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The Fifth Quarter: Week 4 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.

NO.1? LET THE BRONCOS BE YOUR GUIDE
Since the beginning of the season, Ohio State has seen its unanimous hold on the Associated Press No. 1 spot erode.  From a 105-point lead on No. 2 Alabama after Week 1 to a 100-point lead on the same team after Week 2, OSU then watched Big Ten East rival Michigan State jump into the No. 2 hole and just 85 points behind.  What’s more, the first-place voting bloc had been whittled down to 42 for OSU and seven for MSU, with the other 11 belonging to Ole Miss.

If voters are looking for a way to compare the two B1G teams and their No. 1 worthiness when it comes to this week’s poll — kind of like what some enjoyed doing last season when it came to Ohio State/TCU in relation to Minnesota, come to think of it — the scheduling gods have offered up a comparison.

It just so happens that MSU played Western Michigan in the opener, the same team OSU faced off against in Week 4.  OSU won their matchup with the MAC school 38-12, while MSU’s encounter was slightly closer at 37-24.  The Spartans, though, played on the road while the Buckeyes were at home.

Statistically, OSU rolled up 511 yards of total offense, MSU 452.  On the defensive side of the ledger, the Buckeyes allowed 338 to the Spartans’ 383.  WMU was able to muster just .8 yards per carry in the opener, while they were at 4.1 ypc against the defending national champs.  Conversely, MSU’s vaunted “No-Fly Zone” was shredded for 365 yards, while OSU limited the same passing attack to just 169 yards.

What does it mean?  Not much, other than both teams handled their business reasonably well against a team they should.  In the broader picture, though, it’s emblematic of just how wild and wide-open this 2015 college football season projects to be, that such a comparison could even be considered as part of the thought process.

STATE OF TEXAS
The performance of Jerrod Heard last week was a much-needed shot in the arm for the Texas football program.  Apparently, though, it wasn’t enough for a still-suspicious fan base.

As if portending the impending doom, there were plenty of good seats still available shortly before the kickoff of the Oklahoma State-UT game at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin.  In fact, it was downright Miami Hurricane-ish in its barren, desolate look.

Those fans who decided to stay away seemed prescient as there was a second consecutive week of utter, kick-you-in-the-tentacles heartbreak in store.  More specifically, it appears as if Steve Patterson‘s buyout clause included him getting custody of UT’s special teams.

Be that as it may, it’s one thing for a fan base to be pissed off; at least that emotion shows they still care.  When apathy sets in?  Right or wrong, that’s an absolute coach-killer.

And, judging by the butts not in seats, apathy is quickly enveloping a program that’s doing nothing but spiraling downward — despite the best intentions of a very good football coach whose rope is getting shorter and shorter by the minute.

LSU v SyracuseLEONARD THE GREAT
Let’s get this out of the way right up front: through the first four weeks of the 2015 season, Leonard Fournette is the best player in college football.  There will be no discussion, there is no debate because any other answer is wrong.  That said, can the LSU running back win the Heisman, as everyone is seemingly already handing him?

Statistically, and thus far, there’s no reason why he can’t and every reason why he can.  Through three games, all of which have come against Power Five teams, Fournette is leading the country averaging 208.3 yards per game; next closest is Indiana’s Jordan Howard at just under 169 ypg.  Fournette has posted back-to-back 200-yard plus games, the first time in LSU history that’s been accomplished.

Hell, he had an 87-yard touchdown run called back against Syracuse yesterday because of an illegal formation penalty that had no impact on the play.

History, though, suggests Fournette’s Heisman march could be an uphill slog.

Essentially, the Heisman Trophy has become a quarterback award.  Just one time in the last 15 years — Mark Ingram in 2009 — has a running back wrested the stiff-armed trophy away from a quarterback.  As much as defenses stacking the line to slow him down moving forward, Fournette’s biggest obstacle in his race to the Heisman could very well be the signal-calling mentality of a significant segment of the voters.

Well, that and a player named Trevone Boykin.  Who’s a quarterback, it just so happens, and a very productive one on one of the top teams in the country.

on September 19, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland.RUNNING DOWN HISTORY
For those who haven’t been paying attention, a member of one of our nation’s service academies is quickly creeping up on making some FBS history.

With a pair of rushing touchdowns in a Week 4 win over UConn, Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds now has 72 in his career.  That total ties him for third all-time with former Texas Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams.

It also pulls him to within one of tying Miami of Ohio’s Travis Prentice at 73 rushing touchdowns, and within six of surpassing Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (77) as the FBS’ all-time leader in rushing touchdowns.

Reynolds, a senior, has played in 39 games in his career, meaning the Midshipman has averaged 1.85 touchdowns per game.  However, he’s averaged nearly 3.5 touchdowns per game over his last 18 contests.  Regardless, and provided he remains healthy, Reynolds should set the all-time standard at some point in October… and then set the bar much higher in November as well as on into December/January.

With nine regular season games remaining as well as at least one postseason matchup — could be two if the Middies qualify for the AAC championship game — there’s a realistic chance that, when his career is all said and done, Reynolds breaks the century mark and sets the bar so high that it’s be nearly impossible to reach in this day and age of pass-happy offenses.  Then again, with the likes of Navy and Georgia Tech and others running the option for the foreseeable future, I guess you never say never.

SATURDAY RESET
Below is a list of links for all of the Week 4 gamers posted by the CFT crew, placed in one handy and convenient space for you, our beloved and dear readers.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Sunday if I, ya know, had a real vote.

1. Michigan State — For the second time this season, the Spartans somewhat struggled with a directional Michigan school. Still, not a single team in the country has, week-in, week-out played like the best team in the country, so I’m going to leave the Spartans right here at the top until forced to do otherwise. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. Purdue, Oct. 3

2. Ole Miss — As if right on cue with the intimation above with every top team struggling at some point this season, Ole Miss was tied late in the third, and at home no less, with a not-so-good Vanderbilt team that came in just 1-2.  The Rebels may have exposed their warts, but they’re merely the latest top team to do so. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: at Florida, Oct. 3

3. TCU — They survived a huge scare, but the big thing is they survived.  The Horned Frogs are a wounded bunch, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but they have the kind of offense that can keep them deep in contention in the wide-open Big 12.  Whether that injury-ravaged defense could compete on the national stage is to be determined. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: vs. Texas, Oct. 3

4. Ohio State — After a couple of shaky weeks, the Buckeyes showed glimpses of the team that rolled through the postseason to the national championship.  There are still many bugs to work out, but there are still multiple weeks before the Buckeyes’ first real on-paper test — unless 4-0 Indiana is more than the paper unbeaten they seem. (Last week: 4)
Next up: at Indiana, Oct. 3

5. UCLA — After considering Baylor, Georgia and LSU as well, I pulled the trigger on UCLA.  Why?  The win over Arizona on the road last night mainly, and the win over BYU still holds a little weight with me. This spot, though, will likely be a revolving door throughout the season.  As will the other spots, for that matter. (Last week: NR)
Next up: vs. Arizona State, Oct. 3

(Dropped out: No. 5 Oregon)

CHEAPSHOT OF THE DAY
This Bowling Green player, who is a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, was ejected for targeting, and he’s lucky he’s not being brought up on charges. Or getting slapped around by some Falcons. Or both.

As an aside, those are the most god-awful helmets Purdue is wearing. Now, you kids, get the hell off my lawn…

KICKER HURDLE!!!
It doesn’t happen often, the ever-elusive punter-posing-as-a-kicker hurdling another football player, but there was a sighting in the LSU-Syracuse game late in the first half — with a bonus fist-pump/punch thrown in for good measure.

ELEAPIEL ELLIOTT
It’s not just kickers/punters channeling their inner Edwin Moses, as evidenced — again — by Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott.

HARBAUGH GETS ONIONED
I am an unabashed fan of The Onion. I think Jim Harbaugh is one of the best things to happen to college football in years. When those two worlds collide? Pure Internet gold.

MOST. BRO-FFSIDES. EVER.
If you wanted one picture to encapsulate the futility that was the Kansas-Rutgers matchup, this is it.

And I can guarantee you that, given the rancid nature of this tilt, I wasn’t the only one that read that as “defecating” at first glance.

WE GOT MORE KETTLEBELL
One of the more bizarre storylines of the offseason involved Sean “Puffy” “Diddy” “P-Diddy” Combs, a member of the UCLA coaching staff and a kettlebell. With ESPN‘s College GameDay traveling road show on-site for the UCLA-Arizona game Saturday night, the fans in attendance unsurprisingly called back to that infamous incident in hilarious fashion.

NO KIDDING
One of the most famous rants in history belonged to the father of UCLA head coach Jim Mora. With the Bruins on the road for GameDay, well, you just knew something like the following would be in the offing.

NICE, BUTTS
Jake Butt of Michigan is one of the most talented tight ends in the country, but he’s also self-aware enough to realize that some people have a little fun with his surname. As it turns out, so does his own family, who showed up en masse to the Big House Saturday with some rather unique and self-deprecating t-shirts.

I LOVE THE NINETIES
Not that I would ever make fun of him to his face, or even in his general vicinity, but [chuckle] NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone still has a flip phone.

Malone’s son, K.J. Malone, incidentally, is an offensive lineman for the LSU Tigers, and the former Louisiana Tech hoops star was in attendance at the Carrier Dome for the Game against Syracuse.  Where he was again caught on camera with his [/giggle] flip phone.

SNAG IT LIKE BECKHAM
OK, it’s not exactly Odell Beckham-level difficult, but it was a nice catch for Michigan’s Amara Darboh, who celebrated his swearing-in as a US citizen earlier this week with this one-handed wonder.

HE SAID IT
“The significance of this day was as a team our football team won in a sloppy manner.” — LSU’s Les Miles, molding the English language in a way that only he can.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I really wanted to kick his ass to be honest with you, and I know he’d appreciate that. You get a chance to play a Heisman Trophy candidate, you want to knock him backward. You want to get after him and you want him to no longer be in the Heisman race after you play him.” — Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer, on facing the force that is Leonard Fournette.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“I’m not sure we deserved to win.  If nothing else, maybe we sold some more popcorn.” — Jim McElwain, following Florida’s heart-stopping win over Tennessee, the Gators’ 11th straight over the Vols.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“I definitely felt more comfortable. We’re starting to get on the same page as not just receivers or offensive line or things like that. I think everyone felt way more comfortable today.” — Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, after passing for a career-high 288 yards in a win over Western Michigan.

HE SAID IT, THE FINAL ONE
“A lot of times when you’re in the position you’re in, you have done it to yourselves, and that’s what happened to us. We did it to ourselves.” — Charlie Strong, after watching his Texas not-so-special teams literally cost the 1-3 Longhorns two wins already this season.

Meads Cup Final - North Otago v WanganuiSTREAKING
Four wins to start the 2015 season have pushed Ohio State’s nation’s best winning streak to 17 straight, tied for the fifth-longest in school history (1915-17).  Up next are TCU (12), Memphis (11), Michigan State (eight), Navy (seven), North Carolina State (seven) and Clemson (six).

On the other side of the won-loss ledger, New Mexico State, on a bye in Week 4, still owns the nation’s longest losing streak at 13 straight.  With UNLV (nine in a row) and FAU (eight) both winning, the second-longest negative streak falls to Wyoming (seven), followed by UCF and UMass at five in a row, then North Texas and UT-San Antonio at four in a row. Kansas deserves its own special sentence as the Jayhawks are the not-so-proud owners of the longest losing streak amongst Power Five conference members at six straight.

MY ANNUAL REMINDER THAT…
… Duke football was really bad prior to the arrival of David Cutcliffe. Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech was Cutcliffe’s 92nd as Duke’s head coach, and he has guided the Blue Devils to a 43-49 overall record.  In the 92 games (2000-08) prior to Cutcliffe’s arrival, Duke managed an overall mark of 10-82.

S.I.D NOTE OF THE WEEK
Dating back to 1996, only Kansas State (113) has more combined defensive and special teams touchdowns than Virginia Tech (108).

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK II
Ole Miss’ current streak of 21 straight weeks in the national rankings is the Rebels’ longest since appearing in 69 straight from 1957-62.

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK III
Washington and Cal, who played each other Saturday, are the only two teams that have played in what is now the Pac-12 Conference in every season, all 100 of them, since the league was founded in 1916.

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK IV
Central Michigan’s Ben McCord and Devon Spalding accomplished something against Syracuse that has never happened in program history. Both McCord and Spalding caught 10 passes versus the Orange, the first time CMU has had two players with at least 10 receptions in a single game. McCord is also the first CMU tight end to catch 10 passes in a game while Spalding is the first running back to have 10 receptions in a contest.

S.I.D NOTE OF THE WEEK V
Georgia Tech has finished .500 or better in ACC play for 20 consecutive years. That’s the longest active streak by any team in any Power Five conference.

OFF THE CHARTS
Courtesy of the Wyoming sports information department

True Freshmen Played in 2015

OFF THE CHARTS, PART II
Top active head coaches in terms of winning percentage (minimum five years at the FBS level), courtesy of the Washington sports information department

Top Winning Percentage

OFF THE CHARTS, PART III
Courtesy of the Nevada sports information department

Longest FBS Road Trips

SAY WHAT?
All Pac-12 members posted two or more wins through the first three games this season, a feat that has been achieved just twice in the history of the conference — 1919 and 1921.

DULY NOTED
Minnesota, Navy and Northwestern are the only three schools in the country that have had the same offensive staff (all coaches) for the last five seasons.

Tennessee v FloridaDID YOU KNOW THAT…

… quarterback Josh Dobbs led Tennessee in passing (83) rushing (136) and receiving yards (58) in the heartbreaking loss to Florida?  That’s the first time that’s happened since James Kilian did it in 2003.

… Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson has thrown for 400 or more yards in all four games of the 2015 season?  In addition to the 402 he put up against Purdue in a Week 4 win (a little more on that below), Johnson threw for 491 against Maryland, 443 against Memphis and 424 against Tennessee as BGSU has gotten off to a 2-2 start despite three games against Power Five teams.

… Arizona’s Anu Solomon is the only FBS quarterback this season to have thrown 10 or more touchdown passes and no interceptions?  USC’s Cody Kessler had been in that club before throwing a pick in the Trojans’ rout of Arizona State.

Rice v BaylorSeth Russell threw more touchdown passes (six) than incompletions (four) in Baylor’s rout of Rice?  A full half of Russell’s 12 completions went for scores, with the six touchdown tosses setting a school record.

Kenneth Dixon‘s three rushing touchdowns in Louisiana Tech’s win over FIU gave him 11 games of three or more in his career, tying him with Wisconsin’s Montee Ball for the most such games in NCAA history?

… Arizona’s D.J. Foster became just the fourth player in FBS history to reach 2,000-plus rushing AND receiving yards, joining Stanford’s Darrin Nelson, Tulane’s Mewelde Moore and Texas Tech’s Taurean Henderson? The running back-turned-wide receiver has also caught a pass in 44 straight games; that ties the school record (John Jefferson) and is the longest current streak in the FBS.

… Storm Barrs-Woods in Week 4 became the second Oregon State Beaver in the program’s history to accumulate 2,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in his career?  The first was Jacquizz Rodgers from 2008-10.

Southern v Georgia… Nick Chubb has rushed for 100-plus yards in 12 straight games, one off the Georgia record of 13 straight held by the great Herschel Walker?

Lorenzo Nunez became the first true freshman quarterback to start for Steve Spurrier since Jesse Palmer did so for Florida at Auburn in 1997? The last true freshman to start at quarterback for South Carolina was Mikal Goodman during the 1999 season, and the last true freshman quarterback to win a game for the Gamecocks was Steve Taneyhill in 1992.

… Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant is the only FBS player who has thrown a touchdown pass, rushed for a touchdown, caught a touchdown and returned a kickoff for a touchdown this season?

… the offensive coordinators in Saturday’s Tennessee-Florida game — Mike DeBord (UT) and Doug Nussmeier (UF) — were each at Michigan during the 2014 season? Nussmeier was the Wolverines’ coordinator and quarterbacks coach while DeBord was a sport administrator.

… the last time Indiana started a season 4-0 was 1990?  IU is now 4-0 on the season thanks to Saturday’s win over Wake Forest.  It’s also the Hoosiers first four-game winning streak since 1993.

… Duke has started 3-1 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1986-88 and just the sixth time in program history? The other five came in 1920-21, 1932-41, 1949-53 and 1960-66.

… Baylor has started a season 3-0 for the fifth straight year, the first time that’s ever happened in the football program’s history?

Bowling Green v Purdue… with wins over Arkansas/Iowa State and Maryland/Purdue, Toledo and Bowling Green, respectively, joined Northern Illinois (Iowa and Purdue, 2013) as the only MAC schools to beat two Power Five teams in the same season?

… the 2015 season is the only time in at least the past 35 seasons Nebraska has lost a pair of games on the final play?

… the 56 points allowed by Virgina in its beatdown loss to Boise State Friday night was more than its men’s basketball counterparts gave up in 22 of 34 games last hoops season?

… North Carolina has allowed 14 points in each of the last three games? This is the first time the opponents have scored the same number of points in three consecutive games since 1950 when Maryland, South Carolina and Duke each scored seven points.

… the Big 12 and Big Ten were the only Power Five conferences to win at least one game each of the first three weeks of the season against another P5 league?

… the Mountain West’s .574 winning percentage in bowl games since 2004 is second only to the SEC’s .649 in that span?  The other Power Five winning percentages are .567 for the Pac-12, .506 for the Big 12, .435 for the ACC and .400 for the Big Ten.

… only Stanford, Western Kentucky and Wisconsin have produced three different 1,500-yard rushers since 2009?

… Memphis’ streak of six straight games scoring 40 or more points is not only the longest such streak, but it’s twice as long as the next-longest run?

… Tennessee has played the most overtime games (17) since it was instituted in 1996, and is tied with Missouri (16 OT games played) for most wins in extra sessions at 11 each?

… USC is the only FBS school never to have had surnames on the backs of its jerseys?

… instead of the Power Five moniker, Boise State goes with Resource Five in all of its press releases?  BSU is simply following the lead of its conference, with the Mountain West referring to the P5 as the autonomous 5 — no capitalization intentional.

… Nevada’s game against Buffalo marked that football program’s first-ever to be played in the Northeast?  And, no, I have no clue if the dearth of games in that area of the country makes them a viable candidate if/when the SEC decides to expand.

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”