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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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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: The games the Big 12 cannot afford to lose in 2015

Bob Stoops

The Big 12 was left out of the first College Football Playoff. Depending upon whom you ask, the Big 12 was left out because Baylor didn’t play anybody (they didn’t), TCU lost to Baylor (they did) or the Big 12 just was not that good overall (plausible). You will also get some tell you Baylor and TCU just did not have the brand recognition a program like Ohio State or Florida State carried with it (again, true).Whatever the case

Whatever the case maybe, the Big 12 is in need of ensuring a Big 12 champion will be battle tested and respected by the College Football Playoff selection committee at the end of the season. With the margin for error possibly very small for the Big 12 (two one-loss teams getting left out of the four-team playoff may be a rarity in all honesty), the Big 12 needs to impress in non-conference action. This season there are a handful of notable games worth paying attention to, especially with the Big 12’s reputation riding on the results.

Here are five games the Big 12 must win this season in order to boost the Big 12 profile in November and December.

Texas at Notre Dame (September 5): The Texas Longhorns get the season underway in South Bend under the stadium lights in primetime. It is a perfect opportunity to represent the Big 12 on national television (NBC, of course) in the opening weekend. Feel free to throw in a home date a couple of weeks later against California of the Pac-12. It may not be a huge game, but adding a win against the Pac-12 would certainly help the Big 12’s overall profile.

West Virginia vs. Georgia Southern (September 5): Don’t laugh, because Georgia Southern is not a joke. The Eagles won the Sun Belt Conference in their first year at the FBS level and just won at Florida two seasons ago. West Virginia being upset at home in the season opener would not be a good look for the Big 12.

Oklahoma at Tennessee (September 12): Oklahoma sent Tennessee home with a loss last season, but now the Sooners make a visit to Neyland Stadium against a Tennessee program budding with potential and momentum. Getting out of the SEC with a win would be big for the Sooners and the entire Big 12.

Texas Tech at Arkansas (September 19): This one might be a reach, but it is worthy of consideration. Arkansas is another team those following the SEC may feel optimistic about moving forward, and Texas Tech’s defense could be in for a long game. If the Red Raiders could manage to get out of the state with a win against a team from the SEC West, the Big 12 would be smiling in a big way.

West Virginia vs. Maryland (September 26): The Big 12 was passed over by the Big Ten, so the best course of action is to strike back at the conference up north. TCU (at Minnesota), Iowa State (vs. Iowa) and West Virginia each get a chance to do that, but the Mountaineers may have the most pivotal of the three. Minnesota may be good this year, but TCU will have plenty of time to recover should they be upset on the road in the season opener. West Virginia could be in position to give the Big 12 a winning record against the Big Ten, which did not come in handy last season but could come back this season.

Last season was  a bit of a reality check for the Big 12. the conference was hyped to be a deep conference, but the production on the field failed to live up to the hype when it counted (TCU’s blasting of Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl not included). Would the Big 12 have been shut out of the playoff had it been Texas or Oklahoma standing at the end of the season with just one loss? Probably not, but the Big 12 does not need a big brand to carry the Big 12 banner if the entire conference can rise to the occasion in non-conference contests early and often.

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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: American’s West can help shape conference image too

UH Coach Tom Herman

The task of changing the way the American Athletic Conference is perceived does not fall just on the shoulders of the American’s East Division. The West has some chances to help give the conference a boost as well. And with Navy joining the division, the door to some more opportunities has been opened moving forward.

The schedules among the AAC’s West teams is littered with big road tests against power conference foes and even some home games. All provide a chance for the West to rise and defend the conference’s image. Last season saw Boise State of the Mountain West Conference come away with the guaranteed New Years Six bowl spot, thanks in large part to the perception of the Boise State program and relative strength of schedule of the Mountain West Conference as a whole. The American has an opportunity to climb to the top, but it will have to work to get there. With some bright new head coaches in place at Houston (Tom Herman), SMU (Chad Morris) and Tulsa (Philip Montgomery), the bar is being raised in the West.

After already going through some of the key games in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division, here is a look at some of the more notable opportunities to come for the schools in the West this season.

Tulane vs. Duke (September 5); Tulane at Georgia Tech (September 12): Tulane may be coming off a miserable debut season in the American Athletic Conference, but it can more than make up for it by getting the conference off to a great start against the past two ACC Coastal Division champions. It may be a tall order for Tulane at this point in time, but it has a better chance of resulting in some wins than SMU’s early-season match-ups with Baylor and TCU.

Houston at Louisville (September 12): Louisville looks to be an interesting team out of the ACC Atlantic Division this season. Could a home game against Houston sandwiched between Auburn and Clemson be a trap game? Oh yes, it certainly could.

Memphis at Kansas (September 12); Memphis at Bowling Green (September 19): Pairing these two games together for one reason. First, Memphis winning at Kansas may not score major points for the conference given the perception of the Jayhawks, but it would still go down as a road win against a Big 12 opponent. But Memphis then needs to avoid a loss to MAC threat Bowling Green. Remember, we are not only looking for victories against power conference opponents, but also against the best threats from other Group of Five conferences. Knocking off Kansas and Bowling Green, the defending MAC champions, would end up giving Memphis and the AAC a nice little boost in September.

Navy vs. Air Force (October 3); Navy at Notre Dame (October 10): Following similar logic as just above with Memphis, Navy has an excellent opportunity to score some big wins in back-to-back weeks. First Navy hosts Air Force, coming off a successful season and representing the Mountain West Conference. Again, victories against other Group of Five opponents can be huge in the end. And beating Notre Dame obviously carries some weight.

Memphis vs. Ole Miss (October 17): Oh, you thought we were done with Memphis? Think again. The Tigers host the SEC’s Ole Miss in mid-October. If Memphis can defend its home turf against a power conference opponent from the hyped SEC West, their work will largely be done representing the conference in 2015.

Like the East Division, if the West can somehow come away with a .500 mark out of this slate of games, that would be a tremendous victory for the conference and would bode well for the conference’s champion. Keep in mind the AAC will hold a conference championship game this season as well, giving it one more game to showcase the best it has to offer.

One thing that should also be noted is Navy will actually play one more game after the College Football Playoff selection committee is set to make its big bowl pairings. The Army-Navy Game is scheduled for the Saturday after the release of the CFB Playoff and New Years Six bowl pairings. The expectation is this can be worked around to avoid any controversial hassles, but after seeing Baylor and/or TCU get shortchanged in part because of playing one fewer game than everyone else, it is worth keeping in mind.

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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: American’s East contenders can change way we think about AAC

Tommy Tuberville

The American Athletic Conference just missed out on the College Football Playoff selection committee’s guaranteed reservation to a Group of Five conference champion. Memphis ended up needed just a little more help out of the Mountain West Conference, which was represented by Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl this past postseason. If the American Athletic Conference is going to shake off the perception it still carries from the days of the crumbling Big East, then it should hope to win some pivotal games in non-conference play this season. It just so happens the American Athletic Conference will have plenty of opportunities to score some eye-opening victories, although they will not come easily.

Here are some of the more notable games on the AAC schedule for the contenders in the East Division that could actually boost the perception of the conference and its champion.

Temple vs. Penn State (September 5): The Temple Owls open the season in Lincoln Financial Field, but it will feel like a Penn State home game with the Nittany Lions back in the city of brotherly love. Temple’s defense can pose some problems for Penn State’s offense early, but may need a flawless performance on offense for the upset.

East Carolina at Florida (September 12): East Carolina gets Florida at a decent time with the Gators still looking to rebound and in the first year under Jim McElwain. Winning in Gainesville is not easy, although Georgia Southern managed to do it. So why not the Pirates?

UCF at Stanford (September 12): The Knights head to the west coast to take on perennial Pac-12 contender Stanford. The Cardinal got off to a slow start last season. If they do once again this season then UCF could return home with a big win for the conference.

UCF at South Carolina (September 26): The Knights are not satisfied playing just one power conference opponent on the road. A couple weeks after visiting Stanford they will head to South Carolina. The Knights nearly pulled off the upset of the Gamecocks the last time they played. Could UCF win on the road in Pac-12 and SEC territory?

East Carolina vs. Virginia Tech (September 26): A year ago it was the Pirates who stormed to the front of the pack in the Group of Five race after knocking off Virginia Tech. The Hokies had just topped Ohio State in Columbus, which helped boost East Carolina’s profile as a result. The way things shape out we could see that happen all over again. Or not. Who knows?

Cincinnati vs. Miami (October 1): The Bearcats figure to be a regular threat in the American Athletic Conference, and a home victory over the Miami Hurricanes can help push them to the top of the pecking order among Group of Five contenders. Cincinnati hosts Miami on a Thursday night, with Miami coming off a bye week following a home date with Nebraska.

Temple vs. Notre Dame (October 31): It is a big year for Temple season ticket holder. Not only does Penn State come to town, but so does Notre Dame. If Temple can pull the upset of the Irish, it would be a huge victory for the conference as a whole. What if Temple beats both Penn State and Notre Dame…

Coming out of these games with a 3-4 mark should be considered a success (4-3 obviously an even bigger success), and it would likely help change the way the AAC’s champion is compared alongside whichever team comes out of the Mountain West Conference, MAC, Conference USA or Sun Belt Conference. The games in September can carry huge weight in December.

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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: ACC Coastal Division

Cincinnati v Miami Getty Images

Once again, it looks as though the ACC Coastal Division is going to be a wide-open race just waiting for someone to jump up and grab control of the division. After looking over just the schedules of the ACC Coastal Division, you can see why.

Take Pittsburgh for example. The Panthers, now with Pat Narduzzi making his head coaching debut, may have some of the top offensive players in the ACC with wide receiver Tyler Boyd and running back James Conner, but the Panthers must overcome a lot of travel in the first half of the season. Pittsburgh will go all the way to Week 9 before getting its second ACC game at home. Pittsburgh has just two home games before Halloween. If they can stay above water before November, the Panthers will have some huge games at home down the stretch (UNC, Louisville and Miami in ACC play and Notre Dame). The Panthers also avoid Clemson and Florida State.

Duke may have the best schedule in the ACC with no Clemson, no Florida State and no Louisville. The Blue Devils also get Georgia Tech, Boston College, Miami and Pittsburgh at home. Duke has to travel to Virginia Tech, but they get a bye week to prepare for it. The UNC Tar Heels also miss on the top three Atlantic Division threats, and they get Duke at home after a Thursday night road trip at Pittsburgh. Georgia Tech, the defending division champions get both Clemson and Florida State in crossover match-ups.

I’m still left wondering when Miami is going to take control of this division, which was supposed to happen as soon as the Hurricanes joined the conference and a division split was put into play. If nothing else, Miami has a decent chance to generate the annual “Is Miami back” conversation with a couple of easy games in the first two weeks followed by a revenge situation at home against Nebraska. They then get a bye week to prepare for a Thursday night game at American contender Cincinnati before a road game at Florida State and home dates with Virginia Tech and Clemson. In other words, Al Golden has his work cut out for him before heading down the home stretch against Coastal competition.

Virginia Tech has the biggest non-conference game on the ACC schedule with a Labor Day night season opener against defending champion, and most likely preseason No. 1, Ohio State. We all know what happened last year. If Virginia Tech can do it again in Blacksburg, will they avoid a letdown a few weeks later at East Carolina? Or at home against Pittsburgh?

Oh, I also had some thoughts on the ACC Atlantic Division schedules if you are interested.

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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: ACC Atlantic Division

150523_SwinneyClemson Getty Images

It’s Memorial Day weekend, which means things can probably get a little slow here around the virtual desk in the home office of this college football writer. It also can be a good time to begin to start looking a little more at the upcoming college football season. After all, the first FBS game is only 103 days, five hours and 25 minutes away and counting. TO pass the time I started loading up individual season schedules into Excel, which will later be used to keep track of predicted wins and losses and you don’t really care about this level of college football data archiving.

I started with the ACC schedules, going through each conference in alphabetical order I know, I know, technically the American Athletic Conference comes first) and figured I would share some thoughts about the schedules. Why not make them into some quick posts? SO here are some quick thoughts.

I am pretty optimistic about Clemson this season. The Tigers get a couple of easy games (against Wofford and Appalachian State) before a huge road test on a Thursday night at Louisville. They then get a bye before hosting Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Boston College the next three weeks. They also get Florida State at home. As far as the ACC is concerned, advantage Tigers.

We are going to get a good idea of what Louisville is early on. The Cardinals take on Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta in week one and two weeks later host Clemson on a Thursday night. If Louisville scratches together two wins there, then watch out. Cardinals have a bye week to prepare for Florida State, who will be coming off a game against Miami the previous week. Florida State will play its first two ACC games on the road and must also play on the road against Georgia Tech and Clemson. The Noles take on FCS Chattanooga the week before visiting Gainesville.

Boston College opens the year with back-to-back home games against FCS opponents, Maine and Howard. This will mean Boston College will have to win seven games in order to be bowl eligible this season. The Eagles have won seven games in each of the first two seasons since the arrival of Steve Addazio.

NC State is one of the rare power five conference schools to take to the road to play Group of Five schools twice in a season, and they will do so in back-to-back weeks against Old Dominion and South Alabama.  Still, we could be talking about a 4-0 Wolfpack when Louisville comes to town in Week 5.

The schedule does no favors to Syracuse. The Orange host LSU in non-conference play in Week 4. But that is not the ACC’s fault. Syracuse has what could be a brutal ACC stretch as October flips over to November. At Florida State on Halloween, at Louisville the following week and at home against Clemson. Good luck with all that.

Wake Forest will have an uphill battle from start to finish. The Demon Deacons get Florida State and Louisville at home and travel to Notre Dame and Clemson at the end of the season. The ceiling is very low for Wake Forest no matter how the schedule shapes out though.

After looking through the schedules in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, I still think Clemson has the best path to a trip to Charlotte at the end of the year, although Everett Golson keeps Florida State’s path somewhat clear as well if they can get by Clemson in Week 10. And if Louisville gets hot early, things could get interesting real fast.

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LSU AD says Tigers would play Texas A&M on Black Friday, hopes SEC never goes to 9 games

LSU v Texas A&M Getty Images

LSU athletics director Joe Alleva has said pretty sternly there is not a chance LSU will play a game on Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving? Well that sounds liek a different story.

Appearing as a guest on the Paul Finebaum Show on ESPN Radio Friday afternoon, with Tony Barnhart sitting in as a guest host, Alleva said LSU would be willing to play Texas A&M the day after Thanksgiving.

“The reason I said that is not necessarily because it’s a Thursday night game, but it’s Thanksgiving Thursday night and I’m opposed to playing a game on Thanksgiving Day inside the stadium. In my opinion it’s a time when our families need to be with their families and give thanks for all the blessings they have, take a day off and get ready for Friday or Saturday night inside the stadium.”

Asked if that meant LSU would play Texas A&M on a Friday in Tiger Stadium, Alleva said “Yeah, we would play on a Friday, hopefully at night.” Alleva went on to say LSU prefers to play games at night, which he had previously gone on record saying. Alleva also

Alleva, who said this week non-conference opponents from power conferences are scared to schedule a road game in Tiger Stadium, also suggested the chances the SEC would ever move to a nine-game conference schedule are still slim.

“I hope we don’t get to that, but we’ll see,” Alleva said to Barnhart. “We may get to that at some point. My personal opinion is this league is very tough and we don’t need to make it tougher by playing another family member in the league and beating each other up more than we already do.”

The SEC has stuck with an eight-game conference schedule despite having 14 members. Each school has a locked in crossover opponent (LSU is paired with Florida), and the SEC will begin requiring each member to schedule one non-conference game against an opponent from a power conference. Notre Dame, BYU and Army will count toward satisfying that non-conference scheduling requirement. Alleva has been vocal with his thoughts against the current SEC scheduling model.

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Wisconsin QB leaves Badgers after one spring

Paul Chryst

Despite graduating high school early to join the Wisconsin Badgers, true freshman quarterback Austin Kafentzis is already on his way out of Madison.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports Kafentzis saw a limited number of snaps in the spring in Madison at a time when freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook seemed to have a more productive spring. Another report from 247 Sports says new Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst was not viewing Kafentzis as a quarterback option, but another position instead.

Kafentzis was a three-star recruit according to Rivals, and the fifth-best recruit in the state of Utah. He had committed to Wisconsin in June 2013. He had reportedly had strong ties with former Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen, and once Andersen packed his bags for Oregon State the quarterback reaffirmed his commitment to the program following the hiring of Chryst.

Kafentzis did reportedly take interest in Oregon State after Andersen left Wisconsin for the Pac-12 program, but it is unknown at this time if Kafentzis has any specific interest in another program. However, if he transfers to another FBS program he will now have to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules since he has already enrolled.

Wisconsin’s quarterback situation should still be good enough when it comes to depth. Joel Stave will be the team’s starter under center in the fall and redshirt junior Bart Houston is back in Madison this season. Wisconsin will also have redshirt freshman D.J. Gillins and Hornibrook.

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Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh defends satellite camp practice

150523_Harbaugh Getty Images

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff have quite a busy June on tap with nine stops as guests at nine different football camps. Harbaugh’s group will be making appearances at camps in California, Florida, Texas, and Alabama in addition to various stops within the Big Ten’s traditional footprint. Harbaugh has also extended an open invitation to coaches around the country to come be a part of Michigan’s football camp. Harbaugh’s national summer tour of football camps has been one of the storylines this offseason as he and his staff have taken advantage of NCAA rules to work at camps, and he is not about to apologize for it.

“Our staff has been invited to help work at the camp(s) and it’s a great way for us to spread football, you know — the joy and love of football,” Harbaugh said on the “Jim Rome Show” on Friday. “There’s also a recruiting element. You get to meet folks in different areas of the country. So I think it’s all good.”

Per NCAA rules, coaches at a school are restricted to running camps on campus, within its state boundaries or within a 50-mile radius of its campus if out-of-state. However, NCAA rules also allow coaches to work at any other camp — dubbed satellite camps — so long as they do not take part in organizing the camp or advertising their appearance at the specific camp. The school hosting the camp may advertise their appearance though.

The NCAA may allow this practice, but the ACC and SEC each have conference-specific rules prohibiting their coaches from taking advantage of the same freedom, and each conference has made a push to some degree to have the NCAA clamp down on the practice. The SEC even prohibited its coaches from attending Michigan’s camp.

Harbaugh, of course, is not alone in the act of working at satellite camps. Penn State’s James Franklin generated buzz last year by working camps in Georgia and Florida and Penn State’s coaches are once again going on the road to work camps this summer. Ohio State is getting in on the act. So is Nebraska and Notre Dame and more.

As for Michigan’s football camp, Harbaugh says the reception to the open invite has been well-received.

“I love it that Ivy League coaches are coming to our camp and Big Ten coaches are coming to our camp,” Harbaugh said. “South Florida is coming. We’ve got about 70 schools that are coming to our camp.”

Helmet sticker to MLive.com.

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Nearly two decades later, Priest Holmes graduates from Texas

BYU v Texas Getty Images

Twenty-three years after he arrived from San Antonio, 19 years after he helped his Longhorns to a stunning upset of Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 championship game, 14 years after he led the NFL in rushing, 13 years after winning the AP Offensive Player of the Year award and eight years after leaving the NFL, Priest Holmes has graduated from the University of Texas.

The obvious question: what in the world was Holmes doing in the eight years between leaving the NFL and earning his degree? Doing philanthropic work in his native San Antonio while serving as the NFLPA’s Alamo City chapter.

As part of his NFLPA duties, Holmes told TexasSports.com, was setting up a quarterly conference that emphasized professional development and the value of earning a college degree. The message sank home with him.

“I got fired up to finish that degree,” he said. “It really motivated me and gave me that passion.”

Holmes spent his Wednesdays and Thursdays driving to and from San Antonio to finish his degree in applied learning and development.

Diploma in hand, Holmes will use his education to enhance his current work with the Priest Holmes Foundation, which works to empower young people.”I was taking courses and able to turn around and immediately implement them in our programs,” Holmes said. “That made the transition easier.”

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PHOTO: Drake stops by Houston football offices

Rapper Drake

Started from the bottom now he’s…. at Houston’s football offices.

In no doubt purely coincidental timing (wink wink) just hours after landing the most highly-touted recruit in program history Drake stopped by Tom Herman and the gang to show some love.

No word on if Drake will abandon Kentucky – or Texas A&M – for the Coogs.

As Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger columnist Hugh Kellenberger put it, Drake is the hip-hop version of Kenny Chesney.

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Former Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase rejoins program as assistant DFO

Nathan Scheelhaase

It’s becoming something of a tradition in the Illinois football program. Start at quarterback, then come back a few years down the road and get your feet wet in the coaching business.

Earlier this week, Illinois announced the hiring of former quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase as the program’s assistant director of football operations. The man he replaces? None other than former Illinois quarterback Juice Williams.

Williams, who also preceded Scheelhaase as the Illini’s signal-caller, left for a job on the athletic development staff at Georgetown.

“I am honored to be working for the university I call home,” Scheelhaase said in a statement. “The memories I made as a player were special, and I can’t wait to be a part of creating more memories for the players and fans. As the Assistant Director of Football Operations I am excited about supporting the coaching staff and players in every way possible. I am confident that my experience as a student-athlete and as a leader both domestically and internationally will be a valuable source in helping the football program achieve greater success. I can’t wait to get to home and get to work.”

Scheelhaase started at quarterback from 2010-13 and remains the program’s all-time total offense leader with 10,634 yards. He stands as one of just two players in Big Ten history with 8,000 career passing yards and 2,000 career rushing yards, and is the only quarterback in school history to lead the club to bowl wins in back-to-back seasons.

Elsehwere in the program, Patrick Embleton has been hired as director of student-athlete development.

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Former Syracuse player to receive Medal of Honor for World War I heroics

Maryland v Syracuse

William Shemin played football and lacrosse at Syracuse before graduating in 1924. Prior to that, though, he was a war hero. Shemin joined the the Army in 1917, and by August of the next year he was near the Velse River in France, where his actions saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers, exposing himself to artillery fire while dragging the wounded to safety.

Shemin passed away in 1973. A week and a half from now, he will receive the Presidential Medal of Honor.

Shemin’s daughter, Elsie Shemin-Roth, will receive the medal from President Barack Obama at a ceremony at the White House, according to a press release from the White House (via Syracuse.com).

This won’t be the first time Shemin is honored for his efforts. He has previously been bestowed a Purple Heart and a Distinguished Service Cross.

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Army and Navy stand ground against College Football Playoff scheduling

Army v Navy Getty Images

One of college football’s best traditions will not budge for one of its newest traditions. Army and Navy stand united against adjusting its traditional scheduling of the Army-Navy Game to satisfy the College Football Playoff schedule for rankings and bowl pairings.

“We have no intention of moving it. None,” Navy athletics director Chet Gladchuk told Paul Myerberg of USA Today. “It would show that we’ve realigned our priorities in a way that doesn’t complement our mission. We can’t do it. It’s something that’s that special.”

The Army-Navy Game has found a permanent place on the college football calendar the Saturday after championship Saturday, which puts the annual rivalry in the national spotlight all by itself without competition from other conferences, aside from lower division playoff match-ups. With Navy joining the American Athletic Conference, the possibility Navy could be in the mix for one of the guaranteed spots in the New Years Six posed a slight problem to the College Football Playoff process. The College Football Playoff announced the final rankings and bowl pairings for associated bowls on the Sunday after championship Saturday. Navy playing one more game after the scheduled selection process poses a hypothetical problem.

What if Navy is 12-0? What if Navy is the highest ranked Group of Five conference champion but loses to Army? We may not be discussing Navy in its prime with national title contenders on a regular basis, but the new postseason format does make it easier or more realistic for Navy to play a key role in the big game bowl picture than it has in decades. Judging by another quote from Gladchuck to USA Today, Navy may be willing to pass on the whole playoff as long as it means it can play Army.

“If it means that we’ve got to sacrifice the opportunity to participate in the playoff system, then that’s something we’ll have to deal with,” Gladchuk said. “We’ll have to work on that.”

I don’t know if Navy will win the American Athletic Conference or not, but they will know if they have by the time the Army-Navy Game is played. IF Navy wins the conference, then the Midshipmen would be stacked up against conference champs from the Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference, MAC and Conference USA, and they would also have played just 11 games. This would be similar to Baylor and TCU each playing 12 games compared to the other power conference champions that played 13 games last season. Should Navy be warned of the dangers of having one fewer game on the record when the selection committee goes to work to put the final pieces together?

I’d love to see how that is handled by the selection committee.

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Tom Herman lands Houston’s highest-rated recruit in over a decade, possibly ever

Photo credit: Rivals

Houston’s new head coach has yet to coach a game, but he’s already making things happen. As best we can tell right now, new Houston head coach Tom Herman has broken down a wall that Houston has yet to climb since as far back as 2002.

Class of 2016 defensive tackle Ed Oliver, rated four stars and the seventh-best defensive tackle in the nation by Rivals, has given Herman and Houston his verbal commitment. This, of course, is a long way from becoming officially official with National Signing Day not until next February. It is, however, a sign that Herman is already having an impact on the recruiting trail at his new gig. While Oliver receives four out of five stars from Rivals, other recruiting services are a tad higher on him (he has a five-star composite ranking according to 247 Sports).

As it stands now, Oliver is choosing Houston over offers from programs like Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA and more.

Per Rivals, Wide receiver Deontay Greenberry was Houston’s most recent four-star recruit in the Class of 2012. Since 2002, Houston has signed a total of five four-star players.

Go to work, Herman.

Helmet sticker to The Student Section.

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Former Wolverine Blake Countess checking out Auburn

Utah v Michigan Getty Images

Cornerback Blake Countess has now graduated from Michigan, which means he can now take advantage of a graduate transfer to play one more season anywhere he chooses if given a spot on a roster. Auburn appears to be one team of interest.

After previously visiting former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez and Arizona, Countess will reportedly spend this weekend at Auburn. Al.com also reports Countess intends to visit Oklahoma and Oklahoma State later this month. Should Countess wind up at Auburn, he will likely step into a key role on what could be a revamped defense under new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Muschamp has been helping to increase the intensity on defense, something Gus Malzahn spoke about earlier this spring. Countess would have a good chance to grab a starting job in the secondary after the Tigers have lost five players in the defensive backfield since January.

Countess announced earlier this month his intention to play the 2015 season somewhere else instead of Michigan. His announcement came a day after Jim Harbaugh welcomed another graduate transfer to Ann Arbor, defensive back Wayne Lyons from Stanford.

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