Matt Barkley

CFT predicts: the Pac-12

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Briefly, there was a shift in the power of the Pac-12. After USC’s nearly decade of dominance, Oregon and Stanford had their turn as the league’s best programs while the Trojans went through a coaching change and dealt with NCAA sanctions.

Well, the Trojans? They’re not facing a bowl ban anymore.

And they might just win the whole thing (the AP agrees) with 75 scholarship players (unless Oregon has anything to say about it).

Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how the Pac-12 should shake out:

(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)

North Division 

1. Oregon (last season: 12-2; won Rose Bowl) 
If there’s one team in college football that overcomes player turnover better than anyone, it’s Oregon. The Ducks find a way to do the whole “next guy in” thing without much, if any, dropoff. That’s a reflection of recruiting and coaching by Chip Kelly and his staff. Darron Thomas and LaMichael James are gone, but the backfield is loaded with Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas. Bryan Bennett figures to be the starting QB, but there’s a healthy battle between him and Marcus Mariota. I was also impressed by Oregon’s team speed on defense this spring too. Bottom line: I wouldn’t count out Oregon at all just because USC is the favorite.

2. Stanford (last season: 11-2; lost Fiesta Bowl) 
Like Oregon, Stanford loses some key starters on offense, and not just Andrew Luck; tight end Coby Fleener and offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro are all gone to the NFL, too. The Cardinal look good in the trenches on both sides — a tribute to Jim Harbaugh — and the team’s bread and butter of running the ball shouldn’t take a hit. Stanford’s passing game — and ability to defend the pass — could be problematic.

3. Washington (last season: 7-6; lost Alamo Bowl) 
With the changes Steve Sarkisian has made to his defensive coaching staff combined with the upgraded facilities the program is receiving, it’s just a matter of time before Washington is playing in Pac-12 title games. Keith Price is arguably the division’s best quarterback. Protecting Price could come with its own cost, though, as depth along the offensive line is an issue despite four returning starters in the group.

4. Washington State (last season: 4-8)
Paul Wulff left Wazzu in a little better shape than last year’s 4-8 record indicates. Mike Leach is one hell of a coach and having him on board a big reason the Cougars should be the surprise of the Pac-12 North. Jeff Tuel has the potential to be one of the conference’s hidden gems at quarterback, but he missed almost all of last season with injuries. The team’s leading rusher (Rickey Galvin) and receiver (Marquess Wilson) are both back, so there is some firepower for Leach to work with. Overall, the Cougars return 18 starters.

5. Cal (last season: 7-6; lost Holiday Bowl)
Jeff Tedford‘s stock has been falling in recent years, and with only 11 starters returning from last year’s mediocre team, I’m not sure the ship can be righted in time. It also says something when you’re a program like Cal and the best you can do at quarterback is Zach Maynard. The good news is that the best player on the team, receiver Keenan Allen, is one of those 11 returning starters. The not-so-good news is that the Bears have a tough conference schedule, going on the road to USC and Utah (two teams that should finish first and second in the South).

6. Oregon State (last season: 3-9)
Mike Riley is a good coach and has done some great things with Oregon State. I also believe his time’s about up in Corvallis. Quarterback Sean Mannion is back after a nice freshman showing last year. Defensive back Jordan Poyer leads the defense. Don’t expect Oregon State to get off to a great start, but it is worth nothing that the Beavers get four of their final six games of the season at home.

South Division

1. USC (last season: 10-2; banned from postseason play) 
Yeah, go ahead and punch my ticket for the USC bandwagon. I mean, who else is going to win the South? Despite scholarship losses and a thin defensive line, the Trojans are stacked pretty much everywhere else with BCS championship-caliber talent. Also, Lane Kiffin is recruiting like a mad man (related: the city of Knoxville collectively pukes). His latest addition is former Penn State running back Silas Redd.

2. Utah (last season: 8-5; won Sun Bowl) 
The Utes were my sleeper pick to win the South Division last season. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Jordan Wynn was hurt and life in a BCS league was a little rough on the former Mountain West members. But, one year older and wiser, Utah returns with 18 starters, including running back John White IV, who rushed for over 1,500 yards. I don’t consider the Utes a sleeper this year because I don’t see anyone overthrowing USC, but three divisional rivals are starting new eras with new coaches and Colorado is, well…

3. Arizona State (last season: 6-7; lost Las Vegas Bowl)
Replacing Brock Osweiler could be difficult for Arizona State, but the QB situation isn’t nearly as bad as UCLA’s. Plus, this team is more fit to what Todd Graham will do offensively than Pitt. The team has only 11 returning starters, but there’s some solid talent at the skill positions in Tempe.

4. UCLA (last season: 6-8; lost Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) 
The Bruins have talent, but they’ve been a bottom feeder because of injuries and bad coaching situations. Jim Mora will try to get UCLA turned around. At least he has running back Johnathan Franklin to work with because the quarterback situation is awful. Along with Texas A&M, UCLA is one of those programs that should be better every year, but somehow isn’t.

5. Arizona (last season: 4-8)
Arizona is a good place for Rich Rodriguez. If the athletic department continues to make strides with facility improvements, the Wildcats can consistently at least be in the running for divisional titles under the former coach of Michigan and West Virginia. Historically, however, Rodriguez has struggled in his first year with a program, largely because the personnel he’s had doesn’t initially fit what he likes to do on offense. Matt Scott gives Rodriguez a weapon more tuned to the zone read, so that’ll help.

6. Colorado (last season: 3-10) 
I don’t know when Colorado’s going to get out of the football funk it’s been in for the better part of the last decade. It’s a shame too; Boulder provides a superb football environment and the program has a good tradition. The Buffs have plenty of defensive starters from a year ago, but the offense could be awful.

CFT’s Pac-12 champion: USC 

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Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ’em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.

ACC
Big East
Big Ten
Big 12
Conference USA 
MAC
Mountain West
SEC
Sun Belt
WAC
Independents

Reports say Rutgers to face Maryland at Yankee Stadium in 2017

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23:  General view as CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch to Adam Rosales #9 of the Texas Rangers in the second inning on May 23, 2015 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The goal of adding Rutgers to the Big Ten was to extend the conference’s brand into New York. So it would be nice to have the Big Ten’s “New York team” actually play in New York every so often.

On that front, Rutgers has lined up a game with Maryland at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 4, 2017, according to multiple reports.

Dan Duggan of NJ.com reported former Knights AD Julie Hermann originally agreed to move a game to the House That Jeter Built for the 2017 season.

“There were discussions by the previous administration with the Yankees and an agreement in principle was reached,” Rutgers AD Pat Hobbs told the site on Friday. “I’m reviewing those terms and we’ll announce our intention in due course.”

Rutgers brass appeared at a Yankees game on Tuesday to promote the budding relationship between the two entities.

“(The Yankees) want to work more closely with us,” Hobbs told NJ.com Tuesday. “We want to look at maybe bringing a game here and announcing that sometime down the road. I guess the Yankees see Rutgers is starting to move forward and is a good story so they want to be part of it, too.”

Scarlet Knights head coach Chris Ash threw out the first pitch before the pinstripers’ game earlier this week.

“They kind of explained the configuration of the stadium for a football game and it looked like it would be a really neat set-up,” Ash said. “It looks like from the suite anyway, if you were in cold weather in the fall or in December, that would be a pretty good place to watch a game.”

Yankee Stadium hosted a Notre Dame-Army game in 2010, and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl (with which the Big Ten is affiliated) has been a post-Christmas bowl week staple since that same season.

Hobbs said a game at Yankee Stadium will help toward the Rutgers-Yankees relationship he’s been hoping to build, which makes perfect sense when you’re Rutgers and they’re the Yankees.

“There are a tremendous amount of Rutgers alums who work here in the city, so it’s really important,” Hobbs said. “It’s important for our relationship if we can be with an iconic organization like the Yankees. They have a lot of the history that we would like to start building at Rutgers.”

Ole Miss to suspend assistants, reduce scholarships in response to NCAA Notice of Allegations

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 25:  Head coach Hugh Freeze of the Mississippi Rebels reacts to a call during the game against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on October 25, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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A day after Baylor fired Art Briles and a day before Memorial Day weekend, Ole Miss has released its long-awaited response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations.

The 52-page document details the breadth and nature of violations committed by the Rebels’ football program. A sizable chunk of the 13 violations pertaining to football occurred under the four-year watch of current head coach Hugh Freeze.

Current assistant coaches Chris Kiffin (defensive line), Derrick Nix (running backs), Maurice Harris (tight ends) and Matt Luke (offensive line) were named in the report. Most of the violations come in the forms of paid cell phone bills, comped hotel stays, paid ACT prep courses and free loaner vehicles.

Many of the violations are downright silly.

The most serious allegation comes from the Houston Nutt era, when assistant coach Chris Vaughn and operations assistant David Saunders arranged for three future Rebels to commit ACT fraud. Vaughn was fired from his assistant coaching job at Texas due to his involvement in this case.

Ole Miss requested to exclude the Laremy Tunsil NFL Draft night fiasco from this summer’s report since those allegations are still being investigated, and the NCAA granted that request.

Ole Miss has released this graphic detailing the scope and timeline of the case. The Rebels submitted its NOA response on April 21, and the NCAA has 60 days to submit its rebuttal. The two parties will then appear before the Committee on Infractions, who will then have around six weeks to release their verdict. A rough timeline would have the case wrapped up in full by October.

Ole Miss graphic

Ole Miss has also self-imposed the following penalties, plus a fine of nearly $160,000:

Those sanctions are just a baseline punishment. The NCAA can — and likely will — argue to increase them during the Committee on Infractions hearing later this year.

Ole Miss has suspended two unnamed assistants from recruiting.

Art Briles’ daughter calls firing ‘outrageous’ and ‘disgusting’ in Facebook post

WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 06:  Head coach Art Briles of the Baylor Bears during play against the Northwestern State Demons at McLane Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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In times like these, you can’t expect the family members of coaches fired at the end of a whirlwind scandal to remain impartial. But you can hope they at least stay off social media.

Alas, Staley Lebby could not do that. Lebby is doubly affected by today’s news that Baylor has fired head coach Art Briles as Briles’ daughter and wife of the Bears’ running backs coach Jeff Lebby.

In a Facebook diatribe, Lebby called the firing “outrageous” and “the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.”

She writes:

I just stop crying long enough to be able to write this but this is all I will say on this outrageous situation – anyone who knows my dad knows he is a man of incredible character & Faith. He is one of the most giving & unselfish people I’ve ever been around.

He has been through so much in his life and has always been a fighter – he’s done everything the right way & for the right reasons. He has always wanted to take over programs that were suffering, like he once did, to take them to the top, which he has done at multiple places.

He wanted to be successful for his parents and make them proud. He has worked his ass off in his 40 years of coaching to get where he is today. He has NEVER been fired, his character has NEVER been questioned and he has NEVER been going to do anything unethically. 

He has always been a players coach & wanted nothing but the best for every single one of them.  He has only kept coaching as long as he has to build a sturdy foundation for his kids & grandkids.  

I guess a man that has resurrected your program and made you a top 10 program wasn’t worth fighting for or defending. The easy way out was taken. He will get to tell his side of the story to gain his name back –  the truth will be told and he will keep fighting the good fight. We aren’t backing down & throwing in the towel. When times are tough the tough will survive. Thanks for all the messages and texts and support – means a lot to us all. 

I will never wear a Baylor tshirt.

Georgia raises ticket prices following Kirby Smart hire

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 28: A general view of the Sanford Stadium before the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the LSU Tigers on September 28, 2013 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Running a college athletics department is only getting more expensive, so attending a college football game will only get more expensive. Or, at least attending a Georgia game will.

Bulldogs president Jere Morehead and athletics director Greg McGarity revealed Thursday per-seat donations would rise an average of 17 percent for priority season ticket holders beginning in the 2017 season.

“It’s in anticipation of things that are ahead,” McGarity told the Athens Banner-Herald.

Cost-of-attendance scholarships bumped that line item up $766,000, and other costs across the department added an additional $5.3 million to the budget. All this while Georgia is building a new indoor facility and replacing Mark Richt and his staff while hiring Kirby Smart and his new staff.

“Those projects are going to be expensive,” Morehead said. “The cost of operating our athletic program each year continues to rise particularly as you look at the enhancements that are being provided to our student-athletes and to the support that we’re providing our student-athletes.”

The bump in prices will raise an extra $2.5 million for Georgia, and represents the first time Bulldogs fans have been asked to ante up since 2005.

“We wanted to be respectable in the increase to not price people out of a certain area but we did feel like we needed to make an adjustment,” said McGarity. “We want to continue to encourage people to come to games. We’ve got our work cut out to make sure (that happens).”