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COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAMBLING: Week 1’s 15 best picks

Visit SB Nation odds partner OddsShark for updated lines throughout each game week.

Texas AM at South Carolina Over 59.5 points: AM is always able to score points under Kevin Sumlin, and South Carolinas secondary is about as green as can be. And South Carolina will look to pound the football with Mike Davis and a veteran offensive line against an AM defense that rarely stops anyone.

Wake Forest at Louisiana-Monroe PK: Bettors realize just how bad Wake Forest might be this season, so take ULM to win straight up.

Colorado State +3 at Colorado: Jim McElwain is building something impressive at Colorado State, and the wrong team is favored here.

Florida State -17.5 at Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State lost more lettermen than any team in the major conferences. FSU returns Jameis Winston and a ton of starters.

Boston College at UMass +17: Boston College lost a ton off its impressive 2013 team, and this game means more to UMass than it does the Eagles.

Arkansas at Auburn -19.5: Auburn will be without QB Nick Marshall for an unknown period of time during this game, but backup Jeremy Johnson and the Tigers receiving corps are extremely underrated.

GameDay Kickoff Live

To watch Kickoff Live on you mobile device click here.

Mark Schlabach, Heather Dinich and Ted Miller join host Chantel Jennings to preview Week 1 of the college football season that will for the first time end in a four-team playoff.

Magazine’s college ratings challenge ‘U.S. News’

In a national ranking of colleges announced this week, two Rochester-area schools — the State University College at Geneseo and Nazareth College — finished fifth and 16th in their category.

But the University of Rochester — often considered the most prestigious of Rochester-area colleges — placed 144th in Washington Monthlys latest rankings for major universities.

UR has been edging upward in the more traditional US News amp; World Report ratings, reaching 32nd in last years ratings. Next month, US News will announce its new rankings.

Washington Monthly magazine, which has been doing its ratings since 2005, makes no attempt to be a carbon copy of the US News rankings, and rated UR 129th last year. In its new ratings, Washington Monthly boasts that only two of US News top 10 schools, Stanford and Harvard, made the magazines top 10 and such other colleges as Yale, Columbia, Brown and Cornell did not make the top 50.

In fact, the Washington, DC-based magazine said in the release announcing its latest ratings: This is our answer to US News amp; World report, which relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity and prestige for its rankings.

While the magazine gives UR high marks in some of its evaluation, such as the large number of graduates who go on to earn PhDs, its skeptical look at high-cost colleges coincides with President Barack Obamas efforts to make higher education more affordable.

The Obama administration is developing regulations — a draft will be made public in the fall — that are expected to link federal student aid funds to such outcomes as student debt and graduation rates.

Obama has said that in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.

Andrew Delbanco, a professor of humanities at Columbia University and author of College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, cautions about making too much of systems for ranking colleges.

I am skeptical about any ratings, he said. It tells you very little about the experience you will get.

But Delbanco is glad that Washington Monthly is challenging US News and showing its rating system isnt the only way to measure whether a college is good.

If you look at US News ratings over the last 10 to 15 years, they correlate almost exactly with the size of the colleges endowments. Delbanco said. Basically, the colleges at the top of the list are the richest.

Costs of high ratings

A critical look at the U.S News rankings and the cost of trying to rise in these ratings were the subject of a new research paper that was co-authored by former UR provost Ralph Kuncl, who is now president of the University of Redlands in California.

The focus on wealth, fame and exclusivity that comes from placing emphasis on US News rankings creates very real issues and highlights some of the inherent problems with the rankings themselves, says the paper, Modeling Change and Variation in US News and World Report College Rankings: What would it really take to be in the Top 20? It appeared this past spring in Research in Higher Education.

As an example of how the US News rankings can drive spending at a college, the paper notes how in 2002, Baylor University in Texas adopted a strategic plan to move into the top 100 schools — so by 2007, Baylor spent $200 million on improvements to help achieve this goal.

In 2012 — the end of its 10-year plan — Baylor was ranked 75th in U.S News national university category.

One of the largest components of the US News rankings is the undergraduate academic reputation score, which has accounted for 22.5 percent of a ranking. Other factors, according to the paper, include student selectivity, faculty pay and percent of faculty with top degrees, as well as graduation and retention rates.

For a college such as UR to move from the mid-30s rankings into the top 20 would require spending about $12,000 more on students and $10,000 more on faculty salaries.

Those two things alone would cost $112 million a year, says an analysis from Inside Higher Ed, an online newsletter about colleges.

Kuncl and his colleagues concluded that while an improvement in rank in the U.S News ratings might bring benefits to a college, this research shows that meaningful rank changes for top universities are difficult and would occur only after long-range and extraordinarily expensive changes.

As an alternative, says the paper, universities might be best served by focusing their efforts and resources on what they do best, not on what is being measured by US News, by making improvements that are in line with their own goals and are centered around the success of their unique student population.

Rating priorities

Robert Morse, who has long overseen the ratings for US News, recently said in his education blog that rankings are not meant to be a management tool for college presidents, and that a colleges rise in the ranking shouldnt be used as a basis for proving that their educational policies are working or not working.

Morse, in an interview Tuesday, acknowledged that the cost of attending is not part of U.S News basic formula for evaluating the quality of college.

Thats a different kind of ranking, he said.

And he distinguished what Washington Monthly is trying to do from the US News rankings, though he noted that both are concerned with retention and graduation rates.

Their rankings are more what institutions are doing for society. Ours is measuring the top schools academically, Morse said.

Washington Monthly has put a premium in its rankings on what it calls the public good, which includes recruiting and graduating low-income students and encouraging public service.

Low-income students can have a difficult time paying the tab at UR.

UR, which declined to comment on this article, has made providing large sums of financial aid available to low-income students and has reached out to them in its recruiting.

For the last school year, according to the US Department of Education, 21.5 percent of URs undergraduate populations received Pell Grants — the main federal grant program for low-income students.

But URs sticker price — tuition, room and board and related costs without any discounts — was a hefty $59,166 for the 2012-13 school year. And while financial aid lowers the cost of attending for many, the net price paid after all this aid is taken into account averaged $31,499.

Nazareth, which ranked 16th in the Washington Monthly ratings, still had an average net price of $25,997 for the 2012-13 school year because it doesnt have the kind of financial aid that UR has to help students.

Both Nazareth and SUNY Geneseo seem to have done well in the Washington Monthly ratings because of their strong commitment to community service.

Through Livingston CARES, SUNY Geneseo students have volunteered over the years to help regions struck by disaster, such areas as the Gulf Coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina, noted Meaghan L. Arena, vice president of enrollment management at the college.

The Peace Corps also ranked SUNY Geneseo 22nd among medium schools in its 2014 rankings for top volunteer-producing colleges.

Nazareth, which integrates liberal arts, professional studies and a strong commitment to civic responsibility, was one of five schools nationwide in 2013 to be an awardee in the Presidents Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

We have had a history of community service. Its part of our genetic makeup, said Nazareth President Daan Braveman.

JGOODMAN@DemocratandChronicle.com

Twitter.com/Goodman_DandC

Differences in rankings

New Washington Monthly magazine ratings

National Universities

University of Rochester: 144th

St John Fisher College: 147th

Masters Universities Rankings

State University College at Geneseo: 5th

Nazareth College: 16th

Rochester Institute of Technology: 44th

The College at Brockport: 210th

Roberts Wesleyan College: 213th

Liberal Arts College

Hobart and William Smith Colleges: 61st

2013 US News amp; World Report rankings*

National University category:

University of Rochester: 32nd

St. John Fisher College: 142nd

Regional University North category

Rochester Institute of Technology: 7th

State University College at Geneseo: 15th

Nazareth College: 27th

The College at Brockport: 54th

Roberts Wesleyan College: 74th

National Liberal Arts category:

Hobart and William Smith Colleges: 61st

New ratings are slated for Sept. 9

County may ask voters to give $2M in extra cash to parks

The ballot question concerning the $2,044,078 in excess revenue from 2013 will be discussed at Tuesdays regular board meeting. If the initiative makes it onto the Nov. 4 ballot and gets the nod from voters, the money would not only help the push to acquire Jones Park but could also help fund needed projects in other parks, such as Bear Creek Nature Center, Elephant Rock, Kane Ranch and the county fairgrounds.

County administrator Jeff Greene addressed the Colorado Springs Utilities Board on Wednesday in an effort to sway Colorado Springs Utilities from giving the 1,191-acre Jones Park area to the US Forest Service. Utilities has owned the land for more than a century but is ready to give it up because of costs associated with keeping endangered fish safe.

Commissioner Sallie Clark, who represents District 3 in the western part of the county, said it is important to maintain local control and allow El Paso County residents more access to the planning process for Jones Park moving forward.

I just think that keeping it under local ownership has its advantages, Clark said, noting that the extra money from 2013 is good news that the economy is turning around.

Under the Colorado Taxpayers Bill of Rights, the excess revenue would have to be returned to the residents of El Paso County if the ballot measure were to fail. According to a news release from county spokesman Dave Rose, the refund would come in a one-time property tax refund of about $8 per property owner.

At Wednesdays meeting, Greene said the county would keep the area open for recreation. The county has promised $200,000 for improving trails in such a way that the endangered greenback cutthroat trout would not be harmed, he said.

Federal and Utilities officials maintain that the Forest Service is better equipped to take care of the land, the trails and the trout.

The commissioners will consider the ballot question at two meetings before deciding whether or not to put it on the ballot. The second reading would be at the Sept. 2 County Commission meeting.

The board will also hear a second reading of another ballot question in which voters could share their thoughts on a 20-year fee structure that would fund the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority. The fee hike of about $7.70 per residential household would help pay for emergency stormwater projects.

When asked if two ballot questions asking to use tax money might lead to more voters turning against one or both, Clark said she didnt think that would happen.

I think people distinguish one ballot initiative from another, she said. I hear every day that parks and open spaces and quality of life are major issues for people.

Contact Matt Steiner: 636-0362

Brennan: USC false hero story a fitting start to this college football season

It is fitting that a made-up story about a Southern California football team captain jumping from a second-floor balcony to rescue his drowning 7-year-old nephew is kicking off the 2014 college football season.

I have the feeling its going to be that kind of a year.

Jameis Winston is back. Johnny Manziel is not. Braxton Miller wanted to be but couldnt. The SEC is reloading after being denied a national title following a run of seven in a row. The Big Ten now stretches from the Atlantic Ocean almost to the foothills of the Rockies. Oh, and theres going to be an honest-to-goodness college football playoff, which will be cloaked in mystery and might settle almost nothing.

USC senior cornerback Josh Shaw is no Manti Teo on the mythology meter, at least not yet, but he and his rescue story have become quite a distraction as the schools season opener with Fresno State approaches.

For that, USC in part has itself to blame. A number of athletic department officials expressed skepticism after talking to Shaw about his alleged leap of heroism last Saturday, yet they inexplicably went ahead and issued a news release on Monday trumpeting his tale.

Horry County school board members get extra cash

The Horry County School Board approved $7,500 for each board member to use however he or she would like for his or her district at Monday nights meeting.

Each board member would have to put his or her proposal before the rest of the board before the money is actually spent.

Its meant to support the needs in each particular district.

I would have actually approved more money, said school board chairman, Joe Defeo.  Its for the little things that a school might need that we can address immediately.

Defeo says it could go toward simple projects, like murals.

He says it would mean teachers and students wouldnt have to fundraise for those kinds of projects.

Defeo sees this extra money as a positive for the schools.

One board member explained to me if a teacher or a principal needed a little bit more money for supplies, that it is something that she would be more than happy to spend that money for, said Defeo.

Three board members opposed the decision because they said its not enough money to divide within the large school district.

One member, Neil James from District 10, said it would be difficult to divide in Carolina Forest, Conway, Green Sea Floyds and Loris, all of which are within his district.

Defeo says the money is coming from un-designated reserves, meaning its money the school board already has in the bank thats not allocated toward anything.

He said the board didnt put that money towards the new schools that are going to be built because the $90,000 wouldnt put a dent in the $300 million building project.

The $7,500 is broken up into semesters and doesnt roll over.

Everyone will be able to see how the money is spent in each district, because Defeo says its discussed in open meetings.

I think generally speaking that whatever a board member asks for, will be approved, said Defeo.

Erickson: Something to remember for your extra money

It is no secret that Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has made his opponents substantial wealth the main theme of his campaign.

From Bruce Rauner not releasing his complete tax records to his businesses sheltering money in the Cayman Islands, Quinn will continue harping on the $53 million mans Montana-sized wallet until the last vote is counted on Nov. 4.

For his part, Rauner has tried to combat the obvious class warfare going on here. During the colder months, he wore a Carhartt jacket to emphasize an everyman approach to his campaign.

He drives a Harley, wears a cheap watch and says he likes to drink a beer and burn a steak when hes hanging out at one of his ranches out west.

Last week, however, in the fallout of another report on his bank accounts in the Caymans, Rauner showed why he may have trouble connecting with voters of, lets say, lesser financial means.

In trying to explain why it makes sense to put money in the offshore tax haven, Rauner said its not sinister or evil and it makes financial sense.

Its common practice, he told reporters at an event in Springfield.

Remember that the next time youre looking for somewhere to park that extra $100,000 youve got in your pocket.

Dillard money

Before leaving his job as a state senator, the runner-up in the Republican race for governor had to tap his running mate to help pay off a $50,000 loan from his old boss.

According to state election records, former state Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, collected $50,000 from his lieutenant governor pick on Aug. 15.

He then turned around and wrote a $50,000 check to repay former Gov. Jim Edgar for a campaign loan given during the March primary campaign.

Repayment of the loan came just a day after Edgar, who had been backing Dillard in the four-way GOP race, told Republicans at the Illinois State Fair that he was now supporting Rauner.

State Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, who was Dillards No. 2 in the race, said it was an agreed upon by all sides that she would pick up the tab for repaying the loan from Edgar.

Governor Edgar offered to write us a loan. I offered to pay it back, Tracy said. Thats just how it was.

She said the timing of the repayment had nothing to do with Edgars endorsement of Rauner.

Rather, she said, This is just a loose end that needed to be wrapped up.

Whats odd about the whole thing is that Edgar has $430,000 still left in his campaign account at a time when he doesnt appear to be planning another run for public office.

He could have just given Dillard $50,000 out of the account and put the rest in a Cayman Islands account.

Barickman takes Dillard spot

The exit of Dillard from the Illinois Senate has opened up a slot for state Sen. Jason Barickman to take over as the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Barickman, a lawyer from Bloomington, announced the change Wednesday in the wake of Dillards departure to be chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority.

Barickman has served as the GOP point person on a separate panel investigating Quinns scandal-ridden Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which Republicans have called a $55 million political slush fund designed to help the Democrat from Chicago beat state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington in 2010.

Lobbyists

Democrat Ann Callis, the former Madison County judge who is running for Congress against Republican Rodney Davis in central Illinois 13th district, has been trying to make lobbyists an issue in her campaign.

Specifically, shes been criticizing the freshman from Taylorville for hiring two former lobbyists to serve on his staff. Apparently, someone in Washington DC has a poll showing that lobbyist is a dirty word among voters.

Callis campaign spokesman says a former lobbyist on the congressional payroll could be more interested in protecting his or her old industry buddies than the constituents back home.

But its not like Callis has no lobbyists in her closet.

According to a review of campaign finance records, Callis has taken campaign contributions from lobbyists registered in Illinois.

Among the lobbyists who have contributed to Callis are phone company governmental affairs chief Doug Dougherty, former state Rep. Julie Curry of Mount Zion and Loretta Durbin, a registered lobbyist and wife of US Sen. Dick Durbin.

Using technology to make college football better, faster, safer

In a small meeting room on Nikes campus in early July, with the simmering field turf to their backs, college footballs top quarterback recruits received an introduction to the next phase in sports training.

The introduction came via former Ohio State quarterback Joe Germaine, the director of system operations for Axon Sports, an Arizona-based performance company with roots in neuroscience – the study of the brain and nervous system – and an emphasis on cognitive training.

In a dimmed room – which might explain why one quarterback, Ryan Brand, thought he was walking into an eye test – Germaine unveiled technology shared and used by only a select few colleges and professional sports organizations: A tool to help players make better decisions on the field, and make those decisions faster.

There were no footballs involved, no passes and no pads; it was simply a computer program, one embedded within the framework of a playbook, and it took members of the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp by surprise.

At the most basic level, Axons program takes an existing playbook – in this case, the plays given to the camps quarterbacks – and layers it onto a wide range of defensive alignments, forcing users to digest and dissect formations and schemes in the seconds or split-seconds before the snap.

More specifically, the program values speed equally to accuracy: Axon places heavy stress on the decision-making process, giving less and less time as you move through the system – often just the time from the break of a huddle until a quarterback reaches the line of scrimmage – to make the proper call.

And perhaps most important, in a time when the NCAA and college conferences are strengthening limits on physical contact in practice, Axons training boards preserve the body while sharpening the brain.

Biotech Center receives extra $1M – could help defend U.S. against bioterrorism

The NC Biotechnology Center will see its budget increase by $1 million this year, money specifically targeted at bio-defense and ag-biotech programs.

That brings the centers total budget to $13.6 million, and even though the additional funding is well below the $7.3 in extra money the center had initially asked for, executives say they welcome any additional funds.

The Biotech Center files as a private nonprofit, but receives appreciably all of its budget from the state taxpayers. Incoming President and CEO Doug Edgeton says that’s important because it allows the center to focus its efforts on generating jobs and investments in companies, not turning a profit.

In simple terms, the Biotech Center serves as an economic developer and resource for small companies in the life sciences industries. Those include drug makers, bio-defense companies and agri-biotech researchers, among others.

The additional $1 million for this fiscal year, which began July 1, will focus on bio-defense and ag-bio investments. Edgeton and outgoing CEO Norris Tolson wanted more money for loans and grants as well, but lawmakers rejected those proposals.

Still, that additional $1 million could serve as a catalyst for a North Carolina company to develop a protection against anthrax or a way to increase crop yields. Although the largest employer in the world is the US military, it’s more common to associate weapons and tanks with the military than biology and chemistry, yet the latter two might prove more important in the coming decade as wars and terrorists become more sophisticated.

Similarly, many scientists have concerns about hunger issues in the near future and how the world will produce enough food to feed a population that could reach 9 billion people by the mid 2040s.

About the NC Biotechnology Center

The Biotech Center uses some of the tax money to make loans or grants to very small life science companies. Indeed, Tolsen calls the loan program the “lifeblood of what we do here.” Last year the center made $2.7 million in loans and expects to make roughly the same amount this year.

The industries where the center invests typically require a lot of scientific development work in which researchers change the biology or chemistry of a particular protein or compound to determine how it will react in humans, animals or plants.

There is money to be made – consider a blockbuster drug that generates billions in sales – but there is also a lot of risk. Investors, like those in big venture capital groups, look to life sciences companies for big returns, but want to minimize their risk exposure. A researcher or scientist, say at one of the Triangle’s universities, might have an idea of how to develop a compound to develop an Ebola vaccine, or improve crop production, but VC groups typically want at least some evidence that the product will work before making an investment. Getting that evidence requires a trial and error process that costs money, which researchers don’t always have.

That’s precisely where the Biotech Center sees its role. It can take taxpayer money to invest early in these companies. If they are successful, they can parlay that small investment into a much larger investment from a private group and grow to a large company that employs dozens of North Carolinians and creates wealth here.

At least, that’s the ideal goal, and certainly there are philosophical arguments to be made in opposition that taxpayers should never invest in private companies, and certainly not just grant them money.

Biotech Center executives tout that they have a loan default rate of only 9 percent and that 80 percent of the companies they invest in are still in business 10 years later. They say every dollar invested from the Biotech Center is met with an additional $117 of investments down the road when these companies grow and seek private investments. Biotech Center executives tout this stat as a reason for continued taxpayer support saying they help contribute to the state’s economy as much or more than any other jobs program.

To understand the scope of the biotechnology industry, consider that in North Carolina, the industry accounts for 238,000 jobs, $59 billion in business volume and $1.73 billion in taxes generated for state and local governments.

Jason deBruyn covers The Biopharmaceutical and Health Care industries. Follow him on Twitter @jasondebruyn.