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The Fifth Quarter: Alabama-LSU Rewind

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron celebrates after his team defeated the LSU Tigers during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana AP

Yes, this game was so big it gets its own Rewind.  Your regularly-scheduled “The Fifth Quarter: Week 10 Rewind” will appear, in its entirety, later on in the day Sunday.

Ben did a helluva job with the post-game recap of one of the more entertaining football games you’ll see at any level, a 21-17 win for the top-ranked team in the nation.  Below is a little bit of the minutia and talking points that may or may not litter sports radio shows and water cooler conversations throughout the weekend and into the start of a new work week.

THE TURNING POINT
The first five drives of the second half, LSU’s relentlessly stifling defense had held Alabama’s offense in check, limiting the No. 1 Tide to 49 yards of total offense.  In those five series, the No. 5 Tigers forced four three-and-outs and one fumble.

And then came the sixth drive.

After a missed 38-yard field goal attempt gave the Tide the ball at their own 28-yard line with 1:34 left in the game, LSU, which had been in full-blown attack mode on defense throughout, went into full-blown soft-zone mode.  It turned out to be the worst of several questionable decisions made by Les Miles and his coaching staff throughout the game.

In three plays after taking possession, and in less than 40 seconds, the Tide gained nearly as many yards (44) as they had in the entire second half previously, moving from their own 28 to the same yard line on LSU’s side of the field.  Following an incompletion on the fourth play of what would prove to be the game-winning drive, LSU again donned their blitzing caps… and the Tide made the Tigers pay dearly, dialing up a perfectly-executed screen pass from AJ McCarron to T.J. Yeldon that saved both the game and the Tide’s title aspirations.

It’s hard to blame LSU for trying to prevent the one big play that would cost them the game.  It’s not hard to blame LSU, though, for a decision that allowed a trio of mini-big plays, ultimately leading to the big play.

THUMBS UP

Back-to-back still intact
Suffice to say, the biggest winner of the night was Alabama’s title hopes.  If last week was the Tide’s first real test of the 2012 season, tonight was their first real test of the year.  And, while they didn’t pass with the flying colors of a week ago, they passed.  At this stage of the season, that’s all that matters — for the most part.  While the Tide had walked, talked, smelled and played like an unstoppable force through eight games — so  much so, in fact, that the laughable notion of UA being able to beat an NFL team was actually taking hold — they were anything but that for a sizable chunk of the first 58 minutes.  As odd as it sounds, though, that might’ve been the second most important development of the night as it gives Nick Saban‘s coaching arsenal yet another pointed teaching tool to use on what is still, despite all of the wins and lofty rankings, a very young football team.  Complacency will likely be the Tide’s biggest enemy for the remainder of the regular season; the LSU game tape would serve as the ultimate trump card, as evidenced by Saban’s quotes following the game.

“Our players have to be aware that they can take this one way or the other,” the coach said of the hard-fought win. “This one is either going to affect them in a positive way or a negative way with what they do in the future. They can focus on the things they didn’t do and take the next challenge and continue to improve and be ready to play next week and prepare and practice next week or they can say, ‘We’re satisfied for ourselves with what we did.'”

AJ’s Heisman hopes
AJ McCarron, because of Alabama’s style of play, will simply not put up the type of numbers that other Heisman contenders do on a weekly basis, and that was never more evident than this latest Saturday night in Death Valley.  That final drive, however, was the stuff of which legends are made.  And the stuff that attracts the attention of Heisman voters regardless of the stat line for the first 58 minutes.  The raw, from-the-heart emotion McCarron displayed as the final seconds ticked off the clock and then boiled over as he met his parents beyond the end zone after the game were as epic, in a good way, as his engineering of the final drive.  I don’t know if the junior deserves to win the Heisman, but he certainly belongs in the discussion.

The SEC
If you don’t think the SEC was privately and/or publicly rooting for an Alabama win, you might consider removing your head from the sand as it’s awfully hot and hard to breathe down there.  For the conference in general and the Tide specifically, the stakes couldn’t have been higher.  An Alabama loss would’ve left the SEC with no unbeaten teams.  When combined with three other highly-ranked teams still unbeaten — four if you want to consider Louisville as part of the mix — the SEC’s streak of six straight BcS titles would’ve been in serious jeopardy, with the conference in the uncharted territory of relying on outside help for a ticket to the title game.  Fortunately for the SEC, the Tide’s win left the conference with the inside track for one of the two spots in the BcS championship game.  Just as fortunate?  There were no controversial calls that favored Alabama and played a role in the outcome of the game…

Death Valley didn’t disappoint
Forget the fact that LSU lost just its second home game under the lights (Florida, 2009) under Les Miles.  The atmosphere at Tiger Stadium, even from my vantage point a little over 1,000 miles, is simply electric and by all accounts deafening, which makes the Tide’s triumph all the more impressive.  If you were to make a list of the greatest venues for any sport in the country, it wouldn’t take long to call roll before you got to Death Valley.  It’s a credit to the university, the football program and, most importantly, the fan base that such a spectacle exists.  Yes, the loss was certainly disappointing to those that live and die with the Bayou Bengals, but they can take heart in the knowledge that they are a big part of what makes the sport of college football so great.  And, yes, a trip to Death Valley is on my sports bucket list.  Gotta get there at some point for a night game…

Democrats
Regardless of what the polls may or may not say, the Democratic Party has to be feeling pretty good heading into Tuesday based solely on the results of a football game.  Why?  According to research conducted by FanSided.com, the winner of the Alabama-LSU has accurately predicted the results of all seven presidential elections held since 1984.  In years that Alabama won, a Democrat won the election.  In years LSU won, a Republican was sent to the White House. So, with the Tide’s win, is it hello second term for the sitting president?  Your mileage may vary greatly as to whether an eighth-consecutive accurate prediction would be a positive or negative development.

THUMBS DOWN

The Mad Hatter
Take your pick on the daffiest of the daftness of the Mad Hatter in this game.  Was it the failed fake field goal that everybody — including the Tide’s defense and my grandmother, who’s been six feet under for two decades — saw coming?  The failed onside kick, which admittedly would’ve been idiot savant-level genius were it not for a quirky bounce that resulted in an illegal touching penalty on the kicker?  The failed 54-yard field goal attempt that gave the Tide prime field position with just over a minute left in the second quarter, and which the Tide turned into a touchdown and a 14-3 lead heading into the half?  A failed fourth-and-one from the Alabama 24, one in which LSU utilized its version of the gimmicky Wildcat offense after it had been very successful running the football with the standard power game?  Individually, these plays didn’t cost LSU the game.  Collectively, they were part of the subtle flow of the game that set the table for the game-winning drive.

Oh, Copeland…
Midway through the second quarter, a fumbled punt on the part of the Tide was recovered by the Tigers at UA’s 32-yard line.  On the ensuing play, a 19-yard run by Jeremy Hill moved the Tigers down to the 13-yard line… and a post-play personal foul on J.C. Copeland moved the ball back to the 28.  While it was still first and 10 following the penalty, all the momentum gained from the previous two plays was lost as the Tigers gained just one yard the next three, leading to the failed fake field goal.  The penalty almost certainly cost the Tigers at least a field goal, if not a touchdown.  In what was a four-point loss, and even as it occurred in the first half, Copeland’s momentary lapse of reason was a significant moment in the game.

Who are you and what’d you do with the Tide’s defense?
Through the first eight games of the season, Alabama led the country by stingily giving up just a little over 57 yards per game on the ground; LSU churned out 80 rushing yards… in the first quarter alone.  For the game, the Tigers rushed for 139 yards; previously, the most the Tide had given up in a single game this season was 80 to Ole Miss in Week 5.  Add that to some very suspect play in the passing game, and we’re guessing Nick Saban will spend an inordinate amount of time tightening things up on that side of the ball as the Tide preps for the high-octane Texas A&M Aggies’ trip to Tuscaloosa this Saturday.

McCarron’s Heisman hopes
As great as the final drive was, the first 58:26 was as choppy of a game McCarron has played in his one-plus seasons as the Tide’s starting quarterback.  On that final drive, McCarron was 4-5 for 72 yards and a touchdown; prior to that, he was 10-22 for 93 yards and one rushing touchdown.  On what will be his second-biggest stage before votes are cast — the SEC championship being the biggest, provided the Tide can navigate games against A&M and Auburn — the question will become what voters give the most weight to when it comes to McCarron’s stiff-armed candidacy: the first 58, or final two.

QUOTABLE

“I’ve never been prouder of a bunch of guys to overcome adversity. … It’s something I’ll never forget.” — Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

“It was a very hard game. We needed a hard game.” — Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.

“You’ll remember this one forever.  It hurts worse than the [loss to Alabama] in the national championship game.” — LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING

— From the UA Sports Information Department: AJ McCarron continues to build his school record of passes without an interception. McCarron ends the LSU game with an active streak of 289 passing attempts without an interception.

— Speaking of McCarron, the junior is one touchdown pass away from tying and two away from breaking Greg McElroy‘s single-season mark of 20 set in 2010.  He’s also 10 touchdown passes away from breaking John Parker Wilson‘s career mark of 47.

— Despite the loss, quarterback Zach Mettenberger came of age for the Tigers.  In unquestionably his finest performance in his first season as a starter, Mettenberger completed 24-of-35 passes for 298 yards, one touchdown and, most impressively considering the opposition’s defense, no interceptions.

— Until late in the third quarter, LSU had gone 169:38 without scoring a touchdown against Alabama, a span that stretched back to 8:13 left in the fourth quarter of the Nov. 6, 2010, win over the Tide and which covered two-plus games.  Then, in a span of 5:37, the Tigers exploded for a pair of touchdowns.

— The 435 yards of total offense by the Tigers was the most surrendered by a Tide defense since a loss to the same team in November of 2007, Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa.

— The attendance of 93,374 is a new Tiger Stadium record.

— Alabama leads the all-time series with LSU, 47-25-5.

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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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John Chavis files suit against both LSU and 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.

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Rumors swirling that Daxx Garman is transferring from Okla. St.

Daxx Garman

If it were to come to fruition, this would certainly qualify as at least a mild surprise.

Speculation surfaced late Friday morning that Daxx Garman had called into the Oklahoma State football offices and quit the team.  SBNation followed that up by writing “[s]ources say that Garman skipped yesterday’s practice, called in and stated his intentions” to transfer from the football program.

Should Garman opt to transfer, he’d be eligible to play immediately at an FBS school as a graduate transfer as he’s set to receive his degree from OSU in May.

The only official word from OSU, though, is you’ll have to wait a week and a half for the official word on Garman’s status.

Garman replaced J.W. Walsh, who sustained a season-ending leg injury in Week 2, and started the next eight games at quarterback before going down with a concussion in a Nov. 15 loss to Texas. Freshman Mason Rudolph replaced Walsh against Baylor and, in three starts, led the Cowboys to at least 28 points in going 2-1, including a 30-21 win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl that saw him pass for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Because of that three-game stretch — and because a Garman-led offense failed to score more than 27 points in five of eight starts — Rudolph is widely viewed as the overwhelming favorite for the starting job heading into spring practice.

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Reporter covering Jameis Winston accusations details threats

Maryland Florida St Football AP

The allegations of sexual assault surrounding Jameis Winston affected any number of lives, including, as it turns out, one of the individuals charged with covering it.

In an absolutely riveting piece posted online Friday, Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times details, among other things, the threats directed at not only himself but his wife as he played a significant role in covering the scandal from the very beginning.  From being accused of sleeping with Winston’s  accuser to accusations that he was tipped off by Alabama’s Nick Saban, the central theme from the Florida State community seems to be encapsulated in this message Baker received from an FSU student: “Why do you have to go around digging for s— (you) have no business in? The FSU nation is coming for u.”

And come after him they did as Baker writes “[f]ans bombarded my phone with more than 100 calls over a couple of weeks,” as well as having his phone number attached to “a gay personal ad on Craigslist next to a picture of a chiseled man wearing only boxer shorts and a Santa hat” and having “a photo of a stranger’s penis” sent to him. “Florida State fans wanted me to die of brain-eating cancer and in a car crash on my way home,” Baker added.

Unbelievably, it went downhill from there.

I was covering a high school football game one night when a Twitter post popped up on my phone:

You’re a marked man … Say goodbye.

My wife started worrying about me at home, so she reported it to the police and the FBI.

She spent that night combing through message boards, looking for other threats. Buried in the hundreds of vicious comments, she found a photo someone posted of the two of us. One of the trolls said our future children would be ugly.

When I called her on the drive home, she was in tears.

I didn’t know what to say.

Again, click HERE to read Baker’s entire account.

It should be said that the abuse and threats heaped on Baker and his wife likely came from a very small percentage of the FSU fan base. That said, it doesn’t make it any less sickening.

Speaking as someone who had death wished upon his then-three-year-old daughter… who had, and I quote, “ass cancer” wished upon his whole family… who, like Baker, it was hoped would exchange bodily fluids with an AIDS-infected monkey… whose home phone number had to be changed (twice) after “fans” found it and abused him and his family because he had the audacity to write something negative about Alabama or Ohio State or Penn State or whatever football program it was, I can say this with complete sincerity and utter authority: get a life, people. Seriously. It’s just football.

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Historic financial boon for SEC West coaches

Raining Money

Thanks to Dan Mullen and other developments this offseason, the SEC West has entered some rarefied financial air.

Late Thursday night, it was announced that Mullen and Mississippi State had, as expected, reached agreement on a new contract that includes both an extension and raise.  Financially, Mullen will be paid an average of $4.275 million annually over the next four years.

In December of last year, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze received a $1 million bump in pay that will push his total salary for the 2015 season to $4.3 million.  Earlier this month, Arkansas’ Bret Bielema was on the receiving end of a new contract that will pay him $4 million in 2015 and average $4.25 million over the next six years.

As part of a new contract announced in June of last year, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn will earn $4.1 million in 2015.  Add in the 2014 salaries of Alabama’s Nick Saban ($7.1 million), Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin ($5 million) and LSU’s Les Miles ($4.4 million), and all seven coaches in the SEC West will make at least $4 million in the same calendar year; that’s the first time in the history of college football such a thing has happened in the same division.

To put it into perspective, just eight non-SEC West coaches in 2014 surpassed the $4 million barrier: Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio ($5.6 million), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.06 million), Texas’ Charlie Strong ($5 million), Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($4.5 million), Penn State’s James Franklin ($4.3 million), Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz ($4.07 million), South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier ($4.02 million) and TCU’s Gary Patterson ($4.01 million).

Spurrier and Georgia’s Mark Richt, armed with a new contract announced in January, are the only SEC East coaches in the same financial neighborhood as their West counterparts.  Next up on the East compensation food chain is Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, who, thanks to his new contract signed in March of last year, will make around $3.5 million in 2015 after earning $3.4 million in 2014.

All told, the seven coaches in the SEC West will make somewhere in the neighborhood of $33 million in 2015; according to the USA Today database, 11 coaches in the ACC — three (Boston College, Syracuse, Wake Forest) weren’t listed — made approximately $26.6 million combined in 2014.

For further perspective, the 11 coaches in the Sun Belt conference combined to earn a total of approximately $5.3 million in 2014.

And, while this coaching arms race is ongoing across not only the SEC West but all of college football — an arms race financed by the billions of dollars universities as a whole are making off of the sport — walk-ons are being ruled ineligible because they had the audacity to accept a place to live instead of going homeless.  Priorities, y’all.

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A&M distances itself from #WRTS hashtag connected to 2015 recruit

Daylon Mack

If you follow recruiting in general and Texas A&M specifically on Twitter, you know what #WRTS stands for.  If you don’t, it’s an acronym for “We Run This State,” an inference that the Aggies rule the recruiting roost in the talent-rich state of Texas.

Those connected to the football program have begun to distance themselves from that particular hashtag, and there’s a very specific reason why.

The father of 2015 A&M signee Daylon Mack, ESPN.com writes, “filed for the trademark to #WRTS with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in June” while his son was a verbal commitment to the Aggies.  In fact, the photo in the upper right is of Daylon Mack and was posted to Twitter in late May (since deleted).

The same attorney who helped Johnny Manziel with his trademarks, Derek Gilliland, provided assistance to Coris Mack throughout this process.  The Mack family does not yet officially own the #WRTS trademark, but, when/if they acquire it, they could benefit financially by having the mark placed on clothing apparel or other goods that are sold.

Even as the Mack trademark situation was known back in December, there have been growing message board whispers that A&M was able to secure the services of Mack by, in part, allowing his father to attempt to trademark the hashtag and, thus, potentially profit from it. A&M jumped into proactive mode Thursday, ESPN again writes, as a statement from the Aggies “rendered the mark, at least at its school, virtually useless… in an attempt to disconnect from any appearance of impropriety.”  From the website’s accounting of the statement:

“Texas A&M has not had any plans — past or future — to trademark, purchase, or otherwise profit financially from #WRTS,” the school said in a statement Thursday. “Texas A&M was aware of Mr. Coris Mack’s trademark application but this trademark application had nothing to do with the recruitment of Mr. Daylon Mack as a student-athlete at Texas A&M.”

The school also said it has “disallowed licensees from using #WRTS in connection with Texas A&M trademarks, to include official logos, phrases and colors, in production of licensed goods. Texas A&M’s Office of Business Development, which oversees the university’s trademarks and licensing, is not a part of the athletics department, and is not involved in the recruitment of student-athletes.”

The AggieFBLife Twitter account, which ESPN explains “is run by a third party but connected to an athletic staff member with the Aggies,” still has the #WRTS hashtag in its profile as of this morning.

Mack had been committed to A&M before decommitting in mid-December of last year.  The four-star defensive end ultimately signed with the Aggies over Texas and TCU.

This Mack situation continues an odd relationship A&M and those connected to it have with trademarks, joining the likes of the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Johnny Football and the infamous Kenny Trill.

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Two Beaver O-linemen who have started games forced to retire

Grant Bays

At bare minimum, Oregon State’s depth along the offensive line has taken a bit of a hit.

According to the Corvallis Times-Gazette, offensive linemen Garrett Weinreich and Grant Bays (pictured) were two of the four players who have been forced into medical retirement from football. The other two are defensive end Glyeb Ewing and safety Zack Robinson.

Over the past two seasons, Bays had started 10 games for the Beavers, including seven at guard in 2014. The Oregonian writes that the lineman “was hobbled by a nagging back issue much of his career.”

A three-star member of OSU’s 2012 recruiting class, Weinreich has been hampered by a knee injury originally sustained during summer camp of his true freshman season. He started the opener in 2014, but aggravated the injury once again.

Robinson had played in 19 games the last two seasons while Ewing took a redshirt as a true freshman last season. The nature of the injuries that forced that pair to retire weren’t detailed.

(Photo credit: Oregon State athletics)

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Jon Gruden on Ohio State’s Urban Meyer: ‘Greatest coaching job of all time’

Jon Gruden

ESPN’s Jon Gruden is often criticized due to his bouts of hyperbole, but his stance on Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer may have redefined even his barometer.

What Ohio State accomplished last season was certainly astounding.

After the team lost to the hapless Virginia Tech Hokies 35-21 during the second week of the season, the Buckeyes changed gears and eventually ran roughshod through the Big Ten’s conference schedule and championship game, into the first ever College Football Playoff and grabbed the school’s eight national championship.

“Maybe the best coach in the SEC went to the Big Ten,” Gruden told Colin Cowherd during a radio interview, via CoachingSearch.com. “Urban Meyer did the greatest coaching job of all time. Winning a national championship with his third-string quarterback, I’ve never seen that before. … I’ve always respected him. Won two national titles at Florida.

“What he did at Ohio State, losing a Heisman Trophy candidate and then doing what he did with two different quarterbacks that were backups. Amazing to me.”

All of this came a year earlier than expected. Next year’s Ohio State squad was supposed to be the breakthrough team for Meyer in Columbus. Instead, the program is a year ahead of schedule and will almost certainly enter this coming season as the No. 1 team in the country.

However, none of that makes the most recent National Championship run the greatest in football history. Yes, the Buckeyes were forced to start three different quarterbacks. But all of them were more talented than…say…Craig Krenzel, who led the Buckeyes to the 2002 National Championship.

In fact, Ohio State was considered a 12-point underdog to an absolutely loaded Miami Hurricanes squad that year. The difference in overall talent level from top to bottom was actually in Ohio State’s favor against the Oregon Ducks in January.

It was a tremendous run by Meyer and his Buckeyes, but this is another case where Gruden remains completely over the top with his comments.

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Dan Mullen signs a contract extension with Mississippi State

Dan Mullen

All of the discussions regarding whether or not Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen will eventually leave Starkville to take another job at a different university should die down now.

After being linked to multiple openings over the past two years, Mullen signed an extension with Mississippi State Thursday through the 2018 season.

“Dan has done a phenomenal job in leading our football team the past six years, and we’re happy to be in a position to reward his efforts while making sure he’ll be able to continue building a championship program for Mississippi State,” Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement.

“Under Dan’s guidance, Bulldog football has achieved a level of consistent success unparalleled in our history, during which time we’ve been ranked No. 1 in the nation and appeared in elite bowl games. We’re proud Dan is our coach.”

HailState.com’s Bob Carskadon provided some of the contract details:

With an average salary of $4.275 million, Mullen becomes the ninth-highest paid coach in college football. He still trails Alabama’s Nick Saban, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and LSU’s Les Miles among SEC coaches, according to USA TODAY Sports.

Mullen shouldn’t be too concerned about where he stands in the SEC pecking order, though. It’s clear the school is committed to retaining its head coach after a 46-31 overall record — including last season’s 10-3 campaign — during his six seasons with the program.

“It’s a privilege to represent our university, our program and our fans here at Mississippi State,” Mullen said. “I appreciate Scott Stricklin and our administration who have given us the tools and resources to be successful and develop Bulldog football into a national brand over the last six years.”

“We spent five weeks ranked No. 1 last season for the first time, but we have only scratched this surface on what we can accomplish here. We have created a winning culture both on and off the field and built a program that has sustained success in the nation’s toughest conference. I’ve always said we are going to win a championship here, and I firmly believe that.”

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Oklahoma State announces official changes to coaching staff

Mike Gundy

Spring practice begins Tuesday for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Before a new season gets underway, the program needed to clean up some loose ends.

The school officially announced the hiring of five new assistant coaches to Mike Gundy’s staff:

Titles weren’t bestowed on former Buffalo Bills tight ends coach Greg Adkins, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo or Montana State offensive line coach Jason McEndoo, but they’re expected to serve in similar roles to their previous stops.

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MSU’s Mark Dantonio believes best players should play, including freshmen

Mark Dantonio

Those within the Big Ten Conference aren’t presenting a united front on the topic of freshman ineligibility.

A week ago, the league was trying to drum up interest among its members to support a potential rule change. University of Maryland president Wallace Loh even came out publicly in support of the possibility.

The league has yet to officially propose any changes but it wants to continue the “national conversation.”

Apparently, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio didn’t get the memo.

Dantonio’s comment clearly isn’t just a chance to appeal to recruits. He doesn’t appear to be an advocate of the rule in any form or fashion.

The coach could have worded his answer differently in order to tow the party line. He didn’t. He stated freshmen should play if they’re good enough after being directly asked about the issue.

If the Big Ten Conference wants the possibility of freshman ineligibility to become more than a national conversation, the league needs to develop support from its coaches.

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Potential starter along Oregon’s O-line calls it a career

Rose Bowl - Oregon v Florida State Getty Images

Unfortunately, one of the best names in college football retired Thursday.

Andre Yruretagoyena won’t return to the Oregon Ducks football program this year. An exact reason wasn’t provided, but the redshirt senior decided it was time to leave.

Yruretagoyena finally found his way into the Ducks’ starting lineup last year, but it was short-lived as he dealt with a lingering foot injury.

After the amount of injuries Oregon suffered along the offensive line a season ago, Yruretagoyena’s loss hurts the team’s depth at offensive tackle.

Tyler Johnstone is expected to return from a torn ACL he suffered last summer to start at left tackle, while sophomore Tyrell Crosby should prove to be the team’s bookend at right tackle.

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49ers eyeing bid to host future playoff title game

Pac-12 Championship - Arizona v Oregon Getty Images

The new home of the San Francisco 49ers has already hosted a conference championship game.  Now, it appears the club wants to get to know an even more important postseason game as well.

Citing a source a source with knowledge of the plans, the Associated Press is reporting that the NFL organization is planning to bid on becoming a future host of the College Football Playoff championship game.  The 49ers will be focusing their bid — or bids — on the 2018-2020 games that would be played in newly-built Levi’s Stadium.

Bids for those games must be received by May of this year, with the winning bids expected to be announced at some point this fall.

The 2016 (following the 2015 season) and 2017 (following the 2016 season) national title games have already been awarded to Glendale, Ariz., and Tampa, Fla. The first ever playoff title game was played in Dallas at AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL’s Cowboys.

Levi’s Stadium, which opened in 2014, has hosted a regular-season college game as well as the Pac-12 championship game. It will also serve as the host of that conference’s title tilt the next two years as well as being the site of next year’s Super Bowl.

In addition to that stadium in Santa Clara, officials from New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium — home of the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets — have also expressed an interest in bidding on CFP title games from 2018-20.  Also, city officials in New Orleans are beginning the process of considering the feasibility of hosting a title game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported this afternoon.  The Superdome, of course, is the home of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.

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