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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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Injured Hogs RB received handwritten note from new SEC commish

Greg Sankey AP

Departed SEC commissioner was widely known in college football circles as a man of integrity and class.  It appears his successor is cut from the same cloth.

Initially diagnosed with a foot injury that was expected to sideline him for an extended period of time, Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams was subsequently ruled out for the entire season because of the issue.  Even as Williams will likely never play a down under his stewardship, new SEC commissioner Greg Sankey decided to reach out to the injured Razorback.

And not only did the new conference boss reach out, he did it in an old-school style that would make the likes of Bill Snyder proud: a handwritten note.

That’s just class right there.  And yet another sign that the conference will remain in good hands for the foreseeable future.

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Unable to enroll at UVa., 2015 signee T.J. Griffin headed to Herd

T.J. Griffin

On the same day Virginia confirmed the murky status of one of its 2015 signees, said signee has reportedly already found a new home.

Head coach Mike London revealed in a statement that the university has granted T.J. Griffin a release from his U.Va. National Letter of Intent signed this past February. Griffin was denied admission at UVa., but the football program wanted the defensive back to go the prep school route and return to Charlottesville next year.

Instead, Griffin decided to leave for an FBS opportunity elsewhere.

“We have granted T.J. Griffin a release from his letter of intent to allow him to enroll at another institution this fall,” London’s statement began. “He contacted me with the request and explained his reasons for not wanting to enroll at a prep school this fall. I understand his personal situation and want to do what is best for this young man and his family. We wish him the best in the future.”

And, reportedly, Griffin’s immediate future will include joining a team that plays in Conference USA.

Marshall has yet to officially announce Griffin’s addition to the roster, although that appears to be a mere formality as other media outlets are reporting that’s where he’ll land as well.

Griffin was a three-star member of the Cavaliers’ 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 70 cornerback in the country and the No. 26 player at any position in the state of Virginia. As noted in the embedded tweet, Griffin will be eligible to play immediately for the Herd in 2015.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Daxx Garman buried third on Terps’ QB depth chart

West Virginia v Oklahoma State Getty Images

When Daxx Garman transferred into Maryland from Oklahoma State, many, perhaps most, assumed the quarterback would be sitting atop the depth chart entering the 2015 season. Instead, he’s buried on it.

Friday, the Terps released a depth chart ahead of the opener with Richmond and, in what some might consider an upset, Perry Hills was listed as the starter. Caleb Rowe sits in the prime backup spot behind Hills, which means Garman will enter the upcoming season No. 3 in the quarterback pecking order.

The positioning likely serves as a bitter pill for Garman to swallow as this is his final season of eligibility.

Last season, Garman, who began his collegiate career at Arizona, started eight games for Oklahoma State before going down with a concussion in mid-November. Mason Rudolph, Garman’s replacement, showed more than enough promise in his three starts that he was the unquestioned starter in spring practice, triggering Garman’s transfer to the Terps in May.

Garman, and even Rowe were considered by many to be the favorites entering summer camp, but it was Hills who’ll exit it with the starting job. Hills won the job as a true freshman in 2012 and started the first seven games that season before missing the final five due to a torn ACL. He took a redshirt the following season, then played in three games last year.

Rowe, meanwhile, tore the ACL in his left knee during a practice this past October, the same knee he suffered the same injury in the same month back in 2012, and sat out the spring. Rowe, who will entered spring as the favorite to win the starting job, was granted another season of eligibility earlier this year that allow him to play again in 2016.

Hills, Garman and Rowe were listed as co-starters entering summer camp this year.

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Sun Belt reportedly down to Eastern Kentucky and Coastal Carolina for 12th spot

Karl Benson

Who’s ready for some conference realignment news! Anybody? Nobody? Bueller?

The Sun Belt is looking for a 12th member and has zeroed in on either Eastern Kentucky or Coastal Carolina for that coveted final spot, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today.

“They have enough votes,” an unnamed source told Wolken. “They have already visited the campuses.”

Commissioner Karl Benson declined to speak for the piece, but he has acknowledged conversing with both schools previously.

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Adding either school would allow the Sun Belt to immediately schedule a conference championship game, though conference title games are expected to be deregulated by the NCAA in 2016.

Eastern Kentucky is said to be more FBS-ready on Day 1 (Coastal’s football stadium seats less than 10,000 people, for starters), but Coastal Carolina is coached by billionaire former Ameritrade CEO Joe Moglia and, if the last five years have taught us anything about conference realignment, the prospect of future money tends to send common sense waiting at the door in these scenarios.

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Ohio State lists J.T. Barrett, not Cardale Jones, as team captain

barrettclose Getty Images

It may mean absolutely nothing. It may mean everything.

Either way, the only thing it really means is that one will walk out for the opening coin toss and one will not.

Amid a newsy Friday evening, Ohio State announced J.T. Barrett will represent the quarterback room among the Buckeyes’ six 2015 captains.

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“This was the most players I’ve seen receive votes for captains,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “We had 14 players receive votes, but these six separated themselves. This is one of the great accomplishments these young men will experience, to be elected by their peers. And it is very well deserved.”

For the “it means nothing” camp: Connor Cook is not one of Michigan State’s captains this season, which will clearly not stop him from starting at quarterback this fall.

For the “it means everything” camp: How many teams really choose their backup quarterback as team captain?

Either way, Meyer will likely keep his actual starting quarterback decision under wraps until the Buckeyes take the field at Lane Stadium on Labor Day evening. Or maybe he told us all we need to know tonight. It’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma, I tell you.

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LSU OC Cam Cameron diagnosed with prostate cancer, plans to coach in 2015

Sam Houston State v LSU

LSU offensive coordinator has been diagnosed with prostate cancer but plans to coach in 2015, it was revealed Friday night. Ross Dellenger of the (Baton Rouge) Advocate was the first to report the news.

Cameron has already undergone treatment for the disease, saying only “minor limitations” have gotten between him and the job, but painted a picture that his diagnosis was already in the rearview mirror.

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The Tigers, unfortunately, experienced a very similar bit of bad news at this time just four years ago.

Just weeks before the 2011 season, then-offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He vacated his offensive coordinator post to offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and remained on as quarterbacks coach. Following the 2012 season, Kragthorpe moved off the field and into a special assistant to the head coach/chief of staff role, where he’s remained ever since.

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LSU opens the 2015 season at home versus McNeese State next Saturday.

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Tim Beckman responds to Illinois firing, calls allegations “utterly false”

Tim Beckman

Illinois athletics director Mike Thomas felt strongly enough about the results of an investigation into his head football coach’s performance to fire him months before the study was even complete. Thomas said Friday investigators had spoken with more than 90 witnesses and reviewed more than 200,000 documents.

Tim Beckman thinks it’s all a pack of lies.

The now former Illinois head coach released a statement Friday evening.

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While nothing he can say at this point will get him his job back, it’s obvious what Beckman is doing here: setting the stage for a lawsuit in which he comes for the $3.1 million due on the final two years of his contract and (however futilely) attempts to clear his name in pursuit of other coaching jobs.

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Oregon lists EWU transfer Vernon Adams as starting QB

Eastern Washington v Washington Getty Images

It didn’t come with a grand proclamation (at least not yet) or a trumpeting of horns, just a line on a depth chart, mixed in with dozens others like it. Yet it is significant all the same: Oregon has listed Vernon Adams as its starting quarterback for the Eastern Washington game next Saturday.

Adams, of course, just arrived from Eastern Washington. As in, two weeks ago.

Oregon announced the addition of the record-setting EWU quarterback as a graduate transfer on Feb. 11, but Adams couldn’t join the Ducks’ roster until he completed his undergraduate coursework. That didn’t happen until Aug. 13.

Adams needed all of two weeks to beat Jeff Lockie out for Oregon’s QB1 job.

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In 37 career games at Eastern Washington, Adams threw for 10,438 yards with 110 touchdowns against only 31 interceptions while adding 1,232 yards and 11 scores on the ground. A 6-foot powder keg of extreme confidence, Adams has a knack for saving his best performances for the biggest of stages. He threw for 425 yards and three touchdowns (with two picks) in a loss to eventual FCS runner-up Illinois State in the FCS playoffs last December, a performance only surpassed by his spotless 475-yard, seven-touchdown effort in a 59-52 loss to Washington in September.

In a game only surpassed by Washington at Boise State in terms of awkward Week 1 reunions, Adams’ first game as Oregon’s quarterback will be against Eastern Washington next Saturday in Eugene.

Adams’ former head coach, Beau Baldwin, spoke out against the graduate transfer rule that allowed Adams to leave and play immediately at Oregon. “It’s not what the rule is intended for,” Baldwin said. “… Ultimately we feel like, you know what, we were also the ones who developed [Adams] from a level where obviously out of high school he wasn’t at that level.”

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Arkansas TE C.J. O’Grady arrested on DWI charge

Dennis Johnson

In his entertaining and insightful profile of Bret Bielema‘s Arkansas program, Sports Illustrated‘s Pete Thamel noted that Razorbacks players found themselves in handcuffs only once every 483 days since Bielema’s arrival. Time to reset the clock.

Hogs tight end C.J. O’Grady was stopped early Friday morning for the lack of a working taillight on his scooter and subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated and being a minor in possession of alcohol, according to the Associated Press.

O’Grady, speaking through slurred speech and emitting an odor of alcohol, reportedly registered a blood alcohol content of 0.099, topping the legal limit of 0.08 and well above Arkansas’s 0.02 limit for minors.

A native of Fayetteville, O’Grady is a freshman hailing from Fayetteville High School. He was released from jail and is due back in court Sept. 28, the Monday after Arkansas’s date with Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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Purdue puts two-game cap on Gelen Robinson’s suspension

Gelen Robinson, C.J. Beathard AP

Earlier this month, Darrell Hazell confirmed Gelen Robinson would miss at least two games and up to four following an offseason arrest.  In the end, the punishment meted it is at the lower end of the spectrum.

The Purdue head coach revealed Thursday that Robinson will be suspended for the two-game minimum.  Purdue begins the 2015 season with a road trip to defending Conference USA champion Marshall and follows that up with a home game against FCS Indiana State.  The defensive end will be eligible to return for the Sept. 19 game against Virginia Tech in West Lafayette.

In late June, Robinson was arrested on charges of operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or more and illegal possession of an alcoholic beverage.  The charges triggered a violation of a prior diversion agreement with the courts.

As a true freshman last season, Robinson played in 10 games. His four tackles for loss were sixth on the team, while his two sacks were good for fourth.

Entering summer camp, Robinson, the son of Boilermaker basketball great Glenn Robinson, was viewed as a likely starter at end.

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A week before opener, Tim Beckman fired as Illini’s head coach

Tim Beckman AP

In the end, Tim Beckman‘s hot seat turned into an electric chair before the season even kicked off.

In a surprising move given only its timing, Illinois announced that Beckman has been dismissed as its head football coach.  The move comes exactly one week before the Illini open the 2015 season against Kent State.

The firing also comes more than three months after a former player accused the coach of “misuse and abuse of power,” while another stated shortly thereafter that Beckman “takes the cake as the worst coach I ever met.”  Athletic director Mike Thomas initially supported the beleaguered head coach, but the preliminary results of an external review into the accusations forced Thomas into pulling the trigger now instead of later.

“The preliminary information external reviewers shared with me does not reflect our values or our commitment to the welfare of our student-athletes, and I’ve chosen to act accordingly,” Thomas said in a statement. “During the review, we have asked people not to rush to judgment, but I now have enough information to make this decision in assessing the status and direction of the football program.”

The results, while preliminary, are damning, and show exactly why Thomas and the university had to make the move in the here and now. From the release:

During a preliminary briefing from the external reviewers, Thomas said he learned of efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries. He also said in some instances student-athletes were treated inappropriately with respect to whether they could remain on scholarship during the spring semester of their senior year if they weren’t on the team.

“Both of those findings are unsettling violations of University policy and practice and do not reflect the culture that we wish to create in athletic programs for our young people,” Thomas said. “I expect my coaches to protect players and foster their success on and off the field.”

Beckman has been fired for cause, meaning he will not receive the $3.1 million remaining on the last two years of his original five-year contract or the $743,000 called for if his contract had been bought out.

Replacing Beckman on an interim basis for the entire 2015 season is offensive coordinator Bill Cubit.  The release stated that “the external review did not indicate any findings related to Coach Cubit.”

In three seasons with the Illini, Beckman compiled a 12-25 overall record and a 4-20 mark in Big Ten play. He likely would’ve been fired after the 2014 season, but the Illini managed to win their final two games to earn a bowl bid.

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Louisville’s stadium expansion to push capacity past UK’s

PJCS expansion

That title, however, comes with an asterisk.

First, though, Louisville officials announced at a press conference that the home of the football Cardinals, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, will undergo what’s projected to be a $55 million expansion.  The expansion will add approximately 10,000 new seats — the release explains “1,000 modern club seats, 65 new premium loge level boxes, and 10 exclusive field level suites” will be part of new seating — which will push the capacity of PJCS to around 65,000.

Additionally, the football facility will see a significant upgrade as well as part of the renovation.

The Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex, which currently sits in the north end zone, will undergo a major expansion and facelift. The team’s weight room and conditioning center will double in size, creating a total of 20,000 square feet of work space for training, conditioning, and therapeutic support. A spacious player’s lounge, improvements for coaches’ offices and the team locker room, and expansive theatre-style meeting areas will also be among the enhancements for student-athlete development.

“We are extremely excited to launch this project and I know our fans are thrilled as well,” said athletic director Tom Jurich in a statement. “We worked extremely hard on this one to assure the timing was right before we moved forward. We feel that we have a plan in place that will excite our fans and continue to advance our program, which has truly gained a national stage with our university’s move to the ACC.”

Upon completion, PJCS will have a capacity greater than in-state rival Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium (61,000). Now the asterisk: Capacity had actually reached nearly 68,000 at Commonwealth in the late nineties prior to a current renovation that will actually reduce seating to the aforementioned 61,000.

Getting an attendance one-up on their rival, though, wasn’t part of the thought process, at least not publicly.

Whether or not UofL fans can consistently fill the additional seats remains to be seen.

(Photo credit: Louisville athletics)

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Lawyer for Jameis Winston’s accuser hired by Baylor rape victim

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The high-profile Baylor rape case has added a prominent new character, the Dallas Morning News is reporting.

According to the paper, nationally-known Title IX attorney John Clune of Colorado has been hired by the victim and her family to “investigate a number of issues surrounding the case,” including Baylor’s handling of it. A jury found earlier this week found that former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu had raped a former BU women’s soccer player in October of 2013, five months after his dismissal from Boise State.

Clune subsequently confirmed to the News in a phone conversation, as well as in a statement, that he is involved in the case.

“We are glad to see that President Starr and Baylor have chosen to conduct their own investigation and look forward to learning the outcome of that process,” Clune said in the statement. “Regardless of what facts these investigations may bare, there is a significant teachable moment here for all in higher education and we are hopeful that Baylor University embraces that great opportunity.”

A Waco attorney, Bill Johnston, is assisting Clune and his firm in their own investigation of BU’s handling of Ukwuachu.  It’s unclear if the attorneys’ investigation will extend to Boise State as well.

The hiring of Clune is perceived to be the precursor to civil action being pursued by the victim, although it’s highly unlikely the university would ever allow any lawsuit to see the light of day in a courtroom and would instead aggressively seek an out-of-court settlement.

Clune is likely most known as the attorney representing the woman who accused former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of raping her in 2012.  He also represented a woman in a civil suit who claimed three Oregon basketball players raped her; that case resulted in an out-of-court settlement for the alleged victim in which she received $800,000 as well as free tuition and housing while UO admitted no wrongdoing.

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CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Big 12 Predictions

TCU at Baylor

The Big 12 was left on the outside looking in of the College Football Playoff party a year ago, but it looks as though the odds are good the conference is not left out this season. TCU opens the 2015 season as the second-ranked team in the major polls and the Horned Frogs are joined by Baylor as popular picks to make a playoff push in 2015. But what about Oklahoma and Texas you ask? This year should see some improvements with both blueblood programs, although progress at each will be measured differently.

It is time for me to go on the record with some Big 12 predictions. Let’s just say I have a weird gut feeling about some of these.

1. TCU (Last year: 12-1, beat Ole Miss in Peach Bowl)
TCU returns a loaded offense with 10 starters coming back in 2015 from last season’s surging offense. That includes quarterback Trevone Boykin, who may be my top contender in the Heisman Trophy race this season thanks to his experience and supporting cast. TCU needs to replace just one offensive lineman, which puts TCU ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the conference. The schedule does have its challenges ahead of the Horned Frogs, including a season opener on the road against a solid Minnesota squad and road trips to Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. But I think TCU can manage to get away with wins in all three. In fact, I see TCU winning every game on the schedule this season, which would be a remarkable feat for this program on the rise. Most importantly, if TCU does live up to this prediction, there is not a shot they miss out on the playoff at the end of the season. None. There are some questions on the defensive side of the football, but I trust Gary Patterson will be able to address those concerns enough to get by while the offense is cooking.

2. Oklahoma (Last year: 8-5, lost to Clemson in Russell Athletic Bowl)
I feel rather optimistic about the Sooners this season, although I wonder why I feel this optimistic. Heck, I’ve even calling for Oklahoma to win a road game at Baylor. Call it gut instinct if you will. Oklahoma lost every game against a ranked opponent last season and holes were exposed by Baylor and Clemson. But Oklahoma hung in there with Kansas State and TCU and the Sooners have the best running back in the conference with Samaje Perine. I’m looking for a big year from Perine, if the rebuilt offensive line can help him out. I think Oklahoma gets off to an OK start, with the game at Tennessee a toss-up (I have it marked as a loss right now). I think Bob Stoops comes through with some solid performances to surprise some along the way to a second place finish in the Big 12.

3. Kansas State (Last year: 9-4, lost to UCLA in Alamo Bowl)
Here is what I have come to learn about Kansas State over the years. Bill Snyder is a good coach and finds a way to put together a solid team more often than not. You can look at Kansas State on paper and suggest there is no reason to be too excited about the Wildcats in 2015, and that is fine. Snyder will find a way to make it all come together, and he will have three fairly easy games and a bye week at the start of the season to get it all worked out before jumping into Big 12 play. That could get off to a rough start as well, but the bye week before hosting Baylor could be huge. I think Kansas State finishes strong in Big 12 play after the bye week.

4. Baylor (Last year: 11-2, lost to Michigan State in Cotton Bowl)
This one is sure to raise some eyebrows, and I fully understand. Baylor is seen by many as a Big 12 favorite and legitimate playoff contender. Eight starters are back on offense, and nine more on defense. If not for a slip up at West Virginia last season, Baylor would have been in the playoff with an undefeated record. Just like last season, the margin for error is extremely thin for the Bears. This may be a solid test for Art Briles, as he looks to work his quarterback magic once more with Seth Russell taking over a talented offense. With an experienced offensive line protecting him and Corey Coleman and KD Cannon as targets and running back Shock Linwood in the backfield, things should look pretty good for Baylor, right? I’m going with the gut instinct again here to explain why I have Baylor down so low in the Big 12 standings. I think Baylor gets off to a great start, but hits a road block after the second bye week. I’m putting Baylor down for back-to-back losses against Kansas State and Oklahoma and one more two weeks later against TCU. But they may be the best three-loss team in the nation.

5. Texas (Last year: 6-7, lost to Arkansas in Texas Bowl)
When Charlie Strong was hired as the head coach of Texas I said it might take a few years for him to have the Longhorns ready to compete for a Big 12 title. Entering year two, I think we start to see some signs of progress. With a couple of coaching changes on the staff, the hope is the offense begins to show some more consistency and efficiency. The Longhorns have to decide whether to go with Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard at quarterback and replace both starting tackles on the line, but things should start looking a little more stable on offense. After experiencing a setback in the season opener in South Bend against Notre Dame, the Longhorns rebound before hitting TCU and Oklahoma before the bye week. We will see this season there is still work to be done for Texas to compete against the best fo the conference, but it should start proving to us things are getting better.

6. Oklahoma State (Last year: 7-6, beat Washington in Cactus Bowl)
Another relatively low expectation for the Cowboys compared to many of the preseason previews out there. The big hang up for Oklahoma State for me will be the schedule. The road game at Texas I think ultimately goes down as a loss as the Longhorns look to make a bit of a statement. A road trip to West Virginia could go down as a loss as well, and TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma could all be home losses as well. Oklahoma State is probably more likely to go 1-2 in those big three games in the last half of the season, but I have them as losses right now.

7. West Virginia (Last year: 7-6, lost to Texas A&M in Liberty Bowl)
West Virginia should once again be somewhere in the middle of the Big 12, and will be one of those teams capable of pulling an upset. West Virginia will not be a pushover and should have some back-and-forth games, but the Mountaineers are not quite equipped to make a run at the Big 12 title. They are dangerous though as long as Dana Holgorsen is commanding the offense and a defense returning nine starters (including safety Karl Joseph). West Virginia’s biggest weakness is in the trenches. There won’t be enough of a push from the defense and the offensive line may not be the most dependable. The start of Big 12 play could be rough (at Oklahoma, vs. Oklahoma State, at Baylor, at TCU after bye).

8. Texas Tech (Last year: 4-8)
The bets thing about Texas Tech is Kliff Kingsbury and his swagger. But good looks do not translate to wins on the football field, and Texas Tech is the textbook example of that right now. I have little faith in Texas Tech’s ability to be consistent enough on offense and I have even less confidence in Texas Tech’s defense to stop anything. Sure, shootouts may be fun to watch at times, but the Red Raiders need a lot of things to start turning around if we are ever going to see this program recapture the magic the Mike Leach era offered at times.

9. Iowa State (Last year: 2-10)
You may not find a harder working two-win team in the country than Iowa State. Yes, it could be another long season for the Cyclones, and that could place head coach Paul Rhoads in some unfortunate territory at the end of the season, but there should be some bright spots for Iowa State along the way. Wide receiver Allen Lazard will be tough to slow down and could have a big season. And hey, they’re not Kansas.

10. Kansas (Last year: 3-9)
I have Kansas down for one win this season and even that might be a stretch. New head coach David Beaty has his work cut out for him, but at least he is bringing some passion to the rebuilding project in Lawrence. He will need it with just three starters returning on each side of the football field, and his quarterback was injured in spring practice. If Kansas does not beat South Dakota State in week one (not a given by any means), then the Jayhawks will be staring down an 0-12 record this season.

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Sam Ukwuachu’s dad: Art Briles didn’t know of son’s past violence

Oklahoma State v Baylor Getty Images

The he said/he said when it comes to the disturbing Sam Ukwuachu situation has added yet another layer.

Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor in May of 2013 after being dismissed by Boise State, and was found guilty earlier this week of the rape of a BU student that happened five months after he moved on to the Bears.  It surfaced during the rape trial that, while at Boise, Ukwuachu was involved in at least one episode of violence involving his then-girlfriend, which some have surmised triggered his dismissal by BSU.

Art Briles claimed that Chris Petersendid not disclose that there had been violence toward women, but he did tell me of a rocky relationship with his girlfriend which contributed to his depression.”  Petersen countered that, in the phone conversation described by the BU head coach, he “thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding Sam’s disciplinary record and dismissal.”

Petersen’s statement never mentioned specifically whether or not violence was discussed between the two coaches; in fact, Boise released a statement in the aftermath of the dispute that “Ukwuachu’s dismissal from the Boise State football team had nothing to do with accusations of any sexual assaults or with accusations that he physically assaulted any women.”

In the latest twist, Ukwuachu’s father, Felix Ukwuachu, stated during a radio interview that he heard the conversation between Petersen and Briles from the former’s perspective. And, according to the dad, Briles’ version of the events that preceded his son’s arrival in Waco is accurate. From KWTX.com‘s account of the radio spot:

Felix Ukwuachu, said in an interview with KWTX at his home in Houston, that he took a bus to Boise in May 2013 in order to pick up his son and met with Petersen who told him he was going to recommend the player to his “friend Art Briles.”

And he said he was in an outer office when Petersen placed the call.

“We could hear the whole conversation,” he said.

“Petersen said ‘Samuel is a dynamic player, a good boy’ (and) said he would be pleased if you take him into your school,” Felix Ukwuachu said.

Petersen “did not let Samuel go because of sexual abuse or any kind of abuse,” Ukwuachu said.

“Samuel was depressed, Samuel was homesick it was making him…think suicidal thoughts, so we decided that we told him you have to come home,” he said.

“Samuel was in good standing with University of Boise State, Boise state,” he said, and a transfer document that Baylor released confirmed that.

The fact that Briles and now the elder Ukwuachu claim Petersen vouched for the player in setting up the transfer might raise at least one eyebrow. In a damning report published shortly before the Ukwuachu, Texas Monthly wrote that “the two programs had some communication regarding Ukwuachu in which Boise State officials expressed reticence about supporting the player’s efforts to get back on the field.”

Then again, a report surfaced this week that then-Florida head coach Will Muschamp decided against pursuing Ukwuachu “after a Boise State athletic department employee detailed Ukwuachu’s troubles with a girlfriend.” That employee relayed allegations of physical abuse of his then-girlfriend while at Boise. Some have questioned how Muschamp allegedly could’ve known of violence in Ukwuachu’s past and Briles specifically and BU in general didn’t.

Ukwuachu was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation.

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