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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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Lincoln Riley to make $1 million over two years as Oklahoma’s OC

Lincoln Riley

In a fairly news-y day for the Sooners from Oklahoma, it was revealed Wednesday that new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley has inked a two-year contract that will pay him $500,000 annually. His contract was approved during an OU Board of Regents meeting.

Thanks to Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World, we know Riley will be the Big 12’s second-highest paid offensive coordinator in the Big 12. Texas’ Shawn Watson made $650,000 in 2014 to lead the league. Departed Baylor offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery made $504,645 this fall.

Riley’s half-a-million dollar salary would have tied him for 66th nationally among all college football assistants last fall according to the USA Today coaching salary database. He ranked 244th at just north of $278,000 at East Carolina in 2014.

Riley will be Oklahoma’s second-highest paid assistant, trailing defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Previous offensive coordinator Josh Heupel earned $605,000 in 2014.

 

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Jimbo Fisher’s new contract includes a mighty large buyout

Jimbo Fisher

We’ve known of Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher‘s new eight-year contract for more than a month now, but on Wednesday we learned the details of the head Seminole’s new deal.

Thanks to an open records request by the Tallahassee Democrat, Florida State revealed that Fisher will earn $5 million a year in 2015, and the coach will receive a $100,000 a year bump through the 2022 season. Fisher, who earned $3.6 million in 2014 according to the USA Today coaching salary database, joins Alabama’s Nick Saban, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Texas’ Charlie Strong and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh in college football’s $5 million club.

Of course, the most important figure in any coaching contract is the buyout. And there is a significant one here. Fisher would owe a cool $5 million should he leave before Dec. 31, 2016, a more manageable $3 million if he left between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2018, and a minuscule $1 million thereafter.

Fisher is eligible for bonuses ranging from $50,000 for reaching a non-College Football Playoff bowl game to $250,000 for reaching certain team GPA or other off-the-field benchmarks. He’ll make $200,000 if the ‘Noles win a national championship. Fisher will also receive a $1.2 million longevity bonus should he remain in Tallahassee through the life of the contract.

The new deal also provides an extra $750,000 for Fisher’s assistants. The group earned nearly $3.4 million in 2014, good for 12th nationally and third in the ACC. The new pool would rank them just behind Auburn for fifth nationally.

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Report: OU to delay Memorial Stadium expansion, school president denies it

Oklahoma State v Oklahoma

Oklahoma is planning on postponing the major renovation project to Gaylord Family-Memorial Stadium announced last summer. Or, they’re not. One or the other.

A report from SoonerScoop.com released Wednesday stated Oklahoma had informed contractors and architects that it is placing the $370 million project on hold due to “market related” factors. More specifically, the price of oil has dropped precipitously, directly impacting many of the Sooners’ big money donors. The report outlined that OU’s fundraising arm has struggled to secure sales of new suites, which would underwrite a large portion of the renovations.

The Sooners’ limp finish to the 2014 season certainly didn’t help, but SoonerScoop writes that competitive factors aren’t holding up the project. “The football outlook has barely entered into the discussion at all,” a source told the site. “It seems everyone knows upgrades like this are important in keeping us competitive.”

Another reason, the report states, that the project will go on hold has been Oklahoma president David Boren‘s drive to secure funding for OU’s Residential College, a sort of academic utopia mimicking schools back east and across the pond. “The new housing facilities will be designed as living/learning communities that would, by their nature, build strong communities and identities and become the cornerstone of the undergraduate experience,” said a university press release. “They will be patterned on those at Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge.”

As fate would have it, the report went live as Boren spoke to reporters at an OU Board of Regents meeting.

Well, then.

To its credit, SoonerScoop is standing by its reporting.

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Boren said that Oklahoma is “shovel ready,” and that he is slated to discuss the project with the Regents at their March meeting.

One thing is certain with stories like this: either the renovations will happen, or they won’t. We’ll find out soon enough.

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Central Florida, Florida Atlantic schedule home-and-home

George O'Leary

Central Florida and Florida Atlantic each have short histories as FBS programs. FAU played its first season in 2001, and UCF joined FBS way back in the ancient days of 1996. As such, two programs one would think tussle on a semi-annual basis have only played once, a 33-29 Knights win back in 2003.

That is about to change.

The schools announced a home-and-home series for 2018 and 2019 on Wednesday. Florida Atlantic will visit Orlando on Sept. 22, 2018, and Central Florida will return the favor on Sept. 7, 2019.

A home-and-home with Florida Atlantic means Central Florida will have played a Sunshine State opponent in non-conference play every year from 2005-19, save for a one-year break in 2010.

Each program has played Florida twice. Central Florida has played Florida State once and Miami twice, while Florida Atlantic has faced FAU once and never played Florida State.

Here’s hoping UCF’s sideline cabana is still around in 2018.

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Reports: Joker Phillips to coach WRs for NFL’s Browns

Joker Phillips

It appears that the Joker is back in the coaching game.

Following up on reports that began surfacing a couple of days ago, ESPN.com is reporting that Joker Phillips has agreed to become the wide receivers coach of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.  The organization has not yet announced his hiring, although that’s something that could happen this week and perhaps as early as today.

Phillips had spent the 2013 season as Florida’s receivers coach before abruptly resigning his position in June of last year.  Other than “personal reasons,” no reason was given for the unexpected departure.  It was subsequently reported that Phillips was photographed eating in a restaurant with a football prospect during a recruiting dead period, which would be an NCAA violation.  He sat out the 2014 season, at least as far as coaching goes.

Phillips, whose main mark while at UF was as a recruiter and Twitter genius, has never held a job at the NFL level as his entire 26-year coaching career has come in the college game.

A receivers coach on six different occasions at five schools, Phillips has, in addition to his time at UF, held that role on staffs at Kentucky (199-96), Cincinnati (1997), Minnesota (1999-2000) and South Carolina (2002).  He spent another stint at UK from 2003-09 before becoming the Wildcats’ head coach in 2010-12.

A 13-24 record in the three seasons led to his dismissal in 2012.

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Report: Raiders offer Todd Grantham their DC job

It appears Louisville could indeed be forced to search for a new defensive coordinator.

Monday, reports surfaced that the Oakland Raiders had targeted UofL coordinator Todd Grantham for the same position with the NFL club.  Two days later, the courtship between the two sides has reportedly gotten very serious.

It’s not, though, a done deal that Grantham will accept the Raiders offer.

While Grantham has coached at the collegiate level since 2010, he spent the previous 11 years in the NFL.  In February of 2013, Grantham, then the coordinator at Georgia, interviewed for the same job with the New Orleans Saints before deciding to remain with the Bulldogs.  Less than a year later, however, he left UGA for the UofL.

In mid-August of last year, it was reported that significant friction existed between Grantham and head coach Bobby Petrino.  Both coaches subsequently downplayed the speculation.

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Star FCS QB Vernon Adams will reportedly visit Oregon

Vernon Adams Jr.

It’s not often that an FCS player transfers up to the FBS.  It appears, though, that at least one star at the Level Formerly Known as Div. I-A is at least contemplating such a move.

According to Jen Beyrle of The Oregonian via Twitter, Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams will be visiting Oregon this weekend. While not stated specifically in the tweet, the assumption is that the quarterback is considering a transfer to the Ducks.

247Sports.com is reporting that Adams has already been granted his transfer release, which seems to make a move to the Ducks imminent.

With Heisman winner Marcus Mariota leaving his remaining eligibility on the table and moving on to the NFL, UO will conduct a quarterback competition beginning this spring. The way it stands now, Jeff Lockie will enter spring as the front-runner, with competition being provided by redshirt freshmen Taylor Alie and California product Ty Griffin, true freshman Morgan Mahalak and 2015 early signee and four-star recruit Travis Waller.  There have also been rumors that Braxton Miller has an interest in transferring to the Ducks, although that talk has waned of late.

Adams certainly has the credentials to come in and compete immediately with the group that will be there as he would be a grad transfer.

In a 49-46 win over Oregon State in 2013, Adams accounted for 518 yards of offense and six total touchdowns — 411 and four passing, 107 and two rushing.  A year later, Adams passed for 475 yards in a 59-52 loss to Washington.

Over the past two seasons, Adams has thrown for 90 touchdowns and ran for another 10.  In 2013, he was runner-up for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in the FCS.

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Four-star WR says he wore Vols gear during Auburn visit, denies pot rumors

Preston Williams

Don’t you just love the wonderful world of college football recruiting, especially when it comes to the SEC (or the Big Ten)?

Four-star 2015 wide receiver Preston Williams has been a verbal commit to Tennessee for the last four months but has still taken visits to, among other places, Georgia and, most recently, Auburn.  It was on that latter trip this past weekend that the darker side of the recruiting game reared its head yet again.

In the wake of that visit to The Plains, one in which he was reportedly adorned in UT clothing, rumors surfaced that the Georgia high schooler was caught smoking marijuana in a hotel.  During a radio interview Tuesday night, Williams, who claimed he was “forced into the visit” by the AU coaching staff, denied the weed accusations.

Not at all,” Williams told WNML when asked if what in part began as message board rumors were accurate. “That’s how people get when you don’t want to do something, they try to put bad words out on you, rumors and stuff. I just let them put rumors out on me. People are going to believe what they want to believe because they have their own opinion.”

Williams also copped to wearing Vols gear during his visit to The Plains, which could explain why or how the pot speculation surfaced in the first place. Not only was he (allegedly) wearing an SEC rival’s colors, he was (allegedly) actively recruiting other prospects who were visiting in an attempt to get them to flip to UT.

Suffice to say, and per the player, it didn’t sit well with his hosts.

“A lot of schools, they don’t like it,” Williams, who left his AU visit earlier than originally planned (or was forced to leave early), said. “They told me to take it off, this and that. They were getting mad. When they were getting mad, I was like, ‘Do I believe them or not? Are they playing with me or what?’ So I was just laughing.”

Of course, now there’s a report out that Williams wasn’t wearing UT apparel at all, that his visit was in fact cut short because of a combination of disinterest on the part of the prospect and the “incident in the hotel room.” The radio station that did the interview with Williams, citing a source in Auburn’s program with direct knowledge of the situation, reported Tuesday evening that Williams was sent home early after he was caught smoking marijuana.

As for Williams’ comments that he was forced into the AU visit and that it was a last-minute kind of thing, the player confirmed Dec. 31 that he would be taking a January visit to the Tigers. “I want to check Auburn out,” Williams said at the time. “Coach (Dameyune) Craig is recruiting me. I’ve talked to him a lot and I told him I’d come visit.”

So, who’s embellishing what?  Who knows.  Or, as some would say when it comes to the seedy side of recruiting, who cares just make it stop.

Williams, incidentally, is rated as the No. 19 receiver in the country and the No. 11 player at any position in the state of Georgia by Rivals.com.  Oh, and, call it a hunch as I’m no recruiting guru, but don’t look for him to flip to Auburn.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Michigan’s 2015 recruiting trail setting up 2016 inroads

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh may or may not pull in one of the Big Ten’s top recruiting classes — it’ll more than likely the latter — when it’s all said and done, but what he and his staff are doing now is setting the football program up for the next year’s class.

Exactly one week away from National Signing Day, UM’s 2015 class ranks 75th nationally and dead last in the Big Ten (Purdue is the closest at 60th).  That’s quite an improvement from two weeks ago when, two weeks into his tenure, Harbaugh’s Wolverines were 97th in the country.  That bump was triggered by a trio of flips, including a four-star quarterback who had been a Texas commit.

UM, along with UCLA, is also in play for the No. 1 tight end in the country, Chris Clark, a target that could push the class ranking closer to midpack. Five-star cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 3 player in the nation according to Rivals.com, took an official visit to Ann Arbor earlier this month and came away giving UM serious consideration, although USC is still widely considered the favorite (maybe).  A handful of three- and four-star recruits are still in play as well.

The program hopes to add 15 players from this year’s class, and are currently sitting at nine commitments with signing day seven days away.

Given the tight time frame in which Harbaugh’s been forced to operate, and despite attacking this day with Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind, the 2015 recruiting cycle is essentially serving as a gateway to next year’s class.

“You may not see a huge bump in 2015, in part because of the timing of Jim Harbaugh’s hire,” Brandon Huffman, the national director of recruiting for Scout.com, told the Toledo Blade recently. “But you’ll see that momentum carry into the spring when coaches go on the road to begin evaluating the 2016 class.”

Harbaugh & Company could still make a late push this year, but circle 2016 as the year they begin to challenger Urban Meyer and Ohio State, currently seventh nationally, for Big Ten recruiting supremacy.

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Michael Irvin tells Miami fans to ‘calm their asses down’

North Carolina v Miami Getty Images

Right or wrong, Miami’s Al Golden will likely head into the 2015 season on arguably the hottest coaching seat in America.

After improving to 7-5 in 2012 and 9-4 in 2013 after a first season of 6-6, Golden’s Hurricanes dipped back to 6-6 in the 2014 regular season before dropping its bowl game and tumbling to 6-7.  UM lost its last four games this past season, the second straight year they’ve stumbled to the finish; in 2013, they lost four of their last six after starting out 7-0.

The fan base, former players — including very outspoken former players — and even boosters are restless for The U to return to its glory days, with most not shy of making their displeasure known for a man who helped guide the program through the choppy waters of NCAA sanctions.  Most, not all, though, as Golden has his supporters, most notably former Miami great Michael Irvin.

As transcribed by the Miami Herald, Irvin very vociferously defended the current head coach during a radio interview while also defending athletic director Blake James decision to bring Golden back.

“I thought it was the right move, and guys, I’ve said this over and over again and I’ll say it here again: Al Golden — Coach Al Golden — has earned this opportunity, has earned the right to see this through. With what he’s done, to jump there and fight, that was not his fight, and he stayed through the fight. He recruited well and he kept us in the fight.

“We started a freshman quarterback. Where’s the smarts? Tell me this: Where’s the smarts in saying, ‘Hey freshman, we know we started you. We know you learned a lot. But right now we’re going to snatch all of that from under you and make you start all over again next year.’

“It would be absolutely stupid, absolutely ignorant to do it to him, so it would be absolutely the right thing to let this man get one more year to finish and make it right. Building a championship takes time and there’s a process to it. And we’re in the midst, I think, of a very good process.

“And I surely hope that people, in Miami, can calm their asses down and let the process see itself through.”

Irvin’s support notwithstanding, most observers agree that Golden faces a make-or-break 2015 campaign.  Another late-season collapse, or another season that hovers around .500 — or both — portends doom for Golden’s tenure at the school.

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Kentucky trio reportedly involved in bar fight with FCS player

Ohio v Kentucky Getty Images

Three Kentucky football players who found themselves on the wrong side of the law last year may have done the same to start out the new year.

The father of Eastern Kentucky lineman Colton Scurry told the Louisville Courier-Journal Tuesday that his son sustained multiple facial fractures during an incident at an off-campus bar this past weekend. Three Kentucky football players were alleged to have been involved in what turned into a brawl: wide receiver Dorian Baker (pictured), quarterback Drew Barker and defensive end Tymere Dubose.

Witnesses claimed that it was Scurry who was the aggressor.

“I was actually pretty sober and I was watching everything that was going down,” Zach Littleton, an EKU student, told the Courier-Journal. “Basically what happened was a bunch of UK football players come in and all you hear is, ‘This is my neighborhood. What are you doing here?’

“I know if there’s any video, you’ll see I’m trying to defuse the situation. I was getting between them and saying, ‘Calm down. Calm down.’ (But) As soon as (Scurry) pushed Will, it was just a big mess. From what I saw, it wasn’t just Colton. I saw a bunch of people swinging for no reason.”

The Will mentioned by Littleton is Will Ruholt, a high school friend of Barker who also laid the blame for the melee at the feet of Scurry.

“We were in the back part of Jerzees,” said Ruholt. “A couple people started talking (abusively) and things started to get a little heated. Colton Scurry is the one who started the entire fight. He pushed me. Multiple people can verify that.”

Curry may need to undergo reconstructive surgery, his father allowed.

An EKU spokesperson stated that the university is currently investigating the incident, as well as an on-campus incident “that may have occurred late Saturday night or early Sunday morning” and is possibly connected to the bar fight. UK head coach Mark Stoops is aware of the situation and is gathering information while on the road recruiting.

In late September, Baker, Barker and Dubose, along with running back Stanley “Boom” Williams, were suspended following an airsoft pellet gun incident that ended with Lexington police shutting down campus.

Baker finished the 2014 season fifth in receiving yards (199) and sixth in receptions (19).  Neither Barker nor Dubose recorded any stats.

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WR K.J. Brent transferring from Gamecocks

East Carolina v South Carolina

South Carolina’s depleted receiving corps has taken yet another hit.

On Twitter Tuesday, K.J. Brent announced that he will be transferring out of the Gamecocks football program to an undetermined location for his final season of college football.  As he will be a graduate transfer, Brent will be eligible to play immediately in 2015 if he transfers to an FBS school and enrolls in a grad program not offered at USC.

Below is the missive Brent posted on the social media website yesterday evening.

In 2014, Brent played in all 13 games, catching nine passes for 11 yards and a touchdown.  Behind Pharoh Cooper (42-1,136-9), Brent would’ve been the Gamecocks’ second-leading returning wide receiver; with Brent gone, that honor now falls to Shamier Jeffery and his two receptions for nine yards.

Late last month, Shaq Roland, third in receiving yards and fourth in receptions in 2014, abruptly quit the team. A month later, he landed at the FCS level to finish out his collegiate career.

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Urban Meyer sent a “We Are Worthy’ shout-out to Mark May

Mark May

The voice in general and opinions specifically of outspoken ESPN college football analyst Mark May have been the bane of the existence of many an Ohio State fan for many a year.

His anti-OSU agenda has not gone unnoticed, from Facebook pages — “Mark May is a D***e” anyone? Or THIS. Or THIS — to the national media — “his burning, seething hatred of Ohio State reads like a message board commenter” — to, now, the head coach of the team he ofttimes directs his puzzling venom. In the run-up to the selection of the College Football Playoff final four, the former Pittsburgh Panther standout ratcheted up the rhetoric and histrionics.

“They weren’t worthy enough to get [into the CFP],” May said prior to the 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game that propelled OSU into the four-team playoff and, ultimately, the national championship, adding, “you cannot put them in the Top Four, they’re not worthy.”

“That’s no disrespect to that football team,” May concluded, with no sense of irony or self-awareness whatsoever.

Ladies and gentlemen, Urban Meyer sending a shout-out to the Sean Salisbury of the college game, the day prior to OSU’s celebration of its “unworthy” title:

 

Exactly why May is so staunchly anti-Buckeye is unclear, even as he’s made it perfectly clear on-air, every chance he gets, that the university as a whole did the proverbial kicking of his dog. AwfulAnnouncing.com, though, summed up the May-OSU dynamic perfectly:

It’s insane that we’ve gotten to the point where a coach takes time out of celebrating a national championship to stick it to an ESPN analyst. From a media observer standpoint, it’s actually kinda depressing that ESPN allowed things to get this point and didn’t put a stop to May’s act much sooner. But for Ohio State fans, it does make celebrating the championship that much sweeter.

(Photo credit: The Big Lead)

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Oregon DL Sam Kamp retires from football

Pac-12 Championship - Arizona v Oregon Getty Images

It’s not often you see a player in good health cut his college football career short, but that’s what Oregon defensive lineman Sam Kamp has chosen to do. In a message posted to his Instagram page on Tuesday evening, Kamp announced his decision to retire from football. A redshirt junior in 2014, the Mesa, Ariz., native is set to graduate this spring.

“I’m incredibly blessed to have made so many amazing memories playing for this team. I’m so grateful to God, to my loving family and close friends, to my coaches, trainers and support staff who together are better than any other program in the nation, and especially to my teammates who I’ve spent a seriously ridiculous amount of hours grinding with! This season has been a once in a lifetime experience and even though we didn’t finish with a win, it was an unforgettable finish to my athletic career,” he wrote.”I’ll graduate this spring as a proud University of Oregon double major and I can’t wait to find out what opportunities I can take advantage of in the future!”

He confirmed his decision to The Oregonian.

Kamp played in all 15 games and posted 20 tackles, one sack, three pass breakups and three passes defended this fall.

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Chad Morris was still returning congratulatory texts six weeks after taking SMU job

Chad Morris

A new head coach has a lot on his plate, particularly when that coach spent a previous lifetime building inroads into the deep community of Texas high school football coaches.

So when Chad Morris was formally introduced as SMU’s head coach way back on Dec. 1, Morris’ phone and email accounts were hit with a deluge unseen since the book of Exodus.

By the time Morris stepped away from the podium, he’d received a whopping 690 text messages and 898 emails congratulating him on taking the job.

And when Associated Press writer Ralph Russo swung his Dallas office the day before the College Football Playoff championship for an interview nearly six full weeks later (which posted today), Morris still had 256 text messages to go. “I’m going to answer them,” Morris said.

At his current rate of 72 returned texts per week, it would take until Feb. 4 – which happens to be National Signing Day – to return every text that greeted him upon taking the job.

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