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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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Season-ending injury costs UW Huskies a part-time DB starter

Idaho State v Washington Getty Images

Just in time for the pass-happy Pac-12 teams on its November schedule, Washington’s secondary depth has taken a hit.

Head coach Chris Petersen announced Thursday that safety Trevor Walker will miss the remainder of the 2014 season because of a torn ACL.  Walker incurred the injury during Saturday night’s loss to Arizona State.

Walker had played in all eight games this season.  He started three of those contests, including the ASU loss.  Last season as a true freshman, Walker played in six games.

On the most recent depth chart, Walker is listed as the backup to starting safety Kevin King.

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USF appears set to make a change at QB

Mike White AP

During and after a four-turnover effort in the loss to Cincinnati last week, starting quarterback Mike White, the Tampa Bay Times wrote, “[got] down on himself and [allowed] teammates to see his dejection.” That didn’t sit well with head coach Willie Taggart… and might end up with White sitting on the bench this weekend.

According to the Times, backup Steven Bench has been seen taking reps with the Bulls’ starting center during practice this week. While Taggart has yet to make a decision on a starter for Saturday’s game against Houston, he again referenced composure in intimating that a change at the position could be in the offing.

“If we’re gonna be the team and win the games that we feel like we should win, everyone’s got to compete and no one can be complacent or get down when things don’t go well,” said Taggart, who didn’t indicate when he’d decide on a starter.

“If we’re gonna be the team and win the games that we feel like we should win, everyone’s got to compete and no one can be complacent or get down when things don’t go well,” the coach said Thursday. “”We’ve got to compete no matter what the situation is, and that’s what we’re looking for in our guys.”

White is currently 90th in the country, and ninth in the AAC, in passing efficiency.  White beat out Bench for the starting job during the middle of summer camp.

Bench, who transferred to the Bulls from Penn State, appears to be in line for his first start of the 2014 season. In 2013, his first season with the Bulls, Bench started a pair of games.

This season, Bench has completed less than half of his 51 passes for 319 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

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Gordon Gee continues to atone for ‘Sisters of the Poor’ blast at TCU

Orville Redenbacher AP

Saturday, TCU will visit West Virginia for what’s (unbelievably) become one of the Big 12’s games of the year.  It’s a huge deal, replete with ESPN’s College GameDay traveling circus setting up shop in Morgantown.

It also brings up memories of one of WVU president E. Gordon Gee‘s numerous and memorable and controversial feet-in-the-mouth episodes at his former job.

“Well, I don’t know enough about the Xs and Os of college football,” said then-Ohio State president Gee in November of 2010, when asked about teams like Boise State and, yes, TCU being a player in the BCS racket. “I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like murderer’s row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day. So I think until a university runs through that gauntlet that there’s some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to (be) in the big ballgame.”

With that as a backdrop, Gee went and did this on Twitter Friday.

As could be expected from the self-described Orville Redenbacher look-alike, it doesn’t exactly nudge the funny bone very much.  It is kinda cool, though, that the president continues to realize the absurdity of his closed-minded, four-year-old stupidity.

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‘Egg-throwing situation’ leads to charges for four Nittany Lions

Akeel Lynch, Wendy Laurent AP

Along with candy and costumes, egging is another annual tradition of the Halloween season.  Unlike the first two traditions, though, it’s normally an illegal activity — as a Penn State quartet recently found out.

Late last night, the PSU student newspaper The Daily Collegian reported, four Nittany Lions — tight end Brent Wilkerson, safety Anthony Smith, defensive end Garrett Sickels and center Wendy Laurent (pictured, No. 55) — were charged with criminal mischief. The charges stem from what was described as an on-campus “egg-throwing situation.”

Other than eggs and a building (Beaver Hall) being involved, no other details were released.

“We are aware of the egg-throwing situation that occurred Thursday evening and will determine the appropriate measures for the four squad members involved,” a statement from the school read. Presumably*, the lobbing of eggs at an inanimate object won’t result in any hefty punitive measures being meted out against any of the players.

(*unless a first-year head coach wants to send a message)

Laurent would be the most noticeable name of those involved. The offensive lineman is the team’s No. 2 center and, with starter Donovan Smith’s status uncertain for Saturday’s game against Maryland because of injury, the junior could be in line to start.

The only other player to see the field this season is Anthony Smith, who’s played on special teams in three games.

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Reports: UGA’s Keith Marshall won’t play vs. Florida

Keith Marshall

No Todd Gurley, no Keith Marshall and no Sony Michel have been no problem for Georgia for quite a while.  Saturday, it’ll be lather, rinse, repeat in UGA’s backfield for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

As previously reported, Gurley, suspended for two more games by the NCAA earlier this week, won’t play against Florida after his appeal was denied.  Additionally, both the Macon Telegraph’s Seth Emerson and 247Sports.com’s Gentry Estes are reporting that Marshall didn’t travel with the team to Jacksonville and, thus, won’t play in the annual rivalry game.

Marshall has been sidelined since suffering an ankle injury — presumably the high-ankle variety — in the Sept. 20 win over Troy, with Saturday marking the fifth consecutive game he will have missed.  This season, the former four-star running back has rushed for just 24 yards on 12 carries.

Additionally, Sony Michel is doubtful with a shoulder injury he suffered a week after Marshall’s injury.  Michel is still currently third on the team in rushing with 223 yards.

As has been the case since Gurley’s autographs-for-money issues surfaced, Nick Chubb will shoulder the bulk of the running-game load against the Gators.

The first five games of the season, the true freshman ran for 223 yards and two touchdowns.  The last two, those numbers are 345 and three, including a career-high 202 in the win over Arkansas two weeks ago.  In those two games, Chubb is responsible for 68 of the 86 running back carries; in the win over the Razorbacks, it was 30 to three.

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Four former winners highlight Dodd coaching award watch list

David Cutcliffe

In yet another (sad) sign that yet another season is rapidly slipping away, a coaching award has released its midseason(ish) watch list.

The second such major award to do the deed — the Bear Bryant Award did the same a week or so ago — is the Dodd Trophy, which recognizes “the head coach of a team which enjoys a successful football season while also stressing the importance of academic excellence and character.” A total of 13 coaches made the initial cut, all of whom come from Power Five conference schools.

Four former winners of the award are on the watch list, including last year’s winner, Duke’s David Cutcliffe, and two-time winner Bill Snyder of Kansas State (1998, 2012). The other two are Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (2011) and Bob Stoops (2003).

Some of the noteworthy names left off the list includes, among others, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, Marshall’s Doc Holliday, TCU’s Gary Patterson, Baylor’s Art Briles and Oregon’s Mark Helfrich.  The first two and last three of those have their respective teams in the Top 10, while the Herd is one of just three unbeaten FBS squads.

Meanwhile, two-loss coaches like Swinney, Stoops and UCLA’s Jim Mora are a part of the group.

The SEC led all conferences with four coaches on the watch list.  The ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 have two apiece.

The 2014 winner of the Dodd Trophy will be announced in Atlanta during the week prior to the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl week.

2014 Dodd Trophy Watch List

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Harvey Updyke claims he’s going trick-or-treating… as a dead tree

Harvey Updyke AP

Because, of course he is.  Possibly

On the scariest of the holidays, one of the most frightening football fans on the planet, Harvey Updyke, is making a claim related to the criminal offense that turned him into a household name a couple of years ago.  In a Facebook posting this afternoon, the convicted tree-killer claimed that he will be going trick-or-treating this Halloween dressed up as a dead tree.

Updyke, a lifelong Alabama fan, was convicted of poisoning, and ultimately killing, the famed Toomer’s Corner oaks at Auburn following the 2010 Iron Bowl.

This stunt, as it were, comes a couple of months after Updyke had been scheduled to appear at a charity event where people would’ve been allowed to either dunk [Updyke] in a dunking booth or throw pies at his face.  Because of the ensuing uproar, the appearance was canceled.

Even if it’s a joke, which is what we’re guessing will eventually be the case, it likely won’t come off as a particularly funny one to either UA or AU fans.

Updyke, as “Al from Dadeville,” infamously called into the Paul Finebaum radio show in February of 2011 and claimed to have poisoned the Toomer’s oaks after Auburn beat Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl. He was subsequently arrested, chargedand ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage of an agricultural facility, a Class-C felony. He was sentenced to three years in jailhe served 180 days of the sentence — and was placed on supervised probation for a period of five years. During that probationary period, he has a 7 p.m. curfew.

Additionally, Updyke, who now lives in Louisiana less than an hour from the LSU campus, was ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution and has been barred from the following: any Auburn University property, any collegiate sporting event and speaking to the media.  Thus far, he’s only reportedly paid $99 in restitution.

While there was initial hope that the oaks could be saved, they were ultimately taken down after one final roll. New trees are expected to be planted next year.

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Deshaun Watson resumes throwing football in practice

Deshaun Watson AP

No, Deshaun Watson is not ready for a return to the playing field, but he’s getting closer.  Much, much closer.

For the first time Wednesday night since injuring his hand in the Oct. 11 win over Louisville, the Charleston Post & Courier reported, the Clemson quarterback threw a football at practice.  The fact that Watson is back throwing a football less than three weeks after incurring the injury came as a bit of a shock to the true freshman’s offensive coordinator.

“Looked good. I think he’s kind of surprised everybody how far along he is right now with everything,” Chad Morris said. “[Wednesday] was his first time back into it taking actual snaps and reps, so it was good to see him back in there.”

Despise the surprise of what thus far has been a speedy recovery, don’t look for the original timeline for a return to be updated. Probably.

Morris, whose Tigers are on a bye this weekend, said its “doubtful” Watson would play in the Thursday night game next week against Wake Forest. That, though, is actually a slight upgrade as Watson’s currently listed as “out” on the official Clemson injury report for that game.

Cole Stoudt, who has started the last two games, is still expected to start against the Demon Deacons.  Watson might — might — be available as an emergency-type quarterback if the need arises.  Barring a setback, Watson is expected to return for the Nov. 15 game against Georgia Tech as the starter.

Watson remains the No. 2 quarterback in the country in passing efficiency, behind only Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota of Oregon. In the two games Watson has started and completed — he was injured early on in his third start– the Tigers have averaged 45.5 points per game; in Stoudt’s four starts against FBS teams, that average is 17.7 ppg.

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Dave Brandon officially out as Michigan’s AD

University of Michigan Introduces Brady Hoke Getty Images

The trigger has officially been pulled.

Following up on reports that surfaced late Friday morning, Michigan president Mark Schlissel announced this afternoon that Dave Brandon has (ahem) “resigned as UM’s athletic director”.  The move comes after a month in which Brandon was assailed from numerous corners for various missteps, from the handling of the Shane Morris head injury to the corporate nature of home football games to go along with the pricing to an embarrassing string of emails from the AD to various fans.

Add in the football team’s 3-5 record to start the 2014 season, its worst since 2008, and it’s a recipe for what most will consider a forced resignation after four years on the job.

“Dave feels that it would be in the best interest of our student-athletes, our athletic department and our university community if he moved on,” the president said.  Schlissel stated during a press conference that he accepted Brandon’s resignation this morning and that he agreed with the now-former AD’s decision to step aside.

Former UM football player Jim Hackett will serve as interim athletic director until a permanent replacement is found. Mlive.com wrote that “Hackett, a 1977 Michigan graduate, comes to U-M after two decades as chief executive of Grand Rapids-based Steelcase Inc., one of the world’s largest office furniture makers based.”

Brandon’s departure almost certainly means Brady Hoke, already on one of the hottest coaching seats in America, will be out as the Wolverines’ head coach at season’s end, if not sooner.  And, just who will make the decision to kick the chair out from underneath Hoke’s noosed neck?

Speculation had heavily centered on Arkansas AD and College Football Playoff chairperson Jeff Long even before Brandon’s resignation was announced; expect that speculation to increase exponentially with today’s development.  UConn’s Warde Manuel and Boston College’s Brad Bates have been mentioned prominently as well.  There’s even one report that tosses the name of Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione into the mix, while another states UM has already reached out to current Central Michigan AD Dave Heeke.

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Kentucky again extends Mark Stoops’ contract

Mark Stoops AP

Back in May, Kentucky announced that it had extended the contract of Mark Stoops.

Nearly six months and eight games later, they’ve done it again.

UK announced Friday afternoon that it had reached an agreement on yet another contract extension for its head football coach.  The deal back in May would’ve kept Stoops with the Wildcats through June 30, 2019; this new agreement binds him to UK through the 2019 season, meaning that it’s a rare half-year extension.

“Mark is guiding our program in the direction we all want it to go and we are proud to reward that,” athletic director Mitch Barnhart wrote in the first of a series of tweets posted to his Twitter account. “I was confident Mark was right for this job when I hired him, but he has exceeded my expectations. From leading a group of young men to recruiting to fundraising, Mark has embraced and excelled in all facets of this job. I am excited about the progress our team has shown on the field, but this is as much about the next five years as it is the last 1.5.

“As I’ve said before, I believe we can compete at the highest level in the toughest conference. @UKCoachStoops is the coach to take us there.”

There was no word on what if any salary increases may be involved.

After going 2-10 in his first season last year, Stoops has his Wildcats sitting at 5-3 in 2014 and on the verge of bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010.  While there’s certainly a greater on-field buzz when it comes to the Wildcats, it’s on the recruiting trail where it’s the loudest and most pronounced.

Kentucky currently has the No. 22 recruiting class for the 2015 cycle after Stoops and his coaching staff pulled in the No. 17 class this past February and the No. 29 class in 2013.  Prior to Stoops’ arrival, UK had just two recruiting classes — 2006 (No. 36) and 2009 (No. 41) — finish inside the Top 50 nationally since 2002.

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David Brandon will reportedly step down as Michigan’s AD

University of Michigan Introduces Brady Hoke Getty Images

It appears Michigan’s athletic department — and likely its football program as well — is about to embark on a new direction.

Late Friday morning, UM announced in a press release that university president Mark Schlissel will conduct a press conference at 1:30 ET this afternoon. The only reason given for the presser was that Schlissel would be making an unspecified announcement.

It’s been rumored for weeks that embattled athletic director Dave Brandon is on his way out. Based on one report, that’s indeed both the case and the subject of the this afternoon’s media event.

The Detroit News subsequently confirmed that Brandon will be stepping down.

In addition to the woeful performance of the football team under Brady Hoke, Brandon has come under fire for the handling of the Shane Morris head injury; the corporate nature of home football games to go along with the pricing; and an embarrassing string of emails from the AD to various fans.

Should Brandon be out as all signs indicate, it would likely serve as the second-to-last nail in Hoke’s coaching coffin, with the last being driven in by the new AD just before he brings in his own hand-picked head coach.

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Tulane loses WR to season-ending ACL injury

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Tulane AP

Unfortunately for both the player and the team, reality matched the speculation.

Tulane confirmed earlier this week that Xavier Rush suffered an undisclosed knee injury during practice and would undergo further evaluation.  There were rumblings that the injury was related to the wide receiver’s ACL.

While the school has yet to confirm it, both the Baton Rouge Advocate and New Orleans Times-Picayune are reporting that Rush has indeed torn an ACL.  The Green Wave is expected to confirm the news at some point today.

As the senior has already used his redshirt season and he will not be eligible for a medical waiver, Rush’s collegiate career has come to an end.

Rush is currently second on the Green Wave in receiving yards with 295 and leads the team with three receiving touchdowns and a 19.7 yards per catch average. His 15 catches are second among receivers and third among all players.

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Reports: Kyle Allen to start at QB for A&M

Kyle Allen AP

The 2014 season began with Kenny “Trill™” Hill being mentioned alongside other Heisman Trophy contenders.  It could, though, end with a performance-based benching.

Officially, Texas A&M will not name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe until shortly before kickoff.  Unofficially, a change is in the offing at the most important position on the football field as both the CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth and Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com are reporting that Kyle Allen will get the start in the non-conference home game.

Hill tossed six interceptions in the last two losses to Alabama and Ole Miss, leading to the quarterback competition being opened up yet again during the Aggies’ bye week.  He had been named as Johnny Manziel‘s successor in mid-August after a fight with Allen that began in the spring and continued on into summer camp.

Should Allen start against ULM, he’d hit the field with as impressive an on-paper pedigree as any player in the country.  Allen came to College Station this season as a five-star member of the Aggies’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 7 player at any position.

Allen has thrown passes in four of eight games this season, going 23-38 for 264 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

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No. 2 Florida State still unconquered, rallies to beat Louisville 42-31

Dalvin Cook

Before we get to what Louisville didn’t do, first let’s discuss what Florida State did on Thursday night: overcome a 21-0 deficit on the road, score 42 points over the game’s last 30 minutes and 33 seconds, drop 580 yards of total offense (and 380 in the second half) against the nation’s top statistical defense, and held the Louisville without a third- or fourth-down conversion until the game was put away. And in the process, No. 2 Florida State extended its winning streak to 24 games with a rise-from-the-dead 42-31 victory over Louisville.

With that out of the way, here is the list of things Louisville did not do that could have pushed this game the other way:

  • Turn a 1st-and-goal at the four into points on the game’s opening possession.
  • Recover a fumble by Florida State’s Karlos Williams at the goal line in the waning moments of the first half.
  • Hold on to the ball after intercepting Jameis Winston to open the second half.
  • Corral what would have been a possible pick six, which would have pushed Louisville’s lead to 31-21.
  • Convert a third down while the game was still in doubt.
  • Catch a 4th-and-2 pass with room to run while trailing 35-31 deep into the fourth quarter.

In the end, Louisville did just enough to give its fans (and the FSU-hating masses) just enough to hope, but not enough to actually put the game away.

Florida State trailed 21-0 late in the second quarter, and got on the board 33 seconds before halftime after Nick O’Leary recovered Williams’ fumble in the end zone to pull within 21-7 at the half.

Cardinals defensive back Gerold Holliman intercepted Winston – the reigning Heisman winner’s third pick of the night, and second to Holliman – on the first play from scrimmage of the second half, but Winston then forced a fumble as Holliman fought for extra yardage, and wide receiver Travis Rudolph hopped on the loose pigskin.

Louisville forced a turn0ver on downs on the next possession and then pushed the lead to 24-7 a minute later, but the two 50/50 plays falling Florida State’s way gave the Seminoles life.

Normally a 17-point road deficit is overcome through the battle-hardened strength only veterans possess, but true freshman teamed with Winston to overcome and then put away Louisville over the last 25 minutes of the game. Winston hit freshman Rudolph for a 68-yard catch-and-run score to pull within 24-14, and then true freshman Dalvin Cook accounted for 76 yards in an 80-yard drive, including a 40-yard touchdown dash, to make the score 24-21.

Florida State took its first lead with 12:48 to go in the fourth quarter when Winston hit Ermon Lane, another freshman, for a 47-yard pass that somehow threaded through three Louisville defenders, and came one play after Holliman let a possible pick-six bounce off his knee and land incomplete.

Louisville then regained the lead with 9:20 to go on a one-yard Dyer plunge, but the Seminoles re-took it for good with a 38-yard rush by Cook. The Cardinals’ next possession ended when a Will Gardner pass bounced off tight end Charles Standberry‘s hands on 4th-and-2 at the Louisville 39 with a shade over 150 seconds to go. Florida State scored three plays later when Winston hit fullback Freddie Stevenson for a 35-yard play-action touchdown pass on a 3rd-and-6.

Winston posted his finest performance of the season, overcoming self-inflicted adversity and a bum ankle to complete 25-of-48 passes for 401 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions (and one very important forced fumble), while Cook came off the bench to account for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 13 touches.

Gardner threw for 330 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but did not rise to the moment when Louisville needed it, missing every third down pass until the game was out of reach. DeVante Parker carried the Cardinals’ passing attack with eight grabs for 214 yards. Dyer rushed 28 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns, but tallied only 39 yards in the second half.

Louisville drops to a very painful 6-3 (4-3 ACC) on the season and heads to Boston College on Saturday.

Florida State improves to 8-0 on the year, and is now one win away from becoming the 11th team in the last 50 years to mount a 25-game winning streak.

After Clemson (17-10 deficit into a 23-17 win), N.C. State (24-7 deficit into a 56-41 win), Notre Dame (17-10 deficit into a 31-27 win) and tonight, this 2014 Florida State team has taught future opponents that they had best not bother even taking a lead; defeat is inevitable, and that’s just going to make it all the more painful.

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Georgia Southern drubs Troy 42-10, pushes winning streak to six

Willie Fritz, Kevin Ellison

One week after popping Georgia State to the tune of 69 points, 10 touchdowns in 11 possessions and 613 rushing yards, Georgia Southern kept the beat going with a 42-10 blowout of Troy on Thursday night.

Nine Georgia Southern rushers combined for 421 yards and six touchdowns on 63 carries. Quarterback Kevin Ellison led the way with 99 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries while also completing 5-of-9 passes for 31 yards, and Favian Upshaw added 96 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Tonight’s result means Georgia Southern, the top-ranked FBS rushing offense at a shade over 400 yards per game, has racked up 1,034 rushing yards in the past five days. They’ve punted twice in 22 combined possessions.

All that running limited Troy to just 44 offensive snaps. Five Trojans combined to rush 33 times for 141 yards, while two quarterbacks lifted only 11 passes with four completions for a combined 13 yards. The Trojans were held out of the end zone until the 1:18 mark of the fourth quarter, with the score already at 42-3.

In all, Georgia Southern outgained Troy 461-154 and held a 28-9 advantage in first downs.

The win pushes Georgia Southern to 7-2 and 6-0 in Sun Belt play with a trip to Texas State waiting next Saturday.

Troy (1-8, 1-4 Sun Belt) will host Georgia State next Saturday.

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