Latest Manziel report shows NCAA has work cut out for it

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It’s been two days since “Outside the Lines” released a report claiming the NCAA was looking into whether Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel signed memorabilia for money. Yesterday, the story was pushed forward with a new allegation which focused on Manziel’s friend and personal assistant that could also bring Manziel’s eligibility into question via the Cam Newton rule.

Today was no different. ESPN’s Joe Schad writes in a report that Manziel received $7,500 from an “East Coast autograph broker” in exchange for signing “approximately 300 mini- and full-sized helmets on Jan. 11-12 while he was attending the Walter Camp Football Foundation event.”

The broker showed Schad two videos, which he said were taken without Manziel’s knowledge, of the Heisman winner signing memorabilia. However, the videos, which the broker initially tried to sell to ESPN, do not show any exchange of money.

This probably won’t be the last report that surfaces about Manziel and autographs, so the process of really moving the story forward comes down to this: is there hard evidence of Manziel receiving money for his signature? Technically speaking, Manziel has to comply with the NCAA during an investigation. That includes opening up his bank statements and explaining some possibly big-time purchases.

If the NCAA can’t find anything, however, pinning down a transaction (or multiple transactions) could be significantly harder to do. The broker, who was not named in the latest ESPN piece, said he does not intend to cooperate with the NCAA.

Likewise, the other anonymous autograph broker from Monday’s story told ESPN he had declined to answer six calls from the NCAA. The broker in OTL’s original Sunday report, Drew Tieman, didn’t even reply to ESPN’s requests for comment, so it’s doubtful he’d cooperate with the NCAA. In that vein, anyone else potentially of interest to the NCAA who’s close to Manziel, such as his family or friend/personal assistant, Nate Fitch, doesn’t have to cooperate either.

That would put the Association in a tough spot, and A&M has lawyered up by retaining the legal services of Lightfoot, Franklin and White, who helped Auburn keep Cam Newton eligible in 2010.

It’s far too early to tell if Manziel will face any type of suspension or punishment in this case — if he broke NCAA bylaws to begin with — but the odds appear to be stacking up against the NCAA.

Oregon, Oklahoma State line up home-and-home

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Oregon and Oklahoma State will conduct a home-and-home series in 2025-26, the schools jointly announced on Tuesday.

Oregon will host the Cowboys on Sept. 6, 2025, while Oklahoma State will return the favor on Sept. 12, 2026.

The schools have met once prior, a 42-31 upset Oregon win in the 2008 Holiday Bowl.

The Ducks also have a home-and-home with Boise State lined up for 2025-26, with hosting duties swapped from its Oklahoma State series. The Oklahoma State series also comes amid a phase of Big 12 non-conference games for the Ducks; they’ll play Texas Tech in 2023-24 and Baylor in 2027-28. Oregon also has future home-and-homes with Ohio State (2020-21) and Michigan State (2029-30), plus neutral site games with Auburn in Dallas to open 2019 and against Georgia in Atlanta to begin the 2022 campaign.

For Oklahoma State, the Oregon series are the only games on the books for 2025-26 at this point and also comes amid a run of home-and-homes against teams from out west. The Pokes, who hosted Boise State in September, begin a home-and-home with Oregon State next season, will pay a return visit to Boise State in 2021, and will play a home-and-home with Arizona State in 2022-23. The Oregon series is sandwiched between a home-and-home with Arkansas in 2024 and ’27.

Top eight remains unchanged in latest College Football Playoff rankings

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The fourth College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night and, for the third straight week, they remained largely the same as the top eight teams remain unchanged.

Since the first set of CFP rankings were revealed on Oct. 30, only one team in the committee’s original top eight teams has dropped a game — and that team (LSU) fell only from No. 3 to No. 7 — meaning the same eight teams have occupied the top eight spots for the entire 2018 CFP ranking season to date.

There was some question whether Washington State, who led Arizona 51-14 at halftime on Saturday night, would jump No. 7 LSU (who played Rice) and perhaps No. 6 Oklahoma (who allowed 40 points to Kansas at home) but the committee’s opinion held firm.

UCF became the first Group of 5 to ever join the CFP’s top 10, leaping Ohio State to check in at No. 9, a reward for the Knights’ convincing win over then-No. 24 Cincinnati. They are the first Group of 5 team since 2015 to jump a Power 5 team that won the prior week. Ohio State, of course, beat Maryland by one in overtime after the Terps misfired on an open 2-point pass.

West Virginia dropped four spots from No. 9 to No. 13, putting the Mountaineers behind 3-loss Florida and Penn State. Unlike the AP poll, WVU is one spot ahead of Texas — which makes sense given the Mountaineers have one fewer loss and won on the Longhorns’ field.

Syracuse fell eight spots to No. 20 following a 36-3 loss to Notre Dame, allowing Northwestern to join the top-20 at No. 19. The Big Ten West champions are not the highest-ranked 4-loss team, checking in one spot below Mississippi State.

Texas A&M rejoined the rankings at No. 22, while Iowa State plummeted from No. 16 to No. 25 after the loss to Texas.

The full rankings:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan
5. Georgia
6. Oklahoma
7. LSU
8. Washington State
9. UCF
10. Ohio State
11. Florida
12. Penn State
13. West Virginia
14. Texas
15. Kentucky
16. Washington
17. Utah
18. Mississippi State
19. Northwestern
20. Syracuse
21. Utah State
22. Texas A&M
23. Boise State
24. Pittsburgh
25. Iowa State

Iowa State forced to swap Incarnate Word for Drake as make-up opponent

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Most college football schedule is done years, if not decades in advance. Not for Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard. He’s had to line up two separate make-up game opponents within the same season.

The Cyclones were supposed to open this season with South Dakota State but, like Nebraska, the game had to be cancelled due to heavy thunderstorms in the Midwest. Whereas Nebraska was able to line up and play Bethune-Cookman on Oct. 27, Iowa State was not able to schedule a make-up game until Dec. 1, against Incarnate Word. Delaying the game so far into the calendar opened up the possibility it could be cancelled due to either Iowa State making the Big 12 Championship or UIW making the FCS playoffs. Remote as they seemed at the time, those possibilities floated out there in the distance.

Well, Iowa State (6-4, 5-3 Big 12) will not play for the Big 12 title, thanks to last Saturday’s loss to Texas. But Incarnate Word, 2-9 a year ago and playing under first-year head coach Eric Morris, managed to make the FCS playoffs. The 6-4 Cardinals, co-champions of the Southland Conference, snared an at-large bid and will open their first playoff run at Montana State on Saturday.

Given that their make-up opponent may not be available, Iowa State had to line up a make-up to the make-up opponent and found one in another FCS school — Drake.

“We’re most grateful to Drake Athletics Director Brian Hardin, Coach Rick Fox and the Bulldog leadership team for working with us through a very fluid situation,” Pollard said. “Coach (Matt) Campbell wants to play a 12th game and I believe our fans would welcome another chance to see this bowl-bound team play. I know the Bulldogs will enjoy the chance to play at Jack Trice Stadium and compete against a Power 5 opponent.”

Drake is located in Des Moines, just a 40 minute drive directly south on Interstate 35 from Ames, while Incarnate Word is located in San Antonio.

While Drake will not have to make a long trip to play this hastily-scheduled make-up game, it is still a significant undertaking for the Bulldogs. Drake competes in the Pioneer Football League, which does not offer scholarships. The Bulldogs went 7-3 overall and 6-2 in PFL play, completing their scheduled season with 43-6 win over Morehead State last Saturday.

They’ll have one more opponent to face this fall, and it’s a significant step up from their regular competition.

The game will kickoff at noon ET.

South Florida handing out free tickets to rivalry game vs. No. 11 UCF

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The War on I-4 was one of the very best games of 2017. With the AAC East championship on the line, 10-0 UCF hosted 9-1 South Florida before a national television audience and a packed Spectrum Stadium crowd. It was a game the visiting Bulls led 34-28 entering the fourth quarter, UCF rocketed forward to take a 42-34 lead with 2:21 to play, South Florida tied with 1:41 remaining on an 83-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion, and then UCF immediately wrestled the lead back with game-winning 95-yard kickoff return.

Regardless of classification, conference, what have you, it was one of the most intense and entertaining games of the entire season.

Fast forward a year with the scene shifting to Tampa and it’s safe to say the atmosphere will not be the. UCF is controls its fate to win the American, but South Florida does not. The Bulls are 7-4 overall and 3-4 in conference play.

With their rivals traveling southeast on Interstate 4 (hence the rivalry’s name) South Florida’s powers-that-be were apparently nervous about black-and-gold taking over the green-and-gold in their own stadium, so they decided to give out some free tickets.

It’s not exactly fair to say USF has worse fans than UCF. USF shares its home with a pro team while UCF does not. Thus, USF has to fill a larger stadium (65,890) than UCF (45,031). Knights fans also get to root for a better team than Bulls fans, at least over those past two seasons.

Even given those caveats, it still may be more embarrassing to give out free tickets to your rivalry game rather than just selling them to your rivals.

South Florida hosts No. 11 UCF at 4:15 p.m. ET on ESPN on Friday.