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The Fifth Quarter: Week 7 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.

DID YOU SAY UTES?
Why yes, Judge Haller. When discussing the best team in the country, I did just that.  And I’ll absolutely go there: the Utes are the No. 1 team in the nation.

Given the list of contenders for that midseason title, why not?  Every single one of them has their flaws, including the Utes.  It’s been a handful of years since, as deep as we are into a season, we haven’t been able to find any team even remotely resembling a consensus No. 1.  Or even two or three teams that are heads and shoulder above everyone else.

Instead, and depending on your point of view, there are at least seven teams that could make a valid case for the No. 1 ranking.  Or make a valid case for not being No. 1. Consider this slant on their respective résumés:

  • No.1 Ohio State: four wins over Power Five teams; three double-digit wins over P5 teams; one double-digit win over P5 team on the road; one other P5 road win.
  • No. 2 Baylor: three wins over Power Five teams; three double-digit wins over P5 teams; one double-digit win over P5 team on the road.
  • No. 3 TCU: five wins over Power Five teams; three double-digit wins over P5 teams; two double-digit wins over P5 teams on the road; one other P5 road win.
  • No. 4 Utah: four wins over Power Five teams; one double-digit win over P5 teams; one double-digit win P5 teams on the road.
  • No. 5 Clemson: four wins over Power Five teams; two double-digit wins over P5 teams.
  • No. 6 LSU: five wins over Power Five teams; three double-digit wins over P5 teams; one double-digit win over P5 teams on the road; one other P5 road win.
  • No. 7 Michigan State: four wins over Power Five teams.

Or, how about this, with the collective records of their opponents plus average margin of victory:

  • No. 1 Ohio State: 23-24 (.489 winning %), 20.7 points per game
  • No. 2 Baylor: 15-22 (.405, includes FCS team), 39.0 ppg
  • No. 3 TCU: 19-26 (.404, includes FCS), 23.6 ppg
  • No. 4 Utah: 24-15 (.615), 17.0 ppg
  • No. 5 Clemson: 21-19 (.525, includes FCS), 18.5 ppg
  • No. 6 LSU: 22-18 (.550), 12.7 ppg
  • No. 7 Michigan State (.478): 22-24, 9.1 ppg

Add it up, and what does it all mean?  Hell if I know, other than you can make Team X look better than Team Y depending on which data you use.  Which, of course, gets back to the central point: any one of at least seven teams could make a valid case for the No. 1 team and you’d have to respect the argument.

In that vein, I’m going with the Utes at No. 1 until further notice.  Why?  Because my eyeballs tell me they’re the best team I’ve seen all season. And because their opponent winning percentage is pretty damn impressive, too.

MUY CALI-FUENTE
Every year, there are a couple of Group of Five sideline bosses who become the “it” guy on the coaching carousel.  This year, there’s no one hotter than Justin Fuente.

In the three seasons prior to Fuente’s arrival in Memphis in 2012, the Tigers were 5-31.  In the three-plus seasons since, the U of M has gone 23-20.  That mark, though, is somewhat deceptive as, after a 7-17 start in his first two years, Fuente has gone 16-3 in the last 19 games.  Included in that run is a current 13-game winning streak that continued with the Week 7 upset of No. 13 Ole Miss, a program-defining win that has shined an even brighter national spotlight on what Fuente is doing in a state they share with another team from the SEC.

Even prior to the win over the Rebels, Fuente was viewed as a hot commodity for Power Five teams who would be looking for a new coach this year; after the impressive outing against the SEC program, Fuente’s name is now at or near the top of many a list, especially, but certainly not limited to, the vacancy at USC.  In reality, Fuente will have his choice of schools if he so desires.

And that right there is the double-edged sword for those in and around the Tiger football program.  Yes, they want the Tigers to do well, but every win only serves to add to Fuente’s burgeoning résumé — and the likelihood that he will leave before the calendar flips to 2016.

That may not be fair to fans and administrators alike, but that’s the current state of the money-green game of college football

West Virginia v BaylorCATCHING HISTORY
There are many ways to wax poetically about the machine that is the Baylor offense.  Right now, there’s no more eloquent way to state it than uttering the name Corey Coleman.

The Baylor wide receiver totaled three touchdowns in Saturday’s win over West Virginia, giving him a whopping 16 on the season and already setting a school record in just six games.  The performance marks the fourth time this season he’s had at least three receiving scores in a single game; in Week 2, he grabbed four.

It’s the most after six games since Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree totaled 17 in 2007 (he finished with 22).  At his current pace, Coleman would finish the 12-game regular season with 32; the current FBS record is 27 set by Louisiana Tech’s Troy Edwards in 2008.  Add in a couple of playoff games, and there’s the possibility that Coleman could be closer to 40 on the year than 30.

And that may be the most astounding part, that such a number for a receiver is even remotely a possibility.

Iowa v IllinoisIO… WHAT?
Through seven weeks of the 2015 season, there are still 10 Power Five teams left that have yet to suffer a loss.  There are the teams you’d expect, like Ohio State and Baylor and TCU and LSU and Michigan State and Clemson and Florida State.  And there are the likes of Utah and Oklahoma State, teams many thought would be vastly improved from a year ago heading into the season.  And then there’s… Iowa?

Yep, Iowa.  And the most mind-bending aspect of the whole situation?  The Hawkeyes actually have the best chance of any of the remaining P5 unbeatens to get to the end the regular season unblemished.  Think about it.

Ohio State and Michigan State will square off next month, while the former still has to face Michigan the game after that as well.  TCU and Baylor and Oklahoma State will all play each other, and all three still have to play a ranked Oklahoma as well.  LSU has November games left against Alabama and Texas A&M, with a road trip to Ole Miss thrown in for good measure.  USC, Arizona and UCLA still await Utah.  Clemson and Florida State remain on a collision course, with Florida still a tough out on the latter’s schedule.  And 7-0 Iowa?

2-4 Maryland, 4-3 Indiana, 4-3 Minnesota, 1-6 Purdue, 3-4 Nebraska.

That’s it.  That’s all that stands between the Hawkeyes and a 12-0 record heading into a month of December that, with that mark, would include a spot in the Big Ten championship game.

There’s a better-than-average chance that, when the dust settles on the regular season, there will be one undefeated P5 left standing — and that one team will be coached by Kirk Ferentz.  If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about the 2015 season, I don’t know what would.

SATURDAY RESET
Below is a list of links for all of the Week 7 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. Utah — If you’re looking for a lengthy explanation, did you not read what I wrote in the lede?  Until further notice, impressed with opponent’s winning percentage and so on and so on. (Last Fifth Quarter: No. 2)
Next up: at USC, Oct. 27

2. LSU — Even prior to Week 7, LSU’s résumé was better than the one right below them.  Add in Saturday’s win over a previously unbeaten Florida, and LSU inches closer to Utah and puts more distance between themselves and Baylor. (Last Fifth Quarter: No. 4)
Next up: vs. Western Kentucky, Oct. 24

3. Baylor — The offensive juggernaut that is BU is hard to ignore, even if it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of “traditionalist.”  By any metric, though, even old school types have to admit that the Bears are one of the best teams in college football through seven weeks. (Last Fifth Quarter: No. 3)
Next up: vs. Iowa State, Oct. 24

4. TCU — Fun fact: three of TCU’s seven wins have come by seven points or less, although all three have come against Power Five teams.  I don’t know what that means, but just found it interesting and/or intriguing. (Last Fifth Quarter: No. 1)
Next up: vs. West Virginia, Thursday Oct. 29

5. Ohio State — Putting tOSU back into my Top Five is based solely on the assumption that Urban Meyer will permanently hand the keys to the offense to J.T. Barrett.  Well, that and they actually bore some resemblance to their 2014 selves the past two games.  And, on principle, I just can’t put Michigan State here after the way they remained unbeaten. (Last Fifth Quarter: NR)
Next up: at Rutgers, Oct. 24

(Dropped out: No. 5 Northwestern)
(Others considered: Clemson, Michigan State)

A SCAR THAT WON’T BUFF OUT
There are losses that serve as punches to the gut.  Then there are losses that serve as punches to the gut, followed by a kick to the testicles, followed by a baseball bat upside the head.

The latter is the current state of Michigan fan, who as a collective lost in one of the cruelest ways possible.  Making it worse?  The loss came at the expense of bitter in-state rival Michigan State.

Yep, that sums it up on pretty much any and every level.

SAY IT’S SO?
Please tell me that, even if he’s starring in it, this is a sign that “Punt, Grass & Kick Ass: The Les Miles Story” is coming to the big screen at some point in the future.

ANGER OR APATHY? MEH, WHO CARES
If I’ve said it once I’ve said it at least twice: The enemy of a head coach is not fan anger but rather apathy.  Speaking of which, let’s go to a shot of Miami’s home stadium shortly after the kickoff of today’s game against Virginia Tech.

I can only assume the photo was taken by one of the vultures circling the rotting carcass of Al Golden‘s tenure at The U.

LOUD NOISES!!!
Shawn Elliott was making his debut as South Carolina’s interim head coach following the resignation of Steve Spurrier last week.  Shawn Elliott was, by all appearances, very excited about making his debut as USC’s interim head coach.

I love the smell of burst blood vessels in the morning.

HUMAN HANG-TIME
Normally when you’re talking about a punter and his hang-time, you’re referring to the ball.  In this case, you would be referring to the punter himself.

The landing could use some work, but he did drop himself dead inside the 20.

FAT GUY DROPS A DEUCE
Fat guy touchdowns are rare.  Even rarer?  A fat guy two-point conversion.  There was a sighting of one of those yesterday afternoon, though, as Texas Tech broke into Kliff Kingsbury‘s bag of tricks for this gem, one that also includes a sideways snap from the center.

For the record, that would be 6-5, 308-pound Red Raider offensive lineman Le’Raven Clarke doing the honors.

TWO-FER
Even with a huge matchup with “Little Brother” in the offing, The Game is never far from Michigan fans’ minds.

That said, this was a really craptistic week for GameDay signs — “Connor Cook uses Internet Explorer” was OK, though.  You can tell it’s been awhile since U-M has been on this kind of stage, so a little bit of rust should be expected.

Even so, the costume game was strong with this one…

WHAT THE WHAT?
This may have just about made up for the sign weakness.  Well, not really but still well done.

OH THE HUMANITY…

THE CATCH
Yes, this happened Thursday night, but holy hell does it deserve a nod.  And by it, of course, I’m referring to one of the best catches you’ll ever see at any level of football.

THE REACTION
I don’t know what’s better, The Catch by Stanford’s Francis Owusu or David Shaw‘s reaction to The Catch.

HE SAID IT
Corey Coleman is the best player in college football. You can put me on record with that.” — West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, after watching his Mountaineers get torched by the record-setting Baylor wide receiver

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“This is probably the most significant and major challenge that any of us have ever met.” — Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, after Oklahoma laid a 55-0 shellacking on his squad.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“After he bobbled it, he still thought he could get the ball kicked. But it was a mistake, mistakes were made. It wasn’t fielded cleanly, and once you bobble it a few times, he should’ve just fell on it. Mistakes were made. Very unfortunate.” — Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, after, well, you know.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“It just sucks.” — Michigan defensive tackle Willie Henry after, well, you know.

HE SAID IT, THE FINAL ONE
“Holy —-!!! Are you ——- ——– me!!! No way that just ——- happened!!!” — Me, after, well, you know, because I couldn’t believe what I had just seen and, mainly, because I had to scrap 99 percent of what I had already written and start from scratch.

Meads Cup Final - North Otago v WanganuiSTREAKING
Seven wins to start the 2015 season have pushed Ohio State’s nation’s best winning streak to 20 straight.  Up next are TCU (15), Memphis (13), Clemson (nine) and Toledo (nine).

On the other side of the won-loss ledger, New Mexico State still owns the nation’s longest losing streak, which now stands at 16 straight.  With Wyoming snapping its nine-game losing streak, the second-longest now falls to UCF at seven in a row and North Texas at seven 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 nine straight.

GOING BOWLING
Entering Week 7, there were six teams that had secured bowl eligibility (Florida, Iowa, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, TCU).  Exiting the halfway point of the season, there are now 19 teams eligible for the postseason.  The newest additions totaled a baker’s dozen: Alabama, Baylor, Clemson, Florida State, Houston, LSU, Marshall, Memphis, Notre Dame, Temple, Toledo, Utah and Western Kentucky.

There are 41 bowl games this season — counting the two College Football Playoff semifinals — meaning 82 teams will need to reach the six-win threshold in order for teams with sub-.500 records to remain where they belong: at home during the postseason.

MY ANNUAL REMINDER THAT…
Art Briles has completely and totally revitalized the Baylor football program.  In his seven-plus seasons in Waco, Briles’ Bears have won 36 Big 12 games; the previous 12 years, they won a combined 35 games in conference and non-conference action.

S.I.D NOTE OF THE WEEK
Nevada is the only FBS program with two players that have rushed for more than 600 yards. James Butler has run for 622 yards, while Don Jackson has 613 yards.

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK II
The overtime win at West Virginia in Week 6 moved Oklahoma State to 6-0, marking the fourth time under Mike Gundy that OSU has had a perfect record after six games. OSU had only two 6-0 starts (1945 and 1997) in 103 seasons before Gundy took over in 2005.

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK III
Dating back to the beginning of the 2004 season, ESPN’s College GameDay has had the Washington State flag appear throughout the show. The streak is up to 170 after this week’s appearance in Ann Arbor. Two flags – Ol’ Crimson and Gray – have been flown in the background of the GameDay set by dozens of friends and alumni. The Gray flag was added last year after Whitey was retired in honor of Steve Gleason’s “No White Flags.” WSU recognized the GameDay flag wavers in a pregame ceremony prior to the Montana State game in 2010. In addition to the flags that fly, there is a traveling flag signed by the holders after each episode. The traveling flag is retired after each season, the first of which is hanging in WSU’s Alumni Center.

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK IV
Just five FBS players handle both the punting and place-kicking duties for their teams: Alex Howell (Boston College), Lumi Kabia (Texas State), Dalton Parks (Tulsa), Austin Rehkow (Idaho) and Rigoberto Sanchez (Hawaii).

S.I.D NOTE OF THE WEEK V
Clemson became just the fifth current FBS school with a winning record over Notre Dame (given a minimum of three games). Clemson now has a 2-1 advantage in the series. The others with a series advantage over the Fighting Irish are Florida State (6-2), Michigan (24-17-1), Ohio State (3-2) and Nebraska (8-7-1).

S.I.D NOTE OF THE WEEK VI
Penn State played just its second road game this season after playing the last five consecutive games at home. It was the first five-game homestand at Beaver Stadium, the first overall since 1922 and the third in program history.

OFF THE CHARTS
Courtesy of the Oregon State sports information department

College Towns

OFF THE CHARTS, PART II
Courtesy of the Wyoming sports information department

Single-Game Rushing Highs

OFF THE CHARTS, PART III
Courtesy of the Louisiana-Monroe sports information department

State of Texas

SAY WHAT?
Boston College’s defense had permitted only two touchdowns through its first six games. It was the first FBS defense to allow two or fewer TDs through six games since Wisconsin allowed two in 2004.  In the Week 7 loss to Clemson, BC allowed four offensive touchdowns.

YOU DON’T SAY
UCF has seen a whopping 30 players make their first career starts this season while Kansas has seen 27 do the same, the top two totals in the FBS.  Not surprisingly, both schools, as noted above, are riding lengthy losing streaks that include zero wins in 2015.  Then again, the team No. 3 in first-time starters, TCU with 19, is undefeated and came into Week 7 ranked No. 3 in the country.  The Horned Frogs have also played 29 freshmen (14 true, 15 redshirt) this season, the most of any team.

DULY NOTED
Hawaii had been shut out in its first three trips to the mainland this season, losing by a combined score of 121-0 to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Boise State.  UH scored 27 on the road in a loss to New Mexico in Week 7.


Alabama v Texas A&MDID YOU KNOW THAT…

Derrick Henry has rushed for at least one touchdown in 12 straight games, the best streak in Alabama history and the longest current streak in the FBS?

… with Stanford’s Thursday night win over UCLA, Kevin Hogan became the first quarterback to go 5-0 against a single team in college football history?  Hogan was the starter in regular-season victories from 2012-15 as well as the starter in the 2012 Pac-12 championship game win over the Bruins.

… Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. is the only FBS Player averaging 200-plus yards passing and 100-plus yards rushing per game this season?  In a 42-7 Friday night win over Tulane, Ward Jr. had 222 yards passing and 77 yards rushing.

… LSU’s Leonard Fournette became the quickest to 1,000 rushing yards in SEC history by reaching the mark in the fifth game of the season? The sophomore became the 11th player in FBS history and first since 2006 to reach the mark in 5 games.

… Oklahoma is now 32-0 coming off a regular-season loss during the Bob Stoops‘ era with the Sooners?

Houston v TulaneTom Herman is the second Houston coach to begin his career with six straight wins? He joined John Jenkins, who won his first eight in 1990.

…  this was the fourth straight USC-Notre Dame game in which the Trojans have had a different coach?  The last four, in order, were Lane Kiffin (2012), Ed Orgeron (2013), Steve Sarkisian (2014) and Clay Helton (2015).

… No. 22 Toledo is 6-0 for the first time since 1997, when head coach Gary Pinkel led the Rockets to an 8-0 mark before finishing the season 9-3?

… Air Force and Toledo are the only FBS teams that have yet to allow a sack this season?  Toledo has attempted 200 passes, the Falcons 66.

… only Iowa and TCU have five wins over Power Five teams this season?

… Florida State has zero offensive turnovers through the first six games for the first time in school history?  The Seminoles’ lone turnover this season came on a muffed punt return in Week 1.

… Memphis’ game with Ole Miss was the first in program history that saw the Tigers facing a ranked team while they themselves were ranked?

… Saturday’s game in Columbus against Ohio State was Penn State’s first game outside of Pennsylvania this season?  Their first six games of 2015 were played in the state, five at home and one at Temple in Philadelphia.

West Virginia v Baylor… TCU is the only team this season that is 4-0 in true road games?

… TCU’s 15-game winning streak breaks a school record first set in 1937-38 and then matched in 2008-09?

… Baylor’s 383 points through six games this season are the most by any school since major classification began in 1937?

… entering Week 7, Boise State had not turned the ball over in three straight games for the first time in the program’s history?  Of course, the Broncos promptly coughed the ball over eight times in an embarrassing loss to Utah State Friday night.

… Kentucky’s matchup with Auburn was the first Thursday night game in Commonwealth Stadium history and its first Thursday home game since 1939?

AND FINALLY
As a lot of y’all have mentioned in comments and via email, there was no Fifth Quarter last week, and I guess you deserve some sort of explanation.  Well, it’s a relatively simple and straightforward one: my nine-year-old daughter had a cheerleading competition that kept me away from televisions and computers for the vast majority of the day — and it was well worth a one-week break even if it did freak some people out as her squad finished first.  So, there you have it.  Barring a medical emergency or something unforeseen, the Fifth Quarter will be back every Sunday morning for the stretch run to the end of the regular season.  Consider yourself warned.

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?

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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”