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The Fifth Quarter: Week 4 Rewind

Kansas State v Texas Getty Images

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

WINNERS

Mack’s back?
At least for the time being, the Longhorn Nation mob can put away its pitchforks and torches.  After a week that saw even more speculation about his job and the confirmation of rumors that Texas was indeed very interested in Nick Saban, Mack Brown was staring square in the face of Texas’ first 1-3 start since 1954.  Instead, the Longhorn players stepped above the ineptness of the past couple of weeks and moved to 2-2 with a 31-21 win over Kansas State.  Whether it was the increased heat on their coach or just the fact that the Wildcats aren’t that good, the players seemed to play with a spark, an enthusiasm, a sense of urgency that hasn’t been seen at all in 2013  Certainly one win doesn’t change all that’s gone wrong over the past three-plus years, and K-State 2013 is not the K-State of recent years, but it’s definitely a baby step in the right direction.

Hilluva football player
Forget about whether or not Jeremy Hill should even be on a football field; that’s another argument for another day.  When he is on the playing surface, the LSU running back is one helluva football player.  Hill rushed for a career-high 151 yards… and then headed back onto the field for the start of the third quarter.  Hill finished with 183 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 35-21 win over previously unbeaten Auburn.  The Bayou Bengals certainly have a stable full of high-quality runners, but Hill is clearly the class of the backfield and will continue to serve as an important piece of the offensive puzzle as LSU continues its run toward what should be another epic showdown with Alabama.

Johnny be good at football
If someone other than Johnny Manziel is going to win the 2013 Heisman, they’re going to have to rip it from his cold, dead hands.  Or something.  In less than three-and-a-half quarters of playing time against SMU, Manziel passed for 244 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another 102 and two more scores.  Through four games this season, Manziel has accounted for 1,483 yards of total offense (1,228 passing, 255 rushing) and 15 touchdowns; in the first four games of the 2012 season, the numbers were 1,460 (1,094 passing, 466 rushing) and 16 touchdowns.  Whether or not voters, given the Texas A&M’s rocky offseason, give him serious consideration again this December remains to be seen.  Based on his play on the field this year, though, he damn well should be given just that.

Arizona State v StanfordCardinal rules
Stanford got off to a rather ho-hum start to the 2013 season, beating San Jose State by 21 in the opener and then getting by Army by 14 in Week 2.  In its first true test of the year, however, Stanford got back to real Cardinal football in building up a 29-0 halftime lead before pushing it to 39-7 and ultimately cruising, relatively speaking, to a 42-28 win over No. 23 Arizona State.  As is ofttimes the case, the Cardinal did most of their damage on the ground in rushing for a season-high 238 yards, with three of their touchdowns on the day coming on the ground.  Stanford is nothing if not consistent as they’ve rushed for 197, 205 and now 238 yards in their first three games.  We’re still six weeks away from their colossal showdown with Oregon down on The Farm, and yes Stanford allowed ASU to make it closer than what it could’ve/should’ve been, but it appears the trajectory of both the Cardinal and the Ducks is pointing straight toward an instant classic.

Plow on, Badgers
If anyone thought Wisconsin would turn its back on its running ways under Gary Andersen, you couldn’t have been more wrong.  In the Badgers’ 41-10 win over Purdue in their Big Ten opener, UW ran for 388 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per carry.  UW came into the game fifth in the country averaging 337 yards per game, rushing for 393 and 387 yards in the first two games under Andersen; their low-water mark for the season has been 210 in the controversial loss to Arizona State last weekend.  The Badgers are now averaging eight yards per carry, a figure that’s third in the country behind a pair of teams that are in an offensive league of their own: Oregon (9.3) and Baylor (9.2).

Non-offensive fireworks
Iowa put up a season-high 59 points on the board in a romp over Western Michigan, and the offense was responsible for just 31 of them.  B.J. Lowery returned two interceptions for a touchdown, becoming the first player in Hawkeye history to perform that feat.  Not to be outdone, Kevonte Martin-Manley became the first Iowa player ever to return two punts for a touchdown in a single game.  Martin-Manley is just the third player in the long history of the Big Ten to do that.  Iowa is now 3-1 on the year, the fifth time in the last six seasons it has started a season at 3-1 or better.

Spunky punter
We here at CFT don’t normally refer to punters as “real” football players.  San Jose State’s Harrison Waid, though, might consider such a label fightin’ words… literally.  Waid took exception to being blocked by a Minnesota player following one of his punts and, in very non-punter-like fashion, went after the Gopher that laid him out.  While the SJSU coaching staff likely appreciated the fire shown by Waid, they probably didn’t like the fact that he was ejected from the game as a result of what was closer to a cat fight than actual fisticuffs.

BCS buster still alive
Thanks to losses through the first three weeks of the 2013 season by, among others, Boise State and Utah State, Fresno State was looking like the lone non-AQ school left that could crash the BCS’ postseason party.  The hopes of BCS busters across the country were looking even more dire Friday night as the Bulldogs sat at their own 13-yard line with just over seven minutes left and trailing the Broncos by six.  Five minutes and 87 yards later, Fresno State put a game-winning touchdown on the board that kept their perfect record — and BCS hopes — intact.  While there are still potential stumbling blocks along the way, such as back-to-back games against San Diego State and Nevada in a month as well as a possible conference championship game appearance — rematch with Boise? — Fresno State is looking like as good a bet as any of the non-AQ schools to finish the season unbeaten and put themselves in a position for a BCS bowl bid.

LOSERS

The Devin’s in the detailsMichigan v Connecticut
Devin Gardner has been in a very giving mood of late for Michigan.  Off the field, that’s a positive; on it, it’s a decidedly negative trait.  Through four games this season, the Wolverines’ starting quarterback has thrown eight interceptions in 92 attempts, including two more against UConn.  Last season, in his first year as a starter, Gardner tossed five picks in 126 attempts.  Gardner also coughed up a fumble early in the third quarter, one that was returned for a touchdown in the too-close-for-comfort win over the winless Huskies.  A bye week could be coming at the perfect time for UM in general and Gardner specifically.  As a team, the Wolverines must clean-up whatever has gone wrong in two very unimpressive and uninspiring wins the past two weeks.  As a player, Gardner needs to some how, some way extract his cranium from his rectum and start playing smart football, especially with the start of Big Ten play on the horizon.

This could leave a mark
Miami had little problem in dispatching heavy underdog Savannah State, but the cupcake win could have come at a steep cost.  In the middle of the first quarter, starting quarterback Stephen Morris suffered what was initially described as a lower-leg injury.  Morris did not return to the game, and it was later revealed that the initial diagnosis is a sprained ankle.  It’ unclear if that would be the dreaded high-ankle type of sprain, although head coach Al Golden sounded decidedly optimistic in his postgame talk.  What’s also unclear is whether Morris will be available for the USF game next week or, more importantly, the ACC opener against Georgia Tech the week after.  The only good news for the ‘Canes if Morris were to miss any playing time is that they have an experienced backup in Ryan Williams.

DOH!gorsen
What in the name of Red Bull shooters is going on in Morgantown?  While the Mountaineers started 2013 2-1, their two wins came against FCS programs, while they scored just seven points in a loss to Oklahoma.  That downward offensive trend spiraled further out of control after WVU was shutout in an embarrassing 37-point road loss to Maryland.  It was the first time a Mountaineers team had been shutout since 2001, Rich Rodriguez‘s first season at WVU.  The Mountaineers recorded the same number of turnovers (six) as first downs, and they completed a grand total of one pass to a wide receiver.  Yes, replacing a quarterback like Geno Smith and a playmaker like Tavon Austin is a tall task, but there’s no excuse for a Dana Holgorsen-coached team to get shut out.  It may not be on the national radar quite yet, but the howls from the locals around me here in the middle of WV calling for Holgorsen’s head are growing in frequency and intensity.  Holgorsen’s built his reputation on offense; his players had better start playing up to that résumé.

Marshall, Marshall, Marshall
Staying in God’s Country, what could have been for Doc Holliday‘s football program.  A pass that could’ve went the other way for a pick-six instead slipped through the hands of a Marshall defender and into the arms of a Virginia Tech receiver, tying the game at 21-all with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter.  After Tech missed a pair of field goal attempts in the first two overtimes — and after the Herd had one of its FGs blocked in the second overtime — the Herd was in position to tie the game in the third overtime — the Hokies had scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion on their third possession of extra time — only to watch a blatant pass interference in the end zone go uncalled.  Add it all up and it was a heartbreaking 29-21, triple-overtime loss for the 2-2 Herd… and a huge escape for a very average Hokies football team.

Florida International v LouisvilleFIUBAR
In December of this year, FIU stunned most college football observers by firing head coach Mario Cristobal.  At the time, athletic director Pete Garcia defended the indefensible by claiming the program had “gone backwards over the last year and a half.”  So, how have the Panthers fared in their first season under new head coach Ron Turner?  FIU has lost their first four games by a combined score of 187-23, including the 72-0 whipping Saturday at the hands of Louisville.  Even more embarrassing for the Panthers is the fact that the officiating crew ordered a running clock in the second half in an effort to speed up the embarrassment.  Excellent work, Mr. Garcia.  You’ve turned around this FBS football program in much the same way you and Butch Davis turned around my Cleveland Browns early last decade.  You should be proud.

$avannah $tate
Over the past two seasons, Savannah State has been 60-point-plus underdogs to three FBS teams: Miami (Sept. 21, 2013), Oklahoma State (Sept. 1, 2012) and Florida State (Sept. 8, 2012).  The FCS program lost those three games by a combined score of 216-7… and that was with the FSU game featuring a running clock in the second half and weather ending the game in the third quarter as well as the Miami game Saturday having the fourth quarter shortened to 12 minutes.  For that trio of eviscerations, Savannah State added $1.235 million to its athletic department’s coffers; in 2010-11, the department’s total athletic budget across all sports was $5.1 million.  Sometimes when you lose, get a beatdown even, you win and win big.

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

– No. 3 Clemson 26, North Carolina State: Thanks to some very questionable officiating, the Tigers were able to get out of Raleigh with its fourth consecutive win to start the 2013 season.

– No. 9 Georgia 45, North Texas 21: The Bulldogs may have won going away thanks to ripping off 24 unanswered points, but they were actually tied with the Conference USA program at 21-all midway through the third quarter.

– No. 15 Michigan 24, UConn 21 — For the second straight week, the Wolverines not only allowed an inferior opponent hang with them, they were actually outplay for the better part of 60 minutes.  UM may be unbeaten at 4-0, but it’s as wobbly a 4-0 that you’ll ever see.

– No. 19 Northwestern 35, Maine 21: You beat an FCS team, even a previously unbeaten one like the Black Bears, by a mere two touchdowns when you’re ranked inside the Top 25, you deserve a mention for escaping.

– No. 22 Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 13: Were it not for an inexplicable trick play late in the third quarter by the Spartans, the Irish could’ve very easily been on the receiving end of its second loss of the season.

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.Colorado State v Alabama

1. Alabama — Call it a letdown coming off a huge win last week or having some pity on a former coordinator, but the Tide looked rather meh-ish in the 25-point win over Colorado State in their home opener.  Expect a much different Tide team as it faces a ranked SEC foe. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. No. 21 Ole Miss

2. Oregon — Despite a bye week, I believe the Ducks still somehow managed to put up 56 points with just 15 minutes of time of possession. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up:  vs. Cal

3. Clemson — You could feel and almost see the Clemsoning hanging in the Raleigh air Thursday night, but it never transpired.  Is this year different for the Tigers?  It’s certainly looking that way and holy hell I just jinxed it. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: vs. Wake Forest

4. Ohio State — After four wins over creampuffs by an average score of 52-15, the Buckeyes have seen the preseason officially come to an end and will face its first real test of the regular season by opening up Big Ten play at home next Saturday. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: vs. No. 24 Wisconsin

5. Stanford — I was very tempted to put LSU here following their win over previously-unbeaten Auburn, but the Cardinal’s win over an unbeaten and ranked Arizona State was enough to trump that in my mind. (Last week: unranked)
Next up: at Washington State

(Dropped out: No. 5 Louisville)

HE SAID IT
“I can talk about our crowd today for probably an hour in terms of the energy that they brought to the game, getting in there at an earlier time I think than we usually do; staying even when the game seemed very hard at times, and as disruptive a crowd as we’ve had here probably since the 2006 Louisville game. It was deafening loud.” — Kyle Flood, following Rutgers’ come-from-behind win over Arkansas.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“Obviously, I appreciate our fans. I’ve said it and I’ll say it again. We have great fans. I think everybody involved knows that what came out is not indicative of how I felt or how I feel about them. I think our fans understand that. They’re great fans. They’ve been around me for five years. I think they know who I am as a person.” — Bo Pelini, following a rather rough week for him and his Nebraska football program.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“That was a bizarre game.” — David Cutcliffe, after watching his Duke team lose a 58-55 first-round ACC hoops tourney game to Pittsburgh.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“We exposed them at times.” — Earnest Wilson III, after watching his Savannah State team get shellacked 77-7 by Miami.

HE SAID IT, LES MILES EDITION
“If not, a stiff dew was out there.” — The LSU head coach’s response to someone who asked him if it rained in Tiger Stadium.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK
As a loyal follower of everything and anything Duck Dynasty, I’m fascinated by how far the reach of that family-centric show has grown over the past year.  The latest example?  In the run-up to their game against Louisiana-Monroe — Duck Dynasty‘s Robertson clan hails from West Monroe La., with the elder statesman Phil a former starting quarterback at Louisiana Tech — Baylor posted the following photo on their Twitter account earlier this week:

Baylor Duck Dynasty

RGIII and Art Briles — looking eerily and creepily similar to Uncle Si sans eyeglasses, incidentally — sporting a flowing and glorious redneck face mullet?  Outstanding work, Baylor.  Outstanding.

SAY WHAT?
College football teams one-upping each other when it comes to helmet designs has officially jumped the shark.  Here’s a photo (via the Roanoke TimesAndy Bitter) of a future Virginia Tech helmet that’s currently in the design stage:

Virginia Tech Helmet Design

There’s no word yet on if the Flintstones and/or the Rubbles will serve as the honorary captains when/if those things debut.

TRUE STORY
Ohio State’s 76 points in the Week 4 scrimmage against FAMU were the most for the Buckeyes since an 83-21 win over Iowa in 1950.  The 76-point margin of victory was the largest for an OSU since downing Drake, 85-7, in 1935.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– Through four weeks, there are 29 teams at the FBS level with perfect records, with six of them coming from the Pac-12 and four each from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC.  Missouri, incidentally, is the lone SEC East team with no losses.  On the opposite end, 14 teams have yet to win a game.  Three of those hail from the American Athletic Conference: Temple, UConn and USF.  Iowa State is the only team from the so-called Big Five conferences that’s yet to win a game.

Pittsburgh v DukeTom Savage‘s six touchdown passes in Pittsburgh’s wild 58-55 win over Duke was the most for a Panthers’ quarterback since Tyler Palko tossed five way back in 2004 and tied an ACC record.  It was also the most since Pete Gonzalez set a school record with seven in 1997.  The 113 points scored by both teams was the highest total ever in a game involving Pitt.

– The 98-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Reggie Davis in the win over North Texas was not only the 100th of Murray’s career, but it was also the longest pass play in Georgia history.  It’s also tied for the third-longest passing touchdown in SEC history.  Murray’s 445 yards of offense — 408 passing, 37 rushing — moved the senior to No. 3 on the all-time SEC list for total offense with 11,352 yards.

Kenny Guiton set a single-game Ohio State record with six touchdown passes, and the senior did that in just the first two quarters.  It was the first time an OSU quarterback had thrown at least five scoring passes in a single game since Bobby Hoying in 1995.  Guiton has now tossed 10 touchdown passes the past two weeks; he had five career touchdown passes prior to his first career start against Cal last Saturday.

Derek Carr‘s 460 yards passing in Fresno State’s 41-40 win over Boise State Friday night was the fifth 400-yard-plus performance of his career, setting both the school and Mountain West records in the process.

– Nebraska’s Stanley-Jean Baptiste has intercepted a pass in four straight games, becoming the first Cornhusker player since Josh Bullocks in 2003 to accomplish that feat.  Baptiste’s 140 return yards on his picks are 47 shy of NU’s single-season record.

– In a losing effort to Minnesota, San Jose State’s David Fales threw for 439 yards and three TDs.  He had 296 in the first half alone.

–BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is completing just 35.1 percent (40-114) of his passes this season.   An 18-of-48 performance in the loss to Utah actually upped his completion percentage by nearly two percent.

– This is just weird: Alabama did not convert its first third-down try until there were three minutes left in the fourth quarter of their 31-6 win over Colorado State.  Up to that point, the Tide had been 0-8 on third down.

– Baylor is the first FBS team since Ohio State in 1996 to score 70-plus points in back-to-back games.  Baylor has scored 209 points through three games, the most to start a season at this level in the past 10 years.  They are also the first FBS/Div. 1-A team to score at least 60 points the first three games of the season since LSU in 1930.

– Unbelievably, Texas’ win over Kansas State was its first over the Wildcats since Oct. 3 of 2003.De'Onte Arnett

– Maryland has started a season 4-0 for the first time since 2001.  The Terps had won a total of six games in Randy Edsall‘s first two seasons at the school.

– Including the 17-14 loss to USC Saturday, Utah State’s last five losses have been by a combined total of 13 points.

– UCLA’s 692 yards of total offense in the 59-13 win over New Mexico State was a new school record.

– Kansas’ 13-10 home win over Louisiana Tech on a field goal as time expired was the Jayhawks’ first over an FBS team since Sept. 10, 2011, a streak of 21 straight games.  KU has not beaten a member of an AQ conference since dropping Colorado in November of 2010.  That was also the Jayhawks’ last Big 12 win; they haven’t beaten a current member of the Big 12, however, since defeating Iowa State in October of 2009.

– In its 35-point win over Tulane, Syracuse’s special teams blocked three kicks — two punts and a field goal attempt — and recovered a fumbled punt.

– In the first half of their pasting of Florida A&M, Ohio State ran 47 plays and scored 55 points; FAMU had fewer yards of total offense (54) than the Buckeyes had points, and was able to manage just a single first down in the first two quarters.  OSU was leading the FCS Rattlers 48-0 before FAMU was able to muster its initial first down.

– Minnesota totaled 14 rushing touchdowns in 12 games last season; after six in the 43-17 win over San Jose State, the Gophers have 16 rushing touchdowns in four games this season.

– Prior to their loss to Clemson Thursday night, North Carolina State had beaten the last three teams ranked inside the Top 20 that had ventured into Carter-Finley Stadium: No. 3 Florida State (17-16 on Oct. 6, 2012), No. 7 Clemson (37-13 on Nov. 19, 2011) and No. 16 FSU (28-24 on Oct. 28, 2010).

– The game against Rutgers in Piscataway Saturday was Arkansas’ first in the Northeast since 1940, a 27-7 loss to Fordham.

– Cincinnati and Miami (OH) were scoreless through more than 55 minutes of clock time before the Bearcats scored two touchdowns in the last 4:55 to claim the non-conference win.

Lee Corso BisonIN CLOSING…
Yes, it spoke volumes about the level of games across the country, but kudos to not only ESPN for taking their College GameDay show on the road to Fargo, but to the thousands of Fargoites in attendance who created such a tremendous atmosphere for a national television audience.  It was a great scene and great exposure for an FCS program like North Dakota State, which remains unbeaten and is coming off back-to-back national championships.  Well done by everyone involved.  Hopefully it won’t take another five years to get back to a lower-level campus.

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Indiana’s Wilson fires misguided shot at Big 12 and Notre Dame

Kevin Wilson

There was a time the Big Ten had what seemed to be a competitive advantage in the BCS bowl picture by not playing a conference championship game when the ACC, Big 12 and SEC were. Now the tables have been turned and folks around the Big Ten are starting to fire shots at the Big 12, a conference without a championship game.

One of the big questions yet to be answered entering the new era of college football is what the impact of playing a conference championship game or not playing one will hold on the College Football Playoff selection committee’s line of thinking when it comes to choosing the four best teams in the country. Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson may not be ready to have a program worthy of sniffing that conversation any time soon, but he certainly feels the Big 12 and Notre Dame are getting an easier path to the postseason mix.

Wilson, a former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, suggested the Big 12 is avoiding a challenge that is embraced by the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC with a conference championship game. Not playing the game gives the Big 12 a competitive advantage. To drive his point home, Wilson made a golf reference that suggests Big 12 schools and Notre Dame are playing the equivalent of 17 holes while the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC are playing the entire back nine.

That is probably an unfair statement, of course, especially in the case of the Big 12. Unlike in the Big Ten, every Big 12 school plays the entire conference using a nine-game schedule for the 10-team conference. Wilson’s Hoosiers will not have to play Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern or Minnesota this season. A true champion can be crowned in the Big 12 by having every member play the entire conference. Wilson’s point, though, is the added challenge of playing a conference championship game has the advantage of padding a school’s strength of schedule, but also provides a giant risk by potentially missing out on a playoff spot or perhaps a spot in another lucrative bowl game with a loss. Of course, this argument is nothing new.

Notre Dame is a slightly different situation, as a football independent, but the Irish have established a track record of organizing competitive schedules. This season the Irish play Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina, Florida State, Arizona State and USC. All but Michigan appear in the preseason coaches poll. Indiana faces just two teams ranked in the same preseason poll this fall (Ohio State and Michigan State). Notre Dame has no started a new relationship with the ACC, guaranteeing multiple games each season against ACC competition, in addition to annual rivalry games against USC, Stanford an Navy. Notre Dame also takes their show on the road in the Shamrock Series against other power conference opponents on neutral sites.

Is Wilson out of line, or does he have a point worth discussing further? Feel free to share your opinions down in the comment section.

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Who replaces Bortles? UCF not rushing to find out

George O'Leary

It is that time of the year again when head coaches with vacancies at quarterback refuse to show their cards on making a final call on who will lead the offense on the field. This often happens at schools looking to replace established quarterbacks from the previous season, whether it be because the coach honestly is not sure which way to go with it or because he does not want to give the season opening opponent a hint of whom to prepare for in week one. Where UCF head coach George O’Leary falls on this subject is probably anyone’s guess, but he is not making any decisions on a starting quarterback to replace Blake Bortles anytime soon.

”I’ll let you know when I’m going to name one, it’s not a big secret,” O’Leary said, according to the Associated Press. ”I’ll let you know when I feel comfortable about somebody.

With Bortles now in training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, the competition is now wide open in Orlando. Sophomore Justin Holman is the lone option with any previous playing experience, but redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo, freshman and Boise State transfer Tyler Harris and redshirt sophomore Nick Patti are all going to be given a chance to win the job.

Reporters covering the Knights, defending American Athletic Conference champions, are not the only ones hounding O’Leary for an answer as camp opened up Thursday. “Everybody’s trying to get a jump on it,” O’Leary said. “My wife’s going to be the first one to know. And she’s out of the state, so good luck.”

It may be best to allow the competition play out with so much unknown about the new options, but there is a benefit to narrowing the decision down as quickly as possible. Knowing who will lead the offense during the season will give everybody on the offense a chance to develop an identity and comfort level with the quarterback. With a somewhat challenging schedule facing the Knights, getting as much taken care of early on could be a benefit in the long run.

UCF will open up the 2014 season in Ireland against Penn State in week one. The Knights topped the Nittany Lions in State College last fall, kickstarting their run to the Fiesta Bowl.

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Kirk Ferentz says 10-game conference schedules are coming

Kirk Ferentz

Every change in college football over the last few years has been about expanding and growth. That philosophy could be shifting to the length of a conference schedule. Forget about the debates over eight-game conference schedules or nine-game conference schedules. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz says 10-game conference schedules are coming, at least in the Big Ten.

While making his way through the ESPN car wash on Thursday, Ferentz was asked about conference scheduling when he dropped that thought for all to ponder. Via Brett McMurphy’s Twitter feed;

The Big Ten will be using a nine-game conference schedule, similar to the Pac-12 and Big 12. The ACC and SEC are sticking with eight-game conference schedules but adding a non-conference scheduling requirement for all members to add one game against another power conference opponent each season. The hypothetical 10-game conference schedule format would seem to solve a number of scheduling concerns for any conference with more than 12 teams, such as the ACC, SEC and Big Ten. With a two division format, six games are reserved for division games, leaving just two (ACC, SEC) or three (Big Ten) spots for cross division games. If a conference has locked crossover games (the SEC has paired crossover match-ups, the Big Ten scrapped them with its new division alignment), that reduces the number of opportunities to schedule other teams from the other division while rotating through the conference. The cross division scheduling may not be a major concern in the Big Ten, but it has been a topic of concern in the ACC and SEC.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said at this week’s Big Ten media day the Big Ten will stop playing FCS teams while discussing future plans to increase the strength of schedule for the entire conference. Moving to a 10-game schedule would likely have a positive effect on overall conference strength of schedule, but it also makes it more difficult for top contenders to get out of the regular season without a scratch. That could be something that comes back to haunt a Big Ten champion in the College Football Playoff era as well.

Are 10-game conference schedules a realistic possibility? Yes, although the question may be if that leads to the extension of the regular season from 12 games to 13 or 14. More games means more TV money, which means it is very much a realistic possibility.

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Oklahoma to return to Houston after 14 years, in 2016

Big 12 Football Media Days

Oklahoma will open the 2016 season in one NFL stadium, and if all goes well it could end in another. The Sooners and Houston have agreed to open the 2016 season in NRG Stadium in Houston, home to the NFL’s Houston Texans as well as the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff. The 2016 season will conclude with the College Football Playoff championship game in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Houston Chronicle was the first to report the possibility of a 2016 opener between the Sooners and Cougars, and Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com later confirmed the report to be a done deal via Twitter. The Texas Kickoff is one of the newest neutral site game sin college football, joining Atlanta’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff and the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas. The first game in the series was played last season between Oklahoma State and Mississippi State and continues this season with LSU and Wisconsin. Texas A&M and Arizona are scheduled to appear in the game in 2015.

This season’s game between LSU and Wisconsin is expected to top last year’s attendance of 35,874 fans, and next year’s game with Texas A&M involved should see a nice turnout as well at the gate. Oklahoma and Houston should make for a good crowd at the game as well, especially if Houston can continue to build its program between now and then and emerge as a top power from the “Group of Five” (I really hate that term) conferences.

Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Houston, 2-0. The most recent of those two meeting came in 2004, with the Sooners winning by a blowout score of 63-14. As noted by The Dallas Morning News, Oklahoma’s last trip to the city of Houston went well. The last time the Sooners were in town they left with the Big 12 championship after topping Colorado in the 2002 Big 12 Championship Game in the same stadium.

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Former Penn football player dies in lobster diving accident

Miami v South Florida Getty Images

A former Ivy League football player who was heading to the Miami Hurricanes this fall was the victim of a diving accident in South Florida. Joseph Grosso, a starting linebacker for the Pennsylvania Quakers, died in a scuba diving accident in Pompano Beach, Florida on Wednesday. According to multiple reports, Grosso was diving alone while lobster diving.

“The entire Penn football family is saddened by the tragic news of Joe’s passing,” Penn football coach Al Bagnoli said in a statement shared by The Daily Pennsylvanian. “Joe was a terrific young man, an accomplished student and an outstanding player. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family during this very difficult period.”

Grosso was added to the football roster for the Miami Hurricanes on Tuesday, according to The Miami Herald. Grosso was to be a walk-on for Al Golden’s program this fall after graduating from Penn. He was intending to continue with law school at Miami and play one mroe year of college football with the Hurricanes.

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Ohio State’s Sprinkle pleads no contest

Tracy Sprinkle

A dismissed Ohio State defensive lineman pleaded guilty to his role in a massive altercation outside an Ohio bar earlier this month. Tracy Sprinkle will now wait to see if he will be allowed to return to the Buckeyes roster in time for the fall season after pleading no contest for a reduced charge for failure to comply, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Sprinkle had his charges reduced after drug tests using various samples returned negative results just days after the arrest. Sprinkle had been facing a cocaine possession charge. Police admitted the drugs may have come from another person apprehended in the vehicle, according to Eleven Warriors. Because the drug test came back negative, Sprinkle was fortunate to be able to negotiate a lesser charge. He was fined $500 and placed on two years of probation. He will also be required to do some community service.

Sprinkle was arrested over the weekend of July 4 for his role in a bar brawl. He was later dismissed by head coach Urban Meyer, but an Ohio State spokesperson suggested a potential return to the team would not be eliminated from the discussion of his future.

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Florida State (over)loading up on QB recruits in 2015

Jameis Winston

It is amazing what a national championship can do to a program’s recruiting production. Just take a look at Florida State, now with three quarterback recruits verbally committed for the Class of 2015. For now.

As of today, Florida State has three four-star quarterbacks lined up in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. That includes in-state prospects Deondre Francois and De’Andre Johnson and Maryland recruit Kai Locksley, the son of Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley who surprised some Thursday afternoon by committing to the Seminoles. Locksley’s verbal came slightly before that of Francois, which makes the recruiting plan a bit interesting for Florida State moving forward. In case you forgot, Florida State is already in a pretty solid position under center with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, returning for just his sophomore season. Florida State also added four-star quarterback J.J. Cosentino in the most recent recruiting class. Simply put, life is good for head coach Jimbo Fisher as far as quarterbacks are concerned. Francois, Johnson and Locksley are all classified as dual-threat options, while Cosentino is scouted more as a typical pro-style quarterback. Winston, of course, is labeled a dual-threat quarterback as well, so that may give a sense for which direction Fisher would like to go on offense. Hey, it worked last season, but what do you do with all of that talent under center?

The first question to address is the future of Winston in Tallahassee. Winston has stated he intends to play two more seasons for Florida State before deciding on his pro future, which echoed comments made by his father earlier in the offseason. If Winston does stay on campus through the end of the 2015 season, the next question is what goes through the minds of four four-star quarterbacks hoping to be the next starter for Florida State? What are the odds Francois, Johnson, Locksley and Cosentino are all still in Tallahassee? They may not be all that great.

For Fisher, that is a problem he will have to begin sorting through now, although the additions of Francois, Johnson and Locksley will not become official until the next signing day, if they all choose to stay committed to Florida State. By then Fisher will have a better idea of whether or not Winston really will be back in 2015 or if he ends up heading into the NFL. The planning for the position all hinges on Winston’s decision, and Winston’s decision could be an influential one to the future decisions of the Class of 2015 quarterbacks. If Winston does come back, might one of these Class of 2015 quarterbacks re-open his recruiting process? It certainly would not be out of the question, nor would it be against the norm in college football recruiting. Florida State is even in a position where it would not be worth sweating over if one of the quarterbacks did start looking again.

Florida State’s recruiting “problem” is one that every program would love to have. There is never anything wrong with having too much talent in a recruiting class, just ask Alabama.

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Potential DL starter one of three no longer with Tar Heels

Shawn Underwood

North Carolina’s depth and talent on the defensive side of the  ball, especially along the line, has taken a hit ahead of the start of summer camp.

A UNC spokesperson confirmed to the Raleigh News & Observer that three players — defensive tackles Shawn Underwood and Greg Webb as well as linebacker Clint Heaven — are no longer on the UNC football team. The two defensive linemen left for personal reasons, while the latter has already transferred to Northern Iowa.

By the far the biggest loss is that of Underwood.

Underwood played in 20 games the past two seasons, starting five of those contests. He would’ve entered summer camp as a favorite to land a starting job.

Webb, a touted four-star member of UNC’s 2013 recruiting class, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season, while Heaven played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2013.

In addition to that trio, the status of offensive lineman J.J. Patterson is up in the air. Patterson played defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2013 before moving to guard this past spring.

(Photo credit: North Carolina athletics)

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Four-star 2008 signee-turned-MLBer returns to Bulldogs

Rashun Dixon

Apparently you can, in a sports sense, come home again.

In 2008, Rashun Dixon was a four-star member of Mississippi State’s recruiting class, the last of Sylvester Croom‘s tenure.  Dixon never suited up for the Bulldogs, however, as he was drafted in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Oakland Athletics and embarked on a career in professional baseball.

A handful of years later, however, he’s back.

According to InsideMSUSports.com, the 23-year-old Dixon has decided to return to the Bulldogs as a walk-on player.   Because he’s never played a down of college football, he maintains all four years of eligibility and could ultimately earn a scholarship.

At least in his past sporting life, the talent was certainly there.

Rivals.com rated Davis as a four-star recruit in 2008 and as the No. 19 safety in the country that year.  What specific position he will play in his second football go-around is to be determined, although the website wrote that “his No. 85 suggests he will be utilized on the offensive side of the ball,” which could mean either tight end or wide receiver for a player listed at 6-2 and 210 pounds.

After six years in Oakland’s farm system — he batted under .250 for his career — and following his release last fall, Dixon opted to give football another shot.  Dixon is the younger brother of Anthony Dixon, who led MSU in rushing every year from 2007-09.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Former Boise St. RB Aaron Baltazar now leaving Wazzu

Deon'tae Florence AP

Well that was abrupt.

Back in April it was announced that Aaron Baltazar had followed Chris Petersen to the state of Washington, transferring from Boise State into the Washington State football program.  Less than four months later?  Never mind.

A Wazzu spokesperson confirmed to the Idaho Statesman that the running back is no longer a member of the team.  No reason was given for the abrupt and unexpected departure.

In the short-term it’s no loss for Mike Leach and the Cougars as Baltazar would’ve been forced to sit out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Wherever he lands next, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.

As a true freshman last season, Baltazar was second on the Broncos in rushing before suffering a torn ACL the fifth game of the year and, obviously, missed the remainder of the year.

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Wake suspends leading returning rusher

Wake Forest v Miami Getty Images

One of the most important pieces of Wake Forest’s running game will apparently not be available for the foreseeable future.

A Wake spokesperson has confirmed to the Associated Press that Dominique Gibson has been indefinitely suspended from the football team.  Other than an undisclosed violation of team rules, no reason was given for the punitive measure.

Entering summer camp, he was being viewed as a likely starter, or at the very least one of the two heads in a two-headed rushing attack.

Gibson’s 138 yards last year made him the Demon Deacons’ leading returning rusher.  He had a pair of touchdowns in 2013, one each rushing  and receiving.

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Auburn remembers Lutzenkirchen with number on practice field

Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Joey Gautney

Auburn continues to find ways to pay tribute to one of its own. Following death of former tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen, killed in an auto accident in June, fans took to rolling Toomer’s Corner and there was a video tribute following a memorial service that was very touching. With Auburn now set to open up camp ahead of the 2014 season, the defending SEC champions will continue to remember Lutzenkirchen with his old uniform number (No. 43) painted on the practice field.

The number is painted in each end zone, and a look at the final touch can be seen through this tweet from Auburn’s Twitter account;

Auburn opens camp Friday afternoon.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

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Hoke: ‘if we opened the season today,” Gardner would be starter

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Throughout this offseason, Brady Hoke has declined to definitively tap the incumbent, Devin Gardner, or his challenger, Shane Morris, as Michigan’s starting quarterback.  Instead, the UM head coach demurred and insisted he’d wait until early on in summer camp to declare a starter.

Thursday, Hoke deviated from that tack slightly.

Taking his turn in the Big Ten coaches ESPN car wash, Hoke was, of course, asked about the Wolverines’ quarterback situation.  The coach, compared to how he’s been since spring practice, was surprisingly candid.

“Going in (to camp, there will be a competition),” Hoke said according to mlive.com. “We’ve got great competition. (But) if we opened the season today, Devin would start for the Wolverines.”

Of course, “if we open the season today” is a tremendous qualifier.

Gardner started every game last season before a foot injury he suffered in the loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale sidelined him for the Wolverines’ bowl game.  In his first career start, and as a true freshman no less, Morris completed 24-of-38 passes for 196 yards and interception as UM dropped a 31-14 decision to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

While Gardner was at one time quoted as saying that “it was amazing how much better [quarterback competition this spring] made me,” the incumbent at the position –despite his pre-spring proclamation— exited the 15 practice sessions without a firm grasp on the starting job.  That thought was buttressed as, at the end of spring practice in mid-April, Hoke acknowledged that Morris had narrowed the gap on Gardner.

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Ball State officially adds ex-Cincinnati DE

Joshua Posley

Earlier this summer there was speculation that a member of the Cincinnati Bearcats would be on the move to the MAC.  Thursday, that came to fruition.

Ball State announced in a release that Joshua Posley has transferred into the football program.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, the defensive end will have to sit out the 2014 season.

He will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.

“We are pleased to welcome Joshua to the football program and the University community,” Pete Lembo said in a statement. “We have known him since his high school days at Warren Central and have built a strong relationship with the coaching staff there. Joshua is an outgoing guy and a strong student. … We hope he transitions well to a new environment this fall and is ready to compete for playing time once spring practice arrives.”

A pair of high school teammates, Darnell Smith and Anthony Winbush, are already with the Cardinals, which likely played some role in the transfer decision.

Posley, an Indianapolis native, played in four games during his two years with the Bearcats.

(Photo credit: Cincinnati athletics)

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Miami QB Ryan Williams becomes a first-time father

Wake Forest v Miami

As he continues rehabbing a serious knee injury, Ryan Williams will have a much, much, much more important job to perform in the coming months.  And years.

The Miami quarterback announced via Twitter that he and his wife, Deanna, are now the proud parents of a bouncing — and rather large — baby boy.  Roman Louis Williams, the first child for both mom and dad, was born July 29 and weighed in at a healthy nine pounds even.

The couple had announced back in March that Deanna was expecting.

Here’s a picture of the newest member of the Williams clan, courtesy of the newly-minted father’s Instagram account:

Ryan Williams' Son

Sincere congratulations to the new parents from all of us.

Williams suffered a torn ACL in early April and underwent surgery shortly thereafter, meaning the prohibitive favorite to replace Stephen Morris as the starter entering spring practice won’t hit the practice field through at least September.  The earliest Williams is expected to begin participating in practice is at some point in October, if then.

With Williams sidelined for the foreseeable future, Jake Heaps, the Kansas transfer, and Kevin Olsen are expected to be the two main combatants for the starting job, at least early on.  For his part, Heaps has been quoted as saying he didn’t come to The U “to be the backup.”

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