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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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Clemson QB Watson might have shot to snap losing streak to Gamecocks

Deshaun Watson

When Clemson lost starting quarterback Deshaun Watson to a sprained LCL in mid-November, there was a chance he could be expected to return this season. With just days to go leading up to The Palmetto Bowl against South Carolina, it appears there is a chance Watson will play for Clemson. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had some good things to say about Watson’s healthy and mobility in practice this week.

“I thought he was better today than he was yesterday,” Swinney said, according to TigerNet. “It’s just like I have been saying it gets better each day. I know he was more confident today than he was yesterday.”

Cole Stoudt has been leading the offense and will be Clemson’s starter this week unless Watson is deemed ready to step back into the starting job. Watson replaced Stoudt earlier in the season against Florida State and held onto the job until getting injured. Swinney will play it safe and wait until he sees more before throwing Watson back under center.

“Tomorrow is another important day for us from a preparation standpoint. I think he has a good chance,” Swinney added. “How much or when? We haven’t decided that yet. But I think he definitely has a chance to play.”

Clemson has lost five straight games to their in-state rivals from the SEC. The last time Clemson defeated South Carolina at home was in 2008.

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Status of UCLA starting WR unknown following practice injury

Thomas Duarte, Adoree' Jackson

UCLA needs one more win to clinch the Pac-12 South Division, but the Bruins may have to do so without the services of one of their top wide receivers. Thomas Duarte had to leave practice on Tuesday after injuring his left leg, putting his status for Saturday’s contest with Stanford in some question.

“He is so important to us,” UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said according to The Los Angeles Times. “He has excellent ball skills, and that’s big for us. He is an inside guy that causes matchup problems.”

Duarte is UCLA’s second-leading receiver this season with 458 yards and three touchdowns. Tyler Scott has been listed behind Duarte on the UCLA depth chart and could be in line for a spot start if needed. Freshman Mossi Johnson could be another possible option if it comes to needing to replace Duarte.

If UCLA defeats Stanford, the Bruins will win the Pac-12 South and face Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game. A UCLA loss to Stanford will hand the division championship to the winner of the Arizona-Arizona State game.

Stanford will be playing UCLA without its top wide receiver. Ty Montgomery has been ruled out due to a right shoulder injury.

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Is it better for Ohio State to play Wisconsin or Minnesota (again)?

Ohio State v Minnesota

Regardless of what unfolds Saturday in Columbus, Ohio we know the Ohio State Buckeyes will be heading to the Big Ten Championship Game as the Big Ten East Division champions. The Buckeyes will learn whom they will face on Saturday as Wisconsin and Minnesota play for Paul Bunyan’s Axe and the Big Ten West Division championship. With Ohio State looking to make a push up the College Football Playoff rankings in the next two weeks, does it matter more if Ohio State plays Wisconsin or Minnesota?

Here is the situation for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are currently ranked sixth in the College Football Playoff rankings. TCU is ranked just ahead of Ohio State and Mississippi State owns the fourth spot in the rankings. Baylor is in the conversation as well, sitting at seventh place just behind Ohio State.

Ohio State has already played Minnesota this season, winning a competitive game on the road in the snow just a couple of weeks ago. Ohio State did not have Wisconsin on the regular season schedule. If the committee compares results against similar opponents, then TCU seems to hold an edge on Ohio State with a wider margin of victory against Minnesota from a game in September. As it turns out, the Minnesota game is helping keep TCU ahead of Baylor, despite the Horned Frogs losing a head-to-head result against Baylor and having an identical record.

For Ohio State, winning the final two games of the season will be an absolute must in order to have a shot at one of the four playoff spots, especially if Alabama, Florida State and Oregon win their remaining games and conference championship games. Ohio State will have to hope the selection committee sticks to the idea of conference championships carrying a little extra weight when it comes time to selecting the four playoff teams. That overall body of work would likely look more impressive with a Big Ten championship game victory over a surging Wisconsin, with a potential Heisman Trophy running back in Melvin Gordon leading the Badgers offense.

There is no guarantee Ohio State can leapfrog TCU and Mississippi State. If ending the season on a high note holds any significance, then Ohio State may have the best argument to make with a win against Wisconsin. Would playing Minnesota a second time have the same importance?

Well, actually…

If Minnesota beats Wisconsin, it is possible the Gophers could climb as many as five spots in the next playoff ranking. This happens easier if Auburn loses to Alabama, Georgia Tech loses to Georgia and Missouri loses to Arkansas. The loser of the Arizona-Arizona State game should also fall behind a victorious Minnesota. Then we would be talking about a top 13 Minnesota, and this is assuming UCLA is not upset by Stanford or Michigan State upset by Penn State.

But Ohio State has already proven it can beat Minnesota, doing so on the road. Doing it again on a neutral field does not add much to the overall body of work for Ohio State. Adding another team to the list of opponents would likely be more beneficial to the Buckeyes. Wisconsin beating Minnesota would diminish the attractiveness of one of Ohio State’s wins, but it would do the same for TCU as well. The more Minnesota wins, the better things could play out for TCU, and not Ohio State.

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Georgia Southern has bowl waiver denied

Georgia Southern has already clinched a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship in its first season at the FBS level, but it does not look as though the Eagles will be going to a bowl game. The university reportedly filed for a waiver to be eligible to participate in a postseason bowl game, but that waiver has been denied. Georgia Southern can still file an appeal and hope for the best.

Any appeal decision at this point is likely to uphold the original ruling on the waiver. If bowl spots start to become harder to fill, then the chances Georgia Southern could receive a positive response could increase.

Programs moving up from the FCS to the FBS ranks are ineligible for postseason play in their first year in FBS. Exceptions may be made to allow these schools play in a bowl game, but this has rarely been a legitimate concern. Georgia Southern’s case is just about as strong as it could have been with a share of the Sun Belt title and a chance to win the conference’s outright title.

Georgia Southern can win the outright Sun Belt title with a win against ULM or a Louisiana-Lafayette loss to Troy this weekend. The Sun Belt’s champion typically plays in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

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Todd Gurley begins rehab after ACL surgery

Todd Gurley

Georgia running back Todd Gurley underwent surgery on Tuesday to address a torn ACL, and he started his rehab on Wednesday.

It used to be a torn ACL would keep a player out of action for a year, but sometimes players can come back earlier than they used to thanks to improved medical treatment and rehab practices. Regardless, Gurley should not be expected to play again this season and he will likely be limited at best in the spring. The other question is whether or not Gurley will be working to return for one more season at Georgia or if he will risk taking a shot at the NFL while coming off a torn ACL.

Returning for one more year at Georgia would appear to be the most logical situation for Gurley. Before the injury Gurley would have likely been the first running back off the big board in the 2015 NFL Draft, but considering the diminished running back stock in the NFL Draft and the injury, heading to the NFL would be an unwise move for Gurley right now.

Gurley recently had his anticipated return to the field cut short. After sitting out four games due to a suspension, Gurley returned to action in a home game against Auburn. It was a fine return, but a torn ACL in the final minutes of the game put a damper on the entire game despite the win.

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Broyles Award nominees include Kiffin, Venables, 38 others

Lane Kiffin

With the next round fo the coaching carousel about to get underway at full speed, some programs may want to pay attention to the list of names nominated for the Broyles Award. The Broyles Award is presented annually to the top assistant coach in college football, and the list of 40 nominees for this year’s award includes some names with previous head coaching experience and others about to be in line for a head coaching gig somewhere around the country.

Current head coaches who previously won the Broyles Award include Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, UConn’s Bob Diaco and Duke’s David Cutcliffe. Last year’s Broyles Award winner was Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who many feel could be ready for a head coaching offer in the next round of the coaching carousel.  This year Narduzzi is not a finalist for the award, but Spartans co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner is.

“This will be one of the most challenging years ever for our selection committee to choose the top 5 finalists and winner, so many assistant coaches did outstanding work this year,” David Bazzel, Broyles Award executive director.

This year’s Broyles Award winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 9 by The Rotary Club of Little Rock and sponsor Delta Dental. The award is named after former Arkansas head coach Frank Broyles, who had a solid track record of pumping out quality assistant coaches. Some of the assistants who coaches under Broyles include Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson, Hayden Fry, Joe Gibbs, and Jackie Sherrill.

Broyles Award Nominees

Alabama – Lane Kiffin, Offensive Coordinator
Appalachian State – Dwayne Ledford, Co-Offensive Coordinator
Arizona – Jeff Casteel, Defensive Coordinator
Arkansas – Robb Smith, Defensive Coordinator
Arkansas State University – Walt Bell, Offensive Coordinator
Boise State University – Mike Sanford, Offensive Coordinator
Boston College – Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator
Brigham Young University – Nick Howell, Defensive coordinator
Clemson – Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator
Colorado State – Dave Baldwin, Offensive Coordinator
Duke University – John Latina, Run Game Coordinator/OL
East Carolina University – Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator
FIU – Josh Conklin, Defensive Coordinator
Georgia Southern University – Doug Ruse, Offensive Coordinator
Louisiana – Marquase Lovings, Running Backs
Louisiana Tech – Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator
Louisville – Todd Grantham, Defensive Coordinator
Memphis – James Shibest, Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends
Miami – Mark D’Onofrio, Defensive Coordinator
Michigan – Greg Mattison, Defensive Coordinator
Michigan State University – Dave Warner, Co-Offensive Coordinator
Minnesota – Tracy Claeys, Defensive Coordinator
Mississippi State – Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator
Missouri – Dave Steckel, Defensive Coordinator
NC State – Desmond Kitchings, Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator
Ohio State University – Tom Herman, Offensive Coordinator
Ole Miss – Dave Wommack, Defensive Coordinator
Oregon – Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator
Penn State University – Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator
Stanford – Lance Anderson, Defensive Coordinator
TCU – Doug Meacham, Co-Offensive Coordinator
Temple – Phil Snow, Defensive Coordinator
UCF – Brent Key, Offensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
UCLA – Noel Mazzone, Offensive Coordinator
Utah – Kalani Sitake, Defensive Coordinator
Utah State University – Todd Orlando, Defensive Coordinator
UTSA – Neal Neathery, Defensive Coordinator
West Virginia University – Tony Gibson, Defensive Coordinator
Western Michigan University – Kirk Ciarrocca, Offensive Coordinator
Wisconsin – Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator

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Freeze, on Bo Wallace: ‘have to chain him down to keep him from’ Egg Bowl

Mississippi v Arkansas Getty Images

While it’s not yet officially official, it appears Ole Miss’ triggerman will indeed be under center for the Egg Bowl Saturday.

Bo Wallace missed a substantial chunk of the Arkansas loss last week after injuring his ankle.  During practice leading up to the rivalry game against Mississippi State, Wallace has been somewhat limited.

On the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday, however, Wallace’s head coach seemed decidedly optimistic that the quarterback will be on the field when the Rebels take on the Bulldogs.

You would have to chain him down to keep him from going,” Hugh Freeze said. “He’s looking better every day. We anticipate him being ready to go.”

If Wallace were to suffer a setback, the Rebels would turn to either Devante Kincaid and Ryan Buchanan. The backup duo, both redshirt freshmen, has attempted 39 passes this season, with Kincaid completing 15 of his 17 attempts.

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Hoos your coach in 2015? For Virginia, it’s Mike London

Mike London AP

There will be many head coaches dragged to the chopping block over the next month or so.  One of those who won’t be, somewhat surprisingly, is Mike London.

With speculation swirling, Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage confirmed in a press release Wednesday afternoon that London will be returning as the Cavaliers’ head coach in 2015.  A two-win team in London’s fourth season last year, the Cavaliers stand at five wins in 2014 and on the cusp of bowl eligibility.

It’s that improvement that led Littlepage to take his finger off the trigger and give London what most would consider a one-year reprieve.

“It was important to see improvement in our football program this season,” Littlepage’s statement began. “I’ve seen signs of progress in many areas. Through the staff changes made over the last two years, we are better at teaching the game and in the overall development of the student-athletes. We also continue to notice the commitment by this group of coaches and student-athletes to their academic and community responsibilities.

“The staff has re-focused its recruiting efforts to emphasize the need to attract student-athletes capable of helping the program compete at a high level in the expanded Atlantic Coast Conference. We are seeing many of these student-athletes on the field right now and the staff continues to have success on the recruiting trail. We will continue to support the program in their efforts to maximize their recruiting success.

“It’s important for each of our sports programs to continue to show progress and follow a plan to compete for conference championships and in postseason competition to support the department’s goals. I trust the plan Mike has in place and believe his leadership provides the best opportunity for Virginia football to be successful in the future.”

In London’s five-plus seasons, UVa is 23-37 overall and 11-28 in ACC play.  An 8-5 season in 2011 led to speculation that he would replace Joe Paterno at Penn State.  London instead remained in Charlottesville, and the Cavaliers finished sixth and seventh in the Coastal division in 2012 and 2013, respectively; they’re tied for fourth this year.

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Report: no contact between Braxton Miller, Oregon

Braxton Miller AP

It’s not just the coaching rumor mill that’s churning the day before Turkey Day.

Because of J.T. Barrett‘s eyebrow-raising success this season, success that has put the redshirt freshman squarely in the Heisman mix, speculation has been growing that the window on Braxton Miller‘s days at Ohio State is closing.  As the speculation goes, Miller will look to transfer from the Buckeyes — as a graduate transfer, he’d be eligible to play immediately — and move on to a situation that would afford him the opportunity to be the starter for his final collegiate season, which may or may not be the case at OSU.

Miller’s name, despite no hints from the player himself, mind you, has been connected to schools such as Auburn, Boston College and, most notably, Oregon.  The Ducks would make sense on numerous levels, as both the offensive system utilized would seem to match Miller’s skillset and UO’s triggerman, Marcus Mariota, is expected to leave early for the NFL.  The dot-connecting is reasonable, although that doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

According to The Oregonian, and citing a source with knowledge of the situation, “[t]here has been no contact between Oregon and either Miller or anyone acting on his behalf.” Leading up to the paper knocking down the talk, there was a rumor making the rounds that Miller had let it be known to the UO football program that he had an interest in the school and offensive coordinator Scott Frost followed up on that interest during a recruiting trek a couple of weeks ago. One of the problems with that, the paper notes, is that Frost wasn’t on the recruiting trail at that time.

A little over a week ago, NFL.com reported that “the quarterback’s plan for now is to remain at Ohio State and lead the Buckeyes in 2015.” Two months ago, Urban Meyer stated emphatically that Miller is his guy.

Braxton is our quarterback,” Meyer said Sept. 30. “To be fair to Braxton, Big Ten Player of the Year. But it’s good to know we’ve got both of them.”

A month and a half later, Meyer’s tune had changed slightly as he heavily intimated Miller will have to earn the job back… if he even stays, which the head coach seemed to hint at as well.

Competition brings out the best, and I’m really excited to have two really good quarterbacks next year, if that’s the plan,” the coach hedged.

If it’s made clear to Miller that he will have to earn back a job that he held for three years prior to re-injuring his shoulder during summer camp, it will be interesting to see if he accepts the challenge or moves on.  And, if there is a true competition, is it something Miller can even win?  Barrett, in 11 games, has already proven to be the better passer of the two — as the competition has already pointed out — and his running ability, while not at Miller’s level, is a significant weapon as well.

It’s hard to see how Meyer could send Barrett back to the bench after the season he’s had, one that could see a mid-December trip to New York City for the Heisman ceremony.  It’s also hard to see how Meyer could keep Miller, the 2012 and 2013 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, off the field.  One way or the other, whether it’s by transfer attrition or competition, something has got to give.

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Clemson-South Carolina officially dubbed ‘The Palmetto Bowl’

Clemson v South Carolina Getty Images

After years of fans and media alike ofttimes and unofficially referring to it as “The Palmetto Bowl,” the in-state rivalry between Clemson and South Carolina has officially taken on that moniker, both schools announced Wednesday.

Seeing as both teams hail from “The Palmetto State,” the name makes perfect sense.  The announcement also comes just a couple of days before the 112th meeting between the two football programs.

“This is one of the premier games every year in college football, and it’s a great opportunity for our institutions to increase exposure to the State of South Carolina and all the great people here,” Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said in a statement. “To name this game ‘The Palmetto Bowl’ hopefully adds to the identity of this great rivalry.”

“From ‘Big Thursday’ to ‘The Palmetto Bowl,’ there is so much history and tradition to showcase about this rivalry,” said Radakovich’s South Carolina counterpart, Ray Tanner. “The Palmetto Bowl gives this rivalry an identity that highlights the State of South Carolina and the accomplishments of these outstanding institutions.”

In addition to the name, the schools also announced a trophy and logo will be developed and unveiled prior to the 2015 game.

Behind only Minnesota-Wisconsin (108 this weekend), Clemson-South Carolina is the second-longest, consecutively-played rivalry in the country at 106 straight (as of Saturday).  The Tigers currently lead the series 65-42-4, although the Gamecocks have won five straight and six of the last eight.

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Sun Devils’ leading receiver to play in Territorial Cup

Jaelen Strong, Dominique Hatfield

A head injury kept the most productive piece of Arizona State’s passing game out of last week’s game.  That, though, won’t be the case on rivalry weekend.

Tuesday, Todd Graham confirmed that Jaelen Strong will play in this Saturday’s Territorial Cup battle with Arizona.  Graham allowed that the wide receiver was “close to playing last week” against Washington State, but the team decided to take the precautionary route because of the concussion.

That won’t be the case this week as the symptoms have subsided, giving the offense back one of its most potent weapons.

It’s going to be great to have him back,” quarterback Taylor Kelly said. “It’s going to open up D.J. (Foster) and our running game and also get Cam Smith the ball more.”

Strong is tops on the Sun Devils in receptions (71), receiving yards (982) and receiving touchdowns (nine). Those totals are good for 12th, 16th and T-11th in the nation, respectively, and fourth among Pac-12 receivers in all three categories.

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TCU with good news, no news on skill-player front

B.J. Catalon, Orion Stewart

TCU’s skill-position players are getting healthier. Whether they are getting really healthy as the push toward a potential spot in the College Football Playoff remains to be seen.

Gary Patterson confirmed Tuesday that wide receiver Deante’ Gray will play in the Thanksgiving Day game against Texas. Gray has missed the past two games with a foot injury.

Despite being sidelined for a pair of games, Gray is still tied for the lead in touchdown receptions with seven, while he’s third in receiving yards (486) and fourth in receptions (29).

On the not-so-good injury front is B.J. Catalon.

The running back sustained what’s only been described as an upper-torso injury — the speculation is that it’s a concussion — in the Nov. 1 win over West Virginia. Catalon did not play in the last two games, wins over Kansas State and Kansas, because of the injury. Whether it’s a third straight sidelining is unclear, although it’s not sounding promising.

I don’t know whether B.J. will be with us or not,” the head coach said when asked about Catalon’s availability for the holiday road trip to Austin.

This season, Catalon has accounted for 910 all-purpose yards — 493 rushing, 163 receiving, 254 on returns. That versatility led the junior to be named as one of the five finalists for the Hornung Award.

Despite those two missed games, he still leads the Horned Frogs with 10 rushing touchdowns. He’s returned a punt for a touchdown this year as well.

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Wazzu to induct Steve Gleason into its Hall of Fame

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints

If you’re looking for a morning pick-me-up, we have you covered.

During Saturday’s Apple Cup game with Washington, Washington State will induct its Class of 2014 into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. That class will consist of one person: Steve Gleason.

Gleason played both football and baseball for the Cougars from 1995-99. On the gridiron, he was a two-time captain; he was a captain on the baseball team his senior year as well. Three times he earned All-Pac-10 honors in football, and four times he was a Pac-10 All-Academic selection.

In 2011, a handful of years after a seven-year NFL career came to an end, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Since then, Gleason established “Team Gleason,” a foundation that looks to raise money and awareness for ALS.

Gleason raising awareness will serve as his lasting and most impactful legacy; his collegiate athletic prowess, though, will now have an official legacy as well.

“Steve is a tremendous Cougar and his induction Saturday night into the Washington State University Athletic Hall of Fame is well deserved,” said athletic director Bill Moos in a statement. “With a sold-out Martin Stadium for the Apple Cup, I can think of no better setting to highlight Steve’s accomplishments than in front of a fan base that has admired him for so many years.”

Gleason’s induction will take place between the first and second quarters of the rivalry game. It will mark the first time in the school’s history that just one former student-athlete has been inducted in that year’s class.

Based on how Gleason lived his life before and after his diagnosis, the honor is well-deserved.

 

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Guy, Mackey, O’Brien, Outland, Thorpe awards announce finalists

Melbourne Cup Day Getty Images

It was a busy Tuesday night for major awards announcing its finalists, as evidenced by the fact that CFT is now just getting to the other half of them.

The finalists for the Maxwell (most outstanding player at any position), Nagurski (defensive player), Biletnikoff (wide receiver), Groza (kicker) and Walker (running back) awards we’ve already covered; now we’ll get to the other five. In announcements Tuesday night, the Guy (punter), Mackey (tight end), O’Brien (quarterback), Outland (interior lineman) and Thorpe (defensive back) finalists were revealed.

Below are the three distinguished finalists for each award:

RAY GUY AWARD
Tom Hackett, Utah (Jr.)
JK Scott, Alabama (Fr.)
Austin Rehkow, Idaho (Soph.)

DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD
Trevone Boykin, TCU (Jr.)
Marcus Mariota, Oregon (RS Jr.)
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (Jr.)

JOHN MACKEY AWARD
Nick O’Leary, Florida State (Sr.)
Clive Walford, Miami (Sr.)
Maxx Williams, Minnesota (RS Soph.)

OUTLAND TROPHY
Malcom Brown, Texas (Jr.)
Reese Dismukes, Auburn (Sr.)
Brandon Scherff, Iowa (Sr.)

JIM THORPE AWARD
Landon Collins, Alabama (Jr.)
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon (Sr.)
Gerod Holliman, Louisville (RS So.)

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Amari Cooper likely to become Alabama’s first Biletnikoff winner

Amari Cooper

And then there were three. The competition for the Biletnikoff Award is down to three of the nation’s top wide receivers. Alabama’s Amari Cooper is the lone player from a College Football Playoff contender in the running, although that should not diminish the accomplishments of two others up for the award.

Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins and West Virginia’s Kevin White are also finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top wide receiver in college football. No player from any of these three schools has ever won the award, which was first awarded in 1994.

Last year’s award went to Brandin Cooks of Oregon State. This year’s award will be presented on December 11 during The Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN.

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