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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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After alleged battery of gay couple, Herd’s Steward Butler dismissed

Relatively speaking, the expected didn’t take long.

This morning, reports surfaced that Marshall running back Steward Butler had been arrested and charged with battery in connection to the beating of a same-sex couple.  Butler allegedly became angry after witnessing the couple kissing.

Shortly after reports of the early April attack surfaced, Butler was indefinitely suspended from all team activities.  Roughly two hours later, in a statement attributed to athletic director Mike Hamrick, Butler is gone entirely.

Head Coach Doc Holliday and I have decided to dismiss running back Steward Butler from our program in light of additional information regarding his charges.

What the additional information is that surfaced is unclear.  What is clear is that, based on a statement from the university’s president, Butler wasn’t long for the football program.

In that statement, interim president Gary White described the incident as “violent, bigoted behavior” and that “the entire university is shocked and disappointed” over the details that were known at the time.

As previously noted, the charges Butler is facing are misdemeanors, although there could be federal issues as it pertains to the player violating the couple’s civil rights. The Huntington Police Department turned over evidence related to the case to the FBI, which will determine whether federal charges are in order.

Football-wise, it’s a blow to Holliday’s team as Butler, a senior, has been the Herd’s second-leading rusher each of the past three seasons.

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Louisville, Purdue reportedly headed to Indy for 2017 opener

Colts Manning Football AP

The Big Ten and NCAA may (highly unlikely) or may not (highly likely) be hightailing it out of Indiana because of a controversial new law, but it appears there will still be some high-profile football action taking place in the state.  Reportedly.

According to a report from ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, Louisville and Purdue are finalizing a deal that would have the two schools open the 2017 season at Lucas Oil Stadium Sept. 2.  That home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts also serves as the host site for the Big Ten’s football championship game.

If/when the game comes to fruition — an official announcement is expected to happen at some point this month according to a UofL official — it will mark just the second-ever meeting between the two football programs.  The first came back in 1987 and ended in a 22-all tie.

Purdue has played one game at Lucas Oil Stadium, a 30-14 loss to Notre Dame last season.  Louisville will open the 2015 season with a neutral-site matchup against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

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Marshall indefinitely suspends RB Steward Butler

Western Kentucky v Marshall

At bare minimum, Steward Butler is temporarily separated from his Marshall football team.  At worst, he’ll be separated permanently from the university.

Earlier Wednesday it was reported that the running back was arrested on a pair of battery charges after he allegedly beat up two gay men after he had witnessed the couple kissing.  A short time after those reports surfaced, athletic director Mike Hamrick announced that Butler has been indefinitely suspended from all team activities.

“We take all accusations against our student-athletes seriously, especially those of such a sensitive nature,” Hamrick wrote. “We hold all of our 350+ student-athletes to a high standard, on and off the playing surface, as ambassadors of Marshall University.”

In a tersely-worded statement, interim Marshall president Gary White intimated that, depending on how the legal process plays out, Butler’s time at the school may be drawing to an end.

“The entire university community is shocked and disappointed to learn the details surrounding the alleged actions that led to Mr. Butler’s arrest this morning.

“The type of violent, bigoted behavior reported to have been perpetrated by this student is not tolerated at Marshall University. Period. This is an extremely serious matter.

“We will allow the legal process to run its course and will act swiftly and appropriately within our Student Conduct System and according to the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities as more details become clear.”

While the charges Butler is facing are misdemeanors, there could be federal issues as it pertains to the player violating the couple’s civil rights. The Huntington Police Department turned over evidence related to the case to the FBI.

Butler, a senior, has been the Herd’s second-leading rusher each of the past three seasons.

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Urban Meyer undergoes previously unscheduled medical procedure

Urban Meyer AP

And cue the Urban-Florida-health scare-retirement one-liners in three… two… one…

Scheduled to make an appearance in Findlay, Ohio, Wednesday night, Urban Meyer instead made an unscheduled visit to a local medical facility earlier in the day.  According to multiple media outlets, and confirmed by an Ohio State spokesperson, the Buckeyes head coach underwent what was only described as an unspecified surgery.  Where the procedure was performed wasn’t divulged.

There are also reports that Meyer underwent an appendectomy, although those have yet to be confirmed.

There’s a possibility that Meyer will be forced to stay in the hospital overnight, but, according to the school, he’s expected to be fine moving forward.  In fact, he’s still expected to travel to New York City Friday for Ohio State Night at a New York Yankees game and throw out the first pitch.

In March of last year, Meyer underwent a minor surgical procedure that involved the removal of fluid from a congenital arachnoid cyst.  Health concerns prompted Meyer to briefly step down as Florida’s head coach in December of 2009, and played a role on some level in his permanent decision to leave his Gator post a year later.

After spending one season as a college football analyst at ESPN, Meyer took over as the Buckeyes head coach in November of 2011.  In three seasons at OSU, Meyer has compiled a mark of 38-3 that includes not only a perfect 24-0 mark in regular season Big Ten play but also the conference’s first national championship in over a decade.

UPDATED 12:58 p.m. ET: Meyer’s wife Shelley Meyer confirmed to the Cleveland Plain Dealer that her husband had his appendix removed Wednesday.  A school official subsequently acknowledged to CFT that it’s uncertain as to whether Meyer will make the trip to the Big Apple as planned.

UPDATED 2:44 p.m. ET: The Associated Press writes that Meyer “is still scheduled to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on Friday night as part of a trip to New York City” after undergoing the appendectomy this afternoon. As someone whose appendix burst 20 years ago, I have no idea how Meyer will be physically able to throw a pitch two days after such a procedure.

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Four-star A&M QB signee Kyler Murray opts out of MLB draft

Kyler Murray Marlon Walls AP

At least for now, Texas A&M doesn’t have to worry about losing the most high-profile member of its 2015 recruiting class to the stick-and-ball sport.

Following a closely-watched recruiting scuffle that involved hated (former?) rival Texas, A&M landed a signed National Letter of Intent from touted 2015 quarterback prospect Kyler Murray this past February.  The four-star signee, however, is also a touted baseball prospect, leaving some worried that he would be selected high in next month’s Major League Baseball draft and would ditch football altogether.

Murray himself, however, took to Twitter Wednesday afternoon to allay those fears.

This doesn’t mean that A&M’s baseball worries are over as far as Murray is concerned as he could always change course in subsequent years.  For 2015, though, it appears he will be a football Aggie, and a very talented one at that.

Murray was rated as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Texas by Rivals.com.  With true sophomore Kyle Allen seemingly entrenched as the starter, there’s a possibility, or even probability, that Murray will redshirt as a true freshman this season, although he will be given the opportunity to unseat the incumbent during summer camp.

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Marshall RB Steward Butler charged in alleged beating of gay couple

Western Kentucky v Marshall

A member of the Marshall football program is the latest FBS football player to find himself running into some post-spring legal issues off the field, although this one’s a bit different as it could possibly have federal implications.

According to multiple media outlets, Steward Butler has been charged with two counts of battery after he was accused of beating a homosexual couple early last month.  Butler had been wanted by police for questioning pertaining to April 5 incident, and turned himself in Wednesday morning.

As for the particulars that led to the pair of misdemeanor charges, the Huntington Herald-Dispatch has the following account:

The charges stem from the April 5 beating of two men, moments after they kissed at 5th Avenue and 9th Street in Huntington. Criminal complaints charge Butler witnessed the kiss, exited a passing vehicle and proceeded to shout derogatory words toward both men related to their sexual orientation.

Butler then struck the face of both victims with a closed fist, the complaints charge.

The alleged attack was caught on video by one of the alleged victims. The Herald-Dispatch also writes that the Huntington Police Department “has turned over evidence to the FBI for its review of any civil rights violations.”

“We are aware of the situation involving Marshall running back Steward Butler and are currently in the process of gathering all available information,” a statement attributed to Marshall athletics began. “We will handle the matter internally and appropriately.”

Butler’s 798 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns were second on the Herd last season. He was also second on the Herd in those categories in 2013 (765, eight) and second in yards in 2012 (500).

All told, Butler has scored 18 ruishing touchdowns the past three seasons.

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Potential Maxx Williams successor for Gophers granted sixth year

Duke Anyanwu AP

It looks as if the potential, or even likely, successor to All-American tight end Maxx Williams will head into the 2015 season armed with another season in his back pocket.  Provided he can stay healthy, of course.

While Minnesota has yet to confirm it, Duke Anyanwu took to Twitter Tuesday to announce that his medical hardship waiver for a sixth season of eligibility has been approved by the NCAA. The tight end missed the entire 2014 season after sustaining a torn ACL during summer camp last August.  He also took a redshirt for his true freshman season in 2012 after tearing an ACL a first time.

The waiver means that, including 2015, Anyanwu will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

The 6-4, 239-pound Anyanwu has played in exactly one game for the Gophers, the 2013 season opener against Western Illinois. Despite his lack of experience or receptions at this level, and despite the injuries, Anyanwu is viewed as one of the favorites to replace Williams at tight end.

To buttress that potential front-runner status, Anyanwu had entered camp last year as Williams’ primary backup prior to his latest injury.

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Texas OL Darius James to reportedly seek transfer

Darius James

As first reported by Jason Suchomel of Orangebloods.com and then confirmed by just about everyone else in Austin, Texas offensive lineman Darius James is leaving the team.

A native of Killeen, Texas, James was rated the No. 1 guard and No. 65 overall player in the 2013 class by Rivals.com.

He redshirted in 2013 and then saw action in six games as a redshirt freshman in 2014, starting two, including a 482-yard explosion in a loss to Oklahoma.

He missed the bulk of November and the Longhorns’ Texas Bowl loss to Arkansas after suffering a season-ending knee injury.

An expected starter in 2015, James missed spring ball rehabbing his knee. Head coach Charlie Strong also said he “had some work to do academically.”

(Photo credit: Texas athletics)

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Report: Record 42 bowls approved for 2015-16 season

Valero Alamo Bowl - Kansas State v UCLA Getty Images

Do you and 10 friends have college eligibility remaining? Do you have access to football equipment? If so, you could be in line for a bowl trip this winter.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy – the Bob Woodward of the bowl industry – reported Tuesday night the NCAA had rubber-stamped three new bowls into existence for this season.

My math tells me 42 multiplied by two equals 84 teams, which means more than 65 percent of FBS will be bowling after this season.

For those of you who believe 42 is too many bowl games: rejoice. The number could have been higher. McMurphy reported last month that Little Rock, Ark., was also considering applying for a bowl game.

While ESPN would be a good bet to televise the new games – they own the TV rights to all but the Sun Bowl, and own a number of games outright – the Austin Business Journal reported last month Austin Sports Commission representatives had meetings with Fox and planned to meet with CBS. McMurphy reported the Tucson game is expected to be televised by CBS Sports Network.

The Cure Bowl (Orlando) will be televised by CBS Sports Network on Dec. 19, McMurphy reported.

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Texas Tech WR Reginald Davis arrested for pot possession

Reginald Davis, Osahon Irabor

Texas Tech wide receiver Reginald Davis was arrested Monday for suspicion of marijuana, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Lubbock P.D. Lieutenant Ray Mendoza said Davis was pulled over for a traffic violation around noon Monday when officers allegedly discovered less than two ounces of marijuana. He has been released from Lubbock County Detention Center.

“We are aware of the situation regarding Reginald Davis,” a Tech spokesman told the paper, saying he was not aware of Davis’s status with the team. “We are still in the process of gathering information about it.”

Junior safety Josh Keys was dismissed from the team in November for failing multiple drug tests. Freshman linebacker Grant Bouma received his walking papers last month after receiving a DWI arrest.

Davis ranked sixth on the team last year with 29 grabs for 318 yards and five touchdowns. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury praised the junior last month during spring practice.

“The one (of the receivers) that’s really stood out so far is Reggie Davis,” Kingsbury told the Avalanche-Journal. “He needs to step up. He’ll be a redshirt junior, and it’s time to be what he can be.

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Big 12 puts title game talk on hold – again

Chris Callahan

Thirteen may be greater than 12, but two is definitely much larger than one.

After emerging from annual College Football Playoff meetings just one week ago touting his league’s need for a conference championship game under the logic that “13 data points are better than 12,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby met with reporters Tuesday evening following at his conference’s spring meetings in Phoenix and admitted a title game had not been rubber-stamped by the Big 12’s athletics directors and head coaches.

And, really, that’s all that needs to be said. Extraordinary, unprecedented circumstances pushed Ohio State past Baylor and TCU for the fourth and final spot in last season’s tournament, and we more than two decades of data says that will not happen again. While a championship game would indeed give one extra Big 12 team an impressive win, as Bowlsby himself has said in the past, there’s no guarantee it’s the right team. Just ask 1996 Nebraska, 1998 Kansas State, 2001 Texas or 2007 Missouri.

One sticky wicket that did appear to be ironed out Tuesday, however, was the ridiculous and embarrassing co-championship policy that got the conference tied up last fall like Andy Serkis playing a solo game of Twister.

A league championship is the most precious honor a conference has to bestow, and diluting its own product as the conference did in 2012 (with Oklahoma hoisting a trophy after losing head-to-head with Kansas State) and last fall (TCU-Baylor) never made any sense – other than to spread the bonus money wealth for the league’s coaches.

Bowlsby said league will still pursue NCAA approval for deregulation of conference championship games – as it should, because the history of conference championship games is extremely arbitrary – the earliest a Big 12 title game could even be held even if it received unanimous approval today would be the 2016 season.

With that fact hanging in the air, there was no reason to nail down a hard stance today unless a unanimous consensus existed on one side of the debate or the other.

Though I have gone on record stating the Big 12 should avoid an annual title game, the CFP era is too fresh to draw any hardline stances. The same goes for the other side of the issue as well. For a conference that doesn’t have a long history of harmonious decision making, agreeing on that is progress enough.

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Arizona State announces three captains for 2015 season

Mike Bercovici

Who’s ready for some actual football talk?

Senior quarterback Mike Bercovici, senior wide receiver D.J. Foster, and senior safety Jordan Simone will serve as Arizona State’s captains for the 2015 season, the club announced Tuesday.

Bercovici played in all 13 games a year ago, filling in for starter Taylor Kelly during an extended mid-season stretch, completing 115-of-186 passes for 1,445 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Foster led the Sun Devils in rushing a year ago with 194 carries for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns while grabbing 62 passes for 688 yards and three touchdowns. He figures to see an increased role in 2015 after the departure of Jaelen Strong and a spring injury to Cameron Smith.

Simone ranked second on the team in tackles with 100 stops, 4.5 TFL, one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and two passes defended.

The Sun Devils also designated senior cornerback Lloyd Carrington, senior center Nick Kelly and junior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola as co-captains. And for the first time under head coach Todd Graham, Arizona State named special teams captains, with junior kicker Zane Gonzalez and sophomore defensive back DeAndre Scott winning the honors.

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Five-star UGA signee to work out for MLB’s Atlanta Braves

Terry Godwin

Does Georgia and its fans have to worry about losing the highest-rated member of its 2015 recruiting class to another sport?  Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

Terry Godwin was a five-star member of UGA’s class this year who also happens to be a fairly decent baseball player.  So decent, in fact, that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that, along with other prospects, the running back has been invited by the Atlanta Braves to a workout at Turner Field late this month.

The workout will take place a couple of weeks before the Major League Baseball draft, and there’s a very good chance that Godwin will be drafted, whether it be by the Braves or someone else.  That doesn’t mean, though, that he’ll ditch football for baseball.  In fact, Godwin’s high school baseball coach, Dusty Hubbard, is of the opinion that football is in his player’s future.

From the Journal-Constitution:

4. Should UGA football fans be worried about this baseball thing with Godwin? Let’s skip to the bottom line: “I don’t think so,” Hubbard said. “I think, no matter what, he is going to be at Georgia this fall. Let’s say he was to get drafted – and I don’t want to think for him, and I don’t want to speak for him … but I don’t know what kind of money we’re talking about. I have been given no indication by scouts about that with Terry. In the past, they’ll tell me with a player that ‘We’re looking at rounds 10 to 15 and ‘X’ amount of money.’ The scouts haven’t given me any indication on that, or if for sure that they’re going to draft him. We’ll have to see how everything unfolds. But Terry is preparing for it. There is no doubt about that. He has talked to his parents. His parents are preparing for it as well. If it comes to fruition, they will have a plan for it. I think, right now, that there’s a very, very good possibility that he’ll be at Georgia on June 1 and he’ll be there all summer long for this summer, no matter what. He’ll be there for his first football season.”

It is possible, ala Russell Wilson, for a college football player to sign a baseball contract and still maintain his football eligibility.  It’s also possible, or even probable, that Godwin could join the UGA baseball team, provided he can handle both the two-sport workload as well as his schoolwork.

Despite his confidence in Godwin playing for the football Bulldogs this fall, Hubbard still left the baseball door ajar.

“I do think he could play both sports,” the coach stated, before adding a handful of rhetorical questions. “Which way does he go? Does he go to Georgia and try to play minor-league baseball when he is finished with football? Does he go to Georgia and try to play baseball in the summers like Russell Wilson? Or does he play pro baseball and then go back to football?

“All those things are questions, and that’s for Terry and his family to decide.”

As alluded to earlier, the 5-11, 166-pound Godwin, along with defensive tackle Trenton Thompson, was the highest-rated member of a Bulldogs’ Class of 2015 (both at 6.1 per Rivals.com) that was ranked sixth in the nation and third in the SEC.  That same recruiting service listed him as the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Georgia and the No. 10 player overall in the country.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Stanford, San Diego State announce future home-and-home

David Shaw, Kevin Hogan

Tuesday afternoon brought yet another announcement of a future football series, although this one’s not nearly as far down the scheduling road as some others of late.

In a press release, Stanford announced that it has scheduled a future home-and-home series with San Diego State.  The latter subsequently confirmed the same in its own release as well.

The Aztecs and Cardinal will play the first game at Qualcomm Stadium on Sept. 16, 2017, with the return game scheduled for Sept. 1, 2018, at Stanford Stadium.

Stanford had originally been scheduled to play Virginia those seasons. UVa. announced in April of this year that it was replacing Stanford with Indiana due to what it described as “a scheduling conflict… between the Cardinal and [Cavaliers].”

Despite being separated by 500 miles or so, the Cardinal and Aztecs have met in football just four times, with the first coming in 1985 and the last in 1988 as the final game of a four-game series. Stanford holds a 3-1 edge in the all-time series.

SDSU noted in its release that the Aztecs will play at least one Pac-12 school every season through the 2022 campaign, with all of those comprised of home-and-home series. From the release:

After playing Oregon State each of the past two years (2013-14), San Diego State will begin a home-and-home series with California on Sept. 12 in Berkeley (also 2016 at Qualcomm Stadium). The Aztecs are also slated to play a series with Arizona State (2017 in Tempe, 2018 at Qualcomm Stadium), a home-and-home with Stanford (2017 at Qualcomm Stadium, 2018 in Stanford), a series with UCLA (2019 in Los Angeles, 2020 at Qualcomm Stadium) and finally a series with Arizona (2021 in Tucson, 2022 at Qualcomm Stadium).

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Minneapolis anounces bid to host 2020 CFP title game

New Vikings Stadium

Minnesota failed in its bid to host the College Football Playoff championship game following the 2016 season.  The state, though, is hoping for a little more success a couple of years down the road.

Tuesday afternoon, Governor Mark Dayton presided over a press conference in which his state, after speculation surfaced a couple of months ago, announced its intentions to bid for the rights to host the national championship game following the 2019 season.  Gopher head coach Jerry Kill will serve as the honorary co-chair of the national championship game bid committee.

The game would be played in the new home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, a domed structure that is currently under construction.  That stadium, set to open next year, is already scheduled to host the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 men’s basketball Final Four.

The first CFP championship game was held this past February at the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Tex.  The cities of Tampa, Fla., and Glendale, Ariz., will host the title games following the 2015 and 2016 seasons, respectively.

Bids for the title games following the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons are due by no later than May 27.  In addition to Minneapolis, other cities expected to place bids for at least one of those three games include Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville, South Florida, Minneapolis, San Antonio and Santa Clara.  Arlington, Houston, New Orleans, Orlando and Pasadena that could potentially make a formal bid, while the state of New Jersey has also expressed an interest.

Earlier this month, the city of Indianapolis announced it would not be seeking to place a formal bid on either of the three games.  The Rose Bowl in Pasadena made a similar announcement a week earlier.

(Photo credit: city of Minneapolis)

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