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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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Former USC Trojan Armstead gets his day in court against school next week

Oregon State v USC

Next week in Los Angeles will mark the beginning of a lawsuit between Armond Armstead against his former university, USC. Armstead accused the school of fraud, concealment and negligence at which he claims deprived him of a chance to play in the NFL.

The lawsuit was filed back in August 2012, but is just now getting ready to head to trial. The Sacramento Bee reports the case is scheduled to begin on April 6.

You may remember Armstead suffered a heart attack back in the spring of 2011. As the season got underway, Armstead’s status was still up in the air and word got out he was considering a transfer after he was given a redshirt for the season. Armstead is accusing the university’s staff of giving him painkillers that led to heart problems and of blocking possible transfers that prevented him from having a chance to play in the NFL.

Of course, Armstead did get his chance to play in the NFL. He was most recently on the roster of the New England Patriots. He was forced to retire from the game last July, well before the Patriots went on their latest Super Bowl run. The reason? More heart problems that surfaced in 2014.

If USC is to blame for Armstead’s health issues, the school will cut a nice check to Armstead. It should also raise awareness of how the medical staff today is handling the health of players, especially when it concerns prescribing and offering pain medication. With schools and conferences taking on more responsibility for player health, issues like this will continue to be a priority. Avoiding future lawsuits of this fashion should be the case as we move forward, whether USC is to blame for Armstead’s heart issues or not.

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Torn ACL sends Auburn cornerback to surgery

Outback Bowl - Auburn v Wisconsin

Auburn’s depth in the defensive backfield took a minor hit on Tuesday. T.J. Davis, who was expected to be competing for a starting job this spring, underwent surgery on a torn ACL.

According to Al.com, Davis suffered the torn ACL two weeks ago.

For now, all that is known is Davis will be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices. His status for the fall is to be determined. It used to be that a torn ACL could keep a player out for a whole year, although sometimes a player can battle back and rehab enough to have a shot to play in the fall if the injury is suffered early enough.

The timeline for Davis and his potential return to the field is far from confirmed at this moment.

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MAC takes stand vs. Indiana religious freedom law, will Big Ten follow?

Indianapolis Reacts To Indiana's Controversial Religious Freedom Act

The state of Indiana is being criticized left and right (well, mostly from the left) for the recent passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The act would allow a business to refuse service to anyone person based solely on religious beliefs, which has been seen as giving the ability to refuse to provide business services to a member of the LGBT community. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s final games being played in Indianapolis this weekend has forced the NCAA to speak out about the act, and now the MAC has joined the chorus of critics of the new state law.

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher says his conference will not hold any meetings or conference championships in the state of Indiana until the law is amended or repealed.

“The Mid-American Conference will not schedule any more meetings or championships in Indiana until this current matter is brought to a sensible and appropriate conclusion,” Steinbrecher said to ESPN.

As far as football is concerned, not much is at stake. The conference typically holds its football conference championship game in Detroit, Michigan. The same goes for the conference’s football media day event. Ball State is the only member of the conference residing in the state of Indiana, which effectively means the school cannot host any other conference championship event sin other sports. This statement will not prevent Ball State from hosting MAC schools in conference competition as part of the regular season scheduling.

As of now, the only thing scheduled by the MAC to take place in Indiana is the annual presidents meetings in January or February of 2016. Those meetings will be held elsewhere if no changes are made to the state laws.

It is good to see the MAC make this statement, but it remains to be seen if the Big Ten will take a similar stand. If it does, the Big Ten could lend an even stronger voice for change to the law considering the financial impact that is attached to the Big Ten’s investment in Indiana, more specifically in Indianapolis. The Big Ten hosts its conference championship game in Indianapolis as well as the men’s basketball tournament on a fairly regular basis (nine times since 2002 and scheduled to return in 2016). The Big Ten also has two members inside the state of Indiana, with plenty of alumni attached to them.

For now the Big Ten has gone so far to publicly state it is reviewing the situation. It has not made any hard decisions one way or the other at this time. All things considered, this is not a terrible decision to make when so much is at stake for the conference and the state. It can sometimes be best to wait to find out all of the information before making any major decisions regarding the future of the conference.

In a world that can be influenced heavily by the opinions and demands of big corporate names and brands, Indiana could be forced to rethink some things if the Big Ten hops aboard with a threat to pull out of the state.

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Following arrest, Alabama dismisses RB Tyren Jones

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

Alabama has dismissed Tyren Jones from the football program after being arrested earlier in the day. The university announced the dismissal early Tuesday evening.

The dismissal of Jones comes just hours after an earlier report of his arrest on Tuesday. Jones was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana. Jones was already serving a team suspension by head coach Nick Saban, who himself has come under fire for some of the decisions revolving around his program’s roster lately.

As previously reported, cornerback Geno Smith was arrested for driving under the influence. This was his second offense in under two years. In addition, defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor, a transfer from Georgia following a similar offense, was arrested following yet a domestic violence incident. Taylor was also removed from the roster by Alabama.

As a freshman in 2014, Jones rushed for 224 yards and two touchdowns for Alabama.

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Bo Pelini fires mild shot at Nebraska AD

Bo Pelini, Dubem Nwadiogbu

Former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini is settling into his new job as head coach of the Youngstown State Penguins. The step down in profile among college coaching jobs is a refreshing change of pace for the hot-tempered Pelini, and it could be just what he needs the most.

Ralph Russo of the Associated Press wrote a solid profile of Pelini today, taking a look at how Pelini is adjusting to the life outside of the bright spotlight that comes with coaching a big time college football program as storied as Nebraska. The pressure may not be quite as high in Youngstown, but it is still a state with tremendous football pride and the job is still similar in many respects.

Coaching’s coaching,” Pelini explained. “This whole step back thing … You coach where you’re coaching. I wouldn’t be opposed to ever coaching high school ball. The challenges are always there. They’re different at different places.”

Pelini also was given a chance to comment on the audio recording of a meeting with Nebraska players Pelini held following his dismissal by the university. In it, Pelini is heard using some strong language and criticizing Nebraska athletics director Shawn Eichorst.

“I think it’s sad that it came out,” Pelini said. “That’s what’s wrong with that place.”

Nebraska and Pelini are going their separate ways now. Pelini has taken his family home to Youngstown, where he will also be charged with resurrecting a once dominant FCS program back to national relevance on an annual basis. Pelini has also added his brother, Carl Pelini, to the coaching staff. Meanwhile, Nebraska moves forward with a new head coach on the opposite polarity of Pelini, former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley.

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Goforth and prosper: UCLA DB granted another year of eligibility

UCLA Virginia Football

It wasn’t all bad news on the personnel front for UCLA Tuesday.

Around the same time he confirmed that wide receiver Devin Lucien will indeed transfer, Jim Mora also confirmed that Randall Goforth has been granted an additional season of eligibility.  The medical waiver was essentially a no-brainer as the safety missed all but the first two games of the 2014 season after undergoing surgery on both of his shoulders.

With the waiver, Goforth will now be eligible for both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

Goforth started all 13 games in 2013, finishing second on the team with three interceptions and fourth with 78 tackles.  He started both games in which he played in 2014.

Expected to be the starter again in 2015, Goforth is nonetheless in non-contact mode this spring as he continues to recover from the two shoulder surgeries.

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Tyren Jones becomes third Tide player arrested since Friday

Western Carolina v Alabama Getty Images

To say that this has been a bad last few days for Alabama on the legal front would be a monumental understatement.

The latest to add to the Tide’s legal woes is Tyren Jones, who al.com reports was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree possession of marijuana.  From the website’s account of what led to Jones’ arrest and misdemeanor charge:

A Tuscaloosa police report states Jones was in a car stopped on 10th Avenue with the smell of marijuana. Officers found digital scales in the Dodge Challenger belonging to Brandon Lee Hansberry, who was also arrested.

A small amount of marijuana was found in the pants pocket of Jones.

The bad news for the running back is that he’s already in Nick Saban‘s doghouse, suspended in the middle of February for what was described as “conduct not to the standard of the Alabama football program.” Jones also served a one-game suspension in October of last year.

Unfortunately for the Tide, arrests have become the standard for the football program over the last four days as Jones is the third UA football player arrested in that time frame.

Late Friday night, cornerback Geno Smith was arrested for driving under the influence, his second such offense in less than two years. Smith subsequently apologized, while Saban stated that he will remain with the team even as he has several steps he must take in order to get back in the team’s good graces.

A day later, transfer defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor was arrested following yet another domestic violence incident. Taylor, who was dismissed by Georgia for a similar offense last summer, was subsequently given the boot by Saban after his latest arrest.

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Utah State losing QB Darell Garretson to transfer

Darell Garretson AP

Utah State lost Darell Garretson for most of the 2014 season due to injury.  Know they’re losing him to a departure for good measure.

USU announced in a release Tuesday that Garretson has decided to leave the Aggies football program.  The quarterback will transfer to another team, although the destination is to be determined.

The fact that Chuckie Keeton received a fifth season of eligibility this past February and is poised to again take the starting reins may have played a role in Garretson’s decision.

“We thank Darell for his contributions to Utah State football the past two years and wish him the best in the future,” head coach Matt Wells said in a very brief statement.

Garretson started seven games as a freshman in 2013, but played in just five games in 2014 before suffering a season-ending wrist injury.

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FSU to be without projected starting center for rest of spring

Florida State v Louisville Getty Images

Fortunately for a Florida State offensive line that is in the midst of a significant restoration, the start of the 2015 season is still five months down the road.

Monday, Jimbo Fisher confirmed that redshirt sophomore Ryan Hoefeld underwent surgery recently to repair a meniscus issue in his knee. Because of the medical procedure, the coach said, Hoefeld will miss the remainder of the spring practice sessions.

Hoefeld entered spring in a battle with Alec Eberle to replace Austin Barron/Cam Erving at center, but had appeared to separate himself a bit from the competition.

Because of an injury to Barron last season, Hoefeld started four straight games (Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville, Virginia) in a stretch from mid-October to early November. Erving ultimately moved from left tackle to center in the 10th game of the 10th game of the regular season, pushing Hoefeld out of the starting lineup.

The Seminoles entered the offseason needing to replace 165 starts from five departed linemen: Josue Matias (43), Erving (42), Tre’ Jackson (42), Bobby Hart (28) and Barron (10).

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Arizona confirms Texas Tech home-and-home, adds Hawaii series

Arizona Texas Tech AP

A Big 12-Pac-12 matchup first reported last week has officially come to fruition this week.

In a press release, Arizona announced that it has scheduled a future home-and-home series with Texas Tech. UA will host Texas Tech at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 14, 2019, while the Wildcats will travel to Lubbock, Tex., for a game against the Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium on Sept. 19, 2020.

The two football programs actually have a rather extensive history for non-conference opponents, facing each other 31 times over the past eight-plus decades. The first meeting between the two took place in 1932, the last in 1988.  The Red Raiders a 25-4-2 edge in the all-time series.

In addition to Tech, UA also announced yet another home-and-home against Hawaii. The first game will be played Sept. 17, 2016, in Tucson and the second in Honolulu on Aug. 30, 2025.

The two programs had previously announced a home-and-home for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

“We’re excited to add more quality opponents in Texas Tech and Hawaii to our future schedules,” UA athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement. “Playing opponents of this caliber is a great opportunity and our future schedules are developing nicely for our program and our fans.”

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Deshaun Watson ‘looks great,’ should be ready for summer workouts

Deshaun Watson AP

The genetically-blessed freak that is Deshaun Watson continues to impress in his recovery from a serious knee injury.

The Clemson quarterback sustained a torn ACL during a late-November practice but still played in the regular-season finale against South Carolina, with head coach Dabo Swinney acknowledging that the brace he wore essentially served as his ACL.  After some initial thoughts had Watson delaying surgery until after the Tigers’ bowl game, wiser heads prevailed as the true freshman underwent the medical procedure on his knee in mid-December.

Swinney has since praised Watson’s rate of progress in rehab, consistently raving about his DNA and the way he’s wired.  While Watson is a non-participant this spring, and in a bit of a surprising development, he should be a go for summer workouts that will start up in less than three months.

“Deshaun is making great progress, and I fully expect him to be ready to take part in our skills and drills program in June,” the coach said Monday, adding, “he really looks great.”

What that also means is that, barring a setback between now and then, Watson will be expected to enter summer camp at 100-percent health. And, based on his first season at this level, that would be a tremendous boon for Clemson’s offense.

In the four games that Watson started and finished upright, the Tigers were 4-0.  If Watson had played just one snap in one additional game, even if he didn’t attempt a pass, his pass efficiency rating of 188.6 would’ve been the best in the country, ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota‘s 184.4.  Additionally, his 10.7 yards per attempt was the best in the country for quarterbacks with at least 125 pass attempts.

Again, barring a setback, Watson should enter the 2015 season as one of a handful of players mentioned as potential Heisman contenders.

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QB Mike White granted release from USF scholarship

South Florida v Memphis Getty Images

The most experienced quarterback on USF’s roster will ply his football wares elsewhere, the school announced Tuesday.

Willie Taggart confirmed in a press release that Mike White has been granted a release from his USF scholarship.  White had been a part of a three-man quarterback competition this spring, but decided after the last of those 15 sessions that he would continue his playing career elsewhere.

No specific reason was given for the decision.

“Mike and I talked after the conclusion of spring practice, and he expressed his desire to pursue the remainder of his career at another school,” the Bulls head coach said in a statement. “We wish Mike all the best in his future and thank him for his contributions to our program and University.”

Barring an unforeseen development, White, who was a true sophomore in 2014, would be forced to sit out the 2015 season if he ends up at another FBS program.

Over the past two seasons, the Fort Lauderdale native has started a total of 15 games. White started five games as a true freshman in 2013, and 10 the following season.  He had started 13 games in a row for the Bulls before temporarily losing his starting job in late October, but came back to start the last two.

The two games White didn’t start last year were manned by Steven Bench (vs. Houston, Nov. 1) and Quinton Flowers (vs. SMU, Nov. 15), who will now move forward with what will be a two-headed quarterback competition.

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Report: OSU expects no lost eligibility for Braxton Miller

Urban Meyer, Braxton Miller

It appears that, relatively speaking, Urban Meyer was spot on.

At an appearance in Canton, Ohio, Monday, the Ohio State head coach was asked about the potential for NCAA issues when it comes to Braxton Miller. “Everything is fine. No issue,” Meyer said.

Officially, OSU’s stance is that they are seeking some clarification from the NCAA and hope to have an answer back in a week or so.  Unofficially, the school is expecting what would essentially amount to a slap on the wrist.  From the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Ari Wasserman:

However, a source close to Ohio State told Northeast Ohio Media Group that the program expects a secondary violation with no eligibility lost and a letter of education for Miller to be the punishment.

Meyer did allow Tuesday, however, that he spoke out of turn yesterday when addressing Miller’s situation.

“I shouldn’t comment on things I don’t know about,” the coach said. “I don’t know, other than they are telling me they think it’s good. I think it’s going to be OK. People are asking me – ‘It’s all good, it’s done?’ I don’t know.

“It’s been told to me that everything looks to be OK. They are just doing their due diligence and making sure.”

As for the issue that’s caused the imbroglio, a school spokesperson last Wednesday confirmed to The Lantern, OSU’s student newspaper, that the university is looking into a potential NCAA rules violation committed by Miller.  ElevenWarriors.com wrote at the time that “Miller… had a bit of a lapse in judgement [Tuesday] night when he appeared to endorse Advocare, a weight-loss and nutrition multi-level marketing firm that some people consider a pyramid scheme.”

The apparent endorsement came in the form of a post made to Instagram, which was subsequently taken down when the mini-controversy began to grow.

Braxton Miller

Student-athletes are permitted to hold jobs and even be self-employed, which appears to be the case in Miller’s association with the Amway-like AdvoCare group.  However, as Texas A&M compliance director Brad Barnes explained to SBNation‘s Steven Godfrey in an excellent Q&A on the issue, a player’s earnings “may not include any remuneration for value or utility that the student-athlete may have for the employer because of the publicity, reputation, fame or personal following that he or she has obtained because of athletics ability.”

That will be the decision that OSU, and potentially the NCAA, has to make: whether Miller’s Instagram post constitutes using his “reputation, fame or personal following” for financial gain (whether it should be that way is another matter entirely).

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Pat Haden, ‘proud father of gay son,’ skipping CFP meeting in Indy

Pat Haden AP

The first visceral impact of the state of Indiana’s controversial new law on the world of college football has surfaced.

Last Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law a bill that allows for private businesses to refuse service to — or discriminate against, as some would say — members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.  The NCAA quickly issued a statement expressing concern over the new law, intimating that The Association, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, could sever its ties with the state.

The Big Ten followed suit a day later, issuing a statement in which the conference, which conducts its football championship game in Indianapolis, stated that “its member institutions believe in promoting an inclusive environment in which athletic competition can operate free from discrimination.”

The College Football Playoff committee members are set to meet in Indianapolis this week as the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four will tip-off in the same city. One of the 13 committee members, however, will not be in attendance — USC athletic director Pat Haden, who is conducting his own personal boycott of the city because of the so-called “religious freedom” law.

Regardless of your stance on the new law, Haden should be roundly applauded for standing up for not only his son but for what he believes in. What will be interesting moving forward, however, is how many, if any, of Haden’s committeemen/women stand beside their fellow member and stay away from the city as well.

And, for those of you who have already tired of this issue, you’d better brace yourself; it’s not going away. In fact, it will only grow in the coming days and weeks as other Hadens from inside the world of sports and out follow suit.

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UCLA’s third-leading receiver set to transfer

UCLA v Washington Getty Images

Wide receiver is one of the deepest units UCLA possesses, but it’s also a little less deep this morning.  Reportedly.

The Los Angeles Times reported overnight that Devin Lucien has decided to leave the Bruins football program and finish his collegiate playing career elsewhere. No reason was given for the decision to transfer.

Because he will be a graduate transfer, the wide receiver, unlike in the future potentially, will be eligible to play immediately in 2015 if he lands at an FBS program.

Last season, Lucien’s 29 receptions were second on the team, although he averaged just 7.8 yards per catch.  During summer camp leading up to the 2014 season, Lucien sustained a head injury in practice serious enough that he was taken to a local hospital via ambulance.  Released the following day, Lucien passed a concussion test and returned to practice less than a week later.

In 2013, Lucien overcame a back injury to start three of the 13 games in which he played, catching 10 passes for 208 yards. The year before, he was the team’s third-leading receiver (10-188) before a broken clavicle knocked him out for the remainder of the regular season.

As noted by the Times, and outside of Lucien, the Bruins will return their top seven receivers in receptions from a year ago.

UPDATED 2:19 p.m. ET: Head coach Jim Mora confirmed that Lucien is indeed transferring out of his Bruins football program.

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