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Big Ten spring game wrap-ups

Tyler Ferguson AP

Some news, notes, quotes and other assorted tidbits from the three spring games contested across the Big Ten Saturday afternoon…

MICHIGAN STATE
To say that the Spartans’ quarterbacks struggled somewhat during today’s spring game would be an understatement of mammoth proportions.

MSU quarterbacks combined to go 22 of 53 for 386 yards, two touchdown and two interceptions.  Last year’s starter and presumptive front-runner for the job this season, Andrew Maxwell, completed just nine of his 20 attempts for 120 yards and the game-winning touchdown pass.  The strong-armed Connor Cook, who has gained some ground on Maxwell this spring, threw for 217 yards and a scoring toss but also completed less than 40 percent of his passes (10-26).  Redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor completed five of six passes — three to his offensive teammates, two to his defensive teammates.

All in all, it was rough outing at a position where the Spartans may have more questions exiting spring than they did entering it.

Head coach Mark Dantonio said that the incumbent would top the depth chart entering summer, but stopped short of anointing him as the season-opening starter.

“I think you leave here at the end of spring saying that (Andrew) Maxwell comes into the summer camp number one based on knowledge and consistency in terms of performance.”

For his part, Maxwell feels as if he’s done enough to retain the job.

“I feel like I’ve done everything that I could do to make my case to the coaches to be the guy, and I feel like every day I came out and got better,” the player said. “I took a competitive mindset to every practice, and the ultimate decision is with Coach D.”

— The Spartans’ defense accounted for two touchdowns in the Green team’s 24-17 win over the White squad: a Chris Laneaux 25-yard interception return and a fumble recovery by Kyler Elsworth that was returned 41 yards.  On the other side of the ball, Aaron Burbridge caught five passes for 113 yards.

— Former MSU quarterback great Kirk Cousins, now Robert Griffin III‘s backup in Washington, returned to the East Lansing campus as color analyst for the Big Ten Network’s coverage of the game.  Based on Cousins’ comments, it doesn’t appear this will be his last rodeo in the booth.

“I want the football thing to last as long as it possibly can, but at the same time, in the offseason it makes a lot of sense to pursue other opportunities and prepare yourself for whenever football ends,” Cousins said. “And that’s why I’m here today, and it’s just a bonus I get to be back in familiar territory, watching the team that I love.”

— One of the coolest parts of the Spartans’ spring game was their helmets.  Specifically, the stickers on the back of the helmets honoring those who were killed or injured by the bombings at last Monday’s Boston Marathon.  Very classy gesture:

Michigan State Helmets

PENN STATE
If you were an individual looking for some clarity at the quarterback position coming out of the Nittany Lions’ spring game, you are likely somewhat disappointed at this point in time.

Following the game, head coach Bill O’Brien stated very firmly that neither Steven Bench nor Tyler Ferguson (pictured) had grabbed hold of the starting job and the competition would continue into the “voluntary” workouts and on into summer camp.  Both players completed nine of 15 passes, with Bench throwing for 99 yards and Ferguson 90.  Ferguson tossed two touchdown passes to Bench’s one.

As has been the case for most of the spring, the second-year coach was, for the most part, pleased with the duo’s performance.

“I thought they both (Bench and Ferguson) produced,” O’Brien said. “I thought both had some nice throws. Like everybody, coaches and players included, in every game you play, you wish you had some plays back. I’m sure they do too. I thought they both did some decent things out there today.”

In his post-game talk with reporters, O’Brien made it perfectly clear where the competition stands.

“I’d say, no, I’m not any closer as I sit here right now,” the coach said when asked about naming a starter. “Eventually, I’ll have to make a decision.”

O’Brien added that he will now go back and look at all of the spring practice tapes as they work toward naming a starter at the position.

The real competition, though, won’t begin until August; Christian Hackenberg, a five-star 2013 recruit rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in this year’s class, will join the competition this summer, with most expecting the Virginia product to make a very serious run at the starting job as a true freshman.

— In front of 28,000 or so fans who braved the rain and snow and cold, the the Blue team (defense) dropped the White squad (offense), 67-47.  It was the second straight year the defense has “won” the spring game.

A big reason for the defensive win?  The Nittany Lions’ defense accounted for nine sacks, which counted four points apiece in the scoring system utilized by O’Brien.

— Youth was certainly served for the Nittany Lions as the school noted that all six players who ran, caught or threw a touchdown will be a freshman or sophomore this season.  Both of the front-runners for the starting QB job will be sophomores.

— Another of the young ones was running back Akeel Lynch, who led all rushers with 83 yards on his 13 carries.

— “I feel terrible because I love that city,” O’Brien said of the tragic events in Boston this past week. “I grew up 20 minutes north of that city and my brother Tommy is heavily involved in that city and so is my older brother and my dad and my mom so I feel terrible for them. … Boston is a very resilient city and we caught him last night so that was good.”

WISCONSIN
At the end of Gary Andersen‘s first spring as the Badgers’ head coach, and in the midst of a crowded quarterback competition, it was UW’s defense winning most of the plaudits in Madison Saturday afternoon.

Thanks to the “unique” scoring systems that are all the rage during spring games, the final score appears to be a high-scoring offensive affair: Cardinal 61, White 47.  The former team consisted of the Badgers’ defense, the latter the offense.

The game wasn’t a true measure of either unit, however, as Andersen lamented afterwards that “[w]e’re basically missing six starters right now on the defensive side that didn’t play a snap today, and four or five on the offensive side.”

Also, the fact that the game was televised on the Big Ten Network led Andersen to keep his team’s cards very close to his vest.

“I will say this: Defense today was very vanilla. Offensively, we were very generic, and defensively, we were very generic,” the former Utah State head coach said. “We did throw the ball, bottom line, and we did catch the ball better than we have all spring, and that was very encouraging.”

— The Cardinal team totaled 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks in the game.  As those plays were worth two points apiece, the defense scored 36 of its 61 points off those two types of plays.  They also earned 24 points off of eight three-and-outs.

— As far as the quarterback battle goes, two players, Joel Stave and Curt Phillips, received the vast majority of the reps.  Stave completed 15 of his 20 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, while Phillips went 8-of-13 for 82 yards.  The other quarterbacks on the roster, including former Maryland Terrapin Danny O’Brien, attempted just three passes each.

— Running back Melvin Gordon, who will be charged with the task of replacing Montee Ball, ran for a team-high 74 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown on the ground.  He also added three catches for 35 yards.

— “Yeah, we’re in a good spot,” Andersen said when asked if his team is where he thought it’d be at the end of the spring.  “You’re never going to get everything you want. You’re never going to have it perfect. We wanted consistency. I think we got that. We wanted effort. I think we got that.”

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Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame (& so many more) spring football on tap for Saturday

Ardarius Stewart, Nick Perry

Get ready for a jam-packed day of spring football from coast to coast. If you have nothing better to do than sit inside and get a college football fix — and who would blame you — then you have plenty of options working for you on Saturday.

Defending national champion Ohio State will be among many big names in action on Saturday. Others include Alabama, Notre Dame (on NBC Sports Network), Auburn, LSU Penn State, Texas, Missouri and Mississippi State. And that’s just a fraction of the total teams wrapping up spring practices on Saturday.

Those with the services available will be able to watch college football, in a somewhat scaled down fashion, from noon through the whole afternoon and into the night with the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 having network coverage. Same goes for Texas and Notre Dame. Some of you might even get to see North Texas, if you are really hardcore about your spring football fix.

If you are looking to see how to plan your day, here are the TV listings for spring games on April 18, as well as a list of schools playing spring football games without listed TV coverage.

ON TV

Games carried by SEC Network will be carried on alternate channels where available. Games appearing on Big Ten Network will also be available on the mobile network, BTN2Go. Pac-12 Network coverage will also be available through Pac-12.com.

Mississippi Sate, 12 p.m., SEC Network (Alternate)

Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network

Ohio State, 1:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Auburn, 2 p.m., SEC Network (Alternate)

California, 2 p.m., Pac-12 Network

LSU 2 p.m., SEC Network+

Texas, 2 p.m., Longhorn Network

Alabama, 3 p.m. SEC Network (Alternate)

North Texas, 3 p.m., CS Live

Oregon State, 4 p.m., Pac-12 Network

Penn State, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network

Missouri, 5 p.m., SEC Network (Alternate)

Illinois, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network

YOU HAVE TO BE THERE TO SEE IT

Southern Miss, 2 p.m.

Tulane, 10:00 a.m.

Army, 11 a.m.

Akron, 1 p.m.

Colorado State, 1 p.m.

Georgia Southern, 1 p.m.

Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

Purdue, 1 p.m.

Western Michigan, 1 p.m.

Buffalo, 2 p.m.

Indiana, 2 p.m.

Louisiana Tech, 2 p.m.

Middle Tennessee, 2 p.m.

Oklahoma State, 2 p.m.

SMU, 2 p.m.

Tulsa, 2 p.m.

UCF, 2 p.m.

UTSA, 2 p.m.

Western Kentucky, 2 p.m.

Ball State, 3 p.m.

Houston, 3 p.m.

East Carolina, 2:30 p.m.

UNLV, 3 p.m.

Virginia, 6 p.m.

On a related note, keep in mind Nebraska and Michigan are leading the way in spring game attendance so far. The top 10 should change given some of the powerhouse names in action this weekend.

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DA drops assault charges against starting Colorado DL Josh Tupou

The University of Colorado football team takes on the Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors at Folsom Field in Boulder on Sept. 20, 2014.

A month ago Colorado defensive lineman Josh Tupou was charged for assault following a house party turning ugly. Those charges have now been dropped by the Boulder County District Attorney’s office.

Tupou was charged for suspicion of second-degree assault, two counts of third-degree assault, criminal mischief, trespassing and reckless endangerment last month after a brawl unfolded at a house that also had $300 to $700 in damages. Tupou turned himself into Boulder police after a warrant for his arrest had been issued. So what was it that led to all of the charges being dropped off?

Mistaken identity.

At a hearing earlier this month a lawyer representing Tupou claimed his client was charged as a result of a mistaken identity. How many 6′-3″ 325-pound guys are there that could be mistaken for Tupou anyway? Whatever the case, the defense stood tall in court and the district attorney agreed to drop the charges against the starting defensive linemen.

With no charges against him anymore, Tupou’s status remains unchanged at Colorado, which should allow him to continue starting on the line for the Buffs when the season gets started.

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Mendenhall sees BYU playing way into power conference within three years

Bronco Mendenhall

Good old Charlie Brown has a history of standing by the mailbox waiting for a Christmas card, a Valentine’s Day card, an invite to a New Years party invitation or pretty much anything by his mailbox. Nothing ever comes his way. It’s getting to the point where of all the coaches in college football, BYU’s Bronco Mendenhall may the Charlie Browniest because he may be waiting for an invite to a power conference that may never find its way to a mailbox at BYU.

Mendenhall met with some members of the media Friday and once again addressed questions regarding BYU’s future as a football program. Judging by the quotes offered by the head coach of the Cougars, the sight is still set on inclusion in a power conference at some point down the line.

“I hate to be pinned down, but if someone were to force me, I’d say three years. It has to happen within three,” Mendenhall said to Greg Wrubell, who does BYU football play-by-play. “Could it go longer than (three years)? Yes, it could. Is it desirable to me, to go longer than that? The answer is no.”

Mendenhall explained he still feels there are more realignment changes to come that could benefit BYU in some way. Those realignment changes may be a bit more difficult to see now with power conferences gaining more power through autonomy and possible deregulation of conference championship games a possibility. BYU’s best hope seems to be possible expansion in the Big 12 to return to 12 members, but as we have discussed time and time and time again, this does not seem to be a top priority for the conference. And if the Big 12 did expand, it is more likely the conference would have a desire to move east.

BYU’s plan for independence was one that seemed to have some support at the time of leaving the Mountain West Conference, a decision Mendenhall still stands by without hesitation. But since choosing to go independent in football a lot has changed around the college sports world. More realignment changes happened and power conferences were given more power, which BYU may not have seen coming at the extent it has.

“I absolutely think it was worth it,” Mendenhall said. “I think it was the right move at that time. Independence is more difficult than the MWC was.” But even Mendenhall knows what BYU needs to do in order to make any serious pitch to the Big 12 or Pac-12 (or any other power conference).

“At some point, (P5) inclusion has to happen…best way I know to do it is play our way in, and that’s what I have chosen to do,” Mendenhall says.

If nothing else, these are comments you want to hear from BYU’s coach. What else is he suppose to say? BYU would benefit more from being a part f a power conference like the Big 12 than being an independent at a time when power conferences are soaking up more and more revenue compared to other conferences (and independents). Did BYU make a mistake leaving the Mountain Wets Conference? That is debatable, and we know where Mendenhall stands.

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Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list includes Wright, Oakman, Nkemdiche, Bosa & more

USC v Arizona Getty Images

You know we are starting to turn a page toward the next college football season when spring games are in the air and some award gets an early jump on watch list season. Today the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation got award watch list season underway with 42 players being named to the watch list for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is awarded to a defensive player based largely on performance on the field and character.

Six players on this year’s first watch list were on the watch list for the trophy last season. Duke’s Kelby Brown, Michigan State’s Shilque Calhoun, Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves, West Virginia’s Karl Joseph, Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith and Oklahoma’s Eric Striker are among the players represented. Other prominent names for the award on the watch list include Baylor’s Shawn Oakman, Robert Nkemdiche of Ole Miss, Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, and Arizona’s Scooby Wright III. The watch list includes a total of 37 players from power five conferences, with the Big Ten leading the way with 10 players.

2015 LOTT IMPACT TROPHY WATCH LIST

LB Kevin Anderson, Stanford

DB Dante Barnett, Kansas State

LB Joe Bolden MichiganDB

DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Minnesota

DL Joey Bosa, Ohio State

LB Kelby Brown, Duke

DL DeForest Buckner, Oregon

S Michael Caputo, Wisconsin

DE Shilque Calhoun, Michigan State

S Jeremy Cash, Duke

S Su’a Cravens, USC

LB Leonard Floyd, Georgia

CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech

DB Nate Gerry, Nebraska

DL Adam Gotsis, Georgia Tech

LB Deon Hollins, UCLA

DB Dylan Haines, Texas

CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida

DB Ryan Janvion, Wake Forest

DB Jonathan Jones, Auburn

S Karl Joseph, West Virginia

LB Bronson Kaufusi, BYU

S Derrick Kindred, TCU

DB Jordan Lomax, Iowa

DL Dean Lowry, Northwestern

LB Blake Martinez, Stanford

LB Viliami Moeakiola, Arizona State

LB Calvin Munson, San Diego State

DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

LB Jared Norris, Utah

DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor

DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

LB Joshua Perry, Ohio State

LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama

DB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

DE Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

DB Weston Steelhammer, Air Force

LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB Jeremy Timpf, Army

LB Scooby Wright III, Arizona

DT Anthony Zettel, Penn State

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San Diego wants Navy and Notre Dame to visit in 2018

Notre Dame v Navy Getty Images

The city of San Diego hopes to lure Navy and Notre Dame to the west coast for a future match-up between the two football rivals, and it is not at all out of the question this could become a reality.

Representatives from the San Diego Bowl Games Association and Navy are currently in the negotiation stages of arranging a future game between the Midshipmen and Irish to be played in San Diego in 2018. The game would be played in Qualcomm Stadium, which currently hosts San Diego State home football games as well as the NFL’s San Diego Chargers (well, until they leave for Los Angeles).

The city of San Diego’s interest in hosting Navy should come as no surprise, given the Navy has multiple bases right in and around San Diego. Anytime Navy is in San Diego, it is a good draw. Add Notre Dame to the mix, and you have the makings of an attractive match-up put on by the San Diego Bowl Games Association.

“We’ve had a wonderful relationship with Navy over the years and we would like to continue that in any way possible,” Mark Neville, executive director of the San Diego Bowl Games Association, told The Capital Gazette. “Hosting an amazing and historic rivalry game such as Navy-Notre Dame would be a huge coup and a great spectacle for our city.”

Navy does not host Notre Dame in its own stadium due to limited capacity. Instead, the Midshipmen typically host Notre Dame in Baltimore or Landover, but Navy has transplanted the game to other cities before. Notre Dame has never played in San Diego. Arranging the game would require having to work with San Diego State and the Mountain West Conference as well, to ensure the stadium would be available for a game between Navy and Notre Dame.

The odds of this coming together are probably pretty good, so get ready San Diego. Navy and Notre Dame are (probably) coming to your city.

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Jimbo Fisher feeling good about Sean Maguire at QB

Idaho v Florida State Getty Images

Coming out of the spring at Florida State it is pretty clear the successor to Jameis Winston will be Sean Maguire. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has not made a final decision on the quarterback position just yet and has suggested the competition will carry over into the summer leading up to the start of the season, but Maguire has not done anything to be ruled out of the mix and nobody else on the roster has done anything to grab the starting job from him. For now, Fisher seems comfortable moving forward in the post-Winston era with Maguire leading the offense if he had to start the season tomorrow (he doesn’t, by the way)

I feel very good about Sean,” Fisher said Thursday at the Seminoles’ booster event in Panama City Beach according to The Orlando Sentinel. “Sean had a great spring, we have to play well around him. I like where he’s at right now.”

Maguire got off to a rough start in Florida State’s spring game last week, including an interception returned for a touchdown by early enrollee Derwin James. In the spring game, Maguire completed 22 of his 44 pass attempts for 289 yards, and he was picked off twice. Fisher seemed willing to give Maguire a bit of a pass for the performance in the spring game.“First drive [of the second half] was OK, missed a couple balls on overs late, we should have flattened one out a little bit. As he started to press a little bit, the high throw, if you look on the interception, the ball was snapped on his ankles, he picks it, raises up, makes the right read and tries to dump it over. Until we get that fixed nobody is going to play quarterback.”

“First drive [of the second half] was OK, missed a couple balls on overs late, we should have flattened one out a little bit,” Fisher explained. “As he started to press a little bit, the high throw, if you look on the interception, the ball was snapped on his ankles, he picks it, raises up, makes the right read and tries to dump it over. Until we get that fixed nobody is going to play quarterback.”

Rest assured, Florida State will have a quarterback when the 2015 season kicks off September 5 at home against Texas State. And it will very likely be Maguire lining up under center.

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Big Ten’s freshman ineligibility is not bad in concept, but is anybody on board?

Jim Delany

The Big Ten had an idea that was not received particularly well, but in good old Big Ten fashion the conference is moving forward in stubborn fashion. An idea proposed by the Big Ten this offseason revolved around making freshmen ineligible in football and basketball. The world laughed. Jim Delany did not blink. In a 12-page document shared by the Big Ten, the conference argues freshman ineligibility would help to fix the balance between academics and athletics.

In the document sent by Delany and the Big Ten, which also addressed some formal responses to previously stated criticisms of the idea, the plan would also involve increasing the number of scholarships available in football and basketball, which seems like a nice incentive to try to lure some on board with the Big Ten’s motives. How would the Big Ten compensate for the added costs of additional scholarships? The same way the Big Ten and power conferences can solve many of their problems; revenue from TV and media rights deals from the College Football Playoff and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Of course.

There does not seem to be a whole lot of public support for this concept developed by the Big Ten, but at least Delany and his crew can say they tried doing something right with regard to academics. In theory it is not a bad idea, but it is not one that will be easy to sell to programs and presidents around the college football world enough to carry much weight. It may be a losing battle, but the concept is not entirely to blame. It is more the fact the Big Ten’s idea could just as easily turn into a negative recruiting pitch, and don’t think a school from another power conference would take advantage of that.

The Big Ten is still far from the point of forming this ideas as an actual proposal to place a vote on. It may never even get that far. For now, the Big Ten continues to spread the word about the idea and gather feedback. If they are getting any positive feedback, from where exactly is it coming?

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Is Baylor pumping out system QBs? Bryce Petty doesn’t think so

Bryce Petty

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is moving on to the NFL, where he has a chance to be the second first-round quarterback drafted out of Baylor under head coach Art Briles. The first was Robert Griffin III. Petty may not be receiving the hype quarterbacks like Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are receiving for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is Petty is labeled by some as a system quarterback from his time spent at Baylor, and that scares some people.

With the NFL Draft coming up, Petty is not afraid of addressing the idea he may be a system quarterback. He doesn’t see it that way.

“You’re dealing with hypotheticals when you say he can’t transition because of the system he plays in,” Petty said during a radio interview on ESPN (transcribed by The Dallas Morning News). “If you look at a spread vs. a west coast, it’s still a system. It’s not that I couldn’t do the things you’re asked to do in the NFL, that’s just not we were asked to do.”

Petty played at Baylor at a time when the Bears were essentially taking to the air and playing an up-tempo style of offense. It worked, with Petty guiding the Bears to two straight Big 12 championships, and appearances in two New Years Six bowls (Fiesta Bowl and Cotton Bowl). Along the way Petty was generally viewed as a player who would put up heavy passing stats without establishing much of a profile for the pro game. Whether that is fair or not may be answered best by seeing what Petty does later in the NFL. If he wins, who will care about Petty’s label?

“At the end of the day, it’s whatever gets you Ws, whether it’s defense or offense or field goals,” Petty added. “At some point you’re going to have to score points. People want to see that, no one wants to see a 6-3 game where everyone’s running the whole game.”

At Baylor the focus shifts to the next starting quarterback. Will Seth Russell, who tossed four touchdowns in Baylor’s spring scrimmage a few weeks back, also receive the label of system quarterback?

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The truth revealed about Michigan’s 100,000 crowd streak

Utah v Michigan Getty Images

For 258 consecutive games, the University of Michigan has claimed a crowd of over 100,000 fans have packed into Michigan Stadium to watch the Wolverines play football. As if Coca-Cola ticket promos were not enough to tarnish that number, a new report says the school gave away as many as 62,879 free tickets in 2014 just to keep that somewhat meaningless record going.

The Detroit News reports Michigan’s increased number of comp tickets accounted for 8.9 percent of the stadium’s attendance in 2014, which is up from 2.8 percent in 2013. In Michigan’s final home game of the season against new Big Ten member Maryland, the school handed out approximately 17,000 free tickets according to the report. That helped push the attendance for that game to just over 101,000. That would be the smallest crowd in Michigan Stadium since a 1995 home game against Memphis. But hey, that Big Ten’s presence in the east makes up for this, right?

Every school gives away a certain number of tickets for free, so Michigan is certainly not the first to resort to this tactic nor will they be the last. As the focus on attendance issues continues to spread around the sports world, including the college level, teams and schools have to find ways to generate interest in coming to a game. Sometimes free tickets can do just that. We also have to remember just how rough it was for Michigan last season. The team was not very good and Brady Hoke was pretty much a lame duck coach. Hoke is gone, and there have been changes above as well.

The good news is things look to be on the upswing since the hiring of new head coach Jim Harbaugh. Ticket sales are already increasing and season tickets now have a waiting list for the first time in years. The Harbaugh hype appears to be generating a buzz around Ann Arbor, and the issues regarding attendance should diminish as a result in 2015. This spring Michigan saw one of its biggest spring crowds in over two decades, ranking them second this spring in spring game attendance behind only Nebraska heading into the weekend.

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Mark Dantonio wants a midnight madness atmosphere for spring game

Mark Dantonio

Stop us if you have heard this before, but Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio wants 50,000 fans to attend the spring game for the Spartans next weekend. You know, just like he did last year at this time.

Dantonio has done wonders for the Spartan football program, establishing Michigan State as one of the top programs in the Big Ten and most recently coaching the team to a memorable victory in the Cotton Bowl. Michigan State is coming off back-to-back seasons with double-digit victories and has ended the season with a bowl victory four straight years under Dantonio. In that stretch Michigan State has played for the Big Ten title three times and won once. All of this comes while also dominating in-state Big Ten rival Michigan on the football field. Things are good at Michigan State, but Dantonio still feels a need to build around the program. His efforts have been aimed at juicing up the atmosphere at the spring game.

Last year Dantonio made a pitch to get 50,000 fans into Spartan Stadium for the annual spring game. An estimated 35,000 fans ended up showing for the spring game, which is far from a poor showing. But Dantonio wants to create an electric atmosphere, the kind perhaps more commonly seen in basketball. Michigan State being a school with a strong basketball background, that is not a bad way to strategize this effort.

We’re trying to create a midnight madness type of effect for our spring game,” Dantonio said, per MLive.com. “So I think it’s important that we engage our students and give them an opportunity to be out here and do some things that maybe other people don’t get to do all the time.”

Dantonio has high hopes for Michigan State, and they should not be considered unrealistic. Nebraska and Michigan are currently atop the spring game attendance rankings this season, and the Big Ten should be well represented again this weekend with Ohio State and Penn State wrapping up spring practices in front of perennially strong spring crowds. As far as Dantonio is concerned, Michigan State should be right in that mix (despite a considerably smaller stadium)

Michigan State’s spring game is scheduled for April 25 with a 2 p.m. eastern start time. The spring game will be carried live on Big Ten Network.

On a related note, here are the most up-to-date top spring game attendance numbers around the country this spring.

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Georgia Tech’s Orange Bowl rings brag about state championship

DeAndre Smelter

Rivalries in college football are awesome, although sometimes they cross a line. When those rivalries take place within the same state, there is just a little bit more at stake on the outcome of the annual meeting on the football field; a so-called state championship.

Georgia Tech celebrated its state championship by defeating SEC rival Georgia at the end of the 2014 season. The win helped catapult Georgia Tech into the Orange Bowl after a tough defeat against Florida State in the ACC Championship Game the following week. The Yellow Jackets went on to win the Orange Bowl against Mississippi State, who at one point in the regular season had been the top-ranked team in college football. As a result, players on Georgia Tech earned an Orange Bowl championship ring this spring. Just as we got a glimpse of Ohio State’s national championship ring yesterday, we also have a look at Georgia Tech’s hardware celebrating not only the Orange Bowl victory, but also its state championship.

Of course, Georgia Tech has a legitimate case to be made to be crowned state champions in the state of Georgia. Not only did the Yellow Jackets sting Georgia, but they also took care of Georgia Southern in September. Rather, Georgia Tech escaped Georgia Southern in a wild contest against the team that would go on to win the Sun Belt championship.

In 2015 Georgia Tech’s only in-state opponent will be the rival Bulldogs at the end of the regular season. Will they defend the self-proclaimed title of state champs?

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Alabama could be down as many as eight players for spring game

A'Shawn Robinson

Alabama’s spring game is Saturday, and head coach Nick Saban said Thursday that it will be something less than a full roster hitting the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In fact, eight players are expected to miss the game, and another is questionable.

The list: defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson, outside linebacker Ryan Anderson, wide receiver Cam Sims, outside linebacker Denzel Devall, cornerback Cyrus Jones, offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy and running back Bo Scarbrough, while sophomore Hootie Jones is questionable.

“We’ve got probably more guys out for this game than we’ve had in the past, which again, creates an opportunity for some other players to player,” Saban told TideSports.com. “You’re always a little thinner in the spring without having the entire freshman class with you. We’ve got quite a few guys out of this game, but as I said before, it’s a great opportunity for some other guys to show what they can do and get out there and play and get some game-like experience.”

Alabama playing without half its defense and most of its freshman class is what rival coaches call “leveling the playing field.”

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Former Pokes returner Tyreek Hill tweets he’s Akron bound

Tyreek Hill

Four-and-a-half months after saving Oklahoma State’s season and four months after his dismissal from Oklahoma State’s football and track programs, return man extraordinnaire Tyreek Hill apparently has a new home.

Hill tweeted Thursday he has joined the club at Akron.

Akron has not offered official word on adding Hill.

Named the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2014, Hill was arrested in December on a felony domestic violence complaint. He was dismissed on the same day news of his arrest came to light.

Hill ranked 17th nationally with 256 punt return yards and placed third in the Big 12 with 740 kickoff return yards while posting three combined return scores. He ranked fourth on the club in receiving with 31 grabs for 281 yards and a touchdown and placed second on the team in rushing with 102 carries for 534 yards and a score.

If official, Akron would mark Hill’s third collegiate home; he played at Garden City (Kan.) Community College before his arrival in Stillwater.

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Texas-Notre Dame set for primetime opener

Everett Golson

In news that has been expected for a while now, it was announced Thursday that Notre Dame’s home opener against Texas is slated for a primetime kickoff. The Fighting Irish and Longhorns will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 5, on NBC.

NBC is slated to show a NASCAR Xfinity Series race from Darlington at 3:30 p.m. ET that same day, so an under-the-lights kick was the only feasible option.

As our own J.J. Stankevitz notes, Notre Dame’s NBC contract calls for five primetime games over a rolling two-year period (including the Shamrock Series), so expect Irish’s Oct. 17 date with USC to get the primetime treatment as well.

While nothing has been formally announced yet, expect Texas-Notre Dame to be up against two of Arizona State-Texas A&M (from Houston), Wisconsin-Alabama (from Dallas) and Louisville-Auburn (from Atlanta).

Notre Dame and Texas have met 10 times previously with the Fighting Irish winning eight times. The two clubs, the Nos. 2 and 3 winningest programs in FBS history, last met on Sept. 21, 1996, a 27-24 Notre Dame triumph in Austin.

 

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Reports: NYC, Orlando won’t bid on 2018-20 College Football Playoff title games

College Football Playoff Announces The College Football Playoff Selection Committee - News Conference Getty Images

The 2016 College Football Playoff Championship – crowing the champion of the 2015 season – will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The 2017 title game is set for Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

Beyond that? It’s all up in the air.

According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, MetLife Stadium will not be in the running to host a CFP title game from 2018-20. Considering the New York/New Jersey area’s luck in getting the Super Bowl one day before a massive snowstorm hit the region, it’s probably wise of the MetLife folks to not push their luck in that regard. And, let’s be honest, an outdoor title game in freezing temperatures in an area that more readily identifies with the NFL doesn’t exactly scream “collegiate environment.”

Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel also reported Thursday that Orlando has pulled its name out of the running for 2018-20 in order to focus its efforts on 2021. “We want to be careful to think about what’s the best foot forward for this community in terms of hosting one and it just seems most logical that 2021 and beyond would be the right time,” Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan told the paper.

It is not known, however, if New York will seriously pursue a future title game.

Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Miami, Minneapolis, San Antonio and Santa Clara, Calif., will bid on the 2018-20 title games, while North Texas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Pasadena remain undecided.

Sites for the 2018-20 title games are expected to be announced in late May.

 

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