Mid-season Butkus check: Who’s leading the pack?

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Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o ran away with last year’s Butkus Award, the honor given to the nation’s top linebacker. He beat out such quality players as Kevin Minter of LSU, C.J. Mosely of Alabama, Jarvis Jones of Georgia and Dion Jordan of Oregon.

With the 2013 season at the mid-way point, here’s a look at the top candidates for this year’s Butkus Award:

1. Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA — Barr has been lights-out for the Bruins thus far and is setting himself up to possibly be the first defensive player selected in the next NFL draft. Yes, he might get selected before Jadeveon Clowney. Why? Because he’s got size, speed, playmaking ability and, best of all, none of the drama that Clowney brings to the table. So far this season, he has 27 tackles, 10 of them for losses, four sacks and a nation-leading four forced fumbles. His disruptive presence has been one of the main reasons for UCLA’s first 5-0 start since 2005.

2. Shaquil Barrett, Sr., Colorado State — Barrett might be the best player you’ve never heard of. The senior leads the nation with 12.5 tackles for loss in his first six games. He’s also third nationally with 6.5 sacks, to go with two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. He had five tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, with a quarterback hurry, when the Rams played No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, then followed that up with three sacks and two forced fumbles against UTEP.

3. Kyle Van Noy, Sr., BYU — Van Noy was one of the favorites for the Butkus Award coming into the season and he has not disappointed. Thus far, the senior has 38 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, four pass break ups and an interception return for a touchdown. The likely first-round pick is a big reason why BYU’s defense is among the best in the nation.

4. Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford — Murphy has been lights out for the Cardinal this season, collecting 22 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks, two pass breakups and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. He’s one of the best pass rushers in the nation and, at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, he still has the agility to drop into coverage or chase runners out of the backfield.

5. Khalil Mack, Sr., Buffalo — Mack is an underrated player who NFL scouts are drooling over. He showed his value early in the season with nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and a pick-six for a touchdown against Ohio State. On the year, he has 41 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks, a forced fumble, three pass breaks ups and one interception.

Honorable mention: C.J. Mosely, Alabama; Ryan Shazier, Ohio State; Chris Borland, Wisconsin.

Iowa struggling to sellout game vs. Penn State

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The Iowa Hawkeyes are about to host a top-four team at Kinnick Stadium this Saturday night, and it seems there is slightly more trouble trying to sell out the game than anticipated. According to Mark Emmert of the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press-Citizen (and not the NCAA president by the same name), Iowa still had 4,000 tickets for this week’s game against No. 4 Penn State sitting in the box office as of earlier today.

Price concerns for the game coupled with a delay in knowing the kickoff time apparently had some influence on the unexpected ticket availability this close to the game.

Schools are becoming more and more commonly known for having higher-priced tickets for the more marquee games on their home schedule, and Iowa is no exception. Iowa has tiered ticket pricing for their home games, and Penn State being the defending conference champion with a decent traveling fanbase made this week’s matchup an ideal fit for being priced in the higher tier. Later this year, Iowa’s home game against Ohio State will also be priced at $95. $95, for some, is not worth the effort to go to a game and tailgate all day. It may be fine for a good number of fans, but it’s not for everybody.

Having to wait to know what time a game will kickoff can be a nuisance for those football fans who like to plan ahead. And while a primetime game may be great for exposure, it can be a cumbersome chore for some fans who would much rather stay home and not have to deal with a late-night drive home.

So if you are looking to get a ticket to the game this weekend in Iowa City, you may have a good chance to pick up a ticket.

Indiana will wear uniforms honoring the late Terry Hoeppner this weekend

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This weekend when Indiana takes the field, the Hoosiers will be honoring former head coach Terry Hoeppner. To do that on the 10th anniversary of the former coach’s passing, Indiana’s uniforms will have a slight modification to the numbering. Rather than a traditional white block numbering on the front and back, Indiana’s uniform numbers will feature a pattern mimicking Hep’s Rock, which was introduced to the program by the former head coach and remains a fixture within the program.

Hoeppner passed away at the age of 59 in the summer of June 2007. Hoeppner had planned to step away from coaching to focus on a battle with brain cancer that summer, but he fell victim to the disease on June 19, 2007. Though he may have only coached for Indiana for two seasons, his impact on the program was noticeable in helping the program build a foundation. The Hoosiers won four and five games in the two seasons coached by Hoeppner, but the 2007 team carried on his mission to “Play 13” by advancing to the Insight Bowl (now known as the Cactus Bowl). Members of the 2007 bowl team (Indiana lost to Oklahoma State in that bowl game) will be in Bloomington to celebrate the life of Hoeppner, who remains an inspiration for the program to this day.

Houston expects WR D’Eriq King to be available for Texas Tech game

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As Houston prepares for a game that could quickly become a shootout of sorts with Texas Tech, the Cougars could have one more wide receiver good to go this weekend. D’Eriq King is expected to make his season debut for the Cougars this week after missing the past two games coming off an offseason knee injury.

Houston head coach Major Applewhite announced on the radio he feels his young wide receiver option is finally ready to get back at it, and it could come at no better time.

As a freshman in 2016, King caught 20 passes in 10 games for 228 yards and a touchdown. King was expected to be a contributor to the offense this season. Having a healthy receiver is going to be key against a Texas Tech offense that will not shy away from the pass.

Derrius Guice ‘very questionable’ for LSU vs. Syracuse

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LSU could very well be without its most potent offensive weapon when it looks to bounce back from an embarrassing Week 3 loss.

Late in the third quarter of Saturday’s 37-7 loss to Mississippi State, Derrius Guice sustained an injury to his left knee.  The star running back hasn’t practiced at all this week, even as Ed Orgeron downplayed the severity of the injury.

On the SEC teleconference Wednesday, however, the head coach acknowledged that it could be much worse than he’d been letting on, so much so that the Guice could miss the Week 4 game against Syracuse.

“I don’t know if Derrius is going to play,” Orgeron said. “He didn’t dress out yesterday in pads. He’s very questionable right now.”

Through three games, Guice leads the Tigers with 300 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with four rushing touchdowns.  His rushing yards are currently fourth in the SEC; last season, his 1,387 yards were tops in the conference.

Should Guice be unable to go, Darrel Williams (28-159-4) would likely be next in line to shoulder the running-game load.