The Fifth Quarter: Week 2 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

A-C-C! A-C-C! A-C-C!
Well would you look at what basketball conference has done a little bit of football growing up the first two weeks of the season.  And what football program grabbed a signature win by the throat after years of NCAA turmoil.  It was far from pretty offensively — most games involving the team from Gainesville are — but unranked (for now) Miami was able to punch its way to a 21-16 win over No. 12 Florida, the biggest win for The U since, what, Ohio State in 2011?  Florida State or Oklahoma in 2009?  Regardless, it was Al Golden‘s biggest win in his two-plus years with the Hurricanes, and a clear signal that, while they might not be there yet, The U is certainly pointed in the direction of the national stage.  It’s also a sign that, after Clemson’s win over then-No. 5 Georgia opening weekend, the ACC will no longer be a pushover at the top.  Or that the SEC East is vastly overrated.  One of the two.

Big OBC monkey, be gone!
For both No. 11 Georgia in general and Aaron Murray specifically, there has been a mountain-sized monkey on their respective backs, a South Carolina one for the former and a big-game one for the latter.  In one fell swoop, the simian has left the building thanks to the Bulldogs’ highly-entertaining 41-30 win over the No. 6 Gamecocks.  For UGA it snapped a three-game losing streak against the ‘Cocks, made even sweeter coming off the tough three-point loss to Clemson.  For Murray, it was just his second win — versus four losses — against a team ranked in the Top Ten.  With the Bulldogs defense (again) struggling, Murray turned in a career-like performance, throwing for 309 yards and four touchdowns.  Here’s to guessing Murray’s home won’t get TP’d and/or egged this year.

Teddy Heisman?
Tabbed as the gambling Heisman Trophy frontrunner earlier this week, Teddy Bridgewater did little to break that momentum this weekend.  In No. 8 Louisville’s thumping of  FCS-level Eastern Kentucky, the quarterback completed 23-of-32 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns.  On the season, Bridgewater has completed 77 percent of his passes for 752 yards, nine touchdowns and an interception.  Granted, the competition has been a MAC school and one from the FCS — and the schedule doesn’t get much tougher moving forward — but the junior is doing what he has to do: putting up big numbers when he’s supposed to, all the while hoping that some teams from the AAC step up their level of play.

Bryce PettyRG Who? Nick Florence what?
Over the past two seasons, No. 23 Baylor has been forced to replace Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence, who passed for 4,300 yards and 33 touchdowns in his lone season as the Bears’ starting quarterback.  Some thought that the BU offensive machine may have to throttle down with a first-year starter in control.  Um, yeah, not even close.  Coming off a season-opening win in which they rolled up 69 points and 692 yards of offense, Baylor stuffed 56 points and 501 yards of offense in the stat sheet… in the first half alone.  For the game, the Bears totaled a school-record 781 yards of offense in the 70-13 walk over Buffalo.  The first-year starter, Bryce Petty, has completed 84 percent of his 38 passes for 650 yards and four touchdowns in what’s essentially a total of five quarters worth of playing time.  The takeaway from BU’s start?  Never, ever underestimate the genius that is Art Briles when it comes to the quarterback position.

The 100-plus trio, x2
Last week, for just the third time in school history, No. 21 Wisconsin saw three different players rush for over one hundred yards in a single game.  Seven days later, it’s lather, rinse, repeat for the Badgers’ ground game.  This week against Tennessee Tech, it was true freshman Corey Clement with 149 yards; Melvin Gordon with 140; and James White with 109.  Last week it was Gordon with 144; White with 143; and Clement with 101.  Thus far this season, the Badgers have rushed for 780 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging an obscene 8.2 yards per carry.  Those gaudy numbers all came against UMass and an FCS school, though; next week will be a better gauge of where UW stands in its first year under Gary Andersen as the Badgers travel to Arizona State.

Zach attack
It was thought that, given the number of losses the defense had incurred throughout the offseason, No. 9 LSU’s offense might have to carry the other side of the ball, at least for the early portion of the season.  In Game 2, mission accomplished.  Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, somewhat maligned throughout the 2012 season, passed for 282 yards and, more impressively, a school-record five touchdown passes in a 56-17 romp over UAB.  Not only that, the Tigers rushed for 152 yards and added two touchdowns on the ground.  While the Bayou Bengals will certainly face stiffer tests defensively on down the road, Les Miles and his offensive coaching staff — including new coordinator Cam Cameron — have to be privately hopeful that Mettenberger has turned the corner as a quarterback.

No Goff-ing off for true frosh
To say that Jared Goff has taken well to the game of college football would be a massive understatement.  A four-star member of Cal’s 2013 recruiting class, the true freshman has started the first two games of the Sonny Dykes era and passed for 930 yards.  That number is the most passing yards in a team’s first two games of a season since Colt Brennan in 2007 (964).  485 of Dykes’ yards came in the win over Portland State Saturday.  Even more impressive?  415 of them came against a very good Northwestern defense in Week 1.  It may take some time to turn Cal around, but it appears the Berkeley bunch will be set at the quarterback position for at least the next two-plus years.

‘Merica
Why did the whole of the United States of America win Saturday night?  Because we were all witnesses to this:

Eminem

Eminem on a college football broadcast talking NFL point spreads with Brent Musburger.  I can now, finally, die a happy man.

LOSERS

Austin, we have a prob… [/gets run over by large Mormons]
After placing Texas No. 23 in my preseason Top 25 and writing that I’m not buying into a Longhorn resurgence, I received quite a few, shall I say, not-so-nice emails blasting both my intelligence and manhood.  Burnt Orange Nation, here’s your sign.  In Saturday night’s loss , BYU racked up 348 yards rushing… and then the two teams came out and played the second half.   In the end, the carnage was about as bad as you’d expect as the Cougars rolled over, through, around and back over the No. 15 (chuckle) ‘Horns for good measure to the tune of 550 yards on the ground in UT’s 40-21 loss.  That number was, obviously, a school record for both teams.  Following the game, I received the following text from a long-time, diehard UT buddy, which has been cleaned up somewhat because this is kind of a family-friendly website: “[Bad word} that [mother-related bad word] Mack Brown. [Bad word] his coaching staff, [bad word] DeLoss, [bad word] the whole lot of ’em.  Never been more [bad word] embarrassed to be a ‘Horn. [Bad word] my life.” At bare minimum, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had better pray long and hard tonight that he has a job come Sunday afternoon.  Long-term, the UT athletic department had better think long and hard about Mack Brown and how much he’s humiliating and embarrassing a proud and iconic football program.  Is Brown the 2013 version of Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno?  For the future of the program, the administration had better figure it out and figure it out quick.

Lane duck?
This was the scene at the Coliseum midway through the fourth quarter, with No. 25 USC and Washington State tied at 7-all:

USC

And that was before the Trojans went on to an embarrassing 10-7 loss to Wazzu.  And before the “FIRE KIFFIN” chants from the smattering of fans who remained washed over the historic stadium.

Pat Haden, you’ve been put on notice.  With a sea of empty seats in a close game, the customers are voicing their opinions of Lane Kiffin loud and clear.

Patently offensive
In an attempt to shakeup an offense that’s been in a year-plus lull, Mark Dantonio benched starter Andrew Maxwell in favor of Connor Cook for the game against USF.  The result?  The Spartans could muster just 264 yards of total offense — just 94 passing — and one touchdown in the 21-6 win.  On the season, MSU’s offense has scored two touchdowns; the defense has scored four.  Yes, the Spartans are 2-0 for the fourth straight season, but the offense is light years away from even being average let alone competitive in the Big Ten.

Hilldroppers
When you’re a “mid-major” football program facing an SEC school on the road, the last thing you can afford to do is turn the ball over.  So, of course, that’s exactly what Western Kentucky did Saturday.  Boy, did they ever do it.  In a span of six plays in the first quarter of the loss to Tennessee, the Hilltoppers turned the ball over five times.  Quarterback Brandon Doughty tossed three interceptions, while WKU backs coughed up a pair of fumbles.  Two of Doughty’s picks were returned for touchdowns, while the Vols converted the other three turnovers into 17 points.  After that the Hilltoppers settled down on the turnover front — just two more the rest of the game, all in the first half — but it was too little, too late as the Vols cruised to a 52-20 win, its second consecutive win in the first season under Butch Jones.

Blow that Bridgford up
Coming to Southern Miss from Cal, Allan Bridgford was expected to provide veteran leadership at the quarterback position for a team coming off a winless 2012 campaign.  While that may ultimately end up being the case, it’s not in the here and now.  In Bridgford’s first two starts — both losses — he’s thrown five interceptions.  Included in that turnover tally were three picks Saturday, with two of those returned for touchdowns by Nebraska in the Cornhuskers’ 56-13 blowout.

Fashion faux pas on The Plains
Following the opening kickoff of the Arkansas State-Auburn, the Red Wolves were penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.  While such a penalty is not unusual, even in the opening seconds of a game, the reason for the unsportsmanlike call is: failure to wear contrasting colors.  That’s right, ASU was penalized because AU wore blue jerseys while they came out with grey tops.  Technically speaking, the Red Wolves would’ve needed to wear white in order to avoid a flag.  For those curious, via Jon Solomon of al.com, here’s what the egregious act looked like:

Arkansas State

In fairness to ASU, you’re really not supposed to wear white after Labor Day anyway…

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

— No. 16 Oklahoma 16, West Virginia 7: Not only did the Sooners narrowly escape with a nine-point win over a mediocre Mountaineers squad, but OU could have a quarterback controversy on its hands as Blake Bell replaced an ineffective Trevor Knight (119 yards, two third-quarter interceptions)  in the fourth quarter.  In an ominous sign, head coach Bob Stoops said afterwards that he and his staff would evaluate the position further.

— No. 24 TCU 38, Southeastern Louisiana 17: While the final spread was three touchdowns, the Horned Frogs led the FCS school by just three points at halftime.  To make matters worse, starting quarterback Casey Pachall has been lost for the foreseeable future to injury.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — The bye weekend came at a fortuitous time for the Tide as it gave the coaching staff a chance to tinker with the offense in general and the offensive line specifically ahead of the mammoth rematch in College Station. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: at Texas A&M

2. Clemson — The Tigers’ Week 1 win over Georgia was even more impressive in light of the Bulldogs’ win over No. 6 South Carolina in Week 2.  The 52-13 win over FCS-level South Carolina State merely served as an early-season scrimmage as the Tigers prepare for the ACC opener a week from this coming Thursday against North Carolina State.
Next up: bye weekend

San Diego State v Ohio State3. Ohio State — The Buckeyes made San Diego State pay for its uneven performance in the opener against Buffalo, totaling 445 yards of offense (263 rushing, 182 passing) en route to an easy 42-7 win over the Aztecs.  Making it even more impressive is that they did it in large part without star quarterback Braxton Miller, who suffered a knee injury but should return for the road trip to Berkeley next week. OSU still owns the nation’s longest winning streak, now at 14 straight. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: at Cal

4. Oregon — In two games thus far this season against Nicholls State and Virginia, the Ducks have possessed the ball for a total of 41:11… and scored 125 points, an average of over three points per minute.  Damn, that makes me tired typing it let alone defending it. (Last week No. 4)
Up next: Tennessee

5. Louisville — Get used to variations of this if the Cardinals keep winning: thanks to a cupcake slate, the U of L cruised to an easy 44-7 win over overmatched Eastern Kentucky.  The Cardinals can only control how they look against an underwhelming schedule, and they’ve done that thus far by winning their first two games by an average of nearly 35 points per game.  One slip though — even a close win against a vastly inferior opponent — and Louisville will go tumbling out of this poll and, more importantly, down the polls that actually count. (Last week: No. 5)
Up next: at Kentucky

HE SAID IT
“We’ve been through so much. It was almost cathartic, to be honest with you. It was 26 months just unleashed there in the last four or five seconds.” — Al Golden, following Miami’s win over in-state rival Florida.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I take pride in the fact the offense almost does not skip a beat when I come into the game. I just do my best to be a leader in that way. I let the team know everything is going to be okay.” — Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton, who led a seamless transition from an injured Braxton Miller in the Buckeyes’ win.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“The team that loses this game is waiting for the other’s bus to break down. We’ve been chasing them the last thee years. South Carolina has a very good team, and this year, we get a chance to sit in the driver’s seat. … We haven’t been 1-0 in the league in awhile because South Carolina’s been getting us. Today, we got them, and I’m so thankful.” — Mark Richt following Georgia’s huge win over the albatross that had become South Carolina.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“Our job as a team was to try to destroy this team early.” — Art Briles, following Baylor’s 57-point evisceration of Buffalo.

GAMEDAY SIGN OF THE DAY
This sign, from the Notre Dame-Michigan pregame festivities, needs no explanation whatsoever:

GameDay Sign

Well-played, UM fans.  Well-played.

SAY WHAT?
No. 3 Ohio State scored 42 points in its 35-point win over San Diego State Saturday afternoon.  That pushes the Buckeyes’ all-time record when scoring at least 35 points in a game to an astounding 277-0-1.

TRUE STORY
Once three weeks of the 2013 season are officially in the books next Saturday night, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and either Alabama or Texas A&M will have at least one loss apiece.  Chew on that for a minute.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

Central Arkansas v Colorado— In the first two games of the season, in his first two games back since a significant knee injury last year, Colorado’s Paul Richardson has caught 21 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns.  Included in that total was an 11-catch, 209-yard, two-touchdown performance in a win over Central Arkansas.

— In BYU’s embarrassment of Texas, Cougars starting quarterback — quarterback!!! — Taysom Hill rushed for 259 yards and three touchdowns.  Hill had 334 yards and four rushing in six games last season.

J.W. Walsh completed 24-of-27 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns in No. 13 Oklahoma State’s win over UT-San Antonio.  His 88.9 completion percentage broke the school record set by Brandon Weeden in 2011 (85.7%).

Cole Stoudt, playing in place of Tajh Boyd during Clemson’s blowout win over South Carolina State, set a school record by completing 95 percent (19-20) of his passes. The previous record was 94.1 percent when Woodrow Dantzler went 16-for-17 against Citadel in 2000.

— In less than three quarters of work, Johnny Manziel threw for 426 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score in No. 7 Texas A&M’s 65-28 win over Sam Houston State.

— In just a little over a half of work, Boise State’s Joe Southwick threw five touchdowns in the Broncos’ 63-14 win over Tennessee-Martin.

— In the loss to Georgia, South Carolina’s Mike Davis rushed for 149 yards on just 16 carries.

Chuckie Keaton totaled 433 yards of offense (360 passing, 77 rushing) as Utah State bounced back from the loss to Utah in Week 1 by dropping Air Force 52-20.

— Thanks to an injury to Casey Pachall late in the second quarter, Trevone Boykin led No. 24 TCU in passing yards (133) and tied for the team lead in receptions (three).  He added 35 yards rushing, which was third best on the team on the day.

Christian Hackenberg set a Penn State record for most passing yards by a freshman with 311 in the Nittany Lions’ rout of Eastern Michigan.  The five-star 2013 recruit broke the record of 280 set by Zach Mills, who hit that number twice in 2001.

— In his school’s season opener Thursday night, Taylor Kelly (no relation) passed for 300 yards and five touchdowns — to five different receivers — in Arizona State’s 55-0 romp over Sacramento State.

— In two games this season, Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase has thrown for 728 yard, six touchdowns and one interception.  In 10 games last season, he had four touchdowns and eight interceptions.

— On the first carry of his collegiate career, five-star 2013 Oregon recruit Thomas Tyner scored on a three-yard in the third quarter of the Ducks win over Virginia.Fellonte Misher, Stefon Diggs

— Speaking of former five-star recruits, Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs had six receptions for a career-high 179 yards and a touchdown in the Terps’ win over Old Dominion.  His previous high-water yardage mark was 152 against Boston College last October.

— Coming off a one-game suspension, Arizona Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher in 2012, rushed for 171 yards on 16 carries in a win over UNLV.

— USC totaled just 193 yards in its loss to Washington State.  Their longest pass play?  Eight yards.  Their longest run?  19 yards.

— Kentucky rolled up 675 yards of total offense in the 41-7 win over Miami (OH), the third-most in program history and the most since 1998.  The Wildcats had 410 in the first half; they topped that mark in an entire game just twice in 2012.

— In a 38-0 win Friday night, UCF allowed FIU just 31 yards on 29 carries (1.1 yards per carry).  Of course, a team rush for minus-29 yards in the third quarter didn’t help the Panthers’ rushing efforts.

— On the opposite end of the running-game spectrum, Navy rushed for 444 yards in a six-point win over Indiana.

— A crowd of 115,109 people packed the stands of the Big House in Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame-Michigan game.  That’s the largest crowd to ever witness a college football game.  The previous record was 114,804 for the 2011 ND-UM game.

— Speaking of attendance records, and known mainly for no-shows over the past handful of years, Miami’s home game against Florida drew a crowd of 76,869 Saturday afternoon.  That’s the most fans to ever take in a Hurricanes game at Sun Life Stadium.

— With the easy skate past Virginia, No. 2 Oregon has now won 16 straight road games.  That’s the longest such current streak in the nation.

— Wisconsin has recorded back-to-back shutouts to open the season for the first time since 1958.

— Texas A&M tied a school record, first set in 1986, with 38 first downs.

— Duke is now 2-0 on the young season after its win over Memphis.  It marks the first time in 15 years since the Blue Devils started a season with two straight wins.

IN CLOSING…
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Munchie Legaux, who suffered a gruesome lower-leg injury in Cincinnati’s loss to Illinois.  Not only does the UC quarterback possess one of the greatest names in college football history, he’s also by all accounts one of the nicest, classiest kids in the game today.  A statement from the school said that Legaux will remain hospitalized overnight as doctors continue to evaluate his medical situation.  Here’s to hoping Legaux comes back from this devastating injury sooner rather than later.

Big Ten pulls plug on fall football amid COVID-19 concerns

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The Big Ten won’t play football this fall because of concerns about COVID-19, becoming the first of college sports’ power conferences to yield to the pandemic.

The move announced Tuesday comes six day after the conference that includes historic programs such as Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State had released a revised conference-only schedule that it hoped would help it navigate a fall season with potential COVID-19 disruptions.

But it was not a surprise. Speculation has run rampant for several days that the Big Ten was moving toward this decision. On Monday, coaches throughout the conference tried to push back the tide, publicly pleading for more time and threatening to look elsewhere for games this fall.

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”

The Big Ten touts itself as the oldest college athletic conference in the country, dating back to 1896 when it was called the Western Conference, and its schools have been playing football ever since. It became the Big Ten in 1918 and grew into a football powerhouse.

The 14 Big Ten schools span from Maryland and Rutgers on the East Coast to Iowa and Nebraska out west. Not only has it been one of the most successful conferences on the field but off the field it has become one of the wealthiest.

The Big Ten, with its lucrative television network, distributes about $50 million per year to its members.

Trump, coaches push for college football as cracks emerge

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President Donald Trump joined a U.S. senator and a number of coaches Monday in the push to save the college football season from a pandemic-forced shutdown.

There was speculation that two of the five most powerful conferences — the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — might call off their seasons. Farther east, Old Dominion canceled fall sports and became the first school in the Bowl Subdivison to break from its league in doing so; the rest of Conference USA was going forward with plans to play.

A Big Ten spokesman said no votes had been taken by its presidents and chancellors on fall sports as of Monday afternoon and the powerful Southeastern Conference made clear it was not yet ready to shutter its fall season.

“Best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day,’” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey posted on Twitter. ”Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying.”

A growing number of athletes have spoken out about saving the season with Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence among the group posting their thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag #WeWantToPla. Trump threw his support behind them Monday.

“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled,” he tweeted.

Old Dominion has stopped trying. The Virginia school canceled football and other fall sports less than a week after Conference USA set out a plan to play a football season.

“We concluded that the season – including travel and competition – posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” ODU President Broderick said.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh took a different stand, saying the Wolverines have shown players can be safe after they return to school.

“I’m not advocating for football this fall because of my passion or our players desire to play but because of the facts accumulated over the last eight weeks since our players returned to campus on June 13,” he wrote. “I am advocating on August 10 that this virus can be controlled and handled because of these facts.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, picked up on the safer-with-football theme in a letter to the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten.

“Life is about tradeoffs. There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that’s absolutely true; it’s always true,” he wrote. “But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18- to 22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season.”

“Here’s the reality: Many of you think that football is safer than no football, but you also know that you will be blamed if there is football, whereas you can duck any blame if you cancel football,” added Sasse, a former college president. “This is a moment for leadership. These young men need a season. Please don’t cancel college football.”

Players unite in push to save college season, create union

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Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds saw the tweets from Trevor Lawrence and other college football players pushing for the opportunity to play this season despite the pandemic.

Reynolds, one of the organizers behind a players’ rights movement in the Big Ten, didn’t like the way some on social media seemed to be pitting Lawrence’s message against the efforts of #BigTenUnited and #WeAreUnited.

“There was a lot of division,” Reynolds told AP early Monday morning.

Reynolds got on a call with Lawrence and the star quarterback’s Clemson teammate, Darien Rencher, and within a matter of hours the summer of athlete empowerment found another gear.

College football players from across the country united Sunday in an attempt to save their season and ensure they will no longer be left out of the sport’s biggest decisions.

Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State All-America running back Chuba Hubbard, Alabama running back Najee Harris and numerous other players from Florida State to Oregon posted a graphic on social media with #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited.

“We came to the conclusion, We Want to Play, their message might have been conveyed differently but at the end of the day the message wasn’t too far off from what Big Ten United wanted to promote,” Reynolds said. “Which is we all want to play sports this fall. Every athlete, I’m pretty sure, wants to play their sports. They just want to do so safely.”

The #WeAreUnited hashtag was used a week ago by a group of Pac-12 players in announcing a movement they say has the support of hundreds of peers within their conference. They have threatened mass opt-outs by players if concerns about COVID-19 protocols, racial injustice in college sports and economic rights for athletes are not addressed.

#BigTenUnited arrived on the scene a couple days later, a movement that claimed the backing off 1,000 Big Ten football players. Their demands were more targeted, strictly related to health and safety in dealing with COVID-19.

Sunday night, the call with Reynolds, Rencher and Lawrence led to a Zoom meeting — of course — with some of the Pac-12 players involved in “WeAreUnited.”

Washington State defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs got to work on a graphic and now the movement is officially nationwide.

“Just started bouncing ideas off each others’ heads and kind of discussing where we go from here and we ended up coming up with that statement,” said Reynolds, a senior from South Orange, New Jersey.

Under the logos of each Power Five conference — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — the players pronounced their platform:

— We all want to play football this season.

— Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to protect college athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA.

— Give players the opportunity to opt out and respect their decision.

— Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not.

— Use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials: Ultimately create a College Football Players Association.

All of this capped a weekend during which the adults who run college sports seemed to be moving toward shutting it all down because of the pandemic.

A day after the Mid-American Conference became the first of the major college football leagues to cancel the fall season, Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday. They discussed mounting concerns about whether a season can be safely conducted with the pandemic still not under control in the United States.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved.

“Are we in a better place today than two weeks, ago? No, we’re not,” he said.

Bowlsby cited “growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis.”

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.

Also Sunday night, the Big Ten’s university presidents and chancellors held a previously unscheduled meeting, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not announced by the conference.

Another person with direct knowledge of the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no votes were taken or decisions made about the college football season.

The final call on whether major college football will played this season rests in the hands of the university presidents who oversee the largest conferences.

With doom and gloom hanging over college football, Lawrence, who has become the face of the sport in a summer of strife, tried to push back the tide with a series of tweets.

“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence posted. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.”

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth had a similar message, and the parents of Ohio State football players weighed in, too.

Reynolds wants athletes to have a say in the meetings that are deciding the fate of their sports — starting now.

”All college athletes through unifying and not being afraid to speak our minds and having social media to kind of mobilize, I think that box on a Zoom call is something that is pretty attainable,” he said. “Especially, in the near future.”

After MAC surrenders to pandemic, will other leagues follow?

MAC football
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In many ways, the Mid-American Conference has little in common with Power Five leagues that first come to mind when fans think of major college football.

There are no 75,000-seat stadiums in the MAC. Million-dollar per year coaches are rare. In a typical season, NFL scouts might find one or two potential first-round draft picks playing at the 12 MAC schools that dot the Midwest. The MAC’s biggest games — #MACtion, if you will — are often played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Its television deal with ESPN pays per year only a few million more than the $9 million Clemson pays coach Dabo Swinney.

Still, the MAC is one of 10 conferences that competes in the NCAA’s highest level of football, and Saturday it became the first of those to surrender to the coronavirus pandemic and cancel the fall sports season.

So is the MAC an anomaly, done in by its small budgets or is this a dire sign of things to come in college football?

“I won’t try to judge what other folks are doing,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “I know we’re all in the same place. They all have their advisers. They’re going to make judgments based on the information they are receiving.”

Not long after the MAC announced it would explore second-semester seasons for all fall sports, including soccer and volleyball, the Big Ten made its own announcement that seemed ominous given the timing.

Tapping the brakes on football’s preseason, the Big Ten told its schools that until further notice full contact practices cannot begin. All teams will remain in the first two days of what is known as the “acclimatization period,” working out in just helmets. The first Big Ten games of the season are scheduled for Sept. 5.

“As we have consistently stated, we will continue to evaluate daily, while relying on our medical experts, to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes,” the Big Ten said in a statement.

The MAC’s schools were facing a significant financial burden by trying to maintain costly COVID-19 protocols, while also dealing with the uncertainty that campuses can be opened safely.

A move to the spring, however, could also be budget-buster if it means less revenue from the ESPN deal, which pays each school about $1 million per year, and football ticket sales. The MAC also shares about $90 million per year in College Football Playoff money with four other conferences.

“It would be naive to say that you don’t give thought and consideration to what the financial ramifications of any decision are, but this was a health and well-being decision first and foremost,” Steinbrecher said. “As we sit here today we don’t know what this will mean financially and how the rest of the fall plays out.”

Steinbrecher said the decision effects only fall sports, not basketball or others that begin in the second semester such as baseball, softball and lacrosse.

He added the decision was unanimous among the membership. Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier, supported by NIU President Lisa Freeman, has been a vocal advocate of delaying the season.

“No one wants to have football or sports more than me,” said Frazier, who played football at Alabama in the late 1980s. “Football gave me all the opportunities I have today, but I can’t do it at the expense of people’s lives.”

Eastern Michigan athletic director Scott Wetherbee said he has been feeling a sense of inevitability for two weeks about the MAC canceling fall football, but can’t predict whether this decision trickles up to other conferences.

“Could it? Certainly. There’s certainly a narrative out there that could happen,” Wetherbee said. “No, it wouldn’t shock me if some followed suit. In fact, it would shock me if some didn’t.”

NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline made clear that even though plans for the football season have been adjusted to accommodate potential COVID-19 disruptions like the ones Major League Baseball has had, they are all still aspirational.

“Almost everything would have to be perfectly aligned to continue moving forward,” Hainline said Friday during the NCAA’s weekly video chat on social media.

As the Power Five conferences re-worked their schedules to play exclusively or mostly within their conferences, another of the MAC’s revenue streams dried up.

MAC schools, with athletic budgets in the $30 million range, rely heavily on payouts from road games against power conference teams. Kent State alone had more than $5 million in so-called guarantee games canceled. Whether they can be recouped and when is still to be determined. Without that revenue, the strain became too great of trying to keep players and staff safe during a pandemic.

“Certainly there was a cost attached to it,” Wetherbee said. “But as a league we were prepared to do it.”

The move to try spring football has already been going on in the second tier of Division I.

Nine of 13 conferences that play in the Championship Subdivision, have postponed fall football seasons. The first was the Ivy League in early July.

Now it’s the MAC, which was among the first conferences to limit fan access to its basketball tournament in March as concerns for the virus began to soar across the country. On March 12, the MAC was among many conferences to call off their tournaments hours before the NCAA canceled all of March Madness.

“If you told me in March we’d be here today,” Steinbrecher said, “I’d never have believed it”