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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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WR Isaiah Jones leaving FSU, will likely land at Miss. JUCO

Isaiah Jones AP

In August of last year, Isaiah Jones was declared academically ineligible and didn’t play a down for Florida State in 2014.  As it turns out, that’ll be the case in 2015 — and likely beyond.

Friday, head coach Jimbo Fisher confirmed that Jones has decided to transfer out of the FSU football program and continue his playing career elsewhere.  That elsewhere, according to Fisher, is likely East Mississippi State Community College.

The Palm Beach Post noted that Jones had traveled with the team to the Rose Bowl and said at the time that, as a longtime Seminole fan, he had no desire to transfer.  What prompted the change of heart, and whether it was again related to academics, wasn’t addressed.

A four-star member of the Seminoles’ 2013 recruiting class, Jones was rated as the No. 28 receiver in the country and the No. 36 player at any position in the talent-rich state of Florida. As a true freshman in 2013, the 6-4, 194-pound Jones caught two passes for 31 yards.

His production could’ve been higher that season, but a foot injury forced him to miss most of the second half of the season.

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Ole Miss’ leading tackler, second-leading rusher sustain injuries

Mississippi v Texas Getty Images

The bad news for Ole Miss is that key players on each side of the ball have sustained injuries.  The good news?  It’s only the spring, and the start of the new season is still more than five months down the road.

The most significant injury was sustained by defensive back Mike Hilton, who broke his thumb during a practice session earlier this week.  Additionally, running back Jordan Wilkins suffered what’s being described a sprained MCL.

Hilton will miss the remainder of the spring, but is expected to be healthy enough to participate in summer camp at the beginning of August.  Wilkins’ availability for the rest of the spring is to be determined.

In 2014 as a third-year junior, Hilton started 11 of the Rebels’ 13 games.  He led the team in tackles with 71, and was second in interceptions (three) and passes broken up (seven).

Over the past three seasons, Hilton has started 26 of the 36 games in which he’s played.

Wilkins‘ 361 yards rushing as a redshirt freshman last season was second on the Rebels, while his 6.9 yards per carry was tied for tops on the team.

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McElwain talks ‘insufficient’ cupboard left by Muschamp

Hungry Hill Getty Images

Will Muschamp may be gone at Florida, but he’s certainly not been forgotten.

Shortly after his firing last November, Muschamp was very emphatic in stating that the Gators possess “a deep and talented roster, so don’t let that new guy tell you he ain’t got any players.”

The new guy in this case is Jim McElwain, hired away from Colorado State in December and charged with cleaning up the mess in Gainesville. And, apparently, he didn’t get Muschamp’s memo.

From al.com:

“When you look at it, you know, the thing that has been lacking is the numbers and the size of what we’re doing on the other side of the ball,” McElwain told reporters in Gainesville. “It’s probably the reason we’re here. That’s all right, man, I’m excited to be here and we’re going to get it taken care of.”

“They’re trying their tails off,” McElwain said. “For the lack of numbers there, and it’s one of those things you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt and right now, quite honestly, the hand we were dealt is really insufficient at some of the areas. And yet at the same time that’s what you have, so we’re going to make the best of it. Those guys are battling in there. To try to even create kind of two groups is hard, so these guys, we’re giving them spells. Just kind of the way we practice, we had to kind of totally change how we will normally practice here in the future.”

It’s not uncommon for the new cook on campus to lament the lack of ingredients left in the cupboard. One of the things that lamenting does, though, is undercut those who remain on the roster.

Perhaps mindful of that, McElwain also tossed around words like “foundation” and “toughness” and “fight” in an attempt to soften what he sees as a lack of depth at best and, at worst, an overall lack of talent.

“The thing about this group of guys is they care about each other and care about the team,” the first-year coach said. “They fight their way through tough times, and that’s how you build the foundation of a football team. It’s really exciting to watch because at some point in the season, this toughness foundation is going to be what carries us, and we’re learning all about that right now.”

While they’re far from the gospel, recent recruiting rankings would suggest that McElwain at least has some talent with which to work — he and his staff just needs to coach them up better than their predecessors.

Muschamp was hired as UF’s head coach on Dec. 10, 2010. In his four recruiting classes, none finished lower than 12th nationally according to Rivals.com. That was Muschamp’s first class, one that he had roughly three months to put/hold together.

The first full class of the Muschamp era was in 2012, and that class finished No. 3 overall and No. 2 in the SEC. That was followed up by the fourth-ranked class in 2013 that was again second in the conference.

Even when rumors were swirling that he was a dead man coaching, Muschamp was able to pull in the No. 8 class in 2014, although that was only good for sixth in the conference.

Again, recruiting rankings aren’t the be-all, end-all when it comes to wins and losses, but they are a good indicator of potential.  And potentially, McElwain, whose first class ranked 23rd nationally and 10th in the conference — they get a pass on that — has a lot more talent with which to work than he’s allowing.

Tempering expectations of an anxious and dissatisfied fan base?  Perhaps.  Or he’s realized that the most important ingredient in the kitchen, the quarterback, may not necessarily be in his cupboard at the moment.

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Miami’s leading returning rusher suspended for spring game

Joseph Yearby, Jeremy Cash AP

Miami takes the field this afternoon for its annual spring game, and the Hurricanes will do so without a player who’ll be expected to be a key piece of their 2015 offensive puzzle.

Shortly before the game kicked off, Miami announced that Joseph Yearby has been suspended for the spring finale.  According to the team, it was for a violation of unspecified team rules.

According to Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald, the suspension involves allegedly breaking curfew so that the running back could be in attendance at a life-altering event:

I was told by my source, but not by UM, that Yearby was suspended for breaking curfew last night.

I was told he was there for the birth of his baby, but I did not have that confirmed and I don’t know when the baby was born.

It seems incomprehensible that Yearby would be suspended for attending the birth of his child, but we’ll just have to await Al Golden‘s postgame talk with the media and see if he offers any further explanation to the report.

Last season as a true freshman, Yearby was second on the team with 509 yards rushing.  He also added eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield.

With Duke Johnson‘s early departure for the NFL, Yearby will get the opportunity to be the bell cow for the Hurricanes’ ground game.

UPDATED 2:52 p.m. ET: And now a little bit more of the rest of the real story.

Yearby did indeed become a new father recently… over the winter.  Becoming a new parent, however, had nothing to do with the suspension; instead; it was breaking curfew last night that sidelined the back.

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Alabama DB Geno Smith again arrested on DUI charge

Sammie Coates ,Geno Smith Getty Images

I guess now we’re going to find out just how wedded Nick Saban is to his second chance mantra, and if it extends to a third chance.

While the details are scant at the moment, and the school has yet to address the situation, Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News is reporting that Geno Smith was arrested Friday night on a charge of driving under the influence.  According to the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department website, Smith has been released on a $1,000 bond.

From the sheriff’s department’s website:

Geno Smith Mugshot

What makes this a significant issue for Smith is that it’s the player’s second alcohol-related charge in less than two years.

In August of 2013, Smith was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence.  A couple of days later, Saban announced that the defensive back would be suspended for the opener against Virginia Tech.

Smith started six of the 14 games in which he played last season as a true junior last season.  All told, he’s played in 39 games in his three seasons with the Tide, including eight starts.

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NCAA says no malice involved in Reggie Bush investigation

Todd McNair AP

Well, that settles it.  Or not.

AS CFT wrote earlier this week, the NCAA Tuesday released 500 pages of documents– including damning internal dialogue – related to the Reggie Bush investigation as part of a defamation lawsuit involving former USC running backs coach Todd McNair. The documents revealed those involved stepping well beyond the bounds of normal investigation protocol – including value judgments on the program’s hiring of Lane Kiffin as head coach — and seemingly showing bias against the USC football program in meting out near-historic sanctions that crippled the Trojans for years.

Suffice to say, USC was not pleased with how the NCAA’s investigation was conducted as portrayed in the document dump, saying in a statement that “[w]e are extremely disappointed and dismayed at the way the NCAA investigated, judged and penalized our university throughout this process.” In that same statement, the school intimated that further action could be taken — legal action of its own would be the most likely recourse — depending upon further review of documents, both those that have been released and others that may soon, as the school expects, come to light.

In a statement released Friday, the NCAA, which has been accused by the McNair camp of not releasing all pertinent documents, claimed that its Committee on Infractions “acted appropriately” and “engaged in a comprehensive, deliberative process and did not act with malice” in the Bush investigation.  Furthermore, a governing body that saw one COI member compare the Bush investigation to the Oklahoma City bombing had the audacity to write “[i]t is unfortunate that Mr. McNair’s unfounded claims have resulted in an attack on the character and integrity of dedicated individual committee members and the overall infractions process.”

For the entirety of the NCAA’s statement, grab your hip waders and step in it below:

As a result of the Court of Appeals February 6 decision and in order to have a meaningful appeal opportunity, the NCAA filed a collection of documents with the court which demonstrate that the Division I Committee on Infractions acted appropriately when reaching its conclusions in the USC Infractions Report.

These publicly filed documents illustrate how the Committee on Infractions underwent thorough deliberations consistent with the policies and procedures governing the infractions process. The documents, including committee’s e-mail correspondence after the hearing which has received the most attention, further demonstrate that the Committee on Infractions is not a body of single-minded individuals but rather a group of individuals with different perspectives who worked diligently to reach a consensus based on information presented to the committee.

After careful review of the documents, we are confident the Court of Appeals will conclude that the committee engaged in a comprehensive, deliberative process and did not act with malice.

Our volunteer committee members, comprised of highly reputable individuals from member schools, conferences and the public, work extremely hard to uphold the NCAA’s mission and values. It is unfortunate that Mr. McNair’s unfounded claims have resulted in an attack on the character and integrity of dedicated individual committee members and the overall infractions process.

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Likely starter at QB for Vandy chooses medical school over football

Massachusetts v Vanderbilt Getty Images

Somewhat abruptly and unexpectedly, the dynamic of Vanderbilt’s quarterback competition has has undergone a dramatic shift.

Friday, Vandy issued a press release announcing that Patton Robinette has decided to retire from the game of football.  A history of injuries, including a concussion last September, influenced the quarterback’s decision to some degree.

The school stated that Robinette spoke frequently with his parents, close acquaintances, Vanderbilt physicians and athletic trainers, and Commodore coaches before walking away from the sport in a fashion similar to the recent retirements of Chris Borland and Jack Miller.

“This has been a very difficult decision to make,” Robinette said in a statement sent out by the school. “This team means the world to me and I love playing football more than anything. It’s been tough coming to a decision that is right for my family and I, and protects my health and future.

“I’ve been very deliberate in coming to this decision. It’s difficult but I’m really excited to move forward to the next chapter of my life and really to see what the field of medicine has in store for me.”

Exiting the spring game this past Saturday, Robinette was widely viewed as the favorite to land the starting job. Less than a week ago, Robinette was stating that he was “going to have to go out this offseason and camp and compete to maintain my position at the top,” adding, “I am going to work hard and do [just] that.”

Six days later, Robinette will now be preparing for medical school instead of summer camp.

While concern over his health played a role in his decision, a significant one, so did the opportunity to embark on a medical career sooner rather than later.

“People have made a big deal of the concussion thing,” said Robinette during a press conference. “That’s certainly a factor, but more than that I’m looking at moving forward in my medical career and seeing where that takes me.

“Though football is an amazing game and I’ve loved playing the game at Vanderbilt, for myself and my future family, there are more important things than me trying to have one last stand. It was difficult to come to that decision.”

The past two seasons, Robinette started five of the 16 games in which he played.  The pinnacle of Robinette’s playing career very well could’ve come in 2013, with the school writing “[t]o many Commodore fans, Robinette’s greatest contribution came on Nov. 23, 2013 when his 5-yard rushing touchdown proved the winning margin over Tennessee in Knoxville.”

That was the second-straight win for the Commodores over the in-state rival Vols, but just the third in the last 31 years.

With Robinette out of the picture, redshirt sophomore Johnny McCrary will likely enter camp as a slight favorite to win the starting job. Also in the mix will be sophomore Wade Freebeck and redshirt freshman Shawn Stankavage, with incoming freshman and 2015 four-star signee Kyle Shurmur joining the fray this summer.

McCrary and Freebeck were two of the four quarterbacks who started at least one game last year for the ‘Dores.  The other player to start a game under center last year, Stephen Rivers, was granted a release from his Vandy scholarship this past January with the intention of transferring.

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PHOTOS: Buckeyes flash title ring bling on Twitter

National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State Getty Images

To the victor goes the spoils, the old chestnut goes.  As does, in this case, the jewelry.

As you may have heard, Ohio State beat Oregon 42-20 this past January to claim the first-ever College Football Playoff championship.  Armed with new hardware for its trophy case, the Buckeyes kicked off spring practice earlier this month, with those sessions, as far as the general public is concerned, focused mainly on a quarterback competition that will ultimately feature three past/future Heisman Trophy contenders — probably.

In the midst of the ramp-up to the 2015 season, though, one OSU assistant, wide receivers coach Zach Smith, Twitter-modeled the bling he received for this past season’s CFP title…

… while head coach Urban Meyer and tight end Jeff Heuerman modeled there’s in a tweet from the latter’s account:

A tweet from OSU director of player personnel Mark Pantoni stated that the rings displayed by Smith, Meyer and Heuerman were from the CFP committee, adding “wait until you see the National Championship rings our players designed!”  In other words, the Buckeyes will be on the receiving end of a pair of championship rings, one from the CFP and one that they themselves designed.

Additionally, the players, as well as the coaches and other various members of the support staff, will receive Big Ten title rings at some point in the not-too-distant future.

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B1G issues statement on Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ law

Jim Delany AP

As expected, the Big Ten has chimed in on the burgeoning controversy in the state of Indiana.

Thursday, Gov. Mike Pence signed into law a bill that allows for private businesses to refuse service to — or discriminate against, as some would say — members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.  The NCAA quickly issued a statement expressing concern over the new law, intimating that The Association, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, could sever its ties with the state.

Already, there’s a petition posted to change.org by a Wisconsin man demanding that the Big Ten move its conference football championship game out of the state, where it’s been contested since its inception in 2011.  Lucas Oil Stadium is also scheduled to host future B1G title games every year through the 2021 season.

In a statement, however, the conference stated that its presidents and chancellors will review the situation “and its impact” at its next scheduled meeting.  Just when that meeting will take place is unclear.

Here’s the Big Ten’s statement, in its entirety:

The Big Ten Conference and its member institutions believe in promoting an inclusive environment in which athletic competition can operate free from discrimination. The conference is aware of the bill that was recently signed into law in the state of Indiana and will further review its impact at the next scheduled meetings of its administrators, presidents and chancellors.

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Archie Manning cedes CFP post, replaced by Bobby Johnson

Bobby Johnson

Not so unexpectedly, another change has come to the College Football Playoff selection committee.

In a press release Friday, the CFP announced that Archie Manning will not be able to rejoin the committee charged with both picking the four playoff participants and slotting teams in the other “New Years Six” games.  Manning was one of the original 13 members of the committee, but was forced to take a sabbatical related to health issues this past October.

“I was honored when I was chosen to be on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee,” Manning said in a statement. “It’s a great group of people and they did a wonderful job last year. But as I look ahead to the various commitments I have – to my family, numerous time obligations around the country and to other conflicting demands – I have concluded that I won’t be able to return to the committee. I particularly want to watch [NFL quarterback sons] Peyton and Eli play, in person when I can, and it’s hard to do that when weekends are devoted to watching college games. This is not an easy choice, but it’s the right choice for [wife] Olivia and me.

“The College Football Playoff is a big hit and I wish my colleagues the very best.”

Manning’s replacement has already been selected, with Bobby Johnson sliding into the open spot. After spending eight seasons (1994-2001) as the head coach at Furman, the 64-year-old Johnson spent eight seasons (2002-09) in the same position at Vanderbilt before abruptly retiring from coaching in July of 2010.

Johnson, a South Carolina native, played his college football at Clemson in the late sixties and early seventies.  He also spent one season (1993) as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator.

According to the release, Johnson was selected unanimously during a March 25 conference call.

“I have tremendous respect for the selection committee and I am honored to join the group,” said Johnson. “As a former player and coach, I’m particularly happy about the opportunity to continue to serve the game.”

With Johnson onboard, there are now four former FBS head coaches on the committee: Johnson, Tom OsborneBarry Alvarez and Tyrone Willingham.

Johnson is also the second new committee member announced this year.  In mid-December of last year, after the final CFP rankings came out, it was announced that Oliver Luck would be stepping down as West Virginia’s athletic director and taking a job at the NCAA.  Two months later, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt was announced as Luck’s replacement.

This likely won’t be the last shakeup as the terms of current committee members Mike Gould, Pat HadenMike Tranghese and Osborne expire next February.  As far as the other committee members go, the terms of Alvarez and Condoleezza Rice expire in February of 2017, while the terms of Willingham, committee chair Jeff Long, Tom Jernstedt, Dan Radakovich and Steve Wieberg are up a year later.

(Photo credit: Vanderbilt athletics)

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Nick Chubb impresses even the great Herschel Walker

Nick Chubb AP

I’ve made it perfectly clear during my time at CFT that Herschel Walker was the greatest college football player I’ve seen in my lifetime, so the former Georgia running back’s words carry a little more weight in my mind.  And Walker’s words on a current UGA running back?  Positively glowing.

Walker attended practice at his old stomping grounds Thursday, and spoke with the media about very Bulldog talking points.  Well, really, one talking point: Nick Chubb.

And when it comes to Walker on Chubb, well, insert an erection euphemism here.

“One thing I like about him, the game is over, practice is over, and the kid is still out there working out,” the College Football Hall of Famer said. “That’s just the sign of a good athlete. That’s a sign that he’s doing things he needs to get done. …

“This kid came on as a freshman and just think if he had started the whole season, what he would have done. That’s what’s so amazing.”

Walker has a very valid point when it comes to Chubb.

Backing up a healthy Todd Gurley, the true freshman Chubb rushed for a modest 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the first five games of the 2014 season. Gurley’s season was over after that fifth game thanks to a combination of a four-game suspension for NCAA violations and a torn ACL in his first game back, which allowed Chubb to absolutely go off: in the last eight games of the year, Chubb ripped off 1,323 yards and 12 touchdowns. Included in that total was a school-record 266 yards in the Belk Bowl win over Louisville.

Extrapolate that production out over an entire regular season plus a bowl game, and Chubb’s statline would’ve read 2,150 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. The former total would’ve been good enough for second nationally this past season, behind only the 2,587 yards from Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.

As it was, his 1,547 yards rushing were the second-most ever for an UGA freshman, behind only the 1,616 yards put up by, you guessed it, Walker back in 1980.

As impressive as those numbers are, it’s the workload Chubb shouldered that really stands out to Walker, especially in this day and age of passing offenses. In his eight games post-Gurley, Chubb had 25 or more carries four times, with three games topping the 30-carry mark.

“When you see football today, you see a choir playing at running back,” Walker said. “You see about 10 guys running in and out of the game. This guy (Chubb) carried the ball 30 some times. That is absolutely amazing. That shows you the worth that he is. I’m amazed.”

Given the shelf life of running backs these days, I’d be amazed if Chubb continued that workload throughout the entirety of the 2015 season.

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Michigan assistant confirms addition of Stanford transfer DB

UC Davis v Stanford Getty Images

While the school has yet to officially announce his addition, one of Jim Harbaugh‘s assistant let the personnel cat out of the bag when it comes to Wayne Lyons.

Speculation has been running rampant that Lyons, who announced earlier this year he would be returning for another season instead of leaving for the NFL, would be transferring from Stanford to Michigan for his final season of college football.  That speculation ratcheted up a notch or eight when, in early February, word surfaced that Lyons’ mother had taken a job in the UM football department.

Nearly two months later, the assistant who would be Lyons’ position coach confirmed the veteran addition to the Wolverines’ secondary.

“Our (cornerbacks room) has been told that there is going to be three (new) guys coming into the secondary,” Mike Zordich said according to mlive.com. “We’ve got a transfer from Stanford coming in, a true freshman (in Keith Washington) and a (freshman) safety who likes to play corner in Tyree Kinnel.”

Lyons was on campus this past weekend, with Zordich stating that “we spent some time with him and I’ve watched a lot of film on him. … From what I saw with him at Stanford, he did pretty well.”

Based on his time with the Cardinal, Lyons will get the opportunity to come in and compete immediately — he’s a graduate transfer — for significant playing time in UM’s defensive backfield.

Lyons played in all 41 games the past three seasons for Stanford, starting all 13 games in 2013. He shared the starting job in 2014.

Harbaugh had recruited Lyons to Stanford before he left for the San Francisco 49ers in January of 2011, a month before the player signed with the Cardinal.

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Fifth year for Husker WR Jamal Turner approved

Jamal Turner AP

While there was never much real doubt, Nebraska has officially learned that they’ll have a potentially important piece of its receiving corps back in 2015.

On his Twitter account Thursday, Jamal Turner announced that he has been approved for a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Turner received the extra season after missing all but two games during the 2014 season due to an Achilles’ injury.

He had started both of those contests prior to the injury.

As long as Turner can stay healthy, he should be a significant contributor to a Mike Riley offense that’s expected to put a greater emphasis on the passing game than his predecessor’s did.

Staying healthy, though, has proven somewhat elusive for Turner of late. In addition to missing nearly all of the 2014 season, he missed the last five games of the 2013 season because of a leg injury. In the 36 games in which he played the last four seasons, he totaled 64 receptions for 799 yards and four touchdowns.

His most productive season came in 2012. Playing in all 14 games — four starts — Jackson had 32 receptions, 417 yards and three touchdowns.

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Two Oregon reserves to transfer

Oregon v Washington State

Oregon offensive lineman Jamal Prater and wide receiver B.J. Kelley have elected to transfer, as reported by Andrew Greif of The Oregonian on Thursday evening. The Ducks are set to open spring ball on Tuesday.

Playing time seems to be the reason for both players seeking new opportunities elsewhere.

Prater saw action in nine career games, while Kelley caught six passes and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2011 and saw his playing time decrease from there.

“A lot of times I could have had an opportunity and I felt like I just didn’t get it,” Kelley told the paper. “I don’t regret being here at Oregon. There will never be another opportunity from what I’ve experienced. They can never take that back.”

The defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions have also lost offensive lineman Andre Yruretagoyena, wide receiver Chance Allen, defensive backs Stephen Amoako and Isaac Dixon and defensive lineman Sam Kamp to transfer since the end of last season.

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Want your SEC spring game schedule? Here’s your SEC spring game schedule

Jeremy Johnson

ESPN announced the 2015 SEC spring game schedule on Thursday. You are aware of the business relationship between the SEC and ESPN, aren’t you? Anyway, all 11 remainingSEC spring games (Kentucky and Texas A&M will not hold spring games, Vanderbilt’s was on Saturday) will be shown on SEC Network properties but, interestingly enough, none of them will actually be on SEC Network properties.

Instead, SEC Network+ – the digital home of SECN, basically the network’s version of ESPN3 – will show most games while SEC Network Alternate – the network’s overflow channel – will provide whip around coverage. All games will be shown on replay on SEC Network throughout the following week.

Here’s the schedule:

April 11
SEC Spring Whip Around (noon-4 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate
South Carolina (noon ET) – SEC Network+
Florida (12:30 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Ole Miss (1 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Georgia (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+

April 18
Mississippi State (noon ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+
SEC Spring Whip Around (2-5 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate
Auburn (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
LSU (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Alabama (3 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Missouri (5 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+

April 25
Arkansas (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+
Tennessee (4 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+

Ironically, the creation of the SEC’s own conference-specific network has actually decreased the coverage of SEC spring games. In the past Alabama, Auburn, Florida and a few others regularly had their spring games shown on ESPN The Mothership or ESPNU. Now they’ll all be on the digital step-brother of a niche network.

Whatever. I’m sure the paychecks will help the SEC get over it.

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