College football’s top games, surprises and disappotments of 2013

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As we turn our calendars from 2013 to 2014 and wrap up the bowl season, it is a good time to look back on the year that was in college football. Here are the top five games, top five surprises and top five disappointments from the 2013 college football season. Feel free to add your own thoughts with a comment below.

Top Games

1. Iron Bowl Kick Six – There may have been no college football game played this season that had quite the impact on the entire landscape of the sport than the miraculous ending in the Iron Bowl. Auburn’s Kick Six, a 109-yard return by Chris Davis off a long missed field goal by Alabama freshman kicker Adam Griffith as time expired gave Auburn an upset of the top-ranked team in the country, clinched the SEC West and moved the Tigers one game away from a shot at a BCS championship (perhaps with a little help from Michigan State). The magnitude of that moment can not be overstated, but keep in mind Auburn had to tie the game just over 30 seconds earlier and keep Alabama out of realistic field goal range to make it all a possibility.

2. Prayer at Jordan Hare – The events that unfolded in the Iron Bowl would have carried a tremendous amount of importance on the BCS championship picture regardless of what happened the previous week in Auburn’s home game against Georgia, but the set-up for the importance of that sequence was set-up the previous week with a Prayer at Jordan Hare. After Georgia battled back with 21 fourth-quarter points to take a 38-37 lead with 1:49 to play. Georgia’s defense then appeared to have done their job by forcing Auburn in to a 4th and 18 from the Auburn’s 27-yard line. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall unloaded a desperation pass down the middle of the field, seemingly overthrowing his intended receiver, Ricardo Louis. Two Georgia defenders were there to break up the pass and Georgia’s Josh Harvey-Clemons deflected the pass but did not bat it down. The ball tipped in to the hands of Louis, who ran the rest of the way for what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown with just 25 seconds to play. The play kept Auburn’s SEC and BCS title dreams alive with Alabama coming to town the following week.

3. Bedlam – Oklahoma State looked to have everything taken care of in the Big 12 championship hunt, but a late defensive collapse against the rival Sooners cost the Cowboys the Big 12 title, which would be decided hours later as Baylor finished off Texas. Oklahoma State opened the game’s scoring with a 99-yard touchdown drive but struggled mightily in the second half to gain any momentum. The Cowboys took a late 24-20 lead with 1:46 to play, traveling 89 yards on just seven plays to take the lead and get Stillwater rocking with an early Big 12 championship celebration. Oklahoma had other plans though, coming up with a 66-yard touchdown drive led by quarterback Blake Bell, who found Jalen Saunders in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Oklahoma State could not pull off any Auburn-esque miracles, and the Big 12 championship slipped their hands as well. As a result, Oklahoma State was left out of the BCS line-up, Oklahoma got a trip to the Sugar Bowl and Baylor was crowned Big 12 champion with a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

4. Ohio State escapes Ann Arbor – One of college football’s top rivalries went down to the wire with BCS Championship dreams on the line for the Buckeyes. Michigan had been a disappointment for much of the season, but it seemed for one afternoon they were nearly unstoppable for the Buckeyes. Michigan rallied with a furious fourth quarter assault, scoring three touchdowns to pull within one point of the N. 2 Buckeyes with 32 seconds to play. Rather than kick an extra point and gamble in overtime, which Michigan had enough of in 2013, Brady Hoke decided to go for two points and the possible win. Devin Gardner had been solid all day but his lone mistake on the day ended up in the hands of Tyvis Powell to seal the victory for Ohio State and keep the BCS title dream alive for one more week.

5. Alabama vs. Texas A&M – One of the most hyped games of the year came early but did not disappoint. Johnny Manziel went off on Alabama with a strong case for a repeat Heisman Trophy worthy season. Of course the Aggies also were unable to slow down Alabama and let an early lead slip away. AJ McCarron picked up the win as the Crimson Tide rolled to a much more comfortable win than the final score may have indicated.

Most Surprising Teams, in a Good Way

1. Auburn – Nobody could have predicted the turnaround the Tigers had this season. Gus Malzahn earned numerous coach of the year awards and led one of the worst teams in the SEC in 2012 to the BCS Championship Game in and an SEC title in 2013.

2. Duke – The Blue Devils were a feel good story in 2012, but they proved in 2013 Duke proved they may be making a habit of this winning thing. The Blue Devils earned a trip to the ACC Championship Game but ran in to a mountain of a Florida State program.

3. Missouri – The turnaround for Missouri may not have been quite as dramatic as the one seen at Auburn, but Missouri’s path to the SEC Championship Game was still a bit of a surprise. Considering they lost quarterback James Franklin for a few weeks and continued to stay on top of the SEC East, much credit must be given for a successful year two in the SEC.

4. Minnesota – The Golden Gophers played inspired football this season, proving they could rally behind their head coach, Jerry Kill. Kill’s physical status was once again a concern for may around the program, but the Gophers battled their way to one of the many Big Ten bowl tie-ins. They let a lead slip away in the bowl game but showed glimpses f young talent developing and becoming a team to watch out for in the Big Ten.

5. Rice – After making a rare bowl trip in 2012, the Owls of Rice stormed back to win the Conference USA championship this season. Rice handled Marshall in the conference championship game at home for their first conference championship in decades.

Most Disappointing Teams

1. Florida – Injuries derailed the Gators early and often this season, but the low point for Will Muschamp’s squad came late in the year with a home loss to Georgia Southern.

2. Michigan – The Wolverines nearly lost back-to-back games against Akron and Connecticut, but managed to pull out of each with wins. Michigan let a game at Penn State slip away and the heart-breaking loss to Ohio State will haunt Michigan for some time.

3. Texas A&M – The Aggies had plenty of firepower on offense with Manziel and Mike Evans, but the defense could not stop anyone this season. A team that was hyped to be an SEC or BCS title contender suffered four losses along the way, including three in division play to Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

4. Oregon – Oregon was in position to make a run for the BCS Championship game until they ran in to their nemesis from Stanford. The Ducks also took a hit against Arizona as if they did not even belong on the same field as the Wildcats. While two losses is certainly not bad, the expectations were higher for Oregon despite losing Chip Kelly to the NFL.

5. Texas – The Longhorns will enter a new era in 2014 with a new head coach after Mack Brown was given the early exit by new AD Steve Patterson. While Texas did knock off Oklahoma and come within a win of a Big 12 title, it is difficult to forget the low points of the Texas season, starting with the blowout at BYU.

Judge denies Jerry Sandusky’s request for new trial

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Not surprisingly, a sexual predator who preyed on young boys is staying where he belongs.

Wednesday morning, a judge in Pennsylvania denied Jerry Sandusky’s request for a new trial.  As part of his request, the convicted felon and former Penn State assistant coach had argued that grand jury leaks negatively affected his defense as well as claiming he had incompetent counsel in his first trial.

Sandusky’s new attorneys now have 30 days to file an appeal of Jefferson County President Judge John Foradora’s decision.

Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 child-sex-abuse charges in June of 2012 and is currently serving a sentence of at least 30 years.  Given the fact that he was 66-years-old at the time of his sentencing, it’s effectively a life sentence.

Some of the crimes for which Sandusky was convicted occurred in a Penn State football building and led to what most considered a cover-up of the predator’s actions by myriad university officials.  Sandusky’s arrest resulted in the dismissals of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley and president Graham Spanier.  Both Curley and Spanier served jail time in connection to the scandal, the former for child endangerment and the latter endangering the welfare of children.

The scandal also led to historic sanctions levied on the Nittany Lions football program by the NCAA, the bulk of which were ultimately rolled back.

In June of 2015, it was reported that Penn State had paid a total of $93.3 million to 32 victims of the Paterno right-hand man.  Additionally, financial statements from the university showed an additional $33.2 million in payments related to claims connected to Sandusky’s crimes.

Pitt kicker explains decision to kneel during National Anthem

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Outside of a handful of upsets that muddled the chase for the four playoff spots, one of the larger storylines coming out of Week 7 was one player’s decision prior to his team’s game Saturday.

Ian Troost, a white walk-on kicker at Pitt, decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem ahead of the North Carolina State game.  Following the loss, head coach Pat Narduzzi and (most) of his teammates expressed their support of the junior’s decision to kneel.

The kicker wasn’t made available to the media afterward to explain his reasoning behind the decision, but, in a phone conversation with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tuesday, Troost shed light on why he’s following the same path first plowed by Colin Kaepernick last year.  From the Post-Gazette:

It’s not just like ‘Oh, all of a sudden this is happening’ or all of a sudden this is a result of one recent thing; it’s a result of the culmination of things over the past hundreds of years and legislation that has been passed. My original reasons were Colin’s original reasons – to raise awareness of systematic oppression and racial injustice in the United States that we often see through police brutality or the excessive use of force.

Over the past four years of my college career, I have constantly been having these conversations and learning,” he said. “I’ve never been in that situation. I’ve never been stereotyped for the color of my skin. I’ve never been oppressed. I’ve never had to worry about walking down the street at 2 a.m. with a hood on or when I get pulled over by a police officer keeping my hands in sight at all times. I’ve never had to worry about that and I never will have to.

Trost made certain to state that his protest is not meant as a sign of disrespect for the military — a grandfather served in the Air Force while a close friend is at West Point, he noted — and it’s not an indictment of the vast majority of those in law enforcement.

“I do not in any way have anything against law enforcement,” Troost said. “They keep everyone in this country, myself included, safe 99.9 percent of the time. They risk their lives for us and I truly do appreciate that.

“But there are some that need to be brought to justice for ways they’ve acted on the job, while they have the badge on. That’s the main issue.”

Not all of Troost’s teammates were 100-percent behind the kicker, most notablyAvonte Maddox.

“Is really taking that knee going to prove anything?” senior cornerback said last Saturday. “That’s a statement for 30 seconds. You want to take action.

“If you really want to get out and do something, we want to go out in the real world and do things to make actual change, not 30 seconds of fame making a statement out there. Is that really going to help us?”

The newspaper writes that “Troost didn’t see Maddox’s words as a critique, viewing them instead as a teammate holding him accountable.”

Troost says he plans to continue kneeling during games he dresses for this season.  He’s also working with Pitt officials to create what’s described as a diversity inclusion workshop for Pitt athletes

Starting USC DT Josh Fatu in concussion protocol after car wreck

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This is one you don’t see very often.

USC’s Josh Fatu was involved in a multi-car accident and is currently in concussion protocol because of a head injury he received in the incident, head coach Clay Helton confirmed Tuesday.  The coach added that the accident in which Fatu sustained the injury was not the defensive tackle’s fault.

Fatu has not been ruled out for Saturday’s game against USC, and is officially listed as day-to-day for the annual rivalry clash.

Heading into Week 8, Fatu had started every game along the defensive line this season for the Trojans.  His seven tackles for loss are currently second on the Trojans behind Christian Rector‘s eight, while his five sacks are behind just Rector’s 6.5.

If Fatu is unable to go against the Irish, Brandon Pili will likely take over as the starter.

Given Scott-Frost-Nebraska chatter, UCF announces funding initiative

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If a Power Five program truly wants a Group of Five head coach, there’s little the latter can do.  That, though, isn’t stopping UCF from at least trying to stave off the inevitable.

Mike Riley could very well be on the hot seat at Nebraska, leading to speculation, especially with a new athletic director, that he could be three-and-done in Lincoln.  While some chatter on any potential replacement has involved a pirate, a favorite son has significant support amongst the fan base if a change is made.

Not only is Scott Frost a former Nebraska quarterback, but, as the head coach at UCF, he has the Knights ranked 20th nationally with a 5-0 start.  And that’s coming off a six-win first season for Frost with a program that was winless the year before he arrived.

The pedigree as both a player and young head coach would make him a natural fit at a place like Nebraska, which explains why Frost’s current employer announced Tuesday an initiative to “secure commitments of over $1.5 million annually for the next five years” for the football program.  Specifically, any money raised would largely be used to enhance coaching salaries, both for the head coach and his assistants.

Called the UCF Football Excellence Fund, the program is “pursuing gift commitments ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 annually to further enhance the program’s operating resources.”  Frost himself has already committed his own money to the fund.

“I’m very excited about the success we’ve had in our time here and I’m committed to helping this program continue growing,” Frost said. “I’m happy to be part of the UCF Football Excellence Fund. We need more resources to keep taking this program where we want it to go. I’m hopeful my support will be a catalyst for others to jump on board and take part.”

According to the USA Today‘s salary database, Frost’s $1.7 million salary in 2016 was sixth among AAC head coaches, although the top two, Houston’s Tom Herman and Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville, are no longer with those programs.  With built-in raises, Frost will likely make in the neighborhood of $2 million for this season.

That said, we go back to what was written as the opening sentence: If a Power Five program truly wants a Group of Five head coach, there’s little the latter can do — even if it’s not the 42-year-old Frost’s alma mater that comes calling.