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Big Ten outlines guidelines for four-year scholarships

Jim Delany

With a vote on autonomy coming up, conferences that could benefit from the extra benefits have been making it a point to plan ahead and prepare for wat will be done with those extra powers once they become available. The Big Ten, a conference with some of the deepest pockets in the country, is ready to take full advantage and is getting a jump-start on the situation by endorsing the use of four-year scholarships as well as other benefits for student-athletes.

The Big Ten’s presidents and chancellors (including the leaders at Rutgers and Maryland) released a statement Tuesday addressing the Ed O’Bannon vs. NCAA antitrust trial, which saw commissioner Jim Delany take the witness stand on Friday. In the statement the leaders of the Big Ten’s membership outlined ways the conference intends to work with the NCAA to provide greater benefits to student-athletes. The highlight was the support for four-year scholarships, which the Pac-12’s USC announced would be made available starting July 1.

This, from the Big Ten statement;

  • We must guarantee the four-year scholarships that we offer. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be zero impact on our commitment as universities to deliver an undergraduate education. We want our students to graduate.
  • If a student-athlete leaves for a pro career before graduating, the guarantee of a scholarship remains firm. Whether a professional career materializes, and regardless of its length, we will honor a student’s scholarship when his or her playing days are over. Again, we want students to graduate.
  • We must review our rules and provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes. We have an obligation to protect their health and well-being in return for the physical demands placed upon them.
  • We must do whatever it takes to ensure that student-athlete scholarships cover the full cost of a college education, as defined by the federal government. That definition is intended to cover what it actually costs to attend college.

Few conferences have the resources the Big Ten has, even among the power conferences. The Big Ten has been splitting some of the top revenues among conferences since adding the Big Ten Network, and with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers the network revenue could be projected to increase in the coming years as well.

The Big Ten is not the first conference to come out and support full cost scholarships, but the Big Ten is one of the few that should be able to make it a reality for all sooner rather than later.

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With one game complete, Baylor has still yet to allow a point at McLane Stadium

Sam B. Richardson, Shawn Oakman

It didn’t come with the customary fireworks, but No. 10 Baylor still made easy work of SMU on Sunday night, shutting out their neighbors to the north, 45-0.

The game was the first in brand new McLane Stadium, you may have heard something about that, featured a pre-game statue unveiling of Robert Griffin III, and was attended by former President George W. Bush. The Bears got their points and their yards (574) but it was Phil Bennett’s defense that provided the best performance of the night.

Three SMU quarterbacks took the field, and all three failed to average three yards per attempt. Neal Burcham started the game and hit 15-of-26 passes for 159 yards. He was relieved by Texas A&M transfer Matt Davis, who hit 3-of-6 throws for 12 yards and an interception. Finally, true freshman Kolney Cassel finished the night by connecting on 3-of-8 throws for a grand total of 20 yards. Only Cassel managed to move the Mustangs into Baylor territory, and not until the 10:05 mark of the fourth quarter. And that was SMU’s most efficient mode of transportation. Led by Prescott Line’s four carries for 18 yards, SMU was credited with 25 rushes for minus-24 yards.

In all, the Mustangs’ offense took the field 15 times on Sunday night, went backwards four times, traveled less than 10 yards a dozen times, and strung together more than seven plays only once.

Baylor’s offense – though lightyears ahead of SMU – was not without its opening night struggles, either. Bryce Petty hit 13-of-23 passes for 161 yards for two touchdowns (and added another score on the ground) before sitting the second half with a back injury. Petty spent much of the first half grimacing and grabbing his left hip. Both Petty and backup Seth Russell (124 passing yards, 46 rushing yards, one touchdown) left a number of points on the field by consistently missing open receivers behind the SMU defense. Eight Baylor rushers totaled 50 carries for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Antwan Goodley also played only two series after aggravating a quad injury suffered in fall camp.

Freshman kicker Chris Callahan missed three of his four field goal tries, and was replaced by Kyle Peterson for the Bears’ sixth and final extra point try.

The health of Petty and Goodley are the key story lines for Art Briles’ team moving forward, but with Northwestern State, Buffalo and Iowa State waiting in September, the Bears have time to be patient.

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For one night at least, Tennessee acts like an SEC powerhouse again

They know what’s coming. They’re well aware of those consecutive road trips to Norman and Athens in the coming weeks. And they’ve not forgotten about those three weeks requiring a road trip to Ole Miss, a home date with Alabama, and a road trip to South Carolina later this season. Your reminders are not necessary.

For one night, though, none of that mattered.

Tennessee crushed Utah State 38-7 on Sunday night and, before its first sellout in seven years, had 102,000 in orange rocking Neyland Stadium like it did so many times throughout the 1990’s. The Vols used a Pig Howard eight-yard end around, a fumbled kickoff return and a 12-yard Justin Worley touchdown toss to Brendan Downs all in the span of three plays to build a 14-0 lead six minutes into the first quarter, carried a 17-0 lead into halftime, and then dealt the Aggies a knockout blow when Worley found Von Pearson for a 27-yard scoring strike with 5:31 to go in the fourth quarter.

Worley hit 27-of-38 attempts – connecting with 10 different receivers – for 273 yards and three touchdowns. He was much better than his Heisman darkhorse counterpart, as Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton connected on 18-of-35 throws for only 144 yards with one touchdown and two picks.

The Vols’ defense dominated Utah State throughout the night, allowing only 244 yards of total offense, 11 first downs and three third-down conversions in 14 tries.

A 31-point thumping may against a physically overmatched visitor from the Mountain West may have seemed preordained after the fact, but Utah State was the hottest upset pick in college football’s opening weekend. In fact, the line sank all the way down below five points by kickoff. Tennessee covered with ease.

This is not to say Butch Jones’ Vols were perfect, however. College football’s only offensive line tasked with replacing all five of its starters failed to control the line of scrimmage. Seven Big Orange ball carriers combined to rush the ball 39 times for a mere 110 yards and two touchdowns. Jones has recruited exceptionally well, but offensive lines are not built overnight. This will be a theme throughout the 2014 season for Tennessee, and there are monsters waiting in those woods.

For one passionate night at Neyland Stadium, however, none of that mattered.

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Halftime: Baylor gets help it doesn’t need, leads SMU 31-0

Bryce Petty

Baylor makes a living of scoring through two- and three-play drives. That’s a fact of life if you’re an opponent. What you don’t need to do, however, is start those drives inside your own 10-yard line.

That’s exactly what SMU did.

With the Bears holding a 3-0 lead, SMU’s Stephen Nelson coughed the ball up at his own six-yard line. Baylor recovered, and two plays later Shock Linwood had a four-yard touchdown run. One possession later, Levi Norwood returned a punt 43 yards to the SMU 4, and three snaps later Bryce Petty hit Tre’Von Armstead for a three-yard touchdown.

Speaking of Petty, he and his left hip have been the storyline of the half.

His numbers – 13-of-23 passing for 161 yards and two touchdowns, plus two rushes and 21 yards and another score – look better than his actual play on the field. Grabbing his hip and grimacing at multiple points throughout the half, Petty has consistently overthrown receivers, thereby keeping a 31-0 halftime spread from becoming even more lopsided.

With the Bears leading by 31 and dominating the SMU offense (49 passing yards, -10 rushing), expect to see lots of heralded backup Seth Russell in the second half.

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Tennessee dominates early, but doesn’t blow out Utah State in first half

Justin Worley

The first Tennessee possession of the 2014 season was an ugly of a three-and-out as you’ll see. It got better from there, though, and quickly. After forcing their own three-and-out, the Vols marched 70 yards on six plays, capped by a Pig Howard eight-yard end around scoring dash.

One play later, Tennessee had the ball again.

Kennedy Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff at his own 12 yard line, recovered by Tennessee’s Todd Kelly, Jr. Justin Worley hit Brendan Downs on the next play for a 12-yard scoring strike to put the Vols up 14-0 six minutes into the game.

The Neyland Stadium crowd was rocking, but the Volunteers did not deliver the knockout blow the 102,000 orange faithful expected.

Chuckie Keeton amassed only 79 passing yards, but Tennessee had issues along its offensive line – shocking, for a group replacing all five starters – and only an Aaron Medley field goal dotted the scoreboard in the final 24 minutes of the first half as the Vols staked a 17-0 halftime edge.

 

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Texas C Dominic Espinosa breaks ankle, may miss rest of the season

Mississippi v Texas

In an otherwise stellar debut, just about the only thing to go wrong for Charlie Strong and Texas was losing veteran center Dominic Espinosa to an apparent ankle injury late in the Longhorns’ 38-7 defeat of North Texas on Saturday night.

One day later, the results are in and they don’t look good for the ‘Horns.

As first reported by Orangebloods.com, Espinosa suffered a broken right ankle and will likely miss the rest of his senior season. The report was later confirmed by HornsDigest.com and the Austin American-Statesman.

A fifth-year player with 40 starts under his belt, Espinosa was supposed to be the glue of a revamped offensive line under coach Joe Wickline. Espinosa was replaced by redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson and the offense suffered for it. Texas suffered numerous center-quarterback exchange issues following Espinosa’s injury, including one inside its own end zone that directly led to the Mean Green’s only touchdown.

Strong did not provide any comment on Espinosa’s situation following the game, and the school has not issued any statement today. Strong is scheduled to meet with the media on Monday.

Texas faces BYU on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).

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Baylor unveils Robert Griffin III statue, is indeed RGIII

Robert Griffin III

Still six months shy of his 25th birthday, Robert Griffin III may be the youngest person in America with his own statue. Though, if you’d brought to Baylor what RGIII has – a Heisman Trophy, boatloads of wins, a brand new (and since shattered) offensive record book and, perhaps most importantly, a basis for the support needed to construct a new stadium – in your first quarter-century on Earth, perhaps you’d have your own statue, too.

The 9.5-foot statue stood under a black cloak before its ceremonial unveiling in advance of tonight’s McLane Stadium opening game versus SMU.

“It just wasn’t me,” Griffin told the San Antonio Express-News. “If you look at the guys who came in with me, the guys who were there before we got here. They are all a part of it from Grant Teaff to Coach Briles. Kendall Wright, Lanear Sampson, Terrence Williams, Phil Taylor, Danny Watkins, Jason Smith, I can go on for days.

“I know my guys and I know they know when I say this is for them, they believe me. They know we couldn’t have done it without each other. So I appreciate them. I know a couple of them will be here today and I can’t wait to see them.”

Griffin, on leave from his job as the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins, wore a sport coat on top of jeans and tennis shoes because, as he told the assembled green and gold crowd, “I’m here to party.”

No. 10 Baylor and SMU kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

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South Carolina RB Mike Davis “sort of doubtful” for East Carolina

Mike Davis

Nothing went according to plan for No. 9 South Carolina in its 52-28 opening-night loss to No. 21 Texas A&M on Thursday. There were the 511 passing yards allowed to Aggies quarterback Kenny Hillthe missed opportunities to retaliate against a spacious Texas A&M secondary by Gamecocks signal caller Dylan Thompson, and then there was the impact for South Carolina running back Mike Davis.

More accurately, the lack of an impact.

Hamstrung by rib issues, Davis carried just six times for 15 yards, and caught one pass for a solitary yard on the evening. Davis did not touch the ball after the midway point of the second quarter.

Four days later, Steve Spurrier lists his star runner as “sort of doubtful” for Saturday’s East Carolina game, according to the Associated Press.

Davis was a bell cow for the Gamecocks last season, toting the rock 203 times for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns, and catching an additional 34 passes for 352 yards. A a nagging rib injury that reared its head in fall camp follows him into September, Davis faces an uphill climb to match those numbers in his junior season.

South Carolina (0-1) hosts East Carolina (1-0) at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU on Saturday.

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Oregon opens a TD and a half favorite for Michigan State showdown

Marcus Mariota

The last time Mark Dantonio and his Michigan State Spartans went west, they came home with a 24-20 Rose Bowl title over Stanford, a team that just happened to have its way with Oregon last November.

Nine months later, No. 8 Michigan State is an 11-point underdog to those third-ranked Ducks, according to VegasInsider.com. Sure, The transitive property does not apply to football. And, yes, styles make fights. But, still, 11 is a lot of points for a team to give to a team that doesn’t often allow very many points at all.

Michigan State opened its season Friday with a 45-7 drubbing of Jacksonville State, while Oregon began its season with a 62-13 defeat of South Dakota. Just enough work for Marcus Mariota, Shilique Calhoun and their charges to rev the engines a time or two in preparation for Saturday.

A year ago, Oregon ranked third nationally in scoring offense, ninth in rushing and second in total offense, while Michigan State placed second in total defense, second in rushing and third in scoring. In other words, this is the most intriguing inter-sectional non-conference game in some time.

It should be a barn burner, unless Vegas is to be believed.

ESPN’s CollegeGameDay will be in Eugene to hype the action, which can be seen nationally on FOX at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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Forget Oregon? USC may have the new up-tempo offense

Steve Sarkisian

The start of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC had a rough introduction leading up to the game itself, but once the ball was kicked it was a completely different story. USC’s offense showed some new wrinkles as Sarkisian started to leave a new stamp on the Trojans. It was only one game, but a preview of things to come certainly seems to suggest the Trojans are going to keep the pressure on with their offense.

As noted in John’s week one round-up, USC ran 104 plays in a victory over Fresno State. The total number of plays is a new Pac-12 record, which says something given Oregon is in the conference and up-tempo coaches like Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham are picking up the pace on offense. USC will not be running 104 plays every week, but the trend could see the Trojans running more plays than usual.  For the sake of comparison, USC ran an average of 68.4 plays per game in 2013 (67.5 plays per game in 2012, 70.6 plays per game in 2011).

It was only one game, naturally, but the Trojans were on fire on offense. USC converted 1 of 18 third-down attempts and racked up over 700 yards of offense. Cody Kessler had a great game, passing for 394 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Javorious Allen led the way running the football for 133 yards. Eight different Trojans ran the football and 10 different players caught a pass as USC spread things around.

One other point to consider is USC’s offense looked far more promising than their city rivals from UCLA did in week one. Of course, UCLA flew across the country to play on the east coast at noon eastern. That is no easy task for any team from the west coast, college or pro, but the Bruins were sloppy on offense. UCLA’s offense was probably not as weak as it looked against Virginia, and USC’s offense may not be quite as explosive as it was in this match-up. Letting the schedule play out will provide more time to evaluate it all more fairly.

Sarkisian’s debut could not have gone much better.

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Mike London has a QB question to answer

UCLA Virginia Football

College football is a sport that demands quick attention and response to various situations. If a head coach makes a change too late, it can cost his team a game or a season. As a result, it can end up costing a coach a job. Such is the case at Virginia, where head coach Mike London faces a quarterback situation that may demand a swift response.

It was only one game, but Virginia’s performance against UCLA was truly a tale of two quarterbacks. Greyson Lambert got the start for the Cavaliers against UCLA. Lambert found way to move the Virginia offense against the Bruins defense, using safe and accurate passes to move the offense. It was the costly mistakes that really took a toll on Virginia’s chances for an upset bid of one of the top programs from the Pac-12. Lambert was intercepted twice by the Bruins, and both happened to end up in the end zone for UCLA touchdowns. It was a brilliant day by the UCLA defense, which put up more points than either team’s offense in the season opener, so a bit of bad luck came into play.

Regardless, London needed to try something different. Enter Matt Johns, who took over under center after the UCLA defense had turned three turnovers into a 21-3 lead in the first half. Johns was not as accurate with his pass completions, but he threw for more yards and got the offense in the end zone twice through the air. Who knows if Johns would have avoided the trouble of the UCLA defense scoring three touchdowns, but Virginia seemed to be more assertive once Johns entered the game. The damage may have already been done by the time he came in, but now London has something to think about heading into week two against his old program, Richmond.

At the moment, London is holding off on making a decision on where the quarterback position goes from here.

“Greyson is a young man who understands that, as the game is going, there are decisions made that are in the best interest of the team,” London said, according to The Roanoke Times. “Right now, we haven’t seen film, we haven’t talked to the coaches and haven’t gotten the grades,” London said, “so, to speak on that [next week’s starter] right now… we just don’t know.”

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Report: Miami and FIU scheduling 2018-2019 series

Raymond Jackson

The last time Miami and Florida International got together for a football game, it was ugly. Really ugly. Here’s hoping tempers will be a bit cooler the next time these two schools get together. According to one Miami sportswriter, a two-game series could be announced soon.

Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports in his Sunday column Miami and FIU are working on details for a two-game series in 2018 and 2019. The 2018 game will reportedly be played in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium. Where the 2019 game will be played is unknown at this time, although it would be unlikely Miami would agree to play a game at FIU when the game could draw more potential fans for both schools in Sun Life Stadium, or whatever the stadium will be called by that point in time. Jackson suggests playing the game in Marlins Park, home to baseball’s Miami Marlins, could be an option for the 2019 game.

The last time Miami and FIU played was in 2007, but the 2006 game was the cause for a temporary cancellation of all sporting events scheduled between the two schools. Following a Miami touchdown in the third quarter, a brawl broke out between the two teams following the extra point attempt. Punches were thrown, kicks were landed, and body slams and choke holds were executed in the madness. In all, police had to take the field to help calm things down and 13 players were ejected from the game.

Miami and FIU are separated by just nine miles, and there is very much a potential for big brother-little brother mentality here given Miami’s place in the ACC and FIU’s place in Conference USA.

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Georgia’s Gurley, UCLA’s Kendricks earn Walter Camp POTW honors

Todd Gurley

The first weekend of the college football season is not quite in the books (two games on tap today and Louisville-Miami on Monday), but Georgia running back Todd Gurley and UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks have been singled out for their individual performances by The Walter Camp Football Foundation. Each was named the foundation’s players of the week for week one.

Gurley was a monster in Georgia’s victory over Clemson in Athens. Gurley set a school record with 293 all-purpose yards with 198 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was certainly a performance worthy of early Heisman hype. The Georgia back played a key role in allowing Georgia to pull away from Clemson in a 24-0 second half of a 45-21 victory over Clemson. Gurley is the ninth Georgia football player in school history to be honored by The Walter Camp Football Foundation’s weekly award since 2004.

The defensive weekly honor went to UCLA’s Kendricks. The redshirt senior linebacker led the Bruins with 16 tackles and forced a fumble on the road against Virginia. It was a particularly strong defensive showing for UCLA with 21 points scored in the second quarter. In that mix was an interception returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Kendricks. Kendricks is the fifth UCLA player to win the defensive weekly award since 2004.

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Hospitalized Wisconsin lineman Zagzebski out of hospital

Konrad Zagzebski, Michael Caputo, Marion Grice

Wisconsin suffered a tough loss Saturday night in Houston against LSU, but the concern for injured fifth-year senior Konrad Zagzebski was far more serious than the result of the game.  Zagzebski was taken off the field on a stretcher following a collision in Saturday night’s game. He was taken to a hospital and has since been released, which is always good news.

The defensive end was taken to Methodist Hospital in Houston for medical treatment, but was able to leave the hospital and return home with his teammates.

When Zagzebski was being attended to on the field, it was one of those rough moments in football when you see concern grow on both sidelines. Even in the heat of competition, a moment like that shows the respect and compassion each team has for each other. As Wisconsin’s team took a knee on their sideline while Zagzebski was being cared to by medical staff, LSU’s team also took a knee and the stadium grew quiet. Nerves were calmed as Zagzebski gave a thumbs up on the stretcher on his way out.

The rush to the hospital was initially deemed a precaution, which is standard procedure for injuries of this nature. Whether or not he will be right back on the field for Wisconsin’s next game will be determined later.

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Chris Petersen’s Washington debut was no vacation in Hawaii

Chris Petersen

As a head coach at Boise State, Chris Petersen won four straight games against Hawaii by a combined score of 172-37. The margin of victory in his debut as head coach of the No. 25 Washington Huskies (1-0) was significantly closer. Washington won their 2014 season opener on the road in Hawaii by a final score of 17-16.

This game proved to be more of a gut check than anticipated. Hawaii jumped out to a 10-0 lead on the visiting Huskies in the first quarter. Washington got in the end zone before the quarter came to a close when John Ross dashed 20 yards on a reverse for the score. Ross struck again on the receiving end of a 91-yard pass play from Jeff Lindquist, who got the start at quarterback for Washington. Washington took a 17-10 lead to the half. Washington’s offense was unable to score in the second half against the Rainbow Warriors, allowing the home team to chip away.

Hawaii had chances to grab a win but failed to capitalize on a couple of opportunities throughout the game. A trick play inside the Washington 10-yard line resulted in a turnover on downs, when a field goal could have been the difference. One play later came the 91-yard touchdown play for Washington. Hawaii also missed a field goal at the end of the first half from 40 yards out after two incomplete passes. A fumbled punt by Washington in the third quarter was also recovered by the Huskies at the Washington 33-yard line.

Where Washington goes from here should be interesting to watch unfold. Cyler Miles was suspended from the season opener but should slide into the starting lineup soon enough. His skills at the position should help boost the offense a bit. Lindquist was mostly unreliable with 10 completions on 26 attempts, mostly capitalizing on the 91-yard play for his stats. Washington should be better than the performance against Hawaii would suggest.

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Week one around college football shows why preseason rankings stink

Oklahoma State v Florida State

I don’t know about you, but Oklahoma State sure looked like a top 25 team to me as I watched the Cowboys give defending national champion and consensus preseason umber one Florida State all they could handle. The Pokes forced Jameis Winston to look vulnerable at times (although the best player in college football overcame that by showing just why he won the Heisman Trophy in 2013 when needed) with a pair of interceptions. Oklahoma State held Florida State to just four third down conversions on 14 attempts and nearly countered every punch thrown by Florida State in the second half, pushing the Seminoles to the final second. Oklahoma State lost the game, of course, and there is not much of a chance any voter will include them in a top 25 poll this week.

But would it be fair to say Oklahoma State’s loss to Florida State was more respectable than No. 25 Washington’s 17-16 win at Hawaii? Maybe, depending on whom you ask.

The controversy and debate over preseason rankings are nothing new. The reason they exist is purely for debate, conversation and in this day and age, page views. We’re all guilty of it, even those of us who question why preseason rankings exist. We all check them out, even if we say we do not care about them. This week in college football will add some fuel to that discussion, but nothing will change.

Is No. 21 Texas A&M and new Heisman contender Kenny Hill really 24 points better than No. 9 South Carolina? What do we make of No. 7 UCLA beating Virginia by eight points when the offense only scored seven points (that defense is good, but they will not put up 21 points each week)? How much should we boost No. 12 Georgia or drop No. 16 Clemson after Todd Gurley muscled the Bulldogs’ 24-point victory? Ohio State was ranked fifth in the preseason polls, before quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the year. They pulled away from Navy in Baltimore, but could possibly fall in the rankings without doing anything wrong.

Aside from the mismatches with FCS competition, the only game that may have been the best representation of the preseason rankings was No. 13 LSU coming from behind to defeat No. 14 Wisconsin, and the Badgers sure did not look like a top 15 team while letting a 24-7 second-half lead evaporate. Injuries on defensive line were one thing, but giving Melvin Gordon the football just three times for one yard, turning over the football twice and going three-and-out three times is not what a top 15 team does, even against a team as talented as LSU.

The good news is things should be different this season. With no BCS computer formulas adding various rankings into the equation and a selection committee chosen to determine the tp four teams at the end of the season, where teams fall in the preseason rankings may not have as much of an impact. It will be hard for the selection committee to stray from the long, storied tradition of poll and ranking philosophy, but they will not be influenced as much by preseason rankings as they are results on the field. But then again, isn’t the weight of the results on the field influenced by the preseason rankings? Oh boy.

The new Associated Press top 25 will be released on Tuesday this week, to account for games being played Sunday (No. 10 Baylor vs SMU, Tennessee vs. Utah State) and Monday night (Louisville vs. Miami).

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