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More accusations leveled against Auburn’s football program

Gene Chizik AP

Over two years after Gene Chizik, Cam Newton, et al hoisted the crystal football, allegations of misconduct continue to dog the Auburn football program.

According to a report titled “Auburn’s Tainted Title: Victims, Violations and Vendettas for Glory” from former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts on her new website Roopstigo.com, Chizik and/or his coaching staff — and/or his predecessors — were responsible for multiple violations of NCAA bylaws including impermissible benefits and academic fraud.

The story ostensibly centers on former Tigers defensive back Mike McNeil, one of four ex-AU football players charged with armed robbery in March of 2011.  McNeil was one of a handful of former players quoted on the record for Roberts’ piece, a group that included wide receiver Darvin Adams, defensive end Mike Blanc, defensive end Antoine Carter and defensive back Neiko Thorpe.  Other unnamed sources were utilized in the story, on which AU officials have thus far declined to comment.

McNeil, who’s scheduled to go on trial later this month and faces 21 years to life in prison if convicted, leveled most but not all of the accusations included in the article.  Some of those include:

– After being rebuffed by his computer science instructor and that instructor’s supervisor in an attempt to get a grade changed, McNeil claims he went to an athletic department counselor with his problem. “Within days… the grade was changed from an F to a C and he did not miss a game,” Roberts wrote.  Additionally, three of the players claimed that nine players, including star running back Michael Dyer, should not have played in the BCS championship game against Oregon in January of 2011 because they were academically ineligible. “Auburn found a way to make those dudes eligible,” Blanc was quoted as saying.

– Adams, who set an SEC championship game record with 217 receiving yards that sent the Tigers to the BCS title game, claimed that he was offered financial incentives — McNeil and Blanc claimed it was several thousands of dollars —  by the AU coaching staff to return to the Tigers for the 2011 season.  Instead, Adams turned pro early and went undrafted.

– Following “a difficult day at practice in 2007,” McNeil claims that then-defensive coordinator and current Florida head coach Will Muschamp handed him $400 in cash and asked, “is this enough?  Is this good?”  Through a UF spokesperson, Muschamp, who left AU for Texas following that season, denied such a payment was made.

– McNeil claimed that he was given $500 to host 2008 recruit and eventual 2009 Alabama signee Dre Kirkpatrick — the NCAA limit is $50. “If I’m a star player and I’m a likable person, and a recruit comes in at my position, then, of course, I’m going to take him under my wing,” McNeil said in the article. “If a star recruit was in town, you would get a lot more than the NCAA limit.”

In addition to no reaction from the university, neither Chizik nor his agent have been available for comment, although one of the most-quoted players in the piece offered up this curious reaction via Twitter once the story went viral.

“Man this article is outrageous and isn’t true. The media will do anything for a juicy story smh #sad,” Blanc tweeted this evening.

Roberts’ blockbuster is the latest in a long line of accusations leveled against the AU football program that stretch back to months before their 2010 BCS title.

The most publicized scrutiny involved the recruitment of Newton, the Heisman-winning quarterback who left The Plains after one title-winning season for the NFL.  The NCAA investigated the allegations — that Newton’s services could be obtained during the recruiting process for a substantial financial “donation” to the player’s father — and ultimately determined that no violations had occurred.

Interestingly, there was no mention of Newton in Roberts’ report that focused primarily on that championship season.

In addition to the Newton imbroglio, the AU football program has been investigated over the past two years by the NCAA regarding its recruiting practices… allegations made by four former players on an HBO showTiger ProwlJovon Robinsontwo now-former ace recruiters and their recruitment of Robinson… and that’s about all for now as you get the point.

The NCAA has yet to respond to requests for comment, although they understandably have more pressing issues on their collective plates.

UPDATED 9:21 p.m. ET: In a pair of tweets posted to his Twitter account, Neiko Thorpe claims that he was misquoted by Roberts in her story.

“While I spoke to Selena Roberts about Mike I have just read her article & not only am I misquoted but my words are very out of context. We didn’t talk about NCAA violations or recruiting. I’m proud 2 have played at Auburn & the opportunities it gave me.”

For her part, Roberts stands by her reporting, including the on-the-record quotes attributed to the former players.

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No. 5 TCU makes Texas-sized playoff statement

Trevone Boykin

It was not a particularly good day for football teams from the state of Texas. The Dallas Cowboys were blown away by the Philadelphia Eagles in NFL action. Texas A&M was handled by LSU. At least No. 5 TCU (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) put together a huge win that is sure to create some discussion in the College Football Playoff conversation in the coming days. TCU was in a defensive battle with Texas (6-6, 5-4 Big 12) for a while, but the Horned Frogs pulled away in wild fashion for a resounding 48-10 victory.

TCU quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin threw for one touchdown and ran for another in the fourth quarter and Josh Carraway returned an interception 33 yards to put the final stamp on a blowout victory that took a while to feel so decisive. It was not Boykin’s best night, as he was under pressure from the Texas defense for much of the night. Boykin still managed to throw for 233 yards and two touchdowns and run for another 50 ards and flip into the end zone for another.

The biggest takeaway from this game may have been TCU’s ability to close out a win. They did so in fashion, holding the Texas offense to 290 yards and forcing six turnovers in the game. It was the kind of night that could be enough to help TCU move up a spot in the next College Football Playoff ranking even if Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State all win this weekend. It also helps to potentially create some breathing room ahead of Ohio State and, yes, Baylor.

Baylor still owns the head-to-head edge over TCU, but that has not helped the Bears in ranking ahead of the Horned Frogs in the playoff rankings. It is beginning to get to the point where the results against similar opponents are starting to move the needle more in TCU’s favor as well.

TCU beat Texas by 38 points. Baylor beat Texas by 21.

TCU beat Oklahoma State by 35. Baylor beat Oklahoma State by 21.

TCU beat Oklahoma by four. Baylor beat Oklahoma by 34.

TCU beat West Virginia. Baylor lost to West Virginia.

For Baylor, the best thing to do now would be to dominate and blowout Kansas State to level the playing field against teams not named Texas Tech or Kansas. Baylor plays Texas Tech this weekend and Kansas State to wrap up the regular season.

TCU has one final game to play, next week at home against Iowa State. Look for Boykin and the Horned Frogs to pile up points in one final chance for a closing statement while conference championship games are being played.

The regular season is over for Texas, but at 6-6 the Longhorns will be going to a bowl game.

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LSU breaks even in SEC with Thanksgiving win at Texas A&M

Leonard Fournette, Deshazor Everett

LSU (8-4, 4-4 SEC) may not have been a typical power in the SEC this week, but the Tigers managed to end the year with a 4-4 record in conference play. The Tigers needed to hang n for a 23-17 victory at Texas A&M (7-5, 3-5 SEC) to do it, but Les Miles and company will take it.

LSU chewed up big yards on the ground against Texas A&M’s defense. Freshman Leonard Fournette led the attack with 146 rushing yards and a touchdown and quarterback Anthony Jennings added 119 yards. It was a big night for the LSU offense, which racked up 492 yards against the Aggies.

Texas A&M managed to make a game of it in the second half. The Aggies scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to cut LSU’s lead down to 20-17, but LSU put the game away with a late field goal and an interception of Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen. Texas A&M managed just 228 yards of offense against the Tigers.

LSU will now head to the postseason for a 15th straight season. Texas A&M is also heading to the postseason, but will be limping into the bowl line-up out of the SEC. Texas A&M lost five of its final seven games this season, and the need to improve on defense is clear. You know, Will Muschamp is available. Kevin Sumlin can clearly recruit, but the Aggies are going to have to step up on defense in order to catch up with the rest of the conference and make a legitimate run in the SEC West.

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Reports say SMU will hire Clemson OC Chad Morris lead rebuilding of program

Chad Morris

The job search at SMU has reportedly come to a close, although there is no official word confirming this information at this time. According to multiple reports surfacing Thursday night, SMU will hire Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris to be its next head coach.

The news was first reported by Cemetery Hill. Chip Brown of Horns Digest later reported the same information.

Morris is the highest-paid assistant coach college football according to a recent database of coaching salaries in college football compiled by USA Today. Though the highest-paid assistant coach in the game, Morris has continued to be a potential head coaching option if the right job came along. Is SMU the best fit for Morris?

If this does come together as it is being reported, Morris could have a shot at building something at SMU. The program has nowhere to go but up, so he would need to be guaranteed some time to put his plans in motion. This means solid job security for Morris, a Texas native. Being a native of the state should help open some recruiting doors as well. Just because SMU is in Texas though, des not mean recruiting will come easy.

There is also the impact this would have on Clemson. Morris has been a terrific asset for Dabo Swinney’s coaching staff, and the offense has thrived at times under his sideline leadership. If Morris is leaving for SMU, when he would leave the Tigers is also unknown. Clemson plays South Carolina this weekend.

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TCU takes advantage of Texas miscues to build 20-3 halftime lead

Trevone Boykin

You might not think it by looking at the halftime score, but No. 5 TCU and Texas are locked in a solid defensive battle. The only difference has been Texas has lacked the ability to protect the football in the first half. The Longhorns have two turnovers, and TCU has slowly put together a 20-3 lead at the half.

Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has been intercepted once and lost a fumble once. The fumble was extra costly, as TCU’s Terrell Lathan returned it 40 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. That put TCU up 13-0 at the time and was the only touchdown until TCU’s David Porter caught a short pass from Trevone Boykin late in the second quarter. Boykin has completed 13 of 18 passes for 106 yards and the touchdown, and he has added 10 rushing yards.

TCU has not found much to work with on the ground, with just 31 rushing yards on 14 attempts. Texas has played well on defense and is the only reason this game is still somewhat within reach if the offense can start putting points on the board. Texas actually reached the halftime with more offensive yards than TCU (144-137), but that total was boosted by the final play of the half, when Swoopes scrambled for a 27-yard gain as the clock expired. That came after a 17-yard run by Swoopes just before it.

TCU looks to be in good position to pick up a win in Austin, which continues to put the pressure on Baylor in the Big 12 championship race. It also will help keep TCU in good position in the College Football Playoff, entering the week ranked fifth by the selection committee.

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LSU defense locks down Aggies for halftime lead

LSU v Texas A&M

LSU’s offense has been on the field for over 20 minutes in the first half and has out-gained Texas A&M by over 200 yards. LSU is only winning at the half by a score of 17-7, but if the defense continues playing at this level that might be OK.

Texas A&M recorded the first big play of the half when Trey Williams rushed 41 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Aggies, there has not been much else to speak of on offense. Kyle Allen continues to start under center for Texas A&M. In the first half, Allen completed eight of 11 passes for 23 yards. Seven different Aggies have caught a pass, but no player has more than nine receiving yards. Texas A&M has just 80 yards of offense, compared to LSU’s 286 yards.

LSU tied the Aggies with a powerful 22-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Leonard Fournette in the second quarter. LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings has used his mobility to his advantage as well and leads the Tigers at the half with 94 rushing yards. Jennings also threw a touchdown pass to John Diarse late in the first half to give the Tigers a 14-7 lead. LSU added a 31-yard field goal off the leg of Trent Dominique in the final seconds of the half to pad the lead, 17-7.

 

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Jaxon Shipley out for Texas

Jaxon Shipley

The Texas Longhorns will be without wide receiver Jaxon Shipley tonight as the Longhorns look to upset No. 5 TCU in Austin. Shipley will be out of action due to a hamstring injury, which the school officially annoucned just minutes before the start of tonight’s Thanksgiving game.

Shipley is the second-leading receiver for the Longhorns this season with 571 yards and a touchdown in 11 games.

TCU will look to leave Austin with a huge victory to remain in the Big 12 title hunt. TCU is tied with Baylor for the Big 12 lead, but the head-to-head tiebreaker for the Big 12 belongs to Baylor. Texas has won three games in a row with three strong defensive efforts.

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Georgia apparently scheduled to get thumped by Georgia Tech

Clemson v Georgia Tech

This week is rivalry week in college football, and that means trash talk, bets and good old-fashioned pranks. It appears some Georgia Tech fan or fans took to updating te University of Georgia calendar of events with something that was probably not approved by the school.

On Saturday, Georgia will host Georgia Tech in the final regular season football game of the year for each. Coincidentally, at the same time, there is an event for Georgia athletics that may or may not coincide with the game itself. According to the school’s calendar, Georgia Athletics is scheduled to get its @$$ kicked by Georgia Tech.

With this being discovered on Thanksgiving, it may take a little longer for someone to come and address this. Perhaps after and second helping of turkey or a slice of apple pie. Call that good timing by the culprit.

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Texas Tech lineman the personification of perseverance

Tony Morales

If there were a picture next to the word “perseverance” in the dictionary, it’d be that of Tony Morales.

The Texas Tech offensive lineman missed the 2011 season due to an injury sustained in summer camp. The same thing around the same time happened again in 2012. And again in 2013. And, unbelievably, again in 2014.

Even more unbelievable? Morales will be back at it for the Red Raiders next year as well. Wednesday, Tech offensive line coach Lee Hays confirmed that Morales will be a part of the team in 2015.

“He’ll be here in the spring,” Hays said. “Looking forward to him practicing.”

Kid’s got heart,” the position coach added in a monumental understatement.

Morales’ myriad health issues consisted of a torn labrum in his right shoulder (2011); a strained knee ligament (2012); a torn labrum in his left shoulder (2013); and another knee issue this season.

Morales, a four-star member of Tech’s 2011 class rated as the No. 5 center in the country, has yet to play in a game; as he’s a senior, and even as he could apply for a sixth season of eligibility and easily be granted it, here’s to hoping that he gets to see the field in 2015. More than just about anyone else who has ever played this game, he’s damn-well earned it.

(Photo credit: Texas Tech athletics)

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Vols’ receiving corps may have taken another hit

Jason Croom

When it comes to injury luck, Tennessee wide receivers have had little of it in 2014.  Josh Smith is out for the year with a severe ankle injury sustained in early September, while Marquez North (missed the Mizzou game last week) and Von Pearson (missed games earlier in the year) have battled health issues as well.

Tuesday, that unit may have taken yet another hit as Jason Croom went down with what appeared to be a knee injury.  The severity and specific nature, however, remains a matter of debate.

Head coach Butch Jones described it as a cramp in his hamstring and hip.  The Chattanooga Times Free-Press wrote “it looked much worse [than a hamstring] when he went down” after “grabbing his left knee,” while 247Sports.com‘s Wes Rucker noted that Croom grabbed his knee when he dropped to the turf in pain and that Jones’ injury reports are “a bit … shall we say … questionable from time to time” — with a video clip of the GEICO “Pinocchio is a bad motivational speaker” to drive home that latter point.

Regardless, Croom didn’t practice Wednesday and his availability for the in-state rivalry game against Vanderbilt Saturday is unknown.

Among receivers with 10 or more catches, Croom leads the team in yards per catch at 14.5, while he’s fourth in receiving yards (305) and tied for sixth in receptions (21).  His four receiving touchdowns are tied for first on the team, and he’s caught at least one scoring pass in each of the last three games.

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‘Canes to be without DB Bush, WR Waters for regular-season finale

Arkansas State v Miami

As Miami looks to right a listing ship and snap a two-game losing streak, the Hurricanes will have to navigate one very key injury and another more-than-minor one to do so.

On its weekly injury report Thursday, UM confirmed that neither safety Deon Bush (pictured) nor wide receiver Herb Waters will play in the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh Saturday.  Bush will be missing his second consecutive game with a hamstring issue, while Waters is dealing with a neck injury.

Bush started all 10 games to start this season before missing the loss to Virginia Nov. 22.  He’s fourth on the team in tackles with 48, while his two interceptions are tied for the team lead.

Waters is fourth on the team in receiving yards (277) and fifth in receptions (20).  The junior has started four of the 11 games in which he’s played this season.

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FBI probing threats made against trees, shrubs at Ole Miss’ Grove

Auburn v Mississippi Getty Images

I’ll go ahead and answer your question right upfront: I have no earthly idea if anti-arborist Harvey Updyke was or wasn’t involved.

With that out of the way, and a couple of days before the annual Egg Bowl kicks off, Ole Miss has confirmed that the FBI is investigating threats made against the landscape at The Grove at the school.  A handwritten letter threatening damage to the trees and shrubs in The Grove was turned over to the Jackson (Miss.) office of the FBI.

The note was delivered to the campus on Tuesday and given to the FBI a day later:

“What’s going to happen to ya’ll on the field Saturday Aint nothing compared to what’s going to happen on your beautiful campus. You won’t be one of the most pretty campus’s Next year. A lot of shrubs and trees are going to die; especially in the grove. Can’t stop us” (signed) “Hail State Go to Hell TSUN.”

“Hail State,” of course, refers to Mississippi State while “TSUN” is not Michigan but rather Ole Miss, which MSU has taken to referring to “That School Up North” in the vein of Woody Hayes.  The release went on to note that “[l]aw enforcement authorities are taking the threat seriously and are encouraging fans to report suspicious behavior.”

The 111th edition of the Egg Bowl will be played in Oxford Saturday.  An MSU win and Alabama loss sends the Bulldogs to the SEC championship game against either Missouri or Georgia and, potentially, earns them a spot in the College Football Playoff.  The Rebels, meanwhile, could secure a New Year’s Day bowl bid with an upset.

The stakes are certainly high, as high football-wise as they’ve ever been in the rivalry, so authorities and school officials are doing their best to keep emotions down as much as possible.

“This longtime football rivalry has separated families and friends for generations, but while it’s spirited, our attention has been focused mostly on the football field,” Ole Miss police chief Calvin Sellers said. “We encourage everyone to remember that this is a game, after all, not a time for hate. We are hopeful that passions have not escalated to the point that someone is prepared to do damage to a landmark for which all Mississippians take great pride.”

“It has been a remarkable year for football in this state and we have much to be thankful for,” a joint statement from the university’s athletic directors, Ole Miss’ Ross Bjork and MSU’s Scott Stricklin, read. “Both programs and their student-athletes have been on the national stage throughout the year and have represented Mississippi in invaluable ways. We ask that you join us in enjoying the traditions of the Egg Bowl and events surrounding the game in a positive and respectful way.”

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Mom of OSU Buckeye Kosta Karageorge says son is missing

Kosta Karageorge

Thanksgiving is normally a day reserved for giving thanks and celebration, but for the family of one member of the Ohio State football program it’s full of dread and worry.

In a message posted to Facebook, Susan Karageorge said a missing person’s report has been filed for her son, reserve OSU defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge.  According to the mom, Karageorge has been missing since around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The mom added that family and friends have been searching all over campus for Karageorge to no avail, while also relaying where he may have last been seen.

There was also this message posted to what appears to be Kosta Karageorge’s Twitter account early Thursday morning:

OSU has yet to publicly address what if anything is going on with the player.

Karageorge is a former OSU wrestler who joined the Buckeyes as a walk-on earlier this year.  He’s played in one game this season, that coming in the win over Penn State.

Our thoughts go out to the family as they continue to search for their loved one.

(Photo credit: Ohio State athletics)

UPDATED 11:24 a.m. ET: The Columbus Police Department has confirmed that they are actively searching for Karageorge.  It’s also being reported that the player was not at practice Thursday morning.

UPDATED 12:19 p.m. ET: From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Karageorge’s sister, Sophia, told cleveland.com that her brother was upset about something Tuesday night. His roommates, who are also Ohio State wrestlers, said he went for a walk from their apartment on East 7th Avenue in Columbus around 2 a.m.

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Pair of Alabama receivers ‘very questionable’ for Iron Bowl

Western Carolina v Alabama Getty Images

Alabama could very well head into Saturday’s Iron Bowl at less than full strength in its passing game*.

In what was essentially a glorified scrimmage last Saturday, tight end Brian Vogler and receiver ArDarius Stewart sustained what head coach Nick Saban described as stretched knee ligaments in the romp over FCS-level Western Carolina. Neither player has practiced this week, leading Saban to continue to call the duo “very questionable” for Saturday evening’s game against Auburn.

Because neither has practiced, it would seem highly doubtful either will be available.

Stewart has started the past two games and has 12 receptions for 149 yards on the season. Nine of those receptions have come in the last five games.

While Vogler has started nine games this season, he has just three receptions for 13 yards as his forte is blocking. One of those catches, though, was a touchdown in the Week 3 win over Southern Miss.

(*With Amari Cooper on the field, they’re still at, what, 99 percent?)

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Buckeyes sending conflicting message with hype video?

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptixzdlmy2qzotrlytkxmtuyywm1yjvjzmiyzwy3zjzi AP

As you get set for your Thanksgiving feast, here’s a little something to chew on in the meanwhile.

During the 2013 edition of The Game between Ohio State and Michigan, a pair of Buckeyes — offensive lineman Marcus Hall and running back Dontre Wilsonwere ejected for throwing punches in the midst of a kick-return fracas. Mindful of that situation, Urban Meyer had a message his players were to carry into this year’s version of The Game.

“He said he wants the game to be very intense, but if anybody throws a punch they’re dismissed,” linebacker Curtis Grant said Monday. “He pretty much put it out there [Sunday]. There’s no telling what will happen if we get in a fight this year.”

Fast-forward a day or so later, and OSU released a hype video for this year’s game — Meyer tweeted it out to his 140,000-plus followers — that featured, you guessed it, fisticuffs and dust-ups from past UM-OSU football battles.

 

“What do you expect?” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said Monday of the volatility of The Game in general and last year’s game specifically. “We just watched this highlight video of Ohio State-Team Up North fights for the last week on repeat with ‘It’s Time for War‘ playing the whole time. Kids wanna fight, that’s just how it is. It didn’t surprise me.”

When it comes to Meyer’s ultimatum, is this is one of those “do as I say, not as I hype video” type deals? You be the judge.

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LSU’s Mike the Tiger ate Texas A&M (logo) for breakfast

Mike the Tiger

Many of us will be feasting on turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie and perhaps a green bean casserole or cranberry sauce if you prefer. But tigers need to eat too, right?

LSU is playing Texas A&M Thursday night to add to your football enjoyment. In honor of the occasion, LSU made sure to prepare an appropriate Thanksgiving Eve feast for Mike The Tiger. Today, Mike was fed raw meat in the form of Texas A&M’s logo, with a question on social media asking how many tigers it takes to devour the Aggies.

The answer? Just one.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 9.35.15 PM

It should be noted, this is a fairly common treat for Mike the Tiger. He has also devoured the logos of Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss this season.

Image via Mike the Tiger’s Instagram.

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