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ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 27:  A general view of Michigan Stadium during the first quarter of the game between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Michigan Wolverines on September 27, 2014 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Golden Gophers defeated the Wolverines 30-14. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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Michigan favorite choice of bettors to claim national title

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The Jim Harbaugh Effect is real — and the results will more than likely wind up in Las Vegas’s pockets.

According to a report from David Purdum of ESPN, Michigan stands as bettors’ favorite choice to win this season’s national title. Purdum writes that more money has been placed on the Wolverines to win in all than any other team, and their national title odds have risen from 15-to-1 to 7-to-1.

Alabama remains the only team with higher odds than Michigan.

Ohio State, however, remains a 6.5-point favorite to beat Michigan at the Horseshoe in November. Ohio State is just a tick behind Michigan for the national title at 8-to-1 odds.

Rounding out the top five among the public’s top bets to claim the national crown, according to Westgate SuperBook, are LSU, Clemson, Ohio State and Florida State.

 

Ivy League to move kickoffs to 40-yard line

NEW HAVEN, CT - NOVEMBER 21:  Keith Hawk #15 of the Yale Bulldogs collides with Ben Braunecker #48 of the Harvard Crimson in the first half on November 21, 2015 in New Haven, Connecticut. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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The idea of eliminating kickoffs entirely in college football is on the table. But before that nuclear option is adopted, one conference will experiment with a middle ground alternative.

The NCAA has announced that the Ivy League will move its kickoffs up to the 40-yard line for the 2016 season and the touchback line will be moved back to the 20. Currently, kickoffs launch from the 35-yard line, with touchbacks coming out to the 25. The Ivy League has long volunteered to serve as a test tube for player safety experiments. The conference has voluntarily banned tackling in practice.

The idea behind moving touchbacks from the 20 to the 25 was to incentivize returners to take a touchback. While sound in theory, asking a return man to take a knee can be akin to placing a cupcake in front of a dog and expecting him not to eat it.

The new rule will instead incentivize kicking teams to boot the ball into the end zone instead of kicking short of the goal line and covering.

The Ivy League will collect data and report its findings to the NCAA Football Rules Oversight Committee in February.

A compendium of statements from presidents and ADs angling to join the Big 12

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 28 : A general view of a Big XII pylon during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners November 28, 2015 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State 58-23.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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The Big 12 Expansion Derby is officially on. As USA Today‘s Dan Wolken described it Wednesday, Big 12 expansion could turn into the most cutthroat thing in the history of college athletics. Considering the stakes, he may be right: grab one of the final remaining Power 5 life jackets and make $20-plus million a year, or watch the rescue boat leave you behind.

With that in mind, consider the statements offered by the various presidents and athletics directors angling for one of those life vests. There’s a lot of political speak in here, but also a lot of “forget about them, take us” hidden in between the lines.

Houston president Renu Khator“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to showcase the University of Houston. Our commitment to building a nationally competitive athletic program along with our academics and research is unwavering.  UH is a proud member of Phi Beta Kappa and over the last decade has achieved designation as a Carnegie Tier One research institution. Our student population has grown to more than 43,000, third largest in Texas, and our vibrant residential population is among the highest. I could not be more proud that our university represents the fourth largest city in the nation and that our standard for excellence is second to none.”

Houston AD Hunter Yuracheck“The concept of change is always exciting and the evolving landscape of collegiate athletics invokes great passion in the nation’s fourth-largest city. At the University of Houston we are certainly honored to be mentioned as a progressive institution that places a competitive emphasis on both academics and athletics. As a Tier One research institution and Phi Beta Kappa member, Houston has seen a reinvigorated spirit in Athletics. We have returned our proud University to the national spotlight and we aim to compete on the highest levels as we build Champions for Life. Our mission will not change.”

Memphis AD Tom Bowen: “We work each day to build a championship-caliber athletic department where our student-athletes succeed in the classroom, on the field of play and in the community. The University is prepared to take action when opportunities to increase the level of positive attention and exposure for our city, campus and Athletic Department are presented. The University of Memphis continues to gain national recognition for its advancements in research, teaching and student accomplishments, and the Athletic Department is one part of that winning combination.”

Colorado State AD Joe Parker: “We are very aware of the news from (Tuesday), though it does not change where we are at this moment. We are still focused on the things we’ve always talked about and that’s being the best version of Colorado State that we can be and striving to be the preeminent program in the Mountain West…. I’m energized by everything about CSU Athletics. We have a spectacular new on-campus stadium opening in a year, teams performing at a high level, student-athletes who are excelling in the classroom and coaches who are providing outstanding direction to our programs. We are extremely proud of the academic and research acumen of Colorado State University and feel very confident that Athletics can strongly complement CSU’s ability to project the overall positive message for the institution.”

Tualane AD Troy Dannen: “When I was introduced as athletic director last December, my goal was to ensure Tulane University was in a position, athletically, to take advantage of opportunities which may come our way. If an opportunity for candidacy in the Big 12 Conference presents itself, that is an opportunity we will certainly explore.Tulane’s greatest assets in this regard include our academic reputation, our standing among the nation’s top research institutions as a member of the AAU and our location in the one of the premier cities in the country, New Orleans.We have made over $120 million in capital investments to our athletics facilities over the last several years, and we have a veteran group of coaches on staff who have experienced competitive success at all levels. We are prepared to compete with, and against the top institutions in the nation.”

UNLV AD Tina Kunzer-Murphy: “The football stadium is a key for all of it. You know it. I know it. Everybody else who loves college football and the Rebels knows it. We’ve got at a lot of things where we’ve got to get better. I don’t think anybody can say they have it all together. UNLV brings a lot of benefits to a conference, and we have been good partners to the Mountain West, and in time we will have those conversations.”

UCF president John Hitt: “We ought to be considered very seriously. There ought to be a home for us in the Big 12. Whether there will be or not, we’ll see. But we’re going to do everything we can to be sure people make whatever decision they make based on good information.”

BYU AD Tom Holmoe: “We are obviously excited the leadership of the Big 12 has advised Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to review potential expansion candidates. BYU is known for its academic excellence and I believe we have an exceptional athletic program. As I’ve stated before, I would like to see our student-athletes compete at the highest level.”

Texas governor, lieutenant governor, UT president tweet support for Houston in Big 12 expansion

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 4: Republican candidate for governor, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott speaks to the press after voting in the Texas primary at Western Hills Church of Christ on March 4, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Abbott is planning to make stops in Houston and Dallas for get out-the-vote rallies ahead of the elections. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
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Legend has it, Baylor would not be in the Big 12 had it not been for former Texas governor Ann Richards.

As the story goes, the old Big 8 was set to add Texas and Texas A&M and become The Big 10 But Not That Big Ten. The name needed some work. But realignment drama reached the Texas capitol, and Richards, a Baylor graduate, and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, a Texas Tech graduate, forced their schools’ way in as well.

History, as we know, has a way of repeating itself, as current Texas governor Greg Abbott is now throwing his political weight behind Houston’s inclusion into the Big 12.

Abbott is a Texas graduate but lived and worked in Houston previously. And it’s, of course, the public university of the largest city in the state he governs.

How much Abbott’s support for the Coogs matters in the end remains to be seen, but his support marries that of Big 12 coaches’ in favor of Houston. For starters, the climate is different in Texas now than it was in the mid-90’s. Texas A&M already left for the SEC, and two of the four Lone Star squads in the Big 12 are privates.

Of course, there’s a chance Abbott’s support could be a massive jinx for Houston. Someone in the governor’s office famously tweeted congratulations to the Houston Astros for defeating the Kansas City Royals in last year’s American League Division Series only to see the Royals rally to defeat the Astros and win the World Series.

Update: Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick and University of Texas president Greg Fenves have also posted statements of support for Houston today.

It’s official: ACC Network coming to your TV in 2019

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 05:  (L-R) Commissioner of the ACC, John Swofford, speaks with head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers after they defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels 45-37 at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Championship at Bank of America Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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What was rumored on Tuesday become official on Thursday: ESPN and ACC will launch the much-awaited ACC Network in 2019.

The announcement came at a press conference/pep rally to open the conference’s media days in Charlotte, with the entire delegations from the conference and the Worldwide Leader in attendance.

The partnership will create an online-only digital network starting next month and a linear cable operation by 2019. ESPN and the ACC will combine to produce 600 events beginning this year, with the number rising to 1,300 by 2019.

“On behalf of the ACC Council of Presidents, Faculty Athletics Representatives and our ACC Television Committee, we are tremendously pleased to further enhance our long-term partnership with ESPN that includes the creation of the ACC Network and ACC Network Extra, and positions the conference for the long-term future,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “This partnership continues to be a win-win for ESPN and the ACC. ESPN is the premier provider in sports content and this agreement will deliver unprecedented coverage to our fans, while highlighting our quality student-athletes, coaches and institutions.”

The network, which figures to be headquartered in Charlotte alongside ESPNU and the SEC Network, will show 40 football games a year and 150 basketball games. The conference will up its league hoops schedule to 20 games per year once the network goes live in 2019.

“We look forward to working with our longtime partners at the ACC to create a network that reflects the depth and quality of its athletes and teams, and serves the fans who passionately support them. We are proud and excited to add the ACC Network to our industry-leading college content offerings,” ESPN president John Skipper said.