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Virginia announces future series with Boise State

Mike London AP

A couple of hours ahead of the ACC’s schedule release, one of its members has announced a future football series with a “mid-major” powerhouse.

In a press release, Virginia confirmed that it has scheduled a home-and-home series with Boise State.  The Cavaliers will host the Broncos Sept. 26, 2015, in Charlottesville, then travel to Boise for a game Sept. 23, 2017.

“We’re excited to announce this series with a program that has been exceptional over the last decade,” said UVa. athletic director Jon Oliver in a statement. “They’ve done it with great coaching, solid recruiting and a fearless approach to competition. We are trying to do the same thing and this will be an incredible challenge for us as we continue to build our program.

“The 2015 and 2017 seasons could end up being two of the toughest schedules in the history of our football program and we hope they will excite and energize our fans, student-athletes and recruits.”

The Cavaliers have a pair of contests against Pac-12 schools on its future schedules — a 2015 game against UCLA, one in 2017 versus Stanford.  The former game is on the road, the latter at home.

The 2015 games against Boise State will mark the first time the two programs have met on a football field.

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Big Ten, SEC each draw 400,000+ fans in spring football

Ohio State Spring Game Getty Images

When it comes to spring football, the Big Ten and SEC tend to rule the attendance game. It only makes sense with the largest stadiums in the country mostly residing within the Big Ten or SEC, not to mention some of the top brands in the game. Both conferences went over the 4 million fan mark this year in the conference-wide spring game attendance figures.

Both conferences closed the books on spring practices Saturday with Tennessee and Arkansas the last two SEC schools to play a spring game and Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin closing out the Big Ten spring schedule. When all was said and done, the Big Ten edges the SEC in spring attendance by roughly 2,000 fans.

The Big Ten’s spring total added up to 410,943 fans. That includes a new national record set by Ohio State (99,391) and three other schools with over 60,000 fans (Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan). Michigan State also set a new school record with 48,000 fans on Saturday. Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern are not included in that total due to not keeping track or recording a spring game attendance.

The SEC ended the spring with 408,599 fans coming out to SEC stadiums. The Big Ten numbers were top heavy, but there was a little bit more even distribution of fans throughout the SEC, with the notable exception of Vanderbilt. It should be noted Kentucky and Texas A&M did not play a spring game or record any spring attendance numbers. It should be expected Texas A&M be a solid spring draw next year after the completion of renovations on Kyle Field (better than Jerry World?). That could be enough to push the SEC in front of the Big Ten if we assume most of these attendance numbers are roughly the same in 2016.

Numbers are still coming in for the Big 12 and Pac-12, but none of the other power conferences will even sniff 200,000 fans this spring. It’s just a different routine in the Big Ten and SEC every spring, and the attendance numbers show it.

Source: 2015 Spring Football Attendance

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Michigan State center scores only TD of Spartans’ spring game

Jack Allen

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was pushing to get 50,000 fans to show up at Spartan Stadium for the annual spring game, but he had to settle for 48,000 fans instead. That was still good enough for a school record for the spring game.

The 48,000 fans that did show up were treated to a handful of trick plays and familiar dominance in the trenches. The only touchdown of the game was scored by center Jack Allen, who found space on his way for a short touchdown run after 300-pound guard Donavon Clark rumbled 13 yards on a lateral from quarterback Connor Cook. Do not expect to see too much of that during he regular season, but do not forget about it either. Dantonio is know for pulling some tricks in key moments, but even that might be considered a bit of a costly risk.

As for individual performances, Shilque Calhoun was credited for 2.5 sacks in the game.Cook went 11-of-22 for 105 yards. It was not a stellar performance from the Spartans’ quarterback, but there is no real reason for concern in East Lansing. that is because the starting offensive line was split between teams. Put them all together and Cook should be in good shape in the fall. Cook’s backup, Damion Terry, did not play in the spring game as he recovers from injury.

Michigan State’s crowd of 48,000 was locked in as the fifth best this spring around the Big Ten. Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan all finished ahead of the Spartans, but Dantonio should feel good about the crowd that turned out. In Madison, Wisconsin, the crowd was considerably smaller, but there is a lot to do in Madison. Michigan State’s attendance (combined with the totals from Wisconsin and Iowa on Saturday) pushed the total spring attendance around the Big Ten to 410,943, giving the Big Ten the largest combined spring attendance in 2015.

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Hokies close out spring and set focus on Buckeyes

Motley, Brewer

Every year there is one team that has the opportunity to play the defending national champions in the first game of the season. In 2015 that will be Virginia Tech, the only team to hand national champion Ohio State a loss last season. This year the Buckeyes visit Blacksburg for a Monday night game n Labor Day, which means now that the spring is over the Hokies are already in need of getting ready for everything Ohio State will throw at them.

Some teams end their springs with some question marks, but the vibe seems pretty positive at Virginia Tech after Saturday afternoon’s spring game.

“I like where we are. I like our football team,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said after the game. “I think we’ve got a lot of good character guys and a lot of good football players. I like where we are right now and we’ve got to keep going in a positive direction.”

Starting quarterback Michael Brewer threw one touchdown while splitting time between teams. The red zone efficiency was respectable between the two teams as well, with touchdowns scored on four of five red zone opportunities. On the flip side, the defense gave up four touchdowns in five red zone situations.

“I thought the offense took a step in the right direction,” Brewer said following the game. “We’re not where we need to be or where we want to be, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

In typical Virginia Tech fashion, the first score of the game came on special teams when Greg Stroman returned a punt early on for an 88-yard touchdown. Later in the game the defense got on the scoreboard when Donovan Riley returned a fumble 36 yards for a score. The defense could be credited for another score after recovering a fumble deep in the offense’s pat of the field to set up a short touchdown run by Trey Edmunds.

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Kansas spring game sees starting QB injured, leading rusher suspended

Michael Cummings

It was quite a disastrous afternoon for the Kansas Jayhawks. Not only was a starting quarterback injured, but two more players were confirmed to be suspended for violations of team rules.

Michael Cummings limped off the field with the assistance of the team’s medical staff. He had taken a low hit by safety Michael Glatczak, but the severity of the injury is not yet known. Kansas head coach David Beaty said it was too early to start discussing how the future of Cummings looks. Cummings was the leading passer for Kansas in 2014 with 1,715 yards and nine touchdowns.

Two other players with an uncertain future right now at Kansas are wide receiver Rodriguez Coleman and running back Corey Avery. Beaty said both players have been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, and it is unknown when or if either player will return to the program. Avery was the leading rusher for the Jayhawks last fall, rushing for 631 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman. Coleman had three catches for 37 yards in 2014.

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Jeff Long says 13th games were factor for CFB Playoff committee

Jeff Long

This may not sit too well with some fans in Big 12 country, specifically fans of Baylor or TCU. If there was any doubt how valuable a conference championship game was going to be in the College Football Playoff era, Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long made the message pretty clear; it’s pretty important.

Long, who chairs the selection committee for the College Football Playoff, was a guest in the broadcast booth for a short Q&A on the SEC Network during the Arkansas spring game Saturday afternoon. During his interview Long was asked about the College Football Playoff and the value of playing a conference championship game in the eyes of the selection committee. In his response, Long said the 13th game played by those in conference championship games was a factor for the selection committee. Baylor and TCU only played 12 games, with the Big 12 not holding a conference championship game.

Baylor and TCU shared the Big 12 championship last fall, and neither school was invited to participate in the first College Football Playoff despite entering the final week of the season ranked ahead of Ohio State. The Buckeyes roared into the playoff following a dominating victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game despite trailing TCU in the weekly CFB Playoff rankings up until the final week of the rankings.

Change may be on the way for the Big 12 though. The conference could begin playing a championship game as soon as 2016, which would give its conference champion one more time to impress the selection committee. Of course, even if the Big 12 had a championship game last season it is unknown if it would have been enough to keep TCU or Baylor in the playoff field ahead of a surging Ohio State along with Alabama, Oregon and Florida State. Big brands still carry weight growing and blossoming programs like Baylor and TCU are working to achieve.

Long also said during his brief moment in the booth the committee would be reviewing possible minor changes to the College Football Playoff, although nothing too drastic is expected to change in the eyes of the public.

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Jim Mora will name starting UCLA QB “whenever kickoff is vs. Virginia”

Jerry Neuheisel

The UCLA spring drew to a close Saturday afternoon on the west coast. As far as head coach Jim Mora is concerned, there is no need to name a starting quarterback just yet, and he may be letting the competition brew right up until the season’s opening kickoff against Virginia.

Earlier this week Mora said “I will not say who’s the guy until our first series against Virginia,” and after the spring game that plan has not changed.

The options for UCLA are Jerry Neuheisel, Asiantii Woulard, Mike Fafaul and early enrollee Josh Rosen. If the spring game was any indication, it might be a wide open race to replace Brett Hundley. There were some nice plays at times, but the final spring practice also saw a decent amount of overthrowing targets, and it would be fair to suggest none of the candidates for the starting job jumped out and grabbed a hold of the position out of the spring.

Woulard did serve up one of the nicer highlights from UCLA’s scrimmage…

UCLA opens the 2015 season at home against Virginia on September 5.

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Urban Meyer was against satellite camps before he was for them

Urban Meyer

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer may think satellite camps should be outlawed, but do not think for one second he is not going to take advantage of the NCAA rules the same way his coaching brethren at Michigan and Penn State are. Ohio State coaches will be working with coaches at Florida Atlantic this summer, giving Ohio State coaches access to potential recruits in the state of Florida in the same way Penn State and Michigan will have access to recruits in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and beyond.

There is a connection between the two schools, according to Cleveland.com. FAU Athletics Director previously was employed by Ohio State. Meyer’s previous experience in the state of Florida also helps.

“I think we’re thinking about doing one,” Meyer said Monday. “I can’t tell you if it has been finalized. Am I a fan of that? Not really. A big lore to Ohio State is getting them here on campus.

“I think what happens is monkey see, monkey do, they did that so let’s go do it,” Meyer said. “We’re not going to do it only because other schools are trying it.”

No word on whether or not Meyer will be accepting an open invite by Jim Harbaugh to help with Michigan’s summer camp.

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Leah Still scores touchdown at Temple spring game

Nike Levi's Kids Rock - Runway - New York Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2015

Leah Still, the daughter of Cincinnati Bengals player Devon Still, has already scored the best touchdown of the day among all the spring games being played this afternoon.

Still was a special guest at Temple’s spring game today. The Owls invited her to toss the coin before the game, and then gave her a chance to score one more career touchdown than her father, a former Penn State defensive lineman, ever had.

Good job by the Temple Owls here.

Leah Still’s inspirational story caught the attention of the sports world and beyond last fall, just months after she had been diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma, which led to surgery and other forms of treatment. The Cincinnati Bengals released Devon still from the team but kept him on the practice squad so he and his family could benefit from the health insurance provided by the NFL. Leah is currently in remission and remains an inspiration for so many.

UPDATE (7:30 p.m.) – We now have a better quality video courtesy of CSN Philly;

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UAB linebacker brings helmet to graduation and leaves President Watts hanging

Derek Slaughter

UAB linebacker Derek Slaughter won the crowd at a graduation ceremony this week. The graduating senior brought his UAB football helmet to graduation and held it high as he walked to the stage to accept his diploma from the university. The crowd erupted in support of not just Slaughter, but the entire football program that was cast off by the university and the board of trustees.

That moment was great, it was touching. Then Slaughter scored one more point as he left UAB President Ray Watts hanging as he walked off the stage.

The disgraced university president was there to offer a congratulatory handshake to all UAB students graduating, but Slaughter refused to shake hands with Watts, who has become the target for so much criticism over the shutting down of the UAB Blazers football program despite a new report suggesting the program was financially viable.

In this video below you can see Slaughter make his way to the right of the stage to walk back to his seat. The image may be a little grainy, but you can see Watts extend his hand to shake hands, as Slaughter walks right on by.

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Washington’s Chris Petersen has Huskies focused on tackling technique

Chris Petersen

If there is one thing to take note of as you watch Washington football this fall, pay attention to the technique with which the Huskies tackle. Head coach Chris Petersen has been trying to change the way the fundamentals of tackling are taught and enforced in his second spring with the Huskies.

“The game has to change,” Petersen said, according to The Seattle Times. “We have to change as coaches.”

Petersen picked up some new ideas after having a discussion with a former Boise State player, Michael Lose, about the relatively low number of head injuries in rugby. Rugby players, if you were unaware, typically do not wear helmets. His interest in improving tackling technique continued to grow after a conversation with Seattle Seahawks defensive assistant Rocky Seto.

“We are fully committed to this,” Petersen said. “It’s the right thing to do. But the really neat thing about this whole thing is, not only is it the right thing to do because it’s the safe thing to do, it’s a better way of tackling.”

Going for the big hit may result in a nice highlight or two, but it can also lead to the chance of a missed tackle. Better form and better technique could not only make for a a safer game, but a better defense as well.

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Texas A&M’s Kyle Field better than Jerry World, says chancellor

Kyle Field

Texas A&M has invested serious money ($485 million) to give Kyle Field a nice facelift over the course of the past two years. When all is completed, Kyle Field will be better than a pair of NFL stadiums in the state of Texas, AT&T Stadium and NRG Stadium. Well, according to Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp at least.

“This stadium is going to be the most impressive college sports venue in the country,” Sharp said for a local news story on KBTX. That includes the two NFL stadiums that have taken up hosting college football games in the regular season and bowl season in recent years.

One of the notable upgrades to Kyle Field, other than more restrooms, is the expanded WiFi coverage inside the stadium, which Texas A&M claims will be able to handle 100,000 calls at the same time and save your phone’s battery life from start to finish.

“If you come to the stadium with a full charge, it should last the whole game,” Todd Christner, Director of Wireless Business Development for IBM/Corning, said. [Insert AT&T Stadium joke here if you wish].

Sharp also commented on the future, or lack thereof, of the rivalry between Texas A&M and Texas. As far as he is concerned, the series will not be returning for some time. That’s a shame. It would be fun watching one of college football’s best in-state rivalries play in the so-called most impressive college sports venue in the country.

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Boise State’s potential starting QB arrested

Boise State at Air Force

I suppose it is time to hit the reset button on that arrest ticker on the side of the page.

Boise State quarterback Ryan Finley was reportedly arrested early Saturday morning and charged for a pair of misdemeanor offenses related to alcohol. The Idaho Statesman says Finley was charged for possession of an alcoholic beverage as a minor and resisting or obstructing officers.

Finley, a sophomore, ended the spring as the most likely candidate to be Boise State’s starting quarterback in the fall. A pair of misdemeanor offenses may not do much to distract from that idea, unless Finley gets in any more trouble moving forward between now and the start of the new season.

Finley was Boise State’s backup quarterback behind Grant Hedrick last season. He appeared in five games and completed 12 of his 27 pass attempts for 161 yards. He tossed a pair of touchdowns and was picked off once in the process. With the leg up in experience, Finley saw the most action in Boise State’s recent spring game with the first-team offense, a suggestion the starting job under center will ultimately be his to lose.

There has been no statement from Boise State at this time.

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Peyton Manning, Vol for life, donates $3 million to Tennessee

Tennessee v Georgia Getty Images

Peyton Manning, whom you may remember from various commercials for MasterCard, Gatorade, Oreo or Papa John’s Pizza*, made a sizable contribution to his alma mater Friday. The former Tennessee Volunteer quarterback donated $3 million back to his school, the funds to be used to support the football program and the Peyton Manning Scholarship Endowment.

Not only is $3 million being used to support the football program and an academic fund, but the donation will also provide an opportunity to honor Tennessee legend and longtime athletics official Gus Manning and administrator for the UT baseball program Carmen Tegano. Gate 16 at Neyland Stadium will be renamed the Gus Manning Gate, and a dining hall will be named in Tegano’s honor.

“Gus and Carmen both personify what it means to be a Vol for Life, and both have made the University of Tennessee a better place,” said Peyton Manning. “No one has served Tennessee and its athletics program better than Gus, and Carmen has also served this University with tremendous distinction.”

Peyton Manning has supported the academic scholarship fund in his name since graduating from Tennessee and becoming the top draft pick in the NFL Draft in 1998.

* Manning went on to have a pretty successful career in the NFL as well.

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Ray Rice welcomed back to Rutgers for Friday Knight Lights

Maryland v Rutgers Getty Images

After a turbulent domestic situation off the field and being cut by the Baltimore Ravens and essentially locked out of the NFL  for a year, Ray Rice was welcomed back at Rutgers, where he was a key player in the rise of the Scarlet Knights program under Greg Schiano. Rice was invited back for the Friday night spring scrimmage by current Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood, who felt the time was right to help a member of the Rutgers family.

“I reached out to Ray. I thought we had an opportunity here for Ray to give a very important message to our football players and he did that today,” Flood explained after the Friday night scrimmage.

“The message was really simple; you can do a lot of great things in your life. You can do charitable works at home and in the cities you are working in, but if you make the wrong decision, you’re going to have to be accountable for it,” Flood explained. “Ray made a wrong decision and he’s held himself accountable for it. He’s paid the price for it and I thought today was an opportunity for him to deliver a message to prevent one of our young people from doing that in the future.”

On the field, Rutgers saw some good development from the running game and the offensive line, which should be the strength of the offense in the fall. The quarterback competition, as it so often does this time of year at most programs, should continue over the summer with Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig each looking to replace Gary Nova under center.

“I think both guys have done a good job,” Flood replied when asked about the quarterback performance Friday night. “I think Chris [Laviano] is a little ahead right now, but that doesn’t surprise me because he’s had the advantage of playing in the games.”

Rutgers had a spring game crowd of 15,782 come out to watch the Friday Knight Lights event. The 2015 season begins at home on September 5 against Norfolk State.

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UCLA and Cincinnati planning future home-and-home series

UCLA Virginia Football, Tim Harris

UCLA and Cincinnati have never played each other in football, but that could be about to change. A future home-and-home series could be in the works.

According to a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the two schools are close to putting together a home-and-home series that would be played in 2019 and 2020. The exact dates of those games have not been reported, and may not be known until the contract is finalized.

The scheduling of these games would have some nice perks for both sides involved. UCLA would get a chance to play on the road in the state of Ohio, a state that tends to be ripe with college football talent. Cincinnati would get two games against a power conference opponent and a trip to the west coast, which is always nice even if just for a business trip or a game.

There is no power conference scheduling requirement for UCLA as a Pac-12 member, and Cincinnati is likely to be one of the top Group of Five programs for years to come if it pays to its potential. Of course, if things go well for Cincinnati, the Bearcats might — MIGHT — even be a power conference program by the time this series comes around. For that to happen, the Big 12 may have to come calling though and there is still no sign that will be happening in the near future.

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