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Predictions 101 — Week 2

Mark Richt AP

While we went 6-1 overall last week, we pulled a Houston when it comes to the pocketbook. It was bad, but no one “got resigned” … yet. Maybe we just need to add a “few bad citizens” around here to find more success.

The fear this week is that our team will get caught peeking ahead past this week’s task at hand — an uninspiring quintet rescued only by SEC expansion — to next week’s far more attractive board that includes: Alabama at Arkansas, Florida at Tennessee, USC at Stanford, Notre Dame at Michigan State and BYU at Utah.

Week 2 doesn’t contain a single game pitting ranked foes against each other. We really had to scrounge around to fill out our Top 5 this week. It’s such a sad Saturday that Thursday’s Pitt-Cincy pillow fight made it.

Oh well, still way better than baseball.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thursday, Sept. 6 thru Saturday, Sept. 8)

1) No. 7 Georgia at Missouri
Sat., Sept. 8 — 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2

With nearly half of its starting defense out of uniform (four suspensions and one injury), Georgia was underwhelming in a 45-23 victory over Buffalo last Saturday. Mark Richt will need more hands on deck in Columbia to slow down the Tigers’ slippery spread led by dual-threat quarterback James Franklin.

Missouri, which is making its SEC debut, also deserves your attention in the other phases of the game, after reaching the end zone four times while the offense wasn’t on the field in its 62-10 smackdown over Southeastern Louisiana. Punt returner Marcus Murphy accounted for half of those non-offensive scores in the opener.

Even with all that firepower on the opposite sideline, the Bulldogs still figure to set the pace. Junior quarterback Aaron Murray has a pair of senior wideouts to target and freshman running back Todd Gurley had an impressive debut last week with a TD hat-trick that included a 100-yard kickoff return.

They’ll put the Bulldogs out in front and Jarvis Jones & Co. will make sure they stay there.

Missouri defensive end Sheldon Richardson disagrees, but “old man football” still wins the games in this league.

Opening point spread: Georgia by 3 1/2

The pick: Georgia 27-20

2) No. 24 Florida at Texas A&M
Sat., Sept. 8 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

As the Gators’ 27-14 victory over Bowling Green last Saturday illustrates, it’s good to open versus an opponent that you can work out the kinks against without a heavy threat of getting tagged with a loss.

The Aggies had their version of that sort of runout all set up against Louisiana Tech, but Hurricane Isaac forced a postponement, leaving this visit by Florida as their lidlifter. Yowza.

No pressure, Kevin Sumlin. Your first game in charge at College Station is just Texas A&M’s debut in the SEC. Don’t worry, no one will remember that billboard. And Herbie, Desmond and Coach Corso will be there with you to break the matchups down.

It’s a tough spot for redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. He has  wideouts Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu, and rebuilt running back Christine Michael to lean on, but Florida’s ultra experienced defense will swallow up most of what the Aggies have to offer from their new attack.

On the other side, Gator sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel has emerged from a competition with Jacoby Brissett, but it’s still a shaky situation, which isn’t helped much by inexperienced receivers. But they’ll be going against an Aggie secondary that is similarly young and senior running back Mike Gillislee seems capable of shouldering a significant share of the offensive burden.

Opening point spread: Texas A&M by 2 1/2

The pick: Florida 23-17

3) Washington at No. 3 LSU
Sat., Sept. 8 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai’i.

Keith Price is back to trigger a Husky offense that’s expected to be explosive. Early in the opener versus San Diego State, the attack appeared as advertised, but when tackle Ben Riva went down, the offense went with him for the final three quarters.

Against a far-from-dominant defense, the Washington offense showed that it will struggle in the post-Chris Polk era. Without a take-charge running back, the play-action game will struggle and Price won’t be able to take advantage of an unsettled LSU defensive backfield.

Tigers in Seattle are nothing like Tigers in Death Valley. It’ll be a long night for the Dawg offense.

We’ve been hearing that new coordinator Josh Wilcox will work with a much improved Husky defense. Well, giving up 199 rushing yards to the Ronnie Hillman-less Aztecs doesn’t bode well when Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard and a bigger, meaner offensive front brings it in the trenches. Both Tiger backs will go over the century mark for the second week in a row.

The Huskies are still a few years away from approaching college football’s elite.

Opening point spread: LSU by 22

The pick: LSU 38-10

4) No. 13 Wisconsin at Oregon State

Sat., Sept. 8 — 4 p.m. ET, FX

We don’t know what to expect from the Beavers, who had their opener versus Nicholls State postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. But, really, what would we have learned? Perhaps it serves them well that the Badgers didn’t get a peek and they’ll be better rested.

Wisconsin wasn’t impressive against Northern Iowa, needing to bat down a pass on fourth-and-1 to preserve a 26-21 victory in Madison.

The Badger offense led by new quarterback Danny O’Brien (a “Russell Wilson rule” graduate of Maryland), new coordinator Matt Canada and good ol’ Montee Ball was vanilla as usual and generally effective versus the FCS squad.

The Wisconsin defense, however, could be a concern in Corvallis as the Panthers seemed to figure out coverage schemes and took advantage in the second half.

Oregon State’s young backfield of Sean Mannion (sophomore) and running backs Storm Woods (redshirt freshman) and Malcolm Agnew (sophomore) could be just balanced enough to topple the visitors.

The Beavers are usually good for at least one of these a season, having beaten nine ranked teams since 2005.

Opening point spread: Wisconsin by 11

The pick: Oregon State 28-24

5) Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Thurs., Sept. 6 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Last week wasn’t a good one for teams from Pennsylvania with new coaches at the helm, hosting teams from Ohio.

Road games after wakeup calls have a way of bringing clear focus to a squad, at least that’s what Paul Chryst is hoping happens for his Panthers.

Except for the fact that Pitt has a short week to rest and retool before this Thursday tilt, this all puts Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones in a difficult spot. Not only would he have preferred the Panthers take care of Youngstown State as expected, but to have a played a game prior to this conference opener would have been nice too.

Pitt, which also might be bolstered by players coming off suspensions, has several wicked weapons. They just weren’t sharp right out of the box.

The Bearcats will go down that same road.

Opening point spread: Pittsburgh by 2

The pick: Pittsburgh 23-21

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Penn State at Virginia
Sat., Sept. 8 — noon ET, ABC

This prediction comes courtesy of Marc Doche (@MDoche) from the P101 satellite office in Burbank, Calif.

Maybe a home game against a team they were supposed to beat wasn’t the best recipe for the Nittany Lions to begin their new regime and get the attention back to business on the field.

Often times a road trip does a squad in turmoil some good. And while there’s no escaping the past and the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with it, Penn State players now have the experience of dealing with the distractions.

The Lions seemed in control of their opener versus Ohio, but the bubble burst after halftime when they surrendered 301 yards of total offense and allowed the Bobcats to convert on 11-of-12 third-down attempts.

Virginia junior triggerman Michael Rocco was 25-of-37 for 311 yards and a touchdown in last Saturday’s 43-19 victory over Richmond, spoiling the Spider coaching debut of his uncle, Danny Rocco.

Penn State might be drained and shorthanded, but it ain’t no FCS squad. If Nittany Lion running back Bill Belton can overcome an ankle injury and help control the ball on offense, the defense can regroup to avoid a repeat of the sloppy second half effort against Ohio that saw them outscored 21-0.

Smiling faces in Happy Valley are long over due.

Opening point spread: Virginia by 5

The pick: Penn State 24-20

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Iowa State at Iowa
Sat., Sept. 8 — 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

It’s the 60th renewal of the Cy-Hawk Series, which dates back to 1894.

This isn’t the most balance rivalry around as Iowa owns a 39-20 advantage. Last year, however, Iowa State broke a three-game losing streak with a 44-41 triple-overtime win in Ames. The last time the Cyclones won on the road in Kinnick Stadium was in 2002, but that 36-16 upset was a doozy (the Hawkeyes’ only setback of the regular season).

Judging from their respective openers, this one is a tossup, especially since our friends in the desert tend to underestimate the Cyclones.

Iowa waited until 2:15 remained in the fourth quarter to score its only touchdown in an 18-17 come-from-behind victory over Northern Illinois at Solider Field last Saturday. Four field goals normally won’t get the job done against anybody, but the Hawkeyes escaped. Credit the Iowa defense, which held the Huskies to just 201 total yards, only 54 of which came through the air.

Iowa State, on the other hand, overcame a horrific start and scored 24 unanswered to beat a decent Tulsa squad, 38-23, last week in Ames. Quarterback Steele Jantz was 32-of-45 for 281 yards. He sprayed his aerials around to nine different receivers and accounted for three touchdowns.

The Cyclones, who displayed a sturdy defense in the final three quarters versus the Golden Hurricane, will be tested by Hawkeye sophomore tailback Damon Bullock, who rushed for 150 yards and that lone touchdown (a 23-yarder on third-and-9). However, Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg passed for only 129 yards and was sacked six times, giving something new offensive coordinator Greg Davis to work on.

Opening point spread: Iowa by 4

The pick: Iowa 26-24

Week 1 record: 6-1

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Academics may cost Tulane its leading returning rusher

This is certainly no way to head into your first summer camp in a new conference.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, running back Rob Kelley might not be cleared academically and, if so, would be sidelined for the entire 2014 season.  Head coach Curtis Johnson told the Times-Picayune he’s “waiting to hear Kelley’s final summer grades,” although it doesn’t sound promising.

Last season, Kelley was second on the team with 420 yards and three touchdowns.  He also added 18 receptions (fourth on the team) for 176 yards and another touchdown.

With the departure of Orleans Darkwa for the NFL, Kelley served as the Green Wave’s leading returning rusher.  He’s also the only player on the roster this season who scored a rushing touchdown last season.

Tulane, which officially moved from Conference USA to the AAC, will open the season Aug. 28 against fellow first-year AAC member Tulsa.

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Report: Oklahoma confident in DGB’s eligibility in 2014

Dorial Green-Beckham

Oklahoma is hoping to have wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham ruled eligible to play this season, despite transferring from Missouri after playing last fall for the SEC East champions. The Sooners are banking this expectation on a waiver being approved by the NCAA. The waiver is fueled by the run-off rule, according to The Oklahoman.

The run-off rule allows a player to be ruled eligible at a new school if the player is in good academic standing and the previous school files paperwork confirming the player was not invited to return to the program. That appears to be the case for Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed by Missouri this offseason.

That particular detail could change the whole outlook for the transfer and eligibility of Green-Beckham to Oklahoma, but it also puts the NCAA in a difficult position as far as public relations is concerned.

Although Green-Beckham was never charged in an alleged break-in of an apartment that reportedly involved shoving a woman down stairs, he has had his infractions of rules in the past while at Missouri that raise a caution flag. The NCAA typically allows for exemptions to be made to the typical transfer rules for players in good standing and under certain conditions for hardships. Oklahoma is looking to use these exemptions to their benefit, and the NCAA may be put in a position where it may not be able to defend against the process and grant immediate eligibility.

But should they?

UPDATE (5:53 PM ET): TCU head coach Gary Patterson chimed in with his take on this news story, via Twitter. It pretty much speaks for itself.

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Richt confirms two-game suspension for Davin Bellamy

Bellamy_Davin

As expected, an off-field incident will have on-field consequences for yet another Georgia football player.

At his press conference ahead of the start of summer camp, head coach Mark Richt confirmed that, per school policy, Davin Bellamy will be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season.  Bellamy was arrested last weekend and charged with driving under the influence.

Such an offseason offense requires UGA student-athletes be suspended for 20 percent of their team’s regular season games the upcoming season.

A three-star member of last year’s recruiting class, Bellamy took a redshirt for his true freshman season.  He’s expected to compete for a backup job.

Bellamy was the seventh UGA player arrested this offseason, prompting athletic director Greg McGarity to publicly express his frustration with the recent spate of off-field incidents.

(Photo credit: Georgia athletics)

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Report: Pittsburgh suspends potential starting cornerback for 2014

Florida State v Pittsburgh

The Friday afternoon news dump is reserved for news just like this. Pittsburgh has suspended defensive back Titus Howard for the entire 2014 season. As of now the cause for the season-long suspension is unknown, although to make this kind of decision seems to suggest there is a serious reason behind the decision.

Jerry DiPaola was first to report via Twitter.

For now we are left to assume this will be classified as a violation of team rules.

As DiPaola made note, Howard was listed at the top of the depth chart for the Panthers heading into the summer camp before the start of the season. He played in 11 games last fall for the Panthers and started in two of them as a freshman. One of those starts came in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against MAC champion Bowling Green.

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Tee Shepard cleared, can play for Ole Miss in 2014

Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl Getty Images

The roller coaster ride that is Tee Shepard continued down the tracks Thursday, with the talented defensive back receiving some good news on the qualifying front.

Citing an Ole Miss spokesperson, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported overnight that Shepard has been cleared academically and will be a part of the Rebels football team in 2014.  Because he played at a level below the FBS in 2013, Shepard will be permitted to play this season and have three years of eligibility remaining.

Shepard had originally given a verbal commitment to rival Mississippi State before flipping to Ole Miss three days later on signing day this year.  That was merely the latest leg of what’s been an interesting journey for the player.

Notre Dame announced back in March of 2012 that Shepard was no longer enrolled at the school, two months after he enrolled as an early signee as part of the Irish’s 2012 recruiting class.  The stated reason for Shepard’s decision at the time was the desire to be back closer to his family in Fresno.

After leaving South Bend, Shepard considered transferring to Fresno State as well as USC before ultimately landing at a junior college.

Shepard, a four- or five-star player depending on the recruiting service, was rated as the No. 4 corner in the country in the Class of 2012 and the No. 11 player at any position in the state of California by Rivals.com.

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Report: Miami QB Kevin Olsen suspended for at least a game

Florida v Miami

It appears that Jake Heapsdesire to become Miami’s starting quarterback has seen the path cleared a bit.

While there has been no official confirmation from the school, Adam Kuperstein of NBC 6 in Miami is reporting that Kevin Olsen has been slapped with at least a one-game suspension.  The reason behind the suspension?  A failed drug test, Kuperstein reported.

The Palm Beach Post‘s Matt Porter wrote on Twitter that he has “heard rumblings about [an] Olsen suspension this week, but haven’t confirmed.”  Porter also notes that Olsen was suspended for Miami’s bowl game last season for undisclosed reasons.

If the most recent report is accurate, Olsen would miss at least the season opener against Louisville on Labor Day, which also serves as the ACC opener for both teams.

It would also mean that, more than likely, Heaps would be the man under center.  With Ryan Williams likely out until at least the beginning of October at the earliest with a torn ACL, Heaps and Olsen were expected to commence a battle in summer camp to replace Stephen Morris.

If Olsen’s status were in doubt, it could also bring a pair of true freshman — Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier — into the mix, at least for a temporary backup job and perhaps a starting job if Heaps, a Kansas transfer, struggles the way he has throughout his career.  Kaaya is the most touted of the two, a four-star member of UM’s 2014 recruiting class rated as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the country.

Rosier was a three-star member of The U’s most recent class, rated as the No. 20 dual-threat quarterback.

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Starter among three defensive players suspended by Tide

Alabama v Auburn

We noted earlier that Jacob Coker took to the field for the first time Friday as an Alabama football player.

Three of his new defensive teammates, however, didn’t join him.

At his summer camp kick-off press conference, head coach Nick Saban confirmed that three players — defensive linemen Brandon Ivory and Jarran Reed and linebacker Tim Williams — have been indefinitely suspended from the football program. The reason given, of course, was the standard violation of unspecified team rules.

Reed’ suspension, though, can be traced to a recent off-field incident. In mid-July, Reed was arrested and charged with drunk-driving after he was witnessed backing into another vehicle.

A short time later it was reported that Reed and running back Kenyan Drake, arrested last month as well on an obstruction charge, had been suspended; Drake practiced Friday, which means he’s served his suspension to Saban’s satisfaction.

The most notable of the announced suspensions was Ivory’s. Last season, the now-fifth-year senior started 12 games for the Tide and will be expected to fill a similar role when he returns.

As for when that might be, al.com wrote that Saban said, alluding to all three, that they “can work themselves back onto the team but did not provide a timetable.”

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Jacob Coker takes field for first time as Tide QB

Florida State v Wake Forest Getty Images

Ever since Jacob Coker officially transferred from Florida State to Alabama, it was assumed he would take over for AJ McCarron as the Tide’s starting quarterback.

Friday, that assumption was put to its first official test.

This morning, the Tide took to the practice field for the first time as Summer Camp 2014 commenced.  One of the players with the most eyeballs on him was, of course, Coker.

Al.com has some video footage of the new QB on the block playing a serious game of long toss with some receivers that you can view by clicking HERE.

Coker was joined on the practice field by Blake Sims and Cooper Bateman, the other two pieces to what’s expected to be a three-man competition.  None of the three has ever started a game at the collegiate level; because Coker, ahem, nearly beat out Jameis Winston for FSU’s starting job prior to the 2013 season, he’s viewed as the favorite.

Sims has spent last season as McCarron’s primary backup, with that familiarity leading some to believe he would have the edge.  However, with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin installing his scheme, any advantage for Sims on that front is largely negated.

So, just who will end up starting for the Tide?  Allow Nick Saban to answer that question.

“We’re looking for the guy — success is defined by consistency in performance, alright,” the head coach said back in March. “So who can be the most consistent guy doing his job well at that position? Alright, now that’s a critical position because that guy distributes the ball to someone on every down, whether he hands it to them, throws it to them. The choices and decisions that they have to make goes a long way in how effective and efficient your offense runs.”

In other words, keep track of who makes the fewest mistakes in the weeks leading up to the opener, because that’s the one who’ll take the field first against West Virginia in the Georgia Dome.

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New ‘Husker uniforms modeled by… Bo Pelini?

Bo Pelini Cat 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami: Micheal Barrow takes sabbatical

Michael Barrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: Miami athletics)

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

Georgia v Florida Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘Canes abruptly lose long-time LBs coach Micheal Barrow

Micheal Barrow

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: Miami athletics)

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

Kevin Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who replaces Bortles? UCF not rushing to find out

George O'Leary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kirk Ferentz says 10-game conference schedules are coming

Kirk Ferentz

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

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

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

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

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

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