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

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.