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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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Oregon schedules three-game series with Hawaii

Marcus Mariota AP

While it’ll be too late for the reigning Heisman winner to enjoy, the flagship school in Marcus Mariota‘s home state and his former team will square off in a future series.

Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens confirmed to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that UO and Hawaii have reached an agreement on three future games.  The first two games will be played in Eugene in 2020 and 2023, while the finale will be played in Honolulu in 2024.

“With so many players on our roster coming from Hawaii, it makes a lot of sense for us,” Mullens told the Star-Advertiser.

The paper noted that, including Mariota, the Ducks had six players born in Hawaii on its 2014 roster.

Since Hawaii moved to the FBS/Div. 1-A level in 1974, they have faced Oregon three times, with the Ducks winning all three matchups.  Including the Rainbow Warriors’ days as an FCS/Div. 1-AA program, the Ducks lead the all-time series 4-3.

The last meeting between the schools came in 1994.

(Tip O’ the Cap: FBSchedules.com)

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QB Caleb Rowe, RB Wes Brown to sit for Terps this spring

Caleb Rowe, Wes Brown AP

Two important pieces of Maryland’s offensive puzzle will be sidelined as the Terrapins begin preparations for the 2015 season in earnest.

Friday, head coach Randy Edsall confirmed that both quarterback Caleb Rowe (pictured, right) and running back Wes Brown (pictured, left) will be non-participants in spring practice.  Both players are still in the process of rehabbing injuries.

The absence of Rowe is not at all surprising as he tore the ACL in his left knee during a practice this past October, the same knee he suffered the same injury in the same month back in 2012.  Rowe, who will enter summer camp as the favorite to win the starting job, is seeking another season of eligibility that would allow him to play again in 2016.

Brown, who overcame off-field missteps that cost him the entire 2013 season, underwent surgery for a torn labrum sustained in the Terps’ bowl game.  Last season, Brown was second in rushing touchdowns (six) and third in rushing yards (356).  He’s also a threat coming out of the backfield, catching 21 passes in his bounce-back season.

Rowe and Brown are just a portion of a lengthy list of Terrapin players who will be sidelined this spring.  From the Washington Post:

Also out is long snapper Christian Carpenter (back), defensive lineman Ruben Franco (labrum), safety Elvis Dennah (labrum), defensive back Alvin Hill (knee), as well as wide receiver Taivon Jacobs (knee) and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson (knee). Hill, Jacobs and Jefferson could potentially participate in non-contact drills this spring, Edsall said.

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Ex-UK QB Maxwell Smith may have early lead for SDSU starting job

Alabama v Kentucky Getty Images

It hasn’t taken Maxwell Smith very long to make a name for himself at his new workplace.

In January of this year, it was confirmed that the quarterback would be transferring from Kentucky to San Diego State to finish out his playing career.  The grad transfer left the Wildcats in search of a place where he could contend for a starting job, and it appears he he may have just picked the right spot.

While the Aztecs have used just three of their allotted 15 spring practice sessions, the San Diego Union-Tribune writes that Smith has seemingly distanced himself from the other five competitors for the the starting spot.  From the Union-Tribune:

With six guys competing, it’s like they come and go through a revolving door in drills, but there’s little question for me who’s looked the sharpest: Kentucky graduate transfer Maxwell Smith.

At 6-feet-4, Smith is the most imposing of the bunch and he’s shown the best arm strength and accuracy. Most impressive has been his targeting on outside curl routes by receivers, with Smith zipping the ball into spots where only his wideouts can catch it. He looks very poised and capable. I don’t yet have a strong read on his mobility, and that might be a concern given the issues with the offensive line (more on that later).

Also competing for the job is Oregon transfer Jake Rodrigues, although the paper stated that he hasn’t had the best start to the spring.  That should be at least mildly concerning as Rodrigues has been in the offense for nearly a year, having left the Ducks for the Aztecs in May of last year.

The paper writes that “[o]ur standings after Week 1: Smith, [sophomore Christian] Chapman, [sophomore Nick] Bawden, Rodrigues, [JUCO transfer Adam] Wood and second-year walk-on Drew Anderson.”

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Departure, another injury further thins Stanford’s defensive line

Oregon State v Stanford

Stanford’s defensive line was already stretched thin because of various issues this spring.  After today, that unit is positively waif-like.

Defensive end Solomon Thomas did not participate in the spring practice session Saturday because of what was later described as a jammed toe sustained this past week.  While Thomas was seen wearing a boot on his injured foot, he’s expected back at some point before the end of spring.

Additionally, defensive tackle Alex Yazdi (pictured, No. 79) has decided to “move on” from the football program, head coach David Shaw confirmed following practice. Whether the fifth-year senior, who played in five games last season, will transfer to another program for his final season of eligibility or has simply decided to give up playing the sport has not been determined.

The combination of attrition and injury — starting lineman Aziz Shittu is out for the spring as he continues to recover from a serious knee injury sustained last October — has left the line on the defensive side very depleted. How depleted?

That trio’s performance was enough to impress even their head coach.

“It is very, very difficult,” Shaw said in quotes distributed by the school. “I had the guys give an applause to the entire defensive line. For three guys to make it through a full practice with scrimmaging and all that stuff and 9-on-7 … They didn’t bat an eyelash, they didn’t back off, they hustled throughout the whole practice, and that’s what it takes.

“As tough as it is, nobody is going to feel bad for us. We’ve got to fight through it.”

Fortunately for the Cardinal, there are still six months before they travel to open the 2015 season against Northwestern.

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Richt: ‘QB as wide-open as it’s ever been since I’ve been at Georgia’

Belk Bowl - Georgia v Louisville Getty Images

Not only will Georgia enter spring practice for the first time in nearly a decade with an offensive coordinator other than Mike Bobo, the Bulldogs will also be searching for a new starting quarterback for the second time in as many years.

After Aaron Murray more than ably handled the job from 2010-13, the signal-calling baton was passed to Hutson Mason for the 2014 season.  With Mason’s eligibility expired, the new starter is expected to come from a group of three players: redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey, redshirt freshman Jacob Park and redshirt junior Faton Bauta.

Ramsey served as Mason’s primary backup in 2014, completing 24 of 39 passes for 333 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Bauta completed four of his five pass attempts in 2014, while Park, a four-star member of UGA’s 2014 recruiting class, took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Based on experience alone, Ramsey will enter the spring as the favorite to win the job. The Bulldogs’ head coach, though, made it perfectly clear that, in the first year under the highly-paid coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the job is available to anyone for the taking.

“It’s just a lot of work to be done between now and that first game and a lot of competition to happen,” Mark Richt said according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. “You know, the quarterback position is as wide-open as it’s ever been since I’ve been at Georgia probably. It’s going to be an interesting battle I would say.”

It’s unknown if Richt will name a starter exiting a spring, or wait until the competition shakes itself out a little more during summer camp before pulling the trigger.

Regardless of who lands the job, they’ll be able to ease into the position as UGA will open the 2015 season at home against Louisiana-Monroe before traveling to Vanderbilt for the SEC opener the following weekend.  The next three games are at home, with a game against FCS-level Southern sandwiched between matchups with SEC East rival South Carolina and West heavyweight Alabama.

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Carl Lawson expected ‘to partake in a good bit’ of Auburn’s spring

Carl Lawson, Bo Wallace

When it comes to the health of Carl Lawson, all of the signs are pointing toward the positive.

Lawson sustained a torn ACL during spring practice last year and, after some initial optimism, did not play at all in 2014.  With the start of Auburn’s spring practice right around the corner, it appears that the defensive end will be nearly a full-go for the 15 sessions.

Nearly is the key word, though, as the Tigers are expected to take the cautious approach with the talented lineman.

“(The coaches) haven’t made those decisions. Our doctors will make those decisions,” new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer when asked how much Lawson will participate. “He’s moving around extremely well. We expect him to partake in a good bit of spring. How much will be determined by our doctors.”

Having a healthy Lawson to start the 2015 season would certainly be a boon for Muschamp’s defense. In 2013 as a true freshman, Lawson was third on the team with 7.5 tackles for loss and second in sacks with four.  That performance led Lawson to being a consensus Freshman All-American.

The injury news along the Tigers’ defensive line wasn’t all positive, though, as Muschamp also acknowledged that end DaVonte Lambert will miss the whole of spring practice. Lambert was leading the Tigers defense in sacks when he sustained a season-ending knee injury that kept him out of both the Iron Bowl and the Outback Bowl.

The good news is that Muschamp stated that Lambert is expected to be completely healthy for the start of summer camp.

AU, incidentally, will kick off spring practice March 10.

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Hip injury to sideline UNC QB Marquise Williams for spring practice

Marquise Williams AP

The bad news for North Carolina is that one of the top quarterbacks in its conference will be sidelined for the foreseeable future.  The good news?  The start of a new season is more than six months away.

In a preview article posted on UNC’s official website, the Tar Heels revealed that Marquise Williams will not participate in any of the 15 spring practice sessions because of a hip injury.  When and how Williams sustained the injury was not disclosed.

You can breathe easy, Tar Heel Nation, as the school stated that Williams “will return full speed in August.”

As a redshirt junior last season, Williams was third among ACC quarterbacks in passing efficiency in throwing 21 touchdown passes against nine interceptions.  His 788 rushing yards were 12th among all quarterbacks nationally, while his 13 rushing touchdowns were tied for fourth at the position.  The 35 total touchdowns were tied for 11th in the country.

With Williams sidelined, Mitch Trubisky will get a sizable portion of the first-team reps.  Despite all of Williams’ accomplishments, Trubisky could use the opportunity gain an advantage in what’s being described as a quarterback competition.

“There’s a lot of continuity with ’Quise coming back,” quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf said. “Marquise is our starting quarterback, and it’s been that way since the middle of the season when he kind of took the reins and went with it. But that’s not going to eliminate the competition.”

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Antonio Crawford’s divorce from the ‘Canes is official

Miami v Boston College Getty Images

After nearly a week’s worth of speculation, Antonio Crawford‘s status at Miami has officially been clarified.

Saturday afternoon, Miami officials confirmed that Crawford is no longer a part of the Hurricanes football team.  The divorce comes exactly a week after the cornerback took to social media to vent his frustrations regarding his perception of how he was being treated by the football program.

While Crawford deleted the rant, it apparently didn’t sit well with the coaching staff.

To where the Tampa native will transfer for his senior season is unknown.

Crawford, a three-star member of the Hurricanes’ 2012 recruiting class, started two of the 38 games in which he played the last three seasons.  Both of those starts came in 2013.

The defensive back likely would’ve entered summer camp as Miami’s top nickel corner.

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Badgers Settle on new RBs coach

Iowa Hawkeyes v Wisconsin Badgers

A couple of weeks after losing an assistant to an SEC school, it appears Wisconsin has found a replacement.

Citing a source close to the UW program, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported overnight that John Settle is set to be named as the Badgers’ new running backs coach.  Settle would assume the position vacated by Thomas, who left for the same joband a hefty raise — at Georgia earlier this month.

Settle is expected to arrive in Madison on Monday and begin work the next day.

When the move comes to fruition, it would serve as a campus reunion as Settle held the same job with the Badgers from 2006-10.  It would also serve as a working reunion as new UW head coach Paul Chryst had Settle on his 2014 Pittsburgh staff as running backs coach.

In between his UW and Pitt stints, Settle spent three years as an assistant in the NFL.

(Photo credit: Wisconsin athletics)

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TCU WR tweets he’ll finish career at Rutgers

SE Louisiana v TCU Getty Images

A wide receiver who began his collegiate career in the Big 12 will end it in the Big Ten, the player announced on social media Friday.

In a tweet posted to his Twitter account, TCU wide receiver Cam White announced that he would be transferring to Rutgers and finishing out his collegiate playing career with the Scarlet Knights.  Because he will be a graduate transfer, White will be eligible to play immediately for RU in 2015.

This upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

“I get to work towards my Masters at a great program academic wise man that’s a blessing,” White added in another tweet, although he does need to bone up on his Rutgers nomenclature.

Because of concussion issues, White did not play at all in 2014 for the Horned Frogs. In 2013, White was seventh on the team in both receptions (18) and receiving yards (182). The previous year was his best statistically, with his two receiving touchdowns fourth on the team and his 284 receiving yards good for fifth.

White was a three-star member of TCU’s 2011 recruiting class.

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UPDATE: John Chavis files suit against LSU, still in good standing with A&M

Louisiana Monroe v LSU AP

I can’t say with 100-percent certainty, but this might be the first time a college coach has filed a lawsuit against both his former and current employer over a contractual issue.

The parties involved are John Chavis, Texas A&M and LSU.  That’s one of the few things that are clear in this case.

In November of last year, it was reported that Chavis and LSU had reached an agreement on a one-year contract extension that would keep the defensive coordinator with the Tigers through the 2015 season.  A month and a half later, the first reports surfaced that Texas A&M had reached out to gauge Chavis’ interest in its coordinator vacancy; a week later, Chavis-to-TAMU was a done deal according to media reports.  Feb. 13, Chavis’ hiring by A&M was made official.

What happened between Chavis’ LSU contract extension and Chavis’ official A&M hiring is at the heart of a lawsuit filed Friday by the coordinator regarding a $400,000 buyout LSU is pursuing, KBTX-TV is reporting.  In  the lawsuit, Chavis claims he doesn’t owe the six-figure buyout… but if he does, A&M is responsible for paying it.

As for the particulars of the lawsuit, here’s what the television station has gleaned:

Chavis claims under his contract, he was given a right to terminate his employment agreement with LSU without cause with 30 days notice. If there were between zero and 11 months left on the deal, Chavis claimed he would owe nothing to LSU, but if between 11 and 23 months were left, he would owe $400,000 to the university.

On January 2, 2015, Chavis claims LSU Director of Athletics Joe Alleva demanded that Chavis pay the university $400,000. On January 5, Chavis says he turned in this 30-day notice to terminate the contract without cause, making his last day February 4.

“Based on Chavis’ notice of termination on January 5, 2015, the ‘termination date’ according to the Amendment was effective thirty days after the written notice served to LSU or (sic) February 4, 2015, which falls within the 11th month remaining and Chavis’ Employment Agreement,” reads the suit. According to Chavis, he does not owe LSU $400,000 as a result.

On the A&M side, Chavis’ suit states that his current employer is “currently obligated to satisfy or cause to be satisfied the liquidated damages, if any, associated with Chavis’ previous Employment Agreement with LSU.” The problem with that? A&M is “unwilling to tender the liquidated damages demanded by LSU because it does [not] believe that liquidated damages are called for under the Employment Agreement as mentioned above,” the suit claims.

I don’t know how this will play out on either side, but I’m going to make a double batch of popcorn, just in case.

UPDATE [9:00 p.m. ET]: John Chavis remains in good standing with his current employer.

Texas A&M University denied any claim that a suit has been filed against it by Chavis, nor does the institution agree that their new defensive coordinator owes the LSU Tigers anything.

Texas A&M released a short statement Friday night, via The Advocate:

UPDATE [10:55 p.m. ET]: Texas A&M University released a short statement early Friday evening. LSU responded in kind later that night.

LSU expects John Chavis‘ lawsuit to be dropped over matters of proper jurisdiction, while the university counter-sued its former defensive coordinator in order to claim the $400,000 buyout stipulated in his previous contract:

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Texas Tech’s DC David Gibbs plans to use Justis Nelson at CB

Jhajuan Seales, Justis Nelson

Defensive back Justis Nelson experienced a breakthrough season as a sophomore. Nelson was named an honorable mention to the All-Big 12 team and a First-Team Academic All-Big 12 performer. However, he didn’t find a permanent home in the Red Raiders secondary.

Nelson played both safety and cornerback last season. But where will new defensive coordinator David Gibbs use this fall?

“We’re going to start him at corner and teach him the corner techniques, because at least the first two days — maybe more than that — we’re just going to be in base defense with three linebackers and teach him to play corner,” Gibbs told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams.

Nelson, who came to Lubbock as a three-star athlete, began his career at safety before switching to cornerback. Due to depth issues, he returned to safety. While the Red Raiders staff expects him to be a starting cornerback, Nelson will likely play some safety during the upcoming season.

“There are going to be times when he’s going to have to play safety, which I’ve done it (with starting cornerbacks),” Gibbs said. “I’ve had my starting corner in base be a safety in nickel and be the nickel in nickel.

“If he has the ability to go play safety and he’s better than my third safety, then I’ll move him to safety and bring those other corners in the game and let them play.”

Nelson’s length at 6’2″ and 179 pounds makes him an ideal cornerback, and he’s already shown the ability to close on the ball to make a play. The Mesquite, Texas, native led the team with 16 pass breakups, which was the school’s highest total since 2002.

However, his new coach hopes Nelson can turn those broken up passes into interceptions during his junior campaign.

“Justis could have had eight freakin’ interceptions last year,” Gibbs said. “He (then-defensive coordinator Mike Smith) put him in the right position. He could have. He didn’t. He’s got to catch those balls. If he catches those balls, it’s a whole different game.”

Whether or not Nelson makes those catches or not, he is still one of the team’s best defenders. The flexibility he provides in the secondary gives Gibbs plenty of options as he instills a new scheme to improve upon last year’s 95th-ranked pass defense.

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Kansas State schedules two home-and-home series against SEC programs

Kansas State v Iowa State

The Kansas State Wildcats apparently learned a lesson after the Big 12 Conference was shut out of the first College Football Playoff. The program is now beefing up its future non-conference schedules.

Bill Snyder‘s squad decided to invade the SEC — that is, if Coach Snyder is still coaching the team in 2017 (and I wouldn’t bet against it).

Kansas State scheduled a pair of home-of-home series with SEC programs, according to ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy:

The Wildcats’ non-conference schedule prior to 2017 includes the South Dakota Coyotes, UTSA Roadrunners, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Missouri State Bears and Florida Atlantic Owls. Not one opponent from a power conference counted among the lot.

Not only is it important for the Wildcats to improve the team’s non-conference schedule, but games against SEC teams will improve the team’s recruiting presence in the Southeast.

Snyder’s staff showed more of an emphasis on recruiting traditional SEC states this year with six commitments from Alabama, Florida and Georgia in the 2015 class. The trend should continue with the team’s agreements to play four games against SEC opponents from 2017-20.

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Bret Bielema explains approach to recruit new coaches to his staff

Bret Bielema

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema doesn’t want to do things like everyone else. That applies to his coaching hires, too.

First, Bielema made the surprise move to poach a sitting head coach from the MAC by hiring Dan Enos as the team’s new offensive coordinator.

He rounded out his coaching staff Wednesday with the hire of Jemal Singleton as the team’s new running backs coach.

Neither of these hires went through a traditional hiring process, though.

“To get to where we are today was kind of a unique process,” Bielema said, via CoachingSearch.com.. “I had a list of names. I was talking to [Air Force head coach] Troy Calhoun at the rules committee meeting, and Coach Calhoun would come watch us when we were at Wisconsin. I’d asked him about another coach that had previously worked for him, and he looked at me and said, ‘You need a running backs coach?’ ‘Yeah, I do, I’m losing my guy to the Saints.’ He goes, ‘I’ve got the guy for you.’ He mentioned Jemal.

“I was impressed the first time I read his bio. He hurdled past everybody else. I had a list of probably 23 coaches at one point. To finally get a chance to sit down with him Monday and visit was an easy decision.

“Whether that’s a normal process or not, I met with him, Coach Enos met with him, he had individual meeting time with every one of our offensive coaches. It’s just how I do it. I also have my secretaries sit down with him. I have my DFO sit down and have breakfast with him. I’ll have my recruiting staff take him to lunch. It’s a team atmosphere. You cultivate that in the way you recruit people.”

It can’t be too difficult to recruit a position coach when Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins form the best running back duo in college football. Singleton will simply be the beneficiary of the talent on the roster after impressing everyone around the Razorbacks program.

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Spurrier ‘letting legal system play out’ on 2015 signee

Shameik Blackshear

Arrested earlier this month, 2015 signee Shameik Blackshear remains a part of the plans for the South Carolina football program in 2015 and beyond.  Whether that will remain the case moving forward remains to be seen.

In his first public comments since Blackshear was charged, head coach Steve Spurrier said he and the program are essentially in wait-and-see mode, and that they’ll make a decision once the criminal proceedings have run their course.

We’ll let the legal system play out,” Spurrier told The State newspaper earlier today. “He’s claiming his innocence, so we’ll see what happens.”

Blackshear is alleged to have taken a purse and safe from a Mill Creek (SC) home Feb. 7. The total value of the items contained in the purse and safe totaled nearly $1,400. He was arrested at his high school and charged with one count of petit larceny.

If Blackshear is able to get past his legal hurdles, he has the type of potential to contribute to the Gamecocks’ defense immediately.

A four-star member of USC’s 2015 recruiting class, Blackshear was a rated as the No. 18 strongside defensive end in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of South Carolina.  Only two other Gamecock defensive signees in a class that ranked 19th nationally were higher-rated than Blackshear.

Blackshear, the first commitment to USC’s 2015 class when he verballed back in May of 2013, earned those lofty recruiting marks despite missing most of the past two seasons due to injuries, one of which was an ACL tear incurred last September.  Entering the 2015 season and prior to the significant knee injury, the 6-4, 245-pound lineman was the top-rated player in the state and was a Rivals.com five-star.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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