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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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Former USC AD Dr. Richard Perry dies

Oregon State v USC

Here’s a good way to judge the tenure of an athletics director – if you manage to outnumber national championships by years served at a 2-to-1 clip, you’ve had an insanely successful run.

Dr. Richard Perry was USC’s athletics director for a decade, from 1975 to 1984, and oversaw 20 Trojans national championships, eight on the men’s side and a dozen on the women’s. Perry passed away Sunday in Riverside, Calif., USC announced on Monday. He was 85.

“Dick Perry created the `Trojan Family’ concept at USC, bringing a sense of unity and family not only within our athletic department but with the alumni and fans,” said Stan Morrison, who was hired by Perry as the USC men’s basketball coach and then later served as UC Riverside’s athletic director like Perry. “He was a great source of poise and reason for me when I was USC’s basketball coach, and he provided me with great wisdom and counsel. I loved him dearly and will really miss him.”

Perry aided USC to the 1978 national championship under coach John Robinson, its ninth claimed national title, but his legacy is that of extending the Trojans’ presence as an all-sports power. Trojan teams claimed national titles in baseball, men’s swimming, tennis (men’s and women’s), volleyball (men’s and women’s) and women’s basketball.

A basketball coach by trade, Perry served eight seasons as the men’s hoops coach at Long Beach State (and worked as an assistant football coach for three of those years) and coached basketball, football and baseball at Emporia College (now Emporia State) in Kansas. After Long Beach State, Perry worked as an associate professor of physical education from 1967-75 before rising to the athletics director’s chair in 1975.

After his time at USC was done, Perry became the AD at UC Riverside from 1987 to 1992.

He is survived by his wife Donna, four children and six grandchildren.

 

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Bo Pelini on ESPN’s marriage to the SEC: “I don’t think that kind of relationship is good for college football.”

Bo Pelini

Deep breaths, everyone. There are three SEC teams in the latest editions of the AP and Coaches polls. But it is Week 8. That does not necessarily mean the SEC is receiving three golden tickets to the College Football Playoff. (Nebraska, 6-1 on the year, is ranked 16th in both polls.)

It hasn’t stopped the media from asking about it, though, and it hasn’t stopped coaches from answering those loaded questions.

“I don’t think that kind of relationship is good for college football. That’s just my opinion,” Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said Monday. “Anytime you have a relationship with somebody, you have a partnership, you are supposed to be neutral. It’s pretty hard to stay neutral in that situation.”

The relationship Pelini describes is ESPN’s partnership with the SEC in the SEC Network. But ESPN also has a relationship with Pelini’s own Big Ten. And the ACC. And the Big 12. And the Pac-12. And every other FBS conference.

ESPN is the cartel that’s proverbially pays off the police department, but they’re also in business with the sheriff’s office, the fire department, the mayor’s office, the DEA, the public library and everyone on down to the local PTA.

“They play good football, and I know there is some good football played in some other conferences, too,” Pelini said. “It’s hard to say because you just don’t see, unfortunately, in this day and age, a lot of crossovers. So you don’t get a lot to make that decision on, to be able to compare and contrast. You have to go off what the media says to a certain extent and what some people say.”

The good news for Pelini and the rest of the non-SEC loving world? There are seven weeks of football between now and Selection Sunday, and just because the writers and coaches have the SEC filling 75 percent of their hypothetical bracket doesn’t mean the selection committee agrees.

We’ll begin to find out a week from tomorrow when the committee reveals its first Top 25.

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Illinois expects to play both backup QBs vs. Minnesota

Reilly O'Toole, Ted Karras, Maliek Collins

You know the saying – if you play two quarterbacks, you’re probably grasping at straws in hopes of saving your job.

With starting quarterback Wes Lunt out four-to-six weeks with a leg fracture, Illini head coach Tim Beckman told the Associated Press he expects to play both backups, senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey, Saturday versus Minnesota.

“I think that for them to prepare for two is always a little more challenging than to prepare for one,” Beckman said.

Both quarterbacks played in the Illini’s 38-28 loss to Wisconsin on Oct. 11. O’Toole completed 12-of-19 passes for 96 yards with two touchdowns while adding 29 rushing yards, and Bailey hit 2-of-5 passes for 39 yards with an interception while leading the club with 12 rushes for 75 yards and a score.

Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit sounded very, for you Seinfield fans out there, Krueger-ian about the idea.

“I don’t know. I’ll be honest with you — I’ve never done it before,” Cubit said. “Both guys have pretty good qualities. We’ll figure it out.”

O’Toole has thrown for 524 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions this season. Bailey had not recorded a statistic this season until entering the Wisconsin loss late in the game.

With Lunt out until mid-November, Beckman has to gamble in hopes of saving his job. The Illi are 3-4 this season (0-3 Big Ten) and are winless against Power Five competition. Their only two FBS wins, over Western Kentucky and Texas State, came by eight and seven points respectively.

Beckman is 9-22 in his third season at Illinois, and 1-18 in Big Ten play.

Illinois will host Minnesota at noon ET on ESPNU.

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Tulsa World photographer apologizes to Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard for hitting him with his $10,000 lens

Sterling Shepard

During the second quarter of No. 17 Oklahoma’s loss to No. 11 Kansas State, Sooners wide recevier Sterling Shepard efforted for a would-be touchdown pass from quarterback Trevor Knight in the back of the end zone. As has happened a thousand times before and will happen a thousand times again, Shepard’s momentum took him out of the field of play and into the photographers’ row, where he collided with equipment belonging to Tulsa World photographer Mike Simons.

“When he landed, he fell into me and came down on my Canon 400mm F 2.8 lens. Shepard was hurt. He let me know it while he writhed in pain. For that, I would like to apologize that our paths crossed. I felt horrible and still feel very bad about that. I was relieved when he came out and played in the second half,” Simons wrote in an apology letter to Shepard.

Shepard led all receivers with 15 grabs for 197 yards and a touchdown – including seven grabs for 100 yards post-collision – in the Sooners’ 31-30 loss.

Simonds noted that places his gear on the ground because that is where he feels it is safest both for himself and the players. His system, Simonds notes, worked perfectly until Saturday. It was the first time in 26 years of photographing football games to collide with one of his subjects.

In the end, it was Simons’ (very, very expensive) lends that sustained the only real damage.

“The carnage from my end of this incident was that a Canon 400mm F 2.8 lens was broken in half. The lens sells for $10,499. It’s a lot of money, but nothing in comparison to a player’s safety. I feel lucky to have escaped the incident unhurt.”

 

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Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly expected to start vs. Washington

Taylor Kelly, Jake Gallegos

There is no Wally Pipp situation breaking out in Tempe.

At his weekly press conference on Monday, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham told the assembled media he expects Taylor Kelly to resume his roll atop the quarterback depth chart Saturday versus Washington.

Kelly hasn’t seen the field since leaving the Sun Devils’ Sept. 13 win over Colorado early with a foot injury.

Backup Mike Bercovici finished that game and started the next three. He threw for 488 yards and three touchdowns with two costly interceptions as the Sun Devils were bludgeoned over the head for a 62-27 loss to UCLA on Sept. 25, but the junior has rebounded nicely since then. He hit 27-of-45 passes for 510 yards and five touchdowns in a 38-34 stunner over USC, and threw for 245 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 26-10 win over Stanford.

Most importantly, Bercovici has not thrown an interception in 50 combined attempts over the last two seasons.

Alas, Kelly was the entrenched starter heading into this season, and the entrenched starter he will remain.

For the season, Kelly has completed 42-of-68 passes for 625 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 19 times for 168 yards and two more scores.

The 14th-ranked Sun Devils will visit Washington at 10:45 p.m. ET on ESPN this Saturday.

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Purdue loses linebacker Robinson to torn ACL

Sean Robinson, Malcom Agnew

Purdue senior linebacker Sean Robinson has played his final game of the 2014 season. Boilermakers head coach Darrell Hazell announced Monday Robinson tore his ACL in his right knee in a game earlier this season.

Robinson’s ACL was torn back on October 4 against Illinois. He recorded five tackles in the game before having to leave for medical treatment. He did not play in either of Purdue’s two most recent games, against Michigan State or Minnesota. Hazell said Robinson will undergo surgery later this month, on October 28.

Robinson was Purdue’s fourth-leading tackler this season with 42 tackles, including 27 solo tackles.

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Sorry Florida fans, Muschamp not going anywhere (yet)

Will Muschamp

As the season got off to a poor start in Gainesville, Florida, athletics director Jeremy Foley issued a statement saying the performance of head coach Will Muschamp and the direction of the football program would be evaluated at the end of the regular season. That still appears to be the case despite one of the worst losses the Gators have experienced in some time at the hands of Missouri.

“At the beginning of the season we said we would evaluate the season as it plays out,’’ Foley said in a statement released on the school’s athletics website. “We will continue to do so. Our sole focus right now is supporting our coaching staff and players as they prepare for Georgia.”

Florida’s 42-13 loss at home to Missouri dropped the Gators to 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. Florida still has games against Georgia in two weeks and Florida State at the end of the regular season. Coming off a blowout loss and going into a bye week feels about as good a time as any for a school to make an in-season coaching change. As it appears Muschamp will manage to hold onto the job, it would appear Muschamp will remain on the sideline in charge of the Florida program through the end of the regular season.

Making a change in season likely does nothing in terms of making changes for the future, other than showing fans change is coming. Florida should be attractive enough as a football program to lure just about any coach it would have its sights on, even with a potential vacancy opening up at a school like Michigan. There could be some former Florida assistants worth keeping an eye on as well, such as Dan Mullen at Mississippi State and Steve Addazio at Boston College. Charlie Strong is another former Florida assistant as well, and is currently the head coach at Texas. Would Strong leave Texas for Florida?

We will see where Florida goes from here, but for now, the program is in the hands of Muschamp.

At least for another week or two.

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Media doesn’t learn lesson, Jimbo Fisher cuts interview short

Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston

Florida State is coming off its biggest win of the year, against Notre Dame. The Seminoles are now staring down a possible 12-0 regular season and third straight ACC championship en route to a spot in the first College Football Playoff. They will do so while facing all sorts of drama off the field surrounding Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston. The focus on Winston may be getting to head coach Jimbo Fisher. Fisher lashed out at media coverage of his program a week ago, and today he decided to cut an interview short after fielding too many questions about Winston.

Asked if there was any update on the university disciplinary hearing for Winston, Fisher attempted to shift the focus to Louisville in a similar fashion to how he did last week with Notre Dame.

“We’re moving on with Louisville and talking about the other things,” Fisher said. “Everything should be great.”

Fisher soon got hot under the collar and brought an end to the interview opportunity once questioned about his reputation.

“I don’t want to get into this,” Fisher said. “These questions weren’t supposed to be asked today.”

If not today, Fisher, when would work best for you?

Fisher put his integrity on the line with his public defense of Winston, saying there was no crime committed because Winston was never charged. Coaches will come to the defense of their players, so this is not exactly going against the grain for Fisher, but to do so in such an adamant fashion and direct blame on media coverage opens Fisher up to possible warranted criticism if Winston is found guilty of violating the university code of conduct.

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Ohio State assistant Larry Johnson not bitter, looks forward to return to Penn State

Larry Johnson

Former Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson has no bitter feelings about his previous employer, and he is looking forward to returning to Beaver Stadium this week.

Johnson is now a member of the Ohio State coaching staff. Urban Meyer was quick to pounce on Johnson after the longtime Penn State assistant stepped away form the program. Johnson had interest in the head coaching vacancy after Bill O’Brien left Penn State to coach the Houston Texans in the NFL, but Penn State opted to go with James Franklin. With Franklin bringing as much as his staff as possible from Vanderbilt, Johnson saw the writing on the wall and decided to move on from Penn State. Franklin made it clear from the day he was hired he is extremely loyal to his guys. That should have suggested Johnson was not coming back.

“I had a great time in 18 years at Penn State,” Johnson said Monday in a conference call with the media. “Made great friends and the great players I coached and have been a part of their lives for a long time. It’s a new job and a new place and a new school. So, I’m looking forward to coming back.”

Ohio State visits Penn State this weekend in a primetime Big Ten contest at Beaver Stadium. For the first time, Johnson will be coaching from the visiting sideline.

Penn State was hit hard by NCAA sanctions in recent years, but Johnson stepped up to keep things afloat as much as he possibly could. Johnson was named the interim head coach after O’Brien left for the NFL, but because this happened after the season Johnson’s job was more to keep the roster stabilized and keep the recruits calm. Johnson could have left Penn State a handful of times before for a more prominent role on a coaching staff as a defensive coordinator, but he stuck by Penn State through some tough times on and off the field. After giving the program as much as Johnson had, you could understand if Johnson had some hard feelings about Penn State after not being given a chance to be the head coach or even defensive coordinator, but he says that is not the case.

“There was no bitterness when I left,” Johnson said on Monday. “It was my decision to leave, it was my time to move on. I felt that, with Coach Franklin coming in with a new staff, he had a lot of guys he really liked a lot and I just felt it was the right thing to do to have a chance to step away from it for a while. It was a tough decision to make. But, looking back, it was the right decision to make. So, I have no bitterness at all.”

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Alabama starting center set to return this week

Florida v Alabama

Alabama certainly came back with a strong showing against Texas A&M after critics nitpicked a 14-13 victory over Arkansas enough to set head coach Nick Saban off. Now, as the Crimson Tide get set to travel to Tennessee, the offensive line should get a little stronger. Center Ryan Kelly will return to the starting line-up in the middle of the offensive line this week, according to Saban.

Kelly missed the last two games for Alabama with a minor knee sprain. While out of action, Alabama used redshirt freshman Bradley Bozeman in the middle of the line. As reported by Al.com, Kelly was dressed for Alabama’s game against Texas A&M but was not used. Also, starting right tackle Austin Shepherd injured his ankle or knee during the win over the Aggies that took him out of the game. He is expected to skip practice on Monday but should return after Monday.

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Clemson loses leading rusher to torn ACL

Clemson v Boston College

Clemson managed to avoid an upset at the hand of Boston College, but came at a cost. Freshman running back Adam Choice has been lost for the season after tearing his ACL on Saturday.

The injury occurred early in the game, on Clemson’s second offensive possession of the game. Choice will now rehab and work to return to the field in 2015. It should be expected Clemson will go light on him in the spring as a precaution, but if all goes well Choice will be back in the mix in 2015 for the Tigers. Choice ends his freshman season with 218 rushing yards and one touchdown.

With Choice now done for the season, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will be quick to try and get Tyshon Dye plugged in on offense. Dye tore his Achilles back in February. Dye has been practicing with the team recently and he made the trip up to Boston last weekend. Swinney says Dye is in good shape and said Sunday Clemson is close to getting Dye back on the field. Without Choice, Dye’s return may be accelerated if it does not pose a threat to his health.

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Texas Tech’s leading receiver treated for laceration from off-campus melee

Jakeem Grant, Lloyd Carrington

Texas Tech wide receiver Jakeem Grant was injured in an off-campus alumni gathering gone bad with a shooting and melee incident early Sunday morning. He was treated for a laceration and released at a nearby hospital, but his status with Texas Tech’s football program is unknown or unconfirmed at this time.

According to the information in a report by The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, more than 20 rounds were fired from multiple weapons early Sunday morning, but the details of the incident appear to be hazy right now due to the number of people potentially involved. An officer providing details for the report suggested there is no way to tell right now what may have caused the laceration Grant was treated for. As of now, no arrests have been made for the incident that is currently being reviewed by authorities.

Through seven games, Grant is the leading receiver for Texas Tech with 629 receiving yards and five touchdowns. His 50 receptions this season lead the team.

UPDATE (11:55 a.m. ET): Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said on the weekly Big 12 conference call he is hopeful Grant will be able to play this weekend. Texas Tech will visit TCU this weekend.

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No update on QB Trevor Knight form Bob Stoops

Trevor Knight

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight was forced to be taken out of Saturday’s game against Kansas State, but he did return. On Monday, during the weekly Big 12 coaches conference call, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops had no updates to share on Knight’s status moving forward.

Knight returned to Saturday’s game with a brace on his left arm. He was seen testing the flexibility in his elbow before heading to the locker room after being knocked out by Kansas State’s defense. Knight had taken off to run with the football when he stretched for some extra yards with a head-first dive. He landed on his left arm and required some medical attention that forced him to sit out the remainder of the offensive possession, but he returned the game after a brief absence. He was intercepted deep in his own side of the field, which Kansas State returned for a short touchdown, but he answered back on the next possession with a quick two-play, 69-yard touchdown drive.

Oklahoma is off this week. The Sooners return to Big 12 play next week with a road game at Iowa State.

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Heisman trust ‘erroneously’ removed integrity from Mission Statement after website redesign

Heisman Trophy

There was a bit of a kerfuffle earlier this month when Sports Illustrated noticed the word “integrity” was no longer part of the Heisman Trust’s Mission Statement. Now we know why: A mix-up in a redesign of the Heisman’s website.

“During the website creation process ‘integrity’ was erroneously omitted from the Trust mission statement by staff without Trust authorization,” Heisman Trust president William J. Dockery told Sports Illustrated.

Seems to me like that’s a pretty significant omission, especially at a time in which Jameis Winston’s integrity is being questioned and the Heisman front-runner was suspended for signing autographs for money.

But breathe easy, folks. The word integrity is back in the first line of the mission statement, which is now updated to read:

The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award. The Trust, furthermore, has a charitable mission to support amateur athletics and to provide greater opportunities to the youth of our country. Our goal through these charitable endeavors is for the Heisman Trophy to symbolize the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth, especially those disadvantaged or afflicted. All assets of the Trust beyond the expense of maintaining the annual presentation of the Heisman Memorial Trophy are reserved for such charitable causes. The Trustees, who all serve pro bono, are guided by a devotion to college football and are committed to community service and the valued tradition which the Trophy represents.

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The Will Muschamp era at Florida summed up in one stat

Will Muschamp AP

Florida held Missouri to 119 yards of offense on Saturday. Maty Mauk completed six of 18 passes for 20 yards while Mizzou combined to rush 31 times for 99 yards, barely a three-yards-per-carry average.

The final score: 42-13 Mizzou.

Three years ago, Florida State gained 95 yards on the Gators in the Swamp. E.J. Manuel completed six of 13 passes for 65 yards while the Seminoles rushed 46 times for 30 yards.

The final score: 21-7 Florida State.

Now take a look at this:

No doubt Will Muschamp will make an excellent defensive coordinator for someone when his time at Florida is up. And that time, one would think, will be up soon.

Hat-tip to Dan Wolken’s misery index for pointing out the stat.

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