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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Big Ten Predictions

Purdue v Wisconsin AP

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 Big Ten. 

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

BIG TEN EAST

1. Michigan State (Last year: 13-1; beat Stanford in Rose Bowl)
Michigan State will have the best defense in the Big Ten, despite losing some key players from 2013. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will figure out how to get the most out of his defense and players like defensive end Shilque Calhoun and safety Kurtis Drummond will help make that task easier. The defending champs will be unlikely to start so slow on offense this season, as they did in 2013, with quarterback Connor Cook back and seasoned (and most importantly, confident). Michigan State’s offense should be balanced and reliant on the run with Jeremy Langford coming off 1,422 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Getting Ohio State at home is key as far as Big Ten play is concerned, but a week two trip to Oregon could keep the Spartans playing catch-up in the playoff discussion from the start.

2. Ohio State (Last year: 12-2; lost to Clemson in Orange Bowl)
Here’s the thing with Ohio State. With or without quarterback Braxton Miller, Ohio State may still be the best team in the Big Ten this season, but with Miller lost for the entire season the idea of Ohio State running through the regular season unscathed becomes much less likely. In a season that was expected to be layoff or bust, the Buckeyes may have already gone bust, but this is still a talented team that could be favored in every game of the season, with the likely exception of a road trip to East Lansing in early November. JT Barrett will take over under center, lacking much experience and with a fraction of the potential of a healthy Miller, but the Buckeyes will find some ways to make it work. Afterall it is not as though the rest of the roster is lacking for players ready to leave their mark. Look for Ohio State to get a bit tougher on defense this season, with Michael Bennett anchoring the defensive line and Noah Spence on the edge after serving a suspension.

3. Michigan (Last year: 7-6; lost to Kansas State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
Is this the year Brady Hoke turns the Michigan trends back in his favor? Only a handful of players on the roster now were not recruited by his staff, so his stamp is officially on this Michigan football program. The addition of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier comes with high expectations for improving the offense, which was dismal at times in protecting quarterback Devin Gardner and protecting the football. This was a team on the brink of losing at home to Akron but a play away from taking out Ohio State. You try figuring this Michigan team out. Moving tight end Devin Funchess to wide receiver was needed to improve the receiving position and should work well, and the running backs look to improve as well. Michigan’s defense is in the most in need of improving, cutting down on big plays allowed being the biggest concern. Adding star recruit Jabrill Peppers at defensive back could give a boost in that area.

4. Penn State (Last year: 7-5)
The James Franklin era gets underway with great enthusiasm but lingering concerns over roster depth. Penn State will have the talent at positions to do some good things and win a game they probably shouldn’t along the way (Ohio State and Michigan State at home?), but the depth concerns to lose a game they probably should not (Indiana in Bloomington, again?). The light at the end of the tunnel is there for Penn State, which is good news. Penn State also has one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation with sophomore Christian Hackenberg. Offensive line concerns are legitimate of course, as they have been for years, but if Hackenberg stays healthy the offense can be effective. The defense on the other hand, could use some playmakers and some more brute force up front to bring pressure on opposing QBs and close down running lanes.

5. Maryland (Last year: 7-6; lost to Marshall in Military Bowl as ACC member)
Maryland receives no favors on the schedule in their debut season as a member of the Big Ten, but the Terrapins join the new conference with possibly the best wide receiver unit in the conference. Stefon Diggs has the ability to break open a big play at any moment, and he plays in a division that sees some weaknesses in secondaries all over (except Michigan State). And do not forget about Levern Jacobs and Deon Long. Maryland’s biggest concern is keeping quarterback C.J. Brown upright to be able to get those receivers the football. The defense hit walls against explosive offenses in 2013 but returns a good number of upperclassmen, which is usually nice. A fourth-place finish is not all that unrealistic, but probably a reach for Maryland in 2014.

6. Indiana (Last year: 5-7)
The Hoosiers have an offense that is capable of giving every team in the Big Ten some fits. Credit head coach Kevin Wilson for making that happen since he arrived in Bloomington, but the defense is not a unit that will cause much fear on a weekly basis. The Hoosiers averaged 38.4 points per game last season, but the defense allowed 38.8 points per game. If the defense can just improve a little bit, then the Hoosiers should be seriously thinking about making plans for a postseason bowl game. It could be a rough start with the schedule though with road games at Bowling Green and Missouri. Getting to six wins may be a reach for Indiana unless they can get off to a good start. Running back Tevin Coleman could become one of the top running backs int he Big Ten.

7. Rutgers (Last year: 6-7; lost to Notre Dame in Pinstripe Bowl)
Rutgers is going to have a tall mountain to climb in year one in the Big Ten. Rutgers must go on the road to Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State and hosts Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Getting to six wins to return to the postseason is a reach for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers does add Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator, which should result in some better scheming and preparation, but Gary Nova is still the best option at quarterback and Rutgers has lost some key players over the last couple of years. Experience is thin. The defense could be picked apart by most teams n the schedule, which should be a constant area of focus for Rutgers.

BIG TEN WEST

1. Wisconsin (Last year: 9-4; lost to South Carolina in Capital One Bowl)
The Badgers fell shy of playing for yet another Big Ten championship last season, but now in a new division it looks as though Wisconsin has the easiest road to travel back to Indianapolis this fall. The Badgers will be led by one of the top running backs in the country, Melvin Gordon, and have a schedule worthy of legitimate playoff consideration if things go their way. A season-opening game against LSU in Cowboys Stadium is far from impossible and a home game against Bowling green should deserve more respect than it may get. Avoiding Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State in crossover games is nice too. On offense there is a need to see some players step up to support Gordon and quarterback Joel Stave needs to be a bit more consistent. The defense will be good, not great, but needs to find a way to create more turnovers in 2014.

2. Iowa (Last year: 8-5; lost to LSU in Outback Bowl)
The Hawkeyes may not dazzle with their style of play, but it should be effective enough to make a realistic run to an appearance in the Big Ten championship game. The Hawkeyes are anchored on the offensive line by left tackle Brandon Scherff and the rest of the line should do well in creating space for running back Mark Weisman. Iowa’s offense is designed to win some ugly games, and the defense should be capable of allowing for that to happen. Defensive tackle Carl Davis will lead the way up front along with defensive end Drew Ott. Iowa allowed just 18.9 points per game last season. The most challenging game on the schedule before late November may be a road game at Pittsburgh, but Iowa ends the regular season with Wisconsin and Nebraska at home on back-to-back weeks, with the division potentially on the line and Iowa in control of its own path.

3. Nebraska (Last year: 9-4; beat Georgia in Gator Bowl)
Nebraska will also have one of the top running backs in the Big Ten and the nation with Ameer Abdullah, but the Cornhuskers have some work to do in improving the supporting cast to become a top contender in the Big Ten. The Huskers will have some help on the defense with Randy Gregory entering the season as one of the top defensive ends in the conference, but Nebraska’s defense is a long time removed from the great defenses of the past. Bo Pelini‘s team has been consistent with the win total, but inconsistent on a game-to-game basis at times. With road games at Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa, it looks like Nebraska could be staring at another nine-win season.

4. Minnesota (Last year: 8-5; lost to Syracuse in Texas Bowl)
Head coach Jerry Kill has done a tremendous job with building something at Minnesota, but the bar may have been reached by the Gophers for now. Minnesota needs to see big leaps from multiple positions in order to make a run at a top three finish in the west division. Minnesota needs consistency out of the quarterback position from Mitch Leidner. Running back David Cobb should help take some pressure off Leidner, but there will be a time when Minnesota needs a big third-down completion. The schedule is a challenge as well, with a road game at TCU and back-to-back road games in conference play at Nebraska and Wisconsin to end the regular season.

5. Northwestern (Last year: 5-7)
The Wildcats were a trendy pick by many in the west division throughout the offseason, but the late departure of Venric Mark and the loss of wide receiver Christian Jones will take a big toll on Northwestern’s offense, which was to be the strength of the team for head coach Pat Fitzgerald. That is a lot of offensive production lost by the Wildcats, and that does not even account for a new full-time starting quarterback in Trevor Siemian. Fortunately, Siemian is not without some experience in this offense without Mark, with Treyvon Green playing a solid role last fall. On defense, linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo will rack up the tackle numbers but the rest of the defense can be exposed and the special teams break in a new kicker and punter.

6. Illinois (Last year: 4-8)
What will save head coach Tim Beckman? Three years in, Illinois needs to make a push for a postseason game if the heat is going to be turned down on Beckman’s job security. To get there, the Illini defense needs to improve in a hurry. The Illinois defense was shredded routinely last season and the offense was unable to keep up. Adding quarterback Wes Lunt after sitting out the 2013 season should help stabilize the offense, and should help the Illini keep up with the opposition, but the defense needs to find away to come up with some turnovers after not being able to last fall. re there six wins on the schedule? Yes, but it will be a battle to get there until the defense starts showing signs of improvement.

7. Purdue (Last year: 1-11)
There is nowhere to go but up for Purdue, hopefully. A trip to the postseason is a dream at this point, but the Boilermakers should make some improvements this fall. Head coach Darrell Hazell is in year two and the team should be starting to find its identity. On offense, Purdue managed just 14.9 points per game last season and the defense allowed 38.0 points per game. What should the realistic goal for Purdue be in 2014? Getting an extra touchdown per game and cutting one on defense would be a nice way to go. It still will not result in a winning season, but it would be a huge step in the right direction.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Michigan State over Wisconsin

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Stanford, San Diego State announce future home-and-home

David Shaw, Kevin Hogan

Tuesday afternoon brought yet another announcement of a future football series, although this one’s not nearly as far down the scheduling road as some others of late.

In a press release, Stanford announced that it has scheduled a future home-and-home series with San Diego State.  The latter subsequently confirmed the same in its own release as well.

The Aztecs and Cardinal will play the first game at Qualcomm Stadium on Sept. 16, 2017, with the return game scheduled for Sept. 1, 2018, at Stanford Stadium.

Stanford had originally been scheduled to play Virginia those seasons. UVa. announced in April of this year that it was replacing Stanford with Indiana due to what it described as “a scheduling conflict… between the Cardinal and [Cavaliers].”

Despite being separated by 500 miles or so, the Cardinal and Aztecs have met in football just four times, with the first coming in 1985 and the last in 1988 as the final game of a four-game series. Stanford holds a 3-1 edge in the all-time series.

SDSU noted in its release that the Aztecs will play at least one Pac-12 school every season through the 2022 campaign, with all of those comprised of home-and-home series. From the release:

After playing Oregon State each of the past two years (2013-14), San Diego State will begin a home-and-home series with California on Sept. 12 in Berkeley (also 2016 at Qualcomm Stadium). The Aztecs are also slated to play a series with Arizona State (2017 in Tempe, 2018 at Qualcomm Stadium), a home-and-home with Stanford (2017 at Qualcomm Stadium, 2018 in Stanford), a series with UCLA (2019 in Los Angeles, 2020 at Qualcomm Stadium) and finally a series with Arizona (2021 in Tucson, 2022 at Qualcomm Stadium).

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Minneapolis anounces bid to host 2020 CFP title game

New Vikings Stadium

Minnesota failed in its bid to host the College Football Playoff championship game following the 2016 season.  The state, though, is hoping for a little more success a couple of years down the road.

Tuesday afternoon, Governor Mark Dayton presided over a press conference in which his state, after speculation surfaced a couple of months ago, announced its intentions to bid for the rights to host the national championship game following the 2019 season.  Gopher head coach Jerry Kill will serve as the honorary co-chair of the national championship game bid committee.

The game would be played in the new home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, a domed structure that is currently under construction.  That stadium, set to open next year, is already scheduled to host the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 men’s basketball Final Four.

The first CFP championship game was held this past February at the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Tex.  The cities of Tampa, Fla., and Glendale, Ariz., will host the title games following the 2015 and 2016 seasons, respectively.

Bids for the title games following the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons are due by no later than May 27.  In addition to Minneapolis, other cities expected to place bids for at least one of those three games include Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville, South Florida, Minneapolis, San Antonio and Santa Clara.  Arlington, Houston, New Orleans, Orlando and Pasadena that could potentially make a formal bid, while the state of New Jersey has also expressed an interest.

Earlier this month, the city of Indianapolis announced it would not be seeking to place a formal bid on either of the three games.  The Rose Bowl in Pasadena made a similar announcement a week earlier.

(Photo credit: city of Minneapolis)

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Malik Rucker to transfer from Iowa in search of ‘a better fit’

Indiana v Iowa

And, as if ofttimes the case, “a better fit” can be translated into “a better shot at meaningful playing time.”

As transfer day here at CFT continues unabated, Malik Rucker confirmed to the Quad City Times that he has decided to transfer out of Kirk Ferentz‘s Iowa football program.  The move, the Times notes, comes after the defensive back was unable to crack the spring two-deep depth chart.

Saying he was seeking “a better fit” in his transfer, Rucker acknowledged that the decision wasn’t a rush to judgment on his part.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about it and I need to do what is the best thing for me,” Rucker told the paper. “It’s a tough thing to do, but I feel like it is something I have to do.”

The school subsequently confirmed in a press release that Rucker will continue his college career elsewhere.

“We have honored Malik’s request to be released from his scholarship and we wish him well in the future,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said in a brief statement.

Rucker played in six games as a second-year freshman in 2014.  After joining the Hawkeyes as a three-star member of their 2013 recruiting class, Rucker took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Prior to signing with Iowa, the Minnesota native held scholarship offers from, among others, Arizona State, Duke, Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas, North Carolina State, Texas Tech and Washington State. Arizona State, Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota and North Carolina State, along with Iowa, were all finalists for Rucker’s services the first time around; it’s unknown if any of the first six will be in the mix during this second recruiting process.

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Three Mizzou reserves decide to transfer from Tigers

Missouri v Mississippi Getty Images

The post-spring pruning of FBS rosters continues Tuesday, with Missouri the latest program to see players leaving in search of greener playing-time pasture.

Multiple media outlets confirmed that a trio of Tigers — safety Shaun Rupert (pictured), offensive lineman Jordan Williams and  defensive tackle Evan Winston — have decided to transfer out of Mizzou. A team spokesperson confirmed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that all three players leave the team in good standing.

Rupert is the most game experienced of the three, playing in 13 games last season after redshirting his true freshman season the year before. His action in 2014, though, came mainly on special teams.

Williams played in seven games the last two seasons, Winston four.

And, apropos of nothing winkwinknudgenudge, there’s this from Rivals.com‘s Mizzou website:

Unofficially, Missouri’s current scholarship count is 87, including the yet-to-be-enrolled 2015 signing class. Missouri has to get to 85 by the start of the season.

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Erstwhile Alabama RB Altee Tenpenny moves on to UNLV

Virginia Tech v Alabama Getty Images

Nearly four months after “parting ways” with Alabama, Altee Tenpenny has found himself a new college football home.

In a posting made to his Instagram account, Tenpenny revealed that he will continue his collegiate playing career at UNLV. The running back won’t be eligible to play in 2015 because of NCAA transfer rules, but will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.

Tenpenny was a four-star member of the Tide’s 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 8 back in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Arkansas; and the No. 53 player overall by Rivals.com. Despite that impressive recruiting profile, Tenpenny didn’t contribute more than a couple of cents during his brief stay in Tuscaloosa.

In two seasons with the Tide, Tenpenny totaled 218 yards on 48 carries in a backfield that’s loaded with more four- and five-star talent than any in the country.

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Ozzie Mann, one-time starting QB, transferring from Ball State

Ball State v Iowa

A player who began the 2014 season as Ball State’s starting quarterback will begin the 2015 season at a different football program entirely.

Monday, Ball State announced that Ozzie Mann has decided to transfer from the university and pursue other opportunities.  Where those other opportunities may be for the Indiana native is uncertain, although, if he ends up at another FBS program, he’ll be forced to sit out the 2015 season.

The fact that Mann lost out in this spring’s quarterback competition — Jack Miles, who took the starting job from Mann last year, took most of the first-team reps — seems to be the impetus for his decision.

“We want to thank Ozzie for his hard work and for representing our program in a first class manner,” head coach Pete Lembo said in a statement. “Depth chart decisions are never easy, but they need to be made. Ozzie has our full support and we will do whatever we can to help him with this next step in his career.”

Mann started six of the seven games in which he played last season, including the opener against Colgate.  For the season, he completed 116-of-197 passes for 1,281 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

A two-star member of the Cardinals’ 2012 recruiting class, Mann played in six games in 2013 after redshirting as a true freshman.

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UNC celebrates ‘May the Fourth be with you’ with ‘Tar Wars’ poster

Princess Leia

This time last week, North Carolina was celebrating “National Superheros Day” by tweeting out a photoshopped movie poster featuring Larry Fedora as X-Men’s Wolverine.

Seven days later, it’s Star Wars Day across the vast expanses of the Internet — “May the Fourth be with you,” “may the force be with you;” get it? — and all kinds of celebrities and sports teams are getting in on the fun a few months ahead of the seventh installment of the mega-successful space saga being released.  UNC, of course, has gotten in on the social media craze, and decided to add a couple of buddies to their latest creation involving their head football coach.

Fedora, of course, plays Luke Skywalker in the poster.  The other three are athletic director Bubba Cunningham as Obi Wan Kenobi; new defensive coordinator and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik as Han Solo; and wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer as Yoda.

And, hopefully, you’ll sleep a little better tonight being informed of this development…

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Ex-Gamecock one of two FBS players transferring to Kennesaw St.

Mason Harris, Maty Mauk

When the 2015 season rolls around, one FCS program will have a decidedly FBS flavor to it.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Kennesaw State has added defensive end Mason Harris and cornerback Dante Blackmon to its roster. The former comes to the Owls from South Carolina, the latter from Appalachian State.

Harris will have one year of eligibility remaining, Blackmon two. Both players will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Back in mid-January, Harris joined the mass exodus of players leaving the Gamecocks this offseason, He started one game in 2014, and played in 31 the past three seasons.

Blackmon started the first three games in 2014 before losing his starting job.  He started nine of the 22 games in which he played for the Mountaineers.

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Rosters from two 2011 Bama-LSU games littered with NFL draftees

Allstate BCS National Championship Game - LSU v Alabama Getty Images

When the two Alabama-LSU “Games of the Century” were played back in the 2011 season, we knew there was a tremendous amount of potential NFL talent on the field.  Now, with the 2015 NFL draft officially in the books, we can put a number on that potential.

And, actually, it’s a rather significant number as Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com reports that a whopping total of 45 players who played in the two Tide-Tigers games during that 2011 season — LSU won the regular season matchup, ‘Bama won the rematch in the BCS championship game — have been drafted by an NFL team.  Perhaps the most impressive number inside the number?  16 of the 22 defensive starters in those games were ultimately selected in the draft.

Given the fact that just one touchdown versus 10 field goals were scored in those two contests, though, it shouldn’t be surprising that the two defenses have littered recent drafts with players.

Another number?  Nine of the 44 offensive/defensive starters ended up becoming first-round picks.

Tide-Tiger players were picked in all seven rounds the past four years, and not surprisingly the top round was the opening one as 14 went on to become first-round picks.  The fifth round was next with 10, followed by the second (six), fourth (five), third (four), seventh (four) and sixth (two) rounds.

While 45 is a remarkable number, it still falls well short of the all-time record in this particular category: 52 of the players in the Miami-Ohio State title game following the 2002 season went on to be drafted.  Even more insane is that 37 of the starters in the Buckeyes’ upset of the Hurricanes ended up being selected in the next handful of drafts, with 18 taken in the first round.

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Belk named title sponsor of Tar Heel-Gamecock opener

South Carolina v North Carolina Getty Images

Because of course an already over-commercialized sport needs additional commercialization.

In a press release Monday, the Charlotte Sports Foundation announced that department store chain Belk has been named as the title sponsor of the 2015 North Carolina-South Carolina opener.  The game will kick-off at 6 p.m. ET Sept. 3 and will be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

The game will officially be promoted as “The 2015 Belk College Kickoff.”

“College football is at the heart of Southern lifestyle and Belk is excited to partner with the Charlotte Sports Foundation as the title sponsor of the Belk College Kickoff Game,” said Jon Pollack, Belk executive vice president, sales promotion, marketing and eCommerce. “The Belk College Kickoff Game is a great opportunity to engage fans and customers in the Southeast, as well as celebrate and support the Charlotte community.”

“We are excited to expand our partnership with Belk to bring top level college football games to Charlotte,” said Will Webb, executive director of the CSF. “We can’t wait for the Tar Heels and Gamecocks to take the field, and their fans to experience our great city.”

Belk is also the title sponsor of the appropriately named Belk Bowl, which is played in Charlotte and features, as this opener will, one team each from the ACC and SEC.

The Tar Heels and Gamecocks, former conference rivals in the Southern then the ACC, have faced each other 54 times, with the first coming meeting in 1903 and the last in 2013.  UNC owns a 32-18-4 edge in the series, although USC has won five of the last six dating back to 1988.

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WVU’s Russell Haughton-James arrested on felony burglary charge

Russell Haughton-James

With another weekend in the books, it’s time to, once again, reset the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.

The latest to trigger a double-zero reset is Russell Haughton-James, the West Virginia offensive lineman who WV Metro News is reporting was arrested on one count of burglary Sunday night.  No specifics as to what led up to Haughton-James’ arrest have been released.

According to the North Central Regional Jail’s website, Haughton-James’ incarceration status is listed as “pre-trial felon.”

What if any impact this incident will have on Houghton-James’ status with the team is uncertain, although the team is aware of the arrest.

After playing in just two games as a redshirt freshman in 2012, Haughton-James has played in 24 the past two seasons.  In the 12 games he played in 2014, he was mainly a backup tackle.

(Photo credit: North Central Regional Jail)

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Cactus Bowl will be played at Chase Field for next three years

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Getty Images

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reports the Cactus Bowl will be played in Chase Field — home of the Arizona Diamondbacks — for the next three seasons, making it the fourth bowl game to take place in an MLB stadium.

The annual Big 12 vs. Pac-12 game will join the Pinstripe Bowl (Yankee Stadium), St. Pete Bowl (Tropicana Field) and Miami Beach Bowl (Marlins Park) as being played in a baseball stadium. The Emerald Bowl, now known as the Foster Farms Bowl, was played at AT&T Park in San Francisco from 2002-2013 before moving to Levi’s Stadium last year.

We’ve also seen regular season games take place at Wrigley Field (Northwestern-Illinois) and Busch Stadium (SIU-Carbondale-Southeastern Missouri State) in recent years. Notre Dame will face Boston College at Fenway Park this November as well.

Hopefully, whichever team wins this year’s Cactus Bowl will celebrate the way the Dodgers did after winning the NL West at Chase Field in 2013:

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Some good news for Tennessee: Peyton Manning sees more ‘Sunday bodies’

Butch Jones AP

Tennessee was shut out of last weekend’s NFL Draft, which on the surface can be viewed as a problem and/or indictment of the program.

But that’d be missing the larger point. A tidal wave of players will make the sophomore-junior leap while Butch Jones has pulled in a ton of top recruits since taking over in Knoxville. And perhaps the most famous Tennessee alum is seeing the improvements:

Per 247 Sports, Tennessee projects to have 14 upperclassmen starters in 2015, many of whom have been through plenty of close games over the last two years. Pairing that experience with their natural talent should begin to pay off for guys like Josh Dobbs and an offensive line made up of four upperclassmen and a very good sophomore right guard in Jashon Robertson.

But here’s the other thing about Tennessee: As of now, they don’t have any players projected as 2016 first-round picks in the way-too-early mock drafts that are out there (like CBS Sports, Walter Football and Bleacher Report). So perhaps there won’t be a mass exodus of talent out of Knoxville after this coming season, even if Manning sees the potential for plenty of these guys to make it in the NFL.

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‘Disappointed’ Dykes had no choice but to can Cal assistant

California v Northwestern Getty Images

A week or so after being forced to push one assistant off his Cal coaching staff, Sonny Dykes spoke publicly about the situation.

The Bears head coach acknowledged that he was “disappointed and surprised” after learning that Pierre Ingram was arrested April 16 and charged with solicitation of a lewd act in the midst of a prostitution sting.  Eight days after his arrest, Ingram, who served as Cal’s wide receivers coach as well as the football program’s recruiting coordinator, was dismissed by Dykes.

Dykes stated that, in essence, he had no choice but to can his assistant, even as it was a hard situation to go through on both sides.

“It’s hard when somebody you know goes through a hard time in their life, especially somebody that you know well,” Dykes said.

“Obviously, it’s not anything you ever want to hear. I was disappointed and surprised. I think everybody was surprised that knew Pierre, but we had to move on.”

Ingram had spent the past two seasons as the Bears’ running backs coach before moving over to receivers this offseason.

As far as a replacement goes, Dykes stated that the search is ongoing but is headed in the right direction. There is no timeline for a hire.

Dykes added he’s unsure if the title of recruiting coordinator will go to the new assistant or to someone already on his staff.

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Spinal condition forces Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt to retire

Colorado Buffaloes vs Oregon State Beavers

For the second time in less than a month, a spinal condition has prompted a Power Five player to call it quits.

In a midweek Instagram posting, Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt announced that he is being forced to retire from the sport because of a medical condition.  According to Hunt, and which was subsequently confirmed by OSU, he was born with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spine.  It’s a condition similar to what prompted Florida’s Rod Johnson to step away from the game three weeks ago.

Below is Hunt’s social media missive.

“It was truly a blessing to have been apart of the #OregonStateFootball team but sadly my days of playing is over due to a condition that I was born with called #SpinalStenosis. This team will forever be my team and I will always support every single brother of mine on it through their football careers and life. And a message to all my teammates “just because I can’t play on the field with yall, best believe I’ma be on the sideline helping and watching yall strive towards greatness because our team is bound for great accomplishments in these upcoming years. I love all yall as my own brothers and I’ll always be here for every last one of yall” And to everyone else who has supported me throughout my career thank you very much from the bottom of my heart and God Bless you all!”

Hunt was a four-star member of the Beavers’ 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 corner in the country by Rivals.com.  He was the highest-rated recruit in an OSU class that was rated 39th in the country and eight in the Pac-12.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Hunt played in seven games in 2014.  He was expected to compete for a starting job in 2015.

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