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The Fifth Quarter: Week 6 Rewind

Washington v Stanford 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

Still standing tall on The Farm… barely
Washington outgained Stanford 489-279, and not-so unexpectedly doubled up the Cardinal in first downs 30-14.  Keith Price threw for 350 yards, while Kevin Hogan managed just 100.  Thanks to Ty Montgomery — and a fortuitous replay booth reversal on fourth down with just over a minute left — the Cardinal still managed to escape in spite of the statistical disadvantage with a hard-fought 31-28 win.  Montgomery totaled 204 yards on four kick returns, including a 99-yarder for a touchdown on the opening kickoff.  The junior wide receiver also caught a touchdown pass, and totaled 290 all-purpose yards on the night.  It was far from pretty, but it was a quality win over an above-average and undefeated opponent that should do nothing but strengthen the Cardinal’s résumé in the eyes of the national media.  Speaking of which…

Buckeye beat goes on… barely
You can almost hear the voters licking their chops from here.  Yes, Ohio State pushed its nation’s-best winning streak to 18 games in a row with a victory over a very good and very much unbeaten Northwestern on the road.  No, the Buckeyes didn’t look their best, in large part due to the fact that they were playing a very good and very much undefeated Wildcats team on the road.  No, the game wasn’t decided until the final minute, again due in large part to the fact that they were playing a very good and very much undefeated Wildcats team on the road (noticing the theme?).  Voters will very likely devalue the win because it was “just” Northwestern; they shouldn’t.  Drop the Buckeyes if you must, but do it because you view schools behind them as the better team or teams, not because they eked by a squad that’s not your grandfather’s — hell, your father’s — Wildcats.  Doing that would be a slap in the face to what Pat Fitzgerald is building in Evanston.

Lache Seastrunk, Karl JosephBearly legal offense
I’ve been watching the game of college football for more than 30 years, and, no offense to Oregon, I’m fairly certain that I’ve never witnessed anything like what’s going on in Waco.  The devastating speed and laser-like precision in which Baylor’s offense leaves a trail of defensive carnage in its wake is awe-inspiring.  The Bears totaled 56 points and 617 yards in the first half alone against West Virginia; those totals were the fourth-most WVU has ever given up… for an entire game.  The Bears took their foot off the gas in the second half, totaling 66 points and 745 yards through three quarters and 73 points and a Big 12-record 872 yards at game’s end.  Baylor now has the three highest single-game yardage marks this season with the total last night and 781 twice (Oregon has Nos. 4 and 5, incidentally) and they’ve played just four games.  And it’s not like the Mountaineers are horrific on defense; in three games against Oklahoma, Maryland and Oklahoma State, WVU gave up an average of 24.6 points and 397 yards.  Much like with the Buckeyes, critics will sneer in the general direction of what the Bears are doing, waiting for Art Briles‘ crew to sputter against the likes of, well, Oklahoma mainly.  I, for one, am borderline giddy over the prospects of that Nov. 7 game in Norman.  You’d better believe BU is feeling the same, if for nothing more than the opportunity to silence the doubters as well as put themselves squarely in the conference driver’s seat.

Smokin’ Winston
The talent Jameis Winston possesses is unfair and should be illegal — hell, it may already be illegal in several states as it is.  His play — and the play — against Maryland further solidified the legend that continues to grow by the week: 23-of-32 for 393 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in just three quarters — plus one play in the fourth — of work.  For the season, his first as a starter, Winston is now completing 73.2 percent of his passes for 1,441 yards, 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions.  After just five games, Winston is already establishing himself as the future of the position for at least the next year and a half.  How he factors into this season’s Heisman discussion, however, should be determined in two weeks when the Seminoles travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson in a game that will be dripping with BCS implications. Speaking of which…

Boy oh Boyd
I understand that football is the ultimate team game, but the Tajh Boyd-Jameis Winston game-within-the-game will be utterly fascinating to watch play out.  In a couple of minutes of playing time less than Winston, Boyd lit up Syracuse for 455 yards and five touchdowns, although he did throw his first two interceptions of the season.  Aside from the BCS implications, the Boyd-Winston showdown could go a long way in determining a Heisman front-runner, or at the very least who deserves to be among the front-runners with less than two months until the stiff-armed trophy is awarded.

Gutsy UGA
When you consider the injuries Georgia had coming into this game… and the myriad injuries they incurred during it… and coming off a span of four games that saw them play three teams that were ranked or are currently ranked inside the Top Six, Saturday’s overtime win over Tennessee was as impressive as any they have had this season.  It was a gutsy performance in a game that, in all honesty, the Bulldogs likely deserved to lose.  They didn’t, though, and because of that UGA remains in the thick of the BCS title hunt.  Those injuries, however, could come back to haunt them and hurt them more down the road than a loss Saturday would’ve.

Live at The MettZach Mettenberger, Conner Neighbors
While there has been a plethora of outstanding quarterback play thus far this season, there might not be a more improved player at the position than Zach Mettenberger.  The senior came into the game sixth in the country in passing efficiency (he was 67th last season), and did nothing to hurt that standing.  In the 59-26 win over Mississippi State, Mettenberger completed 25-of-29 passes for 340 yards and a pair of touchdowns, although he did throw his second interception of the season.  While a lot of the credit for Mettenberger’s astronomical rise (rightly) goes to new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the player deserves as a sizable chunk of it as he put in yeoman’s work this offseason to get better.  Why Mettenberger’s barely on the periphery of the Heisman discussion is beyond me.  A winning team plus eye-popping stats normally equates to stiff-armed talk.  Maybe one of these weeks eyes will open to what’s going on down on the Bayou.

What’s this “running the football” you speak of?
For anyone who’s a fan of passing the football, Saturday’s Washington State-Cal game was like Christmas in early October.  With strippers and booze.  In the Cougars’ 44-22 win, the two teams combined for an astounding 1,027 yards in the air, with Wazzu’s Connor Halliday accounting for 521 and Cal’s Jared Goff 489 more.  Of the 179 plays that were run in the game, 129 of them were pass attempts.  On the carries that were few and far between, relatively speaking, Cal totaled 79 yards rushing while Wazzu mustered just 49.  And, yes, somewhere Woody Hayes is rolling over in his grave at what the game has become.  And punching an angel.  Probably.

Hope on The Plains
To say that the Gus Malzahn era at Auburn has gotten off to a rousing start would be a massive understatement.  With the 30-22 win over No. 24 (for now) Ole Miss, the Tigers improved to 4-1 on the season; in the last year under Gene Chizik, AU won just three games.  Malzahn’s charges have already won two SEC games after going 0-8 in the conference in 2012.  With Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama left on the schedule, any shot at a return to the SEC championship game would appear to be nothing more than a pipe dream.  However, with four very winnable games outside of that, the Tigers should slide comfortably into bowl eligibility, which would be a helluva just — and unexpected — reward for Malzahn and his players.

No quit in SMU
June Jones may be on the losing end of a battle for his job, but if the head coach ends up on the unemployment line it won’t be because his players gave up on him.  SMU came back from not one but two 21-point deficits in their game against Rutgers to force overtime… and another… and another before finally succumbing to the Scarlet Knights 55-52 in three extra sessions.  The wild affair included an absolutely unbelievable two-point conversion with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter to send the contest into its first overtime.

LOSERS

Not-so-merryland
Heading into an unexpected matchup of unbeatens, Maryland had lost all 11 games it had played in Tallahassee and was 2-21 all-time against Florida State, with the last win coming in October of 2006.  Suffice to say, that history doesn’t look any better for the Terps exiting Week 6.  The 63 points the Terps allowed to the Seminoles were the most since they coughed up 70 to Penn State way back in 1993.  The loss was the most lopsided by a ranked team since No. 11 Texas was taken to a 66-3 woodshed by UCLA in 1997.  Maryland’s defense entered the game having allowed four touchdowns in four games; FSU scored touchdowns on eight consecutive possessions at one point and nine total.  After winning just six games total the first two seasons of the Randy Edsall era, the Terps certainly appear to be on the right track.  After today’s derailment, however, they undoubtedly have a long way to go ahead of its move to the Big Ten in 2014.

Still Mullen change
I hate beating a deceased equine (not really), but the situation in Starkvegas bears watching.  In four-plus seasons at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen is 18-4 in non-conference games.  Counting the 33-point beatdown at the hands of LSU Saturday, Mullen is now 13-21 in SEC play, including an 0-2 mark this season.  Hey, if MSU officials are fine with 7-9 wins every season and Music City/Gator Bowl berths, have at it.  If settling for mediocrity is not what they want for their football program, they need to think long and hard about whether Mullen is the coach that can push the Bulldogs to the level of the Alabama’s and Georgia’s and LSU’s of the SEC.

Charlie WeisSorry Charlie… literally
After taking a surprising 10-0 lead on Texas Tech, Kansas allowed the Red Raiders to come back and tie the game at 10-apiece.  Facing a fourth and 13 from his own 16-yard line, Charlie Weis did what any coach with a clear head and sound mind would do in a tie game in the middle of the second quarter: he called for a fake punt.  Of course, the try came up shy as they turned the ball back over to the Red Raiders, which converted the play-calling gaffe into a touchdown as part of a 44-point run in their 54-16 romp.  If there were ever a sequence that sums up Weis’ tenure as a college coach — head, coordinator and otherwise — that was it. Just embarrassing.

Southern aMiss
Or “Southern Missery,” you pick the pun.  Anyway, we now come to the gut-punch part of the program.  Southern Miss entered its home game against winless FIU sporting a nation’s worst 16-game losing streak.  On the final play of the game, a 44-yard field goal attempt that would’ve won it for the Golden Eagles was no good, extending Southern Miss’ misery to 17 consecutive games.  Todd Monken is a good football coach, and it’s hard to see the university doing a one-and-done at the head-coaching position in back-to-back years, but it has to be awfully tempting for the administration to blow it up yet again.  Of course, that would be the absolute worst tack to take, but you never know in this win-now-or-else era.

Grounded Air Force
Apparently, a sizable chunk of the Air Force football program was furloughed even prior to the official government shutdown implemented earlier this week.  How else can you explain what’s happened to the Falcons?  In the first four seasons under Troy Calhoun, Air Force bookended a pair of eight-win seasons with nine-win years.  In 2011 and 2012, however, the Falcons combined to win just 13 games, dovetailing into the tailspin that the 2013 season has become: with the 28-10 loss to Navy, Air Force is now 1-5 on the season, its worst start since a 1-5 start in 1993.  The Falcons’ only win came against FCS-level Colgate, and they’ve lost their five FBS games by a combined total of 108 points.  Calhoun is so well-respected by officials at the academy in Colorado Springs that it’s doubtful his job is in jeopardy.  However, the program had better begin turning itself around in a hurry as, if it doesn’t, you might not keep Calhoun off the hot seat in 2014.

Hoosier non-hysteria
You want to know how I know the college basketball season is fast approaching?  I saw this picture of Indiana’s home “crowd” taken 10 minutes or so before the start of the game against Penn State:

Indiana Fans

Yes, I understand that the weather was not exactly optimal.  However, you live in the Midwest; the weather in that area of the country is rarely ever optimal, especially in October and beyond.  Just a bad look, Hoosiers.  A bad, bad look, especially in light of the fact that the Hoosiers went out and scored its first-ever win over the Nittany Lions a couple of hours later.

Picky beater
If there were ever an opportunity to point to an individual player in a team game and say he singlehandedly lost the contest, it would’ve been Thursday night’s UCLA-Utah matchup.  In the Utes’ loss, quarterback Travis Wilson threw a staggering total of six interceptions.  As if that weren’t bad enough, the Bruins turned those six picks into 24 of their 34 points, which included, appropriately enough, a pick-six.  Five of Wilson’s interceptions came in a second half that saw the Utes tied with the Bruins early in the fourth quarter. “Minus-five in the turnover margin pretty much says it all when you play a team the caliber of UCLA. You turn it over six times and gain one, you’re not going to win,” head coach Kyle Whittingham succinctly stated after the loss.

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

– No. 1 Alabama 45, Georgia State 3: Yes, the Tide won by 42, but they were favored by 54.5 or so.  And they allowed a newly-minted FBS program to not only cross midfield but score.  So there.

– No. 11 Oklahoma 20, TCU 17: The Horned Frogs have one of the toughest defenses in the Big 12, and it showed as the Sooners mustered a season-low 355 yards of offense.  A 76-yard touchdown run by Brennan Clay late in the fourth quarter, however, proved to be almost all of the offense needed.

– No. 12 UCLA 34, Utah 27: As noted above, nothing good happens when you commit six turnovers… unless you’re the beneficiaries of said turnovers as the Bruins were.

Kentucky v South Carolina– No. 13 South Carolina 35, Kentucky 28: The Gamecocks were cruising along with a 27-7 lead in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats exploded for 21 points to make the game closer than it should’ve been.  I’ll just chalk this one up to The Ol’ Ball Coach being bored in the fourth quarter or something.

– No. 14 Miami 45, Georgia Tech 30: This is one of those games where the final score doesn’t tell the whole story as the Yellow Jackets had pulled to within one at 24-23 with 10:38 to go in the game.  The Hurricanes, however, scored the next 21 points in a six-minute stretch to ice the game and remain unbeaten.

– No. 21 Oklahoma State 33, Kansas State 29: The Cowboys needed a touchdown with just over for four minutes remaining, and a field goal with just over two minutes left, to finally overcome four deficits in a back-and-forth affair and avoid losing its second straight game.

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 — The two-time defending BCS champs scrimmaged this weekend.  The outcome was expected.  Not much to see or say here, other than thank goodness that part of the Tide’s schedule has come to an end… ah crap; Chattanooga the week before the Iron Bowl. Oh well, at least a game against LSU is in the offing. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: at Kentucky

2. Oregon — Another week, another 55-plus points on the scoreboard.  This coming weekend, though, will be where we begin to learn exactly where the Ducks stand nationally as three of their next four games are against teams currently ranked in the Top 15, including a Nov. 7 trip to The Farm. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: at No. 15 Washington

Tajh Boyd,3. Clemson — After a three-point win over then-No. 5 Georgia, the Tigers have won their last four by an average of 33.7 points.  Clemson has its own date with BCS destiny in two weeks, but must avoid, well, ya know this weekend. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: vs. Boston College

4. Ohio State — The coaches and media may downgrade the Buckeyes’ win over Northwestern, but I won’t.  That was a quality W in my book, especially coming off a solid win over Wisconsin the week before. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: vs. Iowa

5. Stanford — The big win over No. 15 Washington is part of five-week stretch that includes home games against No. 12 UCLA and No. 2 Oregon, as well as a road trip to Corvallis against 4-1 Oregon State.  If The Cardinal comes through that stretch unscathed, they will vault up the rankings. (Last week: No. 5)
Next up: at Utah

HE SAID IT
“Well first of all, I want to thank our great fan base. Electric atmosphere, they definitely created a home field advantage. That’s why they’re the best in the country. I want to thank our student body. Over 12,000 students came out. I think what we learned is we need that environment. We’re going to need that. I need to challenge everyone. I need you to come to the South Carolina game. We’re on winter break and our team needs it.” — Tennessee’s Butch Jones.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“[Guys] are doing their own crap.” — Steve Spurrier, a bit perturbed at how his freelancing South Carolina defense performed in the win over Kentucky.

SAY WHAT?
In Week Six of the 2013 season, three teams fell from the ranks of the unbeaten, and all three losses came against fellow unbeatens: Maryland (to Florida State), Northwestern (to Ohio State) and Washington (to Stanford).  There are now 17 teams at the FBS level that have yet to lose a game.  The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 each have three undefeated teams apiece, while the AAC, Big Ten and SEC have two each.  The other two unbeatens come from the MAC (Northern Illinois) and MWC (Fresno State).

On the flip side, both FIU and USF picked up their first wins of the year, dropping the total of winless teams from 11 to nine.  UConn (0-4) and Temple (0-5) are the only winless teams from an automatic qualifying conference, and both of those are from the AAC.

TRUE STORY
The last 12 games Wisconsin has lost, going back more than three years, have been by a combined total of 53 points, none by more than seven points.  Included in that total are a pair of two-point losses and four more by a field goal.  A full quarter of those 12 losses came in overtime.  The last loss by more than a touchdown?  A 34-21 defeat at the hands of Michigan State Oct. 2, 2010, in East Lansing.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– With a 24-yard pass in the second quarter, Georgia’s Aaron Murray became the SEC’s all-time leader in career passing yards with 11,548.  He surpassed the previous record of 11,528 set by former Bulldog David Greene.

Marcus Mariota totaled 398 yards of offense (355 passing, 43 rushing) and seven touchdowns (five passing, two rushing) in Oregon’s 57-16 win over Colorado.  Mariota is a big reason why the Ducks have scored at least 55 points in all five games this season.

Fresno State v Idaho– Fresno State’s Derek Carr passed for 390 yards and five touchdowns… in the first half.  The Bulldogs as a team put up 557 yards of total offense in jumping out to a 47-0 halftime lead.  Carr finished with 419 yards and the same five touchdowns in the 61-14 win over Idaho.

Garrett Gilbert accounted for five touchdowns passing and another two on the ground in SMU’s triple-overtime loss to Rutgers.

– In the 38-24 win over Kent State, and on his birthday, Northern Illinois running back Cameron Stingily ran 37 times for 269 yards.

Logan Thomas threw for 293 yards in Virginia Tech’s 10-point win over North Carolina; it was the quarterback’s highest total in a winning effort since he threw for 310 yards in an Oct. 8, 2011, game against Miami.  He also tied a career-high with three touchdown passes, which he also did twice in 2011.

Ameer Abdullah ran for a career-high 225 yards on just 20 carries in Nebraska’s easy 39-19 romp over Illinois.

– In 26 minutes of play in Alabama’s scrimmage against Georgia State, AJ McCarron tied a career-high with four first-half touchdown passes.  He also completed 12 straight passes at one point, which is tied for the third-longest such streak in school history.  All told, Tide quarterbacks completed passes to a whopping 15 different players.

– In Iowa State’s controversial loss to Texas, wide receiver Quenton Bundrage caught five passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.  Bundrage’s score was a 97-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter.  And, before you ask, yes, I included this note just so I could type the name “Bundrage” a couple of times.

– Ohio State has now won 29 of its last 30 games against Northwestern, with the Wildcats’ last win coming in 2004.  It’s also been 54 years since NU has beaten a Top-Five team (Iowa, 1959), a streak of 37 straight losses.

– The state of Florida was 7-0 in FBS play Saturday, with FIU and USF picking up its first wins of the season.  The prefect record for the Sunshine State squads is the first time that’s ever happened on the same weekend.

– Thanks to a pair of interceptions each by Clemson and Oregon, New Mexico is the only team at the FBS level that has not thrown a pick this season.

– Colorado (four games) and Southern Miss (five) are the only two teams at the FBS level that has not scored a rushing touchdown this season.

– West Virginia wide receivers caught one pass in a loss a couple of weeks ago; Syracuse went one better as its receivers had zero catches in the blowout loss to Clemson.

– Temple is the only FBS team that has not intercepted a pass this season.

Butch Jones– With the heartbreaking, punch-in-the-gut loss to Georgia, the Vols have now lost 19 straight games against teams that were ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.  Their last win against a Top-25 team came Oct. 31, 2009, against No. 22 South Carolina.

– It’s been 1,065 days since Kansas’ last Big 12 win (Nov. 6, 2010 vs. Colorado) and 1,456 days since the Jayhawks’ last conference win over a team still in the league (Oct. 10, 2009 against Iowa State).

– Speaking of conference losing streaks, Illinois’ blowout loss at the hands of Nebraska was the Illini’s 15th straight in Big Ten play.  Their last league victory came against Indiana Oct. 8, 2011.

– TCU was unable to earn a first down until there was 8:35 left in the third quarter of its loss to Oklahoma.

– Navy’s win over Air Force bodes well for the Midshipmen as the last 13 winners of the Navy-Air Force games has gone on to claim the Commander-In-Chief Trophy.

– Boston College’s eight penalties through four game was the lowest total in the country entering Week 6.  In the 48-27 win over Army, the Eagles were flagged six times.

– Miami of Ohio came into their game with Central Michigan with just five third-down conversions in four games; in their 21-9 loss, they converted 5-of-15.

– Wake Forest and North Carolina played for the 104th straight year Saturday, the fourth-longest such streak in college football.

– In their overtime game Friday night, Nevada and San Diego State combined for 95 points, 1,111 yards and 55 first downs.  The Aztecs were able to escape with a 51-44 win thanks to a 13-yard touchdown pass from Quinn Kaehler in the first overtime.

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Breaking Bad: Brady Hoke likes Michigan’s chemistry

Brady Hoke

Michigan has not been bad since Brady Hoke took over as head coach, but the Wolverines have been traveling on a downward trend as far as wins are concerned. Will the 2014 season see things turn around in Ann Arbor? Hoke seems to like his chances, suggesting the chemistry cooking this spring was something he has not seen in years.

“This team has a chemistry that I think we haven’t had in a while,” Hoke said Wednesday during an interview on SiriusXM Radio, according to MLive.com. “When you look at the different groups and the leadership, we have really a team that’s back-loaded on the freshman and sophomore class. But we’ve got some really good guys in that senior class. Jake Ryan and Frank Clark. Devin Gardner. Desmond Morgan. We’ve got some really good leadership there.”

This is a pretty important year for Hoke. As MLive.com makes note of and as I have said before, this is finally Hoke’s team. Every player who signed with Michigan did so knowing Hoke would be the head coach of the Wolverines. Now it is time to show Hoke can develop that talent — Michigan has signed top three classes in the Big Ten according to Rivals.com in three of the last four years — he has brought in and make Michigan a contender in the Big Ten. Up until now he has fallen short of the high bar he set in his debut season when he took what was left from the Rich Rodriguez all the way to a Sugar Bowl victory. Since then, the Wolverines have stumbled to a mediocre 7-6 season capped with a loss in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

“We’re better mentally, and that’s a big part of it,” Hoke said earlier this week, according to MLive.com. “We’re not exactly where we want to be yet, but I like the way our team has reacted (to last season) and how we’ve gone about our business.”

If Hoke is right, Michigan could be in the winning business. It’s basic chemistry, yo.

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Northwestern alums say players being pushed to vote against union

Kain Colter

A meeting of former Northwestern football players Wednesday night brought attention to concerns that current players were being pressured to vote no on an upcoming vote to determine if Northwestern football players will form a union. Some Northwestern alums suggested current players on the football team have been receiving phone calls from alumni pushing them to vote no on the union next week.

The biggest problem right now is a state of confusion over the impact of players at Northwestern forming a union could potentially mean. The NCAA and the university will lead you to think it could be the beginning of the dismantling of many other sports at the division one level, but that could just be an extreme worst-case scenario. The biggest push right now by this players union movement is to have a seat at the table with Northwestern leaders and have their voices heard.

“We want the facts to be the facts,” said Kevin Brown, a former Northwestern football player from the 1980s. Brown did not take stance for or against the union vote, at least not in front of the media attending the meeting Wednesday night, but his message seemed pretty clear. Get out as much information as possible so the players can make an informed decision when they cast their ballot.

Some alumni believe the players should voice their concerns directly to the head coach, Pat Fitzgerald.

“They could have taken these issues straight to Coach Fitz and Northwestern,” former Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa said. “It’s frustrating to see your coach and your school come under fire like this.”

Fitzgerald has been on record speaking against the union idea and he has said he wants his players to think long and hard before voting on unionization. If it were up to Fitzgerald, Northwestern players would vote no. There is no indication Fitzgerald is applying pressure on players to vote no, but he will not shy away from voicing his concerns for the best interest of his players.

“We want to make sure that they have all the information, so that’s a process we’re starting to work through right now,” Fitzgerald said earlier this month. “I’m honored to have that opportunity with our guys and we’ll work through it day by day.”

A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board empowered players to hold such a vote, recognizing the football players as employees of Northwestern University. The players are set to vote on forming a union next week, although there are mixed emotions when it comes to whether or not it is a good idea. Now former quarterback Kain Colter has become the face of the union movement at Northwestern but earlier this month it was his replacement under center, Trevor Siemian who voiced his concerns about the formation of a union. Northwestern is prepared to contest the ruling all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary, which has been expected from the start.

When it comes time to vote on forming a union, will there be enough votes to take the next step?

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Report: Sooners’ leading tackler facing sexual assault accusations

.J. Yeldon, Frank Shannon AP

While no charges have been filed as of yet, an Oklahoma football player is the target of some very serious accusations, the Daily Oklahoman is reporting.

According to the paper, linebacker Frank Shannon has been accused of sexually assaulting a female student at his off-campus apartment Jan. 20.  The accusation comes in the form of a Title IX sexual misconduct allegation report obtained from the university.

From the paper, relating to that report:

…the woman alleges that after a party, she intended to walk home. Shannon offered her a ride, but said he first needed to drop off friends near his apartment.

Shannon allegedly took the woman into his bedroom. According to the complaint, he came up behind her, pulled down her pants and attempted to have sex with her.

The complainant said Shannon became frustrated when she wouldn’t cooperate.

Shannon allegedly asked if she was menstruating, and when she said yes, he went to the bathroom. At that time, she left and met a friend in the parking lot, whom the woman had texted to come get her. The friend called the police.

For those unaware, Title IX is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. Under Title IX, the U.S. Department of Education website states, “discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment or sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion.” All incidents of alleged sexual misconduct involving students must be reported when the university becomes aware of such an allegation.

The Norman Police Department is currently investigating the accusations, but, again, no charges have been filed. It should be noted, however, that the matter is not completely out of the university’s hands as, according to Title IX guidelines, “[a] criminal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment or sexual violence does not relieve the school of its duty under Title IX to resolve complaints promptly and equitably.”

As a redshirt sophomore in 2013, Shannon started all 13 games and led the Sooners in tackles with 92. He neither practiced last Thursday nor played in Saturday’s spring game due to what head coach Bob Stoops described as personal reasons.

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Three Texas A&M Aggies were arrested last week

Howard Matthews, Charles Ross

It has been a whole ten days since the last time we wrote about a Texas A&M player being arrested, so let’s do some catching up. Three Texas A&M players – defensive back Howard Matthews, wide receiver Edward Pope and defensive lineman Gavin Stansbury — were arrested last Thursday according to multiple reports citing police records. All three were suspended by the university from team activities, although Stansbury has since returned.

“We are continuing to gather information,” a Texas A&M statement reads. “Gavin Stansbury was initially suspended from all athletic activities, but has since been reinstated to the team. Howard Matthews and Ed Pope were not suspended and are still members of the football team.”

Matthews was arrested and charged for speeding and failure to provide a driver’s licence after being pulled over for an expired registration. Pope and Stansbury were in the car at the time. Matthews and Pope both face a charge for failure to appear, although Pope’s charge stemmed from an earlier failure to comply on an unrelated incident. Warrants for all three players were discovered once the police officer pulling the car over ran the licenses of the players.

Stansbury is facing a misdemeanor charge for assault after being accused of pouring a can of beer on a person and then struck the person with a closed fist at Rice University.

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Is Chad Kelly’s apology to Clemson too little, too late?

South Carolina State v Clemson Getty Images

Former Clemson quarterback Chad Kelly shared his apology to his coaches, teammates and family after being dismissed by the program earlier this week. The nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly said he let his family down.

”I let down not only my coaches, and teammates, but also Clemson University and all of our fans,” Kelly said. ”Most importantly, I’ve let down myself and my family.”

Kelly was booted from the team following an apparent meltdown during the spring game last weekend, but it was a pattern of poor behavior that ultimately cost him his spot on the Clemson roster. Head coach Dabo Swinney stated a pattern of behavior as the reasoning behind the roster cut after it was reported Kelly was arguing with coaches over play calling in the spring game.

”He has had a pattern of behavior that is not consistent with the values of our program,” Swinney said earlier this week. ”I hope he will mature and grow from this and become the man and player I know he can be. I wish him nothing but the best in the future academically and athletically.”

Kelly understands and agrees with that thought as well.

”I let my emotions get the best of me, culminating in this unfortunate situation with coach Swinney and the Clemson Tigers,” Kelly said. ”What’s most important now is that I use this experience to grow as a student, as an athlete and most importantly, as a man.”

The apology may be too little, too late as far as his position with Clemson is concerned. Clemson named Cole Stoudt as the starting quarterback to replace Tajh Boyd this upcoming season soon after the dismissal of Kelly.

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James Madison will pass on Sun Belt and FBS move

Stony Brook James Madison Football

With a number of programs making the move from the FCS to the FBS in recent years, James Madison will hold firm with their place in the Colonial Athletic Association at the FCS level.

“Consistent with these values and principles and the ongoing issue of conference alignment, JMU will not pursue or accept an invitation from a conference that does not meet our criteria,” James Madison president Jonthan Alger said in a statement released on the school’s athletics website this week. “If we do receive an offer consistent with our established values, we are prepared to review it and make a recommendation to the Board of Visitors. This process is ongoing and will require continued support on the part of the university, students, faculty, staff, coaches, alumni, and fans.”

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson told reporters the powerhouse FCS program was under consideration for an invite to join the conference, which will add Appalachian State and Georgia Southern this season.

“We never offered an invitation,“ Benson said, but “[t]hey were under consideration.”

If James Madison was to move up, Conference USA would look to be the most attractive and realistic option for the Dukes. Conference USA has added Old Dominion, another school from Virginia, and is adding Charlotte in football in 2015. There is no indication Conference USA is looking to add any other future members after Charlotte, which makes for a rough spot for James Madison and any FBS plans. As Massachusetts can prove, making the move for the sake of making the move can sometimes backfire on a school. If Conference USA is not coming to James Madison, the best situation for the Dukes may be to sit still, because it is not likely the ACC or SEC will come calling anytime soon.

The Sun Belt has been exploring expansion possibilities for a while now. James Madison may have been removed from the conversation, but that will not stop the conference from looking at all possibilities for future consideration. Liberty appears to be one of the consistent names in the mix to be the next FCS school to make the move up to the FBS ranks, and the Sun Belt Conference would appear to be a good fit with the latest additions to the conference (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State). The Sun Belt will have 12 football members including the additions of Idaho and New Mexico this season, so the football membership is even without any further expansions.

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NCAA approves new roughing the passer penalty for hits below knees

Tennessee v Florida Getty Images

Hitting a quarterback below the knees in passing situations will result in a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer according to a new rule approved by the NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Panel. The new rule will go into effect this fall around the country.

One of the first questions that may come to mind is just what qualifies as a passing situation in a game where passing has become more and more frequent? Will every pass play by considered a passing situation, or just plays that come on third and long or perhaps even second and long? Fortunately the NCAA laid out the basics for when this penalty will come into play.

According to the NCAA, “the rule specifically covers a scenario in which a quarterback is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground.” When in this situation, no defensive player rushing unabated can hit the quarterback at the knees or below the knees. In addition, a defensive player may not roll or lunge and forcibly hit the quarterback in the knee or below. So a defender already on the ground may not roll into the quarterback.

There are exceptions to the rule though. A quarterback who takes off to run, no matter where located on the field, is no longer considered in a passing situation so he would be vulnerable. If a defender is already engaging in wrapping up the quarterback for a tackle, the passing situation is considered over. Any defender blocked into a passer is also in the clear as far as a penalty is concerned, but this means officials will have to keep a close eye on the entire play to determine if a player hitting below the knee was pushed into the passer or if the dive or lunge was initiated by the defender.

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Florida State expresses disappointment in New York Times story

Florida State Spring Game Getty Images

Florida State University issued a statement in response to a story published by the New York Times on Wednesday. The university expressed disappointment in the story that profiles the timeline of the response taken by the university and Tallahassee police in an investigation for an alleged sexual assault committed by quarterback Jameis Winston.

According to the statement released by Florida State, many of the responses provided during the process of writing the story were not included in the final copy that was released. Among the many points made by the university in an outline of issues with the story include is a statement that Florida State does not tolerate sexual assault, state and federal privacy laws restrict what the university can do on certain student matters, and the university must balance the duty to investigate with the general welfare of the alleged victim. By leaving out information Florida State feels were justified to include in telling what it believes to be the full story, the New York Times has done a disservice to its readers and the Florida State community, the statement says.

“Like all other colleges and universities, FSU is faced with a balancing act when following the “Dear Colleague” letter,” the statement by Florida State opens.

“Given the inherent tension within the “Dear Colleague” letter, FSU seeks to empower victims by giving great weight to their wishes when it comes to counseling, academic accommodations and supporting them through criminal or university proceedings,” the statement continues. “In a great number of cases, the victims make it quite clear that they don’t want to file a police report or pursue a Code of Conduct process.”

You can read the full statement released by Florida State as well as the full outline of points the university feels were missing from the New York Times story.

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‘Cuse confirms Terrel Hunt will remain QB starter

Terrel Hunt AP

Not that there was much mystery involved to begin with, but the question marks surrounding the quarterback position at Syracuse have been answered.

As expected, offensive coordinator George McDonald has confirmed to ESPN.com that Terrell Hunt will remain the Orange’s man under center.  While Hunt ended last season in that position, the competition was open once again this spring.

McDonald said Hunt’s growth throughout the spring locked down the job once again for the player.

“He’s had a really good spring,” McDonald said of the incumbent. “He’s doing a lot of things he wasn’t able to do last spring. For him, the game that made him a lot more comfortable was the Minnesota game. He’s really built off that game. He’s playing at a different level this spring.”

Hunt ultimately started the final 10 games of the 2013 season after Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, who started the first three, was benched for poor performance.  In addition to throwing for over 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns, Hunt was also second on the team with 500 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the ground.

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LSU, ‘Cuse officially set future home-and-home

1965 Sugar Bowl

After a month or more of speculation, the long wait for official word on a future series between programs from the ACC and SEC is finally, thankfully over.

Syracuse confirmed via a release Wednesday that it will play a future home-and-home series against LSU.  The Orange will host the Tigers Sept. 26, 2015, in the Carrier Dome, while ‘Cuse gets the “pleasure” of traveling to Death Valley to face the Bayou Bengals Sept. 9, 2017.

“We are thrilled to enter into this home-and-home agreement with a premiere program like LSU. Student-athletes come to Syracuse to play on the biggest stage possible, and this gives our coaches and young men the chance to battle one of the standard-bearers of the SEC on our home turf,” said athletic director Dr. Daryl Gross in a statement. “It is a complicated process to arrange games of this magnitude, and I couldn’t be happier for our fans and for all who will be involved in this upcoming series.”

The two football programs have never met during the regular season, but have squared off twice in the postseason. The first meeting came in the 1965 Sugar Bowl (LSU, 13-10) and the second and last came in the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl (Syracuse, 23-10).

And, while I’m here, Syracuse introduced some new uniforms this afternoon as well.  So, instead of wasting any additional space on uniform news, here they are. Enjoy:

Syracuse Unis

(Program photo credit: Allstate Sugar Bowl)

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SMU’s two-way threat, Kevin Pope, granted medical waiver

Central Florida v SMU

After going both ways for the latter portion of the 2013 season, Kevin Pope will get the opportunity for a repeat in 2014.

SMU announced in a press release that the running back/linebacker “has been granted a medical hardship waiver by the American Athletic Conference and will return to the field in 2014.”  Pope played in just one game in 2010 before an injury that originated in high school not only sidelined him for the remainder of that season but for all of 2011 as well.

That one game Pope played in 2010 came as a running back.  He was shifted to linebacker and played in 24 games at the position the past two seasons, including 11 starts in 2013.  The final two games of last season, however, Pope saw action as both a linebacker and running back, carrying the ball 11 times for 89 yards.  He also caught five passes for 61 yards out of the backfield.

Exiting spring practice this year, Pope was listed as the Mustangs’ No. 1 running back.

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Report: four-star 2013 DB bolts Buckeyes

Jayme Thompson

Kentucky was on the wrong end of a transfer earlier today, but the Wildcats could become the beneficiaries of another school’s loss at some point in the not-too-distant future.

While the school has yet to officially announce the move, defensive back Jayme Thompson is expected to transfer out of the Buckeyes football program.  No reason for the impending departure was given.

According to Rivals.com, Thompson will visit the UK spring game, which will be played Sat., April 26.  In addition to the Wildcats, Louisville, Penn State, Rutgers and West Virginia — Thompson verbally committed to WVU before flipping to OSU — are reportedly potential destinations as well.

The Toledo, OH, high schooler was a four-star member of OSU’s 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 29 safety in the country and the No. 11 player at any position in the state of Ohio.  He missed all of the 2013 season due to a broken ankle, but had participated in spring practice this year.

(Photo credit: Ohio State athletics)

UPDATED 2:46 p.m. ET: Tidying up a couple of loose ends, Ohio State has confirmed that Thompson has been granted a released from his scholarship.  Additionally, in a statement to Rivals.com, Thompson’s father acknowledged his son’s departure.

“We would like to thank The Ohio State University for the opportunities they have given my son, Jayme, and our family,” the statement from Deon Thompson began. “Jayme is leaving the program in good academic standing, and we look forward to the next chapter of Jayme’s education and football playing career.”

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Tweet leaves TCU as latest to see QB transfer

TCU Football Media Day head shots

Quarterbacks across the country are taking cabin fever to the extreme and fleeing their football homes in relatively large numbers this Wednesday afternoon.

The latest to be hit by attrition at the position is apparently TCU, with Tyler Matthews seeming to confirm via a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account that he has decided to pack up leave the Horned Frogs football program.  It should be noted, though, that the school has not yet addressed, at least publicly, Matthews’ status for the upcoming season and beyond.

It’s unknown why Matthews would decide to leave the program as the sophomore was engaged in a competitive spring battle with last year’s part-time starter, Trevone Boykin, for the starting job.

Despite Boykin’s struggles — when he was the starter — last season that led to the competition this spring, Matthews rarely saw the field in 2013 as a redshirt freshman and did not attempt a pass.  Prior to redshirting as a true freshman in 2012, Matthews was a four-star member of that year’s class and was the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the country.  He was the No. 1 prospect at any position in the state of Kansas that year, and heading back to his home state is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

Interestingly, TCU is already a rumored landing spot for Matt Joeckel, who it was announced earlier today was transferring from Texas A&M.

(Tip O’ the Cap: frogsowar.com)

(Photo credit: TCU athletics)

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Losing USC QB battle won’t lead to Max Browne transfer

Max Browne AP

(Writer’s note: For now at least.)

Late last night, Steve Sarkisian did what’s long been expected and officially tapped the incumbent, Cody Kessler, as USC’s starting quarterback.

Because his prime competition for the job, Max Browne was a high-profile recruit — he was Rivals.com’s No. 1 quarterback in the Class of 2013 — who could be in for a second consecutive season of inactivity, the “T” word came front and center when it came to Browne’s future with the Trojans.  According to the player, however, that’s not an option for him — ever.

I’m staying put,” Browne said when asked about a potential transfer. “I’m here for good.”

Sarkisian attempted to soften the sting of losing the battle, telling the media “I think Max is going to be a star.”

That’s all well and good in the here and now, but the future doesn’t look very promising for Browne at USC, at least as far as seeing the playing field goes.  Including 2014, Kessler still has two years of eligibility remaining.  As a redshirt sophomore last season and tasked with the responsibility of replacing longtime starter Matt Barkley, Kessler performed exceptionally well as he completed just over 65 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.

Another factor that could lead to an about-face from Browne?  Ricky Town, the top quarterback in the Class of 2014, verbally committed to play for the Trojans this past January and is expected to be a part of USC’s recruiting class next year.

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Another SEC QB transfer as Jalen Whitlow leaves Kentucky

Jalen Whitlow AP

‘Tis the season for quarterbacks fleeing SEC football programs en masse, apparently.

Shortly after Texas A&M confirmed that Matt Joeckel, a potential starter in 2014, was leaving the Aggies, Kentucky announced that Jalen Whitlow, a bonafide starter in 2013, has decided to do the same when it comes to the Wildcats.  Whitlow started 15 games the past two seasons, including eight in 2013, and entered spring practice, at least as far as the media and the fans were concerned, as UK’s unquestioned starter under center.

However, at a press conference shortly after the surprising announcement of Whitlow’s impending departure, head coach Mark Stoops confirmed that the decision was made after the player was talked to about changing positions.  Specifically, the coaching staff asked Whitlow to move to wide receiver.  The quarterback declined, instead opting to move on elsewhere for his remaining two seasons of eligibility.

We respect Jalen and his decision as we want the best for him,” Stoops said in a statement released prior to his talk with the media. “I thank Jalen for his contributions to the team. I want everyone to understand how hard he has worked and the effort he has given since our staff has been here.”

The past two seasons, Whitlow has thrown for 1,831 yards and 10 touchdowns.  He also contributed nine touchdowns on the ground.

Coming out of high school in Prattville, Ala., Whitlow was rated as a three-star recruit and listed as an “athlete” by Rivals.com.

I appreciate the University of Kentucky and what the coaching staff and administration have done for me,” the player said in his statement. “I also thank the community and the fan support I have received here. I wish the coaches and my teammates the best of luck.”

With Whitlow no longer a part of the equation, UK’s group at the position will include the veteran but oft-injured Maxwell Smith; Patrick Towles and Drew Barker, four-star members of UK’s 2012 and 2014 recruiting classes, respectively; and redshirt freshman Reece Phillips.

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