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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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‘No stars for you!’ when Sparty recruits hit campus

Ron Burton

Most position coaches like to trumpet his and his team’s successes on the recruiting trail.  Michigan State’s Ron Burton is just like that — until it gets to this time of the year.

Four-star defensive end Raequan Williams was part of a 2015 MSU recruiting class that ranked third in the Big Ten and 22nd nationally, the same ranking as last year and the best since the 2009 class ranked 17th. Rightly so, Burton, the Spartans’ defensive line coach, was proud of how the addition of Williams — as well as three-star ends Justice Alexander and Mufi Hunt — added to the luster of the Top 25 class.

With the recruits hitting the East Lansing area, though, all the star talk goes on the window.

The stars are gone when you hit our campus, and everyone starts from Square One, and that’s the way coach (Mark) Dantonio always wants it,” the third-year MSU assistant told mlive.com. “The kids we have coming in up front, we’ll give them the opportunity and time will tell.”

The Spartans return seven defensive starters, including three seniors along the line, from a squad that went 11-2 last season and beat baylor in the Cotton Bowl. Also returning to a line that helped the Spartans finish 22nd nationally in scoring defense (21.5 points per game) and first in run defense (88.5 yards per game) are a handful players who were a part of the 2014 rotation.

(Photo credit: Michigan State athletics)

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Ex-Texas DB Eryon Barnett passes away at age 24

Eryon Barnett

Unfortunately, there’s some sad news that has hit the Texas football program this holiday weekend.

Montana State head coach Rob Ash confirmed in a statement Saturday that one of his former players, Eryon Barnett, passed away Saturday afternoon at a Bozeman hospital.  Barnett was just 24 years old.

“We’re heartbroken by the loss of Eryon Barnett,” Ash said. “He fought through so much as a football player, and always showed a resilient spirit that everyone that knew him drew from and admired.”

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, no cause of death has been determined. An autopsy won’t be completed until Monday at the earliest.

However, the paper noted that Barnett dealt with health issues last year:

Barnett, a native of Euless, Texas, missed part of fall practice before the 2014 season because of complications from pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. He also missed two games in November, beginning with a road game against Cal-Poly, due to similar symptoms.

It also put Barnett in the hospital this spring.

Barnett began his career at Texas, where he was a four-star member of UT’s 2009 recruiting class. He transferred from UT in April of 2012 and ultimately landed at the FCS program, starting nine games last season.

The passing of the former Longhorn didn’t go unnoticed by either his former program or ex-coach.

(Photo credit: Montana State athletics)

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Injured in car wreck, fourth USU Aggie remains hospitalized

Colorado State vs Utah State

Three Utah State football players have been released from the hospital following a car accident nine days ago.  A fourth injured Aggie, however, is not as yet as fortunate.

In a press release announcing that one of the five individuals injured in the accident, former USU softball player Sarah Vasquez, had been released from the hospital, the school confirmed that football player Travis Seefeldt remains hospitalized at a local medical facility. The release did note that Seefeldt (pictured, right) continues to improve from unspecified injuries.

According to reports at the time of the wreck, the unnamed driver of the SUV in which the seatbelt-less football players were riding pulled out in front of a semi at an intersection and was broadsided by the tanker truck, which was hauling 52,000 pounds of milk at the time of the accident.

The five occupants of the SUV had initially been reported as being critically injured.

A week ago Sunday, USU announced that senior defensive lineman John Taylor and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Adewale Adeoye, were released from the hospital.  Two days later, the same announcement was made for redshirt junior defensive lineman Edmund Faimalo.

Seefeldt has played in 39 games during his USU career, starting two of those contests.  Last season, Seefeldt was credited with six tackles for loss, two sacks and two fumble recoveries.  His .14 fumble recoveries per game was good for sixth in the Mountain West and tied for 43rd at the FBS level.

Exiting spring, the nose guard was listed as a starter for the Aggies.

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16,200 athletes filed claim to receive NCAA video game payout

USC Trojans v Arizona State Sun Devils Getty Images

A little more than a year ago the various legal battles involving former college football and basketball players against the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company resulted in a pair of settlements valued at approximately $60 million. Two-thirds of that was to be paid by EA Sports and the CLC, and the NCAA was on the hook for the remaining $20 million. Earlier this week final proposals for splitting the money among those college athletes making a claim was submitted for approval by U.S. District Judge. Those expecting some sort of payment could be looking at receiving a check anywhere between $1,000 and at least $6,700.

Athletes had until Thursday to make their claim, but it will still take some time before those checks start being mailed. First it must be known how many claims were filed, which will affect the payouts. According to a report from USA Today, nearly 16,200 athletes ended up submitting a claim, but each claim must be reviewed and approved by the firm tasked with confirming  and approving the claims.

The NCAA has already made it known that no punishments will be handed down to any current student-athletes filing a claim if they end up receiving a check through this legal process.

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Texas A&M seat reassignment lawsuit tossed in Florida court

Missouri v Texas A&M

A class action lawsuit between Texas A&M and long-time season ticket holders has been thrown out by a district court in Florida. The case had previously been dismissed by a federal judge in Texas, so it looks like these fans are running out of options.

The family of Texas A&M fan and booster Warren Moore sued Texas A&M for an alleged breach of contract and misrepresentation regarding season tickets. The family claims the season tickets were part of a lifetime guarantee from the university following a $60,000 donation to fund a scholarship. Eight others joined the class-action lawsuit before U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas dismissed it.

In 1985 the Moore family donated $60,000 to Texas A&M to fund a scholarship. In exchange, the family was promised some of the best seats in Kyle Field for life. The family was also promised parking in addition to the tickets to the prime seats in Kyle Field. Since that 1985 donation, Texas A&M has undergone a massive stadium renovation, prompting Texas A&M to issue a letter to the Moore family and other season-ticket holders explaining they would have to become members of the Primary West Legacy Club at an additional cost of $15,000 per seat for the campaign gift as part of a seat reassignment process. On top of that, an annual $2,000 price for each seat over the next 15 years would be required. The Moores and at least eight other season ticket holders believe they should not have to pay such a price to keep their seats.

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UCLA coach Jim Mora goes to bat to help child with cancer

Jim Mora

Cancer sucks, and UCLA head coach Jim Mora is doing what he can to help raise money and awareness for one young child battling cancer.

Avery Huffman, the daughter of Scout.com‘s National Director of Recruiting Brandon Huffman, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her brain, and the location of the tumor made surgery impossible. No six-year old should have to go through that, and college football world has come together to support the Huffman family. A GoFundMe campaign has been started in support of Avery and her battle, and UCLA’s football offices took notice and responded.

Mora and UCLA are offered three fundraising options that will raise a good chunk of money while also giving the fan responsible for the donation a chance to get a look behind the curtain of UCLA football. For $10,000, UCLA will bring two adults on a road trip to the road game of their choice, complete with first class seats on the team plane and a room in the team hotel. Everywhere the team goes, so will the two fans and donors. A similar home package was also be available for a $5,000 donation. Both packages have already been claimed, raising $15,000 in quick order.

Five passes for a fall camp practice were available for $1,500 and 50 full game-day packages (tailgating, parking and game tickets) are available for a $1,200 donation. This is all money that will go toward a very worthy and noble cause, and it is good to see coaches like Mora stepping up in a time of need.

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Alabama self-reports multiple secondary violations

Nick Saban

Secondary violations rarely amount to much in the eyes of the NCAA, so do not expect Alabama to be handed a stiff punishment from the folks in Indianapolis after the university self-reported 13 secondary violations of NCAA rules. The violations occurred between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, according to a report from AL.com.

Names of players connected to various minor offenses have not been revealed, and the violations took place within multiple athletics programs at Alabama. Five of the violations stem from the football program under head coach Nick Saban.

One violation is for a player connected to a commercial endorsement through social media. The unnamed player was ruled ineligible before being reinstated by the NCAA and the football staff underwent rules education as a result. Another violation occurred when a player was accidentally awarded more scholarship money due to a computer entry error. This was discovered at the end of the semester during a routine audit, and the player was required to repay the excess payment.

The third reported violation was a player’s friend selling complimentary tickets to a football game. The friend was added to the player’s pass list and that player was ruled ineligible before being reinstated by the NCAA. No more free passes will be given to the player’s friend.

The fourth violation was for a player receiving aid and practicing with the team after being deemed a non-qualifier for such aid. The player’s scholarship has since been revoked and he must receive and reinstatement. It is unconfirmed but believed running back DeSherrius Flowers is the player connected to this violation. Flowers, a Class of 2015 early enrollee was ruled ineligible by Alabama in mid-June due to a “recently discovered initial eligibility issue.”

Last but not least, an assistant coach was found guilty of responding to a text message from a recruit. The coach was prohibited from contacting recruits for 30 days as a result.

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Report: Notre Dame, Navy to play in Jacksonville in 2016

Obi Uzoma, Tarean Folston

Navy and Notre Dame do not typically make too many trips to the state of Florida during the course of a football season, but each will be playing in the state in 2016. In fact, they’ll even be playing each other in the state in November 2016.

According to a report Friday by ND Insider, Notre Dame and Navy will play their 2016 game in Jacksonville, Florida on November 5, 2016. The game will be played in EverBank Field, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and recently undergoing upgrades to the stadium in hopes of keeping the Jaguars in town. Attracting some noteworthy college football game son the side is a nice perk too, and it seems to have worked.

Navy typically serves as host to Notre Dame in even-numbered years in the series, but tends to hold the game in a larger venue instead of its home stadium. The deal has not been officially announced, but ND Insider says the Jacksonville Sports Council has a press conference scheduled for this coming Wednesday, at which time it is expected to become official.

In the history of the Notre Dame-Navy rivalry, the game has been played in the state of Florida just once before. The 200 meeting was played in Orlando, with the Irish winning 45-14.

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NCAA now getting involved with Ole Miss and Laremy Tunsil

Memphis v Mississippi

What sounds like a messy situation at home is now getting the NCAA to come knocking in Oxford, Mississippi. The Clarion-Ledger reports the NCAA has sent officials to Ole Miss on Friday to interview the stepfather of Rebels offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and his alleged connection to agents, which would be violations of the NCAA rules.

Last week Tunsil turned himself into authorities after being charged for domestic violence following an incident in which Tunsil allegedly punched his stepfather in defense of his mother in a domestic dispute of some nature. Tunsil and his mother had filed a lawsuit against his stepfather, and his stepfather turned around and claimed Tunsil had been riding with football agents. It is the stepfather’s (Lindsey Miller) claim Tunsil riding with agents was the root of the argument.

“We are aware that Laremy and his family have met with potential agents, which is within his NCAA rights as a student-athlete,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said in a statement to The Clarion-Ledger. “Regarding the altercation, we will continue to gather facts and cooperate with the proper authorities.”

What this means for Tunsil and Ole Miss are two different scenarios in play right now. The NCAA is not always the speediest when it comes to investigations, and projecting how long one investigation will take is difficult to estimate. If the NCAA does find Tunsil guilty of accepting any benefits from agents (and yes, a car ride would probably fall within that category), then he will face a light suspension at the most. If there is more to the claims of associations with agents, that could be a much different story that is best to refrain from speculating until more information is known. The severity of the punishment for Ole Miss is also impossible to speculate on at this point in time until more is known about the situation, and whether or not there is anything to even bother focusing on.

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PETA investigated two (Michigan) Wolverines and a wallaby

Bennetts Wallaby and Joey.

Some people have dogs as pets. Others have cats. Others have fish, and perhaps some have other animals like lizards or frogs or turtles or snakes. How many have a wallaby?

Recently, Michigan football players were seen around the Ann Arbor campus posing for photos with a young wallaby, which was allegedly trying to be sold by the Michigan student-athletes. The wallaby, originally purchased in Michigan, was discovered on the Instagram page of Michigan wide receiver Jack Wangler, which was shared by quarterback Shane Morris. Per MLive.com, Wangler said the animal was not living in the apartment shared by he and Morris, but the animal was merely visiting. However, it was Wangler who reportedly answered the phone when a call to the phone number attached to the listing for the wallaby was called.

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, organized a deal with the Detroit Zoo to provide a safe home for the wallaby. Instead, the wallaby was returned to the breeder that originally sold the animal. The wallaby was reportedly returned in excellent condition, according to a PETA representative, and doing well. Still, it was PETA’s preference the wallaby be given a chance to live out its life in the zoo alongside its own kind.

Ultimately a wallaby doesn’t belong in a private home any more than a wolverine does,” PETA Foundation deputy director of captive animal law enforcement Brittany Peet said, per MLive.com. “These students and the University of Michigan had an opportunity to step up and set a great example by allowing the wallaby to spend the rest of its life with other wallabies in a natural habitat in an accredited facility. Unfortunately, they dropped the ball.”

Nice football puns there, Peet.

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Report: Baylor and Cal will (thankfully) not be playing in Australia in 2016

TCU vs. Baylor football

The dream of opening the college football season in Australia will just have to wait. Any plans to send Baylor and Cal abroad to play a 2016 season opener down under have been nixed. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reported such news Friday afternoon (via Twitter).

Last month it was reported Baylor was openly discussing the possibility to open the 2016 season in Australia against a Pac-12 opponent. That opponent turned out to be Cal, although both schools would have had to opt out of season openers at home against FCS opponents. Doing so comes at a price, not to mention the lost revenue in hosting a football game for either. Throw in the expensive travel costs to ship a football program across the Pacific Ocean, and it is not difficult to see why these talks may have dissolved. Whether or not Baylor will continue to seek an opponent for a season-opening game abroad remains to be seen.

As things stand right now, Baylor is scheduled to open the 2016 season at home against Northwestern State on September 3, 2016. Baylor’s two other non-conference games that season are scheduled against SMU and Rice. Baylor’s strength of schedule became a hot topic during last season’s College Football Playoff hunt, and is perceived to be one of the reasons Baylor fell behind the top four playoff contenders in the end, most notably Ohio State. There is no non-conference scheduling requirement in the Big 12 to schedule games against other power conference opponents like there is in the ACC or SEC, but the Big 12 would benefit from seeing more of its top programs schedule tougher games. Scheduling Cal may not sound like a huge upgrade, but it is still a power conference opponent with potential to do some things offensively.

With or without Baylor on the schedule, Cal will still be getting its dose of Big 12 opposition in 2016. The Bears are scheduled to host Texas on September 17, 2016 in the back-end of a home-and-home series that begins this fall in Austin (September 19, 2015). Cal is scheduled to open the season at home against South Dakota State and has a road game at San Diego State scheduled to fill out its 2016 schedule.

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Kirby Smart: Alabama didn’t value OSU QB Cardale Jones enough

Cardale Jones,Landon Collins

In defense of Wisconsin, not many expected Cardale Jones to be capable of stepping right in to lead Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game as effectively as he did. But Wisconsin’s misfortune should have been enough of a wake-up call for Alabama with a month to prepare for the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Sugar Bowl. According to Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, he and the Alabama staff may not have done enough to keep the defense grounded and aware of what Jones could do.

“All three of them (referring to Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams)  said they did not respect the quarterback, and our job as the coaches was to make them respect the quarterback,” Smart said in an interview on 680 The Fan in Atlanta. “Well, they heard from the media, they heard from ESPN, they heard from everybody that he was a third-string quarterback. How can a third-string quarterback beat Alabama? We didn’t promote him enough and they didn’t value his talents enough, and he came in — we thought he was a really good passer. Well, he ran the ball well, too. Well, we had not seen him run the ball . . . and not a runner like (Bama QB) Blake (Sims) and not a runner like their other guy, just big.”

In the Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal game against the Crimson Tide, Jones completed 18 of 35 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 43 yards in the Ohio State victory.

Smart went on to praise Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had a monster performance as well. Smart said he saw his defense was going to be in for a long night against Ohio State’s offense even though the Crimson Tide held an early lead.

“We had not slowed them down. We had two red area stops, which were six points (two field goals), could have been 14,” Smart said. “We had a turnover, we stripped a ball. We had not slowed them down, and I’m thinking this could be 21 but it’s six, 21-6, could be 21-21. And then they scored right before the half, which we thought was deadly. They had a good two-minute drive and scored, and I knew that we were in trouble.”

Smart also said Alabama reached out to Houston head coach Tom Herman, who was Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach last season. He and Nick Saban asked Herman to offer his take on what he saw in Alabama’s defense that Ohio State was able to crack.

Helmet sticker to The Sporting News.

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WVU announces fireworks and stripe-the-stadium plans for 2015

Getting fans to dress all in one color for a football game is so old-fashioned now. Today it is all about striping your stadium in school colors. That is West Virginia will be doing with the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State.

Fans attending the October 10 home game in Milan Puskar Stadium will be asked to wear blue or gold depending on their section. Fans sitting in even-numbered sections will be encouraged to wear gold. All other fans are being asked to wear blue. Oklahoma State fans making the trip to Morgantown are more than welcome to join in the fun, I’m sure, but odds are pretty good they will try adding as much orange as possible to the scene.

In addition to the stripe out game against the Sooners, West Virginia will also have two games with some color-coordination among the fans. Fans are being asked to wear gold to the September 26 game against Big Ten foe Maryland. West Virginia is calling it a “Gold Rush.” The Mountaineers won a thriller against the Terrapins last season, leaving College Park with a 40-37 victory over the newest Big Ten member. West Virginia will later ask fans to all come wearing blue for the November 14 game against Texas. It will be just the second time Texas has played in Morgantown.

Need another reason to head to a West Virginia game this season? The season opener against Georgia Southern will have a fireworks show after the game.

Tennessee still set the bar about as high as you can go last season with its checker-out in Neyland Stadium. Kansas State will also be striping out its stadium this fall.

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Ranking the 10 most patriotic college conferences

The July 4th weekend is for all intents and purposes here, which means things tend to be a little slow on the college football news front. Instead of taking the day off though, I decided to rank the top 10 most patriotic conferences. Here is my list. Feel free to disagree with it as you see fit. Sorry, the independents do not qualify, as they are not an official conference.

1. American Athletic Conference

When the Big East crumbled, up rose the American Athletic Conference. Giving itself such a name made it one of the most patriotic conferences be default, but just this week it cemented its place ahead of Conference USA when Navy officially became a football-playing member. The conference also includes Temple, from Philadelphia. In case you forgot, the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philly, so that should count for something.

2. Conference USA

The OG of patriotic conferences, Conference USA was once the home to Army football (before the Black Knights struggled and decided to go back to being independent). Now it is a conference rooted in the future growth and development of some young or upcoming programs. Consider them college football’s equivalent to colonies at this stage.

3. Mid-American Conference

Another conference with a direct reference to America right in its name, the Mid-American Conference serves us all some #MACTION, because this is America.

4. Patriot League

Bet you didn’t see this one coming. The Patriot League would have been higher had it been in the FBS but it receives special recognition in this list because it is the home to Army and Navy in non-football sports. We’ll give it half-credit for that. It is also the home to American University, which does not play football.

5. Big Ten

Is there anything more American than greed and the idea that bigger is better? Doesn’t that sum up the Big Ten quite well? The conference that added Rutgers and Maryland for no other reason to add more viewers to its innovative Big Ten Network, the Big Ten also hands out plenty of cash to its members, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

6. Mountain West Conference

America was once an underdog looking to prove capable of holding its own against the dominant powers. Then one day, America became that dominant power. That reminds me of the Mountain West Conference, home to more BCS-busters and BCS bowl victories than any other non-power conference. Don’t tell the Mountain West Conference they don’t belong, because they dream big and have even seen some of their own go on to be members of power conferences along the way (Utah, TCU). Dream big MWC, it’s the American way. Also, the home to Air Force football.

7. Colonial Athletic Association

Before we were a nation, we were just 13 simple colonies. The Colonial Athletic Association has members in nine of them spanning from Maine all the way down to North Carolina. That includes Delaware (the first state), Villanova (close enough to Philadelphia and Valley Forge to count), and William & Mary (in Williamsburg).

8. Great American Standings

Sure, we may think we are all great Americans, but the 11 members that make up the Great American Conference in Division 2 have a conference labeling them as such.

9. Liberty League

If you have never heard of the Liberty League, do not be alarmed for you are likely not alone. This Division 3 conference is home to eight football schools, including the Union Dutchmen and the Merchant Marine Mariners.

10. Presidents’ Athletic Conference

Last, but certainly not least, is another one from the world of Division 3 football. The Presidents’ Athletics Conference, or the PAC, is home to Washington & Jefferson (appropriately nicknamed the Presidents). Perhaps this one should have been ranked a little higher.

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Report: RB Delton Williams could return to Spartans this month

Delton Williams, Ryan Russell

After being left off the spring roster, running back Delton Williams may be preparing to return to the Spartans football program in time for the 2015 season.

Per a story from MLive.com this morning, it is expected Williams will return to the Spartans as early as this month, although the school and head coach Mark Dantonio have not commented on the running back’s status since his initial suspension. Williams was not enrolled in classes as of the middle of June after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor firearms charge as a result of a road rage incident in March.  If Williams does rejoin the program within the month, he will be back in Eats Lansing in enough time to participate in fall camp, which could help him be ready for the start of the season.

Williams appeared in 13 games for Michigan State last season, in which he rushed for 316 yards and five touchdowns. Both of those numbers were good for third on the team behind Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill. With both having moved on, Williams is Michigan State’s leading rusher returning in 2015.

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