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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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Bitcoin no longer sponsor of St. Petersburg Bowl

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl

Following Wednesday’s earlier bowl update that 86 (eighty-six!) teams could participate in the 2015-16 bowl season, ESPN’s Brett McMurphy offered another small nugget from inside the bowl industry.

Last year’s most interesting new sponsor on the scene – Bitcoin – has dropped its sponsorship of the St. Petersburg Bowl.

(If you would like to use this moment to gather your thoughts, catch a breath of fresh air or speak to your preferred higher power, we’ll wait for you.)

Wednesday’s tragic news means that N.C. State, 34-27 winners over Central Florida, will go down in history as the one and only owners of a bowl championship trophy sponsored by a shaky internet currency.

The good news here? The folks in St. Petersburg get to choose another sponsor and they’ve never disappointed us in the past. The Tropicana Field-based game has been sponsored by magicJack, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and Bitcoin in its seven-year history.

Top that, Rose Bowl.

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Texas loses CB Sheroid Evans for spring ball

Texas v UCLA

All the eyes of Texas are currently focused on the Longhorns’ ongoing basketball search, but Charlie Strong held an availability Wednesday evening where he confirmed an earlier report from Orangebloods.com that cornerback Sheroid Evans would miss the rest of the spring with a knee injury.

The injury occurred on a non-contact play during Saturday’s practice. Strong declined to offer further detail.

A four-star recruit out of Sugar Land, Texas, Evans has forever been on the cusp of real playing time before succumbing to injury. Evans suffered an ACL injury in October of 2013 and redshirted the entire 2014 season. He’s appeared in 27 career games but started none of them. A decorated track athlete, Evans has a 10.39 100-meter dash on his resume.

Redshirt freshmen John Bonney and Jermaine Roberts figure to see increased reps in Evans’ absence.

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Conference USA announces a number of date changes

Rice-North Texas football

New football schedules are always subject to change after television approval as Conference USA learned Wednesday.

The conference announced changes to nine games, all due to TV. The changes go as follows:

– Sunday, Sept. 6: Purdue at Marshall
– Thursday, Sept. 10: Louisiana Tech at Western Kentucky
– Friday, Sept. 11: Miami at Florida Atlantic
– Friday, Oct. 2: Temple at Charlotte
– Friday, Oct. 9: Southern Miss at Marshall
– Thursday, Oct. 15: Western Kentucky at North Texas
– Friday, Oct. 30: Louisiana Tech at Rice
– Friday, Nov. 6: Rice at UTEP
– Friday, Nov. 27: Marshall at Western Kentucky

While the league has not yet announced its official television slate, look for these games to be shown on either Fox Sports 1 or CBS Sports Network.

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Four new bowls apply for 2015-16 certifications, potentially bringing total to 43

It’s kind of funny, really. The reason given for so long that a College Football Playoff could not exist – eventual bracket creep that would inevitably ruin bowl season – has already consumed the bowl industry.

According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy – the Edward R. Murrow of the bowl industry – the 2015-16 bowl season could have as many as 43 games after Orlando, Fla., Austin, Tex., Tucson, Ariz., and Little Rock, Ark., applied for certifications ahead of the NCAA deadline.

Forty-three bowl games equates to 86 teams. That’s more than two-thirds of FBS membership and well above the number of annual eligible teams based on current qualification standards. “Wednesday was the deadline for cities seeking to add a new bowl. The NCAA will make a decision in a few weeks whether to approve the games,” McMurphy notes.

Added an anonymous source: “As long as the standard to go to a bowl remains 6-6, commissioners will be pressured to have bowl games for all their conference teams to play in. That’s why you keep seeing more and more bowls added.”

The American Athletic Conference is the main source for the push. If each of the new games is approved, McMurphy notes, the AAC will have slots for nine of its 12 teams. So what we’re talking about is games between a 6-6 Temple and a a 6-6 Middle Tennessee.

Two things to note here:

1. Assuming all four games achieve certification that doesn’t necessarily mean there will actually be 43 bowl games following this season. Who’s to say fledgling bowl games in Birmingham or the like are actually coming back?

2. Ultimately, bowl games are exhibitions designed to draw television audiences. They’re TV shows. Those who care will watch and those who don’t will find something else to do. No one’s pointing a gun at anyone’s head here. If you complain about new bowl games while at the same time are not planning on watching the games your complaints are lobbied toward, one can only assume you also gather pitchforks and poster board every time Bravo announces its fall lineup.

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NFL Draft will be without both eligible Heisman Trophy winners

2015 NFL Scouting Combine

There have been years that have seen the NFL Draft have no Heisman Trophy winners attending, but never quite like this.

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has decided he will stay home in Hawaii for the NFL Draft, kindly turning down his invitation to travel to Chicago for the league’s grand event on the offseason calendar. Mariota’s decision comes not too long after Florida State’s Jameis Winston confirmed his intention to stay home in Alabama to watch the NFL Draft near his grandmother, who is unable to travel.

My memory may be a tad foggy at times, but I cannot recall any other year the NFL Draft has seen two Heisman Trophy winners voluntarily skip the draft festivities entirely. Has this ever happened? It is one thing to have no Heisman Trophy winners on hand because the player chose to return to school the following season (or was prevented from turning pro due to league requirements).

The last time a Heisman Trophy winner was not on hand for the NFL Draft was the 2007 NFL Draft when Ohio State’s Troy Smith ended up being drafted in the fifth round. In Smith’s case, the decision may not have been under his control entirely. His stock had dropped significantly following Ohio State’s BCS Championship Game drubbing at the hands of Urban Meyer and his Florida Gators at the end of the 2006 season. Not being invited and passing on an invite are two different things.

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Cincinnati Reds to honor national champion Ohio State

Urban Meyer, Eva Parziale

Baseball season starts up next week, which is one way to pass the time until the start of the new college football season for most around these parts. The Cincinnati Reds have some plans to honor the College Football Playoff national champions from Ohio State. The National League squad will honor the Buckeyes with the first ever Reds Country Athletic Achievement Award during pregame ceremonies at Great American Ball Park and head coach Urban Meyer will toss out the ceremonial first pitch.

In addition to Meyer throwing out the first pitch, members of the team will be on the field to hold a giant American flag during the singing of the National Anthem (which should probably just be performed by The Best Damn Band In The Land). Players and coaches will meet with fans during the first inning of the game and the national championship trophy will make an appearance along with Brutus Buckeye.

This must be a bit of a tough pill to swallow for Cincinnati Bearcat fans looking to enjoy an evening of baseball against the division rival Pittsburgh Pirates, but this is also a good way for Ohio State to continue to establish a presence in Cincinnati. Ohio State may dominate around the state of Ohio, but Cincinnati is still an area that is believed to need some work. But the night will have a charitable cause attached to it as well.

The Reds will donate $1 from each ticket sold to the game to the Urban and Shelley Meyer Fund for Cancer Research. A check for the total raised from ticket sales between now and April 7 will be presented to the Meyers before the start of the game.

Ohio State’s national championship team has already been honored in the state by a professional sports franchise. The Cleveland Cavaliers, with Ohio State fan LeBron James, honored the Buckeyes earlier this offseason. Have the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL done something similar for their college football neighbors?

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NCAA grants Maryland QB Caleb Rowe and 7 Terps medical hardship

Caleb Rowe

Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe was one of eight Terrapins players to receive an extra year of eligibility through a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA. Maryland head coach Randy Edsall announced the eligibility updates on Wednesday.

Others on Maryland’s roster receiving an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA in addition to Rowe, according to The Washington Post, include defensive back Daniel Ezeagwu and Alvin Hill, tight end Andrew Isaacs, defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson, wide receiver Taivon Jacobs, running back Albert Reid and linebacker Cavon Walker.

Rowe tore an ACL last October to bring his 2014 regular season to an early end. Before going down for the year after appearing in four games, Rowe passed for 489 yards and five touchdowns. Rowe will be Maryland’s most experienced quarterback returning in 2015 after C.J. Brown graduated. Maryland went to file for a medical hardship waiver in February for Rowe and other Maryland players.

Rowe is sitting out of spring practices. Running back Wes Brown is also taking it easy this spring while rehabbing from surgery on his torn labrum.

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With Big Ten approval, Jake Rudock takes another step toward Michigan

Jake Rudock

It has long been expected that quarterback Jake Rudock will transfer from Iowa to Michigan. That appears to be moving forward smoothly with reports the Big Ten has approved a waiver to allow Rudock to transfer and play immediately for the Wolverines.

Following up on a previous report that Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz had confirmed Iowa was allowing Rudock a chance to move without hassle, Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports reported this morning (via Twitter) the Big Ten had approved a waiver request from Rudock. Rudock is a grad transfer so typical NCAA transfer rules would not normally come into play for him, but moving to another Big Ten institution tends to be a slightly different story. This will allow Rudock to transfer to another school within the conference and compete right away. Dan Murphy of EPSN later reported (via Twitter) the pending Rudock to Michigan move was coming together and Rudock will be available to play in Ann Arbor this fall.

Rudock visited Michigan earlier this offseason to get a sense of the program, adding a bit more fuel to the rumors he was considering a transfer to Michigan. He has lost his job at Iowa but will be given a fresh chance to compete for a role at Michigan as soon as he transfers. Michigan is searching for a new starting quarterback under new head coach Jim Harbaugh, and Rudock could have as good a chance as any currently enrolled option to win the starting job. It is a wide open competition right now and that should continue into the summer practices leading up to the start of the 2015 season.

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Hawaii does a schedule shuffle with Wisconsin, adds Army

UNLV v Hawaii

Hawaii recently added some new games to the non-conference line-up in the future years down the road, and that required making a few changes to existing contests on the books. The good people of FBSchedules.com (seriously, follow this site for all of your scheduling news) came across a few updates to Hawaii’s future scheduling. Among them was a change in date for a future game against Wisconsin and some additional games.

A game between Hawaii and Wisconsin originally scheduled for September 4, 2021 has been pushed back three years to August 31, 2024. The game will be played in Honolulu, as previously agreed upon. A game in Madison scheduled for September 17, 2022 has not changed.

Hawaii is also adding Army to the schedule with a home-and-home deal in 2022 and 2024. Army will host Hawaii on November 19, 2022. Army will travel to Hawaii on November 30, 2024 to complete the home-and-home arrangement. These games are in addition to a pair of games previously announced for 2018 and 2019.

Earlier this week Hawaii announced a home-and-home deal with Arizona.

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Charges against Alabama’s Jonathan Taylor to be reviewed as accuser jailed for lies to police

Jonathan Taylor

The accuser of Jonathan Taylor, the now former Alabama defensive lineman, has reportedly recanted her story, which will prompt the charges to be reviewed by authorities. Taylor was arrested Saturday on a domestic violence charge, which led to Alabama dismissing the player from the program the following day.

Tuscaloosa Police Department arrested Taylor after an accuser claimed a verbal confrontation between she and Taylor turned physical, which allegedly caused physical harm to the accuser’s neck and apartment property. Per Al.com, the accuser contacted police on Monday to recant her claims and told authorities she lied about some of the details regarding the incident. Police have charged her with false reporting to law enforcement and placed her in a county jail.

Taylor had been dismissed by Georgia last summer following an alleged domestic violence incident. Nick Saban decided to give Taylor a second chance and brought him into the Alabama program in January. Now, Saban has been forced to apologize for the situation. But if the charges are dropped, might there be a possible return to Alabama in the end? Alabama has already come down hard on Taylor, which would seem to make it difficult from a public relations perspective to welcome Taylor back. And that is assuming Taylor would want to return to Alabama.

For now it is simply best to let the legal process play itself out before making any guesses one way or the other.

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ACL injury is second for Arkansas RB Juan Day

Bret Bielema

Coming back from one ACL injury for a running back can be extremely difficult to do. Doing so a second time can be even tougher. Arkansas running back Juan Day will have to do just that.

Yesterday, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema announced Day suffered a torn ACL during the team’s last spring practice prior to spring break. Bielema said Day underwent surgery on Monday and is already focusing on recovery. This is the second time Day has injured his ACL, now with one ACL injury in each knee. His previous injury came in high school and forced him to sit out his senior season.

Due to the injury, Day will be out for the remainder of the spring. It is currently unknown what his status for the 2015 season will be. If rehab goes well, he could be available in time for the fall, but Bielema has a track record of looking out for the best health conditions of his players. This might suggest Day should not be expected to be rushed back to the field if it poses any legitimate threat to his knee.

Arkansas should still be in good shape in the running department without Day, although the depth will take a hit. Last season’s leading rushers, Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, are each back after separate 1,000-yard seasons and 24 combined touchdowns. Day was expected to be the third running back in the offense.

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BYU currently the biggest spring game draw, but not for long

The thick of the college football spring game activity is about to get going in the next few weeks, so these numbers will look much different in a short period of time. But for now, BYU reigns supreme in the world of spring football game attendance.

BYU reported an estimated turnout of 14,000 fans to its recent spring scrimmage. That is more than double what BYU saw for the 2014 spring game, which attracted a reported an estimated 6,500 fans. This also makes BYU the first school to break the 10,000-fan mark this spring, but they will not be the last. BYU more than doubled the turnout for Baylor’s rainy spring scrimmage (5,610) and Vanderbilt’s recent spring scrimmage (5,000). BYU also outdid a couple of other power conference programs; Colorado and Miami.

Here are the updated numbers from schools reporting a spring game attendance.

  1. BYU: 14,000
  2. Baylor: 5,610
  3. Vanderbilt: 5,000
  4. Colorado: 4,100
  5. Miami FL: 3,500
  6. USF: 3,200
  7. Fresno State: 1,500
  8. San Jose State: 500

San Diego State has not replied to a request for an attendance figure or estimate. Texas Tech did not track attendance after moving its scrimmage to another site due to stadium renovations. It is also important to remember these figures are all estimated totals. The odds each of these schools pulled in a total ending in a zero on the nearest hundred or thousand would be pretty unforgiving. We should also remind you each school handles its spring scrimmage differently, with some making more of a big deal of it than others. We will really see that come into play when we start getting totals from schools like Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama and Auburn in the coming weeks.

Navy and North Carolina did not hold a spring game. Duke and Air Force each held a closed scrimmage.

You can view the updated attendance records as they come in and are updated on this Google Doc, which will also break down the spring attendance by conference.

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Former USC Trojan Armstead gets his day in court against school next week

Oregon State v USC

Next week in Los Angeles will mark the beginning of a lawsuit between Armond Armstead against his former university, USC. Armstead accused the school of fraud, concealment and negligence at which he claims deprived him of a chance to play in the NFL.

The lawsuit was filed back in August 2012, but is just now getting ready to head to trial. The Sacramento Bee reports the case is scheduled to begin on April 6.

You may remember Armstead suffered a heart attack back in the spring of 2011. As the season got underway, Armstead’s status was still up in the air and word got out he was considering a transfer after he was given a redshirt for the season. Armstead is accusing the university’s staff of giving him painkillers that led to heart problems and of blocking possible transfers that prevented him from having a chance to play in the NFL.

Of course, Armstead did get his chance to play in the NFL. He was most recently on the roster of the New England Patriots. He was forced to retire from the game last July, well before the Patriots went on their latest Super Bowl run. The reason? More heart problems that surfaced in 2014.

If USC is to blame for Armstead’s health issues, the school will cut a nice check to Armstead. It should also raise awareness of how the medical staff today is handling the health of players, especially when it concerns prescribing and offering pain medication. With schools and conferences taking on more responsibility for player health, issues like this will continue to be a priority. Avoiding future lawsuits of this fashion should be the case as we move forward, whether USC is to blame for Armstead’s heart issues or not.

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Torn ACL sends Auburn cornerback to surgery

Outback Bowl - Auburn v Wisconsin

Auburn’s depth in the defensive backfield took a minor hit on Tuesday. T.J. Davis, who was expected to be competing for a starting job this spring, underwent surgery on a torn ACL.

According to Al.com, Davis suffered the torn ACL two weeks ago.

For now, all that is known is Davis will be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices. His status for the fall is to be determined. It used to be that a torn ACL could keep a player out for a whole year, although sometimes a player can battle back and rehab enough to have a shot to play in the fall if the injury is suffered early enough.

The timeline for Davis and his potential return to the field is far from confirmed at this moment.

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MAC takes stand vs. Indiana religious freedom law, will Big Ten follow?

Indianapolis Reacts To Indiana's Controversial Religious Freedom Act

The state of Indiana is being criticized left and right (well, mostly from the left) for the recent passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The act would allow a business to refuse service to anyone person based solely on religious beliefs, which has been seen as giving the ability to refuse to provide business services to a member of the LGBT community. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s final games being played in Indianapolis this weekend has forced the NCAA to speak out about the act, and now the MAC has joined the chorus of critics of the new state law.

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher says his conference will not hold any meetings or conference championships in the state of Indiana until the law is amended or repealed.

“The Mid-American Conference will not schedule any more meetings or championships in Indiana until this current matter is brought to a sensible and appropriate conclusion,” Steinbrecher said to ESPN.

As far as football is concerned, not much is at stake. The conference typically holds its football conference championship game in Detroit, Michigan. The same goes for the conference’s football media day event. Ball State is the only member of the conference residing in the state of Indiana, which effectively means the school cannot host any other conference championship event sin other sports. This statement will not prevent Ball State from hosting MAC schools in conference competition as part of the regular season scheduling.

As of now, the only thing scheduled by the MAC to take place in Indiana is the annual presidents meetings in January or February of 2016. Those meetings will be held elsewhere if no changes are made to the state laws.

It is good to see the MAC make this statement, but it remains to be seen if the Big Ten will take a similar stand. If it does, the Big Ten could lend an even stronger voice for change to the law considering the financial impact that is attached to the Big Ten’s investment in Indiana, more specifically in Indianapolis. The Big Ten hosts its conference championship game in Indianapolis as well as the men’s basketball tournament on a fairly regular basis (nine times since 2002 and scheduled to return in 2016). The Big Ten also has two members inside the state of Indiana, with plenty of alumni attached to them.

For now the Big Ten has gone so far to publicly state it is reviewing the situation. It has not made any hard decisions one way or the other at this time. All things considered, this is not a terrible decision to make when so much is at stake for the conference and the state. It can sometimes be best to wait to find out all of the information before making any major decisions regarding the future of the conference.

In a world that can be influenced heavily by the opinions and demands of big corporate names and brands, Indiana could be forced to rethink some things if the Big Ten hops aboard with a threat to pull out of the state.

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