Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston

Unsettled Heisman race still up in the air with one week to go

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This year’s Heisman race has been atypical, to say the least.

Usually at this time of the season, the identity of the winner is pretty clear. But this year’s race has been so unsettled, it’s hard to say with any certainty what’s going to happen.

Let’s recap how we got here.

The season started out with Braxton Miller of Ohio State as the front runner. He got hurt and missed three games. That elevated Marcus Mariota of Oregon to the front runner spot. He looked strong for a while, but his production tapered off a bit, along with his team, in early November (possibly due to injury). As a result, Florida State freshman Jameis Winston became the leader, but now he’s involved in a rape investigation and it’s possible that felony charges are pending as the Heisman voting deadline of Dec. 9 approaches.

The field of candidates below these three has ebbed and flowed. Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville ceased to be a serious candidate when his team lost to UCF in October. Tajh Boyd of Clemson lost his shot when his team was shellacked by Winston’s Florida State squad. Aaron Murray of Georgia fell of when injuries sapped his team’s strength. Bryce Petty of Baylor looked to have a chance but his candidacy was wounded (though perhaps not mortally) when Oklahoma State routed the Bears a couple weekends ago. The slow and steady runner in the race, AJ McCarron of Alabama, lost his prime attribute — his role as the quarterback for a team going for an unprecedented third-straight national title — when Auburn beat the Tide on Saturday. Boston College’s Andre Williams lost his chance to put an exclamation point on his superb season when he was injured against Syracuse, limiting his output against the Orange to just 29 yards. Derek Carr of Fresno State’s fabulous season was marred by his team’s late loss to San Jose State. Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois continued his remarkable run, but has failed to catch fire at the national level. And, yes, Johnny Manziel was the latest victim of Heismandment No. 9, long may it live.

The major issue hanging over the race is the investigation of Winston. Since he is unlikely to be charged before the Heisman ballots are due, voters are going to have to think long and hard about whether or not to give him the benefit of the doubt. One of the ironies of this race is that the more unsettled it becomes, the more it likely benefits Winston. After all, spurning the FSU freshman is easier to do if there is a consensus alternative to choose from. For about 30 minutes on Saturday, it looked like McCarron might emerge as that guy — and he still might — but Bama’s loss clouds that possibility. So who is that consensus alternative now?

Complicating this analysis a bit is the fact that a few games still yet to be played can sway the race one way or the other. Lynch has a chance to become college football’s first 2,000 passer/2,000 rusher if he has a huge rushing performance in the MAC title game. If he does that, he might give voters wavering over Winston a viable alternative, which may result in denying Winston the trophy (that it would then go to Lynch seems to be a long shot, but stranger things have happened).

Winston himself plays Duke in the ACC title game, affording him another chance to pad his already-considerable production. Baylor takes on Texas, which means Petty has one more shot to impress voters. And Miller will be featured in the Big Ten title game against Michigan State. While Miller won’t win the Heisman, he (and Lynch and Petty) could determine its outcome by sucking away votes that might otherwise go to other contenders.

How the regions shake out will determine the winner. We have a good idea who might win the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, South and Southwest, but who will win the Far West and MidWest?

The results of this year’s voting could look very much like it did in 2001 (Eric Crouch) and 1962 (Terry Baker). In those years, the victor won by small margins with a point total in the realm of 700 points or so. As many as five contenders below them gained significant enough support to either win a region or depress the winner’s support in a region or two. In Crouch’s case, he won the Heisman despite winning just one region while the runner up, Rex Grossman, won two. We could also see a situation like 1994, when the Heisman Trust decided to invite six finalists to the awards ceremony as a result of significant strength by numerous candidates down the list. Whatever the case, I suspect at least five finalists are in the cards for this year’s ceremony.

There are several outstanding candidates to choose from in this race. As usual, the player who enough voters deem had the most outstanding season will win the trophy. Figuring out who that player will be requires an understanding of what voters look for when making their choice. However, as a Heisman voter myself, I am truly conflicted in this matter. I really have no idea what my final ballot will look like.

Anecdotal evidence suggests I am not alone in this outlook and that’s why this year’s ceremony could be the most suspenseful and dramatic of all time.

WVU’s Larry Jefferson arrested on drug charge, no longer listed on roster

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 7:  The West Virginia Mountaineers mascot The Mountaineer yells a cheer during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners September 7, 2013 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated West Virginia 16-7. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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It appears the brief but up-and-down career of Larry Jefferson in Morgantown has come to an abrupt end.

The former junior college transfer had been suspended from participating in West Virginia’s spring practices for violating unspecified team rules.  Now, WV MetroNews is reporting, the defensive lineman was arrested late Tuesday morning and charged with drug possession. “Jefferson was stopped on Clay Street in Morgantown as officers were investigating a brandishing incident at South University Plaza in Morgantown,” the website wrote, and was subsequently found to be carrying small amounts of cocaine and marijuana.

According to the Dominion Post, Jefferson was holding .6 grams of coke and one gram of weed.

While WVU officials have yet to comment publicly on the situation, Jefferson’s name has been removed from the Mountaineers’ online roster.  Jefferson had not been reinstated from his spring suspension, but, prior to this incident, he had been expected to be on the field for the start of summer camp early next month and be a part of WVU’s line rotation this season as a pass-rush specialist.

After coming to WVU following two seasons at a Mississippi JUCO, Jefferson played in nine games for the Mountaineers last season.

Report: NCAA expected to reduce Alabama DB Tony Brown’s suspension to four games

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide talks with Shawn Burgess-Becker #27 of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Tony Brown #7 of the Alabama Crimson Tide  during The Advocare Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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It appears Alabama’s appeal was a successful one.

Back in April, it was reported that Alabama defensive back Tony Brown had been indefinitely suspended by the NCAA, but that the Tide was appealing what turned out to be a six-game suspension. There was no official word on the reason or reasons behind the suspension at the time, and there still isn’t even as there’s been another development in the situation.

From al.com:

The expectation is that Alabama defensive back Tony Brown’s NCAA suspension is going to be reduced from six games to four, sources told AL.com.

According to the website, Brown’s “suspension stems from something that happened leading up to the Tide’s Cotton Bowl matchup against Michigan State in late December.” If so, it was a very busy month off-the-field for the defensive back.

In December of last year, Brown was sent home from the Cotton Bowl for a violation of team rules.  It was subsequently reported that Brown had started a fight with a teammate during the College Football Playoff semifinal and the Tide’s leadership council decided to send him home.  That incident, seemingly unrelated to the suspension, also led Brown to miss the win over Clemson in the national championship game.

Brown, a five-star 2014 signee, was arrested in mid-January of last year on charges of failure to obey and resisting arrest, although he managed to escape Nick Saban’s doghouse that time and tie for the team lead in special teams tackles in the 2015 regular season.

Four-star 2017 recruit who decommitted from OSU because Urban Meyer didn’t recognize him commits to USF

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Football players from the University of South Florida Bulls hoist helmets to show unity before play against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Raymond James Stadium on September 22, 2007 in Tampa, Florida.  USF  won 37-10.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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As it turns out, it’s USF that will see a prospect gain from Ohio State’s recruiting loss.

Bruce Judson is a four-star 2017 recruit rated as the No. 37 player at any position in the talent-rich state of Florida.  He committed to Ohio State in January of 2015, becoming one of the first OSU commitments for the 2017 cycle.  In October of 2015, Judson abruptly decommitted from the Buckeyes.

Why?  Generally speaking, there was, in Judson’s opinion, a lack of communication between himself and Meyer post-commitment. “Coach Meyer contacted me enough to get my commitment,” Judson said, “[b]ut after a couple months, he just stopped talking to me.”

Specifically, however, there was one incident that seemed to lead to the decommitment — Meyer not recognizing Judson while on a visit. From SECCountry.com‘s early-May interview with Judson:

Long story short, I was walking in the hallway about to go to the indoor field and work out. (Meyer) was like, ‘Hey.’ I looked around. ‘Come here.’ He was like, ‘How you doing, you like your visit?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ Then he’s like, ‘What up Richard LeCounte? Are you showing this guy (Judson) around?’ I was like, ‘Coach, I’m showing him around.’ He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ I told him Bruce. He said, ‘Oh, Bruce Judson from Florida. The speedy guy.’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘I’m glad that you’re on board and glad you got up here.’ After that, I knew I was de-committing.

Fast-forward nearly three months, and Judson has now given a verbal commitment to USF. And, the fact that the Bulls are at least going to take a peek at the athlete at the quarterback position seemed to tilt the odds in the AAC program’s favor.

“USF told me I can come in my freshman year and work into the quarterback rotation and start at another position,” said Judson told the Orlando Sentinel. “I know I got big shoes to fill … going in trying to step in Quinton Flowers shoes at quarterback. I’m ready to fill his shoes and make something special at USF.”

CFP announces future playoff games (mostly) moved off New Year’s Eve

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 17:  College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy presented by Dr Pepper is seen at Tiger Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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In the face of intense pressure, the College Football Playoff has officially — and finally — blinked.

By most accounts, including the most important metric, television ratings, the New Year’s Eve slot for the College Football Playoff semifinal games was an abject failure.  Despite the ratings bath and the calls from most corners to move the semifinals off New Year’s Eve, the powers that be had (stubbornly) remained steadfast in creating a new “holiday tradition.”

In March, however, the CFP at least somewhat acknowledged an issue, announcing that the start times for the 2016 playoff semifinals, on New Year’s Eve yet again, would be pushed back an hour from the year before.  The thaw continued in April, with executive director Bill Hancock stating that the CFP “will continue to review this matter.”  A couple of weeks ago, Hancock heavily intimated that it would be when, not if the semifinals would be moved off the last day of the year.

Thursday, that (mostly) came to fruition as the CFP announced that all future playoff games through the 2025 season (last year of the current 12-year contract) will be played either on a Saturday or a holiday.  That doesn’t mean that New Year’s Eve is completely off the table, though.

One, the two semifinal games scheduled for New Year’s Eve following the 2016 season will go off as planned as it’s too late in the process to move them off that date; plus, Dec. 31 falls on a Saturday this year and would’ve been played on New Year’s Eve anyway under this new way of doing playoff business.  Secondly, the semifinal games for the 2021 and 2022 seasons will still be played on Dec. 31.  The games for the 2022 season will be played on a Saturday, on a Friday in 2021.

There are significant changes to the rotation, however, as the semifinal games that had been scheduled to be played on New Year’s Eve following the 2018, 2019, 2024 and 2025 seasons will now be played on Saturday, Dec. 29; Saturday, Dec. 28; Saturday, December 28; and Saturday, Dec. 27, respectively.

In the end, it was the right call for the sport and, more importantly, the fans.

“We had healthy discussions with a lot of people who love college football and we concluded that making these changes would be the right thing to do for our fans.” said Hancock in a statement.

“We tried to do something special with New Year’s Eve, even when it fell on a weekday. But after studying this to see if it worked, we think we can do better. These adjustments will allow more people to experience the games they enjoy so much. For these four years, our previous call is reversed.”

Below is how the revamped College Football Playoff rotation will look moving forward:

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