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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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Oregon State has fresh new helmets for spring practice

Oregon State v Hawaii

When Oregon State opens up spring practice tomorrow they will do so wearing a brand new helmet. Could this be a preview of a new look in 2015? If so, it’s not bad at all.

Oregon State will have black helmets with the word “Beavers” scripted across the side. The look is reminiscent to a helmet design previously worn by the program in 1979 (with an orange helmet) and again from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s (with a white helmet). The same basic design elements were used on a black helmet since 1999, although with the Beaver logo on top of the script. Oregon State has also mixed and matched different helmets with uniforms the past few seasons. Now the beaver logo is gone, at least with this helmet.

I’m giving this one two thumbs up. What about you?

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Kennesaw State opened program’s first spring practice today

A total of 91 players went through the first spring football practice of the year on Monday. Ordinarily this would not be of much significance, but this was no ordinary spring football practice. This was spring football practice at Kennesaw State, the first in program history.

“It was a good day. It’s our first time back on the field and it was the first-ever spring ball practice,” Kennesaw State head coach Brian Bohannon said. “The great thing about it is our kids are in pretty good shape. They had a really good offseason.  We had a group of guys who actually knew what to do versus the last time we came out.”

This was the first spring football practice for Kennesaw State, but the program was able to practice in the fall as they go through the motions of operating a football program in season.

“It was a great start and I think the big thing for this group right now is that in the fall we had three segments of 15 days apiece and now we have one,” Bohannon explained. “Now we’re down to 14 and they are going to have to maximize every minute of these opportunities before we get ready to play.”

As noted by Kevin Causey of The Student Section, Kennesaw State will be joining the Big South Conference this season in the FCS and the offensive identity will likely be based on the option that has become the norm at places like Georgia Tech and Navy. The Owls have 52 players on scholarship right now as it builds up to the FCS maximum of 63.

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Alabama and Minnesota add former players to coaching staff

USC v Minnesota

College football programs around the country continue to fill spaces on coaching staffs, and often that means bringing back former players to fill the final pieces. Alabama and Minnesota each added a former player from each respective program to fill a role in 2015.

Alabama has added former walk-on wide receiver Rob Ezell to the program’s support staff. Ezell was a part of Nick Saban’s program from 2007 through 2010. He comes to Alabama after serving the past two seasons as a graduate assistant at Colorado State, where he worked under former Alabama assistant Jim McElwain. Ezell is also known for a pretty spot-on impression of Saban.

At Minnesota, the all-time passing leader for the Gophers is joining the staff as a graduate assistant. Adam Weber will fill the vacancy as grad assistant, and it is expected he will work closely with the quarterbacks. Given his history with the program, that is not a bad strategy. Weber set school records for passing attempts (1,594), completions (909), passing yards (10,917) and touchdown passes (72).

“I really am excited to join such a great staff under Coach [Jerry Kill],” Weber said. “I’m just looking to be a sponge. It just seems like a great fit.”

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UNC hires Huskers DB coach Warren to fill vacancy

North Carolina has hired away Nebraska defensive backs coach Charlton Warren to the same job in Chapel Hill. UNC announced the staff hiring Monday.

Warren was Nebraska’s defensive backs coach in 2014, but he had served on the coaching staff at Air Force prior to that. Warren is an Air Force graduate. Warren has a connection to Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora. Fedora was an assistant with Air Force when Warren was playing for Air Force in 1997 and 1998.

Warren’s departure from Nebraska is not exactly to be unexpected given coaching turnover in Lincoln, although Warren was the only coach retained from the Bo Pelini regime by new Nebraska head coach Mike Riley.

North Carolina is in need of improving its defense, and the additions to the coaching staff this offseason appear to be addressing that need. The Tar Heels hired former Auburn national championship head coach Gene Chizik to be the team’s new defensive coordinator in one of the more notable assistant coaching hires of the year.

North Carolina finished last in the 14-team ACC in passing defense in 2014, allowing 257.4 yards per game and 31 passing touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 150.35, which is 10 points higher than the next worst opponent passer rating allowed in the ACC (Syracuse, 140.08).

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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SEC’s Mike Slive cautious on freshman eligibility conversation

Mike Slive

The two most powerful men in college athletics continue to be on opposite sides of a divisive topic, like Republicans and Democrats on just about anything. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are not seeing eye-to-eye on te topic of freshman eligibility. Not yet at least. Delany has spearheaded the recent conversation, but Slive is advises to be patient on the topic until the NCAA rules take effect in 2016.

“We have to remember that each college student has his or her own academic challenges,” Slive said in a statement Monday. Slive was responding to the idea presented by Delany and the Big Ten to prevent student-athletes in certain sports from competing as freshmen in order to provide a more stable introduction to academic life.

“To put a blanket over these student-athletes with a year on the bench doesn’t address those individual needs to incentivize academic progress,” Slive continued.

The Big Ten may be fighting a losing battle here, or Delany may be drawing his line in the sand to back up the idea the Big Ten really is focused more on academics than other conferences. Delany and the Big Ten are currently seeking opinions about freshman eligibility rules.

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Former Rutgers & Minnesota QB Philip Nelson dodges prison

Philip Nelson

Former Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson will not have to serve any prison time for his involvement in a brutal attack that led to the injury of a Minnesota State football player. Nelson was instead sentenced to 100 hours of community service and was credited for serving two days in jail.

Isaac Kolstad was left in coma after being allegedly being attacked by Nelson and kicked in the head. Following the incident, Nelson was booted from the Rutgers team shortly after he had transferred from Minnesota. Kolstad has since made progress in his recovery in his rehab from his brain injury.

Nelson agreed to a plea that would result in a misdemeanor fifth-degree assault for pleading guilty.

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Boise State has tough slate in 2015 as MWC releases schedule

Jay Ajayi, Bryan Harsin

Defending Mountain West Conference champion Boise State has quite the challenging schedule ahead of it in 2015. In addition to opening the season on a Friday night at home against former head coach Chris Petersen and Washington, the Broncos visit BYU and Virginia before getting to the Mountain West Conference schedule in October. The MWC conference schedule, released today, will send Boise State to Colorado State and Utah State on consecutive weeks in October. If the Broncos can manage to get to Halloween without a loss, or perhaps just one, then Boise State could be set up well for a return run to the College Football Playoff’s New Years Six line-up.

The Mountain West Conference features 22 games against bowl teams from 2014 including 11 from the Pac-12, 6 from the Big Ten, 3 from the SEC and 2 from the ACC. There are no games scheduled against Big 12 schools this season, but the MWC will go toe-to-toe with other Group of 5 conferences; the MAC, American and Conference USA. There are also five games against independent programs including BYU, a former MWC member.

The 12-team conference will continue to use an eight-game conference schedule format, with each team in the conference getting four home games and four away. Each member of the conference will play five division games and three cross-division games. The conference is in the midst of a four-year scheduling cycle that guarantees each school gets to play every member of the conference home and away.

As has been the case the last two seasons, the highest-ranked division champion will be given home-field advantage for the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. The conference title game will be played on Saturday, December 5. Boise State hosted Fresno State in last season’s conference championship game and won. Fresno State hosted the title game the previous season and defeated Utah State. This makes home teams 2-0 in the MWC conference championship game.

While the conference has set aside games for Thursday night and Friday night dates, the Mountain West will release broadcast details that could move certain games away from the tentatively scheduled Saturday dates. The MWC has broadcast rights deals with both ESPN and CBS Sports Network for national coverage and ROOT Sports and the Mountain West Network for regional broadcast options.

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Bret Bielema takes driving privileges from Razorback busted for DWI

Bret Bielema

Arkansas defensive lineman Tevin Beanum was recently arrested for suspicion of DWI. In response, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema took a page out of the old parenting handbook and took Beanum’s car away from him.

Bielema refrained from removing Beanum, a sophomore in 2015, from the roster but did need to find a way to respond. This led Bielema to consult with Beanum’s mother, and the two decided to take the keys and the car from the Razorback in addition to other requirements before being reinstated by Bielema.

“It sounds simple. I think a lot of today’s problems can be solved by an old school way of thinking,” Bielema said in a report by Arkansas News. “So I picked up the phone and called his mom. We talked about different things. He has to go through the court system and obviously he’ll have ramifications. But I’ve basically banned the use of his car for any time other than when he’s coming over here or going to academics. His car is to remain parked.”If he gets pulled over for running through a stoplight at 10:30 at night then he’s violated my rules and there’s going to be an even bigger consequence.”

What happens if Beanum is found driving his car outside of those proposed limitations laid out by Bielema?

“If he gets pulled over for running through a stoplight at 10:30 at night then he’s violated my rules and there’s going to be an even bigger consequence.”

Driving is a privilege, not a right. Here’s hoping Bielema’s old-school way of discipline lets that message sink in for Beanum and the rest of the team.

Arkansas News also reports Bielema has suspended wide receiver JoJo Robinson, but the reason beyond violating team rules is unknown. Robinson could return to the team as early as Sunday.

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SEC fills your calendar with dates for spring practices, spring games and NFL pro days

Alabama Spring Game

Vanderbilt is already midway through its spring football schedule, but the rest of the SEC is just getting ready for spring football. On Monday, as Texas A&M opened up spring camp and a day before Ole Miss gets underway, the SEC released the notable dates for your spring football fix in the southeast.

Each team in the SEC currently has a spring game scheduled, except for Kentucky and Texas A&M. Stadium renovations at Kyle Field will prevent Texas A&M from hosting a spring game for a second straight season. Many of the spring games throughout the SEC will draw large crowds, and the conference should once again lead the way in spring game attendance.

Here are your spring practice start dates, along with dates for spring games and pro days for those looking forward to the NFL Draft. Plan accordingly.

SEC Spring Football

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LSU being used as guinea pig by NCAA and SEC, says recruiting reporter

Les Miles

Last week LSU’s football program was hit with some strong recruiting sanctions by the NCAA. Those who follow the recruiting game seem to think LSU is being punished unreasonably, with one recruiting analyst going so far as to say LSU is being used as a guinea pig by the NCAA and SEC.

“I think the SEC and NCAA are using LSU as a guinea pig,” said Michael Carvell, a recruiting reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said in a report published by The Advocate. “Somebody had to be first. Unfortunately for LSU, it’s them.”

LSU has been banned from signing early enrollee recruits for the next two recruiting cycles and will lose 21 of 210 days on the recruiting calendar to evaluate potential recruits. The sanctions stem from one LSU recruit signing a financial aid agreement with LSU in August with the intent to enroll at LSU in January. That recruit, Matt Womack, ended up committing to Alabama. Football programs that fail to have the player under the agreement to enroll early face penalties. It is believed LSU is the first school to be extended such a punishment, which makes this punishment historical in a sense.

How much this ultimately hurts LSU remains to be seen. Many seem to think LSU will see minimal impact on the recruiting trail, which would make sense. LSU tends to recruit very well, plays in one of the top conferences and is nearby loads of talent. LSU should still manage to recruit effectively, even with the sanctions imposed.

If nothing else, what has happened at LSU will grab the attention of coaches and recruiters around the country as they look to ensure they do not swing and miss on early enrollees.

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Steve Spurrier is now on Twitter

Steve Spurrier

Twitter can be fun, especially when college football coaches get involved and connected. LSU head coach Les Miles is on board. So is Penn State head coach James Franklin. UCLA’s Jim Mora has been known to dabble in the social networking platform, and has gotten in trouble for it along the way. New Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has also decided to start tweeting.

Well, brace yourselves because one more big name head coach never at a loss for words is hopping on board to share his thoughts 140 characters at a time; Steve Spurrier.

Give him a follow.

And if there was any doubt…

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Oregon QB commit scores game-winning basket for wrong team

Seth Green

Minnesota native Seth Green is a four-star dual-threat quarterback on his way to Oregon in the Class of 2016. He also happens to be a pretty decent high school basketball player, as his 24-point performance over the weekend would suggest. But as can all too often be the unfortunate case for any talented athlete, it can be a mistake that ends up being the most notable moment for all the wrong reasons.

In a tight regional playoff semifinal game and 20 seconds to play between Green’s East Ridge High School and Cretin-Derham Hall, Green took an inbound pass and made his way down court for an uncontested lay-up. Normally that is a good play, but Green’s lay-up went into his team’s own basket, awarded two free points to Cretin-Derham Hall. The basket turned a one-point lead into a one-point deficit. Oops. Cretin-Derham Hall went on to win by a final score of 70-65.

“That will not define who Seth Green is,” Cretin-Derham Hall head coach Jerry Kline said after the game according to Star Tribune. “He’s a great player, a good kid, and I feel bad for him. He was going so hard and just feel for him at this time.”

The good news for Green is he has plenty of opportunities ahead of him. Perhaps one day, if he has not already, Green will get to start laughing about this unfortunate sequence of events.

Green is the 10th ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation and the top prospect in the state of Minnesota according to Rivals.

Photo credit: Rivals

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Connor Cook sings praises of new crop of Michigan State receivers

Connor Cook

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook may be losing a few key targets from last season, but the veteran starting quarterback is getting a jump on speaking highly of his new go-to receivers in 2015.

Cook enters this spring looking to build chemistry with some new starting wide receivers. Michigan State loses its top two receivers from 2014, Tony Lippett (1,198 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns) and Keith Mumphery (495 yards, 3 touchdowns). This is the nature of the college game, of course, with players only able to stick around for so long before moving on in one capacity or another. Cook, preparing for his third season as the starting quarterback for the Spartans, knows there will be others ready to compete for an opportunity to start and play a key role in the Michigan State offense in 2015.

“Obviously losing [Tony Lippett] and [Keith Mumphery] are big losses, but we have some other (rising) senior leaders who are stepping up in Macgarrett Kings, Aaron Burbridge and AJ Troup, and then younger guys like R.J. Shelton, Matt Macksood and Tres Barksdale,” Cook said, as transcribed by MLive.com.

Kings is Michigan State’s top returning receiver with 404 yards and a touchdown last season. Burbridge caught 29 passes for 358 yards and a touchdown. Troup added 113 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. Shelton had 173 yards and two touchdowns in his sophomore season.Barksdale appeared in seven games and contributed two catches for 16 yards. Macksood, awarded a scholarship last spring. He appeared in seven games for Michigan State last season but not record any stats.

Ohio State continues to be the team to beat in the Big Ten, but Michigan State is not likely to be out of the running even after losing defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi to a head coaching job at Pittsburgh. With Cook in command of the offense, he will have solid protection from the offensive line. If the Spartans are to thrive and challenge Ohio State, Cook will have to get on track with his receivers and avoid shaky play as he experienced at times last season.

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What if college football had a College Football NIT?

Manhattan v Syracuse

The college football world went years and decades until finally making way for a four-team playoff format to crown major college football’s national champion. The College Football Playoff is the new crown jewel of the traditional bowl system. But what if there was a second mini-tournament embedded into the college football postseason? What about a third? Maybe expanding the College Football Playoff is not going to happen, but nobody has ever said anything about possibly adding a second tournament to the equation.

The idea popped up in my head today as Chelsea upended Tottenham Hotspur to lay claim to the League Cup. I may be a novice when it comes to soccer, but my understanding is the League Cup is a middle-tier level of competition, and is certainly below the more high-end championships soccer teams in Europe compete for. For those not familiar with soccer, there are multiple tournaments teams can participate in, even during the course of the team’s regular season. It is kind of neat, but the idea would not quite translate to college football with regular seasons already as packed as they are.

But what about the bowl season?

One of the biggest complaints about the college football postseason is the idea there are too many bowl games that nobody particularly cares about. What if those so-called meaningless bowl games were given a purpose? What if, for example, the winners of the New Mexico Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl were given a chance later in the bowl season to compete in a third bowl game, whether in an existing bowl or in a brand new game in the lead-up to the College Football Playoff national championship game? Basketball does it with the NIT. Think of this as college football’s NIT.

I personally think the bowl system is fine the way it is, but if you are looking for a way to spice things up a little bit, and perhaps drive up television ratings for some of the lower-tier bowl games, why not give it a little more meaning? The College Football Playoff recorded monster television ratings. Implementing this sort of idea may not come close to rivaling that kind of viewership, but it could give the casual fan a little more interest in the GoDaddy Bowl or Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (Yes, these are real bowl games).

I know I would watch, but I already do. Would you watch with a little more interest in a second College Football Playoff-type postseason tournament?

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Penn State’s $60 million fine about to be put to good use

Penn State Community Reacts As Trustees Fire Coach Joe Paterno Getty Images

The fine money paid by Penn State is ready to start being put to good use. It is just a matter of figuring out which organization gets what amount of money. With $60 million to distribute, there are plenty f worthy causes to help support.

“There’s certainly a tremendous need,” said Linda Rosenberg, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in an Associated Press report. “In the area of child sexual abuse, I don’t know if there’s ever enough money to help support the need.”

As it stands now, Rosenberg’s agency is handling $48 million from Penn State’s fine money. Penn State is retaining $12 million. Penn State agreed to pay off a $60 million fine as dictated by sanctions levied against the program in 2012. The sanctions were the result of the findings from the Freeh Report following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Although since then the consent decree has been vacated, Penn State committed to paying off the remainder of the fine assessed against it.

After the NCAA initially fined Penn State, state representative Jake Corman helped to push through the Higher Education Monetary Penalty Endowment Act in order to keep Penn State’s fine money within the state of Pennsylvania. The NCAA wanted the money to be spread nationally, sparking one of many legal battles that eventually went against the NCAA’s wishes.

According to the AP, Rosenberg says about half of the $48 million controlled by her agency is expected to be handed out in the form of grants over the next five years. A commission will be formed with the task to identify areas of need and solicit applications for grant support later this year. By October, grants may start to be issued.

There are a number of worthy foundations that can take advantage of this money that will be available, many connected to raising awareness and combatting child abuse, sexual abuse and more.

Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for abusing 10 boys he met over 15 years through his charity for troubled children.

 

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