MSU’s Mark Dantonio embraces preseason ranking

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It’s said every year by coaches and fans alike, “Preseason rankings don’t mean anything.”

Many coaches over the years have expressed a preference to do away with preseason polls.

Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio isn’t one of them. The Spartans were ranked eighth overall in the AP preseason Top 25, which was released Sunday. Dantonio wants his team to embrace the ranking and drive them to be better.

“Our focus remains on winning championships,” Dantonio told the Lansing State Journal‘s Graham Couch. “We have proven that we can compete consistently with the top teams in the country & will continue to dream big. We need embrace our preseason ranking and display the maturity it takes to manage that success.”

Dantonio is a proven believer in envisioning something will happen before it actually does.

Eight months before Michigan State captured its first Rose Bowl victory in 26 years, Dantonio sauntered onto the field in Pasadena, California and promised his team they would play on that field and in that game.

“This is where we make it happen. …You will be the ones,” Dantonio said. “It sort of gives you the chills walking out here, it’s a long way from home. But we’ve got a plan. We’ve got a plan to get here.”

The Spartans have reached unprecedented heights in the modern era under Dantonio’s supervision. His  winning percentage is the best the program has experienced in 60 years. Michigan State is now firmly in the national spotlight. And the team’s preseason ranking reflects the work Dantonio has done during his eight seasons with the program.

By following Dantonio’s advice, the program can continue its upward trend.

Michigan State will never have the resources as some teams in the Big Ten Conference, particularly Michigan and Ohio State, but it’s slowly closing the gap.

Perception is often reality in college football. Recruits will remember Michigan State was a preseason Top 10 team. The players currently on the roster know they have high expectations to fulfill. And their coach realizes the perception around Michigan State continues to improve and benefits the team.

With Khalil Tate still out, Rhett Rodriguez to start at QB for Arizona

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Imagine hearing a year ago that Khalil Tate missing a game, forcing Kevin Sumlin‘s Arizona Wildcats to start Rhett Rodriguez at quarterback may actually be a good thing for the club.

A year ago at this time, Tate had just rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns and passed for another 148 and a score en route to a 47-30 win over UCLA. It was part of an out-of-nowhere storm that saw Tate throw for 1,591 yards, rush for 1,411 yards and total 26 touchdowns in essentially nine games.

But a lot has changed over the past 12 months. Rich Rodriguez, of course, is out, and Arizona’s Heisman candidate quarterback hasn’t gelled with Sumlin’s offense. Through seven games, Tate has thrown 178 passes — he threw 179 all of last season — for 1,415 yards with 11 touchdowns against four interceptions while rushing only 46 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

Tate injured his ankle early in a 42-10 loss to Utah and the younger Rodriguez finished the game, hitting 20-of-38 throws for 226 yards and a late touchdown.

With Tate still injured, Sumlin revealed Tuesday Rodriguez will start for the Wildcats against UCLA.

Rodriguez had thrown only seven passes ahead of Saturday’s loss to Utah and threw one pass as a freshman in 2017.

Arizona is just 3-4 overall (2-2 Pac-12) while UCLA is 1-5 and 1-2 against the Pac-12.

Status of Temple’s leading rusher iffy for game vs. No. 20 Cincinnati

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Whether Temple has the biggest piece of its running game this weekend remains decidedly up in the air.

Ryquell Armstead didn’t play in last Saturday’s win over Navy because of an ankle injury.  With a huge matchup with No. 20 Cincinnati on deck for this weekend, the running back’s status is very much up in the air.

Head coach Geoff Collins stated Armstead “is still day-to-day,” and that “we are excited about his healthy return, whenever that may be.”

Armstead is far and away the Owls’ leading rusher with 626 yards on the ground, and he’s scored exactly half (six) of Temple’s 12 rushing touchdowns.  Jager Gardner’s 101 yards are a distant second on the team.

Police: Louisville TE Kemari Averett held gun to girlfriend’s head, threatened to kill her

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A very scary and disturbing incident is the latest to trigger a resetting of the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Louisville tight end Kemari Averett was arrested on one count each of first-degree wanton endangerment and domestic violence (fourth-degree assault).  Averett is accused of holding a gun to the head of his girlfriend, who is also the mother of his child, and threatening to kill her.

From the Courier-Journal‘s report:

According to an arrest citation, Averett was at the woman’s house Sunday night to study and left his backpack. The woman went over to Averett’s apartment to return the backpack Monday night. He walked to the car and gave the woman a baby outfit and ultrasound pictures, according to the citation.

When he retrieved the backpack, he noticed his laptop was missing, the citation said.

She told Averett she wasn’t aware the laptop was missing. Police said Averett then came at the woman, put a gun to her left temple and said, “(expletive), I will kill you.”

Averett then told her to return to her hometown, and “I’ll have my people looking for you,” police said. He also told a witness in the back seat that, “I should pistol whip your (expletive) for running your mouth,” the citation said.

As a result of the arrest, the 20-year-old Averett has been indefinitely suspended from the football program.

“Kemari Averett has been suspended immediately from all football activities per further investigation,” a statement from head coach Bobby Petrino began. “He will not have access to our facility or be involved in any team activities during this suspension.”

Averett, a true sophomore from Atlanta, has started four of the six games for the Cardinals this season.  He’s caught eight passes for 65 yards and is tied for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns.

Ex-USC WR Joseph Lewis pleads no contest to felony domestic violence, sentenced to year in jail

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If a once-touted wide receiver is to restart his flailing college football playing career, he’ll have a to wait a while to do so.

In mid-July, Joseph Lewis was arrested on one count of felony domestic battery with injury.  Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported, the former USC wide receiver pleaded no contest to felony domestic violence.

Lewis was sentenced by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to one year in jail.  Additionally, Lewis will have to serve five years probation as well as attend 52 domestic violence prevention classes.

Lewis’ July arrest came less than two weeks after he had finished serving a 21-day jail sentence for a previous domestic violence arrest.

In late February of this year, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to pursue a felony charge against Lewis after he was arrested on one count of corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant. At the time, though, it was reported that the case had been referred to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, which would decide whether misdemeanor charges would arise from the arrest.

Not long after, the city attorney’s office filed five misdemeanor counts against Lewis. The charges stemmed from two separate incidents in February, and included three counts of domestic battery with an injury, false imprisonment and domestic battery without an injury.

In the wake of the arrest, Lewis was suspended from the football team and his name removed from the roster.  While a USC spokesman stated after Lewis’ release from his first stint in jail that his status with the team hadn’t changed and remained off the roster, the player had previously said that he was hopeful he’d be permitted to rejoin the team before the start of the 2018 season.

A five-star member of the Trojans’ 2017 recruiting class, Lewis was rated as the No. 4 receiver in the country; the No. 6 player at any position in the state of California; and the No. 31 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. The only player rated higher in USC’s class that year was running back Stephen Carr.

As a true freshman last season, Lewis caught four passes for 39 yards. He had been expected to play a bigger role in the Trojans’ passing game this season