Associated Press

Alabama No. 1, Ohio State No. 2 in preseason coaches’ poll

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Nearly a month before the 2017 season kicks off in earnest, the first noteworthy of the meaningless preseason polls has been released.

With USA Today as its delivery vehicle, the Amway Coaches’ Poll released its initial ranking of the Top 25 teams in the country.  Not surprisingly, to some, 2016 national runner-up Alabama is ranked as the top team in the country.

Of the 65 “coaches” (winkwinknudgenudge) who participated in the voting, 49 of them cast their first-place votes for ‘Bama.  The Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the country, Ohio State and Florida State, respectively, received five and four first-place votes, respectively.  The only other team that received No. 1 nods was fifth-ranked and defending national champion Clemson with seven.

The remainder of the Top 10 is rounded out by No. 4 USC, No. 6 Penn State, No. 7 Washington, No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 9 Michigan and No. 10 Wisconsin.

While there were four Big Ten teams in the Top 10, just one team from the SEC can make the same claim.  Overall, though, the latter conference lead all leagues with six teams in the Top 25, followed by the ACC and Big 12 with five each and the Big Ten and Pac-12 with four apiece.  The Group of Five program to crack the initial ranking was South Florida, with the AAC school coming in at No. 21.

For those who are curious, and before we get to the complete Top 25 rankings, below are the “coaches” (winkwinknudgenudge) who will vote in this particular poll throughout the 2017 season:

Major Applewhite, Houston; David Bailiff, Rice; David Beaty, Kansas; Bret Bielema, Arkansas; Craig Bohl, Wyoming; John Bonamego, Central Michigan; Terry Bowden, Akron; Jeff Brohm, Purdue; Matt Campbell, Iowa State; Rod Carey, Northern Illinois; Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; Butch Davis, Florida International; Dave Doeren, North Carolina State; DJ Durkin, Maryland; Shawn Elliott, Georgia State; Larry Fedora, North Carolina; Luke Fickell, Cincinnati; Jimbo Fisher, Florida State; P.J. Fleck, Minnesota; James Franklin, Penn State; Willie Fritz, Tulane; Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech; Bryan Harsin, Boise State; Clay Helton, Southern California; Tom Herman, Texas; Doc Holliday, Marshall; Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette; Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech; Joey Jones, South Alabama; Mike Leach, Washington State; Lance Leipold, Buffalo; Tim Lester, Western Michigan; Seth Littrell, North Texas; Rocky Long, San Diego State; Mike MacIntyre, Colorado; Gus Malzahn, Auburn; Derek Mason, Vanderbilt; Urban Meyer, Ohio State; Jeff Monken, Army; Philip Montgomery, Tulsa; Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina; Jim Mora, UCLA; Dan Mullen, Mississippi State; Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh; Ken Niumatalolo, Navy; Barry Odom, Missouri; Gary Patterson, TCU; Mike Riley, Nebraska; Rich Rodriguez, Arizona; Nick Rolovich, Hawaii; Nick Saban, Alabama; Tony Sanchez, UNLV; Mike Sanford Jr., Western Kentucky; Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State; Bill Snyder, Kansas State; Frank Solich, Ohio; Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee; Mark Stoops, Kentucky; Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern; Dabo Swinney, Clemson; Matt Wells, Utah State; Mark Whipple, Massachusetts; Kyle Whittingham, Utah; Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion; Everett Withers, Texas State.


Hugh Freeze reportedly made at least a dozen calls to escort services as Ole Miss coach

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Former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze dialed “at least 12” numbers associated with escort services through online advertisements, according to a review of open records obtained by ESPN.com. The calls took place over a 33-month period, stretching from April 2014 through January 2017, and typically lasted two minutes or less.

Those calls appear to be what Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter referenced as “a pattern of personal misconduct” on the night he resigned. The calls are the second phone related-issue connected to Freeze’s dismissal. He also made at least 200 calls to a booster that is under NCAA investigation.

There are two puzzling aspects to Freeze’s calls to escort services: A) that he made the calls on a university-owned cell phone in the first place, and B) that Freeze did not redact the calls from the records request, since other private calls were removed from the public review of his 39,000 calls as the Rebels’ head coach.

“Any personal calls having no relation to UM business are not public records,” Ole Miss attorney Robert T. Jolly wrote in an email to ESPN. “Personal calls will be clearly marked and redacted from the documents released.”

Freeze went 39-25 in five seasons as the Ole Miss head coach, peaking with back-to-back wins over Alabama and a long-awaited Sugar Bowl victory to close the 2015 season but ending with a 5-7 mark and a self-imposed bowl ban for the 2017 season, which will be coached by interim Matt Luke. Ole Miss will sit before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on Sept. 11, with Freeze’s character and strict adherence to NCAA recruiting rules a cornerstone of the school’s defense.

Reports: Oklahoma State RB Jeff Carr to transfer

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Jeff Carr is planning to transfer from Oklahoma State, according to a report from Pokes sidelines reporter Robert Allen. That report has since been confirmed by the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman. Carr has since been removed from Oklahoma State’s online roster.

A junior, Carr was Oklahoma State’s most experienced running back but was passed on the depth chart by sophomore Justice Hill. Hill ran the ball 206 times for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, while Carr rushed 12 times for 83 yards and one score. His 6.92 yards per carry average led the team. Carr rushed 36 times for 142 yards and one score as a freshman in 2015. Carr also saw his touches as a kickoff returner (29 returns to three) and a receiver (11 catches to one) fall from 2015 to ’16.

After losing the Temple, Texas, native, Oklahoma State will have five running backs on scholarship — four freshmen and one sophomore, Hill.

Multiple outlets have reported Carr is headed to Texas A&M-Kingsville, a Division II school that will permit Carr to play immediately.

Georgia Southern names redshirt freshman Shai Werts starting QB

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Georgia Southern is rolling with a freshman at quarterback this season.

The Eagles have announced that redshirt freshman Shai Werts will be the club’s starting signal caller to begin the season. Werts beat out junior college transfer Kado Brown and junior LaBaron Anthony to win the job.

“I think Shai certainly came in and took the majority amount of snaps with the ones both in spring practice and in camp and I thought he did a great job,” head coach Tyson Summers said in a statement. “I think that you see him have a very clear understanding of what we want do on offense. I think you see him have a very clear understanding of what he’s got to work on to get better at and I think that he’s done a tremendous job from a leadership standpoint on the field and in the classroom and in the meeting room. He’s certainly one of the key leaders for our entire football team, not just in the quarterback room and not just the offense, so I’m very proud of Shai.”

Werts replaces Georgia Southern’s two departed quarterbacks in seniors Kevin Ellison and Fabian Upshaw. The pair combined to complete 112-of-190 passes (58.9 percent) for 1,485 yards (7.82 yards per attempt) with 12 touchdowns against five interceptions while rushing 208 times for 1,019 yards (4.9 per carry) with nine touchdowns. As a team, Georgia Southern ranked 101st nationally in yards per play and 78th in scoring.

A native of Clinton, S.C., Werts stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 190 pounds. He was named the HSSR-SCHSL Division I AA Offensive Player of the Year as a senior at Newberry High School.

“All the work I’ve been putting in, it’s finally paid off,” Werts said. “I called my mom and she just went crazy so I’m glad that she’s proud of me and I can’t wait to tell the rest of my family.”

Werts will kick off its season at No. 12 Auburn on Sept. 2 (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).

UCLA, Wisconsin reach agreement on future home-and-home

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Still a dozen years down the scheduling road, a future Big Ten-Pac-12 series has nonetheless been revealed.

UCLA and Wisconsin announced Tuesday that the two football programs have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home.  The two teams play at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 15, 2029, and at Camp Randall Stadium on Sept. 7, 2030.

“UCLA is one of the premier programs in college football,” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement. “We had some memorable bowl games when I was on the sidelines but this is a great opportunity for us to play them at Camp Randall. Non-conference scheduling is always a challenge but the folks at UCLA have been great to deal with and we look forward to the series.”

The two teams have met 11 times previously, the most recent coming in the 2000 Sun Bowl.  The last regular season meeting between the programs came in 1982.

The Bruins own a 7-4 advantage in the all-time series, including a perfect 5-0 mark in Madison.  The Badgers, though, have won the last three meetings, all of which came in the postseason and the first two of which were Rose Bowl victories.