AAC announces divisional alignments

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As expected, the American Athletic Conference has announced its divisional alignments for 2015 and beyond.  And, just as expected, it’ll prompt those who value geographical sensibility to throw up a little bit in their collective mouths.

As was hinted at earlier this month, commissioner Mike Aresco revealed Friday the makeup of the AAC’s two divisions for the 2015 season and coinciding with the arrival of Navy, the last of a handful of new additions to replace the departed Louisville and Rutgers. The conference opted to go with East-West divisional split, which, given the far-flung nature of the current and future membership, lends itself to some head-scratching.

The biggest example of that will be Navy, with the Annapolis, Maryland, service academy being dropped into the West division.  On the other side, albeit not as geographically egregious, is the placement of Cincinnati in the East division.  Somewhere, the Big Ten with its 14 teams and the Big 12 with its 10 teams are chuckling mildly.

Regardless, here is the complete look at how the East-West divisions will be filled:

East Division
UCF
Cincinnati
UConn
East Carolina
USF
Temple

West Division
Houston
Memphis
Navy
SMU
Tulane
Tulsa

“This is an exciting step in the continued development of our conference,” said Aresco in a statement. “With our performance on the field and the exposure we received from our media partners, I couldn’t be more satisfied with our first year of American Athletic Conference football. Creating this divisional format will allow us to build upon that success. Our fans will enjoy our divisional play and the championship game that will be established in 2015.

“The East-West format we have adopted gives each division a distinct identity, provides long-term competitive balance and protects traditional rivalries while allowing each school to travel across the conference’s geographical footprint on a regular basis.”

In addition to the divisional alignment, the AAC also announced the tiebreak procedure for the 2014 season — a conference championship game will be held in 2015 as the league moves to 12 teams.  Below is that procedure:

For the 2014 season, the American Athletic Conference Football Champion will be the team that finishes the regular season with the highest winning percentage in conference games. If more than one team has the same winning percentage, the tied teams are declared co-champions. To determine the College Football Playoff/Host Bowl representative, the co-champion ranked highest by the College Football Playoff Committee will be eligible to receive the automatic bid shared with Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt conferences.

Findings from Maryland football culture investigation to be revealed within next two weeks

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The University of Maryland’s Board of Regents will review the information gathered from an investigation into the football culture of the Maryland football program on Friday behind a closed session. The information from that report will then be made public within the next two weeks, according to a statement from the University System of Maryland on Wednesday.

The Board of Regents is scheduled for a regularly scheduled meeting on Friday, October 19. Part of the agenda for that meeting will be the closed session to review the independent investigation’s report on the state of the football culture allegations made against the Maryland football program under head coach D.J. Durkin. Durkin remains on an administrative leave with the program despite the football season continuing on under interim head coach Matt Canada. The board will meet again on Tuesday, October 23 in a special session to discuss the investigation and its findings. At that time, the board will begin making decisions on how to address the report, which may include determining the fate of Durkin as head coach of the Terrapins. However, no media availability or statements will be made following the special session on Tuesday.

However, according to the released statement with the updated timeline from the board of regents, the findings of the investigation are expected to be released to the public within one week of the special session scheduled for Oct. 23.

“We have said from the beginning that, if true, the allegations related to the culture of the football program at the University of Maryland, College Park are unacceptable,” said USM Board of Regents Chair James T. Brady.  “We have also said we are determined to get all the facts possible before acting.”

This investigation is separate from the previously revealed investigation that took a closer examination into the death of football player Jordan McNair, although it would not be shocking to learn the McNair situation was a key focus of this investigation. Allegations of coaches verbally abusing players and forcing players to work through grueling conditions have painted a negative image for the Maryland football program, and Durkin in particular. For now, Durkin remains Maryland’s head coach, but we should know whether or not that will remain to be true as early as next week.

Utah going with terrific throwback uniform this week

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When college football teams decide to suit up in a throwback look, it is more than often an awesome sight to see. That will be the case this week when Utah squares off against USC in what has become a key game in the Pac-12 South standings.

This is the same throwback design Utah has adopted in recent years, but it is always a nice sight to see when they pop up. The design is inspired by the look of the Utah programs of the past with the 1960s era represented by a white helmet with interlocking “UU” for the University of Utah on the helmet. The stripes on the jerseys and pants are inspired by the look from the uniforms used between the 1970s and 1990s. The font of the uniform numbers is also taken from the 1970s era of the Utes.

Utah is 2-2 in the Pac-12 but a win against USC (3-1 in Pac-12 play) would give the Utes a chance to take control of the Pac-12 South thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Trojans if they can come out on top this week. Colorado is 2-1 in the Pac-12 after losing to USC last weekend, but Utah and Colorado will face each other in a divisional showdown in the next-to-last week of the regular season. Colorado is also playing at Washington this weekend, which should be a tough matchup. Utah has their own challenges ahead. A home game against Oregon in early November could be a key game as the Pac-12 South continues to play out if Utah can grab a win against USC.

With Auburn’s bowl outlook becoming tense, Gus Malzahn sticks with Jarrett Stidham for better or worse

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If any Auburn fan was even thinking that the time has come for Auburn to make a change at quarterback after the Tigers suffered their second loss at home and their third loss overall this season, Gus Malzahn isn’t having it. Malzahn confirmed this week Jarrett Stidham will remain the starting quarterback for the Tigers as they look to turn things around in the second half of the regular season and try to avoid finishing the year in the bottom half of the SEC West.

Jarrett Stidham will be our starting quarterback,” Malzahn said this week, according to Al.com. “He needs to protect the football better; he understands that, but I do have confidence in him and I think he’ll lead us in the right way moving forward.”

After seven games, Stidham is the SEC’s 10th-rated quarterback in passer rating with 1,499 passing yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions. Last season, Stidham had 3,158 passing yards with 18 touchdowns to six interceptions. Stidham passed for 322 yards and two touchdowns but had two interceptions and a fumble in Auburn’s home loss to Tennessee last weekend.

After the loss to Tennessee, Malzahn said he would begin assessing all areas of the team and make adjustments where he feels they are needed (similar to Miami head coach Mark Richt and his approach after Miami’s second loss of the year; Miami has since made a QB change).

Stidham is overwhelmingly Auburn’s most experienced quarterback, so making any changes would have been a bit surprising. Freshman Cord Sandberg has appeared in just one game this year, attempting and completing one pass for 22 yards. Sophomore Malik Willis has appeared in three games, completing one of two attempts for three yards.

Auburn, already at 1-3 in the SEC standings, will play at Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon. The Rebels are 5-2 and could deal a tough blow for Auburn’s chances of becoming bowl-eligible. Auburn still has home games against Texas A&M and Liberty and road games against Georgia and Alabama this season. Auburn must win two of their remaining games in order to go to a bowl game, and a loss to Ole Miss could make those home games against the Aggies and Liberty must-win games.

It’s going to be Stidham’s job to get Auburn to a bowl game.

Mark Richt going back to Malik Rosier at QB

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Earlier this week, Miami head coach Mark Richt suggested he was going to take time in the off week to assess the state of the program in all areas. The quarterback position was on that to-do list, and it appears Richt is starting his changes in the off week by getting Malik Rosier ready to hop back in the saddle of the Miami offense.

Speaking on the ACC coaches conference call on Wednesday, Richt said Rosier will return to the role as starter for Miami when the Hurricanes come off their bye week on the road next week at Boston College. Rosier will take over as the starter after a rough performance by N’Kosi Perry in a road loss at Virginia. Richt did say both of his top quarterbacks should be expected to play against Boston College, suggesting there is now a bit of an open competition for the starting job right in the middle of the season.

Perry replaced Rosier as Miami’s starter at the end of September, a month that saw Rosier start the year leading Miami’s offense and getting thumped by an LSU program that has clearly made a name for itself after their week one victory over the Hurricanes. Miami’s offense put up points in games after that, but Perry appeared to give the offense a brief spark that was missing with Rosier on the field. But, that ride has ended for Perry for now.

Coming out of a bye week for the second half of the season with an open-ended question at quarterback is far from ideal, but making a decision on who will start the next game and making the change now, during a bye week before a road game in ACC play (and a possible must-win situation for Miami), makes sense for Richt if the goal is to have his starting quarterback as prepared as possible.