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

Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald suffers gruesome ankle injury to spoil first half of the Egg Bowl

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The Egg Bowl has returned to Thanksgiving but the game hasn’t gone quite as planned for No. 14 Mississippi State, as they trail Ole Miss 10-6 after a low-scoring first half of play thanks to a shocking injury that brought both sides of the heated rivalry to their feet in unison.

That came early in the first quarter when Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was tackled after a three-yard run, suffering a gruesome ankle injury in the process that saw his foot point in a direction it certainly wasn’t supposed to. He was put in an air cast and carted off the field to perform x-rays immediately afterward and needless to say will not return to the game.

The productive signal-caller was just 1-of-5 passing with an interception and 16 yards rushing when he went down with the injury. Fitzgerald was approaching the 2,000 yard passing and 1,000 yard rushing marks for the season heading into the game and received plenty of support from his fellow football players around the SEC and beyond after suffering such a horrific-looking injury that appears to knock him out for the rest of 2017.

Freshman Keytaon Thompson replaced Fitzgerald behind center and went 3-of-5 passing for 32 yards and an interception. He’s known for his running ability at this stage and did manage a team-high 65 yards on the ground, including a 32 yard scamper. Running back Aeris Williams was fairly limited facing a stacked box against a new quarterback and ran for 41 yards in the half as turnovers (three of them) really hampered MSU in the half.

With Ole Miss ineligible for postseason play even if they won on Thursday night, it was not at all surprising to see the Rebels play better than they have in a long time. The team needed just three plays and 39 seconds on their opening possession to find the end zone and were punching far above their weight defensively too. Wide receiver A.J. Brown was the big play threat once again for the offense, with five catches and 90 yards after just a half of play. In the process, he set a new school single-season record for receiving yards and joined kicker Greg Wunderlich (all-time school leader in FG’s) in the record books for the visitors as they look to  get a little bit of payback for last year’s 55-20 loss in Oxford.

The two programs have split the last six meetings in the hotly contested Egg Bowl rivalry and both appear locked into another close one after a half of play. It’s too bad that an injury to an all-SEC player had to spoil things early on but both the Bulldogs and the Rebels will have to put that behind them as they emerge from the locker room hoping to secure a win after years worth of bad blood.

Odell Beckham Jr. gifts LSU players recently unveiled custom shoes ahead of regular season finale

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LSU has produced plenty of NFL stars in recent years but few identify with the Tigers quite like New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. does. The Baton Rouge native recently released his first “lifestyle” shoe with Nike last week and has been hitting the press circuit almost as hard as the rehab room as a result to showcase the new kicks.

Not one to forget where he went to school and blossomed into a first round pick, Beckham filmed a video for LSU’s football team this week and really gave the Tigers something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving by giving every player on the team a version of the shoe to wear when they’re suiting up in cleats.

The color isn’t quite a true match for LSU gold but it’s certainly pretty close and even comes with the longitude and latitude of Baton Rouge inscribed. You can probably bet that the team will be wearing them to Tiger Stadium prior to taking on Texas A&M on Saturday in the regular season finale for both sides.

Wisconsin breaking out the plaid in battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe against Minnesota

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No. 5 Wisconsin continues to play for an undefeated record and hold out hopes of making it into the College Football Playoff this week but the Badgers are also chasing something pretty important too when they take on Minnesota on Saturday: Paul Bunyan’s Axe. One of the best rivalry trophies in the sport has resided in Madison for the past 13 years but might carry on bigger implications given what’s at stake for the visitors when they arrive in Minneapolis, especially facing off against a Gophers team hoping to make it to a bowl game with another win.

Paul Chryst and company aren’t just treating this as any other Big Ten game however and teaming up with Under Armour to go well beyond ludicrous… and all the way to plaid. Well, “lumberjack plaid” to be precise, as the accents on their uniforms, gloves and shoes will all have a different spin on their normal colors.

While it’s a subtle difference, it is a pretty slick look for the Badgers as they take on their rivals. No word yet on what P.J. Fleck and the home team will break out in response but hopefully they rise to the occasion that the Axe commands.

No. 9 Ohio State to wear Terry Glenn helmet sticker vs. No. 24 Michigan

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The helmet sticker is a key piece of every Ohio State player’s uniform, and on Saturday every Buckeye will have one sticker more important than the rest.

Former Ohio State wide receiver Terry Glenn died Monday in a car accident in Irving, Texas, leaving behind his fiancee and six children, ranging in ages from 20 years to six months old, at just 43 years old. Glenn played for the Buckeyes from 1993-95, a former walk-on that eventually became an All-American. After catching a total of 15 passes in his first two seasons, Glenn exploded in ’95, hauling in 64 passes for 1,411 yards and 17 touchdowns, numbers that led Division I-A in touchdown grabs and yards per reception, according to College Football Reference. He won that season’s Biletnikoff Award as the top wideout in college football before leaving school to become the seventh overall pick by the New England Patriots in the 1996 NFL Draft.

On Thursday, Glenn’s son Terry Glenn, Jr., posted to his Twitter account a photo of the helmet stickers Ohio State will don on Saturday, honoring Glenn and promoting his foundation, the 83 Kids Foundation, which supports children in foster care.

The No. 9 Buckeyes head to Ann Arbor looking to extend their 5-game winning streak over No. 24 Michigan (noon ET, FOX). Ohio State has won 14 of the last 16 in the series, including a 6-2 record in Ann Arbor.

Glenn went 1-2 against Michigan, winning as a sophomore in Columbus but losing both visits to Ann Arbor; his three years as a Buckeye came amid a 12-4-1 stretch in the series for the Wolverines.