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The Fifth Quarter: Week 5 Rewind

LSU v Georgia 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

Scheduling buzzsaw complete
One of the major storylines of the weekend heading into the Top-10 matchup between LSU and Georgia was current Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray and former Bulldogs/current Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger.  While neither disappointed, it was another defining team moment for the squad from Athens that’s had a season’s worth in the first month of the football year.  The huge 44-41 win over LSU was UGA’s second win over a team ranked No. 6 in the country this season, the first coming three weeks ago against SEC East rival South Carolina.  Their lone loss?  A season-opening three-point defeat on the road at the hands of Clemson, which was No. 8 at the time but has climbed to No. 3.  Thanks in large part to the play of Murray — four touchdown passes on the day, including the game-winner with under two minutes left — the Bulldogs still control their own destiny; win out through early December, and UGA will head to Pasadena to play in the last-ever BCS championship game.  Of course, their opponents in Saturday’s game can say the same thing, as can Alabama.  Still, from the heartbreak in the opener to an absolute meatgrinder two of the last three games, Mark Richt has to be beyond ecstatic with the position his football team finds itself in.

Braxton back, boon for Buckeyes
After Kenny Guiton lit up opposing defenses for 10 touchdowns in two starts, many were calling for the senior to start even after Braxton Miller was healthy enough to return from a knee injury.  Urban Meyer wouldn’t hear of it, and Miller showed why.  In his first action since the first quarter of a Week 2 win over San Diego State, Miller accounted for 281 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 win over Wisconsin.  The win was the Buckeyes’ nation’s best 17th straight, and its first over a ranked team since beating Michigan to end the 2012 regular season.  Whether it was enough to impress voters, though, remains to be seen.  OSU’s first four wins of the season came against three FBS teams that had won a combined two games entering Week 5 as well an FCS program.  The fact that OSU couldn’t put away the Badgers after holding a 31-14 lead in the fourth quarter could give those with the power pause.  Regardless, OSU will have another chance to impress next week as they travel to Evanston to face No. 19 Northwestern.

The Camdy Man can
If the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach were given out today, LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would likely be an easy choice for most voters.  On the bayou, the former head coach who failed miserably at stops in Indiana and with the Miami Dolphins is like water finding its level.  While the Tigers dropped a heartbreaker to the Bulldogs Sunday, Cameron’s impact on the LSU offense in general and Mettenberger specifically is undeniably obvious.  Last season, Mettenberger completed just 58.8 percent of his passes; averaged just 7.41 yards per attempt; and threw 12 touchdowns versus seven interceptions.  This season, with Cameron orchestrating the offense, Mettenberger is completing 64 percent of his passes; averaging 10.9 yards per attempt; and has thrown 13 touchdowns and, even more amazingly, a mere one interception.  Yes, the game between The Hedges was a punch to the gut, but Tiger Nation can take solace in the fact that they finally have a championship-caliber offense to go with an above-average defense.

Class of the Big 12? Oklahoma v Notre Dame
Thanks to Oklahoma State tripping over its own junk in Morgantown Saturday, it appears that Oklahoma is the class of the Big 12 and the road to the conference’s BCS berth will, as it ofttimes does, go through Norman.  Maybe.  Exacting revenge for its loss to Notre Dame last season, the Sooners went into South Bend and went home with an impressive 35-21 win over the Irish.  Certainly OU was helped by three turnovers, which they turned into 21 points, but this kind of performance in a big-game atmosphere is something that’s somewhat eluded the Sooners for the past several years.  Does it, though, signify they’re should be sitting in the league driver’s seat?  That answer will have to wait until back-to-back late October/early November games against No. 25 Texas Tech and No. 19 Baylor in Waco.

UW, short for “Unother Win”
Don’t look now, but there may be another player in the race for the Pac-12 North title.  In handing Arizona its first loss of the season, Washington raised its record to a perfect 4-0 for the first time since 2001.  The Huskies have now won all four by double-digit margins, including a 32 drubbing of (soon-to-be) 3-2 Boise State and a 10-point win over  3-1 Illinois.  The good news for those in the media whose beat is the Pac-12 is that whether the Huskies are pretenders or contenders will be known in short order; next week, UW travels to No. 5 Stanford before playing host to No. 2 Oregon seven days later.  One thing is certain: two weeks from today, we’ll know exactly where the Huskies stand in the Pac-12 pecking order.

A Mannion among boys
Remember that quarterback competition at Oregon State?  Yeah, it appears Mike Riley made the right call.  After throwing for 414 yards in the blowout win over previously unbeaten Colorado, Sean Mannion now has 2,018 passing yards through five games.  He came into the game leading the nation in that category, and the fact that he led by nearly 300 yards (Wyoming’s Brett Smith and Ball State’s Keith Wenning, 1,315 apiece) means he will enter Week 6 as the leader as well.  Last season, Mannion had 15 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions in nine games; this year, he’s thrown 21 touchdowns — including a school-record six Saturday — while tossing just two picks in 235 attempts.  The best part of Mannion’s torrid start is the fact that it’s played a significant role in OSU’s 4-1 start to the season, which could’ve been a perfect one were it not for the inexplicable season-opening loss to FCS-level Eastern Washington.

NIU B1GB1G MACownership
Who says the SEC has sole ownership of the Big Ten?  Northern Illinois pushed its record to 4-0 on the season with a 55-17 pasting of Purdue.  It’s the first time one MAC school has beaten two B1G teams in the same regular season, with the Huskies’ other coming in the season opener against Iowa.  NIU also tied a record for the largest margin of victory by a MAC member over the B1G, matching Toledo’s 31-point woodshedding of Minnesota in 2001.  What it also means is that Fresno State might not be the only BCS buster still in play as the Huskies, which crashed the BCS party last season, are on an unbeaten path, although they would need to remain undefeated and get some help from some of the heavyweights in college football to make it back-to-back party crashes.

No UpHill climb this time
Taysom Hill‘s struggles in 2013 aren’t exactly a state secret.  BYU starting quarterback entered Friday night’s game against Middle Tennessee State completing an anemic 35.1 percent of his passes and ranked No. 114 in passing efficiency.  After getting a vote of confidence from his teammates and coaching staff earlier in the week, Hill went out and completed 14-of-19 passes (a career-high 73.7 completion percentage, besting his previous high of 66.7) and 177 yards in the win over the Blue Raiders.  The sophomore also rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns.  Hill’s not out of the offensive woods quite yet, but Friday night was most certainly a step in the right direction.

LOSERS

Bo don’t know THAT defense
Ole Miss starting quarterback Bo Wallace raised some eyebrows earlier this week when he opined that his Rebels offense “can put points on” Alabama’s stingy defense.  Yeah, that didn’t work out too well for anyone with an Oxford lean.  In Alabama’s Tuscaloosa whitewashing of Ole Miss, the Rebels managed just 205 yards of offense and zero points.  Ole Miss came into the game averaging 490 yards (T-26th nationally) and 38 points per game (T-37th).  Ole Miss averaged just 1.8 yards per rush attempt and a staggering 4.9 yards per pass attempt against the No. 1 team in the country.  The Tide defense actually outscored the Rebel offense, with ‘Bama putting a safety on the board — at Wallace’s expense, appropriately enough — in the fourth quarter.  Hint to Wallace for future reference: it’s best to allow sleeping D’s lie, especially one like the Tide’s.

One-Lane road outta town
Thanks to our friend at YouTube, here are the final moments of USC’s epic 62-41 meltdown against Arizona State Saturday night:

 

There’s no way Lane Kiffin survives this season, right?  Right???  For the sake of a very loyal and proud Trojan fan base, he’d better not.

Not-so-OK State
Oklahoma State entered Week 5 as the highest-ranked team in the Big 12.  An inexplicable loss to a not-very-good West Virginia team, however, has cast a pall over a season that began with BCS title aspirations in Stillwater.  In two games against FBS teams this season, the Mountaineers passed for a total of 280 yards; in the loss Saturday, the Cowboys coughed up 320 yards in the air, including 309 by first-time WVU starter Clint Trickett.  OSU is certainly not out of the Big 12 race by any means, but if they’re giving up that type of yardage to a team like West Virginia, what are they going to do when teams like Baylor and Oklahoma come a callin’?

VoLOLOL
Since replacing Phillip Fulmer in 2008, Tennessee has gone a non-UT-like 26-29.  Included in that total was a seven-point win at home against South Alabama, a program that was playing at the FCS level a mere two seasons ago.  The Vols were leading 31-7 early in the early quarter, but allowed three Jaguar touchdowns in less than a quarter and a half to cut the lead to seven with just under nine minutes remaining.  USA had a fourth-and-goal with under two minutes left that could’ve resulted in a game-tying touchdown, but the Vols intercepted the last-gasp attempt in the end zone to preserve the win.  While the Vols are 3-2, those three wins have come against a pair of Sun Belt school (USA and Western Kentucky) and an FCS program (Austin Peay).  In two games against teams from automatic-qualifying conferences, UT has lost by 45 (Oregon) and 14 (Florida).  I liked the Butch Jones hire when it happened, and still do, but he and his coaching staff have a long way to go to dig out of the hole created by previous coaches over the past few years.

Larry FedoraWhat the Heel is going on in Chapel Hill?
After becoming the permanent replacement to Butch Davis, Larry Fedora raised the hopes of Tar Heel Nation by guiding North Carolina to an 8-4 record his first season at the school.  Three of those losses came by a combined total of nine points.  Then the 2013 season started.  An embarrassing 24-point loss to East Carolina Saturday, however, dropped UNC to a surprising 1-3 on the season.  The road to redemption doesn’t get any easier for Fedora’s charges, either, as the Tar Heels will in the next four games face an improving Virginia Tech team on the road; No. 15 Miami; and Boston College and in-state rival North Carolina State.

UConn-not be serious
Exactly one week after having Michigan on the ropes at home, UConn went on the road and were embarrassed by 1-2 (now 2-2) MAC member Buffalo 41-12.  And going inside the numbers might be even more embarrassing than the 29-point loss.  The Bulls entered the Week 5 game 122nd (out of 123) in total defense, giving up an average of 560.3 yards per game; UConn could muster just 220 yards of offense against the worst non-New Mexico State defense in the game.  The Huskies were just 7-of-18 on third down, committed four turnovers and averaged a meager .7 yards per carry.  Add it all up and it’s an 0-4 start for Paul Pasqualoni, who entered the season on the coaching hot seat after winning just 10 games his first two years with the program.  If things don’t turn around in a hurry, he may not make it through his third season let alone make it to a fourth.

MY EYES!!!
During ESPN‘s College GameDay show, veteran pot-stirrer Paul Finebaum stated that former Tennessee and current USC head coach Lane Kiffin “is the Miley Cyrus of college football.”  In response to a tweet to that effect, one of CFT’s followers on Twitter, well, posted this:

Lane Kiffin Twerk

Yeah, good luck going to sleep again.  Ever.

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

– No. 10 Texas A&M 45, Arkansas 33: The Aggies jumped to first-half leads of 17-7 and 24-10, but allowed the Razorbacks to pull to within 24-20 heading into the locker room.  It was 38-33 early in the fourth quarter until a Ben Malena one-yard touchdown run essentially iced the game in a downpour.

– No. 12 South Carolina 28, UCF 25: Placing the Gamecocks into this category is a tad bit misleading as the Knights were 4-0 and on the verge of cracking the Top 25.  UCF led 10-0 at halftime, but a punishing ground game — and the Knights’ inability to cash in on first-half turnovers — in the second half kept the Gamecocks’ (slim) BCS title hopes alive.

– No. 20 Florida 24, Kentucky 7: Why would a team that won comfortably and was never in any real jeopardy be here?  The Gators did it against a team like the Wildcats, that’s why.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — It wasn’t pretty (again), but a win is a win is a win is a win.  The Tide’s next four games come against one FCS team and three other teams (Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee) that have combined for five wins against FBS schools in 2013. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. Georgia State

2. Oregon —  Neither rain nor bye week can stop the Ducks as UO cruised to a 55-16 win over Cal.  UO’s offense was limited to 381 yards, but that was due more to the “stiff dew” than anything else. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: at Colorado

3. Clemson — The Tigers had absolutely no problem dispatching Wake Forest to the tune of 56-7.  A trap game coming up this weekend is the only thing standing between Clemson and a huge Week 7 showdown against the Florida State. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: Boston College

Wisconsin v Ohio State4. Ohio State — The Buckeyes turned a double-digit win that would’ve looked good in the eyes of pollsters into a closer-than-it-should’ve-been over nemesis Wisconsin.  “Redemption,” though, is at hand. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: at No. 19 Northwestern

5. Stanford — After winning their first three games by 21, 14 and 14 points, the Cardinal laid the wood to overmatched Wazzu in a 38-point win.  Stanford is rounding into shape nicely, and it comes at a most opportune time: four of their next five games are against Washington, UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon. (Last week: No. 5)
Next up: vs. No. 16 Washington

HE SAID IT
“Ole Miss has a really good team and a really good offensive team, so for us to shut them out was a great job by the defense.” — Nick Saban, presumably with a non-smile on his face.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I’m about to pass out.  I mean, what a game.  What a game.” — Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“What a great team win. We played a complete game for all four quarters. There were no lulls in our play.  We played a ton of guys and they played to our standard of excellence.” — Dabo Swinney, on Clemson’s 49-point waxing of Wake Forest.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“It was like Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis.” — Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch, on the back and forth between Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger.

HE SAID IT, LES MILES EDITION
“I hope not.” — Les Miles, when asked if the SEC is entering a new era of high-powered offense.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK
ESPN‘s College GameDay may just go ahead and call it a career as the pregame show could never possibly top this, regardless of how long it stays on the air:

Tom Rinaldi Jorts

Tom Rinaldi.  In jorts and dark socks.  My life is now complete.

SAY WHAT?
Entering its game against Notre Dame, Oklahoma had three interceptions in three games; the Sooners had three in the first half in building a 21-7 halftime lead en route to avenging last year’s loss.

TRUE STORY
Not only is Miami 4-0 for the first time since 2004, they are doing so in dominating fashion: according to a note from the school, the Hurricanes have not trailed in a game for the last 357 minutes dating back to last season.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

Jameis Winston totaled five incompletions his first two games of the season; he misfired on four of his first six attempts against Boston College Saturday.  The Florida State quarterback settled down, however, by completing his last six passes of the first half and finished the 48-34 win with 330 yards passing and four touchdowns.  He also totaled 67 yards on the ground.

Wake Forest v ClemsonTajh Boyd totaled 380 yards of offense (311 passing, 69 rushing) and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) in Clemson’s 56-7 rout of Wake Forest.  The senior also became the second player in ACC history to account for 100 or more touchdowns in his career.

Tommy Rees had two turnovers in Notre Dame’s first four games; he had three in the first half against Oklahoma, helping the Irish dig a hole from which they could never recover.

– In the first half alone, Nathan Scheelhaase passed for 256 yards (on 15-of-20 passing) and a school record-tying five touchdowns.  Playing sparingly in the second half, Scheelhaase added just 28 yards and zero touchdowns to that total in Illinois’ 50-14 win over Miami of Ohio.

– Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo went 38-for-54 for 389 yards with three touchdowns in Nevada’s 45-42 win over Air Force.

– From the “One of the Best QBs You’ve Probably Never Heard Of” department, East Carolina’s Shane Carden totaled six touchdowns — three passing, three rushing — in the Pirates’ romp over North Carolina.

– Bishop Sarkey‘s 40 carries in Washington win over Arizona set a school record.  He rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown on those 40 carries.

Barry Sanders — yes, the son of that Barry Sanders —  scored his first career touchdown in Stanford’s win over Washington State.  His 22-yard scoring jaunt was part of a three-carry, 34-yard performance.

Logan Thomas completed 76 percent of his passes in Virginia Tech’s win over previously unbeaten Georgia Tech Thursday night; it marked the first time the quarterback has completed at least 60 percent of his passes in a single outing since Oct. 13 of last year, a stretch of 10 straight games.  The completion percentage in the win was the second-highest of his career, trailing only the 92 percent (23-of-25) he put up against Miami Oct. 8, 2011.

Chuckie Keaton did Chuckie Keaton-like stuff in Utah State’s win over San Jose State Friday night, totaling 312 yards of offense (260 passing, 52 rushing) and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing).

Braxton Miller‘s 25-yard scoring toss to Evan Spencer in the first quarter was the first touchdown pass Wisconsin had given up this season.  He would go on to toss three more in the win.

– Wisconsin came into the game against Ohio State averaging 349.8 yards per game on the ground and 7.99 yards per carry the first four games of the season; in four quarters against the Buckeyes, the Badgers totaled a season-low 104 yards and averaged just 3.9 ypc.

– USC had entered last night’s game against Arizona State having given up 44 points in four games; they gave up 62 to Arizona State in a 21-point loss.  It was the most points the Trojans have ever given up in a single game.

Arizona v Washington– Every team that Washington has played this season had been without a loss entering their respective games against the Huskies.

– Florida has now won 27 straight games against Kentucky, the longest such streak in the country.

– Clemson ran its record to 66-0-1 all-time when putting up 500 or more yards of total offense.

– Southern Miss has now lost 16 straight games dating back to Week 1 of the 2012 season.  Prior to that, the Golden Eagles had gone 12-3 in their previous 15 games and prior to the departure of Larry Fedora for North Carolina.

– TCU had six sacks in the win over SMU, the Horned Frogs’ most in a single game since 2009.  They also forced five turnovers (four interceptions, one fumble recovery).

– Sticking with the school in Fort Worth, TCU’s 31 four-quarter points are the most scored in the fourth quarter by an FBS team this season.

– Texas A&M and Arkansas combined for 1,003 yards of total offense, 523 for the Aggies and 483 for the Razorbacks.

– Army ran for 414 yards and passed for 16 — on three attempts and one completion — in a 35-16 win over Louisiana Tech.

– In their stunning 24-point win over North Carolina, East Carolina rolled up 603 yards of total offense (376 passing, 227 rushing).  That total, incidentally, was the most given up by UNC since 1989 against Duke… which was coached at the time by Steve Spurrier.

– The Wyoming-Texas State game was delayed for nearly four hours due to lightning.  It was the third time in five games this season that a Cowboys contest has been delayed by lightning.

– UNLV’s 22-game road losing streak came to an end courtesy of a 56-42 win over New Mexico.  The Rebels last road win?  In 2009 against the Lobos, of course.

– UT-San Antonio outgained Houston 493-491… had as many first downs (27) as the Cougars… had just six penalties compared to UH’s 10… and still lost 59-28.  Of course, five Roadrunner turnovers that the Cougars converted into 21 points played a significant role in the lopsided final score.

– Colorado State jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead on UTEP, watched as the Miners tied the score at 28-all in the middle of the third quarter, then scored the next 24 points en route to a 59-42 win.

– Before a one-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter of their loss to Illinois, Miami of Ohio had gone 193:39 without an offensive touchdown dating back to the second quarter of their season opener four weeks ago.

– Georgia Tech came into their game against Virginia Tech No. 4 in the nation with 345.3 yards per game and averaging 5.7 yards per carry; in their win Thursday, the Hokies’ defense held the Yellow Jackets to season-low totals of 129 yards and 3.1 ypc.

helmet_UCIN CLOSING…
The world of college football suffered another loss last weekend, with Cincinnati offensive lineman Ben Flick losing his life due to injuries incurred in a one-vehicle accident Saturday night.  In honor of Flick, Western Michigan, which wasn’t even playing the Bearcats Saturday, wore UC’s helmet logo beneath theirs for their game against Kent State.  A very classy, selfless and moving gesture by head coach P.J. Fleck and the entire football program.

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Stagg Bowl XLII: Wisconsin-Whitewater claims sixth DIII title in eight years

Lance Leipold

The Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks are champions once again.

Since Lance Leipold took over the the program in 2007, the Warhawks have done nothing but win football games.

The team’s sixth championship — all under Leipold’s watch — came Friday in Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl XLII when the Warhawks once again beat the Mount Union Purple Raiders 42-34 to claim the program’s second straight Division III national championship.

Leipold will leave the program in style.

As the fastest coach ever at any level of college football to reach 100 wins, Leipold was tabbed as the next head coach of the Buffalo Bulls. It’s a big jump in competition for a Division III head coach, but Leipold just must be the exception if his early success as a head coach is any indication.

The two teams combined for 1,168 total yards and seven turnovers.

Mount Union shot itself in the foot with five turnovers. Quarterback Kevin Burke — the only two-time winner of the Gagliardi Trophy as the top player at the Division III level — threw four interceptions. He only threw five the entire season before Friday’s effort.

Wisconsin-Whitewater quarterback Matt Behrendt, meanwhile, received plenty of help as he completed 26 of 38 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns.

Warhawks wide receiver Jake Kumerow was the best player on the field. The 6-5 target was nearly unstoppable throughout the contest and finished the game with eight receptions for 130 yards. Dennis Moore added 108 yards only on two catches. Finally, running back Jordan Ratliffe proved to be a workhorse with 24 carries for 116 yards.

Wisconsin-Whitewater’s offensive production along with Mount Union’s turnovers were the recipe for yet another Warhawks championship.

After meeting each other in the Stagg Bowl nine out of the last 10 years, Wisconsin-Whitewater has now gotten the best of Mount Union six out of the last seven times.

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RB Deantre Lewis abruptly leaves Arizona State Sun Devils

Colorado v Arizona State

Senior running back Deantre Lewis will not finish his career as a member of the Arizona State Sun Devils.

After finishing the regular season with 298 total yards as both a running back and a wide receiver, Lewis will not play in the Sun Bowl against the Duke Blue Devils.

No reason was given for Lewis departure, but Arizona State head coach Todd Graham confirmed he is no longer part of the program.

Lewis career never blossomed after a promising freshman campaign. During his first year on campus, Lewis produced three straight 100-yard games against the Wisconsin Badgers, Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers. He never ran for more than 64 yards in any single game during the rest of his career.

The running back was a victim of a random shooting in 2012. Upon his return, he was stuck on the depth chart behind Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. Lewis was then shifted to the defensive side of the football for a short period. He suffered an MCL injury in 2014. He was even called out publicly by his coach.

After an average senior season, it appears Lewis finally had enough.

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Gus Malzahn uncertain of D’haquille Williams’ status for Outback Bowl

D'haquille Williams

Auburn wide receiver D’haquille Williams continues to be bothered by lingering injuries and illness.

The Outback Bowl is 13 days away, but Auburn’s leading receiver isn’t currently on track to play in the game.

When asked about whether Williams would definitely play against the Wisconsin Badgers, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn wasn’t willing to commit one way or another.

“Not at this point,” Malzahn told Al.com’s Joel A. Erickson.

Williams missed two of Auburn’s final three games due to a sprained MCL and a bruised knee that he suffered Nov. 8 against the Texas A&M Aggies. The JUCO transfer returned for the Iron Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide and caught seven passes for 121 yards.

However, the talented wide receiver hasn’t been feeling well.

“He has not practiced,” Malzahn said. “He was sick and he’s got some treatment things to do from the last game.”

Despite missing those two games, Williams still leads the Tigers with 45 receptions for 730 yards. The 6-2, 216-pound receiver has proven to be the security blanket for quarterback Nick Marshall.

If Williams can’t play, the Badgers will roll coverage toward Auburn’s deep threat, Sammie Coates. The junior will be playing his last game as a member of the Tigers before he’s NFL bound.

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Former four-star TE transfers from Vanderbilt to Colorado State

team headshots(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

The Colorado State Rams don’t have a head coach yet, but they’ve already landed a big commitment.

Tight end Mitchell Parsons was one of the crown jewels in the Vanderbilt Commodores’ 2013 recruiting class. The former four-star recruit was considered the nation’s seventh-best tight end prospect, according to Rivals.com.

After a redshirt season and no playing time this year, the native of Parker, Colorado, decided he wanted to play closer to home.

Parsons’ transfer shouldn’t come as a surprise. He originally committed to head coach James Franklin, who left to take the job at Penn State less than a year later. Vanderbilt’s offense will again transition this offseason after new head coach Derek Mason fired offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell.

The tight end might not know who he’ll be playing for at Colorado State, but at least his family will only be an hour or so down the road.

Parsons will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Once he is eligible to play, he’ll have an opportunity to replace Steven Walker, who will be a senior in 2015, as the team’s starting tight end.

(Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt athletic department)

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Missouri will be without its second-leading receiver for Citrus Bowl

Jimmie Hunt ,Jabriel Washington

The Missouri Tigers will be without their second-leading receiver, Jimmie Hunt, for the Citrus Bowl against the Minnesota Gophers. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dave Matter reported Hunt underwent shoulder surgery Wednesday.

Hunt was second on the team in receptions (40), yardage (698) and receiving touchdowns (7) this season. The senior is also coming off the best game of his career against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game. Hunt amassed an impressive 169 yards after beating the Alabama secondary deep multiple times.

Without Hunt in the lineup, the Tigers’ spread offense will feature a new slot receiver.

The two receivers Missouri’s head coach mentioned have caught a total of five passes this season. Otte, a senior, is the experienced option, but Brown presents a matchup problem at 6-3 and 205 pounds. Both may be required to step up in Hunt’s absence.

Minnesota is yet another big and physical team in Missouri’s way. The Tigers’ spread offense needs to be firing on all cylinders to score quickly once the Gophers try to control the clock with their running game and sound defense.

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Big 12 would look ‘East not West’ if league decides to expand

Bob Bowlsby

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby provided the first hint of possible expansion during an interview on 740 AM the Game with the Orlando Sentinel‘s Mike Bianchi.

Expansion could be vital for the league as it moves forward after being left out of the first College Football Playoff.

Once the Baylor Bears and TCU Horned Frogs weren’t included as one of the nation’s top four teams, the Big 12 Conference became the only Power Five league without representation in the inaugural playoff system.

Two reasons became evident why the Big 12 was left out of the mix.

First, the Big 12 only has 10 teams. The NCAA prevents a league from hosting a championship game if it has less than 12 teams. As a result, the champions of the Big 12 played one less game than those teams that won their championship game.

In an attempt to make both the Baylor and TCU enticing candidates — because the Horned Frogs were rated higher even though they lost to the Bears — the conference decided its “One True Champion” would include both teams and the College Playoff Committee could decide which team should be more highly ranked.

Instead, the league’s decision backfired since neither team was seen as a true champion of their conference.

The most likely solution to the Big 12’s problem is to acquire a waiver from the NCAA to hold a championship game. After all, the Big 12 places a higher value on monetary gain than true competitive balance.

“We divide the money 10 ways,” Bowlsby told Bianchi, via UCFSports.com. “Right now, we’re distributing the largest amount of money to each of our members in any league in college athletics. I don’t know that our members are prepared to take a reduction in that distributable revenue. It’s certainly about TV sets. It’s certainly about recruiting. It’s certainly about the possibility of competitive implications in all of our sports, but particularly our high-profile sports. At the present time we have no strategy. We haven’t had any discussions around expansion. Our CEOs have said they like 10. I expect that we’ll be at 10 for a while. Could that change down the road? Sure it could… I don’t think we’re going to take a kneejerk reaction and think immediately about expansion just because on this occasion we got left out of the playoff.”

While Bowlsby expects an answer for the league’s appeal within six months, expansion might quickly develop into a legitimate option if the NCAA doesn’t approve the waiver.

The commissioner provided an initial hint of what the league might do once league expansion is back on the table.

“We have one member in West Virginia that’s on the East Coast,” Bowlsby said. “We have to be mindful of their situation. If we took somebody in that was on the far West Coast it would certainly do a disservice to our member in West Virginia. As I mentioned earlier, it may be a different set of criteria to some of our members than it is to other members. As the commissioner, I certainly have to take all 10 institutions and their sensitivities into play.”

The two obvious candidates would be the Cincinnati Bearcats and the UCF Knights. Cincinnati would provide a travel partner and a rival for West Virginia. UCF, meanwhile, is an burgeoning program that would allow the Big 12 to get into the talent-rich state of Florida for recruiting purposes.

Bowlsby’s inclination to look at teams in the eastern half of the United State would exclude the BYU Cougars and Boise State Broncos, both of which would be strong candidates as football programs.

“We don’t have any schools on our radar at the present time,” Bowlsby said. “As you know, the Grant of Rights was noted earlier in the previous question. Our institutions all have granted their rights to the Big 12. Several other conferences have Grants of Rights. There are some institutions that are essentially off the table. We don’t have any expansion initiative. We don’t have any list of prospects. We don’t have any plans to expand. As our athletic directors, our CEOs, talk about what the model looks like, talk about the challenges of the future and talk about the immediate past experience we had with the playoff, you know, those are things that are going to get discussed. But we don’t have any list. We don’t have any initiative. I would say that the status quo is by far the most attractive status to most of our members.”

While the Big 12 doesn’t have any current plans to expand, Bowlby’s stance has slightly softened in the past 11 days.

The league’s future expansion now hinges on the NCAA’s decision to allow the Big 12 to hold a championship game with on 10 members. If the appeal is denied, the expansion conversation will intensify.

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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 20 Viewer’s Guide

Mark Hudspeth AP

Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 20 bowl menu, which on “opening weekend” features five bowl games as the 2014 postseason kicks off.

WHO: Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
WHAT: The 14th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Unless you were on Bourbon Street the night before, what better way to cap off your Saturday morning, and start the 2014 bowl season, than with a little Mountain West vs. Sun Belt action?  After never making a bowl in the first 38 years of the football program’s existence, Louisiana-Lafayette has now qualified for four straight under Mark Hudspeth.  Not only that, but they’ve won their first three appearances — all of which came in this very bowl.  Nevada, meanwhile, has lost its last two bowl games and six of its last eight.  The Ragin’ Cajuns are also playing very well as they head into the postseason, closing out the regular season with a 7-1 burst.  That burst came after a 1-3 start to the season that featured losses to nationally-ranked Ole Miss and Boise State as well as Conference USA runner-up Louisiana Tech. UL-L will prove to be a significant challenge to Nevada, one that Cody Fajardo and the Wolf Pack may not be able to overcome.
THE LINE: Louisiana-Lafayette, +1
THE PREDICTION: Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Nevada 27

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WHO: Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5)
WHAT: The 9th Gildan New Mexico Bowl
WHERE: University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM
WHEN: 2:20 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: If you’re a fan of old school football that features copious amounts of defense and pounding yards out on the ground, this game is for you.  Utah State is very stingy defensively, giving up just 20.8 points per game (21st nationally).  USU is also very good against the run (26th, giving up 129.2 ypg); that also happens to be UTEP’s strength offensively (35th, 213.8 ypg).  The Aggies, though, are coming off their worst performance of the season, giving up 50 points and nearly 500 yards in the regular-season finale against Boise State.  Something tells me that it’ll be the Miners who will end up paying the price for that debacle.
THE LINE: UTEP, +10½
THE PREDICTION: Utah State 48, UTEP 17

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WHO: Utah (8-4) vs. Colorado State (10-2)
WHAT: The 23rd Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.
WHEN: 3:30 ET on ABC
THE SKINNY: The first day of bowl action has landed what could be one of the best and most intriguing matchups of the postseason.  Colorado State is coming off its best regular season in over a decade, but will also be without its head coach as Jim McElwain took the Florida job and won’t coach in the bowl game.  Utah, the only Power Five team in action today, began the 2014 season 6-1, but stumbled to a 2-3 finish that eliminated it from contention for a significantly more important bowl berth.  The teams do have one 2014 opponent in common in Colorado, with CSU winning at home 31-17 in Week 1 and the U of U winning 38-34 in Week 14 on the road.  A significant focus for Utah’s defense, one of the best in the country, will be shutting down All-American wide receiver Rashard Higgins.  If the Utes can accomplish that feat — it won’t be easy as Higgins has at least 143 yards receiving in each of the last seven games — it would go a long way in securing their first bowl win since after the 2011 season.
THE LINE: Colorado State, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Utah 27, Colorado State 20

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WHO: Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Air Force (9-3)
WHAT: The 18th Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
WHERE: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Id.
WHEN: 5:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This game very easily could’ve been called the Turnaround Bowl.  The fact that either team, let alone both, are playing in the postseason somewhat constitutes a minor miracle as Air Force won a mere two games in 2013 while Western Michigan trumped even that with just a single win last season.  This game is also your classic immovable object vs. irresistible force matchup: WMU is 37th in the country in rushing yards given up per game (142.7) while AF, as service academies ofttimes are, is seventh in rushing offense at 272.2 yards per game.  Throw in how the Falcons gain those yards on the ground, and it could be a long day for the Broncos.
THE LINE: Western Michigan, +1
THE PREDICTION: Air Force 37, Western Michigan 24

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WHO: South Alabama (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (7-6)
WHAT: The Inaugural Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
WHERE: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala.
WHEN: 9:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: It’s appropriate that South Alabama is appearing in the first-ever Camellia Bowl as the Jaguars, who moved to the FBS level three years ago, are making their first-ever bowl appearance.  Their opponents, meanwhile, are playing in their seventh bowl game the past 12 years.  The Jaguars have struggled to score points all year long, with their 20.2 points per game ranking 113th out of 128 FBS teams.  The Falcons, meanwhile, have struggled to stop the opposition from scoring all season, as its 33.9 ppg (109th nationally) attests.  Whichever trend continues will play a significant role in determining the outcome.
THE LINE: Bowling Green, +3
THE PREDICTION: Bowling Green 38, South Alabama 24

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Danny Hope officially added to Willie Taggart’s USF staff

Danny Hope

After a two-season absence, Hope — and one of the best mustaches — has returned to college football.

Following up on a couple of days worth of speculation, USF announced Friday afternoon that Danny Hope has been added to Willie Taggart‘s coaching staff at USF.  The long-time college assistant will serve as the Bulls’ co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

The co-coordinator title is mildly surprising as all of the rumors had centered around Hope being the line coach. Instead, Hope will share coordinating duties with David Reaves, who was, the release stated, “promoted to co-offensive coordinator with oversight of the Bulls’ passing attack.”

Hope has spent the past two seasons on the coaching sidelines after his dismissal as Purdue’s head coach in November of 2012. Interestingly, this is the first time in a collegiate career that spans nearly three decades that Hope’s had the coordinator title in his job description. Previously, he had either been the assistant head coach (Louisville) or the offensive line coach (Oklahoma, Louisville, Wyoming) or both (Purdue).

“Danny is one of the best offensive line coaches in college football and a Florida native with strong ties to the Bay Area,” Taggart said in a statement. “He is a leader and a great recruiter who has helped to build and orchestrate some very successful offenses at several stops in major college football. I’m excited to welcome Danny and his family back to Florida and get to work.”

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Leukemia fighter, frosh DB to serve as captain in Chips’ bowl game

Derrick Nash

If you recall, last May we made mention of a heartwarming story coming out of Central Michigan.  Shortly after signing with CMU in February of 2013, Derrick Nash was diagnosed with leukemia and was told that he’d be forced to sit out that season.  Nash vowed to return to the playing field, while the university vowed to honor his scholarship.

The running back did return, playing in the spring game earlier this year.  Unfortunately, the leukemia returned as well, forcing the player to miss a second straight season as he underwent additional chemotherapy.  As the Chips prepare to play Western Kentucky in the Popeyes Bahama Bowl Christmas Eve, though, Nash will be a part of the team in the postseason.

According to the school, Nash will serve as the honorary captain for the Chips in their postseason game.  Head coach Dan Enos said in a statement that the NCAA, as well as his doctors, signed of recently on allowing Nash to perform the ceremonial duties.

And, it should be noted, get that free trip to the Bahamas he’s earned.

“We had to file a waiver with the NCAA to clear him just to invite him on the trip,” Enos said. “When we got the waiver that we could bring him that was a real blessing. Then we didn’t know if he was going to be able to go and to have his doctors clear him to go was another blessing.

“Our team loves him, he’s part of our family. He’s been through a lot obviously and I think our team loves to have one of our own as a captain, but a guy like Derrick who we draw so much strength from just watching how courageous he is every day and what an inspiration he is to our entire program.”

Both the player and the football program are hopeful he can return to the playing field in 2015 in something other than an honorary role.

(Photo credit: Central Michigan athletics)

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Report: Harbaugh’s family, friends encouraging him to take UM job

Jim Harbaugh AP

The will-he-or-won’t-he spinning of the Wheel of Harbaugh has taken yet another turn, perhaps the most interesting and dramatic one in this whole extended soap opera.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, and citing sources close to the situation, the family and friends of San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh “have been encouraging him to take the Michigan [head coaching] job, but he is torn because his heart is in the NFL.” Perhaps most importantly, and especially if the coach’s household hierarchy is anything like mine, “Harbaugh’s wife also is said to be open and on board to him going back to Ann Arbor if that’s what he wants.”

It’s previously been reported/speculated that Harbaugh’s wife would be against a move from California to Ann Arbor; if Schefter’s report is accurate, that would remove one potential obstacle.

Schefter’s report comes two days after a report surfaced that Michigan was prepared to over Harbaugh a contract in the neighborhood of $8 million annually over six years. Thursday, Harbaugh declined to answer when asked directly if his alma mater had offered him a contract.

Harbaugh’s father could also be a family member who’s nudging his son in the direction of the Wolverines.

There is an undisputed emotional connection for Harbaugh, who played at Michigan, is an iconic figure there, and has been hearing from family and friends about returning as the prodigal son. Harbaugh’s father, Jack, is influential with his son and he has made it known that he likes and admires Michigan’s interim athletic director, Jim Hackett, whom he got to know in the mid 1970s, when he was coaching the defensive backs at Michigan while Hackett was playing center at the school.

Harbaugh would like to make his decision after the NFL season ends, after what Schefter describes as “the players’ getaway day on Monday, Dec. 29.” Certainly if UM knew, with absolute certainty, Harbaugh will take the job, they would be more than willing to wait. Should there be any doubt — and apparently there is in the mind of the man who’s reportedly their top candidate — can the university really afford to put its search on hold awaiting an answer?

That’s the $8 million question… or $8 million-plus if you’re of the mindset that Harbaugh and/or his agent are merely using UM to drive up his NFL price.

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Report: starting DE among four Fresno St. players suspended for bowl

Ikaika Woolsey, Maurice Poyadue

Fresno State will head into the postseason with depleted strength at a couple of positions thanks to off-field issues.  Reportedly.

Citing sources within the program, the Sacramento Bee is reporting that defensive end Maurice Poyadue, wide receiver Myles Carr and linebackers Xavier Ulutu and Michael Lazarus have been suspended for the Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl against Rice. The suspensions stemmed from the catch-all “violation of athletic department policy.”

The most notable of the suspensions is that of Poyadue as he has started the past seven games of the 2014 season.  He’s played in all 13 games this season as well after playing in 12 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2013.

Likewise, Ulutu has played in every game this season, although those appearances came as the No. 2 inside linebacker.  Lazarus, listed behind Ulutu on the depth chart, has played in seven games.

Carr, a redshirt sophomore, has not caught a pass this season after playing in five games in 2013.

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Kentucky makes hiring of WVU OC Shannon Dawson official

Photo credit: West Virginia Athletics

Two days after it was initially reported, and a day after Dana Holgorsen confirmed it, Kentucky has made it official.

In a press release, UK announced that Mark Stoops has hired Shannon Dawson as his new offensive coordinator.  In addition to coordinator, Dawson will serve as the Wildcats’ quarterbacks coach.

Dawson will replace Neal Brown, who was named as Troy’s head coach late last month.

“I’m very excited to bring Shannon Dawson to the University of Kentucky,” Stoops said. “He has done a great job in helping build programs to success on every level. I’ve been impressed with the balance of West Virginia’s offense and how difficult they are to defend. I love the continuity he will bring to what we’ve been doing as we build on the progress we’ve made so far.

“In learning more about Shannon, I’ve found out what a strong leader he is and heard nothing but good things about him throughout our profession.”

As he will with the Wildcats, Dawson served as the Mountaineers’ coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past two seasons. He was named WVU’s coordinator in 2012, his second season in Morgantown. Unlike at WVU, however, Dawson will have play-calling responsibilities at UK.

WVU, incidentally, was Dawson’s first full-time job at the FBS level.

(Photo credit: West Virginia athletics)

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Ex-Wake QB Travis Smith transfers to EMU

Travis Smith

With John Wolford, a true freshman, seemingly entrenched as Wake Forest’s starting quarterback, Travis Smith took his leave of the football program in mid-September.  Three months later, the quarterback officially has a new home.

Friday afternoon, Eastern Michigan announced that Smith is one of eight players, mostly from the JUCO ranks, who have been added to the football program.  Smith is already enrolled in classes at EMU for the winter semester.

The rising sophomore will participate in spring practice and, because of when he left Wake, will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Smith, who didn’t see the field during his very brief stint with the Demon Deacons, was a three-star member of Wake’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 24 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  Following his senior season in high school, he was named the Gatorade Michigan Player of the Year.

(Photo credit: Wake Forest athletics)

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QB Tanner McEvoy to go both ways for Badgers in bowl game

Tanner McEvoy, John Lowdermilk, Desmond King AP

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Prior to transferring to Wisconsin from South Carolina via the JUCO ranks, Tanner McEvoy was a quarterback. In 2013, McEvoy was moved to safety, a position he played all season last year for the Badgers. In 2014, he moved back to quarterback and started five games under center to start the year and played in the last eight at that position to end the year.

With the postseason on the horizon, and the Badgers still licking their wounds from the defensive beatdown they received in the Big Ten championship game, McEvoy is headed back to the defensive side of the ball. As well as remaining on the offensive side.

I’ll be going both ways,” McEvoy said. “I just love playing. Wherever I can get on the field, that’s what I’m here to do and help this team win. So I’m excited to be able to get more reps out there and just help these guys get a bowl victory and send the seniors off the right way.

“As long as I get on the field and help the team win, that’s my goal.”

McEvoy began practicing again with the defense Tuesday. Thursday, he worked with the first-team defense at both safety and linebacker.

Despite the defensive work, there wil still be opportunities for McEvoy offensively.  Even after Joel Stave reclaimed the starting job, McEvoy saw extensive action as the running threat at the quarterback position, finishing the 2014 regular season with 574 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.  His 8.8 yards per carry was tops on the team.

UW will face Auburn in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl.

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Jimbo, on Jameis’ football future: ‘it would not shock me either way’

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston signs autographs

For two very basic and simple reasons, most people have assumed throughout the year that Jameis Winston‘s second season as Florida State’s starting quarterback will be his last.

One, he was viewed by many (most?) as a likely Top 10, if not Top Five, selection in the 2015 NFL draft… provided teams could get past the off-field noise.  Which, of course, brings us to the second reason, that being the deafening and voluminous amount of noise that has come with being Winston at the collegiate level.  Winston is under more of a focused microscope on a college campus — autographs, student code of conduct hearing — than he would be in an NFL city, the theory goes, so he’d better off taking his leave of the amateur ranks and heading to the pros, where he’d at least get paid for the media headaches.

On the flip side, Winston said as recently as July off this year that playing two more years at the collegiate level, 2014 and 2015, wasn’t out of the question.  And that came a month after Winston’s dad was quoted as saying his son would remain with the football Seminoles for two more seasons.

Fast-forward to today, and the NFL question when it comes to Winston still lingers.  As he’s preparing FSU for its semifinal showdown with Oregon New Year’s Day, Jimbo Fisher, he of a new contract (almost), was asked about Winston’s future.  As has been the case every other time the subject’s been broached, Fisher says no decision has been made.

“I understand if he wants to go, when a guy’s that high and you’re doing what you do,” the head coach said. “But remember, he’s a very, very good student. He’s very smart. He loves baseball. He loves his time in college. He loves all the interaction of this, believe it or not. So it would not shock me either way.”

While most view, or viewed, Winston’s jump to the NFL as a fait accompli, it may not be the lock that it once was.

Winston is coming off a regular season that, at least statistically, paled into comparison to a 2013 season that ended with him holding the Heisman Trophy.  His performance on the field has led some to question whether his stock is falling.  And then there’s the very off-field noise that most had as being the impetus for him leaving early.

In September, ProFootballTalk‘s Mike Florio opined that Winston is “running out of chances to convince the NFL he can come in and be that player who is the leader of your team both in the locker room and in the public eye.”  A month later, FOXSports.com‘s Jay Glazer reported that “general managers are moving Winston down their potential draft boards — or off them completely.”

Winston certainly has a big decision to make over the next month, although it may not be as clear either way as some thought a few months ago.

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