O’Brien era at Penn State starts off with a loss to Ohio

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The theme for Saturday, Sept. 1 in Happy Valley: change, to the fullest extent.

For the first time in over four decades, Joe Paterno wasn’t roaming the home sideline at Beaver Stadium. The Jerry Sandusky scandal changed everything in at Penn State all the way down to the decision to put names on the backs of the classic blue and white uniforms.

The NCAA sanctions, the departures by running back Silas Redd (among others) — it wasn’t what Bill O’Brien envisioned when he took over the program.

But things actually started out promising enough for the Nittany Lions against Ohio. Though just a touchdown favorite, Penn State’s offense immediately looked like an improved unit from a year ago despite losing Redd and not having a proven quarterback. Then, halftime came and everything changed. PSU’s 14-3 lead slipped away. The Nittany Lions offense stalled and everything began looking like a reincarnation of 2011.

Penn State never scored another point and lost to a good Ohio team 24-14. It was truly a story of one half going in the exact opposite direction of the other.

And that was against Ohio — again, a good team, but a beatable one. Penn State travels to Virginia next before facing Navy and Temple. PSU might earn a couple of wins there before Big Ten conference play begins later this month. This has the potential to be a long and difficult season for the Nittany Lions.

The defensive front seven is good, but they can’t be on the field for over half the game. If the offense can execute like it did in the first half, Penn State can go over .500 this year. If the offense plays like it did in the second half, this team will struggle to win five games.

I have little Doubt O’Brien can get things done at Penn State over the long haul — there were flashes early — but consistency already looks like it’s going to be a problem for this team.

Georgia DB Mark Webb tears meniscus in practice but expected back before fall camp

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Georgia’s injury luck this spring isn’t getting much better as the defending SEC champions move toward their annual G-Day spring game over the weekend.

Head coach Kirby Smart confirmed with reporters after Thursday’s practice that sophomore defensive back Mark Webb suffered a knee injury earlier in the week and tore his meniscus. He already had the knee scoped and is expected back before fall camp after the rather minor procedure.

Webb originally landed in Athens as a wideout but made the move to the secondary just as the season was getting going. He appeared in 13 games in 2017, mostly on special teams, but was expected to challenge for one of the starting spots at cornerback heading into the upcoming campaign.

The absence of Webb in the lineup for the final week of spring adds to a growing list of injuries for the team during practice as they do a little bit of roster building toward the future. Receiver Michael Chigbu’s career may be over due to lingering injuries and defensive back Divaad Wilson tore his ACL not long after enrolling this semester.

Safe to say that G-Day on Saturday might not be as physical as Smart and the coaching staff would otherwise like as a result of trying to keep the team healthy as they prepare to head into a big offseason.

Old Dominion announces remodel, expansion plans for S.B. Ballard Stadium

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Old Dominion is making sure the first word in the school’s name is not the first thing you think of when you are playing against the Monarchs, joining a long list of their FBS peers with some significant upgrades for their home venue over the coming years. In plans approved this week by the university, ODU released renderings and an updated timeline on a $65 million remodel of S.B. Ballard Stadium that is set to begin as soon as this summer.

“We are excited to begin Phase 1 reconstruction,” said Greg DuBois, the school’s vice president for administration and finance. “Fan comfort and high-quality amenities are the primary focus of this phase. The project will help us create the type of game-day experience fans want and will set us up for future expansions.”

The stadium, some 81-years-old, will undergo a nearly complete teardown over the next two years in order to transform the place most know as Foreman Field. Both the east and west stands will be demolished and rebuilt, complete with new seating and a new press box. There will naturally be more restrooms and concession stands as part of the plan that includes plenty more bells and whistles for the Conference USA program. Seating is expected to grow beyond 21,000 or so capacity the current venue seats.

While construction will get started in the coming months, the bulk of activity will take place after the 2018 campaign is wrapped up at home and before kickoff of the opener in 2019. The Virginian-Pilot reports that funding will not utilize state funds but that the school is requesting that the legislature approve an added $10 million to the cost structure as a result of rising prices beyond the original $55 million forecasted.

2018 will be just the 10th season for the Monarchs (and fifth in FBS) since the football program was reinstated and it goes without saying that the new digs will be some of the nicest in CUSA when all is said and done. Few programs have been able to successfully navigate the transition as well as ODU has and it seems an updated stadium in the near future is the reward for head coach Bobby Wilder and others in Norfolk.

Boise State reportedly looking at replacing blue turf in 2019

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Boise State is exploring replacing their famous blue turf… with yet more blue turf.

Perhaps one of college football’s most recognized landmarks thanks to its quirky color, the school is looking at a fresh set of FieldTurf for Albertsons Stadium in a move that may come as soon as the 2018 campaign wraps up.

“We’re talking about it,” Athletic Director Curt Apsey told the Idaho Press-Tribune. “It’s getting to that point to where we’re going to have to make a change. It will remain blue if anyone asks.

“It’s a lifespan more than anything. I’m going to assume that the weather here in Boise does not help the life of it. That’s a guess on my part, but when you start getting into that eight, 10, 12-year range, in the past that’s when we’ve usually made the change.”

The current stadium field was installed back in 2010 and it has gone through various replacements over the years since the very first blue turf was put in place back in 1986. The report from the Press-Tribune and Apsey’s comments certainly make this seem like it’s a done deal but at a reported cost of nearly $1 million for the new surface, it would not be a quick or cheap fix for the school.

Broncos fans can rest easy knowing that the team’s signature color will be sticking around at the very least, even if the actual field itself gets a bit of an upgrade sometime next year.

Report: Ole Miss receives Committee on Infractions’ response to school appeal

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There’s been so much back-and-forth between Ole Miss, Michigan and former quarterback Shea Patterson that you’d be forgiven thinking that the Rebels’ actual NCAA case itself was all over as far as the school was concerned. That certainly isn’t accurate of course and one of the final steps for the program to learn their fate could be set for release in the next few hours or days.

Per Jackson Clarion-Ledger Ole Miss beat writer Antonio Morales, Ole Miss has received a response on their appeal from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions and will soon publish a response after lawyers have had a chance to work through it.

The Rebels had appealed to have their 2018 postseason ban overturned and restrictions on official visits lifted, among other things. The school does have 14 days to respond to the decision but appeals in general are rarely successful and the extra bit of arguing tends to be nothing but extra billable hours for lawyers working on the case.

Depending on the outcome, that should just about wrap things up in Oxford after the school was found to have lacked institutional control in the football program after numerous violations under former head coach Hugh Freeze. Ole Miss remains involved in the waiver appeal of former players like Patterson but this could very well be a closing of the books on a rather turbulent few years of back-and-forth with the NCAA.