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The College Football Playoff Bracket is Set

By Lauren Goodman

It is the inaugural season of the College Football Playoffs and the committee has set the final four bracket.

The new format did little to lessen the drama.

In the end, the Ohio State Buckeyes took the fourth seed and are set to take on the No. 1 seed, the Alabama Crimson Tide, in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Rose Bowl will host No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State. Both games will be held on New Year’s Day.

The twelve person selection committee, chaired by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, ultimately chose to drop the TCU Horned Frogs from the top four, after they finished the season 11-1 and co-champions of the Big 12.

The conference’s lack of a championship game could be blamed for both TCU and Baylor being left out of the top four. Ohio State’s huge 59-0 win over No. 13 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game was enough to convince the committee that the Buckeyes deserved a chance to compete for a national championship.

The new playoff format consists of the four teams chosen by the committee playing in the two semifinal games.

The winners will compete for the national championship. This year, that game will take place Jan.12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Conference ties to bowl games will be honored for the semifinal games, meaning each year, if ranked in the top four, teams will be matched to their bowl games accordingly.  Conference champions will be placed in the other New Year’s bowls, the Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, and Peach.

This year, No. 5 Baylor takes on No. 8 Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. No. 6 TCU will play No. 9 Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.  No. 7 Mississippi State is set to take on No. 12 Georgia Tech in the Capital One Orange Bowl.  The VIZIO Fiesta Bowl will host No. 20 Boise State and No. 10 Arizona.

Alabama, which has been ranked No. 1 since week 13 of the season, finished the regular season 12-1 while facing a tough SEC schedule.

After winning at No. 1-ranked Mississippi State, Alabama began to show why it deserved to compete for a championship. Quarterback Blake Sims’ twenty-six touchdowns, Amari Cooper’s over 1,600 receiving yards, and T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry’s 343 combined carries put the Crimson Tide in the top position.

Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes will face their toughest opponent of the season in Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

With young players at several positions, including quarterback, Meyer has been able to put together a surprising season.  Their improvement over the season and proving their ability to win despite the hardships their program has seen over the season catapulted them to the top four.

Reigning national champion Florida State is the only undefeated team in the top four.

The program has also had its fair share of troubles this year, but managed to beat a No. 22-ranked Clemson in overtime early in the season and a No. 5-ranked Notre Dame in the final seconds during week seven of the season.

The Seminoles might feel slighted with how they have been perceived during the season, but they have a chance to prove everyone wrong by beating the high-powered offense of Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

The Ducks, led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, finished the regular season 12-1. Their only loss was to Arizona, who they handily beat 51-13 in their rematch at the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday night.

Mariota threw for over 3,700 yards and had 14 rushing touchdowns over the season. The Seminoles will have their work cut out for them if they want to make it to the championship game in Arlington.

Coach Les Miles is a Family Man

By Lauren Goodman

 

The LSU Tigers are 8-4. They are ranked No. 24 in the College Football Playoffs and are fifth in the SEC West. They are eager to find out which bowl they will be attending, even if they are not in contention for a national championship, plus the outcome of the search to fill the vacant head coaching position at Michigan.

There is a lot of chatter about coach Les Miles. There is always a lot of chatter about Les Miles.

But there is another side to Coach Miles that the public rarely gets to see, and that is Les Miles, the husband and dad.

Miles has been with his wife Kathy since his coaching days at Michigan. They married in 1993. They are parents to four kids: Kathryn (Smacker), Manny, Benjamin, and Macy Grace.

All four are athletes and play sports. All four understand that their dad is not like the other dads.

It is not always easy to have a coach as a father.

“He understands really quickly where his weaknesses are. He’s not a swim coach,” Kathy Miles says with a chuckle.

The Miles’ oldest daughter, Kathryn, is a swimmer at the University of Texas.

“When they were younger, he would try to coach them on their technique, now he just tries to keep them motivated and on task,” Kathy said.

Manny and Benjamin both play high school football. Having a father who has coached national championship teams should be an advantage.

But Coach Miles does not let his role as head coach of the LSU Tigers compete with his role of being a dad.

“Les understands that the boys are doing what their coaches are teaching them to do,” Kathy said. “And they have some great coaches.”

It is a fine line between coach and father, and Miles walks it well.

Macy Grace, a fifth grader, plays youth soccer and softball. Her dad loves to watch her play.

“He loves meeting the other kids,” Kathy said. “People always ask for photos or autographs. He’s happy to do it. The kids understand. They are independent and understanding when he can’t make it to one of their games.”

Being the wife of an SEC head coach requires a special woman.

“Les gets in a great routine during football season with his staff, practices, game days,” Kathy said. “It makes my job a lot easier. I can just help the kids, finish my errands, and I run lunch up to him about once a week.”

Every football team has its own routine during the season. You would think the intensity of a game every week would be the hardest time of year for a coach’s family, but Kathy says the offseason is much more chaotic.

“Football season seems like down time,” she said. “It’s consistent. After the bowls and in the spring, he is in and out of town to recruit, go on tours, and speaking engagements.”

The idea that being a head coach for a football team is just being busy during the fall is off base. There is always something to prepare for, a recruit to meet, an interview to give.

And then there are the games themselves.

We have all seen the camera zoom in on a coach’s wife and family during the game. Some like to sit in the stands, some in a suite, and some cannot even handle watching the game with other people. Family members have their own routines, too.

“The games are intense for me,” Kathy said. “I am focused on watching the game. There’s not a lot of side chatter for me.”

Kathy said now that their kids are older it is easier to make to all the games.

She has maybe missed one or two away games in the past four years. She makes it to all of the home games, as long as the kids do not have a sporting event of their own.

And what about the Miles’ children? They enjoy watching their dad in Tiger Stadium too.

“When they are older, I think they will appreciate the opportunity they had to go to LSU football games,” Kathy said.

Inevitably, as all coaches do, they lose one of these football games. The scrutiny that head coaches are under, especially in what many consider the best conference in the nation, the SEC, not only affects the coach, but his loved ones, too.

“I’m not an internet person,” Kathy said. “I read The Advocate, always the sports section.  I’ll tell Les about an article. He reads even less than me.”

Criticism doesn’t just come from the media. It comes from the fans, too.

“As far as LSU, the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” Kathy said. “There is always a fan with something to say, positive or negative, but the people of Louisiana have been great to Les and our family. It has been such a positive experience for our family.”

It is not always easy to be in school with a famous father, at least not in the football loving state of Louisiana.

“The kids have grown up with it and are used to it,” Kathy said. “There are down times after losses, but they surround themselves with good friends.  They understand that people will say negative things.”

At the end of the day, these men, who have dedicated their lives to football, to fulfilling their dreams of winning national championships, and helping kids fulfill their dreams of playing in the National Football League, are husbands and fathers.  They are not so different from every other parent trying to figure out how to balance a career and a family.

They show up to work every day, they do their jobs to the best of their ability, they work to showcase the talent of their players, and of course, try to win football games.

But, at the end of the day, they return to their families and play a very different role.

“Les is very involved as a dad,” Kathy said. “He is interested in their grades, school, their social life.”

It is clear that the Miles’ family has learned what is most important.

“To the kids, he is just their dad.”

LSU-Alabama: The Rivalry Continues

By Lauren Goodman

The LSU-Alabama rivalry has become legendary.

Die-hard fans on both sides plan their lives around the November weekend they play each year. Coaches Les Miles and Nick Saban know that this game is one of the most important games on their schedules before the season even begins.

Each coach got their start in the Big Ten, but became coaching legends in the SEC.

Miles is a “Michigan Man.” LSU fans are reminded of this every time there are rumbles of a coaching change there. Remember 2007, 2011, and even this current season in 2014? Miles is always at the top of the list for potential candidates when Michigan begins a head coach search.

Miles was an offensive lineman for coach Bo Schembechler from 1974-1975. He returned there to begin his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 1980 and served as the offensive lineman coach from 1987-1994. The team had four Rose Bowl appearances during that time. It is well known how fond of his alma mater he is.

Saban also got his start in the Big Ten, at Ohio State and Michigan State. He was the defensive backs coach at Ohio State from 1980-1981 and held the same position at Michigan State from 1983-1987 where he eventually became the defensive coordinator during that time. After working in the NFL and as the Toledo head coach, he would return to Michigan State as its head coach from 1995-1999. His success at Michigan State helped him land the head coaching position at LSU in 2000.

During his time at LSU, Saban won two SEC championships, one national championship, and a coach of the year award.  Tiger fans were happy for him when he left to coach in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins. Les Miles was hired by LSU as his replacement.

The modern chapter of the LSU and Alabama rivalry truly began in 2007 when Saban returned to coaching college football after and unsuccessful tenure in the NFL to LSU’s SEC West rival Alabama. The Tigers would now have to play their former coach yearly, and they knew how good of a coach he was.

Alabama is leading the series with LSU from when Saban became their coach in 2007, 5-3. This includes the 2012 BCS National Championship Game where the Crimson Tide beat the Tigers 21-0 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, which some consider it to be LSU’s home turf.

All of this history leads to a focus on Saturday’s match up. Alabama is currently ranked No. 5, meaning it is on the cusp of entering the new college football playoffs with a chance to play for a national championship.

LSU is ranked No. 16, and the Tigers would love nothing more than to knock Alabama out of contention and continue to improve their standing and make a case for a playoff bid.

It is certainly something the Tiger fans have been waiting for all season.  Miles told ESPN radio. “This is a great rivalry and one that everybody in the state turns out to root for the Tigers. I can say that this is a very special Saturday evening, certainly in Louisiana.”

Saban knows that LSU is playing to win and how hard it is to do so in Death Valley.  He told ESPN, “They have a very good team, who’s playing their best football of the year.”

He added “We play these games one game at a time and this is the most important game, because it is a game we play this week against a very good team on the road in a difficult place to play.”

Miles is hoping for the best from both his team and fans.

“Energy in that stadium that is not describable,” he said. “Other people have called it magical.  Other people have called it crazy.  It is the place the Tigers play best.”

The LSU-Alabama game has taken on a significance that no other regular season college football game has done.  The rivalry continues to intensify as each school remains competitive season after season.

The Tigers are excited to play in front of their home crowd and every Tiger fan is hoping for a win because it means an Alabama loss. There will be no love lost between these two teams on Saturday night.

 

Young Tigers are Struggling to Compete in Powerhouse SEC

By Lauren Goodman

A lot has been said about the LSU Tiger’s losses to Auburn and Mississippi State already this season and how tough it will be for them the remain competitive in the SEC with their upcoming games against Florida, Ole Miss, and Alabama.  They sit at the bottom of the SEC West standings with only Arkansas behind them.   Can the Tiger’s become bowl eligible with such a young roster?

Often used as bragging rights, LSU has 43 players currently on active rosters in the NFL. Nine of these players came from the 2014 draft, which included seven offensive players, underclassmen wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Jeremy Hill amongst them.

A similar departure has also happened on defense.  In the 2013 draft, of the nine taken in the draft eight were underclassmen, with only one being on the offensive side of the ball.  Playmakers like Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid chose to forgo their last year of eligibility to compete in the NFL.

Can the Tigers continue to compete at such a high level when they lose not only their senior leadership, but their future leadership each year to the NFL draft?  They do maintain top recruiting classes, bringing in top high school talent to bolster their roster, however, the trend of losing key players early to the draft seems to really show in a season like 2014.

LSU is no longer ranked in the top 25 for the first time since November 2008 and are 0-2 in the SEC.  Their offense has struggled with underclassmen Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris sharing snaps at quarterback going 0-13 on third downs against Auburn.  Their defense gave up a combined total of 1,136 yards and 75 points in the losses to Miss. St and Auburn.

Coach Les Miles is now faced with playing inexperienced players in a conference that is often referred to as the toughest in college football.  Miles should find more ways to involve younger players as early as possible to lessen the blow of losing top talent in the draft. We know he can recruit the talent, he just is not able to retain them for all years of eligibility.  He must find a way to slow the turnover of players to remain a top contender for a championship year in and year out, or be prepared to have a “rebuilding year” every few seasons.

LSU Routs New Mexico State 63-7 in Tiger Stadium

By Lauren Goodman

The LSU Tigers took on the New Mexico State Aggies at home Saturday in Tiger Stadium and won 63-7.

Despite early turnovers by quarterback Anthony Jennings in the first half, the Tigers were able to easily outplay New Mexico State. Brandon Harris played solidly at quarterback when coach Les Miles made the switch in the second quarter.

The Tigers tied the record for the most points scored under Miles at Tiger Stadium.

LSU’s defense played well and was able to hold New Mexico State to 274 total yards.

“I felt like we rushed the football like we were supposed to,” Miles said. “I felt like we played defense, minus one play, like we were supposed to. We are improved and looking forward to resuming conference play.”

The first quarter was full of turnovers, with a total of six committed by both teams.

New Mexico State sophomore quarterback Tyler Rodgers was intercepted by LSU’s Tre’Davious White on LSU’s 26-yard line and was later intercepted by Kendall Beckwith for a touchdown.

Jennings, LSU’s sophomore quarterback, struggled also and threw two interceptions and was credited with a fumble. Kenny Hillard committed LSU’s fourth turnover late in the first quarter after the ball was forced out by New Mexico State’s Kawe Johnson.

Still, it was hardly all bad news for LSU.

Despite the shaky quarterback play, the Tigers were able to get their run game going with an 11-yard rushing touchdown by Terrance McGee with 2:07 left in the quarter.

The defense held strong, with Kwon Alexander leading the team with five tackles in the first, one of those being the hit on Rodgers resulting in the interception and touchdown by Beckwith. The Tigers finished the quarter outscoring the Aggies 14-0.

Miles put Harris in at quarterback with 9:28 seconds left in the second quarter.

Harris was able to put together an 80-yard drive of 11 plays lasting 3:36. New Mexico State would punt on its first three drives in the quarter, but would finally put its only points on the board on its fourth drive with Andrew Allen rushing for a 79-yard touchdown. He would lead the Aggies in rushing with five carries for 113 yards.

LSU’s rushing game remained strong with Leonard Fournette running in for a 17-yard touchdown with 5:52 seconds left in the quarter and another 5-yard touchdown with 1:49 left.

Harris was able to bring some stability to the quarterback position, throwing for two touchdowns to Malachi Dupre and Melvin Jones.

Safety Jalen Mills recovered a fumble made by the Aggies’ Marquette Washington. It was forced out by defensive tackle Davon Godchaux and led to Jones’ touchdown.

Harris was 6 of 7 passing for 112 yards with no interceptions in the first half. The Tigers led the Aggies 42-7 at halftime.

LSU returned to the field in the second half with Harris at quarterback and continued to dominate the Aggies, despite strong play by Johnson at free safety and linebacker Dalton Herrington.

Johnson had 12 tackles and an interception and Herrington had six tackles and a sack for a 9-yard loss.

Travin Dural caught a 10-yard pass from Harris early in the third quarter, bringing the score to 49-7. Harris scored the final two touchdowns on quarterback keepers, one each in the third and fourth quarters making the final score 63-7.

Fournette was LSU’s rushing leader, finishing with 18 carries for 122-yards and two touchdowns. Malachi Dupre led the receivers with three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.

Harris was 11 of 14 for 178-yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Defensively, Alexander and D.J. Welter each had eight tackles, and Welter had a fumble recovery. Beckwith finished with four tackles an interception and Tre’Davious White had two tackles and the Tiger’s other interception.

Mills recovered the Aggies’ other fumble and recorded four tackles.

“We played a great football team tonight,” New Mexico State coach Doug Martin said. “We are just a little too young, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but offensively turning the ball over offensively as many times as we did didn’t really give us a chance to play successfully.”

Ultimately, the Tigers were able to overcome their early interceptions and get a win.

They play next week on the road against SEC opponent Auburn.

West St. John Rams Rain on St. James Wildcats’ Opener

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By Corey Webster

Vacherie- All of the excitement of opening a new stadium against long time rival the Rams, Wildcats fans would have thought that to be enough motivation. To add to the hype, it was the game of the week on Cox sports.

 After a slow start for both teams in the opening of the first quarter. West St. John finally got things going when quarterback Jemoine Green found wide receiver Morell Bartholomew for a 69 yard pass completion which set up Anfernee Lumar field goal to end the first quarter.

St. James flustered and not getting off to the start they hoped for. The Rams seemingly settled down after the hype surrounding the big game. Taking advantage of St. James early and often. Definitely dominated the first half. They looked like they came to play. Led by senior wide receiver Morell Bartholomew with three touchdowns passes in the second quarter, along with another touchdown by wide receiver Lamore Boudoin.

When asked about their start, Bartholomew stated, “The first half was very special. This was my last time playing against St. James, so I wanted to leave everything on the field. I told Coach Valdez give me the ball and I would make the play.”

St. James had eleven penalties in the first half. Which led to the Rams totaling 130 yards rushing and 132 yards passing to end the first half down 29-0.

The Wildcats would not go away easily. Needing to score quickly, the Wildcats did just that in the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Lowell Narcisse completed a 63-yard pass to Houston Wiggins less than 2:00 in to the third quarter. Which led to the Wildcats’ first score in the new stadium. Narccisse scored the two-point conversion. A muffed punt by the Rams gave the Wildcats a short field. On fourth down of the next possession, Narcisse scrambled for a 34-yard touchdown and was successful on the second two point conversion making the score 29-16.

On St. James next possession they would have to travel almost the length of the football field. Taking the ball 89 yards to cap it off with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Lowell Narcisse to Dontaze Costly making the game 29-22 after failing on a two-point conversion.

With 1:22 left in the third quarter. Wildcats kicked the ball off to the Rams’ Bradley Borne, who fumbled on his own 20-yard line. Wildcats would capitalize on the very next possession when Narcisse scrambled to find Curtlan Johnson for the touchdown. Narcisse third two-point conversion was successful giving the Wildcats a one-point lead 30-29 to end the third.

Coach Dwain Jenkins said, “ I just challenged the guys at halftime to come out and fight. We showed we can be a pretty good football team when we do things the right way.”

It was now time to show up and show out for the Rams. With the momentum shift of the third quarter, the Rams needed something to combat that.

It would come at the 10:00 mark of the fourth quarter when the Rams stopped the Wildcats on a fourth and eight from the Rams 20-yard line. West St. John had the ball on 44-yard line. A reception from Jordae Gauthier and a personal foul penalty against St. James advanced the ball to the 29-yard line. The Wildcats fought back to hold the Rams to a 28-yard field goal by Lumar to regain the lead 32-30.

On the Wildcats next possession they failed to make any positive yards, forcing them to punt. Backed up deep in their own territory with 6:17 they heard the awful sounds of a blocked punt. Giving West St. John the ball on the 8-yard line.

The Rams elusive quarterback Borne called his own number and was successful extending the lead 39-30 with a little over 6:00 left in the game.

St. James desperately needing a play took shots down the field the very next possession. Only to throw an interception that allowed the Rams to take the air out of the game.

When a fan was asked about their experience of the Thursday night’s Railroad Classic, JaJuan Nicholas said, “The atmosphere was really nice, all was prepared to the very best. “I enjoyed the short commute to the new facility,” she said. She also mentioned, “The field turf is awesome and how great it feels to get a win over the Wildcats on opening day.”

Being that the schools are so close and the history of the rivals, this would definitely be remembered by all parties involved.

Tulane’s Yulman Stadium Brings Football Back to Campus

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By Lauren Goodman

NEW ORLEANS – Tulane University’s football program returned to campus with the excitement of its home openerSaturday in the new Yulman Stadium against Georgia Tech.

Despite the New Orleans summer heat, students, alumni, and fans came out to show their support for the Green Wave and welcome its return to campus. Fans were eager to see the new stadium and soak in a new college football experience.

After nearly 40 years of playing off campus, Yulman Stadium offers a chance for Tulane fans to watch their team with a traditional college football atmosphere week in and week out, something the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was unable to provide.

Early in the day, students and alumni gathered in the quad where they tailgated, something previously missing from their football experience.

Sophomore student Spencer noted the change in feel.

“It’s awesome to be back on campus,” he said. “We don’t have to take a shuttle to the games. The stadium is on campus. We can tailgate on the quad with our friends.”

Entering the stadium, Tulane fans shared their pride by chanting “Green Wave.”

“The new stadium is exciting for the whole community,” said Jeff Yellin, a New Orleans native. “I’m not even a Tulane graduate, and it’s been a fun day.”

Clayton, another local, has watched the football team play in all three stadiums: on campus in old Tulane Stadium, the Superdome, and now Yulman.

“I’m happy the games are back in Uptown,” he said. “It’s nicer for the students. They can fill the stadium up with fans.”

Yulman Stadium seats 30,000, where the Superdome can accommodate over 73,000. The more intimate stadium provides an atmosphere in line with other college athletic programs across the country.

Dennis Stargel, a Georgia Tech fan and father of Georgia Tech defensive end Tyler Stargel, liked Tulane’s new home field.

“It’s a very nice stadium,” Stargel said. “Not as big as some of the others, but real nice.”

Yulman Stadium not only brings football back to campus, it brings higher expectations. In 2013, Tulane’s football team finished 7-6 under then second-year coach Curtis Johnson.

Andrew Berkheimer, a Tulane alum and season ticket holder, was excited to see the progress.

“This is the second year I’ve had my season tickets,” he said. “I wanted to support my school and I’m a big fan of coach Johnson. I believe in him.”

A constant theme among fans throughout the day was, “Why didn’t this happen sooner?”

“I keep thinking about how nice this would have been when I was a student,” Berkheimer said. “I graduated in 2007 and being able to tailgate on campus and walk to the stadium would have been so great.”

There was no lack of excitement among fans to have their football team back home in Uptown.

The excitement continued at kickoff, marking Georgia Tech and Tulane’s 49th meeting, although they hadn’t played each other in over 30 years.

Tulane forced a turnover deep in Georgia Tech’s territory on the first play after the opening kickoff and quarterback Tanner Lee threw the first touchdown pass in Yulman Stadium on a third-down throw to Justyn Shackelford.

By the end of the first quarter, the Green Wave was leading the Yellow Jackets, 14-7, but the momentum wouldn’t last.

Georgia Tech would take the lead in the second quarter after two turnovers by Tulane and would remain in the lead for the rest of the game.

Lee was pulled in the third quarter and finished 13 of 24 passing for 173 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions as Tulane fell to Georgia Tech 38-21.

Tulane’s 0-2 start to the 2014 season signals that there is work to be done, but its new stadium shows the school’s commitment to their football program.