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The Fifth Quarter: Week 12 Rewind

Auburn Georgia 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.

THUMBS UP

War Damn Miracle… and the Mother of All Iron Bowls
For a short period of time, it appeared that the Alabama-Auburn game for all of the SEC West Tostitos would be nothing but a distant memory thanks to the fourth-quarter heroics of Aaron Murray and his Georgia teammates.  And then, the Dawg Gone Miracle went and happened and the Mother of All Iron Bowls was back on.  While there’s still the little matter of Alabama getting past its scrimmage against FCS-level Chattanooga next weekend — after it struggled with Mississippi State this weekend — Nov. 30 is set for an epic in-state showdown: the  7-0 (in SEC play) Tide versus the 6-1 Tigers, with the winner staking its claim to the SEC West and earning a berth in the conference title game the following weekend.  In the 21 years since the SEC went to divisional play, the Iron Bowl has never served as a winner-take-all affair for the SEC West.  Hide the women, children and Udykes, y’all; this one’s gonna be huge.

SEC East clarity
Meanwhile, on the redheaded stepchild side of the SEC, the chase for a spot in the conference championship game is nearly as simple as it is in the West.  With South Carolina’s escape against Florida, the Gamecocks finish league play at 6-2.  Missouri, which was idle this weekend, is at 5-1.  If the Tigers win their last two games on the road against Ole Miss and at home against Texas A&M, Mizzou will face the winner of the Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl the first Saturday in December in Atlanta.  If Mizzou stumbles once either week?  The Gamecocks, based on their Oct. 26 overtime win over the Tigers, will represent the East division in the league title game.  If Mizzou can get past an up-and-down Rebels squad, both the SEC East and West will be decided on the final week of the regular season.  That, I would think, would be kind of cool.

Ed OrgeronOregon for Orgeron
Nov. 7, the bottom dropped out of Oregon’s football world.  Not only did the Ducks lose its stranglehold on a potential spot in the BCS title game, they lost control of their own division with the loss to Stanford.  10 days later, their world’s looking a bit brighter.  Thanks to USC’s stunning upset of Stanford, Oregon now merely needs to take care of business against Arizona and Oregon State the next two weeks and it will claim the Pac-12 North’s spot in the conference title game.  Just who the opposition would be remains to be seen.  Arizona State, at 6-1 in the conference, needs to “simply” beat UCLA (5-2) next weekend on the road to win the South division, regardless of what happens in the regular season finale against Arizona and regardless of what USC (5-2) does in its last two games (ASU 62, USC 41 the day prior to Lane Kiffin‘s firing).  The Sun Devils, though, aren’t the only ones that control its own divisional fate; the Bruins can win the South if they wins their last two (ASU, USC).  Unbelievably, the Trojans also have a (slim) shot at a South crown.  If USC wins its last two, and if ASU loses its last two, the Trojans would be the South’s representative in the Pac-12 title game.  To boil it down: the South will have much more clarity after the ASU-UCLA game next Saturday.  Probably.

Nerd slipper still fits
I’m a sucker for a good Cinderella sports story, especially when it comes to football.  And this season, it doesn’t get any more Cinderella than Duke.  Not only have the Blue Devils become bowl-eligible in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the program’s history, they are in control of the ACC Coastal division thanks to the 48-30 pounding of Miami.  To repeat, Duke, a program that hasn’t won an outright ACC championship since 1962 and last shared one in 1989, is in the driver’s seat to represent the Coastal in the conference championship game.  If Duke is able to go on the road the next two weeks and beat Wake Forest (4-6 overall, 2-5 in ACC) and North Carolina (5-5, 4-3), the Blue Devils will face Florida State for the league title and a BCS berth.  Yes, that’s a blowout waiting to happen, but the fact that Duke is even in the discussion let alone the divisional driver’s seat  makes it one of the best stories of the year.

For all the rushing yards
When you think of Wisconsin football, whether it be under Barry Alvarez or Bret Bielema or Gary Andersen, you think ground game.  As if to drive home that point, the Badgers decided to run the ball right down the throats of Indiana Saturday afternoon.  UW rushed for 323 yards… then came back out for the second half, finishing with a season-high 554 yards that was 10 yards shy of the school’s single-game record and the most by an FBS team this season.  Three different Badger backs ran for over 100 yards: James White, 20-205; Melvin Gordon, 13-146; Corey Clement, 11-108.  This was the third time this season that trio of backs had each gained 100-plus yards in a single game.  A fourth player, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, just missed the 100-yard mark with 86 — and two touchdowns — on just three carries.  The Badgers averaged a staggering 11.1 yards on their fifty carries and, well, you get the point.

Probe, schmobe
Jameis Winston may or may not be facing some rather serious charges in the next week or two, but, if he’s concerned about the investigation into an alleged sexual assault, he didn’t show it on the field Saturday afternoon.  In the first half of Florida State’s drubbing of Syracuse, the presumptive Heisman front-runner completed 19-of-21 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns.  That would be the extent of Winston’s work for the day as the redshirt freshman spent the rest of the game holding the proverbial clipboard as the reserves closed out yet another dominating win.  It was a virtuoso performance in a situation that, given the off-field circumstances, would’ve sent most people most people cowering anywhere but the very public spotlight of a football field.  I don’t know if Winston should or shouldn’t be charged, or is guilty or not guilty.  What I do know is that, for the sake of a young man with such a bright future, I hope he’s not.  Even more so, I hope that, if a crime was indeed committed, the alleged victim gets the justice she deserves — regardless of who the perpetrator may be.

I’m still here
It took approximately a nanosecond after Oregon lost to Stanford two Thursdays ago for Marcus Mariota to be all but eliminated, by the general public at least, from the Heisman race.  Saturday, the quarterback showed exactly why he’s still one of the best football players in the country despite a blemish on his team’s résumé.  Mariota passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns in a little over three quarters of work in the bounce-back win over Utah.  This season, Mariota has thrown 25 touchdowns and zero interceptions in 285 pass attempts.  He is the only FBS quarterback in the Top 100 in passing efficiency who has yet to throw a pick.  It’s a shame that one subpar game — in which he was playing hurt, no less — has overshadowed what’s been a magnificent season for a player who’s done more than enough to be in the thick of the stiff-armed discussion.

Andre 300Andre Williams
Unbeknownst to some (most?), Andre Williams of Boston College came into today’s game with North Carolina State leading the nation in rushing.  Suffice to say, he did absolutely nothing to hurt that standing.  All the senior did was rush for 339 yards — on “just” 42 carries — in the Eagles’ win over the Wolfpack.  The total is the most ever in ACC history — the FBS record is 409 by TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson — and breaks the school record Williams set a week ago.  His 634 yards the past two weeks is second in FBS history in back-to-back games, surpassed only by Texas’ Ricky Williams‘ 668 in 1998.

You down with OHP? Yes, yes you are Mr. Fan
Every home game, Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer Brian Orr is assigned to protect the blindside, and every other side for that matter, of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops.  Orr is a rather large man who has, based on the size of his biceps, been to many a gun show.  During the Sooners’ win over Iowa State Saturday, an overexuberant fan decided to take to the field and begin celebrating another OU win over the Cyclones a little early.  Showing SEC speed to go along with his size, Orr left his post as Stoops’ protector and, well, did this:

L

Officer Orr, there’s a Vince McMahon on Line 1 for you…

It was also good form on the part of Orr as he avoided being flagged for targeting a defenseless fan.

Myles and Myles of two-way talent
In the week after linebacker Myles Jack ran for 120 yards in UCLA’s win last Saturday, head coach Jim Mora was asked about the true freshman’s role on offense moving forward. “He’s a linebacker,” the Bruins coach said.  We doubted the one-way sincerity at the time; Mora, though, was kind of enough to remove all doubt Friday night.  All Jack did for an encore in the win over Washington was rush for four touchdowns on just 13 carries while adding five tackles on the other side of the ball.  Likening the balance of Jack’s time on offense and defense to “a dance,” Mora called him “an outstanding linebacker”… but at the same time said “we are going to continue to use him” in the backfield.  For his part, Jack prefers to be the hitter instead of the hittee. “I’m still defense all the way,” the linebacker said after the Bruins’ win over the Huskies.  Whatever, just get the talented kid on the field as much as possible.

THUMBS DOWN

Sack Mack back in vogue
Judging by my emails and the reaction on Twitter, all of the goodwill Mack Brown had gained over the past few weeks is gone.  Evaporated.  Vanished.  The 25-point loss to Oklahoma State, at home and after the Longhorns had just reentered the rankings no less, snapped UT’s six-game winning streak and wrested control of the Big 12 out of their hands.  After fading to the background, and fair or not, the calls for UT and its new athletic director to make a change at head coach will return and will be as loud as ever.  And, yes, that means the tiresome Saban-to-UT speculation will be an ever-present reminder to Brown and everyone else that many, many people want that change.  Whether those who actually hold the power to make such a thing happen agree, however, remains to be seen.

Will MuschampBowl-less in Gainesville
No, it’s not official but it might as well be.  Thanks to the five-point loss to South Carolina, 4-6 Florida will now have to beat Georgia Southern next week and… No. 2 Florida State the following week to become bowl-eligible.  In other words, the Gators won’t be bowl-eligible in 2013.  When the final gun sounds on the loss to the Seminoles, the Gators will have been shut out of the postseason for the first time since 1990, the first season with Steve Spurrier as head coach.  While they were 9-2 that season, they were ineligible for a bowl due to NCAA sanctions.  The last time UF played its way to a bowl-less season?  The 6-5 1986 squad.  Athletic director Jeremy Foley issued an unequivocal, no-gray-area-here declaration of public support for Will Muschamp earlier in the week.  We’ll take the straight-shooting Foley at his word.  When it comes to the offensive assistants on Muschamp’s staff?  Don’t buy any green bananas.  And do month-to-month leases, if possible.

Singing the Big Offensive Blues
Yes, Michigan was able to end its two-game skid, but all is most decidedly not right in the Land of Big Blue.  In the three-overtime win over conference-winless Northwestern, the Wolverines managed just three field goals in regulation.  The offense barely cracked 300 yards the first four quarters despite not committing a turnover and being penalized just once the entire game — and doing it against a defense that was 80th in the country in total defense at 417.9 yards per game coming in.  On ESPN‘s College GameDay show, former Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard called out Al Borges, challenging the fourth-highest paid offensive coordinator to earn his salary.  It’s highly unlikely Brady Hoke would do something as drastic as make a change at coordinator in the offseason.  Whether he should, though, is another matter entirely.

Seat as hot as a burning couch
If it wasn’t before, the honeymoon in Morgantown is officially over.  West Virginia became Kansas’ first Big 12 victim in three years, suffering an embarrassing 12-point loss to a team that had won twice in 2013 coming in.  The loss dropped the Mountaineers to 4-7 on the season and officially knocked them out of bowl contention.  In two-plus seasons at WVU, Holgorsen is 21-16 overall and 6-11 in Big 12 play.  While this sobering stat is unrelated to the latest miserable loss, it bears repeating: in 37 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 spanned a 10-year period, the Mountaineers were beaten by 21 or more points a total of eight times.  In other words, the Mountaineers simply aren’t competitive on a consistent basis under Holgorsen.  With the move from the Big East to the more competitive Big 12, that’s a coaching death waiting to happen.  And, based on the people in my area, there are plenty of fans eager to line up and pull the plug.

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

— No. 1 Alabama 20, Mississippi State 7: As best as I can recall, this is the first time since I began doing this feature four years ago that the top-ranked team in the country has appeared in this category.  Four turnovers on the road, however, will do that to a team.  While it’s highly unlikely that enough voters would flip based solely on this performance, there’s a very good likelihood that Florida State will pick up quite a few first-place poll votes and chip into the Tide’s commanding rankings lead.

— No. 11 South Carolina 19, Florida 14: With all of the injuries the Gators have incurred this season, I have no clue how they did it.  Baling wire and duct tape were involved, I assume.  Regardless, the Gamecocks, which finished off the SEC portion of its slate with the win, remain within shouting distance of first-place Missouri.  And will be the biggest Ole Miss/Texas A&M fans the next two weeks.

— No. 15 UCF 39, Temple 36:   It took a miraculous touchdown catch — and that catch was the dictionary definition of an athletic miracle — and a field goal with no time on the clock, but the Knights were able to finally subdue the one-win Owls, maintaining a firm stranglehold on their AAC lead and continuing to close in on the first-ever BCS berth in the program’s history.

— No. 19 Louisville 20, Houston 13: Trailing the Cougars by three at halftime, the Cardinals put 10 points on the board in the third quarter while holding the potent UH offense to no points in the second half to win its third straight game after losing its first game of the season.

— No. 21 Arizona State 30, Oregon State 17: The Sun Devils led the reeling Beavers 20-10 entering the fourth quarter before finally putting OSU away for good with an interception return for a touchdown with just over five minutes left.  With 10 games in the books, ASU’s year essentially comes down to a one-game season: next Saturday against UCLA, with the opportunity to clinch the Pac-12 South on the line.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Sunday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Florida State — Yep, I finally pulled the trigger.  Here’s what you need to know about the Seminoles: the past six games against teams that are currently a combined 34-26, FSU has outscored those opponents 322-51.  From my vantage point in this corner of my mom’s basement, the ‘Noles are simply the best and most talented team in the game. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: vs. Idaho

2. Alabama — Dropping the Tide was something I had been considering for the past three weeks, based solely on how FSU was playing.  Alabama’s sloppy 13-point win over Mississippi State added to how FSU continues to play allowed me to justify such a move in my own head. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. Chattanooga

3. Ohio State — When the polls come out this later this morning/early this afternoon, it would serve as a major shock if Baylor didn’t leapfrog the Buckeyes in all three of the major polls, including the two that are part of the BCS standings.  I won’t do that here, although watching the Buckeyes muddle through what should’ve been a game-long cakewalk against a really bad Illinois team had me at least considering it. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: vs. Indiana

4. Baylor — The Bears’ idea of a close game is spotting its opponents the first 14 points, then outscoring them 63-20 the rest of the way to turn an upset alert into a blowout.  BU will likely face its stiffest of the season this weekend as they travel to Stillwater.  Maybe then we can all get a handle on just how good this team really is. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: at No. 12 Oklahoma State

5. Missouri — Yes, you could’ve made the case for Auburn or Oregon or Clemson or Michigan State or Oklahoma State here, but the quality of the Tigers’ lone loss trumps every other team’s.  Auburn lost by double digits to three-loss LSU.  Oregon was dropped rather handily and easily by a Stanford team that’s lost to 4-6 Utah and USC, which fired its head coach before the first month of the season was in the books.  Clemson was taken to the woodshed by FSU.  Michigan State lost to a Notre Dame squad that’s currently unranked.  Oklahoma State lost to West Virginia, which lost in Week 12 to a Kansas team that hadn’t won a Big 12 games in three years.  Mizzou’s lone loss came in overtime to a ranked South Carolina and after it had taken a 17-0 lead into the fourth quarter before getting Connor Shaw‘d. (Last week: unranked)
Next up: at Ole Miss

(Dropped out: No. 5 Stanford)

HE SAID IT
“This team has the ‘It’ factor. That’s just the bottom line. … I told them a minute ago that I think we’re in the midst of something special.” — Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, following the miraculous win over Georgia.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I think most teams would have folded or found a reason to quit but they didn’t do that. … I talked about being disciplined on and off the field. If your goal is to live a disciplined life, you’ll probably have a blessed life.” — Mark Richt, when asked what he said to his Georgia players following the heartbreaking loss to Auburn.

HELMET OF THE DAY
This may not be the most “hip” helmet in an era where the Oregons and Baylors of the college football world look to one-up each other on a seemingly weekly basis, but it’s certainly the most meaningful.  For its game against Ohio State Saturday, the Illinois players wore an understated tribute on their heads: a silhouette of the state of Illinois with 10 stars arranged in the shape of an “I” inside of it.  Those 10 stars represent the 10 football players who made the ultimate sacrifice serving our country in the armed forces, giving their lives in combat for our freedom.

Illini Tribute Helmet

Illini Combat Heroes

Well done, Illini.  Well done.

SAY WHAT?
As embarrassing as the loss was for West Virginia, it was an even bigger relief for Kansas.  The Jayhawks’ 31-19 win over the Mountaineers snapped a 27-game Big 12 losing streak that was the longest negative league streak among AQ schools.  Prior to Saturday afternoon, KU’s last conference win came on Nov. 6, 2010 against Colorado.  You had to go all the way 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 and prior to the WVU win, KU had gone 6-42 in Big 12 play, with four of those wins coming in 2008.

TRUE STORY
Oklahoma’s 48-10 win over Iowa State was the 157th of Bob Stoops‘ career with the Sooners, tying Barry Switzer for the most wins in school history.  In 15 seasons, Stoops has gone 156-39 (.796); Switzer went 157-29-4 (.837) in 15 seasons.  In those 15 seasons under Switzer, the Sooners collected three national championships and won or shared 12 Big 8 titles.  In his 16 seasons, Stoops has laid claim to one BCS title and eight won or shared Big 12 championships.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— The number of undefeated teams remained static from a week ago: Alabama, Florida State, Northern Illinois and Ohio State at 10-0, Baylor and Fresno State at 9-0.  The same held true on the other side of the won-loss ledger, with Georgia State, Hawaii, Miami of Ohio and Southern Miss at 0-10, and UConn at 0-9.  It should be noted that the Rainbow Warriors took San Diego State to overtime before remaining winless.

— While Andre Williams was impressive in rushing for 339 yards, he wasn’t the top ground performer in college football this weekend.  Not even close, actually.  D-III running back Cartel Brooks rushed for 465 yards, setting an all-division NCAA record in the process.  That record had been 455 yards… and was set just three weeks ago by D-III Western Connecticut’s Octavias McKoy.

Kapri Bibbs– Coming off a 312-yard, four-touchdown performance last weekend, Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs ran for 291 yards and a program-record six touchdowns in the win over New Mexico.

Carlos Hyde ran for a career-high 246 yards and score five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) as Ohio State remained unbeaten on the season with a win over Illinois.

— The day of the running back continues as Kansas’ James Sims‘ 211 yards and three touchdowns helped the Jayhawks snap their lengthy Big 12 skid.

AJ McCarron set one Alabama record and tied another in the win over Mississippi State.  The senior now has 8,146 yards of total offense in his career, surpassing John Parker Wilson‘s 8,099 yards from 2005-08.  The win was also the 35th of his career, tying him with Jay Barker (1991-94) in that category.

— Cincinnati’s Brendon Kay threw for a career-best 405 yards and four TDs in the Bearcats’ 52-17 thumping of Rutgers.

Allen Robinson now has 78 catches on the season, breaking the Penn State record of 77 he set in 2012.

— Texas Tech began the 2013 season by winning its first seven games.  The last four games, all losses, the Red Raiders have been outscored 202-124.

— Alabama streak of seven straight wins by at least 21 points was snapped Saturday night.  The SEC record for consecutive wins by 21-plus points still belongs to Florida alone, which won eight straight such games in 2008.

James Franklin– Vanderbilt is bowl-eligible for the third straight season, the first time that’s happened in the football program’s history.

— Ole Miss totaled a school-record 751 yards of offense (382 passing, 369 rushing) as the Rebels waylaid Troy 51-21.

— In Clemson’s 55-31 throttling of Georgia Tech Thursday night, Tajh Boyd completed 20 of his 26 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns.  The senior also added a rushing touchdown.  Boyd now has 97 career touchdown passes, breaking the mark of 95 previously held by North Carolina State’s Philip Rivers.

— For the fourth time in his career, Marshall’s Rakeem Cato passed for more than 400 yards (456) in a single game as the Herd got past Tulsa Thursday night, 45-34, to remain tied atop the Conference USA East standings with East Carolina.  The junior passed for 400 yards-plus three times in the first five games last season.

Jordan Lynch passed for 345 yards, ran for 123 more, tossed two touchdown passes and scored two on the ground as Northern Illinois remained unbeaten with their 48-27 win over Ball State Wednesday night.  It was the first time this season and third time in his career he’s passed for 300-plus and rushed for 100-plus in the same game, with one of those being a 400/100 game.

— Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata also passed for a career high 497 yards in the Bulls’ 51-41 loss to Toledo Tuesday night.  The sophomore’s previous career-high was 285 yards in a win over Western Michigan last November.

—  A dozen different Yellow Jackets were credited with at least one rushing attempt in the loss to Clemson, the seventh time in 10 contests this season run-heavy Georgia Tech has used double-digit ball carriers in a single game.

Marshall 75 HelmetIN CLOSING…
Say what you want about the negative headlines some college football players make for off-field escapades, but the vast majority of young men at this level of the game are good folk and quality people.  Case in point: the Marshall Thundering Herd.  Thursday night, Marshall debuted helmets that featured the number “75” on the left side, with that number honoring the 75 souls lost in the tragic plane crash on Nov. 14, 1970.  The plan was for the special helmet to be a one-shot deal.  However, the school announced via a press release Saturday that a decision has been made to wear the helmets for the remainder of the season… because the players requested that the tribute continue. “Remembering those 75 people isn’t about one day; it’s about a mentality here,” head coach Doc Holliday said.  More than anything, those Herd players showed that the memories of those who perished in that tragedy will not fade away with the passing of time.  And that the word “respect” still means something.

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Vols QB Nathan Peterman considering transfer to Pitt

Alabama v Tennessee

Three weeks ago, Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian stated that there was no indication that Nathan Peterman was considering a transfer, even as the speculation suggested otherwise.

Since then, Bajakian has left for an NFL job.  And now, it appears, Peterman is seriously considering a move away from Rocky Top as well.

Citing an unnamed source, Panther-Lair.com is reporting that Peterman is visiting Pittsburgh this weekend as he looks for a new spot to continue his playing career.  The interest would make sense on multiple levels, and for both sides.

First, the Panthers are woefully lacking in depth behind starter Chad Voytik.  In fact, Peterman could come in and challenge the incumbent immediately for the starting job as he would be a graduate transfer and thus eligible to play in 2015.

Secondly, Pitt’s new offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney, served as the Vols’ coordinator from 2009-12 and helped recruit Peterman to UT.  Chaney abruptly left as Arkansas’ OC earlier this month to take the same job at Pitt.

A four-star member of UT’s 2012 recruiting class, Peterman was rated as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the country coming out of high school in Florida.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Peterman started one game in 2013, breaking his hand in that loss to Florida, incidentally, and one game in 2014.

With true sophomore Josh Dobbs the future for the Vols at the position, it would likely be a wise move for Peterman to get out and use his remaining two seasons of eligibility elsewhere.

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Starting DE among four leaving Fresno State

Ikaika Woolsey, Maurice Poyadue

The attrition train has hit Fresno State hard, especially along the defensive line.

In a press release Friday night, the Bulldogs announced that four players — quarterback-turned-wide receiver Myles Carr, defensive end Maurice Poyadue, running back/defensive back/wide receiver Dillon Root and running back-turned-linebacker-turned running back T.J. Thomas — have left the football program. No reason was given for the quartet’s departure.

In the release, the school stated that Poyadue and Root will remain on scholarship this spring as they are both close to graduating, while Carr and Thomas are no longer enrolled at the university.

“We are grateful to the student-athletes for their contributions to the program and wish them the best with their future endeavors,” head coach Tim DeRuyter said in a statement.

The most notable of the departures is that of Poyadue as he had started the past seven games of the 2014 regular season.  He played in all 13 games this past season as well after playing in 12 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2013.

Poyadue, along with Carr, was one of four suspended for Fresno State’s Hawaii Bowl matchup with Rice for violating unspecified team rules.

Root’s absence will also be noticed, especially on special teams.  In 2014, Root, who was suspended for the 2014 opener, led the Bulldogs with 25 kick returns for 483 yards, while his 19.3 yards per return were second on the team.  In 2013, Root led all Bulldogs in kick returns (28) return yards (601) and yards per return (21.5).

He also caught 10 passes for 85 yards and averaged 5.6 yards on five carries in 2014.  His 596 all-purpose yards were fourth on the team.

Thomas ran for 71 yards on 11 carries last season.  Carr, who moved from quarterback after spring practice last year, did not record a reception.

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Real grass played role in LaDainian Tomlinson picking TCU

LaDainian Tomlinson AP

You hear all kinds of reasons why a recruit picks a certain school or crosses others off his list, and you’ll certainly hear more with National Signing Day right around the corner.  Never once can I recall having heard of a playing surface being a significant factor… until now.

In an interview with KTCK-AM 1310 The Ticket, LaDainian Tomlinson was asked about the recruiting process and how he ended up at TCU. First, Tomlinson explained how Texas A&M never offering him a scholarship even as they wanted him to visit led him to very nearly sign with North Texas.

He didn’t land at UNT, obviously, as he ultimately signed with TCU. What exactly, in part, led him to the Horned Frogs over the Mean Green, and Baylor too? Allow Tomlinson to explain, as transcribed by the Dallas Morning News.

“TCU was a place that allowed me to stay close to my family. My mother was in Fort Worth at the time. I really needed to stay close to home, so it really came down to TCU, North Texas and Baylor, honestly. At the end of the day, TCU was probably the best place for me because they played on grass. Even in high school, I thought about this stuff. … I said, ‘Grass would be better than turf.’ North Texas had turf and even Baylor had turf.”

So there you have it: mom plus real grass equaled TCU in Tomlinson’s equation.  It takes all kinds, as the saying goes.

Whatever the ultimate trigger was, it was a boon for TCU football.

In the 31 years prior to Tomlinson’s arrival in 1997, TCU played in two bowl games.  During Tomlinson’s four seasons with the Horned Frogs, they played in three.  In 2000, Tomlinson’s last season as well as the program’s last without Gary Patterson as head coach, the Horned Frogs won 10 games, the first time that had happened since 1938.

Individually, Tomlinson set the FBS single-game rushing record with a 406-yard performance in a 1999 game against UTEP, a mark that stood until Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon broke it with 408 yards in November of last year.  One week later, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine shattered that record with his 427-yard effort.

A decade and half finishing off a career with 5,387 yards and 56 touchdowns, Tomlinson was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2014.

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Knee surgery likely won’t keep Michigan’s Jake Butt out of spring ball

Jake Butt

For the second time in less than a year, Jake Butt has undergone a surgical procedure.  This one, though, is decidedly less significant than the first.

A team spokesperson confirmed to mlive.com that the tight end underwent microscopic surgery on his knee earlier this month.  It’s the same knee in which Butt suffered a torn ACL last February.

The procedure, which was deemed minor, is not expected to keep Butt out (get it?) of spring practice a month or two down the road.

The ACL injury cost him the first two games of the 2014 season, while a suspension cost him another.  In the nine games in which he did play, Butt caught nine passes for 211 yards, totals that were both third on the team.  His two touchdown receptions were tied for second.

As a true freshman in 2013, Butt finished third on the team in receptions (20), yards (235) and touchdowns (two). Butt, a four-star member of UM’s 2013 recruiting class rated as the No. 5 tight end in the country, is expected to play a significant role in new head coach Jim Harbaugh‘s offense, which, at least at Stanford, had a tendency to feature the tight end position.

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Reports: Rutgers reinstates receiver Ruhann Peele

Ruhann Peele, Andrew Adams

(Alliteration, it’s fun for the whole family, especially in the offseason!)

In early November, Rutgers suspended Ruhann Peele for the remainder of the 2014 season following an off-field incident.  Nearly three months later, he’s back.

According to both nj.com and ScarletScuttlebutt.com, the wide receiver has been reinstated to the football program and can now resume participating in team activities.  RU has yet to announce public Peele’s status with the team.

In late August, Peele was arrested and charged with simple assault after it was alleged that he had pulled the hair of a female accuser and scratched her face.  That charge was dismissed in December after the alleged victim failed to show for a court appearance, which helped pave the way for Peele’s return.

Peele had not played the first nine games of the 2014 season because of an unspecified upper-body injury.  He was medically cleared prior to the 10th game, which triggered the suspension.

In 2013, Peele finished fifth on the team with 28 catches for 478 yards. He was third on the team that season when, due to injuries, he was moved from receiver to cornerback in late October for a handful of games.

Entering spring practice back in the good graces of the football program, the redshirt sophomore is expected to be a significant contributor in the passing game in 2014.

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Bret Bielema, Russell Wilson and a Dolphins interview

Penn State v Wisconsin Getty Images

I don’t even know where to start with this, but, well, let’s just dive right in.

Bret Bielema interviewed for the head-coaching job with the Miami Dolphins a couple of years ago. He has now confirmed as much publicly and willingly and openly, too. Guess that’s one place to start.

Unbeknownst to the public in general and the media specifically, Bielema interviewed in “the winter of 2012,” as ESPN.com put it, for that open South Florida NFL gig. At the time, Bielema was the head coach at Wisconsin and was coming off a Rose Bowl appearance following the 2011 college football season with transfer Russell Wilson as his starting quarterback.

It’s that Bielema/Wilson/Dolphin dynamic that’s so utterly fascinating, if for nothing more than, based on Beilema’s own words, he’d possibly be in the NFL right now if the pro folks in Miami had just heeded his sage draft plan.  The following is prefaced by the ESPN writer herself noting that “Bielema insists this is true,” so there’s that.  And this:

He is a day and a half into his meetings, and is mapping out his plans with the Dolphins’ brass. He promises them a Super Bowl ring within five years if they pick Wilson, his quarterback at Wisconsin, in the upcoming draft.

The idea of selecting a 5-10 quarterback in the second round, which is where Bielema thinks they need to, does not go over well. They think he’s crazy.

“One hundred percent,” Bielema says.

“They all looked at me like, ‘You can’t say that. That’s the difference between college and pro. He’s undersized. He can’t throw.’ I was like, ‘OK, all right,’ and I honestly, that day, kind of pulled myself out of it.”

Pulling out that time, Bielema remained at UW for one more season, after which he pulled up stakes in Madison and headed to Fayetteville for the head coaching job at Arkansas.

The lesson here? Bielema, as is the case with pretty much every other coach, is more than willing to listen to overtures. Oh, he’ll listen, as the 2014-15 coaching rumor mill hinted atvery strongly hinted at — when it came to the opening at Nebraska.  Talking publicly about being “right” on a Super Bowl-winning quarterback like Wilson just sets up NFL options for the future, too.

Just something to keep in mind on down the road, when the next few coaching carousels are spinning.

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LSU plans to pursue John Chavis’ buyout

John Chavis

When John Chavis left the LSU Tigers to become the defensive coordinator of the Texas A&M Aggies, he walked away from a $1.3 million contract.

Chavis reportedly wanted his annual salary increased to $1.7 million to make him, along with Auburn’s Will Muschamp, the nation’s highest paid defensive coordinator.

When LSU brass decided that wasn’t going to happen, Chavis refused to sign a new contract. Instead, Texas A&M stepped up to the plate and lured him away to College Station.

Whether or not Texas A&M matched Chavis’ asking price, the assistant coach won’t see the full amount of his contract next season due to a buyout in his previous contract with LSU.

Chavis owes LSU $400,00 as part of the provision, according to The Shreveport Times‘ Glenn Guilbeau. The school intends to pursue the money it is owed.

“I’m not sure if we’ll get it, but we’re going to try to get it,” LSU board member Ronald Anderson told Guilbeau. “That was part of his contract. It’s his obligation.”

Whether or not LSU receives the payment may determine the future of former defensive line coach Brick Haley. Haley is currently on staff, but he was replaced by Ed Orgeron. Unlike Chavis, Haley signed a new contract offered after the season. However, his status along with the $450,000 contract remain uncertain until Chavis’ situation is finalized.

Haley is currently serving as a staff “intern.”

“I’m told that by June, if he decides to stay, they’ll decide what he’ll be doing and that title would change,” Anderson said.

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Former Crimson Tide safety takes shot at LSU’s new defensive coordinator

HaHa Clinton-Dix

You can take the football player out of Alabama, but you can’t take the Crimson Tide out of the football player.

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix left Alabama as a highly decorated safety before becoming the 21st pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 NFL draft.

The safety didn’t take to Twitter Friday to rip the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions or even the Minnesota Vikings, though.

Clinton-Dix’s contempt for the rival LSU Tigers remains strong, and he made sure to point out what type of hire the program made when Kevin Steele was named its new offensive coordinator.

The game Clinton-Dix referred to was the 2012 Orange Bowl. Steele was the defensive coordinator of the Clemson Tigers at the time. His defense surrendered 595 total yards to the West Virginia Mountaineers on their way to scoring 70 points.

The embarrassing performance eventually cost Steele his job.

Despite the pitiful performance and being a few years removed from defensive coordinator duties, LSU head coach Les Miles was excited about Steele’s inclusion to his coaching staff.

“He has a great defensive mind and he’s an outstanding recruiter,” Miles said when the hire was officially announced, per ESPN. “He knows our players and our system and his knowledge of the SEC and the SEC Western Division makes him a great fit. We are very excited the Kevin will be joining our staff.”

Miles and LSU might be excited about the hire, but Clinton-Dix obviously thinks it’s a joke.

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Texas Tech cancels spring game, caters schedule to QB Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes

The spring game is an annual tradition in college football.

However, Kliff Kingsbury and his Texas Tech Red Raiders were forced to change up their spring schedule due to a couple of factors.

First, the Red Raiders won’t hold a spring game this year, according to the team’s official site.

“Due to the replacement of seating inside Jones AT&T Stadium, the annual Spring Game has been cancelled and there will be no other open practice opportunities for fans in Lubbock,” the statement read.

Also, the team will accommodate its projected starter at quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who is also a member of the baseball team.

“Individual practices dates will be determined on a week-by-week basis in order to accommodate sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ baseball schedule, the school announced. “Mahomes will pitch and play in the outfield for the preseason No. 5 Texas Tech Baseball team this spring.”

Mahomes started the final four games of the 2014 campaign, and the freshman’s performance was impressive. The two-sport star passed for 1,428 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions during that stretch.

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Iowa WR breaks Odell Beckham’s Guinness world record

Iowa v Minnesota Getty Images

Iowa’s Tevaun Smith didn’t just one-up New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. a day after he set a world record. The junior from Toronto, Canada easily surpassed Beckham’s mark and caught nearly as many one-handed passes in a minute than he did all season.

Beckham originally set the record Thursday by making 33 catches without a drop in 60 seconds. Smith, who caught 43 passes for 596 yards last season, decided he was up to the task with 41 one-handed snags.

The Iowa Hawkeyes athletic department recorded the record-breaking event, via ESPN:

After being challenged, Beckham will surely attempt to break the new record.

“The type of person I am, I love breaking records, no matter what it is,” Beckham said Thursday in an interview with CBS New York. “I look forward to breaking and going above and beyond what somebody else has done.”

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FCS coaches not sure Vernon Adams can transition from EWU to Oregon

Eastern Washington v Washington Getty Images

There is very little Vernon Adams can prove with another year at Eastern Washington.

During his time as a member of the Eagles, the quarterback has proved he’s one of the elite players at the FCS level of play, and he helped lead his team to three straight playoff appearances.

In 37 career games, Adams threw for 10,438 yards, 110 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. Plus, the quarterback ran for 1,232 yards and 11 more touchdowns.

However, none of this means he’s ready to make the leap from the FCS level to play for the Oregon Ducks, who just played in a national championship game.

Adams is still entertaining the idea of transferring, though, as he prepares to visit Eugene this weekend.

“I’m not saying I’m leaving Eastern, but I’m just going to check it out and see what they have to say,” Adams told The Spokesman-Review‘s Jim Allen.

FCS coaches believe Adams can play at the level, but it may not be the right time for the quarterback to make the move.

“If I was advising him, I’d say he should stay,” Sam Houston State’s K.C. Keeler told The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

Keeler once coached Joe Flacco at Delaware before eventually becoming the Bearkats’ head coach. Sam Houston State even faced Eastern Washington to open its 2014 campaign.

“I walked out of that saying I don’t think I’ll see a better quarterback in the country and in my time coaching, I can’t list a whole lot better than I just saw,” Keeler said. “I have no reservation saying he’ll go into the Oregon locker room and that he’ll be as talented as anybody. It’s just there are a lot of things that go into being a starting quarterback.

“I’m disappointed he’s leaving because I think what players have to understand is bigger is not better, better is better. He’s developed an unbelievable following at Eastern Washington and I’d be disappointed he’s leaving our level. I’m not excited that he’s trying to bump up to a higher level. The more he plays, the better he’s going to get, and I don’t know if that’s the situation at Oregon.”

One obstacle Adams will face if he does decide to transfer is waiting to become part of the Ducks program until this summer. The quarterback is on track to graduate in June, which means he wouldn’t be able to participate in Oregon’s spring ball.

“I think there’s a real risk for Vernon Adams to do that,” former Oregon receivers coach and current Montana coach Robin Pflugrad said. “Can Vernon Adams do it? I’m a firm believer he can having seen him and having watched him from afar. It’s just going to be a totally different challenge for him and some of that is mental.”

The coaches were in agreement on one thing. If Adams does transfer to Oregon, they’ll be rooting for him to succeed.

“We’d cheer for him and a lot more than when he was playing against us, too,” Montana State’s Rob Ash said.

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Touted 2014 JUCO transfer leaving K-State for EKU

With National Signing Day five days away, here’s your daily reminder that recruiting hype doesn’t necessarily translate into on-field success.

D’Vonta Derricott was a four-star JUCO member of Kansas State’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 3 outside linebacker prospect coming from that level of football. Derricott never saw the field in 2014, taking a redshirt for his first season in Manhattan.

As it turns out, Derricott won’t ever see the field for K-State as he has decided to transfer, announcing via Twitter Thursday that he’s moving on to Eastern Kentucky.  According to the Manhattan Mercury, Derricott had been removed from K-State’s Alamo Bowl roster, although head coach Bill Snyder seemed to indicate that the door was at least slightly open for a return.

Because EKU plays at the FCS level, the linebacker will be eligible to play immediately in 2015. Counting this season, he will have two years of eligibility remaining.

(Photo credit: Kansas State athletics)

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Two more opt to transfer from Michigan

Michigan v Nebraska Getty Images

The work week began with word that a Michigan player has decided to leave Ann Arbor.  As it turns out, it’ll end the same way.  Times two.

First off, on Instagram Friday, Russell Bellomy announced that he will transfer out of the UM football program. In a very heartfelt statement, the quarterback asked that “you respect my decision and support me in whatever I do.”

Below is the statement, in its entirety.

“To those of you that know me well, I always try my hardest never to get emotional; however, I write this with a heavy heart. My heart is packed full of experiences, acquaintances and irreplaceable memories that I will reminisce on for the rest of my life. I love each and every one of my teammates, both former and present, and I hope y’all know that every day I busted my butt for you and the benefit of UM.

“I will receive my degree at the end of this semester and have decided to sign my release that enables me to play my 5th year as a graduate student at another university. I pray that you respect my decision and support me in whatever I do, because this was not an easy process. I am forever grateful to have attended and played for UM and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. “For I know the plans I have for you…” #GoBlueAlways”

As noted in the statement, Bellomy will be a graduate transfer, which means he would be eligible to play in 2015 if he decides to move on to an FBS program. The release granted by Michigan, which Bellomy showed on his social media post, allows him to transfer to any school not on the Wolverines’ schedule.

Russell Bellomy Release

Bellomy, a three-star member of the Wolverines’ 2011 recruiting class, played in six games during his time at UM, completing 4-of-23 passes for 46 yards and four interceptions.  Three of those interceptions came in a 23-9 loss to Nebraska in October of 2012, a game in which he was forced into action because of an elbow injury to starter Denard Robinson.

A short time later, teammate and defensive end-turned-tight end Keith Heitzman did the same thing as Bellomy, and on the same website to boot.

“The past few years have been an unforgettable journey full of ever lasting memories, both exciting and saddening. I have experienced the spoils of winning and the heartbreak of losing. I have always blamed my struggles on external factors and never realized that all of this was part of the process of becoming a Michigan man. It has been the most challenging yet rewarding 4 years of my life and for that I will be forever grateful.

“However, this moment right now has manifested itself into the toughest experience as of yet. I have signed my release form allowing me to talk with other schools for the potential to transfer. As of right now I will leave this great institution in the spring with a degree in hand and friendships that will last a lifetime. I have to make the best possible decision for me, therefore, I feel like I need to explore my options. I have to thank all the fans for their continued support through the turbulent times over these past few years and promise that Michigan is destined for greatness in the future. #forevergoblue”

Last season, Heitzman caught two passes for 32 yards and a touchdown in playing in all 12 games.  Heitzman was a three-star member of UM’s 2011 recruiting class, and will be eligible to play immediately at an FBS school because he will be a grad transfer.

Monday, it was reported that running back Justice Hayes would be leaving as a graduate transfer. Prior to that, and between the firing of Brady Hoke and the hiring of Jim Harbaugh, linebacker Michael Ferns and offensive lineman Kyle Bosch left the program as well. Both of those players ultimately landed at West Virginia.

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Report: Clancy Pendergast is front-runner for Utah DC job

California v Washington State Getty Images

After a year away from the game, it appears Clancy Pendergast could be back in it if he so desires.  Reportedly.

Accord to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News*, Pendergast has emerged as the front-runner for the defensive coordinator job at Utah.  The Utes have been without a coordinator on that side of the ball for well over a month after Kalani Sitake left for the same post at Oregon State.

Pendergast was last on the sidelines as the coordinator at USC in 2013, his lone season with the Trojans.  He wasn’t retained as part of Steve Sarkisian‘s new coaching staff.  For the three years before that, he served in the same position at Cal.

Prior to that, Pendergast had spent 15 seasons as an assistant at the NFL level.  During his stint as coordinator with Arizona (2004-08), the Cardinals earned the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl berth following the 2008 season.

As LSU searched for its new coordinator, Pendergast was interviewed as a potential replacement for John Chavis before hiring Kevin Steele away from Alabama.

(*Yes, I’m well aware of all y’all’s feelings toward Mr. Wolf.  Please, save yourself the breath and keystrokes.  Thanks in advance.)

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Brady Hoke reportedly not in the mix for CMU job

Brady Hoke AP

We still don’t know who will be Central Michigan’s next head football coach.  We can, though, apparently cross off one of the rumored candidates for the job of the school’s coaching to-do list.

Citing an individual with knowledge of the discussions, Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press is reporting that Brady Hoke is not in the mix for the CMU job.  Snyder writes “[t]hough CMU considered Hoke… it was not a fit* between the two sides.”

Hoke, of course, was fired as Michigan’s head coach in early December. Prior to his time at UM (2011-14) and San Diego State (2009-10), Hoke served as the head coach at Ball State of the MAC from 2004-08.

The CMU job came open Jan. 22 when Dan Enos abruptly stepped down to become the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. The Chips are currently the only FBS team without a head coach.

Athletic director Dave Heeke stated that he would employ a search firm to aid in the search and would like a replacement in place by signing day Feb. 4; that seems highly unlikely, although not impossible.

Aside from Hoke, other rumored candidates have included Detroit Lions special teams coordinator John Bonamego, Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, Ferris State head coach Tony Annese, Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal and Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks among many, many others.

(*Allow me to get ahead of this: In the comments section, feel free, if it makes you feel better, to let the hefty jokes rain down like beads at Mardi Gras.)

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