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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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NAIA national champs asking for donations to buy championship rings

Austin Dodge, Heston Altenbach

One of the perks of winning a national championship is receiving a national championship ring. These are luxuries that may be taken for granted at the highest level of college football. This past season’s champions from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, Southern Oregon University, are in need of donations just to buy the team championship rings.

A statement from Southern Oregon states NCAA championship rings are paid for ahead of time. This is not the case in the NAIA. the school must find a way to purchase championship rings for players and coaches, with the rings costing $250 each. Assuming everybody on the team’s roster page and each coach is supposed to get a ring, Southern Oregon is looking to raise $31,000.

If each of you donated one dollar, they should be able to reach that goal rather quickly. I will go ahead and get the ball rolling with a $5 donation (it’s on the way Southern Oregon).

The school is now reaching out to the public to raise money to purchase the rings, and every little bit should help. You can make a donation online on this donation page. The “Ring ‘Em up” campaign also allows you to sponsor a specific position on the team or a general donation for the entire squad.

Here’s hoping Southern Oregon can raise whatever funds are needed in order to provide some championship bling to the NAIA national champions.

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FCS power North Dakota State rewards Klieman with contract extension

Chris Klieman

After coaching FCS power North Dakota State to a fourth straight national championship, Chris Klieman has been rewarded with a two-year contract extension. The new deal will secure Klieman at North Dakota State through 2021.

“Chris understands the culture of Bison football and what it takes to continue the program’s high level of success,” athletic director Matt Larsen said in a released statement. “The excitement around the football program has never been greater and I look forward to having Chris and his family in Fargo for the long term.”

North Dakota State went 15-1 in 2014, highlighted by a victory over Big 12 school Iowa State and capped with a fourth straight FCS national championship. Klieman was as a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award.

“I’m excited to continue to build on the great tradition of Bison football,” Klieman said. “My family enjoys being in Fargo and I am extremely thankful for how this community and Bison Nation have embraced my family and me.”

Klieman succeeded Craig Bohl after the former Bison head coach accepted a job offer at Wyoming after three straight national championship seasons at North Dakota State.

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Alabama adding former Chicago Bears DC Mel Tucker to staff

New Orleans Saints v Chicago Bears

Alabama’s coaching staff has been undergoing some changes this offseason with a handful of coaches leaving to pursue other opportunities. That means Nick Saban has had some vacancies to fill on his staff in Tuscaloosa. Former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker looks to be the next addition to the staff.

According to Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Alabama will add Tucker to the coaching staff as a secondary coach. When not filling the role of defensive coordinator throughout his coaching career, coaching defensive backs is what Tucker has done most often. Tucker has coached defensive backs for Miami-Ohio, LSU, Ohio State, the Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Considering how some teams managed to expose Alabama’s secondary at times in 2014, bringing in a coach with that level of expertise seems to be a good fit to the coaching staff for Saban and Alabama.

Alabama was generally a middle-of-the-pack team when it came to pass defense in 2014. The Crimson Tide defense had 11 interceptions and allowed 19 passing touchdowns, while allowing 226.0 passing yards per game in 2014.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is also expected to take on coaching inside linebackers as the staff shuffles responsibilities.

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The AAC wants at least one more bowl game

Mike Aresco

Oh, you thought college football had enough bowl games, or perhaps too many bowl games? Tell that to schools like UAB, Georgia Southern and Temple. All reached the required win minimum in order to be bowl eligible in 2014, but none were sent an invitation to play in a bowl game. Georgia Southern was ineligible due to playing its first season at the FBS level, but UAB and Temple were simply left out.

Perhaps because of that, the American Athletic Conference is looking into the possibility of introducing another bowl game to the college football calendar.

“We have a great bowl lineup that we think is just going to get better and better next year as we add a couple of bowls to lineup and we may even add a few more,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said to The Orlando Sentinel. “No one wants to have teams left out as several conferences did and several conferences have had it historically happen every year so we’re trying to prevent that.”

Naturally, Aresco did not dive any deeper into explaining how far along any potential plans to add a new bowl game may or may not be at this point.

This would not be the first time the AAC has had a hand in creating a new bowl game. The conference worked with the Miami Marlins of Major League Baseball to create the new bowl game, which this year ended in a brawl between Memphis and BYU players.

The AAC has seen a handful of teams reach the normal bowl eligibility requirement in the win column the last few years, so creating at least one extra bowl to help send all bowl-eligible programs to a postseason game should not be a huge surprise.

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Report: ACL rehab sidelines Clemson safety for spring practices

Travis Blanks

Promising Clemson safety Travis Blanks will be forced to miss the spring practices this year after suffering a setback in his rehab for a torn ACL.

Blanks suffered a setback in his rehab process for his torn ACL during Clemson’s practices leading up to the bowl game, according to Aaron Brenner of Post & Courier (via Twitter).

Blanks was one of Clemson’s top freshmen in 2012 and was a starter for much of the 2013 season before having his year ended due to an injury. Blanks then suffered the knee injury in the spring of 2014, which kept him out of action last fall. Perhaps fortunately, Blanks had a redshirt year to spare in 2014, so he did not lose out on any eligibility at Clemson. He will still have two years to use starting this fall.

Keeping him out of the spring will hopefully allow him to be ready to go in the fall.

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Arkansas AD Jeff Long to continue in role as CFB Playoff Chairman

Jeff Long

The planning for year two of the College Football Playoff continues with a familiar face filling the role of chairman. Arkansas Athletics Director Jeff Long was elected to serve as the chairman of the College Football Playoff for a second straight season today.

“Jeff has been a terrific chair and I am delighted that the committee elected him to serve again,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said in a released statement. “Jeff is a thoughtful and dedicated leader who conducted the meetings skillfully. He also did a very good job answering questions about the rankings so fans could gain insight into the committee’s decisions. It’s clear that he has the full respect and confidence of the other committee members.”n the second half of the season on ESPN’s weekly

In the second half of the season Long made an appearance on ESPN’s weekly College Football Playoff selection committee rankings program to explain some of the logic used to form the latest committee rankings. It was a good idea in principle but struggled to provide clarity or show consistency in the ranking process. Whether that continues in year two has yet to be determined. Regardless, Long’s responsibility will continue to be to speak on behalf of the committee whenever possible. Year two of the system is not without its challenges, but Long is appreciative of the opportunity to continue to serve in this role.

“I appreciate the confidence that the committee members have shown in me,” said Long. “I am truly honored that they have chosen me to serve in this capacity this coming year. The real strength of this committee is the work that each member does to rank the teams each week and ultimately select the best four teams for the playoff. I am honored to represent them in the role of chair.”

ESPN is already reportedly putting pressure on the College Football Playoff to adjust its schedule for the 2015 playoff games, which are currently scheduled to be played on December 31. ESPN has concerns about scheduling the game on New Years’ Eve against traditional programming at the end of the year, as well as potential scheduling conflicts with the NFL and a possibly expanded playoff schedule by the pro football league.

Long will also be tasked with ensuring more consistency in the selection committee in the public’s eye. It is not necessarily his duty to ensure the committee is consistent, but it is his job to show the public there is an existing consistency with the playoff model.

Good luck Jeff.

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James Franklin scorns PSU player on Twitter for settling for a B on exam

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Boston College v Penn State

Some day college football players will learn not everything needs to be shared to the public. Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones found that out, as you may have heard by now, but things turned out OK for him. Maybe Penn State sophomore safety Bryant Harper will learn a lesson after being publicly scorned by his head coach on Twitter.

On Monday, Harper took to Twitter to boast about a B he received on a recent anatomy exam.

Penn State head coach James Franklin, known to be fluent with Twitter, saw the tweet from his player (or had somebody point it out to him), and responded…

Who knows just how serious Franklin was about the Twitter comment, but if nothing else a lesson should be learned by all college football players. What you put on Twitter (or Facebook or Instagram) will have someone watching, so be careful what you share! Harper was reminded of the Penn State philosophy of Success With Honor by way of some public humiliation from his head coach. Harper took this lesson in stride, and odds are he will not be bragging about any B‘s anytime soon.

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Oakland Raiders target Louisville DC Todd Grantham for Del Rio’s staff

Todd Grantham

The head coaching carousel around the NFL may have come to a close, but assistants are still ripe for the picking. That means some college football assistants are going to get some looks to fill some vacancies in the NFL. The Oakland Raiders have an eye on Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

The Raiders hired Jack Del Rio to be the team’s new head coach recently. The two coaches have never coached together, but there are some good reasons why Grantham would be considered for the job in Oakland. First, Grantham has some NFL coaching experience. The current defensive coordinator for Louisville has coached defensive line for the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys in addition to serving as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns for three seasons. Grantham last coached in the NFL in 2009 as a defensive line coach for Dallas. He then coached four years as the defensive coordinator at Georgia before moving to Louisville last season. In his one year at Louisville, Grantham coached the second-best total defense in the ACC and held opponents to just 308.5 yards per game.

If Grantham does leave Louisville after one season to return to the NFL, the Cardinals should be able to find a suitable replacement. The timing may be unfortunate for Louisville, with National Signing Day coming up next week, but it is a reality of the profession. Louisville should have the resources to keep things afloat on the coaching staff as well.

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No Justice for Michigan; RB Hayes to transfer

Justice Hayes, Jonathan Truman

Looking for an opportunity for more playing time in his fifth and final year of eligibility, running back Justice Hayes has decided to transfer out of the Michigan program. Hayes announced on his Instagram page —  because this is what college kids do these days — he is leaving Michigan on good terms and will be graduating from the university this spring.The fact that I will be graduating from the University of Michigan in April will be meritorious. I have earned team captain on numerous occasions, won respect

“The fact that I will be graduating from the University of Michigan in April will be meritorious,” Hayes said. “I have earned team captain on numerous occasions, won respect from coaches and players, and most importantly played my heart out every Saturday. I truly appreciate the offer from [Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh] to allow me to return for my 5th year, but I have decided that I will choose another college to play football as a graduate student.”

Hayes appeared in all 12 games Michigan played in 2014. He carried the football 48 times for a total of 213 yards in a crowded backfield. That depth at the running back position likely meant little playing time would be expected for Hayes in 2015. Because he will be graduating from Michigan, he will be eligible to play at any FBS program that welcomes him to their program this fall.

Hayes also had a note for any potential critics of his decision. There will likely be somebody out there that reads a little too much into it, but the point is a solid one. Players need to have the freedom to make the best possible decision for their own path, and not be hounded by fans who say otherwise.

“There will be people out there that disagree with this tough decision I made, but they won’t be the ones that cut me checks in the future.”

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UCF adding a little (fake) beach-front property to Bright House Networks Stadium

UCF club section

With the game day atmosphere becoming more and more of an issue some schools are struggling to address, UCF is looking to bring a more casual, beach-like setting to fans on game day. Well, at least for club members.

UCF calls it the East Side Club, a newly renovated section of Bright House Network Stadium will take on the look and feel of a beach club, complete with a walk-out section to enjoy a beverage while watching the Knights take on their opponents or be able to socialize in a preferred area hooked up with more than 15 flat-screen TVs (do they even make non-flat TVs anymore?) and enhanced WiFi, because everybody needs more WiFi. The new area will also have private bathrooms and a preferred VIP entrance.

The open area will have a view of the field between the 30-yard lines, which should make for an excellent overview of the game being played that day. The walkout area will also have a sand-colored finish to attempt to mimic the idea of walking on the beach and watching football as best as possible. Keep in mind Orlando is not exactly all that close to the beaches in Florida, so UCF is trying to bring that scenery as close to home as possible. Plus, this is much less messy than actual sand.

UCF states the renovations should be completed in time for UCF’s 2015 season opener against Florida International on September 5, 2015. You can read more about the plans for the new club area and check out the specs and more artist renderings on UCF’s official website.

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Pros and cons of conference foes scheduling non-conference games

Duke v Wake Forest

North Carolina and Wake Forest announced an unprecedented scheduling agreement earlier on Monday. The two ACC schools announced they will play a pair of non-conference games in 2019 and 2021. It is the first such scheduling agreement between power conference schools within the same conference, and it has been received to mixed reviews.

PRO: It creates a game fans will look forward to

North Carolina and Wake Forest each have a duty to satisfy their alums, students and fans. By scheduling a game against an in-state rival they rarely get to see, North Carolina and Wake Forest are each giving their fans something to look forward to. In a world where conference expansion has taken away some annual or near-annual rivalry games, North Carolina and Wake Forest have found a way to resume playing more often instead of waiting for the ACC schedule to pair them up on a rotating basis.

CON: It sets a somewhat sketchy precedent for the sport

With power conferences creating a larger divide between the haves and have-nots in college football, power conferences scheduling games against opponents from inside their own conference ultimately takes away not one, but potentially two opportunities for schools from the Group of Five to schedule at least a marginally attractive game on their respective schedules.

PRO: It can have a positive effect on each school’s overall body of work

Not that anyone is honestly ready to suggest North Carolina or Wake Forest will be competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff in four to six years, but in a hypothetical world both schools have added a power conference opponent to the schedule. In theory, this should result in a positive effect on the strength of schedule for either UNC or Wake Forets (or both).

CON: It neutralizes the conference’s overall strength of schedule

Rather than going out and competing against the SEC, Pac-12 Big Ten or Big 12, what North Carolina and Wake Forest are doing is dropping an anchor on the ACC’s overall strength of schedule. The College Football Playoff selection committee, however it is formed by 2019 or 2021 rolls around, may be unlikely to acknowledge the ACC if ACC schools are scheduling non-conference games against each other. The committee will be more impressed with victories over other power conferences, because they will be able to evaluate the strength of each conference better with true out-of-conference match-ups on the schedule.

PRO: In-state rivalries are a good thing

It is always good to see in-state rivalries thrive when possible, and North Carolina and Wake Forest managed to ensure there will be one more to pay attention to in the state. Because of this, it may not be a shock to eventually see Duke and N.C. State explore a similar arrangement, which would add more to the whole concept of a state championship in the state of North Carolina.

Sorry East Carolina.

If you have more pros or cons about this type of scheduling arrangement, feel free to add on in the comment section.

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Former Wake OL Cory Helms lands at South Carolina

Wake Forest v Vanderbilt

South Carolina head coach still has to wait until next week to see how his Class of 2015 comes together, but the Gamecocks added a talented offensive lineman to the roster a little early. Cory Helms, a two-year starter at Wake Forest, has decided to join the South Carolina program after weighing a few options.

Helms, a Freshman All-American center in 2013, will have to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules, although Helms told GoGamecocks.com the Uuniversity will file an appeal to have him eligible immediately in the fall. Helms is moving closer to home to be near his sick grandmother, which will be the basis for the argument to allow him to avoid having to sit out a season. If approved, Helms will be able to slide right into the South Carolina offensive line mix and add some versatility after playing center and guard at Wake Forest. South Carolina lost two seniors on one side of the line to graduation, so there should be a spot waiting for Helms if eligible to play in 2015.

Helms ended up choosing South Carolina over offers from Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Penn State.

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UNC and Wake Forest schedule non-conference home-and-home

Miami of Ohio v UNC Getty Images

The evolution of college football scheduling reached a new low Monday, potentially. North Carolina and Wake Forest have agreed to a home-and-home series as non-conference opponents. UNC and Wake Forest are both ACC members, but play in opposite divisions. This is the first time two conference members have scheduled a home-and-home series for non-conference competition*, and it may not be the last.

Wake Forest will host North Carolina on September 19, 2019. UNC will host the second part of the home-and-home series on September 25, 2021. Because these are non-conference match-ups, neither game will count in the ACC standings.

“This is a unique opportunity to play a regional rival in years that fall outside the normal conference rotation,” said UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham.  “We have a long history with Wake Forest that has historical value and will generate interest within our fans.”

The ACC requires schools in the conference to schedule at least one power conference opponent each season. Yes, this scheduling arrangement will satisfy that non-conference scheduling requirement. The idea of the scheduling requirement was designed to increase the overall conference strength of schedule, but this move essentially drags it down by guaranteeing one extra loss for the conference, against power conference opposition no less.

This could be a trend that continues as power conferences flex more muscle over the rest of the college football landscape with new powers granted through autonomy. Keeping the money within the conference, and between power conferences, will lead to more scheduling developments like this. It may not be all bad though, as 14-team conferences have limits to how often some schools face each other on a rotating basis. Perhaps this could be something that solves those concerns and makes for marketable games on our schedule.

Mixed reviews are already coming in about this scheduling announcement now that the precedent has been set.

* California and Colorado played a 2011 game as non-conference opponents despite Colorado just joining the Pac-12. That game had been scheduled back in 2004, before Colorado had joined the conference, but both teams kept the game on the books to fill out the schedule.

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Report: ESPN pushing CFB Playoff to move semifinal games to Jan. 2

National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State Getty Images

Fresh off shattering ratings expectations and records for the first College Football Playoff, 2015’s semifinals are scheduled to be played on New Year’s Eve. That plan, upon seeing the interest in Oregon-FSU and Ohio State-Alabama, was met with plenty of head-scratching from fans and analysts.

Apparently, ESPN isn’t too happy about it either.

The Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand and Michael Smith reported Monday ESPN is pushing the College Football Playoff to move 2015’s semifinals off New Year’s Eve and to Jan. 2, 2016, a Saturday. From the story:

Sources say that senior network executives as high up as ESPN President John Skipper are pushing for the change as a way to get better television ratings, but the CFP is unwilling to make such a move because it is committed to the original plan to hold tripleheader bowl games, including the semifinals, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

“We’ve started a new tradition and we don’t want to back away from it now,” said Bill Hancock, the CFP’s executive director.

On one hand, this is the deal ESPN and the College Football Playoff agreed upon with the knowledge games would be scheduled on New Year’s Eve, going up against partiers and those who want to watch a Ryan Seacrest Type count down to midnight. Even if there’s a game as good as Alabama-Ohio State this year, if it kicks off during the evening of New Year’s Eve, it won’t come close to the ratings that game saw on New Year’s Day.

It’s hard to imagine many outside the College Football Playoff staff aren’t in favor of moving these games off New Year’s Eve. It was a curious-at-best decision to begin with, to expect casual sports fans — the ones who make or break ratings — to tune in to two major events on New Year’s Eve.

If the games do stay on Dec. 31 this year and the ratings inevitably drop, expect this topic to be raised again in a year. And the 2016 semifinals? Yeah, those are on New Year’s Eve, too.

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Louisville ‘in the lead’ to land ex-TCU DE Devonte Fields

Devonte Fields, Wes Lunt AP

TCU nearly made the College Football Playoff without arguably its best defensive player — and that player is now set to make his move back to the FBS level.

Defensive end Devonte Fields, who was booted from TCU last summer after allegedly pointing a gun at his ex-girlfriend, will visit Louisville this weekend and according to ESPN’s Max Olson, the Cardinals are in the lead to land him.

Fields spent last fall at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, but intended to move back to the FBS level before entering the NFL Draft. TCU blocked Fields’ attempt to transfer to FCS side Stephen F. Austin.

Fields racked up 10 sacks and won Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2012, but appeared in only three games in 2013 due to an injury. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Fort Worth native should be a difference-maker wherever he transfers to, provided he can stay out of legal trouble.

Louisville hasn’t shied away from recruiting players with a history of domestic violence — the Cardinals went after former Georgia defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor last year despite him being arrested and charged with aggravated assault and family violence. The Louisville Courier-Journal’s Jeff Greer has Bobby Petrino’s explanation of that here.

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