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College offenses keep pushing the envelope

Bryce Petty, Jared Barber AP

The Oregon Ducks are averaging an amazing 630 yards of total offense per game.

The Oregon Ducks are second in the nation in total offense…and it’s not close.

The previous two sentences should be incongruous, but they are not. They are merely a byproduct of the offensive revolution that has come to dominate college football of late.

Six weeks into the 2013 season, an astounding 19 teams averaging at least 500 yards of offense per game. The Baylor Bears lead the way with an absurd 780 yards per game. By comparison, just two teams finished the season averaging over 500 yards per game in 2009.

Granted, it is still in the early going so the numbers are partially a reflection of opponent strength (or lack thereof), but it’s worth noting that back in 2005 everyone went absolutely ga-ga over a USC offense that averaged 613 yards of offense through six games. The fact that the Trojans averaged 50 points per game that year was also supposed to be a big deal. Mind you, that was an offense loaded with arguably the best personnel ever on one unit — Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, a star-studded offensive line, two second-round receivers and so on. But that team’s production was primarily the result of USC out-talenting its opponents.

Baylor has a nice collection of players, with two legitimate Heisman candidates (Bryce Petty and Lache Seastrunk) and a budding Biletnikoff contender (Antwan Goodley), but it doesn’t have an NFL player at every position like that USC team did.  Its incredible offensive output — 71 points per game?? — can mostly be attributed to the schemes and machinations of head coach Art Briles. Without Briles, Baylor would be just another Big 12 doormat.

And it’s about time people recognize that. Football commentators like to say it’s all about the Jimmies and the Joes, but they’re wrong: The X’s and the O’s matter, too, especially in college football. It’s not like Clemson would be as proficient on offense if it ran out of a Power I formation, would it? Would Baylor be the only team without a three-and-out in college football if it utilized a pro-style attack? Would Oregon be what it is today if it had run the West Coast Offense all these years?

No way.

Scouring the top 20 teams in total offense, only three run what are usually referred to as ‘conventional’ offenses, meaning with the quarterback primarily taking snaps from under center and with the offense huddling before every play.

The evidence in favor of the effectiveness of spread-style systems is so compelling, it’s a wonder that more elite schools don’t go full bore in this direction (Florida was one that did and it won two titles). Imagine if the USC offense of 2005 — or even 2011 — had run the Briles scheme. Or if Alabama emulated what Oregon does on offense. Those two teams running those schemes with their talent level would rewrite the offensive record books and probably never lose.

Of course, we’ll never see that happen because programs like USC or Alabama want to win the way they’ve always won, even at the risk of not optimizing their production. In the meantime, college offenses keep improving to the point where teams that would normally be excluded from the national conversation — the Oregons, the Baylors, the Texas A&Ms, the Clemsons, etc. — are now dominating it.

Better get used to it.

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True frosh could start in place of TCU’s Doctson

Perhaps it was a tad too early for the optimism on Josh Doctson‘s availability after all.

The star TCU wide receiver suffered a sprained ankle in the blowout win over Texas Tech. Despite “drastic improvement” since, Doctson hadn’t returned to practice.

That changed Wednesday, although Gary Patterson said the wide receiver only practiced “a little bit.” The head coach also intimated that there is a very real possibility Emanuel Porter will start in place of Doctson in Saturday’s game against West Virginia in Morgantown.

“He had a good game last week,” the coach said of the freshman Porter. “Ran really great routes. A tenacious blocker. A 6’4″ wideout. It’ll be him or Josh [who'll start vs. WVU], one of the two.”

Doctson currently leads the Horned Frogs in receptions (35), receiving yards (573) and receiving touchdowns (seven).  Porter has six catches for 42 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman.  If he gets the nod against the Mountaineers, it’d be Porter’s first career start.

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Mack Brown, on coaching future: ‘If somebody calls, I’ll talk’

Kliff Kingsbury, Mack Brown AP

It remains to be seen whether Mack Brown will return to the sidelines as a head coach next season… or any season for that matter.

What remains clear, however, is that the coaching itch still appears to be there.  Probably.

Earlier this month, Brown’s attorney, Joe Jamail, acknowledged that his client “misses [coaching], frankly.”  During a College Football Playoff luncheon Wednesday, Brown was of course asked about his coaching future.  On that front, the current ESPN college football analyst left the door fairly wide open.

“I’m not going to call anybody.  I’m not going to pursue any jobs,” the 63-year-old Brown said, before adding, “If somebody calls me, I’ll talk to them.”

Brown made it perfectly clear that the right fit would be of the utmost importance as it pertains to a return.  That and the timing of the inquiries.

“I’m very happy with what I’m doing,” Brown began. “I talked to 10 coaches this spring and asked them their opinion of what happens when you get out of coaching.  Some got back in.  Some didn’t.  And they all said, ‘don’t put one minute’s thought into it until December, or late November.’

“And then, if somebody calls you and it excites you, you’ll talk to them.”

Whether that describes the SMU situation is unknown.

Brown, given his ties to the state, has been seemingly connected to that vacancy ever since it came open in early September.  His attorney acknowledged that the university expressed interest, even as athletic director Rick Hart said in a social media statement that “no one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives.”  There was also a report that “SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years;”  Hart flatly stated that there “has been no offer or discussion of compensation with any potential candidates.”

When asked about SMU specifically Wednesday, Brown stated “I haven’t talking to anybody about coaching football at this point.”

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Lawyer drops lawsuit against FSU’s Chris Casher

Caleb Rowe, Chris Casher AP

Four weeks after it was filed, a lawsuit against a current Florida State football player is no more.

According to ESPN.com, a civil lawsuit filed by Tallahassee attorney Adam Ellis against Chris Casher Oct. 1 has been voluntarily dismissed.  The suit stated that the defensive end had agreed to pay Ellis $2,500 for his legal services in connection to the May FSU student code of conduct hearing involving Casher; in a July letter, Ellis claimed he had received no payment.

A source told ESPN.com, however, that Casher had made restitution to Ellis, prompting the attorney to drop the suit earlier this week.  A pretrial hearing on the matter had been scheduled for Nov. 4.

Casher appeared at the hearing for his role in the Jameis Winston sexual assault allegations.  He was sentenced to one year of probation as a result.

In an unrelated matter, Casher was suspended for the Seminoles’ regular season opener before being reinstated in the days leading up to Week 2.

The redshirt sophomore has played in six games this season, with one start.  He’s listed as an “OR,” along with Jacob Pugh, behind starter Mario Edwards as FSU’s “Jack” linebacker on the depth chart heading into the Thursday night game with Louisville.

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Oklahoma WR announces he is leaving team via Twitter

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

Oklahoma’s wide receiver depth just got a tiny bit more shallow Wednesday night. Dannon Cavil, a redshirt freshman, has decided to leave the Sooners in search of a potential transfer.

Cavil announced his decision to leave the program the way all the kids do these days, via Twitter.

“After careful consideration and much prayer, I’ve decided to pursue a transfer from the University of Oklahoma,” Cavil tweeted. “This was not an easy decision to make however, I believe it is the right decision for me based on my goals and aspirations as a student-athlete.

As noted by The Oklahoman, Cavil never played a down for the Sooners despite enrolling early in 2013. Cavil sat out the 2013 season with a redshirt and had not seen the playing field this season for Oklahoma.

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

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Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett: I plan on playing Saturday

J.T. Barrett

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was roughed up against Penn State’s defense last week, but he has the full intention of playing this weekend. Barrett was reported to have a sprained MCL after Ohio State’s double overtime victory at Penn State.

“It would have to be something drastic that happens between now and Saturday, but I plan on playing Saturday,” Barrett said after practice Wednesday, according to Eleven Warriors.

Ohio State will host Illinois in Big Ten play this Saturday. His health will be of great concern for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes of course. Next week Ohio State visits Michigan State in what should be the Big Ten East Division championship game when all is said and done. It will also be Ohio State’s biggest chance to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee before a potential trip to the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes debuted at No. 16 in the first rankings released by the selection committee. Michigan State is in a much more favorable and respected position according to the committee, coming in at No. 8.

Barrett was kept in check by the Penn State defense for most of the night last weekend, but Barrett put the team on his back in the two overtime sessions by running for two touchdowns in the win.

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Jermaine Whitehead still earning his spot back at Auburn

Jermaine Whitehead

Auburn defensive back Jermaine Whitehead continues to work his way back into the mix on Auburn’s defense. This week he will continue to take over a spot on special teams as he gradually works back into the good graces under head coach Gus Malzahn.

Whitehead was welcomed back to the team last week after serving a team suspension. At the time, Malzahn stated Whitehead would have to work hard to earn his place back on the field. Whitehead previously started 26 games at safety for Auburn, so handling special teams responsibilities is clearly not the final goal for Whitehead if he is intending to earn his way all the way back.

Whitehead was suspended following a verbal confrontation with an assistant coach. The suspension ended up costing him four games.

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FSU RB Karlos Williams subject to Title IX investigation

Karlos Williams

Florida State will have to undergo a Title IX investigation connected to running back Karlos Williams. A statement from a university spokeswoman, Browning Brooks, confirmed to the Associated Press the university has a responsibility to follow-up on its own investigation after the incident in question was initially reported to police by the university.

“While each set of facts and circumstances is different, as a general matter notice of any Title IX-related issues would prompt an investigation,” the statement from Brooks said. Federal law states a university must investigate and possible Title IX violations if there is any awareness of possible violations. There is no confirmation Williams is guilty of any violations, and he has not been charged by police for any alleged wrongdoing at this time.

Williams is currently is being investigated by Tallahassee Police Department for his connection to an alleged domestic battery incident. The alleged victim has asked the police to discontinue the investigation, but the police department has continued with the case.

Florida State continues to be investigated by the Department of Education for its handling and response to possible Title IX violations related to quarterback Jameis Winston.

At this time, Williams remains eligible to play for Florida State this week. Head coach Jimbo Fisher said yesterday Williams is expected to play Thursday night at Louisville. The only thing that will change that at this point is if Williams is charged with anything by police.

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UCLA is only team perfect inside the red zone

UCLA v Colorado Getty Images

Successful teams tend to cash in once they enter the red zone, but which teams are doing the best once getting inside their opponents’ 20-yard line? So far this season, UCLA is the only team to have entered the red zone and put points on the scoreboard every time. The Bruins are currently on pace to edge Florida State’s red zone percentage of 97.26 percent. Florida State’s red zone success rate in 2013 en route to a BCS national championship was the best red zone scoring percentage dating back to at least 2008.

Florida State is once again thriving in the red zone this season as well though. The Seminoles are second best in the nation in scoring inside the red zone, trailing only the perfect mark established by UCLA. Auburn is also one of the best in the red zone, which may not be a shock given the offensive firepower the Tigers have to work with. Some of the other teams having good results inside the red zone might be a surprise at first glance. Iowa State and New Mexico State, each with two wins this season, are among the nation’s best at scoring in the red zone.

Top 10 Red Zone Scoring Percentages

  1. UCLA (100.00%; 30-for-30)
  2. Florida State (97.06%; 33-for-34)
  3. Iowa State (96.00%; 24-for-25)
  4. New Mexico State (95.65%; 22-for-23)
  5. Florida (95.45%; 21-for-22)
  6. Nevada (94.44%; 34-for-36)
  7. Auburn (93.55%; 29-for-31)
  8. Rice (93.33%; 28-for-30)
  9. Georgia Southern (92.86%; 39-for-42)
  10. Louisiana-Lafayette (92.59%; 25-for-27)
    Washington (92.59%; 25-for-27)

Red zone scoring success rates take into account all points scored, but which schools are maximizing their red zone opportunities the most? In other words, which schools have the best red zone touchdown percentages? Auburn, Georgia Southern and New Mexico State are the only three schools to rank in the top ten in top red zone scoring and red zone touchdown percentages s far this season.

Georgia Southern and Michigan State share the lead for most red zone touchdowns, but nine schools have a better touchdown percentage so far this season.

Top 10 Red Zone Touchdown Percentages

  1. Texas State (81.48%; 22-for-27)
  2. Arkansas (80.56%; 29-for-31)
  3. Old Dominion (77.42%; 24-for-31)
  4. USC (76.67%; 23-for-30)
  5. North Carolina (76.47%; 26-for-34)
  6. Texas A&M (76.47%; 26-for-34)
  7. Nebraska (75.00%; 27-for-36)
  8. Auburn (74.19%; 23-for-31)
  9. New Mexico State (73.91%; 17-for-23)
  10. Georgia Southern (73.81%; 31-for-42)
    Michigan State (73.81%; 31-for-42)

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Bowlsby doesn’t see “obvious candidates” for Big 12 expansion

Bob Bowlsby

The Big 12 is still sitting on a 10-member conference, which leaves the Big 12 without a conference championship game. It is unknown if the lack of a championship game will hold a Big 12 champion back from making the College Football Playoff, but the possibility does still have some concerned and wondering how this all plays out. For now, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is not focused on expanding the conference to 12 members to get a conference championship game back on the schedule because of the lack of ideal candidates available.

“In our case, I don’t know that there are a lot of obvious candidates out there,” Bowlsby said in a Q&A with The Oklahoman. “We’re distributing about $25 million per school through our distributable revenue, so anybody that would be considered for expansion in our league would have to bring at least pro-rata value.”

Schools that have been tied to some form of expansion rumor or another in recent years have included Florida State, Clemson, UCF, USF, Cincinnati and BYU. It has been a few years now, and there has been no movement from the Big 12 to expand after adding West Virginia and TCU. The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs were added following the departures of Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC, Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12.

“I don’t see much movement in the near- to mid-term,” Bowlsby said. “As we get near the end of some of these TV contracts, which would be 10 or 12 years down the road, there may be some renewed conversations. The only movement that is possible right now is from some of the secondary-level conferences that might move people into one of the five high profiles.”

Bowlsby also suggested any talk about super conferences — 16-team mega conferences that could potentially split from the NCAA model entirely — was nothing more than a fabrication crested by the media. He might be right about that.

“I have heard no serious conversation among people who do this for a living that the super-conference concept has got any traction,” Bowlsby said. “It’s always dangerous when the media starts to interview the rest of the media, and I think that’s where the super-conference thing came from.”

So, for about the 148th time in the past couple of years, the official company line from the Big 12 is the conference is not interested in expanding. At this time, there is no reason to suggest otherwise.

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Forget Marshall, where is Colorado State in new ranking?

Colorado State vs Utah State

Colorado State could very well go 11-1 this season, but even that may not be enough for the Rams to sniff a spot in one of the College Football Playoff affiliated bowls. We should still be paying attention to them though, just as we will East Carolina and Marshall.

As you hopefully are aware now, one spot in the access bowls will be reserved for the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference. In the initial College Football Playoff selection committee ranking unveiled Tuesday night, East Carolina entered the ranking at No. 23. Undefeated Marshall was unranked, and no other team from a non-power conference appeared in the poll either. This means East Carolina is now, I suppose officially, the team to beat in the rankings for the reserved big bowl spot.

Of course, East Carolina still needs to win the American Athletic Conference and still has games against UCF and Cincinnati to get by to make that happen. But the Pirates sit in a good position. Marshall is unranked but figures to be next in line if East Carolina happens to stumble. Although, an argument could be made for UCF or Cincinnati to pass the Thundering Herd if either gets by ECU in the American. We’ll worry about that down the line if it pops up.

But what about Colorado State? I previously discussed how Boise State is still an interesting cog in the race for the access bowl spot, and they are. So is Colorado State.

The Rams look to be one of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference and have two victories over power conference opponents, just like East Carolina. The rams have a neutral site victory over Colorado and flew across the country to Boston to take down Boston College earlier this season. The only team to beat Colorado State this season is Boise State, and herein lies the biggest obstacle for Colorado State to jump. And they can’t even do anything about it now.

Because Boise State defeated Colorado State, the Broncos own a head-to-head tiebreaker in the Mountain Division of the MWC. Both teams have one loss in conference play, so Colorado State needs to win the remaining games on their schedule. At the same time, Colorado State needs Boise State to lose at least once. Winning the division will allow Colorado State a chance to play for the Mountain West Conference championship, with a potential shot at a big bowl game on the line.

In theory, a 12-1 Colorado State team would have every bit as strong an argument to play in a New Years bowl as East Carolina. What’s more, the argument for Colorado State could also become stronger if East Carolina’s biggest wins (Virginia Tech and North Carolina) struggle down the stretch. If strength of schedule is an important factor in the rankings, and the evidence suggests it is, Colorado State could be on par with East Carolina. This should add a little more intrigue to this week’s ACC contest between Boston College and Virginia Tech.

Bottom line, Colorado State is still in the running. The Rams need some help along the way, and Boise State does appear to have a tougher final stretch than Colorado State, so there is hope.

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Texas A&M going really old school with uniforms this weekend

Texas A&M 1939 throwback uniform (2014)

The Texas A&M Aggies will be sporting some sharp throwback uniforms this weekend, honoring the legacy of the 1939 Aggies. At first glance, it looks like Texas A&M is going with a winged-helmet design similar to Michigan’s signature look, but the design is reminiscent of the design used on Texas A&M’s old leather helmets of the era. A handful of schools adopted this idea at the time, as it was supposed to make it easier to identify receivers.

The uniform is designed by Adidas, a company that has produced some uniforms on the receiving end of some ridicule with some regularity. That should not be the case here though. This uniform appears to have been thought out well and executed to near perfection. It is a terrific look that honors the past of the Texas A&M program, yet looks to fit in with today’s game. Adidas got one right here.

 

Texas A&M was named the national champions of the 1939 season by the Associated Press, although USC also claims a national championship that same season as the top-ranked team in the now retired Dickenson System. The Trojans began officially claiming that national championship as a part of program history in 2004, because that’s the thing to do these days. Led by College Football Hall of Famer and All-American John “The Haskell Hurricane” Kimbrough, Texas A&M went 11-0 in 1939, including a 6-0 record in the old Southwest Conference. The season ended with a 14-13 victory over No. 5 Tulane in the Sugar Bowl.

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Penn State o-line still waiting for return of Dieffenbach

Nebraska v Penn State

Penn State’s inability to get the running game going this season and provide adequate protection for quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been a result of a young and inexperienced offensive line, without much depth behind it. Not having one of its most experienced options on the line this season has hurt, but the return of offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach could be coming any time now.

Dieffenbach injured his knee in the spring and the rehab has kept him a spectator and cheerleader from the Penn State sideline this season. The fifth-year senior is hoping to be cleared by doctors to resume football activity before the season ends, but doctors have yet to provide the clearance needed to send Dieffenbach back on the field. With Penn State days away from hosting new Big Ten member Maryland, Dieffenbach’s availability remains in question for head coach James Franklin.

“It’s not just the physical aspects of it, it’s the muscle memory of technique and footwork he hasn’t done in six months and it’s also the confidence,” Franklin said this week. ”He’s practicing to a degree the last couple of weeks and hopefully he’ll have a bigger role this week and that will allow us to play him in the game a little bit.”

Penn State’s offensive line performed better against Ohio State than most games this season. A second bye week in three weeks may have helped the line find some identity in preparation for the Buckeyes, but there is no doubt having a fifth-year senior as experienced as Dieffenbach would give the entire line a boost.

Penn State hosts Maryland this Saturday at 12 p.m. eastern.

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Bovada pegs Mariota as its Heisman wagering favorite

Marcus Mariota AP

Thanks to the now-resolved NCAA situation involving Todd Gurley, Dak Prescott was pegged as Bovada‘s Heisman Trophy favorite earlier this month.

Now, another quarterback out West has taken over that mantle.

According to the wagering website Bovada.lv, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is a prohibitive 4/5 favorite to claim the 2014 version of the most prestigious award in college sports. Just a week ago, the junior Duck was a 3/2 favorite.

Prescott, meanwhile, has seen his odds lengthen to 3/1. In the immediate aftermath of the Gurley imbroglio, the Mississippi State quarterback was instilled as a 2/1 favorite.

Gurley, incidentally, is no longer listed.

The first non-QB to receive odds is Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (8/1). Gordon had been 6/1 seven days ago.

Alabama’s Amari Cooper (16/1, up from 18/1) is one of two wide receivers given odds, the other being West Virginia’s Kevin White (50/1, from 25/1).

The reigning Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, saw his odds plunge from 18/1 to 33/1. The Florida State quarterback entered the 2014 season as a slight 9/2 favorite over Mariota (5/1).

Below are the complete set of Heisman odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

Bovada Week 9 Heisman Odds

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Report: Miami’s starting LT undergoes procedure on knee

Miami v Boston College Getty Images

The injury bug has once again slammed headfirst into Miami’s offensive line.

Citing an unnamed source, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Wednesday that Ereck Flowers underwent a surgical procedure on his injured knee earlier today.  Flowers originally suffered the injury in last Thursday night’s win over Virginia Tech.

It’s unclear how long the offensive lineman will be sidelined, although it appears certain he won’t play in this Saturday’s home game against North Carolina.  The Hurricanes will release their weekly injury report Thursday, which will likely serve as the lone update from the football team on Flowers’ status.

“As soon as we get information, we’ll get it to you,” head coach Al Golden said in his only comments on Flowers’ status following practice Wednesday.

Flowers had started all seven games at left tackle for the ‘Canes this season. Jon Feliciano is expected to replace him in the starting lineup.

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Penn State’s Ryan Keiser underwent surgery to repair bowel injury

Northwestern at Penn State

Now, unfortunately, we have some details as to what led to the season-ending injury for one of two Penn State seniors.

Monday, the Nittany Lions announced that Ryan Keiser would miss the rest of the 2014 season because of an unspecified injury.  Tuesday, head coach James Franklin added some clarity to the situation by confirming that the safety sustained an injury to his bowel during practice last Thursday.

The injury was caused by a fractured rib, with small-bowel surgery being performed to repair the damage.

Franklin offered up the details to refute reports that Keiser was battling an infection and was in critical condition.

“Ryan’s family has our complete support,” Franklin said. “I’ve talked to his mother, talked to Ryan. Our trainers and doctors have been in constant contact or have been involved every step of the way, and I just want to clear that up because I know how the Penn State community supports one another.

“I wanted to make sure that everybody understands clearly what’s going on. The rest of it is up to the family and their personal information and what they want to share.”

Keiser is currently third on the team in tackles.  He was also voted one of the Nittany Lions’ team captains.

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