On-campus semifinals no longer a playoff option

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The how’s and where’s of the first-ever playoff system in major college football remain to be determined, but there is one option to the latter question that is reportedly no longer under consideration.

According to Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis conceded earlier Tuesday that the on-campus option for hosting semifinal games “has been eliminated” from consideration.  When that option was officially taken off the table is unclear.  Why, or at least part of the reason why, was made clear by Hollis — The Granddaddy of Them All.

“For me, it’s critical to keep the Rose Bowl in the equation,” Hollis said. “There’s a lot of historical value and there’s a lot of future value to having the Rose Bowl connected with Michigan State, with Michigan, with the Big Ten Conference, and the home (game idea) takes that out.”

The move comes as little surprise as it was thought on-campus venues were no longer a consideration until officials confirmed the idea was, in essence, alive but on life support.

With the apparent decision to eschew on-campus venues — which was backed by, among others, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and his Pac-12 counterpart Larry Scott — the where of the semifinals in a college football playoff will come down to two options: current bowl venues, or bidding them out to neutral sites outside of the current bowl structure.

As for the favorite among those two options, the Big Ten, per Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, is in favor of the semifinals being contested at current bowl venues, which, of course, includes the Rose Bowl.

“Let’s say it is five degrees. Is that right for the game?” Smith was quoted as saying, going against the grain as to why most thought the Big Ten would push harder for on-campus semifinals. “We’re not pros… A fast surface, good weather is important.”

How that option is viewed by the other 10 conferences remains to be seen and will be up for further discussion in the coming months.

One of the biggest advantages of on-campus games was that, for at least two of the four fan bases, the concern of traveling two consecutive weekends — semifinal, championship game — would have been somewhat mitigated.  Hollis told the media at the Big Ten meetings today that he hopes the NCAA will consider helping families financially with travel expenses now that the on-campus option is no longer a possibility.

The leaders of the game expect to have a final decision on where the games will be contested and how the teams will be selected in 2014 and beyond by the end of July at the latest.

Duke starting safety Jeremy McDuffie out indefinitely after surgery on fractured thumb

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What we do know is that Duke will be without its starting piece of its defense.  What we don’t know is for how long.

The football program announced Wednesday that Jeremy McDuffie underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured right thumb.  The junior sustained the injury during a recent Blue Devils practice.

As a result of the injury and subsequent surgery, McDuffie will be sidelined indefinitely.

McDuffie transitioned from cornerback to safety this past spring. Entering summer camp, the defensive back had been listed as a starter for the Blue Devils.  The past two seasons, McDuffie had played in 24 games.

Duke opens the 2017 season Sept. 2 against NC Central.  They will kick off ACC play three weeks later on the road against North Carolina.

Albeit with a disclaimer, Jim Mora doesn’t see Josh Rosen leaving UCLA early for NFL

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Most expect Josh Rosen to be one of the first quarterbacks selected when the next NFL draft rolls around.  Rosen’s coach, though, doesn’t see the outspoken junior being a part of the pool of available draftees.

“My firm belief is that he will not leave,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora told Yahoo SportsPete Thamel over the weekend. “I don’t think he’ll leave. …

“I want a disclaimer, I have an option to change my opinion. But as we sit here right now, I can really honestly say I don’t think he’s going to leave.”

Mora’s proclamation comes less than two weeks before the Bruins kick off the 2017 season and around five months before draft-eligible early entrants have to officially file their paperwork with the NFL.

Rosen flashed brilliance as a true freshman in 2015, passing for nearly 3,700 yards and 23 touchdowns.  His sophomore campaign was marred by a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder that sidelined him for the final six games of the season.  Rosen has resoundingly rebounded from that health issue, and will head into the 2017 season 100-percent healthy.

Whether he enters the 2018 season 100-percent Bruin remains, his head coach’s confidence notwithstanding, highly unlikely or even doubtful, especially given his recent comments that football and school don’t mix.

Report: Call to escort service coincided with a Hugh Freeze recruiting trip

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Not surprisingly, more details are surfacing in Hugh Freeze‘s unceremonious exit from Oxford.

Freeze resigned as the head football coach at Ole Miss last month in part because of Jan. 19 phone call to an escort service that was initially deemed to be a misdial.  According to the Wall Street Journal, that call came a few hours after a university plane landed in Tampa, Fla., as part of a five-day, 13-stop recruiting trip.  On that plane was Freeze as well as other members of the Rebels football staff.

The discovery of the link between the call and recruiting trip came after a review of phone records and other documents.

After Freeze’s “resignation,” Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork described an unspecified pattern of personal misconduct that led to the coach’s departure.  Bjork somewhat expounded on that pattern to the Journal.

Although school officials had previously declined to characterize the alleged misconduct, Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said in response to questions from the Journal about Freeze’s travel that the university’s investigation uncovered “calls of a similar nature” over the course of several years, often matching up with travel logs showing the coach’s use of the school plane. The school said it examined his travel logs from peak recruiting times—often November, December and January—when Freeze would travel out of state, using the school plane and other public resources.

“When we say pattern, we are describing other phone numbers that when you Google them pull up similar type websites, services, however you would describe them,” Bjork said. “We took action swiftly.

Speculation of late has there being more, potentially much more, to Freeze’s forced resignation.  Only time will tell how much more will ultimately come out — especially if another former Ole Miss head coach’s lawsuit, kicked out of federal court for lack of jurisdiction, is revived in the state of Mississippi as expected.

Reports: ankle injury likely to keep WR Michael Pittman out of USC’s opener

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In his college football preview Bible, the great Phil Steele had Michael Pittman listed as one of three starting wide receivers for USC.  With the start of a new season a little more than two weeks away, Pittman doesn’t appear set to make that magazine projection come to fruition.

According to multiple reports, Pittman suffered an ankle injury during practice Tuesday and was taken off the field via a cart after having a boot placed on his left foot.  While X-rays taken post-practice showed no break or fracture, the sophomore has been diagnosed with the dreaded high-ankle sprain.

As a result, the Los Angeles Daily News writes that “[i]t seems unlikely he would be able to play against Western Michigan.” Rivals.com tweeted that the injury “[p]robably keeps him out of season opener.”

At least for now, the football program has yet to officially rule Pittman out for the opener.

Pittman was a four-star 2016 recruit, rated as the No. 9 receiver in the country.  As a true freshman last season, he caught six passes for 82 yards.