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Party foul: UGA upset wrests control of SEC East from No. 3 Gators

Florida quarterback Driskel passes under pressure from Georgia's Jones during the second quarter of their NCAA college football game in Jacksonville AP

Yes, it was kind of game that only the mother of a rivalry could love.  Yes, it was a stunning display of football inefficiency.

No, Georgia could care less how it looked, thank you very much.

In a game marred by penalties, turnovers and across-the-board ineptitude, and in which No. 3 Florida could’ve clinched a spot in the SEC championship game, No. 12 Georgia stunned the unbeaten Gators 17-9 in the 90th/91st edition of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville.

While some would call the game a gritty defensive slobberknocker that harkened back to the black-and-white glory days of the sport, there’s only one way to describe what was wrought on the college football world: two-bag ugly.

The two teams combined for 24 penalties for 237 yards; 8-for-27 on third down conversions; just 2.6 yards per rush attempt; and nine turnovers — five interceptions and four fumbles.  Six of the turnovers were by Florida, with the last one proving to be a potentially fatal blow for both UF’s SEC and BcS aspirations.

With 2:05 left and trailing by eight, Gator tight end Jordan Reed was on the receiving end of a 13-yard Jeff Driskel pass and, just as he was about to cross the goal line for a touchdown, he was stripped of the football by UGA standout Jarvis Jones.  The ball tumbled into the end zone for a touchback, with the Bulldogs regaining possession and the Gators literally fumbling the game away.

With the win, UGA sits in the SEC East driver’s seat.  All that now stands between the Bulldogs and a second consecutive early-December trip to Atlanta are wins over Ole Miss and Auburn the next two weeks.

Should Georgia stumble against either of those two teams, however, Florida could still claim the East crown with a win over Missouri next weekend.

The Gators’ best chance for a division title and a shot at a spot in the BcS title game, though, was with a win.  Just like the ball for 60 minutes, however, it slipped right out of their hands.

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Penn State may have a new AD ready to introduce

Nebraska v Penn State

Now that we have reached into Friday afternoon, it seems as though news is starting to slow down. That is not quite the case in State College, Pennsylvania, where it appears Penn State is ready to introduce to the world its new athletics director. A media memo sent out Friday afternoon confirmed there will be a press conference scheduled for Saturday afternoon in the media room at Beaver Stadium. The memo says the purpose is to “make an announcement on a personnel decision within Intercollegiate Athletics.”

Penn State president Eric Barron will open the press conference, but given the timing of the press conference just days before Big Ten media days in Chicago and Penn State’s current athletics director set to step down next week, it just makes too much sense.

It was just over a month ago when it was announced Penn State athletics director David Joyner would be stepping down from his position. Joyner will be resigning from the position effective August 1. The next AD will be taking over a program that sees two more years remaining on a football postseason ban, unless the NCAA amends the sanction terms. As far as football is concerned, the worst may be behind Penn State at this point. The NCAA has already turned over some lost scholarships and a new head coach, James Franklin, is in place and doing terrific work in recruiting.

The Big Ten football media day will get underway on Monday in Chicago.

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Strong message at Texas; RB Bergeron is gone

Marqueston Huff, Joe Bergeron

If there was one thing the Texas football program needed, it was a focus on discipline and getting a toughness back. That is what makes head coach Charlie Strong a terrific hire for the program after cutting ties with Mack Brown. Strong’s message to the team was put on display once more Friday morning with news of senior running back Joe Bergeron being dismissed from the roster.

Bergeron is the seventh player to be booted from the Texas football program since Strong arrived on his saddle in Austin. That number has skyrocketed in the past week with four others being dismissed this week. Running back Jalen Overstreet and defensive end Chevoski Collins were also dismissed by the program on Thursday for various violations, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrell Meander were also suspended by Strong on Thursday as a legal situation stemming from an alleged sexual assault.

Bergeron had been sent home from spring practice earlier this year, so seeing Strong come to this decision may not be quite a shock, although the head coach did sing the praises of the running back during a spring tour. Strong has said from day one as the Texas head coach he needed to make some changes to overhaul what could be a sleeping giant of a program at this point. Strong has always been focused on discipline and he does not waste time coddling players, which is a little bit of the dose of reality seemingly needed in Austin.

Bergeron was third on the team in rushing in 2013, accumulating 362 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 13 games.

Don’t mess with Texas? Don’t mess with Strong, that much is for sure.

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Media covering Big Ten picks Ohio State as the favorite, Wisconsin in west

Urban Meyer

The Big Ten is late in the media day circuit, getting started on Monday in Chicago, but we already have a favorite from the media; Ohio State.

The Buckeyes were named the media favorite in a media poll organized by The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, with members of various organizations spread across the Big Ten’s footprint casting their votes and predictions for each Big Ten division and conference champion. There is no formal media poll organized by the Big Ten, so the Cleveland-based newspaper has taken on the responsibility of giving Big Ten fans a preseason poll that swung and missed on the outcome a year ago (nobody picked Michigan State, but that happens). Ohio State received 23 first-place votes to win the Big Ten’s new east division. Defending Big Ten champion Michigan State received the other 10 first-place votes in the east and finished second in the preseason poll. Michigan and Penn State followed, respectively. Big Ten newcomer Maryland was picked to finish fifth in the east, followed by Indiana and the other Big Ten rookie, Rutgers.

The Big Ten’s west division was a bit more open according to the poll voters. Wisconsin came out on top with 15 first-place votes, but Iowa comes in a somewhat surprising second place with 11 first-place votes. Nebraska finished third with five first-place votes and one voter gave Northwestern (fourth in the preseason poll) a first-place vote. Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue round out the west division.

Ohio State received 19 out of 29 votes to win the Big Ten. Michigan State received nine votes and Nebraska received one vote. Wisconsin received no votes to win the Big Ten despite being picked to win the west division.

You can see the full unofficial preseason media poll for more voting results.

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Baylor’s Art Briles admits to interest in Texas vacancy

Art Briles

When a dream job comes along, few reasonable people would likely fault anyone for exploring the possibility of leaving all that you have built behind to take the new opportunity. Fortunately for Baylor, their head coach shrugged aside the idea of coaching at Texas this past offseason.

Baylor head coach Art Briles took over the desolate and often hopeless program prior to the 2008 season after a successful stint as a head coach at Houston. Briles was asked to do what seemed to be impossible; turn Baylor football into something worth respecting in the Big 12. After starting out his career in Waco with identical 4-8 seasons, the building blocks were starting to form a foundation and Baylor broke through with a 7-6 record in 2010, the first winning season for the Bears since 1995 in the old Southwest Conference. The next season Robert Griffin III exploded on the scene to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Baylor to a 10-win season, a top 25 finish and the first bowl win for the school since the 1992 season. Last year Baylor won the Big 12 championship and played in the Fiesta Bowl. As far as stock is concerned, Briles may have peaked and could have cashed in.

This is why it only makes sense that Briles would not only be one of the top candidates for the vacancy in Austin, once Texas found a way to move on from Mack Brown, but Briles also had an interest in the job. Was Briles interested? You bet. Yesterday while moving through the ESPN car wash with a stop on the Paul Finebaum radio show, Briles admitted as much.

Briles, of course, chose to stay where he is at Baylor at a big time for the program. The Bears are coming off the first Big 12 championship in school history, appear to be a threat once again in the conference and move into a brand new football stadium this season. Times are good for Baylor. Briles is a big reason why, and it is nice to see someone choose to stay put to see through it all, especially when it is very likely Texas could have made Briles a wealthier man for years to come.

Texas may not have nabbed Nick Saban from Alabama, but the Longhorns ended up with a pretty good coach anyway by hiring Charlie Strong away from Louisville.

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SEC Network’s Time Warner deal increases launch viewership to 60 million

A cable truck returns to a Time Warner Cable office in San Diego, California

Things continue to be developing smoothly for the SEC Network, just weeks away from going live on the air. After successfully putting together deals with Comcast and COX Networks, the new network has added another big name to the cable distribution line-up; Time Warner. Just for good measure, the SEC Network has added Bright House Networks to the mix as well. The total potential reach for the launch of the SEC Network is now expected to total an estimated 60 million homes.

John Ourand of Sports Business Daily broke the news about the agreement, which was later confirmed by a release from the SEC Network on Thursday.

“We know we have customers who want the SEC-ESPN Network, and are pleased to bring it to them,” said Andrew Rosenberg, Senior Vice President of Content Acquisition for Time Warner Cable. “This deal will help ensure that fans and alumni of SEC universities won’t miss any important games.”

“By delivering the SEC Network across Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks’ nationwide footprint, including key markets within SEC territory, we are meeting the demands of fans while also adding value to customers’ video subscriptions in advance of the network’s launch next month,” said Sean Breen, Disney and ESPN Media Networks senior vice president of affiliate sales.

There is still one giant hurdle remaining for what is already being praised as a masterful launch for the network; DirecTV. There is also some growing concern about ESPN’s involvement with the SEC Network and the College Football Playoff, as expressed by Bart Doan on The Student Section, but as far as preparing for a grand debut, ESPN has been hard at work at the negotiating table to make sure everything is lined up for the launch of the new network. It may just be a matter of time before there is a deal with DirecTV signed by all parties. At this point, DirecTV would be wise to not be labeled as the one provider without the network.

The SEC Network will launch on August 14.

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Four Cincy players forced to retire, QB Legaux working his way back

Cincinnati v Louisville

The playing careers for a pair of Cincinnati players have come to an end as a result of a car crash last September. Wide receivers Mark Barr and Javon Harrison will no longer play football due to injuries suffered in a tragic auto accident that claimed the life of offensive lineman Ben Flick.

In addition to Barr and Harrison, Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville confirmed to Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer that safety Marcus Foster and defensive back Drake Burns will also no longer be able to play football. All four players will remain on scholarship.

Harrison was listed in stable condition once taken to a hospital following the accident, but Barr was placed in critical condition. Barr was released from a hospital nearly a month later.

In more positive injury news out of Cincinnati, quarterback Munchie Legaux is making some good progress on his return to football. After suffering a devastating knee injury early last season, Legaux was granted an extra year of eligibility and he is looking to make it count. Tuberville expects Legaux to be in uniform and available to practice once the Bearcats open training camp. With Gunner Kiel stating his case for the starting job in the spring, Legaux may have to be at 100 percent and work to win the job back once he is.

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Larry Scott already stumping for Pac-12 champ in playoff

Larry Scott

As to be expected, the past couple weeks of conference media days has brought a number of tired debates back to the surface. Among them has been the debate over eight-game conference schedules or nine-game schedules. For the Pac-12, the answer is simple. Commissioner Larry Scott addressed the benefits of having a nine-game conference schedule as college football moves into the College Football Playoff era this fall.

“We know that there will be continued controversy and debate, but the clear statement has been made that strength of schedule is going to be a determining factor in figuring out which of the four teams ought to be competing in that playoff,” Scott said during his state of the Pac-12 press conference this week at the Pac-12 media day event in California. The College Football Playoff selection committee will be placing an emphasis on strength of schedule when determining its rankings and choosing which four teams will be selected to participate in the College Football Playoff. the Pac-12 has opted to go with a nine-game conference schedule in part to raise the overall strength of schedule for the conference. Of course, it also makes it easier to schedule for all Pac-12 schools when they only have to fill three non-conference spots as opposed to four. The Pac-12 also backed out of a conference-wide scheduling agreement with the Big Ten that would have raised the strength of schedule for both conferences.

Scott chose to focus on the depth of the Pac-12 in 2014, a wise strategy considering the national respect for Oregon, Stanford and UCLA along with the rising expectations for programs like USC, Washington and Washington State. With some quality depth, the Pac-12 could be the most entertaining conference to watch this fall, so folks on the east coast may have to prepare for some late nights. The Pac-12 also has a chance to impress on a national level with some key non-conference match-ups.

“This year the Pac‑12, again, has scheduled a very tough non‑conference slate that includes 13 games against bowl teams from a year ago,” Scott said. “Highlights of our non‑conference match‑ups this year include five games against Big Ten opponents – Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Rutgers and Illinois. We’ve got three games against Notre Dame this year – Stanford, USC, Arizona State all playing against Notre Dame, and of course UCLA’s match‑up in Dallas against Texas early in the season.”

But Scott’s final remark about the schedule was one with a slight aim at the ACC and SEC. Both the ACC and SEC will play eight-game conference schedules. Whoever comes out on top of the Pac-12 is likely to have a decent shot at playing in the College Football Playoff, which Scott is already stumping for as best he can.

“Here it is with the most competitive nine‑game conference schedule in the nation, our champion will be incredibly well‑positioned in this first-ever historic College Football Playoff.”

Some power conference is going to get left out of the four-team playoff, if not more. Scott clearly believes his conference should not be on the outside looking in.

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WR Rhodes moving from Big 12 champs to MAC champs

Dino Babers

Former Baylor wide receiver Robbie Rhodes is moving from one conference champion to another. Rhodes is transferring to Bowling Green, a report by ESPN.com has confirmed. Bowling Green won the MAC championship in 2013 and is the preseason favorite to win the conference again in 2014.

A month ago it was learned Rhodes was no longer with the Baylor Bears, 2013 Big 12 champions. Earlier in the offseason Rhodes was arrested and charged for possession of marijuana and tampering with physical evidence, but the charges were never levied against him.

Rhodes appeared in 11 games last season for Baylor, recording 10 receptions for 157 yards. Where he goes from here is unknown at this time for the true sophomore. He still has three years of eligibility remaining. At Bowling Green, Rhodes will feel comfortable being inserted into the offense once he is eligible, because there will be many similarities between what the Falcons do and what Baylor runs. Bowling green head coach Dino Babers (pictured) is a former receivers coach at Baylor.

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Rhodes will have to sit out the 2014 season but will have multiple years of eligibility once he is eligible to resume playing for Bowling Green in 2015.

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Texas media guide published with recurring typo

University of Texas Introduces Charlie Strong Getty Images

Everybody makes a typo from time to time, and I may be one of the biggest culprits. But I also do not print and release 200-page media guides for some of the largest college football programs in the country, like Texas.

The Texas Longhorns media guide was released with a typo at the bottom of each and every page of the media guide, misspelling the website address for Texas sports website (TexsaSports.com). Hey, mistakes happen but this one happened to be printed through the entire media guide.

How could something like this happen?

This is just a hunch, but it is not as though somebody manually typed the same typo for each page of the media guide. The media guide was more likely formatted so the address only needed to be typed once and it would appear on each page of the media guide. This may have also been one of the first things entered into the media guide as well, so it could have easily been forgotten.

For what it is worth, the typo has been corrected.

Helmet sticker to SB Nation.

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Notre Dame WR Mahone sentenced to 10 days in jail

Notre Dame v Michigan

Notre Dame wide receiver Will Mahone will serve 10 days in jail after pleading guilty to four misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, assault and aggravated menacing. Felony charges were wiped off his record as part of his plea.

A county judge offered Mahone some leniency in the sentencing, telling Mahone he felt a stronger sentence should be enforced. Mahone will also serve a year on probation and he received credit for two days in jail served following the initial arrest until bail was posted.

As noted by Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish, Mahone still has an uncertain future at Notre Dame. Following Mahone’s arrest, Notre Dame suspended the receiver indefinitely while the legal process played out. Mahone is not currently enrolled at Notre Dame, leaving a cloud of uncertainty surrounding his future at this point. An attorney representing Mahone has said Mahone would like to be able to return to Notre Dame when the time is appropriate, but no decision on his fate has been made just yet.

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Ohio State fires band director and will investigate sexual culture

Ohio State Marching Band

This one strays a bit away from the football side of our usual conversation, but few would argue the marching band is as much a part of the college football experience as anything else. Ohio State’s marching band is one of the best in the country, earning the nickname The Best Damn Band in the Land for a good reason, but it is currently in an unfortunate position. Ohio State has fired band director Jon Waters and continues to investigate what is being referred to as a sexualized culture within the organization.

Ohio State has been investigating the marching band for the last two months, according to The Columbus Dispatch, following a complaint registered by a parent of a member of the band. The investigation turned up evidence of students routinely harassing or hazing each other, usually new students. Further complicating things is information suggesting the director of bands was aware of such activity and did nothing to prevent it from continuing. One of the specific complaints claimed students in the band went on parade in their underwear in the middle of the night. This was allegedly done under the supervision of Waters and other staff members. This obviously goes against the university’s sexual harassment policy, which prompted the investigation, which gathered testimony from nine witnesses as well as Waters, other staff members and the concerned parent and child.

You can read the full 23-page report, which includes some vulgar and not-safe-for-work descriptions.

Some may to write off some of the information in the report as “college kids doing college things,” but even if that is the case there still is a line that needs to be drawn, especially from the leaders of the organization. Knowing the student policies, if Waters did indeed allow some of these thing to continue then the university was absolutely in the right to take swift action.

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Friedgen ready to open up Rutgers offense, fix Nova’s mechanics

Ralph Friedgen

This year marks the return of Ralph Friedgen to a college football sideline. The former head coach at Maryland is getting back in the swing of things as offensive coordinator at Rutgers, and it is a transition he believes has gone smoothly as well as one he seems to be embracing. No longer in charge of directing the daily operations of the football program, Friedgen can focus more on mapping out the offensive schemes the Scarlet Knights will use this fall, the first as a Big Ten member.

With Friedgen in charge of the offense, things are going to change as he tries to make use of what is available to him. Do not expect Friedgen to ask Rutgers to do anything he does not feel they are capable of doing, and perhaps that will be a good thing.

“What I think we have to be careful about – and I think it happened a little bit in the spring – is we can wear these kids out and not have anything left,” Friedgen said in a sit-down interview with veteran Rutgers scribe Tom Luicci for ScarletKnights.com. “My philosophy is to have a balance between run and pass… If you’re only one dimensional then they’re going to make you play left-handed and I don’t like to play left-handed. I like to take what the defense gives us.”

One of the biggest concerns for Rutgers may be the play of quarterback Gary Nova. Friedgen arrived hearing plenty about Nova’s ups and (mostly) downs, but he feels confident he can get the most out of his starting quarterback. Friedgen has also taken some measures to improve Nova’s mechanics.

“I’ve made one correction with his mechanics. He threw the ball on his toes, which puts a lot of pressure on your arm and can lead to arm problems. I was always taught, especially when I was in the NFL, to put your heel in the ground and push off like you’re a pitcher and then get your waist and hips right. It seems to have helped him.”

You can read the full Q&A with Friedgen on ScarletKnights.com.

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Report: Washington suspends QB Miles for season opener

Washington v Oregon State Getty Images

If you are having trouble keeping up with the status of Washington quarterback Cyler Miles, you are forgiven. It has been quite a back-and-forth situation this offseason. For those keeping score, Miles is currently suspended for the season opener at Hawaii, according to Washington beat reporter Adam Jude, of The Seattle Times.

Jude reported the news of a suspension via Twitter;

Miles and former wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow were connected to an on-campus assault incident that led to the suspensions. Miles was not charged for the incident. Stringfellow later decided to transfer to Nebraska, and then to Ole Miss. Miles was suspended by Washington on February 6 and then reinstated on May 14. After seeing Miles serve a suspension through spring practices, it comes as a small surprise to see he will now be suspended for the first game of the season, although this is also a way for new head coach Chris Petersen to lay down the (football) law and send a message to the entire team right off the bat.

Miles was expected to be the leading candidate to be Washington’s next starting quarterback after the departure of Keith Price. That may prove to be the case in the long run regardless of this news, but he will have some catching up to do while Jeff Lindquist and/or Troy Williams take care of leading the offense in the season opener.

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Updated: Texas WRs charged with felony sexual assault, suspended

Kendall Sanders

A pair of Texas wide receivers was reportedly charged for felony sexual assault Thursday. Arrests for Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander are currently pending. The two have already been suspended by Texas.

The felony sexual assault charges are considered second-degree in nature and stem from an incident that took place earlier this week, according to The Austin American-Statesman. Sanders also faces an additional charge for what is being reported as improper photography. Bail for each has been set at $75,000 for Meander and $95,000 for Sanders ($75,000 for each and an additional $20,000 for the improper photography charge to Sanders).

According to police records acquired by The Austin American-Statesman, University of Texas police found an alleged victim crying under a desk with no shoes. The victim claims to have agreed to consensual sex with Meander, but Sanders knocked on a door and was let in by Meander. At that time, the alleged victim claims, Sanders began to force himself on the alleged victim. When Meander returned to the room, the alleged victim claims both Texas receivers continued to “forcibly” penetrate the victim. After seeing what was believed to be a camera flash, the alleged victim got dressed and left. University of Texas police was notified of the incident early Monday morning and began investigating quickly.

Texas head coach Charlie Strong issued a statement regarding the suspensions.

Sanders has been in legal trouble before at Texas. He was suspended from the 2013 season opener following a DUI charge. He started seven games last season for the Longhorns, finishing the year third on the Longhorns in receiving yards with 361 yards and a touchdown. Sanders was also used on special teams, with 10 kickoff returns over 12 games. Meander is a redshirt freshman after sitting out the 2013 season.

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Auburn QB Nick Marshall’s $1,000 fine is paid

Nick Marshall

Auburn’s preseason All-SEC quarterback Nick Marshall has had his fine for possession of marijuana paid in full. As far as the police are concerned, the case is now closed.

According to a report by Al.com, Marshall was fined $1,000 for possessing a small amount of marijuana and another $100 for illegally tinted car windows. The fine was paid in full by Marshall’s mother. Because the fine was paid, Marshall will not be required to attend a court hearing, which was to be scheduled for September 10.

Marshall was originally scheduled to attend SEC Media Week last week, but in light of this infraction with the law head coach Gus Malzahn decided not to bring the quarterback to the highly covered event as a punishment. Malzahn has not announced any decision on potential lost playing time to be served by Marshall, although it appears he may not have to miss playing time based off the school’s drug policy.

Marshall was named to the preseason All-SEC First Team offense during SEC Media Week.

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