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The Fifth Quarter: Week 7 Rewind

LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles celebrates with his team after winning their NCAA football game against the South Carolina Gamecocks in Baton Rouge, Louisiana 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

Not geauxing away quite yet
Left for dead by some following a 14-6 loss to then-No. 8 Florida last weekend, LSU faced an equally stiff test in unbeaten and third-ranked South Carolina… and passed with the gritty flair only a Les Miles-coached team can muster.  Down 14-10 in the fourth quarter and struggling again points-wise on offense, the Tigers “exploded” for 13 unanswered points to get themselves right back in the SEC West picture with a 23-21 win.  The math for LSU is simple: win out, and the Tigers will, for the second straight year, represent the West in the SEC championship game.  While the math is simple, the actual execution is a tad more difficult as, in the next three weeks, the Tigers will face No. 22 Texas A&M in College Station, and No. 1 Alabama and No. 19 Mississippi State at home.  Given where the Tigers were just a week ago this morning, however, I think Miles feels good about his team having the ability successfully navigate that daunting scheduling gauntlet.

Tide rolls… again
And the beat goes on for the 2012 edition of the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.  With their 42-10 woodshedding of Missouri, the Tide has now outscored its opponents this season 243-45 in their six wins.  In the win over Mizzou, the Tide’s defense gave up 152 yards of total offense — the Tigers had been averaging 356 per game — and allowed a miserly .9 yards per carry (26 yards on 28 attempts).  Alabama has conference games the next two weeks against Tennessee (away) and No. 19 Mississippi State (away) — WARNING TIDE: DANGER AHEAD — before heading to Death Valley for its highly-anticipated re-rematch with No. 9 LSU. Based on how the first half of the regular season has gone, and especially based on Gary Pinkel‘s postgame comments (see below), those may be little more than bumps in the road on the Tide’s way to, first, Atlanta and then south to Miami.

Niiice Beaaavers
Coming off a win over Washington State that propelled them into the Top 10 for the first time in several seasons, No. 10 Oregon State was brought back to earth with news that star quarterback Sean Mannion would miss several weeks due to injury.  While some thought this weekend’s game against a BYU team that had given up just 10 points the last three games made the Beavers ripe for an upset, Cody Vaz would have none of that.  All the junior did in place of Mannion was throw for 332 yards and three touchdowns — and no interceptions — in a 42-24 win over the Cougars that marked Vaz’s first career start at the collegiate level and assured yet another stop at In-N-Out.  Vaz proved the top-10 stage was not too big for him, which is a good thing for the Beavers as he’s expected to be under center for an extended period of time.

Pluck of the Irish
Yes, it was ugly, old school (old man?) football played in the rain.  Yes, it wasn’t without a controversial ending (writer’s note: it should’ve been touchdown, Stanford).  Yes, in non-italics, it was a bad call on the part of the Pac-12 officials working the game.  Despite all of that, No. 7 Notre Dame’s 20-13 overtime win over Stanford was yet another data point heavily intimating that, by gosh, the Irish may indeed be back.  Three of Notre Dame’s six wins have come against teams that were, at game time, ranked inside the Top 20, including the No. 17 Cardinal.  Certainly to some degree the luster is off wins over Michigan and Michigan State given their recent performances, particularly the latter, but it doesn’t change the fact that all the Irish continue to do is find a way to grind out a win week after week after week.  Are they BcS-worthy?  That’s for coaches, Harris voters and computers to decide.  What’s not up for debate is the fact that Brian Kelly has the Irish, at minimum, ready to turn a corner that will lead them back toward the national discussion.

Badger Up!
Thanks to NCAA sanctions levied on Ohio State and Penn State — the only unbeatens amongst the Leaders in Big Ten play — the Wisconsin-Purdue game set up as a battle for first place in the division.  Thanks to Montee Ball, it was a Grenada-style battle for the Badgers.  The senior rushed for a season- and career-high 249 yards — the Badgers as a team rushed for a season-high 467 yards — and three touchdowns, setting a Big Ten career mark in the process.  Even as Wisconsin is just 2-1 in conference play with five games left, they are firmly in control of their own Indianapolis destiny as the other three post-season-eligible teams in the division — Purdue (0-2), Illinois (0-3) and Indiana (0-3) — are winless and, most importantly, largely hapless.  The season began with UW widely expected to easily punch its ticket to the Big Ten championship game in early December; while it’s been rougher than expected, that’s exactly the tack on which the Badgers currently find themselves.

One if by air… x3
Navy came into Friday night’s game with Central Michigan tied for dead last among the 124 FBS teams — Army and New Mexico being the others — with just one touchdown pass through five games.  So, of course, Midshipmen quarterback Keenan Reynolds went out and tossed three touchdowns in the 31-13 win over the Chips.  Reynolds, making his first collegiate start no less, became the the first Navy signal caller to accomplish that feat since Chris McCoy against Colgate in 1997, and was just one of the school record set by Tom Forrestal way back in 1957.

LOSERS

The defense rests, as does WVU’s title hopes
You just knew that, at some point this season, No. 5 West Virginia’s “defense” would cost the Mountaineers at least one game.  That point came Saturday in Lubbock, although the much-maligned defense had some help from an unexpected source.  Yes, the Mountaineers gave up 676 yards to Texas Tech in the humiliating 49-14 loss, but it was the play of Geno Smith that was the most surprising aspect of the upset that effectively ends WVU’s BcS title hopes.  Coming into the game as far and away the Heisman favorite, Smith, simply put, imploded in the Lubbock winds.  Smith was held to just 275 yards passing, his second-lowest total of the season (268 against Texas last week), and he misfired on 26 of his 55 attempts; coming into the game, he had just 38 incompletions combined the first five games of the season.  Yes, he went without interception yet again, but, whatever part of the blame for the loss that isn’t put on the defense needs to be placed squarely on Smith’s right arm.  And that object sitting atop his neck.

Red River Blowout
For all the talk through the first few weeks of the season that Texas is “back” after a couple of non-UT-like years, the Longhorns have answered in resounding fashion the past two weeks that “hell no we ain’t,” at least against top-flight competition.  In back-to-back games against West Virginia and Oklahoma, a defense that was expected to be the linchpin of UT’s return has instead been eviscerated to the tune of 111 points and 1,137 yards of total offense.  The Sooners’ offense accounted for 63 of those points and 677 of the yards in the iconic rivalry game that wasn’t even as close as the 63-21 final score would indicate.  After starting the 2012 season 4-0 and reaching as high as No. 9 in the coaches’ poll, the Longhorns have all but officially been eliminated from any shot at its first Big 12 championship since 2009.

Reversal of misfortunes
Needing just one win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994, Duke jumped out to a 20-0 lead on Virginia Tech with 3:12 left in the first quarter.  In the final 48:12, however, the Blue Devils were outscored 41-0 as the Hokies came roaring back to slightly spoil one of the cooler stories of the 2012 season.  While the Blue Devils could still very well become bowl eligible at some point prior to the end of the season, their remaining schedule — home games with North Carolina, Clemson and Miami, road trips to Florida State and Georgia Tech — says that could be easier said than done; in the past eight years, Duke is 1-31 against those five schools, with the lone win coming against Clemson in 2004.

LaTech bandwagon
Numerous, numerous media types, and also people such as myself, had been pushing for what we saw as an underappreciated Louisiana Tech squad to be included in the Top 25 rankings.  When the Lil’ School That Could actually landed in the latest set of rankings, we all did a little nerdy happy dance.  A week later?  Yeah, not so much, although it wasn’t for a lack of effort on the scrappy Bulldogs part.  After digging themselves a 27-0 hole late in the second quarter, Tech came back to within a two-point conversion of tying the game at 59-all with :38 seconds left in the game.  A failed conversion and unsuccessful onside kick, though, ended any hope of a miraculous comeback and an upset win over the No. 22 team in the country.  Even in the loss, though, Tech head coach Sonny Dykes likely made himself a hell of a lot of future money, whether it be at his current school or when the next spinning of the coaching carousel comes to an end.

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

— No. 4 Florida 31, Vanderbilt 17: With 2:35 left in the fourth quarter, the Gators led the Commodores 24-17.  A 70-yard Jeff Driskel touchdown run 15 seconds later, however, iced the game for UF.

— No. 6 Kansas State 27, Iowa State 21: Taking down the giant-slaying Cyclones, in Ames no less, was no small feat for Bill Snyder‘s Wildcats.  If anything, this game should show voters that K-State is indeed the real deal and in this title chase — Big 12 and otherwise — for the long haul.

– No. 8 Ohio State 52, Indiana 49: The Buckeyes twice held 18-point fourth-quarter leads, but two touchdowns by the Hoosiers in a span of 35 seconds with under two minutes remaining closed the gap to three.  An IU attempt at a second straight onside kick recovery was unsuccessful and OSU held on for a very strange, odd win.

— No. 10 Oregon State 42, BYU 28: The Beavers were actually down by four with just under nine minutes left in the game before a pair of touchdowns effectively put the game out of reach.

— No. 11 USC 24, Washington 14: Twice in the past three seasons, the Huskies have handed the Trojans losses.  A 24-point first half ensured it wouldn’t happen three times in four years.

— No. 18 Louisville 45, Pittsburgh 35: While the final tally indicates a somewhat comfortable double-digit win, the Cardinals actually trailed at halftime before pulling away with four unanswered touchdowns in the second half.

— No. 19 Mississippi State 41, Tennessee 31: After the Vols had gotten back to within three with under six minutes left, the Bulldogs threw the final knockout punch with :09 seconds left to maintain its unblemished record.

— No. 20 Rutgers 23, Syracuse 15: It was far from pretty, but the Scarlet Knights were able to remain unbeaten with a gritty Big East win over the Orange.

— No. 24 Boise State 20, Fresno State 10: The Broncos are this week’s winner of our “win is a win is a win” award.

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’s 42-10 throttling of hapless, in-over-their-heads-in-the-SEC Mizzou in the Columbia rain will do nothing to curb the sense that UA’s on an inexorable march toward back-to-back BcS titles and three in four years. (Last 5Q: No. 1)
Up next: at Tennessee

2. Oregon: The Ducks’ bye weekend did nothing to sour just about anyone on their standing in the polls. (Last 5Q: No. 2)
Up next: at Arizona State

3. Florida: The win over LSU last weekend looks even more impressive after viewing it through the prism of the Tigers’ win over South Carolina this weekend. (Last 5Q: unranked)
Up next: vs. No. 3 South Carolina

4. Kansas State: Any team that can go into Ames as a highly-ranked team and beats a Paul Rhoads-coached squad deserves high praise, regardless of the margin of victory. (Last 5Q: No. 4)
Up next: at No. 5 West Virginia

5. Oregon State: Surprised?  Just watch where the BcS computers place the Beavers Sunday night.  (Last 5Q: unranked)
Up next: vs. Utah

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.

— Auburn’s Gene Chizik: 14-0 with Cam Newton, 22-34 without the Heisman winner in his collegiate coaching career.  A 1-5 start to this season has included back-to-back laughably embarrassing losses to moribund SEC West teams Arkansas and Ole Miss.  Chizik was also infamously 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State; his replacement, Paul Rhoads, has gone 22-22 in three-plus seasons.  Buyout or not, and barring an abrupt turnaround that’s seemingly not in the cards, it would defy logic for Chizik to make it to 2013.

— Kentucky’s Joker Phillips: 1-5 on the season, 12-19 in his two-plus seasons in Lexington.  And the loss to Arkansas may have been the low point; not only did the Wildcats surrender 533 yards of offense in the 49-7 loss, they did so in less than three full quarters of play as the game was called with 5:03 left in the third quarter due to weather.  Out of all the ones who may be on the proverbial hot seat, there appears to be a very significant chance that Phillips, as nice a guy as he is, will be among the first — if not the first — FBS head coach to get the ax in 2012.

HE SAID IT
“That is maybe the best football team I’ve ever seen. We will see, but I watched the film and couldn’t find a weakness.” — Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, talking after Alabama’s 42-10 dismantling of his Tigers.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“This is truly a place where opponents’ dreams go to die.” — LSU head coach Les Miles, following the Tigers win over South Carolina in Death Valley.

YOU DON’T SAY?
With 72 career touchdowns, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball now trails just Ricky Williams of Texas (75) and Travis Prentice of Miami of Ohio (78) for the most in FBS history.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— After Week 7 of the 2012 season, there are 16 teams that are bowl eligible — 10 from BcS conferences, five from non-BcS conferences.  The 16th?  Football-independent Notre Dame.

— The Texas A&M-Louisiana Tech game featured several spectacular individual performances as one could expect from a 59-57 shootout.  Aggies’ freshman quarterback Johnny “Johnny Football” Manziel accounted for 577 yards of total offense and six touchdowns (three passing, three rushing), the former breaking his own school and SEC marks set earlier this year.  In a losing effort, Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton caught 21 passes — yes, 21 — for 233 yards and four touchdowns.

— In that game, A&M and Tech combined for 1,306 yards of total offense — 690 for the former, 616 for the latter.  The Aggies were also penalized a whopping 19 times for 175 yards.

— With Texas Tech’s upset win over No. 5 West Virginia, Tommy Tuberville is now 6-2 in his career in games vs. teams ranked in the Top 5.

– In that win, Red Raiders quarterback Seth Doege threw for 499 yards and six touchdowns.  Doege now has 21 touchdowns on the season, 49 in his last 18 games.

Eddie Lacy ran for a career-high 177 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns in Alabama’s win over Missouri.

Jeremy Hill‘s seven-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of the game against South Carolina was LSU’s first against an SEC foe since the fourth quarter of last year’s SEC championship game.  That’s a span of 14 quarters and 315 days, incidentally.

— In the first two games of the season, Mark Weisman rushed for eight yards on two carries.  In the four games since, the Iowa running back has rushed for 507 yards and seven touchdowns.  His 116 yards — his fourth straight 100-yard game — helped the Hawkeyes to an double-overtime win over Michigan State.

— Oklahoma running back Damien Williams‘ 95-yard touchdown run vs. Texas was the longest in the storied history of the Red River Shootout.

— In their game against Kentucky, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson threw for 331 yards and four touchdowns in the first half.  For the weather-shortened game, Wilson finished with 372 yards and five touchdowns in the 49-7 win.

— In a literal homecoming game against Miami, Giovani Bernard rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns in North Carolina’s 18-14 win over the Hurricanes.

EJ Manuel threw for a career-high 439 yards and four touchdowns in No. 12 Florida State’s 51-7 waxing of Boston College.

Silas Redd, a transfer from Penn State, rushed for a season-high 155 yards in USC’s win over Washington.

— With 149 yards in the close win over Indiana, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller has now rushed for 100-plus yards in all three Big Ten games and in five of the Buckeyes’ seven wins this season.  He’s also just 88 yards away from eclipsing the 1,000-yard plateau for the season.

— Arizona State sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly (no relation) tossed five touchdown passes in the Sun Devils’ 51-17 thumping of woeful Colorado Thursday night.  Kelly now has 11 touchdown passes the last three games after starting the season with just three in his first three games.

— The 402 points career points for Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins are the most in ACC and fifth in NCAA history.

— Utah State’s defense was credited with a school-record 13 sacks in the Aggies’ dominating 49-21 win over San Jose State.  USU had just 14 sacks entering the game.

— The attendance for the Kansas State-Iowa State game officially announced at 56,800, making it the largest crowd to ever watch a college football game in Ames.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
Through seven weeks of the season, Maryland (2-0) is the only ACC team without a loss in conference play.  Yep, the Mayans were right…

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Rumors swirling that Daxx Garman is transferring from Okla. St.

Daxx Garman

If it were to come to fruition, this would certainly qualify as at least a mild surprise.

Speculation surfaced late Friday morning that Daxx Garman had called into the Oklahoma State football offices and quit the team.  SBNation followed that up by writing “[s]ources say that Garman skipped yesterday’s practice, called in and stated his intentions” to transfer from the football program.

Should Garman opt to transfer, he’d be eligible to play immediately at an FBS school as a graduate transfer as he’s set to receive his degree from OSU in May.

The only official word from OSU, though, is you’ll have to wait a week and a half for the official word on Garman’s status.

Garman replaced J.W. Walsh, who sustained a season-ending leg injury in Week 2, and started the next eight games at quarterback before going down with a concussion in a Nov. 15 loss to Texas. Freshman Mason Rudolph replaced Walsh against Baylor and, in three starts, led the Cowboys to at least 28 points in going 2-1, including a 30-21 win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl that saw him pass for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Because of that three-game stretch — and because a Garman-led offense failed to score more than 27 points in five of eight starts — Rudolph is widely viewed as the overwhelming favorite for the starting job heading into spring practice.

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Reporter covering Jameis Winston accusations details threats

Maryland Florida St Football AP

The allegations of sexual assault surrounding Jameis Winston affected any number of lives, including, as it turns out, one of the individuals charged with covering it.

In an absolutely riveting piece posted online Friday, Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times details, among other things, the threats directed at not only himself but his wife as he played a significant role in covering the scandal from the very beginning.  From being accused of sleeping with Winston’s  accuser to accusations that he was tipped off by Alabama’s Nick Saban, the central theme from the Florida State community seems to be encapsulated in this message Baker received from an FSU student: “Why do you have to go around digging for s— (you) have no business in? The FSU nation is coming for u.”

And come after him they did as Baker writes “[f]ans bombarded my phone with more than 100 calls over a couple of weeks,” as well as having his phone number attached to “a gay personal ad on Craigslist next to a picture of a chiseled man wearing only boxer shorts and a Santa hat” and having “a photo of a stranger’s penis” sent to him. “Florida State fans wanted me to die of brain-eating cancer and in a car crash on my way home,” Baker added.

Unbelievably, it went downhill from there.

I was covering a high school football game one night when a Twitter post popped up on my phone:

You’re a marked man … Say goodbye.

My wife started worrying about me at home, so she reported it to the police and the FBI.

She spent that night combing through message boards, looking for other threats. Buried in the hundreds of vicious comments, she found a photo someone posted of the two of us. One of the trolls said our future children would be ugly.

When I called her on the drive home, she was in tears.

I didn’t know what to say.

Again, click HERE to read Baker’s entire account.

It should be said that the abuse and threats heaped on Baker and his wife likely came from a very small percentage of the FSU fan base. That said, it doesn’t make it any less sickening.

Speaking as someone who had death wished upon his then-three-year-old daughter… who had, and I quote, “ass cancer” wished upon his whole family… who, like Baker, it was hoped would exchange bodily fluids with an AIDS-infected monkey… whose home phone number had to be changed (twice) after “fans” found it and abused him and his family because he had the audacity to write something negative about Alabama or Ohio State or Penn State or whatever football program it was, I can say this with complete sincerity and utter authority: get a life, people. Seriously. It’s just football.

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Historic financial boon for SEC West coaches

Raining Money

Thanks to Dan Mullen and other developments this offseason, the SEC West has entered some rarefied financial air.

Late Thursday night, it was announced that Mullen and Mississippi State had, as expected, reached agreement on a new contract that includes both an extension and raise.  Financially, Mullen will be paid an average of $4.275 million annually over the next four years.

In December of last year, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze received a $1 million bump in pay that will push his total salary for the 2015 season to $4.3 million.  Earlier this month, Arkansas’ Bret Bielema was on the receiving end of a new contract that will pay him $4 million in 2015 and average $4.25 million over the next six years.

As part of a new contract announced in June of last year, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn will earn $4.1 million in 2015.  Add in the 2014 salaries of Alabama’s Nick Saban ($7.1 million), Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin ($5 million) and LSU’s Les Miles ($4.4 million), and all seven coaches in the SEC West will make at least $4 million in the same calendar year; that’s the first time in the history of college football such a thing has happened in the same division.

To put it into perspective, just eight non-SEC West coaches in 2014 surpassed the $4 million barrier: Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio ($5.6 million), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.06 million), Texas’ Charlie Strong ($5 million), Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($4.5 million), Penn State’s James Franklin ($4.3 million), Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz ($4.07 million), South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier ($4.02 million) and TCU’s Gary Patterson ($4.01 million).

Spurrier and Georgia’s Mark Richt, armed with a new contract announced in January, are the only SEC East coaches in the same financial neighborhood as their West counterparts.  Next up on the East compensation food chain is Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, who, thanks to his new contract signed in March of last year, will make around $3.5 million in 2015 after earning $3.4 million in 2014.

All told, the seven coaches in the SEC West will make somewhere in the neighborhood of $33 million in 2015; according to the USA Today database, 11 coaches in the ACC — three (Boston College, Syracuse, Wake Forest) weren’t listed — made approximately $26.6 million combined in 2014.

For further perspective, the 11 coaches in the Sun Belt conference combined to earn a total of approximately $5.3 million in 2014.

And, while this coaching arms race is ongoing across not only the SEC West but all of college football — an arms race financed by the billions of dollars universities as a whole are making off of the sport — walk-ons are being ruled ineligible because they had the audacity to accept a place to live instead of going homeless.  Priorities, y’all.

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A&M distances itself from #WRTS hashtag connected to 2015 recruit

Daylon Mack

If you follow recruiting in general and Texas A&M specifically on Twitter, you know what #WRTS stands for.  If you don’t, it’s an acronym for “We Run This State,” an inference that the Aggies rule the recruiting roost in the talent-rich state of Texas.

Those connected to the football program have begun to distance themselves from that particular hashtag, and there’s a very specific reason why.

The father of 2015 A&M signee Daylon Mack, ESPN.com writes, “filed for the trademark to #WRTS with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in June” while his son was a verbal commitment to the Aggies.  In fact, the photo in the upper right is of Daylon Mack and was posted to Twitter in late May (since deleted).

The same attorney who helped Johnny Manziel with his trademarks, Derek Gilliland, provided assistance to Coris Mack throughout this process.  The Mack family does not yet officially own the #WRTS trademark, but, when/if they acquire it, they could benefit financially by having the mark placed on clothing apparel or other goods that are sold.

Even as the Mack trademark situation was known back in December, there have been growing message board whispers that A&M was able to secure the services of Mack by, in part, allowing his father to attempt to trademark the hashtag and, thus, potentially profit from it. A&M jumped into proactive mode Thursday, ESPN again writes, as a statement from the Aggies “rendered the mark, at least at its school, virtually useless… in an attempt to disconnect from any appearance of impropriety.”  From the website’s accounting of the statement:

“Texas A&M has not had any plans — past or future — to trademark, purchase, or otherwise profit financially from #WRTS,” the school said in a statement Thursday. “Texas A&M was aware of Mr. Coris Mack’s trademark application but this trademark application had nothing to do with the recruitment of Mr. Daylon Mack as a student-athlete at Texas A&M.”

The school also said it has “disallowed licensees from using #WRTS in connection with Texas A&M trademarks, to include official logos, phrases and colors, in production of licensed goods. Texas A&M’s Office of Business Development, which oversees the university’s trademarks and licensing, is not a part of the athletics department, and is not involved in the recruitment of student-athletes.”

The AggieFBLife Twitter account, which ESPN explains “is run by a third party but connected to an athletic staff member with the Aggies,” still has the #WRTS hashtag in its profile as of this morning.

Mack had been committed to A&M before decommitting in mid-December of last year.  The four-star defensive end ultimately signed with the Aggies over Texas and TCU.

This Mack situation continues an odd relationship A&M and those connected to it have with trademarks, joining the likes of the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Johnny Football and the infamous Kenny Trill.

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Two Beaver O-linemen who have started games forced to retire

Grant Bays

At bare minimum, Oregon State’s depth along the offensive line has taken a bit of a hit.

According to the Corvallis Times-Gazette, offensive linemen Garrett Weinreich and Grant Bays (pictured) were two of the four players who have been forced into medical retirement from football. The other two are defensive end Glyeb Ewing and safety Zack Robinson.

Over the past two seasons, Bays had started 10 games for the Beavers, including seven at guard in 2014. The Oregonian writes that the lineman “was hobbled by a nagging back issue much of his career.”

A three-star member of OSU’s 2012 recruiting class, Weinreich has been hampered by a knee injury originally sustained during summer camp of his true freshman season. He started the opener in 2014, but aggravated the injury once again.

Robinson had played in 19 games the last two seasons while Ewing took a redshirt as a true freshman last season. The nature of the injuries that forced that pair to retire weren’t detailed.

(Photo credit: Oregon State athletics)

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Jon Gruden on Ohio State’s Urban Meyer: ‘Greatest coaching job of all time’

Jon Gruden

ESPN’s Jon Gruden is often criticized due to his bouts of hyperbole, but his stance on Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer may have redefined even his barometer.

What Ohio State accomplished last season was certainly astounding.

After the team lost to the hapless Virginia Tech Hokies 35-21 during the second week of the season, the Buckeyes changed gears and eventually ran roughshod through the Big Ten’s conference schedule and championship game, into the first ever College Football Playoff and grabbed the school’s eight national championship.

“Maybe the best coach in the SEC went to the Big Ten,” Gruden told Colin Cowherd during a radio interview, via CoachingSearch.com. “Urban Meyer did the greatest coaching job of all time. Winning a national championship with his third-string quarterback, I’ve never seen that before. … I’ve always respected him. Won two national titles at Florida.

“What he did at Ohio State, losing a Heisman Trophy candidate and then doing what he did with two different quarterbacks that were backups. Amazing to me.”

All of this came a year earlier than expected. Next year’s Ohio State squad was supposed to be the breakthrough team for Meyer in Columbus. Instead, the program is a year ahead of schedule and will almost certainly enter this coming season as the No. 1 team in the country.

However, none of that makes the most recent National Championship run the greatest in football history. Yes, the Buckeyes were forced to start three different quarterbacks. But all of them were more talented than…say…Craig Krenzel, who led the Buckeyes to the 2002 National Championship.

In fact, Ohio State was considered a 12-point underdog to an absolutely loaded Miami Hurricanes squad that year. The difference in overall talent level from top to bottom was actually in Ohio State’s favor against the Oregon Ducks in January.

It was a tremendous run by Meyer and his Buckeyes, but this is another case where Gruden remains completely over the top with his comments.

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Dan Mullen signs a contract extension with Mississippi State

Dan Mullen

All of the discussions regarding whether or not Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen will eventually leave Starkville to take another job at a different university should die down now.

After being linked to multiple openings over the past two years, Mullen signed an extension with Mississippi State Thursday through the 2018 season.

“Dan has done a phenomenal job in leading our football team the past six years, and we’re happy to be in a position to reward his efforts while making sure he’ll be able to continue building a championship program for Mississippi State,” Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement.

“Under Dan’s guidance, Bulldog football has achieved a level of consistent success unparalleled in our history, during which time we’ve been ranked No. 1 in the nation and appeared in elite bowl games. We’re proud Dan is our coach.”

HailState.com’s Bob Carskadon provided some of the contract details:

With an average salary of $4.275 million, Mullen becomes the ninth-highest paid coach in college football. He still trails Alabama’s Nick Saban, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and LSU’s Les Miles among SEC coaches, according to USA TODAY Sports.

Mullen shouldn’t be too concerned about where he stands in the SEC pecking order, though. It’s clear the school is committed to retaining its head coach after a 46-31 overall record — including last season’s 10-3 campaign — during his six seasons with the program.

“It’s a privilege to represent our university, our program and our fans here at Mississippi State,” Mullen said. “I appreciate Scott Stricklin and our administration who have given us the tools and resources to be successful and develop Bulldog football into a national brand over the last six years.”

“We spent five weeks ranked No. 1 last season for the first time, but we have only scratched this surface on what we can accomplish here. We have created a winning culture both on and off the field and built a program that has sustained success in the nation’s toughest conference. I’ve always said we are going to win a championship here, and I firmly believe that.”

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Oklahoma State announces official changes to coaching staff

Mike Gundy

Spring practice begins Tuesday for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Before a new season gets underway, the program needed to clean up some loose ends.

The school officially announced the hiring of five new assistant coaches to Mike Gundy’s staff:

Titles weren’t bestowed on former Buffalo Bills tight ends coach Greg Adkins, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo or Montana State offensive line coach Jason McEndoo, but they’re expected to serve in similar roles to their previous stops.

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MSU’s Mark Dantonio believes best players should play, including freshmen

Mark Dantonio

Those within the Big Ten Conference aren’t presenting a united front on the topic of freshman ineligibility.

A week ago, the league was trying to drum up interest among its members to support a potential rule change. University of Maryland president Wallace Loh even came out publicly in support of the possibility.

The league has yet to officially propose any changes but it wants to continue the “national conversation.”

Apparently, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio didn’t get the memo.

Dantonio’s comment clearly isn’t just a chance to appeal to recruits. He doesn’t appear to be an advocate of the rule in any form or fashion.

The coach could have worded his answer differently in order to tow the party line. He didn’t. He stated freshmen should play if they’re good enough after being directly asked about the issue.

If the Big Ten Conference wants the possibility of freshman ineligibility to become more than a national conversation, the league needs to develop support from its coaches.

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Potential starter along Oregon’s O-line calls it a career

Rose Bowl - Oregon v Florida State Getty Images

Unfortunately, one of the best names in college football retired Thursday.

Andre Yruretagoyena won’t return to the Oregon Ducks football program this year. An exact reason wasn’t provided, but the redshirt senior decided it was time to leave.

Yruretagoyena finally found his way into the Ducks’ starting lineup last year, but it was short-lived as he dealt with a lingering foot injury.

After the amount of injuries Oregon suffered along the offensive line a season ago, Yruretagoyena’s loss hurts the team’s depth at offensive tackle.

Tyler Johnstone is expected to return from a torn ACL he suffered last summer to start at left tackle, while sophomore Tyrell Crosby should prove to be the team’s bookend at right tackle.

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49ers eyeing bid to host future playoff title game

Pac-12 Championship - Arizona v Oregon Getty Images

The new home of the San Francisco 49ers has already hosted a conference championship game.  Now, it appears the club wants to get to know an even more important postseason game as well.

Citing a source a source with knowledge of the plans, the Associated Press is reporting that the NFL organization is planning to bid on becoming a future host of the College Football Playoff championship game.  The 49ers will be focusing their bid — or bids — on the 2018-2020 games that would be played in newly-built Levi’s Stadium.

Bids for those games must be received by May of this year, with the winning bids expected to be announced at some point this fall.

The 2016 (following the 2015 season) and 2017 (following the 2016 season) national title games have already been awarded to Glendale, Ariz., and Tampa, Fla. The first ever playoff title game was played in Dallas at AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL’s Cowboys.

Levi’s Stadium, which opened in 2014, has hosted a regular-season college game as well as the Pac-12 championship game. It will also serve as the host of that conference’s title tilt the next two years as well as being the site of next year’s Super Bowl.

In addition to that stadium in Santa Clara, officials from New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium — home of the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets — have also expressed an interest in bidding on CFP title games from 2018-20.  Also, city officials in New Orleans are beginning the process of considering the feasibility of hosting a title game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported this afternoon.  The Superdome, of course, is the home of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.

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Hefty LSU recruiting sanctions may be related to Alabama signee

Matt Womack

First, what we know in this situation: LSU has been slapped with some rather hefty recruiting sanctions.

What we don’t know?  Exactly what recruit led to the sanctions… although the Baton Rouge Advocate has an idea.

According to the Advocate, and citing public records obtained by the newspaper, “LSU is banned from signing early enrollee recruits to financial aid agreements for the next two years, and the program will be stripped of 10 percent of its recruiting evaluation days in 2015.” The latter sanction works out to 21 of 210 days allotted on the recruiting calendar. The penalties stem from a recruit who had originally signed a financial aid agreement with LSU last August, with the intention of enrolling in January, but ultimately signed a National Letter of Intent elsewhere.

The financial aid agreement (FAA) mentioned binds the university to the player, but not the player to the university. That policy was enacted by the NCAA in 2013, and allows high school seniors who intend to enroll early to sign the agreements and, in theory, end their recruitment and allow them to focus on what’s left of their senior years.

Football programs that have recruits sign such agreements are permitted unlimited contact with the prospects, although there are penalties for the program if that player enrolls elsewhere. That appears to be the boat in which LSU finds itself.

The public records obtained by the Advocate do not list the name of the recruit involved. However, all the signs seem to point to one who signed with an SEC West rival.

Matt Womack, an offensive tackle from Mississippi, signed a financial aid agreement with LSU in August intending to enroll at the school in January. Instead, Womack de-committed — as hundreds of prospects do each year — and signed a National Letter of Intent with Alabama in February.

One twist in the plot is that the three-star lineman’s father, David Womack, told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger in mid-September that “LSU is not using [the FAA to take advantage of the unlimited contact] because if Matt was to change his mind they would have to report it.” Exactly why LSU got slapped, or if said slapping involved another unknown recruit who signed an FAA with LSU but enrolled elsewhere, is unknown.

Four other LSU recruits who signed FAAs with the Tigers ultimately enrolled at the school.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Trevone Boykin to undergo surgery on non-throwing wrist

Trevone Boykin AP

An injury that actually occurred four months ago will impact one of the top quarterbacks in the country a couple of months down the road.

In October of 2014, TCU acknowledged that, after some initial misdirection, Trevone Boykin had indeed sustained an injury to his left (non-throwing) wrist.  Boykin didn’t miss a game because of the snap, but he will miss a portion of spring practice this year as he surgically deals with the issue.

According to David Ubben of FOX Sports Southwest, Boykin will undergo surgery the first week of April to repair what’s being described as a small fracture in the wrist.  The timing of the procedure means that Boykin will miss the final week of spring practice, which for the Horned Frogs begins this weekend.

As for a rehab timeline, Ubben writes that Boykin is “expected to return in about five weeks and will be 100 percent in time for voluntary summer workouts.”

Boykin is coming off a season in which he was widely regarded as the most improved quarterback in the country.  He’ll also enter the 2015 season as one of a handful of Heisman favorites.

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Scheduling additions won’t quiet Baylor’s critics

Close up of red velvet cupcakes with frosting on counter

Don’t expect this to quiet the critics of Baylor’s scheduling habits.  In fact, if anything, it’ll likely do nothing but increase the volume of the howling.  And laughing and/or chuckling, as the case may be.

According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Baylor and Louisiana Tech have scheduled a future three-game series.  The 2020 and 2022 games will be in Waco, while the 2021 game will be played in Ruston.  Additionally, McMurphy’s ESPN colleague, Jake Trotter, tweets that BU will face FCS-level Abilene Christian in 2018.

As it stands now, Baylor has just one non-conference series scheduled against a Power Five program: Duke in 2017 and 2018.  Aside from that, it’s a cornucopia of lower-level creampuffs as far as the eye can see.

Four of the next five years, BU has an FCS team on its schedule: Lamar (2015), Northwestern State (2016), Liberty (2017) and Incarnate Word (2019).  The other teams on the Bears’ future schedules through 2022 include those from the AAC (SMU, 2015 & 2016) and Conference USA (Rice, 2015, 2016 & 2019; UT-San Antonio, 2018; La Tech, 2020-22).

Part of the reason Baylor was shut out of the first College Football Playoff was its strength of schedule, or lack thereof.  If such a scenario plays out in the future, the Bears can look to ongoing — and some would say stubborn — scheduling decisions such as the ones revealed today as a reason why.

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NHL commish ‘intrigued’ by Beaver Stadium hockey game

Beaver Stadium

Depending on how things go in the future, The Big House may not be the sole province of professional hockey games played on a college campus.

In the past it’s been rumored that the home of the Penn State Nittany Lions, Beaver Stadium, could be in line to host an outdoor NHL regular season game.  The level of chatter in that vein has increased a bit of late, so much so that it prompted the question of an NHL game in Happy Valley being asked of the man in charge of the sport in North America.

While not even remotely ruling it out, Gary Bettman acknowledged that it’s not something that’s imminent, either.

“There’s been talk about it,” the commissioner told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Wednesday. “I’m intrigued by the possibility. But it’s not anywhere close to fruition.”

In January of 2014, Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor hosted the annual Winter Classic, which that year featured the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, although it did fall short of its goal of setting the outdoor hockey attendance record. That record, incidentally, still resides in the Big House, which saw 113,411 fans witness Michigan beating Michigan State in a college hockey game.

There have also been rumors that Notre Dame could host a hockey game at either the professional or collegiate levels, although that speculation hasn’t gained much steam over the past couple of years.

(Photo credit: Penn State athletics)

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