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The Fifth Quarter: Week One Rewind

Alabama Michigan AP

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

WINNERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOSERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Big Ten scheduling mandates Power 5 opponents, no FCS foes

Jim Delany

Starting in 2016 the Big Ten will roll out a new scheduling outline for all conference members to follow. In addition to the new nine-game conference schedule, the Big Ten will now officially lock out FCS opponents and ask members to schedule one game against another power conference opponent.

The Big Ten’s move away from no longer scheduling FCS opponents has been discussed openly for a few years now, and now it will be the standard operating procedure. What is slightly new is the mandated concept that one game per year against another power conference opponent will be required. The Big Ten joins the ACC and SEC in requiring its members to schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent.

Asked to clarify, Delany confirmed the outline is a requirement that must be met by each member university. What was left unanswered is whether or not independents like Notre Dame, BYU and Army meet that requirement. It is expected Notre Dame would satisfy the requirement, and the ACC and SEC recognize BYU as a power conference opponent. The SEC also counts Army in that category. (UPDATE: Delany later confirmed Notre Dame and BYU will count toward meeting the requirement.)

Delany stressed the focus on improving overall strength of schedule for the Big Ten, and this philosophy would seem to address that in the years to come. While many Big Ten teams already have games scheduled against other power five conferences, having it be a requirement offers more attractive games for fans and the all more important television partners. With the Big Ten media rights set to expire coming up, rolling out this scheduling strategy is also a wise business decision.

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Report: Alabama and Louisville opening 2018 in Orlando

Since the 1930s, Big Al, the Alabama Crimson Tide football team mascot has cheered the team to victo

Alabama may never again open a season at home. The Crimson Tide will reportedly open the 2018 season in Orlando, with Louisville lined up as the opponent for the season-opening contest. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com was first to report the 2018 game via Twitter.

Alabama now has the next three season openers booked for neutral site games, which means plenty of money coming Alabama’s way. The Crimson Tide open this season in Arlington, Texas against Wisconsin and open the 2016 season in Arlington once more against USC. In 2017 Alabama will face Florida State in Atlanta. Alabama opened the 2013 and 2014 seasons in Atlanta against Virginia Tech and West Virginia, respectively. This followed a season-opening game in Arlington in 2012 against Michigan. The last time Alabama opened a season at home was in 2011 against Kent State. The 2009 season opened in Atlanta against the Hokies as well. Alabama is also contractually obligated to play a game in Arlington in either 2019 or 2020.

Louisville is also getting used to this neutral site opener idea. The Cardinals will open the 2015 season in Atlanta against Auburn, and will face Purdue in Indianapolis to open the 2017 season.

It should also be noted the scheduling of this game in Orlando will also satisfy the non-conference scheduling requirement for both schools, with the ACC and SEC each requiring members to schedule one game against a power conference opponent. Of course, Louisville already satisfies its requirement by playing Kentucky.

Alabama and Louisville have faced each other just three times before, with the most recent game taking place in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl. Louisville won that game, 34-7, but Alabama had won the two previous meetings in 1976 and 1977 with blowout victories (winning by a combined score of 79-9).

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Nice guy Mike Riley says differences between Big Ten and Pac-12 not as drastic as before

Mike Riley

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley made his Big Ten media day debut in Chicago Friday morning, and he carried his nice guy persona as well as he ever has. When told he was one of the nicest coaches in the Pac-12, Riley shrugged aside as humble as he could. Riley was also asked about the differences between the Big Ten and Pac-12, to which he said the differences are not nearly as extreme as they used to be in decades past.

“Hard to blanket with one statement what a conference is today,” Riley said when asked about the difference between the styles of the Big Ten and Pac-12. “I think statistically the Big Ten is running the football more, but there is more diversity.”

Riley, of course, comes to Nebraska after coaching at Oregon State for the past 15 seasons. Riley took over the Beavers in 1997 and stayed with the program until taking a chance to take the Nebraska job. When asked about the timing of the new job, Riley said he and his wife agreed it was their last real chance to take a new challenge and adventure.

“We just love our life together, our life in football.”

Riley won over the Big Ten media, and it would appear the Cornhuskers are in good hands. Now we just have to see if he can win some games in Lincoln.

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Minnesota’s Jerry Kill says he’s been seizure-free for over a year

Jerry Kill

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill got the second day of Big Ten media days off and running Friday morning in Chicago, and he has plenty to be optimistic about in the coming season with a team ready to make a push for the Big Ten West division crown. Kill said his Gophers are getting faster and are closing in on being on par for giving Wisconsin a run for the division crown, and he is very high on his defensive secondary, which could be the best Minnesota has had since Kill’s arrival. But Kill will always be faced with a question about his health, and Friday morning was no different.

“I’m doing great,” Kill said when asked about his health. Kill said it has been over a year and a half since he has suffered a seizure.

Kill has a history of suffering seizures while coaching his team in recent years, although he has said time and time again it is nothing that is to be considered life-threatening or dangerous to his long-term health. In 2012 Kill suffered a seizure following a loss to Northwestern. The following season Kill was given medical treatment and did not return the second half of a game against Western Illinois. He would coach from the press box later in the 2013 season while spending time focusing on treatment and better manage his epilepsy but returned to the sideline during Minnesota’s bowl game and was on the sideline for the 2014 season.

Minnesota opens the 2014 season at home against TCU, the No. 2 team in the country according to the preseason coaches poll.

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No name games for Jim Harbaugh. Ohio State is “Ohio State” for Michigan coach

Jim Harbaugh

Perhaps the most anticipated media day press conference on this year’s media day calendar was the introduction of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh at Big Ten media day in Chicago. Today, the second of the two-day Big Ten media event, Harbaugh met with the media. The first question lobbed his way by one of the members of the media was about how he will refer to Ohio State, given the previous history between the two schools refusing to acknowledge the other by name.

“Ohio State is just Ohio State,” Harbaugh responded, before saying how great it was to see everyone in the room.

Harbaugh is a bit of a no-nonsense guy when it comes to his coaching style, so his decision to not get caught up in gimmicks to ramp up the rivalry is no real surprise. His predecessor, Brady Hoke, referred to Ohio State as just Ohio and that never really proved to amount to much. Meanwhile, Harbaugh’s counterpart in Columbus (Urban Meyer), likes to refer to Michigan as “That team up north.” It works for some, does not work for others.

Harbaugh’s simple answer though suggests Harbaugh has other things to worry about in getting Michigan turned around. He will also have 11 games to focus on before setting sights on Ohio State. Harbaugh will buy into the rivalry more, and likely will treat it much differently behind closed doors with the team when the time comes. But for now, Harbaugh has work to do.

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Backup DE Melvin Keihn requests release from Hokies

Virginia v Virginia Tech Getty Images

Ohio State’s not the only half of the OSU-Virginia Tech opener going through personnel attrition Thursday, although Tech’s is a permanent type — albeit much less damaging, potentially.

According to the Roanoke Times, a school spokesperson confirmed that Melvin Keihn (pictured, No. 51) has requested a release from his Tech scholarship and will pursue a transfer.  The defensive end is no longer listed on the Hokies’ online roster.

Keihn was a four-star member of Tech’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 16 outside linebacker in the country; the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Maryland; and the No. 226 player overall according to Rivals.com.  As a true freshman Keihn played in 13 games, with most of that action coming on special teams.

After spending most of spring practice as a No. 2 end, he had reps taking away and perhaps felt himself slipping down the depth chart, which perhaps triggered the decision to move on.

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‘Off-field issues’ lead to 2015 Vols signee leaving program

Kyle Oliver

While we had one 2015 signee (unofficially) joining a new Power Five football program Thursday, we have another (unofficially) departing one.

GoVols247.com is reporting that Kyle Oliver is leaving the Vols football team and will transfer to another, undetermined program. Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, Oliver “is leaving… because of unspecified off-field issues.”

On what may or may not be a related note to those unspecified off-field issues, UT lineman Charles Mosley was arrested earlier this month and charged with first-offense driving under the influence and speeding.  From a member of the UT beat, via Twitter:

UT has yet to address Oliver’s status with the football team, which will open up its third summer camp under Butch Jones next week.

The 6-4, 226-pound Oliver was a three-star member of UT’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 17 tight end in the country and the No. 14 player at any position in the state of Tennessee.  He also becomes the second member of the Class of 2015 to leave Knoxville in less than a week, joining wide receiver Jocquez Bruce.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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How will Urban reveal starting QB? ‘1st guy that jogs out at Blacksburg’

Urban Meyer

Barring a leak of some sort in the days leading up to it, you’re going to have to wait more than a month to find up just who will line up under center as Ohio State begins its title defense.

While holding court at Big Ten Media Days, Urban Meyer spent a significant amount of time discussing the blockbuster news from earlier in the day that four contributors, including All-American Joey Bosa, had been suspended for the 2015 opener on the road against Virginia Tech.  There were also, understandably, copious amounts of questions regarding the situation at quarterback.

Braxton Miller cleared up some of the mystery earlier this month by announcing that he will be moving to wide receiver/H-back, with Meyer saying today that he will personally coach Miller at the receiver position in the early days of a summer camp that will in the coming days.  That move pared the quarterback competition down to two: regular season hero J.T. Barrett and postseason hero Cardale Jones.

As for the process in determining a starter between the redshirt sophomore Barrett and redshirt junior Jones, Meyer stated that he and his coaching staff will be “keeping score of everything” during practices that will begin next week and scrimmages and, well, pretty much anything and everything that can be tracked.  The process has actually already begun, the Columbus Dispatch writes, with “[c]oaches… grading Barrett and Jones all summer regarding leadership, academics and the weight room.”

As for when Meyer will reveal who his quarterback starter will be in the game against the only team to beat his title squad last season?

There you have it.  Secrecy and misdirection will rule the day when it comes to Meyer dealing with the media and his quarterback situation over the next 39 days.

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Via Twitter, ex-UCLA DB Priest Willis announces move to A&M

Priest Willis, D.J. Foster AP

Nearly two months to the day he was moving on from the program with which he signed coming out of high school, Priest Willis has apparently found a new landing spot in which to continue his collegiate playing career.

In a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account early Thursday evening, Willis announced that he will be continuing his education at Texas A&M and play football for the Aggies.  The playing part won’t happen in 2015 as the defensive back will have to sit out the upcoming season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Then, beginning in 2016, Willis will have two years of eligibility remaining.

It’s at this point in the program where we note A&M has yet to officially announce Willis’ addition to the roster.

A four-star member of UCLA’s 2013 recruiting class, Willis rated as the No. 6 safety in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Arizona; and the No. 56 player overall according to Rivals.com. Along with fellow defensive back Tahaan Goodman, Willis was the highest-rated recruit in the Bruins’ class that year.

After sitting out his true freshman season as a redshirt, Willis played in nine games last season for the Bruins.

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Indiana loses leading returning receiver to torn ACL

Indiana v Ohio State

The news on the personnel front was decidedly negative for Indiana at Big Ten Media Days Thursday.

The most noteworthy is that J-Shun Harris sustained a torn ACL at some point this offseason. As a result, the wide receiver will miss the entire 2015 season.

Head coach Kevin Wilson stated during his time at the podium that “we knew for a long time j-Shun would be out.”

Harris’ 18 receptions and 168 yards receiving as a true freshman last season were fourth and third, respectively, on the Hoosiers. His two receiving touchdowns, meanwhile, were second on the team.

Thanks to attrition, Harris would’ve served as IU’s leading returning receiver. Instead, that honor among wide receivers now falls to Simmie Cobbs Jr. (114 yards) and Dominique Booth (eight receptions).

Additionally, the school announced that fifth-year senior offensive lineman Ralston Evans has been granted a medical hardship, which will end his football career. Evans started eight of the nine games in which he played last season, although the injuries, for the most part, prevented him from being viewed as a potential starter throughout most of the offseason.

“Injuries ended Ralston’s final two seasons and limited him this spring,” the head coach said in a statement. “He was a great player and is an even better man. Fortunately, Ralston will serve as a student coach this year. His leadership will continue to be invaluable to our team.”

Finally, Wilson also confirmed that projected cornerback starter Donovan Clark will be limited during summer camp because of a back injury.

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CFP won’t force Notre Dame, other independents to join a conference

kelly Getty Images

Over the past 10 days, in the midst of various conference media days, one of the talking points has suddenly become Notre Dame and its lack of a conference when it comes to consideration for a College Football Playoff spot.  Head coaches from Missouri to Clemson to seemingly everyone in between has been very publicly — and loudly — calling for the football-independent Irish to join a conference in order to be eligible for one of the four playoff spots.

If the South Bend institution is going to be forced into becoming a conference member (don’t count on it), the pressure won’t be coming from the folks who run the playoff.

Thursday, CFP executive director Bill Hancock, in a conversation with ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich, confirmed that there has been no internal discussions about forcing Notre Dame or the other two independents, Army and BYU, to join a conference in order to be eligible for one of their postseason slots.

“The three independents are perfectly happy being independent,” Hancock said. “They have the ability to craft their schedules to fit their needs. If their need and goal is to be in the playoff, then they’re in the same boat as everybody else. You better play a good schedule if you want to be in the playoff.”

When it comes to the Fighting Irish, that last sentence shouldn’t be a problem.

In 2015, Notre Dame will play nine games against teams from Power Five conferences (Texas, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, USC, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Boston College, Stanford) and three from Group of Five leagues (UMass, Navy, Temple). In 2016, it’s the exact same split between P5s and G5s.

In fact, those two regular season slates stack up quite well with the four teams that qualified for the inaugural CFP last year:

Ohio State — eight Big Ten games; one P5, two G5 non-conference games
Oregon — nine Pac-12 games; one P5, one G5 non-conference game; one FCS game
Alabama — eight SEC games; one P5, two G5 non-conference games; one FCS game
Florida State — eight ACC games; two P5, one G5 non-conference games; one FCS game

What Notre Dame would lack, the same thing that impacted the Big 12 last season, is a conference championship game on its résumé, something all four of those semifinalists had. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney suggested ND add a 13th game in lieu of joining a conference, although that would require a change in current NCAA bylaws that only permit a 13th game when a road trip to Hawaii is involved.

Like the Big 12 and its lack of a title game, Hancock stated that the Irish would have to weigh the benefits of joining a league — and a potential 13th game in the form of a conference championship game — against its storied history as an independent.

“The risks and rewards of conference championship games will always come into play,” Hancock said. “I feel the same way about Notre Dame that I feel about the Big 12. It’s impossible to quantify the effect of a championship game because you don’t know who’s going to win the game.”

In another breath, Hancock very plainly explained that a league title game had no impact on how the four teams were selected last year, even as some would suggest otherwise.

“Frankly, in the committee room, it wasn’t a factor,” Hancock said of a 13th game. “The committee has the luxury of looking at the full body of work from an entire season — 12 or 13 games — for each team, irrespective of what conference they’re in. Having been in the committee room, I can tell you, it’s just not a factor.”

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Recruit who had Mich. St. offer pulled after attending Ohio St. camp gets Buckeye offer

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Maybe this was the kid’s plan all along?

Quite the ruckus was kicked up over the weekend when it was reported that Michigan State had pulled the scholarship offer made to one of its 2016 commits, Gavin Cupp, because the player attended a football camp hosted by rival Ohio State.  As it turns out, it wasn’t Cupp’s attendance that was the issue; rather, it was the fact that Cupp didn’t let MSU know of his intentions and the perceived lack of “loyalty” that led to the yanking of the offer.

That left Cupp offers from, among others, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Virginia and West Virginia… but none from OSU.  Until today.

The Ohio high school offensive lineman confirmed to ElevenWarriors.com that he received a scholarship offer from his state’s flagship football program Thursday.  And, to say the least, he is a little bit excited over the development.

“It feels great,” Cupp told the OSU-centric website. “It’s just a huge relief and a childhood dream. I’m very happy at the moment.”

That said, Cupp, the No. 31 tackle in next year’s class according to Rivals.com, hasn’t pulled a trigger on a verbal commitment to the Buckeyes.  Yet.

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Four-star RB denied Wisky admission opts for ‘Huskers

Jordan Stevenson

For whatever academic reason, Wisconsin denied admission to touted 2015 signee Jordan Stevenson.  Now, though, they could very well have to face the running back once a season for at least the next three years.

While nothing is official from his new school, Jordan Stevenson announced on his personal Twitter account that he has decided to continue on with UW’s Big Ten West rival Nebraska.  Stevenson had taking a visit to Lincoln shortly after he was denied admission to the school with which he signed, then followed that up with a visit to Miami.  There was also talk that yet another visit, this one to Alabama, could be in the offing this weekend, although that never came to fruition.

For the past week or so, though, the Cornhuskers have been widely viewed as the favorites to land the player’s services.  Stevenson will be eligible to play immediately for the ‘Huskers in 2015.

Rivals.com had the Texas high school product as a four-star prospect, rated as the No. 27 running back in the country and the No. 34 player at any position in the state.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Urban on suspensions: ‘Get going. Move forward’

Urban Meyer

The announcements of the suspensions of four Ohio State football players — possibly related to marijuana and/or academics — dropped roughly three hours or so prior to Urban Meyer‘s turn at the microphone for Big Ten Media Days.

Not surprisingly, that particular topic dominated a good portion of the media Q&A with the head coach of the defending national champion Buckeyes.  Also not surprisingly, Meyer delved into very few details as to what led to the punitive measures.

“A violation of team policies.  That’s as far as I’ll go,” Meyer responded when the first query on a specific reason for the suspensions was tossed his way.  Meyer also acknowledged that he’s “known about the suspensions for a little while.”

The suspensions will be owned by junior defensive end Joey Bosa, sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, senior wide receiver Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson, who will all miss the opener because of the sanctions.  Meyer very powerfully intimated that the temporary losses should not be used as a crutch by his football team, mainly because he and his staff have collected the kind of depth that can withstand the impact of losing a player or players.

“The university, the athletic department has the policies that we expect and that I 100-percent fully support,” the coach said. “Whether it’s a sprained ankle or [other] stuff, you try to create a culture where a team knows how to move forward and not concern yourself.  When we lost Braxton [Miller] 10 days before the first game [of the 2014 season], you lose J.T. [Barrett] a week before the Big Ten championship game, you push forward.  We’re pushing forward.

“The comment I did make, we are playing an extremely talented team [in the opener vs. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg], very well-coached team on the road in a tough environment.  However, we have recruited very well.  So, get going.  Move forward.”

When pressed by a Tech beat writer regarding his greatest concern for an impact stemming from the suspensions, Meyer responded, “Off the get-go, arguably one of the best defensive players in the United States of America [Bosa] won’t play in that game, so that’s the one.”

Meyer did, though, attempt to mitigate the loss of Bosa by… referring back to the depth that’s been accumulated at the wide receiver and H-back positions before finally circling back to “the big defensive end.”

“I think if we stay healthy throughout training camp, and continue to improve,” Meyer began, before rattling off a sizable portion of his skill-position depth chart, “and [projected H-back/wide receiver] Braxton and then we have [wide receiver] Noah Brown, we have [wide receiver] Michael Thomas, you have [tight end] Nick Vannett,  you have [wide receiver] Johnny Dixon, [wide receiver] Terry McLaurin and [wide receiver] Parris Campbell, [running back-turned-H-back] Curtis Samuel, you know, we’ve recruited pretty good.  Now we have to get them ready to go play and I’ll know more as we get going.

“But I’m not overly concerned at that spot [defensive end].  Obviously when you lose the big defensive end, that everyone knows where he’s at, that is [still] a concern.”

In other words, Meyer wants to hear no excuses.  And he wants his players to know there are no excuses at their disposal, and that it’s very much next man up for the opener — just as it was when the Buckeyes lost two starting quarterbacks in its run to the title.

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Likely starting center abruptly leaves Cal football team

Ohio State v California Getty Images

Sonny Dykes will begin his third summer camp at Cal next week, and the head coach will do so without the projected anchor for his offensive line.

A school spokesperson confirmed to Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News that Matt Cochran is no longer on the Cal football team.  No reason was given for the abrupt departure, although the spokesperson did state that Cochran is still a student at Cal.

The junior’s brother, Aaron Cochran, is a sophomore offensive lineman for the Bears and remains a member of the team.

The past two seasons, Cochran has played in 13 games.  Four of those were starts, including three first three games at right guard in 2013.

With Cochran’s departure, a pair of redshirt freshmen, Addison Ooms and Michael Trani, are now the likely 1-2 at center on the depth chart.

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