Frantic college football week from Kelly back to Fisher out

College football news moved faster this week than Oregon's offense in Chip Kelly's hey-day with the Ducks, and the blur started with Kelly himself deciding to return to the Pac-12.In a span of a week, four Southeastern Conference teams hired new coaches, including Texas A&M, which pulled off the rare feat of luring a coach away from a school where he had won a national championship. Tennessee was the centerpiece of the surreal seven days, courting at least four coaches and then changing athletic directors. Texas A&M's gain was Florida State's loss as the Seminoles will put a help-wanted sign on the program for the first time in 42 years. There was so much going on that the culmination of Mississippi's long and winding NCAA investigation barely caused a ripple.And there was still a little matter of playing the most important games of the season.Championship Saturday features five games that will set the College Football Playoff and New Year's six bowls. There are four matchups of teams ranked in the AP top 10, something that has only happened one other time in the 81-year history of Associated Press poll. On Sunday, the final four will be set.The games seem like an afterthought as coaching moves and missteps — mostly the latter by Tennessee — have dominated the headlines."Let me be clear: It has not overshadowed this event," Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey said. "Do I wish these things had not happened? Absolutely."On the eve of the SEC championship game, the snarled Tennessee coaching search took another bizarre turn. The school moved to fire athletic director John Currie just hours after he met with Washington State coach Mike Leach in Los Angeles. In stepped, Phillip Fulmer, the Hall of Fame coach who led Tennessee to the national championship in 1998, to be named AD and reboot the search. This mess started in Knoxville last Sunday when Tennessee fans revolted over the impending hiring of Greg Schiano as coach. After Schiano, Continue Reading

Which college football team’s new starting quarterback will make the biggest impact?

As the backup quarterback for North Carolina in 2015, Mitch Trubisky completed 40 of 47 attempts for 555 yards and six touchdowns. In other words, in limited duty the then-sophomore had just one more incompletion than scoring strike. Not too bad.So expectations were pretty high entering last fall, his first in the starting lineup. And he met those head on: Trubisky tossed 30 touchdowns for the Tar Heels before becoming the No. 2 overall pick in the recent NFL draft.Who’s the next first-year starter at his respective program on the Power Five ranks to have a Trubisky-like rise from the backup job to the top of the Football Bowl Subdivision rankings? This week’s top 10 list attempts to answer the question. 1. Jarrett Stidham, AuburnFormerly at Baylor, Stidham will take the reins at Auburn and almost certainly flourish in Gus Malzahn’s system. Big arm? Running ability? Overall athleticism? Familiarity and comfort in the system? He checks all the boxes. 2. Nic Shimonek, Texas TechShimonek moves into the starting role after spelling Patrick Mahomes for two early season games in 2016. In one, a laugher against Kansas, Shimonek completed 15 of 21 attempts for 271 yards and four scores — all in the second half. He’ll be the next Kliff Kingsbury-coached quarterback to shine in the Red Raiders’ system. 3. Tanner Lee, NebraskaHe’s a first-year starter at Nebraska but not an inexperienced option: Lee started two years at Tulane before transferring before last season. While Tommy Armstrong was a gutsy, agile and fairly productive contributor for the Cornhuskers, Lee represents a dramatic upgrade for Mike Riley. He’ll also allow Riley and his offensive staff to implement their desired scheme. MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS 4. Will Grier, West VirginiaThe former Florida transfer will assume the top spot from Skyler Howard, who had a solid final season, and should quickly have a hugely positive impact on the Mountaineers’ Continue Reading

What to watch for in college football spring games

It wasn’t so long ago that watching just one spring game was a treat. Remember? Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for every team in a Power Five conference to have its end-of-spring game televised by one outlet or another.It’s nice to have football. There will be no complaining. The spring can nonetheless be an overwhelming experience for those discerning consumers looking for some offseason insight during the busy month of April.We’re here to help. With the heart of spring drills set for the coming weeks — the next two Saturdays in particular — this week’s top 10 list provides a viewing tip sheet: What are the most important items to keep under consideration this spring for college football’s best teams? 1. Ohio State’s offensive rebuildSpring game: Saturday, April 15Saturday marks our first live look at how the Buckeyes’ system will look under new coordinator Kevin Wilson. Don’t expect fireworks: OSU won’t be able to unveil the full range of its new offense until fall camp. But how capably this passing game will deliver in Wilson’s scheme is one of the offseason’s defining story lines across all of college football. 2. Michigan’s young wide receiversSpring game: Saturday, April 15With so much production lost to graduation, the Wolverines begin a rebuild at receiver by leaning toward youth. Two freshmen enrolled early, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black, giving both a substantial leg up in the race for snaps. The team’s leading returning receiver is fullback Khalid Hill — a fantastic fullback, to be sure, but a fact that speaks to the coaching staff’s need to develop its inexperienced unit before entering the long offseason. If that’s too boring, just keep your eyes on sophomore defensive lineman Rashan Gary. 3. The Sam Darnold showSpring game: Saturday, April 15Southern California's sophomore star is only scratching the surface of his Continue Reading

News’ College Football Preview: Preseason Top 25 rankings

Remind us never to underestimate Florida coach Urban Meyer again, having watched him coach Utah to an unbeaten season in 2004 and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Pitt, and then lead the mighty Florida Gators to national championships in 2006 and 2008. This could be his best team ever, with at least eight players - QB Tim Tebow, C Maurkice Pouncey, TE Aaron Hernandez, WR/KR Brandon James, DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Joe Haden and S Ahmad Black - who could make somebody's All-American team. Repeating is never easy, especially in the rugged SEC, but Meyer's players are excited about the possibilities. "Three national championships and a chance to rewrite history," Spikes said. "It would be a great thing, a chance to be remembered forever, go down in the books as one of the greatest teams ever."Here is the Daily News Preseason Top 25 (2008 records in parentheses):It may be hard to believe, but this Gators team could be better than last year's national champions. Florida, which won two national championships in the past three years, is a dynasty in the making. Innovative coach Urban Meyer has an embarrassment of riches after senior QB Tim Tebow and senior LB Brandon Spikes both passed on the NFL draft. Tebow, a three-year starter, is college football's MVP. Spikes is the best player on a loaded defense that returns every member of its two-deep roster. Look for TB Chris Rainey to replace Percy Harvin as the team's biggest game breaker.The Sooners merit a slight edge on Texas in the Big 12 because Bob Stoops persuaded Heisman Trophy-winning Sam Bradford to return for his junior year while TE Jermaine Gresham, DT Gerald McCoy and OT Trent Williams also stayed in school. OU should be sufficiently motivated for a rematch against Florida in the BCS title game after its loss to the Gators last January.QB Colt McCoy came back for his senior year to win a national championship, and both he and sixth-year senior WR Jordan Shipley can make the Longhorns' passing game sizzle. Continue Reading

How the ‘monster’ of college football took its toll on University of Florida coach Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer has no hobby, rarely plays golf, reads very few books and fills his life with football and family. The one place the University of Florida coach finds refuge is at his Central Florida lake home where he sometimes takes his young son Nate for a pre-dawn boat ride - Urban with his coffee, Nate with his cereal.Together they drink in the sunrise over the ancient cypress trees. It is about the only place where Meyer finds peace and solace from what he calls "The Monster" - the unrelenting pressure of running a high-octane football program.In boxing parlance, Meyer always lectures his team about toughness and getting up after being knocked down. Yet it was Meyer, at just 45, who found himself on the floor on the night of Dec. 6, waylaid by symptoms of a heart attack. He had to be helped up by his wife, Shelley, who called 911, told the dispatcher that her husband had complained of tingling in his side and chest pains. She said Meyer had taken an Ambien sleeping pill a few hours earlier and that she was having a hard time waking him up. Paradmedics arrived and rushed him to the hopsital. Twenty days later he resigned, citing health concerns. Twenty-four hours after that he changed his mind and said he was merely taking a leave of absence.Meyer's coaching career hangs in balance, his health issues a conundrum. His medical history includes major attacks of anxiety with episodes of unconsciousness associated with a benign arachnoid cyst on his brain which caused him to pass out several times when he was an assistant coach. He learned to live with the cysts, which are not life- threatening, but the anxiety and chest pains have worsened. There have been rumors and unconfirmed reports of pending heart surgery, but Meyer makes it clear he wants those matters kept private.Shelley Meyer has told friends that she signed off on her husband's choice to stay involved with the Florida program and feels he "will be just fine" once he has some down time. She knows, better than Continue Reading

New Yankee Stadium may host college football bowl games

Could these Army games at the new Yankee Stadium be a prelude to a much bigger college football game at the House that George Built? The Daily News has learned that there have been discussions between the NCAA and high-ranking Yankee officials, including managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, about the possibility of establishing a postseason bowl game at Yankee Stadium, beginning in 2011. Among the details that would have to be worked out are a date (likely early December) and the minimum $2-1/2 million guarantee the NCAA requires for the participating schools. The "Boss Bowl" would not be the first time New York hosted a postseason bowl game. In 1961 and 1962, Yankee Stadium was host to the ill-fated Gotham Bowl, which failed due to a number of extenuating circumstances, including a New York newspaper strike that resulted in the game getting no advance publicity. Nebraska beat Miami 36-34, in a thrilling game, but not before the Cornhuskers waited on the Tarmac at a Lincoln, Neb., airport waiting for a guaranteed check to clear. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Georgia Bulldogs top polls for college football pre-season rankings

It didn't take long for controversy to start swirling following Georgia's 41-10 destruction of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. The Bulldogs, with seven straight wins to end the season, finished 11-2 and were ranked second in final Associated Press poll. But that wasn't good enough for Georgia president Michael Adams, who felt the Dawgs - who didn't play eventual champion LSU during the regular season - deserved a shot to play for the national title. So he proposed the NCAA institute an eight-team playoff for Division I-A teams, and the concept generated some talk-show conversation but little action. The Dawgs will have a chance to rectify that perceived slight this year. They have the most complete team in the SEC - by far, the best conference in the country - and will start the year at No.1 in the polls. Interestingly, not everyone is convinced of the Dawgs' superiority. SEC writers who have caught Tim Tebow fever voted Georgia second in the conference's East Division behind Florida. Here is a look at the Daily News' Top 25 (with last season's records in parentheses): 1. Georgia (11-2) The Bulldogs have no apparent weaknesses. Mark Richt's team, which never got a chance to play SEC West champ LSU last year because of a conference scheduling quirk, came on strong, winning seven straight at the end of the season. Improved junior QB Matt Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno, the former Jersey schoolboy star who rushed for 1,334 yards as a freshman - despite sharing the load with multiple backs - are the keys to a potent offense. Seven starters return on defense, including DT Geno Atkins, who had 14.5 tackles for loss last year. Richt's teams are 25-4 away from Sanford Stadium, but beating LSU, Auburn, Arizona State and South Carolina on the road and Florida in neutral Jacksonville will not be easy. 2. USC (11-2) The biggest mystery of last season was how the Trojans lost two games. The Rose Bowl winners had nine players taken in Continue Reading

Question of the week: Which College Football Playoff contender has the toughest path

Each week during the season, the USA TODAY Sports college staff (Paul Myerberg, Lindsay Schnell, George Schroeder, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken) will provide their answers to an intriguing question from college football. This week:  Which team in playoff contention has the toughest path? Paul MyerbergI think it’s Notre Dame even if the Irish don’t have the ability to play in a conference championship game. In the case of the Playoff, we’ll have to see if that’s a major factor against the Irish in the final standings. But check out the November schedule: Wake Forest, then currently unbeaten Miami (Fla.), then Navy and then Stanford. Ohio State doesn’t have it easy. Oklahoma gets Oklahoma State and TCU to start the month. Alabama and Georgia get Auburn and potentially each other. But I don’t think another contender has a November quite like Notre Dame. STAFF PICKS: Predictions for all the big Week 10 games in college football WEEK 10 OUTLOOK: Plenty of Playoff implications for Big 12, ACC IRISH EYES: Notre Dame could make this year's Playoff push the craziest yet BOWL PROJECTIONS: Clemson, Ohio State join the College Football Playoff field Lindsay SchnellWell first off, I think it’s all but guaranteed that the Pac-12 is going to be left out in the cold, which is bad for that conference from a financial standpoint. But I think the Big 12 might be in the same boat; it’s going to be tough for Oklahoma and/or TCU to make the leap up to the top four. Yes, the Sooners have that great win at Ohio State but that was a long time ago — and what happens if/when they have to play TCU or Iowa State twice (because of the conference title game)? The Big 12 is probably going to cannibalize itself. On the plus side, this probably means we’re headed for an eight-team playoff sooner than we think. Mike Leach approves.  George SchroederHere’s Continue Reading

Week 10 games with the most impact on the College Football Playoff

November has arrived, and with it comes increased intensity around the college football landscape. The Week 10 slate has no shortage of games fraught with playoff implications. While some surprising outcomes in the Big Ten and at Notre Dame could alter the picture as we know it, we’ll focus on three other conferences whose contenders look to either solidify their positions or avoid elimination.Here are Saturday’s top five impact games: No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 10 Oklahoma State Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1Big 12 observers have had the Bedlam showdown circled since September. The game has regained its high level of importance, though not without a couple of detours. A rematch now seems unlikely, as the loser would have a difficult time playing its way back into the conference title game.The trajectory for both teams over the last two weeks has been remarkably similar, with each following a narrow escape with a decisive result that should have everybody feeling confident at game time. This contest could affect the Heisman race as well. Sooners QB Baker Mayfield remains very much in the mix, but Cowboys QB Mason Rudolph, who actually has more passing yards, could reassert himself into the discussion if he outperforms his archrival on the big stage. Mayfield has a deeper receiving corps, but Rudolph might have the ultimate weapon in his corner in the person of James Washington. BOLD PREDICTIONS: Danger for title contenders and trouble for Central Florida STAFF PICKS: Predictions for all the big Week 10 games in college football WEEK 10 OUTLOOK: Plenty of Playoff implications for Big 12, ACC No. 13 Virginia Tech at No. 6 Miami (Fla.) Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC Though both teams would still have a little work to do, this for all intents and purposes is the ACC Coastal championship game. The Hurricanes have already gotten past Georgia Tech, so a win here would all but lock up the division. The Continue Reading

Lou Holtz out at ESPN, college football analyst and network agree to part ways

Lou Holtz is moving off-campus. The former Notre Dame coach turned ESPN college football analyst is leaving the network’s Bristol headquarters in a reported mutual parting of the parties. Holtz, 78, has worked as a studio analyst for the network since 2004, teaming up with Mark May and Reece Davis on ESPN’s “Saturday College Football Final” show. Sports Illustrated reported the news of Holtz leaving the network. “Lou brought a champion's perspective and a legacy of accomplishment to our coverage along with his distinctive style and humor,” an ESPN spokesman told “We appreciate his contributions and wish him all the best in the future." In February it was announced that Davis was leaving College Football Final to take over as the host of ESPN’s premier college program — “GameDay” — leaving May as the only holdover from College Football Final. “Lou enjoyed his time and friendships made at ESPN and looks forward to other opportunities in college football,” Holtz’s agent, Sandy Montag, told Holtz’s exit wasn’t completely unexpected. He told a Notre Dame news site, Irish247, that 2014 would likely be his last season with ESPN. Continue Reading