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

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images
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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.