hell of a tough place to play in college football? Remember when Paul Pasqualoni was coaching future NFL stars like Donovan McNabb and Dwight Freeney? The Orange’s gridiron success seems a distant memory now –their last 10-win season came in 2001 — but believe it or not, Syracuse is still a good brand. It just needs some on-the-field success to match. Doug Marrone looks like he can be the guy to get Syracuse back to glory, but as we saw last season, injuries and suspensions can sour any team’s chances of winning. The key for the Orange will be to stay healthy during the spring and summer months. Do that, and Syracuse has a chance for a Big East championship in 2012.

Can USF hit the Bulls-eye?
As I mentioned above, South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels has had a productive, but up-and-down career in Tampa. That has to change if the Bulls are going to be a legit contender for the Big East title. Thankfully, Daniels will have arguably the deepest and most talented group of receivers to throw to this year, with leading receiver Sterling Griffin returning after missing part of last season with an injury. The Bulls will also be breaking in a new defensive coordinator, their third in four years, with Chris Cosh. USF has talent, and they look great every year on paper. It just hasn’t translated into meaningful victories. Yet.

Cincinnati’s offensive production
Collaros is gone and Big East Offensive Player of the Year, running back Isaiah Pead, is off to the NFL. Those two combined for just over two-thirds of the Bearcats’ offense last year. Who steps up in spring practices? Cincy has a young group of running backs, including touted back Jameel Poteat, and coach Butch Jones may go with a rotation at that position, much like WVU did this past year. The Bearcats also return their top two receivers from last season, Anthony McClung and Kenbrell Thompkins.

(*note: Syracuse and Pitt will be leaving for the ACC; exactly when is still being determined) 

Alabama is now even money to win the national championship, per Bovada

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As college football comes down the finish line of the regular season, the Alabama Crimson Tide remain the clear favorite to win it all this season. The updated championship odds from Bovada list Alabama at even money to win the College Football Playoff national championship.

Alabama may still be the favorite, but Oklahoma’s odds continue to look enticing. With the Heisman Trophy frontrunner in Baker Mayfield, the Sooners are on track for a possible Big 12 championship that would send them surging into the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma currently has the second-best odds on the board, followed by Ohio State. The Buckeyes, with two losses, are being given significantly better odds of winning it all than the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers, who Ohio State will face in the Big Ten championship game next week. The bettors simply do not buy in on the Badgers.

Wisconsin has worst odds on the board than the ACC Championship Game participants, Clemson and Miami, and Alabama’s opponent this week, Auburn, and the SEC East champion Georgia Bulldogs. All of those teams have identical +900 odds this week.

Still think UCF can run the table? If they do, you’ll be in for a pretty grand payday with +50,000 odds of winning it all.

Here are the latest championship odds from Bovada as of today:

  • Alabama – EVEN
  • Oklahoma +475
  • Ohio State +700
  • Clemson +900
  • Miami +900
  • Auburn +900
  • Georgia +900
  • Wisconsin +1200
  • USC +7500
  • TCU +10000
  • Notre Dame +15000
  • UCF +50000

Report: Deontay Anderson seeks transfer from Ole Miss after claims of being misled in recruiting

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With Ole Miss under investigation for NCAA violations and head coach Hugh Freeze getting canned prior to the start of the season, the fallout is continuing as the program tries to regain its footing. A report from Dan Wolken of USA Today says Ole Miss safety Deontay Anderson has filed his paperwork to request a full release from his scholarship as he begins the process of seeking a transfer. Per the report, Anderson claims Ole Miss misled him in the recruiting process about the school’s investigation status.

Anderson is hoping to be eligible to play at any other FBS program in 2018, even if that new school happens to be within the SEC. Given the situation at Ole Miss, it would be reasonable to expect he may have a chance for a free transfer rather than having to sit out a full season before being eligible again, and it would be unwise from a public relations standpoint for Ole Miss to issue any blockades to potential landing spots within the SEC. Anderson sat out the 2017 season as a redshirt player, which would make that request more likely to be granted as far as his eligibility in 2018 is concerned.

Ole Miss is voluntarily sitting out of the 2017 postseason even if the Rebels pick up their sixth win this Thursday night in the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State. Voluntarily sitting out of the postseason is a decision made in hopes of receiving a lighter punishment from the NCAA should the organization weigh down heavy sanctions on the program.

Anderson’s story likely is not unique at Ole Miss, but it is unknown if any other players will pursue a similar path out of Ole Miss. The NCAA ruling on Ole Miss could influence those decisions by more players, but until it does, it will be a total guessing game as to what the future has in store for the Rebels and their players.

Texas officials “will frown” on possible bowl game with Texas A&M

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It’s rivalry week in college football, which means we once again must address the lost series between the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies. When Texas A&M moved from the Big 12 to the SEC, a rivalry on the field was killed off, but the rivalry still lives on between power players on both sides and the topic of conversation has never died down between the two programs and their fans. And as much as people on both sides will sometimes argue they don’t need the other, we all know it would be great to see the Longhorns and Aggies take the field once again.

With the season winding down and Texas and Texas A&M each heading to not-so-glamorous bowl destinations, the possibility of a Texas Bowl for the ages has been popping up to some degree. A Texas Bowl featuring Texas and Texas A&M would make for the best Texas Bowl in the history of the bowl game, but one Texas beta reporter suggests that would not be a welcomed bowl pairing for some Texas officials.

Big surprise.

Texas officials have always seemed wary of reviving the series with Texas A&M, which makes sense from the Texas point of view. To Longhorn officials, a rivalry with Texas A&M does more to help those in College Station than it does in Austin. There is some elitism in that line of thinking, but there is also some truth to that as well. But that is the risk of an in-state rivalry for any program in the country.

As a fan from a neutral point of view, I can say the day Texas and Texas A&M work out an arrangement to play football against each other again will be a proud day for the sport of college football. It would be a shame to see it have to happen through a bowl game on a neutral field, but if that’s what it takes to make it happen, so be it. Other than the Cotton Bowl, which is not an option this year, the Texas Bowl in Houston would be a pretty good spot to make it happen.

Purdue vs. Indiana means Big Ten guaranteed to have eight bowl teams

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At the conclusion of Saturday’s schedule, the Big Ten had seven teams that had already clinched their bowl eligibility for the 2017 season. Though no new bowl tickets were punched on Saturday, Purdue’s upset win at Iowa and Indiana’s home rout of Rutgers assured the Big Ten of getting to eight bowl-eligible teams this season.

Purdue will host Indiana this week in one of the more important games in the rivalry in recent years as the winner will become bowl-eligible this season. That would be great news for the Big Ten, a sit would essentially guarantee the conference will manage to fill all of their partnered bowl spots for this season, although that could come up just short if one of the conference’s teams reaches the College Football Playoff. With Wisconsin still undefeated and Ohio State being discussed as a possible long shot to reach the playoff, this remains a realistic scenario. In addition to the Badgers and Buckeyes, the Big Ten also has bowl-eligible teams in Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan, Northwestern, and Iowa.

Here’s a look at the Big Ten’s bowl partners for the 2017 season, not including the Rose Bowl as it is being used as a College Football Playoff semifinal this year;

  • Orange Bowl: The highest-ranked team available from the Big Ten, SEC, or Notre Dame will play a team from the ACC. Wisconsin or Penn State would appear to be in line for a possible invite.
  • Outback Bowl: Vs. SEC
  • Holiday Bowl: Vs. Pac-12
  • TaxSlayer Bowl or Music City Bowl: The ACC and Big Ten split these bowl games, with each taking on a team from the SEC
  • Pinstripe Bowl: Vs. ACC
  • Foster Farms Bowl: Vs. Pac-12
  • Quick Lane Bowl: Vs. ACC
  • Heart of Dallas Bowl: Vs. Big 12

Because the Purdue vs. Indiana game must produce a six-win team, the Big Ten looks to be in great shape to fill out its bowl lineup. The only setback would be not being able to send any additional teams to other bowl games to fill in a spot where needed, unless five-win teams end up coming into play.

Minnesota is the only other five-win team on the Big Ten map right now with a chance to break through to a bowl game, but that may require beating Wisconsin for the first time since 2003 this week in order to hit the six-win requirement. Minnesota has reached a bowl game with five wins before, and it could still be in play under that scenario.