50 things about college football

ASSOCIATED PRESS Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (8) is one of the top returning running backs in the nation.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (8) is one of the top returning running backs in the nation.
Posted: August 27, 2014

WILL the new playoff system quiet the chaos or ramp up the acrimony?

The conference-hopping is slowing down, but it hasn't stopped. A Clemson player is just happy to be alive. And Oregon wants to play so fast, it's now starting to recruit off its own basketball team.

Put down those crab legs and put fresh batteries in the remote. Everything you want to know about college football is here:

1 Remember when Marcus Mariota was going to be the Eagles' next quarterback? He's still at Oregon, entering his junior season, and is a Heisman contender. Reggie Bush (2005), whether they want to obliterate him from the record books or not, is the last Heisman winner from a Pac-12 school.

2 Oregon's Johnathan Loyd is giving football a shot (as a wide receiver/returner) after just exhausting 4 years of eligibility for the basketball team. Loyd is the winningest hoops player in program history and is taking advantage of the NCAA rule that allows for 4 years of eligibility in one sport and 1 year in another. He already has an economics degree and is chasing another.

3 Rutgers plays host to Penn State on Sept. 13 in its first Big Ten game. Maryland, also new to the Big Ten, doesn't play its first league game until Sept. 27 at Indiana.

4 Coincidentally, Ralph Friedgen, who coached Maryland to an Orange Bowl, is now running Rutgers' offense. He's the Scarlet Knights' fourth offensive coordinator in 4 years.

5 There are 14 teams in the league, but the Big Ten has no intention of changing its name. Probably would cost a fortune in new stationery.

6 Louisville makes its ACC debut with a season-opening visit from Miami on Monday night.

7 Tennessee has lost seven games in five of the last 6 years. The exception was 2009 when the Vols went 7-6. Freshman defensive players Elliott and Evan Berry are twins and brothers of Kansas City Chiefs star safety Eric Berry.

8 Clemson defensive tackle Carlos Watkins is back on the field after missing most of last season after being involved in a car accident that left him trapped for 2 hours. One childhood friend was driving and another was killed in the wreck. "It just [showed] me how quick things can change," said Watkins, a junior, "how quick your life can be taken away."

9 Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was the closer for Florida State's baseball team. He had a sparkling 1.08 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings. The lowlight of his offseason was getting caught trying to steal $32 worth of crab legs from a supermarket. One fan of a rival school photoshopped Winston's picture in front of one of those massive crabbing nets they use on the popular TV show "Deadliest Catch." Not bad.

10 FSU tight end Nick O'Leary survived a scary motorcycle accident for the second year in a row. O'Leary, a grandson of legend Jack Nicklaus, should be in the NFL next season. "The first thing I told him was now he's got the idiot clause in his contract," his father, Bill O'Leary, told the Palm Beach Post.

11 Nebraska put its linemen through yoga classes to help improve agility and maybe even prevent injuries. "We all had a little struggle with some of the poses, as you can imagine," said Jake Cotton, a 6-6, 305-pound senior. "[But] the guys got behind it. We're all yogis now."

12 The nation's top two returning rushers are Nebraska senior Ameer Abdullah (1,690 yards last year) and Wisconsin junior Melvin Gordon (1,609). Nebraska plays at Wisconsin on Nov. 15.

13 Gordon needed just 104 carries to reach 1,000 career yards, and his career yards per attempt is a ridiculous 8.1.

14 Wyoming plays at No. 3 Oregon (Sept. 13) and at No. 8 Michigan State (Sept. 27). The Daily News sends out its best to sophomore punter Ethan Wood, whose parents were killed in a plane crash on Aug. 9.

15 North Carolina sophomore Ryan Switzer needs three to tie the record of eight career punt return touchdowns. He had five last year in becoming the first UNC true freshman to be named an All-America. Wes Welker is one of the guys who holds the punt return/TD record.

16 Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett will be Ohio State's quarterback after senior Braxton Miller was lost for the season with a shoulder injury. The J.T. stands for Joe Thomas. Kenny Guiton, who was Miller's terrific backup last season, played this year in the Arena League.

17 Don't count out the Buckeyes yet. A visit to Michigan State on Nov. 11 is Ohio State's only regular-season game against a team ranked in the AP preseason Top 25.

18 "This year seems like it could be a special year," Oklahoma tight end Blake Bell said early in training camp. "I've been here for four summers, and coming into this one, it just feels like something's different."

19 Bell's optimism likely was dampened a few weeks later when prized freshman running back Joe Mixon was suspended for the year because he was charged with assault for alledgedly punching a woman in the face, and wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham's request to play this season was denied by the NCAA. Green-Beckham was kicked out of Missouri in the spring for myriad offenses. OU is ranked fourth.

20 Southern Miss is 1-23 since winning the 2011 Hawaii Bowl. The Golden Eagles play at Alabama on Sept. 13.

21 "I'm hoping that stuff like this won't be such a big news story, that people will hear stories like this and it won't be such a big thing. Eventually, players will be who they are and it's just that. But right now, there still needs to be role models for those types of players,"- Arizona State offensive lineman Chip Sarafin, who is gay.

22 The seat under Michigan coach Brady Hoke has gotten a little warm after going 15-11 the last two seasons with a pair of bowl losses. The Wolves are 6-8 on the road under Hoke and make visits this year to Notre Dame (Sept. 6), Sparty (Oct. 25) and Ohio State (Nov. 29).

23 Hoke's biggest coup may have been prying away Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier for the same position with a reported raise, from $680,000 per year to $840,000.

24 Florida State promoted linebackers coach Charles Kelly to defensive coordinator and gave him a raise from $275,000 to $500,000. The Seminoles won the national title last year. Michigan went 7-6 and lost the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

25 Bo Pelini has lost four games in each of his 6 years at Nebraska. In Tom Osborne's final six seasons (1992-97), the Cornhuskers lost six total.

26 Florida senior quarterback Jeff Driskell is back from the broken leg that ended his season in Week 3 and played a big part in the Gators' 4-8 season. Sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg (St. Joseph's Prep) is reportedly back on the fourth string.

27 The Big 12's mantra this season is "One True Champion" which plays on the conference being the only power league with a full round-robin schedule. It's also the only heavyweight conference that doesn't have a championship game.

28 Baylor set an NCAA record averaging 52.4 points per game last season. The Bears open a new stadium on campus (modest capacity of 45,000) and return quarterback Bryce Petty, who finished seventh in Heisman voting-the only player except Jameis Winston in the top 10 returning.

29 Baylor linebacker Bryce Hager is coming back from a torn ACL. He is the son of former Eagles LB Britt Hager.

30 If you can't join 'em, beat 'em. At least that seems to be the tack Chris Peterson took by leaving Boise State to go coach at Washington, of the Pac-12.

31 Of the top 25 teams in the AP preseason poll, 24 come from the five power conferences. The exception is Notre Dame, an independent.

32 There no longer is a 15-yard penalty on targeting fouls that get overturned. Previously, if the zebras reversed the call after a look at replay, the 15 yards was still enforced. Also, the NCAA instituted its version of the Tom Brady rule, which penalizes defensive players from hitting quarterbacks in throwing motion in the knee or below.

33 "We haven't done a thing in the 2 years I've been here," said Charlie Weis, who is 4-20 as Kansas' coach. The Jayhawks visit Duke on Sept. 13 in what would be a heckuva basketball game.

34 Iowa State will try to avoid getting burned twice in 2 years when it hosts three-time defending I-AA champ North Dakota State on Saturday. The Cyclones lost last year's opener to I-AA Northern Iowa and stumbled through a 3-9 season.

35 Speaking of fun openers, Michigan hosts Appalachian State on Saturday, as well.

36 "College athletics, football in particular, has changed dramatically over the years," said 74-year-old Kansas State coach Bill Snyder. "I think we've sold out. We're about dollars and cents. The concept of college football no longer has any bearing on the quality of the person, the quality of the students. Universities are selling themselves out."

37 Kansas State hosts Auburn on Sept. 18 in Bill Snyder Stadium, which is in the middle of $155 million in renovations. "I have an office I could swim in [it's so big]," Snyder continued. "[Our professors] are in a cubbyhole somewhere. Yet they go out and teach and promote education every day. I value that."

38 Stanford junior Barry Sanders, son of you-know-who, is among the candidates to play running back. The elder Sanders ran for 2,628 electrifying yards his junior year at Oklahoma State and won the 1988 Heisman Trophy.

39 One of the freshmen vying for time in Alabama's defensive secondary is Marlon Humphrey, the son of Bobby Humphrey, who is second all-time in Tide history with 3,420 rushing yards. Pick up one Bear Bryant houndstooth hat if you knew without looking that Shaun Alexander (3,565) was'Bama's all-time leader.

40 Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will not start the opener against Arkansas because he was cited for marijuana possession in July. The Tigers, ranked sixth, are favored by three touchdowns. "The guess here is Marshall will sit out two possessions," wrote Wally Hall, of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "one if the Arkansas Razorbacks score on their first possession."

41 Charlie Strong, who was the Eagles' first-round pick Marcus Smith's coach at Louisville, takes over for Mack Brown at Texas. The Longhorns are a rather pedestrian 25-14 since the Longhorn Network launched 3 years ago. No Texas player was drafted by the NFL this year for the first time since 1937. Wow.

42 Michigan State safety Kurtis Drummond is one of the leaders of a defense that returns only five starters. Drummond's mom, Evette, works on a garbage truck in his hometown of Masury, Ohio, to make ends meet.

43 Texas Tech defensive back Nigel Bethel is suspended for the first three games after he punched

Amber Battle during a pickup basketball game in June. Battle, the leading scorer on the Red Raiders' women's hoops team, initiated the altercation by taking a swing to the head of Bethel after the two became tangled under the basket. The 5-9, 178-pound Bethel responded with a punch that broke Battle's jaw. A grand jury declined to indict Bethel. Battle was given a six-game suspension for her role. The incident is on YouTube.

44 The Army-Navy game is in Baltimore this year. It comes back to Philadelphia on Dec. 12, 2015.

45 Navy is 10-0 all-time at Linc, with nine wins over Army and one against Temple. The Midshipmen, who average 30.7 points per game there, will play at the Owls on Sept. 6 with a chance to make it 11 in a row.

46 South Carolina lost quarterback Connor Shaw and d-end Jadeveon Clowney, but still returns 16 starters. The Gamecocks' nation-leading 18-game home winning streak gets a pair of stern early tests with visits from Texas A&M on Thursday and Georgia (Sept. 13).

47 Ohio State is playing at least five night games. Four other of their games don't have times yet. The Big Ten title game also is under the lights.

48 UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley has run or thrown for a touchdown in all 27 games he's played. The Bruins, at No. 7, are in the AP preseason Top 10 for the first time since 1998 when they also were seventh. That team, led by quarterback Cade McNown, lost to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

49 Last year, the SEC was a quarterbacks league. This season, look for the running backs to dominate. Georgia's Todd Gurley not only is among the best, he's a threat to lead the league in humility. "If I could get 2,000 yards, that would be awesome," he said. "If the Lord would bless me with that, oh my gosh. That's going to be pretty hard to do in the SEC."

50 The picks for the four-team playoff are Florida State, Auburn, Oregon and UCLA. Auburn over Oregon in the final. Alabama, which will be left out despite beating Auburn in the Iron Bowl, will lead the calls to expand the system.

On Twitter: @EdBarkowitz

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