CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 4 LSU

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2011 record: 13-1 overall, 8-0 in SEC (1st in West)

2011 postseason: SEC title game (42-10 win over Georgia); BcS title game (21-0 loss to Alabama)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 2/No. 2

Head coach: Les Miles (103-39 overall, 75-18 in seven seasons at LSU)

Offensive coordinator: Greg Studrawa (sixth season at LSU, second as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 22nd rushing offense (202.6 ypg); 106th passing offense (152.5 ypg); 86th total offense (355.1 ypg); 17th scoring offense (35.7 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: seven

Defensive coordinator: John Chavis (fourth season at LSU, fourth as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 5th rushing defense (90.1 ypg); 8th passing defense (171.4 ypg); 2nd total defense 261.5 ypg); 2nd scoring defense (11.3 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: five

Location: Baton Rouge, La.

Stadium: Tiger Stadium (92,542; grass)

Last league title: 2011

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
Normally when a team loses its two most experienced quarterbacks, it’s a cause for significant concern.  In LSU’s case, it’s cause for much joy and jubilation. Gone are Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, the Bonnie & Clyde of the QB position the past three seasons and who “helped” the Tigers to the 106th-ranked passing offense — out of 120 teams — last season.  In is Georgia transfer Zach Mettenberger, a strong-armed passer who has the ability to keep defenses honest enough that they’ll actually have to (gasp!) respect the passing game and allow Miles to stick his fork deeper into his meat and potatoes — a power running attack.

The Bad
It looked like not much … until Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu got kicked off the team, which makes a return to the Top 5 much more questionable than we had originally presumed. The loss of seven starters from a defense that was second in the country in yards and points allowed will certainly have an impact.  Playing conference road games at Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas is certainly not optimal in the Tigers’ bid for a second straight SEC title, but it is manageable.

The Unknown
Certainly there’s a lot of hype surrounding Mettenberger, but what exactly will LSU be getting under center? Mettenberger has only thrown 11 passes — all of those in mop-up duty last season — during a collegiaie career that began at Georgia. After redshirting as a true freshman in 2009, Mettenberger exited spring practice in 2010 with perhaps a slight lead in UGA’s race to replace Matthew Stafford — a race that includes current Bulldogs starter Aaron Murray.  An arrest prior to the start of those spring sessions, however, led to his dismissal and a year in the JUCO ranks in 2010.  Obviously, Mettenberger has never started a game at this level, and to do it now on a team with title aspirations makes one wonder if he does indeed have “the chest” to handle such a responsibility.

Make-or-break game: vs. Alabama, Nov. 3
Last year, LSU got the best of Alabama in the soccer-style regular season match-up in Tuscaloosa, with the Tide pulling the ultimate defensive trump card in the BcS title game. This season, the Tigers get the Tide in Death Valley, and will be looking to avenge the stunning shutout loss this past January. The winner of this game will likely be in the driver’s for both the West’s slot in the SEC title game and, possibly, one of the two slots in the 2013 BcS title game. Yeah, not much at stake there.

Heisman hopeful: cornerback Tyrann Mathieu … oh, never mind.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

SEC preview, vote

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.