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The day college football’s postseason forever changed

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As someone who has been beating a very loud the drum for a college football playoff since even before I came around these parts more than three years ago, today is a red-letter day.  Something, to be perfectly honest, I never thought I’d see without some type of intervention from the federal government.

In essence, the leaders in college football Thursday formally endorsed a four-team playoff.  And officially placed the Bowl Championship Series on life support, with plans to pull the plug beginning with the 2014 season.

Automatic qualifiers?  Dead, although it’s still to be determined whether that’s good or bad for those outside the power conferences.  A plus-one, in which a title game is held after all of the bowl games have been played?  Dead as well, meaning there will be a true playoff in college football, bringing it in line with every other major sport in the free world, professional, collegiate and otherwise.

Following the end of the meetings in Hollywood, Fla., the commissioners of the 11 Div. 1-A (FBS) conferences as well as Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick issued a statement that read in part that the group “will present to our conferences a very small number of four-team options, each of which could be carried out in a number of ways.” Borrowing from JFK, within that document lies the dawning of a new age in major college football’s postseason.

The impact of today’s developments wasn’t lost on the organization perhaps impacted the most by the tidal wave of postseason discussion that’s swept over the sport the past several months.

“This is a seismic change for college football and commissioners are aware of that,” BcS executive director Bill Hancock candidly and correctly stated.

While it was a great day, a tremendous day, it was far from a perfect one.  In my dream scenario, at least an eight-team playoff would’ve been implemented right off the bat.  Officially, and has been intimated for months, there will be no eight- or 16-team playoffs for the foreseeable future. While far from unexpected, seeing it off the table is more than a little disappointing but far from surprising.

Baby steps, y’all.  Baby steps.

Many questions still remain, however.  The one that has seemingly garnered the most attention is also inconsequential, or close to it: where the games will be played.  Whether it be inside the current bowl structure; outside the bowl structure but utilizing those same host sites; or neutral or on-campus venues — yes, the latter one is still officially on the table, but don’t hold your breath — the two semifinal games (that feels so good to be able to officially type) will be held somewhere.  Again, the where is almost inconsequential.  The how?  Not so much.

The how, of course, is what process the newly-revamped postseason will utilize to determine which teams will qualify for the four spots in a playoff.  Many possible scenarios have been mentioned, from limiting the field to teams that have won conference championships to taking the top four teams in the final rankings — using computers or human polls or some combination of both similar to the current system — to three conference champs and a “wildcard” to just about anything else in between.  Another scenario that’s gaining momentum?  A selection committee, similar to the one utilized in college hoops for its postseason tournaments.

Regardless of how that question is answered when a final decision is rendered in July, this part of the equation is simply something the sport can’t afford to get wrong.

In that vein, here are some helpful hints for the game’s decision makers to help them not get it wrong:

  1. If computers are part of the selection process, make any program utilized open and available for public scrutiny and have strength of schedule as part of the criteria.  The importance of that, especially the latter part, cannot be overstated.
  2. If human polls are part of the selection process, the first poll of a given season should in no way, shape or form be released until at least three weeks of the season have been played, preferably four or five into the new year.  Based on the annual turnover nearly every team in the country experiences, a preseason poll based off the previous year’s results is not only useless but it’s actually damaging to the process of, at the end of the season, determining the four best teams in college football.
  3. If human polls are part of the selection process, the coaches’ poll should not be one of them.  That one should be fairly self explanatory.
  4. If a selection committee is part of the process, make it as close to possible to being a full-time job.  If the sport is hellbent on going in that direction, do it right.  The selection process is not something to be half-assed, and neither should the committment any future committee members make.

Today — and the several months preceding it — was certainly a step in the right direction toward righting the wrongs of the abominable system used to determine a national champion in major college football.  Still, though, there are many more steps to take.  And many, many ways for the leaders of the sport to somehow screw it up.

Keep every available appendage crossed.  These next three months or so are monumental for the sport.

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LSU sells out season tickets for 11th straight year

Les Miles

A bigger stadium capacity was likely to lead to a record number of season tickets sold, and LSU did not disappoint. The school announced Friday all season tickets for the 2014 season have been sold. In all, LSU set a school record with 74,350 season tickets being sold. It is the 11th straight season LSU has sold out its season tickets.

“We have sold every season ticket that we have to offer,” LSU associate athletic director for ticket operations Brian Broussard said in a statement released by LSU Friday afternoon. “Our season ticket demand continues to be very strong and with the additional seats in the south endzone expansion, we were able to offer more season tickets this year and our fans bought them all.”

Just last month LSU announced a new stadium capacity for Tiger Stadium, moving LSU just past Alabama in the stadium capacity pecking order. After undergoing expansion in the south endzone, the stadium capacity for Tiger Stadium has increased to 102,321. The expansion helped add roughly 6,000 more season tickets to sell to fans, according to the statement released by LSU.

The home slate for LSU is one of the least attractive home schedules but it does include a home date against Alabama in November and division games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State (both Mississippi schools have a possibility of being fun to watch this season). Other notable games against defending SEC champion Auburn, Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M will all be played on the road. LSU’s big non-conference match-up with Wisconsin will actually be played in Houston as well. Fans with tickets to LSU home games this season will also be treated to games against Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, and Kentucky in SEC play.

Also this offseason, LSU’s Tiger Stadium was voted the best stadium in college football. Who wouldn’t want to secure a season ticket to Tiger Stadium?

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Fresno State adds transfers from Texas A&M and Oregon

LeKendrick Williams, Dax Swanson

As Fresno State reported for camp for the 2014 season, the defending Mountain West Conference champions announced the additions of transfer players from Texas A&M and Oregon. Wide receiver LeKendrick Williams from Texas A&M and linebacker Tyrell Robinson from Oregon have each joined the Bulldogs

Williams will be eligible to play right away according to Fresno State, but Robinson will have to sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Williams is eligible to play this fall because he has already graduated from Texas A&M, allowing him to play at another FBS program in 2014. The addition of Williams helps Fresno State fill some holes on offense after losing leading receivers Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse to the NFL.

Robinson was granted a release from his scholarship from Oregon in June. A desire to find a more playing time that did not appear to be in the works at Oregon was the main reason for the transfer. Robinson’s twin brother, Tyree Robinson, remains at Oregon to contend for a starting job in the defensive backfield.

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Strong’s discipline at Texas gets powerful vote of confidence

Charlie Strong

Texas head coach Charlie Strong has been hard at work at resetting the tone for the way the Longhorns will be run. That has included removing a number of players from the roster that are not buying into Strong’s mentality or philosophies when it comes to representing the program with honor. Strong, already a coaching hire that left a number of Texas fans a bit skeptical, was given a vote of confidence from the top of the university Friday. University of Texas president Bill Powers took to a brief blog post to address his support for the way Strong has been handling the discipline in Austin.

“In recent days, criminal charges and violations of team rules have led Coach Charlie Strong to dismiss and suspend multiple students from our football team,” Power said. “These are unfortunate losses, but I fully support Coach Strong and the hard line on discipline he takes. Indeed, this trait is among the reasons he was hired.”

Strong has yet to win a single game in Austin just yet but receiving this kind of support from the top of the university has to be considered some sort of win. Then again, what else is the president to say about this topic? The school just hired Strong and players in need of a potential wake-up call are being handed just that.

“In Charlie Strong, we have the right person for the job,” Powers continued. “Young players across Texas and beyond know that when they come to UT Austin, they’ll live by Coach Strong’s rules or they won’t play football.”

As stated before right here on College Football Talk, the actions being taken by Strong now will only help the future of the program.

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Back injury sidelines Auburn starting OG Kozan for 2014

Gus Malzahn

Auburn opened camp on Friday and is already down one starting offensive lineman for the 2014 season. Head coach Gus Malzahn told reporters on Friday offensive guard Alex Kovan will miss the entire 2014 season due to a back injury suffered over the offseason.

Kovan reportedly hurt his back while lifting weights at home this offseason, and he underwent surgery on Thursday according to Auburn Undercover. The sophomore started 13 games for the Tigers last season and earned freshman All-American honors as the Tigers played their way to the SEC Championship and a spot in the BCS Championship Game.

The loss of Kovan likely means there will be some shuffling on the offensive line. Auburn Undercover suggests offensive tackle Avery Young could switch the vacant guard position after starting nine games at tackle last fall.

Malzahn also told reporters starting quarterback Nick Marshall and starting defensive back Jonathan Mincy will each miss the start for the 2014 season opener against Arkansas on August 30. Both players had been charged for possession of marijuana in the offseason. Malzahn did make a point to say Marshall will play in the opener, but there is no update on Mincy’s availability for the first game of the season.

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Marijuana is legal in Washington, but not in Mike Leach’s program

Mike Leach

The use of marijuana is legalized in the state of Washington, but Washington State head coach Mike Leach makes it clear how the use of the drug is viewed within his football program. He also says marijuana use has not been a problem for his football team.

“The marijuana rule has not been a problem for us,” Leach said in response to a question on a Reddit AMA chat. Leach went on to explain “It is illegal on our team and if we find anyone using marijuana, we will dismiss them from the team.”

Leach also shared his personal thought son the use of marijuana, whether it is legal or not.

“With all do respect to those who enjoy marijuana, I believe that it is very counter-productive to having the best focused and most productive football team that I can have,” Leach said. “Any of our players or coaches interested in it will have to do it after they finish their time here!”

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Nick Marshall will play but will not start Auburn season opener

Nick Marshall

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will play in the first game of the season for the defending SEC champions, but he will not start the game. Head coach Gus Malzahn confirmed the playing status for his returning starter on Friday, and he put it clearly.

“Nick is still our starting quarterback,” Malzahn said, as reported by Al.com.

Auburn opened camp Friday, and Malzahn took the time with the media to set the record on how Marshall would be disciplined. Marshall was kept home from SEC Media Day events a couple of weeks ago after being cited for possession of marijuana. Malzahn also noted starting defensive back Jonathan Mincy, also charged for marijuana possession this offseason, will not start for Auburn in the season opener.

Marshall paid a fine for marijuana possession last week, allowing the police to consider the case against him closed. With the legal process in the books, it was up to Malzahn to come to a decision on what to do next. Malzahn had been holding off on deciding how to proceed with punishment for Marshall but stressed it would be figured out. As previously noted, Auburn’s drug policy did not seem to indicate any lost playing time would be enforced for this offense.

Marshall was named to the All-SEC First Team and he has been mentioned as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate for the upcoming season. Although he is not technically being suspended by Auburn, the absence of playing time does not appear to be something that will hold Auburn back for very long.

Auburn opens the 2014 season at home against SEC West foe Arkansas on August 30.

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Junior WR leaving Maryland, eligible to play in 2014

Old Dominion v Maryland

Maryland will enter the Big Ten this fall with one of the best wide receiver units in the conference. That unit will not include Nigel King, a junior who reportedly has been granted a release from his scholarship in order to pursue playing opportunities elsewhere.

“I would like to thank all of my coaches, teammates and the rest of the athletic department staff for their support during my time at the University of Maryland,” King said in a statement, according to The Baltimore Sun. “I was able to fulfill my goals of playing college football and, most importantly, earning my degree.”

King did in fact graduate from Maryland, which means he would be eligible to play right away at any other FBS school if he can find a spot on another program’s roster in time for the fall season.

King was fifth on Maryland in receiving last season with 33 receptions for 450 yards and a team-high four touchdowns. Despite his contributions last season, The Baltimore Sun reports he was projected to be buried on the depth chart behind players like Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.

The Baltimore Sun credited Terrapin Times with being the first to report news of the transfer.

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Academics may cost Tulane its leading returning rusher

This is certainly no way to head into your first summer camp in a new conference.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, running back Rob Kelley might not be cleared academically and, if so, would be sidelined for the entire 2014 season.  Head coach Curtis Johnson told the Times-Picayune he’s “waiting to hear Kelley’s final summer grades,” although it doesn’t sound promising.

Last season, Kelley was second on the team with 420 yards and three touchdowns.  He also added 18 receptions (fourth on the team) for 176 yards and another touchdown.

With the departure of Orleans Darkwa for the NFL, Kelley served as the Green Wave’s leading returning rusher.  He’s also the only player on the roster this season who scored a rushing touchdown last season.

Tulane, which officially moved from Conference USA to the AAC, will open the season Aug. 28 against fellow first-year AAC member Tulsa.

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Report: Oklahoma confident in DGB’s eligibility in 2014

Dorial Green-Beckham

Oklahoma is hoping to have wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham ruled eligible to play this season, despite transferring from Missouri after playing last fall for the SEC East champions. The Sooners are banking this expectation on a waiver being approved by the NCAA. The waiver is fueled by the run-off rule, according to The Oklahoman.

The run-off rule allows a player to be ruled eligible at a new school if the player is in good academic standing and the previous school files paperwork confirming the player was not invited to return to the program. That appears to be the case for Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed by Missouri this offseason.

That particular detail could change the whole outlook for the transfer and eligibility of Green-Beckham to Oklahoma, but it also puts the NCAA in a difficult position as far as public relations is concerned.

Although Green-Beckham was never charged in an alleged break-in of an apartment that reportedly involved shoving a woman down stairs, he has had his infractions of rules in the past while at Missouri that raise a caution flag. The NCAA typically allows for exemptions to be made to the typical transfer rules for players in good standing and under certain conditions for hardships. Oklahoma is looking to use these exemptions to their benefit, and the NCAA may be put in a position where it may not be able to defend against the process and grant immediate eligibility.

But should they?

UPDATE (5:53 PM ET): TCU head coach Gary Patterson chimed in with his take on this news story, via Twitter. It pretty much speaks for itself.

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Richt confirms two-game suspension for Davin Bellamy

Bellamy_Davin

As expected, an off-field incident will have on-field consequences for yet another Georgia football player.

At his press conference ahead of the start of summer camp, head coach Mark Richt confirmed that, per school policy, Davin Bellamy will be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season.  Bellamy was arrested last weekend and charged with driving under the influence.

Such an offseason offense requires UGA student-athletes be suspended for 20 percent of their team’s regular season games the upcoming season.

A three-star member of last year’s recruiting class, Bellamy took a redshirt for his true freshman season.  He’s expected to compete for a backup job.

Bellamy was the seventh UGA player arrested this offseason, prompting athletic director Greg McGarity to publicly express his frustration with the recent spate of off-field incidents.

(Photo credit: Georgia athletics)

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Report: Pittsburgh suspends potential starting cornerback for 2014

Florida State v Pittsburgh

The Friday afternoon news dump is reserved for news just like this. Pittsburgh has suspended defensive back Titus Howard for the entire 2014 season. As of now the cause for the season-long suspension is unknown, although to make this kind of decision seems to suggest there is a serious reason behind the decision.

Jerry DiPaola was first to report via Twitter.

For now we are left to assume this will be classified as a violation of team rules.

As DiPaola made note, Howard was listed at the top of the depth chart for the Panthers heading into the summer camp before the start of the season. He played in 11 games last fall for the Panthers and started in two of them as a freshman. One of those starts came in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against MAC champion Bowling Green.

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Tee Shepard cleared, can play for Ole Miss in 2014

Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl Getty Images

The roller coaster ride that is Tee Shepard continued down the tracks Thursday, with the talented defensive back receiving some good news on the qualifying front.

Citing an Ole Miss spokesperson, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported overnight that Shepard has been cleared academically and will be a part of the Rebels football team in 2014.  Because he played at a level below the FBS in 2013, Shepard will be permitted to play this season and have three years of eligibility remaining.

Shepard had originally given a verbal commitment to rival Mississippi State before flipping to Ole Miss three days later on signing day this year.  That was merely the latest leg of what’s been an interesting journey for the player.

Notre Dame announced back in March of 2012 that Shepard was no longer enrolled at the school, two months after he enrolled as an early signee as part of the Irish’s 2012 recruiting class.  The stated reason for Shepard’s decision at the time was the desire to be back closer to his family in Fresno.

After leaving South Bend, Shepard considered transferring to Fresno State as well as USC before ultimately landing at a junior college.

Shepard, a four- or five-star player depending on the recruiting service, was rated as the No. 4 corner in the country in the Class of 2012 and the No. 11 player at any position in the state of California by Rivals.com.

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Report: Miami QB Kevin Olsen suspended for at least a game

Florida v Miami

It appears that Jake Heapsdesire to become Miami’s starting quarterback has seen the path cleared a bit.

While there has been no official confirmation from the school, Adam Kuperstein of NBC 6 in Miami is reporting that Kevin Olsen has been slapped with at least a one-game suspension.  The reason behind the suspension?  A failed drug test, Kuperstein reported.

The Palm Beach Post‘s Matt Porter wrote on Twitter that he has “heard rumblings about [an] Olsen suspension this week, but haven’t confirmed.”  Porter also notes that Olsen was suspended for Miami’s bowl game last season for undisclosed reasons.

If the most recent report is accurate, Olsen would miss at least the season opener against Louisville on Labor Day, which also serves as the ACC opener for both teams.

It would also mean that, more than likely, Heaps would be the man under center.  With Ryan Williams likely out until at least the beginning of October at the earliest with a torn ACL, Heaps and Olsen were expected to commence a battle in summer camp to replace Stephen Morris.

If Olsen’s status were in doubt, it could also bring a pair of true freshman — Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier — into the mix, at least for a temporary backup job and perhaps a starting job if Heaps, a Kansas transfer, struggles the way he has throughout his career.  Kaaya is the most touted of the two, a four-star member of UM’s 2014 recruiting class rated as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the country.

Rosier was a three-star member of The U’s most recent class, rated as the No. 20 dual-threat quarterback.

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Starter among three defensive players suspended by Tide

Alabama v Auburn

We noted earlier that Jacob Coker took to the field for the first time Friday as an Alabama football player.

Three of his new defensive teammates, however, didn’t join him.

At his summer camp kick-off press conference, head coach Nick Saban confirmed that three players — defensive linemen Brandon Ivory and Jarran Reed and linebacker Tim Williams — have been indefinitely suspended from the football program. The reason given, of course, was the standard violation of unspecified team rules.

Reed’ suspension, though, can be traced to a recent off-field incident. In mid-July, Reed was arrested and charged with drunk-driving after he was witnessed backing into another vehicle.

A short time later it was reported that Reed and running back Kenyan Drake, arrested last month as well on an obstruction charge, had been suspended; Drake practiced Friday, which means he’s served his suspension to Saban’s satisfaction.

The most notable of the announced suspensions was Ivory’s. Last season, the now-fifth-year senior started 12 games for the Tide and will be expected to fill a similar role when he returns.

As for when that might be, al.com wrote that Saban said, alluding to all three, that they “can work themselves back onto the team but did not provide a timetable.”

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Jacob Coker takes field for first time as Tide QB

Florida State v Wake Forest Getty Images

Ever since Jacob Coker officially transferred from Florida State to Alabama, it was assumed he would take over for AJ McCarron as the Tide’s starting quarterback.

Friday, that assumption was put to its first official test.

This morning, the Tide took to the practice field for the first time as Summer Camp 2014 commenced.  One of the players with the most eyeballs on him was, of course, Coker.

Al.com has some video footage of the new QB on the block playing a serious game of long toss with some receivers that you can view by clicking HERE.

Coker was joined on the practice field by Blake Sims and Cooper Bateman, the other two pieces to what’s expected to be a three-man competition.  None of the three has ever started a game at the collegiate level; because Coker, ahem, nearly beat out Jameis Winston for FSU’s starting job prior to the 2013 season, he’s viewed as the favorite.

Sims has spent last season as McCarron’s primary backup, with that familiarity leading some to believe he would have the edge.  However, with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin installing his scheme, any advantage for Sims on that front is largely negated.

So, just who will end up starting for the Tide?  Allow Nick Saban to answer that question.

“We’re looking for the guy — success is defined by consistency in performance, alright,” the head coach said back in March. “So who can be the most consistent guy doing his job well at that position? Alright, now that’s a critical position because that guy distributes the ball to someone on every down, whether he hands it to them, throws it to them. The choices and decisions that they have to make goes a long way in how effective and efficient your offense runs.”

In other words, keep track of who makes the fewest mistakes in the weeks leading up to the opener, because that’s the one who’ll take the field first against West Virginia in the Georgia Dome.

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