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To Be Young And In Love . . . With Someone Who Doesn't Exist . . . And To Have Maybe Made Up The Whole Thing

Heisman runner-up Manti Te'o may or may not have been complicit in faking the death of his cancer-stricken, nonexistent, online girlfriend. As reported by Deadspin this week, the tragic story of Lennay Kekua, her romance with Te'o, the serious car accident that led doctors to discover her leukemia, and her death were all entirely fabricated. The Deadspin article reads like the screenplay of The Usual Suspects 2. There is no Lennay Kekua.

As the story has unraveled, the rest of the country has been clued in to what seems to have been common knowledge in South Bend. In an interview with ESPN, one Notre Dame teammate stopped just short of accusing Te'o for participating in the hoax, but instead believes Te'o "played along" with the dead-girlfriend story.

According to multiple sources, players knew the relationship between Manti and (the imaginary) Lennay was not serious, or at least not serious enough to consider it boyfriend/girlfriend. Many resented how Manti and the school turned the (actual) death of his (real) grandmother and (illusionary) girlfriend into a public relations campaign.

But the story proved too juicy to resist to a compliant media willing to look the other way to tell the heartbreaking story of the Golden Domer golden boy. Te'o's triumph over adversity became a refrain in the "team of destiny" theme surrounding Notre Dame's 2012-13 season.

According to the timeline of events, Te'o mentioned Lennay twice in interviews even after he had purportedly discovered the hoax, on December 8 and again on December 10. Yet, according to Te'o, he had learned on December 6 that his "girlfriend" didn't exist.

We have to agree, then, with CBSSports.com lead college football analyst Gregg Doyel, who wrote that "Nothing about this story has been comprehensible, or logical, and that extends to what happens next. I cannot comprehend Manti Te'o saying anything that could make me believe he was a victim."

For their part, the perpetrators of the hoax likely won't face any criminal charges. No one was hurt - the public that was suckered and the media that abetted the act don't count - and no one tried to extort Te'o. The case also doesn't meet the usual criteria for cybercrime.

Te'o could file a tort in civil court for damages - presumably the losses he will suffer as his NFL draft stock plummets - but he would expose himself to, at minimum, more humiliation as the story would continue to play out in the press during a trial, and possibly more risk if a trial reveals he did participate in the scam.

Meanwhile, he guys from the MTV show Catfish, presumed experts on online phony profiles for lovelorn linebackers, have weighed in. Co-creator Nev Schulman, on what he may have said to Te'o: "The likelihood of your girlfriend getting into a terrible car accident only to discover she has leukemia, in my eyes, indicates that there very well might be something going on here."

The College Football Reporter highly recommends the movie version of Catfish, which follows Nev as he becomes romantically involved with a woman he meets online, only to discover she's really a middle-aged Michigan housewife.

Like the Te'o story, the film claims to be a documentary, but may itself be a fake.

Aaron Rodgers Shits On The Read Option
With Chip Kelly's move from Oregon to the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL has been abuzz with the rising popularity of the "read option" offense and all the variants ran by teams like Oregon. The option has traditionally been considered a system that could never succeed at the pro level, given the size and speed of NFL defenders and the complexity of defensive schemes that would limit the success of running quarterbacks. However, the success of RG3 and Colin Kaepernick has contributed to speculation that the NFL, long known as a copycat league, may begin widely adopting the option.

Aaron Rodgers isn't buying it.

Me neither. For starters, Rodgers is absolutely right on the fundamental nature of the NFL: trends come and go, some (the "Wildcat") faster than others (the "West Coast" offense and all its bastard cousins).

While the athletic quarterback will continue to be a coveted asset, teams will not be able to afford the inevitable wear-and-tear of the hits a scrambling quarterback sustains after leaving the pocket. Further, the number of athletes who can play at the position is limited.

Let's take a look at the quarterbacks in Division I who ranked among the Top 100 in rushing yards this season. (Approximately. Marcus Mariota came in at #109 with 752 yards rushing.)

Denard Robinson, Michigan: Exhibit A of why few college QBs from read option offenses will work in the NFL. Robinson has been projected at a number of positions for the April NFL draft - kick returner, cornerback, etc. - but not as a quarterback.

Jordan Lynch, NIU: Too small, and there are questions about the competition he has faced.

Kain Colter, Northwestern: Also too shrimpy

Trent Steelman, Army: Played for Army. Enough said.

Taylor Martinez, Nebraska: The next Tim Tebow.

Terrance Broadway, Louisiana-Lafayette: A potential prospect, but his name is Terrance

Cody Fajardo, Nevada: Has several years to develop in the same system that produced Kaepernick; he might work out.

Johnny "Football" Manziel, Oklahoma: May be seen as a "system quarterback," but it's pretty hard to hate on the freshman Heisman winner.

Marcus Mariota, Oregon: Fits the mold to a "T", but how will he fare without Kelly?

Collin Klein, Kansas State: Probably the best bet (rushed 207 times for 920 yards and 23 TDs).

That's about three candidates for the read option system in the pros, none of whom look like Cam Newton, RG3 or Kaepernick, and only one (Klein) senior. We have a ways to go.

Palate Cleanser
Tired of Te'o? We are too. Here is a reminder of why we love college football: Six minutes of the game's greatest plays ever.

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

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Posted on Jun 24, 2017

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