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The College Football Report: Who Needs A Palate Cleanser?

What is the right reaction to the emerging Jameis Winston allegations?

College football fans, sports fans with passing interest, and anyone who scans the USA Today sports section has been inundated by a barrage of breaking news about the story this week.

Winston, the leading Heisman Trophy candidate and quarterback for undefeated Florida State (#2), faces allegations of sexual assault stemming from an incident last year.

In December 2012, a woman accused Winston of assault after an encounter at an off-campus apartment but stopped cooperating with authorities in February after reportedly being warned by a Tallahassee police detective that she should "think long and hard before proceeding" because Tallahassee is a "big football town" and "she will be raked over the coals." (All of which is true, but sounds far more like intimidation than thoughtful advice.)

The case remained closed until last week, when officials released the police report in response to media requests for public records, reigniting the controversy.

Florida attorney general Willie Meggs reacted by reopening the case, but could not explain why his office never conducted a review of the investigation (a standard procedure for sexual assault cases) for probable cause in the first place.

(As an aside, someone from the Tallahassee.com editorial desk should change that headline.)

Florida law enforcement confirmed this week that the agency had conducted a DNA test that linked Winston to the woman, based on a sample taken in December. But the results of the test were not public. Someone in the chain of communication, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to the Tallahassee Police Department and State Attorney's Office, leaked the information.

Winston's attorney did not express surprise at the results, pointing out that the player voluntarily cooperated and expected a match, but took the opportunity to turn the attention onto the leak: "The only thing we are surprised by is it was leaked out by law enforcement. The question the people should ask is, why is it being leaked? For what purpose?"

The purpose is unclear, but it's unlikely the source was motivated by a desire to see justice done. We aren't so jaded to suggest that a disgruntled Miami Hurricanes or Florida Gators fan somewhere within the Tallahassee PD walked out of the office with a copy, but posters on internet message boards won't exercise the same restraint.

Winston will continue to play unless officials bring charges, in which case FSU would indefinitely suspend him from the team. He denies the allegations and has not been interviewed by police or prosecutors. Renewing an investigation after an 11-month lag means we will wait weeks before officials reach a conclusion.

Meanwhile, everyone suffers, especially the woman involved, as evidenced by a statement from her family's attorney: "She's a good girl, and this is a nightmare. She was trying to move on with her life, and there was no benefit to her." And yes, a sympathetic reaction to those words aligns with an assumption (i.e., reality) that the woman is not seeking retribution or any benefit from the case reopening.

The ACC championship game, which will match Florida State against the to-be-determined winner of the Coastal division, takes place on Saturday, December 7 immediately followed by the BCS selections on Sunday.

(Speaking of jaded: if you have money on Duke to win the ACC championship, you should be rooting for an arrest. The Blue Devils entered the season +12000 to win the conference, meaning a $100 wager nets $12,000. Duke currently leads the Coastal at 4-2 with games against 2-5 Wake Forest and 4-3 North Carolina remaining.)

If we had to put an over/under on resolution, to the question of probable cause not the entire case, we would pick Friday, December 20. The bowl season starts with four games, including the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, on December 21 and officials will face increasing pressure to reach a decision as the postseason approaches.

We don't want to think that the fix is in but disbelieving the allegations entirely and ignoring the strong-arm tactics of the local police seems horribly naive.

We can say that all parties involved, except perhaps the Tallahassee PD and the State Attorney, deserve more careful treatment than ESPN exhibited on Thursday, when the network devoted an inordinate amount of airtime analyzing the impact of the allegations on Florida State's BCS chances and Winston's Heisman campaign.

Who needs a palate cleanser? How about:

  • Central Florida RB William Stanback leveling a Rutgers defender on Thursday night.
  • The eerie similarity between Ohio State recruit Chad Mavety and OSU mascot Brutus the Buckeye?
  • The return of the Always-Give-The-Points-Against-The-Kentucky-Wildcats Strategy!
  • Auburn offering the school's basketball arena for a free viewing party of the upcoming Iron Bowl game against Alabama.
  • UAB asking fans to sit on one side of the field (the backdrop-for-the-broadcast-of-the-game-on-TV side) to create the appearance of a packed stadium.
  • Former college coach Rick Neuheisel's bizarre rendition of Harry Belafonte's "Day O" (the "Banana Boat Song") as "Ed O" in honor of interim - and aspiring permanent - head coach Ed Orgeron of USC, who is enjoying an unlikely 5-1 record after taking over for the Lane Kiffin.

If your palate still isn't sufficiently cleansed, here is the "Banana Boat Song" as performed by Belafonte and, naturally, the Muppets.

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Match-Ups of the Week
Four games will command attention on Saturday: #4 Baylor vs. #10 Oklahoma State; #5 Missouri vs. #24 Ole Miss; #12 Texas A&M vs. #22 LSU, and; #17 Arizona State vs. #14 UCLA, but we find the match-up between #19 Wisconsin and #25 Minnesota especially intriguing. Consider:

  • Minnesota operates a deliberate, ball-control offense, averaging almost 31 seconds per play (second to last in the FBS), which will run up against Wisconsin's smothering (#5 in FBS) defense.
  • The Gophers still "control their own destiny" (as they say) for reaching the - and yes, we understand how improbable this sounds - Big Ten championship game.
  • With a win over Wisconsin on Saturday, along with a Michigan State loss to Northwestern, and a final win by Minnesota over the Spartans to close the season next weekend, UMinn could finish 6-2 in the Legends Division with a head-to-head tiebreaker over MSU for a berth in the championship against (probably) #3 Ohio State.
  • The Gophers haven't reached a New Year's Day bowl since 1962 and, while currently projected to play in the Texas Bowl on December 27, a win should get it done. (In case you're confused, the Texas Bowl is played in Texas, not be confused with another Big Ten tie-in bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which is played in Dallas.)
  • The annual winner of the longest-running rivalry in the FBS takes home Paul Bunyan's Axe, a trophy the teams have squabbled over since 1948.
  • Had it not been for the 1906 game, which was canceled by President Roosevelt due to "injuries and deaths on the field" in college rivalry games, the streak of consecutive games would run back to 1890.
  • Despite the rich tradition of the Axe, we yearn for the days of the Slab of Bacon, the original trophy awarded to the winner beginning in 1930.
  • The Slab became the "Missing Slab of Bacon" after disappearing in a post-game melee following a Minnesota win some time in the early 1940s, only to resurface in a storage closet under Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium in 1994. During its 40-something year sabbatical, an unknown person had dutifully recorded the outcome of every game in the rivalry on the back of the Slab until 1970.

    Now that is what college football is all about: underdogs, rivals, axes, and playing hide-the-bacon.

    Other Match-Ups

    Neuheisel vs. Belafonte
    Our pick: The Muppets, in a runaway.

    Rivalry of the Week (Honorable Mention)

    Bert vs. Ernie
    Our pick: Bert is the better of the two, despite all evidence to the contrary

    The Chicken Fights Not For Glory
    Legend holds that a cock fight saved Western civilization.

    Leading his troops to battle against the invading Persians in the fifth-century BC, the Athenian general Themistocles observed two roosters battling beside the road.

    Themistocles summoned his troops, crying out: "Behold, these do not fight for their household gods, for the monuments of their ancestors, for glory, for liberty or the safety of their children, but only because one will not give way to the other."

    The troops, emboldened by the plucky poultry, defeated the invaders.

    Apparently, no one thought to ask if the chickens were fighting for drachmas, which is the only driving force behind our College Football Report Sacred Free Range Chicken. Cash is the ultimate motivator.

    Michigan State (-7) vs. Northwestern
    Memphis vs. Louisville (-23)
    Tennessee-Chattanooga (+49) vs. Alabama
    Connecticut vs. Temple (-7.5)
    Indiana vs. Ohio State (Over 82)
    East Carolina (-6) vs. North Carolina State

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    Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.

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