Defense rests in Sandusky trial; closing arguments set for Thursday

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Three days was all it took for the defense to present its case in the Jerry Sandusky trial, one day less than the shorter-than-anticipated presentation by the prosecution. In all, the Sandusky trial should conclude about a week ahead of the original schedule. 

Relatively speaking, the defense made considerable strides in the past two days after getting thoroughly punished by the prosecution in Week 1. Though Sandusky’s lawyer Joe Amendola has had essentially no retort to the allegations by alleged victims, attempts to poke holes in the credibility of witnesses and testimonies finally gained traction yesterday and today.

As a result, Sandusky himself did not testify, despite the hint from Amendola last week that perhaps he would. Frankly, it was the only decision, as a testimony by Sandusky surely would have nullified everything the defense had done over the past 36 hours.

Amendola wasn’t desperate enough to risk sending his client to the stand. The defense closed strongly today — or, about as strongly as they possibly could outside of, say, an alibi — with a testimony from Dr. Jonathan Dranov, a family friend and colleague of John McQueary, Mike McQueary‘s father.

The testimony from Dranov corroborates a Patriot-News report last December that states Dranov was present at the conversation between McQueary and his father after the then-graduate assistant allegedly saw Sandusky and a young boy (alleged Victim 2) in the showers of an on-campus facility in 2001.

McQueary is a central figure in the Sandusky scandal, yet his account of the alleged incident has changed since his testimony for the grand jury indictment, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the defense called Dranov to the stand on the final day. Additionally, the defense presented a letter that shows McQueary went to a charity event hosted by Sandusky after 2001.

The cornerstone of that original grand jury indictment against Sandusky was the allegation involving alleged Victim 2, yet he did not testify during Sandusky’s trial and McQueary’s credibility is sketchy.  It’s as close as the defense has come to completely refuting an alleged incident of abuse.

The amount of overall evidence against Sandusky, who faces 51 counts related to child-sex abuse, is tough to overlook, but all the defense needed to do was place some amount of doubt in the minds of the jurors.

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Charles Barkley to serve as College GameDay’s guest picker ahead of huge Iron Bowl showdown

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Really, could there be anybody else?

As it’s the last full Saturday of the 2017 college football season, there are a handful of huge matchups with significant implications both nationally and conference-wise.  Given where each stands in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, however, there’s none bigger than No. 1 Alabama traveling to No. 6 Auburn in the latest edition of the Iron Bowl.

Not surprisingly, ESPN‘s wildly popular College GameDay pregame show had previously announced that it would set up shop on The Plains for the rivalry game.  And just as much of a non-surprise is the show’s designated guest picker.

Charles Barkley, of course, played his college basketball at Auburn and has since turned into not only an NBA Hall of Famer but also someone who is never, ever shy about giving an opinion on pretty much anything — including issues related to college football and, of course, “hatred” of all things Crimson Tide. Well, except for the Nicktator.

Of course, there’s also the little matter of a preseason bet with a certain ‘Bama starting quarterback that will no doubt get some run during Barkley’s third appearance on the show.  His first two, Barkley picked Auburn… and was correct both times, the first being 2004 when he opted for his alma mater over Tennessee.  The second?  November of 2013, when he tabbed the Tigers to top the Tide, which they did.

Just sayin’, is all.

Virginia Tech loses starting DE Vinny Mihota for rest of 2017

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For the second straight week, Virginia Tech has lost a starting member of its defense.

The school confirmed in a press release that Vinny Mihota will miss what’s left of the 2017 season because of a knee injury. The defensive end suffered the injury in the Week 12 win over Pittsburgh.

This is the second consecutive season Mihota’s year has ended prematurely because of injury as he missed last year’s bowl game with a lingering shoulder issue that required surgery.

“I share Vinny’s disappointment that he’ll miss the rest of the season,” a statement from head coach Justin Fuente began. “But based off last offseason, I also know no one will rehab more diligently than Vinny to get back on the field with his teammates.”

Mihota has started all 11 games thus far this season. He’s been credited with 24 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks.

A week ago today, Tech announced that starting safety Terrell Edmunds would miss the remainder of the year after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder.

Akron earns second-ever spot in MAC championship game

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Akron came into Week 13 needing to either win or rely on someone else to lose.  In the end, the Zips decided to just go ahead and punch their own ticket to the Motor City, thank you very much.

Jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead Tuesday night, that margin proved to be more than enough for Akron as they easily cruised past rival Kent State in a 24-14 win.  Kent actually outgained its hosts 246-191, but a fumble return for a touchdown with less than 20 seconds left in the second quarter essentially sealed the win for Akron.

Both Akron and Ohio entered this week tied atop the MAC East at 5-2.  However, the Zips beat the Bobcats in Week 12, meaning Akron is the first MAC team to claim a spot in the conference championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field next weekend.

This will mark the Zips’s second-ever title-game appearance, with the first coming in 2005.  That season, Akron beat Northern Illinois 31-30 for its first-ever conference championship.

Akron will play either NIU (6-1) or Toledo (6-1) in this year’s title game, although it’s trending heavily toward the Rockets as they own the head-to-head with the Huskies.  So, the possibilities?

Toledo wins the West with either a win over Western Michigan OR an NIU loss. Northern Illinois needs to beat Central Michigan AND have Toledo lose to WMU at home to win the division.

Report: Florida appears ready to move on from Chip Kelly pursuit if deal isn’t consummated soon

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Florida’s search for a new head coach could very shortly be ready to take another twist.

Despite a certain former Head Ball Coach saying UF’s new head coach would be a current one, speculation on Jim McElwain‘s replacement has seemingly centered on Chip Kelly over the last few days. In fact, a group of UF officials headed by athletic director Scott Stricklin and president Kent Fuchs visited with Kelly in New Hampshire over the weekend to discuss the job.

While it walks, talks and smells like the university has targeted Kelly as its top choice, it appears they want an answer, one way or the other, from the former Oregon head coach sooner rather than later. From Yahoo! SportsPat Forde:

But with other potential candidates becoming available for discussion this weekend, Florida officials appear to be ready to move on shortly after Thanksgiving if a deal has not been struck with Kelly.

Potentially mucking up the works in Gainesville is UCLA, which fired Jim Mora Sunday and is also said to be targeting Kelly as a replacement.  In fact, it’s being reported that the Bruins’ search contingent has already met with Kelly.

UCF’s Scott Frost, who is believed to be Nebraska’s top choice when/when it moves on from Mike Riley, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen are thought to be likely targets should either Kelly snub the Gators or they move on.

One very likely reason for UF’s reported urgency for a decision from Kelly is the revamped recruiting calendar. This year marks the first time that there’s an early signing period in football, with Class of 2018 recruits given a 72-hour window from Dec. 20-22 to sign their National Letters of Intent.

The sooner UF can wrap up its search, the sooner its new coach and his staff can try to hold together some semblance of a first recruiting class with the program – especially with two SEC programs, Tennessee and Ole Miss, already looking for a head coach while a couple of others (Arkansas, Texas A&M) could be on the hunt as early as this coming weekend as well.