ACC’s “8+1” scheduling model has potential, but needs outside support

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For the past few years ACC commissioner John Swofford has been saying his conference needs to step it up in games against the other big conferences. Not so long ago the ACC was perceived to be sitting behind not only the SEC in the conference pecking order, but the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 as well. In a season that saw Florida State win the BCS championship against SEC champion Auburn and Clemson knock off Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, the image may be starting to change for the conference.

As the conference preps for upcoming changes in membership (so long Maryland, hello Louisville), what to do about future conference scheduling remains an unknown. With conferences exploring the ideas of nine-game conference schedules, the ACC is left with a complicated issue thanks to a football scheduling agreement with Notre Dame. The Irish are not a football member of the conference but set aside a handful of guaranteed games each season for ACC schools as part of the conference membership deal Notre Dame agreed to when joining in other sports such as basketball. One idea currently being discussed within the ACC is an “8+1” model that would set up eight conference games and set aside one spot on the schedule to be played against SEC opponents in a crossover scheduling agreement.

According to a report by ESPN.com, the scheduling model is just in the concept phase has and is a long way from becoming a reality. Getting the SEC to agree to provide full conference support for the agreement is just one of the obstacles in the way. If it were to come together though, it would be a great move by the ACC and SEC to provide fans with one more attractive game on the schedule. Of course, it also ramps up the strength of schedule on both ends and that could be a selling point when college football moves in to the College Football Playoff era. Strength of schedule is expected to carry more weight in the selection process for the playoff.

The ACC and SEC already have four match-ups that take place annually. Florida State and Florida, Georgia and Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Clemson, and Louisville and Kentucky are all games that will take place at the end of the season. That leaves 10 programs in each conference without an interconference rivalry game. The idea is not exactly unique of course. The Big Ten and Pac 12 previously had a tentative plan in place to schedule conference-wide crossover games after the conferences had expanded to 12 members, but the Pac 12 backed out of the agreement before it could fully develop due to conference scheduling changes coming up at the time. If the ACC cannot get the full support from the SEC, perhaps working something out with the Big Ten (or Big 12) could become a realistic possibility.

The drawbacks would be the possibility that an ACC-SEC crossover game late in the season could knock one team out of contention for a playoff spot. And if the idea is to schedule these games in the final week of the regular season — Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson and Kentucky-Louisville are already the final games of the regular season — it would take away from the tradition of some key games on the college football calendar, such as the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn. Alabama vs. Duke just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

But these games don’t have to be scheduled all on the same weekend. Perhaps some could, to keep some of the existing rivalry games at the end of the year in place both within conferences and between conferences. The idea of mixing in some crossover games in the beginning of the season would work well.

Whatever happens with the ACC scheduling, anything that can be done to improve the strength of schedule across the conference and make for more entertaining games for fans is a win for us all.

Georgia third string QB Stetson Bennett considering transfer

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Georgia lost quarterback Jacob Eason to a transfer, but gained a younger, more highly-regarded signal caller in Justin Fields with the 2018 recruiting class. With Fields on the roster and Jake Fromm not going anywhere, another Bulldog quarterback is considering leaving as well.

Stetson Bennett IV — who, outside of the current U.S. Attorney General, sports the best Southern name in circulation — has told Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart he might rather leave than spend his career as the No. 3 man in Athens.

“He’s looking at some different options,” Smart told the Macon Telegraph. “Stetson has done a tremendous job for us. We’re really excited what he has done for us. We’re exhausting every option to try to keep Stetson with us. We think he’s a very talented young man. I’ve spoke on behalf of that multiple times. We hope we keep him here. He has not made that decision yet.”

Listed at an even 6-foot-nothing and 172 pounds, Bennett was a successful quarterback at Pierce County High School and listed as a 2-star recruit before choosing to walk-on at Georgia rather than take scholarship offers from Group of 5 and FCS programs. Bennett redshirted as a freshman in 2017, sharing Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year honors with three other players.

Should Bennett transfer, his stature and walk-on status would draw easy comparisons to Baker Mayfield, which is ironic considering Bennett was tasked with mimicking the 2017 Heisman winner ahead of Georgia’s Rose Bowl win over Oklahoma.

Both of Bennett’s parents are Georgia graduates, so leaving would be a tough decision for the redshirt freshman.

“We need to keep Stetson there and help us,” Smart told the Telegraph. “We don’t really have many other guys to be honest. We have two young quarterbacks who will be walk-ons, who we think are good players. But we’ve invested a lot in Stetson with the development he took this spring, and with what he did in bowl practices. I’m excited to see what he can do. We’re encouraging him to stay so he gets that opportunity. I certainly respect what he has done this far for the University of Georgia and he’s a really good student as well. We’re selling him on the University of Georgia education.”

Tulane extends Willie Fritz through 2023

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Major news on the Kansas football front came down the pike Tuesday when Tulane announced it has extended head coach Willie Fritz through 2023.

Wait, what? Let’s back up a bit.

Kansas fired AD Sheahon Zenger on Monday, citing that a “change in leadership is necessary” because “progress in key areas has been elusive.” While Kansas chancellor Douglas Girod did not come out and say this move was related to football, he did feel the need to mention head coach David Beaty in his release announcing Zenger’s firing. “In addition, earlier today I spoke with Coach Beaty and shared my expectation that he will continue recruiting hard and getting his team ready for the season,” Girod said.

It doesn’t take Leonardo DiCaprio to read Girod’s thoughts here. Beaty is 3-33 in three seasons as KU’s head coach, including a 1-26 mark in Big 12 play. Coaches that average a win a year don’t typically last until Year 5. Just last year, Nebraska cleared out its AD so the new AD could fire the existing football coach and hire a new one, and it appears Kansas is headed down the same path later this year.

With Beaty apparently on his way out, I tweeted on Monday where Kansas should direct its incoming search.

Fritz-to-Kansas makes sense on a number of levels. Fritz is a proven program builder, a more-with-less guy that won at Blinn Junior College, Central Missouri, Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern and, now, Tulane. Overall, Fritz is 202-89-1 with two junior college national titles and conference championships in three separate leagues — all at places that have no business posting a collective .693 winning percentage. Simply put, Kansas is the rebuild job of the century, and there is not a more proven general contractor than Fritz.

And even better for Kansas, Fritz seems likely to take the job. He’s a Sunflower State native and at an age — 58 — where he’d likely take any Power 5 job offer that came his way, lest it be the last one.

All that said, it did not seem a coincidence that Tulane announced an extension for Fritz on Tuesday, who is 9-15 in two seasons with the Green Wave.

“I couldn’t be more excited with the direction in which our football program is headed,” Fritz said in a statement. “It is an absolute joy to coach at this institution. We have total buy-in from everyone on our staff to our administration, and I know we have a bright future.”

With Tulane being a private school, financial terms were not disclosed, but the key number will be the buyout.

Of course, Fritz could also pass on a potential Kansas offer. Or he may not get an offer. Or the job may not open at all. But even the prospect of an offer has already turned into a win for him.

DB Craig Watts leaves USF, lands at Div. II school

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With transfer season in full swing, South Florida is the latest to see its roster sustain a bit of attrition.

Craig Watts took to his personal Twitter account Monday to reveal that he will be transferring from Charlie Strong‘s USF program.  The defensive back also posted a photo of him signing paperwork for Valdosta State, indicating a move to the Division II school.

As he’s dropping down a couple of levels, Watts, who’ll be a redshirt sophomore in 2018, will be eligible to play immediately this coming season.

After coming to the Bulls as a three-star recruit on 247Sports.com‘s composite board, Watts took a redshirt as a true freshman.  He played in 12 games last season and was credited with five tackles.

Nevada’s Devin Porter arrested for failure to appear

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After a dozen days, it’s time to, once again, flip the switch on a “Days Without An Arrest” reset.

The latest to do the off-field deed is Devin Porter, with the Reno Gazette Journal reporting that the Nevada linebacker was arrested over the weekend for failure to appear.  The redshirt junior had been scheduled to appear in court for a traffic citation.

From the Gazette Journal‘s report:

The charge is a misdemeanor. If a defendant skips a court date, a judge can issue a bench warrant for their arrest. If 30 days pass before a defendant surrenders himself, an additional charge for “failure to appear” can be issued. The maximum sentence for such issue includes four years in prison and/or $5,000 in fines, although both are rare.

Porter was issued a $415 bail, which he posted and was released.

Porter is a walk-on to the Wolf Pack football program who has yet to see any game action for the Mountain West Conference school.  According to the newspaper, “[h]is brother, Cliff, was a starter at left guard for Nevada as a sophomore last season before graduating early and giving up the rest of his eligibility.”

(Tip O’ the Cap: ArrestNation.com)