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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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Bearcats, Hoosiers make future home-and-home official

Football vs. Bowling Green State University, 09/14/13_Mike Dickbernd

A short time after it was first reported, the two football parties made it official.

In twin press releases, Cincinnati and Indiana confirmed that the two football programs will square off in a future home-and-home series. The Hoosiers will host the Bearcats on Sept. 18, 2021, with UC returning the hosting favor Sept. 24, 2022.

The Bearcats have future games scheduled against Ohio State (2014, 2019), Miami (Fla.) (2015), Michigan (2017) and Boise State (2019, 2020) while the Hoosiers have, well, nothing even remotely resembling that level of non-conference competition.

“Facing Cincinnati reinforces our commitment to adding strong non-conference programs to our future schedules,” IU athletic director Fred Glass said in a statement. “It is a great opportunity for our large alumni base in the Greater Cincinnati Area to come out and watch the Hoosiers. Along with the addition of UConn (2019, 2020), we are set up to reach our goal of playing seven home games every season and are consistent with the Big Ten’s policy that each school play at least one major conference opponent in the non-conference each year.”

The two teams have met on a football field 14 times, with Indiana holding a 9-3-2 advantage that includes wins in the last five games played. The last time they squared off was in 1998.

(Photo credit: Indiana athletics)

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Future Stanford-SJSU games might be at 49ers’ new home

Levi's Stadium

Earlier this offseason, the Pac-12 announced that Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, would host its conference championship game for the next three years.

Depending how things shake out in the coming months, the NFL stadium could be seeing some regular season college football action as well.

San Jose State head coach Ron Caragher confirmed to the San Jose Mercury News Wednesday that talks have been initiated between his school and Stanford about renewing their series.  If that series returns, the coach also confirmed, it would likely take place at a neutral site, Levi’s Stadium.

There’s some fringe talk about it,” Caragher said about playing a neutral site game/games with the Cardinal. “Has anything been finalized? Not necessarily. But I think it’d be great.”

SJSU and Stanford have met on a football field 67 times since the first game was played in 1900.  However, last year’s game — a 34-13 Cardinal win in Stanford Stadium in the season opener — was the final game between the two programs until a new contract is signed.

Stanford comfortably leads the in-state series 52-14-1, with San Jose State’s last win coming in 2006.

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Larry Scott’s the anti-Bowlsby, optimistic on future of college sports

Alfred E. Neuman

In leading off the Big 12 media Days Monday, commissioner Bob Bowlsby painted a bleak picture of the future of athletics at the collegiate level, stating that, because of the O’Bannon lawsuit and the like, both men’s and women’s Olympic sports could be eliminated.

His Pac-12 counterpart, on the other hand, has taken the Alfred E. Neuman approach to the sports horizon on the college front.

Speaking as he kicked off his conference’s media days Wednesday, Larry Scott (pictured) acknowledged the gloom and doom some have espoused as of late.    For his part, however, the future’s so bright he might as well wear shades.

“While we’ve heard some doomsday and some threats over the last week, I am very confident and optimistic about where college sports is going,” the commissioner said during his address to the media. “We know there are some significant challenges out there, and we know it’s time to make significant changes. Today requires that we do more for student-athletes who work so hard to find balance for their passions for their sport while still wanting to get an education.”

It wasn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows from Scott as the commissioner warned that going to the professional model — i.e. paying athletes as employees of the universities — for football and perhaps basketball could make Bowlsby’s comments very prescient.

“We need to make necessary reforms, and we will,” he said. “But radically changing the model into a professional model or trying to reinvent the construct where student-athletes are treated as employees would threaten the existence of many women’s sports (and) Olympic sports.”

Our best guess? The future of college sports will fall somewhere closer to Scott’s optimism than Bowlsby’s dire pessimism. There’s too much money at stake, and too many smart individuals like Scott involved, for it to not work itself out in the end. Certainly collegiate athletics will have a different look even just a decade down the road, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Change is necessary, whether it’s forced through the courts or voluntarily with the universities and the NCAA coming to their collective senses and realizing the current system is broke and in dire need of a major renovation.

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Warrant issued for five-star WR implicated in UGA dorm theft

iPhone theft

A couple of days later, we now have a name to go with the accusation.

Monday it was reported that an unidentified 2016 football recruit was the prime suspect in the burglary of a Georgia dorm. The player, who was staying with a pair of Bulldog football players during a camp, allegedly stole a wallet with cash and a pair of credit cards in it as well as an iPhone 5 out of the room of two female Bulldog athletes.

It was initially reported that the player likely wasn’t facing an arrest or extradition because he was a juvenile from out of state. That turned out to not be the case as multiple media outlets Wednesday reported that Darnell Salomon, the recruit in question, has a warrant out for his arrest in connection to the incident.

It’s believed the charge will be of the misdemeanor variety.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

It’s unclear at this point whether Salomon plans to turn himself in to fight the charges. According to the police report, UGA Police Sgt. Dale Parrish of the notified Salomon’s mother that a warrant had been taken and the procedure for turning himself into the Athens-Clarke County Sherriff’s Office.

The 17-year-old Salomon’s high school football coach proclaimed his player’s innocence.

“When the facts in the case come out we’re all sure Darnell Salomon will be cleared of all charges,” Hialeah (Fla.) Champagnat Catholic Mike Tunsil told 247Sports.com in a statement.

That same recruiting website lists Salomon as a five-star prospect and the No. 3 wide receiver in the Class of 2016. The same holds true for Scout.com.

The 6-2, 186-pound high schooler holds scholarship offers from a veritable who’s who of the college football elite: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Notre Dame, South Carolina Tennessee and USC just to name a few.

Salomon has yet to verbally commit to any school, although he still has two seasons worth of high school football to get through. Well, that and this legal hiccup.

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Aggravated assault arrest leads to Georgia dismissing DT Taylor

Georgia Bulldogs logo

Following an arrest for aggravated assault earlier this week, Georgia has dismissed defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor. As reported yesterday, Taylor was arrested for the second time this offseason, this time being charged for aggravated assault on a female.

According to The Telegraph, Taylor was released from jail after 28 hours. Soon after his release from jail, the University of Georgia athletics department released a brief statement confirming his dismissal from the football program. Taylor is now the third player on Georgia’s defense to be given the boot this offseason.

Taylor was arrested in March following theft by deception charges against he and three other Georgia players. To avoid a suspension by the team at that time, Taylor entered a pre-trial intervention program. Unfortunately, it appears Taylor was unable to stay out of trouble and will now have bigger problems to worry about. Any arrest or citation is considered a violation of the program.

As far as football is concerned, which really is trivial at best when discussing a player accused of strangling a woman, Georgia should be able to survive the depth concern on the defensive line. The Bulldogs return five players with experience and have recruited well at the position, but now the focus on recruiting for the future will have to shift a bit more on the defensive front than initially expected.

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West Virginia, NC State announce 2018-2019 series

Dana Holgorsen

West Virginia has not been shy on scheduling news this week. In addition to plans to play Tennessee in Charlotte to open the 2018 season and head coach Dana Holgorsen suggesting a revival of The Backyard Brawl with Pittsburgh, the Mountaineers rolled out plans for a home-and-home series with a different ACC opponent, North Carolina State. West Virginia and North Carolina State will square off in 2018 and 2019, according to a West Virginia statement.

West Virginia will host NC State on September 15, 2018. North Carolina State will host the second game the following season on September 14, 2019. This scheduling agreement will satisfy NC State’s non-conference scheduling requirement in the ACC, which requires each member to schedule a power conference opponent each season in non-conference play. NC State now has the non-conference scheduling requirement fulfilled from 2017 through 2021 (at Notre Dame in 2017, WVU in 2018 and 2019, Mississippi State home-and-home in 2020 and 2021).

As noted above, West Virginia is scheduled to open the 2018 season in Charlotte against Tennessee, giving the Mountaineers two non-conference games against power conference opponents in 2018 with one game to fill. As it stands now, there is no scheduling requirement in the Big 12 to schedule non-conference opponents from other power conferences (although it is certainly encouraged by Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops).

“I am excited about this series, because it gives our football program and our fans an outstanding home-and-home series with a team from the ACC,” West Virginia Athletics Director Oliver Luck said in the released statement. “WVU has a lot of alumni living in North Carolina, especially in the triangle region, so it gives our fans a game that is close. We have had a competitive games over the years with NC State, and this is a chance to restart the series.”

In all, the two schools have faced each other 10 times on the football field, with the most recent meeting coming in the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl. Each school has won five games in the series that dates back to 1914.

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Did Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops criticize Texas A&M’s scheduling? YESSIR!

Bob Stoops

Bob Stoops has been making the rounds through the ESPN Car Wash today and he has been throwing out a couple nuggets worth digesting. Aside from his latest jab at Alabama head coach Nick Saban‘s thoughts on the Sugar Bowl, Stoops took aim at non-conference scheduling by a former Big 12 foe, Texas A&M.

Texas A&M opens the regular season on the road in SEC play against South Carolina, the favorite to come out of the SEC East this fall, but after that the Aggies have home games against Lamar (and FCS school) and Rice. After that is a road game at SMU. On November 1 Texas A&M will host UL Monroe in College Station the week before a road game at Auburn. Looking at the non-conference schedule for the Aggies leaves Stoops unimpressed.

Texas A&M’s non-conference schedule is anything but a murderer’s row, that much is for sure. Lamar is coming off a 5-6 season at the FCS level last season. Rice made a surprise run to a Conference USA West Division championship and ended the season with a record of 10-4, but the Owls are hardly considered among the elite of the Group of Five at this point. SMU filed to meet eligibility for postseason play with a 5-7 record and ULM broke even at 6-6 but was not invited to a bowl game.

To be fair, Oklahoma has rarely gone out and put together one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country on an annual basis, but the Sooners have lined up some marquee non-conference opponents for home-and-home opportunities. Recent seasons have seen Oklahoma play Notre Dame and Florida State while future seasons will see Ohio State, UCLA and historic rival Nebraska. But the Sooners have a share of games against programs like Tulsa and UTEP littered throughout as well. Texas A&M will have future games against Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon coming up as well.

The other part of the argument is how difficult Texas A&M’s conference schedule will be compared to that of Oklahoma over the course of time as well. The Sooners may have to battle a resurgent Texas in due time, and Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Baylor have their moments, but the Aggies are pit in the same division as Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

Is Stoops fair to criticize the difficulty of Texas A&M’s schedule?

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Win The Pac-12: Oregon Ducks picked as preseason media favorite

Marcus Mariota

Stanford has ruled supreme in the Pac-12 each of the past two seasons, but Oregon is picked to return to the top of the Pac-12 mountain in 2014. Oregon has been picked to finish first in the Pac-12 North Division, receiving 37 first-place votes in a media poll, and to win the Pac-12, receiving 24 out of a possible 39 votes.

Oregon ran away with first-place votes in the division voting. Two-time defending Pac-12 champion Stanford received just two first-place votes in the north. Washington, Oregon State, Washington State and California followed in the Pac-12 North Division predictions, respectively. UCLA ended up running away with the Pac-12 South Division votes as well. The Bruins, among the more trendy College Football Playoff contenders this offseason, received 37 of 39 first-place votes in the South. USC and defending division champion Arizona State each received one. The Trojans are predicted to finish in second place in the south, followed by Arizona State, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

In a rematch of the first Pac-12 Championship Game in conference history, Oregon is predicted to once again top UCLA, receiving 24 votes to UCLA’s 13. Stanford and USC each received one Pac-12 championship vote from the media at Pac-12 media day. Oregon is also widely considered one of the top contenders for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Here are the Pac-12 predictions, as released by the Pac-12 Wednesday.

NORTH DIVISION

1. Oregon (37) 232

2. Stanford (2) 192

3. Washington 142

4. Oregon State 125

5. Washington State 87

6. California 41

SOUTH DIVISION

1. UCLA (37) 231

2. USC (1) 181

3. Arizona State (1) 163

4. Arizona 119

5. Utah 82

6. Colorado 43

PAC-12 TITLE GAME CHAMPION: Oregon (24 votes)

Others receiving votes:  UCLA (13), Stanford (1), USC (1)

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Report: Indiana, Cincinnati to rumble in 2021-22

Indiana and Cincinnati got out their respective long-term planners and set aside a pair of dates to play some football. The two schools have scheduled a home-and-home series for 2021 and 2022. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com was first to report this scheduling agreement between Indiana and Cincinnati.

Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports via Twitter Cincinnati will travel to Indiana on September 18, 2021 and will host the Hoosiers in the return game on September 24, 2022. Groeschen also reports Cincinnati is working on scheduling games with Kentucky, Pittsburgh and longtime rival Louisville. For now, any talk about Cincinnati and Alabama scheduling any games has been put on ice.

Who knows exactly where Indiana and Cincinnati will be by 2021 in terms of competitiveness. Indiana is not going to be leaving the Big Ten anytime soon, but the program has generally been in the bottom half of the conference on an annual basis. Still, Cincinnati getting a Big Ten team on the schedule, and getting a game at home, is still pretty significant. Unless the realignment game starts up again as power conferences move to a different playing field with autonomy or even a complete split from the current NCAA structure, Cincinnati appears to be left stranded in the American Athletic Conference. Any games against power conference opponents can be critical for bowl positioning when compared to other Group of Five schools.

How much are you looking forward to this match-up years down the road?

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Is the world OK with a mellow Nick Saban?

Nick Saban

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is a living legend in the sport of college football. With a handful of national championship rings, Saban has little to prove on the football field even as the game is evolving in a way he is not particularly fond of. Instead of worrying so much about on-field success, Saban says he has stepped back, become more mellow and focused more on the bigger picture for preparing his players for what is ahead of them.

“I think people got on me for being a little too tough, a little too difficult,” Saban said on ESPN‘s “Numbers Never Lie,” as reported by Al.com. “But I think over the years you learn that it’s not the emotional part of what you do with a player, but it’s more the lessons you can teach them. And I don’t think there’s anything emotional or getting angry about, none of it’s worth it.”

It is always easy to say things like this though when you have won and you happen to be the richest man in college football. I feel like that should be pointed out here.

“I’ve kinda mellowed out a little bit, but I think I’ve become a little bit of a teacher because of that as well.”

Saban has done well in making Alabama one of the top factories for NFL talent, and the chances of improving to become an NFL prospect is one of the reaosns some of the nation’s top high school players will continue to commit to Alabama. But Saban is saying what most coaches should agree with. There is a role for being a teacher that comes with being a coach. Saban has accepted that, and hopefully more coaches are with him in that thought.

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Holgorsen wants the Backyard Brawl (WVU vs. Pitt) back

Pittsburgh v West Virginia Getty Images

If there is one thing that has been taken away from fans trough the years of realignment, it is traditional rivalries. We have lost some good ones in recent years such as Nebraska-Oklahoma, Texas-Texas A&M, BYU-Utah and Pittsburgh-West Virginia. Fortunately, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen is speaking out in favor of resurrecting The Backyard Brawl between the Panthers and Mountaineers.

“I would welcome back Pitt and the Backyard Brawl any time that they want it,” Holgorsen said Tuesday during Big 12 media days according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But scheduling is tricky. … Now that we’re not in the same conference we both had to drop non-conference games. That makes it challenging. There’s a reason why a lot of games are being announced for 2020 and 2021. … It’s got to be done in advance.”

West Virginia and Pittsburgh have each lined up future games against Penn State, another former regional rival for each for years before the Big East started up and Penn State joined the Big Ten. West Virginia also has some future games set against another former Big East foe, Virginia Tech. The Mountaineers also announced plans to play a neutral-site game against Tennessee in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2018 and West Virginia will open the 2014 season in Atlanta against Alabama. With an apparent interest in restoring some past rivalries at both schools, it would seem only natural to get something worked out for some future games.

West Virginia plays a nine-game conference schedule in the 10-team Big 12, which limits the Mountaineers to three non-conference games each season. Pittsburgh generally has some more flexibility with just eight conference games, but must satisfy a non-conference scheduling requirement for the ACC. Pittsburgh is required to schedule one opponent from another power conference (or Notre Dame when not on the rotating ACC schedule) each season.

Why not make that West Virginia on an annual basis and kill two birds with one stone? The more important question may be whether or not Holgorsen will even be around Morgantown by the time the two bitter rivals do get back on the field for a game. Holgorsen is largely considered to be one of the coaches on the hot seat entering the 2014 season.

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Florida State paces preseason All-ACC team with nine

Jameis Winston

Florida State was named the preseason favorite in the ACC without little contest, and it is easy to see why. The preseason all-ACC roster was formally announced Wednesday, and it includes nine players from Florida State.

Quarterback Jameis Winston and running back Karlos Williams will be lining up behind an offensive line this fall that includes two preseason All-ACC offensive linemen in tackle Cameron Erving and guard Tre’ Jackson. To add more fuel to the fire, Florida State wide receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary also appear on the ACC’s preseason all-conference roster.

Florida State’s biggest threat in the Atlantic Division, Clemson, has three players named to the defensive side of the preseason all-conference team though. Defensive end Vic Beasley, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and linebacker Stephone Anthony all were named by the media this week at the ACC Football Kickoff. Duke actually had more preseason all-conference players named with four, the second most in the ACC. So much for that whole basketball school mentality, right?

Here is a breakdown of preseason All-ACC players by school…

  1. Florida State (9)
  2. Duke (4)
  3. Clemson (3)
    Virginia Tech (3)
  4. Miami (2)
  5. Boston College (1)
    Louisville (1)
    North Carolina (1)
    Syracuse (1)
    Virginia (1)

Here is the full roster, as released by the ACC;

2014 Preseason All-ACC Team

Offense

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
RB Duke Johnson, Miami
RB Karlos Williams, Florida State
WR Jamison Crowder, Duke
WR Rashad Greene, Florida State
WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
TE Nick O’Leary, Florida State
T Cameron Erving, Florida State
T Sean Hickey, Syracuse
G Tre’ Jackson, Florida State
G Laken Tomlinson, Duke
C Andy Galik, Boston College

Defense

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson
DE Mario Edwards Jr., Florida State
DT Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech
DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson
LB Denzel Perryman, Miami
LB Kelby Brown, Duke
LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson
CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
CB P.J. Williams, Florida State
S Anthony Harris, Virginia
S Jeremy Cash, Duke

Special Teams

PK Roberto Aguayo, Florida State
P A.J. Hughes, Virginia Tech
SP Ryan Switzer, North Carolina

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PSU’s Franklin a psycho ready to bring the community back together

James Franklin

The community surrounding Penn State football continues to be a divided one, to an extent. It is a community still largely searching for answers and truth from the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and you can still find factions demanding for the return of a statue of Joe Paterno and others demanding for complete changes on the board of trustees and so on, some with honestly good intentions and others perhaps lacking priorities. This week former assistant football coaches Jay Paterno and Bill Kenney have filed a new lawsuit against the university regarding the termination of their employment. Two years have now passed since Sandusky’s crimes were handled in the court of law, and the community is starting to return to whatever normal will be.

Looking to steer the ship in the right direction is new head coach James Franklin, who has sparked the program with a new sense of life and motivation, continuing the momentum few thought could be generated under Bill O’Brien and looking to lead the Penn State program through the end of the sanction period. In a one-on-one interview, Franklin explains why he feels he is ready to tackle such a journey.

“I’m so emotional. I’m so passionate. I’m kind of a psycho,” Franklin told The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Joe Juliano. “So, I think a lot of people think, ‘This guy, is he for real?’ “

In his short time at Penn State, after leaving Vanderbilt, Franklin has put together one of the top recruiting classes for 2015 and has won over a fan base by digging into his Pennsylvania roots and declaring a territorial war over the Keystone State as well as the recruiting fertile grounds of New Jersey and Maryland, now considered Big Ten territory. On a spring bus tour of the state and region, Franklin left quite the impression on Penn State fans, and it seems his messages are being received well. Franklin understands the value of Penn State football to the community in State College and throughout the state, and he wants to use that as the resource that continues to heal the fractured community.

More from Franklin, via The Philadelphia Inquirer;

“I believe that football has the ability to bring a community together like nothing else,” he said. “I know I’m biased, I’m a football coach. But I believe football has that special ability.

“Saturday afternoons, people come together to be a part of something bigger than just themselves,” the former Vanderbilt coach said. “So, I think we can hold a special role in that, and I think it’s time.

“The thing that’s always made Penn State special is that we’re family and people are very proud of being a part of this university. And I think it’s time for us to get back to that, get back to being a family. The way I look at it is, let’s put the university first and, more importantly, let’s put the kids first.”

There is something to be said about how the football program could end up being what brings the Penn State community back together, given the national pundits that suggested it be shut down after being perceived as an enabling device for Sandusky and his sick crimes against children. But as with any organization, if the leadership in place has the right frame of mind and has a plan of attack, there should be little stopping it from reaching the finish line.

Is Franklin the leader Penn State’s football program needed? That seems to be the theme of the offseason in State College.

You can read the full one-on-one interview and story with Franklin via The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Bowling Green picked to repeat as MAC champions

MAC Championship - Bowling Green v Northern Illinois Getty Images

The Bowling Green Falcons have been picked to repeat as MAC champions, but Terry Bowden‘s Akron Zips could be a program on the rise. Bowling Green was named the MAC preseason favorite in the East Division as well as the conference, but Bowden’s Zips received three first-place votes in the east. Toledo was picked to win the MAC’s West Division. The conference’s preseason poll was released Wednesday as the media day event in Detroit got started.

Bowling Green upset Northern Illinois in the 2013 MAC Championship Game, likely preventing the Huskies from making a return trip to the BCS last bowl season. Bowling Green looks to become the first team from the east to repeat as conference champion since Marshall won four in a row from 1997 through 2000. Marshall is now a member of Conference USA.

Toledo received 11 first-place votes in the west, followed by Northern Illinois with eight first-place votes. Central Michigan picked up a pair of first-place votes but sits behind Ball State in the predicted standings. As the conference notes, this all suggests the conference should have some good competition brewing this fall, especially in the west.

The complete poll, as provided by the MAC, follows:

Team (First Place Votes) Points

MAC East Division
1. Bowling Green (18) 144
2. Akron (3) 114
3. Ohio 107
4. Buffalo 87
5. Kent State 72
6. Miami 43
7. UMass 23

MAC West Division
1. Toledo (11) 114
2. Northern Illinois (8) 110
3. Ball State 82
4. Central Michigan (2) 67
5. Western Michigan 44
6. Eastern Michigan 24

The MAC Championship Game will be played on Friday, December 5. This is also the last season UMass will be an associate member of the MAC.

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The Wall Street Journal has a ridiculous realignment plan

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Oklahoma v Alabama

Some people just love to talk realignment when it comes to college football. I will admit, I can be guilty of that at times (I’m telling you that updated Big Ten logo is just itching for 16 teams). It seems there is always some way to reimagine the college football landscape, and in the dream world inside our minds there is no end in sight to the options to play with. While most of us will have to settle for configuring our make-believe conferences in the virtual world of NCAA Football 14, others will map it out for us using (virtual) pen and paper. The Wall Street Journal is the latest to get in the fun.

In a story titled “A Radical Realignment Plan for College Football,” The Wall Street Journal suggests placing college football powers in conferences based not on geography, but on overall strength as a program. For example, the first “cluster” conference would feature Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas. No Florida State, the defending national champions? Did The Wall Street Journal even watch Florida last season? Or Michigan? Or Texas? As it is explained, two representatives from Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports used a formula based on financial implications as well.

Per The Wall Street Journal;

What a “Division IV” in college sports would look like is still anyone’s guess. But two Ohio State sports researchers have an idea: What if schools were sorted into conferences based on their football strength?

To do that, Jonathan Jensen and Brian Turner chose to ignore geography and tradition, the typical forces in conference realignment. Instead, they focused solely on football and its financial implications, coming up with a formula that factored in every team’s football revenue, winning percentage, computer ranking and attendance between 2003 and 2013. Then they sorted teams into clusters to figure out which schools were most alike—and should be playing each other.

Using this formula, the defending Big Ten champion (Michigan State) and Pac-12 champion (Stanford) would be in Cluster 2 and Cluster 3, respectively. Last year’s Big 12 champion, Baylor, is nowhere to be seen in the four clusters assembled, but West Virginia, Utah and Boise State are. So is Arkansas.

Maybe The Wall Street Journal should stick to finances.

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