Chick-fil-A Bowl - LSU v Clemson

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 13 LSU

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2013 record: 10-3 overall, 5-3 in SEC (third in SEC West)
2013 postseason: Outback Bowl vs. Iowa (21-14 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 14/14
Head coach: Les Miles (123-45 overall; 95-24 in nine years at LSU)
Offensive coordinator: Cam Cameron (second season)
2013 offensive rankings: 29th rushing offense (202.3 ypg); 44th passing offense (251 ypg); 35th total offense (453.3 ypg); 23rd scoring offense (35.8 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: six
Defensive coordinator: John Chavis (sixth season)
2013 defensive rankings: 35th rushing defense (143.2 ypg); 13th passing defense (197.5 ypg);  15th total defense (340.7 ypg); 21st scoring defense (22 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: seven
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Stadium: Tiger Stadium (102,321; grass)
Last conference title: 2011

THE GOOD
The good when it comes to the LSU Tigers is usually the following: powerful running game and dominating defense.  2014 is not expected to be any different.  Sure, the Tigers lost their leading and No. 3 rushers, but Nos. 2 and 4 — Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard — return.  Oh, and there’s the addition of one of the most touted running back prospects in a decade or more, 2014 five-star signee Leonard Fournette — he could immediately make anyone and everyone say “Jeremy Hill who?” given the immense talent he possesses.  Among the returning starters are four offensive linemen, three of them seniors, which bodes well for both the revamped running game and whoever the new starter under center will be.  The defense returns seven starters from a group that finished inside the Top 20 in total defense and just outside the Top 20 in the most important statistical category: scoring defense.  LSU has won 10 or more games in seven of Miles’ nine years in Baton Rouge, including each of the last four seasons; given the amount of returning talent and the deep recruiting classes brought in year after year — all but two of those classes in the Top 10, none outside the Top 18 — don’t expect that win total to dip below double-digits in 2014.

THE BAD
As is ofttimes the case with the Tigers, it’s the departures, early and otherwise, that constitute a negative.  On offense, LSU lost its starting quarterback, top two wide receivers and nearly 1,800 rushing yards.  Defensively, the Tigers must replace its top two defensive tackles, although they grow athletic, dominant tackles on trees down on the bayou.  All of the departures, especially offensively, could make for choppy, uneven play early on; fortunately, after the opener against Wisconsin in Houston, LSU has a four-game stretch that consists of three games — Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State — that are essentially scrimmages that actually count.  The first conference tilt comes in the fourth game against Mississippi State (Sept.20); the first true conference test comes two weeks later against Auburn, which gives Les Miles and his coaching staff what they hope will be plenty of time to work out the kinks.

THE UNKNOWN
As is the case up and down the SEC, the quarterback position is a big unknown.  With Zach Mettenberger‘s departure, Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris — not necessarily in that order — will battle to take over as the starter.  While Jennings has the edge in experience — he served as Mettenberger’s primary backup in 2013 —  Harris came out of spring practice looking as the slight leader in the eyes of some observers.  Regardless of which player wins the job, LSU will, as it always does, rely heavily on a force-of-nature running game and ask its quarterback to be a mistake-free(ish) game manager.  Can either, though, come up big in the passing game when the need inevitably arises?  That question can’t and won’t be answered for several weeks on down the road.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Auburn, Oct. 4
Given how the series has played out over the last few years — and how important it’s been in both the conference race and national chase — I was extremely tempted to go with the Alabama game Nov. 8.  Instead, I’ll go with the road trip to Jordan-Hare a month earlier.  After all, The Plains Tigers are the defending SEC champions and BCS runner-ups, making them the first measuring stick (sorry, Badgers) for just where the Bayou Bengals are as a team.  With the two Tiger teams and the Tide all coming off a season in which they won 10 or more games — and with Texas A&M expected to dip a bit given the offensive departures and defensive attrition — most expect the SEC West to come down to, essentially, a three-team round-robin tournament.  The first of the three all-important games is LSU-AU; how that game plays out could go a long way in determining the division’s rep in the SEC title game.  Then again, Auburn lost to LSU last year and still stood atop the league at season’s end, so…

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: running back Leonard Fournette
The past two Heismans were won by a redshirt freshman for the first two times in the history of the award.  Could a true freshman ever break through that stiff-armed ceiling?  It seems doubtful, but Fournette certainly looks the part.  Fournette is a highly-touted five-star member of LSU’s most recent recruiting class, rated as the top running back in that class; the No. 1 player in the state of Louisiana; and the No. 4 player at any position in the country.  He’s a mountain of a man-child already at 6-1, 230 pounds, yet he’s one of the fastest players on the Tigers team.  His ability is off the charts; whether that ability translates into immediate on-field results is unknown, but don’t be surprised if he’s not at least on the periphery of the Heisman discussion at some point this season.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

EMU’s suspends starting QB Brogan Roback

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With the opener a little over a week way, Eastern Michigan’s quarterback situation is in a significant state of flux.

The Detroit Free Press has reported that Brogan Roback has been suspended by EMU head coach Chris Creighton.  The only reason given was “a violation of our policies.”

EMU opens the 2016 season Sept. 3 against Mississippi Valley State, and it appears Roback will miss at least that contest.

“With the privilege of being a member of the Eastern Michigan University football program there are expectations and standards to which we hold our student-athletes accountable,” a portion of a Creighton’s statement sent to the Free Press read.

Roback took over for Reggie Bell as the Eagles’ starting quarterback after Week 1 last year.  He threw for 2,304 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in completing exactly 60 percent of his passes.

Bell transferred after the 2016 season, leaving Roback as the presumptive starter.  With Roback’s suspension, it leaves EMU with four scholarship quarterbacks — junior Todd Porter, freshman Isaac Stiebeling, and redshirt freshmen Anton Skupin and James Pensyl.  Only Porter, a junior college transfer, has experience at the collegiate level, and would presumably take over as the starter in Roback’s absence.

NCAA grants NC State QB Ryan Finley another year of eligibility

RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 27:  "Pack" flags are brought onto the field to promote the North Carolina State University Wolfpack in their endeavors against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels during the game at Carter Finley Stadium on September 27, 2003 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  N.C. State defeated UNC 47-34.  (Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, Ryan Finley‘s stay in Raleigh has been extended.

North Carolina State confirmed Tuesday that Finley has been granted an additional season of eligibility by the NCAA.  Finley received a medical waiver from The Association that will give him a sixth year if he ultimately chooses to use it.

So, in summation, Finley has three years of eligibility remaining beginning this season and running through the 2018 season.

In April of this year, the quarterback announced that he had decided to transfer from Boise State.  A month later, he moved on to NC State as a graduate transfer.

Finley started the first three games last season as a redshirt sophomore for the Broncos before suffering a broken ankle and losing the job he won in the summer to Freshman All-American Brett Rypien, with the latter further solidifying his hold on the position this spring and triggering the transfer decision.

On the depth chart the Wolfpack released earlier this week, Finley was listed as the co-starter along with redshirt sophomore Jalan McLendon.

Maryland names starting QB, adds UNC transfer QB Caleb Henderson

COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 07: Quarterback Perry Hills #11 of the Maryland Terrapins makes a pass against the Wisconsin Badgers during the first half at Byrd Stadium on November 7, 2015 in College Park, Maryland.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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There were a couple of developments on the quarterback front for Maryland Wednesday morning.

The one with the most immediate impact was the announcement that Perry Hills has been named the Terps’ starter at the position.  Hills, a senior, had been involved in an offseason-long competition with fellow senior Caleb Rowe for the starting job.

Hills started eight games last season and ran for 535 yards, the fourth-most by a quarterback in the program’s history.  He also tossed 13 interceptions; in fact, Hills and Rowe, who started the other four games, combined to toss a staggering 28 interceptions.

Of the 114 quarterbacks in passing efficiency listed on the NCAA’s stats website, Hills was 109th.  The 114th?  Rowe.

“After an open competition through the spring and the first two-plus weeks of training camp, we’re excited to move forward with Perry as our starting quarterback,” said first-year head coach DJ Durkin in a statement. “Perry has embraced this challenge from day one and has put in the work and shown improvement every day. He’s grasped our offense and the way we want to do things, and has shown tremendous leadership.”

In addition to the Hills news, the U of M also announced the addition of transfer Caleb Henderson.  The quarterback had just confirmed via Twitter four days ago that he would be transferring from North Carolina.

A four-star member of UNC’s 2014 recruiting class, Henderson was rated as the No. 10 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Virginia.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Henderson played in a pair of games last season.  He attempted one pass, which fell incomplete.

Henderson will be forced to sit out the 2016 season.  He’ll then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017.

Hogs QB Rafe Peavey confirms transfer, move to SMU

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 26:  Arkansas Razorbacks flag girl during the Southwest Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Expected to be Arkansas’ backup quarterback, Rafe Peavey is instead on the move.

Following up on speculation that began surfacing earlier in the day, Peavey confirmed Tuesday night that he will be transferring from the Razorbacks.  Not only that, but the redshirt sophomore also revealed his destination: SMU.

Peavey, who will have to sit out the 2016 season with the Mustangs and will have two years of eligibility remaining thereafter, said he came to the decision “[a]fter much prayer and consideration,” although he didn’t give a specific reason for the move.

Peavey was hampered by a back injury that required surgery in the middle of last month.  At the time the surgery was announced July 14, it was described as “minor” in nature, but its lingering nature caused him to fall behind redshirt freshman Ty Storey and true freshman Cole Kelley since the start of camp.

“We have a lot of guys in the program who do everything right, but that doesn’t automatically guarantee them a spot in the two-deep. We’ve got to earn it,” head coach Bret Bielema said following a scrimmage this past Saturday in which Peavey didn’t play a snap.

Peavey, a three-star prospect, took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2014, then didn’t see the field in 2015.  After Austin Allen was named the Hogs’ starter exiting spring, Peavey was viewed as his backup entering summer.