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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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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: The games the Big 12 cannot afford to lose in 2015

Bob Stoops

The Big 12 was left out of the first College Football Playoff. Depending upon whom you ask, the Big 12 was left out because Baylor didn’t play anybody (they didn’t), TCU lost to Baylor (they did) or the Big 12 just was not that good overall (plausible). You will also get some tell you Baylor and TCU just did not have the brand recognition a program like Ohio State or Florida State carried with it (again, true).Whatever the case

Whatever the case maybe, the Big 12 is in need of ensuring a Big 12 champion will be battle tested and respected by the College Football Playoff selection committee at the end of the season. With the margin for error possibly very small for the Big 12 (two one-loss teams getting left out of the four-team playoff may be a rarity in all honesty), the Big 12 needs to impress in non-conference action. This season there are a handful of notable games worth paying attention to, especially with the Big 12’s reputation riding on the results.

Here are five games the Big 12 must win this season in order to boost the Big 12 profile in November and December.

Texas at Notre Dame (September 5): The Texas Longhorns get the season underway in South Bend under the stadium lights in primetime. It is a perfect opportunity to represent the Big 12 on national television (NBC, of course) in the opening weekend. Feel free to throw in a home date a couple of weeks later against California of the Pac-12. It may not be a huge game, but adding a win against the Pac-12 would certainly help the Big 12’s overall profile.

West Virginia vs. Georgia Southern (September 5): Don’t laugh, because Georgia Southern is not a joke. The Eagles won the Sun Belt Conference in their first year at the FBS level and just won at Florida two seasons ago. West Virginia being upset at home in the season opener would not be a good look for the Big 12.

Oklahoma at Tennessee (September 12): Oklahoma sent Tennessee home with a loss last season, but now the Sooners make a visit to Neyland Stadium against a Tennessee program budding with potential and momentum. Getting out of the SEC with a win would be big for the Sooners and the entire Big 12.

Texas Tech at Arkansas (September 19): This one might be a reach, but it is worthy of consideration. Arkansas is another team those following the SEC may feel optimistic about moving forward, and Texas Tech’s defense could be in for a long game. If the Red Raiders could manage to get out of the state with a win against a team from the SEC West, the Big 12 would be smiling in a big way.

West Virginia vs. Maryland (September 26): The Big 12 was passed over by the Big Ten, so the best course of action is to strike back at the conference up north. TCU (at Minnesota), Iowa State (vs. Iowa) and West Virginia each get a chance to do that, but the Mountaineers may have the most pivotal of the three. Minnesota may be good this year, but TCU will have plenty of time to recover should they be upset on the road in the season opener. West Virginia could be in position to give the Big 12 a winning record against the Big Ten, which did not come in handy last season but could come back this season.

Last season was  a bit of a reality check for the Big 12. the conference was hyped to be a deep conference, but the production on the field failed to live up to the hype when it counted (TCU’s blasting of Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl not included). Would the Big 12 have been shut out of the playoff had it been Texas or Oklahoma standing at the end of the season with just one loss? Probably not, but the Big 12 does not need a big brand to carry the Big 12 banner if the entire conference can rise to the occasion in non-conference contests early and often.

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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: American’s West can help shape conference image too

UH Coach Tom Herman

The task of changing the way the American Athletic Conference is perceived does not fall just on the shoulders of the American’s East Division. The West has some chances to help give the conference a boost as well. And with Navy joining the division, the door to some more opportunities has been opened moving forward.

The schedules among the AAC’s West teams is littered with big road tests against power conference foes and even some home games. All provide a chance for the West to rise and defend the conference’s image. Last season saw Boise State of the Mountain West Conference come away with the guaranteed New Years Six bowl spot, thanks in large part to the perception of the Boise State program and relative strength of schedule of the Mountain West Conference as a whole. The American has an opportunity to climb to the top, but it will have to work to get there. With some bright new head coaches in place at Houston (Tom Herman), SMU (Chad Morris) and Tulsa (Philip Montgomery), the bar is being raised in the West.

After already going through some of the key games in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division, here is a look at some of the more notable opportunities to come for the schools in the West this season.

Tulane vs. Duke (September 5); Tulane at Georgia Tech (September 12): Tulane may be coming off a miserable debut season in the American Athletic Conference, but it can more than make up for it by getting the conference off to a great start against the past two ACC Coastal Division champions. It may be a tall order for Tulane at this point in time, but it has a better chance of resulting in some wins than SMU’s early-season match-ups with Baylor and TCU.

Houston at Louisville (September 12): Louisville looks to be an interesting team out of the ACC Atlantic Division this season. Could a home game against Houston sandwiched between Auburn and Clemson be a trap game? Oh yes, it certainly could.

Memphis at Kansas (September 12); Memphis at Bowling Green (September 19): Pairing these two games together for one reason. First, Memphis winning at Kansas may not score major points for the conference given the perception of the Jayhawks, but it would still go down as a road win against a Big 12 opponent. But Memphis then needs to avoid a loss to MAC threat Bowling Green. Remember, we are not only looking for victories against power conference opponents, but also against the best threats from other Group of Five conferences. Knocking off Kansas and Bowling Green, the defending MAC champions, would end up giving Memphis and the AAC a nice little boost in September.

Navy vs. Air Force (October 3); Navy at Notre Dame (October 10): Following similar logic as just above with Memphis, Navy has an excellent opportunity to score some big wins in back-to-back weeks. First Navy hosts Air Force, coming off a successful season and representing the Mountain West Conference. Again, victories against other Group of Five opponents can be huge in the end. And beating Notre Dame obviously carries some weight.

Memphis vs. Ole Miss (October 17): Oh, you thought we were done with Memphis? Think again. The Tigers host the SEC’s Ole Miss in mid-October. If Memphis can defend its home turf against a power conference opponent from the hyped SEC West, their work will largely be done representing the conference in 2015.

Like the East Division, if the West can somehow come away with a .500 mark out of this slate of games, that would be a tremendous victory for the conference and would bode well for the conference’s champion. Keep in mind the AAC will hold a conference championship game this season as well, giving it one more game to showcase the best it has to offer.

One thing that should also be noted is Navy will actually play one more game after the College Football Playoff selection committee is set to make its big bowl pairings. The Army-Navy Game is scheduled for the Saturday after the release of the CFB Playoff and New Years Six bowl pairings. The expectation is this can be worked around to avoid any controversial hassles, but after seeing Baylor and/or TCU get shortchanged in part because of playing one fewer game than everyone else, it is worth keeping in mind.

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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: American’s East contenders can change way we think about AAC

Tommy Tuberville

The American Athletic Conference just missed out on the College Football Playoff selection committee’s guaranteed reservation to a Group of Five conference champion. Memphis ended up needed just a little more help out of the Mountain West Conference, which was represented by Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl this past postseason. If the American Athletic Conference is going to shake off the perception it still carries from the days of the crumbling Big East, then it should hope to win some pivotal games in non-conference play this season. It just so happens the American Athletic Conference will have plenty of opportunities to score some eye-opening victories, although they will not come easily.

Here are some of the more notable games on the AAC schedule for the contenders in the East Division that could actually boost the perception of the conference and its champion.

Temple vs. Penn State (September 5): The Temple Owls open the season in Lincoln Financial Field, but it will feel like a Penn State home game with the Nittany Lions back in the city of brotherly love. Temple’s defense can pose some problems for Penn State’s offense early, but may need a flawless performance on offense for the upset.

East Carolina at Florida (September 12): East Carolina gets Florida at a decent time with the Gators still looking to rebound and in the first year under Jim McElwain. Winning in Gainesville is not easy, although Georgia Southern managed to do it. So why not the Pirates?

UCF at Stanford (September 12): The Knights head to the west coast to take on perennial Pac-12 contender Stanford. The Cardinal got off to a slow start last season. If they do once again this season then UCF could return home with a big win for the conference.

UCF at South Carolina (September 26): The Knights are not satisfied playing just one power conference opponent on the road. A couple weeks after visiting Stanford they will head to South Carolina. The Knights nearly pulled off the upset of the Gamecocks the last time they played. Could UCF win on the road in Pac-12 and SEC territory?

East Carolina vs. Virginia Tech (September 26): A year ago it was the Pirates who stormed to the front of the pack in the Group of Five race after knocking off Virginia Tech. The Hokies had just topped Ohio State in Columbus, which helped boost East Carolina’s profile as a result. The way things shape out we could see that happen all over again. Or not. Who knows?

Cincinnati vs. Miami (October 1): The Bearcats figure to be a regular threat in the American Athletic Conference, and a home victory over the Miami Hurricanes can help push them to the top of the pecking order among Group of Five contenders. Cincinnati hosts Miami on a Thursday night, with Miami coming off a bye week following a home date with Nebraska.

Temple vs. Notre Dame (October 31): It is a big year for Temple season ticket holder. Not only does Penn State come to town, but so does Notre Dame. If Temple can pull the upset of the Irish, it would be a huge victory for the conference as a whole. What if Temple beats both Penn State and Notre Dame…

Coming out of these games with a 3-4 mark should be considered a success (4-3 obviously an even bigger success), and it would likely help change the way the AAC’s champion is compared alongside whichever team comes out of the Mountain West Conference, MAC, Conference USA or Sun Belt Conference. The games in September can carry huge weight in December.

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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: ACC Coastal Division

Cincinnati v Miami Getty Images

Once again, it looks as though the ACC Coastal Division is going to be a wide-open race just waiting for someone to jump up and grab control of the division. After looking over just the schedules of the ACC Coastal Division, you can see why.

Take Pittsburgh for example. The Panthers, now with Pat Narduzzi making his head coaching debut, may have some of the top offensive players in the ACC with wide receiver Tyler Boyd and running back James Conner, but the Panthers must overcome a lot of travel in the first half of the season. Pittsburgh will go all the way to Week 9 before getting its second ACC game at home. Pittsburgh has just two home games before Halloween. If they can stay above water before November, the Panthers will have some huge games at home down the stretch (UNC, Louisville and Miami in ACC play and Notre Dame). The Panthers also avoid Clemson and Florida State.

Duke may have the best schedule in the ACC with no Clemson, no Florida State and no Louisville. The Blue Devils also get Georgia Tech, Boston College, Miami and Pittsburgh at home. Duke has to travel to Virginia Tech, but they get a bye week to prepare for it. The UNC Tar Heels also miss on the top three Atlantic Division threats, and they get Duke at home after a Thursday night road trip at Pittsburgh. Georgia Tech, the defending division champions get both Clemson and Florida State in crossover match-ups.

I’m still left wondering when Miami is going to take control of this division, which was supposed to happen as soon as the Hurricanes joined the conference and a division split was put into play. If nothing else, Miami has a decent chance to generate the annual “Is Miami back” conversation with a couple of easy games in the first two weeks followed by a revenge situation at home against Nebraska. They then get a bye week to prepare for a Thursday night game at American contender Cincinnati before a road game at Florida State and home dates with Virginia Tech and Clemson. In other words, Al Golden has his work cut out for him before heading down the home stretch against Coastal competition.

Virginia Tech has the biggest non-conference game on the ACC schedule with a Labor Day night season opener against defending champion, and most likely preseason No. 1, Ohio State. We all know what happened last year. If Virginia Tech can do it again in Blacksburg, will they avoid a letdown a few weeks later at East Carolina? Or at home against Pittsburgh?

Oh, I also had some thoughts on the ACC Atlantic Division schedules if you are interested.

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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: ACC Atlantic Division

150523_SwinneyClemson Getty Images

It’s Memorial Day weekend, which means things can probably get a little slow here around the virtual desk in the home office of this college football writer. It also can be a good time to begin to start looking a little more at the upcoming college football season. After all, the first FBS game is only 103 days, five hours and 25 minutes away and counting. TO pass the time I started loading up individual season schedules into Excel, which will later be used to keep track of predicted wins and losses and you don’t really care about this level of college football data archiving.

I started with the ACC schedules, going through each conference in alphabetical order I know, I know, technically the American Athletic Conference comes first) and figured I would share some thoughts about the schedules. Why not make them into some quick posts? SO here are some quick thoughts.

I am pretty optimistic about Clemson this season. The Tigers get a couple of easy games (against Wofford and Appalachian State) before a huge road test on a Thursday night at Louisville. They then get a bye before hosting Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Boston College the next three weeks. They also get Florida State at home. As far as the ACC is concerned, advantage Tigers.

We are going to get a good idea of what Louisville is early on. The Cardinals take on Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta in week one and two weeks later host Clemson on a Thursday night. If Louisville scratches together two wins there, then watch out. Cardinals have a bye week to prepare for Florida State, who will be coming off a game against Miami the previous week. Florida State will play its first two ACC games on the road and must also play on the road against Georgia Tech and Clemson. The Noles take on FCS Chattanooga the week before visiting Gainesville.

Boston College opens the year with back-to-back home games against FCS opponents, Maine and Howard. This will mean Boston College will have to win seven games in order to be bowl eligible this season. The Eagles have won seven games in each of the first two seasons since the arrival of Steve Addazio.

NC State is one of the rare power five conference schools to take to the road to play Group of Five schools twice in a season, and they will do so in back-to-back weeks against Old Dominion and South Alabama.  Still, we could be talking about a 4-0 Wolfpack when Louisville comes to town in Week 5.

The schedule does no favors to Syracuse. The Orange host LSU in non-conference play in Week 4. But that is not the ACC’s fault. Syracuse has what could be a brutal ACC stretch as October flips over to November. At Florida State on Halloween, at Louisville the following week and at home against Clemson. Good luck with all that.

Wake Forest will have an uphill battle from start to finish. The Demon Deacons get Florida State and Louisville at home and travel to Notre Dame and Clemson at the end of the season. The ceiling is very low for Wake Forest no matter how the schedule shapes out though.

After looking through the schedules in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, I still think Clemson has the best path to a trip to Charlotte at the end of the year, although Everett Golson keeps Florida State’s path somewhat clear as well if they can get by Clemson in Week 10. And if Louisville gets hot early, things could get interesting real fast.

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LSU AD says Tigers would play Texas A&M on Black Friday, hopes SEC never goes to 9 games

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LSU athletics director Joe Alleva has said pretty sternly there is not a chance LSU will play a game on Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving? Well that sounds liek a different story.

Appearing as a guest on the Paul Finebaum Show on ESPN Radio Friday afternoon, with Tony Barnhart sitting in as a guest host, Alleva said LSU would be willing to play Texas A&M the day after Thanksgiving.

“The reason I said that is not necessarily because it’s a Thursday night game, but it’s Thanksgiving Thursday night and I’m opposed to playing a game on Thanksgiving Day inside the stadium. In my opinion it’s a time when our families need to be with their families and give thanks for all the blessings they have, take a day off and get ready for Friday or Saturday night inside the stadium.”

Asked if that meant LSU would play Texas A&M on a Friday in Tiger Stadium, Alleva said “Yeah, we would play on a Friday, hopefully at night.” Alleva went on to say LSU prefers to play games at night, which he had previously gone on record saying. Alleva also

Alleva, who said this week non-conference opponents from power conferences are scared to schedule a road game in Tiger Stadium, also suggested the chances the SEC would ever move to a nine-game conference schedule are still slim.

“I hope we don’t get to that, but we’ll see,” Alleva said to Barnhart. “We may get to that at some point. My personal opinion is this league is very tough and we don’t need to make it tougher by playing another family member in the league and beating each other up more than we already do.”

The SEC has stuck with an eight-game conference schedule despite having 14 members. Each school has a locked in crossover opponent (LSU is paired with Florida), and the SEC will begin requiring each member to schedule one non-conference game against an opponent from a power conference. Notre Dame, BYU and Army will count toward satisfying that non-conference scheduling requirement. Alleva has been vocal with his thoughts against the current SEC scheduling model.

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Wisconsin QB leaves Badgers after one spring

Paul Chryst

Despite graduating high school early to join the Wisconsin Badgers, true freshman quarterback Austin Kafentzis is already on his way out of Madison.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports Kafentzis saw a limited number of snaps in the spring in Madison at a time when freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook seemed to have a more productive spring. Another report from 247 Sports says new Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst was not viewing Kafentzis as a quarterback option, but another position instead.

Kafentzis was a three-star recruit according to Rivals, and the fifth-best recruit in the state of Utah. He had committed to Wisconsin in June 2013. He had reportedly had strong ties with former Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen, and once Andersen packed his bags for Oregon State the quarterback reaffirmed his commitment to the program following the hiring of Chryst.

Kafentzis did reportedly take interest in Oregon State after Andersen left Wisconsin for the Pac-12 program, but it is unknown at this time if Kafentzis has any specific interest in another program. However, if he transfers to another FBS program he will now have to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules since he has already enrolled.

Wisconsin’s quarterback situation should still be good enough when it comes to depth. Joel Stave will be the team’s starter under center in the fall and redshirt junior Bart Houston is back in Madison this season. Wisconsin will also have redshirt freshman D.J. Gillins and Hornibrook.

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Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh defends satellite camp practice

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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff have quite a busy June on tap with nine stops as guests at nine different football camps. Harbaugh’s group will be making appearances at camps in California, Florida, Texas, and Alabama in addition to various stops within the Big Ten’s traditional footprint. Harbaugh has also extended an open invitation to coaches around the country to come be a part of Michigan’s football camp. Harbaugh’s national summer tour of football camps has been one of the storylines this offseason as he and his staff have taken advantage of NCAA rules to work at camps, and he is not about to apologize for it.

“Our staff has been invited to help work at the camp(s) and it’s a great way for us to spread football, you know — the joy and love of football,” Harbaugh said on the “Jim Rome Show” on Friday. “There’s also a recruiting element. You get to meet folks in different areas of the country. So I think it’s all good.”

Per NCAA rules, coaches at a school are restricted to running camps on campus, within its state boundaries or within a 50-mile radius of its campus if out-of-state. However, NCAA rules also allow coaches to work at any other camp — dubbed satellite camps — so long as they do not take part in organizing the camp or advertising their appearance at the specific camp. The school hosting the camp may advertise their appearance though.

The NCAA may allow this practice, but the ACC and SEC each have conference-specific rules prohibiting their coaches from taking advantage of the same freedom, and each conference has made a push to some degree to have the NCAA clamp down on the practice. The SEC even prohibited its coaches from attending Michigan’s camp.

Harbaugh, of course, is not alone in the act of working at satellite camps. Penn State’s James Franklin generated buzz last year by working camps in Georgia and Florida and Penn State’s coaches are once again going on the road to work camps this summer. Ohio State is getting in on the act. So is Nebraska and Notre Dame and more.

As for Michigan’s football camp, Harbaugh says the reception to the open invite has been well-received.

“I love it that Ivy League coaches are coming to our camp and Big Ten coaches are coming to our camp,” Harbaugh said. “South Florida is coming. We’ve got about 70 schools that are coming to our camp.”

Helmet sticker to MLive.com.

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Nearly two decades later, Priest Holmes graduates from Texas

BYU v Texas Getty Images

Twenty-three years after he arrived from San Antonio, 19 years after he helped his Longhorns to a stunning upset of Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 championship game, 14 years after he led the NFL in rushing, 13 years after winning the AP Offensive Player of the Year award and eight years after leaving the NFL, Priest Holmes has graduated from the University of Texas.

The obvious question: what in the world was Holmes doing in the eight years between leaving the NFL and earning his degree? Doing philanthropic work in his native San Antonio while serving as the NFLPA’s Alamo City chapter.

As part of his NFLPA duties, Holmes told TexasSports.com, was setting up a quarterly conference that emphasized professional development and the value of earning a college degree. The message sank home with him.

“I got fired up to finish that degree,” he said. “It really motivated me and gave me that passion.”

Holmes spent his Wednesdays and Thursdays driving to and from San Antonio to finish his degree in applied learning and development.

Diploma in hand, Holmes will use his education to enhance his current work with the Priest Holmes Foundation, which works to empower young people.”I was taking courses and able to turn around and immediately implement them in our programs,” Holmes said. “That made the transition easier.”

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PHOTO: Drake stops by Houston football offices

Rapper Drake

Started from the bottom now he’s…. at Houston’s football offices.

In no doubt purely coincidental timing (wink wink) just hours after landing the most highly-touted recruit in program history Drake stopped by Tom Herman and the gang to show some love.

No word on if Drake will abandon Kentucky – or Texas A&M – for the Coogs.

As Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger columnist Hugh Kellenberger put it, Drake is the hip-hop version of Kenny Chesney.

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Former Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase rejoins program as assistant DFO

Nathan Scheelhaase

It’s becoming something of a tradition in the Illinois football program. Start at quarterback, then come back a few years down the road and get your feet wet in the coaching business.

Earlier this week, Illinois announced the hiring of former quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase as the program’s assistant director of football operations. The man he replaces? None other than former Illinois quarterback Juice Williams.

Williams, who also preceded Scheelhaase as the Illini’s signal-caller, left for a job on the athletic development staff at Georgetown.

“I am honored to be working for the university I call home,” Scheelhaase said in a statement. “The memories I made as a player were special, and I can’t wait to be a part of creating more memories for the players and fans. As the Assistant Director of Football Operations I am excited about supporting the coaching staff and players in every way possible. I am confident that my experience as a student-athlete and as a leader both domestically and internationally will be a valuable source in helping the football program achieve greater success. I can’t wait to get to home and get to work.”

Scheelhaase started at quarterback from 2010-13 and remains the program’s all-time total offense leader with 10,634 yards. He stands as one of just two players in Big Ten history with 8,000 career passing yards and 2,000 career rushing yards, and is the only quarterback in school history to lead the club to bowl wins in back-to-back seasons.

Elsehwere in the program, Patrick Embleton has been hired as director of student-athlete development.

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Former Syracuse player to receive Medal of Honor for World War I heroics

Maryland v Syracuse

William Shemin played football and lacrosse at Syracuse before graduating in 1924. Prior to that, though, he was a war hero. Shemin joined the the Army in 1917, and by August of the next year he was near the Velse River in France, where his actions saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers, exposing himself to artillery fire while dragging the wounded to safety.

Shemin passed away in 1973. A week and a half from now, he will receive the Presidential Medal of Honor.

Shemin’s daughter, Elsie Shemin-Roth, will receive the medal from President Barack Obama at a ceremony at the White House, according to a press release from the White House (via Syracuse.com).

This won’t be the first time Shemin is honored for his efforts. He has previously been bestowed a Purple Heart and a Distinguished Service Cross.

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Army and Navy stand ground against College Football Playoff scheduling

Army v Navy Getty Images

One of college football’s best traditions will not budge for one of its newest traditions. Army and Navy stand united against adjusting its traditional scheduling of the Army-Navy Game to satisfy the College Football Playoff schedule for rankings and bowl pairings.

“We have no intention of moving it. None,” Navy athletics director Chet Gladchuk told Paul Myerberg of USA Today. “It would show that we’ve realigned our priorities in a way that doesn’t complement our mission. We can’t do it. It’s something that’s that special.”

The Army-Navy Game has found a permanent place on the college football calendar the Saturday after championship Saturday, which puts the annual rivalry in the national spotlight all by itself without competition from other conferences, aside from lower division playoff match-ups. With Navy joining the American Athletic Conference, the possibility Navy could be in the mix for one of the guaranteed spots in the New Years Six posed a slight problem to the College Football Playoff process. The College Football Playoff announced the final rankings and bowl pairings for associated bowls on the Sunday after championship Saturday. Navy playing one more game after the scheduled selection process poses a hypothetical problem.

What if Navy is 12-0? What if Navy is the highest ranked Group of Five conference champion but loses to Army? We may not be discussing Navy in its prime with national title contenders on a regular basis, but the new postseason format does make it easier or more realistic for Navy to play a key role in the big game bowl picture than it has in decades. Judging by another quote from Gladchuck to USA Today, Navy may be willing to pass on the whole playoff as long as it means it can play Army.

“If it means that we’ve got to sacrifice the opportunity to participate in the playoff system, then that’s something we’ll have to deal with,” Gladchuk said. “We’ll have to work on that.”

I don’t know if Navy will win the American Athletic Conference or not, but they will know if they have by the time the Army-Navy Game is played. IF Navy wins the conference, then the Midshipmen would be stacked up against conference champs from the Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference, MAC and Conference USA, and they would also have played just 11 games. This would be similar to Baylor and TCU each playing 12 games compared to the other power conference champions that played 13 games last season. Should Navy be warned of the dangers of having one fewer game on the record when the selection committee goes to work to put the final pieces together?

I’d love to see how that is handled by the selection committee.

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Tom Herman lands Houston’s highest-rated recruit in over a decade, possibly ever

Photo credit: Rivals

Houston’s new head coach has yet to coach a game, but he’s already making things happen. As best we can tell right now, new Houston head coach Tom Herman has broken down a wall that Houston has yet to climb since as far back as 2002.

Class of 2016 defensive tackle Ed Oliver, rated four stars and the seventh-best defensive tackle in the nation by Rivals, has given Herman and Houston his verbal commitment. This, of course, is a long way from becoming officially official with National Signing Day not until next February. It is, however, a sign that Herman is already having an impact on the recruiting trail at his new gig. While Oliver receives four out of five stars from Rivals, other recruiting services are a tad higher on him (he has a five-star composite ranking according to 247 Sports).

As it stands now, Oliver is choosing Houston over offers from programs like Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA and more.

Per Rivals, Wide receiver Deontay Greenberry was Houston’s most recent four-star recruit in the Class of 2012. Since 2002, Houston has signed a total of five four-star players.

Go to work, Herman.

Helmet sticker to The Student Section.

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Former Wolverine Blake Countess checking out Auburn

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Cornerback Blake Countess has now graduated from Michigan, which means he can now take advantage of a graduate transfer to play one more season anywhere he chooses if given a spot on a roster. Auburn appears to be one team of interest.

After previously visiting former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez and Arizona, Countess will reportedly spend this weekend at Auburn. Al.com also reports Countess intends to visit Oklahoma and Oklahoma State later this month. Should Countess wind up at Auburn, he will likely step into a key role on what could be a revamped defense under new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Muschamp has been helping to increase the intensity on defense, something Gus Malzahn spoke about earlier this spring. Countess would have a good chance to grab a starting job in the secondary after the Tigers have lost five players in the defensive backfield since January.

Countess announced earlier this month his intention to play the 2015 season somewhere else instead of Michigan. His announcement came a day after Jim Harbaugh welcomed another graduate transfer to Ann Arbor, defensive back Wayne Lyons from Stanford.

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