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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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Louisville congratulates Bridgewater on first NFL win with billboard

Teddy Bridgewater

Former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater got his first start in the NFL on Sunday afternoon for the Minnesota Vikings. He was injured in the game, but he got the job done before having his first start end early. Everyone, it seems, is sending him congrats this week, including Louisville.

As seen in Minneapolis, this digital billboard message congratulates the former Louisville Cardinal on his first start and victory with the Vikings.

Bridgewater went 19-of-30 for 317 yards to help the Vikings defeat the Atlanta Falcons, 41-28. He was carted off the field with a sprained ankle on Sunday and underwent a MRI on Monday. It remains unknown if he will be playing Thursday night, for those college football fans looking to kill some time before Oregon and Arizona kick off.

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Will Brady Hoke reach the end of the season?

Brady Hoke

The temperature is boiling in Ann Arbor for head coach Brady Hoke and athletics director Dave Brandon. Will either of these two men be able to hold onto their jobs through the entire football season?

Noted Michigan football historian and author John Bacon feels somewhat confident in suggesting Hoke’s job will be safe for the remainder of the season, but an evaluation will likely take place after that. As for Brandon, well…

I asked Bacon for a quick clarification. He says a change of head coach is still likely, but it will not happen or begin to take place during the course of the season.

This seems to make sense, if you believe change is inevitable at Michigan. If the university feels the leadership needs a change starting at the AD position, why let go of the football coach now and allow the AD a chance to hire the next head coach? This would be similar to a major league baseball team allowing a lame duck general manager to hire a new manager and make some trades. Hoke may very well be on his way out at the end of the season unless he finds a way to get the Wolverines to rattle off a winning streak and Big Ten championship nobody sees coming. But for the state of the football program, not much will be better by making a change at head coach now compared to the end of the season. It is a different situation with an athletics director.

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Pac-12 offers another reason to lose sleep Thursday night

Oregon v Arizona

The Pac-12 has been serving up plenty of excitement for college football fans choosing to stay up late and sacrifice a few hours of sleep on Thursday nights this season. In week one we saw Rutgers and Washington State trade blows on college football’s first Thursday night. The following week saw Arizona take to the road to escape San Antonio with a win over UTSA. Last week rewarded late-night viewers with the first dominant performance by UCLA of the season, on the road at Arizona State on a Thursday night.

There may be some concerns about the Pac-12’s late night kickoffs, but there is no disputing the games have been worth staying up for from an entertainment standpoint. The Thursday night game this weekend could be another. No. 2 Oregon hosts Arizona in a cross-division match-up between 4-0 teams with a revenge factor on the line. Arizona snapped Oregon’s Rose Bowl dreams last year in blowout fashion.

The game is scheduled to kickoff at 10:30 p.m. on the east coast. Degenerates like me will be going against the east coast bias narrative and staying up to watch it, but how important is it that the nation’s second-ranked team is playing so late, when the majority of the potential east coast viewership will be going to bed well before the game is over? Should this continue to be a concern for the Pac-12? Will voters be influenced purely by the score because they didn’t stay up to watch the Ducks and Wildcats?

Ultimately, the concern as far as a playoff standpoint should be a non-issue, if you believe the members of the selection committee for the College Football Playoff are doing their due diligence. But from a conference standpoint, it feels as though the Pac-12 misses out on an opportunity to showcase one of the banner programs in the conference the last few years. A game involving two 4-0 teams deserves a better primetime slot for a larger audience, does it not?

This goes back to one of the problems the Pac-12 has been facing. The conference is improving its football brand. Teams are better and the conference should be going the extra mile to ensure more potential viewers get a chance to see them. By kicking off half past ten o’clock in the night, the reach has to be decreasing. Or is it?

Thursday night is highly competitive for college football now that the NFL has a weekly game on Thursday nights. This week the college football card of UCF-Houston and FAU-FIU will likely be squashed by the NFL match-up between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Throw in some playoff baseball (Baltimore Orioles hosting Detroit Tigers in the early game and Los Angeles Angels hosting the Kansas City Royals in the later game), and you can see why the Pac-12 may not be too upset having Oregon and Arizona kicking off at 10:30 p.m. The Pac-12’s core audience is on the west coast, so the time difference is not as much a concern to them. By the time Oregon and Arizona kick off, the NFL will be in the second half (and given the track record for Thursday night football this season, the game will be ugly and fans will be looking for something different), the two other college games will be wrapping up and the only real competition for viewers will be with baseball.

What will you be watching Thursday night?

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LSU transfer among two Arizona players leaving team

UNLV v Arizona

Jordan Allen‘s stay in the desert didn’t last nearly as long as expected.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, the defensive end was one of two Arizona football players to leave the football program recently.  No reason was given for the decision, although the Star did indicate that Allen (pictured, left) is likely done with football.

Allen started the first game of the year for the Wildcats, although his playing time has dipped dramatically since.  It’s unclear if that was the impetus for his decision.

In early April of this year, Allen left LSU seeking a transfer.  At the end of that month, he landed at Arizona.

Allen’s decision to transfer from the Tigers earlier this spring was reportedly more about academics than football as the lineman he couldn’t get into grad school at LSU after receiving his bachelor’s degree.

Allen entered the 2013 season as a starting end before losing that job. He ultimately played in all 13 games for the Tigers after missing most of the 2012 season with a knee injury.

A four-star member of LSU’s 2010 recruiting class, Allen was rated as the No. 10 strongside end in the country coming out of high school in West Monroe, Louisiana.

In addition to Allen, linebacker Mekani Kema-Kaleiwahea has left the program as well.  Kema-Kaleiwahea, who would like to transfer to a place closer to his home in Hawaii, has been buried on the depth chart after competing in summer camp for a starting job.

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Former UCF assistant on O’Leary: ‘a racist he is not’

George O'Leary AP

A former assistant of George O’Leary‘s has come to the defense of the UCF head coach.

In a lawsuit filed by Paul Ferraro late last week, the former UCF defensive coordinator accused O’Leary of making racist remarks and creating a work environment “permeated by bullying, threatening behavior, and repeated discriminatory epithets.” While O’Leary has not yet responded to the accusations, David Kelly has.

In an interview with FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman, the former Knights wide receivers coach, who’s black, was incredulous when discussing the accusations made against his former boss by Ferraro, who he also considers a friend.

“I never have heard (O’Leary) say anything that could be interpreted as derogatory, degrading, or slightly disrespectful regarding any race, or sect of people,” Kelly told Feldman. “George O’Leary is a lot of things to a lot of people, I’m sure, but a racist he is not.

“I worked for him for many years, and no, I didn’t always agree with everything he did, but I have always had the utmost respect for him.

“Many things that I practice today, in all walks of my life, are derived from many of the things that I learned from him.”

Ferraro, who maintained in the suit that he’s owed $15,000 by UCF, wrote in an email to O’Leary and the staff at the time that “[n]o longer will I put up with your constant verbal abuse of both our coaching and support staff. Threatening coaches on a regular basis with their jobs and racial slurs mixed in to make a point is wrong.” Ferraro was hired in late December of last year and left in early March; the school claims he resigned, the coach claims he was fired.

Kelly resigned in November of 2011 amidst a cloud of NCAA controversy, and acknowledged that he “[o]bviously wasn’t present during any of the interchanges that [O'Leary] had with Paul at UCF.”

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Syracuse’s second-leading receiver already ruled out of UofL game

Syracuse v Northwestern Getty Images

For the second consecutive week, Syracuse will be without a top threat in its passing game.

Tuesday, offensive coordinator George McDonald confirmed Ashton Broyld will not be available for the Orange’s game Friday against Louisville. Broyld suffered an unspecified lower-leg injury in the loss to Maryland and did not play in the loss to Notre Dame last weekend.

The original prognosis was for the junior wide receiver to miss a couple of weeks, so this doesn’t exactly come as a surprise to the staff.

“He was out there running around so he’s pushing his rehab to get out there,” McDonald said, “but I think he still might be another week or so away.”

Barring a setback, Broyld should return for the October 11 game against Florida State.

At the time of the injury, Broyld was tops on the team with 11 receptions and was second with 125 receiving yards. Broyld’s now tied for second and fourth, respectively, in those categories.

Last season, Broyld led the team last year in both categories (52-452).

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Big Ten issues statement on autonomy recommendations

Big Ten Logo

Wednesday, the ACC released a statement laying out its priorities for the Power Five’s looming autonomy structure.  A day later, yet another league heavyweight has done the same.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Big Ten laid out its own point-by-point agenda for further enhancing the benefits of student-athletes.  Not so surprisingly, the agenda is almost a mirror image of the one laid out by the ACC, and what’s been discussed ad nauseam over the past year or two.

As there is no new territory plowed in the Big Ten’s statement, it’s presented below without commentary.  Do with it and discuss it as you will:

The Big Ten Conference announced today that it has notified the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of initial recommendations designed to provide enhanced benefits for student-athletes that are members in good standing with their individual universities as part of the NCAA’s new autonomy governance structure.

For the past two years, the conference has publicly stated its desire to continue providing student-athletes with an unmatched educational and athletic experience, including comments made by Commissioner James E. Delany at the July 2013 Big Ten Football Media Days, at the Collegiate Commissioners Association meeting on September 25, 2013, at the July 2014 Big Ten Football Media Days, and in statements issued by the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors on June 1, 2014 and June 24, 2014.

The Big Ten will work to implement the following proposals through individual institutional action, conference-wide action or under the NCAA autonomy governance structure:
Cost of Education: Redefine full grant-in-aid to meet a student-athlete’s cost of education, as determined by the federal government.
Multi-Year Scholarships: Guarantee all scholarships. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be no impact on institutions’ commitment to deliver an undergraduate education.
Lifetime Educational Commitment: Ensure that scholarships are available for life. If a student-athlete leaves a university for a professional career before graduating, whether the career materializes, and regardless of its length, the scholarship will be honored after his or her playing days are complete.
Medical Insurance: Provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes.

The Big Ten has also agreed to address additional student-athlete welfare issues including, but not limited to, health and safety, time demands and comprehensive academic support by way of a “Resolution” that creates a specific pathway and timeline for implementation.

The Big Ten Conference is an association of 14 world-class universities committed to the pursuit and attainment of athletic and academic excellence. Big Ten institutions feature broad-based athletic programs which provide nearly $200 million in direct financial aid to almost 9,500 student-athletes on 350 teams in 42 different sports.

We look forward to working with the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC through the NCAA autonomy governance structure toward adoption and implementation of these proposals.

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All signs pointing to Blake Sims starting for ‘Bama vs. Ole Miss

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

While acknowledging early last week that he was “a little bruised” and “sore,” Blake Sims was very emphatic that he would be “very fine” and available for a key SEC West matchup coming off a bye week.

As it turns out, the Alabama quarterback knew exactly what he was talking about.  Probably.

Sims suffered an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder in the third quarter of the Sept. 20 win over Florida,  but did return to the game after missing a series to put a bow on a record-setting performance.  In the days leading up to the bye weekend, Sims was very limited in practice as the team looked to get him healthy.

Head coach Nick Saban said Monday that Sims returned to throwing a football very late last week.  Now, with the Ole Miss game just three days away, all of the signs are pointing to Sims being under center when the Tide takes the field against the Rebels.

Blake has done really well in practice,” Saban said on the SEC head coaches teleconference Wednesday. “He hasn’t had any issues this week so far in terms of being able to throw the ball. We’re really pleased with the way he’s progressed. He’s been able to take all the reps he’s prescribed to take. We’re pleased with that.”

Should Sims suffer a setback, Florida State transfer Jacob Coker would make his first career ‘Bama start. That, though, doesn’t appear likely.

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Colorado State shuts down starting TE/H-back for rest of season

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In early September, Jim McElwain labeled Kivon Cartwright‘s availability as week-to-week because of injury. Unfortunately for the starting tight end/H-back, the prognosis is no longer nearly as optimistic.

Following Tuesday’s practice, the head coach revealed that Cartwright will be forced to undergo additional surgery on his injured ankle. The procedure will cost Cartwright the remainder of the 2014 season.

Cartwright has been dealing with the ankle issue since the offseason.

“We’re going to go ahead and actually go back in and re-tighten up that screw, because it didn’t heal properly,” McElwain said. “For his best interests on that, it just never healed right. So we’re going to go back in and fix it so everything’s right for the rest of his life.”

Cartwright played in the opener against Colorado — one catch, 22 yards — but hasn’t played since. Last season, he was fourth on the team in receptions (27) and receiving yards (462). His six receiving touchdowns tied for the team lead.

Because this is the second season he’s missed because of injury — he didn’t play as a true freshman — Cartwright could seek a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA. McElwain said that’s something that will be addressed after the 2014 season is complete.

Steven Walker, Cartwright’s replacement, is currently second on the Rams with 14 receptions and third in receiving yards with 157.  His two touchdown catches are tied for second on the team.

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Michigan going back to Devin Gardner at QB

Devin Gardner

Not so unexpectedly, Michigan is going back to its recent past at the most important position on the field.

Wednesday, embattled UM head coach Brady Hoke confirmed Devin Gardner will get the start at quarterback for Saturday’s game against Rutgers.  Prior to being benched in favor of Shane Morris in the loss to Minnesota last week, Gardner had started 16 of the previous 17 games for the Wolverines.

In his four starts this season, Gardner has thrown six interceptions against just five touchdowns.  In a pair of 2014 starts against Power Five teams, Gardner has tossed five picks and zero touchdowns.

Morris suffered a concussion and lower-leg injury in his first regular-season start after Gardner was benched.  It was the former injury and the football program’s botching of it that led to calls for both Hoke and athletic director Dave Brandon to be fired.

Hoke has defended the handling of the situation, while president Mark Schlissel apologized and admitted that the situation wasn’t handled properly.  In the wake of the fiasco, UM is reviewing its injury protocols, particularly as it relates to head injuries, although no sanctions from the Big Ten are expected.

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Bonnafon gets starting call again at QB for Louisville

Reggie Bonnafon AP

For the second week in a row, Louisville will be sans its starting quarterback for a conference game.

On a teleconference Wednesday, Bobby Petrino confirmed that Will Gardner will not start Friday’s game against Syracuse.  Petrino did allow that “[t]here’s a chance [Gardner] will be available” in an emergency-type situation.

“Will was out there last night and did more in practice,” Petrino said. “Reports from the training room this morning was there was limited swelling so we get a chance to get him out today at practice again.”

Gardner suffered a left knee injury in the win against FIU.  He left in the third quarter didn’t return.

With Gardner out, at least at the beginning, Reggie Bonnafon will make his second consecutive start.

In his first collegiate start against Wake Forest, a 20-10 win, Bonnafon completed 16-of-32 passes for 206 yards. He had no touchdowns but also no interceptions. The true freshman added 46 yards on the ground against the Demon Deacons; in the first four games, Gardner ran for minus-72, so obviously Bonnafon adds a dimension that the starter doesn’t possess.

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Pair of Fresno State DBs, including Arizona transfer, quit team

Fresno State v USC Getty Images

Fresno State’s secondary depth took an unexpected twin hit Tuesday.

According to head coach Tim DeRuyter in a press release sent out late Tuesday night, both cornerback Bryan Harper and free safety Justin Holmes have decided to quit the Bulldogs football team. The moves apparently came from out of the blue, at least publicly.

The pair left due to unspecified personal reasons.

“We appreciate their contributions and we wish them well in the future,” DeRuyter said in a statement.

Harper transferred to Fresno State from Arizona in 2013 and sat out that season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  The decision to leave came after Harper had started the first two games of the season.  The Fresno Bee wrote that Harper “was excused from practice on Monday while at home in Los Angeles to tend to a family issue.”

Coming out of high school in Ontario, California, Harper was a three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2012 recruiting class.

Holmes, meanwhile, didn’t record a tackle this year after redshirting as a true freshman last season.  He was a no-show at practice Monday.

Neither Harper nor Holmes was listed on the most recent two-deep depth chart.

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Terps’ starting QB C.J. Brown game-day decision vs. Buckeyes

Maryland v Indiana Getty Images

If you want and/or need to know who will be under center when Maryland takes the field against Ohio State Saturday, you’ll have to wait a couple of more days.

C.J. Brown suffered an injury to his left (non-throwing) wrist in the win over Indiana Saturday.  He left that game and didn’t return.

Will the starting quarterback return for the Buckeyes?

“We’ll find out on game day” is all head coach Randy Edsall would allow on Brown’s Week 6 status.

Should Brown be a no-go for the Terps’ second-ever Big Ten game, Caleb Rowe would get the start. Replacing the injured Brown, Rowe completed 67 percent of his passes for 198 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 37-15 win over the Hoosiers.  That performance left Edsall proud of and confident in Rowe.

“I think we’ve been blessed to have that happen at a number of positions this year, with guys,” the coach said. “Very proud of Caleb for staying engaged and being ready and knowing that when his number was called he came in and did the job that he was expected to do.”

The Associated Press also notes that, if Brown sits, it would mark the eight straight season the Terps failed to have a quarterback start every game. The last quarterback to start every game in a single season was Sam Hollenbach in 2006.

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Man body-slammed by Ohio State coach loses scholarship

Indiana v Ohio State Getty Images

For those of you who read the latest edition of the Fifth Quarter, you may have noticed we mentioned an Ohio State assistant coach and former Buckeyes linebacker, Anthony Schlegel, “taking care” of a student with a “Night Train Necktie” who had run onto the field during the Cincinnati game.

As it turns out, there’s more to the story. A lot more.

The student in question, Anthony Wunder, pleaded not guilty to a charge of criminal trespassing Tuesday in the Franklin County Municipal Court. If Wunder is convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of a $250 fine and 30 days in jail.

That legal issue might not be the worst of Wunder’s problems, however, as the Columbus Dispatch explains.

[Attorney Mark] Collins said that Wunder was told today by the Evans Scholars program that Wunder has lost his scholarship with the program and said Wunder is no longer living in the Evans Scholars house.

Collins, however, said that Wunder remains enrolled as a student at Ohio State. He is a fourth-year student in a five-year engineering program, Collins said.

The nonprofit Evans Scholars Foundation gives academic awards for college students who have served as golf caddies.

Head coach Urban Meyer said he had a conversation with his assistant following the game.

“In all seriousness, I grabbed Anthony last night,” the head coach said Monday. “I appreciate him protecting our players. I would rather him not have a lawsuit if something bad would happen, you drill a guy like that.

“So we had a partial-serious conversation. And then we also gave him a Hit City Award, our team, and had a little fun with it, too.”

Speaking of a lawsuit…

“Those are things we’re going to look at and issues we’re going to address,” said Collins, Wunder’s attorney, when asked if the tackle by Schlegel was too hard. Of course, if his client wasn’t on the field illegally, the tackle never would’ve happened.

Anyway, for those who haven’t seen it, below is a Vine of the incident in question as well as an epic picture of the hit.

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Davis Webb returns to practice; status for K-State game uncertain

Texas Tech v Oklahoma State Getty Images

Earlier this week, Kliff Kingsbury labeled Davis Webb as day-to-day due to injury.  Even as that remains the case, Webb took a positive step toward getting back on the playing field immediately.

A school spokesperson confirmed to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that the starting quarterback practiced with the team Tuesday.   Webb had been spotted by the media wearing full football gear and leaving the practice field with his teammates.

Webb suffered an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder in the loss to Oklahoma State Thursday night.  He had not practiced since suffering the injury, and his status for the Kansas State game Saturday remains unknown.  The Avalanche-Journal did write the fact “[t]hat Webb practiced was a positive sign, given that Tuesday and Wednesday are the Red Raiders’ heaviest game-preparation days.”

Through four games, Webb is second among Big 12 quarterbacks in passing yards per game (339) and passing touchdowns (14) and is third in passing efficiency (146.2).

Should Webb be unable to go, true freshman Patrick Mahomes would get his first career start. Mahomes made his collegiate debut replacing the injured Webb against the Cowboys, completing 2-of-5 passes for 20 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  He also ran seven times for 16 yards, with a long of 14.

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