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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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Bear Bryant Award releases 20-coach watch list

AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION GUS MALZAHN

In this latest watch list, it’s all about the Big 12 and SEC, with a healthy sprinkling of the Pac-12 for good measure.

The Bear Bryant Award announced Friday a watch list for its annual Coach of the Year that consists of 20 coaches from seven of the 10 FBS conferences.  It’s mainly, though, a list consisting of coaches from the leagues mentioned in the lede.

The Big 12 and SEC lead all conferences with five coaches apiece, while the Pac-12 is right behind with four.  The Big Ten, with two, is the only other conference with more than one, with the AAC, ACC and Conference USA hitting that singular number.

Six of the coaches on this year’s initial watch list were on last year’s as well: Baylor’s Art Briles, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Oregon’s Mark Helfrich, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops.  Malzahn, incidentally, won last year’s award.

As for this year’s contenders?  If it were up to me, and at the moment, I’d split the award right down the middle and hand one piece to East Carolina’s Ruffin McNeill and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.

That said, below are the 20 members of the Bear Bryant Award watch list.  Bitch, whine and/or moan about who’s on it/not on it below that:

  • Art Briles, Baylor
  • Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
  • Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
  • Huge Freeze, Ole Miss
  • Todd Graham, Arizona State
  • Mark Helfrich, Oregon
  • Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
  • Doc Holliday, Marshall
  • Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
  • Gus Malzahn, Auburn
  • Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina
  • Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
  • Gary Patterson, TCU
  • Bo Pelini, Nebraska
  • Mark Richt, Georgia
  • Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
  • Nick Saban, Alabama
  • Bill Snyder, Kansas State
  • Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
  • Kyle Whittingham, Utah

 

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SMU AD: ‘no discussion of compensation with potential candidates’

Kliff Kingsbury, Mack Brown

You have to love the twists and turns of a coaching search with a high-profile name connected to it.

In a report taking a look at potential candidates to become the permanent successor to June Jones as head coach that we mentioned Thursday, Dallas Morning News writer Bill Nichols set the Twitterverse ablaze with the following: “SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years.”

That came a short time after the former UT head coach’s attorney confirmed that SMU had approached his client about a return to the sidelines.  Brown himself, currently serving as a college football analyst on ESPN, said a week earlier that he will decide in December if his coaching career is done.

The hubbub over the $4 million-per-year- report, however, prompted SMU athletic director Rick Hart to take to his Twitter account to shoot it down.

“While it is not our policy to comment during a search process, the attention a recent report has attracted dictates it be addressed. While we have a great deal of respect for Mack Brown, no one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives. To that end, there has been no offer or discussion of compensation with any potential candidates.”

So, in summation…

He was approached [by SMU], I was approached, but he’s not interested in coaching anywhere right now.” — Mack Brown attorney Joe Jamail, Oct. 5.

[N]o one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives.” — SMU athletic director Rick Hart, Oct. 24.

Yep, love the contradictory statements as part of these searches too.  Then again, maybe the well-heeled boosters and political figures connected to the university’s athletic department are merely circumventing official channels, and those in charge of the search are simply unaware of what’s going on behind doors that are closed to even them.  In Texas, anything and everything is possible.

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Wyoming has fingers crossed for injured second-leading rusher

D.J. May

Last week it was a suspension.  This week, it’s an on-field matter that leaves one of Wyoming’s top running back’s future uncertain.

Earlier this week rumors begin to circulate that D.J. May suffered some type of injury during practice. The school sent out a press release Thursday stating that “May did suffer an injury to a knee in Wednesday’s practice,” but that “[d]octors have not yet evaluated tests on the severity of May’s injury.”

As of early Friday afternoon, there was still no definitive word on May’s status moving forward.

May’s 260 yards and two rushing touchdowns remain second on the Cowboys this season. His two receiving touchdowns are tied for second on the team as well.

Mays was suspended for last Saturday’s overtime loss to San Jose State for violating unspecified team rules.

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Season, college career of starting UConn corner over

Connecticut v Central Florida Getty Images

UConn’s loss to East Carolina Thursday night came at a much steeper cost than just in the won-loss column.

By way of John Silver of snyuconn.com, head coach Bob Diaco confirmed Friday that Byron Jones will miss the remainder of the 2014 season because of injury.  The cornerback aggravated a lingering shoulder injury in the loss, and will undergo season-ending surgery in short order.

“Byron was playing through a small issue there,” Diaco said. “That, then exacerbated himself last night to the point that it needs to be addressed. If it doesn’t get addressed it will be something else. Right now, [it's] an isolated thing that needs to be fixed.”

Because Jones is a senior who has already used his redshirt, and will not be eligible for a medical waiver, his collegiate career has come to a close.

Jones started all seven games this season, and started 39 in his career. This season, his two interceptions are the only two picks for the Huskies defense.

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UNC’s Elijah Hood again listed as doubtful

Liberty v North Carolina Getty Images

For the second consecutive game, it appears North Carolina will be sans one of the most productive members of its backfield.

On its weekly injury report, UNC lists running back Elijah Hood as doubtful for Saturday’s game against Virginia.  Thus far, the nature of Hood’s injury hasn’t been disclosed.

Hood was also listed as doubtful heading into last Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, and ended up not playing against the Yellow Jackets.

Prior to the GT game, Hood had been tops among Tar Heel backs with 199 yards rushing.  His four rushing touchdowns are currently tied for the team lead.

The true freshman was a five-star member of UNC’s most recent recruiting class and was rated as the No. 4 back in the country.

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Judge who will conduct Winston hearing identified

Florida Supreme Court

The “when” of Jameis Winston‘s student conduct hearing is still to be determined.

One “who,” however, has been determined.

According to WCTV in Tallahassee, retired Florida Supreme Court chief justice Major Harding has been selected to preside over the hearing as what’s described as an “independent observer.”  Two other former state court justices, Joseph Hatchett and Charles T. Wells, were in the group of three candidates considered by the Florida State quarterback and his accuser.

Each side was able to strike one of the three from consideration.  If both struck the same judge, FSU would pick from the remaining two.  It’s unknown exactly how Harding came to oversee the hearing.

Harding did confirm to the television station that he has “been chosen to oversee a student conduct hearing, but says no student’s name has been provided to him.”

ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach provided a brief description of each judge in his confirmation of the earlier report on Harding.

Harding, 79, was a state Supreme Court justice from 1991 to 2000. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he is a graduate of Wake Forest and Virginia’s law school. Harding, who is currently a practicing attorney with the law firm Ausley McMullen in Tallahassee, began his career as a jurist in Florida with a 1968 appointment as a Duval County Juvenile Court judge. When he was appointed to the state’s Supreme Court, he was the dean of the Florida Judicial College and chair-elect of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges, according to his bio on the law firm’s website.

Hatchett, 82, was the first black man appointed to a federal appeals court in the Deep South, by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Wells, 75, a graduate of the University of Florida and UF law school, was the Florida Supreme Court’s chief justice from 2000 to 2002. He presided over the 2000 U.S. presidential election recount cases involving the hanging chads on Florida’s ballots.

At the hearing, whenever that may be if it even happens at all, Winston could be charged with up to four student code of conduct violations in connection to the alleged sexual assault of an FSU student in December of 2012.

Winston, as long as he is still a student at the university, will be compelled to attend the hearing. He will not be required, however, to answer questions even as he is permitted to give an opening statement and cross-examine witnesses. Unless given explicit permission by whomever is overseeing the hearing, his attorney, David Cornwell, will not be allowed to speak or argue on his client’s behalf.

Provided it doesn’t interrupt the hearing process, Winston can consult with Cornwell, who will presumably be the one “advisor” permitted at the hearing.

Cornwell has publicly expressed concern over the process, saying earlier this month, “I’m not walking this kid into a firing line without the necessary weapons.”  That tack’s being viewed by some, including the accuser’s attorney, as taking on the feel of “a stall.”

(Photo credit: Florida Supreme Court)

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A&M drops Ducks, adds future Clemson series

12th Man AP

The scheduling gods taketh… and then they giveth right back.

Thursday, Twitter was all, well, atwitter when it was reported that Texas A&M had backed out of its home-and-home series with Oregon that had been scheduled for 2018 and 2019. “Typical SEC school, ducking tough non-conference games,” some derisively said, never mind the fact that A&M already has Notre Dame, Clemson, UCLA and Arizona State on its future slates.

A short time later, however, both A&M and Clemson announced that they had agreed to a future series, with the Tigers replacing the Ducks in 2018 and 2019. Clemson will travel to Kyle Field on September 8, 2018, while TAMU will head to Memorial Stadium on September 7, 2019.

“We are excited to play the Clemson Tigers, who have been on Texas A&M’s non-conference schedule previously, A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said in a statement. “As a fellow land-grant institution, Clemson is very similar to Texas A&M with a great football tradition and passionate fans. This will be a great non-conference series for both schools.”

According to FOXSports.com, Hyman “exercised a clause from the contract A&M and the Ducks… that said they could get out deal if A&M changed conferences.” The original series between A&M and UO was agreed to in 2009, prior to the Aggies’ departure from the Big 12 for the SEC.

Hyman further explained that the reason for dumping Oregon came down to simple math as it relates to home dates in 2018 and 2019.

“Our goal is to play seven home games at Kyle Field each season,” the release quoted Hyman as saying. “Playing at Oregon in 2018, combined with the Arkansas game in Arlington, would leave us with only six home games that season. In even-numbered years such as 2018, we only have three SEC home dates as long as we continue to play Arkansas in Arlington.”

And, for those who are wondering, this is not a case of UO being hard to deal with either.  Also from the release:

Texas A&M offered to switch the home-and-home dates with Oregon on the original contract, but Oregon faces the same situation with only four Pac-12 home games in even years with five on the road.

Clemson and A&M have met four times previously, with the last coming in 2005. The Aggies own a 3-1 edge in the series.

“We are looking forward to playing Texas A&M as the two schools share a rich military heritage and of course passionate fan bases,” Hyman’s Clemson counterpart, Dan Radakovich, said. “We know our fans make Clemson a great game day experience and the Aggie fans make Kyle field also one of the great venues in all of college football.”

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Ground and pound: Hurricanes establish identity during 30-6 victory over Hokies

Al Golden, Duke Johnson

The Miami Hurricanes made a statement Thursday against the Virginia Tech Hokies.

While the program may never return to the winning ways it once experienced while Al Golden is at the helm, the program finally gravitated toward an identity that’s long been forgotten. The vaunted Miami teams from the 1980’s and the early 2000’s used to physically dominate opponents. They did that Thursday night in Blacksburg.

Miami (5-2) captured a dominant 30-6 victory over Virginia Tech (4-4).

When Golden was the head coach of Temple from 2006-10, the Owls climbed their way out of football purgatory by running the football effectively week in and week out. The talent level at Miami supersedes anything Golden had at Temple, but the team’s approach against the Hokies was reminiscent of those Owls.

There was nothing fancy about what Miami did to Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes lined up and jammed the ball down the Hokies’ collective throat. Two running backs combined to run for an impressive 364 yards.

Junior running back Duke Johnson ran like a man possessed. Johnson set a career high with 249 rushing yards on 29 carries.

Sophomore Gus Edwards took over in the second half and managed 115 yards.

The Hurricanes were so dominant in the trenches, freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya was only asked to throw the ball 16 teams. He completed seven of those passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Plus, Miami played well on the defensive side of the football.

The Hurricanes shut out the Hokies through the first half of play, before Virginia Tech decided to ride freshman running back Marshawn Williams. Willams carried the ball 21 times for 100 yards. The young back also fumbled twice.

With the ACC Coastal division being wide open, the Hurricanes may have found its identity at the right time. At 2-2 in the division, Miami is now a half game behind the Duke Blue Devils going into this weekend’s games. But Miami holds the head-to-head edge.

If Miami plans to make a run in their division, its ball-control offense will be needed over the next two weeks against the North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 2 Florida State Seminoles.

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No. 18 ECU Pirates may stumble in polls despite 31-21 victory over UConn

Ruffin Mc Neill

The No. 18 East Carolina Pirates secured a 31-21 victory over the Connecticut Huskies Thursday. But was it enough for the Pirates to remain the top non-Power Five program and the favorite to claim an appearance in a contract bowl?

Sometimes a win can be viewed as a loss.

The Pirates struggled against a Huskies squad that entered the game 1-5 and didn’t have a victory against a single FBS opponent this season. It wasn’t until six minutes left in the game that East Carolina finally pulled away from UConn.

When a non-power conference team trying to impress the College Football Playoff gets an opportunity to add style points to their resume on national television, it has to do so. East Carolina didn’t.

The Pirates moved the ball and racked up 580 total yards, but they weren’t able to complete drives most of the evening. UConn employed a bend-but-don’t-break, and the scheme worked.

If East Carolina isn’t putting up big scoring and yardage numbers, the team is nowhere near as impressive.

East Carolina’s primary competition as the top non-Power Five program is the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall is currently ranked 23rd overall in the AP Top 25. The Thundering Herd’s underwhelming schedule has prevented them from legitimately entering the national conversation. Yet, Marshall’s schedule doesn’t feature a team ranked lower than Connecticut.

Despite the lackluster effort, East Carolina did win the game. Ruffin McNeill‘s squad overcame adversity and was able to win a close contest even though everything didn’t go in their favor. The program still holds victories over the Virginia Tech Hokies and the No. 25 North Carolina Tar Heels.

Plus, very few teams feature a dynamic duo like quarterback Shane Carden and Justin Hardy. Carden was 38-of-64 passing Thursday for 445 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hardy, meanwhile, grabbed 14 passes for 186 yards. The impressive effort moved Hardy into second place among the FBS’ all-time receptions list.

The Huskies deserve some credit for knocking down the Pirates a notch. First-year head coach Bob Diaco has his team playing hard, and they seem to be figuring some things out. The defense plays sound football, while the offense was finally able to move the ball in stretches against East Carolina.

In the end, East Carolina is still the top non-Power Five program in college football, but the margin between the top team and the second team is much closer after Thursday night’s effort.

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Miami RB Duke Johnson explodes as Miami leads Virginia Tech 24-0 at halftime

Brad Kaaya, Duke Johnson

Welcome to the Duke Johnson show.

The Virginia Tech Hokies simply had no answer for Miami’s running back. Johnson accumulated 185 total yards through two quarters of play as the Hurricanes lead the Hokies 24-0 at halftime.

Miami came into Thursday night’s contest with the intention of establishing the run game, and Al Golden‘s squad did so in spectacular fashion.

As the Hurricanes dominated an undersized Virginia Tech defensive front, Johnson continued to churn out yardage. The junior running back accumulated 148 rushing yards on 19 carries.

The dagger at the end of the first half also came from the running back.

Already leading 17-0, Miami drove the ball to Virginia Tech’s 22-yard line with the clocking ticking within 15 seconds remaining before the horn for halftime blew. With the clock still running, the Hurricanes snapped the ball and freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya found Johnson open out of the backfield for his second touchdown in the half.

While the Hurricanes’ offense running all over the Hokies, Miami’s defense completely shut down the Hokies’ rushing attack. Virginia Tech ran the ball eight times for minus-13 yards.

Because of the Hokies’ inept running game, quarterback Michael Brewer suffered. When forced to throw, Brewer couldn’t step up and make a play. Virginia Tech’s signal-caller finished the half 7-of-12 passing for 49 yards.

The Hokies should expect the same approach from the Hurricanes in the second half. Golden may decide to lighten Johnson’s load (after he establishes a new career high), but Virginia Tech will then get a steady dose of sophomore Gus Edwards.

If Frank Beamer‘s squad has any chance of coming back in tonight’s game, Brewer must take his game to another level. That may be asking too much of the junior quarterback.

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No. 18 ECU Pirates lead UConn 14-7 as Carden, Hardy post memorable halves

Shane Carden

The first half of Thursday’s meeting with the Connecticut Huskies had it all for East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden.

Carden already threw the ball 39 times as the No. 18 East Carolina Pirates built a 14-7 over the Huskies at halftime. Carden is well on his way to eclipsing his season high of 48 passes.

The quarterback also doubled his season total for interceptions by throwing an ill-advised pass into the end zone. UConn senior cornerback Byron Jones came down with the ball.

The senior signal-caller also threw a pair of touchdowns. The first of which was a highlight reel reception by senior wide receiver Justin Hardy. Hardy dove in the end zone and bobbled the ball before he finally came down with the 13-yard touchdown reception (see: below).

The catch wasn’t Hardy’s only memorable moment of the evening. The prolific pass-catcher also climbed another rung on NCAA’s all time receptions ladder. Hardy became the NCAA’s third all-time leader in receptions during the first half. The talented wide receiver already made six receptions for 90 yards.

While the Pirates continued to throw the ball over the field, the Huskies prevented the big play. Despite surrendering 302 yards of total offense through two quarters, Connecticut is within striking distance due to Easter Carolina’s miscues.

Connecticut has been able to throw the ball better than expected. Senior quarterback Chandler Whitmer is 7-of-10 passing for 96 yards. But the Huskies stalled on offense numerous times due to penalties and an inability to run the ball.

For the Huskies to remain in the game, they’ll need to shorten the second half. Carden can’t be allowed to throw the ball 25 times in one quarter like he did in the opening frame. A commitment to the running game will help keep the Pirates offense off the field, while the Huskies try to to muster enough offense to garner their first win over an FBS opponent this season.

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Marshall hires PR firm to help with possible College Football Playoff berth

Marshall v Florida International Getty Images

A year ago, the Marshall Thundering Herd would be known as a “BCS Buster.” Instead, Doc Holliday‘s squad is attempting to be this year’s dark horse choice to become one of four teams invited to the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The Thundering Herd (7-0) is one of three undefeated teams, and the program is currently ranked 23rd overall in the AP Top 25. With only five games left on the regular season schedule, Marshall has plenty to overcome to be named one of college football’s Top 4 teams.

But the university and Conference USA won’t go down without a fight.

“Marshall University and Conference USA have hired an LA-based public relations firm to assist with their case to be selected to the first College Football Playoff,” Tess Quinlan of USA TODAY Sports reported.

“Brener Zwikel & Associates, which counts the Rose Bowl, Los Angeles Dodgers and Speedo as clients, sent out a release Thursday highlighting the Thundering Herd’s undefeated record, standing in the Amway Coaches Poll and their non-Power Five conference affiliation.”

The Thundering Herd’s schedule is expected to hold the program back despite a potential undefeated campaign. Marshall won’t face a single ranked opponent this season and their biggest win could eventually come in the Conference USA Championship Game.

However, the school features one of college football’s most exciting offenses and an electric quarterback.

Marshall’s offense is ranked second overall behind the Baylor Bears. The Bears only average 4.1 more yards per game than the Thundering Herd. And senior quarterback Rakeem Cato accumulated 2,135 total yards and 24 total touchdowns through seven games.

While it’s unlikely a strong public relations effort will be enough to push the Thundering Herd into this year’s College Football Playoff, the hire won’t be for naught. Marshall still trails the No. 18 East Carolina Pirates as the top program not affiliated with a Power Five conference. The highest-rated team outside of the Power Five automatically receives a bid to one of the remaining contract bowls.

Marshall’s ability to pass East Carolina in the rankings is far more important and achievable than chasing a spot in the College Football Playoff.

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Report: Syracuse football is under NCAA investigation

Scott Shafer

Syracuse is the latest football program to find itself in the clutches of the NCAA.

While the Orange’s basketball team was believed to be the focus of an ongoing investigation, there are concerns regarding the football program, too.

Syracuse.com’s Nate Mink reported the investigation could affect multiple areas within the school’s athletic department.

“The Syracuse football program is part of the wide-ranging NCAA investigation into the school’s athletic department,” sources told Mink.

“The information shows that the NCAA inquiry that has swirled around the basketball team for two years is more involved, and that the football team is part of the investigation and potentially exposed to penalties. It’s unclear if other teams are involved.”

If the Orange football team was to receive any type of sanctions, possible infractions apparently didn’t occur during Doug Marrone‘s tenure. Marrone served as the Orange’s head coach from 2009-12. The current head coach of the Buffalo Bills spoke with Fink about possible reasons behind the investigation.

“There’s nothing that I know about that we did that wasn’t either punished or put forth,” Marrone said.

“One thing I did, if we made a mistake, an incidental contact or something, I just always reported it. It’s not worth it. This way I can sleep at night.”

Syracuse officials are expected to meet with the NCAA in Indianapolis at some point before the end of the month.

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Michigan lowers student-ticket prices for 2015 season

Minnesota v Michigan Getty Images

The Big House’s student section should be completely full during every game next season.

After recent complaints by the student body, the University of Michigan decided its in the school’s best interests to decrease the prices of student tickets for the 2015 campaign.

This season, a season ticket purchased by a student was $280. Next season, the prices will be dropped to $175 per season ticket.

“We’ve been listening,” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told The Michigan Daily Thursday. “We really learned that two really important components to re-engaging with our students in trying to create a more robust, more enthusiastic and larger student section for next year’s football season was price and strength of schedule.

“A nearly 40-percent reduction in ticket prices is, I think it’s fair to say, unprecedented.”

However, it’s not quite to the price level demanded by the president of Michigan’s central student government, Bobby Dishell, a week earlier at Michigan’s Board of Regents meeting.

During’s Dishell’s address to the board, he said Michigan’s “athletic department has broken its trust” with students. Another student representative respectfully asked for Brandon’s resignation.

Dishell appears happy with the change, though.

“It’s been great working together,”  Dishell told The Michigan Daily. “We realized that the University takes need into account when you’re coming here, so your experiences here should also take that into account.”

As the future of the football program remains in turmoil, it appears to have regained the trust of its students and may avoid seeing empty seats at Michigan Stadium.

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Hackenberg, other Nittany Lions deliver pizzas to ‘Nittanyville’

Christian Hackenberg AP

Christian Hackenberg may not be delivering on the field the way he did as a true freshman last season, but he sure is off of it.

(Waiting for the groaning to die down… waiting… still waiting… and we’re good)

This week, students at Penn State have set up camp in “Nittanyville” ahead of Saturday’s primetime showdown with Ohio State in Happy Valley.  And by “this week” I mean “several days ahead of the contest.”

As is ofttimes the case with individuals in that age group, they came down with a serious case of the munchies.  And, thanks to the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback and some of his teammates, said craving was sated Wednesday night.

Before you ask, I have no idea who paid for the pizzas.  And, for video of the special delivery that we can’t embed here, click HERE.

The Nittany Lions, incidentally, will be looking to snap a two-game Big Ten losing streak when they host the 13th-ranked Buckeyes.  And Hackenberg will be looking to bounce back from both a rough first half of the 2014 season (five touchdowns, seven interceptions compared to 20-10 a year ago) and his worst day yardage-wise a year ago (112 in a 63-14 thrashing by OSU in Columbus).

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