Derek Dooley

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley surveys the field before a game against Missouri at Neyland Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 10 in Knoxville, Tenn. Dooley was fired this week.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Week 12 in college football was the craziest one yet, opening the door to a handful of teams having their own elaborate scenario to reach the BCS title game. The past two weekends have seen the No. 1 team go down consecutively and with Notre Dame visiting USC on Saturday, will the Fighting Irish be next? Let’s take a look at some of the notes around the country heading into the weekend.

• Rutgers and the University of Maryland will join the Big Ten Conference as soon as the 2014 season. The universities will be the 13th and 14th members of the conference, which will most likely prompt a name change. Maryland’s current conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, has instilled a $50 million exit fee, but Terrapins higher-ups believe they will be able to negotiate the cost.

• USC quarterback Matt Barkley will not play against Notre Dame this weekend after injuring his shoulder versus UCLA last Saturday. With a win, the Fighting Irish would secure a spot in the BCS title game. However, a Trojan win would surely send the rankings into one of the biggest shuffles in BCS history. Redshirt freshman Max Wittek will start in Barkley’s place.

• Tennessee has fired head coach Derek Dooley after three seasons. The Volunteers are winless in the SEC this season and went an unremarkable 15-21 in Dooley’s tenure in Knoxville. Tennessee will finish below .500 for the third consecutive season, which marks the first time the feat has occurred since 1909-1911.

• Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel will return to the field versus Florida State, but as to whether he will start is still unknown. Driskel sprained his ankle against Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 10. The sophomore has passed for 1,324 yards and ten touchdowns on the season.

• Miami will impose a postseason bowl-ban on itself for the second consecutive season, following an ongoing investigation as to whether players received improper benefits from a booster. The Hurricanes (6-5, 4-3) had an opportunity to play their way into the ACC Championship game and a possible BCS berth.

• Kansas State and Texas A&M quarterbacks Collin Klein and Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o are the three finalists for the Maxwell Award, which goes to the nation’s top player. The award is typically a strong predictor of the Heisman Trophy.

• Minnesota wideout A.J. Barker left the program after accusing head coach Jerry Kill and the training staff of abusive behavior. Barker claimed Kill accosted him in front of the team, questioning his ankle injury. Barker went on to say that the head coach questioned his family background. Kill has since denied the allegations. Barker was the Golden Gophers’ leading receiver, catching 30 passes for 577 yards and seven touchdowns. The junior will look to transfer for his final year of eligibility.

• College football’s winningest coach in history, St. John’s John Gagliardi, will retire at the end of the season. Gagliardi compiled 489 wins, including 465 and four national championships at the Division III University in Collegeville, Minn. Gagliardi’s career spanned over six decades. Gagliardi was the first active head coach inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. 

With the 2011 college football season inching closer coaches are working to fill their rosters. While some athletes are being welcomed back onto campus as starters, other have fallen from grace.

At Ole Miss, a three-way quarterback competition came to an abrupt halt after junior Randall Mackey was arrested for disorderly conduct outside an Oxford bar this week, essentially ending the competition at the position. Head coach Houston Nutt suspended Mackey for the opener against BYU, and sophomore Barry Brunetti will instead get the start.

“Obviously [Mackey] made a bad decision,” Nutt said.

Brunetti is a transfer from West Virginia and was granted eligibility because of a family hardship that required him to be closer to his home in Memphis. He completed four of nine passes in two games with West Virginia last year.

“It’s kind of exciting, but at the same time it’s kind of sad, because Mackey’s like my best friend here,” Brunetti said. “I’ve just got to prepare, take each day one step at a time.”

Tennessee safety leaves team after off-field issues

Junior safety Janzen Jackson, who figured to play a big role for Tennessee this year, has been released from the team. Head coach Derek Dooley didn’t go in to specifics as to why Jackson was released, but noted prior substance-abuse issues and several failed drug tests.

“Our program has devoted a tremendous amount of energy, resources, support and care in an effort to help Janzen manage his personal challenges,” Dooley said in a statement. “I will always be there to help him as a person, but there comes a time when a player’s actions preclude him from the privilege of playing for the University of Tennessee football team.”

A second team All-SEC selection, Jackson withdrew from classes in February to deal with personal issues. He tallied five interceptions last year, and led all Vols defensive backs with 69 tackles. Dooley had vowed to leave the door open for

Jackson as long as he was willing to try to take care of his issues. Dooley placed Jackson under a zero-tolerance policy after his reinstatement to the team in July.

“Although I’m disappointed with this outcome, we will never compromise the long-term organizational values and goals we maintain here at Tennessee,” Dooley said.

Keenum close to breaking NCAA passing benchmark

Houston quarterback Case Keenum is only 3,486 yards away from breaking the NCAA career passing yards record. Timmy Chang holds the record with 17,702 yards. Keenum was granted a rare sixth year of eligibility after he tore his ACL early last season. He also needs 28 touchdown passes to break the record of 134, held by Graham Harrell.

“It’s not something I dwell on, that I think about every time I get on the field. I don’t think, ‘I need to go out to practice to break that record,’” Keenum said. “I want to do everything it takes to win a football game. If all that happens it would mean a lot. It’s a cool deal. It’s an elite group of quarterbacks, and I hope I get to be a part of that. But I’m not concentrating on it.”

BYU, Houston agree to home-and-home series

BYU and Houston will play a home-and-home series in 2013 and 2014. Houston will host BYU on Oct. 19, 2013 and Houston will travel to Provo to play the Cougars on Sept. 27, 2014.

“We are very pleased to be able to bring such a high-quality opponent to the University of Houston campus,” said Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades in a statement. “We believe in playing a strong non-conference schedule against teams nationally known to our fans.”

The game in Houston will be the first meeting between the two teams. BYU, who recently became an independent, has home games against Texas, Georgia Tech and Boise State that year.

“We’re excited to play this series with Houston,” said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. “It allows both schools to have unique travel experiences and play very good competition. Our football team has never played in Houston, so I’m excited that BYU fans in that part of the country will have an opportunity to see our team play in person.”