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CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 8 Auburn

2013 record: 12-2 overall, 7-1 in SEC (1st in West division)
2013 postseason: BCS title game vs. Florida State (34-31 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 2/No. 2
Head coach: Gus Malzahn (21-5 overall; 12-2 in one year at Auburn)
Offensive coordinator: Rhett Lashlee (second season); Dameyune Craig (second season as co-coordinator)
2013 offensive rankings: 1st rushing offense (328.3 ypg); 106th passing offense (173 ypg); 11th total offense (501.3 ypg); 12th scoring offense (39.5 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 7
Defensive coordinator: Ellis Johnson (second season); Charlie Harbison (second season as co-coordinator)
2013 defensive rankings: 62nd rushing defense (162.1 ypg); 100th passing defense (258.6 ypg); 86th total defense (420.7 ypg); 48th scoring defense (24.7 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 6
Location: Auburn, Ala.
Stadium: Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451; grass)
Last conference title: 2013

THE GOOD
No one was able to control the Tigers’ powerful rushing attack and, even with the departure of its leading rusher, that’s expected to continue on into 2014 and the second season in Gus Malzahn‘s fast-paced, relentless offense.  Having Nick Marshall, expected to be much improved in the passing-game aspect, in his second season as a starter should help soften the blow that was running back Tre Mason‘s departure for the NFL.  As AU goes from the hunter to the hunted, it’ll be incumbent on Marshall to take that next step, one his head coach feels he’s ready to do.

THE BAD
When you have as magical ride as AU did last season there’s not a whole heck of a lot of bad going on, but the defense was, at the very least, suspect during that run to Pasadena.  They were in the bottom half of the country in yards allowed per game, although they were in the top half in the most important stat: points allowed.  That, though, was only good for eighth in the SEC.  In fairness, it was the Tigers’ first season under coordinator Ellis Johnson, so the expectation is that just based on familiarity with the scheme the defense will improve.  The good news is that there’s really nowhere for that group to go but up, especially as it relates to the rest of the SEC.  There’s also the little matter of the schedule as AU has conference road games scheduled for Mississippi State (Oct. 11), Ole Miss (Nov. 1), Georgia (Nov. 15) and Alabama (Nov. 29) to go along with a non-conference tilt at underrated Kansas State.  AU won’t sneak up on anyone this season, so they will get every team’s best, most concentrated shot, especially on the road.

THE UNKNOWN
(Writer’s note: pardon me while I repeat myself)
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 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 mostly moot — Malzahn’s Tigers will be one of the more fascinating squads to watch throughout the 2014 season.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Alabama Nov. 29
As Auburn and Alabama are expected to be the class of the SEC West, it only makes sense to put the season-ending Iron Bowl in this slot.  Last year’s dramatic, last-second win over the Tide that propelled the Tigers into the SEC championship game and, ultimately, the BCS title game was one of the most exhilarating and improbable in the storied history of the rivalry.  UA will have revenge on its mind as the Tide looks to get back on the national championship stage after its one-year sabbatical in 2013.  More than likely, the winner of this game will claim the West’s spot in the SEC championship game and, perhaps, a spot in the four-team playoff.  So, yes, this will be one of the more anticipated games of the year — provided both teams can make it to the game unscathed, of course.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: Quarterback Nick Marshall
Marshall’s first season as a starter wasn’t statistically overwhelming — less than 2,000 yards passing, just 14 touchdown passes — but it was deadly in its efficiency. Marijuana citation aside, Marshall is said to have had a very good offseason, improving his throwing mechanics and becoming more and more comfortable in Gus Malzahn‘s offense. If true, and if the passing aspect of his game improves — as evidenced by his 1,068 yards rushing and 12 rushing touchdowns, he’ll continue to get his on the ground — that could prove to be bad news for the SEC in general and the West specifically. Thanks to the departure of their leading rusher, the Tigers will likely lean even more heavily on both Marshall’s arm and legs; as far as his Heisman chances go, that’s certainly good news.  Hell, one teammate has even already called his stiff-armed shot for Marshall, so he’s got that going for him.  Which is nice.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Big Ten issues statement on autonomy recommendations

Big Ten Logo

Wednesday, the ACC released a statement laying out its priorities for the Power Five’s looming autonomy structure.  A day later, yet another league heavyweight has done the same.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Big Ten laid out its own point-by-point agenda for further enhancing the benefits of student-athletes.  Not so surprisingly, the agenda is almost a mirror image of the one laid out by the ACC, and what’s been discussed ad nauseam over the past year or two.

As there is no new territory plowed in the Big Ten’s statement, it’s presented below without commentary.  Do with it and discuss it as you will:

The Big Ten Conference announced today that it has notified the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of initial recommendations designed to provide enhanced benefits for student-athletes that are members in good standing with their individual universities as part of the NCAA’s new autonomy governance structure.

For the past two years, the conference has publicly stated its desire to continue providing student-athletes with an unmatched educational and athletic experience, including comments made by Commissioner James E. Delany at the July 2013 Big Ten Football Media Days, at the Collegiate Commissioners Association meeting on September 25, 2013, at the July 2014 Big Ten Football Media Days, and in statements issued by the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors on June 1, 2014 and June 24, 2014.

The Big Ten will work to implement the following proposals through individual institutional action, conference-wide action or under the NCAA autonomy governance structure:
Cost of Education: Redefine full grant-in-aid to meet a student-athlete’s cost of education, as determined by the federal government.
Multi-Year Scholarships: Guarantee all scholarships. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be no impact on institutions’ commitment to deliver an undergraduate education.
Lifetime Educational Commitment: Ensure that scholarships are available for life. If a student-athlete leaves a university for a professional career before graduating, whether the career materializes, and regardless of its length, the scholarship will be honored after his or her playing days are complete.
Medical Insurance: Provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes.

The Big Ten has also agreed to address additional student-athlete welfare issues including, but not limited to, health and safety, time demands and comprehensive academic support by way of a “Resolution” that creates a specific pathway and timeline for implementation.

The Big Ten Conference is an association of 14 world-class universities committed to the pursuit and attainment of athletic and academic excellence. Big Ten institutions feature broad-based athletic programs which provide nearly $200 million in direct financial aid to almost 9,500 student-athletes on 350 teams in 42 different sports.

We look forward to working with the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC through the NCAA autonomy governance structure toward adoption and implementation of these proposals.

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All signs pointing to Blake Sims starting for ‘Bama vs. Ole Miss

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

While acknowledging early last week that he was “a little bruised” and “sore,” Blake Sims was very emphatic that he would be “very fine” and available for a key SEC West matchup coming off a bye week.

As it turns out, the Alabama quarterback knew exactly what he was talking about.  Probably.

Sims suffered an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder in the third quarter of the Sept. 20 win over Florida,  but did return to the game after missing a series to put a bow on a record-setting performance.  In the days leading up to the bye weekend, Sims was very limited in practice as the team looked to get him healthy.

Head coach Nick Saban said Monday that Sims returned to throwing a football very late last week.  Now, with the Ole Miss game just three days away, all of the signs are pointing to Sims being under center when the Tide takes the field against the Rebels.

Blake has done really well in practice,” Saban said on the SEC head coaches teleconference Wednesday. “He hasn’t had any issues this week so far in terms of being able to throw the ball. We’re really pleased with the way he’s progressed. He’s been able to take all the reps he’s prescribed to take. We’re pleased with that.”

Should Sims suffer a setback, Florida State transfer Jacob Coker would make his first career ‘Bama start. That, though, doesn’t appear likely.

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Colorado State shuts down starting TE/H-back for rest of season

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In early September, Jim McElwain labeled Kivon Cartwright‘s availability as week-to-week because of injury. Unfortunately for the starting tight end/H-back, the prognosis is no longer nearly as optimistic.

Following Tuesday’s practice, the head coach revealed that Cartwright will be forced to undergo additional surgery on his injured ankle. The procedure will cost Cartwright the remainder of the 2014 season.

Cartwright has been dealing with the ankle issue since the offseason.

“We’re going to go ahead and actually go back in and re-tighten up that screw, because it didn’t heal properly,” McElwain said. “For his best interests on that, it just never healed right. So we’re going to go back in and fix it so everything’s right for the rest of his life.”

Cartwright played in the opener against Colorado — one catch, 22 yards — but hasn’t played since. Last season, he was fourth on the team in receptions (27) and receiving yards (462). His six receiving touchdowns tied for the team lead.

Because this is the second season he’s missed because of injury — he didn’t play as a true freshman — Cartwright could seek a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA. McElwain said that’s something that will be addressed after the 2014 season is complete.

Steven Walker, Cartwright’s replacement, is currently second on the Rams with 14 receptions and third in receiving yards with 157.  His two touchdown catches are tied for second on the team.

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Michigan going back to Devin Gardner at QB

Devin Gardner

Not so unexpectedly, Michigan is going back to its recent past at the most important position on the field.

Wednesday, embattled UM head coach Brady Hoke confirmed Devin Gardner will get the start at quarterback for Saturday’s game against Rutgers.  Prior to being benched in favor of Shane Morris in the loss to Minnesota last week, Gardner had started 16 of the previous 17 games for the Wolverines.

In his four starts this season, Gardner has thrown six interceptions against just five touchdowns.  In a pair of 2014 starts against Power Five teams, Gardner has tossed five picks and zero touchdowns.

Morris suffered a concussion and lower-leg injury in his first regular-season start after Gardner was benched.  It was the former injury and the football program’s botching of it that led to calls for both Hoke and athletic director Dave Brandon to be fired.

Hoke has defended the handling of the situation, while president Mark Schlissel apologized and admitted that the situation wasn’t handled properly.  In the wake of the fiasco, UM is reviewing its injury protocols, particularly as it relates to head injuries, although no sanctions from the Big Ten are expected.

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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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