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Conference Power Rankings — Week 7

einstein

Ok, so now the season is “officially” officially half over. I think. At any rate, and in case you missed it, the first BCS rankings are out, and we’re getting into the meat of the conference schedule. Who’s giving their conference cred? Who’s bringing it down? Check it out:

Our Conclusion:

1. Big 12 (last wk, No. 2)The Good: Okay, guys. This was actually, like, a super tough decision, y’all. The SEC has been rooted at the No. 1 spot for weeks and it took all my strength to pry that spot away from its kung fu grip. But, in the end, three undefeated teams is just more impressive. Good thing Nick Saban could(n’t) “give a $#!@ about all that“. The Bad: With their 38-26 loss to Oklahoma State, Texas has just one conference win in their last eight attempts. Also, Mack Brown still won’t answer quarterback questions. The Ugly: Before losing 47-17 to Oklahoma, Kansas’ defense was allowing roughly 60 points a game in their three previous losses. After losing to Oklahoma? Fifty-seven points per game. And who says Bob Stoops is ruthless?

2. SEC (last wk, No. 1)The Good: Alabama and LSU are just one game apiece away from an epic Nov. 5 showdown that some believe should be the SEC title game. Alabama gets Tennessee at home; LSU hosts Auburn. On paper, LSU has the tougher task, but the Tide need to take care of business and not look ahead. The Bad: Losing running back Marcus Lattimore for the year due to a knee injury is devastating for South Carolina. The Gamecocks can still win the SEC East, but putting it on Connor Shaw‘s shoulders is asking a lot. The Ugly: The post-game skirmish between Georgia and Vanderbilt was unfortunate. The fact it involved two coaches — Vandy’s James Franklin and Georgia DC Todd Grantham — is downright despicable. I don’t know who said what, and I’m not going to place blame on one over the other, but it’s a coach’s job to display the highest levels of decision-making, win or lose. Hopefully, both sides will learn from the experience.

3. Pac-12 (last wk, No. 4) The Good: One thing that’s always been so impressive about Chip Kelly‘s Oregon team is that they actually plug in the next guy if someone gets hurt without missing a beat. In a 41-27 win over Arizona State, Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas filled in admirably for LaMichael James, and Bryan Bennett was able to keep the chains moving with quarterback Darron Thomas on the sidelines with a knee injury. Great effort all around. The Bad: After notching their first win of the season over Arizona, Oregon State came back out and lost by 10 points to BYU. It’s been a really tough season for coach Mike Riley. The Ugly: It’s hard to believe, but Colorado has won a national championship more recently than Notre Dame. Granted, it was still over 20 years ago, but this program has fallen a long way over the past several years. The Buffs, 1-6 on the season, have a wonderful program. Here’s hoping they can get it turned around.

4. Big Ten (last wk, No. 3)The Good: Honestly, not much. It’s kind of a wonder that the Big Ten is even ranked this high based on some of the performances this past week, but Wisconsin and Michigan State are keeping this conference afloat. This Saturday’s matchup between the two should be a lot of fun. The Bad: Penn State is 6-1 now with a win over Purude, but it’s hard to see them winning any more than seven games this year with games against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin looming. The Lions’ offense is completely out of sync. The Ugly: Perhaps I’m beating this into the ground more than I should, but there’s something about Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson that worries me. Perhaps it’s the fact that he can’t throw the ball effectively at all. Robinson has 2010 written all over him as we get into the meat of Big Ten play.

5. ACC (last wk, No. 5)The Good: Okay, maybe Clemson is for real. Maybe. Possibly. For another week, at least. Conditions were perfect for the Tigers to fail against Maryland, but the No. 8 showed a ton of heart coming back from 18 points down to win against the Terps. The Bad: The ACC desperately needs some credibility in the form of a BCS bowl win and an upper-echelon of teams who don’t lose to teams they shouldn’t. For a while, Georgia Tech looked to be in that latter category — until they lost 24-21 to Virginia. The Ugly: Allowing North Carolina to make a late-game rally wasn’t the way Miami coach Al Golden wanted to win, but the ‘Canes (3-3, 1-2 ACC) needed the conference win.

6. Big East (last wk, No. 7)The Good: Rutgers has been one of the nicest surprises of the first half of the season, coming from behind to beat Navy 21-20 to give the Scarlet Knights a 5-1 record. Granted, they haven’t beaten anybody, but last year the Scarlet Knights lost to those teams. The Bad: I don’t know if “bad” quite defines Pitt, but it certainly nails down their offense. Outside of running back Ray Graham, the Panthers can’t do anything to score points other than leave their offense off the field and let special teams do it instead. The Ugly: a 16-10 victory by UConn over South Florida. ‘Nuff said.

7. Conference USA (last wk, No. 6)The Good: The first superconference! The Bad: UCF, Houston and SMU, who could all be leaving for the Big East. The Ugly: Um, I believe THIS qualifies. Where’s the fan support?

8. WAC (last wk, No. 9)The Good, Bad and Ugly: I don’t know what it is about Friday night football on ESPN, but some of the craziest games this season have been broadcast with Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore. The 28=27 San Jose State win over Hawaii was no different. The good part was that it was an exciting game that came down to the last minute; the bad part is that it was San Jose State and Hawaii; the ugly part is that there were 12 combined turnovers. Twelve! I don’t even…

9. Mountain West (last wk, No. 10)The Good: Boise State continues to roll along on their way to another BCS appearance with a 63-13 win over Colorado State. The Broncos play nobody of note outside of TCU in their conference slate, but damn if they don’t make college football more fun. The Bad: A 41-27 loss to San Diego State puts Air Force at a disappointing 3-3 through the first half of the year. Honestly, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling there were higher expectations from the Falcons this year. The Ugly: The spiral keeps getting getting more uncontrollable. UNLV and New Mexico are a combined 1-11. Ouch.

10. MAC (last wk, No. 8 )The Good: Ball State had just four wins last season; the Fighting Letterman’s have matched that total already this year. Extra kudos for Toledo and Temple, who continue to rack up wins. The Bad: Dan LeFevour was really something at Central Michigan. At 2-5, the Chips just haven’t been the same since him and Butch Jones departed. The Ugly: Here’s a MAC score for ya: Miami (OH) — 9, Kent State — 3. Yikes.

11. Sun Belt (last wk, No. 11) The Good: Louisiana Lafayette sits at 6-1. Far and away the best team in the Sun Belt. The Bad: The conference, on the other hand, needs Troy to be good again. The Trojans are currently 2-4 and just got blown out at home by Louisiana-Monroe. Rock bottom much? The Ugly: Florida Atlantic opened their brand new stadium with a 20-0 shutout to Western Kentucky. Uh…..

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LSU sells out season tickets for 11th straight year

Les Miles

A bigger stadium capacity was likely to lead to a record number of season tickets sold, and LSU did not disappoint. The school announced Friday all season tickets for the 2014 season have been sold. In all, LSU set a school record with 74,350 season tickets being sold. It is the 11th straight season LSU has sold out its season tickets.

“We have sold every season ticket that we have to offer,” LSU associate athletic director for ticket operations Brian Broussard said in a statement released by LSU Friday afternoon. “Our season ticket demand continues to be very strong and with the additional seats in the south endzone expansion, we were able to offer more season tickets this year and our fans bought them all.”

Just last month LSU announced a new stadium capacity for Tiger Stadium, moving LSU just past Alabama in the stadium capacity pecking order. After undergoing expansion in the south endzone, the stadium capacity for Tiger Stadium has increased to 102,321. The expansion helped add roughly 6,000 more season tickets to sell to fans, according to the statement released by LSU.

The home slate for LSU is one of the least attractive home schedules but it does include a home date against Alabama in November and division games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State (both Mississippi schools have a possibility of being fun to watch this season). Other notable games against defending SEC champion Auburn, Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M will all be played on the road. LSU’s big non-conference match-up with Wisconsin will actually be played in Houston as well. Fans with tickets to LSU home games this season will also be treated to games against Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, and Kentucky in SEC play.

Also this offseason, LSU’s Tiger Stadium was voted the best stadium in college football. Who wouldn’t want to secure a season ticket to Tiger Stadium?

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Fresno State adds transfers from Texas A&M and Oregon

LeKendrick Williams, Dax Swanson

As Fresno State reported for camp for the 2014 season, the defending Mountain West Conference champions announced the additions of transfer players from Texas A&M and Oregon. Wide receiver LeKendrick Williams from Texas A&M and linebacker Tyrell Robinson from Oregon have each joined the Bulldogs

Williams will be eligible to play right away according to Fresno State, but Robinson will have to sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Williams is eligible to play this fall because he has already graduated from Texas A&M, allowing him to play at another FBS program in 2014. The addition of Williams helps Fresno State fill some holes on offense after losing leading receivers Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse to the NFL.

Robinson was granted a release from his scholarship from Oregon in June. A desire to find a more playing time that did not appear to be in the works at Oregon was the main reason for the transfer. Robinson’s twin brother, Tyree Robinson, remains at Oregon to contend for a starting job in the defensive backfield.

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Strong’s discipline at Texas gets powerful vote of confidence

Charlie Strong

Texas head coach Charlie Strong has been hard at work at resetting the tone for the way the Longhorns will be run. That has included removing a number of players from the roster that are not buying into Strong’s mentality or philosophies when it comes to representing the program with honor. Strong, already a coaching hire that left a number of Texas fans a bit skeptical, was given a vote of confidence from the top of the university Friday. University of Texas president Bill Powers took to a brief blog post to address his support for the way Strong has been handling the discipline in Austin.

“In recent days, criminal charges and violations of team rules have led Coach Charlie Strong to dismiss and suspend multiple students from our football team,” Power said. “These are unfortunate losses, but I fully support Coach Strong and the hard line on discipline he takes. Indeed, this trait is among the reasons he was hired.”

Strong has yet to win a single game in Austin just yet but receiving this kind of support from the top of the university has to be considered some sort of win. Then again, what else is the president to say about this topic? The school just hired Strong and players in need of a potential wake-up call are being handed just that.

“In Charlie Strong, we have the right person for the job,” Powers continued. “Young players across Texas and beyond know that when they come to UT Austin, they’ll live by Coach Strong’s rules or they won’t play football.”

As stated before right here on College Football Talk, the actions being taken by Strong now will only help the future of the program.

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Back injury sidelines Auburn starting OG Kozan for 2014

Gus Malzahn

Auburn opened camp on Friday and is already down one starting offensive lineman for the 2014 season. Head coach Gus Malzahn told reporters on Friday offensive guard Alex Kovan will miss the entire 2014 season due to a back injury suffered over the offseason.

Kovan reportedly hurt his back while lifting weights at home this offseason, and he underwent surgery on Thursday according to Auburn Undercover. The sophomore started 13 games for the Tigers last season and earned freshman All-American honors as the Tigers played their way to the SEC Championship and a spot in the BCS Championship Game.

The loss of Kovan likely means there will be some shuffling on the offensive line. Auburn Undercover suggests offensive tackle Avery Young could switch the vacant guard position after starting nine games at tackle last fall.

Malzahn also told reporters starting quarterback Nick Marshall and starting defensive back Jonathan Mincy will each miss the start for the 2014 season opener against Arkansas on August 30. Both players had been charged for possession of marijuana in the offseason. Malzahn did make a point to say Marshall will play in the opener, but there is no update on Mincy’s availability for the first game of the season.

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Marijuana is legal in Washington, but not in Mike Leach’s program

Mike Leach

The use of marijuana is legalized in the state of Washington, but Washington State head coach Mike Leach makes it clear how the use of the drug is viewed within his football program. He also says marijuana use has not been a problem for his football team.

“The marijuana rule has not been a problem for us,” Leach said in response to a question on a Reddit AMA chat. Leach went on to explain “It is illegal on our team and if we find anyone using marijuana, we will dismiss them from the team.”

Leach also shared his personal thought son the use of marijuana, whether it is legal or not.

“With all do respect to those who enjoy marijuana, I believe that it is very counter-productive to having the best focused and most productive football team that I can have,” Leach said. “Any of our players or coaches interested in it will have to do it after they finish their time here!”

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Nick Marshall will play but will not start Auburn season opener

Nick Marshall

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will play in the first game of the season for the defending SEC champions, but he will not start the game. Head coach Gus Malzahn confirmed the playing status for his returning starter on Friday, and he put it clearly.

“Nick is still our starting quarterback,” Malzahn said, as reported by Al.com.

Auburn opened camp Friday, and Malzahn took the time with the media to set the record on how Marshall would be disciplined. Marshall was kept home from SEC Media Day events a couple of weeks ago after being cited for possession of marijuana. Malzahn also noted starting defensive back Jonathan Mincy, also charged for marijuana possession this offseason, will not start for Auburn in the season opener.

Marshall paid a fine for marijuana possession last week, allowing the police to consider the case against him closed. With the legal process in the books, it was up to Malzahn to come to a decision on what to do next. Malzahn had been holding off on deciding how to proceed with punishment for Marshall but stressed it would be figured out. As previously noted, Auburn’s drug policy did not seem to indicate any lost playing time would be enforced for this offense.

Marshall was named to the All-SEC First Team and he has been mentioned as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate for the upcoming season. Although he is not technically being suspended by Auburn, the absence of playing time does not appear to be something that will hold Auburn back for very long.

Auburn opens the 2014 season at home against SEC West foe Arkansas on August 30.

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Junior WR leaving Maryland, eligible to play in 2014

Old Dominion v Maryland

Maryland will enter the Big Ten this fall with one of the best wide receiver units in the conference. That unit will not include Nigel King, a junior who reportedly has been granted a release from his scholarship in order to pursue playing opportunities elsewhere.

“I would like to thank all of my coaches, teammates and the rest of the athletic department staff for their support during my time at the University of Maryland,” King said in a statement, according to The Baltimore Sun. “I was able to fulfill my goals of playing college football and, most importantly, earning my degree.”

King did in fact graduate from Maryland, which means he would be eligible to play right away at any other FBS school if he can find a spot on another program’s roster in time for the fall season.

King was fifth on Maryland in receiving last season with 33 receptions for 450 yards and a team-high four touchdowns. Despite his contributions last season, The Baltimore Sun reports he was projected to be buried on the depth chart behind players like Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.

The Baltimore Sun credited Terrapin Times with being the first to report news of the transfer.

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Academics may cost Tulane its leading returning rusher

This is certainly no way to head into your first summer camp in a new conference.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, running back Rob Kelley might not be cleared academically and, if so, would be sidelined for the entire 2014 season.  Head coach Curtis Johnson told the Times-Picayune he’s “waiting to hear Kelley’s final summer grades,” although it doesn’t sound promising.

Last season, Kelley was second on the team with 420 yards and three touchdowns.  He also added 18 receptions (fourth on the team) for 176 yards and another touchdown.

With the departure of Orleans Darkwa for the NFL, Kelley served as the Green Wave’s leading returning rusher.  He’s also the only player on the roster this season who scored a rushing touchdown last season.

Tulane, which officially moved from Conference USA to the AAC, will open the season Aug. 28 against fellow first-year AAC member Tulsa.

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Report: Oklahoma confident in DGB’s eligibility in 2014

Dorial Green-Beckham

Oklahoma is hoping to have wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham ruled eligible to play this season, despite transferring from Missouri after playing last fall for the SEC East champions. The Sooners are banking this expectation on a waiver being approved by the NCAA. The waiver is fueled by the run-off rule, according to The Oklahoman.

The run-off rule allows a player to be ruled eligible at a new school if the player is in good academic standing and the previous school files paperwork confirming the player was not invited to return to the program. That appears to be the case for Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed by Missouri this offseason.

That particular detail could change the whole outlook for the transfer and eligibility of Green-Beckham to Oklahoma, but it also puts the NCAA in a difficult position as far as public relations is concerned.

Although Green-Beckham was never charged in an alleged break-in of an apartment that reportedly involved shoving a woman down stairs, he has had his infractions of rules in the past while at Missouri that raise a caution flag. The NCAA typically allows for exemptions to be made to the typical transfer rules for players in good standing and under certain conditions for hardships. Oklahoma is looking to use these exemptions to their benefit, and the NCAA may be put in a position where it may not be able to defend against the process and grant immediate eligibility.

But should they?

UPDATE (5:53 PM ET): TCU head coach Gary Patterson chimed in with his take on this news story, via Twitter. It pretty much speaks for itself.

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Richt confirms two-game suspension for Davin Bellamy

Bellamy_Davin

As expected, an off-field incident will have on-field consequences for yet another Georgia football player.

At his press conference ahead of the start of summer camp, head coach Mark Richt confirmed that, per school policy, Davin Bellamy will be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season.  Bellamy was arrested last weekend and charged with driving under the influence.

Such an offseason offense requires UGA student-athletes be suspended for 20 percent of their team’s regular season games the upcoming season.

A three-star member of last year’s recruiting class, Bellamy took a redshirt for his true freshman season.  He’s expected to compete for a backup job.

Bellamy was the seventh UGA player arrested this offseason, prompting athletic director Greg McGarity to publicly express his frustration with the recent spate of off-field incidents.

(Photo credit: Georgia athletics)

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Report: Pittsburgh suspends potential starting cornerback for 2014

Florida State v Pittsburgh

The Friday afternoon news dump is reserved for news just like this. Pittsburgh has suspended defensive back Titus Howard for the entire 2014 season. As of now the cause for the season-long suspension is unknown, although to make this kind of decision seems to suggest there is a serious reason behind the decision.

Jerry DiPaola was first to report via Twitter.

For now we are left to assume this will be classified as a violation of team rules.

As DiPaola made note, Howard was listed at the top of the depth chart for the Panthers heading into the summer camp before the start of the season. He played in 11 games last fall for the Panthers and started in two of them as a freshman. One of those starts came in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against MAC champion Bowling Green.

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Tee Shepard cleared, can play for Ole Miss in 2014

Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl Getty Images

The roller coaster ride that is Tee Shepard continued down the tracks Thursday, with the talented defensive back receiving some good news on the qualifying front.

Citing an Ole Miss spokesperson, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported overnight that Shepard has been cleared academically and will be a part of the Rebels football team in 2014.  Because he played at a level below the FBS in 2013, Shepard will be permitted to play this season and have three years of eligibility remaining.

Shepard had originally given a verbal commitment to rival Mississippi State before flipping to Ole Miss three days later on signing day this year.  That was merely the latest leg of what’s been an interesting journey for the player.

Notre Dame announced back in March of 2012 that Shepard was no longer enrolled at the school, two months after he enrolled as an early signee as part of the Irish’s 2012 recruiting class.  The stated reason for Shepard’s decision at the time was the desire to be back closer to his family in Fresno.

After leaving South Bend, Shepard considered transferring to Fresno State as well as USC before ultimately landing at a junior college.

Shepard, a four- or five-star player depending on the recruiting service, was rated as the No. 4 corner in the country in the Class of 2012 and the No. 11 player at any position in the state of California by Rivals.com.

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Report: Miami QB Kevin Olsen suspended for at least a game

Florida v Miami

It appears that Jake Heapsdesire to become Miami’s starting quarterback has seen the path cleared a bit.

While there has been no official confirmation from the school, Adam Kuperstein of NBC 6 in Miami is reporting that Kevin Olsen has been slapped with at least a one-game suspension.  The reason behind the suspension?  A failed drug test, Kuperstein reported.

The Palm Beach Post‘s Matt Porter wrote on Twitter that he has “heard rumblings about [an] Olsen suspension this week, but haven’t confirmed.”  Porter also notes that Olsen was suspended for Miami’s bowl game last season for undisclosed reasons.

If the most recent report is accurate, Olsen would miss at least the season opener against Louisville on Labor Day, which also serves as the ACC opener for both teams.

It would also mean that, more than likely, Heaps would be the man under center.  With Ryan Williams likely out until at least the beginning of October at the earliest with a torn ACL, Heaps and Olsen were expected to commence a battle in summer camp to replace Stephen Morris.

If Olsen’s status were in doubt, it could also bring a pair of true freshman — Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier — into the mix, at least for a temporary backup job and perhaps a starting job if Heaps, a Kansas transfer, struggles the way he has throughout his career.  Kaaya is the most touted of the two, a four-star member of UM’s 2014 recruiting class rated as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the country.

Rosier was a three-star member of The U’s most recent class, rated as the No. 20 dual-threat quarterback.

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Starter among three defensive players suspended by Tide

Alabama v Auburn

We noted earlier that Jacob Coker took to the field for the first time Friday as an Alabama football player.

Three of his new defensive teammates, however, didn’t join him.

At his summer camp kick-off press conference, head coach Nick Saban confirmed that three players — defensive linemen Brandon Ivory and Jarran Reed and linebacker Tim Williams — have been indefinitely suspended from the football program. The reason given, of course, was the standard violation of unspecified team rules.

Reed’ suspension, though, can be traced to a recent off-field incident. In mid-July, Reed was arrested and charged with drunk-driving after he was witnessed backing into another vehicle.

A short time later it was reported that Reed and running back Kenyan Drake, arrested last month as well on an obstruction charge, had been suspended; Drake practiced Friday, which means he’s served his suspension to Saban’s satisfaction.

The most notable of the announced suspensions was Ivory’s. Last season, the now-fifth-year senior started 12 games for the Tide and will be expected to fill a similar role when he returns.

As for when that might be, al.com wrote that Saban said, alluding to all three, that they “can work themselves back onto the team but did not provide a timetable.”

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Jacob Coker takes field for first time as Tide QB

Florida State v Wake Forest Getty Images

Ever since Jacob Coker officially transferred from Florida State to Alabama, it was assumed he would take over for AJ McCarron as the Tide’s starting quarterback.

Friday, that assumption was put to its first official test.

This morning, the Tide took to the practice field for the first time as Summer Camp 2014 commenced.  One of the players with the most eyeballs on him was, of course, Coker.

Al.com has some video footage of the new QB on the block playing a serious game of long toss with some receivers that you can view by clicking HERE.

Coker was joined on the practice field by Blake Sims and Cooper Bateman, the other two pieces to what’s expected to be a three-man competition.  None of the three has ever started a game at the collegiate level; because Coker, ahem, nearly beat out Jameis Winston for FSU’s starting job prior to the 2013 season, he’s viewed as the favorite.

Sims has spent last season as McCarron’s primary backup, with that familiarity leading some to believe he would have the edge.  However, with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin installing his scheme, any advantage for Sims on that front is largely negated.

So, just who will end up starting for the Tide?  Allow Nick Saban to answer that question.

“We’re looking for the guy — success is defined by consistency in performance, alright,” the head coach said back in March. “So who can be the most consistent guy doing his job well at that position? Alright, now that’s a critical position because that guy distributes the ball to someone on every down, whether he hands it to them, throws it to them. The choices and decisions that they have to make goes a long way in how effective and efficient your offense runs.”

In other words, keep track of who makes the fewest mistakes in the weeks leading up to the opener, because that’s the one who’ll take the field first against West Virginia in the Georgia Dome.

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