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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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Oregon State has fresh new helmets for spring practice

Oregon State v Hawaii

When Oregon State opens up spring practice tomorrow they will do so wearing a brand new helmet. Could this be a preview of a new look in 2015? If so, it’s not bad at all.

Oregon State will have black helmets with the word “Beavers” scripted across the side. The look is reminiscent to a helmet design previously worn by the program in 1979 (with an orange helmet) and again from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s (with a white helmet). The same basic design elements were used on a black helmet since 1999, although with the Beaver logo on top of the script. Oregon State has also mixed and matched different helmets with uniforms the past few seasons. Now the beaver logo is gone, at least with this helmet.

I’m giving this one two thumbs up. What about you?

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Kennesaw State opened program’s first spring practice today

A total of 91 players went through the first spring football practice of the year on Monday. Ordinarily this would not be of much significance, but this was no ordinary spring football practice. This was spring football practice at Kennesaw State, the first in program history.

“It was a good day. It’s our first time back on the field and it was the first-ever spring ball practice,” Kennesaw State head coach Brian Bohannon said. “The great thing about it is our kids are in pretty good shape. They had a really good offseason.  We had a group of guys who actually knew what to do versus the last time we came out.”

This was the first spring football practice for Kennesaw State, but the program was able to practice in the fall as they go through the motions of operating a football program in season.

“It was a great start and I think the big thing for this group right now is that in the fall we had three segments of 15 days apiece and now we have one,” Bohannon explained. “Now we’re down to 14 and they are going to have to maximize every minute of these opportunities before we get ready to play.”

As noted by Kevin Causey of The Student Section, Kennesaw State will be joining the Big South Conference this season in the FCS and the offensive identity will likely be based on the option that has become the norm at places like Georgia Tech and Navy. The Owls have 52 players on scholarship right now as it builds up to the FCS maximum of 63.

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Alabama and Minnesota add former players to coaching staff

USC v Minnesota

College football programs around the country continue to fill spaces on coaching staffs, and often that means bringing back former players to fill the final pieces. Alabama and Minnesota each added a former player from each respective program to fill a role in 2015.

Alabama has added former walk-on wide receiver Rob Ezell to the program’s support staff. Ezell was a part of Nick Saban’s program from 2007 through 2010. He comes to Alabama after serving the past two seasons as a graduate assistant at Colorado State, where he worked under former Alabama assistant Jim McElwain. Ezell is also known for a pretty spot-on impression of Saban.

At Minnesota, the all-time passing leader for the Gophers is joining the staff as a graduate assistant. Adam Weber will fill the vacancy as grad assistant, and it is expected he will work closely with the quarterbacks. Given his history with the program, that is not a bad strategy. Weber set school records for passing attempts (1,594), completions (909), passing yards (10,917) and touchdown passes (72).

“I really am excited to join such a great staff under Coach [Jerry Kill],” Weber said. “I’m just looking to be a sponge. It just seems like a great fit.”

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UNC hires Huskers DB coach Warren to fill vacancy

North Carolina has hired away Nebraska defensive backs coach Charlton Warren to the same job in Chapel Hill. UNC announced the staff hiring Monday.

Warren was Nebraska’s defensive backs coach in 2014, but he had served on the coaching staff at Air Force prior to that. Warren is an Air Force graduate. Warren has a connection to Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora. Fedora was an assistant with Air Force when Warren was playing for Air Force in 1997 and 1998.

Warren’s departure from Nebraska is not exactly to be unexpected given coaching turnover in Lincoln, although Warren was the only coach retained from the Bo Pelini regime by new Nebraska head coach Mike Riley.

North Carolina is in need of improving its defense, and the additions to the coaching staff this offseason appear to be addressing that need. The Tar Heels hired former Auburn national championship head coach Gene Chizik to be the team’s new defensive coordinator in one of the more notable assistant coaching hires of the year.

North Carolina finished last in the 14-team ACC in passing defense in 2014, allowing 257.4 yards per game and 31 passing touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 150.35, which is 10 points higher than the next worst opponent passer rating allowed in the ACC (Syracuse, 140.08).

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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SEC’s Mike Slive cautious on freshman eligibility conversation

Mike Slive

The two most powerful men in college athletics continue to be on opposite sides of a divisive topic, like Republicans and Democrats on just about anything. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are not seeing eye-to-eye on te topic of freshman eligibility. Not yet at least. Delany has spearheaded the recent conversation, but Slive is advises to be patient on the topic until the NCAA rules take effect in 2016.

“We have to remember that each college student has his or her own academic challenges,” Slive said in a statement Monday. Slive was responding to the idea presented by Delany and the Big Ten to prevent student-athletes in certain sports from competing as freshmen in order to provide a more stable introduction to academic life.

“To put a blanket over these student-athletes with a year on the bench doesn’t address those individual needs to incentivize academic progress,” Slive continued.

The Big Ten may be fighting a losing battle here, or Delany may be drawing his line in the sand to back up the idea the Big Ten really is focused more on academics than other conferences. Delany and the Big Ten are currently seeking opinions about freshman eligibility rules.

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Former Rutgers & Minnesota QB Philip Nelson dodges prison

Philip Nelson

Former Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson will not have to serve any prison time for his involvement in a brutal attack that led to the injury of a Minnesota State football player. Nelson was instead sentenced to 100 hours of community service and was credited for serving two days in jail.

Isaac Kolstad was left in coma after being allegedly being attacked by Nelson and kicked in the head. Following the incident, Nelson was booted from the Rutgers team shortly after he had transferred from Minnesota. Kolstad has since made progress in his recovery in his rehab from his brain injury.

Nelson agreed to a plea that would result in a misdemeanor fifth-degree assault for pleading guilty.

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Boise State has tough slate in 2015 as MWC releases schedule

Jay Ajayi, Bryan Harsin

Defending Mountain West Conference champion Boise State has quite the challenging schedule ahead of it in 2015. In addition to opening the season on a Friday night at home against former head coach Chris Petersen and Washington, the Broncos visit BYU and Virginia before getting to the Mountain West Conference schedule in October. The MWC conference schedule, released today, will send Boise State to Colorado State and Utah State on consecutive weeks in October. If the Broncos can manage to get to Halloween without a loss, or perhaps just one, then Boise State could be set up well for a return run to the College Football Playoff’s New Years Six line-up.

The Mountain West Conference features 22 games against bowl teams from 2014 including 11 from the Pac-12, 6 from the Big Ten, 3 from the SEC and 2 from the ACC. There are no games scheduled against Big 12 schools this season, but the MWC will go toe-to-toe with other Group of 5 conferences; the MAC, American and Conference USA. There are also five games against independent programs including BYU, a former MWC member.

The 12-team conference will continue to use an eight-game conference schedule format, with each team in the conference getting four home games and four away. Each member of the conference will play five division games and three cross-division games. The conference is in the midst of a four-year scheduling cycle that guarantees each school gets to play every member of the conference home and away.

As has been the case the last two seasons, the highest-ranked division champion will be given home-field advantage for the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. The conference title game will be played on Saturday, December 5. Boise State hosted Fresno State in last season’s conference championship game and won. Fresno State hosted the title game the previous season and defeated Utah State. This makes home teams 2-0 in the MWC conference championship game.

While the conference has set aside games for Thursday night and Friday night dates, the Mountain West will release broadcast details that could move certain games away from the tentatively scheduled Saturday dates. The MWC has broadcast rights deals with both ESPN and CBS Sports Network for national coverage and ROOT Sports and the Mountain West Network for regional broadcast options.

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Bret Bielema takes driving privileges from Razorback busted for DWI

Bret Bielema

Arkansas defensive lineman Tevin Beanum was recently arrested for suspicion of DWI. In response, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema took a page out of the old parenting handbook and took Beanum’s car away from him.

Bielema refrained from removing Beanum, a sophomore in 2015, from the roster but did need to find a way to respond. This led Bielema to consult with Beanum’s mother, and the two decided to take the keys and the car from the Razorback in addition to other requirements before being reinstated by Bielema.

“It sounds simple. I think a lot of today’s problems can be solved by an old school way of thinking,” Bielema said in a report by Arkansas News. “So I picked up the phone and called his mom. We talked about different things. He has to go through the court system and obviously he’ll have ramifications. But I’ve basically banned the use of his car for any time other than when he’s coming over here or going to academics. His car is to remain parked.”If he gets pulled over for running through a stoplight at 10:30 at night then he’s violated my rules and there’s going to be an even bigger consequence.”

What happens if Beanum is found driving his car outside of those proposed limitations laid out by Bielema?

“If he gets pulled over for running through a stoplight at 10:30 at night then he’s violated my rules and there’s going to be an even bigger consequence.”

Driving is a privilege, not a right. Here’s hoping Bielema’s old-school way of discipline lets that message sink in for Beanum and the rest of the team.

Arkansas News also reports Bielema has suspended wide receiver JoJo Robinson, but the reason beyond violating team rules is unknown. Robinson could return to the team as early as Sunday.

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SEC fills your calendar with dates for spring practices, spring games and NFL pro days

Alabama Spring Game

Vanderbilt is already midway through its spring football schedule, but the rest of the SEC is just getting ready for spring football. On Monday, as Texas A&M opened up spring camp and a day before Ole Miss gets underway, the SEC released the notable dates for your spring football fix in the southeast.

Each team in the SEC currently has a spring game scheduled, except for Kentucky and Texas A&M. Stadium renovations at Kyle Field will prevent Texas A&M from hosting a spring game for a second straight season. Many of the spring games throughout the SEC will draw large crowds, and the conference should once again lead the way in spring game attendance.

Here are your spring practice start dates, along with dates for spring games and pro days for those looking forward to the NFL Draft. Plan accordingly.

SEC Spring Football

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LSU being used as guinea pig by NCAA and SEC, says recruiting reporter

Les Miles

Last week LSU’s football program was hit with some strong recruiting sanctions by the NCAA. Those who follow the recruiting game seem to think LSU is being punished unreasonably, with one recruiting analyst going so far as to say LSU is being used as a guinea pig by the NCAA and SEC.

“I think the SEC and NCAA are using LSU as a guinea pig,” said Michael Carvell, a recruiting reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said in a report published by The Advocate. “Somebody had to be first. Unfortunately for LSU, it’s them.”

LSU has been banned from signing early enrollee recruits for the next two recruiting cycles and will lose 21 of 210 days on the recruiting calendar to evaluate potential recruits. The sanctions stem from one LSU recruit signing a financial aid agreement with LSU in August with the intent to enroll at LSU in January. That recruit, Matt Womack, ended up committing to Alabama. Football programs that fail to have the player under the agreement to enroll early face penalties. It is believed LSU is the first school to be extended such a punishment, which makes this punishment historical in a sense.

How much this ultimately hurts LSU remains to be seen. Many seem to think LSU will see minimal impact on the recruiting trail, which would make sense. LSU tends to recruit very well, plays in one of the top conferences and is nearby loads of talent. LSU should still manage to recruit effectively, even with the sanctions imposed.

If nothing else, what has happened at LSU will grab the attention of coaches and recruiters around the country as they look to ensure they do not swing and miss on early enrollees.

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Steve Spurrier is now on Twitter

Steve Spurrier

Twitter can be fun, especially when college football coaches get involved and connected. LSU head coach Les Miles is on board. So is Penn State head coach James Franklin. UCLA’s Jim Mora has been known to dabble in the social networking platform, and has gotten in trouble for it along the way. New Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has also decided to start tweeting.

Well, brace yourselves because one more big name head coach never at a loss for words is hopping on board to share his thoughts 140 characters at a time; Steve Spurrier.

Give him a follow.

And if there was any doubt…

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Oregon QB commit scores game-winning basket for wrong team

Seth Green

Minnesota native Seth Green is a four-star dual-threat quarterback on his way to Oregon in the Class of 2016. He also happens to be a pretty decent high school basketball player, as his 24-point performance over the weekend would suggest. But as can all too often be the unfortunate case for any talented athlete, it can be a mistake that ends up being the most notable moment for all the wrong reasons.

In a tight regional playoff semifinal game and 20 seconds to play between Green’s East Ridge High School and Cretin-Derham Hall, Green took an inbound pass and made his way down court for an uncontested lay-up. Normally that is a good play, but Green’s lay-up went into his team’s own basket, awarded two free points to Cretin-Derham Hall. The basket turned a one-point lead into a one-point deficit. Oops. Cretin-Derham Hall went on to win by a final score of 70-65.

“That will not define who Seth Green is,” Cretin-Derham Hall head coach Jerry Kline said after the game according to Star Tribune. “He’s a great player, a good kid, and I feel bad for him. He was going so hard and just feel for him at this time.”

The good news for Green is he has plenty of opportunities ahead of him. Perhaps one day, if he has not already, Green will get to start laughing about this unfortunate sequence of events.

Green is the 10th ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation and the top prospect in the state of Minnesota according to Rivals.

Photo credit: Rivals

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Connor Cook sings praises of new crop of Michigan State receivers

Connor Cook

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook may be losing a few key targets from last season, but the veteran starting quarterback is getting a jump on speaking highly of his new go-to receivers in 2015.

Cook enters this spring looking to build chemistry with some new starting wide receivers. Michigan State loses its top two receivers from 2014, Tony Lippett (1,198 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns) and Keith Mumphery (495 yards, 3 touchdowns). This is the nature of the college game, of course, with players only able to stick around for so long before moving on in one capacity or another. Cook, preparing for his third season as the starting quarterback for the Spartans, knows there will be others ready to compete for an opportunity to start and play a key role in the Michigan State offense in 2015.

“Obviously losing [Tony Lippett] and [Keith Mumphery] are big losses, but we have some other (rising) senior leaders who are stepping up in Macgarrett Kings, Aaron Burbridge and AJ Troup, and then younger guys like R.J. Shelton, Matt Macksood and Tres Barksdale,” Cook said, as transcribed by MLive.com.

Kings is Michigan State’s top returning receiver with 404 yards and a touchdown last season. Burbridge caught 29 passes for 358 yards and a touchdown. Troup added 113 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. Shelton had 173 yards and two touchdowns in his sophomore season.Barksdale appeared in seven games and contributed two catches for 16 yards. Macksood, awarded a scholarship last spring. He appeared in seven games for Michigan State last season but not record any stats.

Ohio State continues to be the team to beat in the Big Ten, but Michigan State is not likely to be out of the running even after losing defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi to a head coaching job at Pittsburgh. With Cook in command of the offense, he will have solid protection from the offensive line. If the Spartans are to thrive and challenge Ohio State, Cook will have to get on track with his receivers and avoid shaky play as he experienced at times last season.

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What if college football had a College Football NIT?

Manhattan v Syracuse

The college football world went years and decades until finally making way for a four-team playoff format to crown major college football’s national champion. The College Football Playoff is the new crown jewel of the traditional bowl system. But what if there was a second mini-tournament embedded into the college football postseason? What about a third? Maybe expanding the College Football Playoff is not going to happen, but nobody has ever said anything about possibly adding a second tournament to the equation.

The idea popped up in my head today as Chelsea upended Tottenham Hotspur to lay claim to the League Cup. I may be a novice when it comes to soccer, but my understanding is the League Cup is a middle-tier level of competition, and is certainly below the more high-end championships soccer teams in Europe compete for. For those not familiar with soccer, there are multiple tournaments teams can participate in, even during the course of the team’s regular season. It is kind of neat, but the idea would not quite translate to college football with regular seasons already as packed as they are.

But what about the bowl season?

One of the biggest complaints about the college football postseason is the idea there are too many bowl games that nobody particularly cares about. What if those so-called meaningless bowl games were given a purpose? What if, for example, the winners of the New Mexico Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl were given a chance later in the bowl season to compete in a third bowl game, whether in an existing bowl or in a brand new game in the lead-up to the College Football Playoff national championship game? Basketball does it with the NIT. Think of this as college football’s NIT.

I personally think the bowl system is fine the way it is, but if you are looking for a way to spice things up a little bit, and perhaps drive up television ratings for some of the lower-tier bowl games, why not give it a little more meaning? The College Football Playoff recorded monster television ratings. Implementing this sort of idea may not come close to rivaling that kind of viewership, but it could give the casual fan a little more interest in the GoDaddy Bowl or Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (Yes, these are real bowl games).

I know I would watch, but I already do. Would you watch with a little more interest in a second College Football Playoff-type postseason tournament?

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Penn State’s $60 million fine about to be put to good use

Penn State Community Reacts As Trustees Fire Coach Joe Paterno Getty Images

The fine money paid by Penn State is ready to start being put to good use. It is just a matter of figuring out which organization gets what amount of money. With $60 million to distribute, there are plenty f worthy causes to help support.

“There’s certainly a tremendous need,” said Linda Rosenberg, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in an Associated Press report. “In the area of child sexual abuse, I don’t know if there’s ever enough money to help support the need.”

As it stands now, Rosenberg’s agency is handling $48 million from Penn State’s fine money. Penn State is retaining $12 million. Penn State agreed to pay off a $60 million fine as dictated by sanctions levied against the program in 2012. The sanctions were the result of the findings from the Freeh Report following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Although since then the consent decree has been vacated, Penn State committed to paying off the remainder of the fine assessed against it.

After the NCAA initially fined Penn State, state representative Jake Corman helped to push through the Higher Education Monetary Penalty Endowment Act in order to keep Penn State’s fine money within the state of Pennsylvania. The NCAA wanted the money to be spread nationally, sparking one of many legal battles that eventually went against the NCAA’s wishes.

According to the AP, Rosenberg says about half of the $48 million controlled by her agency is expected to be handed out in the form of grants over the next five years. A commission will be formed with the task to identify areas of need and solicit applications for grant support later this year. By October, grants may start to be issued.

There are a number of worthy foundations that can take advantage of this money that will be available, many connected to raising awareness and combatting child abuse, sexual abuse and more.

Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for abusing 10 boys he met over 15 years through his charity for troubled children.

 

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