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October 31, 2007

Arizona State: Thumb Problems

All eyes will be on Eugene, Oregon this weekend when Arizona State squares off against Oregon in one of the most meaningful BCS barometers to date. But in the meantime, all eyes are on Sun Devil quarterback Rudy Carpenter's right thumb, as the junior has been unable to throw so far this week because of swelling in his sprained thumb.

If you didn't see the play on which Carpenter was hurt during Saturday's win over Cal, it was a miscommunication that would have been funny if Carpenter had not been hurt. On a routine handoff, Carpenter zigged the same way tailback Keegan Herring zagged and the quarterback's thumb bent in a direction thumbs were not designed to bend. As a result, he's been diagnosed as day-to-day with a sprained right thumb that is limiting him to taking snaps and handoffs in practices.

It'll be a long night against the Ducks if Carpenter can't throw, but head coach Dennis Erickson is all but certain that Carpenter will play on Saturday. He practiced with tape on his wrist and thumb, wearing a brace at a Monday news conference, but Erickson was shocked when asked if there was a chance Carpenter would sit out Saturday's game against the Ducks.

"He'll play," Erickson said. "I would be shocked if he didn't come out throwing by Thursday, but I'm not a doctor."

If non-doctor Erickson is wrong, sophomore Danny Sullivan will get the start. He has some experience, having completed 11 of 14 pass attempts for 91 yards and a touchdown this season, but Carpenter is obviously the QB of choice for this winner-takes-all matchup.

Wisconsin: On Second Thought, Maybe Not

When Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill came out of last week's game in the first quarter with a bruised foot, head coach Bret Bielema said he should be fine to play this week when the Badgers take on No. 1 Ohio State. What he should have said was, 'I'm not a doctor.' At this point, Bielema may be eating his words, as Hill's injury looks more serious than the coach made it out to be, and the Badgers' biggest offensive threat is suddenly questionable for the team's biggest game of the season.

"A head coach should probably not talk after the game on Saturday," Bielema said on Monday, enjoying a hearty helping of his own words. After Saturday's 33-3 win, Bielema was candid about the fact that that Hill had suffered a bad bruise, but would be back for this week. Now, the waters look murkier.

Hill has a bruise on his leg, not his foot, in the spot directly above the metal plate inserted where he broke a bone his leg during his redshirt freshman year in 2005. X-rays and an MRI on his foot and leg were both negative and there was no structural damage, but the soreness was bad enough to keep Hill out of practice on Sunday and Bielema has not revealed when the tailback will be able to go this week.

If Hill can't play against the Buckeyes, which we won't know for sure until later in the week, the team will be a bit thin at running back as sophomore Lance Smith, Hill's most consistent backup, continues to serve out his road-game suspension as dictated by the Dean of Students. Bielema has tried to get the suspension reduced, but to no avail, so the Badgers may be down two backs on Saturday.

"I've been basically in discussions with different university personnel and have been told to remain quiet about the issue, so I'll remain quiet," Bielema said.

That leaves freshman Zach Brown to fill a large backfield void. Luckily, Brown played his best game of the season last week, carrying 14 times for 40 yards and scoring his first career touchdown.

Bielema would turn to his fullbacks for help with the run game, except that they are banged up as well. Chris Pressley and Bill Rentmeester both have unspecified injuries keeping them from running full out, but Bielema said they should be okay to play. Both practiced on Sunday.

The situation does not look good for the Badgers, whose only shot at making up big ground in the rankings lies on the field in Columbus, Ohio. Without Hill, the Badgers may be burying their Big Ten chances before they even get on the bus.

October 29, 2007

Florida: Defensive Pains

Florida's 2006 national championship team was known for its defense. The 2007 incarnation, not so much. Florida's defenders are young and inexperienced, and Saturday's loss to Georgia exposed them as such. The loss also banged them up even further, peppering the Gators with injuries and robbing them of at least two key contributors.

Starting defensive tackle Javier Estopinian is gone for the season after the junior suffered his third ACL injury in three years, this time tearing it. The 6-foot-1, 278-pound starter should return for his senior season (and a chance to make it a perfect four injuries in four years), but for now the Gators will have to find someone to replace his 19 tackles, including three for a loss, a sack, a broken up pass and a QB hurry.

Backup defensive tackle Terron Sanders will also miss at least a few games with a high ankle sprain. Florida coaches are saying that Georgia offensive lineman Trinton Sturdivant hit Sanders with a low block to cause the injury, but intentional or not, Sanders is hurt.

Those two losses will not help a defense that ranks 48th in the nation, allowing 359 yards per game, and just 87th against the pass. Florida is also 87th in the country in third down defense, allowing opponents to convert 42.6 percent of their third down opportunities. Plus, they're not the only defenders that are hurting.

Cornerback Markihe Anderson never fully recovered from a preseason knee sprain, safety Major Wright has a broken thumb that kept him out of all defensive plays against Georgia, defensive end Derrick Harvey is struggling with a hip pointer and tackle Clint McMillan hurt his shoulder against the Bulldogs.

The very depleted defensive line was already playing without Brandon Antwine, who spent 10 days in the hospital with a back injury, leaving the Gators with three defensive tackles: McMillan, freshman Lawrence Marsh and freshman Torrey Davis. Florida can either play a three-man line next weekend, or move Harvey, Duke Lemmons, Carlos Dunlap or Justin Trattou inside.

"The expectation level of playing defense at Florida, that bar is pretty high," head coach Urban Meyer said. "I don't want to pin it all on defense because it's certainly not that. But the plan to win, No. 1, is always to play great defense. Make a stop in any on of those three [losses] and there's a chance you win the game."

Nebraska: Apparently, It Gets Worse

Nebraska started the 2007 season touting its depth at quarterback, excited about the four-man race for the starting spot that had former Arizona State standout Sam Keller as a participant. A lot has changed since then, to say the least, and yet another nail was hammered into the coffin of this Huskers season when the team released on Monday that Keller will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.

The details on the injury were not specified, but at this point, they do not really matter. The news has to be frustrating for Keller, a senior who two years ago had what began as one of the best seasons in NCAA history (16 touchdowns in his first four games) cut short by injury at Arizona State, only to lose his job, transfer to Nebraska, spend a year on the scout team, fight for the starting spot in his senior season, and then lead the Huskers into the worst season Lincoln has seen in 40 years.

Not exactly what he was hoping for when he left Arizona State, which is now ranked No. 4 in the BCS.

Keller was picked as the preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, but will not get the chance to finish out his newcomer campaign, in which he completed 63 percent of his passes this season for 2,422 yards with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He sustained the season-ending injury with just over two minutes left to play in Saturday's loss to Texas, when he took a hit from Longhorn defensive end Eddie Jones.

With Keller sidelined, junior Joe Ganz will get the start under center when Nebraska takes on No. 8 Kansas on Saturday, where they are 17-point underdogs. Ganz has played in three games this season, most recently completing 2 of 3 passes against Texas, including a 4-yard touchdown strike to Maurice Purify. Ganz has some running ability that should help the Huskers' offense, but it's never good news when the guy you didn't want starting suddenly becomes the starter by default.

"We've given our backup quite a few [practice] reps during the season and he's well-prepared," head coach Bill Callahan said. "Our team and staff have the utmost confidence in him. We lose a good player, but we have a good player stepping in."

Callahan will decide on a backup later in the week, but the choice is between freshman Patrick Witt and junior Beau Davis.

As if that wasn't enough, linebacker Lance Brandenburgh also sustained a season-ending shoulder injury on Saturday. The senior ranks fourth on the team in tackles, with 51, and will certainly be missed from an uncharacteristically porous Blackshirt squad that needs every tackle it can get. He was also hurt in the fourth quarter while trying to make a tackle.

Clemson: Clemson In, Ford Out

After beating Maryland 30-17 on Saturday, Clemson finds itself back in the AP Poll, at No. 25, and in the BCS rankings, also eeking in at the No. 25 spot. The problem is, they paid a big price to get there, in the form of sophomore speedster Jacoby Ford. The receiver broke his left ankle in the fourth quarter of the game, ending his season and letting some air out of the Tigers' tires.

The young receiver helped Clemson to deliver on running back James Davis' guarantee that the Tigers would win the game, catching three passes for 37 yards , returning two punts for 12 yards and adding 8 yards rushing before his ankle got trapped under Maryland linebacker Adrian Moten halfway through the fourth quarter.

The team's third-leading rusher behind one-two punch Davis and C.J. Spiller, Ford has 14 carries for 172 yards on the season, including a long run of 53. He has started five of the team's eight games. The consensus fastest player on the team, Ford ranks fourth on the team in receiving, with 17 receptions for 310 yards and four TDs. He averages more than 18 yards per catch and is second on the team in all-purpose yardage, accumulating more than 100 yards per game.

Ford really shines most on special teams, where he is the ACC's second-leading kickoff returner with an average of 26.4 yards, but with only eight returns this season, he will not be included in the league rankings.

Ford is unquestionably one of Clemson's best skill players, so it goes without saying that without him on the field, the Tigers will have to change how they pick their primary play options.

"We've got people who can catch it," head coach Tommy Bowden said. "We've got returners. Whoever replaces him ain't as fast, we know that."

It seems as though Ford's injury came just as the Tigers were getting their offensive balance to work in their favor, and they will now have to find a way to do so without the ACC's 60-meter indoor track champion.

Without Ford, junior Rendrick Taylor will most likely be back on the field earlier than expected, as he has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury. Hamstring, schmamstring - it's time to get this kid back on the field. As for special teams, freshman cornerback Marcus Gilchrist may see some time in Ford's absence.

Clemson is going to have to find some more ammunition on offense if they want to stay in the BCS rankings, especially with dates with Wake Forest and Boston College still looming large on their conference slate.

Two other starters were hurt against Maryland and are now questionable for Saturday. Defensive tackle Rashaad Jackson has a sprained knee and left guard Chris McDuffie has a sprained ankle.

Hawai'i: Up In The BCS Without A Safety

Still riding an undefeated season, Hawai'i has moved as high as No. 12 in the AP Poll and No. 14 in the BCS rankings, but with the meat of their schedule still ahead of them and some bad injury news suddenly upon them, the Warriors are not celebrating just yet. Starting safety Keao Monteilh injured his left shoulder in the third quarter of Saturday's win over New Mexico State, and will be out for an extended period of time. Defense is not exactly Hawai'i's strongsuit, so losing anyone from that unit, especially a starter, is not good news.

Monteilh has started all eight games this season, recording 19 tackles, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and two interceptions. He has also been used as a nickelback. After initial X-rays showed that the injury was severe, Monteilh was scheduled to undergo mroe testing on Monday to determine just how long the Warriors will be missing the redshirt junior.

"It took the luster off the win for me," defensive coordinator Greg McMackin said. "He's done such a great job, and he's such a great kid. I feel really bad for him and us."

Luckily, Hawai'i is off this weekend before hitting the final four games of their season, so Monteilh will have some extra time to recover. Still, if the injury is a fracture, as is feared, Monteilh will miss the rest of the year, since the recovery period for that injury is at least six to eight weeks.

"He's sort of the quarterback of our secondary," McMackin said. "He gets everybody organized. He's real valuable."

It looks like the Warriors are going to have to find value elsewhere, but there is some good news in terms of timing. Monteilh had been filling in at the nickelback slot for the past two games, since Ryan Mouton was out with a knee injury. Mouton was healthy enough to play in last week's game, stepping in once Monteilh went down, so the Warriors should not miss a beat on their nickel guy.

As for the starting safety spot, Desmond Thomas will most likely get the start. He was in the hunt with Monteilh for the starting job through training camp, and should be a capable backup.

October 28, 2007

Wisconsin: Hill Will Be Back

Week 9 in the Big Ten turned out the be the stars' week off. Michigan's Chad Henne and Mike Hart both sat out nurshing injuries and Wisconsin's star running back, P.J. Hill, played only one quarter before a bruised left foot kicked him off the field, as well. Head coach Bret Bielema said Hill has a bruise on the top of his foot, and although the halftime X-rays were negative, Bielema thought sitting Hill for the second half would be more prudent than putting him in, considering the Badgers' next opponent - Ohio State.

The nation's ninth-leading rusher, averaging 126.1 yards per game, Hill rushed for 57 yards on 12 carries with a TD in Wisconsin's first two possessions before leaving the game in the first quarter with what was then described as a "lower-leg injury." Hill appeared to sustain the injury when a defender landed on his foot in the end zone after he scored his one-yard touchdown.

Luckily for the Badgers, Sunday morning brought good news to Madison, as Bielema said the sophomore should be ready to play against No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday.

"Every indication we have right now looks like he'll be back this week," Bielema said. "He basically god a bad bruise."

Backups Lance Smith and Zach Brown stepped in to fill Hill's large shoes, and did so quite nicely, combining for 119 yards on 29 carries with three touchdowns. That news would be very promising for Wisconsin's run game, except that Smith will miss this week's game while he serves a five-road game university suspension. He scored two TDs and averaged 5.3 yards per carry against Indiana.

Still, knowing that Hill is back, along with his 1,066 yards and 14 touchdowns, the Badgers will have their best weapon available to take on the nation's (almost) undisputed No. 1.

October 27, 2007

Auburn: Cox Pulls A Tebow

Well, sort of. Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox won his game, leading the Tigers to a 17-3 win over Ole Miss while Tebow's Gators went down to Gerogia, but Cox will follow Tebow's lead later this week when he sits out of prctices with a bruised non-throwing shoulder.

Cox was 16 for 26 passing for 189 yards and a touchdown against Ole Miss, the most important of which came in the waning minutes of the game, when Cox hit Rodgeriqus Smith with a 34-yard reception to seal the win.

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville did not reveal the injury until after the game, and downplayed it.

"Brandon bruised his non-throwing shoulder and he will probably be out a couple of days," Tuberbille said. "He will be real sore."

Sounds like another SEC quarterback we know. Luckily, Auburn has a non-conference game next week for Cox to test his shoulder against, not another formidable SEC foe like Georgia, which was able to hit Tebow where it hurt on Saturday. Georgia will have its chance against Auburn to end the season, but in the meantime, Cox should have plenty of time to rest and recover.

Missouri: Brown Down

The lift No. 13 Missouri got from its 42-28 win over Iowa State on Saturday cannot compare with the loss that hit the team during the game. Safety Cornelius "Pig" Brown ruptured his right Achilles' tendon in the fourth quarter of the win, dealing a huge blow to a defense that was steadily improving for the 7-1 Tigers.

The senior was carted off of the field in the fourth quarter, much to the horror of the Missouri team. He compiled 10 tackles, one for a five-yard loss, in the game before leaving with the injury, only adding to his team-leading statistics for the year. On the season, he is tied for the team lead in interceptions, with three; leads the team in fumble returns with two, including one he returned 100 yards for a score; and is second on the team in tackles, with 70, including eight for a loss.

"It's going to hurt," quarterback Chase Daniel said of losing Brown. "He's a captain, he's a leader and he's been playing unbelievably well these last three or four weeks. To lose him would be a big blow."

Brown was coming off of one of his two Big 12 Player of the Week performances last week. In a 41-10 victory over Texas Tech, he compiled 14 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss, picked off a pass and broke up two more. He is in just his second year at Missouri after spending time at junior college.

Sophomore Del Howard, who moved from safety to cornerback this season, is Brown's most likely replacement, but losing such a defensive leader is a huge blow to Missouri, especially since the defense was certainly not the team's strongest suit, even with Brown in the lineup.

October 26, 2007

Georgia Tech: Next RB Victim

Georgia Tech began this season feeling pretty good about itself. Almost from the get-go, the Yellow Jackets had a top 25 ranking, the ACC's rushing leader was performing up to his potential and smooth sailing lay just ahead. Fast forward six weeks, and the Yellow Jackets are suddenly in the midst of a tempest. With that star rusher Tashard Choice already out for another couple of weeks, Georgia Tech did not have much lower to hang its collective head when the latest batch of injury horror hit - backup Rashaun Grant may be out for the rest of the year.

Grant stepped in for Choice last week, racking up 119 yards on the ground, including a 24-yard thouchdown run in the third quarter. Grant took a hit above his right ankle during the fourth quarter of that win over Army, but hopes were high for his recovery, until tests on Friday revealed that the senior's injury was much more serious than originally anticipated.

With Grant suddenly unavailable, Tech will turn to freshman Jonathan Dwyer and sophomore Jamaal Evans to take the rushing snaps in next week's game against Virginia Tech. Here's hoping nothing happens to those two, or the Yellow Jackets may have to start converting players into tailbacks, and quickly, just to finish out the season.

Florida vs. Georgia: Who Knows?

While the uncertainty Florida is feeling around the shoulder health of its star quarterback is mostly over-cautious, Georgia has some legitimate uncertainty to handle before the Bulldogs take the field against the Gators on Saturday. Head coach Mark Richt may have to start freshman tailback Caleb King, stripping him of his redshirt, to compensate for the loss of senior tailback Thomas Brown. Except that Richt is not yet sure of Brown's status, and would rather keep King redshirted than play him now. Brown injured his collarbone three weeks ago against Ole Miss and may be out until the Nov. 10 matchup with Auburn, if not longer.

Having Thomas's status up in the air is making Richt's decision on the freshman far more difficult.

"If you knew for sure what Thomas was going to do, it would be a lot easier decision," Richt said.

Regardless of the backup tailback, Knowshon Moreno will remain the starter in the backfield. Senior Jason Johnson and freshman Shaun Chapas are also available to fill backup tailback roles.

Over on the Florida end of this SEC matchup, Gator Nation is antsy. Quarterback Tim Tebow's non-throwing shoulder is still a bit sore after the beating he took last week against Kentucky, but the sophomore continues to tell anyone who will listen that they are more worried about the shoulder than he is, and unnecessarily so. He even half-challenged the Bulldogs to take a shot at him:

"If [Georgia] comes after my shoulder, then I guess they won't be hitting me straight up and I'll have a very good chance of greaking that tackle," Tebow said. "I'm not too worried about it."

Someone the Gator fans should be worried about is sophomore defensive lineman Brandon Antwine, who will miss the Georgia game after he was hospitalized earlier this week with a muscle injury in his lower back. Head coach Urban Meyer characterized the injury as "serious."

Antwine missed last week's game against Kentucky on account of the injury, and was hospitalized after it recently got worse. He previously missed two other games (Tennessee and Mississippi) with a hyper-extended elbow. Through four games this season, Antwine has seven tackles, including 0.5 for loss. No timetable has been set on his return.

Also on the might-sit-out list for the Georgia game are sophomore receiver Riley Cooper and freshman safety Major Wright, both of whom have broken fingers (Wright's is a thumb, actually). Both had successful surgeries on Monday to fix the injury, but both also missed practice time this week.

Fifth-year senior receiver Andre Caldwell missed most of early-week practices with a sore back, and his knee remains less than 100 percent, but the 6-foot, 200-pound wide receiver should get into the game come Saturday.

Auburn: Teamsick

Quarterback Brandon Cox was one of several Auburn players to miss practice time this week with an illness. Head coach Tommy Tuberville described Cox's ailment as "a stomach virus," but said that a 24-hour flu has been circulating its way around the team, affecting various players. Cox said he will be fine to play on Saturday, but the day flu was not the only ailment plaguing the Tigers.

The Auburn offensive line has seen some shuffling recently, and it will continue to shuffle on Saturday. Freshman offensive lineman Ryan Pugh will not get the start on Saturday, but Tuberville said that he will play at the tackle spot. He may also be called upon to replace center Jason Bosley, who is still in the process of recovering from a knee injury. Senior King Dunlap will also rotate in to pick up the slack for Bosley.

October 25, 2007

Kentucky: Stalled Offense

Without a doubt, Kentucky has a few offensive superstars that combine to give the Wildcats the nation's eighth-ranked scoring offense, responsible for scoring an average of 42 points and racking up 467 yards per game. What is doubtful, going into Saturday's game against Mississippi State, is how many of those superstars will play. The Wildcats have had several playmakers limited in practice this week due to various ailments, and that could spell trouble for two-loss Kentucky.

Head coach Rich Brooks said on Wednesday that running back Tony Dixon, wide receiver Keenan Burton and tailback Rafael Little, the team's leading rusher, have all been limited in practices this week, making them questionable for Saturday.

"I'm not sure about their availability," Brooks said. "That'll be a day-to-day situation as we move forward."

Against MIssissippi State's 64th-ranked rush defense, the Wildcats could certainly rack up some points running the football, if only their top tailbacks could play. Little and Dixon are Kentucky's most productive backs, averaging 6.4 and 5.9 yards per carry, respectively. Both have three touchdowns to their name, and both will be missed, if they are unable to suit up come Saturday.

Luckily, the Wildcats have a third tailback also hovering around the 6-yards-per-carry mark. Freshman Derrick Locke is averaging 5.8 yards per carry with 351 yards and three touchdowns on the season. He is Kentucky's healthiest option at tailback going into this weekend, and will most likely see an increased load, especially if the other top rushers are out of commission.

Burton, a senior, is no slouch either - the team's leading receiver, Burton has caught 44 passes for 544 yards and six touchdowns. Quarterback Andre' Woodson will certainly miss his on-field presence, should Burton be unavailable on Saturday.

No SEC team can ever afford to take a conference game lightly, and Kentucky cetainly won't make that mistake against Mississippi State - this is the team responsible for knocking off Auburn in Week 3, the same Auburn team that went on to hand Florida its first loss two weeks later. If the Wildcats' playmakers are unable to play, Kentucky will need to come up with a new game plan, and fast, to avoid dropping its second SEC contest in as many weeks.

USC: 'Real Close,' But No Start

USC quarterback John David Booty has thrown problem-free in the last two days of practice, but "real close" is not close enough for the senior QB. Unless something miraculous happens in the next 48 hours, Booty will most likely miss his third consecutive game on Saturday, as the swelling in his broken middle finger is still hampering his play. All signs point to Mark Sanchez taking over the Trojans for this weekend's key Pac-10 matchup with Oregon, and maybe for the rest of the season, as well.

On Wednesday, Booty participated in his longest practice since breaking his finger and head coach Pete Carroll was surprised by how well Booty's finger was responding. Still, the senior does not yet have full control of his throwing motion, and Wednesday showed no improvement on Tuesday.

"He doesn't have a feel on the football right now," Carroll said. "The ball might fly on him. If we were to play today, Mark would have started."

Even Booty has recognized that he's not all there.

"I'm getting some velocity back," the senior said. "I really feel good. I'm getting feeling back in it. There's been so much improvement, it's like night and day."

Apparently, even that much improvement is not enough for the Trojans, who are in a must-win situation against the fifth-ranked BCS team, Oregon. The Trojans are currently ranked 12th in the BCS standings, and simply cannot afford another conference loss. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian spoke about looking at the long-term, saying that he would rather rest Booty this week than risk further injury, but Sanchez may have the chance to solidify his starting role this weekend. If the sophomore can put together a convincing performance against the Ducks, he may stay where he is for the forseeable future.

Carroll has yet to pick a starter for Saturday, and Sarkisian will continue to monitor Booty in the waning hours before game time, but the forecast does not look good for the senior.

"I think he's learning to deal with the pain of it," Sarkisian said. "It's good to have two good quarterbacks."

Not if you're John David Booty, it's not.

Trojans Returning To Battle
While Booty may be riding the bench for the rest of the year, several other Trojans should be back in action as early as Saturday. Two key offensive linemen, left tackle Sam Baker and right guard Chilo Rachal, should be ready to go Saturday, as should offensive guard Jeff Byers, who has been bothered by a neck stinger, but practiced the past few days. Offensive tackle Drew Radovich took Wednesday off to rest his sore back, and his status for Saturday is unclear.

Tailback Joe McKnight has had a string of bad luck, culminating in Wednesday's practice, when he got hit in his lower hip in the same spot where he bruised it against Notre Dame. The freshman will have to don some extra pads, but should be fine to play. Fellow tailback Stafon Johnson should also play against Oregon, even though his sprained foot is keeping him at around 80-85 percent.

October 24, 2007

Virginia Tech: Taylor Still On The Table

Virginia Tech starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor is still nursing a right ankle sprain, making him questionable for Thursday night's show-me-what-you-got ACC matchup with No. 2 Boston College. The Eagles are therefore preparing for both Taylor, a freshman, and former starter Sean Glennon, who will retake the reins if Taylor is not okay to play on Thursday. The problem is that these two QBs could not be more different in playing style, which effects offensive play calling and defensive prevention schemes. That's why Glennon got yanked in the first place.

Since the Hokies' 48-7 loss at LSU on Sept. 8, Taylor has started all five games for Virginia Tech, leading his team to five consecutive victories and a No. 8 ranking. Glennon was pulled from his starting role because he was not as mobile as Taylor, and with an inexperienced offensive line, Glennon was not able to sit back in the pocket and pick a play before the defense was on top of him. Taylor could run and think at the same time, which helped offset some offensive line issues.

In the second quarter of the Hokies' last game, a 43-14 win over Duke on Oct. 13, Taylor went down with an ankle injury, so Glennon stepped back under center and decisively led the team to victory. Glennon orchestrated three straight touchdown drives, finished 16-for-21 for 258 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. Those numbers are Tom Brady-esque, and made coach Frank Beamer look twice at this backup quarterback. Granted, those numbers did come against Duke, which is no LSU, but the statistics speak for themselves.

Beamer said on Tuesday that Taylor will most likely not play if he is not 100 percent recovered, or very close to it. The Hokies have quite a bit riding on this game - in addition to a possible top-5 spot if they can knock off the nation's No. 2 team, there are only two other unbeaten teams in the ACC, and BC is one of them.

"I don't think you put Tyrod out there gimpy," beamer said. "I think this is going to be a violent game. I think it's going to be one of those tough, tough, tough football games, and I don't think you want a guy that's not 100 percent out there."

The offensive line has improved considerably from Week 1, so Glennon should have more time in the pocket, should he get the start. Still, Tech has the 90th-ranked rushing offense in the country, averaging 119.4 yards per game on the ground, and they're going up against the nation's top rushing defense, as the Eagles allow only 46.6 yards per game. The Hokies will therefore most likely stick to the pass game, except that BC also leads the nation with 18 interceptions.

Virginia Tech's receivers aren't particularly worried about who will get the start at QB, but the play-calling will change dramatically once they pick a starter. In the meantime, BC is left preparing for both a scrambler and a pocket-passer, but they might be excited should Glennon get the start. Last year, BC beat the Hokies in Chestnut Hill, 23-3, intercepting Glennon twice in the process.

October 23, 2007

Rutgers: Teel Takes A Vow

For newly-minted No. 25 Rutgers, Saturday's game against No. 6 West Virginia is the biggest since, well, last Thursday. But just because it's "just another big game" does not mean Mike Teel is willing to sit this one out, bruised hand or no. Teel was limited in practice on Monday with a bruised right hand, his throwing hand, but definitively dismissed any question as to whether or not he would play against the Mountaineers, making a vow to take the field. But given the way his hand bothered him last week, that might not be such a good idea.

"That's not happening," Teel said, responding to a question as to whether there was a chance of him missing Saturday's game. "I will be there."

Teel hurt his right thumb against Cincinnati on Oct. 6 and aggravated the injury during last week's win over USF. By the fourth quarter of Thursday night's game, Teel was having trouble gripping and throwing the ball, which would explain some of his who-were-those-to pass attempts that came out of his grip extremely off-target.

Teel went through practice on Monday with his hand wrapped in gauze and adhesive tape and although head coach Greg Schiano said the redshirt junior is sore and "he couldn't do a ton, he did enough."

Teel has thrown for 1,996 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions in his second year as a starter, but like any quarterback, Teel needs to practice to play, and no one feels that more than Schiano.

"He needs to keep his timing with the receivers and run some of the new things we have in for this game plan," Schiano said. "It's delivering the football, timing with the receivers and putting the ball where it needs to be."

After completing just 11 of 29 passes against the Bulls, Teel needs plenty of work on his timing and ball placement, and missing practice time is certainly not a good way to work on that. Still, Schiano is confident that if Teel cannot play on Saturday, he'll tell the coach before the coach has to tell him.

"I trust Mike," Schiano said. "Mike will tell me the truth. All our kids will, but Mike won't go over to try to be a hero. Winning is the most important thing to him and he would let me know."

Should Teel be unable to play, Jabu Lovelance will most likely step in, once again. He has played second fiddle to Teel for the past few seasons, coming in during rushing situations for the past few games. He rushed once for a loss of six yards in last week's game, which doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Florida: Hurting In The Clutch

The Gators are flying high after last week's win over Kentucky, but with SEC showdowns on the horizon against Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina, they cannot afford a moment's lapse. Or, as the case may be, a moment's pain. Quarterback Tim Tebow is dealing with a shoulder contusion, free safety Major Wright has a broken finger that may sit him for a few games, wide receiver Riley Cooper also has a broken finger, offensive lineman Carlton Medder has a heel injury, and cornerback Markihe Anderson and wide receiver Bubba Caldwell are still not 100 percent. If last week was Bubba at 90, the Gators have plenty to look forward to, but the other host of injuries is cause for some concern.

Tebow will be limited in practice this week as he nurses the contusion in his non-throwing shoulder. Head coach Urban Meyer announced on Monday that Tebow was sore after Saturday's game but should be good to go this week, so Heisman voters everywhere can get their pens and keyboards ready. And Florida fans can relax a bit, since 73 percent of their team's offense will be on the field. Whether or not the Gators should make some attempt to adjust that number in the near future is another issue entirely.

Wright is currently "very questionable" due to his broken thumb. The freshman was scheduled to undergo surgery on Monday for the thumb, and after the procedure there appears to be a chance he'll be ready to go as early as this week, but more likely he will sit until he can grasp well enough to make the plays he has now become known for in the Florida secondary. If he is not ready by Saturday, senior Kyle Jackson or sophomore Dorian Munroe will step in for him.

Cooper's broken finger is not of the same severity as Wright's, as he does not need surgery, just two screws. Meyer said on Monday that "this is a very small break," and that Cooper should be available to play on Saturday with the finger taped.

Offensive tackle Carlton Medder is currently questionable for Saturday with a heel injury, although Meyer is not ruling out the possibility that the fifth-year senior will be ready to go.

Defensive tackle Brandon Antwine will continue to miss time until his lower back gets healthier, and the status check on cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis' and defensive tackle Clint McMillan's shoulders still reads inconclusive.

As for the guys who are still playing at less than full strength, there's plenty of good news there. Meyer reported that wide receiver Bubba Caldwell was "still not 100 percent" on Saturday, and that the team expects a little more out of him. A little more than six catches for 73 yards and a TD to go with his two rushes for 19 yards is great news for Gator fans, and bad news for the remaining SEC defenses.

Meyer also expects more out of Markihe Anderson, who has played in 46 plays over three games but has only recorded two total tackles and an interception on the year. Meyer said he is "still not that aggressive guy."

October 21, 2007

Florida: Intermission At The Tebow Show

Saturday night's spectacular win over Kentucky lifted Florida in the rankings, but may have come at an immeasurable cost. Florida's Superman quarterback Tim Tebow bruised his right shoulder in the second half of that 45-37 win over Kentucky. Although he was able to play through the pain in his non-throwing arm, just because head coach Urban Meyer says that he is going to limit the number of times Tebow carries the ball does not mean that he actually wants to. Or has a game plan that will allow him to.

In the fourth quarter of Saturday's game, Tebow hit Percy Harvin on a beautifully-executed 40-yard pass that set up his own game-sealing two-yard touchdown run, which would seem to suggest that the injury is not hampering his play at all. But all that wear and tear on his shoulder has got to take a toll at some point. Tebow accounted for more than 70 percent of the Gators' total offense in the game (and 73 percent of the team's offense this season) and given Meyer's plan to keep the QB out of all contact drills in practices this week, it might do the Florida staff good to come up with some alternative offensive schemes. Namely, ones that do not begin and end with Tim Tebow.

But that's hard to do when Tebow can do things like take four Kentucky defenders and carry them on his shoulder pads for an extra two yards. Tebow is used to taking big hits and running whenever he can, but there were several times on Saturday when he was not his usual elastic-snap-back self when getting up off the turf. And some of those came on plays when receivers were open, but Tebow instead chose to run.

"We have to be careful," Meyer said after the game. "We've got to continue to coach him up to manage the game. He's had so much success [running]. He's the kind of persona that takes it. That's a concern."

The sophomore finished with 78 yards rushing on 20 carries against Kentucky, many of which were not called run plays. Still, Meyer is very clear on what Tebow means to this offense:

"The thing we all have to understand is we can't get him hurt."

Now if only Tebow would understand that. The sophomore told reporters on Sunday that his shoulder is "fine." We'll see just how "fine" it is as the Gators continue preparations for No. 20 Georgia.

Major Issues
Tebow may be fine, but safety Major Wright and offensive tackle Carlton Medder are not. Wright, a key contributor to the Gators' secondary, broke his thumb and may require surgery on it. Even if it goes into a cast, he will not be able to grip his hand into a fist or grasp onto an opponent or a potential interception, which is a big problem. A decision on Wright will be made later this week. Medder was banged up with a heel injury, but it's unclear at this point just how serious that one is.

October 20, 2007

LSU: Dorsey On His Way Out?

LSU is in an early 7-0 hole against conference foe Auburn, and the Tigers are suddenly scrambling on defense, as star defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey has left the field with a hamstring injury. He was grabbing at his left thigh through the first series of the game, during which Auburn methodically marched downfield to score a quick first touchdown, and hobbled to the sideline where trainers attempted to stretch him out. After putting in a few minutes on the exercise bike, Dorsey was sent to the locker room to have the injury taken care of, which is hopefully more of a cramp than a pull.

That injury appeared to be short-lived, however, as Dorsey returned to the field for the next series in time to deliver a bruising sack to Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox. That high-step on the celebration afterwards didn't seem to hurt too much, either, but everyone's eyes will be on No. 72 for the rest of this one.

Late in the fourth quarter, Dorsey was diagnosed as having a sprained left knee. More updates will be posted as they become available.

Kentucky: Dixon Done

Head coach Rich Brooks just announced that junior tailback Tony Dixon is done for the day in Lexington, where Kentucky is trailing Florida in the third quarter. Dixon has an ankle injury but we do not know how severe it is - only that the X-ray was negative and that Dixon will sit out the rest of the game. With fellow tailback Rafael Little already out of this one with a deep thigh bruise, this does not bode well for Kentucky, given the way Florida's offense has regained its well-oiled-machine momentum.

Georgia Tech: Tough Choice

ACC rushing leader Tashard Choice left Saturday's game against Army with a knee injury after a 7-yard run in the first quarter, and he may not be coming back for quite some time. The senior was helped off the field and went to the locker room on a stretcher, where he remained for the rest of the Yellow Jackets' 34-10 win, leaving his future rather cloudy.

Coach Chan Gailey said the medical staff reported that there is hope for Choice to be available on Nov. 1 when Georgia Tech faces off against Virginia Tech, but the team will not know for sure until more tests are taken and the results are revealed early next week.

Covering his bases, Gailey said that the injury is "not severe but it's not minor. It's somewhere between the two."

Choice entered the game averaging 120 yards on the ground per game, leading the ACC and good enough for 12th in the nation. A week ago, he set career highs after rushing for 204 yards on 37 carries against Miami, but left Saturday's game after carrying just nine times for 24 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run.

Senior Rashaun Grant stepped in to fill Choice's shoes on Saturday, rushing for 119 yards after Choice's departure, including a 24-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Freshman Jonathan Dwyer chipped in a 4-yard TD run of his own to help pick up the slack, and backup quarterback Josh Nesbitt did his part, rushing for 78 yards in the game.

October 19, 2007

USF: Walker Not Walking

No. 2 USF lost more than its pride and No. 2 ranking in Thursday night's loss to Rutgers - the Bulls also lost starting right tackle Walter Walker. The 6-foot-5, 333-pound senior went down midway through the third quarter and did not return, but more frighteningly, he was seen using a cane to scale the steep steps from the field level to the locker room following the game.

The redshirt senior has had a starting role for three years as a Bull, and although at this point USF's worries extend far beyond the less-than-stellar play of the offensive line, having one of their most experienced linemen out of the huddle for those final offensive plays certainly did not help Matt Grothe's protection. Walker is one of those unsung heroes whom the Bulls would like back on his feet ASAP, sans cane.

USC: The O-Line Carousel Goes Round And Round...

The Trojan army has come under heavy injury fire all season, but no single position has been hit harder than the offensive line. In seven games this season, USC has been through five different starting offensive line combinations, and with another new face on the line in Sean Milota, the Trojans have really hit rock bottom - before this week, Milota had not stepped to the line since his high school days, three years ago. But at this rate, his services may be needed in Pac-10 play.

Milota still has not been added to USC's official roster, but he did practice with the team Tuesday and Thursday. In high school, he played defensive lineman, but at 6-foot-8, 265 pounds, the Trojans are willing to take all the help they can get, regardless of specialty.

"I heard they were dropping like flies," Milota said, giving an accurate assessment of the state of USC's O-linemen. "I just wanted to help out and I heard they were looking for big guys. I though, 'Well, I'm here and I'm big so I might as well give it a shot.'"

Here's the latest rundown on the Trojan line: tackle Sam Baker suffered a hamstring strain last week and sat out of this week's practices; guard Chilo Rachal is still recovering from a knee injury and is unlikely to play on Saturday; guard Zach Heberer bruised his shoulder last week and his status is questionable; center Kris O'Dowd is still missing time with a knee injury; and tackle Chris Brown is out with an ankle injury. And that's the short list.

The injury-created domino effect has been particularly hard on this group, but head coach Pete Carroll said that it is somewhat understandable.

"When position groups start to go and guys get banged up or they start having to pull up, it takes the wear and tear on the other guys," Carroll said. "You try to stop it from happening, but they get vulnerable."

If the team ever gets healthy, they will have an unbelievably deep group to choose from at any and all of the offensive line positions, but in the meantime, the all-points bulletin is out all over campus for big guys to come and play. Milota answered the call and although he will not travel to South Bend, there's no telling how far he could go, especially if the horrendous game of dominoes continues for this team.

October 18, 2007

Ohio State: Russell To Return

Ohio State safety Anderson Russell was carried off the field a week ago, spent the day on crutches days ago, and practiced close to full health 24 hours ago. The 6-foot, 205-pound sophomore sprained his right ankle during last week's game against Kent State, leaving the field on crutches. But the Buckeyes are certainly not counting him out of this Saturday's game against Michigan State.

Russell is the third-leading tackler on the team, with 32 and three sacks through seven games. He has also broken up four passes and forced a fumble so far this year, making him a key part of the Buckeye defensive game plan. He plays the nickel back in Ohio State's five-defensive back sets, since he is both a talented cover man and a solid run stopper.

The corner suffered the injury on a second-quarter run play last Saturday, after which he was helped off the field and carted to the locker room, where he stayed until emerging on crutches after the game. This injury follows a similar ankle flare-up Anderson suffered two weeks ago against Minnesota, after which the sophomore was limited in practices leading up to the Purdue game, but played the entire game. After practicing on Wednesday, Russell appears in good shape to take the field on Saturday.

Head coach Jim Tressel said he does not expect Russell to "miss a beat" on Saturday, which sounds very promising for the sophomore's return.

Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis may also return on Saturday, as he practiced this week after sitting out the second half of last week's game with a hip pointer. Defensive tackle Todd Denlinger should also get back into the rotation after missing the last two weeks with a deep thigh bruise.

Florida: Anderson Ready, At Last

Cornerback Markihe Anderson has gone from regular contributor to sideline supporter this season, as groin and knee problems have kept him off the field for two months and out of all but two games for the Gators. But the sophomore's role on the team should be changing again on Saturday, as it looks like Anderson will be ready to step onto the field against Kentucky.

Anderson, the Gators' top returning corner, sprained his MCL a week prior to the season opener and was not healthy enough to see time again until Florida took on Tennessee on Sept. 15. He played a solid first half in that contest, grabbing an interception, before reaggravating the injury and putting himself back on the bench until this week.

Anderson practiced all of last week and thought he would see time against LSU, but coaches kept him out of the game as he was still "a little limp," according to head coach Urban Meyer. With two losses to their name, urgency has arrived in Gainesville, and Anderson is a key contributor to a defense that needs all its pieces working together to stop a red-hot Kentucky offense.

"I'm going to play," Anderson said this week. "I'm out there flying around in practice and getting back to my top speed."

Anderson has been wearing a brace on his right knee for the past few weeks and may don it even on the field on Saturday, provided he convinces the coaches that he truly is ready to play.

Freshman Joe Haden and sophomore Wondy Pierre-Louis have been starting in Anderson's place, and both have played well, although Anderson's place is waiting for him once he is ready to get back in the game.

October 17, 2007

Auburn Vs. LSU: The Maligned and The Mystery

A pair of big cats have a lot riding on Saturday's coveted SEC matchup between the Tigers of LSU and the Tigers of Auburn, but while Auburn is pleased to report that its previously maligned players are back and contributing in practices this week, LSU is keeping mum on the status of wide receiver Early Doucet, who rose from the injured for one play last week, only to return to obscurity this week.

For the Auburn Tigers, the defense should be rejuvenated when the team takes the field on Saturday. Linebacker Merrill Johnson, defensive end Quentin Groves and defensive back Aairon Savage all practiced this week and are likely to return to the defensive rotation on Saturday, which spells brilliance for a defense already ranked No. 9 in the nation.

Groves' dislocated toes have kept him off the field for two games, and he is certainly an on-field presence Auburn would like to have back against the likes of LSU. Through five games, Groves was responsible for 22 tackles, two sacks, 18 quarterback hurries and a forced fumble, but head coach Tommy Tuberville said he is in no rush to push the senior back onto the field, given the production the Tigers have gotten out of his replacements, Antonio Coleman (18 tackles, 4 sacks, 13 QB hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery) and Antoine Carter (10 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 10 QB hurries).

Johnson's shoulder injury had kept him out of four games this season. He got one play in last week but should see more time on Saturday, granted his progress continues. Savage is out with a twisted knee, and is also close to returning this week.

Offensive lineman Ryan Pugh missed practice on Tuesday with a sore ankle he suffered against Arkansas, but was scheduled to practice later in the week.

Deep In Mystery
For the LSU Tigers, the injury prognosis is a lot hazier. Wide receiver Early Doucet injured his groin muscle in a non-contact moment in practice earlier this season, and very little information was dispensed regarding his status, until he took the field for a single play last Saturday. Doucet lined up on a third-and-four play in the third overtime of last week's loss to Kentucky, running a pass route on a Jacob Hester run play. Then he faded back into obscurity.

We know that Doucet practiced on Tuesday during a closed workout session and was kept out of interview sessions. Head coach Les Miles said that Doucet is "getting healthier," but revealed no details about the senior's status, and certainly would not let the senior reveal anything himself.

Having Doucet on the field this week just may give the Tigers the boost they need to outplay the Tigers of Auburn. Described by teammates as "a stud" and the team's "go-to-guy," Doucet caught 59 passes last year for 772 yards and eight TDs. In two games this season, he caught 15 passes for 153 yards and two scores. LSU could sure use some of that production on Saturday, especially since no other receiver this season has matched Doucet's two-game total of 15 catches, and the Tigers had more than their fair share of drops last week.

Quarterback Matt Flynn agreed: "Obviously when we don't have him out there we're not at our full potential."

This week is an excellent time for the Tigers' full potential to manifest itself, since simply put, LSU cannot afford to lose another game. Especially not this one.

Whether or not Doucet gets into Saturday's game will likely not be answered until Saturday, when he either trots onto the field or remains on the sideline. And for LSU's sake, the offense is praying that there is plenty of trotting in Doucet's immediate future.

USC: On The Road To Recovery

USC has definitely been hit with an injury storm so far this season, but Tuesday finally brought some good news to the taped up Trojans. Quarterback John David Booty threw for the first time in five days during Tuesday's practice and felt better than he thought he would with that fractured middle finger, linebacker Brian Cushing was able to get in a whole practice and for the first time in many, many weeks, the list of healing players may be longer than the list of hurt guys.

Booty is throwing with a receivers glove on his right hand to protect the fractured middle finger, and the glove certainly takes some getting used to. The senior quarterback said that the ball was sticking to his fingers longer than it does in his normal throwing motion, but he is working on that, along with keeping the swelling down in his finger. If the pain says manageable, however "manageable" is defined in this situation, he could be ready in time to start at Notre Dame on Saturday.

Head coach Pete Carroll said he will not rush to make a decision as to who will get the start in South Bend. The coach was certainly surprised by how well Booty was able to perform in Tuesday's practice, but will wait to see how the finger heals throughout the week before naming his man under center.

Linebacker Brian Cushing worked through all of Tuesday's practice and felt good afterwards, which is excellent news for the Trojan linebacking corps. Cushing has missed considerable time this season with a sprained and re-sprained ankle. Cornerback Shareece Wright also looked good in practice after missing the last two weeks with a pulled hamstring.

Right guard Chilo Rachal should also be back this week after missing two games with a sprained knee, breathing a sigh of relief into a heavily depleted offensive line group.

On the darker side of things, defensive end Kyle Moore has a sore knee that has kept him out of practice and was scheduled to have an MRI Tuesday night. Linebacker Rey Maluaga's MRI showed a deep hip bruise, and the accompanying inflammation has kept him from running at full speed, but his range of motion is promising. Offensive tackle Sam Baker is still out, leaving room for Butch Lewis to make his first start in the left tackle spot against the Irish.

Virginia Tech: Oh Mono

Virginia Tech does not play another game until Oct. 25, but that does not mean that the team is taking any time off. That Oct. 25th game, after all, is against none other than the nation's No. 2 team, Boston College, and Tech will need all its guns firing in that matchup. One gun that will not be firing, however, will be that of starting linebacker Cam Martin, who has mononucleosis and may miss the team's next game, even after having this week to recover.

Martin, a redshirt sophomore, has started every game this season in the whip linebacker spot and currently ranks seventh on the team in tackles with 31, including for for a loss and three sacks. If Martin is still in bed next week, redshirt sophomore Cody Grimm will take Martin's place for his first collegiate start. Grimm does have 10 tackles so far this season, having seen plenty of time on the special teams units.

Martin would make the second linebacker to miss the Boston College game, as senior Vince Hall continues to miss time with a broken wrist. Hall, the team's leading tackler, broke his wrist during the Oct. 6 win over Clemson, and will have to be in a cast for another 10 days or so. After the wrist comes out of the cast, he will have to wear a brace in any remaining games he takes part in this season. Luckily, Hall's replacement has filled his shoes quite nicely. Backup Brett Warren had a team-high 11 tackles, including three for a loss, a sack and an interception while starting in Hall's place against Duke last Saturday.

The linebackers aren't the only ones ailing for the Hokies, as starting quarterback Tyrod Tailer suffered a high ankle sprain during Saturday's game, and is now listed as questionable for BC. Sean Glennon may be returning to the QB spot if Taylor's ankle does not heal quickly, which is certainly not the popular choice, even if Glennon played a brilliant two-plus quarters of football last week. After Taylor left the game in the second quarter on Saturday, Glennon completed 16 of 21 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns.

Not bad for a backup.

October 16, 2007

Kentucky: The Pain Of Victory

Kentucky won probably the biggest game ever played in its home stadium last Saturday, outlasting the nation's then-No. 1 team in a classic SEC battle. But early this week, while the Wildcat players may have been on cloud nine, their bodies were somewhere in the underworld. The triple-overtime win over LSU was a long, hard, gritty four hours of football, and the players are still feeling the effects of such a tough fight. But with No. 14 Florida on tap this week, Kentucky can hardly afford a letdown, and with their injury rundown, keeping morale up has suddenly become an essential part of the weekly routine.

Tailback Rafael Little, who puts up an average of more than 113 rush yards per game, missed the high-octane LSU matchup with a deep thigh bruise that should have been on the road to recovery by now. Unfortunately for Little, calcium deposits have built up around the injury, taking the senior out of at least the next two games, as well.

Little will have plenty of company on the sideline, as cornerback Paul Warford's fractured clavicle will keep him out for the next two weeks, as well. Defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin will attempt to return to practice this week after missing five games with a hip injury, and two other players absent from the LSU game, linebacker Johnny Williams and safety Marcus McClinton, will also try to make comebacks this week, battling plantar fascitis and an ankle sprain, respectively.

Tailback Alfonso Smith, who has missed the past three games with a high ankle sprain, will also attempt to return in time to take on the Gators, giving probable starter Tony Dixon some help in the backfield.

No matter how many players return to action this week, Kentucky is starting this game at a clear disadvantage - the Wildcats played their toughest game of the season last weekend, while Florida has not played a game since Oct. 6, thanks to last week's bye.

"From a health standpoint, they've got a tremendous edge," head coach Rich Brooks said on Monday. "Most of their players will be free of even the soreness and stiffness you usually carry from week to week, let alone having time to heal significant injuries."

Will Brooks allow soreness and stiffness as excuses for poor execution? Certainly not. But is health a concern for a rising Kentucky team? Certainly so.

October 15, 2007

Georgia: Lumpkin Out Of Luck

Georgia running back Kregg Lumpkin is no stranger to injury, but this one has to hurt more than all the rest. After missing some time earlier in the season with a broken thumb, the senior sustained a game-ending knee injury on Saturday, an injury serious enough to likely hand Lumpkin a cruelly painful end to his collegiate career.

Lumpkin has probably had more than his fair share of injuries in his career as a Bulldog. Prior to that thumb injury keeping him out of two games earlier this season, Lumpkin tore up his knee on the first day of practice in 2004, forcing him to redshirt the entire season in what should have been his sophomore year. He came back strong and had an excellent season last year, leading the team in rushing with 798 yards and six TDs, but the injury bug has bitten once again.

Through five games this season, Lumpkin has nine rushes for 37 yards and two catches for another 13. He also had one 11-yard kickoff return on the season, and that may be it for the 6-foot-1, 222-pound fifth-year senior, a far cry from the numbers he wanted to end with.

Lumpkin left Saturday's game against Vanderbilt in the third quarter, and will most likely need arthroscopic surgery to clean up damage to the cartilage in his knee, but that will have to wait until the swelling goes down. To make matters worse, the high ankle sprain he sustained on the same play will certainly not help speed along his recovery.

"He may or may not finish the season," head coach Mark Richt said on Saturday. "He's got a significant injury to the knee. He's not going to play anytime soon."

Since Lumpkin already saw time in five games this year, he is not eligible for a sixth year.

Lumpkin's injury is certainly bad news for his own career, but it does not bode well for the Bulldog rushing attack, either. Lumpkin's load was already increased due to a different team injury, as Thomas Brown will be out for a month with a broken collarbone. With Lumpkin out of the question, redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno will be getting even more attention at the running back spot, which is just fine with him - Moreno had 157 rush yards on Saturday in his first career start, including 123 in the second half, good enough to earn him SEC Freshman of the Week honors.

Moreno currently leads the team in rushing with 619 yards and three touchdowns, with a 5.2 yard-per-carry average, but next week's bye is a huge break for Georgia, as the team will need to find a healthy body to serve as Moreno's replacement. The leading candidates are senior Jason Johnson, who has three career carries to his name, redshirt freshman Shaun Chapas, who has rushed eight times for 24 yards and freshman Kalvin Daniels, who may be brought up from scout team to learn the position, depending on how the injury situation pans out.

With Florida, Kentucky and Auburn next up for Georgia, the Bulldogs are going to need more than one healthy running back if they expect to make a dent in the unbearably tough SEC East.

Oregon: The Worst Is Yet To Come

Oregon should be feeling pretty good - the team is coming off of a big win in a week when perhaps its biggest Pac-10 competition, Cal, lost in embarrassing fashion, vaulting Oregon into seventh place in the AP poll and 10th in the first batch of BCS rankings. Except the team is feeling pretty awful, because its No. 2 running back, sophomore Jeremiah Johnson, will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, as will its No. 2 receiver, Cameron Colvin, after breaking his ankle in Saturday's win over Washington State.

Johnson was carted off the field during Oregon's 53-7 trouncing of Washington State, but not before he managed to score two touchdowns. Through six games this season, Johnson is second on the team in rushing, carrying the ball 54 times for 344 yards with five touchdowns and has a receiving TD to his name to boot.

Once the swelling in Johnson's knee reduces and he gets some range of motion back, the 5-foot-9, 210-pound running back will have surgery to repair the injury, but for now he must sit and watch his Ducks from the sideline.

Colvin is out for the year as well, which is a big blow to the Ducks' passing game. Through six games, Colvin was second on the team in receptions, with 20 catches for 248 yards and two touchdowns. Colvin broke his ankle early in the game, further depleting an already thin receiving corps - Colvin had been starting in place of the injured Brian Paysinger, who is out for the season after having knee surgery earlier in the year, so the passing of the receiving torch must continue after this latest injury set-back.

October 14, 2007

USC: Booty Not Better, O-Line Decidedly Worse

Things simply do not look good for USC. Backup quarterback Mark Sanchez played just well enough to get by on Saturday, as the Trojans avoided a second-straight upset loss by topping Arizona, 20-13, but USC would certainly like its starter back starting. Unfortunately, it does not look like John David Booty will be healthy in time to take the field against Notre Dame next week, and even if he is, the continued plague of injuries to the offensive line should make him all the more wary about returning to the field, and a collapsing pocket, ahead of schedule.

Booty's broken finger may hamper the QB's throwing ability for the next two or three weeks, according to head coach Pete Carroll. Booty's finger was again swollen on Saturday, but the senior expects to be testing the finger with some throws in Tuesday's practice. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said it might be "difficult" for Booty to return to the lineup on Saturday against Notre Dame, no matter how healthy Booty thinks he feels.

On the protection side, USC's offensive linemen are dropping like flies. The unit was already missing two starters heading into Saturday's game, and it looks as though they will be missing two more for next week, not to mention a linebacker and a safety. All-American tackle Sam Baker left the game with a hamstring strain and freshman guard Zack Heberer sustained a shoulder bruise in the game, adding two more names to USC's never-ending list of broken linemen.

When asked about the status of his offensive line, Carroll said that "we've never been like this before." That's certainly an understatement. The line was already depleted coming into the contest as starting guard Chilo Rachal was out with a knee, starting center Kris O'Dowd has missed a couple of games with a knee injury, and backup tackle Charles Brown is out with an ankle. And those are just the most recent additions to the injured list.

Baker is questionable for next week's game at Notre Dame. Redshirt freshman Butch Lewis filled his shoes after Baker left the game on Saturday, but Rachal might be back in time to help, which is good news for a line that is reportedly now down to one reserve, a converted defensive lineman in Alex Parsons.

On the defensive side, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga injured his hip and safety Kevin Ellison may have broken his nose during Saturday's game. Maualuga sustained an injury in the second quarter on a play against running back Chris Jennings. He left the field with help, but was able to return at the start of the third quarter. He participated in one play in that quarter but said he doubts he will be able to take the field against the Irish.

"It felt like I tore something out of there," Maualuga said.

Luther Brown came in for Maualuga and made six tackles, but Maualuga is not someone the ailing Trojans can afford to be without, especially now, as they must show that they are better than their last three performances if they are going to make some moves in the BCS.

Arizona State: Uncharted Torain

After topping Washington on Saturday, Arizona State improves to 7-0 for the first time in a decade and 4-0 in the Pac-10, all alone in first place in the coveted conference. Not so all alone are the banged up members of the Sun Devils roster, as the team is missing a bunch of key offensive contributors due to injury. Topping the list is running back Ryan Torain, who left Saturday's game in the first quarter with a sprained left foot which, according to head coach Dennis Erickson, is "serious."

Torain, a senior, has rushed for 553 yards this season with five touchdowns. He had more than 1,000 rush yards as a junior, but the Sun Devils will have to find some way to replace his production, as Torain is out indefinitely.

"Somebody stepped on [my foot]," Torain said after the game. He returned to the sideline with his foot in a boot, but Erickson told the media he feared the injury was "pretty serious."

The good news is that backup tailbacks Keegan Herring and Dimitri Nance put together some heroics in the second half of Saturday's comeback win, giving some hope to the now-depleted run game. Herring rushed for 119 yards on 10 carries, including a 76-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and Nance had a 57-yard scoring run of his own, also in the third.

Wide receiver Mike Jones also left the game prematurely, as the junior suffered a concussion on Saturday. He made three first-quarter catches before coming out of the game with the injury, but should be back ready to go in time for the coveted Oct. 27 matchup with Cal.

Tight end Brent Miller had surgery on Friday to repair torn cortilage in his right knee and will be missing anywhere from two to four weeks, leaving the Sun Devils a bit lacking in all phases of their offensive game plan.

October 13, 2007

Michigan: Hart Out, Again

Mike Hart has not had an easy year. The Michigan running back has watched his team get off to an abysmal start, guaranted a win that seemed to jumpstart the team, and has succeeded for the past few weeks in carrying the Wolverines on his very capable back. Unfortunately, that back appears to be breaking. After being hampered by a hamstring injury in the early weeks of the season, Hart is back on the injury list after injuring his right ankle in the first half of Saturday's win over Purdue, and was out of uniform for the entire second half.

The senior rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, helping his team to a 24-point advantage and setting a school record with his seventh-straight 100-yard game. He appeared to suffer the injury on a tackle by Anthony Haygood. Hart has now moved up to fifth on the Big Ten list of career rushing leaders, but how much more he will play this season depends on the severity of that ankle injury.

Hart's backup, sophomore Brandon Minor, also limped off the field, leaving the game during the first drive of the second half with an apparent injury to his left ankle. The running back was carted off the field and replaced by sophomore Carlos Brown.

October 12, 2007

Pac-10 In Pain

Headlining the Pac-10's long list of injury news is USC head coach Pete Carroll's official announcement on Thursday that backup Mark Sanchez will be starting at quarterback when USC takes on Arizona on Saturday. USC may be ailing more than most, but that does not make them the only team dealing with injuries as this week's conference matchups inch closer.

USC starting QB John David Booty threw 50 passes in practice on Tuesday, but after his broken middle finger swelled up again, he did not throw on Wednesday or Thursday, making him doubtful for any playing time at all this weekend. Walk-on Michael McDonald will back up Sanchez on an increasingly thin Trojan roster.

In USC's latest injury epidemic, the offensive line definitely took the biggest hit. Starters Kristofer O'Dowd and Chilo Rachal will miss the game with knee injuries, backups Charles Brown and Thomas Herring are questionable with ailments of their own, Jeff Byers will step in either at guard or center, despite his jammed thumb, and senior Matt Spanos will take one for the team and play with the seven stitches recently put into his right hand.

That's not the end of the line, either. Tailback Stafon Johnson was hoping to have his sprained left foot back up to 90 percent by Saturday, but said on Thursday he is not close enough to that level to be able to contribute.

Mining Miller
Brent Miller, Arizona State's starting tight end, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday to determine whether he had sustained any cartilage or ligament damage to his right knee. Miller, the Sun Devils' most experienced player as the only man on the roster to compete in all 37 games through his first three seasons on the team, has missed two of the last four games after suffering a grade 1 MCL strain against Colorado on Sept. 8. He took a different hit on the same knee in the waning seconds of the Oregon State matchup on Sept. 22. Miller had reconstructive ACL surgery on that right knee in 2003, redshirting his freshman season, so the arthroscopic surgery will make sure that nothing has been permanently damaged.

Through four games, the redshirt senior has nine receptions for 88 yards.

Brady Conrad, Tyrice Thompson, Andrew Pettes and Jovon Williams will all fight it out for the right to replace Miller in Saturday's game against Washington.

Unsure on Longshore
Cal quarterback Nate Longshore took his first reps during Thursday's practice since spraining his right ankle against Cal on Sept. 29, but head coach Jeff Tedford is still unsure whether or not the junior will be ready to take the field on Saturday against Oregon State. Longshore's pain tolerance and ability to be mobile will both be taken into account in making the game-time decision, but the injured right ankle can cause a host of problems for the right-handed passer, most glaringly in the signal-caller's ability to plant and push off in his throwing motion.

Longshore looked hesitant in some of his drops during Thursday's practice, but the San Francisco Chronicle reported that all of his passes were crisp. Backup Kevin Riley took about three-quarters of the reps with the first-team offense, as Tedford has no desire to overwork Longshore before he is ready. Last week's bye was a blessing for the QB, as he had seven extra days to work his ankle up to speed before running the risk of missing any game time. Although he may not start, he certianly is closer to being productive this week than he was last week at this time.

Through five games, Longshore has completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 1,137 yards, an average of 227.4 yards per game, with seven touchdowns and two picks.

Also questionable to play this week is starting rover Marcus Ezeff, who has missed practices all week with a strained quadriceps. Junior Bernard Hicks will step into his starting role if Ezeff cannot go. Stating fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou is also questionable with a partially-torn MCL. He has participated in full-contact drills all week, but he is not certain to play on Saturday.

Ohio State: Running All Over The Place

Ohio State's running backs are running all over the place - some for better, some for worse and some just for running's sake. Brandon Saine appears to be back on track after sitting out two games following arthroscopic knee surgery, Beanie Wells' tender ankle may keep him off the field for much of Saturday and Maurice Wells is balancing them both out by filling the role of the only steady runner on the roster.

Beanie Wells is nursing a tender left ankle that left him limping off the field during the Buckeyes' win over Northwestern on Sept. 22, and has bothered him ever since. He had a good practice Tuesday, a not-so-good outing on Wednesday and was limited in reps on Thursday, although he reportedly "looked fine," whatever that means.

The sophomore leads the Buckeyes in rushing, averaging 104.2 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry with five rushing touchdowns on the season. Although he has played in all six contests for the Buckeyes, Wells has missed time in several of them due to the tweaked ankle, although both he and head coach Jim Tressel claim that Wells could have returned to the field at any point, if called upon. The sophomore will certainly see some playing time this weekend when the Buckeyes take on Kent State in a bit of a relaxation game for the nation's No. 3 squad, but how much time will most likely depend on the state of that ankle.

Saine is accelerating quickly on the road to recovery, as the freshman had six carries for 21 yards in Saturday's win over Purdue, his first game back after sitting out for two weeks post-surgery. Tressel said Saine is "back physically," which is good news for the Buckeyes - even having missed two games, Saine still ranks third on the team in rushing, averaging 43.2 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry.

Of the team's go-to tailback trio, Maurice Wells has been the only one to stay healthy, and as a reward, he has gotten an extra dose of work in the past three weeks, recording 44 of his 66 carries in the last three games.

If the Buckeyes can ever get all three of their backs healthy for a single game, the nation's 19th-ranked rush defense could jump considerably up the charts. But that ship will have to wait at least another week.

October 11, 2007

USC: What About The Line?

As the days tick by leading up to Saturday's USC-Arizona showdown, it's becoming more and more clear that Mark Sanchez will be the man under center for the Trojans. But regardless of who steps up in the pocket, USC has got to do something about the men assigned to protect him, since right now, it looks like there may not be enough healthy bodies to keep that QB on his feet, and that's an issue bigger than a broken finger.

The list of injured linemen now includes sophomore Charles Brown, sophomore Thomas Herring, freshman Kris O'Dowd, senior Matt Spanos and junior Chilo Rachal. Brown and Herring both suffered ankle sprains on Tuesday that make them doubtful for Saturday's game, while O'Dowd and Rachal are out with knee injuries and Spanos has a couple of lacerated fingers.

The injury epidemic has the line looking paper thin, which is terrible timing for Sanchez, who will most likely be making his first start as a Trojan. Undoubtedly, the sophomore would far prefer to have a line in front of him with some chemistry among them, but that does not seem to be in the cards.

Wednesday's practice featured a wholly revamped offesive line made up of seniors Sam Baker and Drew Radovich at tackle, redshirt freshman Zach Heberer and senior Alantini Malu at guard and junior Jeff Byers at center. As for the backups, redshirt freshman Butch Lewis is giving former defensive linemen Alex Parsons and Michael Reardon a crash course in the duties of an offensive lineman, but O-line coach Pat Ruel is not worried.

"I've got tough guys, they'll be fine," Ruel said.

If ever there was a time for USC to prove that the famed Trojan depth at every position is more reality than myth, this week is it, and the most important place to display it may not be at quarterback, but rather O-line.

Auburn: Floundering Five

As Auburn continues its quest to reclaim some respect after a woeful start to the season, this week is a big one for the Tigers. No. 22 Auburn is traveling to Arkansas for a must-win SEC matchup, but the Tigers' bus will be missing as many as five starters due to varying degrees of injury. Linebacker Merrill Johnson, safety Aairon Savage and center Jason Bosley all missed practice on Tuesday, and linebacker Tray Blackmon and defensive end Quentin Groves were only at 50 percent, according to head coach Tommy Tuberville.

Johnson, who has been responsible for five tackles in two games this season, missed all of Tuesday's practice with a shoulder injury. Joining him on the sideline was Savage, who has 17 tackles through four games to go along with a nagging knee injury and Bosley, who was also sidelined with a knee problem. Bosley's knee is still swolen to the point of hampering his flexibility. He was able to walk a bit on Tuesday and hoped to be jogging by the end of the week, but he does not seem to be in anywhere near good enough shape to play on Saturday. Tuberville described him as "struggling."

Groves is dealing with dislocated toes, which have kept him from pushing off and are digging at the stength in his foot. The senior missed last week's game against Vanderbilt, but through five games he has 22 tackles, including six for a loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and an astounding 18 quarterback hurries. His status is uncertain for this week, which will be a huge loss for the Tigers.

With so many defensive players hurting, a good deal of young players are going to have to step up until the veterans are back on their feet. Tuberville said earlier this week that unless the players in pain can get a good number of full-speed reps in before Saturday, they will not start, but could see time in a few plays if the team's depth so requires (which all signs point to as being the case).

Kentucky: Little Too Late?

Kentucky already has its hands full as the nation's No. 1 team is coming to town on Saturday for perhaps the biggest game ever played in Lexington. But things will be a whole lot tougher for the Wildcats if tailback Rafael Little is not back up to speed by Saturday, and as of right now, he looks rather questionable with a nagging thigh bruise. With a thinning arsenal of tailbacks to battle the conference's top rush defense, Kentucky's confidence has got to be waffling, which is not a good feeling to have when LSU is stepping up to the line.

Little, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior, is still fighting a thight bruise that has been bothering him for the past three weeks. He has played through pain in each of the team's last three games, and although he still leads the team in rushing with more than 113 yards per game, a 6.4 yards-per-carry average and three touchdowns, he has not been practicing much. That lack of practice time is starting to wear on head coach Rich Brooks, who is also concerned about the amount of pain his leading rusher is in.

Even if Little's pain decreases enough to allow him to play on Saturday, the Wildcats are still looking awfully thin at that tailback spot. Tony Dixon, the team's second-leading rusher with 47.2 yards per game, is back on the healthy side after battling through a hip flexor injury last week, but sophomore Alfonso Smith is looking at missing his third-consecutive game due to a high ankle sprain.

Smith, who is averaging 31.8 yards per game, has taken part in only a few drills in this week's practices and none of them at full speed. Brooks described him as 65-70 percent healthy and said that he is "pretty questionable" for Saturday.

Injuries to the run game spell bad news for Kentucky, especially when facing off against LSU. The Wildcats are going to need the team firing on all cylinders if they plan to knock off the Tigers, and that includes the rushing attack.

Louisville: Kragthorpe Eats His Lack Of Words

Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe made very clear earlier this season how he feels about discussing injuries - and it wasn't warm or fuzzy. Kragthorpe's personal experiences as a player and now as a father of football-playing sons led him to develop a strict "no comment" policy on injury reports. Any injury that was not season-ending was not discussed at all, both as a means of gaining competitive advantage against opponents and to protect players from deliberate hits that might target injured players. But as of this week, Kragthorpe and the Cardinals will be issuing a weekly injury report the day before each game, listing players as either "questionable" or "probable" for participation.

Kragthorpe is sticking to his guns on not disclosing any details on a player's ailment, just whether or not he is expected to play. Why the change? Apparently, the rampant rumors and speculation about who will play and why have gotten to the head coach, and he'd rather nip the rumors in the bud than reap some undisclosed "competitive advantage."

Will releasing injury reports help the Cardinals crawl out of this hole they've dug for themselves? Probably not this season. But at least now the rumors can focus less on who will play and more on how they'll play.

October 10, 2007

USC: Sanchez It Is

After a few test runs, it looks like John David Booty will be watching Saturday's game from the sideline, as the senior's broken finger is not yet up to snuff and after a four-interception post-breakage performance last week, the Trojans are not ready to take their chances on that broken bone just yet. In his place will be redshirt sophomore Mark Sanchez, who has been taking all of the first-team snaps this week as Booty has been gingerly testing his broken finger. After throwing around 50 balls in mid-week practices, Booty is not convinced that his accuracy is good enough to earn him the starting spot this week, as the Trojans can ill afford another Pac-10 loss, and Arizona is knocking on the door.

Head coach Pete Carroll sounded pretty set on Sanchez, even if Booty does get his swelling down and accuracy up before Saturday. In Wednesday's news conference, Carroll said that "it could turn out that John is okay, that we hold him in reserve and go with Mark through the preparation." He also talked about the possibility of giving Booty a break so that he can come back and finish the season strong, since "strong" is not an adjective that has been used to describe Booty at any point in the recent past.

The Trojan offense has committed eight turnovers in the past two weeks, so they'd like to field a quarterback who does not have turnover potential already built in. Although Sanchez might not be the ideal candidate - he has thrown two interceptions in his 10 career passes - at least he's got all his fingers bending in the right direction.

As of Wednesday, Booty's grips were clean, but his release was certainly bothering him. An official decision will not be made until later in the week, but all signs point to putting Sanchez under center.

Bruised and Battered
Also working on healing this week are center Matt Spanos, who missed practice because of a recent hand surgery (unrelated to Booty's finger issues); tailback Stafon Johnson, who got some running in during Wednesday's practice but is still not 100 percent; and tailback Joe McKnight, who is missing practice time with sickness. Linebacker Thomas Williams also did not practice due to an ankle injury, so Clay Matthews is most likely to start in his strong-side linebacker spot.

October 09, 2007

USC: Next Quarterback, Please

A lot of things broke for the Trojans during Saturday night's loss to 41-point underdog Stanford, but quarterback John David Booty is most concerned about his broken middle finger. Booty suffered the injury during the second quarter of the loss against Stanford, and then proceeded to throw four interceptions, although he claims the picks have nothing to do with the broken bone. Still, Booty is unsure whether or not he will start on Saturday and he sat out of Monday's practice, watching backup Mark Sanchez take snaps with that special glimmer that only comes from the hope of finally starting a game at USC.

On Monday, the redshirt sophomore took all of the snaps with the first-team while Booty looked on. The Heisman hopeful will return to practice as soon as he gets his grip back, but the situation on Monday was grim. Head coach Pete Carroll said Booty's finger looked a lot worse on Monday than it did after the game, and Booty spent the day with a wrap on the swollen, black-and-blue finger. He was cleared for Tuesday practices and planned to get some throws in sooner rather than later, as Arizona comes to the Coliseum on Saturday and Booty wants in.

Booty wants in, but Carroll wants a win, so he and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian are preparing with the mindset that Booty will be out, which means getting Sanchez up to speed, fast, since he's got finger issues too - Sanchez broke his thumb during fall camp.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound quarterback has completed two of three pass attempts this season for 23 yards and an interception, and could play the role that Tavita Pritchard enjoyed against the Trojans last week, if Booty is not healthy enough to play come Saturday.

Other Men Down
Tailback Stafon Johnson, offensive guard Chilo Rachal and linebacker Bruce Cushing all missed last week's game with injuries, but may be ready in time for this week's game. Johnson, hurting with a bruised left foot, participated in a few light drills on Monday and should be back fully practicing on Wednesday.

Texas-Sized Problems

With an 0-2 Big 12 record, Texas is off to its worst conference start in 51 years, their starting quarterback is in the full swing of a sophomore slump and the team's most talented receiver is suddenly out of the picture. It is not a pretty picture in Texas.

Senior Limas Sweed will miss the rest of the season after deciding on Monday not to postpone wrist surgery any longer. His sprained ligament has required surgery since he sprained the wrist in August, but he has managed to play in all six games this season, catching 19 passes for 306 yards with three touchdowns. He re-aggravated the injury in Saturday's Red River Shootout loss and missed the last two offensive series of the game due to severe pain.

No. 23 Texas has now lost four straight Big 12 games, dating back to last season, and losing their best receiver for the year is probably the worst news Texas could possibly get right now. Sweed, a 6-foot-5, 219-pound fifth-year senior, led the team last year with 46 catches for 801 yards and 12 TDs, and broke school records left and right. He decided to wait another year before declaring for the NFL Draft -- in which he probably would have been taken in the first round -- but obviously did not see this coming. He was probably in more pain than he was letting on for a few weeks before the Oklahoma matchup, but as of Monday, the team doctor had had enough and recommended surgery.

Sweed's loss will change the way teams defend against the Longhorns, as the big-stature, big-time playmaker constantly demanded double coverage, even when hampered by injury. In his 20 career touchdowns, he averaged more than 30 yards per catch, making him dangerous from anywhere on the field. In his absence, Nate Jones and Quan Cosby have stepped up as receivers, both coming down with more than 30 receptions this season. Tight end Jermichael Finley is also going to have to take on a bigger role, which he can clearly handle after catching four balls for 149 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma.

Best-case scenario, Sweed is up and running again in time for the pre-NFL draft workouts in late January, but his career as a Longhon is officially over, having ended on a bitter two-catch note in last week's loss to the hated Sooners. His 20 career touchdown receptions rank second in Texas school history, but that may be the only thing Texas' season will turn into this year - history.

But that's not all. When the Longhorns take on Iowa State this weekend, facing off against longtime defensive-coordinator-turned Cyclones-head-coach Gene Chizik, Texas will be missing junior fullback/special teamer Luke Tiemann and junior defensive end Aaron Lewis. Tiemann has apparently caught the Sweed bug and will be having surgery on a fractured right wrist that will keep him out at least two weeks. Lewis, who is leading the team in tackles for a loss, with seven, fractured his left elbow against Oklahoma and will be out indefinitely. Lewis also has two sacks on the year and if the Longhorns are not already queasy about the outlook for the rest of this season, this latest injury news should have them running for some air sickness bags.

Hawaii: Colt Up And Running

After missing portions of two games already this season, Hawai'i quarterback Colt Brennan has had more than his fill of watching from the bench. The senior suffered a sprained right ankle earlier in the season and then re-aggravated it on Saturday against Utah State, but he practiced on Monday and is certain that he will start in Friday's road game at San Jose State. Brennan played in only five series last week, including one in the second half, before the injury took him out of the game, but head coach June Jones has said that Brennan will be fine to start on Saturday.

After the game at San Jose State, the Warriors have a week off for Brennan to fully rest his ankle in preparation for the Oct. 27 matchup with New Mexico State. The senior is planning to go all-out on Saturday, knowing that he will have a full 15 days to recover, which he will need if he expects his Heisman hopes to turn into reality.

Defensive tackle Michael Lafaele should also be ready to go on Saturday after missing last week's game with a strained hamstring, fractured right hand and strained left calf. The defensive captain had more things wrong than right on the injury front, so for the first time in his career, he did not suit up for the home game. Despite his laundry list of injuries, he has said that they are "nothing serious" and he will be ready to play on Saturday.

Not so optimistic is cornerback Ryan Mouton, who will miss his second-straight game with a partially torn PCL in his right knee. He will be fitted for a knee brace that will allow him to run, since the injury is to an area that does not require surgery.

October 08, 2007

Illinois: Out Of Juice

Illinois got off to a hot start in the team's sound pounding of Wisconsin, but wide receiver Arrelious Benn and starting quarterback Juice Williams watched the finish from the sidelines. Late in the third quarter, Benn aggrivated the injury to his right shoulder that he sustained during training camp while trying to stiff-arm a Badger defender. Williams joined him a few minutes later when, halfway through the fourth quarter, he hyperextended his left knee. Head coach Ron Zook said both players could have returned if the team really needed them, but the Illini backups were doing just fine against the Badgers.

For Williams, this was the second game of the season that he had to leave in the hands of his backup, redshirt freshman Eddie McGee. In the season opener, Williams was knocked out of the game after taking a shot to the head.

Both players should be back next week as Illinois looks to take one step closer to a Big Ten championship. The two are a one-two punch for the Illini, as Benn, a freshman, is the team's leading receiver, having hauled in 29 passes for 337 yards. Williams, a sophomore, is completing just under 55% of his passes with five touchdowns and five picks on the season.

USC: Don't Put His Finger On It

Yes, John David Booty fractured a finger in his throwing hand during the second quarter of Saturday's "what just happened?" loss to Stanford, but no, the fracture was not to blame for his 24-of-40, four-interception performance. The nation's new No. 10 team has announced that Booty will start at quarterback when the Trojans take on Arizona on Saturday, but if he is unable to play, third-year sophomore Mark Sanchez will step in under center. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound QB has attempted only three passes this season, but hey -- the inexperience factor worked for Tavita Pritchard.

Booty was booed in the second half of that stunning loss to the Cardinal, and the team will undoubtedly be looking his way to avoid another Pac-10 loss this week. If he plays like he has in the rest of the games he's played this season, the team should be fine - he's completing a solid 65 percent of his passes for 1,239 yards and 12 touchdowns. The thing he's got to work on, and fast, are those eight interceptions. 12:8 is not a favorable TD:INT ratio, especially for a quarterback who was supposed to be a Heisman trophy candidate. Forget the hardware - if USC is going to make a run for the national championship, Booty has got to stop throwing picks.

The Trojans would do well to make sure that the finger is not to blame for those four interceptions, all of which came after Booty suffered the injury on Saturday. If his hand is not healthy, USC is in no position to put Booty in under center.

Again, it worked for Tavita Pritchard - can Mark Sanchez work some unknown magic as well?

Georgia: One More Big Loss

Georgia was rocked by Tennessee 35-14 on Saturday, but the bigger loss came after the fact, when the Bulldogs reported that senior running back Thomas Brown could miss more than a month of playing time with a broken collarbone. The 5-foot-8, 200-pound senior might have suffered the injury against Tennessee, or it might have been a week earlier, as head coach Mark RIcht said that Brown may very well have broken the bone a week ago, playing against Mississippi. As Georgia's second-leading rusher, Brown has started all six games for the Bulldogs, earning 413 yards on 76 carries with six touchdowns. He also has two receiving touchdowns on the year.

If Brown was hurt during the Ole Miss game, he may have been numbed by excitement - during that game, the running back earned a career-high 180 yards rushing on 16 carries with three touchdowns, including the second-longest TD run of his career, a 50-yarder. His performance was the best by a Georgia back since 2001.

Most regular people would notice when their collar bone is broken, but clearly Brown is not a regular person. Richt called brown the toghest guy on the Georgia team, as the senior carried six times for 20 yards against the Vols, even with his bone definitely broken.

Now that Brown is sidelined for at least the next few weeks, senior Kregg Lumpkin will most likely see more time after recovering from his own injury, a surgical procedure on his thumb. The best-case scenario would see Brown completely recover in four weeks, in time to return for the season's final three contests against Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech.

October 07, 2007

Hawai'i: Colt Update

The latest news on Hawai'i quarterback Colt Brennan is that there is no news. The nation's second-leading passer left the field in the first half of Saturday's game against Utah State with some sort of injury, although we were still not sure what it is. He was clearly in pain after taking a hit with 52 seconds to play in the first half courtesy of linebacker Paul Igboeli. Brennan had completed a short pass before Igboeli drilled him to the turf, where Brennan stayed for a few minutes before walking off the field on his own power, albeit very carefully. Brennan came back to the game for one series in the third quarter, but limped off the field shortly thereafter, finishing the evening 19-of-25 for 219 yards and a touchdown. The injury was initially reported to be knee-related, but no further updates have been released.

Hawai'i: Colt Comes Out

Colt Brennan has already missed one game due to injury this season, and although his mammoth numbers won't deteriorate too much from that single game sit-out, Brennan cannot afford to miss any more time if he still plans to make a run for the Heisman. (The trophy is far more elusive after those five picks he threw last weekend, but that's a different issue.) Unfortunately, Brennan's knee did not seem to get that memo as the QB left the game against Utah State in the second quarter with a knee injury, leaving the very capable Tyler Graunke to fill his enormous shoes.

Brennan completed 18 of 22 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game. He was, so far, interception free.

More details on his ailing knee should be released after the game.

October 06, 2007

West Virginia: White Out, Again

After a game-time decision put West Virginia quarterback Pat White back into his starting role against Syracuse, another injury took him right back out. Midway throught the third quarter, the junior left the game and was not expected to return. Conflicting reports attributed the pain to a shoulder injury and rib irritation, but whatever the cause, the former Heisman hopeful left the game in pain. He sustained the injury while being tackled at the end of a 27-yard run. Jarrett Brown came in to replace him, as Brown did a week ago against USF, but this time he came into a much better situation, as the Mountainers led 38-7 when White left the game. White completed 12 of 15 pass attempts for 145 yards and a touchdown and carried the ball 14 times for 86 yards and another TD before leaving the game.

October 05, 2007

Ohio State: In Saine

After much confusion regarding the status of runing back Brandon Saine, head coach Jim Tressel has announced that the freshman will play on Saturday when the No. 4 Buckeyes take on No. 23 Purdue. Saine, who is Ohio State's third-leading rusher even having sat out two games, has missed the last two weeks while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. He will certainly not be 100 percent, according to Tressel, but should get 10-20 plays in on the field.

The news about linebacker Ross Homan was less auspicious, as Homan is still dealing with turf toe, and will deal with it in Columbus on Saturday. The sophomore will not travel with the team, leaving room for junior Marcus Freeman to step up his contributions at the weakside linebacker spot. He will be backed up by freshman Brian Rolle.

Colorado: 15 Minutes And No Longer

Last Saturday, Colorado was on top of the world (or at least, the Big 12) after a stunning 27-24 upset of then-No. 3 Oklahoma that lifted the Buffs to a 3-2 record and the start of what should be a major turnaround in Boulder. Leading the charge to victory was punt returner Chase McBride, who brought back four punts for 87 yards, the most crucial of which was a 31-yard return that set up Kevin Eberhart's game-winning field goal. Unfortunately, the reigning Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week will have to follow up that performance with a ride on the bench, as a shoulder injury will keep him off the field when his team takes on Baylor on Saturday.

McBride injured his shoulder during practice on Wednesday and was soon thereafter informed that he would not be able to play on Saturday, but head coach Dan Hawkins has not commented on the severity of the injury. Robinson is one of the smaller players in the conference, standing 5-foot-7 and weighing in at 160 pounds, but rather than blame his size for the injury, McBride said that he uses his size to his advantage, getting behind blocks and making people miss.

Senior Stephone Robinson will step in to return punts in McBride's place, and he is as familiar with the position as anyone, having led the team last year with 15 returns.

This is not the first injury McBride has sustained in his career. The senior enrolled at Wyoming in 2003 but a foot problem that he developed during his high school days as a tailback turned out to be a much bigger issue in college and he had to have two surgeries to fix it. He was forced to redshirt the entire 2003 season because of the surgeries and transferred to Colorado in 2004, where he had to sit out another season due to NCAA regulations. Before eraning the starting job in his senior year, McBride had seen playing time in only five games in two seasons.

Assuming his shoulder heals quickly, McBride should see a whole lot more before this season is out.

Elsewhere on the injury front, tailback Brian Lockridge should be back in action on Saturday after missing the Oklahoma game due to a concussion he sustained during practice earlier in the week.

Texas Gets A Hand
Checking in with the down half of the Big 12, Texas may be very much outmatched by Oklahoma heading into this week's Red River Shootout, but the Longhorns should get a bit of a boost when defensive end Brian Orakpo returns to the field. The junior has sat out the last four games wtih a knee injury but is now healthy enough to suit up against the Sooners for the Longhorns' save-the-season, must-win game.

October 04, 2007

USC: Injured Trojan Army

USC escaped what would have been a disastrous loss by slipping through the clutches of Washington last week, and with down-and-out Stanford on tap for this week, the Trojans probably picked the best possible time to be hit with a list of injuries thicker than their depth chart. But this lineup is just ridiculous.

Freshman center Kris O'Dowd dislocated his kneecap in last week's game and has decided to have arthroscopic surgery this week to repair the damage. He will be out for three to four weeks, which would schedule his return for the week of the Oregon game.

On the same play in which O'Dowd went down, guard Chilo Rachal sprained a knee ligament and is currently listed as day-to-day, but head coach Pete Carroll has said he could miss as much as three weeks. As if by some sick joke, Alatini Malu, who came in when Rachal left the game, strained a hamstring, but hopes to be back in time to play agaist the Cardinal. Just in case none of the experienced players is healthy enough to start, redshirt freshman Zack Heberer has been taking snaps with the first-team offense.

Sophomore tailback Stafon Johnson has been watching practices from a cart while his deeply bruised left foot rests in a protective boot. Johnson sustained the injuries during the last two carries he had against Washington. Johnson leads the team in all-purpose yardage, averaging 96 yards per game on the ground and through the air.

With sophomore C.J. Gable opting to have season-ending abdominal surgery to take care of his bothersome sports hernia, the Trojans' laundry list of tailbacks vying for playing time have suddenly been released from their supporting roles and are being given a chance at the limelight.

Gable's sports hernia has been bothering him since last season, even though through three games in 2007, he was averaging a team-best 11 yards per cary. He was held out of the Washington game in anticipation of applying for a medical redshirt, and has chosen to do so after being examined by doctors who advised im to have the surgery now instead of waiting until the end of the season. The surgery should require an eight-week recovery, which will give Gable more than enough time to be ready for spring 2008 practices.

Remember that absurd amount of depth the Trojans have had at tailback all season? It's time to cash in.

With Gable gone and Johnson unlikely to go on Saturday, the remaining four backs inter into a replace-Johnson competition in which all should see some time on Saturday. Seniors Hershel Dennis and Desmond Reed, sophomore Allen Bradford and freshman Joe McKnight will all split time in the alternate position alongside senior Chauncey Washington. Most likely, they will not split the time evenly.

McKnight's speed seems to have made him the frontrunner in this race, although he had no carries last week.

On the defensive side, junior corner Cary Harris is practicing with a shoulder injury and hopes to be ready to play on Saturday, although he has yet to be cleared for contact by team doctors. His replacement, sophomore Shareece Wright, has a hamstring strain that could also keep him out of the lineup. Senior Mozique McCurtis is ready to step in if Nos. 1 and 2 are both unable to play, although he spent much of Wednesday's practice icing his left knee.

Defensive end Kyle Moore has missed practice time this week due to illness, and his return was not speculated.

If the Trojans sustain any more injuries, the coaches may soon be accused of sabotage.

Florida-LSU: Balance Out

Saturday's probably-should-have-been-bigger SEC matchup between No. 1 LSU and No. 9 Florida should still be the game of the week, even with two key players missing the showdown due to injury. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on where your loyalties lie), the two injuries should balance out, as LSU wide receiver Early Doucet will have to sit out this one, but so will one of the Gators who would have been assigned to cover him, cornerback Markihe Anderson.

Anderson, a sophomore, has been out of the starting lineup for most of the season with a sprained MCL in his right knee. He left the field early in the team's Week 3 win over Tennessee to have an MRI on the knee, and head coach Urban Meyer said he does not expect to have Anderson back in the lineup until the Oct. 20 matchup against Kentucky, after the team's bye week on Oct. 14.

"He's trying as hard as he can," Meyer said. "A really, really tough kid."

In two games this season, Anderson has recorded one tackle and an interception.

LSU is most likely relieved at the news that Anderson is not ready to return for Saturday's game, because the Tigers' offense will be missing a key player, as well. Senior wide receiver Early Doucet will not be dressing on Saturday as a strained groin continues to keep him off of the gridiron. He has been attending practices, running routes and working out progressively every day, but he has not yet gotten his full strength back.

Last season, Doucet finished the year second on the team in receiving, hauling in 59 catches for 772 yards and eight touchdowns. Having only played in two games this season, he is still the team's second-leading receiver, having caught 15 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns.

In Doucet's absence, the younger receivers will certainly have to step up against a tough Gator team. Head coach Les Miles pointed to sophomores Brandon LaFell (team's leading receiver, 17 catches, 279 yards) and Chris Mitchell (4 receptions, 48 yards) and junior Demetrius Byrd (7 catches, 177 yards) as the most likely candidates to pick up the slack in such a marquis matchup.

"We'll probably go with the guys that we went with last week at wide receiver," Miles said. "They're getting better on every snap. They had a good practice [Wednesday], and Brandon LaFell's leadership [has improved] as well."

Other Aches and Pains
On the Gator side of things, right guard Maurice Hurt was hurting on Wednesday, sitting out of practice with neck pain. Meyer said he hopes to have Hurt ready for Saturday, since the Gators need his depth at the guard position.

For the Tigers, freshman tight end Jordon Corbin is still recovering from knee surgery, which will most likely keep him off the field on Saturday. Junior defensive tackle Charles Alexander should be joining him in that boat soon, as he expects to put his knee under the knife in the coming weeks. Senior offensive lineman Will Arnold, who Miles describes as a tremendous competitor, will also miss Saturday's game with a viral infection.

Boston College: Smith All Set

For the first time since training camp, running back Jeff Smith practiced in pads on Tuesday. The sophomore had been dealing with long-lingering effects of a concussion he suffered six weeks ago, and had begun to doubt whether he would ever play again. But play he will, as Smith should be ready to go on Saturday when the No. 7 Eagles take on Bowling Green. And that's good news for head coach Jeff Jagodzinski, who had tabbed Smith as his primary kickoff returner and go-to running back. With the bulk of the ACC season still to come, there's plenty of time for Smith to fulfill his prophecy.

The 5-foot-9, 191-pound sophomore also suffered a concussion in high school, but the symptoms from that injury dissipated after two weeks. This time, they lingered for six. Smith was carrying the ball during contract dills before the season opener against Wake Forest when he was sandwiched between two linebackers. The sophomore said that he does not remember much from that practice, but he does remember the migraine headaches, lightheadedness and fatigue that plagued him for the next six weeks.

Smith spent his time on the injury list off of the field, spending practices in the learning resources center per Jagodzinski's request, and games in the stands, as team rules prohibit players who are not dressed for the game to watch from the sideline. There had been talk of redshirting Smith, who is a true sophomore, but Jagodzinski has told the running back that as soon as he is healthy, he should be ready to step back onto the field. And as of this week, it looks like Smith is ready.

On Tuesday, Smith took his first hits since the concussion, and said he felt more comfortable after taking the contact. He will most likely spend this week wetting his feet on special teams, where he excelled last season. As a true freshman he returned 23 kicks for 645 yards, averaging 28 yards per return, good enough for best in the ACC and No. 8 in the nation.

He may have some pre-game jitters, but once that first kickoff hits the skies, Jagodzinski is confident this Eagle will be flying once again.

Eagles Back In The Nest
Defensive end Nick Larkin should return to his starting position on Saturday after sitting out the last three weeks with a knee injury. Guard Ryan Poles was back to practice on Wednesday after sitting out on Tuesday, but safety Wes Davis is still recovering from a concussion and fullback James McCluskey is still nursing a knee injury.

October 03, 2007

Stanford: Ostrander Will Travel After Seizure

In one of the more frightening injuries to take place this season (and that is saying something, as it has been quite an eventful five weeks), Stanford quarterback T.C. Ostrander suffered a seizure last weekend that will keep him from playing in Saturday's game against No. 2 USC. Ostrander began seizing at a restaurant while watching an NFL football game on Sunday and slammed his head on a pole as he fell out of his chair. He was released from Stanford Hospital Sunday evening after all tests came back normal, returned to classes this week and is well enough to travel to Saturday's game in Los Angeles. Keeping him off the field is a precaution, and he may be back on the gridiron as early as Oct. 13, when the Cardinal takes on TCU.

Ostrander took seven sacks last Saturday in a 41-3 loss to Arizona State, but there is no concrete connection between the rough outing and the seizure. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound fifth-year senior has completed 90 of 166 passes for 1,065 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions on the year. He started all four games this season, leading Stanford to a 1-3 record.

With Ostrander taking it easy on the sideline, sophomore Tavita Pritchard will make his first career start Saturday in a baptism by fire at USC. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound sophomore has played in one game this season and thrown only three passes in his career with one completion for 10 yards, but head coach Jim Harbaugh has emphasized that Pritchard is a mobile quarterback that the Trojans will have to chase. USC has the conference's top-ranked defense, so Pritchard may very well look to his uncle, The Throwin' Samoan, for help, as former NFL quarterback Jack Thompson starred at Washington State before spending six seasons in the NFL.

Ostrander expects to return, which is more than can be said for a laundry list of less fortunate players on the Cardinal team: Linebacker Fred Campbell sustained a neck injury against San Jose State that ended his football career; leading offensive lineman Allen Smith has a knee injury that could keep him out for the rest of the year; running back Toby Gerhart's knee injury has kept him off the field for going on four weeks now; leading defensive lineman Ekom Udofia's sprained ankle has kept him out of the last two games and fullback Emeka Nnoli suffered a season-ending hip injury in training camp.

With so many men down, Stanford's depth troubles have led to early-season struggles, as the Cardinal is 0-3 in conference games going into this week's matchup with one of the nation's best.

Ohio State: Buckeye Confusion

Team doctors are having a hard time agreeing on the status of Ohio State running back Brandon Saine. Last week, head coach Jim Tressel said that the freshman had a 50 percent chance of playing against Purdue this week. On Monday, Tressel amended his earlier statement to say that Saine would definitely not be ready by Saturday. On Tuesday, the freshman was upgraded to questionable, but no one is exactly sure where he is in the rehabilitation process, or how that will translate into Saturday's lineup.

Saine has been out for the last two weeks while recovering from the arthroscopic knee surgery he had after the season's third game. Even having sat out the last two games, he is still the Buckeyes' No. 3 rusher, having gained 153 yards on 28 carries for a 5.5 yard-per-carry average with two touchdowns. Junior Maurice Wells came into the game in Saine's place last week, gaining 52 yards on 14 carries in the backup role behind No. 1 back Chris "Beanie" Wells. But neither of the Wells backs have the speed that Saine boasts, which makes his return an important wrinkle in the Ohio State run game.

Saine did some full-speed running on Tuesday, but Tressel has yet to make any concrete decisions about this week's game.

"I think you would call him questionable right now because it will be the doctors [and] trainers who will make that decision," Tressel said. "But I was prepared to say he was out. I'm not so sure that's true."

On defense, cornerback Andre Amos should be back this week after knee surgery kept him on the bench for the first five games of the season. Amos was in position to take the No. 3 corner spot after spring practice, but the knee injury and requisite surgery pushed him out of that role. He has been practicing for about two weeks now, but just received clearance to step into a game situation this week. He will most likely see more special teams time than he will on defense.

Defensive tackle Doug Worthington missed the start last week because he was nursing a minor hamstring injury, and because his backup, Nader Abdallah, had an exceptional practice week. Adballah suffered a shin bruise during the game, but both were back practicing this week.

Cincinnati: Mauk's The Man

After several weeks of awkwardly dancing between two potential starting quarterbacks, Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly finally has his man. Senior Ben Mauk will be the guy, despite his surgically repaired right shoulder, and it's a good thing too - Mauk is watching the clock tick away on his collegiate football career and he's been confident in his ability to take over the offense for some time now. It was only a matter of bringing Kelly around to his point of view, and it looks las week's brilliant performance has allowed the 6-foot-1, 200-pound QB to finally bring Kelly into Camp Mauk.

Last week was an excellent one for Mauk. The senior earned Big East Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against San Diego State, completing 17-of-23 passes for 257 yards, four touchdowns (tying the number he threw in 18 games at Wake Forest) and an interception en route to a 52-23 romp over San Diego State. Mauk led the Bearcats to a touchdown on six of the team's first seven possessions. If that does not build confidence, I don't know what does.

Just as importantly, the shoulder that had been giving him so much grief all season felt just fine on Sunday morning. Life for this senior just got a whole lot better.

"After last week, we gained some confidence in how to take care of the shoulder," Mauk said on Tuesday. "I think we'll be OK from here on out."

In four games this season, Mauk ranks fourth on the nation's pass efficiency list, completing an even 70 percent of his passes for 777 yards and nine touchdowns with two picks. Cincinnati is leading the Big East in scoring, churning out more than 46 points per game, and Mauk is a big part of that offensive production.

Now is a great time for the steady passer to solidify his position as the starter, since the No. 20 Bearcats take on No. 21 Rutgers on Saturday, and if Mauk continues to connect on 70 percent of his throws, he should have no trouble against that swiss cheesey Rutgers D.

Mauk will certainly have the chance to prove this week that he belongs right where he is, at the top of the depth chart. Taking Cincinnati to 6-0 should be proof enough, even for a tough-to-please coach like Brian Kelly.

October 02, 2007

Notre Dame: No Luck For The Irish

The Irish have clearly run out of luck. This year's 0-and-5 Notre Dame squad is the worst in the storied history of the school, and things do not appear to be turning around any time soon. Freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who was chosen as the best of the inexperienced QB trio that competed for playing time in the season opener, suffered a hip injury in last week's loss to Purdue, and is now uncertain for next week's game at UCLA. Clausen may not be the best QB in the nation, but he's certainly the best the Irish have got, and with a team this disjointed, they need their best out on the field.

Luckily, someone stepped up when Clausen went down. Evan Sharpley led Notre Dame on two scoring drives in the final quarter of last week's loss, thereby making himself the potential frontrunner for a start on Saturday, if Clausen remains banged up throughout the week.

Sharpley, a 6-foot-2, 216-pound junior, has seen time in all five games this season, but has yet to get a start. He has completed 32 of 51 passes for 344 yards with a pair of TDs and a pair of picks, but he has been taking about a third of the reps in practice so far this week, which puts him in a prime spot to take over for Clausen.

"He's earned the respect of his players that we can win with him in there at quarterback," head coach Charlie Weis said.

Winning may be stretching it a bit, but he can certainly be competent enough in the pocket to give the Irish a fighting chance.

West Virginia: White Mystery

As of Tuesday, Pat White's thigh bruise is still bruising, which is bothering the No. 13 Mountaineers. West Virginia lost its starting quarterback in the second quarter of last week's loss to USF, and so far no decision has been reached as to when they will get him back. The junior said on Monday that he was "a lot better" after taking the off-day that followed a light practice on Sunday, but the Mountaineers are far from making the call as to who will start against Syracuse on Saturday.

There is an eerie sense of familiarity to this whole situation, as White was equally banged up after last year's loss to the Bulls. A year ago, White suffered a high ankle sprain and turf toe on the same leg, which were severe enough to knock him out of the following week's game. Jarrett Brown, who came in for the second half of last week's loss, may have to step in again this week, but if the Mountaineers are going to keep from falling further in the polls, he'll have to do a whole lot better.

Brown completed 11 of 20 passes for 149 yards with one touchdown and two costly interceptions. He was not the main reason the team lost, according to head coach Rich Rodriguez, but he did not offer the help West Virginia badly needed to overcome the loss of one of the team's headline players, not to mention the six turnovers the Mountaineers committed in the first half.

But Brown should have high hopes based on his last (and only) substitute start. Against Rutgers last season, Brown had 317 offensive yards and threw two touchdown passes en route to leading WVU to a triple-overtime win over the Scarlet Knights. A big win over Syracuse would do a lot for this program right now, and given the lofty expectations surrounding the team heading into the season, that is not a good sign.

October 01, 2007

Texas: Count Colt In

After suffering a mild concussion (and a major case of frustration) during Texas' 41-21 loss to Kansas State on Saturday, starting quarterback Colt McCoy will be just that this week -- starting -- when No. 19 Texas takes on No. 10 Oklahoma in a far-less-important Red River Shootout. The sophomore passed a series of tests by team doctors before telling media on Monday that he "feels fine." He may not for much longer if his Longhorns do not start playing better football.

Playing better football should start with McCoy. Concussion or otherwise, the quarterback threw four interceptions against Kansas State, two of them before the injury and two after. McCoy sustained the concussion on a big hit by Clayton Cox late in the second quarter. He went into the locker room before the official start of halftime, but started the second half.

He looked good at first -- leading Texas to a touchdown -- then bad -- throwing two more interceptions -- and then just plain ugly, vomiting on the sideline after being removed from the game.

"He's tough," head coach Mack Brown sadi. "Most kids would have come out at halftime."

The pain against Kansas State was nothing new for McCoy, who was knocked out of the entirety of last season's loss to the Wildcats on the game's first drive, when he suffered a pinched nerve in his neck.

Florida: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The newly-demoted No. 9 Gators are already in the midst of answering a host of questions after Saturday's loss to unranked Auburn, but the coaches suddenly have some internal questions to answer, as well. Offensive tackle Phil Trautwein and running back Chris Rainey are officially out for the rest of the season, but receiver Andre "Bubba" Caldwell numbed some of the the team's pain, since he should be back up to speed for Saturday's game at No. 1 LSU. And they will certainly need him.

Trautwein started every game for the Gators in 2006, but a stress fracture in his right foot sidelined him for the first five games of 2007. The senior captain had hoped to recouperate in time to help the Gators bring home a second national title, but head coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that Trautwein will not play for the remainder of the season. He should get a medical redshirt and return for a fifth year in 2008.

Rainey, a true freshman, injured his shoulder and should be having shoulder surgery in the coming weeks. He has seen time in four games this season, rushing once for 10 yards, returning a punt for 22 yards and a kickoff for 39 yards.

Luckily, there was some good news on Monday to offset the lost boys - Bubba Caldwell should be back in time to help the Gators take on No. 1 LSU on Saturday. Caldwell had missed two games earlier in the season with a sprained ligament in his right knee, and saw limited time in last week's loss to Auburn. Having Caldwell back in the lineup should be a huge boost for the Gators, both physically and mentally. A co-captain and preseason All-SEC selection, Caldwell caught four passes for 111 yards in his first two (healthy) games and recorded a rushing touchdown before the injury kept him on the sideline for the past few weeks.

The Gators' offense will have to do better than it did against Auburn if the reigning national champions hope to knock off the nation's best defense, and Caldwell is central to that equation.

Auburn: Ecstacy Erased By Agony

Auburn pulled off a huge upset win (again) over Florida on Saturday, but the Tigers' celebrations were cruelly cut short by injury news. Defensive end Quentin Groves, who was on every defensive award's preseason watch list coming into his senior year, disloacted three toes in his right foot during the victory and running back Tristan Davis brook a bone in his foot, taking both players out until further notice.

Groves went to Birmingham on Monday morning to have tests and X-rays done on the injured foot after the toes were popped back into place. Early indications showed no fractures in the foot, and if X-rays confirm that diagnosis, Groves will be back at practice as soon as he can put weight on his toes. The Tigers will certainly need their defensive powerhouse if they plan to continue their SEC turnaround - in five games, Groves has 22 tackles, including a team-best six for a loss and two sacks. He also has a forced fumble and an eye-popping 18 quarterback hurries to his name.

Davis was scheduled for surgery on Monday to insert a pin into the broken foot. The junior missed the season's opening four weeks with a broken toe (which was stepped on by a teammate) and saw very little time on Saturday before suffering the injury. The broken bone is on the same foot as the original injury, but head coach Tommy Tuberville said that the two injuries are not related. This season, Davis has returned two kickoffs for 38 yards.

"We've had the freakiest stuff happen this year, and this just adds to our list," Tuberville said.

 

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