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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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Charges formally filed against suspended UK foursome

Dorian Baker, Ian Wells AP

One day after it was reported that the charges against four Kentucky football players were being prepared, the preparation is officially complete.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, wide receiver Dorian Baker (pictured), running back Stanley Williams, quarterback Drew Barker, and defensive end Tymere Dubose have all been charged with second-degree disorderly conduct in Fayette County (Ky.) District Court.  The charges were filed Thursday morning after the players received summonses Wednesday evening.

Such an offense, a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to 90 days in jail.  The charges stem from an incident over the weekend.

According to reports, police were called around 9:30 Sunday night to a residence complex on the south end of campus, near the football facilities, after fielding calls about possible shots being fired. UK and Lexington police searched the area for two hours and recovered three airsoft guns from the players themselves, while another was discarded.  The Herald-Leader wrote in a tweet that, “[a]ccording to papers filed in court, the players said they were playing a game of ‘man hunt’ on campus Sunday night.”

All four players have been suspended for this weekend’s game against South Carolina.

“We have some good kids that used poor judgment that made a mistake. They know they made a mistake, and they’re being held accountable for it,” head coach Mark Stoops said following Tuesday’s practice. “We tried to address it quickly and decisive. They were wrong.

“Like I said, they’re remorseful. They realize it now. So, we’ve handled it publicly with what I said and internally within our team.”

The losses of Baker and Williams will be the most damaging in the short-term as the latter has 174 yards rushing/receiving and two touchdowns while the former has 11 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown. The other two have not played in a game are expected to redshirt.

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Hoke on Shane Morris: ‘Attitude-wise he’s fantastic’

Shane Morris

Lost amidst the tumult of the Shane Morris saga is the player himself.

The Michigan quarterback is at the epicenter of what’s become a national debate over concussion protocols — and the continued viability of Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon as UM’s head coach and athletic director, respectively  — after his apparently concussed self was reinserted into the Minnesota game last Saturday.  At least according to his coach, the player is doing just fine both physically and mentally.

He’s doing great, he’s doing wonderful,” Hoke said on his radio show Wednesday night by way of mlive.com. “I don’t like to talk about injuries, but from a health point of view he’s doing great.

“Attitude-wise he’s fantastic.”

That said, Hoke laments what’s happening to Morris and those close to him on at least one front.

“I felt bad and do feel bad that Shane had to deal with some things,” Hoke added. “People calling his home, wanting to talk to his parents. All that bull.

“That’s not the right way to do things.”

Morris has not yet commented publicly since the debacle this past Saturday. On Twitter Tuesday, however, he let his feelings be known.

In addition to the concussion, Morris also suffered a high-ankle sprain in the loss to the Gophers. How long he’ll be sidelined is unknown, although the ankle issue is one that can linger for weeks if not months depending on the severity.

The injuries came in Morris’ first regular-season start. Hoke had previously announced that Devin Gardner would return to the starting lineup against Rutgers Saturday.

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Report: football one of Ole Miss sports under NCAA investigation

Hugh Freeze AP

The bad news for Ole Miss is that the NCAA has the Rebels football program in its sights.  The good?  It’s the emasculated NCAA, a shell of its formerly punitive self.

According to Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, the Rebels football program is one the school’s athletic programs under investigation for potential NCAA violations.  However, Forde writes, “the current football staff of head coach Hugh Freeze is not believed to be implicated in any major violations, and that much of the football inquiry dates back to actions by a previous Ole Miss staff.”

The football investigation has been ongoing for more than a year, although “all NCAA interviews have [been] completed and the school is waiting for the NCAA Department of Enforcement’s next step.” One of the next steps could be an appearance in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which is next set to convene two weeks from today. Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork confirmed to Forde that the athletic department has yet to receive a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, which would precede a COI hearing.

Exactly what the violations are that could net the Rebels some level of punitive measures from the NCAA are unknown.

Yahoo Sports filed a Freedom of Information request with Mississippi on Sept. 2 requesting all correspondence between the school and the NCAA Department of Enforcement between Sept. 1, 2013, and Sept. 1, 2014. The request was returned Sept. 26 showing 19 secondary or Level III violations in that time period, with names and affected sports redacted.

Again, it’s thought that Freeze, who is in his third year with the Rebels, is not involved in any major NCAA violations.  Whether any of the potential violations connected to the previous regime or regimes are major in nature remains to be seen.

Freeze was hired in December of 2011, replacing Houston Nutt.  After four years as the Rebels head coach, Nutt resigned in November of that year.  Nutt had replaced Ed Orgeron, who was fired in November of 2007.

Forde also allowed that the bulk of the potential violations currently being investigated by the NCAA involves the women’s basketball program.

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Cincinnati staffer to appeal firing over sex-abuse charge

Antrione Archer

Because, of course.

If you recall, a member of the Cincinnati football program, Director of Player Welfare & Development Antrione Archer, was fired earlier this week after the football program learned of an arrest in Kentucky in June. Following that incident, Archer was charged third-degree sex abuse.

Court records indicated that Archer “placed his expose penis” against a 73-year-old female employee’s backside on multiple occasions inside of a grocery store pharmacy. Archer’s attorney, however, has a vastly different description of what led to the charges.

“The alleged incident, which was recorded by Kroger security cameras, shows Mr. Archer and a Kroger employee having consensual close conversations in the pharmacy aisles followed by consensual dancing of a rhythmic nature,” James Noll told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Noll also stated that his client will appeal his termination and will seek a 60-day leave of absence so as to deal with the legal process. Noll added that the university acted prematurely in dismissing his client.

“He looks forward to having the issue resolved, and regrets any embarrassment the publicity has caused his family and the University of Cincinnati and the UC Cincinnati Bearcat Football program,” the attorney said.

Archer had held his position with the Bearcats since 2011.

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Mack Brown tweets he will decide on coaching future in December

Mack Brown

Will Mack Brown return to coaching? He has not said “no.” In fact, he says he will make a decision on his possible return to coaching in December.

Brown was asked by one of his Twitter followers if he would ever think about returning to the sidelines. The former Texas coach said a decision will come later this year.

This is noteworthy because just this week word came out some well-connected people at SMU are intrigued by the possibility of having Brown become the next head coach at SMU. Are the pieces starting to come together for Brown’s next job?

Brown is currently a studio analyst for ESPN.

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FSU booster group investigating fired booster for missing $500,000-$700,000

Clemson v Florida State Getty Images

The Seminole Boosters fired comptroller Sanford Lovingood on Wednesday after being accused og misappropriating somewhere between a reported $500,000 and $700,000. There is no connection to Florida State’s football program at this time, but this may be a story worth keeping an eye on with an investigation opening to attempt to track down where those funds went.

According to a statement released by the booster organization for Florida State athletics, the missing funds were discovered in a review of banking records Wednesday and the boosters are working to resolve the matter. A forensic audit is already getting started to determine how the funds were taken out of the organization’s coffers and what happened with them.

The booster organization says it has updated the university administration, Board of Trustees, athletics department and more about the unsettling news and will update accordingly. Lovingood apparently turned himself over to Leon Country Sheriff’s Office and is cooperating with law enforcement.

“We will aggressively pursue recovery of the funds and are confident they will be restored,” said Mike Harrell, chairman of the Seminole Boosters Board of Directors. “We take our fiscal responsibilities very seriously.”

It is important to state once again, at this time there is no documented connection to the Florida State football program. If it is discovered Florida State players accepted payments from Lovingood or any other boosters, then we would be looking at the possibility of NCAA involvement and potential sanctions or vacated wins, but that is not the case now. It may be possible Lovingood simply took the money for himself for all we know right now. For the time being, you may just want to keep an eye on the developments regarding this case.

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Clemson OL Gore out 2 games following appendectomy

Joe Gore, Nick Schuessler, D.J. Reader

Clemson’s offensive line will be without one part-time starter the next two games. Joe Gore underwent an appendectomy to have his appendix removed Wednesday.

As reported by The Charlotte Observer, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney announced Gore’s status following a practice today. The two games Gore is expected to miss will be this weekend’s home game against North Carolina State and next weekend’s home game against Louisville. Both are division games for the Tigers.

Gore has started three games for Clemson this season. He is listed second on the depth chart for this weekend’s game behind Isaiah Battle at left tackle.

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Suspended Notre Dame CB KeiVarae Russell: This school is becoming ridiculous

KeiVarae Russell

The hearings for a handful of Notre Dame players continues this week, and the waiting game is starting to get to at least one of the suspended Irish players. Or so it seems. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell shared some thoughts on Instagram on Wednesday confirming he has gone through his hearing regarding academic dishonesty. He said the hearing went well, but he does not seem pleased with having to wait to find out the ruling from the committee conducting the investigation and hearings.

As reported by College Football Talk contributor JJ Stankevitz for CSN Chicago, Russell said the following on Instagram

“Noooo, still not back. It sucks. Hearing went well in my opinion thought. Was able to express my case from my POV and bring to light alot of what was false “evidence.” But they are making me wait till every hearing is done to make a decision… it sucks.”

In a separate comment, Russell said Notre Dame is “becoming ridiculous.” Again via CSN Chicago;

“This school is becoming ridiculous. I killed my meeting; I was so prepared and ready and was able to refute damn near every suspicion they had. Described details of assignments thoroughly so they couldn’t say I didn’t do it, AND THEY STILL SAID MY DECISION WONT COME UNTIL ALL 5 OF US (and some other minor hearings) ARE DONE. Decision MIGHT come next week, not even 100% it’s tough to understand these people..”

There is also this…

Notre Dame is conducting hearings for wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, defensive back Eilar Hardy, defensive end Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore in addition to Russell. As far as we know, none of these players have taken to Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat or whatever social networking service the kids are using these days to voice their opinions.

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OSU TE Heuerman on Maryland: We’re going to show them what Big Ten football is

Jeff Heuerman Getty Images

Maryland played its first Big Ten game last week, and it went well. The Terrapins picked up a road win at Indiana, a week after the Hoosiers upset Missouri on the road. It was a big win for Maryland, but this weekend comes the first real dose of Big Ten football. Maryland is hosting Ohio State, and Buckeyes tight end Jeff Heuerman is looking forward to extending a welcoming hand to his new division rival.

“We’re going to go there and we’re going to welcome them to the Big Ten,” Heuerman said Wednesday, per Cleveland.com. “We’re going to go on the road and it’s going to be a big game and we’re going to show them what Big Ten football is and hopefully it’ll come out in our favor.”

This will mark the first meeting between the two schools in football. Maryland was a founding member of the ACC before joining the Big Ten this season. Ohio State, of course, has been one of the landmark institutions in the Big Ten since the conference was formed. The Buckeyes have also been one of the programs carrying the national reputation of the Big Ten for the past decade or so, for the most part. Despite losing quarterback Braxton Miller for the season, the Buckeyes still have the look of a top Big Ten contender this fall.

Maryland has already suffered a close loss at home, to West Virginia, but the Terrapins have looked pretty good the rest of the season so far by winning on the road at Syracuse and Indiana in recent weeks. But this is Ohio State, and things have a different feel when the Buckeyes are lining up on the other side of the field.

“They’re saying it’s one of the biggest games in Maryland history,” Heuerman said. “Whatever that means.”

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Utah State says Chuckie Keeton likely out for the season

Chuckie Keeton

The return of Chuckie Keeton to the football field did not go as planned this fall. And now it looks as though it is over. Utah State sent out a release Wednesday evening stating Keeton is likely out for the rest of the 2014 season.

Keeton suffered a left knee injury against Wake Forest earlier in the season. The injury was to the same knee that underwent surgery last season for a torn ACL and a torn MCL. The initial feeling seemed optimistic at the time, although the team decided it was bets to play it safe. He sat out Utah State’s game against Arkansas State as a caution. Apparently things have not gotten much better in the weeks since the injury took place.

“Chuckie’s health is our top priority and he has not been cleared to play by our medical staff,” said Utah State head coach Matt Wells in the school’s released statement. “We will continue to monitor his progress throughout the fall, but given his current condition it is unlikely that he will play in any games in the foreseeable future.”

Keeton has never redshirted during his collegiate career, but this is his senior year. Whether or not he will be able to use a medical redshirt remains to be seen at this point. Here’s hoping Keeton can find a way to stay healthy though and maybe get another chance on the field. He has battled injuries throughout his collegiate career, so the concern is great for his potential future.

One thing is for sure. College football is much more entertaining and enjoyable when Keeton is healthy. Sadly, we have not been treated to enough of it.

As for Utah State, Darrell Garretson will once again assume the starting job for the Aggies. Just as he did last season, Garretson will look to lead Utah State forward through Mountain West Conference play. Last year, while filling in for Keeton, Garretson threw for 1,436 yards and 10 touchdowns and led Utah State to the Mountain West Conference championship game, where Utah State fell shy against Fresno State. This season could play out in similar fashion.

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Alabama RB Jones has surgery for torn tendon in finger

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

It is a good thing Alabama is stacked at the running back position, because one player is going to be out of action for an extended period of time. Tyren Jones will be out for several weeks after undergoing surgery on his finger.

Nick Saban announced Wednesday Jones had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his finger. Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, running back depth is not a concern in Tuscaloosa. T.J. Yeldon remains the team’s starter, followed by Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake on the depth chart before getting to Jones.

Jones had rushed 13 times for 89 yards and a touchdown in the three games he has appeared in. He is fifth on the team in rushing.

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Promising USC freshman receiver suffers hamstring

Fresno State v USC Getty Images

USC saw some promise in freshman wide receiver Ajene Harris last weekend against Oregon State, but he will be sitting on the sideline this weekend. Harris suffered a hamstring injury, which was announced by head coach Steve Sarkisian following Wednesday’s practice.

This is a setback for Harris, who has been impressive to the USC coaches and making a push for a significant role in the offense. While it remains unknown just how much time he will miss, the future is still incredibly bright for Harris, a former three-star recruit according to Rivals.

Last week Harris caught three passes for 30 yards, with a chunk of that coming ona  21-yard reception. He had been swapped in and out of the first team offense through the first few weeks, but that was more a credit to the quality depth at the position USC is playing with than anything else. Hamstring injuries are tricky to predict. The severity of the injury is unknown, but hamstring injuries have a way of lingering longer for some players than others without any way to know when it will be fully healed.

Helmet sticker to Conquest Chronicles.

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Louisville congratulates Bridgewater on first NFL win with billboard

Teddy Bridgewater

Former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater got his first start in the NFL on Sunday afternoon for the Minnesota Vikings. He was injured in the game, but he got the job done before having his first start end early. Everyone, it seems, is sending him congrats this week, including Louisville.

As seen in Minneapolis, this digital billboard message congratulates the former Louisville Cardinal on his first start and victory with the Vikings.

Bridgewater went 19-of-30 for 317 yards to help the Vikings defeat the Atlanta Falcons, 41-28. He was carted off the field with a sprained ankle on Sunday and underwent a MRI on Monday. It remains unknown if he will be playing Thursday night, for those college football fans looking to kill some time before Oregon and Arizona kick off.

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Will Brady Hoke reach the end of the season?

Brady Hoke

The temperature is boiling in Ann Arbor for head coach Brady Hoke and athletics director Dave Brandon. Will either of these two men be able to hold onto their jobs through the entire football season?

Noted Michigan football historian and author John Bacon feels somewhat confident in suggesting Hoke’s job will be safe for the remainder of the season, but an evaluation will likely take place after that. As for Brandon, well…

I asked Bacon for a quick clarification. He says a change of head coach is still likely, but it will not happen or begin to take place during the course of the season.

This seems to make sense, if you believe change is inevitable at Michigan. If the university feels the leadership needs a change starting at the AD position, why let go of the football coach now and allow the AD a chance to hire the next head coach? This would be similar to a major league baseball team allowing a lame duck general manager to hire a new manager and make some trades. Hoke may very well be on his way out at the end of the season unless he finds a way to get the Wolverines to rattle off a winning streak and Big Ten championship nobody sees coming. But for the state of the football program, not much will be better by making a change at head coach now compared to the end of the season. It is a different situation with an athletics director.

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Pac-12 offers another reason to lose sleep Thursday night

Oregon v Arizona Getty Images

The Pac-12 has been serving up plenty of excitement for college football fans choosing to stay up late and sacrifice a few hours of sleep on Thursday nights this season. In week one we saw Rutgers and Washington State trade blows on college football’s first Thursday night. The following week saw Arizona take to the road to escape San Antonio with a win over UTSA. Last week rewarded late-night viewers with the first dominant performance by UCLA of the season, on the road at Arizona State on a Thursday night.

There may be some concerns about the Pac-12’s late night kickoffs, but there is no disputing the games have been worth staying up for from an entertainment standpoint. The Thursday night game this weekend could be another. No. 2 Oregon hosts Arizona in a cross-division match-up between 4-0 teams with a revenge factor on the line. Arizona snapped Oregon’s Rose Bowl dreams last year in blowout fashion.

The game is scheduled to kickoff at 10:30 p.m. on the east coast. Degenerates like me will be going against the east coast bias narrative and staying up to watch it, but how important is it that the nation’s second-ranked team is playing so late, when the majority of the potential east coast viewership will be going to bed well before the game is over? Should this continue to be a concern for the Pac-12? Will voters be influenced purely by the score because they didn’t stay up to watch the Ducks and Wildcats?

Ultimately, the concern as far as a playoff standpoint should be a non-issue, if you believe the members of the selection committee for the College Football Playoff are doing their due diligence. But from a conference standpoint, it feels as though the Pac-12 misses out on an opportunity to showcase one of the banner programs in the conference the last few years. A game involving two 4-0 teams deserves a better primetime slot for a larger audience, does it not?

This goes back to one of the problems the Pac-12 has been facing. The conference is improving its football brand. Teams are better and the conference should be going the extra mile to ensure more potential viewers get a chance to see them. By kicking off half past ten o’clock in the night, the reach has to be decreasing. Or is it?

Thursday night is highly competitive for college football now that the NFL has a weekly game on Thursday nights. This week the college football card of UCF-Houston and FAU-FIU will likely be squashed by the NFL match-up between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Throw in some playoff baseball (Baltimore Orioles hosting Detroit Tigers in the early game and Los Angeles Angels hosting the Kansas City Royals in the later game), and you can see why the Pac-12 may not be too upset having Oregon and Arizona kicking off at 10:30 p.m. The Pac-12’s core audience is on the west coast, so the time difference is not as much a concern to them. By the time Oregon and Arizona kick off, the NFL will be in the second half (and given the track record for Thursday night football this season, the game will be ugly and fans will be looking for something different), the two other college games will be wrapping up and the only real competition for viewers will be with baseball.

What will you be watching Thursday night?

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