College Football gives an early peek at 2012 season on weekend packed with 51 spring games

Some news and notes to ponder until the ESPN family of networks' spring-game coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET Saturday:

• This is the busiest football weekend of the spring, as 51 teams will play their spring games. Among those lacing it up for the final time this spring are Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Oklahoma, Stanford and USC. While each team had varying goals heading into spring drills, each has the same for its spring game: staying healthy. On Thursday, for instance, USC coach Lane Kiffin said in an effort to "stay healthy," the Trojans won't tackle in their spring game.

• Auburn is another school holding its spring game Saturday, but the big event for the Tigers will happen before the game itself. Auburn will unveil statues commemorating the school's three Heisman winners – quarterbacks Cam Newton and Pat Sullivan and tailback Bo Jackson – Saturday morning before the game.

• Staying with Jackson, he will undertake a bike ride across Alabama from April 24-28 in an effort to raise $1 million for the Governor's Emergency Relief Fund, which was established in the wake of deadly tornados that hit the state early this month. Go to for info.

[Related: Mark your calendars: Best nonconference games of 2012]

• Feel like placing a bet on the identity of the new Arkansas coach? The Sportsbook will let you do so. The favorite is new Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn, a former Razorbacks assistant under Houston Nutt. Odds are 5-to-2 on Malzahn, with Garrick McGee – the new UAB coach who had been offensive coordinator under Bobby Petrino before leaving this offseason – at 3-1.

• Speaking of Petrino, he released a statement after his firing this week. At one point, he said, "The simplest response I have is: I'm sorry. … I've taken a lot of criticism in the past. Some deserved, some not deserved. This time, I have no one to blame but myself." But Petrino being Petrino, he couldn't continue in the same vein: "I'm sure you heard [athletic director] Jeff Long's reasons for termination. There was a lot of information shared. Given the decision that has been made, this is not the place to debate Jeff's view of what happened." In that case then, we can't wait to hear Petrino's view of what happened, especially why he gave Jessica Dorrell $20,000.

• Long, by the way, is one of five finalists for the Athletic Director of the Year award, presented by Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily. The other finalists for the award, which will be handed out May 23, are Temple's Bill Bradshaw, Michigan's Dave Brandon, Michigan State's Mark Hollis and Baylor's Ian McCaw.

• It's a safe bet that South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier feels good about his team this season. Spurrier always finds time to jab at his rivals, but he looks to be in mid-1990s form this offseason. The most eyebrow-raising line came when he was asked by about playing Georgia in October rather than early in the season: "I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended."

[Also: BCS title game cost champion Alabama $2 million]

• Georgia State announced earlier this week that it will move up to the FBS ranks and play in the Sun Belt Conference. Georgia State, which will be playing its third season of football this fall, currently is a FCS independent. Meanwhile, Houston Baptist – which will field a FCS team starting in 2013 – named Vic Shealy as its coach. Shealy, 50, was Kansas' defensive coordinator last season.

• Two first-weekend games have been changed for TV. The Rice-UCLA game in Houston will be played Thursday, Aug. 30, and be televised by the CBS Sports Network. And Kentucky at Louisville will be on Sunday, Sept. 2, and be televised by ESPN.

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