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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: 12-Pack of Top Games

The Swami AP

In 17 days — 16 if you’re a degenerate like me who counts Abilene Christian at Georgia State the day before — the 2014 college football season kicks off, with all eyes focused on Texas A&M, playing its first game without Johnny Manziel under center since 2011, traveling to Columbia to face what could very well be the best team Steve Spurrier‘s had in what will be his 10th season at South Carolina.

As we have been and will continue doing throughout the month of August, CFT trudges on with previews of the upcoming season, with the 12 games that could have the biggest impact on both key conference races and the national landscape.  Said national landscape will include, for the first-time ever, a College Football Playoff.  Of course, the reality once we get into the season can change greatly from the preseason perceptions — see: 2013 Auburn Tigers — but the following 12-pack should form some sort of solid guide through what’s certain to be yet another eventful season in the great game of college football.

So, without further ado and for your reading pleasure, here’s a sampling of some of the top games on the 2014 slate.  And, as always, you can whine/bitch/moan in the comment section that your team was snubbed…

TEXAS A&M AT SOUTH CAROLINA, AUG. 28
LAST MEETING: First meeting
SERIES RECORD: 0-0
THE SKINNY: This contest has a handful of firsts going for it.  Most importantly to the business side of the conference, it will be the first-ever football game televised on the fledgling SEC Network, a network that’s expected to drop tens of millions of dollars annually into the coffers of each conference member.  Additionally, as noted above, it’s the first-ever meeting between the two football programs.  And finally, both the Aggies and Gamecocks will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks for the first time in two and two-plus years, respectively, with the former going with (Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen) and the latter Dylan Thompson.  While neither Hill nor Allen have started a game at the collegiate level, Thompson at least has some experience in that capacity — he’s 3-0 in his career as a starter replacing Connor Shaw, and has thrown passes in 20 of the games in which he’s played the past three years.  Even as the Aggies will face a deficit in experience at the most important position on the field, it’s not their most pressing concern as Kevin Sumlin could probably throw you or I in at quarterback and still put up 30-plus per game.  Rather, it’s the defense that should cause the most consternation, especially facing a running back as talented as Mike Davis.  A defense that was suspect throughout 2013 is even more so in 2014, with attrition via dismissals, graduation, etc.  This game could be the beginning of an uneven season in College Station, which would be the first since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: South Carolina 41, Texas A&M 27

WISCONSIN VS. LSU IN HOUSTON, AUG. 30
LAST MEETING: Sept. 30, 1972, a 27-7 LSU win in Baton Rouge
SERIES RECORD: LSU leads 2-0
THE SKINNY: Any time teams from the Big Ten and SEC meet it’s a big deal, especially when it’s two programs that have been at or near the top of their respective conferences for the past few years.  At least football-wise, this game is the dictionary definition of unstoppable force vs. immovable object: the Tigers will bring their always-stout run defense ( 35th nationally, third in SEC in 2013) into the neutral site affair against a Badgers football that thrives on running the football (8th in rushing offense) and would much rather take a pair of steel-toed boots to the groin than pass it (93rd in passing offense).  Perhaps most importantly, especially as far as fans are concerned, this game will give the winning league bragging rights until bowl season as this marks the only marquee match-up between the Big Ten and SEC during the regular season.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: LSU 24, Wisconsin 17

MICHIGAN STATE AT OREGON, SEPT. 6
LAST MEETING: Sept. 2, 1999, a 27-20 Michigan State win in East Lansing
SERIES RECORD: Tied at 2-2
THE SKINNY: There might not be a game this season featuring a pair of teams that are such extreme polar opposites of one another.  The Spartans’ 2013 success was predicated on a physical, dominating defense complemented by a methodical and productive rushing attack, with the passing game managing games and putting up big numbers when necessary.  The Ducks are the antithesis of the Spartans.  UO is a balls-to-the-wall, pedal-mashed-to-the-floor offense that is equally adept — and deadly — at running or passing the football.  Oh, and the Ducks can play some defense as well, as evidenced by the fact that they finished 13th nationally in scoring defense last season (MSU was third).  This game has the potential to be one of the more fascinating matchups for the upcoming season, and it’s probably the non-conference game that I’m looking at with the most anticipation — even as I foresee a blowout in Eugene for the East Lansing boys.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Oregon 48, Michigan State 27

GEORGIA AT SOUTH CAROLINA, SEPT. 13
LAST MEETING: Sept,. 7, 2013, a 41-30 Georgia win in Athens
SERIES RECORD: Georgia leads 47-17-2
THE SKINNY: After being unceremoniously shoved to the side by Missouri last season, the Bulldogs and Gamecocks are once again expected to be the cream of the SEC East crop.  And, because of that, this game will go a long way in determining just who will represent the division in the SEC championship game against their West counterparts.  USC has won three of the last four in the series, with the lone blemish being the 11-point loss in Athens last season.  This year, and as is the case throughout the conference, both teams will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks.  The Gamecocks’ situation is a little different from most, though, as Dylan Thompson is a very seasoned backup with nearly two dozen games played and three starts. Hutson Mason, meanwhile, got a taste of what it’s like to be a starter in the SEC as he took over under center for the injured Aaron Murray the last two and a half games and performed well, throwing for over 800 yards and four touchdowns in that stretch.  The good news for both is that they will have very talented and accomplished running backs at their disposal, Mike Davis for the Gamecocks and Todd Gurley for the Bulldogs.  How those two go, so should their respective teams as this game could be a rarity these days: one that’s determined in large part by the running game.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: South Carolina 34, Georgia 21

UCLA AT ARIZONA STATE, SEPT. 27
LAST MEETING: Nov. 23, 2013, a 38-33 Arizona State win in Tempe
SERIES RECORD: UCLA 18-11-1
THE SKINNY: For everything that Oregon-Stanford is as far as the Pac-12 North is concerned, Arizona State-UCLA is fast becoming the same for the South.  Like 2013 when ASU tripped up UCLA to help stake its claim to a spot in the conference championship game, 2014 should be no different.  Both teams will feature very experienced and extremely talented quarterbacks, Taylor Kelly for the Sun Devils and Brett Hundley.  Both could, or even should, be in the thick of the Heisman chase when this game rolls around, which would be a testament to both their individual performances and their team’s success.  The Bruins, though, easily return the most talent with 18 starters (eight each on offense and defense to go along with both kickers) coming back while the Sun Devils return just 10, including a paltry two on the defensive side of the ball.  Is that advantage, along with being at home this around, be enough to put the Bruins back in the title game?  Time will tell, although USC may have a little something to say about the latter before it’s all said and done.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: UCLA 48, Arizona State 38

OREGON AT UCLA, OCT. 11
LAST MEETING: Oct. 26, 2013, a 42-14 Oregon win in Eugene
SERIES RECORD: UCLA leads 39-27
THE SKINNY: Depending on how things play out, this very well could be a preview of the Pac-12 championship game.  The Bruins’ loss to the Ducks last year, the second of back-to-back conference losses, all but handed the South division to Arizona State.  Getting UO in Los Angeles should make the task a little less treacherous, but not much as the Ducks are expected to be the class of the league and the odds-on favorite to represent the Pac-12 in the College Football Playoff.  Last season’s win was Oregon’s fifth straight in the series; a sixth straight could further push the Ducks toward their ultimate postseason goal, while snapping that skein would go a long way in helping the Bruins get back to the top of the conference — and perhaps climbing back on to the national stage for the first time in a very, very long time.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Oregon 49, UCLA 31

STANFORD AT OREGON, NOV. 1
LAST MEETING: Nov. 7, 2013, a 26-20 Oregon win in Stanford
SERIES RECORD: Stanford leads 43-30-1
THE SKINNY: In all three years of the Pac-12 championship game, either the Cardinal or the Ducks have been the North’s representative — 2012 and 2013 for the former, 2011 for the latter.  That’s not expected to change in Year 4 as both teams are, once again, the class of the division.  UO, in fact, may end up being the class of college football at year’s end.  Both teams return a ton of starters, 15 (nine on offense) coming back for the Ducks and 14 (seven on defense) for the Cardinal.  Four of the starters who don’t return to The Farm, however, come from the offensive line, so David Shaw and his offensive staff have to hope the new players plugged in have gelled into a cohesive unit by the time this game rolls around.  Even if that happens, can the Cardinal keep pace with a high-powered offense triggered by Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota?  The answer was resounding “hell yes!!!” in 2013; whether that’s the case in 2014 will go a long way in determining which team takes this game — and which team likely punches its ticket to another conference championship game.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Oregon 41, Stanford 27

ALABAMA AT LSU, NOV. 8
LAST MEETING: Nov. 9, 2013, a 38-17 Alabama win in Tuscaloosa
SERIES RECORD: Alabama leads 48-25-5
THE SKINNY: This one of those games where, when the schedule comes out, you always check to see when it will be played.  For all of the hype it receives, however, it’s been a bit lopsided of sorts of late, at least results-wise.  The Tide was won three straight in the series, including the BCS title game following the 2012 season and a blowout win last year.  There are very few certainties in college football, but here’s one you can just about chisel in stone: there won’t be many points scored when the two teams clash in Tuscaloosa in early November.  Thanks to what’s ofttimes a pair of suffocating defenses, just once has a team scored more than 30 points — the Tide in its 38-17 win last year — in the last eight meetings.  In the last thirteen meetings, one or both of the teams failed to score at least 20 points a whopping 10 times.  The microcosm of the series?  The 9-6 Battle of the Kickers in 2011 that was the epitome of the defensive duels between the two SEC West programs.  As both teams reload their respective defenses the way most people change their underwear, and both offenses will be manned by first-year starters at quarterback, it should be lather, rinse, repeat on the defensive front once again.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Alabama 24, LSU 14

OHIO STATE AT MICHIGAN STATE, NOV. 8
LAST MEETING: Dec. 7, 2013, a 34-24 Michigan State win in Indianapolis (Big Ten title game)
SERIES RECORD: Ohio State leads 28-14
THE SKINNY: This will easily be the most anticipated Big Ten game of the year, with the Buckeyes looking to avenge a double-digit “upset” loss to the Spartans in the Big Ten championship game.  A loss, incidentally, that both ended No. 2 OSU’s 24-game losing streak and knocked the Buckeyes out of a likely spot in the BCS title game against Florida State.  As was the case last season, one key in this year’s game will be MSU’s stifling defense’s ability to contain Braxton Miller.  While the OSU quarterback did rush for 142 and a pair of touchdowns, he was held to a paltry 8-of-21 passing for just 101 yards.  Connor Cook, on the other hand, riddled a porous Buckeyes pass defense for 304 yards and three touchdowns.  Throw in Jeremy Langford‘s 128 yards rushing, and MSU was able to flip a 24-17 deficit late in the third quarter to a 10-point win that propelled the Spartans into the Rose Bowl.  So, yes, “revenge” will be a key storyline heading into this game — along with MSU looking to prove yet again that it belongs on the national stage.  And one more tidbit: thanks to the additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten and subsequent shifts in the divisions, this game will now likely be a contest for East supremacy and a spot in the conference championship game.  Just a little bit on the line in this game, in other words.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 24

BAYLOR AT OKLAHOMA, NOV. 8
LAST MEETING: Nov. 7, 2013, a 41-12 Baylor win in Waco
SERIES RECORD: Oklahoma leads 20-2
THE SKINNY: The Sooners have absolutely owned the Bears for the whole of the series, but the tide is certainly shifting.  After losing the first 17 meetings to OU — all but three by 12 points or more, and 11 by 20-plus points — BU has won two of the last three.  Included in that total was last year’s evisceration, a 29-point beatdown in early November that signaled the  Bears were the team to beat in the Big 12.  Can that trend continue?  If it does, it’ll do so with some new pieces in place.  The Bears must replace seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including a pair of first-team All-Big 12 performers and three members of its secondary.  Bryce Petty is still Bryce Petty and Art Briles‘ offense is still Art Briles’ offense, so the Bears will maintain the ability to outscore most of the defensive liabilities it may possess.  On the flip side, the Sooners return 14 starters, including quarterback Trevor Knight.  Whether that’s a positive or a negative remains to be seen as no one knows which Knight will show up: the one who struggled to hold on to his job throughout the season or the one who strafed Alabama’s defense in the Sugar Bowl.  The answer to that question will go a long way in determining who wins this game and, as a result, who controls the Big 12 and a likely spot in the College Football Playoff.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Baylor 38, Oklahoma 35

AUBURN AT ALABAMA, NOV. 29
LAST MEETING: Nov. 30, 2013, a 34-28 Auburn win in Auburn
SERIES RECORD: Alabama leads 42-35-1
THE SKINNY: The annual Iron Bowl grudge/hate match would make this type of list year-in and year-out.  After last year?  This one comes in at or near the top of the 2014 version of these lists.  Of course, I’m referring to the most memorable play of the 2013 season, “The Kick-Six” at Jordan-Hare that stunned the Tide and propelled the Tigers into the SEC championship game and, ultimately, the BCS title game.  The questions entering the season for AU are twofold: one, can they replace 1,800-yard rusher Tre’ Mason and, two, how many more miracles does Gus Malzahn & Company have tucked into their hip pockets?  The Tide has its own questions to answer as well, not the least of which is just who will replace three-year starter AJ McCarron under center.  The knowns, though are that AU will have Nick Marshall, who’s expected to do nothing but get better in his second season as a starting quarterback, while UA will have what’s become an annual twin tradition under Nick Saban: a punishing rushing attack with its stable of backs to go along with a physical, suffocating defense.  This year’s version may not match the drama of last year’s, but it’s still compelling, must-see TV.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Alabama 38, Auburn 31

MICHIGAN AT OHIO STATE, NOV. 29
LAST MEETING: Nov. 30, 2013, a 42-41 Ohio State win in Ann Arbor
SERIES RECORD: Michigan leads 58-45-6
THE SKINNY: Regardless of the records or prospects of either or both teams, The Game is and always will be a destination event for college football viewers.  While the Wolverines have owned the overall series, it’s the Buckeyes who’ve owned That School Up North this century as OSU has won (on the field) nine of the last 10 and 11 of the last 13.  Both teams will enter the season with question marks littering the offensive line, with the Buckeyes needing to replace four starters while the Wolverines, which had significant issues in that group last year, must replace an All-American tackle and the starter on the other side as well.  Where this game may be won or lost is at the quarterback position, which bodes well for OSU.  Braxton Miller, the reigning two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, returns and looks to take his game to the next level as a senior, while the Wolverines will go with either the inconsistent, turnover-prone Devin Gardner or the unproven Shane Morris.  Decided advantage, OSU.  If the Buckeyes can cure its secondary woes, woes that are directly to blame for its two-game losing streak to end last season, they should have little problem in dispatching their bitter rivals and possibly continuing on a Big Ten/CFP title run.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Ohio State 45, Michigan 31

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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SMU on the losing end of a DT this time around

Nick Reed

One day after adding a defensive lineman comes word that SMU has lost a player from the same unit.

The Dallas Morning News has reported that junior Nick Reed has decided to leave the Mustangs football team.  No reason was given for the defensive tackle’s abrupt departure shortly before the start of summer camp.

Reed was a two-star member of the Mustangs’ 2012 recruiting class who took a redshirt as a true freshman.  He played in six games in 2013 but just two last season.

Reed’s departure came around the same time that South Carolina defensive tackle transfer Deon Green was officially added to SMU’s roster.

(Photo credit: SMU athletics)

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Buckeyes get verbal from Sparty commit who had MSU offer pulled

Gavin Cupp

In a weird way, it appears the Gavin Cupp storyline has somewhat come full circle.  Or got to the place the high schooler wanted it to get to all along.  One of the two.

If you recall, quite the ruckus was kicked up last month when it was reported that Michigan State had pulled the scholarship offer made to Cupp, one of its 2016 commits, because the player attended a football camp hosted by rival Ohio State.  As it turns out, it wasn’t Cupp’s attendance that was the issue; rather, it was the fact that Cupp didn’t let MSU know of his intentions and the perceived lack of “loyalty” that led to the yanking of the offer.

Shortly thereafter, OSU offered Cupp, but the Ohio offensive lineman hadn’t pulled the trigger on a second verbal commitment.  Until now.

All of this “drama” has centered around a three-star 2016 recruit who is rated as the No. 31 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 16 player at any position in the state of Ohio.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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After leaving Cal football for Cal rugby, Sione Sina moves on to Utah

Sione Sina

Sione Sina left the Cal football team prior to spring practice earlier this year and joined the Cal rugby team, taking part as a starter in the national championship game of that sport this past May.  Three months later, it appears Sina has come back to football, albeit at a different Pac-12 institution.

Multiple media outlets have reported that Siena has transferred into the Utah football program and will play for the Utes.  Because he has already graduated from Cal, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Well, technically he’s eligible to play, although his recent past suggests it’s up in the air whether he’ll actually be healthy enough to take the field.

A three-star JUCO signee in the Class of 2013 and mid-year enrollee, Sina neither participated in spring practice nor played that season due to unspecified injuries.  Injuries, again unspecified, kept him out of spring practice, specifically the contact portion, the following year as well.

He played in the second game of the 2014 season against Sacramento State, but did not play again because, well, you know.

(Photo credit: Cal athletics)

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Charlotte OL coach Phil Ratliff hospitalized after ‘cardiac event’

Phil Ratliff

As Charlotte gets set to embark on its first season at the FBS level, one member of head coach Brad Lambert‘s coaching staff suffered a health event that could impact at least his short-term availability for the 49ers.

The university announced Tuesday that offensive line coach Phil Ratliff was hospitalized Monday evening after suffering what was described as a cardiac event. “The Ratliff family and the 49ers football program are thankful for the many prayers and well-wishes being sent their way by friends, family and fans,” the school wrote in its release.

“Complete details are not available at this time and we urge individuals to avoid speculation out of respect for the family,” the release added.

The 44-year-old Ratliff has been an assistant at Charlotte since 2012, one year prior to the program’s first season at the FCS level. Prior to Charlotte, he had served as a tight ends coach at Marshall, his alma mater where he was a two-time All-American lineman in his playing days.

(Photo credit: Charlotte athletics)

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Irish’s second-leading ’14 rusher declared academically ineligible

Purdue v Notre Dame

Academics has once again claimed a key member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The father of Greg Bryant confirmed to IrishIllustrated.com that his son has been declared academically ineligible and will not play for the Irish in 2015.  Greg Bryant Sr. added that his running back son will not be reporting with the team for summer camp, although he will return to campus as a student later this month.

What his football future holds beyond that is unclear, whether he sits a season and returns next year like Everett Golson or if he transfers out as others before him have done.

Back in June, it was reported that Bryant would be suspended for the first four games of the year, with the speculation on that punitive matter centering on academics.   At least according to the father, Bryant was thiiis close to making the grade.

Regardless of how close he was, Bryant’s absence will serve as somewhat of a blow to the Irish ground attack.

Last season, Bryant’s 289 yards rushing were good for second on the team.  As our own JJ Stankevitz explained at the time of the initial report, though, the loss Bryant does not necessarily serve as a death knell for that facet of the offense, although that was in the context of a four-game suspension and not a season-long loss.

While the optics of suspending a former big-time recruit aren’t good, there’s reason to think Notre Dame can absorb his absence with the backfield combination of [quarterback Malik] Zaire, Tarean Folston and C.J. Prosise. In a 31-28 Music City Bowl win over LSU, those three players handled 46 of Notre Dame’s 51 carries and totaled 244 of its 263 yards.

UPDATED 4:44 p.m. ET: In a statement, head coach Brian Kelly confirmed that Bryant will not play for Notre Dame in 2015.

“There are certain expectations within our program that must be met on a daily basis,” Kelly said, adding, “quite simply, Greg did not meet those expectations.”

The school added that Bryant will remain on scholarship and can practice with the Irish, but he will not occupy a spot on the 105-man roster.

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Travel stipends extended to CFP semifinals, too

College Football Playoff National Championship - Media Day Getty Images

Last year, amidst a mini uproar, the College Football Playoff announced that it would be helping families defray the costs of traveling to the inaugural championship game.  Ahead of the start of the second season with a playoff system in place, that defraying has been extended.

The CFP announced in a press release “that it will expand its program to offset expenses for student-athletes’ parents or guardians to travel to the Playoff Semifinals this season.” A $2,500 stipend per student-athlete will be doled out to up to 100 families from each of the four semifinalists to help with expenses for hotel accommodations, travel and meals.

The $2,500 stipend per student-athlete family for the CFP championship game will remain in place as well.

“We were pleased to implement this expense-reimbursement program for the first College Football Playoff National Championship and we received warm and sincere positive feedback from the family members,” said Bill Hancock, executive director of the CFP, in a statement. “Extending support to the Playoff Semifinals will be another terrific benefit for folks who will be thrilled to be present to celebrate the accomplishments and experiences of their student-athletes.”

This year’s semifinals will be the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl. The 2015 title game will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

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Wake officially adds Wisconsin grad transfer Devin Gaulden

Devin Gaulden, Brandon Reilly

Earlier today Wake Forest announced that defensive back Thomas Brown has been suspended for the 2015 opener.  A short time later, they announced the addition of a player who could potentially take his place.

Following up on speculation from the last couple of days, Wake confirmed in a press release that it has officially added Devin Gaulden to its football roster.  Gaulden, a defensive back, decided late last month to transfer from Wisconsin.

Because Gaulden has already received his degree from UW, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2015 as a grad transfer.

A three-star member of the Badgers’ 2011 recruiting class, Gaulden played in six games as a true freshman.  He missed all but the first four games of the 2012 season and the entire 2013 season because of knee issues.

Returning to play in all 14 games in 2014, he started five of those contests.

Because of the injury issues, there’s a distinct possibility Gaulden could receive a medical hardship waiver that would give him a sixth season of eligibility that would be used in 2016.  Wake has yet to address whether a waiver will be pursued.

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UGA, South Carolina open camp with QB question marks

Mark Richt, Steve Spurrier

For the past few years, both Georgia and South Carolina had a firm grasp on just who would be their starting quarterback entering summer camp.  This time around, though, both are entering somewhat unfamiliar territory.

The Bulldogs and Gamecocks opened Summer Camp 2015 Tuesday, with the former commencing a three-man quarterback competition and the latter a four-man.  Mark Richt might have a bit of an advantage on his counterpart in Columbia, though, as the UGA head coach at least has a quarterback who has started a game at this level of football.

Greyson Lambert transferred to UGA earlier this offseason from Virginia, where he started nine of 12 games in 2014.  While Lambert may have an edge in experience, his play was spotty at best for the Cavaliers — 11 interceptions, 10 touchdowns — leading some (most?) observers to tap Brice Ramsey as the front-runner, with the graduate transfer with two years of eligibility potentially battling Faton Bauta for the backup spot.

For now, though, all three of the potential starters are starting dead-even in the eyes of the coaching staff — and that’s expected to remain that way for the foreseeable future, at least until one grabs the job and runs away with it.

“We’re going to rotate the top three guys, the three scholarship quarterbacks,” Richt said in quotes distributed by the school. “We’re going to rotate them one guy with the first unit, one guy with the second unit, one guy with the third unit, rotating it around on a day‑to‑day basis until we think it should stop.

“[The competition] could go all the way to the first game. At some point we may drop it to a two‑man race. It’s just hard to say how it’s going to go. But that’s our starting point.”

As for Steve Spurrier, he’s in the early stages of sifting through his four-horse race, a field that includes Connor Mitch, Lorenzo Nunez, Perry Orth and Michael Scarnecchia.  That foursome has combined to attempt nine collegiate passes, with Mitch responsible for six of them as Dylan Thompson‘s primary backup last season and Orth the other three.

Quarterback, though, is just one position of interest to the Ol’ Ball Coach.

“The quarterback battle is going on,” said Spurrier. “Like I told them, we’re charting everything. A lot of jobs are up for grabs. We had two huddles – two offenses and two defenses going rapid fire. Hopefully we’ll be doing that all week. We had more guys getting snaps. We didn’t have a lot of “watchers” here today.”

Both Richt and Spurrier would like a decision sooner rather than later to give the starter extended time working with the first-team offense ahead of their respective openers, but neither will rush a decision just for the sake of making one. At least as far as Richt is concerned, though, decision-making will play a key role in who emerges as the starter when the trigger on a decision is pulled.

“We’re obviously talking to them about the things that are important, about quarterback play. We’re not necessarily saying, this is what you have to do to win the job, per se, but this is what you have to do to become the best quarterback you can be,” Richt explained. “That’s the goal for everybody: to be the best quarterback, linebacker, safety, running back, whatever it is. We’re all trying to perfect our trade, so to speak. We talk about in terms of perfecting your trade.

“The more you know about your position, the more you are prepared, the faster you can play, and you’ll make better decisions as a quarterback if you get in a good habit of how you think, how you progress through your reads. Even your fundamentals, the balance that you have when you throw the football, all those things together help you become the best you can be. That’s what we’re hoping for for everybody.”

USC will open the season Thursday, Sept, 3, against North Carolina in Charlotte, while UGA opens two days later at home against Louisiana-Monroe.  Two weeks later, the Bulldogs will host the Gamecocks in Athens in a key SEC East clash.

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Parking karma comes back and bites Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer AP

The parking space gods can be a ruthless and vindictive group, even if you happen to be the head football coach of the defending national champions.

Back in mid-June, kicker Jack Willoughby, who transferred to Ohio State from Duke a couple of months earlier, had the audacity to park in a spot reserved for Urban Meyer.  As most would do when put into this situation, Meyer decided to teach the young man a lesson that you don’t mess with a football coach’s perks.

Fast-forward a couple of months, and Meyer decided, for whatever reason, to park in Jacoby Boren‘s parking spot.  The Buckeye offensive lineman then decided to give his coach a tough-love taste of his own parking medicine.

Karma: just as vindictive and ruthless as the parking space gods.

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Wake suspends one starter for five games, another for opener

Duke v Wake Forest Getty Images

Just a couple of days before summer camp opens, Wake Forest has meted out punishment that will impact both its offensive line and defensive secondary once the 2015 season kicks off.

The football program announced in a press release that Ryan Anderson has been suspended for the first five games of the 2015 season for violating unspecified team rules.  The redshirt freshman offensive lineman will miss games against Elon, Syracuse, Army Indiana and Florida State before being eligible to return for the Oct. 10 road trip to Boston College.

Prior to his suspension, Anderson was viewed as the likely starter at center for the Demon Deacons.

In addition to Anderson, Wake also announced that Thomas Brown will be suspended for the opener against Elon for, you guessed it, violating unspecified team rules.  The junior was slated to be one of Wake’s starting safeties.

The past two seasons, Brown has played in 23 games as a backup defensive back.  As a true freshman in 2013, he returned a fumble 59 yards against Duke to give Wake a 7-0 lead in an eventual 28-21 loss.

Both Brown and Anderson will be permitted to practice with the team during their respective suspensions.

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All-American: Cincinnati overwhelming AAC media favorite

Tommy Tuberville

As far as the media is concerned, there’s no doubt Cincinnati will be hoisting a new trophy to go along with its new duds.

In a poll of 30 beat writers covering the league, the Bearcats, one of three co-champions in 2014, were tapped by 22 of them to claim the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship game.  The only others receiving votes were Memphis (five), Houston (two) and UCF (one).  Memphis and UCF were co-champions along with Cincinnati last season.

Not surprisingly, UC is the overwhelming favorite to win the East Division as well, garnering 29 of the 30 first-place votes.  The only other team to earn a nod in that division was UCF.

The West Division was much closer, with Memphis (13), Houston (10) and Navy (seven) all receiving first-place votes.  The Midshipmen will be entering its first season ever as a member of a conference after 134 years as a football independent.

Below are the complete media preseason voting results.

AAC Preseason Poll

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Frank Solich adds new assistant to Ohio coaching staff

Anthony Perkins

With summer camp right around the corner, Frank Solich has made an addition to his Ohio University football staff.

The Bobcats announced in a press release Monday that Anthony Perkins has been added as Solich’s cornerbacks coach.  Perkins will replace James Ward, who coached the same position the past two seasons before departing the program in late June.

No official reason for Ward’s departure has been given.

“We are excited to have Anthony join our staff,” Solich said in a statement. “He is an up-and-coming young coach and we are excited to have him get to work with our core of cornerbacks.”

Perkins spent the past two seasons at FCS Indiana State. He played his college football at Colorado in a career that ended in 2011, capping his time as a Buffalo as one of four senior captains.

(Photo credit: Indiana State athletics)

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4-star-signee-turned-MLBer-turned-walk-on appears done at Miss. St.

Rashun Dixon

It seems as if Rashun Dixon‘s long, lengthy journey from touted football prospect to drafted baseball prospect to football hopeful yet again in Starkville has come to an unofficial end.

Mississippi State players reported for summer camp over the weekend and commenced practice in earnest for the 2015 season Monday.  One of those not present was the sophomore tight end Dixon, whose name is not a part of MSU’s online roster.

On his Twitter account late last month, Dixon indicated that he was back on the Left Coast.

Dixon played in two games last season, but it’s his back story — and his status as a legacy player — that makes his apparent departure noteworthy.

In 2008, Dixon was a four-star member of MSU’s recruiting class, the last of Sylvester Croom‘s tenure.  Dixon never suited up for the Bulldogs, however, as he was drafted in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Oakland Athletics and embarked on a career in professional baseball.  He batted in the neighborhood of .250 during his time with the organization and was ultimately released.

Six years after his initial flirtation with football, the 23-year-old Dixon decided to return to the Bulldogs as a walk-on player.  He played in two games during the 2014 season.

Dixon is the younger brother of Anthony Dixon, who led MSU in rushing every year from 2007-09.  He’s also the brother of Deshun Dixon, a Bulldog walk-on who was arrested in late April and charged with driving under the influence.  He’s not currently listed on MSU’s online roster.

(Photo credit: Mississippi State athletics)

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After sitting out 2014, Temple WR Anderson ruled eligible for 2015

Robby Anderson

Temple’s offense should be getting back a key contributor this fall, and he should be well rested. Robby Anderson, who was not with the Owls in 2014, has been ruled eligible to play again this fall.

Temple head coach Matt Rhule learned of the eligibility update from the NCAA Monday evening as he and other Temple representatives were gathering in Rhode Island for the start of American Athletic Conference media day festivities.

“I am elated,” Rhule said (per Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com). “I love the kid and just on a personal level, even when it looked like he wasn’t coming back, I maintained a relationship.”

Anderson was not enrolled at Temple last season, so he worked on improving his academic standing with junior college classes. After completing junior college requirements, Anderson enrolled back at Temple for summer classes. The NCAA approved of his academic improvement and ruled him eligible as a result.

Anderson led the Owls in receiving in 2013 with 791 yards and nine touchdowns. If he can mimic that level of success, he should once again be the top target for Temple quarterback P.J. Walker this season. Temple has a chance to have a successful season this year with a respected defense and growing and maturing Walker under center leading the offense. If Anderson steps right in to be the go-to receiver after sitting out the 2014 season, Temple’s potential could be worth monitoring in the American Athletic Conference.

Temple will open the season at home on September 5 against Penn State.

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SMU adds former Gamecock to defensive line

Pharoh Cooper, Cody Gibson, Deon Green, Rory Anderson

SMU enters the 2015 season with a new head coach in Chad Morris and plenty of room for improvement across the roster. The defensive line may have just gotten a little better on Monday, thanks to the summer arrival of a former South Carolina Gamecock.

Deon Green has formally been added to the roster at SMU, as evidenced by his inclusion on the team’s official roster Monday. Green missed out on playing in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to a knee injury that required surgery and a good amount of rehab work. He appeared in just two games in 2013 and recorded just four tackles for the Gamecocks last fall. He made the decision to transfer in January and was one of many South Carolina players to do so.

Green was a three-star recruit out of high school. The Orlando native will finally have a chance to compete and play a key role on his new team. SMU’s defense was 113th in the nation in total sacks, 117th against the run and 124th in tackles for loss last season. For reference, there were 128 FBS programs last season.

Helmet sticker to The Dallas Morning News.

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