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SEC maintaining NFL draft edge

Trent Richardson AP

UPDATED 4/28/2012 @ 12:17 p.m. ET: With the first two days and three rounds of the 2012 NFL draft in the books, and with rounds 4-7 set for Saturday afternoon and into the evening, the SEC continues to hold an edge over all other conferences in players selected, although the gap has closed considerably since the first round Thursday night.

After watching nine of its players drafted within the first 18 picks opening night, the SEC saw “just” seven more selected in the next 77 picks, leaving the six-time-defending BcS champion conference with 16 players taken during the first three rounds.  Close on the SEC’s heels, however, are the Big Ten and Pac-12 with 14 apiece.  The only other conferences in double digits are the ACC (12) and Big 12 (10).

Below is the conference draft “leaderboard”, with the individual total for rounds 1-3 in parenthesis:

SEC: 16 (nine in 1st, five in 2nd, two in 3rd)
Big Ten: 14 (four, seven, three)
Pac-12: 14 (four, six, four)
ACC: 12 (three, three, six)
Big 12: 10 (five, two, three)
Big East: 7 ( two, three, two)
C-USA: 5 (one, one, three)
Non-FBS: 5
MWC: 4 (two, zero, two)
Sun Belt: 3 (zero, zero, three)
MAC: 2 (zero, zero, two)
Ind.: 2 (two, zero, zero)
WAC: 1 (zero, one, zero)

As far as individual schools go, it’s still defending BcS champion Alabama standing atop the draft with five players selected, four in the first round and one early in the second.  Illinois (Ron Zook, ladies & gentlemen), LSU and Stanford each have four apiece, while Boise State, Cal, Cincinnati, Clemson, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wisconsin have seen three players each selected.

The only other schools with more than one player selected are Baylor, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, USC and Virginia Tech.

LSU and Wisconsin are the only schools with at least one player selected in each of the first three rounds.

Perhaps more interesting than the top draft performers are the schools who have yet to hear one of its former player’s name called.  That list includes the likes of Florida, Florida State, Texas, Tennessee, UCLA, Pittsburgh and Washington (why no team has snagged running back Chris Polk is beyond me) among the 67 Div. 1-A (FBS) programs that have been shutout thus far.

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Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote the following: “Given the fact that they’re the five-time reigning national champions, it should come as no surprise that the SEC reigned supreme above all other conferences when it came to the number of players selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.”

Exactly 364 days later, and with a sixth straight crystal trophy stuffed firmly into its hip pocket, it’s lather, rinse, repeat.

From Alabama’s Trent Richardson at No. 3 overall to the Cleveland Browns (thank you, thank you, thank you Tom Heckert) to Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower at No. 25 to the New England Patriots, a total of 10 players from the SEC were taken in the first of seven rounds of the annual NFL draft.  Of the first 18 picks on the night, exactly half (nine, for those mathematically challenged) came from SEC schools — and, yes, Texas A&M was included as an SEC school for this exercise.

As was the case in 2011, the Big 12 was next up after the SEC, with five players selected on the draft’s first day.  Both the Big Ten and Pac-12 had four players apiece selected, while the ACC had three.  Appropriately enough, the Mountain West had two players taken, and both came from flagship program (for now) Boise State.

Just as apropos is that the best team in 2011 from the top conference the past six years dominated individual school honors on the night as well.  Heading into the first day of the draft, many mock projections had five players from Alabama being selected.  The Tide fell just short of that mark, however, “settling” for four players — Richardson, safety Mark Barron (No. 7, Jacksonville Jaguars), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (No. 17, Cincinnati Bengals) and Hightower.  Defensive end Courtney Upshaw was the only Tide player projected to go in the first round who didn’t, although he shouldn’t have to wait too long to hear his name called in the second round Friday evening.

Two other SEC schools — LSU and South Carolina — had two players each selected, as did Baylor, Boise State, Illinois, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Stanford and USC.  No other school had more than one player taken.

After the jump are some random notes sent out by the various sports information departments across the country regarding players selected in the first round of the NFL draft:

Andrew Luck becomes the fourth Stanford quarterback to be selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft, following Bobby Garrett (1954; Cleveland), Jim Plunkett (1971; New England) and John Elway (1983; Baltimore).  Stanford is the only school that has produced four quarterbacks who were selected first overall in the NFL Draft.

— Luck and guard David DeCastro (No. 24, Pittsburgh Steelers, absolute steal) gave the Cardinal two first-round selections in the same draft for the first time since 1992.

— With quarterback Robert Griffin III going to the Washington redskins at No. 2 and wide receiver Kendall Wright going to the Tennessee Titans at No. 20, it is the second consecutive year and only the third time in the 77-year history of the draft that Baylor had two players’ names called during the first round.

— The four first-round selections tied Alabama’s school record, equaling the mark of four set just last season when Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, James Carpenter and Mark Ingram all went in round one. UA has now had 11 first-round picks during head coach Nick Saban’s tenure with the Tide and 10 in the past three years.

Dontari Poe is the first-ever defensive lineman for Memphis to be selected in the first round, and is the first defensive player drafted in the first round since defensive back Jerome Woods was selected as the 28th overall pick, also by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1996.

Chandler Jones (No. 21, New England Patriots) is the first Syracuse player to be chosen in the first round since defensive end Dwight Freeney was the 11th overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 2002.

Quinton Coples (No. 16, New York Jets) was the 20th first-round pick in North Carolina history, and it’s the second straight year a Tar Heel defensive end (Robert Quinn, No. 14, St. Louis Rams) has gone in the top 20 of the draft.

— With wide receiver Michael Floyd (No. 13, Arizona Cardinals) and safety Harrison Smith (No. 29, Minnesota Vikings) off the board, it marks the first time since 1994 that Notre Dame has seen two players taken in the first round.

— With wide receiver quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s selection by the Miami Dolphins at No. 8 overall, Texas A&M had players taken in the first round in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the program’s history ( Von Miller, No. 2 overall pick to the Denver Broncos in 2011).  The last time an Aggies QB was selected as high as Tannehill?  1941 with Mario Pugh, which oddly enough was the same sound made by most NFL fans in general and many Dolphins fans specifically upon hearing of the reach selection.

— Cornerback Stephon Gilmore (No. 10, Buffalo Bills) and defensive end Melvin Ingram (No. 18, Sand Diego Chargers) of South Carolina were selected in the opening round, the first time that’s happened for the Gamecocks since 1981.  They join the tandem of running back George Rogers (1st pick overall by the New Orleans Saints) and tight end Willie Scott (14th pick overall by the Kansas City Chiefs) as the only set of Carolina teammates to be selected in the first round of the same draft.

— Two Boise State players (defensive end Shea McClellin, No. 19, Chicago Bears; running back Doug Martin, No. 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) were taken in the first round of the 2012 draft; prior to this year, the Broncos had two first-round picks in the program’s history.

— LSU head coach Les Miles, on the Dallas Cowboys trading up to No. 6 for cornerback Morris Claiborne: “I couldn’t be happier for Mo. He’s very deserving of this. He’s a guy that will work long and hard to be the best professional football player that he can be. It also makes me very happy that he went to the Dallas Cowboys. He’s going to look great wearing the star.”

— Saban, who wins the really cool quote of the night: “It is very exciting for these guys. But the first thing I remember is going into these guys’ houses when they were in high school or going to their high school to see them when they were juniors. I’m saying ‘that doesn’t seem like it was that long ago’ but the guy you met then and the man they are now – that is one of the great things about college football. To see these guys develop, grow and mature, personally, academically and athletically really makes you feel proud. And that is one of the things I love about college coaching.”

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Michigan St, Baylor, Boise St highlight the Friday night menu

Baylor v Michigan State

You know, college football on Thursday night was so much fun. We should do it all again tonight. Sound good? I knew I liked you.

Tonight’s Friday night line-up sees three teams that played in a New Years Six bowl in action tonight, and two of them are on the road. No. 4 Baylor will open the 2015 campaign in Dallas against SMU. The defending co-Big 12 champs will look to make a good first impression against the Mustangs, but will be without defensive lineman Shawn Oakman and defensive back Orion Stewart. Both players have been suspended for one game for a violation of team rules. This should be of little concern for the Bears, who should have more than enough offense to show off against a team it blanked last season (45-0).

At the same time Baylor is kicking off against SMU, the team it faced (and lost to) in the Cotton Bowl last season will be hoping to avoid an upset in Kalamazoo. No. 5 Michigan State is playing on the road against Western Michigan, a program seemingly trending upward in the MAC under the leadership of P.J. Fleck. Mark Dantonio‘s Spartans are once again a Big Ten contender with playoff aspirations, but now move forward without defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi calling the shots on defense. Michigan State should still be a defensive force for most programs this season, and having a steady quarterback like Connor Cook should bode well for Michigan State tonight and throughout the season.

The last New Years Six bowl participant on the schedule for tonight is good old Boise State. Once again the favorite for the Group of Five big bowl invitation, the Broncos look to get off to a good start with a victory over a Pac-12 program, Washington. The Huskies bring some youth and inexperience to the blue turf this evening, but they just so happen to be coached by a guy who knows all about this environment, Chris Petersen. Petersen returns to the place that made him a household name in the college football ranks, but he may not have the roster ready to grab victory from the Broncos. Boise State could very well go undefeated this season, especially if Thursday night’s showing by Utah State is an indication for what to expect from them this year, and having a win over a power conference opponent will be key down the line.

Illinois Goes Without Beckman

The Bill Cubit era gets underway as Illinois quickly moves past the Tim Beckman experience. Beckman was canned by the school last week, one week before the first game of the season against Kent State. Look for Illinois to get off to a good start on offense with Wes Lunt taking to the air early and often.

Hello Charlotte!

The Charlotte 49ers play their first FBS football game tonight, and they may even grab their first FBS win in school history. The 49ers are on the road taking on Georgia State. The Panthers have a long way to go but should still have an advantage against the upstart program at Charlotte.

FCS Upset Alert?

Weather got in the way of Stony Brook’s attempt to top Toledo. Southern Utah let one slip away against Utah State, and UConn avoided a loss at home to Villanova. Will we see an FCS program take down an FBS squad tonight? We could, and Fordham has a chance. The Rams take on Army, which should look to run the football and wear down the FCS program on the rise. Fordham is two years removed from taking down Temple, and they could do it again tonight.

Syracuse is hosting Rhode Island, which could get interesting if the Orange can’t create some separation in the first half.

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Evander Holyfield’s son commits to Georgia using puppies as props

Elijah Holyfield

It’s been a while since we have seen some live animals at a college announcement press conference. Thankfully that drought is over thanks to Elijah Holyfield, son of boxing legend Evander Holyfield. the talented running back recruit announced he will play for the Georgia Bulldogs, and he made the announcement with a pair of bulldogs by his side.

Georgia had been considered a solid favorite for Holyfield for a while according to recruiting analysts, although Michigan was an early leader on the recruiting trail too. That makes sense, with Holyfield being a Georgia native and the way the Bulldogs seem to pump out running backs lately. Holyfield held offers from plenty of schools, and it’s not just because he is the son of a former heavyweight boxer. Rivals ranks Holyfield as a four-star running back, and the third best running back in the nation and in the Rivals top 100 ranking (No. 99).

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Georgia extended an offer to Holyfield last year, and that was music to the champion’s ears.

I was happy about that offer because I’m a Georgia fan,” Evander Holyfield said last October. “And then I found out that he liked Georgia, so that offer was a good thing.”

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D3 Ursinus outlasts D2 Millersville in 5 OT season opener

Photo courtesy Ursinus Athletics.

For 60 minutes on Thursday night Division 2 Millersville and Division 3 Ursinus were locked in a scoreless battle. The two small schools in Pennsylvania needed overtime to settle their differences in the season opener. And then they needed another overtime. And another. And another after that. Then, just for good measure, a fifth overtime. Finally, after five overtime sessions, Ursinus left Millersville with a 17-9 victory.

The game was a sloppy one too, with seven combined turnovers between the two schools. Urisnus could not do much on the ground, rushing for just 68 yards. Millersville did little through the air with just 43 passing yards. Both teams had chances to end this game before hitting a fifth overtime, but chalk this one up for the defenses. Millersville had a first-and-goal from the Ursinus two-yard line in the first overtime and got as close as one inch away from scoring a game-winning touchdown. Instead, the Marauders had to settle for a game-tying field goal to send it to a second overtime.

A missed field goal attempt by Ursinus in the second overtime led to the third extra session. Both teams reached the end zone in the third overtime, but neither was able to complete the NCAA-required two-point conversion attempt. To the fourth OT they went, where both teams missed 35-yard field goal attempts.

Mercifully, Ursinus quarterback Sal Bello completed a touchdown pass to Carmen Fortino on a two-point conversion attempt following a touchdown run by Corey Kelly. That gave Ursinus a 17-9 lead, and when Millersville failed to convert a fourth-and-long from the 17-yard line, the game finally came to an end.

(Photo courtesy Ursinus Athletics.)

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Ohio State to join Hokies in honoring WDBJ-7 shooting victims

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics.

On Monday night the Virginia Tech Hokies will pay tribute to two local television journalists shot killed in a shooting caught on air last week by wearing a memorial decal on the back of their helmets. Ohio State will join the Hokies in paying their respects to the shooting victims as well.

Virginia Tech revealed the memorial decal in honor of Allison Parker and Adam Ward from WDBJ-7 in Roanoke, Virginia. The white circle decal has the number seven to represent the television station and two ribbons, one in teal and the other in marron, on each side of the number. The teal ribbon has the initials of Parker underneath, with teal being her favorite color. Ward’s initials appear underneath the maroon ribbon, which represents Ward’s graduation from Virginia Tech.

Ohio State sought the permission of Virgina Tech to add the decals to their own helmets for the game, which Virginia Tech was more than happy to lend.

“Ohio State expressed a desire to show its solidarity with Virginia Tech in remembering the vibrant lives of Alison Parker and Adam Ward,” Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock said in a released statement. “Coach [Frank Beamer] and I both agreed it was a wonderful gesture on the part of Gene Smith (Ohio State AD), Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. We hope fans of both teams join us in hopefully providing some solace to the friends, families and co-workers who continue to miss Alison and Adam.”

Prior to Monday night’s season opener in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech will hold a 30-second moment of silence before the national anthem is performed.

(Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics.)

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FIU beating UCF gets Group of 5 race off to wild start

UCF at Florida International

Forget about whether or not the Big 12 got the raw end of the deal in the first year of the College Football Playoff for a moment, and shift your attention to the Group of 5 conversation. Thursday night offered some interesting developments right out of the gate as far as those conferences are concerned. Few may have had as much of an impact as FIU’s surprising victory at UCF, thanks to a blocked field goal in the final seconds.

The highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion will receive a spot in the New Years Six line-up under the College Football Playoff format. Last year that spot went to Boise State out of the Mountain West Conference. When discussing the Group of Five, it is important to not just differentiate between specific teams like Boise State and Cincinnati, but also the entire body of work put together by the conferences as a whole. This may have been part of the reason the Big 12 was left out of the playoff last season, and appeared to be part of the reason why Boise State had a decided edge over Marshall out of Conference USA last season. Winning games is important for a team, but seeing other members of your conference rally to score some good wins helps the cause for everybody. That is why FIU upsetting UCF on Thursday night is pretty significant. Scoring wins against other Group of Five conferences helps everywhere in the conference.

Conference USA got off to a good start on Thursday night. Western Kentucky scored a victory over an SEC school, even if it was Vanderbilt. FIU took down UCF, a contender in the American and potential Group of Five contender. Texas San Antonio came up short on the road against Arizona, but they put up a respectable fight. While it is only a small fraction of a fraction of games to be played this season, Conference USA got off to a relatively good start compared to the American.

In addition to UCF going down, UConn narrowly escaped a home upset loss to Villanova. Tulane opened at home and was demolished by Duke, 37-7. The MAC did well with a road victory by Ohio over Idaho of the Sun Belt Conference. Ball State took care of business against VMI. But Central Michigan lost at home to Oklahoma State and Toledo was spared a potential loss Thursday night when Mother Nature intervened while the Rockets were losing to Stony Brook at home.

The Mountain West Conference holds the upper hand with the best contender in Boise State, and every team playing Thursday night scored a win. That includes Hawaii’s home victory over Colorado as the officials botched setting the ball with Colorado driving in the final seconds. It also includes Utah State’s massive struggle to get a 12-9 win over Southern Utah.

This race is going to be fun to watch all season long.

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Knee injury puts FSU DE Featherston on sideline for season opener

Florida State v North Carolina State Getty Images

Florida State’s season will begin with one promising defensive end sitting on the sideline. Lorenzo Featherston will be out of action as a result of a knee injury suffered a few weeks ago leading up to the start of the season.

According to The Orlando Sentinel, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher believed Featherston would be back in time for the season opener after having his knee scoped. Unfortunately for Featherston, his knee has not recovered from that procedure as initially expected. With this being just the first game of the season, there is no need to rush back to the field. Florida State should be able to manage without his depth for at least one more week.

Until Featherston is able to return to the field, freshman Josh Sweat could slide into a starting role for the Seminoles at defensive end. Sweat was a five-star recruit in Florida State’s Class of 2015 out of Virginia. He was the top-rated recruit in the state of Virginia and the second-best defensive end in the nation in the Class of 2015 according to Rivals. Despite having his own injury history in high school, Sweat appears to be in good shape and ready to step into a key role on Florida State’s defensive line.

Florida State hosts Texas State on Saturday night (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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Boykin not sharp, but No. 2 TCU gets by Gophers

Trevone Boykin, Matt Leidner

All that matters is getting a win, and it rarely matters how you get it. No. 2 TCU (1-0) opened the season on the road Thursday night, but they did so with quarterback Trevone Boykin having some off moments that helped allow Minnesota (0-1) to hang around. Fortunately, TCU’s defense was up to the task, holding their Big Ten hosts to fewer than 300 yards of offense until late in the game in a 23-17 win.

It was not the cleanest effort from TCU, with a pair of turnovers, Boykin’s pass completion percentage leaving room for improvement, and eight penalties. One thing to take from this game is TCU head coach Gary Patterson now knows what he needs to work on. Still, TCU went on the road and shut down a team some feel is capable of making things interesting in the Big Ten West Division this season. The Gophers have plenty of time this season to help boost TCU’s body of work in the long run, and Jerry Kill has now seen how much work he still needs to do.

Boykin completed 26 of 42 pass attempts for 246 yards and a touchdown. He also added 86 rushing yards and a touchdown to help make his night look a little more productive. His lone touchdown pass came in the first quarter on an 11-yard pass to Josh Doctson, putting TCU up 10-0 after one quarter of play. Minnesota was left playing catch-up the rest fo the night and never cut the lead down to fewer than seven points. Boykin ran 19 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to put the Horned Frogs up 17-3.

Minnesota’s offensive leaders had little to show. Mitch Leidner completed 16 of 30 attempts for 158 yards. Rodney Smith led the ground game with 88 yards and a touchdown.

Next week Minnesota will head to Fort Collins, Colorado to take on Colorado State. The Rams are coming off one of the more successful seasons in program history but could have a much different look this season. Jim McElwain left the program to coach Florida, which opened a spot for former Georgia assistant Mike Bobo to take the helm. Colorado State lost a number of key players. Minnesota’s secondary should be tested by Rams receiver Rashard Higgins, who accumulated 1,750 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall. Colorado State opens the season at home against Savannah State, so they should be 1-0 when the Gophers come to town.

TCU will return home to open the home schedule next week against Stephen F. Austin. things should be pretty easy going for the Horned Frogs next week and thew week after at home against SMU. TCU opens Big 12 play later this month on the road against Texas Tech.

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Baylor suspends starters DE Oakman and DB Stewart

Kansas v Baylor Getty Images

On the eve of a season opener, the Big 12 champion Baylor Bears have one last piece of negative news to sort through. Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman and defensive back Orion Stewart have each been suspended for the season opener against SMU.

Both have been suspended for a violation of team rules, and each will be eligible to return to the team in Week 2. Oakman and Stewart are both starters for Baylor’s defense, but the Bears should manage to get by their first game of the year even without them.

Not that losing a guy who recorded 11 sacks last season is insignificant, but Baylor’s offense should put up big numbers against a team that has a total rebuild underway with a new head coach. SMU was blanked by Baylor last season, 45-0. Even with a new quarterback, Baylor’s offense should be tough for the Mustangs to slow down Friday night.

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Utah pours salt on Harbaugh’s Michigan debut, 24-17

Travis Wilson

The long-term future looks to be in good shape for as long as Jim Harbaugh sticks around Ann Arbor. The short-term future, on the other hand, suggests there could be some tough roads ahead. The Harbaugh era at Michigan got off to a losing start Thursday night in Salt Lake City. Utah’s (1-0) defense held firm in the fourth quarter with Justin Thomas picking off a pass from Michigan (0-1) quarterback Jake Rudock and returning it for a 55-yard touchdown and later stuffing the Wolverines on a fourth and short with 5:13 to play. For a second straight season, Utah flexed its muscle against Michigan, winning this year by a final score of 24-17.

Kyle Whittingham had his Utes ready to play typical Utah football, which is to say Utah played well on defense, forced some turnovers and managed to avoid having Travis Wilson implode. Utah’s quarterback was picked off once, but he completed 24 of his 33 pass attempts as Utah kept to mostly safe plays to wear down Michigan’s defense. That meant putting the ball on the ground with Devontae Booker leading the rushing attack and Wilson taking off as well. Each had a rushing touchdown in the victory.

While Michigan will fly home with a loss, there were some bright spots worth noting. Tight end Jake Butt proved to be a reliable target for Rudock as the two connected eight times for 93 yards and a touchdown. Amara Darboh also had a good game with seven catches for 91 yards. Jabrill Peppers had a good evening, making some key plays in the second half. He also had a kick return for 36 yards. And it was encouraging to see Rudock put together some plays late in the game to at least give Michigan a chance, if they had just recovered an onside kick.

This game alone should not go far in assessing the overall strength of the Pac-12 or the Big Ten against any other conference. Those arguments will continue to play out in games to come. However, the Big Ten could have benefitted from Michigan winning this one to carry over momentum gained from last year’s postseason. Now, the Pac-12 claims another notable victory to its profile. These types of wins can end up playing a deciding factor when it comes time to weighing playoff teams against one another, even if it does not involve Utah or Michigan. So point for the Pac-12 (and Pac-12 South), and no points for the Big Ten.

Michigan will welcome Harbaugh home in Ann arbor next weekend as the Wolverines once again play a Pac-12 opponent. This time it will be Oregon State, with former Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen making his way back to Big Ten territory almost as quickly as he left it. Michigan will have some time to work out some kinks, but BYU will offer another stiff defensive test at the end of the month before Harbaugh’s Wolverines jump into Big Ten play.

Utah will stay home next week to play Utah State. The Aggies were in a real tough battle with FCS Southern Utah, losing 9-5 at the conclusion of the Utah-Michigan game), with Chuckie Keeton having an ineffective night. Maybe Utah State wasn’t showing much to refrain from giving Utah much film? Or maybe this game will be a tad easier than initially expected for the Utes.

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Arizona’s Scooby Wright III leaves game with apparent knee injury

Scooby Wright III

Arizona has opened up a 21-10 lead on UTSA in the season opener in Tucson, and Anu Solomon is having a nice season debut with a pair of touchdown throws, but all eyes have shifted on one of Arizona’s top defensive players instead. Scooby Wright III, one fo the top defensive players in the nation, has left the game with an apparent left knee injury.

Early reports say Wright will be out for the remainder of the game, and given the photo share din the Twitter message below, it is easy to see why. Wright was on the bench with ice wrapped around his left knee, and he does not look too happy about it.

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Harbaugh Era at Michigan begins with Rudock at QB; Utah leads 10-3

Jim Harbaugh

The headline here should just about sum up the national reaction to this game. Michigan entered the game with all of the hype, much of it justified with Jim Harbaugh returning to his alma mater, and the continued question of which quarterback would get the start (Iowa transfer Jake Rudock got the call). Once you get past all of the Michigan fluff, you discover Utah had the upper hand. That’s how the first half played out at least.

Utah opened the game by marching down the field in 10 plays on Michigan’s defense, but the Utes could only settle for a field goal after pushing into the red zone. Andy Phillips booted a 30-yard field goal to give the Utes the first points of the night. Then stepped Rudock out on to the field to lead the Michigan offense for the first time. Despite what looked to be a promising drive, that ended after 10 plays when Rudock was picked off by Cory Butler-Byrd at the Utah 14-yard line. Michigan would later add a field goal after the teams exchanged a few punts, tying the game at 3-3 in the second quarter.

Utah regained the lead on the ensuing possession, working its way 75 yards for a Devontae Booker touchdown run from the one-yard line. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson mixed in some runs and passes on the drive to help keep things moving. Utah missed an opportunity to build the lead when a late first half field goal attempt by Phillips from 48 yards out was no good.

That’s where we stand now after one half of play. Neither team has thrived on third downs, and Michigan has been the team with the turnover issues (Rudock has been picked off twice). Utah’s defense has been difficult to find room to run on, with Michigan being held to an average of 1.9 yards per rushing attempt. Utah has done only marginally better, averaging 2.2 yards per rushing attempt.

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Gamecocks cash in on UNC’s red zone blunders for Belk Kickoff victory

Skai Moore

Few things seemed to be going well for South Carolina in the Belk Kickoff, but early in the fourth quarter Shon Carson ripped off a 48-yard run down the right sideline to give the Gamecocks their first lead of the young season, 17-13. The defense took care of things from there, with Skai Moore picking off a pass in the end zone as the Tar Heels went for a touchdown on fourth down. The interception essentially shut the door on the Tar Heels in Charlotte, as South Carolina’s offense was able to work the clock for the final three minutes and change.

UNC outgained South Carolina, 439-395, but it was the Gamecocks offense that ended up wearing down the Tar Heels. South Carolina held on to the football for roughly 35 minutes, which in part was because UNC attempted to go up-tempo at times. But it was the turnovers that did UNC in. North Carolina lost the football three times, and South Carolina never lost the football.

Faced with the chance to serve a knockout blow with the ball inside the red zone, South Carolina was stuffed short on third down. Rather than take what should have been an easy three points to build an seven-point lead, Spurrier opted to try to push forward for one yard to pick up a first down at the UNC 11-yard line.

Nope. UNC’s defense came up with the stop to give the Tar Heel offense a chance to seize the momentum. And seize it they did. Well, until they got inside the red zone that is. For the second time of the game, UNC quarterback Marquise Williams was picked off in the end zone. Both passes were read and picked off by Moore. Leaving points on the board was the big crutch for the Tar Heels in this game. Three times UNC was picked off in the red zone, and another red zone trip ended with just three points.

Neither team was particularly sharp, which is to be expected in the first game of the season. Neither was too disciplined either. UNC was called for six penalties, and South Carolina was flagged eight times.

North Carolina opens up its home schedule next weekend against North Carolina A&T, an FCS program. UNC actually plays two FCS opponents this season. Delaware visits Chapel Hill on September 26. Wake Forest was already booked.

South Carolina will jump right into SEC East play next week at home in Columbia. The Gamecocks welcome Kentucky to Williams-Brice Stadium on September 12. The Wildcats scored a 45-38 victory over Spurrier’s team last season in Lexington, so chalk this one up as a revenge game for the Gamecocks.

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UNC takes 13-10 lead into halftime of Belk Kickoff

Marquise Williams

North Carolina has had one red zone opportunity end with an interception, another with a sack leading to a longer field goal. Regardless of a couple of missed opportunities inside the South Carolina 20-yard line, the Tar Heels find themselves leading 13-10 after the second first half of FBS college football this season (UCF and FIU beat the Belk Kickoff to the punch; UCF leading FIU 14-3).

It looked as though North Carolina was going to have a big night if the first two offensive possessions of the ballgame were any indication. The Tar Heel defense, with Gene Chizik at the helm as defensive coordinator, forced a three-and-out on the Gamecocks’ opening possession and then the offense went to work by driving right inside the red zone. Looking for six, UNC quarterback Marquise Williams threw a poor pass over the middle that was picked off by Skai Moore in the end zone.

How did Williams respond? By completing his next pass attempt for a 40-yard gain following a South Carolina punt. The long pass to Bug Howard set the pace for an up-tempo drive, which continued with a 23-yard strike to Quinshad Davis and concluded with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Howard, who broke away from a defender to make his way to the end zone. Howard’s touchdown was the first touchdown of the FBS season.

South Carolina had an answer though, driving 75 yards on seven plays to even the score at 7-7. Connor Mitch completed three of his four pass attempts and finished off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Pharaoh Cooper. Cooper would later walk off the field to receive medical treatment for minor cramping. Mitch would also leave the game late in the first half for cramping issues. Perry Orth took over and moved the Gamecocks into range for a long field goal try at the end of the half, but the 50+ try fell shy of the bar.

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Mike Riley announces which five Huskers are suspended

Michael Rose-Ivey

It was not all that long ago Nebraska head coach Mike Riley confirmed a report stating five players will miss the season opener against BYU due to suspensions. He did not name the specific players at the time, but now he has.

Linebacker Michael Rose Ivey, defensive back Jonathan Rose, offensive lineman Robby Painter, tight end Cethan Carter and defensive end Joe Keels will all sit out of the season opener for violations of team rules. Rose Ivey was listed on Nebraska’s depth chart this week as a starter. That will obviously no longer be the case.

All five players will be suspended for the season opener but it appears all will be eligible to return in Week 2. Nebraska opens the 2015 season at home against BYU on Saturday afternoon. Nebraska’s home schedule continues in Week 2 against South Alabama.

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Report: Jim Harbaugh’s summer camp tour cost $211,948

Jim Harbaugh

The Jim Harbaugh effect has already shown its worth in ticket sales in Ann arbor as the season is about to get underway, but Harbaugh is also racking up quite a bill in Michigan’s athletics office as well. Harbaugh’s summer camp tour around the nation — you remember, the one coaches in the ACC and SEC disliked — cost Michigan $211,948. Worth every penny? Probably.

According to a report from MLive.com, the sum of the bill exceeded the total recruiting budgets of as many as 40 different FBS programs during the 2012-13 athletic year. The large bulk of the costs came from airfare, which racked up over $198,000 to fly Harbaugh and members of the staff around the country. Keep in mind these coaches are not simply getting tickets on the most convenient Southwest Airlines flight. They’re flying a plane owned by Michigan. That costs some big money. The coaches also spent over $4,000 on food and nearly $10,000 on lodging. Again, these guys are not staying in a Motel 6 or picking up something from the McDonald’s drive-thru. This stuff adds up quickly.

In the big picture, Michigan can afford to spend so much money on a summer camp tour, and it almost has to spend the extra bucks if the intent is to give Harbaugh and his staff every opportunity to regain a recruiting footing to catch up with programs like Ohio State. According to the latest team rankings from Rivals, Michigan has the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation, with nine four-star players in the 23-members Class of 2016.

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