Weekend Preview: Noles look to continue roll, B1G match-up

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Oh, you think this is a down weekend for college football? Well, yeah, you may be right, but this week marks the first weekend of November and that means things are starting to heat up in the conference championship hunts. There is a reason November is the best month for college football. Trust me on this, once we get through this weekend thing will pick up in a hurry with next week. But before you write off this week, keep in mind that crazy things can happen when you least expect them too. Could we be lining up for a crazy weekend in college football nobody saw coming?

Getting back to the glory days: Florida State-Miami getting there

No. 3 Florida State (7-0, 5-0 ACC) and No. 7 Miami (7-0, 3-0 ACC) used to be something special in college football. It was appointment viewing in its heyday, and it may be getting to that point once again with both programs seeming to trend upward. The problem this week though is even though both are starring in the ACC’s second national spotlight of the season, only one seems to fit the part at this time. Florida State is there, and Miami is getting there. Al Golden‘s Hurricanes just aren’t quite there yet.

Florida State has shredded ACC opponents the last few weeks, including that blowout at Clemson two weeks ago. Miami is a top ten team, but they have struggled to climb the rankings while taking advantage of others stumbling along the way. Florida State is a huge favorite in this match-up of top ten teams, and if the Seminoles play the way they have been playing they will have an easy time creating a cushion against the Hurricanes as well.

A win will keep Florida State in the top three, and maybe even help boost them past Oregon, but this game may serve as a preview of this year’s ACC Championship Game as well. For Miami, take notes this weekend because a second game against Jameis Winston could be looming.

What about Alabama and Oregon?

No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) and No. 11 LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC) play each other next weekend, and they each get a week off to prepare for the usually physically demanding SEC West battle. The game will once again have a huge influence on what happens in the SEC West race to Atlanta, but Alabama is also hoping to get back to Pasadena to play for another BCS championship. This weekend will also be without No. 2 Oregon (8-0 5-0 Pac 12) and No. No. 6 Stanford (7-1, 5-1). The two Pac 12 North powers collide next Thursday night, and they are getting a bye week to prep for the game as well. Both the Cardinal and Ducks are battling for control in the Pac 12 North, which will likely lead to home field advantage in the Pac 12 championship game at the end of the regular season. The winner will also remain in the BCS Championship hunt as well. Oregon enters this weekend ranked second in the BCS standings, but Stanford is the highest ranked one-loss team, which puts them in prime position if some other teams take a fall in November.

Who’s the real B1G brother?

No. 23 Michigan (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) defeated No. 24 Michigan State (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) last season but the Spartans have won four of the past five meetings and look to add one more this weekend. Michigan State owns the best defense in the Big Ten and Michigan has struggled on the road this season (UConn, Penn State), so it would appear Michigan State has the edge this weekend in East Lansing. The game actually is one of the more important ones in the Big Ten this month, with the winner will take control in the Big Ten Legends Division with the schedule winding down. The Spartans are 4-0 in Big Ten play with two road games coming up the next two weeks at Nebraska and Northwestern. If the Spartans have figured out their offense, which it seems they have the last few weeks, then Michigan could be in for a rough time against their “little brother.”

Baylor will not score this weekend

The only thing that may be able to prevent No. 5 Baylor’s (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) offense is the schedule. Baylor’s high-powered offense will get a chance to recharge their batteries this week as they get a bye. Baylor will return to action next Thursday when they host No. 13 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) in a huge Big 12 match-up. While Baylor may be off, there should still be some fireworks in the conference this weekend. No. 15 Texas Tech (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) and No. 18 Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1) will meet in Lubbock in a top 20 match-up and each should have some offense to unleash in a wild shootout. This will be a good test for Texas Tech, who looks to bounce back after being defeated by Oklahoma last week. Each team has one loss in Big 12 play and trails Baylor by one game in the loss column. Needless to say, whichever team wins will remain in the Big 12 conversation with games against Baylor still to come on each team’s schedule.

Mismatch of the Week

No. 21 Northern Illinois (8-0, 4-0 MAC) remain undefeated with an 8-0 record and the Huskies are beginning to sniff around for a second straight BCS berth. This weekend Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois are on the road against one of the worst teams in the FBS, UMass (1-7, 1-3 MAC). The Minutemen are just 1-7 this season with their lone win coming against a Miami Ohio team still searching for their first win of the season. Northern Illinois should have an easy time keeping their BCS dreams alive and could rack up some style points in a hurry.

Show Me Something

No. 17 UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac 12) hung tight with Oregon for three quarters last week, a week after getting shut down by Stanford. The Bruins may still be a pretty good team but it has become clear they are not quite up to par with the top of the Pac 12 just yet. This week UCLA returns home to take on woeful Colorado (3-4, 0-4 Pac 12). Expect the Bruins to bounce back in a big way. Right now, No. 25 Arizona State (6-2, 4-1 Pac 12) looks like the team to beat in the Pac 12 North, but UCLA is right there. Circle the date now, UCLA hosts Arizona State on November 23.

The Streaks Continue

No. 4 Ohio State’s (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) winning streak extended to 20 games with last weekend’s 63-14 blowout of Penn State. As has been noted a few times by now, a 25-0 mark under Urban Meer will get Ohio State to Pasadena, but we just don’t know if it will be for the Rose Bowl or the BCS Championship. Ohio State’s winning streak is the nation’s longest active winning streak.

On the flip side, Southern Mississippi’s (0-7, 0-3 Conference USA)losing streak has hit a dismal 19 straight games. Southern Miss plays their next two game son the road, including this weekend’s trip to Marshall (4-3, 2-1). The best chance to snap the losing streak may not come until a few more weeks when Southern Miss hosts Florida Atlantic.

Derrius Guice ‘very questionable’ for LSU vs. Syracuse

Associated Press
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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.

Baylor gets back 2016 leading rusher, two starting DBs for Oklahoma game

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They may be winless, but at least Baylor will be getting some much-needed reinforcements for their game against No. 3 Oklahoma this weekend.

According to head coach Matt Rhule, three projected starters — running back Terence Williams (pictured), safety Taion Sells and cornerback Grayland Arnold — are all expected to play in the Week 4 game against the Sooners. Neither Williams nor Arnold have played this season because of injury, while Sells completed a three-game suspension last week.

Williams led the Bears last season with 1,048 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. The junior underwent offseason shoulder surgery, leading to his absence for the first quarter of the year.

With Williams rehabbing the injured joint, John Lovett currently leads the 0-3 Bears in rushing with 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns. As a team, BU is averaging just 150 yards per game and slightly less than five yards per rush; last season, they were at 241.8 and 5.0.

“I think it takes a little bit of the pressure off the young guys,” the first-year head coach, by way of the Associated Press, said of Williams’ much-anticipated return. “I think Terence gives us the physicality and a presence running the football that you can clearly see on tape. … He brings us that ability to run you over and make you miss.”

Arnold started four games last season and was listed as the starter heading into summer camp before breaking his left arm in August. After starting four games in 2015, Sells sat out the 2016 season because of an injury. Prior to the suspension for unspecified violations of team rules, Sells too had been listed as a starter in camp.

Mother’s health — and playing time — triggered Byron Cowart’s Auburn departure

Associated Press
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Initially, there was no known reason for one of the top recruits in the Class of 2015 left his original college football home. Not long after, the window of insight was cracked a bit.

Tuesday, Byron Cowart was granted a release from his Auburn scholarship, one day after requesting it from the football program. In an interview with al.com, the defensive lineman revealed that his mother in Florida is going through an unspecified health situation and, as an only child, he wanted to be closer to her to help her through it.

Additionally, he acknowledged that, yes, his playing time, or lack thereof, played a role in his decision to leave The Plains.

“I’m happy with my decision and I know that this ain’t it for me,” Cowart told the website. “My main reason was my mother’s health is more important. Me being an only child, got to get back to home to her. Plus I already wasn’t playing enough and contributing to the team.”

In a separate interview with 247Sports.com, Cowart also acknowledged that he has twice previously considered leaving the Tigers, the last coming this past summer.

Cowart also indicated that, very soon, he will be starting up classes nearer his home in Seffner, Fla., presumably at a junior or community college. After that, he’ll decide where to continue his collegiate playing career at the FBS level.

“I’ll see what options I have and what the NCAA allows me to do,” the junior lineman told al.com. “This isn’t over for me and this definitely is not the end of my college career. … I can guarantee you football is not over for me. I still love the game, I love everything about football.”

A consensus five-star signee, Cowart was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 while 247Sports.com had Florida product as the No. 3 player overall on its composite board. In 26 career games, Cowart was credited with 15 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He was one of four Tigers arrested for marijuana possession in May of last year.

This past spring, Cowart was moved from end to tackle in an attempt to jumpstart his career. In three games at his new position this season, he had three tackles and half a tackle for loss in three games.

Div. II football player Robert Grays dies from neck injury sustained in game

Midwestern State athletics
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There’s horribly sad news to note today as Midwestern State University football player Robert Grays passed away Tuesday, the Division II school in Texas confirmed Wednesday morning.

Grays sustained a serious neck injury attempting to make a tackle during this past Saturday’s game against Texas A&M-Kingsville.  After initially being taken to a local hospital in Wichita Falls, he was life-flighted to a hospital in Houston, where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

“Robert touched many lives while attending the university, but perhaps he will be remembered best for his smile,” a statement from university president Suzanne Shipley said, in part. “He was an inspiration on and off the field to those around him, and he will be remembered with love and affection by his friends, classmates, coaches, and teammates.”

Grays was listed as a 5-8, 160-pound sophomore cornerback on the Mustangs’ official roster.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Grays’ way-too-soon passing.