NCAA Football News

Ohio State Football: What Braxton Miller Must Do to Win Starting Job

When Braxton Miller announced his move from quarterback to wide receiver, he had a clear vision of bringing his electric playmaking ability to the perimeter. As a former Heisman Trophy candidate and two-time Big Ten MVP, he certainly has the confidence and the history to make that claim.

"I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that," Miller said of his transition, according to Pete Thamel of Sports IllustratedHe later added, “It’s going to be electric. We had a great season last year, but we didn’t see anyone do off-the-wall type stuff. I’m sure guys miss seeing an explosive, 60-yard shake-and-bake run every once in a while."

But Miller was making a leap. While he proved himself as one college football's best big-play threats in his three years at quarterback, he hadn't taken a single rep as a wide receiver at the collegiate or high school level. And the Buckeyes are loaded at wideout—particularly at the H-back position he's moving to—so he had a lot to prove during fall camp. 

That was a sentiment head coach Urban Meyer echoed when Miller announced the move. 

"We won't know enough until practice starts how we can use him and what he can do," Meyer said of Miller, according to Doug Lesmerises of the Plain Dealer. "I just don't know. He's a great athlete, but he's never caught a pass for us. So we'll know more and we have plenty of time when practice starts."

With fall camp in the books and preparations for Virginia Tech underway, Meyer has a much better feel for Miller's ability to not only play on the perimeter but also to start.

"My plan is to try and get him ready to do that," Meyer said when asked if Miller was the No. 1 H-back. "He's getting close."

So what's holding him back?

For starters, Miller is adjusting to a new life as a wideout. Instead of steadily guiding the offense behind center, he's sprinting and cutting down the field and then hurrying back to the line of scrimmage before the next snap. That's a lot of running, and it's something he's adjusting to.

“As a quarterback, Braxton's life has not been spent running, running, running,” Meyer said Saturday, according to James Grega of Scout. “Wide receivers basically put on track shoes and go for two hours. Next week is a big week for Braxton. He had a tight hamstring and we held him out today, but he should be ready to go on Monday."

The other thing holding Miller back? How about Ohio State's deep stable of H-backs. 

The Buckeyes have a trio of outstanding options at the position with Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall and converted running back Curtis Samuel. But two of those players—Wilson and Marshall—have been suspended for the season-opening clash with Virginia Tech, giving Miller the perfect opportunity to showcase what he can do on a national stage against a stout defense. 

But as Meyer said Saturday, the coming week will be a big one for Miller. He's proven to his coaches and teammates that he's a viable threat in the slot, and of course, the thought of Ohio State running the option with him at tailback is tantalizing. 

Now, he needs to prove that his body is ready to handle the workload—or rather, the running load—that comes with playing receiver. 

Because if he can, maybe he'll provide those "60-yard shake-and-bake" plays to Ohio State's offense on a weekly basis this fall.

 

David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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College Football Rankings 2015: CFB Playoff Predictions After Preseason AP Poll

It would take some real courage to come out with our early college football playoff predictions and not include the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes were voted the unanimous preseason No. 1 selection in the nation, taking all 61 votes in the Associated Press poll.

But courage might just be what is needed. While the Buckeyes appear to be a loaded team fully capable of winning the second College Football Playoff National Championship after beating Alabama and Oregon last year, college football is the most difficult of domains.

Ohio State makes history in AP preseason poll http://t.co/KUFRYqouE5

— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) August 23, 2015

Head coach Urban Meyer's team has a huge target on its collective back. Every opponent will focus more intently and prepare for its best game against Ohio State, and when a team has to play 12 regular-season games and a Big Ten conference championship game under those conditions, it's a lot to consider.

However, a closer look at that schedule indicates that the Buckeyes may not be tested until well into the season. While they lost to Virginia Tech last year, Ohio State appears far superior to its Sept. 7 season-opening opponent. Going to Blackskburg, Virginia, will not be easy, but Ohio State should come out with a win.

This is 96th AP Poll Ohio State is ranked No. 1. Only Oklahoma (101) & Notre Dame (98) have been ranked No. 1 more weeks

— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) August 23, 2015

The next difficult game may not be until they face Michigan State on Nov. 21 at Ohio Stadium. The big question going into this game may be whether the losing team will still earn a spot in the playoffs. Both teams could be undefeated going into that game.

We are not going to bet against either Big Ten team, and the good thing is that both are in the East Division of the Big Ten conference. That means there is no chance they will also meet in the conference championship game, where a second loss would be the eliminator.

Ohio State is just too strong on both sides of the ball, and we trust Meyer will come to the right decision when it comes to naming the quarterback, a choice that is still up in the air. While Cardale Jones brought home the national championship last year, J.T. Barrett was a Heisman Trophy candidate before suffering a season-ending injury late last year.

The Buckeyes also have a brilliant offensive line, led by left tackle Taylor Decker and left guard Billy Price. That could make the offense difficult to stop.

Michigan State faces a huge challenge Sept. 12 when the Oregon Ducks come to East Lansing. The Spartans lost at Oregon last year, and we expect head coach Mark Dantonio to have his team ready for revenge. It doesn't hurt that the Spartans have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Connor Cook.

MSU has two straight top-5 finishes, but this will be the Spartans' first top-5 start in almost a half century. http://t.co/ELjoENEMpl

— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) August 23, 2015

The Spartans should stay unbeaten until their November trip to Columbus if they beat the Ducks. That should be good enough to get them into the playoffs.

Don't bet against Alabama, either. Losing in the semifinals last year has been like a nasty splinter in the side of the Crimson Tide, and it has bothered head coach Nick Saban and his players all year. The Crimson Tide have power on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and if Cooper Bateman, Jake Coker or Alec Morris can separate himself at the quarterback position, the Tide should be rolling again.

Unlike Ohio State and Michigan State, Alabama has the most challenging of schedules. The Tide face seven opponents ranked in the preseason Top 25, and there can be no slip-ups. On the positive side, Alabama has handled these kind of tough schedules in the past, and it will not be intimidated.

Alabama plays NINE teams in the preseason Top 27. Ohio State plays just ONE

— Sports Brackets (@sportsbrackets0) August 23, 2015

TCU is our fourth choice to make this year's playoff foursome. TCU has a late-season meeting with playoff hopeful Baylor at the end of the regular season, and the Bears are good enough to beat the Horned Frogs if they are healthy and play their best game.

However, TCU will play at home in that game, and they also have the remarkable Trevone Boykin at quarterback. Boykin completed 301-of-492 passes for 3,901 yards with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last year, and he could be even better since the TCU offensive line returns all five of its starters.

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Hunter Johnson to Tennessee: Volunteers Land 5-Star QB Prospect

The Tennessee Volunteers made positive strides in Butch Jones' second year as head coach, and their biggest step may have come Sunday after Jones secured the commitment of 5-star quarterback Hunter Johnson.

"I've been in contact with Tennessee for so long now and I know so much about Tennessee, I didn't see a reason why I wouldn't commit," Johnson said, per 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong. "That's what I told my parents, why wouldn't I go here? I've always felt really, really comfortable with Tennessee."

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Johnson is the No. 1 pro-style quarterback and No. 11 player overall in the 2017 recruiting class.

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman and Clay Travis both see this as a major development for the Vols' program:

Chris Childers of College Sports Nation also believes Johnson's decision represents affirmation for Jones being the guy to lead Tennessee forward:

Quarterback has been a problem area for the Vols ever since Tyler Bray left in 2012. Neither Justin Worley nor Joshua Dobbs looked entirely convincing in 2013 and 2014. While Johnson's arrival won't come for some time, he at least gives Tennessee fans reason for optimism.

Plus, he'll join Quinten Dormady, a 4-star QB in the 2015 recruiting class.

At some point, Jones will need to start piling up the wins, but he's certainly proving to be an adept recruiter, which will help the Volunteers catch up to the competition in the loaded SEC. 

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AP Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Analyzing Initial Top 25 Poll

It's not a surprise that defending champion Ohio State is the No. 1 team in the preseason AP poll, but it's a bit of a shock to see that the Buckeyes gained all 61 first-place votes in the poll.

Massive respect has been shown to Urban Meyer's team, and it's clear that the pollsters had Ohio State's dramatic two-game sweep over Alabama and Oregon in winning the first College Football Playoff championship at the top of their thinking. Ohio State is the first unanimous preseason No. 1 in the history of the poll.

While that's notable, it's not necessarily great news for the Buckeyes. Ohio State has been a preseason No. 1 on seven other occasions, but it has never finished in the top slot.

This is the 27th straight year Ohio State is ranked in the preseason AP poll. Full rankings: http://t.co/6IGQSPDTw1pic.twitter.com/9PQj5lhQ3C

— ESPN (@espn) August 23, 2015

Meyer's team is going to have to deal with many significant challenges along the way, and the first is an internal one. Who gets to start at quarterback for the Buckeyes?

It will be either Cardale Jones, who led Ohio State to the two playoff wins over the Crimson Tide and the Ducks, or J.T. Barrett, who was a Heisman Trophy candidate prior to suffering a season-ending injury at the end of the regular season in 2014.

Meyer has said that he won't name a starter until the season opener against Virginia Tech Sept. 7. "We're going to play the guy that helps us win," Meyer said at the Big Ten media days in July (h/t New York Times).

Meyer added that the decision would be "data-driven," but that whatever he feels in his gut at the moment of choice would also be a factor.

Ohio State is trying to become the 12th team to win back-to-back championships since the AP began its college football poll in 1936.

8th preseason #1 for Ohio State, breaks tie with USC and trails only Oklahoma (10)

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 23, 2015

TCU is ranked second in the poll, but the Horned Frogs are nearly 100 points behind the Buckeyes. They could be a major threat to steal the No. 1 spot because of the superb passing attack led by quarterback Trevone Boykin. The Horned Frogs also return a strong offensive line intact.

Big gap from No. 1 and unanimous Ohio State in AP poll to No. 2 TCU. But also big gap between TCU and No. 3 Alabama.

— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) August 23, 2015

Alabama, Baylor and Michigan State follow, and that means the Big Ten has two teams in the top five. Auburn checks in at No. 6, while Oregon, USC, Georgia and Florida State follow to round out the top 10.

Well here you go. Highest preseason rankings ever for No. 2 TCU and No. 4 Baylor. https://t.co/l0fERMmQh5

— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) August 23, 2015

The Crimson Tide figures to be a dominant team once again, and Nick Saban will have powerful lines on both sides of the line of scrimmage. But he won't have Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon or Trey DePriest, and those are difficult losses to overcome. 

Alabama is No. 3 in the AP Preseason poll. Lowest preseason AP ranking since 2009 (No. 5)

— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) August 23, 2015

Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson give Baylor a dominant and intimidating rushing attack, but there are questions about the quarterback position without Bryce Petty.

The Spartans have built one of the most dependable programs in the country, and head coach Mark D'Antonio always puts together a nasty defense. He also has Connor Cook, who is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation.

OddsShark also agrees that the Buckeyes are the No. 1 team in the nation. They are plus-300 according to the odds site with Alabama as the second choice at plus-750 and Auburn third at plus-900. Those three teams are the only teams with odds that under plus-1,000.

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Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Winners and Losers from AP Poll

The 2015 college football preseason hit its final major milestone Sunday with the release of the first Associated Press Top 25 poll, the granddaddy of all preseason rankings in college football.

Defending national champion Ohio State took home the top spot by a comfortable margin and was joined by fellow Big Ten East contender Michigan State in the Top Five. Alabama returned to the playoff zone in the poll, along with a pair of Big 12 powerhouses in TCU and Baylor.

Some fanbases will undoubtedly be happy about where their favorite teams wound up in the preseason poll, while others will, of course, be outraged—and not only at where their schools landed. A few conferences stood out in the AP's first Top 25 of the season, and several schools might play the disrespect card heading into the upcoming schedule.

Before we take a look at some winners and losers of the first poll, here's the complete look at the Top 25:

1. Ohio State (61 first-place votes)
2. TCU
3. Alabama
4. Baylor
5. Michigan State
6. Auburn
7. Oregon
8. USC
9. Georgia
10. Florida State
11. Notre Dame
12. Clemson
13. UCLA
14. LSU
15. Arizona State
16. Georgia Tech
17. Ole Miss
18. Arkansas
19. Oklahoma
20. Wisconsin
21. Stanford
22. Arizona
23. Boise State
24. Missouri
25. Tennessee

Begin Slideshow

2015 Ohio State Is Worth the Hype of 1st Unanimous No.1 Preseason Ranking

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It won't officially kick off the season for another two weeks, but the 2015 Ohio State football team has already made history.

For all of the teams that have entered a college football season highly touted following a national championship campaign—1995 Nebraska, 2002 Miami (Florida), 2005 USC, 2009 Florida, 2013 Alabama—none has earned a unanimous No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press preseason Top 25.

That, however, changed Sunday, when the Buckeyes became the first team to do just that, earning all 61 first-place votes in the AP's first Top 25 poll of the season.

Is Ohio State's 2015 season worth that sort of hype?

It sure seems that way.

Returning 15 combined starters on offense and defense from a season ago, the losses from a Buckeyes team that beat Alabama and Oregon en route to capturing the first College Football Playoff championship appear minimal. No Ohio State player was drafted before the second round of the 2015 NFL draft, with only a total of five Buckeyes being chosen in the draft's seven rounds.

Ohio State's minimal presence in the draft shouldn't last for long, however, as this year's Buckeyes team appears to be loaded with first-round talent.

Depending on the mock draft you're looking at, Ohio State players could potentially make up as many as six picks in the 2016 NFL draft in the first round alone.

Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Taylor Decker, Adolphus Washington, Cardale Jones and Darron Lee have each been viewed as potential first-round selections, while Eli Apple, Michael Thomas and Vonn Bell could each play themselves into the front end of next year's draft.

NFL talent, of course, isn't the be-all and end-all in college football, but this collection of talented Buckeyes has already proven to possess the makeup of a great team.

Despite Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Braxton Miller going down with a season-ending injury two weeks prior to the start of the season, last year's Buckeyes compiled an 11-1 regular-season record behind a record-breaking campaign from freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett.

When Barrett went down with a fractured ankle in the regular-season finale, Jones picked up right where he left off, helping carry Ohio State's young roster to three postseason wins.

"I thought it was a year away," Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said after Ohio State made the playoff as the No. 4 seed in December. "The future is bright."

It's also here.

Both Barrett and Jones have returned, currently engaged in an unprecedented quarterback competition as far as qualified candidates go. Meyer may not have his answer yet for which one will line up behind center when the Buckeyes take the field for their season opener against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7, but his dilemma is one almost every other coach in America should be begging to deal with.

Lining up behind Ohio State's quarterback—whoever it winds up being—will be Elliott, the preseason front-runner to win the 2015 Heisman Trophy who rushed for 696 yards and eight touchdowns in the Buckeyes' three postseason games. Upfront will be four of five starters from last year's offensive line, anchored by Decker at left tackle and preseason All-American guard Pat Elflein.

The receiver position might possess Ohio State's only question mark, with Devin Smith, Evan Spencer and tight end Jeff Heuerman having all moved on to the NFL. But Thomas returns as the Buckeyes' leader in receptions (54), and Meyer has raved about the offseason work of sophomores Noah Brown and Curtis Samuel, as well as tight end Nick Vannett, who had more catches, yards and touchdowns than Heuerman in 2014.

Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall will each miss the first game of the season due to suspension but will each add experience to the OSU receiving corps upon their return to the lineup.

Freshman Torrance Gibson has also made waves since moving from quarterback to wideout in the first week of fall camp, and the shifty Miller will now use his talents to catch passes rather than throw them.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes have even less concerns to deal with, as all 11 starting spots appear to be set in stone. The biggest question might be how Gareon Conley will fill in at corner for first-team All-Big Ten corner Doran Grant, but Apple's ability on the other side of the field should put Ohio State fans at ease.

But perhaps the biggest reason to believe in the Buckeyes has nothing to do with their abundance of talent or even their manageable schedule, which may not see them challenged until a matchup with Michigan State in the second-to-last week of the regular season in Columbus.

No, the optimism surrounding Ohio State is predominately due to their head coach, who has been in this situation before.

Having coached a 2008 national title Florida team that returned 18 starters—including star quarterback Tim Tebow and its entire defense—a year later, Meyer knows what it's like to enter a season with sky-high expectations and a target on his team's back.

With lessons learned from the 2009 Gators' failed attempt at a repeat, the three-time national champion coach will no longer have his attention focused on going back-to-back.

"Repeat is not the conversation," Meyer said after Ohio State's first fall camp practice in August.

Maybe it's not for Meyer and his players, but based on the history the 2015 Buckeyes have already made, that's certainly the expectation. Ultimately, we'll find out whether or not Ohio State is worth the hype in the coming months, but for now, this Buckeyes team appears to having the makings of an all-time great.

At least that's what the pollsters believe.

Unanimously.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Twitter Reacts to AP NCAA Top 25 Poll

The second major college football preseason poll has been released, and the Associated Press has declared the Ohio State Buckeyes are the nation's best team before the 2015 season begins. 

Ohio State has been a near-unanimous No. 1 coming into the year, with the Buckeyes receiving 62 out of 64 first-place votes in the Amway coaches poll released in July.

The Associated Press took things one step further, giving the defending national champions all 61 first-place votes.  

Here's how the entire AP Top 25 preseason poll looks:

Ohio State's spot atop the rankings gives the program a rare and historic distinction, per Matt Barnes of NBC 4 in Columbus:

The Buckeyes have been sneaking up on teams since Urban Meyer took over as head coach. Their undefeated regular season in 2012 was met with skepticism because of a mediocre schedule that didn't include one win over a team ranked inside the Top 20. 

Ohio State was undone in 2013 by back-to-back losses at the end of the year against Michigan State and Clemson. Last year, everything came together in surprising fashion because Braxton Miller was injured before the season and J.T. Barrett went down in the regular-season finale against Michigan. 

Now, the Buckeyes are going to be the hunted team, which isn't something that has historically worked well for the program, per ESPN College Football:

Adding to that, Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times pointed out how long it's been since a preseason No. 1 won the AP national title:

The Buckeyes will be challenged this season, particularly in the final two games against Michigan State and at Michigan. 

Even starting out the season at Virginia Tech looks more dangerous for Ohio State, with Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith suspended for violating an athletic department policy.

Moving down the ranks, the Top Four with TCU, Alabama and Baylor lines up with what the coaches had. The Big 12 teams will try to make sure no one overlooks them when it comes time for the College Football Playoff this year. 

The Horned Frogs also made program history by starting the year ranked No. 2, per TCU assistant athletic director Mark Cohen:

It's a positive step in the right direction for college football and the voters, giving credence to schools that haven't been traditional powers for decades like Ohio State, Alabama, etc.

The first split between the coaches and AP comes at No. 5. The AP gave that spot to Michigan State; the coaches went with Oregon. 

Per Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free-Press, this is the Spartans' highest starting position in the AP poll in a long time:

The Big Ten fared well overall, with two Top Five teams and Wisconsin lurking in the shadows at No. 20. Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan were in the "also receiving votes" category. 

When it comes to conference depth, the SEC still reigns supreme, with Fox Sports' Clay Travis citing one huge difference between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 3 Alabama:

Even though Alabama is the highest-ranked SEC team, Auburn is getting a lot of love, starting the year at No. 6 despite losing starting quarterback Nick Marshall, leading-rusher Cameron Artis-Payne and leading receiver Sammie Coates. It speaks to the depth of talent and recruiting efforts of head coach Gus Malzahn that the Tigers, who finished 8-5 in 2014, would still be thought of as one of the nation's elite teams.

One team whose ranking wasn't affected by a preseason injury concern was Notre Dame, which comes in at 11. 

Per Nick Ironside, this is Notre Dame's best preseason showing in the AP poll in nearly a decade:

The big problem for the Fighting Irish is the loss of star defensive tackle Jarron Jones, who is out for the year after tearing the MCL in his knee. 

It doesn't help that Notre Dame's schedule is loaded, starting with Texas on September 5, with ranked opponents like Georgia Tech, Clemson, USC and Stanford also in the mix. 

The one conference that isn't going to be happy with its spot in the rankings is the ACC, as noted by Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post:

Despite the presence of Florida State the previous two years, it's no secret that depth in the ACC hasn't been there. The Seminoles are facing plenty of questions with Jameis Winston taking his talents to the NFL, but head coach Jimbo Fisher has been able to restock the talent year after year. 

Georgia Tech did have a breakout season in 2014, winning 11 games for the first time since 2009, and Clemson has a strong claim as the conference's best team coming off four straight 10-win seasons. 

Once you get past that, though, the ACC is a string of decent teams, like Louisville and Duke, but not one worthy of being in the national conversation. 

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 continues to get stronger, featuring six teams in the Top 25. Oregon is facing its own quarterback questions with Marcus Mariota in the NFL, but the offensive system head coach Mark Helfrich has in place is designed to make things easy for the position.

There's a lot of support for USC in the polls, which is understandable with the Trojans coming off a nine-win campaign and quarterback Cody Kessler having the tools to be a Heisman finalist. 

Some fans are certain to be upset or confused by their team's spot in the preseason ranking, so B/R's Barrett Sallee is here to offer a logical explanation:

Preseason polls are designed to build expectations, but it's always important to remember there will a lot of turnover after the games start. There are always examples of teams that started the year ranked in the Top 10 only to stumble—South Carolina last year, just to name one. 

The polls are a conversation starter, reminding everyone where things left off at the end of 2014 and how roster turnover has helped or hurt a team. 

Ohio State may be No. 1 right now, but don't be surprised if someone outside the Top 10 ends up in that spot by season's end.  

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Steve Sarkisian Apologizes for Comments Made at 'Salute to Troy' Event

USC head football coach Steve Sarkisian issued an apology Sunday for his inappropriate behavior at this weekend's Salute to Troy event, the school's yearly introduction of the team to major donors.   

"I sincerely apologize to my players and staff and to our fans for my behavior and my inappropriate language at our kickoff event Saturday night," Sarkisian said in a statement. "I have a responsibility to all of them, and I let them down. Pat Haden talked to me after the event about my actions, and I assured him this will not happen again." 

According to accounts of the event on Twitter, many of which have been rounded up by Lost Lettermen here (contains NSFW language), Sarkisian was allegedly drunk during his speech. He said Oregon, Notre Dame and Arizona State all "suck" and used profanity during team introductions. After being pulled aside by USC officials, Sarkisian was allegedly removed from the event as team assistants finished the ceremony.

"I met with Coach Sarkisian, and I expressed my disappointment in the way he represented himself and the university at our Salute to Troy event," Haden said in a statement. "While the details of our conversation will remain between us, I am confident he heard my message loud and clear."

Sarkisian, heading into his second season as Trojans head coach, went 9-4 in 2014. The program is expected to make a major leap this season, with USC ranked No. 8 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 and No. 10 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll.

As Ron Higgins of NOLA.com noted, one of the reasons Sarkisian got the USC job two years ago over interim head coach Ed Orgeron was Haden's faith in how Sarkisian would deal with alumni. Saturday night's embarrassment indicates everyone, no matter how polished, has an off day every now and then.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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AP Preseason Poll 2015: Complete College Football Rankings Released

Ohio State shocked the world by winning the inaugural College Football Playoff in January. The Buckeyes, loaded with perhaps the best collection of talent in recent memory, won't sneak up on anyone this year. 

Urban Meyer's bunch opens the 2015 season as the No. 1 team in the Associated Press Top 25, receiving all 61 of the possible first-place votes. The Buckeyes are 97 points ahead of No. 2 TCU, which will look to compete for a championship after controversially missing out on the CFP a year ago. Alabama, Baylor and Michigan State round out the Top Five.

Jon Solomon of CBS Sports noted Ohio State is the first unanimous No. 1 in the AP Poll.

Here is the full AP Poll:

The Buckeyes' biggest problem this season may be sorting out how to find playing time for all their talent. The most obvious issue is at quarterback. Braxton Miller's switch to receiver helped but still leaves Meyer with two potential Heisman candidates in J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.

Barrett, who took over for an injured Miller last season, led Ohio State to an 11-1 start and was on the fringe of Heisman contention before suffering an ankle injury. Jones subsequently stepped in and pushed the Buckeyes to the national championship with a big-play dimension through the air that was not as apparent with Barrett at the helm.

Choosing between the two will mark perhaps the biggest decision of the 2015 college football season. Barrett is closer to the Meyer prototype, a decent passer who truly excels when he gets to use his feet. Jones is the NFL prototype, a 6'5" behemoth.

"I made an error when I spoke in the spring that it can't be a gut instinct," Meyer told reporters. "It's got to be both—how they performed last year, how they performed in the summer. Then we're going to chart everything throughout training camp, an accumulation of all the information. Then I will make the decision."

Florida State, which finds itself at No. 10, has its own quarterback dilemma to figure out. The departure of Jameis Winston has left Sean Maguire and former Notre Dame standout Everett Golson to compete for the starting gig. 

"We'll know when we know. I'm not putting a timetable on it," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said of making a decision, per Bob Ferrante of 247Sports.

Aside from TCU and Michigan State, which have Trevone Boykin and Connor Cook locked in under center, respectively, there aren't many top-flight teams without some uncertainty at the position. Alabama's Jake Coker is a senior who has thrown all of 100 collegiate passes and is no lock to win the starting job despite entering camp with a leg up on the competition. Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett are each getting their chance to audition, and Coker's had intermittent injury issues during camp.

Morris or Coker is widely expected to win the job, and as John Talty of AL.com wrote, Coker's little bit of experience may be the deciding factor:

Coker entered the fall as the prohibitive favorite to win the job after losing out last year to Sims but has faced stiff competition from Morris and Bateman. Coker is the only quarterback on the roster who has thrown a pass at the collegiate level, but he hasn't been able to wrest control of the position at any point during his time in Tuscaloosa. Saban's review of Saturday's performance indicated that hasn't changed.

Bryce Petty's departure at Baylor has opened a window for Seth Russell, whose career highlight is throwing five touchdowns against FCS opponent Northwestern State last season. Russell has 11 touchdowns against four interceptions in his career thus far, but he'll have quite the shoes to fill with Petty and Robert Griffin III lingering in the minds of Bears fans.

The same goes for whoever wins Oregon's quarterback battle, as Marcus Mariota was perhaps the best player in program history. Junior Jeff Lockie and senior transfer Vernon Adams are embroiled in a contest without an obvious front-runner. Adams came on board after three years of stardom at Eastern Washington, while Lockie has patiently waited for his shot while Mariota kept the program in title contention.

With so much uncertainty at the sport's most important position, odds are the preseason top five will look nothing like the initial College Football Playoff rankings. But preseason polls aren't designed to predict the national championship race; they're there to give fans an early look at what to expect in the weeks ahead.

The teams that wind up sticking around at the top will be the ones whose coaches made the correct decision under center.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Dear Football: The 2015 Elite 11 Story | Ep. 6

Uninterrupted is a platform that allows personalities to connect with fans on a much deeper level, with insight and content not fit for other platforms, media outlets or channels.

Interested fans get a unique perspective that brings them closer than ever to the personalities they care about.

The Elite 11 camp brings together the top high school senior quarterbacks in the country in search of the best 11.

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Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Predictions for Initial AP NCAA Top 25

Official rankings continue to roll out as the college football season creeps toward kickoff. 

Up next after the release of the USA Today Coaches Poll is Sunday's official unveiling of the Associated Press Top 25. Like all other rankings, it promises to stir up fans around the country as they try to pass the time before the season begins.

While the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes will be planted at No. 1 for obvious reasons, the rest of the college football landscape remains uncertain.

Below, let's take a look at how things might shake out, basing the rankings on team depth charts, coaching and personnel changes, past performance, schedule and more.

 

AP Top 25 Predictions

 

Highlighting Intriguing Teams to Watch

Auburn Tigers

Like two years ago when the team made a surprise run to the BCS title game, it wouldn't be wise to sleep on the Auburn Tigers this year.

Last year was a down year, sure. The defense caved in on itself down the stretch, allowing at least 31 points to each of its last seven opponents not named Samford.

It's the responses to these struggles that have garnered Auburn plenty of preseason hype.

Will Muschamp is back as an assistant once again, this time defensive coordinator. He has proved himself capable of putting together elite defenses and stealing top-tier recruits, such as Byron Cowart. Don't forget the return of one of the nation's most hyped defenders, either, Carl Lawson.

After comparing Lawson to Von Miller, Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes explained to Brandon Marcello of AL.com what makes Lawson such a force: "He's like blocking smoke. He can slip through a crack like nothing you've ever seen. The guy is good, man."

The offense isn't anything to sleep on, either, not with Jeremy Johnson stepping in for Nick Marshall under center. Johnson's thrown nine touchdowns to two picks in two seasons of spot duty, numbers sure to take a massive uptick under the guidance of head coach Gus Malzahn.

With so much talent on both sides of the ball, it'll be interesting to see where the Tigers land in the poll.

 

Baylor Bears 

Other than the loss of quarterback Bryce Petty, what's not to like about an offense that fell just short of the College Football Playoff last year?

Most focus on TCU as the dark-horse team to watch in the polls, but don't forget about the Baylor Bears. Baylor posted a nation-best 48.2 points per game last year and returns a whopping eight offensive starters.

This includes the entire line and receivers KD Cannon and Corey Coleman, who both surpassed the 1,000-yard mark last year.

Call it quite the comforting environment for new starting quarterback Seth Russell, who attempted just 85 passes last year but turned them into 804 yards and eight scores with one pick.

Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News passed along a quote from the Bears' head coach:

With impressive, experienced depth in the trenches on both sides of the football and explosive, proven skill players surrounding a new starter, Baylor looks to have the talent to challenge for the CFP once again.

Sunday's poll will reflect that.

 

Florida State Seminoles

Another team replacing a big-name quarterback? Try the Florida State Seminoles. 

This year's iteration of the rejuvenated national power needs to pull off an epic reload to remain among the top teams. After three conference championships, a national title and a trip to the CFP, Florida State looks like a shell of its former self without Jameis Winston and a host of other stars now in the NFL. 

Granted, these are the Seminoles, a juggernaut with an impressive recent resume. No doubt the skill position players on offense and the defense will look good in time.

The real question rests under center, where Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson and Sean Maguire continue to battle to a no-contest, as Jared Shanker of ESPN reported:

It's not an easy path for Florida State no matter who wins the job. The Seminoles have trips to Boston College and Wake Forest in their first four games of the season and also travel to Georgia Tech and Clemson over a three-week span later in the year.

Pollsters and fans should expect some growing pains. If the situation under center solidifies, though, Florida State might be doing more climbing than falling.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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Why No News Is Good News for Alabama Regarding Quarterback Competition

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Because University of Alabama officials are known for milking every last dollar out of the revenue streams stemming from Crimson Tide football, they might look back on the 2015 training camp and see a missed opportunity.

The school could have sold the quarterback competition as a month-long television show, complete with Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin handing a football to the ones who survived to the next week or stage, and those eliminated relegated to the scout team and reserve duty.

Considering the way Crimson Tide fans have been clamoring to find out anything and everything they can about who might be in the lead, it could have potentially drawn huge ratings locally and helped pay for whatever facility improvements Nick Saban wants next.

OK, maybe not. But things still played out about as well as coaches could have hoped.

After two-plus weeks of camp, the second of two preseason scrimmages was played at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, and all indications afterward were that there’s nothing new regarding the quarterbacks.

Saban didn’t proclaim a winner between senior Jake Coker, junior Alec Morris, sophomore Cooper Bateman, redshirt freshman David Cornwell and true freshman Blake Barnett, and he wasn't expected to.

The coach did the same thing last year. It was only much later that he indicated Blake Sims had essentially won the job during the final scrimmage. Saban didn’t reveal who would start against West Virginia in Atlanta until two days beforehand.

Like usual, Saturday’s scrimmage was closed to media, and the school didn’t make any players available to reporters or release any statistics other than what Saban revealed during his press conference.

“I think Bateman had 27 throws, Morris had 21, Coker had 26, Barnett had 11,” Saban said. “So we tried to give everybody some opportunity, and we will evaluate how they are doing.”

For the second-straight press conference, Saban didn’t mention Cornwell, whose stock has obviously dropped since the spring. That Barnett had fewer pass attempts than the older players was also notable.

The only quarterback Saban subsequently commented on without being prompted was Coker.

“Jake missed three days in practice this week, so the other guys got a few more reps during the course of the week,” he said. “But I thought he did a decent job today, taking that into consideration.”

Coker had been sidelined by a toe injury. It’s still unclear how the injury occurred.

Saban didn’t answer a question about how the quarterbacks were used (i.e., who saw time with the first unit or might have faced the first-team defense, etc.), but he did about Morris:

“Alec has done a nice job,” Saban said. “I think he does a really good job of understanding the offense; he helps the other players play better. And I think that he has probably shown command at the position, which I think is important.

“We’ve just got to continue to work on touch, accuracy, efficiency. But I’ve been really pleased with what Alec has done in this camp.”

Saban mentioned that he’s looking for more precision in the passing game in general and singled out wide receiver ArDarius Stewart for praise: “He had eight catches and made some really good catches—adjusted to the ball well, made some contested plays, which was good to see.”

So apparently no one took the “bull by the horns” as Saban had hoped, but that doesn’t mean things didn’t go well during camp.

• Everyone got a lot of work in as both scrimmages were pass-heavy, in part due to not wanting to open the season with a group of banged-up running backs. There was very little movement at the other offensive positions as Alphonse Taylor may have been the only other player to win a starting job during camp at right guard.

• None of the quarterbacks suffered a major injury. Actually, Alabama hasn’t had many at all, with Saturday’s setbacks limited to tackles Dominick Jackson (strained shoulder) and Korren Kirven (sprained knee). Both could be back in a few days.

• The coaches started to develop Alabama’s quarterbacks of the future, especially Barnett.

• Although it appears to be between Coker and Morris to start against Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 5 (8 p.m. ET, ABC), the coaching staff would probably be comfortable playing any of the top three quarterbacks, Bateman included. The old saying, “If you have two starting quarterbacks, you don't have one,” hasn’t come into play.

• Alabama avoided having the kind of drama one can easily find on bad reality TV or potentially split the team.

That alone made the Crimson Tide’s training camp a success.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Georgia Football: Frustrated Mark Richt Still Has Time to Find a Starting QB

ATHENS, Ga. — "I'd like to know and have peace. I'm looking for some peace."

Georgia head coach Mark Richt didn't get any Saturday morning during a scrimmage at Sanford Stadium regarding the three-headed quarterback battle going on that includes junior Faton Bauta, sophomore Brice Ramsey and Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert. In fact, that has turned into one of the biggest SEC mysteries of August, with information on where each member of the trio stands being as scarce as water in a desert.

Saturday was no different.

Richt was mum on quarterback specifics from the morning scrimmage (save for Nick Robinson's 4-of-4 performance with the "threes") but certainly let it be known that this is one of the most challenging quarterback decisions of his 15-year Georgia career.

"I don't know. Walking away from the practice, I feel like I know less about what to do than going in," he said. "That's just my first impression of that. We will watch the film and make a determination. We've had 17 or 18 practices, so there's a lot of things to start making some judgments by. Is it time for 'racking them' right now? I don't know."

The absence of useful statistical information is par for the course during fall camp, but some insight into the frustration going on behind closed doors that nobody has stepped up was a slight change.

I wrote earlier this month that there shouldn't be much panic if Georgia goes deep into fall camp without much resolution to the battle, and that remains true now that we are in late August, deep into fall camp.

Offensive tackle Kolton Houston doesn't think that three-man battle is hurting the offense as a whole.

"Regardless of which quarterback it is, it's not like the quarterbacks are terrible," he said emphatically. "They're good quarterbacks. People are putting all of this emphasis on the quarterback race, but it doesn't matter which quarterback it is. They're all three good. It's not like we are choosing from three bad quarterbacks."

With that said, though, the eventual winner of the battle needs to start getting first-team reps, and that's hard to do if there is no real separation among the three contenders. 

It's a lot easier to learn on the fly against Louisiana-Monroe and at Vanderbilt with two, and if the eventual winner is robbed of those first-team snaps late in fall camp because nobody in the trio can stand out, that's going to make it hard for that eventual winner to be a difference-maker in 2015. He'd be more likely to adjust on the fly.

That's not to say quarterbacks can't succeed while adjusting on the fly.

They can.

Look last year at Alabama quarterback Blake Sims. All he did was get progressively better as the year went on under first-year coordinator Lane Kiffin and lead his team to the SEC title.

The previous season, former Georgia defensive back and junior college quarterback Nick Marshall landed at Auburn in the summer and led the Tigers—under first-year head coach Gus Malzahn—to the SEC title and to within 13 seconds of a national championship.

Neither of those situations were ideal for those programs that, like Georgia and first-year coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, were implementing new offensive systems at the time.

This isn't plan A for the Bulldogs.

Plan A for Georgia would be for two of the quarterbacks to pull away and at least allow the staff to give more first-team reps to the eventual winner. Anything more than that—like a starting quarterback being named—would be too much. After all, Lambert—the most experienced of the group based on his time as the starter with the Cavaliers—only arrived on campus in late July and has to get a fair shot at winning the job.

Make no mistake, though. This is plan B.

"I'm a pretty patient guy, but the clock is ticking," Richt said.

Gut feeling, this quarterback battle will remain a mystery until one guy trots out to the huddle against ULM on Sept. 5.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83.

Follow Barrett on Twitter: @BarrettSallee.

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Oregon Football Calls Police on Pac-12 Network TV Crew for Watching Practice

Police were reportedly called to an Oregon football practice last week after a Pac-12 Network television crew gained access to sight lines of a closed practice field.

Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reports authorities were summoned after analyst Curtis Conway and other members of the staff were making their way to a production truck. A "standoff" occurred after a security guard asked them to move until police arrived to diffuse the tension.

The report notes the Pac-12 Network is owned by the conference, which makes the situation even more curious. Neither side has commented on the matter.

Of course, Oregon is known for its fast-paced playing style that features numerous different wrinkles to keep opponents off balance. It doesn't come as much surprise the coaching staff goes to additional lengths to ensure outsiders aren't allowed to get an early glimpse at those plans.

It's hard to imagine members of the Pac-12 Network would lead to such a stir, though. The Ducks must be working on something special to become paranoid enough to believe a television crew could pass around key inside information to other teams from a brief look at practice.

Perhaps everybody else will get to see what special gadgets Oregon was working on when it opens the 2015 campaign against Eastern Washington on Sept. 5.  

 

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SEC Football: Biggest Injuries That Could Impact 2015 Season

Injuries are an unfortunate reality in football, and the old bug already has bitten several SEC football teams since last season.

Considering they can be the difference between wins and losses, it's at least worth mentioning several impact bumps and bruises, twists and tears that could keep a few league members from winning championships.

And there are more than a few.

From a superstar running back on a team built to overpower opponents with the rushing game, to several road-grading offensive line starters, to a trio of defensive leaders, it hasn't been a kind offseason for several SEC teams.

Some of those setbacks happened in fall camp, and a few more were known coming into the season.

For some teams, they've got personnel who can step in and fill the void. But, in a lot of cases, it's difficult to replicate the production of the missing players no matter how much you want to paint the pig's face in the wake of the injury.

Arkansas has a stable of talented runners, but replacing Jonathan Williams will be a chore. LSU may be the new "DBU," but you can't just plug and play somebody who will match Jalen Mills' production.

Let's take a look at a few injuries facing SEC teams and what the coaching staffs may do to combat their departures.

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Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Release Time for Top 25 Standings

The debates surrounding which teams should be considered the top 25 in college football unofficially commenced with the release of the Amway Coaches Poll on July 30, but the gridiron discourse is set to ramp up again when the Associated Press releases its own rankings on Sunday, August 23.

According to a press release, the Associated Press will roll out its preseason ranking at 2 p.m. ET on CollegeFootball.AP.org.

The Associated Press and Amway Coaches Poll are more symbolic and ceremonial than anything with the advent of the College Football Playoff and its human selection committee, but for better or for worse, the polls will frame much of the discussion in college football week in and week out. Plus, they will serve as a point of reference until the CFP releases its first rankings on November 3, per CollegeFootballPlayoff.com.

For a guide to where you might see your favorite powerhouse team in the Associated Press rankings, here is the Coaches Poll preseason rundown.

The AP poll isn't exactly a well-guarded, sportswriter trade secret before its release. Gary Horowitz of the Statesman Journal provided a sneak peek as to how he voted on August 17:

Defending national champion Ohio State tops my top 25, followed by TCU, Alabama, Oregon and Michigan State. The Buckeyes are so loaded at quarterback that two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year Braxton Miller has moved to slot receiver.

If all goes according to form, TCU will have an opportunity to make amends for last season's College Football Playoff snub by playing Ohio State in the national championship game.

That's pretty well in line with the Coaches Poll, with Oregon and Michigan State bumped up a spot at Baylor's expense.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News has Ohio State at No. 1 and, surprisingly, Notre Dame at No. 2 (Wilner's complete top 25 is in his column). He expects those two to be in the national championship game, with the Fighting Irish getting there in a true grind-it-out fashion:

I'm projecting Notre Dame to play Ohio State for the national title and have the Irish in the No. 2 slot. Their defense should be dominant (maybe better than '12). The schedule is challenging but manageable. If Malik Zaire is merely average, there's no reason they can't win every game 17-10.

Ohio State makes sense here, seeing as they're coming off a national championship, one that was thankfully decided in a rousing playoff format thanks to the CFP. Head coach Urban Meyer has the enviable dilemma of picking either Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett to start the season under center. His choice could've been between three superstar QBs, but Braxton Miller has moved to the wide receiver corps.

Barrett broke scoring records in his redshirt freshman season with 45 total touchdowns (34 passing, 11 rushing), but a late-season ankle injury paved the way for Jones to acquire instant folk-hero status, as he led the Buckeyes to wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and finally Oregon on the way to the national championship. 

Don't expect them to split snaps, though.

"I don't think it would be as efficient," Barrett said of a two-QB system, via ESPN.com's Austin Ward. "I did that in high school and switched every series...and that's kind of tough to do being that you can't get into a rhythm, get a real vibe off the defense."

Both the Associated Press and Coaches Polls will see a ton of churn and turnover as the season progresses. Injuries, upsets, fluke plays and meltdowns can (and, in many cases, will) derail a team's run to College Football Playoff glory. Also, nobody has yet seen the 2015 version of these programs playing full speed, 100 percent against real competition from another university.

It may be a fool's errand to pick a top 25 right now—and can probably lead to some primacy effect biases when top-ranked teams maybe don't plummet down the rankings as far as they should because people remember them as a preseason list-topper—but the trash-talking and debate has to start somewhere.

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Notre Dame Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Set aside all the talk about conferences, independents and 13th games, and Notre Dame's 2015 football schedule stands out for its difficulty.

The Irish clash with Texas, Georgia Tech, Clemson, USC and Stanford, and there are few true cupcakes on the docket.

Let’s take a game-by-game look at the schedule and offer our early predictions for each matchup.

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Art Briles Denies Knowing of Sam Ukwuachu's Past, Baylor Holds Internal Inquiry

Baylor Bears head football coach Art Briles has denied having any knowledge of the circumstances regarding the transfer of former defensive end Sam Ukwuachu from Boise State.

According to Briles, then-Broncos head coach Chris Petersen never mentioned the allegations of past violence. Briles also had a discussion with Ukwuachu's high school coach, who spoke of Ukwuachu in glowing terms.

ESPN.com's Jake Trotter provided Briles' full statement:

Baylor released a copy of Ukwuachu's official transfer request, which seems to show Ukwuachu wasn't dismissed for disciplinary reasons (via Trotter):

The school also announced Friday it will launch an internal investigation into the details surrounding its inquest into the sexual assault allegations leveled against former defensive end Sam Ukwuachu.

Shehan Jeyarajah of the Dallas Morning News provided the official statement from the school:

Baylor President Ken Starr posted a letter, which included Baylor's stance on sexual violence:

Acts of sexual violence contradict every value Baylor University upholds as a caring Christian community. In recent years we have joined university efforts nationally to prevent campus violence against women and sexual assault, to actively support survivors of sexual assault with compassion and care, and to take action against perpetrators. We have established and fully staffed a Title IX office that employs a Title IX Coordinator and two full-time investigators. Maintaining a safe and caring community is central to Baylor’s mission and at the heart of our commitment to our students, faculty and staff.

A judge in McLennan County, Texas, sentenced Ukwuachu to 180 days in county jail and 400 hours of community service Friday after he was found guilty of second-degree sexual assault, per Tommy Witherspoon of the Waco Tribune. Ukwuachu will also remain on felony probation for 10 years.

Writing for Texas Monthly, Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon first broke that Ukwuachu had been indicted for sexual assault on June 25, 2014, a fact which had gone unreported for over a year. Luther and Solomon detailed the circumstances of the case and the potential shortcomings in Baylor's investigation of the claims.

Based on Tommy Witherspoon's Waco Tribune report, Deadspin's Diana Moskovitz wrote about the aspects of the case overlooked by Bethany McCraw, Baylor's associate dean for student conduct administration. McCraw failed to obtain the results from a sexual assault exam on the victim in question, and she never spoke with a university psychologist who diagnosed the victim with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Another critical question asked both of McCraw and Briles is whether they knew the facts regarding Ukwuachu's transfer from Boise State.

Friday morning, Briles told reporters he was unaware of any significant issues Ukwuachu had before his departure.

"No mention of anything beyond Sam being depressed and needing to come home," he said, per ESPN.com's Max Olson and Mark Schlabach. "So that was our information. And that's what you go by."

Petersen then released a statement in which he claimed to have called Briles and "thoroughly apprised (him) of the circumstances surrounding Sam's disciplinary record and dismissal."

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Former Baylor DE Sam Ukwuachu Sentenced for 2013 Sexual Assault of Soccer Player

A judge in McLennan County, Texas, sentenced former Baylor and Boise State defensive end Sam Ukwuachu to 180 days in county jail Friday after he was found guilty of second-degree sexual assault from an October 2013 incident. Ukwuachu will also remain on felony probation for a period of 10 years, per ESPN.com's Max Olson.

According to Tommy Witherspoon of the Waco Tribune, the jury recommended an eight-year probated sentence for Ukwuachu.

Little was known about why Ukwuachu had yet to appear for the Bears after transferring from Boise State. He was eligible to play during the 2014 season but failed to see the field.

In July, Bears defensive coordinator Phil Bennett told reporters Ukwuachu could soon be joining the team.

"Ukwuachu is a guy we’re expecting to be back," Bennett said, per Shehan Jeyarajah of the Dallas Morning News. "We expect him to be eligible in July. That gives us probably five or six guys we can play at end."

Then came a report on Thursday by Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon for Texas Monthy. Luther and Solomon detailed the sexual assault allegations leveled against Ukwuachu by a former member of the Baylor women's soccer team, stemming from an incident Oct. 19, 2013. Ukwuachu was subsequently indicted June 25, 2014.

The Texas Monthy report raised questions about the investigation carried out by Baylor and whether the school was aware of the circumstances leading to Ukwuachu's departure from Boise State, which reportedly included an act of punching "through a window while drunk."

Baylor head coach Art Briles denied he had knowledge of Ukwuachu's past indiscretions.

"No mention of anything beyond Sam being depressed and needing to come home," Briles said, per Olson. "So that was our information. And that's what you go by."

Olson and ESPN.com colleague Mark Schlabach then provided a statement from Washington head coach Chris Petersen, who coached the Broncos at the time of Ukwuachu's transfer, which seemingly contradicted Briles' story: "After Sam Ukwuachu was dismissed from the Boise State football program and expressed an interest in transferring to Baylor, I initiated a call with coach Art Briles. In that conversation, I thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding Sam's disciplinary record and dismissal."

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Alabama Requests Media to Stop Reporting What They See at Practice

Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide aren't taking any chances when it comes to maintaining a tactical edge this season. 

According to the Tuscaloosa News' Aaron Suttles, "Alabama has requested that the media not report on what is seen at practice." Suttles added the Crimson Tide's desire revolves around reporting injuries, although it's not restricted to such narrow criteria.

Alabama's request makes sense from a competitive standpoint, as limiting the dissemination of injury reports through the media could keep opponents guessing as they attempt to game-plan for the reigning SEC champions. 

However, the other side of the issue has to do with the media's ability to do its job properly and without obstructions.

Since reporters have an obligation to keep fans and readers up-to-date with pertinent information, constraints on publishing crucial elements of the team's well-being stand to impact how much detail they can divulge.

As the season approaches, it will be fascinating to observe how specific the program gets when it discloses injury-related updates—particularly during the weeks leading up to some of Alabama's biggest SEC clashes.

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