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Kelly downplays talk of an Irish rivalry with Michigan

Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

If you were to talk to an average college football fan, or perhaps even a segment of the Notre Dame fan base, some would consider the Irish-Michigan series as a “rivalry.”

One of those people who see a rivalry there, though, wouldn’t be the Golden Domer’s current head coach, at least not in the historical sense.

This Saturday, the Irish and Wolverines will renew their rivalry series at Michigan Stadium for the second-to-last time before it goes on hiatus following the 2014 season.  During a conference call ahead of that game, Brian Kelly attempted to deemphasize the rivalry aspect of the matchup.

“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly said according to the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.

“For me, I’ve been in Michigan a long time, I’ve always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But in the Notre Dame history books, this game has (been) played, but obviously there have been some years where it hasn’t been played for a number of years.”

While some people may not appreciate how he couched it — he later described it as a “great rivalry” — Kelly certainly has a point.

According to the school’s 2013 media guide, Notre Dame and Michigan have faced each other in football 40 times.  While the two programs first met in 1887, the series has been sporadic and seen a couple of significant breaks between games (1910-41; 1944-77).  Since 1978, a span of 35 years, they have met 18 times.

Conversely, Notre Dame has played Navy every season since that rivalry kicked off in 1927; Michigan State every year since 1959, with 76 games total in the series; Purdue every year since 1946, with 84 total games; and what’s considered the Irish’s biggest rival, USC, which have squared off every year but three (1943-45) since 1926 for a total of 84 games entering the 2013 season.

Toss in other series such as Pittsburgh (68 games), Army (50) and Northwestern (47), and it’s easy to see why, from Kelly’s perspective, any rivalry talk when it comes to Michigan is downplayed.

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Former USC Trojan Armstead gets his day in court against school next week

Oregon State v USC

Next week in Los Angeles will mark the beginning of a lawsuit between Armond Armstead against his former university, USC. Armstead accused the school of fraud, concealment and negligence at which he claims deprived him of a chance to play in the NFL.

The lawsuit was filed back in August 2012, but is just now getting ready to head to trial. The Sacramento Bee reports the case is scheduled to begin on April 6.

You may remember Armstead suffered a heart attack back in the spring of 2011. As the season got underway, Armstead’s status was still up in the air and word got out he was considering a transfer after he was given a redshirt for the season. Armstead is accusing the university’s staff of giving him painkillers that led to heart problems and of blocking possible transfers that prevented him from having a chance to play in the NFL.

Of course, Armstead did get his chance to play in the NFL. He was most recently on the roster of the New England Patriots. He was forced to retire from the game last July, well before the Patriots went on their latest Super Bowl run. The reason? More heart problems that surfaced in 2014.

If USC is to blame for Armstead’s health issues, the school will cut a nice check to Armstead. It should also raise awareness of how the medical staff today is handling the health of players, especially when it concerns prescribing and offering pain medication. With schools and conferences taking on more responsibility for player health, issues like this will continue to be a priority. Avoiding future lawsuits of this fashion should be the case as we move forward, whether USC is to blame for Armstead’s heart issues or not.

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Torn ACL sends Auburn cornerback to surgery

Outback Bowl - Auburn v Wisconsin

Auburn’s depth in the defensive backfield took a minor hit on Tuesday. T.J. Davis, who was expected to be competing for a starting job this spring, underwent surgery on a torn ACL.

According to Al.com, Davis suffered the torn ACL two weeks ago.

For now, all that is known is Davis will be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices. His status for the fall is to be determined. It used to be that a torn ACL could keep a player out for a whole year, although sometimes a player can battle back and rehab enough to have a shot to play in the fall if the injury is suffered early enough.

The timeline for Davis and his potential return to the field is far from confirmed at this moment.

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MAC takes stand vs. Indiana religious freedom law, will Big Ten follow?

Indianapolis Reacts To Indiana's Controversial Religious Freedom Act

The state of Indiana is being criticized left and right (well, mostly from the left) for the recent passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The act would allow a business to refuse service to anyone person based solely on religious beliefs, which has been seen as giving the ability to refuse to provide business services to a member of the LGBT community. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s final games being played in Indianapolis this weekend has forced the NCAA to speak out about the act, and now the MAC has joined the chorus of critics of the new state law.

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher says his conference will not hold any meetings or conference championships in the state of Indiana until the law is amended or repealed.

“The Mid-American Conference will not schedule any more meetings or championships in Indiana until this current matter is brought to a sensible and appropriate conclusion,” Steinbrecher said to ESPN.

As far as football is concerned, not much is at stake. The conference typically holds its football conference championship game in Detroit, Michigan. The same goes for the conference’s football media day event. Ball State is the only member of the conference residing in the state of Indiana, which effectively means the school cannot host any other conference championship event sin other sports. This statement will not prevent Ball State from hosting MAC schools in conference competition as part of the regular season scheduling.

As of now, the only thing scheduled by the MAC to take place in Indiana is the annual presidents meetings in January or February of 2016. Those meetings will be held elsewhere if no changes are made to the state laws.

It is good to see the MAC make this statement, but it remains to be seen if the Big Ten will take a similar stand. If it does, the Big Ten could lend an even stronger voice for change to the law considering the financial impact that is attached to the Big Ten’s investment in Indiana, more specifically in Indianapolis. The Big Ten hosts its conference championship game in Indianapolis as well as the men’s basketball tournament on a fairly regular basis (nine times since 2002 and scheduled to return in 2016). The Big Ten also has two members inside the state of Indiana, with plenty of alumni attached to them.

For now the Big Ten has gone so far to publicly state it is reviewing the situation. It has not made any hard decisions one way or the other at this time. All things considered, this is not a terrible decision to make when so much is at stake for the conference and the state. It can sometimes be best to wait to find out all of the information before making any major decisions regarding the future of the conference.

In a world that can be influenced heavily by the opinions and demands of big corporate names and brands, Indiana could be forced to rethink some things if the Big Ten hops aboard with a threat to pull out of the state.

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Following arrest, Alabama dismisses RB Tyren Jones

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

Alabama has dismissed Tyren Jones from the football program after being arrested earlier in the day. The university announced the dismissal early Tuesday evening.

The dismissal of Jones comes just hours after an earlier report of his arrest on Tuesday. Jones was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana. Jones was already serving a team suspension by head coach Nick Saban, who himself has come under fire for some of the decisions revolving around his program’s roster lately.

As previously reported, cornerback Geno Smith was arrested for driving under the influence. This was his second offense in under two years. In addition, defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor, a transfer from Georgia following a similar offense, was arrested following yet a domestic violence incident. Taylor was also removed from the roster by Alabama.

As a freshman in 2014, Jones rushed for 224 yards and two touchdowns for Alabama.

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Bo Pelini fires mild shot at Nebraska AD

Bo Pelini, Dubem Nwadiogbu

Former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini is settling into his new job as head coach of the Youngstown State Penguins. The step down in profile among college coaching jobs is a refreshing change of pace for the hot-tempered Pelini, and it could be just what he needs the most.

Ralph Russo of the Associated Press wrote a solid profile of Pelini today, taking a look at how Pelini is adjusting to the life outside of the bright spotlight that comes with coaching a big time college football program as storied as Nebraska. The pressure may not be quite as high in Youngstown, but it is still a state with tremendous football pride and the job is still similar in many respects.

Coaching’s coaching,” Pelini explained. “This whole step back thing … You coach where you’re coaching. I wouldn’t be opposed to ever coaching high school ball. The challenges are always there. They’re different at different places.”

Pelini also was given a chance to comment on the audio recording of a meeting with Nebraska players Pelini held following his dismissal by the university. In it, Pelini is heard using some strong language and criticizing Nebraska athletics director Shawn Eichorst.

“I think it’s sad that it came out,” Pelini said. “That’s what’s wrong with that place.”

Nebraska and Pelini are going their separate ways now. Pelini has taken his family home to Youngstown, where he will also be charged with resurrecting a once dominant FCS program back to national relevance on an annual basis. Pelini has also added his brother, Carl Pelini, to the coaching staff. Meanwhile, Nebraska moves forward with a new head coach on the opposite polarity of Pelini, former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley.

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Goforth and prosper: UCLA DB granted another year of eligibility

UCLA Virginia Football

It wasn’t all bad news on the personnel front for UCLA Tuesday.

Around the same time he confirmed that wide receiver Devin Lucien will indeed transfer, Jim Mora also confirmed that Randall Goforth has been granted an additional season of eligibility.  The medical waiver was essentially a no-brainer as the safety missed all but the first two games of the 2014 season after undergoing surgery on both of his shoulders.

With the waiver, Goforth will now be eligible for both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

Goforth started all 13 games in 2013, finishing second on the team with three interceptions and fourth with 78 tackles.  He started both games in which he played in 2014.

Expected to be the starter again in 2015, Goforth is nonetheless in non-contact mode this spring as he continues to recover from the two shoulder surgeries.

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Tyren Jones becomes third Tide player arrested since Friday

Western Carolina v Alabama Getty Images

To say that this has been a bad last few days for Alabama on the legal front would be a monumental understatement.

The latest to add to the Tide’s legal woes is Tyren Jones, who al.com reports was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree possession of marijuana.  From the website’s account of what led to Jones’ arrest and misdemeanor charge:

A Tuscaloosa police report states Jones was in a car stopped on 10th Avenue with the smell of marijuana. Officers found digital scales in the Dodge Challenger belonging to Brandon Lee Hansberry, who was also arrested.

A small amount of marijuana was found in the pants pocket of Jones.

The bad news for the running back is that he’s already in Nick Saban‘s doghouse, suspended in the middle of February for what was described as “conduct not to the standard of the Alabama football program.” Jones also served a one-game suspension in October of last year.

Unfortunately for the Tide, arrests have become the standard for the football program over the last four days as Jones is the third UA football player arrested in that time frame.

Late Friday night, cornerback Geno Smith was arrested for driving under the influence, his second such offense in less than two years. Smith subsequently apologized, while Saban stated that he will remain with the team even as he has several steps he must take in order to get back in the team’s good graces.

A day later, transfer defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor was arrested following yet another domestic violence incident. Taylor, who was dismissed by Georgia for a similar offense last summer, was subsequently given the boot by Saban after his latest arrest.

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Utah State losing QB Darell Garretson to transfer

Darell Garretson AP

Utah State lost Darell Garretson for most of the 2014 season due to injury.  Know they’re losing him to a departure for good measure.

USU announced in a release Tuesday that Garretson has decided to leave the Aggies football program.  The quarterback will transfer to another team, although the destination is to be determined.

The fact that Chuckie Keeton received a fifth season of eligibility this past February and is poised to again take the starting reins may have played a role in Garretson’s decision.

“We thank Darell for his contributions to Utah State football the past two years and wish him the best in the future,” head coach Matt Wells said in a very brief statement.

Garretson started seven games as a freshman in 2013, but played in just five games in 2014 before suffering a season-ending wrist injury.

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FSU to be without projected starting center for rest of spring

Florida State v Louisville Getty Images

Fortunately for a Florida State offensive line that is in the midst of a significant restoration, the start of the 2015 season is still five months down the road.

Monday, Jimbo Fisher confirmed that redshirt sophomore Ryan Hoefeld underwent surgery recently to repair a meniscus issue in his knee. Because of the medical procedure, the coach said, Hoefeld will miss the remainder of the spring practice sessions.

Hoefeld entered spring in a battle with Alec Eberle to replace Austin Barron/Cam Erving at center, but had appeared to separate himself a bit from the competition.

Because of an injury to Barron last season, Hoefeld started four straight games (Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville, Virginia) in a stretch from mid-October to early November. Erving ultimately moved from left tackle to center in the 10th game of the 10th game of the regular season, pushing Hoefeld out of the starting lineup.

The Seminoles entered the offseason needing to replace 165 starts from five departed linemen: Josue Matias (43), Erving (42), Tre’ Jackson (42), Bobby Hart (28) and Barron (10).

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Arizona confirms Texas Tech home-and-home, adds Hawaii series

Arizona Texas Tech AP

A Big 12-Pac-12 matchup first reported last week has officially come to fruition this week.

In a press release, Arizona announced that it has scheduled a future home-and-home series with Texas Tech. UA will host Texas Tech at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 14, 2019, while the Wildcats will travel to Lubbock, Tex., for a game against the Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium on Sept. 19, 2020.

The two football programs actually have a rather extensive history for non-conference opponents, facing each other 31 times over the past eight-plus decades. The first meeting between the two took place in 1932, the last in 1988.  The Red Raiders a 25-4-2 edge in the all-time series.

In addition to Tech, UA also announced yet another home-and-home against Hawaii. The first game will be played Sept. 17, 2016, in Tucson and the second in Honolulu on Aug. 30, 2025.

The two programs had previously announced a home-and-home for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

“We’re excited to add more quality opponents in Texas Tech and Hawaii to our future schedules,” UA athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement. “Playing opponents of this caliber is a great opportunity and our future schedules are developing nicely for our program and our fans.”

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Deshaun Watson ‘looks great,’ should be ready for summer workouts

Deshaun Watson AP

The genetically-blessed freak that is Deshaun Watson continues to impress in his recovery from a serious knee injury.

The Clemson quarterback sustained a torn ACL during a late-November practice but still played in the regular-season finale against South Carolina, with head coach Dabo Swinney acknowledging that the brace he wore essentially served as his ACL.  After some initial thoughts had Watson delaying surgery until after the Tigers’ bowl game, wiser heads prevailed as the true freshman underwent the medical procedure on his knee in mid-December.

Swinney has since praised Watson’s rate of progress in rehab, consistently raving about his DNA and the way he’s wired.  While Watson is a non-participant this spring, and in a bit of a surprising development, he should be a go for summer workouts that will start up in less than three months.

“Deshaun is making great progress, and I fully expect him to be ready to take part in our skills and drills program in June,” the coach said Monday, adding, “he really looks great.”

What that also means is that, barring a setback between now and then, Watson will be expected to enter summer camp at 100-percent health. And, based on his first season at this level, that would be a tremendous boon for Clemson’s offense.

In the four games that Watson started and finished upright, the Tigers were 4-0.  If Watson had played just one snap in one additional game, even if he didn’t attempt a pass, his pass efficiency rating of 188.6 would’ve been the best in the country, ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota‘s 184.4.  Additionally, his 10.7 yards per attempt was the best in the country for quarterbacks with at least 125 pass attempts.

Again, barring a setback, Watson should enter the 2015 season as one of a handful of players mentioned as potential Heisman contenders.

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QB Mike White granted release from USF scholarship

South Florida v Memphis Getty Images

The most experienced quarterback on USF’s roster will ply his football wares elsewhere, the school announced Tuesday.

Willie Taggart confirmed in a press release that Mike White has been granted a release from his USF scholarship.  White had been a part of a three-man quarterback competition this spring, but decided after the last of those 15 sessions that he would continue his playing career elsewhere.

No specific reason was given for the decision.

“Mike and I talked after the conclusion of spring practice, and he expressed his desire to pursue the remainder of his career at another school,” the Bulls head coach said in a statement. “We wish Mike all the best in his future and thank him for his contributions to our program and University.”

Barring an unforeseen development, White, who was a true sophomore in 2014, would be forced to sit out the 2015 season if he ends up at another FBS program.

Over the past two seasons, the Fort Lauderdale native has started a total of 15 games. White started five games as a true freshman in 2013, and 10 the following season.  He had started 13 games in a row for the Bulls before temporarily losing his starting job in late October, but came back to start the last two.

The two games White didn’t start last year were manned by Steven Bench (vs. Houston, Nov. 1) and Quinton Flowers (vs. SMU, Nov. 15), who will now move forward with what will be a two-headed quarterback competition.

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Report: OSU expects no lost eligibility for Braxton Miller

Urban Meyer, Braxton Miller

It appears that, relatively speaking, Urban Meyer was spot on.

At an appearance in Canton, Ohio, Monday, the Ohio State head coach was asked about the potential for NCAA issues when it comes to Braxton Miller. “Everything is fine. No issue,” Meyer said.

Officially, OSU’s stance is that they are seeking some clarification from the NCAA and hope to have an answer back in a week or so.  Unofficially, the school is expecting what would essentially amount to a slap on the wrist.  From the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Ari Wasserman:

However, a source close to Ohio State told Northeast Ohio Media Group that the program expects a secondary violation with no eligibility lost and a letter of education for Miller to be the punishment.

Meyer did allow Tuesday, however, that he spoke out of turn yesterday when addressing Miller’s situation.

“I shouldn’t comment on things I don’t know about,” the coach said. “I don’t know, other than they are telling me they think it’s good. I think it’s going to be OK. People are asking me – ‘It’s all good, it’s done?’ I don’t know.

“It’s been told to me that everything looks to be OK. They are just doing their due diligence and making sure.”

As for the issue that’s caused the imbroglio, a school spokesperson last Wednesday confirmed to The Lantern, OSU’s student newspaper, that the university is looking into a potential NCAA rules violation committed by Miller.  ElevenWarriors.com wrote at the time that “Miller… had a bit of a lapse in judgement [Tuesday] night when he appeared to endorse Advocare, a weight-loss and nutrition multi-level marketing firm that some people consider a pyramid scheme.”

The apparent endorsement came in the form of a post made to Instagram, which was subsequently taken down when the mini-controversy began to grow.

Braxton Miller

Student-athletes are permitted to hold jobs and even be self-employed, which appears to be the case in Miller’s association with the Amway-like AdvoCare group.  However, as Texas A&M compliance director Brad Barnes explained to SBNation‘s Steven Godfrey in an excellent Q&A on the issue, a player’s earnings “may not include any remuneration for value or utility that the student-athlete may have for the employer because of the publicity, reputation, fame or personal following that he or she has obtained because of athletics ability.”

That will be the decision that OSU, and potentially the NCAA, has to make: whether Miller’s Instagram post constitutes using his “reputation, fame or personal following” for financial gain (whether it should be that way is another matter entirely).

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Pat Haden, ‘proud father of gay son,’ skipping CFP meeting in Indy

Pat Haden AP

The first visceral impact of the state of Indiana’s controversial new law on the world of college football has surfaced.

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

The Big Ten followed suit a day later, issuing a statement in which the conference, which conducts its football championship game in Indianapolis, stated that “its member institutions believe in promoting an inclusive environment in which athletic competition can operate free from discrimination.”

The College Football Playoff committee members are set to meet in Indianapolis this week as the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four will tip-off in the same city. One of the 13 committee members, however, will not be in attendance — USC athletic director Pat Haden, who is conducting his own personal boycott of the city because of the so-called “religious freedom” law.

Regardless of your stance on the new law, Haden should be roundly applauded for standing up for not only his son but for what he believes in. What will be interesting moving forward, however, is how many, if any, of Haden’s committeemen/women stand beside their fellow member and stay away from the city as well.

And, for those of you who have already tired of this issue, you’d better brace yourself; it’s not going away. In fact, it will only grow in the coming days and weeks as other Hadens from inside the world of sports and out follow suit.

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UCLA’s third-leading receiver set to transfer

UCLA v Washington Getty Images

Wide receiver is one of the deepest units UCLA possesses, but it’s also a little less deep this morning.  Reportedly.

The Los Angeles Times reported overnight that Devin Lucien has decided to leave the Bruins football program and finish his collegiate playing career elsewhere. No reason was given for the decision to transfer.

Because he will be a graduate transfer, the wide receiver, unlike in the future potentially, will be eligible to play immediately in 2015 if he lands at an FBS program.

Last season, Lucien’s 29 receptions were second on the team, although he averaged just 7.8 yards per catch.  During summer camp leading up to the 2014 season, Lucien sustained a head injury in practice serious enough that he was taken to a local hospital via ambulance.  Released the following day, Lucien passed a concussion test and returned to practice less than a week later.

In 2013, Lucien overcame a back injury to start three of the 13 games in which he played, catching 10 passes for 208 yards. The year before, he was the team’s third-leading receiver (10-188) before a broken clavicle knocked him out for the remainder of the regular season.

As noted by the Times, and outside of Lucien, the Bruins will return their top seven receivers in receptions from a year ago.

UPDATED 2:19 p.m. ET: Head coach Jim Mora confirmed that Lucien is indeed transferring out of his Bruins football program.

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