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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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New ‘Husker uniforms modeled by… Bo Pelini?

Bo Pelini Cat 2

I’m kind of taking a shining to this “new” Bo Pelini.

After a tumultuous 2013 season that appeared to be on the verge of costing him his job, the Nebraska head coach has morphed into, well, the anti-Pelini.  Or, at least, the Pelini we’ve become accustomed to.

Mainly, this new persona revolves around the fake Twitter version of Pelini and a feline, with the real Pelini doing his best Lion King impersonation with a real cat at NU’s spring game.  There have been a couple of other instances that have turned the on-the-sideline volatile Pelini into something (gasp!) endearing.

The latest example?  Friday morning, Nebraska unveiled its new football uniforms.  During the course of the unveiling, well, this happened:

There’s really nothing else to say, other than it looks like Coach Pelini could morph very easily back into Player Pelini.

Oh, and there’s also the uniforms themselves: they will be worn during the Sept. 27 Homecoming game against Illinois.  But probably not by Pelini.  Maybe.

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Miami: Micheal Barrow takes sabbatical

Michael Barrow

Miami has confirmed an unexpected development regarding Al Golden‘s coaching staff, although a little bit of intrigue has been thrown into the mix for good measure.

Multiple reports beginning late last night indicated that Micheal Barrow had decided to step down as the Hurricanes’ long-time linebackers coach.  At least one report indicated that Barrow stepped down to tend to his sick mother.

The U, however, only acknowledged in a press release that Barrow was taking a sabbatical from coaching.  In a statement, Barrow would only allow that “a very important family obligation” prompted his decision.

Also, from the sounds of the statement, it doesn’t appear that the coach will be headed back to his alma mater anytime soon.

“As a proud University of Miami graduate, former football player and coach, it is with a heavy heart that I announce I’m taking a sabbatical from coaching this season,” Barrow said. “This was an extremely tough decision to leave my dream job. However, I have a very important family obligation that requires my full attention, and I would not have had enough time to effectively fulfill my coaching duties.

“With the 2014 football season starting soon, please know that I am truly sorry if my decision brings the organization any inconveniences. I would like to thank President Shalala, Blake James, Al Golden, the coaching staff, UM football players and the entire UM family for seven great years. During this time, my professional career has grown and afforded me wonderful opportunities on and off the field. I have enjoyed working alongside some excellent colleagues and privilege to coach some great kids. I will never forget my tenure at the U and I’m looking forward to watching them this year. Go Canes!”

Golden had nothing but kind words for Barrow, who would’ve been entering his eight season at The U, and applauded his now-former assistant for putting his family above football.

“Coach Barrow has always put faith and family first in his life and this is clearly a time in his life where family needs him,” Golden said. “Micheal Barrow is the very definition of a Miami Hurricane – having given 11 years of class, service and leadership to the University and our community. We wish Micheal, Shelly and their children all the best as they enter a new chapter in their lives and we certainly hope Mike will return to coaching and mentoring young people in the near future.”

Because summer camp starts in just four days, it forced Golden to juggle his staff as well as his in-house football operations to fill the coaching void.

Hurlie Brown will move from running backs coach to take over Barrow’s role, with Miami high school coaching legend Tim “Ice” Harris promoted to fill Brown’s position. In one last move, Kevin Beard, a former Hurricane player, will join the program and replace Harris as assistant director of football operations.

(Photo credit: Miami athletics)

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Knee issue will sideline UGA’s Mitchell for start of camp

Georgia v Florida Getty Images

When it comes to his knees, Malcolm Mitchell just can’t buy a break.

As Georgia gets set to open summer camp Friday they will apparently do so without Mitchell, with the Macon Telegraph, Athens Banner-Herald and 247Sports.com all reporting that the wide receiver won’t participate in the first practice today.  According to the reports, one of Mitchell’s knees is the issue yet again.

UGA subsequently confirmed that Mitchell underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee, which came a couple of months after he had been cleared to participate in summer workouts.  There’s no definitive word on when the receiver will be able to join his teammates on the field at camp.

According to the school, Mitchell suffered cartilage damage running routes with teammates late last month.  A full recovery is expected, although, again, just when is very much up in the air.

This setback continues what’s been a long line of injury setbacks, particularly as it relates to the knees.

Mitchell suffered a torn ACL — celebrating a touchdown, no less — in the season-opening loss to Clemson last year.  He was cleared and had been participating — in non-contact fashion — in UGA’s spring practice earlier this year before another leg injury in the first session knocked him out for the remainder of the spring.

Prior to that, he suffered a torn meniscus and had his knee ‘scoped in April of 2013.  But wait, there’s more: he didn’t play in the 2012 opener because of an ankle injury, with a hamstring issue costing him three games the year before.

When healthy, Mitchell is productive, as evidenced by his career totals of 85 catches for 1,237 yards and eight touchdowns.  It’s also evidenced by the fact that, despite missing essentially the entire 2013 season, he was named second-team All-SEC last month.

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‘Canes abruptly lose long-time LBs coach Micheal Barrow

Micheal Barrow

To say that this is an unexpected development would be quite the understatement.

First reported by CanesInSight.com, multiple media outlets subsequently confirmed overnight that Micheal Barrow abruptly stepped down from his post as Miami’s linebackers coach yesterday.  Barrow, a former Hurricanes player, would’ve been entering his eight season at his alma mater, having joined Randy Shannon‘s staff in 2007.

The U opens summer camp in just four days.  Normally when a coach leaves this close to the start of camp, it’s for one of three reasons: family, health or the NCAA.  According to Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com, it’s a combination of the first two.

A school spokesperson said that a statement addressing Al Golden‘s coaching staff is expected to be released at some point Friday.

(Photo credit: Miami athletics)

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Indiana’s Wilson fires misguided shot at Big 12 and Notre Dame

Kevin Wilson

There was a time the Big Ten had what seemed to be a competitive advantage in the BCS bowl picture by not playing a conference championship game when the ACC, Big 12 and SEC were. Now the tables have been turned and folks around the Big Ten are starting to fire shots at the Big 12, a conference without a championship game.

One of the big questions yet to be answered entering the new era of college football is what the impact of playing a conference championship game or not playing one will hold on the College Football Playoff selection committee’s line of thinking when it comes to choosing the four best teams in the country. Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson may not be ready to have a program worthy of sniffing that conversation any time soon, but he certainly feels the Big 12 and Notre Dame are getting an easier path to the postseason mix.

Wilson, a former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, suggested the Big 12 is avoiding a challenge that is embraced by the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC with a conference championship game. Not playing the game gives the Big 12 a competitive advantage. To drive his point home, Wilson made a golf reference that suggests Big 12 schools and Notre Dame are playing the equivalent of 17 holes while the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC are playing the entire back nine.

That is probably an unfair statement, of course, especially in the case of the Big 12. Unlike in the Big Ten, every Big 12 school plays the entire conference using a nine-game schedule for the 10-team conference. Wilson’s Hoosiers will not have to play Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern or Minnesota this season. A true champion can be crowned in the Big 12 by having every member play the entire conference. Wilson’s point, though, is the added challenge of playing a conference championship game has the advantage of padding a school’s strength of schedule, but also provides a giant risk by potentially missing out on a playoff spot or perhaps a spot in another lucrative bowl game with a loss. Of course, this argument is nothing new.

Notre Dame is a slightly different situation, as a football independent, but the Irish have established a track record of organizing competitive schedules. This season the Irish play Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina, Florida State, Arizona State and USC. All but Michigan appear in the preseason coaches poll. Indiana faces just two teams ranked in the same preseason poll this fall (Ohio State and Michigan State). Notre Dame has no started a new relationship with the ACC, guaranteeing multiple games each season against ACC competition, in addition to annual rivalry games against USC, Stanford an Navy. Notre Dame also takes their show on the road in the Shamrock Series against other power conference opponents on neutral sites.

Is Wilson out of line, or does he have a point worth discussing further? Feel free to share your opinions down in the comment section.

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Who replaces Bortles? UCF not rushing to find out

George O'Leary

It is that time of the year again when head coaches with vacancies at quarterback refuse to show their cards on making a final call on who will lead the offense on the field. This often happens at schools looking to replace established quarterbacks from the previous season, whether it be because the coach honestly is not sure which way to go with it or because he does not want to give the season opening opponent a hint of whom to prepare for in week one. Where UCF head coach George O’Leary falls on this subject is probably anyone’s guess, but he is not making any decisions on a starting quarterback to replace Blake Bortles anytime soon.

”I’ll let you know when I’m going to name one, it’s not a big secret,” O’Leary said, according to the Associated Press. ”I’ll let you know when I feel comfortable about somebody.

With Bortles now in training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, the competition is now wide open in Orlando. Sophomore Justin Holman is the lone option with any previous playing experience, but redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo, freshman Tyler Harris and redshirt sophomore and Boise State transfer Nick Patti are all going to be given a chance to win the job.

Reporters covering the Knights, defending American Athletic Conference champions, are not the only ones hounding O’Leary for an answer as camp opened up Thursday. “Everybody’s trying to get a jump on it,” O’Leary said. “My wife’s going to be the first one to know. And she’s out of the state, so good luck.”

It may be best to allow the competition play out with so much unknown about the new options, but there is a benefit to narrowing the decision down as quickly as possible. Knowing who will lead the offense during the season will give everybody on the offense a chance to develop an identity and comfort level with the quarterback. With a somewhat challenging schedule facing the Knights, getting as much taken care of early on could be a benefit in the long run.

UCF will open up the 2014 season in Ireland against Penn State in week one. The Knights topped the Nittany Lions in State College last fall, kickstarting their run to the Fiesta Bowl.

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Kirk Ferentz says 10-game conference schedules are coming

Kirk Ferentz

Every change in college football over the last few years has been about expanding and growth. That philosophy could be shifting to the length of a conference schedule. Forget about the debates over eight-game conference schedules or nine-game conference schedules. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz says 10-game conference schedules are coming, at least in the Big Ten.

While making his way through the ESPN car wash on Thursday, Ferentz was asked about conference scheduling when he dropped that thought for all to ponder. Via Brett McMurphy’s Twitter feed;

The Big Ten will be using a nine-game conference schedule, similar to the Pac-12 and Big 12. The ACC and SEC are sticking with eight-game conference schedules but adding a non-conference scheduling requirement for all members to add one game against another power conference opponent each season. The hypothetical 10-game conference schedule format would seem to solve a number of scheduling concerns for any conference with more than 12 teams, such as the ACC, SEC and Big Ten. With a two division format, six games are reserved for division games, leaving just two (ACC, SEC) or three (Big Ten) spots for cross division games. If a conference has locked crossover games (the SEC has paired crossover match-ups, the Big Ten scrapped them with its new division alignment), that reduces the number of opportunities to schedule other teams from the other division while rotating through the conference. The cross division scheduling may not be a major concern in the Big Ten, but it has been a topic of concern in the ACC and SEC.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said at this week’s Big Ten media day the Big Ten will stop playing FCS teams while discussing future plans to increase the strength of schedule for the entire conference. Moving to a 10-game schedule would likely have a positive effect on overall conference strength of schedule, but it also makes it more difficult for top contenders to get out of the regular season without a scratch. That could be something that comes back to haunt a Big Ten champion in the College Football Playoff era as well.

Are 10-game conference schedules a realistic possibility? Yes, although the question may be if that leads to the extension of the regular season from 12 games to 13 or 14. More games means more TV money, which means it is very much a realistic possibility.

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Oklahoma to return to Houston after 14 years, in 2016

Big 12 Football Media Days

Oklahoma will open the 2016 season in one NFL stadium, and if all goes well it could end in another. The Sooners and Houston have agreed to open the 2016 season in NRG Stadium in Houston, home to the NFL’s Houston Texans as well as the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff. The 2016 season will conclude with the College Football Playoff championship game in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Houston Chronicle was the first to report the possibility of a 2016 opener between the Sooners and Cougars, and Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com later confirmed the report to be a done deal via Twitter. The Texas Kickoff is one of the newest neutral site game sin college football, joining Atlanta’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff and the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas. The first game in the series was played last season between Oklahoma State and Mississippi State and continues this season with LSU and Wisconsin. Texas A&M and Arizona are scheduled to appear in the game in 2015.

This season’s game between LSU and Wisconsin is expected to top last year’s attendance of 35,874 fans, and next year’s game with Texas A&M involved should see a nice turnout as well at the gate. Oklahoma and Houston should make for a good crowd at the game as well, especially if Houston can continue to build its program between now and then and emerge as a top power from the “Group of Five” (I really hate that term) conferences.

Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Houston, 2-0. The most recent of those two meeting came in 2004, with the Sooners winning by a blowout score of 63-14. As noted by The Dallas Morning News, Oklahoma’s last trip to the city of Houston went well. The last time the Sooners were in town they left with the Big 12 championship after topping Colorado in the 2002 Big 12 Championship Game in the same stadium.

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Former Penn football player dies in lobster diving accident

Miami v South Florida Getty Images

A former Ivy League football player who was heading to the Miami Hurricanes this fall was the victim of a diving accident in South Florida. Joseph Grosso, a starting linebacker for the Pennsylvania Quakers, died in a scuba diving accident in Pompano Beach, Florida on Wednesday. According to multiple reports, Grosso was diving alone while lobster diving.

“The entire Penn football family is saddened by the tragic news of Joe’s passing,” Penn football coach Al Bagnoli said in a statement shared by The Daily Pennsylvanian. “Joe was a terrific young man, an accomplished student and an outstanding player. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family during this very difficult period.”

Grosso was added to the football roster for the Miami Hurricanes on Tuesday, according to The Miami Herald. Grosso was to be a walk-on for Al Golden’s program this fall after graduating from Penn. He was intending to continue with law school at Miami and play one mroe year of college football with the Hurricanes.

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Ohio State’s Sprinkle pleads no contest

Tracy Sprinkle

A dismissed Ohio State defensive lineman pleaded guilty to his role in a massive altercation outside an Ohio bar earlier this month. Tracy Sprinkle will now wait to see if he will be allowed to return to the Buckeyes roster in time for the fall season after pleading no contest for a reduced charge for failure to comply, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Sprinkle had his charges reduced after drug tests using various samples returned negative results just days after the arrest. Sprinkle had been facing a cocaine possession charge. Police admitted the drugs may have come from another person apprehended in the vehicle, according to Eleven Warriors. Because the drug test came back negative, Sprinkle was fortunate to be able to negotiate a lesser charge. He was fined $500 and placed on two years of probation. He will also be required to do some community service.

Sprinkle was arrested over the weekend of July 4 for his role in a bar brawl. He was later dismissed by head coach Urban Meyer, but an Ohio State spokesperson suggested a potential return to the team would not be eliminated from the discussion of his future.

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Florida State (over)loading up on QB recruits in 2015

Jameis Winston

It is amazing what a national championship can do to a program’s recruiting production. Just take a look at Florida State, now with three quarterback recruits verbally committed for the Class of 2015. For now.

As of today, Florida State has three four-star quarterbacks lined up in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. That includes in-state prospects Deondre Francois and De’Andre Johnson and Maryland recruit Kai Locksley, the son of Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley who surprised some Thursday afternoon by committing to the Seminoles. Locksley’s verbal came slightly before that of Francois, which makes the recruiting plan a bit interesting for Florida State moving forward. In case you forgot, Florida State is already in a pretty solid position under center with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, returning for just his sophomore season. Florida State also added four-star quarterback J.J. Cosentino in the most recent recruiting class. Simply put, life is good for head coach Jimbo Fisher as far as quarterbacks are concerned. Francois, Johnson and Locksley are all classified as dual-threat options, while Cosentino is scouted more as a typical pro-style quarterback. Winston, of course, is labeled a dual-threat quarterback as well, so that may give a sense for which direction Fisher would like to go on offense. Hey, it worked last season, but what do you do with all of that talent under center?

The first question to address is the future of Winston in Tallahassee. Winston has stated he intends to play two more seasons for Florida State before deciding on his pro future, which echoed comments made by his father earlier in the offseason. If Winston does stay on campus through the end of the 2015 season, the next question is what goes through the minds of four four-star quarterbacks hoping to be the next starter for Florida State? What are the odds Francois, Johnson, Locksley and Cosentino are all still in Tallahassee? They may not be all that great.

For Fisher, that is a problem he will have to begin sorting through now, although the additions of Francois, Johnson and Locksley will not become official until the next signing day, if they all choose to stay committed to Florida State. By then Fisher will have a better idea of whether or not Winston really will be back in 2015 or if he ends up heading into the NFL. The planning for the position all hinges on Winston’s decision, and Winston’s decision could be an influential one to the future decisions of the Class of 2015 quarterbacks. If Winston does come back, might one of these Class of 2015 quarterbacks re-open his recruiting process? It certainly would not be out of the question, nor would it be against the norm in college football recruiting. Florida State is even in a position where it would not be worth sweating over if one of the quarterbacks did start looking again.

Florida State’s recruiting “problem” is one that every program would love to have. There is never anything wrong with having too much talent in a recruiting class, just ask Alabama.

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Potential DL starter one of three no longer with Tar Heels

Shawn Underwood

North Carolina’s depth and talent on the defensive side of the  ball, especially along the line, has taken a hit ahead of the start of summer camp.

A UNC spokesperson confirmed to the Raleigh News & Observer that three players — defensive tackles Shawn Underwood and Greg Webb as well as linebacker Clint Heaven — are no longer on the UNC football team. The two defensive linemen left for personal reasons, while the latter has already transferred to Northern Iowa.

By the far the biggest loss is that of Underwood.

Underwood played in 20 games the past two seasons, starting five of those contests. He would’ve entered summer camp as a favorite to land a starting job.

Webb, a touted four-star member of UNC’s 2013 recruiting class, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season, while Heaven played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2013.

In addition to that trio, the status of offensive lineman J.J. Patterson is up in the air. Patterson played defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2013 before moving to guard this past spring.

(Photo credit: North Carolina athletics)

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Four-star 2008 signee-turned-MLBer returns to Bulldogs

Rashun Dixon

Apparently you can, in a sports sense, come home again.

In 2008, Rashun Dixon was a four-star member of Mississippi State’s recruiting class, the last of Sylvester Croom‘s tenure.  Dixon never suited up for the Bulldogs, however, as he was drafted in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Oakland Athletics and embarked on a career in professional baseball.

A handful of years later, however, he’s back.

According to InsideMSUSports.com, the 23-year-old Dixon has decided to return to the Bulldogs as a walk-on player.   Because he’s never played a down of college football, he maintains all four years of eligibility and could ultimately earn a scholarship.

At least in his past sporting life, the talent was certainly there.

Rivals.com rated Davis as a four-star recruit in 2008 and as the No. 19 safety in the country that year.  What specific position he will play in his second football go-around is to be determined, although the website wrote that “his No. 85 suggests he will be utilized on the offensive side of the ball,” which could mean either tight end or wide receiver for a player listed at 6-2 and 210 pounds.

After six years in Oakland’s farm system — he batted under .250 for his career — and following his release last fall, Dixon opted to give football another shot.  Dixon is the younger brother of Anthony Dixon, who led MSU in rushing every year from 2007-09.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Former Boise St. RB Aaron Baltazar now leaving Wazzu

Deon'tae Florence AP

Well that was abrupt.

Back in April it was announced that Aaron Baltazar had followed Chris Petersen to the state of Washington, transferring from Boise State into the Washington State football program.  Less than four months later?  Never mind.

A Wazzu spokesperson confirmed to the Idaho Statesman that the running back is no longer a member of the team.  No reason was given for the abrupt and unexpected departure.

In the short-term it’s no loss for Mike Leach and the Cougars as Baltazar would’ve been forced to sit out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Wherever he lands next, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.

As a true freshman last season, Baltazar was second on the Broncos in rushing before suffering a torn ACL the fifth game of the year and, obviously, missed the remainder of the year.

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Wake suspends leading returning rusher

Wake Forest v Miami Getty Images

One of the most important pieces of Wake Forest’s running game will apparently not be available for the foreseeable future.

A Wake spokesperson has confirmed to the Associated Press that Dominique Gibson has been indefinitely suspended from the football team.  Other than an undisclosed violation of team rules, no reason was given for the punitive measure.

Entering summer camp, he was being viewed as a likely starter, or at the very least one of the two heads in a two-headed rushing attack.

Gibson’s 138 yards last year made him the Demon Deacons’ leading returning rusher.  He had a pair of touchdowns in 2013, one each rushing  and receiving.

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