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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Heisman Watch List

Heisman Trophy

And now we come to one of the most fruitless and frustrating portions of preview season: the preseason Heisman watch list.

Last year around this time, Johnny Manziel, fresh off becoming the first freshman to ever claim the Heisman, was being viewed as the co-favorite to become just the second-ever to stake his claim to a pair of stiff-armed trophies. AJ McCarron, still basking in the glow of becoming the first starting quarterback with back-to-back BCS title-game wins, was viewed as a potential challenger to Johnny Football. So too were Braxton Miller, Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater and a whole host of other players.

And then, of course, Jameis Winston happened. A 35-1 longshot last August, Winston went on to claim the 2013 Heisman in near-record fashion, joining Manziel as the only freshmen to win the award.

Winston, as you can expect, will be the favorite heading into the 2014 season. Is there, though, another Jameis out there this year? Let’s take a snapshot look at the reigning winner as well as 20 players, in alphabetical order so as not to (gasp!) offend anyone, who could snatch the trophy from the preseason front-runner.

JAMEIS WINSTON, FLORIDA STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 257-of-384 passing (66.9%) for 4,057 yards, 40 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 88 carries for 219 yards (2.8 yards per carry) and four touchdowns
QUICK HIT: There’s really not much to say here that hasn’t already been said.  Winston was the best player in college football last season, and also happened to play on the best team for good measure.  He’s lost a couple of weapons, but twice as many returned to go along with the obligatory growth of some of the younger skill players who should see their roles expand in 2014.  Also remember that Winston was in his first year as a starter; if his skill-set makes even a nominal jump, look out Archie Griffin… especially if he can avoid the negative off-field headlines.

AMEER ABDULLAH, NEBRASKA, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 281 carries for 1,690 yards (6.0 ypc) and nine touchdowns; 26 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Unbeknownst to quite a number of people I’d suspect, Abdullah, not Melvin Gordon (see below) or anyone else, led the Big Ten in rushing last season.  As you can see by his receiving numbers, he’s quite adept at coming out of the backfield as well.  If you’re looking for a Heisman darkhorse, you could do worse than focusing on Abdullah as he will be the focal point of the Cornhuskers’ offense yet again..

RAKEEM CATO, MARSHALL, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 298-of-499 passing (59.7 %) for 3,916 yards, 39 touchdowns, nine interceptions; 99 carries for 294 yards (3.0 ypc) and six touchdowns
QUICK HIT: The first of two players on this list from non-Power Five conferences, and the one who has the best chance of crashing the December New York City Heisman party as a finalist.  The 2013 stats speak for themselves, and should do nothing but improve in 2014.  What separates Cato from the rest of the “have-not” pack is his team: there’s a very good chance that Cato and the Herd roll through the regular season unbeaten, and do so very, very easily.  Will the fact that exactly zero of the 12 opponents come from Power Five conferences impact Cato’s chances?  Possibly, but if the quarterback jabs voters in the face with a left-right combo of stats and team success, they won’t have a choice but to pay attention.

MIKE DAVIS, SOUTH CAROLINA, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 203 carries for 1,183 yards (5.8 ypc) and 11 touchdowns; 34 receptions for 352 yards
QUICK HIT: One of the most underrated players in the country at any position, Davis will get the opportunity, especially early on, to carry more of the offensive workload as Dylan Thompson establishes his footing as the full-time starter for the first time.  As with Abdullah, his work in the passing game is an overlooked facet that provides an extra dimension for his offense — and another consideration for voters.

MELVIN GORDON, WISCONSIN, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 206 carries for 1,609 yards (7.8 ypc) and 12 touchdowns; one reception for 10 yards
QUICK HIT: Gordon may not have led his conference in rushing as mentioned earlier, but he did lead the country in yards per carry for those backs with at least 200 carries.  In fact, he was one of just two running backs in the country who had 200-plus carries and averaged over seven yards a carry, with the other being Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde (7.3).  With running mate James White (1,444 yards, 13 touchdowns) off to the NFL, the path is cleared for Gordon to double-up on his 2013 production — and I’m only slightly exaggerating.

TODD GURLEY, GEORGIA, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 165 carries for 989 yards (6.0 ypc) and 10 touchdowns; 37 receptions for 441 yards and six touchdowns
QUICK HIT: An injury cost this Bulldog three games in the month of October.  When healthy — and he’s expected to be just that to start the season — he’s arguably the most talented back in the country.  Add in Georgia being one of a handful of SEC teams breaking in new quarterbacks, and Gurley should be at or near the top of most Heisman watch lists throughout the season.

CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG, PENN STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 231-of-392 passing (58.9%) for 2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 49 carries for -68 yards (-1.9 ypc) and four touchdowns
QUICK HIT: One of just two true sophomores on this list, Hackenberg flourished under QB guru Bill O’Brien.  With O’Brien off to the NFL, how will Hackenberg handle new head coach James Franklin and an entirely different offensive system?  Based on watching a kid who just oozes talent and confidence, I’m guessing he’ll adapt just fine, thank you very much.

BRETT HUNDLEY, UCLA, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 248-of-369 passing (67.2%) for 3,071 yards, 24 touchdowns, nine interceptions; 160 carries for 748 yards (4.7 ypc) and 11 touchdowns; one reception for seven yards and a touchdown
QUICK HIT: All Hundley has done in two seasons as the Bruins’ starter is throw for over 6,800 yards and 53 touchdowns, all while completing a ridiculous 67-percent of his passes (nearly).  Oh, and he’s added more than 1,100 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns on the ground for good measure.  If he’d have been putting up those numbers for a team that played in a conference east of the Mississippi, you could be looking at the biggest challenger to Winston’s crown.  Instead, you’re looking at a player still fighting for the respect he richly deserves.  Hopefully voters look west and beyond their narrow focus on a certain Duck if Hundley continues to put up the numbers he has.

MYLES JACK, UCLA, LB/RB
2013 STAT LINE: 75 tackles, 11 passes defensed, two interceptions, one return touchdown; 38 carries for 269 yards (7.0 ypc) and seven touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Jack is the other of the two true sophomores.  As a true freshman, he was a two-way highlight machine, finishing fifth on the Bruins in tackles while landing behind only Hundley in rushing touchdowns.  If Jack goes both ways again this year — and that appears to be the plan — and does it all season, there’s little doubt he’ll be on the tip of many a Heisman voter’s tongue come November.

DUKE JOHNSON, MIAMI, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 145 carries for 920 yards (6.3 ypc) and six touchdowns; four receptions for 77 yards; 14 kick returns for 396 yards (28.3 yards per return)
QUICK HIT: A devastating ankle injury cost Johnson the final five games of last season and sidelined him for all of spring practice as well.  Johnson, at 100-percent, can put scores on the board rushing, receiving and in the kick-return game.  A healthy Johnson will be a factor in both the ACC and Heisman races, especially given the very unsettled nature of The U’s quarterback situation.

CHUCKIE KEETON, UTAH STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 136-of-196 passing (69.4%) for 1,388 yards, 18 touchdowns, two interceptions; 55 carries for 241 yards (4.4 ypc) and two touchdowns
QUICK HIT: The second of just two non-Power Five conference players on the list.  Also one of the ones coming off a significant injury, one suffered in the sixth game of the year that cost the Aggie senior more than half the season.  If he can get back to the form he displayed in 2012… if USU can maintain its presence as a 10-win(ish) mid-major… if he can put on a show in Knoxville against Tennessee in the opener… if those three things take place, you never know.  Watching a potential mid-major between Keeton and Cato develop would be fascinating, though.

TAYLOR KELLY, ARIZONA STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 302-of-484 (63.4%) for 3,635 yards, 28 touchdowns, 12 interceptions; 173 carries for 608 yards (3.5 ypc) and nine touchdowns
QUICK HIT: If I were a gambling man, I’d bet you I’d put a little bit of money on Mr. Kelly and his 100/1 odds for the 2014 Heisman.  Call it a hunch.  Kelly has been flying underneath the national radar the last two seasons; entering his third year as a starter, he’s ready to break out and become a household name.  Again, a hunch.

TREVOR KNIGHT, OKLAHOMA, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 79-of-134 passing (59%) for 819 yards, nine touchdowns, five interceptions; 67 carries for 445 yards (6.6 ypc) and two touchdowns
QUICK HIT: This one may be the first real stretch in the group, so much so that I think I just felt something pop.  Which Knight will show up this year, the one who had issues hanging on to the job in his first season as a starter or the one that torched Alabama for 348 yards passing and four touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl?  From this vantage point, I’ll say somewhere in between, with a big jump the deeper we get into 2014 and on into the 2015 season.

SEAN MANNION, OREGON STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE:
QUICK HIT: One of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country statistically in 2013, Mannion was hamstrung by one simple fact — his seven-win Beavers were just a fair-to-middling squad.  If OSU can get closer to 10 wins than five, and Mannion can put up similar numbers — won’t be easy with the loss of Brandin Cooks — he should be on the radar through October and on into November.

MARCUS MARIOTA, OREGON, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 245-of-386 passing (63.5%) for 3,665 yards, 31 touchdowns; four interceptions; 96 carries for 715 yards (7.4 ypc) and nine touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Simply put, Mariota is one of the best — THE best in my opinion — quarterbacks in college football.  You’ve heard all of the well-deserved superlatives, so there’s no need for me to drop to my knees as well.  He’ll be a factor in the Heisman race from Game 1 through Game 12 and on into the Ducks’ (expected) appearance in the Pac-12 championship game.

NICK MARSHALL, AUBURN, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 142-of-239 passing (59.4%) for 1,976 yards, 14 touchdowns, six interceptions; 172 carries for 1,068 yards (6.2 ypc) and 12 touchdowns; one reception for 35 yards
QUICK HIT: Marshall’s first season as a starter wasn’t statistically overwhelming, but it was deadly in its efficiency.  Marijuana citation aside, Marshall is said to have had a very good offseason, improving his throwing mechanics and becoming more and more comfortable in Gus Malzahn‘s offense.  If true, and if the passing aspect of his game improves, that could prove to be bad news for the SEC in general and the West specifically.

BRAXTON MILLER, OHIO STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 162-of-255 passing (63.5%) for 2,094 yards, 24 touchdowns, seven interceptions; 171 carries for 1,068 yards (6.2 ypc) and 12 touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Miller improved in nearly every statistical category in his third season as a starter.  Entering his fourth year, it’s time for the 2013 preseason Heisman favorite to take the next step, which means becoming more of a passing quarterback and less of a running one.  A greater threat in the passing game while maintaining the “holy crap, he may take off” aspect of his run threat would prove to be a lethal combination that not many quarterback’s possess — and not many coordinators would stand a chance of counteracting.

TY MONTGOMERY, STANFORD, WR
2013 STAT LINE: 61 receptions for 958 yards (15.7 ypc) and 10 touchdowns; 36 kick returns for 1,091 yards (30.3 ypr)
QUICK HIT: Montgomery’s long-shot candidacy may have suffered a fatal blow before it even started as shoulder surgery leaves him questionable for the first two games of the year.  One missed game would all but end the candidacy; two missed games would kill it for a receiver.  Still, I felt, given the immense two-way talent Montgomery is, he at least deserved a mention.

BRYCE PETTY, BAYLOR, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 250-for-403 passing (62%) for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns, three interceptions; 94 carries for 209 yards (2.2 ypc) and 14 touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Along with Winston, Miller and Mariota, Petty is widely viewed as a quarter of the four-headed Heisman favorite.  While the passing yards and touchdowns certainly catch the eye, the fact that Petty threw just three picks in 403 attempts is enough to drop the jaw to the floor.  Art Briles‘ system just chugs along — at warp speed — year after year; don’t expect anything to change in Petty’s second year as the Bears’ triggerman.

KEENAN REYNOLDS, NAVY, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 68-of-128 passing (53.1%) for 1,057 yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions; 300 carries for 1,346 yards (4.5 ypc) and 31 touchdowns
QUICK HIT: How could you not put a player like Reynolds on a list like this?  Yes, the Midshipmen have somewhat of a penchant for running the ball and utter disdain for throwing it, which means Reynolds won’t have the gaudy passing stats that catch a voter’s attention the way a set of jingling keys catches a toddler’s.  Still, any player with 31 rushing touchdowns — 31!!!!!! — in a single season deserves a shout-out.  Especially one who comes from one of our nation’s great service academies.

T.J. YELDON, ALABAMA, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 207 carries for 1,235 yards (6.0 ypc) and 14 touchdowns; 20 receptions for 183 yards
QUICK HIT: This bruising back has it all: speed, power, change of direction and surprisingly soft hands for a man his size.  He’s everything Nick Saban wants in a running back.  What he doesn’t have?  Sole ownership of the Tide’s running game load, the kind of ownership that would allow him to put up eye-catching numbers, because of the presence of Derrick Henry.  The reality is Henry is too good of a back and too much of a weapon to not utilize, which means Yeldon could still be one of the most Heisman-worthy players in the country and not have the stats to show it.  Such is life on Five-Star Island.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Michigan student petition for firing of AD Brandon has 3,167 signatures and counting

Notre Dame v Michigan

Michigan students are doing their part to have their voices heard this week with regard to the handling of the football program. On Monday the student newspaper called for head coach Brady Hoke to lose his job. Today a petition demanding the athletics director Dave Brandon to be relieved of duties is gaining traction as well. As of this posting, over 3,100 students had signed the petition.

As summarized by the online petition, Brandon stated “athletic programs play [a role] in helping to shape the culture and image of our university community.” The petition then states the following;

“Unfortunately, under Mr. Brandon’s tenure, the football program, one of the most prominent programs at the University of Michigan and in the nation, has become a black eye for the University of Michigan. Instead of adding to the image and prestige of the university, the state of the athletic department has hurt the connection shared between alumni, fans, and the university. Furthermore, policies and decisions of the athletic department have alienated the current student body. As a result, the university risks producing a generation of alumni that are disinterested and disengaged. Finally, President Mark Schlissel previously stated that one draw of the athletic program is to provide an avenue for “public attention on to the other wonderful things that are happening on campus…” When the athletic department produces overwhelmingly negative media attention, it distracts from the main mission of the university.”

Brandon released a statement in the middle of the night addressing the handling and response to the injury to quarterback Shane Morris. It raised some questions while providing reason for the mishandling of the situation from the top down on the sidelines.

It is probably not likely Brandon will lose his job over this, but the reaction is fair for the most part. There is no question this has been mismanaged from all angles, but will ultimately take responsibility for the actions or lack thereof?

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Doeren issues apology to Fisher for faking injury accusation

Jimbo Fisher, Dave Doeren

NC State head coach Dave Doeren took a shot at Florida State following Saturday’s defeat to the top-ranked team in the nation. Doeren made the accusation Florida State players were faking injuries in an attempt to slow down the tempo of the game, which saw the Wolfpack give Florida State’s defense all it could handle. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher took exception to those remarks and responded by suggesting took exception to those remarks and responded by suggesting Doeren had no clue what he was talking about, and that he should worry about coaching NC State instead.

On Tuesday Doeren issued a public statement saying he has apologized to Fisher for his remarks. The statement was released via Twitter.

As suggested yesterday, it is rare to see one of the top teams in the country accused of faking injuries to slow down the opponent’s momentum. Florida State was already facing some injury depth concerns on the defensive line, so it is reasonable to expect some players slowing down at some point, but there is not much evidence to suggest Florida State was faking any injuries along the way.

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Texas Tech QB Webb is day-to-day

Davis Webb

Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb is day-to-day for the Red Raiders heading into this weekend’s game against Kansas State. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury provided that update Monday during a Big 12 coaches conference call. Webb injured his left shoulder in a Thursday night loss at Oklahoma State last week, but Kingsbury is not ruling out his possible return this weekend on the road in Manhattan.

“Just make sure he can protect himself, really, and operate at a level we need him to operate,” Kingsbury said, according to The Dallas Morning News,  when asked what needed to happen for Webb to return to the field to play this weekend. “But more than anything, that he can handle taking a hit and protect himself.”

Webb was sacked just once by Oklahoma State on Thursday night, but he did take a beating at times. Webb had 54 passing attempts and three rushes. He was intercepted twice and fumbled once, but the fumble was recovered by Texas Tech. Ball protection will be important for Webb moving forward.

“That’s two weeks in a row we’ve given a very good football team the ball inside our own 15, and they’ve scored on all four of those chances, so that’s the biggest deal,” Kingsbury said Monday. “We’re not protecting the ball against quality opponents. You’ve got to do that to win.”

Kansas State enters this weekend’s game with Texas Tech with a -2 turnover margin. The only two teams in the Big 12 with a worse turnover margin are Texas Tech and West Virginia. The Red Raiders and Mountaineers each have a -5 turnover margin.

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Urban Meyer says Braxton Miller will be back in 2015

Wisconsin v Ohio State

Ohio State looks like they are going to survive the 20145 season without Braxton Miller at quarterback. After a rough start to the season with a tough test at Navy and a home loss to Virginia Tech, tough test at Navy and a home loss to Virginia Tech, J.T. Barrett has grown and the Buckeyes offense has been playing well. Ohio State still looks like a team capable of winning the Big Ten this season, if they can get by Michigan State later in the season. Whatever happens this season, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer remains confident he will have Miller back under center in 2015.

“Braxton is our quarterback,” Meyer said Monday, per ESPN.com. “To be fair to Braxton, Big Ten Player of the Year. But it’s good to know we’ve got both of them.”

Miller was lost for the season with a right shoulder (his throwing shoulder) injury in the weeks leading up to the start of the regular season. The shoulder was initially hurt during Ohio State’s Orange Bowl loss to Clemson. Miller had surgery that went well and could be on track to return for Ohio State in 2015, which he has stated is his plan. The NFL could also come calling for Miller, but with a shoulder injury it may be better to come back in 2015 and show the shoulder is healed and good to go. Otherwise, Miller would be considered a huge draft risk for any franchise looking for a quarterback. A healthy 2015 season could move Miller up the big boards.

And if Miller returns for 2015, Ohio State could once again start the year with playoff expectations.

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Michigan AD admits lack of communication regarding Shane Morris concussion, but statement raises more questions

Brady Hoke, Devin Gardner, Shane Morris

Michigan’s lack of communication on the sideline led to the mishandling of a head injury to quarterback Shane Morris on Saturday. As it turns out, Morris did suffer a concussion to go with a high ankle sprain. Michigan athletics director Dave Brandon says he has been thoroughly reviewing the situation the past few days and admits to a “serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline.”

“Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes,” Brandon said in the Michigan statement released overnight. “I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made. We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first.”

Morris was on the receiving end of a big hit from Minnesota defensive end Theiren Cockran. The hit appeared to leave Morris wobbly, but the quarterback appeared to wave off trainers for assistance and remained on the field. During his Monday press conference, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke suggested that “tells you something” about the competitive nature of the player. Hoke said he did not see the hit and believed Morris was playing through pain in his ankle, which was injured earlier in the game. He was cleared to play through the ankle injury by medical staff at the time. The statement from Michigan released overnight states nobody on the Michigan sideline saw the hit to Morris, which led to the lack of response for care for possible head trauma.

“We now understand that, despite having the right people on the sidelines assessing our student-athletes’ well being, the systems we had in place were inadequate to handle this unique and complex situation properly,” Brandon said. “From the field level and without the benefit of replays, medical and coaching staffs did not see the hit. Because they did not see the hit, the athletic training staff believed Shane stumbled because of his ankle injury.”

Brandon said a team neurologist did not see the hit on Morris but did not notice the stumbling on the field. He determined Morris needed to be evaluated but because he did not see the hit he was unaware of the severity of the possible injury. Because he did not see the hit, the medical trainer cleared Morris to return to the field after just one play, which is what led to the whole mess blowing up in Michigan’s face the past few days.

Michigan’s statement does have some clarity and does explain how something like this could happen. If legit, it also raises some more questions. How did Brady Hoke not become aware of any of this internal reviewing when he went out for his Monday press conference? During his press conference on Monday Hoke said if not for the high ankle injury, Morris would have practiced with the team Sunday night. According to the Michigan statement, Morris was diagnosed with a mild concussion on Sunday. Did Hoke know that? If not, then why not? Hoke is still responsible for the actions of the football staff, including to a certain degree the medical staff. This does not clear Hoke entirely from guilt, but if we are to take this Michigan statement as the full and accurate explanation for what unfolded, Michigan left Hoke out to dry.

You can read the full statement from Brandon on Michigan’s website.

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Unauthorized selfies lead to Todd Gurley being falsely accused of punching Georgia student

Todd Gurley

At 3:18 a.m. Sunday morning, a 20-year-old Georgia student stood in his apartment and told police he had been punched by Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley. Police, however, had reviewed footage from Bourbon Street Bar and Grill and told the student that was impossible, because the person who punched him was white.

Strange as that is, it is not the strangest part of this story.

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, the whole thing started when the student began taking unauthorized selfies with Gurley in the background. The student then began getting pushed by what Gurley described as “other guys”, and the student lost his hat in the process. Gurley reached down to retrieve it, and the student repaid that kindness by tossing a racial epithet his way.

It was then that the unidentified white male punched the student, who was then ejected from the bar.

The Banner-Herald‘s report then offers this glorious sentence: “The student admitted he’d had been drinking that night, but contended he was not drunk, according to police.”

After an interview with police, Gurley has officially been cleared of all wrongdoing.

“In consideration of all the information, to include statements and video recordings from the incident location, Todd Gurley’s involvement in this report is unfounded,” the detective wrote in a supplemental report. “Based also on the information … I was able to see clearly that Todd Gurley had no involvement in this case other than trying to give an individual his hat back.”

Earlier that day, Gurley had rushed 28 times for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns while also catching four passes for 30 yards in Georgia’s 35-32 win over Tennessee, so he presumably followed up his early-morning altercation with some well-earned sleep.

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Hey Kansas, Ed Orgeron wants to be your next head coach

Ed Orgeron

Kansas is without a head coach. College football’s favorite coaching free agent, former USC defensive line coach-turned-interim head coach Ed Orgeron, is without a job.

Let’s make it happen, Jayhawks.

“It’s a Power Five (job),” Orgeron told George Schroeder of USA Today at a speaking engagement Monday in Little Rock, Ark. “(Mark) Mangino went 12-1 and went to the Orange Bowl. It’s in a great conference. His staff proved that you can do it.”

When asked if he really wanted to be Kansas’ fourth head coach seven years, Orgeron was undeterred.

“It’s a challenging job,” he said. “But most jobs you get, there’s gonna be some things you’re gonna have to fix.”

The popular longtime assistant holds a 16-27 career record as a head coach – 10-25 at Ole Miss from 2005-07, and 6-2 on an interim basis at USC last season. He believes the second job is more indicative of his ability as a head coach than the first. “I believe I put my résumé out on the TV those last eight games,” Orgeron said. “They know who I am and what I’ve done.”

Orgeron credits his success at USC with loosening the atmosphere inside Heritage Hall following Lane Kiffin’s ouster, famously putting cookies on the training table and pitting position groups against each other in tug of war. “Play with energy. Have fun. Loosen up,” Oregon said.

Kansas still has eight games to play before it can officially bring in a new coach, but Orgeron has nothing but time on his hands to watch football. He’ll be watching, and he’ll be ready.

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Former UCF DC Paul Ferraro accuses George O’Leary of racist remarks in wrongful termination suit

St. Louis Rams 2009 Headshots

Paul Ferraro worked under George O’Leary as Central Florida’s defensive coordinator for approximately two months this winter. According to a lawsuit Ferraro filed on Friday, those had to be the worst two months of his three-decade career.

Hired in late December and gone by early March, Ferraro is accusing O’Leary of racist remarks and creating a work environment “permeated by bullying, threatening behavior, and repeated discriminatory epithets.” He accuses O’Leary of referring to the NFL as “one big ‘Ru-Ru’ tribe” and encouraging his assistants to “make sure (African-American players’) gums are blue, because they are bigger and stronger than (African-American players) with red gums,” according to a copy of the suit obtained by USA Today.

“No longer will I put up with your constant verbal abuse of both our coaching and support staff,” Ferraro emailed to O’Leary while copying the coaching staff. “Threatening coaches on a regular basis with their jobs and racial slurs mixed in to make a point is wrong.”

For its part, UCF is denying everything.

“UCF immediately investigated the allegations Mr. Ferraro made when he abruptly abandoned his job,” UCF vice president of communications and marketing Grant Heston emailed USA Today. “The university’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office found the allegations to be untrue.

“None of the individuals alleged to have been the subject of, or to have overheard, these supposed statements corroborated Mr. Ferraro’s claims. In fact, until seeking compensation after abandoning his job, it does not appear he ever discussed this with anyone at UCF.”

Translation: “This dude is making the entire thing up.”

Of course, the basis for all of this is money. The school claims Ferraro resigned, and Ferraro claims he was fired without cause. He thinks he is owed $15,000 in salary on the two-year, $440,000 contract he signed. UCF maintains it has paid Ferraro what he is owed.

Ferraro claims he because he “wanted to return to work in an environment free from O’Leary’s bullish and discriminatory tactics and that he did not and was not resigning.”

And around and around we go.

This is the type of suit that had better be true, otherwise Ferraro has damned his former boss to a lifetime of search returns pairing “O’Leary” with “racist”, all in the name of a money grab. In the always-online culture we live in, that’s (allegedly) one of the sorriest stunts a person can pull.

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Kentucky suspends four players for airsoft gun incident, police action pending

Ohio v Kentucky

Well, this got out of hand.

Kentucky has suspended four freshmen – wide receiver Dorian Baker, running back Stanley “Boom” Williams, quarterback Drew Barker, and defensive end Tymere Dubose – for a Sunday evening airsoft pellet gun incident that ended with Lexington police shutting down campus.

“Proper conduct is emphasized as a core value of our program,” head coach Mark Stoops said in a statement. “If we have a situation in which someone who does not act according to our standards, we hold him accountable.”

This story doesn’t end there, though. The chief of the University of Kentucky police department will meet with the Fayette County Attorney’s office Tuesday to “determine what next steps need to be taken” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

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.

“We absolutely respect being part of a wonderful campus community,” added AD Mitch Barnhart. “It disappoints us when one of our student-athletes does not live up to our expectations. We respect the process of the University and are working hand-in-hand with the campus community on this issue.”

Williams has produced 174 yards and two touchdowns on 21 touches from scrimmage, and Baker has collected 11 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown. Barker and Dubose are expected to redshirt.

All four will miss Kentucky’s date with South Carolina on Saturday. With the amount of eye rolling and hand wringing a suspension like this is sure to inspire, you half expect Saturday’s official roster to list these four as “Suspended: SMH.”

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John Harbaugh speaks, wants Brady Hoke to remain Michigan’s head coach

John Harbaugh

Straight from the desk of the “What would you expect him to say?” department, active Baltimore Ravens coach and Michigan alum John Harbaugh denied having any interest held by active Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. A report emerged Monday morning saying the same thing, but now we have the quote straight from the horse’s mouth.

Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun that he “really didn’t know why” speculation linked he and his brother Jim to the job, which, c’mon coach, you can’t play that dumb. But he did speak for his brother in stating that they both hoped Hoke turned things around and finished the year successfully.

“Brady Hoke is a guy that we all believe in. The Harbaughs believe in Brady Hoke. He’s a great coach. He believes in Michigan. I believe in what they’re doing there. I think they’re going to get it turned around,” he told the paper. “The team should be galvanized right now. They should be like lions. I’m interested in Brady Hoke being the coach at Michigan for a long time coming.”

Coaches aren’t fond of displaying interest in other coaches’ jobs, especially before the calendar even hits October, and especially when that coach is speaking about a school where his father worked, his brother played, and he spent his high school years going to school nearby. Add in the fact that Harbaugh and Hoke worked together at Western Michigan from 1984-86 and describe themselves as friends and there was no way Harbaugh was going to provide anything other than a flat refusal.

And then, of course, there is the likely option that Harbaugh is telling the unvarnished truth. He’s entrenched into a job that pays him $6.5 million through 2017, is fresh off a recent Super Bowl victory, and is off to a 3-1 start this season. He has plenty of reasons to stay right where he is and watch the maize and blue bonfire that is the current state of Michigan football from afar.

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Yale receives national honor for overtime defeat of Army

The best game you didn’t see on Saturday took place in New Haven, Conn.

Yale defeated Army, 49-43 in overtime, at the Yale Bowl, giving the Bulldogs a 2-0 start to the season and their first victory over the Black Knights since 1955. With the win, Yale was honored as the Football Writers Association of America’s “National Team of the Week” award on Monday.

“For the second week in a row, it wasn’t pretty, but the perseverance of these guys came through,” said Yale head coach Tony Reno. “We continue to follow the process, taking it one play at a time. This is an incredible group of young men that has limitless potential.”

The Bulldogs and Black Knights combined for 1,222 yards of total offense and 7.18 yards per play on  170 total snaps. Quarterbacks Angel Santiago (6-of-8 passing for 117 yards, eight rushes for 88 yards and two touchdowns) and A.J. Schurr (6-of-12 passing for 94 yards and a score, 15 rushes for 135 yards and another touchdown) paved the way for Army, while Yale quarterback Morgan Roberts threw for 290 yards and a touchdown with an interception while adding 67 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and running back Tyler Varga rushed 28 times for 185 yards and a school-record-tying five touchdowns.

Army took a 28-14 lead just 88 seconds into the second half after Jeremy Timpf returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown, but the Bulldogs battled back to tie the game at 36-36 and again at 43-43 on Varga’s third and fourth scoring dashes.

After a missed field goal in the top of the first overtime by Army kicker Daniel Grochowski, Varga’s fifth touchdown, a three-yard plunge, gave Yale the win – and the Ivy League’s first win over an FBS opponent since Penn topped Navy 30-26 in 1986.

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Jimbo Fisher: FSU did not fake injuries vs. NC State

Jimbo Fisher, Dave Doeren

Florida State was given a good scare by North Carolina on Saturday, but the Seminoles managed to respond and get out of town with another victory to keep their unbeaten streak alive. North Carolina State head coach Seminoles managed to respond and get out of town with another victory to keep their unbeaten streak alive. North Carolina State head coach Dave Doeren accused Florida State of faking injuries in Saturday’s game in Raleigh.

“The tempo we had (in the first quarter) was working until all the crazy fall down things were going on and the clock kept stopping,” Doeren said, according to The Rocky Mountain Telegram. “You know the refs can’t do anything about that, but it’s horrible the way the tempo gets slow downed by these injuries. We went fast in the first-quarter, I guess there were no fake injuries.”

On Monday, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher fired back.

“I accuse him of not knowing what he’s talking about,” Fisher said Monday, according to The Orlando Sentinel. “We did not fake injuries, no one fakes injuries. We’ll coach Florida State, he can coach North Carolina State.”

NC State ran 87 plays (50 pass plays, 37 rushing attempts) against Florida State and controlled the football for nearly 32 and a half minutes. Florida State ran 71 plays on offense.

The topic of teams faking injuries is nothing new in college football, but it is not often you see one of the top-ranked teams in the country be on the receiving end of such criticism. Doeren is probably misguided in thinking Florida State felt a need to stoop to that level, given the overall athleticism of the roster on both sides of the football.

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Report: Oklahoma transfer QB Mayfield’s appeal denied

Baker Mayfield

Quarterback Baker Mayfield will not play this season for Oklahoma after having an appeal for immediate eligibility denied. According to a report by The Oklahoman, the Texas Tech transfer had his appeal denied by the NCAA and Big 12.

Per the report by The Oklahoman, Big 12 transfer rules for players moving from one Big 12 school to the other will actually cost Mayfield a year of eligibility despite his status as a walk-on player at both Texas Tech and Oklahoma. Mayfield transferred from Texas Tech after being informed by head coach Kliff Kingsbury the Red Raiders would be going in a different direction at quarterback this fall.

There was some confusion last week regarding Mayfield’s transfer status. One report suggested Mayfield’s appeal had been approved, which would make him eligible to play for Oklahoma this season (assuming there was a need; Trevor Knight is clearly the team’s quarterback in Norman).Trevor Knight is clearly the team’s quarterback in Norman). There was also talk of Mayfield being able to retain a year of eligibility, but the latest now seems to suggest those talks did not pan out as Oklahoma and Mayfield would have hoped.

This latest news is adding more fuel to the fire regarding the transfer rules. Should schools be allowed to prevent a player from moving to another school, regardless of conference affiliation? Should conferences be allowed to force a player to lose a year of eligibility under these situations?

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LSU names Brandon Harris starting QB vs. Auburn

New Mexico State v LSU

In a blowout win against New Mexico State, LSU quarterback Brandon Harris appeared to show some promise as LSU’s quarterback. He will be put to the test this weekend in a night game against the defending SEC champions. LSU head coach Les Miles named Harris LSU’s starting quarterback for this weekend’s road game at Auburn, a primetime match-up in the vaunted SEC West.

Harris completed 11 of 14 pass attempts for 178 yards and three touchdowns in LSU’s 63-7 against New Mexico State. He also rushed for 36 yards and two more touchdowns. This performance came a week after coming in against Mississippi State and generating some offense, completing six of nine pass attempts for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Harris may have entered the game too late for LSU to avoid a home upset by the visiting Bulldogs, but Miles will hope having Harris on the field from the start in another crucial SEC West battle will give his team the bets chance to win.

Anthony Jennings started the season for LSU and he has struggled along the way to find any consistency. Against Wisconsin in week one, Jennings was 9-of-21 for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Against Mississippi State, Jennings was 13-of-26 for 157 yards without a touchdown. He will now take on a back-up role for the Tigers.

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USF adds 3 games with Texas and BYU home-and-home

South Florida v Wisconsin Getty Images

The USF Bulls have been busy putting together some future opponents. USF has added a three-game series with Texas and a home-and-home series with BYU to fill some dates between 2019 and 2024.

As originally reported by Brett McMuprhy of ESPN, via Twitter, USF and BYU will play their home-and-home series in 2021 and 2022, although which school hosts which year was not confirmed. As of now, BYU already has two home games scheduled in 2021, against Arizona State and Boise State. The Cougars are set to visit USC as well. BYU only has two games scheduled for 2022, with road games at Boise State and Stanford.

USF will make two trips to Texas as part of the three-game package deal. The Bulls will visit Austin in 2019 and 2024. Texas will make the trip to Tampa in 2022. This will mark the first games between the two schools, unless they happen to collide in a postseason game between now and 2019. Texas has never played a game in Tampa. The last time the Longhorns played a game in the state of Florida was in 2007, a regular season game at UCF.

Texas is 4-2 all-time in games played in Florida. The only regular season loss came in a 1973 meeting at Miami, but the Longhorns also left Florida with a loss in the 1974 Gator Bowl (to Auburn). Two of the wins came in the Orange Bowl, in 1965 against Alabama and in 1949, against Georgia.

This game offers both schools a chance to expand on the recruiting trail. USF obviously should benefit from being in the state of Florida, but another reason to make a connection in Texas (along with conference rivals in Houston and SMU) is always a good thing. Texas also gets a chance to make a pitch to Florida prospects. Both states are rich with football talent, and both programs are in need of all the talent they can find.

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