CFT preseason Top 25: Tide will rise again

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Pardon me while I blockquote myself in the third person once removed, but last year at this time I wrote the following regarding the 2010 edition of CFT’s Top 25 preseason rankings:

If you’ve been a reader of this lil’ ol’ website for any length of time, you know full well my opinion of preseason polls.  I hate them.  Despise ‘em.  Loathe them on a level only exceeded by the BcS.  And the “cast” of Jersey Shore.

So, what am I about to do?  Attempt a preseason poll, of course.

Don’t read it the wrong way, though.  It’s not that I think they’re worthless.  Rather, I don’t think they’re worth anything.  It makes no sense, before a single game in a new year with a different roster of players and possibly a change in coaching staffs has been played, to guess how to place schools in some semblance of a realistic order.  A predetermined order, incidentally, that goes a long way in determining the “contenders” in the national title hunt.

And, of course, I went on to prove the utter worthlessness of these types of polls — and my own inner Nostradumass — by picking Florida as our preseason No. 1.  The Gators, of course, went on to finish 8-5 and outside of the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2004.  So, of course, I’m about to attempt yet another preseason poll.

Of course.

If anything, this should scare the living fecal matter out of any member of the Alabama Nation because, as inferred in the headline, I have the Tide heading into CFT’s preseason Top 25 as the numero uno team in the nation.  Guess we’re about to find out if we’ve spawned an offshoot of the SI cover jinx, eh?

Honestly, though, there appear to be about eight — at least — you could stick into a bag, shake ’em up, pull one out and make a helluva case that they could/should/will be the ones laying claim to the crystal in New Orleans on Jan. 9.  Those eight?  In alphabetical order so as to stave off offending anyone until further down in this post: Alabama, Boise State, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, Stanford and Wisconsin.  Then when you realize you’ve left teams like Nebraska and Oklahoma State and South Carolina and the like of that initial, highly-subjective Group of Eight list, it hits you like Vontaze Burfict in a really foul, angry mood: this is shaping up to be one of the most spectacularly exciting, unpredictable seasons of college football in recent memory.

And one where the SEC could see its run of five straight BcS titles come to an end.  Or not, if my inner Kreskin attempt is correct (chuckle).

So, without further ado… well, one additional ado: for all of my and Ben Kercheval’s conference-by-conference predictions, please click HERE as the latter did a helluva job doing the heavy lifting on this part of our 2011 preview.  And there’s also a place where you can voice your opinion one vote at a time by casting your ballot for who you feel should be the preseason No. 1.

Now, without any additional ado — and we mean it this time — here’s CFT’s preseason Top 25 list, with an individual link to a broader look for each team available by merely clicking on the name of the school.

1.) Alabama
2.) Florida State
3.) Stanford
4.) Oklahoma
5.) Wisconsin
6.) Oregon
7.) Boise State
8.) LSU
9.) Nebraska
10.) Oklahoma State
11.) South Carolina
12.) Virginia Tech
13.) Arkansas
14.) Texas A&M
15.) TCU
16.) Georgia
17.) USC
18.) Notre Dame
19.) West Virginia
20.) Ohio State
21.) Mississippi State
22.) UCF
23.) Arizona State
24.) Michigan State
25.) Air Force

Derrius Guice ‘very questionable’ for LSU vs. Syracuse

Associated Press
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LSU could very well be without its most potent offensive weapon when it looks to bounce back from an embarrassing Week 3 loss.

Late in the third quarter of Saturday’s 37-7 loss to Mississippi State, Derrius Guice sustained an injury to his left knee.  The star running back hasn’t practiced at all this week, even as Ed Orgeron downplayed the severity of the injury.

On the SEC teleconference Wednesday, however, the head coach acknowledged that it could be much worse than he’d been letting on, so much so that the Guice could miss the Week 4 game against Syracuse.

“I don’t know if Derrius is going to play,” Orgeron said. “He didn’t dress out yesterday in pads. He’s very questionable right now.”

Through three games, Guice leads the Tigers with 300 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with four rushing touchdowns.  His rushing yards are currently fourth in the SEC; last season, his 1,387 yards were tops in the conference.

Should Guice be unable to go, Darrel Williams (28-159-4) would likely be next in line to shoulder the running-game load.

Baylor gets back 2016 leading rusher, two starting DBs for Oklahoma game

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They may be winless, but at least Baylor will be getting some much-needed reinforcements for their game against No. 3 Oklahoma this weekend.

According to head coach Matt Rhule, three projected starters — running back Terence Williams (pictured), safety Taion Sells and cornerback Grayland Arnold — are all expected to play in the Week 4 game against the Sooners. Neither Williams nor Arnold have played this season because of injury, while Sells completed a three-game suspension last week.

Williams led the Bears last season with 1,048 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. The junior underwent offseason shoulder surgery, leading to his absence for the first quarter of the year.

With Williams rehabbing the injured joint, John Lovett currently leads the 0-3 Bears in rushing with 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns. As a team, BU is averaging just 150 yards per game and slightly less than five yards per rush; last season, they were at 241.8 and 5.0.

“I think it takes a little bit of the pressure off the young guys,” the first-year head coach, by way of the Associated Press, said of Williams’ much-anticipated return. “I think Terence gives us the physicality and a presence running the football that you can clearly see on tape. … He brings us that ability to run you over and make you miss.”

Arnold started four games last season and was listed as the starter heading into summer camp before breaking his left arm in August. After starting four games in 2015, Sells sat out the 2016 season because of an injury. Prior to the suspension for unspecified violations of team rules, Sells too had been listed as a starter in camp.

Mother’s health — and playing time — triggered Byron Cowart’s Auburn departure

Associated Press
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Initially, there was no known reason for one of the top recruits in the Class of 2015 left his original college football home. Not long after, the window of insight was cracked a bit.

Tuesday, Byron Cowart was granted a release from his Auburn scholarship, one day after requesting it from the football program. In an interview with al.com, the defensive lineman revealed that his mother in Florida is going through an unspecified health situation and, as an only child, he wanted to be closer to her to help her through it.

Additionally, he acknowledged that, yes, his playing time, or lack thereof, played a role in his decision to leave The Plains.

“I’m happy with my decision and I know that this ain’t it for me,” Cowart told the website. “My main reason was my mother’s health is more important. Me being an only child, got to get back to home to her. Plus I already wasn’t playing enough and contributing to the team.”

In a separate interview with 247Sports.com, Cowart also acknowledged that he has twice previously considered leaving the Tigers, the last coming this past summer.

Cowart also indicated that, very soon, he will be starting up classes nearer his home in Seffner, Fla., presumably at a junior or community college. After that, he’ll decide where to continue his collegiate playing career at the FBS level.

“I’ll see what options I have and what the NCAA allows me to do,” the junior lineman told al.com. “This isn’t over for me and this definitely is not the end of my college career. … I can guarantee you football is not over for me. I still love the game, I love everything about football.”

A consensus five-star signee, Cowart was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 while 247Sports.com had Florida product as the No. 3 player overall on its composite board. In 26 career games, Cowart was credited with 15 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He was one of four Tigers arrested for marijuana possession in May of last year.

This past spring, Cowart was moved from end to tackle in an attempt to jumpstart his career. In three games at his new position this season, he had three tackles and half a tackle for loss in three games.

Div. II football player Robert Grays dies from neck injury sustained in game

Midwestern State athletics
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There’s horribly sad news to note today as Midwestern State University football player Robert Grays passed away Tuesday, the Division II school in Texas confirmed Wednesday morning.

Grays sustained a serious neck injury attempting to make a tackle during this past Saturday’s game against Texas A&M-Kingsville.  After initially being taken to a local hospital in Wichita Falls, he was life-flighted to a hospital in Houston, where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

“Robert touched many lives while attending the university, but perhaps he will be remembered best for his smile,” a statement from university president Suzanne Shipley said, in part. “He was an inspiration on and off the field to those around him, and he will be remembered with love and affection by his friends, classmates, coaches, and teammates.”

Grays was listed as a 5-8, 160-pound sophomore cornerback on the Mustangs’ official roster.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Grays’ way-too-soon passing.