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Stunner: NC St. hands ‘Noles first loss of season

Florida State v North Carolina State Getty Images

Well, so much for Florida State being back.  Or, at least, all the way back.

In one of the more stunning upsets of the 2012 season, the Seminoles’ — and thus the ACC’s — hopes at a shot at a BcS championship went down in complete and utter flames as North Carolina State shockingly upended the No. 3 team in the country.

The Wolfpack, playing without three starting offensive linemen, trailed 16-0 deep into the fourth quarter, but mounted a comeback that shattered FSU’s dreams of a return to the big-boy stage of college football.  The final dagger for the ‘Noles came late in the quarter, with a Mike Glennon touchdown pass of two yards to Bryan Underwood proving to be the game-winning score.

For FSU, the loss was the latest — and arguably the greatest — hiccup for a football program that hasn’t been relevant nationally for a decade or more.  For the ACC, it saw its lone unbeaten team crash and burn, scorching any hopes it had entertained to be in the postseason title mix as well.

While it’s of little comfort to Seminole Nation, FSU was far from the only highly-ranked program to suffer its first blemish.  In fact, three of the top five teams in the country — No. 4 LSU and No. 5 Georgia as well as the ‘Noles — had its first mark ion the right side of the won/loss ledger.  Additionally, two other previously unbeaten and ranked teams — No. 15 TCU and No. 24 Northwestern — suffered their first loss of the season.

As it stands now, there are 16 undefeated teams at the FBS level, 13 from so-called BcS-level schools.  The SEC has the most remaining with four, while (surprise!) the Big East is next with three.

Given how wild the 2012 season has been just six weeks in, it’s anyone’s guess how many will be left even a week from now let alone at season’s end.

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Former USC AD Dr. Richard Perry dies

Oregon State v USC

Here’s a good way to judge the tenure of an athletics director – if you manage to outnumber national championships by years served at a 2-to-1 clip, you’ve had an insanely successful run.

Dr. Richard Perry was USC’s athletics director for a decade, from 1975 to 1984, and oversaw 20 Trojans national championships, eight on the men’s side and a dozen on the women’s. Perry passed away Sunday in Riverside, Calif., USC announced on Monday. He was 85.

“Dick Perry created the `Trojan Family’ concept at USC, bringing a sense of unity and family not only within our athletic department but with the alumni and fans,” said Stan Morrison, who was hired by Perry as the USC men’s basketball coach and then later served as UC Riverside’s athletic director like Perry. “He was a great source of poise and reason for me when I was USC’s basketball coach, and he provided me with great wisdom and counsel. I loved him dearly and will really miss him.”

Perry aided USC to the 1978 national championship under coach John Robinson, its ninth claimed national title, but his legacy is that of extending the Trojans’ presence as an all-sports power. Trojan teams claimed national titles in baseball, men’s swimming, tennis (men’s and women’s), volleyball (men’s and women’s) and women’s basketball.

A basketball coach by trade, Perry served eight seasons as the men’s hoops coach at Long Beach State (and worked as an assistant football coach for three of those years) and coached basketball, football and baseball at Emporia College (now Emporia State) in Kansas. After Long Beach State, Perry worked as an associate professor of physical education from 1967-75 before rising to the athletics director’s chair in 1975.

After his time at USC was done, Perry became the AD at UC Riverside from 1987 to 1992.

He is survived by his wife Donna, four children and six grandchildren.

 

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Bo Pelini on ESPN’s marriage to the SEC: “I don’t think that kind of relationship is good for college football.”

Bo Pelini

Deep breaths, everyone. There are three SEC teams in the latest editions of the AP and Coaches polls. But it is Week 8. That does not necessarily mean the SEC is receiving three golden tickets to the College Football Playoff. (Nebraska, 6-1 on the year, is ranked 16th in both polls.)

It hasn’t stopped the media from asking about it, though, and it hasn’t stopped coaches from answering those loaded questions.

“I don’t think that kind of relationship is good for college football. That’s just my opinion,” Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said Monday. “Anytime you have a relationship with somebody, you have a partnership, you are supposed to be neutral. It’s pretty hard to stay neutral in that situation.”

The relationship Pelini describes is ESPN’s partnership with the SEC in the SEC Network. But ESPN also has a relationship with Pelini’s own Big Ten. And the ACC. And the Big 12. And the Pac-12. And every other FBS conference.

ESPN is the cartel that’s proverbially pays off the police department, but they’re also in business with the sheriff’s office, the fire department, the mayor’s office, the DEA, the public library and everyone on down to the local PTA.

“They play good football, and I know there is some good football played in some other conferences, too,” Pelini said. “It’s hard to say because you just don’t see, unfortunately, in this day and age, a lot of crossovers. So you don’t get a lot to make that decision on, to be able to compare and contrast. You have to go off what the media says to a certain extent and what some people say.”

The good news for Pelini and the rest of the non-SEC loving world? There are seven weeks of football between now and Selection Sunday, and just because the writers and coaches have the SEC filling 75 percent of their hypothetical bracket doesn’t mean the selection committee agrees.

We’ll begin to find out a week from tomorrow when the committee reveals its first Top 25.

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Illinois expects to play both backup QBs vs. Minnesota

Reilly O'Toole, Ted Karras, Maliek Collins

You know the saying – if you play two quarterbacks, you’re probably grasping at straws in hopes of saving your job.

With starting quarterback Wes Lunt out four-to-six weeks with a leg fracture, Illini head coach Tim Beckman told the Associated Press he expects to play both backups, senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey, Saturday versus Minnesota.

“I think that for them to prepare for two is always a little more challenging than to prepare for one,” Beckman said.

Both quarterbacks played in the Illini’s 38-28 loss to Wisconsin on Oct. 11. O’Toole completed 12-of-19 passes for 96 yards with two touchdowns while adding 29 rushing yards, and Bailey hit 2-of-5 passes for 39 yards with an interception while leading the club with 12 rushes for 75 yards and a score.

Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit sounded very, for you Seinfield fans out there, Krueger-ian about the idea.

“I don’t know. I’ll be honest with you — I’ve never done it before,” Cubit said. “Both guys have pretty good qualities. We’ll figure it out.”

O’Toole has thrown for 524 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions this season. Bailey had not recorded a statistic this season until entering the Wisconsin loss late in the game.

With Lunt out until mid-November, Beckman has to gamble in hopes of saving his job. The Illi are 3-4 this season (0-3 Big Ten) and are winless against Power Five competition. Their only two FBS wins, over Western Kentucky and Texas State, came by eight and seven points respectively.

Beckman is 9-22 in his third season at Illinois, and 1-18 in Big Ten play.

Illinois will host Minnesota at noon ET on ESPNU.

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Tulsa World photographer apologizes to Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard for hitting him with his $10,000 lens

Sterling Shepard

During the second quarter of No. 17 Oklahoma’s loss to No. 11 Kansas State, Sooners wide recevier Sterling Shepard efforted for a would-be touchdown pass from quarterback Trevor Knight in the back of the end zone. As has happened a thousand times before and will happen a thousand times again, Shepard’s momentum took him out of the field of play and into the photographers’ row, where he collided with equipment belonging to Tulsa World photographer Mike Simons.

“When he landed, he fell into me and came down on my Canon 400mm F 2.8 lens. Shepard was hurt. He let me know it while he writhed in pain. For that, I would like to apologize that our paths crossed. I felt horrible and still feel very bad about that. I was relieved when he came out and played in the second half,” Simons wrote in an apology letter to Shepard.

Shepard led all receivers with 15 grabs for 197 yards and a touchdown – including seven grabs for 100 yards post-collision – in the Sooners’ 31-30 loss.

Simonds noted that places his gear on the ground because that is where he feels it is safest both for himself and the players. His system, Simonds notes, worked perfectly until Saturday. It was the first time in 26 years of photographing football games to collide with one of his subjects.

In the end, it was Simons’ (very, very expensive) lends that sustained the only real damage.

“The carnage from my end of this incident was that a Canon 400mm F 2.8 lens was broken in half. The lens sells for $10,499. It’s a lot of money, but nothing in comparison to a player’s safety. I feel lucky to have escaped the incident unhurt.”

 

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Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly expected to start vs. Washington

Taylor Kelly, Jake Gallegos

There is no Wally Pipp situation breaking out in Tempe.

At his weekly press conference on Monday, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham told the assembled media he expects Taylor Kelly to resume his roll atop the quarterback depth chart Saturday versus Washington.

Kelly hasn’t seen the field since leaving the Sun Devils’ Sept. 13 win over Colorado early with a foot injury.

Backup Mike Bercovici finished that game and started the next three. He threw for 488 yards and three touchdowns with two costly interceptions as the Sun Devils were bludgeoned over the head for a 62-27 loss to UCLA on Sept. 25, but the junior has rebounded nicely since then. He hit 27-of-45 passes for 510 yards and five touchdowns in a 38-34 stunner over USC, and threw for 245 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 26-10 win over Stanford.

Most importantly, Bercovici has not thrown an interception in 50 combined attempts over the last two seasons.

Alas, Kelly was the entrenched starter heading into this season, and the entrenched starter he will remain.

For the season, Kelly has completed 42-of-68 passes for 625 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 19 times for 168 yards and two more scores.

The 14th-ranked Sun Devils will visit Washington at 10:45 p.m. ET on ESPN this Saturday.

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Purdue loses linebacker Robinson to torn ACL

Sean Robinson, Malcom Agnew

Purdue senior linebacker Sean Robinson has played his final game of the 2014 season. Boilermakers head coach Darrell Hazell announced Monday Robinson tore his ACL in his right knee in a game earlier this season.

Robinson’s ACL was torn back on October 4 against Illinois. He recorded five tackles in the game before having to leave for medical treatment. He did not play in either of Purdue’s two most recent games, against Michigan State or Minnesota. Hazell said Robinson will undergo surgery later this month, on October 28.

Robinson was Purdue’s fourth-leading tackler this season with 42 tackles, including 27 solo tackles.

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Sorry Florida fans, Muschamp not going anywhere (yet)

Will Muschamp

As the season got off to a poor start in Gainesville, Florida, athletics director Jeremy Foley issued a statement saying the performance of head coach Will Muschamp and the direction of the football program would be evaluated at the end of the regular season. That still appears to be the case despite one of the worst losses the Gators have experienced in some time at the hands of Missouri.

“At the beginning of the season we said we would evaluate the season as it plays out,’’ Foley said in a statement released on the school’s athletics website. “We will continue to do so. Our sole focus right now is supporting our coaching staff and players as they prepare for Georgia.”

Florida’s 42-13 loss at home to Missouri dropped the Gators to 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. Florida still has games against Georgia in two weeks and Florida State at the end of the regular season. Coming off a blowout loss and going into a bye week feels about as good a time as any for a school to make an in-season coaching change. As it appears Muschamp will manage to hold onto the job, it would appear Muschamp will remain on the sideline in charge of the Florida program through the end of the regular season.

Making a change in season likely does nothing in terms of making changes for the future, other than showing fans change is coming. Florida should be attractive enough as a football program to lure just about any coach it would have its sights on, even with a potential vacancy opening up at a school like Michigan. There could be some former Florida assistants worth keeping an eye on as well, such as Dan Mullen at Mississippi State and Steve Addazio at Boston College. Charlie Strong is another former Florida assistant as well, and is currently the head coach at Texas. Would Strong leave Texas for Florida?

We will see where Florida goes from here, but for now, the program is in the hands of Muschamp.

At least for another week or two.

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Media doesn’t learn lesson, Jimbo Fisher cuts interview short

Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston

Florida State is coming off its biggest win of the year, against Notre Dame. The Seminoles are now staring down a possible 12-0 regular season and third straight ACC championship en route to a spot in the first College Football Playoff. They will do so while facing all sorts of drama off the field surrounding Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston. The focus on Winston may be getting to head coach Jimbo Fisher. Fisher lashed out at media coverage of his program a week ago, and today he decided to cut an interview short after fielding too many questions about Winston.

Asked if there was any update on the university disciplinary hearing for Winston, Fisher attempted to shift the focus to Louisville in a similar fashion to how he did last week with Notre Dame.

“We’re moving on with Louisville and talking about the other things,” Fisher said. “Everything should be great.”

Fisher soon got hot under the collar and brought an end to the interview opportunity once questioned about his reputation.

“I don’t want to get into this,” Fisher said. “These questions weren’t supposed to be asked today.”

If not today, Fisher, when would work best for you?

Fisher put his integrity on the line with his public defense of Winston, saying there was no crime committed because Winston was never charged. Coaches will come to the defense of their players, so this is not exactly going against the grain for Fisher, but to do so in such an adamant fashion and direct blame on media coverage opens Fisher up to possible warranted criticism if Winston is found guilty of violating the university code of conduct.

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Ohio State assistant Larry Johnson not bitter, looks forward to return to Penn State

Larry Johnson

Former Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson has no bitter feelings about his previous employer, and he is looking forward to returning to Beaver Stadium this week.

Johnson is now a member of the Ohio State coaching staff. Urban Meyer was quick to pounce on Johnson after the longtime Penn State assistant stepped away form the program. Johnson had interest in the head coaching vacancy after Bill O’Brien left Penn State to coach the Houston Texans in the NFL, but Penn State opted to go with James Franklin. With Franklin bringing as much as his staff as possible from Vanderbilt, Johnson saw the writing on the wall and decided to move on from Penn State. Franklin made it clear from the day he was hired he is extremely loyal to his guys. That should have suggested Johnson was not coming back.

“I had a great time in 18 years at Penn State,” Johnson said Monday in a conference call with the media. “Made great friends and the great players I coached and have been a part of their lives for a long time. It’s a new job and a new place and a new school. So, I’m looking forward to coming back.”

Ohio State visits Penn State this weekend in a primetime Big Ten contest at Beaver Stadium. For the first time, Johnson will be coaching from the visiting sideline.

Penn State was hit hard by NCAA sanctions in recent years, but Johnson stepped up to keep things afloat as much as he possibly could. Johnson was named the interim head coach after O’Brien left for the NFL, but because this happened after the season Johnson’s job was more to keep the roster stabilized and keep the recruits calm. Johnson could have left Penn State a handful of times before for a more prominent role on a coaching staff as a defensive coordinator, but he stuck by Penn State through some tough times on and off the field. After giving the program as much as Johnson had, you could understand if Johnson had some hard feelings about Penn State after not being given a chance to be the head coach or even defensive coordinator, but he says that is not the case.

“There was no bitterness when I left,” Johnson said on Monday. “It was my decision to leave, it was my time to move on. I felt that, with Coach Franklin coming in with a new staff, he had a lot of guys he really liked a lot and I just felt it was the right thing to do to have a chance to step away from it for a while. It was a tough decision to make. But, looking back, it was the right decision to make. So, I have no bitterness at all.”

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Alabama starting center set to return this week

Florida v Alabama

Alabama certainly came back with a strong showing against Texas A&M after critics nitpicked a 14-13 victory over Arkansas enough to set head coach Nick Saban off. Now, as the Crimson Tide get set to travel to Tennessee, the offensive line should get a little stronger. Center Ryan Kelly will return to the starting line-up in the middle of the offensive line this week, according to Saban.

Kelly missed the last two games for Alabama with a minor knee sprain. While out of action, Alabama used redshirt freshman Bradley Bozeman in the middle of the line. As reported by Al.com, Kelly was dressed for Alabama’s game against Texas A&M but was not used. Also, starting right tackle Austin Shepherd injured his ankle or knee during the win over the Aggies that took him out of the game. He is expected to skip practice on Monday but should return after Monday.

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Clemson loses leading rusher to torn ACL

Clemson v Boston College

Clemson managed to avoid an upset at the hand of Boston College, but came at a cost. Freshman running back Adam Choice has been lost for the season after tearing his ACL on Saturday.

The injury occurred early in the game, on Clemson’s second offensive possession of the game. Choice will now rehab and work to return to the field in 2015. It should be expected Clemson will go light on him in the spring as a precaution, but if all goes well Choice will be back in the mix in 2015 for the Tigers. Choice ends his freshman season with 218 rushing yards and one touchdown.

With Choice now done for the season, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will be quick to try and get Tyshon Dye plugged in on offense. Dye tore his Achilles back in February. Dye has been practicing with the team recently and he made the trip up to Boston last weekend. Swinney says Dye is in good shape and said Sunday Clemson is close to getting Dye back on the field. Without Choice, Dye’s return may be accelerated if it does not pose a threat to his health.

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Texas Tech’s leading receiver treated for laceration from off-campus melee

Jakeem Grant, Lloyd Carrington

Texas Tech wide receiver Jakeem Grant was injured in an off-campus alumni gathering gone bad with a shooting and melee incident early Sunday morning. He was treated for a laceration and released at a nearby hospital, but his status with Texas Tech’s football program is unknown or unconfirmed at this time.

According to the information in a report by The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, more than 20 rounds were fired from multiple weapons early Sunday morning, but the details of the incident appear to be hazy right now due to the number of people potentially involved. An officer providing details for the report suggested there is no way to tell right now what may have caused the laceration Grant was treated for. As of now, no arrests have been made for the incident that is currently being reviewed by authorities.

Through seven games, Grant is the leading receiver for Texas Tech with 629 receiving yards and five touchdowns. His 50 receptions this season lead the team.

UPDATE (11:55 a.m. ET): Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said on the weekly Big 12 conference call he is hopeful Grant will be able to play this weekend. Texas Tech will visit TCU this weekend.

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No update on QB Trevor Knight form Bob Stoops

Trevor Knight

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight was forced to be taken out of Saturday’s game against Kansas State, but he did return. On Monday, during the weekly Big 12 coaches conference call, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops had no updates to share on Knight’s status moving forward.

Knight returned to Saturday’s game with a brace on his left arm. He was seen testing the flexibility in his elbow before heading to the locker room after being knocked out by Kansas State’s defense. Knight had taken off to run with the football when he stretched for some extra yards with a head-first dive. He landed on his left arm and required some medical attention that forced him to sit out the remainder of the offensive possession, but he returned the game after a brief absence. He was intercepted deep in his own side of the field, which Kansas State returned for a short touchdown, but he answered back on the next possession with a quick two-play, 69-yard touchdown drive.

Oklahoma is off this week. The Sooners return to Big 12 play next week with a road game at Iowa State.

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Heisman trust ‘erroneously’ removed integrity from Mission Statement after website redesign

Heisman Trophy

There was a bit of a kerfuffle earlier this month when Sports Illustrated noticed the word “integrity” was no longer part of the Heisman Trust’s Mission Statement. Now we know why: A mix-up in a redesign of the Heisman’s website.

“During the website creation process ‘integrity’ was erroneously omitted from the Trust mission statement by staff without Trust authorization,” Heisman Trust president William J. Dockery told Sports Illustrated.

Seems to me like that’s a pretty significant omission, especially at a time in which Jameis Winston’s integrity is being questioned and the Heisman front-runner was suspended for signing autographs for money.

But breathe easy, folks. The word integrity is back in the first line of the mission statement, which is now updated to read:

The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award. The Trust, furthermore, has a charitable mission to support amateur athletics and to provide greater opportunities to the youth of our country. Our goal through these charitable endeavors is for the Heisman Trophy to symbolize the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth, especially those disadvantaged or afflicted. All assets of the Trust beyond the expense of maintaining the annual presentation of the Heisman Memorial Trophy are reserved for such charitable causes. The Trustees, who all serve pro bono, are guided by a devotion to college football and are committed to community service and the valued tradition which the Trophy represents.

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The Will Muschamp era at Florida summed up in one stat

Will Muschamp AP

Florida held Missouri to 119 yards of offense on Saturday. Maty Mauk completed six of 18 passes for 20 yards while Mizzou combined to rush 31 times for 99 yards, barely a three-yards-per-carry average.

The final score: 42-13 Mizzou.

Three years ago, Florida State gained 95 yards on the Gators in the Swamp. E.J. Manuel completed six of 13 passes for 65 yards while the Seminoles rushed 46 times for 30 yards.

The final score: 21-7 Florida State.

Now take a look at this:

No doubt Will Muschamp will make an excellent defensive coordinator for someone when his time at Florida is up. And that time, one would think, will be up soon.

Hat-tip to Dan Wolken’s misery index for pointing out the stat.

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