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The Fifth Quarter: Week 3 Rewind

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban shakes hands with Texas A&M Aggies Johnny Manziel after their NCAA SEC football game in College Station Reuters

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

WINNERS

One rolled, one to go
When it came to Alabama’s season, most outside observers felt their season would come down to a pair of games against highly-ranked teams.  Mission No. 1?  Accomplished, courtesy of a wildly entertaining shootout win over Texas A&M on the road that aged an old defensive soul like Nick Saban.  Thanks to a schedule that includes Colorado State, Georgia State and Kentucky — Ole Miss might have a puncher’s chance — the two-time defending BCS champions will be heavily favored in every game leading up to Mission No. 2:  Nov. 9 in Tuscaloosa against LSU.  Certainly you never count your wins before they’re hatched, but the schedule couldn’t set up any better for Alabama prior to the game against the Bayou Bengals,  The path to Pasadena was cleared; now the Tide just has to traverse and avoid the little obstacles — and one big one — along the way.

Super Mariota
Thanks to the fact that Oregon plays on the West Coast and a sizable chunk of their games end after most of the country has fallen asleep and/or passed out, not a lot of people know — or even care to know — about Marcus Mariota.  Thanks to a certain game in College Station, a rare mid-afternoon start for the Ducks did little to raise the quarterback’s national profile.  Still, it should be raised and people should take notice.  In UO’s woodshedding of Tennessee, Mariota passed for 350 first-half yards, finished with a career-high 456 yards and accounted for five touchdowns — four passing, one rushing — in just three quarters of work.  Mariota’s one of the top players at his position in the country, and it’s a shame some fail to recognize it based on location and time zones.

The Manziel & Evans Show
It may have come in a losing cause, but Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans were about as good as it gets on the offensive side of the football.  The reigning Heisman winner — who should still be at the forefront of the discussion for this year’s award — threw for 464 yards and ran for another 98 for a total of 562 yards; the Aggies as a team had 628 yards.  Manziel also tossed five touchdown passes, one of which went to Evans, who caught seven balls for a staggering 279 yards.  The defense may have let A&M down, but the offense, headed by Manziel and Evans, certainly didn’t.

Jameis WinstonFamous Jameis
With just one game on his résumé, many people scoffed at the mere notion that Jameis Winston might already be part of the Heisman discussion.  While that may be the case, the redshirt freshman is making an awfully good case that those individuals are wrong.  In limited action thanks to Florida State’s 62-7 blowout of Nevada, Winston completed 12-of-15 passes — after misfiring on three of his first five passes — for 214 yards and two touchdowns.  On the season, Winston has completed 40-of-45 passes, meaning he has thrown more touchdown passes (six) than he has incompletions (five).  The fact that Winston has such a firm grasp of the offense and can deliver the ball accurately bodes well for FSU’s future at the position, regardless of if he’s part of any stiff-armed discussion or not.

Gentlemen, start… your… Belldozer
When Trevor Knight was announced as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback before the opener, there were more than a few eyebrows raised as Blake Bell, aka the Belldozer, had been viewed by some (most?) as the likely successor to Landry Jones.  Part of the reasoning behind pulling the trigger on Knight, the theory went, was that he was the more polished passer.  In the game against Tulsa, Bell said, essentially, “polish this.”  Against the Golden Hurricane, Bell passed for 281 yards… in the first half.  He finished the 51-20 win with 413 yards passing and four touchdowns, further solidifying his hold on the starting job in place of the injured Knight.

It can only be Jared
If Jared Goff were a fifth-year senior, the video game-like numbers would be impressive.  The fact that he’s doing it as a true freshman?  Off the charts unbelievable.  The Cal quarterback came into the game against Ohio State leading the nation with 935 yards passing through the first two games of the 2013 season.  Against the No. 4 Buckeyes, Goff continued making a mockery of opposing defenses by throwing for 371 yards in the loss.  If Goff continues at this pace — he likely won’t — the first-year player would throw for a freshman record of 5,224 yards in the regular season alone.  Again, it’s not very likely Goff can keep up this breakneck pace, but if he even sniffs that rarefied statistical air, it will be one of the more impressive accomplishments of the 2013 season that gets little or no notice due to Cal’s record.

LOSERS

WTF was that?
This is what I know about the bizarre ending in the Wisconsin-Arizona State game: yes, the officials jobbed the Badgers, but the Badgers put themselves in a position to be jobbed thanks to whatever the hell that was Joel Stave was attempting to accomplish at the end of the game and with the seconds ticking away.  Why in the name of, well, pretty much anything, did Stave not simply spike it?  Or why didn’t the Badgers, down 32-30 and sitting at the 13-yard line, just simply kick a game-winning field goal with :18 left?  I’ve been on this earth for 45 years, and have been watching college football for as far back as I can remember, and I simply can’t recall anything like what happened in those final 15 or so ticks of the clock in the desert.  We’ll have more on this later, once that game sobers up and gets some coffee in it.

Trojan Nation speaking loud and clear
The question is, will Pat Haden listen?  Yes, USC cruised to an easy 28-point win over Boston College, bouncing back from last Saturday’s debacle against Washington State.  In that loss to Wazzu, chants of “Fire Kiffin!” rang out across the Coliseum.  The collective anger at Lane Kiffin, however, has apparently turned to apathy toward the Trojans.  Check out the scene eight minutes before USC’s home game against BC, courtesy of @uscpsycho:

USC Coliseum

On some level anger’s good as it shows the fan base still cares.  Apathy manifesting itself in the form of empty seats?  That’s never good for the future of a head coach anywhere.

So Manny more problems
If Longhorn Nation thought dumping Manny Diaz in favor of Greg Robinson would magically cure all that ails their beloved Texas football team, the disappointment should be kicking in… right about now.  While the Longhorns offered a glimmer of hope in their loss to Ole Miss — they led 23-14 late in the first half — the defense again could do next to nothing to stop the other side of the ball.  The Rebels scored the final 30 points in the 44-23 win in Austin, thanks in large part due to a running game that produced 272 yards on the ground.  Yes, that’s half the total UT gave up to BYU in another home loss (to BYU) last weekend, but its’ still an embarrassing total for a defense that can’t do something as simple as wrap up on a tackle.  Understandably, the fan base is frustrated.  How frustrated?  They booed Mack Brown when he appeared on the stadium’s Jumbotron to deliver a PSA on helping at-risk students.  How many more opportunities the UT faithful will get to boo Brown remains to be seen, although a continued downward trajectory could make it sooner rather than later.

Starkville needs to be Mullen a change
For some reason or another, just about anyone who discusses Mississippi State football over the past couple of years speaks highly of the job Dan Mullen has done with the Bulldogs.  The stark reality, though, is that he hasn’t.  During his first four-plus seasons at MSU, Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to a 17-4 record in non-conference games as well as bowls.  In SEC play?  Mullen is an abysmal 13-20.  Included in that latter total is a 24-20 loss to Auburn this weekend.  At least as far as the conference goes, the Bulldogs have made little or no progress under Mullen.  If MSU hopes to fight its way from conference also-rans to contenders, a change at the top may be in order.  Unless they’re happy with seven- or eight-win seasons and Music City Bowl victories, of course.

Unhappy Valley
A 2-0 start to the 2013 season had the denizens of Happy Valley feeling that the Penn State football program had turned yet another corner in its climb from the Sandusky abyss.  While that’s still the case, the ascent took a bit of a detour Saturday night.  A 31-17 deficit early in the fourth quarter turned into an insurmountable one as the Nittany Lions dropped a 34-31 decision to UCF.  While there’s no shame in losing to the Knights, an underrated squad that’s now 3-0, it says a lot about the current state of the PSU program that hanging close to a team that was in Conference USA just a year ago is considered a type of moral victory.  Bill O’Brien is the right man for the job; patience, though, will be at a premium over the next couple of years,

Akron v MichiganThe Big (Near-Flop) House
Make no mistake: Michigan averted a disaster Saturday that would’ve trumped even the infamous loss to Appalachian State six years ago.  Saturday’s opponent in the Big House, Akron, had lost 27 straight road games… hadn’t beaten an FBS team since 2010… and totaled just four wins the past three-plus seasons.  The Zips are pictured next to “football ineptness” in many a dictionary, and yet the Wolverines allowed the MAC school to come within a failed fourth-and-goal attempt of stunning them in their own house.  Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (no relation) called the win “embarrassing” afterwards; he’s not far off, even as his team appears to be a long ways away from challenging the likes of hated rival Ohio State for Big Ten supremacy.

Taggart’s bus ripe for repo
In a promotional campaign utilized by USF in an attempt to drive up ticket sales, the athletic department urged fans to “get on the bus” with new head coach Willie Taggart.  That bus, unfortunately, has dropped its transmission and is in danger of blowing its motor just three games into Taggart’s tenure.  Including Saturday’s loss to FAU (previously winless), the Bulls have dropped all three games of the 2013 season by a combined score of 102-37.  Included in that was a season-opening loss to FCS-level McNeese State by 32 points at home.  Taggart did an outstanding job at his previous stop at Western Kentucky; how long he’ll get to rectify and undo the damage caused by the horrific recruiting of his predecessor, Skip Holtz, remains to be seen.

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

— No. 5 Stanford 34, Army 20: Thanks to what was by all appearances a nasty case of jet lag, the Cardinal fell behind the Black Knights 6-0 on the road — and led just 20-13 at the half — before righting the ship and pulling away.

— No. 13 South Carolina 35, Vanderbilt 23: A comfortable 25-point lead at the end of the third quarter for the Gamecocks was sliced to 10 after just a minute was played in the fourth.   That was as close as Vandy would get, however, as USC rebounded from its emotional loss last weekend.

— No. 19 Washington 34, Illinois 24:  The Illini made it interesting after falling behind 31-10 at Soldier Field, but the Huskies made enough plays on the defensive side of the ball to push their record to 2-0 on the young season.

— No. 21 Notre Dame 31, Purdue 27: Trailing 17-10 on the road entering the fourth quarter, the Irish ripped off 21 straight points to stave off the Boilermakers upset bid.

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 — Coming back from 14 down on the road against the No. 6 team in the country?  Yeah, that’ll keep you slotted comfortably in the top spot. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. Colorado StateTennessee Oregon Football

2. Oregon — You eviscerate an SEC team, even a (being kind here) mid-level one like Tennessee, by 45 points, you deserve to move up a couple of spots. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: bye weekend

3. Clemson — With one of their two byes out of the way, the Tigers were able to get in a little extra prep work for the ACC opener this Thursday. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: at North Carolina State

4. Ohio State — The Buckeyes won by 18 or more points for the third time in three games this season against Cal, but the perceived weakness of their schedule will keep them from moving back closer to where they began the season in the polls at this point in time.
Next up: vs. Florida A&M

5. Louisville — The Cardinals looked lethargic and/or positively uninterested in leading in-state rival Kentucky just 10-3 at the half.  A 17-point second half, however, righted what had been a previously listing ship.  Even at a perfect 3-0, the UofL must tighten some things up or risk tumbling in the polls that really matter. (Last week: No. 5)
Up next: vs. FIU

HE SAID IT
“I am really proud of those kids. You can’t believe how tough it was on them. You just can’t. Unless you were at practice, in those meeting rooms, in that locker room, you just can’t. He had such an impact on our team.” — UCLA head coach Jim Mora, following his Bruins’ first game after the tragic death of wide receiver Nick Pasquale.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“Look, it’s all gonna be about what we do on this little 53-yard by 100-yard triangle out here.” — Nick Saban, defying the laws of geometry prior to Alabama’s win.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“I’m just sick for my players on how hard, how well and how long they played and not to come away with the W, a victory to stamp on the end of what I consider a great football game that they played. I’ve been fortunate in my lifetime to get some big wins and that would have been the biggest.” — Head coach Terry Bowden, following Akron’s near-upset of Michigan.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“We’ll get all of this righted with a Big 12 championship.” — Mack Brown, presumably with a straight face and everything.

GAMEDAY SIGN OF THE DAY
This beauty comes courtesy of BustedCoverage.com and, as is normally is the case, needs no explanation:

Johnny Manziel GameDay Sign

SAY WHAT?
How negative is the perception of next week’s slate of games?  ESPN’s GameDay show will originate from Fargo for the Delaware State-North Dakota State FCS matchup.  Curious choice, though, given games such as Michigan State-Notre Dame, Tennessee-Florida and Arizona State-Stanford are among those on the admittedly weak Week 4 FBS schedule.

TRUE STORY
Oklahoma City Thunder great Kevin Durant served as the honorary captain for Texas’ game against Ole Miss and no Mack Brown didn’t recruit the NBA superstar as a safety.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— Arkansas’ Alec Collins became the first player in SEC history, including the great Herschel Walker, to rush for 100-plus yards in the first three games of his career.  The last player to accomplish that feat at the FBS level was Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson in 2004.

— Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keaton threw five first-half touchdowns in the 70-6 evisceration of Weber State.  The five scoring tosses ties the school record, which Keaton equaled last week as well.

— Cementing his hold on the starting job, Connor Cook passed for four first-half touchdowns as Michigan State easily got past Youngstown State 55-17.

Ford Childress– In his collegiate debut, Ford Childress (if that is his real name) threw for 359 yards in West Virginia’s 41-7 win over Georgia State.

— The 42 points given up by Alabama in the win over Texas A&M was the most under Nick Saban.  The 628 yards of total offense by the Aggies is the most the storied football program has ever allowed in a single game.

— Speaking of Saban, Purdue’s Drew Brees remains the last quarterback to beat the coach in back-to-back games at the collegiate level, performing that feat when the current Tide coach held the same job at Michigan State in the late nineties.

— Colorado State’s Shaq Barrett blocked a pair of field goals to help the Rams upend Cal Poly 34-17.

— Running back Jay Ajayi ran for four touchdowns in Boise State’s 42-20 win over Air Force Friday night.

— Nebraska coughing up a 21-3 lead to UCLA was the Cornhuskers’ largest since Washington came back from a 20-point deficit… in 1920.

— With a 32-21 win over UConn, Maryland has started a season 3-0 for the first time since 2001.

— In Indiana’s 42-10 win over Bowling Green, the Hoosiers punted once… and it was blocked and returned for the Falcons’ only touchdown of the game.

— The 92 points Navy has scored in its first two games this season are the service academy’s most since 1975.

— It took five overtimes, but Buffalo was able to secure its first win of the season by the score of 26-23 over FCS-level Stoney Brook.

— Thursday night, Louisiana Tech forced four turnovers, had 11 tackles and tallied five sacks — and still lost 24-15 to Tulane.  Of course, when you muster just 289 yards of offense, that tends to happen.

IN CLOSING…
Nebraska showed its class as a football program in the first game after the Jerry Sandusky scandal shattered the serenity in Happy Valley.  Today, the ‘Huskers did it again.  Prior to the game against UCLA, over 90,000 fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium stood and paid their respects with a moment of silence for Nick Pasquale, the Bruins wide receiver who was tragically killed last weekend after being struck by a vehicle.  When the Cornhuskers took the field, their helmets were adorned with Pasquale’s jersey number.  Pure class, Lincoln.  Pure class.

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Pat Narduzzi plans to transform Pitt into a version of Michigan State

Pat Narduzzi

Pat Narduzzi received his first opportunity to be a head coach from the Pitt Panthers. He has no qualms about stealing the blueprint from his old Michigan State boss, Mark Dantonio, and bringing it to the Steel City.

“I think there’s a lot of things we do well at Michigan State, so I would say you will see Michigan State of the city of Pittsburgh, really,” Narduzzi told the ‘Griff and Grinz’ Show on Lansing’s 92.1 FM The Team, per MLive.com’s Mike Griffith.

“Why would you change the blueprint of what Coach Dantonio has done there?” he asked. “There will be tiny little things here and there, but the blueprint has been set. I’ve been in the program for 11 years with Coach Dantonio, and I know how we’ve done it and built it, and I think that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Dantonio’s formula is simple:  play fundamentally-sound and physical defense with a ball-control offense. The Michigan State program has also been highly successful developing its talent despite lesser recruiting classes.

However, Narduzzi agreed he wouldn’t bring any fellow Michigan State coaches with him to Pittsburgh.

“That’s probably the hardest job I’ve had so far, putting together a staff and getting the right people,” Narduzzi said. “Too often you see guys, (like) Charlie Strong in one year at Texas, he’s already fired two guys and you look throughout the country and after one year, boom, they (assistants) can be gone.”

The former defensive coordinator also confirmed that he’ll have some input in Jim Chaney‘s offense.

“My initial intentions are to let it go, but through this last month, I’ve talked to a ton of head coaches that say, ‘Hey Pat, keep your hands on it early, then let it go — don’t let it go and have to come back in,’ which makes a whole lot of sense,” Narduzzi said. “My job is still to coach all the coaches and make sure practices are run the way we want them to be run and organized.”

Now that the coaching staff is set, Narduzzi doesn’t plan on making many changes during his tenure.

“Continuity has been a big thing for me at Michigan State and Cincinnati,” he added. “One of the reasons Pitt was such an attractive job is because it’s a job where assistant coaches can come and be happy as long as the head coach stays there.”

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Seahawks Michael Bennett: ‘NCAA is one of the biggest scams’

NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks Team Media Availability

A pair of Seattle Seahawks didn’t pull any punches when they were asked about the plight of student-athletes and what they believe is the NCAA’s exploitation of young men and women.

Defensive end Michael Bennett and cornerback Richard Sherman were asked about their college days during Thursday’s Super Bowl media day, and their replies couldn’t have been more biting.

“I think the NCAA is one of the biggest scams in America,” Bennett told ESPN.com’s Terry Blount. “These kids put so much on the line. They [the NCAA] say, ‘We give you a free degree.’ That’s like me owning a restaurant and saying, ‘I’ll give you a free burger.’ It makes me so mad and irate. Universities need to do more for the student-[athletes].”

Sherman’s speech revolved around the daily habits of a college athlete.

“I don’t think college athletes are given enough time to take advantage of the free education they’re given,” Sherman said. “It’s frustrating because a lot of people get upset with student-athletes and say you’re not focused on school and not taking advantage of the opportunity you’re given.

“I would love for a regular student, for just one semester, to have a student-athlete schedule during the season and show me how you balance that. Show me how you would schedule your classes when you can’t schedule classes for 2 to 6 o’clock on any given day.

“Show me how you’re going to get all your work done when you get out [of practice and meetings] at 7:30 or so and have a test the next day and you’re dead tired from practice and you still have to study and get the same work done.”

Plenty of “regular students” put in the same amount of time — if not more — than a typical student-athlete.

Furthermore, student debt is at all-time high. But, go on, Mr. Sherman.

“I tell you from experience that one time I had negative 40 bucks in my account,” Sherman added. “It was in the negative more times than positive. You have to make a decision whether you put gas in your car or get a meal.

“People say you get room and board and they pay for your education. But to [the school officials’] knowledge, you’re there to play football. Those are the things coaches tell you every day. Luckily I was blessed to go to Stanford, a school primarily focused on academics. But as [former Stanford coach] Jim Harbaugh would attest, we were still there to play football.”

There is no denying that college football is in a transitory stage. Last year’s ruling in the Ed O’Bannon case irrevocably changed what the meaning of “student-athlete” can actually be. The NCAA also granted the Power Five conferences autonomy that will allow those schools to better service the needs of their student-athletes.

Bennett wasn’t finished ripping the system, though.

“I think there are very few schools that actually care about the players,” Bennett said. “Guys break their legs and they get the worst surgery they could possibly get by the worst doctors with the worst treatment.”

However, the former Texas A&M Aggie provided a solution that would ease his concerns.

“I think the NCAA should come up with a plan for college athletes to receive some of the money they bring into the schools. My school, Texas A&M, I think makes $50 million just on jersey sales. So I would say pay $60,000 [to student-athletes] for every year you stay in college. Keep that in a 401(k). After you graduate, hold that money until you are a certain age and then you get the money.”

Some day this might happen. It may be closer to happening than it isn’t. Until then, scholarship athletes still receive an education without paying or paying very little to gain such an invaluable asset.

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Baylor adds alumni locker room to facilities

Baylor locker room

Every program is looking to gain an edge.

Facility improvements have become the newest arms race in college football. Programs are willing to invest millions of dollars in order to entice the nation’s top recruits.

What better way to get players to come to your program than to grant them access to those players that already made it to the NFL?

Nearly every top prospect dreams of playing in the NFL. The lure of being around professional athletes can certainly sway impressionable young men. And programs are taking advantage of that edge.

Baylor is the merely the latest to build an alumni locker room in its new Simpson Athletic and Academic Center.

“The purpose is to bring some of our pro players back to campus when they have an opportunity during the offseason and train at Baylor, which we know they like they to do,” Baylor deputy athletic director Todd Patulski said in an interview with the school’s official athletic site. “They consider this their home, and the coaching staff is their family. This provides a great opportunity for them to put their duffel bag in and get workouts in. … All these guys really find opportunity to come back.

“They know the coaches, they know our strength coaches, and they believe in them. When you’re in the offseason and have an opportunity to come back and feel comfortable and work out with the rest of the guys, that’s just a great thing. It’s comforting. We’ve put a lot of kids in the NFL, and it’s becoming more and more of a demand. This is a great opportunity to create a space for them.”

While Patulski framed his answer by saying it’s a great opportunity for the professional athletes, it’s really beneficiary for the program, its players and even potential players.

(Photo courtesy of Baylor athletic department)

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Report: NC State’s Matt Canada receives extension, Vols still searching for OC

Matt Canada

The grass isn’t always greener in the SEC.

North Carolina State offensive coordinator Matt Canada was among three finalists to replace Mike Bajakian as the Tennessee Volunteers next offensive player-caller.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that Canada pulled his name out of consideration Thursday.

The reason behind Canada’s decision was simple. North Carolina State decided to extend a new contract, according to SI.com’s Pete Thamel.

With Canada out of the conversation, the Volunteers will likely concentrate on three candidates to become their next offensive coordinator. A report surfaced earlier Thursday that UCLA’s Noel Mazzone, USC’s Clay Helton and former Michigan coordinator Mike DeBord interviewed for the position.

Scout.com’s UCLA affiliate, Bruin Report Online, reported Mazzone didn’t interview with the Volunteers, though.

If the latter report is correct then Helton and DeBord remain in consideration. Helton is the likely the favorite since DeBord hasn’t been on the sidelines for two years nor called plays since 2006.

North Carolina State, meanwhile, retains an innovative play-caller. During his two seasons with the Wolfpack, Canada’s offense averages 406.12 yards per game.

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UPDATE: Long-time Mizzou AD Mike Alden stepping down, Mike Slive speaks

Mike Alden

One of the longest-tenured athletic directors in the country has decided to call it quits.

In a press release late Thursday afternoon, Missouri announced that Mike Alden‘s last day on the job will be Aug. 31 of this year.  In his statement, Alden said that “[a]fter several months of contemplation, I have decided that it is time for a change, both for me and for the university I dearly love.”

A press conference will be held Friday morning and will feature Alden, president Bowen Loftin and Dean Michael Clay.

Even as Alden is leaving a post he has held since 1998, he won’t be leaving the university as he will transition into an instructor in the Positive Coaching Program in Mizzou’s College of Education.

While Alden can boast of numerous accomplishments during his nearly two decades as the head of Mizzou athletics, shepherding the Tigers into the SEC will likely be his lasting legacy.  After a trying first season, Mizzou has claimed back-to-back SEC East titles in football the past two seasons.

Beyond the on-field success, the move to the SEC will continue to pay financial benefits to the entire athletic department long after Alden steps down.

Mizzou I

Mizzou II

UPDATE [7:30 p.m. ET]: The University of Missouri officially became a member of the SEC in 2012. Three years later, the Tigers football team already owns two SEC East championships.

The school has proved to be a tremendous addition to the conference, and SEC commissioner Mike Slive acknowledged the role Mike Alden played in the transition:

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History in the making: Ohio State in talks with Army to play future contest

Annual Army Navy Football Game

The Ohio State Buckeyes opened up their latest national championship campaign with a 34-17 victory over the Navy Midshipmen.

The next time the Buckeyes will face a service academy, though, won’t be until after the 2016 campaign.

Ohio State is currently in talks with the Army Black Knights to schedule a game at a future date.

Amazingly, these two programs have never met on the gridiron despite their long and illustrious histories.

While Army’s schedule remains flexible due to being an independent program, Ohio State will have to work around their conference schedule. Like Navy, Army will likely serve as a season-opening opponent. The first year both teams have an opening at the beginning of their schedules will be the 2017 campaign.

Army doesn’t have any current openings early in the season that coincide with Ohio State’s 2018 schedule.

The two sides also have openings at the start of the 2019 campaign.

Due to the size of Ohio State and the importance of home games for the Buckeyes’ athletic department, Army will almost certainly be a one- or two-game contract with the contests being played at Ohio Stadium.

The two sides still need to finalize an agreement, though.

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WKU loses two QBs, including former Tide transfer

Troy Jones

With record-setting quarterback Brandon Doughty returning for a sixth season, the players behind him at the quarterback position will, barring injury, have very little chance of seeing meaningful action in 2015.

With that as a backdrop, Western Kentucky confirmed Wednesday that a pair of quarterbacks are no longer a part of the football program, the Bowling Green Daily News is reporting.  JUCO transfer Troy Jones (pictured, under towel) and redshirt sophomore Parker McLeod are the two in question, although only one will continue his playing career.

According to the Daily News, Jones will be seeking a transfer for the 2015 season.  As Jones would be a graduate transfer, he’d be eligible to play immediately at an FBS program.  However, it appears he will head to an FCS team, where he would also be eligible to play in 2015.

Jones threw four of the five non-Doughty passes for the Hilltoppers in 2014, completing two of them for 11 yards.  Those were the only passes of his WKU career.

Conversely, McLeod has decided to transfer to another school but will not play football.

McLeod was a three-star member of Alabama’s 2013 recruiting class.  After redshirting his true freshman season, he left Alabama in May of last year before landing at WKU two months later.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, he was forced to sit out the 2014 season.

(Photo credit: Western Kentucky athletics)

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E. Washington releases statement on Oregon QB transfer target

Eastern Washington v Washington Getty Images

Wednesday, reports surfaced that not only was Vernon Adams a potential transfer target for Oregon, but that the star FCS quarterback was a near-lock to move on to the Ducks.

A day later, EWU has addressed the Adams situation.  Sort of.

While not specifically mentioning his name, EWU released a statement Thursday acknowledging “[i]n the current situation that has arisen recently, we have granted the ability for our student-athlete to explore what opportunities may exist.” That student-athlete is, of course, Adams.

Adams will graduate from EWU this spring, and would thus be eligible to play immediately for UO in 2015. Given the fact that Marcus Mariota‘s early departure has created an experience (and talent) void at the position, and given Adams’ level of talent — he threw for over 400 yards against both Washington and Oregon State the past two seasons — there would be a very good chance that Adams could line up under center as the starter for the Ducks’ season opener.

And Oregon’s opponent Sept. 5? Eastern Washington, the team for whom the two-time Walter Payton Award finalist totaled 100 touchdowns the past two seasons. Based on the fact that they’d have to face the star right out of the gate, not many would begrudge EWU if they took a hardline stance on an Adams transfer to UO.

To their credit, EWU has shown that they’re putting the interests of the student-athlete ahead of the football program, which is a refreshing change regardless of the level.

Below is EWU’s statement, in its entirety:

The NCAA instituted the ability for student-athletes who finish their undergraduate degree the ability to complete their eligibility at another institution should they successfully enroll in a graduate program that does not exist at his/her current institution.

In regards to this rule, Eastern handles each situation on a case-by-case basis. We either allow or not allow a student-athlete to discuss the possibilities with a prospective institution, and then, should that option progress further, determine whether or not to release them to pursue the opportunity to complete their eligibility at another institution. In the current situation that has arisen recently, we have granted the ability for our student-athlete to explore what opportunities may exist.

When we recruit, retain and develop student-athletes, we first and foremost ask them to earn their college degree. Should they achieve that and have opportunities — whether based on current NCAA transfer rules or potentially in a professional setting — we do our best to try and support them in what is in the best interest of their future. Our desire is also for our student-athletes to complete their eligibility at Eastern, given the education, investment and support that our University community, athletic department and coaching staffs have provided them.

Given the current transfer rules that are in place and the desires of other institutions to utilize them to their advantage, we will continue to try and do what is in the best interests for our student-athletes, knowing that their education is our primary role.

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Offense, OCs big winners in latest spinning of coaching carousel

The 2014-15 spinning of the coaching carousel has nearly come to an end, with Central Michigan, thanks to Dan Enos‘ abrupt departure to become Arkansas’ offensive coordinator, the lone remaining FBS program without a head coach less than a week from signing day.

And, when it comes to this year’s spinning, if you were an offensive coordinator with head-coaching aspirations, you were in luck.  Or, hell, if you had an offensive background, period.

First off, there have been just 14 coaching changes (not including CMU) in 2014-15, compared to 19 in 2013-14, 30 in 2012-13 and 26 in 2011-12.  Of the 14 changes made thus far, five have schools have found replacements in current offensive coordinators: Colorado State’s Mike Bobo (Georgia), Houston’s Tom Herman (Ohio State), SMU’s Chad Morris (Clemson), Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery (Baylor) and Troy’s Neal Brown (Kentucky).  Additionally, Kansas hired Texas A&M’s wide receivers coach David Beaty as its new head coach.

Diving even further offensively, three 2014 FBS head coaches who took over different programs since the end of the season — Florida’s Jim McElwain, Nebraska’s Mike Riley, Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst — had extensive experience as coordinators on that side of the ball prior to becoming head coaches.  Throw in Buffalo’s Lance Leipold – an OC prior to winning six Div. III titles at Wisconsin-Whitewater — and 11 of the 14 coaching changes involved individuals with extensive offensive backgrounds.

Given the fact that the college game is currently very much offensively-driven, the skewed hires toward that side of the ball aren’t all that surprising; just last year, 13 of the 19 hires were offensive-minded coaches, so it’s continuing to trend upward.  Still, it’s a stark reminder of just how skewed the game is in the here and now.

In fact, the only current defensive coordinator to land a head-coaching job this cycle was Pat Narduzzi, who left Michigan State for Pittsburgh.  Gary Andersen, who left as head coach at Wisconsin for the same job at Oregon State, had a defensive background in a previous coaching life as well.

The lone remaining new hire is Tony Sanchez, the Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School head coach hired by UNLV.  Sanchez was a defensive coach prior to becoming a high school head coach… but actually began his coaching career as an offensive assistant at that level.

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Report: UCLA’s Mazzone, USC’s Helton interviewed for Vols OC job

Noel Mazzone AP

We don’t know yet when Butch Jones will pull the trigger on his biggest coaching hire this offseason, but we do know some of the candidates who have caught his attention.  Reportedly.

According to Jimmy Hyams of radio station WNML in Knoxville, Jones has interviewed five outside candidates for the Vols’ vacancy at offensive coordinator: current Michigan administrator and former UM coordinator Mike DeBord, as well as 2014 coordinators Matt Canada (North Carolina State), Clay Helton (USC), Noel Mazzone (UCLA) and Kurt Roper (not retained at Florida). Additionally, UT wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni is listed by Hyams as a candidate as well.

Hyams notes that Jones has interviewed those individuals in locations such as Los Angeles, Oakland, Las Vegas.

Of the reported candidates, Mazzone and Helton would be the most noteworthy.

Mazzone has spent the past three seasons as the Bruins coordinator.  During those three seasons, the Bruins finished 37th (33.5 ppg, 2014), 21st (36.9 ppg, 2013) and 31st (34.4 ppg) in scoring; in the two years prior to Mazzone’s arrival, the Bruins were 88th (23.1 ppg, 2012) and 103rd (20.1 ppg) in that category.

Helton has spent the past five seasons as the Trojans’ coordinator/quarterbacks coach.  In his first season under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, Helton did not hold play-calling responsibilities.

Jones, incidentally, was on DeBord’s coaching staff at CMU from 2000-03.  DeBord has been out of the coaching game since serving as the tight ends coach of the Chicago Bears in 2012.  Hyams notes, though, that DeBord has NFL opportunities from which to potentially choose as well.

Whoever it is that Jones hires will replace Mike Bajakian, who left to to take the quarterbacks coach job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this month.

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Tide makes Mel Tucker hiring official

Miami Dolphins v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Three days after it was first reported, the lone hole on Nick Saban‘s Alabama coaching staff has been filled.

In a press release, UA announced that Mel Tucker has been hired as Saban’s defensive backs coach.  Tucker will also hold the title of assistant head coach.

Tucker has a history with Saban, who hired him as a grad assistant at Michigan State nearly two decades ago.

“He is an outstanding coach all the way around and really does an excellent job in terms of teaching the players,” Saban said in a statement. “When you look at his college and NFL experience, his resume is very impressive, and he’ll be a positive addition to our defensive staff. Mel’s experience with the secondary will allow us to move Kirby back to coaching the inside linebackers, which has been most effective for our defensive coordinator. We’re pleased and happy to welcome Mel and his family to Tuscaloosa.”

Tucker has been away from the college game for the last decade, having spent time on NFL staffs with the Cleveland Browns (2005-07, defensive backs; 2008, defensive coordinator), Jacksonville Jaguars (2009-12, defensive coordinator) and Chicago Bears (2013-14, defensive coordinator).  His last job at the collegiate level came in 2004 as the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State.

Prior to that, the Cleveland, Oh., native coached the secondary at OSU (2001-03), LSU (2000) and Miami of Ohio (1999).

“I’ve known Coach Saban since I was 17 years old and he recruited me when he was the head coach at Toledo,” said Tucker. “He gave me my first job at Michigan State and most of what I learned as a defensive backs coach came from him. He has always been extremely loyal to me and my family, and is a trusted friend and mentor.

“We’ve become big Crimson Tide fans through the years and our family actually went to the bowl games against Michigan State and Notre Dame. When I was invited to speak here at one of the coaching clinics, I really got to see first-hand how special the University of Alabama is and I’m honored to join Coach Saban’s staff. I have the utmost respect this program and what Coach Saban stands for as a man and as a coach.”

In addition to Tucker, UA also announce the hiring of former UAB assistant Jody Wright.  This is a return for Wright as he spent 201 as a graduate assistant with the Tide and 2011-12 as an offensive analyst.

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About-face: ACC to count BYU as Power Five opponent

BYU Stadium

Just last May, it was reported that the ACC would not consider BYU an option for its membership to satisfy the mandatory scheduling of at least one Power Five opponent per season.

Eight months later?  Never mind, apparently.

The same day that the ACC released its complete 2015 schedule, ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy reports that games against BYU will now count toward the Power Five non-league requirement for the conference. The league has yet to announce the reversal, for whatever that’s worth.

As it stands now, Virginia is the only ACC school with BYU on its future schedules, with games slated for 2019 in Charlottesville, 2020 in Provo. Whether this reported decision to allow BYU to meet the P5 scheduling requirement means future games between the football independent and ACC schools will start popping up remains to be seen.

Unless a change hasn’t been made public yet, the SEC still does not consider BYU meeting a scheduling requirement similar to that of the ACC’s. Of course, the Cougars have played just five games total against teams that were members of the SEC at the time the game was played, so it’s not as if there’s an extensive history between that institution and that conference.

Regardless, the ACC’s decision is a huge one for BYU as it will allow the football program to further bolster its schedule — and any potential playoff résumé — with quality Power Five opponents.  Short of landing a spot in one of those conferences — you have their digits, Big 12 — this is about as good as it gets for the Cougars.

(Photo credit: BYU athletics)

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Brandon Harris’ HS coach advised QB to ‘please get out of’ LSU

Brandon Harris

Here’s to guessing David Feaster‘s brutal honesty won’t ingratiate him too much to the LSU coaching staff.

Feaster is the head coach at Bossier City Parkway High School in Louisiana, the high school of LSU quarterback Brandon Harris.  After Harris’ true freshman season devolved into one of (mostly) sideline inactivity even as the quality of play at the quarterback position was suspect to say the least, Feaster encouraged his former player to leave the situation.

And by “leave the situation” I mean “get the hell out of Dodge before you do permanent damage to your collegiate career.” From the New Orleans Times-Picayune‘s transcription of Feaster’s radio interview Wednesday.

“Please get out of there,” Feaster said he told Harris. “I wanted him to go to junior college. Go to a junior college, and because he’s a qualifier, he can just be there one year, leave at the midterm and restart the recruiting process all over again.”

“You’ve got the worst passing game in the country, and the best quarterback in the country sitting on the bench,” Feaster said. “Why don’t we even try him against Arkansas? He almost saved you against Mississippi State, did save you against New Mexico State. Why don’t we even give him a shot in some of these other games we can’t get a first down?”

There was speculation floating around that part of the reason for Harris’ inactivity over the last half of the season stemmed from what the Times-Picayune described as a lack of “dedication to studying tape and the playbook.”  On that front, Feaster lays the onus for the leak that cast his former player in an unfavorable light squarely on the LSU coaching staff.

“The stuff they’ve been saying has been lies,” Feaster said. “That he has trouble learning plays or checks, reading defenses, all that is bogus. He got there in January. They had plenty of time to go over the plays. I’ll just say that on his behalf, all that stuff is lies.

“He’s (Les Miles) the head coach, and he plays who he wants to. I don’t want people telling me who to play at QB either. But I don’t think they should be putting out false information about Brandon to make him look bad.”

Harris, of course, eschewed a transfer from LSU — “I couldn’t talk him into it,” Feaster said — and will, along with 2014 starter Anthony Jennings, compete for the starting job again beginning this spring. To Feaster’s credit, he did allow later in the interview that Harris is “right and I’m wrong” about wanting the quarterback to bolt after being on campus for less than a year.

In his first season in Baton Rouge, Harris played in eight games and started one. That lone start was, to say the least, a rough one, with Harris completing just 3-of-14 passes for 58 yards in a 41-7 loss on the road to Auburn. Harris attempted just one pass the remaining seven games, although that hasn’t seemed to dampen the former four-star recruit’s enthusiasm for the Tigers.

“Brandon is really enjoying LSU,” Feaster said. “He’s all in for it. He’s just going to try and compete. Maybe there’ll be a different set of criteria this year on how they choose their quarterback, and maybe he’ll get a shot.”

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ACC releases complete 2015 schedule

ACC Logo

With the start of the 2015 season less than eight months away — damn, that seems a long, long, long ways away — the ACC has gotten around to releasing its full schedule for the upcoming campaign.

The conference will have several high-profile games opening weekend, beginning with North Carolina-South Carolina Sept. 3 in Charlotte; continuing with Louisville-Auburn in the Georgia Dome for the Sept. 5 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game; and concluding with Virginia Tech-Ohio State Labor Day night, Sept. 7, in Blacksburg.  The Hokies were the only team to knock off the Buckeyes en route to OSU’s national championship.

Notre Dame will also be in the second year of its scheduling arrangement with the conference, with six games on the slate versus league foes. Clemson (Oct. 3), Virginia (Sept. 12) and Pitt (Nov. 7) will host the Irish, while Georgia Tech (Sept. 19) and (Wake Forest (Nov. 14) will travel to Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Additionally, the Notre Dame-Boston College game will be played in Boston’s Fenway Park, and will be considered a home game for the Irish.

In the release announcing the 2015 slate, the ACC touted its schedule as one of the toughest in the country, at least on paper. Let us count the reasons why:

  • ACC teams will play more games against teams that are ranked in ESPN’s Too Early Top 25 rankings for 2015 (12) than any of the other Top Five Conferences. The ACC’s total is also more than double the number of games played by the next closest Power Five league.
  • ACC teams also are playing a higher percentage of Power Five Conference teams (38%) than any other Power Five Conference.
  • ACC teams are also playing games against opponents who had a higher FBS (.536) and overall (.536) winning percentage in 2014 than any other Power Five Conference.
  • ACC teams will also play 24 games against non-conference opponents that played in bowl games in 2014. That total is the second-highest total of any Power Five Conference.

“This year’s ACC Football schedule once again showcases that collectively our league is arguably playing the toughest nonconference schedule in the country,” said ACC commissioner John Swofford in a statement. “In addition to the nonconference games, we have a tremendously competitive league schedule which provides our teams and fans with great games each week of the season.”

For the complete 2015 ACC schedule, click HERE.  For the complete helmet or logo versions, click HERE or HERE, respectively.

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Grantham confirms Raider interview, but will stay at Louisville

Miami v Louisville

As it turns out, Louisville won’t need to embark on a search for a new defensive coordinator after all.

Late Wednesday afternoon, it was reported that the Oakland Raiders, which had previously targeted Todd Grantham, had offered their coordinator job to the current UofL coordinator.  In a statement subsequently released by the school, Grantham confirmed that he did interview for the NFL post.

He also confirmed, though, that he would be returning to the Cardinals for the 2015 season.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to have interviewed for the defensive coordinator position with the Oakland Raiders, but I’m committed to the University of Louisville,” Grantham said in a statement. “I said when I came to Louisville that I thought we could win a national championship, and we are building toward that goal with the success we had this season.

“Coach Petrino and Tom Jurich have given me a great opportunity and I’m grateful for their commitment. My family loves it in Louisville, and I think we are establishing something special here with head coach Bobby Petrino and our staff. Our main objective over the next week is to finish strong in recruiting and continue to bolster this signing class.”

In his first season at Louisville in 2014, Grantham’s $975,000 salary was sixth amongst assistant coaches nationally and third in the ACC. It’s unknown at the moment if he’ll receive a bump in pay to repay his commitment to the university.

Under Grantham in 2014, the Cardinals were tied for 24th in the country in scoring defense at 21.8 points per game. The year prior to Grantham’s arrival, they were second at 12.2 ppg.

“We’re very pleased and happy that Todd is going to be staying at the University of Louisville,” Petrino said in his statement. “He’s done a fabulous job with our defense that ranked in the top 10. He’s one of the finest assistant coaches in the country, and you expect excellent coaches like Todd to get opportunities in the NFL. I’ve always had respect for the job that Todd has done throughout his career, especially this past year at Louisville, and we’re happy that he has and family will continue to be members of the Cardinals’ family.”

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