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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: SEC Predictions

Florida v LSU

As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the SEC. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

SEC EAST

1.  South Carolina (Last year: 11-2; beat Wisconsin in Capital One Bowl)
I’ve said it multiple times and I’ll say it again: this could very well be Steve Spurrier‘s best and deepest Gamecock team since taking over in Columbia a decade ago.  The loss of starting quarterback Connor Shaw will certainly have some impact, but the fact that Dylan Thompson isn’t your typical first-year starter — he’s started three games and thrown passes in 17 others — should help soften the transition.  Losing a pair of defensive line starters and two secondary starters won’t help matters either, but USC has recruited well at those positions the past couple of years and should have the on-paper talent to fill the voids.  A total of 16 starters return, though, including workhorse running back Mike Davis.  The Gamecocks are clearly the class of the East, and it would be more than a little surprising to not see them in Atlanta in early December after qualifying for the SEC championship game.

2. Georgia (Last year: 8-5; lost to Nebraska in Gator Bowl) 
After watching uneven and subpar defensive performances not just last season but the past couple of years, Mark Richt looked to right that ship by going out and reeling in Jeremy Pruitt of the defending BCS champion Florida State Seminoles as defensive coordinator.  Combine that with the returning talent — nine starters on that side of the ball — and the defensive woes of the past should be a thing of the, well, past.  The loss of a four-year starting quarterback will sting, at least initially, but the fact that his replacement, Hutson Mason, started two games at year’s end to go along with Todd Gurley carrying the offensive load while Mason gets his starting sea legs should help in the transition to the post-Murray era.  Having to travel to East favorite South Carolina won’t help the cause, but getting past that early-season hurdle could set the Bulldogs up for a return trip to Atlanta after a one-year absence.

3. Florida (Last year: 4-8)
The Gators could very well be the third-best team in the SEC East — and that may not be enough to save Will Muschamp‘s job.  Beset with injuries and overall poor play — especially on offense — in 2013, UF tripped, bumbled and stumbled its way through the program’s worst season in nearly two decades.  The offense was simply abysmal, especially in the passing game, which served as the impetus for Muschamp to swipe offensive coordinator Kurt Roper from Duke in the offseason.  The early signs point to a rejuvenated offense in general and quarterback Jeff Driskel in particular under Roper.  The defense, as has been the case under Muschamp, will be just fine; if the offense can merely climb to respectable, it should be enough for the Gators to get closer to 2012’s 10-win season than last year’s eight-loss abomination.  The schedule is essentially a wash, with games at Alabama and Florida State offset by tough games against LSU and South Carolina in The Swamp.  UF could be staring an eight-win season square in the face — and that should be enough for Muschamp to get a fourth year on the job.  Anything less than that, and his future employment in Gainesville becomes dicey.

4. Tennessee (Last year: 5-7)
Surprise!!!  Yes, this one could — and quite likely will — come back and bite me square in the arse, but what the hell.  Call it a hunch. Or the fact that they finished with a better record than did the Gators, who I have listed above.  Or a bad case of (insert serious mental disorder here).  Whatever the case, I love what Butch Jones is doing in Knoxville and, while I might be a year early on this, I’m buying in.  How mental am I?  I’m predicting the Vols to finish fourth in the seven-team East, even as I’m fully aware of the fact that UT is the only team in the country that lost every starter on both the offensive and defensive lines.  And then there’s the schedule: the opener at home against an underrated Utah State; a road trip to Oklahoma in Week 3; and SEC away games at Georgia, Ole Miss and South Carolina.  Yep, I’m nuts.  But I do like the defense and the receiving corps, and think that Justin Worley is ready to take a step up to the next level in a conference riddled with questions at the quarterback position, especially as he’s now solidified his hold on the job.  Again, I may not be right, but I think I’m closer to that than wrong.

5. Missouri (Last year: 12-2; beat Oklahoma State in Cotton Bowl) 
The Tigers return just seven of 22 starters — three on offense, four on defense — from last year’s surprise SEC East championship squad.  Mizzou must find a way to replace its leading passer, rusher and three top receivers from a year ago, although the former is a little disingenuous as Maty Mauk showed he was the Tigers’ future at the quarterback position subbing for an injured James Franklin.  Losing Dorial Green-Beckham to a dismissal, though, was a huge blow for Mauk as he assumes the full-time offensive reins for the first time.  The good news is that, while Mauk is adjusting to his new role, Mizzou will feature a pair of running backs — Russell Hansborough and Marcus Murphy — who combined for nearly 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.  The schedule makers didn’t do Mizzou many favors, with road trips to South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee in the offing.  The Tigers surprised many most all observers by claiming a division title in just their second season in the conference; it’d be equally surprising if they came even remotely close to matching 2013’s success,

6. Kentucky (Last year: 2-10)
Despite just two wins last season, UK appears to be a football program on the upswing, especially if recruiting rankings mean anything.  The past two recruiting cycles, UK has pulled in the No. 17 (2014) and No. 23 (2013) recruiting classes, and are currently rated No. 20 for 2015.  Prior to Mark Stoops’ arrival, UK had just two recruiting classes — 2006 (No. 36) and 2009 (No. 41) — finish inside the Top 50 nationally since 2002.  How long before that success planted on the recruiting trail bears fruit on the field?  That remains unclear, although it could be 2015 before Stoops truly sees the fruit of his and his staff’s labor.  Until then, it could be another rough football season at the basketball school, even as doubling up on last year’s win total would seem to be a modest and attainable goal.

7. Vanderbilt (Last year: 9-4; beat Houston in BBVA Compass Bowl)
I’m fully aware that the Commodores finished fourth in the East last year and won nine games, including the program’s first-ever back-to-back bowl game.  I’m also fully aware that James Franklin was a huge part of that success, and Franklin and his coaching staff are currently in Happy Valley preparing for the upcoming season.  Do I think Stanford’s Derek Mason was a subpar replacement?  Most definitely not; he was one of the more underrated hires of the offseason.  Do I think he can do what David Shaw did after Jim Harbaugh left The Farm after laying the foundation?  No, because there’s simply not that type of foundation in place in Nashville.  Inexperience on the skill player side of the equation, especially at quarterback and wide receiver, could be Vandy’s undoing.

SEC WEST

1. Alabama (Last year: 11-2; lost to Oklahoma in Sugar Bowl)
Replacing a three-year starter at quarterback?  Pffft, no problem for a Tide squad that boasts two Top-Five SEC running backs in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry… and the SEC’s best wide receiver-tight end combination in Amari Cooper and O.J. Howard… and at least three returning starters along the offensive line… and a defense that, despite the return of  just four starters, is littered with four- and five-star recruits throughout the depth chart and will, again, be one of the most stout in the conference… and, hands-down, the best coach in college football in Nick Saban.  So, yes, the Tide will, as has ofttimes been the case over the past five-plus years, be the favorite not only in the division but in the conference, despite the presence of East/SEC title winner Auburn.  The Tide is locked and loaded to bounce back from two straight losses to end the 2013 season by a squad that was viewed by some, including its head coach, to be an entitled bunch.  A pissed-off Saban with a legitimate agenda and loads of talent at his disposal entering a season is a dangerous proposition not just for the SEC but for college football as a whole.

2. Auburn (Last year: 12-2; lost to Florida State in BCS title game)
There’s no way around it, no way to tap-dance whilst whistling past the biggest question when it comes to AU football in 2014: did the Tigers use a couple of years (decades?) worth of luck in their magical, unexpected, inexplicable ride to the BCS title game?  Even the biggest homer out on The Plains would have to admit that the Tigers were “fortunate” to end the season where they did.  Of their 12 wins, six were decided by eight points or less.  In four games — Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama — they were trailing with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.  The Georgia (“Prayer at Jordan-Hare“) and Alabama (“Kick-Six“) wins immediately earned nicknames for the sheer improbability of the endings.  There’s little doubt that Gus Malzahn has, very quickly, turned AU around from the three-win embarrassment that was the final season of Gene Chizik in 2012.  How much was sheer luck, the kind of once-a-decade (or two) happenstance that simply can’t repeat itself?  Regardless of the answer — I’m guessing the talent is sufficient so as to make the question moot — Malzahn’s Tigers will be one of the more fascinating squads to watch throughout the 2014 season.

3. LSU (Last year: 10-3; beat Iowa in Outback Bowl)
Eight times in Les Miles‘ 10 season on the bayou, the Tigers have won at least 10 games.  Included in that total is a streak of five straight.  Don’t expect that skein to be broken in 2015.   Gone is starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, leaving LSU with arguably the biggest question mark in the conference at the most important position.  Gone also are the top two receivers and leading rusher.  Back, though, are four offensive line starters and seven defensive starters.  Entering the fray as well is Leonard Fournette, one of the most hyped freshman running backs since Adrian Peterson burst onto the scene as a true freshman in Norman a decade ago.  Fournette has the type of ability that will allow whomever emerges from LSU’s quarterback competition to ease into the job.  Well, that and a defense that will be as physical and stifling as it always is.  The schedule makers also smiled on LSU, with its toughest road trip likely proving to be a Oct. 4 date with Auburn at Jordan-Hare, although a regular season-ending trip to Texas A&M’s Kyle Field won’t exactly be a cakewalk.

4. Ole Miss (Last year: 8-5; beat Georgia Tech in Music City Bowl) 
I was almost — almost — tempted to put the Rebels ahead of the Bayou Bengals, but simply couldn’t pull the trigger.  Ole Miss is the “trendy” sleeper pick heading into 2014, and for good reason.  There’s really not a lot to not like about the potential of the 2014 version of Hugh Freeze‘s 2014 Rebels.  They will, once again, possess one of the best offenses in the SEC to go along with a defense that, quietly, is one of the best in a defense-heavy conference.  The biggest hurdle the Rebels have is something completely out of their control: the division in which they reside.  Since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012, the Rebels are just 2-6 against those four programs — a three-point home win against LSU last season and a win in 2012 against an Auburn team that would ultimately win three games and fire its head coach.  And that’s without even mentioning that Ole Miss has lost four of the last five Egg Bowls against in-state rival — and divisional foe — Mississippi State.  How Ole Miss can crack the Top Three the way the West is currently constituted is unclear.  What appears to be clear is that they have the head coach who could do just that, whether it be in 2014 or in the coming years.

5. Texas A&M (Last year: 9-4; beat Duke in Chick-fil-A Bowl)
Where do we start?  You lose Johnny ManzielMike Evans, one of the best receivers in the country… the best left tackle in the game in Jake Matthews… myriad defensive contributors due to suspension/dismissals/other forms of attrition from a unit that was really bad in 2013… all of that, and it could be quite the season in College Station coming off the success that was A&M’s first two seasons in the SEC.  One known amidst the question marks is that Kevin Sumlin always fields a Top-10 offense as a head coach; even as just five starters on that side of the ball return, that shouldn’t change as Sumlin’s system remains a big consistent for the Aggies.  That defense, though, needs to step it up a level or eight so that the offense doesn’t have to outscore its expected unevenness on that side of the ball.  Games at South Carolina, Alabama and Auburn — the Gamecocks contest is the season opener — doesn’t bode well for the young but talented Aggies.

6. Mississippi State (Last year: 7-6; beat Rice in Liberty Bowl) 
MSU’s placement of second-to-last is not an indictment of Dan Mullens‘ football program, but merely an indicator of just how deep the West is.  If the Bulldogs were in the East, they could very well be the third-best team in the division.  Given their current football lot, they’ll continue to struggle to get past their in-division rivals.  Since going 5-7 in Mullens’ first season in 2009, MSU’s win total has ranged from seven (twice, including 2013) to nine (2010).  With 16 returning starters back, including nine on defense as well as one of the most experienced returning quarterback starters in the conference (Dak Prescott), MSU could and should very well get in that very same win range for a fifth consecutive season.  Whether that’s good enough for the fans and the administration remains to be seen.

7. Arkansas (Last year: 3-9)
In Bret Bielema‘s first season in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks won just three games; two of those wins came against FCS programs, the other against a Southern Miss team that was in the midst of what would become a 23-game losing streak.  UA ended the season on a nine-game losing streak, finishing up Year 1 of the Great Bielema Southern Experiment at 0-8 in SEC play.  Six of those nine losses came by at least 10 points, with two of them coming by a combined 97 points.  It was a rough first season for Bielema and his charges; it doesn’t expect to get much better in 2014.  The good news for Bielema and his coaching staff is that his boss, athletic director Jeff Long, is committed to them for the long haul; whether the long haul is three years or four years or even five years remains to be seen.  One thing is certain: Bielema has a helluva tough job ahead of him, cleaning up the mess left by the controversy-stained departure of Bobby Petrino and the lost 2012 season under John L. Smith.  Oh, and all the while sweeping the broom in the toughest division in any conference in the conference.  Yeah, good luck with that.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Alabama over South Carolina

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Bonnafon gets starting call again at QB for Louisville

Reggie Bonnafon AP

For the second week in a row, Louisville will be sans its starting quarterback for a conference game.

On a teleconference Wednesday, Bobby Petrino confirmed that Will Gardner will not start Friday’s game against Syracuse.  Petrino did allow that “[t]here’s a chance [Gardner] will be available” in an emergency-type situation.

“Will was out there last night and did more in practice,” Petrino said. “Reports from the training room this morning was there was limited swelling so we get a chance to get him out today at practice again.”

Gardner suffered a left knee injury in the win against FIU.  He left in the third quarter didn’t return.

With Gardner out, at least at the beginning, Reggie Bonnafon will make his second consecutive start.

In his first collegiate start against Wake Forest, a 20-10 win, Bonnafon completed 16-of-32 passes for 206 yards. He had no touchdowns but also no interceptions. The true freshman added 46 yards on the ground against the Demon Deacons; in the first four games, Gardner ran for minus-72, so obviously Bonnafon adds a dimension that the starter doesn’t possess.

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Pair of Fresno State DBs, including Arizona transfer, quit team

Fresno State v USC Getty Images

Fresno State’s secondary depth took an unexpected twin hit Tuesday.

According to head coach Tim DeRuyter in a press release sent out late Tuesday night, both cornerback Bryan Harper and free safety Justin Holmes have decided to quit the Bulldogs football team. The moves apparently came from out of the blue, at least publicly.

The pair left due to unspecified personal reasons.

“We appreciate their contributions and we wish them well in the future,” DeRuyter said in a statement.

Harper transferred to Fresno State from Arizona in 2013 and sat out that season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  The decision to leave came after Harper had started the first two games of the season.  The Fresno Bee wrote that Harper “was excused from practice on Monday while at home in Los Angeles to tend to a family issue.”

Coming out of high school in Ontario, California, Harper was a three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2012 recruiting class.

Holmes, meanwhile, didn’t record a tackle this year after redshirting as a true freshman last season.  He was a no-show at practice Monday.

Neither Harper nor Holmes was listed on the most recent two-deep depth chart.

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Terps’ starting QB C.J. Brown game-day decision vs. Buckeyes

Maryland v Indiana Getty Images

If you want and/or need to know who will be under center when Maryland takes the field against Ohio State Saturday, you’ll have to wait a couple of more days.

C.J. Brown suffered an injury to his left (non-throwing) wrist in the win over Indiana Saturday.  He left that game and didn’t return.

Will the starting quarterback return for the Buckeyes?

“We’ll find out on game day” is all head coach Randy Edsall would allow on Brown’s Week 6 status.

Should Brown be a no-go for the Terps’ second-ever Big Ten game, Caleb Rowe would get the start. Replacing the injured Brown, Rowe completed 67 percent of his passes for 198 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 37-15 win over the Hoosiers.  That performance left Edsall proud of and confident in Rowe.

“I think we’ve been blessed to have that happen at a number of positions this year, with guys,” the coach said. “Very proud of Caleb for staying engaged and being ready and knowing that when his number was called he came in and did the job that he was expected to do.”

The Associated Press also notes that, if Brown sits, it would mark the eight straight season the Terps failed to have a quarterback start every game. The last quarterback to start every game in a single season was Sam Hollenbach in 2006.

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Man body-slammed by Ohio State coach loses scholarship

Indiana v Ohio State Getty Images

For those of you who read the latest edition of the Fifth Quarter, you may have noticed we mentioned an Ohio State assistant coach and former Buckeyes linebacker, Anthony Schlegel, “taking care” of a student with a “Night Train Necktie” who had run onto the field during the pregame warmups for the Cincinnati game.

As it turns out, there’s more to the story. A lot more.

The student in question, Anthony Wunder, pleaded not guilty to a charge of criminal trespassing Tuesday in the Franklin County Municipal Court. If Wunder is convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of a $250 fine and 30 days in jail.

That legal issue might not be the worst of Wunder’s problems, however, as the Columbus Dispatch explains.

[Attorney Mark] Collins said that Wunder was told today by the Evans Scholars program that Wunder has lost his scholarship with the program and said Wunder is no longer living in the Evans Scholars house.

Collins, however, said that Wunder remains enrolled as a student at Ohio State. He is a fourth-year student in a five-year engineering program, Collins said.

The nonprofit Evans Scholars Foundation gives academic awards for college students who have served as golf caddies.

Head coach Urban Meyer said he had a conversation with his assistant following the game.

“In all seriousness, I grabbed Anthony last night,” the head coach said Monday. “I appreciate him protecting our players. I would rather him not have a lawsuit if something bad would happen, you drill a guy like that.

“So we had a partial-serious conversation. And then we also gave him a Hit City Award, our team, and had a little fun with it, too.”

Speaking of a lawsuit…

“Those are things we’re going to look at and issues we’re going to address,” said Collins, Wunder’s attorney, when asked if the tackle by Schlegel was too hard. Of course, if his client wasn’t on the field illegally, the tackle never would’ve happened.

Anyway, for those who haven’t seen it, below is a Vine of the incident in question as well as an epic picture of the hit.

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Davis Webb returns to practice; status for K-State game uncertain

Texas Tech v Oklahoma State Getty Images

Earlier this week, Kliff Kingsbury labeled Davis Webb as day-to-day due to injury.  Even as that remains the case, Webb took a positive step toward getting back on the playing field immediately.

A school spokesperson confirmed to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that the starting quarterback practiced with the team Tuesday.   Webb had been spotted by the media wearing full football gear and leaving the practice field with his teammates.

Webb suffered an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder in the loss to Oklahoma State Thursday night.  He had not practiced since suffering the injury, and his status for the Kansas State game Saturday remains unknown.  The Avalanche-Journal did write the fact “[t]hat Webb practiced was a positive sign, given that Tuesday and Wednesday are the Red Raiders’ heaviest game-preparation days.”

Through four games, Webb is second among Big 12 quarterbacks in passing yards per game (339) and passing touchdowns (14) and is third in passing efficiency (146.2).

Should Webb be unable to go, true freshman Patrick Mahomes would get his first career start. Mahomes made his collegiate debut replacing the injured Webb against the Cowboys, completing 2-of-5 passes for 20 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  He also ran seven times for 16 yards, with a long of 14.

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Charges being prepped for suspended UK foursome

Vanderbilt v Kentucky Getty Images

At some point in the very near future, perhaps as early as today, four members of the Kentucky football program will begin their collective journey through the legal system in connection to an incident over the weekend.

Fayette County (Ky.) Attorney Larry Roberts confirmed to the Lexington Herald-Leader that his office is preparing charges against the four freshmen — wide receiver Dorian Baker, running back Stanley Williams (pictured), quarterback Drew Barker, and defensive end Tymere Dubose.  The charges, second-degree disorderly conduct for each, will be filed “as soon as the judge signs them,” Roberts told the Herald-Leader.

The paper writes that the charge “is a class B misdemeanor, covering such things as fighting, making loud noises or creating a hazardous condition” and “is punishable by up to 90 days in jail.”

According to reports, police were called around 9:30 Sunday night to a residence complex on the south end of campus, near the football facilities, after fielding calls about possible shots being fired. UK and Lexington police searched the area for two hours and recovered three airsoft guns.

All four players have been suspended for this weekend’s game against South Carolina.

“We have some good kids that used poor judgment that made a mistake. They know they made a mistake, and they’re being held accountable for it,” head coach Mark Stoops said following Tuesday’s practice. “We tried to address it quickly and decisive. They were wrong.

“Like I said, they’re remorseful. They realize it now. So, we’ve handled it publicly with what I said and internally within our team.”

The losses of Baker and Williams will be the most damaging in the short-term as the latter has 174 yards rushing/receiving and two touchdowns while the former has 11 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown. The other two have not played in a game are expected to redshirt.

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Vols’ WR Josh Smith to miss second straight game

Tennessee v Alabama Getty Images

For the second consecutive game, Tennessee’s receiving corps won’t be at full strength.

Ahead of Saturday’s game against Florida, Josh Smith has already been ruled out because of the dreaded high-ankle sprain.  Smith originally suffered the injury in the Oklahoma loss and didn’t play in the loss to Georgia.

It has previously been reported that Smith could miss up to six weeks, which would sideline him until the Nov. 1 game against South Carolina.

Through three games, Smith was second on the team in catches (10) and receiving yards (135).  He’s still tied for second in the latter category and tied for fourth in the former.

Another receiver dealing with a high-ankle sprain, Von Pearson, “practice a little bit” Tuesday.  His status for the Gator game is up in the air.

Pearson, who has seven catches for 98 yards in two games, has already missed the Oklahoma and Georgia games.

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Michigan not expected to face B1G sanctions

Brady Hoke, Greg Mattison AP

The Shane Morris flap may ultimately play a role on some level in the firing of Brady Hoke, or even his boss, but Michigan’s not expected to garner any punitive action from its conference.

A Big Ten spokesperson confirmed to mlive.com that commissioner Jim Delany, the website wrote, “has been in contact with the university athletic department regarding the football program’s shortcomings in dealing with Morris’ concussion.” Hoke and AD Dave Brandon specifically and the football program and athletic department in general have come under fire ever since the quarterback was put back into the Minnesota game shortly after he sustained what was later determined to be a concussion.

In a statement Tuesday evening, UM president Mark Schlissel admitted that the university “did not get this right and for this I apologize to Shane, his family, his teammates, and the entire Michigan family.”

That said, it doesn’t appear there will be any type of sanctions forthcoming from the conference.

According to [Big Ten associate commissioner of communications Scott] Chipman, no review process exists that enables the league to issue any penalty upon the athletic department or football program.

While the individuals involved have come under significant scrutiny, Hoke has at least one defender in former Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson.

Tuesday night, nearly a 1,000 protesters marched on Schlissel’s home calling for the firing of Brandon.  One UM fan, a law school student, was seen holding a “Fire Brandon” sign while wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt.  Schlissel had released his statement approximately a half-hour before the demonstration landed on his front lawn.

On the other hand, UM’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee — an organization representing all 931 of the school’s student-athletes — issued a statement of support for Brandon.

“As student-athletes, we are confident that each member of the Athletic Department acts with our best interests in mind,” the statement read in part. “We applaud Dave Brandon for upholding the tradition and values of Michigan to the highest standard, encouraging us to be leaders and best in all aspects of life. As such, we fully support our Athletic Director and trust his ability to make decisions for our success and wellbeing.”

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Memphis’ leading rusher lost to season-ending injury

Doroland Dorceus AP

If Memphis is going to make any noise in AAC play this season, it’ll have to do so without the most productive member of its rushing attack.

At his regular Monday press conference, Justin Fuente confirmed the Tigers’ worst fears: running back Doroland Dorceus “will not be with us for the rest of the season.” Dorceus sustained an injury to his right leg in the second quarter of this past weekend’s 24-3 loss to Ole Miss.

Dorceus would not specify the exact nature of the injury, although the speculation is that it’s an ACL issue.

Through four games, Dorceus leads the Tigers with 237 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

With Dorceus sidelined for the final eight games, a heavy portion of the ground game load is expected to fall onto the shoulders of the starter and one of his main backups. Brandon Hayes, who’s started all four games this season, is second on the team with 197 yards, but averages just 4.6 yards per carry, while Jarvis Cooper is third with 130 yards on just 15 carries.

Hayes led the Tigers in 2013 with 860 yards and five touchdowns.

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Thanks to USC’s ‘questionable’ tactics, Beavers down a pair of DTs

Cody Kessler, Jalen Grimble

At Miami, the offensive right tackles have taken a hit.  For Oregon State, it’s the position on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.

Jalen Grimble, the starter at left defensive tackle for the Beavers, sustained a knee injury in the loss to USC this past Saturday.  Grimble is scheduled to undergo surgery next Monday to repair the damage and will be sidelined for a period of 3-4 weeks.

Because of a bye after this Saturday’s game, he could miss just the Colorado (Oct. 4) and Utah (Oct. 16) contests.  If he’s out the full four weeks, he could miss the Oct. 25 Stanford game as well.

The news is not so good for Grimble’s backup, however.

Noke Tago incurred a knee injury in the same game as the starter. Unfortunately, it appears his injury is more serious as defensive coordinator Mark Banker stated it’s likely Tago will be lost for the remainder of the season.

Both of the injuries occurred on chop blocks that weren’t called penalties against the Trojans. USC’s technique was called into question by Banker.

“You don’t know if it was done on purpose or not,” Banker said, “but I just think the technique was questionable. …

“I just hope it wasn’t intended to be an injury.”

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Only a setback will keep UGA’s Malcolm Mitchell from making 2014 debut Sat.

Georgia v Florida Getty Images

Finally, after weeks of speculation and false starts, one of the most talented and experienced members of Georgia’s receiving corps is set to return.  Probably.

Head coach Mark Richt said Tuesday that Malcolm Mitchellwould have to have a setback to not play” in Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. The wide receiver has been sidelined since undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean up some cartilage damage in mid-August.

He’s missed all of UGA’s four games this season.

This latest health issue, which occurred running routes during summer workouts and dragged on far longer than originally anticipated, continues what’s been a long line of injury setbacks for Mitchell, particularly as it relates to the knees.

Mitchell suffered a torn ACL — celebrating a touchdown, no less — in the season-opening loss to Clemson last year.  He was cleared and had been participating — in non-contact fashion — in UGA’s spring practice earlier this year before another leg injury in the first session knocked him out for the remainder of the spring.

Prior to that, he suffered a torn meniscus and had his knee ‘scoped in April of 2013.  But wait, there’s more: he didn’t play in the 2012 opener because of an ankle injury, with a hamstring issue costing him three games the year before.

When healthy, Mitchell is productive, as evidenced by his career totals of 85 catches for 1,237 yards and eight touchdowns.  It’s also evidenced by the fact that, despite missing essentially the entire 2013 season, he was named second-team All-SEC over the summer.

Mitchell’s return is not the only positive receiving news for the Bulldogs as Justin Scott-Wesley is expected to make his 2014 debut against Vandy as well.  In October of last year, Scott-Wesley suffered a torn ACL.  At the time of the injury, he was UGA’s second-leading receiver with 16 catches for 311 yards and two touchdowns.

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Miami down top two right tackles vs. Georgia Tech

Taylor Gadbois

When Miami takes the field for its next game, the Hurricanes will have a rather significant issue on the right side of the offensive line.

Tuesday, Al Golden confirmed that both Taylor Gadbois and Kc McDermott will not play in this Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech because of injury. Both linemen suffered left knee injuries in the win over Duke in Week 5.

Gadbois is the ‘Canes’ starting right tackle, while McDermott is his backup. Some combination of Trevor Darling, Hunter Wells and Sunny Odogwu will take that twosome’s place.

After playing in four games as a redshirt freshman in 2013, Gadbois had started the first five games this year.  McDermott played in three games as a true freshman last year.

(Photo credit: Miami athletics)

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Reports: key LSU DB lost for season with torn ACL

Dwayne Thomas, Dak Prescott

It appears LSU won’t have a key piece of its secondary puzzle at its disposal moving forward.

Both the Baton Rouge Advocate and the New Orleans Times-Picayune have reported over the past 24 hours that Dwayne Thomas has a torn ACL and, as a result, will miss the remainder of the 2014 season.  The defensive back suffered the injury in the second quarter of this past Saturday’s blowout win over New Mexico State.

The football program has yet to address Thomas’ status.

The loss, if it comes to fruition, would be a significant one as Thomas is the Tigers’ starting nickel cornerback and sees extensive action.  Through five games, Thomas is fifth on the team with 24 tackles and is tied for second with 2.5 tackles for loss.

As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Thomas played in 11 games.  Thomas was a four-star member of LSU’s 2012 recruiting class, rated as the No. 14 corner in the country.

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Cincinnati staff member fired after disturbing sex-abuse arrest

Antrione Archer

The latest incident that sets the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker back to double zeroes doesn’t involve a college football player… and does involve some very disturbing allegations.

First things first: Cincinnati announced in a press release Tuesday that Antrione Archer had been terminated from his position as Tommy Tuberville‘s Director of Player Welfare & Development, a position he had held since 2011. Archer was arrested in Kentucky in June, but the school didn’t find out until last Friday. Within hours, the school stated, Archer was placed on administrative leave before he was fired four days later.

The school did not detail either the arrest or the charge Archer is facing. WKRC-TV did, however, and let’s just say it’s not a topic that’s ever come up before here at CFT.

From the television station’s website regarding the incident, which occurred in a grocery store pharmacy:

According to court records, police said Archer was in the Fort Mitchell Kroger May 27 and asked a 73-year-old employee for help finding some vitamins. Police said while she was helping him, Archer quote, “pulled his penis from his pants,” and also, “placed his exposed penis against her backside.” Police said he did this several times at different locations throughout the store.

The incident was caught on store surveillance cameras. Two weeks later, after police had identified Archer as a suspect, he was interviewed and confessed.

Archer was officially charged with third-degree sex abuse, a misdemeanor. The station wrote that “Archer’s attorney told Local 12 they were close to having the situation resolved through the legal system.”

(Photo credit: Cincinnati athletics)

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Taylor Kelly ‘pretty questionable’ for USC game

UCLA v Arizona State Getty Images

It appears that Taylor Kelly‘s absence from the playing field will indeed bleed into the month of October.

According to Todd Graham, the quarterback is “pretty questionable” for Arizona State’s game Saturday against USC.  After the quarterback initially suffered an unspecified foot injury in the Sept. 13 win over Colorado, the ASU head coach had downplayed the severity of the injury and the length of time Kelly would be sidelined.

Kelly is still walking with the aid of crutches and remains in a protective boot.

“Taylor has the boot on and stuff, but it’s precautionary,” Graham said Monday. “He is running in the pool, he is exercising in the pool and has no pain, so he’s doing really well.”

The good news for the Sun Devils is that the injury could cost Kelly just two games. ASU was on a bye the week after Kelly suffered the injury, and have another bye coming up next weekend. If he comes back for the Oct. 18 game against Stanford as previously reported, he’ll have missed only the UCLA and USC games.

If Kelly is sidelined as expected, Mike Bercovici would get the call. In his first career start, Bercovici threw for 488 yards and three touchdowns in the blowout loss to the Bruins. He did, though, toss a pair of interceptions.

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