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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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Report: Texas A&M reached out to LSU DC John Chavis

LSU v Washington

Texas A&M is currently without a defensive coordinator, a fact that may have cost the Aggies the nation’s top linebacker prospect and a five-star defensive tackle. Head coach Kevin Sumlin fired Mark Snyder on Nov. 28, and with a holiday week upon us and the Aggies’ Liberty Bowl date approaching, it now appears likely the one month mark will pass before Snyder’s replacement is hired.

That’s not to say Sumlin has sat on his hands, though.

Sumlin chased LeBron-in-a-headset free agent Will Muschamp, and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and Florida’s D.J. Durkin were also reportedly on the Aggie wish list as well.

On Sunday night, a report emerged out of Baton Rouge through The Advocate that Texas A&M has reached out to LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis.

Chavis has coordinated the Bayou Bengals’ defense for the past six seasons and is regarded as one of the very best in the business. Since his arrival in 2009, LSU has ranked 15th, 22nd, second, seventh, 27th and 18th nationally in yards per play allowed. Before arriving in Baton Rouge, Chavis served as defensive coordinator under Philip Fulmer at Tennessee from 1995-08.

Most importantly for Sumlin, Chavis’ defenses have completely flummoxed Texas A&M’s offenses in their three meetings since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012. LSU has won each of the three games while holding the Texas A&M to less than 20 points and more than 100 yards below their season average. Nabbing Chavis would be a major coup for Sumlin, bringing instant credibility to a defense that last in the SEC in total defense this season while simultaneously weakening a division rival.

Of course, they’d have to get him first. Chavis earns the third-highest salary of all college football assistants at just north of $1.3 million according to USA Today. (Snyder earned $708,000.) His contract expires after this season, and LSU has offered him a extension that Chavis has yet to sign, according to The Advocate.

However, when you’re blowing up half your stadium as part of a near half-billion dollar renovation project, in the long run busting the budget by a few hundred thousand dollars for an elite defensive coordinator is much less costly than putting a mediocre product on the field.

Texas A&M concludes its season in the Liberty Bowl against West Virginia on Dec. 29 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN), while LSU wraps up against Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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Ole Miss QB signee Chad Kelly arrested after scuffle with police

Chad Kelly

Chad Kelly was dismissed at Clemson this April for what Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney deemed “conduct detrimental to our program” but, after a season spent leading East Mississippi Community College to a national title, reclaimed his major college football destiny by signing with Ole Miss earlier this month.

For now.

Back home in his native Buffalo, Kelly was arrested early Sunday morning after fighting with bouncers at a local watering hole and later scuffling with police, reports the Buffalo News. According to Buffalo police, Kelly refused to leave an establishment known as Encore and punched a bouncer in the face. He then took on two bouncers and, according to the police report, said, “I’m going to go to my car and get my AK-47 and spray this place.”

Police officers later stopped a 2005 Ford F-150 pickup, where Kelly was a passenger.

“Kelly was forcibly removed from the vehicle, officers said,” writes the Buffalo News. “Police said Kelly kicked and tried to swing at officers as they removed him from the vehicle. They said he resisted getting into a patrol vehicle and struggled with staff at central booking.”

Kelly has been charged with third-degree assault, second-degree harassment, second-degree menacing, resisting arrest, fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree obstructing governmental administration and, along with a friend involved in the melee, third-degree criminal trespass. All charges are misdemeanors or violations, and Kelly has been released without bail.

“It remains to be seen who was the aggressor and thankfully it was a scuffle where no one was hurt,” Kelly’s attorney Thomas J. Eoannou said.

Kelly is the nephew of former Buffalo Bills great and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. He was named the New York State Sportswriters Association Class AA Player of the Year in 2011 and was regarded as the nation’s top junior college quarterback after throwing for 3,905 yards and 47 touchdowns this fall.

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Mark Richt raids Nick Saban’s staff for strength coach

Mark Richt

They say the strength coach is the most important hire a head coach will make. Between the end of spring ball and the beginning of fall camp, the strength coach is the main point of contact players have with their football program on a daily basis. With longtime strength coach Joe Tereshinski stepping down late last month, Mark Richt has raided Nick Saban‘s strength staff at Alabama to fill his all-important head strength coach role, as Georgia announced the hiring of Mark Hocke on Sunday evening.

“Mark received some outstanding recommendations from those in the industry and is known for his high energy, ability to motivate and relate to his athletes, as well as develop them mentally, physically, spiritually and socially,” Richt said in a statement.

Hocke served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach since 2009. At Georgia, he’ll join a growing roster of Bulldog coaches with Crimson ties (get it?), including defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (a former Alabama assistant), linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer (formerly Alabama’s director of player development) and offensive line coach Will Friend (a former Alabama player).

Hocke replaces Tereshinksi, the Bulldogs’ head strength coach since 2011 and a member of the Georgia program since 1982.

Prior to his arrival in Tuscaloosa, Hocke worked as an assistant coach and the head strength and conditioning coach at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.

Hocke will join the program in Charlotte before its date with No. 20 Louisville in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30. “This will allow him to be better prepared as we begin our training program in January,” Richt said.

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Gus Malzahn, new Auburn DC Will Muschamp haven’t discussed staff changes yet

In addition to the reported $1.6 million salary, one of the things that drew Will Muschamp to Auburn’s open defensive coordinator slot was the freedom granted by head coach Will Muschamp to select his own staff to work under him.

And while staff changes are likely coming for a defense that ranked 74th in yards per play allowed and 61st in scoring, they won’t happen before the Outback Bowl.

“We have not talked about it,” Malzahn told AL.com. “We’re just trying to give these guys the best plan to win the bowl game. We’ll talk about that at a later date.”

It has been widely speculated within the industry that Muschamp would like to bring Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson with him to The Plains, but a spot is not open for him at this time. Safeties coach Charlie Harbison is set to serve as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator in the Outback Bowl. And it’s possible that a few Gators assistants could look to follow their former boss to Auburn after new Florida head coach plucked Geoff Collins away from Mississippi State to coordinate his defense.

In the meantime, though, rival recruiters are pouncing as the Auburn defensive staff remains in flux. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College safety Tony Bridges chose Ole Miss over Auburn in part because of the uncertainty around the Tigers’ staff.

“(Muschamp) looked at tape of me and said ‘I really need you,’ this and that. I have love for them because they showed me love, so I can’t say nothing bad about them,” Bridges told the Sun Herald before inking with the Rebels on Wednesday. “That being said, it was too late. I didn’t know which way the defensive coaches, like (cornerbacks coach) Melvin Smith, was he going to be there or not?”

No. 19 Auburn will meet No. 18 Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl at noon ET on New Year’s Day (ESPN2).

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Report: Jim Harbaugh not the only NFL coach Michigan is chasing

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints

With the NFL’s own coaching carousel ready to start spinning in the next seven-to-10 days, we’re beginning to find out which college coaches that have caught the NFL’s eye and, apparently, the other way around. Michigan’s interest in San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is widely known, but he’s apparently not the only NFL coach that the Wolverines have an interest in.

According to a report from CBS NFL reporter Jason La Canfora, Michigan is aware that the former Wolverines quarterback is likely to remain in the NFL for the 2015 season, so interim AD Jim Hackett and company have shown interest in John HarbaughSean PaytonJason Garrett and Doug Marrone.

Of course, just because Michigan is interested in those coaches doesn’t mean those coaches are interested in Michigan.

Harbaugh has expressed no desire in leaving Baltimore, Payton already reportedly earns more than the $8 million the Wolverines are dangling in front of Jim Harbaugh, and Garrett is expected to sign an extension with the Dallas Cowboys after the season.

So it’s clear why those coaches wouldn’t be interested in Michigan, but it’s unclear why Michigan would even be interested in them. None have any recent experience coaching the college game. The only coach in that group that does have college experience is Buffalo’s Marrone, who went 25-25 in four seasons at Syracuse.

A .500 mark at Syracuse isn’t typically a stepping stone to Michigan, even if there is an NFL stop in between.

With Harbaugh reportedly using Michigan’s interest for leverage against other NFL suitors, it appears likely at this point that the Wolverines will find their next coach within the college ranks.

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Jameis Winston cleared in FSU Code of Conduct hearing

Jameis Winston; David Cornwell

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has been cleared of wrongdoing in his Code of Conduct hearing with the university, his attorney David Cornwell tweeted Sunday.

“In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for ANY of the charged violations of the Code,” he wrote.

The hearing was held Dec. 3, and a decision was not expected until next month.

Former Florida state supreme court justice Major Harding presided over the case.

“This was a complex case, and I worked hard to make sure both parties had a full and fair opportunity to present information. In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for any of the charge violations of the Code. Namely, I find that the evidence before me is insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof,” Harding wrote in a letter obtained by USA Today.

“As summarized in the preceding paragraphs, the evidence regarding the events that unfolded between you and (the woman) once in your room is irreconcilable. In light of all the circumstances, I do not find the credibility of one story substantially stronger than that of the other. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses. I cannot find with any confidence that the events as set forth by you, (the woman), or a particular combination thereof is more probable than not as required to find you responsible for a violation of the Code.”

While the alleged 2012 sexual assault will likely follow Winston through the civil courts and the NFL Draft process, it will not bar him from completing this season – and likely his college career.

Florida State’s Code of Conduct says that his accuser can pursue an appeal, but it would not be heard before the Jan. 12 College Football Playoff Championship. Moreover, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner is widely expected to declare for the NFL Draft by the Jan. 15 deadline.

Winston and the ‘Noles will meet Oregon in the CFP semifinals at the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

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How many FBS programs are still looking for their first bowl win?

A chance at history was missed on Saturday. Western Michigan and South Alabama had respective shots at winning their first bowl games in program history, but each fell short. Western Michigan saw a comeback effort squandered by a catastrophic scoop ‘n’ score in a 38-24 loss to Air Force in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and South Alabama blew a late lead in its first ever bowl appearance, falling to Bowling Green 33-28 in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.

The losses meant the Broncos remained on and the Jaguars joined the ignominious list of eight FBS programs that are 0-fer in their only bowl trips. Warning, this list is #MACtion heavy (via Winsipedia.com):

Akron – 0-1
Ball State – 0-7
Buffalo – 0-2
Kent State – 0-2
Louisiana-Monroe – 0-1
South Alabama – 0-1
Western Kentucky – 0-1
Western Michigan – 0-6

If you want to look at the bright side, those programs are fortunate. Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Texas State and UTSA have never enjoyed the fortune of even appearing in a bowl game, and poor UAB was axed with an 0-1 bowl record.

Western Kentucky has a chance to get off this list on Wednesday as the Hilltoppers will face Central Michigan (3-4 all-time in bowl games) in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (12 p.m. ET, ESPN).

 

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Boise State running back Jay Ajayi declares for NFL Draft

Jay Ajayi

Boise State running back Jay Ajayi will play his final game as a Bronco in the upcoming Fiesta Bowl against Arizona. Ajayi announced Sunday he will enter himself into the 2015 NFL Draft, passing on his final year of eligibility at Boise State.

Ajayi informed his teammates while in the huddle for the final rep in practice on Sunday. He reportedly made his decision to enter the NFL Draft without hearing from the NFL advisory group in place to assist with the decision-making for underclassmen thinking about leaving for the NFL Draft.

Ajayi was the second-leading rusher in the Mountain West Conference in 2014 with 1,689 rushing yards, but he was the conference’s leader with 25 rushing touchdowns. His 25 rushing touchdowns are second in the nation only to Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.

The NFL Draft has not been particularly kind to running backs in recent seasons. Last year there was not a single running back chosen in the first round of the draft. There was also a record number of underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft, which left many without a football home in 2014. Ajayi will be likely to be drafted somewhere between the second and fifth round of the draft, although exactly when he may go is difficult to predict.

Boise State has had six running backs drafted in NFL Draft history. Doug Martin to the Tampa Bay Bucaneers in 2012 is the most recent Broncos running back to be picked.

Boise State will face Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl on December 31.

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Oklahoma State AD wants to schedule Oregon and UNC

Mike Holder

Oklahoma State athletics director Mike Holder took note of the way the College Football Playoff selection committee seemed to punish Big 12 champion Baylor for its non-conference scheduling this fall. He wants to make sure that does not affect his Cowboys program in the future, and he is already talking about the possibility of scheduling future games with Oregon.

“I’ve never seen a game in Autzen (Stadium),” Holder said in an interview with The Oklahoman. “I’d love to see that. There’s a lot of those opportunities out there. Need to see some places that are different, rather than Austin, or Norman, or Manhattan, Kansas.”

Holder’s overall point is the entire Big 12 has to schedule tougher non-conference competition. More importantly, the Big 12 needs to win games against other power conference opponents on the schedule. This year the Big 12 failed to score a signature victory. the biggest win in non-conference play may have been TCU’s victory at home against Minnesota. While it may be tough for Holder to ensure Oklahoma State (who opened the season against Florida State) to improve on the non-conference slate in 2015, he knows it will be important for the Big 12 to step things up as a whole in the future.

Holder and his head coach, Mike Gundy, do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to non-conference scheduling.

“My football coach doesn’t want to play anybody any good, definitely, but jiminy Christmas, we looked pretty good against Florida State,” Holder said. “Until we beat OU, that was the highlight of our season.”

It seems everybody would love to take a crack at Oregon, but Holder has a wider scope as well.

“I’d really love to play North Carolina home and home,” Holder mentioned. “Find somebody from the Big Ten or Pac-12 to play us. Maybe even the SEC.”

The Big 12 plays nine conference games and does not currently require its members to schedule another power conference opponent the way the ACC and SEC will be regulating. The lack of a conference championship game may hurt a Big 12 champion in the playoff picture, as seemed to be the case this season, but it is far too early to suggest it is a make-or-break factor. One thing that is somewhat clear is the strength of a team’s non-conference schedule is a factor.

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UCLA’s Mora and Auburn’s Malzahn potential NFL targets?

Jim Mora

The college football world may be on Jim Harbaugh watch to see what happens with his coaching future (NFL or Michigan?), but two other college coaches could be ready to receive some NFL overtures as well.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora and Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn are two names of interest according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapoport suggests the San Francisco 49ers would be a team expected to have an interest in Mora, where he would replace Harbaugh. The 49ers have a knack for plucking coaches from the Pac-12, so perhaps that makes sense. Mora also has NFL coaching experience with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. Mora’s time in the NFL did not end well, but sometimes a return can ay off. Just ask current Seattle head coach Pete Carroll.

Malzahn would be a potential target for the Miami Dolphins, per Rapoport, if the team makes a coaching change. Malzahn has no NFL coaching experience, which can be of some mild concern. But if offensive innovation is the key to winning in the NFL, then perhaps Malzahn would be a good fit if he was interested.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports the 49ers could be expected to let Harbaugh go between 24 and 48 hours following the conclusion of the NFL’s regular season. So the wait may drag on for Michigan fans. If Michigan does not lure Harbaugh to Ann arbor, the coaching carousel in the college ranks could get into fifth gear one last time. Pittsburgh and Colorado State still have to find a head coach too.

Stanford head coach David Shaw will reportedly turn down any NFL offers that may come his way.

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Report: Stanford’s David Shaw will not entertain potential NFL offers

David Shaw

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has remained mostly silent on his potential coaching future despite reports saying his alma mater, Michigan, have gone all in on luring him to Ann Arbor. No matter what happens in the coaching carousel in the NFL, Harbaugh’s successor at Stanford plans on staying put at Stanford.

David Shaw will not listen to any potential NFL coaching offers that may come his way, according to a report by Adam Schefter of ESPN. Schefter says Shaw is committed to coaching in college despite having many tendencies that appear attractive to NFL franchises in need of a new head coach. Shaw is every bit a Stanford guy at this stage in his career, and his desire to stay put has been put on display in recent seasons since taking over for Harbaugh as head coach of the Cardinal.

We should never say “never” when it comes to coaching possibilities, although Shaw’s history with Stanford would suggest he really is loyal to the program. Born in San Diego, Shaw grew up in Michigan before his family moved back to California. Shaw went on to play wide receiver for Dennis Green and Bill Walsh at Stanford. After a few different coaching stops in his coaching career, Shaw returned to Stanford as an assistant coach and later was named the head coach of the program after Harbaugh accepted a job offer from the San Francisco 49ers in 2011.

Michigan would be wise to give a call to Shaw in the event Harbaugh leaves the Wolverines hanging, if they have not already, although Shaw seems very comfortable right where he is with the Cardinal.

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Jimbo Fisher once again asked about Jameis Winston’s NFL future

Jimbo Fisher, Jimbo Fisher

With Florida State’s College Football Playoff semifinal match-up with Oregon looming, Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher continues to be faced with questions regarding the playing status of his star quarterback, Jameis Winston. A ruling in Winston’s recent code of conduct hearing is expected before Florida State faces Oregon in the Rose Bowl on January 1, but at this point it appears very likely Winston will be available and eligible to play. even if the ruling from the university serves a punishment to Winston that would prevent him from playing, Winston would be entitled to appeal the decision and remain eligible until the appeal process plays out. The process, if enacted, could take another two to three months.

Bottom line, expect Winston to play against Oregon.

With that said, Fisher is also hounded by questions regarding Winston’s future. Will Winston head to the NFL or return to Florida State for the 2015 season? Depending on whom you ask, Winston is better off in the NFL or another year in Tallahassee. There is no real clear answer to what is best for Winston. Fisher suggests there is much more to the decision to turn pro that needs to be evaluated. Is it an easy decision? Not likely.

“Yeah, was it for Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck? See, everybody assumes you go, but Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning stayed,” Fisher said, according to The Orlando Sentinel. “It’s not just being a top-two pick. It’s about what you want out of life, to me. Is it to get to the NFL and be a top pick or be at the Hall of Fame, or to be a college graduate.”

There have multiple reports in the past suggesting Winston has the intention to return to Florida State to complete his degree before turning pro.

“We all assume that money drives everything, and it’s a very important factor, but at the same time, other people have a lot of value and things that we may not always see that they can do it.”

So, what does Winston value? That’s the big question that only Winston can truly answer.

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Johnny Majors, who once left Pitt for Vols, says Pitt is still a destination job

Johnny Majors

The University of Pittsburgh is in the midst of its fourth head coach search in five years, leaving the question of whether or not Pitt is still home to a destination job in college football to be answered. At least one coaching legend believes it is; Johnny Majors.

“It’s definitely a destination job, and I think it’s a job you can win the championship at, without question,” Majors while being interviewed by MLive.com. “If you have a strong, supportive, loyal president that wants to win at football as well as academics, and a strong A.D. that’s loyal and will support you, you can win championships at a place like Pitt.”

Majors, of course, coached at Pittsburgh two separate times. The first stint came from 1973 through 1976. His second tour of Pittsburgh came two decades later from 1993 through 1996. Majors won a national championship at Pittsburgh in 1976 (Pitt’s last claimed national title), after which he left the program to go closer to home to coach at Tennessee. So you can understand why his comments about Pitt being a destination job may come off a tad ironic.

Majors is not off-target with that last part of the comment though. Any job has the ability to be a long-standing destination job with the proper and supportive leadership in place on multiple levels. Right now Pittsburgh is looking for a permanent athletics director in addition to a head football coach, so there is undoubtedly some stability issues for the program to address. The same holds true at Michigan, with the Wolverines looking for a new AD and reportedly going all in on San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh .

In a way, every coaching job can be a destination job for the right candidate, and Pittsburgh is no different. Simply being in a power conference does not make any job a destination job for most, but it can be the right job for the right guy if the pair can be matched up.

Pittsburgh is looking to replace Paul Chryst, who accepted a head coaching offer from Wisconsin. Whoever becomes Pittsburgh’s next head coach will be the third coach hired to be head coach since the school parted ways with Dave Wannstedt, not including two interim head coaches.

What do you think? Is Pitt a destination job or not?

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Texas A&M brings down west end of Kyle Field

LSU v Texas A&M

Texas A&M took the next step in a massive renovation project on Kyle Field. The entire project is aimed to improve the facilities at Kyle Field and expand seating beyond 100,000 fans. The $450 million project is a two-year process and is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2015 season after getting started last year. Work began immediately following the conclusion of Texas A&M’s 2013 home schedule.

Today called for the tearing down of the west end of the football stadium, which took place this morning.

Texas A&M tore down part of the east side last year as the renovation project got underway. Texas A&M has already installed a new video scoreboard, the largest in college football. The school also approved a $16 million budget to improve other football facilities including locker rooms and training rooms.

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Colorado State University-Pueblo wins first D2 national title

Jarrod Lacey

Saturday may not have been a great day for Colorado State, but another Colorado program achieved the ultimate glory on the field. Colorado State University-Pueblo shutout offensive juggernaut Minnesota State to win the Division 2 national championship. The ThunderWolves scored a 13-0 victory in Kansas City to win the first national championship in program history.

Colorado State-Pueblo scored 10 points in the second quarter, which proved to be more than enough with the way the defense played. Chris Bonner completed a touchdown pass of 18 yards to Paul Browning in the final minute of the first half to put the ThunderWolves up 10-0. Kicker Greg O’Donnell kicked two field goals. The story was the defense though, with Colorado State-Pueblo holding Minnesota State to just four third down conversions out of 16. Defensive end Darius Allen was all over the field to lead the defense. He ended the season with 15.5 sacks

The last time the Division 2 national championship was a shutout was in 1997 when Northern Colorado blew away New Haven, 51-0. Perhaps it is something in the water in Colorado. This was the first time since 1997 played for the Division 2 title. This was also the first appearance in the championship game for Minnesota State. The game was the lowest scoring Division 2 championship game since Brian Kelly‘s Grand Valley State team defeated North Dakota 10-3 in the 2003 championship game. The CSU-Pueblo program was relaunched in 2008 after a period of inactivity from 1985 through 2007. It did not take long to rebuild the program from scratch into a national title program.

Will Colorado State-Pueblo head coach John Wristen be the next coach to make a move up in competition? Wristen is now 68-16 in seven years as head coach with four straight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships and playoff appearances. Now with a national championship on his résumé, perhaps Wristen will begin to gain some traction in some coaching carousel news.

Remember that another Division 2 coach from Colorado just got a new opportunity. Colorado School of Mines head coach Bob Stitt was recently named the head coach at Montana. Maybe the state of Colorado is becoming the next fertile ground for rising coaches.

As for that other Colorado State? The Rams went down in flames against Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl.

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