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Mountain West commish says new TV deal could be done in next month

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TV revenues have skyrocketed for those schools in the Power Five and now it’s time for a few leagues in the Group of Five to get their turn at the table. Following large deals from the MAC and AAC in recent years, the Mountain West is the next man up and it appears as though a deal could be wrapped up soon.

Speaking to reporters at the conference’s basketball media day on Tuesday, commissioner Craig Thompson said he expects something to be announced at some point in the next 30 days or so on the media rights front. One sticking point for both the league and member schools? The number of late night kickoffs (often pushing past 7 or 8 p.m. local) involved in the deal, which is expected to carry a higher price-tag precisely because MWC schools can kickoff that late to fill such time slots on the TV schedule.

“Let me just say this, there will be 8 o’clock tipoffs and kickoffs,” Thompson said, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I know that’s a concern for everybody – for fans, administrators. If we can possibly get the number 7 in there it would be a real bonus.”

Late night kickoffs have been an issue for Pac-12 schools as well in recent years and their Group of Five neighbor understands just as much the tough calculus to make between a game starting at a reasonable hour and the bigger paycheck that awaits when filling a time slot too late for most.

Thompson declined to get into much in terms of what kind of dollars the conference is expecting but it would be a surprise if it’s not a hefty raise over their current deals with ESPN and CBS Sports. Interestingly the commissioner noted that for as successful as the MWC has been this year, the kind of on-field performance that comes with knocking off several of their Power Five brethren isn’t really a factor in negotiations. 

While there are a lot of unknowns as a result with the upcoming TV deal in terms of years, money and partners, it was already revealed earlier this year that Boise State’s sweetheart carve-out that pays the Broncos extra money will remain once the new contracts are signed. That carve-out dates back to when the school briefly left for the Big East but decided to remain in the MWC during one of the many rounds of conference realignment.

Industry observers and conference fans are anxiously awaiting details given how long the process has played out but it seems everybody won’t have to wait much longer before things become official out West. 

LeBron James throws support behind California bill to pay players

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Football players and other college athletes in the state of California appear to be getting a big boost of support from the state’s most famous basketball player.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James tweeted his support on Thursday for California Assembly Bill SB 206, which is labeled as the “Fair Pay to Play Act” and is designed to allow players at the state’s major universities to receive compensation related to their name, image and likeness.

The bill has drawn the ire of the NCAA and the schools that will be impacted despite the fact that it would only go into effect in 2023 if passed. As it currently stands, players receiving any compensation for their names, image or likeness is a violation of the organization’s bylaws.

While the NCAA has created a committee to study such payments and any related changes, the folks in Indianapolis are not at all happy to be dealing with lawmakers intent on pushing them into something before they’re ready. California isn’t even the only one pursuing the idea as a federal version is also in the works from by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT).

James has been an outspoken critic of the NCAA over the years so it’s not surprising to see him voice his support for something like SB 206. The bill appears likely to pass once it makes its way through the legislative process and that seems doubly so after one of the biggest names on the planet is encouraging those to get out the vote on the subject.


CFT Cheat Sheet: What to know for Week 2

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A quick primer on who, what and where to look for/at as we head into Week 2 of the 2019 college football season.


  • Let’s face it: Week 1 was, by and large, a scheduling dud, with just one ranked-on-ranked game — and zero Top 10 matchups — on the opening weekend docket.  This week, though, college football fans will feast on the likes of No. 12 Texas A&M-No. 1 Clemson and the first Top 10 tilt of the season in No. 6 LSU-No. 9 Texas.  Toss in Army and its 10-game winning streak traveling to the Big House to face No. 7 Michigan; a Cincinnati squad that took care of UCLA in the opener heading up I-71 to No. 5 Ohio State; and No. 25 Stanford vs. USC in what is now the Backup Bowl, and Week 2 is setting up to be a much more palatable Saturday of football.  Oh, and there is also…
  • No. 25 Nebraska making its way to Colorado to take on the Buffaloes.  The Men of Corn vs. Ralphie.  The former Big 8/12 rivals have played 69 times previously, but just once (2018) since NU bolted to the Big Ten ahead of the 2011 season.  The Cornhuskers will be making their first trek to Boulder since the 2009 season, with what some would call memories of dirty pool still fresh in the Blackshirts’ minds.
  • What can Jalen Hurts do for an encore?  In making his Oklahoma debut, all the former Alabama quarterback did was set career-highs with 332 passing yards (previous best was 248), 176 rushing yards (154), and three rushing touchdowns (two). The three passing touchdowns tied his previous career-best set against FCS Mercer in November of 2017.  With FCS South Dakota on tap, don’t expect to see Hurts on the field for more than a half of action — but do expect some additional video game-like numbers.
  • Can the Mountain West Conference even remotely come close to matching its Week 1 success?  Four teams from the MWC scored wins over Power Five schools last weekend — Nevada over Purdue, Boise State over Florida State, Wyoming over Missouri, Hawaii over Arizona.  In Week 2, four more MWC schools will square off with Power Five teams — Hawaii-Oregon State, Nevada-Oregon, San Diego State-UCLA, Fresno State-Minnesota.  According to the Westgate sportsbook, three more upsets are certainly within the realm of possibility as the Bulldogs, Rainbow Warriors and Aztecs are 3-, 6½- and 7½-point underdogs, respectively.  The Wolf Pack upending the Ducks, on the other hand, would be a significant upset as the latter is set as a 24-point favorite.
  • In two-plus seasons, Jonathan Taylor has averaged 156 yards rushing per game.  A year ago, Central Michigan was 104th nationally in giving up 204.7 yards per game on the ground. No. 17 Wisconsin will play host to CMU Saturday as Taylor continues his climb toward becoming the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher (Taylor has 4,306, record-holder Donnell Pumphrey had 6,405) in just three seasons.
  • Owners of the second-longest Power Five losing streak in conference play — Rutgers is first at 12 straight — Arkansas hasn’t won an SEC game since beating Ole Miss in late October of 2017, a string of 11 losses in a row.  Saturday, the Razorbacks go on the road to face… the Rebels in Oxford.  Just throwing that out there.


  • No. 6 LSU (-6) at No. 9 Texas — Who would’ve thought that an LSU game would feature a two-sided battle of the quarterbacks?  That will be the case this week as the Tigers’ Joe Burrow tossed five touchdowns in a half’s work of work, while the Longhorns’ Sam Ehlinger was very efficient in throwing four touchdowns of his own in their opener.
  • No. 12 Texas A&M at No. 1 Clemson (-17) — As evidenced by one pregame guarantee, this will be a revenge game for A&M as an Aggies failed two-point conversion late in the fourth — which was preceded by a critical fourth-quarter fumble and two missed first-half field goal attempts — allowed the Tigers to escape College Station with a 28-26 win en route to the 2018 national championship.
  • Army at No. 7 Michigan (-22) — ‘Merica’s Team is riding a 10-game winning streak, the second-longest in the country.  Conversely, the Black Knights are on a staggering 45-game losing streak against ranked teams, with Army’s last win coming against then-No. 19 Air Force in November of 1972.  Michigan’s last loss to a service academy? October of 1967 to Navy.
  • No. 25 Stanford at USC (-1) — The Trojans knew early on that they would be without their starting quarterback as J.T. Daniels suffered a torn ACL in the season opener.  The Cardinal, after a week’s worth of theirs dealing with a head injury that had him officially listed as questionable, will officially be without their starter, K.J. Costello, as well.  As a result, both schools will have first-time starters under center (redshirt sophomore Davis Mills for the Cardinal, true freshman Kedon Slovis for the Trojans).
  • Cincinnati at No. 5 Ohio State (-16) — Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell returns to The Horseshoe to face the Buckeyes, where the Columbus native once served as a player (1993-96), assistant coach (1999; 2002-10; 2012-16) and interim head coach (2011).  OSU has played 41 games versus in-state schools; they have won each one, including all five against UC.
  • Miami (-4) at North Carolina — There’s a bit of a past between the two head coaches in this matchup as Miami’s Manny Diaz served as North Carolina’s Mack Brown‘s defensive coordinator at Texas before Brown fired him in September of 2013 after giving up 550 yards rushing in a Week 2 loss to BYU. More importantly, The U will be looking to avoid its first 0-2 start since 1978.


  • BEST: Cal (+14) at Washington.  I’m taking Cal’s defense and running with the points as Washington’s offense is still a work in progress after losing the school’s all-time leading passer, rusher.
  • WORST: Nebraska (-3½) at Colorado.  Nebraska barely escaped against South Alabama in the opener, and actually opened as an eight-point favorite over Colorado before the (smart) money started flowing in on the home team.
  • COVER SPECIAL:  Nevada (+24) at Oregon.  The MWC school won’t beat Oregon outright, but the team that knocked off Purdue in Week 1 will cover.


  1. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 3) — Six touchdowns and 500-plus yards of offense in the opener earns you the top spot.
  2. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (No. 2) — The junior had almost as many touchdowns (four) as incompletions (five) vs. Duke.
  3. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (unranked) — Etienne had 205 yards and three touchdowns on just a dozen carries.
  4. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (No. 5) — After zero receiving touchdowns his first two seasons, Taylor had two in the opener (plus two on the ground).
  5. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (No. 4) — Five total touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) in first career start.
  6. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas (No. 6) — Four passing touchdowns, 169.4 pass efficiency rating.
  7. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (No. 1) — Lawrence had four interceptions as a true freshman; he had two in the opener.
  8. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (unranked) — Burrow’s five first-half touchdown tosses set the school’s single-game record.
  9. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (No. 8) — Performed reasonably well (242 yards,1 TD, 0 picks) against one of the best defenses he’ll face in 2019.
  10. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (unranked) — I’ve decided to put a non-QB/RB in the 10th spot moving forward, and the Tide junior (10-137-1) is a good start.

(DROPPED OUT: Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez (No. 7), Georgia QB Jake Fromm (No. 9), Ohio State RB JK Dobbins (No. 10))

BRYAN FISCHER (@BryanDFischer): Arkansas (+6½) upsets Ole Miss for their first SEC win in 679 days. The Razorbacks were uninspiring — to say the least — in their opener against Portland State, but they move to 2-0 with a last-minute win at the Rebels as Chad Morris breaks through and Matt Luke‘s hot seat turns to lava.
ZACH BARNETT (@zach_barnett): Tennessee drops to 0-2. The Vols didn’t lose to Georgia State because they were dehydrated, a la Florida State. They lost because Georgia State was a better football team. BYU is, too.
KEVIN MCGUIRE (@KevinOnCFB): There is a lot of speculation that Army and Cincinnati will give Michigan and Ohio State, respectively, some good battles. I don’t see it happening. After some slow starts in the first quarter, both the Buckeyes and Wolverines romp at home this week.
: Joe Burrow set a school record with five touchdown passes in the season opener a week ago; that benchmark will last exactly seven days as Burrow will break his own record by tossing six in LSU’s win over Texas in what will be an unexpectedly high-scoring affair.

Wide receiver vs. cornerback battles in games such as Texas-LSU, Stanford-USC, Nebraska-Colorado and Texas A&M-Clemson are the flavors of the week as our buddies over at Rotoworld place their weekly spotlight on next-level players.  For the entire extensively-detailed piece, click HERE.

Washington transfer QB Jake Haener reportedly enrolled at Fresno State

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Last month, Washington confirmed that former Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason had been named as the Huskies’ starting quarterback. A day later, UW confirmed that one of the signal-callers on the wrong side of the competition, redshirt sophomore Jake Haener, had decided to leave the football program and would be placing his name into the NCAA transfer database.

It was subsequently reported that Fresno State was a potential landing spot; Wednesday, that possibility became an unofficial reality as it’s now being reported that Haener has enrolled in classes at the university.  The football program has yet to confirm the player’s addition to the roster.

After sitting out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Haener would then have two years of eligibility beginning in 2020.

A three-star 2017 signee, Haener was rated as the No. 25 pro-style quarterback in the country. After redshirting as a true freshman, Haener completed nine of his 13 passes for 107 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Haener will be permitted to practice with his new Bulldogs teammates and get a head start on competing for the starting job next season as this year’s starter, Jorge Reyna, is a fifth-year senior.  FSU also has a pair of redshirt freshmen on the roster, Ben Wooldridge and Steven Comstock, who will likely be a part of the competition starting next spring as well.

USC survives injury to starting QB J.T. Daniels to escape with win over Fresno State

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Saturday night’s season opener for USC was supposed to be a fresh start. There was a fancy renovated Coliseum to showcase, a brand new offense to unveil and a chance for the Trojans to wash away the memories of last year’s losing season.

Unfortunately for the once proud Pac-12 bell cow and their embattled head coach, anything that could have gone wrong in their contest against Fresno State probably did early on in a slim 31-23 win over the defending Mountain West champs that was anything but easy.

Trojans starting quarterback J.T. Daniels was undoubtedly the story of the game. After getting off to a good start in running the team’s Air Raid offense for the first time (215 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), the sophomore suffered the double whammy of taking a sack just before halftime that also resulted in a serious lower leg injury. Trainers checked out his knee for several minutes and had to carry him off the field before eventually loading him into the cart.

Daniels did not return and later returned to the sidelines on crutches and with a brace on his right knee — casting doubt on his status for the rest of the young season.

Taking over behind center was true freshman Kedon Slovis, who surprisingly won the backup job out of camp and seems to be the likely starter going forward. While he did throw an absolute arm punt of an interception, he also lofted a superb deep ball down the sidelines to set up a third quarter touchdown and finished the night 6-of-8 for 57 yards and plenty of promise.

Wideout Velus Jones, who had his first kick return of the game (61 yards) called back on a penalty, turned on the jets for a 101 yard touchdown return in the second half to help the cause. Fellow receiver Tyler Vaughns also went off in the passing game by hauling in 11 catches for a career-high 150 yards while tailback Stephen Carr chipped in with a score rushing plus receiving and Vavae Malepeai had a career-high 134 yards on the ground.

Despite all of that firepower, Fresno State would not go quietly into the Los Angeles night under old foe Jeff Tedford and made things interesting throughout.

Making his first start as the new signal-caller after several seasons as the backup, Jorge Reyna did what he could to rally the Bulldogs with his arm and his legs. The senior from Southern California wound up throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns (one INT) while also torching USC to the tune of 109 on the ground as the team’s leading rusher. It often felt like he was a one-man band at times given the amount of scrambling he needed to do in the face of a tough SC front seven but it just wasn’t enough as his supporting cast couldn’t quite come up with equally elevated play.

Still, there were plenty of nerves on high alert around the Coliseum as a result of Fresno State’s efforts and even more folks left wondering if Clay Helton’s tenure on the sidelines in Los Angeles is all but certainly over in the wake of Daniels’ injury and some questionable decisions down the stretch. The night started out with a penalty on the very first kick return to sour things from the get-go and the crowd for the first game at the renovated stadium was nearly 20,000 under capacity for a fellow in-state team.

There’s still a ton of season left to go at USC but Saturday night sure felt as much like a loss for some around the program as it did the first win in 2019.