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McCarron’s career-day leads Alabama over Kentucky

A.J. McCarron, Nick Saban AP

A.J. McCarron threw for a career-high 359 yards to help No. 1 Alabama overcome a sluggish start and beat Kentucky, 48-7, in Lexington on Saturday.

Alabama coach Nick Saban couldn’t have been too happy with the way the Tide played in the first quarter, however. Alabama punted once and fumbled twice on its first three possessions and was scoreless 17 minute into the game against the SEC’s traditional bottom dweller.

The second quarter was a different story, though, as Alabama rolled its way to 267 yards and 24 points behind two touchdown runs from Kenyan Drake. The game was pretty much over at the half, but Alabama’s offense kept on churning, piling up 668 yards, its most since getting 833 against Virginia Tech in 1973.  The Tide also notched 35 first downs and got 100-yard rushing games from both Drake (106 yards) and T.J. Yeldon (124 yards).

The only question remaining after halftime was whether Kentucky would put an end to the Alabama defense’s 14-quarter streak of not allowing a touchdown. The Wildcats did just that when Maxwell Smith found Javess Blue on a 30-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

One can forgive ‘Bama fans if they are already looking ahead to the big showdown with LSU in three weeks. Games against Arkansas and Tennessee should do little to slow down this Alabama train.

As for Kentucky, well, there’s always basketball season.

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TCU appears to have washed its hands of Brandon Carter

Brandon Carter, Nigel Tribune AP

A rough day for this particular football program continues as one of the most productive and experienced pieces of TCU’s passing game puzzle looks to be no more.

During his time at the Big 12 Media Days, Gary Patterson was asked if he hoped Brandon Carter would remain at TCU and return to the Horned Frogs at some point. The head coach’s response was surprisingly — and refreshingly — blunt.

“No,” said Patterson in regards to the wide receiver’s potential return. “He has a redshirt year, and I think the best thing for him is to get a new start. It’s setting a precedent — you have to go to school.”

Carter was charged with possession of marijuana in late April — it was later dropped — but that wasn’t the reason for the parting of ways. Rather, it was Carter’s effort in the classroom — or lack thereof — that put the talented receiver on the outside of the football program looking in.

“Academically he will not make it,” Patterson said.

Carter entered Week 10 of the 2013 season second on the team in receptions with 17 and tied for third in receiving yards with 197. In early November, however, he took a leave of absence for personal reasons. Those “personal reasons” turned out to be related to a family matter.

Coming into last season, he was the Horned Frogs’ leading returning receiver as his 36-590-6 statline from 2012 was second only to the since-departed Josh Boyce.

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With first-year QB starter, Saban downplays Tide’s title chances

Blake Sims AP

In his first year as a starting quarterback in 2009, Greg McElroy helped lead Alabama to a BCS title.  In 2011, in his first year as a starting quarterback, AJ McCarron helped lead the Tide to Nick Saban‘s second of three BCS titles at UA.

With McCarron’s eligibility expired, Saban will be looking to replace that experience and production under center with yet another first-year starter.  Ahead of that, the coach is looking to tap the brakes on, well, any optimism that may be rearing its ugly, unwanted and unwarranted head.

The two main combatants in the fight to replace McCarron are fifth-year senior Blake Sims (pictured) and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker.  Entering 2014, and even with inexperience at the most important position on the field — neither Sims nor Coker have started a game at the collegiate level — the Tide is viewed as a betting favorite to claim yet another national championship.

At least for the moment, Saban is pooh-poohing and downplaying any type of favorite talk despite what’s happened the last two times he’s had a first-year starter at quarterback.

“Well I think it is a little bit unrealistic because basically what you’re talking about is two guys [who] are untested,” said Saban during an ESPN interview when asked about title expectations. “And when you have an untested player at that position, you can be pleasantly surprised with the way they develop and how they do and how the team sorta rallies around them and the impact of their leadership, decision-making, those things are critical at the quarterback position. …

“They can also go to where they turn the ball over and do some things that make it hard to overcome. Because quarterback is such a critical position to me. Football is a great team game, but then there’s the quarterback. And most successful teams have a guy that, at least in their system, is functionally successful for the other players on the team. And in our case, because we have good skill guys, it’s important that our guy can distribute the ball to those guys and make those guys effective players for us.”

(Writer’s note: the Tide QB competition is officially a two-man thing, based on Saban’s quotes.)

Entering summer camp, and even as he has yet to take a snap as a member of the Crimson Tide, Coker is viewed as the heavy favorite to win the starting job.  Consistency and lack of turnovers will be key regardless of which player actually wins out.

Whether Coker’s the way it plays out remains to be seen; what’s certain is that, with a first-year starter, Saban & Company will rely on its loaded backfield, including the three-headed monster of T.J. YeldonDerrick Henry and Kenyan Drakearrest and suspension notwithstanding — to help the starter get his feet wet, especially early on.

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Gator TE reportedly transferring to Temple

Colin Thompson

Temple has added a late-in-the-offseason transfer pickup from the top conference in college football, the Philadelphia Daily News reported Tuesday.

Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, the Philadelphia Daily News reports that tight end Colin Thompson has transferred into the Owls football program. Officials from neither Temple nor Florida, where Thompson spent the past two seasons, have confirmed the player’s addition to/departure from their respective rosters.

No reason was given for the departure, although a search for playing time would be a good place to start.

It was reported last month that Thompson would be looking to transfer to a school closer to his home in Warminster, Penn. Thompson visited Penn State before apparently opting for Temple, while Stanford, UCF and Villanova all expressed some level of interest in his services.

A four-star member of the Gators’ 2012 recruiting class, Thompson was rated as the No. 6 tight end in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Pennsylvania. He played in three games, all last seasons, during his time in Gainesville, and didn’t catch a pass in his brief UF career.

A foot injury during summer camp of his true freshman season derailed the immediate impact Thompson was expected to make.

(Photo credit: Florida athletics)

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Ex-Illini O-lineman, current D-II player passes away

Shawn Afryl

The Illinois football family has suffered a heartbreaking loss, the school announced Tuesday.

In a press release, the Illini confirmed that former offensive lineman Shawn Afryl passed away Monday.  The cause of death was not revealed, although media accounts state that the player collapsed during a workout and died a short time later after being rushed to a hospital.

Afryl was just 22 years of age.

“All of us in the Fighting Illini football family are greatly saddened by Shawn’s passing last night,” Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said in a statement. “He was a great teammate and a dedicated student. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Afryl took a redshirt his true freshman season in 2010, didn’t play in 2011 and saw action in one game in 2012. He graduated from Illinois in November of 2013, then, the school stated, enrolled at Winona State University (MN) for fall of 2014, where he planned on using his final season of eligibility.

Afryl was working out at Winona in preperation for the upcoming season when he collapsed

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those affected by Afryl’s way-too-soon death.

(Photo credit: Illinois athletics)

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Pat Fitzgerald launches verbal bombs at Cal’s Dykes, state of Nebraska

NCAA Football: Northwestern at California AP

As Steve Spurrier stated earlier today, and amidst his astronomy dissertationit’s the talkin’ season.

The latest to do some talkin’ is an unexpected source: Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald.  At a charity golf outing Tuesday, the Wildcats head coach not only took a shot at the coach of his team’s season-opening opponent but managed to offend an entire state for good measure.

In the season opener last August at Cal, the Wildcats (somewhat) easily dispatched the Golden Bears to the tune of 44-30.  Following the game, Cal head coach Sonny Dykes infamously confronted Fitzgerald during the traditional postgame handshake as the former felt the latter’s team feigned injuries in an attempt to slow down Cal’s offense.

That confrontation left Fitzgerald in a feisty, predicting mood nearly a year later.

“The way it went last year,” Fitzgerald said according to the Chicago Tribune, “I look forward to shaking that coach’s hand after we beat ‘em.”

OBC Lite, though, wasn’t done.

Nebraska will visit Evanston this year for a conference matchup Oct. 18. For whatever reason, Fitzgerald decided to take a shot at the entire state — while also acknowledging the likelihood of a significant ‘Husker Nation presence on his home turf this fall.

“It’s a pretty boring state, so they’re really excited to see Chicago,” Fitzgerald said. “I talked to the state senator about putting state troopers out on I-80 (to block them).”

OK then.

And stock up on some popcorn.  Just in case.

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Tide now Bovada’s co-favorites with FSU as title favorites

Nick Saban AP

Back in January, reigning BCS champion Florida State was the favorite to claim the first-ever championship in the College Football Playoff era.

Six months later, and a handful of weeks before the start of the 2014 season, the Seminoles have some company at the top.

According to Bovada.lv, FSU remains at the same 11/2 odds to win the 2014 FBS championship as they were earlier this year.  Joining them at 11/2, however, is Alabama.  In the moist recent set of odds, the Tide came in at 13/2.

In odds released a couple of weeks ago, the Tide stood at 6/1 while the ‘Noles were, again, at 11/2.

The team that’s made the biggest jump over the last seven months is Ole Miss, with the Rebels moving from 66/1 to 40/1.  Others trending upward are Oregon (7/1, from 12/1), Oklahoma (20/1, from 9/1), Auburn (10/1, from 14/1), UCLA (14/1, from 25/1), Georgia (18/1, from 25/1)LSU (20/1), from 25/1), USC (25/1, from 33/1) and Wisconsin (33/1, from 40/1).

On the flip side, Bovada has lost all kinds of respect for Stanford as the Cardinal has tumbled from 9/1 in January to 33/1 in July.  Clemson and Texas A&M have also taken precipitous drops, with both going from 25/1 to 66/1.  Ohio State (12/1, from 10/1), Michigan State (25/1, from 20/1), Baylor (28/1, from 25/1) and Florida and South Carolina (33/1, from 25/1) are among the others who have lost wagering ground to the field.

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

(Writer’s note: teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same.)

2014 Title Odds

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Strong officially anoints David Ash as UT’s starting QB

David Ash AP

Monday saw the expected in David Ash being medically cleared to fully participate from the beginning in Texas’ summer camp that begins early next month.  A day later, yet another expected development became official.

UT head coach Charlie Strong announced during the Big 12 Media Days Tuesday that, yes, Ash is the Longhorns’ starting quarterback.  Strong stated that Ash is his starter entering camp, so that would technically leave the door cracked for either sophomore Tyrone Swoopes or incoming freshman Jerrod Heard to make a push for the job.

Barring an injury, however, that’s not expected.

Speaking of injury, though, it would behoove Strong and his offensive coaching staff to ensure that Swoopes and/or Harris are prepared given what’s transpired over the past 10 months or so.

Ash missed most of last year due to a concussion suffered early on in the season.  After incurring the original injury Sept. 7, Ash returned two weeks later only to see the concussion symptoms recur and sideline him yet again.  In late November, Ash was officially shut down for what little was left of the season.  In mid-January, he was cleared by the UT medical staff to resume football activities.

In mid-April this year, Ash broke a bone in his left foot and missed the remainder of spring practice.

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June Jones issues statement clarifying spring games for ‘have-nots’

June Jones

Last week, June Jones stepped into it by laughably suggesting that the non-Power Five conferences — his AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt — should move their games from the fall to spring in an effort to think outside the box and not get “left behind.”

A couple of days later, three of the commissioners from those conferences completely distanced themselves from the SMU head coach’s idea. A couple of days after said distancing, Jones has issued a statement clarifying the comments made during a radio interview and ensuring that people know it was his personal opinion and not that of his employer or his employer’s conference.

Here is Jones’ statement, in its entirety:

“My recent comments about the non-’Group of Five’ conferences possibly moving their football seasons to the spring were my own, and not those of SMU or the American Athletic Conference. Not being in one of these leagues creates unique challenges, and requires us to think out of the box. My comments were an example of this, and, I hope, triggered others to do so as well.

“Our conference experienced a great deal of national success in its first season. Two teams were ranked in the top 15 of the final AP poll and five were selected for bowl games. At SMU, we strive for that same level of success and will compete for American Athletic Conference Championships. We want to compete with and beat teams from the “Group of Five.”

So, there’s that.

And, hopefully, this’ll be the last time we ever have to discuss the USFL-ish notion of college football being played in the spring instead of the fall where it belongs.

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Penn State slapped with million-dollar suit filed by Jay Paterno

Penn State v Wisconsin Getty Images

The seemingly never-ending Paterno vs. Penn State battle royale is, well, never going to end.

The latest salvo in the ongoing feud between the two parties was fired by Jay Paterno, the son of the late Hall of Fame Nittany Lions head coach.  Joe Paterno was fired in November of 2011 by Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-sex scandal, with his son facing a similar fate two months later.

In confirming his departure in January of 2012, Paterno said in a statement that he and his father’s replacement, Bill O’Brien, “reached the conclusion” that he would not be a part of the new coaching staff. The younger expressed no bitterness in his farewell statement, but, more than two years later, he has expressed it by filing a lawsuit against Penn State.

The suit was filed in a Philadelphia federal court and seeks $1 million in damages from the university. Former PSU assistant Bill Kenney is also a plaintiff the suit.

The suit claims in part that “Penn State destroyed any realistic prospect Plaintiffs had to obtain other comparable positions for which they were qualified and would have otherwise been competitive, either at the collegiate or professional level, or with positions with national media companies.”  In connection to that claim, the suit claims that, after his departure from Penn State, Paterno applied for head-coaching jobs at Boston College, Colorado, UConn and James Madison; Paterno, it’s claimed, didn’t receive an interview from any of those four schools.

You can view the entire lawsuit by clicking HERE.

In a statement, Penn State responded to the lawsuit thusly:

“It is common practice for incoming head coaches to select their own coaching staff. Penn State will have no further comment on this matter.”

Neither Paterno nor Kenney have been hired as assistant coaches since they “parted ways” with Penn State 30 months ago. Paterno looked into running for lieutenant governor of the state of Pennsylvania but opted out of that political pursuit.

In February of this year, the Paterno family added Penn State as a defendant in its lawsuit against the NCAA.

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GaTech dismisses three, suspends another for two games

Lynn Griffin

Just a couple of weeks ahead of the start of summer camp, Paul Johnson has whipped out his ban hammer and slammed it into his Georgia Tech roster.

In a release, Tech announced that three players have been dismissed from the football program: redshirt sophomore wide receiver Anthony Autry, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Darius Commissiong and redshirt sophomore defensive end Travin Henry . The dismissals were due to what the school described as violations of the Athletic Association’s student-athlete code of conduct.

Additionally, defensive back Lynn Griffin (pictured) was suspended for the first two games of the 2014 for the same reason. The redshirt sophomore will miss a home game against Wofford and a road trip to face Tulane.

The loss of Griffin will actually have the biggest impact as he played in 12 games last season. In addition to nine tackles during backup secondary duty, Griffin also returned eight kicks for 212 yards.

The other three saw little or no action during their time with the Yellow Jackets.

Autry caught three passes for 117 yards (yes, that’s nearly 40 yards per reception) before missing all of 2013 due to injury. Neither Commissiong nor Henry, who was moved from receiver to the defensive line this spring, played a down for Tech.

(Photo credit: Georgia Tech athletics)

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Saban takes issue with Bowlsby’s ‘cheating pays’ claim

Nick Saban AP

In opening the Big 12 Media Days Monday, commissioner Bob Bowlsby created a bit of a firestorm when, in the midst of a diatribe against the current enforcement practices in the NCAA, stated “cheating pays” and “[r]ight now, if you wanna cheat you can do it and get away with it and that needs to change.”

Tuesday afternoon, the highest-paid coach in college football took exception to the broad strokes painted by one of the most respected commissioners in the sport.

In a sit-down interview with ESPN radio “personality” Colin Cowherd, Nick Saban questioned Bowlsby’s take on the current climate of enforcement while espousing how the commissioner of his conference has stressed compliance throughout his time in the league. In fact, in Saban’s mind, social media has forced all of college football to keep their collective hands clean on the recruiting front.

Here are some of Saban’s comments on the situation, as transcribed by al.com:

“I don’t see that. I don’t know where people get those opinions. Like I think the compliance in our league is actually better than it’s ever been. I think Mike Slive, that was one of his babies when he came in, he was going to make sure that we had a clean league and people did it the right things. When you don’t walk the walk in our league, you’re going to get called down by our conference offices as much as the NCAA.”

“But I don’t see players getting bought. I don’t see players getting extra benefits any place. I think recruiting is so transparent now, I think most people are scared to death that they would get caught publicly — not by the NCAA, not by the conference office.

“But even if you have illegal contact with a player, he tweets that you talked to him. So that’s a violation. I mean, it’s so transparent, you almost have to do things correctly because I don’t think anybody needs to catch you. I think the public would catch you.”

Saban also seemed to take a bit of a shot at Bowlsby’s “cheating” crutch, saying that “[y]ou’re always looking for a reason and one of the easiest excuses is to say the other guy did something illegal… which I don’t buy into that.”

The coach did allow though, that “[a]gents are a problem.” That is an understandable stance on Saban’s part.

Over the past couple of years, various Tide players, including D.J. Fluker, Marcell Dareus and HaHa Clinton-Dix, have been accused of and/or suspended for having illicit dealings with agents or their middlemen.

The NCAA’s Enforcement Committee hasn’t met in over a year according to Bowlsby, which seems to be an indicator to the commish that the game of college football has become akin to the Wild West. According to Saban, though, there’s too much at stake for coaches and their staff to go rogue.

“The No. 1 thing that blows up my future and any coaches’ future is if you violate NCAA rules,” Saban said. “That’s a big risk to be taking over winning a football game when you’re talking about your family, your future and your career and all the hard work you’ve done professionally to get where you are.”

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Duke walk-on, son of John Mellencamp arrested again

Hud Mellencamp

One of those crazy rock-and-roll kids is at it again.

According to Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer, Duke defensive back Hud Mellencamp was arrested earlier this month and charged with illegal consumption of an alcoholic beverage.  The 20-year-old Mellencamp, who is the son of music legend John Mellencamp, is a walk-on entering his third year with the Blue Devils.

The school has yet to comment on what if any impact Mellencamp’s second run-in with the law the past two years will have on his status as a member of the team.

Last summer, Mellencamp and two other individuals, including his brother Speck and an Indiana football player, were charged with felony battery.  That case is still ongoing, although Mellencamp has remained with the team throughout.

(Photo credit: Duke athletics)

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Devonte Fields ‘separated’ from TCU pending investigation results

TCU v Baylor Getty Images

A very disturbing incident has, at least temporarily, cost TCU one of the top defensive players in the Big 12.

In a statement, TCU announced that “Devonte Fields has been separated from the University pending results of an investigation into the allegations against him.” The defensive end is under investigation by the Fort Worth Police Department for a domestic incident involving his ex-girlfriend.

According to reports, Fields’ ex accused him of pointing a gun at her; threatening to “blast” her while pointing the gun at her; and punching her with a closed fist.

Fields has yet to be charged in connection to the disturbance early Sunday morning. Should he be charged, especially if felonies are involved, the separation would likely and very quickly morph into a dismissal.

Earlier this month, Fields was named as the Big 12′s preseason Defensive Player of the Year. In 2012 he was the conference’s Freshman of the Year. His 2013 season was marred by a two-game suspension and, ultimately, a foot injury that limited him to three games.

In late January of this year, Fields claimed he was attacked, beaten and robbed three male suspects, one of whom fired five shots from a handgun into the air.  For whatever reason, Fields declined to press charges despite contacting police.

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Vols, WVU to open 2018 season in Charlotte

West Virginia v Oklahoma Getty Images

Once again, thank you College Football Playoff.

The latest college football programs to up their future scheduling games are Tennessee and West Virginia, with the schools that the Volunteers and Mountaineers will open the 2018 season against one another. The twist is it will be a neutral-site game, with the the two teams squaring off at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

That stadium, the home of the ACC championship game as well as the Belk Bowl, will also play host to the North Carolina-South Carolina game in 2015.

“The game in Charlotte presents a tremendous opportunity for our football program to play against a quality opponent in West Virginia in a first-class NFL venue,” UT head coach Butch Jones said in a statement. “The Charlotte area is in close proximity to many of our fans, and the state of North Carolina is a key component in our recruiting efforts. We very much look forward to such a unique opportunity for our student-athletes and our program.”

The 2018 game, which will be played Sept. 1, will mark the first-ever meeting between the two football programs.  The Vols haven’t played a team from the Big 12 in the regular season — they faced Texas A&M in the 2004 Cotton Bowl — since opening 1997 against Texas Tech, while the Mountaineers’ last regular-season meeting with a member of the SEC came in 2010 versus LSU.

WVU will open the 2014 season at the home of the Atlanta Falcons against Alabama, while UT will play UAB on the Tennessee Titans’s home turf in 2015 and at Bristol Motor Speedway against Virginia Tech the following season.

“Our players enjoy playing in NFL Stadiums and this a great matchup for our program,” said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen, who may or may not still hold that title four years down the road. “We recruit the state of North Carolina and Charlotte is a strong football area. Our fans have always supported us strongly in previous games in Charlotte and I think this is a matchup that they will really enjoy.”

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Report: TCU DE Devonte Fields pointed gun at ex-girlfriend, threatend to ‘blast you’

Devonte Fields, Wes Lunt

Star TCU defensive end Devonte Fields is being investigated by police for allegedly pointing a gun at his ex-girlfriend and threatening to shoot her, according to a report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Fields allegedly punched his ex-girlfriend with a closed fist in the incident as well.

From the Star-Telegram:

There, 20-year-old Haley Brown told officers that Fields had apparently been standing outside the bedroom window listening to her talk to a mutual male friend. Brown told police Fields then punched out the window of their friend’s bedroom from the outside and began yelling at her.

“Haley stated that she thought Devonte was holding a gun in one of his hands and stated that he pointed it at her,” the report states.

“I should blast you!” he yelled at Haley, according to the report.

There are more details of the alleged incident in the Star-Telegram article, but if these accusations are true, Fields is in a world of trouble — and coach Gary Patterson would have justification to kick him off the team. No charges have been filed an arrest has yet to be made as the investigation remains ongoing.

Fields was tabbed as the Big 12 preseason defensive player of the year, though Patterson said Monday he was surprised at that and, as the Dallas Morning News’ Chuck Carlton put it:

Fields only played in three games last year and underwent foot surgery in October, but was the Big 12′s Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.

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