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The Fifth Quarter: Week 13 Rewind

Notre Dame v USC Getty Images

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

BCS A MESS NO MORE
Thanks to some expected results, the muddled mess that had been the BcS and the chase for the crystal football the past couple of glorious weekends cleared itself up immensely in Week 13:

— No. 1 Notre Dame’s win over unranked USC
— No. 2 Alabama’s humiliation of in-state rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl
— No. 3 Georgia’s cruise over non-conference rival Georgia Tech.

With the confluence of those three events, the following is now known: the Fighting Irish have claimed one of the two spots in the BcS championship game, maintaining their position as the only eligible unbeaten left and putting themselves in line for the football program’s first national title since 1988.

And the Golden Domers’ opponent?

That’s crystal clear as well.  Well, more than likely it is.  The Tide will square off against the Bulldogs in the SEC championship game next Saturday.  As UA and UGA are ranked 2-3, respectively, in the latest BcS ratings, and barring an unexpected development of epic proportions, the winner of the SEC title game will face Notre Dame for the right hoist the title trophy.

If the early BcS projections come to fruition, there’s a chance that Florida, not Georgia, would sit at No. 3 in the set of rankings released Sunday night, behind both Notre Dame and Alabama.  However, even if that’s actually the case, a Georgia win over Alabama would very likely erase any type of deficit the Bulldogs may have between themselves and the Gators at the moment.

In other words, we’re right back to where we started: Notre Dame vs. Alabama/Georgia for all the crystal footballs.  Probably.

WEEK 13 CLINCHINGS

Conference USA East
Thanks to East Carolina’s stunning double overtime win over Marshall Friday, UCF needed a win over three-win UAB to clinch its fourth Conference USA East title in eight years.  The Knights did just that, and a victory wasn’t even remotely in jeopardy or in doubt as UCF rolled to 49-24 win.  Next up for the Knights is the conference championship game on the road against Tulsa, which beat UCF 23-21 a week ago.  It will also mark the third time the two have faced each other in the title game, with the Golden Hurricane winning 44-27 in 2005 and the Knights exacting revenge in 2007 with a 44-25 decision.

Pac-12 North
Lather, rinse, repeat.  Stanford’s win over UCLA Saturday clinched the Pac-12 North, sending the Cardinal into the conference championship game next Friday against… you guessed it, the Bruins at Stanford Stadium.  Stanford and Oregon actually finished tied for the North lead at 8-1; the Cardinal’s 17-14 overtime win over the Ducks last weekend, however, gave the Trees the tiebreaker.  A Cardinal loss coupled with the Ducks’ win over Oregon State would’ve sent UO to the conference title game against UCLA.  Speaking of the Bruins, this will mark their second straight appearance in the championship game.

SEC West
All that was needed for Alabama to claim its third West title in five years was to handle a woeful Auburn squad in the Iron Bowl.  Suffice to say, mission accomplished.  The Tide now turns its attention to the SEC championship game against Georgia, with the winner charged with pushing the conference’s streak of BcS titles to seven in a row.

WAC
On the strength of its 48-9 drubbing of Idaho Saturday afternoon, Utah State claimed its first outright conference championship of any kind since 1936.  This season also marked the first time in school history the Aggies have won 10 games.  Following the win, USU accepted an invitation to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and yes that’s a real thing so shut-up.

STILL TO BE DETERMINED

Big East
Even with losses by both Rutgers (5-1 in conference play) and Louisville (4-2) in Week 13, the game between the Scarlet Knights and the Cardinals this coming Thursday will still (likely) decide which team will grab the Big East’s BcS berth.  The loss to Pittsburgh was a particularly damaging one to Rutgers, however, as, with UConn’s overtime win over Louisville, the Scarlet Knights could’ve clinched the conference Saturday regardless of what happened this week.  The scenarios moving forward are relatively simple, though: if Rutgers beats Louisville, they will win the Big East outright and earn the conference’s BcS bowl game slot.  If Louisville beats Rutgers and Cincinnati wins as well, it would create a four-way logjam at 5-2 atop the standings as Syracuse has already completed the season with that conference mark.  At that point, the tiebreaker would, in a roundabout way, revert to the team ranked highest in the BcS standings.  That would very likely heavily favor the Cardinals.

Big 12
As above, figuring out the Big 12 doesn’t exactly take a rocket surgeon.  If Kansas State beats Texas in Week 14, the Wildcats will claim the conference’s BcS berth.  If K-State loses and Oklahoma beats TCU, it’s the Sooners that claim the prize.  If both teams win or both teams lose?  The Wildcats will be BcS bowling based on their win over the Sooners earlier this season.  See how simple that was?

Mountain West
Wins by Fresno State (over Air Force) and San Diego State (over Wyoming) in their season finales leave the two teams at 7-1 in MWC play.  Boise State at 6-1 still has Nevada left in Week 14, meaning it’s entirely conceivable that there could be a three-way tie for the MWC lead after next week.  As the conference has no championship game and thus no tiebreakers, the title pie would be split three ways if the Broncos win their finale.  Incidentally, how even has this conference been at the top?  Boise State beat Fresno State, which beat San Diego State, which beat Boise State.  Two of those three teams (BSU, SDSU) are playing their final seasons in the MWC before moving on to the Big East.  Probably.

Sun Belt
Middle Tennessee State’s 24-21 win over Troy, which snapped a six-game losing streak against the Trojans, leaves MTSU and Arkansas State at 6-1 in the conference.  And, as the two teams play in the regular-season finale next Saturday, the winner of that game will stake its claim to the outright SBC crown.

WINNERS

HeisManziel indeed
The gambling types this past week installed Johnny Manziel as the Heisman favorite heading into Week 14.  A few days later, the Texas A&M quarterback did nothing to hurt that front-runner status.  In fact, Johnny Football may have all but locked up the 2012 version of the stiff-armed trophy.  In the Aggies’ romp over Missouri, Manziel accounted for 439 yards of total offense (372 passing, 67 rushing) and five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing).  Manziel broke the SEC total offense record set during the Heisman-winning season of Cam Newton, who broke the record of Tim Tebow set during his Heisman-winning season.  While Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o certainly deserves consideration, it appears very likely that the freshman glass ceiling will be broken ahead of the solely defensive one.

Bedlam? Try BedHAM
As is ofttimes the case, the annual Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game lived up to its Bedlam nickname.  In a game that saw the Cowboys jump out to a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter, the Sooners came back… and back… and back… and back again, tying their rivals on four separate occasions but never actually taking a lead.  Never taking a lead, that is, until it mattered most.  The fourth of those mini-comebacks came with four seconds left in the fourth quarter as a Blake Bell touchdown run knotted the game at 45-all and sent it into overtime.  Following a Quinn Sharp field goal on OSU’s first extra-session possession, Brennan Clay romped 18 yards on OU’s first overtime shot to give the Sooners a wild 51-48 win.  As noted above, the win keeps alive Oklahoma’s hopes for both a Big 12 title and the BcS bowl bid that comes with it.

Urban renewal indeed
Thanks to the combination of NCAA sanctions and a six-win 2011 season, the first year under Urban Meyer was widely viewed as a rebuilding one at Ohio State.  If that was indeed rebuilding, I’d guess the Big Ten’s going to hate what the finished product looks like.  A mere 12 games into the Meyer era, the Buckeyes are a perfect 12-0, capping off its unbeaten season with a win over hated Michigan.  There will be no bowl or even a spot in the BcS title game thanks to the sanctions wrought by a Sweatervest, but there is hope and a quiet confidence in Columbus that the best may be yet to come.

Husker do
Unbelievably, it has been 13 years since Nebraska has won a conference championship.  While that drought continues, the Cornhuskers are halfway to ending that streak of futility.  In its second season in the Big Ten, the Huskers have claimed their first-ever Legends division title, eliminating Michigan from contention on the strength of its win over Iowa Friday.  That means the Big Ten title game is officially set and will be a rematch from earlier in the year as Nebraska will take on Wisconsin next Saturday in Indianapolis.  In late September, the Cornhuskers came back from a 17-point second-half deficit to drop the Badgers 30-27.

W-V-phew
On the morning of Oct. 13, West Virginia was sitting at or near the top of the college football world, with the 5-0 Mountaineers ranked fifth in the country and possessing far and away the front-runner for the 2012 Heisman Trophy.  Five games and five straight losses later, the Mountaineers were reeling and in very real danger of failing to become bowl eligible in its first season in the Big 12.  A 31-24 win over Iowa State Friday, however, made the losing streak — the program’s longest since 1986 — a thing of the past and pushed the Mountaineers into postseason eligibility.  One win doesn’t completely heal all that ails Dana Holgorsen‘s squad, but it does take a monkey that had morphed into a gorilla off WVU’s back.  It also keeps alive the hopes of the program winning at least eight games in a season for the 11th straight year.

For all the apples… and some pride
The past three seasons, Washington had claimed the Apple Cup by beating Washington State by an average of 18 points per game.  With Wazzu staggering through a two-win season in its first year under Mike Leach, a fourth straight win seemed well within reach.  Only it wasn’t.  Thanks to a 27-yard field goal in overtime, which was preceded by an ill-advised Keith Price pass that turned into an interception and nearly a defensive touchdown on the Huskies’ first possession in the extra session, the Cougars were able to topple their hated in-state rivals by the score of 31-28.  For a team dealing with both on-field woes and off-field imbroglios, it was the perfect season-ending elixir.  Leach has promised this will be an offseason for the ages as he attempts to turn the flailing program around; the win over UW should make that rough time between now and the 2013 a little more palatable for the players.

Streakers
Thanks to the stumbles recently of some of the top teams in the country, Notre Dame and Ohio State currently own the nation’s longest winning streak at 12 games apiece.  Just two other FBS schools have double-digit streaks going, and they both come from the MAC — Northern Illinois (11) and Kent State (10).  Both of those marks are the longest in the history of the respective programs, but one will come to an end in short order; the Golden Flashes and Huskies will face each other in the conference championship game this coming Friday at Detroit’s Ford Field.  There are eight other teams currently in ownership of a winning streak stretching six games or better: Arkansas State and San Diego State (seven each); and Ball State, Georgia, Nebraska, San Jose State, Utah State and Vanderbilt (six each).

LOSERS

Big Ten title game
Outside of Georgia Tech, no team backdoored its way into a conference championship more than Wisconsin.  Thanks to NCAA sanctions levied on Ohio State and Penn State, the Leaders division of the Big Ten will send its third-best team to the title game next weekend, a team that has lost three of its last four games — the last two to the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions — in backing into a trip to Indianapolis at 7-5 overall and 4-4 in conference play.  The lone saving grace for the B1G?  The Badgers’ opponent as Nebraska comes into the game as winners of six straight, with their only loss in the last 10 coming at Ohio State.

Later Gator
Florida’s not dropped into this category because of a loss per se, but because of events that transpired that were completely out of its control.  On the strength of its come-from-behind blowout win over in-state rival Florida State, the Gators were a Notre Dame loss away from likely playing the winner of the SEC championship in the BcS title game. “Fight on. I’ve always been a real big Lane Kiffin fan,” UF head coach Will Muschamp said after the win, referring to the USC head coach still reviled in the South for his time at Tennessee.  Alas, it was all for naught as the Irish took out the Trojans and clinched its spot in the title game.  It was not all bad news on the night for the Gators as UF is all but guaranteed an at-large BcS berth, especially if they remain in the top four of the BcS standings.

Beatdown between the hedges
The annual Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry game featured two teams that will represent their divisions in the SEC and ACC championship games, respectively, next weekend.  The game itself turned into something that didn’t even remotely resemble such lofty résumés, at least on one end.  The Bulldogs, with their sights set on much loftier goals than a “mere” conference title, jumped out to a 28-3 halftime lead and didn’t look back, cruising to a 42-10 win in what amounted to a scrimmage leading into the SEC title game.  The Yellow Jackets, on the other hand, are emblematic of the ACC’s 2012 football woes.  Gifted a divisional title thanks to Miami’s decision to self-impose a second consecutive bowl ban, Tech will stumble and stagger into the ACC title game with a UCLA-esque 6-6 record.  If Florida State Nation wants to understand why their Seminoles were not a part of the BcS title game discussion — well, aside from their own on-field indiscretions — all they need to do is look across the line of scrimmage next weekend to see Exhibit A for their computer woes.  Speaking of which…

The ACC
South Carolina 27, Clemson 17.  Georgia 42, Georgia Tech 10.  Vanderbilt 55, Wake Forest 21.  Florida  37, Florida State 26.  Four ACC-SEC matchups, four wins for the SEC by a combined score of 161-74.  If there was ever a microcosm for the gap between the two conferences, especially with the top two teams going down in double-digit fashion, today was it.  And, for some reason, I don’t think the additions of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and, possibly, UConn will close said gap at any point in the near future.

The Big lEast
After a few years of being the poster child for redheaded football stepchildren everywhere, the Big East has achieved a modicum of respect this season.  Cincinnati, Louisville and Rutgers were all unbeaten through the first seven weeks of the season, with the latter two teams still ranked and carrying just one loss apiece headed into Week 13.  And then, unfortunately, Week 13 happened.  A week ahead of what is in effect a de facto Big East championship game, both the Scarlet Knights and Cardinals  dropped contests against a pair of teams — Pittsburgh for the former, UConn for the latter — that came into the weekend a combined 4-8 in conference play.  Yes, Rutgers and Louisville will play later this week for the right to claim the Big East’s BcS bowl berth, but a significant amount of luster was lost this weekend thanks to a pair of losses that will, in all likelihood, result in both dropping out of the polls.

Oh, Buffs…
How bad has this season gone for Colorado?  In Friday’s season finale, the Buffaloes outgained Utah (419-336)… totaled more first downs (25-18)… led in time of possession (31:33-2827)… and still managed to lose.  Of course, when you commit five turnovers, and those turnovers are turned into 24 points, it’s easy to see how the Buffs could come out on the wrong end of 42-35 score.  The loss drops Colorado to 1-11 on the season, the school’s worst record winning percentage-wise since a winless 1890 season.  It’s also the first time CU has been winless at home since 1920.  Additionally, it puts the future of head coach Jon Embree in even further jeopardy, even as he publicly claims his athletic director has his back.  Embree is just 4-21 overall and 3-15 in Pac-12 play in two seasons at the school, and there have been rumblings coming out of the area that some in and close to the athletic department is ready to pull the plug on the experiment post-haste.

The 2012 Ty Willingham Excellence in Futility Award goes to…
Southern Miss!  That’s right, thanks to a 42-24 loss to Memphis Saturday afternoon, the Golden Eagles capped off their anti-perfect season at 0-12.  USM becomes the first to throw a season-long 0’fer on the board since both Eastern Michigan and Western Kentucky did the deed back in 2009.  The circumstances surrounding this particular goose egg, however, are head-scratching on at least a couple of levels.  Last year at this time, USM was sitting at 10-2 on its way to a 12-2 season and wins in the Conference USA championship game — over then-No. 19 and unbeaten Houston — and Hawaii Bowl.  Yes, Larry Fedora bolted for the North Carolina head coaching job in the offseason, but to go from 12 wins to 12 losses in the span of a single season defies all logic.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT

How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

— No. 1 Notre Dame 22, USC 13: With nothing to lose, the Trojans gave the Irish its best shot.  As they have all season long, though, Notre Dame took the punches and stepped out of the ring battered but unbeaten.  Still.

— No. 8 LSU 20, Arkansas 13: The Tigers escaped Fayetteville with the win after Tyler Wilson‘s pass with no time left on the clock fell incomplete.  While the Tigers won’t defend their SEC championship, the Bayou Bengals are once again in line for another prime bowl game.

— No. 17 Nebraska 13, Iowa 7: It may have been the kind of win that only a mother of a football program could love, but it was also a win that sent the Cornhuskers to its first Big Ten championship game appearance.

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 — The Fighting Irish have taken the field 12 times, walked off a winner all 12 times.  Are they SEC-good?  We’ll find out in a little over six weeks in Miami (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: idle

2. Alabama — The SEC championship game will serve as a de facto playoff semifinal, affording the Tide the opportunity to continue its run at a third BcS title in four years. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: vs. Georgia

3. Oregon — Allow me to quote myself from last week: “The Ducks are still a damn good team and would still be worthy of a title-game appearance, backdoor or not.”  While that backdoor was slammed shut this weekend, the overall sentiment still applies. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: idle

4. Ohio State — The Buckeyes are one of two remaining undefeated teams, and could claim the Associated Press poll title depending on how the remainder of the season, which will be played without them, shakes out and what kind of mood the voters are in at year’s end. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: vs. the offseason

5. Georgia — One-loss Florida boasts wins over Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State.  The Gators’ lone loss?  To the Bulldogs.  Advantage, one-loss UGA. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. Alabama

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.

— Auburn’s Gene Chizik: Yeah, this one is fairly self-explanatory.  The last time Auburn won three games in a season was 1998; Terry Bowden “resigned” midseason and was ultimately replaced by Tommy Tuberville.  Seemingly the only questions remaining now is when Chizik will be officially dismissed and who will replace him after the program’s most recent three-win embarrassment.

— USF’s Skip Holtz: In his three seasons with the Bulls, Holtz has seen his record get progressively worse, going from eight wins in 2010 to five wins last season to three wins this year following a 27-10 loss to Cincinnati Friday night.  If USF loses its season finale next Saturday, the 3-9 record would serve as the worst record in the Bulls’ 13-year history as an FBS program, surpassing the 4-7 mark in 2004.  If that happens?  The Son of Lou could find himself as the latest football boss to find himself on the coaching unemployment line.

–Boston College’s Frank Spaziani: After winning 15 games his first two seasons, Spaziani has won just six games the past two years, including two in 2012.  This season is the worst winning percentage for BC since a winless 1978 season, and puts the long-time Eagles coach square in the offseason crosshairs.

HE SAID IT
“I’d say at this point in time Ohio State could go play with anybody in America.” — OSU head coach Urban Meyer, when asked how good he thinks his Buckeyes are following the Michigan win.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I’ve never had so much fun in my life.” — Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, after his Sooners gave up 48 points in a three-point Bedlam win over Oklahoma State.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“You can’t block Jadeveon one-on-one. We’ve got him one more year. Then we’ll shake his hand and say ‘thank you.'” — South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, speaking of pass-rushing terror Jadeveon Clowney.

YOU DON’T SAY?
In Darrell Hazell‘s first two seasons at Kent State, the Golden Flashes have won 16 games, including a school-record 11 this season and its first-ever MAC divisional title.  In the four previous seasons, the Flashes had won a total of 17 games and hadn’t finished better than fourth in the MAC East.  In other words, expected to hear the name Hazell, a former Ohio State assistant, as the latest spinning of the coaching carousel ramps up into high gear.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— A week after tying Miami of Ohio’s Travis Prentice‘s record of 78 career total touchdowns, Montee Ball‘s 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of Wisconsin’s overtime loss to Penn State gave the running back the record all to himself at 79.

Kenjon Barner rushed for 198 of Oregon’s 430 yards in the Ducks’ 48-24 Civil War romp over Oregon State.

— Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones became the first player in FBS history to have 3,000-plus passing yards and 26-plus touchdown passes in each of his four seasons.

Jadeveon Clowney was credited with 4.5 sacks in South Carolina’s win over Clemson.  And I’ll just go ahead and say it now: when it comes time to do my way-too-early look at the 2013 season in early January, Clowney will be one of the way-too-early Heisman front-runners.

— In Michigan State’s 26-10 win over Minnesota that pushed the Spartans into bowl eligibility, Le’Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 266 yards.

— During the course of Utah’s season-ending win over Colorado, John White topped the 1,000-yard plateau for the second straight season.  The running back is the first player in the Utes’ history to go over that mark in back-to-back seasons; Eddie Johnson also did it twice, although in non-consecutive season (1984, 1986).

— Wide receiver Tavon Austin accounted for 261 yards in West Virginia’s win over Iowa State: 74 rushing, 99 receiving, 46 on kick returns and 42 on punt returns.  Austin also broke his own school record for receptions in a season he set last year; the senior had 101 in 2011 and now has 106 with two games left.  Additionally, fellow receiver Stedman Bailey now has 1,342 yards receiving, breaking the school record of 1,279 yards he set last year as well.

— BYU wide receiver Cody Hoffman set a school record with five touchdown catches in the Cougars’ win over New Mexico State.

— The 105,899 fans in attendance for the 108th edition of The Game set an Ohio Stadium attendance record for a Michigan-Ohio State matchup.

— Speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines lost four games this season.  The combined records of those four teams?  45-3: Notre Dame and Ohio State, 12-0; Alabama 11-1; and Nebraska 10-2.  Three of those games were on the road, while the other, against the Tide, was played on a neutral field.

— Miami and Duke combined for 1,229 yards of offense (646 for the former, 583 for the latter) in the Hurricanes’ 52-45 win.  Blue Devils quarterback Sean Renfree threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns, while Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson rushed for 176 yards — on just 16 carries — and three touchdowns.

— TCU’s 20-13 Thanksgiving Day win over Texas snapped a 15-game road losing streak to the Longhorns.  The Horned Frogs had not won in Austin since 1967 when both schools were members of the now-defunct Southwestern Conference.

— North Carolina’s 8-4 record gives the Tar Heels their best winning percentage (.667) in a season since 1997 (11-1, .917).

— Arkansas outgained LSU 462-306 in yards of total offense and still found a way to lose in a game that proved to be John L. Smith‘s final game as the Razorbacks’ head coach.  If that doesn’t perfectly describe the very brief John L era in Fayetteville, I don’t know what does.

— Since a one-point loss to Iowa in the season opener, Northern Illinois has won 11 straight by an average of 25.1 ppg.

— Kent State’s 11 wins not only set a school record, but it is two more than the previous mark of nine set back in 1973.  The Golden Flashes’ 10-game winning streak is also the longest in the football program’s history.

— In the double overtime game Friday evening, East Carolina and Marshall combined for 124 points and 1,188 yards of total offense in the Pirates’ wild 65-59 win that, at least temporarily, kept them in the chase for the Conference USA East title.  Quarterback Shane Carden threw for 439 yards and three touchdowns while adding three more scores on the ground, the last in the second overtime that sent the Pirates home with a win.

SID NOTE OF THE WEEK
From UGA media relations: With a 42-10 victory, Georgia now has set a school record for points in a season with 456 in 12 games. The old mark was 450 by the 2002 team in 14 games.

SID NOTE OF THE WEEK, RUNNER-UP
From USC media relations: With the win over Clemson, head coach Steve Spurrier became the winningest coach in South Carolina football history.  Coach Spurrier is now 65-37 in his career at South Carolina; he surpassed Rex Enright, who had 64 career wins at South Carolina.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
Notre Dame began the season unranked.  The last team to begin a season unranked and finish No. 1 in the Associated Press poll was BYU in 1984.  Want more?  The last four coaches at Notre Dame who won their first national titles with the Irish did so in their third seasons at the school; Brian Kelly is in his third season at the school.

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New Big Ten scheduling mandates Power 5 opponents, no FCS foes

Jim Delany

Starting in 2016 the Big Ten will roll out a new scheduling outline for all conference members to follow. In addition to the new nine-game conference schedule, the Big Ten will now officially lock out FCS opponents and ask members to schedule one game against another power conference opponent.

The Big Ten’s move away from no longer scheduling FCS opponents has been discussed openly for a few years now, and now it will be the standard operating procedure. What is slightly new is the mandated concept that one game per year against another power conference opponent will be required. The Big Ten joins the ACC and SEC in requiring its members to schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent.

Asked to clarify, Delany confirmed the outline is a requirement that must be met by each member university. What was left unanswered is whether or not independents like Notre Dame, BYU and Army meet that requirement. It is expected Notre Dame would satisfy the requirement, and the ACC and SEC recognize BYU as a power conference opponent. The SEC also counts Army in that category. (UPDATE: Delany later confirmed Notre Dame and BYU will count toward meeting the requirement.)

Delany stressed the focus on improving overall strength of schedule for the Big Ten, and this philosophy would seem to address that in the years to come. While many Big Ten teams already have games scheduled against other power five conferences, having it be a requirement offers more attractive games for fans and the all more important television partners. With the Big Ten media rights set to expire coming up, rolling out this scheduling strategy is also a wise business decision.

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Report: Alabama and Louisville opening 2018 in Orlando

Since the 1930s, Big Al, the Alabama Crimson Tide football team mascot has cheered the team to victo

Alabama may never again open a season at home. The Crimson Tide will reportedly open the 2018 season in Orlando, with Louisville lined up as the opponent for the season-opening contest. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com was first to report the 2018 game via Twitter.

Alabama now has the next three season openers booked for neutral site games, which means plenty of money coming Alabama’s way. The Crimson Tide open this season in Arlington, Texas against Wisconsin and open the 2016 season in Arlington once more against USC. In 2017 Alabama will face Florida State in Atlanta. Alabama opened the 2013 and 2014 seasons in Atlanta against Virginia Tech and West Virginia, respectively. This followed a season-opening game in Arlington in 2012 against Michigan. The last time Alabama opened a season at home was in 2011 against Kent State. The 2009 season opened in Atlanta against the Hokies as well. Alabama is also contractually obligated to play a game in Arlington in either 2019 or 2020.

Louisville is also getting used to this neutral site opener idea. The Cardinals will open the 2015 season in Atlanta against Auburn, and will face Purdue in Indianapolis to open the 2017 season.

It should also be noted the scheduling of this game in Orlando will also satisfy the non-conference scheduling requirement for both schools, with the ACC and SEC each requiring members to schedule one game against a power conference opponent. Of course, Louisville already satisfies its requirement by playing Kentucky.

Alabama and Louisville have faced each other just three times before, with the most recent game taking place in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl. Louisville won that game, 34-7, but Alabama had won the two previous meetings in 1976 and 1977 with blowout victories (winning by a combined score of 79-9).

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Nice guy Mike Riley says differences between Big Ten and Pac-12 not as drastic as before

Mike Riley

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley made his Big Ten media day debut in Chicago Friday morning, and he carried his nice guy persona as well as he ever has. When told he was one of the nicest coaches in the Pac-12, Riley shrugged aside as humble as he could. Riley was also asked about the differences between the Big Ten and Pac-12, to which he said the differences are not nearly as extreme as they used to be in decades past.

“Hard to blanket with one statement what a conference is today,” Riley said when asked about the difference between the styles of the Big Ten and Pac-12. “I think statistically the Big Ten is running the football more, but there is more diversity.”

Riley, of course, comes to Nebraska after coaching at Oregon State for the past 15 seasons. Riley took over the Beavers in 1997 and stayed with the program until taking a chance to take the Nebraska job. When asked about the timing of the new job, Riley said he and his wife agreed it was their last real chance to take a new challenge and adventure.

“We just love our life together, our life in football.”

Riley won over the Big Ten media, and it would appear the Cornhuskers are in good hands. Now we just have to see if he can win some games in Lincoln.

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Minnesota’s Jerry Kill says he’s been seizure-free for over a year

Jerry Kill

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill got the second day of Big Ten media days off and running Friday morning in Chicago, and he has plenty to be optimistic about in the coming season with a team ready to make a push for the Big Ten West division crown. Kill said his Gophers are getting faster and are closing in on being on par for giving Wisconsin a run for the division crown, and he is very high on his defensive secondary, which could be the best Minnesota has had since Kill’s arrival. But Kill will always be faced with a question about his health, and Friday morning was no different.

“I’m doing great,” Kill said when asked about his health. Kill said it has been over a year and a half since he has suffered a seizure.

Kill has a history of suffering seizures while coaching his team in recent years, although he has said time and time again it is nothing that is to be considered life-threatening or dangerous to his long-term health. In 2012 Kill suffered a seizure following a loss to Northwestern. The following season Kill was given medical treatment and did not return the second half of a game against Western Illinois. He would coach from the press box later in the 2013 season while spending time focusing on treatment and better manage his epilepsy but returned to the sideline during Minnesota’s bowl game and was on the sideline for the 2014 season.

Minnesota opens the 2014 season at home against TCU, the No. 2 team in the country according to the preseason coaches poll.

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No name games for Jim Harbaugh. Ohio State is “Ohio State” for Michigan coach

Jim Harbaugh

Perhaps the most anticipated media day press conference on this year’s media day calendar was the introduction of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh at Big Ten media day in Chicago. Today, the second of the two-day Big Ten media event, Harbaugh met with the media. The first question lobbed his way by one of the members of the media was about how he will refer to Ohio State, given the previous history between the two schools refusing to acknowledge the other by name.

“Ohio State is just Ohio State,” Harbaugh responded, before saying how great it was to see everyone in the room.

Harbaugh is a bit of a no-nonsense guy when it comes to his coaching style, so his decision to not get caught up in gimmicks to ramp up the rivalry is no real surprise. His predecessor, Brady Hoke, referred to Ohio State as just Ohio and that never really proved to amount to much. Meanwhile, Harbaugh’s counterpart in Columbus (Urban Meyer), likes to refer to Michigan as “That team up north.” It works for some, does not work for others.

Harbaugh’s simple answer though suggests Harbaugh has other things to worry about in getting Michigan turned around. He will also have 11 games to focus on before setting sights on Ohio State. Harbaugh will buy into the rivalry more, and likely will treat it much differently behind closed doors with the team when the time comes. But for now, Harbaugh has work to do.

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Backup DE Melvin Keihn requests release from Hokies

Virginia v Virginia Tech Getty Images

Ohio State’s not the only half of the OSU-Virginia Tech opener going through personnel attrition Thursday, although Tech’s is a permanent type — albeit much less damaging, potentially.

According to the Roanoke Times, a school spokesperson confirmed that Melvin Keihn (pictured, No. 51) has requested a release from his Tech scholarship and will pursue a transfer.  The defensive end is no longer listed on the Hokies’ online roster.

Keihn was a four-star member of Tech’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 16 outside linebacker in the country; the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Maryland; and the No. 226 player overall according to Rivals.com.  As a true freshman Keihn played in 13 games, with most of that action coming on special teams.

After spending most of spring practice as a No. 2 end, he had reps taking away and perhaps felt himself slipping down the depth chart, which perhaps triggered the decision to move on.

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‘Off-field issues’ lead to 2015 Vols signee leaving program

Kyle Oliver

While we had one 2015 signee (unofficially) joining a new Power Five football program Thursday, we have another (unofficially) departing one.

GoVols247.com is reporting that Kyle Oliver is leaving the Vols football team and will transfer to another, undetermined program. Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, Oliver “is leaving… because of unspecified off-field issues.”

On what may or may not be a related note to those unspecified off-field issues, UT lineman Charles Mosley was arrested earlier this month and charged with first-offense driving under the influence and speeding.  From a member of the UT beat, via Twitter:

UT has yet to address Oliver’s status with the football team, which will open up its third summer camp under Butch Jones next week.

The 6-4, 226-pound Oliver was a three-star member of UT’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 17 tight end in the country and the No. 14 player at any position in the state of Tennessee.  He also becomes the second member of the Class of 2015 to leave Knoxville in less than a week, joining wide receiver Jocquez Bruce.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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How will Urban reveal starting QB? ‘1st guy that jogs out at Blacksburg’

Urban Meyer

Barring a leak of some sort in the days leading up to it, you’re going to have to wait more than a month to find up just who will line up under center as Ohio State begins its title defense.

While holding court at Big Ten Media Days, Urban Meyer spent a significant amount of time discussing the blockbuster news from earlier in the day that four contributors, including All-American Joey Bosa, had been suspended for the 2015 opener on the road against Virginia Tech.  There were also, understandably, copious amounts of questions regarding the situation at quarterback.

Braxton Miller cleared up some of the mystery earlier this month by announcing that he will be moving to wide receiver/H-back, with Meyer saying today that he will personally coach Miller at the receiver position in the early days of a summer camp that will in the coming days.  That move pared the quarterback competition down to two: regular season hero J.T. Barrett and postseason hero Cardale Jones.

As for the process in determining a starter between the redshirt sophomore Barrett and redshirt junior Jones, Meyer stated that he and his coaching staff will be “keeping score of everything” during practices that will begin next week and scrimmages and, well, pretty much anything and everything that can be tracked.  The process has actually already begun, the Columbus Dispatch writes, with “[c]oaches… grading Barrett and Jones all summer regarding leadership, academics and the weight room.”

As for when Meyer will reveal who his quarterback starter will be in the game against the only team to beat his title squad last season?

There you have it.  Secrecy and misdirection will rule the day when it comes to Meyer dealing with the media and his quarterback situation over the next 39 days.

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Via Twitter, ex-UCLA DB Priest Willis announces move to A&M

Priest Willis, D.J. Foster AP

Nearly two months to the day he was moving on from the program with which he signed coming out of high school, Priest Willis has apparently found a new landing spot in which to continue his collegiate playing career.

In a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account early Thursday evening, Willis announced that he will be continuing his education at Texas A&M and play football for the Aggies.  The playing part won’t happen in 2015 as the defensive back will have to sit out the upcoming season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Then, beginning in 2016, Willis will have two years of eligibility remaining.

It’s at this point in the program where we note A&M has yet to officially announce Willis’ addition to the roster.

A four-star member of UCLA’s 2013 recruiting class, Willis rated as the No. 6 safety in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Arizona; and the No. 56 player overall according to Rivals.com. Along with fellow defensive back Tahaan Goodman, Willis was the highest-rated recruit in the Bruins’ class that year.

After sitting out his true freshman season as a redshirt, Willis played in nine games last season for the Bruins.

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Indiana loses leading returning receiver to torn ACL

Indiana v Ohio State

The news on the personnel front was decidedly negative for Indiana at Big Ten Media Days Thursday.

The most noteworthy is that J-Shun Harris sustained a torn ACL at some point this offseason. As a result, the wide receiver will miss the entire 2015 season.

Head coach Kevin Wilson stated during his time at the podium that “we knew for a long time j-Shun would be out.”

Harris’ 18 receptions and 168 yards receiving as a true freshman last season were fourth and third, respectively, on the Hoosiers. His two receiving touchdowns, meanwhile, were second on the team.

Thanks to attrition, Harris would’ve served as IU’s leading returning receiver. Instead, that honor among wide receivers now falls to Simmie Cobbs Jr. (114 yards) and Dominique Booth (eight receptions).

Additionally, the school announced that fifth-year senior offensive lineman Ralston Evans has been granted a medical hardship, which will end his football career. Evans started eight of the nine games in which he played last season, although the injuries, for the most part, prevented him from being viewed as a potential starter throughout most of the offseason.

“Injuries ended Ralston’s final two seasons and limited him this spring,” the head coach said in a statement. “He was a great player and is an even better man. Fortunately, Ralston will serve as a student coach this year. His leadership will continue to be invaluable to our team.”

Finally, Wilson also confirmed that projected cornerback starter Donovan Clark will be limited during summer camp because of a back injury.

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CFP won’t force Notre Dame, other independents to join a conference

kelly Getty Images

Over the past 10 days, in the midst of various conference media days, one of the talking points has suddenly become Notre Dame and its lack of a conference when it comes to consideration for a College Football Playoff spot.  Head coaches from Missouri to Clemson to seemingly everyone in between has been very publicly — and loudly — calling for the football-independent Irish to join a conference in order to be eligible for one of the four playoff spots.

If the South Bend institution is going to be forced into becoming a conference member (don’t count on it), the pressure won’t be coming from the folks who run the playoff.

Thursday, CFP executive director Bill Hancock, in a conversation with ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich, confirmed that there has been no internal discussions about forcing Notre Dame or the other two independents, Army and BYU, to join a conference in order to be eligible for one of their postseason slots.

“The three independents are perfectly happy being independent,” Hancock said. “They have the ability to craft their schedules to fit their needs. If their need and goal is to be in the playoff, then they’re in the same boat as everybody else. You better play a good schedule if you want to be in the playoff.”

When it comes to the Fighting Irish, that last sentence shouldn’t be a problem.

In 2015, Notre Dame will play nine games against teams from Power Five conferences (Texas, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, USC, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Boston College, Stanford) and three from Group of Five leagues (UMass, Navy, Temple). In 2016, it’s the exact same split between P5s and G5s.

In fact, those two regular season slates stack up quite well with the four teams that qualified for the inaugural CFP last year:

Ohio State — eight Big Ten games; one P5, two G5 non-conference games
Oregon — nine Pac-12 games; one P5, one G5 non-conference game; one FCS game
Alabama — eight SEC games; one P5, two G5 non-conference games; one FCS game
Florida State — eight ACC games; two P5, one G5 non-conference games; one FCS game

What Notre Dame would lack, the same thing that impacted the Big 12 last season, is a conference championship game on its résumé, something all four of those semifinalists had. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney suggested ND add a 13th game in lieu of joining a conference, although that would require a change in current NCAA bylaws that only permit a 13th game when a road trip to Hawaii is involved.

Like the Big 12 and its lack of a title game, Hancock stated that the Irish would have to weigh the benefits of joining a league — and a potential 13th game in the form of a conference championship game — against its storied history as an independent.

“The risks and rewards of conference championship games will always come into play,” Hancock said. “I feel the same way about Notre Dame that I feel about the Big 12. It’s impossible to quantify the effect of a championship game because you don’t know who’s going to win the game.”

In another breath, Hancock very plainly explained that a league title game had no impact on how the four teams were selected last year, even as some would suggest otherwise.

“Frankly, in the committee room, it wasn’t a factor,” Hancock said of a 13th game. “The committee has the luxury of looking at the full body of work from an entire season — 12 or 13 games — for each team, irrespective of what conference they’re in. Having been in the committee room, I can tell you, it’s just not a factor.”

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Recruit who had Mich. St. offer pulled after attending Ohio St. camp gets Buckeye offer

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Maybe this was the kid’s plan all along?

Quite the ruckus was kicked up over the weekend when it was reported that Michigan State had pulled the scholarship offer made to one of its 2016 commits, Gavin Cupp, because the player attended a football camp hosted by rival Ohio State.  As it turns out, it wasn’t Cupp’s attendance that was the issue; rather, it was the fact that Cupp didn’t let MSU know of his intentions and the perceived lack of “loyalty” that led to the yanking of the offer.

That left Cupp offers from, among others, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Virginia and West Virginia… but none from OSU.  Until today.

The Ohio high school offensive lineman confirmed to ElevenWarriors.com that he received a scholarship offer from his state’s flagship football program Thursday.  And, to say the least, he is a little bit excited over the development.

“It feels great,” Cupp told the OSU-centric website. “It’s just a huge relief and a childhood dream. I’m very happy at the moment.”

That said, Cupp, the No. 31 tackle in next year’s class according to Rivals.com, hasn’t pulled a trigger on a verbal commitment to the Buckeyes.  Yet.

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Four-star RB denied Wisky admission opts for ‘Huskers

Jordan Stevenson

For whatever academic reason, Wisconsin denied admission to touted 2015 signee Jordan Stevenson.  Now, though, they could very well have to face the running back once a season for at least the next three years.

While nothing is official from his new school, Jordan Stevenson announced on his personal Twitter account that he has decided to continue on with UW’s Big Ten West rival Nebraska.  Stevenson had taking a visit to Lincoln shortly after he was denied admission to the school with which he signed, then followed that up with a visit to Miami.  There was also talk that yet another visit, this one to Alabama, could be in the offing this weekend, although that never came to fruition.

For the past week or so, though, the Cornhuskers have been widely viewed as the favorites to land the player’s services.  Stevenson will be eligible to play immediately for the ‘Huskers in 2015.

Rivals.com had the Texas high school product as a four-star prospect, rated as the No. 27 running back in the country and the No. 34 player at any position in the state.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Urban on suspensions: ‘Get going. Move forward’

Urban Meyer

The announcements of the suspensions of four Ohio State football players — possibly related to marijuana and/or academics — dropped roughly three hours or so prior to Urban Meyer‘s turn at the microphone for Big Ten Media Days.

Not surprisingly, that particular topic dominated a good portion of the media Q&A with the head coach of the defending national champion Buckeyes.  Also not surprisingly, Meyer delved into very few details as to what led to the punitive measures.

“A violation of team policies.  That’s as far as I’ll go,” Meyer responded when the first query on a specific reason for the suspensions was tossed his way.  Meyer also acknowledged that he’s “known about the suspensions for a little while.”

The suspensions will be owned by junior defensive end Joey Bosa, sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, senior wide receiver Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson, who will all miss the opener because of the sanctions.  Meyer very powerfully intimated that the temporary losses should not be used as a crutch by his football team, mainly because he and his staff have collected the kind of depth that can withstand the impact of losing a player or players.

“The university, the athletic department has the policies that we expect and that I 100-percent fully support,” the coach said. “Whether it’s a sprained ankle or [other] stuff, you try to create a culture where a team knows how to move forward and not concern yourself.  When we lost Braxton [Miller] 10 days before the first game [of the 2014 season], you lose J.T. [Barrett] a week before the Big Ten championship game, you push forward.  We’re pushing forward.

“The comment I did make, we are playing an extremely talented team [in the opener vs. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg], very well-coached team on the road in a tough environment.  However, we have recruited very well.  So, get going.  Move forward.”

When pressed by a Tech beat writer regarding his greatest concern for an impact stemming from the suspensions, Meyer responded, “Off the get-go, arguably one of the best defensive players in the United States of America [Bosa] won’t play in that game, so that’s the one.”

Meyer did, though, attempt to mitigate the loss of Bosa by… referring back to the depth that’s been accumulated at the wide receiver and H-back positions before finally circling back to “the big defensive end.”

“I think if we stay healthy throughout training camp, and continue to improve,” Meyer began, before rattling off a sizable portion of his skill-position depth chart, “and [projected H-back/wide receiver] Braxton and then we have [wide receiver] Noah Brown, we have [wide receiver] Michael Thomas, you have [tight end] Nick Vannett,  you have [wide receiver] Johnny Dixon, [wide receiver] Terry McLaurin and [wide receiver] Parris Campbell, [running back-turned-H-back] Curtis Samuel, you know, we’ve recruited pretty good.  Now we have to get them ready to go play and I’ll know more as we get going.

“But I’m not overly concerned at that spot [defensive end].  Obviously when you lose the big defensive end, that everyone knows where he’s at, that is [still] a concern.”

In other words, Meyer wants to hear no excuses.  And he wants his players to know there are no excuses at their disposal, and that it’s very much next man up for the opener — just as it was when the Buckeyes lost two starting quarterbacks in its run to the title.

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Likely starting center abruptly leaves Cal football team

Ohio State v California Getty Images

Sonny Dykes will begin his third summer camp at Cal next week, and the head coach will do so without the projected anchor for his offensive line.

A school spokesperson confirmed to Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News that Matt Cochran is no longer on the Cal football team.  No reason was given for the abrupt departure, although the spokesperson did state that Cochran is still a student at Cal.

The junior’s brother, Aaron Cochran, is a sophomore offensive lineman for the Bears and remains a member of the team.

The past two seasons, Cochran has played in 13 games.  Four of those were starts, including three first three games at right guard in 2013.

With Cochran’s departure, a pair of redshirt freshmen, Addison Ooms and Michael Trani, are now the likely 1-2 at center on the depth chart.

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