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The Fifth Quarter: Week 9 Rewind

Tennessee v Alabama 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

Alabama vs. Oregon: Tale of the Tape
Seeing as Alabama and Oregon play in different conferences on essentially opposite sides of the country, there’s very little concrete data available to compare the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country.  With Tennessee on both of their schedules this season?  Yeah, the comparisons were going to be inevitable.  Back on Sept. 14 in Eugene, the Ducks led the Vols 38-7 at halftime; Oct. 26 in Tuscaloosa, the Tide led the Vols 35-0 after two quarters of play.  The final scores were 59-14 for the former, 45-10 for the latter.  The Ducks totaled 687 yards of offense while holding the Vols to 316; the Tide gave up 322 while gaining 479.

If special teams is your thing, Oregon was forced to punt three times while Alabama punted just twice.

The conclusion?  There is none, of course, other than UT was whipped six weeks apart by two very, very, very good football teams who could possibly square off in early January if they continue their winning ways.  That said, feel free to use the numbers to further whatever agenda you may be wanting to push.  Enjoy!

Brutus the Bully
With the three teams ahead of them in the BCS standings winning by a combined score of 136-41, Ohio State needed a statement game, something they’ve lacked throughout 2013.  Unfortunately for Penn State, that’s exactly what OSU went out and did.  The Buckeyes bullied the Nittany Lions in the first half, jumping out to a 42-7 before cruising to a 63-14 win.  Winning in this fashion won’t necessarily help Ohio State, though; they’re not leapfrogging Alabama, Oregon or Florida State anytime soon as long as those three teams keep winning.  Rather, such an impressive performance will likely keep the likes of Baylor from passing them in the polls and, thus, the BCS standings later on tonight.  That said, it’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that Ohio State could conceivably carry a 25-game winning streak into early January… and be on the outside looking in when it comes to the BCS title game.  Again.

Bobby Bowden, spear planter
After what was nearly a three-year sabbatical following his unceremonious dismissal in 2010, the legendary Bobby Bowden returned to the stadium that in part bears his name.  It was a glorious return for the Tallahassee icon, replete with a pregame ceremony featuring one of the most storied traditions in the sport: the planting of the spear at midfield of Doak Campbell Stadium.  Instead of Osceola and Renegade, though, it was Bowden doing the planting.  And, dadgummit, it was awesome:

Bowden Spear

(Tip O’ the Cap: SBNation.com)

The return of Bowden to his rightful place in college football was awesome. The spear-planting merely drove that point home, so to speak.

Connor Shaw
No pithy headlines.  Just this: Connor Shaw is a straight-up baller.  The senior did not start for South Carolina in the game against Missouri due to a combination of injury and illness.  With the Gamecocks trailing 17-0 in the fourth and in dire need of an offensive spark, Shaw slapped on his Superman cape and strapped the ‘Cocks on his back and grow up already people.  In the fourth quarter and first overtime, Shaw passed for three touchdowns; the middle one tied the game with :42 left in regulation, with the third coming on fourth-and-goal from the 15 to send the game into a second overtime.  It was a gutsy performance by an underrated player, one that helped keep what was merely a flicker of SEC East hope very much alive and well for USC.

Better late than never
A weather system filled with lightning delayed Texas’ game with TCU for three hours, six minutes.  As it turned out, the wait was more than worth it.  The Longhorns entered the extended break with a 17-7 lead, then extended that lead to 30-7 by game’s end as UT won its fourth straight contest.  Unbelievably, given the back-to-back embarrassing losses to BYU and Ole Miss last month, the ‘Horns are now 4-0 in Big 12 play, tied with Baylor for the top spot in the conference.  All the talk of Mack Brown being able to survive the season has suddenly morphed into conversations involving how UT can claim its first conference crown since 2009.  Amazing, amazing in-season turnaround going on in Austin.

Duke Virginia Tech FootballBowling Blue Devils… again
We could very easily put Virginia Tech tripping over its own junk in the “Losers” category, but instead we’ll give some love to the football nerds.  In Blacksburg Saturday afternoon, Duke upended a Hokies team that had won six straight games and had climbed inside the Top 20 of the rankings.  It was the Blue Devils’ sixth win of the season, meaning the football program at a university known more for academics and basketball is bowl-eligible for the second straight season; that’s the first time in school history that’s ever happened.  The win over the Hokies was historic as well as it marked the first time Duke has beaten a ranked team since 1994… and the first time it’s beaten a ranked team on the road since 1971.  Hats off to David Cutcliffe, his coaching staff and his players for what they’re doing with that program.  The entire university and its alumni should be proud of what’s going on.

Spartans: they are Legends
Missouri’s not the only surprise division leader just past the halfway point of the 2013 season.  Take Michigan State, for example.  Heading into the new season, most figured Michigan and Nebraska and Northwestern would be battling for the right to represent the Legends Division in the Big Ten title game, with the Spartans leading the middle-of-the-pack teams in that division.  The Wildcats have played itself out of contention with four straight losses to start conference play.  The Wolverines and Cornhuskers have each lost one league game; the Spartans, on the other hand, sport a perfect 4-0 mark at the halfway point of their conference slate, the latest coming courtesy of a 42-3 shellacking of Illinois.  The best part for the Spartans?  They face the Wolverines and Cornhuskers the next two weeks.  Win both, and MSU would all but have the division locked up with two games remaining in the season.  And, speaking of surprising division leaders…

Tulane road, with a side of Rice
Sorry, that’s the best I can do at about one in the morning.  Anyway, the past two seasons have seen Rice and Tulane combine for a woeful 14-35 record, with the Green Wave accounting for just four of those wins.  2013, however, is a different story.  At the end of Week 9, Rice and Tulane are tied atop the Conference USA West standings at a perfect 4-0.  The Owls and Green Wave, with six wins overall, are now bowl-eligible before the calendar flips to November; it’s the first time the latter has hit that mark since 2002.

Your move, JFFJordan Lynch, Willie Creear, Mycal Swaim
Last week, Jordan Lynch set an FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback.  This week, the Northern Illinois senior added another notch to his statistical legend.  In NIU’s cruise over Eastern Michigan, Lynch passed for three touchdowns, ran for one and caught another, and did all of that scoring damage in the first half.  Lynch became the first player at the FBS level since 2010 (Ohio’s Boo Jackson) to hit the two passing/one rushing/one receiving TD trifecta in the same game.  For the game, Lynch finished with six touchdowns — four passing, one each rushing and receiving — in less than three full quarters of play as the Huskies are off to a program-best 8-0 start, one season removed from its BCS bowl appearance.

Continuing the upHill climb
The first three games of the season, and aside from a 259-yard rushing performance against Texas, Taysom Hill struggled mightily.  The BYU sophomore was completing just over 35 percent of his passes and had tossed three interceptions to just one touchdown.  Since then, it’s as if someone has flipped the switch.  The last five games, Hill has completed more than 65 percent of his passes in four of them and has tossed 11 touchdowns and added another four on the ground.  Yes, he’s thrown five interceptions in that span, but the number is skewed somewhat by a three-pick anomaly against Houston a week ago.  Not so coincidentally, Hill’s blooming has coincided with a Cougars resurgence; after starting the season 1-2, BYU has ripped off five straight wins to become bowl-eligible for the ninth straight season.

LOSERS

South Carolina v MissouriSoul-crushing
There are losses that feel like punches to the guts, then there are those that feel like kicks to what my seven-year-old (thankfully) mispronounces as “tentacles.”  And, boy, did Missouri take a steel-toed boot to the old giblets.  By now, you know the story: Mizzou took a 17-0 lead into the fourth quarter, only to see South Carolina tie it late to send it into overtime.  Then, giving up a touchdown on what was essentially fourth-and-15 to send it into the second overtime.  Then, in the second overtime, well, college kickers.  And holders.  With one clank off the left upright, the Tigers saw their unbeaten season go up in smoke.  What it didn’t see happen, and what’s been somewhat lost in the heartbreak of a devastating home loss, is the fact that Mizzou’s path to SEC title game has only become slightly cluttered.  The Tigers still hold a one-game lead over Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in the loss column, and can probably — OK, maybe — punch its ticket to the Georgia Dome as the East’s representative by winning three of their last four games against Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.  All is not lost for Mizzou, even though it may very well feel like it in the here and now.

This displeases Touchdown Tommie
Last month, Nebraska legend Tommie Frazier blasted his alma mater, calling for essentially the entire defensive coaching staff to be fired following an embarrassing home loss to UCLA.  Saturday, the Cornhuskers gave Frazier additional ammunition.  A week after reentering the rankings, the Cornhuskers looked listless in their 34-23 loss to Minnesota.  The Huskers could do little offensively in the return of Taylor Martinez (no relation) while the Blackshirts were gashed for 430 yards, 271 of which came on the ground. “Do I need to say anymore? … This is simply inexcusable,” Frazier tweeted shortly after the loss, adding, “where do we go from here Husker Nation?”  That’s a very good question, but one that won’t have an answer for at least another month.

Guns down, foot shotTexas Tech v Oklahoma
With the chance to keep pace with Baylor and Texas, Texas Tech blinked.  And flinched.  And gagged on the moment.  Not only did the Red Raiders cough up its unbeaten season against Oklahoma Saturday, it suffered its first defeat in Big 12 play, one that puts Tech a game behind the Bears and Longhorns in the loss column.  The division chase is far from over as the Red Raiders close out the regular season with back-to-back games against the teams ahead of them.  They did, though, miss out an opportunity to drop an average Sooners team in Norman and put themselves in position to continue to control their own destiny in pursuit of the conference’s BCS bid.

Still Mullen
Including Thursday night’s six-point win over Kentucky, Mississippi State is 14-21 in SEC play since Dan Mullen took over as head coach in 2009.  Since 2011, the Bulldogs have won seven conference games against five different teams — Ole Miss, 2011; Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee, 2012; and Kentucky each of the past three years.  The combined league record of those schools at the end of the season/currently?  A miserable 5-47.  Mullen has yet to beat the two heavyweights in the SEC West, Alabama and LSU, since coming to Starkville, and lost to conference newcomer Texas A&M last season.  Again, if the MSU administration is comfortable with the mediocrity of Gator Bowl or Music City Bowl appearances, then so be it.  They shouldn’t, though, and should instead, if they haven’t already, do some soul-searching when it comes to the state of the football program and Mullen’s future in it.

Double-digit danger
In each of Chris Petersen‘s first seven seasons as Boise State’s head coach, the Broncos had won at least 10 games, winning at least 11 in six of those years and at least 12 in five of them.  That stunning string of success, however, is in serious jeopardy.  With just four games left in the regular season, Boise’s record stands at 5-3 after the beatdown at the hands of BYU Friday night.  In order to reach the double-digit plateau for an eighth straight season and match Petersen’s worst season at Boise — 10-3 in his second year in 2007 — the Broncos will need to sweep the final four games (Colorado State, Wyoming, San Diego State and New Mexico) as well as win their bowl game.

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

— No. 6 Stanford 20, Oregon State 12: This is a bit misleading as the Beavers are ranked in the coaches’ poll, but, since we use the Associated Press rankings, it falls within the parameters.  While the Cardinal trailed just once (3-0 in the first quarter), they couldn’t put OSU away until a fourth-and-goal pass from the seven-yard line fell incomplete with one second left on the clock.  Stanford has now won two straight after what’s still an inexplicable loss to Utah and with, following a bye, what’s still a huge showdown with Oregon looming on the first-Thursday-in-November horizon.

Wake Forest v Miami– No. 7 Miami 24, Wake Forest 21: For the third time in as many weeks, the Hurricanes fell behind by 10-plus points.  As was the case in each of those games, the ‘Canes came back to keep their record perfect on the season.  That said, if The U plays the way they have during this stretch, Florida State will woodshed them next Saturday.

— No. 9 Clemson 40, Maryland 27: Perhaps suffering through the malaise of last Saturday’s crushing loss to Florida State, the Tigers led the injury-ravaged Terps just 19-13 at the end of the third quarter.  Three touchdowns in the first 10 minutes of the final quarter, however, was enough to get Clemson back on the winning side of the ledger.

— No. 15 Fresno State 35, San Diego State 28: The two teams scored just 14 points total in the first 39 minutes… and then all MAC-like hell broke loose.    A total of 42 points in the final 21 minutes — and a blocked field goal at the end of regulation by Fresno — culminated in overtime, with the Bulldogs scoring a touchdown on its lone possession while keeping the Aztecs out of the end zone.  With the win, the Bulldogs keep its record unblemished and allows it to maintain its BCS-buster status for another week.

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 — Updating this little statistical chestnut, the Tide has outscored its opponents 246-26 in the six games since beating Texas A&M 49-42 in Week 3.  Bama has allowed just two touchdown in that stretch, with none coming in the first half when the game was in any kind of doubt.  (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: Bye (LSU Nov. 9)

2. Florida State — After a couple of weeks of contemplation, I’m finally pulling the trigger.  And this nothing to do with the team that’s held this spot throughout the season; rather, it has everything to do with the fact that, over the past month, I don’t know that’s there’s been a better team in the country than the Seminoles.  In fact, I wouldn’t argue too much if someone wanted to push FSU past the Tide in the rankings. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: vs. No. 7 Miami

3. Oregon — Again, nothing against the Ducks for the move down.  And, yes, you normally don’t see a team drop after beating the No. 12 team in the country by 28 points.  It’s just, damn, that team in Tallahassee.  Really, it’s FSU, not you Eugene. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: Bye (Stanford Nov. 7)

Urban Meyer4. Ohio State — A 49-point win and 20 straight victories overall would normally mean something in the polls.  It won’t thanks to the three teams above, but the Buckeyes should be satisfied knowing they easily put together their most impressive all-around performance of the season. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: at Purdue

5. Baylor — Well hello Bears.  Good to see you in this rarefied air.  Of course, it came at the expense of Missouri, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful.  How long they stay here remains to be seen; over the next three weeks, the Bears will face three ranked foes in the form of Oklahoma and Texas Tech at home, then travel to Stillwater to square off against Oklahoma State.  They will then finish off the season against TCU and Texas. In other words, if they stay here, they’ll have earned it. (Last week: unranked)
Next up: No. 15 Oklahoma

(Dropped out: No. 5 Missouri)

HE SAID IT
“We stunk it up the whole ballgame.  I don’t know how it happened.” — Steve Spurrier after South Carolina’s improbable overtime win over previously-unbeaten Missouri.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“We kind of felt disrespected because they called us the red team all week long and said we didn’t deserve to be called Alabama.” quarterback AJ McCarron after the red team beat up on the orange team in a 35-point win.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“Jimbo [F]isher will be hit with a bullying lawsuit tomorrow.” — Notre Dame defensive lineman Louis Nix in a tweet posted to his Twitter account (@1IrishChocolate) in the midst of Florida State’s evisceration of North Carolina State.  And, yes, a big part of the reason I chose this “quote” was so I could type “Irish Chocolate.”

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“I was disappointed in the way we blocked, but we rushed for 394 yards.” — Paul Johnson after Georgia Tech pushed its record to 5-3 with a 10-point win over Virginia.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK
If you’re anything like me — and God help you if you are — you’ve been fascinated by the fact that Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Duck Dynasty phenomenon,  played college football at Louisiana Tech in the sixties and was the school’s starting quarterback.  And not only did he start, he kept future Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw on the bench for two seasons before quitting the game altogether.  I’ve always wondered what the Sage Bearded One looked like slinging a football instead of selling duck calls.  My prayers were answered earlier this week courtesy of al.com, which posted this clip of Robertson taking on Alabama in a 1966 game:

Not a bad set of skills from the younger, lankier Robertson, even as it came in a 34-0 loss to the Kenny Stabler-led Crimson Tide.

SAY WHAT?
Undefeated team, ranked No. 7 in the country.  News this week that the football program would be getting the proverbial “slap on the wrist” from the NCAA.  So, how do the Miami fans celebrate?  By not showing up at Sun Life Stadium, that’s how.  From the Twitter account of the USA Today‘s Paul Myerberg:

Miami Fans

Embarrassing.  That’s all you can say about that “turnout,” other than Nick Saban‘s head would explode if he ever witnessed that kind of support.

TRUE STORY
With losses by Missouri and Texas Tech, the ranks of the unbeaten have dwindled to just eight after Week 9.  The ACC is the only conference with two undefeated teams remaining (Florida State, Miami), while six other conferences are represented: Big Ten (Ohio State), Big 12 (Baylor), MAC (Northern Illinois), MWC (Fresno State), Pac-12 (Oregon) and SEC (Alabama).  Meanwhile, two teams, Western Michigan and New Mexico State, won its first games of the season.  That leaves five programs (Georgia State, Hawaii, Miami of Ohio, Southern Miss and UConn) without a win to show for its effort this season.  Southern Miss, incidentally, has now lost 19 consecutive games.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

Garrett Gilbert‘s 635 yards of offense (a school-record 538 passing, 97 rushing) in SMU’s win over Temple is the seventh-most in FBS history.  The record for single-game total offense is Houston quarterback David Klingler‘s 732, who passed for 716 and rushed for 16 against Arizona State in December of 1990.

Octavius McKoy of Division III Western Connecticut rushed for 455 yards on 43 carries, breaking the single-game all-division NCAA record.  Marietta’s Dante Brown had set the old mark of 441 yards back in 1996.  Ladanian Tomlinson, for those curious, holds the FBS record with 406 yards.

— Stanford held Sean Mannion to just 271 yards passing and one touchdown in its win over Oregon State.  The junior came into the game leading the nation in passing yards per game at 427.4 and had thrown an FBS-best 29 touchdowns, throwing at least three in each of the first seven games of the season.

Penn State v Ohio State– In Ohio State’s blowout of Penn State, Braxton Miller accounted for a career-high 261 yards passing and 68 yards rushing.  He also had five touchdowns: three passing, two rushing.  Meanwhile, Carlos Hyde carried the ball 16 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns as Ohio State won its 20th straight game.

Bryce Petty passed for 430 yards, 348 of which came in the first half, as Baylor scraped past Kansas 59-14.

Bishop Sankey, one week after rushing for a season-low 22 yards against Arizona State, rushed for a season-high 241 yards in Washington’s throttling of Cal.

— In two quarters of play plus the first possession of the third quarter, Jameis Winston passed for 292 yards and three touchdowns in Florida State’s romp over North Carolina State.

Duke Johnson rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with just under a minute left, to help Miami eke its way past Wake Forest.

— Clemson’s Sammy Watkins had a school-record 14 catches in the win over Maryland.

Connor Cook‘s 93.8 completion percentage (15-of-16) set a single-game Michigan State record.

Desmond Roland ran for a career-high 219 yards and four TDs in Oklahoma State’s 58-27 rout of Iowa State.

— Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah rushed for 165 yards on just 19 carries, pushing his total for the 2013 season to 981 yards.  He needs 19 yards to become just the eight player in the storied history of the football program to rush for 1,000-plus yards in back-to-back seasons.

— With a 17-yard reception late in the first half of Vanderbilt’s loss to Texas A&M. Jordan Matthews set the SEC mark for most career receiving yards.  The record of 3,093 had previously been held by Georgia’s Terrence Edwards.

Deontay Greenberry, Anthony Cioffi– Houston’s Deontay Greenberry caught six passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the first half of Houston’s blowout win.  The wide receiver finished with eight receptions for 168 yards and three touchdowns.

— In Louisville’s easy win over inept USF, Teddy Bridgewater passed for 344 yards and three touchdowns.

— Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller intercepted three passes in the loss to Duke, giving him five on the season.  Oregon State’s Steve Nelson and Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward entered Week 9 leading the country with five apiece.

— Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova has thrown 25 interceptions the last 14 games, including three in the loss to Houston Saturday.  In fact, seven of those interceptions have come the past two weeks.  He also tossed six picks in a late-October loss to Kent State last year.

— BYU’s Cody Hoffman now has 31 career touchdown catches, breaking the old mark of 30 set by Austin Collie.

— Taysom Hill accounted for 408 yards of offense (339 passing, 69 rushing) and added three touchdowns passing and one rushing in BYU’s win over Boise State.

— The past three games, Florida State has outscored its opponents, all ACC foes, 163-31.

— This is a sobering stat for my adopted home state: in 34 games under Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia has lost nine of them by 21-plus points.  In 126 games under Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart, which spans a 10-year period, the Mountaineers were beaten by 21 or more points a total of eight times.  Hide the couches.  And the lighters.

— Despite jumping out to a 14-3 lead, Wake Forest was unable to hang on its upset bid of Miami.  It was the Demon Deacons’ 51st straight loss to a team ranked in the Top 10, with the last coming exactly 67 years ago yesterday against No. 4 Tennessee (Oct. 26, 1946).  That was also the football program’s only win over a Top-Ten team ever.

Nebraska v Minnesota– Minnesota’s 11-point win over Nebraska was the Gophers first over the Cornhuskers since September of 1960, snapping a 16-game losing streak.

— Penn State has allowed 40-plus points in three consecutive games for the first time since 1899.  The 686 yards they gave up to Ohio State was the most in the program’s storied history, which dates back to 1889.

— Kansas’ Big 12 losing streak has now stretched to a mind-boggling 25 straight games, with the last conference win coming on Nov. 6, 2010 against Colorado.  You have to go back to Oct. 10, 2009 (Iowa State) for the Jayhawks’ last win over a current member of the conference.  Since playing in the Orange Bowl following the 2007 season, KU has gone 6-40 in Big 12 play, with four of those wins coming in 2008.

— Forget the SI cover jinx: with the overtime loss to Iowa, Northwestern has now lost four straight games since ESPN‘s College GameDay show set up camp in Evanston.

— Auburn ran for 422 yards on 59 carries as the Tigers moved to 7-1 with the 45-10 win over FAU.  A total of 10 different Tiger players were credited with carries in the game.

— UCF scored 45 points in the first half of its 62-17 waxing of UConn; the Knights had not scored more than 38 points in a single game at all this season entering the weekend.

IN CLOSING…
For three years, Rice’s Jayson Carter has toiled through practice and summer conditioning and the like as a walk-on while never seeing the playing field on game day.  Carter’s story is not unlike countless other non-scholarship players who truly play for the love of the game.  Not many, if any, of them, however, were born with a genetic disorder that leaves them standing 4-9 and weighing 130 pounds.  After three years, though, Carter finally got his Rudy moment.  Late in the fourth quarter of the Owls’ blowout win over UTEP, head coach David Bailiff inserted the running back into the game.  And, not only did he get in the game, he got the carry that he’s earned after toiling for years on the scout team.

“I did what I was supposed to … I didn’t get negative yards,” Carter said of his one-yard run.

Bravo on the perseverance and the perspective, young man.  Bravo.

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UCF adding a little (fake) beach-front property to Bright House Networks Stadium

UCF club section

With the game day atmosphere becoming more and more of an issue some schools are struggling to address, UCF is looking to bring a more casual, beach-like setting to fans on game day. Well, at least for club members.

UCF calls it the East Side Club, a newly renovated section of Bright House Network Stadium will take on the look and feel of a beach club, complete with a walk-out section to enjoy a beverage while watching the Knights take on their opponents or be able to socialize in a preferred area hooked up with more than 15 flat-screen TVs (do they even make non-flat TVs anymore?) and enhanced WiFi, because everybody needs more WiFi. The new area will also have private bathrooms and a preferred VIP entrance.

The open area will have a view of the field between the 30-yard lines, which should make for an excellent overview of the game being played that day. The walkout area will also have a sand-colored finish to attempt to mimic the idea of walking on the beach and watching football as best as possible. Keep in mind Orlando is not exactly all that close to the beaches in Florida, so UCF is trying to bring that scenery as close to home as possible. Plus, this is much less messy than actual sand.

UCF states the renovations should be completed in time for UCF’s 2015 season opener against Florida International on September 5, 2015. You can read more about the plans for the new club area and check out the specs and more artist renderings on UCF’s official website.

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Pros and cons of conference foes scheduling non-conference games

Duke v Wake Forest

North Carolina and Wake Forest announced an unprecedented scheduling agreement earlier on Monday. The two ACC schools announced they will play a pair of non-conference games in 2019 and 2021. It is the first such scheduling agreement between power conference schools within the same conference, and it has been received to mixed reviews.

PRO: It creates a game fans will look forward to

North Carolina and Wake Forest each have a duty to satisfy their alums, students and fans. By scheduling a game against an in-state rival they rarely get to see, North Carolina and Wake Forest are each giving their fans something to look forward to. In a world where conference expansion has taken away some annual or near-annual rivalry games, North Carolina and Wake Forest have found a way to resume playing more often instead of waiting for the ACC schedule to pair them up on a rotating basis.

CON: It sets a somewhat sketchy precedent for the sport

With power conferences creating a larger divide between the haves and have-nots in college football, power conferences scheduling games against opponents from inside their own conference ultimately takes away not one, but potentially two opportunities for schools from the Group of Five to schedule at least a marginally attractive game on their respective schedules.

PRO: It can have a positive effect on each school’s overall body of work

Not that anyone is honestly ready to suggest North Carolina or Wake Forest will be competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff in four to six years, but in a hypothetical world both schools have added a power conference opponent to the schedule. In theory, this should result in a positive effect on the strength of schedule for either UNC or Wake Forets (or both).

CON: It neutralizes the conference’s overall strength of schedule

Rather than going out and competing against the SEC, Pac-12 Big Ten or Big 12, what North Carolina and Wake Forest are doing is dropping an anchor on the ACC’s overall strength of schedule. The College Football Playoff selection committee, however it is formed by 2019 or 2021 rolls around, may be unlikely to acknowledge the ACC if ACC schools are scheduling non-conference games against each other. The committee will be more impressed with victories over other power conferences, because they will be able to evaluate the strength of each conference better with true out-of-conference match-ups on the schedule.

PRO: In-state rivalries are a good thing

It is always good to see in-state rivalries thrive when possible, and North Carolina and Wake Forest managed to ensure there will be one more to pay attention to in the state. Because of this, it may not be a shock to eventually see Duke and N.C. State explore a similar arrangement, which would add more to the whole concept of a state championship in the state of North Carolina.

Sorry East Carolina.

If you have more pros or cons about this type of scheduling arrangement, feel free to add on in the comment section.

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Former Wake OL Cory Helms lands at South Carolina

Wake Forest v Vanderbilt

South Carolina head coach still has to wait until next week to see how his Class of 2015 comes together, but the Gamecocks added a talented offensive lineman to the roster a little early. Cory Helms, a two-year starter at Wake Forest, has decided to join the South Carolina program after weighing a few options.

Helms, a Freshman All-American center in 2013, will have to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules, although Helms told GoGamecocks.com the Uuniversity will file an appeal to have him eligible immediately in the fall. Helms is moving closer to home to be near his sick grandmother, which will be the basis for the argument to allow him to avoid having to sit out a season. If approved, Helms will be able to slide right into the South Carolina offensive line mix and add some versatility after playing center and guard at Wake Forest. South Carolina lost two seniors on one side of the line to graduation, so there should be a spot waiting for Helms if eligible to play in 2015.

Helms ended up choosing South Carolina over offers from Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Penn State.

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UNC and Wake Forest schedule non-conference home-and-home

Miami of Ohio v UNC Getty Images

The evolution of college football scheduling reached a new low Monday, potentially. North Carolina and Wake Forest have agreed to a home-and-home series as non-conference opponents. UNC and Wake Forest are both ACC members, but play in opposite divisions. This is the first time two conference members have scheduled a home-and-home series for non-conference competition*, and it may not be the last.

Wake Forest will host North Carolina on September 19, 2019. UNC will host the second part of the home-and-home series on September 25, 2021. Because these are non-conference match-ups, neither game will count in the ACC standings.

“This is a unique opportunity to play a regional rival in years that fall outside the normal conference rotation,” said UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham.  “We have a long history with Wake Forest that has historical value and will generate interest within our fans.”

The ACC requires schools in the conference to schedule at least one power conference opponent each season. Yes, this scheduling arrangement will satisfy that non-conference scheduling requirement. The idea of the scheduling requirement was designed to increase the overall conference strength of schedule, but this move essentially drags it down by guaranteeing one extra loss for the conference, against power conference opposition no less.

This could be a trend that continues as power conferences flex more muscle over the rest of the college football landscape with new powers granted through autonomy. Keeping the money within the conference, and between power conferences, will lead to more scheduling developments like this. It may not be all bad though, as 14-team conferences have limits to how often some schools face each other on a rotating basis. Perhaps this could be something that solves those concerns and makes for marketable games on our schedule.

Mixed reviews are already coming in about this scheduling announcement now that the precedent has been set.

* California and Colorado played a 2011 game as non-conference opponents despite Colorado just joining the Pac-12. That game had been scheduled back in 2004, before Colorado had joined the conference, but both teams kept the game on the books to fill out the schedule.

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Report: ESPN pushing CFB Playoff to move semifinal games to Jan. 2

National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State Getty Images

Fresh off shattering ratings expectations and records for the first College Football Playoff, 2015’s semifinals are scheduled to be played on New Year’s Eve. That plan, upon seeing the interest in Oregon-FSU and Ohio State-Alabama, was met with plenty of head-scratching from fans and analysts.

Apparently, ESPN isn’t too happy about it either.

The Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand and Michael Smith reported Monday ESPN is pushing the College Football Playoff to move 2015’s semifinals off New Year’s Eve and to Jan. 2, 2016, a Saturday. From the story:

Sources say that senior network executives as high up as ESPN President John Skipper are pushing for the change as a way to get better television ratings, but the CFP is unwilling to make such a move because it is committed to the original plan to hold tripleheader bowl games, including the semifinals, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

“We’ve started a new tradition and we don’t want to back away from it now,” said Bill Hancock, the CFP’s executive director.

On one hand, this is the deal ESPN and the College Football Playoff agreed upon with the knowledge games would be scheduled on New Year’s Eve, going up against partiers and those who want to watch a Ryan Seacrest Type count down to midnight. Even if there’s a game as good as Alabama-Ohio State this year, if it kicks off during the evening of New Year’s Eve, it won’t come close to the ratings that game saw on New Year’s Day.

It’s hard to imagine many outside the College Football Playoff staff aren’t in favor of moving these games off New Year’s Eve. It was a curious-at-best decision to begin with, to expect casual sports fans — the ones who make or break ratings — to tune in to two major events on New Year’s Eve.

If the games do stay on Dec. 31 this year and the ratings inevitably drop, expect this topic to be raised again in a year. And the 2016 semifinals? Yeah, those are on New Year’s Eve, too.

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Louisville ‘in the lead’ to land ex-TCU DE Devonte Fields

Devonte Fields, Wes Lunt AP

TCU nearly made the College Football Playoff without arguably its best defensive player — and that player is now set to make his move back to the FBS level.

Defensive end Devonte Fields, who was booted from TCU last summer after allegedly pointing a gun at his ex-girlfriend, will visit Louisville this weekend and according to ESPN’s Max Olson, the Cardinals are in the lead to land him.

Fields spent last fall at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, but intended to move back to the FBS level before entering the NFL Draft. TCU blocked Fields’ attempt to transfer to FCS side Stephen F. Austin.

Fields racked up 10 sacks and won Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2012, but appeared in only three games in 2013 due to an injury. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Fort Worth native should be a difference-maker wherever he transfers to, provided he can stay out of legal trouble.

Louisville hasn’t shied away from recruiting players with a history of domestic violence — the Cardinals went after former Georgia defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor last year despite him being arrested and charged with aggravated assault and family violence. The Louisville Courier-Journal’s Jeff Greer has Bobby Petrino’s explanation of that here.

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Mizzou’s D-line guru could be headed for coordinator position at Illinois

South Dakota State v Missouri Getty Images

Craig Kuligowski has worked with Gary Pinkel for the last 23 seasons, heading up the longtime Mizzou coach’s defensive line for the last 19 seasons dating back to their days at Toledo. But it appears the successful partnership may be coming to an end.

FootballScoop.com reported Sunday night that Illinois has offered Kuligowski a co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach position, and that he’s expected to take the position under Tim Beckman. Nothing is finalized, but Rivals’ Gabe DeArmond seconded the notion that Kuligowski could be on his way to Champaign.

Losing Kuligowski nine days before signing day would be a major blow for Mizzou, which has branded itself “#DLineZou” for the number of successful defensive linemen it’s produced over the last decade and a half. Perhaps no position coach has been more important to Mizzou’s successful transition to the SEC, with the Tigers’ defensive line annually one of the meanest, most disruptive groups in the powerhouse conference.

The list of players Kuligowski’s developed is impressive, headlined by former first-round picks Ziggy Hood, Sheldon Richardson and Aldon Smith — and 2014 All-American Shane Ray is expected to become the fourth. 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam was another Kuligowski protege, while Markus Golden and Kony Ealy recently put together strong careers in Columbia as well.

When Dave Steckel left to take the head coaching gig at Missouri State, Kuligowski was the top internal option to replace him as defensive coordinator. Mizzou, though, hired Memphis defensive coordinator (and former Tigers player and safety coach) Barry Odom on Dec. 23.

While it’d be a promotion at Illinois, taking a job there does carry plenty of risk. Kuligowski would take over a group that hasn’t had much success in three years under Beckman, ranking 71st, 100th and 88th in defensive F/+ from 2012-2014. Despite reaching a bowl game last season, Beckman isn’t on firm ground yet in Champaign and a step backward could lead to a coaching change less than a year from now.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dave Matter suggests, Kuligowski could be using Illinois’ offer as leverage to get a raise from his $299,500 salary. But with signing day fast approaching, expect a concrete resolution on this relatively soon.

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Coastal Carolina going with teal for new artificial turf

CCU Elon football

In the ranks of the Football Championship Subdivision, Coastal Carolina has been a program on the rise. Coming off a wildly successful, yet unfulfilling season on the field, the Chanticleers will have a new field to play on in 2015.

Yes, it will be teal.

“When the decision to install an artificial turf field was made, it only made sense that the turf be teal,” said Coastal Carolina interim director of athletics Matt Hogue in a released statement. “In addition to our winning tradition, we are known nationally for our distinctive color scheme. And it’s not just the color our teams wear, but a campus-wide identity. We felt this would be a great opportunity to further build that brand.”

To install this teal turf, Coastal Carolina likely had to get approval from Boise State to move forward with the installation of the teal-colored artificial turf. Boise State owns a trademark on non-green football fields, which means they control the licenses for any school wishing to install a non-traditionally colored football field. Boise State typically does not stand in the way of an alternate colored field, but will say no to any school looking to install a blue field.

Coastal Carolina’s official school colors include teal, which is far enough on the color spectrum from Boise State’s signature blue.

Coastal Carolina will be the seventh school to have a non-green playing field in 2015, unless any other school is installing a new playing surface this offseason. Other schools with a colored field are Boise State, Eastern Michigan, Central Arkansas, Eastern Washington, New Haven and Lindenwood.

Still waiting for Hawaii to go with this or Syracuse with an all-orange field.

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SEC schools still leading the way on the recruiting trail

Nick Saban

The SEC may have been served a little dose of reality this past college football bowl season with some bad losses in spotlight bowl games and Alabama being topped by Ohio State in the College Football Playoff, but the demise of the SEC has greatly been exaggerated. In college football, recruiting is the lifeblood of a program, and schools in the SEC are doing just fine in this department with National Signing Day looming.

This goes much deeper than the annually impressive haul Alabama is piecing together. SEC schools are scattered throughout the recruiting rankings, a suggestion the conference is managing to lure plenty of good, quality talent as this recruiting cycle comes to a close.

According to the latest Rivals team recruiting rankings, 10 of the top 25 schools hail from the Southeastern Conference. That number includes all seven from the SEC West, with Alabama leading the way as the top-ranked team in the Rivals rankings. At No. 28, Missouri is a tad shy of the top 25. Kentucky (No. 33) is even ranked higher than programs like Michigan State (No. 35) and Arizona (No. 36) and Nebraska (No. 42).

One program from the SEC that has a much lower ranking than you might expect is Florida. At No. 100, the Gators have a long way to go to climb back atop the recruiting rankings, although odds are that can change in a hurry with Jim McElwain hoping to revive the Gators as a football power. While Florida is struggling, in-state rivals are not.

Florida State has consistently been one of the top destinations for high school talent, and this season is no exception to that rule. The Seminoles are ranked fourth in the Rivals rankings, just one spot behind another ACC program, Clemson. USC, from the Pac-12, is currently sitting in second place and likely to make a late surge over the next week and a half. Miami, the other power conference school in the state of Florida, has a top 25 class being put together by Al Golden as well (No. 22).

The reigning national champions from Ohio State should have a tremendous amount of depth next season. The Buckeyes did not see one underclassman declare early for the NFL Draft and Braxton Miller has now hinted at a possible return to Columbus. Throw that on top of what Rivals ranks the No. 7 recruiting class and Urban Meyer looks to have the Buckeyes situated in a very good position in the Big Ten for years to come. Only one other Big Ten program ranks in the top 25, according to Rivals.

Penn State, at No. 10, is now working with a full set of scholarships and is moving forward with a slightly more focus on quantity over quality. Penn State is without five-star talent but James Franklin is filling many roster spots with four and three-star talent that can have potential. No other Big Ten program cracks the top 25, although Wisconsin (No. 26) is right there and recently added a couple of solid players to the mix for 2015. Michigan has some work to do and will likely be a more solid threat in 2016, but Jim Harbaugh has managed to flip a four-star quarterback from Texas to Michigan, and there is plenty of hype surrounding the Wolverines moving forward.

You might be wondering about the Pac-12, especially given the rise of the conference as a whole on the playing field the last few seasons. Yes, the Pac-12 is doing just fine. USC has been a traditional force among Pac-12 schools and continues to bring in plenty of talent. But right now the Trojans are playing on a different playing field compared to the rest of the Pac-12. Oregon is the next highest-ranked team in the Rivals recruiting rankings, at No. 17. UCLA follows at No. 18, and Arizona State (No. 24) and Washington (No. 25) round out the top 25.

Everybody has a different philosophy when it comes to evaluating recruiting. Whether you believe in star rankings or not, the bottom line is coaches that tap the full potential of their players will be the ones that are successful and winning games. You do not necessarily need five-star players to win big. Just ask the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. Neither team playing in next week’s Super Bowl has a player that was rated five stars coming out of high school, according to this study from SB Nation.

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Senior Bowl was a Twitter winner ahead of UFC and college hoops

Reese's Senior Bowl

The week between the NFL’s conference championship Sunday and the Super Bowl tends to be a rough one for sports on TV. But even when things look bleak, football finds a way to come out a winner.

Saturday’s Senior Bowl was the number one sports program being tweeted about yesterday, according to the overnight numbers from Nielsen. The Senior Bowl, which aired on NFL Network, saw a larger unique audience on Twitter than UFC Fight Night on FOX and a men’s college basketball game between Michigan and Wisconsin airing on ESPN.

Per Nielsen’s numbers, over 2 million Twitter users keeping tabs on the Senior Bowl, which was won by the North. The college football all-star event stayed just ahead of the UFC fight, which had 1.976 million paying attention on Twitter. The UFC event did have more unique authors (31,000 different unique authors) than the Senior Bowl (19,000 unique authors on Twitter).

Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings: Unique Audience (1/24/2015)

1. Senior Bowl, NFL Network – 2,003,000

2. UFC Fight Night, FOX – 1,976,000

3. College Basketball (Michigan vs. Wisconsin), ESPN – 1,804,000

4. Spanish Primera Division Soccer (Cordoba CF vs. Real Madrid CF), beIN Sports – 1,775,000

5. NBA Basketball (Detroit vs. Milwaukee), NBA TV – 1,758,000

Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings: Unique Authors (1/24/2015)

1. UFC Fight Night, FOX – 31,000

2. Spanish Primera Division Soccer (Cordoba CF vs. Real Madrid CF), beIN Sports – 26,000

3. Senior Bowl, NFL Network – 19,000

4. NBA Basketball (Detroit vs. Milwaukee), NBA TV – 14,000

5. College Basketball (Michigan vs. Wisconsin), ESPN – 13,000

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Tennessee recruit pokes a stick at his new SEC rivals

Butch Jones

Tennessee football is looking to be improving with another year of Butch Jones at the helm. It has been a while since the Vols had the opportunity to do some smack talk in the SEC, or even just the SEC East. The pride in the program has been undergoing a restoration project brick by brick, as Jones likes to say, and it seems to be catching on. Even incoming Vols are buying into the mindset, and some are not afraid to start talking the talk before getting a chance to walk the walk.

Kahlil McKenzie is a big recruit for Jones at Tennessee, both literally and figuratively. The five-star defensive tackle from California measures in at 6’4″, 320 pounds and he could slide right into a starting job in Knoxville this fall. He also talks a big game on Twitter. This weekend he took to Twitter to lay down some zingers aimed at Tennessee rivals, like Vanderbilt and Alabama…

McKenzie has a point here. Dixieland Delight may be a classic, but many of us have had our fill of the song Alabama fans love. Of course, tweets like this make for some good bulletin board material, if nothing else. MCKenzie made sure to let everyone know he is just having some fun.

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LSU adds Leonard Fournette’s brother to latest recruiting class

If you thought LSU might be tough with one Fournette on the field, imagine what it could do with two. Lanard Fournette, the younger brother of LSU’s rising running back star Leonard Fournette (pictured) announced this weekend he is joining his brother at LSU.

Lanard Fournette is a two-star athlete according to Rivals, which is a much lower rating than his older brother, Leonard. He does, however, have a three-star composite rating according to the composite ratings compiled by 247 Sports. Leonard was a blue-chip five-star talent out of high school. Lanard seems to be a bit more of a work-in-progress with a smaller frame than his brother. LSU appeared to make some moves in recruiting the younger Fournette shortly after locking up his older brother. LSU has long been the favorite to land Lanard’s commitment, and his brother playing for the Tigers and Les Miles may be a big reason why. Despite offers from schools like Alabama and Miami, Lanard Fournette has long been on track to go to LSU after attending a pair of LSU football camps, attending LSU’s junior day in 2015 and making an official visit over the last year without visiting any other program.

Leonard Fournette will be one of the top running backs in what should be a very strong year across the country for running backs. Fournette was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America and could be a candidate for the Heisman Trophy in the fall.

LSU has the No. 12 recruiting class for 2015 according to the most recent team rankings shared by Rivals, but the Tigers have the fourth-ranked class among SEC West schools. Alabama — on track for another recruiting national championship — has the top class in the nation. Texas A&M (No. 9) and Auburn (No. 10) are also in front of LSU among SEC West schools. Tennessee (No. 5) and Georgia (No. 6) are also representing the SEC among the top ten.

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Marcus Mariota admits to sprained AC joint injury vs Buckeyes

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota passed on an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl. His absence could be explained away by his participation in the recent College Football Playoff national championship game. Now it appears Mariota is unsure if he will be able to participate in throwing drills at the NFL Scouting Combine next month. A right shoulder injury suffered in the championship game against Ohio State could be to blame.

“Right now we’re still making that decision, whether to throw at the Combine. I had to kinda rest about a week-and-a-half,” Mariota said, via the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “I sprained the AC joint. But now, I’m able to throw. Feels good.”

Mariota was forced to leave the championship game for a brief period of time as Oregon was attempting to chip away at Ohio State’s lead. Buckeyes defensive lineman Joey Bosa tackled Mariota to the ground, driving the Heisman Trophy winner to the ground on his right shoulder.

It is not uncommon for quarterbacks to withdraw from throwing drills at the combine, as some players prefer to do their throwing drills on their own campus during a pro day event. In Mariota’s case, the injury concerns are likely a legitimate excuse.

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UAB football may not be 100 percent dead just yet

UAB FOOTBALL PROGRAM SHUT DOWN 12-2-14

UAB may have cut the football program from life support, but there is a fighter’s chance the Blazers could return to a football field in 2016. A new task force organized by the school’s leaders will take another hard look at the financial numbers and do some number crunching to determine if there is enough to allow for the football program, along with the rifle and bowling programs, to continue.

The task force is being asked to find an independent third-party to review and assess the legitimacy of the now much-maligned Carr Report that led to the shutting down of the football program. It is too late for UAB to put plans together to play football in 2015. Opponents that had scheduled games against UAB have already taken steps to fill expected vacancies in the schedule created by the news UAB was shutting the football program down, players have transferred, and coaches previously employed by UAB have spread out to find new opportunities as well. A return in 2016 may not be completely out of reach, even if it is putting a program back together from scratch.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t think we could bring it back,” said Don Hire, a major donor to UAB, at an open house meeting on Thursday. “I was here when [former UAB men’s basketball coach] Gene Bartow had no jock straps, no basketballs and no gym to play in. I wouldn’t be involved in this if we weren’t going for sustainability.”

It is far from a given, but if the task force discovers there is enough money to keep a football program running without putting the school deep in the red, then the return of the program may become a reality. Maybe 2016 is a bit optimistic given the circumstances surrounding the current state of the university and the athletic department, not to mention the now non-existent state of the football program, but at least it might be something worth looking forward to if it can be done.

UAB President Dr. Ray Watts received a vote of no-confidence following the decision to shut the program down. The video of Watts informing the players of the decision was nothing short of gut-wrenching. What happened at UAB has also caused other programs to reassess the state of their programs as well.

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Harbaugh flips Texas Longhorn-bound QB to Michigan

Jim Harbaugh

National Signing Day is coming up next week, and Jim Harbaugh is looking to close in as big a way as possible to help save what had been a disappointing recruiting class in Ann Arbor. This weekend Harbaugh managed to flip the commitment of four-star quarterback Zach Gentry from Texas to Michigan.

Gentry is a 6′-6″, 230 pound pro-style quarterback, ranked fourth among pro-style passers according to Rivals. The top prospect out of the state of New Mexico, Gentry would have been a key recruit for Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns, but now he is the prize of Harbaugh and his newly assembled staff at Michigan. Gentry is the first commitment added to Michigan’s Class of 2015 since Harbaugh was hired. Gentry flipped his decision while on an official visit to Michigan this weekend.

Gentry is the second quarterback added to Michigan’s Class of 2015. Four-star talent Alex Malzone, an in-state recruit, was an early enrollee for the Wolverines. He will get a head start on the offense and a chance to compete for playing time under Harbaugh this spring, while Gentry will not be able to join the program until the summer. All of a sudden, Michigan is has some young quarterbacks with some good potential to work with.

Michigan also added three-star defensive end Reuben Jones, from Lakeland, Florida, to the Class of 2015. The Wolverines currently have eight players in the Class of 2015, including a pair of early enrollees.

Texas has a much fuller class even without Gentry. The Texas recruiting class also include three-star quarterback Matthew Merrick. Texas also added four-star quarterback Jerrod Heard to the program in last season’s recruiting class.

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