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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Six-Pack of Storylines

The Swami AP

Finally, after (nearly) seven long, agonizing months filled with seemingly nothing but arrests, suspensions, transfers, lawsuits and one Sharknado, the dawn of a new season is upon us.

In just 24 days, we’ll be hunkered down in front of the television taking in the glory that is the South Carolina Gamecocks playing host to the post-JFF Texas A&M Aggies. The day before that, the most addicted of us [/raises hand slowly at first, then proudly and defiantly] will take in the actual kickoff to the 2014 FBS season: FCS Abilene Christian at Georgia State of the Sun Belt.

In between now and then? Previews. Glorious, illuminating, voluminous previews as far as the eye can see.

We’ll kick off the look at the upcoming season the same way we have the past five years: storylines that you should pay attention to or could be in play in the coming months.

Proceed, and enjoy.

YOU KIDDING ME?!?! PLAYOFFS?!?!
No, Coach Mora, we’re not kidding. And we’re going to talk about it as a playoff has finally, thankfully come to the game of college football, and it will be, at least entering early September, the most talked-about aspect and overriding theme of the new season.

We’ll have a more in-depth primer on the particulars of the new system exactly three weeks from today (check out the repository for all of the preview posting dates HERE), but for now here are the bare essentials of what you need to know: the playoff will consist of four teams and two semifinal games — this year hosted by the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl — played on New Year’s Day followed by a stand-alone national championship game 11 days later at the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. The four teams will be chosen by a committee consisting of 13 individuals, a group made up of former coaches, current and former administrators — five current athletic directors, one each from a Power Five conference, included — one retired media member and a former United States Secretary of State.

If you thought controversy was a thing of the past with the glorious death of the BCS? Think again as the new College Football Playoff and how the committee selects the four teams will dwarf just about anything we ever saw in the decade and a half under the old bastard of a system. Buckle up — and grab your popcorn — as it’s going to be one hell of a ride as the new system in general and the committee specifically works its way through what’s expected to be some serious and controversial growing pains.

Florida State v ClemsonJAMEIS’ ENCORE, FSU’S TITLE DEFENSE
Both Jameis Winston personally and his Florida State Seminoles as a team will have tough acts to follow in 2014.

All Winston did in his first season as a starter at the collegiate level was become just the second-ever freshman to win the Heisman Trophy — along with an armful of other postseason honors — en route to leading his team to the last-ever BCS title. During that championship run, the Seminoles were a devastating football machine that destroyed just about everything in its path: FSU won every game but two — Boston College (48-34) and Auburn (34-31) — by at least 27 points; they won nine of the 14 by 30 or more. In other words, they were a veritable buzzsaw that will see a plethora of returning talent (15 starters), leaving the Seminoles as the favorite until someone knocks them off. That doesn’t mean the ‘Noles are without question marks, though, and not the least of which involves Winston.

The redshirt sophomore has had an, ahem, eventful last several months, from the rape allegations to the crab caper to media-created hiccups littered about here and there. He will enter 2014 with a Johnny Manziel-level of hype and will be under perhaps an even harsher microscope than Johnny Football ever faced at the collegiate level. What if any impact will the added scrutiny have on Winston on the field? The answer to that question will go a long way in determining how successful the ‘Noles are in their title defense. Well, that and replacing a couple of key pieces on both sides of the ball due to early departures for the NFL as well as the highly-respected defensive coordinator leavi… meh, who am I kidding. Barring a substantial injury outbreak, FSU will be a heavy, heavy favorite to stake its claim to one of the four spots in the inaugural CFP.

SEC LogoCAN THE SEC CLIMB BACK TO THE CFB MOUNTAINTOP?
For six consecutive years, from 2007 through 2012, the college football season ended the way it began: with an SEC team as the reigning BCS champion. Then 2013 happened as the conference of champions and its ballyhooed seven-year title run morphed into the conference of runner-ups as Auburn dropped a three-point heartbreaker to Florida State in Pasadena. The question now becomes, was it just a one-year blip or the beginning of a trend? The answer, of course, depends on who you ask and how much stock you place on a single season.

For an SEC fan, it’s resoundingly the former, and for good reason. At least on paper, no fewer than five of the teams in the conference — Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina — have the kind of talent that could translate into a spot in the College Football Playoffs. Hell, there could even be two teams from the preeminent college football league qualify for the CFP, with some folks already planting the seed that it would be a shame and/or a crime if half the field didn’t come from the SEC. Nonetheless, don’t let one title-less year fool you — the SEC is still the deepest conference in college football, with any team looking to grab the first-ever playoff trophy facing the very real possibility of going through an SEC squad — or two — to get it.

On the flip side, there are concerns, especially when it comes to the most important position on the gridiron. Quick quiz: who is the most experienced SEC quarterback entering 2014? Answer: Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace. Now, when the answer to that question is “Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace,” red flags fly up and sirens go off at an alarming rate. That’s certainly a cause for concern, with four of the five perceived favorites — Auburn and Nick Marshall being the lone exception — breaking in a new starter. Another? The gap between the SEC and the rest of the country appears to be shrinking, at least slightly. Oregon, Oklahoma — as it showed in the Sugar Bowl thumping of Alabama — Ohio State, UCLA, Michigan State, Baylor and Stanford all have the look of teams who could not only keep pace with the best the SEC has to offer, but could prove teams that trump the best the preeminent football conference in the country.

Regardless of how it ultimately plays out, it will be fascinating to watch how the conference as a whole reacts to being the hunter instead of the hunted.

California v OregonWEST COAST PREPS FOR AERIAL BOMBARDMENT
There may be question marks pockmarking the SEC at the quarterback position all across the board, but that’s not even remotely the case in the westernmost FBS conference.

Start with the main ingredient of two serious Heisman contenders — Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, UCLA’s Brett Hundley — add in a dash of under-the-radar candidates — Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion — and a pinch of above-average quality — Washington State’s Connor Halliday, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan, USC’s Cody Kessler and Cal’s Jared Goff — and you have a recipe for Pac-12 quarterbacks keeping defensive coordinators across the country awake and balled up in the corner in the fetal position.

How quarterback-driven will the Pac-12 be in 2014?  The two preseason favorites — by both the media and gamblers — are Oregon and UCLA; it’s no coincidence that Mariota and Hundley, especially the former, are viewed as being head and shoulders above their conference counterparts.  How those two perform will go a long way in determining how the conference race plays out — and whether either can push their respective teams and thus their league into the College Football Playoff this January.

Will MuschampSCORCHING SEATS FOR UF’s MUSCHAMP, UM’S HOKE
Many coaches will enter 2014 on the proverbial hot seat — we’ll have a more extensive look at that in a little over a week — but none more so than the two referenced in the headline.

And, of the two, there’s none higher-up on the Scoville scale than Will Muschamp, as he readily acknowledged earlier this summer.  First, the particulars: coming off an 11-2 season in his second year at Florida that raised the hopes of Gator Nation, the football program hit rock-bottom with a resounding thud and in near-historic fashion.  The 4-8 record was the worst since 1979; a bowl-less postseason was the first for a non-sanctioned Gators team since 1986; a second 3-5 record in SEC play in three years showed just how far behind the conference elite they currently are; and, arguably most embarrassingly, UF lost to FCS Georgia Southern in The Swamp.  The calls for Muschamp’s head on a platter from the media and fans alike were coming fast and furious.  So much so that the athletic director had to offer his beleaguered head coach an in-season vote of confidence. While Jeremy Foley has publicly supported the coach, there is growing concern behind closed doors that Muschamp may not be the man to lead the Gators out of the post-Urban Meyer morass — which actually started while Urb was lording over Gainesville — in which the program’s currently stuck.  One more season even remotely similar to 2013 — I’m guessing 8-5/9-4 with a bowl win to slightly cool down the seat — and the post-Muschamp era will begin in earnest.

Now, if Muschamp’s a Carolina Reaper in Scoville Heat Units, that would make Brady Hoke a, what, Bhut Jolokia?

Early on, it was all chili puppy dogs and pizza rainbows for Hoke in Ann Arbor.  In his first year at Michigan, the Wolverines went 11-2 and beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.  Most importantly, and even as it came between the tenures of Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, UM ended a six-game losing streak against hated rival Ohio State.  The honeymoon was hot, steamy and sweaty; the marriage since?  Ankle-length robes and open bathroom doors.  The Wolverines have gone a pedestrian 15-11 the last two years — two losses in minor bowls included — and returned to their losing ways in The Game.  Not only that, but UM has watched as “little brother” Michigan State has leapfrogged them, with the Spartans not only turning themselves into a force in the conference but a factor on the national stage as well.  Throw in some coaching changes, uncertainty at the quarterback position, an offensive line that’s subpar and suspect, just add everything all up and, like Muschamp, this could very well be a make-or-break year for Hoke.

Charlie StrongCAN CHARLIE MAKE TEXAS STRONG IMMEDIATELY?
The short, and likely correct, answer: nope. Or, unlikely if that makes you feel better. There are several unknowns when it comes to Charlie Strong taking over as Mack Brown‘s replacement at Texas. How will he handle the pressure cooker — created by media, fans and boosters alike — that is Austin and football-mad UT after coming from a hoops school like Louisville? More to the point, how will he handle the politicking and, even more importantly, the back-room games that are ofttimes played at a university and within an athletic department the size of the Longhorns?

Those are but a couple of the unknowns; here’s a known: Strong is a damn-fine head football coach, one who isn’t getting his just due as the home-run hire he was for UT. He may not have been the “people’s choice” to replace Brown, may not have even been the boosters’ choice, but, after Nick Saban or his agent spurned the reported nine-figure overtures, he was the best option for the Longhorns moving forward. Does that mean UT will be back on the stage immediately? Heck no, a point Strong somewhat controversially conveyed this offseason… and one he stated it for good reason.

The cupboard wasn’t exactly stocked or overflowing when Strong took over, with the coach doing some additional cleaning of the pantry the past couple of weeks.  Texas is behind at least Oklahoma, Baylor and, probably, Kansas State in the Big 12 let alone whatever their standing is nationally.  And, for good measure, keep in mind that this is a team that, over the past four years, has gone just 30-21, which is more Texas Tech University than University of Texas. Strong is a good coach; he’s not, however, an instantaneous miracle worker. Strong will need time to put his imprint on the football program, to trudge through the malaise and institute a much-needed culture change. Hopefully the athletic department, boosters and fans give him the time he will need to turn things around.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Big Ten issues statement on autonomy recommendations

Big Ten Logo

Wednesday, the ACC released a statement laying out its priorities for the Power Five’s looming autonomy structure.  A day later, yet another league heavyweight has done the same.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Big Ten laid out its own point-by-point agenda for further enhancing the benefits of student-athletes.  Not so surprisingly, the agenda is almost a mirror image of the one laid out by the ACC, and what’s been discussed ad nauseam over the past year or two.

As there is no new territory plowed in the Big Ten’s statement, it’s presented below without commentary.  Do with it and discuss it as you will:

The Big Ten Conference announced today that it has notified the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of initial recommendations designed to provide enhanced benefits for student-athletes that are members in good standing with their individual universities as part of the NCAA’s new autonomy governance structure.

For the past two years, the conference has publicly stated its desire to continue providing student-athletes with an unmatched educational and athletic experience, including comments made by Commissioner James E. Delany at the July 2013 Big Ten Football Media Days, at the Collegiate Commissioners Association meeting on September 25, 2013, at the July 2014 Big Ten Football Media Days, and in statements issued by the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors on June 1, 2014 and June 24, 2014.

The Big Ten will work to implement the following proposals through individual institutional action, conference-wide action or under the NCAA autonomy governance structure:
Cost of Education: Redefine full grant-in-aid to meet a student-athlete’s cost of education, as determined by the federal government.
Multi-Year Scholarships: Guarantee all scholarships. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be no impact on institutions’ commitment to deliver an undergraduate education.
Lifetime Educational Commitment: Ensure that scholarships are available for life. If a student-athlete leaves a university for a professional career before graduating, whether the career materializes, and regardless of its length, the scholarship will be honored after his or her playing days are complete.
Medical Insurance: Provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes.

The Big Ten has also agreed to address additional student-athlete welfare issues including, but not limited to, health and safety, time demands and comprehensive academic support by way of a “Resolution” that creates a specific pathway and timeline for implementation.

The Big Ten Conference is an association of 14 world-class universities committed to the pursuit and attainment of athletic and academic excellence. Big Ten institutions feature broad-based athletic programs which provide nearly $200 million in direct financial aid to almost 9,500 student-athletes on 350 teams in 42 different sports.

We look forward to working with the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC through the NCAA autonomy governance structure toward adoption and implementation of these proposals.

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All signs pointing to Blake Sims starting for ‘Bama vs. Ole Miss

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

While acknowledging early last week that he was “a little bruised” and “sore,” Blake Sims was very emphatic that he would be “very fine” and available for a key SEC West matchup coming off a bye week.

As it turns out, the Alabama quarterback knew exactly what he was talking about.  Probably.

Sims suffered an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder in the third quarter of the Sept. 20 win over Florida,  but did return to the game after missing a series to put a bow on a record-setting performance.  In the days leading up to the bye weekend, Sims was very limited in practice as the team looked to get him healthy.

Head coach Nick Saban said Monday that Sims returned to throwing a football very late last week.  Now, with the Ole Miss game just three days away, all of the signs are pointing to Sims being under center when the Tide takes the field against the Rebels.

Blake has done really well in practice,” Saban said on the SEC head coaches teleconference Wednesday. “He hasn’t had any issues this week so far in terms of being able to throw the ball. We’re really pleased with the way he’s progressed. He’s been able to take all the reps he’s prescribed to take. We’re pleased with that.”

Should Sims suffer a setback, Florida State transfer Jacob Coker would make his first career ‘Bama start. That, though, doesn’t appear likely.

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Colorado State shuts down starting TE/H-back for rest of season

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwvmyza1otrhmtjlotningm4mzq2zmzlnznmymzimjiw AP

In early September, Jim McElwain labeled Kivon Cartwright‘s availability as week-to-week because of injury. Unfortunately for the starting tight end/H-back, the prognosis is no longer nearly as optimistic.

Following Tuesday’s practice, the head coach revealed that Cartwright will be forced to undergo additional surgery on his injured ankle. The procedure will cost Cartwright the remainder of the 2014 season.

Cartwright has been dealing with the ankle issue since the offseason.

“We’re going to go ahead and actually go back in and re-tighten up that screw, because it didn’t heal properly,” McElwain said. “For his best interests on that, it just never healed right. So we’re going to go back in and fix it so everything’s right for the rest of his life.”

Cartwright played in the opener against Colorado — one catch, 22 yards — but hasn’t played since. Last season, he was fourth on the team in receptions (27) and receiving yards (462). His six receiving touchdowns tied for the team lead.

Because this is the second season he’s missed because of injury — he didn’t play as a true freshman — Cartwright could seek a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA. McElwain said that’s something that will be addressed after the 2014 season is complete.

Steven Walker, Cartwright’s replacement, is currently second on the Rams with 14 receptions and third in receiving yards with 157.  His two touchdown catches are tied for second on the team.

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Michigan going back to Devin Gardner at QB

Devin Gardner

Not so unexpectedly, Michigan is going back to its recent past at the most important position on the field.

Wednesday, embattled UM head coach Brady Hoke confirmed Devin Gardner will get the start at quarterback for Saturday’s game against Rutgers.  Prior to being benched in favor of Shane Morris in the loss to Minnesota last week, Gardner had started 16 of the previous 17 games for the Wolverines.

In his four starts this season, Gardner has thrown six interceptions against just five touchdowns.  In a pair of 2014 starts against Power Five teams, Gardner has tossed five picks and zero touchdowns.

Morris suffered a concussion and lower-leg injury in his first regular-season start after Gardner was benched.  It was the former injury and the football program’s botching of it that led to calls for both Hoke and athletic director Dave Brandon to be fired.

Hoke has defended the handling of the situation, while president Mark Schlissel apologized and admitted that the situation wasn’t handled properly.  In the wake of the fiasco, UM is reviewing its injury protocols, particularly as it relates to head injuries, although no sanctions from the Big Ten are expected.

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Bonnafon gets starting call again at QB for Louisville

Reggie Bonnafon AP

For the second week in a row, Louisville will be sans its starting quarterback for a conference game.

On a teleconference Wednesday, Bobby Petrino confirmed that Will Gardner will not start Friday’s game against Syracuse.  Petrino did allow that “[t]here’s a chance [Gardner] will be available” in an emergency-type situation.

“Will was out there last night and did more in practice,” Petrino said. “Reports from the training room this morning was there was limited swelling so we get a chance to get him out today at practice again.”

Gardner suffered a left knee injury in the win against FIU.  He left in the third quarter didn’t return.

With Gardner out, at least at the beginning, Reggie Bonnafon will make his second consecutive start.

In his first collegiate start against Wake Forest, a 20-10 win, Bonnafon completed 16-of-32 passes for 206 yards. He had no touchdowns but also no interceptions. The true freshman added 46 yards on the ground against the Demon Deacons; in the first four games, Gardner ran for minus-72, so obviously Bonnafon adds a dimension that the starter doesn’t possess.

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Pair of Fresno State DBs, including Arizona transfer, quit team

Fresno State v USC Getty Images

Fresno State’s secondary depth took an unexpected twin hit Tuesday.

According to head coach Tim DeRuyter in a press release sent out late Tuesday night, both cornerback Bryan Harper and free safety Justin Holmes have decided to quit the Bulldogs football team. The moves apparently came from out of the blue, at least publicly.

The pair left due to unspecified personal reasons.

“We appreciate their contributions and we wish them well in the future,” DeRuyter said in a statement.

Harper transferred to Fresno State from Arizona in 2013 and sat out that season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  The decision to leave came after Harper had started the first two games of the season.  The Fresno Bee wrote that Harper “was excused from practice on Monday while at home in Los Angeles to tend to a family issue.”

Coming out of high school in Ontario, California, Harper was a three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2012 recruiting class.

Holmes, meanwhile, didn’t record a tackle this year after redshirting as a true freshman last season.  He was a no-show at practice Monday.

Neither Harper nor Holmes was listed on the most recent two-deep depth chart.

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Terps’ starting QB C.J. Brown game-day decision vs. Buckeyes

Maryland v Indiana Getty Images

If you want and/or need to know who will be under center when Maryland takes the field against Ohio State Saturday, you’ll have to wait a couple of more days.

C.J. Brown suffered an injury to his left (non-throwing) wrist in the win over Indiana Saturday.  He left that game and didn’t return.

Will the starting quarterback return for the Buckeyes?

“We’ll find out on game day” is all head coach Randy Edsall would allow on Brown’s Week 6 status.

Should Brown be a no-go for the Terps’ second-ever Big Ten game, Caleb Rowe would get the start. Replacing the injured Brown, Rowe completed 67 percent of his passes for 198 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 37-15 win over the Hoosiers.  That performance left Edsall proud of and confident in Rowe.

“I think we’ve been blessed to have that happen at a number of positions this year, with guys,” the coach said. “Very proud of Caleb for staying engaged and being ready and knowing that when his number was called he came in and did the job that he was expected to do.”

The Associated Press also notes that, if Brown sits, it would mark the eight straight season the Terps failed to have a quarterback start every game. The last quarterback to start every game in a single season was Sam Hollenbach in 2006.

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Man body-slammed by Ohio State coach loses scholarship

Indiana v Ohio State Getty Images

For those of you who read the latest edition of the Fifth Quarter, you may have noticed we mentioned an Ohio State assistant coach and former Buckeyes linebacker, Anthony Schlegel, “taking care” of a student with a “Night Train Necktie” who had run onto the field during the pregame warmups for the Cincinnati game.

As it turns out, there’s more to the story. A lot more.

The student in question, Anthony Wunder, pleaded not guilty to a charge of criminal trespassing Tuesday in the Franklin County Municipal Court. If Wunder is convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of a $250 fine and 30 days in jail.

That legal issue might not be the worst of Wunder’s problems, however, as the Columbus Dispatch explains.

[Attorney Mark] Collins said that Wunder was told today by the Evans Scholars program that Wunder has lost his scholarship with the program and said Wunder is no longer living in the Evans Scholars house.

Collins, however, said that Wunder remains enrolled as a student at Ohio State. He is a fourth-year student in a five-year engineering program, Collins said.

The nonprofit Evans Scholars Foundation gives academic awards for college students who have served as golf caddies.

Head coach Urban Meyer said he had a conversation with his assistant following the game.

“In all seriousness, I grabbed Anthony last night,” the head coach said Monday. “I appreciate him protecting our players. I would rather him not have a lawsuit if something bad would happen, you drill a guy like that.

“So we had a partial-serious conversation. And then we also gave him a Hit City Award, our team, and had a little fun with it, too.”

Speaking of a lawsuit…

“Those are things we’re going to look at and issues we’re going to address,” said Collins, Wunder’s attorney, when asked if the tackle by Schlegel was too hard. Of course, if his client wasn’t on the field illegally, the tackle never would’ve happened.

Anyway, for those who haven’t seen it, below is a Vine of the incident in question as well as an epic picture of the hit.

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Davis Webb returns to practice; status for K-State game uncertain

Texas Tech v Oklahoma State Getty Images

Earlier this week, Kliff Kingsbury labeled Davis Webb as day-to-day due to injury.  Even as that remains the case, Webb took a positive step toward getting back on the playing field immediately.

A school spokesperson confirmed to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that the starting quarterback practiced with the team Tuesday.   Webb had been spotted by the media wearing full football gear and leaving the practice field with his teammates.

Webb suffered an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder in the loss to Oklahoma State Thursday night.  He had not practiced since suffering the injury, and his status for the Kansas State game Saturday remains unknown.  The Avalanche-Journal did write the fact “[t]hat Webb practiced was a positive sign, given that Tuesday and Wednesday are the Red Raiders’ heaviest game-preparation days.”

Through four games, Webb is second among Big 12 quarterbacks in passing yards per game (339) and passing touchdowns (14) and is third in passing efficiency (146.2).

Should Webb be unable to go, true freshman Patrick Mahomes would get his first career start. Mahomes made his collegiate debut replacing the injured Webb against the Cowboys, completing 2-of-5 passes for 20 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  He also ran seven times for 16 yards, with a long of 14.

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Charges being prepped for suspended UK foursome

Vanderbilt v Kentucky Getty Images

At some point in the very near future, perhaps as early as today, four members of the Kentucky football program will begin their collective journey through the legal system in connection to an incident over the weekend.

Fayette County (Ky.) Attorney Larry Roberts confirmed to the Lexington Herald-Leader that his office is preparing charges against the four freshmen — wide receiver Dorian Baker, running back Stanley Williams (pictured), quarterback Drew Barker, and defensive end Tymere Dubose.  The charges, second-degree disorderly conduct for each, will be filed “as soon as the judge signs them,” Roberts told the Herald-Leader.

The paper writes that the charge “is a class B misdemeanor, covering such things as fighting, making loud noises or creating a hazardous condition” and “is punishable by up to 90 days in jail.”

According to reports, police were called around 9:30 Sunday night to a residence complex on the south end of campus, near the football facilities, after fielding calls about possible shots being fired. UK and Lexington police searched the area for two hours and recovered three airsoft guns.

All four players have been suspended for this weekend’s game against South Carolina.

“We have some good kids that used poor judgment that made a mistake. They know they made a mistake, and they’re being held accountable for it,” head coach Mark Stoops said following Tuesday’s practice. “We tried to address it quickly and decisive. They were wrong.

“Like I said, they’re remorseful. They realize it now. So, we’ve handled it publicly with what I said and internally within our team.”

The losses of Baker and Williams will be the most damaging in the short-term as the latter has 174 yards rushing/receiving and two touchdowns while the former has 11 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown. The other two have not played in a game are expected to redshirt.

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Vols’ WR Josh Smith to miss second straight game

Tennessee v Alabama Getty Images

For the second consecutive game, Tennessee’s receiving corps won’t be at full strength.

Ahead of Saturday’s game against Florida, Josh Smith has already been ruled out because of the dreaded high-ankle sprain.  Smith originally suffered the injury in the Oklahoma loss and didn’t play in the loss to Georgia.

It has previously been reported that Smith could miss up to six weeks, which would sideline him until the Nov. 1 game against South Carolina.

Through three games, Smith was second on the team in catches (10) and receiving yards (135).  He’s still tied for second in the latter category and tied for fourth in the former.

Another receiver dealing with a high-ankle sprain, Von Pearson, “practice a little bit” Tuesday.  His status for the Gator game is up in the air.

Pearson, who has seven catches for 98 yards in two games, has already missed the Oklahoma and Georgia games.

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Michigan not expected to face B1G sanctions

Brady Hoke, Greg Mattison AP

The Shane Morris flap may ultimately play a role on some level in the firing of Brady Hoke, or even his boss, but Michigan’s not expected to garner any punitive action from its conference.

A Big Ten spokesperson confirmed to mlive.com that commissioner Jim Delany, the website wrote, “has been in contact with the university athletic department regarding the football program’s shortcomings in dealing with Morris’ concussion.” Hoke and AD Dave Brandon specifically and the football program and athletic department in general have come under fire ever since the quarterback was put back into the Minnesota game shortly after he sustained what was later determined to be a concussion.

In a statement Tuesday evening, UM president Mark Schlissel admitted that the university “did not get this right and for this I apologize to Shane, his family, his teammates, and the entire Michigan family.”

That said, it doesn’t appear there will be any type of sanctions forthcoming from the conference.

According to [Big Ten associate commissioner of communications Scott] Chipman, no review process exists that enables the league to issue any penalty upon the athletic department or football program.

While the individuals involved have come under significant scrutiny, Hoke has at least one defender in former Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson.

Tuesday night, nearly a 1,000 protesters marched on Schlissel’s home calling for the firing of Brandon.  One UM fan, a law school student, was seen holding a “Fire Brandon” sign while wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt.  Schlissel had released his statement approximately a half-hour before the demonstration landed on his front lawn.

On the other hand, UM’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee — an organization representing all 931 of the school’s student-athletes — issued a statement of support for Brandon.

“As student-athletes, we are confident that each member of the Athletic Department acts with our best interests in mind,” the statement read in part. “We applaud Dave Brandon for upholding the tradition and values of Michigan to the highest standard, encouraging us to be leaders and best in all aspects of life. As such, we fully support our Athletic Director and trust his ability to make decisions for our success and wellbeing.”

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Memphis’ leading rusher lost to season-ending injury

Doroland Dorceus AP

If Memphis is going to make any noise in AAC play this season, it’ll have to do so without the most productive member of its rushing attack.

At his regular Monday press conference, Justin Fuente confirmed the Tigers’ worst fears: running back Doroland Dorceus “will not be with us for the rest of the season.” Dorceus sustained an injury to his right leg in the second quarter of this past weekend’s 24-3 loss to Ole Miss.

Dorceus would not specify the exact nature of the injury, although the speculation is that it’s an ACL issue.

Through four games, Dorceus leads the Tigers with 237 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

With Dorceus sidelined for the final eight games, a heavy portion of the ground game load is expected to fall onto the shoulders of the starter and one of his main backups. Brandon Hayes, who’s started all four games this season, is second on the team with 197 yards, but averages just 4.6 yards per carry, while Jarvis Cooper is third with 130 yards on just 15 carries.

Hayes led the Tigers in 2013 with 860 yards and five touchdowns.

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Thanks to USC’s ‘questionable’ tactics, Beavers down a pair of DTs

Cody Kessler, Jalen Grimble

At Miami, the offensive right tackles have taken a hit.  For Oregon State, it’s the position on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.

Jalen Grimble, the starter at left defensive tackle for the Beavers, sustained a knee injury in the loss to USC this past Saturday.  Grimble is scheduled to undergo surgery next Monday to repair the damage and will be sidelined for a period of 3-4 weeks.

Because of a bye after this Saturday’s game, he could miss just the Colorado (Oct. 4) and Utah (Oct. 16) contests.  If he’s out the full four weeks, he could miss the Oct. 25 Stanford game as well.

The news is not so good for Grimble’s backup, however.

Noke Tago incurred a knee injury in the same game as the starter. Unfortunately, it appears his injury is more serious as defensive coordinator Mark Banker stated it’s likely Tago will be lost for the remainder of the season.

Both of the injuries occurred on chop blocks that weren’t called penalties against the Trojans. USC’s technique was called into question by Banker.

“You don’t know if it was done on purpose or not,” Banker said, “but I just think the technique was questionable. …

“I just hope it wasn’t intended to be an injury.”

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Only a setback will keep UGA’s Malcolm Mitchell from making 2014 debut Sat.

Georgia v Florida Getty Images

Finally, after weeks of speculation and false starts, one of the most talented and experienced members of Georgia’s receiving corps is set to return.  Probably.

Head coach Mark Richt said Tuesday that Malcolm Mitchellwould have to have a setback to not play” in Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. The wide receiver has been sidelined since undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean up some cartilage damage in mid-August.

He’s missed all of UGA’s four games this season.

This latest health issue, which occurred running routes during summer workouts and dragged on far longer than originally anticipated, continues what’s been a long line of injury setbacks for Mitchell, particularly as it relates to the knees.

Mitchell suffered a torn ACL — celebrating a touchdown, no less — in the season-opening loss to Clemson last year.  He was cleared and had been participating — in non-contact fashion — in UGA’s spring practice earlier this year before another leg injury in the first session knocked him out for the remainder of the spring.

Prior to that, he suffered a torn meniscus and had his knee ‘scoped in April of 2013.  But wait, there’s more: he didn’t play in the 2012 opener because of an ankle injury, with a hamstring issue costing him three games the year before.

When healthy, Mitchell is productive, as evidenced by his career totals of 85 catches for 1,237 yards and eight touchdowns.  It’s also evidenced by the fact that, despite missing essentially the entire 2013 season, he was named second-team All-SEC over the summer.

Mitchell’s return is not the only positive receiving news for the Bulldogs as Justin Scott-Wesley is expected to make his 2014 debut against Vandy as well.  In October of last year, Scott-Wesley suffered a torn ACL.  At the time of the injury, he was UGA’s second-leading receiver with 16 catches for 311 yards and two touchdowns.

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