O’ Brien maintains tenuous hold on Badgers’ starting QB job

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Maybe.

A freshman All-American in 2010 under Ralph Friedgen, Danny O’ Brien‘s performance took a precipitous drop in 2011 under Randy Edsall and the quarterback ultimately transferred from Maryland to Wisconsin.

The Badgers were hoping, after losing one-year rental Russell Wilson, they had gotten the ’10 O’ Brien model.  Instead, at least early on, it appears they have gotten the newer, less reliable model.

O’ Brien is ranked just 75th in the country in passing efficiency through three games, with the low point of the start of his Badgers’ career coming in the close shave against Utah State.  An O’ Brien fumble — the QB has turned the ball over three times in a game and a half — helped the Badgers dig a 14-3 first-half hole against the Aggies, and prompted head coach Bret Bielema to yank O’ Brien in favor of backup Joel Stave.  While Stave didn’t even remotely set a fire under the UW passing attack — he completed 2-of-6 passes for 15 yards — he was under center as the Badgers scored two third-quarter touchdowns — one on a punt return — and was able to stave off (see what I did there?) the Aggies the rest of the way for a 16-14 win.

While the coaching staff has yet to publicly name a starter for this weekend’s game against UTEP, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that offensive coordinator Matt Canada‘s “desire to ensure the players aren’t wary of losing their position too quickly suggests Danny O’Brien will retain the No. 1 job for at least another week.”  Canada intimated that he doesn’t want his players in general and O’ Brien specifically to be looking over their shoulders.

“I don’t think that is anything I’ve ever been a part of, and I don’t think that is anything coach (Bielema) has been a part of, having a quick trigger and have guys worry,” Canada said. “If that was the case, it would have happened [in the game against Oregon State]. That’s not how I want a guy to play.”

When an official decision on the starter will be made is unclear.

The drama surrounding the quarterback situation is the latest in what’s been a rough start to the 2012 season for the Badgers.

Following a narrow five-point win over FBS program Northern Iowa in the opener, UW “parted ways” with its offensive line coach.  The following week, the Badgers went out and lost to unranked Oregon State.  The next week saw the Badgers struggle with a member of the WAC.

Montee Ball, a Heisman finalist in 2011 and a preseason favorite for the award entering this year, is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and scored just two touchdowns.  The past two seasons, the running back averaged more than 6.2 ypc and scored 51 touchdowns on the ground.

Aside from all that, all is well in Madison.

Florida adds South Alabama to 2020 schedule

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Florida may not be able to beat Alabama, so they’ll do their best to make sure they take care of South Alabama in 2020. The Gators and Jaguars added a future non-conference game to the 2020 schedule, with Florida paying South Alabama a reported $1.2 million for the game in Gainesville.

The two schools will meet for the first time on September 19, 2020 at Florida. The game will be played in Week 3, likely following an SEC game on Florida’s schedule. Florida is scheduled to open the season at home against FCS opponent Eastern Washington and has an opening likely to be filled by a conference game in Week 2 of the schedule. Florida now has just one non-conference scheduling vacancy to fill before 2021, with one spot available in 2019 (Florida opens in Orlando against Miami and has Florida State at the end of the year).

As a member of the SEC, Florida is required to play one power conference opponent each season. Obviously, South Alabama doesn’t satisfy that requirement, but the Gators play ACC rival Florida State on an annual basis so the scheduling requirement is fulfilled any time the Seminoles are tacked on the schedule. Florida will open the 2017 season against Michigan as well.

South Alabama has filled up the bulk of their non-conference slots through the 2022 season with a good dose of power conference opponents. South Alabama will play Ole Miss and Oklahoma State this year, Oklahoma State in 2018, and has future games lined up against Nebraska, Tennessee, and UCLA. South Alabama has just one vacancy to fill before the 2023 season, with one spot in 2021 available.

John Swofford turns down volume on Notre Dame to ACC talk

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If there are any serious conversations behind closed doors between the ACC and Notre Dame about potential football membership, ACC commissioner John Swofford is not showing his cards. In a radio interview Friday morning, Swofford was asked about the rumor the conference and the Fighting Irish have had discussions, to which Swofford avoided any controversy.

Swofford said the ACC and Notre Dame have not had any such discussions about Notre Dame joining the conference in football to complete its membership in the conference, but he also didn’t slam the door shut on the potential option down the line.

Earlier this month the rumor mill got turning in wild fashion after a radio interview saw FOX Sports broadcaster Tim Brando say “conversations have taken place” about the ACC adding Notre Dame as a full member. That comment alone got the gears working on some exaggerated headlines across the Internet, some going so far as to suggest the Irish were on the verge of joining the ACC and abandoning their football independence once and for all. As I suggested at the time, there is absolutely reason to believe Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick has had at least some degree of conversation with the ACC about the possibility, because a good AD would at least test the water on any and all potential scenarios should the time come the university approaches its football program differently.

The latest edition of the Notre Dame to ACC rumors followed the scheduling announcement from the ACC and Notre Dame for future game sin the ACC schedule rotation with the Irish through 2037.

Swofford did drop an interesting, although completely unsurprising, nugget of information as well when he mentioned the ACC would explore adding a 16th team to the fold if Notre Dame could be added in football. That alone will be enough to keep fans of certain programs interested in the ACC’s future, although they will all have to wait for a while in all likelihood, as no changes would be expected until current media rights deals expire and are up for renewal in the next decade.

Chip Kelly’s new ESPN gig could be pit stop back to college sideline

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After being cut from his second NFL job in as many years just after the college football coaching carousel came to a halt, we just knew Chip Kelly couldn’t keep himself away from the college football game this fall.

ESPN announced today Kelly has been hired to be a college football studio analyst with the network for the upcoming season.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting, said in a released statement. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”

Kelly says he is ready for the new job.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in his statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.”

Of course, the obvious thought here is this studio gig with ESPN is a one-year job at the most for Kelly, because his name will be one of the most popular names in the coaching rumor mills the moment something goes wrong at any number of programs this upcoming season. Kelly has been fending off rumors about his expected return to college coaching from the very beginning of his brief run in the NFL, first with the Philadelphia Eagles and then with the San Francisco 49ers. It’s pretty much par for the course for the former Oregon Ducks coach who also fought off NFL rumors for years before finally leaving for the NFL.

The job could be a good fit for Kelly, because he certainly knows his football and has a unique perspective to offer. Kelly could follow a path previously ventured by Rich Rodriguez (Michigan to CBS Sports Network to Arizona) and Urban Meyer (Florida to ESPN to Ohio State).

If there is one person who may be happy to have Kelly on board, it may be Monday Night Football analysts Jon Gruden, who now will hear a co-worker’s name heard in rumor mills more often for the next few months.

Academics will push 2017 four-star Auburn signee to a JUCO

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Until he gets his academic house in order, Alaric Williams‘ debut on The Plains will, at minimum, be delayed.

The 2017 signee confirmed via his Twitter account that, because he “came up short academically,” he will not play for Auburn this season.  Instead, the running back has signed with Garden City Community College and will play for the junior college in 2017.

In his tweet, Robinson intimated that, after his stint at the JUCO level, he’ll make his way to AU; whether that ultimately happens over the next several months remains to be seen.  The highly-touted signee also had a message for “the young recruits who are being highly recruited.”

“School is not something you play with,” the Alabama product wrote, adding, “I wish I would’ve realized that from the day I started high school.”

A four-star member of the Tigers’ most recent recruiting class, Williams was rated as the No. 12 player at any position in the state of Alabama. In addition to running back, the 6-0, 195-athlete was also being looked at as a slot receiver in AU’s offense.