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Making the morning rounds.

Headlinin’: Rick Neuheisel cares about UCLA’s fate. Is he the only one?

Premature Panic Week. Rick Neuheisel's annual September plea came even earlier than usual this year, according to Bruin beat writers, who overheard a "red-faced" Neuheisel delivering a "post-practice tirade" Wednesday that included the beleaguered coach shouting, I can't be the only one who cares!" Neuheisel was open about his "hot seat" status this offseason, and can feel the flames licking at the bottom of his chair after last weekend's 38-34 loss at Houston to open the season.

"I don't know if it was the heat or we were tired or we're not eating during the day, but we were not as sharp as they needed to be," Neuheisel told the Los Angeles Times after the practice. "The lack of concentration, jumping off sides, that's ridiculous. That's just lazy. We got to have tougher minded guys." [Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register]

Headlinin’: Rick Neuheisel cares about UCLA’s fate. Is he the only one? The Criner Game. Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner, a preseason All-American who easily led the Pac-10 last year in receptions and receiving yards, did not travel with the team and will not play in tonight's Alamo Bowl rematch at Oklahoma State due to an undisclosed "medical issue." Criner' status for the season was briefly in doubt this summer for similarly mysterious reasons that reportedly involved a "serious" medical issue, though the issue was eventually revealed to be family-related and didn't keep Criner from participating in preseason practices or the Wildcats' season-opening win over Northern Arizona. [Arizona Republic]

Open arms, and overthrown deep balls. Multiple outlets are reporting via anonymous sources that LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard will be suspended for the Tigers' next two games against Northwestern State and Mississippi State, putting him back in the fold for their Sept. 24 trip to West Virginia. Shepard — a former five-star recruit expected to emerge as a key piece of LSU's BCS title push — sat out the opening-night win over Oregon after reportedly discussion an ongoing NCAA investigation with teammates, possibly involving Houston-based scout/street agent Willie Lyles. Assuming the Tigers aren't going to finish with a +3 turnover margin on a weekly basis, he should be welcomed back with open arms. [Associated Press, @RandyRosetta]

It wasn't me. Oklahoma officials strongly denied a report by the Waco Herald-Tribune Wednesday that claimed six other Big 12 schools were holding Texas A&M's defection to the SEC "hostage" by forcing OU to agree to remain in the Big 12 before they would agree to let A&M leave without the threat of a lawsuit. "I haven't heard anything about this 'group of 6,' " an OU official told the Oklahoman, adding that colleagues at other schools had all denied they were part of any kind of collusion.

Texas Tech officials also denied on the record that they were involved in any kind of legal threat against A&M's departure, which still appears to be driven almost exclusively by Baylor. At any rate, Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin was adamant Wednesday that he feels the Aggies are "being held hostage." [The Oklahoman, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Associated Press]

Uh, we're fine, thanks. Meanwhile, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long confirmed rumors Wednesday that the Razorbacks had been approached recently about defecting from the SEC to the Big 12, but discussions "didn't go very far." "I think that our program is such that there are a number of conferences that would love to have us as a member, but we're strongly committed to the SEC," Long told the Dallas Morning News. "I'd be surprised if we weren't reached out to by other conferences about joining them. That happened, it didn't surprise me, but we are committed to the SEC. It's the strongest conference in the country and only going to get stronger." [Dallas Morning News]

The Rap Sheet. Wisconsin defensive lineman Jake Irwin, a redshirt freshman, was booted from the team Wednesday after being charged with disorderly conduct and two counts of battery in an on-campus fight on Sept. 1, just a few hours before the Badgers' season-opening blowout of UNLV. Details of the fight are sparse, though Irwin — who had been held out of preseason practices for unspecified reasons — was reportedly struck in the head with a rock at some point during the incident. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, ArrestNation.com]

Quickly… ESPN 3D is not doing so hot. … The NCAA releases its own set of "power rankings," featuring Cincinnati and Virginia in the top five. … Meanwhile, the mighty Bearcats are practicing to the strains of "Rocky Top." … Another chapter in the Big Ten's long-running courtship of Notre Dame. … Dan Persa says his return to the lineup is "around the corner."South Carolina fans vote on their favorite version of the Garcia Pelt. … And the Iowa Corn Council is soliciting fan recommendations for making over the Cy-Hawk Trophy, which it may regret.

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

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