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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Pac-12 Predictions

Washington v Arizona State Getty Images

As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the Pac-12. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

PAC-12 NORTH

1. Oregon (Last year: 11-2; beat Texas at Alamo Bowl)
The Ducks have been on the cusp of elite status as a program for the past four seasons. It’s time for the program to get over the hump and win a national title. This year’s squad may have the best chance to capture the school’s first national championship. It all starts with the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota is the best signal caller currently playing collegiate football. Yes, that includes Florida State’s Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston. Mariota may have hoisted the trophy last year if he didn’t suffer a knee injury late in the season which hampered his style of play. Mariota is extremely efficient as a passer, highly intelligent with his decision-making and a deadly athlete when he decides to run with the football. The Ducks also return key starters at vital positions. Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and center Hroniss Grasu may have been the top players selected at their position in May’s NFL draft. Yet, they decided to return to Eugene.  The team’s leading rusher (Byron Marshall), tackler (Derrick Malone) and sack artist (Tony Washington) return as well. As Mark Helfrich enters his second year as head coach, there aren’t any excuses for the Ducks this season. It’s a national championship or bust. This is the year for Oregon to prove its more than a flashy offense and uniform trendsetters.

2. Stanford (Last year: 11-3; lost to Michigan State in Rose Bowl)
Cardinal faithful will almost certainly remind anyone who will listen that their team beat Oregon the past two seasons and claimed Pac-12 conference titles. However, the Cardinal simply aren’t as talented from top to bottom as the Ducks. The key players Oregon retained; the Cardinal lost. The team lost it’s leading rusher, tackler, sack artist and four of its starting offensive linemen. While Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan may be entering his second full season as the team’s starter, he’s a notch below the elite quarterbacks in the Pac-12 conference.David Shaw is one of the best coaches in college football. This team will continue it’s winning ways. But Stanford will likely take a slight step backwards as the Ducks reclaim the honor as the best team in the Pac-12 Conference.

3. Oregon State (Last year: 7-6; beat Boise State in Hawai’i Bowl)
College football’s leading-returning passer resides in Corvallis, Oregon. Quarterback Sean Mannion returns for his senior campaign after throwing for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns. But Mannion won’t have Biletnikoff Trophy winner Brandin Cooks to throw to anymore. And that ‘s a good thing. Mannion’s experience behind center is a major positive for the Beavers, but Oregon State head coach Mike Riley admitted the coaching staff became enamored with throwing the football due to their dynamic duo at quarterback and wide receiver. This season, the Beavers will be more balanced on offense and more closely resemble the team that went 9-4 in 2012 instead of the one that was 7-6 last season. Senior Terran Ward and junior Storm Woods combined for 1,060 rushing yards last season. They should receive bigger workloads. With a more balanced attack, the Beavers hope to avoid another five-game losing streak in Pac-12 play. The team seen during its 38-23 victory over Boise State in the Hawai’i Bowl is the one Pac-12 opponents should expect to face Saturdays this fall.

4. Washington (Last year: 9-4; beat BYU in Fight Hunger Bowl)
The University of Washington did the impossible; they pried Chris Petersen out of Boise and made him their new head coach. Petersen inherits a talented roster built slowly over time by previous head coach Steve Sarkisian. After three straight 7-6 seasons, the Huskies finally broke through with an 9-4 campaign in 2013. The team then lost it’s head coach, quarterback and workhorse running back. Change of that degree will likely cause the Huskies to take a small step back during the upcoming season. While Peterson was ultra-successful during his eight seasons at Boise State, his team stumbled last year and lost four games for the first time in eight years. The last coach to have that type of success at Boise then finish with a four-loss team before moving to the Pac-12 was Dan Hawkins. Furthermore, there are still questions at quarterback for the Huskies. Cyler Miles hasn’t shown he’s ready to take over the team. Until one of the quarterbacks does, the Huskies will have to rely on a talented defense, particularly a defensive line that features nose tackle Danny Shelton and defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha.

5. Washington State (Last year: 6-7; lost to Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl)
This will be Mike Leach‘s third year in Pullman, Washington. It was in Leach’s third year at Texas Tech he was able to lead the Red Raiders to a nine-win season. He won’t be as lucky with the Cougars. It’s taken Leach some time to implement the “Air Raid” offense that far north. This should be the first season in which it’s fully functional with senior Connor Halliday as the trigger-man behind center. However, the team’s defense struggled mightily in 2013 and finished 102nd overall. Leach’s run at Texas Tech was special, because he could out-scheme nearly everyone in the Big 12. But he could always rely on the talent he recruited in the state of Texas. The state of Washington doesn’t present the same level of talent. In three recruiting classes, only one former four-star recruit, wide receiver Gabe Marks, is expected to contribute for the Cougars this season. And that talent disparity will keep Wazzu toward the bottom of the Pac-12.

6. Cal (Last year: 1-11)
The hiring of Sonny Dykes as Cal’s head coach was an absolute disaster. The Golden Bears finished 1-11. They didn’t play any defense whatsoever. Players were leaving the program as soon as possible once the season ended. The only expectation for the team this season is to improve on last year’s record and actually win a conference game. Cal should be able to move the ball in Dykes’ version of the “Air Raid” offense. Quarterback Jared Goff enters his second season as starter after he put together a solid season as a true freshman. Plus, four of Goff’s top five receivers return. The Golden Bears will be able to throw the football, but the question is whether or not the defense will be able to stop anyone. History says no. Art Kaufman was hired as the team’s defensive coordinator this off season, and he has an uphill battle in front of him. Even when Dykes led Louisiana Tech to a 9-3 record, a national ranking and nearly defeated a Texas A&M team led by Johnny Manzielthe Bulldogs were the worst defensive team in college football. Dykes’ emphasis falls on the offensive side of the ball, and that is not going to change. It’s only a matter of time before Cal is looking for another head coach once the school’s new athletic director is named.

PAC-12 SOUTH

1. UCLA (Last year: 10-3; beat Virginia Tech in Sun Bowl)
Expectations are sky high at UCLA. And they should be. In two short years, Jim Mora has completely rebuilt the culture in Westwood. Plus, the Bruins are fortunate to have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Brett Hundley. If Hundley declared for the NFL draft this year, he would have been a first-round selection. He’s projected to be a Top 10 pick for next May. The quarterback is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talent on this roster. Senior Jordan James and sophomore Paul Perkins return in the backfield after combining for 1,107 rushing yards in 2013. Devin Fuller is a dynamic play maker out of the slot. And the defense may be even more talented. The two-way superstar Myles Jacks is one of college football’s top linebackers and a pretty good running back too. Erik Kendricks is highly instinctive and a tackling machine. Sophomores Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes will be one year better and impossible to move along the defensive interior. And the secondary is experienced with Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams returning. The No. 1 one goal for the Bruins will be to claim a Pac-12 championship, but this team has legitimate national championship potential. They simply have to get past Oregon and Stanford to prove they’re worthy of a berth in the College Football Playoff.

2. USC (Last year: 10-4; beat Fresno State in Las Vegas Bowl)
It’s hard to maintain momentum from one season to another. Although, USC appeared to regain its confidence and swagger as a program when it won six of its last seven games under the direction of interim head coach Ed Oregeron. Despite the team’s late season success, Oregeron wasn’t hired to become the team’s permanent head coach. Enter Steve Sarkisian, a former co-offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll. Despite sub-par seasons by USC’s standards in recent years, the team has two things in its favor. First, the talent from the top of the roster to the bottom is always among the best in college football. Second, the team’s depth will continue to improve as the bottom of the roster is rebuilt after being previously hamstrung by NCAA sanctions. The Trojans will be led by a strong defense which features the potential No. 1 overall pick in May’s NFL draft, defensive lineman Leonard Williams. The unit finished 13th overall in total defense last season. The offense, meanwhile, will continue to grow under the direction of offensive coordinator Clay Helton and junior quarterback Cody Kessler. The offense played at a much higher level once Lane Kiffin was fired and Helton became the primary play-caller. It was a smart decision by Sarkisian to retain Helton on his staff.  All the pieces are in place for the Trojans to become a factor in the Pac-12 again. USC faithful has to hope Sarkisian was the right hire to keep them in the national conversation.

3. Arizona State (Last year: 10-4; lost to Texas Tech in Holiday Bowl)
Since the Pac-12 South is generally considered the weaker division in the conference, it’s been somewhat overlooked that the Sun Devils played in the league’s championship game last year. Head coach Todd Graham has built a team that is known for its fast-pace offense and aggressive defense. In fact, Arizona State features the best quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the Pac-12 with Taylor Kelly behind center and Jaelen Strong creating mismatches for defenses. Kelly, in particular, has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the Pac-12 the past two seasons. And running back D.J. Foster is a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. Arizona State may even be able to challenge UCLA and USC atop the Pac-12 South, but the team’s previously devastating defensive front is being completely rebuilt. The team lost it’s top tackler, sack artist and two-time Pac-12 Defense Player of the Year Will Sutton to the NFL. Graham will continue to blitz every chance he gets, but he no longer has the talent to win individual match-ups on a regular basis. The offense will score points, but the defense will have trouble stopping anyone. 

4.  Arizona (Last year: 8-5; beat Boston College in AdvoCare V100 Bowl)
Is the year the Wildcats are ready to take the next step under head coach Rich Rodriguez? During his first two seasons with the program, Arizona finished with an 8-5 record. The problem with Rodriguez is the passing game and defense suffer from the coach’s insistence to implement his offensive scheme, which is a zone-read heavy. The x-factor this season will be whomever Rodriguez’s names as his starting quarterback. Last season, B.J. Denker didn’t provide any consistency throwing the football. It will either be redshirt freshman Anu Solomon or senior transfer Jesse Scroggins which takes over the offense. Solomon reportedly has a slight lead in the competition during fall camp. These two will have to be better dual-threats out of the backfield than Denker was. And the defense has to be better after surrendering 401.1 yards per game last season. If these two things happen, the Wildcats will finish higher in the standings than CFT currently projects. But, it’s unlikely.

5. Colorado (Last year: 4-8)
A 4-8 record for any other program would be a disappointment. Colorado, however, isn’t just any program. It’s a school that went through an ugly divorce with previous head coach Jon Embree. Four wins by first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre was actually a three-game improvement. MacIntyre has a history of rebuilding a program in a similar fashion. He took San Jose State from a one-win team to 10 wins in three seasons. While the growth at Colorado should be far more incremental, the Buffaloes will continue to improve under the current coaching staff. The team returns 16 starters, including quarterback Sefo Liufau, and has a manageable non-conference schedule. There are at least five games the Buffaloes could be considered the favorites to win. It will be up to the coaching staff and players to steal one or two more wins from Pac-12 opponents.

6.  Utah (Last year: 5-7)
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham enters his 10th season with the program, and it could be his last if the Utes fall to the basement of the Pac-12 South. The problems start on the offensive side of the football. Whittingham used numerous different play-callers in recent years, but the Utes’ offense continued to sputter. Utah finished 76th overall in total offense during the 2013 campaign. Last season the defense wasn’t the team’s saving grace either. The Utes finished 60th overall in total defense. Whittingham will need key players to step up this season if the team has any hope of consistently competing in the Pac-12. Quarterback Travis Wilson has to improve after throwing 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions as a sophomore. Another 5-7 season or worse will likely signal change within the program.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Oregon over UCLA

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Mack Brown tweets he will decide on coaching future in December

Mack Brown

Will Mack Brown return to coaching? He has not said “no.” In fact, he says he will make a decision on his possible return to coaching in December.

Brown was asked by one of his Twitter followers if he would ever think about returning to the sidelines. The former Texas coach said a decision will come later this year.

This is noteworthy because just this week word came out some well-connected people at SMU are intrigued by the possibility of having Brown become the next head coach at SMU. Are the pieces starting to come together for Brown’s next job?

Brown is currently a studio analyst for ESPN.

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FSU booster group investigating fired booster for missing $500,000-$700,000

Clemson v Florida State

The Seminole Boosters fired comptroller Sanford Lovingood on Wednesday after being accused og misappropriating somewhere between a reported $500,000 and $700,000. There is no connection to Florida State’s football program at this time, but this may be a story worth keeping an eye on with an investigation opening to attempt to track down where those funds went.

According to a statement released by the booster organization for Florida State athletics, the missing funds were discovered in a review of banking records Wednesday and the boosters are working to resolve the matter. A forensic audit is already getting started to determine how the funds were taken out of the organization’s coffers and what happened with them.

The booster organization says it has updated the university administration, Board of Trustees, athletics department and more about the unsettling news and will update accordingly. Lovingood apparently turned himself over to Leon Country Sheriff’s Office and is cooperating with law enforcement.

“We will aggressively pursue recovery of the funds and are confident they will be restored,” said Mike Harrell, chairman of the Seminole Boosters Board of Directors. “We take our fiscal responsibilities very seriously.”

It is important to state once again, at this time there is no documented connection to the Florida State football program. If it is discovered Florida State players accepted payments from Lovingood or any other boosters, then we would be looking at the possibility of NCAA involvement and potential sanctions or vacated wins, but that is not the case now. It may be possible Lovingood simply took the money for himself for all we know right now. For the time being, you may just want to keep an eye on the developments regarding this case.

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Clemson OL Gore out 2 games following appendectomy

Joe Gore, Nick Schuessler, D.J. Reader

Clemson’s offensive line will be without one part-time starter the next two games. Joe Gore underwent an appendectomy to have his appendix removed Wednesday.

As reported by The Charlotte Observer, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney announced Gore’s status following a practice today. The two games Gore is expected to miss will be this weekend’s home game against North Carolina State and next weekend’s home game against Louisville. Both are division games for the Tigers.

Gore has started three games for Clemson this season. He is listed second on the depth chart for this weekend’s game behind Isaiah Battle at left tackle.

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Suspended Notre Dame CB KeiVarae Russell: This school is becoming ridiculous

KeiVarae Russell

The hearings for a handful of Notre Dame players continues this week, and the waiting game is starting to get to at least one of the suspended Irish players. Or so it seems. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell shared some thoughts on Instagram on Wednesday confirming he has gone through his hearing regarding academic dishonesty. He said the hearing went well, but he does not seem pleased with having to wait to find out the ruling from the committee conducting the investigation and hearings.

As reported by College Football Talk contributor JJ Stankevitz for CSN Chicago, Russell said the following on Instagram

“Noooo, still not back. It sucks. Hearing went well in my opinion thought. Was able to express my case from my POV and bring to light alot of what was false “evidence.” But they are making me wait till every hearing is done to make a decision… it sucks.”

In a separate comment, Russell said Notre Dame is “becoming ridiculous.” Again via CSN Chicago;

“This school is becoming ridiculous. I killed my meeting; I was so prepared and ready and was able to refute damn near every suspicion they had. Described details of assignments thoroughly so they couldn’t say I didn’t do it, AND THEY STILL SAID MY DECISION WONT COME UNTIL ALL 5 OF US (and some other minor hearings) ARE DONE. Decision MIGHT come next week, not even 100% it’s tough to understand these people..”

There is also this…

Notre Dame is conducting hearings for wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, defensive back Eilar Hardy, defensive end Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore in addition to Russell. As far as we know, none of these players have taken to Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat or whatever social networking service the kids are using these days to voice their opinions.

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OSU TE Heuerman on Maryland: We’re going to show them what Big Ten football is

Jeff Heuerman Getty Images

Maryland played its first Big Ten game last week, and it went well. The Terrapins picked up a road win at Indiana, a week after the Hoosiers upset Missouri on the road. It was a big win for Maryland, but this weekend comes the first real dose of Big Ten football. Maryland is hosting Ohio State, and Buckeyes tight end Jeff Heuerman is looking forward to extending a welcoming hand to his new division rival.

“We’re going to go there and we’re going to welcome them to the Big Ten,” Heuerman said Wednesday, per Cleveland.com. “We’re going to go on the road and it’s going to be a big game and we’re going to show them what Big Ten football is and hopefully it’ll come out in our favor.”

This will mark the first meeting between the two schools in football. Maryland was a founding member of the ACC before joining the Big Ten this season. Ohio State, of course, has been one of the landmark institutions in the Big Ten since the conference was formed. The Buckeyes have also been one of the programs carrying the national reputation of the Big Ten for the past decade or so, for the most part. Despite losing quarterback Braxton Miller for the season, the Buckeyes still have the look of a top Big Ten contender this fall.

Maryland has already suffered a close loss at home, to West Virginia, but the Terrapins have looked pretty good the rest of the season so far by winning on the road at Syracuse and Indiana in recent weeks. But this is Ohio State, and things have a different feel when the Buckeyes are lining up on the other side of the field.

“They’re saying it’s one of the biggest games in Maryland history,” Heuerman said. “Whatever that means.”

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Utah State says Chuckie Keeton likely out for the season

Chuckie Keeton

The return of Chuckie Keeton to the football field did not go as planned this fall. And now it looks as though it is over. Utah State sent out a release Wednesday evening stating Keeton is likely out for the rest of the 2014 season.

Keeton suffered a left knee injury against Wake Forest earlier in the season. The injury was to the same knee that underwent surgery last season for a torn ACL and a torn MCL. The initial feeling seemed optimistic at the time, although the team decided it was bets to play it safe. He sat out Utah State’s game against Arkansas State as a caution. Apparently things have not gotten much better in the weeks since the injury took place.

“Chuckie’s health is our top priority and he has not been cleared to play by our medical staff,” said Utah State head coach Matt Wells in the school’s released statement. “We will continue to monitor his progress throughout the fall, but given his current condition it is unlikely that he will play in any games in the foreseeable future.”

Keeton has never redshirted during his collegiate career, but this is his senior year. Whether or not he will be able to use a medical redshirt remains to be seen at this point. Here’s hoping Keeton can find a way to stay healthy though and maybe get another chance on the field. He has battled injuries throughout his collegiate career, so the concern is great for his potential future.

One thing is for sure. College football is much more entertaining and enjoyable when Keeton is healthy. Sadly, we have not been treated to enough of it.

As for Utah State, Darrell Garretson will once again assume the starting job for the Aggies. Just as he did last season, Garretson will look to lead Utah State forward through Mountain West Conference play. Last year, while filling in for Keeton, Garretson threw for 1,436 yards and 10 touchdowns and led Utah State to the Mountain West Conference championship game, where Utah State fell shy against Fresno State. This season could play out in similar fashion.

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Alabama RB Jones has surgery for torn tendon in finger

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

It is a good thing Alabama is stacked at the running back position, because one player is going to be out of action for an extended period of time. Tyren Jones will be out for several weeks after undergoing surgery on his finger.

Nick Saban announced Wednesday Jones had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his finger. Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, running back depth is not a concern in Tuscaloosa. T.J. Yeldon remains the team’s starter, followed by Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake on the depth chart before getting to Jones.

Jones had rushed 13 times for 89 yards and a touchdown in the three games he has appeared in. He is fifth on the team in rushing.

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Promising USC freshman receiver suffers hamstring

Fresno State v USC Getty Images

USC saw some promise in freshman wide receiver Ajene Harris last weekend against Oregon State, but he will be sitting on the sideline this weekend. Harris suffered a hamstring injury, which was announced by head coach Steve Sarkisian following Wednesday’s practice.

This is a setback for Harris, who has been impressive to the USC coaches and making a push for a significant role in the offense. While it remains unknown just how much time he will miss, the future is still incredibly bright for Harris, a former three-star recruit according to Rivals.

Last week Harris caught three passes for 30 yards, with a chunk of that coming ona  21-yard reception. He had been swapped in and out of the first team offense through the first few weeks, but that was more a credit to the quality depth at the position USC is playing with than anything else. Hamstring injuries are tricky to predict. The severity of the injury is unknown, but hamstring injuries have a way of lingering longer for some players than others without any way to know when it will be fully healed.

Helmet sticker to Conquest Chronicles.

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Louisville congratulates Bridgewater on first NFL win with billboard

Teddy Bridgewater

Former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater got his first start in the NFL on Sunday afternoon for the Minnesota Vikings. He was injured in the game, but he got the job done before having his first start end early. Everyone, it seems, is sending him congrats this week, including Louisville.

As seen in Minneapolis, this digital billboard message congratulates the former Louisville Cardinal on his first start and victory with the Vikings.

Bridgewater went 19-of-30 for 317 yards to help the Vikings defeat the Atlanta Falcons, 41-28. He was carted off the field with a sprained ankle on Sunday and underwent a MRI on Monday. It remains unknown if he will be playing Thursday night, for those college football fans looking to kill some time before Oregon and Arizona kick off.

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Will Brady Hoke reach the end of the season?

Brady Hoke

The temperature is boiling in Ann Arbor for head coach Brady Hoke and athletics director Dave Brandon. Will either of these two men be able to hold onto their jobs through the entire football season?

Noted Michigan football historian and author John Bacon feels somewhat confident in suggesting Hoke’s job will be safe for the remainder of the season, but an evaluation will likely take place after that. As for Brandon, well…

I asked Bacon for a quick clarification. He says a change of head coach is still likely, but it will not happen or begin to take place during the course of the season.

This seems to make sense, if you believe change is inevitable at Michigan. If the university feels the leadership needs a change starting at the AD position, why let go of the football coach now and allow the AD a chance to hire the next head coach? This would be similar to a major league baseball team allowing a lame duck general manager to hire a new manager and make some trades. Hoke may very well be on his way out at the end of the season unless he finds a way to get the Wolverines to rattle off a winning streak and Big Ten championship nobody sees coming. But for the state of the football program, not much will be better by making a change at head coach now compared to the end of the season. It is a different situation with an athletics director.

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Pac-12 offers another reason to lose sleep Thursday night

Oregon v Arizona Getty Images

The Pac-12 has been serving up plenty of excitement for college football fans choosing to stay up late and sacrifice a few hours of sleep on Thursday nights this season. In week one we saw Rutgers and Washington State trade blows on college football’s first Thursday night. The following week saw Arizona take to the road to escape San Antonio with a win over UTSA. Last week rewarded late-night viewers with the first dominant performance by UCLA of the season, on the road at Arizona State on a Thursday night.

There may be some concerns about the Pac-12’s late night kickoffs, but there is no disputing the games have been worth staying up for from an entertainment standpoint. The Thursday night game this weekend could be another. No. 2 Oregon hosts Arizona in a cross-division match-up between 4-0 teams with a revenge factor on the line. Arizona snapped Oregon’s Rose Bowl dreams last year in blowout fashion.

The game is scheduled to kickoff at 10:30 p.m. on the east coast. Degenerates like me will be going against the east coast bias narrative and staying up to watch it, but how important is it that the nation’s second-ranked team is playing so late, when the majority of the potential east coast viewership will be going to bed well before the game is over? Should this continue to be a concern for the Pac-12? Will voters be influenced purely by the score because they didn’t stay up to watch the Ducks and Wildcats?

Ultimately, the concern as far as a playoff standpoint should be a non-issue, if you believe the members of the selection committee for the College Football Playoff are doing their due diligence. But from a conference standpoint, it feels as though the Pac-12 misses out on an opportunity to showcase one of the banner programs in the conference the last few years. A game involving two 4-0 teams deserves a better primetime slot for a larger audience, does it not?

This goes back to one of the problems the Pac-12 has been facing. The conference is improving its football brand. Teams are better and the conference should be going the extra mile to ensure more potential viewers get a chance to see them. By kicking off half past ten o’clock in the night, the reach has to be decreasing. Or is it?

Thursday night is highly competitive for college football now that the NFL has a weekly game on Thursday nights. This week the college football card of UCF-Houston and FAU-FIU will likely be squashed by the NFL match-up between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Throw in some playoff baseball (Baltimore Orioles hosting Detroit Tigers in the early game and Los Angeles Angels hosting the Kansas City Royals in the later game), and you can see why the Pac-12 may not be too upset having Oregon and Arizona kicking off at 10:30 p.m. The Pac-12’s core audience is on the west coast, so the time difference is not as much a concern to them. By the time Oregon and Arizona kick off, the NFL will be in the second half (and given the track record for Thursday night football this season, the game will be ugly and fans will be looking for something different), the two other college games will be wrapping up and the only real competition for viewers will be with baseball.

What will you be watching Thursday night?

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LSU transfer among two Arizona players leaving team

UNLV v Arizona

Jordan Allen‘s stay in the desert didn’t last nearly as long as expected.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, the defensive end was one of two Arizona football players to leave the football program recently.  No reason was given for the decision, although the Star did indicate that Allen (pictured, left) is likely done with football.

Allen started the first game of the year for the Wildcats, although his playing time has dipped dramatically since.  It’s unclear if that was the impetus for his decision.

In early April of this year, Allen left LSU seeking a transfer.  At the end of that month, he landed at Arizona.

Allen’s decision to transfer from the Tigers earlier this spring was reportedly more about academics than football as the lineman he couldn’t get into grad school at LSU after receiving his bachelor’s degree.

Allen entered the 2013 season as a starting end before losing that job. He ultimately played in all 13 games for the Tigers after missing most of the 2012 season with a knee injury.

A four-star member of LSU’s 2010 recruiting class, Allen was rated as the No. 10 strongside end in the country coming out of high school in West Monroe, Louisiana.

In addition to Allen, linebacker Mekani Kema-Kaleiwahea has left the program as well.  Kema-Kaleiwahea, who would like to transfer to a place closer to his home in Hawaii, has been buried on the depth chart after competing in summer camp for a starting job.

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Former UCF assistant on O’Leary: ‘a racist he is not’

George O'Leary AP

A former assistant of George O’Leary‘s has come to the defense of the UCF head coach.

In a lawsuit filed by Paul Ferraro late last week, the former UCF defensive coordinator accused O’Leary of making racist remarks and creating a work environment “permeated by bullying, threatening behavior, and repeated discriminatory epithets.” While O’Leary has not yet responded to the accusations, David Kelly has.

In an interview with FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman, the former Knights wide receivers coach, who’s black, was incredulous when discussing the accusations made against his former boss by Ferraro, who he also considers a friend.

“I never have heard (O’Leary) say anything that could be interpreted as derogatory, degrading, or slightly disrespectful regarding any race, or sect of people,” Kelly told Feldman. “George O’Leary is a lot of things to a lot of people, I’m sure, but a racist he is not.

“I worked for him for many years, and no, I didn’t always agree with everything he did, but I have always had the utmost respect for him.

“Many things that I practice today, in all walks of my life, are derived from many of the things that I learned from him.”

Ferraro, who maintained in the suit that he’s owed $15,000 by UCF, wrote in an email to O’Leary and the staff at the time that “[n]o longer will I put up with your constant verbal abuse of both our coaching and support staff. Threatening coaches on a regular basis with their jobs and racial slurs mixed in to make a point is wrong.” Ferraro was hired in late December of last year and left in early March; the school claims he resigned, the coach claims he was fired.

Kelly resigned in November of 2011 amidst a cloud of NCAA controversy, and acknowledged that he “[o]bviously wasn’t present during any of the interchanges that [O'Leary] had with Paul at UCF.”

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Syracuse’s second-leading receiver already ruled out of UofL game

Syracuse v Northwestern Getty Images

For the second consecutive week, Syracuse will be without a top threat in its passing game.

Tuesday, offensive coordinator George McDonald confirmed Ashton Broyld will not be available for the Orange’s game Friday against Louisville. Broyld suffered an unspecified lower-leg injury in the loss to Maryland and did not play in the loss to Notre Dame last weekend.

The original prognosis was for the junior wide receiver to miss a couple of weeks, so this doesn’t exactly come as a surprise to the staff.

“He was out there running around so he’s pushing his rehab to get out there,” McDonald said, “but I think he still might be another week or so away.”

Barring a setback, Broyld should return for the October 11 game against Florida State.

At the time of the injury, Broyld was tops on the team with 11 receptions and was second with 125 receiving yards. Broyld’s now tied for second and fourth, respectively, in those categories.

Last season, Broyld led the team last year in both categories (52-452).

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Big Ten issues statement on autonomy recommendations

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Wednesday, the ACC released a statement laying out its priorities for the Power Five’s looming autonomy structure.  A day later, yet another league heavyweight has done the same.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Big Ten laid out its own point-by-point agenda for further enhancing the benefits of student-athletes.  Not so surprisingly, the agenda is almost a mirror image of the one laid out by the ACC, and what’s been discussed ad nauseam over the past year or two.

As there is no new territory plowed in the Big Ten’s statement, it’s presented below without commentary.  Do with it and discuss it as you will:

The Big Ten Conference announced today that it has notified the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of initial recommendations designed to provide enhanced benefits for student-athletes that are members in good standing with their individual universities as part of the NCAA’s new autonomy governance structure.

For the past two years, the conference has publicly stated its desire to continue providing student-athletes with an unmatched educational and athletic experience, including comments made by Commissioner James E. Delany at the July 2013 Big Ten Football Media Days, at the Collegiate Commissioners Association meeting on September 25, 2013, at the July 2014 Big Ten Football Media Days, and in statements issued by the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors on June 1, 2014 and June 24, 2014.

The Big Ten will work to implement the following proposals through individual institutional action, conference-wide action or under the NCAA autonomy governance structure:
Cost of Education: Redefine full grant-in-aid to meet a student-athlete’s cost of education, as determined by the federal government.
Multi-Year Scholarships: Guarantee all scholarships. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be no impact on institutions’ commitment to deliver an undergraduate education.
Lifetime Educational Commitment: Ensure that scholarships are available for life. If a student-athlete leaves a university for a professional career before graduating, whether the career materializes, and regardless of its length, the scholarship will be honored after his or her playing days are complete.
Medical Insurance: Provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes.

The Big Ten has also agreed to address additional student-athlete welfare issues including, but not limited to, health and safety, time demands and comprehensive academic support by way of a “Resolution” that creates a specific pathway and timeline for implementation.

The Big Ten Conference is an association of 14 world-class universities committed to the pursuit and attainment of athletic and academic excellence. Big Ten institutions feature broad-based athletic programs which provide nearly $200 million in direct financial aid to almost 9,500 student-athletes on 350 teams in 42 different sports.

We look forward to working with the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC through the NCAA autonomy governance structure toward adoption and implementation of these proposals.

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