Group of Five Power-Ranking: Memphis rising, Boise State and Western Michigan remain undefeated

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As another weekend of college football came to a close, there was no reason to suggest anyone was ready to knock Houston out of the pole position in the season-long Group of Five power ranking this week. The Cougars blasted Texas State on the road and look poised to make a run through the American Athletic Conference this season. It may not have been a great weekend for the MAC, but Western Michigan continues to make things interesting in Kalamazoo that can not be ignored. And then there is another school sporting the nickname of the Broncos that continues to stay in the running.

One spot in the New Years Six lineup will be reserved for the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference. Houston received that invite last season and appears well on its way to taking it once again this season (unless they wiggle into the College Football Playoff by chance).

So, here is how I would rank the Group of Five contenders through four weeks of play.

1. Houston (4-0)

The Cougars are on a roll after a 64-3 victory over Texas State. Next up for Tom Herman‘s Cougars is a revenge game at home against UConn. The Huskies were the only team to defeat Houston last season, but Greg Ward Jr. is healthy this time around.

2. Western Michigan (4-0)

The Broncos took care of business at home against Georgia Southern, scoring 28 second quarter points to go on to win 49-31. Western Michigan has two wins against Big Ten opponents and looks to be the best team the MAC has to offer. 12-0 in play? Hmmm…

3. San Diego State (3-0)

The Aztecs were off this week, but that does not hurt them here. The highlight has been running back Donnell Pumphrey and they are the second of two Group of Five teams to be ranked  by the voters. It should be smooth sailing to the MWC Championship Game.

4. Boise State (3-0)

Boise State is not going away though, not after a second victory over a Pac-12 team (OK, so it was Oregon State and they already beat Washington State, but still). Boise State looks to have a more challenging schedule ahead of them than San Diego State, but keep an eye out for the Broncos.

5. Memphis (3-0)

If you thought losing a head coach to a bigger program and a starting quarterback to the NFL was going to slow down Memphis, think again. The Tigers put 77 on the board in a 77-3 blowout of Bowling Green. Memphis has outscored their FBS opponents 120-10 in the last two games. Next up? A road trip to Ole Miss.

On the Radar: Air Force, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Georgia Southern, Middle Tennessee, Navy, Southern Miss, Troy, Tulsa, UCF, USF

Colorado dismises LB N.J. Falo

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The rocky tenure of N.J. Falo at Colorado has come to an abrupt end.

According to the university, the linebacker has been dismissed from head coach Mike MacIntyre‘s football program.  Other than the standard violation of unspecified team rules, no reason for the dismissal was given.

In late April of last year, Falo (pictured, No. 42) and then-Buffs running back Dino Gordon were arrested in connection to an alleged dorm-room theft.  The duo had been accused of stealing prescription drugs, laptops, video games and other electronics from a dorm room earlier that month.

Falo, who played in seven games as a true freshman in 2015, was suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season because of the incident.  After returning, the then-true sophomore played in the final 11 games of the year.  As a backup, he was credited with 12 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Because of injury, he sat atop CU’s post-spring depth chart just months ago.

Texas transfer Brandon Hodges uses Twitter to commit to Pitt

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A month after leaving Texas, Brandon Hodges has decided on a new college football home.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, Hodges announced that he has decided to enroll at Pittsburgh and continue his playing career with the Panthers.  As the offensive lineman is coming to the Panthers as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2017.

The upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

Hodges spent the first two seasons of his collegiate career at East Mississippi Community College before transferring to UT in 2015. He took a redshirt his first season in Austin.

Last season, Hodges started nine games at right tackle for the Longhorns. Academics forced Hodges to miss some of spring practice this year as well as the spring game, although he was able to graduate from the university not long after.

Urban Meyer: Greg Schiano ‘will be head coach’ again after turning down two ‘significant’ jobs this offseason

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It won’t be this year, but Urban Meyer could be forced to replace his defensive coordinator in short order.

In December of last year, Greg Schiano‘s name was attached to head coach openings at Oregon (HERE) and USF (HERE), although those jobs ultimately went to Willie Taggart and Charlie Strong, respectively.  At the Big Ten Media Days Tuesday, Schiano’s boss stated that his coordinator had turned down two “significant” opportunities this offseason to again become a head coach.

While the Ohio State head coach declined to divulge the names of the jobs Schiano decided against, or even what level of the sport was involved, Meyer emphatically stated that it’s a matter of when, not if, Schiano becomes a head coach again.

“He will be a head coach (again),” Meyer said by way of ElevenWarriors.com. “I’m going to keep him as long as I can. He’s one of the best I’ve ever been around.”

Schiano, who was the head coach at Rutgers from 2001-11, is entering his second season leading the Buckeyes’ defense.  In his first, OSU was third nationally in points per game (14.2) and tied for fourth in yards per game (282).

New medical study finds CTE in brains of 48 of 53 deceased college football players

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As the sport at all levels continues to aggressively address the issue of safety for its players, another report has surfaced that shines a harsh light on the potential brutality of the game.

In a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Tuesday, the Associated Press reports, researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine and the VA Boston Healthcare System examined the brains of 202 deceased men who had played football at various levels.  Of those, 53 played college football; 48 of them were diagnosed postmortem with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE as it’s more commonly known.

Even more startling, 110 of the 111 brains of former NFL players studied had CTE.  Conversely, three of 14 brains of individuals whose highest level of football was high school were diagnosed with it.

From the AP:

There are many questions that remain unanswered,” said lead author Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuroscientist. “How common is this” in the general population and all football players?

“How many years of football is too many?” and “What is the genetic risk? Some players do not have evidence of this disease despite long playing years,” she noted.

It’s also uncertain if some players’ lifestyle habits — alcohol, drugs, steroids, diet — might somehow contribute, McKee said.

Dr. Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, emphasized that the report is based on a selective sample of men who were not necessarily representative of all football players. He said problems other than CTE might explain some of their most common symptoms before death — depression, impulsivity and behavior changes. He was not involved in the report.

CTE is a degenerative disease found in people who have suffered repeated blows to the head, particularly in sports such as boxing hockey, rugby and, of course, football.  At this time, CTE can only be diagnosed after death, although there are experimental tests being studied that may work on the living.

In that vein, the AP writes that “McKee said research from the brain bank may lead to answers and an understanding of how to detect the disease in life, “while there’s still a chance to do something about it.”

Among those who donated their brains and were part of the new study included Ken Stabler (Alabama), Bubba Smith (Michigan State), Junior Seau (USC), Dave Duerson (Notre Dame) and Frank Wainright (Northern Colorado).  All of those went on to lengthy careers in the NFL.