Frank Beamer

CFT predicts: the ACC


Like the Big East, the ACC’s reputation in football has taken a dive in recent years. The conference has an insulting BCS bowl record and traditional powers (i.e, Florida State and Miami) can’t get back into the national championship picture.

That has an opportunity to change this season. Florida State is one of those preseason media darlings getting the “Watch out, this team’s back!” treatment. The Seminoles have fallen flat in the face of high expectations, though. Will this year be any different?

Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how the ACC should shake out:

(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)

Atlantic Division

1. Florida State (last season: 9-4; won Champs Sports Bowl) 
I know, I know. This is the year the Seminoles finally get back in the BCS championship picture, right? Eh, I’ve heard that musical number before. Florida State should be good this season, but that good? The defense, though? Holy cow. One of the best in the nation last year in points allowed should be equally stout this time around. My concern continues to be the FSU offense. The ‘Noles couldn’t run the ball at all last year and the offensive line was downright awful at times. While the O-line should be more cohesive this season, the emphasis is currently on “should.”

2. Clemson (last season: 10-4; lost Orange Bowl) 
Clemson returns practically all its offensive weapons from a year ago, minus tight end Dwayne Allen and backup running back Mike Bellamy. The real loss for the Tigers is in the trenches along the offensive and defensive line — not to mention receiver Sammy Watkins for the first two games of the season due to a drug-related suspension. That could end up being problematic, and to me, that’s the difference between the Tigers and the ‘Noles. Tajh Boyd put up good numbers last year, but he can’t be under pressure the whole year. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables will try to turn the defense around.

3. North Carolina State (last season: 8-5; won Belk Bowl) 
The Wolfpack has one of the best players in the secondary in all of college football in David Amerson … who somehow was not a unanimous preseason All-ACC first-team selection. Anyway, N.C. State also has one of the better, yet under-the-radar quarterbacks in Mike Glennon. The Wolfpack return most of their starters from a year ago and get the benefit of skipping Virginia Tech on this season’s schedule.

4. Wake Forest (last season: 6-7; lost Music City Bowl) 
Jim Grobe enters his 12th season as the head coach of Wake Forest with an overall record of 68-67. The Demon Deacons were trending down for a few years after their 2007 Orange Bowl appearance, but this program seems to have regained some of its mojo last season. There’s some heavy turnover on the offense, especially along the O-line, but conference slate is manageable enough that Wake can manage a middle-of-the-pack finish.

5. Maryland (last season: 2-10) 
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Randy Edsall in his first season with Maryland. As much as I don’t think Edsall is the right fit for the Terps, he’s too good a coach — yes, he is; he took UConn (UConn!) to a BCS bowl — to have another season as disastrous as his first. In fact, Maryland can get off to a good start with an easy non-conference schedule (save West Virginia) to give the Terps some confidence heading into their Oct. 6 game against Wake Forest. Once November rolls around, though, things get tough with games against Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina.

6. Boston College (last season: 4-8)
Boston College lost its two best players on either side of the ball — running back Montel Harris (rushed for 3,735 career yards) and linebacker Luke Kuechly — and Frank Spaziani has a grueling year ahead of him to try to save his job. BC’s program has tanked fast.

Coastal Division

1. Virginia Tech (last season: 11-3; lost Sugar Bowl) 
The Hokies are almost always the favorite to win the Coastal, and this year is no exception. Logan Thomas is gaining a lot of offseason whispers as a potential high-round NFL draft pick because of his size, but keep in mind this will only be his second full year as a starter. Tech is just one of those teams that always knows who they are, which is why Frank Beamer enjoys annual success. The back-end of the schedule features two big games for the Hokies: at Clemson on Oct. 20 — the Tigers swept Va. Tech in two games last year — and at home against Florida State Nov. 8. According to these projections, and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this, it could be the first of two games between the Hokies and the Seminoles.

2. North Carolina (last season: 7-6; lost Independence Bowl)
Larry Fedora takes over a program that was firmly in the crosshairs of NCAA — the Tar Heels aren’t eligible to go to a bowl this season. The offense has playmakers in quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard, so the scoring potential for Fedora’s spread offense is certainly there. Protecting Renner will be an offensive line featuring two all-conference selections in James Hurst and Jonathan Cooper.

3. Georgia Tech (last season: 8-5; lost Sun Bowl) 
The ACC Coastal field levels off and fast here. Georgia Tech returns 17 starters from a year ago, including quarterback Tevin Washington. Who Washington will throw to — when the Yellow Jackets throw — remains a question mark. For a team that runs the triple option, Ga. Tech has had some good receivers come out of the program in recent years, most recently Stephen Hill. The defense is a veteran group led by linebacker Julian Burnett.

4. Virginia (last season: 8-5; lost Chick-fil-A Bowl)
The Cavaliers upgrade their quarterback spot with Alabama transfer Phillip Sims. Linebacker Steve Greer returns after earning all-conference honors last year. I like the direction Mike London has Virginia headed and the schedule this season sets up well. No Florida State. No Clemson.

5. Miami (last season: 6-6)
The Hurricanes are dealing with a lot of turnover on offense and losing Ray-Ray Armstrong due to off-the-field issues hurts this team’s secondary. There really aren’t any guaranteed wins between mid-September and the season-ending game against Duke, either. Al Golden has one year under his belt in Miami, but this could shape up to be a rough one.

6. Duke (last season: 3-9)
The Blue Devils have 16 returning starters. Unfortunately, this team will be playing with wide receiver Blair Holliday on its mind. Holliday was involved in an offseason jet ski accident that put him temporarily in a coma. Coach David Cutcliffe will use it as a rallying point for his team, but it looks like another tough season for the Blue Devils. The final six games for this team (at VT, UNC, at FSU, Clemson, at GT, Miami) are brutal.

ACC champion: Virginia Tech


Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ’em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.

Big East
Big Ten
Big 12
Conference USA
Mountain West
Sun Belt

Gus Malzahn says ‘no doubt’ Kerryon Johnson will play vs. Ole Miss

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Kerryon Johnson #21 of the Auburn Tigers dives into the end zone for a touchdown during their game against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Kerryon Johnson‘s absence from the field will apparently be a brief one.

The running back sustained a sprained ankle in Auburn’s Week 6 win over Mississippi State, and, coming off a bye, the football program was initially optimistic he’d be available for the Week 8 game against Arkansas.  Instead, he was a game-day decision for the Razorbacks.

While Johnson missed that game, that won’t be the case this Saturday as Gus Malzahn declared his starting back ready to go against Ole Miss.

“He practiced yesterday. He will play, there’s no doubt about that,” the head coach Gus Malzahn said during the weekly SEC teleconference Wednesday. “We’re trying to be smart about it.”

At the time of his injury, Johnson’s 538 yards rushing and six touchdowns were tops among all Tiger backs.  Kamryn Pettway ran for a career-high 192 yards against te Razorbacks, and now leads the team with 697 yards.  Both Johnson and Pettway are part of an offense that ranks third nationally in rushing yards per game (302.9).

Kirk Ferentz would be owed $25 million if Iowa fired him this year

TAMPA, FL -  JANUARY 1:  Coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes directs play against the LSU Tigers January 1, 2014  in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Yes indeed: if there were an Agent Hall of Fame, Neil Cornrich would be a first-ballot inductee.

Early last month, Iowa announced that it had reached an agreement with Kirk Ferentz on a new contract that runs through the 2026 season.  The details of the contract, revealed as part of USA Today‘s annual coaching salary database release, negotiated by Cornrich and agreed upon by the university are staggering.

From USA Today‘s report on coaching buyouts:

— Even if he’s fired after this season for not winning enough games, the 61-year-old Ferentz would be owed more than $25 million, payable in monthly installments until 2026.

— He’s guaranteed an additional $22 million from 2021 through 2025 if he sticks around and wins at least seven games each season through 2020. It wouldn’t matter if he’s dismissed in 2021 after finishing 0-12.

— If that’s not enough, those guarantees wouldn’t even be reduced if Iowa fired him and he took a lucrative new job somewhere else.

Another Cornrich client, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, would be owed nearly $25 million if he were fired today without cause. All told, there are at least seven head football coaches, the paper writes, “who would be owed at least $20 million in guaranteed money if he were fired on Dec. 1 for losing too many games.” Jimbo Fisher tops the buyout list, with Florida State on the hook for $33.1 million in the improbable event that Florida State dismisses him.

Others with the $20 million-plus golden parachute include Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($27.4 million), Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($25.6 million), Alabama’s Nick Saban ($23.3 million), Clemson’s Dabo Swinney ($20 million).  Another, Illinois’ Lovie Smith, is just shy of that mark at $19.3 million.

Of the four coaches already dismissed this year, Les Miles had the highest buyout with LSU owing the former coach nearly $9 million according to the paper.  Darrell Hazell is due $5 million from Purdue, while Fresno State will owe Tim DeRuyter $3.3 million and FIU will shell out $609,000 to Ron Turner.

Texas will owe Charlie Strong just north of $11 million if, as expected, they fire the coach at season’s end.

The multimillion buyouts are part of a burgeoning trend all across the sport.

In 2011, there were 15 coaches with guaranteed buyouts of at least $8 million. This year, at least 33 are guaranteed that much — well more than half of the 53 publicly available coaches contracts in the Power Five conferences.

When it comes to actual salary being paid in 2016, Saban would sit atop the list at $6.9 million.  However, Harbaugh is the highest-paid coach in college football at $9 million, with $5 million of that coming in salary and $4 million in the form of insurance payouts.

In 2006, the first year the USA Today database was published, there were eight head coaches making at least $2 million annually.  A decade later, that number has risen to 58.

For USA Today‘s complete database, click HERE.

Jabrill Peppers makes inroads, but Lamar Jackson still Bovada’s overwhelming Heisman favorite

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12:  A general view of the Heisman Trophy during a press conference prior to the 2015 Heisman Trophy Presentation at the Marriott Marquis on December 12, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Most observers have already handed the 2016 Heisman Trophy to Lamar Jackson, but there are still a couple of players who could make the race at least mildly interesting.

The Louisville quarterback is, once again,‘s overwhelming favorite to win this year’s Heisman, coming in at 1/3 (bet three dollars to win one). Those are slightly shorter odds than the 1/2 Jackson was getting a week ago.

Tied at 15/2 are Michigan’s jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Peppers was at 33/1 just three weeks ago, while Watson, the preseason wagering favorite, will have a high-profile matchup with Florida State in which to bolster his Heisman pedigree and chip into Jackson’s perceived lead.

Speaking of FSU, running back Dalvin Cook could state his case in the same game and push Bovada odds that currently sit at 40/1. Just three other players are on this particular house’s current board: Washington quarterback Jake Browning (10/1), Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (12/1) and Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (22/1).

Two other players, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr., were taken off Bovada’s board.

Gophers lose TE Brandon Lingen to season-ending foot injury

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 22:  Anthony Cioffi #31 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights tackles Brandon Lingen #86 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
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Brandon Lingen‘s injury-plagued season continues.  Or, more accurately, has come to an end.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that the Minnesota tight end will miss the remainder of the regular season.  Lingen sustained a left foot injury in last Saturday’s game against Purdue.

On the weekly injury report, Lingen is listed as out for this weekend’s game against Illinois.  Beyond that, the school has not addressed Lingen’s status moving forward.

Lingen had missed three games earlier this season with a broken clavicle.  That issue helped limit him to three catches for 28 yards on the year.

A starter in 10 of 12 2015 games, Lingen was third on the team with 33 receptions for 428 yards.  He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten.

With Lingen injuries, Nate Wozniak (eight receptions, 92 yards) and Colton Beebe (5-42) have taken over the bulk of the responsibility at the tight end position.