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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Big Ten Predictions

Purdue v Wisconsin

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

Dalvin Cook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Willie Fritz, Kevin Ellison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NCAA upholds Todd Gurley suspension, won’t return until Nov. 15

Todd Gurley

The Todd Gurley saga has finally reached its final conclusion.

The NCAA announced Thursday night it had upheld Georgia’s appeal of his four-game suspension for accepting more than $3,000 in exchange for autographs.

Gurley has missed the last two games due to the investigation, and will miss the ninth-ranked Bulldogs’ dates with Georgia (Saturday) and Kentucky (Nov. 8).

“We are very disappointed in tonight’s decision by the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee regarding our appeal on Todd Gurley’s eligibility reinstatement,” Georgia said in a statement. “We believe our case to the NCAA for Todd’s immediate reinstatement was strong and compelling.  However, we now have exhausted all available options and look forward to Todd’s return to competition on November 15.  The full attention of the Bulldog Nation now needs to be focused on our team and Saturday’s important game against Florida.”

The silver lining here for Georgia is that the Bulldogs should beat the Gators and Wildcats without Gurley, and then get a rested and hacked off version of the nation’s best runner back for No. 4 Auburn on Nov. 15.

Despite missing the past two games, Gurley still leads Georgia in rushing with 773 carries and eight touchdowns on 94 carries while catching 11 passes for 53 yards and completing his only pass for 50 yards.

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Former Iowa State coach, FSU and Vandy AD Clay Stapleton dies at 93

Toledo v Iowa State

Former Iowa State head coach and Florida State and Vanderbilt athletics director Clay Stapleton passed away Thursday in Missouri City, Mo. He was 93.

Stapleton is best known for coaching the Cyclones’ famed “Dirty Thirty” 1959 team, remembered for putting together a 7-3 season with only 30 players on the roster. It was Iowa State’s first winning season in a decade. Stapleton went 42-53-4 as head coach from 1958-67.

Stapleton left coaching for athletics administration, first serving as the athletics director at Iowa State, where he was instrumental in the construction of Jack Trice Stadium and Hilton Coliseum and hired future College Football Hall of Fame coach Johnny Majors as his replacement.

He then moved on to serve as athletics director at Florida State (1971-72) and Vanderbilt (1973-78).

Stapleton played at Tennessee, and served as an assistant coach at Wofford College (S.C.), Wyoming and Oregon State.

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Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly, K-State WR Tyler Lockett headline list of Campbell Trophy finalists

Tyler Lockett, Keenon Ward

The National Football Foundation on Thursday released its list of 17 finalists for the Campbell Trophy, college football’s highest scholar-athlete honor. Now in its 25th season, the Campbell Trophy is considered the academic version of the Heisman.

“We are extremely proud to announce this year’s National Scholar-Athlete Class,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “These young men have an unrelenting commitment to excellence in all aspects of their lives, and they represent all that is right in college football. They serve as living examples of our mission of building leaders through football, and they create an exceptional pool of candidates for the Campbell Trophy.”

To be eligible for consideration, finalists much be in their final year of eligibility, carry a GPA of 3.2 or higher, be listed first team on their respective teams’ depth charts, and have an outstanding record as of leadership and community service.

As a group, the players average a 3.69 GPA, a dozen are team captains, 15 have earned all-conference honors, six have received All-America accolades, four have been named their conference’s player of the year, and nine hold school records of some sort.

The 17 finalists are:

  • Terry Baggett, Army running back
  • Austin Damaschke, Concordia (Wis.) quarterback
  • Austin Hasquet, Northern Arizona linebacker
  • David Helton, Duke linebacker
  • Taylor Kelly, Arizona State quarterback
  • Nate Leonard, UTSA center
  • Tyler Lockett, Kansas State wide receiver
  • Mike Mancini, Trinity (Conn.) safety
  • Charles Moore, Tarleton State (Texas) safety
  • Mark Murphy, Indiana safety
  • Jordan Richards, Stanford safety
  • Kevin Rodgers, Henderson State (Ark.) quarterback
  • Mike Sadler, Michigan State punter
  • Caleb Schafffitzel, Missouri State safety
  • Tyler Varga, Yale tailback
  • Brandon Vitabile, Northwestern center
  • Zach Zenner, South Dakota State running back

All 17 finalists will receive $16,000 post-graduate scholarships and will head to New York City for the Dec. 9 awards dinner at the Waldorf=Astoria. The Campbell Trophy winner, in addition to joining a group consisting of Danny Wuerffel,Peyton Manning, and Tim Tebow, receives a $25,000 post-graduate scholarship.

Penn State’s John Urschel won the honor in 2013.

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No. 2 FSU’s 23-game winning streak on the ropes, trails Louisville 21-7 at the half

Florida State v Louisville

Thursday night in college football has a long history of seeing highly-ranked favorites see its dream season turn into ash in front of a raucous stadium, and it looks like another upset will get added to the lore tonight. Louisville has pounded No. 2 Florida State to the tune of a 21-7 first half lead in the ‘Ville.

After a scoreless first quarter, Michael Dyer put Louisville on top with a four-yard scoring dash at the 12:13 mark of the second quarter, and then pushed the lead to 14 with a 12-yard jaunt seven minutes later. The Cardinals then pushed the lead to 21 – and thereby put FSU’s 23-game winning streak on life support – with an 11-yard scoring strike from Will Gardner to Gerald Christian.

Florida State stole back momentum immediately after falling down by 21 by cooly marching 78 yards in six plays, saved by a third-and-goal rush at the 1 where a Karlos Williams fumble rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Seminoles tight end Nick O’Leary.

The 21-point deficit – brief as it was – is the largest Florida State has faced on its 23-game streak.

Todd Grantham‘s defense, ranked second nationally in pass efficiency defense heading into tonight with seven touchdowns allowed and 15 interceptions, has lived up to its billing, intercepting Jameis Winston twice (on consecutive passes, no less) and turning both opportunities into touchdowns.

Florida State’s defense, on the other hand, has let Louisville get what it wanted on the ground and through the air. Gardner has thrown for 179 yards, and Dyer already has 95 yards and that pair of touchdowns on 14 carries.

The lead could actually be larger, as a 71-yard pass from Gardner to DeVante Parker on the first play from scrimmage gave the Cardinals a first-and-goal from the four inside the game’s first minute, but a fourth-and-goal pass from Gardner to Christian fell incomplete.

Florida State will get the ball to open the second half on the biggest possession of the season for both teams. A Florida State touchdown makes the score 21-14 and officially pulls the game back into toss-up territory. A stop keeps Louisville in control, and FSU’s status as the second-ranked team back on life support.

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Gamecocks’ leading tackler out vs. Vols

Missouri v South Carolina

South Carolina’s defense has struggled throughout the 2014 season with Skai Moore on the field.  Saturday, we’ll see how that side of the ball performs without him.

According to defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, Moore will not play in Saturday night’s game against Tennessee as the Gamecocks look to get to within one win of bowl eligibility with a victory.  The linebacker injured his right ankle in the seven-point loss to Auburn last Saturday.

With Moore sidelined, sophomore Jonathan Walton will take his spot in the starting lineup.

Moore’s 51 tackles are currently tops on the team. He led the team in the same category as a true freshman last season.

The Gamecocks are currently 98th in the country and tied for dead last in the SEC (with Vanderbilt) giving up an average of 32.8 points per game, and 89th in the nation and 13th in the conference in total defense (437.5 yards per game).

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GaTech’s top two RBs ruled out vs. UVa.

Duke v Georgia Tech

The depth of Georgia Tech’s Top-Five ground game will, once again, be put to the test.

The Yellow Jackets released their weekly injury report Thursday afternoon, with Zach Laskey and Charles Perkins listed as out for Saturday’s game against Virginia.  The former is dealing with  a shoulder issue, the latter a knee injury.

Laskey suffered his injury in the Oct. 18 loss to North Carolina and sat out last weekend’s win over Pittsburgh.  Perkins was injured very early on in the Panthers game.

This season, Laskey leads all Tech running backs in rushing yards with 595 (quarterback Justin Thomas has the team lead with 717).  Perkins is second to Lasky with 261.

Synjyn Days, starting in place of Laskey at B-back, led the Jackets with 110 yards on the ground against Pitt. Broderick Snoddy, who came into that game with 61 yards on the season, totaled 82 — on six carries — in the Week 9 win.

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Tulane’s second-leading WR suffers practice injury

Xavier Rush AP

Whether or not Tulane has one of its top offensive playmakers for this week’s conference matchup remains to be seen.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Xavier Rush suffered an injury during practice Wednesday.  While the school didn’t specify the nature of the injury, although the Times-Picayune reported that the wide receiver suffered what looked like a knee injury.

“He left practice with an injury and is still being evaluated” is all the school would say in addressing the situation.

Whether Rush plays in Friday’s AAC game against Cincinnati is unknown.

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

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Hoke ‘not at all’ worried about Peppers bolting Michigan

Appalachian v Michigan

Whether it be because of Brady Hoke‘s tenuous hold on his job or all of the tumult surrounding the football program or the injuries or the frustration borne out of everything, there have been some rumblings that highly-touted 2014 signee Jabril Peppers could — could — be thinking about a transfer from Michigan.

For what it’s worth, and at least publicly, the talent true freshman’s head coach isn’t the least bit concerned.

No, not all,” Hoke said during a radio interview Thursday when asked if he was concerned about Peppers’ transferring.

“He came here for a lot of different reasons, and one of them is, as a young kid, he’s always loved Michigan. That was his team growing up in New Jersey. He knows the value of an education. He’s doing great in school, and (knows the value of this) education and what it can do after football.”

Two separate leg injuries have cost Peppers significant playing time his first season in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have played eight games this season, with the cornerback missing five full contests. He’s missed parts of two others due to the health issues.

As had previously been reported, Hoke allowed that a medical redshirt is a possibility. Then again, so is a return.

Michigan’s coach has not ruled out a potential medical redshirt season for Peppers, and he also hasn’t ruled out a return for the former five-star recruit at some point over the next four games.

He indicated Michigan will know “in the near future” what the ultimate fate will be for Peppers this season, whether he sits the rest of the way or attempts to come back and play.

If Peppers doesn’t play any additional games this season, he will be eligible for a medical redshirt.

Peppers was a consensus five-star recruit in 2014, rated as the No. 1 corner and the No. 3 player at any position in the country. Peppers served as the highest-rated recruit UM has ever signed since the founding of Rivals‘ back in 2002. The previous high was Ryan Mallett as the No. 4 player in the Class of 2007.

He earned a starting job at both corner and on the punt return unit.

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Sooners’ Joe Mixon reaches plea deal, avoids trial

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Provided he can keep his nose clean over the next year, Joe Mixon‘s legal issues will officially be behind him.

Multiple media outlets reported Thursday that the touted 2014 Oklahoma signee has reached an agreement in which he offered up a public apology as part of an Alford Plea. Mixon had originally been charged with acts resulting in gross injury in connection to a late-July incident.

Mixon’s attorney, Kevin Finlay, released a statement addressing the development.

“Today, Joe has made the decision that entering an Alford plea to the misdemeanor and accepting the short period of probation was the best course of action at this point in his life. Joe does not want to be a further distraction to his family, friends, teammates and the University of Oklahoma.

“Joe would like to apologize to everyone affected by this unfortunate chain of events. Joe looks forward to continuing towards his goal of becoming a successful student and athlete at the University of Oklahoma.”

For those wondering, an Alford Plea allows the accused to maintain their innocence even as they acknowledge that enough proof exists that they could be found guilty by a jury of their peers. In exchange for the plea, Mixon was given a one-year deferred sentence, 100 hours of community service and cognitive behavior counseling.

In mid-August, Mixon was suspended by OU for the entire 2014 season, a punitive measure that meant the running back would be excluded from any and all team activities.  The one-year suspension came about after Mixon was accused of punching a woman in a late-July confrontation, breaking four bones in her face and leaving her unconscious.  Media covering OU viewed a copy of the security tape that caught the exchange, including the knockout punch, between the woman and Mixon; Mixon’s attorney had previously claimed the altercation was preceded by racial slurs.

Mixon was a five-star member of the Sooners’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 running back in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the country.  He was the highest-rated member of an OU class that was ranked 15th in the country.

It’s expected Mixon will remain at OU and play for the Sooners in 2015.

UPDATED 1:19 p.m. ET: In a statement, OU president David Boren confirmed that, despite the criminal resolution, “Mixon will not play for out football team in 2014, including postseason competitions.”  As expected, “[h]e will have an opportunity to earn his way back on the team during the spring semester.”

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Bowlsby: LHN a boulder in Big 12’s TV road

Bob Bowlsby

If you love candor — remember his puppet comments after taking the job? — Bob Bowlsby‘s likely your kind of commissioner.  If you’re connected to the University of Texas’ athletic department?  Maybe not so much.

At the same luncheon Wednesday in which Bowlsby (once again) tapped the brakes on expansion, the commissioner also addressed the $15 million elephant squatting in the middle of his conference’s living room.  That pachyderm would, of course, be the Longhorn Network, a 24-hour television network subsidized by ESPN and dedicated to all things related to Longhorn sports.

It’s been a thorn in the side of the Big 12 ever since it was announced back in January of 2011.  It was a sore spot for Texas A&M prior for that school’s departure from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2012.  And even as it hasn’t seen the widespread distribution as originally thought — like the Pac-12 Networks, still no deal with DirecTV after reaching one with DISH in March — it’s still an entity that will bring the athletic department an average of $15 million annually over the 20-year life of the contract, much to the chagrin, private or otherwise, of the rest of the league.

Bowlsby pulled no punches in addressing the hindrance the LHN could become in future television/media negotiations for the conference.  From the Oklahoman‘s transcript, with my emphasis added in a couple of spots:

The Longhorn Network is a boulder in the road. It really is. They did something that almost no other institution in the country could do because of the population in the state, and we’re looking at some way to try and morph that around a little bit. … It really begs the question about, how are we going to get our sports in the years ahead? If technology changes in the next five years as much as it’s changed in the last five years, we’re not going to be getting our sports by cable TV. I don’t know what it’ll be. But increasingly, we’re using mobile devices … Google Network and Apple TV and things like that are coming into play. … I’m not sure the world needs another exclusive college cable network. Rather than trying to do what everybody else has done, I would much rather try to figure out what tomorrow’s technology is and get on the front side of that and be a part of what happens going forward and monetize that.

Exactly how Bowlsby and the Big 12 can navigate its way around the 20-year LHN deal when it comes to future deals involving television or other new media entities, if it does indeed become the obstacle the commissioner suggests it could, will be one of the fascinating questions to see answered moving forward.  Especially as it pertains to the ever-present and expansion speculation that simply won’t completely go away.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman)

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True frosh could start in place of TCU’s Doctson

Perhaps it was a tad too early for the optimism on Josh Doctson‘s availability after all.

The star TCU wide receiver suffered a sprained ankle in the blowout win over Texas Tech. Despite “drastic improvement” since, Doctson hadn’t returned to practice.

That changed Wednesday, although Gary Patterson said the wide receiver only practiced “a little bit.” The head coach also intimated that there is a very real possibility Emanuel Porter will start in place of Doctson in Saturday’s game against West Virginia in Morgantown.

“He had a good game last week,” the coach said of the freshman Porter. “Ran really great routes. A tenacious blocker. A 6’4″ wideout. It’ll be him or Josh [who'll start vs. WVU], one of the two.”

Doctson currently leads the Horned Frogs in receptions (35), receiving yards (573) and receiving touchdowns (seven).  Porter has six catches for 42 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman.  If he gets the nod against the Mountaineers, it’d be Porter’s first career start.

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Mack Brown, on coaching future: ‘If somebody calls, I’ll talk’

Kliff Kingsbury, Mack Brown AP

It remains to be seen whether Mack Brown will return to the sidelines as a head coach next season… or any season for that matter.

What remains clear, however, is that the coaching itch still appears to be there.  Probably.

Earlier this month, Brown’s attorney, Joe Jamail, acknowledged that his client “misses [coaching], frankly.”  During a College Football Playoff luncheon Wednesday, Brown was of course asked about his coaching future.  On that front, the current ESPN college football analyst left the door fairly wide open.

“I’m not going to call anybody.  I’m not going to pursue any jobs,” the 63-year-old Brown said, before adding, “If somebody calls me, I’ll talk to them.”

Brown made it perfectly clear that the right fit would be of the utmost importance as it pertains to a return.  That and the timing of the inquiries.

“I’m very happy with what I’m doing,” Brown began. “I talked to 10 coaches this spring and asked them their opinion of what happens when you get out of coaching.  Some got back in.  Some didn’t.  And they all said, ‘don’t put one minute’s thought into it until December, or late November.’

“And then, if somebody calls you and it excites you, you’ll talk to them.”

Whether that describes the SMU situation is unknown.

Brown, given his ties to the state, has been seemingly connected to that vacancy ever since it came open in early September.  His attorney acknowledged that the university expressed interest, even as athletic director Rick Hart said in a social media statement that “no one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives.”  There was also a report that “SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years;”  Hart flatly stated that there “has been no offer or discussion of compensation with any potential candidates.”

When asked about SMU specifically Wednesday, Brown stated “I haven’t talking to anybody about coaching football at this point.”

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Lawyer drops lawsuit against FSU’s Chris Casher

Caleb Rowe, Chris Casher AP

Four weeks after it was filed, a lawsuit against a current Florida State football player is no more.

According to ESPN.com, a civil lawsuit filed by Tallahassee attorney Adam Ellis against Chris Casher Oct. 1 has been voluntarily dismissed.  The suit stated that the defensive end had agreed to pay Ellis $2,500 for his legal services in connection to the May FSU student code of conduct hearing involving Casher; in a July letter, Ellis claimed he had received no payment.

A source told ESPN.com, however, that Casher had made restitution to Ellis, prompting the attorney to drop the suit earlier this week.  A pretrial hearing on the matter had been scheduled for Nov. 4.

Casher appeared at the hearing for his role in the Jameis Winston sexual assault allegations.  He was sentenced to one year of probation as a result.

In an unrelated matter, Casher was suspended for the Seminoles’ regular season opener before being reinstated in the days leading up to Week 2.

The redshirt sophomore has played in six games this season, with one start.  He’s listed as an “OR,” along with Jacob Pugh, behind starter Mario Edwards as FSU’s “Jack” linebacker on the depth chart heading into the Thursday night game with Louisville.

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