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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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Jaxon Hood making way back to Sun Devils?

Weber State v Arizona State Getty Images

Because of what were described as personal issues, Jaxon Hood twice left the Arizona State football program shortly before and then during the 2014 season.

While he’s not returned from the second sabbatical, he could in the near future. Maybe.

On his protected Twitter account Friday, Hood proclaimed “I’m back” and “[t]he road to greatness continues.” When a writer who covers the Sun Devils wrote on Twitter that “Hood’s tweets insinuate nothing about playing football” and that the tweets “[c]ould mean anything in [his] personal life,” Hood responded.

Hold the bus on the Welcome Wagon, though.

The Arizona Republic, citing a source with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that Hood is not officially back with the football team. As of early Sunday afternoon, Hood was not listed on ASU’s online roster, although head coach Todd Graham said late this past week that he wouldn’t rule out an eventual return.

Such a development would be a positive one for ASU’s defensive line rotation.

In starting 12 games as a true freshman in 2012, Hood earned numerous Freshman All-American honors. He was the starter at nose tackle in 2013, then started the first eight games of the season before missing the remainder of the year with his second bout with personal issues.

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Ex-Okla. St. WR Ra’Shaad Samples reportedly transfers to Houston

Oklahoma State v Mississippi State Getty Images

Nearly two months to the day after Ra’Shaad Samples‘ decision to transfer from Oklahoma State went public, the wide receiver has found a landing spot.

Citing sources with knowledge of the situation, Mark Berman of KRIV-TV is reporting that Samples has decided to continue his collegiate playing career at Houston.  The school has yet to officially announce the addition of Samples to the roster, although that’s expected to happen at some point this week.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Samples will be forced to sit out the 2015 season.  He’ll then have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.

A four-star member of OSU’s 2013 recruiting class coming out of high school in Dallas, Samples was rated as the No. 33 receiver in the country and the No. 32 player at any position in the state of Texas. Along with fellow receiver Marcell Ateman and defensive back Jerel Morrow, Samples was the highest-rated member of that year’s Cowboy class.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Samples played in six games in 2014. In that limited action, he caught three passes for 11 yards.

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Report: FSU not expecting NCAA penalties for Jameis’ crab hook-up

Jameis Winston

At least as far as Florida State is concerned, the athletic department is going Lt. Drebin on the latest Jameis Winston revelations — alright, move on, nothing to see here.  Please disperse.

In an interview with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh that appeared on an ESPN NFL draft special last week, the former FSU quarterback, for the first time, stated publicly that he had received a seafood hook-up from an individual who worked at a Tallahassee grocery store. Winston went on to claim that he had gotten a similar hook-up from the Publix employee on at least one other occasion prior to that.

While Winston’s former head coach Jimbo Fisher stated that FSU’s compliance department had previously looked into the issue but felt like it was an isolated incident, athletic director Stan Wilcox subsequently released a statement saying “we will work in partnership with the NCAA to determine whether a violation occurred.”

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, which cites a source close to the football program, the school “does not expect any NCAA violations to stem from the latest revelation in Jameis Winston’s shoplifting incident.” Wilcox declined to respond to the Democrat’s report, but did state that he doesn’t expect the situation be a drawn-out one.

Winston was issued a citation late last April for shoplifting crab legs from a local Publix store. At the time, Winston claimed to police he had simply forgotten to pay for the seafood.

After leaving the Seminoles early for the NFL, Winston is widely expected to be the top pick in the upcoming draft.

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Blind USC walk-on hopeful will need NCAA waiver

Jake Olson Pete Carroll

Leave it to the NCAA and its policies to be the buzzkill, at least temporarily, as it concerns a potentially heartwarming story.

Last week it was reported that high school senior Jake Olson will attempt to become a walk-on at USC this year. Olson is a young man who, in addition to being a USC super fan, lost his eyesight to a rare form of cancer a few years ago and was essentially adopted by the Trojans football program in general and former head coach Pete Carroll specifically.

Flipping a middle finger in the general direction of his blindness, Olson became a long-snapper on his high school football team. He became so adept at that particular skill, in fact, that current USC head coach Steve Sarkisian very firmly stated that, when it comes to Olson snapping in a game for the Trojans, “it will happen” someday.

Before someday comes, though, Olson will have to navigate some NCAA obstacles.

Olson, you see, is one of this year’s recipients of a Swim With Mike scholarship, a handful of which are awarded annually from the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship fund at USC. Because that scholarship is considered an athletic one, the Orange County Register explains, Olson would count as one of the 85 scholarship players for the Trojans. From the Register‘s report:

The way the NCAA determines counters, football supersedes all other sports. According to bylaw 15.5.9.1, even a student-athlete “who was not recruited and/or offered financial aid to participate in football and who competes in football and one or more (other) sports shall be counted in football.”

Schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision have annual caps of 25 “initial counters” (incoming freshmen and transfers) and 85 total scholarships. USC has reached its limit of initial counters for 2015 – the first year it has been able to add a full recruiting class since 2011 because of NCAA sanctions.

The university will seek a waiver from the NCAA that would allow Olson to be a counted as a non-scholarship walk-on and not count against the 85-man limit.

As it turns out, there are other potential “issues” for which the family is being proactive and very upfront about in working with the school’s compliance officials. “Jake is a published author, makes motivational speeches and is involved in a charitable foundation – all of which the Olsons plan to vet through USC’s compliance department,” the Register writes.

“Jake has aspirations to walk on to the team and play football at USC,” Jake’s father, Brian Olson, told the paper. “There has to be a process of approaching the NCAA. We’re putting faith in the process that there’s a positive outcome for Jake. We’ll take it as it comes.

“It’s nothing negative. It’s just the way things are at the college level.”

The Register is of the belief that it’s unlikely the NCAA will deny Olson the waiver. Hopefully, the NCAA gets it right this time.

(Photo credit: openyoureyes.org)

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Big Ten, SEC each draw 400,000+ fans in spring football

Ohio State Spring Game Getty Images

When it comes to spring football, the Big Ten and SEC tend to rule the attendance game. It only makes sense with the largest stadiums in the country mostly residing within the Big Ten or SEC, not to mention some of the top brands in the game. Both conferences went over the 4 million fan mark this year in the conference-wide spring game attendance figures.

Both conferences closed the books on spring practices Saturday with Tennessee and Arkansas the last two SEC schools to play a spring game and Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin closing out the Big Ten spring schedule. When all was said and done, the Big Ten edges the SEC in spring attendance by roughly 2,000 fans.

The Big Ten’s spring total added up to 410,943 fans. That includes a new national record set by Ohio State (99,391) and three other schools with over 60,000 fans (Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan). Michigan State also set a new school record with 48,000 fans on Saturday. Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern are not included in that total due to not keeping track or recording a spring game attendance.

The SEC ended the spring with 408,599 fans coming out to SEC stadiums. The Big Ten numbers were top heavy, but there was a little bit more even distribution of fans throughout the SEC, with the notable exception of Vanderbilt. It should be noted Kentucky and Texas A&M did not play a spring game or record any spring attendance numbers. It should be expected Texas A&M be a solid spring draw next year after the completion of renovations on Kyle Field (better than Jerry World?). That could be enough to push the SEC in front of the Big Ten if we assume most of these attendance numbers are roughly the same in 2016.

Numbers are still coming in for the Big 12 and Pac-12, but none of the other power conferences will even sniff 200,000 fans this spring. It’s just a different routine in the Big Ten and SEC every spring, and the attendance numbers show it.

Source: 2015 Spring Football Attendance

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Michigan State center scores only TD of Spartans’ spring game

Jack Allen

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was pushing to get 50,000 fans to show up at Spartan Stadium for the annual spring game, but he had to settle for 48,000 fans instead. That was still good enough for a school record for the spring game.

The 48,000 fans that did show up were treated to a handful of trick plays and familiar dominance in the trenches. The only touchdown of the game was scored by center Jack Allen, who found space on his way for a short touchdown run after 300-pound guard Donavon Clark rumbled 13 yards on a lateral from quarterback Connor Cook. Do not expect to see too much of that during he regular season, but do not forget about it either. Dantonio is know for pulling some tricks in key moments, but even that might be considered a bit of a costly risk.

As for individual performances, Shilque Calhoun was credited for 2.5 sacks in the game.Cook went 11-of-22 for 105 yards. It was not a stellar performance from the Spartans’ quarterback, but there is no real reason for concern in East Lansing. that is because the starting offensive line was split between teams. Put them all together and Cook should be in good shape in the fall. Cook’s backup, Damion Terry, did not play in the spring game as he recovers from injury.

Michigan State’s crowd of 48,000 was locked in as the fifth best this spring around the Big Ten. Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan all finished ahead of the Spartans, but Dantonio should feel good about the crowd that turned out. In Madison, Wisconsin, the crowd was considerably smaller, but there is a lot to do in Madison. Michigan State’s attendance (combined with the totals from Wisconsin and Iowa on Saturday) pushed the total spring attendance around the Big Ten to 410,943, giving the Big Ten the largest combined spring attendance in 2015.

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Hokies close out spring and set focus on Buckeyes

Motley, Brewer

Every year there is one team that has the opportunity to play the defending national champions in the first game of the season. In 2015 that will be Virginia Tech, the only team to hand national champion Ohio State a loss last season. This year the Buckeyes visit Blacksburg for a Monday night game n Labor Day, which means now that the spring is over the Hokies are already in need of getting ready for everything Ohio State will throw at them.

Some teams end their springs with some question marks, but the vibe seems pretty positive at Virginia Tech after Saturday afternoon’s spring game.

“I like where we are. I like our football team,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said after the game. “I think we’ve got a lot of good character guys and a lot of good football players. I like where we are right now and we’ve got to keep going in a positive direction.”

Starting quarterback Michael Brewer threw one touchdown while splitting time between teams. The red zone efficiency was respectable between the two teams as well, with touchdowns scored on four of five red zone opportunities. On the flip side, the defense gave up four touchdowns in five red zone situations.

“I thought the offense took a step in the right direction,” Brewer said following the game. “We’re not where we need to be or where we want to be, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

In typical Virginia Tech fashion, the first score of the game came on special teams when Greg Stroman returned a punt early on for an 88-yard touchdown. Later in the game the defense got on the scoreboard when Donovan Riley returned a fumble 36 yards for a score. The defense could be credited for another score after recovering a fumble deep in the offense’s pat of the field to set up a short touchdown run by Trey Edmunds.

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Kansas spring game sees starting QB injured, leading rusher suspended

Michael Cummings

It was quite a disastrous afternoon for the Kansas Jayhawks. Not only was a starting quarterback injured, but two more players were confirmed to be suspended for violations of team rules.

Michael Cummings limped off the field with the assistance of the team’s medical staff. He had taken a low hit by safety Michael Glatczak, but the severity of the injury is not yet known. Kansas head coach David Beaty said it was too early to start discussing how the future of Cummings looks. Cummings was the leading passer for Kansas in 2014 with 1,715 yards and nine touchdowns.

Two other players with an uncertain future right now at Kansas are wide receiver Rodriguez Coleman and running back Corey Avery. Beaty said both players have been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, and it is unknown when or if either player will return to the program. Avery was the leading rusher for the Jayhawks last fall, rushing for 631 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman. Coleman had three catches for 37 yards in 2014.

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Jeff Long says 13th games were factor for CFB Playoff committee

Jeff Long

This may not sit too well with some fans in Big 12 country, specifically fans of Baylor or TCU. If there was any doubt how valuable a conference championship game was going to be in the College Football Playoff era, Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long made the message pretty clear; it’s pretty important.

Long, who chairs the selection committee for the College Football Playoff, was a guest in the broadcast booth for a short Q&A on the SEC Network during the Arkansas spring game Saturday afternoon. During his interview Long was asked about the College Football Playoff and the value of playing a conference championship game in the eyes of the selection committee. In his response, Long said the 13th game played by those in conference championship games was a factor for the selection committee. Baylor and TCU only played 12 games, with the Big 12 not holding a conference championship game.

Baylor and TCU shared the Big 12 championship last fall, and neither school was invited to participate in the first College Football Playoff despite entering the final week of the season ranked ahead of Ohio State. The Buckeyes roared into the playoff following a dominating victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game despite trailing TCU in the weekly CFB Playoff rankings up until the final week of the rankings.

Change may be on the way for the Big 12 though. The conference could begin playing a championship game as soon as 2016, which would give its conference champion one more time to impress the selection committee. Of course, even if the Big 12 had a championship game last season it is unknown if it would have been enough to keep TCU or Baylor in the playoff field ahead of a surging Ohio State along with Alabama, Oregon and Florida State. Big brands still carry weight growing and blossoming programs like Baylor and TCU are working to achieve.

Long also said during his brief moment in the booth the committee would be reviewing possible minor changes to the College Football Playoff, although nothing too drastic is expected to change in the eyes of the public.

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Jim Mora will name starting UCLA QB “whenever kickoff is vs. Virginia”

Jerry Neuheisel

The UCLA spring drew to a close Saturday afternoon on the west coast. As far as head coach Jim Mora is concerned, there is no need to name a starting quarterback just yet, and he may be letting the competition brew right up until the season’s opening kickoff against Virginia.

Earlier this week Mora said “I will not say who’s the guy until our first series against Virginia,” and after the spring game that plan has not changed.

The options for UCLA are Jerry Neuheisel, Asiantii Woulard, Mike Fafaul and early enrollee Josh Rosen. If the spring game was any indication, it might be a wide open race to replace Brett Hundley. There were some nice plays at times, but the final spring practice also saw a decent amount of overthrowing targets, and it would be fair to suggest none of the candidates for the starting job jumped out and grabbed a hold of the position out of the spring.

Woulard did serve up one of the nicer highlights from UCLA’s scrimmage…

UCLA opens the 2015 season at home against Virginia on September 5.

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Urban Meyer was against satellite camps before he was for them

Urban Meyer

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer may think satellite camps should be outlawed, but do not think for one second he is not going to take advantage of the NCAA rules the same way his coaching brethren at Michigan and Penn State are. Ohio State coaches will be working with coaches at Florida Atlantic this summer, giving Ohio State coaches access to potential recruits in the state of Florida in the same way Penn State and Michigan will have access to recruits in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and beyond.

There is a connection between the two schools, according to Cleveland.com. FAU Athletics Director previously was employed by Ohio State. Meyer’s previous experience in the state of Florida also helps.

“I think we’re thinking about doing one,” Meyer said Monday. “I can’t tell you if it has been finalized. Am I a fan of that? Not really. A big lore to Ohio State is getting them here on campus.

“I think what happens is monkey see, monkey do, they did that so let’s go do it,” Meyer said. “We’re not going to do it only because other schools are trying it.”

No word on whether or not Meyer will be accepting an open invite by Jim Harbaugh to help with Michigan’s summer camp.

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Leah Still scores touchdown at Temple spring game

Nike Levi's Kids Rock - Runway - New York Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2015

Leah Still, the daughter of Cincinnati Bengals player Devon Still, has already scored the best touchdown of the day among all the spring games being played this afternoon.

Still was a special guest at Temple’s spring game today. The Owls invited her to toss the coin before the game, and then gave her a chance to score one more career touchdown than her father, a former Penn State defensive lineman, ever had.

Good job by the Temple Owls here.

Leah Still’s inspirational story caught the attention of the sports world and beyond last fall, just months after she had been diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma, which led to surgery and other forms of treatment. The Cincinnati Bengals released Devon still from the team but kept him on the practice squad so he and his family could benefit from the health insurance provided by the NFL. Leah is currently in remission and remains an inspiration for so many.

UPDATE (7:30 p.m.) – We now have a better quality video courtesy of CSN Philly;

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UAB linebacker brings helmet to graduation and leaves President Watts hanging

Derek Slaughter

UAB linebacker Derek Slaughter won the crowd at a graduation ceremony this week. The graduating senior brought his UAB football helmet to graduation and held it high as he walked to the stage to accept his diploma from the university. The crowd erupted in support of not just Slaughter, but the entire football program that was cast off by the university and the board of trustees.

That moment was great, it was touching. Then Slaughter scored one more point as he left UAB President Ray Watts hanging as he walked off the stage.

The disgraced university president was there to offer a congratulatory handshake to all UAB students graduating, but Slaughter refused to shake hands with Watts, who has become the target for so much criticism over the shutting down of the UAB Blazers football program despite a new report suggesting the program was financially viable.

In this video below you can see Slaughter make his way to the right of the stage to walk back to his seat. The image may be a little grainy, but you can see Watts extend his hand to shake hands, as Slaughter walks right on by.

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Washington’s Chris Petersen has Huskies focused on tackling technique

Chris Petersen

If there is one thing to take note of as you watch Washington football this fall, pay attention to the technique with which the Huskies tackle. Head coach Chris Petersen has been trying to change the way the fundamentals of tackling are taught and enforced in his second spring with the Huskies.

“The game has to change,” Petersen said, according to The Seattle Times. “We have to change as coaches.”

Petersen picked up some new ideas after having a discussion with a former Boise State player, Michael Lose, about the relatively low number of head injuries in rugby. Rugby players, if you were unaware, typically do not wear helmets. His interest in improving tackling technique continued to grow after a conversation with Seattle Seahawks defensive assistant Rocky Seto.

“We are fully committed to this,” Petersen said. “It’s the right thing to do. But the really neat thing about this whole thing is, not only is it the right thing to do because it’s the safe thing to do, it’s a better way of tackling.”

Going for the big hit may result in a nice highlight or two, but it can also lead to the chance of a missed tackle. Better form and better technique could not only make for a a safer game, but a better defense as well.

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Texas A&M’s Kyle Field better than Jerry World, says chancellor

Kyle Field

Texas A&M has invested serious money ($485 million) to give Kyle Field a nice facelift over the course of the past two years. When all is completed, Kyle Field will be better than a pair of NFL stadiums in the state of Texas, AT&T Stadium and NRG Stadium. Well, according to Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp at least.

“This stadium is going to be the most impressive college sports venue in the country,” Sharp said for a local news story on KBTX. That includes the two NFL stadiums that have taken up hosting college football games in the regular season and bowl season in recent years.

One of the notable upgrades to Kyle Field, other than more restrooms, is the expanded WiFi coverage inside the stadium, which Texas A&M claims will be able to handle 100,000 calls at the same time and save your phone’s battery life from start to finish.

“If you come to the stadium with a full charge, it should last the whole game,” Todd Christner, Director of Wireless Business Development for IBM/Corning, said. [Insert AT&T Stadium joke here if you wish].

Sharp also commented on the future, or lack thereof, of the rivalry between Texas A&M and Texas. As far as he is concerned, the series will not be returning for some time. That’s a shame. It would be fun watching one of college football’s best in-state rivalries play in the so-called most impressive college sports venue in the country.

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