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Geographical division split all but certain for Big Ten

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The additions of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014 will push the Big Ten to 14 members, forcing the conference that may or may not drop from the FCS level (chuckle) to reshape the look of its two divisions.

In January, commissioner Jim Delany strongly hinted that the league would use this opportunity to divide the membership geographically.  A couple of months later, that appears to be the direction in which the conference is headed.

ESPN.com writes that, “[b]arring a late shift in the discussions between athletic directors and league officials,” the Big Ten “will go with a geographic split for its divisions in 2014.”  With eight members in the Eastern time zone — Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Rutgers — and six in the Central — Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin — one of the former schools will be forced to move into what for now we’ll call the West division.

It’s expected, ESPN.com reports, that either Indiana or Purdue will move west, with their annual Old Oaken Bucket rivalry game protected in what’s expected to become a nine-game conference schedule a couple of years down the road.

Regardless of whether it’s the Hoosiers or Boilermakers, the Big Ten divisions will certainly take on a significantly different look if they are split geographically.  Below is the current makeup of the Leaders and Legends divisions — those pretentious and self-serving names, incidentally, are expected to mercifully go the way of New Coke and Morton Downey Jr. — with their projected new divisions in parentheses:

LEADERS*
Indiana (TBD)
Illinois (West)
Ohio State (East)
Penn State (East)
Purdue (TBD)
Wisconsin (West)

LEGENDS
Iowa (West)
Michigan (East)
Michigan State (East)
Minnesota (West)
Nebraska (West)
Northwestern (West)

*Maryland and Rutgers would be expected to join the “Eastern” teams upon entering the league next year

On paper, the balance of power football-wise would appear to heavily favor the East with Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State compared to Nebraska and Wisconsin in the West.  Given the cyclical nature of the sport, though, it would be prudent for the Big Ten to base its divisional split geographically and not worry which programs happen to be “up” at the moment.

Just when the Big Ten will announce how its two-division setup will look is not known, although ESPN.com notes that a decision is not imminent and that discussions will continue.

Report: Arizona lineman Zach Hemmila’s death caused by toxic mix of prescription drugs

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 03:  Arizona Wildcats helmets display the #65 to honor offensive lineman Zach Hemmila who passed away in the off-season before the college football game against the Brigham Young Cougars at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Nearly two months after his tragic passing, a cause of death for Zach Hemmila has been confirmed.

Based on the autopsy report filed by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona Republic is reporting that the 22-year-old Hemmila’s death was the result of the combined toxic effects of two different prescription drugs. The two drugs, the Republic noted, were oxymorphone, an opiate painkiller, and alprazolam, an anxiety medication.

From the newspaper’s report:

Chewing tobacco was found in Hemmila’s mouth, according to the autopsy report. No intact pills were discovered in his gastrointestinal system. His lungs were “markedly congested,” per the report.

Hemmila passed away either very late on the night of Aug. 7 or early in the morning Aug. 8. A cousin discovered Hemmila’s body at the Arizona offensive lineman’s residence.

His death has officially been ruled an accident.

“Arizona Athletics continues to mourn the passing of Zach Hemmila,” a statement from the university said in response to the report. “We will honor the family’s request for privacy and support them in any way we can.”

Hemmila started six games last season. He was slated to start at center for the Wildcats this season.

The Wildcats will continue to wear a sticker the No. 65 to honor Hemmila for the remainder of the season.

LSU reinstates suspended starting D-lineman, but Leonard Fournette a game-day decision vs. Mizzou

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03:  Chikwe Obasih #34 of the Wisconsin Badgers tackles Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers during the second half at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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LSU received some good news and not so good news ahead of its first game without Les Miles on the sidelines in more than a decade.

On the latter news front, star running back Leonard Fournette is listed as a game-day decision for Saturday’s contest against Missouri because of a lingering ankle issue.  The All-American initially injured the ankle during a mid-August summer camp practice; then aggravated it against Wisconsin in the opener; sat out the Week 2 game against an FCS foe; and then aggravated it again in Week 4 against Auburn.

After leading the country in yards per game last season with nearly 163 yards per game, Fournette is currently 10th at 128.7. That total still tops the SEC.

On a more positive tip for the Tigers, interim head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed that starting defensive lineman Davon Godchaux has been reinstated to the program and will be permitted to practice with his teammates.  Whether he plays this Saturday remains to be seen.  Godchaux had been arrested on a pair of charges stemming from a domestic incident over the weekend, but the prosecutor in the case announced Tuesday that he would not be filing formal charges.

Godchaux has started all four games this season (26 in his career) and is fifth on the team in tackles.

Anthem-kneeling Cornhusker invited to meet with Nebraska governor

Neb. Gov. Pete Ricketts, left, and former Gov. Kay Orr unveil the state road projects that have been designated as major priorities over the next few years at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Three playing members of the Nebraska football program who knelt in protest during the playing of the national anthem Saturday faced significant — and some racially-charged — criticism for their actions, including one NU regent who wants the players removed from the program.  The state’s governor, Pete Ricketts (pictured, right), was highly critical as well.

“Generations of men and women have died to give them that right to protest,” Ricketts said. “I think the way they chose to protest was disgraceful and disrespectful.”

One of the NU kneelers, senior linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, took to Twitter to ask the governor to met with him and discuss the issues that led he and his teammates, freshmen Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal, to kneel in protest.

Late Tuesday night, Ricketts responded.

Imagine that, discussion, not rhetoric, on both sides of an issue. What a revolutionary concept.

Jimbo Fisher: ‘I love FSU. I plan on being here for a long time’

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminoles signals to his players during the game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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In the eyes of some, Jimbo Fisher left the door open for a departure from Florida State in his first public comments since LSU fired Les Miles.

I’m not talking about LSU. No I haven’t [had contact with the Tigers] and I’m not talking about it,” the head coach said Monday.

Two days later, Fisher, one of the wagering favorites to replace Miles, attempted to slam the door on a potential departure, although some will see his “plan on” qualifier as leaving the door propped open yet again.

“I love this university. I plan on being here for a long time,” Fisher said during Wednesday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference. “I love Florida State, and that’s all I’m saying. I’ll talk about myself and Florida State.

“Anything else is clutter, and does not concern me, and is not involving me.”

Fisher spent seven seasons (2000-2006) as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU before leaving for the same jobs — and the added title of head coach in waiting — at FSU.  Taking over for Bobby Bowden following the 2009 season, Fisher has guided the Seminoles to a 71-15 record in six-plus seasons, with 2013 ending with a national championship.

Last year as speculation centered on Miles’ tenuous status, Fisher was mentioned as a potential candidate then as well.  In fact, some reports had Fisher “intermediaries” in talks with LSU, although, obviously, nothing ever came of it if it indeed actually happened.