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2013: A look ahead

Carnac

What’s that you say?  It’s barely stopped raining confetti following Alabama’s BCS title game win over Notre Dame and we’re already talking about a 2013 season that won’t start for another eight months?

You damn right we are.  And you know why?  ’Cause that’s how we roll.  Or something.

Each of the past three years, before the last piece of title-game confetti had fluttered to the ground and while the corpse of the previous season was still somewhat warm, I dusted off the trusty crystal ball and flung a few predictions up against the next season’s wall with the hope that something, anything, would stick.  Hilarity ensued when I picked Alabama as the No. 1 team in 2010 (they finished No. 10); Oklahoma in 2011 (they finished No. 16) and USC in 2012 (they finished No. ROTFLMAO!!!).  There were guffaws as far as the eye could see as I asked questions like “Have the Conference Musical Chairs Stopped?” and “Is This the Year the SEC’s Streak Stops?” — hell no to both — or listed 10 (10!!!) preseason Heisman contenders for the 2012 season and not a single one of ‘em was even a finalist.

Yet here I am a year later, ready to once again expose my utter lack of prognosticating abilities for all the world to see.  So, without further ado, here’s what I, CFT’s resident Nostradumbass, think may — or may not — happen leading up to and during the 2013 season.

FIVE COMPELLING STORYLINES

1. DO I HEAR EIGHT IN A ROW?
For the past couple of years in this space, I’ve asked if the SEC can win five BCS titles in a row… six in a row… seven in a row… and each year the answer’s been a resounding “hell yes y’all!”  And why not?  Not only has the preeminent football conference in America won seven consecutive crystal footballs, they’ve won nine of the 15 played in the BCS era.  Unfortunately for the rest of the country, a downward trend doesn’t appear to be in the offing.  Sure, a team or two might take a dip in 2013 — I’m looking at you, LSU — but Alabama will be, well, Alabama, and Texas A&M appears to be on the verge of leaping on to the national stage.  Florida, should they get a handle on the quarterback situation and the embarrassing bowl performance against Louisville notwithstanding, should continue their upward trajectory in Year Three under Will Muschamp.  Georgia, with quarterback Aaron Murray returning for one more season, and South Carolina, despite the early loss of Marcus Lattimore, should be formidable if not on the fringe of the national title discussion.  In other words,  expect one or more SEC teams to be deep in the mix at the end in the final year of the BCS.  Speaking of which…

Death to the BcS2. DING, DONG THE BCS IS DEAD
Well, almost.  2013 will mark the final year of the bastard system utilized to crown a national champion since 1998, set to be replaced after the 2014 season with a slightly less bastardized version in the form of a four-team playoff.  While the new system is far from perfect, and a more equitable eight-team playoff will come sooner rather than later, the four-team parlay is already light years ahead of what the BCS had ever hoped to be and it’s yet to be officially implemented.  Granted, the BCS was a “better” system for crowing a champion than strictly polls, but that’s sort of like saying you own the nicest Yugo — it’s not exactly something you want to say or admit out loud.  Where will the new system take us?  Who cares, as long as it’s far, far away from the mess that is — and soon to be was — the BCS.

3. JANE, STOP THIS CRAZY CONFERENCE THING!
Expansion musical chairs has been an overriding theme in each of the past two look-aheads, and there’s no reason to think the shuffling will stop anytime soon.  At this time last year, who foresaw that Maryland and Rutgers would announce they were leaving the ACC and Big East, respectively, for the Big Ten, or that Louisville would ditch the Big East for the ACC, or that Boise State would turn its back on a 2013 move to the Big East to remain in the Mountain West?  The ACC, Big Ten and SEC all are at 14 current and future members, while the Big 12 is, for the moment, standing pat at 10.  The whispers are already out there that the ACC will race to become the first “real” 16-team superconference… unless the Big Ten beats them to it by, in part, raiding the ACC… unless the SEC beats the Big Ten to the punch by, in part, raiding the ACC.  In other words, we have very likely not seen the last of expansion talk and teams bolting this conference for that one and leagues like the Big East folding up their football shop and the like.  Hooray!?!

4. NO DUCKING THE NCAA
While Oregon is rightly basking in the glow of Chip Kelly‘s return to Eugene, there’s an NCAA elephant squatting smack dab in the middle of the room.  At some point this year, likely in the spring, Oregon officials will appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions to answer allegations of recruiting improprieties related to street agent Willie Lyles.  Essentially, UO has been accused of paying $25,000 for bogus and outdated scouting reports of high school players in exchange for, as Lyles himself stated, steering recruits — including Lache Seastrunk — to the Ducks.  How big of a hammer will the NCAA whip out and will it tear down, at least for the short-term, all or most of what Kelly’s built at the school?  Some are saying that Kelly’s return is a sign that the sanctions may not be as heavy-handed as some expect.  Until a decision is actually handed down, expect pins and needles to rule the day as the university, athletic department and football program braces itself for deeply punitive sanctions.

5. BIELAMA’S UNLIKELY MARRIAGE
Don’t know about you, but I was beyond floored — and I wasn’t the only one — upon hearing that Bret Bielema was leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas.  Sure, he wanted to get out from under Barry Alvarez‘s immense shadow… and, unlike at UW, he and his assistants are getting p-a-i-d paid… and he spent some time in the state as a youth, but he has absolutely no ties to that area of the country or the conference; he played his college ball at Iowa, and his collegiate coaching stops have included his alma mater, Kansas State and UW.  Essentially, he’s a Big Ten guy with a sprinkling of the Big 12.  How will he fare in the rough and tumble SEC on the field and, perhaps more importantly, on the hyper-competitive southern recruiting trail?  I have no clue, but it should be fascinating to sit back and watch unfold.

EARLY-BIRD TOP FIVE

1. Alabama
Back-to-back BCS championships, three crystal footballs in four years.  Will return somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 starters and 37 or so from the two-deep depth chart.  Nick Saban, well on his way to staking his claim to the greatest coach at the FBS level of all-time, will return.  A 2013 recruiting class that’s currently ranked No. 2 in the country — oddly enough, behind the team they eviscerated for their latest title.  I seriously considered putting one of the three teams immediately below ‘Bama at the No. 1 spot; after seeing it laid out so starkly as it is in the previous sentences, there was simply no way I could justify anyone but the Tide in the top spot.

2. Ohio StateUrban Meyer, Braxton Miller
In Urban Meyer‘s first season, with nothing to play for but pride and a “I won the Big Ten Leaders division and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” consolation prize, the Buckeyes went a perfect 12-0.  At the end of the 2012 season, Meyer felt his team could compete with any in the country; thanks to NCAA sanctions and a shortsighted administration, proving it in the postseason wasn’t an option.  That will change this year as the one-year bowl ban is over, and all signs point to Meyer and his Buckeyes bullrushing back to the national stage.  Not only does tOSU return several key components on both sides of the ball (they do lose seven defensive starters, though), the schedule has “run me” written all over — the nonconference slate is more than manageable, with a road trip to Cal and a home date with San Diego State only remotely resembling potential stumbling blocks, while the first seven games of the Big Ten schedule sees Wisconsin and Penn State visiting Ohio Stadium.  The toughest game, at least on paper, doesn’t come until last: a late-November road trip to the Big House for a date with hated rival Michigan.  It’s conceivable, based on how they finished 2012 as well as how 2013 sets up, that the Buckeyes could head into Ann Arbor riding a winning streak approaching two-dozen games.  And my apologies, Buckeye Nation, for totally jinxing that possibility.

3. Texas A&M
By the time the curtain had fallen on the 2012 season, and if there had been a playoff system in place, the Aggies had become the proverbial team that no one wanted to face.  And for good reason.  In its first season in the big, bad SEC, A&M won 11 games and lost just two — by three points to Florida in what turned out to be both the season and conference opener for the Aggies, and by five to LSU.  The smashing debut included signature wins over top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa and a blowout of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, as well as a healthy dose of optimism for what 2013 will bring.  With the reigning Heisman winner in tow, the Aggies will be expected to match or exceed the breakout year.  Will they be able to handle the pressure of being the hunted instead of the hunter?  With Kevin Sumlin in charge, we’d lean toward the affirmative.

4. Oregon
The 2013 season hasn’t even started and the Ducks have already earned what will prove to be their biggest win of the year.  After yet another round of flirtations with the NFL, Chip Kelly decided that his heart’s in Eugene and returned to UO for at least another season — until the New England Patriots job opens up, of course.  The Ducks would’ve been fine with offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich taking over; they’ll be even better because the man who built the Ducks into a national powerhouse — 46-7 in his four years, four BCS bowl games and three Pac-12 titles — is sticking around to build on his burgeoning legacy.  Oh, and the fact that Marcus Mariota, the triggerman of UO’s offensive juggernaut who deserves more national acclaim than he gets, is returning as well doesn’t exactly hurt, either.

5. Stanford
When Jim Harbaugh bolted for the NFL, many thought the Cardinal would sink back to the depths from which it came; 11 wins in 2011 showed the program is bigger than any one coach. When Andrew Luck bolted for the NFL, many thought, once again, the Cardinal would sink back to the depths from which it came; 12 wins in 2012 showed the program is bigger than any one player. Anyone want to doubt them a third straight year? The Cardinal returns 16 starters from its Pac-12-winning 2012 squad, a total that includes quarterback Kevin Hogan, the redshirt freshman who quietly became one of the most promising players at his position in his first stint as a starter. Head coach David Shaw not only maintained what Harbaugh built down on The Farm but enhanced it, adding to the foundation and ensuring success will continue regardless of personnel losses. Bet against “14 for ’13” at your own peril.

THREE RISERS
Teams outside the final Top 10 that could be in it in 2013

Teddy Bridgewater, Charlie Strong1.Louisville
In my preseason Top 25, I lamented that, at No. 24, I was rating Louisville too low and “will likely regret it at season’s end.”  After 11 wins, a No. 13 ranking and the demolition of then-No. 4 Florida in the Sugar Bowl, I was right.  This year, though, that won’t be the case as the Cardinals, on the strength of the return of the sublime Teddy Bridgewater and the continuing presence of head coach Charlie Strong, are poised to sniff the Top 10 in the preseason rankings.

2. UCLA
With nine wins in 2012 in Jim Mora‘s first season at the school, UCLA posted its best mark since a 10-win season in 2005.  While the season finished with three straight losses — including back-to-back defeats to Stanford — the Bruins did claim quality wins over the likes of Nebraska, Arizona and USC.  With the Trojans plummeting toward mediocrity, the Bruins should be the class of the Pac-12 South yet again and the odds-on favorite for a a third consecutive appearance in the conference championship game — if not more.

3. Clemson
OK, this is cheating a little bit as the Tigers were just barely outside of the Top Ten at No. 11, but I need all the softballs I can take a whack at.  And, thanks to the (likely) return of Tajh Boyd, the Tigers afford me that opportunity.  Clemson’s two losses in 2012 came at the hands of 12-win Florida State and 11-win South Carolina, and they actually led each of those games at halftime before crumbling in the second half.  Call it a hunch, but the Tigers learned enough from those pair of disappointments to flip that script around in 2013 versus high-quality competition.

THREE TUMBLERS
Teams inside the final Top 25 that could struggle

1. Kansas State
While I don’t believe there will be a drastic drop-off for the Wildcats,  there should be at least a dip.  Heisman finalist Collin Klein is gone to expired eligibility, leaving a significant hole in both experience and leadership at the quarterback position.  All told, the Wildcats will lose 12 starters, including nine on the defensive side of the ball.  That formula has rebuilding year written all over it.

2. LSU
Losing nearly two handfuls of talented juniors won’t help LSU’s cause in 2013, even as the Tigers possess a wealth of talented albeit inexperienced replacements.  Nor will a schedule that includes a neutral site nonconference game with what should be a much-improved TCU squad as well as SEC road trips to Alabama and Georgia, although that’s mitigated somewhat by drawing Florida and Texas A&M at home.  LSU could take a half-step back in 2013, which means merely fighting for a top-ten spot instead of hovering around the top five and in the discussion for a BCS berth — championship game or otherwise .

3. Notre Dame
Yes, Notre Dame could very well begin the 2013 season inside the top five of the polls, and the talent they return would warrant such a lofty ranking.  However, the Irish won five of their games in 2012 by seven points or less, including one in overtime and another in triple overtime. Provided the talent level stays roughly the same, can the Domers expect to catch the same breaks and bounces — or officiating calls — in close games this season that they did last?  I say, even with a favorable schedule, not nearly to 2012’s degree, but your mileage may vary

RON ZOOK MEMORIAL COACHING HOT SEAT

Notre Dame v USC1. Lane Kiffin, USC
By any measure imaginable, the 2012 was an unmitigated disaster for USC.  The Trojans began the season ranked No. 1 in the country… and proceeded to become the first team in history with such a lofty ranking in the preseason to finish outside the Top 25 and culminated a six-loss season with an embarrassing performance in their bowl game.  The calls for Kiffin to be ousted grew louder as the season went further in the tank; a repeat performance in 2013 will earn Kiffin a well-deserved trip to the coaching unemployment line.

2. Mack Brown, Texas
Yes, Brown is signed through the 2020 season.  Yes, high-powered UT officials have been steadfast in their public support of their long-time head coach.  No, 15 losses in the past three years — one more than the Longhorns had in the past nine seasons combined — is not acceptable for a program accustomed to the national stage, especially when two of those defeats have come to rival Oklahoma by scores of 63-21 and 55-17 the past two seasons.  While quarterback continues to be an embarrassment for a program in the QB-rich state, the position is positively Vince Young-esque compared to a defense that was statistically the worst in the history of the storied program.  We know, it’s highly doubtful that Brown’s actually on the hot seat.  And that’s part of the problem — he deserves to be.

3. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
In its first season in the SEC, Mizzou failed to meet even modest expectations by winning just five games and finishing with a 2-6 conference record, with the lone wins coming at the expense of conference featherweights Kentucky and Tennessee (sorry Vols). That miserable showing was compounded by fellow Big 12 refugee Texas A&M stunning the college football world by coming out of the gate with an 11-win season — including handing Alabama its lone loss of the regular season — in its first year in the SEC.  While 2012 was Mizzou’s worst under Pinkel since 2004, being a member of the SEC, replete with its additional revenue and exposure, brings with it exponentially more pressure on the head coach to succeed.  Pinkel realized immediate improvement is a must as he “parted ways” with long-time offensive coordinator David Yost.  Another season like this last one, and the Mizzou administration could find themselves “parting ways” with their long-time head coach.

4. Randy Edsall, Maryland
This one comes with a disclaimer as the Terps were wracked by injuries in 2012, including the loss of four starting quarterbacks to season-ending injuries.  With that out of the way, the stark reality is this: the Terps have won a total of six games in Edsall’s two seasons, including just three wins in 16 games in ACC play.  Even the staunchest of supporters are beginning to question whether Edsall is the right man for his “dream job.”  With a move to the Big Ten in the offing after this season, anything short of a significant turnaround would likely signal to the administration that its time for a fresh start on the sidelines to coincide with the Terps’ departure for a new conference.

5. Mike London, Virginia
After getting Virginia to eight wins in his second season with the Hoos, London was one of the hottest names on the coaching carousel, garnering mention as a potential replacement for Joe Paterno at Penn State.  Following a four-win season?  London has gone from the coaching penthouse to the coaching hot seat.  In a signal that London realizes how hot despite being just three years into his tenure, he axed nearly half his coaching staff — four to be exact — shortly after the end of the 2012 season.  London is one of the most outstanding coaches in the game, but this is a bottom-line business, with the bottom line being London needs to turns things around post-haste.

WAY-TOO-EARLY HEISMAN ROLL CALL

1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State — The first year in Urban Meyer‘s offense was above-average for Miller.  With a full year plus another offseason in the same system, Miller is poised to improve upon his fifth-place finish in the 2012 Heisman voting and could very well enter the 2013 season as the stiff-armed frontrunner.  The fact that the Buckeyes will likely be highly-ranked and Miller will again be a significant portion of the offense — he accounted for 28 of the 56 offensive touchdowns scored and led the team in rushing — means the Heisman hype will come early and often for the talented junior.

Chick-fil-A Bowl - LSU v Clemson2. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson — Boyd will enter the 2013 season — provided he doesn’t jump to the NFL by the Jan. 15 deadline, of course — as one of the most prolific yet underrated players in the country.  With offensive coordinator Chad Morris remaining after some head-coaching flirtations over the last month, Boyd will put up the kind of numbers that’d be hard for Heisman voters to overlook.

3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M — The first-year phenom shattered the freshman ceiling by taking home the Heisman in 2012.  Can he shatter the “no one’s won it twice since Archie Griffin” ceiling?  Based on his performance in the Aggies’ bowl romp, that would be a resounding yes.  With a year’s worth of film to view in the offseason, though, defenses could make harder a game that looked video-game easy for Manziel in 2012.

4. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina — Sure, no purely defensive player has ever claimed a Heisman.  However, the past few years, with the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Tyrann Mathieu and Manti Te’o making it to the Big Apple as finalists, it appears the narrow-minded voters could be expanding their horizon when it comes to candidates.  And when it comes to defensive candidates for 2013, it doesn’t get any more explosive or dynamic or borderline homicidal than Clowney.

5. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville — Bridgewater would’ve made this list even without the virtuoso performance in the bowl win over Florida.  With it, he moved up several notches in my eyes as he showed he could play at a high level against what was considered a top-notch defense.  In fact, slotting the soon-to-be junior fifth could prove to be low.  Very, very low.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Oregon v Kansas State6. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon — Thanks to the return of Chip Kelly, the Ducks will run the same offense in 2013 as they did in Mariota’s first year as the starter in 2012.  And in that first season, Mariota was spectacular, accounting for 37 touchdowns — 32 passing, five rushing — in leading the Ducks to a 12-win season.  Whether Kelly would’ve been around to oversee the scoring factory or not, Mariota is hurtling toward nothing but improvement in his second season.

7. Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona — The nation’s leading rusher returns for another season and deserves a spot on this initial list.  The only problem is, will the Wildcats win enough to get the attention Carey deserves?  While the Wildcats’ won eight games in Rich Rodriguez‘s first season, Carey’s quest for a 2,000-yard season — he finished with 1,929 — flew under the radar until he erupted for 366 yards in mid-November.  By then it was too late to make a difference in the ’12 Heisman race.  It could, though, serve as a reminder to voters entering ’13 that he’s a player worthy of keeping an eye on.

8. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA — Bruins head coach Jim Mora has already proclaimed his starting quarterback a future Heisman contender, so we’ll go ahead and roll with it.  Statistically, Hundley is worthy of his coach’s praise as the sophomore completed nearly 66 percent of his passes for 3,740 yards and 29 touchdowns.  The 11 interceptions are a concern, although that could simply be a combination of Hundley’s youth and inexperience in the first year of a new offensive scheme.  Still, Hundley’s a name to keep track of as the season progresses.

9. Marqise Lee, WR, USC — Thanks to USC breaking in a new starting quarterback, I nearly put Georgia’s Aaron Murray here.  Based on Lee’s stunning athleticism and production, though, I had to put him on the list somewhere.  Lee led the country in receptions and finished second in receiving yards, narrowly missing out on a trip to New York City as a Heisman finalist.

10. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor — Forget the head coach; the running back has already proclaimed himself to be a 2013 Heisman contender.  Over the last quarter of the season, the Oregon transfer showed there’s a reason behind that self-confidence.  After rushing for 465 yards in the first nine games of the season, Seastrunk exploded for 637 over the final four.  If he continues that trend in 2013, he could become a part of the Heisman discussion.

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Oregon DL Sam Kamp retires from football

Pac-12 Championship - Arizona v Oregon

It’s not often you see a player in good health cut his college football career short, but that’s what Oregon defensive lineman Sam Kamp has chosen to do. In a message posted to his Instagram page on Tuesday evening, Kamp announced his decision to retire from football. A redshirt junior in 2014, the Mesa, Ariz., native is set to graduate this spring.

“I’m incredibly blessed to have made so many amazing memories playing for this team. I’m so grateful to God, to my loving family and close friends, to my coaches, trainers and support staff who together are better than any other program in the nation, and especially to my teammates who I’ve spent a seriously ridiculous amount of hours grinding with! This season has been a once in a lifetime experience and even though we didn’t finish with a win, it was an unforgettable finish to my athletic career,” he wrote.”I’ll graduate this spring as a proud University of Oregon double major and I can’t wait to find out what opportunities I can take advantage of in the future!”

He confirmed his decision to The Oregonian.

Kamp played in all 15 games and posted 20 tackles, one sack, three pass breakups and three passes defended this fall.

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Chad Morris was still returning congratulatory texts six weeks after taking SMU job

Chad Morris

A new head coach has a lot on his plate, particularly when that coach spent a previous lifetime building inroads into the deep community of Texas high school football coaches.

So when Chad Morris was formally introduced as SMU’s head coach way back on Dec. 1, Morris’ phone and email accounts were hit with a deluge unseen since the book of Exodus.

By the time Morris stepped away from the podium, he’d received a whopping 690 text messages and 898 emails congratulating him on taking the job.

And when Associated Press writer Ralph Russo swung his Dallas office the day before the College Football Playoff championship for an interview nearly six full weeks later (which posted today), Morris still had 256 text messages to go. “I’m going to answer them,” Morris said.

At his current rate of 72 returned texts per week, it would take until Feb. 4 – which happens to be National Signing Day – to return every text that greeted him upon taking the job.

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Wazzu promotes Eric Mele to full-time special teams coordinator

Utah v Washington State

It’s been a good day for young coaches looking for their big break.

After Duke named graduate assistant Matt Guerrieri as one of its full-time assistants earlier Tuesday, Washington State named former support staffer Eric Mele as its full-time special teams coordinator.

Mele was moved from an offensive quality control position to interim special teams coordinator after head coach Mike Leach fired then-special teams coordinator Eric Russell on Oct. 6 in the aftermath of a 60-59 Washington State loss in which the Cougars allowed two kickoff returns for touchdowns.

“Eric did a nice job coming in midway through last season,” Leach said in a statement. “He is organized, hard-working, energetic and has a great rapport with the players.”

Washington State also announced the hiring of Brian Odom as a defensive quality control assistant. He previously served as the co-director of sports performance at Houston.

“Brian brings a great work ethic and an experienced football mind to our staff,” said Leach. ”He has been a part of football staffs that have seen a great deal of success and he will be an asset for our program.”

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Report: Virginia Tech won’t host Thursday night game in 2015

David Wang, Caleb Farris

Lane Stadium and Thursday Night Football are as American as the extra large Happy Meal. Virginia Tech has made 29 total appearances on ESPN’s Thursday Night package, including 11 wins in 16 games in Blacksburg. The Hokies hosted a Thursday night affair from 2002-12, but didn’t host a midweek game in 2013 and it appears they won’t again in 2015.

Citing sources close to the situation, Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote Tuesday that it appears Virginia Tech isn’t in line to host a Thursday night game on the ACC’s to-be-released 2015 slate, which could be announced as soon as Wednesday.

Instead, the Hokies will visit Georgia Tech on a Thursday night. It would be the Hokies and Yellow Jackets’ fourth Thursday night meeting in the past six seasons and sixth since 2004. Virginia Tech topped Georgia Tech 17-10 on a Thursday night in September the last time the pair met in Atlanta in 2013.

Barber wrote the previous Hokies athletics director Jim Weaver was weary of hosting Thursday night games because of the burden it placed on Virginia Tech’s older fans getting to and from Blacksburg on a weeknight, but “new athletic director Whit Babcock has requested to the ACC and ESPN to host Thursday night games every season.”

Virginia Tech hosts N.C. State, Duke, North Carolina and Pittsburgh in home ACC games in 2015. The Hokies will get to scratch their weeknight itch on Labor Day evening as defending national champion Ohio State visits Blacksburg on Sept. 7.

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Two ex-Vanderbilt players found guilty in rape trial

The trial of former Vanderbilt players Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey concluded Tuesday with both players being found guilty of all charges. The pair was on trial together but were represented by different lawyers.

The pair was accused of a July 2013 rape, along with two other players – Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie and Brandon Banks - who still await trial.

Deputy district attorney Tom Thurman told the jury the accused thought their status as Vanderbilt football players allowed them to escape justice. “That’s the culture that you really saw here. Their mindset that they can get away with anything,” Thurman said.

The jury deliberated for close to three hours and found both men guilty of all seven counts of aggravated rape or sexual battery. Vandenburg, who was accused of initiating the events of that fateful day, also faced two more counts of tampering with evidence and unlawful photography.

Sentencing is set for March 6.

“I was just drunk out of my mind,” Batey said Monday. “This is something I would never do in my right state of mind. I’m just sorry.”

Vanderburg’s attorney Fletcher Long argued his client took pictures of the acts but did not participate himself. “He took photographs that he never should have taken,” said Long.

 

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Duke promotes Matt Guerrieri from GA to full-time assistant

Matt Guerrieri

The dream of every graduate assistant in college football is to earn a full-time spot on the coaching staff he spends 100 hours a week working for. Few will realize this dream. But Matt Guerrieri realized that dream on Tuesday.

Head coach David Cutcliffe announced the promotion of Guerrieri from graduate assistant to full-time assistant in a to-be-determined role.

“We’re very excited to promote Matt Guerrieri into one of our nine assistant coaching positions,” Cutcliffe said in a statement.  “Matt is an exceptional young coach with an extremely bright future ahead of him.  He hasn’t been your typical graduate assistant coach for us in that he’s coached our safeties for the past two seasons and done a terrific job.  This promotion is especially gratifying because of the way Matt has handled his business over the past three years in our program.  He is very deserving of this opportunity and I know he’ll take full advantage of it.”

Duke notes that Guerrieri aided Jeremy Cash to two second-team All-America nods and DeVon Edwards to an All-ACC nod this fall. Edwards ranked second on the club with 133 tackles and also posted 7.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, one interception and five forced fumbles. Cash recorded 235 tackles, 20 TFLs, 5.5 sacks and six interceptions over the past two seasons.

Duke ranked 23rd in pass efficiency defense this fall and 42nd in yards per play allowed.

The addition of Guerrieri will require some shuffling for the Blue Devils’ defensive staff. Duke is without a defensive line coach after Rick Petri took the same job at Louisiana Tech last week.

(Photo credit: @Duke_FB)

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James Franklin asked Herb Hand to cut back on Twitter beef with Pitt

James Franklin

Penn State and Pittsburgh will finally resume their series on the football field in 2016 with the start of a four-game series between the instate rivals. The build-up to that renewal of the series should continue to build in recruiting battles between the coaches at both schools, but James Franklin has asked one of his assistants to cool off a little bit on Twitter.

During a live interview with ESPN on “College Football Live” Tuesday afternoon Franklin said he asked offensive line coach Herb Hand to step back from some indirect Twitter exchanges with his counterpart at Pittsburgh, John Peterson. The two offensive line coaches had exchanged in some amusing exchanges over the last week as both coaches are looking to make an impact and plant a flag in the state of Pennsylvania.

If you missed that fun, it started when Peterson shared this image on Twitter…

… and Hand responded on his own account…

It escalated a little from there with a few more tweets from each offensive line coach. Fans of both schools enjoyed the exchanges, and why not? It was done in good fun, or so it seemed. Either way, perhaps it is best to bring things under some control before things turn ugly.

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Busted Sooner: Safety Hatari Byrd cited for drug and alcohol offenses

Russell Athletic Bowl - Clemson v Oklahoma Getty Images

Oklahoma safety Hatari Byrd will have some explaining to do to Sooners head coach Bob Stoops after being given two citations for drug and alcohol misdemeanor offenses.

As reported by The Tulsa World, police observed Byrd speeding and swerving over lanes early in the morning of January 24. After pulling Byrd over, police discovered a small plastic bag of marijuana and a bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey in the front of the car. Byrd was cited for drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of alcohol.

These offenses appear to be minor in nature, and it is unknown if Byrd will face any further disciplinary action from Stoops and the Oklahoma program.

Byrd, a junior, recorded 17 tackles for the Sooners in 2014.

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Does winning a national title really give you a boost in recruiting? (Yes)

Urban Meyer, Nick Saban

Ohio State has been sitting on top of the Big Ten recruiting rankings for a number of years now. According to the team rankings from Rivals, Ohio State has had the top class in the Big Ten each of the past four seasons and all but one year since the Class of 2008. Rivals ranked Penn State’s Class of 2010 ahead of the rest of the Big Ten, with Ohio State coming in third (Michigan was No. 2).The Buckeyes look to be locking up another top class in the Big Ten, which should come as no surprise to those who follow recruiting. Urban Meyer and his staff have been recruiting juggernauts and now they have a push that comes from a national championship.

How much push does a national champion get in recruiting? Since 2003, six national championship teams have seen their team recruiting ranking dip in the ensuing recruiting rankings. Unfortunately, it is unfair to compare one recruiting season to the next as needs change, which leads to a shift in recruiting emphasis on a year-to-year basis. That said, there is no question a team winning a national championship has an extra card to play on the recruiting trail. And, sometimes, teams winning a national title have a recruiting ranking that is so high it is extremely difficult to maintain it or improve upon it the following year.

Unless you are Nick Saban.

Here is a look at the champions of the BCS era and how their recruiting class compared from the recruiting class before winning the championship and immediately after. This list starts with the Class of 2003, the first season we can compare recruiting rankings from the previous season using Rivals.

2003 BCS Champion: LSU Tigers

Rivals Class of 2003 Rank: 1

Rivals Class of 2004 Rank: 2 (-1)

Nick Saban flexed his recruiting muscles at LSU. Equipped with a coaching staff that included offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, the Tigers brought in the nation’s top class in 2003. That season LSU went on to win the BCS national championship. The Tigers followed that up with a stellar recruiting class, but one that was beat out by USC, who had been recognized as the Associated Press national championship that same season.

2004 BCS Champion: USC Trojans

Rivals Class of 2004 Rank: 1

Rivals Class of 2005 Rank: 1 (-)

USC has always been a traditional recruiting power, but winning the national title (which would later be vacated of course), helped keep Pete Carroll and his Trojans to the top.

2005 BCS Champion: Texas

Rivals Class of 2005 Rank: 20

Rivals Class of 2006 Rank: 5 (+15) 

No team saw as big a boost in the recruiting rankings following a championship as Texas did following a BCS Championship Game victory over USC in what many call the best college football game in history, if not just the modern era or BCS era. Mack Brown may have lost steam in recruiting in the years to come, but for one season the Longhorns were ahead of the Sooners.

2006 BCS Champion: Florida

Rivals Class of 2006 Rank: 2

Rivals Class of 2007 Rank: 1 (+1)

Urban Meyer‘s arrival in Gainesville had a mighty impact. Meyer reignited the recruiting efforts at Florida, and winning a national title sent Florida to the top of the SEC and, perhaps more importantly, kept the Gators ahead of Florida State. Florida did not have much room to go, but the Gators overtook USC for the top spot in the recruiting rankings after winning the first of the SEC’s seven straight BCS trophies.

2007 BCS Champion: LSU

Rivals Class of 2007 Rank: 4

Rivals Class of 2008 Rank: 11 (-7)

What we are about to see is that winning a national championship does not always result in a recruiting boost in terms of team rankings. LSU’s second national championship was followed by a seven spot drop in the recruiting rankings, but Les Miles and his program still signed a quality class.

2008 BCS Champion: Florida

Rivals Class of 2008 Rank: 3

Rivals Class of 2009 Rank: 11 (-8)

After winning a second BCS title in three season you might have thought Meyer and Florida would be set up for years of sustained success in recruiting. As we know, the opposite proved to be the case for the Gators and the program continues to try and rebuild to this level. Meyer’s second BCS title was followed up by the biggest drop in the team recruiting rankings. Not only did Florida drop behind SEC foes like Alabama, LSU and Georgia, but Florida State moved back ahead of the Gators as well.

2009 BCS Champion: Alabama

Rivals Class of 2009 Rank: 1

Rivals Class of 2010 Rank: 5 (-4)

With Saban back in the recruiting game, the Tide were not likely to stay down for long. Alabama started to rise in the recruiting rankings as soon as Saban took over and actually suffered a drop in the team rankings after winning the national title in the 2009 season. Of course, Alabama had nowhere to go but down after signing the top-ranked class the previous season.

2010 BCS Champion: Auburn

Rivals Class of 2010 Rank: 4

Rivals Class of 2011 Rank: 7 (-3) 

Auburn actually spiked in the recruiting rankings the previous recruiting cycle. though the Tigers dropped in the recruiting rankings and failed to receive a boost, Auburn was still bringing in a top 10 class.

2011 BCS Champion: Alabama

Rivals Class of 2011 Rank: 1

Rivals Class of 2012 Rank: 1 (-)

Alabama’s current streak of dominance in the recruiting rankings began with the Class of 2011. After winning a second national championship in three years, Alabama was once again back on top of the recruiting world and Saban’s Tide have yet to be knocked from its perch to this day.

2012 BCS Champion: Alabama

Rivals Class of 2012 Rank: 1

Rivals Class of 2013 Rank: 1 (-)

Three titles in four years is hard to beat, and Alabama has become extremely hard to beat in the rankings. For the second time, Alabama repeated atop the recruiting rankings under Saban with a national championship to show off.

2013 BCS Champion: Florida State

Rivals Class of 2013 Rank: 10

Rivals Class of 2014 Rank: 4 (+6)

Florida State had never faded too far out of the elite national recruiting spotlight, but winning a national championship (against an SEC program no less) certainly helped boost Florida State back toward the top.

2014 College Football Playoff National Champion: Ohio State

Rivals Class of 2014 Rank: 3

Rivals Class of 2015 Rank: 7 (-4)

Ohio State is on pace to be the third team to not receive a boost in the recruiting rankings following a national title, although it should also be noted that recruiting is different from year to year. For example, Ohio State does not need to go after a star quarterback with the stock available already, and big time skill players tend to influence the rankings as well. Ohio State is still firm atop the Big Ten rankings, so schools like Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan State still have some work to do.

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Where did your team get its 2015 starting QB?

Cody Kessler

While many college football fans may not have a clue who will be the team’s starting quarterback in 2015 (Ohio State, LSU to name two), a handful of fans have a pretty good grip on which player will be taking snaps under center in the fall (USC, Penn State). No matter what the state of your team’s quarterback position is today, odds are probably pretty good your team’s starting quarterback came from California, Texas or Florida.

Athlon Sports did some digging through the recruiting archives to compile some stats on where starting quarterbacks were being found. Without much of a shock, California, Texas and Florida tend to be the most fertile quarterback recruiting grounds for power conference schools. Between the 65 power conference schools, 26 projected starting quarterbacks come from one of those three states. One interesting nugget from that research showed just one of the FBS programs in the state of Florida will likely have a starting quarterback from the state of Florida.

There are some other good pieces of information in the research by Athlon Sports. For example, the Big 12 seems to find most starting quarterbacks within its own footprint (hello there Texas), while the SEC, ACC and Big Ten all spread out to find quarterbacks from 11 different states.

Dig a little deeper into the research over on Athlon Sports.

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Nebraska recruit says Michigan’s Greg Mattison “tried to call me stupid to my face”

Indiana v Michigan

Nebraska defensive end Daishon Neal is committed to join the Nebraska Cornhuskers when National Signing Day comes next week. The Omaha native gave the Cornhuskers his verbal commitment last April and has stayed true to that even while evaluating other options following a coaching change in Lincoln. Michigan, with Jim Harbaugh and a newly assembled staff, have been one of those options until a recent recruiting pitch from the Wolverines turned sour for Neal.

Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison, who opted to stay on board as a Michigan assistant coach under a reduced and more focused role on the staff, made a visit to Neal and his family on Monday night. The hope was being able to sell Neal and his family on flipping to Michigan as the Wolverines try to give the Class of 2015 in Ann Arbor a late boost. The effort did not go so well for Mattison, who may have crossed a line with regards to academics.

According to a quote from Neal’s father, Abraham Hoskins Jr., on a local radio station in Omaha (1620 The Zone), Mattison said Neal would not be able to get into Michigan if not for football. Per a transcription from MLive.com;

“Michigan was a powerhouse, they came in and they stormed us, they made one bad statement and it was over,” Hoskins told 1620 on air. “They said without football, Daishon wouldn’t be able to go to Michigan. Like we couldn’t afford to send him there, or that we couldn’t get him in academically.

“Once he said that, we pretty much escorted him out of the house.”

Neal added his own summary of the interaction, telling the station “(They) basically tried to call me stupid in front of my face.”

Neal is a three-star recruit according to Rivals. He is also considered the top prospect in the state of Nebraska and he confirmed his commitment to the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

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Marcus Mariota’s brother is heading to Oregon

Marcus Mariota

Oregon may be losing one Mariota, but the family legacy has a chance to continue with the Ducks this fall. Matthew Mariota, the younger brother of Heisman Trophy quarterback Marcus Mariota, will sign a National Letter of Intent to Oregon next week on National Signing Day.

KHON in Hawaii reports the younger Mariota will likely be a preferred walk-on at Oregon. The 6′ 3″, 220-pound defensive end is not a player with much of a scouting report from the major recruiting services, but there is no question he has the name recognition after what his brother managed to do at Oregon. Matthew Mariota has played outside linebacker as well as defensive end so there is a chance he could provide some flexibility for the Oregon defense. If he be developed to the same kind of level his brother reached, then Oregon may be getting a pure steal in the recruiting class. If nothing else, it helps keep Oregon’s pipeline pumping in Hawaii.

Marcus Mariota was a Class of 2011 recruit with a three-star ranking according to his Rivals profile. Obviously, Mariota was developed by the Oregon coaching staff led by Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich, and he blossomed into one of the top players in the country, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2014 and leading Oregon to a Pac-12 championship and berth in the first College Football Playoff national championship game.

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Ohio’s leading tackler Poling arrested for fighting

Ohio v Louisville Getty Images

Ohio redshirt linebacker Quentin Poling was arrested early Sunday morning for fighting outside an Athens pizza shop. Poling was one of two men arrested after police showed up on the scene.

According to a report by The Athens News, police responded to a call at 1:50 a.m. on Sunday and observed a large crowd of people outside a local establishment as a fight was starting. Two men, one said to be intoxicated according to the police report, were identified and taken to Athens Police Department. Charges related to fighting were levied against the two men. It is unconfirmed which man was the intoxicated individual in the police report.

Poling led Ohio with 89 tackles in 2014, including 55 solo tackles. Poling also had a team-high three interceptions last fall.

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Oregon governor makes good on CFB Playoff championship wager

Urban Meyer

Ohio State defeated Oregon in the first College Football Playoff national championship just two weeks ago, and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber did not delay on making good on a friendly wager.

The Columbus Dispatch says Kitzhaber’s shipment to Ohio Governor John Kasich arrived Monday, thus fulfilling his side of the bet prior to Ohio State and Oregon clashing in the national championship game. The prize for the Ohio governor following the Buckeyes victory was a package of cheese, honey and jam. A six-pack of a locally brewed product is still on the way.

Had Oregon won its first national championship in school history, the Ohio governor would have sent a shipment of a six-pack of a local Ohio brew, buckeye candy and lasagna.

Gov. Kasich can send that my way if he wants.

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Pair of Iowa running backs cited for a disorderly house

Two Iowa running backs were cited for a disorderly house, but it is not because they failed to clean up the pizza boxes and dust the furniture.

Iowa redshirt freshmen Jonathan Parker and Akrum Wadley were cited by police Saturday night after being called to respond to a complaint about a noise disturbance. Police discovered  a large gathering of people, and a scent of marijuana was reported to be stemming from the residence. According to a report from Iowa City Press-Citizen, both players were released later that night.

Parker and Wadley were apparently responsible for the party, but nothing beyond the disorderly house citation has been dropped on either player. As far as crimes and violations go in the offseason, this is hardly much reason for much concern given the information available at this time.

Parker rushed for 141 yards and one touchdown for the Hawkeyes in 2014. Wadley rushed for 186 yards and a touchdown after appearing in eight games in 2014.

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