Weekend Preview: LSU has what it takes to battle Alabama, BCS busters and more

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The biggest games of the week may have been played Thursday night, but the Saturday line-up  is not all that shabby either.

Alabama vs. LSU

Nobody has been safe in the SEC this season. Everybody has taken a loss except for one team, Alabama. Saturday night in Tuscaloosa the Crimson Tide host LSU. The SEC West match-up may not have quite the same magnitude recent meetings have had, but with the season winding down there is no good time to take a loss now for Alabama. Of course, that hasn’t exactly hurt them before. Could this year turn out to be different? Alabama cannot risk it to find out.

LSU is one of the few teams to have been able to handle the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. LSU has won five of the last six games in Alabama. Alabama’s only win at home against LSU since 1999 came in a 24-15 victory in 2009. So, does LSU have a chance at knocking of Alabama once more? Why wouldn’t they?

LSU has all of the ingredients they need to pull the upset. the Tigers have one of he top quarterbacks in the SEC (Zach Mettenberger), a power running game led by one of the top rushers in the SEC (Jeremy Hill) and one of the top defenses in the SEC. The problem for LSU is Alabama has all of those things as well.

A loss for Alabama may put a temporary dent on the bus to the SEC Championship, but no matter what happens it appears The Iron Bowl with Auburn is going to be huge.

ACC Championship Chase

Florida State (8-0, 6-0 ACC) is in a good spot in the BCS championship, but still must make sure to finish the year strong in ACC play. Florida State will look to avoid a huge upset Saturday when they travel to Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4 ACC). This should be a game that sees some big numbers put up by the Heisman front-runner Jameis Winston (Marcus Mariota‘s performance Thursday likely results in Winston leading the pack). Letting up at this point in the year is probably not wise for Florida State as there are other undefeated teams on the prowl for a trip to Pasadena. Don’t count on Florida State having a sluggish afternoon.

While Florida State may have the Atlantic Division pretty much wrapped up, the Coastal Division is still up for grabs. Miami (7-1, 3-1 ACC), despite losing running back Duke Johnson in the loss to Florida State last week, still sits in a good spot in the division. The Hurricanes host Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2)  Saturday in what may be the biggest hurdle the rest of the way before making their first trip to the ACC Championship Game. Stephen Morris will have to be smart with his pass selection because the Hokies have one of the tougher defenses in the ACC. Without Johnson, the Hurricanes will look to Dallas Crawford, who should be more than capable of handling the responsibilities.

BCS Buster Watch

Entering the week Fresno State (8-0, 5-0 MWC) remains in the perfect position for a BCS bowl berth. The Bulldogs are ranked 16th in the BCS rankings and ahead of the top contenders in The American (we’ll get to that conference in a moment). As long as Derek Carr can lead the Bulldogs to a road win at Wyoming (4-4, 2-2 MWC) Fresno State should remain in a good spot with time winding down in the regular season.

Northern Illinois (9-0, 5-0 MAC) dropped a spot in the BCS standings to 18th overall, but the Huskies still remain in striking distance of making a return trip to the BCS stage. As long as Fresno state keeps winning though, it will be tough to see Northern Illinois sneak in one more time.

Chasing The American Dream

The American Athletic Conference championship picture will be a bit more clear after this weekend. The key game to pay attention to will feature Central Florida (6-1, 3-0 AAC) and surprising Houston (7-1, 4-0 AAC). UCF is ranked 21st in the BCS rankings, which is vital to Fresno State and Northern Illinois, but the Knights and Cougars will battle for the pole position for the conference’s automatic BCS berth. If Central Florida wins this weekend, the berth will be their’s to blow having already beaten Louisville this season. A Houston win could open up a bit of a complicated situation in the conference. Houston visits Louisville next week. If Houston wins this weekend and Louisville defeats Houston next week, a three-way tie at the top of the conference would be left to untangle. But let’s worry about that later if we need to. The big key this weekend is whether or not Central Florida wins. A win could make a case to bump the Knights up in the rankings, either closing the gap on Fresno State and NIU or passing them altogether.

The quarterback battle between Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Houston’s John O’Korn should be an entertaining one. Bortles will also be put to the test though, with Houston leading the nation in turnover margin with a +20, highlighted by 17 interceptions.

Louisiana-Lafayette suspends 13 players arrested on felony charges

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This’ll certainly leave a mark on the ol’ depth chart.

Louisiana-Lafayette announced Tuesday night that a total of 13 players have been indefinitely suspended by head coach Mark Hudspeth.  Those 13 are tight end Matthew Barnes, defensive end Joe Dillon, left guard Robert Hunt, defensive back Denarius Howard, defensive end Jarvis Jeffries, defensive tackle LaDarrius Kidd, linebacker Terik Miller, defensive back Damar’ren Mitchell, running back Trey Ragas, defensive back Simeon Thomas, defensive back Levarious Varnado, left tackle D’Aquin Withrow and running back Jordan Wright.

While the school attributed the suspensions to a violation of unspecified team rules, KATC-TV is reporting that all 13 of the players were arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy to commit felony theft stemming from an incident earlier this month.

From the television station’s report:

According to investigators, surveillance video shows the 13 players going to a room on the fourth floor of the Huger Hall dormitory and stealing around $2,400 worth of items from the room. Police say the students surrendered after warrants for their arrests were issued.

Seven of those suspended started games last season — Hunt (13), Withrow (13), Mitchell (11), Dillon (eight), Jeffries (seven), Thomas (seven) and Howard (two).  Dillon was named a Freshman All-American by several organizations after leading the Ragin’ Cajuns with 12.5 tackles for losses and seven sacks in 2016.

Wright (pictured, No. 27) wasn’t a starter, but he was fourth on the team last season with 192 yards rushing.  With the departure of leading rusher Elijah McGuire (1,127 yards), Wright, Ragas and Darius Hoggins (281 yards last season) are expected to compete or the starting running back job this season.

UL-L is scheduled to open the 2017 season Sept. 2 against Southeastern Louisiana.

Louisville grad transfer QB Kyle Bolin tweets transfer to Rutgers

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Following Louisville’s spring game earlier this month, Kyle Bolin confirmed that he would be transferring from the football program.  A little over a week later, the quarterback already has a new team lined up.

Per a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account, Bolin wrote he’s “proud to say my next home will be at Rutgers University.” The football program has thus far declined to confirm Bolin’s addition to Chris Ash‘s roster.

Bolin is scheduled to graduate from the U of L next month, meaning he’ll be eligible to play for the Scarlet Knights this coming season.

Texas, Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, Southern Miss and Western Michigan were also considered potential destinations for Bolin.

Bolin started five games in 2015 as he and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson shared quarterbacking duties that season.  Jackson replaced Bolin after a pair of picks in the regular-season finale against rival Kentucky that year and, coming off his four-touchdown performance in the Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M, the former was firmly entrenched as the starter heading into the spring of 2016.

The arrival of Bolin couldn’t come soon enough for the quarterback-depleted Knights.

In mid-November, Rutgers had six scholarship quarterbacks on its roster.  By the beginning of December, that number had been cut in half as two of them, Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano, left the program as graduate transfers while another, Mike Dare, left as a run-of-the-mill transfer.  The group was further pared earlier this month when Tylin Oden was dismissed for violating team rules and TCU transfer Zach Allen suffered a torn ACL.

With Allen’s injury, it leaves the Scarlet Knights with just one healthy signal-caller on scholarship at the moment — Giovanni Rescigno, the starter to close out the 2016 season and presumptive front-runner to maintain the job.  Another will be added when 2017 signee Johnathan Lewis comes to campus this summer.

Rescigno, Lewis and Bolin will commence a battle for the starting job when summer camp opens in early August.

Nick Saban, on QB controversy: ‘there isn’t one’

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Consider The Nicktator perturbed.  Again.

Jalen Hurts (pictured, right) helped lead Alabama to the national championship game as a true freshman last season and is seemingly the Crimson Tide’s unquestioned starter as we trudge toward summer.  Five-star 2017 signee Tua Tagovailoa (pictured, left), however, had an impressive first spring in Tuscaloosa, capped off with an excellent showing in the annual A-Day game this past weekend.

The true freshman passed for 315 yards and three touchdowns in what amounted to a glorified scrimmage, while the incumbent threw for 301 yards and a pair of scores.

Tagovailoa’s showing throughout the 15 spring practice sessions had led some to wonder whether there could be a quarterback controversy brewing at ‘Bama.  According to Nick Saban, that’s just the media being the media.

“Jalen Hurts played a lot of good football for us last year, and he’s certainly made a lot of progress this spring,” the head coach said by way of al.com. “Even though all of you in the press are trying to make a quarterback controversy out of nothing, which is what you’re doing right now, there isn’t one.”

LOOK: Jim Harbaugh hooks Pope Francis up with Michigan helmet, pair of Jordans

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There’s a series of words I’d never imagined I’d string together in a headline.

As you may have heard, Jim Harbaugh has taken his Michigan football team to Italy for an offseason European vacation.  As part of the trip, the team is in the Vatican City today and took in the Pope’s Wednesday address to the masses in St. Peter’s Square — the players and athletic director Warde Manuel sat amongst the crowd while the head coach and his wife were seated on the same stage as Pope Francis.

Following the address, and after a wait of nearly a half-hour, Harbaugh was able to meet with and speak to His Holiness.  The coach didn’t come empty-handed, either, as Pope Francis was gifted with a Michigan football helmet and a pair of Air Jordans.  Michigan-themed, of course.

“This is as good as it gets,” Harbaugh said according to mlive.com after his meeting with the pope. “This has been the experience of my lifetime.”