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

QB Malik Zaire reportedly sets timetable for transfer decision while adding Harvard to the mix

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While we don’t yet know where former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is transferring to, we might have an idea of when he plans on making a move this offseason.

Per Orangebloods.com’s Anwar Richardson, the signal-caller has zeroed in on the end of May for an announcement on his new school in a timetable that coincides with the Irish’s graduation ceremonies. Perhaps just as interesting is the fact that there may also be a new school in the mix and it’s known for being a powerhouse of a different kind away from the gridiron.

“In addition, I was told a new school is in the mix. Zaire is still considering Texas, Wisconsin and Florida, and the grad transfer quarterback has added Harvard to his short list. It remains unclear how serious Zaire is about playing Ivy League football. If he does go that route, Harvard would be his landing spot.”

The Ivy League power is an interesting new destination for Zaire and could be a pretty good backup option given what’s going on at his other finalists.

While Texas and Wisconsin are both on his shortlist, both the Longhorns and Badgers return their starting quarterbacks from last season in Shane Buechele and Alex Hornibrook. Richardson reports that Zaire wants to start in 2017 and not hold a clipboard but he is still keeping his options opens when it comes to the thin depth charts at the position in both Austin and Madison.

Complicating things is Florida, which should be a prime landing spot for Zaire were it not for an SEC rule passed last year that is preventing him from transferring him there this offseason. The league is set to talk about changes to that rule at their spring meetings in Destin, Fla. but it remains unclear if the QB will wait and see before making a decision (and it’s entirely possible the SEC keeps things as they are).

Either way, the former Irish starter does not appear to be lacking options when it comes to the graduate transfer market.

Tennessee hires College Football Playoff CFO for administrative role

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Tennessee might not be a favorite to make the College Football Playoff in 2017 but the school is doing their best to bring a little bit of the sport’s postseason to Knoxville.

Athletic director John Currie announced on Tuesday that the Vols would be hiring the College Football Playoff’s Chief Financial Officer Reid Sigmon as Tennessee’s new Executive Associate Athletics Director and Chief Operating Officer. The hire isn’t too surprising considering the two worked together for several years at Kansas State in very similar roles.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I welcome Reid Sigmon to the Tennessee Athletics family,” Currie said in a statement. “He has earned national credibility as part of a visionary leadership group creating the College Football Playoff organization for the last four years, and his tremendous integrity and understanding of college athletics make him a perfect addition to our Tennessee leadership team.”

Sigmon served in a variety of roles in college athletics as well as the NFL before eventually landing with the College Football Playoff. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that he starts at Tennessee on May 15 with a salary of $285,000 per year.

Oklahoma CB P.J. Mbanasor will transfer to Louisville

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That certainly didn’t take long.

A little over a week ago, P.J. Mbanasor was one of two cornerbacks who had decided to transfer from Oklahoma.  Tuesday morning on his personal Twitter account, the defensive back announced that he “will be attending the University of Louisville in the fall.”

For what it’s worth, the Cardinals have yet to announce Mbanasor’s addition to the roster.

Mbanasor will likely have to sit out the 2017 season. He would then have two seasons of eligibility at his disposal beginning in 2018.

A four-star member of the Sooners’ 2015 recruiting class, Mbanasor was rated as the No. 19 corner in the country; the No. 17 player at any position in the state of Texas; and the No. 132 player on 247Sports.com’s composite board. After playing in 10 games with two starts as a true freshman, Mbanasor took a redshirt for the 2016 season.

Northwestern, Pat Fitzgerald agree to lengthy contract extension

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It appears Pat Fitzgerald will still be stalking the sidelines in Evanston deep into the next decade.

Tuesday afternoon, Northwestern announced that it has reached an agreement with Fitzgerald, the program’s Dan and Susan Jones Family Head Coach, on a multi-year contract extension.  The 42-year-old Fitzgerald’s extension would keep him as the coach of the Wildcats through the 2026 season.

Fitzgerald will be entering his 17th season as a coach at the school, 11 of those as head coach.  From 1993-96, Fitzgerald was an All-American linebacker for the Wildcats and ultimately inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player.

“This is home for me and my family, and I love this University,” a statement from Fitzgerald began. “I’m extremely privileged to coach the exceptional young men we invite here to earn the best education in college football and compete at the highest level in the Big Ten Conference. The best is yet to come, and we’re excited for the future.”

In his 11 seasons, Fitzgerald has guided NU to a 77-62 record overall and a 41-48 mark in Big Ten play.  Fitzgerald has accounted for two of NU’s four 10-win seasons the program has produced, with both of those coming in the the last five seasons.

He is the winningest football coach in the school’s history.