Weekend Preview: Red River Rivalry remains a tradition like no other

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No sport does tradition quite like college football, at least in this admittedly biased college football writer’s opinion. This weekend we get a glimpse of one of the great traditions in the sport with a side of deep-fried, well anything probably. The Texas State Fair is on my bucket list and is highlighted by the annual meeting between Oklahoma and Texas. The fanfare that surrounds the game may only be rivaled by a few others in the sport. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and the Army-Navy Game are two that quickly come to mind.

Neutral site games may not be quite the novelty they once were, thanks to multiple games played in Atlanta and Arlington purely for a big-ticket event to please television partners, but the Red River Rivalry is something else that brings everything back to pure basics. The venue is the historic Cotton Bowl, full of history and lacking the modern-day luxuries many fans seem to take for granted. Yet, it is the perfect setting for one of college football’s classic rivalries.

The Red River Rivalry highlights the action this weekend, but so much for the focus on what it could mean in the Big 12 race. Instead the narrative will focus on the future of head coach Mack Brown.

Mack’s last stand?

The annual Red River Rivalry game remains one of the top traditions the college football regular season has to offer, and thankfully it managed to survive the wreck left by realignment over the past few seasons. But the big question this year will be whether or not Texas head coach Mack Brown can manage to save his job with a win against the Sooners. Oklahoma has roughed up the rival Longhorns each of the past two seasons and bring a three-game winning streak in to the early afternoon Big 12 clash. Since 2000, the Longhorns have lost nine out of 13 meetings. Although Texas enters this year’s edition with a 2-0 record in Big 12 play, there is much speculation that Brown could be coaching in his final Red River Rivalry game.

Texas may need to win to help save Brown’s job for next year, but a hard-fought contest with the Sooners is all most Texas fans hope to see given the recent history in this series. That could be a realistic expectation. Oklahoma seems to have turned a corner with Blake Bell taking over at quarterback, starting with a win at Notre Dame, but this Oklahoma team may not be as strong as they have been so Texas should manage to prove they at least belong on the same field. Proving that should start with protecting the football. Texas has had 10 turnovers in the last three meetings at the Texas State Fair.

Is Georgia ripe for an upset?

Georgia looks to be one of the top one-loss teams in the country, having only been defeated by an undefeated Clemson team currently sitting in the top five of the rankings on the road in the first game of the year. Since then the Bulldogs have come through in the clutch to beat South Carolina, LSU and Tennessee. In those times of need Georgia has been able to turn to quarterback Aaron Murray, who has delivered when needed time and time again and earned a spot in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy. This week, however, will Murray be able to rally Georgia to another SEC win with a number of players out of action?

Running back Todd Gurley is expected to be back for the Bulldogs as they host Missouri, who comes to Sanford Stadium with a perfect 5-0 record. His running mate, Keith Marshall, suffered an ACL injury last weekend and is done for the year. Receivers Michael Bennett (knee) and Justin Scott-Wesley (ACL) are also out of the mix this weekend. The injuries have been piling up for Georgia but they have managed to get by. Could Missouri be the team who end that winning streak? Missouri should be able to put up some points. The Tigers have scored at least 40 points in all but one game this season, and they scored 38 points the one game they did not.

Big road test for Oregon 

One of the more bitter rivalries that few seem to recognize is the one between Washington and Oregon. Fortunately this game will receive an afternoon time slot, so everyone can get a chance to check out the animosity for themselves. Oregon has certainly been piling up points this season but they face their first real test when they visit Washington Saturday afternoon. The Huskies are coming off their first loss of the season but put up a respectable fight against Stanford on the road last weekend. Returning home to what should be a raucous crowd thirsty for a win against Oregon should be a good setting for Washington. Oregon has won each of their last three trips to Seattle, and the Ducks have won nine straight in the series for the longest winning streak in the series.

Who should be on upset alert?

Other than the teams already mentioned above, who else might want to be on high alert this weekend?

LSU: You could make a case that LSU is the best one loss team in the country, if not for Georgia. The Tigers host the Florida Gators this weekend. Florida’s defense may be capable of giving LSU some problems, and if LSU’s offense is sluggish at any point, Florida could steal a rare victory for a road team in Baton Rouge.

South Carolina: The constant question regarding the status of Jadeveon Clowney is a bit overdone at this point, but his impact on the field is still respectable even if the numbers suggest otherwise. The Gamecocks are on the road this weekend at Arkansas for the first of three straight road games.The Razorbacks are in the midst of a brutal stretch of their schedule but pack a running game that could make things interesting.

Northwestern: After hanging with Ohio State last weekend, the Wildcats are on the road for another tough Big Ten match-up. Northwestern travels to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. The only games Wisconsin has lost this season have come on the road, at Ohio State and Arizona State (who could forget that cray ending?). As usual, the Badgers can run the football very well with sophomore Melvin Gordon rushing for nearly 700 yards and seven touchdowns so far.

Michigan: The Wolverines have struggled at times this season, including in games against Akron and Connecticut. Could Michigan be walking in to the lion’s den this weekend in Beaver Stadium? Well, technically, probably. Penn State was roughed up by Indiana, of all teams, last week and look to bounce back in a strong way. The depth concerns at Penn State may get a lift from one of the top crowds in Beaver Stadium in the Bill O’Brien era, but will it be enough to rattle Michigan?

Texas officially adds Syracuse grad transfer Kendall Moore

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In early April, erstwhile Syracuse tight end Kendall Moore announced on social media that he had himself a new college football home.  Nearly four months later, that move has come to fruition.

Texas confirmed Friday that Moore has graduated from SU and officially joined the UT football team.  The Longhorns open summer camp Monday, and Moore will be on hand working out with his new teammates.

As he’s coming in as a graduate transfer — he announced his departure from the Orange in December — he’ll be eligible to play in 2017, his final season of eligibility.

Moore started a total of four games in 2014 and 2015, including two of the first three in the latter season before sustaining the season-ending injury that led to a medical hardship waiver that will allow him to play this season. The 6-5, 245-pound senior finished his ‘Cuse career with 14 catches for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  He caught one of the passes for 15 of the yards in 2016.

In Austin, Moore could very well open the season as the starter.  The incumbent Andrew Beck has undergone a pair of foot surgeries while two others on the roster at the position, Reese Leitao and Cade Brewer, haven’t played a down at the collegiate level.  The former definitely won’t be the starter to start the season as he was suspended for the first two games because of an offseason arrest.

One other option at tight end,Garrett Gray, is making the transition from wide receiver.

Anthony Julmisse, projected starting CB, suspended by Colorado after domestic violence arrest

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Colorado’s rough offseason off the field will continue right up to the eve of summer camp kicking off.

The Boulder Daily Camera is reporting that Buffaloes cornerback Anthony Julmisse was arrested on multiple charges Thursday related to a domestic incident.  Specifically, the sophomore defensive back is facing one count each of third-degree assault and domestic violence and two counts of physical harassment.

No specific details of what led to the arrest and charges have been made available at this time.

As a result of the situation, however, Julmisse was indefinitely suspended by Mike MacIntyre.

“We will determine any further disciplinary action after receiving more information,” the head coach said in a statement. “I am very troubled by these allegations, as they do not represent the values of our university and our football program. I have reported the allegations to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance so that it may conduct any appropriate inquiries.”

Julmisse played in all 14 games last season.  Exiting spring practice, he was one of the Buffaloes’ starters at cornerback.

In June, MacIntyre was publicly reprimanded by the university for his handling of allegations made by the longtime girlfriend of one of his assistants, Joe Tumpkin, of a long history of domestic abuse.  Additionally, MacIntyre was ordered to make a $100,000 donation to domestic violence causes.

Less than a week later, the university’s regents approved a four-year, $16.25 million extension for the coach.

Darren Carrington cleared, will open camp with new Utah teammates

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That certainly didn’t take long.

Not long after Darren Carrington‘s father confirmed that his son would be transferring to Utah, Kyle Whittingham confirmed Thursday that would indeed be the case, although the talented wide receiver still had some unspecified hurdles to clear in order to play or even practice with the team.  One day later, however, a school spokesperson confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune that Carrington has been cleared and has now been admitted to the university.

Carrington opens summer camp Friday night, and will be on the field practicing with his new Utes teammates.

“It’s always a tough decision when you talk about a player that you’re going to add to your program potentially that has a checkered past,” Whittingham said Thursday. “You’ve got to make a decision based on all the information you can gather, based on the athletes’ attitude. …

“I feel, in this case, that it was the right thing to do to give Darren another opportunity.”

Earlier this month, Oregon announced that it had dismissed Carrington, a move that came a couple of weeks after the senior was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants.  That was merely Carrington’s latest off-field misstep as the receiver was ruled ineligible for Oregon’s College Football Playoff Championship loss to Ohio State a couple of years ago; was cited for open container in October 2015; and was accused of breaking a man’s arm in a Halloween incident last year.

On the field last season he was an explosive weapon as his 606 yards receiving last year were tops on the team, while his five receiving touchdowns were tied for first. His 43 catches were second on the team as well.

Michael Oher: Hugh Freeze is ‘man of God, man full of integrity’

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Hugh Freeze may have been blindsided by his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, but at least one of his former players has his back.

Homeless for stretches of his teenage life, Michael Oher was taken in by the Freeze family — a 2014 Bleacher Report article notes that “Oher spent one to two nights a week at their house” — while Freeze was the head coach at Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis.  Oher went on to play football for Freeze in high school, with his compelling life story forming the basis for the Academy Award-winning film “The Blind Side.”

The player and the coach have formed a deep bond that stretches back more than a decade, a bond that hasn’t been broken despite the latter’s resignation as Ole Miss head coach under a cloud of controversy.

“He is a man of God and a man full of integrity,’’ Oher told USA Today Sports of his former coach. “I don’t know the full story but I’m willing to bet that everyone in the world had made a mistake that they have wanted someone to forgive them for.”

The offensive lineman added that without Freeze, “there is no Michael Oher and no “The Blind Side.'”

The news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.  Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze said earlier this week in his first public comments since his departure. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” he added.

On the same day Freeze resigned, coincidentally, Oher was cut by the Carolina Panthers.  Earlier this offseason, Oher was arrested after an altercation with an Uber driver in which the player allegedly bit the driver on the back.