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Predictions 101 — Week 9

Cocktail AP

There we were, sitting as pretty as pretty can be. Six games already nestled comfortably in P101’s bag, half of which were upsets.

We really didn’t need to pull off a clean sweep. We’d be as proud of 6-1 as Maria Sharapova. And any “player” worth his salt would have hedged his way into the winner’s circle, turning the Florida State-Miami game into an exercise to see how much gravy could be found.

But there we were, watching the Hurricanes do more than hold their own. The pregame smoke and the first quarter mirrors had them up 10-0 … a good thing in our book. We knew what was coming.

It came … and the Seminole margin was oh so sweet in the fourth quarter. That is until the entire gridiron became four-down territory for Miami, which led to a touchdown being gifted to FSU with 2:45 remaining.

The Seminoles led, 33-13, and we’re dealing with opening lines (+17.5) here at P101, not closing ones (+21). So, we were sunk. The Hurricanes still had a couple minutes to work with, but they weren’t going to kick a field goal and hadn’t mounted a touchdown drive since a meager 22-yarder within the first four minutes of the game.

But Brent & Herbie seemed to share some belief, cheering Miami on down the field. They giggled while mentioning “interested mathematicians” a couple times along the way.

Sure enough, the Hurricanes went 75 yards in eight plays and got the job done.

Yes. Finally. Last week, we went 7-0 straight and 7-0 versus “the number.” Holy Toledo (thank you, Rockets), 14-0!

Oh well … on to this week, where we can only go down from here.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Oct. 25, thru Sat., Oct. 27)

1) No. 3 Florida vs. No. 12 Georgia (at Jacksonville, Fla.)
Sat., Oct. 27 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

If South Carolina players were to judge this fight, there’s no question who they’d predict as winners. Two weeks after they hosted and routed Georgia, 35-7, the Gamecocks got roughed up at Florida, 44-11.

Too bad the transitive property doesn’t apply to college football. If it did, we could just call for a 61-point Gator victory and be done with it.

All that aside, Florida does hold a clear edge in this game.

Despite the fact that Georgia had the most fun at the last “Cocktail Party,” winning 24-20, the Gators have dominated this rivalry for more than a couple decades, taking 18 of the last 22. And this one doesn’t seem to match up well for the Bulldogs.

Last week, Georgia allowed Kentucky to rush for 206 yards. Please note that the Wildcats came into that contest ranked 106th in the country in rushing offense. Granted, the poor run defense and less-than-impressive 29-24 victory in Lexington came without the services of outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who was resting a sprained right ankle, and defensive end Abry Jones, who injured his left ankle in the first quarter, but we’re still talking Kentucky here.

It doesn’t look promising for the disappointing Bulldog defense, which is yielding 24 points and 367 total yards per game, as it lines up against the Gators’ powerful run game.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is one of the more efficient passers in the nation, but in the loss at South Carolina he showed that consistent pressure from a variety of sources can really knock him off-kilter. The Bulldogs can’t afford for that to happen since running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are finally starting to look like freshmen.

Last week, we talked up Florida’s excellent punt unit and it did play a large role in the Gator victory over South Carolina. Here we go again. Georgia ranks dead last in the SEC and 109th in the country in net punting. It might be most apparent on special teams, but the Gators have a significant advantage over the Bulldogs in all three phases of the game.

Opening point spread: Florida by 3 1/2

The pick: Florida 31-20

2) No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 8 Oklahoma
Sat., Oct. 27 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

As they roll into Norman for the first time in 46 years, the Fighting Irish will encounter a Sooner team far different from the one Ara Parseghian’s 1966 squad squashed, 38-0, on its way to a national championship.

The current Oklahoma team, which has scored 156 points in its last three games, won’t be blanked. This will be the Sooners’ third consecutive home game and in the previous two — a 63-21 slaying of Texas, followed by a 52-7 rout over Kansas — the offense scored on 15 of 20 drives, 12 of which were touchdowns.

After this week, we won’t be hearing about how Notre Dame hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all year.

We’ll take Oklahoma’s duo of Landry Jones and Blake Bell (leads team with eight rushing touchdowns) over ND’s Everett Golson and Tommy Rees. While Jones and Bell operate efficiently in their clearly defined roles, the feeling here is that the Sooner defense, which has come up with nine takeaways in the last three games, will squeeze game-changing turnovers out of the Irish backfield.

Yes, college football is much better off when the Golden Domers are relevant, but put the hype aside for a moment and take a long look at their schedule and results. You’ll realize that our friends in the desert are seeing this one clearly.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 9

The pick: Oklahoma 27-13

3) No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 Kansas State
Sat., Oct. 27 — 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai‘i.

The Red Raiders have the talent and coaching to beat the Wildcats, but do they have the answer for “Optimus Klein.”

Led by quarterback Collin Klein, the current Heisman Trophy frontrunner, Kansas State is also talented and well coached. The Wildcats will scratch and claw to defend their conference and national title hopes. Bill Snyder’s balanced team doesn’t make mistakes. Only one squad in the country (Ohio, which also is 7-0) has had fewer turnovers than the Wildcats (just four).

You wouldn’t know it by his throwing motion, but Klein ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency. His counterpart, Seth Doege, isn’t far behind in fifth and directs an aerial assault that averages 362 yards per game.

But it isn’t all about offense at Texas Tech, which is home to a stout defense that’s ranked seventh in total defense and is particularly effective versus the pass.

Something’s got to give, but maybe it’ll require some extra time to happen.

We’ll take a stab and say that Red Raiders get held to a field goal on their first overtime possession, leaving “Optimus” the opportunity for a Heisman moment as he pounds into the end zone for the win.

Opening point spread: Kansas State by 8

The pick: Kansas State 33-30

4) No. 13 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama
Sat., Oct. 27 — 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

We can’t remember a game between teams ranked within the top 13 that is so disparate on paper.

Off paper, however, it has the makings of a trap game for the Crimson Tide, who travel to LSU next week. That’s where Nick Saban comes in … and we go back to what we see in black and white.

We’ll be the first to dump loads upon loads of credit at the feet of Dan Mullen for the job he’s done in Starkville. Nine consecutive victories versus anybody, is still nine consecutive victories. No less than 117 FBS teams would love to boast of such a winning streak.

But we have to be honest and point out that the Bulldogs’ sparkling 3-0 record in SEC play comes at the expense of Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. Those three teams not only weren’t able to beat Mississippi State, they haven’t won any conference games so far this season in a total of 14 tries.

Alabama leads the nation in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing efficiency defense, so it ain’t any shock that only one team has lost by less than 27 points to the Tide this season. That tight 33-14 victory over Ole Miss essentially served as their “wake up call.” Saban’s gang isn’t falling into any traps.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 24

The pick: Alabama 41-13

5) Duke at No. 11 Florida State
Sat., Oct. 27 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

How could we exclude a game between the undisputed leaders of the ACC’s Atlantic and Coastal Divisions? Yup, you read that right.

Hooray for the Blue Devils, who are bowl eligible for the first time in 18 years, but still hungry.

After their big 33-20 victory at Miami last Saturday night, the Seminoles will spend a full week in Tallahassee having their backs slapped.

Duke’s defense is porous, but it does force turnovers. Something’s telling us that the Blue Devils will stay within range.

Opening point spread: Florida State by 26

The pick: Florida State 41-17

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Mississippi at Arkansas
Sat., Oct. 27 — 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network

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

Forgive us if we’re not impressed by blowout victories over Auburn and Kentucky, who are a combined 0-10 in SEC play. We don’t see it as a signal that the Razorbacks ship has been righted after four painful defeats earlier in the season, which produced some epic press conference moments for John L. Smith.

With kickoff at just past 11 a.m. local time in Little Rock, the Hog faithful are likely to lack their typical fervor, if there is any left after the last time Arkansas played at War Memorial Stadium and were knocked from their lofty perch in the Top-10 with a 34-31 overtime loss to mighty Louisiana-Monroe (still the only team Auburn’s been able to beat).

Both teams enter with a pair of conference losses to the same schools, but Ole Miss was much more competitive while falling a field goal short against Texas A&M and losing by just 19 at Alabama. Conversely, Arkansas was taken to the woodshed by a combined score of 110-10 against those same foes.

Each offensive unit can move the ball through the air, but a Rebel defense that allows just 210 yards passing per game is much more likely to slow the opposition down than a Razorback unit that ranks near the bottom of the FBS, allowing 304 yards through the air.

Opening point spread: Arkansas by 4 1/2

The pick: Mississippi 31-27

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Cincinnati at No. 16 Louisville
Fri., Oct. 26 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

If the “Keg of Nails” were actually a keg filled with nails, it would be the best rivalry trophy in the land. But even though it’s merely a painted empty keg, it’s still in the conversation. It just sounds so awesome! No wonder the Bearcats and Cardinals annually lay it all on the line for the “Keg of Nails.”

The original “Keg of Nails” (yes, this one is actually “Son of Keg of Nails”) was first awarded in 1929, signifying that the players on the winning team were as “tough as nails.” Ah … college football …

As a side note: We don’t believe the tale about the original “Keg of Nails” being misplaced and lost during some office construction at Louisville. C’mon, who would lose track of a keg of nails, trophy or not? Seriously now, the Cardinals should be docked three points in each game until they come up with it.

Last week, we gave you Toledo over Cincinnati. This week, we’re tempted to give you the Bearcats. Cincinnati has been in control of the series as of late, winning the past four, and should have the emotional edge as they drive along Interstate 71.

But, when your problems are turning over the football and giving up big plays, the corrections aren’t easy to find.

The Cardinals, led by sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (21-of-25 for 256 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s over South Florida), are much more reliable at this point.

Opening point spread: Louisville by 6

The pick: Louisville 27-26

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Indiana’s Wilson fires misguided shot at Big 12 and Notre Dame

Kevin Wilson

There was a time the Big Ten had what seemed to be a competitive advantage in the BCS bowl picture by not playing a conference championship game when the ACC, Big 12 and SEC were. Now the tables have been turned and folks around the Big Ten are starting to fire shots at the Big 12, a conference without a championship game.

One of the big questions yet to be answered entering the new era of college football is what the impact of playing a conference championship game or not playing one will hold on the College Football Playoff selection committee’s line of thinking when it comes to choosing the four best teams in the country. Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson may not be ready to have a program worthy of sniffing that conversation any time soon, but he certainly feels the Big 12 and Notre Dame are getting an easier path to the postseason mix.

Wilson, a former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, suggested the Big 12 is avoiding a challenge that is embraced by the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC with a conference championship game. Not playing the game gives the Big 12 a competitive advantage. To drive his point home, Wilson made a golf reference that suggests Big 12 schools and Notre Dame are playing the equivalent of 17 holes while the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC are playing the entire back nine.

That is probably an unfair statement, of course, especially in the case of the Big 12. Unlike in the Big Ten, every Big 12 school plays the entire conference using a nine-game schedule for the 10-team conference. Wilson’s Hoosiers will not have to play Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern or Minnesota this season. A true champion can be crowned in the Big 12 by having every member play the entire conference. Wilson’s point, though, is the added challenge of playing a conference championship game has the advantage of padding a school’s strength of schedule, but also provides a giant risk by potentially missing out on a playoff spot or perhaps a spot in another lucrative bowl game with a loss. Of course, this argument is nothing new.

Notre Dame is a slightly different situation, as a football independent, but the Irish have established a track record of organizing competitive schedules. This season the Irish play Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina, Florida State, Arizona State and USC. All but Michigan appear in the preseason coaches poll. Indiana faces just two teams ranked in the same preseason poll this fall (Ohio State and Michigan State). Notre Dame has no started a new relationship with the ACC, guaranteeing multiple games each season against ACC competition, in addition to annual rivalry games against USC, Stanford an Navy. Notre Dame also takes their show on the road in the Shamrock Series against other power conference opponents on neutral sites.

Is Wilson out of line, or does he have a point worth discussing further? Feel free to share your opinions down in the comment section.

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Who replaces Bortles? UCF not rushing to find out

George O'Leary

It is that time of the year again when head coaches with vacancies at quarterback refuse to show their cards on making a final call on who will lead the offense on the field. This often happens at schools looking to replace established quarterbacks from the previous season, whether it be because the coach honestly is not sure which way to go with it or because he does not want to give the season opening opponent a hint of whom to prepare for in week one. Where UCF head coach George O’Leary falls on this subject is probably anyone’s guess, but he is not making any decisions on a starting quarterback to replace Blake Bortles anytime soon.

”I’ll let you know when I’m going to name one, it’s not a big secret,” O’Leary said, according to the Associated Press. ”I’ll let you know when I feel comfortable about somebody.

With Bortles now in training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, the competition is now wide open in Orlando. Sophomore Justin Holman is the lone option with any previous playing experience, but redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo, freshman and Boise State transfer Tyler Harris and redshirt sophomore Nick Patti are all going to be given a chance to win the job.

Reporters covering the Knights, defending American Athletic Conference champions, are not the only ones hounding O’Leary for an answer as camp opened up Thursday. “Everybody’s trying to get a jump on it,” O’Leary said. “My wife’s going to be the first one to know. And she’s out of the state, so good luck.”

It may be best to allow the competition play out with so much unknown about the new options, but there is a benefit to narrowing the decision down as quickly as possible. Knowing who will lead the offense during the season will give everybody on the offense a chance to develop an identity and comfort level with the quarterback. With a somewhat challenging schedule facing the Knights, getting as much taken care of early on could be a benefit in the long run.

UCF will open up the 2014 season in Ireland against Penn State in week one. The Knights topped the Nittany Lions in State College last fall, kickstarting their run to the Fiesta Bowl.

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Kirk Ferentz says 10-game conference schedules are coming

Kirk Ferentz

Every change in college football over the last few years has been about expanding and growth. That philosophy could be shifting to the length of a conference schedule. Forget about the debates over eight-game conference schedules or nine-game conference schedules. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz says 10-game conference schedules are coming, at least in the Big Ten.

While making his way through the ESPN car wash on Thursday, Ferentz was asked about conference scheduling when he dropped that thought for all to ponder. Via Brett McMurphy’s Twitter feed;

The Big Ten will be using a nine-game conference schedule, similar to the Pac-12 and Big 12. The ACC and SEC are sticking with eight-game conference schedules but adding a non-conference scheduling requirement for all members to add one game against another power conference opponent each season. The hypothetical 10-game conference schedule format would seem to solve a number of scheduling concerns for any conference with more than 12 teams, such as the ACC, SEC and Big Ten. With a two division format, six games are reserved for division games, leaving just two (ACC, SEC) or three (Big Ten) spots for cross division games. If a conference has locked crossover games (the SEC has paired crossover match-ups, the Big Ten scrapped them with its new division alignment), that reduces the number of opportunities to schedule other teams from the other division while rotating through the conference. The cross division scheduling may not be a major concern in the Big Ten, but it has been a topic of concern in the ACC and SEC.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said at this week’s Big Ten media day the Big Ten will stop playing FCS teams while discussing future plans to increase the strength of schedule for the entire conference. Moving to a 10-game schedule would likely have a positive effect on overall conference strength of schedule, but it also makes it more difficult for top contenders to get out of the regular season without a scratch. That could be something that comes back to haunt a Big Ten champion in the College Football Playoff era as well.

Are 10-game conference schedules a realistic possibility? Yes, although the question may be if that leads to the extension of the regular season from 12 games to 13 or 14. More games means more TV money, which means it is very much a realistic possibility.

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Oklahoma to return to Houston after 14 years, in 2016

Big 12 Football Media Days

Oklahoma will open the 2016 season in one NFL stadium, and if all goes well it could end in another. The Sooners and Houston have agreed to open the 2016 season in NRG Stadium in Houston, home to the NFL’s Houston Texans as well as the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff. The 2016 season will conclude with the College Football Playoff championship game in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Houston Chronicle was the first to report the possibility of a 2016 opener between the Sooners and Cougars, and Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com later confirmed the report to be a done deal via Twitter. The Texas Kickoff is one of the newest neutral site game sin college football, joining Atlanta’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff and the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas. The first game in the series was played last season between Oklahoma State and Mississippi State and continues this season with LSU and Wisconsin. Texas A&M and Arizona are scheduled to appear in the game in 2015.

This season’s game between LSU and Wisconsin is expected to top last year’s attendance of 35,874 fans, and next year’s game with Texas A&M involved should see a nice turnout as well at the gate. Oklahoma and Houston should make for a good crowd at the game as well, especially if Houston can continue to build its program between now and then and emerge as a top power from the “Group of Five” (I really hate that term) conferences.

Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Houston, 2-0. The most recent of those two meeting came in 2004, with the Sooners winning by a blowout score of 63-14. As noted by The Dallas Morning News, Oklahoma’s last trip to the city of Houston went well. The last time the Sooners were in town they left with the Big 12 championship after topping Colorado in the 2002 Big 12 Championship Game in the same stadium.

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Former Penn football player dies in lobster diving accident

Miami v South Florida Getty Images

A former Ivy League football player who was heading to the Miami Hurricanes this fall was the victim of a diving accident in South Florida. Joseph Grosso, a starting linebacker for the Pennsylvania Quakers, died in a scuba diving accident in Pompano Beach, Florida on Wednesday. According to multiple reports, Grosso was diving alone while lobster diving.

“The entire Penn football family is saddened by the tragic news of Joe’s passing,” Penn football coach Al Bagnoli said in a statement shared by The Daily Pennsylvanian. “Joe was a terrific young man, an accomplished student and an outstanding player. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family during this very difficult period.”

Grosso was added to the football roster for the Miami Hurricanes on Tuesday, according to The Miami Herald. Grosso was to be a walk-on for Al Golden’s program this fall after graduating from Penn. He was intending to continue with law school at Miami and play one mroe year of college football with the Hurricanes.

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Ohio State’s Sprinkle pleads no contest

Tracy Sprinkle

A dismissed Ohio State defensive lineman pleaded guilty to his role in a massive altercation outside an Ohio bar earlier this month. Tracy Sprinkle will now wait to see if he will be allowed to return to the Buckeyes roster in time for the fall season after pleading no contest for a reduced charge for failure to comply, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Sprinkle had his charges reduced after drug tests using various samples returned negative results just days after the arrest. Sprinkle had been facing a cocaine possession charge. Police admitted the drugs may have come from another person apprehended in the vehicle, according to Eleven Warriors. Because the drug test came back negative, Sprinkle was fortunate to be able to negotiate a lesser charge. He was fined $500 and placed on two years of probation. He will also be required to do some community service.

Sprinkle was arrested over the weekend of July 4 for his role in a bar brawl. He was later dismissed by head coach Urban Meyer, but an Ohio State spokesperson suggested a potential return to the team would not be eliminated from the discussion of his future.

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Florida State (over)loading up on QB recruits in 2015

Jameis Winston

It is amazing what a national championship can do to a program’s recruiting production. Just take a look at Florida State, now with three quarterback recruits verbally committed for the Class of 2015. For now.

As of today, Florida State has three four-star quarterbacks lined up in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. That includes in-state prospects Deondre Francois and De’Andre Johnson and Maryland recruit Kai Locksley, the son of Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley who surprised some Thursday afternoon by committing to the Seminoles. Locksley’s verbal came slightly before that of Francois, which makes the recruiting plan a bit interesting for Florida State moving forward. In case you forgot, Florida State is already in a pretty solid position under center with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, returning for just his sophomore season. Florida State also added four-star quarterback J.J. Cosentino in the most recent recruiting class. Simply put, life is good for head coach Jimbo Fisher as far as quarterbacks are concerned. Francois, Johnson and Locksley are all classified as dual-threat options, while Cosentino is scouted more as a typical pro-style quarterback. Winston, of course, is labeled a dual-threat quarterback as well, so that may give a sense for which direction Fisher would like to go on offense. Hey, it worked last season, but what do you do with all of that talent under center?

The first question to address is the future of Winston in Tallahassee. Winston has stated he intends to play two more seasons for Florida State before deciding on his pro future, which echoed comments made by his father earlier in the offseason. If Winston does stay on campus through the end of the 2015 season, the next question is what goes through the minds of four four-star quarterbacks hoping to be the next starter for Florida State? What are the odds Francois, Johnson, Locksley and Cosentino are all still in Tallahassee? They may not be all that great.

For Fisher, that is a problem he will have to begin sorting through now, although the additions of Francois, Johnson and Locksley will not become official until the next signing day, if they all choose to stay committed to Florida State. By then Fisher will have a better idea of whether or not Winston really will be back in 2015 or if he ends up heading into the NFL. The planning for the position all hinges on Winston’s decision, and Winston’s decision could be an influential one to the future decisions of the Class of 2015 quarterbacks. If Winston does come back, might one of these Class of 2015 quarterbacks re-open his recruiting process? It certainly would not be out of the question, nor would it be against the norm in college football recruiting. Florida State is even in a position where it would not be worth sweating over if one of the quarterbacks did start looking again.

Florida State’s recruiting “problem” is one that every program would love to have. There is never anything wrong with having too much talent in a recruiting class, just ask Alabama.

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Potential DL starter one of three no longer with Tar Heels

Shawn Underwood

North Carolina’s depth and talent on the defensive side of the  ball, especially along the line, has taken a hit ahead of the start of summer camp.

A UNC spokesperson confirmed to the Raleigh News & Observer that three players — defensive tackles Shawn Underwood and Greg Webb as well as linebacker Clint Heaven — are no longer on the UNC football team. The two defensive linemen left for personal reasons, while the latter has already transferred to Northern Iowa.

By the far the biggest loss is that of Underwood.

Underwood played in 20 games the past two seasons, starting five of those contests. He would’ve entered summer camp as a favorite to land a starting job.

Webb, a touted four-star member of UNC’s 2013 recruiting class, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season, while Heaven played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2013.

In addition to that trio, the status of offensive lineman J.J. Patterson is up in the air. Patterson played defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2013 before moving to guard this past spring.

(Photo credit: North Carolina athletics)

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Four-star 2008 signee-turned-MLBer returns to Bulldogs

Rashun Dixon

Apparently you can, in a sports sense, come home again.

In 2008, Rashun Dixon was a four-star member of Mississippi State’s recruiting class, the last of Sylvester Croom‘s tenure.  Dixon never suited up for the Bulldogs, however, as he was drafted in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Oakland Athletics and embarked on a career in professional baseball.

A handful of years later, however, he’s back.

According to InsideMSUSports.com, the 23-year-old Dixon has decided to return to the Bulldogs as a walk-on player.   Because he’s never played a down of college football, he maintains all four years of eligibility and could ultimately earn a scholarship.

At least in his past sporting life, the talent was certainly there.

Rivals.com rated Davis as a four-star recruit in 2008 and as the No. 19 safety in the country that year.  What specific position he will play in his second football go-around is to be determined, although the website wrote that “his No. 85 suggests he will be utilized on the offensive side of the ball,” which could mean either tight end or wide receiver for a player listed at 6-2 and 210 pounds.

After six years in Oakland’s farm system — he batted under .250 for his career — and following his release last fall, Dixon opted to give football another shot.  Dixon is the younger brother of Anthony Dixon, who led MSU in rushing every year from 2007-09.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Former Boise St. RB Aaron Baltazar now leaving Wazzu

Deon'tae Florence AP

Well that was abrupt.

Back in April it was announced that Aaron Baltazar had followed Chris Petersen to the state of Washington, transferring from Boise State into the Washington State football program.  Less than four months later?  Never mind.

A Wazzu spokesperson confirmed to the Idaho Statesman that the running back is no longer a member of the team.  No reason was given for the abrupt and unexpected departure.

In the short-term it’s no loss for Mike Leach and the Cougars as Baltazar would’ve been forced to sit out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Wherever he lands next, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.

As a true freshman last season, Baltazar was second on the Broncos in rushing before suffering a torn ACL the fifth game of the year and, obviously, missed the remainder of the year.

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Wake suspends leading returning rusher

Wake Forest v Miami Getty Images

One of the most important pieces of Wake Forest’s running game will apparently not be available for the foreseeable future.

A Wake spokesperson has confirmed to the Associated Press that Dominique Gibson has been indefinitely suspended from the football team.  Other than an undisclosed violation of team rules, no reason was given for the punitive measure.

Entering summer camp, he was being viewed as a likely starter, or at the very least one of the two heads in a two-headed rushing attack.

Gibson’s 138 yards last year made him the Demon Deacons’ leading returning rusher.  He had a pair of touchdowns in 2013, one each rushing  and receiving.

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Auburn remembers Lutzenkirchen with number on practice field

Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Joey Gautney

Auburn continues to find ways to pay tribute to one of its own. Following death of former tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen, killed in an auto accident in June, fans took to rolling Toomer’s Corner and there was a video tribute following a memorial service that was very touching. With Auburn now set to open up camp ahead of the 2014 season, the defending SEC champions will continue to remember Lutzenkirchen with his old uniform number (No. 43) painted on the practice field.

The number is painted in each end zone, and a look at the final touch can be seen through this tweet from Auburn’s Twitter account;

Auburn opens camp Friday afternoon.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

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Hoke: ‘if we opened the season today,” Gardner would be starter

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpthkyzmyzjgymgvhmjhlymnknmq0ywy0n2njnmzjyzhj AP

Throughout this offseason, Brady Hoke has declined to definitively tap the incumbent, Devin Gardner, or his challenger, Shane Morris, as Michigan’s starting quarterback.  Instead, the UM head coach demurred and insisted he’d wait until early on in summer camp to declare a starter.

Thursday, Hoke deviated from that tack slightly.

Taking his turn in the Big Ten coaches ESPN car wash, Hoke was, of course, asked about the Wolverines’ quarterback situation.  The coach, compared to how he’s been since spring practice, was surprisingly candid.

“Going in (to camp, there will be a competition),” Hoke said according to mlive.com. “We’ve got great competition. (But) if we opened the season today, Devin would start for the Wolverines.”

Of course, “if we open the season today” is a tremendous qualifier.

Gardner started every game last season before a foot injury he suffered in the loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale sidelined him for the Wolverines’ bowl game.  In his first career start, and as a true freshman no less, Morris completed 24-of-38 passes for 196 yards and interception as UM dropped a 31-14 decision to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

While Gardner was at one time quoted as saying that “it was amazing how much better [quarterback competition this spring] made me,” the incumbent at the position –despite his pre-spring proclamation— exited the 15 practice sessions without a firm grasp on the starting job.  That thought was buttressed as, at the end of spring practice in mid-April, Hoke acknowledged that Morris had narrowed the gap on Gardner.

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Ball State officially adds ex-Cincinnati DE

Joshua Posley

Earlier this summer there was speculation that a member of the Cincinnati Bearcats would be on the move to the MAC.  Thursday, that came to fruition.

Ball State announced in a release that Joshua Posley has transferred into the football program.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, the defensive end will have to sit out the 2014 season.

He will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.

“We are pleased to welcome Joshua to the football program and the University community,” Pete Lembo said in a statement. “We have known him since his high school days at Warren Central and have built a strong relationship with the coaching staff there. Joshua is an outgoing guy and a strong student. … We hope he transitions well to a new environment this fall and is ready to compete for playing time once spring practice arrives.”

A pair of high school teammates, Darnell Smith and Anthony Winbush, are already with the Cardinals, which likely played some role in the transfer decision.

Posley, an Indianapolis native, played in four games during his two years with the Bearcats.

(Photo credit: Cincinnati athletics)

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Miami QB Ryan Williams becomes a first-time father

Wake Forest v Miami

As he continues rehabbing a serious knee injury, Ryan Williams will have a much, much, much more important job to perform in the coming months.  And years.

The Miami quarterback announced via Twitter that he and his wife, Deanna, are now the proud parents of a bouncing — and rather large — baby boy.  Roman Louis Williams, the first child for both mom and dad, was born July 29 and weighed in at a healthy nine pounds even.

The couple had announced back in March that Deanna was expecting.

Here’s a picture of the newest member of the Williams clan, courtesy of the newly-minted father’s Instagram account:

Ryan Williams' Son

Sincere congratulations to the new parents from all of us.

Williams suffered a torn ACL in early April and underwent surgery shortly thereafter, meaning the prohibitive favorite to replace Stephen Morris as the starter entering spring practice won’t hit the practice field through at least September.  The earliest Williams is expected to begin participating in practice is at some point in October, if then.

With Williams sidelined for the foreseeable future, Jake Heaps, the Kansas transfer, and Kevin Olsen are expected to be the two main combatants for the starting job, at least early on.  For his part, Heaps has been quoted as saying he didn’t come to The U “to be the backup.”

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