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Air Force issues release further clarifying policy change

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One of the more eyebrow-raising headlines from the most NFL draft has added another layer.

Shortly before the start of the draft Thursday, and to the surprise of at least a couple of eligible players, it was revealed to NFL teams that Air Force would no longer approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty service in order to be allowed to play professional football.  Such a change effectively made players like Falcons wide receiver Jalen Robinette and, possibly, safety Weston Steelhammer undraftable.

A mini-imbroglio ensued, with the agent for one player impacted by the abrupt shift in policy hinting at a potential legal challenge.

Given the negative headlines the shift generated, Air Force felt compelled to issue another press release, if for nothing more than to inform the masses that the same policy applies to their service academy rivals as well.

Below is the latest release, in its entirety:

As released earlier today, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has rescinded the policy to allow cadet-athletes to apply for Ready Reserve status immediately after graduation to participate in professional activities/sports. The Air Force Academy released a statement from the Air Force prior to the NFL draft this week so NFL teams would be aware that the service would no longer support these requests and they could conduct their business in good faith, as Air Force Academy cadet Jalen Robinette was the lone NFL Draft prospect from any of the academies.

With the release of the new OSD policy which reverts back to all service academy graduates and ROTC members serving two years on active duty, all three service academies are under the same guidance moving forward. Air Force Academy cadets Jalen Robinette and Griffin Jax look forward to graduation and commissioning in May. Their conduct exemplifies the character and dignity one would expect from a soon-to-be Air Force second lieutenant. Both of these cadets remain in excellent standing at the Academy and should have an opportunity to pursue their professional athletic goals after serving two years as officers in the Air Force should they choose.

Alabama RB Damien Harris (mild concussion) back at practice, status for Iron Bowl up in the air

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Alabama’s leading rusher is making progress, but whether it will lead to an Iron Bowl appearance remains to be seen.

Damien Harris sustained a hard hit early in the fourth quarter of UA’s win over Citadel and didn’t return.  Following the game, Nick Saban confirmed that the running back had sustained what he described as a “mild concussion.”

Harris didn’t practice Monday but was able to return Tuesday, albeit while wearing a non-contact jersey and limited to some individual drills.  With rival Auburn on tap this weekend, Harris’ status will likely be determined later in the week.

“As everyone knows, we have a concussion protocol,” the head coach said. “Because we have a baseline test on every player and when a player gets back to his baseline… this was called a mild concussion, and hopefully he’ll be back to his baseline soon and he can resume activity when that occurs.”

Through 11 games, Harris is the defending national champion’s leading rusher with 678 yards on the ground.  He had 83 yards on just seven carries against the Bulldogs, including a 73-yard run that ended with the head injury.

Najee Harris‘ 639 yards are second on the team.

Oregon, Oklahoma State line up home-and-home

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Oregon and Oklahoma State will conduct a home-and-home series in 2025-26, the schools jointly announced on Tuesday.

Oregon will host the Cowboys on Sept. 6, 2025, while Oklahoma State will return the favor on Sept. 12, 2026.

The schools have met once prior, a 42-31 upset Oregon win in the 2008 Holiday Bowl.

The Ducks also have a home-and-home with Boise State lined up for 2025-26, with hosting duties swapped from its Oklahoma State series. The Oklahoma State series also comes amid a phase of Big 12 non-conference games for the Ducks; they’ll play Texas Tech in 2023-24 and Baylor in 2027-28. Oregon also has future home-and-homes with Ohio State (2020-21) and Michigan State (2029-30), plus neutral site games with Auburn in Dallas to open 2019 and against Georgia in Atlanta to begin the 2022 campaign.

For Oklahoma State, the Oregon series are the only games on the books for 2025-26 at this point and also comes amid a run of home-and-homes against teams from out west. The Pokes, who hosted Boise State in September, begin a home-and-home with Oregon State next season, will pay a return visit to Boise State in 2021, and will play a home-and-home with Arizona State in 2022-23. The Oregon series is sandwiched between a home-and-home with Arkansas in 2024 and ’27.

Top eight remains unchanged in latest College Football Playoff rankings

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The fourth College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night and, for the third straight week, they remained largely the same as the top eight teams remain unchanged.

Since the first set of CFP rankings were revealed on Oct. 30, only one team in the committee’s original top eight teams has dropped a game — and that team (LSU) fell only from No. 3 to No. 7 — meaning the same eight teams have occupied the top eight spots for the entire 2018 CFP ranking season to date.

There was some question whether Washington State, who led Arizona 51-14 at halftime on Saturday night, would jump No. 7 LSU (who played Rice) and perhaps No. 6 Oklahoma (who allowed 40 points to Kansas at home) but the committee’s opinion held firm.

UCF became the first Group of 5 to ever join the CFP’s top 10, leaping Ohio State to check in at No. 9, a reward for the Knights’ convincing win over then-No. 24 Cincinnati. They are the first Group of 5 team since 2015 to jump a Power 5 team that won the prior week. Ohio State, of course, beat Maryland by one in overtime after the Terps misfired on an open 2-point pass.

West Virginia dropped four spots from No. 9 to No. 13, putting the Mountaineers behind 3-loss Florida and Penn State. Unlike the AP poll, WVU is one spot ahead of Texas — which makes sense given the Mountaineers have one fewer loss and won on the Longhorns’ field.

Syracuse fell eight spots to No. 20 following a 36-3 loss to Notre Dame, allowing Northwestern to join the top-20 at No. 19. The Big Ten West champions are not the highest-ranked 4-loss team, checking in one spot below Mississippi State.

Texas A&M rejoined the rankings at No. 22, while Iowa State plummeted from No. 16 to No. 25 after the loss to Texas.

The full rankings:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan
5. Georgia
6. Oklahoma
7. LSU
8. Washington State
9. UCF
10. Ohio State
11. Florida
12. Penn State
13. West Virginia
14. Texas
15. Kentucky
16. Washington
17. Utah
18. Mississippi State
19. Northwestern
20. Syracuse
21. Utah State
22. Texas A&M
23. Boise State
24. Pittsburgh
25. Iowa State

Iowa State forced to swap Incarnate Word for Drake as make-up opponent

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Most college football schedule is done years, if not decades in advance. Not for Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard. He’s had to line up two separate make-up game opponents within the same season.

The Cyclones were supposed to open this season with South Dakota State but, like Nebraska, the game had to be cancelled due to heavy thunderstorms in the Midwest. Whereas Nebraska was able to line up and play Bethune-Cookman on Oct. 27, Iowa State was not able to schedule a make-up game until Dec. 1, against Incarnate Word. Delaying the game so far into the calendar opened up the possibility it could be cancelled due to either Iowa State making the Big 12 Championship or UIW making the FCS playoffs. Remote as they seemed at the time, those possibilities floated out there in the distance.

Well, Iowa State (6-4, 5-3 Big 12) will not play for the Big 12 title, thanks to last Saturday’s loss to Texas. But Incarnate Word, 2-9 a year ago and playing under first-year head coach Eric Morris, managed to make the FCS playoffs. The 6-4 Cardinals, co-champions of the Southland Conference, snared an at-large bid and will open their first playoff run at Montana State on Saturday.

Given that their make-up opponent may not be available, Iowa State had to line up a make-up to the make-up opponent and found one in another FCS school — Drake.

“We’re most grateful to Drake Athletics Director Brian Hardin, Coach Rick Fox and the Bulldog leadership team for working with us through a very fluid situation,” Pollard said. “Coach (Matt) Campbell wants to play a 12th game and I believe our fans would welcome another chance to see this bowl-bound team play. I know the Bulldogs will enjoy the chance to play at Jack Trice Stadium and compete against a Power 5 opponent.”

Drake is located in Des Moines, just a 40 minute drive directly south on Interstate 35 from Ames, while Incarnate Word is located in San Antonio.

While Drake will not have to make a long trip to play this hastily-scheduled make-up game, it is still a significant undertaking for the Bulldogs. Drake competes in the Pioneer Football League, which does not offer scholarships. The Bulldogs went 7-3 overall and 6-2 in PFL play, completing their scheduled season with 43-6 win over Morehead State last Saturday.

They’ll have one more opponent to face this fall, and it’s a significant step up from their regular competition.

The game will kickoff at noon ET.