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Predictions 101 — Week 3

Dantonio Kelly AP

Once again, the team here is seeing things clearly. In Week 2, we went 4-3 straight, gave you Oregon State over Wisconsin, nearly came through with another big dog in Penn State and pegged the points scored for both Missouri and Texas A&M in their SEC debuts.

Even better, we were 6-0-1 versus “the number.” Not that anybody cares about such things, right?

That’s what we’ve done for you lately. Now, on to what’s up next.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Sept. 13 thru Sat., Sept. 15)

1) No. 20 Notre Dame at No. 10 Michigan State
Sat., Sept. 15 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Whaddaya know, the Fighting Irish have a shot to become relevant again. All they need to do is beat the Spartans.

Such an occurrence would mean Notre Dame improves to 3-0 for the first time in 10 years, breaks a six-game losing streak to ranked opponents on the road and effectively eliminates the Big Ten from BCS title contention in mid-September. All fairly amazing. Also quite difficult.

We don’t have much confidence in the Irish offensive line that was able to carve out just 52 rushing yards against Purdue last week. That spells trouble when going against a rugged Michigan State defensive unit that has yet to allow a touchdown, especially with an inexperienced quarterback starting his first game in a hostile environment.

Good luck to redshirt freshman Everett Golson, who had some pre-snap difficulty last week at home, and Tommy Rees when he comes in from the bullpen.

Irish backers will point to their team’s success in last year’s 31-13 victory over the Spartans, but it’s hard to imagine Mark Dantonio’s crew laying another egg like that at home. It hasn’t happened since and there’s certainly no reason to expect a recurrence in this spot.

Opening point spread: Michigan State by 2 1/2

The pick: Michigan State 24-16

2) No. 1 Alabama at Arkansas
Sat., Sept. 15 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

As we all know, the Razorbacks had an utterly forgettable outing last Saturday. Allowing Louisiana-Monroe to leave Little Rock with a 34-31 overtime victory was an all-time low for Arkansas, which went from No. 8 to No. Nothing in a flash.

The Warhawks made themselves at home, racking up 550 yards of offense (412 through the air) and routinely converted on fourth down (6-of-7). Unreal.

Aside from A.J. McCarron’s expert quarterbacking (14-of-19 for 219 yards and four TDs), the Crimson Tide didn’t have a particularly stellar Saturday either. That sounds strange, considering that Alabama registered a 35-0 victory over Western Kentucky, but you gotta shake your head at the fact that the all-world Tide offensive line gave up six sacks and the Hilltopper offense generated more first downs through the first three quarters.

However, this is less about waving red flags and more about knowing Nick Saban won’t let it happen again anytime soon. All of this and a growing injury list is bad news for the Hogs.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 13

The pick: Alabama 35-13

3) No. 2 USC at No. 21 Stanford
Sat., Sept. 15 — 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX

The Cardinal have dominated this series as of late. They’re on a three-game winning streak and have taken four of the last five from the Trojans, beginning, of course, with that upset of all upsets, the 24-23 stunner over No. 2 and 41-point favorite USC at the Coliseum in 2007.

The Trojans are ranked No. 2 in this spot as well, but judging from recent results, they pale in comparison to Pete Carroll’s juggernaut from five years ago.

Sure, USC has a distinct quarterbacking advantage with Matt Barkley, eons more experienced than Stanford’s Josh Nunes. But Lane Kiffin should show off a little more.

Who else could have a Heisman Trophy caliber quarterback share the field with a pair of seemingly unstoppable All-America wideouts and end up with only 187 yards passing against a limp Syracuse team as Barkley did last Saturday?

He did toss six touchdown passes, because stats are supreme at Troy these days, but to win “Pac-10” (we won’t recognize Utah and Colorado until they are deserving) games on the road, Barkley will have to direct an offense more diverse and explosive than the one that saw him toss 21 of his 23 completions to either Robert Woods or Marqise Lee out in the flats versus the Orangemen.

The Trojans should be wary of Cardinal safety Ed Reynolds, who already has three interceptions and 144 return yards this year, and linebacker Shayne Skov, a playmaker who is back for his senior season after being sidelined by injury.

USC isn’t Duke, but the recipe Stanford used to bottle up the Blue Devil running game and limit pass plays downfield should have some level of success.

We get the feeling that Kiffin plays to not lose. Maybe that’s the scholarship reduction talking. Maybe it’s the paranoia. In any case, the Cardinal won’t need Andrew Luck to give the Trojans, sans their kicker Andre Heidari, all they can handle up on The Farm.

Opening point spread: USC by 6 1/2

The pick: USC 29-27

4) No. 18 Florida at No. 23 Tennessee
Sat., Sept. 15 — 6 p.m. ET, ESPN

Here’s how coaches earn those big bucks: Texas A&M’s offense had it all figured out in the first half of its SEC debut against Florida last week. But after working in some halftime adjustments, the Gator defense rose up and put a halt to it all, forcing five consecutive three-and-outs on its way to an easy second-half shutout.

Next up for Will Muschamp and the rest of the Florida braintrust is figuring out a way to slow down the Volunteer pass-catch combo of Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter, who judging by his sensational performance in last week’s 51-13 victory over Georgia State (eight receptions for 146 yards and three scores) appears fully recovered from ACL surgery.

Expect an unpolished performance out of Gator signalcaller Jeff Driskel, who will find himself under siege by a Tennessee defense that has shown a nose for the football.

It’s good to see this matchup return to an elevated status with ranked squads on both sidelines for the first time since 2007.

Could the Vols possibly drop four in a row to Florida in Knoxville and eight overall in this series? Nah.

Opening point spread: Even

The pick: Tennessee 24-20

5) California at No. 12 Ohio State
Sat., Sept. 15 — noon ET, ABC

The Buckeyes carry the extra weight of the Big Ten’s nightmarish showing against the “Pac-10” (Utah and Colorado not worthy) last week as Wisconsin whiffed at Oregon State, Nebraska made UCLA famous and Arizona State rocked Illinois.

The Bears were less than golden in their opener, losing to Nevada. Yet to impress, Cal bounced back last Saturday, sleepwalking to a 50-31 victory over Southern Utah. A rash of penalties this season calls coaching and overall focus into question. And key injuries aren’t helping either.

Ohio State will need someone other than sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller (296 yards and four scores in last week’s 31-16 win over Central Florida) to carry the mail. With a banged up backfield, that would normally be difficult. But the Bear run defense appears to be soft and unorganized.

As we have said in the past, Cal is Cal and will always be Cal. That ain’t a good thing.

Opening point spread: Ohio State by 13

The pick: Ohio State 34-10

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Virginia at Georgia Tech
Sat., Sept. 15 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

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

Incomprehensible placekicking inefficiency got in the way of last week’s upset special as favored Virginia escaped with a 17-16 win over visiting Penn State thanks to a quartet of shanks and a blocked extra point.

We’ll give credit to Cavalier quarterback Michael Rocco, who capped a game-winning 86-yard touchdown drive by tossing a six-yard scoring strike with just 1:28 left. The Virginia defense deserves some credit too, forcing the Nittany Lions to settle for field goal attempts after inheriting excellent field position throughout the contest thanks to four turnovers.

Georgia Tech was victimized by field goals, as well, in its overtime loss at Virginia Tech and gets no bonus points for racking up more than 700 yards of total offense against Presbyterian last week.

The Yellow Jacket wishbone should find sticky going against a Virginia defense that has allowed less than 75 rushing yards per game this season.

Virginia returns 14 starters from a squad that spoiled then-No. 12 ranked Georgia Tech’s 6-0 start last season, becoming the first team to out rush the Yellow Jackets since Iowa did it in the Orange Bowl, following the 2009 season.

Don’t look now, but the Cavs break into the Top 25 after improving to 3-0.

Opening point spread: Georgia Tech by 9 1/2

The pick: Virginia 23-17

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 25 Brigham Young at Utah
Sat., Sept. 15 — 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2

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

The Cougars take their undefeated start, national ranking and the sour taste from last year’s turnover-plagued 54-10 loss to the Utes into Salt Lake City for the latest battle in the “Holy War” (sorry, the new politically correct “Desert Duel Rivalry Game” moniker doesn’t get us going).

This will be a defensive battle between teams in their sophomore seasons of independence and the Pac-12.

Utah has the brightest individual standouts on both sides of the ball, in running back John White and nose tackle Star Lotulelei, but BYU has the team edge on offense and defense.

With quarterback Jordan Wynn now retired from football due to repeated shoulder injuries, senior Jon Hays and/or freshman Travis Wilson will have a hard time leading the Utes to the Promised Land in this one.

BYU ballcarrier Michael Alisa will outrush White, atoning for last year’s limp team output of just 11 yards on the ground. That’ll give quarterback Riley Nelson enough run support to make this game manageable.

Sadly this old and bitter rivalry, which Utah claims began in 1896, won’t be played in 2014 and 2015, and its future after a meeting in 2016 is in question. Enjoy it while you still can.

Opening point spread: Utah by 1

The pick: Brigham Young 31-21

Week 2 record: 6-1
Overall record: 12-2

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Likely starter at QB for Vandy chooses medical school over football

Massachusetts v Vanderbilt Getty Images

Somewhat abruptly and unexpectedly, the dynamic of Vanderbilt’s quarterback competition has has undergone a dramatic shift.

Friday, Vandy issued a press release announcing that Patton Robinette has decided to retire from the game of football.  A history of injuries, including a concussion last September, influenced the quarterback’s decision to some degree.

The school stated that Robinette spoke frequently with his parents, close acquaintances, Vanderbilt physicians and athletic trainers, and Commodore coaches before walking away from the sport in a fashion similar to the recent retirements of Chris Borland and Jack Miller.

“This has been a very difficult decision to make,” Robinette said in a statement sent out by the school. “This team means the world to me and I love playing football more than anything. It’s been tough coming to a decision that is right for my family and I, and protects my health and future.

“I’ve been very deliberate in coming to this decision. It’s difficult but I’m really excited to move forward to the next chapter of my life and really to see what the field of medicine has in store for me.”

Exiting the spring game this past Saturday, Robinette was widely viewed as the favorite to land the starting job. Less than a week ago, Robinette was stating that he was “going to have to go out this offseason and camp and compete to maintain my position at the top,” adding, “I am going to work hard and do [just] that.”

Six days later, Robinette will now be preparing for medical school instead of summer camp.

While concern over his health played a role in his decision, a significant one, so did the opportunity to embark on a medical career sooner rather than later.

“People have made a big deal of the concussion thing,” said Robinette during a press conference. “That’s certainly a factor, but more than that I’m looking at moving forward in my medical career and seeing where that takes me.

“Though football is an amazing game and I’ve loved playing the game at Vanderbilt, for myself and my future family, there are more important things than me trying to have one last stand. It was difficult to come to that decision.”

The past two seasons, Robinette started five of the 16 games in which he played.  The pinnacle of Robinette’s playing career very well could’ve come in 2013, with the school writing “[t]o many Commodore fans, Robinette’s greatest contribution came on Nov. 23, 2013 when his 5-yard rushing touchdown proved the winning margin over Tennessee in Knoxville.”

That was the second-straight win for the Commodores over the in-state rival Vols, but just the third in the last 31 years.

With Robinette out of the picture, redshirt sophomore Johnny McCrary will likely enter camp as a slight favorite to win the starting job. Also in the mix will be sophomore Wade Freebeck and redshirt freshman Shawn Stankavage, with incoming freshman and 2015 four-star signee Kyle Shurmur joining the fray this summer.

McCrary and Freebeck were two of the four quarterbacks who started at least one game last year for the ‘Dores.  The other player to start a game under center last year, Stephen Rivers, was granted a release from his Vandy scholarship this past January with the intention of transferring.

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PHOTOS: Buckeyes flash title ring bling on Twitter

National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State Getty Images

To the victor goes the spoils, the old chestnut goes.  As does, in this case, the jewelry.

As you may have heard, Ohio State beat Oregon 42-20 this past January to claim the first-ever College Football Playoff championship.  Armed with new hardware for its trophy case, the Buckeyes kicked off spring practice earlier this month, with those sessions, as far as the general public is concerned, focused mainly on a quarterback competition that will ultimately feature three past/future Heisman Trophy contenders — probably.

In the midst of the ramp-up to the 2015 season, though, one OSU assistant, wide receivers coach Zach Smith, Twitter-modeled the bling he received for this past season’s CFP title…

… while head coach Urban Meyer and tight end Jeff Heuerman modeled there’s in a tweet from the latter’s account:

A tweet from OSU director of player personnel Mark Pantoni stated that the rings displayed by Smith, Meyer and Heuerman were from the CFP committee, adding “wait until you see the National Championship rings our players designed!”  In other words, the Buckeyes will be on the receiving end of a pair of championship rings, one from the CFP and one that they themselves designed.

Additionally, the players, as well as the coaches and other various members of the support staff, will receive Big Ten title rings at some point in the not-too-distant future.

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B1G issues statement on Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ law

Jim Delany AP

As expected, the Big Ten has chimed in on the burgeoning controversy in the state of Indiana.

Thursday, Gov. Mike Pence signed into law a bill that allows for private businesses to refuse service to — or discriminate against, as some would say — members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.  The NCAA quickly issued a statement expressing concern over the new law, intimating that The Association, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, could sever its ties with the state.

Already, there’s a petition posted to change.org by a Wisconsin man demanding that the Big Ten move its conference football championship game out of the state, where it’s been contested since its inception in 2011.  Lucas Oil Stadium is also scheduled to host future B1G title games every year through the 2021 season.

In a statement, however, the conference stated that its presidents and chancellors will review the situation “and its impact” at its next scheduled meeting.  Just when that meeting will take place is unclear.

Here’s the Big Ten’s statement, in its entirety:

The Big Ten Conference and its member institutions believe in promoting an inclusive environment in which athletic competition can operate free from discrimination. The conference is aware of the bill that was recently signed into law in the state of Indiana and will further review its impact at the next scheduled meetings of its administrators, presidents and chancellors.

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Archie Manning cedes CFP post, replaced by Bobby Johnson

Bobby Johnson

Not so unexpectedly, another change has come to the College Football Playoff selection committee.

In a press release Friday, the CFP announced that Archie Manning will not be able to rejoin the committee charged with both picking the four playoff participants and slotting teams in the other “New Years Six” games.  Manning was one of the original 13 members of the committee, but was forced to take a sabbatical related to health issues this past October.

“I was honored when I was chosen to be on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee,” Manning said in a statement. “It’s a great group of people and they did a wonderful job last year. But as I look ahead to the various commitments I have – to my family, numerous time obligations around the country and to other conflicting demands – I have concluded that I won’t be able to return to the committee. I particularly want to watch [NFL quarterback sons] Peyton and Eli play, in person when I can, and it’s hard to do that when weekends are devoted to watching college games. This is not an easy choice, but it’s the right choice for [wife] Olivia and me.

“The College Football Playoff is a big hit and I wish my colleagues the very best.”

Manning’s replacement has already been selected, with Bobby Johnson sliding into the open spot. After spending eight seasons (1994-2001) as the head coach at Furman, the 64-year-old Johnson spent eight seasons (2002-09) in the same position at Vanderbilt before abruptly retiring from coaching in July of 2010.

Johnson, a South Carolina native, played his college football at Clemson in the late sixties and early seventies.  He also spent one season (1993) as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator.

According to the release, Johnson was selected unanimously during a March 25 conference call.

“I have tremendous respect for the selection committee and I am honored to join the group,” said Johnson. “As a former player and coach, I’m particularly happy about the opportunity to continue to serve the game.”

With Johnson onboard, there are now four former FBS head coaches on the committee: Johnson, Tom OsborneBarry Alvarez and Tyrone Willingham.

Johnson is also the second new committee member announced this year.  In mid-December of last year, after the final CFP rankings came out, it was announced that Oliver Luck would be stepping down as West Virginia’s athletic director and taking a job at the NCAA.  Two months later, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt was announced as Luck’s replacement.

This likely won’t be the last shakeup as the terms of current committee members Mike Gould, Pat HadenMike Tranghese and Osborne expire next February.  As far as the other committee members go, the terms of Alvarez and Condoleezza Rice expire in February of 2017, while the terms of Willingham, committee chair Jeff Long, Tom Jernstedt, Dan Radakovich and Steve Wieberg are up a year later.

(Photo credit: Vanderbilt athletics)

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Nick Chubb impresses even the great Herschel Walker

Nick Chubb AP

I’ve made it perfectly clear during my time at CFT that Herschel Walker was the greatest college football player I’ve seen in my lifetime, so the former Georgia running back’s words carry a little more weight in my mind.  And Walker’s words on a current UGA running back?  Positively glowing.

Walker attended practice at his old stomping grounds Thursday, and spoke with the media about very Bulldog talking points.  Well, really, one talking point: Nick Chubb.

And when it comes to Walker on Chubb, well, insert an erection euphemism here.

“One thing I like about him, the game is over, practice is over, and the kid is still out there working out,” the College Football Hall of Famer said. “That’s just the sign of a good athlete. That’s a sign that he’s doing things he needs to get done. …

“This kid came on as a freshman and just think if he had started the whole season, what he would have done. That’s what’s so amazing.”

Walker has a very valid point when it comes to Chubb.

Backing up a healthy Todd Gurley, the true freshman Chubb rushed for a modest 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the first five games of the 2014 season. Gurley’s season was over after that fifth game thanks to a combination of a four-game suspension for NCAA violations and a torn ACL in his first game back, which allowed Chubb to absolutely go off: in the last eight games of the year, Chubb ripped off 1,323 yards and 12 touchdowns. Included in that total was a school-record 266 yards in the Belk Bowl win over Louisville.

Extrapolate that production out over an entire regular season plus a bowl game, and Chubb’s statline would’ve read 2,150 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. The former total would’ve been good enough for second nationally this past season, behind only the 2,587 yards from Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.

As it was, his 1,547 yards rushing were the second-most ever for an UGA freshman, behind only the 1,616 yards put up by, you guessed it, Walker back in 1980.

As impressive as those numbers are, it’s the workload Chubb shouldered that really stands out to Walker, especially in this day and age of passing offenses. In his eight games post-Gurley, Chubb had 25 or more carries four times, with three games topping the 30-carry mark.

“When you see football today, you see a choir playing at running back,” Walker said. “You see about 10 guys running in and out of the game. This guy (Chubb) carried the ball 30 some times. That is absolutely amazing. That shows you the worth that he is. I’m amazed.”

Given the shelf life of running backs these days, I’d be amazed if Chubb continued that workload throughout the entirety of the 2015 season.

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Michigan assistant confirms addition of Stanford transfer DB

UC Davis v Stanford Getty Images

While the school has yet to officially announce his addition, one of Jim Harbaugh‘s assistant let the personnel cat out of the bag when it comes to Wayne Lyons.

Speculation has been running rampant that Lyons, who announced earlier this year he would be returning for another season instead of leaving for the NFL, would be transferring from Stanford to Michigan for his final season of college football.  That speculation ratcheted up a notch or eight when, in early February, word surfaced that Lyons’ mother had taken a job in the UM football department.

Nearly two months later, the assistant who would be Lyons’ position coach confirmed the veteran addition to the Wolverines’ secondary.

“Our (cornerbacks room) has been told that there is going to be three (new) guys coming into the secondary,” Mike Zordich said according to mlive.com. “We’ve got a transfer from Stanford coming in, a true freshman (in Keith Washington) and a (freshman) safety who likes to play corner in Tyree Kinnel.”

Lyons was on campus this past weekend, with Zordich stating that “we spent some time with him and I’ve watched a lot of film on him. … From what I saw with him at Stanford, he did pretty well.”

Based on his time with the Cardinal, Lyons will get the opportunity to come in and compete immediately — he’s a graduate transfer — for significant playing time in UM’s defensive backfield.

Lyons played in all 41 games the past three seasons for Stanford, starting all 13 games in 2013. He shared the starting job in 2014.

Harbaugh had recruited Lyons to Stanford before he left for the San Francisco 49ers in January of 2011, a month before the player signed with the Cardinal.

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Fifth year for Husker WR Jamal Turner approved

Jamal Turner AP

While there was never much real doubt, Nebraska has officially learned that they’ll have a potentially important piece of its receiving corps back in 2015.

On his Twitter account Thursday, Jamal Turner announced that he has been approved for a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Turner received the extra season after missing all but two games during the 2014 season due to an Achilles’ injury.

He had started both of those contests prior to the injury.

As long as Turner can stay healthy, he should be a significant contributor to a Mike Riley offense that’s expected to put a greater emphasis on the passing game than his predecessor’s did.

Staying healthy, though, has proven somewhat elusive for Turner of late. In addition to missing nearly all of the 2014 season, he missed the last five games of the 2013 season because of a leg injury. In the 36 games in which he played the last four seasons, he totaled 64 receptions for 799 yards and four touchdowns.

His most productive season came in 2012. Playing in all 14 games — four starts — Jackson had 32 receptions, 417 yards and three touchdowns.

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Two Oregon reserves to transfer

Oregon v Washington State

Oregon offensive lineman Jamal Prater and wide receiver B.J. Kelley have elected to transfer, as reported by Andrew Greif of The Oregonian on Thursday evening. The Ducks are set to open spring ball on Tuesday.

Playing time seems to be the reason for both players seeking new opportunities elsewhere.

Prater saw action in nine career games, while Kelley caught six passes and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2011 and saw his playing time decrease from there.

“A lot of times I could have had an opportunity and I felt like I just didn’t get it,” Kelley told the paper. “I don’t regret being here at Oregon. There will never be another opportunity from what I’ve experienced. They can never take that back.”

The defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions have also lost offensive lineman Andre Yruretagoyena, wide receiver Chance Allen, defensive backs Stephen Amoako and Isaac Dixon and defensive lineman Sam Kamp to transfer since the end of last season.

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Want your SEC spring game schedule? Here’s your SEC spring game schedule

Jeremy Johnson

ESPN announced the 2015 SEC spring game schedule on Thursday. You are aware of the business relationship between the SEC and ESPN, aren’t you? Anyway, all 11 remainingSEC spring games (Kentucky and Texas A&M will not hold spring games, Vanderbilt’s was on Saturday) will be shown on SEC Network properties but, interestingly enough, none of them will actually be on SEC Network properties.

Instead, SEC Network+ – the digital home of SECN, basically the network’s version of ESPN3 – will show most games while SEC Network Alternate – the network’s overflow channel – will provide whip around coverage. All games will be shown on replay on SEC Network throughout the following week.

Here’s the schedule:

April 11
SEC Spring Whip Around (noon-4 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate
South Carolina (noon ET) – SEC Network+
Florida (12:30 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Ole Miss (1 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Georgia (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+

April 18
Mississippi State (noon ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+
SEC Spring Whip Around (2-5 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate
Auburn (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
LSU (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Alabama (3 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Missouri (5 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+

April 25
Arkansas (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+
Tennessee (4 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+

Ironically, the creation of the SEC’s own conference-specific network has actually decreased the coverage of SEC spring games. In the past Alabama, Auburn, Florida and a few others regularly had their spring games shown on ESPN The Mothership or ESPNU. Now they’ll all be on the digital step-brother of a niche network.

Whatever. I’m sure the paychecks will help the SEC get over it.

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Stanford beats Harbaugh, USC for nation’s No. 2 QB recruit

KJ Costello

Here’s a fun dynamic playing out now that Jim Harbaugh is back in college football: the former Stanford head coach recruiting against his old program. It’s especially fun when the tug-of-war is over a quarterback. The inaugural battle completed Thursday with Harbaugh coming out on the losing end.

Stanford beat out Michigan and USC for K.J. Costello, a pro-style quarterback out of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. Costello is a four-star prospect according to Rivals.com, rated as the nation’s No. 2 pro-style signal caller and the nation’s 25th-best overall player.

“I had to pick the one that was best for my future and that was Stanford,” Costello said after making his decision. “Stanford always felt like home for me from the beginning and I think it’s the best overall fit for me on and off the field.”I’ve been there three times and the last time I was there, I was really blown away. I got to spend a lot of times with all the coaches and sit down and get to know Coach Shaw really well. Coach Bloomgren and Coach Pritchard are great guys and coaches as well and I met a lot of the players and just really fit in and bonded with everyone.”

The hope here is that a Costello-led Stanford club meets a Harbaugh-led Michigan team in a future Rose Bowl. That one wouldn’t be interesting at all.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Mizzou to shell out nearly $5 million for guarantee games over next six years

DeJuan Rogers, Jimmie Hunt

The Columbia Tribune recently obtained the contracts for Missouri’s upcoming guarantee games and found that, like in every other walk of life, the cost of business is going up.

Here’s how the payments break down:

– vs. Southeast Missouri State, Sept. 5, 2015: $385,000
– vs. Eastern Michigan, Sept. 10, 2016: $1.3 million
– vs. Missouri State, Sept. 2, 2017: $400,000
– vs. Idaho, Oct. 21, 2017: $1.3 million
– vs. Southeast Missouri State, Sept. 21, 2019: $425,000
– vs. Eastern Michigan, Sept. 26, 2020: $1.1 million

Add it all up and you get $4.91 million for a half-dozen games.

If that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider that Missouri paid $700,000 total to bring in Murray State, Toledo and Arkansas State in 2013 (though the Tigers did make a return trip to Toledo the following year, likely keeping costs down). They’ll shell out nearly twice that just to bring Eastern Michigan to Columbia next season.

What’s pushing these prices up? Costs are going up for mid-majors from the MAC and Sun Belt. Oh, and they’re just as aware of the SEC TV deals as the rest of us.

“It’s indicative of the fact that your midmajor programs have greater needs from a financial standpoint,” Missouri executive associate athletics director Bryan Maggard told the paper. “And with TV, the revenues generated by all these networks that everybody’s aware of, it’s just driven the price up. I do believe the midmajor programs are looking to support their programs in the various needs — whether it be cost of attendance, things like that — through guarantee monies.”

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Ex-A&M Aggie Sebastian LaRue dismissed by Wazzu

Sebastian LaRue

It appears Sebastian LaRue‘s winding, twisting football path has taken yet another detour.

Wednesday, Washington State head coach Mike Leach revealed that LaRue has been dismissed from the Cougars football program, Rivals.com reported.  Other than the standard violation of unspecified team rules, no reason was given for Leach’s boot being applied to Larue’s backside.

Originally a four-star member of Texas A&M’s 2013 recruiting class, LaRue was rated as the No. 24 wide receiver in the country.  After playing in one game as a true freshman, and stating that he wanted to be closer to his home in Santa Monica, Calf., LaRue announced in January of 2014 that he would be transferring from A&M to Wazzu.

(For those curious, Pullman is roughly 1,150 miles from Santa Monica, while College Station is approximately 1,500)

LaRue ended up never playing a down for Wazzu as he was forced to sit out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Entering the offseason, however, he was looked upon as a player who could’ve made a significant contribution to the Cougars’ defense after being moved to the secondary — perhaps even as a starter.

Wherever LaRue ends up next, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

(Photo credit: Washington State athletics)

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Vols OL Coleman Thomas arrested on felony theft charge

Florida v Tennessee Getty Images

After relative quiet on the legal front the past few days, a member of the Tennessee Volunteers has broken that calm.

According to Jimmy Hyams of Knoxville WNML radio, UT offensive lineman Coleman Thomas was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly attempted to sell stolen property on the university’s campus.  No details, including the items involved or the specific charge or charges Thomas is facing, were divulged.

UT has yet to comment on what if any impact this will have on the sophomore moving forward.

As a true freshman last season, Coleman started five of the 11 games in which he played.  All five of those starts came at right tackle.

Coleman was a three-star member of the Vols’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 10 center in the country coming out of high school in Virginia.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Wes Rucker)

UPDATED: 4:33 p.m. ET: According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Thomas was arrested on a felony theft charge after he allegedly stole an Xbox and three Xbox games from a fellow student.  The victim alleged that the theft occurred March 13.

From the News Sentinel:

Authorities discovered that the items had been sold later the same day to the Game Stop store at 6731 Clinton Highway. The cost to reimburse Game Stop was $176 according to the arrest report.

The stolen items were valued at $640 according to the report.

Coleman took part in UT’s first practice of the spring Tuesday, and even spoke to the media. It remains unclear if UT officials were aware of the incident prior to the reports surfacing.

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‘Jacked’ Hugh Freeze to serve as Talladega pace-car driver

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Once again, the biggest track in NASCAR is embracing the state’s love of college football, although this time with an individual outside of its boundaries.

According to Patrick Magee of the Sun Herald, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze will serve as the driver of the pace car for the May 3 race at Talladega Superspeedway. To say that Freeze, who is good friends with NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick, is excited about the opportunity to lead the 43 stock cars to the green flag at 120 mph would be an understatement.

I am so jacked about that,” Freeze said according to Magee. “You have no idea, man. I love golf, fishing and NASCAR outside of my job and my family. That’s the three things I spend time doing.”

Freeze will be somewhat returning the favor to one driver in the field as Magee writes that “Stenhouse spoke to the Ole Miss football team prior to the 31-17 victory over Mississippi State on Nov. 29 in Oxford and helped Freeze lead the team onto the field.”  The photo in the upper right of the post shows Stenhouse, left in the white jacket, running alongside Freeze in leading the Rebels out prior to the Egg Bowl.

Freeze’s appearance in a couple of months continues a Talladega tradition that’s grown over the years.

In 2014, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn served in the same capacity as his SEC West counterpart will this year.  During the 2013 May race, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron served as the pace-car driver as well.  In 2012, Alabama legend Bear Bryant rode shotgun at the spring race.

And, while I’m here and given the subject matter, I’ll remind you that you can keep abreast of all of the latest racing news at both NASCARTalk and MotorSportsTalk. One other reminder? NASCAR will return to NBC Sports with the telecast of the race at the famed Daytona International Speedway Fourth of July weekend.

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NCAA ‘concerned’ over Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ bill

NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice Getty Images

When it comes to the state of Indiana, the NCAA and some of its membership have extensive ties to the area.  The Association is headquartered in the state, while the Big Ten annually holds its football championship game in Indianapolis.  This year, as it has in the past, the same city will host the men’s basketball Final Four.

How long those relationships with the state will continue, though, remains to be seen.

Thursday, CNN.com wrote, “Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law… a measure that allows businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of ‘religious freedom.'” The website went on to write that “[i]n a statement explaining his decision, [Pence] pointed to President Barack Obama‘s health care law — which triggered a lawsuit by Hobby Lobby to ensure the company wasn’t required to cover birth control through its employees’ health insurance plans.”

Regardless of the motives behind the decision, the move to sign the bill has caught the attention of the NCAA, which in a statement attributed to president Mark Emmert suggested that its future dealings with the state could be in jeopardy.

The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events. We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.

The Big Ten has yet to issue a statement on the development, although one is expected in short order, perhaps as early as today.

The cry for sports at both the collegiate and professional levels to abandon the state has already started, however.  From Outsports.com:

The members of the LGBT Sports Coalition join a growing chorus for the NFL, NCAA, Big Ten, USA Diving, USA Gymnastics and others to move major sporting events away from Indiana after Gov. Mike Pence legalized discrimination.

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