charlie strong

CFT predicts: the Big East

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Now that major college football has a four-team playoff, the Big East is fighting for an opportunity to be visible enough for inclusion. Automatic qualifier status, which the Big East currently has, will be done with in 2014. Replacing it is the “contractual tie-in” game, which the Big East currently doesn’t have.

That’s due in large part because the conference doesn’t have a well-known football brand worth the TV dollars. West Virginia was the Big East’s best representative and the Mountaineers are gone to the Big 12. Now, the league hopes the likes of Boise State can pick up where WVU left off. The Broncos won’t be joining until 2013, however.

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

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

1. Louisville (last season: 7-6; lost Belk Bowl) 
The Charlie Strong hire has been met with praise since he arrived in Louisville three years ago. For the most part, it’s understandable. Strong has paid his dues and been around the coaching circuit more than a couple of times. But anyone can lose to Kentucky and FIU. The Cardinals need to build on the 38-35 win against West Virginia last season. Now that the Mountaineers are out of the Big East and into the Big 12, there’s no excuse not to win the conference. — not with the talent Louisville returns, not with the one-year opportunity the program has before Boise State, San Diego State, Houston and Central Florida join the mix.

2. South Florida (last season: 5-7)
More than Louisville, South Florida has run out of reasons why it can’t win a conference title. Say it with me: location, location, location. Skip Holtz is a likable guy so I want him to succeed, but 8-5 will only get a coach so far in a very winnable league. Quarterback B.J. Daniels is back for his 10th final year and he desperately needs to improve on his consistency. USF’s non-conference schedule has two tough games against Florida State and Miami, but the Bulls should be able to compete for a Big East title — which of course are famous last words.

3. Rutgers (last season: 9-4; won Pinstripe Bowl) 
Kyle Flood inherits a Rutgers program that has made significant strides under Greg Schiano. Yet, for all that Schiano’s done, the Scarlet Knights still haven’t brought home so much as a share of a conference title. Rutgers has a chance this year, but the quarterback battle between Gary Nova and Chas Dodd could be the deterrent as neither played particularly well last year.

4. Cincinnati (last season: 10-3; won Liberty Bowl)
Charlie Strong will get a lot of the attention this year because Louisville is favored to win the conference, but Butch Jones is the Big East’s best coach. Jones took the Bearcats from 4-8 in his first season to 10-3 last year and a bowl win over Vanderbilt. Will Jones have the same kind of year in 2012? It’s going to be hard without quarterback Zach Collaros and former Big East offensive player of the year, Isaiah Pead, but Jones should get enough wins though to draw the interest of a bigger program.

5. Pitt (last season: 6-7; lost BBVA Compass Bowl) 
Like B.J. Daniels at USF, it feels like Tino Sunseri‘s been at Pitt for the most of the past decade. He’ll have a new head coach — his third in as many years — in former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. The hiring of Chryst feels more natural, as opposed to Todd Graham, who was never a good fit for the Panthers. The biggest boost for Chryst is getting running back Ray Graham back from a season-ending injury. Graham racked up nearly 1,000 yards in eight games last year.

6. Syracuse (last season: 5-7) 
The highlight of Syracuse’s 2011 season was a 49-23 dismantling of West Virginia. After that, it was all downhill with five straight losses to end the year 5-7. Like other Northeastern programs, Syracuse just isn’t what it used to be and the talent in that area doesn’t support programs like it did a couple of decades ago. Doug Marrone is a good enough coach that he might be able to have some success here and there — that doesn’t change much in the ACC, either — but the Orange leaves the Big East on a low note.

7. Temple (last season: 9-4 in MAC; won New Mexico Bowl) 
It’s back to the old stomping grounds for Temple after an eight-year hiatus. The Owls re-enter the league as an improved program and not the one unceremoniously shown the door after the 2004 season. However,  Temple will struggle this year because of the turnover on the offensive coaching staff coupled with the loss of running back Bernard Pierce. 

8. UConn (last season: 5-7) 
It was an underwhelming first year for Paul Pasqualoni‘s return to the college ranks. Then again, the Huskies reached their ceiling with a Fiesta Bowl appearance against Oklahoma following the 2010 season. You can pretty much count on UConn to do one thing consistently: run the football. Lyle McCombs, at just 166 pounds, was able to churn out 1,100 yards last season. With the passing game once again a questionable area of the offense, McCombs will be counted on once again.

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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.

ACC
Big Ten
Big 12
Conference USA
MAC
Mountain West
Pac-12
SEC
Sun Belt
WAC
Independents

Arizona facing more questions in its backfield

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10:  Running back Nick Wilson #28 of the Arizona Wildcats carries the ball in the second half of the game Grambling State Tigers at Arizona Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats won 31-21. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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The personnel situation in Arizona’s backfield has gotten dicey all of a sudden.

J.J. Taylor picked up the injured Nick Wilson‘s carries in last weekend’s loss to Washington and rushed for 97 yards, but will be lost for a significant period of time because of a broken left ankle sustained in the same game. Now Wilson, who missed the UW game because of an ankle injury, is listed as questionable for the UCLA game because of that lingering injury issue.

Wilson originally sustained the injury early on in the Week 3 win over Hawaii, meaning the dreaded high-ankle sprain may be in play.

Taylor and Wilson are currently 1-2 amongst Wildcat running backs in rushing yards with 261 and 257, respectively. Wilson was UA’s leading rushers the first two games of the season, with Wilson taking that honor in Week 3.

Overall, though, quarterback Brandon Dawkins leads the team in yards (391), rushing touchdowns (seven) and yards per carry (8.9).

Dawkins will be making his fourth straight start in place of Anu Solomon, who began the season as the starter but hasn’t played since injuring his knee during practice leading into Week 2.

Nick Chubb’s dad says he doesn’t think UGA RB will play vs. Vols

OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 24:  Nick Chubb #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs the ball and is pursued by the defense of the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi.  The Rebels defeated the Bulldogs 45-14.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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Unfortunately, it appears the dreaded high-ankle sprain has bitten one of the most snake-bitten running backs in the country.

In Georgia’s Week 4 loss to Ole Miss, Nick Chubb sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter and couldn’t return.  Kirby Smart has held his cards close to his vest this week when to came to Chubb’s availability for the Week 5 game against Tennessee, even as most, if not all of the signs pointed to the running back being sidelined for the key SEC East matchup.

Friday, Chubb’s father all but ended the mystery over his son’s availability, while simultaneously indicating that a Week 6 return should be in the cards — provided it’s not the usual lingering high-ankle sprain.

“I don’t think he’s going to play,” Henry Chubb told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s got that high-ankle sprain. He twisted it trying to make a cut against Ole Miss. He’s in good spirits and all. He understands it. The doctor said he’d need a couple weeks, so he’ll probably play next week.”

Chubb returned from a devastating knee injury that knocked him out for more than half of the 2015 season, rushing for career regular-season high of 222 yards in the 2016 opener in his first game back.  In his three games since the opener, however, Chubb has run for just 200 yards total.

Still, his 422 yards are far and away tops on the Bulldogs.  With Chubb out for at least this weekend, the running-game load will fall to Brian Herrien (184 yards) and Sony Michel (106).

Women’s advocacy group to fly anti-Trump banners over Big House, four other college stadiums

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - SEPTEMBER 30:  Donald Trump tours the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on September 30, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A post-debate poll shows Trump's rival Hillary Clinton with a seven point lead in Michigan.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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The 2016 presidential election could be coming to a college football stadium near you.

According to the Kansas City Star, a women’s advocacy group, UltraViolet Action, will fly airplanes over five stadiums this Saturday to protest what the group describes as “Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s ‘long record of misogyny.'”  The five stadiums are Michigan Stadium, Ohio Stadium, Kinnick Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field and Wallace Wade Stadium.

The most high-profile of the five games will be in the Big House, with No. 4 Michigan playing host to No. 8 Wisconsin.

The planes that the group have commissioned to do the flyovers will tow behind them banners that read “Trump Says Women R Pigs. Disagree? Vote.”  The stadiums selected reside in the so-called swing states of Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

The Star writes that “UltraViolet describes itself as a ‘powerful and rapidly growing community of people from all walks of life mobilized to fight sexism and expand women’s rights, from politics and government to media and pop culture.'”

Wisconsin confirms starting LB Vince Biegel ‘out several weeks’

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 17:  Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates after making a tackle in the second quarter against the Georgia State Panthers at Camp Randall Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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Unfortunately, the news when it comes to Vince Biegel could actually be a little bit worse than what was originally feared.

Yesterday, the Wisconsin linebacker’s father revealed that his son would be out as long as a month after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted into his foot.  In a press release, UW confirmed that Biegel did indeed undergo surgery Thursday night, and put the timeline at an ambiguous “several weeks” for a return.

The decision to undergo a medical procedure on what’s been a lingering issue was made after the player met with UW team physicians Wednesday and Thursday.

“I really hate any time a player has to miss time due to an injury, especially a senior like Vince,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “Vince has such a passion for football and loves playing the game. This team is very important to him and he is very important to our team. What you appreciate is that you know he will do everything in his power to get back on the field as soon as possible.”

At the bare minimum, Biegel will miss the next four games, a stretch that includes matchups with No. 4 Michigan, No. 2 Ohio State, Iowa and No. 15 Nebraska.

Biegel had started 29 games in a row for the Badgers.  At least initially, Biegel will be replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt freshman Zack Baun.