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Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, Bama make up initial CFP top four

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With the calendar flipping from October to November, we’re now officially at the launching point for the 2015 postseason.

Tuesday night, the College Football Playoff Committee released what will be the first of six Top 25 rankings that will determine the four playoff participants in the second year of the system. So, without further ado, the CFP’s top four teams are, in order, Clemson, LSU, Ohio State and Alabama.

The Tide’s inclusion, obviously, will likely cause the biggest initial controversy as one-loss ‘Bama took a spot over undefeated Power Five teams like Baylor (No. 6), Michigan State (No. 7), TCU (No. 8), Iowa (No. 9) and Oklahoma State (No. 14).  The rankings do, though, ensure a shakeup next week as No. 2 LSU travels to take on fourth-ranked ‘Bama.

Alabama’s conference, the SEC, leads all leagues with six of the Top 25.  The Big Ten is next with five, followed by the Big 12 with four, Pac-12 with three and ACC two.  The Pac-12’s highest-ranked team, No. 11 Stanford, is the lowest ranked of the five power conferences.

Michigan is the highest-rated two-loss team in the rankings, which, provided they continue to win, would be a boost for the cases of both Ohio State and Michigan State ahead of their huge matchup a couple of months down the road.  There are six teams in the rankings with two losses, with three coming from the SEC (Ole Miss, No. 18; Texas A&M, No. 19; Mississippi State, No. 20) and two from the Big Ten (Michigan; Northwestern, No. 21).

As for the Group of Five, four “mid-majors” earned Top-25 spots: No. 13 Memphis, No. 22 Temple, No. 24 Toledo and No. 25 Houston.  The highest-ranked G5 team in the final rankings will earn a spot in one of the lucrative New Year’s Six bowl games.

In last year initial CFP Top 25, there was exactly one G5 team represented: East Carolina at No. 23.

Below is the complete set of rankings for the College Football Playoff:

CFP Week 1 Rankings

One thing to keep in mind: Whether your school is in or isn’t this first go-around is almost immaterial, at least this early on in the process.

Last year at this time, the first four were, in order, Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss. Only FSU, as the No. 3 seed, ultimately earned one of the four playoff spots. The top two seeds, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon, were ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Oct. 28, 2014, release.

MSU ended up No. 7 in the Top 25 that set the playoff table, with Ole Miss at No. 9. Auburn was a distant No. 19 after opening in the three-hole a month and a half before.

And No. 4 seed Ohio State? They were barely within shouting distance at No. 16 in that first set of rankings, six weeks before earning one of the four semifinal slots and two and a half months before winning the national championship.

“It’s exciting to be back as we kick off the second year of the College Football Playoff,” CFP selection committee chairman and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. “We are little more than half way through the season and a lot of football that remains to be played. This is the first of six rankings. They are the result of games that have been played thus far. Change is guaranteed and that’s what makes college football exciting.”

 

Gary Pinkel undergoing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for a second time

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Former Missouri and Toledo head coach Gary Pinkel revealed in a TV interview on Sunday night that he is once again undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I’m doing good. I had to get treatment again for the first time in four years. My cancer came out of remission, and so I had treatment last month. I’m doing fine,” Pinkel told KMIZ. “With my type of lymphoma, you’ll never be healed. But that’s kind of why I retired when I did – I just wanted to not go back and regret working 85 hours a week, 35 weeks out of the year when I could be doing other things with my family and my eight grandkids.”

Pinkel was originally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in May of 2015 and stepped down after that season. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that begins in the lymph nodes and then spreads throughout the body.

“You keep battling it. I’m going to battle it, Pinkel said. “I’ve got a very positive approach to it, and I’m around a lot of good people that are helping me. There’s a lot of people out there with a lot worse cancers than Gary Pinkel has, and so prayers to all of them.”

Since retiring, Pinkel has used his time as a fundraiser for Missouri and also running the GP M.A.D.E. Foundation, which supports children with cancer and also provides mentoring for at-need kids.

Pinkel, 63, was 191-110-3 as a head coach at two schools over 25 seasons.

 

Former Bengals offensive coordinator reportedly joining Florida support staff

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Former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese is joining Florida’s staff as an analyst, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Benoit.

Zampese spent the 2016-17 seasons as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator after serving 13 seasons as Marvin Lewis‘s quarterbacks coach. Cincinnati went 13-18-1 in Zampese’s two seasons running the offense, which is why he spent 2018 as the Cleveland Browns’ quarterbacks coach and the first part of 2019 as the offensive coordinator for the AAF’s Atlanta Legends.

He is the son of former Chargers, Rams, Cowboys and Patriots offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese.

It is not immediately known what the younger Zampese’s role will be with the Gators, but his experience indicates he’ll work with Dan Mullen and coordinators John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales to develop Florida’s offensive plan and help Brian Johnson tutor the quarterbacks, or perhaps use his coordinator experience to self-scout Florida’s offense and scout Florida’s future opponents.

Arizona launched hostile workplace probe following sexual harassment claims against Wildcat football players

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Arizona launched a hostile workplace investigation into its football program following multiple claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment made by multiple female equipment managers against multiple former Wildcat football players, the program confirmed to the Tucson Daily Star.

Lawyers representing the university did not say when the probe took place, but did say it was sparked by two complaints made by female equipment mangers. From the paper:

In 2014, two UA students who worked as equipment managers separately reported incidents involving nonconsensual sex with football players. In August of that year, police were told that a 21-year-old woman working for the athletic department had sex at least twice with three UA football players while the she was heavily intoxicated. One of the players recorded at least one of the encounters and showed it to other students, the report said.

The woman told police that she lost her job after the recording was released, according to the report.

….

While investigating the woman’s claim, UA’s Title IX office approached former manager Jacquelyn Hinek, who had quit her job months before, citing pervasive sexual harassment. After speaking to UA investigators, Hinek told Tucson police that she had been sexually assaulted in April 2013 by several men associated with the football team while at an off-campus party. She said the incident was recorded on a cell phone and later shown to other students. 

“The Office of Institutional Equity conducted a thorough review of the football equipment manager program and there were no findings of sex discrimination as a result of that investigation,” UA spokesman Chris Sigurdson told the paper via email.

The probe was one of three major investigations into the football program.

Arizona is currently being sued for Title IX violations by an alleged victim of former Wildcats running back Orlando Bradford, whom the victim says hit, choked and imprisoned her over a 2-day period in September 2016. Bradford is currently serving a 5-year prison sentence, but the Title IX suit seeks to depose a number of key figures within the football program, including former head coach Rich Rodriguez, who himself was the subject of a hostile workplace investigation in 2017. Allegations of sexual harassment made by his former assistant led to his dismissal last January. Rodriguez has denied any sexual harassment claims, arguing instead they were an extortion attempt against him.

In total, Arizona said it investigated 27 athletes or athletic department employees for sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence from 2012 through ’17 (the period coinciding with Rodriguez’s hiring and firing), eight of them involving the football program.

UConn reportedly looking to keep football program in FBS, not FCS

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All the reporting that came out since the bombshell reports saying Connecticut is looking to leave the American Athletic Conference to rejoin the non-football Big East have confirmed that, yes, this is really happening, likely in time for the 2020-21 athletic year. The reporting has also said that UConn’s soon-to-be-homeless football program will not drop down to FCS, but instead join a different conference or try to make it as an FBS independent.

On Saturday, Stadium’s Brett McMurphy tweeted that UConn has determined it will not return to FCS, where the program competed for most of its history before joining the then-power conference Big East in 2004.

On Sunday morning, NCAA.com’s Andy Katz followed with a note saying it looked like the Huskies will try to make a go of it as an independent, writing that UConn will attempt to schedule neighbors like UMass (a fellow independent), Boston College, Syracuse and Rutgers while honoring existing contracts for home-and-homes with Duke, Illinois, NC State and others.

For a check in with someone who might actually know something, let’s see what Huskies head coach Randy Edsall has to say.

Oh, well.

Either way, it sounds like the train is moving and we could hear something official sooner rather than later.