Chick-fil-A Bowl - LSU v Clemson

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 13 LSU


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 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.

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.

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)

Memphis suspends two in wake of physical altercation, shooting

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In a statement Wednesday night, Memphis head coach Mike Norvell confirmed that he has indefinitely suspended wide receiver Jae’Lon Oglesby and cornerback Kam Prewitt from his football program.

The teammates were reportedly involved in an on-campus physical altercation Tuesday.  Later that day, several gunshots were fired into Oglesby’s car while the receiver was sitting in his apartment. Oglesby told police he did not see who fired the shots, but did indicate that he had been involved in the altercation with Prewitt.

No one has been arrested in connection to either incident, and Memphis police are currently investigating the situation.

“I will make no further comments on this matter while it remains under investigation,” the Tigers coach said in his statement. Norvell’s decision to suspend the players came after consultation with athletic director Tom Bowen.

Bowen said in his own statement that the university has “offered our full support to the local authorities investigating that incident.”

The past two seasons, Oglesby, a sophomore, has caught 25 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown.  Five of those catches and 46 of the yards have come in 2016.  He also has carried the ball eight times for 64 yards.

A redshirt freshman, Prewitt has yet to play a down for the Tigers.  According to the Commercial Appeal he was suspended during summer camp for undisclosed reasons.

Florida’s leading tackler a game-time decision vs. Georgia

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 03: Ross Comis #2 of the Massachusetts Minutemen passes Jarrad Davis #40 of the Florida Gators to score a touchdown during the first half of the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Whether Florida will have its leading tackler for its annual rivalry game with Georgia won’t be known (still) for another couple of days.

The good news is that, for the first time since severely spraining his ankle in the Week 7 win over Missouri, Jarrad Davis returned to practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis.  If the linebacker takes the field for the UGA game, it won’t be known until Saturday shortly before kickoff.

“Obviously, that will be one of those that it’s got to be right with him, got to be right with the doctors. We’ll see. Kind of game time,” head coach Jim McElwain said. “I thought he moved pretty well. One of the tackling circuits he got beat up by one of the sleds. The sled bit back, but it was good to see. The opportunity to play in this game is something that’s real special and that guy is a real big part of our team. He’ll do anything he can to help us.”

Davis currently leads the Gators in tackles with 48 and is tied for second on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss.

While the status of Davis remains up in the air, McElwain did confirm that two starting defensive linemen, end Jordan Sherit and tackle Joey Ivie, will play against the Bulldogs.  Sherit underwent arthroscopic surgery three weeks ago while Ivie had surgery performed on his thumb the week before.  Additionally, starting defensive end Bryan Cox has a chance to play despite his own thumb injury.

BYU, Utah announce ‘Holy War’ extension through 2022

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Travis Wilson #7 of the Utah Utes runs for a touchdown against defensive back Micah Hannemann #7 of the Brigham Young Cougars during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 19, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utah won 35-28.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Thankfully, one of the more underrated in-state rivalries isn’t going away anytime soon.

BYU and Utah announced Thursday that the schools have reached an agreement on a two-game extension of their series.  The Cougars will host the first game of the extension Sept. 11, 2021, in Provo while the Utes will return the favor Sept. 3 the following season in Salt Lake City.

The schools had previously agreed to games from 2017 through the 2020 season.

“BYU-Utah is one of the great college rivalries in the country. There’s a lot of history and tradition between the two schools and I’m glad we were able to extend the series through 2022,” said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe in a statement. “I’ve loved this rivalry as a player, coach and administrator, and look forward to the future games.”

The teams have played 91 times since the series kicked off in 1922.  The Utes hold a 56-31-4 advantage all-time, including a 20-19 win earlier this season.

Jimbo Fisher rules Derwin James out of Clemson game

ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 05:  Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after a play against the Mississippi Rebels during the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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When Derwin James went down with a torn meniscus in Week 2, Florida State had the Clemson game circled as a potential date for a return.  Unfortunately for both the player and the team, that won’t be the case.

On his weekly call-in show Wednesday night, Jimbo Fisher confirmed that James and his surgically-repaired knee will not play in the Seminoles’ game this Saturday against the Tigers.  There is still no timetable for the sophomore safety’s return.

Hopefully Derwin will be back here soon,” the head coach said.

One thing apparently off the table is a redshirt for James as Fisher said if the defensive back can return at any point this season he will.

The Clemson game will mark the sixth straight missed by James.  FSU will close out the regular season against North Carolina State (Nov. 5), Boston College (Nov. 11), Syracuse (Nov. 19) and Florida Nov. 26).

In less than two full games this season, James was credited with 11 tackles and also has an interception.

As a true freshman last season, James’ 91 tackles were second only to Reggie Northrup’s 94. He was also second on the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (4.5).

For that, he was named a consensus freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC.  This offseason, he was named to the Bednarik AwardNagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award watch lists, and is widely considered one of the most talented players on the defensive side of the ball in the country.