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The Fifth Quarter: Week 4 Rewind

Clemson v Florida State Getty Images

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

WINNERS

Guess who’s back… Back again…
Earlier this week on this lil’ ol’ website, the question was posed asking whether Florida State was back after years of keeping the national stage at arm’s length.  Consider that question answered in the affirmative.  And with (late-game) authority.  Early on, though, the Seminoles were staggering, with No. 10 Clemson holding a 28-14 lead early in the third quarter and seemingly having the No. 4 team in the country on the ropes.  Then, all offensive hell broke loose for the ‘Noles.  In a span of just under 17 minutes, FSU exploded for 35 points to send the crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium into a frenzy and, ultimately, home ecstatic with a resounding 49-37 thumping.  The win puts the Seminoles in the ACC driver’s seat — FSU will be significant favorites every single conference game the remainder of the season — and, depending on how things shake out above them, could find themselves in the same seat when it comes to the chase for the BcS title chase.  Of course, there are still several obstacles to navigate, none more obvious than themselves and shooting their own foot.  For now, though, every sign points to the Seminoles very much being back.

A RB graveyard in Corvallis
Apparently, Oregon State is the place where top-flight running backs go to die.  In two games this season, OSU has limited Wisconsin’s Montee Ball — third in the country last season in rushing yards — to 61 yards on 15 carries and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin — the nation’s leading rusher entering this weekend’s game — to 45 yards on 12 carries.  Neither player scored a touchdown.  The Beavers turnaround in that phase of the game is nothing short of astounding.  Last season, OSU ranked 101st in the country, allowing 193.8 rushing yards per game in winning just three games; this season, OSU, 2-0 after their win over the No. 19 Bruins, is giving up just 53.5 yards per game.

Here he comes to Stave the day
The most notable change at the quarterback position this weekend came courtesy of Wisconsin, with the Badgers taking the reins of their offense out of the hands of Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien and handing them to Joel Stave.  And, at least for one game, the redshirt freshman made the UW coaching staff look like a bunch of Norman Einsteins.  In his first collegiate start, Stave threw for 147 yards — in the first half; the Badgers came into the game with UTEP averaging 156.3, a total “good” for 117th out of 124 FBS programs.  For the game, Stave threw for 210 yards — the return of wide receiver Jared Abbrederis certainly helped the first-time starter — as the Badgers held off the Miners 37-26.

Red-hot, dead sexy MACtion
MAC football: it’s not just for Wednesdays any more.  On Saturday, The Little Midwest Conference That Could finished the day with a 6-3 record in non-conference games.  It was the victories, however, that were the story of the day as four of those wins came against members of BcS conferences — Kansas, 30-23 losers to Northern Illinois; USF, 30-27 losers to Ball State; Iowa, 32-31 losers to Central Michigan; and UConn, 30-24 losers to Western Michigan.  Not only that, but Eastern Michigan hung with a ranked Michigan State team through three and a half quarters, as did Akron vs. Tennessee; in fact, the only blowout in MAC vs. BcS matchups Saturday was Virginia Tech’s 37-0 drubbing of Bowling Green.  Add in a 4-0 Ohio University team that should be ranked somewhere inside the Top 25, and it’s shaping up like the MAC could be the best football conference in that area of the country and yes I’m looking directly at you B1G.

AIRBHG on sabbatical?
You have no doubt heard of the curse of the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, with the Hawkeyes losing somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 players at the position to on-field injuries and/or off-field “issues” the past several years.  The fullback position is another animal entirely, as Mark Weisman proved Saturday afternoon.  The former walk-on rushed for a career-high 217 yards — the Hawkeyes as a team rushed for 215 — and scored three of Iowa’s four touchdowns.  In the end, however, the AIRBHG had the last laugh as Central Michigan, after recovering an onside kick with less than a minute left, kicked a 47-yard field goal with three seconds left to give the Chips a stunning 32-31 win over the Hawkeyes.

LOSERS

Mizzou’s rude welcome to SEC continues
Well, that’s no way to treat the new guy, is it?  After Georgia spoiled Missouri’s SEC coming-out party two weeks ago in a physical 21-point beatdown, South Carolina dominated the Tigers in every phase of the game, pushing and bullying its way to an easy 31-10 win.  That leaves Mizzou 0-2 in conference play, with games against old-man football teams such as Alabama and Florida among others remaining.  Granted, Mizzou has faced the two preseason favorites in the SEC East, but the Tigers had been hoping to send an early-season message to rest of the league.  They’ve actually done that, but it’s not the message they would’ve preferred: simply put, the Tigers aren’t nearly ready to compete with the best the East has to offer, let alone the best that the conference serves up annually.

The forward pass in South Bend
This all you need to know about the aerial circus, replete with clowns and a bearded lady, that reared its ugly head in South Bend Saturday: the last five passes Michigan attempted in the first half were all intercepted by Notre Dame — four by Denard Robinson, one by Vincent Smith.  All told, seven were intercepted between the two teams; the two by the Irish were courtesy of starter Everett Golson, who was promptly yanked in favor of Tommy Rees.  Fortunately for the Wolverines, that was the last of the picks, although Robinson was kind enough to lose a fumble on the first possession of the third quarter.  Unfortunately, the combination of the turnovers and the Irish defense was too much to overcome as the Wolverines fell to 2-2 with the 13-6 loss.

Ramblin’ Wrecked
For the second time in four weeks, Georgia Tech has lost an ACC heartbreaker, with this one likely costing the Yellow Jackets any slim hopes they’d entertained of making a trip to the conference championship game.  In today’s loss to Miami, Tech fell behind 19-0… only to score the next 36 points… only to see The U score the final 23 points, including a touchdown in overtime that gave Miami a 42-36 win.  That game-winning touchdown came after Tech, with the initial possession of the extra session and eschewing a chippie field goal attempt, failed to convert a fourth-and-one from the two-yard line.  Combine that with a three-point overtime loss to Virginia Tech in the season opener, and the Miami game was the back-end of a fatal one-two conference sucker punch to Tech’s gut.

No Moore equals much less for Boise
With the losses of Kellen Moore, Doug Martin and a whole host of other veteran starters, it was widely assumed that Boise State would struggle, especially on offense and early on in the season.  The struggles on that side of the ball, however, have been of a magnitude that no one could’ve reasonably predicted.  During the last three years with Moore under center, the Broncos never finished fifth in scoring and didn’t average less than 42 points a season.  Prior to the ugly win over BYU, BSU was 83rd in the country averaging 26 points per game, totals that will no doubt drop following their seven-point output against the Cougars.  Chris Petersen‘s track record says he will right the Broncos’ listing offensive ship; how soon that happens will determine whether the Broncos can once again crash the BcS postseason party.

Straight up the Wazzu
The highly-anticipated Mike Leach era at Washington State has been one long and  resounding thud.  A 24-point loss to BYU to open the season, then wins over FCS-level Eastern Washington and winless UNLV by a combined total of 12 points.  And then the biggest thud of all: a home loss to Colorado, a “football team” with an under-fire head coach and had just the week before given up 55 points and over 500 yards of total offense in the first half to Fresno State.  And had lost to Colorado State and FCS-level Sacramento State.  For Wazzu to lose a game against a team like that after leading by 17 in the fourth quarter is inexcusable and unacceptable, as explained by CFT correspondent Max Cady:

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

– No. 2 LSU 12, Auburn 10: Facing a road game against an opponent whose lone 2012 win came against Louisiana-Monroe in overtime, the Tigers escaped with win over Auburn.  It wasn’t pretty, but in the big conference picture, a win is a win is a win.  I wouldn’t think the Tigers would drop more than a spot in the polls, but you can never really tell which way the shifting voter winds will blow.

– No. 8 West Virginia 31, Maryland 21: I was on the fence about including this one, but the woeful state of Terrapin football proved to be the tipping point.  The Terps were actually tied with the Mountaineers in Morgantown midway through the second quarter and had outgained the explosive WVU offense by 70 yards.  WVU, as expected, pulled away for a double-digit win, but the fact that the Terps hung around for so long was eyebrow raising to say the least.

– No. 16 Ohio State 29, UAB 15: Trailing 9-0 late in the first half, and leading just 21-16 late in the fourth, Braxton Miller‘s second touchdown of the game — he now has 16 scores (seven passing, nine rushing) in four games — put the game away for the Buckeyes.  A perfect 4-0 in the first season under Urban Meyer, OSU will face its first real test of the season as they travel to East Lansing to face No. 21 Michigan State.

– No. 20 Louisville 28, FIU 20: The Cardinals trailed for the first time this season — 14-7 in the middle of the second quarter — before pulling away with 21 unanswered points in its fourth win to start the season.

– No. 21 Michigan State 16, Eastern Michigan 7: Like the Buckeyes, the Spartans were trailing a lesser opponent in the first half, with MSU actually trailing the Eagles late into the third quarter.  Based on this game and the overall start to the season, if MSU is the best the Big Ten has to offer then the conference is in for a very long, extremely embarrassing 2012 bowl 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 opponents 168-21 in four games and likely won’t be tested for the first time this season — hello, Michigan!!! — until Oct. 27 against No. 23 Mississippi State.  Or the following weekend at No. 2 LSU. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: vs. Ole Miss

2. Florida State — An emphatic statement win indeed, one that’s been a long-time coming for the storied football program. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: at USF

3. Oregon — Take a Top-25 team to the woodshed?  Stay right where you are, courtesy of FSU’s own woodshedding of a ranked foe. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: at Washington State

4. LSU — Win by two points over an unranked team, regardless of whether it’s on the road against a conference foe?  Take two steps back, please. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: vs. Towson

5. Kansas State —  Go on the road and beat the No. 6 team in the country?  Go ahead and leapfrog numerous teams and right into this lil’ Top Five. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. Kansas

COACHING HOT SEAT
A weekly look at some of the current head coaches who could most likely be an ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

– Arkansas’ John L. Smith: The past three weeks, Smith’s Razorbacks have lost to the Sun Belt’s Louisiana-Monroe; were woodshedded by Alabama in a shutout loss; and, Saturday, lost to Rutgers.  All of those losses came at home.  For all intents and purposes, Smith was a one-year rental to bridge the gap between the dismissed Bobby Petrino and a permanent replacement.  Based on the past three games, Smith has all but assured that will indeed be the case.  And will likely burn the bridge down in the process.

– Kentucky’s Joker Phillips: An ugly loss to Florida — which included Phillips sticking with in-over-his-head quarterback Morgan Newton, he of the three first-half interceptions — dropped the Wildcats to 1-3 on the season.  Phillips will be lucky to survive the entire season, let alone making it to 2013 on the Wildcats sideline.

– Auburn’s Gene Chizik: For the first time since 1998, the Tigers have started a season 1-3.  For the first time since 1980, AU’s started SEC play 0-2.  We’ll reiterate a stat that says it all about Chizik’s tenure at AU.  With Cam Newton as his quarterback, Chizik is 14-0; without Newton, Chizik is 17-13 overall and 7-11 in SEC play.  In his career, Chizik is 22-30 as a head coach when he’s Cam-less.  If there is such a thing, a two-point setback to the No. 2 team in the country would qualify as a good loss.  For a program like AU and in a conference like the SEC, claiming moral victories is a sure sign you’re headed in the wrong direction.

HE SAID IT
“I don’t need any questions today.” — South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, channeling his inner Lane Kiffin, after giving his opening statement and promptly walking out of his postgame press conference.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
Tennessee has always had beautiful athletes.” — Akron head coach Terry Bowden, following the Zips loss to the Vols.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– After missing on his first throw of the day, Connor Shaw completed the final 20 passes he attempted in South Carolina’s taming of Missouri.  The FBS single-game record, incidentally, is 26 in a row set by East Carolina’s Dominique Davis in 2011.  Shaw can break Davis’ record of 36 straight completions over two games next week against Kentucky.

EJ Manuel and Chris Thompson combined to account for 585 of Florida State’s 667 yards of total offense — 380 yards passing for Manuel; 103 yards rushing for Thompson; and 102 yards rushing for Manuel.

– Oregon State’s Sean Mannion set a career-high in passing with 379 yards in the Beavers upset of UCLA.

– Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 253 yards in the win over Eastern Michigan.

– West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, second in the country in receptions per game entering today’s tilt with Maryland, caught 13 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the Mountaineers’ 31-21 win over the Terps.

– A first-quarter fumble in the game against UTEP was the first fumble Montee Ball had lost during his career at Wisconsin.  The fumble came on his 655th carry as a Badger.  Ball ultimately left the game with a head injury in the first half and did not return.

Dustin Harris set a Texas A&M and SEC record with 246 yards worth of punt returns in the Aggies’ 70-14 win over South Carolina State.  He averaged nearly 31 yards on his eight returns, which included a 96-yarder for a touchdown.

– A first-half reception gave Syracuse’s Alec Lemon 140 for his career, breaking the school record of 139 previously held by Scott Schwedes (1983-86) and Shelby Hill (1990-93).

– Arizona took six trips into the red zone in its loss to Oregon, and failed to come away with any points on any of those visits.

– It took a little over 182 minutes of play this season for Iowa to record its first touchdown pass, a 10-yard toss from James Vandenberg to Kevonte Martin-Manley.  Army and UConn also threw their first touchdown passes of the season, leaving Air Force as the lone FBS team with no scoring plays through the air.

– Wake Forest’s run defense has given up a staggering 814 yards rushing the past two weeks — 385 in a loss to Florida State last weekend, 429 in a win over Army this weekend.  Last season, Alabama gave up just 938 yards in 13 games.  Speaking of which…

– An FAU touchdown with 2:46 left in the game was the first points No. 1 Alabama’s defense had given up since the third quarter of the season-opening win over Michigan, a span of 192:28.  This season, the Tide has outscored its four opponents 168-21.

– Nebraska scored 45 points and rolled up 362 yards of total offense in the first half alone of its blowout win over FCS-level Idaho State.  That number represented the most the Cornhuskers have scored in two quarters since scoring 52 points against Baylor in the first half in October of 2000.

– In Georgia’s 48-3 win over Vanderbilt, the 2012 Bulldogs became the first team in the program’s history to score 40-plus points in consecutive games.

– Ohio State’s win over UAB was the 400th for the Buckeyes in the history of Ohio Stadium.

– Florida’s win over Kentucky was the school’s 26th straight over the Mildcats.  In other streak news, Penn State has now won 30 consecutive games it’s played against Temple.

– On the strength of its 17-10 win over Syracuse, Minnesota has started a season 4-0 for the first time since 2008.  And, if you want to talk about the state of the Big Ten, digest this little nugget: the Gophers and Northwestern are the conference’s only unbeaten teams that are eligible for the 2012 postseason.  Ouch.  The good news for the Big Ten?  Conference play begins next weekend, so the league is guaranteed to win half its games nearly every weekend.

– With a 31-19 win over Colorado State, Utah State has started a season 3-1 for the first time since 1978.  Senior running back Kerwynn Williams rushed for a career-high 205 yards and scored two touchdowns in the victory.

– North Carolina’s seven sacks in a win over East Carolina was the most for a Tar Heels team since 2000.

– Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke (no relation) threw for 730 yards and accounted for 791 yards of total offense in a 64-61 win over New Hampshire.  Those totals are the most ever in a single game at the Div. 1 level — FBS and FCS — and the third-most at any level.

– Derrick Henry, the No. 1 “athlete” in the Class of 2012, set a state of Florida record with 502 yards rushing in his high school football game Friday night.  Henry, who decommitted from Georgia earlier this year and is now believed to be leaning toward Alabama, broke the record of 501 yards set by Shawn Smith of Tampa Bay Tech back in 1985.

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Bowlsby: LHN a boulder in Big 12’s TV road

Bob Bowlsby

If you love candor — remember his puppet comments after taking the job? — Bob Bowlsby‘s likely your kind of commissioner.  If you’re connected to the University of Texas’ athletic department?  Maybe not so much.

At the same luncheon Wednesday in which Bowlsby (once again) tapped the brakes on expansion, the commissioner also addressed the $15 million elephant squatting in the middle of his conference’s living room.  That pachyderm would, of course, be the Longhorn Network, a 24-hour television network subsidized by ESPN and dedicated to all things related to Longhorn sports.

It’s been a thorn in the side of the Big 12 ever since it was announced back in January of 2011.  It was a sore spot for Texas A&M prior for that school’s departure from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2012.  And even as it hasn’t seen the widespread distribution as originally thought — like the Pac-12 Networks, still no deal with DirecTV after reaching one with DISH in March — it’s still an entity that will bring the athletic department an average of $15 million annually over the 20-year life of the contract, much to the chagrin, private or otherwise, of the rest of the league.

Bowlsby pulled no punches in addressing the hindrance the LHN could become in future television/media negotiations for the conference.  From the Oklahoman‘s transcript, with my emphasis added in a couple of spots:

The Longhorn Network is a boulder in the road. It really is. They did something that almost no other institution in the country could do because of the population in the state, and we’re looking at some way to try and morph that around a little bit. … It really begs the question about, how are we going to get our sports in the years ahead? If technology changes in the next five years as much as it’s changed in the last five years, we’re not going to be getting our sports by cable TV. I don’t know what it’ll be. But increasingly, we’re using mobile devices … Google Network and Apple TV and things like that are coming into play. … I’m not sure the world needs another exclusive college cable network. Rather than trying to do what everybody else has done, I would much rather try to figure out what tomorrow’s technology is and get on the front side of that and be a part of what happens going forward and monetize that.

Exactly how Bowlsby and the Big 12 can navigate its way around the 20-year LHN deal when it comes to future deals involving television or other new media entities, if it does indeed become the obstacle the commissioner suggests it could, will be one of the fascinating questions to see answered moving forward.  Especially as it pertains to the ever-present and expansion speculation that simply won’t completely go away.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman)

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True frosh could start in place of TCU’s Doctson

Perhaps it was a tad too early for the optimism on Josh Doctson‘s availability after all.

The star TCU wide receiver suffered a sprained ankle in the blowout win over Texas Tech. Despite “drastic improvement” since, Doctson hadn’t returned to practice.

That changed Wednesday, although Gary Patterson said the wide receiver only practiced “a little bit.” The head coach also intimated that there is a very real possibility Emanuel Porter will start in place of Doctson in Saturday’s game against West Virginia in Morgantown.

“He had a good game last week,” the coach said of the freshman Porter. “Ran really great routes. A tenacious blocker. A 6’4″ wideout. It’ll be him or Josh [who'll start vs. WVU], one of the two.”

Doctson currently leads the Horned Frogs in receptions (35), receiving yards (573) and receiving touchdowns (seven).  Porter has six catches for 42 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman.  If he gets the nod against the Mountaineers, it’d be Porter’s first career start.

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Mack Brown, on coaching future: ‘If somebody calls, I’ll talk’

Kliff Kingsbury, Mack Brown AP

It remains to be seen whether Mack Brown will return to the sidelines as a head coach next season… or any season for that matter.

What remains clear, however, is that the coaching itch still appears to be there.  Probably.

Earlier this month, Brown’s attorney, Joe Jamail, acknowledged that his client “misses [coaching], frankly.”  During a College Football Playoff luncheon Wednesday, Brown was of course asked about his coaching future.  On that front, the current ESPN college football analyst left the door fairly wide open.

“I’m not going to call anybody.  I’m not going to pursue any jobs,” the 63-year-old Brown said, before adding, “If somebody calls me, I’ll talk to them.”

Brown made it perfectly clear that the right fit would be of the utmost importance as it pertains to a return.  That and the timing of the inquiries.

“I’m very happy with what I’m doing,” Brown began. “I talked to 10 coaches this spring and asked them their opinion of what happens when you get out of coaching.  Some got back in.  Some didn’t.  And they all said, ‘don’t put one minute’s thought into it until December, or late November.’

“And then, if somebody calls you and it excites you, you’ll talk to them.”

Whether that describes the SMU situation is unknown.

Brown, given his ties to the state, has been seemingly connected to that vacancy ever since it came open in early September.  His attorney acknowledged that the university expressed interest, even as athletic director Rick Hart said in a social media statement that “no one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives.”  There was also a report that “SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years;”  Hart flatly stated that there “has been no offer or discussion of compensation with any potential candidates.”

When asked about SMU specifically Wednesday, Brown stated “I haven’t talking to anybody about coaching football at this point.”

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Lawyer drops lawsuit against FSU’s Chris Casher

Caleb Rowe, Chris Casher AP

Four weeks after it was filed, a lawsuit against a current Florida State football player is no more.

According to ESPN.com, a civil lawsuit filed by Tallahassee attorney Adam Ellis against Chris Casher Oct. 1 has been voluntarily dismissed.  The suit stated that the defensive end had agreed to pay Ellis $2,500 for his legal services in connection to the May FSU student code of conduct hearing involving Casher; in a July letter, Ellis claimed he had received no payment.

A source told ESPN.com, however, that Casher had made restitution to Ellis, prompting the attorney to drop the suit earlier this week.  A pretrial hearing on the matter had been scheduled for Nov. 4.

Casher appeared at the hearing for his role in the Jameis Winston sexual assault allegations.  He was sentenced to one year of probation as a result.

In an unrelated matter, Casher was suspended for the Seminoles’ regular season opener before being reinstated in the days leading up to Week 2.

The redshirt sophomore has played in six games this season, with one start.  He’s listed as an “OR,” along with Jacob Pugh, behind starter Mario Edwards as FSU’s “Jack” linebacker on the depth chart heading into the Thursday night game with Louisville.

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Oklahoma WR announces he is leaving team via Twitter

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

Oklahoma’s wide receiver depth just got a tiny bit more shallow Wednesday night. Dannon Cavil, a redshirt freshman, has decided to leave the Sooners in search of a potential transfer.

Cavil announced his decision to leave the program the way all the kids do these days, via Twitter.

“After careful consideration and much prayer, I’ve decided to pursue a transfer from the University of Oklahoma,” Cavil tweeted. “This was not an easy decision to make however, I believe it is the right decision for me based on my goals and aspirations as a student-athlete.

As noted by The Oklahoman, Cavil never played a down for the Sooners despite enrolling early in 2013. Cavil sat out the 2013 season with a redshirt and had not seen the playing field this season for Oklahoma.

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

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Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett: I plan on playing Saturday

J.T. Barrett

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was roughed up against Penn State’s defense last week, but he has the full intention of playing this weekend. Barrett was reported to have a sprained MCL after Ohio State’s double overtime victory at Penn State.

“It would have to be something drastic that happens between now and Saturday, but I plan on playing Saturday,” Barrett said after practice Wednesday, according to Eleven Warriors.

Ohio State will host Illinois in Big Ten play this Saturday. His health will be of great concern for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes of course. Next week Ohio State visits Michigan State in what should be the Big Ten East Division championship game when all is said and done. It will also be Ohio State’s biggest chance to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee before a potential trip to the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes debuted at No. 16 in the first rankings released by the selection committee. Michigan State is in a much more favorable and respected position according to the committee, coming in at No. 8.

Barrett was kept in check by the Penn State defense for most of the night last weekend, but Barrett put the team on his back in the two overtime sessions by running for two touchdowns in the win.

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Jermaine Whitehead still earning his spot back at Auburn

Jermaine Whitehead

Auburn defensive back Jermaine Whitehead continues to work his way back into the mix on Auburn’s defense. This week he will continue to take over a spot on special teams as he gradually works back into the good graces under head coach Gus Malzahn.

Whitehead was welcomed back to the team last week after serving a team suspension. At the time, Malzahn stated Whitehead would have to work hard to earn his place back on the field. Whitehead previously started 26 games at safety for Auburn, so handling special teams responsibilities is clearly not the final goal for Whitehead if he is intending to earn his way all the way back.

Whitehead was suspended following a verbal confrontation with an assistant coach. The suspension ended up costing him four games.

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FSU RB Karlos Williams subject to Title IX investigation

Karlos Williams

Florida State will have to undergo a Title IX investigation connected to running back Karlos Williams. A statement from a university spokeswoman, Browning Brooks, confirmed to the Associated Press the university has a responsibility to follow-up on its own investigation after the incident in question was initially reported to police by the university.

“While each set of facts and circumstances is different, as a general matter notice of any Title IX-related issues would prompt an investigation,” the statement from Brooks said. Federal law states a university must investigate and possible Title IX violations if there is any awareness of possible violations. There is no confirmation Williams is guilty of any violations, and he has not been charged by police for any alleged wrongdoing at this time.

Williams is currently is being investigated by Tallahassee Police Department for his connection to an alleged domestic battery incident. The alleged victim has asked the police to discontinue the investigation, but the police department has continued with the case.

Florida State continues to be investigated by the Department of Education for its handling and response to possible Title IX violations related to quarterback Jameis Winston.

At this time, Williams remains eligible to play for Florida State this week. Head coach Jimbo Fisher said yesterday Williams is expected to play Thursday night at Louisville. The only thing that will change that at this point is if Williams is charged with anything by police.

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UCLA is only team perfect inside the red zone

UCLA v Colorado Getty Images

Successful teams tend to cash in once they enter the red zone, but which teams are doing the best once getting inside their opponents’ 20-yard line? So far this season, UCLA is the only team to have entered the red zone and put points on the scoreboard every time. The Bruins are currently on pace to edge Florida State’s red zone percentage of 97.26 percent. Florida State’s red zone success rate in 2013 en route to a BCS national championship was the best red zone scoring percentage dating back to at least 2008.

Florida State is once again thriving in the red zone this season as well though. The Seminoles are second best in the nation in scoring inside the red zone, trailing only the perfect mark established by UCLA. Auburn is also one of the best in the red zone, which may not be a shock given the offensive firepower the Tigers have to work with. Some of the other teams having good results inside the red zone might be a surprise at first glance. Iowa State and New Mexico State, each with two wins this season, are among the nation’s best at scoring in the red zone.

Top 10 Red Zone Scoring Percentages

  1. UCLA (100.00%; 30-for-30)
  2. Florida State (97.06%; 33-for-34)
  3. Iowa State (96.00%; 24-for-25)
  4. New Mexico State (95.65%; 22-for-23)
  5. Florida (95.45%; 21-for-22)
  6. Nevada (94.44%; 34-for-36)
  7. Auburn (93.55%; 29-for-31)
  8. Rice (93.33%; 28-for-30)
  9. Georgia Southern (92.86%; 39-for-42)
  10. Louisiana-Lafayette (92.59%; 25-for-27)
    Washington (92.59%; 25-for-27)

Red zone scoring success rates take into account all points scored, but which schools are maximizing their red zone opportunities the most? In other words, which schools have the best red zone touchdown percentages? Auburn, Georgia Southern and New Mexico State are the only three schools to rank in the top ten in top red zone scoring and red zone touchdown percentages s far this season.

Georgia Southern and Michigan State share the lead for most red zone touchdowns, but nine schools have a better touchdown percentage so far this season.

Top 10 Red Zone Touchdown Percentages

  1. Texas State (81.48%; 22-for-27)
  2. Arkansas (80.56%; 29-for-31)
  3. Old Dominion (77.42%; 24-for-31)
  4. USC (76.67%; 23-for-30)
  5. North Carolina (76.47%; 26-for-34)
  6. Texas A&M (76.47%; 26-for-34)
  7. Nebraska (75.00%; 27-for-36)
  8. Auburn (74.19%; 23-for-31)
  9. New Mexico State (73.91%; 17-for-23)
  10. Georgia Southern (73.81%; 31-for-42)
    Michigan State (73.81%; 31-for-42)

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Bowlsby doesn’t see “obvious candidates” for Big 12 expansion

Bob Bowlsby

The Big 12 is still sitting on a 10-member conference, which leaves the Big 12 without a conference championship game. It is unknown if the lack of a championship game will hold a Big 12 champion back from making the College Football Playoff, but the possibility does still have some concerned and wondering how this all plays out. For now, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is not focused on expanding the conference to 12 members to get a conference championship game back on the schedule because of the lack of ideal candidates available.

“In our case, I don’t know that there are a lot of obvious candidates out there,” Bowlsby said in a Q&A with The Oklahoman. “We’re distributing about $25 million per school through our distributable revenue, so anybody that would be considered for expansion in our league would have to bring at least pro-rata value.”

Schools that have been tied to some form of expansion rumor or another in recent years have included Florida State, Clemson, UCF, USF, Cincinnati and BYU. It has been a few years now, and there has been no movement from the Big 12 to expand after adding West Virginia and TCU. The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs were added following the departures of Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC, Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12.

“I don’t see much movement in the near- to mid-term,” Bowlsby said. “As we get near the end of some of these TV contracts, which would be 10 or 12 years down the road, there may be some renewed conversations. The only movement that is possible right now is from some of the secondary-level conferences that might move people into one of the five high profiles.”

Bowlsby also suggested any talk about super conferences — 16-team mega conferences that could potentially split from the NCAA model entirely — was nothing more than a fabrication crested by the media. He might be right about that.

“I have heard no serious conversation among people who do this for a living that the super-conference concept has got any traction,” Bowlsby said. “It’s always dangerous when the media starts to interview the rest of the media, and I think that’s where the super-conference thing came from.”

So, for about the 148th time in the past couple of years, the official company line from the Big 12 is the conference is not interested in expanding. At this time, there is no reason to suggest otherwise.

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Forget Marshall, where is Colorado State in new ranking?

Colorado State vs Utah State

Colorado State could very well go 11-1 this season, but even that may not be enough for the Rams to sniff a spot in one of the College Football Playoff affiliated bowls. We should still be paying attention to them though, just as we will East Carolina and Marshall.

As you hopefully are aware now, one spot in the access bowls will be reserved for the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference. In the initial College Football Playoff selection committee ranking unveiled Tuesday night, East Carolina entered the ranking at No. 23. Undefeated Marshall was unranked, and no other team from a non-power conference appeared in the poll either. This means East Carolina is now, I suppose officially, the team to beat in the rankings for the reserved big bowl spot.

Of course, East Carolina still needs to win the American Athletic Conference and still has games against UCF and Cincinnati to get by to make that happen. But the Pirates sit in a good position. Marshall is unranked but figures to be next in line if East Carolina happens to stumble. Although, an argument could be made for UCF or Cincinnati to pass the Thundering Herd if either gets by ECU in the American. We’ll worry about that down the line if it pops up.

But what about Colorado State? I previously discussed how Boise State is still an interesting cog in the race for the access bowl spot, and they are. So is Colorado State.

The Rams look to be one of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference and have two victories over power conference opponents, just like East Carolina. The rams have a neutral site victory over Colorado and flew across the country to Boston to take down Boston College earlier this season. The only team to beat Colorado State this season is Boise State, and herein lies the biggest obstacle for Colorado State to jump. And they can’t even do anything about it now.

Because Boise State defeated Colorado State, the Broncos own a head-to-head tiebreaker in the Mountain Division of the MWC. Both teams have one loss in conference play, so Colorado State needs to win the remaining games on their schedule. At the same time, Colorado State needs Boise State to lose at least once. Winning the division will allow Colorado State a chance to play for the Mountain West Conference championship, with a potential shot at a big bowl game on the line.

In theory, a 12-1 Colorado State team would have every bit as strong an argument to play in a New Years bowl as East Carolina. What’s more, the argument for Colorado State could also become stronger if East Carolina’s biggest wins (Virginia Tech and North Carolina) struggle down the stretch. If strength of schedule is an important factor in the rankings, and the evidence suggests it is, Colorado State could be on par with East Carolina. This should add a little more intrigue to this week’s ACC contest between Boston College and Virginia Tech.

Bottom line, Colorado State is still in the running. The Rams need some help along the way, and Boise State does appear to have a tougher final stretch than Colorado State, so there is hope.

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Texas A&M going really old school with uniforms this weekend

Texas A&M 1939 throwback uniform (2014)

The Texas A&M Aggies will be sporting some sharp throwback uniforms this weekend, honoring the legacy of the 1939 Aggies. At first glance, it looks like Texas A&M is going with a winged-helmet design similar to Michigan’s signature look, but the design is reminiscent of the design used on Texas A&M’s old leather helmets of the era. A handful of schools adopted this idea at the time, as it was supposed to make it easier to identify receivers.

The uniform is designed by Adidas, a company that has produced some uniforms on the receiving end of some ridicule with some regularity. That should not be the case here though. This uniform appears to have been thought out well and executed to near perfection. It is a terrific look that honors the past of the Texas A&M program, yet looks to fit in with today’s game. Adidas got one right here.

 

Texas A&M was named the national champions of the 1939 season by the Associated Press, although USC also claims a national championship that same season as the top-ranked team in the now retired Dickenson System. The Trojans began officially claiming that national championship as a part of program history in 2004, because that’s the thing to do these days. Led by College Football Hall of Famer and All-American John “The Haskell Hurricane” Kimbrough, Texas A&M went 11-0 in 1939, including a 6-0 record in the old Southwest Conference. The season ended with a 14-13 victory over No. 5 Tulane in the Sugar Bowl.

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Penn State o-line still waiting for return of Dieffenbach

Nebraska v Penn State

Penn State’s inability to get the running game going this season and provide adequate protection for quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been a result of a young and inexperienced offensive line, without much depth behind it. Not having one of its most experienced options on the line this season has hurt, but the return of offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach could be coming any time now.

Dieffenbach injured his knee in the spring and the rehab has kept him a spectator and cheerleader from the Penn State sideline this season. The fifth-year senior is hoping to be cleared by doctors to resume football activity before the season ends, but doctors have yet to provide the clearance needed to send Dieffenbach back on the field. With Penn State days away from hosting new Big Ten member Maryland, Dieffenbach’s availability remains in question for head coach James Franklin.

“It’s not just the physical aspects of it, it’s the muscle memory of technique and footwork he hasn’t done in six months and it’s also the confidence,” Franklin said this week. ”He’s practicing to a degree the last couple of weeks and hopefully he’ll have a bigger role this week and that will allow us to play him in the game a little bit.”

Penn State’s offensive line performed better against Ohio State than most games this season. A second bye week in three weeks may have helped the line find some identity in preparation for the Buckeyes, but there is no doubt having a fifth-year senior as experienced as Dieffenbach would give the entire line a boost.

Penn State hosts Maryland this Saturday at 12 p.m. eastern.

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Bovada pegs Mariota as its Heisman wagering favorite

Marcus Mariota AP

Thanks to the now-resolved NCAA situation involving Todd Gurley, Dak Prescott was pegged as Bovada‘s Heisman Trophy favorite earlier this month.

Now, another quarterback out West has taken over that mantle.

According to the wagering website Bovada.lv, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is a prohibitive 4/5 favorite to claim the 2014 version of the most prestigious award in college sports. Just a week ago, the junior Duck was a 3/2 favorite.

Prescott, meanwhile, has seen his odds lengthen to 3/1. In the immediate aftermath of the Gurley imbroglio, the Mississippi State quarterback was instilled as a 2/1 favorite.

Gurley, incidentally, is no longer listed.

The first non-QB to receive odds is Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (8/1). Gordon had been 6/1 seven days ago.

Alabama’s Amari Cooper (16/1, up from 18/1) is one of two wide receivers given odds, the other being West Virginia’s Kevin White (50/1, from 25/1).

The reigning Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, saw his odds plunge from 18/1 to 33/1. The Florida State quarterback entered the 2014 season as a slight 9/2 favorite over Mariota (5/1).

Below are the complete set of Heisman odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

Bovada Week 9 Heisman Odds

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Report: Miami’s starting LT undergoes procedure on knee

Miami v Boston College Getty Images

The injury bug has once again slammed headfirst into Miami’s offensive line.

Citing an unnamed source, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Wednesday that Ereck Flowers underwent a surgical procedure on his injured knee earlier today.  Flowers originally suffered the injury in last Thursday night’s win over Virginia Tech.

It’s unclear how long the offensive lineman will be sidelined, although it appears certain he won’t play in this Saturday’s home game against North Carolina.  The Hurricanes will release their weekly injury report Thursday, which will likely serve as the lone update from the football team on Flowers’ status.

“As soon as we get information, we’ll get it to you,” head coach Al Golden said in his only comments on Flowers’ status following practice Wednesday.

Flowers had started all seven games at left tackle for the ‘Canes this season. Jon Feliciano is expected to replace him in the starting lineup.

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