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CFT Predicts: the Pac-12

David Yankey, David Shaw, Shayne Skov 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 Pac-12.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SEC, Big Ten

Pac-12 North

1. Stanford (Last year: 12-2; beat Wisconsin in Rose Bowl)
What happened last season?
Though Stanford lost arguably the best quarterback to ever pass through the program in Andrew Luck, the Cardinal did something it couldn’t when Luck and Jim Harbaugh were on The Farm: win the Pac-12. David Shaw is quickly ascending the list of best college coaches in the country. I mean, the guy did a Ted Talk. Clearly Stanford is big-time now.

So why are they ranked here?
The Cardinal are experienced and there really aren’t many glaring weaknesses on either side of the ball. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is undefeated as a starter and has a solid offensive line and running game that brings back Tyler Gaffney. The defensive front seven returns plenty of starters too, including linebacker Shayne Skov. This is a solid team all around.

Anything else?
Things get a little more interesting schedule-wise in the second half of the season. The Cardinal play UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon in consecutive weeks before ending the year against Cal and Notre Dame. Weather that schedule and Stanford will absolutely be in the national title discussion. And I’d like their chances of winning it all (meaning, by rule of the jinx, they’ll go 8-5 and OMG I’m so sorry, you guys [sad face]).

2. Oregon (Last year: 12-1; beat Kansas State in Fiesta Bowl)
What happened last season?
Another BCS win for the Ducks would end up being the final game for coach Chip Kelly, who left for the NFL shortly thereafter. But the important story line here is that the one-point safety happened and we are all now better off as humans for seeing it.

So why are they ranked here?
The Pac-12 North looks like it could play out in a similar fashion to the SEC East, where Georgia and South Carolina could be slotted in either order as 1A or 1B. Oregon is actually the preseason favorite to win the North (and the league’s championship game) — albeit by the slimmest of margins — but if it comes down to it, I’m going to go with Shaw over first-year coach Mark Helfrich.

Anything else?
There’s a lot of national focus on Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel as far as as quarterbacks go, but keep an eye on Marcus Mariota. This redshirt sophomore was efficient in his first year as a starter, throwing for 32 touchdowns to just six interceptions while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. He has great size (6-foot-4 and 211 pounds) and athleticism.

3. Oregon State (Last year: 9-4; lost to Texas in Alamo Bowl)
What happened last season?
Just when you think Mike Riley is on the way out of Corvallis, he orchestrates one of the more dramatic turnarounds in college football. (Not that I thought Riley was on his way out or anything… Okay, I did.) The Beavers started 6-0 before exchanging wins and losses through the rest of the year, which ended in a bowl loss to Texas.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s good offensive firepower returning for Oregon State. This team has two capable quarterbacks in Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, and running back has both talent and depth. The question will continue to be on the offensive line can pave the way for OSU to have a better rushing attack than the one that ranked 101st in the country a year ago. On defense, the Beavers’ secondary should be a strength even with the departure of Jordan Poyer.

Anything else?
It wouldn’t be surprising to see this team 7-0 headed into a huge home game against Stanford — and playing in Reser Stadium can be a thorn for opposing teams. But there are no gimmes on the schedule once late October rolls around.

4. Washington (Last year: 7-6; lost to Boise State in MAACO Bowl Las Vegas)
What happened last season?
This can be summed up in highlights and lowlights. Highlight: beating Stanford, however ugly it was, 17-13. Lowlight: a regular-season ending loss to Wazzu in the Apple Cup. In overtime. Woof.

So why are they ranked here?
Steve Sarkisian isn’t on the hot seat, but it’s time to win more than seven games. Keith Price returns as one of the more talented quarterbacks in the Pac-12, but he’s also never experienced the luxury known as pass protection. If he has time, this is an offense that can put up a lot of points. The defense made major strides in 2012 under Justin Wilcox and will need to keep pace against a schedule that features plenty of good offensive opponents.

Anything else?
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is currently dealing with a broken pinkie. There’s optimism he can return by Week 1, though, as Sarkisian said it was a clean break. Jenkins will be counted on a lot this season in the passing game, so his health is crucial.

5. Washington State (Last year: 3-9)
What happened last season?
Yeah, Mike Leach‘s first season in Pullman didn’t exactly go as planned. The Cougars passed the ball a lot (go figure) but struggled to score and couldn’t stop anyone. But, hey, y’all beat Washington so huzzah!

So why are they ranked here?
There are still plenty of concerns on both sides of the ball, but Wazzu is not a team completely deprived of talent. Connor Halliday returns at quarterback, but the offensive line needs to come together to give him some more protection. Sacks and interceptions doomed the Cougars offense last season. If the offense can jell, a turnaround might start taking some form in 2013.

Anything else?
Wazzu doesn’t have to run the ball more, but they have to run it more effectively. This is a team that averaged 29 yards per game on the ground in 2012. Twenty. Nine. That’s, like, De’Anthony Thomas‘ yards-per-carry or something.

6. Cal (Last year: 3-9)
What happened last season?
The Golden Bears lost their shine and Jeff Tedford was shown the door. Things got really bad at the end when Cal lost their final two games by an average of 45 points.

So why are they ranked here?
Sonny Dykes will win in Berkeley, it just won’t be this year. True freshman Jared Goff will be thrown into the fire immediately as the team’s starting quarterback, and the schedule is unforgiving.

Anything else?
Cal will likely lose three of their first four games, but we could still get a decent understanding of what this team can potentially accomplish in Dykes’ first year if they hang tough with Northwestern, Ohio State or Oregon.

Pac-12 South

1. UCLA (Last year: 9-5; lost to Baylor in Holiday Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Bruins took a huge step forward under first-year coach Jim Mora by winning nine games and making it to the Pac-12 championship. UCLA got torched by Baylor in the Holiday Bowl, but the Bears were playing their best football at the end of the year.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s a new edge in Pasadena that previously wasn’t there. That’s a reflection on Mora, and things are only looking up for UCLA. Brett Hundley returns as one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the league. This is an offense that will need to find a replacement for Johnathan Franklin in the running game to take the pressure off of Hundley. The defense has to replace its entire secondary too. But this is a talented, young team.

Anything else?
Part of that talented youth is Notre Dame transfer Eddie Vanderdoes. The defensive lineman will be able to play immediately and he’s expected to do so.

2. Arizona State (Last year: 8-5; beat Navy in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) 
What happened last season?
First-year coach Todd Graham did a good job getting the Sun Devils to eight wins. And, of course, beating Arizona always helps.

So why are they ranked here?
ASU could be a sneaky good team this year. There’s a lot of hype in Tempe around Taylor Kelly, who already has a 3,000-yard passing season under his belt.  This team features 17 returning starters, including All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton. There’s room to grow at the receiver spot, but the Sun Devils have a good backfield with Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. Based on their 2012 play, this is a team that can right in the middle of the Pac-12 South hunt.

Anything else?
ASU has an interesting and difficult early part of the season with Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. Winning both of those early Pac-12 games would be huge.

3. USC (Last year: 7-6; lost to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl) 
What happened last season?
USC went from the preseason No. 1 team to being unranked at the end of the season after losing a to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl in embarrassing fashion. Matt Barkley hurt his shoulder and couldn’t finish out his career with the Trojans. There were almost too many disappointments to list.

So why are they ranked here?
There are a lot of question marks on offense with the departure of Barkley and receiver Robert Woods. Marqise Lee is back though and figures to be a huge part of the game plan — if he can stay healthy. There was a lot of staff turnover during the offseason, so it could take some time for everything to come together. And let’s not forget the depth issues affecting this team while it rides out the scholarship reductions from the NCAA. Still, it’s not like USC is lacking talent. That should be enough to keep this team from going under .500 this year.

Anything else?
Well, that’s the thing. Lane Kiffin can’t afford to go under .500 — or .500 at all —  and realistically expect to keep his job. The scholarship reductions hurt, but they don’t have any impact on failed two-point conversions, or switching numbers between plays midway through a game. Pull shenanigans like that and win seven again, and Kiffin could be headed for the unemployment line.

4. Arizona (Last year: 8-5; beat Nevada in New Mexico Bowl)
What happened last season?
Rich Rodriguez rebounded from his short Michigan gig by winning right away with Arizona. The highlight of the year included a 39-36 win over what was then a top-10 ranked USC team.

So why are they ranked here?
Matt Scott waited his turn and had himself a banner senior season. He left for the NFL as one of the more intriguing quarterback prospects. But while the Wildcats have to replace him, they do bring back Ka’Deem Carey, who was the country’s leading running back last year. Carey figures to be the focal point of the offense this year, which may need to win some shootouts again.

Anything else?
The defense was the worst in the Pac-12 last season at giving up points. Jeff Casteel is a fine defensive coordinator, so that’ll be a unit to watch to see if any significant improvement can be made.

5. Utah (Last year: 5-7) 
What happened last season?
It was another disappointing year for Kyle Whittingham. The offense, especially the passing game, couldn’t get going and Jordan Wynn had to end his oft-injured career earlier than he’d hoped.

So why are they ranked here?
Dennis Erickson been brought in as co-offensive coordinator to light a fire under one of the worst passing games in the Pac-12 last season. The defensive line loses three key players as well in Star Lotulelei, Joe Kruger and Dave Kruger. There’s a lot to replace and plenty of tough games on the schedule.

Anything else?
Erickson is more than just another offensive mind to add to the staff. He’s familiar with the recent Pac-12 landscape from his time with Arizona State. That should pay dividends for the Utes, but just how soon remains unclear.

6. Colorado (Last year: 1-11) 
What happened last season?
The Buffaloes were terrible and Jon Embree got fired. During Embree’s final press conference, it become abundantly clear from a national perspective just how much work this program has to do to get back to its former winning ways.

So why are they ranked here?
Mike MacIntyre did wonders at San Jose State. He’ll need to work those miracles again in Boulder, but 2013 looks like it could be another brutal year for this program. The Buffs have a dire QB situation right now, though it appears Texas transfer Connor Wood will get the nod. There is a lot of experience returning for Colorado (17 starters), but how long it takes them to adjust to MacIntyre remains to be seen.

Anything else?
It won’t count toward Pac-12 standings, but Colorado can make a big splash at the start of the season by beating Colorado State. When little is expected to go your way, grabbing a win over an in-state rival goes a long way.

——————————————-

John Taylor‘s prediction:
North
1. Stanford
2. Oregon
3. Oregon State
4. Washington
5. Washington State
6. Cal

South
1. UCLA
2. Arizona State
3. USC
4. Utah
5. Arizona
6. Colorado

Ben’s Pac-12 champ: Stanford
John’s Pac-12 champ: Stanford

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Jim Mora prefers using one QB, but not ready to anoint starter

Jim Mora

UCLA head coach Jim Mora faced plenty of questions about his quarterback situation at UCLA during Pac-12 media days, but he is far from prepared to settle on a starting quarterback for the start of the 2015 season. He must have been prepared for that given Brett Hundley left the Bruins a year early to enter the NFL Draft and Asiantii Woulard is hoping to be ruled eligible to play elsewhere this fall. The spring game yielded far too little confidence in any candidate to grab the starting nod months ahead of the season, so Mora is going to hold off on making any concrete decisions until he can get a better sense of who is ready to lead UCLA’s offense. One thing Mora does not plan to do is use multiple quarterbacks.

“I’d rather use one. I think that is the most beneficial way to build your team and consistency is to use one,” Mora said Friday during Pac-12 media day. “But we’ll see. My gut instinct is to name a guy and support the hell out of him. That’s what I’ve tried to do.”

So, who will that be? The three quarterback race is down to Jerry Neuheisel, Mike Fafaul and freshman Josh Rosen. Despite the high expectations for Rosen, Mora is not getting caught up in the hype just yet.

“He hasn’t taken a snap at this level. So I don’t want to put too many expectations,” Mora suggested. “I’ll let others put expectations on them. I think if Josh reaches his potential every day at the end of his time at UCLA we’ll look back and say he was a success.”

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LSU reinstates three players, including QB Anthony Jennings

Anthony Jennings

LSU has reinstated three players just days before fall practices are scheduled to open in Baton Rouge. Quarterback Anthony Jennings, defensive lineman Maquedius Bain and defensive back Dwayne Thomas will all be available to practice after being indefinitely suspended from the program.

LSU head coach Les Miles made the decision Friday afternoon with the indication the three players will undergo further in-house discipline. All three were suspended in response to an incident involving alleged unauthorized entry of an inhabited building. The alleged victim in that incident has since asked for the charges against the LSU football players to be dropped. That is exactly what has happened, allowing the door for Miles to welcome back all three, which he suspected might be the case.

No formal charges were filed against the three LSU players.

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Fitzgerald: Big Ten coaches voted unanimously against 9-game conference schedule

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In 2016 the Big Ten will expand its conference schedule from eight games to nine in a league-wide effort to enhance the overall strength of schedule for the conference. Apparently this is being done without approval from the 14 Big Ten head coaches.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald says, per Stewart Mandel of FOX Sports, the coaches in the Big Ten were unanimous in voting for an eight-game conference schedule.

This is certainly a reminder just who makes the big decisions in the Big Ten, and it sure is not the head coaches.

A nine-game conference schedule does help improve the conference’s overall schedule, but it also has its drawbacks as well. For starters, it allows for one fewer non-conference game on the schedule, which means less flexibility for scheduling options. On another hand, it also leads the Big Ten beating up on itself just a little more, potentially keeping a Big Ten member from reaching bowl eligibility.

The Big 12 and Pac-12 also use a nine-game conference schedule. The ACC and SEC remain firm on an eight-game conference schedule. The ACC, SEC and now the Big Ten all have a scheduling requirement to include a power conference opponent each season in addition to the conference schedule. The Big 12 and Pac-12 do not have such a scheduling requirement. The Big Ten will also eliminate FCS opponents from the non-conference schedule across the conference.

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Oregon State’s Gary Andersen says speed separates Pac-12 from Big Ten

Gary Andersen

Earlier in the day in Chicago new Nebraska head coach Mike Riley was asked about the difference between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, to which the nicest coach in the world shrugged off the notion of the two conferences being too different. His replacement at Oregon State, former Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen, has a different take on the subject.

“Well, the speed,” Andersen replied when asked the same question at the Pac-12 media day event Friday. “If you want to talk about something that is different. This is without question, and I’m looking from afar through a TV screen or a big jumbo screen we have in the offices that we watch film from and on the TV.

“[T]his league has what we like to call juice,” Andersen explained. “It is fast. There are a lot of guys that make one mistake and you’re going to pay the price quickly. On the defensive side it is the same way. There are elite pass rushers that are fast and quick. There are linebackers that can run on the back end that I believe can make up for a lot of problems that — it’s hard to solve with a pen in your hand, but genetics take over and make you some special plays.”

Prior to taking the Wisconsin head coaching job in 2013, Andersen was the head coach of Utah State. During his tenure at Utah State he coached against one Pac-12 team, in which he emerged victorious over Utah in 2012.  In his two seasons with the Badgers in Madison, Anderson lost on the road against Arizona State (in bizarre fashion). So he does have some first-hand experience coaching against the Pac-12 to compare with his brief experience in the Big Ten (which did not end well). Andersen also thinks the Pac-12 lacks credit as a tough conference, physically.

“I never hear people talking about this league is tough-minded. I know it’s not the class, flashy thing to talk about, right, anyway, with the offensive and defensive lines,” Andersen said. “But the fact of the matter is they’re well coached. They’re tough kids. They play with leverage and play with great technique. That is something that jumped out on me on film because I look for that stuff.”

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USC coach Sarkisian takes jab at Oregon’s uniforms

Steve Sarkisian

You have to imagine that being tabbed the preseason media favorite has USC head coach Steve Sarkisian feeling a little extra confident this week. On Friday he may have allowed his confidence to go slightly far in taking a mild-tempered shot at the Oregon Ducks. More specifically, Sarkisian took aim at Oregon’s multiple uniform combinations.

This is just a guess he is not referring to Appalachian State and their 21 new uniform combinations for the 2015 season. No, this was a direct shot at the Oregon Ducks, who have made suiting up ina  different uniform every week something any school looking to generate buzz or gain an edge in recruiting seeks to emulate.

Sarkisian has yet to defeat the Ducks since being named a head coach in 2009 at Washington. In fact, he has not really come close. Since 2009, Sarkisian has lost to Oregon all six times by an average of 25.8 points per defeat. USC seems to have things going in the right direction, and the preseason media poll in the conference certainly gives the Trojans a little extra boost. But until Oregon is dethroned, USC has something to prove on the field.

USC still must get out of a tough Pac-12 South, which saw Arizona State, Utah and UCLA all hand USC a loss in conference play last season. USC will visit Oregon on November 21 this season, in what could potentially be a PAc-12 Championship Game preview. That game will be played two weeks later.

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Pac-12 not looking to expand, if you were curious

Larry Scott

If you had any hopes the Pac-12 might be looking to expand in the future, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has some bad news.

“I do not see us expanding in the foreseeable future,” Scott said Thursday during Pac-12 media days. “We are delighted with 12 schools. It’s worked exceedingly well for us.”

There has not been much discussion about the conference contemplating expansion projects to grow beyond the current 12-school membership. Much of the hypothetical expansion conversation has centered on the Big 12, with 10 members. So forget about resurrecting those Pac-16 scenarios if you were holding out hope for such a thing. This may also be somewhat discouraging news for BYU fans as well, although getting the Cougars and Utah back in the same room would be entertaining.

The Pac-12 rebranded itself following the 2011 additions of Colorado and Utah. That was the same season Nebraska joined the Big Ten and BYU went independent. Texas A&M and Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC the following year as well. For now, the Pac-12 is just keeping the focus on improving from within, starting with conference scheduling.

“As a 12-team conference playing nine conference games, this is an interesting distinction between us and some other conferences,” Scott said. “This is why I’m confident standing up and saying no one has got a tougher schedule than the Pac-12, and the Pac-12 champion has got the toughest road, because there aren’t many misses that you can have within your conference.”

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Ohio State obtains trademark for Urban Meyer’s name

Urban Meyer

When Ohio State hired Urban Meyer to be the next head coach of the Buckeyes in the final stretch of the 2011 season, the Buckeyes knew expectations would be high. Meyer guided Ohio State to an undefeated season in his first fall in Columbus, led the Buckeyes to a Big Ten championship game and Orange Bowl in year two and to a Big Ten title and national championship in year three. Naturally, Ohio State is out to assure Meyer’s contract is protected so he does not go anywhere, and now it is looking to protect his likeness.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Friday the university has obtained a trademark for the name “Urban Meyer” from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Per the report, half of the royalties in trademark cases will go to the university and the other half will go to Meyer. Life is good for Meyer, even if he did have to suspend a few players for the 2015 season opener this week.

“It’s not uncommon for celebrities and people in the public to seek protection of their name and likeness,” said Rick Van Brimmer, director of trademark and licensing services at Ohio State. It is, however, the first time n Ohio State coach has had his name trademarked.

“Based on his celebrity status, there are people who have used it on product without permission and (we) have had to approach them,” he said. “This just affords us another level of legal protection.”

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BYU, UNLV to finish off home-and-home agreement in 2017

Brandon Baker, Nate Carter

College football scheduling can be difficult to juggle at times, but it seems BYU and UNLV are managing to find a landing spot for a game in 2017. The two schools will reportedly play at UNLV on November 11, 2017 to complete a previously arranged home-and-home series.

The game at UNLV was originally scheduled to be played this upcoming season, but the two agreed to push the game back to either 2016 or 2017 so BYU could work in a game this fall against Missouri. BYU will face the Mizzou Tigers in Kansas City on November 14, the original date for the BYU contest at UNLV.

BYU hosted UNLV in the first half of the home-and-home scheduling agreement. BYU won last season’s match-up by a score of 42-23.

As noted by FBSchedules.com, BYU’s 2017 schedule is now up to 11 opponents locked in, leaving room for one more to complete the schedule. The 2017 BYU schedule includes a season opener against LSU in Houston, a home date against old rival Utah and other games against Boise State, Mississippi State and Hawaii. With the Hawaii game coming on the road, BYU will be allowed to schedule a 13th game if so desired. BYU has two open weeks in the middle of September. With news breaking this morning the Big Ten will now recognize BYU as a power conference opponent to satisfy a new power conference scheduling requirement, could there be a Big Ten team to help fill the void? If so, that would give BYU games against three different power conferences in 2017.

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New Big Ten scheduling mandates Power 5 opponents, no FCS foes

Jim Delany

Starting in 2016 the Big Ten will roll out a new scheduling outline for all conference members to follow. In addition to the new nine-game conference schedule, the Big Ten will now officially lock out FCS opponents and ask members to schedule one game against another power conference opponent.

The Big Ten’s move away from no longer scheduling FCS opponents has been discussed openly for a few years now, and now it will be the standard operating procedure. What is slightly new is the mandated concept that one game per year against another power conference opponent will be required. The Big Ten joins the ACC and SEC in requiring its members to schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent.

Asked to clarify, Delany confirmed the outline is a requirement that must be met by each member university. What was left unanswered is whether or not independents like Notre Dame, BYU and Army meet that requirement. It is expected Notre Dame would satisfy the requirement, and the ACC and SEC recognize BYU as a power conference opponent. The SEC also counts Army in that category. (UPDATE: Delany later confirmed Notre Dame and BYU will count toward meeting the requirement.)

Delany stressed the focus on improving overall strength of schedule for the Big Ten, and this philosophy would seem to address that in the years to come. While many Big Ten teams already have games scheduled against other power five conferences, having it be a requirement offers more attractive games for fans and the all more important television partners. With the Big Ten media rights set to expire coming up, rolling out this scheduling strategy is also a wise business decision.

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Report: Alabama and Louisville opening 2018 in Orlando

Since the 1930s, Big Al, the Alabama Crimson Tide football team mascot has cheered the team to victo

Alabama may never again open a season at home. The Crimson Tide will reportedly open the 2018 season in Orlando, with Louisville lined up as the opponent for the season-opening contest. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com was first to report the 2018 game via Twitter.

Alabama now has the next three season openers booked for neutral site games, which means plenty of money coming Alabama’s way. The Crimson Tide open this season in Arlington, Texas against Wisconsin and open the 2016 season in Arlington once more against USC. In 2017 Alabama will face Florida State in Atlanta. Alabama opened the 2013 and 2014 seasons in Atlanta against Virginia Tech and West Virginia, respectively. This followed a season-opening game in Arlington in 2012 against Michigan. The last time Alabama opened a season at home was in 2011 against Kent State. The 2009 season opened in Atlanta against the Hokies as well. Alabama is also contractually obligated to play a game in Arlington in either 2019 or 2020.

Louisville is also getting used to this neutral site opener idea. The Cardinals will open the 2015 season in Atlanta against Auburn, and will face Purdue in Indianapolis to open the 2017 season.

It should also be noted the scheduling of this game in Orlando will also satisfy the non-conference scheduling requirement for both schools, with the ACC and SEC each requiring members to schedule one game against a power conference opponent. Of course, Louisville already satisfies its requirement by playing Kentucky.

Alabama and Louisville have faced each other just three times before, with the most recent game taking place in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl. Louisville won that game, 34-7, but Alabama had won the two previous meetings in 1976 and 1977 with blowout victories (winning by a combined score of 79-9).

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Nice guy Mike Riley says differences between Big Ten and Pac-12 not as drastic as before

Mike Riley

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley made his Big Ten media day debut in Chicago Friday morning, and he carried his nice guy persona as well as he ever has. When told he was one of the nicest coaches in the Pac-12, Riley shrugged aside as humble as he could. Riley was also asked about the differences between the Big Ten and Pac-12, to which he said the differences are not nearly as extreme as they used to be in decades past.

“Hard to blanket with one statement what a conference is today,” Riley said when asked about the difference between the styles of the Big Ten and Pac-12. “I think statistically the Big Ten is running the football more, but there is more diversity.”

Riley, of course, comes to Nebraska after coaching at Oregon State for the past 15 seasons. Riley took over the Beavers in 1997 and stayed with the program until taking a chance to take the Nebraska job. When asked about the timing of the new job, Riley said he and his wife agreed it was their last real chance to take a new challenge and adventure.

“We just love our life together, our life in football.”

Riley won over the Big Ten media, and it would appear the Cornhuskers are in good hands. Now we just have to see if he can win some games in Lincoln.

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Minnesota’s Jerry Kill says he’s been seizure-free for over a year

Jerry Kill

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill got the second day of Big Ten media days off and running Friday morning in Chicago, and he has plenty to be optimistic about in the coming season with a team ready to make a push for the Big Ten West division crown. Kill said his Gophers are getting faster and are closing in on being on par for giving Wisconsin a run for the division crown, and he is very high on his defensive secondary, which could be the best Minnesota has had since Kill’s arrival. But Kill will always be faced with a question about his health, and Friday morning was no different.

“I’m doing great,” Kill said when asked about his health. Kill said it has been over a year and a half since he has suffered a seizure.

Kill has a history of suffering seizures while coaching his team in recent years, although he has said time and time again it is nothing that is to be considered life-threatening or dangerous to his long-term health. In 2012 Kill suffered a seizure following a loss to Northwestern. The following season Kill was given medical treatment and did not return the second half of a game against Western Illinois. He would coach from the press box later in the 2013 season while spending time focusing on treatment and better manage his epilepsy but returned to the sideline during Minnesota’s bowl game and was on the sideline for the 2014 season.

Minnesota opens the 2014 season at home against TCU, the No. 2 team in the country according to the preseason coaches poll.

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No name games for Jim Harbaugh. Ohio State is “Ohio State” for Michigan coach

Jim Harbaugh

Perhaps the most anticipated media day press conference on this year’s media day calendar was the introduction of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh at Big Ten media day in Chicago. Today, the second of the two-day Big Ten media event, Harbaugh met with the media. The first question lobbed his way by one of the members of the media was about how he will refer to Ohio State, given the previous history between the two schools refusing to acknowledge the other by name.

“Ohio State is just Ohio State,” Harbaugh responded, before saying how great it was to see everyone in the room.

Harbaugh is a bit of a no-nonsense guy when it comes to his coaching style, so his decision to not get caught up in gimmicks to ramp up the rivalry is no real surprise. His predecessor, Brady Hoke, referred to Ohio State as just Ohio and that never really proved to amount to much. Meanwhile, Harbaugh’s counterpart in Columbus (Urban Meyer), likes to refer to Michigan as “That team up north.” It works for some, does not work for others.

Harbaugh’s simple answer though suggests Harbaugh has other things to worry about in getting Michigan turned around. He will also have 11 games to focus on before setting sights on Ohio State. Harbaugh will buy into the rivalry more, and likely will treat it much differently behind closed doors with the team when the time comes. But for now, Harbaugh has work to do.

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Backup DE Melvin Keihn requests release from Hokies

Virginia v Virginia Tech Getty Images

Ohio State’s not the only half of the OSU-Virginia Tech opener going through personnel attrition Thursday, although Tech’s is a permanent type — albeit much less damaging, potentially.

According to the Roanoke Times, a school spokesperson confirmed that Melvin Keihn (pictured, No. 51) has requested a release from his Tech scholarship and will pursue a transfer.  The defensive end is no longer listed on the Hokies’ online roster.

Keihn was a four-star member of Tech’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 16 outside linebacker in the country; the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Maryland; and the No. 226 player overall according to Rivals.com.  As a true freshman Keihn played in 13 games, with most of that action coming on special teams.

After spending most of spring practice as a No. 2 end, he had reps taking away and perhaps felt himself slipping down the depth chart, which perhaps triggered the decision to move on.

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‘Off-field issues’ lead to 2015 Vols signee leaving program

Kyle Oliver

While we had one 2015 signee (unofficially) joining a new Power Five football program Thursday, we have another (unofficially) departing one.

GoVols247.com is reporting that Kyle Oliver is leaving the Vols football team and will transfer to another, undetermined program. Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, Oliver “is leaving… because of unspecified off-field issues.”

On what may or may not be a related note to those unspecified off-field issues, UT lineman Charles Mosley was arrested earlier this month and charged with first-offense driving under the influence and speeding.  From a member of the UT beat, via Twitter:

UT has yet to address Oliver’s status with the football team, which will open up its third summer camp under Butch Jones next week.

The 6-4, 226-pound Oliver was a three-star member of UT’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 17 tight end in the country and the No. 14 player at any position in the state of Tennessee.  He also becomes the second member of the Class of 2015 to leave Knoxville in less than a week, joining wide receiver Jocquez Bruce.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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