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Big 12 reportedly prefers expansion to be settled before start of season

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Unlike most goings-on in the conference, it doesn’t appear the Big 12 is going to drag its feet on the biggest issue it’s currently facing.

The Big 12 announced earlier this month that the conference will expand, whether by two teams or four.  Regardless of the final number, CBSSports.com‘s Dennis Dodd, citing three individuals with knowledge of the ongoing process, reported Thursday, the conference “would prefer to wrap up the expansion process before the start of the 2016 football season.” The reasoning for an expedited timeline is simple: the powers-that-be in the league do not want expansion talk and speculation to overshadow actual football.

Such a timeline would also be beneficial for any incoming teams.

If the expansion teams are indeed announced before the season, that conceivably would give the new schools a chance to begin playing in the conference in 2017. For now, the league is in the process of contemplating how it will decide participants for its championship game that has been reinstated for 2017.

“I have not made any comment on time frame and do not plan any such statement,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Dodd in a statement.

It’s believed that any new members for the Big 12 will come from a group that includes teams from both the AAC (Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, UCF, USF) and Mountain West (Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State) as well as football-independent BYU.  More specifically, BYU, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn are considered by some/most observers as the front-runners, with some throwing Cincinnati in as well.

The AAC kicks off its Media Days Monday, and expansion will no doubt dominate the conversation during the two-day event.

FSU, Boise in talks to move 2019 opener to Jacksonville

10 Nov 2001:  The Florida State Seminoles mascot walks down the field during the game against the North Carolina Wolfpack at the Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. The Wolfpack defeated the Seminoles 34-28.Mandatory Credit:  Andy Lyons /Allsport
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One thing is certain, Florida State loves themselves some neutral-site openers.

Florida State and Boise State are scheduled to open the 2019 season at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.  However, FirstCoastNews.com first reported, the two football programs are actively engaged in ongoing negotiations about moving that game to Jacksonville’s EverBank Field.

“A deal has not been reached but ‘positive discussions continue,” an unnamed official told the website.

FSU has a return game to Boise scheduled for 2020; as of now, the Tallahassee Democrat reports in confirming the initial news, FSU has no intentions of canceling that game.

If the game is moved to Jacksonville, it would give FSU neutral-site openers in four of the next five seasons.  They are already scheduled to open the 2016 season against Ole Miss in Orlando and the 2017 season against Alabama in Atlanta.  Additionally, reports surfaced earlier this week that FSU is closing in on an agreement to open the 2020 season in Atlanta against West Virginia.

FSU would reportedly make in excess of $8 million combined for the 2016 and 2017 openers.  The financial particulars for the 2019 and 2020 openers are unknown at this point.

One potential benefit of this spate of neutral-field games, the Democrat writes, is that it would “give FSU the opportunity to continue renovation efforts of Doak Campbell Stadium while boosting its strength of schedule against non-conference opponents.”

Justin Timberlake, Larry the Cable Guy stump for Big 12 candidacies of Memphis, UCF

SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 07:  Actor/singer Justin Timberlake watches the game between the Memphis Tigers and the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2008 NCAA Men's National Championship game at the Alamodome on April 7, 2008 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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As you no doubt know by now, the Big 12 announced earlier this month that the conference will expand.  Wednesday night, a pair of entertainment heavyweights threw their celebrity behind two of the potential candidates.

A handful of teams have been mentioned as possibilities, from Houston to UConn to USF to BYU to Tulane to East Carolina to Cincinnati to Colorado State to Boise State.  Additionally, Memphis and UCF have been heavily speculated on for months, and they’re the two programs that have seen Memphis native Justin Timberlake and Nebraska fan Larry the Cable Guy, respectively, stumping for them within a couple of hours of each other.

It’s highly, highly doubtful that the celebrities throwing their support behind their favorites will have any impact whatsoever on the process or the Big 12’s ultimate decision. Still, it certainly can’t hurt in the court of public opinion.

Four of five 2015 finalists on 40-player Walter Camp POTY watch list

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 5: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Akron Zips September 5, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Akron 41-3.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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One of the most prestigious awards in college football becomes one of the last honors to release its preseason watch list.

The Walter Camp Player of the Year award, the fourth-oldest individual college football award, released Friday its list of 40 players to watch for the upcoming season.  Named in honor of the legendary head coach, the Camp POTY award has been handed out annually since 1967, with USC running back O.J. Simpson claiming the first two trophies.

The 2015 winner of the award was Alabama running back Derrick Henry.  The other four finalists, Iowa defensive back Desmond King, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, return for the 2016 season and, of course, are among the watch listers.

Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and LSU running back Leonard Fournette were semifinalists in 2015 and make an appearance on the list.

There are 15 quarterbacks, 11 running backs, three wide receivers and one tight end, as well as 10 players on he defensive side of the ball.  The breakdown on the latter front is five defensive backs, four linebackers and one defensive lineman.

The Big Ten leads all conferences with eight watch listers, immediately followed by the SEC’s seven.  The rest of the leagues, from most to least, include Pac-12 (six), ACC (five), Big 12 (four), AAC (two), MAC (two), Mountain West (two), Conference USA (one) and Sun Belt (one).  There also one each from independents BYU and Notre Dame.

Clemson is the only team with three players on the list.  Florida State, Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M are the only ones with two each.

Below is the complete 2016 Walter Camp Ward preseason watch list:

Quarterbacks
J.T. Barrett, Junior, QB, Ohio State
C.J. Beathard, Senior, QB, Iowa
Josh Dobbs, Senior, QB, Tennessee
Luke Falk, Junior, QB, Washington State
Chad Kelly, Senior, QB, Ole Miss
DeShone Kizer, Junior, QB, Notre Dame
Tanner Mangum, Junior, QB, BYU
Baker Mayfield, Senior, QB, Oklahoma #
Nick Mullens, Senior, QB, Southern Miss
Josh Rosen, Sophomore, QB, UCLA
Seth Russell, Senior, QB, Baylor
Brett Rypien, Sophomore, QB, Boise State
Anu Solomon, RS Junior, QB, Arizona
Greg Ward, Senior, QB, Houston
Deshaun Watson, Junior, QB, Clemson *

Running Backs
Nick Chubb, Junior, RB, Georgia
Dalvin Cook, Junior, RB, Florida State *
Leonard Fournette, Junior, RB, LSU #
Royce Freeman, Junior, RB, Oregon
Wayne Gallman, Junior, RB, Clemson
Justin Jackson, Junior, RB, Northwestern
Marlon Mack, Junior, RB, South Florida
Christian McCaffrey, Junior, RB/KR, Stanford *
Samaje Perine, Junior, RB, Oklahoma
Donnel Pumphrey, Senior, RB, San Diego State
Larry Rose, Junior, RB, New Mexico State

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Corey Davis, Senior, WR, Western Michigan
Christian Kirk, Sophomore, WR, Texas A&M
Jordan Leggett, TE, Senior, Clemson *
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Junior, WR, USC

Defense
Myles Garrett, Junior, DE, Texas A&M #
Eddie Jackson, Junior, DB, Alabama *
Derwin James, Sophomore, DB, Florida State
Malik Jefferson, Sophomore, LB, Texas
Desmond King, Senior, DB, Iowa #
Jourdan Lewis, Senior, DB, Michigan *
Shawun Lurry, Junior, DB, Northern Illinois *
Raekwon McMillan, Junior, LB, Ohio State *
Jabrill Peppers, Sophomore, LB, Michigan
Anthony Walker, Junior, LB, Northwestern

# – 2015 Walter Camp First Team All-America selection
*- 2015 Walter Camp Second Team All-America selection

2015 winner Deshaun Watson one of 30 O’Brien Award watch listers

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 24:  Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers passes during a game against the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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The 2016 Davey O’Brien Award preseason watch list has a decidedly 2015 feel to it.

Included in the group of 30 watch listers is Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, the 2015 winner of the award handed out annually to the nation’s top quarterback.  Watson, a junior, is attempting to become only the second player ever, joining Oklahoma’s Jason White, to win the O’Brien twice.

Additionally, a finalist for the 2015 award, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, is included, as are three other semifinalists from a year ago — Luke Falk (Washington State), Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Seth Russell (Baylor) and Greg Ward Jr. (Houston).  Finally, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, a semifinalist for the 2014 award, is back as a quarterback to watch.

With five nominees each, the Big 12 and Big Ten lead all conferences, followed by the Pac-12 and AAC with four apiece.

Almost half of the watch listers are seniors, with juniors contributing another 11.  That leaves five sophomores among the 30 — Rosen, Washington’s Jake Browning, BYU’s Tanner Mangum, Boise State’s Brett Rypien and Middle Tennessee State’s Brent Stockstill.

Below is the complete 2016 Davey O’Brien Award preseason watch list:

Tommy Armstrong Jr. (Nebraska, Sr., Cibolo, Texas)
J.T. Barrett (Ohio State, Jr., Wichita Falls, Texas)
C.J. Beathard (Iowa, Sr., Franklin, Tenn.)
Jake Browning (Washington, So., Granite Bay, Calif.)
Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee, Sr., Alpharetta, Ga.)
Dane Evans (Tulsa, Sr., Sanger, Texas)
Luke Falk (Washington State, Jr., Logan, Utah)
Quinton Flowers (USF, Jr., Miami, Fla.)
Skyler Howard (West Virginia, Sr., Fort Worth, Texas)
Brad Kaaya (Miami, Jr., Los Angeles, Calif.)
Chad Kelly (Ole Miss, Sr., Buffalo, N.Y.)
DeShone Kizer* (Notre Dame, Jr., Toledo, Ohio)
Taylor Lamb (Appalachian State, Jr., Calhoun, Ga.)
Mitch Leidner (Minnesota, Sr., Lakeville, Minn.)
Wes Lunt (Illinois, Sr., Rochester, Ill.)
Patrick Mahomes II (Texas Tech, Jr., Whitehouse, Texas)
Tanner Mangum* (BYU, So., Eagle, Idaho)
Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma, Jr., Austin, Texas)
Nick Mullens (Southern Miss, Sr., Hoover, Ala.)
Josh Rosen (UCLA, So., Manhattan Beach, Calif.)
Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State, Jr., Rock Hill, S.C.)
Cooper Rush (Central Michigan, Sr., Charlotte, Mich.)
Seth Russell (Baylor, Sr., Garland, Texas)
Brett Rypien (Boise State, So., Spokane, Wash.)
Anu Solomon (Arizona, Jr., Las Vegas, Nev.)
Brent Stockstill (Middle Tennessee, So., Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Zach Terrell (Western Michigan, Sr., Fort Wayne, Ind.)
Phillip Walker (Temple, Sr., Elizabeth, N.J.)
Greg Ward Jr. (Houston, Sr., Tyler, Texas)
Deshaun Watson (Clemson, Jr., Gainesville, Ga.)