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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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Straw poll shows Oregon’s Mariota still leading Heisman contender

South Dakota v Oregon

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota remains the top player in college football according to a select panel of Heisman voters. According to the latest straw poll conducted by HeismanPundit.com, if the Heisman Trophy was to be awarded today, it would go to Oregon’s Mariota.

The Heisman Pundit straw poll is updated every Tuesday. Through four weeks of the straw poll, Mariota has been on top three out of the four weeks and has now been voted on top of the poll two straight weeks. Mariota’s big performance a couple of weeks ago resulted in the Pac-12 favorites coming from behind to pull away from defending Big Ten champion Michigan State. Mariota has completed 70 percent of his passes and has thrown eight touchdowns without an interception early on in the 2014 season. Only Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill has thrown more touchdowns without an interception (11 touchdowns).

You can check out the full straw poll via HeismanPundit.com.

Mariota is also the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, according to Bovada.

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Jameis Winston’s latest eye-rolling incident

Oklahoma State v Florida State

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston once again is under a hot lamp. No, he isn’t being accused of any sexual assault, stealing soda in ketchup cups, or stealing crab legs, but any time Winston does something out of the ordinary it is going to be worth discussing. He is, after all, college football’s best player and the reigning Heisman Trophy. He is not a typical college student, so let’s forget about that argument right off the bat.

Winston was witnessed on campus jumping on a table and shouting out an explicit phrase alluding to a sexual act. The phrase stems from an Internet meme, which some people must find humor in on some level. There was no harm done in any of this, nor does it sound as though there was any ill-intent in the random act of spontaneity on campus. It was just Winston looking to have a laugh all accounts. Given Winston’s history, this should be something that Winston should have thought about to himself and say “You know what, maybe this is in poor taste.” But hey, he’s just a college kid, right?

Whether you want to believe it or not, Winston is the face of Florida State football right now, and thus the face of the university for the time being. Even if this was just a joke to Winston, his friends and those around him, it does not come off with a positive glow for he or the university. There is no reason to discipline Winston for this latest story, nor should there be, but as word of this spreads around the Internet (via Deadspin and SB Nation, for example), this will be at least one small distraction from what should be a big week for Florida State. The Seminoles are hosting Clemson Saturday in a key ACC Atlantic Division battle. By the end of the week the game itself will be the story. This single isolated incident will merely be a side story without many legs to crawl on for very long.

The point regarding Winston is simply this; the actions of Winston will be highly scrutinized because of his stature in our sports culture. In light of recent stories regarding top football players getting into trouble, Winston’s shouting on top of a table is a relative non-issue. However, Winston’s past actions have been criticized to a fair degree time and time again. This will too. Because of the big shoes Winston wears representing Florida State, and college football as a Heisman Trophy winner, there will be times when Winston needs to create a filter and think about how his actions will be portrayed and received. Winston knows he needs to hold himself to a higher degree of morality. He has stated this himself.

Winston is still young, but he is certainly more than old enough to be able to make these decisions now.

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SMU can still win the American, says interim coach

Tom Mason

SMU has lost its first two games of the season by a combined score of 88-6. This week the Mustangs host No. 6 Texas A&M in the first game since June Jones resigned as head coach. The next two weeks could very easily continue to be sour for the struggling SMU program (TCU is up next after Texas A&M), but interim head coach resigned as head coach. The next two weeks could very easily continue to be sour for the struggling SMU program (TCU is up next after Texas A&M), but interim head coach Tom Mason will continue to keep his team motivated by finding ways to t them to realize a chance at the American Athletic Conference is still within their control.

“I just told them we got to continue to grow, change some things about how we practice, put my stamp on some of that,” Mason said Tuesday when meeting with the media, according to The Dallas Morning News. “It’s not going to be one of those quick fixes (but) I told them we have a lot left to play for. We have a conference championship left to play for a bowl game is still out there. And this team is still capable of doing that.”

“We’re young,” Mason said. “We don’t know how to practice yet obviously. We can get better every week (then) by the time we hit conference we might be a decent football team.”

The good news for Mason is there appears to be nowhere to go but up right now for this SMU program. There is plenty of work to do though. The program has lost its starting quarterback and the face of the program’s history has not held back in his criticisms. Yesterday SMU hired former Florida assistant coach Tim Davis to help improve the offensive line.

The rebuilding project is officially on, again.

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Texas player apologizes for coin-flip error

Mack Brown, Desmond Jackson

Saturday night got off to a weird start for the Texas Longhorns when a slip in managing the coin toss resulted in UCLA getting to receive the football first in both halves. Texas captain Desmond Jackson inexplicably told the ref Texas wanted to kick off to start the game, after UCLA had won the coin flip and deferred to the second half. This resulted in Texas having to kick off to the Bruins at the start of the first and second half. The bizarre coin flip sequence quickly became a point of ridicule for the Longhorns, and Jackson felt a need to apologize for the error in football judgement. He did so by issuing a public apology via his Twitter account on Tuesday.

UCLA won the football game, 20-17. Would Texas getting one of the half-opening possessions have changed the outcome? It is impossible to guess how things might have been different. The game still went down to the wire. The only time a mistake in the coin flip may have taken a costly toll on the Longhorns might have been if the mistake had taken place in overtime, with Texas choosing to play defense second rather than the more traditional option of playing defense first.

Mistakes happen, but mistakes are bigger in Texas.

Helmet sticker to The Oklahoman.

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Michigan State d-line could receive boost for B1G schedule

Michigan State v Notre Dame

Michigan State is set to officially begin defending their Big Ten championship reign at the beginning of October, at home against Nebraska. By then, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio believes his defensive line will be ready to go with the returns of a pair of linemen to the depth chart. The head coach of the Spartans said on Tuesday he expects defensive tackles Damon Knox and James Kittredge to be ready to go by the time conference play starts.

“We’re going to get Kittredge back, we’re going to get Damon Knox back, that gives us six defensive tackles to play once we get into Big Ten season,” Dantonio said, per MLive.com.

Knox underwent surgery for an undisclosed injury at the beginning of August. At the time, Dantonio told reporters the defensive lineman would miss some playing time but a timetable for a return was not specified. Knox was projected to be a starter on the Michigan State defensive line this season.

Kittredge transferred to Michigan State from Vanderbilt in 2011. He was injured in the season opener against Jacksonville State.

Michigan State has two more games to play before opening the Big Ten portion of the 2014 against Nebraska on October 4. This weekend the Spartans host in-state MAC foe Eastern Michigan. Next week Michigan State will welcome Wyoming to Spartan Stadium. These are games Michigan State should win without much concern, but the hope will continue to be to avoid further injuries before conference play.

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FBS receiving yards leader among dozen added to Biletnikoff watch list

KD Cannon, Fred Thomas AP

This right here is Exhibit No. 3,456 why preseason watch lists are brutally unnecessary.

Tuesday morning, the Biletnikoff Award announced that 12 players have been added to its watch list.  Among those added were the nation’s top two in receiving yards — Baylor’s KD Cannon (471) and West Virginia’s Kevin White (460) — three games into the 2014 season.  In fact, every single one of the dozen players added are in the Top 14 in the country in that category.

The only two players among the 14 receiving yards leaders that weren’t added — Alabama’s Amari Cooper (third) and Northern Illinois’ Da’Ron Brown (ninth) — were already included in the award’s preseason watch list.

With the inclusion of Cannon, a true freshman, the Bears now have three receivers in the running for the Biletnikoff, the other two being Antwan Goodly and Levi Norwood.  Neither one of those two have caught a pass this season due to injury, but that didn’t stop a BU assistant from touting the new “WideReceiverU.”

Below is the list of the 12 receivers added to the Biletnikoff watch list.

KD Cannon, Baylor
Travin Dural, LSU
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
Geno Lewis, Penn State
Roger Lewis, Bowling Green
Keevan Lucas, Tulsa
Teldrick Morgan, New Mexico State
Isiah Myers, Washington State
Demarcus Robinson, Florida
Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
Nelson Spruce, Colorado
Kevin White, West Virginia

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Report: injury will sideline A&M’s Speedy Noil for 3-5 weeks

Lamar v Texas A&M

Yes, yes, yes.  Let’s hope he has a speedy recovery.  Now, with that out of the way, we can move on.

According to 247Sports.com, and citing unnamed sources, Texas A&M wide receiver Speedy Noil sustained an injury to the MCL in his left knee during the win over Rice Saturday.  Because of the injury, Noil will miss 3-5 weeks.

At the short end of the prognosis, Noil would miss games against SMU (Sept. 20), Arkansas (Sept. 27) and Mississippi State (Oct. 4).  Also in jeopardy for Noil are matchups with Ole Miss (Oct. 11) and Alabama (Oct. 18).

Head coach Kevin Sumlin would only state that Noil likely won’t play this weekend.  He also took to task the report of Noil being out for upwards of a month.

Through three games, Noil, a five-star member of A&M’s most recent recruiting class, is third on the team in receptions (12) and second in receiving yards (197).  He’s also the team’s leading punt returner — three returns for 74 yards, with a long of 67 — and has returned one kickoff for 53.

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One of Iowa State’s top WRs could be done for year

P.J. Harris, Darian Cotton

When it comes to the passing game — and thanks to one very significant injury — Iowa State likes to spread the wealth. Moving forward, there will be one less recipient of that offensive generosity.

Monday, Cyclones head coach Paul Rhoads confirmed that P.J. Harris has a broken leg and will be out for the foreseeable future. Harris suffered the injury during ISU’s win over in-state rival Iowa this past weekend.

Rhoads stopped short of proclaiming Harris out for the season, saying instead that “P.J. may be able to be back later” this year. That, though, doesn’t sound promising.

Through three games, Harris is tied for second — with two other players — on the team with nine receptions. Harris, a three-star member of ISU’s 2012 recruiting class, caught seven passes as a redshirt freshman in 2013.

Rhoads did, though, confirm that backup offensive tackle Jacob Dunning suffered a ruptured patella tendon in the win over the Hawkeyes.

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Kevin Olsen ‘no longer a student at Miami’

Kevin Olsen

And just like that, Kevin Olsen‘s very brief career as a Miami Hurricane football player has come to an end.

Early Tuesday afternoon, Miami confirmed the expected by announcing that the erstwhile UM quarterback no longer a part of either the football team or the university. “Kevin Olsen is no longer a student at the University of Miami. We wish him the very best in the future,” a statement from the school read.

The separation, needless to say, was far from a mutual decision by both parties.

Olsen was arrested very early Monday morning and charged with driving under the influence and possession of a stolen or fictitious driver’s license following a traffic stop. That off-field misstep came a month and a half after it was reported Olsen would be suspended for the opener, reportedly for failing a drug test.

Olsen had been involved in the Hurricanes’ quarterback competition throughout the offseason, which was eventually whittled down to Kansas transfer Jake Heaps and true freshman Brad Kaaya.  The latter ultimately won the job.

A four-star member of Miami’s 2013 recruiting class, Olsen was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country.  He’s the younger brother of former Hurricanes standout Greg Olsen.

During his two years with the ‘Canes, Olsen did not attempt a pass.

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Touted 2015 QB charged with assault hours after release from jail

Jayru Campbell

Forget about getting his football career back on track; the life of a touted 2015 quarterback prospect is hurtling straight toward years and years worth of incarceration.

Detroit Cass Tech (Mich.) High School’s Jayru Campbell is — or at least was — given a four-star rating by Rivals.com, rated as the No. 9 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2015.  He had been a Michigan State verbal before, ahem, “decommitting” from the Spartans back in June.

Late last week, the 17-year-old Campbell was arrested and charged after allegedly assaulting his 17-year-old girlfriend at Cass Tech. Campbell has officially been charged with unarmed robbery, assault with intent to do great bodily harm and misdemeanor domestic violence assault and battery.

Those charges came hours — literally — after Campbell had been released from jail after serving a 60-day sentence connected to an earlier assault on a school security officer. This latest assault will result in a probation violation, which in and of itself could trigger significant jail time for the troubled teen. And that doesn’t even take into account the potential sentences for his latest charges: assault to do great bodily harm, a felony that could lead to up to 10 years in jail; unarmed robbery, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in jail; and domestic violence, a misdemeanor worth up to 93 days in jail.

As for the details of what led to those potentially serious charges, this from the Detroit News HERE and HERE pretty much sums it up:

He reportedly grabbed his girlfriend’s phone, saw whom she was texting when he was in jail, went into a rage and began choking her.

According to the prosecutor’s office, “during school hours it is alleged that Campbell was at Cass Tech when he assaulted his girlfriend in front of other students over a dispute over a phone.”

Again, that alleged assault came just 3-4 hours after he had been released from jail at noon for an earlier assault.

Campbell missed the start of the 2014 season, his senior year, because he was in jail serving 47 of the 60 days to which he was sentenced. This latest incident all but assures his high school career is over, although that’s not the least bit surprising given the player’s propensity for violence.

In late May, Campbell was sentenced to, among other things, 60 days in jail after pleading guilty to misdemeanor aggravated assault.  The quarterback had originally been charged with felony assault with intent to do great bodily harm after he body slammed a school security guard who had the audacity to tell him to remove a hood; that charge was dropped as part of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors.

 

The school security guard incident wasn’t the first instance of violence involving Campbell, however.

Last November, Campbell was again (somewhat) caught on video, this time punching a Detroit Catholic Central player in the handshake line following a Cass Tech playoff loss. The Detroit News reported Campbell was suspended for 3-5 days by the school immediately following that incident. He was also suspended for the 2014 season opener, a suspension he served while behind bars.

In the video below, you don’t see the actual punch that was acknowledged by the player’s own coach, but you do see the aftermath — including, ironically enough, Campbell being put to the ground by another man:

 

“I’m not a thug,” Campbell said during a June TV interview, prior to serving his jail term. “I would not consider myself as a criminal. I would consider myself as a natural-born leader and someone that likes to help others. …

“I just learned that violence is not the answer. There’s different ways that you can solve a problem. … Learn to forgive. It took some time but I would say I definitely got to the point where I’m thinking before I react.”

What’s the old axiom, actions speak louder than words? Yeah, that pretty much sums up this whole sordid situation.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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USU gets good news on Chuckie Keeton injury front

Chuckie Keeton AP

Thanks to what transpired in 2013, Utah State and its fan are rather cognizant of any type of injury scare when it comes to Chuckie Keeton.

Fortunately for USU and its followers, this latest one’s just that, a scare. Probably.

In the first half of USU’s win over Wake Forest Saturday, Keeton suffered an injury to his left knee — the same knee in which significant ligaments were torn asunder last year. While the quarterback finished out the half, he didn’t play the last two quarters because of the issue and instead spent the second half on the sidelines and on crutches.

The bad news is Keeton will not play in this weekend’s game against Arkansas State. The good news? Following the bye in Week 5, Keeton is expected to be back for the Oct. 3 game against BYU. Maybe.

“Chuckie is fine from a health standpoint,” head coach Matt Wells said. “The ACL is all intact; everything’s good. But it’s banged up, guys, and that’s the bottom line.

“So, we’re going to sit him out this week, and we’re going to sit him out next week. Then we’re going to re-evaluate him during the BYU week.”

In the first half of the game against the Demon Deacons, Keeton was 20-of-27 for 166 yards passing and a touchdown. And it won’t be his last on-field action as Wells was emphatic that “he’s not out for the year.”

With Keeton out for the ASU game at bare minimum, though, Darrell Garretson will get the start. After replacing Keeton in the road win over the ACC school, Garretson completed 11-of-16 passes for 121 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

The fact that USU may be erring on the side of caution when it comes to one of the most underrated players in the country is not the least bit surprising.

Keeton suffered a tear of both the ACL and MCL in his knee during an early-October loss to BYU last season and was held out of the 15 spring practice sessions as a precaution.  In May, just four months ago, Keeton was medically cleared to resume football activities seven months after the injury.

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UW Huskies get starting corner back from suspension

Washington v Hawaii

Marcus Peters sat out Washington’s win over Illinois this past Saturday because of what was essentially a toddler-level temper tantrum on the sidelines the week before.

After serving that timeout, it appears the cornerback is set for a return. Probably.

We got him back,” UW head coach Chris Petersen said after Peters had returned to practice. “He’s back with us. We’ll just take it one day at a time.”

Petersen was non-committal, at least for now, when it comes to Peters reassuming his starting roll.  When asked if Peters has been doing well since his eviction from the doghouse, Petersen quipped, “for the first six hours, yes.”

Not counting the Illini game, Peters has started 22 of the last 23 games at cornerback for the Huskies. He was named second-team All-Pac-12 following the 2013 season.

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WVU CB Daryl Worley suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules

West Virginia v Alabama Getty Images

Well, this isn’t what you want to happen five days before No. 4 Oklahoma comes to town.

West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley has been suspended indefinitely for the ubiquitous “violation of team rules”, head coach Dana Holgorsen announced Monday night.

Worley registered 45 tackles and an interception in five starts a year ago as a freshman. The Philadelphia native was one of three Mountaineers selected to represent the club at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas this summer, if you’re looking for an idea of where he stood on the team. Through three games this season, Worley has posted 17 tackles, two tackles for loss, and a team-best two interceptions.

The good news here is that West Virginia’s secondary won’t be totally depleted. As Worley moves off the active roster, senior cornerback Ishmael Banks replaces him. Banks’ three-game, NCAA-mandated suspension for academic issues is now over. Banks started all 12 games at cornerback in 2013, and posted two interceptions.

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Todd Graham, AD Ray Anderson pledge a combined $1 million for Sun Devil Stadium renovation

Weber State v Arizona State Getty Images

Arizona State’s leadership is serious about renovating Sun Devil Stadium. So serious, in fact, that two major figures inside the athletics department have pledged a cool $1 million to get it done.

Head coach Todd Graham and athletics director Ray Anderson, along with their wives, have each pledged $500,000 to the $50 million fundraising campaign to renovate the 56-year-old stadium. They are the largest gifts in the history of the Arizona State athletics department made by ASU employees.

“Pick the cliche, skin in the game, put your money where your mouth is, you’ve got to walk the walk,” Anderson told the Arizona Republic on Monday. “I think intuitively the four of us understood we needed to step up and be able to answer those challenges, and we believe we have in a significant way to the extent our circumstances allow. Now Todd and I can go out much more credibly and much more comfortably to ask others to say, ‘Join us in this transformational experience.’ We can do it much more emphatically, because in fact we put skin in the game.”

Graham earns $2.4 million in his third year as the Sun Devils’ head coach. Anderson earns $600,000, but can afford to pledge more than 80 percent of his salary after multiple decades in high-paying positions within the sports business. Anderson spent many years as an agent before working as a labor lawyer in Atlanta, then executive vice president and chief administration officer for the Atlanta Falcons, and then as executive vice president of football operations for the NFL before joining the Sun Devils’ athletics department. He reportedly made $1.69 million with the NFL.

“We’re not following anybody else’s model,” Graham said. “It’s the Arizona State model. We have an opportunity to do something great. It’s a family decision for us, but it wasn’t something I spent a lot of time thinking about. It was a no-brainer because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we wanted to step up and say, ‘The Grahams are committed.'”

So committed is Anderson to getting this project done that he hired Greg McElroy Sr. away from the Dallas Cowboys to serve as associate vice president and chief business development officer.

All told, the project is slated to cost $225 million, with construction beginning next year.

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Army announces 2015 schedule, includes trip to Happy Valley, date with Rutgers at Yankee Stadium

Jeff Monken

Army is but two games into its 2014 season, but its 2015 schedule is already set.

The Black Knights unveiled their 2015 slate on Monday, highlighted by a trip to Penn State, a home date with Duke, a return to Yankee Stadium to face Rutgers, and the traditional finale versus Navy. Army will also face Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy rival Air Force on Nov. 7 in Colorado Springs; the Black Knights have not claimed the trophy since 1996, and have posted a combined 4-34 record against their service academy rivals since then.

The Rutgers game will be Army’s third appearance in the new Yankee Stadium. The Black Knights fell to Notre Dame 27-3 on Nov. 20, 2010, and will face Connecticut in the House That Jeter Built on Nov. 8 of this season.

The date with Penn State represents the 26th all-time meeting between the Black Knights and Nittany Lions, but first since 1979. Penn State holds a 13-10-2 lead, and has claimed the last nine meetings.

Army will be one just three FBS Independents next season, as Navy begins is maiden voyage in the American Athletic Conference.

Army is 1-1 in the debut campaign of head coach Jeff Monken.

The full schedule:

Sept. 5 – vs. Fordham
Sept. 12 – at Connecticut
Sept. 19 – vs. Wake Forest
Sept. 26 – at Eastern Michigan
Oct. 3 – at Penn State
Oct. 10 – vs. Duke
Oct. 17 – vs. Bucknell
Oct. 24 – at Rice
Nov. 7 – at Air Force
Nov. 14 – vs. Tulane
Nov. 21 – vs. Rutgers (at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.)
Dec. 12 – vs. Navy (at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia)

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