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Headlinin’: Big East’s western front pushes on to BYU

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

Making the morning rounds.

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Cougar Town. The Big East has reportedly made BYU a priority in its ongoing expansion push and could announce the Cougars' arrival as part of a new Western Division by the end of the week. Invitations went out earlier this month to six other schools — Air Force, Boise State and Navy in football and Central Florida, Houston and SMU in all sports — in a cross-continental effort to shore up the ranks after flagship members Pittsburgh and Syracuse bolted for the ACC and West Virginia made tracks for the Big 12.

If it comes through, BYU's addition would put the new-look Big East at an even dozen teams, give Boise State a logical new rival in the Rockies and likely keep the league's embattled BCS status intact. Best of all, there's no jilted conference to haggle with over the Cougars' exit. [Salt Lake Tribune, Associated Press]

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Will he or won't he, part one. It may be a bit of sand-bagging before one of the biggest games of the year, but USC coach Lane Kiffin insisted Wednesday that ace receiver Robert Woods may be too banged up to play this weekend at Oregon. "He's going the wrong direction. He's not getting better," Kiffin said, pointing to ankle and shoulder injuries that held Woods out of Wednesday's practice. "Watch him yesterday. We've got service-team corners that he can't run by right now. He's just worn down."

Chip Kelly's response? "He's playing, I'll tell you that right now. I love that kid, he's a competitor. He's playing." [Orange County Register, Eugene Register Guard]

Will he or won't he, part two. (Spoiler: He won't.) There seem to be no such doubts about the status of Arkansas tailback Knile Davis, according to coach Bobby Petrino, who quickly shot down reports that Davis was close to returning from a broken ankle. "He has been out at practice now for about three weeks running around, doing some individual (drills), doing a little bit of our run game, but he's not in a position where he can play," Petrino said on a weekly teleconference for SEC coaches. "He still has to have some hardware taken out of his ankle." [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette]

The Rap Sheet. Vanderbilt has suspended safety Andre Simmons, 19, who was hit with two felony charges for allegedly robbing a member of the school's club ice hockey team at gunpoint. According to an affidavit, Simmons and another man — one of them armed with a handgun — entered a dorm room earlier this week, took $5,000 from a safe and struck the hockey player in the head with the gun. After one suspect fled with the money, Simmons was chased into a parking garage, where he was taken into custody. He's charged with felony burglary and robbery and was being held Wednesday on $100,000 bond. [The Tennessean] {YSP:MORE}

We'll be seeing you when we see you. Due to the "complexities" of its nine-game conference schedule, the Pac-12 may be forced to move some of its traditional rivalry games — Cal/Stanford, Arizona/Arizona State, Oregon/Oregon State, Washington/Washington State, USC/UCLA — from the end of the schedule to some point earlier in the season. One reason is that some schools are reluctant to play rivalry games on Thanksgiving weekend, but as usual, the biggest culprit is a certain four-letter network: The increase in Thursday night games forces participants to take the preceding weekend off.

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"We can't commit to having the rivalry games stay on Thanksgiving week or the weekend before Thanksgiving," said deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg. "It doesn't all fit together in a neat and tidy package, so that all the rivalries can be slotted in the final two weeks. Our preference is to keep them as (late) as we can. But it's very likely that at least one will have to move up." [San Jose Mercury News]

Fiesta felonies. Natalie Wisneski, the former chief operating officer of the Fiesta Bowl was indicted on federal charges Tuesday for her role in the scandal that forced out the bowl's CEO and drew a $1 million fine from the BCS earlier this year. She faces nine counts, including:

• Soliciting illegal campaign contributions from Fiesta Bowl employees, and arranging to reimburse them;
• Making campaign contributions in the name of another;
• Filing false tax returns, which allegedly failed to report any of the bowl's $1.5 million in lobbying and political expenditures over the last decade;
• Causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission;
• Conspiracy.

The investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office is ongoing, as are probes by the Arizona Attorney General's Office and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which is investigating 28 legislators and four other elected officials who accepted gifts from the bowl. Wisneski, the bowl's second-in-command, made $391,824 in fiscal 2010. From a nonprofit. [Arizona Republic]

Quickly… Penn State names a former player (and current trustee) as its new acting athletic director. … The Big 12 reprimands coach and player alike for complaining about a facemask call against Kansas. … Tennessee fans have had a lot of time to assess both of the Vols' punters. … Demar Dorsey is still aiming for Michigan. .. De'Anthony Thomas' decision to snub USC may have come down to an assistant coach, or simply to the fact that he felt more comfortable at Oregon. … And Mack Brown may have the highest salary, but Dennis Erickson has the best incentives.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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