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The Fifth Quarter: Week 5 Rewind

Baylor West Virginia Football AP

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

WINNERS

Geno-logy of a Heisman run
Here at the Fifth Quarter, we — I — won’t be making any type of Heisman watch lists for another couple of weeks.  However, if the stiff-armed trophy were handed out today, Geno Smith would be the winner in a veritable landslide — if it’d even be that close.  In further buttressing his case for the Heisman, all the quarterback  for No. 9 West Virginia did against a (literally) defenseless No. 25 Baylor squad was throw for 656 yards and account for 687 yards of total offense.  Smith also threw more touchdowns (eight) than incompletions (six) in the wild 70-63 win in the Mountaineers’ first-ever Big 12 conference game.  In four games, Smith has thrown for 1,728 yards and 20 touchdowns while completing a staggering 83.4 percent of his passes.  Most impressively, Smith has no interceptions amongst his 169 attempts.  Again, there’s a lot of time between now and the awarding of the Heisman in December.  Still, it appears that the most prestigious trophy in the sport is Smith’s to lose.

Attended an SEC game, and a Big 12 matchup broke out
Annually hailed as the top defensive conference in the country, the SEC prides itself on bringing it on that side of the ball.  Through some tiny rip in the space-time continuum, however, all Big 12 hell broke loose in Athens Saturday afternoon.  Between Georgia and Tennessee, there were 95 points scored; 1,038 yards gained; and 42 first downs earned as the No. 5 Bulldogs held on for a wild 51-44 win over the Vols.  There was also an “ugly” side to the game, with the two teams combining to commit seven turnovers.  Two of those late in the first half allowed the Vols to turn a 27-10 deficit into a 30-27 lead.  Three committed by UT quarterback Tyler Bray in the last six minutes prevented any hopes the Vols had of earning a road upset.

Urban renewal continues in Columbus
Undefeated through his first four games as Ohio State’s coach, Urban Meyer‘s Buckeyes had yet to be tested as the early-season schedule consisted of the likes of Miami of Ohio, UCF, Cal and UAB.  The first real measuring stick of the season, on the road no less, came in East Lansing against Michigan State in the Big Ten opener for both schools — and OSU passed with flying colors, albeit of a dull hue variety.  And despite the first uneven game of the season for star quarterback Braxton Miller.  In a game that was, for better or worse, the epitome of Big Ten football, and the exact opposite of anything that happens in the Big 12, the No. 14 Buckeyes churned, grinded and pounded out a hard-fought 17-16 win over the No. 21 Spartans.  It was far from pretty from an aesthetic point of view, but it was efficient in that it resulted in a fifth-straight win for Meyer and the Buckeyes.  While Miller accounted for 315 yards of offense (179 passing, 136 rushing), he accounted for three turnovers (one pick, two lost fumbles) that could’ve been OSU’s undoing in such a hostile — and stanky —  environment.  It didn’t, and that’s the mark of a good football team and one that Meyer’s rightly proud of.  Even in this lost season of sanctions, with no shot at a Big Ten championship game or bowl berth, the Buckeyes are clearly the class of the Big Ten.  Granted, that’s like proclaiming someone as the tallest midget, but it’s something for the Buckeyes to continue playing for.  Well, that and a shiny Leaders Division trophy.

Bill O’Brien
Through the NCAA sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, through the personnel defections wrought by said sanctions, through an ugly 0-2 start to the 2012 season, Bill O’Brien has persevered.  And, it appears, that perseverance is paying off big time for both O’Brien and the beleaguered Penn State football program.  For the third straight weekend following the laughable start, Penn State heads home on a Saturday with a win stuffed firmly into its back pocket.  The latest victim for O’Brien & Company was Illinois, with PSU coming away with an easy 35-7 win against the team that did the most over the summer to take advantage of the liberal transfer policies.  Quarterback Matt McGloin, one of the more pleasant surprises of the season, accounted for three touchdowns — one passing, two rushing — while the defense limited the Illini to just 74 rushing yards and forced three turnovers.  Certainly the stain of Sandusky’s crimes will linger over the university for years, or even decades, to come, but this coach and these players had nothing to do with either the illegalities or the cover-up that brought the program to its knees.  There are certainly rough times to be had in the coming years, thanks to the scholarship reductions that will hurt for the better part of a decade.  Still, it appears O’Brien was and is the right choice to captain the Nittany ship through the rough waters that lie ahead.

Ess-Bee-Cee!!! Ess-Bee-Cee!!!
One of the more fascinating storylines of the 2012 season has been the play of the Sun Belt Conference through the first five weeks of the year.  Specifically, how the Little Conference That Could has fared against SEC programs.  Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky have already beaten Arkansas and Kentucky, respectively, while ULM — three-point overtime loss to Auburn — and Troy — six-point loss to Mississippi State — had near-wins against the conference.  Now, that ’12 magic has extended beyond the SEC, much to the detriment of the ACC.  In a stunning turn of events, Middle Tennessee State traveled to Georgia Tech and laid a whooping on the Yellow Jackets, heading back to Murfreesboro with a 49-28 win over Tech.  The loss, fueled in large part by MTSU running back Benny Cunningham‘s 217 yards rushing and five touchdowns, was the first by Tech to a non-BcS school since 1996.

Stephen Morris, QB extraordinaire
Wait, what?  Be that as it may, and not that anyone saw it (see below), but Miami quarterback Stephen Morris passed for 271 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter of the Hurricanes’ wild 44-37 win over North Carolina State.  The junior finished the game with a school- and ACC-record 566 yards and five touchdowns as the Hurricanes’ offense rolled up 651 yards of offense — and were outgained by the Wolfpack and their 664 yards.  Yes, defense is a significant issue for the Hurricanes — they gave up 419 yards and 36 points in a win over Georgia Tech; 498 yards and 52 points in a loss to Kansas State; have allowed less than 32 points once, to FCS-level Bethune-Cookman — but The U has started a season 4-1 for the first time since 2007.

Munchie Magic sweeping the ‘Nati
There’s not a better name in college football than Munchie Legeaux.  As it turns out, he has a pretty damn good game to go along with the name.  With just 13 seconds left in Cincinnati’s game against Virginia Tech, Legeaux tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass as the Bearcats stunned the Hokies 27-24 in a “neutral site” game in Landover, Md.  While Legeaux completed well under 50 percent of his 42 passes, he did throw for 357 yards on his 19 completions.  The Bearcats are now 3-0 and, with games against Miami (OH), Fordham and Toledo in between, could very well remain that way when they head into the Oct. 26 game with still-unbeaten Louisville.  The win was huge for the Big East as well, which entered Week 5 with two teams — the ‘Ville and Rutgers — ranked inside the Top 25.  Don’t be surprised that, come Sunday afternoon, another team from that conference is added to that ranked role.

Kain is very much able
In a 44-29 win over Indiana that kept Northwestern unbeaten on the season, Kain Colter finished with 100-plus yards rushing (161) and receiving (131).  Normally that wouldn’t be noteworthy, but, at the start of the season, Colter was the Wildcats’ starting quarterback.  While Colter is still officially listed as QB, he’s given way Trevor Siemian and is being utilized in a Wildcat-type role.  In addition to the 294 yards of total offense — he had two yards passing — Colter accounted for four touchdowns, with all four scores coming on the ground.  Along with Ohio State, and thanks to Minnesota’s loss, the school known more for its academic prowess is one of just two teams in the Big Ten without a loss five weeks into the season.

Catch of the day
And, thanks to the right hand of Middle Tennessee State’s Anthony Amos, it’s not even close:

AIRBHG no match for walk-on
Yes, it might be best not to tempt the patience of the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God.  Yes, it’s just two games.  But, yes, after years of unbelievable bad luck at the position, the Hawkeyes may have found their backfield savior.  Last week, former walk-on and Air Force transfer Mark Weisman rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns in Iowa’s stunning upset loss to Central Michigan.  This week, the “Weisman for Heisman” bandwagon likely got a whole helluva lot more crowded as the sophomore “fullback” (winkwink nudgenudge) ran for 177 yards on 21 carries as the Hawkeyes knocked Minnesota from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 31-13 win.  After rushing for just eight yards the first two games of the season, Weisman has bulled his way to 504 yards the past three.

LOSERS

And on the sixth day, the defense rested
If you are a fan of a little something called “defense” being played in a game of college football, Baylor-West Virginia likely induced night terrors and/or convulsions.  If you’re a fan of offense?  College football porn as far as the eye could see.  Filthy, unadulterated, unfiltered pornography.  The two teams combined for 70 points , 32 first downs and 736 yards of offense — and then they came back out of the locker room at halftime and played two more quarters.  The offensive carnage for the game reads as follows: 133 points (see photo below), 1,507 yards, 66 first downs and 22-of-30 on third-down conversions, with Geno Smith and Nick Florence combining to throw for 1,237 yards and 13 touchdowns.  The game featured a pair of 300-yard receivers (WVU’s Stedman Bailey and BU’s Terrance Williams), while the Mountaineers also had a 200-yard (Tavon Austin) and 100-yard receivers (J.D. Woods).  Baylor had three receivers go over 100 yards in the same game for the first time in school history.  There were a total of three punts in the game on a day that old-school souls will likely lament for years to come.  Yes, it was a smashing debut for the Mountaineers in their official Big 12 coming-out-party.  Word of warning, however: no FBS football team can or will win a BcS title — hell, maybe even a Big 12 title — with a defense like that.  Until Joe DeForest and company get a handle on the defensive side of the ball, WVU will be nothing more than an entertaining sideshow while we await the real national title contenders to emerge.

The voters
No, not the ones who will decide which lesser of two evils will serve as POTUS the next four years.  No, the voters we are referring to are the ones who make up the Associated Press and coaches’ Top 25 polls.  The first three games of the season — the opener against Texas A&M was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac — Louisiana Tech rolled through Houston, Rice and Illinois.  For that effort, the Bulldogs were rewarded with seven votes in the AP poll and none in the coaches’ following Week 4.  In Week 5, Tech went out and slayed another BcS-level team, dropping Virginia 44-38 on the road.  Is Tech a Top 10 team?  Hell no, or at least probably not.  But no one should be able to sit there with a straight face and state that there are 25 better teams in 2012 than the Bulldogs.  Hopefully, when the polls are released Sunday afternoon, the voters in both polls will show some common sense and do the right thing by looking beyond how BcS conference schools fared this weekend.  I won’t hold my breath, though.

Player safety?
Over the past several years, the NCAA has made tremendous strides in improving player safety.  Then, Saturday night, one of the Association’s members did this:

That was the scene at Southern Miss for the Conference USA team’s 21-17 loss against No. 19 Louisville, played in what amounted to a monsoon that a duck, Oregon or otherwise, would avoid like the plague.  At various points of the game, and on various areas of the playing field, there looked to be an inch or more of standing water, leading us to openly wonder if there would be a yards-after-hydroplane stat for the game.  Why the non-conference match-up was played in such conditions is unclear, although it was very clear that such weather issues most certainly created a situation that could’ve been very dangerous for each and every player who slopped his way around that field for 60 minutes.

Tale of two Techs
And it was a woeful twin tale, non-conference-wise, for the ACC.  Early on in the day, Georgia Tech inexplicably stubbed its toe — or, more accurately, kicked itself in the groin — against Middle Tennessee State in a 21-point humbling at the hands of the SBC school.  Three hour later, Virginia Tech allowed a last-second touchdown to Cincinnati as the Hokies dropped their second game of the season, both, oddly enough, to teams from the Big East.  In fact, that conference has had the ACC’s number all season long, leading the head-to-head meetings 4-2 and setting up for what should be a very interesting bowl selection process as it relates to the two conferences.

U-S-A!!! U-S-AAARGH!!!
FCS-level Stony Brook 23, Army 3.  We love ya, ‘Merica, but…

Weekly Miami “fan” update
And, yes, it’s just as — or arguably more — embarrassing this week as it has been the past few seasons:

The above photo was taken less than 20 minutes prior to kickoff by South Florida Sun Sentinel beat writer Michael Casagrande.

This wasn’t Bethune-Cookman, either; this was an ACC game against 3-1 North Carolina State.  The lack of “fan” support for the Hurricanes football program is absurd and shameful.  Oh, and embarrassing as well.

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

– No. 2 Oregon 51, Washington State 26: The Ducks were up on the Cougars just 23-19 at halftime.  After that, order was restored as the Ducks we’ve come to know and love/loathe emerged from their first-half slumber for a comfortable win.

– No. 3 LSU 38, Towson 22: It doesn’t matter the final score, a comfortable 16-point margin.  When the third-ranked team in the country is trailing an FCS school at home deep into the second quarter, it makes the cut.  Add this lackluster first-half performance to a lethargic two-point win over a below-average Auburn team last week, and the Tigers may not be who we thought they were after all.

– No. 4 Florida State 30, USF 17: We’ll just chalk this up to a post-Clemson hangover.  As late as six minutes left in the third quarter the Seminoles clung to a 13-10 lead over the now-2-3 Bulls.  17 unanswered points put the game out of reach.

– No. 5 Georgia 51, Tennessee 44: It wasn’t pretty defensively — and UGA could very well have been looking ahead to next Saturday’s showdown with No. 6 South Carolina — but the Bulldogs were able to stave off the game Vols and remain unbeaten through five games.

– No. 6 South Carolina 38, Kentucky 17: The Gamecocks were on the ropes in the first half, trailing 17-7 heading into the locker room  before pulling away for the road win.  Like UGA, USC may have been peeking ahead to next weekend’s game that will be dripping with SEC East implications.

– No. 12 Texas 41, Oklahoma State 36: The Cowboys aren’t your normal unranked opponent, so this was still a very impressive win for the Longhorns.  It’s also a win that could propel UT into the Top 10 of the rankings for the first time since Week 4 of the 2010 season.

– No. 15 TCU 24, SMU 16: In the battle for the coveted Iron Skillet, the Horned Frogs were never in any real danger of losing but still allowed a one-win team to hang around in the same neighborhood much longer than expected.  TCU does, though, own the nation’s longest winning streak at 12 straight games.

– No. 17 Clemson 45, Boston College 31: We’ll just chalk this up to a post-Florida State hangover, part II.

– No. 18 Oregon State , Arizona : A 17-0 lead begat a 21-17 deficit begat a back-and-forth trading of scores begat a thrilling three-point win for the unbeaten Beavers.  The Nov. 24 Civil War matchup with Oregon could be a very, very fascinating affair this season.

– No. 19 Louisville 21, Southern Miss 17: We almost didn’t include this one, given the weather conditions involved.  The Cardinals trailed 17-6 late in the second quarter, but showed tremendous heart in coming back in those conditions and protecting its unbeaten start to the season.

– No. 22 Nebraska 30, Wisconsin 27: Much the same as with Texas’ opponent, the Badgers were not your or the Cornhuskers’ ordinary foe.  After falling behind 27-10, NU ripped off 20 unanswered points to come away with a huge conference home win and the second-biggest comeback in school history.

– No. 24 Boise State 32, New Mexico 29: The Broncos jumped out to a 32-0 halftime lead, only to see the Lobos storm back to nearly pull off the upset.  BSU’s return to the Top 25 last week will likely be short-lived.

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 been biding its time until a date with LSU by outscoring its five 2012 opponents 201-35.  Clearly, UA is far and away the class of the current season. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: at Missouri

2. Oregon — Speaking of domination, Oregon has outscored its five 2012 opponents (262-99).  A Ducks-Tide BcS title game would be a helluva lot of fun, and is definitely a very realistic possibility at season’s end. (Last week No. 3)
Up next: vs. Washington

3. Kansas State — The combination of an impressive bye week showing, the lingering impressions left by the upset of Oklahoma last week and some rather lackluster performances around them pushes the Wildcats up a couple of spots. (Last week: No. 5)
Up next: vs. Kansas

4. Florida State — The post-Clemson malaise notwithstanding, the Seminoles remain a viable BcS title contender. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: at North Carolina State

5. Georgia — At this point in time, we prefer to view the 44 points given up to Tennessee as an anomaly.  We reserve the right, though, to change our mind. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: at No. 6 South Carolina

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: There’s really not much need to go into the well-chronicled train wreck that’s been the start to the season, other than to say the trigger should be pulled sooner rather than later.

– Cal’s Jeff Tedford: Already with cheeks planted firmly on the proverbial hot seat entering 2012, Tedford has done nothing to turn down the temperature through Week 5.  In fact, it may be hotter than ever as the Bears have stumbled their way out of the gate at 1-4, the worst start in Tedford’s 10-plus seasons at the school.  The latest setback for the Bears was a 27-17 loss to Arizona State that dropped Cal to 0-2 in Pac-12 play.

HE SAID IT
“I might need more gun powder for this game.” — Jon Kimble, WVU’s mascot, very appropriately writing on Twitter at halftime of the Baylor-WVU game.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I felt like Clemson’s defense or something.”  — WVU defensive back Darwin Cook after allowing 63 points — seven points less than the Mountaineers scored on the Tigers in the Orange Bowl earlier this year — to be put on the board by the Bears.

PIC OF THE WEEK

That was the “Stripe the Stadium” scene in Morgantown Saturday afternoon as West Virginia made a very successful debut in Big 12 conference play.  And that photo comes courtesy of Mike Florio, who some of you may know from a lil’ website called ProFootballTalk.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– No. 1 Alabama fell behind Ole Miss 7-6 early in the second quarter on a Jeff Scott touchdown run, the first time the Tide has trailed in a game — regulation or overtime — since the Nov. 5 loss to LSU.  The streak ended at 33 straight quarters, but the defending BcS champions started a new one 15 seconds later as Christion Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for both a touchdown and a lead the Tide wouldn’t relinquish.

– Baylor wide receiver Terrence Williams‘ 314 yards broke the Big 12’s minutes-old record set moments earlier by West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey, who finished the game with 303 yards.  Bailey’s five touchdown catches, incidentally, broke the school record.

– The last FBS quarterback with at least 550 yards and five touchdowns in a game was Houston’s Case Keenum against Southern Mississippi on Oct. 31, 2009.  Saturday, there were three who hit that mark: WVU’s Geno Smith, Baylor’s Nick Florence and Miami’s Stephen Morris.

– Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel broke the SEC record for total yards in a single game, accounting for 557 (453 passing, 103 rushing) in the Aggies’ shellacking of Arkansas.  Manziel’s total broke the record of 540 shared by Archie Manning and Rohan Davey.

Sean Mannion passed for 433 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon State’s win over Arizona.

– True freshman Keith Marshall rushed for 164 yards on just 10 carries in Georgia’s close win over Tennessee.  UGA also got five touchdowns from a pair of true freshmen — Marshall’s two and Todd Gurley‘s three.

– Miami of Ohio quarterback Zac Dysert threw six touchdown passes and had a ridiculous 624 yards of total offense in a 56-49 win over Akron.

– Baylor’s 63 points against West Virginia tied the record for the most scored in regulation in a loss by an FBS school, joining Rice (2004) and Toledo (2011) in that infamous grouping.

– Stat of the Day, SID Division: With the 5-0 start, Urban Meyer becomes the third first-year Ohio State coach to start their career 5-0. Only two other first-year coaches have started a season 5-0: Carol Widdoes went 9-0 in 1944 and eventually won his first 12 games; and Meyer mentor Earle Bruce opened 11-0 in 1979.

– Runner-up Stat of the Day, SID Division: AJ McCarron passed Brody Croyle’s Alabama record of 190 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception when he connected with Brent Calloway in the latter part of the second quarter. McCarron entered the game with 176 attempts and entered the locker room with the new record of 195 attempts without an interception.

– North Carolina’s 66 points in a shutout win over Idaho set a school record, surpassing the standard set back in 1928.

– BYU totaled 540 yards of total offense in the shutout win over Hawaii Friday night; in the previous two games, both losses, the Cougars had a combined 512 yards.

– Duke has started a season 4-1 for the first time since 1994.  Oddly enough, that was the last time the Blue Devils qualified for a bowl game.

– After Week 4, there was one team that had yet to throw a touchdown pass.  After Week 5?  There are none as Air Force’s Connor Dietz tossed two of them in the Falcons’ easy win over Colorado State.

(Writer’s note: The Fifth Quarter will be taking a one-weekend sabbatical next Saturday as we officially move into the new CFT West Virginia headquarters.  Try not to miss me too terribly much.)

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Tom Osborne explains selection process for College Football Playoff

Tom Osborne

There is so much we don’t exactly know regarding the selection process to determine the inaugural College Football Playoff.

This much we do know:

  1. A 13-member committee was created to choose the participants.
  2. Each member of the committee will be recused from voting when their school or conference is discussed
  3. A team’s strength of schedule and level of competition will be primary factors in how team’s are differentiated.

One of the members of the committee is former Nebraska head coach and athletic director Dr. Tom Osborne. The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ official site interviewed Osborne Thursday to discuss the processes the committee will use to help decide which four teams will be chosen to play in the College Football Playoff.

Here are the highlights:

We’ve been introduced to the technology and will be able to watch almost every football game that’s played. We also will have access to a huge amount of statistical data that will become relevant about the fourth or fifth game of the season. We will see trends that take shape in terms of who’s playing well on offense, who’s good on defense, field position, the kicking game, turnovers, and those kinds of things. Of course, we will also look at strength of competition, conference championships, and even injuries will be considered.

I think that if two teams have identical records and similar schedules and one of them wins the conference championship and one of them doesn’t, then some weight may be given to the conference championship team. There are conferences other than the five large conferences which will have a path into the four-team playoff. Obviously if you win the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, ACC or SEC conferences, you are going to be somewhere in the hunt, unless you’re a team that manages to win a conference and still lose two or three games. That will make it more difficult. The teams that are undefeated and win conference championships are certainly going to be under major consideration.

A conference champion who loses their starting quarterback in the last game of the season might possibly be downgraded somewhat. You are going to be looking at who are the strongest teams at the moment the decision is made. You’re also looking at which teams are capable of beating every other team that they face.

I think it is certainly possible that you would have two teams from the same conference selected with one of them not being a conference champion. Obviously they would have to be a very powerful team. I hate to speculate in certain areas because you paint yourself into a corner, but at the end of the year, what you are going to try to do is take the best estimation and decide who the four best teams in the country are. There are many ways to get to that, and being a conference champion is certainly one of those. The win/loss record is another. Strength of schedule and head-to-head competition would be important, and injuries, and some statistical data will be examined as well. For example, if two teams are somewhat identical, maybe two teams have lost one game each and are both conference champions. That’s when you might begin to look at statistical data.

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Vanderbilt names its starting QB for season-opener

Patton Robinette

Derek Mason has made his first major decision as the new head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores.

The team’s quarterback competition is over. Mason was able to differentiate between redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary, senior Stephen Rivers and sophomore Patton Robinette with nine days remaining before the start of the season.

The result of the competition was announced on twitter:

Robinette played in nine games last year with one start. He threw for 642 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. He also added 214 rushing yards.

“I’m excited for Patton as we prepare this team for the season opener next Thursday,” Mason said in a statement. “Patton has really made strides and consistently improved from the spring to now. I believe he has worked to earn this opportunity.”

The wording within the tweet from the team is interesting. Robinette was named the starter for the team’s opener against the Temple Owls. It doesn’t necessarily mean Robinette will be the team’s starting quarterback for the entire season. If Robinette struggles during the first few weeks of play, Mason may insert either Rivers or McCrary into the starting lineup.

“We have three solid guys at the position now, along with the talented freshmen” Mason said. “Johnny and Stephen are very capable quarterbacks and both worked hard to make a strong case for the starting role. They made this a difficult decision.”

With Vanderbilt officially naming its starting quarterback for opening weekend, we’re still waiting on a decision from two more SEC teams.

You’re up Alabama and LSU.

(Hat Tip: Washington Post)

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Report: Oklahoma’s Blake Bell is taking snaps at QB

Blake Bell

Blake Bell‘s full-time transition to tight end has been put on a slight hiatus.

Bell is still projected to become the Sooners’ starting tight end this season, but he’s also working at quarterback with Oklahoma’s second-team, according to The Oklahoman.

“Earlier this week, coach Bob Stoops said redshirt freshman Cody Thomas would likely be Knight’s primary backup, but according to sources, Thomas has been injured, which is why Bell has split second-team reps this week with true freshman Justice Hansen,” Jason Kersey reported.

Last season, only the Kansas Jayhawks had a worse passing offense in the Big 12 Conference than the Oklahoma Sooners. Bell played in 11 games and started eight at quarterback. He averaged a meager 149.8 yards passing in those contests.

Oklahoma’s coaching staff eventually inserted Trevor Knight into the lineup, and the freshman took full advantage of the situation with a stellar performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

This move isn’t meant to be permanent. It’s merely an opportunity to have an experienced signal caller ready if Knight were to be injured at any point during the season.

There is also an opportunity for the Sooners to revive the “Belldozer.” During Bell’s redshirt freshman and sophomore compaigns, he was a unstoppable in short-yardage situations. Bell rushed for 24 touchdowns prior to last season. Yet, he never took full advantage of his athleticism as the team’s full-time starting quarterback.

This opportunity may be a best-case scenario for Bell. He will continue to develop at tight end as one of the team’s primary targets, and he may even return to the role that made once made him a household game.

Thomas isn’t expected to miss a lot of practice time, though, and Bell’s reps at quarterback will likely cease upon his return. The Sooners should also expect the status of Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield to be clarified very soon.

A week from now the Sooners will have plenty of depth at quarterback.

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UPDATE: Fans won’t get to throw a pie in Harvey Updyke’s face

Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr.

I don’t know who this’ll be more popular amongst, Alabama fans or Auburn fans. Or who’d more want to take a shot at him.

Regardless, Harvey Updyke, the Alabama fan who poisoned the famed oak trees at Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner a couple of years ago, has agreed to appear at a charity function in Mobile, Ala., next month, ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach reported. At this charity event, which is being held to raise funds for a family whose young son died of cancer last month, “fans will be allowed to either dunk [Updyke] in a dunking booth or throw pies at his face,” Schlabach wrote.

Former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and his mother are helping raise awareness to the event, but it’s Updyke’s (potential) presence that’ll trigger the most attention nationally. The event’s organizer, Alabama fan T.J. Hodges, stated the “Updyke idea came from me thinking outside the box to raise money for the family” and that “I thought I’d take a chance and see if Harvey was interested in helping, and he said he’d do whatever we wanted.”

It did, though, take Updyke a while to get to that point.

“He thought about it and thought about it,” Updyke’s wife, Elva, told Schlabach. “His daughter said he needed to do it because it will show that he’s not as big of a nut as some people believe. He told them they can do whatever they want to him if it will raise money for kids.”

Updyke, as “Al from Dadeville,” infamously called into the Paul Finebaum radio show in February of 2011 and claimed to have poisoned the Toomer’s oaks after Auburn beat Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl. He was subsequently arrested, charged and ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage of an agricultural facility, a Class-C felony. He was sentenced to three years in jailhe served 180 days of the sentence — and was placed on supervised probation for a period of five years. During that probationary period, he has a 7 p.m. curfew.

Additionally, Updyke, who now lives in Louisiana less than an hour from the LSU campus, was ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution and has been barred from the following: any Auburn University property, any collegiate sporting event and speaking to the media.

While there was initial hope that the oaks could be saved, they were ultimately taken down after one final roll. New trees are expected to be planted next year.

UPDATE (8:20 p.m.):  Who would have thought the opportunity to throw a pie in the face or dunk infamous Alabama fan Harvey Updyke in water would take a turn for the worse? OK, it was probably inevitable.

Upon the announcement that Updyke would make an appearance at a charity function in Mobile, Ala. for children with cancer, it turned ugly. The mother, Dee Dee Bonner, and wife, Katherine Webb, of former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron both received death threats on social media due to their help organizing the event. As a result, Updyke’s appearance has been cancelled.

“It seems to be taking away from the primary purpose, which is raising awareness for children’s cancer,” Bonner told ESPN.com. “We don’t want to take away from the focus. We needed to get away from it.”

“I think Mr. Updyke’s heart was in the right place with what he wanted to do, but I think too many people are still upset about what he did and haven’t gotten over it. I didn’t approve of what he did, but I think he really wanted to help.”

“We want to focus on the real heroes, which are these children fighting for their lives and their families.”

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Former four-star recruit calls it a career at Wisconsin

Vonta Jackson

The career of Wisconsin’s Vonte Jackson comes to an end before it truly got started.

Jackson suffered from a series of knee injuries which eventually cost him his career. As a senior in high school, Jackson tore the ACL in his left knee. A year later, as a member of the Wisconsin Badgers, he tore the ACL in his right knee. Jackson again injured his right knee Aug. 9 and didn’t return to the practice field.

“It looks like Vonte is going to have to take medical (aid) unfortunately,” Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jeff Potrykus. “But he is in a good spot (mentally). We’ve discussed it. We’ve spent time together.

“His family is on board. Everybody knows it is the best thing.”

Jackson entered fall camp with an opportunity to earn playing time at safety. He also provided depth at running back when needed. But the team will now have to address both positions without Jackson’s contributions.

“I feel bad about it,” Andersen said. “But I feel good that he can move on in life now.

“He can close that chapter and go on.”

Jackson was considered a four-star recruit and the No. 2 recruit in the state of Wisconsin when he committed to the Badgers as part of their 2012 class.

(Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin athletic department)

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BYU finally confirms Jamaal Williams’ suspension

Jamaal Williams

BYU running back Jamaal Williams announced three week ago he was suspended for the team’s season opener against the Connecticut Huskies due to an honor code violation.

The school  finally acknowledged the suspension after Williams posted about it on twitter.

“We were caught off-guard a little bit by that,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told The Salt Lake Tribune‘s Jay Drew Wednesday.

“This day and age, with social media and such, we don’t have rules against it. It just kinda surprised us. But these are big boys and girls, and they took it upon themselves to do that, and I am OK with it. I wish they would have communicated and collaborated with our staff. We have professionals that can help it go more smoothly. But they chose to do that, and took accountability for themselves. I am OK with that.”

The decision to suspend Williams is believed to stem from two incidents.  In February, Williams was suspected of underage drinking. The running back also admitted there was another incident in July.

Last season, Williams ran for 1,233 yards. But he may not have been ready for the start of the upcoming season.

The running back suffered a knee sprain during BYU’s scrimmage Wednesday, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The injury was deemed “not serious”, but Williams will be evaluated on a daily basis.

With Williams out of the lineup, sophomore Algeron Brown will likely get the nod as the team’s starting running back against the Huskies.

The Cougars expect to have better communication the next time a situation like this arises.

“Yes, it is always smart communication-wise to talk about things [first],” Holmoe said. “We do it as a staff all the time, but when we don’t, something goes wrong. So, we are just trying to practice [that] and help them understand and practice good judgement.”

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Kent State will honor fallen teammate

Jason Bitsko

After the tragic loss of center Jason Bitsko, Kent State athletic director Joel Nielsen said, “We are heartbroken by the news of Jason’s death. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, teammates and everyone whose lives he touched.”

Bitsko was found unresponsive and passed away Wednesday.

The senior will provide inspiration for his team this season, and the Golden Flashes will honor him every time they take the field.

Kent State head coach Paul Haynes spoke of Bitsko Thursday and what he meant to everyone.

“Jason Bitsko was not just a Golden Flash, he was a son, he was a brother, he was a mentor, he was a friend,” Haynes told the Akron Plain Dealer’s August Fagerstrom.

Despite the loss of their son, Bitsko’s family found a way to make someone else’s life better.

(Photo credit: Kent State athletics)

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OL Joe Manley leaves Louisville, lands at WKU

Joe Manly

Joe Manley began his collegiate playing career in his home state of Kentucky.  While continue it there, he’ll do so in a different football program.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Manly suited up and practiced for the first time at Western Kentucky.  Just this past Friday, the offensive lineman had been granted a release from his Louisville scholarship.

Manly, a three-star member of the UofL’s 2012 recruiting class, played in nine games as a redshirt freshman last season.

Manly is the second Cardinals player to transfer the past week or so.  This past weekend, defensive back Lyn Clark decided to leave the UofL and transfer to an FCS program.

(Photo credit: Louisville athletics)

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Mark Dantonio, on Braxton Miller injury: ‘I felt bad’

Big Ten Championship Getty Images

With Braxton Miller going down with a season-ending shoulder injury earlier this week, Michigan State immediately became the favorite to win the Big Ten East according to most observes as well as the degenerates in Las Vegas.

Just because of that, though, doesn’t mean the Spartans are jumping up and down and gloating over the Ohio State starting quarterback’s 2014 demise.

“I felt bad,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said according to the Lansing State Journal when asked what he thought when he first ehard the news. “Braxton Miller is a great football player. He is a senior, has meant a lot to their football team. He is a great leader, a great young man. You don’t want something like that to happen. It’s a tough deal.

“But I would say this — we played without Max Bullough in the Rose Bowl [because of a suspension]. Usually when those things happen, people rise up. Everybody becomes a little bit better. What was a negative becomes a strength later.”

Dantonio wasn’t alone in his feelings.

“Aw, I mean that’s sad,” senior safety Kurtis Drummond said of the injury. “I never want to see any player get injured or have to miss games. For him to have to go through that, it’s definitely a sad time. I’m definitely praying for him and hopefully he has a speedy recovery.”

In the game that put the Spartans in the Granddaddy of Them All, Miller was able to get his on the ground against the ferocious MSU defense to the tune of 142 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Through the air was a different case during the course of OSU’s 10-point loss as Miller was held to just 8-of-21 passing (38.1 percent) 101 yards.

OSU and MSU will square off in the regular season Nov. 8 in East Lansing in what could still be, despite Miller’s absence, for an early-December trip to Indianapolis and the Big Ten championship game.

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Pitt names Chad Voytik starting QB

Chad Voytik AP

As expected, Pittsburgh has turned to Chad Voytik under center.

In an announcement that should surprise absolutely no one, Pitt head coach Paul Chryst announced that Voytik has been named as his starting quarterback.  The redshirt sophomore had been in a competition with senior Trey Anderson throughout the spring and on into summer camp, although from the time he played the entire second half of the Panthers’ bowl game it has seemingly been Voytik’s job to lose.

Voytik will replace Tom Savage, last year’s starter whose eligibility expired after an 18-year collegiate career.  This will, incidentally, mark the third consecutive season that Pitt has a different starting quarterback at the beginning of the year.

Voytik played in four games as Savage’s backup last season, completing 6-of-11 passes for 116 yards along the way.  Nine of those attempts and 108 of those yards came in the Little Caesars Bowl win over Bowling Green.  While he didn’t throw a touchdown pass, he did rush for a score in the 30-27 win.

A four-star member of Pitt’s 2012 recruiting class, Voytik was rated as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 1 player in the state of Tennessee.

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Former four-star lineman leaving Texas

Rami Hammad

A promising young offensive lineman will see, as it turns out, said promise realized at somewhere other than Texas.

At a press conference Thursday, head coach Charlie Strong announced that Rami Hammad has become the latest player to leave the UT football program over the past few weeks.  Hammad, however, is not a forced departure as he has simply decided to transfer out.

No reason was given for the departure, although Hammad likely wouldn’t have appeared on the two-deep depth chart heading into the season.

Hammad was a four-star member of the Longhorns’ 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 10 guard in the country and the No. 24 player at any position in the state of Texas.  He didn’t play a s a true freshman, instead taking his redshirt.

(Photo credit: Texas athletics)

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Hoosier WR Caleb Cornett arrested, suspended

Football player head shots, 06/23/14_Mike Dickbernd

An arrest early Wednesday morning that resulted in no charges for an Indiana Hoosier has still ended with punitive measures for the player.

In a statement sent out Thursday afternoon, IU head coach Kevin Wilson announced that Caleb Cornett has been indefinitely suspended following the incident.

“We are aware of Caleb’s situation and take this matter very seriously,” Wilson said in the statement. “At this time, Caleb is suspended from all team activities. Once we gather all of the facts and information, we will move forward accordingly.”

The situation involving the wide receiver is actually a bizarre one.

Cornett was involved in a physical confrontation with another male in downtown Bloomington yesterday morning. Police officers witnessed Cornett throw a punch that result in the male being “knocked unconscious for several minutes” and was arrested for battery and disorderly conduct. The Indianapolis Star wrote that “[t]he other individual involved in the incident was transported to Bloomington Hospital.”

Because it was deemed to be a “mutual combat scenario,” though, prosecutors decided the player wouldn’t be charged.

However, Cornett remains jailed. Why? In a previously unreported incident, Cornett was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. While the charge was ultimately pleaded down to reckless operation, Cornett was still placed on probation. The arrest triggered a violation of his probation.

The previous legal issue likely also played a role in Cornett being suspended despite a lack of charges in the most recent incident.

Cornett played in 11 games as a redshirt freshman last season, mostly on special teams.  While he had as many catches as I did, Cornett was expected to see his playing time on offense increased.

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CFT 2013 Preseason Preview: Big 12 Predictions

WVU vs Marshall

As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the Big 12 Conference.

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

BIG 12

1. Oklahoma (Last year: 11-2; beat Alabama in Sugar Bowl)
Will the real Oklahoma Sooners please stand up? Questions surround one of the most talented teams in college football. Will Trevor Knight be the quarterback that shredded Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, or will he revert to the player that couldn’t initially beat out Blake Bell (who converted to tight end) to become the team’s starting quarterback? Will wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham receive a waiver from the NCAA to play this season? How will the Sooners overcome the losses of their top tackler, Frank Shannon, and five-star freshman Joe Mixon? And, historically, the Sooners have a penchant to disappoint after being named a preseason Top 5 team. The program will enter this season ranked fourth overall in the AP Poll and third in USA TODAY’s Coaches Poll. Despite these questions, the Sooners are still the favorites to win the Big 12. Oklahoma returns eight starters to a defensive unit that was the Big 12’s best last season. The group is led by outside linebacker Eric Striker, who is one of the most feared defenders in the country. Knight is the key on offense, but the quarterback will benefit from an experienced and talented offensive line. Both of the team’s starting offensive tackles as well as left guard Adam Shead return for another season. The Sooners’ ability to win up front on both sides of the ball will give them a decided advantage each week. Oklahoma will need it, because the team may have to go undefeated to be a part of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

2. Baylor (Last year: 11-2; lost to UCF in Fiesta Bowl) 
Despite Oklahoma’s status as the favorite to claim a Big 12 crown, it’s a wide-open race and the Bears have just as much chance to win a conference title. Whereas the Sooners will rely heavily on a strong defense and an improving offense, the Bears will continue to score points in bunches and hope they can stop opponents at least once or twice per game. The biggest advantage the Bears have among their conference rivals is the play of quarterback Bryce Petty. Petty threw for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns and only three interceptions during his first full season as a starter. Petty should be even better during his second season as he continues to grow in all phases of the game. The Bears also lay claim to the most talented group of skill position players in the conference. Five of the team’s top six receivers from last year return, while running Shock Linwood will get an opportunity to show how explosive he is as the team’s new starting running back. The Bears will score points in bunches. It will fall on the defense to makes sure they don’t surrender more points than the team’s offense can score. College football is more offensive driven than its ever been, but we’ll give Oklahoma a very slight edge over Baylor due to the old adage, “Defense wins championships.”

3. Texas (Last year: 8-5; lost to Oregon in Alamo Bowl)
Everything Texas does this season will be under a microscope. New head coach Charlie Strong will be scrutinized at every turn. How the team responds to Strong, both on and off the field, will be compared to the program’s former coach, Mack Brown. Strong has already made a statement during the offseason by suspending or dismissing numerous players. Everyone will be anxious to see whether or not this new-found discipline in the locker room will eventually translate to the field. In four seasons with the Louisville Cardinals, Strong was 37-15 overall with an impressive Sugar Bowl victory over the Florida Gators in 2012. What Strong inherits in Texas is a far more talented roster than he ever had in Louisville, and his Cardinals finished No. 1 overall in total defense last season. Strong, a former defensive coordinator, should be giddy with the talent he now has on the defensive side of the football. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown and defensive end Cedric Reed are as good of an inside-outside defensive line tandem as can be found in college football. On offense, meanwhile, the team will will rely on quarterback David Ash again. Believe it or not, Ash is the most experienced quarterback in the Big 12. But this will be a run-first team with the talented Malcolm Brown and the recovering Jonathan Gray running behind a big and athletic offensive line. Texas has enough to compete for a Big 12 championship if it finally puts everything together on both sides of the football.

4. Texas Tech (Last year: 8-5; beat Arizona State in Holiday Bowl)
The Red Raiders did their best disappearing act a year ago. Kliff Kingsbury‘s squad started 7-0 and was ranked as high as 10th overall before the team faded down the stretch. Texas Tech lost five straight to end the team’s regular season but bounced back with a 37-23 victory against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Holiday Bowl. The losing streak showed the Red Raiders weren’t ready to play against the big boys of the Big 12. However, the win in the bowl game showed the team’s resiliency and growth during the month the team had to regroup and grow with the extra practices. And the Red Raiders will continue to build their program under Kingsbury. The biggest growth should come on the offensive side of the ball. Texas Tech already had the best passing offense in the conference last year, and it should be even better in 2014. Davis Webb enters his first full season as starter. Webb threw for over 400 yards in four games and finished with 20-to-9 touchdown-interception ratio. Both of his offensive tackles and center return along the offensive line. And each of the wide receivers expected to start received plenty of playing time last season. The defense is another matter altogether, but this is a team built to win games with its passing game and offensive explosiveness. Kingsbury has made his mark in a very short time as a head coach, and his team should be expected to impress during his second season with the program.

5. Kansas State (Last year: 8-5; beat Michigan in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
Everyone will know whether or not the Wildcats are for real this season by Sept. 18. On that day, Kansas State will host the Auburn Tigers. The clash of styles will make for an highly intriguing game. The reason this game is so important for the Wildcats is because the teams they lost to last season either ran the ball very well or operated with tempo on offense. The Tigers do both, and they do both very well. The game is Manhattan, and Kansas State will be prepared very well by the ageless Bill Snyder. This is a program that is built around playing fundamental football and winning close games. Three top offensive linemen may have left the program after last season, but the team should still be very good up front with B.J. Finney at center and Cody Whitehair at left guard. They’ll be blocking for a quarterback, Jake Waters, who will be going into his second season as the team’s starter. And Tyler Lockett is one of the most dynamic wide receivers and return men in the nation. This is a team that could very well finish much higher or lower in the standings. It’s all dependent on whether or not the ball bounces in their favor, because they don’t have a player the caliber of Collin Klein to carry the team to the top of the conference.

6. TCU (Last year: 4-8)
It’s been a rough transition to the Big 12 for the Horned Frogs. The team is 11-14 since making the move. The program lost a combined 13 games the previous six seasons. However, this year’s squad is regarded as the most talented since it entered the league. Last season, the Horned Frogs’ defense played at a high level and finished second in the league. The biggest story line of the offseason, though, was the potential return and eventual dismissal of Devonte Fields. The defensive end was voted the Big 12’s preseason Defensive of the Year even after missing nine games last season due to injury. Fields, who was named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2012, was a game-changing talent and his presence on the field will be missed greatly. The team also lost one of the best cornerbacks in school history when Jason Verrett graduated and went on to become a first-round selection in May’s NFL draft. Despite these losses, this unit is still talented, particularly at linebacker. Both Jonathan Anderson and Paul Dawson return. And head coach Gary Patterson always has that side of the football prepared to play at a high level. It’s on the offensive side of the football the Horned Frogs are expected to experience the most growth. While a starter has yet to be named at quarterback, Trevone Boykin should be more comfortable behind center after starting nine games last year and Matt Joeckel is a talented transfer from Texas A&M. The team can always lean heavily on its skill positions. Running backs Aaron Green and B.J. Catalon as well as the team’s top receiver, Josh Doctson, are back. TCU may not return to the level of winning it experienced prior to becoming a member of the Big 12, but the team should be much better than 4-8 during the upcoming season.

7. Oklahoma State (Last year: 10-3; lost to Missouri in Cotton Bowl)
It’s difficult to place the Cowboys this low in the standings. After all, the program has won at least 10 games three of the last four years. It’s been seven years since Oklahoma finished this low in the Big 12 standings. The biggest concern for this team is experience. Both sides of the ball will be overhauled after losing a total of 14 starters. It isn’t just how many starters the Cowboys lost, but who they lost. Justin Gilbert was an elite cornerback and returner. Defensive tackle Calvin Barnett could be dominant at times. The team’s top three tacklers from last season are gone. Three of the team’s top four receivers graduated. And the offensive line will have four new starters, while senior Daniel Koenig will transition from right to left tackle. Head coach Mike Gundy will still find ways to manufacture points due to his dynamic offensive scheme, but this is simply too much talent for a team to lose and still hope to be legitimate contenders.

8. Iowa State (Last year: 3-9)
Three years ago, Iowas State head coach Paul Rhoads was considered one of the top coaching candidates in college football. The Cyclones rewarded him with a 10-year contract worth $20 million. The Cyclones are 9-16 since then, and the team is coming off a 3-9 season. Two of those wins came at the end end of the season when quarterback Sam Richardson wasn’t in the starting lineup. Yet, Richardson won this summer’s quarterback competition. The rest of last year’s starting offense remains virtually intact. Plus, Richardson will now have a legitimate No. 1 target at wide receiver in freshman Allen Lazard. Despite the positives on the offensive side of the ball, the Cyclones’ defense was the worst in the Big 12 last season. The program simply doesn’t have the athletes on that side of the ball to compete against the explosive offenses they face this season.

9. West Virginia (Last year: 4-8)
It’s a make-or-break season for West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen. The team has gotten progressively worse each season Holgorsen has been at the helm of the program and tensions are building in Morgantown. Holgorsen’s entire program is built around his offense. An offense which disappointed in 2013 and finished 62nd overall in yardage per game. That level of production simply isn’t good enough when the defense continues to be an issue for the Mountaineers. The defensive coordinator position has been a revolving door under Holgorsen’s supervision. Former Penn State coordinator Tom Bradley was hired as a senior associate head coach during the offseason. Bradley’s inclusion to the staff is a last-ditch attempt to get a woeful defense on track. If it doesn’t and Holgorsen can’t revive his offense — and it doesn’t seem likely — there will be major changes within the program.

10. Kansas (Last year: 3-9)
At this point, what is there to say about Charlie Weis‘ tenure at Kansas? It’s a failed experiment. Yes, the team improved by two wins during Weis’ second season and finally captured a conference victory for the first time in three years. But Weis’ plan to inject talent into the roster with a plethora of junior college additions and transfers didn’t do nearly enough to close the gap with the rest of the teams in the Big 12. All is not bleak, though. The Jayhawks return 17 starters. The team has officially given the reins to quarterback Montell Cozart, who decided to stay in-state to be the future of Jayhawks football. His growth at the position will play a major part in Kansas’ improvement this season. The team also has a solid edge-rushing duo in junior Ben Goodman and senior Michael Reynolds. Overall, It’s difficult to win at this basketball school. And it’s even more difficult to establish a long-term winning culture. After a quick peak at the schedule, it’s hard to project this team winning more than three or four games even in a best-case scenario.

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Clemson loses OT Shaq Anthony to transfer

Shaq Anthony

In early March it was announced that Shaq Anthony was one of four Clemson players suspended for the opener against Georgia.  Five months later, it’s now known that offensive tackle won’t be available for the game after that, or the game after that, or, well, any other game for that matter.

In a press release, Clemson announced that Anthony has decided to transfer out of the football program.  The decision comes just nine days before the opener.

“I appreciate the hard work Shaq has put into this program,” said head coach Dabo Swinney in a statement. “Sometimes a player needs a change. I support his decision and will help him any way I can. I wish him nothing but the best.”

The moves comes as a surprise as the redshirt junior had long projected to be the starting right tackle, although his suspension had, at least temporarily, handed that job to Joe Gore.

Anthony started five of the 17 games in which he played the past two seasons. He was a three-star member of the Tigers’ 2011 recruiting class.

“I have enjoyed my time at Clemson and appreciate the opportunity I’ve had,” said Anthony. “This is an outstanding program, but I wish to make a clean start at a program where I can hopefully be a starter. I want to thank all the Clemson coaches, my teammates and the Clemson family for their support. I will always be a Tiger.”

If Anthony transfers to an FBS program, he’d more than likely be forced to sit out the 2014 season. He would then have one season of eligibility remaining.

This is the second significant loss for the Tigers the past two days. Wednesday, Clemson announced that Zac Brooks, the Tigers’ leading returning rusher, would miss the entire 2014 season with a foot injury.

(Photo credit: Clemson athletics)

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UTSA regents approve Larry Coker’s extension, raise.

Larry Coker

In late November it was reported that Larry Coker and UT-San Antonio were closing in on an approval for a contract extension for the head coach.

Nearly nine months later that “closing in on” has morphed into “finalized.”

According to the San Antonio Express-News, a contract extension for Coker has been signed off on by the University of Texas Systems’ Board of Regents. The regents gave their official approval during a meeting Thursday morning.

The school subsequently confirmed the contract in a press release.

“It’s good news to hear that the Board of Regents approved the new contract today,” Coker said in a statement. “I’m extremely grateful for the support from Lynn Hickey and Dr. (Ricardo) Romo. My family and I are very happy at UTSA and we love the San Antonio community. We are working very hard to build this program the right way and this new contract will help us continue to move forward toward accomplishing our goals.”

The contract extension, which extends Coker for three additional years through the 2018 season, had already been recommended to the regents and approved by the UT System’s vice chancellor for academic affairs. Coker would be 70 years old if he’s still the Roadrunners’ head coach at the end of the extension.

In addition to the extension, Coker also received a raise. It guarantees $2.25 million over the next five years, with $400,000 for the first year and calling for a $25,000 increase each subsequent year. That means the final year of Coker’s contract would be worth $500,000.

In 2013, Coker earned $350,000, the lowest of any head coach in Conference USA. Next lowest? FAU’s Carl Pelini and his $497,000. Pelini is no longer with the Owls, which means Coker is chasing UTEP’s Sean Kugler and FIU’s Ron Turner, who both made $500,000 last year.

The fact that UTSA would extend Coker is far from surprising as he’s taken a fledgling football program and, in short order, turned it into one of the “mid-majors” on the rise.

UTSA’s first season was in 2011 as a member of the FCS; the Roadrunners have spent the past two seasons as provisional FBS members.

The fact that UTSA is now a full-fledged FBS member, officially confirmed earlier this month, means that the Roadrunners will be bowl-eligible in 2014. In 2012 and 2013, during UTSA’s FBS transition phase, the Roadrunners went 8-4 and 7-5, respectively, which would’ve made the school eligible for the postseason.

The Roadrunners will compete in Conference USA — they were in that conference last year, in the now-defunct WAC the year before — and will be eligible for that league’s championship game as well.

As we wrote before and for the record, UTSA opens 2014 with games against Houston, Arizona and Oklahoma State. Nothing says “cannonballing into full FBS membership” more than that schedule.

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