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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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Quick updates on CFB Playoff contender win totals

BCS National Championship - Florida State v Auburn

How comfortable are you that Florida State will win 12 games this season? What about Alabama winning 11 games? Some new win total betting lines have been posted in Las Vegas by Wynn Las Vegas, and betting expert David Purdum made note of the schools most often discussed as a contender for the College Football Playoff this season.

Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and Ohio State have been tied to various favorite-labels as College Football Playoff contenders. Oklahoma is also in that conversation. Purdum added the Sooners are set at 10.5 for the win total…

Are any of these numbers worth taking a shot on with your money?

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All Steve Addazio wants is the next Tim Tebow at BC

Steve Addazio

If there is one college football player that is most responsible for the elevation of Boston College head coach Steve Addazio, it has to be Tim Tebow. Now, as Addazio looks to build off a decent start at Boston College, the former Florida assistant coach is keeping a watchful eye out for the next Tim Tebow. Is that too much to ask?

“When I saw Tim Tebow, I watched him play in high school and will never forget it,” Addazio said to Jared Shanker of ESPN.com. “To me your quarterback has to have the ‘it factor,’ and I’ve never seen a guy with the ‘it factor’ more in my life. It was oozing off his uniform. I saw him put his whole team on his back and win. He was going to lead and win championships.”

There is little to dispute just how motivational and influential Tebow was to the BCS championship teams at Florida. The Heisman Trophy winner may not have been the best quarterback, but he found ways to help his team win some big games along the way. No matter what you might think about Tebow’s overall football legacy, his time at the college level will leave him as one of the all-time greats. Finding a player of that caliber is a rarity, but if Addazio and his staff can keep working and convince a player of that caliber to come to Boston College to be the next Tebow or Matt Ryan or Doug Flutie it could go a long way. Coincidentally, Flutie’s nephew, Troy, is a quarterback on the Eagles roster.

“I talk to our staff all the time about this,” Addazio said. “We got to be right about this. One of those young guys needs to be a guy that can win a championship for you. If you don’t do that, you struggle.”

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Penn State may have a new AD ready to introduce

Nebraska v Penn State

Now that we have reached into Friday afternoon, it seems as though news is starting to slow down. That is not quite the case in State College, Pennsylvania, where it appears Penn State is ready to introduce to the world its new athletics director. A media memo sent out Friday afternoon confirmed there will be a press conference scheduled for Saturday afternoon in the media room at Beaver Stadium. The memo says the purpose is to “make an announcement on a personnel decision within Intercollegiate Athletics.”

Penn State president Eric Barron will open the press conference, but given the timing of the press conference just days before Big Ten media days in Chicago and Penn State’s current athletics director set to step down next week, it just makes too much sense.

It was just over a month ago when it was announced Penn State athletics director David Joyner would be stepping down from his position. Joyner will be resigning from the position effective August 1. The next AD will be taking over a program that sees two more years remaining on a football postseason ban, unless the NCAA amends the sanction terms. As far as football is concerned, the worst may be behind Penn State at this point. The NCAA has already turned over some lost scholarships and a new head coach, James Franklin, is in place and doing terrific work in recruiting.

The Big Ten football media day will get underway on Monday in Chicago.

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Strong message at Texas; RB Bergeron is gone

Marqueston Huff, Joe Bergeron

If there was one thing the Texas football program needed, it was a focus on discipline and getting a toughness back. That is what makes head coach Charlie Strong a terrific hire for the program after cutting ties with Mack Brown. Strong’s message to the team was put on display once more Friday morning with news of senior running back Joe Bergeron being dismissed from the roster.

Bergeron is the seventh player to be booted from the Texas football program since Strong arrived on his saddle in Austin. That number has skyrocketed in the past week with four others being dismissed this week. Running back Jalen Overstreet and defensive end Chevoski Collins were also dismissed by the program on Thursday for various violations, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrell Meander were also suspended by Strong on Thursday as a legal situation stemming from an alleged sexual assault.

Bergeron had been sent home from spring practice earlier this year, so seeing Strong come to this decision may not be quite a shock, although the head coach did sing the praises of the running back during a spring tour. Strong has said from day one as the Texas head coach he needed to make some changes to overhaul what could be a sleeping giant of a program at this point. Strong has always been focused on discipline and he does not waste time coddling players, which is a little bit of the dose of reality seemingly needed in Austin.

Bergeron was third on the team in rushing in 2013, accumulating 362 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 13 games.

Don’t mess with Texas? Don’t mess with Strong, that much is for sure.

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Media covering Big Ten picks Ohio State as the favorite, Wisconsin in west

Urban Meyer

The Big Ten is late in the media day circuit, getting started on Monday in Chicago, but we already have a favorite from the media; Ohio State.

The Buckeyes were named the media favorite in a media poll organized by The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, with members of various organizations spread across the Big Ten’s footprint casting their votes and predictions for each Big Ten division and conference champion. There is no formal media poll organized by the Big Ten, so the Cleveland-based newspaper has taken on the responsibility of giving Big Ten fans a preseason poll that swung and missed on the outcome a year ago (nobody picked Michigan State, but that happens). Ohio State received 23 first-place votes to win the Big Ten’s new east division. Defending Big Ten champion Michigan State received the other 10 first-place votes in the east and finished second in the preseason poll. Michigan and Penn State followed, respectively. Big Ten newcomer Maryland was picked to finish fifth in the east, followed by Indiana and the other Big Ten rookie, Rutgers.

The Big Ten’s west division was a bit more open according to the poll voters. Wisconsin came out on top with 15 first-place votes, but Iowa comes in a somewhat surprising second place with 11 first-place votes. Nebraska finished third with five first-place votes and one voter gave Northwestern (fourth in the preseason poll) a first-place vote. Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue round out the west division.

Ohio State received 19 out of 29 votes to win the Big Ten. Michigan State received nine votes and Nebraska received one vote. Wisconsin received no votes to win the Big Ten despite being picked to win the west division.

You can see the full unofficial preseason media poll for more voting results.

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Baylor’s Art Briles admits to interest in Texas vacancy

Art Briles

When a dream job comes along, few reasonable people would likely fault anyone for exploring the possibility of leaving all that you have built behind to take the new opportunity. Fortunately for Baylor, their head coach shrugged aside the idea of coaching at Texas this past offseason.

Baylor head coach Art Briles took over the desolate and often hopeless program prior to the 2008 season after a successful stint as a head coach at Houston. Briles was asked to do what seemed to be impossible; turn Baylor football into something worth respecting in the Big 12. After starting out his career in Waco with identical 4-8 seasons, the building blocks were starting to form a foundation and Baylor broke through with a 7-6 record in 2010, the first winning season for the Bears since 1995 in the old Southwest Conference. The next season Robert Griffin III exploded on the scene to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Baylor to a 10-win season, a top 25 finish and the first bowl win for the school since the 1992 season. Last year Baylor won the Big 12 championship and played in the Fiesta Bowl. As far as stock is concerned, Briles may have peaked and could have cashed in.

This is why it only makes sense that Briles would not only be one of the top candidates for the vacancy in Austin, once Texas found a way to move on from Mack Brown, but Briles also had an interest in the job. Was Briles interested? You bet. Yesterday while moving through the ESPN car wash with a stop on the Paul Finebaum radio show, Briles admitted as much.

Briles, of course, chose to stay where he is at Baylor at a big time for the program. The Bears are coming off the first Big 12 championship in school history, appear to be a threat once again in the conference and move into a brand new football stadium this season. Times are good for Baylor. Briles is a big reason why, and it is nice to see someone choose to stay put to see through it all, especially when it is very likely Texas could have made Briles a wealthier man for years to come.

Texas may not have nabbed Nick Saban from Alabama, but the Longhorns ended up with a pretty good coach anyway by hiring Charlie Strong away from Louisville.

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SEC Network’s Time Warner deal increases launch viewership to 60 million

A cable truck returns to a Time Warner Cable office in San Diego, California

Things continue to be developing smoothly for the SEC Network, just weeks away from going live on the air. After successfully putting together deals with Comcast and COX Networks, the new network has added another big name to the cable distribution line-up; Time Warner. Just for good measure, the SEC Network has added Bright House Networks to the mix as well. The total potential reach for the launch of the SEC Network is now expected to total an estimated 60 million homes.

John Ourand of Sports Business Daily broke the news about the agreement, which was later confirmed by a release from the SEC Network on Thursday.

“We know we have customers who want the SEC-ESPN Network, and are pleased to bring it to them,” said Andrew Rosenberg, Senior Vice President of Content Acquisition for Time Warner Cable. “This deal will help ensure that fans and alumni of SEC universities won’t miss any important games.”

“By delivering the SEC Network across Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks’ nationwide footprint, including key markets within SEC territory, we are meeting the demands of fans while also adding value to customers’ video subscriptions in advance of the network’s launch next month,” said Sean Breen, Disney and ESPN Media Networks senior vice president of affiliate sales.

There is still one giant hurdle remaining for what is already being praised as a masterful launch for the network; DirecTV. There is also some growing concern about ESPN’s involvement with the SEC Network and the College Football Playoff, as expressed by Bart Doan on The Student Section, but as far as preparing for a grand debut, ESPN has been hard at work at the negotiating table to make sure everything is lined up for the launch of the new network. It may just be a matter of time before there is a deal with DirecTV signed by all parties. At this point, DirecTV would be wise to not be labeled as the one provider without the network.

The SEC Network will launch on August 14.

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Four Cincy players forced to retire, QB Legaux working his way back

Cincinnati v Louisville

The playing careers for a pair of Cincinnati players have come to an end as a result of a car crash last September. Wide receivers Mark Barr and Javon Harrison will no longer play football due to injuries suffered in a tragic auto accident that claimed the life of offensive lineman Ben Flick.

In addition to Barr and Harrison, Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville confirmed to Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer that safety Marcus Foster and defensive back Drake Burns will also no longer be able to play football. All four players will remain on scholarship.

Harrison was listed in stable condition once taken to a hospital following the accident, but Barr was placed in critical condition. Barr was released from a hospital nearly a month later.

In more positive injury news out of Cincinnati, quarterback Munchie Legaux is making some good progress on his return to football. After suffering a devastating knee injury early last season, Legaux was granted an extra year of eligibility and he is looking to make it count. Tuberville expects Legaux to be in uniform and available to practice once the Bearcats open training camp. With Gunner Kiel stating his case for the starting job in the spring, Legaux may have to be at 100 percent and work to win the job back once he is.

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Larry Scott already stumping for Pac-12 champ in playoff

Larry Scott

As to be expected, the past couple weeks of conference media days has brought a number of tired debates back to the surface. Among them has been the debate over eight-game conference schedules or nine-game schedules. For the Pac-12, the answer is simple. Commissioner Larry Scott addressed the benefits of having a nine-game conference schedule as college football moves into the College Football Playoff era this fall.

“We know that there will be continued controversy and debate, but the clear statement has been made that strength of schedule is going to be a determining factor in figuring out which of the four teams ought to be competing in that playoff,” Scott said during his state of the Pac-12 press conference this week at the Pac-12 media day event in California. The College Football Playoff selection committee will be placing an emphasis on strength of schedule when determining its rankings and choosing which four teams will be selected to participate in the College Football Playoff. the Pac-12 has opted to go with a nine-game conference schedule in part to raise the overall strength of schedule for the conference. Of course, it also makes it easier to schedule for all Pac-12 schools when they only have to fill three non-conference spots as opposed to four. The Pac-12 also backed out of a conference-wide scheduling agreement with the Big Ten that would have raised the strength of schedule for both conferences.

Scott chose to focus on the depth of the Pac-12 in 2014, a wise strategy considering the national respect for Oregon, Stanford and UCLA along with the rising expectations for programs like USC, Washington and Washington State. With some quality depth, the Pac-12 could be the most entertaining conference to watch this fall, so folks on the east coast may have to prepare for some late nights. The Pac-12 also has a chance to impress on a national level with some key non-conference match-ups.

“This year the Pac‑12, again, has scheduled a very tough non‑conference slate that includes 13 games against bowl teams from a year ago,” Scott said. “Highlights of our non‑conference match‑ups this year include five games against Big Ten opponents – Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Rutgers and Illinois. We’ve got three games against Notre Dame this year – Stanford, USC, Arizona State all playing against Notre Dame, and of course UCLA’s match‑up in Dallas against Texas early in the season.”

But Scott’s final remark about the schedule was one with a slight aim at the ACC and SEC. Both the ACC and SEC will play eight-game conference schedules. Whoever comes out on top of the Pac-12 is likely to have a decent shot at playing in the College Football Playoff, which Scott is already stumping for as best he can.

“Here it is with the most competitive nine‑game conference schedule in the nation, our champion will be incredibly well‑positioned in this first-ever historic College Football Playoff.”

Some power conference is going to get left out of the four-team playoff, if not more. Scott clearly believes his conference should not be on the outside looking in.

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WR Rhodes moving from Big 12 champs to MAC champs

Dino Babers

Former Baylor wide receiver Robbie Rhodes is moving from one conference champion to another. Rhodes is transferring to Bowling Green, a report by ESPN.com has confirmed. Bowling Green won the MAC championship in 2013 and is the preseason favorite to win the conference again in 2014.

A month ago it was learned Rhodes was no longer with the Baylor Bears, 2013 Big 12 champions. Earlier in the offseason Rhodes was arrested and charged for possession of marijuana and tampering with physical evidence, but the charges were never levied against him.

Rhodes appeared in 11 games last season for Baylor, recording 10 receptions for 157 yards. Where he goes from here is unknown at this time for the true sophomore. He still has three years of eligibility remaining. At Bowling Green, Rhodes will feel comfortable being inserted into the offense once he is eligible, because there will be many similarities between what the Falcons do and what Baylor runs. Bowling green head coach Dino Babers (pictured) is a former receivers coach at Baylor.

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Rhodes will have to sit out the 2014 season but will have multiple years of eligibility once he is eligible to resume playing for Bowling Green in 2015.

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Texas media guide published with recurring typo

University of Texas Introduces Charlie Strong Getty Images

Everybody makes a typo from time to time, and I may be one of the biggest culprits. But I also do not print and release 200-page media guides for some of the largest college football programs in the country, like Texas.

The Texas Longhorns media guide was released with a typo at the bottom of each and every page of the media guide, misspelling the website address for Texas sports website (TexsaSports.com). Hey, mistakes happen but this one happened to be printed through the entire media guide.

How could something like this happen?

This is just a hunch, but it is not as though somebody manually typed the same typo for each page of the media guide. The media guide was more likely formatted so the address only needed to be typed once and it would appear on each page of the media guide. This may have also been one of the first things entered into the media guide as well, so it could have easily been forgotten.

For what it is worth, the typo has been corrected.

Helmet sticker to SB Nation.

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Notre Dame WR Mahone sentenced to 10 days in jail

Notre Dame v Michigan

Notre Dame wide receiver Will Mahone will serve 10 days in jail after pleading guilty to four misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, assault and aggravated menacing. Felony charges were wiped off his record as part of his plea.

A county judge offered Mahone some leniency in the sentencing, telling Mahone he felt a stronger sentence should be enforced. Mahone will also serve a year on probation and he received credit for two days in jail served following the initial arrest until bail was posted.

As noted by Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish, Mahone still has an uncertain future at Notre Dame. Following Mahone’s arrest, Notre Dame suspended the receiver indefinitely while the legal process played out. Mahone is not currently enrolled at Notre Dame, leaving a cloud of uncertainty surrounding his future at this point. An attorney representing Mahone has said Mahone would like to be able to return to Notre Dame when the time is appropriate, but no decision on his fate has been made just yet.

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Ohio State fires band director and will investigate sexual culture

Ohio State Marching Band

This one strays a bit away from the football side of our usual conversation, but few would argue the marching band is as much a part of the college football experience as anything else. Ohio State’s marching band is one of the best in the country, earning the nickname The Best Damn Band in the Land for a good reason, but it is currently in an unfortunate position. Ohio State has fired band director Jon Waters and continues to investigate what is being referred to as a sexualized culture within the organization.

Ohio State has been investigating the marching band for the last two months, according to The Columbus Dispatch, following a complaint registered by a parent of a member of the band. The investigation turned up evidence of students routinely harassing or hazing each other, usually new students. Further complicating things is information suggesting the director of bands was aware of such activity and did nothing to prevent it from continuing. One of the specific complaints claimed students in the band went on parade in their underwear in the middle of the night. This was allegedly done under the supervision of Waters and other staff members. This obviously goes against the university’s sexual harassment policy, which prompted the investigation, which gathered testimony from nine witnesses as well as Waters, other staff members and the concerned parent and child.

You can read the full 23-page report, which includes some vulgar and not-safe-for-work descriptions.

Some may to write off some of the information in the report as “college kids doing college things,” but even if that is the case there still is a line that needs to be drawn, especially from the leaders of the organization. Knowing the student policies, if Waters did indeed allow some of these thing to continue then the university was absolutely in the right to take swift action.

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Friedgen ready to open up Rutgers offense, fix Nova’s mechanics

Ralph Friedgen

This year marks the return of Ralph Friedgen to a college football sideline. The former head coach at Maryland is getting back in the swing of things as offensive coordinator at Rutgers, and it is a transition he believes has gone smoothly as well as one he seems to be embracing. No longer in charge of directing the daily operations of the football program, Friedgen can focus more on mapping out the offensive schemes the Scarlet Knights will use this fall, the first as a Big Ten member.

With Friedgen in charge of the offense, things are going to change as he tries to make use of what is available to him. Do not expect Friedgen to ask Rutgers to do anything he does not feel they are capable of doing, and perhaps that will be a good thing.

“What I think we have to be careful about – and I think it happened a little bit in the spring – is we can wear these kids out and not have anything left,” Friedgen said in a sit-down interview with veteran Rutgers scribe Tom Luicci for ScarletKnights.com. “My philosophy is to have a balance between run and pass… If you’re only one dimensional then they’re going to make you play left-handed and I don’t like to play left-handed. I like to take what the defense gives us.”

One of the biggest concerns for Rutgers may be the play of quarterback Gary Nova. Friedgen arrived hearing plenty about Nova’s ups and (mostly) downs, but he feels confident he can get the most out of his starting quarterback. Friedgen has also taken some measures to improve Nova’s mechanics.

“I’ve made one correction with his mechanics. He threw the ball on his toes, which puts a lot of pressure on your arm and can lead to arm problems. I was always taught, especially when I was in the NFL, to put your heel in the ground and push off like you’re a pitcher and then get your waist and hips right. It seems to have helped him.”

You can read the full Q&A with Friedgen on ScarletKnights.com.

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Report: Washington suspends QB Miles for season opener

Washington v Oregon State Getty Images

If you are having trouble keeping up with the status of Washington quarterback Cyler Miles, you are forgiven. It has been quite a back-and-forth situation this offseason. For those keeping score, Miles is currently suspended for the season opener at Hawaii, according to Washington beat reporter Adam Jude, of The Seattle Times.

Jude reported the news of a suspension via Twitter;

Miles and former wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow were connected to an on-campus assault incident that led to the suspensions. Miles was not charged for the incident. Stringfellow later decided to transfer to Nebraska, and then to Ole Miss. Miles was suspended by Washington on February 6 and then reinstated on May 14. After seeing Miles serve a suspension through spring practices, it comes as a small surprise to see he will now be suspended for the first game of the season, although this is also a way for new head coach Chris Petersen to lay down the (football) law and send a message to the entire team right off the bat.

Miles was expected to be the leading candidate to be Washington’s next starting quarterback after the departure of Keith Price. That may prove to be the case in the long run regardless of this news, but he will have some catching up to do while Jeff Lindquist and/or Troy Williams take care of leading the offense in the season opener.

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