Penn State could see further reduction in NCAA sanctions

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In late September, it was announced that the NCAA had decided to ease the scholarship restrictions slapped on the Penn State football program as part of the historic sanctions meted out in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

That, though, may not be the last time the university sees some relief.

George Mitchell, who was hired by the NCAA as an independent “integrity monitor,” met with Penn State trustees Friday and while no further reductions are imminent, he could recommend that be the case upon the release of his next report next September if the university continues its “quality response” to the Plan for Continuous Improvement.

It was Mitchell who recommended the initial reduction of a portion of the penalties.  As was the case in that first round of reduction, any relief would have to be signed off on by the NCAA and Big Ten.

While Mitchell declined to discuss specific penalties that could be in line for a reduction, the one that makes the most sense would be the bowl ban.

The Nittany Lions are in the second year of a four-year ban on postseason play.  If Mitchell makes the recommendation next September, the program could potentially see at least a year sliced off that sanction, which would mean the Nittany Lions would be eligible for the postseason — including the Big Ten championship game — following the 2014 regular season rather than the 2015 season.

A Mitchell recommendation to take a year off the bowl ban would likely, in essence, be rubber-stamped by both the NCAA and the school’s conference.  How the former would respond to a Mitchell recommendation of cutting the ban in half is unclear.

Virginia Tech loses starting DE Vinny Mihota for rest of 2017

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For the second straight week, Virginia Tech has lost a starting member of its defense.

The school confirmed in a press release that Vinny Mihota will miss what’s left of the 2017 season because of a knee injury. The defensive end suffered the injury in the Week 12 win over Pittsburgh.

This is the second consecutive season Mihota’s year has ended prematurely because of injury as he missed last year’s bowl game with a lingering shoulder issue that required surgery.

“I share Vinny’s disappointment that he’ll miss the rest of the season,” a statement from head coach Justin Fuente began. “But based off last offseason, I also know no one will rehab more diligently than Vinny to get back on the field with his teammates.”

Mihota has started all 11 games thus far this season. He’s been credited with 24 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks.

A week ago today, Tech announced that starting safety Terrell Edmunds would miss the remainder of the year after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder.

Akron earns second-ever spot in MAC championship game

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Akron came into Week 13 needing to either win or rely on someone else to lose.  In the end, the Zips decided to just go ahead and punch their own ticket to the Motor City, thank you very much.

Jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead Tuesday night, that margin proved to be more than enough for Akron as they easily cruised past rival Kent State in a 24-14 win.  Kent actually outgained its hosts 246-191, but a fumble return for a touchdown with less than 20 seconds left in the second quarter essentially sealed the win for Akron.

Both Akron and Ohio entered this week tied atop the MAC East at 5-2.  However, the Zips beat the Bobcats in Week 12, meaning Akron is the first MAC team to claim a spot in the conference championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field next weekend.

This will mark the Zips’s second-ever title-game appearance, with the first coming in 2005.  That season, Akron beat Northern Illinois 31-30 for its first-ever conference championship.

Akron will play either NIU (6-1) or Toledo (6-1) in this year’s title game, although it’s trending heavily toward the Rockets as they own the head-to-head with the Huskies.  So, the possibilities?

Toledo wins the West with either a win over Western Michigan OR an NIU loss. Northern Illinois needs to beat Central Michigan AND have Toledo lose to WMU at home to win the division.

Report: Florida appears ready to move on from Chip Kelly pursuit if deal isn’t consummated soon

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Florida’s search for a new head coach could very shortly be ready to take another twist.

Despite a certain former Head Ball Coach saying UF’s new head coach would be a current one, speculation on Jim McElwain‘s replacement has seemingly centered on Chip Kelly over the last few days. In fact, a group of UF officials headed by athletic director Scott Stricklin and president Kent Fuchs visited with Kelly in New Hampshire over the weekend to discuss the job.

While it walks, talks and smells like the university has targeted Kelly as its top choice, it appears they want an answer, one way or the other, from the former Oregon head coach sooner rather than later. From Yahoo! SportsPat Forde:

But with other potential candidates becoming available for discussion this weekend, Florida officials appear to be ready to move on shortly after Thanksgiving if a deal has not been struck with Kelly.

Potentially mucking up the works in Gainesville is UCLA, which fired Jim Mora Sunday and is also said to be targeting Kelly as a replacement.  In fact, it’s being reported that the Bruins’ search contingent has already met with Kelly.

UCF’s Scott Frost, who is believed to be Nebraska’s top choice when/when it moves on from Mike Riley, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen are thought to be likely targets should either Kelly snub the Gators or they move on.

One very likely reason for UF’s reported urgency for a decision from Kelly is the revamped recruiting calendar. This year marks the first time that there’s an early signing period in football, with Class of 2018 recruits given a 72-hour window from Dec. 20-22 to sign their National Letters of Intent.

The sooner UF can wrap up its search, the sooner its new coach and his staff can try to hold together some semblance of a first recruiting class with the program – especially with two SEC programs, Tennessee and Ole Miss, already looking for a head coach while a couple of others (Arkansas, Texas A&M) could be on the hunt as early as this coming weekend as well.

Miami jumps Clemson, Wisconsin remains No. 5 in latest CFP rankings

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The third-to-last edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and the only changes in the top 12 came at spot No. 2, where Miami jumped Clemson ahead of the pair’s ACC title clash on Dec. 2.

USC remained the highest-ranked Pac-12 team at No. 11, dimming any hopes the Pac-12 could back-door its way into the top four should chaos reign elsewhere. The Trojans were one spot ahead of TCU and two spots ahead of the Pac-12’s second-highest ranked team in Washington State. Central Florida again led all Group of 5 teams at No. 15.

Virginia Tech re-joined the rankings at No. 25, one spot behind the debut rankings for South Carolina.

The top 25:

1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Clemson
4. Oklahoma
5. Wisconsin
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Notre Dame
9. Ohio State
10. Penn State
11. USC
12. TCU
13. Washington State
14. Mississippi State
15. Central Florida
16. Michigan State
17. Washington
18. LSU
19. Oklahoma State
20. Memphis
21. Stanford
22. Northwestern
23. Boise State
24. South Carolina
25. Virginia Tech