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CFT Predicts: the SEC

Nick Saban AP

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the SEC. 

And while we’re at it, check out our other conference previews: Big Ten, Pac-12

SEC East

1.  South Carolina (Last year: 11-2; beat Michigan in Outback Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Gamecocks put together an 11-2 season for the second straight year — the first time in school history the program has accomplished such a feat. Yet, Steve Spurrier‘s team still didn’t make it to the SEC championship game despite handing it to SEC champ Georgia 35-7 in Columbia. Also, this happened. You may have seen it before on SportsCenter. 

So why are they ranked here?
South Carolina and Georgia have taken their respective turns representing the East division in the SEC title for the past three years, and it looks like 2013 will be two-team race between these two once again. The Gamecocks get the edge this time because of their defense, which features preseason Heisman candidate Jadeveon Clowney. But it’s not just the projected No. 1 NFL draft pick that makes this defense so good. Cornerback Victor Hampton and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles also return.

Anything else?
That’s a Clowney question, bro. But for real, the offense loses wide receiver Ace Sanders. However, the Gamecocks have a solid wide receiver group led by Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd. 

2. Georgia (Last year: 12-2; beat Nebraska in Capital One Bowl) 
What happened last season?
If only Chris Conley had been a few yards further, Georgia would have been playing in the BCS championship game. Still, 12-2 and a January bowl win aren’t too shabby. Despite getting blasted by South Carolina midway through the season, UGA still won the East division for the second year in a row.

So why are they ranked here?
The Bulldogs’ offense returns so many key players, including seventh-year senior quarterback Aaron Murray and running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. But conversely, it’s the defense that loses just about everyone. There’s plenty of talent on that side of the ball and Todd Grantham is considered one of the best in the business at defense coordinator, but there’s enough turnover to cost the Bulldogs the top spot in the East.

Anything else?
Georgia is the media’s favorite to win the SEC East this year, but the month of September could get the Bulldogs off to a slow start. Georgia faces four tough opponents to start the season: Clemson, South Carolina, North Texas* and LSU.

(*Kidding, obviously. But seriously #GoMeanGreen.) 

3. Florida (Last year: 11-2; lost to Louisville in Sugar Bowl)
What happened last season?
It wasn’t always pretty, but Florida won 11 regular season games with arguably one of the tougher schedules in college football. However, the Gators’ season ended in a Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville, something only our favorite Cardinals fan Mark Ennis could have foreseen.

So why are they ranked here?
This is where the Gators fit. The East will continue to be dominated by Georgia and South Carolina at least for another season, and there are some injury concerns on offense for Florida with wide receiver Andre Debose out for the year and running back Matt Jones out indefinitely with a viral infection. Quarterback Jeff Driskel is now a junior and should be a bigger part of this offense. On defense, this team needs to replace stars Matt Elam, Jelani Jenkins and Sharrif Floyd.

Anything else?
It doesn’t affect SEC records, but the Gators have two meaty non-conference games: the annual rivalry with Florida State and an early season game against Miami, a team some feel are flying under the radar.

4. Vanderbilt (Last year: 9-4; beat NC State in the Music City Bowl)
What happened last season?
Seven straight wins to end 2012 gave Vanderbilt its first nine-win season since 1915. James Franklin continues to do an outstanding job building the Commodores’ brand and is now quickly becoming one of the most intriguing coaches in the game.

So why are they ranked here?
That nine-win season? Yeah, Vandy returns 17 starters from that team a year ago. Leading receiver Jordan Matthews is back, but Chris Boydthe team’s second-leading receiver, is currently dealing with a legal issue related to a horrific rape allegation involving four former VU players. Still there should be plenty of firepower on offense and the defensive front seven should be a strength.

Anything else?
Vanderbilt’s next step is to knock off a SEC favorite. This team will have four opportunities to do so against South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Texas A&M. A season-opener against Ole Miss could also build some early momentum for the ‘Dores.

5. Missouri (Last year: 5-7) 
What happened last season?
Missouri’s first year in the SEC was, shall we say, eye-opening. The Tigers suffered their first losing season under Gary Pinkel in eight years thanks, at least in part, to the fact that quarterback James Franklin couldn’t stay healthy. Missouri’s only two conference wins came against Kentucky and Tennessee.

So why are they ranked here?
It’s not a stretch to think Mizzou can have, say, a two-game swing in the win column this season. The Tigers don’t have to play Alabama or LSU out of the West and there are about four winnable conference games on the schedule. Franklin has to stay healthy, which could again be an issue if the offensive line doesn’t come through. Running back Henry Josey returns after missing last season with a significant knee injury and one-time five-star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is a sophomore who needs to have a big year. A lot of previously unknown names are going to have to emerge as playmakers.

Anything else?
Pinkel has been the head coach of Mizzou for 13 years if you can believe it. And, if nothing else, the Tigers have been fairly consistent with winning records. But a new conference and a disappointing 2012 campaign has made the seat beneath Pinkel’s keister a little warm. If there’s not at least a little bit of a turnaround, or some reason to be excited about the future, Mizzou could be looking for another direction by year’s end.

6. Tennessee (Last year: 5-7)
What happened last season?
The Vols suffered their third straight losing season and Derek Dooley was punished by being demoted to the wide receivers coach for the Dallas Cowboys.

So why are they ranked here?
Butch Jones is a good coach and he should be the guy to finally get things turned around for Tennessee. He’s a natural with young people and players love him. That said, Neyland Stadium wasn’t built in a day — neither were UT’s shiny new facilities — and the Vols took a solid gut punch in the passing game with the departures of wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. Defense has been bad too. There’s a lot to fix and not a lot to work with right away.

Anything else?
The stretch between Sept. 21 (at Florida) and Oct. 26 (at Alabama) is ruthless and unkind. But winning one game against either the Gators, Georgia or South Carolina would go a long way for Jones no matter the final record.

7. Kentucky (Last year: 2-10)
What happened last season?
The Wildcats beat Samford and Kent State, the latter of which almost had a chance to make a BCS bowl appearance. Strange, indeed. Either way, Joker Phillips got canned.

So why are they ranked here?
If Tennessee is building things “brick by brick”, then Kentucky’s going to need some heavier materials. UK made an interesting hire with former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who is recruiting extremely well early. Signing Day 2014 is still a ways off and it’s yet to be seen if those efforts will pay dividends down the road. For now, the Wildcats have too much to improve upon to make a real dent.

Anything else?
The schedule the Wildcats go through doesn’t help. Road games against South Carolina and Georgia aren’t even the worst games — that distinction would belong to hosting Alabama on Oct. 12.

SEC West

1. Alabama (Last year: 13-1; beat Notre Dame in BCS championship)
What happened last season?
Oh, not much. The Tide won the SEC and then mercilessly beat Notre Dame in the BCS championship, giving Nick Saban his third national title in four years with Alabama. Of course, it wasn’t all perfect. Texas A&M came into Tuscaloosa in November and stunned the top-ranked team in the country 29-24. Saban has since been playing that game on loop around the football facilities because money isn’t the root of all evil — satisfaction is.

So why are they ranked here?
Unless the wheels inexplicably fall off or Saban takes his coaching talents to the pros, Alabama is in rolling along (see what we did–ah forget it) and there’s nothing anybody can do to stop it. We could talk about returning starters like A.J. McCarron or C.J. Moseley, or how the Tide’s schedule doesn’t feature any of the SEC East teams expected to finish at or near the top of that respective division. Those are all fine and well, but as long as Saban is wearing crimson, this program is going to be a perennial favorite.

Anything else?
Because college football black magic is very, very real, it should be pointed out again that Alabama has never have won a BCS title when ranked atop the preseason coaches poll. Guess where they’re ranked this year.

2. LSU (last year: 10-3; lost to Clemson in Chick-fil-A Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Tigers shocked the college football world by beating up on a much more talented North Texas team* to open the year and came thisclose to beating Alabama at home (tailback screen FTW!) on their way to a 10-win season. LSU lost by one point to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl as Tajh Boyd pulled off the toughest individual postseason performance of the year.

(*Kidding, obviously. But seriously #GoMeanGreen.) 

So why are they ranked here?
LSU is an interesting team who’s getting overshadowed by two other SEC West teams. Understandably, Alabama is the overwhelming favorite not only to win the West division, but to win the SEC and get back to another national championship. But the Tigers shouldn’t be counted out so quickly. Defense will always be a staple and Zach Mettenberger has all the tools to be an elite quarterback, he just has to put it all together. Ironically, perhaps his best game last season came in that agonizing loss to Alabama.

Anything else?
Les Miles‘ team has some big games this year, including road games against Georgia and Alabama, and a season-opener against TCU. This is a program that’s thrived in those environments over the last few years (sans a BCS title loss to Alabama in 2012). They’ll need to again if they want to knock off the preseason favorite.

3. Texas A&M (last year: 11-2; beat Oklahoma in Cotton Bowl)
What happened last season?
Kevin Sumlin started Johnny Manziel at quarterback and all of us — defenses, media members, all of us — looked like idiots. Also, Manziel won the Heisman as a redshirt freshman. Just as a reminder.

So why are they ranked here?
Manziel is back… maybe. In fact, this is probably one of the few predictions that actually deserves an asterisk next to it. With the NCAA reportedly investigating whether Manziel improperly received money for signing thousands of pieces of memorabilia, it’s possible he could face suspension. If he does, and depending when and for how long, the Aggies’ win total could dip tremendously. There are a lot of questions defensively even with Manziel in the lineup, and while I personally don’t believe the offseason “controversies” will affect Manziel’s play on the field, he still has a lot of growing to do as a quarterback.

Anything else?
Wide receiver Mike Evans burst on to the scene last year with over 1,100 yards as a freshman. All the talk is about Manziel, but Evans provides an athletic, big target to throw to in this offense. He could have an even bigger year as a sophomore.

4. Ole Miss (Last year: 7-6; beat Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Hugh Freeze made one of the bigger first-season splashes by leading the Rebels to a seven-win season and then pulling in one of the most impressive recruiting classes for 2013.

So why are they ranked here?
The Rebels are considered to be on the upswing, but the first half of their ’13 schedule is bordering on unfair. Ole Miss travels to Vanderbilt, to Texas in non-conference play, to Alabama, and to Auburn before finally catching a break and hosting Texas A&M and LSU. It seems impossible to get through that stretch unscathed, but if quarterback Bo Wallace cuts down on his mistakes (17 interceptions a year ago) and the defense can clamp down even a little (the Rebels gave up an average of 36 points in five losses to the aforementioned six opponents last season thanks in part to 66 points from the Longhorns), then this team should find itself with some quality wins headed into an easier second half of the schedule.

Anything else?
If you think Ole Miss has broken any recruiting rules, Freeze asks that you email compliance@olemiss.edu. Thanks and hotty toddy!

5. Auburn (Last year: 3-9)
What happened last season?
The Tigers failed to win a conference game and Gene Chizik, two years removed from winning a BCS championship, was fired.

So why are they ranked here?
Gus Malzahn, who was the offensive coordinator for Auburn when it won that national title over Oregon in 2011, returns to The Plains as head coach hoping to turn things around. There are plenty of guys returning on both sides of the ball… it’s just that neither side played particularly well. It’s not like there’s a lack of talent at Auburn, so if Malzahn and his coaching staff, which features veteran defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, can get the production out of their players in a way Chizik couldn’t, then there’s no reason this team can’t go bowling this year.

Anything else?
Nick Marshall, a former Georgia defensive back, will be the starting quarterback for the Tigers. Meanwhile, Kiehl Frazier, Auburn’s former starting quarterback, has moved to defensive back.

6. Mississippi State (Last year: 8-5; lost to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Things were looking good for Dan Mullen‘s team, which was 7-0 headed into a late October game against Alabama. That’s when it fell apart and the schedule got significantly harder. The Bulldogs lost 38-7 in Tuscaloosa and went on to drop five of their last six games, including a bowl loss to Northwestern.

So why are they ranked here?
Because the SEC West is arguably the deepest division in college football. It’s quite possible that six teams could be bowl eligible here. Quarterback Tyler Russell is back, but there will be plenty of new faces at wide receiver. Six starters return on defense, but in all, this is a relatively young team that will be tested when it faces South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama in consecutive weeks.

Anything else?
If Bulldogs center Dillon Day plays as well as he bowls, then MSU should have a spectacular season.

7. Arkansas (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Bobby Petrino drove his motorcycle off a road. John L. Smith then drove the BCS-ready Razorbacks into the ground. Hog fans didn’t take either particularly well.

So why are they ranked here?
Arkansas brings in a new coach in Bret Bielema, but loses quarterback Tyler Wilson, its top two leading rushers and receivers from a year ago. Defense was a major liability last season and will have to improve significantly if the offense doesn’t get going. And that schedule? Brutal. The Hogs may not win a game past September.

Anything else?
Freshman running back Alex Collins had some drama trying to Fayetteville, but in Bielema’s run-heavy offense, he could make a huge impact right away.

—————————————-

John Taylor‘s prediction:

East
1. Georgia
2. South Carolina
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Vanderbilt
6. Kentucky
7. Missouri

West
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Texas A&M
4. Ole Miss
5. Mississippi State
6. Arkansas
7. Auburn
Ben’s SEC champ: Alabama
John’s SEC champ: Alabama
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Reports: Coastal Carolina to join Sun Belt in 2017

The Great Wheel of Conference Realignment may have just taken its last spin. For now.

According to a report from ESPN’s Brett McMurphy and USA Today‘s Dan Wolken, Coastal Carolina is set to join the Sun Belt as the league’s 12th and final member. The Chanticleers were finalists alongside Eastern Kentucky for the conference’s last remaining spot.

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Eastern Kentucky is said to be further along than Coastal Carolina in terms of department-wide infrastructure, but the Myrtle Beach, S.C., school has two things the Colonels do not that are paramount in this particular game of thrones: recent football success and access to large sums of money, and not necessarily in that order. Coastal has both of those things thanks to Joe Moglia, the billionaire former banking executive that is now the Chanticleers’ head football coach; Moglia is 32-10 in three seasons as Coastal Carolina’s head coach, leading the club to the FCS quarterfinals in each of the past two seasons.

Coastal Carolina’s addition would allow the Sun Belt to split into two divisions and stage a football championship game. (Nevermind the fact that the NCAA will likely deregulate championship games before Coastal’s arrival.) Coastal Carolina would figure to fit into an East division alongside Appalachian State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Troy and South Alabama. Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State, Texas State, New Mexico State and Idaho figure to form a West division.

A formal announcement is expected Tuesday, where the school could stadium upgrades necessary for FBS admittance. Brooks Stadium holds 9,214; FBS teams are required to average at least 15,000 paid attendance over a rolling two-year period.

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Former Trojans DE Morgan Breslin suing USC over insurance claim

Morgan Breslin

Let’s put it this way: Pat Haden has had better fortnights.

With Steve Sarkisian‘s issues now in the rear-view mirror, there’s another issue popping up for the USC football program. Former defensive end Morgan Breslin has brought a lawsuit against his former school, claiming the school led him astray in choosing disability insurance.

A second team All-Pac-12 performer as a junior in 2012, Breslin’s senior season ended after undergoing surgery to fix a nagging hip injury in November of 2013. He had a cup of coffee with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014, but in effect his playing career ended with that surgery.

Before his senior season, however, Breslin worked with USC on purchasing a disability insurance program through AmTrust at Lloyd’s, a process in which he says was led by a university-appointed insurance broker.

With his career now over, Breslin went to collect on his policy, only AmTrust has denied the claim and has filed paperwork in an effort to declare his policy void. So now Breslin is suing USC for what he says was inadequate coverage.

“USC controls all communications between insurers offering athletic insurance policies and the student athlete who will buy the policy,” the suit states, via the Los Angeles Daily News. “This is done through USC’s Compliance Department and the training and medical staff.”

Breslin is in search of “unspecified damages.”

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Once more, with feeling: LSU tabs Brandon Harris as starting QB

Brandon Harris

As Decision Day (or Indecision Day, in the cases of Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama) comes to a close, we’ve got one more school making a decision on a starting quarterback, and it may be one of the biggest choices of the entire season.

LSU head coach Les Miles announced Monday evening sophomore Brandon Harris had beaten junior Anthony Jennings out for the Tigers’ starting quarterback job.

Harris posted a quarterback rating nearly 60 points higher than Jennings in 2014, albeit in a much smaller sample size. Harris completed 25-of-42 passes 452 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in eight appearances; Jennings connected on 111-of-227 throws for 1,611 yards with 11 scores against seven picks. Harris also averaged 6.1 yards a carry with three touchdowns on 26 carries, compared to Jennings’ 2.7 yards per pop and no scores on 108 attempts.

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Of course, the LSU quarterback’s job is not to be a Heisman Trophy contender. In fact, his job is to limit turnovers and get out of the way so that Leonard Fournette can batter his way into Heisman contention.

It’s not a stretch to say quarterback play could be the difference between an SEC (or national) championship and a last-place finish. LSU signal callers posted a collective 128.26 passer rating in 2014, worst in the SEC West. A similar performance likely results in a seventh-place finish in 2015.

LSU opens the season against McNeese State at 7:30 ET Saturday on SEC Network.

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Michigan declines to name starting QB in initial depth chart

Shane Morris

Like his colleagues in Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee and ColumbusJim Harbaugh is going to take as long as possible to declare a starting quarterback.

The Wolverines released their initial depth chart Monday in advance of their Thursday night opener at Utah, and senior Jake Rudock and junior Shane Morris share the first team spot. True freshman Alex Malzone and redshirt freshman Wilton Speight are still in a dead heat for the third spot.

Rudock, a transfer from Iowa, completed 213-of-345 passes (61.7 percent) for 2,436 yards (7.1 per attempt) with 16 touchdowns against five interceptions last year for the Hawkeyes. In limited action, Morris connected on 14-of-40 passes (35 percent) for 128 yards with no touchdowns and three picks.

Additionally, De’Veon Smith will start at running back, and Amara Darboh or Drake Harris will start at one receiver spot while Jehu Chesson or Grant Perry will share the other spot.

Michigan faces the Utes at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. The network is pulling out all the stops for Harbaugh’s debut.

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UGA names UVa transfer Greyson Lambert starting quarterback

Greyson Lambert, John Huff

You get a starting quarterback! And you get a starting quarterback! And you get a starting quarterback!

Following announcements at Texas, Florida State, Army and Ole Miss, Georgia head coach Mark Richt announced Monday Virginia graduate transfer Greyson Lambert will start for the Bulldogs on Saturday.

“There may be other or others who get in the game. But right now the thing that I know that he’ll start the game,” Richt said of Lambert, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Very, very close competition. Still being contested in my mind. But at this point we felt it would be wise to name a starter and get him ready to play in this ballgame. …  We’ll start playing ball that way and see how it goes.”

Richt said he and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer were “pretty sure” on Saturday, but gave themselves a couple of nights to let the decision marinate. Lambert and fellow signal callers Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta were informed before Monday’s practice session. Richt, however, did not rule out letting either of the runners-up see action on Saturday. “So it was very close, but coach Schottenheimer and I have decided that it would be wise to decide on who it is right now so we could kind of get it over with, so to speak, and maybe within a day or two everybody can kind of settle down and play football, think about winning,” Richt said.

Lambert tossed 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a sophomore at Virginia last season. In what could be the best “go to class, son” message ever, Lambert moved from Virginia’s backup quarterback to Georgia’s starter over the course of one offseason.

“We didn’t invite (Lambert) blindly,” Richt said. “We watched his film and felt like he could function and do the things that we’re going to ask the quarterback to do here at Georgia. But we didn’t say: ‘He’s gonna come in and be our starter’ by any means. We told him he would compete for that job and legitimately have a shot to compete for that job.”

Georgia hosts Louisiana-Monroe Saturday in a noon kickoff on SEC Network.

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Jimbo Fisher names Everett Golson ‘Noles starting QB

Everett Golson

In news that we all expected upon his May announcement to transfer to Florida State, though we may not have expected to actually happen today given this afternoon’s piece of news, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher revealed Monday evening that Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson will be the Seminoles’ starting quarterback in 2015.

“Everett’s going to be our starter,” Fisher said after Florida State’s Monday practice. “It’s a tougher decision because of how  well (Golson and Sean Maguire) were playing, not things they weren’t doing.”

Golson threw for 3,445 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading the Fighting Irish to the 2013 BCS National Championship game.

Florida State hosts Texas State at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday.

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MAC coaches tab Northern Illinois, Bowling Green preseason favorites

MAC Championship - Bowling Green v Northern Illinois Getty Images

Seemingly about a month behind their colleagues from other leagues, the MAC’s 13 coaches have released their predictions for the 2015 season. And they don’t look that different from years past.

League coaches see Northern Illinois and Bowling Green clashing for the conference championship in what would be the third straight meeting between the two programs. Bowling Green upset Northern Illinois 44-27 in the 2013 MAC championship, and Northern Illinois returned the favor with a 51-17 whipping last season.

Northern Illinois has won the MAC West Division five years running and leads all active members with six all-time appearances in Detroit.

Toledo was a close second in the West with five first-place votes and 67 total points to the Huskies’ seven and 70, respectively. Western Michigan garnered one first-place vote and 55 total points.

In the East, Ohio came in second with 64 points, 25 behind Bowling Green, but fourth-ranked Massachusetts received the only pair of first-place votes not bestowed upon the Falcons.

Full rankings below:

East
1. Bowling Green – 89 total points (11 first-place votes)
2. Ohio – 64
3. Akron – 60
4. Massachusetts – 57 (2)
5. Buffalo – 43
6. Miami (Ohio) – 30
7. Kent State – 21

West
1. Northern Illinois – 70 (7)
2. Toledo – 67 (5)
3. Western Michigan – 55 (1)
4. Ball State – 36
5. Central Michigan – 32
6. Eastern Michigan – 13

The 2015 MAC championship will take place Friday, Dec. 4 at Detroit’s Ford Field.

 

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Starting Pitt DT Darryl Render not listed on depth chart

Darryl Render, Jordan Canzeri AP

It appears Pittsburgh will head into its opener without one of its key cogs in the middle of its defensive line.

Pitt Monday released its depth chart ahead of Saturday’s game against Bo Pelini and Youngstown State, and Darryl Render was not listed on it.  Instead, Render’s defensive tackle spot had K.K. Mosley-Smith and Michigan State graduate transfer Mark Scarpinato listed as co-starters.

Render has been dealing with an elbow issue and, given the fact that they’re facing an FCS program in the opener, the Panthers are likely erring on the side of caution.

Last season, Render started 11 of the 12 games in which he played.  The only regular season game he missed was the finale against Miami because of an ankle injury.

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Report: Starting UCLA CB Ishmael Adams arrested on robbery charge

UCLA v California AP

It appears UCLA may have a significant issue with which to deal in the week leading up to the opener against Virginia.

While the details are very scant at the moment, DailyBruinSports.com is reporting that Ishmael Adams was arrested after allegedly committing a robbery on campus.  To illustrate the serious nature of the charges Adams is facing, he’s being held in jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond.

UCLA has yet to comment on the potentially damaging development.

Adams has started all 26 games at cornerback the past two seasons, and last year he returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns.  Speaking of returns, he’s one of the top return men in the country and conference: last year, he returned 21 punts for a 9.2 average (26th in the nation) and returned 26 kickoffs for a 22.7-yard average (ninth in Pac-12).

This offseason, he was named to the preseason watch lists for both the Thorpe Award and Hornung Award.

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Joe Moore Award created to honor best offensive line UNIT

UAB Blazers v Arkansas Razorbacks AP

Each year seemingly dozens of postseason awards are handed out to honor the best individual performances in college football.  This year, a group of teammates will be honored for their play.

Monday morning the creation of the Joe Moore Award was announced, an honor that will recognize “the nation’s Most Outstanding Offensive Line Unit.” The award is named in honor of Joe Moore, the former Notre Dame and Pittsburgh assistant who is widely regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the history of college football.

The JMA will “annually recognize the offensive line unit that best displays toughness, effort, teamwork, physicality, tone setting and finishing,” and will be voted on by a committee comprised solely of individuals who either played or coached the position.

“I am honored to be a part of the committee charged with selecting the recipients of the Joe Moore Award,” said former Wisconsin head coach and current UW athletic director Barry Alvarez in a statement. “Joe was the best teacher of offensive linemen who I’ve ever been around and no one got more out of his players than Joe did. It is only right that this award honors Joe’s name and his legacy.”

Semifinalist for the first version of the award will be announced Nov. 16, with the five finalists being unveiled Nov. 30. It will serve as the only college football award to honor an entire unit rather than just an individual.

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Les Miles hospitalized for ‘precautionary reasons’

Les Miles

Fortunately, the headline reads much worse than the actual situation.

Les Miles was expected to make an appearance for his first Monday press conference of the season this afternoon.  Instead, and after a bit of delay, it was athletic director Joe Alleva who showed up to reveal that Miles would not be available for the press conference because he is “under the weather.”

So much so, in fact, that he was hospitalized, although that was apparently simply done out of an abundance of caution.

To punctuate just how precautionary it was, Miles is expected to be back at practice at five ET this afternoon and meet with the media afterwards.

LSU opens the 2015 season this Saturday night against McNeese State.

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‘Bama, FSU not quite ready to pull trigger on naming starter at QB

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Texas did it, Ohio State won’t, while two other big-name programs have decided to push it back.

The “it” in this case is publicly naming a starting quarterback, and both Alabama and Florida State were afforded the opportunity at press conferences Monday to go public with a decision. In both cases, the respective head coaches declined.

On the Tide’s depth chart that was released today, all five of their scholarship quarterbacks were included on the two-deep: Jake Coker, Cooper Bateman and Alex Morris — in that order — were listed as the co-starters, with Blake Barnett and David Cornwell separated by a slash; some, it should be noted, have speculated that all five were listed as co-starters. At various points throughout summer camp, Coker, the FSU transfer, has been viewed by the media as the front-runner… as has Bateman… as has Morris.

Lat year, Nick Saban waited until a couple of hours before the opener against West Virginia to anoint Blake Sims as the starter over Coker. If Saban decides to go public with the choice, expect a similar timeline prior to this year’s opener against Wisconsin Saturday.

Conversely, FSU could make its decision as early as today.

Jimbo Fisher, who said he’s already made a decision, will opt between a pair of experienced/familiar options, last year’s backup Sean Maguire and Notre Dame grad transfer Everett Golson. Because of his experience with the Irish, some (most?) have pegged Golson as the likely starter. Still others have stated that, due to his familiarity with the system, Maguire is the man to beat.

So, what’s Jimbo’s timeline for a decision to clear up the clutter?

Fisher added that, once the decision is made, he’s sticking with it.

FSU will open the 2015 season at home against Texas State Saturday.

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Swoopes there it is: ‘Horns tap incumbent as starting QB

Tyrone Swoopes

Not surprisingly, Texas will begin the season with a familiar face under center.

Charlie Strong confirmed the expected at his Monday press conference, acknowledging that it’ll be Tyrone Swoopes who starts at quarterback when UT travels to South Bend for Saturday’s game against Notre Dame.  Swoopes had been in a battle with redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, although most thought the nod would go to the incumbent.

In fact, Strong stated that he had known for a couple of weeks that Swoopes was his guy, but held off on publicly naming a starter to allow the competition to play out a little longer.

Taking over as the starter for a concussed David Ash last season, Swoopes started all but one game in 2014.  He had moments where he was brilliant — 300-plus yards passing Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State — and others where he looked absolutely lost — 24-point bowl loss to Arkansas, four interceptions in a 38-point loss to TCU.  Those latter two performances came in back-to-back games to close out the season, leading Strong to open up the competition in the spring.

Swoopes exited the spring as the No. 1 quarterback, and maintained that position throughout summer camp.  As he had previously stated, Strong reiterated that both Swoopes and Heard will see the field.

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Urban won’t name Buckeyes’ starting QB before opener vs. Hokies

Ohio State Spring Game Getty Images

To find out just who has won Ohio State’s much-discussed quarterback competition, you’ll have to wait until shortly after 8 p.m. ET next Monday.

At his Monday press conference, Urban Meyer revealed that he will not publicly name a starting quarterback prior to the Labor Day opener against Virginia Tech. Instead, the coach said, “[w]e will announce the starter when the first guy takes the snap.”

What is known is that the starter will either be 2014 regular-season record-setter J.T. Barrett or 2014 postseason hero Cardale Jones. As for the competition itself, Meyer described it as “still really close;” if it weren’t, the fourth-year OSU coach said, he’d publicly anoint a starter. While Meyer won’t disclose it to the media, he said he’ll know by Wednesday whether it’ll be Barrett or Jones who starts against the Hokies.

Not surprisingly, Meyer hasn’t ruled out playing both quarterbacks. Interestingly, though, the competition will apparently remain open on into the regular season.

I’ll still say that it’s Barrett who takes the first snap against the only team that beat the defending national champions next season. After that, Barrett’s performance will dictate whether he holds on to the job.

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Leading rusher one of two Toledo starters suspended for two games

GoDaddy Bowl - Toledo v Arkansas State AP

The season has yet to kick off and Toledo has already a suffered a pair of significant blows, one on each side of the ball.

The football program announced Monday morning that senior defensive end Allen Covington and junior running back Kareem Hunt have been suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season. Other than “violating team policy,” no reason for the twin punitive measures was given.

The players will miss Thursday’s opener against Stony Brook, as well as the following week’s home game against No. 18 Arkansas. Both will be eligible to return for the Iowa State game Sept. 19.

Of the two, the loss of Hunt will be the most damaging.

Last season, Hunt’s total of 1,631 yards rushing was tops in the MAC and good for 10th nationally. His 16 rushing touchdowns were tied for 14th in the country.

Covington’s four tackles for loss were tied for sixth on the Rockets last season. He was expected to start at one of the end spots on UT’s defensive line.

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