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2014 CFT Preseason Preview: Playoff Primer & Predictions

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As you may have heard, we’re on the verge of a new era in college football.

Yes, 2014 will mark the first season since 1997 not played under the old and almost universally despised — and, thankfully, very much dead — Bowl Championship Series that had been used to determine an FBS champion.  Conversely, it will mark the first-ever four-team playoff dubbed, appropriately enough, the College Football Playoff, a system unveiled in June of 2012.

There are many questions and some trepidation as we enter a new frontier for the sport, one which will play for the right to hoist the Dr Pepper College Football Playoff trophy at season’s end..

Below I’ll attempt to answer some of those questions — and alleviate some of the fear and angst to some degree — some may have over the most exciting development in the game since the forward pass was legalized.  Take a deep breath, though; this is a long one.

WHAT
The College Football Playoff, a four-team — for now — mini-tournament that will feature two semifinal games played under the flag of a pair of so-called “contract bowls” and “host bowls,” with a stand-alone contest, having no ties to a current bowl other than potentially the venue, serving as the championship game.  A 13-person committee will determine the four playoff participants and seed them as well, with the No. 1 seed facing the No. 4 seed in one semifinal and the Nos. 2 and 3 squaring off in the other.

And, for those who are wondering: there is no rule that would prevent a team from one conference facing a team from the same conference in a semifinal game.  Nor is there a hard, fast rule that would preclude a rematch from the recently-completed regular season in a semifinal.  Of course, it’s possible the committee could steer the selections away from such scenarios — even by way of seeding — but there is no concrete rule in place that would prevent it.

Case in point on rematches and two playoff teams from one conference in one fell swoop?  Those associated with the CFP have already stated that, if this new system were in place last year, Florida State (#1 seed), Auburn (#2), Alabama (#3) and Oregon (#4) would have been the four playoff teams.  In other words, the SEC would’ve had two teams, including a non-champion, while the champions from the other two Power Five conference — Big Ten (Michigan State) and Big 12 (Baylor) — would’ve been shut out.  At least one Power Five conference will miss the playoff every year, and, as evidenced by last year, possibly two.  After X amount of time and missed playoffs, expect a conference or conferences to begin making noise very publicly about expanding the field to at least eight — and pushing their agenda that the system should consist of each Power Five conference champion to go along with three wildcards.

The initial phase of the CFP is a contract for 12 years in length — through the 2025 season — and for just four teams for those dozen seasons. However, many observers expect that, due to the lure of the almighty dollar and pissed-off leagues, the playoff will be expanded to eight teams at some point before the end of the 12-year contract.  If it doesn’t expand prior to the end of the first contract, just about anyone connected to the sport firmly believes it will be expanded for the beginning of the second contract.

MoneyAll three of the CFP games will be televised annually on ESPN, which paid in excess of $7 billion — that’s billion with a “b” — for the rights to the playoff for the entire length of the contract.  Roughly 75 percent of that money will go to the Power Five conferences and Notre Dame, which will split their cut up amongst their various members.  While the Non-Power Five conferences — the AAC, Conference USA, MAC, MWC and Sun Belt along with independents Army and BYU (Navy’s moving to the AAC in 2015) — will receive just a 25-percent(ish) cut of the billions, they will receive roughly five times as much per league as they did under the BCS.

In the first year of the CFP, the Power Five conferences are expected to make $50 million each, while the Non-Power Five conferences will share $75 million; in the final year of the BCS, those “mid-major” conferences split $15 million.  Over the course of the 12-year contract, the top five conferences are expected to receive an average of $90 million annually from the CFP.  By Year 12 of the first contract, the Power Five conferences are expected to see revenue in excess of $150 million per league.

Such a figure would be the starting point for Year 1 of the second contract, a starting point that would increase dramatically with the addition of four more teams and four additional (quarterfinal) games.

WHO
The “who” is the key, the linchpin, to the whole process.  How successful the CFP can end up being will in large part be determined by how the committee as a whole leaves its collective biases — or at least most of them, and as much as humanly possible — at the meeting room door.

As mentioned above, the committee that will select the four teams will consist of 13 members.  Five of those members will be current athletic directors from each of the Power Five conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, with Arkansas’ Jeff Long serving as the chairperson.  Below is the entire 13-member committee and their respective affiliations, with tenure expiration listed in parentheses:

*Jeff Long, Arkansas athletic director (February 2018)
*Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin athletic director (February 2017)
— Lieutenant General Mike Gould, former superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy (February 2016)
Pat Haden, USC athletic director (February 2016)
Tom Jernstedt, former NCAA executive vice president (February 2018)
*Oliver Luck, West Virginia athletic director (February 2017)
Archie Manning, former Ole Miss quarterback (February 2017)
Tom Osborne, former head coach and athletic director at Nebraska (February 2016)
*Dan Radakovich, Clemson athletic director (February 2018)
Condoleezza Rice, Stanford professor, former Stanford provost and former United States Secretary of State (February 2017)
Mike Tranghese, former Big East commissioner (February 2016)
Steve Wieberg, former college football reporter, USA Today (February 2018)
Tyrone Willingham, former head coach Notre Dame, Stanford and Washington (February 2018)

Earlier we mentioned committee members leaving their biases at the meeting room door; there are provisions in place that should, in theory, aid in that part of the process.  Specifically, a recusal policy, the terms of which the CFP describes as “a recused member shall not participate in any votes, nor be present during deliberations involving the team’s selection or seeding, but may answer factual questions about the institution from which the member is recused.”

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice

Of course, all five current athletic directors — denoted by asterisks above — will be recused when the conversation turns to their respective football programs.  Additionally, the following recusals were announced earlier this month:

– Lieutenant General Mike Gould, Air Force: the former superintendent of the Colorado Springs service academy.
Archie Manning, Ole Miss, former Rebels star quarterback who still maintains deep ties to the school and the football program.
Tom Osborne, Nebraska: former head coach and athletic director for the Cornhuskers
Condoleezza Rice, Stanford, current professor and former provost at the university

There is no conference-wide recusal policy, meaning that, for example, Long would be permitted to stay in the room if Alabama is being discussed.

Additionally, the 13 committee members receive no pay for their services, which will consist mainly of watching football and committee meetings.  The first in-person set of meetings will be Oct 27 (Monday) and Oct. 28 (Tuesday), with the first set of what are described as “interim rankings” released Oct. 28.  In-person meetings will be held every Monday and Tuesday thereafter, with the final set of meetings coming after the conclusion of the regular season, conference championship games included but excluding the Dec. 13 Army-Navy game.  The final set of rankings, including the seedings of the four playoff teams, will be released Sunday, Dec. 7.  There’s even a specific time for the release: 12:45 p.m. ET that Sunday afternoon.

The committee will also be responsible for slotting teams into the remaining four contract or host bowls that aren’t part of the semifinals a particular year.  The contract bowls are: Rose (Pac-12 vs. Big Ten), Sugar (SEC vs. Big 12) and Orange (ACC vs. Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame). The three host bowls are: Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A. If a conference champion from one of the contract bowls does not qualify for the playoff, they will be automatically slotted into their respective postseason game, provided it’s not a semifinal game that year. If conference champions from the contract bowls — more years than not this will involve multiple leagues — qualify for the playoffs, the committee would choose replacement teams.

The team with the highest CFP seeding will be placed in the closest semifinal game to it geographically.  For example, if Florida State is the No. 1 seed this year, they would go to the Sugar Bowl as that bowl is closer to Tallahassee than the Rose Bowl.  Same for a team like Alabama.  Should, say, Oregon earn the top seed, they would play at the Rose Bowl against the No. 4 seed, with the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds going to the Sugar Bowl.

As for the host bowls, the CFP “Frequently Asked Questions” describes it best, including how one Non-Power Five member will play in one of the marquee bowl games every year:

The highest ranked champion of the other five Football Bowl Subdivision conferences (the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt), as determined by the selection committee, will play in one of the six New Year’s bowls. Other available berths will be awarded to the teams ranked highest by the committee. The committee will assign teams to bowls.

When the Fiesta, Cotton and Atlanta bowls are not hosting semifinal games, their participants will come from three sources: (1) The highest ranked champion among the five conferences listed in the paragraph above, (2) conference champions that are displaced when their contracted bowls host semifinals and (3) the remaining teams ranked highest in the committee’s rankings.

How will the committee fill the slots in the marquee bowls? Again, from the FAQ:

The committee will assign teams to the non-playoff bowls to create the most compelling match-ups, while considering other factors such as geographic proximity, avoiding rematches of regular-season games and avoiding rematches of recent years’ bowl games.

Cowboys StadiumWHERE
The semifinals will rotate through six bowl games: the Rose (Pasadena, Cal.), Orange (Miami, Fla.), Sugar (New Orleans, La.), Fiesta (Glendale, Ariz.), Cotton (Arlington, Tex.) and Peach (Atlanta, Ga.). When those games don’t host a semifinal, they will serve as the so-called “marquee bowls.” The semifinals this season will be the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, with the semifinals moving to the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl for the 2015 season and the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl for the 2016 season before rotating back to the first two semifinal bowl games for the 2017 season.

The championship game will be bid out and played all across the country. The first stand-alone title game will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys and the Cotton Bowl. University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., was awarded the 2015 title game (played in 2016) while Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. submitted the winning bid for 2016 (played in 2017).

An announcement on the host stadiums for the 2017 and 2018 seasons likely won’t be made until sometime after the first CFP championship game is played in early 2015.

WHEN
The semifinal games will both take place either December 31 or January 1 of their respective years and on the same day, with the former serving as game days for the 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2024 and 2025 seasons and the latter for the 2014, 2017, 2020 and 2023 seasons.  For the 2014 season, the Fiesta, Orange and Peach bowls will be played Dec. 31, while the Cotton Bowl will be played Jan. 1, prior to the two semifinal games.

The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, incidentally, will be played on Jan. 1 every year, which is why most of the semifinal games will be played Dec. 31.

Below are the future dates for the 12 CFP championship games that have already been scheduled.  One thing to note is that every title game through this 12-year cycle will be played on a Monday night:

Jan. 12, 2015
Jan. 11, 2016
Jan. 9, 2017
Jan. 8, 2018
Jan. 7, 2019
Jan. 13, 2020
Jan. 11, 2021
Jan. 10, 2022
Jan. 9, 2023
Jan. 8, 2024
Jan. 13, 2025
Jan. 12, 2026

WHY
Manziel Money GIF
Money

HOW
Hope you brought a lunch, because the “How” could take a while.

First of all, we’ll give you the CFP’s official qualifier/disclaimer as to the selection process in which the four playoff teams will be decided:

Ranking football teams is an art, not a science. Football is popular in some measure because the outcome of a game between reasonably matched teams is so often decided by emotional commitment, momentum, injuries and the “unexpected bounce of the ball.” In any ranking system, perfection or consensus is not possible and the physical impact of the game on student athletes prevents elaborate playoff systems of multiple games. For purposes of any four team playoff, the process will inevitably need to select the four best teams from among several with legitimate claims to participate.

Now, with that out of the way, on to the meat & taters of the process.

As I noted up above somewhere, the committee will hold meetings every Monday and Tuesday and release a Top 25 every week, with the first set of rankings scheduled to be released Oct. 28. “How exactly will the committee arrive at its weekly Top 25?” you may be asking yourself. I’m glad you asked.

1. Each committee member will create a list of the 25 teams he or she believes to be the best in the country, in no particular order. Teams listed by three or more members will remain under consideration.
2. Each member will list the best six teams, in no particular order. The six teams receiving the most votes will comprise the pool for the first seeding ballot.
3. In the first seeding ballot, each member will rank those six teams, one through six, with one being the best. The three teams receiving the fewest points will become the top three seeds. The three teams that were not seeded will be held over for the next seeding ballot.
4. Each member will list the six best remaining teams, in no particular order. The three teams receiving the most votes will be added to the three teams held over to comprise the next seeding ballot.
5. Steps No. 3 and 4 will be repeated until 25 teams have been seeded.

It should be noted that, at no point in that five-step process, are committee members permitted to include any team from which they are recused on any of the lists mentioned above.

Of course, there were also notes attached to the five-step voting process (notes A-C dealt with recusals):

D. Between each step, the committee members will conduct a thorough evaluation of the teams before conducting the vote.
E. After the rankings are completed, any group of three or more teams can be reconsidered if more than three members vote to do so. Step No. 3 would be repeated to determine if adjustments should be made.
F. After the first nine teams are seeded, the number of teams for Steps No. 2, 3 and 4 will be increased to eight and four, respectively.
G. At any time in the process, the number of teams to be included in a pool may be increased or decreased with approval of more than eight members of the committee.
H. All votes will be by secret ballot.

There is one more important aspect of the CFP process that I haven’t mentioned yet which supersedes just about everything else mentioned thus far: criteria utilized by the committee members in their rankings. As previously noted, ranking football teams is more art than science, but there is some specific data on which the committee will lean.

The official CFP protocol states that the committee “will be instructed to place an emphasis on winning conference championships, strength of schedule and head-to-head competition when comparing teams with similar records and pedigree (treat final determination like a tie-breaker; apply specific guidelines).” Why pedigree — i.e. history, and whether said history is positive, negative or somewhere in between — should have anything to do with a specific year is a significant unknown.

Bill Hancock

Bill Hancock

Additionally, a company called SportSource Analytics will be providing the committee with an expansive and extensive statistical database on which to rely. Harkening back to the dark and dreary days of the BCS, CFP executive director Bill Hancock has stressed that analytics — i.e. computers — will not be a part of the equation. Rather, the committee will be receiving raw data that they, not a computer or company, will analyze and interpret for themselves.

“There’s no analytics,” Hancock said. “Obviously, the word analytics is in the company name, and they might be doing analytics for other clients, but not for us. There’s some hangover from the BCS days of people wanting the data to be manipulated or compiled. But we wanted just raw data. That’s what we asked for, and that’s what they’re giving us.”

In a similar vein, one piece of data that the committee is not permitted to take into account? Polls that are released before any games have been played, which means, technically, the Associate Press and coaches’ polls cannot be a part of the discussion. For that, we should all be thankful.

One piece of data that will be taken into account? “[R]elevant factors such as key injuries that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance.” In other words, if a star quarterback goes down early and that injury contributes to a loss or two but the team finishes strong down the stretch, that team will remain under consideration for a playoff slot. Conversely, if a star player or players goes/go down with an injury late in the season, that would be a factor that would permit the committee to disregard that team regardless of the record.  That’s a slippery slope, one that could come back and bite the committee specifically and the CFP as a whole.

Also, the CFP explains that “[c]omparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)” will be a principle that guides the committee.

The SwamiPREDICTIONS
So, with the minutia out of the way, on to the stuff that will cause the most bitching and/or whining and/or moaning: predictions!!!

If you look at most of these types of predictions, there is pretty much a consensus on three teams most feel will be a part of the four-team playoff field: last year’s BCS champion Florida State, Oregon and Alabama.  After that, it runs the gamut from Michigan State to Oklahoma to 2013 BCS runnerup Auburn to UCLA to South Carolina to Baylor as possibilities nationally.  Ohio State would’ve been a part of the discussion as well prior to The Injury, and could very well be a part of it by season’s end if they can get past MSU in East Lansing.

Below are how the four of us here at CFT see the first College Football Playoff playing out, with seeds, explanations and everything!  Enjoy, and unload on all/some/one of us below that:

KEVIN MCGUIRE
Rose Bowl: #2 Alabama vs. #3 Oklahoma
Sugar Bowl: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Oregon
Championship: Florida State vs. Alabama

Florida State enters the season as the team seemingly best equipped for a national title run. Now knowing what it takes to win, the Seminoles bring back a Heisman Trophy quarterback and a roster as deep as almost any in the country thanks to years of solid recruiting under Jimbo Fisher. In the same light, you have Alabama looking to prove it can plug in pieces to Nick Saban‘s program thanks to years of recruiting victories building a massively deep roster. No quarterback? Not yet, but somehow Saban will find a way. Oklahoma surged at the right time last season and enters the 2014 season a favorite in the Big 12, a conference not particularly deep in talent and obstacles this fall aside from a potent Baylor squad. Oklahoma should manage to wiggle out of the Big 12 and sneak in front of any champion from the Big Ten. The same holds true for Oregon, with the Ducks coming off a “down” year in Eugene, which seems silly to say when you look back at the 2013 season. The Ducks took a minor step back in a year of coaching transition, but Year 2 under Mark Helfrich should be better. When it comes down to the match-ups, I think Alabama is better suited for a rematch with the Sooners, if not just better prepared for it, and Florida State’s style will find a way to slow down Oregon’s offensive schemes, setting up what would be an epic Florida State-Alabama match-up for it all.

BRENT SOBLESKI
Rose Bowl: #2 Alabama vs. #3 Oregon
Sugar Bowl: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Wisconsin
Championship: Florida State vs. Oregon

To be the man, you got to beat the man. And Florida State is the team with the target on its back this season. The Seminoles should be ready for the challenge due to the amount of talent returning to this year’s roster. Florida State will likely cruise through the regular season and retain the No. 1 seed. It doesn’t mean the ACC’s best will be the best team in the country this season. Alabama and Oregon will be nipping at their heels. Alabama is always stacked and the SEC’s champion is essentially guaranteed to get a spot in the College Football Playoff. Oregon, meanwhile, will continue to put up points and receive elite play from its quarterback, Marcus Mariota. The fourth spot is completely up for grabs between the the champions of the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences. The Big Ten, in particular, is wide open after the devastating injury to Ohio State’s Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller. The Badgers should make a very good impression at the start of the season when they face the LSU Tigers, and their schedule should allow them to remain undefeated in Big Ten play before participating in the conference’s title game. Florida State would easily overpower the Badgers in the Sugar Bowl, though. And Oregon has the edge on offense and athleticism against the Crimson Tide. When the Ducks and Seminoles meet, the two best quarterbacks in college football will be on the field with the opportunity to will their team to the first national championship decided by the College Football Playoff.

JJ STANKEVITZ
Rose Bowl: #2 Alabama vs. #3 Oregon
Sugar Bowl: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Oklahoma
Championship: Florida State vs. Alabama

I really struggled with the No. 4 team here. I like UCLA more than Oklahoma, but UCLA plays a far tougher schedule with more than enough chances for a slip-up beyond Oct. 11’s showdown with Oregon. Braxton Miller‘s injury puts a serious dent in the Big Ten’s chances of getting a team in unless Michigan State can go to Eugene and win in Week 2. The rest of the SEC — Auburn, South Carolina, LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, etc — might eat itself alive. This isn’t to say I don’t like Oklahoma, but the Sooners get Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State at home and don’t have to worry about a conference championship game. Their path to the final playoff spot is far easier than other teams in the mix, so I’m going with them along with the ACC, SEC and Pac-12 champions.

JOHN TAYLOR
Rose Bowl: #2 Oregon vs. #3 Alabama
Sugar Bowl: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Oklahoma
Championship:  Florida State vs. Oregon

Heading into the season and at least on paper, most observers agree that Florida State, Oregon and Alabama, in some order, are the class of college football.  With Ohio State losing Braxton Miller to a season-ending injury, the fourth spot would now seemingly be up in the air.  I almost pulled the trigger on the biggest beneficiary of Miller’s injury, Michigan State, for the fourth seed before settling for an Oklahoma team that smacked Alabama around in the Sugar Bowl.  Well, that and I don’t see the Spartans getting past the Ducks early this season, which, combined with a Wisconsin loss to LSU, could damage whoever emerges as the champion of the Big Ten in the eyes of the playoff committee.  One additional note on potential semifinalists: if you’re looking for a conference that might have two teams represented in the CFP, look at the Pac-12, not the SEC.  Oregon is seemingly a given, and don’t sleep on UCLA.  They are a very, very underrated squad who could sneak in ahead of some of the other teams being mentioned as viable candidates for CFP spots — especially if the committee practices what it’s preaching in the preseason.  In the end, I see both Florida State and Oregon, the two most-talented squads in the country, trumping whichever team it is they face in the semifinals, setting the stage for an epic first-ever College Football Playoff title game.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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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

Big Ten Logo

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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All signs pointing to Blake Sims starting for ‘Bama vs. Ole Miss

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

While acknowledging early last week that he was “a little bruised” and “sore,” Blake Sims was very emphatic that he would be “very fine” and available for a key SEC West matchup coming off a bye week.

As it turns out, the Alabama quarterback knew exactly what he was talking about.  Probably.

Sims suffered an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder in the third quarter of the Sept. 20 win over Florida,  but did return to the game after missing a series to put a bow on a record-setting performance.  In the days leading up to the bye weekend, Sims was very limited in practice as the team looked to get him healthy.

Head coach Nick Saban said Monday that Sims returned to throwing a football very late last week.  Now, with the Ole Miss game just three days away, all of the signs are pointing to Sims being under center when the Tide takes the field against the Rebels.

Blake has done really well in practice,” Saban said on the SEC head coaches teleconference Wednesday. “He hasn’t had any issues this week so far in terms of being able to throw the ball. We’re really pleased with the way he’s progressed. He’s been able to take all the reps he’s prescribed to take. We’re pleased with that.”

Should Sims suffer a setback, Florida State transfer Jacob Coker would make his first career ‘Bama start. That, though, doesn’t appear likely.

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Colorado State shuts down starting TE/H-back for rest of season

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In early September, Jim McElwain labeled Kivon Cartwright‘s availability as week-to-week because of injury. Unfortunately for the starting tight end/H-back, the prognosis is no longer nearly as optimistic.

Following Tuesday’s practice, the head coach revealed that Cartwright will be forced to undergo additional surgery on his injured ankle. The procedure will cost Cartwright the remainder of the 2014 season.

Cartwright has been dealing with the ankle issue since the offseason.

“We’re going to go ahead and actually go back in and re-tighten up that screw, because it didn’t heal properly,” McElwain said. “For his best interests on that, it just never healed right. So we’re going to go back in and fix it so everything’s right for the rest of his life.”

Cartwright played in the opener against Colorado — one catch, 22 yards — but hasn’t played since. Last season, he was fourth on the team in receptions (27) and receiving yards (462). His six receiving touchdowns tied for the team lead.

Because this is the second season he’s missed because of injury — he didn’t play as a true freshman — Cartwright could seek a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA. McElwain said that’s something that will be addressed after the 2014 season is complete.

Steven Walker, Cartwright’s replacement, is currently second on the Rams with 14 receptions and third in receiving yards with 157.  His two touchdown catches are tied for second on the team.

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