Headlined by FSU-Auburn, final BCS table all but set

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The final BCS rankings and matchups for the BCS games won’t be officially announced until Sunday night.

Thanks to Ohio State’s loss and barring some successful, last-minute backroom politicking, however, the marquee postseason games are all but set in stone.

First and foremost, top-ranked Florida State and third-ranked (for now) Auburn will square off in the BCS title game, scheduled for Jan. 6 in Pasadena’s iconic Rose Bowl.  The Seminoles are the lone remaining undefeated team in the country, having bulldozed its way through its 2013 schedule to the combined tune of 689-139.  The SEC champion Tigers are just one year removed from a winless season in conference play that ended with Gene Chizik getting booted into the unemployment coaching line just two years removed from AU’s last BCS title.

The Rose Bowl, armed with agreements with the Big Ten and Pac-12, is set as well, with 12-1 Michigan State and 11-2 Stanford, each winners of their respective league’s championship games Saturday, set for the New Year’s Day game.

That leaves the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls with spots up for grabs, although those are all but officially filled as well.

For the final year of the BCS, the picking pecking order will go Orange, Sugar and Fiesta.  The first two will lose their conference champ tie-ins to the BCS title game, with the Orange getting the first pick of a replacement ahead of the Sugar in addition to the first at-large selection.

The Orange Bowl, according to various bowl officials and media outlets, appear poised to select 12-1 Ohio State and 10-2 Clemson for the Jan. 3 game.  The Buckeyes, despite the loss in the Big Ten title game, are still an attractive selection given their national brand and how their fans travel, while the Tigers will benefit from the ACC/Orange Bowl relationship cultivated over many years.

Alabama, by virtue of a top-4 finish in the final BCS rankings — the 11-1 Tide was No. 4 entering Week 15 — is guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl, which by most every projection will be the Sugar Bowl.  The opponent, though, is the biggest BCS uncertainty remaining.  10-2 Oklahoma is the name most mentioned, thanks in large part to the Big 12/SEC/Sugar/Champions Bowl agreement moving forward in the new College Football Playoff.  The Sooners also must finish inside the top-14 in the final BCS rankings, though.  Another possibility?  10-2 Oregon, although there is concern as to how the Ducks’ fan base would travel to New Orleans.

The Fiesta Bowl is contractually obligated to take the Big 12 champion, meaning 11-1 Baylor is guaranteed to fill one of that postseason game’s spots.  Because the AAC is guaranteed a BCS berth, and because the Fiesta Bowl gets the last selection behind the Orange and Sugar, the American champion UCF (11-1) will head to the desert for a date with the Bears.

(Writer’s note: under BCS guidelines, no conference can have more than two of its teams play in a BCS bowl in any one year.)

Below are CFT’s projections for the five BCS games, although the Sugar Bowl is most decidedly to be determined:

VIZIO BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET
Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 3 Auburn

ROSE BOWL GAME PRESENTED BY VIZIO
Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 10 Michigan State

TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL
Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET
University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 16 UCF

ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL
Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET
Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, LA

No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 18 Oklahoma

DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL
Jan. 3, TBD
Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 13 Clemson

Doak Walker Award watch list highlighted by 2016 semifinalists Barkley and Pettway

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A watch list of the top running backs in the nation has been released by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum on Thursday. The Doak Walker Award watch list is full of great players, including 2016 Doak Walker Award semifinalists Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Kamryn Pettway (Auburn).

Among those included on this year’s initial Doak Walker Award watch list (more players can be added at any time) are LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, LJ Scott of Michigan State, Mike Weber of Ohio State, and Bo Scarbrough of Alabama, Washington’s Myles Gaskin, and Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin.

D’Onta Foreman of Texas beat out both Barkley and Pettway last season for the award. The Doak Walker Award has been presented to the nation’s top running back annually since 1990. Among the winners over the years have included Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, and Montee Ball.

To be included on this watch list, the university athletic department must submit a nomination.

2017 Doak Walker Award Watch List

Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Jamauri Bogan, Western Michigan
D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
Nick Chubb, Georgia
Jordan Chunn, Troy
Justin Crawford, West Virginia
Damarea Crockett, Missouri
Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
D’Andre Ferby, WKU
Kendrick Foster, Illinois
Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Myles Gaskin, Washington
James Gilbert, Ball State
Derrius Guice, LSU
Damien Harris, Alabama
Kyle Hicks, TCU
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Jon Hilliman, Boston College
Justin Jackson, Northwestern
Chris James, Wisconsin
Ty Johnson, Maryland
Ronald Jones II, USC
Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
Tonny Lindsey Jr., Utah State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Sony Michel, Georgia
Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Jamal Morrow, Washington State
Ryan Nall, Oregon State
Jacques Patrick, Florida State
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
Demario Richard, Arizona State
Diocemy Saint Juste, Hawaii
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
Jordan Scarlett, Florida
LJ Scott, Michigan State
Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin
Armand Shyne, Utah
Justin Silmon, Kansas State
Ito Smith, Southern Miss
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Terry Swanson, Toledo
Shaq Vann, Eastern Michigan
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Mark Walton, Miami
Warren Wand, Arkansas State
Tre Watson, California
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Braeden West, SMU
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas
Aeris Williams, Mississippi State
Shaun Wilson, Duke
Marquis Young, Massachusetts

Florida’s Marcell Harris out for 2017 with torn Achilles

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The 2017 season has already ended for Florida’s Marcell Harris. Florida announced today Harris has suffered a torn Achilles tendon during a team activity on Wednesday.

“As a coach this is one of the hardest things you are faced with,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said in a released statement. “Here is a kid who has made great personal growth during his time here and has really matured both on and off the field. It is tough to see a player invest so much in himself and his teammates and have this happen, but I do know that we will support him every step of the way as he works through this injury.”

Harris was Florida’s leading tackler in 2016, so his loss is clearly a tough blow to the Gators defense this fall. The fifth-year senior will now see his college football playing career come to an end, unless the NCAA issues a medical waiver to gain a sixth year of eligibility. That may not end up coming in to play, as Harris can take the time to recover from this injury and begin training for the NFL Draft next spring.

Harris recorded a team-leading 73 tackles for Florida in 2016, with 43 solo tackles. Harris picked off two passes and recovered a fumble for Florida in 2016. That fumble recovery also resulted in a touchdown off a fumbled punt against Florida State.

Iowa OL Sean Welsh opens up about depression battle in op-ed essay

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Iowa offensive lineman Sean Welsh has gone public about his ongoing battle with depression.

In a first person essay posted to Iowa’s official website, Welsh (No. 79, center) says symptoms emerged during his redshirt freshman season. He noticed himself eating less and spending more time isolated from other people, and felt his enthusiasm for school and football evaporate. He played through the depression, but felt his play suffer as the season progressed.

Football, the driving force for many years of my life, went from a source of purpose to a source of apathy. I started to feel a myriad of negative emotions: sadness, anxiety, dread and anger. They hit me like a bombardment from the moment I woke up to when I went back to bed.

It was every dimension of terrible. And I kept wondering what was wrong.

My family and I both needed some answers so I went to a therapist where we talked about identity and why I played football. It was like pulling teeth. Up to then, I felt that inner motives or emotions weren’t something to be shared – they showed your weaknesses. Plus, I didn’t have time for this stuff in the fall. I had a full class load and football on top of it. So I swept my depression under the rug and promised to revisit it after the season.  Which worked…for a while.

Welsh wrote that his symptoms peaked in the spring of 2015, when classes and tests slipped from his mind and, at one point, he spent three straight days holed up in his room. That experienced forced him to leave the team and return home for therapy. Welsh returned to the team that summer and remained in Iowa City to help the Hawkeyes to a 12-0 regular season, a Big Ten West championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl. He wrote that he opened up with his story to the rest of the team and feels enthusiastic for the upcoming 2017 campaign.

Welsh says he opened up to the public to help people understand that a high status in life or a long list of accomplishments doesn’t shield anyone from depression.

First off, depression doesn’t discriminate. You can have everything working in your favor – a strong upbringing, a loving family, a promising future – and depression can turn it upside down.

It can make your successes feel unimportant and your problems seem monumental. It made me feel empty, like I had nothing.

But it also galvanized me. It gave me a perspective that I never would have gained without it. Depression also taught me pure, visceral humility and that I need to be honest with myself and others about how I feel.  Without the support of my family, Coach Ferentz and his staff, my teammates and my friends – I’m not sure I would’ve gotten off the mat.

Read the full essay here.

Baylor DB Travon Blanchard arrested on family violence charges

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As Matt Rhule was winning Big 12 media days on Tuesday, one of his players was generating an all-too-familiar headline.

Bears defensive back Travon Blanchard was arrested Tuesday night on family violence charges. He was released later Tuesday night on $6,000 bond.

Blanchard was arrested in Waco, but the warrant for his arrest originated out of Fort Bend County, near Houston. Blanchard’s attorney Michelle Tuegel made a statement late Tuesday evening, saying, “we look forward to representing Travon and bringing out the truth in court.”

Blanchard was suspended from the program before Tuesday’s arrest, and Rhule said Tuesday (before news of the arrest broke) that his status remain unchanged.

“Travon Blanchard was suspended from all team activities immediately after learning of allegations made against him in February,” Baylor said in a statement. “That status has not changed and he has had no involvement with the program since that time. The university is aware of the arrest made today in connection with the previous allegations against Blanchard and will monitor the developments of this charge for any additional decision regarding his affiliation as a student-athlete.”

Blanchard appeared in 11 games last season, registering 73 tackles and nine TFLs.