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Predictions 101 — Week 7

Spurrier Miles

Last week on “Shakeup Saturday,” we went 3-4 straight up and versus “the number.” That was typical of our mediocre season so far. It’s amazing to think that John L. Smith had a better weekend than us.

Let’s see if we can at least get into a 4-3 alignment or better this week, which features an intriguing slate of games.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Oct. 11, thru Sat., Oct. 13)

1) No. 3 South Carolina at No. 9 LSU
Sat., Oct. 13 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Gamecocks certainly looked like BCS material last Saturday as they dismantled Georgia, 35-7. Impressive in every phase of the game, this “USC” is the one that could make a run at the crystal football.

What remains to be seen is South Carolina’s ability to display that same sort of assertiveness and efficiency in Death Valley. If it can, will it be enough to get past LSU?

The Tigers had a far different experience last Saturday, losing their first regular-season game since Nov. 27, 2010. But let’s not jump to too many conclusions based on Florida’s 14-6 victory. LSU’s offensive limitations can be a sticking point, but its defensive prowess makes up for that.

If not for the crucial Gator drive in which Tiger linebackers Kevin Minter (leg cramps) and Kwon Alexander (broken ankle) were both sidelined, LSU very well could still be undefeated. Holding the Gators to 237 total yards — 85 of which came during the third-quarter drive mentioned above — is typically going to get it done.

No disrespect to South Carolina’s offense, but it will experience far more three-and-outs than usual in Baton Rouge. This will be tailback Marcus Lattimore’s first game against LSU and we don’t expect him to move the chains with his normal regularity.

That’ll put quarterback Connor Shaw in more obvious passing situations and the Tiger defense has the discipline to keep him in the pocket and force tough throws under duress. Not leaving lanes for Shaw to leak out into and run for the sticks is crucial.

The Gamecock defense is stout, as well, but in its only two road games this year both Vanderbilt and Kentucky held third-quarter leads over South Carolina, scoring a total of 30 points.

Opening point spread: LSU by 4

The pick: LSU 21-20

2) No. 17 Stanford at No. 7 Notre Dame
Sat., Oct. 13 — 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai‘i. He’s been the star of our team so far.

The last time they left “The Farm,” running back Stepfan Taylor had only 75 yards on 21 attempts, inexperienced quarterback Josh Nunes misfired all day and the Cardinal did not score an offensive touchdown. Washington’s defense dominated and took away the Stanford running game in that 17-13 victory.

Let’s not forget that Husky defense is the same one that Oregon lit up for 52 points and 497 yards, 299 of which came on the ground. Since the Cardinal could not get things going in Seattle, expect a nightmare in South Bend.

Led by All-America linebacker Manti Te‘o, the Fighting Irish defense ranks second in points allowed, 10th in passing efficiency defense, 13th in total defense and 17th in rushing defense. To top it all off, Notre Dame is also seventh best in the country in turnover margin.

That kind of buzz saw is made to dissect trees.

The Irish offense took a little while to get things rolling earlier in the season, putting up just enough points to beat three Big Ten teams. Of course, that defense which has held opponents to less than a touchdown over the last three games takes a lot of the pressure off.

Last Saturday at Soldier Field, following a bye week, the Notre Dame offense blossomed and dropped 41 points on Miami (Fla.). With that attack catching up to the dominant defense, Stanford won’t get close, as the Irish continue to build their case for not just the BCS, but the whole enchilada.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 7

The pick: Notre Dame 37-13

3) No. 15 Texas vs. No. 13 Oklahoma (at Dallas)
Sat., Oct. 13 — noon ET, ABC

Longhorn quarterback David Ash doesn’t remotely resemble the nervous wreck that alternated with Case McCoy in last year’s mistake-filled nightmare in the Red River Rivalry.

Ash was machinelike last Saturday, completing 22-of-29 for 269 yards and a touchdown in a 48-45 loss to West Virginia. If his counterpart was anyone but Geno Smith, Ash would have been on the winning side.

As is always the case, taking care of the football is paramount. Oklahoma has won the last two in the series by taking advantage of seven takeaways.

The Texas defense needs to do a much better job of stopping the run. Smith’s passing was impressive as usual, but the Mountaineers’ 192 yards on the ground is what really hurt.

Longhorn fans are happy their team doesn’t have to deal with the sort of spread offense that Oklahoma State and West Virginia used to engineer 36- and 48-point outbursts.

But let’s not forget that the Sooners dropped 55 on the Longhorns last year, despite having the ball for only 22 of the 60 minutes. So proceed with caution.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 2 1/2

The pick: Texas 28-27

4) No. 10 Oregon State at Brigham Young
Sat., Oct. 13 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Could we possibly see a shutout here? Sure the Cougars roughed up Hawai‘i, 47-0, on Sept. 28, but what does that really mean these days? It’s more illuminating that in games on either side of that blowout BYU scored just six points in each contest.

The six-point output wasn’t enough in a 7-6 loss at Boise State on Sept. 20, but it did allow the Cougars to get past Utah State, 6-3, last Friday.

That limited amount of firepower, directed by rusty quarterback Riley Nelson (sat out last two weeks with a back injury and now his fill-in is out for the season), could get completely doused by a Beaver defense that kept Washington State out of the end zone last Saturday in a 19-6 win in Corvallis. And don’t forget about the stonewall that Oregon State put up in its 10-7 victory over Wisconsin on Sept. 8.

The chance of BYU’s defense finding success increases with backup quarterback Cody Vaz doing the pitching instead of injured starter Sean Mannion (knee). But the aerial assault will be a shock to the Cougars’ system nonetheless. This is likely to be the first time this season that BYU will be faced with 30 or more pass attempts.

Even with the change behind center, the Beavers will improve to 5-0 for the first time since 1939. But this is more “under” than Oregon State.

Opening point spread: BYU by 5

The pick: Oregon State 20-6

5) No. 5 West Virginia at Texas Tech
Sat., Oct. 13 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN

Aside from all the highlights and astounding statistics, you’ve got to wonder about how long the Mountaineers can survive on the tightrope they’ve been teetering on.

Giving up a total of 108 in its last two games put West Virginia on the brink each time. The Mountaineers beat Baylor and Texas by just seven and three points, respectively. Before that, they only defeated Maryland by 10 in Morgantown.

Geno Smith and Co. will likely do what they do once again, but something tells us that this trip to Lubbock will be tricky. The Red Raiders will certainly be ornery after their face-plant last week against Oklahoma.

We can’t really pull the trigger on the upset here (the Burbank office used its veto power), but we’d be very happy to take some free points.

Opening point spread: West Virginia by 4

The pick: West Virginia 37-34

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

California at Washington State
Sat., Oct. 13 — 10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks

Once again, the USOTW prediction comes courtesy of Marc Doche (@MDoche) from the P101 satellite office in Burbank, Calif.

The corporate squabbles involving the Pac-12 Networks have reached the halfway mark of the season. That means many households continue to be blacked out from some exciting Pac-12 action, but we doubt many fans will be making angry calls late into the night to watch these two cellar dwellers.

That is, unless they’re on board with us cheering for the Washington State upset on the heels of a trio of conference losses, the last two coming in better-than-looked efforts against the ranked Oregon schools.

We expected Mike Leach to do good things on the Palouse, and while that hasn’t brought much winning in his first year, the Cougars do feature a potent aerial attack that ranks 14th in the nation, averaging 312 yards per game. That unit will have to find success against a Cal defense that allows more than 250 passing yards per game, if the men in maroon are to defeat the Golden Bears for the first time in eight years.

We always like to remind everyone that Cal is Cal. Therefore, after an impressive first conference win in Berkeley at the expense of UCLA, a misstep on the road is in order.

Quarterback Zach Maynard was allowed to stand upright and pick apart the Bruin defense last week, but he will feel the pressure of the Cougars’ new 3-4 alignment, which has generated the ninth most sacks in the country with 19.

Opening point spread: California by 4 1/2

The pick: Washington State 28-20

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Nevada at UNLV
Sat., Oct. 13 — 3 p.m. ET

This fight decides if the Silver State is a red state or a blue state.

The winner gets to paint the Fremont Cannon in its school color and for the past seven years, it’s been bathed in the blue of the Wolf Pack.

The Fremont Cannon holds the distinction of being the largest and most expensive trophy in collegiate sports. It’s a massive 545-pound replica of the mountain howitzer that accompanied Captain John C. Fremont on his expedition through Oregon, Nevada and California in 1843-44. It cost $10,000 to create in 1970.

Speaking of impressive weaponry, Nevada’s pistol offense is one of just two units in the nation averaging more than 275 yards through the air and on the ground. (Oklahoma State is the other.)

However, with the status of Wolf Pack starting quarterback Cody Fajardo in question, those numbers might not be attained versus the Rebels. Fajardo aggravated a nagging back injury last week against Wyoming. Nevada led 21-7 when he was sidelined in the second quarter. Backup Devin Combs struggled initially, allowing the Cowboys to take a 28-35 lead. But the sophomore rallied to lead the Wolf Pack to victory in overtime.

If Combs has to make his first start on the road in this rivalry game, don’t expect the pistol to fire smoothly. But whatever Nevada is able to muster should be enough.

UNLV’s only advantage is playing at home in Sam Boyd Stadium, but that’s where they lost to Northern Arizona last month, so what’s that worth?

It won’t be as gruesome as last year’s 37-0 blanking, in which the Rebels were held to just 110 total yards, but the Wolf Pack should have fun in Vegas.

Opening point spread: Nevada by 9 1/2

The pick: Nevada 32-24

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FSU dismisses QB shown punching woman in disturbing video

De'Andre Johnson

Not surprisingly, the “career” of De’Andre Johnson at Florida State was a short one.

Shortly after security footage of a disturbing incident surfaced, FSU announced that Johnson has been dismissed from the football program. Earlier this month, Johnson was charged with misdemeanor battery after video from a Tallahassee drinking establishment showed him punching a female during the course of a verbal/physical incident that turned extremely physical.

Here’s the Orlando Sentinel‘s account of what led to Johnson’s charges and, ultimately, his dismissal:

According to the [Tallahassee Police Department] report, Johnson allegedly pushed a woman from behind “aggressively” when she approached the bar. The woman turned around to address Johnson and “raised her right arm to defend herself” when Johnson allegedly “grabbed her arm that was raised and began pushing her.”

The woman raised her knee to Johnson’s midsection to push him away and attempted to punch Johnson. One witness heard the woman yell “no” twice before Johnson allegedly punched her in the face, causing bruising under her left eye, swelling to her left cheek and upper lip, and a small cut on her nose.

The woman’s account is consistent with video obtained from security cameras, according to the police department.

For what it’s worth, Johnson’s attorney, Jose Baez, released a self-serving statement on his client’s behalf.

“While it is clear from the video that De’Andre Johnson was not the initial aggressor, his family wants to take the lead in helping him learn and grow from this experience. He is currently participating in community service, and faith-based programs focused on battered women, substance abuse, and the empowerment of children. De’Andre is extremely embarrassed by this situation and would like to express his heartfelt apologies to everyone, including those who were directly affected, Coach Fisher and his team mates, the entire Florida State University community, as well as his family and friends.”

For those who haven’t seen the video of the incident, it appears below. You decide how much longer it’s going to be OK for a man to punch a woman… I’m sorry, decide whether this woman deserved to be punched by a “man.”

 

Johnson was a four-star member of FSU’s 2015 recruiting class who will likely get a shot somewhere else at some level of college football because of his physical talent.

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South Alabama begins exploring possible on-campus stadium options

Georgia Southern South Alabama

South Alabama began playing college football just seven years ago in Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, and now the Jaguars are looking for a place to more appropriately call home. The university announced Monday work has begun on a preliminary study to explore the feasibility of constructing an on-campus stadium for South Alabama football, which is a long way from saying a stadium is going up. But it is a possibility down the line.

“Construction of a football stadium is an extremely complex undertaking that requires significant due diligence on the part of the University leadership, and we are at the very beginning of a process that will examine all the issues we must consider before a decision can be made,” said USA President Tony Waldrop in a released statement.

Trustees, administrators and select staff members will join forces to put together the feasibility study. The results of the report will be shared to the leadership of the university at a later point in time. There is no deadline for this process, and that is a wise decision. Given the experience and wisdom gained from watching the mishandling of the UAB football program, South Alabama officials should take all the time in the world needed to determine what is best for the university and football program, whether that means building a football stadium or not.

Ladd-Peebles Stadium is an aging facility, constructed in 1948. The stadium is currently home to South Alabama football in addition to the GoDaddy.com Bowl and Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl has been played in the stadium every year since 1951, making it the go-to destination for college football’s top NFL prospects, not to mention NFL scouts and coaches every week in the offseason. History is nice, but if South Alabama can make it worth the effort and money to build an on-campus stadium, then it will help the Jaguars continue to build its own identity in the college football world.

Building a stadium is not the best solution for every program. Time will tell if it is the best option for South Alabama.

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Ohio State OL signee: I will be enrolling at Georgia

Mark Richt

Oh to be a fly on the wall of Mark Richt‘s office right now. Georgia will end up being the football home to offensive lineman Mirko Jurkovic, who had previously signed with Ohio State, coached by Richt’s former SEC East rival Urban Meyer. Jurkovic’s status at Georgia is still pending acceptance by the admissions department.

I will be enrolling at the University of Georgia,” Jurkovic announced on his Twitter account Monday. “I will be reporting for training camp on August 2md. I would like to thank Ohio State and all the other schools that gave me the opportunity to come play for them throughout this crazy process. Excited to start this journey to the next chapter of my life.”

Jurkovic took a round-about route to Athens. After signing with Ohio State in February, Jurkovic never showed up to Columbus to join the rest of the incoming class for summer classes. The holdup for the enrollment was deemed to be due to an academic issue, although the specifics of that situation were never really clarified. The three-star recruit will end up being a nice last-minute addition to the Georgia recruiting class, which will now include four offensive linemen. Georgia lost an offensive lineman in the Class of 2016 when DeVondre Seymour walked away from football, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I don’t know what all went on there behind the scenes there,” Jurkovic explained to the AJC. “It just kind of was what it was. I don’t know. I wasn’t admitted to Ohio State. That’s all I know.

“And there are no hard feelings against Ohio State. It’s a business. It didn’t mess me up too much. I ended up at Georgia, so I’m not too mad or disappointed about that. Ohio State is just a thing in the past now.”

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QB Vernon Adams eligible at Oregon, nearly ready to take aim at replacing Mariota

Eastern Washington v Washington Getty Images

In a transfer that has long been all but official, Vernon Adams has officially been approved for graduate classes at Oregon. This brings him one giant step closer to making his case to be the next starting quarterback for the Oregon Ducks in 2015.

The next step for Adams will be enrollment. Per The Oregonian, Adams has been admitted and is eligible to enroll, but has not done the later just yet. Enrolling at this stage may now just be a matter of procedure, because Oregon ruling Adams eligible to enroll is still a positive sign Adams will indeed be joining the Ducks for the fall.

Adams is transferring from FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington and is a likely contender to win the vacant starting quarterback job at Oregon, left vacant by Marcus Mariota. Mariota won last season’s Heisman Trophy, but Adams is a two-time Walter Payton Award runner-up at the FCS level. The Walter Payton Award is presented annually to the top player in the FCS, so this makes Adams the FCS equivalent of Andrew Luck, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting during his time at Stanford.

Adams has one final year of eligibility remaining, and he hopes to make the most of it with the Ducks. It is far froma  given he ends up being Oregon’s new starting quaretrback, but he could be a quick fix to the Oregon offense in the post-Mariota era. He has the ability to throw and run, making him a versatile player for the Ducks, even if he is measuring in at just 5′-11″.

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Michigan ditches Adidas for Nike (in 2016)

Michigan Football Spring Game

A week after Tennessee unveiled their brand new uniforms from Nike after moving on from a partnership with Adidas, the University of Michigan has rejoined The Swoosh. In an announcement made Monday afternoon, Michigan announced a new apparel partnership with Nike. The new contract will officially begin in 2016, which means one more football season for Michigan in uniforms designed by Adidas.

A return to Nike may not yield quite the same lucrative contract Michigan had with Adidas, but the image that comes with wearing Nike is quite a selling point as well. The Portland Business Journal previously valued Michigan’s contract as the most valuable apparel contract in college sports, with $4.4 million in equipment and $3.8 million in cash from Adidas. Under the terms of the agreement, Michigan was required to be the highest-paid partner with Adidas among college clients. A move to Nike likely will mean some sort of reduction in pay, as Nike has many partners to satisfy, including Michigan’s division rivals at Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State.

For the sake of comparison, Georgia’s new deal with Nike will result in a payment of $2.88 million annually in equipment and $1 million in cash.

A move away from Adidas has been speculated for a while, with new leadership in place at Michigan and the Adidas alternate uniforms being largely connected to the efforts of former Athletics Director Dave Brandon‘s branding initiative. And those alternate uniforms were just plain awful. Now we have to wonder if Adidas will serve up one final atrocity before Michigan leaves them this fall.

Adidas is losing some of its big contracts. In addition to Michigan, Notre Dame also left Adidas (for Under Armour). And, of course, Tennessee has abandoned ship.

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Ole Miss acknowledges NCAA investigation regarding Laremy Tunsil

Laremy Tunsil

When the stepfather of Ole Miss offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil dropped an allegation the Rebel was associating with sports agents, Ole Miss responded swiftly. So did the NCAA. Now both are conducting investigations to determine if Tunsil acted in violation of NCAA rules regarding agents. Ole Miss issued a statement Monday afternoon to say it is a manner the program takes seriously.

“The University of Mississippi Department of Athletics is aware of the allegations made by Laremy Tunsil’s stepfather regarding potential NCAA violations involving Laremy,” the statement opened. “As we do with any allegation, we initiated an internal investigation last week and have offered the NCAA our full cooperation. We take the obligations to the NCAA and SEC very seriously, and we will continue to educate, monitor and enforce all applicable rules. Any other reports are speculation until the process is complete.”

Tunsil was arrested and charged for domestic violence after punching his stepfather, Lindsey Miller. Tunsil reportedly was acting in defense of his mother at the time. Tunsil and his mother pressed charges against Miller, at which time Miller let it be known his stepson had been riding around with agents. It was this that he claims started the discussion that turned violent. Once that became public, the NCAA got involved to see what they can find.

While most will praise Tunsil for defending his mother in a tense moment, his eligibility will eventually have to be analyzed. If he is found guilty by the NCAA and Ole Miss of associated with and accepting any kinds of benefits from agents then his eligibility will be put at risk, even if just for part of a game. So for now, let’s let the legal process play out on one end, and the NCAA and Ole Miss investigations play out on the other.

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Disturbing security video of FSU QB De’Andre Johnson (allegedly) punching woman surfaces

Florida State Spring Game

Any time a player is accused of punching someone in the face, it’s not a good look. It is particularly bad when that accusation has a female on the other end of it. And it only gets worse if video is available of said punch of woman. Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson is now captured on security video punching a female right in the face at a bar.

Johnson was suspended indefinitely after being charged with misdemeanor battery. Today The Tallahassee Democrat shared security camera footage of the incident that led to the charge, in which Johnson appears to have a verbal exchange with a woman at the bottom of the video feed before exchanging blows with her. Johnson’s punch, captured below, was the one that landed Johnson in jail and could potentially ruin a college football career before it ever truly gets started.

For now, the legal process is still playing out. Johnson turned himself into authorities and state attorney Willie Meggs stepped in to prosecute the case. Given the graphic detail of the video, it would be hard to imagine Johnson would have a great chance of playing football this fall, but that should be the least important part of this story for now.

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Utah suspends alleged knife-wielding Dominique Hatfield

Dominique Hatfield

Well, you probably saw this one coming. Utah has suspended defensive back Dominique Hatfield for an indefinite amount of time. Hatfield was arrested last week for alleged aggravated robbery, in which the Ute is accused of brandishing a knife and demanding money after luring the alleged victim to a location through an online sales pitch.

Because the incident in question happened just before the July 4th weekend, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and the Utah staff have been unable to issue any comments or statements regarding the incident until today. Whittingham, in a released statement, stressed the violent nature of the accusations being the reason to issue the indefinite suspension for the potential starter.

Hatfield started 10 games at cornerback for Utah last season after making the transition to the defensive side of the football from wide receiver. Now it will be largely up to the legal process to determine his fate with the Utah program in 2015.

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Florida State taking 2016 spring game to Citrus Bowl in Orlando

CAPITAL ONE BOWL

In 2016, Florida State is taking its show on the road to Orlando. Twice. The Seminoles, already scheduled to open the 2016 season in Orlando against SEC foe Ole Miss, will get an early taste of the Citrus Bowl by taking the annual spring game on the road to Orlando. Florida State announced the spring game news Monday afternoon.

Florida State’s spring game in the Citrus Bowl will be played on April 9 at 5:00 p.m. The big reason for the relocation of the spring game is due to the renovation schedule on Doak Campbell Stadium.

“The short term construction challenges of building the Champions Club in Doak Campbell stadium have provided a unique opportunity for our 2016 spring football game,” said FSU Director of Athletics Stan Wilcox.  “We are pleased to offer our fans greater access to Florida State football at an exciting and refurbished venue in one of the best destinations cities in the world.  Moving the game to Orlando and partnering with Steve Hogan and his staff at Florida Citrus Sports will allow us to platform the game and Florida State athletics in exciting and unique new ways.”

Oh, it is also a nice little money-maker as well. Tickets will be sold for general admission seating at $5.00 per ticket. For the sake of comparison, admission to Florida State’s spring game was free this past spring. Florida State attracted a crowd of 17,250 to this year’s spring game. Weather kept many fans away, after drawing over 36,000 fans the previous spring.

Florida State last played in the Citrus Bowl Stadium in the 2011 Russell Athletic Bowl, defeating Notre Dame 18-14.

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Incoming BYU running back shot in arm

BYU Logo

Back in February BYU signee Charles West was charged with felony assault. Over the July 4th weekend, West was a victim in a shooting with a bullet being fired into his left arm.

The shooting incident reportedly took place Sunday at his old middle school, Coppell Middle School East. He and others were playing basketball when, according to The Dallas Morning News, a man walked up and shot West in the arm. West started running and was later transported to a nearby hospital for treatment on his arm. He was released Sunday night and police are still investigating the situation. It is unknown if West was a target, and no suspect has been apprehended.

It is also unknown if this incident has any connection to West’s previous arrest in February. West was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of marijuana just two days after National Signing Day.

A lawyer representing West says this latest shooting incident will have no impact on his client’s status at BYU.

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LSU’s Leonard Fournette headlines 44 named to Paul Hornung Award watch list

fournette Getty Images

It’s early July, so you know what that means: Slow news days and everyone’s favorite, watch lists! Today’s list of players who could win an award in December is for the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the nation’s most versatile player

The list:

Ishmael Adams, UCLA
Budda Baker, Washington
V’Angelo Bentley, Illinois
Rashon Ceaser, Louisiana Monroe
Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
Trevor Davis, California
Matt Dayes, N.C. State
Cameron Echols-Luper, TCU
DeVon Edwards, Duke
Tyler Ervin, San Jose State
Leonard Fournette, LSU
Autrey Golden, UTEP
Jamal Golden, Georgia Tech
Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
Janarion Grant, Rutgers
Carlos Harris, North Texas
Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech
Myles Jack, UCLA
Adoree’ Jackson, USC
Corey Jones, Toledo
Isaiah Jones, East Carolina
William Likely, Maryland
T.J. Logan, North Carolina
Byron Marshall, Oregon
Jalin Marshall, Ohio State
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Elijah McGuire, Louisiana Lafayette
Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia
Ronnie Moore, Bowling Green
Teldrick Morgan, New Mexico State
Charles Nelson, Oregon
Speedy Noil, Texas A&M
Daz’Mond Patterson, Ohio
De’Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska
James Quick, Louisville
Alex Ross, Oklahoma
R.J. Shelton, Michigan State
Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
Jahad Thomas, Temple
Jaylen Walton, Ole Miss
Shane Williams- Rhodes, Boise State
Stanley Williams, Kentucky
Myles Willis, Boston College
Dontre Wilson, Ohio State

Fournette should be the early favorite here — in the Music City Bowl against Notre Dame, he rushed for 143 yards on 11 carries (including an 89-yard TD run) and returned a kick 100 yards for a score.

Then again, Fournette could be considered a favorite to win just about any award he’s eligible for in 2015.

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‘No stars for you!’ when Sparty recruits hit campus

Ron Burton

Most position coaches like to trumpet his and his team’s successes on the recruiting trail.  Michigan State’s Ron Burton is just like that — until it gets to this time of the year.

Four-star defensive end Raequan Williams was part of a 2015 MSU recruiting class that ranked third in the Big Ten and 22nd nationally, the same ranking as last year and the best since the 2009 class ranked 17th. Rightly so, Burton, the Spartans’ defensive line coach, was proud of how the addition of Williams — as well as three-star ends Justice Alexander and Mufi Hunt — added to the luster of the Top 25 class.

With the recruits hitting the East Lansing area, though, all the star talk goes on the window.

The stars are gone when you hit our campus, and everyone starts from Square One, and that’s the way coach (Mark) Dantonio always wants it,” the third-year MSU assistant told mlive.com. “The kids we have coming in up front, we’ll give them the opportunity and time will tell.”

The Spartans return seven defensive starters, including three seniors along the line, from a squad that went 11-2 last season and beat baylor in the Cotton Bowl. Also returning to a line that helped the Spartans finish 22nd nationally in scoring defense (21.5 points per game) and first in run defense (88.5 yards per game) are a handful players who were a part of the 2014 rotation.

(Photo credit: Michigan State athletics)

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Ex-Texas DB Eryon Barnett passes away at age 24

Eryon Barnett

Unfortunately, there’s some sad news that has hit the Texas football program this holiday weekend.

Montana State head coach Rob Ash confirmed in a statement Saturday that one of his former players, Eryon Barnett, passed away Saturday afternoon at a Bozeman hospital.  Barnett was just 24 years old.

“We’re heartbroken by the loss of Eryon Barnett,” Ash said. “He fought through so much as a football player, and always showed a resilient spirit that everyone that knew him drew from and admired.”

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, no cause of death has been determined. An autopsy won’t be completed until Monday at the earliest.

However, the paper noted that Barnett dealt with health issues last year:

Barnett, a native of Euless, Texas, missed part of fall practice before the 2014 season because of complications from pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. He also missed two games in November, beginning with a road game against Cal-Poly, due to similar symptoms.

It also put Barnett in the hospital this spring.

Barnett began his career at Texas, where he was a four-star member of UT’s 2009 recruiting class. He transferred from UT in April of 2012 and ultimately landed at the FCS program, starting nine games last season.

The passing of the former Longhorn didn’t go unnoticed by either his former program or ex-coach.

(Photo credit: Montana State athletics)

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Injured in car wreck, fourth USU Aggie remains hospitalized

Colorado State vs Utah State

Three Utah State football players have been released from the hospital following a car accident nine days ago.  A fourth injured Aggie, however, is not as yet as fortunate.

In a press release announcing that one of the five individuals injured in the accident, former USU softball player Sarah Vasquez, had been released from the hospital, the school confirmed that football player Travis Seefeldt remains hospitalized at a local medical facility. The release did note that Seefeldt (pictured, right) continues to improve from unspecified injuries.

According to reports at the time of the wreck, the unnamed driver of the SUV in which the seatbelt-less football players were riding pulled out in front of a semi at an intersection and was broadsided by the tanker truck, which was hauling 52,000 pounds of milk at the time of the accident.

The five occupants of the SUV had initially been reported as being critically injured.

A week ago Sunday, USU announced that senior defensive lineman John Taylor and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Adewale Adeoye, were released from the hospital.  Two days later, the same announcement was made for redshirt junior defensive lineman Edmund Faimalo.

Seefeldt has played in 39 games during his USU career, starting two of those contests.  Last season, Seefeldt was credited with six tackles for loss, two sacks and two fumble recoveries.  His .14 fumble recoveries per game was good for sixth in the Mountain West and tied for 43rd at the FBS level.

Exiting spring, the nose guard was listed as a starter for the Aggies.

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16,200 athletes filed claim to receive NCAA video game payout

USC Trojans v Arizona State Sun Devils Getty Images

A little more than a year ago the various legal battles involving former college football and basketball players against the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company resulted in a pair of settlements valued at approximately $60 million. Two-thirds of that was to be paid by EA Sports and the CLC, and the NCAA was on the hook for the remaining $20 million. Earlier this week final proposals for splitting the money among those college athletes making a claim was submitted for approval by U.S. District Judge. Those expecting some sort of payment could be looking at receiving a check anywhere between $1,000 and at least $6,700.

Athletes had until Thursday to make their claim, but it will still take some time before those checks start being mailed. First it must be known how many claims were filed, which will affect the payouts. According to a report from USA Today, nearly 16,200 athletes ended up submitting a claim, but each claim must be reviewed and approved by the firm tasked with confirming  and approving the claims.

The NCAA has already made it known that no punishments will be handed down to any current student-athletes filing a claim if they end up receiving a check through this legal process.

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