Minnesota’s Ibrahim quickly returns to form after Achilles tear

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Western Illinois at Minnesota
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MINNEAPOLIS – At first, Mohamed Ibrahim believed his injury in last year’s opener was just a cramp in his calf muscle, a seemingly minor setback the Minnesota star could brush off like a would-be tackler.

By the time Ibrahim reached the locker room that night, while the Gophers were pushing a potent Ohio State team in an eventual 45-31 defeat, he was informed his recovery would require much more than some stretching and hydration.

The torn Achilles tendon in his left leg, vividly revealed for a national television audience in super-slow-motion replay, ended his 2021 season as it was just beginning. His career with the Gophers was widely assumed to be over, too.

There were still several chapters left in this story, as it turned out, for the Baltimore native who was part of coach P.J. Fleck‘s first recruiting class at Minnesota. The way Ibrahim approached the months that followed made quite an impact on his team, perhaps as much as the 262 yards and four touchdowns he has racked up over 44 carries in the first two games.

Going into the game against Colorado on Saturday for the unbeaten Gophers, Ibrahim has 37 career rushing touchdowns – three short of all-time program leader Darrell Thompson.

“Getting better every day as a person before I’m even thinking about being a football player, that’s what I’m most proud of,” said Ibrahim, whose decision to return for a sixth year was matched by quarterback Tanner Morgan, center John Michael Schmitz and wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell.

Rolling around on a scooter to keep the weight off his surgically repaired leg, Ibrahim maintained his captaincy and came out for the opening coin toss as the Gophers endured several more injuries in their backfield but managed to finish strong with a 9-4 record.

“He learned how to coach the running backs, not just be a running back, served and gave to his teammates and never made it about himself,” Fleck said.

Ibrahim dived into Achilles tendon research and was heartened to learn that late NBA great Kobe Bryant once suffered that injury, his favorite basketball player serving as posthumous inspiration. Ibrahim leaned on his mother and his Muslim faith for encouragement and support.

Then there was his friend, teammate and backup Trey Potts, who exactly one month later endured his own devastating injury – the nature of which the Gophers have never disclosed out of respect for his privacy. Potts was hurt badly enough to require a six-day hospital stay in Indiana after the game at Purdue, putting his football future in obvious jeopardy.

“He had a hard decision to make, and when he made it, we were just together the whole time. We were just locked in. It was more than just football,” Ibrahim said. “Anything he ever needed, I always had him.”

The Gophers have not made Potts available for interviews since then, but his decision to follow Ibrahim’s lead and return to the field this fall provided another source of inspiration for this mature team that Fleck has repeatedly praised for its connectedness.

“It’s first and foremost a very important lesson for everybody to learn from those two guys about how to respond from two very adverse situations, how to come back,” Morgan said.

During those “dog days” of preseason practices last month, the way Ibrahim felt physically told him he was all the way back – without restriction or hesitation.

“At first I just wanted to walk again. I was on the scooter, and I just wanted to walk again,” Ibrahim said. “Then I had to run again. It was like little steps, steps, steps, and then you look down and you realize you’re on the top of Mount Everest.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:


The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.


The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.


The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.


The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.


After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”