Irish a unanimous AP No. 1

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As expected, Notre Dame retained its spot atop the Associated Press Top 25 poll after a win over USC clinched one of the two spots in the Jan. 7 BcS title game.  In its latest release, all 60 media voters tabbed the Fighting Irish as the No. 1 team in the country.

If Notre Dame can beat the winner of the SEC championship game, they would become the first team since BYU in 1984 to finish the season as the AP No. 1 after beginning the same season unranked.

As was the case last week, the Tide, Bulldogs and unbeaten Ohio State filled spots 2-4 behind the Irish, with Florida moving into the Top Five on the strength of its win over then-No. 10 Florida State.  The Seminoles were the lone team to drop out of the Top 10 this weekend, falling three spots to No. 13.

Oregon (No. 6), LSU (No. 9) and Texas A&M (No. 10) dropped one spot each despite wins in Week 13.  Stanford, which beat UCLA to clinch the Pac-12 North and earned the right to face the Bruins again next weekend for the conference championship, was up three to No. 8.

Kansas State held serve at No. 7 from a week ago to round out the Top 10.

A trio of teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences each moved up five spots apiece: No. 18 Kent State, No. 19 Northern Illinois and No. 20 Utah State.  If some combination of those three teams, along with Boise State, finish in the Top 16 of the final BcS rankings released next Sunday — the Golden Flashes and Huskies square off in the MAC championship game this Friday — one team (the highest-ranked) would earn a BcS berth.

Louisville (then-No. 19), Rutgers (No. 21) and Mississippi State (No. 25) all dropped out of the Top 25, replaced by Northwestern (No. 22) and Boise State (No. 25).  With the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights dropping out, the Big East has no ranked teams in the AP poll.

(Writer’s note: I mistakenly juxtaposed the coaches’ poll with the AP poll when writing on first-place votes.  The error has been corrected.  Apologies to all.)

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.