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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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SEC sets schedule for 2015 media days

Gus Malzahn

It’s March 3, but the 2015 college football season is (sort of) just around the corner.

The SEC, always the first out of the box with these things, announced its 2015 media days slate on Tuesday. The festival of football and frivolity begins July 13 (I swear it’ll be before July 4th by 2020) and ends July 16. That’s nearly two full months before the first games.

Most of the procedures are the same – Birmingham’s Wynfrey Hotel, SEC Network and ESPNU with 870 hours of live coverage – but the person unofficially kicking off the season will not be.

Monday, July 13
To-be-determined SEC commissioner
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Jim McElwain, Florida
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

Tuesday, July 14
Steve Shaw, coordinator of officials
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Butch Jones, Tennessee

Wednesday, July 15
Nick Saban, Alabama
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Gary Pinkel, Missouri

Thursday, July 16
Les Miles, LSU
Mark Richt, Georgia
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

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Report: Auburn LB Swain and punter leave program

BCS National Championship - Florida State v Auburn

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has yet to confirm the news, but multiple outlets are reporting he will be missing a couple of players for good. Linebacker Anthony Swain and punter Jimmy Hutchinson have reportedly left the team.

“I’m going to update our spring roster next Tuesday, so I’m going to wait until then and I’ll give you all the updates — not just with him, but with other people, too,” Malzahn said in a report by Al.com.

Both Swain and Hutchinson played mostly reserve roles on the Auburn roster. Swain put together 18 tackles and a sack during the 2014 season. Hutchinson was passed over for punting duties in favor of Daniel Carlson. His 22-yard punt against Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl in January seems to be the last we will see of Hutchinson in an Auburn uniform. Why either player is leaving the program is unknown, or at least unconfirmed, at this time.

Swain had previously been in Malzahn’s doghouse for an undisclosed reason in the spring of 2014. He would eventually be reinstated by Malzahn after missing some spring practices.

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Idaho’s bowl ban has been lifted

Paul Petrino, Taylor Davis

The Idaho Vandals will be allowed to go to a postseason bowl game in the 2015 season, if they manage to reach the six-win minimum. The school released a statement confirming the football program has met the NCAA’s academic minimum in order to be eligible for postseason play. Idaho was banned from playing in the postseason last year for not meeting an academic progress report minimum as a program.

Idaho claims the football program’s latest APR score has been in the 950s and is projected to be in the 960s this year. The minimum APR score to participate in the postseason is 930 over a four-year period or 940 over a two-year period. Perhaps more costly to Idaho was the loss of practice time last season. The program was stripped of four hours of practice on a weekly basis as a result of the low APR scores. With the ban lifted, Idaho will also get back its ability to use a full practice schedule.

“We never make excuses, but that hurt. That’s big,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said.

Now Idaho just has to find a way to get to six wins in the fall in order to go to a bowl game. The program has not won more than one game in a season since 2011 and has not reached the six-win mark since 2010. Conference realignment has taken a toll on Idaho as well, stripping it of WAC membership as the conference crumbled and leaving the program to float as an independent before landing in the not so geographically friendly Sun Belt Conference. Now at least there is something to shoot for with the chance to play in a bowl game sitting there waiting to be taken by Idaho.

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Tressel says recruiting is key to keeping Michigan and Harbaugh in OSU’s rearview mirror

Michigan v Ohio State

Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel knows a thing or two about the rivalry between the Buckeyes and Michigan, and he knows just how valuable having an edge in the series can be to a coach. With Jim Harbaugh taking over at Michigan this year the expectations are high for the Wolverines to start clawing back in the Big Ten, and perhaps lead Michigan to a more level playing field against their rivals across the state line.

“I think Jim Harbaugh will bring something to the Ohio State-Michigan storied rivalry,” Tressel said at a Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club event, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. “He’s been successful wherever he’s been. He’s extremely hard-working. He has great pride in his alma mater.”

While the future may be bright for Michigan with Harbaugh leading the way, Tressel says Michigan should not be expected to catch up to Ohio State right away.

“Personally, I think they’re a ways away from being at the level where there’s going to be a Ten Year War. I think they’ve got some work to do to get to that. But if anyone can do it, Jim Harbaugh can. He’ll do a great job.”

Tressel also said the key to Ohio State maintaining an edge over the Wolverines (and anybody else in the Big Ten for that matter) is to lock down the top high school talent from within the state borders. Ohio is a state rich with football talent, and Ohio State tends to have the upper hand in those recruiting battles. That was the case when Tressel was head coach of the Buckeyes, and is the area Tressel thinks Ohio State needs to focus on to keep Michigan in the rearview mirror.

“How far behind (is Michigan)? It (depends) on how long that door stays closed,” Tressel said. “That’s the key. [Urban Meyer] will do a great job, they know how to win, they’ve got a great staff. But you’ve still got to keep it closed.”

Can Meyer lock the doors to Ohio’s recruits, or will Harbaugh have a key?

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Jim McElwain wants to turn Georgia into Gator Country

University of Florida Introduces Jim McElwain

You just have to love when a new coach takes over at a program and starts to try redrawing the recruiting borders. Of course, there are no boundaries when it comes to college football recruiting, but once a program crosses state lines things can get pretty tense, especially between rival schools.

As you might suspect, Florida head coach Jim McElwain is looking to win some more recruiting battles in the state of Georgia, and he and his staff have the connections to do just that. Florida added five players from the state of Georgia in the Class of 2015. Given how fertile the recruiting soil is in the state of Georgia, it only makes sense for Florida to try to tap the state whenever possible to add to the haul in can bring in from the sunshine state. In recruiting, it is all about having the connections in place.

“I think (it was due to a) couple of things,” McElwain told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. “There were pre-existing relationships with some guys on our staff who recruited that area in the past. That obviously helps.”

McElwain is focused on setting up shop around Gainesville, and the net is fairly wide. Is it wide enough to turn Georgia into Florida territory? McElwain hopes that is the case.

“But for us, our thought is a five-hour radius of Gainesville,” McElwain said. “And with that being said, that (radius) goes up into Georgia, and that will be something that we’ll try to continue to make Gator Country.”

That should add some spice to the rivalry between Georgia and Florida.

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Seven cities ready to bid for future College Football Playoff championship, seven more interested

College Football Playoff Announces The College Football Playoff Selection Committee - News Conference

Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville, South Florida, Minneapolis, San Antonio and Santa Clara are among the cities expressing a desire to host a future College Football Playoff national championship game, but they may not be alone. According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Arlington, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Orlando and Pasadena are other cities currently undecided but evaluating whether or not to place a formal bid. New Jersey has also expressed an interest.

The current games that are available for host bids are the 2018, 2019 and 2020 national championship games. Rather than designate the hosting duties to one specific host bowl game, as was the case under the BCS system, cities place bids for the title game similar to NFL Super Bowl bids. Cities have until late May to submit a bid proposal to the College Football Playoff. The cities winning the bid for one of the three championship games will be announced in October.

Cities can bid for a specific year’s championship game. South Florida reportedly will place a bid for the 2018 and 2020 games. The Orange Bowl in Miami is the host bowl for one of the College Football Playoff semifinal games in 2019. Minneapolis intends to apply for the 2019 and 2020 national championship games.

Last season’s national championship game was played in Arlington, Texas. This season’s championship game will be played in Glendale, Arizona. The 2017 championship game will move to Tampa, Florida.

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Toddler’s text among Ohio State’s 47 self-reported violations

Cute kid playing with cell phone

Many schools self-report numerous minor infractions to the NCAA on a regular basis. Ohio State has reported a total of 47 rules violations to the NCAA over the last year, and one of them may show just why parental controls on cell phones is a good idea.

Among the 47 violations reported by Ohio State to the NCAA is a text message to a recruit sent from the phone of wide receivers coach Zach Smith. But Smith says it was not he who sent the text, but his four-year old son. As the claim goes, Smith’s son picked up his phone when a recruit allegedly called the receivers coach. Upon picking up the phone, Smith’s son allegedly sent an automatic text reply.

Fortunately, the NCAA actually showed a good sense of humor about the whole incident and decided not to bother reviewing the case. But perhaps this should serve as a lesson about the importance of locking your phone and enabling any child-proof features on a phone for college football coaches.

The violations reported by Ohio State span all sports. According to The Lantern, just two are tied to the football program. In addition to the toddler text message, Ohio State reported a violation of impermissible on-campus contact in late September. Head coach Urban Meyer reportedly had contact with a junior college athlete on campus.

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Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska could gain advantage with Big Ten stipends

businessman with a burlap money bag

A new age in collegiate athletics is upon us with power conferences making a power play to provide more for student-athletes. That means power conference members handing out stipends to college athletes on top of a full scholarship to take care of other financial needs and obligations. How much each school will be able to provide to players will vary by school, and it is believed the divide within power conferences could widen between the top programs and the rest of the pack.

David Jones of The Patriot News dug into the numbers to see what the expected stipends for each Big Ten member could total. Based on the information made available by CollegeData.com, Penn State came out on top with a stipend of $4,788. Wisconsin’s stipend amount came out to $4,265 and Nebraska’s total added up to $3,544. Indiana ($3,036) and Maryland ($3,024) were the only other schools to have stipends over $3,000. By comparison, Ohio State’s stipend total is calculated to be $2,454. Michigan’s is $2,054 and Michigan State is at the bottom of the Big Ten with a stipend total of $1,872.

These numbers are subject to change and, as noted by Jones in his column, you should probably expect people like Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio to push internally for some adjustments in order to allow more stipend funds where possible. Otherwise, programs like Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and even Indiana and Maryland are going to have a nice recruiting chip up their sleeves that could have an impact with certain recruits.

Of course, Texas Athletics Director Steve Patterson previously went on record suggesting the Texas Longhorns could potentially hand out $10,000 stipends if it came to that point.

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BYU to discipline “10-ish” players for role in Miami Beach Brawl

Latanoa Pikula

The last we heard out of BYU regarding the ugly incident at the end of the Miami Beach Bowl against Memphis, BYU was not expected to release names of players serving suspensions or facing discipline for their role in a postgame melee in Miami. That has not changed, although BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has suggested the number of players facing some form of discipline will be in the double digits.

According to a report by Desert News, Mendenhall opened BYU’s spring practice by writing the word “discipline” on the whiteboard. The head coach of the Cougars later told reporters “10-ish” players will be disciplined for their actions following a bowl loss to Memphis. Specific suspensions may not be announced until the week of BYU’s season opener at Nebraska.

“We’ll try to maintain a competitive advantage as long as we can, and protect the kids as much as we can,” Mendenhall said in the report by Desert News. “I think everyone knows I thrive on accountability and don’t back away from it, especially at BYU. So I’m comfortable with who we’re disciplining and how. I’d like to protect our players as much as we can.”

For what it is worth, Memphis has suspended 12 players for their part in the brawl although names and length of suspension terms have not been disclosed to the public at this time. The disciplinary actions taking by Memphis have been endorsed by the American Athletic Conference as well.

BYU opens the 2015 season on September 5 at Nebraska of the Big Ten. It will be the first meeting between the two programs.

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Oregon State has fresh new helmets for spring practice

Oregon State v Hawaii

When Oregon State opens up spring practice tomorrow they will do so wearing a brand new helmet. Could this be a preview of a new look in 2015? If so, it’s not bad at all.

Oregon State will have black helmets with the word “Beavers” scripted across the side. The look is reminiscent to a helmet design previously worn by the program in 1979 (with an orange helmet) and again from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s (with a white helmet). The same basic design elements were used on a black helmet since 1999, although with the Beaver logo on top of the script. Oregon State has also mixed and matched different helmets with uniforms the past few seasons. Now the beaver logo is gone, at least with this helmet.

I’m giving this one two thumbs up. What about you?

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Kennesaw State opened program’s first spring practice today

A total of 91 players went through the first spring football practice of the year on Monday. Ordinarily this would not be of much significance, but this was no ordinary spring football practice. This was spring football practice at Kennesaw State, the first in program history.

“It was a good day. It’s our first time back on the field and it was the first-ever spring ball practice,” Kennesaw State head coach Brian Bohannon said. “The great thing about it is our kids are in pretty good shape. They had a really good offseason.  We had a group of guys who actually knew what to do versus the last time we came out.”

This was the first spring football practice for Kennesaw State, but the program was able to practice in the fall as they go through the motions of operating a football program in season.

“It was a great start and I think the big thing for this group right now is that in the fall we had three segments of 15 days apiece and now we have one,” Bohannon explained. “Now we’re down to 14 and they are going to have to maximize every minute of these opportunities before we get ready to play.”

As noted by Kevin Causey of The Student Section, Kennesaw State will be joining the Big South Conference this season in the FCS and the offensive identity will likely be based on the option that has become the norm at places like Georgia Tech and Navy. The Owls have 52 players on scholarship right now as it builds up to the FCS maximum of 63.

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Alabama and Minnesota add former players to coaching staff

USC v Minnesota

College football programs around the country continue to fill spaces on coaching staffs, and often that means bringing back former players to fill the final pieces. Alabama and Minnesota each added a former player from each respective program to fill a role in 2015.

Alabama has added former walk-on wide receiver Rob Ezell to the program’s support staff. Ezell was a part of Nick Saban’s program from 2007 through 2010. He comes to Alabama after serving the past two seasons as a graduate assistant at Colorado State, where he worked under former Alabama assistant Jim McElwain. Ezell is also known for a pretty spot-on impression of Saban.

At Minnesota, the all-time passing leader for the Gophers is joining the staff as a graduate assistant. Adam Weber will fill the vacancy as grad assistant, and it is expected he will work closely with the quarterbacks. Given his history with the program, that is not a bad strategy. Weber set school records for passing attempts (1,594), completions (909), passing yards (10,917) and touchdown passes (72).

“I really am excited to join such a great staff under Coach [Jerry Kill],” Weber said. “I’m just looking to be a sponge. It just seems like a great fit.”

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UNC hires Huskers DB coach Warren to fill vacancy

North Carolina has hired away Nebraska defensive backs coach Charlton Warren to the same job in Chapel Hill. UNC announced the staff hiring Monday.

Warren was Nebraska’s defensive backs coach in 2014, but he had served on the coaching staff at Air Force prior to that. Warren is an Air Force graduate. Warren has a connection to Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora. Fedora was an assistant with Air Force when Warren was playing for Air Force in 1997 and 1998.

Warren’s departure from Nebraska is not exactly to be unexpected given coaching turnover in Lincoln, although Warren was the only coach retained from the Bo Pelini regime by new Nebraska head coach Mike Riley.

North Carolina is in need of improving its defense, and the additions to the coaching staff this offseason appear to be addressing that need. The Tar Heels hired former Auburn national championship head coach Gene Chizik to be the team’s new defensive coordinator in one of the more notable assistant coaching hires of the year.

North Carolina finished last in the 14-team ACC in passing defense in 2014, allowing 257.4 yards per game and 31 passing touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 150.35, which is 10 points higher than the next worst opponent passer rating allowed in the ACC (Syracuse, 140.08).

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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SEC’s Mike Slive cautious on freshman eligibility conversation

Mike Slive

The two most powerful men in college athletics continue to be on opposite sides of a divisive topic, like Republicans and Democrats on just about anything. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are not seeing eye-to-eye on te topic of freshman eligibility. Not yet at least. Delany has spearheaded the recent conversation, but Slive is advises to be patient on the topic until the NCAA rules take effect in 2016.

“We have to remember that each college student has his or her own academic challenges,” Slive said in a statement Monday. Slive was responding to the idea presented by Delany and the Big Ten to prevent student-athletes in certain sports from competing as freshmen in order to provide a more stable introduction to academic life.

“To put a blanket over these student-athletes with a year on the bench doesn’t address those individual needs to incentivize academic progress,” Slive continued.

The Big Ten may be fighting a losing battle here, or Delany may be drawing his line in the sand to back up the idea the Big Ten really is focused more on academics than other conferences. Delany and the Big Ten are currently seeking opinions about freshman eligibility rules.

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Former Rutgers & Minnesota QB Philip Nelson dodges prison

Philip Nelson

Former Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson will not have to serve any prison time for his involvement in a brutal attack that led to the injury of a Minnesota State football player. Nelson was instead sentenced to 100 hours of community service and was credited for serving two days in jail.

Isaac Kolstad was left in coma after being allegedly being attacked by Nelson and kicked in the head. Following the incident, Nelson was booted from the Rutgers team shortly after he had transferred from Minnesota. Kolstad has since made progress in his recovery in his rehab from his brain injury.

Nelson agreed to a plea that would result in a misdemeanor fifth-degree assault for pleading guilty.

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