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The Fifth Quarter: Week 10 Rewind

Oregon vs USC Getty Images

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Barner emphatically states his trophy case
Matt Barkley begat Geno Smith, who begat Collin Klein in the progression of Heisman front-runners from the preseason through Week 9.  In Week 10, an Oregon running back not named DeAnthony Thomas made his Heisman presence felt.  And what a presence it was.  In the Ducks’ 62-51 win over USC, Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns, the former shattering a school record in the process.  Barner’s 143.9 yards rushing per game are second nationally, as are his 19 touchdowns; both of those totals would be exponentially higher if the Ducks didn’t perform a first-half evisceration of their opponents on a weekly basis, as evidenced by his full-game performance against the Trojans.  While some voters might hold the “product of the system” argument against Barner, there’s little doubt that, bare minimum, the back has earned a mid-December trip to New York City.

Not your father’s Bruins
In its first year under Jim Mora, and in just nine games, 7-2 UCLA has already won more games than it has since 2009 and is on pace for its best season since 2005.  Hell, if they win out they could break the school record (10, multiple times) for wins in a single season.  The latest example of the Bruins being “back” came Saturday, with UCLA putting a 66-10 woodshedding on then-No. 24 Arizona.  As a result, and for the first time since the 2001 season, UCLA holds a higher ranking than its crosstown rival USC (Obligatory pause for our NBCSports.com editor to throw up a little bit in his mouth) (Still pausing)  (And he’s good)  (For now).  Just as it is for the Trojans, the remainder of the season is really very simple for the Bruins: win out and represent the South — for the second straight season, mind you — in the Pac-12 championship game.  And anyone who says they saw this early-November development coming in the offseason?  Yeah, OK.  Liar.

Huskers slightly tighten Legends stranglehold
On the strength of its win over Michigan last weekend, Nebraska had one simple task: win out and claim its first-ever spot in the Big Ten championship game.  Consider the first of four tests passed.  Barely.  Thanks to yet another conference comeback courtesy of a Taylor Martinez touchdown pass with six seconds left, the Huskers claimed a 28-24 win over free-falling Michigan State to push its conference mark to 4-1.  Three tests remain, however, with home games the next two weeks against Penn State and Minnesota, and then the regular-season finale on the road against Iowa.  Pass all three — or hope for a loss by both Michigan and Northwestern if the Huskers stumble once —  and it’s an early-December road trip to Indianapolis for Husker Nation.

And he won’t… back… down
It’s not too often that a quarterback who barely hits the century mark in passing yards in a 20-point loss lands in the winners section of the Fifth Quarter.  Shawn Petty, though, is no ordinary quarterback.  Hell, he’s not even a quarterback —  literally.  Thanks to an incomprehensible four season-ending injuries at the position in about two months, Petty was moved from linebacker to quarterback and started Maryland’s game against Georgia Tech.  And, much to his credit, the true freshman was serviceable.  Petty, in his first collegiate snaps from under center, completed 50 percent of his passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.  Perhaps most impressively, Petty tossed just one interception.  Yes, the Terps dropped a 33-13 decision to the Yellow Jackets, but, in the loss, Petty showed the type of team player that he is in shouldering the offensive burden under less-than-ideal circumstances.

The Gardner did it
After stating all week that Denard Robinson was probable for the Little Brown Jug matchup with Minnesota, the Michigan quarterback wasn’t mere moments before kickoff as the school announced the senior would be a no-go. Enter Devin Gardner, the quarterback-turned-wide receiver who flipped back to his former position in the week leading up to the Gopher game… and turned in an electric performance in a game that kept the Wolverines in the thick of the Big Ten Legends division race.  In the 35-13 win over Minnesota, Gardner threw for 234 yards and accounted for three touchdowns — two passing, one rushing — in his first action under center since last season.  The good news for UM is that Robinson should be healthy enough to take the field against Northwestern next weekend.  Even better news?  Even if he’s not, or if he’s injured down the road, the Wolverines seem to have found a very viable backup alternative going forward.

Ohio: the heart of it (footb)all
While the eyes of a nation will be focused on the great state of Ohio this Tuesday — an election or something? — there’s something happening on the weekends that deserves some attention as well.  There are eight FBS football teams that hail from the Buckeye State, and five of them — Ohio State, Cincinnati, Toledo, Kent State and Ohio University — are a combined 40-5 in 2012.  Two of them are ranked in the latest Associated Press poll — No. 18 Buckeyes and No. 23 Rockets — while the Bobcats were ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in over four decades prior to suffering its first loss to… Miami of Ohio.  When it comes to recruiting, Florida and Texas and California are still the go-to states for mass quantities of high-quality football players.  This season, though, has shown that there’s still some pretty damn good football being played in the Midwest generally and the great state of Ohio specifically.

[/PSA]
[/send me my money Ohio Tourism Board]

College football fans
Les Miles furiously dug a finger deep into his ear canal following the failed fake field goal in the loss to Alabama, with a look that screamed “what the hell was I thinking?  There is a GIF of said digging.  It is the Greatest GIF of All-Time.  This GGOAT can be viewed in all its glory by clicking HERE.

LOSERS

Not-So-Optimal Klein
Simply put, there’s one blow Kansas State can’t absorb: losing star quarterback Collin Klein for one game let alone an extended period of time.  And yet that might be where the Wildcats find themselves as early as this coming week.  Early in the third quarter of the Wildcats’ win over Oklahoma State, Klein left the game with what appeared to be some type of injury to his wrist and did not return.  After being evaluated by the K-State medical staff, and in a preemptive attempt to keep him from returning to the game, Klein’s helmet was taken from him, an ominous sign in so much as the ongoing speculation is that the senior suffered some type of a head injury during the course of the game and didn’t remember scoring his lone touchdown.  As is Bill Snyder‘s policy and prerogative, no specific information related to the nature of Klein’s injury is being released, which will of course fuel speculation and send the rumor mill spinning wildly out of control.  The reality as it pertains to Klein’s health will likely lie somewhere between the wafts of smoke.  The truth as it pertains to Klein’s health will have a significant impact on how the BcS shakes out in the coming weeks, regardless of whether Snyder wants to discuss it publicly or not.

O-ver-ra-ted (clap clap clapclapclap)
Even as Mississippi State came charging out of the 2012 gates at 7-0, more than a handful of observers questioned whether Mississippi State was as good as their record would otherwise indicate.  The last two weeks, the Bulldogs have answered that questioning with a resounding and emphatic “nope, we’re not!”  Last week, MSU took a 38-7 beating at the hands of No. 1 Alabama.  A week later, it wasn’t much better in a worse-than-it-looked 38-13 trampling at the feet of Texas A&M.  Thanks to their membership in the SEC, MSU was gifted a loftier ranking than what they deserved.  Thanks to the past two weeks, they should no longer be gifted any type of ranking, lofty or otherwise.

Clock ticking on Rocky Top
Yes, Tennessee improved to 4-5 on the season.  And, yes, Derek Dooley‘s tenuous grip on his job slipped even further despite the win.  Playing in front of a sparse Neyland Stadium crowd, and with Jon Gruden-to-UT rumors growing louder in and around Knoxville, Dooley’s Vols defense imploded and added further credence to the speculation that the coach is not long for Rocky Top.  In the 55-48 win over SBC member Troy, the Vols totaled a whopping 718 yards of offense — and gave up 721, the most ever given up by the Vols in the history of the storied program.  Were it not for two touchdowns in the final 2:54, Dooley could’ve been out as UT’s coach as early as Sunday.  The win, as limp as it was, keeps the Vols on the path to bowl eligibility, although even that will likely be too little, too late for the third-year coach.  In fact, if you listen to at least one former Vol, it already is too little, too late.

Winless drumbeat goes on
It’s one thing to be winless through eight games.  It’s another matter entirely to hold a 16-0 lead in the first half… a 19-14 lead in the fourth quarter… only to lose your ninth game of the season.  Yet that’s the position in which Southern Miss finds itself as the Golden Eagles dropped a 27-19 decision to UAB to fall to 0-9.  It’s also a position in which Ellis Johnson has found himself on the hot seat as the speculation goes that, despite it being his first year on the job, USM could be in search of a new head coach if the year ends with the worst season in school history; the school has won just two games twice in a season previously, the most recent being 1993.  Major college football is a results-driven business, and posting the worst showing in program history coming off a 12-win season is not exactly optimal when it comes to job security.

Bobby Hebert
Geaux Bobby!  No, seriously, just Geaux away already.  Jackass.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

– No. 4 Notre Dame 29, Pittsburgh 26 (3OT): Why anyone is surprised by the closeness of this game is beyond me.  Of the Irish’s nine wins this season, five have come by single digits, with two of those games extended to overtime.  For better or worse, that’s the modus operandi of the 2012 Domers.

– No. 8 Florida 14, Missouri 7: Just call this the mother of all World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party hangovers, with the Gators’ offense kneeling before the porcelain throne for a full 60 minutes against the Tigers.  An at-large BcS bid is still possible, even as the offense makes it appear improbable.

– No. 13 Oregon State 36, Arizona State 26: After falling behind 19-10 early in the second quarter, the Beavers scored the next 26 points to pull away and bounce back from its first loss of the season.

– No. 14 Oklahoma 34, Iowa State 20: Going into the Ames giant slayer’s den and coming out with a win is impressive, especially when it comes a week after losing a heavily-hyped matchup with a Top 10 team.

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 — A 13-game winning streak dating back to last November, with the latest coming in one of the toughest night environments in all of sports?  Yeah, the Tide is an easy selection for the top spot in our little poll. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: vs. Texas A&M

2. Oregon — In its first real test of the 2012 season, the Ducks passed with 62-point flying colors.  How would they match up against the likes of Alabama or Kansas State?  I have no clue, but either would have the potential for equal parts viewing intrigue and hellacious fun. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: at Cal

3. Kansas State — Outside of Alabama, there’s not a more complete or better-coached team in the country in all three phases of game than the Wildcats.  The answer to the injury question when it comes to their Heisman front-runner, however, will make or break K-State’s season. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: at TCU

4. Notre Dame — The pluck of the Irish indeed.  Sixty minutes and three overtimes later, Notre Dame continues to cling to its unbeaten record after surviving yet another close call. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: at Boston College

5. Ohio State — Single-minded and shortsighted arrogance will keep the Buckeyes out of any postseason play this year, but Meyer’s charges are improving on a week-to-week basis.  Which is good, as the only tangible thing left to play for is a win over their hated rivals at That School Up North. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: at Wisconsin (Nov. 17)

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.

– [space left empty] [pouring one out for Joker]

– Auburn’s Gene Chizik: Yes, the Tigers secured its largest margin of victory of the season (35 points).  Yes, the Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak.  Yes, Chizik is still on the hottest of hot seats as the win came against one-win New Mexico State, an Aggies team that was tied with the Tigers 0-0 at the end of the first quarter and had outgained the home team 131-29 the first 15 minutes.  At the end of the first half, the Tigers held just a 7-0 lead.  Even worse?  When getting over on a one-win WAC team is described as “something that you can build on” in the coach’s postgame.  That, dear readers, is the current state of Auburn football.

HE SAID IT
“I actually had a talk with coach. We were talking about what we wanted to run, me and Coach Stout. I said screens have been there all night. He called it, and it was great.” — current Alabama offensive lineman and future offensive coordinator Barrett Jones, talking about the screen pass-turned-touchdown that kept the Tide’s hope for a third BcS title in four years alive.

HELMETS OF THE DAY
In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Snow Bowl, adidas outfitted Texas A&M and Mississippi State in some new duds for Saturday’s game.  While the uniforms were tastefully understated compared to some of the nauseating fashion statements being made on a weekly basis in college football, the helmets used in the game were utterly spectacular, particularly as it relates to the Aggies:

YOU DON’T SAY?
With the win over Iowa State, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops now has 145 career victories, tying Hall of Famer Bud Wilkinson for second on the all-time OU win list behind Barry Switzer‘s 157.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

Tajh Boyd tied a Clemson record with six touchdowns — five passing, one rushing — then sat out the entire second half.  The Tigers had a school-record 487 yards of total offense, then went out and played the last two quarters.  That’s the kind of day it was for Duke in the 56-20 loss to Clemson.

– In Week 9, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee set a single-game Pac-12 record with 345 yards receiving.  A week later, Lee set another conference standard: his 251 kick return yards were the most in league history.

Kenjon Barner‘s Oregon single-game rushing record of 321 yards is more than Washington State has rushed for (264) in nine games this season.

– Utah’s Reggie Dunn set what’s believed to be an NCAA record with the fourth 100-yard kickoff return of his career for a touchdown.  It was also Dunn’s third such return in the past two weeks.  Here’s a free tip for future Utes opponents: SQUIB IT!!!

Tyler Bray‘s 530 yards passing set a single-game Tennessee record and was the second-most in SEC history.

– With a 33-yard second-quarter completion, quarterback Taylor Martinez (no relation) surpassed Eric Crouch‘s Nebraska record of 7,915 career yards of total offense set between 1998-2001.

– Nebraska rushed for 313 yards in the win over Michigan State.  The Spartans came into the game allowing just 91.2 yards per game, which lead the Big Ten and No. 7 nationally.

– Johnathan Franklin became UCLA’s all-time leading rusher, surpassing the record of 3,731 yards set by Gaston Green between 1984-87.

– Thanks to Alabama snapping LSU’s nation’s best 22-game home winning streak, that honor now belongs to Northern Illinois, who have won 20 in a row at Huskies Stadium.

– SID Note of the Week: Ohio State is 274-0-1 all-time when it scores at least 35 points, as it did in the win over Illinois. The tie was 35-35 against SMU in 1978.

– Notre Dame and Louisville each have won five games this season by seven points or less, tied for the most at the FBS level.

– In the win over Minnesota, Michigan had back-to-back 90-yard-plus touchdown drives in a single game for the first time in school history.

– In a 48-0 win, Stanford limited Colorado to minus-21 yards rushing.  The one-win Buffs had just 76 yards of total offense for the game.

– Louisville’s 45-17 win over Temple pushed the Cardinals to 9-0 on the season, the first time in school history that’s occurred.  The biggest reason behind that historic start is quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who passed for a career-high five touchdowns in the win over the Owls.

– Kent State’s 35-24 win over Akron was the Golden Flashes’ seventh straight, the first time that has happened since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House (1940).

– UMass, in its first season at the FBS level, has lost all nine of its games by an average score of 44-10.  The Minutemen have been shut out in three of those games and have scored in double digits just four times.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
If Indiana wins its last three games — vs. Wisconsin, at Penn State and at Purdue — the Hoosiers will finish 5-3 in Big Ten play… and represent the Leaders division in the conference championship game.  Those Mayans may have been on to something.

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Nebraska uses Pelini’s heated comments to support decision to move on

Bo Pelini may be the head coach at Youngstown State now, but his final interaction with his previous players at Nebraska has certainly raised more than a few eyebrows. Pelini, rarely one to hold back his feelings, ripped into Nebraska Athletics Director Shawn Eichorst in a meeting with players held after he was relieved of his duties in Lincoln. He let loose, as the audio recording acquired by The Omaha World-Herald makes perfectly clear.

“A guy like (Eichorst) who has no integrity, he doesn’t even understand what a core value is,” Pelini told players, according to The Omaha World-Herald. “And he hasn’t understood it from the day he got here. I saw it when I first met with the guy.”

Pelini was just getting started.

“To have core values means you have to be about something, you have to represent something, you have to have something that is important to you,” Pelini added. “He is a f—— lawyer who makes policies. That’s all he’s done since he’s been here is hire people and make policies to cover his own ass.”

Pelini’s comments went on to become more vulgar and inappropriate for a family audience. Coaches are going to use some language you may not choose to use in front of children or your mother (you can listen to it here), but according to a follow-up statement from Nebraska this all put on display reasons why the university’s leadership felt it was time to move in a new direction.

Nebraska has not been able to officially confirm the recording is authentic or not, but a statement released following the original report expressed disappointment in Pelini’s choice of words and feelings and committed to the decision to remove him as head coach.

“If these comments were, indeed, spoken by Mr. Pelini, we are extremely disappointed, but it only reaffirms the decision that he should no longer be a leader of young men at Nebraska,” a statement from Nebraska reads.”His behavior is consistent with a pattern of unprofessional, disrespectful behavior directed by Mr. Pelini toward the passionate fans of Nebraska, employees of the university and, most concerning, our student-athletes. This behavior is not tolerated at the University of Nebraska and, among many other concerns, played a role in his dismissal.

“His behavior is consistent with a pattern of unprofessional, disrespectful behavior directed by Mr. Pelini toward the passionate fans of Nebraska, employees of the university and, most concerning, our student-athletes. This behavior is not tolerated at the University of Nebraska and, among many other concerns, played a role in his dismissal.”

Pelini’s tenure at Nebraska may be best known for the ability to win games but hitting a plateau without a conference championship. It will also be infamous for secret audio recordings that paint a negative picture getting out to the public.

But you can say this about Pelini. He’s an honest man and spits fire from his belly without hesitation. There is a certain level of respect that this trait may command.

Pelini now continues his head coaching career under a much dimmer spotlight at Youngstown State. Will comments like these prevent Pelini from returning to coach a program in the FBS again in the future? It is possible no AD will want to get mixed up with a hot head like Pelini, but he is a good coach and sometimes that is worth the risk. Just don’t upset him.

UPDATE (11:23 p.m.) - The Omaha World-Herald has released the full audio of Pelini’s meeting with Nebraska players. The audio does not come across nearly as hot-tempered as iniailyy suggested, but Pelini does not hold back in the state of Nebraska.

Listen to the audio here.

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Reports: WVU OC Shannon Dawson takes same job at Kentucky

Photo credit: West Virginia Athletics

West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson is taking his coaching game to Kentucky. The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Mountaineers will take on the role of offensive coordinator at Kentucky on the staff led by head coach Mark Stoops.

Football Scoop was among the first to report the coaching transition via Twitter. Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports followed up with a similar report shortly after via Twitter.

Dawson will have a chance to take on an increased role on the coaching staff at Kentucky. Instead of taking the lead of head coach Dana Holgorsen, Dawson will look to take charge with the offensive playcalling for the more defensive-minded Stoops in Lexington.

Dawson will have quarterback Patrick Towles to work with, and that should be a promising combination for the Wildcats. West Virginia was one of the top offensive teams in the Big 12 in the few years Dawson was the offensive coordinator. This season West Virginia averaged just over 500 yards per game and 33.2 points per game.

Kentucky’s offense showed some improvement this season, but the Wildcats need to improve on a SEC-worst red zone touchdown percentage and a poor third-down conversion success rate.

Dawson will reportedly continue in his role as offensive coordinator for West Virginia’s bowl game before moving to Lexington for his new job.

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Michigan raises stakes and goes all in on Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes

At this point in the coaching carousel one thing seems to be pretty clear. Michigan is waiting for a certain someone to become available, and they are willing to wait for the moment to be just right.There may be no other way to explain how Michigan would part ways with Brady Hoke a few days after the end of the regular season (a delay that seemed to confuse more fans than it calmed), when it was widely suspected another down season would spell the end of Hoke’s time in Ann arbor as early as last season, if not September or October.

So here we are, more than two weeks after Hoke was relieved of his duties, and the one top target on the dream list of many Michigan fans is now, reportedly, has received an offer from the Wolverines. Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, now has an offer valued at $8 million per year for six years according to Pro Football Talk. That is a lot of money. That is Nick Saban money, and then some.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network was one of the first to report news of the contract offer from Michigan to Harbaugh, via Twitter.

If these reports are accurate, Michigan is all in on the Harbaugh sweepstakes. At least Michigan is starting to show some signs of progress on the coaching search.

As Mike Florio writes on Pro Football Talk, if Michigan is willing to shell out that kind of money, the university is challenging other potential NFL opportunities to pony up to woo Harbaugh. Michigan certainly has the money, there is no doubt about that, although that seems like an awfully high amount of money to throw around. It suggests Michigan is both serious about luring Harbaugh back to school, and they are perhaps a little desperate to get this taken care of.

If Michigan does et Harbaugh at the price that is being reported, the Wolverines better hope it works out. And do not forget about the money being paid to a search firm for helping out with this process.

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Wisconsin makes hiring of Pitt’s Chryst officially official

Paul Chryst

The worst kept secret in this year’s coaching carousel is now out of the bag. Wisconsin has hired Paul Chryst, who had been the head coach at Pittsburgh. Wisconsin was expected to name Chryst the new head coach as soon as the vacancy opened up, but state law in Wisconsin prevented the school from extending any formal offers until Wednesday.

Chryst replaces Gary Andersen, who left Wisconsin for a lateral move to Oregon State after two years in Madison and one trip to the Big Ten championship game. Chryst may not have the accolades of a great coaching hire, he was .500 in his time at Pittsburgh, but there is much more to like about this coaching move at Wisconsin than the numbers would suggest.

Chryst is a Madison native, he played at Wisconsin for athletics director Barry Alvarez and he left Pittsburgh after a well-respected run as offensive coordinator under Bret Bielema. Now that he has a few years of head coaching experience under his belt, he arrives in Madison a more experienced option than he would have been immediately after Bielema left to coach Arkansas. His Wisconsin roots should play well with the fans and the Wisconsin program as well.

As for Pittsburgh, the search is now officially ongoing for its next head coach. Pittsburgh previously was reported to have reached out to former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. Whether Pittsburgh has any options out there that could come home in similar fashion as Chryst to Wisconsin remains to be seen, although it certainly would be nice to see Pittsburgh find its own stability at the position one of these years.

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Five-year old boy sent UAB his $1 allowance to try and help save UAB football

UAB FOOTBALL PROGRAM SHUT DOWN 12-2-14

When I was young I saved my allowance to buy baseball cards and Nintendo games. One five-year old in Ohio decided to spend his hard-earned allowance to try to save UAB football.

Bennett Williams, from Dublin, Ohio, is an Ohio State fan but adopted UAB as his second favorite team after thinking the logo for the Blazers was pretty cool. When word of UAB shutting down its football program made its way to the young boy, a will to do all he can to save the program led him to write a letter to the school, accompanied by his allowance money (one dollar). Every little bit helps, right?

The letter, as transcribed by Al.com, reads as follows;

“DEAR UAB. I LOVE OHIO STATE, BUT I THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE FOOTBALL, TOO. HERE IS ONE DOLLAR TO HELP! – BENNETT”

The letter did not go unread. UAB athletics department, Reid Adair, replied with thanks to Bennett for his letter and followed up by sending a nice little care package of UAB merchandise.

Bennett’s allowance may not have been enough to save the UAB football program, but it should do plenty to restore your faith in humanity.

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Neck condition ends career for Ohio State offensive tackle

Sometimes you just have to step away from football in order to ensure your own health and safety. Sometimes that decision is made for you by doctors. That is the case for Ohio Sate offensive tackle Kyle Dodson, who has been ruled medically ineligible to play for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State has announced that Dodson has a neck condition that will medically disqualify him from continuing to play football. Dodson was hoping to make a crack at the starting offensive line this season, but injury concerns took priority this season.

Dodson appeared in one game this season after backing up Jack Mewhort for the past two seasons. Dodson’s injury history started in high school with a back injury and shoulder surgery before arriving at Ohio State. The shoulder surgery held him back as a freshman once he arrived in Columbus. Unfortunately, that may have been a sign of things to come.

There is no word on whether or not Dodson will stick around with the team in some capacity, although in times and situations like these it is common to see players find some way to remain involved in some capacity. Here’s to hoping Dodson can remain a part of the Buckeyes program in some capacity, if he so desires.

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Key offensive Sooners should be ready for Russell Athletic Bowl

Samaje Perine

With the bowl season about the get started, Oklahoma is optimistic about the status of three key players on offense. Quarterback Trevor Knight, running back Samaje Perine and wide receiver Sterling Shepard are all expected to be available to play for the Sooners when they face Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Head coach Bob Stoops provided the optimistic update of his three main offensive ingredients on Wednesday. Knight was cleared to play in the bowl game last week. That has been the plan for a while, since Knight was knocked out of a game against Baylor in early November. Knight has missed playing time due to a neck injury, but a return for the bowl game was always the goal. Nothing appears to have changed on that front, and that is good news for Oklahoma.

Perine has been working through a sprained ankle that was suffered in Oklahoma’s regular season finale loss to Oklahoma State. The star freshman running back led the Sooners with 1,579 rushing ards and 21 touchdowns this season.

Shepard is one of Oklahoma’s top wide receivers. He has been out of action since suffering a groin injury on November 1. Shepard leads Oklahoma with 957 receiving yards and five touchdowns despite the injury slowing him down at times.

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Former winners Swinney, Patterson two of 12 finalists for Dodd Trophy

David Cutcliffe, Bill Curry

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and TCU’s Gary Patterson claimed the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Trophy in 2011 and 2009, respectively.  In 2014, both coaches are up for the same honor yet again.

Tuesday evening, the Dodd Trophy released its list of 12 finalists for this season’s version of the trophy.  Five of the dozen finalists coach in the SEC, with the ACC and the Big 12, with two apiece, the only other conferences with more than one finalist.

Three of the four coaches whose teams earned a spot in the College Football Playoff made the cut: Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Alabama’s Nick Saban.  The only playoff coach left out”  Oregon’s Mark Helfrich.

Of the 12 finalists, 11 hail from Power Five conferences.  The lone exception was Boise State’s Bryan Harsin.

Last year’s winner was Duke’s David Cutcliffe.  The winner of the 2014 Dodd Trophy will be announced in Atlanta during Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl week.

2014 Dodd Trophy Finalists

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Report: Oregon fears Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sustained serious knee injury

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

When it comes to the first-ever College Football Playoff, this could turn into a significant development.

According to Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sustained what’s believed to be a serious knee injury during practice Tuesday. Getlin writes that the “[c]oncern [is] it’s a torn ACL.”  Aaron Fentress of CSNNW.com subsequently confirmed the original report, adding that the player is “done for the playoffs.”

UO officials have yet to address Ekpre-Olomu’s status moving forward. The fear is, though, is that the senior will miss the CFP semifinal matchup in the Rose Bowl with Florida State.

If that were to happen, it’d serve as a significant blow to the Ducks.

Ekpre-Olomu was recently named first-team All-Pac-12, the third consecutive year its been accorded that honor, as well as a first-team Associated Press All-American. He’s started 40 straight games for the Ducks, and is viewed as a likely first- or second-round selection in next year’s NFL draft.

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Former ‘Bama RB Alvin Kamara officially a Vol

Alvin Kamara

In June, Alvin Kamara verbally committed to continue his collegiate career at Tennessee.  Six months later, the running back followed through on that verbal pledge.

Wednesday, UT confirmed that Kamara has signed with the Vols.  Today is the first day junior college players can sign with FBS programs; Kamara spent the 2014 season at the JUCO level.

It was confirmed in January of this year that Kamara would be transferring from Alabama after just one season.  During that one year in Tuscaloosa, Kamara racked up more suspensions (two) than carries (zero).  In February, Kamara was arrested on multiple misdemeanor traffic offenses.

Coming out of Norcross, Ga., as a four-star recruit, Kamara was rated as the No. 2 all-purpose back in the country in the Class of 2013.  He’s rated as a four-star prospect this go-around too.

Prior to settling on Tennessee, Kamara had also shown interest in Clemson and Georgia.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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USC will go bowling without starting DT Antwaun Woods

Colorado v USC Getty Images

An injury will leave USC’s defensive line at less than 100-percent for the postseason.

According to the Orange County Register, Antwaun Woods sustained what was originally described as a strained pec during practice this past Saturday.  However, the injury was more than a simple strain as Woods posted a picture of himself on Instagram laying in a hospital bed.

“Fresh outta surgery, I told Coach I’m ready to play, I got too much heart for this s***! I promise I’ll be back even stronger than before!” Woods wrote on the social media website.

Woods surgery

Despite saying he’s “ready to play,” the redshirt junior nose tackle is expected to miss the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl against Nebraska.

This season, Woods started 10 of the Trojans’ 12 games after starting six in 2013 and four in 2012.  He’s currently third among USC lineman in tackles with 37.

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North Texas hires Chris Cosh as DC

Chris Cosh

Lil’ Ben, this post’s for you.

At the end of the 2014 season, John Skladany retired as North Texas’ defensive coordinator.  A couple of weeks later, Dan McCarney has his replacement as UNT announced that Chris Cosh has been hire to take over the Mean Green defense.

Cosh spent the 2014 season as the University of Buffalo’s defensive line coach.

“Chris has a tremendous blend of experience and success and comes highly recommended by some of the most respected football coaches at both the collegiate and professional levels,” the head coach said in a statement. “He has a proven track record as a coordinator and linebacker coach in the Big Ten Conference, the SEC and the Big 12 and his reputation as a tireless recruiter precedes him. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Chris to the Mean Green family.”

Cosh has served as a coordinator for 16 of his 30 seasons in coaching, including time at Kansas State, Maryland, South Carolina, Michigan State, Illinois and USF.

(Photo credit: Buffalo athletics)

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Travin Dural puts off NFL, will return to LSU

Travin Dural, Brian Poole

More so than any other football program of late, LSU has been hit hard by early departures to the NFL.  At least on one front this year, however, the Tigers were spared such a hit.

In a conversation with Baton Rouge television sports reporter Michael Cauble Tuesday, Travin Dural confirmed that he will forego early entry into the NFL draft and return to LSU for another season.  A redshirt sophomore, Dural would be eligible for early entry into the NFL draft as he’s three years removed from high school.

LSU has lost 16 players to early entry the last two years, but, as noted by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the NFL has somewhat tweaked its procedures for this year’s class.

A maximum of five players from each school will receive a draft grade [from the NFL’s advisory panel] and the grades will be of three types: first round, second round or to return to school.

Regardless of the why, Dural’s return is a significant one.

In 2014, Dural was far and away the Tigers’ leader in receptions (37) receiving yards (758) and receiving touchdowns (seven).  The next closest was Trey Quinn‘s 17 catches and Malachi Dupre‘s 318 yards.

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Colorado State to interview UGA OC Mike Bobo for vacancy

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When it comes to Mike Bobo, the Georgia faithful has a love-hate relationship — a sizable chunk of them love to hate him.  Depending on how things go over the next few days, though, they might not have the offensive coordinator to kick around anymore.

Tuesday, speculation began bubbling just below the surface that Bobo was potentially a candidate to fill the head-coaching vacancy at Colorado State.  That speculation surfaced again Wednesday, with UGA athletic director Greg McGarity confirming that Bobo will interview for the CSU job.

Bobo informed head coach Mark Richt of the impending interview Tuesday, with Richt informing McGarity later that day.  Per 247Sports.com, “Bobo’s contract requires him to make higher-ups aware of legitimate interest from other employers.”

For those excited about a potential Bobo departure, you might want to tap the brakes on the excitement.

Bobo, a former Bulldog quarterback, has been a part of Richt’s staff since 2001.  At first solely the quarterbacks coach, Bobo was promoted to coordinator in 2007.

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Oliver Luck stepping down as WVU AD, taking job at NCAA

Colorado Rapids v Houston Dynamo Getty Images

In October of 2013, Oliver Luck was reportedly the top target for Texas in its search for a new athletic director.  While West Virginia held onto its athletic director then, it appears there’s no such luck, so to speak, this time around.

According to Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail, Luck will step down as WVU’s athletic director to take a position with the NCAA.  In confirming Casazza’s report, ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy tweeted that “Luck’s new position at NCAA will be second in command behind NCAA President Mark Emmert.”

An official announcement is expected at some point today.

Luck was hired by WVU in June of 2012, coming back to his alma mater from the private sector.  In the late seventies and on into the early eighties, Luck played quarterback for the Mountaineers.

Andrew Luck, Oliver’s son, is the starting quarterback of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.  As luck would have it, the NCAA’s offices are located in the city of Indianapolis.  Whether that had any impact on the elder Luck’s decision is unknown.

The impact of Luck’s departure won’t be limited solely to WVU. This year, Luck was one of the 12 members of the College Football Playoff selection committee.  Each of the Power Five conferences have one current athletic director on the committee; because of Luck’s new position, the Big 12 will be forced to find a replacement for 2015.

Look for Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione‘s name to be mentioned heavily in that capacity.

UPDATED 11:01 a.m. ET: The NCAA confirmed in a press release that Oliver Luck has been named as the executive vice president of regulatory affairs. The newly-created position is described as bringing “the national office regulatory functions – academic and membership affairs, the Eligibility Center and enforcement – under one umbrella.” “In particular,” the release stated, Luck “will be charged with developing stronger integration among regulatory staffs, improving efficiency and strengthening relationships with NCAA colleges and universities.”

“I am very pleased to have Oliver joining our team in the national office,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “He brings to us wide ranging, hands-on experience from across athletic, academic, and business worlds. Most important, his commitment to the success and well-being of our student-athletes is unquestionable. He has demonstrated that commitment on the ground and throughout his life. I’m anxious for him to get started with us.”

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