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The Fifth Quarter: Week 12 Rewind

Stanford Cardinal fans celebrate their NCAA football win over the Oregon Ducks in Eugene AP

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

BChaoS
Somewhere, Mike Slive is dancing on a couch.  Butt-nekkid.

Just one week ago, it appeared the SEC’s streak of six straight BcS championships was all but over.  Alabama’s loss left the heavyweight conference with no undefeated teams and seemingly on the outside of the crystal window looking in at three eligible unbeatens remaining.

Seven days later?  They’re right back in one of the two title-game driver’s seats.

No. 1 Oregon?  Dropped 17-14 by Stanford in overtime, in Eugene no less.

No. 2 Kansas State?  Humiliated 52-24 by a below-.500 Baylor squad.

Of course, the biggest winners of them all coming out of the stunning twin developments come from the SEC.  Provided Alabama, No. 4 in the last set of BcS rankings, handles business against lowly Auburn and Georgia, BcS No. 5, takes care of Georgia Tech, the winner of the SEC championship game will — rightly, I might add, given the turn of events in Week 12 — fill one of the two spots in the BcS title game.

The other spot?  On one level, it’s very simple.  If Notre Dame, comfortable winners over Wake Forest Saturday, beats a reeling USC squad next weekend, it will be the Irish charged with the task of knocking the SEC off its crystal perch.

If the Trojans pull off an upset for the ages?  It’s BcS chaos all over again.  Such a development would bring several teams back into the mix, including the two losers from tonight as well as Florida State and Florida, which will play each other in the regular-season finale to add yet another layer to what’s fast devolving into unchartered waters.

Hell, Oregon could even pull off an Alabama circa 2011: not play in its conference championship game — Stanford will represent the Pac-12 North if it beats UCLA next week — and still backdoor its way into the BcS title game depending on how things play out in front of them.

Undeniably, though, there’s one huge loser in all of this glorious late-season chaos: the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Along with Notre Dame, the Ohio State University is the last of the unbeatens and would be in position for its fourth title-game appearance in the BcS era were it not for NCAA sanctions that include a postseason ban for the 2012 season.  Hopefully, that 2012 Gator Bowl berth was worth it to Gene Smith & Company.

A close second to tOSU?  One line: North Carolina State 17, Florida State 16.  Oh, ‘Noles…

DAY OF CLINCHINGS
On the lighter side of college football news, and entering Week 12 of the 2012 season, just one conference or division champion — Georgia, SEC East — had officially been determined.  This weekend, a total of six division or conference champions were officially decided.  Below is a snapshot look at the teams that will be adding some hardware to their respective trophy cases in the coming days:

ACC Atlantic
After beating Clemson back in September, there was very little doubt No. 10 Florida State — even with an inexplicable loss to North Carolina State — would represent the Atlantic in the ACC championship game.  The Seminoles made it official Saturday as they overwhelmed undermanned Maryland 41-14.FSU will be appearing in their third ACC title game in the eight years the event has existed.  Just who the ‘Noles will play in that title game remains uncertain as Duke, Georgia Tech and Miami all remain in varying degrees of contention for the Coastal crown.

Big Ten Leaders
Ineligible for the postseason courtesy of NCAA sanctions, No. 6 Ohio State nonetheless claimed the Big Ten Leaders trophy on the strength of its overtime over Wisconsin.  The Badgers may have lost the battle but will end up winning the war, though; because of the Buckeyes’ sanctions, the Badgers will represent the division in the conference championship game in early December.

Conference USA West
With a two-game lead entering Week 12, Tulsa would’ve needed to lose its last three games to lose its stranglehold on the divisional lead.  The Golden Hurricane took that remote possibility out of play straight away thanks to a 23-21 win over UCF in a battle of Conference USA divisional leaders.  It marks the fifth time since Conference USA went to a two-division setup in 2005 that Tulsa has won or shared the West title.

MAC East
Thanks to its win over Bowling Green, which came into the game one game behind Kent State, the No. 25 Golden Flashes claimed the first MAC East title in the history of the football program.  Coupled with Northern Illinois’ win earlier in the week, the MAC becomes the first conference with its championship game slots officially filled: KSU-NIU Nov. 30 at Detroit’s Ford Field.

Pac-12 South
For the second consecutive season, a college football team from the city of Los Angeles will represent the South in the Pac-12 championship game.  Unbelievably, that team is again No. 17 UCLA and not No. 21 USC as the Bruins dropped their rivals for the first time since 2005 to the tune of 38-28.  Even sweeter, the win clinched the division title for the Bruins in their first season under Jim Mora Jr.  And, in an odd turn of events, the Bruins will go a long way in determining just who they will face in that championship game as they face Stanford next weekend.  If UCLA wins, they will face Oregon.  If UCLA loses, they will face… Stanford in a rematch six days later.  And the game would very likely be played on the Cardinal’s home turf.

WAC
In what will be the final season of the conference, the Utah State Aggies have staked its claim as the last champion of the soon-to-be-defunct conference.  And, in an odd twist, could very well have cost the remaining members a significant chunk of change.  In a matchup of the lone remaining WAC teams with unbeaten league marks, the Aggies outlasted No. 19 Louisiana Tech 48-41 in overtime.  The only problem with that?  LaTech was the lone hope for a BcS buster in 2012, meaning the loss has the potential to cost interested parties millions of dollars.  For some reason, we don’t think the Aggies give two spits right about now.

WINNERS

Les Miles

There are times in a man’s life when you just have to bow to another man’s greatness.  This press conference performance by LSU’s head coach is one of those times.  It’s an instant classic and must-see YouTube TV:

“THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A FLOP THAT TAKES THE FIELD FOR OUR FOOTBALL TEAM… just so you know.”  Out-freaking-standing, Coach Grass-Eating Hat.  Out-freaking-standing.

Heismanziel
Given the level of competition, Johnny Manziel was almost pedestrian in No. 9 Texas A&M’s 47-28 cruise over FCS-level Sam Houston State, throwing for 267 yards and three touchdowns while running for another 100 and two scores on the ground in under three quarters worth of work.  So, how exactly did the redshirt freshman likely vault to Heisman front-runner status?  Three words: Collin Klein imploded.  While the senior threw for nearly 300 yards in the upset loss to Baylor, Klein also threw three picks and was largely held in check by a defense that came into the game ranked 118th in scoring defense.  It has all set the stage for something that’s never happened in the 78-year history of the Heisman a freshman, redshirt or otherwise, taking home the most prestigious award in the sport.  And, if the voting were held today, that’s very likely exactly what would happen.

Boy oh Boyd
Speaking of the Heisman, if this performance doesn’t push Tajh Boyd deep into the discussion, nothing will.  All the Clemson quarterback did Saturday was set a school and ACC record for touchdowns in a single game with eight — five passing, three rushing — as the No. 11 Tigers outlasted North Carolina State 62-48.  Boyd also set the single-game school record for yards of total offense with 529 yards, 426 passing and a career-high 103 rushing.  Coming into the game second in passing efficiency, Boyd did nothing to hurt that standing, and has earned the right to be thrown in with the Collin Kleins and Johnny Footballs when it comes to the race for the 2012 stiff-armed trophy.

Nearly Scarlet Knighted
While Rutgers didn’t join in on the day of clinchings, they continue to control their own conference destiny.  Thanks to a rough-on-the-eyes 10-3 win over Cincinnati, the No. 22 Scarlet Knights inched closer to clinching the football program’s first-ever Big East crown.  Two wins over the next two weeks will clinch the conference and a BcS berth, as would just a single win when coupled with a Louisville loss in one of the Cardinals’ last two games.  Of course, Rutgers’ task is made a bit more difficult as they will face Louisville in the final game of the regular season in what will very likely serve as a de facto Big East championship game.  After losing their head coach to the NFL in the offseason, however, Rutgers is sitting prettier than most thought they would this soon.

Damn good Gardner
Denard who?  Yes, the pregame Senior Day festivities were all about Denard Robinson, but the 60 minutes of game time afterwards belonged to and were owned by Devin Gardner.  Making his third straight start in place of an injured Robinson, Gardner accounted for six touchdowns — three rushing, three passing  — as the Wolverines steamrolled hapless Iowa 42-17.  It was No. 23 Michigan’s third consecutive win with Gardner under center and sets up a very intriguing regular-season finale against undefeated Ohio State, with the subplot being a pair of dynamic young dual-threat quarterbacks — Gardner and the Buckeyes’ Heisman candidate Braxton Miller — squaring off in The Game.

This is how we do it
Following an unceremonious exit from Boston College, Montel Harris, the leading rusher in that school’s history, landed at Temple to finish out his collegiate days.  After a relatively quiet start to his one-year Owls career — 597 yards, five touchdowns — Harris literally exploded Saturday afternoon.  In Temple’s 63-32 obliteration of Army, Harris rushed for a school- and Big East-record 351 yards and seven touchdowns.  The latter total was just one off the single-game FBS record.  And it wasn’t just Harris slicing an Army defense that came in ranked 105th nationally against the run, either, as the Owls rushed for 534 yards on 57 carries.

LOSERS

College football fans
After the ACC had approved a $50 million exit fee for any team seeking to leave his conference, commissioner John Swofford was supremely confident that the door had slammed shut on expansion.  A few months later, Swofford was wrong — and the game’s worse off for it.  To review, multiple media outlets reported Saturday afternoon that Maryland was in serious negotiations with the Big Ten about a move from the ACC, and that Rutgers would likely leave the Big East for the Midwest conference as well.  Of course, that will have a trickle-down effect as the ACC will likely pilfer the Big East for a replacement, with the Big East looking elsewhere to fill that hole and so on and so on and so on.  While the Big Ten looks to further fill its financial coffers by adding significant television footprints to the Big Ten Network, it’s the fans that once again come out on the short end.  The game has been a lot about the money in recent years; these moves, if they come to fruition, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s all about the money in big-time college football.  To hell with rivalries and geography and everything else that had made this the greatest sport in the country.  The bottom line is all that matters to the movers and shakers anymore, and it will prove to be the downfall of this once-great game.

HorSECrap slate
Exactly a week ago, the SEC (momentarily) saw its hopes for a seventh consecutive BcS championship severely diminished with Alabama’s upset loss to Texas A&M.  In honor of that near-death experience, nearly the entire conference decided to take Week 12 off.  Of the 11 games involving SEC teams this weekend, seven of them came against opponents from the FCS level.  Just three games were conference matchups — Arkansas-Mississippi State, Ole Miss-LSU, Tennessee-Vanderbilt — while just one team went outside the conference against a BcS-level school — Missouri hosting Syracuse.  Yes, the pastries that make up this week’s SEC menu are not much different from other conferences earlier in this season.  The fact that the snacking comes this late in the year, though, just leaves a bad taste all around.

Fall of the Spartans
When the 2012 season began, Michigan State was ranked 13th in the country and widely viewed, along with in-state rival Michigan, as the favorites to claim the Big Ten Legends division title.  After 12 weeks?  A postseason bowling trip is in doubt as the Spartans are just 5-6 overall and a lowly 2-5 in conference play.  In order to become bowl eligible, MSU will need next week to beat Minnesota, with whom they are tied in the divisional cellar.  As it stands now, this would serve as the worst season the Spartans have endured in Mark Dantonio‘s six seasons in East Lansing.  Even more head-scratching is the fact that such a subpar season comes on the heels of back-to-back 11-win years.

Re-Buff’d yet again
Entering this weekend, Colorado ranked 115th or worse — there are 124 teams at the FBS level — in total offense/defense and scoring offense/defense.  Saturday’s outcome will do little to help statistically what is arguably the worst member of a BcS conference as the one-win Buffaloes were pounded 38-3 by Washington, with the Buffs allowing 476 yards of offense while mustering just 141 of their own.  Eight of their 10 losses have come by 25 or more points — four by 44 or more — and their average margin of defeat is just over 33 points per game.  In just his second year, it’s hard to say if Jon Embree and his 4-20 record are on the hot seat or not.  If he is, and based solely on the on-field results, it would be far from a surprising development.

UC… what the F?
With a shot at clinching a division title, UCF instead decided to spit its bit as they Knights fell to Tulsa 23-21.  On the other hand, the Golden Hurricane wrapped up its division and a spot in the Conference USA championship game with the win.  The good news for UCF?  All it needs is to upend three-win UAB next weekend in order to secure a rematch with Tulsa.

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

– No. 8 LSU 41, Ole Miss 35: To be honest, I could care less about what happened during this game.  After the game was where all the necessary action was, as you can see by scrolling up several inches if you missed it.

– No. 12 South Carolina 24, Wofford 7: The Gamecocks were tied with the FCS-level school at seven-all early in the fourth quarter before pulling away with a 17-point mini explosion.  The combination of playing down to the level of competition and looking ahead to next weekend’s game against in-state rival Clemson were likely factors in this being a hell of a lot closer than what it should’ve been.

– No. 13 Oklahoma 50, West Virginia 49:  The Sooner’s last-minute win coupled with Kansas State’s stunning loss leaves OU just a K-State loss to Texas plus a Bedlam win over Oklahoma State from claiming the Big 12 championship and a BcS bowl berth.

– No. 23 Rutgers 10, Cincinnati 3: It was far from pretty, but the tight win over the Bearcats brought the Scarlet Knights one step closer to its first-ever Big East championship.

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. Notre Dame — As the only eligible unbeaten team left, they are the only option for the top spot.  Say what you want about their less-than-impressive resume’ and numerous close calls, but the Irish have done the one thing that no other team with a postseason shot has been able to do: avoid stubbing its toe.  Pretty or not, that’s all that matters. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: at No. 21 USC

2. Alabama — Their pre-Thanksgiving nap, brought on by its FCS tryptophan feast, was rudely interrupted by the pair of upsets ahead of them that put the Tide right back on track for a second consecutive BcS title and third in four years.  After mauling Auburn in the Iron Bowl, trips to Atlanta and, possibly, Miami await. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: vs. Auburn

3. Oregon — Let’s be clear on two fronts when it comes to the team from Eugene.  One, they lost to a really, really good Stanford team that took Notre Dame to overtime earlier in the year.  And, two, the Ducks are still a damn good team and would still be worthy of a title-game appearance, backdoor or not. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: at No. 15 Oregon State

4. Ohio State — Ineligible or not, being one of the two remaining undefeated teams counts for something, even as arrogance on the part of university officials could cost Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes a shot at the crystal. (Last week: No. 5)
Up next: vs. No. 23 Michigan

5. Florida State — Since its inexplicable loss to North Carolina State Oct. 6, the Seminoles have steamrolled its next five opponents by an average of 25.6 points per game. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. No. 7 Florida

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.

– USC’s Lane Kiffin: A little peacock birdie informed me last week that, if the Trojans did not beat cross-town rival UCLA and national rival Notre Dame, Kiffin would very likely be shown the door.  Saturday, the Trojans were embarrassed 38-28 by the little brother Bruins, becoming the first team since Auburn in 1984 to lose four games after being named the preseason No. 1.  Additionally, USC is in danger of becoming the first team since 1964 to end the season unranked after beginning at No. 1.  Following the loss to UCLA, Kiffin maintained that athletic director Pat Haden assured him he would return in 2013.  While that may very well end up being the case, there’s at least one Kiffin who will face the ax as defensive coordinator and Lane’s father Monte Kiffin is all but out.  Based on the preseason expectations, someone will have to fall on the sword, and who better than a 72-year-old assistant well on the downside of his career.

– Tennessee’s Derek Dooley: “The one thing Tennessee always does is kick the sh*t out of Vandy!”  Those were Dooley’s words in the locker room after the Volunteers beat the Commodores last season.  James Franklin‘s words (not really) to his team a year later?  “The one thing Vandy does is get Dooley’s sh*t kicked out the door!”  Or something like that as, with Vandy’s win over UT, the ‘Dores likely sealed Dooley’s fate in Knoxville.  Dooley was on the ropes prior to the game; Franklin and crew likely delivered the knockout punch.

HE SAID IT
“In other words, the bottom of the SAC.” — ESPN GameDay host Chris Fowler in describing Alabama’s Week 12 “competition,” Southern Athletic Conference member Western Carolina.

HELMET OF THE DAY
And by “Helmet of the Day” I mean “what in the name of common decency were you thinking/drinking/smoking, Virginia Tech?”

Holy Hokie helmet from hell…

YOU DON’T SAY?
USC’s Matt Barkley is first in the nation with 35 touchdown passes… and second in interceptions with 15.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– In West Virginia’s one-point loss to Oklahoma, wide receiver Tavon Austin rushed for 344 yards.  With 146 on kick returns and 82 receiving, the receiver accounted for a staggering 572 yards for the game.

– With a field goal early in the second quarter of Florida State’s division-clinching win over Maryland, Dustin Hopkins broke Boise State’s Kyle Brotzman‘s career record of 439 points by an FBS kicker.

– A first-half touchdown gave Wisconsin’s Montee Ball 78 for his career, tying former Miami of Ohio running back Travis Prentice for the most in FBS history.  The Badgers running back will have three games to break the mark.

John Simon totaled four sacks in Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin, a performance that likely locks up Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for the senior.

– North Carolina State wide receiver Tobias Palmer set an ACC record for all-purpose yards with 496 — 277 on kickoff returns and 219 receiving — in the high-scoring loss to Clemson.

– Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the first freshman, and the fifth player overall, in FBS history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 in a single season.

– After entering Saturday’s action with just 11 touchdown passes in 10 games, Keith Price tossed a career-high five in the win over Colorado.  As the game came against the Buffaloes, however, we’re uncertain if that’s an official personal mark or not.

– Kent State’s Dri Archer rushed for 241 yards on 17 carries as the Golden Flashes clinched their first-ever MAC divisional title.  The junior scored on touchdown runs of 79 and 74 yards.

– Louisiana Tech’s Colby Cameron saw his single-season NCAA record of consecutive pass attempts without an interception come to an end at 444 with an interception late in the second quarter against Utah State.

Steve Spurrier has 64 career wins as South Carolina’s head coach, tying him with Rex Enright for most in school history.

– Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch totaled 569 yards of offense (407 passing, 162 rushing) in the Huskies’ win over Toledo Wednesday night that clinched the MAC West.  It marked the second time this season that Lynch, fifth in the country in rushing yards per game entering the weekend (134.2), had passed for more than 300 yards and rushed for more than a 100 in a single game.

– Army has a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in a single season — quarterback Trent Steelman and running back Raymond Maples — for the first time since 1984.  Steelman also has 44 career touchdowns, breaking the school record set by Glenn Davis back in the mid-40s.

– A 42-16 win over North Texas (sorry Ben) secured Louisiana-Monroe’s first winning season since moving to the FBS level in 1994.  The Warhawks had twice finished seasons at 6-6 (2007, 2009).

– Harvard has beaten Yale five straight times, the first time the Crimson have achieved that feat in a rivalry that dates back to 1875.

– Yulee (Fla.) High School running back and 2013 Alabama verbal commitment Derrick Henry rushed for 482 yards and six touchdowns — on an astounding 58 carries — in a playoff win Friday night, pushing his career rushing total to 11,254 yards.  That broke the national high school record of 11,232 yards set by Ken Hull of Sugarland (Tex.) way back in 1953.  Henry, who has rushed for over 100 yards in every single game of his high school career and has run for at least 200 yards every game this season, will have at least one more game to add to his record total.

SID NOTE OF THE WEEK
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron claimed sole possession of the school’s single-season passing touchdown record as he connected with Christion Jones on a 29-yard touchdown in the second quarter for his 21st on the year. He entered the game tied with Greg McElroy (2010) on the single season list.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
UCLA is the only team to represent the Pac-12 South in the conference championship game.  Granted, it’s just two years into the event, but still…

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Utah State says Chuckie Keeton likely out for the season

Chuckie Keeton

The return of Chuckie Keeton to the football field did not go as planned this fall. And now it looks as though it is over. Utah State sent out a release Wednesday evening stating Keeton is likely out for the rest of the 2014 season.

Keeton suffered a left knee injury against Wake Forest earlier in the season. The injury was to the same knee that underwent surgery last season for a torn ACL and a torn MCL. The initial feeling seemed optimistic at the time, although the team decided it was bets to play it safe. He sat out Utah State’s game against Arkansas State as a caution. Apparently things have not gotten much better in the weeks since the injury took place.

“Chuckie’s health is our top priority and he has not been cleared to play by our medical staff,” said Utah State head coach Matt Wells in the school’s released statement. “We will continue to monitor his progress throughout the fall, but given his current condition it is unlikely that he will play in any games in the foreseeable future.”

Keeton has never redshirted during his collegiate career, but this is his senior year. Whether or not he will be able to use a medical redshirt remains to be seen at this point. Here’s hoping Keeton can find a way to stay healthy though and maybe get another chance on the field. He has battled injuries throughout his collegiate career, so the concern is great for his potential future.

One thing is for sure. College football is much more entertaining and enjoyable when Keeton is healthy. Sadly, we have not been treated to enough of it.

As for Utah State, Darrell Garretson will once again assume the starting job for the Aggies. Just as he did last season, Garretson will look to lead Utah State forward through Mountain West Conference play. Last year, while filling in for Keeton, Garretson threw for 1,436 yards and 10 touchdowns and led Utah State to the Mountain West Conference championship game, where Utah State fell shy against Fresno State. This season could play out in similar fashion.

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Alabama RB Jones has surgery for torn tendon in finger

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

It is a good thing Alabama is stacked at the running back position, because one player is going to be out of action for an extended period of time. Tyren Jones will be out for several weeks after undergoing surgery on his finger.

Nick Saban announced Wednesday Jones had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his finger. Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, running back depth is not a concern in Tuscaloosa. T.J. Yeldon remains the team’s starter, followed by Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake on the depth chart before getting to Jones.

Jones had rushed 13 times for 89 yards and a touchdown in the three games he has appeared in. He is fifth on the team in rushing.

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Promising USC freshman receiver suffers hamstring

Fresno State v USC

USC saw some promise in freshman wide receiver Ajene Harris last weekend against Oregon State, but he will be sitting on the sideline this weekend. Harris suffered a hamstring injury, which was announced by head coach Steve Sarkisian following Wednesday’s practice.

This is a setback for Harris, who has been impressive to the USC coaches and making a push for a significant role in the offense. While it remains unknown just how much time he will miss, the future is still incredibly bright for Harris, a former three-star recruit according to Rivals.

Last week Harris caught three passes for 30 yards, with a chunk of that coming ona  21-yard reception. He had been swapped in and out of the first team offense through the first few weeks, but that was more a credit to the quality depth at the position USC is playing with than anything else. Hamstring injuries are tricky to predict. The severity of the injury is unknown, but hamstring injuries have a way of lingering longer for some players than others without any way to know when it will be fully healed.

Helmet sticker to Conquest Chronicles.

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Louisville congratulates Bridgewater on first NFL win with billboard

Teddy Bridgewater

Former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater got his first start in the NFL on Sunday afternoon for the Minnesota Vikings. He was injured in the game, but he got the job done before having his first start end early. Everyone, it seems, is sending him congrats this week, including Louisville.

As seen in Minneapolis, this digital billboard message congratulates the former Louisville Cardinal on his first start and victory with the Vikings.

Bridgewater went 19-of-30 for 317 yards to help the Vikings defeat the Atlanta Falcons, 41-28. He was carted off the field with a sprained ankle on Sunday and underwent a MRI on Monday. It remains unknown if he will be playing Thursday night, for those college football fans looking to kill some time before Oregon and Arizona kick off.

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Will Brady Hoke reach the end of the season?

Brady Hoke

The temperature is boiling in Ann Arbor for head coach Brady Hoke and athletics director Dave Brandon. Will either of these two men be able to hold onto their jobs through the entire football season?

Noted Michigan football historian and author John Bacon feels somewhat confident in suggesting Hoke’s job will be safe for the remainder of the season, but an evaluation will likely take place after that. As for Brandon, well…

I asked Bacon for a quick clarification. He says a change of head coach is still likely, but it will not happen or begin to take place during the course of the season.

This seems to make sense, if you believe change is inevitable at Michigan. If the university feels the leadership needs a change starting at the AD position, why let go of the football coach now and allow the AD a chance to hire the next head coach? This would be similar to a major league baseball team allowing a lame duck general manager to hire a new manager and make some trades. Hoke may very well be on his way out at the end of the season unless he finds a way to get the Wolverines to rattle off a winning streak and Big Ten championship nobody sees coming. But for the state of the football program, not much will be better by making a change at head coach now compared to the end of the season. It is a different situation with an athletics director.

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Pac-12 offers another reason to lose sleep Thursday night

Oregon v Arizona

The Pac-12 has been serving up plenty of excitement for college football fans choosing to stay up late and sacrifice a few hours of sleep on Thursday nights this season. In week one we saw Rutgers and Washington State trade blows on college football’s first Thursday night. The following week saw Arizona take to the road to escape San Antonio with a win over UTSA. Last week rewarded late-night viewers with the first dominant performance by UCLA of the season, on the road at Arizona State on a Thursday night.

There may be some concerns about the Pac-12’s late night kickoffs, but there is no disputing the games have been worth staying up for from an entertainment standpoint. The Thursday night game this weekend could be another. No. 2 Oregon hosts Arizona in a cross-division match-up between 4-0 teams with a revenge factor on the line. Arizona snapped Oregon’s Rose Bowl dreams last year in blowout fashion.

The game is scheduled to kickoff at 10:30 p.m. on the east coast. Degenerates like me will be going against the east coast bias narrative and staying up to watch it, but how important is it that the nation’s second-ranked team is playing so late, when the majority of the potential east coast viewership will be going to bed well before the game is over? Should this continue to be a concern for the Pac-12? Will voters be influenced purely by the score because they didn’t stay up to watch the Ducks and Wildcats?

Ultimately, the concern as far as a playoff standpoint should be a non-issue, if you believe the members of the selection committee for the College Football Playoff are doing their due diligence. But from a conference standpoint, it feels as though the Pac-12 misses out on an opportunity to showcase one of the banner programs in the conference the last few years. A game involving two 4-0 teams deserves a better primetime slot for a larger audience, does it not?

This goes back to one of the problems the Pac-12 has been facing. The conference is improving its football brand. Teams are better and the conference should be going the extra mile to ensure more potential viewers get a chance to see them. By kicking off half past ten o’clock in the night, the reach has to be decreasing. Or is it?

Thursday night is highly competitive for college football now that the NFL has a weekly game on Thursday nights. This week the college football card of UCF-Houston and FAU-FIU will likely be squashed by the NFL match-up between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Throw in some playoff baseball (Baltimore Orioles hosting Detroit Tigers in the early game and Los Angeles Angels hosting the Kansas City Royals in the later game), and you can see why the Pac-12 may not be too upset having Oregon and Arizona kicking off at 10:30 p.m. The Pac-12’s core audience is on the west coast, so the time difference is not as much a concern to them. By the time Oregon and Arizona kick off, the NFL will be in the second half (and given the track record for Thursday night football this season, the game will be ugly and fans will be looking for something different), the two other college games will be wrapping up and the only real competition for viewers will be with baseball.

What will you be watching Thursday night?

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LSU transfer among two Arizona players leaving team

UNLV v Arizona

Jordan Allen‘s stay in the desert didn’t last nearly as long as expected.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, the defensive end was one of two Arizona football players to leave the football program recently.  No reason was given for the decision, although the Star did indicate that Allen (pictured, left) is likely done with football.

Allen started the first game of the year for the Wildcats, although his playing time has dipped dramatically since.  It’s unclear if that was the impetus for his decision.

In early April of this year, Allen left LSU seeking a transfer.  At the end of that month, he landed at Arizona.

Allen’s decision to transfer from the Tigers earlier this spring was reportedly more about academics than football as the lineman he couldn’t get into grad school at LSU after receiving his bachelor’s degree.

Allen entered the 2013 season as a starting end before losing that job. He ultimately played in all 13 games for the Tigers after missing most of the 2012 season with a knee injury.

A four-star member of LSU’s 2010 recruiting class, Allen was rated as the No. 10 strongside end in the country coming out of high school in West Monroe, Louisiana.

In addition to Allen, linebacker Mekani Kema-Kaleiwahea has left the program as well.  Kema-Kaleiwahea, who would like to transfer to a place closer to his home in Hawaii, has been buried on the depth chart after competing in summer camp for a starting job.

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Former UCF assistant on O’Leary: ‘a racist he is not’

George O'Leary AP

A former assistant of George O’Leary‘s has come to the defense of the UCF head coach.

In a lawsuit filed by Paul Ferraro late last week, the former UCF defensive coordinator accused O’Leary of making racist remarks and creating a work environment “permeated by bullying, threatening behavior, and repeated discriminatory epithets.” While O’Leary has not yet responded to the accusations, David Kelly has.

In an interview with FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman, the former Knights wide receivers coach, who’s black, was incredulous when discussing the accusations made against his former boss by Ferraro, who he also considers a friend.

“I never have heard (O’Leary) say anything that could be interpreted as derogatory, degrading, or slightly disrespectful regarding any race, or sect of people,” Kelly told Feldman. “George O’Leary is a lot of things to a lot of people, I’m sure, but a racist he is not.

“I worked for him for many years, and no, I didn’t always agree with everything he did, but I have always had the utmost respect for him.

“Many things that I practice today, in all walks of my life, are derived from many of the things that I learned from him.”

Ferraro, who maintained in the suit that he’s owed $15,000 by UCF, wrote in an email to O’Leary and the staff at the time that “[n]o longer will I put up with your constant verbal abuse of both our coaching and support staff. Threatening coaches on a regular basis with their jobs and racial slurs mixed in to make a point is wrong.” Ferraro was hired in late December of last year and left in early March; the school claims he resigned, the coach claims he was fired.

Kelly resigned in November of 2011 amidst a cloud of NCAA controversy, and acknowledged that he “[o]bviously wasn’t present during any of the interchanges that [O'Leary] had with Paul at UCF.”

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Syracuse’s second-leading receiver already ruled out of UofL game

Syracuse v Northwestern Getty Images

For the second consecutive week, Syracuse will be without a top threat in its passing game.

Tuesday, offensive coordinator George McDonald confirmed Ashton Broyld will not be available for the Orange’s game Friday against Louisville. Broyld suffered an unspecified lower-leg injury in the loss to Maryland and did not play in the loss to Notre Dame last weekend.

The original prognosis was for the junior wide receiver to miss a couple of weeks, so this doesn’t exactly come as a surprise to the staff.

“He was out there running around so he’s pushing his rehab to get out there,” McDonald said, “but I think he still might be another week or so away.”

Barring a setback, Broyld should return for the October 11 game against Florida State.

At the time of the injury, Broyld was tops on the team with 11 receptions and was second with 125 receiving yards. Broyld’s now tied for second and fourth, respectively, in those categories.

Last season, Broyld led the team last year in both categories (52-452).

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Big Ten issues statement on autonomy recommendations

Big Ten Logo

Wednesday, the ACC released a statement laying out its priorities for the Power Five’s looming autonomy structure.  A day later, yet another league heavyweight has done the same.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Big Ten laid out its own point-by-point agenda for further enhancing the benefits of student-athletes.  Not so surprisingly, the agenda is almost a mirror image of the one laid out by the ACC, and what’s been discussed ad nauseam over the past year or two.

As there is no new territory plowed in the Big Ten’s statement, it’s presented below without commentary.  Do with it and discuss it as you will:

The Big Ten Conference announced today that it has notified the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of initial recommendations designed to provide enhanced benefits for student-athletes that are members in good standing with their individual universities as part of the NCAA’s new autonomy governance structure.

For the past two years, the conference has publicly stated its desire to continue providing student-athletes with an unmatched educational and athletic experience, including comments made by Commissioner James E. Delany at the July 2013 Big Ten Football Media Days, at the Collegiate Commissioners Association meeting on September 25, 2013, at the July 2014 Big Ten Football Media Days, and in statements issued by the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors on June 1, 2014 and June 24, 2014.

The Big Ten will work to implement the following proposals through individual institutional action, conference-wide action or under the NCAA autonomy governance structure:
Cost of Education: Redefine full grant-in-aid to meet a student-athlete’s cost of education, as determined by the federal government.
Multi-Year Scholarships: Guarantee all scholarships. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be no impact on institutions’ commitment to deliver an undergraduate education.
Lifetime Educational Commitment: Ensure that scholarships are available for life. If a student-athlete leaves a university for a professional career before graduating, whether the career materializes, and regardless of its length, the scholarship will be honored after his or her playing days are complete.
Medical Insurance: Provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes.

The Big Ten has also agreed to address additional student-athlete welfare issues including, but not limited to, health and safety, time demands and comprehensive academic support by way of a “Resolution” that creates a specific pathway and timeline for implementation.

The Big Ten Conference is an association of 14 world-class universities committed to the pursuit and attainment of athletic and academic excellence. Big Ten institutions feature broad-based athletic programs which provide nearly $200 million in direct financial aid to almost 9,500 student-athletes on 350 teams in 42 different sports.

We look forward to working with the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC through the NCAA autonomy governance structure toward adoption and implementation of these proposals.

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All signs pointing to Blake Sims starting for ‘Bama vs. Ole Miss

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

While acknowledging early last week that he was “a little bruised” and “sore,” Blake Sims was very emphatic that he would be “very fine” and available for a key SEC West matchup coming off a bye week.

As it turns out, the Alabama quarterback knew exactly what he was talking about.  Probably.

Sims suffered an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder in the third quarter of the Sept. 20 win over Florida,  but did return to the game after missing a series to put a bow on a record-setting performance.  In the days leading up to the bye weekend, Sims was very limited in practice as the team looked to get him healthy.

Head coach Nick Saban said Monday that Sims returned to throwing a football very late last week.  Now, with the Ole Miss game just three days away, all of the signs are pointing to Sims being under center when the Tide takes the field against the Rebels.

Blake has done really well in practice,” Saban said on the SEC head coaches teleconference Wednesday. “He hasn’t had any issues this week so far in terms of being able to throw the ball. We’re really pleased with the way he’s progressed. He’s been able to take all the reps he’s prescribed to take. We’re pleased with that.”

Should Sims suffer a setback, Florida State transfer Jacob Coker would make his first career ‘Bama start. That, though, doesn’t appear likely.

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Colorado State shuts down starting TE/H-back for rest of season

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In early September, Jim McElwain labeled Kivon Cartwright‘s availability as week-to-week because of injury. Unfortunately for the starting tight end/H-back, the prognosis is no longer nearly as optimistic.

Following Tuesday’s practice, the head coach revealed that Cartwright will be forced to undergo additional surgery on his injured ankle. The procedure will cost Cartwright the remainder of the 2014 season.

Cartwright has been dealing with the ankle issue since the offseason.

“We’re going to go ahead and actually go back in and re-tighten up that screw, because it didn’t heal properly,” McElwain said. “For his best interests on that, it just never healed right. So we’re going to go back in and fix it so everything’s right for the rest of his life.”

Cartwright played in the opener against Colorado — one catch, 22 yards — but hasn’t played since. Last season, he was fourth on the team in receptions (27) and receiving yards (462). His six receiving touchdowns tied for the team lead.

Because this is the second season he’s missed because of injury — he didn’t play as a true freshman — Cartwright could seek a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA. McElwain said that’s something that will be addressed after the 2014 season is complete.

Steven Walker, Cartwright’s replacement, is currently second on the Rams with 14 receptions and third in receiving yards with 157.  His two touchdown catches are tied for second on the team.

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Michigan going back to Devin Gardner at QB

Devin Gardner

Not so unexpectedly, Michigan is going back to its recent past at the most important position on the field.

Wednesday, embattled UM head coach Brady Hoke confirmed Devin Gardner will get the start at quarterback for Saturday’s game against Rutgers.  Prior to being benched in favor of Shane Morris in the loss to Minnesota last week, Gardner had started 16 of the previous 17 games for the Wolverines.

In his four starts this season, Gardner has thrown six interceptions against just five touchdowns.  In a pair of 2014 starts against Power Five teams, Gardner has tossed five picks and zero touchdowns.

Morris suffered a concussion and lower-leg injury in his first regular-season start after Gardner was benched.  It was the former injury and the football program’s botching of it that led to calls for both Hoke and athletic director Dave Brandon to be fired.

Hoke has defended the handling of the situation, while president Mark Schlissel apologized and admitted that the situation wasn’t handled properly.  In the wake of the fiasco, UM is reviewing its injury protocols, particularly as it relates to head injuries, although no sanctions from the Big Ten are expected.

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Bonnafon gets starting call again at QB for Louisville

Reggie Bonnafon AP

For the second week in a row, Louisville will be sans its starting quarterback for a conference game.

On a teleconference Wednesday, Bobby Petrino confirmed that Will Gardner will not start Friday’s game against Syracuse.  Petrino did allow that “[t]here’s a chance [Gardner] will be available” in an emergency-type situation.

“Will was out there last night and did more in practice,” Petrino said. “Reports from the training room this morning was there was limited swelling so we get a chance to get him out today at practice again.”

Gardner suffered a left knee injury in the win against FIU.  He left in the third quarter didn’t return.

With Gardner out, at least at the beginning, Reggie Bonnafon will make his second consecutive start.

In his first collegiate start against Wake Forest, a 20-10 win, Bonnafon completed 16-of-32 passes for 206 yards. He had no touchdowns but also no interceptions. The true freshman added 46 yards on the ground against the Demon Deacons; in the first four games, Gardner ran for minus-72, so obviously Bonnafon adds a dimension that the starter doesn’t possess.

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Pair of Fresno State DBs, including Arizona transfer, quit team

Fresno State v USC Getty Images

Fresno State’s secondary depth took an unexpected twin hit Tuesday.

According to head coach Tim DeRuyter in a press release sent out late Tuesday night, both cornerback Bryan Harper and free safety Justin Holmes have decided to quit the Bulldogs football team. The moves apparently came from out of the blue, at least publicly.

The pair left due to unspecified personal reasons.

“We appreciate their contributions and we wish them well in the future,” DeRuyter said in a statement.

Harper transferred to Fresno State from Arizona in 2013 and sat out that season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  The decision to leave came after Harper had started the first two games of the season.  The Fresno Bee wrote that Harper “was excused from practice on Monday while at home in Los Angeles to tend to a family issue.”

Coming out of high school in Ontario, California, Harper was a three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2012 recruiting class.

Holmes, meanwhile, didn’t record a tackle this year after redshirting as a true freshman last season.  He was a no-show at practice Monday.

Neither Harper nor Holmes was listed on the most recent two-deep depth chart.

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