CFT Top 25: Gators to reascend to the throne

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If you’ve been a reader of this lil’ ol’ website for any length of time, you know full well my opinion of preseason polls.  I hate them.  Despise ’em.  Loathe them on a level only exceeded by the BcS.  And the “cast” of Jersey Shore.

So, what am I about to do?  Attempt a preseason poll, of course.

Don’t read it the wrong way, though.  It’s not that I think they’re worthless.  Rather, I don’t think they’re worth anything.  It makes no sense, before a single game in a new year with a different roster of players and possibly a change in coaching staffs has been played, to guess how to place schools in some semblance of a realistic order.  A predetermined order, incidentally, that goes a long way in determining the “contenders” in the national title hunt

However, and irrespective of my utter contempt, fans love polls.  They eat ’em up, if for nothing more than the fact that it gives them something else to bitch about.  So, who are we to deny the masses their preseason candy and constitutional right to whine?

Of course, feeding that hunger involves actual thought and (gasp!) work.  And this year is especially difficult, particularly at the top of the poll.  You could take anywhere from 5-7 teams, write their names on a slip of paper, toss them in a bag, pull one out and make a compelling case for whichever name happens to appear.

Not that I used that method.  Exactly.

Before we get to the poll and allow the readers to commence to complaining — or cheering if you’re a member of Gator Nation — here are a couple of notes of explanation.  In other words, don’t blame me, blame the excuses I make.

• Knowing full well that there is certainly talent there in the replacements, I simply could not justify putting defending national champion Alabama in the top spot after having lost all of that experienced talent on defense.  And, no, the injury to Mark Ingram had no bearing on the decision.  On a neutral field in December, Florida comes out on top, regardless of what happens in Tuscaloosa earlier in the year.  Don’t hate, Tide fans.  Instead, take comfort in the fact that I’m hardly ever right with this predicting crap.

• Speaking of Florida, I will go against what seems to be the consensus grain and say that the Gators’ offense will be much, much more effective and explosive with John Brantley and without Tim Tebow.  Sacrilege, I know, but that offense is loaded with the weapons that can take advantage of Brantley’s passing skills.  Given all of the young talent that’s expected to contribute immediately, I could be a year early on this one, but I’ll take my chances.

• The second-to-last draft of my poll, incidentally, had Ohio State at No. 1.  The one before that had Boise State.  In other words, don’t go counting on adding to your crystal collection just yet, Gators.

• Yes, the esteemed Phil Steele has once again gone out on his annual island and tabbed Oklahoma as his national champion.  Nope, not buying what the guru of all college football gurus is attempting to sell.  When it comes to an Oklahoma team coming off a five-loss season, I’m from Missouri.  The Sooners need to show me something more this year to erase the memories of last year.

• No North Carolina or Penn State in the poll was not a mistake or an oversight.  Given the uncertainty swirling around the Tar Heels and exactly which starters will or won’t be suspended for X number of games, it’s impossible to touch them at this point in the season.  As for the Nittany Lions, the loss of Darryl Clark does indeed mean that much.  Especially when it means replacing him with a true freshman at quarterback.

• I can hear it now. “Notre Dame ranked?  Corporate lackey.  NBC shill.” To be honest, I had the Irish ranked a lot higher initially before deciding to drop them a little bit based on the adjustment period the team will go through under new head coach Brian Kelly.  Make no mistake, though: Kelly will turn that program around in a hurry.

• Nebraska will win the conference title in their Big 12 swan song.  Why?  They will be dominating on defense even without A Man Named Suh and will get improved play from the quarterback position.  Why will the latter occur?  Because the position simply cannot be any worse than it was in 2009, can it?  Whichever of the trio of players in line for the starting job that winds up under center will certainly trip and stumble into better production than last year.

• Oregon State at 11 and the highest-ranked Pac-10 school?  Yeah, surprised me too when I couldn’t talk myself out of it.  The Beavers are my Oklahoma this year, if for no other reason than my gut is overruling my head at the moment.

• I think I might be underrating Auburn especially and Georgia possibly.  Ditto for USC.

Anyway, here’s the CFT Top 25 poll in its entirety.  Sharpen your rapier wit as you’re reading, then blast away.

1.) Florida2.) Ohio State3.) Boise State4.) Alabama5.) Nebraska6.) Iowa7.) Texas8.) Miami9.) TCU10.) Oklahoma11.) Oregon State12.) Wisconsin13.) Florida State14.) Oregon15.) Auburn16.) Pittsburgh17.) Georgia Tech18.) Georgia19.) Virginia Tech20.) LSU21.) Arkansas22.) USC23.) Notre Dame24.) Cincinnati25.) Washington

Appalachian State, East Carolina announce 4-game series

GREENVILLE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05:  Devon Moore #20 of the Appalachian State Mountaineers is tackled by teammates Chris Mattocks #19 and Derek Blacknall #26 of the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Greenville, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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North Carolina’s eastern and western Group of 5 programs are going to rekindle their rivalry.

Appalachian State and East Carolina — or is that East Carolina and Appalachian State? — announced Tuesday plans to play a 4-game series in 2021 and then 2024-26.

The teams will meet on opening weekend (Sept. 4) of the 2021 season at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, then go home-and-home for the final three games of the series. East Carolina will host on Sept. 14, 2024, App State will take a turn on Sept. 6, 2025, and East Carolina will close the series on Sept. 5, 2026.

“On behalf of Appalachian State University, I would like to thank Will Webb, the Charlotte Sports Foundation, Jeff Compher and East Carolina University, the Carolina Panthers, and Bank of America Stadium for the opportunity to host a home game in downtown Charlotte,” App State AD Doug Gillin said in a statement Tuesday. “The chance for App State to host a home game in an NFL Stadium, in Charlotte where our largest alumni base is and against a program like East Carolina is a great opportunity for our students-athletes, alumni, and fans.”

“Both football programs have a rich history of success and outstanding fan support,” East Carolina AD Jeff Compher added. “I am especially excited for our future football student-athletes who will have an opportunity to play in such an exceptional NFL venue as Bank of America Stadium. We are grateful to Doug [Gillin] and our colleagues at Appalachian for working together in creating this four-game series.” 

The two teams have met 31 times previously, but only twice since 1979. East Carolina has won each of the recent meetings — 29-24 to open the 2009 season and 35-13 to open ’12, both in Greenville — and holds a 19-12 all-time advantage with wins in the last six and nine of the last 11 matches.

Arkansas promotes Paul Rhoads to defensive coordinator

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 14: Head coach Paul Rhoads of the Iowa State Cyclones coaches from the sidelines in the second half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Ames, Iowa. The Oklahoma State Cowboys defeated Iowa State 35-31.(Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Arkansas has promoted Paul Rhoads to defensive coordinator, the program has announced.

Like a college player going pro or a high schooler freshly offered a scholarship, Bret Bielema made the announcement through his Twitter account.

Rhoads ascends to the defensive coordinator spot after Robb Smith left the staff to take the same job at Minnesota. He spent the last season on staff as defensive backs coach, but he’ll have his work cut out for him as he moves to the big chair.

Arkansas concluded the 2016 season ranked 123rd nationally in yards per play allowed and 85th in scoring defense. The Razorbacks allowed 37.3 points per game and 7.87 yards per play in SEC games — which both stood as the worst in the conference.

Best known for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, Rhoads made his name in coaching as a successful defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh (2000-07) and Auburn (2008).

Clemson LB Ben Boulware trolls Desmond Howard with CFP trophy tattoo on his heel

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Linebacker Ben Boulware #10 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates with the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 to win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware is the quintessential “player you hate if he’s on the other team and player you love if he’s on your team.” Boulware constantly searches — often times outside the letter of the rule book — to look for an edge, and made no secret of his disdain for ESPN college football analyst Demsond Howard‘s disdain for Clemson’s linebackers.

Howard’s quote that started the one-sided feud, via The Clemson Insider:

“Defensively, when I watch Dalvin Cook, Florida State’s running back do … and he is an elite running back and there is no doubting that. He is a special talent. But they are supposed to have a special defense, too. I think their achilles heel may be their linebackers. They are good straight ahead, but as far as going east and west, sideline to sideline, Dalvin Cook turned the corner whenever he wanted to against that defense. I need to see the linebackers play a little better, too, from Clemson.”

That’s the kind of quote that the average viewer would consume and then never give a second thought, or, if you’re a Boulware, the kind you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.

With Clemson’s national championship now in the bag, Boulware showed off his new strategically-placed tattoo on Twitter, tagging Howard in the process.

(By the way, Cook did rush for 169 yards and four touchdowns that night, though Clemson won the game, 37-34.)

Knowing Boulware, he’ll spend the rest of his days barefoot, hopping with his inked foot splayed in the air, begging each and every passerby to ask him how he got that tattoo.

Arizona State hires former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 07:  Head coach Todd Graham of the Arizona State Sun Devils runs out with teammates before the Pac 12 Championship game against the Stanford Cardinal at Sun Devil Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona. The Carindal defeated the Sun Devils 38-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona State has hired former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson to coach its offensive line, the Sun Devils announced Tuesday.

Henson spent seven seasons on staff in Columbia, the last three as offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and/or tight ends coach. His offenses helped the Tigers win the 2013 and ’14 SEC East championships, but their yards per play ranks plummeted from 13th to 125th in yards per play over his three years at the helm. Missouri rebounded to rank 31st in the first year under new coordinator Josh Heupel.

He spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst at Oklahoma State.

“Josh brings a tremendous background of winning championships at the highest levels,” says Graham.  “He was the offensive coordinator at Missouri and won back-to-back SEC East Championships.  He was the recruiting coordinator at LSU and was recognized as one of the nation’s top recruiters for his accomplishments there.  He helped LSU win the 2008 BCS National Championship.  Josh brings a wealth of knowledge of our system to our staff, in addition to being one of the finest recruiters in the country.  He will blend well with Chip Lindsey and Rob Likens.”

In addition to coaching the offensive line, Henson will serve as assistant head coach and run game coordinator. Former offensive line coach Chris Thomsen left for a position at TCU earlier this week.

“I am so happy to be at Arizona State University,” Henson said in a statement.  “One of the things that attracted me to ASU is that Coach Graham has a track record of winning wherever he’s been.  And he has a track record of developing young men.  Winning is important, but being involved in their lives is also what appeals to me.  I know a lot of members of the current staff and they have great things to say about the university and about the Phoenix area.  I came out here years ago as a guest of former ASU assistant football coach Johnny Barr and found it to be one of the best places in the country to live.  I am very excited to get started.”

Arizona State finished 112th in rushing, 119th in yards per carry and sacks allowed, and tied for 105th in tackles for loss allowed en route to a 5-7 campaign in 2016.