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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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Former Boise St. RB Aaron Baltazar now leaving Wazzu

Deon'tae Florence AP

Well that was abrupt.

Back in April it was announced that Aaron Baltazar had followed Chris Petersen to the state of Washington, transferring from Boise State into the Washington State football program.  Less than four months later?  Never mind.

A Wazzu spokesperson confirmed to the Idaho Statesman that the running back is no longer a member of the team.  No reason was given for the abrupt and unexpected departure.

In the short-term it’s no loss for Mike Leach and the Cougars as Baltazar would’ve been forced to sit out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Wherever he lands next, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.

As a true freshman last season, Baltazar was second on the Broncos in rushing before suffering a torn ACL the fifth game of the year and, obviously, missed the remainder of the year.

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Wake suspends leading returning rusher

Wake Forest v Miami

One of the most important pieces of Wake Forest’s running game will apparently not be available for the foreseeable future.

A Wake spokesperson has confirmed to the Associated Press that Dominique Gibson has been indefinitely suspended from the football team.  Other than an undisclosed violation of team rules, no reason was given for the punitive measure.

Entering summer camp, he was being viewed as a likely starter, or at the very least one of the two heads in a two-headed rushing attack.

Gibson’s 138 yards last year made him the Demon Deacons’ leading returning rusher.  He had a pair of touchdowns in 2013, one each rushing  and receiving.

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Auburn remembers Lutzenkirchen with number on practice field

Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Joey Gautney

Auburn continues to find ways to pay tribute to one of its own. Following death of former tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen, killed in an auto accident in June, fans took to rolling Toomer’s Corner and there was a video tribute following a memorial service that was very touching. With Auburn now set to open up camp ahead of the 2014 season, the defending SEC champions will continue to remember Lutzenkirchen with his old uniform number (No. 43) painted on the practice field.

The number is painted in each end zone, and a look at the final touch can be seen through this tweet from Auburn’s Twitter account;

Auburn opens camp Friday afternoon.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

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Hoke: ‘if we opened the season today,” Gardner would be starter

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Throughout this offseason, Brady Hoke has declined to definitively tap the incumbent, Devin Gardner, or his challenger, Shane Morris, as Michigan’s starting quarterback.  Instead, the UM head coach demurred and insisted he’d wait until early on in summer camp to declare a starter.

Thursday, Hoke deviated from that tack slightly.

Taking his turn in the Big Ten coaches ESPN car wash, Hoke was, of course, asked about the Wolverines’ quarterback situation.  The coach, compared to how he’s been since spring practice, was surprisingly candid.

“Going in (to camp, there will be a competition),” Hoke said according to mlive.com. “We’ve got great competition. (But) if we opened the season today, Devin would start for the Wolverines.”

Of course, “if we open the season today” is a tremendous qualifier.

Gardner started every game last season before a foot injury he suffered in the loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale sidelined him for the Wolverines’ bowl game.  In his first career start, and as a true freshman no less, Morris completed 24-of-38 passes for 196 yards and interception as UM dropped a 31-14 decision to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

While Gardner was at one time quoted as saying that “it was amazing how much better [quarterback competition this spring] made me,” the incumbent at the position –despite his pre-spring proclamation— exited the 15 practice sessions without a firm grasp on the starting job.  That thought was buttressed as, at the end of spring practice in mid-April, Hoke acknowledged that Morris had narrowed the gap on Gardner.

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Ball State officially adds ex-Cincinnati DE

Joshua Posley

Earlier this summer there was speculation that a member of the Cincinnati Bearcats would be on the move to the MAC.  Thursday, that came to fruition.

Ball State announced in a release that Joshua Posley has transferred into the football program.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, the defensive end will have to sit out the 2014 season.

He will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.

“We are pleased to welcome Joshua to the football program and the University community,” Pete Lembo said in a statement. “We have known him since his high school days at Warren Central and have built a strong relationship with the coaching staff there. Joshua is an outgoing guy and a strong student. … We hope he transitions well to a new environment this fall and is ready to compete for playing time once spring practice arrives.”

A pair of high school teammates, Darnell Smith and Anthony Winbush, are already with the Cardinals, which likely played some role in the transfer decision.

Posley, an Indianapolis native, played in four games during his two years with the Bearcats.

(Photo credit: Cincinnati athletics)

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Miami QB Ryan Williams becomes a first-time father

Wake Forest v Miami

As he continues rehabbing a serious knee injury, Ryan Williams will have a much, much, much more important job to perform in the coming months.  And years.

The Miami quarterback announced via Twitter that he and his wife, Deanna, are now the proud parents of a bouncing — and rather large — baby boy.  Roman Louis Williams, the first child for both mom and dad, was born July 29 and weighed in at a healthy nine pounds even.

The couple had announced back in March that Deanna was expecting.

Here’s a picture of the newest member of the Williams clan, courtesy of the newly-minted father’s Instagram account:

Ryan Williams' Son

Sincere congratulations to the new parents from all of us.

Williams suffered a torn ACL in early April and underwent surgery shortly thereafter, meaning the prohibitive favorite to replace Stephen Morris as the starter entering spring practice won’t hit the practice field through at least September.  The earliest Williams is expected to begin participating in practice is at some point in October, if then.

With Williams sidelined for the foreseeable future, Jake Heaps, the Kansas transfer, and Kevin Olsen are expected to be the two main combatants for the starting job, at least early on.  For his part, Heaps has been quoted as saying he didn’t come to The U “to be the backup.”

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FSU, SEC top preseason coaches’ poll

BCS National Championship - Florida State v Auburn Getty Images

Unlike in years past, the Amway (nee USA Today) coaches’ poll will have no bearing, outside of possibly influencing the members of the College Football Playoff selection committee, on college football’s postseason. In fact, it’s turned into nothing more than what the Associated Press‘ version has been for years: an exercise to give the fans something to argue and/or whine about in between/before the start of games.

With that in mind… the first coaches’ poll of the year is here!!!

In the first-ever Amway coaches’ poll, and as expected, defending champion Florida State will enter the 2014 season ranked No. 1.  FSU was tapped first on 56 of the 62 coaches ballots.

Others receiving first-place votes were Oklahoma with three while Oregon, Ohio State and South Carolina took one each.  Interestingly, the No. 2 team wasn’t among them as Alabama, 88 points behind the Seminoles, wasn’t deemed worthy of a first-place nod, at least as of yet.

The Sooners and Ducks were right behind the Tide at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, with the Buckeyes at No. 6 and Gamecocks at No. 9.  The remainder of the Top 10 consists of BCS runner-up Auburn (No. 5), UCLA (No. 7), Michigan State (No. 8) and Baylor (No. 10).

Conference-wise, and just as expected, the SEC led all leagues with seven teams in the Top 25.  The were followed by the Pac-12’s six, four each from the Big Ten and Big 12 and three each from the ACC.  There were no non-Power Five conference teams in the initial mix, with Notre Dame and its ACC affiliation claiming the remaining spot.

Below are the full poll results.  Below that you bitch, whine or moan about your team’s placement in the comments section.

1. Florida State (56 first place votes)
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma (3)
4. Oregon (1)
5. Auburn
6. Ohio State (1)
7. UCLA
8. Michigan State
9. South Carolina (1)
10. Baylor
11. Stanford
12. Georgia
13. LSU
14. Wisconsin
15. USC
16. Clemson
17. Notre Dame
18. Arizona State
19. Ole Miss
20. Texas A&M
21. Kansas State
22. Nebraska
23. North Carolina
24. Texas
25. Washington

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Pair of four-star CBs qualify, will play for Gamecocks

Thumbs Up

When we last checked on the qualifying efforts of South Carolina’s Class of 2014, there was concern that as many as eight of the 21 signees would fail to qualify academically.

A couple of weeks later, it’s not quite as bad as originally feared.

Head coach Steve Spurrier confirmed at a charity event Thursday night that a pair of touted cornerbacks, Chris Lammons and Wesley Green, have qualified and will be a part of the team in 2014. According to Saturday Down South, “[b]oth players’ standardized test scores were flagged prior to summer enrollment, which forced an unexpected cram session prior to the test’s re-take on July 11.”

Both Lammons and Harris were four-star prospects, with the former rated as the No. 14 corner in the country and the latter No. 17.  One or both are expected to contribute immediately to the Gamecocks’

The positive development regarding the two defensive backs means USC’s 2014 recruiting class will consist of 15 players instead of the original 21. The six not making the cut academically? Cornerback Darin Smalls, fullback Joe Blue, defensive tackle Dexter Wideman and defensive ends Dante Sawyer, Kalan Ritchie and Jhaustin Thomas.

Wideman is the highest ranked of that group, rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com.

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Suspended FSU WR has felony reduced

Florida State Spring Game Getty Images

A new development has cleared the path for the return of Jesus Wilson to Florida State.  How soon that happens, however, remains to be seen.

According to WarChant.com, Wilson has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft after originally being charged with a felony in connection to the “borrowing” of a scooter earlier this month.  As for punishment meted out by the courts, the wide receiver will perform 30 hours in a work camp and serve a probationary period of one year.

Additionally, he’s already made restitution.

July 9, Wilson was arrested and charged with the theft of a motor scooter back on June 11.  Here are some of the pertinents from the reports:

The keys were in the ignition, making a getaway rather easy. The owner of the moped, Sebastian Bellini, informed police he thought he dropped the keys. Soon after the alleged theft, Wilson crashed the vehicle with damages costing $882.13. When police investigated the accident Wilson told police he had borrowed the scooter from a friend. When asked to identify the friend who had allegedly lent him the vehicle, Wilson failed to show up to a photo lineup. Wilson later sent the police a statement claiming to have taken the bike, which led to an arrest just days later.

Because of the felony charge, Wilson was automatically and indefinitely suspended according to FSU policy. Based on the fact that the charge was dropped to a misdemeanor, he’s now eligible for reinstatement.

Wilson was a three-star member of the Seminoles’ 2013 recruiting class who caught three passes for 23 yards as a true freshman. Provided he’s back with the team, Wilson’s expected to play a bigger role in FSU’s offense in 2014.

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Ex-Tide RB Dee Hart says he’s headed to Colo. St.

Michigan v Alabama Getty Images

A few months after being “parting ways” with Alabama, Dee Hart apparently found a new football home.  And, when he gets there, he’ll find a very familiar face.

In a text message Wednesday, Dee Hart confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that he is in the process of transferring to Colorado State.  The Rams’s head coach is Jim McElwain, who was Alabama’s offensive coordinator when the running back signed with the Tide in 2011.

Because Hart has already graduated from UA, he’s expected to be eligible to play for CSU immediately in 2014.

Hart was a touted five-star member of the Tide’s 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 running back in the country.  The paper talent never translated to the field in Tuscaloosa as Hart’s career totals are just 43 carries for 166 yards and a touchdown.

In February of this year, Hart was arrested and charged with giving false information and possession of marijuana. It was revealed at that time that Hart hadn’t been a part of the team since shortly after the Tide’s Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

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Former Texas A&M DE heading to Houston

SMU v Texas A&M

The search for a new football home did not take long for former Texas A&M defensive end Gavin Stansbury. Stansbury plans to join the Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference and will be eligible to play immediately this fall. The news was first reported by Joseph Duarte The Houston Chronicle and followed  up by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports via Twitter.

Just last week Texas A&M confirmed Stansbury decided to leave the program. This decision was made following an arrest after a traffic stop. There was a warrant for Stansbury’s arrest stemming from an altercation at a party at Rice University in April. Stansbury was faced with a misdemeanor charge for assault. Stansbury was suspended from team activities but had returned following the arrest.

As far as football is concerned, this is a nice addition for Houston. Stansbury was a three-star prospect at defensive end according to Rivals.com. The Cougars were picked third in the AAC this season, behind Cincinnati and defending champion UCF. Stansbury appeared in 10 games last season for Texas A&M and finished seventh on the team with 47 tackles and tied for the team-high with three sacks. He is ready to step right in and see some significant playing time for the Cougars.

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Playbooks on iPads are not quite as exciting for kickers

iPad

One of the perks of playing college football at a big program is getting an iPad loaded with the playbook on it every season. Today many players started getting their digital playbooks as camps start opening up. This tends to be a pretty exciting time for college football players, and they are surely advised not to share any of the information through public forums like Facebook or Twitter.

Sometimes players can get away with it. Kickers, for example, have a pretty simple role on a college football team. Kick the ball far on kickoffs and between the poles on extra point and field goal attempts.

Here is the playbook’s instructions to Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt.

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Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon “not reporting at this time”

Joe Mixon

As a legal investigation continues to cloud the future of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, the university has issued a statement stating the five-stare Class of 2014 addition is not currently reporting to team activities. That is about as close as we have gotten to any word of a possible indefinite suspension for the talented running back expected to contribute right away for the Sooners.

Mixon was reportedly involved in a serious altercation over the weekend, with a 20-year old female reportedly being the other party involved and injured in the incident in question. Mixon’s attorney has stated his client’s innocence, but police continue to work the investigation to determine the next steps. The timeline for the police investigation is unknown just yet, but is expected to continue into next week and perhaps longer.

It is typical for schools to indefinitely suspend players tied to any ongoing legal investigations, so it was probably only a matter of time before Oklahoma released this type of statement, with summer camps set to open.

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Season tickets at Iowa could net you free tuition

Michigan v Iowa

Iowa is going to offer free tuition to five students, chosen at random, who have purchased season tickets for the upcoming 2014 season. If nothing else, it is one way to battle the downward trend in college football attendance.

“The fans in the stadium really feed off the energy from students, so we’d like to have a full student section,” Lisa Pearson, director of marketing for Iowa said to the Iowa City Press-Citizen. “We’re trying to get as many students into the stadium as possible.”

Iowa typically reserves 10,000 tickets for students, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, but only about 7,300 were sold last season. Overall season ticket sales have also dipped at Iowa with 52,000 tickets sold last season for Kinnick Stadium, which holds more than 70,000 on game day.

Students at Iowa might want to take the gamble on free tuition. Iowa should be a pretty good team this season and could easily play into the Big Ten West along with Wisconsin and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes always seem to have a year that comes out of nowhere and that appears to be what many are thinking this season. Iowa was picked second in the unofficial Big Ten media poll last week.

UPDATED (8:21 PM ET): It seems there may be a concern over this whole plan now. Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta released the following statement, as shared by KWWL;

“This afternoon we learned of concerns related to a student football promotion,” Barta said in a written statement. “A question has been raised whether the promotion is compliant with state raffle laws. I have suspended the promotion temporarily as we determine how to make sure that this promotion is in complete compliance.

“In the end, our goal is to do everything possible to make sure that the student experience at Hawkeye football games is as fun and exciting as possible,” he added.

So now there is a waiting game to find out if Iowa will be able to follow trough on this plan.

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Coaches at Penn State and Pitt trying to reignite the rivalry

James Franklin

Penn State and Pittsburgh used to play every season, but once the two programs went their separate ways by joining the Big East (Pitt) and Big Ten (Penn State), it has been a struggle to get the two programs to see eye-to-eye when it came to scheduling any future games. Much of the tension stemmed from the days of Joe Paterno leading the Penn State program and demanding an extra home game in any scheduling arrangement with Pittsburgh, but that is best left for historians to dig deeper into today. Penn State and Pittsburgh have a four-game series lined up for 2016 through 2019. If it was up to the head coaches of both programs today, the series would continue on an annual basis.

The topic of power conference opponents scheduling other power conference opponents has become an increasingly relevant topic with the emphasis shifting on strength of schedule in the College Football Playoff era. With Pitt also needing to fulfill a non-conference scheduling requirement to schedule an opponent from another power conference opponent each season under the ACC’s new guidelines, it would seem only natural for the Panthers to explore the revival of past annual rivalries against either West Virginia or Penn State.

Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst was asked about historic and regional rivals Penn State and West Virginia this week while moving through the ESPN car wash. In what may come as a bit of a surprise, Chryst told Brett McMurphy of ESPN he would prefer to see an annual match-up with Penn State instead of West Virginia if he had to choose between the two. Penn State head coach James Franklin appears to be on the same page, telling McMurphy today on his run through the ESPN media gauntlet he would support seeing an annual series with the Panthers.

What needs to happen before this can actually become an annual tradition in the Keystone State? There may not be a whole lot that needs to fall into place, although Penn State playign a nine-game schedule in the Big Ten moving forward while the ACC sticks to an eight-game schedule will present many of the same problems faced with reviving the Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia. In the end, Penn State’s desire to assure an extra home game on the schedule could resurface in a different capacity by ensuring Penn State has seven home games at a minimum for years to come.

With new leadership in place at both schools compared to the late 1980s and early 1990s, perhaps getting these two in-state rivals back together for the long term could be a more realistic possibility.

Penn State and Pittsburgh last played in 2000. The two schools agreed to a two-game series in 2016 and 2017 and later agreed to extend the series by two more games through 2019. Penn State leads the all-time series, 44-41-4.

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