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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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Nearly two decades later, Priest Holmes graduates from Texas

BYU v Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PHOTO: Drake stops by Houston football offices

Rapper Drake

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

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

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

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

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Former Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase rejoins program as assistant DFO

Nathan Scheelhaase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maryland v Syracuse

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

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

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

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

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Army and Navy stand ground against College Football Playoff scheduling

Army v Navy Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Rivals

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

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

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

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

Go to work, Herman.

Helmet sticker to The Student Section.

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Former Wolverine Blake Countess checking out Auburn

Utah v Michigan Getty Images

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

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

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

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UNC receives notice of allegations from NCAA

152205 UNC Getty Images

The University of North Carolina has received a Notice of Allegations letter from the NCAA offices, but the school will not release the details of the investigation until a later date. When that date will be is not yet known. Inside Carolina reports UNC may make a formal announcement later today regarding the arrival of the NCAA’s notice of allegations.

The NCAA reopened an investigation at Chapel Hill last June to follow-up on some new information shed regarding academic irregularities on the campus involving student-athletes. The basis for reopening the investigation was the belief those who previously did not help with the NCAA’s original investigation in 2011 would be more willing to provide details and information.

In October a new report from former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein suggested the academic scandal at UNC was more widespread than initially thought. His report’s findings said more than 3,1000 students enrolled in classes they did not have to show up for to receive credit over decades. Half of those students were also UNC athletes according to the report.

How much more in-depth the NCAA investigation managed to dig remains to be seen, but it would seem there was reason to suggest it was able to come up with enough new information to sanction UNC once again to some extent. We will just have to wait to find out just what the new penalties may be for the Tar Heels and how it may or may not impact football.

UPDATE (12:37 p.m.): UNC has confirmed the receipt of the notice of allegations and released a statement from Chancellor Carol L. Folt and director of athletics Bubba Cunningham.

“We take these allegations very seriously, and we will carefully evaluate them to respond within the NCAA’s 90-day deadline,” the statement said. “The University will publicly release the NCAA’s notice as soon as possible. The notice is lengthy and must be prepared for public dissemination to ensure we protect privacy rights as required by federal and state law. When that review for redactions is complete, the University will post the notice on the Carolina Commitment website and notify the news media. When we respond to the NCAA’s allegations, we will follow this same release process.“Consistent with NCAA protocols, the University cannot comment on details of the investigation until it is completed.”

“Consistent with NCAA protocols, the University cannot comment on details of the investigation until it is completed.”

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Ex-Aggie Kenny Hill ready to thrill at TCU

Kenny Hill, Sharrod Golightly

Of all the teams around the country with a quarterback question this offseason, TCU is not one of them. Trevone Boykin is entering his senior season with some Heisman hype and in position to lead the Horned Frogs to a Big 12 title and possibly the College Football Playoff. But once Boykin moves on, TCU could have its next quarterback ready to go. Former Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill is about to get started in classes at TCU, and he still plans to join the Big 12 program.

The Star-Telegram reported Thursday night Hill will begin classes at TCU on June 1. While starting classes is still to come, Hill has already been on campus to observe spring practices so he can get familiar with the offense under head coach Gary Patterson.

Hill captivated the college football world early last season ans carried over the momentum from the Johnny Manziel era at Texas A&M. However, after the hot start, Hill’s success and production fell back to Earth in harsh fashion. He eventually lost the starting job to Kyle Allen following a miserable loss at Alabama and he missed time while serving a two-game suspension. Seeing the writing on the wall, Hill opted to seek a fresh start this spring.

The fresh start could be a good call. After sitting out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Hill will have a chance to once again win a starting job. Perhaps the life lessons learned from his first time starting at Texas A&M and being a couple of years older will allow for Hill to handle the situation better. In the meantime, Hill will have a chance to learn while watching Boykin do his thing in Fort Worth, and that’s not a bad mentor to have.

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Ex-Sooner RB Keith Ford says he’s going to Aggieland

Keith Ford, Le'Vander Liggins

Just days after saying he was leaning toward transferring to Texas A&M, former Oklahoma running back Keith Ford is now reportedly an Aggie. Ford said earlier this week Texas A&M was on the top of his list of options but said some details had to be squared away before he could officially join Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies. That appears to be taken care of now.

I’m going to Aggieland,” Ford said to 247Sports Thursday night. “What really helped me come to my decision was when I sat down with Coach (Kevin) Sumlin. It didn’t sound like it was rehearsed or anything. He was just talking to me man-to-man and laid out his expectations for me. He also wanted me to believe in him. After I heard all of that I was like, ‘Yea, I’m coming here.’ I can’t wait to get up there.”

Ford will have to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but when he is eligible once again in 2016 the Aggies will be adding quite a talented running back. Ford, a four-star running back in Oklahoma’s Class of 2013 according to Rivals, appeared in eight games as a freshman for Oklahoma last season, rushing for 392 yards and five touchdowns. Ford’s season came to an end when he broke his leg against Tennessee in September. He was suspended indefinitely by Bob Stoops in the spring for a violation of team rules.

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Tulane adds future dates with Oklahoma, Ole Miss

Devon Walker

In a busy day on the scheduling front, Tulane secured a serious boost to its future schedules by announcing future games with Oklahoma and Ole Miss.

Tulane and Oklahoma will play a three-game series spread out over seven years; the Green Wave will come to Norman in 2017 and 2024, with the Sooners visiting New Orleans in 2021. The series will mark the first-ever meetings between the schools.

“We are excited to begin the series with the University of Oklahoma. There were a lot of moving pieces required to put this together and I thank my good friend Joe Castiglione for working with us to ensure Oklahoma would come back to Yulman Stadium as soon as scheduling would allow,” Tulane Rick Dickson said in a statement.

Elsewhere, Tulane has pushed back a visit to Ole Miss from 2017 to 2025 and added a home date against the Rebels for the 2023 season. The two schools have met 71 times previously in a series dating back to 1893. Ole Miss holds a 43-28 edge over the Green Wave.

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Five off-the-field Harbaugh lieutenants to earn $100K-plus in 2015

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh‘s off-the-field staff will be significantly better paid than his predecessor’s. According to an open records request filed by Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free-Press, two non-coaching assistants will earn $250,000 in 2015 and five will top the six-figure mark, up from the salaries Michigan paid for the same positions on Brady Hoke‘s staff.

Leading the way is Jim Minick, a longtime military man and lifelong friend of Harbaugh’s who was suspended last week after a DUI arrest. He’ll earn $250,000 as the Wolverines’ assistant athletics director for football, up from the $143,000 that Bob Lopez made in the same job last year.

Minick’s salary will be matched by the $250,000 earned by strength coach Kevin Tolbert, a $9,000 bump from the salary garnered by predecessor Aaron Wellman.

Elsewhere in the department, director of operations Rick Finotti will earn $120,000, recruiting coordinator Matthew Doherty will earn $107,000 and director of player development Gwendolyn Bush – also known as the mother of Wolverines graduate transfer Wayne Lyons – will earn $106,000 in 2015.

The five assistants raking in six figures-plus is up from three on Hoke’s staff.

Assistant strength coach Nathan Barry and recruiting operations assistant Chris Partridge will also earn $80,000, while recruiting assistant Anthony Binker sits as the low man on the totem pole at $41,000.

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Haskell Indian Nations U suspends football program for 2015 season

The empty seat of football stadium

Haskell Indians Nation University, a tribal university located in Lawrence, Kan., and competing in NAIA, announced Thursday it will suspend its football program for the 2015 season, citing the rising costs of college athletics.

“Conference changes, the cost of maintaining ten athletic programs, the lack of coaching staff to recruit and develop players and programs, and the dependency of Intercollegiate Athletics on university funding,” led university president Venida Chenault to halt the program for the upcoming season. In a university release (via the Lawrence Journal-World), the school said plans to scale back its athletics programs from 10 to six.

Haskell players may use the fall as “a developmental year for academic and physical conditioning,” but the university noted it is granting releases for players that have arranged them. Still, there is no guarantee the program will return, as the announcement says this fall will be used to determine the “viability” of the program long-term.

Naturally, Haskell’s players did not take the news kindly.

 

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Kansas State to induct four players to Football Ring of Honor

Oklahoma Sooners v Kansas State Wildcats Getty Images

Kansas State announced Thursday that former Wildcats Michael BishopJordy NelsonClarence Scott and Darren Sproles will enter the program’s Ring of Honor this fall. This immediately brings to mind one question, “Wait, how could Kansas State have a Ring of Honor and Michael Bishop and Darren Sproles weren’t a part of it until now?”

Anyway, the above four represent K-State’s third Ring of Honor class, bringing the group’s total to 14. The four players will be enshrined to the interior facade of Bill Snyder Family Stadium during a halftime presentation of the season opener against South Dakota on Sept. 5.

“Like previous Ring of Honor classes these are not only skilled athletes and All-Americans at the positions they played at Kansas State but quality gentlemen who genuinely care about their university and their football program,” Snyder said. “They join the previous 10 Consensus All-Americans having represented their university with class and dignity.  I am so very proud of this and previous classes having coached nine of the 14 of them.”

Bishop went 22-3 (15-1 Big 12) as the Wildcats’ quarterback from 1997-98, leading the club to its first-ever No. 1 ranking while earning All-Big 12 honors both seasons and winning the 1998 Davey O’Brien Award. Nelson worked his way from walk-on to defensive back to one of the best wide receivers in school history, posting school record marks 111 catches and 1,606 yards while earning All-America honors in 2007.

Scott earned First Team All-America honors as a defensive back in 1970 and is already a member of K-State’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Sproles helped the Wildcats win their first Big 12 title in 2003 while setting a school record with 2,735 all-purpose yards. His 4,979 rushing yards remain a school record.

The group will join the likes of Lynn DickeyMartin GramaticaMark Simoneau and Terence Newman in the Wildcats’ Ring of Honor.

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Kick times set for a number of bowl games

We’re only 100 days away from the official start of the 2015 season, which means we’re only 100 days plus 17 weeks from everyone’s favorite time of year: bowl season.

  • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (MW vs. MAC): Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Boca Raton Bowl (MAC vs. American): Dec. 22, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (American vs. Mountain West/BYU): Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Hyundai Sun Bowl (ACC vs. Pac-12): Dec. 26, 2 p.m. ET, CBS
  • AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Big 12 vs. SEC): Jan. 2, 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

So pleas, everyone, clear your schedules ahead of time and make room for the Boca Bowl. No you have no excuse for missing such a momentous post-season extravaganza.

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