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AP Top 25: La.-Lafayette leads 10 new teams in rankings

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Sun Belt rivals Louisiana-Lafayette and Appalachian State were among 10 new teams ranked Sunday in first regular-season Associated Press college football poll, which was stripped of the teams not yet scheduled to play a fall season.

There was no change at the very top: Preseason No. 1 Clemson received 60 of 61 first place-votes this week.

After all Division I teams were eligible to be voted on for the preseason Top 25, the panel of 61 voters was permitted to consider only the 60% of Football Bowl Subdivision teams scheduled to play in the fall now that the season has started.

That meant preseason No. 2 Ohio State, No. 7 Penn State and No. 9 Oregon, along with six other Big Ten and Pac-12 teams, dropped out of the rankings. The Big Ten, Pac-12, Mid-American Conference and Mountain West have delayed their seasons due to concerns about playing amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the Big Ten is taking some steps toward a possible mid-October start.

With those teams gone, Alabama moved up to No. 2. Oklahoma is No. 3, followed by No. 4 Georgia and No. 5 Florida. Defending champion LSU, with one first-place vote, is No. 6.

The Sun Belt Conference has two teams ranked for the first time since the conference began sponsoring football in 2001, with Louisiana-Lafayette at No. 19 and Appalachian State at No. 23, tied with Kentucky.

The Ragin’ Cajuns pulled off maybe the biggest upset of the weekend, winning at Iowa State 31-14 on Saturday. The Cyclones had been ranked No. 23 and are the one team currently scheduled to play to fall out of the rankings after being in the preseason Top 25.

Louisiana-Lafayette was last ranked in 1943.

POLL POINTS

The rest of the newcomers to the Top 25:

– No. 16 Memphis has the highest ranking of those teams entering the poll. Not surprising. The Tigers were first among the others receiving votes in the preseason poll and opened the season by beating Arkansas State last week. That same Arkansas State then turned around and upset Kansas State on the road Saturday. The Tigers might have to sit on that ranking for a little while. Players being sidelined by positive COVID-19 tests and related quarantines forced the postponement of Memphis’ game Friday against Houston.

– No. 17 Miami also garnered some support in the preseason. The Hurricanes join on the strength of a 31-14 victory Thursday against Conference USA contender UAB.

– No. 18 Louisville beat Western Kentucky 35-21 to open its season and is ranked for the first time since 2017.

– No. 20 Virginia Tech has already had two games postponed. The Hokies were supposed to open their season Saturday against North Carolina State, but the Wolfpack’s preparation for the season was delayed by a COVID-19 outbreak. Now Virginia Tech is dealing with coronavirus issues of its own and its game next week against Virginia has been postponed.

– No. 21 BYU opened the season on Labor Day, beating Navy 55-3. But the Cougars’ next game has been postponed because of positive COVID-19 cases among the players.

– No. 22 Army has opened the season with two victories by a combined score of 79-7.

– No. 23 Kentucky is scheduled to start the season Sept. 26, along with the rest of the SEC.

– No. 25 Pitt opened the season by beating Austin Peay 55-0 in a game that was shortened in the second half. With the Panthers up 42-0 halftime, the teams agreed to play 10-minute quarters.

CONFERENCE CALL

SEC – 8 (Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 15, 23t).

ACC – 7 (Nos. 1, 7, 12, 17, 18, 20, 25).

Big 12 – 3 (Nos. 3, 9, 11).

American – 3 (Nos. 13, 14, 16).

Sun Belt – 2 (Nos. 19, 23t).

Independents – 2. (Nos. 21, 22).

RANKED VS. RANKED

Just one as the SEC still sits idle. BYU at Army would have qualified but for the postponement.

No. 17 Miami at No. 18 Louisville. Two of teams that benefited from solid openers against C-USA teams. Louisville’s Micale Cunningham and Miami’s D'Eriq King make for an exciting quarterback matchup.

Malzahn: 10 Auburn players sidelined by COVID-19 issues

Jake Crandall-Montgomery Advertiser
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AUBURN, Ala. — Coach Gus Malzahn said No. 11 Auburn had five starters out of practice this week because of COVID-19-related issues.

Malzahn said Saturday the Tigers had two new positive tests this week and 10 total players are sidelined from practice because of the virus or close contact. He didn’t identify the players and declined to say if a particular position group had been hit hardest.

Auburn opens the season Sept. 26 against Kentucky and is set to begin specific game preparation on Sunday.

“All those guys will be back for the opener,” Malzahn said. But he noted that they will face challenges in getting ready when they are out until game week.

“You’re sitting here two weeks from kick and you’ve got some of your guys who aren’t practicing,” Malzahn said. “Obviously that’s concerning.”

In late August, Auburn canceled several practices after nine positive tests led to 16 players getting sidelined. Malzahn said two unspecified position groups “were hit extremely hard.”

“I think we’ve done an excellent job if you look at the last three weeks as far as the number of positives,” the coach said. “The challenge is close contact. And that’s something that is a big emphasis for us, but I know that it’s a big emphasis for everybody.

“We’ve really educated our guys. We’ve told them what they’ve got to do.”

Malzahn was asked what his backup plan for coaching a game if he’s sidelined by COVID. He cited his longtime friend, Liberty’s Hugh Freeze, who coached from a hospital bed in the coaches’ booth against Syracuse two weeks after undergoing surgery for a staph infection.

“One thing that I’ve already kind of got my mind on is, if I did, figure out a way in an isolated place in the stadium or Zoom in,” Malzahn said. “I know my buddy Hugh Freeze coached last year laying down in a hospital bed. That’s the way I’m looking at it.

“I’m going to figure out a way either through technology or isolation to still do it.”

Tennessee, Auburn cancel practice due to positive tests

Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel
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Positive tests for COVID-19 has forced a pair of ranked Southeastern Conference teams to cancel at least a practice or two as the league announced guidelines for game day covering everything from who will be allowed on the field to press boxes.

Coach Jeremy Pruitt said he canceled Friday’s practice for No. 25 Tennessee due to a “few more positive” test results and Saturday night’s practice also could be canceled depending on the results after everyone in the program was tested Friday morning.

No. 11 Auburn has canceled its last two practices because of positive test results this week, said a person with knowledge of the situation. How many players, coaches or others tested positive remained unclear. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss details.

Pruitt said it was his decision to cancel Friday’s practice. Tennessee has had good testing results with the exception of when the Volunteers returned after eight days off for the Fourth of July holiday. Then results returned more positive tests, so Pruitt said he shut down practice.

“We retested everybody again this morning to see where we’re at,” Pruitt said. “Our No. 1 priority here is to be able to protect everybody associated with our program, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do. As we get the results back, we’ll see exactly where we’re at and we’ll start practice up accordingly.”

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is scheduled to speak to reporters Saturday. Auburn spokesman Kirk Sampson would only confirm that the Tigers hadn’t practiced Wednesday or Thursday as scheduled.

Malzahn had previously said the Tigers had gone two straight weeks without a positive after a rash of positives a month before. He said Auburn still had four players going through protocols when the team began practice on Aug. 17.

“We’re going to be very transparent,” Malzahn said on Aug. 22. “We’ll keep y’all updated from week to week as we go, and we hope the other programs do the same thing.”

Vanderbilt also missed two practices after canceling a scheduled session Aug. 21 and didn’t return to practice until Wednesday.

The Tigers are scheduled to open the season against Kentucky while Tennessee visits South Carolina on Sept. 26 as the SEC kicks off its 10-game, league-only season.

Pruitt said the Vols might not practice Saturday night either if they don’t track down the source of the latest positive test results.

“We want to make sure we figure out why,” Pruitt said of these increased positive results.

Pruitt said students are back on campus and this is something their players are going to have to learn to handle. Tennessee wants to trace these positive results back to the source of infection to prevent this from happening again.

With the season kickoff still a month away, Pruitt said they have time to be cautious and still get the 25 practices allotted in.

“It’s not like we are running out of time or anything like that,” Pruitt said. “We want to make sure that we are protecting or players and reassuring their safety.”