CFT predicts: Conference USA standings

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As we look ahead to the 2011 college football season, we take with us the lessons we learned from seasons past. We calculate, scrutinize, dissect and digest schedules, returning starters, coaching changes, injuries, and yes, even hunches, and spew it back in the form of how we think each of the 11 Division 1 FBS conferences — and independents — will pan out by year’s end.

Of course, these are merely our opinions. Feel free, as we know you will, to disagree. We know that’s why you really come here anyway.

Here are our predictions for Conference USA:

Ben Kercheval’s C-USA champion: Houston
 John Taylor’s C-USA champion: UCF

Ben’s take
If you like offense, hate defense, or are content with a disproportionate amount of the former over the latter, then Conference USA is likely your conference affiliation of choice. And there promises to be plenty of offense this year with Case Keenum returning from an ACL tear for Houston, Kyle Padron starting another year in SMU’s run-and-shoot offense and Austin Davis finishing his career under center for Southern Miss. Indeed, C-USA is truly a conference of great system quarterbacks and even better offensive minds.

In the East, I like Southern Miss over Central Florida. Both teams return practically their entire offense, but the Golden Eagles have a veteran advantage over the Knights on defense. Plus, Southern Miss gets UCF at home.

In the West, Houston should bounce back from a tough, injury-plagued 5-7 2010 campaign. Kennum, who has been granted a sixth year of eligibility, will pick up where he left off on his way to breaking just about every NCAA passing record.

Regardless, the East and West divisions of Conference USA should be anywhere between a two and three-team race. And for a conference that prides itself on great offense, it should be an exciting, high-octane race at that.

John’s take
While it will hardly garner much attention as compared to Big Six BcS battles, the race for the Conference USA title could be the most fascinating and exciting one in the country, even as it will likely happen well under the radar. No less than five schools will have a legitimate shot at winning either the East or West divisional titles.

In the former division, UCF will likely be the preseason favorite according to most prognosticators, although Southern Miss is talented enough to challenge. The game of the year in the East will pit the two schools against each other Nov. 12 — in Hattiesburg, a potentially huge advantage for the Golden Eagles.

In the West, Houston will welcome the return of a healthy Keenum as it attempts to rebound from a disappointing, injury-riddled season. Standing in the Cougars’ way for a return to the conference championship game are a pair of formidable obstacles: SMU and Tulsa tied for the Western division title last season, and it appears both school are ready for another run at an overall conference crown.

We’ll see a repeat from last season, with the Oct. 28 SMU-Tulsa game — my pick is the Mustangs — deciding who will play UCF in the conference championship game.

More predictions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, MAC, MWC, Pac-12, SEC, Sun Belt, WAC, Independents

CFT’s preseason Top 25

LSU says au revoir to safety Ed Paris for the season

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LSU will be without safety Ed Paris for the rest of the season, head coach Ed Orgeron said Monday. Paris suffered a “significant” knee injury during practice last week, for which he has already undergone surgery.

“He’s always around here and smiling and making sure everybody knows he’s good,” cornerback Donte Jackson told the Baton Rouge Advocate. “He wants us to know that he’s all right and that we should just keep playing. He’s always in (the film room). He gets treatment and then he’s right in there and tries to watch practice a little before he has to get his next treatment.”

Paris is a senior, which means it’s possible he has played his final game as a Tiger. However, Oregeron believes he could seek and receive a medical redshirt to return in 2018.

“Ed’s going to be out for the season,” Orgeron said. “Just went through an operation, and hopefully we can redshirt him and get him back for next year.”

A native of Arlington, Texas, Paris split at safety with Grant Deplit.

Paris has played in 40 career games, with two starts.

2018 LSU-Miami opener to be played Sunday night Labor Day weekend

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In October of 2014, it was confirmed that LSU and Miami would open the 2018 college football season against each other.  Nearly three years later, we have a date and time to go along with it.

It was announced Tuesday that the Tigers and Hurricanes will meet Sunday, Sept. 2, of next year at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET.  It was originally scheduled to be played the day before.

That matchup will be broadcast on ABC.

The opener will mark just the 12th meeting ever between the football programs, and the first since 2013.  This will also serve as the third-ever regular-season meeting between the ACC and SEC squads, with the last one coming way back in 1988.

The Tigers will be playing just their second game ever on a Sunday.  They last did so in 2002 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Maryland loses yet another QB to ACL injury, this one Kasim Hill

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I don’t even know if bubble-wrapping Maryland quarterbacks would help at this point.

This past Saturday afternoon, Kasim Hill went down with what appeared to be a very serious-looking injury to his right leg in the first quarter of the loss to UCF.  Three days later, it was confirmed that the true freshman has been diagnosed with a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2017 season.

Hill is the second Terrapins quarterback to suffer such a fate the first four weeks of the season.  In the second half of Maryland’s season-opening 51-41 upset of Texas, Tyrrell Pigrome went down with what was later diagnosed as a torn ACL, ending his 2017 season as well.

Unfortunately for the Terps, the injuries, ACLs in particular, haven’t been limited to just those two of late.

Hill will be replaced in the starting lineup by No. 3 quarterback Max Bortenschlager, who started one game last season for the Terps.  After replacing Hill, Bortenschlager completed 15-of-26 passes for 132 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the 38-10 loss to the Knights.  Prior to that, he had attempted just two passes this season, completing one of them for four yards.

Cornhuskers legend Dave Rimington tapped as interim Nebraska AD

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There were many who thought Nebraska’s now-former athletic director was disconnected from the university’s deep football history.  With today’s move, the athletic department has made a 180-degree turn.

NU announced Tuesday afternoon that Dave Rimington has been named as the interim athletic director.  Rimington replaces Shawn Eichorst, who was dismissed late last week after nearly five years on the job.

Rimington was one of the greatest college football centers in history, and, in 1981 and 1982 for the Cornhuskers, became the only player to win back-to-back Outland Trophy Awards.  In 2000, the Rimington Trophy was established to honor the most outstanding center in college football.

In 1997, he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame.

“I’m so pleased that we could count on Dave Rimington, who is a Husker through and through, to answer our call to lend his administrative expertise and unwavering support for Nebraska Athletics during this key time of transition,” chancellor Ronnie Green said in a statement. “I am confident that Dave will provide exceptional leadership as we move forward in our search for a new, permanent director of athletics.”

“I am humbled and grateful to accept this responsibility,” Rimington, one of 17 former ‘Huskers with their jerseys retired, said. “I look forward to working with the coaches, staff and student-athletes at Nebraska, which is a truly special place that has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of countless others.”

Rimington is currently the president of the New York-based Boomer Esiason Foundation, but will be taking a sabbatical from those duties.