CFT Predicts: Alabama-Auburn

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“The Mother of All Iron Bowls” is the descriptor du jour for this year’s version of an Alabama-Auburn rivalry that stretches back to 1893… and, unlike some other cases, it may not actually overstate the game’s importance.

For just the second time in the 77-game history of the rivalry, both the Tide and the Tigers will sit inside the Top Five of the Associated Press rankings on game day.  On the line?  Just a spot in the SEC championship game, a potential BCS bowl bid and, for Alabama, a continued inside track to what could be an unprecedented back-to-back-to-back BCS titles and four in five years.  Oh, and in-state bragging rights for the next 364 days.

Nothing major, nothing of great import will be on the line on The Plains Saturday afternoon.

The current line has Alabama favored by anywhere from 10-12 on the road, although, when it comes to rivalry games — especially one involving two highly-ranked opponents — you can take the odds and toss them out the window.

The last and only other time the stakes were this high for both teams was 1971.  Pitting undefeated and No. 3 Alabama against undefeated and No. 5 Auburn in Birmingham — all Iron Bowls were played at that neutral site up until 1989 — the Tide blew out the Tigers 31-7 to claim the SEC title and a shot at the national championship in the Orange Bowl against unbeaten Nebraska (Cornhuskers 38, Tide 6, for what it’s worth).

So, how will this Grandmother of Them All play out?  The staff at CFT has peered into their respective crystal balls and taken a stab at predicting the outcome.  Our predictions appear below; your predictions and/or complaints can appear below that, in the comments section.

CHRIS HOUSTON
The take: When the season started, few outside the state of Alabama thought this game would be such a big deal. But thanks to the wizardry of new coach Gus Malzahn, the Tigers are sitting at No. 4 in the BCS rankings and can cap an incredible season with a victory over the Crimson Tide. The key to this game for Auburn is to score early and force Alabama to get off its preferred game plan, which is to pound it on the ground and keep the ball out of the hands of the Tigers’ offensive weapons. In the Tigers get on the board early, it will be up to AJ McCarron to help the Tide keep up. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall is a dangerous runner and a streaky passer. Alabama’s defense hasn’t really been challenged since September, when Texas A&M put up 42 points. Malzahn will have a crafty game plan ready and, if it clicks early, then Auburn will be in this one right until the end. However, I can’t see McCarron allowing Bama to lose. The Tide will win the Iron Bowl and go on to the SEC title game.

The prediction: Alabama 31, Auburn 27

KEVIN MCGUIRE
The take: At times this season we have witnessed Alabama look to have some cracks in their system. Through 11 games, nobody has been able to successfully chip away and break Alabama – not Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, not LSU at home and certainly not a young up-and-coming Ole Miss squad. Enter Auburn, perhaps the hottest team in the SEC with a running game averaging over 300 yards per game. Playing at home, Auburn may have the best chance to attack Alabama consistently enough to keep things close and perhaps steal a win from the team many feel has been on a one-way ride to Pasadena from the start. Is Alabama beatable? Absolutely, but Auburn will still have to bring their best from start to finish. The moment Auburn hits a wall, Alabama will be there waiting. Getting off to a fast start against Alabama would be great for the Tigers, but as we saw against Texas A&M it is going to take a whole lot more to get this Alabama team to crumble. Auburn may have a wrecking ball of a running game with the combo of Tre Mason and Nick Marshall, but Alabama leads the SEC in rushing defense. Something has to give. I just do not think it will be Alabama giving enough.

The prediction: Alabama 30, Auburn 28

JJ STANKEVITZ
The take: It’ll look like a shootout from the start, with Auburn riding a wave of Jordan-Hare momentum to a few early scores. But Alabama will establish the run against a solid-not-great defense, avoiding many third-and-longs in efficient drives downfield. And in true, diabolical fashion, Nick Saban and Kirby Smart will find a way to tie up Nick Marshall, disguising blitzes and defensive sets perfectly to stop a read-option offense. Consider this: Alabama is No. 1 in defensive S&P+, while Auburn is No. 35; Alabama is No. 10 in offensive S&P+ while. Auburn is No. 20. I’m going to side with the numbers and while ‘Bama may fall behind early, once the home field Iron Bowl advantage wears off, it’s going to be Roll Tide, Roll.

The prediction: Alabama 31, Auburn 24

JOHN TAYLOR
The take: Sorry to disappoint — and I’ll duck as I type this — but all of the hype and buildup leading into this game will evolve into one gigantic letdown in the form of a blowout.  Auburn will likely hang with Alabama for a quarter, maybe even a half, but the talent disparity between the two teams will become more and more evident as the game wears on.  The Tigers’ overriding strength all season long has been running the ball; it just so happens that the Tide features the No. 4 run defense in the country and is fully capable of forcing AU to do something it absolutely does not want to do: rely heavily on its 104th-ranked passing attack.  Being home on The Plains, Auburn could surprise by keeping it relatively close but I won’t hold my breath.  Alabama, as they have for most of the past five years, will continue to roll.

The prediction: Alabama 41, Auburn 17

Shaq Wiggins opts for Tennessee after leaving Louisville

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After a couple of years away, Shaq Wiggins is back in the SEC.

The defensive back took to his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon to announce that he “will continue to finish my career at the University of Tennessee.”  The move to Rocky Top comes a little over a month after he decided to transfer from Louisville.

As a graduate transfer, the defensive back will be able to play for the Vols in 2017.

The transfer to UT continues Wiggins’ well-traveled collegiate career.

In early May of 2014, Georgia announced that Wiggins had decided to transfer from the Bulldogs; later that month, he followed former UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to the U of L. With Grantham departing this offseason for the same job at Mississippi State, it was thought that, after a successful appeal of an initial barring, the Bulldogs would be a potential landing spot for Wiggins.

Wiggins started at corner for the Cardinals in 2015, earning honorable mention All-ACC honors. Injuries plagued him throughout the 2016 season.

LSU indefinitely suspends lineman Adrian Magee

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At least for the moment, one LSU offensive lineman has taken up residence in Ed Orgeron‘s doghouse.

In a very brief press release Wednesday afternoon, LSU announced that Adrian Magee has been indefinitely suspended from the football program.  Other than the lineman violated unspecified team rules, no reason for the suspension was given.

A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2015 recruiting class, Magee was rated as the No. 45 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 20 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.  An injury forced the 6-5, 309-pound lineman to take a redshirt as a true freshman.

Last year as a reserve, Magee saw action in three games.

This spring, Magee started at right tackle because of an injury to returning starter Toby Weathersby.  Weathersby is expected to be fully recovered for the start of summer camp in early August, with Magee sliding back to his role as a backup.

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.