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TCU football announces 22 signings

Gary Patterson AP

(Below is TCU’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

TCU head coach Gary Patterson and the Horned Frog football program have announced the signing of 22 players.

All but three of the newcomers are three star and above recruits. Four-star signee Kyle Hicks from Martin High School in Arlington, Texas, is ranked by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com as the No. 3 running back in Texas and No. 21 in the nation. He rushed for 1,113 yards and totaled 1,571 in offense with 28 touchdowns in just nine games as a senior this season.

TCU has now signed 14 four-star recruits in the last five classes. The Horned Frogs had just five four-star signees in the previous eight years combined (2001-08). Thirteen signees in this year’s class are in the Midlands 150 which covers the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Seventeen of the 22 signees are in-state products, including 11 from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Linebacker Sammy Douglas (Arlington) and cornerback Ranthony Texada (Frisco) were named by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football as the best in the state in 2012 at their respective positions. Six signees are in the Star-Telegram’s Tarrant County Terrific 25.

Twelve of the signees are on offense, nine on defense and one designated as an athlete. Offensive line was the most common position with four players, followed by cornerback, linebacker and wide receiver with three. Five states are represented in this year’s recruiting class.

The 22 signees include 20 high school products and junior college transfers Mike Tuaua (Rohnert Park, Calif.) and Lloyd Tunstill (Santa Clarita, Calif.).

Quarterback Zach Allen (Temple), tight end Bryson Burtnett (Springtown) and offensive tackle Eason  Fromayan (Alpharetta, Ga.) have already enrolled at TCU and will take part in spring practice.

Allen, the lone quarterback in the class, was the District 8-5A Offensive Most Valuable Player. Burtnett is ranked as the No. 5 tight end in the state and No. 40 in the nation. Fromayan was a first-team Class 6A all-state selection. He is the Horned Frogs’ third signee from Georgia in the last two seasons, joining Zach Jackson and Jordan Moore from last year’s class.

Joining Hicks at tailback is Trevorris Johnson (Houston), ranked as the No. 7 running back in Texas. He rushed for 2,115 yards as a senior, including a 342-yard game. He’s been tabbed by the Houston Chronicle as one of the top-100 recruits in the Houston area.

Jermaine Antoine (Loreauville, La.), Cameron Echols-Luper (Auburn, Ala.) and Ty Slanina (East Bernard) are TCU’s newcomers at wide receiver.

Antoine was the “Best All-Around Athlete” at the 2012 U.S. Army National Combine. He was first-team all-state as he rushed for 1,399 yards and 26 touchdowns while adding 538 yards receiving and six scores.

Echols-Luper, the son of TCU wide receivers coach Curtis Luper, has been ranked as the No. 7 wide receiver prospect in Alabama and the 19th-best overall player in the state.

Slanina was a first-team selection on the MaxPreps Small Schools All-America Team. He was the Offensive Most Valuable Player in leading East Bernard to the 2A Division II state championship.

In addition to Fromayan, offensive line signees include Patrick Morris (Denton), Joseph Noteboom (Plano) and Tunstill.

Morris is ranked as the No. 2 center in Texas and No. 8 nationally at the position. He did not allow a sack as a senior. Noteboom was the 12th-rated offensive tackle in the state. Tunstill was an all-conference selection the last two seasons at College of the Canyons.

Local signee Charlie Reid (Fort Worth) from All Saints’ Episcopal was a MaxPreps Small Schools All-American. He is rated as the fourth-best tight end prospect in Texas and No. 35 nationally.

Bryson Henderson (Mansfield), from Summit High School, is the 10th-ranked defensive end in the state and 63rd in the country. Also joining the defensive end ranks is Tuaua, who is from the same Santa Rosa Junior College that produced current TCU All-America cornerback Jason Verrett. Tuaua recorded 68 tackles, including 16 1/2 for loss, and eight sacks in the 2012 campaign.

TCU’s three signees at linebacker are Douglas, Dac Shaw (Mineola) and Paul Whitmill (Bastrop). They are ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, for outside linebackers in Texas and in the top 40 nationally at their position.

Douglas, a first-team all-state selection and the Star-Telegram Super Team Defensive Player of the Year, totaled 168 tackles in leading Arlington High School to the regional semifinals. Shaw, also an All-District 7-3A selection at running back, ran for 319 yards and five touchdowns in the same game he totaled 12 tackles. Whitmill was also a fullback for Bastrop High School.

TCU signed the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-rated cornerbacks in the state in Texada, Steve Wesley (Arlington) and Cydney Calvin (Frisco), respectively. Texada and Calvin are from Centennial High School.

Texada, the District 9-4A Defensive Most Valuable Player, intercepted two passes to earn MVP honors at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Texada and Calvin both excelled on special teams. Texada averaged 38 yards on kickoff returns and blocked five field goals as a senior, while Calvin was the school’s Special Teams MVP. Texada added three punt returns for touchdowns his junior year.

Wesley was a member of the Star-Telegram’s Tarrant County Terrific 25.

George Baltimore (Mansfield), the No. 7 safety in Texas and No. 51 in the nation, returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns as a senior. He had seven picks, including two for scores, as a junior.

Denzel Johnson (Gainesville) comes to TCU as an athlete. He was the District 9-3A Most Valuable Player after passing for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 1,064 yards and 10 scores.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 22 members of TCU’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Zach Allen (QB, 6-3, 185, Temple, Texas; Temple HS)
Ranked by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com as the No. 12 quarterback in Texas and No. 67 in the nation … District 8-5A Offensive Most Valuable Player and the Temple Daily Telegram Class 5A Co-Offensive Player of the Year as a senior … passed for 2,175 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 941 yards and nine scores despite playing just nine games due to injury … threw for 1,753 yards and ran for 766 as a junior … chose TCU over Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Clemson, Minnesota and Syracuse.

Jermaine Antoine (WR, 5-11, 195, Loreauville, La.; Loreauville HS)
Named “Best All-Around Athlete” at the 2012 U.S. Army National Combine … a first-team Class 2A all-state selection by the Louisiana Sportswriters Association … was also first-team All-District 6-2A and its Offensive Most Valuable Player as a senior … a three-time first-team pick as an athlete on The Daily Iberian’s Best of the Teche team … was also first-team All-Acadiana at running back … rushed for 1,399 yards and 26 touchdowns while adding 538 yards receiving and six scores as a senior … opened his senior season with 274 yards rushing and six touchdowns versus Central Catholic … ran for 691 yards and 11 touchdowns his junior year … added 568 yards and six scores receiving … had three kickoff returns and two punt returns for touchdowns … chose TCU over Texas A&M and North Texas.

George Baltimore (S, 6-0, 205, Mansfield, Texas; Mansfield HS)
The No. 7 safety in Texas and No. 51 in the nation by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com … No. 116 overall in the Midlands 150 … selected to the Star-Telegram’s Tarrant County Terrific 25 … honorable-mention all-state his senior year … was first-team all-district as a junior and senior … totaled 81 tackles his senior year with four interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns … also picked off seven passes as a junior, two of which were taken back for scores … selected TCU over Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas, Arkansas, Arizona State, Cal, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Purdue.

Bryson Burtnett (TE, 6-5, 225, Springtown, Texas; Springtown HS)

Rated by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com as the No. 5 tight end in Texas and No. 40 in the nation … had 19 receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns as a senior … totaled 37 tackles, including seven for loss, and two sacks on defense … was a unanimous All-District 6-3A selection at defensive end … All-Parker County … received second-team all-district honors as a junior when he totaled 51 tackles and five sacks … chose TCU over Rice and Texas State.

Cydney Calvin (CB, 6-1, 175, Frisco, Texas; Centennial HS)
The No. 7 cornerback in Texas and No. 78 in the nation by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com … ranked No. 120 overall in the Midlands 150 … named Centennial’s Most Improved Player and Special Teams Most Valuable Player his senior year … had two interceptions for 71 yards and also scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery … totaled 40 tackles … played alongside fellow TCU signee Ranthony Texada in high school … chose TCU over Wake Forest.

Sammy Douglas (LB, 6-3, 195, Arlington, Texas; Arlington HS)
Ranked by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com as the No. 3 outside linebacker in Texas and No. 28 in the nation … No. 80 overall in the Midlands 150 … named the state’s Best Linebacker in 2012 by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football … selected as the Star-Telegram Super Team Defensive Player of the Year and a member of the Tarrant County Terrific 25 … also an Associated Press first-team all-state selection and first-team All-District 4-5A … totaled 168 tackles, including a career-high 29 against Bowie, in leading Arlington to the regional semifinals … first-team all-district as a junior when he recorded 148 stops, including six sacks, with four forced fumbles and five recoveries.

Cameron Echols-Luper (WR, 6-0, 190, Auburn, Ala.; Auburn HS)
Tabbed the No. 7 wide receiver prospect in Alabama and No. 131 at his position nationally by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com … ranked as the 19th-best overall player in Alabama … passed for 1,036 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior … also rushed for 898 yards and seven scores in leading Auburn to the Class 6A quarterfinals … totaled 2,339 yards of offense and 25 touchdowns his junior year … a three-year starter … his father, Curtis Luper, is TCU’s wide receivers coach … chose the Horned Frogs over Texas A&M, Ole Miss, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Maryland and Illinois.

Eason Fromayan (OT, 6-5, 285, Alpharetta, Ga.; Milton HS)
Rated by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com as the No. 11 offensive tackle in Georgia and No. 90 nationally at his position … a first-team Class 6A all-state selection by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution … named to the Region 5-6A first team as a senior … honorable-mention all-district and all-region his junior year … his father, Edwin, was a four-year letterman (1988-91) in basketball at TCU … picked the Horned Frogs over Cincinnati, South Florida, Syracuse and Wake Forest.

Bryson Henderson (DE, 6-4, 245, Mansfield, Texas; Summit HS)
The No. 10 defensive end in Texas and No. 63 nationally by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com … ranked No. 127 overall in the Midlands 150 … selected to the Star-Telegram’s Tarrant County Terrific 25 … recorded 75 tackles and nine sacks as a junior … also earned District 7-4A Most Valuable Player honors that season … chose the Horned Frogs over Baylor, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Colorado, Vanderbilt and Purdue.

Kyle Hicks (TB, 5-10, 190, Arlington, Texas; Martin HS)
A four-star recruit by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com and Rivals.com … ranked as the No. 3 running back in Texas and No. 21 in the nation … the No. 141 overall player nationally by Scout.com … No. 23 in the Midlands 150 … an Associated Press honorable-mention all-state selection as a senior … named to the Star-Telegram’s Tarrant County Terrific 25 … totaled 1,113 yards on the ground and 458 through the air as a senior … totaled 28 touchdowns in nine games … rushed for 1,667 yards and 26 touchdowns in earning first-team all-district honors as a junior … was a Martin High School teammate of current Horned Frogs Devonte Fields and Jaden Oberkrom … chose TCU over Texas, Baylor, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Michigan.

Denzel Johnson (ATH, 6-2, 205, Gainesville, Texas; Gainesville HS)
Earned District 9-3A Most Valuable Player honors at quarterback his senior year … passed for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 1,064 yards and 10 scores … named All-Cooke County … first-team all-district as a junior when he rushed for 580 yards and eight touchdowns … also started at free safety during his time at Gainesville … helped lead the school to the Texas Class 3A Division I quarterfinals in 2012 … was also all-district in basketball and baseball … chose TCU over UTSA.

Trevorris Johnson (TB, 5-11, 205, Houston, Texas; Alief Taylor HS)
Rated as the No. 7 running back in Texas and No. 45 nationally by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com … No. 71 overall in the Midlands 150 … named the District 18-5A Offensive Most Valuable Player … rushed for 2,115 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior … tabbed by the Houston Chronicle as one of the top 100 recruits in the Houston area … rushed for a single game school-record 342 yards en route to earning Houston Boys Athlete of the Week honors from the Houston Chronicle … ran for 744 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior, averaging 6.5 per carry … selected TCU over Arkansas, Iowa State, Kansas, Utah, Cal and Wake Forest.

Patrick Morris (OL, 6-3, 288, Denton, Texas; Guyer HS)
The No. 2 center in Texas and No. 8 nationally at his position by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com … No. 69 overall in the Midlands 150 … an Associated Press Class 4A all-state selection … was also first-team District 5-4A and all-area as a senior … did not allow a sack … graded out at 87 percent with 27 knockdown blocks … helped lead Guyer to the Class 4A state championship game … Guyer rushed for 2,884 yards and 52 touchdowns … all-district as a junior and named to the all-state sophomore team in 2010 … a three-year letterman … also lettered one year in tennis … chose TCU over Texas Tech, Kansas, Northwestern and Washington State.

Joseph Noteboom (OT, 6-5, 260, Plano, Texas; Plano HS)
Ranked by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com as the No. 12 offensive tackle in Texas and No. 99 nationally … a first-team District 10-5A selection as a senior … also made the Associated Press Class 5A honorable-mention all-state team … was honorable-mention all-district as a junior … chose TCU over Texas Tech, Iowa State, Wake Forest and Purdue.

Charlie Reid (TE, 6-4, 225, Fort Worth, Texas; All Saints’ Episcopal School)
Tabbed the No. 4 tight end in Texas and No. 35 in the nation by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com … No. 115 overall in the Midlands 150 … a member of the 2012 MaxPreps’ Small Schools All-America Team … named to the Star-Telegram’s Tarrant County Terrific 25 … also selected to the Star-Telegram Super Team … recorded 49 catches for 1,220 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior  … All Saints’ Episcopal entered the 2012 campaign as the No. 1 small private school in the state … totaled 41 receptions for 637 yards and five touchdowns as a junior … chose TCU over Iowa State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, UCLA, Utah, Oregon State, Arizona and Colorado.

Dac Shaw (LB, 6-2, 200, Mineola, Texas; Mineola HS)

Rated as the No. 4 outside linebacker in Texas and No. 33 in the nation by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com … No. 90 overall in the Midlands 150 … the No. 53 overall prospect in the state by Rivals.com … a three-time all-district selection at running back and linebacker … named the 3A Player of the Week as a senior when he rushed for 319 yards and five touchdowns while also recording 12 tackles in a game … rushed for 28 touchdowns as a senior and 26 his junior year … honorable-mention Class 2A all-state as a junior … selected as Mineola’s Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore … also lettered in basketball … chose TCU over Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.

Ty Slanina (WR, 6-0, 182, East Bernard, Texas; East Bernard HS)
The No. 16 wide receiver in the state and No. 58 in the nation by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com … No. 74 overall in the Midlands 150 … a first-team selection on defense to the MaxPreps Small Schools All-America Team … an honorable-mention Associated Press Class 2A all-state selection … led East Bernard to the 2A Division II state title as a senior, throwing four touchdown passes and earning Offensive Most Valuable Player honors in the championship game … earned District 15-2A academic first team and Offensive MVP honors as a junior … ran for 1,015 yards, threw for 561 and intercepted seven passes as a sophomore … the 2011 and 2012 Class 2A state long jump champion … picked TCU over Baylor, Texas Tech, Stanford, Arizona, Utah and Mississippi State.

Ranthony Texada (CB, 5-10, 160, Frisco, Texas; Centennial HS)
Ranked by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com as the No. 5 cornerback in Texas and No. 43 nationally … No. 84 overall in the Midlands 150 … named the state’s Best Defensive Back in 2012 by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football … a second-team Associated Press all-state selection as a senior … also named the District 9-4A Defensive Most Valuable Player … an all-region honoree and the Collin County Defensive Player of the Year … totaled 63 tackles, four interceptions and 22 pass breakups as a senior … also averaged 38 yards per kickoff return and blocked five field goals … intercepted two passes in being named Team Defensive MVP at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl at Reliant Stadium in Houston … scored three touchdowns on punt returns while also intercepting five passes, breaking up 11 and recording 45 tackles as a junior … selected TCU over Baylor, Iowa State, Illinois, Penn State and Indiana.

Mike Tuaua (DE, 6-3, 260, Rohnert Park, Calif.; Santa Rosa JC; Rancho Cotate HS)
Recorded 68 tackles, including 16 1/2 for loss, with eight sacks in 2012 … the North Bay League Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Rancho Cotate High School … was also All-Empire … totaled 81 tackles in earning all-league honors his junior year … will have three seasons of eligiblity at TCU.

Lloyd Tunstill (OL, 6-4, 305, Santa Clarita, Calif.; College of the Canyons; Heritage Christian HS)
An all-conference selection at left tackle the last two seasons at College of the Canyons … will have two seasons of eligibility at TCU … chose the Horned Frogs over Baylor, West Virginia and BYU.

Steve Wesley (CB, 6-0, 175, Arlington, Texas; Bowie HS)
Rated as the No. 6 cornerback in Texas and No. 52 in the nation by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com … No. 108 overall in the Midlands 150 … selected to the Star-Telegram’s Tarrant County Terrific 25 … earned first-team All-District 3-5A honors as a senior and junior … picked TCU over Kansas, Illinois and Wake Forest.

Paul Whitmill (LB, 5-11, 200, Bastrop, Texas; Bastrop HS)
The No. 5 outside linebacker in Texas and No. 39 in the nation by FOX Sports Next/Scout.com … ranked No. 123 overall in the Midlands 150 … appeared on the 2012 Butkus Award High School Watch List … a first-team District 17-4A selection as a senior and junior … totaled 49 tackles, including 11 for loss, with two sacks his senior year … recorded 95 stops with seven for loss and three sacks as a sophomore … chose TCU over Baylor, Texas Tech, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Utah, Arizona and Wake Forest.

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Amari Cooper likely to become Alabama’s first Biletnikoff winner

Amari Cooper

And then there were three. The competition for the Biletnikoff Award is down to three of the nation’s top wide receivers. Alabama’s Amari Cooper is the lone player from a College Football Playoff contender in the running, although that should not diminish the accomplishments of two others up for the award.

Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins and West Virginia’s Kevin White are also finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top wide receiver in college football. No player from any of these three schools has ever won the award, which was first awarded in 1994.

Last year’s award went to Brandin Cooks of Oregon State. This year’s award will be presented on December 11 during The Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN.

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Les Miles will worry about LSU’s QB future, in the future

Les Miles

LSU has one more game to play in the 2014 regular season before going to a bowl game. Some are already wondering what head coach Les Miles is going to do with the quarterback position in the future, but Miles is not ready to make any long-term decisions. He still has a game at Texas A&M to prepare for after all. But he will make those decisions at the appropriate time. When he does, freshman Brandon Harris appears to be getting a chance to make his case for the starting job.

“We’ve chosen not to make the decision on our future quarterback until down the road,” Miles said during his weekly radio show Tuesday night, according to The Advocate. “That’s why he’s getting 50 percent of the reps.”

Harris has appeared in eight games this season. In those games, Harris has completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 452 yards and six touchdowns. He has been intercepted twice. Harris has not been seen much since an early October game against Auburn.

“We like Brandon Harris, and he’s coming. We’re not going to put parameters on that,” Miles added. “What we’re trying to get accomplished is put him in a position where he can go on the field and give us some explosive plays and not necessarily encumber him with the full offense, the whole thing. If we can do that, we might be able to get him on the field.”

Anthony Jennings, a sophomore, is the other quarterback in the mix, of course. Jennings has completed 47.9 percent of his passes in 11 games for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns. He has been picked off six times this season.

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Ohio State’s Spence declared permanently ineligible by Big Ten

Ohio State Buckeyes v Michigan State Spartans 12-7-2013

We will not see defensive end Noah Spence wearing an Ohio State football uniform this season, and we may not see him in any Big Ten uniform anytime soon. The Big Ten has declared Spence permanently ineligible from all intercollegiate athletics competition. Ohio State released a statement with that decision Tuesday night.

Spence was suspended by Ohio State earlier this season following a failed drug test. It was not the first time Spence failed a drug test at Ohio State, which led to an automatic suspension by the program and the threat of the NCAA wiping out the remaining two years of his eligibility.

Spence was guided through an appeals process by Ohio State, which is customary when filing appeals to the NCAA. That appeals process played out today, and it did not go well for Spence.

“While we are disappointed in the outcome, we are pleased that Noah has come a long way and we are very proud of the progress he has made with regard to his health,” Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith said in the released statement. “The Department of Athletics will continue to assist Noah through his pursuits and provide the academic resources necessary to help him complete his degree program.

Spence took to Twitter to express his feelings as well.

What is next for Spence is unknown at this point. Hopefully the troubles are behind him and he can find a way to thrive on and off the football field.

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College Football Playoff Rankings: No change in top four, but hello Boise State and Marshall!

Oklahoma State v Florida State Getty Images

The top of the latest College Football Playoff rankings look the same as they did a week ago, but this week’s rankings saw a significant development toward the bottom of the order.

Alabama remains on top of the playoff ranking, followed by Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State in that order. This is the same top four from last week. TCU remains sitting in fifth place, waiting for a shot to creep into the top four, just as it did last week.

Boise State and Marshall made their respective debuts in the playoff ranking this week, and this is notable. The highest-ranked conference champion from a non-power conference will be given a spot in an access bowl. If Boise State wins the Mountain West Conference, it will be difficult for Marshall to make up enough ground to pass the Broncos despite trailing Boise State by one in the rankings.

The Top Four

1. Alabama

2. Oregon

3. Florida State

4. Mississippi State

No change here, perhaps as expected. The question was whether or not the committee would drop Florida State after another close loss during a week that saw Mississippi State blow away Vanderbilt. This was not the case, although that precedent had already been set. The big question the next two weeks will be whether or not Mississippi State without a conference championship can stay ahead of a one-loss Big 12 and/or Big Ten champion.

Who Is On Deck?

5. TCU

6. Ohio State

7. Baylor

Ohio State remains one spot behind TCU, which means it looks like the Buckeyes could need a little help to move up two spots. The good news for Ohio State is the Buckeyes could have a Big Ten championship game match-up with a rising Wisconsin team to help push them up in the final rankings if things go Ohio State’s way. We also need to know when the committee might feel the time is right to move Baylor ahead of TCU with a head-to-head result in favor of the Bears.

The Full Ranking

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Some Quick Thoughts

We finally got a glimpse of the non-power conference representation in this week’s ranking, yet it does not come without some potential controversy. Boise State, if it wins out, would have a more impressive overall body of work compared to a potentially undefeated Marshall, but what about Colorado State? If Boise State slips, Marshall is set up to stay ahead of a one-loss Colorado State team at a late point in the season. The committee will have to hope Boise State runs the table, because Colorado State with one loss has an even stronger case than a two-loss Boise State does against an undefeated Marshall. Colorado State has two victories against power conferences away from home compared to zero for Marshall, and the Rams only lost one game, at Boise State.

At what point does the committee remember that Baylor beat TCU? It has to happen at some point, right? Although TCU’s non-conference drubbing of Minnesota clearly looks better now, and may be a key win to hold over Ohio State as well. TCU defeated Minnesota by a wider margin of victory compared to the Buckeyes.

Minnesota avoided being dropped from the committee’s top 25 last week despite losing, and a win against Nebraska helped move them up seven spots this week. This is great news for TCU and Ohio State.

Take a look at UCLA. The Bruins continue to wiggle up the rankings, and could still be within reach of making the top four with a little help. If UCLA wins this weekend against Stanford, the Bruins will play Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. UCLA has struggled to get over the hump to be an elite team in the Pac-12, but they seem to be surging at a very good time. It may be a lot of ground to make up in two weeks, but it is far from impossible.

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Maxwell Football Club award finalists include Mariota, Prescott, Gordon and Beasley

Dak Prescott

The Maxwell Football Club has announced the three finalists for each of its individual awards, the Maxwell Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon have been named finalists for the Maxwell Award. Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III have been named finalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award.

the Maxwell Award is presented to the top player in college football as determined by the Maxwell Football Club and voting panel. The award does not always go to the player that wins the Heisman Trophy. Last year, for example, the Maxwell Award went to Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Mariota, Gordon and Prescott may be likely names to be heading to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation at the end of the season, but the odds may be good the Maxwell Award goes to another player. No Oregon or Mississippi State player has ever won the Maxwell Award, but Wisconsin has one. The last running back to iwn the award was Penn State’s Larry Johnson in 2002.

The Chuck Bednarik Award is in its 20th season and goes to the top defensive player as determined by the Maxwell Football Club and its voters. Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald won the award last season. Whichever player wins the award this year will be doing so for the first time in school history.

this year’s winners for each award will be announced on December 11 during The Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN. The awards will be formally presented in Atlantic City, New Jersey in March as part of the Maxwell Football Club’s Awards Gala.

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Doak Walker Award finalists filled by Big Ten trio

Melvin Gordon, Desmond King

The Big Ten has a handful of really good running backs, and it shows with the naming of the finalists for the Doak Walker Award. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Indiana’s Tevin Coleman were each named finalists for the top running back award, filling all three finalist spots.

Gordon held the single-game rushing record for just one week, but his production this season has been steady. Gordon leads the nation in rushing with 2,109 rushing yards with one more regular season game to play and possibly two more if Wisconsin plays in the Big Ten Championship Game and Gordon plays in Wisconsin’s bowl game.

Abdullah is also one of the top running backs in the country, but he has been slowed by injuries at times. Abdullah is still on track for a possible 2,000-yard season with 20 rushing touchdowns with one regular season game left and a bowl game.

Indiana’s offense may have been a disappointment this season, but this does not apply for Coleman. Coleman is the nation’s second-leading rusher behind Gordon with 1,906 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Coleman has carried the Hoosiers offense for much of the season, and he has handled it well.

Wisconsin’s Montee Ball was the last Big Ten running back to win the Doak Walker Award, two seasons ago. As good of a running program Nebraska has been through the years, the Cornhuskers have never had a Doak Walker Award winner. Indiana is also looking for its first Doak Walker Award winner. Gordon looks to be the favorite in this pack though.

If Gordon wins the award, he will become the third Wisconsin running back to win the award. That total would also tie Texas for the most Doak Walker Award winners.

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FSU’s Aguayo highlights 2014 Lou Groza Award finalists

Roberto Aguayo

Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo has been named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award. This should come as little surprise after the Seminoles kicker won the award in 2013 and has put together another dependable season kicking field goals and extra points for the defending national champions.

Maryland kicker Brad Craddock and West Virginia’s Josh Lambert join Aguayo as finalists for this year’s award for best kicker.

Aguayo is looking to become the second repeat winner of the Lou Groza Award. He would join another former Florida State kicker sharing that honor if he wins the award again. Sebastian Janikowski won the Lou Groza Award in 1998 and 1999. No other player has ever won the award multiple times.

Craddock is the only kicker in the country who has been perfect on all of his field goal attempts, and he has kicked a bunch of them. Craddock is a perfect 17-for-17 this season and the Australien kicker has shown great range at times as well.

No kicker in the country has kicked more field goals than Lambert though. The West Virginia kicker has kicked 24 of 32 kicks for the Mountaineers this season, and his 24 field goals made this season already surpasses the regular season high for kickers in the 2013 regular season.

All three finalists will be honored at a banquet on Tuesday, December 9 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The winner will be revealed during The Home DepotCollege Football Awards Show on Thursday, December 11 in Disney World.

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Auburn loses sacks leader for season before Iron Bowl

Auburn v Mississippi State Getty Images

If Auburn was hoping to find ways to bring down Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, the Tigers may have to look for someone else on the defensive line to step up. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn announced Tuesday defensive end DaVonte Lambert will miss the Iron Bowl and Auburn’s bowl game after undergoing season-ending surgery on his left knee on Monday.

“That’s a big blow for us,” Malzahn said, per The Montgomery Advertiser. “We’re going to need some guys to step up.”

Lambert led the defense with 3.5 sacks this season. Montravius Adams and Angelo Blackson each have three sacks. Adams is also second on the team in tackles for loss, so he may be the most likely name to watch try and fill the void left by Lambert.

Lambert had been listed as the starting defensive end for Auburn on this week’s depth chart for the Alabama game. Sophomore Elijah Daniel (3.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks) is listed as his back-up.

“He’s a factor,” Malzahn said. “But we need some other guys to step up. Football’s a team game and when you’re playing against your rival, it’s got the ability to have guys step up and play better than they have all year, and that’s what we need.”

Getting sacks against Alabama is tough enough. The Crimson Tide have allowed just 10.0 sacks all season. Auburn has just 19.0 sacks this season as well. Losing one of their better sack specialists could be tough to overcome.

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Alabama and Florida State in mix for 2017 Atlanta game? Yes please

Boise State v Georgia Getty Images

Florida State and Alabama have met just four times dating back to 1965, although we could be heading to a postseason head-to-head clash between the Seminoles and Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff. We could also be on the verge of seeing the two southern powers collide in Atlanta to open the 2017 season, and that would be awesome.

The Palm Beach Post reports Alabama and Florida State are discussing a potential 2017 season opener in Atlanta, which would likely be a part of the annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff. The game typically features a team from the SEC and the ACC often fills the other spot for the high-profile game. Alabama has been a frequent visitor to Atlanta for these games as well, so hearing about the possibility of the Tide once again playing in Atlanta to open the season is no shock.

According to the report, Alabama had also been in discussions about playing a game in 2017 with Penn State and USC, although the extent of those talks is unconfirmed. Penn State’s 2017 non-conference schedule is already filled, and USC has one spot to fill. The Trojans are also set to open the 2016 season against Alabama in Arlington.

By 2017, both the ACC and SEC will have a non-conference scheduling requirement in place that requires all conference members to schedule at least one game against another power conference opponent. Florida State has this requirement fulfilled by playing Florida each season. A game with Florida State would fulfill the requirement for Alabama in 2017.

Alabama leads the all-time series 2-1-1. The last time the teams played was in 2007 in another neutral site game in Jacksonville. Florida State won the September game, 21-14. Alabama has hosted the other three meeting in the series, winning two, between 1965 and 1974.

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Hugh Freeze to Florida? Rumor mill is turning out unlikely scenarios

Hugh Freeze

There is no question the Florida coaching vacancy that will soon officially become available will be one of the top landing spots for some coach in this season’s edition of the coaching carousel, and the rumor mill should be working at high speed in the coming weeks as Florida looks to find a replacement for outgoing Will Muschamp. One name that has been thrown out there in the coaching rumor mill already is Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze.

On the surface, it would seem to make sense Freeze would be on the list of potential targets for Florida, and why not? Freeze has shown signs of solid recruiting and development with the Ole Miss program in his short time in Oxford, and the Rebels looked to be one of the top teams in the country until the last few weeks. Despite a couple of losses in recent weeks, Ole Miss still looks to be in a better position than Florida right now, and that alone should be enough to keep Freeze in Ole Miss.

This time of the year always seems to turn out rumor after rumor, and sometimes those rumors may be leaked by agents representing coaches ready to either make a move or make a power move to get a brand new contract signed. Ole Miss is already working to put an end to any potential coaching rumors tied to Freeze. The school is already in the process of working on a new contract for Freeze, which both sides previously were reported to be in agreement to finalize after the regular season. The job security for Freeze at Ole Miss also appears to be very good, as he has already had his contract extended twice before.

Freeze leaving Ole Miss may not necessarily be out of the question, but leaving a job at one SEC school with as much job security as Ole Miss has provided for a bit of a rebuilding project at Florida does not appear to be the likely scenario to bank on. Coaches rarely make a move from one school to another within the same conference too. It is even more rare to see a coach at a strong program leave to rebuild another in the same conference.

Florida announced last week Muschamp will be removed as head coach at the conclusion of the regular season. It was Muschamp’s decision, apparently, to not coach the Gators in any potential bowl game the program will be invited to play. This makes sense, as it gives him plenty of time to focus on his next job, whatever and wherever that may be. It also gives the entire program a chance to move in a new direction and the players a chance to play without the distractions that could come with the Muschamp sideshow.

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Texas’ Espinosa won’t seek sixth year

Mississippi v Texas

As it turns out, an injury occurred early on in the season has played a significant role in one of the most experienced Texas offensive linemen calling it a career.

Starting center Dominic Espinosa sustained what turned out to be a very significant ankle injury in UT’s season-opening win over North Texas.  Because a health issue kept him off the field as a true freshman in 2010, it was thought that the offensive lineman would apply for a sixth season of eligibility and return to the Longhorns in 2015.

That won’t be the case, however, as Espinosa himself confirmed, via a very heartfelt letter penned to the fans of the football program and posted on social media, that he is retiring from the game of football.

Prior to the injury in the opener, Espinosa had started 40 straight games at center for the Longhorns.

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Stanford won’t have Ty Montgomery for game vs. UCLA

Ryan Murphy, Ty Montgomery AP

Stanford’s offense has been bad enough with Ty Montgomery on the field.  Without him?  That’s far from optimal, yet that’s the position the Cardinal will find itself this weekend.

Tuesday afternoon, David Shaw confirmed that the all-purpose wide receiver will not play in Friday’s regular-season finale against UCLA.  Montgomery sustained an injury to his right shoulder very early on in last weekend’s win over Cal.

It’s the same shoulder that nearly kept him out of the opener after undergoing surgery earlier in the offseason.  Shaw did say there’s a “distinct possibility” he’ll be healthy enough to play in a bowl game.

Montgomery leads the Cardinal in receptions (61) and receiving yards (604), and is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (three).  Montgomery’s absence will also hurt the Cardinal on special teams as he’s their leading kickoff (25.2 yards per return) and punt returner (19.8 ypr).  He’s returned two punts for touchdowns this season.

The Hornung Award finalist being unavailable could also impact the Pac-12 South race.

If UCLA wins Saturday, they claim the division title and the spot opposite Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.  If UCLA loses, the winner of the Arizona-Arizona State game earns the berth.

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Gophers’ David Cobb ‘very questionable’ for B1G play-in game

Minnesota v Nebraska Getty Images

The winner of Saturday’s Minnesota-Wisconsin game will move on to face Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game the following weekend.  Unfortunately for one of the participants, they could very well be missing a very key piece of its running game.

Tuesday afternoon, Gophers head coach Jerry Kill was asked about running back David Cobb‘s status for the play-in game. “Very questionable,” Kill responded.

Cobb sustained a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter of the Week 13 win over Nebraska in Lincoln.

Especially when it comes to a game with such high stakes, losing Cobb would be a significant blow for the Gophers.

Cobb has rushed for 1,430 yards this season, over 1,000 yards more than the team’s No. 2 rusher, quarterback Mitch Leidner (407).  The top back besides Cobb?  Berkley Edwards and his 140 yards.

While Cobb is ninth nationally in rushing, his Gopher teammates on the defensive side of the ball will be tasked with stopping the nation’s leading rusher (2,109 yards) and scorer of rushing touchdowns (25) in Melvin Gordon.

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Christian Hackenberg’s dad ‘won’t even touch’ transfer talk

Christian Hackenberg, Adolphus Washington

To say that Christian Hackenberg‘s second season in Happy Valley has been underwhelming would be an understatement.

As a true freshman, Hackenberg completed 59 percent of his passes and tossed 20 touchdowns vs. 10 interceptions in Bill O’Brien‘s final year at Penn State.  In James Franklin‘s first season with the Nittany Lions, Hackenberg has thrown just eight touchdowns against 14 interceptions in completing just over 55 percent of his passes.  In 2013, he threw for 2,955 yards on 392 attempts; in 389 passes this season, he’s totaled 2,411 yards.

Certainly not all of the struggles are on Hackenberg — the offensive line has allowed 39 sacks and even more quarterback hits — but those struggles, alongside public squabbling with teammates and just overall frustration, has led some to speculate that the Freshman All-American could be looking to transfer from the  Nittany Lions at season’s end.  In a telephone interview with Lancaster Online, Hackenberg’s father, a former college quarterback himself, didn’t exactly refute the speculation, although he did allow that leaving is not a talking point for the family.  Well, at least for now it’s not.

I won’t even touch that,” Erick Hackenberg told the paper when asked about the rumors. “That’s everyone else’s $64,000 question. The $64,000 question in the Lasch Building (PSU’s football facility) and in this household is how can we get better every week and at the end of the year be in a better place than now — or three weeks from now, or a month from now, at a bowl game, be at a better place than we are now. Everything else will handle itself.

“I don’t really have a comment on that at all. I think that’s a lot of conjecture. … It’s the outside, looking in. Out of respect to Coach (James) Franklin and the team, out of respect to Christian and everybody else, that’s not fair to a lot of people, so I’m not going to touch that. That’s something that doesn’t even need to be talked about at this point. He loves being at Penn State.”

It seems highly unlikely that Hackenberg, a five-star recruit rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2013 coming out of high school in Virginia, would leave the Nittany Lions after this season.  Stranger things have happened, though so it at least bears monitoring.

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Irish won’t have two starting defensive linemen for USC game

Rice v Notre Dame Getty Images

Notre Dame will head into its annual rivalry game with USC very shorthanded along its defensive line.

Tuesday afternoon, head coach Brian Kelly confirmed that Sheldon Day (pictured, left) and Jarron Jones (pictured, right) have been ruled out of Saturday’s game with the Trojans due to injuries. Day will miss a second consecutive game because of a sprained knee, while Jones is out with a Lisfranc injury.

Day could return for a bowl game, Kelly said, but Jones is out for the remainder of the season. Jones will undergo surgery next week and be sidelined for anywhere from 4-6 months, which means his availability for spring practice is certainly up in the air.

Jones had started all 11 games this season and totaled 12 for his career.  Day started the first 10 games before suffering his knee injury.  He has 17 career starts.

The injury news is not limited to the defensive line, unfortunately, as freshman defensive back Drue Tranquill sustained a torn ACL in the loss to Louisville and will, obviously, be out for the remainder of the 2014 season.  As is the case with Jones, Tranquill’s availability for spring practice is in jeopardy.

Tranquill had started two of the last three games at safety for the Irish.

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