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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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Quick updates on CFB Playoff contender win totals

BCS National Championship - Florida State v Auburn

How comfortable are you that Florida State will win 12 games this season? What about Alabama winning 11 games? Some new win total betting lines have been posted in Las Vegas by Wynn Las Vegas, and betting expert David Purdum made note of the schools most often discussed as a contender for the College Football Playoff this season.

Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and Ohio State have been tied to various favorite-labels as College Football Playoff contenders. Oklahoma is also in that conversation. Purdum added the Sooners are set at 10.5 for the win total…

Are any of these numbers worth taking a shot on with your money?

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All Steve Addazio wants is the next Tim Tebow at BC

Steve Addazio

If there is one college football player that is most responsible for the elevation of Boston College head coach Steve Addazio, it has to be Tim Tebow. Now, as Addazio looks to build off a decent start at Boston College, the former Florida assistant coach is keeping a watchful eye out for the next Tim Tebow. Is that too much to ask?

“When I saw Tim Tebow, I watched him play in high school and will never forget it,” Addazio said to Jared Shanker of ESPN.com. “To me your quarterback has to have the ‘it factor,’ and I’ve never seen a guy with the ‘it factor’ more in my life. It was oozing off his uniform. I saw him put his whole team on his back and win. He was going to lead and win championships.”

There is little to dispute just how motivational and influential Tebow was to the BCS championship teams at Florida. The Heisman Trophy winner may not have been the best quarterback, but he found ways to help his team win some big games along the way. No matter what you might think about Tebow’s overall football legacy, his time at the college level will leave him as one of the all-time greats. Finding a player of that caliber is a rarity, but if Addazio and his staff can keep working and convince a player of that caliber to come to Boston College to be the next Tebow or Matt Ryan or Doug Flutie it could go a long way. Coincidentally, Flutie’s nephew, Troy, is a quarterback on the Eagles roster.

“I talk to our staff all the time about this,” Addazio said. “We got to be right about this. One of those young guys needs to be a guy that can win a championship for you. If you don’t do that, you struggle.”

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Penn State may have a new AD ready to introduce

Nebraska v Penn State

Now that we have reached into Friday afternoon, it seems as though news is starting to slow down. That is not quite the case in State College, Pennsylvania, where it appears Penn State is ready to introduce to the world its new athletics director. A media memo sent out Friday afternoon confirmed there will be a press conference scheduled for Saturday afternoon in the media room at Beaver Stadium. The memo says the purpose is to “make an announcement on a personnel decision within Intercollegiate Athletics.”

Penn State president Eric Barron will open the press conference, but given the timing of the press conference just days before Big Ten media days in Chicago and Penn State’s current athletics director set to step down next week, it just makes too much sense.

It was just over a month ago when it was announced Penn State athletics director David Joyner would be stepping down from his position. Joyner will be resigning from the position effective August 1. The next AD will be taking over a program that sees two more years remaining on a football postseason ban, unless the NCAA amends the sanction terms. As far as football is concerned, the worst may be behind Penn State at this point. The NCAA has already turned over some lost scholarships and a new head coach, James Franklin, is in place and doing terrific work in recruiting.

The Big Ten football media day will get underway on Monday in Chicago.

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Strong message at Texas; RB Bergeron is gone

Marqueston Huff, Joe Bergeron

If there was one thing the Texas football program needed, it was a focus on discipline and getting a toughness back. That is what makes head coach Charlie Strong a terrific hire for the program after cutting ties with Mack Brown. Strong’s message to the team was put on display once more Friday morning with news of senior running back Joe Bergeron being dismissed from the roster.

Bergeron is the seventh player to be booted from the Texas football program since Strong arrived on his saddle in Austin. That number has skyrocketed in the past week with four others being dismissed this week. Running back Jalen Overstreet and defensive end Chevoski Collins were also dismissed by the program on Thursday for various violations, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrell Meander were also suspended by Strong on Thursday as a legal situation stemming from an alleged sexual assault.

Bergeron had been sent home from spring practice earlier this year, so seeing Strong come to this decision may not be quite a shock, although the head coach did sing the praises of the running back during a spring tour. Strong has said from day one as the Texas head coach he needed to make some changes to overhaul what could be a sleeping giant of a program at this point. Strong has always been focused on discipline and he does not waste time coddling players, which is a little bit of the dose of reality seemingly needed in Austin.

Bergeron was third on the team in rushing in 2013, accumulating 362 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 13 games.

Don’t mess with Texas? Don’t mess with Strong, that much is for sure.

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Media covering Big Ten picks Ohio State as the favorite, Wisconsin in west

Urban Meyer

The Big Ten is late in the media day circuit, getting started on Monday in Chicago, but we already have a favorite from the media; Ohio State.

The Buckeyes were named the media favorite in a media poll organized by The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, with members of various organizations spread across the Big Ten’s footprint casting their votes and predictions for each Big Ten division and conference champion. There is no formal media poll organized by the Big Ten, so the Cleveland-based newspaper has taken on the responsibility of giving Big Ten fans a preseason poll that swung and missed on the outcome a year ago (nobody picked Michigan State, but that happens). Ohio State received 23 first-place votes to win the Big Ten’s new east division. Defending Big Ten champion Michigan State received the other 10 first-place votes in the east and finished second in the preseason poll. Michigan and Penn State followed, respectively. Big Ten newcomer Maryland was picked to finish fifth in the east, followed by Indiana and the other Big Ten rookie, Rutgers.

The Big Ten’s west division was a bit more open according to the poll voters. Wisconsin came out on top with 15 first-place votes, but Iowa comes in a somewhat surprising second place with 11 first-place votes. Nebraska finished third with five first-place votes and one voter gave Northwestern (fourth in the preseason poll) a first-place vote. Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue round out the west division.

Ohio State received 19 out of 29 votes to win the Big Ten. Michigan State received nine votes and Nebraska received one vote. Wisconsin received no votes to win the Big Ten despite being picked to win the west division.

You can see the full unofficial preseason media poll for more voting results.

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Baylor’s Art Briles admits to interest in Texas vacancy

Art Briles

When a dream job comes along, few reasonable people would likely fault anyone for exploring the possibility of leaving all that you have built behind to take the new opportunity. Fortunately for Baylor, their head coach shrugged aside the idea of coaching at Texas this past offseason.

Baylor head coach Art Briles took over the desolate and often hopeless program prior to the 2008 season after a successful stint as a head coach at Houston. Briles was asked to do what seemed to be impossible; turn Baylor football into something worth respecting in the Big 12. After starting out his career in Waco with identical 4-8 seasons, the building blocks were starting to form a foundation and Baylor broke through with a 7-6 record in 2010, the first winning season for the Bears since 1995 in the old Southwest Conference. The next season Robert Griffin III exploded on the scene to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Baylor to a 10-win season, a top 25 finish and the first bowl win for the school since the 1992 season. Last year Baylor won the Big 12 championship and played in the Fiesta Bowl. As far as stock is concerned, Briles may have peaked and could have cashed in.

This is why it only makes sense that Briles would not only be one of the top candidates for the vacancy in Austin, once Texas found a way to move on from Mack Brown, but Briles also had an interest in the job. Was Briles interested? You bet. Yesterday while moving through the ESPN car wash with a stop on the Paul Finebaum radio show, Briles admitted as much.

Briles, of course, chose to stay where he is at Baylor at a big time for the program. The Bears are coming off the first Big 12 championship in school history, appear to be a threat once again in the conference and move into a brand new football stadium this season. Times are good for Baylor. Briles is a big reason why, and it is nice to see someone choose to stay put to see through it all, especially when it is very likely Texas could have made Briles a wealthier man for years to come.

Texas may not have nabbed Nick Saban from Alabama, but the Longhorns ended up with a pretty good coach anyway by hiring Charlie Strong away from Louisville.

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SEC Network’s Time Warner deal increases launch viewership to 60 million

A cable truck returns to a Time Warner Cable office in San Diego, California

Things continue to be developing smoothly for the SEC Network, just weeks away from going live on the air. After successfully putting together deals with Comcast and COX Networks, the new network has added another big name to the cable distribution line-up; Time Warner. Just for good measure, the SEC Network has added Bright House Networks to the mix as well. The total potential reach for the launch of the SEC Network is now expected to total an estimated 60 million homes.

John Ourand of Sports Business Daily broke the news about the agreement, which was later confirmed by a release from the SEC Network on Thursday.

“We know we have customers who want the SEC-ESPN Network, and are pleased to bring it to them,” said Andrew Rosenberg, Senior Vice President of Content Acquisition for Time Warner Cable. “This deal will help ensure that fans and alumni of SEC universities won’t miss any important games.”

“By delivering the SEC Network across Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks’ nationwide footprint, including key markets within SEC territory, we are meeting the demands of fans while also adding value to customers’ video subscriptions in advance of the network’s launch next month,” said Sean Breen, Disney and ESPN Media Networks senior vice president of affiliate sales.

There is still one giant hurdle remaining for what is already being praised as a masterful launch for the network; DirecTV. There is also some growing concern about ESPN’s involvement with the SEC Network and the College Football Playoff, as expressed by Bart Doan on The Student Section, but as far as preparing for a grand debut, ESPN has been hard at work at the negotiating table to make sure everything is lined up for the launch of the new network. It may just be a matter of time before there is a deal with DirecTV signed by all parties. At this point, DirecTV would be wise to not be labeled as the one provider without the network.

The SEC Network will launch on August 14.

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Four Cincy players forced to retire, QB Legaux working his way back

Cincinnati v Louisville

The playing careers for a pair of Cincinnati players have come to an end as a result of a car crash last September. Wide receivers Mark Barr and Javon Harrison will no longer play football due to injuries suffered in a tragic auto accident that claimed the life of offensive lineman Ben Flick.

In addition to Barr and Harrison, Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville confirmed to Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer that safety Marcus Foster and defensive back Drake Burns will also no longer be able to play football. All four players will remain on scholarship.

Harrison was listed in stable condition once taken to a hospital following the accident, but Barr was placed in critical condition. Barr was released from a hospital nearly a month later.

In more positive injury news out of Cincinnati, quarterback Munchie Legaux is making some good progress on his return to football. After suffering a devastating knee injury early last season, Legaux was granted an extra year of eligibility and he is looking to make it count. Tuberville expects Legaux to be in uniform and available to practice once the Bearcats open training camp. With Gunner Kiel stating his case for the starting job in the spring, Legaux may have to be at 100 percent and work to win the job back once he is.

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Larry Scott already stumping for Pac-12 champ in playoff

Larry Scott

As to be expected, the past couple weeks of conference media days has brought a number of tired debates back to the surface. Among them has been the debate over eight-game conference schedules or nine-game schedules. For the Pac-12, the answer is simple. Commissioner Larry Scott addressed the benefits of having a nine-game conference schedule as college football moves into the College Football Playoff era this fall.

“We know that there will be continued controversy and debate, but the clear statement has been made that strength of schedule is going to be a determining factor in figuring out which of the four teams ought to be competing in that playoff,” Scott said during his state of the Pac-12 press conference this week at the Pac-12 media day event in California. The College Football Playoff selection committee will be placing an emphasis on strength of schedule when determining its rankings and choosing which four teams will be selected to participate in the College Football Playoff. the Pac-12 has opted to go with a nine-game conference schedule in part to raise the overall strength of schedule for the conference. Of course, it also makes it easier to schedule for all Pac-12 schools when they only have to fill three non-conference spots as opposed to four. The Pac-12 also backed out of a conference-wide scheduling agreement with the Big Ten that would have raised the strength of schedule for both conferences.

Scott chose to focus on the depth of the Pac-12 in 2014, a wise strategy considering the national respect for Oregon, Stanford and UCLA along with the rising expectations for programs like USC, Washington and Washington State. With some quality depth, the Pac-12 could be the most entertaining conference to watch this fall, so folks on the east coast may have to prepare for some late nights. The Pac-12 also has a chance to impress on a national level with some key non-conference match-ups.

“This year the Pac‑12, again, has scheduled a very tough non‑conference slate that includes 13 games against bowl teams from a year ago,” Scott said. “Highlights of our non‑conference match‑ups this year include five games against Big Ten opponents – Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Rutgers and Illinois. We’ve got three games against Notre Dame this year – Stanford, USC, Arizona State all playing against Notre Dame, and of course UCLA’s match‑up in Dallas against Texas early in the season.”

But Scott’s final remark about the schedule was one with a slight aim at the ACC and SEC. Both the ACC and SEC will play eight-game conference schedules. Whoever comes out on top of the Pac-12 is likely to have a decent shot at playing in the College Football Playoff, which Scott is already stumping for as best he can.

“Here it is with the most competitive nine‑game conference schedule in the nation, our champion will be incredibly well‑positioned in this first-ever historic College Football Playoff.”

Some power conference is going to get left out of the four-team playoff, if not more. Scott clearly believes his conference should not be on the outside looking in.

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WR Rhodes moving from Big 12 champs to MAC champs

Dino Babers

Former Baylor wide receiver Robbie Rhodes is moving from one conference champion to another. Rhodes is transferring to Bowling Green, a report by ESPN.com has confirmed. Bowling Green won the MAC championship in 2013 and is the preseason favorite to win the conference again in 2014.

A month ago it was learned Rhodes was no longer with the Baylor Bears, 2013 Big 12 champions. Earlier in the offseason Rhodes was arrested and charged for possession of marijuana and tampering with physical evidence, but the charges were never levied against him.

Rhodes appeared in 11 games last season for Baylor, recording 10 receptions for 157 yards. Where he goes from here is unknown at this time for the true sophomore. He still has three years of eligibility remaining. At Bowling Green, Rhodes will feel comfortable being inserted into the offense once he is eligible, because there will be many similarities between what the Falcons do and what Baylor runs. Bowling green head coach Dino Babers (pictured) is a former receivers coach at Baylor.

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Rhodes will have to sit out the 2014 season but will have multiple years of eligibility once he is eligible to resume playing for Bowling Green in 2015.

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Texas media guide published with recurring typo

University of Texas Introduces Charlie Strong Getty Images

Everybody makes a typo from time to time, and I may be one of the biggest culprits. But I also do not print and release 200-page media guides for some of the largest college football programs in the country, like Texas.

The Texas Longhorns media guide was released with a typo at the bottom of each and every page of the media guide, misspelling the website address for Texas sports website (TexsaSports.com). Hey, mistakes happen but this one happened to be printed through the entire media guide.

How could something like this happen?

This is just a hunch, but it is not as though somebody manually typed the same typo for each page of the media guide. The media guide was more likely formatted so the address only needed to be typed once and it would appear on each page of the media guide. This may have also been one of the first things entered into the media guide as well, so it could have easily been forgotten.

For what it is worth, the typo has been corrected.

Helmet sticker to SB Nation.

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Notre Dame WR Mahone sentenced to 10 days in jail

Notre Dame v Michigan

Notre Dame wide receiver Will Mahone will serve 10 days in jail after pleading guilty to four misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, assault and aggravated menacing. Felony charges were wiped off his record as part of his plea.

A county judge offered Mahone some leniency in the sentencing, telling Mahone he felt a stronger sentence should be enforced. Mahone will also serve a year on probation and he received credit for two days in jail served following the initial arrest until bail was posted.

As noted by Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish, Mahone still has an uncertain future at Notre Dame. Following Mahone’s arrest, Notre Dame suspended the receiver indefinitely while the legal process played out. Mahone is not currently enrolled at Notre Dame, leaving a cloud of uncertainty surrounding his future at this point. An attorney representing Mahone has said Mahone would like to be able to return to Notre Dame when the time is appropriate, but no decision on his fate has been made just yet.

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Ohio State fires band director and will investigate sexual culture

Ohio State Marching Band

This one strays a bit away from the football side of our usual conversation, but few would argue the marching band is as much a part of the college football experience as anything else. Ohio State’s marching band is one of the best in the country, earning the nickname The Best Damn Band in the Land for a good reason, but it is currently in an unfortunate position. Ohio State has fired band director Jon Waters and continues to investigate what is being referred to as a sexualized culture within the organization.

Ohio State has been investigating the marching band for the last two months, according to The Columbus Dispatch, following a complaint registered by a parent of a member of the band. The investigation turned up evidence of students routinely harassing or hazing each other, usually new students. Further complicating things is information suggesting the director of bands was aware of such activity and did nothing to prevent it from continuing. One of the specific complaints claimed students in the band went on parade in their underwear in the middle of the night. This was allegedly done under the supervision of Waters and other staff members. This obviously goes against the university’s sexual harassment policy, which prompted the investigation, which gathered testimony from nine witnesses as well as Waters, other staff members and the concerned parent and child.

You can read the full 23-page report, which includes some vulgar and not-safe-for-work descriptions.

Some may to write off some of the information in the report as “college kids doing college things,” but even if that is the case there still is a line that needs to be drawn, especially from the leaders of the organization. Knowing the student policies, if Waters did indeed allow some of these thing to continue then the university was absolutely in the right to take swift action.

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Friedgen ready to open up Rutgers offense, fix Nova’s mechanics

Ralph Friedgen

This year marks the return of Ralph Friedgen to a college football sideline. The former head coach at Maryland is getting back in the swing of things as offensive coordinator at Rutgers, and it is a transition he believes has gone smoothly as well as one he seems to be embracing. No longer in charge of directing the daily operations of the football program, Friedgen can focus more on mapping out the offensive schemes the Scarlet Knights will use this fall, the first as a Big Ten member.

With Friedgen in charge of the offense, things are going to change as he tries to make use of what is available to him. Do not expect Friedgen to ask Rutgers to do anything he does not feel they are capable of doing, and perhaps that will be a good thing.

“What I think we have to be careful about – and I think it happened a little bit in the spring – is we can wear these kids out and not have anything left,” Friedgen said in a sit-down interview with veteran Rutgers scribe Tom Luicci for ScarletKnights.com. “My philosophy is to have a balance between run and pass… If you’re only one dimensional then they’re going to make you play left-handed and I don’t like to play left-handed. I like to take what the defense gives us.”

One of the biggest concerns for Rutgers may be the play of quarterback Gary Nova. Friedgen arrived hearing plenty about Nova’s ups and (mostly) downs, but he feels confident he can get the most out of his starting quarterback. Friedgen has also taken some measures to improve Nova’s mechanics.

“I’ve made one correction with his mechanics. He threw the ball on his toes, which puts a lot of pressure on your arm and can lead to arm problems. I was always taught, especially when I was in the NFL, to put your heel in the ground and push off like you’re a pitcher and then get your waist and hips right. It seems to have helped him.”

You can read the full Q&A with Friedgen on ScarletKnights.com.

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Report: Washington suspends QB Miles for season opener

Washington v Oregon State Getty Images

If you are having trouble keeping up with the status of Washington quarterback Cyler Miles, you are forgiven. It has been quite a back-and-forth situation this offseason. For those keeping score, Miles is currently suspended for the season opener at Hawaii, according to Washington beat reporter Adam Jude, of The Seattle Times.

Jude reported the news of a suspension via Twitter;

Miles and former wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow were connected to an on-campus assault incident that led to the suspensions. Miles was not charged for the incident. Stringfellow later decided to transfer to Nebraska, and then to Ole Miss. Miles was suspended by Washington on February 6 and then reinstated on May 14. After seeing Miles serve a suspension through spring practices, it comes as a small surprise to see he will now be suspended for the first game of the season, although this is also a way for new head coach Chris Petersen to lay down the (football) law and send a message to the entire team right off the bat.

Miles was expected to be the leading candidate to be Washington’s next starting quarterback after the departure of Keith Price. That may prove to be the case in the long run regardless of this news, but he will have some catching up to do while Jeff Lindquist and/or Troy Williams take care of leading the offense in the season opener.

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