Making the morning rounds.
• Oh, I think we can find room. Nobody came right out and said “They’re going to play,” but suspended LSU stars Tyrann Mathieu and Spencer Ware were back at practice Tuesday and looking for all the world like they’re going to be in the lineup against Alabama after sitting out last weekend’s obliteration of Auburn for allegedly failing a drug test. There’s still more than ten days to go, but if Mathieu and Ware are in the fold — along with a third suspend, nickel corner Tharold Simon — the only notable absence on either side on Nov. 5 will be LSU offensive lineman Josh Dworaczyk, out for the season with a knee injury since last month.
“If they continue to do the things that they’re doing, we would anticipate that they would play (against the Crimson Tide),” said coach Les Miles. “We’re not going to live in deadlines in any way. We’re practicing and preparing them to play and operating along that way. We’re going to practice them and plan on using them.” [Baton Rouge Advocate]
• Don’t let the door hit you. To the surprise of no one, USC running back Dillon Baxter is officially off the team to “focus on his academics,” likely ending his trajectory from the second coming of Reggie Bush out of high school to persona non grata less than two years into his career. Before the season, Baxter was talking about his improved maturity as a sophomore and relishing his opportunity to seize the starting tailback job with senior Marc Tyler on indefinite suspension. By last weekend, Tyler was back atop of the depth chart alongside Curtis McNeal, hyped freshman George Farmer had been added to the mix as the resident “dual threat” option and Baxter was skipping the trip to Notre Dame altogether after failing to see the field in the Trojans’ wins over Arizona and Cal.
“The decision has been made for Dillon Baxter to focus on his academics,” coach Lane Kiffin said in a statement. ”As he does so, he will not be part of our football program. However, we will continue to support him with our academic services department. There will be no further comment regarding this from me or any member of our program.” For what it’s worth, Baxter’s stepfather said Tuesday that the subject of a transfer hasn’t come up. “He loves USC,” Anthony Mooney told the Orange County Register. “He respects the staff. He wants to be a Trojan.” [USCTrojans.com, Orange County Register]
• Let the Mtn eat cake. As a multitude of sources added to the chorus confirming West Virginia’s defection from the Big East to the Big 12 Tuesday — and with it the likely demise of the Big East as a major football conference — Big East officials strongly denied reports that they were planning to meet with Mountain West and Conference USA commissioners in New York to discuss joining the forthcoming Mtn/C-USA merger to forge a “super conference” of up to 32 schools. “We are not part of any meeting with those two conferences,” a Big East spokesman told the New York Daily News (“in no uncertain terms”), despite the leverage a merger could offer toward the Big East’s first priority: Keeping an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game.
In the meantime, Boise State president Bob Kustra confirmed reports that he met with Big East officials in Washington, D.C., over the weekend, but said the conversation was “informational in nature” and Boise “continues to consider and evaluate its options” — not just boilerplate when one of those options (the Big East) is looking less and less viable by the week. [New York Daily News, Charleston Daily Mail, Charleston Gazette, Idaho Statesman]
• I’m just mad about Kapron. Notre Dame defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore is out for the rest of the season with an MCL injury, joining fellow senior Ethan Johnson on the injured list and likely forcing the Irish to start two true freshman ends Saturday against Navy — the same Navy whose slippery triple-option attack has gashed ND in Midshipmen wins three of the last four years. Lewis-Moore has started 29 games over the last three years and should be back with a fifth year of eligibility in 2012. [IrishIllustrated.com]
In other injury news… Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel remains in limbo after reinsuring the same shoulder he hurt in the Cougars’ season opener. [Seattle Times] … UCLA safety Tony Dye is out for the season due to “stingers,” and will likely have to request a medical redshirt to return next year. [L.A. Daily News] … And Cincinnati cornerback Dominique Battle is out for the season with a torn ACL that will require surgery later this week. [Cincinnati Enquirer]
Quickly… Missouri may be forced to remain in the Big 12 for one more year in 2012-13. … Cliff Harris plans to fight his latest traffic citations. … Jerry Kill parlays Minnesota‘s ongoing nightmare of a season into a longer contract worth more money. … Florida loses a pair of former high school teammates in search of more playing time. … South Carolina holds a team meeting to remind itself it’s still in the driver’s seat in the SEC East. … And Jeff Sagarin’s computer ranks Boston College behind Harvard, along with pretty much everyone else with a team.