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Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 1

Christian McCaffrey is in action on Friday night against Kansas State (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images North America)
Christian McCaffrey is in action on Friday night against Kansas State (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images North America)

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 1

College Football began on August 26 with Hawaii and California playing in Sydney, Australia. That game was followed up by the five time defending FCS Champions North Dakota State surviving an overtime game against Charleston Southern. The season begins in full force on Thursday, September 1 with sixteen games.

Many of the top matchups are getting most of the press and rightfully so. LSU versus Wisconsin, USC versus Alabama, Notre Dame at Texas, Ole Miss versus Florida State, Georgia versus North Carolina, Clemson at Auburn, and Oklahoma versus Houston are all tantalizing on paper. All of those games will be fun to watch, but let’s take at some of the games that may not be on the radar.

Note, these games are listed in order of when they will be played.

1. South Carolina at Vanderbilt (9/1 at 8 PM EST) – This probably does not strike as much, but it could be a game that determines if one of these schools reaches a bowl game in 2016. This will be Will Muschamp’s first game at South Carolina and he inherits just nine returning starters (four on offense and five on defense). It will be interesting to see if Vanderbilt’s offense can improve from 2015 and the impact Muschamp has on the South Carolina team.

2. Kansas State at Stanford (9/2 at 9 PM EST) – A Friday night game at the Farm featuring Heisman hopeful Christian McCaffrey against a formidable Bill Snyder coached Kansas State defense is worth watching. Heck, just a chance to see McCaffrey in action is a game worth watching. Can the K-State defense keep McCaffrey somewhat in check? How will Stanford’s new quarterback play? Can K-State keep the game close and provide some worry to the Stanford fans? There are a lot of things that will be interesting to keep track of in this one.

3. Western Michigan at Northwestern (9/3 at 12 PM EST) – Western Michigan is a team that could make some serious noise in the MAC West in 2016. A game against a team like Northwestern will be a very good measuring stick. The Broncos have offensive weapons like quarterback Zach Terrell (3,510 yards with 67% completions as well as 29 touchdowns and 9 interceptions), Jamauri Bogan (1,051 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns), Jarvion Franklin (735 yards rushing and five touchdowns), and receiver Corey Davis (90 catches for 1,436 yards and 12 touchdowns). Meanwhile, how Clayton Thorson progressed for the Northwestern offense is a big question because they cannot rely solely on Justin Jackson (1,418 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns).

4. Missouri at West Virginia (9/3 at 12 PM EST) – Missouri had one of the top defenses from last year (gave up 16.2 points and 302 yards per game) while West Virginia averaged 34 points and 480 yards per game. The contrasting styles and how each team can effectively make adjustments will be exciting to see.

5. UCLA at Texas A&M (9/3 at 3:30 PM EST) – UCLA is coming off an 8-5 season and is considered one of the favorites for the Pac-12 and Pac-12 Title. They are led by sophomore Josh Rosen (3,668 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions) and have nine starters back on defense. Kevin Sumlin may be under the microscope more than usual this year after back-to-back 8-5 seasons. Two former Sooners will be in the back for the Aggies as Trevor Knight and Keith Ford. The Aggies will also have back the top five receivers from 2015 and this could be a fun game to watch if the offenses explode.

6. BYU versus Arizona (9/3 at 10:30 PM EST) – BYU may appear on this list quite often given their schedule. Taysom Hill is back for yet another season and he goes up against an Arizona team that went 7-6 last year and returns 15 starters. This game will also be Kalani Sitake’s first game in charge of BYU after 11 years of Bronco Mendenhall. This game will be a fun one to watch between Arizona’s Anu Solomon and Hill.

7. FCS Teams versus FBS Teams – These matchups are always worth keeping an eye on because they can produce some shocking results (see Portland State winning not once, but twice in 2015 against FCS teams). It is always great to see the FCS teams holding a late lead and see if they can complete the upset.

Check back next week for under the radar games for week two.

Five Predictions For Southeastern Conference In 2016

Nick Saban has led Alabama to four National Championships in his time at the school. (ean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America)
Nick Saban has led Alabama to four National Championships in his time at the school. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America)

Five Predictions For Southeastern Conference In 2016

The 2016 College Football season began last night with California defeating Hawaii 51-31 in Sydney, Australia. Below are five predictions for Southeastern Conference for the 2016 season. Some predictions will be right, some predictions will be wrong, and some will be spectacularly awful (or correct) by the end of the season.

There are no changes to the teams for the Southeastern Conference as the fourteen teams remain the same and are split into East and West Divisions. The seven teams in the East Division are Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. The seven teams in the West Division are Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M.

Here are five predictions for the Southeastern Conference in 2016:

1. Every SEC West team will make a bowl game – The SEC West has done this two years in a row already with every team going to a bowl in both 2014 and 2015. In both of those years, every team finished with a winning record as well. The SEC West sets up well again for it to be three straight years with every team making a bowl game. No time needs to be spent on Alabama, LSU, or Ole Miss as they should easily reach six wins.

Arkansas – They play Louisiana Tech, Texas State, and Alcorn State in the state of Arkansas (the Alcorn State game is played in Little Rock), and TCU on the road for their non-conference schedule. From the East, they draw Florida at home and Missouri on the road. They may need two or three wins against SEC West opponents to reach six wins.

Auburn – They face Clemson, Arkansas State, Louisiana Monroe, and Alabama A&M at home in their non-conference schedule. They also draw Vanderbilt out of the East, which means they only need two wins against fellow SEC West opponents if they go 4-1 against the aforementioned opponents.

Mississippi State – Their non-conference schedule consists of South Alabama and Samford at home while facing Massachusetts and BYU on the road. A 3-1 record looks like the worst case scenario for the Bulldogs and they draw South Carolina (home) and Kentucky (road) from the East.

Texas A&M – They have to face UCLA, Prairie View, New Mexico State, and UT-San Antonio out of conference all at home. They will play South Carolina (away) and Tennessee from the East. Like Auburn, if they go 4-2 in those games, they will only need two wins against the SEC West.

It looks likely the SEC West will make it three straight seasons with every team making a bowl if each of the teams above only require two wins to reach six wins. Every team is capable of grabbing a couple of wins against fellow SEC West teams.

2. Kentucky will not reach that elusive bowl game – Kentucky has not been to a bowl game since 2010 when they lost to Pittsburgh 27-10 in the Compass Bowl. This will be Mark Stoops’ fourth year and the seat will be a lot hotter if the season unravels as it has the past two years.

In 2014, Kentucky opened with a 5-1 record that included a triple overtime loss to Florida on the road. The final six games featured five losses by double digits and a close loss on the road to rival Louisville (44-40). In 2015, Kentucky had another strong start going 4-1 with another close loss to Florida. They went 1-6 in their final seven games with a victory over Charlotte and two close losses to Auburn (30-27) and Vanderbilt (21-17).

There are nine starters back on the offensive unit after putting up 24.7 points and 372 yards per game last year (both down from 2014). One of those two starters being replaced is at quarterback where Drew Barker is expected to take over. He only threw for 364 yards with a touchdown and two picks in just two starts last season. He has the top four running backs as well as the top ten receivers from 2015 returning. The offense should be more efficient and there are plenty of reasons for Barker to succeed.

The defense returns just five starters from their unit that allowed 27.4 points and 394 yards per game in 2015. That was an improvement of nearly four points and 13 yards per game over 2014’s defense. However, this year the losses are heavy as seven of the top eight tacklers have left. This is the area of concern for the Wildcats and may prevent them from getting to six wins.

2016 starts with Southern Miss at home and then Florida on the road before back-to-back home games against New Mexico State and South Carolina. A 3-1 record is mandatory for Kentucky to have a chance at making a bowl. Alabama (road) and Vanderbilt (home) are the next two games before a bye. The final half of the season only gets harder. They finish with Mississippi State (home), Missouri (away), Georgia (home), Tennessee (away), Austin Peay (home), and Louisville (away). The Wildcats are going to need a few upsets (and avoid that second half of the season swoon) if they are to end the bowl drought.

3. Vanderbilt will make a bowl game – 2016 will be Derek Mason’s third year and it is clear that the team is heading in the right direction. They went 3-9 in 2014 and 4-8 in 2015 with a huge improvement on defense. After allowing 33.3 points per game in 2014, they only allowed 21 points per game last year. The offense needs improvement after putting up just 15.2 points and 327 yards per game. That side of the ball will have running back Ralph Webb again after rushing for 1,152 yards and 5 touchdowns. The quarterback play will be better regardless of who wins after throwing for just 172 yards per game in 2015. There are eight starters back on offense and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is in his second year.

The defense will have seven starters back with Mason running the unit again. Four of the top five tacklers are back while nearly all of the secondary returns. It would not be surprising to see the Commodores have another very good season on defense and it will need to be if they are to make a bowl appearance.

The schedule is challenging for Vanderbilt, but not overwhelming to start the season. They have South Carolina and Middle Tennessee at home before back-to-back road games at Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky. Up next are Florida (home), Kentucky (road), Georgia (road), and Tennessee State (home) before their final four games in November. They take on Auburn and Missouri on the road while facing Ole Miss and Tennessee at home. Vandy can start no worse than 3-1 if they are to have a shot at making a bowl game, but that start is very doable.

4. The Arkansas-Mississippi State game will determine the last place finisher in the SEC West – These two teams appear to be the weakest on paper, but that is why they play the games. Both teams lost their quarterback from last year (Dak Prescott for MSU and Brandon Allen for Arkansas). Both teams also lost their leading rusher (Prescott for MSU and Alex Collins for Arkansas). However, both teams return their top receiver from a year ago (Fred Ross for MSU and Drew Morgan for Arkansas).

The key for this prediction is how well the teams have come together and there will be plenty of time for that as Arkansas travels to Starkville on November 19 (the tenth game of the year for both teams). The Bulldogs having won four straight in the series, but the last three have been decided by a touchdown or less. While both teams have rivalry games the next week (MSU in the Egg Bowl vs Ole Miss and Arkansas versus Missouri), no game in the SEC West can be classified as a trap game this year.

5. Missouri will win the SEC East – This seems preposterous with the amount of hype around Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida, but let’s take a look outside the box. Missouri lost long time head coach Gary Pinkel as he retired after 15 years at the helm. Taking over is defensive coordinator Barry Odom who was with the team in 2015 and also played as a linebacker the school from 1995 to 1999.

The offense returns just five starters, but last year’s unit was abysmal averaging just 13.6 points (only Kent State’s 13.1 points per game were worse in the FBS) and 281 yards of offense per game. Former Oklahoma Sooner quarterback Josh Heupel is the offensive coordinator and a fellow Sooner is in the backfield in Alex Ross to give the rushing attack a spark. Drew Lock is back at quarterback after throwing for 1,322 yards with 4 touchdowns and 8 interceptions (49%) while starting the last eight games. The top receivers are back as well and the only place this offense can go is up.

The real crux of this team is the defense, which a large part of the reason the team did not end up worse than 5-7 last year. They gave up just 16.2 points and 302 yards per game in 2015 and now have eight starters back. Six of the top seven tacklers return as well as the entire defensive line and two of the three linebackers from last year. The defense has given up 133 and 134 yards rushing per game the last two years and they should duplicate that again in 2016.

Missouri does not have the friendliest SEC schedule. They start with Georgia at home on September 17 before a road game at LSU on October 1. Up next are the Gators on the road again October 15, but at least they have a bye week to prepare for that contest. Middle Tennessee (home), Kentucky (home), South Carolina (road), and Vanderbilt (home) all lead up to their final pair of games: on the road at Tennessee and home to Arkansas.

Since joining the SEC, Missouri is 2-2 against Florida, 1-3 against Georgia, and 3-1 against Tennessee. Perhaps the biggest test is not their penultimate game (Tenn), but the third game of the season against Georgia. If the offense improves by a touchdown or ten points a game along with the defense that should be very tough and keep them in every game, then these Tigers could surprise some teams this year.

The Predictions

With the SEC predictions above, predictions have been made for every conference. Links to all the predictions for each conference are provided below.

July 17 – FBS Independents

July 17 – Sun Belt

July 23 – C-USA

July 24 – MAC

July 30 – American Athletic

July 31 – Mountain West

August 7 – Big 12

August 13 – Atlantic Coast

August 14 – Pac-12

August 20 – Big Ten

August 27 – SEC

2016 Women’s College World Series Schedule

Softball pic

2016 Women’s College World Series Schedule

The final eight teams in the 2016 NCAA Division 1 Softball season will be playing for the chance to win the Women’s College World Series with an updated bracket here. Each game of the 2016 Women’s College World Series will take place from ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The 8 teams will compete in a double elimination format until only two teams are left. Those two remaining teams will then play in a best of three championship series to determine the National Champion.

The two-time defending National Champions, the Florida Gators, were knocked out in the Super Regional round by Georgia so there will be a new Champion crowned in 2016. All of the schools in the 2016 WCWS have previously been to the Women’s College World Series. Results for the Regional round can be found here while the Super Regional results can be found here.

Returning from the 2015 WCWS are Michigan, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, and UCLA.

Below are the eight teams that made the 2016 Women’s College World Series.

SeedTeamRecordConferenceWCWS Appearances (Including 2016)
2Michigan51-5Big Ten12th
3Oklahoma52-7Big 1210th
4Auburn54-10SEC2nd
6Alabama51-12SEC11th
8Florida State53-8ACC9th
10LSU50-16SEC5th
12UCLA40-14-1Pac-1226th
16Georgia45-18SEC3rd

The Women’s College World Series will get underway on Thursday, June 2 with four games scheduled for the opening day. The entire schedule can be found in the table below with the Championship Series located in a separate table. The tables below will be updated with final scores as the games go final each day.

6/2/2016 Update: The final two games scheduled for Thursday, June 2 were postponed to Friday due to weather. If games 13 and/or 14 are needed to be played, they will take place on Monday, June 6, pushing back the start to the Championship Series to Tuesday, June 7. If games 13 and/or 14 are not needed, the Championship Series will begin on Monday, June 6 as scheduled.

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)
TV
Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/2/2016Game #112 PM
ESPN
#16 Georgia#8 Florida State5-4
6/2/2016Game #22:45 PM
ESPN
#12 UCLA#4 Auburn3-10
6/3/2016Game #37 PM
ESPN2
#6 Alabama#3 Oklahoma0-3 (8 Innings)Postponed to 6/3 due to weather
6/3/2016Game #49:30 PM
ESPN2
#10 LSU#2 Michigan0-2Postponed to 6/3 due to weather
6/4/2016Game #57 PM
ESPN2
#4 Auburn#16 Georgia4-3
6/4/2016Game #69:30 PM
ESPN2
#3 Oklahoma#2 Michigan7-5
6/4/2016Game #712 PM
ESPN
#8 Florida State#12 UCLA8-4UCLA Eliminated
6/4/2016Game #83:20 PM
ESPN
#10 LSU#6 Alabama6-4Alabama Eliminated
6/5/2016Game #91 PM
ESPN
#2 Michigan#8 Florida State0-1Michigan Eliminated
6/5/2016Game #103:35 PM
ESPN2
#16 Georgia#10 LSU1-4Georgia Eliminated
6/5/2016Game #117 PM
ESPN2
#8 Florida State#4 Auburn7-8 (8 Innings)Florida State Eliminated
6/5/2016Game #1210:40 PM
ESPN2
#3 Oklahoma#10 LSU7-3LSU Eliminated
6/6/2016Game #137 PM
ESPN2
Game #11 LoserGame #11 WinnerIf Necessary
6/6/2016Game #149:30 PM
ESPN2
Game #12 LoserGame #12 WinnerIf Necessary

2016 Women’s College World Series Championship Series

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)
TV
Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/6/2016Game #18 PM
ESPN
#4 Auburn#3 Oklahoma2-3Recap
6/7/2016Game #28 PM
ESPN
#3 Oklahoma#4 Auburn7-11 (8 Innings)Recap
6/8/2016Game #37 PM
ESPN
#4 Auburn#3 Oklahoma1-2Oklahoma Wins 2016 National Championship

2015 Big Ten Week 1 Roundup

It was not a good day for Christian Hackenberg and Penn State in their opening game. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images North America)
It was not a good day for Christian Hackenberg and Penn State in their opening game. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images North America)

2015 Big Ten Week 1 Roundup

Below are some thoughts from each game that a Big Ten team participated in from the opening week of College Football. One thing to keep in mind is that was only week one, which means there is plenty of room for improvement for both winners and losers in the game.

Michigan Wolverines at Utah Utes

Result: Utah Win 24-17 (Thursday, September 3)

The most visible thing about Michigan’s opening week loss and Jim Harbaugh’s debut to Utah was the three interceptions by quarterback Jake Rudock. His most egregious was the pick 6 he threw midway through the fourth quarter that gave Utah a 24-10 lead.

Outside of the interceptions, Rudock played solidly. He missed some wide open throws, but his touchdown pass to Jake Butt late in the third quarter (into triple coverage) showed he has the ability to make good. Speaking of Butt, he had a good game by making 8 receptions for 93 yards. Also playing well was Amara Darboh, who had 8 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Another concern for Michigan was the running game and offensive line. The Wolverines gained just 76 yards on 29 carries as a team for only a 2.6 yards per carry average. The offensive line also has issues getting a good push, especially in short yardage situation.

Overall, it was not the worst start for Michigan. There were positives and they have three consecutive home games versus Oregon State, UNLV, and BYU.

#2 TCU Horned Frogs at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Result: TCU Win 23-17 (Thursday, September 3)

There is a lot to take out of this game for Minnesota. They played a top ranked offense from 2014 and held them to 23 points and forced two turnovers.

The Gophers were able to get a solid game from Rodney Smith, who ran for 88 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. That was good considering their opponent and they lost David Cobb from last year’s squad. Mitch Leidner played well with 197 yards and 1 touchdown through the air, but he also lost a fumble midway through the first quarter that led to a TCU touchdown. One final note is that Rodrick Williams had a fumble as he was about to score that cost the Gophers points.

Then there was the Gophers’ defense that played a bend, but do not break style. They gave up 449 yards to TCU’s offense and were able to get an interception off Trevone Boykin that stopped a scoring threat. They also forced a fumble inside their own red zone to save more points. It was a really good performance for Minnesota given how many yards they allowed.

Minnesota will be on the road next week to play Colorado State.

#5 Michigan State Spartans at Western Michigan Broncos

Result: Michigan State Win 37-24 (Friday, September 4)

Michigan State had a tricky game to open the season against a talented Western Michigan squad. Connor Cook looked good throwing for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns, but completed only 15 of 31 passes. The running game for the Spartans looked really good between freshman LJ Scott (13 carries for 77 yards), Madre London (13 carries for 59 yards and 2 touchdowns), and Gerald Holmes (9 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown). Aaron Burbridge had an excellent showing at wide receiver catching 4 passes for 117 yards.

There will probably be some worry about Michigan State giving up 24 points to Western Michigan, but the duo of quarterback Zach Terrell and running back Jarvion Franklin are good. The Spartans were solid in the running game holding Franklin to just 23 yards on 8 carries before he left midway through the third quarter with a head injury. Overall, the Spartans allowed only 18 yards on 23 carries. The Spartans did give up over 100 yards to the receiving couple of Corey Davis (10 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown) and Daniel Braverman (13 catches for 109 yards). However, the Spartans played well on the road and shut down the running game forcing the Broncos to play catch up.

Michigan State has a massive game next weekend against Oregon at home.

#21 Stanford Cardinal at Northwestern Wildcats

Result: Northwestern Win 16-6 (Saturday, September 5)

The high point for the Big Ten was right around 2 PM Central Time on Saturday with Northwestern’s 16-6 victory over Stanford. It was a dominating performance from the Wildcats in a statement game for a team that is coming off back-to-back 5-7 seasons.

The Wildcats decided to let freshman Clayton Thorson handle the quarterback duties and he played mistake-free in his first start. He threw for 105 yards on 12 of 24 passing, but was impressive with a 42 yard dash for the lone touchdown of the game. He finished with 8 carries for 68 yards and that touchdown. Also helping Thorson out was running back Justin Jackson, who had 28 carries for 134 yards.

On both sides of the ball, Northwestern was the more physical and dominant team. The Wildcats rushed for 225 yards as a team compared to just 85 for Stanford. The defense for Northwestern had a rough first drive giving up 64 yards and a field goal, but were clearly best after that. The defense was led by Anthony Walker’s impressive performance. He finished with 10 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, and 2 pass breakups.

Northwestern already looks like a handful after one game, but it is useful to remember that is has been only one game. The Wildcats have Eastern Illinois at home next weekend.

Illinois State Redbirds at Iowa Hawkeyes

Result: Iowa Win 31-14 (Saturday, September 5)

Most games against FCS competition do not yield much in the way of impressions, but this is different. Illinois State made the FCS National Championship in 2014, but lost narrowly to North Dakota State 29-27. They have a high powered offense, but were held to just 14 points and 231 yards.

C.J. Beathard looked good for Iowa going 15 of 24 for 211 yards and 1 touchdown. His top two targets were Jordan Canzeri (4 catches for 80 yards) and Matt VandeBerg (6 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown). The nice surprise was LeShun Daniels‘ 123 rushing yards on 26 carries.

The defense was very good for Iowa until the final quarter. They gave up 152 yards in the fourth quarter as well as the 14 points that Illinois State scored. However, they were able shut down Tre Roberson, who had just 49 yards on 5 of 12 passing before leaving with cramps. Marshaun Coprich had only 32 on 13 carries.

Yes, it was only the FCS Illinois State Redbirds, but this was a good start. Iowa has an in-state rivalry game next week on the road at Iowa State.

Richmond Spiders at Maryland Terrapins

Result: Maryland Win 50-21 (Saturday, September 5)

Maryland took a while to get going against Richmond, but eventually all phases of the games got in gear. Quarterback Perry Hills had an okay game going 12 of 21 for 138 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.

The running game was excellent for the Terps by gaining 341 yards on 45 carries and scored 3 touchdowns. Brandon Ross led the team 150 yards and a touchdown, Ty Johnson had 83 yards and 1 touchdown, and Wes Brown ran for 74 yards and a touchdown.

The star on Saturday for Maryland was return man William Likely. He had 2 kickoff returns for 63 yards, but did his damage on punt returns. He had 8 returns for 233 yards including a 67 yard return for a touchdown.

The defense is a bit of a concern having given up a lot of yards in the first half, but they settled down nicely in the final 30 minutes. The Terps will be playing Bowling Green next week at home.

Norfolk State Spartans at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Result: Rutgers Win 63-13 (Saturday, September 5)

Of all the games this weekend, this was the hardest to decipher if anything significant happened. Rutgers demolished a sub par Norfolk State team, but they looked good doing it. Both quarterbacks were excellent with Chris Laviano going a perfect 4 for 4 with 138 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hayden Rettig threw for 110 yards and a touchdown on 9 of 11 passing. Neither passer hurt their chances of winning the job against Norfolk State.

Josh Hicks ran the ball well with 118 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 carries while Paul James had 15 carries for 82 yards. Leonte Carroo had a field day by catching 3 passes for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The defense was pretty solid after giving up 75 yards and a touchdown to start the game. For the game, Rutgers allowed only 196 yards and actually held Norfolk State to -3 yards rushing.

It was a good performance given the Scarlet Knights dismissed 5 players from the team. Rutgers will be at home next week with Washington State coming to town.

Kent State Golden Flashes at Illinois Fighting Illini

Result: Illinois Win 52-3 (Saturday, September 5)

Another Big Ten team that was in turmoil to start the season was Illinois. They were originally scheduled to play on Friday night, but constant lightning forced the game to Saturday afternoon. That proved to be no issues as the Illini crushed Kent State.

Wes Lunt was efficient by throwing for 162 yards and 4 touchdowns on 11 of 19 passing. The offense scored touchdowns on both of the first 2 drives courtesy of Lunt’s arm. Josh Ferguson ran for 76 yards and a touchdown to lead the Illini while Ke’Shawn Vaughn ran for 43 yards and a score. 10 different receivers caught a pass with the most catches by one player being 2 (four different receivers had two catches). Geronimo Allison led the team in receiver with 57 yards and a touchdown on 2 catches.

The defense was determined for Illinois as they forced 4 turnovers and allowed only 245 yards. Mason Monheim, Eaton Spence, and Taylor Barton were the trio that picked off passes. V’Angelo Bentley looked dangerous in the return game with 3 punt returns for 85 yards with a long of 48.

The Illini showed no effects of losing Tim Beckman as their head coach and Bill Cubit had them ready. They will take on Western Illinois at home next week.

Penn State Nittany Lions at Temple Owls

Result: Temple Win 27-10 (Saturday, September 5)

This game marked a negative turning point for the Big Ten for the opening weekend. Penn State was out of sorts against Temple as they suffered a bad defeat.

By now, most people know how this went. The offensive line was horrendous by giving up 10 sacks. Christian Hackenberg had no time to throw and it showed by his stat line of 11 completions on 25 attempts for 103 yards and an interception. That interception was a terrible throw by Hackenberg that nearly resulted in a pick 6. The Owls did score a touchdown as a result.

Akeel Lynch was decent for Penn State by gaining 78 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Brandon Polk was electric on his two carries with a total of 50 yards including a 33 yarder. The Nittany Lions finished the game with 77 yards rushing and only 180 yards of total offense.

Penn State’s defense was not terrible early on was they forced 4 punts and a fumble to start the game. They did give up a 93 yard drive that ended in a touchdown for Temple in the second quarter. The second half was much worse as they were constantly on the field.

Penn State has a chance to fix their issues next week at home with Buffalo going to Happy Valley.

BYU Cougars at Nebraska Cornhuskers

Result: BYU Win 33-28 (Saturday, September 5)

The Penn State game was bad for the Big Ten, but the ending to this game was brutal. A Hail Mary by BYU’s Tanner Mangum fell into the waiting arms of Mitch Mathews for the 33-28 win and a crushing blow to Nebraska in Mike Riley’s Nebraska debut.

Nebraska’s offense was pretty good especially Tommy Armstrong. He threw for 319 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception on 24 of 41 passing. The Cornhuskers ran for 126 yards as a team, but Terrell Newby was the high mark at 43 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Jordan Westerkamp was all over the field with 7 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Reilly also had 5 catches for 70 yards.

The real issue for Nebraska, as it has been for many years now, was the defense. They allowed 511 yards to BYU and that includes a stretch when the Cougars were without Taysom Hill. It has to be disconcerting to see Nebraska’s defense constantly be unable to finish a game. Another worrisome issue has to be kicker Drew Brown, who missed both of his field goals on Saturday.

Nebraska welcomes South Alabama to Lincoln next week.

Southern Illinois Salukis at Indiana Hoosiers

Result: Indiana Win 48-47 (Saturday, September 5)

Indiana did everything they could to not win against Southern Illinois, but managed to win 48-47 thanks to stopping a 2 point conversion in the final minute of the game.

The Indiana offense was scoring at will with Nate Sudfeld throwing for 349 yards and a touchdown. UAB transfer Jordan Howard ran for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns and wide receiver Ricky Jones caught 6 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.

As usual, the worry is all about the defense for Indiana. They allowed a whopping 659 yards off offense including 411 through the air. Mark Iannotti threw for all 411 of those yards as well as 4 touchdowns on 24 of 31 passing. He also led the Salukis in rushing with 106 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries bringing his offensive yardage total up to 517 for the game.

The Hoosiers did have 9 players suspended for the game on Saturday, but defense has been an issue for a while. The defense will need to get better in a hurry as they face Florida International at home next week.

#20 Wisconsin Badgers versus #3 Alabama Crimson Tide

Result: Alabama Win 35-17 (Saturday, September 5)

The main showcase for the Big Ten on Saturday was Wisconsin and Alabama squaring off in Arlington, Texas. It was not a good showing for Wisconsin as they wilted in the second half.

The Badgers were crushed in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They managed just 40 yards rushing on 21 carries for the entire game with Alex Erickson’s 25 yard rush making him the leading rusher. Corey Clement had 16 yards on 8 carries, but was hampered by injuries that caused him to miss significant playing time.

Despite the poor rushing performance, the Badgers got to see a pretty good game out of Joel Stave. He went 26 of 39 for 228 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception (which came late in the fourth quarter with the outcome determined). He still has a good target in Alex Erickson, who also led the team in receiving with 73 yards and a touchdown on 6 grabs.

The defense for Wisconsin gave up 502 yards, but the game was all about Derrick Henry for Alabama. He ran 147 yards and 3 touchdowns on 13 carries and made the Badgers’ defenders look silly. The defense will need to get much better, especially on the line. It is also worth noting that safety Michael Caputo left after getting hit in the had making a tackle in the first half.

The Badgers get some serious competition relief with Miami (OH) going to Madison next week. The Badgers will be delighted to have them in town to work on their issues.

Purdue Boilermakers at Marshall Thundering Herd

Result: Marshall Win 41-31 (Sunday, September 6)

Purdue continued the Big Ten’s downward slide, but they had a chance to pull the upset as a touchdown underdog. A couple of interceptions thrown by Austin Appleby were returned for a pick six. The first happened on the opening play of the game and the other happened as the Boilermakers were mounting a drive to have a chance to tie the game or take the lead. Both times it was Tiquan Lang who brought the ball back to the house for Marshall.

If you take away the two pick sixes, Appleby played pretty well. He went 29 of 45 for 244 yards with 1 touchdown and he also had another touchdown on the ground on a sneak. He made smart decisions for the most part (again outside of the two pick sixes). He did throw two other interceptions with one coming late in the game after the pick 6 put the game beyond a doubt.

DeAngelo Yancey led the team in receiving with 5 catches for 78 yards while Anthony Mahoungou was second with 4 catches for 59 yards. Nine different receivers caught a pass for Purdue, which is good news for the depth.

The rushing game for Purdue was good with D.J. Knox leading the team with 102 yards and a touchdown while making himself very difficult to tackle. Markell Jones ran for 72 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries as well. Overall, the offense seemed to have a good rhythm going between the two pick sixes, but it fell apart with those turning points.

The defense was okay for Purdue. They gave up 397 yards, but were able to recover two fumbles and got an interception. However, the interception was squandered by the offense with a missed field goal. In crunch time, the defense allowed Marshall to go down the field on an 11 play, 84 yard drive to make it a 34-31 lead for Marshall. It was a decent performance that is better than the 41 points would indicate.

Purdue faces Indiana State at home next weekend.

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes at Virginia Tech Hokies

Result: Ohio State Win 42-24 (Monday, September 7)

Ohio State ended the bad run for the Big Ten, but they were not without some nervous moments. The Buckeyes rushed out to a 14-0 lead thanks to a touchdown pass from Cardale Jones and an 80 yard run by Ezekiel Elliott. After that, the offense stalled for the rest of the first half thanks to adjustments by Virginia Tech and turnovers. Virginia Tech came back to scored 17 unanswered points while the Hokies took a 17-14 lead at halftime.

Elliott finished the game with 122 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, but the game plan was not conducive to him running a lot. Jones settled down after his interception and finished with 186 yards and 2 touchdowns on 9 of 18 passing. He also ran the ball for 99 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

The biggest performance came from former quarterback Braxton Miller who was in the wildcat and catching passes. His first catch was an excellent diving grab for 24 yards before he caught a 54 yard touchdown pass early in the second half. Then there was his incredible spin on a rushing play that went for 53 yards and a touchdown. JT Barrett also saw action in the fourth quarter at quarterback. He had a 26 yard touchdown pass and also had a nice run of 40 yards.

The offense was solid early and in the second half, but Jones will need to cut down on the turnovers and bad decisions (his interception was tipped and intercepted on a bad decision to throw). The Buckeyes finished with 572 yards of total offense and were only 3 of 9 on third down. Nevertheless, the offense is going to be incredible the rest of the year.

The Ohio State defense was solid early on, even with the absence of Joey Bosa. They did let some receivers get free on the touchdown drives, but were pretty good outside of those. One area of concern is that Virginia Tech was 8 of 17 on third down conversions and also lost contain at times. The latter will be helped with the return of Bosa next week.

Ohio State has a quick turnaround with a home game against Hawaii in week two.

Check back next week for thoughts from the Big Ten performances in week two.

2015 College Football Preview: SEC West

Nick Saban has brought Alabama back to prominence and the Tide are always a Championship Contender with him at the helm. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)
Nick Saban has brought Alabama back to prominence and the Tide are always a Championship Contender with him at the helm. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

2015 College Football Preview: SEC West

We have reached our final preview in the 2015 College Football Preview series here at Sports Enthusiasts. The SEC West, along with the SEC Championship, are in the crosshairs and what a final division we have to look at. Below are all the previews done to this point, so please feel free to check those out.

MAC East Division – July 1

MAC West Division – July 3

Mountain West, Mountain Division – July 7

Mountain West, West Division – July 10

C-USA East Division – July 14

C-USA West Division – July 17

The American East Division – July 21

The American West Division – July 24

FBS Independents – July 28

Sun Belt – July 28

Big 12 – July 31

ACC Coastal Division – August 4

ACC Atlantic Division – August 7

Big 10 West Division – August 11

Big 10 East Division – August 14

Pac-12 North Division – August 18

Pac-12 South Division – August 21

SEC East Division – August 25

SEC West Division – August 28

Let’s take a look at the one of the toughest divisions in college football, the SEC West.

1. LSU Tigers

Les Miles has been wonderful at LSU. In his 10 years, he has won at ten games 7 times and his “worst” year has been an 8-5 recorded in both 2008 and 2014. LSU lost the 2011 BCS Championship to Alabama 21-0 and followed that with back-to-back 10-3 seasons. 2014 was plagued by inconsistency at quarterback and both return in 2015.

The offense will have nine starters returning from a group that put 27.6 points and 387 yards per game. Brandon Harris is expected to win the starting quarterback job after throwing for 452 yards with 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He will have Anthony Jennings (1,611 yards with 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions) behind him if he cannot handle those duties. Leonard Fournette was hyped as the next-coming in 2014 and he finished the year with a solid 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns while better production is expected of him in 2015. The top four receivers all return, however, their numbers are hardly overwhelming. Travin Dural had 37 catches for 758 yards and 7 touchdowns, Malachi Dupre had 14 receptions for 318 yards and 5 touchdowns, John Diarse caught 15 passes for 275 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Trey Quinn finished with 17 catches for 193 yards. With three starters back on the offensive line as well as better quarterback play in 2015, the offense should produce better numbers than they did last year.

LSU’s defense is usually pretty good. 2014 was no exception with the team yielding 17.5 points and 317 yards per game. In 2015, there will be six starters back with two on the defensive line. Those two will be Christian LaCouture (40 tackles and 2.5 sacks) and Davon Godchaux (42 tackles). LSU loses linebacker Kwon Alexander (90 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 6 tackles for loss), but does have Kendall Beckwith (77 tackles, 2 sacks, and 5.5 tackles for loss) and Lamar Louis (29 tackles) returning. The secondary has two starters back as well with Jalen Mills leading the way (62 tackles, 5 pass breakups, and 1 interception), but he will miss at least the first four weeks due to leg surgery. The other returning starter is Tre’Davious White, who had 33 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions while Jamal Adams was integral in 2014 with 66 tackles, 1 sack, and 4 tackles for loss. The defense will be stingy again in 2015, especially when Mills returns.

LSU has a non-conference schedule of McNeese State (home), Syracuse (road), Eastern Michigan (home), and Western Kentucky (home), which makes them very likely to go 4-0 in those games. In their division, they will face Mississippi State, Alabama, and Ole Miss on the road in three very tough games while playing Auburn, Arkansas, and Texas A&M at home. From the East, they will play South Carolina (road) and Florida (home) in two winnable games. The games against Alabama on November 7, Arkansas on November 14, and Mississippi on November 21 are sure to determine whether LSU wins the SEC West.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

We all know that Nick Saban has been great at Alabama. After a 7-6 record in his first year during the 2007 season, Alabama has won at least 10 games every year since 2008. He has won three SEC Championships as well as three National Titles for the Crimson Tide. The one concern (if you can call it that) is the defense has given up 45 points and 42 points, respectively, in the past two years during the Sugar Bowl. Alabama lost both of those games including last year when they were eliminated the College Football Playoff Semifinals by eventual national champion Ohio State.

The offense put up 36.9 points and 485 yards per game in 2014 with Lane Kiffin at the helm, but 2015 will be interesting with only three starters returning. Jake Coker will be at quarterback after throwing for 403 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions last year, but has plenty of talent after battling Jameis Winston when he was at Florida State. Derrick Henry was the top running back in 2014 with 990 yards and 11 touchdowns in a deep backfield while Kenyan Drake (112 yards and 4 touchdowns) is back after a broken leg last year. The biggest loss was at wide receiver with Amari Cooper (124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns) going on to the NFL. There is a lot of talent here (Robert Foster, Calvin Ridley, Daylon Charlot) and a bit of experience in OJ Howard (17 catches for 260 yards), Chris Black (15 catches for 188 yards), and ArDarius Stewart (12 catches for 149 yards), but that production will be impossible to replace. There will also be only two starters back on the line so the work will be cut out for Saban and Kiffin. It is hard to see the offense producing the same numbers in 2015 as they did in 2014.

The defense is almost always spectacular under Saban. Their worst year since 2008 was actually last year when they allowed 18.4 points and 328 yards per game, which is still a very good season. Seven starters are back in 2015 including all three on the defensive line. Jonathan Allen had 33 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 6 tackles for loss, A’Shawn Robinson had 49 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss, and Jarran Reed had 55 tackles, 1 sack, and 5.5 tackles for loss. Returning at linebacker will be the duo of Reggie Ragland (95 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 9 tackles for loss) and Denzel Devall (11 tackles) who made seven starters and was out with injury for six games. The secondary is led by Cyrus Jones, who had 46 tackles, 13 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions. Also returning in the secondary is Eddie Jackson (41 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and an interception). Look for another big year from the defense that could have even better numbers than they had in 2014.

Alabama opens the year with the tough neutral site game against Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas. They will also face the trio of Middle Tennessee, Louisiana-Monroe, and Charleston Southern at home to close out their non-conference schedule. They will have to play Ole Miss, Arkansas, and LSU at home while facing Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Auburn on the road. From the East, Alabama will play Georgia (road) and Tennessee (home). The offense is the obvious concern for Alabama, but their defense should be good enough to keep them in every game while the offense finds its feet.

3. Mississippi Rebels

Ole Miss went 4-8 in 2010 and 2-10 in 2011 in Houston Nutt’s last two years. They decided to bring in Hugh Freeze, who has steadily turned around the Rebels. He paid immediate dividends by taking the Rebels to a bowl game in his first season and then went 8-5 in 2013. 2014 was a really good season for them with a 9-4 record including a 23-17 victory over #4 Alabama at home, but were blown out by an excellent (and angry) TCU squad in the Peach Bowl.

The offense has been good under Freeze in all three seasons. In 2013, they put up 30 points and 473 yards per game while those numbers dropped a bit in 2014 to 28.3 points and 419 yards per game. There will be nine starters back for Ole Miss this year, but quarterback Bo Wallace is gone. The good news for the Rebels is they have Clemson transfer Chad Kelly ready to take over immediately after a year in the junior college ranks. They will also have the top two running backs from last year in Jaylen Walton (586 yards and 5 touchdowns) and Jordan Wilkins (361 yards and a touchdown). The receiving unit looks to be in good shape even without their top man from 2014. Evan Engram (38 catches for 662 yards and 2 touchdowns), Cody Core (41 receptions for 558 yards and 6 touchdowns, and, of course, the return of LaQuon Treadwell (48 catches for 632 yards and 5 touchdowns). The entire offensive line returns and despite the loss of Wallace, the offense should be able to put up good numbers again in 2015.

The defense was very good in 2014 by giving up only 16 points and 329 yards per game. Seven starters will be back from that defense led by the trio of Robert Nkemdiche (35 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss), Isaac Gross (37 tackles, 1 sack, and 7 tackles for loss), and Marquis Haynes (31 tackles and 7.5 sacks) on the line. Also in the mix on the line are junior college transfer DJ Jones, redshirt freshman Breeland Speaks, and senior Channing Ward (30 tackles and 2.5 sacks). CJ Johnson is back at linebacker (38 tackles, 4 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss) and will be joined by Denzel Nkemdiche (28 tackles and 1 sack), who missed the final five games of the year due to a broken ankle. The secondary will have three starters back led by Tony Conner (69 tackles, 1 sack, 8 tackles for loss, and an interception), Mike Hilton (71 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 7 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions), and Trae Elston (59 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and an interception). The defense will be good again in 2015, but may not match the same numbers from 2014.

Ole Miss has an easy non-conference schedule with Tennessee-Martin, Fresno State, and New Mexico State at home and a single road game at Memphis. In division, they face Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State on the road and Texas A&M, Arkansas, and LSU at home. From the East, Ole Miss will take on Florida (road) and Vanderbilt (home). The Rebels will have a really good shot at a double digit win season and are in contention for the SEC West title.

4. Arkansas Razorbacks

Bret Bielema came to Arkansas in 2013 and the Razorbacks had a rough first year under him. They went 3-0 to start the season, but lost the final nine games. However, the final three games saw an improved Arkansas team that nearly upset #15 LSU on the road as a 26 point underdog. 2014 was better with Arkansas going 6-6 in the regular season including back-to-back upset shutouts of LSU (17-0) and Ole Miss (30-0). They also nearly upset Alabama at home and lost by a touchdown to the trio of Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Missouri.

The offense for Bielema will have nine starters back. In 2013, they averaged only 20.7 points and 357 yards per game while 2014 saw the numbers improve to 31.9 points and 406 yards per game. Brandon Allen is back after throwing for 2,285 yards with 20 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, but the focus will be on the running game. There are four starters back on the offensive line to pave the way for the Alex Collins. Collins had 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground in 2014, which was second the team. The top rusher was Jonathan Williams, who had 1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns, but will miss all of 2015 due to surgery on his foot. The top two receivers are back in Keon Hatcher (43 catches for 558 yards and 6 touchdowns) and Hunter Henry (37 catches for 513 yards and 2 touchdowns). If a viable second back can be developed behind Collins, the Arkansas offense could be really dangerous, but at the least they should be able to match year’s numbers.

The defense took a major step forward in 2014 when compared to 2013. In 2013, the defense gave up 30.8 points and 413 yards per game while the numbers plummeted to 19.2 points and 323 yards per game last year. There will be six starters back with two on the line in JaMichael Winston (26 tackles) and Taiwan Johnson (26 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 3.5 tackles for loss). The line gave up only 115 yards rushing per game and 3.5 yards per carry. The linebackers will have only Brooks Ellis back, but he was second the team in tackles with 72 while also recording 5 tackles for loss, 5 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions. The secondary returns mostly intact with three starters back with the trio of Jared Collins (53 tackles and 13 pass breakups), DJ Dean (29 tackles, 5 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions), and Rohan Gaines (59 tackles, 5 pass breakups, and 1 interception). The defense should be stout again in 2015.

Arkansas opens the season with games against UTEP, Toledo, and Texas Tech with all those games in the state of Arkansas. They also face Tennesssee-Martin at home in October. They will face Texas A&M in Arlington as well as Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU on the road. They will play at home against Auburn and Mississippi State and take on Tennessee (road) and Missouri (home) from the East. Arkansas’ games against Alabama and LSU both fall on the road, but they are dangerous team in the West.

5. Auburn Tigers

Auburn won the BCS National Championship in 2010, but quickly fell to 8-5 in 2011 and then 3-9 in 2012. 2013 saw Gus Malzahn come in and nearly win another National Championship for Auburn, but they lose to Florida State in the BCS Championship 34-31. They went to 8-5 last year and are hoping to bounce back to another double digit win season in 2015.

The offense has only four starters back from a group that put up 35.5 points and 485 yards per game in 2014. Of course, Gus Malzahn is known for his offenses and he will have Jeremy Johnson slinging the ball around. Johnson threw for 436 yards and 3 touchdowns while starting the first half of the opener against Arkansas. He will have three of the top five receivers from 2014 led by Duke Williams, who had 45 catches for 730 yards and 5 touchdowns. Also back are Ricardo Louis (21 catches for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns) and Melvin Ray (8 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown). The top running back in 2014 was Cameron Artis-Payne (1,608 yards and 13 touchdowns), but he has moved on to the NFL. He will be replaced by Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas (214 yards and 2 touchdowns). There are three starters back on the offensive line to give Johnson some time as well as create lanes for Robinson and Thomas. The offense will be just fine in 2015 despite only four starters back.

The defense will have eight starters back from a unit that allowed 26.7 points and 399 yards per game. The defensive line will have DaVonte Lambert (24 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 3.5 tackles for loss) and Montravius Adams (43 tackles, 3 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss) back. The Buck position will be handled by Carl Lawson (out for 2014) and Gimel President (30 tackles, 1 sack, and 4 tackles for loss). At linebacker, the duo of Cassanova McKinzy (91 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 9.5 tackles for loss) and Kris Frost (87 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 6.5 tackles for loss) returning. The secondary will have three starters returning led by Johnathan Ford, who had 93 tackles and 3 interceptions last year. Also returning is Jonathan Jones, who was a ball hawk in 2014 with 11 pass breakups and 6 interceptions to go along with 36 tackles. The defense should be very solid in 2015.

Auburn opens the season with a neutral site game in Atlanta, Georgia against Louisville. They will also face Jacksonville State, San José State, and Idaho at home for their other non-conference games. Auburn will have to play LSU, Arkansas, and Texas A&M on the road while taking on Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Alabama at home. From the East, the Tigers play Kentucky (road) and Georgia (home). While it is hard to pick the Tigers this low, they are not without a chance to win the West.

6. Texas A&M Aggies

Kevin Sumlin came to Texas A&M in 2012 with two things against him: his first year in charge and the Aggies’ first year in the SEC. He did quite well by going 11-2 overall including the marvelous 29-24 upset of #1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 2013 saw them slip slightly to 9-4 while they went 8-5 in 2014. 2015 will be Sumlin’s fourth year and he has some serious quarterback prospects in his stable.

The offense was a bit underwhelming in 2014 by Sumlin’s standards. They averaged 35.2 points and 455 yards per game, which is great for most teams, but it was nearly 10 points and 100 yards per game than in 2013. Kyle Allen will be at quarterback after getting some playing time in 2014 when he threw for 1,322 yards with 16 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He will be throwing to Josh Reynolds (52 catches for 842 yards and 13 touchdowns), Speedy Noil (46 catches for 583 yards and 5 touchdowns), Ricky Seals-Jones (49 catches for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns), and Edward Pope (30 catches for 454 yards and 4 touchdowns). Tra Carson was the top running back in 2014 with 581 yards and 5 touchdowns and returns alongside Brandon Williams (379 yards and 3 touchdowns). Three starters are back on the offensive line and the numbers should go up for the offense in 2015.

The defense will have eight starters back in 2015 from a group that allowed 28.1 points and 451 yards per game. The trio of Daeshon Hall (29 tackles and 4.5 sacks), Hardreck Walker (35 tackles), and Alonzo Williams (57 tackles and 4.5 sacks) will be returning on the line. The linebackers were hit hard, but the hybrid spot, Rush, will be manned by Myles Garrett, who had 53 tackles and 11.5 sacks. Only Shaan Washington returns at one of the traditional linebacker spots after recording 64 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss last year. The secondary has De’Vante Harris (53 tackles and 1 interception) and Armani Watts (59 tackles, 8 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions) back. It is hard to imagine the defense not improving in 2015 with the amount of experience returning.

Texas A&M opens the year with Arizona State in Houston, Texas. After that, they will play Ball State, Nevada, and Western Carolina at home in their non-conference schedule. In division, they have to take on Arkansas in Arlington, Texas before playing Mississippi State, Alabama, and Auburn at home. They will play both Ole Miss and LSU on the road. From the East, they have the duo of South Carolina (home) and Vanderbilt (road) in two winnable games. The Aggies are immensely talented and will have a better offense, which makes it tough to put them this low. They do have a chance to make noise in the West and make the SEC Championship game.

7. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Dan Mullen has been pretty consistent since taking over Mississippi State in 2009. They went 5-7 in that first year, but have made five straight bowl games since then and have also had a winning season each year since 2010. 2014 was nearly a magical season for MSU, as they opened 9-0 before losing three of their last four games. Their two regular season losses were on the road to Alabama and Ole Miss and were then walloped in the Orange Bowl, 49-34. 2015 looks like a rough year with only seven total starters returning.

The offense will have four starters back from a group that put up 36.9 points and 514 yards per game in 2014. The good news is that quarterback Dak Prescott is one of those returning after throwing for 3,449 yards with 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while also rushing for 986 yards and 14 touchdowns. Prescott will be leaned on heavily all season with the top returning running backs in Brandon Holloway (294 yards and 1 touchdown) and Ashton Shumpert (274 yards and 2 touchdowns). The top two receivers also return with De’Runnya Wilson (47 catches for 680 yards and 9 touchdowns) and Fred Ross (30 catches for 489 yards and 5 touchdowns) leading the way. There will be only two starters back on the line as well. Despite just four starters returning, they are in a good spot with the quarterback and top two receivers back, but it will be tough for them to match last year’s output.

The defense has only three starters back from a unit that allowed 21.7 points and 424 yards per game. Ryan Brown is the lone returning starter on the line after recording 39 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 3.5 tackles for loss. He will be joined by Chris Jones (26 tackles and 3 sacks) and AJ Jefferson (28 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss). At linebacker, Beniquez Brown is back after recording 62 tackles (#2 on team) along with 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and 2 interceptions. Richie Brown saw playing time in every game in 2014 and recorded 50 tackles and 3 interceptions as well. The secondary has just Taveze Calhoun (53 tackles, 9 pass breakups, and 1 interception) back at starter, but Will Redmond had a solid year as well with 51 tackles, 5 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions. It will be hard for the Bulldogs to have as good a year as they did in 2014 on the defensive side of the ball.

MSU will have Southern Miss on the road to start their non-conference slate, but finish up with Northwestern State, Troy, and Louisiana Tech at home. In conference, they will play Auburn, Texas A&M, and Arkansas on the road while taking on LSU, Alabama, and Ole Miss at home. From the East, they will play both Kentucky (home) and Missouri (road). In a very deep SEC West, it is tough to put the Bulldogs down here with Dak Prescott returning as well as Dan Mullen at the helm. At the very worst, MSU should be back in a bowl game for 2015, but can cause some serious problems for the other teams in the West.

Overview

How difficult is it to predict the SEC West? All seven teams made a bowl game in 2014 and all seven teams have a legit chance at winning the division this year. If you are a fan of one of the teams picked at the bottom, do not fret because this was the hardest preview to write given the quality and depth of all the teams. The predicted order of finish below is sure to be wrong, but that is a testament to the SEC West.

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Mississippi

4. Arkansas

5. Auburn

6. Texas A&M

7. Mississippi State

SEC Championship

For the SEC Championship, we had Tennessee winning the SEC East to set up a contest against LSU, the winner of the SEC West. If that were to be the SEC Championship, we will go with LSU to capture yet another for the West Division, which would be the 7th straight against the East.

That concludes the 2015 College Football Preview here at Sports Enthusiasts. Be sure to check back for more news and information regarding all the divisions in College Football, but also for standings and schedules.

2015 Women’s College World Series: Day 3 Wrap Up

2015 Women's College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)
2015 Women’s College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)

2015 Women’s College World Series: Day 3 Wrap Up

Elimination Saturday comprised four games that would cut the field in a half from eight teams to four teams. It was an exciting day that sets up Sunday to determine the two teams that will contest the Championship Series starting on Monday.

An updated schedule of games can be found here while recaps of the games on Thursday are here and Friday are here.

#8 Tennessee Versus #4 Auburn – Game 7 Recap

A close game between SEC foes Tennessee and Auburn saw the Tigers come out on top with a 4-2 win. Auburn will be back on the field again on Saturday needing to win a second game to stave off elimination.

Auburn started a two out rally with a walk drawn by Kasey Cooper and single to left field by Branndi Melero, but a ground out ended the rally in the top of the first.

The Volunteers also had a two out rally of their own in the bottom of the first. A single past the shortstop by Megan Geer was followed by a single from Annie Aldrete to put runners on the corners. A pop out in shallow left field also left Tennessee without any runs.

The top of the second produced an even better chance for Auburn. Haley Fagan led off with a single and Carlee Wallace did the same. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners up to second and third, but like the first inning, the Tigers could not capitalize.

Tennessee also had a great opportunity to put up the first runs of the game. A one out double by Rainey Gaffin was followed up with a walk and single to load the bases. A line out by Meghan Gregg to short allowed a double play to occur as Tory Lewis was too far off the base and thrown out at first. After two innings, the game was still scoreless.

The top of the third was a similar story for Auburn, but a different ending this time. Cooper drew a one out walk and moved up to second on a ground out by Melero. Morgan Estell hit an infield single and then stole second to put runners on second and third. A little dribbler off the end of the bat by Fagan was perfectly placed with the infield back and the Tigers took a 1-0 lead.

The Tigers continue to build their lead with a double by Wallace to the right center field wall to clear the bases. At this point, Tennessee’s Erin Gabriel was removed from the pitching circle for Cheyanne Tarango with Auburn leading 3-0. Auburn added another run with Jade Rhodes hitting a pop fly down the left field line that could not be caught by Shaliyah Geathers despite it being in her glove. Wallace scored to make it 4-0, which is the lead the Tigers took after the top of the third.

Tennessee was finally able to put their first run on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Scarlet McSwain started with a lead off single while a ground out two batters later saw he thrown out at second, but Gaffin reach base. Geathers then hit a double that reached the left center field wall to bring home Gaffin while the Vols trailed 4-1 after four innings.

The Tigers had a chance to rebuild their lead to four runs with runners on first and second with two outs, but the Volunteers did not give up a run by forcing a ground out to end the threat.

The Vols had a chance to cut into their deficit in the bottom of the fifth and did so. Gregg reached on a funky hop over the pitcher’s glove while Lexi Overstreet singled to right field. Geer hit into a double play with a line out to right field while Overstreet was doubled up at first on an overzealous base running trip. A single by Aldrete and hit by pitch from McSwain loaded the bases with two outs.

After going to a full count, Tarango was able to hit an opposite field single to right field to score Gregg to make it a 4-2 game. Auburn decided to replace Lexi Davis in the circle with Rachael Walters who was able to get the last out of the inning with a fly out to left field by Gaffin.

A formful sixth inning set up a tense finish between the Tigers and Volunteers in the bottom of the seventh with Auburn holding a 4-2 lead. Overstreet struck out to start the bottom half of the inning while an error by at second base by Emily Carosone allowed Megan Geer to reach first base. It was just the third error by Carosone all season.

Walters was able to get Aldrete to chase a rise ball for a strike out and out number two. Walters then struck out McSwain to end the game and keep Auburn alive. Tennessee was eliminated with the loss.

The win against Tennessee was Auburn’s first Women’s College World Series win in program history. They will be back on the field again on Saturday with a game against UCLA at 7 PM Eastern Time.

#6 Alabama Versus #2 Oregon – Game 8 Recap

The Alabama Crimson Tide survived to play another game on Saturday with a tight 2-1 victory over Oregon. Alexis Osorio threw a complete game three hitter for the Tide.

In the bottom of the first, Alabama got a one out walk from Haylie McCleney and she then stole second. A strike out by Jadyn Spencer and deep fly out to the warning track by Chaunsey Bell left McCleney stranded.

The Tide were in better position to score in the bottom of the second. A one out single by Danae Hays was followed by a double off the right center field wall from Daniell Richard, however, the runners were stopped at second and third. Cheridan Hawkins struck out Leona Lafaele, but a flare single into right field by Chandler Dare brought home both runners for a 2-0 Alabama lead after two innings.

Oregon was able to cut the deficit in half to 2-1 in the top of the third inning. Lauren Lindvall drew a one out walk while a ground ball moved her up to second. A single from Janie Takeda drove Lindvall home for a 2-1 game after two and a half innings of play.

The Ducks had a chance in the top of the fourth to tie the game. Jenna Lilley started with single to right center field and she was sacrificed to second by Hailey Decker. A strike out, walk, and hit by pitch loaded the bases for Oregon with two down, however, Lindvall grounded out to second to end the inning.

Oregon’s Janie Takeda bunted to reach base in the top of the fifth, but was thrown out trying to steal second and the Ducks could not continue the rally. In the bottom of the fifth, Dare had a one out double over the right fielder to put Alabama in position to score a crucial insurance run. Dare would be run down after a ground ball back to Hawkins while Demi Turner was able to get all the way to second. After intentionally walking McCleney to put runners on first and second, Hawkins was able to strike out Jadyn Spencer to keep the game at 2-1 in favor of Alabama.

Both teams went down in order in the sixth inning to set the stage for a last chance in the top of the seventh for Oregon. The Ducks would provide an anticlimactic finish with a pop out and two strikeouts to end the game.

Alexis Osorio ended up going the distance giving up only one run, three hits, and two walks, but struck out nine Oregon batters in the win.

Oregon has been eliminated from the Women’s College World Series while Alabama will play LSU on Saturday night after UCLA versus Auburn.

#7 UCLA Versus #4 Auburn – Game 9 Recap

The game of the tournament thus far was wild from start to finish. Both teams had plenty of action while UCLA blew a five run lead in the third inning and Auburn blew a two run lead in the top of the seventh. In the end, Auburn won 11-10 on a walk off walk of all plays. (The box score is worth checking out and is linked at the end of the previous sentence).

UCLA’s top of the first began with a hard hit to right center field by Delaney Spaulding that went to the warning track, but the ball was caught. After a bunt out, Ally Carda hit a soft single to right center field while Stephany LaRosa hit a two out double to right field to put runners on second and third. A check swing by Mysha Sataraka led to a Carda being thrown out at home to keep the game scoreless after half an inning.

The bottom of the first gave Auburn a chance to take the lead with a two out rally. Back-to-back walks ended up not leading to anything more as a fly out ended the first inning with no score in the game.

In the top of the second, UCLA was able to get runners on first and second with one out after an error by Auburn’s Kasey Cooper and a single to shortstop. Once again, the Bruins could not take advantage as a foul out and ground out ended the top of the second.

The Bruins finally got on the board in the top of the third. A lead off walk by Allexis Bennett turned into a runner on second after she stole second easily. Another walk drawn by Carda and a sacrifice bunt moved the runners up to second and third with only one out. Another walk to Sataraka loaded the bases while Auburn elected to take Lexi Davis out of the circle in favor of Rachael Walters.

The first pitch to Gabrielle Maurice was crushed into the right center field gap for a bases clearing triple and a 3-0 UCLA lead. After another walk, a bunt by Gracie Goulder was fielded and thrown back to home to get Maurice at the plate to keep it a 3-0 game. The Bruins added a fourth run with a single to right center by Kylee Perez that scored Maddy Jelenicki. The Tigers then made another pitching change with Marcy Harper coming in for Walters. One more run scored after a double steal of second and home (to go along with a blown call at second on the steal) to make it a 5-0 game after the top of the third.

Auburn’s offense responded in the bottom of the third. A walk by Jenna Abbott and back-to-back singles from Tiffany Howard and Emily Carosone loaded the bases with no outs for the Tigers. Kasey Cooper drew a walk to bring home one run while Branndi Melero single to right field to make it a 5-2 UCLA. At this point, Ally Carda was taken out with Selina Ta’amilo stepping into the pitching circle.

The first pitch by Ta’amilo was a wild pitch that allowed Carosone to score and the two runners to move up to second and third. The bases were loaded again after a four pitch walk to Morgan Estell with still no outs on the board. After a force out at home, Carlee Wallace cleared the bases with a double to left center field to give Auburn a 6-5 lead and still only one out in the bottom of the third.

Ally Carda then re-entered the game after the double and her second pitch was well over the catcher’s head to move Wallace to third base. Wallace was thrown out at third on a ground ball from Jadyn Rhodes. Carda and UCLA finally got out of the third inning, but blew a five run lead and trailed 6-5.

The Bruins were able to tie the game in the top of the fourth. A fielding error and bunt single followed a wild pitch put runners on second and third with one out. Sataraka hit a fly ball to left field that scored Bennett to knot the game up at six while Jelenicki flied out to end the inning.

Auburn would reclaim the lead in the bottom of the fourth. A single by Emily Carosone and walk by Kasey Cooper set up Branddi Melero, who drilled a line drive over the left center field wall for a three run shot and a 9-6 lead.

The Bruins continued to battle in the top of the fifth. A lead off single from Gabrielle Goulder was followed up with an infield single by Kylee Perez to put runners on with no outs. A single from Delaney Spaulding to right field scored Goulder as she slid into home to make it a 9-7 Auburn lead. Both runners also moved up to second and third with no outs on the board.

Bennett struck out looking before Ally Carda drew a walk to load the bases. A foul out behind home plate from Stephany LaRosa and a nice jumping catch by Auburn’s Kasey Cooper at third kept the game at 9-7 after the top of the fifth.

The Bruins had a two out rally in the top of the sixth with a walk by Goulder and single up the middle by Perez. A grounder through the infield by Spaulding loaded the bases, but a pop out to left field by Allexis Bennett ended the bases loaded threat.

UCLA had one final chance in the top of the seventh and they made the most of it. Carda led off with a single and LaRosa singled back to the pitcher to put runners on first and second. A sacrifice moved them up one base before a ground out by Gabrielle Maurice scored Carda who slid around the tag to make it 9-8 with two down. Jelenicki came up and crushed a two run blast to left center for a shocking 10-9 lead in the top of the seventh.

The Tigers still had a chance to come back and tie or win. Haley Fagan started with a lead off single back up the middle and Carlee Wallace crushed a ball into the gap in left field to score Fagan to tie the game at ten while Wallace was at second with no outs. Wallace was replaced by Victoria Draper. Jade Rhodes sacrificed Draper to third to set up Jenna Abbott, but she grounded to third with Draper caught in a run down and thrown out at third. Abbott was also thrown out on the play going for second in a bizarre ending to the seventh inning.

In the top of the eighth, Perez led off with a single before a ground out and infield single from Bennett put runners on first and second with one out. Carda then flew out to center and LaRosa grounded straight to third base to set Auburn up with a chance to win the bottom of the inning.

Carosone was hit in the helmet by a pitch, but was okay and took first base with one out and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A walk drawn by Melero put Morgan Estell in the batter’s box and she too was able to draw a walk to load the bases with two outs. Haley Fagan hit a deep shot to right field, but it was on the warning track for the third out of the inning and the two teams continued to play into the ninth inning.

UCLA had another scoring chance in the top of the ninth. Gabrielle hit a one out double to left center field past the diving left fielder and she advanced to third on a passed ball. However, Jelenicki struck out and Goulder grounded out to first to keep the game at 10 apiece heading into the bottom of the ninth.

Auburn’s Wallace drew a lead off walk, but was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice. Strikeouts by Abbott and Howard sent the game into a tenth inning.

Auburn had yet another chance to end the game in the bottom of the tenth. Carosone was walked on four pitches while Cooper singled to center field to put runners on first and second with no outs. Melero then flared a single to left field to load the bases, which brought up Morgan Estell. Estell drew a walk to give the Auburn Tigers the walk off win by a score of 11-10.

UCLA has been eliminated from the 2015 Women’s College World Series and Auburn will face the Florida Gators on Sunday at 1 PM Eastern. Auburn will need to defeat Florida twice on Sunday to reach the Championship Series.

#6 Alabama Versus #5 LSU – Game 10 Recap

The LSU Tigers held on for a 5-3 victory over rival Alabama on late Saturday evening and early Sunday morning. The Tigers have moved on to the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series with the victory.

Alabama got on the board in the top of the first. Demi Turner drew a lead off walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. She later advanced to third on a ground out and was able to score on a single to right field by Marisa Runyon. After the top of the first, Alabama held a 1-0 lead.

LSU answered back in the bottom of the first. LSU had a runner on first after a single by Bailey Landry. She later stole second base with two outs and scored after a rope single to center field by Sahvanna Jaquish. Kellsi Kloss came up and hit a single between the left fielder, center fielder, and shortstop that scored Jaquish. However, Kloss was able to move to second and then scored after a bad throw to second base to make it a 3-1 LSU lead after the first inning.

Alabama’s defensive problems continued in the bottom of the second. After Constance Quinn drew a lead off walk, she was able to advance to second after a bunt. A single by Emily Griggs was not fielded properly, but no error was charged to put runners on the corners with one out. A ground out by A.J. Andrews to first base allowed Griggs to move to second and Landry hit a two run single past the second baseman to bring the score up to 5-1 after two innings.

The third and fourth innings were mostly uneventful. LSU got a lead off walk from Quinn, which led to Alabama’s Sydney Littlejohn being replaced by Leslie Jury as pitcher. Quinn tried to steal second, but was thrown out and LSU held a 5-1 lead after four innings.

Alabama’s Andrea Hawkins reached first base after a fielding error at shortstop to start the top of the fifth. After back-to-back ground outs, Hawkins was on third, but could not be brought home after a fly out to right field ended the frame. LSU started with a lead off single from Andrews in the bottom of the fifth, but were set down in order after that.

The Tide put together an excellent rally to start the top of the sixth. An error allowed Jadyn Spencer to reach first and Runyon hit a single to center field to put the first two runners on with no outs. Runyon was taken off the base paths for Rachel Bobo. LSU’s Allie Walljasper induced two fly outs to left field from the next two batters and a pop out to short to get out of the jam unscathed.

LSU tried to put together a two out rally and increase the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Quinn hit a single up the middle while Dylan Supak drew a walk and was pinch ran for by Sydney Bourg. The Tigers would not be able to advance as Emily Griggs grounded out to third to end the inning. LSU led 5-1 heading to the top of the seventh.

Alabama’s last chance in the top of the seventh started with a ground ball by Hawkins and she was able to leg out an infield single. Chandler Dare had the same result for the Tide to put runners, which led to Walljasper coming out and Carlee Hoover entering to try and close the game out.

Hoover started with a strikeout of Demi Turner and a wild pitch allowed the runners to move up to second and third. Haylie McCleney drew a walk to load the bases while Jadyn Spencer hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Hawkins to make it a 5-2 deficit with two outs. Both runners also moved up to second and third while a wild pitch by Hoover allowed a run to score to make it 5-3, but Hoover forced a ground out to end the game.

Alabama has been eliminated while LSU will face Michigan on Sunday at 3:30 PM Eastern Time. LSU will need to win twice against Michigan on Sunday to make the Championship Series.

2015 Women’s College World Series: Day 1 Wrap Up

2015 Women's College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)
2015 Women’s College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)

2015 Women’s College World Series: Day 1 Wrap Up

The 2015 Women’s College World Series got underway with four games played on Thursday night and into early Friday morning due to some severe weather in Oklahoma City. Each game is recapped below while a schedule for the upcoming games can be found here.

#8 Tennessee Versus #1 Florida – Game 1 Recap

The Florida Gators opened their defense of the National Championship with a 7-2 win over Tennessee on Thursday. Another complete game by Lauren Haeger lifted the Gators to the victory.

The Gators started the scoring in the bottom of the first with a rocket to left field by Haeger to give them a 1-0 lead. Florida loaded the bases after a walk, single, and hit by pitch, but could not add to their lead.

The Gators would have another chance to add to their lead in the bottom of the second. Following a walk and ground out, Kelsey Stewart singled to put runners on first and second with only one out. A grounder back to the pitcher advanced the runners and the Volunteers opted to load the bases by intentionally walking Haeger. Bailey Castro came up next, but could not capitalized as her strike out ended the rally.

Florida did add to their lead in the bottom of the third. Following a strike out and walk, Kayli Kvistad came up and drilled a shot to right center field to put the Gators up 3-0. The three run lead would not last long, however.

The Volunteers finally got their first runner on base in the top of the fourth following Shaliyah Geathers being hit by a pitch. A fly out brought Megan Geer up to the plate and she hit a two run shot to left field to make it a one run game again at 3-2.

Florida would respond in the bottom of the fourth. After two quick outs, Haeger was able to single to left field and advanced to second on a wild pitch while Castro was hit by a pitch. Kirsti Merritt was able to hit a hard ground ball to second, but it was not fielded by Geer that allowed Haeger to score. Merritt then stole second and while sliding head first the ball went off her helmet allowing Castro to waltz home for a 5-2 Florida lead after four innings.

The bottom of the sixth saw the Gators add more insurance runs. A lead off single from Stewart was followed by a ground out and Stewart was able to get to third on a stolen base. After Haeger was hit by a pitch (and pinch ran for by Jessica Damico), a throw by the catcher to third base went into left field that scored Stewart. Damico scored on a bunt back to the pitcher that was not fielded cleanly to make it 7-2.

The Gators were able to load the bases, but could not score another run. It would not matter as the Volunteers went down in order to end the game in the top of the seventh.

Haeger gave up only one hit (the two run homer by Geer) while striking out four batters and allowing no walks.

Florida moves into the winner’s bracket and will face the winner of LSU and Auburn game on Friday at 7 PM Eastern Time. Tennessee will be playing the loser of LSU and Auburn on Saturday at 12 PM Eastern Time.

#5 LSU Versus #4 Auburn – Game 2 Recap

The LSU Tigers sound defeated fellow SEC rival Auburn 6-1 on Friday afternoon in the second game of the Women’s College World Series. LSU’s Carley Hoover gave up only one run in a complete game.

LSU got on top first with a solo shot to left field by Bianka bell in the top half of the first inning. Auburn was unable to answer with LSU taking a 1-0 lead after one inning.

In the top of the second, LSU Constance Quinn hit a bloop single to right field and an error fielding the ball put her on second. Sydney Bourg came up and struck out to end the rally.

In the top of the third, Emily Griggs led off with a lead off single to left field before a double play with Auburn’s third baseman Kasey Cooper charging and catch a bunt then throwing down to first. LSU, however, would still come out with a bigger lead.

A two out single by Bailey Landry and walk drawn by Bell put runners on first and second. Sahvanna Jaquish then delivered a ball into the right center field gap to drive home two runs on a double. Up next was Kellsi Kloss and she drove an 0-1 pitch to left off the foul pole. LSU led 5-0 after just two and a half innings of play.

Auburn was in great position to score in the bottom of the third. Back-to-back singles put runners on first and second while a close ground out put runners on the corners. A fly out by Cooper ended the threat and Auburn was still looking for their first run of the game.

LSU put runners on first and second in the top of the fourth following back-to-back singles, but were unable to take advantage of the opportunity. The bottom of the fourth saw a tremendous catch by A.J. Andrews in center field as LSU led 5-0 after four innings.

In the bottom of the fifth, Auburn got a lead off double from Morgan Estell and she was sacrificed to third on a bunt by the next batter. Up next was Jenna Abbott who hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring home Estell and make it a 5-1 deficit.

LSU started the top of the sixth with a single from Quinn while Griggs singled two batters later. A ground ball by Andrews back to the pitcher was thrown over the third baseman’s head and Quinn was able to score. Griggs moved to third and Andrews, despite a stumbling out of the batter’s box, was able to move all the way to second. Auburn settled down to limit the damage to one run in the top of the sixth to trail 6-1.

The bottom of the sixth began with a single by Emily Carosone and she advanced to third on back-to-back ground outs. She could not score after another ground out ended the inning and Auburn trailed 6-1 after six.

Auburn had one last chance in the bottom of the seventh. H Fagan reached first base after LSU’s Sandra Simmons could not hold on to the ball. Estell then came up to hit a bunt single with her speed to put runners on first and second with no outs. Jade Rhodes then hit into a double play with a ground ball back to third base and she was thrown out at first. A strike out ended the game.

Carley Hoover went the distance giving up only one run on six hits while striking out five Auburn Tigers.

LSU will move to the winner’s bracket and face the defending National Champions, the Florida Gators on Friday at 7 PM Eastern Time.

Auburn drops into the loser’s bracket and will face the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday at 12 PM Eastern Time. The loser of that game will be eliminated while the winner will play a second game on Saturday.

#6 Alabama Versus #3 Michigan – Game 3 Recap

Another excellent pitching performance by Megan Betsa helped send the Michigan Wolverines to the winner’s bracket with a 5-0 win. She pitched a complete game shutout giving up only four hits and one walk while striking out six batters.

The Wolverines struck first in the bottom of the first. Kelly Christner took an 0-2 pitch to right field with a line drive over the wall and a 1-0 Michigan lead.

Neither team was able to get a runner on base in the second and third innings. Alabama got their second base runner and first hit in the top of the fourth, but that was the extent of that rally for the Tide.

Michigan was able to load the bases in the bottom half of the fourth after a single by Sierra Romero, walk by Christner, and single by Kelsey Susalla. After battling back to get a full count, Lauren Sweet took a 3-2 pitch to right center field that just go over the fence for a grand slam and a 5-0 Michigan lead. Michigan was unable to add to the lead despite putting a runner in scoring position.

Michigan had another chance to tack on runs in the bottom of the fifth after a walk by Romero, but she was thrown out trying to steal second. Christner then drew a walk and she successfully stole second, but Susalla’s strike out ended the inning.

Alabama finally put together a serious threat in the top of the sixth. Demi Turner singled up the middle with one out and then tagged up to second base following a fly out. Jadyn Spencer singled to shortstop to put runners on first and second, the first time Alabama had a runner in scoring position in the game. The Wolverines got out of the jam by forcing a pop out from Marisa Runyon to end the top of the sixth still five runs to the good.

The Tide were unable to get more than a runner on first and were shut out for the second time this season. The other game was against fellow WCWS participant Florida.

Michigan moves to the winner’s bracket and will face either UCLA or Oregon on Friday evening. Alabama moves to the loser’s bracket to face the loser between UCLA and Oregon.

#7 UCLA Versus #2 Oregon – Game 4 Recap

UCLA upset the second seeded Oregon Ducks 7-1 on Friday night. UCLA’s Ally Carda pitched a complete game giving up one run on six hits with only one walk and three strike outs.

Despite a steady rain in the first couple of innings, the game was played through the precipitation. Oregon had a great opportunity in the bottom of the first, but an uncharacteristic base running mistake hurt them. After a fielder’s choice got Janie Takeda on base, Jenna Lilley hit a single to right field, but Takeda hesitated rounding second and was thrown out at third. The Ducks would not score in the bottom of the first.

The Bruins were able to get a couple of runs of Cheridan Hawkins in the top of the second. Stephany LaRosa hit a bomb to straightaway center field to lead off the inning. Gabrielle Maurice did the same, but to left field with two outs and UCLA led 2-0 after the top of the second.

The game was delayed at the start of the top of the third with UCLA leading 2-0. A lightning strike in the area was the cause for the delay that lasted about 45 minutes.

Delaney Spaulding hit a one out double in the top of the third and later advanced to third on a ground out, but Carda’s ground out ended the rally. Oregon had a chance to get on the board in the bottom of the third with a lead off runner getting on after an error. Nikki Udria was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second, but Takeda lined out into a double play while Lilley lined out to end the inning.

The Ducks threatened again in the bottom of the fourth back-to-back singles to open the frame put the Ducks in great scoring position. Carda settled down to get the next two batters out before another single loaded the bases. Yet another ground out ended the threat and UCLA held a 2-0 lead after four innings.

A largely uneventful fifth inning gave way to the game changing sixth inning. With runners on second and third with two outs, Mysha Sataraka hit a pop fly to right field that could not be handled properly allowing both runners to score for a 4-0 lead. More defensive issues would haunt the the Ducks.

Maurice struck out for the third out of the inning, but a wild pitch allowed her to make it to first to keep the inning alive. A single by Gracie Goulder brought home one run while Kylee Perez‘s single to right field brought home to more runs to make it 7-0.

Oregon was able to get one run across in the bottom of the seventh after a lead off double from Koral Costa and a single by Lauren Lindvall scored Costa. A wild pitch allowed Lindvall to move to second, but Carda forced a foul out and then hit Udria with a pitch. Another pop out and another wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, but Carda was able to work out of the jam by forcing a pop out to end the game.

UCLA will have a quick turnaround by taking on the Michigan Wolverines on Friday evening at 9:30 PM Eastern Time. Oregon will play on Saturday to keep their Championship hopes alive against Alabama at 2:30 PM Eastern Time.