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CFT Predicts: the SEC

Nick Saban AP

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the SEC. 

And while we’re at it, check out our other conference previews: Big Ten, Pac-12

SEC East

1.  South Carolina (Last year: 11-2; beat Michigan in Outback Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Gamecocks put together an 11-2 season for the second straight year — the first time in school history the program has accomplished such a feat. Yet, Steve Spurrier‘s team still didn’t make it to the SEC championship game despite handing it to SEC champ Georgia 35-7 in Columbia. Also, this happened. You may have seen it before on SportsCenter. 

So why are they ranked here?
South Carolina and Georgia have taken their respective turns representing the East division in the SEC title for the past three years, and it looks like 2013 will be two-team race between these two once again. The Gamecocks get the edge this time because of their defense, which features preseason Heisman candidate Jadeveon Clowney. But it’s not just the projected No. 1 NFL draft pick that makes this defense so good. Cornerback Victor Hampton and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles also return.

Anything else?
That’s a Clowney question, bro. But for real, the offense loses wide receiver Ace Sanders. However, the Gamecocks have a solid wide receiver group led by Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd. 

2. Georgia (Last year: 12-2; beat Nebraska in Capital One Bowl) 
What happened last season?
If only Chris Conley had been a few yards further, Georgia would have been playing in the BCS championship game. Still, 12-2 and a January bowl win aren’t too shabby. Despite getting blasted by South Carolina midway through the season, UGA still won the East division for the second year in a row.

So why are they ranked here?
The Bulldogs’ offense returns so many key players, including seventh-year senior quarterback Aaron Murray and running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. But conversely, it’s the defense that loses just about everyone. There’s plenty of talent on that side of the ball and Todd Grantham is considered one of the best in the business at defense coordinator, but there’s enough turnover to cost the Bulldogs the top spot in the East.

Anything else?
Georgia is the media’s favorite to win the SEC East this year, but the month of September could get the Bulldogs off to a slow start. Georgia faces four tough opponents to start the season: Clemson, South Carolina, North Texas* and LSU.

(*Kidding, obviously. But seriously #GoMeanGreen.) 

3. Florida (Last year: 11-2; lost to Louisville in Sugar Bowl)
What happened last season?
It wasn’t always pretty, but Florida won 11 regular season games with arguably one of the tougher schedules in college football. However, the Gators’ season ended in a Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville, something only our favorite Cardinals fan Mark Ennis could have foreseen.

So why are they ranked here?
This is where the Gators fit. The East will continue to be dominated by Georgia and South Carolina at least for another season, and there are some injury concerns on offense for Florida with wide receiver Andre Debose out for the year and running back Matt Jones out indefinitely with a viral infection. Quarterback Jeff Driskel is now a junior and should be a bigger part of this offense. On defense, this team needs to replace stars Matt Elam, Jelani Jenkins and Sharrif Floyd.

Anything else?
It doesn’t affect SEC records, but the Gators have two meaty non-conference games: the annual rivalry with Florida State and an early season game against Miami, a team some feel are flying under the radar.

4. Vanderbilt (Last year: 9-4; beat NC State in the Music City Bowl)
What happened last season?
Seven straight wins to end 2012 gave Vanderbilt its first nine-win season since 1915. James Franklin continues to do an outstanding job building the Commodores’ brand and is now quickly becoming one of the most intriguing coaches in the game.

So why are they ranked here?
That nine-win season? Yeah, Vandy returns 17 starters from that team a year ago. Leading receiver Jordan Matthews is back, but Chris Boydthe team’s second-leading receiver, is currently dealing with a legal issue related to a horrific rape allegation involving four former VU players. Still there should be plenty of firepower on offense and the defensive front seven should be a strength.

Anything else?
Vanderbilt’s next step is to knock off a SEC favorite. This team will have four opportunities to do so against South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Texas A&M. A season-opener against Ole Miss could also build some early momentum for the ‘Dores.

5. Missouri (Last year: 5-7) 
What happened last season?
Missouri’s first year in the SEC was, shall we say, eye-opening. The Tigers suffered their first losing season under Gary Pinkel in eight years thanks, at least in part, to the fact that quarterback James Franklin couldn’t stay healthy. Missouri’s only two conference wins came against Kentucky and Tennessee.

So why are they ranked here?
It’s not a stretch to think Mizzou can have, say, a two-game swing in the win column this season. The Tigers don’t have to play Alabama or LSU out of the West and there are about four winnable conference games on the schedule. Franklin has to stay healthy, which could again be an issue if the offensive line doesn’t come through. Running back Henry Josey returns after missing last season with a significant knee injury and one-time five-star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is a sophomore who needs to have a big year. A lot of previously unknown names are going to have to emerge as playmakers.

Anything else?
Pinkel has been the head coach of Mizzou for 13 years if you can believe it. And, if nothing else, the Tigers have been fairly consistent with winning records. But a new conference and a disappointing 2012 campaign has made the seat beneath Pinkel’s keister a little warm. If there’s not at least a little bit of a turnaround, or some reason to be excited about the future, Mizzou could be looking for another direction by year’s end.

6. Tennessee (Last year: 5-7)
What happened last season?
The Vols suffered their third straight losing season and Derek Dooley was punished by being demoted to the wide receivers coach for the Dallas Cowboys.

So why are they ranked here?
Butch Jones is a good coach and he should be the guy to finally get things turned around for Tennessee. He’s a natural with young people and players love him. That said, Neyland Stadium wasn’t built in a day — neither were UT’s shiny new facilities — and the Vols took a solid gut punch in the passing game with the departures of wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. Defense has been bad too. There’s a lot to fix and not a lot to work with right away.

Anything else?
The stretch between Sept. 21 (at Florida) and Oct. 26 (at Alabama) is ruthless and unkind. But winning one game against either the Gators, Georgia or South Carolina would go a long way for Jones no matter the final record.

7. Kentucky (Last year: 2-10)
What happened last season?
The Wildcats beat Samford and Kent State, the latter of which almost had a chance to make a BCS bowl appearance. Strange, indeed. Either way, Joker Phillips got canned.

So why are they ranked here?
If Tennessee is building things “brick by brick”, then Kentucky’s going to need some heavier materials. UK made an interesting hire with former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who is recruiting extremely well early. Signing Day 2014 is still a ways off and it’s yet to be seen if those efforts will pay dividends down the road. For now, the Wildcats have too much to improve upon to make a real dent.

Anything else?
The schedule the Wildcats go through doesn’t help. Road games against South Carolina and Georgia aren’t even the worst games — that distinction would belong to hosting Alabama on Oct. 12.

SEC West

1. Alabama (Last year: 13-1; beat Notre Dame in BCS championship)
What happened last season?
Oh, not much. The Tide won the SEC and then mercilessly beat Notre Dame in the BCS championship, giving Nick Saban his third national title in four years with Alabama. Of course, it wasn’t all perfect. Texas A&M came into Tuscaloosa in November and stunned the top-ranked team in the country 29-24. Saban has since been playing that game on loop around the football facilities because money isn’t the root of all evil — satisfaction is.

So why are they ranked here?
Unless the wheels inexplicably fall off or Saban takes his coaching talents to the pros, Alabama is in rolling along (see what we did–ah forget it) and there’s nothing anybody can do to stop it. We could talk about returning starters like A.J. McCarron or C.J. Moseley, or how the Tide’s schedule doesn’t feature any of the SEC East teams expected to finish at or near the top of that respective division. Those are all fine and well, but as long as Saban is wearing crimson, this program is going to be a perennial favorite.

Anything else?
Because college football black magic is very, very real, it should be pointed out again that Alabama has never have won a BCS title when ranked atop the preseason coaches poll. Guess where they’re ranked this year.

2. LSU (last year: 10-3; lost to Clemson in Chick-fil-A Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Tigers shocked the college football world by beating up on a much more talented North Texas team* to open the year and came thisclose to beating Alabama at home (tailback screen FTW!) on their way to a 10-win season. LSU lost by one point to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl as Tajh Boyd pulled off the toughest individual postseason performance of the year.

(*Kidding, obviously. But seriously #GoMeanGreen.) 

So why are they ranked here?
LSU is an interesting team who’s getting overshadowed by two other SEC West teams. Understandably, Alabama is the overwhelming favorite not only to win the West division, but to win the SEC and get back to another national championship. But the Tigers shouldn’t be counted out so quickly. Defense will always be a staple and Zach Mettenberger has all the tools to be an elite quarterback, he just has to put it all together. Ironically, perhaps his best game last season came in that agonizing loss to Alabama.

Anything else?
Les Miles‘ team has some big games this year, including road games against Georgia and Alabama, and a season-opener against TCU. This is a program that’s thrived in those environments over the last few years (sans a BCS title loss to Alabama in 2012). They’ll need to again if they want to knock off the preseason favorite.

3. Texas A&M (last year: 11-2; beat Oklahoma in Cotton Bowl)
What happened last season?
Kevin Sumlin started Johnny Manziel at quarterback and all of us — defenses, media members, all of us — looked like idiots. Also, Manziel won the Heisman as a redshirt freshman. Just as a reminder.

So why are they ranked here?
Manziel is back… maybe. In fact, this is probably one of the few predictions that actually deserves an asterisk next to it. With the NCAA reportedly investigating whether Manziel improperly received money for signing thousands of pieces of memorabilia, it’s possible he could face suspension. If he does, and depending when and for how long, the Aggies’ win total could dip tremendously. There are a lot of questions defensively even with Manziel in the lineup, and while I personally don’t believe the offseason “controversies” will affect Manziel’s play on the field, he still has a lot of growing to do as a quarterback.

Anything else?
Wide receiver Mike Evans burst on to the scene last year with over 1,100 yards as a freshman. All the talk is about Manziel, but Evans provides an athletic, big target to throw to in this offense. He could have an even bigger year as a sophomore.

4. Ole Miss (Last year: 7-6; beat Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Hugh Freeze made one of the bigger first-season splashes by leading the Rebels to a seven-win season and then pulling in one of the most impressive recruiting classes for 2013.

So why are they ranked here?
The Rebels are considered to be on the upswing, but the first half of their ’13 schedule is bordering on unfair. Ole Miss travels to Vanderbilt, to Texas in non-conference play, to Alabama, and to Auburn before finally catching a break and hosting Texas A&M and LSU. It seems impossible to get through that stretch unscathed, but if quarterback Bo Wallace cuts down on his mistakes (17 interceptions a year ago) and the defense can clamp down even a little (the Rebels gave up an average of 36 points in five losses to the aforementioned six opponents last season thanks in part to 66 points from the Longhorns), then this team should find itself with some quality wins headed into an easier second half of the schedule.

Anything else?
If you think Ole Miss has broken any recruiting rules, Freeze asks that you email compliance@olemiss.edu. Thanks and hotty toddy!

5. Auburn (Last year: 3-9)
What happened last season?
The Tigers failed to win a conference game and Gene Chizik, two years removed from winning a BCS championship, was fired.

So why are they ranked here?
Gus Malzahn, who was the offensive coordinator for Auburn when it won that national title over Oregon in 2011, returns to The Plains as head coach hoping to turn things around. There are plenty of guys returning on both sides of the ball… it’s just that neither side played particularly well. It’s not like there’s a lack of talent at Auburn, so if Malzahn and his coaching staff, which features veteran defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, can get the production out of their players in a way Chizik couldn’t, then there’s no reason this team can’t go bowling this year.

Anything else?
Nick Marshall, a former Georgia defensive back, will be the starting quarterback for the Tigers. Meanwhile, Kiehl Frazier, Auburn’s former starting quarterback, has moved to defensive back.

6. Mississippi State (Last year: 8-5; lost to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Things were looking good for Dan Mullen‘s team, which was 7-0 headed into a late October game against Alabama. That’s when it fell apart and the schedule got significantly harder. The Bulldogs lost 38-7 in Tuscaloosa and went on to drop five of their last six games, including a bowl loss to Northwestern.

So why are they ranked here?
Because the SEC West is arguably the deepest division in college football. It’s quite possible that six teams could be bowl eligible here. Quarterback Tyler Russell is back, but there will be plenty of new faces at wide receiver. Six starters return on defense, but in all, this is a relatively young team that will be tested when it faces South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama in consecutive weeks.

Anything else?
If Bulldogs center Dillon Day plays as well as he bowls, then MSU should have a spectacular season.

7. Arkansas (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Bobby Petrino drove his motorcycle off a road. John L. Smith then drove the BCS-ready Razorbacks into the ground. Hog fans didn’t take either particularly well.

So why are they ranked here?
Arkansas brings in a new coach in Bret Bielema, but loses quarterback Tyler Wilson, its top two leading rushers and receivers from a year ago. Defense was a major liability last season and will have to improve significantly if the offense doesn’t get going. And that schedule? Brutal. The Hogs may not win a game past September.

Anything else?
Freshman running back Alex Collins had some drama trying to Fayetteville, but in Bielema’s run-heavy offense, he could make a huge impact right away.

—————————————-

John Taylor‘s prediction:

East
1. Georgia
2. South Carolina
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Vanderbilt
6. Kentucky
7. Missouri

West
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Texas A&M
4. Ole Miss
5. Mississippi State
6. Arkansas
7. Auburn
Ben’s SEC champ: Alabama
John’s SEC champ: Alabama
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‘Extremely doubtful’ Wyoming’s injured leading tackler returns in ’14

Mark Nzeocha, Taylor Graham

Wyoming’s defense will likely have to play the remainder of the 2014 season without one of its leaders on that side of the ball.

Mark Nzeocha suffered what appeared to be a knee injury during last Saturday’s overtime loss to San Jose State. While head coach Craig Bohl wouldn’t specify the exact nature of the injury, he was decidedly pessimistic about the senior linebacker’s availability moving forward.

“The outlook for him to be playing the rest of the year would be extremely doubtful,” the coach said.

Nzeocha currently leads the Cowboys in both tackles (59) and passes broken up (five). He’s tied for the team lead with two sacks and he’s second in tackles for loss with three.

With Nzeocha sidelined, seniors Devyn Harris or Jordan Stanton will likely serve as his replacement.

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Ole Miss, Wake agree to future home-and-home

Dester McCluster, Alphonso Smith AP

It’s not exactly to the level of some of the heavyweight non-conference clashes announced in recent months, but at least it involves a pair of Power Five programs, right?

Anyway, Ole Miss and Wake Forest announced in twin press releases Wednesday that the two football programs have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series. The agreement calls for the teams to meet in Winston-Salem on Sept. 14, 2024 and Oxford, on Sept. 13, 2025.

The two schools have played just twice in football, and those came recently. The Demon Deacons traveled to Oxford in 2006 while the Rebels returned the favor in 2008.

Wake won both matchups, 27-3 in the first and 30-28 in the second.

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One of Cal’s top WRs won’t play vs. Oregon

UCLA v California AP

Cal’s prolific passing attack will be down a weapon for its Week 9 Pac-12 game.

Head coach Sonny Dykes confirmed Tuesday that Trevor Davis will not play in Friday night’s game against Oregon. Davis suffered a neck/head injury in last Saturday’s loss to UCLA.

After being briefly hospitalized, Davis was released. Just how long the wide receiver will be sidelined remains to be seen.

“Luckily all the tests came back good, and his long-term prognosis is good,” Dykes said.

Davis is tied for third on the Bears in receiving yards (360) and receiving touchdowns (four), and is fourth in receptions (21).

The good news for Cal’s offense is that fellow receiver Chris Harper, injured in the same game, will play against the Ducks. Harper’s 25 catches are third on the team.

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John Wolford good to go at QB for Wake

John Wolford, Eric Crume

An injury that knocked John Wolford out of Wake Forest’s last game won’t do the same for the next one.

Dave Clawson confirmed Tuesday that the quarterback will be available and start this Saturday’s game against Boston College.  Wolford suffered a head injury in the loss to Syracuse last weekend.

It was very quickly determined, however, that Wolford did not incur a concussion.  From the Raleigh News & Observer:

“Because the hit was in the head … we were taking zero chances,” Clawson said Tuesday, adding that when Wolford “felt fine” on Sunday, “we knew he was good to go this week.”

Wolford became the first Demon Deacon to start an opener as a true freshman since 1974, but he’s certainly had his growing pains.

His 12 interceptions (in 124 attempts) are tied for second-worst in the country with Texas Tech’s Davis Webb (196 attempts), behind only New Mexico State’s Tyler Rodgers‘ 15 (170 attempts).  With an interception ration of 1:10, he’s fourth-worst in the country behind only Tulane’s Tanner Lee ((one pick every 7.8 attempts), Kansas’ Montell Cozart (one every 8.9 attempts) and Florida’s Jeff Driskel (one every 9.7 attempts) for quarterbacks who have thrown at least 60 passes.

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Barring ‘something unusual,’ Deshaun Watson is starter when healthy

FBC-T25 Clemson Watson AP

And, in other breaking news, water is wet and the sky is blue.

Deshaun Watson underwent surgery earlier this month to repair the hand injury he suffered in Clemson’s Oct. 11 win over Louisville and is expected to be sidelined for up to five weeks.  Most (rightly) assumed that Cole Stoudt would merely be keeping the quarterbacking seat warm before turning the job back over to Watson once healthy.

Tuesday, Watson’s head coach confirmed as much.

“Yeah. Yeah. Deshaun’s the starter. Whenever he’s healthy, he’ll be back out there,” Dabo Swinney said. “Guys don’t lose their jobs because they get hurt. Something unusual would have to happen for that to be the case.

“But we’ll worry about all that when the time comes.”

Swinney’s declaration is a no-brainer as the Tigers’ offense is simply a more explosive and lethal with Watson on the field.

In the two full games the true freshman started — North Carolina Sept. 27, North Carolina State Oct. 4 — the Tigers averaged 45.5 points per game; the last two games against Louisville and Boston College, which includes the one Watson left very early due to injury, the Tigers are averaging 20 points per game.

Watson is currently second in the country in passing efficiency, behind only Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.  Stoudt, meanwhile, is 99th in the same category as he has thrown just one touchdown and two interceptions in his 147 attempts.

Based on the current timeline, Watson will definitely be back no later than the Nov. 15 game against Georgia Tech, the 10th game of the season.  There’s also the chance he could return for the Nov. 6 game against Wake Forest, which comes after the Tigers second and last bye of the season.

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Rutgers WR Ruhann Peele arrested on assault charge back in August

Ruhann Peele, Andrew Adams AP

Nearly two months after it happened, the arrest of a Rutgers football player has surfaced publicly.

According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Ruhann Peele was arrested following an incident Aug. 30.  The wide receiver was subsequently charged with simple assault.  No details of what preceded the arrest and charge have been revealed.

“We are aware of the situation involving Ruhann,” a statement from RU head coach Kyle Flood read. “Due to the fact he has a pending court date, we will not comment until the legal process is complete.”

Peele has not played at all this season due to what’s only been described as an upper-body injury sustained in early August. The Star-Ledger writes that “[h]is absence from football activities, including practice, is 100 percent medically-related at this point, a source familiar with the situation said.”

Whether he heals up in time to play this season and would then face sanctions from the football program for the off-field incident is unknown.

Peele finished fifth on the team last season with 28 catches for 478 yards. He was third on the team when, due to injuries, he was moved from receiver to cornerback in late October for a handful of games.

Entering summer camp, it was expected Peele would be a significant contributor in the passing game in 2014.

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Following arrest, Cincinnati suspends backup QB

players names AP

An off-field incident will likely cost one of Cincinnati’s quarterbacks some game time.

Early Sunday morning, Bearcats backup Jarred Evans was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge shortly after returning from a road win over SMU.  Evans allegedly knocked a man to the ground with a punch, with the alleged victim suffering a concussion and needing stitches.

Evans spent Sunday night in jail before bail was posted Monday.

While Tommy Tuberville said there’s a “[g]ood chance he’s not guilty,” the UC head coach has still indefinitely suspended the player.

“It’s just hard to get through their heads that you are different than everybody else,” Tuberville said according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “You can’t even think about making a mistake or even being close to a mistake. Even if it’s not your fault, you’re still implicated. So, that’s how we handle it and I hope our players on the team see that and understand that and we’ll go from there. …

“I talk to these guys every day about you being a lot more responsible than any other person on campus. They understand that right or wrong, football players, basketball players, athletes across the country are guilty until proven innocent, even in my eyes, because you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Until this season, the JUCO transfer Evans had totaled no stats at the FBS level. In the win over the Mustangs, the 22-year-old Evans rushed for a team-high 67 yards and a touchdown, while also completing both of his pass attempts for 10 yards.

It’s unclear if Evans will be available for Friday’s game against USF.

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Texas could pay student-athletes $10K annually

money AP

Everyone knew there was a new day dawning for collegiate athletics, thanks to autonomy for Power Five conferences and the O’Bannon lawsuit and the like. Part of the change called for increased benefits for all student-athletes in elite conferences specifically, including football players.

Tuesday, one university put a price tag on that change.

At a Big 12 sports forum yesterday, Texas athletic director Steve Patterson revealed that his university will soon begin paying its student-athletes in every sport, male and female. UT expects to spend $6 million annually on the endeavor, which works out to roughly $10,000 per athlete per year.

The Dallas Morning News writes that “[t]he money will cover college expenses that aren’t covered by a traditional full scholarship and give each player $5,000 in compensation for the university’s use of his image.” The latter is in connection to the O’Bannon suit.

While an athletic department like Texas, the most profitable in the country, can merely reach into its couches to cover the added expense, there are others at the forum who intimated that cuts in sports could be one casualty of the payments.

“If we begin to [further] remunerate the participants, that’s going to break that model,” UT women’s sports athletic director Chris Plonsky warned.

“We’re in for a period of dynamic change,” said former Maryland basketball All-American and U.S. Representative Tom McMillen. “The system has to change. The money needs to be handled differently.”

Texas, incidentally, becomes the first school to announce specific payments to student-athletes.  It had previously been thought that, with the autonomy legislation, athletes would receive an additional $2,000 to $5,000 to cover the true cost of attendance.

Just when UT will begin paying the five-figure sum is unclear.

(Tip O’ the Cap: our very own Zach Barnett, over at his other job at FootballScoop.com)

UPDATED 4:28 p.m. ET: And now we have a little more clarity to the lack of a timeline.

To further clarify, the $5,000 “image use” to which the Morning News alluded would be placed in a trust fund.  Also, UT and other schools would wait until autonomy is officially approved in January.

Additionally, the $5,000/$5,000 split, should the O’Bannon suit be successful for the plaintiffs, is expected to be a similar range for other Power Five schools.

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Georgia fan Evander Holyfield happy his son received UGA offer

Evander Holyfield Photo Session

Evander Holyfield is a boxing legend. He also played some football in his younger days before embarking on his path to boxing fame. Now he is the father to one of the top football recruits in his home state of Georgia. Running back Elijah Holyfield is a four-star prospect in the Class of 2016 according to Rivals. The younger Holyfield has been drawing interest from plenty of schools out there including Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, South Carolina and many more form the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. It is one of the most recent offers to come his son’s way that has the former heavyweight champ smiling the most. Georgia is among the recent schools to extend an offer to Elijah Holyfield.

“I was happy about that offer because I’m a Georgia fan,” Evander said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And then I found out that he liked Georgia, so that offer was a good thing.”

Elijah Holyfield is reportedly considering Michigan as a top choice, but as of now the recruiting for the Class of 2016 is in the very early stages. Holyfield still has his senior year in front of him after this season, so plenty can change between now and National Signing Day in 2016.

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Will Muschamp turns to QB Treon Harris to save season (and job?)

Missouri v Florida Getty Images

After a horrendous loss at home at the hands of Missouri, Florida head coach Will Muschamp is finally handing the offense over to freshman quarterback Treon Harris. The question is whether or not the damage has already been done in Gainesville.

Harris will replace Jeff Driskel as the starting quarterback for the Gators. Florida is off this week, but the Gators take on a red-hot Georgia team next week in Jacksonville (and the Bulldogs are hoping to have running back Todd Gurley back on the field). Harris would have started in place of Driskel two weeks ago against LSU, but a university investigation connecting Harris to an alleged sexual assault held him out of practice. Harris was later cleared to play after the accuser dropped her complaint, but Harris had already missed a week of practice and Florida was forced to go with Driskel once more at quarterback.

Harris first saw the field this season in a win against Tennessee. Trailing when he entered the game, Harris provided juts enough of a spark to help lead Florida to a road win at Tennessee. Harris did not play against LSU, but he did enter last weekend’s game against Missouri. He completed eight of 12 pass attempts for 98 yards and a touchdown and he added another 26 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

Muschamp is without question sitting on a hot seat at Florida, and AD Jeremy Foley has said the evaluation of Muschamp will be done at the end of the season before making any decisions on the future of the program. Muschamp really needs Harris to lead Florida to some wins in the SEC, otherwise he may be updating his résumé for prospective employers this offseason.

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Michigan State gets All-Big Ten center back for Wolverines

Michigan State v Oregon

Michigan State’s offensive line is about to get stronger this week as the Spartans prepare for Michigan. Jack Allen, an All-Big Ten player, will be back in the middle of the offensive line this weekend.

Allen was injured two weeks ago in a victory against Purdue. Allen is believed to have injured his ankle, which caused him to miss last week’s game against Indiana. Head coach Mark Dantonio rarely sheds any light on injuries, so the exact details of Allen’s injury are unconfirmed. As reported by MLive.com, Allen appeared to have his left ankle stepped on by Michigan State running back Nick Hill during a running play. The injury occurred in the fourth quarter and he did not return.

Connor Kruse filled in for Allen in the middle of the offensive line last week against the Hoosiers. This week Kruse will remain on the offensive line’s starting unit, but he will slide to right guard. This season the defending Big Ten champion Spartans rank fourth in the Big Ten in rushing offense with an average of 261.43 yards per game on the ground. The Michigan State offensive line has allowed just four sacks this season, tied for best in the Big Ten with Wisconsin.

Michigan State hosts Michigan on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. eastern.

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New report says UNC academic fraud more widespread than initially thought

Kenneth Wainstein, US Attorney for the D

The academic fraud that took place at the University of North Carolina may have been more wide-spread than initially thought. According to information released in a brand new report released by Kenneth Wainstein, a former U.S. Justice Department official, more than 3,100 students enrolled in classes they did not have to show up for to receive credit. This took place over a span of approximately two decades, and according to the report, nearly half of those enrolled in the classes were student-athletes.

According to the findings of the investigation, about 47 percent of the enrollment in 188 classes were student-athletes. Of that percentage, 51 percent were football players. It does look as though any of these problems happened under the tenure of current football head coach Larry Fedora, but the investigation does cover the tenures of Butch Davis and Mack Brown. Many of the student-athletes enrolled in the fraudulent classes were “steered” toward enrolling by academic counselors. One thing that the investigation did say is there is no evidence the university tried to obscure the facts of the scandal. Some students were enrolled in the classes without their knowledge, and the report says at least one counselor would present a list of grades needed to keep a player eligible to an office administrator.

In 2012 the NCAA hit UNC’s football program with a one-year postseason ban and reduced the number of available scholarships that could be used. Those sanctions came following an investigation into alleged academic issues related to tutors helping players against NCAA rules. The NCAA has reopened an investigation into the program in light of newly discovered evidence. Much of that information is likely to be pulled from this report’s findings. Wainstein has met with the NCAA at least three times to review the findings of his investigation. How the NCAA will address this new information remains to be seen. The NCAA may also have to explain how it failed to uncover at least some of the information discovered in this investigation.

The NCAA has issued a statement on the findings of this new investigation.

One question that pops up now is whether or not this was an academic or an athletics problem. The university had gone on record suggesting this was not an athletics issue in the past, but now it may want you to believe it is just that.

Of course, it may be both.

The university has set-up a website with all of the details and documents related to the Wainstein investigation’s findings.

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WVU player cited for excessive celebration in weekend riots

West Virginia v Alabama Getty Images

Following West Virginia’s big victory over Baylor on Saturday, students and fans took to the streets in destructive fashion. This resulted in 32 street fires and seven more dumpster fires being ignited that would require a response from the local fire department. A total of 114 emergency calls, 135 non-emergency calls and 126 other incidents were called to 911. The city of Morgantown continues to review the extent of the damage done over the weekend.

Among those cited for celebrating the victory in such fashion happened to be one member of the West Virginia football team. Redshirt freshman tight end and fullback Elijah Wellman, was charged with disorderly conduct. Seeing as how the game itself saw penalty flag after penalty flag, perhaps it should not be a surprise a player was later called for a foul in the aftermath.

West Virginia president Gordon Gee spoke out against the actions of those involved with the celebratory rioting.

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Bill Snyder, three Heisman winners on College Football Hall of Fame ballot

Texas Tech v Kansas State

The ballots for the College Football Hall of Fame have been released. A total of 75 FBS players and six FBS coaches appear on the ballot, as well as 87 players and 25 coaches from all other divisions of football. Some of the notable names on the ballot includes three Heisman Trophy winners (Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam, Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch and Texas running back Ricky Williams). Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder also appears on this year’s ballot. Ballots will be submitted by members of the National Football Foundation and current College Football Hall of Famers. Voting will be done electronically this year and the announcement of this yera’s class will be made Friday, January 9 at the media hotel leading up to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The class will be inducted on December 8, 2015.

“Having a ballot and a voice in the selection of the inductees is one of the most cherished NFF member benefits,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning, a 1989 Hall of Fame inductee from Ole Miss. “There is no group more knowledgeable or passionate about college football than our membership, and the tradition of the ballot helps us engage them in the lofty responsibility of selecting those who have reached the pinnacle of achievement in our sport.”

To be eligible for the ballot, players must have been named a First Team All-American by a major/national selector as recognized and utilized by the NCAA for their consensus All-America teams; played their last year of intercollegiate football at least 10 years prior; played within the last 50 years and cannot be currently playing professional football. Coaches must have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games as a head coach; won at least 60 percent of their games; and be retired from coaching for at least three years. If a coach is retired and over the age of 70, there is no waiting period. If he is over the age of 75, he is eligible as an active coach. In both cases, the candidate’s post-football record as a citizen may also be weighed.

Here are the names of players and coaches appearing on the FBS portion of the ballot. You cans ee the full release and name son the ballot via the National Football Foundation.

2015 FOOTBALL BOWL SUBDIVISON PLAYER CANDIDATES

Trev Alberts, Nebraska-Linebacker

Eric Bieniemy, Colorado-Running Back

Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma-Linebacker

Bob Breunig, Arizona State-Linebacker

Jerome Brown, Miami (Fla.)-Defensive Tackle

Ruben Brown, Pittsburgh-Offensive Tackle

Steve Brown, Oregon State-Linebacker

Brandon Burlsworth, Arkansas-Offensive Guard

Larry Burton, Purdue-Split End

Keith Byars, Ohio State-Running Back

Freddie Carr, Texas-El Paso-Linebacker

Mark Carrier, Southern California-Safety

Wes Chandler, Florida-Split End

Tim Couch, Kentucky-Quarterback

Tom Cousineau, Ohio State-Linebacker

Bob Crable, Notre Dame-Linebacker

Paul Crane, Alabama-Center/Linebacker

Eric Crouch, Nebraska-Quarterback

Randall Cunningham, Nevada-Las Vegas

Troy Davis, Iowa State-Tailback

Eric Dickerson, Southern Methodist

John Didion, Oregon State

Mike Dirks, Wyoming-Defensive Tackle

D.J. Dozier, Penn State-Running Back

Tim Dwight, Iowa-Kick Returner/Wide Receiver

Jumbo Elliott, Michigan-Offensive Tackle

Tony Franklin, Texas A&M-Plackekicker

William Fuller, North Carolina-Defensive Tackle

Moe Gardner, Illinois-Defensive Tackle

Thom Gatewood, Notre Dame-Split End

Willie Gault, Tennessee-Wide Receiver

Kirk Gibson, Michigan State-Wide Receiver

Charlie Gogolak, Princeton-Placekicker

Jacob Green, Texas A&M-Defensive Lineman

Byron Hanspard, Texas Tech-Running Back

Al Harris, Arizona State

Dana Howard, Illinois-Linebacker

Randy Hughes, Oklahoma-Defensive Back

Bobby Humphrey, Alabama-Running Back

Raghib Ismail, Notre Dame-Wide Receiver

Dick Jauron, Yale-Running Back

Ernie Jennings, Air Force-Wide Receiver

Keyshawn Johnson, Southern California

Clinton Jones, Michigan State-Halfback

Lincoln Kennedy, Washington-Offensive Tackle

Tim Krumrie, Wisconsin-Defensive Tackle

Greg Lewis, Washington-Running Back-

Jess Lewis, Oregon State-Defensive Tackle

Ray Lewis, Miami (Fla.)-Linebacker

Robert Lytle, Michigan-Running Back

Buddy McClinton, Auburn-Defensive Back

Duncan McColl, Stanford-Defensive End

Bob McKay, Texas-Offensive Tackle

Cade McNown, UCLA-Quarterback

Mark Messner, Michigan-Defensive Tackle

Ken Norton, Jr., UCLA-Linebacker-

Herb Orvis, Colorado-Defensive EndJim Otis, Ohio State-Fullback-Named consensus First Team All-American in 1969…Member of the 1968 National Championship team…Named First Team All-Big Ten conference in 1969 and led the Buckeyes to two conference titles…Led the team in rushing three times.

Jim Otis, Ohio State-Fullback

Paul Palmer, Temple-Running Back

Antwaan Randle El, Indiana-Quarterback

Simeon Rice, Illinois-Linebacker

Ron Rivera, California-Linebacker

Mike Ruth, Boston College-Nose Guard

Rashaan Salaam, Colorado-Tailback

Warren Sapp, Miami (Fla.)-Defensive Tackle

Larry Seivers, Tennessee-Wide Receiver

Art Still, Kentucky-Defensive End

Zach Thomas, Texas Tech-Linebacker

Dennis Thurman, Southern California-Defensive Back

Andre Tippett, Iowa-Defensive End

Jackie Walker, Tennessee-Linebacker

Lorenzo White, Michigan State-Running Back

Ricky Williams, Texas-Running Back-Two

Steve Wisniewski, Penn State-Offensive Guard

Scott Woerner, Georgia-Defensive Back

2015 FOOTBALL BOWL SUBDIVISION COACH CANDIDATES

Jim Carlen-West Virginia (1966-69), Texas Tech (1970-74), South Carolina (1975-1981)

Pete Cawthon Sr.-Austin College (Texas) (1923-27), Texas Tech (1930-40)

Danny Ford-Clemson (1978-1989), Arkansas (1993-97)

Billy Jack Murphy-Memphis (1958-71)

Darryl Rogers-Cal State-Hayward (1965), Fresno State (1966-72), San Jose State (1973-75), Michigan State (1976-79), Arizona State (1980-84)

Bill Snyder-Kansas State (1985-05, 2009-present)

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NCAA removes Pa. governor from lawsuit over PSU fine

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett Speaks On The Penn State Football Scandal Getty Images

The NCAA continues to move forward with a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania over the distribution of fine money to be paid by Penn State. In doing so, the NCAA has removed Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale from the lawsuit.

According to an Associated Press report, the NCAA believes Corbett and DePasquale are no longer significant in the lawsuit. This is different from a previous report in September that suggested the NCAA was willing to comply with the Pennsylvania state law. The NCAA, Corbett and DePasquale reportedly came to an agreement allowing the two defendants to be dropped from the lawsuit. Corbett is in the midst of a campaign to keep his seat as governor, and polls show he is trailing by a wide margin.

The lawsuit filed by the NCAA challenges a Pennsylvania law that requires fine money to be paid by Penn State be kept within the borders of Pennsylvania. The NCAA believes that money should be spread beyond Pennsylvania to raise child abuse awareness.

The NCAA fined Penn State $60 million as part of the sanction terms dropped on the university in the summer of 2012. Although the NCAA has since scaled back segments of the sanction terms (postseason ban lifted and recruiting restrictions eliminated), the remainder of the $60 million fine is still required to be paid. To date, Penn State has paid two installments toward the total sum of the fine. Penn State was given five years to pay off the fine and has paid two $12 million installments.

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