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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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Hoke ‘not at all’ worried about Peppers bolting Michigan

Appalachian v Michigan

Whether it be because of Brady Hoke‘s tenuous hold on his job or all of the tumult surrounding the football program or the injuries or the frustration borne out of everything, there have been some rumblings that highly-touted 2014 signee Jabril Peppers could — could — be thinking about a transfer from Michigan.

For what it’s worth, and at least publicly, the talent true freshman’s head coach isn’t the least bit concerned.

No, not all,” Hoke said during a radio interview Thursday when asked if he was concerned about Peppers’ transferring.

“He came here for a lot of different reasons, and one of them is, as a young kid, he’s always loved Michigan. That was his team growing up in New Jersey. He knows the value of an education. He’s doing great in school, and (knows the value of this) education and what it can do after football.”

Two separate leg injuries have cost Peppers significant playing time his first season in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have played eight games this season, with the cornerback missing five full contests. He’s missed parts of two others due to the health issues.

As had previously been reported, Hoke allowed that a medical redshirt is a possibility. Then again, so is a return.

Michigan’s coach has not ruled out a potential medical redshirt season for Peppers, and he also hasn’t ruled out a return for the former five-star recruit at some point over the next four games.

He indicated Michigan will know “in the near future” what the ultimate fate will be for Peppers this season, whether he sits the rest of the way or attempts to come back and play.

If Peppers doesn’t play any additional games this season, he will be eligible for a medical redshirt.

Peppers was a consensus five-star recruit in 2014, rated as the No. 1 corner and the No. 3 player at any position in the country. Peppers served as the highest-rated recruit UM has ever signed since the founding of Rivals‘ back in 2002. The previous high was Ryan Mallett as the No. 4 player in the Class of 2007.

He earned a starting job at both corner and on the punt return unit.

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Sooners’ Joe Mixon reaches plea deal, avoids trial

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Provided he can keep his nose clean over the next year, Joe Mixon‘s legal issues will officially be behind him.

Multiple media outlets reported Thursday that the touted 2014 Oklahoma signee has reached an agreement in which he offered up a public apology as part of an Alford Plea. Mixon had originally been charged with acts resulting in gross injury in connection to a late-July incident.

Mixon’s attorney, Kevin Finlay, released a statement addressing the development.

“Today, Joe has made the decision that entering an Alford plea to the misdemeanor and accepting the short period of probation was the best course of action at this point in his life. Joe does not want to be a further distraction to his family, friends, teammates and the University of Oklahoma.

“Joe would like to apologize to everyone affected by this unfortunate chain of events. Joe looks forward to continuing towards his goal of becoming a successful student and athlete at the University of Oklahoma.”

For those wondering, an Alford Plea allows the accused to maintain their innocence even as they acknowledge that enough proof exists that they could be found guilty by a jury of their peers. In exchange for the plea, Mixon was given a one-year deferred sentence, 100 hours of community service and cognitive behavior counseling.

In mid-August, Mixon was suspended by OU for the entire 2014 season, a punitive measure that meant the running back would be excluded from any and all team activities.  The one-year suspension came about after Mixon was accused of punching a woman in a late-July confrontation, breaking four bones in her face and leaving her unconscious.  Media covering OU viewed a copy of the security tape that caught the exchange, including the knockout punch, between the woman and Mixon; Mixon’s attorney had previously claimed the altercation was preceded by racial slurs.

Mixon was a five-star member of the Sooners’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 running back in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the country.  He was the highest-rated member of an OU class that was ranked 15th in the country.

It’s expected Mixon will remain at OU and play for the Sooners in 2015.

UPDATED 1:19 p.m. ET: In a statement, OU president David Boren confirmed that, despite the criminal resolution, “Mixon will not play for out football team in 2014, including postseason competitions.”  As expected, “[h]e will have an opportunity to earn his way back on the team during the spring semester.”

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Bowlsby: LHN a boulder in Big 12’s TV road

Bob Bowlsby

If you love candor — remember his puppet comments after taking the job? — Bob Bowlsby‘s likely your kind of commissioner.  If you’re connected to the University of Texas’ athletic department?  Maybe not so much.

At the same luncheon Wednesday in which Bowlsby (once again) tapped the brakes on expansion, the commissioner also addressed the $15 million elephant squatting in the middle of his conference’s living room.  That pachyderm would, of course, be the Longhorn Network, a 24-hour television network subsidized by ESPN and dedicated to all things related to Longhorn sports.

It’s been a thorn in the side of the Big 12 ever since it was announced back in January of 2011.  It was a sore spot for Texas A&M prior for that school’s departure from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2012.  And even as it hasn’t seen the widespread distribution as originally thought — like the Pac-12 Networks, still no deal with DirecTV after reaching one with DISH in March — it’s still an entity that will bring the athletic department an average of $15 million annually over the 20-year life of the contract, much to the chagrin, private or otherwise, of the rest of the league.

Bowlsby pulled no punches in addressing the hindrance the LHN could become in future television/media negotiations for the conference.  From the Oklahoman‘s transcript, with my emphasis added in a couple of spots:

The Longhorn Network is a boulder in the road. It really is. They did something that almost no other institution in the country could do because of the population in the state, and we’re looking at some way to try and morph that around a little bit. … It really begs the question about, how are we going to get our sports in the years ahead? If technology changes in the next five years as much as it’s changed in the last five years, we’re not going to be getting our sports by cable TV. I don’t know what it’ll be. But increasingly, we’re using mobile devices … Google Network and Apple TV and things like that are coming into play. … I’m not sure the world needs another exclusive college cable network. Rather than trying to do what everybody else has done, I would much rather try to figure out what tomorrow’s technology is and get on the front side of that and be a part of what happens going forward and monetize that.

Exactly how Bowlsby and the Big 12 can navigate its way around the 20-year LHN deal when it comes to future deals involving television or other new media entities, if it does indeed become the obstacle the commissioner suggests it could, will be one of the fascinating questions to see answered moving forward.  Especially as it pertains to the ever-present and expansion speculation that simply won’t completely go away.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman)

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True frosh could start in place of TCU’s Doctson

Perhaps it was a tad too early for the optimism on Josh Doctson‘s availability after all.

The star TCU wide receiver suffered a sprained ankle in the blowout win over Texas Tech. Despite “drastic improvement” since, Doctson hadn’t returned to practice.

That changed Wednesday, although Gary Patterson said the wide receiver only practiced “a little bit.” The head coach also intimated that there is a very real possibility Emanuel Porter will start in place of Doctson in Saturday’s game against West Virginia in Morgantown.

“He had a good game last week,” the coach said of the freshman Porter. “Ran really great routes. A tenacious blocker. A 6’4″ wideout. It’ll be him or Josh [who'll start vs. WVU], one of the two.”

Doctson currently leads the Horned Frogs in receptions (35), receiving yards (573) and receiving touchdowns (seven).  Porter has six catches for 42 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman.  If he gets the nod against the Mountaineers, it’d be Porter’s first career start.

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Mack Brown, on coaching future: ‘If somebody calls, I’ll talk’

Kliff Kingsbury, Mack Brown AP

It remains to be seen whether Mack Brown will return to the sidelines as a head coach next season… or any season for that matter.

What remains clear, however, is that the coaching itch still appears to be there.  Probably.

Earlier this month, Brown’s attorney, Joe Jamail, acknowledged that his client “misses [coaching], frankly.”  During a College Football Playoff luncheon Wednesday, Brown was of course asked about his coaching future.  On that front, the current ESPN college football analyst left the door fairly wide open.

“I’m not going to call anybody.  I’m not going to pursue any jobs,” the 63-year-old Brown said, before adding, “If somebody calls me, I’ll talk to them.”

Brown made it perfectly clear that the right fit would be of the utmost importance as it pertains to a return.  That and the timing of the inquiries.

“I’m very happy with what I’m doing,” Brown began. “I talked to 10 coaches this spring and asked them their opinion of what happens when you get out of coaching.  Some got back in.  Some didn’t.  And they all said, ‘don’t put one minute’s thought into it until December, or late November.’

“And then, if somebody calls you and it excites you, you’ll talk to them.”

Whether that describes the SMU situation is unknown.

Brown, given his ties to the state, has been seemingly connected to that vacancy ever since it came open in early September.  His attorney acknowledged that the university expressed interest, even as athletic director Rick Hart said in a social media statement that “no one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives.”  There was also a report that “SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years;”  Hart flatly stated that there “has been no offer or discussion of compensation with any potential candidates.”

When asked about SMU specifically Wednesday, Brown stated “I haven’t talking to anybody about coaching football at this point.”

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Lawyer drops lawsuit against FSU’s Chris Casher

Caleb Rowe, Chris Casher AP

Four weeks after it was filed, a lawsuit against a current Florida State football player is no more.

According to ESPN.com, a civil lawsuit filed by Tallahassee attorney Adam Ellis against Chris Casher Oct. 1 has been voluntarily dismissed.  The suit stated that the defensive end had agreed to pay Ellis $2,500 for his legal services in connection to the May FSU student code of conduct hearing involving Casher; in a July letter, Ellis claimed he had received no payment.

A source told ESPN.com, however, that Casher had made restitution to Ellis, prompting the attorney to drop the suit earlier this week.  A pretrial hearing on the matter had been scheduled for Nov. 4.

Casher appeared at the hearing for his role in the Jameis Winston sexual assault allegations.  He was sentenced to one year of probation as a result.

In an unrelated matter, Casher was suspended for the Seminoles’ regular season opener before being reinstated in the days leading up to Week 2.

The redshirt sophomore has played in six games this season, with one start.  He’s listed as an “OR,” along with Jacob Pugh, behind starter Mario Edwards as FSU’s “Jack” linebacker on the depth chart heading into the Thursday night game with Louisville.

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Oklahoma WR announces he is leaving team via Twitter

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

Oklahoma’s wide receiver depth just got a tiny bit more shallow Wednesday night. Dannon Cavil, a redshirt freshman, has decided to leave the Sooners in search of a potential transfer.

Cavil announced his decision to leave the program the way all the kids do these days, via Twitter.

“After careful consideration and much prayer, I’ve decided to pursue a transfer from the University of Oklahoma,” Cavil tweeted. “This was not an easy decision to make however, I believe it is the right decision for me based on my goals and aspirations as a student-athlete.

As noted by The Oklahoman, Cavil never played a down for the Sooners despite enrolling early in 2013. Cavil sat out the 2013 season with a redshirt and had not seen the playing field this season for Oklahoma.

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

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Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett: I plan on playing Saturday

J.T. Barrett

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was roughed up against Penn State’s defense last week, but he has the full intention of playing this weekend. Barrett was reported to have a sprained MCL after Ohio State’s double overtime victory at Penn State.

“It would have to be something drastic that happens between now and Saturday, but I plan on playing Saturday,” Barrett said after practice Wednesday, according to Eleven Warriors.

Ohio State will host Illinois in Big Ten play this Saturday. His health will be of great concern for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes of course. Next week Ohio State visits Michigan State in what should be the Big Ten East Division championship game when all is said and done. It will also be Ohio State’s biggest chance to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee before a potential trip to the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes debuted at No. 16 in the first rankings released by the selection committee. Michigan State is in a much more favorable and respected position according to the committee, coming in at No. 8.

Barrett was kept in check by the Penn State defense for most of the night last weekend, but Barrett put the team on his back in the two overtime sessions by running for two touchdowns in the win.

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Jermaine Whitehead still earning his spot back at Auburn

Jermaine Whitehead

Auburn defensive back Jermaine Whitehead continues to work his way back into the mix on Auburn’s defense. This week he will continue to take over a spot on special teams as he gradually works back into the good graces under head coach Gus Malzahn.

Whitehead was welcomed back to the team last week after serving a team suspension. At the time, Malzahn stated Whitehead would have to work hard to earn his place back on the field. Whitehead previously started 26 games at safety for Auburn, so handling special teams responsibilities is clearly not the final goal for Whitehead if he is intending to earn his way all the way back.

Whitehead was suspended following a verbal confrontation with an assistant coach. The suspension ended up costing him four games.

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FSU RB Karlos Williams subject to Title IX investigation

Karlos Williams

Florida State will have to undergo a Title IX investigation connected to running back Karlos Williams. A statement from a university spokeswoman, Browning Brooks, confirmed to the Associated Press the university has a responsibility to follow-up on its own investigation after the incident in question was initially reported to police by the university.

“While each set of facts and circumstances is different, as a general matter notice of any Title IX-related issues would prompt an investigation,” the statement from Brooks said. Federal law states a university must investigate and possible Title IX violations if there is any awareness of possible violations. There is no confirmation Williams is guilty of any violations, and he has not been charged by police for any alleged wrongdoing at this time.

Williams is currently is being investigated by Tallahassee Police Department for his connection to an alleged domestic battery incident. The alleged victim has asked the police to discontinue the investigation, but the police department has continued with the case.

Florida State continues to be investigated by the Department of Education for its handling and response to possible Title IX violations related to quarterback Jameis Winston.

At this time, Williams remains eligible to play for Florida State this week. Head coach Jimbo Fisher said yesterday Williams is expected to play Thursday night at Louisville. The only thing that will change that at this point is if Williams is charged with anything by police.

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UCLA is only team perfect inside the red zone

UCLA v Colorado Getty Images

Successful teams tend to cash in once they enter the red zone, but which teams are doing the best once getting inside their opponents’ 20-yard line? So far this season, UCLA is the only team to have entered the red zone and put points on the scoreboard every time. The Bruins are currently on pace to edge Florida State’s red zone percentage of 97.26 percent. Florida State’s red zone success rate in 2013 en route to a BCS national championship was the best red zone scoring percentage dating back to at least 2008.

Florida State is once again thriving in the red zone this season as well though. The Seminoles are second best in the nation in scoring inside the red zone, trailing only the perfect mark established by UCLA. Auburn is also one of the best in the red zone, which may not be a shock given the offensive firepower the Tigers have to work with. Some of the other teams having good results inside the red zone might be a surprise at first glance. Iowa State and New Mexico State, each with two wins this season, are among the nation’s best at scoring in the red zone.

Top 10 Red Zone Scoring Percentages

  1. UCLA (100.00%; 30-for-30)
  2. Florida State (97.06%; 33-for-34)
  3. Iowa State (96.00%; 24-for-25)
  4. New Mexico State (95.65%; 22-for-23)
  5. Florida (95.45%; 21-for-22)
  6. Nevada (94.44%; 34-for-36)
  7. Auburn (93.55%; 29-for-31)
  8. Rice (93.33%; 28-for-30)
  9. Georgia Southern (92.86%; 39-for-42)
  10. Louisiana-Lafayette (92.59%; 25-for-27)
    Washington (92.59%; 25-for-27)

Red zone scoring success rates take into account all points scored, but which schools are maximizing their red zone opportunities the most? In other words, which schools have the best red zone touchdown percentages? Auburn, Georgia Southern and New Mexico State are the only three schools to rank in the top ten in top red zone scoring and red zone touchdown percentages s far this season.

Georgia Southern and Michigan State share the lead for most red zone touchdowns, but nine schools have a better touchdown percentage so far this season.

Top 10 Red Zone Touchdown Percentages

  1. Texas State (81.48%; 22-for-27)
  2. Arkansas (80.56%; 29-for-31)
  3. Old Dominion (77.42%; 24-for-31)
  4. USC (76.67%; 23-for-30)
  5. North Carolina (76.47%; 26-for-34)
  6. Texas A&M (76.47%; 26-for-34)
  7. Nebraska (75.00%; 27-for-36)
  8. Auburn (74.19%; 23-for-31)
  9. New Mexico State (73.91%; 17-for-23)
  10. Georgia Southern (73.81%; 31-for-42)
    Michigan State (73.81%; 31-for-42)

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Bowlsby doesn’t see “obvious candidates” for Big 12 expansion

Bob Bowlsby

The Big 12 is still sitting on a 10-member conference, which leaves the Big 12 without a conference championship game. It is unknown if the lack of a championship game will hold a Big 12 champion back from making the College Football Playoff, but the possibility does still have some concerned and wondering how this all plays out. For now, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is not focused on expanding the conference to 12 members to get a conference championship game back on the schedule because of the lack of ideal candidates available.

“In our case, I don’t know that there are a lot of obvious candidates out there,” Bowlsby said in a Q&A with The Oklahoman. “We’re distributing about $25 million per school through our distributable revenue, so anybody that would be considered for expansion in our league would have to bring at least pro-rata value.”

Schools that have been tied to some form of expansion rumor or another in recent years have included Florida State, Clemson, UCF, USF, Cincinnati and BYU. It has been a few years now, and there has been no movement from the Big 12 to expand after adding West Virginia and TCU. The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs were added following the departures of Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC, Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12.

“I don’t see much movement in the near- to mid-term,” Bowlsby said. “As we get near the end of some of these TV contracts, which would be 10 or 12 years down the road, there may be some renewed conversations. The only movement that is possible right now is from some of the secondary-level conferences that might move people into one of the five high profiles.”

Bowlsby also suggested any talk about super conferences — 16-team mega conferences that could potentially split from the NCAA model entirely — was nothing more than a fabrication crested by the media. He might be right about that.

“I have heard no serious conversation among people who do this for a living that the super-conference concept has got any traction,” Bowlsby said. “It’s always dangerous when the media starts to interview the rest of the media, and I think that’s where the super-conference thing came from.”

So, for about the 148th time in the past couple of years, the official company line from the Big 12 is the conference is not interested in expanding. At this time, there is no reason to suggest otherwise.

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Forget Marshall, where is Colorado State in new ranking?

Colorado State vs Utah State

Colorado State could very well go 11-1 this season, but even that may not be enough for the Rams to sniff a spot in one of the College Football Playoff affiliated bowls. We should still be paying attention to them though, just as we will East Carolina and Marshall.

As you hopefully are aware now, one spot in the access bowls will be reserved for the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference. In the initial College Football Playoff selection committee ranking unveiled Tuesday night, East Carolina entered the ranking at No. 23. Undefeated Marshall was unranked, and no other team from a non-power conference appeared in the poll either. This means East Carolina is now, I suppose officially, the team to beat in the rankings for the reserved big bowl spot.

Of course, East Carolina still needs to win the American Athletic Conference and still has games against UCF and Cincinnati to get by to make that happen. But the Pirates sit in a good position. Marshall is unranked but figures to be next in line if East Carolina happens to stumble. Although, an argument could be made for UCF or Cincinnati to pass the Thundering Herd if either gets by ECU in the American. We’ll worry about that down the line if it pops up.

But what about Colorado State? I previously discussed how Boise State is still an interesting cog in the race for the access bowl spot, and they are. So is Colorado State.

The Rams look to be one of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference and have two victories over power conference opponents, just like East Carolina. The rams have a neutral site victory over Colorado and flew across the country to Boston to take down Boston College earlier this season. The only team to beat Colorado State this season is Boise State, and herein lies the biggest obstacle for Colorado State to jump. And they can’t even do anything about it now.

Because Boise State defeated Colorado State, the Broncos own a head-to-head tiebreaker in the Mountain Division of the MWC. Both teams have one loss in conference play, so Colorado State needs to win the remaining games on their schedule. At the same time, Colorado State needs Boise State to lose at least once. Winning the division will allow Colorado State a chance to play for the Mountain West Conference championship, with a potential shot at a big bowl game on the line.

In theory, a 12-1 Colorado State team would have every bit as strong an argument to play in a New Years bowl as East Carolina. What’s more, the argument for Colorado State could also become stronger if East Carolina’s biggest wins (Virginia Tech and North Carolina) struggle down the stretch. If strength of schedule is an important factor in the rankings, and the evidence suggests it is, Colorado State could be on par with East Carolina. This should add a little more intrigue to this week’s ACC contest between Boston College and Virginia Tech.

Bottom line, Colorado State is still in the running. The Rams need some help along the way, and Boise State does appear to have a tougher final stretch than Colorado State, so there is hope.

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Texas A&M going really old school with uniforms this weekend

Texas A&M 1939 throwback uniform (2014)

The Texas A&M Aggies will be sporting some sharp throwback uniforms this weekend, honoring the legacy of the 1939 Aggies. At first glance, it looks like Texas A&M is going with a winged-helmet design similar to Michigan’s signature look, but the design is reminiscent of the design used on Texas A&M’s old leather helmets of the era. A handful of schools adopted this idea at the time, as it was supposed to make it easier to identify receivers.

The uniform is designed by Adidas, a company that has produced some uniforms on the receiving end of some ridicule with some regularity. That should not be the case here though. This uniform appears to have been thought out well and executed to near perfection. It is a terrific look that honors the past of the Texas A&M program, yet looks to fit in with today’s game. Adidas got one right here.

 

Texas A&M was named the national champions of the 1939 season by the Associated Press, although USC also claims a national championship that same season as the top-ranked team in the now retired Dickenson System. The Trojans began officially claiming that national championship as a part of program history in 2004, because that’s the thing to do these days. Led by College Football Hall of Famer and All-American John “The Haskell Hurricane” Kimbrough, Texas A&M went 11-0 in 1939, including a 6-0 record in the old Southwest Conference. The season ended with a 14-13 victory over No. 5 Tulane in the Sugar Bowl.

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Penn State o-line still waiting for return of Dieffenbach

Nebraska v Penn State

Penn State’s inability to get the running game going this season and provide adequate protection for quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been a result of a young and inexperienced offensive line, without much depth behind it. Not having one of its most experienced options on the line this season has hurt, but the return of offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach could be coming any time now.

Dieffenbach injured his knee in the spring and the rehab has kept him a spectator and cheerleader from the Penn State sideline this season. The fifth-year senior is hoping to be cleared by doctors to resume football activity before the season ends, but doctors have yet to provide the clearance needed to send Dieffenbach back on the field. With Penn State days away from hosting new Big Ten member Maryland, Dieffenbach’s availability remains in question for head coach James Franklin.

“It’s not just the physical aspects of it, it’s the muscle memory of technique and footwork he hasn’t done in six months and it’s also the confidence,” Franklin said this week. ”He’s practicing to a degree the last couple of weeks and hopefully he’ll have a bigger role this week and that will allow us to play him in the game a little bit.”

Penn State’s offensive line performed better against Ohio State than most games this season. A second bye week in three weeks may have helped the line find some identity in preparation for the Buckeyes, but there is no doubt having a fifth-year senior as experienced as Dieffenbach would give the entire line a boost.

Penn State hosts Maryland this Saturday at 12 p.m. eastern.

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