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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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Rutgers to name starting QB… at halftime?

Kyle Flood

By default we already know who the starting quarterback will be for Rutgers in the season opener against Norfolk State. Hayden Rettig has already been reported to be the starting quarterback for the Scarlet Knights in the first game of the season while Chris Laviano sits out the first half of the game. Laviano was suspended by the program for a violation of team rules in late August, but he — along with wide receiver Leonte Carroo — will be eligible to return to the game in the second half.

This is when Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is expected to announce his quarterback decision for the 2015 season.

“Hayden Rettig is the starting quarterback,” Flood said, according to NJ.com. “We’re going to evaluate the first half and we’ll make a decision at halftime as to how we’re going to proceed.”

Rettig and Laviano had been competing for the starting job as Rutgers looks to replace Gary Nova. There had been no real separation in the competition out of the spring and over the course of the summer, and it would seem the first-half suspension has not put much jeopardy in Laviano’s chances to claim the starting job. Opening against an FCS program is always a good opportunity to play multiple quarterbacks if there is still a question to be answered at the position, and Rutgers has some time to work through the situation before entering Big Ten play.

It might be good for Flood if he can get it figured out a little bit earlier though as Washington State is scheduled to pay a visit in Week 2. The Cougars are known to move the ball through the air with Mike Leach at the helm, and Washington State is looking to avenge last season’s wild season-opening loss at home to Rutgers. Rutgers visits Penn State in Week 3 to open the Big Ten schedule.

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CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: SEC Predictions

As the 2015 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC), HERE (Big 12) and HERE (Big Ten) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

SEC EAST

1. Georgia (10-3; beat Louisville in Belk Bowl)
There is one certainty when it comes to the East: UGA will not finish lower than third, a low-water benchmark for each of Mark Richt‘s 14 seasons in Athens that has included five division titles — none since 2012, though.  They return the most talent of any team in the division, although the fact that they opted for Grayson Lambert as the starting quarterback has me second-guessing my prediction.  It’s been a decade since UGA’s last SEC championship, and if they’re going to get back to that level they’ll have to do so with a schedule that includes both Alabama and Auburn as well as a road trip to Tennessee.  Still, anything less than an East title and a spot in the SEC championship game would be decidedly disappointing — and would lead to yet another offseason of “is it time to go in another direction?” speculation.

2. Tennessee (7-6; beat Iowa in Taxslayer Bowl)
Am I a year early with this lofty projection?  Possibly, especially given the team right below them.  Still, there’s no denying that Butch Jones has stuffed his talent cupboard after the barren years under his predecessor, Derek Dooley.  The Vols closed out last year on a positive note, going 4-1 down the stretch — the lone loss coming by eight to Mizzou — capping it off with an impressive 45-28 win over the Hawkeyes in the bowl game.  That final flourish coincided with Josh Dobbs‘ ascension as the starting quarterback.  With the scintillating playmaker poised to build off his first season at this level, the Vols could very well challenge both UGA and Mizzou for East supremacy.

3. Missouri (11-3; beat Minnesota in Citrus Bowl)
“Here we go again, denigrating the two-time defending East champion Tigers.” — the two Mizzou fans who frequent this site, probably.  And, actually, that’s an understandable reaction, given how the Tigers have been the class of the division the past two seasons.  They’re also one of the few teams in the conference that returns its starting quarterback.  Still, there are concerns along the defensive line — they return just five starters on that side of the ball, period — and their schedule doesn’t do them very many favors as they play at Georgia and Arkansas as well as play host to Mississippi State.  It wouldn’t shock me, though, if Mizzou made it three straight titles.  In fact, the only thing that would shock the system is if they finish outside the top three in the division.

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Nick Saban, winner of four national titles, says he should have won four more

Nick Saban

Winning a national championship is hard. Winning two can be even harder. Three or four? Nearly impossible in today’s world, but Alabama head coach Nick Saban has been the coach to have done it four times (one with LSU, three with Alabama). Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has three under his belt (two with Florida, one with Ohio State) and is looking for a fourth this season as well. Saban has proven capable of amassing enough talent to have a national title contender on an annual basis, but has ended the year with a postseason loss each of the past two seasons. That does not sit well with the Crimson Tide head coach, who said in a radio interview yesterday he feels he should have won four more national titles.

“We haven’t finished the season in the last two seasons like we’d like,” Saban said to ESPN’s Paul Finebaum (per Atlanta Journal-Constitution). “People talk about you won four national championships. Well, I feel like we’ve had good enough teams to win eight. So I feel like we failed four times. I feel like I failed four times.”

Alabama had a chance last season as the top seed in the new College Football Playoff. The Tide were turned aside by Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl semifinal game. The previous season Alabama missed a chance to play for the national title when Auburn stunned them in the Iron Bowl with the Kick-Six, knocking Alabama out of the SEC Championship Game out of the SEC West and relegating Alabama to a Sugar Bowl match-up with Oklahoma instead. You might say Alabama was one win away from a national championship each of the past two seasons. Alabama may have been a favorite against Jameis Winston and Florida State in the final BCS National Championship Game two seasons ago, and Alabama may have been a favorite against Oregon in last year’s College Football Playoff national championship game.

Saban also reflected on his coaching future while on air with Finebaum. He showed no sign of contemplating retirement, suggesting if he is in good enough shape to play golf for 16 more years, he should be able to coach as well. Saban will turn 64 years old this October.

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Could Sun Belt futures of Idaho, New Mexico State be in doubt?

Have you or anyone you know ever had one of those moments where you say something out loud during a conference call thinking your line is on mute – only it’s not? Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson may be fighting that feeling right now.

In a conference call heralding the addition of Coastal Carolina, Benson acknowledged far west members Idaho and New Mexico State could be on the chopping block.

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In his defense, Benson only acknowledged the obvious. Considering the Big 12 and ACC-led legislation allowing leagues to hold title games outside the 12-plus team, two-division structure should pass before Coastal Carolina joins the conference in 2017, adding a 12th team for the sake of holding a conference championship game makes about as much sense as…. having your conference footprint spread from Moscow, Idaho to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

That’s not to say the Vandals and Aggies should go packing their bags, however.

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Still, chalk that decision up to a commissioner throwing cold water on a line of questioning that he himself opened.

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Georgia (finally) receives approval for indoor facility

Georgia Southern v Georgia

For years, Georgia’s indoor facility was like that swarm of African killer bees you heard about as a kid: rumored to be on its way, though no one ever actually laid eyes on it.

Well, the bees have arrived.

The University of Georgia athletics board has approved construction on a $30 million indoor facility, to break ground after the 2015 season. The facility will run 140 yards long, 80 yards wide and 76 feet high.

Previously, the Dawgs bussed to the Atlanta Falcons facility when Mother Nature deemed necessary, a wart on the program coaches say was used against Georgia on the recruiting trail.

“I know he is excited for this day to come,” athletics director Greg McGarity said of head coach Mark Richt. “He is chomping at the bit to send renderings to prospects and team members and the coaching staff. And now we’ve got that done.”

“I know our competitors are not going to say nothing bad about the coaching staff here, they’re not going to say nothing bad about the people here because it’s a great place,” defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said last November. “One thing they’re going to say is, and that they’ve always said is, ‘How important is football at Georgia if they don’t have an indoor practice facility?’ Well they won’t be able to say that anymore.”

Half of the $30.2 million will come through the department’s reserve fund, and the other half through fundraising. Construction is expected to be complete “hopefully early on” in 2017.

“Getting the $15 million raised as quickly as possible would be optimal,” Georgia president Jere Morehead told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Here’s hoping the Dawgs can keep those bees out.

 

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Michigan State QB Connor Cook on not being named captain: “It stinks.”

Connor Cook

Ninety-nine percent of the time, a quarterback headed into his third year as starter on a successful team is chosen by his teammates as a captain. Connor Cook, it appears, is the one percent.

Cook was not chosen as one of three captains by his fellow Spartans – senior center Jack Allen, senior defensive end Shilique Calhoun and senior linebacker Darien Harris were – but still holds a leadership spot as a member of the 12-person “eagles council.” And, you know, by virtue of being a senior quarterback many believe will be a first-round pick next May.

Still, Cook spoke of the decision to the Detroit Free-Press:

“Obviously, I was disappointed. But we have the whole leadership council, the 12 guys, and I think the whole senior class takes pride in everyone being leaders. And we’re not all about the title and stuff like that. And I for sure want to be captain, but it’s not gonna limit me from leading. I think for the position that I’m in, being a quarterback here, that’s already assumed.

“I’ve been a leader here, I’ve been a leader since I’ve been starting here. The coaches believe in me, I think that’s been known. Coach D. believes in me, they all believe in me. My teammates believe in me. And they still look to me as a leader. And I am a leader on this football team. I may not be a captain, but every time I step in the huddle, everybody looks to me to lead. Every time we step on that football field, I touch the ball every single play on offense. And I lead that offense down, I lead it to game-winning drives. I’ve led us in big-time games before.

“And guys still look to me as a leader, and obviously it stinks not to be captain. But that’s why we have the leadership council, the 12 guys. Coach D. really likes to not just have three guys leading, but 12. We’ve got such a deep senior class, too. We’ve got guys like Shilique, Darien, me, Jack. Joel (Heath) is a great leader. If you could pick five captains, there would be five captains. If there could be six, there’d be six guys. All 12 guys are worth enough to be captains. But it’s definitely not gonna limit my leadership role. And it’s just gonna make me hungrier.”

So, there’s that.

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Nebraska hires PA announcer, fires PA announcer over critical Facebook post

McNeese State v Nebraska Getty Images

Strange story out of Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers recently hired Jon Schuetz as Memorial Stadium’s public address announcer, and then turned around and fired him one day later.

Schuetz, formerly the sports director for KETV-TV in Omaha, told his former employer he was fired after university officials discovered a social media post he made critical of former Huskers coach Bo Pelini. The post has since been deleted.

It is worth noting, of course, Schuetz was not a Nebraska employee at the time, and Pelini is no longer Nebraska’s head coach. Still, Schuetz told his former employer he holds no animosity toward the Huskers.

“If I were in their shoes, I would’ve done the same thing. I’ve hired people. I get it. … If you say something about a prospective future employer, it’s legitimate to say if you’re not on board with what we do here, maybe you shouldn’t be here,” he told the Omaha World-Herald. “I respect the decision. I hold no hard feelings toward anybody down there. The worst part is I feel like I’ve left some great people at HuskerVision in a difficult situation just a few days before the first game of the season.”

The post in question, according to the paper, appeared on Facebook on Nov. 30, 2014:

Harvey Perlman is as (sic) disgrace. Remember this was the guy who extended Steve Pederson’s contract only to fire him a few months later. When will he be held to account?

Schuetz was hired to replace Patrick Combs, whom the university dismissed this summer after he was arrested on suspicion of conning two elderly women out of more than $350,000.

Whomever the Huskers turn to next, they’d better do it quickly. Nebraska’s home schedule opens Saturday against BYU.

Update: The Huskers apparently found the one person that never criticized the program.

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Memphis suspends six connected to Miami Beach Brawl

Memphis v Mississippi AP

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall will announce which of his players were suspended because of their actions in last year’s bowl game after the 2015 opener is played.  His counterpart, however, is a being a little more forthcoming.

Monday, Memphis head coach Justin Fuente announced six players are facing game suspensions because of their actions in the infamous post-game Miami Beach Bowl brawl.  The official move comes seven months after Fuente announced that a dozen unnamed players would be facing various suspensions/sanctions for their roles.

The stiffest suspension was doled out to starting linebacker Leonard Pegues, who will have to sit for the first 1.5 games of the season. The senior will be forced to sit out the entire opener against Missouri State this Saturday, then the first half of the Kansas game the following weekend.

Additionally, defensive tackle Isadore Outing has been suspended for the opener for his role. Outing took a redshirt as a true freshman, and wasn’t listed on the two-deep depth chart.

Finally, four players were slapped with half-game suspensions: defensive back Chauncey Lanier and offensive linemen Michael Stannard, Trevon Tate and Nick Thomas. Lanier is the only starter in that sextet.

“The [American Athletic Conference] looked at the video for a long time,” Fuente said. “We looked at it for a long time. We tried to do our best to come up with the appropriate punishments.”

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UCLA indefinitely suspends CB Ishmael Adams

UCLA v California AP

Not surprisingly, there are immediate repercussions for Ishmael Adams’ alleged off-field misdeed.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Adams has indefinitely suspended from the football program.  The move comes roughly 24 hours after reports surfaced that Adams had been arrested in connection to an on-campus robbery.

It was subsequently reported that Adams had stolen the cell phone of an Uber driver.  Originally jailed in lieu of a $100,00 bond, Adams was released earlier today.

The fact that the suspension comes just four days before the opener means the defensive back will miss Saturday’s game against Virginia.  Mora said Adams will remain suspended until additional facts are gathered.

Such a stance could put Adams’ availability for the following week’s game against UNLV in jeopardy as well as a brutal four-game stretch that begins with BYU; continues with a road trip to No. 22 Arizona and a home game against No. 15 Arizona State; and concludes with a road date against No. 21 Stanford.

Adams has started 26 games at cornerback the last two seasons.  He’s also one of the top kick- and punt-return men in the country.

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Injury to sideline WKU’s second-leading rusher indefinitely

Western Kentucky v South Alabama AP

Whatever in-game breather Leon Allen was expected to get because of Anthony Wales‘ presence will, for the foreseeable future, be put on hold. Or entrusted to someone less experienced.

Wales sustained an undisclosed injury recently and will most certainly miss Western Kentucky’s opener against Vanderbilt Thursday. Head coach Jeff Brohm would only say that the running back is out indefinitely and his return is “a little bit down the road.”

Behind Allen’s 1,542 yards rushing and 13 rushing touchdowns last season, Wales was second on the team with 518 and five. He added 15 receptions for 127 yards coming out of the backfield for good measure.

Other than Allen and Wales, the only other running backs on the Hilltoppers’ roster who have carried the ball at this level are graduate transfer Anthony Davis (65 yards rushing in 2013 at Indiana, scout team player in 2014) and Darmontre Warr (29 yards total the past two seasons at WKU).

“There are some guys that we’re missing, but I like the guys we have,” Brohm said. “They’ve worked hard. At any point throughout the season, someone’s going to have to step up, and there will be a few this first game that will have to step up.”

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Sun Belt confirms Coastal Carolina’s addition in 2017

CCU SBC

Yesterday’s report has officially become today’s come-to-fruition news.

In a press release, the Sun Belt announced that Coastal Carolina has accepted an invitation to join the conference.  The Chanticleers will join the league for football in 2017, while they move all of their other varsity sports in a year earlier for the 2016-17 season.

Currently playing at the FCS level, CCU will begin a transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision with its first year of full FBS status coming in 2018. While they will be eligible to compete for an SBC title in 2017, they won’t be eligible for a bowl game until 2018.

“On behalf of all of us at Coastal Carolina University, I’m honored to accept the invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference,” CCU president David A. DeCenzo said in a statement. “I am grateful to Sun Belt Commissioner, Mr. Karl Benson, for his steadfast support of CCU, and to the Sun Belt presidents and chancellors, who honored CCU by selecting their 12th member school.”

The official addition of CCU will give the SBC 12 members beginning in 2017, triggering a conference championship game. The conference will be split geographically into two divisions.

Further, the addition makes for a natural geographic split between East and West to allow for certain sports to compete in a divisional format. The six members that are located in the eastern half of the Sun Belt are: Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, South Alabama, and Troy. The six members in the western half are: Arkansas State, Little Rock, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, UT Arlington, and Texas State. Idaho and New Mexico State compete in the Sun Belt Conference as football only members. CCU’s location makes for a natural geographical fit to the Sun Belt as it borders both North Carolina, home of Appalachian State, and Georgia, home to both Georgia State and Georgia Southern.

“This is a great day for the Sun Belt Conference as we are very proud to have Coastal Carolina University join our membership,” the commissioner said in his statement. “The Sun Belt is a growing conference with a bright future and Coastal Carolina makes a perfect fit as it too has seen a tremendous amount of growth and has all the tools necessary to move forward at the highest level of collegiate athletics. Under the leadership of President David A. DeCenzo and Athletics Director Matt Hogue, I expect the Chanticleers to be competitive in all Sun Belt sports and to represent the conference in a first-class manner on and off the field.”

(Graphic credit: Sun Belt Conference)

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Harbaugh has named UM”s starting QB — just not publicly

Zach Gentry, Shane Morris, Jake Rudock AP

Michigan released its depth chart Monday and declined to publicly name a starting quarterback, instead putting an “OR” between the two combatants for the job, Iowa transfer Jake Rudock (pictured, right) and junior “incumbent” Shane Morris (pictured, middle).  That, though, doesn’t mean Jim Harbaugh hasn’t done so privately.

On the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday, Harbaugh acknowledged that both Rudock and Morris know who will start the opener against Utah Thursday night. And, according to the coach, keeping the upcoming opponent in the dark about the identity of the starter is merely icing on the cake.

“I feel like I want both of them to prepare that they’re going to be the starter, I want both of them going into this game with the mindset that they’re one play away or starting, that’s the mindset I always want our quarterback and backup quarterback [to have],” said Harbaugh. “They know [who will start vs. the Utes]…

“We know who’s going to start, we know who’s going to go in second or who is going to go in next. We want them both to prepare like they’re going to be the starter. I don’t know how to make it any more clear than that.

“If [keeping Utah guessing] is another positive or byproduct of it, then we’ll take that as well.”

Most observers believe that Rudock has the inside track to the job based on his experience — he was a two-year starter with the Hawkeyes — although Morris has reportedly had a strong camp.

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Auburn’s spring game offensive MVP abruptly leaves Tigers

Myron Burton Jr., Stephen Roberts AP

To say the least this is interesting timing on Myron Burton Jr.‘s part.

Just four days before the start of the 2015 season, Auburn confirmed that Burton has decided to take his leave of Gus Malzahn‘s Tigers football program.  No reason was given for what was as a “mutual” divorce between the player and the team.

Burton was a three-star member of AU’s 2014 recruiting class.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

His main claim to fame during his brief time on The Plains was being name as the offensive MVP of the annual A-Day spring game a few months back.  In that game, Burton portended a potential role this coming season by catching seven passes for 124 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass from starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson.

From al.com:

Malzahn said the Tigers will move receivers among the three main spots to compensate for the departure.

“We’ve got three or four guys who can play both,” he said. “We’ll move people around probably more than we have in the past. We do have some depth at receiver we feel good about.”

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Report: George O’Leary wants to step down as HC at season’s end, assume full-time AD role

Tulsa v Central Florida AP

If George O’Leary gets his way, UCF will, in a few months, be searching for its first new head coach in over a decade.

In June of this year, O’Leary added the title of interim athletic director to his full-time job as head coach of the Knights.  O’Leary has since hinted that he would like to assume the AD job full-time whenever his coaching career is done, which, as it turns out, may be sooner rather than later.

Citing two school officials with direct knowledge of the situation, Dan Wolken of USA Today reports that “O’Leary… has expressed a strong desire to assume the [AD] position full-time and step down as football coach at the end of this season.” A national search for a permanent AD is reportedly on hold as university leaders mull over the O’Leary option.

Should O’Leary land the full-time job — it appears that’s far from a guarantee as, even as he has the support of the president, others are opposed — he intends to promote offensive coordinator Brent Key to head coach. Key is set to enter his 11th season on O’Leary’s Knights coaching staff.

As noted, though, there are those who are against the idea of O’Leary running the athletic department on a full-time basis, especially as the “e” word continues to bubble just below the surface of the national landscape. From Wolken’s report:

However, there is significant concern among others at UCF about whether the 69-year old O’Leary, who has no prior experience in athletic administration and has been coaching in either college or the NFL since 1980, is up to the job, particularly with [former AD Todd] Stansbury and a handful of other senior-level staff members departing in recent weeks, leaving the department short-handed and somewhat in disarray.

“No one (on ground level is) tracking with the president on this,” one person said.

This would potentially be a bad time for UCF to have its athletic department in chaos, particularly if the Big 12 decides to expand. Because of its location and large alumni base, UCF is part of a group of teams that constantly comes up in conference realignment speculation.

O’Leary’s first head-coaching job at the collegiate level came at Georgia Tech from 1995-2001. After the infamous Notre Dame résumé flap, O’Leary spent a couple of years as an NFL assistant before taking over the Knights in 2004.

After an 0-11 first season, O’Leary has guided UCF to an 81-49 mark the last 10 years. The Knights have won four conference titles in that span — two in Conference USA, back-to-back AAC championships in 2013 and 2014 — and appeared in the football program’s first-ever BCS game following the 2013 season, a 52-42 win over Baylor.

Prior to O’Leary’s arrival, the Knights hadn’t played in a bowl game since their ascension to the FBS level in 1996; during O’Leary’s 11 years, the Knights have played in seven bowl games.

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Pat Haden: action taken on Sarkisian was ‘in best interest of USC’

Steve Sarkisian, Pat Haden AP

In the wake of his embarrassingly inebriated incident earlier this month, some thought Steve Sarkisian should be suspended while still others thought a dismissal was in order. Pat Haden did neither, and Monday night he explained why.

During the course of and appearance on the “Trojans Live” radio show, the USC athletic director was asked about his handling of his head coach’s self-admitted inappropriate behavior and language at a school-sponsored function earlier this month.  Haden decided that a public admonition was sufficient for Sarkisian, who is seeking treatment to determine if he has an alcohol problem.

While he understands people will take issue with his tack, he said what he did was in the best interests the university, his coach and the Trojan football players.  From the Los Angeles Daily News:

“These kinds of decisions and particularly this one was given a lot of thought, a lot of careful thought,” Haden said. “Before the decision was made, I talked to and had conversations with medical professionals, trusted members of my staff, people I’ve known for a long time.

“We developed a confidential plan going forward. Steve has discussed the counseling part of it, which he’s started. I think it’s started off well, at least what he’s told me. Importantly, he’s approached it with an open mind.

“A lot of people are going to disagree with my decision. It happens all the time. But I believe the course of action we chose is in the best interest of USC and Steve Sarkisian. And maybe just as importantly, or more importantly, to our players and their best interest.”

While apologizing for his actions, Sarkisian stated that his behavior was caused by a mixture of alcohol and prescription medication.  A short time later, Sarkisian announced that he was handing over the vast majority of his play-calling duties to coordinator Clay Helton.

In the same radio interview, Haden claimed that he had no influence or input on that decision.

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