Oregon v Virginia

Heisman race beginning to take shape

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Maybe the Heisman can’t be won in September, but it can certainly be lost. Two weeks into the season, we’re beginning to see the first signs that the race is taking shape.

Braxton Miller’s candidacy hangs by a thread. Marcus Mariota is surging. Aaron Murray survived an elimination game. Todd Gurley impressed against a tough defense. Tajh Boyd underwhelmed. Teddy Bridgewater continued to dominate lesser foes. The Baylor duo of Bryce Petty and Lache Seastrunk are now hanging around the periphery of the race.

All the signs point to what should be a particularly intriguing campaign.

Here’s quick rundown of what happened this weekend with some of the main contenders:

Braxton Miller –– Miller, the front runner headed into the season, missed most of Ohio State’s game with San Diego State, which puts his Heisman hopes in serious jeopardy. Missing one game — and maybe more — will affect his overall numbers and make it difficult to have Heisman-worthy production at season’s end. If he doesn’t have a big game next week against Cal, he’s done.

Marcus Mariota — The Oregon quarterback shined in a rout of Virginia, passing for 199 yards and rushing for 122 while totaling three touchdowns. It seems likely that Mariota is headed for a huge season and as the quarterback for a team contending for the national title, he might soon replace Miller as the front runner in this race.

Aaron Murray — Murray had his back against the wall and he came through with a great game in a win over South Carolina. He was 17 of 23 for 309 yards and four touchdowns while making some really clutch throws. If he can have this kind of game against LSU and lead UGA to the SEC East title, he’s probably a lock to get to New York.

Todd Gurley — The sophomore running back also had a good game against South Carolina, rushing for 134 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. He’s on the verge of firmly establishing himself as the top running back candidate in the race.

Tajh Boyd — The Clemson quarterback threw for 169 yards on 14 of 23 passing against South Carolina State. No touchdown passes and just a touchdown run was a disappointing result considering he needs to have huge numbers at season’s end to win the trophy. There is plenty of time for him to make up for this lackluster production, but this game makes it a bit harder.

Teddy Bridgewater — The junior ripped Eastern Kentucky for 397 yards and four touchdowns on 23 of 32 passing. His numbers after two week are stellar, though it came against weak competition. Still, he’s doing exactly what he needs to do to stay in Heisman consideration.

Bryce Petty — He may not be a real candidate just yet, but he’s playing like one. He went 13 of 16 for 338 yards and two touchdowns against Buffalo and also scored once on the ground. His production should be fantastic this season and if Baylor contends for the Big 12 title, then he should emerge as a contender.

Lache Seastrunk — If Gurley gets a running back challenger, it should be Seastrunk, who had 150 yards and three touchdowns in one half’s work against Buffalo. He’ll need to catch fire and approach the 2,000-yard mark to have a real shot at Heisman glory, but it seems possible in that Baylor offense.

I think there’s a good chance the Heisman winner and most of the finalists comes from this group, though I’m not discounting the possibility that other candidates may emerge. There’s still a long way to go and a lot can happen in this crazy sport.

Forza Blu? Michigan reportedly planning spring practice in Italy

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines directs a drill during warm ups prior to playing the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on October 29, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Undeterred by recent NCAA legislation, Jim Harbaugh is reportedly going international.

As noted by the Detroit Free Press, a post on Rivals affiliate TheWolverine.com reports that Michigan is planning to spend the final week of football spring practice in Rome, Italy. The team would not only practice several times on Italian soil, but would allow the team to visit the sights in the area and even leave players in Europe to study abroad for a semester.

The move would no doubt ruffle even more feathers in the football and NCAA communities after Harbaugh famously took the Wolverines to the IMG Academy down in Florida for spring practice last March. That prompted recent legislation that was passed at the NCAA convention in Nashville this week — a Harbaugh Rule if you will — that prohibited off-campus practice during a vacation period outside of a playing season.

While it would seem that would rule out trips away from Ann Arbor for spring football practices, it appears the Michigan athletic department is going to push forward by exploiting a slight loophole in the language of the rule. While vacation periods may be off limits like spring break, it appears the Wolverines would be looking to leave town at the end of April, which would be after the semester ends  and does not fall into any scheduled vacation time.

We’ll see if anything becomes of this report and if Michigan indeed announces such an unprecedented trip. While foreign tours are common in sports like basketball at the NCAA levels, it really hasn’t happened in football aside from occasional games overseas so it will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend, or is just another case of Harbaugh being Harbaugh.

Wisconsin extends head coach Paul Chryst’s contract through 2022

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 2: Corey Clement #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers points toward head coach Paul Chryst  as the two celebrate following the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. Wisconsin defeated Western Michigan 24-16. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
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Winning a New Year’s Six bowl and outperforming nearly every preseason expectation typically results in a nice boost to a head coach’s bank account and that is the case at Wisconsin this year.

The Badgers announced on Friday that the school’s athletic board had extended head football coach Paul Chryst another year, running through January 31, 2022. Additional contract terms such as a potential raise or incentives were not announced, meaning this was likely just tacking another year onto the former Wisconsin quarterback’s original deal in Madison.

The move isn’t new for the program, which pulled the same extension almost to the day a year ago after Chryst led the Badgers to a 10-3 year in 2015 that was capped off with a Holiday Bowl victory over USC. The coach one-upped that performance in 2016, winning the Big Ten West title and getting selected for the Cotton Bowl, which the team won over previously undefeated Western Michigan.

Chryst’s original contract he signed two years ago was for a term of five seasons through 2020. He originally made around $2.3 million a year but should be hitting the $2.5 million mark heading into 2017 with various increases incorporated.

Vol legend Peyton Manning reportedly advising alma mater Tennessee on AD search

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 08:  Former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning walks across the field prior to the start of their game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on October 8, 2016 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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New College Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning is staying busy with various ventures now that he’s retired from the NFL and apparently the Vol legend doesn’t mind returning to Tennessee to add another thing to his plate.

According to a report from the Knoxville News Sentinel, Manning will be part of a search committee for the school’s chancellor as she attempts to find a new athletic director following the retirement of Dave Hart at the end of June. Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is also expected to be part of the six-person strong committee, which will assist recently hired search firm Turnkey Sports and Entertainment in finding the right candidate to lead the department.

Hart’s retirement has known for some time and the fact that Alabama surprisingly hired Greg Byrne away from Arizona without as much as a sniff from the Vols have made many in the fan base a little anxious about the state of the on-going  (and lengthy) search. Manning’s former head coach Phillip Fulmer has reportedly been mentioned as a candidate for the gig but the hire of a search firm and advisory committee suggests that a hire may be a few weeks or months away.

There are few folks connected to Tennessee football more fondly remembered around Knoxville than Manning and you can’t help but wonder if Vols fans longing for some stability and a big name in the AD chair wouldn’t mind pushing the quarterback’s name for the position. If so, perhaps joining the search committee is the first step toward that path and a move that would certainly make a lot more sense than bringing somebody like Fulmer back into the fold.

All Oregon football players released from hospital after offseason workouts

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 29: defensive back Tyree Robinson #2 of the Oregon Ducks dives into the crowd before the game against the Arizona State Sun Devilsat Autzen Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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All three Oregon football players hospitalized this week as the result of grueling offseason workouts have been released.

The news, first reported by The Oregonian,  concludes a dramatic week for the program and their new coaching staff after revelations surfaced on Monday that the three were sent to a nearby Springfield, Oregon hospital with symptoms of rhabdomyolysis. The condition primarily affects soft tissue and is triggered by overwork and can eventually lead to damage of the kidneys.

Senior offensive linemen Doug Brenner was actually released on Tuesday per the report, but it took until Friday morning for redshirt freshmen tight end Cam McCormick and offensive lineman Sam Poutasi to be sent home from the PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center.

As a result of the workouts, Oregon suspended new strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde for one month without pay and changed the structure on the staff so that Oderinde, who came over from South Florida with Willie Taggart, no longer reports to the Ducks’ coach but the school’s director of performance and sport science.

While you never want to hear about football players going to the hospital, it’s great to hear that the three players who were injured as a result of the workouts have been cleared and sent home.