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The Fifth Quarter: Week 8 Rewind

Florida State v Clemson 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

BChaoS
For those looking for a slate of games that would really shake the hell out of things, Week 8 would certainly be a good start.  No. 3 Clemson falls from the ranks of the unbeaten.  No. 6 LSU, No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 8 Louisville and No. 9 UCLA stumbled mightily, the latter two suffering their first losses of the season.  And that’s without even mentioning the utter chaos from the preseason favorites in the SEC East.  When the polls are released later today, there should be an entirely new and utterly strange feel to the middle to the latter half of the Top 10.  Alabama and Oregon, of course, will remain 1-2.  Florida State will likely take over Clemson’s spot in the No. 3 hole, leapfrogging No. 4 Ohio State.  After that?  How about No. 10 Miami or No. 12 Baylor or No. 14 Missouri climbing into the Top Five?  Or Fresno State and Texas Tech moving into the Top 10?  Of course, all of this chaos occurs on the eve of the first release of the BCS standings… and with still seven weeks until the final rankings set the two teams that will play in the title game.  This is going to be one helluva ride over the next month and a half.  Color me giddy over the prospects.

No stage too big, no light too bright
If you saw Jameis Winston walking into the Tigers’ den known as Death Valley, you never would’ve guessed he’s in his first year as a starter and about to play in the biggest game of his life.  If you saw him in the pregame locker room video clip shown on the broadcast, you never would’ve guessed he had just five starts under his belt.  If you saw him on the field against the Tigers?  You knew you were looking at a redshirt freshman who was the most talented player on a field full of them and one who could very well be the Heisman front-runner when it’s all said and done.  The 444 yards and three touchdowns he put on Clemson in the 51-14 waxing only told part of the story; at no point during the game, even after his lone interception, did you get the sense Winston was not in complete and total control of both himself and his team.  The coolness he displays, the grip he has on whatever the situation may be, would be stunning for a 10-year NFL vet let alone a “kid” a year and a half removed from high school.  If there’s such a thing as “it,” Winston has it.

Manziel Malzahn’d
What a turnaround they have going on down on The Plains.  Exactly one year ago today, Auburn was sitting at 1-6 and was a week away from a 42-point woodshedding at the hands of Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel.  Fast forward 365 days, and the Tigers are sitting at 6-1… with a huge revenge win over Texas A&M stuffed firmly into its résumé.  The difference between last year and this one, and between Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn, is stunning in its starkness.  In 2012, AU was winless in SEC play; this year, the Tigers are alone at 3-1 and behind only in-state rival Alabama in the SEC West.  If you’re looking for one of the midseason front-runners for Coach of the Year, look no further than Malzahn.  Not only has he brought hope for a bright future to the Tigers, he’s brought results in the here and now.  Just absolutely brilliant, what Malzahn is doing with what’s essentially Chizik’s players.

Florida v MIssouriMizzou? Who knew?
As we’ve gotten just past the midway point of October, the SEC East’s representative in the conference championship game has been all but locked down.  And, no, it’s not Florida or Georgia or South Carolina; those three preseason favorites each have two league losses, with every member of that trio falling in Week 8.  Instead, it’s Missouri that stands alone atop the SEC East with a 3-0 record.  Not only that, but the Tigers own the head-to-head tiebreakers with both the Gators and Bulldogs should they trip coming down the stretch.  Mizzou’s win over UF Saturday was part of a three-game stretch that began with UGA and will be bookended with the Gamecocks this coming Saturday in Columbia.  Perhaps, though, I should hold off on crowning Mizzou; after USC, the Tigers still have to host games against Tennessee — which knocked off the Gamecocks — and Texas A&M, while also traveling to Ole Miss in between.  That said, who would’ve thought that, after eight weeks of the season, we’d be talking about Mizzou needing to simply not trip over itself over the last month and a half in order to secure an early-December date in Atlanta?  Not me, that’s for sure.

Rebound on The Farm
A week later, and with all due respect to the Utes, I still have nary an idea how Stanford fell to Utah.  The Cardinal didn’t have much time to shake off the inexplicable, however, as unbeaten UCLA came to town.  60 minutes later, the Cardinal had indeed shaken it off by pounding the previously unbeaten Bruins into submission.  In the 24-10 win, the Cardinal defense held the potent Bruins offense to a season-low 266 yards and just a lone fourth-quarter touchdown.  UCLA had averaged nearly 46 points per game entering the contest,  with their previous low-water mark being 34 in a win over Utah.  While the loss a week ago will (likely) continue to sting nationally, the road to the Pac-12 championship game is still crystal clear: win out, including the titanic Nov. 7 showdown with Oregon, the Cardinal would likely be headed to a conference title game appearance — and perhaps a rematch with the Bruins.

Jordamn Lynch
It was one for the record books for one of the most unheralded players in the country Saturday.  In Northern Illinois’ win Central Michigan, Jordan Lynch rushed for a staggering 316 yards.  While that number is impressive enough in and of itself, the fact that Lynch is a quarterback takes the total to a whole other level.  The 316 yards is an FBS record for a quarterback, breaking Stacey Robinson‘s 308 set way back in 1990.  Robinson, incidentally, played for NIU.

55-Gallon drums of yards
To borrow from myself from yesterday, normally, the words “Michigan” and “receiving records” aren’t seen in the same sentence, unless the words “not” and “setting” are included.  For at least one game, that all changed in a big way.  Wolverines wide receiver Jeremy Gallon absolutely lit up an admittedly bad Indiana defense, totaling 369 receiving yards in UM’s 63-47 win over the Hoosiers.  The yardage set not only a school record but a Big Ten mark as well, with the total serving as the second-most in FBS history behind Stanford’s Troy Edwards‘ 405 yards.  Perhaps the most staggering aspect of Gallon’s for-the-ages performance is that the senior came into the game with 462 yards — total — in six games this season.

Be like MikeAuburn v Texas A&M
While not exactly Gallon-esque, Mike Evans wasn’t too shabby himself.  In Texas A&M’s loss to Auburn, the unfairly talented wide receiver caught 11 Johnny Manziel passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns.  The four scores tied Ryan Swope‘s school record.  Interestingly, Evans now has 19 receptions for 566 yards and five touchdowns against teams from the state of Alabama this season.  Even more interestingly, both of those performances came in losing efforts, the other being against the Crimson Tide earlier this season.

One Hill of a game
After a rough start to the season, Taysom Hill began to turn things around a couple of weeks ago.  Saturday afternoon, he really turned it around.  Sort of.  In a wild 47-46 win over Houston, Hill passed for 417 yards and rushed for another 128, becoming the first player in FBS history to throw for 400-plus and rush for 100-plus in a single game.  While the three interceptions will likely be a topic of discussion during positional meetings this week, it appears the Cougars may have indeed found its quarterback of the future in the sophomore.

BCS 4 UCF
Somewhat lost amidst No. 8 Louisville’s first loss of the season, which effectively wiped out what little sliver of BCS title hope it held, is the fact that the team that knocked off the Cardinals is now sitting pretty when it comes to the BCS picture.  UCF had come into the UofL game with just one a loss, a three-point decision to No. 12 South Carolina late last month.  All of a sudden, though, the Golden Knights are in the driver’s seat for the AAC’s BCS berth.  With games left against one-loss Houston in two weeks and one against 4-2 Rutgers the week after, the road isn’t exactly a cakewalk.  However, the fact that UCF gets both those teams at home, and the fact that the Knights are a quality football team despite the lack of respect nationally, bodes well for the program’s shot at its first-ever BCS game appearance.

LOSERS

O-H!  UH-OH!!!
Ohio State may have extended its winning streak to 19 straight, but it suffered a pair of losses perception-wise on the day.  The Buckeyes were less than impressive in a win over Iowa that pushed their winning streak to 19 consecutive games.  It was hardly the kind of performance, however, that wins points with the voters.  Another damaging development for OSU?  Northwestern.  The Wildcats, viewed a couple of weeks ago as one of the few chances for a quality win for the Buckeyes, lost their third straight game Saturday, this time to Minnesota.  Again, that won’t help the perception of OSU’s schedule.  While it goes against what’s in their blood, Buckeye fans need to root like hell for Wisconsin and, especially, Michigan to win out,  Well, that and root like hell for the Buckeyes to stretch the winning streak to a school-record 24 straight.

Florida State v ClemsonBoy oh Boyd
I thought Florida State would win, but I never thought they would win.  And I certainly never imagined Tajh Boyd would lay the egg he did.  Granted, the Seminoles’ defense was as ferocious as advertised, but Boyd had arguably his worst game in his three years as a starter — and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.  FSU rattled the veteran into a stat line that included 17-of-37 passing for a 156 yards and two costly interceptions.  The loss could very well cost Clemson a shot at a BCS title; the performance almost certainly has cost Boyd any shot he had at a Heisman.

Bad Zach’s briefly back?
Through the first seven games of the season, Zach Mettenberger was one of the most improved players in the country at any position.  In the eighth week, the LSU quarterback decided to party like it’s 2012.  Mettenberger entered the Ole Miss game having thrown two interceptions in 174 pass attempts; in the loss to the Rebels, Mettenberger tossed three in his first 11 attempts.  While the trio of picks led to just three points, the second one came in the red zone and cost the Tigers at least three points of their own that they really could’ve used in the end.  Mettenberger bounced back after that inauspicious start to throw for 274 yards and a touchdown.  Alas it wasn’t enough as the Tigers simply couldn’t overcome the 17-0 hole they dug themselves, suffering their second loss of the season in the 27-24, last-second defeat at the hands of the Rebels.

SEC East QB piñatas
The inexplicable wave of injuries that’s slammed into teams from the SEC’s East division has hit the quarterback position especially hard.  Florida lost Jeff Driskel to a season-ending injury earlier in the year, with Missouri’s James Franklin and Kentucky’s Jalen Whitlow sidelined for various lengths of time with injuries incurred last weekend. This weekend, another pair of East quarterbacks have joined the division’s M*A*S*H unit.  South Carolina’s Connor Shaw injured his knee in the loss to Tennessee and did not return, while Vanderbilt’s Austyn Carta-Samuels suffered a leg injury and also didn’t return.  My only suggestion to that division would be to shroud them in bubble wrap before you send your quarterbacks out there next time.  Or something as the spate of injuries at the position is unprecedented.  Well, actually, it’s not…

Snakebit Terps
Last year it was quarterbacks.  This year, it’s linebackers… and now wide receivers.  In the span of less than two quarters, Maryland lost its No. 1 and No. 2 receivers to what could very well be season-ending leg injuries.  Devon Long, the Terps’ leader in receptions coming into the Wake Forest loss, broke the tibula and fibula in his leg.  A short time later, Stephon Diggs, tops in receiving yards, broke the fibula in his right leg.  Both injuries will require surgery to repair, and no timetable has been given for a return, if at all, during the regular season.  It’s the latest blow to a Terps team that won their first four games, but have lost two of the last three by a combined 87 points.

Awash in misery
With four straight wins to start the season, Washington was one of a handful of first-month media darlings.  That early-season sheen has lost most if not all of its luster the past three weeks, however.  While the first two losses, to No. 2 Oregon and then-No. 5 Stanford, were defensible, the 53-24 loss to Arizona State Saturday wasn’t.  Simply put, the Huskies were beaten up and pushed around by the Sun Devils.  No stat exemplified the bullying more so than this: 25 UW rushes for minus-five yards.  Bishop Sankey, who came into the game leading the nation in rushing yards per game at 149.8, was held to just 22 yards on 13 carries by an ASU defense that was 75th against the run (168.8 ypg) coming in.  Following the loss, head coach Steve Sarkisian called the performance “embarrassing”; who am I to argue?

Bert DerpNick Saban, Bret Bielema
Upon his hiring at Arkansas, Bret Bielema was very frank about what his goal was in leaving the Big Ten for the SEC. “The reason the SEC is talked about all the time is one team, because of their dominance. But I didn’t come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama.” Yeah, about that.  Beating the two-time defending BCS champions wasn’t even remotely in the cards on this night, with the Tide cruising to a 52-0 win over the Razorbacks that wasn’t even as close as the final score might indicate.  The loss to the Tide is the Hogs’ fourth straight in SEC play, and comes one week after they were embarrassed 52-7 by South Carolina.  The road doesn’t get any easier as UA closes out the season against Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU.  Yeah, good luck with that.

Things still aMiss
At some point, you’d have to think that Southern Miss would trip over a win some way or another, right?  Maybe at some point that’ll be the case, but it wasn’t on this Saturday as the Golden Eagles bumbled and stumbled its way to a 55-14 beatdown at the hands of East Carolina.  The loss is USM’s 18th straight dating back to the 2012 opener.  They haven’t tasted victory since Dec. 24, 2011, the final game before Larry Fedora took himself — and, apparently, the ability to win — to North Carolina.  In a season full of low points, the 41-point blowout wasn’t even the lowest; a 43-point loss to Nebraska in Week 2 was trumped two weeks later by a 53-point pasting at the hands of Boise State.

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

– No. 4 Ohio State 34, Iowa 24: I already had my say on the Buckeyes above.  Button it up, Urb.  It may not be right, but style points matter if a spot in the BCS championship game is your team’s ultimate goal.

– No. 10 Miami 27, North Carolina 23: The Hurricanes nearly saw their unbeaten season ripped from them Thursday night, trailing the Tar Heels by 10 early in the fourth quarter.  Two Dallas Crawford touchdown runs in the final quarter, including one with just over a minute left, as well as a costly delay-of-game penalty pushed The U over UNC and nudged its record to a perfect 6-0.

Kliff Kingsbury– No. 16 Texas Tech 37, West Virginia 27: The Red Raiders entered the fourth quarter down 27-24 to an improving Mountaineers team before a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns allowed Tech to keep its record unblemished at 7-0.

– No. 18 Oklahoma 34, Kansas 19: Bob Stoops is now 15-0 all-time in the next game after the Red River Shootout, but it wasn’t as easy as most expected.  The Jayhawks jumped out to a 13-0 lead before the Sooners scored the next 25 points.  KU then got back to within six early in the fourth quarter before OU pulled away late.

No. 21 Oklahoma State 24, TCU 10: It may have taken a change at quarterback, but it was enough for the Cowboys to overcome an utterly inept Horned Frogs offense.

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 — Since beating Texas A&M 49-42 in Week 3, the Tide has outscored its opponents 201-16.  Chew on that bit of statistical dominance for a while. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. Tennessee

2. Oregon — A close call for Oregon would be something akin to the Ducks leading Washington State just 34-24 at halftime… and then outscoring Wazzu 28-14 in the second half to win going away.  The Ducks have won five of their seven games by 38 or more points.  Their “closest” win was by 21 points over Washington last Saturday. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: vs. No. 9 UCLA

Florida State v Clemson3. Florida State — When you put a 38-point beatdown on the team previously sitting in this spot, you probably deserve to climb higher.  For now, though, we’ll slot the Seminoles here and see how the remainder of the season plays out. (Last week: No. 5)
Up next: vs. North Carolina State

4. Ohio State — All the Buckeyes do is win, and sometimes in ugly duckling fashion.  Then again, though, so did OSU circa 2002.  Hmmm… (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: vs. Penn State

5. Missouri/Miami/Baylor — Yes, I’m copping out on this one.  You think I’m going to attempt to figure out, after all of the carnage this weekend and at two in the morning, which team deserves to move into the No. 5 hole?  OK, sit a hefty member of the female persuasion on my chest and I’d say the Tigers’ wins over Vanderbilt, Georgia and Florida trumps the Hurricanes’ wins over Florida and Georgia Tech.  Add in the fact that the Tigers have won every game by at least 15 points, and they probably deserve the slot.  The Bears can make their statement the first three games of November against Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. (Last week: unranked)
Next up: vs. South Carolina/vs. Wake Forest/at Kansas

HE SAID IT
“I promised myself I wouldn’t say anything horrendous about the officiating today so I’m not going to do that.” — Georgia head coach Mark Richt, who will likely get a call from the league office for his non-comments on the officiating during the loss to Vanderbilt.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“We played without a lot of our guys, and everyone stepped up and raised their level. I like our team.” — an understated Gus Malzahn after Auburn’s biggest win since the BCS title game following the 2010 season.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“Obviously this is getting a little old.” — Bret Bielema, after Arkansas’ fifth straight loss.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“Maybe the only guy on the team I’m taller than. I have to tell him about that every day. Hate to tell him that’s why he got recruited because I’ve got to be taller than somebody.” — Nick Saban talking about 5-9 running back Dee Hart.

HE SAID IT, LES MILES EDITION
“I did a piss-poor job preparing this football team to play in this game.” — the Mad Hatter taking the loss to Ole Miss and placing it squarely on his shoulders.

PHOTO(SHOP) OF THE WEEK
There are simply no words to describe this photo that bounced across Twitter late this past week.  So, and as I duck in anticipation of the reaction, here goes nothing…

oBAMA

#oBAMA

Twitter is simply one of the greatest.  Inventions.  Ever.

SAY WHAT?
Saturday’s game against Missouri was the furthest north Florida has traveled for a game since a 1991 contest against Syracuse.  In a dome.  The last time they played outdoors at a more northerly locale than Columbia?  You have to go back to 1986, the year the Gators traveled to East Rutherford, New Jersey, to take on Rutgers in a mid-October non-conference matchup.

TRUE STORY
Missouri is not just winning but they are winning handily: all seven of their victories this season have been by at least 15 points.  The Tigers’ “closest” calls?  A pair of 15-point wins over Toledo (38-23) and Georgia (41-26).  All told, the Tigers have exactly doubled their opponents in points this season: 310-155.

Sean MannionFOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– What Oregon State’s Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks are doing to defenses this season is borderline criminal.  The former passed for 493 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Cal, while the latter caught 13 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown.  Mannion has now passed for at least 367 yards in all seven games, and has thrown for at least 400 yards in five of them.  Coming into Week 8, Mannion was leading the nation in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns, while Cooks was doing the same in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns; here’s to guessing that won’t change much if at all when the statistics are updated later on today.

– With four teams (Clemson, Houston, Louisville, UCLA) suffering their first losses of the season Saturday (and Thursday), there are now 10 undefeated programs left at the FBS level.  The Big 12 (Baylor, Texas Tech), ACC (Florida State, Miami) and SEC (Alabama, Missouri) are the only conferences with more than one.  On the other end of the spectrum, Temple, over Army, was the only team to pick up its first win of the year in Week 8.  That leaves seven teams (Georgia State, Hawaii, Miami of Ohio, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, UConn, Western Michigan) winless through the first two months of the year.

Jeremy Gallon wasn’t the Michigan player setting records Saturday as Devin Gardner threw for a school-record 503 yards on just 21 completions and 29 attempts.  And Gardner absolutely obliterated the old standard of 389 yards set by John Navarre.  The best development for the Wolverines, though, was that the interception-prone Gardner didn’t throw a pick.

– Team-wise, Michigan set a school record with 751 yards of total offense, besting the old high of 727 yards set against Delaware State in 2009.

Connor Halliday set an FBS record with 89 pass attempts in Washington State’s loss to Oregon, breaking Drew Brees‘ record of 83.  His 58 completions tied an FBS record.  For good measure, he threw for 557 yards and four touchdowns… and lost by 24 points.

– Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has now thrown 265 consecutive passes without an interception, extending the Pac-12 record he set last week.

– In the loss to Auburn (still can’t believe I’m typing that), Johnny Manziel totaled 502 yards of offense (454 passing, 48 rushing) and accounted for five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing).

– For the second game in a row, Alabama had a pair of 100-yard rushers: Derrick Henry with 111 yards and a touchdown, Kenyon Drake with 104 yards and two touchdowns.

Cody Hoffman– It was a heck of a day for BYU’s Cody Hoffman: the wide receiver broke the school record for career receptions he had shared with Dennis Pita (221, now 231); tied the school record for most career touchdown receptions (Austin Collie, 30); and moved to within 72 yards of breaking Collie’s record for most career receiving yards.

– Both Melvin Gordon and James White accounted for three touchdowns apiece as Wisconsin whipped Illinois 56-32.

– In his first career start, Maty Mauk threw for 295 yards and a touchdown in Missouri’s huge win over Florida.

– Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart caught 10 passes for 141 yards and returned two punts for another 124 in the Cowboys’ win over TCU.  Stewart took one of his returns back 95 yards for a touchdown.

– A one-yard touchdown run by Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde in the third quarter of Iowa’s loss was the first rushing touchdown the Hawkeyes had allowed all season (six-plus games).

– Baylor passed for 423 yards and ran for another 291 in a 71-7 win over Iowa State.  The game also marked the fifth time in six games the Bears have scored at least 69 points.

– BYU ran 115 plays in its 47-46 win over previously unbeaten Houston, tying the NCAA record set by Northwestern in 2010.

– Akron’s 24-17 win over Miami of Ohio snapped a streak of 28 losses to FBS teams, with the last win for the Zips against a program from that level coming in November of 2010 against Buffalo.

IN CLOSING…
The loss of any life is tragic, but the passing of someone with their whole lives ahead of them just adds to the gut-punch.  Sadly, the world of college football has seemingly dealt with more than its fair share of tragedies the past month and a half.  A Texas A&M defensive lineman burying his two-month daughter just days before the Alabama game.  The stunt pilot father of Tulane’s kicker killed in an airplane crash.  A UCLA wide receiver struck and killed by a vehicle, while a Cincinnati offensive lineman was killed and another Bearcat still hospitalized with injuries incurred in a one-vehicle accident just two weeks later.  Sadly, tragedy hit the college football world yet again, with Eastern Michigan wide receiver Demarius Reed shot dead in an apparent homicide Friday morning.  Way too many, and way, way, way too young.  Hug ‘em if you’ve got ‘em, every single chance you get.

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Alabama 2014 defense fueled by dismal Sugar Bowl performance

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Oklahoma v Alabama

Don’t make Alabama angry. You might not like them when they are angry.

To say Alabama’s end of the 2013 did not go well is a bit of an understatement. After one of the biggest surprises in college football history knocked Alabama out of the SEC Championship Game and BCS Championship Game picture, the Crimson Tide we left for dust by Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama allowed 35 points to be scored off of five turnovers in the game, and that defensive performance has not been sitting well since January.

“It wasn’t the way we play,” linebacker Trey DePriest said to ESPN.com. “We don’t get that many points put up on us. That’s way more than what our goal is — 13 points or less. It didn’t seem like us. We were ready, we just didn’t go out and leave it on the field like it was our last game. It’s definitely been a driving force.”

The holes in Alabama’s defense were visible long before the Sugar Bowl though. Texas A&M racked up big yards and plenty of points against the two-time defending BCS champions last September in College Station as Johnny Manziel once again went wild on Alabama (although he did have a couple of turnovers as well). Alabama’s defense was able to get through most of the season on their overall talent alone last fall, but the holes were there all along. Oklahoma capitalized on it, giving Nick Saban and his program plenty to work on and fix this offseason.

Have opposing offenses found  formula that can overcome Alabama, or will the Tide rise again as they make adjustments to slow down quick-tempo offenses designed to wear down physical defenses?

Alabama will very likely be one of the top teams in the country next fall, and fine tuning on defense will be key.

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Kansas names starting QB with plenty of room to improve

Montell Cozart

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis has named his starting quarterback for the Jayhawks in 2014. That task will belong to sophomore Montell Cozart, who will look to turn around the production at the quarterback position.

Cozart is coming off an admirable spring game performance, completing six of 10 pass attempts for 58 yards, and rushing for 70 more yards and a pair of touchdowns while leading his spring team to victory. He beat out Jake Heaps and T.J. Millweard for the job. Cozart may have been the most likely starter for 2014 because he replaced Heaps under center last season.

How high is the bar of success for Kansas? Each of the past two seasons have ended with the top two quarterbacks on the roster completing fewer than 50 percent of their passes and combining for 25 interceptions to just 15 touchdowns. It may be safe to say the bar is quite low, or perhaps there is plenty of room for improvement.

Weis initially wanted to keep the quarterback competition open leading up closer to the fall, but it seems he has seen enough. This could come in handy, as now Weis and his offensive assistants can start planning to build an offense Cozart will be best suited to lead, which should give players more time to be ready for whatever the coaches put together.

Hey, why not take an optimistic spin where you can?

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Do you have any quarterbacks? Texas Tech says “Go fish!”

Texas Tech v Oklahoma

Texas Tech is down to just one quarterback on the roster as the spring comes to a close. Davis Webb was named the starting quarterback for the Red Raiders last week, but who will be there to back him up? The Dallas Morning News reports walk-on quarterbacks Tanner Tausch and Mike Richardson are both leaving the program, leaving Webb as the only quarterback left on the roster heading into the summer.

Tausch is not leaving Texas Tech, but he is leaving the football team to focus on academics. Richardson is looking for a chance to compete for more playing time that is not likely to be available at Texas Tech. In all, Texas Tech has lost five quarterbacks over the past six months. Fortuneately for Texas Tech, the future is still bright under center.

Texas Tech will be adding a quarterback through the most recent recruiting class with Patrick Mahomes, a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com, and a handful of walk-ons are expected to join the team in the coming months as well, including the son of former Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde, Vincent Testaverde. The Class of 2015 already has one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation lined up as well with four-star recruit Jarrett Stidham already committed.

All head coach Kliff Kingsbury needs to do is get through the 2014 season without any quarterback injuries before he can really get to work with the future leader of his offense.

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Breaking Bad: Brady Hoke likes Michigan’s chemistry

Brady Hoke

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

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

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

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

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

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Northwestern alums say players being pushed to vote against union

Kain Colter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Report: Sooners’ leading tackler facing sexual assault accusations

.J. Yeldon, Frank Shannon AP

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

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

From the paper, relating to that report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Three Texas A&M Aggies were arrested last week

Howard Matthews, Charles Ross

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

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

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

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

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

South Carolina State v Clemson Getty Images

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

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

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

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

Kelly understands and agrees with that thought as well.

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

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

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James Madison will pass on Sun Belt and FBS move

Stony Brook James Madison Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NCAA approves new roughing the passer penalty for hits below knees

Tennessee v Florida Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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Florida State expresses disappointment in New York Times story

Florida State Spring Game Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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‘Cuse confirms Terrel Hunt will remain QB starter

Terrel Hunt AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

1965 Sugar Bowl

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

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

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

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

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

Syracuse Unis

(Program photo credit: Allstate Sugar Bowl)

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

Central Florida v SMU

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

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

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

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

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Report: four-star 2013 DB bolts Buckeyes

Jayme Thompson

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: Ohio State athletics)

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

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

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