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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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Syracuse’s Luke Arciniega granted two additional years of eligibility

Chris James, Luke Arciniega AP

It appears the NCAA was feeling particularly benevolent this past week.

On Instagram Saturday, Syracuse’s Luke Arciniega revealed that he has been granted two additional seasons of eligibility by The Association.  One of the years came from Arciniega missing all but the first four games of the 2014 season due to what was only described as a lower-body injury.  The second year is a bit murkier, although the Syracuse Post-Standard has an idea from where it came.

He finished his career at Spanish Springs (Sparks, Nev.) High School in 2009 before initially attending Nevada. He spent three semesters there, but was only on scholarship for the first year as a disagreement with the coaching staff regarding his concussion history left him on the sideline for each game that first year.

It’s possible that the second season in which Arciniega was not part of the program merited another year of eligibility by the NCAA.

Regardless of where the additional season came from, the NCAA’s decision means that he’ll be eligible to play in both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

“College career hasn’t gone as planned with all the injuries but patience and faith [have] kept me on track,” Arciniega wrote on the social media site. “After few months of waiting, found out that I was granted 2 years of eligibility back when I was only hoping for one. Feeling blessed.”

Arciniega came to the Orange in 2013 from the JUCO ranks, playing in all 13 games that initial season.  This offseason, he’s transitioning from linebacker to defensive end.

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Fourth-most votes for Jim Harbaugh in UM student president election

Jim Harbaugh AP

Earlier this month, Nick Saban finished third in the student government’s presidential election.  A couple of weeks later, another high-profile college football coach is making political waves as a write-in candidate.

According to the Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan’s student newspaper, first-year head football coach Jim Harbaugh received 115 votes in the Central Student Government’s election for president.  That equates to 1.26 percent of the vote, which is not bad for a fledgling campaign that was, one, not launched until January of this year and, two, never actually launched to begin with.

And, for those into the comparison thing, Harbaugh’s 115 votes vastly surpassed Saban’s six; what percentage of the vote the latter received is not something that’s at my disposal.  Nor is it something that I’m interested in concretely knowing as it’ll be a lot funnier seeing the B1G/UM fans tout Harbaugh trouncing Saban in unrelated elections.

One of the best parts of Harbaugh’s vote total is the breakdown, which per the Daily is thus: 82 votes for “Jim Harbaugh;” another 18 simply for “Harbaugh;” four for the joint ticket of “Jim Harbaugh and Diag Squirrel;” and one vote each for “Jim Harbaugh and Jabrill Peppers,” “Jim Harbaugh and His Khakis” and “Jim Harbaugh and Jesus Shuttlesworth”. For a primer on the squirrel who was part of the joint ticket, click HERE; for a primer on Jesus Shuttlesworth, click… nah, don’t click anything.  Broaden your horizons as everyone should know that particular basketball Jesus.

(Writer’s note: I have no clue where the other eight unaccounted for votes came from or how they were designated on the ballot.)

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Report: Tide WR Cam Sims tore ACL at practice Saturday

Western Carolina v Alabama Getty Images

It’s not been a good couple of days for Alabama football off the field, what with a pair of arrests involving player with previous legal issues.  Now, that storm cloud has drifted into the on-field arena as well.

Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, Matt Zenitz of al.com is reporting that Cam Sims sustained some type of a torn ACL during a spring practice session Saturday.  Given the timing of the injury, Sims could conceivably return at some time around the midway point of the 2015 season, if not slightly sooner.  Or, the true sophomore could take a redshirt.

While the football program has not yet addressed the player’s health and his status for the upcoming season, Sims intimated on Twitter that he has some type of significant issue he needs to overcome.

And, based on one of his retweets, it is indeed an ACL issue he’ll be forced to overcome.

As noted by Zenitz, Sims was being looked upon as a player who could potentially help replace the production lost by the departures of the Tide’s top three receivers.  In 2014, the departed ones, Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones, combined for 183 receptions for 2,495 yards and 21 touchdowns, although Cooper was responsible for roughly two-thirds of that production.

Sims, a four-star member of UA’s 2014 recruiting class, caught seven passes for 62 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman.

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Gamecocks offer scholarship to Atlanta-area eighth-grader

Chris Hansen

Hey, if it’s good enough for Nick Saban, Les Miles, Jim Mora and, especially, Lane Kiffin, along with a handful of other FBS head coaches, it’s good enough for the Ol’ Ball Coach.

Continuing a trend in college football that was seemingly patented by Kiffin around 2010 — and Bobby Knight in college basketball two decades before — the stepfather of Dominick Blaylock confirmed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his stepson was offered a scholarship by South Carolina after he attended a Junior Day event at the school Saturday. What makes the offer to Blaylock, the son of former NBA All-Star Mookie Blaylock, is that he’s a 14-year-old eighth-grader from the Atlanta area.

Blaylock himself told the Journal-Constitution he was “shocked that when I met the coaches, they went straight to the point with the offer.” And, according to the stepfather, this wasn’t just some whimsical move on the part of the Gamecocks — and that he thinks this is the first offer domino that will tumble in the coming weeks for his 5-11, 165-pound stepson.

“They said this was a firm offer, and they felt like it was important that South Carolina was Dominick’s first offer,” John Woods told the paper.

“I am happy for Dominick. I know there are more eighth-graders getting offered now. It seems like it’s happening with more eighth-graders every year. Dominick got invited to five Junior Days, so I think other offers are coming.”

As creepy as it is FBS programs scoping out kids still in middle school — Blaylock will be a Class of 2019 signee — the Gamecocks, as the stepdad alluded to, certainly aren’t alone in this trend.  And they aren’t alone amongst SEC teams with this specific recruiting interest as the AJC notes that Blaylock has also been invited to visit Florida, Auburn and Alabama this spring.

But this trend goes back much further than just Blaylock.

In February of 2010, Kiffin, then the head coach at USC, offered seventh-grade — seventh!!! — quarterback phenom David Sills a scholarship. Somewhat surprisingly, Sills remained a Trojan commit even through Kiffin’s firing in September of 2013, even attending quarterbacks meetings with coaches at one point, although he ultimately ended up decommitting from USC in June of last year and signing with West Virginia in February of this year.

Kiffin was also involved in a middle-school tug-of-war with cross-town rival UCLA in June of 2013, with both the Trojans and the Bruins offering to California middle schooler and Class of 2017 recruit Nathan Tilford. Both Alabama and LSU, among others, offered 14-year-old 2017 recruit Dylan Moses back in July of 2012 and February of 2013, respectively.

Some of the more recent examples of this (my words) disturbingly upward trend include LSU accepting a commitment from then 14-year-old eighth-grade quarterback Zadock Dinkelmann last year and Florida offering eighth-grader Blake Hinson earlier this month.

And somewhere, even though he’s still alive, Chris Hansen is rolling over in his grave…

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After another arrest, Alabama gives Jonathan Taylor the boot

Jonathan Taylor Mugshot

Not so unexpectedly, Alabama’s roster is a little lighter this Sunday afternoon.

In a statement sent out by the school just a short time ago, head coach Nick Saban announced that Jonathan Taylor has been dismissed from his football program.  Taylor was arrested Saturday evening on domestic violence charges.

The defensive lineman was dismissed by Georgia last July after he was arrested on similar charges.

“Jonathan Taylor has been dismissed from the team and is no longer a part of our program,” Saban’s statement began. “This will still need to go through the legal process, but when he was given an opportunity here, it was under strict guidelines and we made it clear there was a zero tolerance policy.”

It was the right move by Saban and, really, the only move he could’ve made.  The fact that he did it so swiftly, though, should not be overlooked — while Saban’s a man all in favor of second chances, don’t screw him over and embarrass him when you’re given what at the time was considered a controversial opportunity.

Taylor did just that, and paid the price for putting his hands on a woman again.  Allegedly.

There’s still no word on the fate of cornerback Geno Smith, who was arrested late Friday night for the second time in less than two years on a drunk-driving charge.

UPDATED 3:03 p.m. ET: Shortly after Taylor’s dismissal was announced, UA athletic director Bill Battle released the following statement:

Representing this University is a privilege that none of us can take for granted. As I noted in my comments when the decision was made to allow Jonathan Taylor to attend the University on a football scholarship, I believe in second chances. I still do. However, being successful in that second chance requires responsibility and accountability. In Jonathan’s situation, the University and the Department of Athletics set forth very clear standards of accountability and expectations of conduct. Jonathan was afforded a chance to successfully overcome the difficulties that resulted in his departure from the University of Georgia. Unfortunately, it appears that he was unable to do so, in spite of extensive efforts to assist him. All of us hope that Jonathan and the young lady involved can deal constructively with the issues that led to this situation, and their aftermath, so that both of them can have productive, healthy futures. Violent conduct by any representative of the University of Alabama athletics department will not be tolerated. More than ever, we take seriously the responsibility that all of us have to represent our University and our state in the best way possible – in competition and in daily life.

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Bama issues statement as details of Jonathan Taylor’s arrest emerge

Gator Bowl Football AP

Based on the details of Jonathan Taylor‘s domestic violence arrest — his second in eight months, no less — there’s seemingly no way he can move forward as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Saturday evening, the alleged victim, a 24-year-old female, told Tuscaloosa police officers responding to a call near the UA campus that she had been assaulted by Taylor, her boyfriend.  The incident report described the woman as having minor injuries around her neck; the officers also observed a bedroom closet door in the alleged victim’s residence with a hole punched through it.

ESPN.com writes that “officers located the suspect at the victim’s residence and spoke to him about the incident” and “found probable cause to arrest the suspect.” The defensive tackle was charged with domestic violence/assault and domestic violence/criminal mischief.

Taylor had been dismissed from Georgia last July following the initial domestic violence incident. In that case, which is still pending, the 6-4, 335-pound Taylor is accused of choking his then-girlfriend — a different female from the most recent incident — and striking her in the face with an open fist. Taylor has now been arrested three times in a little over a year, the other being theft by deception charges last March while he was still at UGA.

The decision by Nick Saban and UA to sign Taylor this past January was controversial; this latest incident has stirred up the local media natives yet again.  From al.com‘s Kevin Scarbinsky:

Saban has been especially passionate on the subject of second chances, and his heart may be in the right place, but too many Alabama football players manage to be good students and good citizens as well as good athletes to have their program’s reputation put at risk.

Taylor looked like a risk from the start. Now he looks like one of Saban’s and Alabama’s biggest mistakes.

In response to the situation, the university released a very brief statement early Sunday morning that’s scant on details as to Taylor’s future with the university in general and the football program specifically: “UA is aware of the incident. The student has been referred to judicial affairs.”

It would be very surprising if another statement wasn’t released at some point in the very near future, perhaps as early as today, in which Second-Chance Saban announces that Taylor is no longer a part of his football program.  At least, based on the current evidence and Taylor’s prior track record, that’s what should happen, and the sooner the better for the sake of a head coach’s and university’s image that has already taken a hit because of the player’s actions — and because of the way his signing was so staunchly defended at the time.

“We recruited this young man out of high school, and we felt that from what we knew about him, what his high school coach said, what the people at the school that he was at said about him, and where he came from in junior college, that he was the kind of guy that deserved a second chance,” Saban said on National Signing Day this past February. “But with that chance, we also have stipulations of things that he needs to do from a personal development standpoint so that he won’t make any kind of mistake like this ever again.

“That’s an ongoing process with him, and that’s something that we continue to monitor, and he has done a very good job with.”

“All of us in the University community have a role in helping student-athletes reach their potential – in competition, in the classroom and in life,” UA athletic director Bill Battle said in a statement at the time of the January signing. “It’s important to note that the young man will become a part of our program after going through an extensive process conducted by the University.

“As one of our state’s most high-profile entities, we are acutely aware of our responsibility to the University, our student-athletes, our community and our state.”

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Suspended Michigan lineman Graham Glasgow back at practice?

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar AP

It appears that Graham Glasgow may be rather expeditiously climbing out of Jim Harbaugh‘s doghouse.

In July of 2014, Glasgow was sentenced in connection to a drunk-driving charge from March.  As part of that sentence, he was placed on 12 months probation, with one of the stipulations being that he couldn’t consume alcohol.  Earlier this month, however, the offensive lineman violated said probation by blowing a .086 on a Breathalyzer test, which triggered a suspension from the football program that was announced March 16.

Less than two weeks later, it looks as if Glasgow is back to practicing with his teammates.  Or, at the very least, dressing for practice.

From the Twitter account of UM director of player development Gwendolyn Bush (aka the mother of Stanford transfer Wayne Lyons):

In the background is a No. 61.  Glasgow wears No. 61, and is the only player with that number listed on the Wolverines’ online roster.  So, unless another player borrowed the jersey, Glasgow is back on the practice field.

What this means is unclear as mlive.com writes that “[a] Michigan official has not responded to a request for comment, and it is not known if Glasgow’s suspension is officially over or not.” In the immediate aftermath of Glasgow’s OVI arrest last March, he was suspended indefinitely by then-head coach Brady Hoke before being allowed to return to practice a week later. He was, though, suspended for the 2014 opener.

According to the Detroit Free Press, and because of his recent probation violation, Glasgow “will have six more months of probation past his original July 2015 end date, will have to take breathalyzer tests twice a day now, once in the morning (6-9 a.m.) and once at night (9 p.m.-12 a.m.) at the Ann Arbor Police Department and will have to serve five days on a Washtenaw County Jail Work Program by April 30.”

Provided he can get past his legal issues and avoid any further hiccups, Glasgow would serve as a talented and experienced piece of UM’s line as he started all 11 games in which he played last year. In 2013, Glasgow started 13 games — nine at center, four at guard.

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‘Bama DT Jonathan Taylor again arrested for domestic violence

Jonathan Taylor Mugshot

After an alleged domestic violence incident led to his dismissal at Georgia last July, Jonathan Taylor signed with Alabama in January as one of Nick Saban‘s second-chance signees.  Less than three months later, Taylor is making his new head coach look rather foolish and/or naïve.

Both Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com and Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News are reporting that Taylor is once again facing charges related to a domestic incident earlier today.  According to the Tuscaloosa Police Department’s website, Taylor is facing charges of domestic violence/assault and domestic violence/criminal mischief.

At this moment, details of what led to the defensive tackle’s arrest have not been released.  Taylor remains in jail in lieu of a pair of $500 bonds.

Taylor has been participating with his new Tide teammates in spring practice, even as his initial signing caused enough of a controversy that the school felt the need to address it in a statement.  It would seem unlikely that Saban would allow the lineman to remain on his squad, not with two domestic violence arrests in less than a year littering his record, the first of which is still pending in the state of Georgia.  Additionally, Taylor was one of four UGA players arrested last March on theft by deception charges.

Taylor was a four-star member of the Bulldogs’ 2012 recruiting class, rated as the No. 7 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Georgia.  After taking a redshirt his true freshman season, Taylor played in 10 games in 2013.  He spent the 2014 season at the JUCO level.

Overall, it’s been a rough last 24 hours or so for the Tide off the field.

Late Friday night, defensive back Geno Smith was arrested for driving under the influence.  It was the senior’s second drunk-driving arrest in less than two years, prompting him to issue a public apology on Twitter.

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NCAA to study future handling of grad transfers

Louisville v Wichita State Getty Images

The NCAA has already changed the way it deals with hardship waivers for transfers.  Now, The Association is seemingly set to further stifle the movement of its student-athletes.

The Division I Council Coordination Committee appointed earlier this month the Ad Hoc Transfer Issues Working Group to do what a release describes as “consider where improvements can be made to current [transfer] rules,” with the group focusing “on graduate transfers and permission-to-contact rules.”

Currently, FBS graduate transfers in all sports can transfer to another FBS program without sitting out a season, proved three provisions are met: 1. the student-athlete has graduated from his current institution; 2. the student-athlete enrolls in a graduate program at his new university not offered at his previous one; and 3. the student-athlete’s original university signs off on the transfer.

What the group will look into in the coming months is “whether to update the policy for graduate transfers to more closely mirror a new policy adopted last year for undergraduate transfers.”

Earlier this month, the new policy mentioned above went into effect, effectively eliminating the hardship waiver that provided immediately eligibility for a transfer. Previously, a student-athlete could file an appeal for a hardship waiver on various grounds, the most common one of which was related to illnesses and/or situations in the family that necessitated a move closer to home; now, potential transfers can request a waiver that would extend their eligibility out by another season but cannot gain immediate eligibility.

Normally a graduate transfer would have a single season of eligibility remaining, although there are occasionally exceptions. If the new procedure is adopted — it wouldn’t be in place until the 2016-17 academic year at the earliest — a graduate transfer would be forced to sit out the first season with his/her new program, then have another season of eligibility tacked on the following year if the waiver is granted.

For example, if Cardale Jones, by then a redshirt junior, decides to transfer out of Ohio State to Michigan after graduating next May, Jones would be forced to sit out the 2016 season. He could then apply for a waiver that would give him one more year of eligibility in 2017.

Provided, of course, the same policy in place for undergrad transfers is implemented for grad transfers.

“Student transfers are an important issue in higher education, and it is no different in athletics,” said co-chair Jere Morehead, Georgia president, in a statement. “The group will be mindful of the integration of athletics and academics when creating recommendations for Division I transfer policy or legislation.”

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Tide’s Geno Smith tweets apology following latest arrest

Geno Smith Mugshot

Late last night, Alabama’s Geno Smith was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence.  It was the senior cornerback’s second drunk-driving-related arrest in less than two years.

Smith did not participate in practice Saturday, in large part because he was still jailed around the time his teammates began yet another spring session.

Head coach Nick Saban did not address the latest development involving an experienced piece of his secondary, although that’s expected to happen early this coming week.  Ahead of that, a contrite Smith took to Twitter to apologize to the university, the football program and its fans for his latest off-field misstep.

Whether it’s enough to help avoid the full wrath of Saban — and maintain a spot on the roster for his final season — remains to be seen.

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Pair of Seminole LBs to miss rest of spring with shoulder injuries

Bethune-Cookman v Florida State Getty Images

A pair of Florida State linebackers who had their 2014 seasons interrupted by suspensions have not seen their spring interrupted by injuries.

Friday, head coach Jimbo Fisher confirmed that both Chris Casher and Matthew Thomas (pictured) will miss the remainder of the spring due to shoulder issues.  The former has already undergone surgery to repair his damage, while “[w]e’re gonna have to end up [surgically] fixing” the latter.”

The issue with Thomas is an ongoing and lingering one. He took a medical redshirt for the 2013 season because of it, while he dealt with the issue throughout the 2014 season as well.

“It popped out. Popped out,” Fisher said of the shoulder according to the Orlando Sentinel. “It popped out a bunch of times last year, one game it popped out four different times. It popped out the other day. It’s too loose.”

After a copious amount of drama and a splash of theatrics, Thomas signed with FSU as a five-star recruit in 2013. As a redshirt freshman last season — he played in four games in 2013 before the initial injury — Thomas was suspended in early September and didn’t return until mid-October. He went on to play in the remaining eight games, making three starts.

Casher, meanwhile, was suspended for the 2014 opener for what was described as an academic-related issue. He ended up starting two of the final 13 games of that season.

Despite some on-field production, Casher is more well-known for off-field headlines, whether it be in connection to the Jameis Winston sexual assault allegations or being sued by his attorney or being stopped by police at gunpoint over a pellet gun.

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WR Isaiah Jones leaving FSU, will likely land at Miss. JUCO

Isaiah Jones AP

In August of last year, Isaiah Jones was declared academically ineligible and didn’t play a down for Florida State in 2014.  As it turns out, that’ll be the case in 2015 — and likely beyond.

Friday, head coach Jimbo Fisher confirmed that Jones has decided to transfer out of the FSU football program and continue his playing career elsewhere.  That elsewhere, according to Fisher, is likely East Mississippi State Community College.

The Palm Beach Post noted that Jones had traveled with the team to the Rose Bowl and said at the time that, as a longtime Seminole fan, he had no desire to transfer.  What prompted the change of heart, and whether it was again related to academics, wasn’t addressed.

A four-star member of the Seminoles’ 2013 recruiting class, Jones was rated as the No. 28 receiver in the country and the No. 36 player at any position in the talent-rich state of Florida. As a true freshman in 2013, the 6-4, 194-pound Jones caught two passes for 31 yards.

His production could’ve been higher that season, but a foot injury forced him to miss most of the second half of the season.

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Ole Miss’ leading tackler, second-leading rusher sustain injuries

Mississippi v Texas Getty Images

The bad news for Ole Miss is that key players on each side of the ball have sustained injuries.  The good news?  It’s only the spring, and the start of the new season is still more than five months down the road.

The most significant injury was sustained by defensive back Mike Hilton, who broke his thumb during a practice session earlier this week.  Additionally, running back Jordan Wilkins suffered what’s being described a sprained MCL.

Hilton will miss the remainder of the spring, but is expected to be healthy enough to participate in summer camp at the beginning of August.  Wilkins’ availability for the rest of the spring is to be determined.

In 2014 as a third-year junior, Hilton started 11 of the Rebels’ 13 games.  He led the team in tackles with 71, and was second in interceptions (three) and passes broken up (seven).

Over the past three seasons, Hilton has started 26 of the 36 games in which he’s played.

Wilkins‘ 361 yards rushing as a redshirt freshman last season was second on the Rebels, while his 6.9 yards per carry was tied for tops on the team.

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McElwain talks ‘insufficient’ cupboard left by Muschamp

Hungry Hill Getty Images

Will Muschamp may be gone at Florida, but he’s certainly not been forgotten.

Shortly after his firing last November, Muschamp was very emphatic in stating that the Gators possess “a deep and talented roster, so don’t let that new guy tell you he ain’t got any players.”

The new guy in this case is Jim McElwain, hired away from Colorado State in December and charged with cleaning up the mess in Gainesville. And, apparently, he didn’t get Muschamp’s memo.

From al.com:

“When you look at it, you know, the thing that has been lacking is the numbers and the size of what we’re doing on the other side of the ball,” McElwain told reporters in Gainesville. “It’s probably the reason we’re here. That’s all right, man, I’m excited to be here and we’re going to get it taken care of.”

“They’re trying their tails off,” McElwain said. “For the lack of numbers there, and it’s one of those things you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt and right now, quite honestly, the hand we were dealt is really insufficient at some of the areas. And yet at the same time that’s what you have, so we’re going to make the best of it. Those guys are battling in there. To try to even create kind of two groups is hard, so these guys, we’re giving them spells. Just kind of the way we practice, we had to kind of totally change how we will normally practice here in the future.”

It’s not uncommon for the new cook on campus to lament the lack of ingredients left in the cupboard. One of the things that lamenting does, though, is undercut those who remain on the roster.

Perhaps mindful of that, McElwain also tossed around words like “foundation” and “toughness” and “fight” in an attempt to soften what he sees as a lack of depth at best and, at worst, an overall lack of talent.

“The thing about this group of guys is they care about each other and care about the team,” the first-year coach said. “They fight their way through tough times, and that’s how you build the foundation of a football team. It’s really exciting to watch because at some point in the season, this toughness foundation is going to be what carries us, and we’re learning all about that right now.”

While they’re far from the gospel, recent recruiting rankings would suggest that McElwain at least has some talent with which to work — he and his staff just needs to coach them up better than their predecessors.

Muschamp was hired as UF’s head coach on Dec. 10, 2010. In his four recruiting classes, none finished lower than 12th nationally according to Rivals.com. That was Muschamp’s first class, one that he had roughly three months to put/hold together.

The first full class of the Muschamp era was in 2012, and that class finished No. 3 overall and No. 2 in the SEC. That was followed up by the fourth-ranked class in 2013 that was again second in the conference.

Even when rumors were swirling that he was a dead man coaching, Muschamp was able to pull in the No. 8 class in 2014, although that was only good for sixth in the conference.

Again, recruiting rankings aren’t the be-all, end-all when it comes to wins and losses, but they are a good indicator of potential.  And potentially, McElwain, whose first class ranked 23rd nationally and 10th in the conference — they get a pass on that — has a lot more talent with which to work than he’s allowing.

Tempering expectations of an anxious and dissatisfied fan base?  Perhaps.  Or he’s realized that the most important ingredient in the kitchen, the quarterback, may not necessarily be in his cupboard at the moment.

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Miami’s leading returning rusher suspended for spring game

Joseph Yearby, Jeremy Cash AP

Miami takes the field this afternoon for its annual spring game, and the Hurricanes will do so without a player who’ll be expected to be a key piece of their 2015 offensive puzzle.

Shortly before the game kicked off, Miami announced that Joseph Yearby has been suspended for the spring finale.  According to the team, it was for a violation of unspecified team rules.

According to Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald, the suspension involves allegedly breaking curfew so that the running back could be in attendance at a life-altering event:

I was told by my source, but not by UM, that Yearby was suspended for breaking curfew last night.

I was told he was there for the birth of his baby, but I did not have that confirmed and I don’t know when the baby was born.

It seems incomprehensible that Yearby would be suspended for attending the birth of his child, but we’ll just have to await Al Golden‘s postgame talk with the media and see if he offers any further explanation to the report.

Last season as a true freshman, Yearby was second on the team with 509 yards rushing.  He also added eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield.

With Duke Johnson‘s early departure for the NFL, Yearby will get the opportunity to be the bell cow for the Hurricanes’ ground game.

UPDATED 2:52 p.m. ET: And now a little bit more of the rest of the real story.

Yearby did indeed become a new father recently… over the winter.  Becoming a new parent, however, had nothing to do with the suspension; instead; it was breaking curfew last night that sidelined the back.

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