It’s official: Alabama vs. WVU in ’14 Kickoff Game

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Last night, Ben noted that Nick Saban recently mentioned the possibility of his current school and the flagship university of his home state squaring off in the 2014 season opener in the state of Georgia.

Today, Alabama-West Virginia in two years officially became a reality.

In a press release sent out Thursday evening, it was confirmed that the Mountaineers will square off with the Tide in the 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.  The game will be played in the Georgia Dome on Saturday, Aug. 30.  No time has been set, although there’s little doubt the game will be broadcast in prime time.

“The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is an outstanding event and we look forward to opening the 2014 season in Atlanta,” said Saban (pictured) in a statement. “Gary Stokan and his staff do a great job in hosting this game and the atmosphere in the Georgia Dome has been like a BCS bowl game in our previous experiences there. The exposure for our football players and our program is tremendous and it is a great experience for our fans. This will be the sixth time we have played a non-conference game at a neutral site, and the fourth time at Atlanta.

“I believe that playing an opponent that has the national reputation that West Virginia does, one of the top programs in the country, provides a great challenge for our players and gives us something to look forward to in the offseason. We are privileged at the University of Alabama to be a part of what has become a great tradition in college football with first-class organizations like the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the City of Atlanta.”

Saban grew up in Fairmont, WV, about 20 miles southwest of Morgantown.

The release states that tickets to the 2014 game will be evenly split between the two teams, creating “a true neutral-site game” despite the Georgia Dome’s location in the heart of SEC country.

The 2014 meeting will mark the first time the two schools have faced each other in football.

“Playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is a great opportunity for our football program and will be an exciting event for our fans,” said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen (not pictured). “Alabama is one of the top teams in college football history, and it will be a tough challenge for us.”

The Tide is 10-8-1 all-time versus Big 12 schools — WVU is moving from the Big East this year — while the Mountaineers are 24-22-2 against SEC teams.

In addition to the 2014 game, the Tide will also face Virginia Tech in the 2013 Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome.  There will be a pair of kickoff games this year: Tennessee vs. North Carolina State, Clemson vs. Auburn.

It had been previously been announced that Boise State will play Ole Miss in the second game of the 2014 Chick-fil-A doubleheader.

Utah evaluating potential upgrades to Rice-Eccles Stadium

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It may be hard to believe, but Utah has just completed its sixth year in the Pac-12. Now, after benefitting from an increased conference revenue compared to their days in the Mountain West Conference, Utah appears to be ready to dig in and explore the possibility of expanding Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The University of Utah announced today the school is putting together a feasibility study to expand the south end zone of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Among the details to figure out include how much it may cost, who it will be funded and whether or not there is a market for such an expansion in the first place. Given the move to the Pac-12 a little more than half a decade ago and the success of making the transition with a more attractive regular season schedule, it stands to reason there is potential for a stadium expansion to take advantage of.

“Understanding the market, costs and feasibility will help us better prepare for the future of the stadium,” said President David W. Pershing in a released statement. “There’s still much work to be done before taking steps toward renovation. We have to know if the market will support this kind of expansion.”

Rice-Eccles Stadium opened its doors in 1998 after a complete rebuild of the original stadium structure that was Rice Stadium. One of the only portions of the stadium that was left largely untouched between the transition of the stadium was the south end zone. This is where Utah wants to explore renovation plans for the most part. If the hypothetical project goes through, Utah will rebuild the locker rooms, equipment storage and media rooms as well as medical treatment areas. Of course, the school will also evaluate possibilities for luxury seating for fans and donors and concession area upgrades. Among those fan amenities under consideration is connecting the east and west concourses.

Rice-Eccles Stadium currently has a listed seating capacity of 45,807. It has a sellout streak of 38 games, with 35 going above the official maximum capacity, according to Utah Athletics.

Former LSU QB Brandon Harris announces commitment to UNC

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Former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris has found himself a new home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Harris announced via Facebook and Twitter he has chosen to commit to North Carolina.

“Obviously, it has been an important time for me, looking for a great situation and another opportunity to grow as a young man and as a student as well as a football player,” Harris said in his statement. “After my [official] visit this weekend to the University of North Carolina, I’m going to get that opportunity. With that being said, I’m fully committed to UNC this upcoming year and I look forward to the opportunity to play for coach [Larry Fedora] and UNC.”

Harris will be eligible to play for UNC immediately this fall after graduating from LSU this summer, and the timing may not be better for Harris. UNC is losing its starting quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) to the NFL and has a wide open spot to fill in the starting lineup as a result. But the job will not automatically go to Harris upon his arrival at UNC after missing out on spring practices at North Carolina.

Harris played in just four games last season, in which he passed for 139 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Since the season-opener against Wisconsin, Harris was reduced to backup duty and did not play in any of LSU’s seven final games of the 2016 season, including the bowl game against Louisville. Harris announced his decision to transfer in February, which was pretty much expected given how last season played out amid a coaching change.

Report: Foot injury puts Georgia WR Riley Ridley on sideline for spring

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Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley has not been practicing this spring, but it has nothing to do with his offseason misdemeanor from a couple of weeks ago. Instead, a foot injury appears to have sidelined Ridley for the spring.

According to a report from Gridiron Now, Ridley has been out due to the foot injury. When the foot injury occurred is not reported. Even if his foot was not injured, it remains unknown if Ridley would be participating int he spring, at least at this point. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has said Ridley will be internally disciplined for his misdemeanor pot possession from earlier this month.

“He’ll receive discipline,” Smart said. “We are very disappointed in his decision. We do not condone that behavior. I think Riley is going to learn a valuable lesson from this mistake.”

When Ridley may be available again remains unknown, as does what exactly the punishment to him will be from Smart. A one-game suspension is the expected result for Ridley according to the university’s student-athlete handbook.

USF DB Hassan Childs in stable condition after overnight shooting incident

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USF defensive back Hassan Childs was injured in a shooting incident overnight. Fortunately, Childs is currently said to be in stable condition, according to USF.

“We are deeply concerned that an incident occurred overnight in which one of our guys, Hassan Childs, was injured in a shooting,” a statement from USF head coach Charlie Strong said. “Thankfully, Hassan is in stable condition and being well cared for, and no one else was injured. There is an ongoing investigation of the incident and we are in the process of gathering further information.”

The shooting took place off campus, but details about the incident have not been reported.

Childs played in eight games for the Bulls last year. He recorded 16 tackles and returned two punts for three yards in a backup role.