Alabama a near unanimous No. 1 pick in preseason USA Today Coaches Poll

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We know the college football season is getting close not by the beginning of fall camp, but by our ability to now officially debate which teams are overrated (or not getting any love) heading into 2013.

The USA Today released its preseason coaches poll with the defending BCS champion as the clear No.1 team. The Tide received 58 of 62 first-place votes. However, as the publication notes, Alabama has never have won a BCS title when ranked atop the preseason coaches poll.

Ohio State, the team many feel can get back to a BCS championship game — the final one before College Football Playoff takes over — comes in at No. 2 in the poll with three first-place votes. Pac-12 North foes Oregon and Stanford come in at No. 3 and No. 4, and Georgia rounds out the preseason top five.

Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel have one first-place vote at the sixth spot, and South Carolina wins the early Battle of the Palmetto State by being ranked seventh in the preseason poll to Clemson’s eighth.

An overwhelming favorite to win the AAC this year, Louisville comes in at No. 9 and Florida, which lost to the Cardinals in last season’s Sugar Bowl, rounds out the top 10.

The SEC starts the 2013 season with six teams in the coaches’ poll, followed by the Big Ten and Pac-12 with five, the Big 12 with four, and the ACC with two.

Without any further delay, here’s the preseason poll with first-place votes in parentheses. Which teams are too high? Too low?

1. Alabama (58)
2. Ohio State (3)
3. Oregon
4. Stanford
5. Georgia
6. Texas A&M (1)
7. South Carolina
8. Clemson
9. Louisville
10. Florida
11. Notre Dame
12. Florida State
13. LSU
14. Oklahoma State
15. Texas
16. Oklahoma
17. Michigan
18. Nebraska
19. Boise State
20. TCU
21. UCLA
22. Northwestern
23. Wisconsin
24. USC
25. Oregon State

Dabo Swinney says he and Kelly Bryant discussed transferring after QB’s benching

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No. 3 Clemson has formally, finally benched senior quarterback Kelly Bryant in favor of true freshman Trevor Lawrence. Football-wise, it’s the smart decision. Lawrence has thrown 60 passes through the Tigers’ first four games to Bryant’s 54, but Lawrence’s six extra passes have gone for 139 more yards and seven more touchdowns. Plus, Lawrence will be around for the next two-to-three seasons; Bryant will not.

But there is a human element to this equation that made this this obvious decision so gut-wrenching for all involved. Like Jalen Hurts at Alabama, Bryant has been the Good Soldier for Clemson. In fact, the Clemson quarterback conundrum is actually more extreme than Alabama’s. Bryant waited two years behind Deshaun Watson, led Clemson to wins in 16 of his 18 starts, including an ACC championship and a College Football Playoff appearance last season, and still lost his job to a younger player.

It’s no accident this decision came when it did. Thanks to the NCAA’s new redshirt rule, players can now compete in up to four games and not lose their entire season. Clemson is at that point this season. Bryant is a senior, meaning the next game he plays for Clemson clinches this as his last season. Or, if Bryant sits the rest of this year, he could transfer anywhere he wants and get to play his senior year again in 2019.

And it appears Clemson will leave that option open for him.

“Certainly if he walked in here today and said, ‘Hey coach, I don’t want to play the rest of the year unless you’ve got to have me,’ well ‘Ok, if that’s what you want to do I’m all for it.’ I love Kelly,” Dabo Swinney told The State. “I would be disappointed in that because we need him. But I wouldn’t judge him for that.”

Clemson quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter broke the news to Bryant on Sunday, and Bryant had a long conversation with Swinney on Monday, after which the head coach gave his quarterback the rest of the day off.

And Swinney confirmed, in so many words, that transferring was part of that long discussion.

“We talked about lots of things. It was a deep, long, emotional conversation,” Swinney said. “It’s something that we needed to talk through and go from there.”

If indeed Bryant sits the rest of this season and transfers, his name will shoot to the top of the quarterback transfer market for 2019.

Penn State loses RB Mark Allen to season-ending injury

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While not nearly as big of a name as its upcoming opponent, Penn State too has suffered a sizable personnel loss.

At a media briefing Tuesday, James Franklin announced that Mark Allen will be sidelined for the remainder of the season because of injury.  The running back did not play in last Friday night’s win over Illinois.

Per the head coach, Allen suffered the unspecified injury during practice in the week leading up to the Week 4 game against the Fighting Illini.

As Allen is a fifth-year senior, the injury could very well be career-ending, at least at the collegiate level.  He could apply for a sixth season of eligibility with the NCAA, although it’s uncertain if that’s a tack he’ll ultimately take.

This season, Allen is fourth on the Nittany Lions with 99 yards rushing and a pair of rushing touchdowns.  In the week prior to suffering his injury, Allen ran for a career-high 62 yards in a Week 3 blowout of Kent State.

All told, Allen has rushed for 353 yards and four touchdowns during his time in Happy Valley.

SEC fines Kentucky $100,000 after fans stormed field following win over Mississippi State

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Here’s to guessing this is one six-figure check Kentucky won’t mind cutting.

Following the win over then-No. 14 Mississippi State Saturday night, a win that pushed the now-No. 17 Wildcats to 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1977, joyous fans of Big Blue Nation stormed the field at Commonwealth Stadium in celebration.  Tuesday afternoon, the SEC announced that, as expected, UK has been fined $100,000 for a violation of the league’s access to competition area policy that was enacted in 2004.

It was the football program’s second such violation of that policy, with the first coming after a win over South Carolina in 2014.  A third violation, and any subsequent violations for that matter, would result in a fine of $250,000 for the university.

The money generated by the fines, incidentally, is placed into the SEC’s Post-Graduate Scholarship Fund.

“The Conference has unanimously approved a policy requiring fines be applied when spectators enter the playing field after a game,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “Fans are expected to remain in the stands and avoid the safety concerns associated with rushing on to the playing field. We want exciting experiences around SEC games, but also seek to maintain a safe environment for student-athletes, coaches, spectators and officials.”

In addition to the best start in conference play in over four decades, their 4-0 record to date is also its best start to a season since 2008.  Of course, earlier this year, they also beat Florida to snap a 31-game losing streak to the Gators.

Sunday, Kentucky entered the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in a decade.

San Diego State to be without leading rusher for up to six weeks

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The spate of big-name running backs going down with a significant injury continues unabated, with San Diego State the latest FBS program to suffer such a fate.

During the second quarter of SDSU’s win over Eastern Michigan this past Saturday, Juwan Washington went down with some type of upper-body injury.  While head coach Rocky Long was initially optimistic that the injury wasn’t too severe, a team official confirmed to the San Diego Union-Tribune that the running back has been diagnosed with a broken clavicle.

The injury is expected to keep the junior sidelined for up to six weeks.

SDSU is on a bye in Week 5, so such a timeline means Washington would likely miss games against Boise State (Oct. 6), Air Force (Oct. 12), San Jose State (Oct. 20), Nevada (Oct. 27) and New Mexico (Nov. 3).  He would then, again based on the six-week timeline, be healthy enough to play in the Nov. 10 game against UNLV.

Through four games for the 3-1 Aztecs, Washington leads the team with 513 rushing yards and has scored five of their six touchdowns on the ground.  Chase Jasmin (233 yards) is their second-leading rusher, and has scored the only other rushing touchdown.