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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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Brother of Miss. St. WR Jameon Lewis shot, killed

Alabama v Mississippi State

Sadly, real life has found a way to impact one of the top returning wide receivers in the SEC.

According to WJTV, Tyriunce Lewis, the brother of Mississippi State Bulldog Jameon Lewis, was shot and killed late Sunday morning at an apartment complex in Tylertown, Miss. The website wrote that “a disagreement between Tyriunce Lewis and Kendall Magee escalated into gunfire.”

Lewis was shot once in the head with a handgun, the sheriff told the television station.

Tyriunce Lewis was in attendance at the Bulldogs 49-0 season-opening win over Southern Miss Saturday, a fact the receiver relayed in an Instagram post Monday.

It’s crazy how life works at time… Just saw my lil brother last night, he came to my game to support me!!! Who knew that was gonna be my last time seeing my blood brother!!! Life is unpredictable #RipToot I love ya lil bra!!! I promise ya, your lil ones would be in good hands & have a bright future!!! #FlyHighBra #MuchLoveTubby

Jameon Lewis is the leading returning receiver in the SEC. He had three catches for 25 yards in the opener.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Biloxi Sun Herald)

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Louisville downs Miami, now owns ACC record for all-time winning percentage

Miami v Louisville

Tomorrow morning, Miami will wake up in south Florida and begin preparation for an opponent other than Louisville. That’s a wonderful thing for Al Golden and his football program. In closing the 2013 season and opening this season with losses to these Cardinals (36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl, 31-13 tonight), Miami watched its offense score two total touchdowns in 23 possessions. That may sound bad – okay, it is bad – but the ‘Canes have been better at scoring touchdowns than converting third downs. They went a combined 1-for-23 there.

True freshman Brad Kaaya earned the start, playing about as well as you could reasonably expect an 18-year-old making his first start in a conference road game could play, hitting 17-of-29 throws for 174 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Duke Johnson contributed a workmanlike 20 carries for 90 yards.

Missed opportunities will be the story for Miami after the Hurricanes twice inherited the ball inside Louisville’s 10 yard line and came away with a total of three points. But perhaps the biggest blown chance of the night came early in the fourth quarter, when Kaaya hit Johnson on a wheel route that would have given Miami a first-and-goal at the 5 and a chance to pull within one score, but offensive lineman Danny Isidora was hit with an ineligible receiver downfield penalty, negating the entire play. Two plays later Kaaya was sacked for a loss of 11 yards, and two plays after that Miami turned the ball over on downs.

Louisville then took over at its own 33, leisurely marched 67 yards in 14 plays, ate up an oh-so-valuable 7:47 off the clock, and pushed the score to 31-13.

Ball, meet game.

In the re-debut of Bobby Petrino at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, it was the Cardinal running game that powered his highly-respected offense. Dominique Brown rushed 33 times for 143 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Will Gardner added 206 passing yards and two touchdowns (plus two lost fumbles) in his first start. The win moves Petrino to 42-9 at Louisville, and an impressive 23-1 at home.

Most importantly, the win moves Louisville to 1-0 all-time in ACC play, thereby placing the Cardinals atop the conference record books for all-time winning percentage.

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Standout Nebraska DE Randy Gregory doubtful for McNeese State game

Randy Gregory, Nathan Scheelhaase

An old basketball injury could cost Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory the first two games of his 2014 season – at least.

Gregory left the Cornhuskers’ 55-7 defeat of Florida Atlantic after the first defensive series, and is now doubtful for Saturday’s game with McNeese State. According to head coach Bo Pelini, a non-contact play aggravated an old injury that caused a clicking sensation inside Gregory’s knee.

Considering Nebraska was able to beat Florida Atlantic 55-7 without him, and with McNeese State and Fresno State (52-13 losers to USC on Saturday) on the docket before Miami visits Lincoln on Sept. 20, the Huskers can afford to be patient with Gregory. And that’s exactly how they plan to proceed.

“We’re not looking to rush him back right now,” Pelini told the Associated Press. “Make sure he’s 100 percent, feels good, and when that time frame is, we’ll see.”

Gregory earned preseason All-Big Ten honors after leading the Big Ten with 10.5 sacks as a sophomore. He earned consensus First Team All-Big Ten honors in 2013 after collecting 66 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss in addition to registering a double-digit sack number.

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Louisville-Miami a beautiful mess through one half, Cards lead 14-10

Al Golden

Though it is the final game of extended Week 1 of the 2014 college football season, we must remember tonight is indeed still Week 1 for everyone. Because all three teams on the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium field tonight – Louisville, Miami and the officials – have been sloppy as all get out. Louisville leads Miami 14-10 at the break.

The most entertaining – and infuriating – sequence came at the top of the second quarter. ‘Canes quarterback Brad Kaaya hit Clive Waiford for a two-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the quarter. After the ensuing kickoff, Will Gardner was sacked and fumbled on first down, handing the ‘Canes the ball again at the Louisville seven. One snap later, Kaaya snapped a pass to Stacy Coley, which he dropped. Keith Kelsey scooped the free pigskin and raced toward his own end zone, but the play was blown dead even though it was clearly a backward pass. To top it all off, Louisville had 13 players on the field at the snap.

Louisville started its first five possessions inside its own 20 thanks to some atrocious special teams play, and then took the lead with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Corvin LambBobby Petrino’s offense has been mostly inconsistent through the night with four drives of three plays or less, but opened the scoring with a 12-play, 93-yard drive capped by a two-yard touchdown toss from Gardner to Charles Standberry

Kaaya has been as good as you can reasonably expect for an 18-year-old true freshman making his first start in a road conference game. He’s hit 8-of-12 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions – though he did under-throw that lateral to Coley that ended a golden opportunity for the Hurricanes.

Miami gets the ball to open the second half.

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Time served: Suspensions for three Gators washed away with the rain

Darious Cummings

Florida’s season-opening game with Idaho wasn’t the only thing that washed away in downpour that pelted Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday. Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced Monday that defensive tackle Darious Cummings, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick had satisfied their suspensions and would be eligible to play against Eastern Michigan this week despite the fact that they, you know, didn’t actually miss any time.

“They will be back this week with us,” Muschamp told ESPN.com. “Not just as far as the suspension of a game, but they’ve handled a lot of other things for me, as well as Demarcus Robinson, who had a university sanction that’s been resolved.”

Considering the suspensions weren’t even announced until Saturday afternoon, the Gators trio has to have set some sort of record for shortest time spent in the timeout corner.

Cummings and Bostwick were suspended for unspecified violations of team rules, while Robinson was cited for the equally vague “university sanctions”.

Cummings and Bostwick were listed as the top two nose tackles on Florida’s Week 1 depth chart. The former started six of the 11 games he appeared in a year ago, while Bostwick was set to appear in his first career game after redshirting his freshman season in 2013. Robinson played in seven games and nabbed five receptions for 23 yards as a true freshman a year ago.

No decision has been made as to whether or not to reschedule the Gators-Vandals tilt. Florida and Idaho share an off week on Oct. 25, but neither side seems interested in playing on that date. Probably has something to do with the fact that it’d be a one-sided, cross-country non-conference game during the middle of the season. Idaho head coach Paul Petrino broached the idea today of rescheduling for early December provided, obviously, that Florida does not reach the SEC title game.

If the game does indeed get rescheduled, we know where Florida’s Wrist Slap Three will be – on the field.

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Citing “stuff”, Urban Meyer suspends Ohio State TE for two games

MarcusBaugh

Ohio State tight end Marcus Baugh did not play in the Buckeyes’ 34-17 win over Navy, and he will not play against Virginia Tech this Saturday, either. In meeting with the media Monday, head coach Urban Meyer provided what has to be the least informative answer of all time in explaining the reason for Baugh’s two-game suspension.

“Stuff.”

That’s what the third-year Buckeyes coach told the assembled scribes, according to Cleveland.com.

Baugh was cited for underage consumption of alcohol back in mid-July, and then again in January. Ergo, two underage drinking citations equals two games lost to Baugh’s 2014 season. The good news here is that Baugh’s father, Frank, confirmed to the paper that no new issues have popped up in the past eight months. Baugh was simply being punished for his past misdeeds.

“(My past) definitely opened my eyes,” Baugh told Cleveland.com in April. “I am out of chances and I have to do this … I (feared I wouldn’t be on the team) after my second incident. I thought I was gone. But now I am learning the offense and trying to go hard.”

A four-star prospect out of John W. North High School in Riverside, Calif., Baugh caught 30 passes for 610 yards and three touchdowns during his senior season of 2012 before redshirting in 2013. He was rated the No. 6 tight end in the nation and the No. 18 overall player in the state of California.

(Photo Credit: Ohio State Athletics)
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With two cracked bones in his spine, Baylor QB Bryce Petty listed as day-to-day

Bryce Petty

The main story line to emerge from No. 10 Baylor’s 45-0 thumping of SMU on Sunday night was not the sharp teeth and elongated claws of the Bears’ defense, but the back of Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Bryce PettyPetty was lifted at halftime of a 31-0 game after grabbing his left hip and noticeably grimacing multiple times throughout the first half. The senior connected on 13-0f-23 throws for 161 yards and rushed twice for 21 yards and an additional score, but missed a handful of deep throws to open Bears receivers.

One day later, we officially know why.

After undergoing an MRI on Monday morning, Petty was diagnosed with two cracks in the transverse processes of his back, as first reported by Dennis Dodd CBSSports.com.

“I’m bummed out because it’s never fun being hurt,” Petty told CBSSports.com. “Bummed out because I just watched tape and everything is off. You never want to make any excuses. When you’re throwing and I can’t torque [it's frustrating]. Every time I went to throw it would jolt. It felt like somebody was punching me in my side.”

Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com also reported that Petty’s injury is one that heals on its own. If so, it just comes down to Petty finding a way to manage the pain.

Petty is listed as day-to-day and plans to play Saturday versus Northwestern State. Should it so choose, Baylor has both the time and the opportunity to rest its star gunslinger before the meat of the schedule arrives. The Bears visit Buffalo on Friday, Sept. 12 and then take a week off before opening Big 12 play at Iowa State on Sept. 27.

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Alabama starting DB Williams played on a broken foot

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Oklahoma v Alabama Getty Images

Alabama defensive back Jarrick Williams will be out of action for the next four games due to a broken foot.

Williams played the entire game Saturday in Atlanta against West Virginia. He reportedly felt he had a sore foot, but was able to keep playing for the Crimson Tide in the victory over West Virginia. He had three tackles in the game. It was not until getting x-rays done that the sore foot was sore for a reason. Nick Saban announced the injury news today.

Eddie Jackson was recently cleared by medical staff, so he could be moved into the starting job in the absence of Williams. Jackson was available to play Saturday if needed, but Saban was hoping to ease him back on to the field.

Alabama was already banged up after the West Virginia game. Wide receiver DeAndrew White suffered a separated shoulder in the game. Alabama prevailed after getting a challenge from West Virginia, and the depth on the roster is among the best in the country thanks to strong recruiting under Saban, but Alabama certainly hopes to get through week two of the season in better health than it will go into it.

Helmet sticker to AL.com.

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Iowa State’s best receiver is done for the year

Quenton Bundrage, Cassius Sendish

As if losing at home to North Dakota State was not enough of a rough way to start the 2014 season for Iowa state, Iowa State was dealt a bad hand again today. Head coach Paul Rhoades announced wide receiver Quenton Bundrage is out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury.

Bundrage went down with an injury on just the fourth play of the game on Saturday. An MRI revealed a tear in his ACL. For many players the rehab work is not completed until a year later, although sometimes players come back earlier. Whatever the case, this is a big loss for Iowa State. Rhodes said freshman Allen Lazard and D’Vario Montgomery will likely see more playing time in the offense in Bundrage’s absence.

Bundrage led the Cyclones in receiving in 2013 with 676 yards and nine touchdowns.

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Charlie Strong: Starting QB David Ash out against BYU

David Ash

Texas head coach Charlie Strong says his starting quarterback, David Ash, will not be available this weekend for a home game against BYU. Ash apparently took a hit in the first quarter against North Texas on Saturday that raised a caution flag later that night. Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes will now be expected to be the starting quarterback for Texas.

Now Texas will be playing its next game without its starting quarterback and starting center. Center Dominic Espinosa suffered a broken ankle in the win over North Texas. He will likely miss the remainder of the regular season for the Longhorns. Strong confirmed Espinosa will require surgery. How long Ash is unavailable remains in question, although head injuries are tricky to predict. Given the history of Ash and head injuries, the margin for error is extremely thin.

Ash missed most of the 2013 season with concussion symptoms and he missed much of the spring with a foot injury. He was medically cleared to participate in football practices and workouts in July. Strong named Ash the starting quarterback a day later.

Ash played the entire game for the Longhorns on Saturday, completing 19 of 34 pass attempts for 190 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a touchdown.

Texas was blown away, or rather run over, by BYU in Provo, Utah last season. Any hope for revenge may have taken a serious hit with this latest injury news out of Austin.

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Will Chicago’s Big Ten team lose to Chicago’s MAC team?

LAF Purdue NIU

Only about a 30-minute drive from the Windy City, Northwestern portrays itself to be Chicago’s Big Ten team. If that is the case, then perhaps Northern Illinois should start making a claim to be Chicago’s MAC team. This weekend  the two schools will meet each other on the field for just the eighth time in the series history. Northern Illinois could be ready to score its first victory in the series.

Northwestern is coming off a home loss to California, in which all of the weaknesses the Wildcats have this season were completely exposed. The lack of depth and inconsistent quarterback play doomed Pat Fitzgerald‘s team. Northwestern put up a fight late in the game, but only after digging a 31-7 hole at home against a team that failed to reach the postseason last year. The offense managed just 354 yards against a team that finished next to last in all of FBS football (123rd) in total defense in 2013. Northwestern can either take its lumps and improve from this, or show that what was seen in week one is a true testament to what Northwestern football may be in 2014.

NIU may have opened against a cupcake in week one (thumping Presbyterian 55-3), but the Huskies showed signs of being able to move on in the post-Jordan Lynch era with the same basic formula and identity. The Huskies wasted no time in establishing dominance over an inferior opponent, jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and owning a 34-0 lead at the half. Northern Illinois churned out 424 rushing yards as a team, and will look to wear down Northwestern on the ground as well.

Northwestern leads the all-time series, which dates back to 1975, with a record of 6-0-1. The lone tie came in 1987. The two schools have faced each other just twice since 1991 (2000, 2005). With the Big Ten trying to get its members to shy away from scheduling games against programs from the MAC, games between the two schools may be few and far between for years. That may be why winning this game would be critical for a program like Northern Illinois. There are no future game son the schedule between these two schools, although Northwestern does have future dates against FCS schools Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois and Illinois State.

Many seem to have fallen on the Northwestern bandwagon in recent years. After this weekend, they may be found jumping off the bandwagon as it bursts into flames and goes crashing off the highway.

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Which Group of Five school had the most impressive Week 1?

Dee Hart

The College Football Playoff selection committee will guarantee one spot in a big revenue bowl game at the end of the season to the highest-ranked conference champion from the so-called Group of Five — American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference. With no team from any of those conferences starting the season ranked in the top 25 polls, it was crucial for one team to step up and state its case for consideration early on. The opening weekend of the college football season saw more whiffs than home runs by schools fighting for that big bowl game at the end of the year.

Boise State and Utah State, perhaps two of the perceived leading contenders, came up small in their battles with SEC schools. Boise State was taken down by Ole Miss on a neutral field in Atlanta on Thursday night. On Sunday night Chuckie Keeton and Utah State were rolled by Tennessee in Knoxville. If either Boise State or Utah State would have won, they would have become the leader in the clubhouse for the guaranteed bowl spot. So who had the most impressive season debut from each of the Group of Five conferences? Is there a favorite at this point?

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

The favorites in the AAC did not get off to a great start this season. Houston was embarrassed by UTSA in the grand opening of Houston’s new football stadium. Defending champion UCF was sloppy for most of the afternoon in Ireland against Penn State. A change at quarterback gave the Knights a spark and UCF took a late lead on the Nittany Lions but a field goal by Penn State as time expired dropped UCF to 0-1. Cincinnati, the media’s preseason favorite, did not play this weekend due to some bizarre scheduling. East Carolina held up their end of the bargain with a home blowout of a FCS program, but you don’t win points for that.

Temple may have had the most impressive season debut out of the American Athletic Conference. The Owls opened on Thursday night on the road at Vanderbilt. After sitting through a lengthy weather delay, Matt Rhule‘s program blew away Vanderbilt and ruined Derek Mason’s debut on Nashville. Temple gets a chance to build on that start this weekend at home against a Navy team that gave Ohio State a battle until the fourth quarter.

CONFERENCE USA

In the opening weekend of the season Conference USA teams did not fare well against power conference competition, but the conference did score some big wins by picking on other Group of Five conferences, which is equally important in this conversation. UTSA’s win against Houston raised plenty of eyebrows and has thrown UTSA into contender status in Conference USA as a result. Perhaps just as shocking was Western Kentucky’s blowout of defending MAC champion and 2014 favorite Bowling Green. UTSA’s victory over Houston on the road against an offense that is supposed to put up plenty of yards and points may be the more complete victory in my book, but Western Kentucky smacking around Bowling Green the way they did should not go unmentioned. These two wins alone may have been enough to suggest Conference USA is ahead of the MAC early on. Conference USA is still full of young, growing programs though so let’s see how the season plays out.

MAC

The two most convincing victories in the MAC this weekend happened to come against a pair of FCS opponents. Akron and Northern Illinois had no problems with their season-opening opponents, but they will hardly do anything to convince voters to place them above the performances of schools like Temple, UTSA or Western Kentucky (naturally). There was one MAC contest played this weekend, resulting in Ohio getting a jump in the standings following a road win at Kent State.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE

On a weekend that saw Boise State, Utah State and Fresno State all lose to power conference opponents, Colorado State’s win against Colorado could not have come at a better time. Colorado State’s 31-17 victory over in-state rival Colorado put on display every reason why the Rams are expected to make a run in the Mountain West Conference this season. Having Dee Hart at running back will be a nice luxury after rushing for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Colorado may not be a great program, but Colorado State will take it. The Rams, right now, may be at the top of the pack among Group of Five contenders thinking about the big bowl reservation.

SUN BELT

It was not a great weekend for the Sun Belt Conference. Louisiana Monroe’s home victory over a weak Wake Forest team may be the best victory in the books in week one. Georgia Southern nearly pulled an upset at North Carolina State, which would have been the top win among Sun Belt teams this weekend. If not ULM, then Texas State should probably get the nod following a 65-0 victory over Arkansas Pine-Bluff, but again, no points for blowouts of cupcakes, even in the Sun Belt.

WHAT ABOUT BYU?

Under the new structure of the College Football Playoff and the associated bowls, there is not automatic way for BYU to be invited to the party. BYU is not eligible to be considered for the reserved spot among Group of Five champions, even if the Cougars are ranked and no Group of Five conference champion is ranked. BYU’s only way to gain a spot in the bowl rotation is to 1) be selected to play in the College Football Playoff as a semifinalist or 2) be selected as an at-large team in the remaining bowl spots that are open after conference champions and automatic bids are selected.

BYU had one of the most impressive wins of the weekend from any school not in a power conference, dominating UConn in Connecticut. It was just the Huskies, but it was a show of dominance by Taysom Hill and the Cougars that would fare well with any other victory from the Group of Five schools on the opening weekend.

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June Jones knew Baylor’s defense was good, but didn’t expect that

June Jones

SMU was the sacrificial lamb for the opening of Baylor’s brand new football stadium Sunday night. Unfortunately for the June Jones and his Mustangs, SMU was unable to play the same kind of a spoiler role as UTSA was able to do at Houston on Saturday (Larry Coker‘s Roadrunners dominated and shutdown Houston’s potent offense in the opener for their new stadium). SMU was blown away by Baylor, 45-0. Jones knew Baylor was good on defense, but even he didn’t quite expect the Bears to handle them as well as they did.

“We knew they were a pretty good defense,” Jones said after the game, per The Dallas Morning News. “We knew they were more talented than what they’ve had been given credit for. But I didn’t expect us not be able to block them at all.”

“We scripted a lot of things to get the ball out quickly, but we did not do what we needed to do to win the football game,” Jones added. “It’s hard for the quarterback to go back and throw anything when he doesn’t have the time. We could not protect the quarterback.”

Baylor held SMU to just 67 total yards of offense. The Mustangs managed 91 passing yards, but quarterbacks were swallowed up for a loss of 58 yards, SMU’s rushing offense ended the night with a loss of 24 yards on the ground.

Maybe Jones should have chosen a different script, but the end result may not have been much different. Baylor is just playing on an entirely different field SMU is prepared for.

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With one game complete, Baylor has still yet to allow a point at McLane Stadium

Sam B. Richardson, Shawn Oakman

It didn’t come with the customary fireworks, but No. 10 Baylor still made easy work of SMU on Sunday night, shutting out their neighbors to the north, 45-0.

The game was the first in brand new McLane Stadium, you may have heard something about that, featured a pre-game statue unveiling of Robert Griffin III, and was attended by former President George W. Bush. The Bears got their points and their yards (574) but it was Phil Bennett’s defense that provided the best performance of the night.

Three SMU quarterbacks took the field, and all three failed to average three yards per attempt. Neal Burcham started the game and hit 15-of-26 passes for 159 yards. He was relieved by Texas A&M transfer Matt Davis, who hit 3-of-6 throws for 12 yards and an interception. Finally, true freshman Kolney Cassel finished the night by connecting on 3-of-8 throws for a grand total of 20 yards. Only Cassel managed to move the Mustangs into Baylor territory, and not until the 10:05 mark of the fourth quarter. And that was SMU’s most efficient mode of transportation. Led by Prescott Line’s four carries for 18 yards, SMU was credited with 25 rushes for minus-24 yards.

In all, the Mustangs’ offense took the field 15 times on Sunday night, went backwards four times, traveled less than 10 yards a dozen times, and strung together more than seven plays only once.

Baylor’s offense – though lightyears ahead of SMU – was not without its opening night struggles, either. Bryce Petty hit 13-of-23 passes for 161 yards for two touchdowns (and added another score on the ground) before sitting the second half with a back injury. Petty spent much of the first half grimacing and grabbing his left hip. Both Petty and backup Seth Russell (124 passing yards, 46 rushing yards, one touchdown) left a number of points on the field by consistently missing open receivers behind the SMU defense. Eight Baylor rushers totaled 50 carries for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Antwan Goodley also played only two series after aggravating a quad injury suffered in fall camp.

Freshman kicker Chris Callahan missed three of his four field goal tries, and was replaced by Kyle Peterson for the Bears’ sixth and final extra point try.

The health of Petty and Goodley are the key story lines for Art Briles’ team moving forward, but with Northwestern State, Buffalo and Iowa State waiting in September, the Bears have time to be patient.

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For one night at least, Tennessee acts like an SEC powerhouse again

They know what’s coming. They’re well aware of those consecutive road trips to Norman and Athens in the coming weeks. And they’ve not forgotten about those three weeks requiring a road trip to Ole Miss, a home date with Alabama, and a road trip to South Carolina later this season. Your reminders are not necessary.

For one night, though, none of that mattered.

Tennessee crushed Utah State 38-7 on Sunday night and, before its first sellout in seven years, had 102,000 in orange rocking Neyland Stadium like it did so many times throughout the 1990’s. The Vols used a Pig Howard eight-yard end around, a fumbled kickoff return and a 12-yard Justin Worley touchdown toss to Brendan Downs all in the span of three plays to build a 14-0 lead six minutes into the first quarter, carried a 17-0 lead into halftime, and then dealt the Aggies a knockout blow when Worley found Von Pearson for a 27-yard scoring strike with 5:31 to go in the fourth quarter.

Worley hit 27-of-38 attempts – connecting with 10 different receivers – for 273 yards and three touchdowns. He was much better than his Heisman darkhorse counterpart, as Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton connected on 18-of-35 throws for only 144 yards with one touchdown and two picks.

The Vols’ defense dominated Utah State throughout the night, allowing only 244 yards of total offense, 11 first downs and three third-down conversions in 14 tries.

A 31-point thumping may against a physically overmatched visitor from the Mountain West may have seemed preordained after the fact, but Utah State was the hottest upset pick in college football’s opening weekend. In fact, the line sank all the way down below five points by kickoff. Tennessee covered with ease.

This is not to say Butch Jones’ Vols were perfect, however. College football’s only offensive line tasked with replacing all five of its starters failed to control the line of scrimmage. Seven Big Orange ball carriers combined to rush the ball 39 times for a mere 110 yards and two touchdowns. Jones has recruited exceptionally well, but offensive lines are not built overnight. This will be a theme throughout the 2014 season for Tennessee, and there are monsters waiting in those woods.

For one passionate night at Neyland Stadium, however, none of that mattered.

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