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Alabama’s LaBryan Ray undergoes surgery, could return for LSU game

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On the LaBryan Ray front, there was a negative development that surfaced Wednesday as well as a potentially promising one as well.

Nick Saban confirmed earlier this week that LaBryan suffered an unspecified foot/ankle injury in Alabama’s Week 3 win over South Carolina and would be sidelined indefinitely.  A couple of days later, al.com is reporting that the junior defensive end has undergone surgery to repair the unspecified damage and will be sidelined “for a significant period of time.”

However, the same website, citing sources, writes that “there is a chance the junior could return later in the season and maybe even in time for the Crimson Tide’s game against LSU in early November.”

Such a timeline would mean LaBryan would miss, at the very least, the next five games.  That stretch includes conference home dates against Ole Miss (Sept. 28), Tennessee (Oct. 19) and Arkansas (Oct. 26) as well as a road trip to College Station Oct. 12 to face No. 17 Texas A&M.  Following a bye weekend after the Arkansas game, Alabama plays host to No. 4 LSU Nov. 9.

Obviously, he’ll miss this weekend’ game against Southern Miss as well.

Ray, a five-star 2017 signee, saw his true freshman season truncated by a foot injury.  After being named third-team preseason All-SEC over the summer, Ray had nine tackles and a sack prior to his injury.

Arkansas benches one grad transfer QB in favor of another

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As the old saying goes: if at first you don’t succeed, try a second graduate transfer quarterback.

This offseason, Arkansas head coach Chad Morris added a pair of experienced players under center — SMU’s Ben Hicks (HERE) and Texas A&M’s Nick Starkel (HERE). Hicks, who was recruited and coached by Morris at SMU before the latter took the Arkansas gig, won the starting job coming out of summer camp, but struggled mightily in two starts (46.7 completion percentage, zero touchdowns) as the Razorbacks began the 2019 campaign 1-1 — and that lone win was by seven over FCS Portland State.

In the second half of the 31-17 loss to Ole Miss in Week 2, Starkel replaced Hicks and played relatively well, completing 17-of-24 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. Monday, Morris announced that Starkel will get the starting nod in this Saturday’s game against Colorado State.

“We felt like coming out of the half, it wasn’t so much what Ben did or didn’t do, it’s what Nick did,” Morris said. “We were looking for a spark, something to get our offense moving, create some momentum, create some yards, give an opportunity for some big plays.

“That was our decision going into it and Nick will be our starter.”

Starkel was the Aggies’ starter to open the 2017 season, but suffered a broken ankle in that game that sidelined him for nearly two months.  It turned out to not be a season-ending injury as Starkel returned to start the last four games of Kevin Sumlin‘s final season in College Station, a late-season stint that included a career-high 499-yard effort in a Belk Bowl loss to Wake Forest.

Entering the 2018 offseason as the incumbent, but with a new head coach in Jimbo Fisher in place, Starkel lost the starting job to Kellen Mond and played in just five games last season — the first four of the regular season plus the bowl game.  In those appearances, the redshirt sophomore completed 15-of-22 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.

Bobby Petrino returns with apology for Arkansas fans

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Bobby Petrino made a guest speaking appearance at an event hosted by the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday, and he came ready to issue an apology to Razorback fans. Making his first trip back to Little Rock since being removed as the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, Petrino reflected on the happier times he had in Little Rock.

“Little Rock has and will always be a special place to me,” Petrino said at the event. “I wanted to come here today and apologize to everyone for how things ended.”

Petrino was removed as head coach in April 2012 after it was discovered a motorcycle accident had a few more wrinkles to it than initially believed. Petrino had been involved with an Arkansas football staffer, Jessica Dorrell.

During the luncheon event, Petrino said the hardest part about the whole ordeal back  in 2012 was not being able to address the team. His run at Arkansas was a solid one with the Razorbacks going 34-17 from 2008 through 2011. Petrino’s last team finished the season ranked No. 5 in the final AP Top 25 after winning the Cotton Bowl, which was a year after Arkansas made an appearance in the Sugar Bowl (notable for being the final game coached by Jim Tressel at Ohio State following the infamous tattoo scandal in Columbus). Arkansas has struggled mightily to duplicate the success of the Petrino era with just three winning seasons since 2012.

But Petrino thinks Chad Morris will get things cooking again with the program.

Arkansas won two games in 2018. They’re already halfway to that win total this season.

CFT Cheat Sheet: What to know for Week 2

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A quick primer on who, what and where to look for/at as we head into Week 2 of the 2019 college football season.

WEEK 1 STORYLINES

  • Let’s face it: Week 1 was, by and large, a scheduling dud, with just one ranked-on-ranked game — and zero Top 10 matchups — on the opening weekend docket.  This week, though, college football fans will feast on the likes of No. 12 Texas A&M-No. 1 Clemson and the first Top 10 tilt of the season in No. 6 LSU-No. 9 Texas.  Toss in Army and its 10-game winning streak traveling to the Big House to face No. 7 Michigan; a Cincinnati squad that took care of UCLA in the opener heading up I-71 to No. 5 Ohio State; and No. 25 Stanford vs. USC in what is now the Backup Bowl, and Week 2 is setting up to be a much more palatable Saturday of football.  Oh, and there is also…
  • No. 25 Nebraska making its way to Colorado to take on the Buffaloes.  The Men of Corn vs. Ralphie.  The former Big 8/12 rivals have played 69 times previously, but just once (2018) since NU bolted to the Big Ten ahead of the 2011 season.  The Cornhuskers will be making their first trek to Boulder since the 2009 season, with what some would call memories of dirty pool still fresh in the Blackshirts’ minds.
  • What can Jalen Hurts do for an encore?  In making his Oklahoma debut, all the former Alabama quarterback did was set career-highs with 332 passing yards (previous best was 248), 176 rushing yards (154), and three rushing touchdowns (two). The three passing touchdowns tied his previous career-best set against FCS Mercer in November of 2017.  With FCS South Dakota on tap, don’t expect to see Hurts on the field for more than a half of action — but do expect some additional video game-like numbers.
  • Can the Mountain West Conference even remotely come close to matching its Week 1 success?  Four teams from the MWC scored wins over Power Five schools last weekend — Nevada over Purdue, Boise State over Florida State, Wyoming over Missouri, Hawaii over Arizona.  In Week 2, four more MWC schools will square off with Power Five teams — Hawaii-Oregon State, Nevada-Oregon, San Diego State-UCLA, Fresno State-Minnesota.  According to the Westgate sportsbook, three more upsets are certainly within the realm of possibility as the Bulldogs, Rainbow Warriors and Aztecs are 3-, 6½- and 7½-point underdogs, respectively.  The Wolf Pack upending the Ducks, on the other hand, would be a significant upset as the latter is set as a 24-point favorite.
  • In two-plus seasons, Jonathan Taylor has averaged 156 yards rushing per game.  A year ago, Central Michigan was 104th nationally in giving up 204.7 yards per game on the ground. No. 17 Wisconsin will play host to CMU Saturday as Taylor continues his climb toward becoming the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher (Taylor has 4,306, record-holder Donnell Pumphrey had 6,405) in just three seasons.
  • Owners of the second-longest Power Five losing streak in conference play — Rutgers is first at 12 straight — Arkansas hasn’t won an SEC game since beating Ole Miss in late October of 2017, a string of 11 losses in a row.  Saturday, the Razorbacks go on the road to face… the Rebels in Oxford.  Just throwing that out there.

SIX-PACK OF MUST-SEE GAMES

  • No. 6 LSU (-6) at No. 9 Texas — Who would’ve thought that an LSU game would feature a two-sided battle of the quarterbacks?  That will be the case this week as the Tigers’ Joe Burrow tossed five touchdowns in a half’s work of work, while the Longhorns’ Sam Ehlinger was very efficient in throwing four touchdowns of his own in their opener.
  • No. 12 Texas A&M at No. 1 Clemson (-17) — As evidenced by one pregame guarantee, this will be a revenge game for A&M as an Aggies failed two-point conversion late in the fourth — which was preceded by a critical fourth-quarter fumble and two missed first-half field goal attempts — allowed the Tigers to escape College Station with a 28-26 win en route to the 2018 national championship.
  • Army at No. 7 Michigan (-22) — ‘Merica’s Team is riding a 10-game winning streak, the second-longest in the country.  Conversely, the Black Knights are on a staggering 45-game losing streak against ranked teams, with Army’s last win coming against then-No. 19 Air Force in November of 1972.  Michigan’s last loss to a service academy? October of 1967 to Navy.
  • No. 25 Stanford at USC (-1) — The Trojans knew early on that they would be without their starting quarterback as J.T. Daniels suffered a torn ACL in the season opener.  The Cardinal, after a week’s worth of theirs dealing with a head injury that had him officially listed as questionable, will officially be without their starter, K.J. Costello, as well.  As a result, both schools will have first-time starters under center (redshirt sophomore Davis Mills for the Cardinal, true freshman Kedon Slovis for the Trojans).
  • Cincinnati at No. 5 Ohio State (-16) — Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell returns to The Horseshoe to face the Buckeyes, where the Columbus native once served as a player (1993-96), assistant coach (1999; 2002-10; 2012-16) and interim head coach (2011).  OSU has played 41 games versus in-state schools; they have won each one, including all five against UC.
  • Miami (-4) at North Carolina — There’s a bit of a past between the two head coaches in this matchup as Miami’s Manny Diaz served as North Carolina’s Mack Brown‘s defensive coordinator at Texas before Brown fired him in September of 2013 after giving up 550 yards rushing in a Week 2 loss to BYU. More importantly, The U will be looking to avoid its first 0-2 start since 1978.

BEST/WORST WAGERS OF WEEK 2

  • BEST: Cal (+14) at Washington.  I’m taking Cal’s defense and running with the points as Washington’s offense is still a work in progress after losing the school’s all-time leading passer, rusher.
  • WORST: Nebraska (-3½) at Colorado.  Nebraska barely escaped against South Alabama in the opener, and actually opened as an eight-point favorite over Colorado before the (smart) money started flowing in on the home team.
  • COVER SPECIAL:  Nevada (+24) at Oregon.  The MWC school won’t beat Oregon outright, but the team that knocked off Purdue in Week 1 will cover.

HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH

  1. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 3) — Six touchdowns and 500-plus yards of offense in the opener earns you the top spot.
  2. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (No. 2) — The junior had almost as many touchdowns (four) as incompletions (five) vs. Duke.
  3. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (unranked) — Etienne had 205 yards and three touchdowns on just a dozen carries.
  4. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (No. 5) — After zero receiving touchdowns his first two seasons, Taylor had two in the opener (plus two on the ground).
  5. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (No. 4) — Five total touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) in first career start.
  6. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas (No. 6) — Four passing touchdowns, 169.4 pass efficiency rating.
  7. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (No. 1) — Lawrence had four interceptions as a true freshman; he had two in the opener.
  8. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (unranked) — Burrow’s five first-half touchdown tosses set the school’s single-game record.
  9. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (No. 8) — Performed reasonably well (242 yards,1 TD, 0 picks) against one of the best defenses he’ll face in 2019.
  10. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (unranked) — I’ve decided to put a non-QB/RB in the 10th spot moving forward, and the Tide junior (10-137-1) is a good start.

(DROPPED OUT: Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez (No. 7), Georgia QB Jake Fromm (No. 9), Ohio State RB JK Dobbins (No. 10))

WEEK 2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
BRYAN FISCHER (@BryanDFischer): Arkansas (+6½) upsets Ole Miss for their first SEC win in 679 days. The Razorbacks were uninspiring — to say the least — in their opener against Portland State, but they move to 2-0 with a last-minute win at the Rebels as Chad Morris breaks through and Matt Luke‘s hot seat turns to lava.
ZACH BARNETT (@zach_barnett): Tennessee drops to 0-2. The Vols didn’t lose to Georgia State because they were dehydrated, a la Florida State. They lost because Georgia State was a better football team. BYU is, too.
KEVIN MCGUIRE (@KevinOnCFB): There is a lot of speculation that Army and Cincinnati will give Michigan and Ohio State, respectively, some good battles. I don’t see it happening. After some slow starts in the first quarter, both the Buckeyes and Wolverines romp at home this week.
JOHN TAYLOR (@CFTalk)
: Joe Burrow set a school record with five touchdown passes in the season opener a week ago; that benchmark will last exactly seven days as Burrow will break his own record by tossing six in LSU’s win over Texas in what will be an unexpectedly high-scoring affair.

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH
Wide receiver vs. cornerback battles in games such as Texas-LSU, Stanford-USC, Nebraska-Colorado and Texas A&M-Clemson are the flavors of the week as our buddies over at Rotoworld place their weekly spotlight on next-level players.  For the entire extensively-detailed piece, click HERE.

Strained artery in neck will cost Arkansas’ Dorian Gerald rest of 2019

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Muscle strains, sure, but an arterial strain?  Yeah, this might be a first at CFT.

Describing it as a “very strange injury,” Chad Morris announced Monday that defensive lineman Dorian Gerald will miss the remainder of the 2019 season after straining an artery in his neck.  The senior suffered the injury during the first half of Saturday’s win over Portland State.

As of Monday night, Gerald remained hospitalized.

Morris said it’s unclear if the injury will threaten Gerald’s playing career. “I think it’s something we won’t know for quite some time,” the head coach stated.

On his personal Twitter account, though, Gerald indicated that his playing days aren’t over.

Gerald is in his second season with the Razorbacks after transferring in from the junior-college ranks last offseason.  The defensive end started the last two games of the 2018 campaign and this season’s opener as well.