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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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DB Mackenro Alexander leaving Auburn, looking at USF

Auburn Spring Game

A little-used Auburn defensive back is looking for a new football home where he’ll get utilized a little more, al.com‘s Brandon Marcello is reporting.

Citing a person familiar with the decision, Marcello reported that Mackenro Alexander (pictured, being dragged) has been granted a release from his AU scholarship and will transfer to another football program to continue his playing career. One of those places could be USF, where 247Sports.com reports the safety is visiting Saturday.

USF is located in Tampa, Fla., a little over a two-hour drive from Alexander’s home in Immokalee.

Alexander saw very little playing time after coming to Auburn as a three-star member of the Class of 2013.  He played in eight games as a true freshman, then none in 2014.

Originally verbally committed to Florida State, Alexander, rated as the No. 43 safety in the country, ultimately chose AU over his other finalists, Clemson and Mississippi State.  Alexander’s four-star cornerback brother, Mackensie Alexander, signed with Clemson in 2013 and, after redshirting, was named as a freshman All-American by several outlets coming off a season in which he started 13 games.

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SMU, Baylor QBs transfer to Sacramento State

Texas A&M v SMU Getty Images

For the first time since Chad Morris took over as head coach last month, a player has left the SMU football program. And, as it turns out, another player from a fellow Texas FBS program is following.

In a press release Friday, Sacramento State announced that Kolney Cassel is one of three midyear transfers joining the team. Because the Hornets play at the FCS level, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately this coming season.

“We wanted to add a transfer at quarterback and after looking at film and talking to coaches, we were fortunate to get Kolney,” head coach Jody Sears said in a statement. “He brings some experience and veteran leadership to the program. He has good size (6-foot-2, 192 pounds) and a great arm and will increase the competition at the position.”

After redshirting as a true freshman in 2013, Cassel played in five games for a Mustang squad that saw four different quarterbacks start at least one contest. Cassel was one of those, starting one game.

The three-star member of SMU’s 2013 recruiting class completed 15-of-37 passes (40.5 percent) for 156 yards and a touchdown for the one-win Mustangs. He has three years of eligibility remaining.

Matt Davis, a Texas A&M transfer who started the majority of the games the last month of the season; Garrett Krstich, who started from mid-September until Davis essentially took over; and Neal Burcham, the starter at the beginning of the season until being sidelined by a season-ending injury, will head into spring practice as the three favorites for the job, with that logjam factoring into Cassel’s decision.  Of the three that remain, Davis would likely be considered the front-runner.

As for the other FBS transfer, the Hornets also announced the addition of Alexis Robinson. Robinson signed a track scholarship with Baylor last year and was also a preferred walk-on to the Bears football team, where he redshirted for the 2014 season.

“We didn’t sign a quarterback last season so Alexis will step in and fill that role for that class,” Sears said. “He is a world-class sprinter that is a football player. He’s a phenomenal athlete that we are lucky to have in our program.”

Robinson will have four years of eligibility remaining and, like Cassel, will be eligible immediately.

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‘Cuse adds TEs coach, adjusts Bobby Acosta’s role

Jake Moreland

Scott Shafer has officially made a couple of tweaks to his Syracuse coaching staff, including filling the lone hole in his nine-man group.

In a press release, the Orange confirmed that Jake Moreland has been hired as Shafer’s tight ends coach.  Moreland will replace Bobby Acosta, who will slide outside from tight ends to wide receivers.

George McDonald, following his in-season demotion from offensive coordinator, had finished out the 2014 season as receivers coach and is now in the same position at North Carolina State.

“Jake is an outstanding leader of young men and a terrific football coach,” Shafer said in a statement. “The expertise he brings from his 12 years as a tight ends coach will greatly enhance that area for our program as he and Joe Adam work together to mold our offensive line into a productive and cohesive group.

“Adding Jake to our staff allows Bobby Acosta to resume coaching receivers, a position he has mentored at three other schools, and serve as our recruiting coordinator. Along with offensive coordinator Tim Lester and running backs coach DeAndre Smith, Jake, Bobby and Joe will lead a productive offense and develop the young men in our program. We are thrilled to welcome Jake, his wife, Anne, and their daughters, Courtney, Grace and Emma, to the Syracuse family.”

Moreland comes to the ‘Cuse after spending the past three seasons as the tight ends coach at Air Force. He also has a history with Shafer, serving on the same staff at Western Michigan in 2005-06.

“It is a unique opportunity to come to Syracuse after having been at Air Force because both programs focus on the development of the student-athlete, emphasizing academics and athletics, to build student-athletes of high character and mentor young people who will become leaders,” Moreland said. “All of the values Coach Shafer instills in this program parallel what I believe in. My relationships with this coaching staff began early in our careers and then we went our separate ways to continue to grow. It is special to be back together again.”

(Photo credit: Air Force athletics)

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Report: Saban expected to stay in-house to fill one staff vacancy

Tosh Lupoi AP

Alabama announced earlier Saturday that the Tide would be retaining their offensive coordinator, thus avoiding a third hole on Nick Saban‘s coaching staff.  Of the two remaining holes, one has reportedly been filled, and the head coach didn’t have to go outside the building to fill it.

According to Thayer Evans of SI.com, Saban is expected to promote Tosh Lupoi to outside linebackers coach.  Lupoi currently serves as what’s described as a “defensive analyst.”

If the move comes to fruition, Lupoi would replace Lance Thompson, who left for Auburn earlier this month in what amounted to a lateral move.

In December of 2013, it was reported that Lupoi, the defensive line coach under Steve Sarkisian at Washington, gave $4,500 in impermissible benefits to defensive lineman Andrew Basham, who signed with the Huskies the previous February but failed to qualify academically.  Lupoi, who was under consideration for a job on Sarkisian’s new staff at USC, subsequently and very vehemently denied the allegations.  Because of the NCAA investigation into the allegations, Lupoi did not reunite with Sarkisian at USC.

In mid-January, it was reported that Lupoi and the football program had reached an agreement on a separation deal as he was not retained by new Huskies head coach Chris Petersen.  The NCAA completed its probe into the issue in early February, announcing that no sanctions would be meted out against either Lupoi or the UW football program.

Less than two months later, Lupoi was hired by Saban.

Lupoi spent six seasons as a defensive line coach at Cal (2006-11) — he was named Rivals.com‘s Recruiter of the Year in 2010 — before leaving for the Huskies in January of 2012.  Shortly after joining the staff at UW, Lupoi was found to have committed a minor NCAA violation unrelated to the other incident, resulting in his being “limited” during the spring evaluation period for recruits.

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Ex-Gamecock Shaq Roland to finish career at an FCS A&M

South Carolina v Florida Getty Images

A career that began with much promise at the FBS level will finish further down the collegiate ladder.

The mother of former South Carolina Gamecock Shaq Roland has confirmed to Josh Kendall of The State that her son has decided to move on to Prairie View A&M in Texas. As the Panthers are an FCS program, Roland, an SC native, will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

“He was feeling kind of depressed (when he left the team), but he’s coming back to normal,” the wide receiver’s mother, Petina Etheredge, told the paper. “He said from the beginning that he wanted to get out of South Carolina. He felt like it would give him an opportunity for a fresh start and a second chance.”

A fresh start was certainly in order for what was an up-and-down career with the Gamecocks.

In 2013, the wide receiver was suspended for a total of three games for unspecified violations of team policies.

This season, Roland was third on the team in receiving yards (356) and receiving touchdowns (four), and he’s fourth in receptions (26). Even with that statistical success, Roland didn’t travel with the team for a game against Kentucky because he failed to attend a team meeting and a walkthrough.

A couple of days before Christmas, Roland quit the team.

A four-star member of USC’s 2012 recruiting class, Roland was rated as the No. 10 receiver in the country and the No. 1 player at any position in the state of South Carolina.

Despite all of that recruiting potential, Roland finished his Gamecock career with just 56 catches for 891 yards and 10 touchdowns.

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Ole Miss’ Trae Elston issues mea culpa for arrest

Alabama v Mississippi Getty Images

Very early Thursday morning, two Ole Miss football players were arrested and charged. A day later, one of the two publicly apologized.

Defensive back Trae Elston and wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow were each charged with disorderly conduct, while Elston had a charge of resisting arrest tacked on as well. The incident that led to the legal predicament occurred outside of a bar called Lyric and reportedly involved numerous people in what was described as a large disturbance.

From WREG-TV in Memphis:

A police report said an officer was trying to break up a fight when Stringfellow fled on foot. An officer took him down a short ways away, but said Stringfellow refused to follow orders.

The report checked a box, indicating the incident might have been alcohol-related.

Another police report said an officer saw Elston hit another man. When an officer stepped in, Elston reportedly took off.

After taking off, Elston took to Twitter for his mea culpa.

Unlike Stringfellow, this is Elston’s first run-in with the law. “We are gathering facts on the matter,” head coach Hugh Freeze said in a very brief statement.

Over the past three years, Elston, a safety, has started 32 games for the Rebels.

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Alabama announces Lane Kiffin will return to Tide in 2015

Florida Atlantc v Alabama AP

This past week, Nick Saban stated that, amidst NFL speculation, Lane Kiffinis committed to us right now.”  It appears that, moving forward, that commitment will include the entire 2015 season.

And addresses — and puts an end to — the staff overhaul speculation for good measure.

In a press release, and less than two weeks before National Signing Day, Alabama confirmed that Kiffin will return to the Tide for the upcoming season.  Last weekend saw Kiffin’s name surface as the front-runner for the coordinator job of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.

This weekend begins with statements from both the interested parties reaffirming their commitments.

“We’ve very pleased and happy that Lane is going to be staying here at the University of Alabama with us,” Saban said. “He’s done a fabulous job and is one of the finest offensive coaches in the country. He is going to have plenty of opportunities in the future and we want to continue to help him develop as a coach so when he leaves here, he’ll be in a very good situation. Our offense was extremely productive last season and we look forward to building on some of the good things we did on that side of the ball with this year’s team.”

In his statement, Kiffin intimated that the speculation involving the 49ers was overstated.

“I made a comment at the Sugar Bowl that I would be back this fall at Alabama and that is definitely the plan,” said Kiffin in his statement. “This time of year, there are lots of things out there regarding other coaching opportunities, but I want to reaffirm my commitment to the University of Alabama, Coach Saban, and our team. I’m excited about what our offensive staff was able to accomplish last year, but I also think there are a lot of things we can do a better job of in terms of putting our players in the best situation to have success.

“After being here for a year, I can see why this is such a special place in terms of the history, tradition, and how much football means to everyone at Alabama. I also have learned so much in the time I’ve spent with Coach Saban and really have a better understanding of what makes him the great coach that he is. I think the more time I can spend learning from him, the better coach I will be in the future.”

Kiffin recently completed his first season with the Tide, setting a school record in his debut for total offense while quarterback Blake Sims and wide receiver Amari Cooper both set records for passing yards and receiving yards, respectively. He was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.

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Alvarez: Pat Narduzzi interviewed for UW job

Barry Alvarez

With all signs pointing to Paul Chryst being named as Wisconsin’s new head coach, Barry Alvarez acknowledged on Dec. 12 that he would be interviewing two additional candidates. While the athletic director wouldn’t divulge the two potential candidates at the time, one was reported to be former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano.

Not only did Alvarez confirm Friday the Schiano interview, he also revealed the second candidate: Pat Narduzzi. The AD wasn’t done with the revelations either — or pulling the curtain back a bit on the coach-agent-school dynamic for that matter. From the Wisconsin State Journal:

Alvarez said there were others interviewed, including an African-American, but he declined to identify them because they’re currently head coaches.

“That’s where it gets touchy because then you jeopardize their job because they’re looking (for a different job) or their agent’s looking for them,” he said.

As had been expected all along, Chryst was officially introduced as UW’s head coach on Dec. 17, leaving the same post at Pittsburgh to come back to his home state. The man who replaced Chryst? Narduzzi, of course.

Three days after Chryst’s hiring, reports first surfaced that Narduzzi had interviewed for the Panthers’ opening. Six days after that, Narduzzi was officially introduced as Chryst’s successor at Pitt.

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At title celebration, Braxton Miller indicates ‘we’ve got another year’

Braxton Miller

Saturday morning, fans gathered at Ohio Stadium to celebrate Ohio State’s title in the first College Football Playoff.  And, it appears, they may have been party to some “breaking” news.

As each player was introduced, Braxton Miller was greeted with a “one more year!” chant from those huddled in the Columbus cold.  In speaking to the throng, Miller seemed to indicate that a return to the Buckeyes, not a transfer to another football program as most have expected, is in the cards for 2015.

It was reported earlier this week that Miller is enrolled for the spring semester at OSU, an indication that he’ll (likely) be at the school when summer rolls around.  Because of the continued rehab on the shoulder that kept him out for the 2014 season, and was the impetus for the current quarterback “conundrum,” Miller will not participate in spring practice.  J.T. Barrett, who led the Buckeyes to an 11-1 mark as a starter before sustaining his own season-ending injury, will be limited in the spring, meaning that the postseason hero, Cardale Jones, will get most of the meaningful reps during the spring — and presumably a leg up in the race for the starting, especially with a new/different coordinator on the job.

Just because Miller states “we’ve got another year” at a celebration… and just because Urban Meyer thinks he’ll be back… and just because he’s enrolled for the spring, that doesn’t mean, though, things can’t or won’t change once summer rolls around, as we’re reminded by Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch:

With his degree in hand, Miller can transfer and play immediately, and his current enrollment at Ohio State has nothing to do with that. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who also had graduated early and was giving minor-league baseball a try, didn’t make up his mind to transfer from North Carolina State to Wisconsin until June 2011. That season, he led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl.

Of course, Miller could be back for another year, but at a different position. So there’s that as well.  Still, there are a growing number of signs that Miller will, at one position or another, indeed return to OSU for his final collegiate season.

Whether that is the case when spring gives way to summer still remains to be seen.

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Starting OT Brandon Shell one of two Gamecocks who’ll miss spring

South Carolina v Kentucky

South Carolina will be down a couple of players during the spring, including one expected to be one of the linchpins of the offensive line.

Brandon Shell was bothered by a shoulder issue leading up to the Gamecocks’ bowl game this past season but played in the game. He did, however, undergo surgery earlier this month to repair a torn labrum.

As a result, a school spokesperson confirmed to the Associated Press, the great-nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Art Shell will not be able to participate in spring practice this year. The good news, however, is that he could be back in time for summer workouts and should certainly, barring a setback during rehab, be 100-percent healthy for the start of summer camp.

Shell has started 36 of the last 39 games for the Gamecocks, including every game the past two seasons. A right tackle, there’s a possibility he could move to left tackle for the 2015 season.

In addition to Shell, linebacker Marcquis Roberts will miss spring practice as well. Like Shell, Roberts underwent surgery recently for a torn labrum. The time frame for Roberts’ return is similar to Shell’s.

Roberts started 14 games the past two seasons, nine in 2013 and five in 2014.

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Ed Orgeron’s pay similar to LSU predecessor’s

Ed Orgeron

LSU was able to land Ed Orgeron as its new defensive line coach and, as it turns out, they won’t have to even remotely break the bank to do so. Well, relative to last year’s pay structure it won’t.

According to both the Baton Rouge Advocate and New Orleans Times-Picayune, the proposed deal for Orgeron is for two years and worth a total of $895,000. Orgeron would earn $445,000 in 2015 and $450,000 in 2016, with a maximum bonus of $75,000 each season also possible.

Brick Haley, the man Orgeron replaced, earned $445,000 in 2014. Haley has since “been moved to an administrative role within the department,” the Advocate wrote.

Additionally, and as previously reported, four other coaches are up for raises and/or extensions: recruiting coordinator/associate head coach/running backs coach Frank Wilson will receive a three-year extension and a $10,000 raise to $660,000 annually; wide receivers coach Adam Henry and defensive backs coach Corey Raymond will each receive two-year extensions and $55,000 (to $375,000) and $10,000 (to $320,000) raises, respectively. Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger will receive a two-year contract extension but no raise.

LSU’s Board of Supervisors will consider the contract proposals at a meeting scheduled for next week. Another contract that will be considered is that of new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, whose initial contract details weren’t a part of the agenda release.

The man who Steele replaced, John Chavis, earned $1.3 million in 2014 before leaving for the same job at Texas A&M earlier this month.

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Former four-star recruit will transfer from Tennessee to Maryland

Florida v Tennessee

After a year in Knoxville, Tennessee, cornerback D’Andre Payne decided he wanted to play closer to home.

The Washington D.C. native announced on Twitter that he will transfer and become a member of Randy Edsall‘s Maryland Terrapins.

As a freshman, Payne played in eight games and registered four tackles.

Prior to arriving in Knoxville, the defensive back was considered a four-star recruit by Rivals.com and held over 30 scholarship offers.

Payne will have to sit out the 2015 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules, but he should be in position to compete for a starting job with Alvin Hill and Undray Clark graduating after the season.

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Overhaul of Alabama coaching staff is ‘complete speculation’

Tyler Siskey

As the coaching carousel continues to spin, most coaches want to become a part of the Alabama Crimson Tide staff, not leave it.

However, three different assistant coaches have left Nick Saban‘s purview since the team’s 42-35 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl.

Tyler Siskey, who served as Alabama’s director of player personnel this past year, was the latest departure.

After linebackers coaches Kevin Steele and Lance Thompson also left for other positions with the LSU Tigers and Auburn Tigers, respectively, questions began to surface whether or not a mass exodus was starting among Alabama’s coaching staff.

Siskey was asked about the possibility after accepting a position as South Alabama’s wide receivers coach under Joey Jones.

“There’s absolutely zero truth to whatever speculation about something like that,” Siskey told Al.com’s Mike Herndon. “It happens every year in this business and in this league. It’s just part of it.

“I’ve been hit with that question about five times today. It’s the first I’ve heard it. You can’t control what people put out there. … You hear stories and it’s just complete speculation because they don’t know the truth.”

Siskey was merely looking for an opportunity to become a position coach, which he found with the Jaguars.

Otherwise, Alabama has yet to lose one of its key coordinators. Kirby Smart returns for his eighth season as the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator. Despite overtures from the NFL, Saban said that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is “committed” to Alabama “right now.”

If either of those two coaches decide to leave, legitimate concern can set in. Until then, Saban will put together the best possible staff to keep Alabama near the top of college football.

(Photo courtesy of Ole Miss athletic department)

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UPDATE: Utah State announces hiring of Josh Heupel (OC), Kevin Clune (DC)

Oklahoma v Notre Dame

One day after Utah State reportedly handing the keys of its offense off to a former Oklahoma quarterback, that move has come to fruition.  As has the keys to the other side of the ball being handed off, as it turns out.

In press releases Friday, USU announced the hiring of Josh Heupel as offensive coordinator and Kevin Clune as defensive coordinator.  The former replaces Kevin McGiven, who left in late December to take the quarterbacks coach job at Oregon State, and the latter Todd Orlando, who left to take the same job at Houston.  Heupel will also carry the titles of assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.

Heupel, who played quarterback for the Sooners, spent every year of his 11-year coaching career but one (Arizona, 2005) at OU, beginning as a grad assistant in 2004.  He became the quarterbacks coach in 2006, and was then promoted to co-coordinator in 2010.

Jan. 6, OU confirmed that Heupel, along with co-coordinator Jay Norvell, would no longer be a part of Bob Stoops‘ staff.  Norvell ultimately landed at rival Texas.

“We are very excited to add Josh Heupel to our coaching staff,” said head coach Matt Wells in a statement. “Josh brings a tremendous pedigree and accomplishments to Utah State and the offensive side of the ball. Our philosophies are very similar in how to move the football and I’m looking forward to a seamless transition this season with our offense. I’m excited to welcome Josh, his wife Dawn, and their two children to the Aggie football family.”

This a reunion of sorts for Clune, who served as the Aggies’ linebackers coach for five years (2009-13). Clune left USU to become the coordinator at Hawaii for what turned out to be just the 2014 season.

“Kevin has a tremendous amount of experience with our defense in terms of both terminology and daily operations, and his transition into this position will be very natural,” Wells said. “Kevin did a tremendous job at Hawai’i improving that defense and I have great confidence that he will continue to do special things here with our Aggie defense moving forward.”

UPDATE [9:40 p.m ET]: One announcement that flew under the radar when Utah State head coach Matt Wells officially introduced his new coordinators was a promotion among his existing staff.

Weber is entering his third season at Utah State. During his previous two seasons, Weber coached six different offensive linemen that received All-Mountain West Conference honors.

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Baylor Bears unveil newest helmet design

Bryce Petty

A new helmet or uniform unveiling has become routine in college football.

The equipment race to sway recruits is alive and well even during the offseason.

The Baylor Bears have been on the forefront of uniform exploration in recent years. Their helmets have ranged from traditional gold to matte forest green to golden chrome and everything in-between.

With National Signing Day looming, Baylor’s Director of Equipment Services Jeff Barlow unveiled the Bears’ latest addition to the their wardrobe:

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