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USC expected to name starting QB ‘shortly after spring game’

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For those wondering who will be under center for USC when it opens up the 2016 season, your wait is likely almost over.

In the competition to replace Cody Kessler as the Trojans’ starting quarterback, it’s essentially been a two-man race: Max Browne, the presumptive front-runner, and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. While many an observer had all but given the starting job to the former five-star Browne, Darnold has, by all accounts, closed the gap considerably since the start of spring practice last month.

With the Trojans set to put the finishing touches on practice with the spring game Saturday evening, first-year head coach Clay Helton is set to put the finishing touches on this phase of the quarterback competition shortly thereafter.

“I’m going to let it go through the spring game and then make a decision,” Helton said in comments distributed by the school. “Just being honest, I don’t think there’s a huge gap between the quarterbacks. I want to take it to the spring game, that atmosphere, and see how the guys react.”

Nearly a week ago, Helton acknowledged that “[t]here is a gap and I think obviously Max is in the lead right now.” The fact that Helton now describes the competition as lacking “a huge gap” has led some to rethink the front-runner, although it would still be considered a little more than mildly surprising if the starter exiting the spring is anyone other than Browne.

The last two seasons as Kessler’s primary backup, the redshirt junior Browne completed 11-of-19 passes for 143 yards. Darnold, meanwhile, was a four-star dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2015 who took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

This season, USC will open against defending national champion Alabama in Arlington, Tex.

Notre Dame-Georgia going under the lights on Sept. 21

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CBS’s contract with the SEC typically gives the network two double-headers a year — one with games at noon and 3:30 p.m. Eastern time, and another at 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. For the past, oh, eight years, the 8 p.m. kickoff has been reserved for the Alabama-LSU game, for obvious reasons.

The last time CBS used its primetime SEC designation for a game other than Tide-Tigers came in 2010, when the network picked Alabama-Florida back when the Nick SabanUrban Meyer rivalry was still popping.

It looks like that’s set to change this year, though, as CBS announced Tuesday that the Sept. 21 Notre Dame at Georgia game will air at 8 p.m. ET.

While leaving open the possibility some backroom negotiations between CBS and ESPN could still find Alabama-LSU on CBS in primetime when the two meet on Nov. 9, clearly CBS has prioritized the chance to put the golden domes under the lights over any other game under its control — and with good reason. Notre Dame hasn’t played inside an SEC stadium since its trip to Knoxville on Nov. 6, 2004 and isn’t scheduled to return to SEC country until an Oct. 4, 2025 game at Arkansas.

Notre Dame has never played inside Sanford Stadium. The Irish and Bulldogs have played just twice previously, once in the 1982 Sugar Bowl (a 17-10 Georgia win) and once at Notre Dame in 2017 (a 20-19 Georgia win).

Though Alabama has beaten LSU eight consecutive times, viewing interest in the rivalry is still quite strong. The Tide’s 29-0 win over LSU in 2018 drew 11.543 million viewers according to Sports Media Watch, trailing only Michigan at Ohio State for the most-watched game of the regular season.

Clearly, though, CBS executives think Notre Dame at Georgia will be a bigger draw than the Alabama-LSU game.

One of world’s largest cranes being used to build Carrier Dome’s new roof

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A new recruit is coming to Syracuse’s campus soon, and he’s absolutely huge.

To build the Carrier Dome’s new roof, the school has rented a LR-11000 crane, which will stand nearly 500 feet in the air.“It’s going to dominate the skyline,” Buckner Heavylift Cranes heavy lift and rigging planner Jim Jatho told the Syracuse Post-Standard. “If you can see the Carrier Dome, it’ll be a couple hundred feet above it.”

So big is the the LR-11000 that it will require between 85 and 87 truckloads to deliver all the necessary parts, and will also require the efforts of three or four other cranes in order to build this one. Construction of the crane is expected to take three to four weeks. The crane is manufactured by a German firm, and SU will rent it from Buckner Heavylift Cranes, based out of North Carolina. There are just 13 LR-11000s scattered across the United States.

The LR-11000 can lift 1,100 tons — that’s 2.2 million pounds — and weighs 3 million pounds on its own.

The reason for such specialized equipment is the tight quarters around the Carrier Dome and the unique job that requires the expertise of the LR-11000, which will construct the crown-truss that will encircle the dome’s bubbly, cloud-like roof. The LR-11000 is typically used to build wind turbines.

“Putting a crane of this size in a space so small is almost unheard of,” Jatho said.

Syracuse initially announced plans to give the Carrier Dome a new roof back in 2016, committing $118 million to improve the 38-year-old stadium’s roof. The new roof will have natural lighting, a 40-year lifespan (the current roof had 20) and will be less costly to maintain, the school says.

Syracuse also plans to install a vertically hung scoreboard, ADA improvements, enhanced WiFi and, by 2022, air conditioning, new restrooms and new concession space.

The new roof is expected to be complete by fall 2020, but the construction is not expected to interrupt Dino Babers and company’s efforts to dethrone Clemson for ACC supremacy.

California JUCO defensive back shot, killed

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Sadly, there’s yet another deadly shooting involving a college football player on which to report.

According to multiple media outlets in the Sacramento area, Sierra College defensive back Chancelor “Chance” Fields-Colbert was shot and killed very early Sunday morning following an incident during what was described as a college sendoff party in Fair Oaks.  Fields-Colbert was shot once inside the residence in which the party was being held and managed to get out of the house before collapsing in an intersection a short distance away.

The sophomore from Fairbanks, Alaska, was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

It’s disbelief and shock,” the junior college’s head coach, Benjamin Noonan, told ABC’s Sacramento affiliate. “It’s been a nightmare these last 48 hours and the kids are, you know, pulling it together and just want to be around each other.”

As a freshman this past season, Fields-Colbert played in five games for the Wolverines.

Oregon’s Calvin Throckmorton headlines Outland Trophy watch list

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With eight semifinalists from a year ago gone, the Outland Trophy’s 2019 preseason watch list takes on a decidedly fresh look this go ’round.

Headlining the 83-player group of the nation’s top interior linemen is Oregon’s Calvin Throckmorton, who is the only Football Writers Association of American All-American from a season ago on this year’s watch list.  Throckmorton is one of 12 players from the Pac-12 listed, which is tied for third among all conferences with the Big 12; with 13 apiece, the Big Ten and SEC lead all leagues.

The ACC’s 10 is the fewest among Power Five conferences, while Group of Five leagues are paced by the AAC’s six.  All 10 FBS conferences are represented, including the Mountain West (four), Conference USA (three), MAC (three) and Sun Belt (three).  Independents account for four as well.

Throckmorton is one of four linemen from Oregon, tied with Michigan for the most of any single school.  Georgia has three, while another 15 schools have two each.

A total of 32 offensive tackles are on the watch list, the most for any single position.  That group is followed by 19 defensive tackles, 18 offensive guards and 14 centers.