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The Fifth Quarter: Week One Rewind

Alabama Michigan AP

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

The fans
After one of the worst — check that, the worst — offseasons in the history of the game, a full day of the glorious entity called college football was back at a campus or on a television near you.  Certainly, what happened the past few months, particularly at Penn State, wasn’t washed away completely by the start of a new season, but it did allow fans all across the country get back to doing what they love to do — irrationally rooting for a school they may or may not have a direct connection to and obsessing over any and every call that may or may not have gone their way.  Welcome back, college football.  Oh how we’ve missed your on-field glory.

Should Tide rise over USC to No. 1?
We asked this question in our poll tonight, but will expound on it here.  In every way imaginable, in every single phase of the game, No. 2 Alabama was the better team in the defending BcS champion’s 41-14 woodshedding of No. 8 Michigan.  And it wasn’t even really that close.  Ben did an excellent job recapping the carnage in Arlington Texas, so I’ll tackle this the question posed in this note.  And, if you’re a fan of marquee nonconference matchups, you’d answer the same way I would: hell yes.  Teams that schedule these types of games should be rewarded for playing top-ranked programs, and bumping them a spot or two or three or whatever would/should have an impact on athletic directors looking for more of those types of early-season games.  Besides that, it’s rather obvious even as it’s awful early: the Tide will once again be a major factor on the national stage yet again.  That was a textbook evisceration by Nick Saban‘s charges of what’s a very talented Michigan team.  The good thing for the Wolverines?  They have 11 more regular season games to make up the spots they will tumble in the polls when they come out early this week.  And, they can take solace in the fact that they won’t face a better team the remainder of the regular season.

“Wait, what about us?” No. 1 USC says
Yes, yes, yes Trojans.  We’re well aware of your 49-10 throttling of Hawaii.  Yes, you have one of the top teams in the country and, if you can remain healthy, you will be a title contender.  Unfortunately, taking apart an unranked team at home simply doesn’t compare with humiliating a Top 10 team on a neutral field.  Sorry, that’s just the way it is.  Or the way it should be, at least.  If voters have a lick of common sense, of course.

That’s just offensive
In wins over Savannah State and Arkansas State, No. 19 Oklahoma State and No. 5 Oregon, respectively, combined to score a total of 141 points; rushed for 677 yards; passed for 610 yards; and totaled 1,287 yards of offense.  And punted three times — combined.  And that’s with the Ducks scoring 50 in the first half and calling off the dogs the last two quarters.  Those were the final, gory offensive stats — unless they added to them in the postgame, which is entirely possible based on how the two “contests” went.  The 84 points the Cowboys put up, by the way, were the most since 1991 when Fresno State hung 94 on New Mexico.

Urban renewal commences in earnest in Columbus
Bad pun aside, Ohio State couldn’t have scripted a better start to the 2012 season.  Not only did No. 18 Ohio State romp over Miami of Ohio 56-10 — after a sluggish first quarter — in Urban Meyer‘s first game as Buckeyes’ head coach, but sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller showed flashes of brilliance more consistently than he did at all last season, combining for nearly 360 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in less than three quarters of work.  It hardly portends great things for the Buckeyes generally or Miller specifically in 2012; the RedHawks won just four games in 2011.  It does give some reason to hope, however, in a season where there’s no hope of reaching the postseason thanks to NCAA sanctions.

The defense rests… after dominating
Against a good BcS football team, No. 3 LSU will have a really good defense.  Against the likes of North Texas?  They had a really good defense.  While the Mean Green totaled 219 yards of offense — 40 yards per game less than they averaged giving up last year — they averaged just 2.2 yards per carry and were limited to an 80-yard pitch-and-catch touchdown that was the result of a mix-up in the secondary and a meaningless touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.  The No. 3 team in the country did what it was supposed to: easily hold serve at home against a vastly inferior opponent with a 41-14 win.  And, based on the way LSU’s defense played in the opener, we’re guessing that, just like SEC West rival Alabama, the Tigers will be in the thick of the BcS mix deep into the 2012 season.

Coaches with new teams
Putting this under the winners heading may have been a bit of a stretch.  When the last spinning of the coaching carousel came to a stop, 27 FBS football programs had new head coaches.  These past three days, those 26 coaches (Kevin Sumlin‘s debut as Texas A&M’s coach was postponed) went 13-13.  Two of those 12 losses came at the hands of FCS schools: Pittsburgh’s Paul Chryst and Memphis’ Justin Fuente.

Holgorsen has this offensive thing down pat
In the past two games, No. 11 West Virginia’s offense has totaled the following: 1,250 yards of total offense, 748 yards passing and a staggering 139 points.  To put that into perspective, last season New Mexico scored 144 for points the entire 12-game season.  Yeah, the Mountaineers will fit right in in the high-octane Big 12.  About that defense, though; WVU allowed the Herd 545 yards of offense, including 413 yards passing.  Then again, defense is optional in the Big 12, so that side of the ball might not be as big a deal after all.

Perfect Wes
For the first half, at least.  Making his first start at the collegiate level, quarterback Wes Lunt completed all 11 of his first-half passes in what would ultimately become an 84-0 win over Savannah State.  Those would actually be the only throws Lunt made in the blowout win as he gave way to J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf for the rest of the first half and through the end of the “game.”

Lattimore’s return a boon for ‘Cocks
If No. 9 South Carolina entertains any thoughts of getting past defending SEC East champ Georgia, Marcus Lattimore returning to — and remaining at — 100-percent health will be of utmost importance.  Based on one game, that’s the direction the running back, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear last year, is headed.  In South Carolina’s season-opening conference win over Vanderbilt on Thursday, Lattimore rushed for 110 yards and scored the Gamecocks’ only two touchdowns in the 17-13 decision.  While Lattimore wasn’t worked as hard as he’s been the past two seasons, the fact that he came out healthy against a stout ‘Dores defense portends — all available appendages crossed — good things for the player and the team in 2012.

Youth romps in uncle vs. nephew tilt
In his first game as head coach at Richmond, Danny Rocco had the misfortune of taking his FCS program into Virginia and going up against an underrated Cavaliers squad.  And, as if a 43-19 pasting wasn’t bad enough, a player very close to the coach helped in the torching.  Michael Rocco, the head coach’s nephew, threw for 311 yards and a touchdown in the 24-point win.  Suffice to say, Thanksgiving/Christmas gifts should be interesting in the Rocco households this year.

LOSERS

Floyd Mayweather
The boxer bet a total of $2.9 million on Michigan to cover the spread against Alabama.  The spread was anywhere between 12 and 14 points.  The Wolverines lost by 27.  That will leave a mark on the ol’ bank account, regardless of how big the purse was for your last fight.

Sooner forgetting this, the better
Forget the final score as it’s more than deceiving.  At halftime, No. 4 (for now) Oklahoma was tied with UTEP at 7-7.  And it stayed that way until the 10-minute mark of the third quarter, with a field goal giving the Sooners a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.  And it stayed that way until 10:32 was left in the game, with Landry Jones tossing an 18-yard touchdown pass. Final score?  24-7.  Yes, it’s just one game.  But it was one game against a vastly inferior opponent that’s simply not acceptable for a team with BcS-title aspirations.

Post-JoePa toe stub
For the first time in more than six decades, Joe Paterno was not on the Penn State sidelines as either an assistant or head coach.  Instead, Bill O’ Brien was patrolling Beaver Stadium… and overseeing an embarrassing start to his collegiate coaching career.  How embarrassing?  “Overheard: Ohio fan laughing ‘It isn’t even a big win for us,'” one tweet from a Penn State fan read.  After taking a 14-3 lead into the half, the Nittany Lions were outscored 21-0 the rest of the way as Ohio came away with the nonconference road win.  And that would be the Mid-American Conference’s Ohio University, not Brady Hoke‘s Ohio, incidentally.  Certainly with all of the tumult and turmoil the football program has been through over the past nine months, and with the roster attrition courtesy of NCAA sanctions, a rough start to O’ Brien’s tenure may have been expected.  However, losing by double digits at home to a MAC team that outgained them by nearly 150 yards (499-352) certainly wasn’t a part of the new coach’s plan for rebuilding all that’s been torn down in less than a year.

Gator chomp goes limp
Entering the second season under Will Muschamp, hopes were high that the No. 23 Florida Gators would begin taking the steps that would lead to a return to national prominence for the football program.  While that still may happen, eventually, this season, UF’s performance Saturday gave no sign whatsoever that 2012 will be anything other than yet another rebuilding year.  At home against Bowling Green — they of the five-win MAC Bowling Greens — the Gators slogged its way to a too-close-for comfort 27-14 win over the Falcons. Continuing a theme that’s entering its third year, the Gators were in large part ineffective on the offensive side of the ball.  While they rushed for over 200 yards, they passed for just 145 among two quarterbacks as the struggles through the air continues.

’12 Edsall similar to ’11 model
Sitting atop one of the hottest coaching seats in the country entering just his second season at Maryland, Randy Edsall needed a solid start to the season in order to, at minimum, keep the Terp wolves howling for his dismissal at bay following a disastrous two-win debut.  Uh, whoops?  Against William & Mary Saturday, and at home no less, Edsall’s Terps managed to eke out a 7-6 win over the FCS-level school in a game that was a loss for anyone who witnessed any part of it.  And that win came after W&M dropped what could have been the game-winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.  Yes, the Terps’ lost their starting quarterback and a dozen other players to injuries, but a one-point win against that level of competition isn’t — and shouldn’t — be acceptable.  Edsall has asked for patience from the fan base; more performances like this one, and there’ll be none in reserve.  If there’s even any left at this point.

Tedford: Latin for “damn that seat’s hot!”
And speaking of coaching seats that have gone beyond warm, well hello Jeff Tedford.  Playing for the first time in its refurbished stadium, Cal couldn’t keep Nevada’s pistol holstered in a 31-24 loss.  In and of itself, dropping a season opener wouldn’t impact things one way or the other, even as it represented the first home loss to Nevada in 109 years..  Coming off the past two seasons that saw a combined total of 12 wins?  Seat will be sizzling soon, I think that [/yoda].  Additionally, and after a home game vs. Southern Utah, the Bears travel to Ohio State and USC in back-to-back weekends.  Yep, good luck with that buzz saw Coach Tedford.

Houston had big problem with newly-minted FBS school
And the big problem was a loss.  Tony Levine‘s first game as Houston’s replacement for Kevin Sumlin figured to be a relatively easy one: at home against first-year FBS program Texas State.  A 30-13 loss later, and the Cougars realize how much they’ll miss Sumlin (Texas A&M) as well as quarterback Case Keenum (NFL).  It’s a long season; unfortunately for Houston, this loss will make it that much longer.

Franco Harris
Staunch in his very public support for Joe Paterno after the now-deceased head coach’s controversial ouster at Penn State last November, Franco Harris took that support to a whole other level Saturday afternoon.  In his suite Saturday witnessing the first game of the O’ Brien Era, Harris did, well, this with a cardboard cutout, courtesy of mocksession.com:

Way to keep it about the current coaches and players inside the stadium, Franco.  Excellent work.

Ball State “fans”
Coming off a six-win season in 2011, Ball State opened 2012 with a 37-26 win over Eastern Michigan that was witnessed by less than 13,000 individuals.  That number caught the attention of Fort Wayne News-Sentinel columnist Tom Davis, who skewered Ball State’s supporters — or lack thereof —  for their seeming indifference toward the football program.  “But I’ll tell you who hasn’t delivered? The Ball State students, the Cardinal alumni, and the community of Muncie, who continue to demonstrate year after year … that they simply don’t care whether they have a good football team or not.”  Davis went on to write that he wishes second-year head coach Pete Lembo well “when he eventually bolts for a more supportive environment.”  Ouch.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

–No. 9 South Carolina 17, Vanderbilt 14: Unlike most of the other schools that litter this list, the Gamecocks actually opened the season against a quality conference foe.  While it wasn’t pretty — particularly in the passing game — a win is a win is a win, especially when it involves an SEC game.

– No. 12 Wisconsin 26, Northern Iowa 20: Ahead 26-7 with just over 12 minutes left in the game, the Badgers’ defense allowed allowed the Panthers to score two touchdowns in less than five minutes to close the gap to five points with seven minutes to play.  A failed fourth-down attempt with 2:46 left erased any hopes the FCS school had entertained of pulling off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.

No. 14 Clemson 26, Auburn 19: As was the case with South Carolina, the Tigers differed from others on this list as they actually faced a BcS opponent, albeit one of the nonconference variety.  And they pulled out the win with their top receiver, Sammy Watkins, serving the first of a two-game suspension, which certainly bodes well for the Tigers.

– No. 21 Stanford 20, San Jose State 17: In the first game of the post-Andrew Luck era on Friday, the Cardinal eked out a three-point win over a team that was 27(ish)-point road underdogs.

– No. 23 Florida 27, Bowling Green 14: Tied at 14-all midway through the third quarter, the Gators managed to score 13 unanswered points to squeak by with a win in the opener.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how our ballot would look Monday if we, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly preseason poll.

1. Alabama — A school should be rewarded for a quality neutral-field win over a Top-10 team, and we do just that with a two-spot jump. (Last: No. 3)
2. USC — “It wasn’t anything you did honey.  Honest.  It’s just me.” (Last: No. 1)
3. Oregon — Oregon might’ve scored a touchdown or two on Clemson in its obliteration of Arkansas State.  My goodness, that was a mesmerizing first-half offensive display by the Ducks. (Last: No. 7)
4. LSU — With that defense, and continued improvement at the quarterback position, the Tigers are positioned for yet another run at an SEC title.  And more. (Last: No. 4)
5. (blank) — Oklahoma, Georgia and South Carolina all underwhelming in wins. Michigan lost.  Florida State and Arkansas stuffed their collective faces on tasty pastries.  Yep, blank it is.

HE SAID IT
“Tape will say we were fortunate to beat Vandy… they don’t have a bunch of slow dudes like they used to.” — South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier following the No. 9 Gamecocks’ four-point win over Vanderbilt.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I would think we’re on the short end of the measuring stick.” — Brady Hoke, following Michigan’s 27-point loss to Alabama when asked about the game being a measuring stick for his team.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Despite it being the opening weekend of the 2012 season, the video clip of the week has nothing to do with football.  Sure, we easily could’ve gone with Hundley’s cherry-popping TD or Devin Smith‘s ridiculous TD reception or Kent State’s Andre Parker‘s wrong-way muff run or myriad others.  Instead, it has everything to do with my six-year-old daughter doing her best impersonation of Evil Knievel.  And don’t worry, it’s OK to LOL; with the exception of a bloody nose and a coupla scratches, she’s fine:

REALLY?
From the “Whoda thunk it?” department, by way of Nebraska sports information: Taylor Martinez (no relation) accounted for 249 yards of total offense in the first half of today’s game to push his career total to 5,808 total offensive yards. In the first half he passed Zac Taylor (5,777 yards) (no relation) to move into second place on the career total offense list.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– Of the 74 games (Texas A&M-Louisiana Tech, Oregon State-Nicholls State postponed due to Hurricane Isaac) involving FBS programs the past three days, 35 of them featured opponents from the FCS level.  FBS schools, incidentally, were 32-3 in those games.  The three losses?  Pittsburgh to Youngstown State (ROTFL!!!), Memphis to Tennessee-Martin and Middle Tennessee State to McNeese State.

– Official attendance for Alabama-Michigan: 90,413, a record crowd for a college football game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

– From Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News: the Big Ten has lost 10 straight nonconference games vs. Top-Five teams by an average of 15.9 points.  Ouch.

– Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon became the first Alabama player ever to top the 100-yard plateau in his first game, rushing for 111 yards on just 11 carries.

– In just over three quarters of work, preseason Heisman favorite Matt Barkley passed for 344 yards and four touchdowns in USC’s romp over Hawaii.  Barkley’s top target was wide receiver Marquise Lee, who caught 10 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown.

– Oregon’s electrifying running back, DeAnthony Thomas, touched the football seven times in the win over Arkansas State — and scored three touchdowns.

– Nebraska’s Martinez set a career high in passing yards (354) and tied his career mark in passing touchdowns (five) in Nebraska’s 49-20 win over Southern Miss.

– Clemson running back Andre Ellington rushed for 231 yards in the Tigers’ 26-19 win over Auburn, while wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins set a school record (Sammy who?) with 13 receptions.

– In West Virginia’s 69-34 thrashing of in-state rival Marshall, Heisman contender Geno Smith threw for 323 yards on 33-of-36 passing and four touchdowns.

– Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib passed for a career-high 470 yards and four touchdowns in the Orange’s 42-41 loss to Northwestern.  He also obliterated the school record for completions with 44; the previous record was 29.

– Boston College’s Chase Rettig completed 32-of-51 passes for 441 yards and two TDs in a 41-32 loss to Miami

– On the fourth offensive snap of Nebraska’s win, running back Rex Burkhead ran 57 yards to open the scoring for the Cornhuskers.  That run represented the longest run of Burkhead’s career.

– In their 62-0 whitewashing of Elon, North Carolina had 14 different receivers catch a pass in the win and no one caught more than three balls.

– From ESPN’s Stats & Info Thursday night: “Cameron Nwosu of Rice blocked 3 PAT attempts tonight vs UCLA, setting an FBS single-game record and tying the overall Division I record.”

– Tulsa running back Trey Watts rushed for 125 yards on 10 carries — with no touchdowns — in a 38-23 loss to Iowa State.

– Florida has won 23 straight season openers, which represents the second-longest current streak in the nation.  The longest?  Nebraska’s 27.

– Last season, New Mexico was dead last in FBS in scoring, averaging just a hair over 12 points per game.  In their opener against Southern, the Lobos scored 38 — in the second quarter.  For the game, the Lobos totaled 66 in a 45-point win over the FCS program.

– For the first time in UT-San Antonio’s history, the Roadrunners have won a road game, dropping South Alabama 33-31 on a 51-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in a game originally scheduled for Thursday.  Of course, UTSA’s history consists of one season and one game, but still.

– Carson-Newman College’s Ken Sparks won the 300th game of his career Thursday, becoming the 11th head coach in college football history to hit that milestone.

– Sam Durley of Division III Eureka (Ill.) College set an NCAA all-division record with 736 yards passing.  He broke the old mark of 731 set back in 2000.

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No. 18 Ole Miss pulls away from Boise in ugly game

Boise State v Mississippi

It wasn’t pretty, but No. 18 Ole Miss (1-0) will take it. A fourth quarter interception of Boise State (0-1) quarterback Grant Hedrick was quickly capitalized on when Bo Wallace connected with Quincy Adeboyejo for a 31-yard touchdown play, aided by some missed tackles by Boise State defenders. The score midway through the fourth quarter gave Ole Miss a double-digit lead and Boise state was unable to make a late dent in the deficit. A 76-yard touchdown pass to Cody Core served as the dagger to Boise State’s hopes for a victory in Atlanta. Ole Miss won the first game in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, 35-13.

Wallace had his ups and downs with four touchdowns and three interceptions, but managed to make some nice throws in the fourth quarter to help lead his team to victory. The go-to target of the night was Laquon Treadwell, who got into some feisty verbal and physical exchanges during the night but ended up letting his play do most of the talking. Treadwell was the go-to receiver, but Core was the big play receiver. Core and Treadwell each put together a 100-yard night.

Bryan Harsin‘s debut as Boise State head coach will see him return to Boise with plenty to work on moving forward. The defense was worn down but performed well for the most part. The Broncos intercepted three passes and put the clamps down on the Ole Miss running game. The offense though, was up against a wall for most of the night. Credit to the Ole Miss defensive line, but Hedrick was intercepted four times and the Broncos were unable to take advantage of opportunities. One interception came in the end zone and Boise State had to settle for a field goal when a drive stalled just yards shy of the end zone. Running back Jay Ajayi never had much room to do much on the ground, accounting for 88 rushing yards and the only touchdown of the night for Boise State.

Ole Miss will play on the road next week in a SEC contest. The Rebels visit Vanderbilt, who saw their Thursday night opener against Temple pushed back late into the night due to severe weather. Ole Miss showed some very good things on defense but obviously needs to find a way to get on track offensively if the Rebels are going to be any legitimate threat in the SEC West, or at least to cause some trouble for programs like Alabama, Auburn or LSU (or Texas A&M).

Boise State likely loses a shot to get out in front of the race for a guaranteed spot in the College Football Playoff bowl line-up. The highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt gets a spot in one of the big revenue bowl games. Boise State could have used a win over a top 25 SEC team to crack the top 25 rankings next week and get out in front of the pack.

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Kenny Hill given Heisman odds, Texas A&M title odds updated

Kenny Hill

It took just one masterful performance in the season opener for Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill to be recognized as a Heisman Trophy contender. Not only was Jesse Palmer quick to draw comparisons to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston‘s debut lasts season at Pittsburgh, but one sports book (Sportsbook.com, actually) has already put Hill on the board, and with very respectable odds.

We live in a reactionary world when it comes to sports, so it should come as no surprise Hill was added to the Heisman odds. But there was more to the Vegas lines as well, with Texas A&M moving from 100/1 odds to 40/1 (this despite lacking much on defense).

Hill etched his name in the Texas A&M history books in leading the Aggies to a season-opening road win at South Carolina Thursday night. Hill passed or 511 yards and three touchdowns, and completed 44 of 60 pass attempts in his debut as the new starting quarterback.

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Halftime: Ole Miss, Boise State combine for six interceptions

Bo Wallace

Boise State is showing to be a program that will not be intimidated by a rising program in the SEC, but the Broncos are trailing Ole Miss at the half in Atlanta in the first game in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. Ole Miss is leading a defensive (and at times ugly) showdown, 7-3.

The Rebels have forced a trio of turnovers by intercepting three passes from Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick, and the defense has been pressuring the Boise State signal-caller for much of the half. This is to be expected with the talent Ole Miss has on the defensive line. The Broncos have also been managing to run the football against Ole Miss but cannot break many big plays. Fortunately for Boise State, the Broncos have a defense that is holding Ole Miss down and not allowing the game to get away from them.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has also been intercepted twice in the first half and the Rebels have failed to convert a third down attempt (they did convert one fourth down attempt). Ole Miss took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Wallace to Cody Core. The Broncos had a chance to tie things up but the Ole Miss defense stuffed Boise running back Jay Ajayi a couple of yards from the end zone on the corner. The Broncos settled for a field goal.

There were a number of bad penalties by both sides in the first half, but Ole Miss really racked up the penalty yardage. Both teams took some bad penalties in the first half, including Serderius Bryant of Old Miss for his hit on Hedrick. The targeting ejection was upheld following the mandatory video review, giving us the second targeting ejection of the season. The Rebels have also jumped to a false start more times than any team probably should.

This should be a good defensive battle in the second half as well. If Ole Miss cannot start flexing some muscle on offense, then Boise State will continue to hang around, and that would not be advisable for the Rebels.

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Texas A&M snaps South Carolina’s 18-game home winning streak

Kenny Hill

No. 21 Texas A&M (1-0, 1-0 SEC) has a motto saying they run the state of Texas. On Thursday night, Texas A&M ran the state of South Carolina.

The Aggies went to Columbia, South Carolina confident in what they could do, and it showed. Texas A&M snapped No. 9 South Carolina’s (0-1, 0-1 SEC) 18-game home winning streak in dominating fashion, running away from the Gamecocks 52-28.

The star of the night was without a doubt Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill, who dazzled in his debut as the Aggies starter looking to fill the shoes left by Johnny Manziel. All he did was throw for a school record 511 yards and three touchdowns. He did so by spreading the football around very well form start to finish. In all, Texas A&M got the football into the hands of 11 different receivers and four different runners. The pace and ability to spread the ball around proved too much for South Carolina to handle as the Gamecocks were left catching their breath on the field and on the sideline early and often.

Texas A&M and South Carolina played a close first quarter, but the Aggies started to pull away in the second quarter and never looked back. Texas A&M took a 31-14 lead into the half and continued the onslaught with an answer any time South Carolina looked to grab the momentum.

The Gamecocks were mostly without their top offensive player, running back Mike Davis. Davis did not start the game and was given an early rest with a rib bruise as the game was well in hand. Davis carried the football six times for just 15 yards before being given a rest. But that was not the reason South Carolina lost this one.

South Carolina will host a dangerous East Carolina team next weekend, before hosting SEC East rival Georgia in what has become one of the top game sin the division the last few years. The Gamecocks clearly have more hole son defense than many may have been counting on this season, but there may not be another team with quite as potent an offense the rest of the season than the one South Carolina faced Wednesday night.

Texas A&M should continue to put up some big offensive numbers the next couple of weeks. The Aggies will host FCS Lamar in the home opener in Kyle Field next week, followed by a home game against Rice. The next SEC game for Texas A&M will come on September 27 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington against Arkansas in SEC West play. Moving forward, Texas A&M will have to be given more respect as a threat in the wide-open SEC. This Aggies team is not going to sneak up any one in conference play, especially Alabama, LSU and Auburn.

Watch out SEC. Texas A&M is going to put up some points once again.

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Halftime: South Carolina has no answers for Texas A&M offense

Texas A&M v South Carolina

If you thought Texas A&M was going to struggle to replace Johnny Manziel under center, Kenny Hill is making you reconsider that feeling tonight in Columbia, South Carolina. Hill has been confident and calm under center and has been accurate in leading Texas A&M to a halftime lead against South Carolina. Texas A&M holds a 31-14 lead at the break.

Hill has completed 27 of 33 pass attempts for 299 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Texas A&M has done exceptionally well spreading the football around. The Aggies have had nine different players catch a pass and four players carry the football.

South Carolina’s defense has had no answers for Kevin Sumlin‘s Aggies. It does not help that South Carolina’s secondary has been depleted trying to keep up, but whoever has been on the field for the Gamecocks has simply been struggling to keep up with A&M’s receivers. To further complicate things, South Carolina is quickly learning that life without Jadeveon Clowney is difficult, because the Gamecocks have really struggled to bring any pressure on Hill in the Texas A&M backfield.

South Carolina’s star running back Mike Davis did not start the game and has been limited in the first half. At the half, Davis has just six carries for 15 yards.

South Carolina will get the football to start the second half. It is not time to panic, but starting the second half off with a solid drive and a score would sure calm some nerves in Columbia.

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Notre Dame adds one more suspension to opener

Oklahoma v Notre Dame

As Notre Dame continues to investigate an academic irregularity connected to members of the football program, the Fighting Irish have made a decision to suspend safety Eilar Hardy from team activities and games. That bring the suspension total up to five for this weekend in South Bend as a result of the ongoing investigation into academic dishonesty.

Hardy is a reserve player on the Notre Dame roster, but obvious depth concerns are mounting for the Irish defense in light of this potential academic scandal. Earlier this month Notre Dame suspended wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, linebacker Kendall Moore, cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams. All five players will miss the season opener this weekend against Rice.

As noted by JJ Stankevitz on CSN Chicago, the Irish are still relatively deep at the safety position even with this latest suspension news. The Irish have Austin Collinsworth, Max Redfield, Elijah Shumate and Matthias Farley as well as Nicky Baratti available at the safety position.

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Mike Davis not starting for South Carolina

Mike Davis

The first game of the SEC season is about to get started, but one of the top running backs in the conference will not be making the start. South Carolina running back Mike Davis will not start tonight’s season opener against Texas A&M.

Davis rushed for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. His absence from the game tonight is not much of a surprise after sitting out a week of practice due to a rib injury. Head coach Steve Spurrier may still try to get Davis involved when he feels the moment is right, but it will be something to keep an eye on. Spurrier has said Davis is ready to go, so expect to see him play a role in the South Carolina offense anyway.

Brandon Wilds was announced as the starting running back for tonight’s game. Last season he rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns in a reserve role.

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Iowa professor to protest pink visiting locker rooms

VISITORS LOCKER ROOM

The Iowa Hawkeyes have had a long-standing tradition of having the visiting locker room painted pink. It was a brain game move by former head coach Hayden Fry in 1979 and has remained a part of attempting to give Iowa a home field advantage. A professor at Iowa is planning a formal protest against the pink locker room at the same time the school plans to honor Fry on Friday.

Kembrew McLeod is organizing a “million robot march” to protest what he believes demonstrates the university allowing the football program to taunt an opponent by pushing homophobia and sexism. It has been suggested the pink finish in the locker room is designed to break down the visiting team’s mental toughness. Whether it works or not is probably uncertain for sure, but there must be something to having the pink finish all these years. This is hardly the first time a concern about the pink locker rooms has surfaced at Iowa though. the gimmick has been criticized by a number of feminists, lawyers, gay rights activists and more over the years, and there will likely be more to come in the future as long as the locker room remains pink.

McLeod tells the Associated Press he and his fellow protesters will dress as robots and shout “Binary code yes! Gender binaries no!” as they address their concerns on Friday.

Iowa has no plans to redo the visiting locker room at Kinnick Stadium.

“To tear that apart and spend the money right now to redo that just seems like a very low priority to me,” University of Iowa president Sally Mason said. “Would a pink locker room have been my first choice? Probably not. But that predates me by quite a little bit.”

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VIDEO: Brian Kelly stumps for eight-team playoff

Notre Dame v Michigan

As you may have heard, a new system for determining an FBS champion will be implemented after the 2014 season, with four teams fighting for the right to be called the first-ever champion of the College Football Playoff.

While we’ve yet to even make it to the first year of the CFP, many people, myself included, feel it’s a matter of when, not if, the field is expanded to at least eight teams.  The reasoning is simple: already astronomical, the money an expanded field would bring in would be too much to overlook as football programs, Power Five and Non-Power Five members alike, look to unearth any and all revenue streams in a sport that will see costs rise in the very near future.

In that vein, there are also five power conferences, which means that at least one of those leagues, and perhaps two, will be on the outside of the playoff looking in any given year.  It won’t take long for a conference or two to get snubbed X amount of times over a period of years before the league or leagues start stumping for an expanded playoffs.

And then there’s the obvious: much like arguing over which teams are Nos. 4/5 is progress over which teams are Nos. 2/3, arguing over which teams are Nos. 8/9 — or even Nos. 16/17 — represents progress over Nos. 4/5.

During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show Thursday, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly discussed numerous topics, including the playoffs.  Kelly, who began his coaching career at Grand Valley State — a school in Div. II, which utilizes a playoff system to determine a champion — used some of his time with Patrick to push for an eight-team playoff, saying “four’s a great start but I don’t think it’s enough.”  Along with the eight teams, Kelly is in favor of, if there is an expanded playoff, first-round games being held on the campus of the higher seed.

Of course, all of that is at least a few years down the road, but it’s still worth a listen.

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SEC commish Mike Slive undergoes back surgery

Mike Slive AP

One of the most powerful men in all of sports is recovering from what appears to be a minor medical procedure.

Via Twitter, the SEC announced Thursday afternoon that commissioner Mike Slive “underwent successful surgery Tuesday to relieve pain he had experienced in his back for several weeks.” In another tweet, the conference wrote that “Commissioner Slive is receiving great care from his doctors and will be watching SEC games from home this weekend.”

Slive is expected to be released from the hospital in short order.

Under Slive’s stewardship the past 12-plus years, the SEC has seen unprecedented growth in sports in general and football specifically. And specifically as it relates to the amount of money going into membership coffers.

The SEC Network, Slive’s sports pride and joy and a future source of significant revenue for memebrs, will televise its first live football game tonight as Texas A&M travels to Columbia to take on South Carolina.

Slive turned 74 last month, and there’s been talk that he could step down at some point in the near future. In an excellent profile that appeared in USA Today this morning, Slive addressed the retirement question head on when he was asked about a specific timetable for a departure.

“I’ll be done when I’m done. When they don’t want me anymore or when I don’t want to be there,” the commish said.

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Penn State-UCF game a pot of gold for Irish economy

Penn State arrives in Dublin, August 27, 2014

It appears that Icelandic volcano will allow the Penn State-Central Florida game to be played Saturday in Dublin, and that’s a very good thing for the Irish economy.

Peter McKenna, director of Croke Park Stadium, where the Nittany Lions and Knights will meet Saturday, told PennLive.com that the game should bring 20,000 visitors and roughly 30 million euros which, Google’s handy dollar-euro convertor tells me equates to roughly $39.5 million.

McKenna’s estimation is based on an average stay of three to five days, and each tourist spending anywhere from $395 (300 euros) to $527 (400 euros) per day. “I think the real figure will be far higher than that,” McKenna told the paper. “The city is going to get really wound up.”

The 2012 game between Notre Dame and Navy, played in Aviva Stadium before 48,820 fans, generated a reported $131 million for the Irish economy. Former Ireland minister for transport tourism and sport Leo Varadkar told PennLive.com that the Penn State-UCF game (8:30 a.m. ET, ESPN2) is “every bit as important” to the Irish economy as the Notre Dame-Navy game two years ago.

McKenna says his group is using the same as a marketing informercial to a captive American audience. “It’s going to be on early in the morning, no other games are going to be on, and Dublin is going to be showcased to millions of Americans,” he said. “They’ll say ‘Wow, what a great place. Let’s put that on my bucket list.'”

Joyce Polan, manager of Dublin’s Woolshed Pub, sums up the Irish attitude toward their American visitors with a perfect quote. “We love Americans here,” Polan said. “They eat tons of chicken wings.”

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USC RB Anthony Brown ‘couldn’t play for a racist,’ quits team

Syracuse v USC Getty Images

This has not been a very good last 7-10 days for the USC football program.

Late last week athletic director Pat Haden was hospitalized twice for undisclosed medical reasons.  Then, senior captain Josh Shaw turned from hero to fabricator in less than 48 hours, with his future on the team in limbo.  Now?  Some ugly and startling accusations are hurtling out of the Land of Troy.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian confirmed to the local writers covering the team that Anthony Brown has decided to quit the football team.  Prior to that, the senior running back — he had recently been moved from cornerback in a switch he requested — went on Instagram and, well, went here:

Instagram Racist

That social media post appeared to be the impetus for Sarkisian’s announcement.  From Scout.com:

Sark said he was “shocked” at these allegations, called them “ridiculous” and welcomed us to talk to anyone in or around the program and they would tell us that it simply wasn’t true.

Sark said they tried to accommodate Brown, moving him to running back. He was unfortunately hurt but Sark said they still tried to get him to stay on the team. Sark felt he could help the team. Brown refused, quit the team then posted the following on Facebook:

“Couldn’t play for a racist man!!!!!!!!!!!
#FightOn”

Sarkisian is getting set to enter his first season as USC’s head coach and hasn’t even coached a game, yet he’s already seen two messy situations that need cleaning.

Already, though, his players are jumping to their head coach’s defense via Twitter.

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Michigan Stadium rakes in $2.55 million from soccer clash

Already home to the largest crowd to ever witness a college football game, Michigan Stadium added a few more titles to its prodigious in 2014: highest-attended hockey game in U.S. history, and highest-attended soccer game in U.S. history.

It got paid quite well to do so.

According to a report from the Detroit News, Michigan was paid $2 million by promoted Relevant Sports to lease the Big House for the Aug. 2 match between European soccer superpowers Manchester United and Real Madrid. The Wolverines were also paid $550,000 for making the stadium available for practice the day prior to the match.

Manchester United won the game 3-1, thereby clinching a spot in the International Cup Final, before a crowd of 109,318.

Michigan was also received a $5 million check for hosting the NHL’s Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, where 105,491 showed up to see the Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the Detroit Red Wings. The college football attendance record was set when 115,109 spectators watched Michigan topple Notre Dame on Sept. 7, 2013.

Athletics director Dave Brandon told the Detroit News he’d be interested in renting out the Big House – provided the right event comes along. “It would be good to have a big event once a year or every other year and stage a big event in the stadium, as long as it’s a big event,” Brandon told the paper. “I view these things as a wonderful opportunity to bring new people to the stadium.”

Brandon also reported the soccer game generated $25 million for the Ann Arbor economy and, assuming that figure is anywhere close to accurate, there is no reason not to do so, especially considering the Big House sits empty approximately 358 days per year.

Michigan plays seven home games in 2014, beginning with Appalachian State on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

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Ethan Farmer cleared by NCAA, can play for Tar Heels

Miami v North Carolina Getty Images

Finally, some good news on the personnel front for North Carolina.

Initially via Twitter, UNC announced that starting defensive tackle Ethan Farmer has been cleared to play for the Tar Heels this season by the NCAA.  An undisclosed eligibility issue has been hanging over Farmer’s head throughout summer camp, even as he’s continued to practice with the team.

As late as Tuesday after practice, head coach Larry Fedora was intimating that he didn’t expect a ruling on Farmer’s availability prior to the opener against Liberty Saturday.

“We are thankful to have Ethan cleared to play and I know he’s excited to have this behind him,” said Fedora in a statement that was released after the team broke the news on Twitter. “Ethan is our only experienced player on the defensive line and we’ll be counting on him for senior leadership in that group. He has practiced hard during the preseason and has not let this situation affect his preparation for the season.”

Farmer started all 13 games for the Tar Heels in 2013, and is expected to be the starter in 2014 as well.  Thanks to departures since the end of last year, including two this summer, Farmer is the only returning starter on the defensive line.

UNC had previously announced that four defensive players have been suspended for the opener for violating unspecified team rules.  Those suspensions came on the heels of a hazing report earlier in the week.

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CFT 2014 Preseason Top 25: ‘Noles look to go back-to-back

Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston AP

Over seven months ago, Florida State staked its claim to the last-ever Bowl Championship Series Trophy. The question now is, can the Seminoles win the first-ever College Football Playoff trophy?

At least as far as the CFT writers are concerned, the answer was a resounding “hell yes!!!” as all three of us — Brent Sobleski, Kevin McGuire and I — placed FSU at No. 1 in our preseason Top 25 rankings.

In somewhat of a surprise, Oregon was next up at No. 2, followed by Alabama, No. 2 in the Associated Press and coaches’ poll, at No. 3, Ohio State at No. 4 and Oklahoma at No. 5. Were the poll to be conducted today, there’s a very good chance the Buckeyes would slip to the bottom of the Top 10 — or even out of it — on the strength of Braxton Miller‘s season-ending injury.

As for the remainder of the Top 10, UCLA checks in at No. 6, followed by, in order from Nos. 7-10, South Carolina, Auburn, Baylor and Stanford.

The only Non-Power Five conference team to make the preseason cut was the Mountain West’s Boise State at No. 24.

Conference-wise, the SEC leads all leagues with six in the Top 25, the lowest of which is Ole Miss at No. 17. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have five teams each, with the ACC (four) and Big 12 (three) bringing up the Power-Five rear.

For comparison, the AP poll had eight SEC teams in the Top 25 and six from the Pac-12. The coaches’ poll also had six from the Pac-12, while only seven from the SEC.

Below are the complete set of CFT preseason top 25 rankings. And, for a repository on all of our 2014 preseason previews, click HERE.

No. 1 Florida State
No. 2 Oregon
No. 3 Alabama
No. 4 Ohio State
No. 5 Oklahoma
No. 6 UCLA
No. 7 South Carolina
No. 8 Auburn
No. 9 Baylor
No. 10 Stanford
No. 11 Michigan State
No. 12 Georgia
No. 13 LSU
No. 14 USC
No. 15 Notre Dame
No. 16 Clemson
No. 17 Ole Miss
No. 18 Wisconsin
No. 19 Duke
No. 20 Texas
No. 21 Nebraska
No. 22 Arizona State
No. 23 North Carolina
No. 24 Boise State
No. 25 Iowa

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