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The Fifth Quarter: Week 9 Rewind

Chaos Theory

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Chaos in the offing?
Don’t look now, but we could be in for an unprecedented controversy in the second-to-last year of existence for the BcS.  With five weeks left in the regular season, including conference championship game weekend in early December, there exists the very real possibility there could be four unbeaten teams from so-called BcS conferences left standing as No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 4 Kansas State and No. 5 Notre Dame all held serve and remained unbeaten this weekend — and, yes, I’m discounting Louisville from title talk at the moment.  While the chance for an upset is always right around the corner — hello Oklahoma State and Oregon State circa 2011 and 2012, respectively — the schedules for all four teams suggest the worst-case scenario before a four-team playoff is implemented in 2014 could very well become a reality:

Alabama: at LSU, Texas A&M, Western Carolina, Auburn
Oregon: at USC, at Cal, Stanford, Oregon State
Kansas State: Oklahoma State, at TCU, at Baylor, Texas
Notre Dame: Pittsburgh, at Boston College, Wake Forest, at USC

Again, there are plenty of late-season speed bumps for all five teams in the apocalyptic scenario for it to never fully come to fruition.  However, as an ardent anti-BcS proponent and even as I’d hate it for the teams and players involved, I would love nothing more than for that very thing to happen and further embarrass the sham that is the current system for determining a national champion, whether it’s in its last days or not.

Little Manhattan, big-time football
One of the best storylines in college football this season has been Kansas State’s ascension to the national stage, and in Week 9 K-State continued rolling right along.  Literally.  After falling behind No. 15 Texas Tech 10-3 early in the second quarter, the Wildcats scored on eight straight possessions, with the seventh of those possessions punctuated a minute later by an interception return for a touchdown.  That 52-14 run lifted K-State to its eighth consecutive win in 2012.  And further buttressed the case for Bill Snyder as it relates to national honors.  While there has been talk about the job Penn State’s Bill O’Brien has been doing in scandal-ridden Happy Valley, there’s only one logical choice for Coach of the Year honors all across the board.  What Snyder has done in Manhattan is nothing short of staggering and should be duly recognized for the masterpiece that it is.  Of course, having the presumptive Heisman front-runner — Collin Klein, two passing and two rushing touchdowns vs. Tech — doesn’t hurt, but it should take nothing away from the totality of Snyder’s 2012 work.

Can’t spell “Heisman Trophy” without “Manti Te’o”
Ben did an excellent job recapping the they’re-real-and-they’re-spectacular Notre Dame win over Oklahoma, so we’ll just touch on one angle of the fascinating 2012 story that is the Irish: linebacker Manti Te’o.  Simply put, the senior heart and soul of the Irish defense is, on a weekly basis, putting on the most dominating defensive display since Ndamukong Suh in 2009.  That year, the Nebraska defensive lineman terrorized opponents throughout the season and earned a trip to New York City as a Heisman finalist.  Based on his play thus far, Te’o deserves at least that much.  If Collin Klein, the presumptive front-runner at this point, were to stub his toe at some point, though, Te’o and the combination of his dominating play plus the poignant story attached to his 2012 season could become (gasp!) the first purely defensive player to take home the stiff-armed trophy.

Classy Vols
The heartbreaking injury suffered by Marcus Lattimore in South Carolina’s win over Tennessee did have one endearing moment, at least as much as could be had in such a devastating situation.  As Lattimore was being placed onto a cart to be taken into the locker room for further treatment, the running back was, understandably, surrounded by the entire Gamecocks squad.  In one of the classier moves you’ll ever see on a football field, though, the entire Volunteer team came across from their sidelines and did the same, with some offering personal “keep your head up” messages to the injured player.  “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything like that,” head coach Steve Spurrier said of what UT did post-injury.  Top notch, Vols.  Top notch.  And, if you ever want to know what kind of player college football may have lost for good, that gesture from the opposing sideline spoke volumes.

Huskers: They are Legends
For the moment, at least.  Thanks to Nebraska’s 23-9 win over Michigan, the Cornhuskers and Wolverines are tied for first place atop the Big Ten’s Legends division at 3-1.  As the Huskers hold the head-to-head advantage, however, they tentatively sit in the driver’s seat with four conference games remaining — at Michigan State and Iowa and home games versus Penn State and Minnesota.  On the other side of the conference, and despite their overtime loss to Michigan State, Wisconsin is firmly in control of the Leaders division at 3-2; the next-best eligible team is Indiana at 1-3 and oh my goodness is the B1G just sad this season.

Buckeyes hoist IneligiBowl trophy
Thanks to NCAA sanctions, neither Ohio State nor Penn State are eligible for the 2012 postseason, turning the Week 9 matchup of the top two teams in the Big Ten’s Leaders division into a de facto bowl game for both programs.  And, thanks to a dominating second-half performance, the Buckeyes can continue to stake its unofficial claim as the best team in the Big Ten.  With the score tied at seven coming out of halftime, OSU scored 21 third-quarter points to effectively put the game out of reach for a Nittany Lions’ offense whose NASCAR package was the equivalent of Danica Patrick on this Saturday afternoon.  The 35-23 win pushes the Buckeyes to 9-0 in the first season under Urban Meyer and keeps them on track for the only thing other than pride they still have to play for: the Leaders’ division trophy, for which they are still eligible even as they are ineligible for the Big Ten title game.

Marquise performer
Based on God-given ability, there’s likely not a better or more naturally-gifted player than Marquise Lee at the wide receiver position in all of college football.  Never was that more evident than in USC’s game against Arizona.  The true sophomore caught 12 passes for 255 yards… then decided to come out and play in the second half.  Lee finished with 16 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns, with the yardage total representing new school and conference records.  Lee actually totaled 469 yards as he returned three kicks for 123 yards and rushed once for one yard.  It was all for naught, however, the No. 10 Trojans dropped a 39-36 decision to Arizona,

Sammy no longer MIA
— In 2011, Sammy Watkins caught 12 touchdown passes and accounted for 1,219 receiving yards en route to an All-American season as a true freshman. This season? Yeah, not so much. Through Clemson’s first nine games last season, the wide receiver had hauled in 10 touchdowns; Thursday night, in the Tigers’ ninth game of the season, Watkins caught his first touchdown of the season. Entering the 42-13 dismantling of Wake Forest, Watkins had 202 yards receiving on the season; he matched his season total in the game. Yes, there was the suspension for the first two games of the season due to an offseason arrest, and yes there was the missed late-September game against Boston College due to illness, but the fact that we’re deep into October and a talent such as Watkins has crossed the goal line for the first time and matched his seasonal yardage total in a single game is one of the more under-the-radar developments of the 2012 season.

Off the SEChnide
Coming into Week 9, Missouri was one of just two teams in the country — lowly Hawaii being the other — that switched conferences for the 2012 season and had yet to win a game in league play.  Thanks to the gift that is Kentucky football, that’s no longer the case.  A 33-14 win over the hapless MWildcats gave Mizzou its first-ever win in SEC play and lifted the Tigers out of the East division cellar.  Despite the win, Mizzou showed that it still has a ways to go before it’s able to compete with the middleweights of the SEC, let alone the heavyweights like Alabama, Florida and LSU.

LOSERS

World’s Largest Penalty-Ridden Turnover Party
In the Florida-Georgia game, the two teams combined for nearly as many penalties (22) as points (26).  There were five interceptions and four fumbles lost for both teams, with the Gators committing six of those miscues — four fumbles, two interceptions.  The Bulldogs converted just one of 11 third downs in the 17-9 win, while the Gators averaged a paltry 1.7 yards on its 40 rushing attempts.  The two teams totaled 526 yards of offense, or 89 yards less than Oregon had in their win over Colorado.  Simply put, no amount of lipstick could mask this pig of a game… and as far as UGA’s concerned, it matters not a single bit.  Georgia, with wins over Ole Miss and Auburn the next two weeks, will clinch a second straight trip to the SEC championship game.  That qualifies this game as a thing of beauty to Bulldog Nation.

Beavers pelted from ranks of unbeatens
With another Upset Saturday in full effect, the final game of the night was the cherry on top of a ridiculously chaotic sundae.  Oregon State entered their game with unranked Washington as the No. 7 team in the country, the Beavers outgained the Huskies 427-293… but coughed the ball up four times in a stunning 20-17 road loss to UW.  Likely off the table?  OSU’s dreams of a spot in the Pac-12 title game and a seat at the BcS big-boy table.  A for-the-ages Civil War game against Oregon at the end of November.  While the season’s certainly not lost — a win over the Ducks could still lead to a division title — but the loss did put a significant dent in the feel-good story.  The loss is not exactly a surprise, however, as the Beavers had won their previous six games by a total of 58 points, including three by seven points or less and two by three points apiece.

Big East bushMACked again
Two weeks ago, the Little Conference That Couldn’t was one of the surprises of the 2012 season, boasting more undefeated teams — Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers — than any other conference not initialed “SEC.”  After Week 9?   Yeah, not so much.  One week after the Bearcats dropped their first game of the season to Toledo, the No. 15 Scarlet Knights served as the conference’s latest MACrificial lamb, with Kent State — they of the 7-1 Golden Flashes — traveling to Piscataway and heading back to Ohio with a 35-23 win.  Kent State forced seven turnovers in beating a ranked team for the first time in the program’s history, ending a losing streak of 22 straight games against ranked opponents.

Reverse MACtion
The Midwestern conference’s lone shot at playing BcS buster is no more.  Ohio University, which was ranked last weekend in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time since 1968, came into their game with conference rival Miami of Ohio sporting an unblemished 7-0 record and ranked as the No. 23 team in the country.  The Bobcats’ dream season came to end, however, as the RedHawks found itself on the winning end of a 23-20 score. The loss dropped the Bobcats into a third-place tie in the MAC East, behind Kent State and Bowling Green.

Wolfpack special teams not so special
It’s one thing to lose late to a bitter in-state rival.  It’s another animal entirely to do so on account of a collective special teams gaffe.  With under 30 seconds remaining and the game tied at 35 — and surely headed to overtime — the Wolfpack punted to the Tar Heels’ Giovani Bernard.  73 yards later, and with just :13 left, UNC had a 43-35 lead and the ballgame firmly stuffed into its back pocket.  The game-winning return capped a wild day for the Tar Heels as they jumped out to a 25-7 lead, then fell behind 35-25 before scoring 18 unanswered fourth-quarter points.

Southern aMiss
Last season, Southern Miss finished the year at 12-2, claiming the Conference USA championship and a bowl win.  Head coach Larry Fedora subsequently left for North Carolina… and the Golden Eagles have completely unraveled under first-year coach Ellis Johnson.  The 44-17 loss to Rice was the eighth straight to open the 2012 season, with the losses coming by an average of 20 points per game.  USM and UMass, in its first year at the FBS level, are the lone winless teams in major college football.  It’s unlikely Johnson is in any type of danger of losing his job after just one season, but, if the losing continues through the end of 2012, he’ll enter 2013 squarely on the hot seat.

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

– No. 6 Oregon State , Washington :

– No. 16 Louisville 34, Cincinnati 31: This was not your ordinary ranked-vs.-unranked matchup Friday night as the Bearcats, up until last weekend, were one of three undefeated Big East teams.  That fact showed as UC extended the Cardinals into overtime before the ‘Ville both snapped its four-game losing streak to this Big East foe and stayed unbeaten on the season.  This close shave continued a 2012 trend for the Cardinals; after winning the first two games by a combined 46 points, they’ve won the last six by a total of 31, including five by seven points or less.

– No. 17 South Carolina 38, Tennessee 35: Despite the loss of its top running back, the Gamecocks were able to hold off a game Volunteers squad and put a halt to a two-game losing streak.

– No. 19 Stanford 24, Washington State 17: Tied at the half at 10-all, the Cardinal hung on for a closer-than-expected win over the two-win Cougars.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — First real test of the 2012 season?  Passed with flying colors.  Next weekend, though, is the test for the Tide.(Last week: No. 1)
Up next: at No. 6 LSU

2. Oregon — The Ducks buffaloed (see what I did there?) their way to 56 points and 447 yards of total offense in the first half in a resounding evisceration of Colorado.  The relative cakewalk the 2012 season has been for UO comes to a halt next week as the Ducks travel to USC, followed by back-to-back games against ranked teams (Stanford and Oregon State) to close out the regular season. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: at USC

3. Kansas State — Road wins over then-No. 6 Oklahoma and then-No.13 West Virginia added to the thrashing of No. 15 Texas Tech is enough for me to push the Wildcats into the No. 3 hole.  Well, that and the Gators’ loss, of course. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: vs. Oklahoma State

4. Notre Dame — For the first time this season, the Irish enter my little corner of the rankings world.  The win over Oklahoma pushed the Domers to 8-0 for the first time since 2002, and they won’t be truly tested again until the season-finale against USC. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. Pittsburgh

5. (blank as no one is worthy)

COACHING HOT SEAT
A weekly look at some of the current head coaches who could most likely be an ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

– Auburn’s Gene Chizik: The latest data point that Chizik’s not long for The Plains?  At Jordan-Hare Saturday, the Tigers were down to Texas A&M 42-7 at the half, trailing in total yards by a staggering 464-91 count.  The most damning part of the evening, however, was the fact that the stadium was less than half full before the gun sounded on the second quarter.  There’s only one thing worse than a pissed-off fan base, and that’s an apathetic one.  If that’s indeed where the Tiger faithful are at the moment, Chizik is in deeper trouble than his president’s letter earlier in the week suggested.

– Tennessee’s Derek Dooley: The Vols are just 4-17 in SEC play in two-plus seasons under Dooley, 1-12 since the start of the 2011 season.  UT’s last conference win came in overtime against Vanderbilt Nov. 19.  The Knoxville natives are restless and are no longer drinking the Dool-Aid, and the clock is certainly ticking on coach’s time on Rocky Top.

– Kentucky’s Joker Phillips: Phillips has actually out-Dooley’d the coach he beat last year, going 4-18 in the SEC the past two-plus seasons.  The Wildcats could be one of four SEC programs in search of a new head coach at season’s end, joining UA (probably), UT (probably) and Arkansas (definitely).

HE SAID IT
“There’s a lot at stake down the stretch and we could still have a really good season.” — UT head coach Derek Dooley, presumably stated with a straight face and everything.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I still can’t believe it. I’m still shaking right now. After that I started crying. I couldn’t hold my emotions back.” — North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard following his game-winning punt return for a touchdown.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“He told us to kick ass.” — SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert, when asked what former President George W. Bush said to the Mustangs in his pregame speech prior the Memphis game.

PHOTO OF THE DAY
This is a photo of Jordan-Hare Stadium, snapped by al.com just as halftime of the A&M-Auburn game commenced:

Yeah, Chizik might be in a bit of trouble.

YOU DON’T SAY?
Braxton Miller became the third different Big Ten quarterback and the first Ohio State quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El and Michigan’s Denard Robinson (twice) are the other two.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– During a stretch of 65 seasons — 1927-1988, 2006-08 — Kansas State won 168 games.  In 21 seasons under Bill Snyder, K-State has won 167 games.  Snyder has led the Wildcats to 14 winning seasons; in the 80 non-Snyder years, KSU has had 16 plus-.500 seasons.  And one more note on arguably the most underrated head coach in college football history: K-State has been to 15 bowl games in their history, with 13 of those appearances coming on Snyder’s watch.

– You might as well go ahead and write Jarvis Jones‘ name in Sharpie as the SEC Defensive Player of the Week: in the upset win over Florida, the Georgia linebacker was credited with a career-high 13 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

– Auburn’s 63-21 loss to Texas A&M was the worst home loss in school history, and the points were the most given up by the Tigers since 1917.  The 671 yards allowed were also the most ever surrendered by AU in a single game.

– In the past five games — two of them of them losses — Texas has given up 1,299 yards rushing.  That’s more than what nine teams gave up all last season.

– Kansas has now lost 16 consecutive Big 12 games.  Their last win in conference play came Nov. 6, 2010, against Colorado, which is now a member of the Pac-12.  Their last win against a team still in the Big 12?  Oct. 10, 2009, over Iowa State.

– With the 31-17 win over Illinois, Indiana snapped its 11-game Big Ten losing streak.  Still, the Hoosiers are just 4-32 in conference play since 2008.

– Playing in just his third game at Oklahoma since being cleared by the NCAA, Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders set school records for most receptions in a game (15) and a quarter (eight).

– It was a record-setting Thursday night all around for Clemson as Watkins’ 202 receiving yards broke the school mark that was just set earlier this year by DeAndre Hopkins (197), while Tajh Boyd‘s 428 yards passing surpassed Charlie Whitehurst‘s 420 yards in 2002.

– North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns against North Carolina… in the first half alone.  Glennon finished with 467 yards and five touchdowns in the 43-35 loss to the Tar Heels.

– In the above game, UNC running back Giovani Bernard accounted for 304 total yards: 135 rushing, 95 receiving and 74 on punt returns.

Connor Shaw threw for a career-high 356 yards in the win over Tennessee.

– The 70 points by Oregon in its 56-point throttling of Colorado set the school record for a conference game.

– Steele Jantz set career highs with 381 yards passing and five touchdowns in Iowa State’s 35-21 win over Baylor.

Max Tuerk became the first true freshman to start a game at left tackle in the storied history of the USC football program, protecting Matt Barkley‘s blind side in the loss to Arizona.

–- SID Stat of the Day, Thursday Night Edition: Clemson did not score in the third quarter of the win over Wake, marking just the second quarter all year in which the Tigers did not score.

– Tweet Stat of the Day, from Mark Story of Kentucky.com: “With loss to Missouri, UK all-time record is 579-580-44. Last time UK under .500 (44-45-6) was after falling to Transy in 1902 finale.”

– Navy rushed for 512 yards in a 56-28 win over East Carolina.

FINAL THOUGHT
If the rumors concerning the severity of Lattimore’s injury are true — we’re not going to touch on them until the situation is confirmed by South Carolina — it would be one of the most devastating injuries a football player can suffer.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the classy young man as he works his way through a situation that’s rough physically, mentally and emotionally.

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The 10 hottest – and 10 cheapest – tickets of the 2014-15 bowl season

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers v Notre Dame Getty Images

Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger did a wonderful thing. As the paper’s Ole Miss beat writer, he wondered how much the average price of a ticket to the Rebels’ Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against TCU was going for on the secondary market. He found his answer – $84.15 – and then wondered how that ranked against the other 37 bowl games.

So he looked it up.

He found that three bowls stand above the rest: the Rose and Sugar bowls, and the Pinstripe Bowl – pitting nearby and postseason-starved Penn State against nearby and excited-to-play-Penn-State Boston College. Kellenberger also found that three bowls were drawing so little interest that they didn’t show up at all on the secondary market: the New Mexico, Famous Idaho Potato  and Bahamas bowls.

Every other bowl game has tickets for sale on line, and the demand varies wildly.

Ten Hottest Tickets
1. Sugar Bowl: Ohio State vs. Alabama – $239.25
2. Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Florida State – $149
3. Pinstripe Bowl: Penn State vs. Boston College – $132.12
4. Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. USC – $98.84
5. GoDaddy Bowl: Toledo vs. Arkansas State – $97.68
6. Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Wisconsin – $92.01
7. Peach Bowl: TCU vs. Ole Miss – $84.15
8. Poinsettia Bowl: Navy vs. San Diego State – $75.45
9. Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois – $72.45
10. Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Colorado State – $70.89

Ten Cheapest Tickets
1. Orange Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech – $5.25
2. Cactus Bowl: Washington vs. Oklahoma State – $9.25
3. Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Clemson – $13.95
3. Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. Rice – $13.95
5. Alamo Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA – $15.12
6. Citrus Bowl: Missouri vs. Minnesota – $16.29
7. Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia – $18.82
8. Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Pittsburgh – $20
9. Camilia Bowl: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green – $22.14
10. Sun Bowl: Arizona State vs. Duke – $22.80

Seeing a so-called New Year’s Six Bowl like the Orange Bowl No. 1 on the list is shocking at first, but it does make some sense. Georgia Tech doesn’t travel well, sure. And, yeah, Mississippi State isn’t a short drive to Miami, and the Bulldogs must view the Orange Bowl as a consolation prize after heading into their last game in line for a semifinal berth.

But, still, worse than the Hawaii Bowl?

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P.J. Fleck signs six-year extension at Western Michigan, is now the MAC’s highest-paid coach

P.J. Fleck

Just a year after posting a 1-11 debut, P.J. Fleck is set to become the highest-paid coach in the Mid-American Conference.

The Broncos announced a six-year contract extension, keeping Fleck signed through the 2020 season, worth $800,000 annually, plus incentives. The new contract will make Fleck the MAC’s highest-paid coach, nearly 45 percent higher than second place Frank Solich ($554,500), according to the USA Today coaching salary database.

Fleck was mentioned as a possible candidate for openings imagined (Illinois) and real (Pittsburgh).

“This is a wonderful time to finalize this contract extension and thank Coach Fleck for his commitment to the Bronco program,” said WMU President John M. Dunn said in a statement. “Success on the playing field, achievement in the classroom and engagement with the community have been the team’s hallmarks over the past year. The pride and excitement generated by our scholar- athletes, their coach, assistant coaches and staff are reflective of the very best in collegiate athletics. Using any measure, this is a successful program and one we want to continue and build upon for years to come.”

Western Michigan posted a seven-win improvement in 2014, leaping from 1-11 to 8-4 and a berth in Saturday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl versus Air Force. The Broncos finished one game shy of sharing their third MAC West Division championship. Combined with a number of facilities updates, Western Michigan is making a significant investment to a program that still looking for its first bowl victory and has won just one MAC title in the last 44 years.

Fleck signed what has been called the highest-rated recruiting class in MAC history in 2014 and could be even better in 2015.

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WVU QB Clint Trickett returns to practice, will play vs. Texas A&M

Clint Trickett

West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett has returned to practice after leaving the Mountaineers’ 26-20 loss to Kansas State on Nov. 18.

“Clint’s done such a good job for us over the course of the year,” head coach Dana Holgorsen told the Associated Press. “He’s responsible for us being in a bowl game — did nothing to change what I think of him as far as the starting quarterback. We know what kind of kid he is, what kind of competitor he is.”

However, Trickett will not automatically resume his starting role upon his return. Sophomore Skyler Howard finished the K-State game strongly, hitting 15-of-23 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and led West Virginia to a 37-24 win over Iowa State in the regular season finale by throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 69 more yards.

“With that said, Skyler’s improving, he’s taking a lot of reps these last three weeks. I anticipate to have both ready to go and we’ll probably make a game-time decision on who starts and what the rotation will be.”

The most likely scenario is that both quarterbacks play in their Liberty Bowl date with Texas A&M depending on the situation. Trickett is the more accomplished passer, but Howard (12 rushes for 107 yards this season) is the greater threat to run the ball. Trickett completed 281-of-419 passes for 3,285 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season.

West Virginia will face Texas A&M at 2 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 29 (ESPN).

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Mariota, Gordon headline Phil Steele All-America team

Marcus Mariota

Everyone has an All-America team these days. Heck, now that they’ve got some free time I hear the folks at Serial are going to pump out their own 2014 All-America team next week.

However, in crunching out their own list of 25-odd players, no one crunches more data than Phil Steele. The man is already a quarter of the way through his initial work for the 2015 season.

Anyway, on to current matters, the 2014 Phil Steele All-Americans can be found below. Second through 27th-team All-Americans can be found here.

Offense
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
WR Rashad Greene, Florida State
TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota
C Reese Dismukes, Auburn
OL Spencer Drango, Baylor
OL Jake Fisher, Oregon
OL Tre’ Jackson, Florida State
OL Brandon Scherff, Iowa

Defense
LB Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
LB Scooby Wright, Arizona
LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA
LB Bernardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
DB Landon Collins, Alabama
DB Gerod Holliman, Louisville
DB Senquez Golson, Ole Miss
DB Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State
DL Joey Bosa, Ohio State
DL Malcom Brown, Texas
DL Nate Orchard, Utah
DL Shane Ray, Missouri

Specialists
K Brad Craddock, Maryland
P Tom Hackett, Utah
KR Mario Alford, West Virginia
PR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

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Jim Harbaugh declines to answer the Michigan question

Jim Harbaugh

With the stakes being raised in the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes and decision day looming, the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach will be asked about the Michigan job for as long as he remains the San Francisco 49ers head coach.

That’s the deal. Reporters know Harbaugh will decline to answer, and yet they ask anyway on the 0.0001% chance Harbaugh will reveal his destination to them at that precise moment. Or something like that.

Anyway, this time around it was San Jose Mercury-News columnist Tim Kawakami to ask the question. At first he charged right toward the subject at hand like a pole vaulter on approach.

Question: “Have you been offered a contract by the University of Michigan?”

Answer: “As you know, I only talk about the job that I have. We’ve been together a long time. Always been my policy.”

The second time around, Kawakami moseyed his way to the question the way a figure skater roams the ice while gearing up for his next move.

Question: “You have the history with Michigan. Is there a special affinity you have with that school that might supercede all other loyalties at this point?”

Answer: “Again, I really… I don’t talk any other job than the one I have. Or talk about anybody else’s process.”

And that was that.

In the event that Harbaugh becomes Michigan’s head coach, and Yahoo‘s Charles Robinson thinks it either happens by December 30 or doesn’t happen at all, he will likely only admit to being Michigan’s coach once he is wearing maize and blue and standing in Ann Arbor for his introductory press conference.

Until then, though, the 49ers have two games remaining, so get ready for two more weeks of this.

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Texas A&M and offensive line coach B.J. Anderson part ways

B.J. Anderson

Texas A&M dismissed offensive line coach B.J. Anderson on Thursday afternoon, the program announced.

Well, wait a minute. No, it was Anderson’s decision to leave a job that paid him $334,000 a year.

Semantics aside, the slide of Anderson’s offensive line typified the fate of the overall club under head coach Kevin Sumlin. Led by an offensive line featuring future first-round picks (and Mike Sherman recruits) Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, the Aggies started 11-2 in Sumlin’s first year, then slid to 9-4 without Joeckel, and then to 7-5 this season without Matthews, with offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi turning in an underperforming season.

Anderson spent six seasons working for Sumlin, three in College Station and three at Houston. Prior to that he coached the offensive line at Sam Houston State and Tarleton State, served as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M and coached at Stephen F. Austin prior to that.

Kansas feels like a natural landing spot for Anderson, considering the Jayhawks just hired another former Aggie assistant in David Beaty.

(Photo credit: Texas A&M athletics)
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Two years removed from USC, DeVante Wilson’s back in the Pac at Cal

DeVante Wilson

After a couple of years away from the FBS in general and the Pac-12 specifically, DeVante Wilson is officially back.

Wednesday night, Cal announced in a press release what Wilson, along with two other players, has been added to the football program. The defensive end comes to the Bears as a junior with two years of eligibility remaining.

“We had some obvious needs to address defensively,” head coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “It all begins with the pass rush and I feel like DeVante gives us an athletic, long and explosive pass rusher who is going to make us instantly better.”

Wilson was a three-star member of USC’s 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 20 weakside end in the country and the No. 38 player at any position in the state of California.  He tore an ACL prior to the start of his first summer camp, however, and never played a down for the Trojans.

The past two seasons, Wilson played at the JUCO level in California.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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BC extends Addazio’s contract through 2020

Steve Addazio

In the past week or two, Steve Addazio has seen his name connected to first the opening at Michigan and now Pittsburgh.  Apparently, though, he won’t be going anywhere.

Thursday afternoon, Boston College announced that it has reached an agreement on a new contract extension with Addazio.  With the extension, the head football coach is now signed through the 2020 season.

What if any financial bump Addazio may have received was not detailed.

“In just two years, Steve Addazio has done an amazing job with our football program,” athletic director Brad Bates said in a statement. “To lead a team to 14 wins and two consecutive bowl games during what was supposed to be a rebuilding process is a great accomplishment. Beyond winning, he has worked tirelessly to recruit top-notch student-athletes and develop lasting relationships with former players and the entire University community. He is one of the best motivators I’ve ever been around, and his enthusiasm is infectious. We are very fortunate to have him as our coach.”

In two seasons at BC under Addazio, the Eagles have won seven games each year and qualified for a pair of bowl games. In the two seasons prior to Addazio’s arrival, BC won a total of six games and didn’t qualify for a bowl game either year.

“I appreciate Fr. Leahy’s and Brad Bates’ support for our program and their confidence in me,” Addazio said. “I am also grateful to our student-athletes and our staff for their dedication and hard work. Boston College is a great, Jesuit Catholic education in a world-class city that competes in big-time college football and I am honored and humbled to be in this position.

“We have a lot more work to do, but I believe we are building the foundation for a great football program.”

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Vols’ leading rusher cited for underage consumption

Tennessee v South Carolina Getty Images

Unbelievably, there was a (gasp!) underage college student caught consuming alcohol a couple of weeks ago.  Even more unbelievable?  He was a football player!

That said, The Tennessean reported Wednesday night that Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd was cited Dec. 3 for underage drinking.  The 18-year-old Hurd, along with another male, were arrested by UT police, with one of the two transported to a local hospital.

Which one of the two was transported, though, is unknown.

Hurd, 18, and Hunter Rivait, who is listed as a student in a university student directory, were arrested by citation on Dec. 3 after police spotted a car with its lights on in a university dorm parking garage. Police found an unconscious male inside.

The initial University of Tennessee police report does not identify the unconscious male, who was later transported to a hospital.

UT officials said Hurd has been disciplined internally and will play against Iowa in the Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl.

As a true freshman in 2014, Hurd led the Vols with 777 yards rushing.  The next-closest back was Marlin Lane and his 279 yards.

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Oregon confirms Ifo Ekpre-Olomu won’t be available for playoffs

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Unfortunately, at least as far as the postseason is concerned, the worst has been confirmed when it comes to a key piece of Oregon’s defensive puzzle.

Wednesday, multiple media outlets reported that cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sustained what’s believed to be a serious knee injury during practice Tuesday.  It was heavily intimated that Ekpre-Olomu had sustained at least an ACL tear, and would be unavailable for the College Football Playoffs.

Thursday, head coach Mark Helfrich confirmed as much, although he hasn’t yet detailed the specific nature of the injury.

That means the senior will miss the CFP semifinal matchup in the Rose Bowl with Florida State, as well as, if the Ducks get past the Seminoles, the national championship game against the winner of the Alabama-Ohio State Sugar Bowl matchup.

Regardless of how you try to parse it, this is a significant loss for the Ducks.

Ekpre-Olomu was recently named first-team All-Pac-12, the third consecutive year he’s been accorded that honor, as well as a first-team Associated Press All-American. He’s started 40 straight games for the Ducks, and was viewed as a likely first- or second-round selection in next year’s NFL draft prior to the injury.

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Report: Jimbo Fisher set to be among five highest-paid head coaches

ACC Championship - Florida State v Georgia Tech Getty Images

The most successful head football coach over the past three seasons isn’t even one of the 10 highest-paid at the FBS level.  That, though, could be about to change.

According to a report from Warchant.com, “Florida State officials and head coach Jimbo Fisher are expected to announce a new long-term agreement, which will make him one of the highest-paid coaches in college football, before the Seminoles take on Oregon in the Rose Bowl.” Fisher earned just under $3.6 million in 2014, which placed him 14th in the USA Today coaches salary database.

Per the report, “[t]he new deal, which is still being finalized, likely will place him in the top five.” If that’s the case, Fisher’s new deal would average in excess of $5 million annually as Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.058 millin), Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin ($5.006 million) and Texas’ Charlie Strong ($5 million) sit at Nos. 3-5, respectively.

The new deal is also expected to be for eight years in length.

Since 2012, Fisher’s Seminoles have gone 39-2 and won three straight ACC titles. Riding a school-record 29-game winning streak, FSU will look to win back-to-back national championships, having claimed the final BCS title following the 2013 season.

The Seminoles and Ducks will square off in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl, with the winner facing the winner of the Alabama-Ohio State Sugar Bowl the same day in the first-ever College Football Playoff championship game.

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Starting QB, 2nd-leading rusher continue UAB exodus to S. Alabama

While one football program in the state of Alabama shuffled off this mortal coil, another has greatly benefited, personnel-wise, from its demise.

Wednesday, Cody Clements confirmed to al.com that he has decided to transfer to South Alabama for his final season of football.  The starting quarterback became the fourth former UAB football player to transfer to the the Sun Belt team since that university’s administration decided to kill off the Blazers football program.  A day later, running back D.J. Vinson, also entering his final season of eligibility, became the fifth.

All five of the UAB-to-USA transfers come from the offensive side of the ball.  The fact that offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent made the same move played a significant role in the mass migration to the Jaguars.

“Definitely I would say first of all, coach Vincent,” Clements said. “That was my main goal coming out of all this mess at UAB was to follow him if I could. He’s a great coach and I love playing for him.

“Then I got up there this past weekend and saw the facilities and housing and was able to hang out with the guys. I knew that was a good spot for me to go and to finish out my career.”

Clements started all 12 games for the Blazers in 2014, completing more than 65 percent of his passes for 2,227 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’ll get the opportunity to start at his new school as the Jaguars’ starter last season, Brandon Bridge, is out of eligibility.

While Vinson finished second on the team in rushing with 670 yards, he told al.com in confirming his move to USA that he will play wide receiver. He had 15 receptions coming out of the backfield in 2014.

All five of the USA transfers, and every other former UAB football player for that matter, will be eligible to play immediately in 2015 thanks to a waiver from the NCAA.

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Justin Fuente, Memphis reach agreement on new deal

Temple v Memphis

One of the benefits usually associated with having your name mentioned as part of the annual spinning of the coaching carousel?  Ofttimes, a shiny new deal.

The latest to reap a reward from the spinning carousel is Justin Fuente, who has reached an agreement with Memphis on a contract extension, the school announced Thursday.  The financial particulars weren’t released, although the new deal very likely includes a raise.

In 2014, Fuente earned just over $1 million in total pay, eighth-highest among the head coaches in the AAC.

“Our football program has enjoyed unprecedented success under Coach Fuente’s leadership and we are excited to finalize this process and move forward,” said athletic director Tom Bowen in a statement. “The future of Tiger football is very bright and we look forward to the opportunity to build upon our success in the days and years ahead.”

Even it weren’t for outside interest, the fact that Memphis would reward Fuente is far from surprising.

In the three seasons immediately preceding Fuente’s arrival in 2012, the Tigers went 5-31. After winning seven games his first two seasons, Memphis went 9-3 in the regular season in claiming its first conference championship since the early seventies.

If Memphis wins its Miami Bowl matchup with BYU Dec. 22, it would mark the first time since the football program moved to the FBS/Div. 1-A level in 1960 that it finished a season with double-digit wins.

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Average cost of a national title game ticket? Nearly $1,700

American Money

We still don’t know yet who will square off in the College Football Playoff championship game.  What we do know is, if you want a ticket, it’ll cost you.  Plenty.

According to a report from The Oregonian, and based on prices available at Vivid Seats, a secondary ticket marketplace, the average price of a ticket for the Jan. 12 title game at AT&T Stadium in Dallas is $1,681. For the penny-pinchers in the crowd, the cheapest ticket to that game is $540 at the moment.

For comparison’s sake, the average price of a ticket for the final BCS title game, pitting Florida State against Auburn, was $1,907 based on a report from Forbes.com via Vivid Seats last Dec. 17. The cheapest ticket for that game at that time could hardly be labeled as cheap, with an end zone seat in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena setting you back $1,245.

Three weeks later, there, there were reports that the average ticket price for the BCS finale had dropped to $374 on the secondary ticket market, although that data was through TiqIQ.

As for the two CFP semifinal games that will be played New Year’s Day, the average price for a ticket to the Sugar Bowl (Alabama vs. Ohio State) comes in at $501, while the average for a ducat to the Rose Bowl (Oregon vs. Florida State) is $376.

TiqIQ reports that Sugar Bowl prices are 55.3% higher than for the 2014 game (Oklahoma vs. Alabama), while the Rose Bowl is down 33.3% compared to last season’s game (Michigan State vs, Stanford).

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BYU DB Dallin Leavitt transfers to Utah State

Houston v BYU Getty Images

Dallin Leavitt has decided to leave BYU but, as it turns out, he won’t have to leave the state.

Earlier this month it was reported that Leavitt would be transferring out of the BYU football program to an undetermined new location. Wednesday that new location was officially determined as both the player and his new head coach revealed via Twitter that he will continue his collegiate playing career at rival Utah State.

According to the Deseret News, Leavitt visited Logan last weekend before pulling the trigger on a transfer to USU.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Leavitt will be forced to sit out the 2015 season. Beginning in 2016, Leavitt will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Leavitt contributed immediately as a true freshman in 2013, playing in all 13 games with one start. In 2014, he played in 11 of 12 regular season games, and is currently fifth in tackles with 43. His 3.5 tackles for loss this season are second among defensive backs.

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