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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.

Mike Leach downplays rumors that have him following Bill Moos to Nebraska

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Sunday, it was confirmed that Bill Moos was leaving his job as athletic director at Washington State to take the same position at Nebraska.  It didn’t take long after the official announcement of the move for the speculation to commence.

A home loss to Northern Illinois was the football program’s first-ever to a MAC school and its first home loss to a Group of Five team since 2004, sparking talk as to how much longer Mike Riley could last as the Cornhuskers’ head coach.  Losses by a combined 63 points the last two weeks to Wisconsin and Ohio State did nothing to alleviate those concerns.

Enter Moos, whose last football hire at Wazzu has turned into a very significant upgrade for that program.  Taking over a team that won a combined nine games the four years before he was hired by Moos, Mike Leach guided the Cougars to 12 wins his first three years after being hired in 2012.  The past two seasons have turned into breakout ones of sort for the Cougars as they won nine games in 2015 (most since 2003) and eight in 2016.  They were off to a 6-0 start this season before Cal stunned them in Week 7.

Add Riley’s struggles to Leach’s successes and mix in Moos’ departure Pullman for Lincoln, and the recipe was there for Leach-to-‘Huskers talk.  Monday, the coach downplayed such a possibility.

“I don’t have any plans to do that and then they already have a head coach there and he’s a pretty good one, Mike Riley,” Leach said according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “Wish Bill the best and we just move forward.”

Leach did, though, have high praise for his now-former boss.  Extremely high praise.

“He’s the best AD that I’ve ever met,” Leach said. “Everything from active to retired to dead. Bill’s the best AD I’ve ever even met. …

“Bill’s a very honest, straightforward guy and he was a guy you could count on, who you knew had your best interest.”

Alabama settling in as five-touchdown favorite over Tennessee

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Five-touchdown, not five-point.  The Butch Jones Era, ladies and gentlemen.

In the wake of yet another crippling, emasculating loss for the Tennessee football program, Butch Jones again pulled fired up his verbal backhoe and further buried his coaching tenure on Rocky Top.  There’s little doubt Jones’ time as the Volunteers will expire at some point between now and shortly after the end of UT’s season; there’s exactly zero doubt that, outside of Knoxville — and probably inside, to be blunt — the perception of the program under Jones is at its lowest in decades.

The latest case in the latter point?  Wagering establishments.

Sunday afternoon, UT will enter the not-so-friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa for the 100th edition of its annual rivalry game against top-ranked Alabama.  Over the weekend, the Vols opened as anywhere from a 33- to 34.5-point undergo.  As we head toward midweek, it’s crept a bit upward according to Bovada.lv.

Bovada tells CFT that, over the last 31 years, the Vols have never been as large of an underdog as they are right now.  Prior to a 23-13 loss, they were 30- point underdogs to Florida in 2009.  In 2011 and 2013, they were 29- and 28-point underdogs, respectively, to Alabama.  They ended up losing both contests, 37-6 in the former and 45-10 in the latter.

In the previous 99 meetings between the rival programs, the Vols have lost by 35 or more points exactly four times. The first came in 1906 (51-0), the second in 1963 (35-0).  The last two times?  The 2013 game mentioned above and 2016 (49-10).

Ahead of last year’s game in Knoxville, the Crimson Tide was in the neighborhood of a seven-point favorite.

Cal loses leading tackler to season-ending injury

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Cal’s stunning upset in Week 7 came with a very steep price tag on the defensive side of the ball.

In the second half of Cal’s upending of then-No. 8 Washington State Friday night, Devante Downs went down with an unspecified injury.  Three days later, the football program confirmed that the inside linebacker would miss the remainder of the 2017 season because of it.

Other than lower body, the specific nature of the injury wasn’t detailed.

Regardless of what exactly is sidelining Downs, it’s a very significant blow to a Golden Bears defense that’s currently tied for 67th in scoring after finishing the past four seasons 125th, 123rd, 108th and 125th in the same category.

Through seven games, Downs is far and away Cal’s leading tackler with 65.  Next closest?  Ra Davison‘s 43.  He also leads the team in sacks (three), quarterback hits (four) and forced fumbles (two), while he’s tied for the lead in interceptions (two) and fumble recoveries (two).  The 5.5 tackles for loss for which he’s been credited are tied for second.

Urban Meyer’s wife apologizes after taking Twitter shot at Colin Kaepernick’s choices

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The wife of one of the top head coaches in college football dipped her toes into an ongoing national controversy — and not long after attempted to un-dip them.

In reaction to news that Colin Kaepernick, who kick-started the anthem kneeling controversy last season, had filed a grievance claiming that NFL owners colluded to keep him out of the league, Shelley Meyer tweeted “What-ever, he made his choices.”  The tweet from the personal Twitter account of the wife of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was quickly deleted.

She also tweeted, in response to one of her followers stating that “I would take Tim Tebow over him any day,” “A million times. No comparison.”

The original tweet gained enough traction pre-deletion, however, that Kaepernick’s mother used the same social media website to chide Mrs. Meyer.

Less than 24 hours after the mini social media maelstrom erupted, Mrs. Meyer offered up somewhat of an apology/further explanation for her original tweet.