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CFT Predicts: the Big Ten

Urban Meyer 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 Big Ten.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SEC, Pac-12

Leaders Division

1. Ohio State (Last year: 12-0)
What happened last season?
Urban Meyer‘s first year with the Buckeyes was flawless, at least as far as things go in the win-loss column. Though Ohio State had no postseason to look forward to thanks to NCAA sanctions, it went undefeated during the regular season. That’s propelled OSU to become one of the preseason favorites to appear in the final BCS championship.

So why are they ranked here?
The more appropriate question would be why wouldn’t the Buckeyes be ranked here? Meyer is easily one of the best in the game and quarterback Braxton Miller is now the betting favorite to win the Heisman. There are some concerns along the defensive front for this team, but it doesn’t have the appearance of something that will be an insurmountable problem.

Anything else?
The Game against Michigan can go either way, but there’s really only one spot I can potentially see Ohio State slipping. That would be an Oct. 5 game at Northwestern. The Wildcats enter 2013 with some hype (there’s something you don’t type everyday) after winning 10 games last year.

2. Wisconsin (Last year: 8-6; lost to Stanford in Rose Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Badgers can thank the NCAA for getting to the Big Ten title game as both Ohio State and Penn State watched from home. The Badgers struggled with offensive consistency throughout the year even though Montee Ball was among the leading rushers in the country. 

So why are they ranked here?
Gary Andersen takes over for the departed Bret Bielema. Though Ball is gone and the quarterback situation needs to be figured out, this is a veteran team with some recognizable names still around like running back James White and receiver Jared Abbrederis. The bigger concern lies on defense, which will be moving to more of a 3-4 this year.

Anything else?
The Badgers avoid Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska this season. It may not help Andersen win the Leaders Division in his first year, but it should help with a few more W’s. Also, QB Tanner McEvoy has started getting some looks at receiver and should help in that department.

3. Penn State (Last year: 8-4)
What happened last season?
Bill O’Brien took over what felt like an impossible situation and won eight games with the Nittany Lions. The crowning achievement of a season that surpassed many expectations was the development of quarterback Matt McGloin, who is now getting some buzz in the pros with the Oakland Raiders.

So why are they ranked here?
Penn State is a little bit of a wildcard this year. Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson are battling it out for the starting quarterback job, and this defense loses some key leaders from a year ago including linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. What we’re banking on is some more O’Brien magic with a quarterback who was not on last year’s roster.

Anything else?
There are some young defenders that Penn State fans should be excited about. Defensive end Deion Barnes was the conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2012.

4. Purdue (Last year: 6-7; lost to Oklahoma State in Heart of Dallas Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Getting to the postseason wasn’t enough for Danny Hope, who was let go last November [“Hope-less” pun goes here] [hates self for it]. Alas, the mustache just wasn’t good enough.

So why are they ranked here?
Darrell Hazell was considered a good hire for the Boilermakers, but he has a lot of work ahead of him in 2013. Rob Henrya veteran guy, has been named the starting quarterback, but he last played meaningful snaps in 2010. The rest of the offense should feature a lot of newer faces, though there is talent there.

Anything else?
Things could get off to a rocky start for Hazell. Looking at the schedule, there are only a couple games the Boilermakers figure to have a chance to win. Things ease up at the end of the season, which could pave the way for some momentum heading into 2014.

5. Indiana (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Kevin Wilson got the Hoosiers to four wins. The offense showed consistent ability to score points and Indiana almost knocked off Ohio State in a shootout. 

So why are they ranked here?
It doesn’t appear offense is going to be a concern for IU, and Wilson has three capable quarterbacks from which to choose in Cameron Coffman, Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld. The defense returns many of its starters from a year ago. The problem is that unit finished among the worst in rushing defense and scoring defense last year. The Hoosiers can score with most, so if they can make some stops and force some turnovers they’ll be in a position for an outside shot at a bowl game.

Anything else?
Roberson didn’t have much of a chance to showcase his athletic potential after going down with a season-ending leg injury early in the year. He’s a valuable weapon though, so it’ll be interesting to see if/how Wilson utilizes him if he doesn’t regain the starting job.

6. Illinois (Last year: 2-10) 
What happened last season?
Tim Beckman‘s first year with Illinois went poorly as the Illini won just two games and had a few brutal losses to Michigan, Ohio State and Northwestern.

So why are they ranked here?
There are a lot of players returning on offense, including quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, but this was also a group that barely scored more than two touchdowns a game last year. Beckman hopes that hiring former Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit as offensive coordinator will help in that department. Still, a brutal schedule from start to finish may be too much for the Illini to see any real improvement in the win-loss column.

Anything else?
Beckman took a veiled shot at former Illini coach Ron Zook earlier this summer by suggesting he left the cupboard bare when he was fired two seasons ago. Still, there’s already mounting pressure to win in Beckman’s second year.

Legends Division

1. Nebraska (Last year: 10-4; lost to Georgia in Capital One Bowl)
What happened last season?
Like every other year under Bo Pelini, Nebraska was good. But, like most years, the Cornhuskers couldn’t get over the conference championship hump. Instead, Wisconsin founds its mojo and hung a cool 70 points on the blackshirts on their way to Pasadena.

So why are they ranked here?
Good question. There’s been no indication so far that Nebraska can take the next step under Pelini and get to a BCS bowl. Yet, somehow, here I am giving them another chance because I can’t quit ’em. The offense should be one of the best in the Big Ten with a core group of playmakers coming back, including Taylor Martinez, running back Ameer Abdullah, and receiver Kenny Bell. The defense will be young, but if it can just play well enough, Nebraska will be back in the Big Ten championship.

Anything else?
The Legends Division may not take form until November. Nebraska plays Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State in consecutive weeks.

2. Michigan (Last year: 8-5; lost to South Carolina in Outback Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Wolverines’ win total dipped and there were some cringeworthy losses to Alabama, Notre Dame and Nebraska. And, yes, to point it out again, Ohio State beat Michigan. Though Denard Robinson got hurt and finished the season as a running back, fans got a glimpse of what the Devin Gardner era may look like.

So why are they ranked here?
There are plenty of quality players for the Wolverines — Gardner, Fitz Toussaint, and Jeremy Gallon just to name a few. But depth is definitely a concern, especially at quarterback. Linebacker Jake Ryan is currently trying to make his way back from a knee injury and is projected to return around midseason.

Anything else?
Brady Hoke has yet to lose a home game in Ann Arbor, so conversely a majority of his seven losses have come on the road. And there will be some tough road games for the Wolverines: at Penn State and at Michigan State. Trips to Northwestern and Iowa could be tricky as well.

3. Michigan State (Last year: 7-6; beat TCU in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
What happened last season?
Sparty went 6-6 in the regular season, primarily because of the team’s inability to win close games.  Five of MSU’s six losses came in games decided by a touchdown or less.

So why are they ranked here?
While we certainly hope Mark Dantonio goes #B1G and plays four quarterbacks at the same time, Andrew Maxwell is likely the starter — for now, at least. The offense has some some good wide receivers returning, but tight end Dion Sims and running back Le’Veon Bell are gone. If it can’t find any sort of constancy, the defense will be relied upon once again to keep the Spartans in a position to win. That’s certainly possible, but Sparty’s O can’t be “Sparty No!” again and reasonably expect to win the division.

Anything else?
Like the other Legends Division favorites, November is an important month for the Sparans, who do not have to play Ohio State, Penn State or Wisconsin. If the offense can get going, this can be a dangerous team with one of the highest ceilings in the conference.

4. Northwestern (Last year: 10-3; beat Mississippi State in Gator Bowl) 
What happened last season?
As crazy as it may sound, Northwestern was three combined quarters away from being undefeated in the regular season. Still, 10-3 and a January Bowl win is always respectable. And it’s Northwestern. 

So why are they ranked here?
For the first time since the invention of the forward pass, the Wildcats have some legitimate preseason hype. That can only be attributed to what an incredible Job Pat Fitzgerald has done at not only building the program, but maintaining continuity among staff and players. Offensive line is a concern this year, but Kain Colter returns as the centerpiece of the Wildcats offense.

Anything else?
Northwestern gets Ohio State and Wisconsin in back-to-back weeks in October. As mentioned above, this is a team that could knock off the Buckeyes. The divisional schedule is difficult too and there’s some question as to whether Northwestern can take the next step as a program. This would be the year to do it though.

5. Iowa (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Kirk Ferentz suffered his first losing season since 2006 and the Hawkeyes dropped their last six in a row.

So why are they ranked here?
Scoring points has been difficult for Iowa recently and keeping a healthy running back has been even harder. Quarterback James Vandenberg is gone and there are questions at that position. Defense should be fine with a solid linebacker unit returning. The most important objective (besides win) is for offensive coordinator Greg Davis to get more out of this offense, which ranked among the worst scoring units in the country a year ago.

Anything else?
Kirk Ferentz has an enormous buyout, but another losing season — and Iowa’s schedule isn’t very forgiving — could have the program thinking harder about a change anyway.

6. Minnesota (Last year: 6-7; lost to Texas Tech in Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas) 
What happened last season?
Jerry Kill‘s team saw a three-game turnaround that got the Gophers back to a bowl game — and Minnesota almost won. But Texas Tech came from behind to beat UM in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

So why are they ranked this year?
The Gophers went through three quarterbacks last year and still won six games. The last one to starting time, sophomore Phillip Nelson, should take the field first for Minnesota this season. Chemistry in the passing game could be a question with A.J. Barker gone and Andre McDonald missing part of preseason camp due to suspension.

Anything else?
Getting back to a bowl isn’t out of the question for Minnesota, especially with a favorable out of conference schedule. Climbing up the Legends Division ladder is another story, but there are a few opportunities late in the year to steal a win at home from what will likely be a favored opponent when Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin come to Minneapolis.

————————————

John Taylor‘s prediction:

Leaders
1. Ohio State
2. Wisconsin
3. Penn State
4. Indiana
5. Purdue
6. Illinois

Legends
1. Michigan
2. Nebraska
3. Northwestern
4. Michigan State
5. Iowa
6. Minnesota

Ben’s Big Ten champ: Ohio State
John’s Big Ten champ: Ohio State 

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Sooners attempt to put to rest Baker Mayfield rotator cuff rumors

Baker Mayfield

It appears that, in the end, it’s much ado about nothing.  Probably.

Earlier this week, a report surfaced that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was not a participant in 7-on-7 offseason workouts because of “an apparent shoulder injury.”  Specifically, an OU-specific Football Sickness website reported by was of “two independent sources,” “Mayfield’s absence from recent workouts is in fact related to a rotator cuff injury with his throwing shoulder.

A short time later, Guerin Emig of Tulsa World tweeted that a “[w]ell-connected source says Sooners QB has sore shoulder, no rotator cuff damage.” Wednesday night, the Sooners took the same social media site to further put cold water on the speculation surrounding Mayfield’s health.

Mayfield, a transfer from Texas Tech who was forced to sit out the 2014 season, and Trevor Knight, the 2014 starter, are viewed as the front-runners to claim the starting job this season. Neither grabbed a hold of the position exiting spring, however, so the competition will extend into summer camp.

Four-star 2013 signee Cody Thomas, the No. 2 quarterback a year ago, is also at least on the periphery of the competition, and could find himself in the middle of the positional fray before all is said and done.

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Braxton Miller to reveal plans for future next week

Urban Meyer, Braxton Miller AP

Here we go again.

Just yesterday, Urban Meyer was addressing the medical status of Braxton Miller moving forward.  Around the same time, Miller took to Twitter to give a positive update on the health of this throwing shoulder, the dinged wing that forced him to miss the entire 2014 season and opened the door for J.T. Barrett and, ultimately, Cardale Jones to shine.  And to create a three-man quarterback competition — or will it be a three-man?

First, Miller’s tweet that eventually got the rumor mill cranked up again:

That was fine, until the Columbus Dispatch asked via the social media website what that update meant for his future. “In response to a question from The Dispatch about what it means for his future, Miller wrote back that he expects to announce his immediate plans next week,” Tim May of the Columbus newspaper wrote.

And that was all it took to get the transfer speculation — some would label it ridiculous — renewed anew. The man connected to Alabama and Florida State and Oregon in transfer rumors months ago is now the subject of yet another round of speculation thanks to eight little words: “expects to announce his immediate plans next week.”

Miller himself stated in late January at a celebration for Ohio State’s 2014 national championship that “we’ve got another year.” His head coach, on more than one occasion, emphatically stated Miller will return for his senior season, as has his head coach and athletic director. The latter, in fact, reemphasized that stance just today.

If Miller did indeed decide to transfer from the Buckeyes for what will be his final season of college football, wouldn’t it have made sense for him to do it before spring practice? Sure, he couldn’t have participated because of the ongoing rehab to his injured shoulder, but he could’ve begun the process of absorbing an entirely new offense and get acclimated to his new situation. Now we’re supposed to believe that, a month before the start of summer camp, Miller would all of a sudden jump to another program?

That dog don’t hunt.

11Warriors.com is arguably the best and most comprehensive OSU website on the Internet; I’m going to go with their line of thinking on this latest Miller speculation.

UPDATED 2:06 p.m. ET: Instead of an entirely new post, I’ll just go ahead and and toss this latest piece of speculation in right here.

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The Pitts: T.J. Clemmings’ replacement out for all of 2015

Duke v Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh already knew that they would have to replace All-ACC offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings.  Now, the Panthers will have to find a replacement for the replacement.

According to a school press release. Jaryd Jones-Smith will miss the entire 2015 season with a significant injury to his right knee. The offensive tackle sustained the injury during an offseason conditioning session.

As Jones-Smith has already utilized his redshirt season, he will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.

“We are incredibly disappointed for Jaryd,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement. “Our entire team will rally behind him as he works to overcome this challenge. Jaryd is a great young man and a tough competitor. Even though he is sidelined this year, he is going to remain an important member of our team this fall.”

A three-star member of Pitt’s 2013 recruiting class coming out of high school in Philadelphia, Jones-Smith took a redshirt as a true freshman.  He then started three of the 13 games he played in 2014, with that trio of starts coming at left tackle.

Prior to the injury, he was widely projected to be the Panthers’ starting right tackle.

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Arrested Utah CB allegedly robbed man at knifepoint

Kyle Whittingham

And now we know (a little more) of the rest of the story.

Wednesday, reports surfaced that Utah defensive back Dominique Hatfield had been arrested for investigation of aggravated robbery.  At the time, there were no details of what led to the arrest.  Now, there are, and, suffice to say, it doesn’t paint Hatfield in a very positive light.  At all.

It’s alleged that Hatfield, under the alias “David Wilkins,” placed an ad online looking to sell an Xbox.  A man responded to the ad and met Hatfield/Wilkins at a Salt Lake City car wash when “the suspect produced a knife and demanded the victim’s money. The victim complied and gave the suspect cash. The suspect then fled on foot,” police stated according to the Deseret News.

Hatfield/Wilkins made off with $180.

But wait, there’s more (stupidity):

A short time later, the victim arranged for his wife to call Hatfield back and inquiry about buying a phone he was also selling, the report stated. They arranged to meet at the same place her husband was robbed, only this time Unified police officers were also there waiting. They watched as Hatfield walked from the apartment complex to the car wash, the jail report stated.

“UPD was present and when the suspect arrived he was taken into custody without incident. The victim positively identified Dominique Hatfield as the suspect who had robbed him earlier,” Hoyal said.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham, as well as the rest of his coaching staff, is currently on vacation and is unavailable for comment.  It’s highly likely, though, that the player will be indefinitely suspended pending the legal process playing itself out.

Hatfield/Wilkins started 10 games at cornerback for the Utes last season.

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Akron the new home for ex-Louisville WR Michaelee Harris

Central Florida v Louisville Getty Images

With his injury-plagues time at Louisville at an end, Michaelee Harris is hoping his move to the MAC will bring him better fortune.

Mark Blankenbaker of TheCrunchZone.com reported earlier this week that Harris has decided to continue his collegiate playing career for Terry Bowden at Akron.  And, because he will be a graduate transfer, the wide receiver will be eligible to play immediately for the Zips in 2015.

Harris came to the Cardinals with much promises, but health issues — specifically, knee issues — mostly derailed the lofty expectations.

A four-star member of the UofL’s 2010 recruiting class, Harris was rated as the No. 16 receiver in the country; the No. 21 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 121 player overall according to Rivals.com.  Harris, though, missed all of his true freshman season with a knee injury.  In March of 2011, he tore a PCL in his knee during winter workouts, although he returned to lead the Cardinals in receptions (37) and receiving yards (455) during the regular season.

However, he missed his team’s bowl game with a torn ACL.  Then, in August of 2012, he sustained another torn ACL during summer camp and missed that entire season.

He stayed relatively healthy the past two seasons, catching 15 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns before the production dipped to 9-113-1.

As he missed two full seasons because of injury, he was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA.

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Braxton, Barrett closing in on full health, Urban says

J.T. Barrett, Braxton Miller

As each day passes, it appears more and more likely that, barring a setback, all three of the combatants in Ohio State’s much-discussed quarterback competition will be fully healthy for the start of summer camp a month from now.

The latest update on the health of Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett comes courtesy of the man who will pull the trigger on a final decision, Urban Meyer.  At an Ohio football camp Wednesday, and amidst questions on naming a starter that he wasn’t even going to remotely entertain, the OSU head coach indicated both players are moving toward 100-percent health.

“The only thing that’s different is Braxton is pretty close to full speed,” Meyer said of Miller according to the Columbus Dispatch.

“J.T., I’d probably say, is 95 percent,” Meyer said, adding, “[t]hat was the biggest thing, [getting] them all healthy and get them ready to go.”

While Meyer stopped short of firmly stating that both will be 100-percent healthy for the start of camp early next month, that appears to be the direction each is headed. If/when both rejoin the fray — Miller didn’t participate in spring practice because of the shoulder injury that cost him all of 2014, while Barrett was limited because of the leg injury that cost him the postseason run — they’ll join postseason hero Cardale Jones in a competition that the staff hopes will end somewhere around mid-August.

Unless they just decide to take the advice of Barrett’s dad, that is.

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Likely starting Utah CB arrested in connection to robbery

Utah v Washington State

A member of the Utah football program is the latest college player to hold the “honor” of resetting the “Days Without An Arrest” meter back to double zeroes.

While details are extremely scant at the moment, the Deseret News is reporting that Dominique Hatfield has been arrested for investigation of aggravated robbery. Other than for what he was arrested, no specifics have been made available.

A school spokesperson told the News that the entire coaching staff is out of town and she only knows what she’s seen reported by the media. The paper did write that “in matters like this she said the school typically will let the legal system run its course, and the U. may have more to say once head coach Kyle Whittingham returns from vacation.”

If this legal situation affects Hatfield’s ability to get on the field in 2015, it would have a significant impact on the Utes’ defense.

Hatfield actually began his Utah career as a wide receiver, spending all of 2013 (four receptions, 84 yards) and one game in 2014 (1-9) before moving to the secondary for the second game of the 2014 season.  From then on, Hatfield started 10 of the 13 games at cornerback.

He exited spring practice as one of the likely starting corners.

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PHOTOS: Vols new Nike duds are actually quite nice and classy

Nike Vols

One day after Phil Knight announced he will be stepping down as the chairman of Nike, the apparel giant added a new college to its expanding family.  And, unlike they have done with some other schools, they kept it classy for one of the most historical significant football programs in the country.

Following up on months of speculation on just what they would look like, Tennessee revealed Wednesday its new uniforms across the board after ditching long-time supplier adidas and signing a financially-hefty agreement with rival Nike.  The agreement, which will include Nike providing uniforms for all of UT’s men’s and women’s sports,  is said to be worth $24 million over the life of the eight-year contract.

Below are a few photos of the new home and away football uniforms.  While there are some (minor) changes, Nike still maintained (mostly) a traditional look…

… with one epically awesome exception:

Those are the “Smokey Gray” uniforms.  And, if you look closely at the helmet, you’ll see the silhouette of the Smokey Mountains.  That, my friends, is awesome.

Well-done, Nike.  And kudos to UT for (mostly) sticking with what has traditionally worked uniform-wise in the past, with one magnificent twist that the younger generation you’re attempting to recruit to the Vols will certainly be drawn to.

(Photo credit: Tennessee athletics)

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Awkward Harbaugh interview flames out in spectacular, epic fashion

Jim Harbaugh AP

If you’re a fan of awkward and hilariously uncomfortable radio moments, the following will serve as your Christmas in July.

While some view his personality as “off-putting” or even “crazy,” others view Jim Harbaugh as a chatty and engaging character — provided he’s in the mood.  This morning, the new Michigan head coach was decidedly not in the mood.  Or doesn’t particularly care for this particular ESPN interviewer.  Or both.

Either way, Colin Cowherd‘s interview with Harbaugh will go down as one of the epically bad interviews in the history of televised radio.  Enjoy.  And be prepared to cringe.

 

Afterwards, Cowherd called it “the worst interview I’ve done in 14 years.”  He then added this Ohio State-tinged shot across Harbaugh’s bow.

At least one member of the media now charged with dealing with Harbaugh on her beat stuck up for the coach.

If you’re a fan of UM, you likely thought the interview was hilarious and were giving your coach atta boys from afar.  If you’re a non-Michigan fan/Michigan hater, you likely saw it an unnecessarily uncomfortable and will use it as yet another reason to despise both the man and the program.

Me?  I thought it was utterly hilarious because it was so uncomfortable.  With enigmatic sports figures like Harbaugh, you take the good with the, well, that.  And that was epic regardless of which side of the fence you reside.

UPDATED 2:27 p.m. ET: Not surprisingly, Harbaugh has taken to Twitter to address the radio “controversy.”

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USF losing assistant to… Appalachian State?

Stu Holt

This is something you don’t really see every day, especially this close to the start of summer camp and a new season.

A month or so prior to the start of that camp, Thayer Evans of SI.com is reporting, USF head coach Willie Taggart has an unexpected hole on his coaching staff, with special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Stu Holt reportedly leaving for a job at Appalachian State.  Just what position Holt will assume for the Sun Belt Conference member has yet to be confirmed, although the Mountaineers do have a need for a running backs coach.

Neither USF nor ASU have announced any changes to their respective coaching staffs.

Holt has been with the Bulls the past two seasons, first as just the special teams coordinator before adding tight ends coach to his job description for this past season.  He also held the title of Director of Player Personnel in 2013.  For the two years prior to that, he was on Taggart’s staff at Western Kentucky.

Given how late in the offseason this occurred, it’s very likely Taggart, like Wyoming, will split up Holt’s responsibilities among those currently on his staff and search for a permanent repalcement at the end of the 2015 season.

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Dependence Day: Navy officially joins AAC

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwyyzmmwowmwmzbkytg2ndayzjywnguwnwq0oddhmzc2 Getty Images

For the first 135 years of its existence, Navy played as a football independent.  With Independence Day just three days away, the Midshipmen have officially shed that football independence for its first-ever conference home.

What has been known was going to transpire for a more than a year has now come to fruition as the American Athletic Conference officially introduced Navy as the league’s 12th member.  Along with Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane and Tulsa, Navy will be a part of the AAC West.  The AAC East will consist of Cincinnati, UConn, East Carolina, Temple, UCF and USF.

The conference will conduct its first-ever championship game in its third season of existence, which will take place a week before the annual Army-Navy game.

“”I am proud and delighted to take this opportunity to welcome the United States Naval Academy into the American Athletic Conference as a football-playing member,” said AAC commissioner Mike Aresco in a statement. “We extend a warm welcome to Admiral Ted Carter, Superintendent of the Naval Academy, athletic director Chet Gladchuk, head football coach Ken Niumatalolo, his team and all the Midshipmen and administrative personnel of the Naval Academy as well as to United States Naval and Marine Corps servicemen and women, friends and fans throughout the world.

“As I have said on many occasions, the Midshipmen represent the best this country has to offer. We are proud and grateful for the service they render to our country, and we are privileged to have them in our Conference.”

After a non-conference date with Colgate in the season opener, and following a bye week, Navy will open up league play by hosting East Carolina Sept. 19 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. Their first AAC road trip will take place the following week as the service academy travels to UConn.

The Oct. 31 game against USF will mark the first-ever meeting between the two FBS programs, as will the following week’s game against Memphis.

At the opposite end of the historical spectrum is Tulane, 19 total games played, and SMU, which has squared off with Navy a total of 16 times.

“Joining the American Athletic Conference has given us another goal,” said Niumatalolo. “Now, not only do we have the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy to play for, but a conference championship as well. I do know there are very good football teams in this league and it’s going to be a huge challenge for our program. Every week we will have a tough opponent to play.

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Jim Harbaugh: ‘We don’t run off players’

Brady Hoke, Ondre Pipkins

Late last week, Ondre Pipkins kicked up quite the ruckus by claiming he was essentially pushed out of the Michigan football program by new head coach Jim Harbaugh, athletic trainer Paul Schmidt and associate athletic director Jim Minick.  According to the transferring defensive lineman, Pipkins says he was pressured by those individuals to end his collegiate career by signing a medical scholarship form.

“After consulting with our medical team, we do not think it is in Ondre’s best interest as it relates to his health and welfare to play football, short or long-term,” a statement attributed to Harbaugh began. ” He remains on full scholarship and counts toward the 85-scholarship limit in pursuit of graduation from the University of Michigan.”

For the first time, Harbaugh addressed the situation with the media.  Not surprisingly, the coach’s view of how things transpired differed from his now-former player’s.

We don’t run off players,” Harbaugh said according to mlive.com shortly after throwing out the first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game. “I’ll speak for myself personally. When it comes to the health and safety of the players, that argument trumps all other arguments.”

Pipkins has had at least two significant injuries during his time with the Wolverines to go along with concussion issues.

In August of 2012 he sustained a neck injury that required a brief hospital stay, but went on to play 13 games. In October of 2013, he suffered a torn ACL in a win over Minnesota. Last season, he played in five games.

Pipkin was a five-star member of UM’s 2012 recruiting class, rated as one of the top defensive tackles in the country and the No. 14 player overall.

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Third USU Aggie released from hospital

Edmund Faimalo

Three down — and out — one to go.

Over the weekend, Utah State announced that two of its football players, senior defensive lineman John Taylor and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Adewale Adeoye, were released from a hospital Sunday afternoon.  Adeoye and Taylor were two of five individuals, four of whom are football players, injured in a car wreck late last week.

Late Tuesday night, USU announced in a press release that a third Aggie, redshirt junior defensive lineman Edmund Faimalo (pictured), has been released from the hospital as well. Senior defensive lineman Travis Seefeldt is the lone remaining football player still hospitalized.

Seefeldt and Taylor exited spring practice as projected starters for the Aggies. Faimalo transferred into the program from a JUCO.

The fifth occupant of the vehicle, former USU softball player Sara Vasquez, remains hospitalized.  Her eligibility expired this past spring.

(Photo credit: Utah State athletics)

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UAB, Bill Clark in the midst of negotiating new contract

UAB Blazers v Arkansas Razorbacks

Earlier this month as UAB confirmed it would revive its shuttered football program in either 2016 or, more feasibly, 2017, it was also confirmed that Bill Clark would remain the head coach.

One issue for Clark, though, is that his current contract only runs through 2016.  Given the initial decision to disband the program in the first place, the last thing Clark and his coaching staff needs is for rival schools to have additional ammunition on the recruiting trail in the form of a contract that’s set to expire next year.

Taking all things into consideration, Clark confirmed to al.com that he and the university are currently in the midst of negotiating a new contract.

“It’s going to be a commitment to myself and my family, and my staff that we want to be here, we’re going to be here,” Clark said. “But it’s our school saying, ‘Football is here to stay, this is our coach, this is his staff. We’re going to commit to him and the things it takes to do it the right way.'”

Based solely on his on-field work with the Blazers, Clark is deserving of a new deal.

In 2014, Clark’s first season at the school, the Blazers posted a 6-6 mark, the first time the team had finished a season with at least a .500 record since 2004. That’s the last time UAB was bowl-eligible, although the Blazers weren’t invited to play in a bowl game at the conclusion of this past season because of the institutional uncertainty over the sport’s future at the school.

Last year was just the fourth time in the program’s 19-year history that the Blazers finished .500 or better, with the other two coming in 2000 and 2001.

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Rutgers loses another DE, and 2014 signee, to transfer

PISCATAWAY, NJ - August 10: Rutgers Scarlet Knights Media Day at High Point Solutions Stadium on August 10, 2014 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz)

Earlier this month, Sam Blue became the fourth member of Rutgers’ 2014 recruiting class to either voluntarily or involuntarily leave the football program.  As we get to the end of June, that number reportedly has been bumped to five.

Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, nj.com is reporting that Donald Bedell has decided to transfer out of the Kyle Flood‘s team.  Not surprisingly, a logjam on the depth chart at the defensive end position likely was the overriding factor Bedell’s decision.

RU, for what it’s worth, has yet to address the defensive lineman’s status moving forward.

Last season, Bedell took a redshirt.  He was a three-star member of RU’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 player at any position in the state of New Jersey.

As for the other departures from last year’s signings?

Blue was a two-star member of RU’s 2014 recruiting class, with the Scarlet Knights being the only FBS program to offer the North Carolina native a scholarship.  The defensive end took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

Kam Lott, another 2014 signee, announced in late January that he was transferring to be closer to his family in Florida.  Two weeks later Jacob Kraut, projected to be RU’s starting fullback, announced a move for the exact same reasons.

In late May, Darian Dailey was dismissed after he was arrested on an armed robbery charge.

(Photo credit: Rutgers athletics)

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