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The Fifth Quarter: Week 1 Rewind

Georgia v Clemson Getty Images

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

And, yes I’m well aware of the fact that there are still games left to be played. Sorry, fans of Louisville, Florida State, et al…

WINNERS

Tajh throws Braxton a stiff-arm
Braxton Miller may have entered the season as the favorite to win the 2013 Heisman Trophy, but Tajh Boyd showed he will likely be a (big) part of the discussion all the way into December. In Clemson’s impressive 38-35 win over Georgia Saturday night, Boyd accounted for all five of the Tigers’ touchdown — three passing, two rushing. On a team level, it was one of the biggest wins of Dabo Swinney‘s tenure. On a personal level, it was Boyd shining on a national stage against a very, very, very good football team in the Bulldogs and a coming-out party for a player who, at least as far as this corner is concerned, doesn’t get the respect he deserves. After that virtuoso performance, there’s no longer an excuse for any lack of respect.

Moneybadger don’t give a %$#! either
All hail the new troll god!!! Love him or hate him, Johnny Manziel makes college football a better — and immensely more interesting — game when he’s part of it. While he wasn’t a part of it in the first-half thanks to a suspension, he returned in the second half of Texas A&M’s win over Rice, and not once but twice trolled the NCAA overlords over his recent off-field “issues.” In the first instance, Manziel seemed to indicate a Rice defender would not be getting the reigning Heisman winner’s Herbie Hancock anytime soon…

Manziel Signing GIF

 

… then seemed to make a money gesture to the sky following his first touchdown pass of the season…

Manziel Money GIF

 

Manziel, of course, was investigated by the NCAA after it was alleged that he was paid tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for his signature on photos, memorabilia, etc.

Don’t change, JFF. Don’t ever change. Well, mostly don’t change (see a little further below).

No Bret, no problem
There were some people — myself included — who felt that Wisconsin wouldn’t be the old Wisconsin we’ve become accustomed to in the first year of the post-Bret Bielema era in Madison. While that may or may not ultimately be the case, the Badgers put on one helluva ground show in the first game of the Gary Andersen era. UW had a trio of running backs — James White (11-143), Melvin Gordon (13-144), Corey Clement (16-101) — who each rushed for more than 100 yards, just the third time in school history that’s happened. Clement, incidentally, became the first true freshman at UW since P.J. Hill in 2006 to top 100 yards in his first game as a Badger. Yes, the opposition was “just” UMass, but Andersen and his Badgers showed that anyone who sleeps on UW does so at their own peril.

Butch JonesThank you, Lord
How thankful is the Tennessee fan base that Derek Dooley is no longer their head football coach? So thankful that they are offering up hallelujahs to the Big College Football Fan Upstairs for it. Literally. “Pregame prayer in Neyland [Stadium] thanked God for a new coach,” a tweet from govols247.com‘s Wes Rucker read. Butch Jones then proceeded to reward that faith as the Vols pounded overmatched Austin Peay 45-0. Yes, it was just a win over an FCS school, but it was also the Vols’ largest margin of victory since a 50-0 win over Tennessee-Martin in 2010 — the first game under Dooley, so maybe that’s not as good of omen upon further review. Still, it was a much-needed win for the fans on Rocky Top, one they will gladly take after three years of misery.

Right in his Scheelhaase
Normally when Illinois is mentioned in the Fifth Quarter, it’s part of the section right below this one. Not today, though. All Illini starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase did was throw for a career-high 416 yards — 340 in the first half — and two touchdowns in the 42-34 win over Southern Illinois. The win was satisfying for Scheelhaase personally as the quarterback has fought back from an injury-plagued 2012 season. It was also a critical one for the program. Even as the win was over an FCS opponent, it was a critical one as second-year head coach Tim Beckman has come under fire for a two-win 2012 season, with some saying this is a make-or-break season for the coach.

All hail your FCS conquerors

Scheduled as a guaranteed “W” in exchange for high six-figure or even low seven-figure payouts, most FBS teams feast on a steady early-season diet of FCS foes. Not in Week One, not this year. All told, a whopping eight FBS teams went down in flames over the past three days: No. 25 Oregon State (Eastern Washington), Kansas State (North Dakota State), San Diego State (Eastern Illinois; UConn (Towson), USF (McNeese State), Iowa State (Northern Iowa), South Alabama (Southern Utah) and Georgia State (Samford). We’ll let the latter two slide somewhat as they have just climbed from the FCS level to FBS status recently. The others? There’s no excuse for USF to lose by 32 points or San Diego State by 21. There’s no reason a ranked team like Oregon State should lose to a lower-level team, regardless of how good they are at that level. K-State? C’mon, I understand that NDSU is an FBS slayer, but there should still be no excuses in Little Manhattan. That said, and as was shown this weekend, there are some quality programs at that level. Schedule some of the upper-echelon teams at your own peril. And potential embarrassment.

Villanova, the Harlem Globetrotters of the FCS level
Villanova may not have been one of the FCS teams to pull off an upset, but they did have one of the plays of the year thus far. Facing a fourth down in their game against Boston College, ‘Nova lined up in punt formation… and proceeded to perform the ol’ double-snap fake-punt trick to score a touchdown. And, yes, it was as real and as spectacular as it sounds:

Villanova

 

49ers strike winning gold quickly
Since we’re on an FCS roll, let’s turn our attention to the Eastern part of the United States. In 2008, UNC-Charlotte announced that it would, for the first time ever, field a football team. Five years later, the 49ers made their debut… and it was smashing, with the 49ers putting a 52-7 woodshedding on visiting Campbell. The 49ers nearly doubled the opposition’s offensive production — 488 to 287 — and rolled to a 35-7 halftime lead. While an FCS team at the moment, the 49ers will move to the FBS level in 2015 as a member of Conference USA. While there may be many bumps in the road ahead, congratulations to head coach Brad Lambert and his coaching staff on such a scintillating start to the program.

LOSERS

Johnny Screwball?
As much as I really, really enjoy Johnny Manziel, the on-field preening and self-aggrandizing that costs his team needs to stop. And that comes from his head coach as well. In addition to his creative ways of taunting the NCAA noted above, Manziel was also flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct following his third touchdown pass of the second half, costing the Aggies 15 yards. He was removed from the game and didn’t return. “That was just a foolish penalty at the end. … I hoped that at this point he’d have learned something,” Kevin Sumlin said afterwards. “That wasn’t very smart. That’s why he wasn’t going back in the game, no matter what happened.” A&M declined to make Manziel available to the media following the win, likely a wise decision based on the fact that Manziel appeared to take out a whole offseason of frustration in his limited time on the field Saturday.

An offensive line, literallyAlabama head coach Saban questions a call from the referee in the second half of play against Virginia Tech at the Chick-fil-A  Kick-Off college NCAA football game in Atlanta
Having to replace three talented and veteran starters, it was a given that Alabama’s offensive line might take some time to gel as a unit. The fact that the Tide’s interior struggled as much as it did against a battered and beleaguered Virginia Tech squad, though, was surprising to say the least. In the first half, the Tide carried the ball 17 times — and gained just 30 yards. Toss in a pair of holding penalties and one sack of quarterback AJ McCarron, and it was a far from stellar effort from the line. For the game, the Tide rushed for just 96 yards on 38 carries, a paltry average of 2.5 yards per carry in the 35-10 win; last season, Alabama’s 5.6 ypc was tied for fourth in the country. It’s not a time to panic, but it is a little worrisome for Nick Saban and his offensive coaching staff with a road trip to College Station looming in a couple of weeks.

TC… you blew it
OK, maybe that’s a little strong, but why would Gary Patterson decide to punt the ball back to LSU, down 10, instead of trying to convert a fourth-and-2 with five minutes left? Yes, TCU was at its own 33-yard line, but when you’re down two scores you need to take the chance; miss it, game over. Punt it, game over. Go for it and make it, you still have life and plenty of time to extend the game and find some way to get the requisite two scores to either tie or win the game. As it played out, TCU simply couldn’t stop LSU post-punt as the Tigers put together three first downs in the final five minutes to seal a 37-27 win. A head-scratching end to what was a very good football game and a huge win for the Tigers, who very well could’ve just beaten the best the Big 12 has to offer.

Boy oh Boise
This very easily could’ve gone in the Winners section for Washington… but it won’t. Coming into the game ranked No. 19 in the country, Boise State proceeded to trip, stumble and bumble all over its junk in getting blown out by the Huskies 38-6. It was the Broncos’ largest margin of defeat since the first game of the 2005 season (48-13 to Georgia) and the fewest points scored since being shutout by another Pac-12 school (Washington State) in 1997. It was also just the third time since that Wazzu whitewash that the Broncos failed to reach double digits (2005, Fresno State; 2012, BYU). So, certainly, it was an epic beatdown for The Lil’ Program That Could, even as it came at the hands of a very focused and talented Huskies squad.

FCS foe hard on the Beaver
While we touched on this briefly up above, Oregon State deserves its own special calling out. In the Beavers’ embarrassing 49-46 loss to Eastern Washington, OSU became just the fourth ranked team ever to lose to an FCS team, joining Virginia Tech (James Madison, 2010), Michigan (2007) and Penn State (Cincinnati, 1983). Expected to possess a vastly improved defense, the Beavers surrendered an astounding 625 yards of total offense — 448 passing, 177 rushing. The Beavers can’t even blame turnovers as neither team coughed up the ball via either a fumble or an interception. No, this was simply an FBS team being outplayed at home by a squad from a lower level of football. And, whatever grief comes their way, it will be well-deserved.

Stoops, there it ain’t
Since being hired as Kentucky’s new head coach, Mark Stoops has made several big splashes along the recruiting trail. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, those splashes have yet to make an impact in the here and now. In Stoops’ head-coaching debut, the Wildcats traveled to in-state “rival” Western Kentucky and dropped a 35-26 decision to the Hilltoppers. And, in reality, the game wasn’t even that close as WKU held an 18-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Eventually, the hiring of Stoops will pay big dividends on the field; for now, people around the country will simply lament the same ol’ UK football woes.

Kirk Ferentz, Money Fleecer Extraordinaire
This season, Kirk Ferentz will make nearly $4 million as Iowa’s head coach. He has a contract that runs through the 2020 season and would cost the university tens of millions to buy him out of. The past three seasons, the Hawkeyes win total has gone from eight to seven to four in 2012, the lowest number for a Ferentz-coached team since his second season in 2000 (3-9). So, with the heat rising from the outside, what do the Hawkeyes do? Go out and lose the opener at home to Northern Illinois on a last-second field goal, of course. Don’t fret for Ferentz, however; he possesses the type of job security that 99 percent of coaches can only dream of. Whether he deserves that type of security, though, is another matter entirely.

First-year head coaches
Just barely, new head coaches at their respective schools fall into this category. During the offseason, there were 31 coaching changes; through the first three days, 29 have already made their debuts, with 15 of them coming out sans a “W”: Cal, FIU, Georgia State, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Nevada, New Mexico State, Purdue, USF, Southern Miss, Syracuse, Temple, Utah State and Western Michigan. Of course, that also means 14 came out with the coveted “W”: Arkansas, Arkansas State, Auburn, Boston College, Cincinnati, Kent State, North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Oregon, San Jose State, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Western Kentucky and Wisconsin. Both Kentucky (WKU) and Louisiana Tech (NCSU) lost to teams in its first season under a new head coach. Colorado and UTEP can add to either side in the coming days, with the former opening the season against hated rival Colorado while the latter must wait until next weekend to open its season.

Oh, Pelini
With FAU trailing Miami 34-6 Friday and with just seconds left in the game, the Owls were facing a fourth-and-four at the Miami 25-yard line. At that point, FAU head coach Carl Pelini did, well, this:

 

[/facepalm]

Yes, Pelini called for his quarterback to spike the ball on fourth down. And, yes, Pelini was mortified upon realizing that he had called for a spike on fourth down. And, no, the gaffe had no impact on the game whatsoever, but it did add some embarrassment to a program that could use less of that, not more.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

– No. 18 Nebraska 37, Wyoming 34: Last year, the Cowboys were ranked 70th in the country in total offense (390.6 yards per game); Saturday, the Cornhuskers allowed the Cowboys to roll up 602 yards. The Huskers led this one by 16 early in the fourth quarter before the Cowboys scored a pair of touchdowns — off NU turnovers — in less than five minutes, the final coming with 1:32 left. A failed onside kick, however, kept Nebraska from suffering its first season-opening loss in 29 years.

– No. 22 Northwestern 44, Cal 30: The Wildcats didn’t grab the lead for good until the middle of the fourth quarter against a surprisingly spry Bears team playing its first game under head coach Sonny Dykes. The closeness of the contest should catch the eye of Ohio State, which travels to Berkeley two weeks from yesterday.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — The two-time defending BCS champions looked positively subpar on offense but, thanks to stellar defense and special teams, easily held off an injury-ravaged Virginia Tech. Especially along the offensive line, The Tide has some issues that need shoring up prior to the Sept. 14 road trip to College Station. (Preseason: No. 1)
Next up: bye weekend

2. Clemson — You beat a Top-Five opponent, you shoot up quite a few spots. Is this the year that Clemson (finally) stops Clemsoning itself? The win over Georgia was a solid sign it may indeed be. Or they stub their toes against The Citadel. One of the two. (Preseason: No. 8)
Next up: vs. South Carolina State

Buffalo v Ohio State3. Ohio State — A rather uninspiring 20-point win over Buffalo and Clemson’s showing drops the Buckeyes down a spot. (Preseason: No. 2)
Next up: vs. San Diego State

4. Stanford — The Cardinal sat out opening weekend and won’t open their 2013 season until next Saturday. (Preseason ranking: No. 3)
Next up: vs. San Jose State

5. Louisville — The Cardinals don’t open their season until later on today against Ohio at home. While Mark Ennis might punch me in the tentacles for doing so, I’m just going to go ahead and chalk this one up as an impressive “W” for Charlie Strong‘s charges. (Preseason: No. 4)
Next up: vs. Eastern Kentucky

HE SAID IT
“I was overcome with emotion. I think my son made me soft. I bawled my eyes out.” — Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, whose infant son was released from the hospital two days before the opener Thursday after spending the first three weeks of his life in a neonatal intensive care unit.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“That’s how he is. He’s a fiery guy and that’s what we love about him. He’s not quiet. He’s not shy. He’s going to be loud and aggressive, and that’s what makes him Johnny Football. We love it.” — A&M offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi, on the ongoing circus that is Johnny Manziel.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“I don’t care how quick the offense scores. They could score on one play every time. As long as they’re scoring, I’m all for that.” — Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, on the Buckeyes’ up-tempo offense.

YOU DON’T SAY?
Courtesy of the Ohio State sports information department: With 77 rushing yards, Braxton Miller eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark in his career and now sits at 2,063. He is now 17 yards shy of Cornelius Greene’s Ohio State record of 2,080 yards rushing by a quarterback.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– Clemson became the first non-SEC team ever to beat two Top-10 SEC teams in consecutive games, with the wins coming over No. 5 Georgia Saturday night and No. 8 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last New Year’s Eve.

– Northwestern linebacker Collin Lewis returned two interceptions for touchdowns (52, 40 yards) in the road win over Cal. Both of the pick-sixes came off deflections.

– Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams accounted for 518 yards of total offense (411 passing, 107 rushing) and six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) in the upset of Oregon State.

– McNeese State’s 53-21 win over USF was the largest margin of victory for an FCS program over an FBS program since Sam Houston State beat Louisiana-Monroe 44-12 back in 2001.

– In a wild 52-51 win over Rutgers Thursday night, Fresno State’s Derek Carr completed 52-of-73 passes for 456 yards and five touchdowns. His counterpart in that game, Gary Nova, threw for 348 yards and five touchdowns as well.

Virginia Tech v Alabama– Alabama’s Christion Jones became the first player at the FBS level since North Carolina’s Brandon Tate in 2006 to return both a punt and kickoff for a touchdown in the same game. According to the Alabama record books, which date back to 1944 the school stated, Jones is the first player in program history to accomplish that feat.

– Starting in place of ex-/future Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson. Tommy Rees passed for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the Irish’s 28-6 win over Temple.

– In Marshall’s 52-14 win over Miami (Ohio), quarterback Rakeem Cato tossed five touchdown passes to four different receivers.

– SID Stat of the Day: Wisconsin has now won 16 consecutive season openers. That is tied with USC for the third-longest active streak in the country behind only Nebraska (28) and Florida (24).

– (First half) Johnny Manziel-less Texas A&M had its streak of scoring first in 17 straight games snapped in the win against Rice.

– In its first game with Bret Bielema on the sidelines, Arkansas had two 100-yard rushers in the same game (Jonathan Williams 151, Alex Collins 131) for the first time since 2007, when Darren McFadden rushed for 321 yards and Felix Jones rushed for 163 vs. South Carolina.

– Baylor outgained Wofford 692-233 in the Bears’ 69-3 win. Running back Lache Seastrunk rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries.

– Maryland had 399 yards of total offense in the first half of their game with FIU. Last season, the Terps accounted for 400 yards or more of total offense in just two of their games.

Duke Johnson rushed for a career-high 189 yards — on just 19 carries — in Miami’s 28-point win over FAU. Miami rushed for 303 yards as a team; the Hurricanes high-water mark last season was 248.

– Speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils posted the football program’s first shutout in 24 years with its 45-0 win over North Carolina Central.

Blake Bortles passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns in UCF’s 38-7 win over Akron Thursday.

– The 73 points Indiana scored in Thursday’s win over Indiana State was the second-most in school history (76). The 45 first-half points were the most ever for the program.

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USF appear set to make a change at QB

Mike White AP

During and after a four-turnover effort in the loss to Cincinnati last week, starting quarterback Mike White, the Tampa Bay Times wrote, “[got] down on himself and [allowed] teammates to see his dejection.” That didn’t sit well with head coach Willie Taggart… and might end up with White sitting on the bench this weekend.

According to the Times, backup Steven Bench has been seen taking reps with the Bulls’ starting center during practice this week. While Taggart has yet to make a decision on a starter for Saturday’s game against Houston, he again referenced composure in intimating that a change at the position could be in the offing.

“If we’re gonna be the team and win the games that we feel like we should win, everyone’s got to compete and no one can be complacent or get down when things don’t go well,” said Taggart, who didn’t indicate when he’d decide on a starter.

“If we’re gonna be the team and win the games that we feel like we should win, everyone’s got to compete and no one can be complacent or get down when things don’t go well,” the coach said Thursday. “”We’ve got to compete no matter what the situation is, and that’s what we’re looking for in our guys.”

White is currently 90th in the country, and ninth in the AAC, in passing efficiency.  White beat out Bench for the starting job during the middle of summer camp.

Bench, who transferred to the Bulls from Penn State, appears to be in line for his first start of the 2014 season. In 2013, his first season with the Bulls, Bench started a pair of games.

This season, Bench has completed less than half of his 51 passes for 319 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

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Gordon Gee continues to atone for ‘Sisters of the Poor’ blast at TCU

Orville Redenbacher AP

Saturday, TCU will visit West Virginia for what’s (unbelievably) become one of the Big 12’s games of the year.  It’s a huge deal, replete with ESPN’s College GameDay traveling circus setting up shop in Morgantown.

It also brings up memories of one of WVU president E. Gordon Gee‘s numerous and memorable and controversial feet-in-the-mouth episodes at his former job.

“Well, I don’t know enough about the Xs and Os of college football,” said then-Ohio State president Gee in November of 2010, when asked about teams like Boise State and, yes, TCU being a player in the BCS racket. “I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like murderer’s row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day. So I think until a university runs through that gauntlet that there’s some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to (be) in the big ballgame.”

With that as a backdrop, Gee went and did this on Twitter Friday.

As could be expected from the self-described Orville Redenbacher look-alike, it doesn’t exactly nudge the funny bone very much.  It is kinda cool, though, that the president continues to realize the absurdity of his closed-minded, four-year-old stupidity.

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‘Egg-throwing situation’ leads to charges for four Nittany Lions

Akeel Lynch, Wendy Laurent AP

Along with candy and costumes, egging is another annual tradition of the Halloween season.  Unlike the first two traditions, though, it’s normally an illegal activity — as a Penn State quartet recently found out.

Late last night, the PSU student newspaper The Daily Collegian reported, four Nittany Lions — tight end Brent Wilkerson, safety Anthony Smith, defensive end Garrett Sickels and center Wendy Laurent (pictured, No. 55) — were charged with criminal mischief. The charges stem from what was described as an on-campus “egg-throwing situation.”

Other than eggs and a building (Beaver Hall) being involved, no other details were released.

“We are aware of the egg-throwing situation that occurred Thursday evening and will determine the appropriate measures for the four squad members involved,” a statement from the school read. Presumably*, the lobbing of eggs at an inanimate object won’t result in any hefty punitive measures being meted out against any of the players.

(*unless a first-year head coach wants to send a message)

Laurent would be the most noticeable name of those involved. The offensive lineman is the team’s No. 2 center and, with starter Donovan Smith’s status uncertain for Saturday’s game against Maryland because of injury, the junior could be in line to start.

The only other player to see the field this season is Anthony Smith, who’s played on special teams in three games.

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Reports: UGA’s Keith Marshall won’t play vs. Florida

Keith Marshall

No Todd Gurley, no Keith Marshall and no Sony Michel have been no problem for Georgia for quite a while.  Saturday, it’ll be lather, rinse, repeat in UGA’s backfield for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

As previously reported, Gurley, suspended for two more games by the NCAA earlier this week, won’t play against Florida after his appeal was denied.  Additionally, both the Macon Telegraph’s Seth Emerson and 247Sports.com’s Gentry Estes are reporting that Marshall didn’t travel with the team to Jacksonville and, thus, won’t play in the annual rivalry game.

Marshall has been sidelined since suffering an ankle injury — presumably the high-ankle variety — in the Sept. 20 win over Troy, with Saturday marking the fifth consecutive game he will have missed.  This season, the former four-star running back has rushed for just 24 yards on 12 carries.

Additionally, Sony Michel is doubtful with a shoulder injury he suffered a week after Marshall’s injury.  Michel is still currently third on the team in rushing with 223 yards.

As has been the case since Gurley’s autographs-for-money issues surfaced, Nick Chubb will shoulder the bulk of the running-game load against the Gators.

The first five games of the season, the true freshman ran for 223 yards and two touchdowns.  The last two, those numbers are 345 and three, including a career-high 202 in the win over Arkansas two weeks ago.  In those two games, Chubb is responsible for 68 of the 86 running back carries; in the win over the Razorbacks, it was 30 to three.

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Four former winners highlight Dodd coaching award watch list

David Cutcliffe

In yet another (sad) sign that yet another season is rapidly slipping away, a coaching award has released its midseason(ish) watch list.

The second such major award to do the deed — the Bear Bryant Award did the same a week or so ago — is the Dodd Trophy, which recognizes “the head coach of a team which enjoys a successful football season while also stressing the importance of academic excellence and character.” A total of 13 coaches made the initial cut, all of whom come from Power Five conference schools.

Four former winners of the award are on the watch list, including last year’s winner, Duke’s David Cutcliffe, and two-time winner Bill Snyder of Kansas State (1998, 2012). The other two are Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (2011) and Bob Stoops (2003).

Some of the noteworthy names left off the list includes, among others, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, Marshall’s Doc Holliday, TCU’s Gary Patterson, Baylor’s Art Briles and Oregon’s Mark Helfrich.  The first two and last three of those have their respective teams in the Top 10, while the Herd is one of just three unbeaten FBS squads.

Meanwhile, two-loss coaches like Swinney, Stoops and UCLA’s Jim Mora are a part of the group.

The SEC led all conferences with four coaches on the watch list.  The ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 have two apiece.

The 2014 winner of the Dodd Trophy will be announced in Atlanta during the week prior to the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl week.

2014 Dodd Trophy Watch List

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Harvey Updyke claims he’s going trick-or-treating… as a dead tree

Harvey Updyke AP

Because, of course he is.  Possibly

On the scariest of the holidays, one of the most frightening football fans on the planet, Harvey Updyke, is making a claim related to the criminal offense that turned him into a household name a couple of years ago.  In a Facebook posting this afternoon, the convicted tree-killer claimed that he will be going trick-or-treating this Halloween dressed up as a dead tree.

Updyke, a lifelong Alabama fan, was convicted of poisoning, and ultimately killing, the famed Toomer’s Corner oaks at Auburn following the 2010 Iron Bowl.

This stunt, as it were, comes a couple of months after Updyke had been scheduled to appear at a charity event where people would’ve been allowed to either dunk [Updyke] in a dunking booth or throw pies at his face.  Because of the ensuing uproar, the appearance was canceled.

Even if it’s a joke, which is what we’re guessing will eventually be the case, it likely won’t come off as a particularly funny one to either UA or AU fans.

Updyke, as “Al from Dadeville,” infamously called into the Paul Finebaum radio show in February of 2011 and claimed to have poisoned the Toomer’s oaks after Auburn beat Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl. He was subsequently arrested, chargedand ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage of an agricultural facility, a Class-C felony. He was sentenced to three years in jailhe served 180 days of the sentence — and was placed on supervised probation for a period of five years. During that probationary period, he has a 7 p.m. curfew.

Additionally, Updyke, who now lives in Louisiana less than an hour from the LSU campus, was ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution and has been barred from the following: any Auburn University property, any collegiate sporting event and speaking to the media.  Thus far, he’s only reportedly paid $99 in restitution.

While there was initial hope that the oaks could be saved, they were ultimately taken down after one final roll. New trees are expected to be planted next year.

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Deshaun Watson resumes throwing football in practice

Deshaun Watson AP

No, Deshaun Watson is not ready for a return to the playing field, but he’s getting closer.  Much, much closer.

For the first time Wednesday night since injuring his hand in the Oct. 11 win over Louisville, the Charleston Post & Courier reported, the Clemson quarterback threw a football at practice.  The fact that Watson is back throwing a football less than three weeks after incurring the injury came as a bit of a shock to the true freshman’s offensive coordinator.

“Looked good. I think he’s kind of surprised everybody how far along he is right now with everything,” Chad Morris said. “[Wednesday] was his first time back into it taking actual snaps and reps, so it was good to see him back in there.”

Despise the surprise of what thus far has been a speedy recovery, don’t look for the original timeline for a return to be updated. Probably.

Morris, whose Tigers are on a bye this weekend, said its “doubtful” Watson would play in the Thursday night game next week against Wake Forest. That, though, is actually a slight upgrade as Watson’s currently listed as “out” on the official Clemson injury report for that game.

Cole Stoudt, who has started the last two games, is still expected to start against the Demon Deacons.  Watson might — might — be available as an emergency-type quarterback if the need arises.  Barring a setback, Watson is expected to return for the Nov. 15 game against Georgia Tech as the starter.

Watson remains the No. 2 quarterback in the country in passing efficiency, behind only Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota of Oregon. In the two games Watson has started and completed — he was injured early on in his third start– the Tigers have averaged 45.5 points per game; in Stoudt’s four starts against FBS teams, that average is 17.7 ppg.

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Dave Brandon officially out as Michigan’s AD

University of Michigan Introduces Brady Hoke Getty Images

The trigger has officially been pulled.

Following up on reports that surfaced late Friday morning, Michigan president Mark Schlissel announced this afternoon that Dave Brandon has (ahem) “resigned as UM’s athletic director”.  The move comes after a month in which Brandon was assailed from numerous corners for various missteps, from the handling of the Shane Morris head injury to the corporate nature of home football games to go along with the pricing to an embarrassing string of emails from the AD to various fans.

Add in the football team’s 3-5 record to start the 2014 season, its worst since 2008, and it’s a recipe for what most will consider a forced resignation after four years on the job.

“Dave feels that it would be in the best interest of our student-athletes, our athletic department and our university community if he moved on,” the president said.  Schlissel stated during a press conference that he accepted Brandon’s resignation this morning and that he agreed with the now-former AD’s decision to step aside.

Former UM football player Jim Hackett will serve as interim athletic director until a permanent replacement is found. Mlive.com wrote that “Hackett, a 1977 Michigan graduate, comes to U-M after two decades as chief executive of Grand Rapids-based Steelcase Inc., one of the world’s largest office furniture makers based.”

Brandon’s departure almost certainly means Brady Hoke, already on one of the hottest coaching seats in America, will be out as the Wolverines’ head coach at season’s end, if not sooner.  And, just who will make the decision to kick the chair out from underneath Hoke’s noosed neck?

Speculation had heavily centered on Arkansas AD and College Football Playoff chairperson Jeff Long even before Brandon’s resignation was announced; expect that speculation to increase exponentially with today’s development.  UConn’s Warde Manuel and Boston College’s Brad Bates have been mentioned prominently as well.  There’s even one report that tosses the name of Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione into the mix, while another states UM has already reached out to current Central Michigan AD Dave Heeke.

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Kentucky again extends Mark Stoops’ contract

Mark Stoops AP

Back in May, Kentucky announced that it had extended the contract of Mark Stoops.

Nearly six months and eight games later, they’ve done it again.

UK announced Friday afternoon that it had reached an agreement on yet another contract extension for its head football coach.  The deal back in May would’ve kept Stoops with the Wildcats through June 30, 2019; this new agreement binds him to UK through the 2019 season, meaning that it’s a rare half-year extension.

“Mark is guiding our program in the direction we all want it to go and we are proud to reward that,” athletic director Mitch Barnhart wrote in the first of a series of tweets posted to his Twitter account. “I was confident Mark was right for this job when I hired him, but he has exceeded my expectations. From leading a group of young men to recruiting to fundraising, Mark has embraced and excelled in all facets of this job. I am excited about the progress our team has shown on the field, but this is as much about the next five years as it is the last 1.5.

“As I’ve said before, I believe we can compete at the highest level in the toughest conference. @UKCoachStoops is the coach to take us there.”

There was no word on what if any salary increases may be involved.

After going 2-10 in his first season last year, Stoops has his Wildcats sitting at 5-3 in 2014 and on the verge of bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010.  While there’s certainly a greater on-field buzz when it comes to the Wildcats, it’s on the recruiting trail where it’s the loudest and most pronounced.

Kentucky currently has the No. 22 recruiting class for the 2015 cycle after Stoops and his coaching staff pulled in the No. 17 class this past February and the No. 29 class in 2013.  Prior to Stoops’ arrival, UK had just two recruiting classes — 2006 (No. 36) and 2009 (No. 41) — finish inside the Top 50 nationally since 2002.

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David Brandon will reportedly step down as Michigan’s AD

University of Michigan Introduces Brady Hoke Getty Images

It appears Michigan’s athletic department — and likely its football program as well — is about to embark on a new direction.

Late Friday morning, UM announced in a press release that university president Mark Schlissel will conduct a press conference at 1:30 ET this afternoon. The only reason given for the presser was that Schlissel would be making an unspecified announcement.

It’s been rumored for weeks that embattled athletic director Dave Brandon is on his way out. Based on one report, that’s indeed both the case and the subject of the this afternoon’s media event.

The Detroit News subsequently confirmed that Brandon will be stepping down.

In addition to the woeful performance of the football team under Brady Hoke, Brandon has come under fire for the handling of the Shane Morris head injury; the corporate nature of home football games to go along with the pricing; and an embarrassing string of emails from the AD to various fans.

Should Brandon be out as all signs indicate, it would likely serve as the second-to-last nail in Hoke’s coaching coffin, with the last being driven in by the new AD just before he brings in his own hand-picked head coach.

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Tulane loses WR to season-ending ACL injury

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Tulane AP

Unfortunately for both the player and the team, reality matched the speculation.

Tulane confirmed earlier this week that Xavier Rush suffered an undisclosed knee injury during practice and would undergo further evaluation.  There were rumblings that the injury was related to the wide receiver’s ACL.

While the school has yet to confirm it, both the Baton Rouge Advocate and New Orleans Times-Picayune are reporting that Rush has indeed torn an ACL.  The Green Wave is expected to confirm the news at some point today.

As the senior has already used his redshirt season and he will not be eligible for a medical waiver, Rush’s collegiate career has come to an end.

Rush is currently second on the Green Wave in receiving yards with 295 and leads the team with three receiving touchdowns and a 19.7 yards per catch average. His 15 catches are second among receivers and third among all players.

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Reports: Kyle Allen to start at QB for A&M

Kyle Allen AP

The 2014 season began with Kenny “Trill™” Hill being mentioned alongside other Heisman Trophy contenders.  It could, though, end with a performance-based benching.

Officially, Texas A&M will not name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe until shortly before kickoff.  Unofficially, a change is in the offing at the most important position on the football field as both the CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth and Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com are reporting that Kyle Allen will get the start in the non-conference home game.

Hill tossed six interceptions in the last two losses to Alabama and Ole Miss, leading to the quarterback competition being opened up yet again during the Aggies’ bye week.  He had been named as Johnny Manziel‘s successor in mid-August after a fight with Allen that began in the spring and continued on into summer camp.

Should Allen start against ULM, he’d hit the field with as impressive an on-paper pedigree as any player in the country.  Allen came to College Station this season as a five-star member of the Aggies’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 7 player at any position.

Allen has thrown passes in four of eight games this season, going 23-38 for 264 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

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No. 2 Florida State still unconquered, rallies to beat Louisville 42-31

Dalvin Cook

Before we get to what Louisville didn’t do, first let’s discuss what Florida State did on Thursday night: overcome a 21-0 deficit on the road, score 42 points over the game’s last 30 minutes and 33 seconds, drop 580 yards of total offense (and 380 in the second half) against the nation’s top statistical defense, and held the Louisville without a third- or fourth-down conversion until the game was put away. And in the process, No. 2 Florida State extended its winning streak to 24 games with a rise-from-the-dead 42-31 victory over Louisville.

With that out of the way, here is the list of things Louisville did not do that could have pushed this game the other way:

  • Turn a 1st-and-goal at the four into points on the game’s opening possession.
  • Recover a fumble by Florida State’s Karlos Williams at the goal line in the waning moments of the first half.
  • Hold on to the ball after intercepting Jameis Winston to open the second half.
  • Corral what would have been a possible pick six, which would have pushed Louisville’s lead to 31-21.
  • Convert a third down while the game was still in doubt.
  • Catch a 4th-and-2 pass with room to run while trailing 35-31 deep into the fourth quarter.

In the end, Louisville did just enough to give its fans (and the FSU-hating masses) just enough to hope, but not enough to actually put the game away.

Florida State trailed 21-0 late in the second quarter, and got on the board 33 seconds before halftime after Nick O’Leary recovered Williams’ fumble in the end zone to pull within 21-7 at the half.

Cardinals defensive back Gerold Holliman intercepted Winston – the reigning Heisman winner’s third pick of the night, and second to Holliman – on the first play from scrimmage of the second half, but Winston then forced a fumble as Holliman fought for extra yardage, and wide receiver Travis Rudolph hopped on the loose pigskin.

Louisville forced a turn0ver on downs on the next possession and then pushed the lead to 24-7 a minute later, but the two 50/50 plays falling Florida State’s way gave the Seminoles life.

Normally a 17-point road deficit is overcome through the battle-hardened strength only veterans possess, but true freshman teamed with Winston to overcome and then put away Louisville over the last 25 minutes of the game. Winston hit freshman Rudolph for a 68-yard catch-and-run score to pull within 24-14, and then true freshman Dalvin Cook accounted for 76 yards in an 80-yard drive, including a 40-yard touchdown dash, to make the score 24-21.

Florida State took its first lead with 12:48 to go in the fourth quarter when Winston hit Ermon Lane, another freshman, for a 47-yard pass that somehow threaded through three Louisville defenders, and came one play after Holliman let a possible pick-six bounce off his knee and land incomplete.

Louisville then regained the lead with 9:20 to go on a one-yard Dyer plunge, but the Seminoles re-took it for good with a 38-yard rush by Cook. The Cardinals’ next possession ended when a Will Gardner pass bounced off tight end Charles Standberry‘s hands on 4th-and-2 at the Louisville 39 with a shade over 150 seconds to go. Florida State scored three plays later when Winston hit fullback Freddie Stevenson for a 35-yard play-action touchdown pass on a 3rd-and-6.

Winston posted his finest performance of the season, overcoming self-inflicted adversity and a bum ankle to complete 25-of-48 passes for 401 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions (and one very important forced fumble), while Cook came off the bench to account for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 13 touches.

Gardner threw for 330 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but did not rise to the moment when Louisville needed it, missing every third down pass until the game was out of reach. DeVante Parker carried the Cardinals’ passing attack with eight grabs for 214 yards. Dyer rushed 28 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns, but tallied only 39 yards in the second half.

Louisville drops to a very painful 6-3 (4-3 ACC) on the season and heads to Boston College on Saturday.

Florida State improves to 8-0 on the year, and is now one win away from becoming the 11th team in the last 50 years to mount a 25-game winning streak.

After Clemson (17-10 deficit into a 23-17 win), N.C. State (24-7 deficit into a 56-41 win), Notre Dame (17-10 deficit into a 31-27 win) and tonight, this 2014 Florida State team has taught future opponents that they had best not bother even taking a lead; defeat is inevitable, and that’s just going to make it all the more painful.

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Georgia Southern drubs Troy 42-10, pushes winning streak to six

Willie Fritz, Kevin Ellison

One week after popping Georgia State to the tune of 69 points, 10 touchdowns in 11 possessions and 613 rushing yards, Georgia Southern kept the beat going with a 42-10 blowout of Troy on Thursday night.

Nine Georgia Southern rushers combined for 421 yards and six touchdowns on 63 carries. Quarterback Kevin Ellison led the way with 99 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries while also completing 5-of-9 passes for 31 yards, and Favian Upshaw added 96 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Tonight’s result means Georgia Southern, the top-ranked FBS rushing offense at a shade over 400 yards per game, has racked up 1,034 rushing yards in the past five days. They’ve punted twice in 22 combined possessions.

All that running limited Troy to just 44 offensive snaps. Five Trojans combined to rush 33 times for 141 yards, while two quarterbacks lifted only 11 passes with four completions for a combined 13 yards. The Trojans were held out of the end zone until the 1:18 mark of the fourth quarter, with the score already at 42-3.

In all, Georgia Southern outgained Troy 461-154 and held a 28-9 advantage in first downs.

The win pushes Georgia Southern to 7-2 and 6-0 in Sun Belt play with a trip to Texas State waiting next Saturday.

Troy (1-8, 1-4 Sun Belt) will host Georgia State next Saturday.

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NCAA upholds Todd Gurley suspension, won’t return until Nov. 15

Todd Gurley

The Todd Gurley saga has finally reached its final conclusion.

The NCAA announced Thursday night it had upheld Georgia’s appeal of his four-game suspension for accepting more than $3,000 in exchange for autographs.

Gurley has missed the last two games due to the investigation, and will miss the ninth-ranked Bulldogs’ dates with Georgia (Saturday) and Kentucky (Nov. 8).

“We are very disappointed in tonight’s decision by the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee regarding our appeal on Todd Gurley’s eligibility reinstatement,” Georgia said in a statement. “We believe our case to the NCAA for Todd’s immediate reinstatement was strong and compelling.  However, we now have exhausted all available options and look forward to Todd’s return to competition on November 15.  The full attention of the Bulldog Nation now needs to be focused on our team and Saturday’s important game against Florida.”

The silver lining here for Georgia is that the Bulldogs should beat the Gators and Wildcats without Gurley, and then get a rested and hacked off version of the nation’s best runner back for No. 4 Auburn on Nov. 15.

Despite missing the past two games, Gurley still leads Georgia in rushing with 773 carries and eight touchdowns on 94 carries while catching 11 passes for 53 yards and completing his only pass for 50 yards.

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