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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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UCLA and Cincinnati planning future home-and-home series

UCLA Virginia Football, Tim Harris

UCLA and Cincinnati have never played each other in football, but that could be about to change. A future home-and-home series could be in the works.

According to a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the two schools are close to putting together a home-and-home series that would be played in 2019 and 2020. The exact dates of those games have not been reported, and may not be known until the contract is finalized.

The scheduling of these games would have some nice perks for both sides involved. UCLA would get a chance to play on the road in the state of Ohio, a state that tends to be ripe with college football talent. Cincinnati would get two games against a power conference opponent and a trip to the west coast, which is always nice even if just for a business trip or a game.

There is no power conference scheduling requirement for UCLA as a Pac-12 member, and Cincinnati is likely to be one of the top Group of Five programs for years to come if it pays to its potential. Of course, if things go well for Cincinnati, the Bearcats might — MIGHT — even be a power conference program by the time this series comes around. For that to happen, the Big 12 may have to come calling though and there is still no sign that will be happening in the near future.

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Texas A&M chancellor throws more cold water on A&M-Texas revival

Texas Longhorns vs Texas A&M Aggies

When it comes to the Texas-Texas A&M series revival, it seems the coaches want it but the powers that be have no genuine interest. Case in point, the most recent comments from Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp on Friday.

“My sense is with the 12th Man – we’ve got new friends,” Sharp said, according to The Houston Chronicle. Those new friends he is referring to reside in the SEC West. Apparently it is enough to fill any void previously filled by Texas on the schedule.

“That would be a decision made by regents … (some) day,” Sharp said. “We haven’t had any more discussions about that.”

And that is the problem. The people who truly matter with having this discussion continue to avoid each other, either out of pride or spite or whatever reason you want to come up with.

There will come a day when Texas and Texas A&M get back together on the football field, it is just a matter of when that day finally comes. The SEC requiring all members to schedule at least one game against another power conference program would seem to help the cause to revive the in-state rivalry, but the Aggies have that covered through 2021, so any need to get Texas on the Texas A&M schedule is not there for some time.

And so the waiting game continues…

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Report says Jalen Collins “failed multiple drug tests” at LSU

Jalen Collins, Ryan Timmons

Over the last few years there has been a good handful of players from LSU who have been questioned about or have been tied to various degrees of drug concerns.

Now you can add former cornerback Jalen Collins to the list of Tigers with some drug use baggage traveling with them, just as the NFL Draft is about to get underway next week.

Albert Breer of the NFL Network reported via Twitter on Friday Collins failed multiple drug tests while in college…

There are two key pieces of information we are missing from this. First, we do not know exactly how many drug tests were reportedly failed by Collins. Second, we do not know when these supposed failed tests occurred. What we do know is Collins appeared in 13 games in each of LSU’s past three seasons, at least according to CFBStats.com.

As noted by Bryan Fischer on NFL.com, this news of failed drug tests does not seem likely to affect the draft stock for Collins in the NFL Draft. Collins still has plenty of talent that NFL teams are going to be interested in acquiring, and sometimes talent prevails over what seem to be minor drug concerns.

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Nick Saban says Alabama must regain mojo and identity

Alabama Football - Saban Presser: Spring Practice 6

One of the most recognizable brands in college football has an identity crisis on its hands. That seems to be the vibe coming from head coach Nick Saban, who is already dropping a reality check on his program following a second straight postseason ending with a loss and a spring that lacked the kind of development Saban would have preferred to see.

We need to get our mojo back … we need into get our identity back,” Saban said Thursday to a group of media on a caravan tour stop in Huntsville, Alabama (via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

He’s not wrong. Alabama is not exactly falling off the surface of the college football world, but more is expected from Alabama, its fans and its coaches. An SEC championship is nice, as is a victory over Auburn, but Alabama is thinking about national championships. It has been a whole three years since Alabama’s last title. It is quite a drought for Tuscaloosa.

“We used to be a team nobody wanted to play,” he explained. “We’ve had a few distractions with the last couple years that I think have affected how we’ve finished the season.”

Alabama is still a really good football team, but the intimidation factor has been diminished in recent seasons for a variety of reasons. First, the Crimson Tide have become vulnerable in some areas on defense, and teams excelling in offense have taken note of that. But the bar is set incredibly high at Alabama, rightfully so given a handful of national titles in recent seasons.

Saban has a way of giving his team a reality check, and it appears now is one of those times. Alabama may very well be one of the preseason favorites and among the top-ranked teams in the nation when the preseason polls start coming out this summer, but Saban is not one who will buy into it and wants to see his team earn that accolades.

This is not the first time Saban has played this tactic, nor will it be the last.

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Extension makes Gary Pinkel SEC’s 10th $4 million coach

Gary Pinkel

Following a second straight SEC East Division championship in just its third year in the SEC, Missouri has extended the contract of head coach Gary Pinkel and rewarded him with a nice bump in pay. Pinkel’s contract has been extended through 2021 with a guaranteed salary of $4.02 million.

Cha-ching.

The investment in Pinkel seems to have been a long time coming, as Pinkel may have exceeded many expectations for Missouri since making the transition from the Big 12 to the SEC.

Pinkel was hired by Missouri in 2001 after a successful stint at Toledo. Since arriving in Columbia, Pinkel is 113-66 with six bowl victories, including three in the last four seasons. After going 5-7 in Missouri’s first season in the SEC after leaving the Big 12, Pinkel coached Missouri to two consecutive SEC East Division championships and appearances in the SEC Championship Game.

If you are wondering how many coaches are left in the SEC not receiving $4 million, the number is apparently down to four; Jim McElwain (Florida), Derek Mason (Vanderbilt), Mike Stoops (Kentucky) and Butch Jones (Tennessee).

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Vols WR Von Pearson a suspect in alleged rape investigation

TaxSlayer Bowl - Iowa v Tennessee

Tennessee wide receiver Von Pearson is a suspect in an alleged rape investigation in Knoxville, the Knoxville Police Department said Friday afternoon. Pearson has not been charged with any crimes at this time, and the police are currently investigating the story.

According to The Knoxville News Sentinel, the incident in question was reported early Friday morning and police have interviewed the alleged victim and several potential witnesses. Police have already contacted the Sexual Assault Center as the investigation gets underway.

Pearson was Tennessee’s second-leading receiver last fall behind Pig Howard. Pearson recorded 393 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 11 games.

This is not the first time this spring a Tennessee player has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Earlier this month offensive lineman Coleman Thomas had a felony theft charge dismissed. Former defensive lineman Michael Sawyers was soon charged with the same offense. Sawyers was actually dismissed from the team in February by head coach Butch Jones for a violation of team rules.

Tennessee’s spring game is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Given this recent report, it may be safe to assume Pearson will not participate in it as the legal process plays out. At this time, Tennessee has not issued any statement on the situation or Pearson’s status with the program.

UPDATE (6:27 p.m.): Tennessee has suspended Pearson from all team activities.

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Baylor and TCU getting return on investments in Briles, Patterson

Art Briles, Gary Patterson

It may be safe to say Baylor and TCU are getting what they paid for with Art Briles and Gary Patterson, respectively. The head coaches of the co-Big 12 champions in 2014 were each paid at least 2.5 times what they made just a few short years ago according to documents cited in a USA Today report Friday afternoon.

According to the report by USA Today, TCU paid Patterson a base salary of $3.5 million in 2013, which was roughly tripled from his 2008 salary. In all, Patterson received a total compensation of $3.9 million. Briles was paid a base salary of $3.6 million in 2013 by Baylor, or 2.5 times what he was paid in 2009 by the university. Briles received a total compensation of $4.2 million.

There is no question the impact each of these coaches has had on their respective programs. Briles (55-34 at Baylor) has successfully turned Baylor from a perennial cellar-dwelling candidate in the Big 12 to a regular threat to win the conference. Baylor has won at least a share of the Big 12 championship each of the past two seasons, although the Bears are still looking for their first BCS/New Years Six bowl victory after two straight losses in the postseason. Baylor’s success has come at a good time with the Texas Longhorns struggling as a program, relatively speaking.

Patterson (132-45 all-time) has been the man in charge of the TCU football program through plenty of changes in the realignment scene. Under Patterson TCU has competed in Conference USA, the Mountain West Conference and now the Big 12, with a brief detour heading toward the Big East in the process. Patterson has coached TCU to a top 25 finish in all but five seasons since taking over as head coach in Fort Worth in 2001 (he was an interim coach in 2000 for TCU’s bowl game). Patterson has led TCU to a Rose Bowl victory and a Peach Bowl victory, and in 2015 the Horned Frogs are expected to be a top national championship contender.

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Cal cutting ties with Pierre Ingram following solicitation of prostitute

California v Northwestern

Cal will not be bringing back receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Pierre Ingram in a move that is probably not to be unexpected.

Ingram’s contract is scheduled to expire on April 30. Cal will not be renewing the contract after Ingram was arrested earlier this month for solicitation of a prostitute. He was immediately placed on administrative leave, and now the program is going to wipe its hands clean of him entirely.

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Report: Old Big East rivals Syracuse and UConn getting back together

Florida State v Syracuse

The rivalry between Syracuse and UConn was one of the best things about the old Big East. Well, in basketball at least. The rivalry never really reached the same height of animosity or excitement in football as it did in basketball, but the two schools are reportedly working on plans to begin a home-and-home football series in the future.

Brett McMurphy of ESPN reports (via Twitter) are putting the finishing touches on a pair of games between 2016 and 2018. Per McMurphy, UConn would host the Orange in 2016 and Syracuse would host the Huskies in 2018. Specific dates have not been reported or confirmed.

Syracuse will not meet its ACC power conference scheduling requirement with this series, but the requirement has already been met for 2016 with Notre Dame in MetLife Stadium and 2018 against the Irish in South Bend.

UConn leads the all-time series between the two schools, with a 6-3 edge over nine games. The series started in 2004 after UConn upgraded from FCS to FBS and joined the Big East. Syracuse left the crumbling Big East for the ACC in 2013, and UConn stayed a part of the conference as it morphed into the American Athletic Conference. Syracuse won the most recent meeting between the two schools in 2012 with a 40-10 victory.

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North Dakota State brings new meaning to “championship drive”

North Dakota State team

It is Friday afternoon, which tends to mean things can get a little slow as we head into the weekend. Fortunately, North Dakota State decided to have a little fun and make some people smile* with this photo of its four national championship trophies going for a Friday drive.

Judging by this photo, seen on the North Dakota State Facebook page, the national championship trophies are practicing safety first by wearing their respective seatbelts.

NDState-Trophy-Drive

North Dakota State won the 2014 Division 1 championship by defeating Illinois State. The previous year the Bison defeated Towson for the national title, and the previous two years saw North Dakota State beat Sam Houston State for the championship. North Dakota State’s championship drive will continue this season as the Bison will likely be the team to beat once again in the land of the FCS. North Dakota State will not play any FBS opponents in 2015, but a trip to Iowa is on the schedule for 2016. The 2015 season will kick off against Montana on August 29 in Missoula, Montana.

* With the possible exception of fans of Sam Houston State, Towson and Illinois State. Apologies to you.

Helmet sticker to Reddit.

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NCAA: Oklahoma State did not fail to monitor football program

Oklahoma State did not follow its drug testing policy and allowed the Orange Pride to host prospective student-athletes. The result? A one-year probation, the suspension of the Orange Pride program and $8,500 in fines on top of university-imposed recruiting restrictions.

The NCAA released a statement outlining the mild sanctions handed to Oklahoma State Friday afternoon. The violations are the result of a previous investigative story published by Sports Illustrated last year. The report was quick to be torn to shreds from any number of critics of the evidence and information reported, and perhaps the severity of the original report can be summed up best by the light punishment extended by the enforcement hand of the NCAA.

The NCAA opened its investigation into Oklahoma State following the publication of the Sports Illustrated story. The investigation included a review of over 50,000 emails and about 90 different interviews with current and former student-athletes, coaches, staff members and boosters. The end result was the NCAA determined many of the allegations reported by Sports Illustrated were unfounded, according to the NCAA statement. But Oklahoma State did not get off without some criticism.

Accusations the program did not follow its drug testing program were confirmed by the NCAA, stating suspensions for players violating the banned substance rules had suspensions determined on a case-by-case basis. This led to five players competing on the field in seven games they should have been suspended. There was no mention of which games were included, nor is there a mention of vacating any victories. Instead, part of the $8,500 in fines includes a $500 payment by Oklahoma State for each of the seven games a player should have been suspended.

On the recruiting side of the punishment, Oklahoma State self-imposed a reduction in coaches participating in off-campus evaluations by one and the reduction of total evaluation days by 10 in the fall and spring through the 2015-2016 calendar.

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Trollin’ Jim Harbaugh invites ALL coaches to Michigan football camp

Michigan Football Spring Game

If you are not following Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh on Twitter, you should probably take care of that right now. At the end of a week that has been filled with talk and debate about satellite camps, Harbaugh took to Twitter to extend an open invitation to all college football coaches to join he and his staff in Ann Arbor this summer.

It is already being considered a Grade-A troll move, and there is likely no coincidence it looks that way.

Just this week we have been talking about comments from Alabama’s regarding the ridiculousness of satellite camp rules, the perception of a loophole being exploited by northern coaches (in addition to Harbaugh, Penn State’s James Franklin and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly have taken advantage of the satellite camp rules). Folks in the ACC are not pleased either, but willing to adapt. The NCAA is also expecting to address the satellite camp discussion in the football rules oversight committee.

One question that should be asked is how many coaches from the Big Ten will accept the open invite? Imagine the scene if Mark Dantonio or Urban Meyer or Franklin showed up in Ann Arbor to work at the camp. It is an open invite after all.

This much we know; coaches from the ACC and SEC will not be sending in any R.S.V.P. replies, although they are invited to be a keynote speaker by Harbaugh. Their conferences do not allow for that possibility.

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ASU’s Todd Graham says scheduling cupcakes is un-American

Todd Graham

Keep this in mind the next time Arizona State schedules an easy opponent. Todd Graham, head coach of the Sun Devils, says scheduling easy games is un-American. God bless Todd Graham.

Graham’s comments on non-conference scheduling stem from a discussion regarding the College Football Playoff, which has many believing the emphasis on strength of schedule will help the game overall. It will, unquestionably. If the goal is to see more attractive games between power conference programs, then fans should benefit from the College Football Playoff era with schools not wanting to be left out of the playoff at the end of the year the way Baylor was in 2014.

“We need to consider what the fans want,” Graham said, according to AZFamily.com. “Fans don’t want to see you schedule four easy wins, then get two conference wins to get into a bowl game. That’s un-American.”

For the record, Arizona State has a game scheduled against Cal Poly this season and Northern Arizona in 2016. The Sun Devils also have a game against Texas A&M in Houston this fall and a home-and-home with Texas Tech starting in 2016.

But just as you start to think Graham is speaking for America with his thoughts on non-conference scheduling, he then takes a turn toward communism on other thoughts regarding scheduling.

“Here’s the issue with college football. It should be equal for everybody,” said Graham. “Everybody should play nine conference games. Why nine games instead of eight? Because you play one more conference game that your fans want to see instead of scheduling a team that no one wants to see because you’re scheduling wins and don’t want to be out of the four-team playoff.”

Before we had debates over satellite camps, we had debates over eight-game vs. nine-game conference schedules. Simply put, what works well for one conference does not necessarily make for the best scheduling approach for the other. The Big 12’s nine-game schedule makes sense for a 10-member league. The Pac-12 plays a nine-game conference schedule and the Big Ten has joined the nine-game party. Meanwhile the ACC and SEC remain with eight-game conference schedules, but with the non-scheduling requirement to schedule at least one game against another power conference opponent.

Some things in college football should be equal for everybody. Non-conference scheduling does not need to be one.

Helmet sticker to House of Sparky.

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Hugh Freeze’s spring game idea is not new, and it’s not likely to happen

Hugh Freeze

The spring football season is drawing to a close with a decent handful of teams in action this weekend. Every spring seems to have one idea come up as a new and innovative idea, but it really is not new at all. The idea of having teams play a scrimmage against another school is back in the discussion thanks to Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, who endorsed the idea this week.

I would love to see us be able to scrimmage another team,” Freeze said in a radio interview in Nashville, according to The Clarion-Ledger. “That way you can go ones on ones, twos on twos, threes on threes – really get something out of it.”

Freeze’s idea sounds good, and has some merit. Again, this is nothing we have not heard before, especially in recent years. Having the opportunity to go up against another team can have benefits as you can see how players react in certain situations against players and schemes they may not have seen during the spring practices. It also allows for an opportunity to work on some skills and potential game plans against certain styles of offenses or defenses. But the odds of getting a pair of FBS programs together, even if allowed by the NCAA, is not the most feasible idea due to financial requirements. So what does Freeze recommend?

“Maybe even adopt a charity. Maybe it’s a 1-AA opponent that you don’t play in the regular season,” Freeze suggested. “I think there would be a lot of interest in something like that. I wish we could do something like that.”

This is an idea that would have more traction than a scrimmage against another FBS program. There could be some benefits to take from this as well, on both sides. We already see this kind of exhibition idea in college basketball, with Division 1 programs often scrimmaging with a Division 2 school before officially opening the regular season. This would be the equivalent, and it would be entirely optional. What do you think? Would you be more interested in seeing a school like Ole Miss take on an FCS opponent in a spring scrimmage as a replacement for a traditional spring game or scrimmage?

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No college football abroad in Ireland in 2016

Penn State and UCF opened the 2014 season in Ireland in the Croke Park Classic last season, and it seems it might be the last college football game played in Ireland for at least a few more years. Plans for a potential game in 2016 have been put on ice, and economics are apparently to blame.

“The strength of the dollar against the euro means that the staging of the game at Croke Park was no longer viable for the Association without significant support from government agencies,” a statement from the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland said. That financial support was nowhere to be found for the 2016 plans.

This brings a disappointing end to the planning for the next college football game in Ireland, but it appears the writing had been on the wall. The 2016 event, long rumored to include ACC opponents Boston College and Georgia Tech, was supposed to be formally announced on St. Patrick’s Day, but never was. That led many following the developments of the game to believe the game may not happen at all. The planning involved with a game like this requires plenty of time to plan and budget for all parties involved, and the delaying of an announcement did not look good.

So as things stand now, Boston College and Georgia Tech will move forward with the expectation of playing their regular season meeting on American soil. Boston College is scheduled to host the Yellow Jackets, although the exact date of the game has not been determined by the ACC (the ACC will not release the 2016 schedule until early next year). The rumored plans originally suggested Boston College and Georgia Tech would meet in Ireland later in the season as opposed to a season-opening game like Penn State and UCF played in 2014.

Does this mean college football will never return to Ireland? That is probably not the case, especially since ACC commissioner John Swofford has said before he would like to see the conference explore overseas opportunities in the future. A return to Ireland should not be considered out of the mix, just not in 2016.

Helmet sticker to BC Interruption.

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