South Carolina

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When he first heard that ESPNU wanted to feature ESPN Top-300 defensive tackle Poona Ford’s college announcement on National Signing Day, Hilton Head (S.C.) head coach B.J. Payne thought there was no way Ford would want to proceed with it. But Ford, much to his coach’s chagrin, agreed.

“I said, ‘Poona, that’s not you,’” Payne said. “‘You’re a quiet kid. That goes against everything that you are about. You know I’m not a fan of that.’ He goes, ‘Coach, when else does our high school have a chance be on the stage on national television and let me give a thank you back to the teachers and the school that made me who I am?’”

Taken aback by this gesture, Payne allowed Ford — who committed to Texas in February — to proceed and watched as the shy student, who usually avoids media attention, soaked it in as a tribute to those around him. It was a genuine motive but not at all surprising for a kid who once received 40 references by his teachers within an hour of them being requested and, during summer practices, ate lunch with Payne’s children because he’s their favorite player.

Ford’s arrival in Austin is a direct result of his bond with head coach Charlie Strong, which is why he originally committed to Louisville in August 2013. Ford visited the Cardinals that summer for a 13-hour visit, during which Strong didn’t leave Ford’s side. It seemed that Strong had broken through to the quiet Ford, who left the visit with Louisville as his top choice.

“I think Strong just has a way of putting guys at ease, almost that father figure where they open up,” said Hilton Head defensive line coach Joey Maddox, who took Ford to visit Louisville. “He just gave that family feel, and that’s one thing Poona’s always been around — his family.”   

“He’s an all-around great person, a good motivator, and there’s just something about him that makes me want to play for him,” Ford said about Strong.

When Strong left for Texas, Ford worried that he wouldn’t be asked to follow him, but that concern didn’t last too long. A week after declining the Cardinals, Ford visited Austin, and following trips to Missouri and Purdue, signed with the Longhorns on National Signing Day.

“At the end, I picked the right school that fit me,” Ford stated.

Ford’s decision to sign with Texas gave it a player whom Payne described as “a freak show, [who] just does things that people just shouldn’t be able to do.”

Undersized at 6-feet tall, Ford’s 80-inch wingspan allows him to swat down balls with ease. His 4.8 40 time and 600-pound max squat are a nightmare combination for offensive lines to block.

Ford’s game should fit perfectly into Strong’s defensive scheme. Maddox believes the system he’s played in high school should prepare him for playing in Texas’ defensive line under coach Chris Rumph.

“With the techniques that coach Rumph coaches are a lot of the techniques that I mirror, so it’s not a lot of new stuff,” Maddox said. “The only thing new is going to be the language, some of the jargon may be different from here to there. But, once he gets in line and puts two and two together, the techniques will be the same for him.”

It may be a while before Ford sees the field because of returning upperclassmen, such as senior Desmond Jackson and junior Malcom Brown. But, if he fails to play a significant role early, Payne believes that would be a tribute to the quality of Texas’ depth at defensive tackle.

“If there’s enough guys on Texas or any university in the country to keep that kid off the field his freshman year, I’ll tip my hat to them. He’s that good,” Payne said.

While Ford embraced the media — which he seemed to avoid over the recent years as he rose into an elite Division-1 prospect — on that one day in February, expect the quiet star to return to his business as usual.

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Auburn

Auburn’s slide into the Top 5, after its win against Georgia, set up the first matchup of Top 5 teams in the Iron Bowl since 1971. This high-stakes showdown is not just a fierce battle between in-state rivals but will also determine who wins the SEC West and plays for a conference championship. Auburn’s only loss of the season came on the road at LSU. Although Alabama beat LSU by 21 points, the Crimson Tide had the home-field advantage in that game, a factor that could have changed the game for Auburn. To keep Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron from throwing his way to securing its third consecutive Iron Bowl victory, the Tigers defense will have to keep their eyes up to stop completions — something it has not excelled at this season.

 

No. 6 Clemson vs. No. 10 South Carolina

South Carolina’s 70-10 win against Coastal Carolina set up the best-case scenario for the Gamecocks going into the game against Clemson. The Gamecocks didn’t struggle to put up points, leading 42-7 at the half, and more importantly didn’t sustain any more injuries. They finally got the opportunity to rest some of their key playmakers that have been playing through injuries all season. But Clemson is its toughest opponent yet and is led by quarterback Tajh Boyd, who threw for 288 yards and five touchdowns last week and holds more than 50 school records, is hoping to lead the Tigers to their first win in four years against their in-state rivals.

 

No. 19 Texas A&M vs. No. 5 Missouri

While Johnny Manziel took a step back in the Heisman race and Texas A&M got knocked down in the rankings after its loss to LSU. Missouri dodged a similar fate, beating Ole Miss, 24-10, in Oxford. Any fears the Tigers had of quarterback James Franklin performing poorly after more than a month of not starting (due to a shoulder injury) were silenced, as he completed 63 percent of his passes for 142 yards. In 2011, when both A&M and Missouri were Big 12 teams, the Tigers beat the Aggies, 38-31. But in 2012 when Texas A&M moved to the SEC and added Johnny Manziel to their roster, the new Aggies team proved to be too much for the Tigers, who fell drastically, 59-29. This year the game could go either way if Texas A&M is able rebound from their disappointing loss at LSU.

 

No. 22 UCLA vs. No. 23 USC

Last week UCLA came up short at home for their first time all season and dropped from No. 14 to No. 22 in the rankings. Previously, UCLA’s only two losses came from hard-hitting opponents, Oregon and Stanford, but last week they fell to No. 12 Arizona State, a team they could have beaten. The Bruins’ slow start and inability to avoid costly penalties meant the Sun Devils could get away with scoring just three points in the second half. USC, on the other hand, earned a 47-29 win against an easy opponent (Colorado) last week. The win served as a good warm-up for this week’s game, and gave sophomore Javorius Allen the chance to run for a career-best 145 yards and three touchdowns.

 

 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Just a week after playing with a partial strain to his MCL, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota says he’ll be good to go this weekend against Utah.

Mariota’s Heisman chances took a big hit last week when the Ducks lost, 26-20, to Stanford. The redshirt sophomore was clearly bothered by the injury throughout the game, rushing for negative yardage after a few sacks. It was reported shortly after the game that he had suffered the knee injury prior to the game.

He is still wearing a brace in practice but when asked if he’d play this week, Mariota responded, “for sure.”

Mariota has passed for 22 touchdowns without being picked off in 327 attempts this year, a Pac-12 record for the most pass attempts without an interception. He has rushed also for 495 yards and nine touchdowns.

 

Sheriff reveals former South Carolina player shot himself in arm

A sheriff revealed Tuesday that former South Carolina running back Kenny Miles shot himself in the arm, despite Miles stating earlier that he was shot during a robbery.

Miles, who will now be charged with filing a false police report, shot himself Nov. 4 in an industrial park parking lot. No further information was released as to what he was doing at the time he shot himself or if any other criminal activity was involved.

The Lawrenceville, Ga. native spent most of his career with the Gamecocks as a backup to current NFL running back Marcus Lattimore. He racked up 1,341 yards and four touchdowns over the course of his South Carolina career.

 

Florida starting QB a game-time decision against South Carolina

Florida Gator starting quarterback Tyler Murphy is expected to be a game-time decision against South Carolina this week, according to offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

Murphy originally sprained his right shoulder against LSU last month. He has played in each of Florida’s three games since, but said he landed on the shoulder in their last game against Vanderbilt and likely made it worse. The shoulder is still sore and could keep on the sidelines this weekend.

The junior has completed 60.5 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five interceptions so far this year.

 

Nebraska’s Martinez unlikely to return

According to his father, Taylor Martinez will not play again for the Nebraska
Cornhuskers.

Martinez’s father, Casey Martinez, stated that the senior quarterback has a “debilitating injury” near the ball of his left foot that likely won’t be fully healed until February or March.

Martinez was injured in the first week of the season and, despite playing in a few games since, has been unable to return to full strength. The California native finishes his collegiate career with 7,258 yards passing, 56 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. He also rushed for 2,975 yards and 31 touchdowns.

 

Baylor’s Briles gets 10-year extension

Baylor head coach Art Briles has led the Bears to an 8-0 record for the first time in school history, and now he’s being rewarded for it.

The University’s regents approved the deal wednesday but financial details weren’t revealed, as is standard practice for the private university. The deal will come into effect next season, running through 2023.

Briles has led an unprecedented turnaround, turning the Bears from Big 12 doormats into perennial contenders. In six years as head coach, he has posted a 41-30 record.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Two years after the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal broke, Penn State University has reached a settlement with 26 of the victims.

The university announced Monday that it will pay $59.7 million to the 26 men over claims of child sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky. 23 of the deals have been signed while the other three have been agreed to in principle. Penn State still faces six claims, any number of which could result in further settlements.

The settlement process has been ongoing since mid-August. The university has also spent over $50 million on other costs related to the scandal, including lawyer fees and the costs associated with adopting new policies related to children and sexual abuse complaints.

 

Stanford DE Gardner out for season

For the second consecutive week, one of the country’s top five teams has lost its defensive leader. Last week it was Alabama, this week it’s Stanford.

Cardinal fifth-year senior defensive end Ben Gardner underwent season-ending surgery after leaving last Saturday’s game against Oregon State with a left pectoral injury. He had struggled with an upper body injury for several weeks prior to that game.

As one of Stanford’s defensive captains, Gardner had recorded 19 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss so far this year. It is unknown when Gardner will be able to play again, but head coach David Shaw did say he expects the injury to carry through the bowl season.

 

South Carolina’s Shaw remains questionable

After sitting out the start of last Saturday’s game due to a virus and a sprained knee, Gamecocks starting quarterback Connor Shaw is still suffering from the virus and did not practice Monday or Tuesday.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier did not see his quarterback at all early in the week, as he was resting to help cure the virus, and has said that Shaw is still questionable for this Saturday’s contest against Mississippi State.

Despite the sickness and a bad knee, Shaw entered last week’s game in the second half and led the Gamecocks to a come-from-behind, double-overtime victory over Missouri.

 

FAU head coach resigns mid-season

Florida Atlantic head coach Carl Pelini, the brother of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, stepped down Wednesday. He was in his second season with the Owls, having posted a 2-6 record so far this year and an overall record of 5-15 during his tenure.

FAU defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis also resigned. The resignations come after a recent news story revealed that the coaches were at a social event where marijuana was present.

The Owls were blown out, 45-10, by Auburn last week and will host Conference USA’s top team, Tulane, this Saturday.

After firing Lane Kiffin last Saturday, USC athletic director Pat Haden is now tasked with finding his replacement.

Haden has stated that he intends to keep the search private, out of respect for the current senior class, but several candidates to replace Kiffin have already surfaced.

The lead candidate at this point appears to be current Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. The former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach is a Trojan alumnus and understands the culture at USC. With that being said, he has no experience as a college coach.

Other possible replacements include Boise State’s Chris Petersen, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Washington’s Steve Sarkisian, among others.

 

Government shutdown threatens service academy games

The consequences of Congress’ failure to pass the budget have spread to the world of college football.

The Defense Department temporarily shut down sports competition at the service academies - Army, Air Force and Navy - as a result of the government shutdown.

This could have a major impact on one of the greatest rivalries in college football. Air Force is scheduled to take on Navy this weekend and if a resolution can’t be worked out, the game will be cancelled. Army’s contest with Boston College could also be affected by the shutdown. A decision will be made by noon Thursday about whether the academies can play.

 

South Carolina’s Shaw could play on Saturday

South Carolina’s early-season woes went from bad to worse last Saturday when starting quarterback Connor Shaw went down with a shoulder injury and was expected to miss as many as three weeks. But the Gamecocks got some good news early this week as head coach Steve Spurrier announced his quarterback has recovered much quicker than expected and may be good to go this weekend.

If Shaw does play, it will give South Carolina a huge lift. The senior quarterback has been a rare bright spot for the Gamecocks so far this season, completing 65 percent of his passes for 665 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.

 

Bearcats to play first game since losing teammate

When Cincinnati takes to the field against South Florida this Saturday, it will be their first time on the gridiron since the passing of redshirt freshman Ben Flick on Sept. 21st.

Flick, along with three other students, got in a traffic accident on their way home from a victory over Miami (OH) in Oxford, Ohio. Flick and one other student were killed in the crash. The other two students in the vehicle, Mark Barr and Javon Harrison, are also on the football team. Barr is still in serious condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

A bye week provided the team with some extra time to recover from the loss but head coach Tommy Tuberville is hoping this week’s game will help his players move past the tragedy.

No. 11 Georgia vs. No. 6 South Carolina

 

This one could go either way if the Bulldogs can erase their memories of their crushing loss against Clemson and bring back that same intensity and energy. The Gamecocks are coming off a dominating performance against North Carolina and may hold a morale advantage. Georgia will need to utilize Todd Gurley, who was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week, if they want to remain competitive.

 

No. 17 Michigan vs. No. 14 Notre Dame

 

This matchup will be both teams’ first real test this season, making it difficult to predict how this game will play out. Irish quarterback Tommy Rees had a big game taking over for the suspended Everett Golson, but it will be interesting to see how he handles leading this Notre Dame team when he’s in the spotlight and on the road in a hostile environment. Michigan still has much to prove. Can they beat a legitimate opponent and defend home field?

 

No. 12 Florida vs. Miami

 

Expect Florida to ground and pound with a solid (and now healthy) offensive line, controlling the momentum of the game by relying on Mack Brown, who ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns in the last game. Florida is also looking to develop quarterback Jeff Driskell into a more consistent player. What better way to do that then sending him on the road to play a tough in-state rival? The Miami defense will need a performance like they had last week, when they held Florida Atlantic to only two field goals, if they’re going to be able to compete with the Gators defense, which also allowed only two field goals last week.

 

No. 2 Oregon vs. Virginia

 

The Oregon Ducks demolished Nicholls State, winning by 63 points in their season opener, compared to Virginia’s modest 19-16 win against BYU. Although the Cavaliers came out of the game victorious, their offensive and defensive fronts have significant room for improvement, especially on the defensive end if they hope to slow down Oregon’s fast paced offense. Additionally, this game could be the debut of the highly-anticipated Oregon freshman Thomas Tyner, who was kept out of last Saturday’s game as a precaution.

 

No. 15 Texas vs. BYU

 

This game will be an interesting test for Texas, after handily beating an unproven New Mexico State team. This game also acts as a chance at redemption for BYU after a heartbreaking Week 1 loss to Virginia. If the Longhorns decide to play their first 28 minutes the way they did against the Aggies, it may not be as easy to recover. Cougars enior linebacker Kyle Van Noy will be a key for BYU’s defense. Locating and restricting him on every play while getting the ball to sophomore Daje Johnson, who proved to be the most dynamic option for the Longhorns last week, will need to be the Longhorns offense.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

1. QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)

Manziel, possibly reluctantly, returns to College Station after an SEC recordbreaking 2012 campaign in which he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Though Manziel showed a lack of maturity this off-season and defenses will be able to better gameplan for him, Manziel could join Archie Griffin as the only twotime Heisman winners ever.

 

2. QB Braxton Miller (Ohio State)

Miller was stellar in his second year for Griffin’s alma mater, throwing for 15 touchdowns and only six interceptions while rushing for 13 more scores. As a result of his impact, Ohio State was the only undefeated team in the FBS at year’s end, and probably would’ve played for a national title if they weren’t ineligible due to NCAA sanctions. Miller is one of the clear favorites to win the Heisman, alongside Manziel. 

 

Jadeveon Clowney
DE, South Carolina

Clowney enters the season as NFL-ready as any player in recent history. If he plays at a historic level and leads the Gamecocks to the next level of success, he has a legitimate shot to win the Heisman, having finished sixth in voting in 2012. Clowney strikes fear in all he plays against, and thanks to the media buzz from his hit in the 2013 Outback Bowl against Michigan, has become a household name to even casual football viewers.

 

Teddy Bridgewater
QB, Louisville

Bridgewater’s best shot at the Heisman is to continue his play from the Sugar Bowl and he has all the tools do so, as evidenced by his $10 million insurance policy. Louisville’s weak schedule as a member of the hodgepodge American Athletic Conference should boost Bridgewater’s numbers, but will also make a perfect regular season imperative if he is to win the Heisman.

 

TJ Yeldon
RB, Alabama

Yeldon is somewhat of a darkhorse pick, but should continue the line of Nick Saban coached running backs who have had stellar seasons as the featured back. As a freshman in 2012 Yeldon rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns despite being the backup to Eddie Lacy, the 61 stpick in this year’s NFL Draft. Now Yeldon is expected to more touches, which opens up the possibility of winning the Tide’s second Heisman.

This weekend Texas traveled to South Carolina to compete at the Clemson Invitational. Although the varsity squad held consistent times and places in its competition over the weekend, UT’s second novice eight, led by Lauren Deschner, was the highlight of the races on Lake Hartwell.

On Saturday, day one of the regatta, Texas second novice eight boat claimed two top wins. Deschner and her squad, featuring Danette Higginbotham, Vanessa Vandenworm, Hollis Scheffler, Lisa Sage, Laken Carleton, Katy Kazen, Corey Timmerman and Carmen Hargis-Villanueva, took the win over four boats with a time of 7:10.7. Later during Saturday’s afternoon sessions, Deschner pushed her team ever faster, clenching another win over Michigan State, Ohio State, Clemson and Duke with a time of 6:53.0.

Sunday, Varsity continued its consistency on the water, struggling to move quicker within their boats over the course of the weekend. Texas will soon resume competition as it travels to Kansas City, Kan., on May 4 to fight for the Big 12 title.

This weekend Texas heads to South Carolina for the Clemson Invite on Lake Hartwell. With Big 12 competition right around the corner, Texas is using every moment to improve and heighten their performance on the water. 

“Everyone has a different opinion on what needs to happen in order to do well this weekend but one thing I think we can all agree on is mastering the technical things within each boat,” sophomore Heather Leighton said.

The spring season has brought focus to Texas’ technique on and off the water. As Texas nears conference play, its practice and performance at the meet is more important as it fights to defend its championship title.

Texas will be competing both Saturday and Sunday in both open eights and fours.

No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 2 Florida
This week’s top matchup will be a struggle between two of the nation’s top teams. The Gamecocks and Gators each boast superb defensive units, as each team has allowed just 12.3 points per game to opponents. South Carolina is coming off its first loss of the season against LSU, making this Saturday’s game a must-win for both its SEC and National Title hopes. Winning will be no easy task, as Florida is 6-0 and is allowing just 7.7 points per game at The Swamp. A win for either team will greatly improve its chances moving forward in the conference as well as in the BCS poll.
Game at 2:30 CT on CBS

No. 6 LSU at No. 18 Texas A&M
LSU is coming off of a huge win against South Carolina that might have saved its season. The Tigers were able to answer questions about their ability to compete against elite SEC teams and their offense will have a chance to continue to quiet doubters against a Texas A&M team that allowed 57 points last week against LA Tech. The Aggies will have a chance to make a statement, as they face their biggest opportunity to prove their recent hot streak makes them a legitimate SEC contender. Johnny Manziel has had a remarkable season at quarterback for A&M, leading the SEC in rushing with 676 yard. Each team is coming off of a win against a ranked opponent and both will look to win another this week.
Game at 11:00 CT on ESPN

No. 4 Kansas State vs. No. 13 West Virginia
West Virginia came up empty last Saturday in an ugly 49-14 upset against Texas Tech. Geno Smith is still likely the Heisman frontrunner, as he has thrown for 2,271 yards and 25 touchdowns without an interception in 2012, and gives the Mountaineers the chance to win any game. This will be an especially tough game to win, as Kansas State is among college football’s most balanced teams. Defensively, the Wildcats are allowing just 16.5 points per game, while on offense they are scoring 40.8 per contest. Collin Klein, another Heisman hopeful, has broken out this year with 1074 passing yards and 510 rushing yards,and has accounted for 17 total touchdowns. The winner of this game will be sitting in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 title.
Game at 6:00 CT on Fox

No. 17 Texas Tech vs. No. 23 TCU
Seth Doege is having a strong year for the Red Raiders, throwing for 1,891 yards and 21 touchdowns. He will have a tough assignment this week though, as TCU has a smothering defense that is allowing just 14.5 points per game. After losing their first game without suspended quarterback Casey Pachall, the Horned Frogs got back on track last week in a 49-21 drubbing of Baylor. These two teams sit in a tie for second place in the Big 12 and a win for either would be huge in creating separation in the conference standings.
Game at 2:30 CT on ABC