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Top storylines heading into the spring

Texas Tech Spring Football AP

While we’re still over six months away from the start of the 2012 season, we’re not wandering through a football-less desert quite yet.

From Feb. 13 (Army first practice) through May 5 (UCLA’s spring game), all 124 Div. 1-A (FBS) football programs will utilize their 15 allotted spring sessions to begin preparations in earnest for the upcoming season.

Below are but a few of the storylines and issues we’ll be following over the next couple of months.

Conference change, it’s a comin’
Missouri and Texas A&M from the Big 12 to the SEC.  TCU and West Virginia from the Big East to the Big 12.  Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada officially moving to the Mountain West from the WAC.  And four brand-new football programs moving up from Div. 1-AA (FCS) to Div. 1-A (FBS): South Alabama (Sun Belt), Texas State (WAC), UMass (MAC) and UT-San Antonio (WAC).  Hell, there’s even the very real possibility that Temple could be leaving the MAC for the Big East this year as well.

While the moves won’t become officially official until July 1, all of those schools will, in essence, conduct spring practice as members of their new respective conferences.  In particular, a lot of the “new kid on the block” attention will be paid to Missouri and Texas A&M — and new head coach Kevin Sumlin — because, well, it’s the SEC and the six-peat BcS champion conference always has more than its share of eyes upon it.

Sideline upheaval
More than one-fifth (27) of the 124 football program that will play at the Div. 1-A level in 2012 made a change at head coach at some point after the start of the 2011 season. From Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten to four new ones in the Pac-12 — the most of any BcS conference; Conference USA will have five new head coaches — to Texas A&M ahead of its move from the Big 12 to the SEC, none of the 11 conferences were spared at least one change at head coach from where its members were at the beginning of last season.

The spring sessions will be, for the most part, the first chance for those coaches and their coaching staffs to really get a good look at and begin the evaluation of the roster. The “real” work won’t begin until September, but laying the foundation of new schemes on both sides of the ball will begin in earnest. What happens during the next couple of months will determine how far ahead/behind/in step with the more entrenched programs lugging experienced staffs into the new year.  All eyes in particular will be on Bill O’Brien, who will not only take over the scandal-stained Nittany Lions program but will also be embarking upon his first season as a Div. 1-A head coach.  Well, all that and replacing a legendary icon who had been the face of Happy Valley for nearly half a century as well.

Needing Moore Luck at quarterback
For the first time in four years at Boise State and three at Stanford, the two top-ten programs won’t have the experience and talent of Kellen Moore and Andrew Luck, respectively, under center.

Who will they have?  Brett Nottingham will enter the spring as the odds-on favorite to replace Luck with the Cardinal, with Robbie Picazo and Josh Nunes expected to provide the stiffest competition for the redshirt sophomore.  Outside of Moore, junior-to-be Joe Southwick attempted the most passes (30) for the Broncos last year and was listed as the co-backup along with sophomore-to-be Grant Hedrick.  How those two competitions shake out will go a long, long way in determining whether the two programs can maintain the on-field excellence and build upon the foundations laid by Luck and Moore.

Better this time around?
After winning its first BcS title under Nick Saban in 2009, Alabama “stumbled” through a 10-3 season the following year, with all three losses coming in SEC play. With a second crystal football in three years tucked under its arm, the Tide will attempt to become the first SEC program in the BcS era to repeat as champions. Two problems with going back-to-back, however. One, the Tide will be forced to replace half its starting lineup, including seven on a defense that ranked at or near the top in nearly every major statistical category in 2011 season. And, two, LSU — ya know, the winner of the Tide’s division and loser of the rematch — remains in the SEC West and returns a squad that not only should be at or near the top of the preseason rankings but will be better because of the attrition at the quarterback position.

Fun fact? The Tide has not lost to a non-conference foe since its two-touchdown beatdown at the hands of Utah in the Sugar Bowl following the 2008 regular season.  This year, the Tide will get an immediate test of the rework and revamping begun in the spring as they face likely top-ten foe Michigan in a neutral site game to open the season.

Get those seats warmed, fellas
It’s never too early for some hot seat talk, is it?  Based on the offseason he’s had — nearly a dozen transfers and the Danny O’Brien fiasco — and coming off an abysmal two-win first season at Maryland, Randy Edsall should sit at or near the top of any list of coaches on the hot seat.  Given the significant amount of attrition on both the roster and the coaching staff — he will have new offensive and defensive coordinators — this spring will likely resemble his first with the Terps, sort of a feeling-out process all over again with the added bonus of vultures circling over the two-win carcass.  Edsall simply needs a solid spring to lead to vast improvement in 2012 or he could very well find himself on the outside of the program looking in 2013.

Other coaches who need a strong spring to translate into an immediate turnaround in 2012 include Tennessee’s Derek Dooley, Boston College’s Frank Spaziani, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, UCF’s George O’Leary and Cal’s Jeff Tedford.

(Still to come: individual storylines for the six BcS conferences — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.)

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D’oh! FSU QB Sean Maguire’s parents give away tickets, won’t attend son’s first start

Sean Maguire

So, this isn’t how you draw it up when you son signs a scholarship to play quarterback at Florida State.

With sophomore quarterback Sean Maguire set to make his first start Saturday, his parents won’t be in attendance. It’s not that they don’t support his career. They just gave his tickets away thinking there was no chance their son would see the field against an important conference rival.

They were probably right, until Jameis Winston hopped on that table and earned himself a half-game suspension.

Maguire, who ran a Wing-T offense in high school, has thrown 26 career passes with 16 completions for 144 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

No. 1 Florida State faces No. 22 Clemson at 8 p.m. ET Saturday night on ABC.

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K-State shoots itself in foot, shin and kneecap, trails Auburn 10-7 at the half

Tyler Lockett

When hosting the No. 5 team in the country and defending SEC champions, it’s never a good idea to turn the ball over twice – once in your own red zone, once in your opponent’s – and miss a field goal in the first quarter. No. 20 Kansas State did just that.

The Wildcats opened the game by forcing a punt, but gave the ball right back when Jake Waters dropped the ball on a botched zone read. Auburn’s Robenson Therezie recovered at the Kansas State 21, and the Tigers turned it into a field goal. On the ensuing drive, the Wildcats calmly marched 74 yards in 10 plays to set up a 2nd-and-goal at the Auburn one, but Waters’ pass was bobbled by all-everything wide receiver Tyler Lockett and straight into the arms of Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones. This is an Auburn game, after all. Of course balls are popping off opponents’ face masks straight into their defenders’ arms. Kicker Jack Cantele put the cherry on top of a frustrating first quarter for Kansas State by missing a 41-yard field goal try.

With all that considered, Kansas State is lucky to be within 10-7 at the half.

The Kansas State defensive front has been fantastic to this point, limiting Auburn to 55 rushing yards on 17 carries. Nick Marshall has completed 9-of-18 passes for 118 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The simple fact that Auburn has more passes than rushes and twice as many yards through the air than the ground should tell you the job the Wildcats have done defensively.

Defensive tackle Travis Britz has been especially good, batting down one pass to end an Auburn drive, and deflecting another to create the Marshall interception. Auburn is just 2-of-7 on third down, and came up empty on its first five tries.

Jake Waters has had an up-and-down night so far, completing 13-of-20 passes for 151 yards with the interception to Lockett. He ended the half by taking an awful sack/fumble that set up another Cantele field goal miss at the horn.

The key for the second half, obviously, is the Auburn running game. The Tigers are 1-9 when rushing for less than 200 yards over the last three years, while Kansas State is 21-2 while allowing less than 200 rushing yards.

Kansas State gets the ball to open the second half.

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Report: Texas A&M will pay $300,000 to ship in a new field from North Carolina

Kyle Field

For a university that takes such pride in their grass (seriously, go there some time), the playing conditions – or lack thereof – at Kyle Field last Saturday night had to be especially disheartening for Texas A&M. Heavy rain Friday night and Saturday morning combined with Kyle Field’s natural grass combined to create a playing surface that was hazardous at best and dangerous at worst.

“The field was kind of bad, but both teams had to play on it,” Texas A&M wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones told the Houston Chronicle after the game.

Rice head coach David Bailiff said “had some concerns” about even bringing his team out of the locker room to play the second half. (He did, and Rice lost 38-10). “I thought the grounds crew did about as good a job as anybody could do,” Bailiff said. “They kept the surface safe. Every time they saw a divot, they ran out there and fixed it.”

These post-game tweets showed his fears were not without reason.

According to a report from the Bryan-College Station Eagle, Texas A&M has a plan in place to fix the field, and will spare no expense to do it. Texas A&M officials plan to pay North Carolina-based company Carolina Green to ship an entirely new field to College Station.

The field will be moved in pieces inside 21 refrigerated trucks and begin installation the week of Sept. 29. Texas A&M System vice chancellor of marketing and communications Steve Moore says the process should take about four days.

“After the game, the chancellor asked the staff and the Kyle Field redevelopment committee to look at options,” Moore told the paper. “He wanted to know how to provide the best competitive playing surface we could going to forward and that’s what led to this process and the decisions that have been made.”

Carolina Green offers a thicker, more solid base that should allow the sod to take root in time for the Aggies’ next home game. And if there’s one silver lining to this story, it’s that the replacement comes at a good time: the Aggies are on the road the next three weeks, visiting SMU on Saturday, facing Arkansas at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 27, and visiting Mississippi State on Oct. 4. The sixth-ranked Aggies return to Kyle Field and their new surface on Oct. 11 to face No. 10 Ole Miss.

The new field comes at a cost of $300,000, but that’s chump change when you’re paying nearly half a billion dollars to renovate your football stadium.

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At long last, BYU to retire Jim McMahon’s No. 9 on Oct. 3

Jim McMahon

From the Department of Things That Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago, BYU announced Thursday it would retire former quarterback Jim McMahon’s No. 9 on Friday, Oct. 3.

McMahon will be enshrined into the BYU Athletics Hall of Fame on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Seriously, the man quarterbacked the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl nearly 30 years ago, and has spent every waking second since then making sure we don’t forget it. Frankly, I’m surprised the man hasn’t broken in during the middle of the night (wearing his signature shades and utterly unnecessary head band, of course) and installed his own bust by now.

A tipster tells us the delay was on McMahon’s part, not BYU’s. Athletes are not eligible for enshrinement or jersey retirement until completing graduation, which McMahon apparently just recently finished.

McMahon, whose name and number will be permanently displayed on the LaVell Edwards Stadium press box, joins a group of a half-dozen former Cougars to have their numbers retired: Eldon Fortie (No. 40), Marion Probert (No. 81), Steve Young (No. 8) and Gifford Nielsen and Ty Detmer (both No. 14).

“I’m very proud of Jim finishing his degree. He is a competitor and a finisher. Completing his education at BYU is evidence of the type of person he is,” said his former coach LaVell Edwards. “Jim was a great leader and had a complete understanding of the game of football. He is very deserving of the hall of fame and having his jersey retired.”

McMahon left school in 1981 holding 70 school records after compiling 653 completions for 9,536 yards and 84 touchdowns with a 156.9 passer rating. As a senior, McMahon won the inaugural Davey O’Brien Award, the Sammy Baugh Trophy, and was named the NCAA Co-Offensive Player of the Year. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind USC’s Marcus Allen and Georgia’s Herschel Walker.

McMahon will be honored in a ceremony during No. 21 BYU’s home date with Utah State on Oct. 4. The Cougars host Virginia on Saturday.

 

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Torn ACL, MCL ends season for Texas State’s Michael Orakpo

Corey Robinson, Michael Orakpo AP

Looking to get a fresh start at Texas State after getting the boot from Colorado State, Michael Orakpo will instead spend the next several months rehabbing a rather significant injury.

Earlier this week, TSU head coach Dennis Franchione confirmed that Orakpo will miss the remainder of the 2014 season due to a torn ACL and MCL.  The linebacker, who’s the brother of former Texas All-American Brian Orakpo, sustained the injury in this past weekend’s loss to Navy.

Franchione described the injury as “not a pretty sight to see.”

The injury also ends the playing career of the fifth-year season as he will not be eligible for a sixth season of eligibility.  It was also a career that reeks of what could’ve been.

In April of 2012, Orakpo, along with two now-former Colorado State teammates, were involved in what was described as the “savage beating” of fellow CSU students.  The trio was suspended by the program, ultimately charged with one count each of disorderly conduct, and eventually dismissed from the team.

Orakpo originally intended to transfer to and play for Baylor, but was removed from the roster — after having his own profile on the team’s official website — because of the baggage he brought from CSU.  He ended up at TSU and would be named second-team All-Sun Belt for his play during the 2013 season.

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Cincy’s starting RB, CB cited, with another Bearcat arrested

Hosey Williams, Junior Sylvestre AP

With a huge intrastate non-conference game looming two Saturdays from now, an incident that could turn into at least a mild distraction for the Cincinnati football program has reared its head.

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote Thursday afternoon that “[t]he future of two University of Cincinnati football players on scholarships is unclear after one was arrested and the second was cited when police responded to a weekend party near campus where gunshots were fired.”  In a press release, the school subsequently confirmed the arrest as well as a total of three citations issued to football players

The arrested one was freshman cornerback Alex Thomas, who was charged after attempting to flee police who had responded to the call of shots fired. Running back Hosey Williams was cited for disorderly conduct while intoxicated according to the Enquirer. The paper noted that Williams’ citation” indicates he refused to tell police where he attends school.”

The other two given unspecified citations were sophomore linebacker Ey’Shawn McClain and junior cornerback Leviticus Payne.

The incident that led to the arrest and citations happened very early Sunday morning.

“This kind of behavior is not acceptable and not indicative of the UC football program. Moving forward, we will continue to educate our players on making good decisions and being great representatives of the University,” a statement from head coach Tommy Tuberville read.

Houston has been suspended by the football program and “will not be eligible to participate in a game until his legal matter is completely resolved. He has a preliminary court date on Oct. 14 so he will miss at least four games and possibly more,” the school’s release read. The other three have been disciplined internally but remain on the roster and eligible to participate in games.

That’s particularly good news when it comes to two portions of the cited trio.  Williams is UC’s starting running back and, in the season opener in Week 3 — the Bearcats had byes the first two weeks — led the Bearcats with 103 yards on 14 carries. Payne, meanwhile, is on of UC’s starting corners.

Thomas and McClain are not listed on the Bearcats’ two-deep depth chart.

(Tip O’ the Cap: ArrestNation.com)

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Report: Tech fired Wallerstedt for suspicion of being under the influence

Matt Wallerstedt

Before you go there, yes, that would explain some of Texas Tech’s defensive woes.  Now, with that out of the way, we can move on.

Earlier today it was reported that Texas Tech had fired defensive its coordinator, Matt Wallerstedt, and replaced the second-year coach with Mike Smith.  The school has yet to confirm the move, although that’s expected at some point this afternoon of evening.

No reason for the abrupt dismissal three games into the season was given either, although it was believed to be performance-related as the Red Raiders’ defense had been gashed for almost 500 yards rushing against Arkansas.  As it turns out, that may not be the case.

From ESPN.com‘s Jake Trotter:

Texas Tech fired defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt on Thursday after the coach was suspected of being at the school’s football building while under the influence of an unknown substance, sources told ESPN.com.

Wallerstedt was sent home from the facility Monday, according to a source.

What that alleged substance was wasn’t detailed by Trotter, and it’s highly, highly doubtful the university will divulge the circumstances surrounding the dismissal let alone any details of the alleged substance involved.

What we are certain of is this likely isn’t the last we’ve heard of this particular story.

(Photo credit: Texas Tech athletics)

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VIDEO: Jameis Winston running out of chances in eyes of NFL

Jameis Winston

Personally, I could care less what if any impact the latest brouhaha involving Jameis Winston will have on the Florida State quarterback’s future NFL draft stock.  The only thing I care about are things like what effect it will have on FSU’s chances in the Clemson game… if will it further damage any shot at back-to-back Heismans… if it will have any bearing on the Seminoles repeating as champions… will it cause Winston to leave FSU early for the professional ranks.  That’s it.

It’s the college football angle and the college football angle only that interests me — unless it somehow becomes intertwined with the future of the Cleveland Browns either directly or indirectly.

The fine folks at PFT Live, however, are keenly interested in Winston’s draft stock and what impact it may or may not have in the eyes of NFL clubs and their scouting departments.  Unofficial data suggests that’s already happening as Mel Kiper has dropped Winston from No. 3 to No. 25 on his Big Board for the 2015 NFL draft.  An overreaction to the obscene and vulgar meme Winston publicly belted out?  Possibly, but the reality of the new NFL suggests it’s not.

As the esteemed and deftly-coiffed Mike Florio explains in this PFT Live segment, teams will likely be on the lookout for character issues of potential draft picks in the wake of the controversies involving Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.  Taking that into account, and taking into account the myriad off-field hiccups Winston’s already stepped into during his two-plus years in Tallahassee, Florio opines that “for a guy that’s going to be the face of a franchise somewhere, there is enough evidence out there to have a concern that this guy isn’t ready and may never be ready to be the face of your franchise.”

“He’s running out of chances to convince the NFL he can come in and be that player who is the leader of your team both in the locker room and in the public eye,” Florio added.

For those who are interested in the NFL aspect of this situation, this two-minute clip is actually well worth your time.

 

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Reports: Texas Tech cans DC Matt Wallerstedt

Matt Wallerstedt

Go ahead and file this in the “whoa, didn’t expect this so soon” folder.

Within minutes of each other Thursday afternoon, both CoachingSearch.com and FootballScoop.com reported via Twitter that Matt Wallerstedt has been fired as defensive coordinator by head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Mike Smith is expected to take over the coordinating duties on that side of the ball.

Tech is expected to release a statement confirming the move at some point this afternoon.

The apparent decision to can Wallerstedt, in his second season at Tech, comes just five days after Arkansas ran over, through and around the Red Raiders in an embarrassing 49-28 loss Saturday in Lubbock. In that game, the Razorbacks ran for 438 yards while passing for just 61.

Smith, a 2004 TT graduate, held the titles of co-defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach.

As it stands now, the Red Raiders’ defense is second-to-last in rushing defense and 106th in scoring defense through three games.  Last season, Wallerstedt’s first, they were 74th and 90th, respectively, in those categories.

(Photo credit: Texas Tech athletics)

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Ark. St. can return remembrance crosses to helmets

Arkansas State Cross

The fact that an attorney complained to Arkansas State about memorial crosses placed on the football team’s helmets triggered action from the university, with the crosses being altered or removed so that only the initials of the dead remained.  It also, though, triggered an outpouring of criticism of the school from those who felt they caved to the interests of a single individual at the expense of the majority.

One of those levying the most pointed criticism was the Liberty Institute, a conservative Christian legal organization that had complained in a letter to the university that it had infringed on the private religious rights of the players.

In the end, they’re right back to a similar place where they were prior to the original complaint lodged over a week ago: the players can have crosses on their helmets, if they want them there. And they won’t be placed their by an employee of the school as before; rather, the players themselves will be able to affix crosses or any other NCAA-sanctioned tribute to former defensive lineman Markel Owens and former equipment manager Barry Weyer Jr., who both died back in 2013 in separate incidents.

The university allowed that it was wrong for the school to place the crosses on the helmets originally. “The sticker idea originated among the coaches and the coaches’ small group of football players on the Leadership Council,” a letter from ASU System President Charles Welch to the institute stated, also noting that the stickers were paid for using public funds.  That will not happen this time around.

According to the same letter, “[t]he display of these stickers will be totally voluntary and completely independent of university involvement. The university will not procure the stickers, purchase them, or affix them to the helmets.”

ASU officials had consulted with their counterparts at the Liberty institute to come up with a solution that allows the individuals to make the choice.  It also came after conversations with its own legal team and the NCAA.

“In the interest of allowing our student-athletes to memorialize their fallen colleagues, Markel Owens and Barry Weyer, it is the university’s position that any player who wishes to voluntarily place an NCAA-compliant sticker on their helmet to memorialize these individuals will be able to do so,” the letter from the university continued.

The Liberty Institute issued its own statement hailing what it referred to as “a great victory for the players of Arkansas State University!”

“According to the letter we received from the University and communications from the Arkansas Attorney General Office, the players will be allowed to place the original cross sticker design on their helmets in the original location if they so choose.

“The University officials and the Arkansas Attorney General did the right thing restoring the religious liberty and free speech rights of the players to have the original cross sticker design if they so choose and we commend them for doing so.”

A Red Wolve football player had complained that the school had violated his right to free speech because of the cross flap, which gained the interest of the institute. The school, though, denies the player’s right to free speech was infringed upon due to the university’s actions.

In the letter referenced previously, the institute was taken to task by the president for disseminating what it called misinformation over what led to the school’s initial decision.

The University’s response said “The foregoing facts are in stark contrast to the misinformation contained in your letter stating that the ‘students designed the helmet sticker,’ that ‘[e]ach teammate affixed the sticker to his helmet,’ and that the ‘stickers were designed by the students on their own.'”

The letter also said that all of this was done without the advice of counsel. The University argued that “Accordingly, when the school modified the stickers to avoid Establishment Clause concerns, no student speech was infringed.”

(Photo credit: Arkansas State athletics)

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Sooners to debut alternate unis vs. WVU

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

Because, of course, there’s something inherently wrong with their classic, iconic, traditional football duds.

Regardless, Oklahoma revealed Wednesday that they will be wearing alternate uniforms for the nationally-televised game against West Virginia Saturday night. This version is actually one of the different alternate combinations announced back in July but have yet to be worn.

Head coach Bob Stoops sounded positively thrilled over the debut of the uniforms.

We just thought we might as well use them. Since you got them, you eventually got to use them,” Stoops said.

As we wrote a couple of months ago, the Sooners will have a pair of alternate uniforms to choose from moving forward.

One adopts a white alternate helmet, while one features a wood grain pattern in the numbering, lettering and the helmet itself. The wood grain is supposed to be reminiscent of, a press release stated, “the weathered texture of the Sooner Schooner, a Conestoga reminiscent of the pioneer mode of travel employed by the hearty souls who settled Oklahoma Territory around the time of the 1889 Land Run.”

The newer uniforms also feature the phrase “47 straight,” a tribute to Oklahoma’s NCAA record winning streak running from 1953 through 1957.

The uniforms that will be worn in the Big 12 opener against the Mountaineers in Morgantown will have the wood-grain theme.

Oklahoma Uniform

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Status of starting Gamecocks guard for Vandy game up in the air

North Carolina v South Carolina

Already dealing with the loss of Mike Matulis until at least midseason because of a knee injury, South Carolina’s offensive line could be set to take yet another injury hit.

South Carolina confirmed Wednesday in their practice notes that Cody Waldrop did not practice again because of an unspecified injury to his left knee.  It was the second practice in a row that the starting guard, who was seen walking with the aid of a crutch, had missed.

The injury occurred late in the win over Georgia this past Saturday, and is expected to keep him out of this weekend’s game against Vanderbilt.

Waldrop has started the first two games this season at right guard.  Oddly enough, Waldrop became the starter because of the injury to Matulis.

If Waldrop is out e would be replaced in the starting lineup by Will Short.

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UConn, Mizzou schedule home-and-home for 2015, 2017

Bob Diaco AP

Using Bob Diaco’s favorite analogy, he’s baked one serious ingredient into his future schedule cakes.

Mizzou announced a home-and-home series with UConn to be played in 2015 in Columbia and 2017 in East Hartford, giving UConn its first power-five opponent of the Diaco era. UConn will travel to Faurot Field on Sept. 19, 2015 and welcome the Tigers to the Northeast on Sept. 23, 2017.

UConn already has a tough trip to Provo to face BYU scheduled for 2015 as well as non-conference home games against Villanova and Army. A home-and-home series with Virginia will be played in 2016 and 2017, while UConn has Big Ten bottom-feeders Illinois and Indiana on its 2019 and 2020 schedules. Adding an SEC opponent certainly will be a good test for Diaco’s Huskies.

UConn doesn’t do a whole lot for Mizzou’s future non-conference schedules, as there’s plenty of work to be done in East Hartford before Diaco gets the Huskies to a competitive level in the AAC, let alone on a grander scale. Mizzou faces FCS side Southeast Missouri State and travels to Arkansas State in 2015 while welcoming Purdue to Columbia in 2017.

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So who is Sean Maguire, other than being Florida State’s first-half QB vs. Clemson?

Sean Maguire AP

Chances are, Florida State won’t ask Sean Maguire to do too much in the first 30 minutes against Clemson Saturday night. With Jameis Winston getting himself suspended, Maguire will step in — and while it may not cost Florida State a win, swapping Winston for Maguire certainly makes Saturday night’s game in Tallahassee a little tougher for the ‘Noles.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes on Maguire:

– He’s a redshirt sophomore who stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 220 pounds.

– Maguire completed three of five passes for 28 yards in garbage time this year and went 13 of 21 for 116 yards and a touchdown a year ago, again being used only in garbage time.

– The Sparta, N.J. native was rated by Rivals as a three-star pro-style quarterback out of high school. According to Rivals, Buffalo was the only other school to offer Maguire, who committed to Florida State in early June of 2011 (about 10 months before signing day).

– Florida State’s official website offers this:

ran a wing-T offense in high school which didn’t allow for many passing opportunities…made the most of the ones he got displaying good arm strength, touch, the ability to change ball speeds and ability to consistently throw a catchable ball with accuracy to all three levels

– The wing-T? Alright then. Good on him for sticking it out at his high school instead of transferring somewhere with a 21st-century offense, I guess.

Again, Florida State probably won’t ask Maguire to do a whole lot against Clemson other than hand the ball off. But if Clemson stacks the box with eight guys and forces FSU into some passing down situations, Maguire may need to make some throws — and if those don’t go well, the door could very well be open for Clemson to steal a win at Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday night.

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Ripple effect of Auburn-Kansas State will be felt well beyond Manhattan tonight

Big 12 Football Media Days Getty Images

Kansas State hosts Auburn tonight in a game that’s not only massive for the outlook of things in Manhattan, Kan. This is a game that carries far-reaching implications in Norman, Okla., Waco, Texas, East Lansing, Mich., and across a large swath of the South.

If K-State pulls off the upset and Aggieville parties long into Friday morning, the Big 12 will get a massive boost as a whole. K-State’s road to the College Football Playoff would all of a sudden open up, even if it’s an unlikely path: The Wildcats’ Big 12 schedule sends them to Oklahoma and Baylor, while there’s a tricky road game at West Virginia in there, too.

It’d be foolish to doubt Bill Snyder, but chances are, K-State won’t make a serious playoff push. But the Wildcats would do Oklahoma or Baylor a huge favor by beating Auburn tonight — they’d give those teams another chance at a solid win over the course of a fairly light Big 12 schedule.

If one spot in the College Football Playoff comes down to a one-loss Big 12 team vs. a one-loss Big Ten team (looking your way, Michigan State), a win over a K-State team that toppled Auburn could go a long way toward the selection committee going with the Big 12 team. Oklahoma will have a win over Baylor or Baylor will have a win over Oklahoma, giving either side a better victory than Michigan State or any other Big Ten team will have this year. But if Oklahoma trips up Saturday at West Virginia or Baylor gets knocked off by Texas in Austin, a win over K-State could help counter-act that defeat.

Or consider this: Would a one-loss Big 12 team get a higher seed or spot in the playoff over a one-loss Florida State? If the ‘Noles fall to Clemson or Notre Dame in Tallhassee or Louisville on the road, would a weak ACC schedule come back to bite them? (Probably not, but it wouldn’t be a slam dunk.)

Those clinging to the hope of a Big Ten team making the College Football Playoff should be rooting for two things: Auburn to win tonight, and then chaos to reign in the SEC West. An Auburn win weakens the Big 12 while boosts a conference that doesn’t really need a boost. The Big Ten has an advantage over the Big 12 in its conference championship game, meaning there’s a good chance a one-loss Michigan State team faces a one-loss Wisconsin side in Indianapolis.

The best-case for the Big Ten would be for Michigan State to run the table, beat that one-loss Wisconsin team and have a resume of “hey, we took care of our business except for a nearly impossible task in Week 2 in Eugene.” That’s not a bad resume, even given the Big Ten’s awful rep.

Would a one-loss ACC or Big 12 team still make the playoff over a one-loss Big Ten team? Probably, but again, it’s not a guarantee.

The worst-case scenario for the SEC is Auburn loses tonight, but navigates its brutal SEC schedule with only one other loss and emerges as conference champions for the second straight year. The selection committee still would likely give Auburn a bid to the College Football Playoff, but it could hinder the conference’s chances of getting two teams in — especially since the East’s two top teams, Georgia and South Carolina, already have one loss.

Tonight in Manhattan will go a long way toward determining the landscape of the first College Football Playoff. Buckle up.

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