Big games in ACC, Pac 12 highlight Week 8 schedule

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Another weekend of college football will have plenty to offer. From the mega match-up in the ACC to the conference championship rematch in the Pac 12 and everything in between, there will be plenty to keep your attention on Saturday. Here is a quick rundown of some of the stuff to be watching.

Clemson, Florida State a Heisman QB Showcase

By now you know just how big this game is in the ACC. Two top five teams duking it out for ACC Coastal supremacy with BCS title implications as well as Heisman considerations. Clemson hopes to break a crowd noise record and to rattle Jameis Winston, the freshman quarterback that has yet to be unnerved in his young collegiate career. Tajh Boyd is also closing in on the ACC’s all-time passing touchdown record.

There is plenty riding on this game.

Pac 12 Championship Rematch… and Preview?

UCLA and Stanford will renew their series in the other game of the week out on the west coast. The two faced each other in last season’s Pac 12 Championship Game, won by Stanford in Palo Alto. Now the Bruins return to the scene of the championship game looking to prove to the Cardinal just how much they have improved. And make no mistake about it, the Bruins have improved this season. The Bruins are scoring 11 more points per game and allowing nine fewer points per game so far this season, giving the Bruins a 20-point swing on the scoreboard on a weekly basis thus far.

And forget about a Pac 12 Championship Rematch. This game could easily become a preview of this year’s conference championship game if Stanford should happen to bounce back after a road loss to Stanford. The Pac-12 North could still come down to Stanford and Oregon, if the Cardinal can avoid an upset loss at home this weekend. UCLA, even with a potential loss, looks like the favorite out of the Pac 12 South.

Can Mizzou keep it up without Franklin?

Missouri is off to one of the more surprising starts around college football this season, but it has not been a fluke. this weekend the Tigers host Florida but they will do so without quarterback James Franklin. Franklin will be out for the next 3-5 weeks after suffering a shoulder separation against Georgia last week. that will put the Missouri offense in the hands of redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, who will be making his first career start against one of the SEC’s top defenses.

Missouri hosts Florida this week and South carolina next week. If they can survive with a split between the Gators and Gamecocks they could still be in very good shape to make a run to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. By the time they face Ole Miss and Texas A&M the hope is Franklin could be available. But what if Maulk leads Missouri to a few more wins? Do they go back to Franklin when he is ready?

Decisions, decisions. But first, beating Florida is required.

The Undefeated

Ohio State enters the weekend having won 18 straight games under head coach Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes look to get to 19 with a home game against Iowa in Big Ten play. Other undefeated teams in action include Clemson (6-0) and Florida State (5-0), Texas Tech (6-0 at West Virginia), Missouri (6-0 vs Florida), Houston (5-0 vs BYU), Northern Illinois (6-0 at Central Michigan), Fresno State (5-0 vs UNLV), Oregon (6-0 vs Washington State), UCLA (5-0 at Stanford), Baylor (5-0 vs Iowa State) and, of course, Alabama (6-0 vs Arkansas).

Miami remained undefeated with a win Thursday night. Louisville, taking on Central Florida Friday night, hopes to join them.

The Always Beaten

Southern Mississippi has lost 17 straight games. Can thy finally bring an end to that infamous streak? It will not be easy with a road game at East Carolina.

Other teams on the hunt for their first win of the season include Connecticut (0-5 at Cincinnati), Temple (0-6 vs. Army), Western Michigan (0-7 vs Ball State), New Mexico State (0-6 vs Rice), Georgia State (0-6 at Texas State).

Your pillow fight of the week will take place in Miami Ohio, where the 0-6 RedHawks will host 1-6 Akron in MAC play. This is the anti-MACtion game right here.

The BCS Standings are Coming…

The first official BCS standings will be released Sunday, which means every team believed to be in contention may be looking for a few extra style points this weekend. Every little bit helps now that we have reached BCS season.

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: “It was a 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.