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College Football Notebook

Notes: Tyrann Mathieu entering NFL draft

Former All-America cornerback and Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu is entering the 2013 NFL draft despite not having played a down this season.

Mathieu, nicknamed the “Honey Badger,” was dismissed from the LSU program in August, three weeks before the start of his junior season, for violating team rules. Soon after his dismissal, the player’s father said Mathieu, voted the nation’s top defensive player in 2011, had entered a drug rehabilitation center.

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Mathieu was arrested along with three other ex-LSU players in October for marijuana possession.

Mathieu had remained enrolled at LSU instead of transferring to a Championship Subdivision school to play.

“It is time for me to move forward,” Mathieu said Thursday in a statement. announcing his decision.

SEC is about QBs

It’s an attitude that has served second-ranked Alabama’s quarterback pretty well so far. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray, his counterpart for No. 3 Georgia, have played on plenty of huge stages with varying results and a couple of performances they wouldn’t mind forgetting.

The nation’s two top-rated passers will square off in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta with the winner moving on to face No. 1 Notre Dame for the national title.

McCarron, the MVP of last season’s BCS championship game, has shaken out of a second-half slump, leading the winning touchdown drive against LSU; he also threw his only two interceptions of the season in a loss to No. 9 Texas A&M. His only other career defeat came against LSU in 2011 before his superb showing in the national title rematch.

Murray is the nation’s highest rated quarterback and the SEC’s active leader in a number of categories, including passing yards (9,399) and touchdowns (89).

He’s already passed for 3,201 yards and 30 touchdowns against seven interceptions this season and boosted his win total as a starter to 27.

A title or two would polish off the résumé nicely.

Avoiding costly mistakes will be key in a game featuring the SEC’s two top pass defenses.

‘‘I think all QBs want to make a big play in a big game,’’ Georgia coach Mark Richt said. ‘‘All players want to make a big play in a big game. There’s a time and place for everything. You have to understand when a play presents itself, then you make the big play.”

Still smells sweet

Winner of the Big Ten title the last two years, Wisconsin is getting a chance at the first three-peat in school history Saturday — by default. With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for the postseason, it’s Wisconsin playing No. 14 Nebraska (10-2) in Indianapolis on Saturday for the conference title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. ‘‘Obviously it is different and strange this year because of our record going into this game,’’ said running back Montee Ball, referring to the Badgers’ 7-5 mark overall and 4-4 record in Big Ten play. “But it’s not our fault what happened to the teams that can’t play in this game.’’ . . . USC assistant head coach Monte Kiffin, 72, will resign from his son Lane’s coaching staff after a miserable season for the Trojans’ defense. He wil pursue a return to the NFL . . . Nebraska and Oklahoma will play in 2021 in Norman, Okla., and in 2022 in Lincoln, Neb. Both games will be in September. The Huskers and Sooners played 71 straight seasons as members of the Big Six and Big Eight, and the teams moved to the Big 12 in 1996 and met twice every four years. Nebraska went to the Big Ten in 2011 . . . Nebraska is paying Southern Mississippi $2.1 million to travel to Lincoln for a game next September after the game was originally scheduled for Hattiesburg, Miss.

Party crashers?

The Mid-American Conference championship game this year has a lot more at stake than usual — such as possible BCS implications. When No. 18 Kent State takes on No. 19 Northern Illinois on Friday night in Detroit, it will be the first time two MAC teams in the Top 25 have faced each other since Ben Roethlisberger was playing in the conference. The winner could end up in the Orange Bowl, which would be unheard of for either program. Northern Illinois (11-1, 11 straight wins) would have an outside shot at a BCS bowl bid if it wins, but Kent State (11-1, 10 wins in a row) would be in even better position. ‘‘I'll leave that for the experts to decide,’’ said Kent State coach Darrell Hazell . . . On Friday, No. 8 Stanford (10-2) and No. 17 UCLA (9-3) meet for the second time in a week, and the sequel may not turn out any differently for the visiting Bruins if they can’t stop running back Stepfan Taylor and a Cardinal offense that moved the ball with ease in last weekend’s 35-17 victory. “It just comes down to going out on Friday night and executing,” said UCLA coach Jim Mora. “Any familiarity we have with them, they'll have with us.’’ Said Stanford coach David Shaw, “Our challenge is to make sure that we don’t outsmart ourselves.” . . . Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Manti Te'o of Notre Dame, Stanford’s Chase Thomas, and Arthur Brown of Kansas State are the finalists for the Lott Trophy, given to the defensive player having the biggest impact on his team. Luke Kuechly of Boston College won last year.

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