Hogs still maintain shot at SEC title game berth

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Lost amid the hoopla surrounding the LSU-Alabama matchup Saturday night was another Top-Ten tilt involving a pair of SEC teams.

Thanks to No. 7 Arkansas’ win over No. 9 South Carolina, the Razorbacks have slipped into a virtual second-place tie with Alabama in the SEC West — the Tide at 5-1, the Hogs at 4-1. It’s long been assumed, though, that the representative from the West in the SEC championship game would come from either LSU or Alabama. Although that might ultimately be the case, it’s not a foregone conclusion.

If Arkansas were to win out against Tennessee, Mississippi State and LSU… if Alabama wins their two remaining conference games versus Mississippi State and Auburn… if LSU loses to the Razorbacks but wins their other remaining conference game against Ole Miss, those three would be tied for first place and we would head to the SEC’s system for breaking three-way ties.  Here’s the step-by-step process the SEC would go about deciding the West’s representative in the title game.

1. (Once the tie has been reduced to two teams, go to the two-team tie-breaker format.)
As you will see, this will take awhile.

2. Combined head-to-head record among the tied teams.
Based on the scenario laid out above, each team would be 1-1 against the others.  Thus, we move on to No. 3

3. Record of the tied teams within the division.
Based on the scenario laid out above, each team would be 4-1 against West opponents.  Again, we move on to the next step of the tiebreaking process.

4. Head-to-head competition vs. the team within the division with the best overall (divisional and non-divisional) Conference record and proceeding through the division. Multiple ties within the division will be broken from first to last.
Based on the scenario laid out above, each team would be undefeated against Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.  So, let’s skip to No. 5.

5. Overall record vs. non-division teams.
Only Arkansas has a game against an East team left, so, again, based on the scenario laid out above, each team would be 3-0 against the other division.  You know the drill at this point…

6. Combined record vs. all common non-divisional teams.
Again, provided the Razorbacks beat the Vols next weekend, all three would be unbeaten against the lone common East opponent this year — Tennessee.  And again, we proceed to the next step in the process.

7. Record vs. common non-divisional team with the best overall Conference (divisional and non-divisional) record and proceeding through other common non-divisional teams based on their order of finish within their division.
See any of the other steps that involve non-division records; all three would be unbeaten versus East teams.  So, we are down to the last step in the process, which involves everybody’s favorite system for determining a national champion.

8. The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the last weekend of regular-season games shall be the divisional representative in the SEC Championship Game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the SEC Championship Game.
This is where it gets tricky for the Razorbacks.

Based on my interpretation of the eighth tiebreaker, which was subsequently verified by an SEC official, Arkansas would need to beat LSU and have both themselves and LSU — in any order as long as the Hogs are within five spots if behind the Tigers– finish higher than Alabama in the final regular season BcS rankings in order to become the West’s rep in the conference title game.  Arkansas’ loss to Alabama earlier this year necessitates both the Razorbacks and LSU finishing ahead of the Tide in that last set of BcS rankings before the start of the conference championship game.

Of course, this is all predicated on Arkansas going into Death Valley the final week of the season and beating LSU after winning their next two conference games.  If not?  This is all a moot exercise as LSU would skate to Atlanta in early December.

Provided the current No. 1 team in the country goes unscathed the rest of the way, of course.

Former Illini rushing leader announces intent to transfer from Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 3: Ke'Shawn Vaughn #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Champaign, Illinois.  Illinois defeated Nebraska 14-13. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Illinois running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn is moving on from the Illini. The sophomore announced, via Twitter, he will transfer to a new school in 2017.

Vaughn rushed for a team-high 723 yards as a freshman in 2015 with a team-leading six rushing touchdowns. This past season saw Vaughn slip to third in rushing yards with 301 yards and three touchdowns behind Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin under new head coach Lovie Smith. Vaughn was slowed by some injury concerns in the 2016 season with a leg injury causing him to be taken out against Minnesota and limiting him to two rushing attempts for three yards in his final two games before not getting a rushing attempt against Iowa and not playing at all against Northwestern in the season finale.

With two years under his belt, Vaughn still has two years of eligibility to play and a redshirt season still available to use to preserve his eligibility. Should he transfer to another FBS program, NCAA transfer rules will prohibit him from playing this fall. He will be eligible to play immediately if he lands at a lower division school.

Pitt and UCF add home-and-home series for 2018 and 2019

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 19:  James Conner #24 of the Pittsburgh Panthers celebrates his third quarter touchdown with teammates against the Duke Blue Devils at Heinz Field on November 19, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. James Conner became the ACC's all-time leader for total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Pitt Panthers have filled out their non-conference slate for the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the addition of a home-and-home series with UCF.

The scheduling deal, announced Thursday morning, confirm UCF will host Pitt on September 19, 2018. The Knights will make the trip to Pittsburgh the following season on September 21, 2019. The two schools have faced each other just once before, with the Panthers taking a blowout 52-7 victory in Orlando on October 13, 2006.

As a member of the ACC, Pitt is required to play one power conference opponent each season in its non-conference schedule. As much as the American Athletic Conference would like us to all believe the AAC is indeed a power conference, the addition of UCF does not satisfy Pitt’s ACC scheduling requirement. However, Pitt’s ACC scheduling requirement is met in 2018 with a home game against Penn State and a road game at Notre Dame (as part of the ACC’s rotating Notre Dame schedule) and with a road game at Penn State in 2019. The Panthers and Nittany Lions will play each other in 2017 as well in State College.

For UCF, the addition of Pitt to the future schedule continues to tack on power conference opponents in future seasons. UCF will play Georgia Tech and Maryland this coming season and will play at UNC in 2018 in addition to the newly added home game against Pitt. UCF also has Stanford and Texas on future schedules in addition to more games against UNC and Georgia Tech.

Mississippi lawmaker proposes bill to fine NCAA for extended investigation process

FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2013, file photo, Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze leads his team to the field prior to their NCAA college football game against LSU  in Oxford, Miss. Mississippi has aspirations of competing for SEC titles. No. 11 Ole Miss (4-0, 1-0) plays No. 3 Alabama (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014,  in its biggest home game in more than a decade.  (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
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Politicians will always look for ways to play to their constituents, and that sometimes means tugging at the heartstrings of local sports fans. There is no other reason why a lawmaker in Mississippi is proposing a bill that aims to fine the NCAA for taking too long to conduct any investigation of a school within the state of Mississippi.

Representative Trey Lamar is endorsing a bill that provides a one-year limit for NCAA investigations after notifying the school of a pending investigation. A notice of allegations must then be presented within six months from the initial notice of a pending investigation.

It is worth remembering that Ole Miss remains under NCAA investigation for potential violations of NCAA rules. The investigation has been going on since last January and has cast a bit of a cloud of uncertainty over the entire Ole Miss football program. No hearing in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions is currently scheduled for the program, leaving many following the Ole Miss program a tad frustrated.

The problem with NCAA investigations is there is no current structure for forming a definitive timeline of the investigation process, and each investigation is handled on a case-by-case basis with a different outcome and different allegations and charges in each. Because of that, investigations can drag on for extended period of times before the NCAA feels comfortable in its resolution.

How the state can actually fine the NCAA for taking longer than a year to complete an investigation is unknown, and perhaps not likely. But hey, Lamar will get the Ole Miss vote the next time he is on the ballot.

LSU dismisses nose guard Travonte Valentine

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03: Travonte Valentine #55 of the LSU Tigers awaits the snap against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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LSU has dismissed nose guard Travonte Valentine. The dismissal for a violation of team rules was announced Thursday night with an emailed release with head coach Ed Orgeron sharing a brief statement.

“At this point in time, Travonte is no longer part of our football program,” Orgeron said. “We wish him the best.”

Valentine played in five games for LSU last season as a sophomore, but he did not play in the final seven games of the season. Valentine faced some academic troubles at LSU last year that put his eligibility in question over the summer, but he worked to meet the academic requirements to play for LSU prior to the start of the 2016 season. Valentine also had to work through NCAA issues regarding academic concerns that prevented him from playing his freshman season.

LSU did not announce or confirm the reason for Valentine’s dismissal from the program other than to say it was for a violation of team rules.