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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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The 10 hottest – and 10 cheapest – tickets of the 2014-15 bowl season

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers v Notre Dame Getty Images

Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger did a wonderful thing. As the paper’s Ole Miss beat writer, he wondered how much the average price of a ticket to the Rebels’ Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against TCU was going for on the secondary market. He found his answer – $84.15 – and then wondered how that ranked against the other 37 bowl games.

So he looked it up.

He found that three bowls stand above the rest: the Rose and Sugar bowls, and the Pinstripe Bowl – pitting nearby and postseason-starved Penn State against nearby and excited-to-play-Penn-State Boston College. Kellenberger also found that three bowls were drawing so little interest that they didn’t show up at all on the secondary market: the New Mexico, Famous Idaho Potato  and Bahamas bowls.

Every other bowl game has tickets for sale on line, and the demand varies wildly.

Ten Hottest Tickets
1. Sugar Bowl: Ohio State vs. Alabama – $239.25
2. Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Florida State – $149
3. Pinstripe Bowl: Penn State vs. Boston College – $132.12
4. Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. USC – $98.84
5. GoDaddy Bowl: Toledo vs. Arkansas State – $97.68
6. Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Wisconsin – $92.01
7. Peach Bowl: TCU vs. Ole Miss – $84.15
8. Poinsettia Bowl: Navy vs. San Diego State – $75.45
9. Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois – $72.45
10. Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Colorado State – $70.89

Ten Cheapest Tickets
1. Orange Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech – $5.25
2. Cactus Bowl: Washington vs. Oklahoma State – $9.25
3. Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Clemson – $13.95
3. Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. Rice – $13.95
5. Alamo Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA – $15.12
6. Citrus Bowl: Missouri vs. Minnesota – $16.29
7. Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia – $18.82
8. Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Pittsburgh – $20
9. Camilia Bowl: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green – $22.14
10. Sun Bowl: Arizona State vs. Duke – $22.80

Seeing a so-called New Year’s Six Bowl like the Orange Bowl No. 1 on the list is shocking at first, but it does make some sense. Georgia Tech doesn’t travel well, sure. And, yeah, Mississippi State isn’t a short drive to Miami, and the Bulldogs must view the Orange Bowl as a consolation prize after heading into their last game in line for a semifinal berth.

But, still, worse than the Hawaii Bowl?

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P.J. Fleck signs six-year extension at Western Michigan, is now the MAC’s highest-paid coach

P.J. Fleck

Just a year after posting a 1-11 debut, P.J. Fleck is set to become the highest-paid coach in the Mid-American Conference.

The Broncos announced a six-year contract extension, keeping Fleck signed through the 2020 season, worth $800,000 annually, plus incentives. The new contract will make Fleck the MAC’s highest-paid coach, nearly 45 percent higher than second place Frank Solich ($554,500), according to the USA Today coaching salary database.

Fleck was mentioned as a possible candidate for openings imagined (Illinois) and real (Pittsburgh).

“This is a wonderful time to finalize this contract extension and thank Coach Fleck for his commitment to the Bronco program,” said WMU President John M. Dunn said in a statement. “Success on the playing field, achievement in the classroom and engagement with the community have been the team’s hallmarks over the past year. The pride and excitement generated by our scholar- athletes, their coach, assistant coaches and staff are reflective of the very best in collegiate athletics. Using any measure, this is a successful program and one we want to continue and build upon for years to come.”

Western Michigan posted a seven-win improvement in 2014, leaping from 1-11 to 8-4 and a berth in Saturday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl versus Air Force. The Broncos finished one game shy of sharing their third MAC West Division championship. Combined with a number of facilities updates, Western Michigan is making a significant investment to a program that still looking for its first bowl victory and has won just one MAC title in the last 44 years.

Fleck signed what has been called the highest-rated recruiting class in MAC history in 2014 and could be even better in 2015.

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WVU QB Clint Trickett returns to practice, will play vs. Texas A&M

Clint Trickett

West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett has returned to practice after leaving the Mountaineers’ 26-20 loss to Kansas State on Nov. 18.

“Clint’s done such a good job for us over the course of the year,” head coach Dana Holgorsen told the Associated Press. “He’s responsible for us being in a bowl game — did nothing to change what I think of him as far as the starting quarterback. We know what kind of kid he is, what kind of competitor he is.”

However, Trickett will not automatically resume his starting role upon his return. Sophomore Skyler Howard finished the K-State game strongly, hitting 15-of-23 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and led West Virginia to a 37-24 win over Iowa State in the regular season finale by throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 69 more yards.

“With that said, Skyler’s improving, he’s taking a lot of reps these last three weeks. I anticipate to have both ready to go and we’ll probably make a game-time decision on who starts and what the rotation will be.”

The most likely scenario is that both quarterbacks play in their Liberty Bowl date with Texas A&M depending on the situation. Trickett is the more accomplished passer, but Howard (12 rushes for 107 yards this season) is the greater threat to run the ball. Trickett completed 281-of-419 passes for 3,285 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season.

West Virginia will face Texas A&M at 2 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 29 (ESPN).

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Mariota, Gordon headline Phil Steele All-America team

Marcus Mariota

Everyone has an All-America team these days. Heck, now that they’ve got some free time I hear the folks at Serial are going to pump out their own 2014 All-America team next week.

However, in crunching out their own list of 25-odd players, no one crunches more data than Phil Steele. The man is already a quarter of the way through his initial work for the 2015 season.

Anyway, on to current matters, the 2014 Phil Steele All-Americans can be found below. Second through 27th-team All-Americans can be found here.

Offense
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
WR Rashad Greene, Florida State
TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota
C Reese Dismukes, Auburn
OL Spencer Drango, Baylor
OL Jake Fisher, Oregon
OL Tre’ Jackson, Florida State
OL Brandon Scherff, Iowa

Defense
LB Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
LB Scooby Wright, Arizona
LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA
LB Bernardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
DB Landon Collins, Alabama
DB Gerod Holliman, Louisville
DB Senquez Golson, Ole Miss
DB Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State
DL Joey Bosa, Ohio State
DL Malcom Brown, Texas
DL Nate Orchard, Utah
DL Shane Ray, Missouri

Specialists
K Brad Craddock, Maryland
P Tom Hackett, Utah
KR Mario Alford, West Virginia
PR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

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Jim Harbaugh declines to answer the Michigan question

Jim Harbaugh

With the stakes being raised in the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes and decision day looming, the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach will be asked about the Michigan job for as long as he remains the San Francisco 49ers head coach.

That’s the deal. Reporters know Harbaugh will decline to answer, and yet they ask anyway on the 0.0001% chance Harbaugh will reveal his destination to them at that precise moment. Or something like that.

Anyway, this time around it was San Jose Mercury-News columnist Tim Kawakami to ask the question. At first he charged right toward the subject at hand like a pole vaulter on approach.

Question: “Have you been offered a contract by the University of Michigan?”

Answer: “As you know, I only talk about the job that I have. We’ve been together a long time. Always been my policy.”

The second time around, Kawakami moseyed his way to the question the way a figure skater roams the ice while gearing up for his next move.

Question: “You have the history with Michigan. Is there a special affinity you have with that school that might supercede all other loyalties at this point?”

Answer: “Again, I really… I don’t talk any other job than the one I have. Or talk about anybody else’s process.”

And that was that.

In the event that Harbaugh becomes Michigan’s head coach, and Yahoo‘s Charles Robinson thinks it either happens by December 30 or doesn’t happen at all, he will likely only admit to being Michigan’s coach once he is wearing maize and blue and standing in Ann Arbor for his introductory press conference.

Until then, though, the 49ers have two games remaining, so get ready for two more weeks of this.

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Texas A&M and offensive line coach B.J. Anderson part ways

B.J. Anderson

Texas A&M dismissed offensive line coach B.J. Anderson on Thursday afternoon, the program announced.

Well, wait a minute. No, it was Anderson’s decision to leave a job that paid him $334,000 a year.

Semantics aside, the slide of Anderson’s offensive line typified the fate of the overall club under head coach Kevin Sumlin. Led by an offensive line featuring future first-round picks (and Mike Sherman recruits) Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, the Aggies started 11-2 in Sumlin’s first year, then slid to 9-4 without Joeckel, and then to 7-5 this season without Matthews, with offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi turning in an underperforming season.

Anderson spent six seasons working for Sumlin, three in College Station and three at Houston. Prior to that he coached the offensive line at Sam Houston State and Tarleton State, served as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M and coached at Stephen F. Austin prior to that.

Kansas feels like a natural landing spot for Anderson, considering the Jayhawks just hired another former Aggie assistant in David Beaty.

(Photo credit: Texas A&M athletics)
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Two years removed from USC, DeVante Wilson’s back in the Pac at Cal

DeVante Wilson

After a couple of years away from the FBS in general and the Pac-12 specifically, DeVante Wilson is officially back.

Wednesday night, Cal announced in a press release what Wilson, along with two other players, has been added to the football program. The defensive end comes to the Bears as a junior with two years of eligibility remaining.

“We had some obvious needs to address defensively,” head coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “It all begins with the pass rush and I feel like DeVante gives us an athletic, long and explosive pass rusher who is going to make us instantly better.”

Wilson was a three-star member of USC’s 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 20 weakside end in the country and the No. 38 player at any position in the state of California.  He tore an ACL prior to the start of his first summer camp, however, and never played a down for the Trojans.

The past two seasons, Wilson played at the JUCO level in California.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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BC extends Addazio’s contract through 2020

Steve Addazio

In the past week or two, Steve Addazio has seen his name connected to first the opening at Michigan and now Pittsburgh.  Apparently, though, he won’t be going anywhere.

Thursday afternoon, Boston College announced that it has reached an agreement on a new contract extension with Addazio.  With the extension, the head football coach is now signed through the 2020 season.

What if any financial bump Addazio may have received was not detailed.

“In just two years, Steve Addazio has done an amazing job with our football program,” athletic director Brad Bates said in a statement. “To lead a team to 14 wins and two consecutive bowl games during what was supposed to be a rebuilding process is a great accomplishment. Beyond winning, he has worked tirelessly to recruit top-notch student-athletes and develop lasting relationships with former players and the entire University community. He is one of the best motivators I’ve ever been around, and his enthusiasm is infectious. We are very fortunate to have him as our coach.”

In two seasons at BC under Addazio, the Eagles have won seven games each year and qualified for a pair of bowl games. In the two seasons prior to Addazio’s arrival, BC won a total of six games and didn’t qualify for a bowl game either year.

“I appreciate Fr. Leahy’s and Brad Bates’ support for our program and their confidence in me,” Addazio said. “I am also grateful to our student-athletes and our staff for their dedication and hard work. Boston College is a great, Jesuit Catholic education in a world-class city that competes in big-time college football and I am honored and humbled to be in this position.

“We have a lot more work to do, but I believe we are building the foundation for a great football program.”

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Vols’ leading rusher cited for underage consumption

Tennessee v South Carolina Getty Images

Unbelievably, there was a (gasp!) underage college student caught consuming alcohol a couple of weeks ago.  Even more unbelievable?  He was a football player!

That said, The Tennessean reported Wednesday night that Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd was cited Dec. 3 for underage drinking.  The 18-year-old Hurd, along with another male, were arrested by UT police, with one of the two transported to a local hospital.

Which one of the two was transported, though, is unknown.

Hurd, 18, and Hunter Rivait, who is listed as a student in a university student directory, were arrested by citation on Dec. 3 after police spotted a car with its lights on in a university dorm parking garage. Police found an unconscious male inside.

The initial University of Tennessee police report does not identify the unconscious male, who was later transported to a hospital.

UT officials said Hurd has been disciplined internally and will play against Iowa in the Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl.

As a true freshman in 2014, Hurd led the Vols with 777 yards rushing.  The next-closest back was Marlin Lane and his 279 yards.

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Oregon confirms Ifo Ekpre-Olomu won’t be available for playoffs

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Unfortunately, at least as far as the postseason is concerned, the worst has been confirmed when it comes to a key piece of Oregon’s defensive puzzle.

Wednesday, multiple media outlets reported that cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sustained what’s believed to be a serious knee injury during practice Tuesday.  It was heavily intimated that Ekpre-Olomu had sustained at least an ACL tear, and would be unavailable for the College Football Playoffs.

Thursday, head coach Mark Helfrich confirmed as much, although he hasn’t yet detailed the specific nature of the injury.

That means the senior will miss the CFP semifinal matchup in the Rose Bowl with Florida State, as well as, if the Ducks get past the Seminoles, the national championship game against the winner of the Alabama-Ohio State Sugar Bowl matchup.

Regardless of how you try to parse it, this is a significant loss for the Ducks.

Ekpre-Olomu was recently named first-team All-Pac-12, the third consecutive year he’s been accorded that honor, as well as a first-team Associated Press All-American. He’s started 40 straight games for the Ducks, and was viewed as a likely first- or second-round selection in next year’s NFL draft prior to the injury.

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Report: Jimbo Fisher set to be among five highest-paid head coaches

ACC Championship - Florida State v Georgia Tech Getty Images

The most successful head football coach over the past three seasons isn’t even one of the 10 highest-paid at the FBS level.  That, though, could be about to change.

According to a report from Warchant.com, “Florida State officials and head coach Jimbo Fisher are expected to announce a new long-term agreement, which will make him one of the highest-paid coaches in college football, before the Seminoles take on Oregon in the Rose Bowl.” Fisher earned just under $3.6 million in 2014, which placed him 14th in the USA Today coaches salary database.

Per the report, “[t]he new deal, which is still being finalized, likely will place him in the top five.” If that’s the case, Fisher’s new deal would average in excess of $5 million annually as Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.058 millin), Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin ($5.006 million) and Texas’ Charlie Strong ($5 million) sit at Nos. 3-5, respectively.

The new deal is also expected to be for eight years in length.

Since 2012, Fisher’s Seminoles have gone 39-2 and won three straight ACC titles. Riding a school-record 29-game winning streak, FSU will look to win back-to-back national championships, having claimed the final BCS title following the 2013 season.

The Seminoles and Ducks will square off in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl, with the winner facing the winner of the Alabama-Ohio State Sugar Bowl the same day in the first-ever College Football Playoff championship game.

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Starting QB, 2nd-leading rusher continue UAB exodus to S. Alabama

While one football program in the state of Alabama shuffled off this mortal coil, another has greatly benefited, personnel-wise, from its demise.

Wednesday, Cody Clements confirmed to al.com that he has decided to transfer to South Alabama for his final season of football.  The starting quarterback became the fourth former UAB football player to transfer to the the Sun Belt team since that university’s administration decided to kill off the Blazers football program.  A day later, running back D.J. Vinson, also entering his final season of eligibility, became the fifth.

All five of the UAB-to-USA transfers come from the offensive side of the ball.  The fact that offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent made the same move played a significant role in the mass migration to the Jaguars.

“Definitely I would say first of all, coach Vincent,” Clements said. “That was my main goal coming out of all this mess at UAB was to follow him if I could. He’s a great coach and I love playing for him.

“Then I got up there this past weekend and saw the facilities and housing and was able to hang out with the guys. I knew that was a good spot for me to go and to finish out my career.”

Clements started all 12 games for the Blazers in 2014, completing more than 65 percent of his passes for 2,227 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’ll get the opportunity to start at his new school as the Jaguars’ starter last season, Brandon Bridge, is out of eligibility.

While Vinson finished second on the team in rushing with 670 yards, he told al.com in confirming his move to USA that he will play wide receiver. He had 15 receptions coming out of the backfield in 2014.

All five of the USA transfers, and every other former UAB football player for that matter, will be eligible to play immediately in 2015 thanks to a waiver from the NCAA.

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Justin Fuente, Memphis reach agreement on new deal

Temple v Memphis

One of the benefits usually associated with having your name mentioned as part of the annual spinning of the coaching carousel?  Ofttimes, a shiny new deal.

The latest to reap a reward from the spinning carousel is Justin Fuente, who has reached an agreement with Memphis on a contract extension, the school announced Thursday.  The financial particulars weren’t released, although the new deal very likely includes a raise.

In 2014, Fuente earned just over $1 million in total pay, eighth-highest among the head coaches in the AAC.

“Our football program has enjoyed unprecedented success under Coach Fuente’s leadership and we are excited to finalize this process and move forward,” said athletic director Tom Bowen in a statement. “The future of Tiger football is very bright and we look forward to the opportunity to build upon our success in the days and years ahead.”

Even it weren’t for outside interest, the fact that Memphis would reward Fuente is far from surprising.

In the three seasons immediately preceding Fuente’s arrival in 2012, the Tigers went 5-31. After winning seven games his first two seasons, Memphis went 9-3 in the regular season in claiming its first conference championship since the early seventies.

If Memphis wins its Miami Bowl matchup with BYU Dec. 22, it would mark the first time since the football program moved to the FBS/Div. 1-A level in 1960 that it finished a season with double-digit wins.

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Average cost of a national title game ticket? Nearly $1,700

American Money

We still don’t know yet who will square off in the College Football Playoff championship game.  What we do know is, if you want a ticket, it’ll cost you.  Plenty.

According to a report from The Oregonian, and based on prices available at Vivid Seats, a secondary ticket marketplace, the average price of a ticket for the Jan. 12 title game at AT&T Stadium in Dallas is $1,681. For the penny-pinchers in the crowd, the cheapest ticket to that game is $540 at the moment.

For comparison’s sake, the average price of a ticket for the final BCS title game, pitting Florida State against Auburn, was $1,907 based on a report from Forbes.com via Vivid Seats last Dec. 17. The cheapest ticket for that game at that time could hardly be labeled as cheap, with an end zone seat in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena setting you back $1,245.

Three weeks later, there, there were reports that the average ticket price for the BCS finale had dropped to $374 on the secondary ticket market, although that data was through TiqIQ.

As for the two CFP semifinal games that will be played New Year’s Day, the average price for a ticket to the Sugar Bowl (Alabama vs. Ohio State) comes in at $501, while the average for a ducat to the Rose Bowl (Oregon vs. Florida State) is $376.

TiqIQ reports that Sugar Bowl prices are 55.3% higher than for the 2014 game (Oklahoma vs. Alabama), while the Rose Bowl is down 33.3% compared to last season’s game (Michigan State vs, Stanford).

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BYU DB Dallin Leavitt transfers to Utah State

Houston v BYU Getty Images

Dallin Leavitt has decided to leave BYU but, as it turns out, he won’t have to leave the state.

Earlier this month it was reported that Leavitt would be transferring out of the BYU football program to an undetermined new location. Wednesday that new location was officially determined as both the player and his new head coach revealed via Twitter that he will continue his collegiate playing career at rival Utah State.

According to the Deseret News, Leavitt visited Logan last weekend before pulling the trigger on a transfer to USU.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Leavitt will be forced to sit out the 2015 season. Beginning in 2016, Leavitt will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Leavitt contributed immediately as a true freshman in 2013, playing in all 13 games with one start. In 2014, he played in 11 of 12 regular season games, and is currently fifth in tackles with 43. His 3.5 tackles for loss this season are second among defensive backs.

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