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Big Ten media pegs Michigan as preseason favorite

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The Big Ten did away with its preseason media poll ahead of the 2011 season, so the Cleveland Plain-Dealer has picked up the mantle and carried it for the rest of the conference. The paper polls 34 writers from around the conference, and for the second time in the poll’s nine-year history the consensus found the eventual champion in Ann Arbor.

Following the departures of Urban Meyer and Dwayne Haskins and the arrival of Josh Gattis, the Plain-Dealer‘s poll has anointed 2019 as the year Jim Harbaugh finally gets over the scarlet-and-gray hump standing between him and Indianapolis. In four years under Harbaugh, Michigan has not won the conference or division. In fact, the Wolverines last won the Big Ten in 2004 and are still looking for their first trip to the Big Ten Championship heading into Year 9 of the conference’s title game era.

Which, of course, will make it all the more painful for everyone in maize and blue if it doesn’t happen.

Possibly concerning for the Wolverines: the Big Ten media is no better at prognosticating their conference than any other league. The Plain-Dealer poll has accurately predicted the eventual champion only twice — when Ohio State won the league in 2017 and ’18.

But Michigan is a clear, but not heavy, favorite to dethrone the Buckeyes this year, landing 20 votes to win the East to Ohio State’s 14, with 17 picks to win the conference to Ohio State’s 14. Astute observers will note Michigan and Ohio State gobbled up all 34 available votes to win the East, but the West picture is quite muddied. Nebraska and Iowa each garnered 14 votes to win the division, while Wisconsin, Northwestern and Minnesota drew support as well. One thing everyone can agree on out West? Everyone sees Illinois bringing up the rear.

The full poll:

EAST DIVISION
1. Michigan — 222 total points (20 first-place votes)
2. Ohio State — 214 (14)
3. Michigan State — 156
4. Penn State — 154
5. Indiana — 86.5
6. Maryland — 82.5
7. Rutgers — 37

WEST DIVISION
1. Nebraska — 198 (14)
2. Iowa — 194.5 (14)
3. Wisconsin — 172.5 (4)
4. Northwestern — 142.5 (1)
5. Purdue — 110.5
6. Minnesota — 100 (1)
7. Illinois — 34

The Plain-Dealer also asks its respondents to pick players of the year on each side of the ball, and the poll found Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor as the league’s top offensive player and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young as the top defender. Five players drew at least one first-place vote on offense and six on defense; Taylor was the clear choice on his side of the ball, but Young actually came in third when just examining first-place votes.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor — 78 (21)
2. Purdue WR Rondale Moore — 36 (3)
3. Michigan QB Shea Patterson — 31 (4)
4. Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez — 24 (2)
5. Ohio State RB JK Dobbins — 13 (3)
5. Ohio State QB Justin Fields — 13 (1)
7. Iowa QB Nate Stanley — 4
8. Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke — 2
9. Penn State WR KJ Hamler — 1
9. Wisconsin OL Tyler Biadasz — 1
9. Iowa OL Tristan Wirfs — 1

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Ohio State DE Chase Young — 57 (8)
2. Iowa DE AJ Epenesa — 52 (9)
3. Michigan State DE Kenny Willekes — 41 (10)
4. Northwestern LB Paddy Fisher — 19 (2)
5. Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos — 16 (4)
6. Michigan State LB Joe Bachie — 6 (1)
7. Michigan CB Lavert Hill — 5
8. Minnesota DE Carter Coughlin — 4
9. Michigan S Josh Metellus — 2
10. Penn State LB Micah Parsons — 1
10. Northwestern DE Joe Gaziano — 1

Big Ten media days run Thursday and Friday in Chicago.

Florida State names James Blackman starting QB over Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook

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In this case, the transfer pastures weren’t any greener for a signal-caller — two, actually — who moved on from his first college football home.

Alex Hornibrook left Wisconsin this offseason and ultimately landed at Florida State as a graduate transfer.  Jordan Travis took his leave of Louisville earlier this year and ended up transferring to FSU; Travis was ultimately granted an immediate-eligibility waiver.

With those twin under-center developments, Willie Taggart and the Seminoles navigated a three-headed quarterback competition during the spring and on into summer camp: Hornibrook, Travis and one-time starter James Blackman.  Sunday night, FSU announced that Blackman is its QB1 heading into the opener against Boise State this coming Saturday night.

The naming of Blackman as the starter continues what’s been a roller coaster ride for the redshirt sophomore.

Blackman, who himself placed his name into the transfer portal earlier this year before undergoing a change of heart, started most of the 2017 season due to an injury to starter Deondre Francois, who regained the job in 2018 only to be dismissed from the football program in February of this year.

Blackman was a three-star member of FSU’s 2017 recruiting class. After Francois went down with what turned out to be a season-ending injury in the opener that year, Blackman started the remaining 12 games as a true freshman.  Francois returned as the starter for the vast majority of the 2018 season, missing one game in early November because of a concussion.  Blackman started the lone game Francois didn’t, throwing for 421 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to NC State.

In that initial season in 2017, Blackman completed almost 60 percent of his 297 passes for 2,230 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.  He was able to take a redshirt for this past season despite playing in four games.

Hornibrook, who battled concussion issues the latter half of the 2018 season but was cleared for winter workouts in January, spent the past three seasons as the Badgers’ starting quarterback.  In games in which Hornibrook started during that span, Wisconsin went 26-6.

In 35 career games played with the Badgers, Hornibrook passed for 5,438 yards, 47 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.

This coming season is Hornibrook’s final year of eligibility.

Travis, whose older brother played baseball at FSU a few years ago, was a three-star member of the Cardinals’ 2018 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  As a true freshman this past season, Jackson completed four-of-nine passes for 71 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Because he played in four or fewer games this past year, he took a redshirt for the 2018 season.

Calamity averted: Washington State flag’s College GameDay streak reaches 225 straight

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Courtesy of some expected common sense, a potential national nightmare was averted earlier this weekend.

Along with Lee Corso, one of the constants you can count on seeing when you turn on ESPN‘s College GameDay Saturday mornings during the football season is the Washington State flag flying somewhere in the crowd, regardless of from where the show originates.  Ol’ Crimson first appeared around the GameDay set in Austin on Oct. 4, 2003, and has made it to every show since, a streak of 224 straight appearances.

Unfortunately, there was some serious concern earlier this month that the streak wouldn’t make it to 225.

ESPN announced Aug. 13 that College GameDay would set up camp and televise its popular pregame show from Walt Disney World ahead of the Week 0 Florida-Miami matchup at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium Aug. 24.  In a cruel and potentially streak-ending twist, the Magic Kingdom’s rules prohibit, among other things, flags from being flown on the Walt Disney World Resort Property.

All was right with the world in the end, though, as Ol’ Crimson was indeed front and center ahead of what would turn out to be a Gators win over the Hurricanes as, not surprisingly, Disney bent its rules regarding not only flags but signs as well.

From the Spokesman-Review:

Hey, look at this,” ESPN’s Rece Davis said as the flag was shown. “Look who made it into the Magic Kingdom.”

“The streak’s alive,” Kirk Herbstreit said.

“I want to point out, too, the streak is legit and authentic,” Davis added. “Now, we’ll cooperate with our friends, but Washington State has to do its part and they have.”

Herbstreit chimed in: “They’ve made big efforts throughout this streak and they made another one today.”

“Congrats to the Cougs,” ESPN’s Desmond Howard said.

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick doesn’t sense momentum for CFB Playoff expansion

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We’re at the dawn of a new season in college football but for a lot of folks, the upcoming campaign is a lot more about the ending than the beginning. We’re talking of course about the thing that dominates the debate in the sport for much of the fall: the College Football Playoff.

Though it seems like we’re stuck at four teams in the postseason event for the foreseeable future, expansion of the playoff is a topic that seems like a never ending well. Most want it, but few in power seem to be pushing for it.

That point was reiterated this week by Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. The leader of a program who made last year’s edition of the final four and one of the more powerful people in college athletics recently told the South Bend Tribune that he doesn’t see a move to six or eight teams in the event anytime soon.

I don’t want to speculate on that. I don’t sense a lot of momentum,” Swarbrick said. “But again, this is a group of individuals who cares about college football and think about it all the time. And so that’s all you want, a process where people are always talking about how to make the game better. But I don’t sense any particular momentum for change right now.”

If anybody would have some insight into the thought process regarding expansion, it’s bound to be Swarbrick — who sits on the CFP Management Committee and has his school president on the overarching CFP Board of Managers.

Perhaps something will change by 2025 when the postseason contract comes up with ESPN but until then, get used to four teams.

Missouri AD Jim Sterk is even more mad about NCAA penalties after Mississippi State case

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At some point in the distant future, Missouri fans, coaches, players and administrators will forget about the sanctions that the NCAA handed out to their football program.

That day is not today however.

Hot on the heels of Friday’s decision by the NCAA to slap the wrist of Mississippi State over a somewhat similar academic fraud case, Tigers AD Jim Sterk is telling anybody who will listen just how wronged his school was in the wake of what happened at his SEC rival.

“We believe that the penalties imposed in the recently decided and factually similar case (at Mississippi State) further illustrate that the penalties imposed on Mizzou were excessive and inconsistent with previous case precedent,” Sterk told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We have never wavered from our stance or the merits of our appeal and remain hopeful it will be successful.”

The Tigers are hopeful that an appeal will be decided in the fairly near future and, obviously, that it will be a favorable ruling.

There are a handful of differences between Mizzou’s and the Bulldogs’ cases and enough to make comparing them apples to oranges despite being under the broad umbrella of academic fraud. We’ll see what ultimately ends up happening but something says that short of a complete reversal, Tigers fans and others sporting the gold and black won’t be happy with the NCAA for a long, long time.