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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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Clemson loses OT Shaq Anthony to transfer

Shaq Anthony

In early March it was announced that Shaq Anthony was one of four Clemson players suspended for the opener against Georgia.  Five months later, it’s now known that offensive tackle won’t be available for the game after that, or the game after that, or, well, any other game for that matter.

In a press release, Clemson announced that Anthony has decided to transfer out of the football program.  The decision comes just nine days before the opener.

“I appreciate the hard work Shaq has put into this program,” said head coach Dabo Swinney in a statement. “Sometimes a player needs a change. I support his decision and will help him any way I can. I wish him nothing but the best.”

The moves comes as a surprise as the redshirt junior had long projected to be the starting right tackle, although his suspension had, at least temporarily, handed that job to Joe Gore.

Anthony started five of the 17 games in which he played the past two seasons. He was a three-star member of the Tigers’ 2011 recruiting class.

“I have enjoyed my time at Clemson and appreciate the opportunity I’ve had,” said Anthony. “This is an outstanding program, but I wish to make a clean start at a program where I can hopefully be a starter. I want to thank all the Clemson coaches, my teammates and the Clemson family for their support. I will always be a Tiger.”

If Anthony transfers to an FBS program, he’d more than likely be forced to sit out the 2014 season. He would then have one season of eligibility remaining.

This is the second significant loss for the Tigers the past two days. Wednesday, Clemson announced that Zac Brooks, the Tigers’ leading returning rusher, would miss the entire 2014 season with a foot injury.

(Photo credit: Clemson athletics)

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UTSA regents approve Larry Coker’s extension

Larry Coker

In late November it was reported that Larry Coker and UT-San Antonio were closing in on an approval for a contract extension for the head coach.

Nearly nine months later that “closing in on” has morphed into “finalized.”

According to the San Antonio Express-News, a contract extension for Coker has been signed off on by the University of Texas Systems’ Board of Regents. The regents gave their official approval during a meeting Thursday morning.

The contract extension, which would extend Coker through the 2018 season, had already been recommended to the regents and approved by the UT System’s vice chancellor for academic affairs. Coker would be 70 years old if he’s still the Roadrunners’ head coach at the end of the extension.

The fact that UTSA would extend Coker is far from surprising as he’s taken a fledgling football program and, in short order, turned it into one of the “mid-majors” on the rise.

UTSA’s first season was in 2011 as a member of the FCS; the Roadrunners have spent the past two seasons as provisional FBS members.

The fact that UTSA is now a full-fledged FBS member, officially confirmed earlier this month, means that the Roadrunners will be bowl-eligible in 2014. In 2012 and 2013, during UTSA’s FBS transition phase, the Roadrunners went 8-4 and 7-5, respectively, which would’ve made the school eligible for the postseason.

The Roadrunners will compete in Conference USA — they were in that conference last year, in the now-defunct WAC the year before — and will be eligible for that league’s championship game as well.

As we wrote before and for the record, UTSA opens 2014 with games against Houston, Arizona and Oklahoma State. Nothing says “cannonballing into full FBS membership” more than that schedule.

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Want to throw a pie in Harvey Updyke’s face? Here’s your chance

Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr.

I don’t know who this’ll be more popular amongst, Alabama fans or Auburn fans. Or who’d more want to take a shot at him.

Regardless, Harvey Updyke, the Alabama fan who poisoned the famed oak trees at Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner a couple of years ago, has agreed to appear at a charity function in Mobile, Ala., next month, ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach reported. At this charity event, which is being held to raise funds for a family whose young son died of cancer last month, “fans will be allowed to either dunk [Updyke] in a dunking booth or throw pies at his face,” Schlabach wrote.

Former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and his mother are helping raise awareness to the event, but it’s Updyke’s (potential) presence that’ll trigger the most attention nationally. The event’s organizer, Alabama fan T.J. Hodges, stated the “Updyke idea came from me thinking outside the box to raise money for the family” and that “I thought I’d take a chance and see if Harvey was interested in helping, and he said he’d do whatever we wanted.”

It did, though, take Updyke a while to get to that point.

“He thought about it and thought about it,” Updyke’s wife, Elva, told Schlabach. “His daughter said he needed to do it because it will show that he’s not as big of a nut as some people believe. He told them they can do whatever they want to him if it will raise money for kids.”

Updyke, as “Al from Dadeville,” infamously called into the Paul Finebaum radio show in February of 2011 and claimed to have poisoned the Toomer’s oaks after Auburn beat Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl. He was subsequently arrested, charged and ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage of an agricultural facility, a Class-C felony. He was sentenced to three years in jailhe served 180 days of the sentence — and was placed on supervised probation for a period of five years. During that probationary period, he has a 7 p.m. curfew.

Additionally, Updyke, who now lives in Louisiana less than an hour from the LSU campus, was ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution and has been barred from the following: any Auburn University property, any collegiate sporting event and speaking to the media.

While there was initial hope that the oaks could be saved, they were ultimately taken down after one final roll. New trees are expected to be planted next year.

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Gamecocks RB Mike Davis’ status for A&M game up in the air

Florida v South Carolina Getty Images

This is certainly, at bare minimum, an interesting development that bears monitoring.

South Carolina’s Mike Davis has been unable to practice the past two days because of a rib injury. Both the running back and his position coach have told the media that, essentially, there’s nothing to worry about.

That’s not the tone his head coach took as Steve Spurrier, already dealing with the loss of a starting offensive lineman, intimated Wednesday that the star back could miss the opener against Texas A&M because of the injury.

“Mike Davis has been hurt, he hasn’t practiced all week,” Spurrier told the Sportstalk radio network by way of The State. “I don’t know if he’d even be able to start or not. But we got Brandon Wilds, he’s ready to go. Shon Carson, Dave Williams, so we’re in good shape there. …

“He hasn’t practiced much, so we’ll see how much he’s ready to play for the game.”

It could just be a case of the OBC playing mind games with his opponents a week ahead of their season-opening date with the Aggies that also doubles as the conference opener for both. Or, it could be very real concern.

Whatever the case, a healthy Davis is an all-important key for whatever success the Gamecocks have this season.

One of the more underrated players in not only the SEC but in college football as a whole, Davis led USC with 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s also a weapon out of the backfield as his 34 receptions for 352 yards were good for fourth on the team.

Carson’s 256 yards and Wilds’ 221 yards last season made them the second- and third-leading rushers among running backs.

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CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 8 Auburn

2013 record: 12-2 overall, 7-1 in SEC (1st in West division)
2013 postseason: BCS title game vs. Florida State (34-31 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 2/No. 2
Head coach: Gus Malzahn (21-5 overall; 12-2 in one year at Auburn)
Offensive coordinator: Rhett Lashlee (second season); Dameyune Craig (second season as co-coordinator)
2013 offensive rankings: 1st rushing offense (328.3 ypg); 106th passing offense (173 ypg); 11th total offense (501.3 ypg); 12th scoring offense (39.5 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 7
Defensive coordinator: Ellis Johnson (second season); Charlie Harbison (second season as co-coordinator)
2013 defensive rankings: 62nd rushing defense (162.1 ypg); 100th passing defense (258.6 ypg); 86th total defense (420.7 ypg); 48th scoring defense (24.7 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 6
Location: Auburn, Ala.
Stadium: Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451; grass)
Last conference title: 2013

THE GOOD
No one was able to control the Tigers’ powerful rushing attack and, even with the departure of its leading rusher, that’s expected to continue on into 2014 and the second season in Gus Malzahn‘s fast-paced, relentless offense.  Having Nick Marshall, expected to be much improved in the passing-game aspect, in his second season as a starter should help soften the blow that was running back Tre Mason‘s departure for the NFL.  As AU goes from the hunter to the hunted, it’ll be incumbent on Marshall to take that next step, one his head coach feels he’s ready to do.

THE BAD
When you have as magical ride as AU did last season there’s not a whole heck of a lot of bad going on, but the defense was, at the very least, suspect during that run to Pasadena.  They were in the bottom half of the country in yards allowed per game, although they were in the top half in the most important stat: points allowed.  That, though, was only good for eighth in the SEC.  In fairness, it was the Tigers’ first season under coordinator Ellis Johnson, so the expectation is that just based on familiarity with the scheme the defense will improve.  The good news is that there’s really nowhere for that group to go but up, especially as it relates to the rest of the SEC.  There’s also the little matter of the schedule as AU has conference road games scheduled for Mississippi State (Oct. 11), Ole Miss (Nov. 1), Georgia (Nov. 15) and Alabama (Nov. 29) to go along with a non-conference tilt at underrated Kansas State.  AU won’t sneak up on anyone this season, so they will get every team’s best, most concentrated shot, especially on the road.

THE UNKNOWN
(Writer’s note: pardon me while I repeat myself)
There’s no way around it, no way to tap-dance whilst whistling past the biggest question when it comes to AU football in 2014 — did the Tigers use a couple of years (decades?) worth of luck in their magical, unexpected, inexplicable ride to the BCS title game?  Even the biggest homer out on The Plains would have to admit that the Tigers were “fortunate” to end the season where they did.  Of their 12 wins, six were decided by eight points or less.  In four games — Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama — they were trailing with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.  The Georgia (“Prayer at Jordan-Hare“) and Alabama (“Kick-Six“) wins immediately earned nicknames for the sheer improbability of the endings.  There’s little doubt that Malzahn has, very quickly, turned AU around from the three-win embarrassment that was the final season of Gene Chizik in 2012.  How much was sheer luck, the kind of once-a-decade (or two) happenstance that simply can’t repeat itself?  Regardless of the answer — I’m guessing the talent is sufficient so as to make the question mostly moot — Malzahn’s Tigers will be one of the more fascinating squads to watch throughout the 2014 season.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Alabama Nov. 29
As Auburn and Alabama are expected to be the class of the SEC West, it only makes sense to put the season-ending Iron Bowl in this slot.  Last year’s dramatic, last-second win over the Tide that propelled the Tigers into the SEC championship game and, ultimately, the BCS title game was one of the most exhilarating and improbable in the storied history of the rivalry.  UA will have revenge on its mind as the Tide looks to get back on the national championship stage after its one-year sabbatical in 2013.  More than likely, the winner of this game will claim the West’s spot in the SEC championship game and, perhaps, a spot in the four-team playoff.  So, yes, this will be one of the more anticipated games of the year — provided both teams can make it to the game unscathed, of course.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: Quarterback Nick Marshall
Marshall’s first season as a starter wasn’t statistically overwhelming — less than 2,000 yards passing, just 14 touchdown passes — but it was deadly in its efficiency. Marijuana citation aside, Marshall is said to have had a very good offseason, improving his throwing mechanics and becoming more and more comfortable in Gus Malzahn‘s offense. If true, and if the passing aspect of his game improves — as evidenced by his 1,068 yards rushing and 12 rushing touchdowns, he’ll continue to get his on the ground — that could prove to be bad news for the SEC in general and the West specifically. Thanks to the departure of their leading rusher, the Tigers will likely lean even more heavily on both Marshall’s arm and legs; as far as his Heisman chances go, that’s certainly good news.  Hell, one teammate has even already called his stiff-armed shot for Marshall, so he’s got that going for him.  Which is nice.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Must-read story: The ‘blueprint for a rebuild’

Bob Diaco AP

Over at SB Nation, Bill Connelly has a magnificent longform on the “blueprint for a rebuild,” which dives into how six coaches have built or plan to build their respective programs.

It’s well worth your time. Connelly talked in-depth to Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, UConn’s Bob Diaco, Memphis’ Justin Fuente, Indiana’s Kevin Wilson, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops. An excerpt from his conversation with Diaco, who left a gig as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator to take over a lagging program in Storrs:

“I think that the brand is strong, in part, based on those championships. Those are worldwide news events, and we’ve had unprecedented-in-sport type of success there. So the brand is strong. And then you just take a peek, just a quick Google search. You’ll see this is one of the top public universities in the country, one of the top research universities in terms of science and mathematics. It’s in an area that’s very close to a bunch of Fortune 500 companies. We’re pretty rich in resources. And it’s a resident life campus, not a commuter campus. This is a good place for the quintessential college experience.”

He’s selling me on the school, and he might not even realize he’s doing it. You can’t stop the salesman mid-pitch.

“Hopefully prospective student-athletes don’t make the decision based on football alone. You can’t hide behind [the information you mail a recruit]; there’s too much info at a finger’s touch. If your graduation rate is at 43 percent, you can’t hide from that. A lot of players want to go to institutions that they are going to graduate from, next to their teammates and classmates. If you’re in a metroplex, and you’re recruiting against other AAC teams, and if there’s a prospect that’s interested in you and another school, and he also wants to be an engineer, and your engineering department is strong, you’ve got more opportunity there.”

It’s a fascinating look at how these coaches have gone about building their programs — the K-State/Snyder stuff is certainly interesting — and is definitely worth your time with one week until kickoff.

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Pitt secondary takes another hit with transfer of Coles

Pitt Logo

Pittsburgh ranked fourth in the ACC in passing defense in 2013, but maintaining that level of play could be pretty difficult this season. The Panthers are starting to run dry on experience in the secondary as Trenton Coles has decided to leave the program. Head coach Paul Chryst announced the roster update on Wednesday, according to ESPN.com.

Coles was expected to be a starter for the Panthers this fall, so his late departure from the program comes at a complicated time. If he transfers to another FBS program, he will have to sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules. He would, however, be eligible to play right away this season if he transferred to a school at the FCS level or below.

The transfer of Coles comes in the same month Pittsburgh suspended another member of the secondary, Titus Howard. Howard was suspended for the entire season due to a violation of team rules. For now, Pittsburgh has just one cornerback with any playing experience heading into the 2014 season. Lafayette Pitts has started 25 games for the Panthers and will now be relied on for leadership even more on the field this fall. Wisconsin transfer Reggie Mitchell could be looking to slide into a bigger role now, and freshmen Avonte Maddox and Phillipie Motley could compete for playing time as well.

Pittsburgh opens the 2014 season at home on August 30 against Delaware.

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DUI was cause for Michigan State receiver’s spring suspension

Macgarrett Kings Jr.

Michigan State wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. was suspended from team activities in the spring for a violation of teams rules. Now, according to court documents obtained by MLive.com, the cause for the suspension is known; DUI.

According to the information obtained in the court records, Kings Jr. was arrested and charged for driving under the influence on April 6 with a blood alcohol content above .17. A sentencing was later given in July with 13 months probation and a $750 fine for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. A little more than a week after the arrest, Michigan State suspended Kings Jr..

Kings did not practice during the spring due to the suspension from the team. That allowed head coach Mark Dantonio to give other players some more reps, including DeAnthony Arnett and R.J. Shelton. The two players needed the extra snaps after combining for just four receptions in 2013 between them. Kings was Michigan State’s second leading receiver in 2013. He was reinstated prior to the opening of fall camp.

There is no word on whether or not he will miss any playing time during the season.

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350 players named to Senior Bowl watch list

Senior Bowl

If you thought watch list season was over, think again. The Senior Bowl, the nation’s premiere college football all-star game, released a watch list with a massive list of players that will be eligible and scouted for the 2015 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. In all, 350 of the nation’s top seniors are named on the watch list, although other players may be added at any time just in case the folks at the senior Bowl happened to miss one of the seniors from around the country. Players from all levels of college football are considered for an invitation to the Senior Bowl, so the possibility exists for a Division 2 or Division 3 players to make a push out of nowhere for consideration.

The SEC has 75 players on the watch list, more than any other conference. The ACC (56), Pac-12 (40), Big 12 (36) and Big Ten (35) are all well-represented on the list. Clemson has the most players from one school on the list with 12 players named to the watch list, followed by Auburn (11), Alabama (10), Mississippi State (9), Georgia (8) and Louisville (8).

Many of the top names from around college football are included in the list, including Texas A&M left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, Florida State offensive tackle Cameron Erving, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Clemson outside linebacker Vic Beasley, Iowa left tackle Brandon Scherff, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker. Five Pac-12 quarterbacks are also on the list including Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley.

“With both of these players already graduated from college, we hope the opportunity to invite this duo will present itself through their play on the field in the Pac-12,” said Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage, speaking of Mariota and Hundley.

A total of 110 players will initially receive invites to the 2015 Senior Bowl. The game is generally attended very well by top players invited as it serves as the last major showcase for rookie NFL talent before the NFL Scouting Combine. The game is a big draw for NFL coaches and scouts and is the last chance to see players in pads and gear before the combine in Indianapolis.

You can check out the full watch list, and you can even break it down by position, conference or school for making browsing the list a bit easier.

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Volcano could disrupt Penn State-UCF in Ireland

Volcano herdubreid in Iceland

Although it could be taking place about 900 miles away, a possible volcanic eruption in Iceland could put the season opener between Penn State and UCF in Ireland at risk.

Penn State and UCF, the defending AAC champions from 2013, are scheduled to play the Croke Park Classic on Saturday, August 30, but getting there could prove to be difficult. Officials in Iceland are monitoring the developments and stability of a sub-glacial volcano following a series of small earthquakes that caused the evacuation of 500 people. If the volcano does erupt, it could fill the sky with volcanic ash that would interfere with air travel to Ireland.

According to the Associated Press, more than 100,000 flights have to be cancelled following a 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokul volcano in Iceland. Both Penn State and UCF are scheduled to leave for Ireland next week, days before the game, so both schools are paying close attention to the developments. For now, the game is still on, and odds are the schools will find a way to get there. Fans looking to make the trip, on the other hand, could run into more troubles.

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Following injury, Air Force RB must earn his jersey back

One of the basic principles most coaches will abide by in sports is a player will never lose a job due to injury. There are exceptions to that mantra, of course, but one has to wonder to what degree Air Force is taking it. Running back Devin Rushing, who missed the last 10 days of practice due to an ankle sprain suffered in a drill, says not only must he earn his starting job back, but also his jersey. His actual jersey.

“They took my jersey,” Rushing told The Gazette. “I talked to the equipment manager and he said my jersey is still in there with Rushing written on the back, but I’ve got to earn it back.”

That’s right. He must earn his actual jersey back. If you have a problem with that, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun seems to think players who have a history of getting hurt may be better off finding some other activity to participate in.

“I think at every position we’re going to have tough, durable guys,” Calhoun said. “If you aren’t, you’re going to get us beat. I think the other thing is you have a built-in alibi if you’re a guy who gets hurt easily. If you’re a guy who gets hurt easily, you need to find another activity where there’s not contact involved.”

Injured players at Air Force reportedly wear red jerseys in practice and are isolated to watch the practice rather than kept close to the action, where they can hear what coaches are saying and see up close what is happening on the field. Calhoun says this is used to enhance the chemistry on the field more than anything else.

“They go to meetings,” Calhoun said. “I just think you either add to the chemistry or take from the chemistry. There’s no in between. If you’re a red jersey, I just don’t want anybody sucking the life out of everybody else who is working. Who is able to go out there even if they have an itch somewhere?”

“I think a warrior wants to be in battle, and we want warriors,” Calhoun explained.

This might not be the best way to change a potential image issue for Air Force’s football program.

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Aggies won’t have starting corner for opener vs. Gamecocks

Missouri v Texas A&M Getty Images

One of the biggest question marks for Texas A&M entering the 2014 season is its defense.  Unfortunately for the Aggies, one of the positive certainties on that side of the ball will be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

In discussing the release of the latest two-deep depth chart Wednesday, head coach Kevin Sumlin confirmed that De’Vante Harris will be sidelined for at least another month due to what’s being described as a urinary tract injury (not infection). The odd injury* means the starting cornerback will definitely miss the opener against South Carolina (Aug. 28) as well as games against Lamar (Sept. 6) and Rice (Sept. 13). Going by the strictest sense of the timeline presented by Sumlin, the Sept. 20 SMU game is out as well.

A&M resumes SEC play the following week against Arkansas.

Harris has started 18 games the past two seasons for the Aggies. That total would’ve been higher but he was one of three TAMU defensive starters suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season.

On the plus side, Sumlin confirmed that redshirt freshman Victor Davis is out of the doghouse and no longer under suspension. The defensive back was arrested last month on a charge of shoplifting and then indefinitely suspended.

Davis, a three-star 2013 recruit who redshirted as a true freshman, is expected to take over as the starter for Harris, or at least get the initial crack at it.

(*for those who are curious, the National Institutes of Health describes a urinary tract injury as a “[t]raumatic injury of the bladder and urethra [involving] damage caused by an outside force.)

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Fresno St. working on waiver appeal for Duck transfer

Oregon State v Oregon Getty Images

Even as a new season is nigh, Fresno State is hoping one more move will be made that would allow a potential impact player to see the field immediately.

Tyrell Robinson transferred from Oregon in June and landed in Fresno late last month. While it was initially thought he would be forced to sit out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, that may not end up being the case.

The Bulldogs are in the process of filing an appeal with the NCAA that, if successful, would give him immediate eligibility.

“We are in the process now of putting all of the information together,” interim co-athletic director Steve Robertello said according to the Fresno Bee.

We’re hoping to have a decision before the USC game, but in terms of a timetable we don’t have one yet because we don’t have all the pieces put together.”

Robinson, a linebacker, has been working with the No. 3 defense, although that’s a byproduct of the uncertainty over his availability for the upcoming season.

A four-star member of the Ducks’ 2013 recruiting class, Robinson was rated as the No. 5 athlete in the country. He played in nine games as a true freshman.

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Clemson’s leading returning rusher, Zac Brooks, lost for season

Zac Brooks, A.J. Marshall AP

This one will leave a mark.

Already charged with the task of replacing its five most potent offensive weapons from a year ago, Clemson will now have to replace an expected replacement for the lost production as Zac Brooks has been ruled out for the entire 2014 season due to injury.  Specifically, the running back suffered an unspecified foot injury during practice Monday night.

The head coach acknowledged the loss of Brooks is a big one.

“Zac was having an outstanding camp and was ready for a terrific year,” said Dabo Swinney in a statement. “The plan is for Zac to sit out this year due to the injury and come back next year as a red-shirt junior. This is a big loss because he is such a reliable player in all phases of the game. He knows the offense inside and out.”

In 2013, Brooks had 48 carries for 246 yards, a total that was third on the team. The good news for the Tigers is that there’s still talent in the backfield in the form of true freshman Adam Choice, junior C.J. Davidson, redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman and senior D.J. Howard.

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Two arrested Zips stripped of scholarships, still on team

Johnny Robinson, Jeremy Gallon

An off-field incident earlier this offseason will prove costly for a pair of Akron football players. Literally.

In a brief statement Tuesday, head coach Terry Bowden announced that safety Johnny Robinson (pictured) and cornerback Donte Williams have had their scholarships stripped from them and will be forced to pay their own way through school. However, the players are still a part of the team and returned to practice this week.

Robinson will not start the opener against Howard, Bowden added.

A third player involved in the incident, running back Bryan Green, remains on scholarship and is listed on the team’s official roster.

In early June, all three were arrested by Summit County (Oh.) sheriff’s deputies and charged with aggravated rioting, which is a felony. Additionally, Robinson was charged with aggravated menacing while Williams was charged with obstructing and resisting arrest as well as being accused of fleeing the scene.

The felonies were ultimately reduced.

The incident occurred outside of an Akron McDonald’s two months prior to the arrests. The three players were part of a group of a dozen individuals arrested and charged in connection to the McBrouhaha.

The players had been suspended indefinitely by Bowden.

Over the past three seasons, Robinson has started 25 of the 34 games in which he’s played; 19 of those starts came the past two seasons. His two interceptions were tied for third on the team in 2013, and his 61 tackles were fourth on the team the year before.

Williams started three of the six games in which he played in 2013 as a junior.

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