CFT predicts: MAC 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 the Mid-American Conference:

Ben Kercheval’s MAC champion: Toledo
John Taylor’s MAC champion: Toledo

Ben’s take
The MAC has been absolutely atrocious in bowl games recently, which is what many use as a measuring stick for a conference’s strength. To climb their way out of the Division 1 FBS cellar, the MAC’s higher-ranked teams are going to have to — and I’m paraphrasing a certain YouTube video here — “put the conference on their back!”.

Miami of Ohio is the pick of the MAC media poll to win the East in its first year under former Michigan State assistant Don Treadwell, but I’m going with Ohio University, which has been seemingly in the mix of things year in and year out since Frank Solich took over as coach. Al Golden is gone from Temple, but he left that program far better than he found it, which should make life for Steve Addazio a little easier in his first year. Beyond the top three, the MAC East is anybody’s guess.

With Jerry Kill moving on from Northern Illinois to Minnesota, and Central Michigan still in a rebuilding process, the time is now for Toledo to make it back to Detroit for the MAC championship game and represent the West Division. Tim Beckman has really done a nice job with the Rockets, and while the West is the more top-heavy division, Toledo returns a ton of starters on both sides of the ball.

John’s take
With the exception of Conference USA, there might not be a conference in college football with more parity in its top half than the MAC. You could make a case for any of three teams in the East division and would get nary an argument from me. The same holds true for the West.

In the former division, it appears likely that half of the conference championship game will come from defending champ Miami of Ohio, Ohio or Temple. While the RedHawks changed coaches after the biggest one-year turnaround in college football history — 1-11 in 2009, 9-4 last year — they’re in Treadwell’s capable hands. The Owls will also have a first-year head coach in Addazio, but he too fell into a very good situation thanks to the building efforts of Al Golden, who’s now at Miami (Fla.). The Bobcats will return seven starters on offense, but just two on defense, which could be the biggest hurdle to a conference crown.

On the West side of the ledger, Toledo, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan all have the talent to challenge for the top spot in the division, but with all due respect to the latter two schools, Beckman is building something pretty special with the Rockets and, when all the conference dust settles, the Toledo school will be facing another in-state school, Miami, in the conference title game. Maybe. Possibly.

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

CFT’s preseason Top 25

Florida’s statement on Jim McElwain’s death-threat claim is interesting, to say the least

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Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something.  Regardless, it’s something that bears watching.

Losers of two in a row and off to a 3-3 start to the season,  Florida has underperformed and underwhelmed to say the least.  So much so, in fact, that head coach Jim McElwain indicated Monday that he, his family, his coaching staff and players have been subjected to death threats by unknown individuals.

The head coach went into no detail publicly regarding the nature of the threats.  Apparently, it was the same privately when discussing the situation with his employer.

OK then.

Again, it could be in the same neighborhood as naked shark humping — nothing. Bears watching, though, as one very outspoken member of the Florida media is very much already doing publicly about a situation that was apparently reported to the media before it was reported to the police or even the university.

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.