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Predictions 101 — Week 10

LSU vs Alabama Football AP

After a perfect Week 9, the fall from grace last week was inevitable.

Last week, we went 5-2 straight, losing the two biggest games (good for Georgia and Notre Dame, bad for us), and 3-4 versus “the number.”

On the bright side, the USOTW is on a roll (good news for Maryland on Saturday).

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Nov. 1, thru Sat., Nov. 3)

1) No. 1 Alabama at No. 5 LSU
Sat., Nov. 3 — 8 p.m. ET, CBS

No offense to the parties involved, but we’re tickled that another rematch between these two in January appears to be out of the question. We like old school football, but it’s kind of “too much of a good thing,” and also a lack of fireworks issue.

In this one, we’re seriously wondering if the Tigers will get into the end zone. When you’re saying that about a Top 5 team playing at home, that’s really something, but LSU was able to muster only three field goals in its two meetings with Alabama last season. Of course, that was good enough to earn a split with the Crimson Tide, who were able to register just one touchdown in that twin-bill.

Considering the fact that the Tigers have had to play with five different offensive line combinations this season, in front of rocky quarterbacking, it’s hard to figure where the points are going to come from against Alabama’s rock-solid defense.

LSU ranks eighth in the SEC in both scoring and total offense, and is particularly challenged in the pass game (11th in SEC in passing efficiency and 12th in passing offense).

Playing in Death Valley, however, will be a significant plus for Les Miles’ crew, which is also more battle tested than the Tide. This will be the Tigers’ fourth consecutive game against ranked opposition. Prior to last Saturday’s 38-7 victory over Mississippi State, Alabama hadn’t faced a ranked foe since the season opener versus Michigan.

Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron counteracts many of LSU’s advantages through his leadership and decision making under fire. He leads the nation in passing efficiency and has yet to throw an interception this season.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 7

The pick: Alabama 20-6

2) No. 2 Oregon at No. 18 USC
Sat., Nov. 3 — 7 p.m. ET, FOX

The Trojans won’t need any help from themselves to lose to the Ducks. Oregon is more than capable of flying past USC all by its lonesome, unlike Arizona, which needed Troy to participate by burying itself last Saturday.

The deadly mix of five turnovers, 13 penalties and Lane Kiffin’s wretched coaching will get you every time, even in Tucson.

And now the Trojans step way up in class as they host the Ducks, who have no shortage of motivation to add USC to their growing list of victims. The Trojans are the only non-SEC team to beat Oregon since the start of the 2010 season and since that 38-35 defeat last November, the Ducks have won 11 straight, scoring 40 or more points each time.

Oregon currently leads the nation in scoring with 53.4 points per game.

USC leads the nation in getting the least out of their talent.

The once-thought-to-be-mighty Trojans rank fifth in the Pac-12 in total offense and sixth in total defense. The writing is already on the walls in Troy. Mr. Kiffin will shepherd USC through the rest of the probationary period and then be shown the door. (Unless some poor misguided soul decides that Kiffin is the answer and hires him away first. Don’t laugh. It has happened a couple times before.)

It’ll be surreal to see the Trojans melt in their own Coliseum, but we just can see it going down any other way.

The Ducks are incredibly fast starters, outscoring opponents, 290-56, in the first half this season. But, while Oregon won’t be able to turn the game over to backups after the second quarter as it normally does, USC isn’t capable of playing catch up.

The Trojans have scored only 28 points in the third quarter all season. Yes, eight games, 28 points. Yikes. Obviously, making the proper halftime adjustments is a concept that’s completely foreign to the Kiffin brain trust.

Opening point spread: Oregon by 6

The pick: Oregon 49-31

3) Oklahoma State at No. 3 Kansas State
Sat., Nov. 3 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

This one seems very clear on paper. That’s the only thing that makes us nervous.

The Wildcats have already dealt with the likes of Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas Tech, limiting each of them to 24 points or less. Therefore, what reason would there be to not side with a Kansas State team that’s averaging more than 44 points and has scored 55 points in back-to-back games?

Furthermore, the Wildcats rank first in the Big 12 and fifth in the nation in turnover margin (+1.9). Giving extra possessions to quarterback Collin Klein equals “no chance.”

Klein’s counterpart, Wes Lunt, returned to action last week in a victory over TCU, after missing the three previous games with a knee injury. He completed 18-of-33 for 324 yards and got into a groove as the game went on, leading the Cowboys to 36 unanswered points after falling behind 14-0.

We doubt Lunt will continue with that momentum in Manhattan in what will be only the second start on the road for the redshirt freshman.

Opening point spread: Kansas State by 7

The pick: Kansas State 41-24

4) Pittsburgh at No. 4 Notre Dame
Sat., Nov. 3 — 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai‘i.

The Panthers roll into South Bend hoping to wreck the Fighting Irish’s perfect season and BCS title dreams. The possibility does exist since we’ve got a double-digit favorite coming home off a massive victory on the road to face a scrappy spoiler with nothing to lose. We’ve seen this sort of upset many times before, even under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus.

But with Notre Dame’s return to relevance and so much on the line, including a Heisman Trophy campaign for linebacker Manti Te‘o, we believe focus won’t waver. The Irish are further bolstered by the third-quarter display at Oklahoma last week that featured clock killing 12- and 13-play drives.

Pitt won’t see the ball nearly enough to even think about pulling off a shocker. And when they do, Te‘o will be in the way. He might even get into the end zone for a Heisman moment and match the Panthers’ scoring output.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 19

The pick: Notre Dame 41-6

5) No. 16 Texas A&M at No. 17 Mississippi State
Sat., Nov. 3 — noon ET, ESPN

Last week’s divergent results and America’s growing fascination with Johnny Manziel cloud the reality here in our book.

We aren’t saying to discount the fact that the Aggies dropped 63 points on Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium or forget about the way the Bulldogs were dominated at Alabama last Saturday. However, when looking at this particular game on its own, it appears to be close to a draw.

Manziel’s ability to make plays is simply amazing, but Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell and running back LaDarius Perkins will be able to counterpunch effectively.

This season ending gauntlet for the Bulldogs is off the charts (Bama, A&M, LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss), but something is telling us that they’ll pickup at least a couple wins and this is one of them.

Opening point spread: Texas A&M by 2 1/2

The pick: Mississippi State 28-27

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Georgia Tech at Maryland
Sat., Nov. 3 — 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network

Once again, the USOTW prediction comes courtesy of Marc Doche (@MDoche) from the P101 satellite office in Burbank, Calif.

This is an intriguing matchup as Georgia Tech can only move the football on the ground and Maryland boasts one of the nation’s best defenses, which allows less than 78 rushing yards per game.

In the past two weeks, the Terrapins combined to allow just 48 yards rushing, but suffered a pair of heart-breaking ACC setbacks to North Carolina State and Boston College. Maryland has lost by a field goal or less in three of their four defeats.

How will the Terps move the ball? Their 116th ranked offense hasn’t done much of that all year and they are without a healthy scholarship quarterback after seeing all four of them go down with injuries.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and that means true freshman Shawn Petty, who was previously a linebacker, gets the nod. Last year at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Petty tossed 15 touchdown strikes against four interceptions, and added another nine scores on the ground while running an option offense.

The Yellow Jackets enter below .500 and are still searching for their first road win.

In the battle of options, we’ll go with the home team that has played close games all year and might just get another big special teams play from freshman wideout Stefon Diggs.

Opening point spread: Georgia Tech by 7

The pick: Maryland 16-13

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Michigan at Minnesota
Sat., Nov. 3 — noon ET, Big Ten Network

In 1903, legendary Michigan head coach Fielding Yost feared that Minnesota fans might contaminate his water supply, so he instructed student manager Tommy Roberts to get something to hold their own water. Roberts came back from a Minneapolis store with a five-gallon earthenware jug that cost him 30 cents.

Following that first game between the Wolverines and Golden Gophers — a 6-6 tie called with two minutes remaining due to chaos (gotta love it!) — Yost left the jug behind and it became a beloved “trophy” for Minnesota officials, who looked upon the tie as a momentous victory over a Michigan team that was on a 28-game winning streak.

Yost eventually asked for his jug back, but was told: “If you want it, you’ll have to win it.” Thus began this whole business of rivalry trophies. Yup, “The Little Brown Jug” … neither little, nor brown … but the granddaddy of them all.

The “point-a-minute” Wolverines of Yost’s day wouldn’t even recognize the Michigan team of the previous two weeks, which hasn’t visited the end zone. Four field goals were enough to beat Michigan State, 12-10, on Oct. 20, but three three-pointers didn’t come close to getting the job done at Nebraska in a 23-9 loss last Saturday.

Of course, not having Denard Robinson at quarterback was a huge problem in Lincoln. After Robinson re-aggravated a nerve injury that affects his throwing hand and arm, backup signalcaller Russell Bellomy struggled mightily. Bellomy attempted 16 passes and completed only three to teammates. Worse yet, three of his passes connected with Cornhuskers.

Minnesota broke a three-game losing streak last week, winning its first Big Ten game with a 44-28 decision over Purdue. A balanced Gopher offense finished with 458 total yards, committed zero turnovers and scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions.

If Robinson isn’t right, the Wolverines could lose their grip on Yost’s jug once again.

Opening point spread: Michigan by 12 1/2

The pick: Michigan 24-21

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Sun Belt reportedly down to Eastern Kentucky and Coastal Carolina for 12th spot

Karl Benson

Who’s ready for some conference realignment news! Anybody? Nobody? Bueller?

The Sun Belt is looking for a 12th member and has zeroed in on either Eastern Kentucky or Coastal Carolina for that coveted final spot, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today.

“They have enough votes,” an unnamed source told Wolken. “They have already visited the campuses.”

Commissioner Karl Benson declined to speak for the piece, but he has acknowledged conversing with both schools previously.

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Adding either school would allow the Sun Belt to immediately schedule a conference championship game, though conference title games are expected to be deregulated by the NCAA in 2016.

Eastern Kentucky is said to be more FBS-ready on Day 1 (Coastal’s football stadium seats less than 10,000 people, for starters), but Coastal Carolina is coached by billionaire former Ameritrade CEO Joe Moglia and, if the last five years have taught us anything about conference realignment, the prospect of future money tends to send common sense waiting at the door in these scenarios.

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Ohio State lists J.T. Barrett, not Cardale Jones, as team captain

J.T. Barrett

It may mean absolutely nothing. It may mean everything.

Either way, the only thing it really means is that one will walk out for the opening coin toss and one will not.

Amid a newsy Friday evening, Ohio State announced J.T. Barrett will represent the quarterback room among the Buckeyes’ six 2015 captains.

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“This was the most players I’ve seen receive votes for captains,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “We had 14 players receive votes, but these six separated themselves. This is one of the great accomplishments these young men will experience, to be elected by their peers. And it is very well deserved.”

For the “it means nothing” camp: Connor Cook is not one of Michigan State’s captains this season, which will clearly not stop him from starting at quarterback this fall.

For the “it means everything” camp: How many teams really choose their backup quarterback as team captain?

Either way, Meyer will likely keep his actual starting quarterback decision under wraps until the Buckeyes take the field at Lane Stadium on Labor Day evening. Or maybe he told us all we need to know tonight. It’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma, I tell you.

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LSU OC Cam Cameron diagnosed with prostate cancer, plans to coach in 2015

Sam Houston State v LSU

LSU offensive coordinator has been diagnosed with prostate cancer but plans to coach in 2015, it was revealed Friday night. Ross Dellenger of the (Baton Rouge) Advocate was the first to report the news.

Cameron has already undergone treatment for the disease, saying only “minor limitations” have gotten between him and the job, but painted a picture that his diagnosis was already in the rearview mirror.

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The Tigers, unfortunately, experienced a very similar bit of bad news at this time just four years ago.

Just weeks before the 2011 season, then-offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He vacated his offensive coordinator post to offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and remained on as quarterbacks coach. Following the 2012 season, Kragthorpe moved off the field and into a special assistant to the head coach/chief of staff role, where he’s remained ever since.

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LSU opens the 2015 season at home versus McNeese State next Saturday.

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Tim Beckman responds to Illinois firing, calls allegations “utterly false”

Tim Beckman

Illinois athletics director Mike Thomas felt strongly enough about the results of an investigation into his head football coach’s performance to fire him months before the study was even complete. Thomas said Friday investigators had spoken with more than 90 witnesses and reviewed more than 200,000 documents.

Tim Beckman thinks it’s all a pack of lies.

The now former Illinois head coach released a statement Friday evening.

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While nothing he can say at this point will get him his job back, it’s obvious what Beckman is doing here: setting the stage for a lawsuit in which he comes for the $3.1 million due on the final two years of his contract and (however futilely) attempts to clear his name in pursuit of other coaching jobs.

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Oregon lists EWU transfer Vernon Adams as starting QB

Eastern Washington v Washington Getty Images

It didn’t come with a grand proclamation (at least not yet) or a trumpeting of horns, just a line on a depth chart, mixed in with dozens others like it. Yet it is significant all the same: Oregon has listed Vernon Adams as its starting quarterback for the Eastern Washington game next Saturday.

Adams, of course, just arrived from Eastern Washington. As in, two weeks ago.

Oregon announced the addition of the record-setting EWU quarterback as a graduate transfer on Feb. 11, but Adams couldn’t join the Ducks’ roster until he completed his undergraduate coursework. That didn’t happen until Aug. 13.

Adams needed all of two weeks to beat Jeff Lockie out for Oregon’s QB1 job.

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In 37 career games at Eastern Washington, Adams threw for 10,438 yards with 110 touchdowns against only 31 interceptions while adding 1,232 yards and 11 scores on the ground. A 6-foot powder keg of extreme confidence, Adams has a knack for saving his best performances for the biggest of stages. He threw for 425 yards and three touchdowns (with two picks) in a loss to eventual FCS runner-up Illinois State in the FCS playoffs last December, a performance only surpassed by his spotless 475-yard, seven-touchdown effort in a 59-52 loss to Washington in September.

In a game only surpassed by Washington at Boise State in terms of awkward Week 1 reunions, Adams’ first game as Oregon’s quarterback will be against Eastern Washington next Saturday in Eugene.

Adams’ former head coach, Beau Baldwin, spoke out against the graduate transfer rule that allowed Adams to leave and play immediately at Oregon. “It’s not what the rule is intended for,” Baldwin said. “… Ultimately we feel like, you know what, we were also the ones who developed [Adams] from a level where obviously out of high school he wasn’t at that level.”

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Arkansas TE C.J. O’Grady arrested on DWI charge

Dennis Johnson

In his entertaining and insightful profile of Bret Bielema‘s Arkansas program, Sports Illustrated‘s Pete Thamel noted that Razorbacks players found themselves in handcuffs only once every 483 days since Bielema’s arrival. Time to reset the clock.

Hogs tight end C.J. O’Grady was stopped early Friday morning for the lack of a working taillight on his scooter and subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated and being a minor in possession of alcohol, according to the Associated Press.

O’Grady, speaking through slurred speech and emitting an odor of alcohol, reportedly registered a blood alcohol content of 0.099, topping the legal limit of 0.08 and well above Arkansas’s 0.02 limit for minors.

A native of Fayetteville, O’Grady is a freshman hailing from Fayetteville High School. He was released from jail and is due back in court Sept. 28, the Monday after Arkansas’s date with Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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Purdue puts two-game cap on Gelen Robinson’s suspension

Gelen Robinson, C.J. Beathard AP

Earlier this month, Darrell Hazell confirmed Gelen Robinson would miss at least two games and up to four following an offseason arrest.  In the end, the punishment meted it is at the lower end of the spectrum.

The Purdue head coach revealed Thursday that Robinson will be suspended for the two-game minimum.  Purdue begins the 2015 season with a road trip to defending Conference USA champion Marshall and follows that up with a home game against FCS Indiana State.  The defensive end will be eligible to return for the Sept. 19 game against Virginia Tech in West Lafayette.

In late June, Robinson was arrested on charges of operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or more and illegal possession of an alcoholic beverage.  The charges triggered a violation of a prior diversion agreement with the courts.

As a true freshman last season, Robinson played in 10 games. His four tackles for loss were sixth on the team, while his two sacks were good for fourth.

Entering summer camp, Robinson, the son of Boilermaker basketball great Glenn Robinson, was viewed as a likely starter at end.

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A week before opener, Tim Beckman fired as Illini’s head coach

Tim Beckman AP

In the end, Tim Beckman‘s hot seat turned into an electric chair before the season even kicked off.

In a surprising move given only its timing, Illinois announced that Beckman has been dismissed as its head football coach.  The move comes exactly one week before the Illini open the 2015 season against Kent State.

The firing also comes more than three months after a former player accused the coach of “misuse and abuse of power,” while another stated shortly thereafter that Beckman “takes the cake as the worst coach I ever met.”  Athletic director Mike Thomas initially supported the beleaguered head coach, but the preliminary results of an external review into the accusations forced Thomas into pulling the trigger now instead of later.

“The preliminary information external reviewers shared with me does not reflect our values or our commitment to the welfare of our student-athletes, and I’ve chosen to act accordingly,” Thomas said in a statement. “During the review, we have asked people not to rush to judgment, but I now have enough information to make this decision in assessing the status and direction of the football program.”

The results, while preliminary, are damning, and show exactly why Thomas and the university had to make the move in the here and now. From the release:

During a preliminary briefing from the external reviewers, Thomas said he learned of efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries. He also said in some instances student-athletes were treated inappropriately with respect to whether they could remain on scholarship during the spring semester of their senior year if they weren’t on the team.

“Both of those findings are unsettling violations of University policy and practice and do not reflect the culture that we wish to create in athletic programs for our young people,” Thomas said. “I expect my coaches to protect players and foster their success on and off the field.”

Beckman has been fired for cause, meaning he will not receive the $3.1 million remaining on the last two years of his original five-year contract or the $743,000 called for if his contract had been bought out.

Replacing Beckman on an interim basis for the entire 2015 season is offensive coordinator Bill Cubit.  The release stated that “the external review did not indicate any findings related to Coach Cubit.”

In three seasons with the Illini, Beckman compiled a 12-25 overall record and a 4-20 mark in Big Ten play. He likely would’ve been fired after the 2014 season, but the Illini managed to win their final two games to earn a bowl bid.

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Louisville’s stadium expansion to push capacity past UK’s

PJCS expansion

That title, however, comes with an asterisk.

First, though, Louisville officials announced at a press conference that the home of the football Cardinals, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, will undergo what’s projected to be a $55 million expansion.  The expansion will add approximately 10,000 new seats — the release explains “1,000 modern club seats, 65 new premium loge level boxes, and 10 exclusive field level suites” will be part of new seating — which will push the capacity of PJCS to around 65,000.

Additionally, the football facility will see a significant upgrade as well as part of the renovation.

The Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex, which currently sits in the north end zone, will undergo a major expansion and facelift. The team’s weight room and conditioning center will double in size, creating a total of 20,000 square feet of work space for training, conditioning, and therapeutic support. A spacious player’s lounge, improvements for coaches’ offices and the team locker room, and expansive theatre-style meeting areas will also be among the enhancements for student-athlete development.

“We are extremely excited to launch this project and I know our fans are thrilled as well,” said athletic director Tom Jurich in a statement. “We worked extremely hard on this one to assure the timing was right before we moved forward. We feel that we have a plan in place that will excite our fans and continue to advance our program, which has truly gained a national stage with our university’s move to the ACC.”

Upon completion, PJCS will have a capacity greater than in-state rival Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium (61,000). Now the asterisk: Capacity had actually reached nearly 68,000 at Commonwealth in the late nineties prior to a current renovation that will actually reduce seating to the aforementioned 61,000.

Getting an attendance one-up on their rival, though, wasn’t part of the thought process, at least not publicly.

Whether or not UofL fans can consistently fill the additional seats remains to be seen.

(Photo credit: Louisville athletics)

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Lawyer for Jameis Winston’s accuser hired by Baylor rape victim

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The high-profile Baylor rape case has added a prominent new character, the Dallas Morning News is reporting.

According to the paper, nationally-known Title IX attorney John Clune of Colorado has been hired by the victim and her family to “investigate a number of issues surrounding the case,” including Baylor’s handling of it. A jury found earlier this week found that former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu had raped a former BU women’s soccer player in October of 2013, five months after his dismissal from Boise State.

Clune subsequently confirmed to the News in a phone conversation, as well as in a statement, that he is involved in the case.

“We are glad to see that President Starr and Baylor have chosen to conduct their own investigation and look forward to learning the outcome of that process,” Clune said in the statement. “Regardless of what facts these investigations may bare, there is a significant teachable moment here for all in higher education and we are hopeful that Baylor University embraces that great opportunity.”

A Waco attorney, Bill Johnston, is assisting Clune and his firm in their own investigation of BU’s handling of Ukwuachu.  It’s unclear if the attorneys’ investigation will extend to Boise State as well.

The hiring of Clune is perceived to be the precursor to civil action being pursued by the victim, although it’s highly unlikely the university would ever allow any lawsuit to see the light of day in a courtroom and would instead aggressively seek an out-of-court settlement.

Clune is likely most known as the attorney representing the woman who accused former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of raping her in 2012.  He also represented a woman in a civil suit who claimed three Oregon basketball players raped her; that case resulted in an out-of-court settlement for the alleged victim in which she received $800,000 as well as free tuition and housing while UO admitted no wrongdoing.

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CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Big 12 Predictions

TCU at Baylor

The Big 12 was left on the outside looking in of the College Football Playoff party a year ago, but it looks as though the odds are good the conference is not left out this season. TCU opens the 2015 season as the second-ranked team in the major polls and the Horned Frogs are joined by Baylor as popular picks to make a playoff push in 2015. But what about Oklahoma and Texas you ask? This year should see some improvements with both blueblood programs, although progress at each will be measured differently.

It is time for me to go on the record with some Big 12 predictions. Let’s just say I have a weird gut feeling about some of these.

1. TCU (Last year: 12-1, beat Ole Miss in Peach Bowl)
TCU returns a loaded offense with 10 starters coming back in 2015 from last season’s surging offense. That includes quarterback Trevone Boykin, who may be my top contender in the Heisman Trophy race this season thanks to his experience and supporting cast. TCU needs to replace just one offensive lineman, which puts TCU ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the conference. The schedule does have its challenges ahead of the Horned Frogs, including a season opener on the road against a solid Minnesota squad and road trips to Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. But I think TCU can manage to get away with wins in all three. In fact, I see TCU winning every game on the schedule this season, which would be a remarkable feat for this program on the rise. Most importantly, if TCU does live up to this prediction, there is not a shot they miss out on the playoff at the end of the season. None. There are some questions on the defensive side of the football, but I trust Gary Patterson will be able to address those concerns enough to get by while the offense is cooking.

2. Oklahoma (Last year: 8-5, lost to Clemson in Russell Athletic Bowl)
I feel rather optimistic about the Sooners this season, although I wonder why I feel this optimistic. Heck, I’ve even calling for Oklahoma to win a road game at Baylor. Call it gut instinct if you will. Oklahoma lost every game against a ranked opponent last season and holes were exposed by Baylor and Clemson. But Oklahoma hung in there with Kansas State and TCU and the Sooners have the best running back in the conference with Samaje Perine. I’m looking for a big year from Perine, if the rebuilt offensive line can help him out. I think Oklahoma gets off to an OK start, with the game at Tennessee a toss-up (I have it marked as a loss right now). I think Bob Stoops comes through with some solid performances to surprise some along the way to a second place finish in the Big 12.

3. Kansas State (Last year: 9-4, lost to UCLA in Alamo Bowl)
Here is what I have come to learn about Kansas State over the years. Bill Snyder is a good coach and finds a way to put together a solid team more often than not. You can look at Kansas State on paper and suggest there is no reason to be too excited about the Wildcats in 2015, and that is fine. Snyder will find a way to make it all come together, and he will have three fairly easy games and a bye week at the start of the season to get it all worked out before jumping into Big 12 play. That could get off to a rough start as well, but the bye week before hosting Baylor could be huge. I think Kansas State finishes strong in Big 12 play after the bye week.

4. Baylor (Last year: 11-2, lost to Michigan State in Cotton Bowl)
This one is sure to raise some eyebrows, and I fully understand. Baylor is seen by many as a Big 12 favorite and legitimate playoff contender. Eight starters are back on offense, and nine more on defense. If not for a slip up at West Virginia last season, Baylor would have been in the playoff with an undefeated record. Just like last season, the margin for error is extremely thin for the Bears. This may be a solid test for Art Briles, as he looks to work his quarterback magic once more with Seth Russell taking over a talented offense. With an experienced offensive line protecting him and Corey Coleman and KD Cannon as targets and running back Shock Linwood in the backfield, things should look pretty good for Baylor, right? I’m going with the gut instinct again here to explain why I have Baylor down so low in the Big 12 standings. I think Baylor gets off to a great start, but hits a road block after the second bye week. I’m putting Baylor down for back-to-back losses against Kansas State and Oklahoma and one more two weeks later against TCU. But they may be the best three-loss team in the nation.

5. Texas (Last year: 6-7, lost to Arkansas in Texas Bowl)
When Charlie Strong was hired as the head coach of Texas I said it might take a few years for him to have the Longhorns ready to compete for a Big 12 title. Entering year two, I think we start to see some signs of progress. With a couple of coaching changes on the staff, the hope is the offense begins to show some more consistency and efficiency. The Longhorns have to decide whether to go with Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard at quarterback and replace both starting tackles on the line, but things should start looking a little more stable on offense. After experiencing a setback in the season opener in South Bend against Notre Dame, the Longhorns rebound before hitting TCU and Oklahoma before the bye week. We will see this season there is still work to be done for Texas to compete against the best fo the conference, but it should start proving to us things are getting better.

6. Oklahoma State (Last year: 7-6, beat Washington in Cactus Bowl)
Another relatively low expectation for the Cowboys compared to many of the preseason previews out there. The big hang up for Oklahoma State for me will be the schedule. The road game at Texas I think ultimately goes down as a loss as the Longhorns look to make a bit of a statement. A road trip to West Virginia could go down as a loss as well, and TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma could all be home losses as well. Oklahoma State is probably more likely to go 1-2 in those big three games in the last half of the season, but I have them as losses right now.

7. West Virginia (Last year: 7-6, lost to Texas A&M in Liberty Bowl)
West Virginia should once again be somewhere in the middle of the Big 12, and will be one of those teams capable of pulling an upset. West Virginia will not be a pushover and should have some back-and-forth games, but the Mountaineers are not quite equipped to make a run at the Big 12 title. They are dangerous though as long as Dana Holgorsen is commanding the offense and a defense returning nine starters (including safety Karl Joseph). West Virginia’s biggest weakness is in the trenches. There won’t be enough of a push from the defense and the offensive line may not be the most dependable. The start of Big 12 play could be rough (at Oklahoma, vs. Oklahoma State, at Baylor, at TCU after bye).

8. Texas Tech (Last year: 4-8)
The bets thing about Texas Tech is Kliff Kingsbury and his swagger. But good looks do not translate to wins on the football field, and Texas Tech is the textbook example of that right now. I have little faith in Texas Tech’s ability to be consistent enough on offense and I have even less confidence in Texas Tech’s defense to stop anything. Sure, shootouts may be fun to watch at times, but the Red Raiders need a lot of things to start turning around if we are ever going to see this program recapture the magic the Mike Leach era offered at times.

9. Iowa State (Last year: 2-10)
You may not find a harder working two-win team in the country than Iowa State. Yes, it could be another long season for the Cyclones, and that could place head coach Paul Rhoads in some unfortunate territory at the end of the season, but there should be some bright spots for Iowa State along the way. Wide receiver Allen Lazard will be tough to slow down and could have a big season. And hey, they’re not Kansas.

10. Kansas (Last year: 3-9)
I have Kansas down for one win this season and even that might be a stretch. New head coach David Beaty has his work cut out for him, but at least he is bringing some passion to the rebuilding project in Lawrence. He will need it with just three starters returning on each side of the football field, and his quarterback was injured in spring practice. If Kansas does not beat South Dakota State in week one (not a given by any means), then the Jayhawks will be staring down an 0-12 record this season.

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Sam Ukwuachu’s dad: Art Briles didn’t know of son’s past violence

Oklahoma State v Baylor Getty Images

The he said/he said when it comes to the disturbing Sam Ukwuachu situation has added yet another layer.

Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor in May of 2013 after being dismissed by Boise State, and was found guilty earlier this week of the rape of a BU student that happened five months after he moved on to the Bears.  It surfaced during the rape trial that, while at Boise, Ukwuachu was involved in at least one episode of violence involving his then-girlfriend, which some have surmised triggered his dismissal by BSU.

Art Briles claimed that Chris Petersendid not disclose that there had been violence toward women, but he did tell me of a rocky relationship with his girlfriend which contributed to his depression.”  Petersen countered that, in the phone conversation described by the BU head coach, he “thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding Sam’s disciplinary record and dismissal.”

Petersen’s statement never mentioned specifically whether or not violence was discussed between the two coaches; in fact, Boise released a statement in the aftermath of the dispute that “Ukwuachu’s dismissal from the Boise State football team had nothing to do with accusations of any sexual assaults or with accusations that he physically assaulted any women.”

In the latest twist, Ukwuachu’s father, Felix Ukwuachu, stated during a radio interview that he heard the conversation between Petersen and Briles from the former’s perspective. And, according to the dad, Briles’ version of the events that preceded his son’s arrival in Waco is accurate. From KWTX.com‘s account of the radio spot:

Felix Ukwuachu, said in an interview with KWTX at his home in Houston, that he took a bus to Boise in May 2013 in order to pick up his son and met with Petersen who told him he was going to recommend the player to his “friend Art Briles.”

And he said he was in an outer office when Petersen placed the call.

“We could hear the whole conversation,” he said.

“Petersen said ‘Samuel is a dynamic player, a good boy’ (and) said he would be pleased if you take him into your school,” Felix Ukwuachu said.

Petersen “did not let Samuel go because of sexual abuse or any kind of abuse,” Ukwuachu said.

“Samuel was depressed, Samuel was homesick it was making him…think suicidal thoughts, so we decided that we told him you have to come home,” he said.

“Samuel was in good standing with University of Boise State, Boise state,” he said, and a transfer document that Baylor released confirmed that.

The fact that Briles and now the elder Ukwuachu claim Petersen vouched for the player in setting up the transfer might raise at least one eyebrow. In a damning report published shortly before the Ukwuachu, Texas Monthly wrote that “the two programs had some communication regarding Ukwuachu in which Boise State officials expressed reticence about supporting the player’s efforts to get back on the field.”

Then again, a report surfaced this week that then-Florida head coach Will Muschamp decided against pursuing Ukwuachu “after a Boise State athletic department employee detailed Ukwuachu’s troubles with a girlfriend.” That employee relayed allegations of physical abuse of his then-girlfriend while at Boise. Some have questioned how Muschamp allegedly could’ve known of violence in Ukwuachu’s past and Briles specifically and BU in general didn’t.

Ukwuachu was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation.

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Devlyn Cousin takes to social media to announce Cyclones departure

Devlyn Cousin

A little more than a week before Iowa State opens its season, the Cyclones’ depth along the defensive line has taken a bit of a hit.

On social media, Devlyn Cousin announced that he has decided to transfer out of the ISU football program and continue his playing career elsewhere. No reason was given for the abrupt departure.

Paul Rhoads subsequently confirmed the lineman’s departure.

“Devlyn and I met last night and he informed me of his decision to leave the football team and his intention to transfer to a school that is a better fit for him,” the head coach said in a statement. “He is going to stay in school at Iowa State for the rest of the fall semester and we will help him in the transfer process. We wish him success in his future.”

Cousin played in 16 games the past two seasons after redshirting as a true freshman in 2012.  He started two of those contests, with both starts coming in 2014.

In December of last year, Cousin was arrested and charged with simple serious domestic assault and obstruction of emergency communication after a verbal altercation with his girlfriend turned physical.  While he was indefinitely suspended, he ultimately was reinstated and entered summer camp No. 2 on the depth chart at tackle.

(Photo credit: Iowa State athletics)

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If rehab goes well, Hogs will lose Jonathan Williams to NFL

Jonathan Williams AP

At the rate things are going, Jonathan Williams may have played his final down as a member of the Arkansas football program.

Initially diagnosed with a foot injury that was expected to sideline him for an extended period of time, the Arkansas running back was subsequently ruled out for the entire season.  Williams, who sustained the injury during a scrimmage a couple of weeks ago, had two screws surgically inserted into his left foot to help promote growth and healing in a torn ligament.

If his rehab goes as expected, Williams said, he won’t be returning to the Razorbacks for the 2016 season.  Instead, he’ll make his way to the NFL as an early entrant in the draft.

Last season, Williams led the Hogs in rushing with 1,190 yards. His 12 rushing touchdowns were tied for the team lead with Alex Collins, who was second on the team with 1,100 yards.  The backs were the only FBS teammates to rush for more than a thousand yards last season.

Williams is Arkansas’ No. 10 all-time leading rusher with 2,321 career rushing yards. His 5.72 career yards per rush average ranks sixth all-time at Arkansas and his rushing total in 2014 was the eighth-best single-season mark in Razorback history.

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Andre Carter returning to Cal as student assistant coach

Andre Carter

A decade and a half after leaving Cal, Andre Carter is returning to the Bears football program.

The school announced in a press release that Carter has joined Sonny Dykes‘ staff in the capacity of student assistant coach.  Carter will assist Fred Tate in coaching the Bears’ defensive line.

Carter enrolled as an undergraduate at Cal earlier this year to pursue his bachelor’s degree in American studies.

“We are thrilled that Andre has returned to Cal to get his degree,” head coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “We are also looking forward to Andre being able to impart the knowledge he gained both on and off the field during a standout collegiate and NFL career to our players. He knows what it takes to succeed at the highest level of football and will certainly be a positive influence on everyone in our program.”

Carter was a consensus All-American in his final season at Cal in 2000.  His final two seasons, he was a unanimous first-team All-Pac-10 selection as a defensive end.

The 13-year NFL veteran hopes this position will help launch a coaching career at either the collegiate or professional level.

“Returning to Cal to earn my degree has been a life-changing experience,” Carter said. “I have already accomplished what I wanted to in football by playing at the highest level but there will be no greater feeling than earning my degree from one of the nation’s top universities. That’s why I’m back. …

“I feel I can impart the current players with the right way to play the game and the desire you need to have to be successful. There’s no greater satisfaction than becoming a coach.”

(Photo credit: Cal athletics)

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