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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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Four new bowls apply for 2015-16 certifications, potentially bringing total to 43

It’s kind of funny, really. The reason given for so long that a College Football Playoff could not exist – eventual bracket creep that would inevitably ruin bowl season – has already consumed the bowl industry.

According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy – the Edward R. Murrow of the bowl industry – the 2015-16 bowl season could have as many as 43 games after Orlando, Fla., Austin, Tex., Tucson, Ariz., and Little Rock, Ark., applied for certifications ahead of the NCAA deadline.

Forty-three bowl games equates to 86 teams. That’s more than two-thirds of FBS membership and well above the number of annual eligible teams based on current qualification standards. “Wednesday was the deadline for cities seeking to add a new bowl. The NCAA will make a decision in a few weeks whether to approve the games,” McMurphy notes.

Added an anonymous source: “As long as the standard to go to a bowl remains 6-6, commissioners will be pressured to have bowl games for all their conference teams to play in. That’s why you keep seeing more and more bowls added.”

The American Athletic Conference is the main source for the push. If each of the new games is approved, McMurphy notes, the AAC will have slots for nine of its 12 teams. So what we’re talking about is games between a 6-6 Temple and a a 6-6 Middle Tennessee.

Two things to note here:

1. Assuming all four games achieve certification that doesn’t necessarily mean there will actually be 43 bowl games following this season. Who’s to say fledgling bowl games in Birmingham or the like are actually coming back?

2. Ultimately, bowl games are exhibitions designed to draw television audiences. They’re TV shows. Those who care will watch and those who don’t will find something else to do. No one’s pointing a gun at anyone’s head here. If you complain about new bowl games while at the same time are not planning on watching the games your complaints are lobbied toward, one can only assume you also gather pitchforks and poster board every time Bravo announces its fall lineup.

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NFL Draft will be without both eligible Heisman Trophy winners

2015 NFL Scouting Combine

There have been years that have seen the NFL Draft have no Heisman Trophy winners attending, but never quite like this.

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has decided he will stay home in Hawaii for the NFL Draft, kindly turning down his invitation to travel to Chicago for the league’s grand event on the offseason calendar. Mariota’s decision comes not too long after Florida State’s Jameis Winston confirmed his intention to stay home in Alabama to watch the NFL Draft near his grandmother, who is unable to travel.

My memory may be a tad foggy at times, but I cannot recall any other year the NFL Draft has seen two Heisman Trophy winners voluntarily skip the draft festivities entirely. Has this ever happened? It is one thing to have no Heisman Trophy winners on hand because the player chose to return to school the following season (or was prevented from turning pro due to league requirements).

The last time a Heisman Trophy winner was not on hand for the NFL Draft was the 2007 NFL Draft when Ohio State’s Troy Smith ended up being drafted in the fifth round. In Smith’s case, the decision may not have been under his control entirely. His stock had dropped significantly following Ohio State’s BCS Championship Game drubbing at the hands of Urban Meyer and his Florida Gators at the end of the 2006 season. Not being invited and passing on an invite are two different things.

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Cincinnati Reds to honor national champion Ohio State

Urban Meyer, Eva Parziale

Baseball season starts up next week, which is one way to pass the time until the start of the new college football season for most around these parts. The Cincinnati Reds have some plans to honor the College Football Playoff national champions from Ohio State. The National League squad will honor the Buckeyes with the first ever Reds Country Athletic Achievement Award during pregame ceremonies at Great American Ball Park and head coach Urban Meyer will toss out the ceremonial first pitch.

In addition to Meyer throwing out the first pitch, members of the team will be on the field to hold a giant American flag during the singing of the National Anthem (which should probably just be performed by The Best Damn Band In The Land). Players and coaches will meet with fans during the first inning of the game and the national championship trophy will make an appearance along with Brutus Buckeye.

This must be a bit of a tough pill to swallow for Cincinnati Bearcat fans looking to enjoy an evening of baseball against the division rival Pittsburgh Pirates, but this is also a good way for Ohio State to continue to establish a presence in Cincinnati. Ohio State may dominate around the state of Ohio, but Cincinnati is still an area that is believed to need some work. But the night will have a charitable cause attached to it as well.

The Reds will donate $1 from each ticket sold to the game to the Urban and Shelley Meyer Fund for Cancer Research. A check for the total raised from ticket sales between now and April 7 will be presented to the Meyers before the start of the game.

Ohio State’s national championship team has already been honored in the state by a professional sports franchise. The Cleveland Cavaliers, with Ohio State fan LeBron James, honored the Buckeyes earlier this offseason. Have the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL done something similar for their college football neighbors?

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NCAA grants Maryland QB Caleb Rowe and 7 Terps medical hardship

Caleb Rowe

Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe was one of eight Terrapins players to receive an extra year of eligibility through a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA. Maryland head coach Randy Edsall announced the eligibility updates on Wednesday.

Others on Maryland’s roster receiving an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA in addition to Rowe, according to The Washington Post, include defensive back Daniel Ezeagwu and Alvin Hill, tight end Andrew Isaacs, defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson, wide receiver Taivon Jacobs, running back Albert Reid and linebacker Cavon Walker.

Rowe tore an ACL last October to bring his 2014 regular season to an early end. Before going down for the year after appearing in four games, Rowe passed for 489 yards and five touchdowns. Rowe will be Maryland’s most experienced quarterback returning in 2015 after C.J. Brown graduated. Maryland went to file for a medical hardship waiver in February for Rowe and other Maryland players.

Rowe is sitting out of spring practices. Running back Wes Brown is also taking it easy this spring while rehabbing from surgery on his torn labrum.

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With Big Ten approval, Jake Rudock takes another step toward Michigan

Jake Rudock

It has long been expected that quarterback Jake Rudock will transfer from Iowa to Michigan. That appears to be moving forward smoothly with reports the Big Ten has approved a waiver to allow Rudock to transfer and play immediately for the Wolverines.

Following up on a previous report that Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz had confirmed Iowa was allowing Rudock a chance to move without hassle, Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports reported this morning (via Twitter) the Big Ten had approved a waiver request from Rudock. Rudock is a grad transfer so typical NCAA transfer rules would not normally come into play for him, but moving to another Big Ten institution tends to be a slightly different story. This will allow Rudock to transfer to another school within the conference and compete right away. Dan Murphy of EPSN later reported (via Twitter) the pending Rudock to Michigan move was coming together and Rudock will be available to play in Ann Arbor this fall.

Rudock visited Michigan earlier this offseason to get a sense of the program, adding a bit more fuel to the rumors he was considering a transfer to Michigan. He has lost his job at Iowa but will be given a fresh chance to compete for a role at Michigan as soon as he transfers. Michigan is searching for a new starting quarterback under new head coach Jim Harbaugh, and Rudock could have as good a chance as any currently enrolled option to win the starting job. It is a wide open competition right now and that should continue into the summer practices leading up to the start of the 2015 season.

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Hawaii does a schedule shuffle with Wisconsin, adds Army

UNLV v Hawaii

Hawaii recently added some new games to the non-conference line-up in the future years down the road, and that required making a few changes to existing contests on the books. The good people of FBSchedules.com (seriously, follow this site for all of your scheduling news) came across a few updates to Hawaii’s future scheduling. Among them was a change in date for a future game against Wisconsin and some additional games.

A game between Hawaii and Wisconsin originally scheduled for September 4, 2021 has been pushed back three years to August 31, 2024. The game will be played in Honolulu, as previously agreed upon. A game in Madison scheduled for September 17, 2022 has not changed.

Hawaii is also adding Army to the schedule with a home-and-home deal in 2022 and 2024. Army will host Hawaii on November 19, 2022. Army will travel to Hawaii on November 30, 2024 to complete the home-and-home arrangement. These games are in addition to a pair of games previously announced for 2018 and 2019.

Earlier this week Hawaii announced a home-and-home deal with Arizona.

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Charges against Alabama’s Jonathan Taylor to be reviewed as accuser jailed for lies to police

Jonathan Taylor

The accuser of Jonathan Taylor, the now former Alabama defensive lineman, has reportedly recanted her story, which will prompt the charges to be reviewed by authorities. Taylor was arrested Saturday on a domestic violence charge, which led to Alabama dismissing the player from the program the following day.

Tuscaloosa Police Department arrested Taylor after an accuser claimed a verbal confrontation between she and Taylor turned physical, which allegedly caused physical harm to the accuser’s neck and apartment property. Per Al.com, the accuser contacted police on Monday to recant her claims and told authorities she lied about some of the details regarding the incident. Police have charged her with false reporting to law enforcement and placed her in a county jail.

Taylor had been dismissed by Georgia last summer following an alleged domestic violence incident. Nick Saban decided to give Taylor a second chance and brought him into the Alabama program in January. Now, Saban has been forced to apologize for the situation. But if the charges are dropped, might there be a possible return to Alabama in the end? Alabama has already come down hard on Taylor, which would seem to make it difficult from a public relations perspective to welcome Taylor back. And that is assuming Taylor would want to return to Alabama.

For now it is simply best to let the legal process play itself out before making any guesses one way or the other.

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ACL injury is second for Arkansas RB Juan Day

Bret Bielema

Coming back from one ACL injury for a running back can be extremely difficult to do. Doing so a second time can be even tougher. Arkansas running back Juan Day will have to do just that.

Yesterday, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema announced Day suffered a torn ACL during the team’s last spring practice prior to spring break. Bielema said Day underwent surgery on Monday and is already focusing on recovery. This is the second time Day has injured his ACL, now with one ACL injury in each knee. His previous injury came in high school and forced him to sit out his senior season.

Due to the injury, Day will be out for the remainder of the spring. It is currently unknown what his status for the 2015 season will be. If rehab goes well, he could be available in time for the fall, but Bielema has a track record of looking out for the best health conditions of his players. This might suggest Day should not be expected to be rushed back to the field if it poses any legitimate threat to his knee.

Arkansas should still be in good shape in the running department without Day, although the depth will take a hit. Last season’s leading rushers, Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, are each back after separate 1,000-yard seasons and 24 combined touchdowns. Day was expected to be the third running back in the offense.

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BYU currently the biggest spring game draw, but not for long

The thick of the college football spring game activity is about to get going in the next few weeks, so these numbers will look much different in a short period of time. But for now, BYU reigns supreme in the world of spring football game attendance.

BYU reported an estimated turnout of 14,000 fans to its recent spring scrimmage. That is more than double what BYU saw for the 2014 spring game, which attracted a reported an estimated 6,500 fans. This also makes BYU the first school to break the 10,000-fan mark this spring, but they will not be the last. BYU more than doubled the turnout for Baylor’s rainy spring scrimmage (5,610) and Vanderbilt’s recent spring scrimmage (5,000). BYU also outdid a couple of other power conference programs; Colorado and Miami.

Here are the updated numbers from schools reporting a spring game attendance.

  1. BYU: 14,000
  2. Baylor: 5,610
  3. Vanderbilt: 5,000
  4. Colorado: 4,100
  5. Miami FL: 3,500
  6. USF: 3,200
  7. Fresno State: 1,500
  8. San Jose State: 500

San Diego State has not replied to a request for an attendance figure or estimate. Texas Tech did not track attendance after moving its scrimmage to another site due to stadium renovations. It is also important to remember these figures are all estimated totals. The odds each of these schools pulled in a total ending in a zero on the nearest hundred or thousand would be pretty unforgiving. We should also remind you each school handles its spring scrimmage differently, with some making more of a big deal of it than others. We will really see that come into play when we start getting totals from schools like Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama and Auburn in the coming weeks.

Navy and North Carolina did not hold a spring game. Duke and Air Force each held a closed scrimmage.

You can view the updated attendance records as they come in and are updated on this Google Doc, which will also break down the spring attendance by conference.

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Former USC Trojan Armstead gets his day in court against school next week

Oregon State v USC

Next week in Los Angeles will mark the beginning of a lawsuit between Armond Armstead against his former university, USC. Armstead accused the school of fraud, concealment and negligence at which he claims deprived him of a chance to play in the NFL.

The lawsuit was filed back in August 2012, but is just now getting ready to head to trial. The Sacramento Bee reports the case is scheduled to begin on April 6.

You may remember Armstead suffered a heart attack back in the spring of 2011. As the season got underway, Armstead’s status was still up in the air and word got out he was considering a transfer after he was given a redshirt for the season. Armstead is accusing the university’s staff of giving him painkillers that led to heart problems and of blocking possible transfers that prevented him from having a chance to play in the NFL.

Of course, Armstead did get his chance to play in the NFL. He was most recently on the roster of the New England Patriots. He was forced to retire from the game last July, well before the Patriots went on their latest Super Bowl run. The reason? More heart problems that surfaced in 2014.

If USC is to blame for Armstead’s health issues, the school will cut a nice check to Armstead. It should also raise awareness of how the medical staff today is handling the health of players, especially when it concerns prescribing and offering pain medication. With schools and conferences taking on more responsibility for player health, issues like this will continue to be a priority. Avoiding future lawsuits of this fashion should be the case as we move forward, whether USC is to blame for Armstead’s heart issues or not.

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Torn ACL sends Auburn cornerback to surgery

Outback Bowl - Auburn v Wisconsin

Auburn’s depth in the defensive backfield took a minor hit on Tuesday. T.J. Davis, who was expected to be competing for a starting job this spring, underwent surgery on a torn ACL.

According to Al.com, Davis suffered the torn ACL two weeks ago.

For now, all that is known is Davis will be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices. His status for the fall is to be determined. It used to be that a torn ACL could keep a player out for a whole year, although sometimes a player can battle back and rehab enough to have a shot to play in the fall if the injury is suffered early enough.

The timeline for Davis and his potential return to the field is far from confirmed at this moment.

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MAC takes stand vs. Indiana religious freedom law, will Big Ten follow?

Indianapolis Reacts To Indiana's Controversial Religious Freedom Act

The state of Indiana is being criticized left and right (well, mostly from the left) for the recent passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The act would allow a business to refuse service to anyone person based solely on religious beliefs, which has been seen as giving the ability to refuse to provide business services to a member of the LGBT community. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s final games being played in Indianapolis this weekend has forced the NCAA to speak out about the act, and now the MAC has joined the chorus of critics of the new state law.

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher says his conference will not hold any meetings or conference championships in the state of Indiana until the law is amended or repealed.

“The Mid-American Conference will not schedule any more meetings or championships in Indiana until this current matter is brought to a sensible and appropriate conclusion,” Steinbrecher said to ESPN.

As far as football is concerned, not much is at stake. The conference typically holds its football conference championship game in Detroit, Michigan. The same goes for the conference’s football media day event. Ball State is the only member of the conference residing in the state of Indiana, which effectively means the school cannot host any other conference championship event sin other sports. This statement will not prevent Ball State from hosting MAC schools in conference competition as part of the regular season scheduling.

As of now, the only thing scheduled by the MAC to take place in Indiana is the annual presidents meetings in January or February of 2016. Those meetings will be held elsewhere if no changes are made to the state laws.

It is good to see the MAC make this statement, but it remains to be seen if the Big Ten will take a similar stand. If it does, the Big Ten could lend an even stronger voice for change to the law considering the financial impact that is attached to the Big Ten’s investment in Indiana, more specifically in Indianapolis. The Big Ten hosts its conference championship game in Indianapolis as well as the men’s basketball tournament on a fairly regular basis (nine times since 2002 and scheduled to return in 2016). The Big Ten also has two members inside the state of Indiana, with plenty of alumni attached to them.

For now the Big Ten has gone so far to publicly state it is reviewing the situation. It has not made any hard decisions one way or the other at this time. All things considered, this is not a terrible decision to make when so much is at stake for the conference and the state. It can sometimes be best to wait to find out all of the information before making any major decisions regarding the future of the conference.

In a world that can be influenced heavily by the opinions and demands of big corporate names and brands, Indiana could be forced to rethink some things if the Big Ten hops aboard with a threat to pull out of the state.

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Following arrest, Alabama dismisses RB Tyren Jones

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

Alabama has dismissed Tyren Jones from the football program after being arrested earlier in the day. The university announced the dismissal early Tuesday evening.

The dismissal of Jones comes just hours after an earlier report of his arrest on Tuesday. Jones was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana. Jones was already serving a team suspension by head coach Nick Saban, who himself has come under fire for some of the decisions revolving around his program’s roster lately.

As previously reported, cornerback Geno Smith was arrested for driving under the influence. This was his second offense in under two years. In addition, defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor, a transfer from Georgia following a similar offense, was arrested following yet a domestic violence incident. Taylor was also removed from the roster by Alabama.

As a freshman in 2014, Jones rushed for 224 yards and two touchdowns for Alabama.

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Bo Pelini fires mild shot at Nebraska AD

Bo Pelini, Dubem Nwadiogbu

Former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini is settling into his new job as head coach of the Youngstown State Penguins. The step down in profile among college coaching jobs is a refreshing change of pace for the hot-tempered Pelini, and it could be just what he needs the most.

Ralph Russo of the Associated Press wrote a solid profile of Pelini today, taking a look at how Pelini is adjusting to the life outside of the bright spotlight that comes with coaching a big time college football program as storied as Nebraska. The pressure may not be quite as high in Youngstown, but it is still a state with tremendous football pride and the job is still similar in many respects.

Coaching’s coaching,” Pelini explained. “This whole step back thing … You coach where you’re coaching. I wouldn’t be opposed to ever coaching high school ball. The challenges are always there. They’re different at different places.”

Pelini also was given a chance to comment on the audio recording of a meeting with Nebraska players Pelini held following his dismissal by the university. In it, Pelini is heard using some strong language and criticizing Nebraska athletics director Shawn Eichorst.

“I think it’s sad that it came out,” Pelini said. “That’s what’s wrong with that place.”

Nebraska and Pelini are going their separate ways now. Pelini has taken his family home to Youngstown, where he will also be charged with resurrecting a once dominant FCS program back to national relevance on an annual basis. Pelini has also added his brother, Carl Pelini, to the coaching staff. Meanwhile, Nebraska moves forward with a new head coach on the opposite polarity of Pelini, former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley.

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Goforth and prosper: UCLA DB granted another year of eligibility

UCLA Virginia Football

It wasn’t all bad news on the personnel front for UCLA Tuesday.

Around the same time he confirmed that wide receiver Devin Lucien will indeed transfer, Jim Mora also confirmed that Randall Goforth has been granted an additional season of eligibility.  The medical waiver was essentially a no-brainer as the safety missed all but the first two games of the 2014 season after undergoing surgery on both of his shoulders.

With the waiver, Goforth will now be eligible for both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

Goforth started all 13 games in 2013, finishing second on the team with three interceptions and fourth with 78 tackles.  He started both games in which he played in 2014.

Expected to be the starter again in 2015, Goforth is nonetheless in non-contact mode this spring as he continues to recover from the two shoulder surgeries.

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