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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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Four-star A&M QB signee Kyler Murray opts out of MLB draft

Kyler Murray Marlon Walls AP

At least for now, Texas A&M doesn’t have to worry about losing the most high-profile member of its 2015 recruiting class to the stick-and-ball sport.

Following a closely-watched recruiting scuffle that involved hated (former?) rival Texas, A&M landed a signed National Letter of Intent from touted 2015 quarterback prospect Kyler Murray this past February.  The four-star signee, however, is also a touted baseball prospect, leaving some worried that he would be selected high in next month’s Major League Baseball draft and would ditch football altogether.

Murray himself, however, took to Twitter Wednesday afternoon to allay those fears.

This doesn’t mean that A&M’s baseball worries are over as far as Murray is concerned as he could always change course in subsequent years.  For 2015, though, it appears he will be a football Aggie, and a very talented one at that.

Murray was rated as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Texas by Rivals.com.  With true sophomore Kyle Allen seemingly entrenched as the starter, there’s a possibility, or even probability, that Murray will redshirt as a true freshman this season, although he will be given the opportunity to unseat the incumbent during summer camp.

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Marshall RB Steward Butler charged in alleged beating of gay couple

Western Kentucky v Marshall

A member of the Marshall football program is the latest FBS football player to find himself running into some post-spring legal issues off the field, although this one’s a bit different as it could possibly have federal implications.

According to multiple media outlets, Steward Butler has been charged with two counts of battery after he was accused of beating a homosexual couple early last month.  Butler had been wanted by police for questioning pertaining to April 5 incident, and turned himself in Wednesday morning.

As for the particulars that led to the pair of misdemeanor charges, the Huntington Herald-Dispatch has the following account:

The charges stem from the April 5 beating of two men, moments after they kissed at 5th Avenue and 9th Street in Huntington. Criminal complaints charge Butler witnessed the kiss, exited a passing vehicle and proceeded to shout derogatory words toward both men related to their sexual orientation.

Butler then struck the face of both victims with a closed fist, the complaints charge.

The alleged attack was caught on video by one of the alleged victims. The Herald-Dispatch also writes that the Huntington Police Department “has turned over evidence to the FBI for its review of any civil rights violations.”

“We are aware of the situation involving Marshall running back Steward Butler and are currently in the process of gathering all available information,” a statement attributed to Marshall athletics began. “We will handle the matter internally and appropriately.”

Butler’s 798 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns were second on the Herd last season. He was also second on the Herd in those categories in 2013 (765, eight) and second in yards in 2012 (500).

All told, Butler has scored 18 ruishing touchdowns the past three seasons.

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Potential Maxx Williams successor for Gophers granted sixth year

Duke Anyanwu AP

It looks as if the potential, or even likely, successor to All-American tight end Maxx Williams will head into the 2015 season armed with another season in his back pocket.  Provided he can stay healthy, of course.

While Minnesota has yet to confirm it, Duke Anyanwu took to Twitter Tuesday to announce that his medical hardship waiver for a sixth season of eligibility has been approved by the NCAA. The tight end missed the entire 2014 season after sustaining a torn ACL during summer camp last August.  He also took a redshirt for his true freshman season in 2012 after tearing an ACL a first time.

The waiver means that, including 2015, Anyanwu will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

The 6-4, 239-pound Anyanwu has played in exactly one game for the Gophers, the 2013 season opener against Western Illinois. Despite his lack of experience or receptions at this level, and despite the injuries, Anyanwu is viewed as one of the favorites to replace Williams at tight end.

To buttress that potential front-runner status, Anyanwu had entered camp last year as Williams’ primary backup prior to his latest injury.

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Texas OL Darius James to reportedly seek transfer

Darius James

As first reported by Jason Suchomel of Orangebloods.com and then confirmed by just about everyone else in Austin, Texas offensive lineman Darius James is leaving the team.

A native of Killeen, Texas, James was rated the No. 1 guard and No. 65 overall player in the 2013 class by Rivals.com.

He redshirted in 2013 and then saw action in six games as a redshirt freshman in 2014, starting two, including a 482-yard explosion in a loss to Oklahoma.

He missed the bulk of November and the Longhorns’ Texas Bowl loss to Arkansas after suffering a season-ending knee injury.

An expected starter in 2015, James missed spring ball rehabbing his knee. Head coach Charlie Strong also said he “had some work to do academically.”

(Photo credit: Texas athletics)

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Report: Record 42 bowls approved for 2015-16 season

Valero Alamo Bowl - Kansas State v UCLA Getty Images

Do you and 10 friends have college eligibility remaining? Do you have access to football equipment? If so, you could be in line for a bowl trip this winter.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy – the Bob Woodward of the bowl industry – reported Tuesday night the NCAA had rubber-stamped three new bowls into existence for this season.

My math tells me 42 multiplied by two equals 84 teams, which means more than 65 percent of FBS will be bowling after this season.

For those of you who believe 42 is too many bowl games: rejoice. The number could have been higher. McMurphy reported last month that Little Rock, Ark., was also considering applying for a bowl game.

While ESPN would be a good bet to televise the new games – they own the TV rights to all but the Sun Bowl, and own a number of games outright – the Austin Business Journal reported last month Austin Sports Commission representatives had meetings with Fox and planned to meet with CBS. McMurphy reported the Tucson game is expected to be televised by CBS Sports Network.

The Cure Bowl (Orlando) will be televised by CBS Sports Network on Dec. 19, McMurphy reported.

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Texas Tech WR Reginald Davis arrested for pot possession

Reginald Davis, Osahon Irabor

Texas Tech wide receiver Reginald Davis was arrested Monday for suspicion of marijuana, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Lubbock P.D. Lieutenant Ray Mendoza said Davis was pulled over for a traffic violation around noon Monday when officers allegedly discovered less than two ounces of marijuana. He has been released from Lubbock County Detention Center.

“We are aware of the situation regarding Reginald Davis,” a Tech spokesman told the paper, saying he was not aware of Davis’s status with the team. “We are still in the process of gathering information about it.”

Junior safety Josh Keys was dismissed from the team in November for failing multiple drug tests. Freshman linebacker Grant Bouma received his walking papers last month after receiving a DWI arrest.

Davis ranked sixth on the team last year with 29 grabs for 318 yards and five touchdowns. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury praised the junior last month during spring practice.

“The one (of the receivers) that’s really stood out so far is Reggie Davis,” Kingsbury told the Avalanche-Journal. “He needs to step up. He’ll be a redshirt junior, and it’s time to be what he can be.

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Big 12 puts title game talk on hold – again

Chris Callahan

Thirteen may be greater than 12, but two is definitely much larger than one.

After emerging from annual College Football Playoff meetings just one week ago touting his league’s need for a conference championship game under the logic that “13 data points are better than 12,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby met with reporters Tuesday evening following at his conference’s spring meetings in Phoenix and admitted a title game had not been rubber-stamped by the Big 12’s athletics directors and head coaches.

And, really, that’s all that needs to be said. Extraordinary, unprecedented circumstances pushed Ohio State past Baylor and TCU for the fourth and final spot in last season’s tournament, and we more than two decades of data says that will not happen again. While a championship game would indeed give one extra Big 12 team an impressive win, as Bowlsby himself has said in the past, there’s no guarantee it’s the right team. Just ask 1996 Nebraska, 1998 Kansas State, 2001 Texas or 2007 Missouri.

One sticky wicket that did appear to be ironed out Tuesday, however, was the ridiculous and embarrassing co-championship policy that got the conference tied up last fall like Andy Serkis playing a solo game of Twister.

A league championship is the most precious honor a conference has to bestow, and diluting its own product as the conference did in 2012 (with Oklahoma hoisting a trophy after losing head-to-head with Kansas State) and last fall (TCU-Baylor) never made any sense – other than to spread the bonus money wealth for the league’s coaches.

Bowlsby said league will still pursue NCAA approval for deregulation of conference championship games – as it should, because the history of conference championship games is extremely arbitrary – the earliest a Big 12 title game could even be held even if it received unanimous approval today would be the 2016 season.

With that fact hanging in the air, there was no reason to nail down a hard stance today unless a unanimous consensus existed on one side of the debate or the other.

Though I have gone on record stating the Big 12 should avoid an annual title game, the CFP era is too fresh to draw any hardline stances. The same goes for the other side of the issue as well. For a conference that doesn’t have a long history of harmonious decision making, agreeing on that is progress enough.

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Arizona State announces three captains for 2015 season

Mike Bercovici

Who’s ready for some actual football talk?

Senior quarterback Mike Bercovici, senior wide receiver D.J. Foster, and senior safety Jordan Simone will serve as Arizona State’s captains for the 2015 season, the club announced Tuesday.

Bercovici played in all 13 games a year ago, filling in for starter Taylor Kelly during an extended mid-season stretch, completing 115-of-186 passes for 1,445 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Foster led the Sun Devils in rushing a year ago with 194 carries for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns while grabbing 62 passes for 688 yards and three touchdowns. He figures to see an increased role in 2015 after the departure of Jaelen Strong and a spring injury to Cameron Smith.

Simone ranked second on the team in tackles with 100 stops, 4.5 TFL, one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and two passes defended.

The Sun Devils also designated senior cornerback Lloyd Carrington, senior center Nick Kelly and junior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola as co-captains. And for the first time under head coach Todd Graham, Arizona State named special teams captains, with junior kicker Zane Gonzalez and sophomore defensive back DeAndre Scott winning the honors.

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Five-star UGA signee to work out for MLB’s Atlanta Braves

Terry Godwin

Does Georgia and its fans have to worry about losing the highest-rated member of its 2015 recruiting class to another sport?  Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

Terry Godwin was a five-star member of UGA’s class this year who also happens to be a fairly decent baseball player.  So decent, in fact, that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that, along with other prospects, the running back has been invited by the Atlanta Braves to a workout at Turner Field late this month.

The workout will take place a couple of weeks before the Major League Baseball draft, and there’s a very good chance that Godwin will be drafted, whether it be by the Braves or someone else.  That doesn’t mean, though, that he’ll ditch football for baseball.  In fact, Godwin’s high school baseball coach, Dusty Hubbard, is of the opinion that football is in his player’s future.

From the Journal-Constitution:

4. Should UGA football fans be worried about this baseball thing with Godwin? Let’s skip to the bottom line: “I don’t think so,” Hubbard said. “I think, no matter what, he is going to be at Georgia this fall. Let’s say he was to get drafted – and I don’t want to think for him, and I don’t want to speak for him … but I don’t know what kind of money we’re talking about. I have been given no indication by scouts about that with Terry. In the past, they’ll tell me with a player that ‘We’re looking at rounds 10 to 15 and ‘X’ amount of money.’ The scouts haven’t given me any indication on that, or if for sure that they’re going to draft him. We’ll have to see how everything unfolds. But Terry is preparing for it. There is no doubt about that. He has talked to his parents. His parents are preparing for it as well. If it comes to fruition, they will have a plan for it. I think, right now, that there’s a very, very good possibility that he’ll be at Georgia on June 1 and he’ll be there all summer long for this summer, no matter what. He’ll be there for his first football season.”

It is possible, ala Russell Wilson, for a college football player to sign a baseball contract and still maintain his football eligibility.  It’s also possible, or even probable, that Godwin could join the UGA baseball team, provided he can handle both the two-sport workload as well as his schoolwork.

Despite his confidence in Godwin playing for the football Bulldogs this fall, Hubbard still left the baseball door ajar.

“I do think he could play both sports,” the coach stated, before adding a handful of rhetorical questions. “Which way does he go? Does he go to Georgia and try to play minor-league baseball when he is finished with football? Does he go to Georgia and try to play baseball in the summers like Russell Wilson? Or does he play pro baseball and then go back to football?

“All those things are questions, and that’s for Terry and his family to decide.”

As alluded to earlier, the 5-11, 166-pound Godwin, along with defensive tackle Trenton Thompson, was the highest-rated member of a Bulldogs’ Class of 2015 (both at 6.1 per Rivals.com) that was ranked sixth in the nation and third in the SEC.  That same recruiting service listed him as the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Georgia and the No. 10 player overall in the country.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Stanford, San Diego State announce future home-and-home

David Shaw, Kevin Hogan

Tuesday afternoon brought yet another announcement of a future football series, although this one’s not nearly as far down the scheduling road as some others of late.

In a press release, Stanford announced that it has scheduled a future home-and-home series with San Diego State.  The latter subsequently confirmed the same in its own release as well.

The Aztecs and Cardinal will play the first game at Qualcomm Stadium on Sept. 16, 2017, with the return game scheduled for Sept. 1, 2018, at Stanford Stadium.

Stanford had originally been scheduled to play Virginia those seasons. UVa. announced in April of this year that it was replacing Stanford with Indiana due to what it described as “a scheduling conflict… between the Cardinal and [Cavaliers].”

Despite being separated by 500 miles or so, the Cardinal and Aztecs have met in football just four times, with the first coming in 1985 and the last in 1988 as the final game of a four-game series. Stanford holds a 3-1 edge in the all-time series.

SDSU noted in its release that the Aztecs will play at least one Pac-12 school every season through the 2022 campaign, with all of those comprised of home-and-home series. From the release:

After playing Oregon State each of the past two years (2013-14), San Diego State will begin a home-and-home series with California on Sept. 12 in Berkeley (also 2016 at Qualcomm Stadium). The Aztecs are also slated to play a series with Arizona State (2017 in Tempe, 2018 at Qualcomm Stadium), a home-and-home with Stanford (2017 at Qualcomm Stadium, 2018 in Stanford), a series with UCLA (2019 in Los Angeles, 2020 at Qualcomm Stadium) and finally a series with Arizona (2021 in Tucson, 2022 at Qualcomm Stadium).

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Minneapolis anounces bid to host 2020 CFP title game

New Vikings Stadium

Minnesota failed in its bid to host the College Football Playoff championship game following the 2016 season.  The state, though, is hoping for a little more success a couple of years down the road.

Tuesday afternoon, Governor Mark Dayton presided over a press conference in which his state, after speculation surfaced a couple of months ago, announced its intentions to bid for the rights to host the national championship game following the 2019 season.  Gopher head coach Jerry Kill will serve as the honorary co-chair of the national championship game bid committee.

The game would be played in the new home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, a domed structure that is currently under construction.  That stadium, set to open next year, is already scheduled to host the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 men’s basketball Final Four.

The first CFP championship game was held this past February at the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Tex.  The cities of Tampa, Fla., and Glendale, Ariz., will host the title games following the 2015 and 2016 seasons, respectively.

Bids for the title games following the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons are due by no later than May 27.  In addition to Minneapolis, other cities expected to place bids for at least one of those three games include Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville, South Florida, Minneapolis, San Antonio and Santa Clara.  Arlington, Houston, New Orleans, Orlando and Pasadena that could potentially make a formal bid, while the state of New Jersey has also expressed an interest.

Earlier this month, the city of Indianapolis announced it would not be seeking to place a formal bid on either of the three games.  The Rose Bowl in Pasadena made a similar announcement a week earlier.

(Photo credit: city of Minneapolis)

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Malik Rucker to transfer from Iowa in search of ‘a better fit’

Indiana v Iowa

And, as if ofttimes the case, “a better fit” can be translated into “a better shot at meaningful playing time.”

As transfer day here at CFT continues unabated, Malik Rucker confirmed to the Quad City Times that he has decided to transfer out of Kirk Ferentz‘s Iowa football program.  The move, the Times notes, comes after the defensive back was unable to crack the spring two-deep depth chart.

Saying he was seeking “a better fit” in his transfer, Rucker acknowledged that the decision wasn’t a rush to judgment on his part.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about it and I need to do what is the best thing for me,” Rucker told the paper. “It’s a tough thing to do, but I feel like it is something I have to do.”

The school subsequently confirmed in a press release that Rucker will continue his college career elsewhere.

“We have honored Malik’s request to be released from his scholarship and we wish him well in the future,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said in a brief statement.

Rucker played in six games as a second-year freshman in 2014.  After joining the Hawkeyes as a three-star member of their 2013 recruiting class, Rucker took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Prior to signing with Iowa, the Minnesota native held scholarship offers from, among others, Arizona State, Duke, Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas, North Carolina State, Texas Tech and Washington State. Arizona State, Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota and North Carolina State, along with Iowa, were all finalists for Rucker’s services the first time around; it’s unknown if any of the first six will be in the mix during this second recruiting process.

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Three Mizzou reserves decide to transfer from Tigers

Missouri v Mississippi Getty Images

The post-spring pruning of FBS rosters continues Tuesday, with Missouri the latest program to see players leaving in search of greener playing-time pasture.

Multiple media outlets confirmed that a trio of Tigers — safety Shaun Rupert (pictured), offensive lineman Jordan Williams and  defensive tackle Evan Winston — have decided to transfer out of Mizzou. A team spokesperson confirmed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that all three players leave the team in good standing.

Rupert is the most game experienced of the three, playing in 13 games last season after redshirting his true freshman season the year before. His action in 2014, though, came mainly on special teams.

Williams played in seven games the last two seasons, Winston four.

And, apropos of nothing winkwinknudgenudge, there’s this from Rivals.com‘s Mizzou website:

Unofficially, Missouri’s current scholarship count is 87, including the yet-to-be-enrolled 2015 signing class. Missouri has to get to 85 by the start of the season.

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Erstwhile Alabama RB Altee Tenpenny moves on to UNLV

Virginia Tech v Alabama Getty Images

Nearly four months after “parting ways” with Alabama, Altee Tenpenny has found himself a new college football home.

In a posting made to his Instagram account, Tenpenny revealed that he will continue his collegiate playing career at UNLV. The running back won’t be eligible to play in 2015 because of NCAA transfer rules, but will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.

Tenpenny was a four-star member of the Tide’s 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 8 back in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Arkansas; and the No. 53 player overall by Rivals.com. Despite that impressive recruiting profile, Tenpenny didn’t contribute more than a couple of cents during his brief stay in Tuscaloosa.

In two seasons with the Tide, Tenpenny totaled 218 yards on 48 carries in a backfield that’s loaded with more four- and five-star talent than any in the country.

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Ozzie Mann, one-time starting QB, transferring from Ball State

Ball State v Iowa

A player who began the 2014 season as Ball State’s starting quarterback will begin the 2015 season at a different football program entirely.

Monday, Ball State announced that Ozzie Mann has decided to transfer from the university and pursue other opportunities.  Where those other opportunities may be for the Indiana native is uncertain, although, if he ends up at another FBS program, he’ll be forced to sit out the 2015 season.

The fact that Mann lost out in this spring’s quarterback competition — Jack Miles, who took the starting job from Mann last year, took most of the first-team reps — seems to be the impetus for his decision.

“We want to thank Ozzie for his hard work and for representing our program in a first class manner,” head coach Pete Lembo said in a statement. “Depth chart decisions are never easy, but they need to be made. Ozzie has our full support and we will do whatever we can to help him with this next step in his career.”

Mann started six of the seven games in which he played last season, including the opener against Colgate.  For the season, he completed 116-of-197 passes for 1,281 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

A two-star member of the Cardinals’ 2012 recruiting class, Mann played in six games in 2013 after redshirting as a true freshman.

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