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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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Pac-12 paces Lott IMPACT quarterfinalists

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

You know you how you can tell another season is quickly beginning to wind down?  Awards begin to whittle their lengthy preseason watch lists down to quarterfinalists or semifinalists.

The first to get down to its quarterfinalists was the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which announced its group of 20 Wednesday.  There were two quarterfinalists from a year ago that made the cut this time around: Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks.

The Pac-12 led all conferences with seven players selected.  The ACC and SEC had four players apiece, while the Big Ten and Big 12 had two each.  There were no players from the Non-Power Five conferences as Notre Dame claims the remaining player.

Washington was the only school with two players included.

Linebackers and defensive ends had the most players for positions with eight and six, respectively.  Cornerbacks, safeties and defensive tackles accounted for two apiece.

The Lott Trophy, named after Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, is presented annually to the player who best embodies the award’s six tenets — Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity. Last year’s winner was UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.

Eight semifinalists for the award will be announced Nov. 11. In a release, the award states that “four finalists will fly to Newport Beach for a black-tie gala at the Pacific Club on Dec. 14 where the winner will be announced.”

Below is the complete list of 20 Lott IMPACT quarterfinalists.

Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Henry Coley, LB, Virginia
Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
Michael Doctor, LB, Oregon State
Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
David Helton, LB, Duke
A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Hau’oli Kikaha, DE, Washington
Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State
Jordan Richards, S, Stanford
Deterrian Shackelford, LB, Ole Miss
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Leonard Williams, DT, USC

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‘Extremely doubtful’ Wyoming’s injured leading tackler returns in ’14

Mark Nzeocha, Taylor Graham

Wyoming’s defense will likely have to play the remainder of the 2014 season without one of its leaders on that side of the ball.

Mark Nzeocha suffered what appeared to be a knee injury during last Saturday’s overtime loss to San Jose State. While head coach Craig Bohl wouldn’t specify the exact nature of the injury, he was decidedly pessimistic about the senior linebacker’s availability moving forward.

“The outlook for him to be playing the rest of the year would be extremely doubtful,” the coach said.

Nzeocha currently leads the Cowboys in both tackles (59) and passes broken up (five). He’s tied for the team lead with two sacks and he’s second in tackles for loss with three.

With Nzeocha sidelined, seniors Devyn Harris or Jordan Stanton will likely serve as his replacement.

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Ole Miss, Wake agree to future home-and-home

Dester McCluster, Alphonso Smith AP

It’s not exactly to the level of some of the heavyweight non-conference clashes announced in recent months, but at least it involves a pair of Power Five programs, right?

Anyway, Ole Miss and Wake Forest announced in twin press releases Wednesday that the two football programs have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series. The agreement calls for the teams to meet in Winston-Salem on Sept. 14, 2024 and Oxford, on Sept. 13, 2025.

The two schools have played just twice in football, and those came recently. The Demon Deacons traveled to Oxford in 2006 while the Rebels returned the favor in 2008.

Wake won both matchups, 27-3 in the first and 30-28 in the second.

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One of Cal’s top WRs won’t play vs. Oregon

UCLA v California AP

Cal’s prolific passing attack will be down a weapon for its Week 9 Pac-12 game.

Head coach Sonny Dykes confirmed Tuesday that Trevor Davis will not play in Friday night’s game against Oregon. Davis suffered a neck/head injury in last Saturday’s loss to UCLA.

After being briefly hospitalized, Davis was released. Just how long the wide receiver will be sidelined remains to be seen.

“Luckily all the tests came back good, and his long-term prognosis is good,” Dykes said.

Davis is tied for third on the Bears in receiving yards (360) and receiving touchdowns (four), and is fourth in receptions (21).

The good news for Cal’s offense is that fellow receiver Chris Harper, injured in the same game, will play against the Ducks. Harper’s 25 catches are third on the team.

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John Wolford good to go at QB for Wake

John Wolford, Eric Crume

An injury that knocked John Wolford out of Wake Forest’s last game won’t do the same for the next one.

Dave Clawson confirmed Tuesday that the quarterback will be available and start this Saturday’s game against Boston College.  Wolford suffered a head injury in the loss to Syracuse last weekend.

It was very quickly determined, however, that Wolford did not incur a concussion.  From the Raleigh News & Observer:

“Because the hit was in the head … we were taking zero chances,” Clawson said Tuesday, adding that when Wolford “felt fine” on Sunday, “we knew he was good to go this week.”

Wolford became the first Demon Deacon to start an opener as a true freshman since 1974, but he’s certainly had his growing pains.

His 12 interceptions (in 124 attempts) are tied for second-worst in the country with Texas Tech’s Davis Webb (196 attempts), behind only New Mexico State’s Tyler Rodgers‘ 15 (170 attempts).  With an interception ration of 1:10, he’s fourth-worst in the country behind only Tulane’s Tanner Lee ((one pick every 7.8 attempts), Kansas’ Montell Cozart (one every 8.9 attempts) and Florida’s Jeff Driskel (one every 9.7 attempts) for quarterbacks who have thrown at least 60 passes.

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Barring ‘something unusual,’ Deshaun Watson is starter when healthy

FBC-T25 Clemson Watson AP

And, in other breaking news, water is wet and the sky is blue.

Deshaun Watson underwent surgery earlier this month to repair the hand injury he suffered in Clemson’s Oct. 11 win over Louisville and is expected to be sidelined for up to five weeks.  Most (rightly) assumed that Cole Stoudt would merely be keeping the quarterbacking seat warm before turning the job back over to Watson once healthy.

Tuesday, Watson’s head coach confirmed as much.

“Yeah. Yeah. Deshaun’s the starter. Whenever he’s healthy, he’ll be back out there,” Dabo Swinney said. “Guys don’t lose their jobs because they get hurt. Something unusual would have to happen for that to be the case.

“But we’ll worry about all that when the time comes.”

Swinney’s declaration is a no-brainer as the Tigers’ offense is simply a more explosive and lethal with Watson on the field.

In the two full games the true freshman started — North Carolina Sept. 27, North Carolina State Oct. 4 — the Tigers averaged 45.5 points per game; the last two games against Louisville and Boston College, which includes the one Watson left very early due to injury, the Tigers are averaging 20 points per game.

Watson is currently second in the country in passing efficiency, behind only Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.  Stoudt, meanwhile, is 99th in the same category as he has thrown just one touchdown and two interceptions in his 147 attempts.

Based on the current timeline, Watson will definitely be back no later than the Nov. 15 game against Georgia Tech, the 10th game of the season.  There’s also the chance he could return for the Nov. 6 game against Wake Forest, which comes after the Tigers second and last bye of the season.

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Rutgers WR Ruhann Peele arrested on assault charge back in August

Ruhann Peele, Andrew Adams AP

Nearly two months after it happened, the arrest of a Rutgers football player has surfaced publicly.

According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Ruhann Peele was arrested following an incident Aug. 30.  The wide receiver was subsequently charged with simple assault.  No details of what preceded the arrest and charge have been revealed.

“We are aware of the situation involving Ruhann,” a statement from RU head coach Kyle Flood read. “Due to the fact he has a pending court date, we will not comment until the legal process is complete.”

Peele has not played at all this season due to what’s only been described as an upper-body injury sustained in early August. The Star-Ledger writes that “[h]is absence from football activities, including practice, is 100 percent medically-related at this point, a source familiar with the situation said.”

Whether he heals up in time to play this season and would then face sanctions from the football program for the off-field incident is unknown.

Peele finished fifth on the team last season with 28 catches for 478 yards. He was third on the team when, due to injuries, he was moved from receiver to cornerback in late October for a handful of games.

Entering summer camp, it was expected Peele would be a significant contributor in the passing game in 2014.

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Following arrest, Cincinnati suspends backup QB

players names AP

An off-field incident will likely cost one of Cincinnati’s quarterbacks some game time.

Early Sunday morning, Bearcats backup Jarred Evans was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge shortly after returning from a road win over SMU.  Evans allegedly knocked a man to the ground with a punch, with the alleged victim suffering a concussion and needing stitches.

Evans spent Sunday night in jail before bail was posted Monday.

While Tommy Tuberville said there’s a “[g]ood chance he’s not guilty,” the UC head coach has still indefinitely suspended the player.

“It’s just hard to get through their heads that you are different than everybody else,” Tuberville said according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “You can’t even think about making a mistake or even being close to a mistake. Even if it’s not your fault, you’re still implicated. So, that’s how we handle it and I hope our players on the team see that and understand that and we’ll go from there. …

“I talk to these guys every day about you being a lot more responsible than any other person on campus. They understand that right or wrong, football players, basketball players, athletes across the country are guilty until proven innocent, even in my eyes, because you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Until this season, the JUCO transfer Evans had totaled no stats at the FBS level. In the win over the Mustangs, the 22-year-old Evans rushed for a team-high 67 yards and a touchdown, while also completing both of his pass attempts for 10 yards.

It’s unclear if Evans will be available for Friday’s game against USF.

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Texas could pay student-athletes $10K annually

money AP

Everyone knew there was a new day dawning for collegiate athletics, thanks to autonomy for Power Five conferences and the O’Bannon lawsuit and the like. Part of the change called for increased benefits for all student-athletes in elite conferences specifically, including football players.

Tuesday, one university put a price tag on that change.

At a Big 12 sports forum yesterday, Texas athletic director Steve Patterson revealed that his university will soon begin paying its student-athletes in every sport, male and female. UT expects to spend $6 million annually on the endeavor, which works out to roughly $10,000 per athlete per year.

The Dallas Morning News writes that “[t]he money will cover college expenses that aren’t covered by a traditional full scholarship and give each player $5,000 in compensation for the university’s use of his image.” The latter is in connection to the O’Bannon suit.

While an athletic department like Texas, the most profitable in the country, can merely reach into its couches to cover the added expense, there are others at the forum who intimated that cuts in sports could be one casualty of the payments.

“If we begin to [further] remunerate the participants, that’s going to break that model,” UT women’s sports athletic director Chris Plonsky warned.

“We’re in for a period of dynamic change,” said former Maryland basketball All-American and U.S. Representative Tom McMillen. “The system has to change. The money needs to be handled differently.”

Texas, incidentally, becomes the first school to announce specific payments to student-athletes.  It had previously been thought that, with the autonomy legislation, athletes would receive an additional $2,000 to $5,000 to cover the true cost of attendance.

Just when UT will begin paying the five-figure sum is unclear.

(Tip O’ the Cap: our very own Zach Barnett, over at his other job at FootballScoop.com)

UPDATED 4:28 p.m. ET: And now we have a little more clarity to the lack of a timeline.

To further clarify, the $5,000 “image use” to which the Morning News alluded would be placed in a trust fund.  Also, UT and other schools would wait until autonomy is officially approved in January.

Additionally, the $5,000/$5,000 split, should the O’Bannon suit be successful for the plaintiffs, is expected to be a similar range for other Power Five schools.

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Georgia fan Evander Holyfield happy his son received UGA offer

Evander Holyfield Photo Session

Evander Holyfield is a boxing legend. He also played some football in his younger days before embarking on his path to boxing fame. Now he is the father to one of the top football recruits in his home state of Georgia. Running back Elijah Holyfield is a four-star prospect in the Class of 2016 according to Rivals. The younger Holyfield has been drawing interest from plenty of schools out there including Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, South Carolina and many more form the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. It is one of the most recent offers to come his son’s way that has the former heavyweight champ smiling the most. Georgia is among the recent schools to extend an offer to Elijah Holyfield.

“I was happy about that offer because I’m a Georgia fan,” Evander said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And then I found out that he liked Georgia, so that offer was a good thing.”

Elijah Holyfield is reportedly considering Michigan as a top choice, but as of now the recruiting for the Class of 2016 is in the very early stages. Holyfield still has his senior year in front of him after this season, so plenty can change between now and National Signing Day in 2016.

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Will Muschamp turns to QB Treon Harris to save season (and job?)

Missouri v Florida Getty Images

After a horrendous loss at home at the hands of Missouri, Florida head coach Will Muschamp is finally handing the offense over to freshman quarterback Treon Harris. The question is whether or not the damage has already been done in Gainesville.

Harris will replace Jeff Driskel as the starting quarterback for the Gators. Florida is off this week, but the Gators take on a red-hot Georgia team next week in Jacksonville (and the Bulldogs are hoping to have running back Todd Gurley back on the field). Harris would have started in place of Driskel two weeks ago against LSU, but a university investigation connecting Harris to an alleged sexual assault held him out of practice. Harris was later cleared to play after the accuser dropped her complaint, but Harris had already missed a week of practice and Florida was forced to go with Driskel once more at quarterback.

Harris first saw the field this season in a win against Tennessee. Trailing when he entered the game, Harris provided juts enough of a spark to help lead Florida to a road win at Tennessee. Harris did not play against LSU, but he did enter last weekend’s game against Missouri. He completed eight of 12 pass attempts for 98 yards and a touchdown and he added another 26 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

Muschamp is without question sitting on a hot seat at Florida, and AD Jeremy Foley has said the evaluation of Muschamp will be done at the end of the season before making any decisions on the future of the program. Muschamp really needs Harris to lead Florida to some wins in the SEC, otherwise he may be updating his résumé for prospective employers this offseason.

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Michigan State gets All-Big Ten center back for Wolverines

Michigan State v Oregon

Michigan State’s offensive line is about to get stronger this week as the Spartans prepare for Michigan. Jack Allen, an All-Big Ten player, will be back in the middle of the offensive line this weekend.

Allen was injured two weeks ago in a victory against Purdue. Allen is believed to have injured his ankle, which caused him to miss last week’s game against Indiana. Head coach Mark Dantonio rarely sheds any light on injuries, so the exact details of Allen’s injury are unconfirmed. As reported by MLive.com, Allen appeared to have his left ankle stepped on by Michigan State running back Nick Hill during a running play. The injury occurred in the fourth quarter and he did not return.

Connor Kruse filled in for Allen in the middle of the offensive line last week against the Hoosiers. This week Kruse will remain on the offensive line’s starting unit, but he will slide to right guard. This season the defending Big Ten champion Spartans rank fourth in the Big Ten in rushing offense with an average of 261.43 yards per game on the ground. The Michigan State offensive line has allowed just four sacks this season, tied for best in the Big Ten with Wisconsin.

Michigan State hosts Michigan on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. eastern.

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New report says UNC academic fraud more widespread than initially thought

Kenneth Wainstein, US Attorney for the D

The academic fraud that took place at the University of North Carolina may have been more wide-spread than initially thought. According to information released in a brand new report released by Kenneth Wainstein, a former U.S. Justice Department official, more than 3,100 students enrolled in classes they did not have to show up for to receive credit. This took place over a span of approximately two decades, and according to the report, nearly half of those enrolled in the classes were student-athletes.

According to the findings of the investigation, about 47 percent of the enrollment in 188 classes were student-athletes. Of that percentage, 51 percent were football players. It does look as though any of these problems happened under the tenure of current football head coach Larry Fedora, but the investigation does cover the tenures of Butch Davis and Mack Brown. Many of the student-athletes enrolled in the fraudulent classes were “steered” toward enrolling by academic counselors. One thing that the investigation did say is there is no evidence the university tried to obscure the facts of the scandal. Some students were enrolled in the classes without their knowledge, and the report says at least one counselor would present a list of grades needed to keep a player eligible to an office administrator.

In 2012 the NCAA hit UNC’s football program with a one-year postseason ban and reduced the number of available scholarships that could be used. Those sanctions came following an investigation into alleged academic issues related to tutors helping players against NCAA rules. The NCAA has reopened an investigation into the program in light of newly discovered evidence. Much of that information is likely to be pulled from this report’s findings. Wainstein has met with the NCAA at least three times to review the findings of his investigation. How the NCAA will address this new information remains to be seen. The NCAA may also have to explain how it failed to uncover at least some of the information discovered in this investigation.

The NCAA has issued a statement on the findings of this new investigation.

One question that pops up now is whether or not this was an academic or an athletics problem. The university had gone on record suggesting this was not an athletics issue in the past, but now it may want you to believe it is just that.

Of course, it may be both.

The university has set-up a website with all of the details and documents related to the Wainstein investigation’s findings.

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WVU player cited for excessive celebration in weekend riots

West Virginia v Alabama Getty Images

Following West Virginia’s big victory over Baylor on Saturday, students and fans took to the streets in destructive fashion. This resulted in 32 street fires and seven more dumpster fires being ignited that would require a response from the local fire department. A total of 114 emergency calls, 135 non-emergency calls and 126 other incidents were called to 911. The city of Morgantown continues to review the extent of the damage done over the weekend.

Among those cited for celebrating the victory in such fashion happened to be one member of the West Virginia football team. Redshirt freshman tight end and fullback Elijah Wellman, was charged with disorderly conduct. Seeing as how the game itself saw penalty flag after penalty flag, perhaps it should not be a surprise a player was later called for a foul in the aftermath.

West Virginia president Gordon Gee spoke out against the actions of those involved with the celebratory rioting.

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Bill Snyder, three Heisman winners on College Football Hall of Fame ballot

Texas Tech v Kansas State

The ballots for the College Football Hall of Fame have been released. A total of 75 FBS players and six FBS coaches appear on the ballot, as well as 87 players and 25 coaches from all other divisions of football. Some of the notable names on the ballot includes three Heisman Trophy winners (Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam, Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch and Texas running back Ricky Williams). Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder also appears on this year’s ballot. Ballots will be submitted by members of the National Football Foundation and current College Football Hall of Famers. Voting will be done electronically this year and the announcement of this yera’s class will be made Friday, January 9 at the media hotel leading up to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The class will be inducted on December 8, 2015.

“Having a ballot and a voice in the selection of the inductees is one of the most cherished NFF member benefits,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning, a 1989 Hall of Fame inductee from Ole Miss. “There is no group more knowledgeable or passionate about college football than our membership, and the tradition of the ballot helps us engage them in the lofty responsibility of selecting those who have reached the pinnacle of achievement in our sport.”

To be eligible for the ballot, players must have been named a First Team All-American by a major/national selector as recognized and utilized by the NCAA for their consensus All-America teams; played their last year of intercollegiate football at least 10 years prior; played within the last 50 years and cannot be currently playing professional football. Coaches must have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games as a head coach; won at least 60 percent of their games; and be retired from coaching for at least three years. If a coach is retired and over the age of 70, there is no waiting period. If he is over the age of 75, he is eligible as an active coach. In both cases, the candidate’s post-football record as a citizen may also be weighed.

Here are the names of players and coaches appearing on the FBS portion of the ballot. You cans ee the full release and name son the ballot via the National Football Foundation.

2015 FOOTBALL BOWL SUBDIVISON PLAYER CANDIDATES

Trev Alberts, Nebraska-Linebacker

Eric Bieniemy, Colorado-Running Back

Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma-Linebacker

Bob Breunig, Arizona State-Linebacker

Jerome Brown, Miami (Fla.)-Defensive Tackle

Ruben Brown, Pittsburgh-Offensive Tackle

Steve Brown, Oregon State-Linebacker

Brandon Burlsworth, Arkansas-Offensive Guard

Larry Burton, Purdue-Split End

Keith Byars, Ohio State-Running Back

Freddie Carr, Texas-El Paso-Linebacker

Mark Carrier, Southern California-Safety

Wes Chandler, Florida-Split End

Tim Couch, Kentucky-Quarterback

Tom Cousineau, Ohio State-Linebacker

Bob Crable, Notre Dame-Linebacker

Paul Crane, Alabama-Center/Linebacker

Eric Crouch, Nebraska-Quarterback

Randall Cunningham, Nevada-Las Vegas

Troy Davis, Iowa State-Tailback

Eric Dickerson, Southern Methodist

John Didion, Oregon State

Mike Dirks, Wyoming-Defensive Tackle

D.J. Dozier, Penn State-Running Back

Tim Dwight, Iowa-Kick Returner/Wide Receiver

Jumbo Elliott, Michigan-Offensive Tackle

Tony Franklin, Texas A&M-Plackekicker

William Fuller, North Carolina-Defensive Tackle

Moe Gardner, Illinois-Defensive Tackle

Thom Gatewood, Notre Dame-Split End

Willie Gault, Tennessee-Wide Receiver

Kirk Gibson, Michigan State-Wide Receiver

Charlie Gogolak, Princeton-Placekicker

Jacob Green, Texas A&M-Defensive Lineman

Byron Hanspard, Texas Tech-Running Back

Al Harris, Arizona State

Dana Howard, Illinois-Linebacker

Randy Hughes, Oklahoma-Defensive Back

Bobby Humphrey, Alabama-Running Back

Raghib Ismail, Notre Dame-Wide Receiver

Dick Jauron, Yale-Running Back

Ernie Jennings, Air Force-Wide Receiver

Keyshawn Johnson, Southern California

Clinton Jones, Michigan State-Halfback

Lincoln Kennedy, Washington-Offensive Tackle

Tim Krumrie, Wisconsin-Defensive Tackle

Greg Lewis, Washington-Running Back-

Jess Lewis, Oregon State-Defensive Tackle

Ray Lewis, Miami (Fla.)-Linebacker

Robert Lytle, Michigan-Running Back

Buddy McClinton, Auburn-Defensive Back

Duncan McColl, Stanford-Defensive End

Bob McKay, Texas-Offensive Tackle

Cade McNown, UCLA-Quarterback

Mark Messner, Michigan-Defensive Tackle

Ken Norton, Jr., UCLA-Linebacker-

Herb Orvis, Colorado-Defensive EndJim Otis, Ohio State-Fullback-Named consensus First Team All-American in 1969…Member of the 1968 National Championship team…Named First Team All-Big Ten conference in 1969 and led the Buckeyes to two conference titles…Led the team in rushing three times.

Jim Otis, Ohio State-Fullback

Paul Palmer, Temple-Running Back

Antwaan Randle El, Indiana-Quarterback

Simeon Rice, Illinois-Linebacker

Ron Rivera, California-Linebacker

Mike Ruth, Boston College-Nose Guard

Rashaan Salaam, Colorado-Tailback

Warren Sapp, Miami (Fla.)-Defensive Tackle

Larry Seivers, Tennessee-Wide Receiver

Art Still, Kentucky-Defensive End

Zach Thomas, Texas Tech-Linebacker

Dennis Thurman, Southern California-Defensive Back

Andre Tippett, Iowa-Defensive End

Jackie Walker, Tennessee-Linebacker

Lorenzo White, Michigan State-Running Back

Ricky Williams, Texas-Running Back-Two

Steve Wisniewski, Penn State-Offensive Guard

Scott Woerner, Georgia-Defensive Back

2015 FOOTBALL BOWL SUBDIVISION COACH CANDIDATES

Jim Carlen-West Virginia (1966-69), Texas Tech (1970-74), South Carolina (1975-1981)

Pete Cawthon Sr.-Austin College (Texas) (1923-27), Texas Tech (1930-40)

Danny Ford-Clemson (1978-1989), Arkansas (1993-97)

Billy Jack Murphy-Memphis (1958-71)

Darryl Rogers-Cal State-Hayward (1965), Fresno State (1966-72), San Jose State (1973-75), Michigan State (1976-79), Arizona State (1980-84)

Bill Snyder-Kansas State (1985-05, 2009-present)

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