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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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Four football players earn Big 12’s highest academic honor

Fifty-seven athletes were honored with the Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award on Tuesday, the conference’s highest honor for work in the classroom. Of those 57, four were football players.

Now in its fifth year, the award was named in honor of Dr. Gerald Lage, who served as Oklahoma State’s faculty athletic representative to the NCAA and Big 8/Big 12 from 1983 until his death in 2007.

From the conference release: “In order to be eligible for the accolade, student-athletes must have lettered at least once in their career while maintaining residence at their institution for at least one academic year. The honoree, which can only be recognized once, should have 100 hours of earned credit with a cumulative grade-point average of 3.80 at the time of the nomination.”

And the gridiron winners are….

Jared Weaver, Iowa State – Aerospace Engineering
Stanton Weber, Kansas State – Accounting
Ty Darlington, Oklahoma – A&S Planned Program
Ryan Lester, Oklahoma State – University Studies

A senior in 2014, Weaver saw action in eight games but did not record any statistics. Weber played in all 13 games at wide receiver and caught one pass for 21 yards while also recording eight tackles on special teams.

The only returning member of the group, Darlington started all 13 games at center and was named a Capital One All-Academic First Team member. Lester did not record any statistics at linebacker for the Cowboys.

The group will be honored at the Big 12 basketball tournament next week in Kansas City.

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Ole Miss QB hopeful Chad Kelly to join Hugh Freeze on Haiti trip

Chad Kelly, Dabo Swinney

Ole Miss opened spring practice on Tuesday looking to find a replacement for two-year starter Bo Wallace at quarterback. Among the three signal callers vying for the job is Chad Kelly, a Clemson transfer by way of East Mississippi Community College with a – to put it lightly – a checkered past.

Kelly’s temper is the only reason he’s at Ole Miss in the first place, and that trait nearly cost him his scholarship before he even arrived in Oxford. Arrested in December after a standard-issue bar fight morphed into a scuffle with police, head coach Hugh Freeze hasn’t taken action on his new quarterback.

But Freeze revealed Tuesday he’s bringing Kelly along for the now-annual Ole Miss football Haiti trip, which departs later this month. A group of 30 people with ties to the Rebels program work to provide access to fresh water in the third-world Caribbean nation, and Freeze has used it as a mentoring opportunity of sorts. Former linebacker Serderius Bryant joined the excursion last year under similar circumstances.

“The responsibility that comes with that position, it never stops. It’s 24 hours a day,” Freeze told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “He knows that. I share with him every single day insight that I see and how he can improve himself in that regard. … I look forward to spending time with him there (in Haiti later this month), in an environment that challenges leadership skills and even helps develop them.”

Hey Coach, whose idea was this?

Ok, then.

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Jim Harbaugh, U-M staffer aid crash victims in Ann Arbor

Jim Harbaugh

When he’s not sitting in the audience of a “Judge Judy” taping, Jim Harbaugh just can’t help but keep making news.

According to Michigan State Police, a 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee hit the median on Interstate 94, slid up a snow embankment and landed on the eastbound side of the highway on Tuesday afternoon. Waiting for emergency crews to respond, the 53-year-old driver and her 73-year-old passenger were aided by none other than the new head football coach at the University of Michigan and his director of operations Jim Minick.

Wolverines spokesman Dave Ablauf told MLive.com that the pair administered first aids and provided coats to the two women until the professionals arrived.

The highway was closed for more than an hour to care for the victims and clear the debris. The victims were transported to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.

Harbaugh, presumably, went back to the office to catch the 4 p.m. taping of “Judge Judy.”

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Report: Former FSU, WVU QB Clint Trickett lands JuCo coaching job

Clint Trickett

It was only a matter of time.

After concussions forced an early retirement from football, former Florida State and West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett has reportedly joined the family business. According to FoxSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman, Trickett will be the quarterbacks coach at East Mississippi Community College.

Clint’s father, Rick, is a longtime offensive line coach at West Virginia, Auburn and Florida State (where he currently coaches), and his older brother Travis is the co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at FCS Samford.

The elder Trickett told the Tallahassee Democrat in December that Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia about joining their respective support staffs. “More than the rest of them he’s always had a ball in his hands. From Day 1,” Rick said. “And he wants to coach quarterbacks. I think he’ll be good at that. With his mindset and temperament. And his experiences. … I think he’ll be a really good coach.”

In 19 career games, Trickett completed 404-of-652 passes for 4,890 yards with 25 touchdowns against 17 interceptions.

Trickett joins arguably the most successful JuCo program in the country. The Lions posted a 12-0 record in 2014, toppling Iowa Western Community College in the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship. EMCC has won three NJCAA championships in four years.

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SEC sets schedule for 2015 media days

Gus Malzahn

It’s March 3, but the 2015 college football season is (sort of) just around the corner.

The SEC, always the first out of the box with these things, announced its 2015 media days slate on Tuesday. The festival of football and frivolity begins July 13 (I swear it’ll be before July 4th by 2020) and ends July 16. That’s nearly two full months before the first games.

Most of the procedures are the same – Birmingham’s Wynfrey Hotel, SEC Network and ESPNU with 870 hours of live coverage – but the person unofficially kicking off the season will not be.

Monday, July 13
To-be-determined SEC commissioner
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Jim McElwain, Florida
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

Tuesday, July 14
Steve Shaw, coordinator of officials
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Butch Jones, Tennessee

Wednesday, July 15
Nick Saban, Alabama
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Gary Pinkel, Missouri

Thursday, July 16
Les Miles, LSU
Mark Richt, Georgia
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

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Report: Auburn LB Swain and punter leave program

BCS National Championship - Florida State v Auburn

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has yet to confirm the news, but multiple outlets are reporting he will be missing a couple of players for good. Linebacker Anthony Swain and punter Jimmy Hutchinson have reportedly left the team.

“I’m going to update our spring roster next Tuesday, so I’m going to wait until then and I’ll give you all the updates — not just with him, but with other people, too,” Malzahn said in a report by Al.com.

Both Swain and Hutchinson played mostly reserve roles on the Auburn roster. Swain put together 18 tackles and a sack during the 2014 season. Hutchinson was passed over for punting duties in favor of Daniel Carlson. His 22-yard punt against Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl in January seems to be the last we will see of Hutchinson in an Auburn uniform. Why either player is leaving the program is unknown, or at least unconfirmed, at this time.

Swain had previously been in Malzahn’s doghouse for an undisclosed reason in the spring of 2014. He would eventually be reinstated by Malzahn after missing some spring practices.

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Idaho’s bowl ban has been lifted

Paul Petrino, Taylor Davis

The Idaho Vandals will be allowed to go to a postseason bowl game in the 2015 season, if they manage to reach the six-win minimum. The school released a statement confirming the football program has met the NCAA’s academic minimum in order to be eligible for postseason play. Idaho was banned from playing in the postseason last year for not meeting an academic progress report minimum as a program.

Idaho claims the football program’s latest APR score has been in the 950s and is projected to be in the 960s this year. The minimum APR score to participate in the postseason is 930 over a four-year period or 940 over a two-year period. Perhaps more costly to Idaho was the loss of practice time last season. The program was stripped of four hours of practice on a weekly basis as a result of the low APR scores. With the ban lifted, Idaho will also get back its ability to use a full practice schedule.

“We never make excuses, but that hurt. That’s big,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said.

Now Idaho just has to find a way to get to six wins in the fall in order to go to a bowl game. The program has not won more than one game in a season since 2011 and has not reached the six-win mark since 2010. Conference realignment has taken a toll on Idaho as well, stripping it of WAC membership as the conference crumbled and leaving the program to float as an independent before landing in the not so geographically friendly Sun Belt Conference. Now at least there is something to shoot for with the chance to play in a bowl game sitting there waiting to be taken by Idaho.

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Tressel says recruiting is key to keeping Michigan and Harbaugh in OSU’s rearview mirror

Michigan v Ohio State

Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel knows a thing or two about the rivalry between the Buckeyes and Michigan, and he knows just how valuable having an edge in the series can be to a coach. With Jim Harbaugh taking over at Michigan this year the expectations are high for the Wolverines to start clawing back in the Big Ten, and perhaps lead Michigan to a more level playing field against their rivals across the state line.

“I think Jim Harbaugh will bring something to the Ohio State-Michigan storied rivalry,” Tressel said at a Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club event, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. “He’s been successful wherever he’s been. He’s extremely hard-working. He has great pride in his alma mater.”

While the future may be bright for Michigan with Harbaugh leading the way, Tressel says Michigan should not be expected to catch up to Ohio State right away.

“Personally, I think they’re a ways away from being at the level where there’s going to be a Ten Year War. I think they’ve got some work to do to get to that. But if anyone can do it, Jim Harbaugh can. He’ll do a great job.”

Tressel also said the key to Ohio State maintaining an edge over the Wolverines (and anybody else in the Big Ten for that matter) is to lock down the top high school talent from within the state borders. Ohio is a state rich with football talent, and Ohio State tends to have the upper hand in those recruiting battles. That was the case when Tressel was head coach of the Buckeyes, and is the area Tressel thinks Ohio State needs to focus on to keep Michigan in the rearview mirror.

“How far behind (is Michigan)? It (depends) on how long that door stays closed,” Tressel said. “That’s the key. [Urban Meyer] will do a great job, they know how to win, they’ve got a great staff. But you’ve still got to keep it closed.”

Can Meyer lock the doors to Ohio’s recruits, or will Harbaugh have a key?

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Jim McElwain wants to turn Georgia into Gator Country

University of Florida Introduces Jim McElwain

You just have to love when a new coach takes over at a program and starts to try redrawing the recruiting borders. Of course, there are no boundaries when it comes to college football recruiting, but once a program crosses state lines things can get pretty tense, especially between rival schools.

As you might suspect, Florida head coach Jim McElwain is looking to win some more recruiting battles in the state of Georgia, and he and his staff have the connections to do just that. Florida added five players from the state of Georgia in the Class of 2015. Given how fertile the recruiting soil is in the state of Georgia, it only makes sense for Florida to try to tap the state whenever possible to add to the haul in can bring in from the sunshine state. In recruiting, it is all about having the connections in place.

“I think (it was due to a) couple of things,” McElwain told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. “There were pre-existing relationships with some guys on our staff who recruited that area in the past. That obviously helps.”

McElwain is focused on setting up shop around Gainesville, and the net is fairly wide. Is it wide enough to turn Georgia into Florida territory? McElwain hopes that is the case.

“But for us, our thought is a five-hour radius of Gainesville,” McElwain said. “And with that being said, that (radius) goes up into Georgia, and that will be something that we’ll try to continue to make Gator Country.”

That should add some spice to the rivalry between Georgia and Florida.

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Seven cities ready to bid for future College Football Playoff championship, seven more interested

College Football Playoff Announces The College Football Playoff Selection Committee - News Conference

Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville, South Florida, Minneapolis, San Antonio and Santa Clara are among the cities expressing a desire to host a future College Football Playoff national championship game, but they may not be alone. According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Arlington, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Orlando and Pasadena are other cities currently undecided but evaluating whether or not to place a formal bid. New Jersey has also expressed an interest.

The current games that are available for host bids are the 2018, 2019 and 2020 national championship games. Rather than designate the hosting duties to one specific host bowl game, as was the case under the BCS system, cities place bids for the title game similar to NFL Super Bowl bids. Cities have until late May to submit a bid proposal to the College Football Playoff. The cities winning the bid for one of the three championship games will be announced in October.

Cities can bid for a specific year’s championship game. South Florida reportedly will place a bid for the 2018 and 2020 games. The Orange Bowl in Miami is the host bowl for one of the College Football Playoff semifinal games in 2019. Minneapolis intends to apply for the 2019 and 2020 national championship games.

Last season’s national championship game was played in Arlington, Texas. This season’s championship game will be played in Glendale, Arizona. The 2017 championship game will move to Tampa, Florida.

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Toddler’s text among Ohio State’s 47 self-reported violations

Cute kid playing with cell phone

Many schools self-report numerous minor infractions to the NCAA on a regular basis. Ohio State has reported a total of 47 rules violations to the NCAA over the last year, and one of them may show just why parental controls on cell phones is a good idea.

Among the 47 violations reported by Ohio State to the NCAA is a text message to a recruit sent from the phone of wide receivers coach Zach Smith. But Smith says it was not he who sent the text, but his four-year old son. As the claim goes, Smith’s son picked up his phone when a recruit allegedly called the receivers coach. Upon picking up the phone, Smith’s son allegedly sent an automatic text reply.

Fortunately, the NCAA actually showed a good sense of humor about the whole incident and decided not to bother reviewing the case. But perhaps this should serve as a lesson about the importance of locking your phone and enabling any child-proof features on a phone for college football coaches.

The violations reported by Ohio State span all sports. According to The Lantern, just two are tied to the football program. In addition to the toddler text message, Ohio State reported a violation of impermissible on-campus contact in late September. Head coach Urban Meyer reportedly had contact with a junior college athlete on campus.

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Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska could gain advantage with Big Ten stipends

businessman with a burlap money bag

A new age in collegiate athletics is upon us with power conferences making a power play to provide more for student-athletes. That means power conference members handing out stipends to college athletes on top of a full scholarship to take care of other financial needs and obligations. How much each school will be able to provide to players will vary by school, and it is believed the divide within power conferences could widen between the top programs and the rest of the pack.

David Jones of The Patriot News dug into the numbers to see what the expected stipends for each Big Ten member could total. Based on the information made available by CollegeData.com, Penn State came out on top with a stipend of $4,788. Wisconsin’s stipend amount came out to $4,265 and Nebraska’s total added up to $3,544. Indiana ($3,036) and Maryland ($3,024) were the only other schools to have stipends over $3,000. By comparison, Ohio State’s stipend total is calculated to be $2,454. Michigan’s is $2,054 and Michigan State is at the bottom of the Big Ten with a stipend total of $1,872.

These numbers are subject to change and, as noted by Jones in his column, you should probably expect people like Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio to push internally for some adjustments in order to allow more stipend funds where possible. Otherwise, programs like Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and even Indiana and Maryland are going to have a nice recruiting chip up their sleeves that could have an impact with certain recruits.

Of course, Texas Athletics Director Steve Patterson previously went on record suggesting the Texas Longhorns could potentially hand out $10,000 stipends if it came to that point.

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BYU to discipline “10-ish” players for role in Miami Beach Brawl

Latanoa Pikula

The last we heard out of BYU regarding the ugly incident at the end of the Miami Beach Bowl against Memphis, BYU was not expected to release names of players serving suspensions or facing discipline for their role in a postgame melee in Miami. That has not changed, although BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has suggested the number of players facing some form of discipline will be in the double digits.

According to a report by Desert News, Mendenhall opened BYU’s spring practice by writing the word “discipline” on the whiteboard. The head coach of the Cougars later told reporters “10-ish” players will be disciplined for their actions following a bowl loss to Memphis. Specific suspensions may not be announced until the week of BYU’s season opener at Nebraska.

“We’ll try to maintain a competitive advantage as long as we can, and protect the kids as much as we can,” Mendenhall said in the report by Desert News. “I think everyone knows I thrive on accountability and don’t back away from it, especially at BYU. So I’m comfortable with who we’re disciplining and how. I’d like to protect our players as much as we can.”

For what it is worth, Memphis has suspended 12 players for their part in the brawl although names and length of suspension terms have not been disclosed to the public at this time. The disciplinary actions taking by Memphis have been endorsed by the American Athletic Conference as well.

BYU opens the 2015 season on September 5 at Nebraska of the Big Ten. It will be the first meeting between the two programs.

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Oregon State has fresh new helmets for spring practice

Oregon State v Hawaii

When Oregon State opens up spring practice tomorrow they will do so wearing a brand new helmet. Could this be a preview of a new look in 2015? If so, it’s not bad at all.

Oregon State will have black helmets with the word “Beavers” scripted across the side. The look is reminiscent to a helmet design previously worn by the program in 1979 (with an orange helmet) and again from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s (with a white helmet). The same basic design elements were used on a black helmet since 1999, although with the Beaver logo on top of the script. Oregon State has also mixed and matched different helmets with uniforms the past few seasons. Now the beaver logo is gone, at least with this helmet.

I’m giving this one two thumbs up. What about you?

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Kennesaw State opened program’s first spring practice today

A total of 91 players went through the first spring football practice of the year on Monday. Ordinarily this would not be of much significance, but this was no ordinary spring football practice. This was spring football practice at Kennesaw State, the first in program history.

“It was a good day. It’s our first time back on the field and it was the first-ever spring ball practice,” Kennesaw State head coach Brian Bohannon said. “The great thing about it is our kids are in pretty good shape. They had a really good offseason.  We had a group of guys who actually knew what to do versus the last time we came out.”

This was the first spring football practice for Kennesaw State, but the program was able to practice in the fall as they go through the motions of operating a football program in season.

“It was a great start and I think the big thing for this group right now is that in the fall we had three segments of 15 days apiece and now we have one,” Bohannon explained. “Now we’re down to 14 and they are going to have to maximize every minute of these opportunities before we get ready to play.”

As noted by Kevin Causey of The Student Section, Kennesaw State will be joining the Big South Conference this season in the FCS and the offensive identity will likely be based on the option that has become the norm at places like Georgia Tech and Navy. The Owls have 52 players on scholarship right now as it builds up to the FCS maximum of 63.

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