Buckeyes (barely) ahead of Auburn in coaches’ poll

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And so it begins.

The USA Today coaches’ poll was released early Sunday afternoon and, as expected, there was important movement at the top of the rankings.  The kind of movement that will, once again, make Ohio State sweat.

The Buckeyes, thanks to top-ranked Alabama’s first loss of the season, did the expected and moved into the No. 2 hole behind new No. 1 Florida State.  That object in the mirror, however, is much closer than they would like for it to appear.

Auburn, which stunned the Tide with no time left Saturday night, is now at No. 3, just 25 points behind the Buckeyes.  Last week, the Tigers had been No. 5 and 160 points behind the Buckeyes.  The initial closeness in the immediate aftermath of the Tide’s loss seemingly sets up a scenario in which Ohio State, if it struggles in a close win in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State, could possibly be leapfrogged by Auburn if the Tigers bounce Missouri in impressive and blowout fashion in the SEC championship game.

The Buckeyes did claim four first-place votes this week.  The Seminoles were given the other 58.

Mizzou moved up one No. 5 in the coaches’ Top 25, 147 points behind OSU and 122 behind AU.  That appears to be too much ground for the Tigers to make up in the chase for a spot in the BCS title game, even with a drubbing of the West Tigers next weekend in Atlanta.

The Tide, which could still be in the BCS title game mix if both FSU and OSU lose next Saturday, slipped three spots to No. 4.  The rest of the Top Ten is rounded out by No. 6 Oklahoma State (No. 7 last week), T-No. 7 Baylor (No. 8), T-No. 7 South Carolina (No. 9), No. 9 Michigan State (No. 11) and No. 10 Stanford (No. 10).

Duke made one the biggest moves up in the poll, climbing from No. 24 to No. 20.  It’s the Blue Devils’ best-ever standing in the coaches’ poll.  That jump was trumped by only Arizona State, which moved from No. 18 to No. 13.

Fresno State dropped nine spots (to No. 22) after its first loss of the season, while Clemson (No. 11) and Wisconsin (No. 21) tumbled seven each positions each.

Undefeated Northern Illinois, which has its sights set on busting the BCS, is at No. 18, up from No. 20 a week ago.  If the Huskies can finish in the top-16 in the final BCS rankings — they were No. 14 last Sunday — and ahead of No. 17 UCF (if they win the AAC), NIU will make it back-to-back BCS bowl appearances.

Texas at No. 24 is the only new addition to Week 14’s Top 25, while USC dropped out after entering the weekend No. 23.

Coaches' Poll Week 14

NC State adds Division 2 graduate transfer kicker

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It’s possible Dave Doeren‘s life would feel completely different right now if he had a better kicker in 2016.

In this reality, Doeren is 25-26 after four seasons in Raleigh, coming off back-to-back 7-6 seasons following his 8-5 breakthrough of 2014. But if his Wolfpack could kick last year, Doeren is most likely riding high after an 8-4 regular season buoyed by a win over Clemson in Death Valley. Because not only did NC State lose that game on a late field goal whiff, the Pack also suffered a 33-30 loss to East Carolina in which it endured two missed field goals.

NC State’s two kickers combined to hit only 9-of-17 tries last fall, good for 121st nationally, and ranked 104th with a 93.3 percent conversion rate on 45 extra points. And the situation wasn’t getting better this spring.

To rectify that situation, NC State announced the addition of kicker Carson Wise. A graduate transfer from Division II Carson-Newman, Wise will have two years of availability for the Wolfpack.

Wise connected on 21-of-31 field goals and 97-of-101 PATs last season, numbers that, on their face, do not represent massive changes from what NC State posted last season. But Doeren is banking on Wise as a solution for NC State in 2017.

“I’m excited to have Carson join the family,” Doeren said in a statement. “He is a talented player who should be a great addition to our special teams as we look for him to handle our field goal and kickoff duties this fall.”

Arkansas House votes to exempt sporting venues from expanded gun law

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Remember how we talked about it’s impossible to follow sports and ignore politics? Not long after John Swofford released a statement on how a North Carolina law would effect ACC sporting events, the Arkansas legislature passed a bill that will do the same in the SEC.

The Arkansas House voted 71-20 to allow its state colleges and universities to exempt themselves from a law that greatly expands venues permitting concealed-carry handguns. Until the passing of SB724 today, guns would have been permissible inside Razorback Stadium, among other places.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement earlier this week urging state lawmakers to remove sporting venues from the bill. “HB 1249 creates concerns for the Southeastern Conference and its member institutions,” he said. “It remains our collective desire to provide a safe environment for student-athletes, coaches, officials and fans, and will continue to closely monitor the status of this legislation.”

Passing the bill was made more complicated by the involvement of the NRA, according to Rep. Jimmy Gateway.

The bill must now head back to the Senate before it can receive final approval from Governor Asa Hutchinson.

John Swofford releases statement on North Carolina repeal of HB2

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It’s pretty much impossible to keep politics out of the sports page today. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was forced to release a statement on Tuesday urging Arkansas state legislators to exempt Razorbacks sporting venues from a bill that would greatly expand areas allowing concealed-carry handguns, and now ACC commissioner John Swofford has been forced to wade back into political waters.

North Carolina’s state legislature brokered a deal Thursday with new governor Roy Cooper to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial law requiring persons within Tar Heel state borders to use public bathrooms matching their gender at birth. The “bathroom bill” cost the state a reported $3.76 billion in revenue, and some of that lost revenue related directly to college football.

Following the NCAA’s lead of revoking the state’s championship event hosting privileges due to HB2, the ACC moved its football championship game from Charlotte to Orlando (the men’s basketball tournament was previously booked for Brooklyn), a move that cost the conference itself money as well.

Thursday’s repeal of HB2 is more complicated than simply yanking the bathroom bill (this is where I’ll direct you to a much more appropriate place to digest the political news of the hour than a college football blog) and, as such, Swofford’s statement is appropriately nuanced.

The ACC is still undecided where this December’s title game will be played, and Swofford will kick that decision upstairs to the league’s presidents.

Oklahoma OL Christian Daimler to pursue graduate transfer

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Oklahoma offensive tackle Christian Daimler will pursue a transfer, according to a message posted to his Twitter account Thursday.

As a fifth-year senior, Daimler qualifies as a graduate transfer and will be eligible immediately. “I could not be more excited about what my future holds,” Daimler wrote. “Wherever I end up I know that I will always be a Sooner and for that am I so proud. This University [sic] will forever remain close to my heart. Boomer Sooner.”

If that name does not immediately ring a bell, you are forgiven. Daimler appeared in three games as a Sooner, all over last season.

Hailing from Houston, Daimler, who stands 6-foot-7 and is listed at 321 pounds, was a 3-star recruit when he signed with Oklahoma over Texas A&M, Arizona State and Colorado, among others.