Sneak Peek: 2013 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

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WHO: 11-1 Baylor (Big-12) vs. 11-1 UCF (AAC)

WHAT: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (42nd year)

WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

WHEN: Jan. 1 at 8:30 p.m. ET

WHY: Head coach George O’Leary went 0-11 in his first season at UCF. Ten years later, the No. 15 Knights are 11-1 and have already secured their best season ever. This is a program that got its start back in 1979, which just so happens to be one year before the last time its opponent in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl — No. 6 Baylor — won a conference title.

Make no mistake: Neither team is used to playing in this rarefied air. The Bears are fresh off their first Big 12 title and, if not for a late-season loss to Oklahoma State, they would be playing in the BCS title game against Florida State, not Auburn.

UCF will have its hands full trying to stop one of the great offenses in college football history. Baylor averages 53.5 points and 624 yards per game. Quarterback Bryce Petty has thrown for 3,844 yards with 30 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The Bears are dangerous on the ground, too, with 1,000-yard rusher Lache Seastrunk and 862-yard rusher Shock Linwood.

Baylor is vastly improved on defense. The Bears finished 17th in total defense and 20th in total defense after finishing 113th and 123rd, respectively, in those categories last season.

So the odds are stacked a little bit against the Knights, but UCF is a very good team in its own right. Quarterback Blake Bortles is a first-round NFL prospect after throwing for 3,280 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushing for 179 yards and five scores. He’s a tough leader who has complete command of the UCF offense. Storm Johnson rushed for 1,015 yards and 11 scores to lead the ground game.

The Knights defense is also underrated, finishing in the national top 20 in both total and scoring defense. They’ll need to get some early stops if UCF is to have a shot in this one.

Baylor is the big favorite here and for good reason. The Bears offense is special and hasn’t really been stopped all season (though it has been slowed down). UCF will put up a battle, but Baylor will pull away by the third quarter and grab its first BCS bowl win.

PREDICTION: Baylor 48, UCF 31

Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough misses practice for second time

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A running back is on the loose in Tuscaloosa and no, that’s not as good as it sounds for the Crimson Tide.

Beat reporter Alex Byington noted on Saturday that star tailback Bo Scarbrough was noticeably absent from Alabama’s practice on Saturday when it came time for media viewing periods, the second straight time that he’s been out of sight on the field.

The Tuscaloosa News followed up on the matter and reports that Scarbrough’s attendance (or lack thereof) was “nothing serious” and Nick Saban confirmed as much later in the afternoon by saying the running back was sick with an illness that kept him out.

Sophomore Josh Jacobs also missed the viewing period on Saturday.

Scarbrough has had a light work load the past several months as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered in the national championship game. The presumed starter is still expected to be good to go for the season opener against Florida State but the absences at practice will at least make things interesting in the next two weeks at a crowded position on the depth chart.

Four-star DT Tyler Shelvin will redshirt at LSU after NCAA partially denies eligibility

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The state of Louisiana’s top recruit will not be playing for the state’s top football team this fall.

Four-star defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin will enroll at LSU next week, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate, but will not be eligible to play in 2017 following a ruling from the NCAA on his status. The news is a big blow not only to Shelvin, but to the Tigers who are thin on the interior defensive line and were hoping to rotate in the 380-pounder this year.

Shelvin’s high school coach told the paper that the NCAA “partially denied” the defender’s eligibility, forcing him to redshirt in his first year on campus. He reportedly took several classes over the summer in order to meet requirements but apparently fell short of hitting the association’s standard to be cleared.

The loss of Shelvin’s services is a tough one after he turned into one of the center pieces of head coach Ed Orgeron’s top 10 recruiting class from February. The Tigers have had a history of talented defensive tackles running into eligibility issues in the past but the rather thin depth chart in the middle of the defensive line made bringing in Shelvin a priority.

That is not to be the case however, as LSU will move forward sans the big defender just two weeks out from the start of the season.

 

Nebraska players were pumped to go to Kendrick Lamar concert thanks to tickets from Mike Riley

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Nebraska coach Mike Riley has the well-earned reputation of being the nicest guy in college football and his players can probably give him a wholehearted endorsement after this week.

That’s because the Cornhuskers were able to attend rapper Kendrick Lamar’s concert in Lincoln on Friday night after their coach surprised the whole team with tickets to the show. Naturally, said players were quite pumped to be going.

As cool as taking the team to a Kendrick Lamar concert is, I personally can’t wait to see what one-upmanship this inspires across college football. One can already imagine Jim Harbaugh taking the team to see Migos in London next summer…

Indiana freshman DB Bryant Fitzgerald ruled a non-qualifier after compliance error

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A key member of Indiana’s recruiting class won’t be able to play for the Hoosiers this season as a result of a serious compliance gaff at the school.

Freshman defensive back Bryant Fitzgerald was ruled by the NCAA to be a non-qualifier according to a statement released by the program and, as a result, will now be unable to play or practice for the team. A waiver was requested but both it and the appeal were denied.

At the heart of the matter seems to be the IU compliance office incorrectly advising Fitzgerald what classes to take in order to be eligible right away at the school in the eyes of the NCAA. As the above statement and a later one from athletic director Fred Glass make clear, this was a mistake on the school’s part that will cost the defensive back a full season and not about anything he did or didn’t do.

Fitzgerald was a three-star recruit coming out of high school in nearby Avon, Ind. but was expected to make a serious run at playing time given past comments by head coach Tom Allen. It certainly seems like a bummer all around for player, school and coach but the situation is what it is at this point.