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Is there a dominant conference in college football in 2016? Results so far suggest no

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If you were to rank the conferences in a power ranking using whatever metric you chose, how would it look? Odds are you would place the SEC on top, because they are the SEC and anything lower than No. 1 would be uncivilized. But how would you rank the conferences after that? At this point, it may be safe to assume there is an argument to be made for and against just about every conference from No. 2 down to No. 5 among just the power conferences.

THE ACC

Overall, the ACC had itself a pretty decent weekend. Florida State was able to put a game on cruise control after coming alive against Ole Miss earlier in the week, and the conference picked up a pair of wins against the Big Ten with Pittsburgh defeating Penn State and North Carolina winning at Illinois. Clemson was sluggish but managed to avoid an upset as we continue to wonder just why Clemson is starting things off so slowly this season. But the losses took a toll on giving the ACC too much credit this week. Virginia Tech wasn’t able to bury Tennessee after taking a 14-0 lead in Bristol. North Carolina State lost on the road against East Carolina. Virginia traveled across the country and returned with an 0-2 record after losing at Oregon a week after being demolished at home by Richmond. The hits could keep on coming this week if the ACC is not careful. Miami visiting Appalachian State could be trickier than expected. Virginia is staring at a possible 0-3 at UConn (so long as the Huskies pay attention to the clock) and Duke has to travel to Northwestern, with the Wildcats now desperate for a win. Want a possible upset alert? How about Pittsburgh traveling to Oklahoma State? Speaking of the Big 12…

BIG 12

What’s up with the Big 12? We are two weeks in and already we have seen Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU take a loss (even if the Oklahoma State loss should never have happened). The margin for error in the Big 12 in the College Football Playoff picture was already pretty thin as it was heading into the 2016 season, but with Ohio State coming to town to play Oklahoma and Pittsburgh visiting Oklahoma State, the Big 12 is in danger of a couple more potential losses to some teams expected to compete for the Big 12 title. Meanwhile, Texas is off to a good start but they hit the road to play California. This will be a good test for the Longhorns, who have jumped up the rankings quickly this season. A loss to the Longhorns would drop them down to Earth a little bit. Could the Big 12’s best playoff hope after this weekend fall on Baylor running the table? Do you trust Jim Grobe to lead the Bears to a 12-0 record?

BIG TEN

The hope for the Big Ten still falls on Ohio State and/or Michigan proving they are worth the hype. Neither has truly been tested yet, although that changes this week with the Buckeyes heading to Oklahoma. We’ll still have to wait a little longer for Michigan. Credit Wisconsin for getting the job done against LSU in the opener, but other than that there hasn’t been a tremendous amount to write home about for the Big Ten. Northwestern is 0-2 with home losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State. Penn State lost another in-state game on the road for a second straight season, this time against the ACC. Illinois also took a loss against the ACC. Iowa enters dangerous territory this week with mighty FCS giant North Dakota State looking to notch another victory against an FBS opponent. Nebraska will get a chance to boost the Big Ten a little bit this week at home against Oregon, and Michigan State travels to South Bend to face Notre Dame. To say this is an important week for the Big Ten is an understatement.

PAC-12

The season started off OK for the Pac-12, but the losses it took were tough to gloss over. USC was embarrassed by Alabama, and UCLA couldn’t finish the comeback against Texas A&M on the road. Meanwhile, Washington State is now 0-2 with losses to Eastern Washington and Boise State. Arizona was clipped by BYU, but Utah avenged that loss for the conference last night with a defensive stand to preserve the win. Overall, the Pac-12 turned in a good Week 2 despite a pair of losses to the Mountain West Conference on the road (Cal lost to San Diego State and Washington State’s road loss to Boise State). I’m still trying to figure out how Arizona trailed Grambling State 21-3 at the half (Arizona came back to win, 31-21). Some key games for the Pac-12 this week will see UCLA travel to BYU and Cal host Texas in addition to Oregon visiting Nebraska (and Colorado to Michigan). The biggest game, however, features USC hosting Stanford. Stanford is the team to beat in the Pac-12, but if USC chops them down, the Pac-12 could suddenly be on very thin ice in the playoff picture before getting into the bulk of the conference schedule.

SEC

Alabama aside, the SEC is still looking to gain some confidence points. Yes, the SEC won all the games it needed to this weekend, but Georgia being taken down to the wire by Nicholls State isn’t exactly going to go down as a quality win in anyone’s book. This is a conference that dropped seven games in the opening week and will later face some mismatches against ACC foes (Louisville-Kentucky, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida State-Florida?), and we haven’t even touched on conference play yet. Alabama has looked to be the strongest team in the country and they travel to Ole Miss this week. Ole Miss cracked against Florida State but still figures to be Alabama’s toughest test yet, and the game is in Oxford. An Ole Miss victory turns the entire SEC playoff outlook on its side, because it is unlikely anyone else in the SEC has what ti takes to go undefeated. An ole Miss victory would mean Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss each have a loss before October. Do you trust Tennessee to go 12-0, or 13-0? Or Florida? No, of course you do not.

So this is a fun season for college football, because there is no dominant force, other than Alabama I suppose. Every conference has holes, from coast to coast. That’s what we have learned through just two weeks of the college football season. Let’s see which conference does the best job plugging those holes.

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

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Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

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Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.

SEC commissioner confirms graduate transfer rule changes will be discussed at spring meetings

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We’re still over a month away from the SEC’s annual spring meetings down in Destin, Fla. but one item we might be able to confirm is on the agenda will be the graduate transfer rules for the conference.

It’s a hot topic around the league and particularly so at Florida, which is in the mix to land Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire but can’t officially take him due to restrictions from the conference office.

That may change however, as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey confirmed in a radio interview on Friday with ESPN Gainesville.

“It will come up,” Sankey said, according to SECCountry.com. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

At the heart of the issue is a rule that limits schools from taking additional graduate transfers if previous graduate transfers failed to meet academic requirements after enrolling. The move was designed to prevent a number of situations where players would transfer over just to play and not really go through coursework at their new school.

Other NCAA conferences have failed to follow the SEC’s lead in this area however and now the league is being put at a bit of a disadvantage on the graduate transfer market. This is particularly an issue with the Gators this offseason but it seems as though there will be quite the discussion down in Destin among athletic directors and head coaches about changing the rules to be on more of a level playing field with other conferences on this front.