What now for Auburn?

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Auburn was thisclose to putting a bow on one of the great turnaround stories in college football history on Monday night.

As it stands, even though the No. 2 Tigers lost to No. 1 Florida State, 34-31, in the final seconds of the BCS national title game, there is plenty for the program to be proud about.

Consider: Last year, the Tigers finished 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC. One year later, they finished 12-2, won the SEC title and finished a hair shy of the BCS championship.

Give credit to head coach Gus Malzhan, perhaps the greatest offensive mind in college football today. He took Nick Marshall, a junior college transfer who was a converted defensive back, and turned him into a legitimate and dangerous offensive weapon. He transformed a respectable running back, Tre Mason, into a Heisman finalist.

Clearly, Malzahn is a coach who knows what he is doing. He understands — perhaps better than any coach in America — how to infuse the talent at hand with the proper scheme. And this bodes well for the Tigers going forward.

The unit that averaged 47 points over the past eight regular season games will be largely intact next season. Marshall returns, as does (potentially) Mason and every other key starter on the Auburn offense. Meanwhile, the defensive side of the ball that held Florida State offense to just 27 points — nearly half its average — returns six starters and a bevy of talented freshmen who contributed to the magical BCS run.

Make no mistake, this is a program that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so long as Malzahn is around to guide it. And it’s likely that Auburn won’t need the kind of miracle finishes it needed this year to make it to the next year’s inaugural playoff, either. The Tigers of 2014 could be a dominant force in the SEC.

For now, this Auburn team will be thinking “What If?” for quite a while. But let’s face it: It was playing with house money and still nearly pulled off one of the great upsets in BCS history. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Tiger fans.

In the pantheon of college football lore, the 2013 season — and the amazing Auburn run that helped define it — is sure to loom large in our collective memories for years to come.

FCS player who punched coach charged with felony assault

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Normally in-game violence doesn’t result in off-field legal ramifications, but this is (rightly) one of the rare exceptions.

Earlier this month, Tennessee State defensive end Latrelle Lee was not only dismissed from the FCS program but expelled from the university after he punched Tigers strength & conditioning coach T.J. Greenstone twice in the head on the sideline during a game.  Greenstone serves as TSU’s “get-back” coach for players, charged with keeping them from creeping toward the field of play and, in the process, keeping the team from drawing a flag.

The unprovoked assault was caught on video and quickly went viral.

As a result of that incident, Lee, who had been a criminal justice major prior to his expulsion, has been arrested on one count of felony assault, The Tennessean is reporting.  Lee was subsequently released Monday night after a $7,500 bond was posted, and has an initial court date scheduled for Dec. 8; he had been scheduled to graduate Dec. 9.

According to the arrest affidavit, “[t]he victim has subsequently been having medical difficulties as a result [of] the altercation.”

“We, of course, do not condone any act of violence within our department and are very disturbed by the action of one of our students,” a statement from athletic director Teresa Phillips released shortly after the Nov. 11 incident began. “We are committed to supporting the coach who was personally affected and our concern now is with him.”

Thus far, there has been no public comment from the football program or the university on this latest development, nor have they updated the status of the coach who was the victim of the assault.

Bovada pulls Heisman odds as Baker Mayfield’s ‘too big of a favorite’

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While Baker Mayfield‘s crotch-grabbing histrionics last weekend will cost him this weekend, the same can’t be said for his Heisman hopes — at least when it comes to wagering establishments.

USC quarterback Sam Darnold opened the 2017 season as Bovada.lv‘s favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, only to be overtaken after Week 1 by Louisville quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson — he was the prohibitive favorite in mid-September… only to see Jackson leapfrogged by the Oklahoma quarterback two weeks later… only to see Mayfield overtaken by Penn State running back Saquon Barkley — he was the overwhelming favorite in late October… only for Barkley to be overtaken by Mayfield the first week of November. Mayfield has been a steadily increasing favorite since, with last week’s odds featuring just him (as the overwhelming favorite at 1/20), Barkley and Love.

This week’s odds? There are none. From Bovada:

Heisman odds are currently off the board as Baker Mayfield is too big of a favorite. He was 1/20 last week and would be even bigger this week.

Other oddsmakers followed suit, as noted by ESPN.com:

MGM had Mayfield listed at -250 as of last Monday, when the book took the odds off the board in compliance with Nevada Gaming Control regulations. The Westgate SuperBook closed Mayfield as even a bigger favorite at -2,000 on Sunday.

Those odds were pulled, however, as the NGC requires all betting on the Heisman to cease on Nov.19, per ESPN. Bovada doesn’t fall under the auspices of the NGC, so they could’ve technically continued laying odds on Heisman race.

The assistant manager at Westgate confirmed to ESPN that the book is looking at a loss if (when?) Mayfield wins the Heisman. It’s likely that other books could very well be facing the same predicament.

Emotional Baker Mayfield discusses being stripped of captaincy for last game, Senior Day, in Norman

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Much-needed, hard lesson learned, maybe?

While he was subjected to a lack-of-class moment by Kansas in the pregame and then a couple of questionable hits during this past Saturday’s game, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield showed his backside by very graphically grabbing his front in a heated response.  While he truly apologized in the postgame aftermath, OU announced Monday that the Heisman Trophy front-runner will not start this weekend’s regular-season finale against West Virginia.

Not only that, Mayfield was stripped of his captaincy for that finale.  On Senior Day, his last-ever game in Norman no less.

That latter aspect of the punishment proved to be almost too much for Mayfield to deal with, with the quarterback becoming visibly emotional when discussing with the media his lost captaincy Monday night.

“Playing at OU was something that I always dreamed of,” Mayfield said. “Not starting, it is what it is.

“But not being a team captain is so much more. It would be hard if it were a regular game or not, but it being my last one here ever, it means a lot more. It’s going to be tough, because Saturday was going to be — without all of this — an emotional one. It’s going to be hard to handle, but … it’s going to be hard.”

OU has already secured one spot in the Big 12 championship game, most likely against TCU.  The Sooners are also ranked fourth in the most recent College Football Playoff Top 25 and will earn one of the four semifinal slots if they win their next two games.

Arkansas QB Cole Kelley returns from DUI-related suspension

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Arkansas’ one-time starting quarterback will return for the Razorbacks’ season finale. Whether he sees the field is another matter entirely.

Cole Kelley was arrested for driving while intoxicated and reckless driving earlier this month. A day after the arrest, Kelley was indefinitely suspended by the football program and missed UA’s Week 12 game.

Monday, that suspension officially came to an end after one game as head coach Bret Bielema confirmed that the redshirt freshman has rejoined the team.

“He’ll be back full-go with us again,” Bielema said by way of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  Left unsaid is whether Kelley will play in the Week 13 matchup with Missouri Friday afternoon, in part because he’s still recovering from an injury.

Austin Allen started the first five games of the season before going down with a shoulder injury. Kelley replaced him and started the next four, with Allen returning to his starting role the last two weeks against LSU and Mississippi State.

Kelley is 2-2 as the starter this year and Allen 2-5 for a Razorbacks team that won’t be going bowling for the first time since Bielema’s first season in 2013. This week’s game could also mark Bielema’s last as UA’s head coach.