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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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Could Sun Belt futures of Idaho, New Mexico State be in doubt?

Have you or anyone you know ever had one of those moments where you say something out loud during a conference call thinking your line is on mute – only it’s not? Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson may be fighting that feeling right now.

In a conference call heralding the addition of Coastal Carolina, Benson acknowledged far west members Idaho and New Mexico State could be on the chopping block.

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In his defense, Benson only acknowledged the obvious. Considering the Big 12 and ACC-led legislation allowing leagues to hold title games outside the 12-plus team, two-division structure should pass before Coastal Carolina joins the conference in 2017, adding a 12th team for the sake of holding a conference championship game makes about as much sense as…. having your conference footprint spread from Moscow, Idaho to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

That’s not to say the Vandals and Aggies should go packing their bags, however.

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Still, chalk that decision up to a commissioner throwing cold water on a line of questioning that he himself opened.

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Georgia (finally) receives approval for indoor facility

Georgia Southern v Georgia

For years, Georgia’s indoor facility was like that swarm of African killer bees you heard about as a kid: rumored to be on its way, though no one ever actually laid eyes on it.

Well, the bees have arrived.

The University of Georgia athletics board has approved construction on a $30 million indoor facility, to break ground after the 2015 season. The facility will run 140 yards long, 80 yards wide and 76 feet high.

Previously, the Dawgs bussed to the Atlanta Falcons facility when Mother Nature deemed necessary, a wart on the program coaches say was used against Georgia on the recruiting trail.

“I know he is excited for this day to come,” athletics director Greg McGarity said of head coach Mark Richt. “He is chomping at the bit to send renderings to prospects and team members and the coaching staff. And now we’ve got that done.”

“I know our competitors are not going to say nothing bad about the coaching staff here, they’re not going to say nothing bad about the people here because it’s a great place,” defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said last November. “One thing they’re going to say is, and that they’ve always said is, ‘How important is football at Georgia if they don’t have an indoor practice facility?’ Well they won’t be able to say that anymore.”

Half of the $30.2 million will come through the department’s reserve fund, and the other half through fundraising. Construction is expected to be complete “hopefully early on” in 2017.

“Getting the $15 million raised as quickly as possible would be optimal,” Georgia president Jere Morehead told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Here’s hoping the Dawgs can keep those bees out.

 

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Michigan State QB Connor Cook on not being named captain: “It stinks.”

Connor Cook

Ninety-nine percent of the time, a quarterback headed into his third year as starter on a successful team is chosen by his teammates as a captain. Connor Cook, it appears, is the one percent.

Cook was not chosen as one of three captains by his fellow Spartans – senior center Jack Allen, senior defensive end Shilique Calhoun and senior linebacker Darien Harris were – but still holds a leadership spot as a member of the 12-person “eagles council.” And, you know, by virtue of being a senior quarterback many believe will be a first-round pick next May.

Still, Cook spoke of the decision to the Detroit Free-Press:

“Obviously, I was disappointed. But we have the whole leadership council, the 12 guys, and I think the whole senior class takes pride in everyone being leaders. And we’re not all about the title and stuff like that. And I for sure want to be captain, but it’s not gonna limit me from leading. I think for the position that I’m in, being a quarterback here, that’s already assumed.

“I’ve been a leader here, I’ve been a leader since I’ve been starting here. The coaches believe in me, I think that’s been known. Coach D. believes in me, they all believe in me. My teammates believe in me. And they still look to me as a leader. And I am a leader on this football team. I may not be a captain, but every time I step in the huddle, everybody looks to me to lead. Every time we step on that football field, I touch the ball every single play on offense. And I lead that offense down, I lead it to game-winning drives. I’ve led us in big-time games before.

“And guys still look to me as a leader, and obviously it stinks not to be captain. But that’s why we have the leadership council, the 12 guys. Coach D. really likes to not just have three guys leading, but 12. We’ve got such a deep senior class, too. We’ve got guys like Shilique, Darien, me, Jack. Joel (Heath) is a great leader. If you could pick five captains, there would be five captains. If there could be six, there’d be six guys. All 12 guys are worth enough to be captains. But it’s definitely not gonna limit my leadership role. And it’s just gonna make me hungrier.”

So, there’s that.

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Nebraska hires PA announcer, fires PA announcer over critical Facebook post

McNeese State v Nebraska Getty Images

Strange story out of Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers recently hired Jon Schuetz as Memorial Stadium’s public address announcer, and then turned around and fired him one day later.

Schuetz, formerly the sports director for KETV-TV in Omaha, told his former employer he was fired after university officials discovered a social media post he made critical of former Huskers coach Bo Pelini. The post has since been deleted.

It is worth noting, of course, Schuetz was not a Nebraska employee at the time, and Pelini is no longer Nebraska’s head coach. Still, Schuetz told his former employer he holds no animosity toward the Huskers.

“If I were in their shoes, I would’ve done the same thing. I’ve hired people. I get it. … If you say something about a prospective future employer, it’s legitimate to say if you’re not on board with what we do here, maybe you shouldn’t be here,” he told the Omaha World-Herald. “I respect the decision. I hold no hard feelings toward anybody down there. The worst part is I feel like I’ve left some great people at HuskerVision in a difficult situation just a few days before the first game of the season.”

The post in question, according to the paper, appeared on Facebook on Nov. 30, 2014:

Harvey Perlman is as (sic) disgrace. Remember this was the guy who extended Steve Pederson’s contract only to fire him a few months later. When will he be held to account?

Schuetz was hired to replace Patrick Combs, whom the university dismissed this summer after he was arrested on suspicion of conning two elderly women out of more than $350,000.

Whomever the Huskers turn to next, they’d better do it quickly. Nebraska’s home schedule opens Saturday against BYU.

Update: The Huskers apparently found the one person that never criticized the program.

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Memphis suspends six connected to Miami Beach Brawl

Memphis v Mississippi AP

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall will announce which of his players were suspended because of their actions in last year’s bowl game after the 2015 opener is played.  His counterpart, however, is a being a little more forthcoming.

Monday, Memphis head coach Justin Fuente announced six players are facing game suspensions because of their actions in the infamous post-game Miami Beach Bowl brawl.  The official move comes seven months after Fuente announced that a dozen unnamed players would be facing various suspensions/sanctions for their roles.

The stiffest suspension was doled out to starting linebacker Leonard Pegues, who will have to sit for the first 1.5 games of the season. The senior will be forced to sit out the entire opener against Missouri State this Saturday, then the first half of the Kansas game the following weekend.

Additionally, defensive tackle Isadore Outing has been suspended for the opener for his role. Outing took a redshirt as a true freshman, and wasn’t listed on the two-deep depth chart.

Finally, four players were slapped with half-game suspensions: defensive back Chauncey Lanier and offensive linemen Michael Stannard, Trevon Tate and Nick Thomas. Lanier is the only starter in that sextet.

“The [American Athletic Conference] looked at the video for a long time,” Fuente said. “We looked at it for a long time. We tried to do our best to come up with the appropriate punishments.”

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UCLA indefinitely suspends CB Ishmael Adams

UCLA v California AP

Not surprisingly, there are immediate repercussions for Ishmael Adams’ alleged off-field misdeed.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Adams has indefinitely suspended from the football program.  The move comes roughly 24 hours after reports surfaced that Adams had been arrested in connection to an on-campus robbery.

It was subsequently reported that Adams had stolen the cell phone of an Uber driver.  Originally jailed in lieu of a $100,00 bond, Adams was released earlier today.

The fact that the suspension comes just four days before the opener means the defensive back will miss Saturday’s game against Virginia.  Mora said Adams will remain suspended until additional facts are gathered.

Such a stance could put Adams’ availability for the following week’s game against UNLV in jeopardy as well as a brutal four-game stretch that begins with BYU; continues with a road trip to No. 22 Arizona and a home game against No. 15 Arizona State; and concludes with a road date against No. 21 Stanford.

Adams has started 26 games at cornerback the last two seasons.  He’s also one of the top kick- and punt-return men in the country.

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Injury to sideline WKU’s second-leading rusher indefinitely

Western Kentucky v South Alabama AP

Whatever in-game breather Leon Allen was expected to get because of Anthony Wales‘ presence will, for the foreseeable future, be put on hold. Or entrusted to someone less experienced.

Wales sustained an undisclosed injury recently and will most certainly miss Western Kentucky’s opener against Vanderbilt Thursday. Head coach Jeff Brohm would only say that the running back is out indefinitely and his return is “a little bit down the road.”

Behind Allen’s 1,542 yards rushing and 13 rushing touchdowns last season, Wales was second on the team with 518 and five. He added 15 receptions for 127 yards coming out of the backfield for good measure.

Other than Allen and Wales, the only other running backs on the Hilltoppers’ roster who have carried the ball at this level are graduate transfer Anthony Davis (65 yards rushing in 2013 at Indiana, scout team player in 2014) and Darmontre Warr (29 yards total the past two seasons at WKU).

“There are some guys that we’re missing, but I like the guys we have,” Brohm said. “They’ve worked hard. At any point throughout the season, someone’s going to have to step up, and there will be a few this first game that will have to step up.”

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Sun Belt confirms Coastal Carolina’s addition in 2017

CCU SBC

Yesterday’s report has officially become today’s come-to-fruition news.

In a press release, the Sun Belt announced that Coastal Carolina has accepted an invitation to join the conference.  The Chanticleers will join the league for football in 2017, while they move all of their other varsity sports in a year earlier for the 2016-17 season.

Currently playing at the FCS level, CCU will begin a transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision with its first year of full FBS status coming in 2018. While they will be eligible to compete for an SBC title in 2017, they won’t be eligible for a bowl game until 2018.

“On behalf of all of us at Coastal Carolina University, I’m honored to accept the invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference,” CCU president David A. DeCenzo said in a statement. “I am grateful to Sun Belt Commissioner, Mr. Karl Benson, for his steadfast support of CCU, and to the Sun Belt presidents and chancellors, who honored CCU by selecting their 12th member school.”

The official addition of CCU will give the SBC 12 members beginning in 2017, triggering a conference championship game. The conference will be split geographically into two divisions.

Further, the addition makes for a natural geographic split between East and West to allow for certain sports to compete in a divisional format. The six members that are located in the eastern half of the Sun Belt are: Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, South Alabama, and Troy. The six members in the western half are: Arkansas State, Little Rock, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, UT Arlington, and Texas State. Idaho and New Mexico State compete in the Sun Belt Conference as football only members. CCU’s location makes for a natural geographical fit to the Sun Belt as it borders both North Carolina, home of Appalachian State, and Georgia, home to both Georgia State and Georgia Southern.

“This is a great day for the Sun Belt Conference as we are very proud to have Coastal Carolina University join our membership,” the commissioner said in his statement. “The Sun Belt is a growing conference with a bright future and Coastal Carolina makes a perfect fit as it too has seen a tremendous amount of growth and has all the tools necessary to move forward at the highest level of collegiate athletics. Under the leadership of President David A. DeCenzo and Athletics Director Matt Hogue, I expect the Chanticleers to be competitive in all Sun Belt sports and to represent the conference in a first-class manner on and off the field.”

(Graphic credit: Sun Belt Conference)

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Harbaugh has named UM”s starting QB — just not publicly

Zach Gentry, Shane Morris, Jake Rudock AP

Michigan released its depth chart Monday and declined to publicly name a starting quarterback, instead putting an “OR” between the two combatants for the job, Iowa transfer Jake Rudock (pictured, right) and junior “incumbent” Shane Morris (pictured, middle).  That, though, doesn’t mean Jim Harbaugh hasn’t done so privately.

On the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday, Harbaugh acknowledged that both Rudock and Morris know who will start the opener against Utah Thursday night. And, according to the coach, keeping the upcoming opponent in the dark about the identity of the starter is merely icing on the cake.

“I feel like I want both of them to prepare that they’re going to be the starter, I want both of them going into this game with the mindset that they’re one play away or starting, that’s the mindset I always want our quarterback and backup quarterback [to have],” said Harbaugh. “They know [who will start vs. the Utes]…

“We know who’s going to start, we know who’s going to go in second or who is going to go in next. We want them both to prepare like they’re going to be the starter. I don’t know how to make it any more clear than that.

“If [keeping Utah guessing] is another positive or byproduct of it, then we’ll take that as well.”

Most observers believe that Rudock has the inside track to the job based on his experience — he was a two-year starter with the Hawkeyes — although Morris has reportedly had a strong camp.

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Auburn’s spring game offensive MVP abruptly leaves Tigers

Myron Burton Jr., Stephen Roberts AP

To say the least this is interesting timing on Myron Burton Jr.‘s part.

Just four days before the start of the 2015 season, Auburn confirmed that Burton has decided to take his leave of Gus Malzahn‘s Tigers football program.  No reason was given for what was as a “mutual” divorce between the player and the team.

Burton was a three-star member of AU’s 2014 recruiting class.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

His main claim to fame during his brief time on The Plains was being name as the offensive MVP of the annual A-Day spring game a few months back.  In that game, Burton portended a potential role this coming season by catching seven passes for 124 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass from starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson.

From al.com:

Malzahn said the Tigers will move receivers among the three main spots to compensate for the departure.

“We’ve got three or four guys who can play both,” he said. “We’ll move people around probably more than we have in the past. We do have some depth at receiver we feel good about.”

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Report: George O’Leary wants to step down as HC at season’s end, assume full-time AD role

Tulsa v Central Florida AP

If George O’Leary gets his way, UCF will, in a few months, be searching for its first new head coach in over a decade.

In June of this year, O’Leary added the title of interim athletic director to his full-time job as head coach of the Knights.  O’Leary has since hinted that he would like to assume the AD job full-time whenever his coaching career is done, which, as it turns out, may be sooner rather than later.

Citing two school officials with direct knowledge of the situation, Dan Wolken of USA Today reports that “O’Leary… has expressed a strong desire to assume the [AD] position full-time and step down as football coach at the end of this season.” A national search for a permanent AD is reportedly on hold as university leaders mull over the O’Leary option.

Should O’Leary land the full-time job — it appears that’s far from a guarantee as, even as he has the support of the president, others are opposed — he intends to promote offensive coordinator Brent Key to head coach. Key is set to enter his 11th season on O’Leary’s Knights coaching staff.

As noted, though, there are those who are against the idea of O’Leary running the athletic department on a full-time basis, especially as the “e” word continues to bubble just below the surface of the national landscape. From Wolken’s report:

However, there is significant concern among others at UCF about whether the 69-year old O’Leary, who has no prior experience in athletic administration and has been coaching in either college or the NFL since 1980, is up to the job, particularly with [former AD Todd] Stansbury and a handful of other senior-level staff members departing in recent weeks, leaving the department short-handed and somewhat in disarray.

“No one (on ground level is) tracking with the president on this,” one person said.

This would potentially be a bad time for UCF to have its athletic department in chaos, particularly if the Big 12 decides to expand. Because of its location and large alumni base, UCF is part of a group of teams that constantly comes up in conference realignment speculation.

O’Leary’s first head-coaching job at the collegiate level came at Georgia Tech from 1995-2001. After the infamous Notre Dame résumé flap, O’Leary spent a couple of years as an NFL assistant before taking over the Knights in 2004.

After an 0-11 first season, O’Leary has guided UCF to an 81-49 mark the last 10 years. The Knights have won four conference titles in that span — two in Conference USA, back-to-back AAC championships in 2013 and 2014 — and appeared in the football program’s first-ever BCS game following the 2013 season, a 52-42 win over Baylor.

Prior to O’Leary’s arrival, the Knights hadn’t played in a bowl game since their ascension to the FBS level in 1996; during O’Leary’s 11 years, the Knights have played in seven bowl games.

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Pat Haden: action taken on Sarkisian was ‘in best interest of USC’

Steve Sarkisian, Pat Haden AP

In the wake of his embarrassingly inebriated incident earlier this month, some thought Steve Sarkisian should be suspended while still others thought a dismissal was in order. Pat Haden did neither, and Monday night he explained why.

During the course of and appearance on the “Trojans Live” radio show, the USC athletic director was asked about his handling of his head coach’s self-admitted inappropriate behavior and language at a school-sponsored function earlier this month.  Haden decided that a public admonition was sufficient for Sarkisian, who is seeking treatment to determine if he has an alcohol problem.

While he understands people will take issue with his tack, he said what he did was in the best interests the university, his coach and the Trojan football players.  From the Los Angeles Daily News:

“These kinds of decisions and particularly this one was given a lot of thought, a lot of careful thought,” Haden said. “Before the decision was made, I talked to and had conversations with medical professionals, trusted members of my staff, people I’ve known for a long time.

“We developed a confidential plan going forward. Steve has discussed the counseling part of it, which he’s started. I think it’s started off well, at least what he’s told me. Importantly, he’s approached it with an open mind.

“A lot of people are going to disagree with my decision. It happens all the time. But I believe the course of action we chose is in the best interest of USC and Steve Sarkisian. And maybe just as importantly, or more importantly, to our players and their best interest.”

While apologizing for his actions, Sarkisian stated that his behavior was caused by a mixture of alcohol and prescription medication.  A short time later, Sarkisian announced that he was handing over the vast majority of his play-calling duties to coordinator Clay Helton.

In the same radio interview, Haden claimed that he had no influence or input on that decision.

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Vols’ Andrew Butcher arrested on alcohol-related charges

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A college-age human being wrapped up in alcohol-related tumult?  Well I never.

The latest to encounter such an off-field entanglement is Tennessee defensive lineman Andrew Butcher (pictured, No. 52), with the Knoxville News Sentinel reporting that was arrested on multiple charges very early Sunday morning.  Those charges include public intoxication, underage possession of alcohol and violating a controlled access roadway.

As for what led to the arrest…

Records state an officer responding to a complaint of someone exhibiting drunken behavior on I-40 found Butcher “running around on 40 East near James White Parkway.”

“Upon contact with the defendant he had a very strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath, bloodshot watery eyes, slurred speech and was unsteady on his feet,” the police report read according to The Tennessean.

A four-star member of UT’s 2015 recruiting class, Butcher was rated as the No. 7 weakside defensive end; the No. 16 player at any position in the state of Georgia; and the No. 178 player overall according to Rivals.com. The 18-year-old lineman was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, but subsequent knee surgery has sidelined him for summer camp.

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CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Pac-12 Predictions

Mark Helfrich, Rich Rodriguez

As the 2015 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC) and HERE (Big 12) and HERE (Big Ten) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

PAC-12 NORTH

1. Oregon (Last year: 13-2, lost to Ohio State in College Football Playoff national championship game)

First thing’s first, replacing Marcus Mariota is not exactly easy for Mark Helfrich. The Heisman Trophy winner from a year ago leaves big shoes to fill. Fortunately, Oregon added one of the top quarterbacks in the nation to transfer schools this offseason with Vernon Adams leaving FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington to join the Ducks (he is now listed as the starter). The transition will go well enough for Oregon’s offense to continue making big things happen, especially with Royce Freeman looking to join the young crop of running backs expected to have a big season. The good news is Adams has a pretty solid offensive line back with starting experience, but road trips to Michigan State and Arizona State will be tough to return home with wins. Oregon finishes the season with two wins, which puts last year’s national runner-up on the fringe of the playoff conversation at the end of the season.

2. Stanford (Last year: 8-5, beat Maryland in Foster Farms Bowl)

Stanford will once again be Oregon’s biggest threat in the Pac-12 North this season, while Washington takes some time to rebound and Cal’s defense a major work in progress. Defense will be the consistent key to the Cardinal this season even though it returns just a small handful of starters from last season. The biggest concern for Stanford last season was a slow-starting offense. The offense finally started to click at the end of the year and must get off to a better start this year. Kevin Hogan has nearly his entire starting offensive line back this fall, and Stanford should have a decent running game to work with. Stanford gets Oregon at home and an early road trip to USC could be a toss-up.

3. Washington (Last year: 8-6, lost to Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl)

I still believe good things are coming to Washington under Chris Petersen. I just think this is a step back before the Huskies start stepping forward. There are just too many holes on the roster right now after losing a load of talent to the NFL. Give Petersen some time though and Washington should be an improved team in 2016. This season could get off to a rough start on the road against Boise State and a home game against Utah State. Good for the Mountain West Conference. Not so good for the Pac-12. Washington also gets USC, Oregon and Stanford in consecutive weeks in the middle of the year. Ouch.

4. California (Last year: 5-7)

No win total will justify how fun this team will be to watch this season. The offense is there with Jared Goff leading the offense. The defense is a different story, as it will struggle to slow down anybody. Cal suffered some close calls last season. Getting to six wins is not impossible if the Bears can get off to a fast start. I’m just not sure if they will do that. A 1-3 record before hosting Washington State is what I’m seeing in the cards, and that cannot happen if Cal is to go bowling this season.

5. Oregon State (Last year: 5-7)

Mike Riley left for Nebraska, and he may have taken the good vibes with him this season. In steps Gary Andersen, fresh off a 59-0 beatdown at the hands of Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game last year. Andersen is a good enough coach to make Oregon State do some good things, but his defense returns just two starters and he inherits an unstable quarterback situation lacking in experience. They may be up and down in the first half of the season but they run into a wall starting with, believe it or not, Colorado.

6. Washington State (Last year: 3-9)

The Mike Leach experiment at Washington State may come to a close soon if things do not show promise and progress this season in Pullman. After winning just three games last season, the Cougars added some junior college experience to the roster this season. If Leach can channel his inner Bill Snyder (whom Leach once called a sorcerer), maybe the Cougars can scratch together enough wins to reach the postseason. I’m not sure I see enough of those wins though, especially in Pac-12 play.

PAC-12 SOUTH

1. Arizona State (Last year: 10-3, beat Duke in Sun Bowl)

The Sun Devils do few things extraordinarily well, and getting out of the Pac-12 South unscathed will be difficult for every team in the division. So it must be the schedule, right? You may actually like Arizona State’s chances in the opener against Texas A&M in Houston, and they get USC at home a few weeks later. Tough road tests at UCLA and Utah before the bye week are not automatic losses, although those games could spell trouble. Fortunately for Arizona State,they score an upset at home on a Thursday night after a bye week against Oregon (setting up an eventual rematch in the Pac-12 championship game) and they will not lose again in the regular season. Quarterback Mike Bercovici finds a comfort level with receiver D.J. Foster as the Sun Devils put a streak together at the perfect time. While all that is happening, cannibalism within the division will help place Arizona State on top of the pile.

2. USC (Last year: 9-4, beat Nebraska in Holiday Bowl)

The Trojans were tabbed the media preseason favorite at Pac-12 media days. Sure, USC looks attractive, but don’t we need to see some more consistency out of Cody Kessler and to see Steve Sarkisian win a big game before buying into the hype? Throw in the fact this is a tough division, is anybody sure USC gets out of it without a couple of losses along the way? That said, they are in the running for the Pac-12 South crown, but I do not see them getting by Arizona State on the road the week after hosting Stanford. I have USC splitting those two games, but it could just as well end up being an 0-2 setback heading into the bye week (sure, I suppose it could also be 2-0). I also think USC comes back from South Bend with a loss to Notre Dame and a road game at Oregon is a probable loss as well.

3. Utah (Last year: 9-4, beat Colorado State in Las Vegas Bowl)

Utah is my wild card team in the Pac-12 South this season because they play what may be the best defense in the division, if not the conference. Utah will be extremely difficult to beat at home, but three tough road games ultimately hold Utah back from reaching the Pac-12 championship game (Oregon, USC, Arizona). I do think things get off to a good start at home against Michigan, spoiling Jim Harbaugh‘s debut as head coach of the Wolverines, and the next week against Chuckie Keeton and Utah State. They even get a chance to knock off Arizona State at home in the middle of the season. Potential is there, but the offense needs to keep its foot on the gas to make any run.

4. Arizona (Last year: 10-4, lost to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl)

After coming up small against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl last season, the Wildcats still look to be moving forward. Anu Solomon is one of the top quarterbacks in the conference and should be ready for a big season with Caleb Jones back as his go-to receiver. The offensive and defensive lines have some holes to plug, but the Wildcats have linebacker Scooby Wright III at linebacker to pick up the slack in the middle of the defense. What I do not like about Arizona is the schedule. Arizona plays 12 straight games without a bye week. It will be a grind, but Arizona is capable of being in the hunt in this crazy division and may be welcoming that bye week at the end of the season if things fall into place again this fall. I think the final four games could be hitting a wall for Arizona though, as I have them losing three of the final four games (three of the final four on the road).

5. UCLA (Last year: 10-3, beat Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl)

The Bruins were the trendy pick last summer. Now it seems we are taking a much more scaled-back stance on UCLA. But why? UCLA returns a ton of starters from a year ago and has added a new defensive coordinator in Tom Bradley that should help. The talent is there with just one key position to address; quarterback. If Josh Rosen can step right in and have an impact, UCLA will be a contender in this competitive division. But freshmen, even the great ones, can make mistakes. Rosen has the hype, and there is a good chance to get comfortable early on with home games against Virginia and BYU and a road game at UNLV. UCLA can play itself into controlling the fate of the Pac-12 South coming down the stretch, but back-to-back road games at Utah and USC to end the season is not an easy draw.

6. Colorado (Last year: 2-10)

Colorado is not going to return to its 1990s powerhouse form in 2015, but we should see some signs of continued progress with the program under Mike MacIntyre. Colorado has a chance to enter October with a winning record, which would be a promising start. The Buffs return nine starters on defense and six on offense, so the hope is experience helps develop some talent to continue being competitive. Colorado lost some close calls last season. If they can turn a couple of those close games the other way, Colorado and a bowl trip is not out of the mix. Seriously.

PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Oregon over Arizona State

Oregon remains my team to beat, and they could be hitting a stride just at the right time by the time the conference championship game comes around. Oregon would be playing in the title game for the third time in five seasons while Arizona State would be in the game for the second time in three years. Oregon’s offense once again leads the way, but Arizona State gives them a run.

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Ex-‘Bama QB (again) named as Toledo’s starter

Phillip Ely AP

An injury derailed Phillip Ely‘s first season in Toledo. Fortunately, he’s going to get another go at it.

The Rockets confirmed Monday that Ely will start the program’s opener this Thursday against Stony Brook. The move comes a handful of days after Ely was named as one of four UT captains for the 2015 season.  Ely beat out Logan Woodside, who went 8-2 as a starter for the Rockets last season.

Woodside took over as the starter because of the injury to Ely, a torn ACL sustained in the second game of the season. Ely had been named as the starter ahead of Woodside a couple of weeks prior to the start of the 2014 season.

He passed for 337 yards in his first UT start, then threw for 204 yards against Missouri the following week before to sustaining the knee injury in the third quarter.

Ely began his collegiate career at Alabama in 2011 as a three-star recruit. After redshirting as a true freshman, Ely played in six games in 2012, completing three-of-four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in very limited duty. Ely was listed as the No. 2 QB the first three weeks of the 2012 season, but after that was listed as the co-backup to AJ McCarron along with redshirt sophomore Blake Sims.

In January of 2013 it was reported Ely was looking to transfer from the Tide. The summer of that year he transferred into the Rockets football program.  He sat out the 2013 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Ely’s official return to the starting spot came the same day it was announced that two Rockets had been suspended for the first two games of the season, including 2014 MAC rushing leader Kareem Hunt.

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