'Worst of the Weak' — Houston's ranked here

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No. -10 Penn State’s schedule . . . As if opening the season with four straight home games, three of which were against Akron, Syracuse and Temple, wasn’t enough, the Nittany Lions are at it again. After mixed results in Big Ten play, Penn State goes back to its bread-n-butter, hosting Eastern Illinois. Joe Paterno defended this victim rental by saying: “HOUSTONutep.jpg

No. -9 Houston . . . A week before hosting Houston, UTEP’s only score in a 64-7 loss at Texas came on a 49-yard interception return, which nearly matched the 53 yards of total offense gained by the Miners on the day. So after going 2-0 against powerful Big 12 teams, what did the Cougars do in their Conference USA opener? They allowed Miner running back Donald Buckram to rush for 262 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries, leading his team to an amazing 58-41 upset of what was the No. 12 team in the nation. When you throw for 536 yards, earn 42 first downs and lose by 17 points to a team that came in ranked 109th in scoring offense, something is terribly wrong.

No. -8 LSU fans’ phone fetish . . . I guess Tiger fans really believe that their prank calls and texts two years ago to Tim Tebow, prior to Florida’s last visit to Death Valley, made the difference in LSU’s 28-24 victory. They’re at it again. This time targeting head coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, quarterback John Brantley and wide receiver Riley Cooper. Hey! What about pestering someone associated to the defense? LSU ranks last in the SEC in total offense and 99th in the nation. The Tigers on that side of the football will need all the help they can get versus the Gators.

No. -7 Florida International at Western Kentucky . . . You’ve been waiting patiently and it’s finally here — “Worst of the Weak” Super Bowl III. The Golden Panthers are a not-so-golden 0-4 and the Hilltoppers are equally low at 0-4 as well. Someone has to win this Sun Belt slugfest! May the weakest team lose.

No. -6 Bobby Bowden supporters . . . When Deion Sanders (aka, the most hated man in Stillwater today) is a major player on your side of the debate, you’ve got serious problems. His “funeral” quote was off the charts. Anyway, let’s get back to reality. FSU is 2-3 for the first time since 1976, which incidentally was Bowden’s first year in Tallahassee. Can’t these people see that the bookend has created itself. What’s wrong with taking the next step in the “head coach in waiting” situation that’s already in place for Jimbo Fisher? It’s not like you didn’t know that this day would come. What’s wrong with doing it sooner than later? Don’t you know how this murky situation has already affected recruiting?

No. -5 Bobby Bowden detractors . . . They rank a tad lower than the supporters. South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt hit a home run when he said: “What’s going on up there, I think is ridiculous. I think, to me, it’s embarrassing. I remember growing up here, when Florida State was a teacher’s college and didn’t have nearly the significance it has now. What he’s done for that program is legendary, and to me, he has every right to retire whenever he wants to retire.” Yes, if not for Bowden, Florida State would probably be something akin to Alabama State, Tennessee State, South Carolina State and Texas State. FSU Board of Trustees chairman Jim Smith should be ashamed of himself for unprofessionally using the media to say: “Enough is enough.” Leave Bowden alone for a couple months to make a decision on his own. Your team has averaged eight wins per season since 2004, so this isn’t anything new. Relax. Have patience. Then, pray that the next stage of Seminole football isn’t worse.

No. -4 Pete Carroll’s bromance with Barkley . . . Is it just me or does the Trojan boss seem to continually rewrite the book on how coaches should treat players? His latest declaration exhibiting extreme bias toward freshman quarterback Matt Barkley is a doosy. In response to a question asking why he didn’t bring in Aaron Corp to mop up for his golden child at the end of last Saturday’s 30-3 victory at Cal, he actually came up with this: “I just thought (Barkley) should finish it. He needs to play and be out there when the game is winding down.” Is this guy really serious? People buy this stuff?

No. -3 SEC officials . . . Responding to a request by Big Ten officials to get them off the hook for a week, the SEC zebras made total jackasses of themselves at last Saturday’s LSU-Georgia game. Everyone knows about the asinine “excessive celebration” penalty they called on Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green. But how about keeping their flags in their pockets on the vicious helmet-to-helmet spear that Tiger defensive end Rahim Alem laid on Bulldog running back Caleb King, who fractured his jaw and sustained a concussion on the play?

No. -2 Cal . . . Holding steady here in the second spot, the Golden Bears laid yet another egg. This time at home to USC, 30-3. Cal hasn’t scored a touchdown since Sept. 19. And there’s no telling how long this malaise will last. Here’s a dose of reality. Since Oct. 14, 2006, Cal has won only two Pac-10 games on the road — and one of them was against Washington State, so that doesn’t count. Good luck in your next game on Oct. 17 at UCLA.

And finally, the absolute “Worst of the Weak” . . .

No. -1 UNLV . . . As you might expect from a team that was winless on the season, Nevada had four turnovers
and 15 penalties for 169 yards last Saturday against UNLV, but the Wolf Pack easily overcame those errors and routed the Rebels, 63-28. Nevada converted on all seven of its third downs, but it’s amazing that they faced any in the first place, considering that the Wolf Pack gained 773 yards of total offense, averaged 10.2 yards per rush and threw only three incompletions. As you can see, UNLV was barely present.

Ex-UCLA OC helped convince Wilton Speight to transfer to Westwood

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When Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight announced he was going to graduate and transfer to UCLA, many were caught by surprise given that the 6-foot-6 pro-style passer is not your typical fit for Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. While the new Bruins’ head coach brought up how Sam Bradford and Nick Foles ran his system to convince the quarterback to pick the school for the 2018 season, it was a former assistant at the program who appears to have been just as convincing in bringing the big QB to Westwood.

That would be Jedd Fisch, who was Speight’s coach in Ann Arbor for two years before he left to take the offensive coordinator job with the Bruins when Jim Mora was still in charge last season. The veteran coach returned to the NFL as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams shortly after Kelly was hired but he reconnected with his old pupil to give him an honest assessment of how he’d fit in with a school sporting a different shade of blue.

“As a coach, you can kind of sniff out the B.S.,” Speight told the LA Times, “and he was able to do that and say, ‘Look, you’re getting what you see at UCLA and I think it’s the right fit,’ and I couldn’t have agreed more.”

Speight will join a very competitive race to be the starter for the opener against Cincinnati when fall camp rolls around. Devon Modster is the incumbent having gotten experience last year when Josh Rosen was held out of several games while incoming freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson is considered the future at the position and figures to see early playing time.

It remains to be seen just how good UCLA will be in their first season with Kelly in charge but the head coach will certainly have a variety of options to choose from at the most important position on the field this year.

Proposed California amendment would cap coaches salaries at $200,000

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Some states do everything they can to help out athletics programs in their borders, that is something that California has never really been accused of doing. A state-wide travel ban has already caused some ripples with regards to scheduling for some teams and it seems lawmakers in Sacramento are back with a new constitutional amendment that could hamper schools ability to pay their coaches.

UCLA student paper The Daily Bruin passes along news that a new constitutional amendment was announced last week “that aims to restrict the University of California’s autonomy by reducing staff salaries, the length of regents’ terms and the authority of the UC president.” That first item is the biggest to take note of, which would institute a cap on non-faculty salaries to $200,000 per year — something that would affect everybody from coaches to the athletic director and everybody in between.

The University of California (UC) system most notably includes Pac-12 schools like UCLA and Cal, which means coaches like Chip Kelly and Justin Wilcox could be affected. To take Kelly as an example, he signed a five-year contract worth a total of $23.3 million when he was hired by the Bruins this offseason.

Head football coaches salaries are not typically paid completely by a school directly however, so there is some wiggle room should this amendment wind up passing. Often a separate athletics organization will foot most of the bill using funds raised from donors while other outside companies sometimes also get involved. Things might be a little more interesting when it comes to assistant’s salaries or non-football/men’s basketball head coaches and support staffers however, who could fall under the purview of the cap.

In other words, some creative accounting practices might have to be implemented by schools like UCLA or Cal or else they’ll be at a significant disadvantage compared to their private school peers like USC or Stanford as well as conference rivals like Arizona or Oregon.

It’s far from certain the amendment will pass given that it requires a two-thirds vote in the state legislature as well as passing muster on a state-wide ballot measure during a general election. We don’t typically see college coaches wade too far into political waters but, in this case, they might be forced to because its one that directly affects their wallets.

Arkansas moving back to natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019

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It’s a new era at Arkansas with Chad Morris and a new athletic director in charge and not even the turf will be spared from seeing changes.

Per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the school will be moving to a natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium instead of replacing their current artificial turf again as it nears the end of its lifespan.

“Let me say my preference is I love natural grass,” Morris told the paper a few months ago. “That’s just me. Maybe that’s just the high school coach in me.

“Worrying about what the next surface out here looks like is irrelevant to me. I just want to get through a practice and get better today. But I prefer, I’m a natural grass type of guy. I love being on a grass field. There’s nothing better than that in college football, or football period.”

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek confirmed this weekend that the change was being made in Fayetteville after the 2018 season concludes. The current turf was put in back in the Bobby Petrino era in 2009 and will need to be replaced after a decade or so of heavy use.

This will not be the end of Razorbacks playing on turf however, as they will not only see the stuff for games at neutral sites and at other SEC opponents but also when they make their annual trek to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock — which had turf installed a dozen years ago.

West Virginia President on old Big 12 expansion craze: ‘Little bit messy’

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E. Gordon Gee is one of college athletics’ most recognizable figures, which isn’t exactly what you typically say about school leaders like him. The West Virginia President known for his trademark bow tie (and who has never shied away from an interview or a quip he didn’t like) is on the cusp of his first set of spring meetings in the conference as the new chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News about a range of issues around the league prior to meeting in Dallas, Gee seems to have come around on conference expansion from a few years ago and thinks it not only could have been handled better, but it probably shouldn’t be done in the first place because being the smallest Power Five league has its advantages too.

“I’m not certain it was the best way to do it,” Gee told the paper. “It was a little bit messy — and I was part of the mess.

“Intimacy gives us an opportunity to do something that a lot of other places can’t do… We’ll play to our strengths. We’re small, but we can be very aggressive in positioning ourselves uniquely.”

I’m sure the folks at places like Houston and BYU would agree the entire process was messy but will certainly disagree with Gee about the Big 12 sticking with just 10 members. It certainly sounds as though the issue has been put to bed for the foreseeable future but if the merry-go-round gets going once again, at least we know that the process everybody goes through will be a lot different.