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The Fifth Quarter: Week 2 Rewind

Daniel Rodriguez

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

WINNERS

A true American hero
If you don’t know the story of Daniel Rodriguez, you are truly missing out on one of the most inspirational narratives of the 2012 college football season. Short version: Rodriguez’s father passed away mere days after his son graduated from high school, a tragic turn of events that pushed the aspiring college football player into a military career.  Rodriguez ultimately served two tours of duty in the Middle East — one in Iraq in 2007 and another in Afghanistan in 2009 — and received the Bronze Star Medal of Valor and the Purple Heart for his time during the latter tour.  After leaving the military, he worked his way into becoming a walk-on wide receiver at Clemson.  On Saturday, Rodriguez caught the first pass of his collegiate career [/goosebumps], a mere four-yard reception during the No. 12 Tigers’ 52-27 beatdown of Ball State that was the culmination of well over five years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice.  God bless you, Daniel Rodriguez, for what you’ve done for this country and for the inspiration that you’ve surely become to the countless individuals who’ve become aware of your uplifting story over the past few months.

No. 1 holds serve. No. 2? Meh
No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 USC were favored by a combined 64.5 against Western Kentucky and Syracuse, respectively; only the former truly held up its end of the bargain.  The Tide, which vaulted past the Trojans into the top spot in the polls following its season-opening thumping of Michigan, had little trouble with 39-point underdog Western Kentucky, easily handling the Hilltoppers 35-0 in posting its fourth shutout in the past 15 games.  Quarterback AJ McCarron was again his quietly productive and efficient self, passing for 219 yards and four touchdowns in the win, while the Tide defense limited WKU to 224 yards and just 1.6 yards per rush attempt.  The Trojans, on the other hand, struggled mightily for 45 minutes against Syracuse in a “neutral-field” game in New Jersey.  Leading just 21-16 after three quarters of play, the Trojans ultimately pulled away from the unranked Orange in what became a 42-29 win.  Matt Barkley tied a school record — his own school record — with six touchdown passes, although he may have lost his starting center to injury for an extended period of time in what would prove to be a significant development given USC’s NCAA-related depth issues.  Add the two results together, and it’s very likely the Tide will do nothing but extend its lead over the Trojans when the next set of polls are released early Sunday afternoon.

Buckeyes’ Braxton ballin’
Braxton Miller accounted for 296 of Ohio State’s 411 yards of offense in the 31-16 win over UCF, the second win in as many tries for first-year OSU head coach Urban Meyer.  And, in those first two games, Miller has essentially been the entire offense for the No. 14 Buckeyes.  The sophomore quarterback has accounted for exactly 70 percent  (664 yards) of OSU’s 949 yards of offense the first two games, and has scored seven — three passing, four rushing — of the Buckeyes’ 11 touchdowns.  Once again, there was a reason Meyer has been downright giddy over the opportunity to coach Miller, and the player has shown exactly why the first two weeks of the season.

Klein’s Cats clobber ‘Canes
Yes, it’s Alliteration Day here at CFT.  And, yes, this very easily could’ve put Miami in the opposite category, what with it being the Hurricanes’ worst loss since the final game at the Orange Bowl in 2007.  Instead, however, Bill Snyder and Kansas State deserve some plaudits and recognition.  Simply put, the No. 21 Wildcats took The U to the woodshed and throttled their non-conference opponents 52-13.  KSU nearly doubled-up the ‘Canes in total offense (498-262); held a Miami offense that had rushed for 208 yards in the opener to just 40; and possessed the ball for nearly 15 minutes more than its competition.  Add in another productive day for quarterback Collin Klein — keep him in mind as the Heisman race creeps into the latter portion of the season — and it totaled a evisceration of the once-mighty U.  It also signaled to Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, et al that, when it comes to the race for the Big 12 title, do not overlook Snyder’s Wildcats.

RichRod rises
Hide your eyes, West Virginia and Michigan fans.  He’s back… with a vengeance.  After turning his back on his home state, and after nearly running one of the most storied programs in college football history straight into the ground, Rich Rodriguez landed on his feet on the other side of the country, taking over for Mike Stoops at Arizona.  And, in just two games, RichRod has scored the signature win of his brief desert tenure.  In a victory that was as dominating as it was surprising, the Wildcats took control of No. 18 Oklahoma State early on and never lifted its foot off the throat, whipping the Cowboys 59-38.  OSU actually outgained Arizona by nearly 100 yards, but four turnovers and 14 penalties for 157 yards ultimately ended up being the Cowboys’ undoing.  Regardless of how or why, though, the magnitude of the win for Rodriguez and the football program cannot be overstated.

LOSERS

Woo pig phooey!!!
With Tyler Wilson on the field, Arkansas was comfortably in control of its game with Louisiana-Monroe, cruising along with a 21-7 first-half lead that grew to 28-7 early in the third quarter.  After Wilson was injured and missed the final two-plus quarters?  All hell broke loose, shattering any hopes the Razorbacks had entertained in pushing its way into the BcS title game picture.  The Warhawks scored the final 21 points of regulation, including a touchdown with 47 seconds left, to send the game into overtime.  After holding the Razorbacks to a field goal on their first possession, ULM scored on a fourth-and-one, a 16-yard touchdown run by Kolton Browning — he of the 481 yards of total offense and four scores — that stunned all of Fayetteville and the whole of college football.  As Ben deftly noted, the 34-31 loss is far from a death knell for UA’s SEC title hopes, but it certainly doesn’t portend anything other than the Razorbacks once again being a West division also-ran — especially if Wilson is out for any length of time. Oh, remember, Arkansas hosts mighty Alabama next week.

College football
Last week, Savannah State was dropped 84-0 by Oklahoma State.  This weekend, the FCS school entered its game with Florida State as 70-point underdogs — and promptly lost 55-0 in a game that featured a running second-half clock and was then halted in the third quarter because of, ahem, inclement weather.  It was yet another insult to any fan with a lick of common sense.  And it’s the kind of scheduling crap that must stop, even as I’m fully aware that the Seminoles had almost no choice after being ditched by West Virginia.  The scheduling of overmatched teams by perennial Top 25 football programs is an embarrassment to the game, especially ones that involves FCS-level teams.  It’s a disservice to the sport and to the school’s fans, fans who are forced to pay regular-season prices for tickets, concessions, parking, etc. in an in-the-toilet economy for what amounts to nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.  Fortunately, the new playoff system that will be in place following the 2014 regular season, provided the new system as expected has a strength-of-schedule element, should go a long way toward ending the abomination that is games such as this one.  Until then, fans have no choice but to deal with the unsightly gorging on cupcakes in which many a program partakes.  And all the while paying full price as they choke on it.

2012 Big 10 football
The start of the new season hasn’t been kind to the Midwestern football conference.  Michigan was taken to the woodshed in front of a national television audience by Alabama, dropped by the defending BcS champions 41-14 in the opener in a game that wasn’t even remotely as close as the final scored may have indicated.  A week later, No. 13 Wisconsin, the odds-on favorite to represent the Leaders division in the Big Ten title game, was stunned by unranked Oregon State in Corvallis, a 10-7 loss that further dented the conference’s image nationally.  Not only that, but No. 16 Nebraska was decisioned 36-30 by UCLA of all teams, making the Big Ten the only conference this season to have three ranked teams go down in defeat.  Arguably the most impressive team in the conference two games in has been Ohio State, but the Buckeyes are ineligible for the 2012 postseason thanks to NCAA sanctions.  Add in Penn State’s off-field “issues” that have morphed into on-field struggles of epic proportions, and it appears 2012 could be a tough row to hoe for the Big Ten.  Speaking of which, Michigan State, the Big Ten hoe’s in your hands apparently.

New kids on the SEC block
It wasn’t the debuts for which either Missouri or Texas A&M were hoping.  Both schools were handed home dates for their new-conference openers, and kicked that gift horse square in the mouth.  The Aggies jumped out to a 17-7 first-half lead against No. 24 Florida before channeling their inner Mike Sherman, allowing 13 unanswered points en route to dropping its first-ever game in SEC play.  Likewise, Mizzou held a 17-9 lead in the third quarter before No. 7 Georgia ripped off 24 straight points to spoil the Tigers’ inaugural foray into the SEC.  There was a silver lining, however: both teams showed, at least for one game, they can hang with some of the best the East has to offer.  The other division, though, might be a different matter entirely, particularly for West member A&M.

Nittany Lions kicking themselves… or the kicker
I really hate to put Sam Ficken in the “Losers” category, but, damn son.  In the 17-16 loss to Virginia, the kicker missed a total of five kicks — four field goal attempts and one point after try.  Included in that total was a 42-yard attempt with no time left that would’ve given Bill O’ Brien his first win as Nittany Lions head coach; almost as soon as it left Ficken’s foot, however, it was destined to sail wide left, leaving O’ Brien and the Nittany Lions at 0-2 on the young season.  The way the loss transpired highlights just how devastating the NCAA sanctions were for the football program.  As part of those sanctions, any current player or incoming freshman was permitted to transfer without sitting out a season.  One of the handful of players to take advantage of those liberal transfer policies?  All-conference kicker Anthony Fera, who left for Texas shortly after the penalties were announced earlier this year.

Northeast football fans
The New York/New Jersey area absolutely loves its NFL football.  College football?  Yeah, not so much apparently.  The No. 2 team in the country, USC, and Syracuse played a game Saturday at MetLife Stadium — the new Meadowlands — in East Rutherford, N.J.  Not that you could tell a game was being played by taking a look at the stands, though:

(Photo credit: Los Angeles Daily News’ Scott Wolf)

The official attendance was announced at 39,507, which likely included anyone within a quarter-mile radius of the stadium.  Yes, the weather was bad — the game was delayed for more than an hour by storms — but the combination of one of the best teams in the country plus a team from the state of New York warranted a stadium that was, at bare minimum, three-quarters full, not one that was at best at a third of its capacity.

0-2=Uh-Oh
In games at Auburn that Gene Chizik has had Cam Newton under center, the Tigers are 14-0.  In games without Newton, AU is 16-12, including a 0-2 start to the 2012 season.  The latest post-Newton loss came at the hands of Mississippi State, which came away with a 28-10 win in the SEC opener for both schools.  The rumblings were there before the start of this season, and will certainly grow louder with the winless start: can Chizik win at Auburn without Newton?  Add in Chizik’s two-year Iowa State tenure, and the coach is 21-31 in games in which the 2010 Heisman winner has not been at his disposal.  It may not be a fair question, but it is a question that many, many individuals will ask in growing numbers if the losing continues.

Did you say “Utes?”
You ever have one of those days where you just knew you never should’ve even remotely considered getting out of bed?  Friday was that day for Utah.  Not only did the Utes loss to in-state little brother Utah State 27-20 in overtime, but — again — lost starting quarterback Jordan Wynn to yet another shoulder injury.  Wynn missed the the last two months of the regular season last year with an injury to the same non-throwing shoulder.  The loss to the Aggies, incidentally, was the Utes’ first since 1996, a streak of 12 straight wins that was snapped by the road defeat.

The state of Colorado
FCS-level Sacramento State 30, Pac-12 member Colorado 28.
FCS-level North Dakota State 22, MWC member Colorado State 7
CFT correspondent Max Cady, take it away…

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

No. 19 Michigan 31, Air Force 25: An Alabama Slammer hangover?  Whatever the case, the Wolverines were fortunate to come out of the home game without a second-consecutive loss to start the season, with the Falcons giving up the ball twice on downs in the last five minutes.

No. 22 Notre Dame 20, Purdue 17: With Tommy Rees coming off the bench in his first game back from suspension, the Irish kicked a 27-yard game-winning field goal with seven ticks left on the clock to escape with the win.

– No. 24 Florida 20, Texas A&M 17: Unlike the previous two games, the Gators were expecting a tussle in the Aggies’ first-ever SEC game.  And that’s exactly what UF got, falling behind 17-7 in the first half before scoring 13 unanswered points to remain unblemished on the young season.

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

1. Alabama — The Tide has outscored its first two opponents 76-17, showing no signs of a 2010-style, post-title malaise. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: at No. 8 Arkansas

2. USC — The ho-hum three quarters of play vs. Syracuse notwithstanding, the Trojans are clearly one of the best teams in the country.  (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: at No. 25 Stanford

3. LSU — Following an impressive waxing of a quality opponent in Washington, I was tempted to move the Tigers ahead of the Ducks.  And I ultimately gave into that temptation. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: vs. Idaho

4. Oregon — All you need to know about Oregon in Week Two is the Ducks rolled up 383 yards of offense and 35 points in the first half of its win over Fresno State.  Still, I had no choice but to drop the Ducks down a spot. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: vs. Tennessee Tech

5. Georgia — You go into an SEC member’s house — even a sparkling new one — and come out with a party bag that includes a 21-point win, you earn a spot at the big-boy table. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. FAU

HE SAID IT
“It took him seven years and two wars to get his first college reception. But he has no bigger fans than his teammates.” — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, speaking of a true American hero.

GAMEDAY SIGN OF THE DAY
(via KegsnEggs)

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

Denard Robinson rushed for 218 yards, threw for 208 more and scored four touchdowns in Michigan’s win.  It was the third time he’s topped 200 yards in rushing and receiving in the same game, becoming the first player to accomplish that feat since at least 1996.  Texas’ Vince Young did it twice last decade.

– Making his first collegiate start in place of an injured Connor Shaw, Dylan Thompson threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns in No. 9 South Carolina’s 48-10 non-conference romp over East Carolina.  Knowing the Ol’ Ball Coach’s penchant for “shifting directions” at the position, is a quarterback change in the offing for the Gamecocks?

– Clemson’s Spencer Benton booted a 61-yard field goal in the Tigers’ win over Ball State, setting an ACC record in the process.  Benton bested the old conference mark of 60 yards by Florida State’s Gary Cismesia in 2007.  He also broke the school record, which had been 57 yards by two different players.

– Quarterback Collin Klein scored four touchdowns — one passing, three rushing — in Kansas State’s rout of Miami.  He also threw for 210 yards on just nine completions.  In the past 15 games, incidentally, Klein has rushed for 30 touchdowns.

– Yes, it came against an FCS-level opponent, but Tennessee’s Tyler Bray completed 18-of-20 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns in the Vols’ 51-13 rout of Georgia State.  Justin Hunter, returning from a season-ending injury a year ago, was Bray’s top target, catching three of those touchdowns among his eight receptions and 146 yards.

Damien Williams rushed for 154 yards and scored four touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 69-13 win over Florida A&M.  Williams became just the fourth player in school history to rush for more than 100 yards in each of his first two games.

– Wide receiver Andre Davis broke USF’s single-game receiving record with 12 catches for 191 yards and two scores, including a 56-yarder from quarterback B.J. Daniels with :38 left that gave the Bulls a come-from-behind 32-31 win at Nevada.

– In Minnesota’s drubbing of FCS-level school New Hampshire, Marquies Gray passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two more — in the first half.  As the Gophers were up 30-0, the quarterback watched from the sidelines the second half.

– Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez (no relation) had a career-long 92-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter of the loss to UCLA, a run that was the longest by a Nebraska player since Eric Crouch’s school-record 95-yard touchdown run at Missouri in 2001.  On his other 12 carries, by the way, Martinez totaled just 20 yards.

– Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater passed for a career-high 344 yards in the No. 23 Cardinals’ 35-7 win over Missouri State.

– Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo accounted for 405 yards of total offense — 271 passing, 134 rushing — in the loss to USF.

– TCU quarterbacks Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin combined for 17-of-17 passing in the Horned Frogs 56-0 win over Grambling State. Those numbers represent an NCAA record for most team attempts without an incompletion. The previous-best mark was 12-of-12 in 2002.

– With one against Stephen F. Austin Saturday, SMU’s Margus Hunt has now blocked nine field goals in his career, a new NCAA record.  In addition to the fied goals, the 6-8 defensive end has also blocked six extra point attempts.

– Ohio State senior cornerback Travis Howard intercepted three passes in the first six quarters of the young season — two in the opener against Miami of Ohio, one in this weekend’s win over UCF.

BEST WISHES…
… for a speedy recovery to Tulane safety Devon Walker, who suffered a fractured spine in a horrific teammate-on-teammate collision during the loss to Tulsa.  The senior was on the field for several minutes before being taken to a local hospital for further treatment.  In a statement, Tulane stated that Walker “is in traction with a lot of swelling in his neck” and “the current plan is for him to have surgery in the next one to two days.”  From all of us here at CFT, from Ben and I to our readers, many prayers and much positive energy are extended for a full recovery for the young man.

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Five-person committee to steer SEC search for Slive replacement

Mike Slive

Just a little over a week after Mike Slive not-so-unexpectedly announced he would be stepping down as the commissioner of the SEC next year, the conference has taken the next expected step in securing a replacement.

The SEC announced in a press release Thursday that it is set to launch its search for Slive’s successor.  As part of that search, Vanderbilt chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos, current chair of the SEC’s presidents and chancellors, has appointed a five-person committee charged with the task of hiring the eighth commissioner in the conference’s history. The Fab Search Five are:

  • Dr. David Gearhart, Arkansas chancellor
  • Dr. Judith Bonner, Alabama president
  • Dr. Eli Capilouto, Kentucky president
  • Dr. Mark Keenum, Mississippi State president
  • Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, Missouri chancellor.

Dr. Gearhart’s will serve as the committee’s chairperson.

“The SEC has enjoyed an era of unprecedented success under Mike Slive and at the same time has been a leader in dramatic change in the landscape of college athletics under his direction,” Zeppos said in the statement. “It is critical to have an efficient transition of leadership in order to continue our success on the fields of play as well as to identify a staunch advocate for academic achievement, integrity and sportsmanship. Our objective is to seamlessly maintain our conference’s participation in shaping the future of intercollegiate athletics.”

It’s widely believed that the SEC’s current chief operating officer, Greg Sankey, is the current favorite to take over for Slive.  Before what many assume to be the inevitable happens, though, the committee will undertake a search that’s national in scope.

As for a timeline, there’s not one specific in nature.  The release, though, stated that “the presidents and chancellors hope to select the new commissioner in a timely manner to allow a transition period before Slive’s retirement on July 31, 2015.”

By most accounts, the conference would like to have the successor in place around the first couple of months of the new year to allow for as smooth a transition as possible.

“The SEC has enjoyed an era of unprecedented success under Mike Slive and at the same time has been a leader in dramatic change in the landscape of college athletics under his direction,” Zeppos said. “It is critical to have an efficient transition of leadership in order to continue our success on the fields of play as well as to identify a staunch advocate for academic achievement, integrity and sportsmanship. Our objective is to seamlessly maintain our conference’s participation in shaping the future of intercollegiate athletics.”

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Report: SMU ‘floating $4 million annually’ to entice Mack Brown

Mack Brown

If SMU fails to land Mack Brown as its next head coach, it won’t be for lack of trying.  Or financial incentive.

In a piece detailing just who may emerge as legitimate candidates for the Mustangs job opened by June Jones’ abrupt retirement two games into the 2014 season, Dallas Morning News writer Bill Nichols dropped the intriguing nugget below a handful of paragraphs into the article:

And basketball’s quick ascension under Larry Brown seems to have galvanized the school’s football commitment.

Thus, it’s not shocking that SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years, sources say. Brown, 63, fits the Larry Brown model — a national championship winner who can land star prospects on name alone.

A $4 million-per-year commitment would more than double Jones’ 2013 salary of $1.9 million. The healthiest salary for an AAC head coach in 2013 was the $3.7 million earned by Louisville’s Charlie Strong, who, oddly enough, replaced Brown in Austin. Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville made $3.1 million at Cincinnati last season, while Strong’s successor at the UofL, Bobby Petrino, will average $3.5 million annually on a seven-year contract.

In his final season at Texas, Brown pulled in just over $5.4 million.

All of the discussion involving Brown, SMU and salary, though, is wholly dependent on whether the coach wants to return to the sidelines.

Earlier this month, the former UT head coach’s attorney confirmed that SMU had approached his client about a return to the sidelines. While acknowledging that Brown misses coaching, the attorney, Joe Jamail, flatly stated that “he’s not interested in coaching anywhere right now.”

Brown, currently serving as a college football analyst on ESPN, himself said a week earlier that he will decide in December if his coaching career is done.

Should Brown decide to take over the reins at SMU, he’d be stepping into an on-field mess.  The Mustangs’ offense has scored 39 points in six games this season; 14 teams are averaging at least that many points per per game.  UConn is the second-lowest scoring team in the country, and they’ve nearly doubled up SMU’s output (77 points in seven games).

To add insult to offensive injury, the Mustangs rank dead last in points allowed at 48 per game.  Not so unexpectedly, they are 125th out of 125 teams in total defense (548.8 ypg) and next-to-last in total offense (249.2 ypg, ahead of only Wake Forest’s 206.7).

On the flip side, the Mustangs qualified for four straight bowl games from 2009-12 before missing out with a 5-7 record in 2013, so there is a recent track record of both some modicum of talent and success.  Still, it’s a significant rebuilding effort for anyone who takes over, let alone an individual who will turn 64 prior to the start of the 2015 season.

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Texas OC, Okla. St. trade lawsuits over play-calling duties

Joe Wickline AP

Just who is calling plays for Texas in 2014 is at the heart of a pair of lawsuits that have begun their journeys through the legal system.

Oklahoma State filed a lawsuit Oct. 17 (case summary HERE) against former OSU assistant and current Texas co-offensive coordinator Joe Wickline in which the university essentially accuses Wickline of lying about the duties his new position entails.  Wickline left the Cowboys in January to become the Longhorns’ co-offensive coordinator along alongside Shawn Watson; in that role, Wickline would reportedly hold play-calling responsibilities.

That latter aspect is key as, the Austin American-Statesman wrote, “Wickline would owe OSU the balance of his contract unless he was named offensive coordinator ‘with play-calling duties’ or went to the NFL.” The balance of that contract is nearly $600,000, which OSU is seeking in its lawsuit.

The impetus for this legal back and forth appears to have been triggered, in part, by Wickline’s new boss. Back in mid-March, ESPN.com wrote, “[UT head coach Charlie] Strong changed course publicly, clarifying that Watson and Wickline would share play-calling duties and that ‘the one final voice will be Shawn.'”

Six days later, Wickline was sent a letter from OSU athletic director Mike Holder that contained the following passage.

“Further, it has now come to our attention that you do not have ‘play-calling duties,'” Holder wrote in a letter dated March 24. “Instead, it appears that your head coach has confirmed that Shawn Watson, not you, will be calling the plays. Thus, in reality it appears you unilaterally and voluntarily terminated the Contract to make a lateral move and as such a waiver of the liquidated damages clause of the Contract is not triggered.

“While OSU wishes you every success in your endeavors and burgeoning career, it is paramount to OSU that contract terms be taken seriously and that they be strictly enforced in the interest of professionalism. Accordingly, OSU will insist upon payment of the liquidated damages clause of the Contract.

It’s readily apparent that Wickline does not hold sole play-calling duties at UT. Based on multiple media accounts, Wickline’s OSU contract also didn’t specify that he must maintain sole play-calling responsibilities or be liable for damages. It’s that distinction that will likely be the crux of the battle should the lawsuits ever see the light of day in a courtroom.

Wickline’s lawsuit, meanwhile, was filed Monday and claims “tortuous interference” on the part of OSU. The coach’s suit makes the claim that his former school’s action “is baseless and its sole purpose is to interfere with coach Wickline’s ongoing employment relationship with UT and the UT contract.”

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Pac-12 paces Lott IMPACT quarterfinalists

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

You know you how you can tell another season is quickly beginning to wind down?  Awards begin to whittle their lengthy preseason watch lists down to quarterfinalists or semifinalists.

The first to get down to its quarterfinalists was the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which announced its group of 20 Wednesday.  There were two quarterfinalists from a year ago that made the cut this time around: Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks.

The Pac-12 led all conferences with seven players selected.  The ACC and SEC had four players apiece, while the Big Ten and Big 12 had two each.  There were no players from the Non-Power Five conferences as Notre Dame claims the remaining player.

Washington was the only school with two players included.

Linebackers and defensive ends had the most players for positions with eight and six, respectively.  Cornerbacks, safeties and defensive tackles accounted for two apiece.

The Lott Trophy, named after Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, is presented annually to the player who best embodies the award’s six tenets — Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity. Last year’s winner was UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.

Eight semifinalists for the award will be announced Nov. 11. In a release, the award states that “four finalists will fly to Newport Beach for a black-tie gala at the Pacific Club on Dec. 14 where the winner will be announced.”

Below is the complete list of 20 Lott IMPACT quarterfinalists.

Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Henry Coley, LB, Virginia
Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
Michael Doctor, LB, Oregon State
Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
David Helton, LB, Duke
A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Hau’oli Kikaha, DE, Washington
Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State
Jordan Richards, S, Stanford
Deterrian Shackelford, LB, Ole Miss
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Leonard Williams, DT, USC

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‘Extremely doubtful’ Wyoming’s injured leading tackler returns in ’14

Mark Nzeocha, Taylor Graham

Wyoming’s defense will likely have to play the remainder of the 2014 season without one of its leaders on that side of the ball.

Mark Nzeocha suffered what appeared to be a knee injury during last Saturday’s overtime loss to San Jose State. While head coach Craig Bohl wouldn’t specify the exact nature of the injury, he was decidedly pessimistic about the senior linebacker’s availability moving forward.

“The outlook for him to be playing the rest of the year would be extremely doubtful,” the coach said.

Nzeocha currently leads the Cowboys in both tackles (59) and passes broken up (five). He’s tied for the team lead with two sacks and he’s second in tackles for loss with three.

With Nzeocha sidelined, seniors Devyn Harris or Jordan Stanton will likely serve as his replacement.

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Ole Miss, Wake agree to future home-and-home

Dester McCluster, Alphonso Smith AP

It’s not exactly to the level of some of the heavyweight non-conference clashes announced in recent months, but at least it involves a pair of Power Five programs, right?

Anyway, Ole Miss and Wake Forest announced in twin press releases Wednesday that the two football programs have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series. The agreement calls for the teams to meet in Winston-Salem on Sept. 14, 2024 and Oxford, on Sept. 13, 2025.

The two schools have played just twice in football, and those came recently. The Demon Deacons traveled to Oxford in 2006 while the Rebels returned the favor in 2008.

Wake won both matchups, 27-3 in the first and 30-28 in the second.

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One of Cal’s top WRs won’t play vs. Oregon

UCLA v California AP

Cal’s prolific passing attack will be down a weapon for its Week 9 Pac-12 game.

Head coach Sonny Dykes confirmed Tuesday that Trevor Davis will not play in Friday night’s game against Oregon. Davis suffered a neck/head injury in last Saturday’s loss to UCLA.

After being briefly hospitalized, Davis was released. Just how long the wide receiver will be sidelined remains to be seen.

“Luckily all the tests came back good, and his long-term prognosis is good,” Dykes said.

Davis is tied for third on the Bears in receiving yards (360) and receiving touchdowns (four), and is fourth in receptions (21).

The good news for Cal’s offense is that fellow receiver Chris Harper, injured in the same game, will play against the Ducks. Harper’s 25 catches are third on the team.

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John Wolford good to go at QB for Wake

John Wolford, Eric Crume

An injury that knocked John Wolford out of Wake Forest’s last game won’t do the same for the next one.

Dave Clawson confirmed Tuesday that the quarterback will be available and start this Saturday’s game against Boston College.  Wolford suffered a head injury in the loss to Syracuse last weekend.

It was very quickly determined, however, that Wolford did not incur a concussion.  From the Raleigh News & Observer:

“Because the hit was in the head … we were taking zero chances,” Clawson said Tuesday, adding that when Wolford “felt fine” on Sunday, “we knew he was good to go this week.”

Wolford became the first Demon Deacon to start an opener as a true freshman since 1974, but he’s certainly had his growing pains.

His 12 interceptions (in 124 attempts) are tied for second-worst in the country with Texas Tech’s Davis Webb (196 attempts), behind only New Mexico State’s Tyler Rodgers‘ 15 (170 attempts).  With an interception ration of 1:10, he’s fourth-worst in the country behind only Tulane’s Tanner Lee ((one pick every 7.8 attempts), Kansas’ Montell Cozart (one every 8.9 attempts) and Florida’s Jeff Driskel (one every 9.7 attempts) for quarterbacks who have thrown at least 60 passes.

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Barring ‘something unusual,’ Deshaun Watson is starter when healthy

FBC-T25 Clemson Watson AP

And, in other breaking news, water is wet and the sky is blue.

Deshaun Watson underwent surgery earlier this month to repair the hand injury he suffered in Clemson’s Oct. 11 win over Louisville and is expected to be sidelined for up to five weeks.  Most (rightly) assumed that Cole Stoudt would merely be keeping the quarterbacking seat warm before turning the job back over to Watson once healthy.

Tuesday, Watson’s head coach confirmed as much.

“Yeah. Yeah. Deshaun’s the starter. Whenever he’s healthy, he’ll be back out there,” Dabo Swinney said. “Guys don’t lose their jobs because they get hurt. Something unusual would have to happen for that to be the case.

“But we’ll worry about all that when the time comes.”

Swinney’s declaration is a no-brainer as the Tigers’ offense is simply a more explosive and lethal with Watson on the field.

In the two full games the true freshman started — North Carolina Sept. 27, North Carolina State Oct. 4 — the Tigers averaged 45.5 points per game; the last two games against Louisville and Boston College, which includes the one Watson left very early due to injury, the Tigers are averaging 20 points per game.

Watson is currently second in the country in passing efficiency, behind only Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.  Stoudt, meanwhile, is 99th in the same category as he has thrown just one touchdown and two interceptions in his 147 attempts.

Based on the current timeline, Watson will definitely be back no later than the Nov. 15 game against Georgia Tech, the 10th game of the season.  There’s also the chance he could return for the Nov. 6 game against Wake Forest, which comes after the Tigers second and last bye of the season.

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Rutgers WR Ruhann Peele arrested on assault charge back in August

Ruhann Peele, Andrew Adams AP

Nearly two months after it happened, the arrest of a Rutgers football player has surfaced publicly.

According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Ruhann Peele was arrested following an incident Aug. 30.  The wide receiver was subsequently charged with simple assault.  No details of what preceded the arrest and charge have been revealed.

“We are aware of the situation involving Ruhann,” a statement from RU head coach Kyle Flood read. “Due to the fact he has a pending court date, we will not comment until the legal process is complete.”

Peele has not played at all this season due to what’s only been described as an upper-body injury sustained in early August. The Star-Ledger writes that “[h]is absence from football activities, including practice, is 100 percent medically-related at this point, a source familiar with the situation said.”

Whether he heals up in time to play this season and would then face sanctions from the football program for the off-field incident is unknown.

Peele finished fifth on the team last season with 28 catches for 478 yards. He was third on the team when, due to injuries, he was moved from receiver to cornerback in late October for a handful of games.

Entering summer camp, it was expected Peele would be a significant contributor in the passing game in 2014.

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Following arrest, Cincinnati suspends backup QB

players names AP

An off-field incident will likely cost one of Cincinnati’s quarterbacks some game time.

Early Sunday morning, Bearcats backup Jarred Evans was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge shortly after returning from a road win over SMU.  Evans allegedly knocked a man to the ground with a punch, with the alleged victim suffering a concussion and needing stitches.

Evans spent Sunday night in jail before bail was posted Monday.

While Tommy Tuberville said there’s a “[g]ood chance he’s not guilty,” the UC head coach has still indefinitely suspended the player.

“It’s just hard to get through their heads that you are different than everybody else,” Tuberville said according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “You can’t even think about making a mistake or even being close to a mistake. Even if it’s not your fault, you’re still implicated. So, that’s how we handle it and I hope our players on the team see that and understand that and we’ll go from there. …

“I talk to these guys every day about you being a lot more responsible than any other person on campus. They understand that right or wrong, football players, basketball players, athletes across the country are guilty until proven innocent, even in my eyes, because you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Until this season, the JUCO transfer Evans had totaled no stats at the FBS level. In the win over the Mustangs, the 22-year-old Evans rushed for a team-high 67 yards and a touchdown, while also completing both of his pass attempts for 10 yards.

It’s unclear if Evans will be available for Friday’s game against USF.

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Texas could pay student-athletes $10K annually

money AP

Everyone knew there was a new day dawning for collegiate athletics, thanks to autonomy for Power Five conferences and the O’Bannon lawsuit and the like. Part of the change called for increased benefits for all student-athletes in elite conferences specifically, including football players.

Tuesday, one university put a price tag on that change.

At a Big 12 sports forum yesterday, Texas athletic director Steve Patterson revealed that his university will soon begin paying its student-athletes in every sport, male and female. UT expects to spend $6 million annually on the endeavor, which works out to roughly $10,000 per athlete per year.

The Dallas Morning News writes that “[t]he money will cover college expenses that aren’t covered by a traditional full scholarship and give each player $5,000 in compensation for the university’s use of his image.” The latter is in connection to the O’Bannon suit.

While an athletic department like Texas, the most profitable in the country, can merely reach into its couches to cover the added expense, there are others at the forum who intimated that cuts in sports could be one casualty of the payments.

“If we begin to [further] remunerate the participants, that’s going to break that model,” UT women’s sports athletic director Chris Plonsky warned.

“We’re in for a period of dynamic change,” said former Maryland basketball All-American and U.S. Representative Tom McMillen. “The system has to change. The money needs to be handled differently.”

Texas, incidentally, becomes the first school to announce specific payments to student-athletes.  It had previously been thought that, with the autonomy legislation, athletes would receive an additional $2,000 to $5,000 to cover the true cost of attendance.

Just when UT will begin paying the five-figure sum is unclear.

(Tip O’ the Cap: our very own Zach Barnett, over at his other job at FootballScoop.com)

UPDATED 4:28 p.m. ET: And now we have a little more clarity to the lack of a timeline.

To further clarify, the $5,000 “image use” to which the Morning News alluded would be placed in a trust fund.  Also, UT and other schools would wait until autonomy is officially approved in January.

Additionally, the $5,000/$5,000 split, should the O’Bannon suit be successful for the plaintiffs, is expected to be a similar range for other Power Five schools.

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Georgia fan Evander Holyfield happy his son received UGA offer

Evander Holyfield Photo Session

Evander Holyfield is a boxing legend. He also played some football in his younger days before embarking on his path to boxing fame. Now he is the father to one of the top football recruits in his home state of Georgia. Running back Elijah Holyfield is a four-star prospect in the Class of 2016 according to Rivals. The younger Holyfield has been drawing interest from plenty of schools out there including Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, South Carolina and many more form the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. It is one of the most recent offers to come his son’s way that has the former heavyweight champ smiling the most. Georgia is among the recent schools to extend an offer to Elijah Holyfield.

“I was happy about that offer because I’m a Georgia fan,” Evander said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And then I found out that he liked Georgia, so that offer was a good thing.”

Elijah Holyfield is reportedly considering Michigan as a top choice, but as of now the recruiting for the Class of 2016 is in the very early stages. Holyfield still has his senior year in front of him after this season, so plenty can change between now and National Signing Day in 2016.

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Will Muschamp turns to QB Treon Harris to save season (and job?)

Missouri v Florida Getty Images

After a horrendous loss at home at the hands of Missouri, Florida head coach Will Muschamp is finally handing the offense over to freshman quarterback Treon Harris. The question is whether or not the damage has already been done in Gainesville.

Harris will replace Jeff Driskel as the starting quarterback for the Gators. Florida is off this week, but the Gators take on a red-hot Georgia team next week in Jacksonville (and the Bulldogs are hoping to have running back Todd Gurley back on the field). Harris would have started in place of Driskel two weeks ago against LSU, but a university investigation connecting Harris to an alleged sexual assault held him out of practice. Harris was later cleared to play after the accuser dropped her complaint, but Harris had already missed a week of practice and Florida was forced to go with Driskel once more at quarterback.

Harris first saw the field this season in a win against Tennessee. Trailing when he entered the game, Harris provided juts enough of a spark to help lead Florida to a road win at Tennessee. Harris did not play against LSU, but he did enter last weekend’s game against Missouri. He completed eight of 12 pass attempts for 98 yards and a touchdown and he added another 26 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

Muschamp is without question sitting on a hot seat at Florida, and AD Jeremy Foley has said the evaluation of Muschamp will be done at the end of the season before making any decisions on the future of the program. Muschamp really needs Harris to lead Florida to some wins in the SEC, otherwise he may be updating his résumé for prospective employers this offseason.

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Michigan State gets All-Big Ten center back for Wolverines

Michigan State v Oregon

Michigan State’s offensive line is about to get stronger this week as the Spartans prepare for Michigan. Jack Allen, an All-Big Ten player, will be back in the middle of the offensive line this weekend.

Allen was injured two weeks ago in a victory against Purdue. Allen is believed to have injured his ankle, which caused him to miss last week’s game against Indiana. Head coach Mark Dantonio rarely sheds any light on injuries, so the exact details of Allen’s injury are unconfirmed. As reported by MLive.com, Allen appeared to have his left ankle stepped on by Michigan State running back Nick Hill during a running play. The injury occurred in the fourth quarter and he did not return.

Connor Kruse filled in for Allen in the middle of the offensive line last week against the Hoosiers. This week Kruse will remain on the offensive line’s starting unit, but he will slide to right guard. This season the defending Big Ten champion Spartans rank fourth in the Big Ten in rushing offense with an average of 261.43 yards per game on the ground. The Michigan State offensive line has allowed just four sacks this season, tied for best in the Big Ten with Wisconsin.

Michigan State hosts Michigan on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. eastern.

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