10 Biggest College Football Stories You Likely Missed During March Madness

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2014

10 Biggest College Football Stories You Likely Missed During March Madness

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    L.G. Patterson

    For roughly three weeks each calendar year, college football is not the most important NCAA sport. For the other 11-and-change months, pigskin is given a disproportionate amount of airtime and media attention, and it would be selfish to not let basketball enjoy its brief moment in the sun.

    But it's not like the news cycle grinds to a halt. Even if we, the college football-obsessed, are distracted by the sound of squeaky shoes and torn-up brackets, there are still stories of import being broken.

    To ensure you aren't lost when fall practice or the start of next season rolls around, here are 10 stories you might have missed—or, in some cases, seen but not entirely researched—during your three-week preoccupation with the NCAA tournament.

    Only four more months until August!

LSU's Quarterback Battle Swings Toward Brandon Harris

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Early enrollee Brandon Harris has been battling with sophomore Anthony Jennings, primarily, to replace Zach Mettenberger at quarterback in Baton Rouge. Heading into the spring game, there had appeared to be little separation between the two—something B/R's Barrett Sallee thought was a good sign for Harris' chances.

    Today, the signs look even better.

    According to an LSU press release, Harris completed just 11 of 28 passes in the spring game, but those 11 completions went for 195 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, and he ran for 75 yards and another touchdown as well.

    Jennings, meanwhile, never got into quite as nice of a rhythm, finishing 9-of-17 passing with 157 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and minus-22 rushing yards.

    Do spring games make all the difference in position battles? Rarely. But it's hard to see this and not think of when it does—of times like last year's Florida State spring game, when Jameis Winston basically wrested the job away from Jacob Coker.

    Harris has to now be considered the favorite.

Malik McDowell Officially Signs with Michigan State

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    After two months of politics of speculation, 5-star defensive end Malik McDowell, who committed to Michigan State on national signing day but couldn't get the letter of intent signed by his mother, has finally become an official member of the Spartans recruiting class.

    On the saga of bringing in McDowell, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said the following, per Mitch Sherman of ESPN.com:

    We constantly talk about commitment. He committed. He maintained his commitment. We maintained our commitment toward him and let the process take place. We continued to work on the communication but didn't press it and didn't force it and let the process work internally on their end.

    The important thing is that everybody's on the same page now. Everybody felt, the family felt that this was the best place for him.

    McDowell is the type of recruit MSU does not land with regularity. He chose the Spartans over Michigan and Florida State—programs that routinely bring in blue-chippers over Dantonio's team.

    Physically, however, the 6'7'', 290-pound lineman is exactly what defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi likes to work with.

    One of the nation's better defenses just got better.

Miami QB Ryan Williams Tears His ACL

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    Lynne Sladky

    Senior quarterback Ryan Williams, who transferred to Miami from Memphis in 2011 and was expected to replace Stephen Morris as the starter in 2014, suffered a torn ACL in a scrimmage on Friday night, which has cast his status into doubt.

    Miami's assistant athletic director, Chris Yandle, tweeted the news when it happened, confirming that Williams will undergo surgery this week.

    Redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen should now see the first-team reps all spring, although true freshman Brad Kaaya, who was one of the fastest-rising quarterbacks at the end of this past recruiting cycle, is a dark horse to steal the job when he enrolls later this summer.

    Either way, though, this is very bad news for the 'Canes.

Texas A&M's Young Stars Are in Trouble

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    There was, and still is, a realistic scenario where Kenny Hill replaces Johnny Manziel as Texas A&M's No. 1 quarterback and Ricky Seals-Jones replaces Mike Evans as its No. 1 receiver.

    Both are now just working from the dog house.

    Hill was arrested for public intoxication and suspended from the team after being found passed out in a planter full of rocks and plants, per AggieSports.com.

    Not long after, Seals-Jones was arrested for disorderly conduct for cussing outside a bar 2:30 a.m., per KBTX in College Station.

    According to Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com, Seals-Jones' attorney says his client plans to fight the charges, and of course Hill's status is also up for debate. Manziel himself got into legal trouble the spring before he won the starting job in 2012.

    These are obvious steps in the wrong direction that could turn into something bigger, but for now they are merely worth keeping an eye on. With early enrollee Kyle Allen flashing his potential in spring camp, however, Hill may have just crippled his chances of starting at QB.

Washington QB Cyler Miles Gets Good News

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Washington quarterback Cyler Miles, the team's presumptive starter in 2014, has been suspended from team activities, along with receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow, since an alleged assault that occurred during the Super Bowl.

    However, Miles' attorney told the Associated Press on March 31 that his client would not be charged in the case.

    Soon after, when asked by Adam Jude of The Seattle Times if it was fair to assume Miles still wouldn't join the team this spring, new head coach Chris Petersen said the following:

    No. It’s not. We just haven’t really decided on that whole situation. It’s kind of one day, one week at a time. There’s no reason to rush anything, and we’re always going to do the right thing. I know everyone thinks they have their opinion on what the right thing is, but we’re going to do the right thing by the school, by this program and by the kids as well. I’ve said this before: This is such a political job and I’m never going to make decisions because of political reasons to make me look better, because you think 'Oh that’s the right thing.' Well, that’s not why we’re in this thing; we’re in (it) to do the right thing on all accounts. Sometimes, things just need to play out.

    According to Jude, Stringfellow was charged with three counts of assault, and his status now looks worse than it did before. That is concerning, but the week's news was still a positive on aggregate, as having Miles under center is of utmost concern for this team in 2014.

UMass Set to Leave the MAC

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    The Mid-American Conference and UMass announced in late March that their partnership would come to an end following the 2015 football season.

    The Minutemen moved into the MAC from the FCS in April 2011, but they are 2-22 in two seasons on the senior circuit. According to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said the MAC, which currently has 13 teams, has no plans of expansion and will continue with 12 teams once UMass is gone.

    As for the UMass football program, it is not immediately clear what the next move is. Whether they will stay in the FBS, move back to the FCS or cut the sport altogether remains to be seen.

    Much of that future might be determined these next few seasons.

Northwestern Labor Issue Goes (Very) Public

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    Even with the distraction of the NCAA tournament, there is no way you missed the monumental ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, which said Northwestern football players are indeed employees of the university and have the ability to unionize.

    What you may have missed is the maelstrom that followed.

    According to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com, head coach Pat Fitzgerald has urged his players to vote against the union. According to Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com, NCAA president Mark Emmert called the union a "grossly inappropriate solution to the problems (at hand)."

    And finally, as a sort of coup de grace, Jeremy Pelzer of the Northeast Ohio Media Group is reporting that politicians in Ohio are trying to change state law in a way that would disallow college athletes from potentially being considered employees of their school.

    We officially have our storyline of the summer.

Josh Rosen Commits to UCLA

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    This seems a long while ago, but Josh Rosen's commitment might have been buried in the news from some, as it took place on the opening Thursday of the NCAA tournament—also known as the most otherwise exciting day in sports.

    So let's take some time to revisit. Rosen, who is the No. 1 quarterback and No. 4 overall player on the 247Sports composite, pledged himself to the Bruins on March 20 over Michigan, Cal and Stanford.

    This is big for a number of reasons. Besides just being the biggest recruit of Jim Mora Jr.'s tenure, Rosen's commitment, in conjunction with fellow 5-star Ricky Town's defection from Alabama to USC, sets the stage for an epic chapter of the rivalry in southern California.

    It also shifts some power in the direction of the Pac-12.

DGB Gets Indefinite Suspension

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    John Bazemore

    Dorial Green-Beckham had already been suspended for marijuana-related issues before he and two friends were arrested for suspicion of felony drug distribution three months ago. On Thursday, the hammer finally came down.

    According to the Associated Press (via USA Today), Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel suspended his star receiver indefinitely, saying the following of his disappointment:

    It's unfortunate, but it's the right thing to do for our football program, for the athletic department, and also for Dorial. We have high standards related to the expectations that come along with being a Missouri Tiger, and Dorial has not met those recently.

    Representing Mizzou and our fans is a privilege, and we'll work with him during this process. It's been disappointing to have this, and other issues which have taken place lately. It's frustrating, because we work very hard to instill responsibility and discipline in our young men so that our program represents Mizzou the right way. These actions aren't representative of those expectations, and we are addressing these issues head-on.

    DGB was the No. 1 overall player on the 247Sports composite in 2012, and he finally started playing like it down the stretch of last season. Highlighted by a four-touchdown performance against Kentucky and a two-touchdown performance in the SEC Championship Game against Auburn, Green-Beckham's late-season surge appeared to be setting the stage for Biletnikoff candidacy as a junior in 2014.

    But now? Who knows what the future might hold.

New Documents Go Public in UNC Academic Fraud Scandal

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    The deep-rooted academic fraud scandal at North Carolina is nearly five years old, but it's been back in the news because its trial date is set for June 2014, according to Dan Kane of The News & Observer.

    ESPN produced a new segment in March with whistleblower Mary Willingham and former Tar Heels safety Deunta Williams, and in that segment, we were greeted to perhaps the most shocking image we've seen throughout the whole investigation.

    A final "paper" for a class called AFAM 41—a piece of work that objectively wouldn't have passed in an elementary school grading system—was revealed and allegedly given an undeserved A-minus.

    Allegations of easy-A classes for athletes at UNC are not new, but seeing the ugly extent of the corruption in this manner certainly is.

    Here's a screenshot of the paper, via Bryan Armen Graham.