Nick Saban

CFT predicts: the SEC

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Home of the last six BCS champions, the SEC will try to make it seven straight this season. The power of the SEC should once again reside in the West with Alabama, Arkansas and LSU all eyeing a trip to Atlanta. The East? It’s a work in progress as traditional powers Florida and Tennessee try to reclaim the glory days. Who knows, maybe Missouri will sneak in and grab a divisional title in its first year.

Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how I see the SEC shaking out this season:

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

East Division

1. Georgia (last season: 10-4, lost Outback Bowl)
After spending a couple of years on the hot seat, Georgia coach Mark Richt, who is as upstanding and genuine as any coach you’ll meet, sold his soul to Satan for a 10-win season and SEC title game appearance. But, karma’s a you-know-what, and the Bulldogs have witnessed an offseason of unusually high player attrition. Sounds like Georgia doesn’t stand much of a chance, huh? Well, you’re forgetting one thing: it’s the SEC East. Plus, picking South Carolina may as well be the kiss of death. Speaking of which …

2. South Carolina (last season: 11-2; won Capital One Bowl) 
Based on the Gamecocks’ inverse theory of expectations*, where preseason high praise and lauding inevitably lead to disaster later, this should be a relatively good sign for Steve Spurrier and Co. Another good one? Running back Marcus Lattimore. He’s back after suffering a season-ending knee injury a year ago. So, by picking South Carolina to finish second in the East, I’m actually secretly projecting the Gamecocks to finish first. I think. I don’t know.

(*see also: Clemson)

3. Tennessee (last season: 5-7) 
Tennessee is the super sexy sleeper pick for the East title. The Vols return a boatload of starters, but I’m not a huge believer in Tyler Bray yet — though in his defense, Bray wasn’t healthy for much of last season. Nevertheless, this is a crucial year for head coach Derek Dooley. Three losing seasons just isn’t going to do it in Knoxville, not when the fan base is used to winning and the program is pouring money into facilities. The Vols do have two outstanding receivers, though: Justin Hunter (when he’s healthy) and Da’Rick Rogers (when his head is on straight).

4. Florida (last season: 7-6; won Gator Bowl) 
The dropoff in the East starts here. I like the move to pick up Brent Pease as the team’s new offensive coordinator from Boise State and the Gators return some key playmakers from a top 25 defense a year ago. The schedule sets up nicely for Florida too with LSU and South Carolina at home, plus Florida avoids Alabama and Arkansas. If Florida can be a little — okay, a lot — more efficient on offense,  it can be competitive in the East.

5. Missouri (last season in Big 12: 8-5; won Independence Bowl) 
This is where it starts to even out in the East division. Frankly, I can see spots 4-6 all being shuffled around easily. I’m going to go with Missouri here because of the health of quarterback James Franklin. Although coach Gary Pinkel has insisted time and time again Franklin will be ready by the start of the season following shoulder surgery, I’m skeptical that he can stay healthy all season. And it’s not like Mizzou has amazing depth behind Franklin, either. The Tigers will do better in their inaugural year in the SEC than Texas A&M, but I still get the feeling there will be a somewhat rude awakening.

6. Vanderbilt (last season: 6-7; lost Music City Bowl) 
I absolutely love what James Franklin is building at Vanderbilt. He’s a relentless recruiter and the university is recognizing what it needs to do to stay competitive by improving facilities. Franklin may eventually compete, and possibly win, an SEC East title … just not this year. But, watch out: Vandy could upset South Carolina in the first game of the season and the Commodores’ toughest SEC West opponent is Auburn.

7. Kentucky (last season: 5-7) 
Hey, at least Mississippi isn’t alone in the SEC cellar. Kentucky’s non-conference slate is manageable, but that’s about it. Ticket sales are lagging too, showing the crowd in Lexington has probably had enough of the Joker Phillips era unless he does something to generate excitement. I don’t think he does, and the Wildcats finish last in the East.

West Division

1. Alabama (last season: 12-1; won BCS championship)
I picked against the Crimson Tide to win the West prior to last season, which turned out to be a somewhat accurate prediction. But, because I’m a well-documented numbskull, I unwisely disrespected the Tide again in the BCS championship game without considering that it’s nearly impossible to beat Nick Saban head-to-head when he has weeks to prepare. Point being, I’m not going to pick against Alabama again this season. I expect much improvement from quarterback A.J. McCarron after watching him make good (or otherwise non-lethal) decisions in the BCS championship game. Replacing Trent Richardson won’t be a big deal, but going on the road to Arkansas and LSU will be.

2. Arkansas (last season: 11-2; won Cotton Bowl) 
Say what you will about Bobby Petrino the man — and there’s a lot to be said —  but the guy could flat out coach a college football team. But, hey, you go for a ride on a motorcycle with your subordinate who you just so happen to be sleeping with, and a couple lies later, you’re out of a job. It happens. Now, the Hogs move on with former assistant coach John L Smith. The guy has a 10-month contract and a team primed to make a SEC championship run. Tyler Wilson should have been in a hospital with the hits he took last year, so there’s no arguing his toughness. Also returning is the explosive, yet oft-injured running back Knile Davis. Arkansas’ defense is stacked with seniors, and while I like the fact that the Hogs get ‘Bama and LSU at home, Smith is the wild card here.

3. LSU (last season: 13-1; lost BCS championship) 
I’m going to go out on a limb with the preseason No. 1 team (in the coaches’ poll). The defending SEC champion will be this year what Arkansas was last year: a talented team (now without Tyrann Mathieu) stuck in a division with two other phenomenal teams. Because of that, I’m going to put the Tigers at No. 3 in the West. I keep hearing that quarterback Zach Mettenberger is the missing piece for the Tigers if they want to win another BCS championship. That’s interesting considering he’s completely unproven. I know, I know, so were McCarron, Cam Newton and Greg McElroy when they won national championships. That trend stops this year.

4. Auburn (last season 8-5; won Chick-fil-A Bowl) 
2011 was a somewhat sobering year for Auburn, which was just removed from a BCS championship and a Heisman winning quarterback. The Tigers lost five games last season by an average of just under 28 points per game. First order of business? A new defensive coordinator in Brian VanGorder. Second order? Develop some household names on offense not named Phillip Lutzenkirchen in Scot Loeffler‘s more pro style offense. Running back Michael Dyer is gone and he gave the Tigers back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, but Onterio McCalebb is back.  So is leading receiver Emory Blake. I’m looking for both guys to have huge years.

5. Mississippi State (last season: 7-6; won Music City Bowl) 
Auburn and Mississippi State could be flipped, but Auburn should win the early-season matchup in Starkville and I like the Tigers’ talent more. Outside of that game, though, the Bulldogs’ first seven games could give them a hot start; it’s the final five games that could give Mississippi State trouble. Save the season-ending Egg Bowl against Mississippi, the Bulldogs’ schedule is backloaded with games against Alabama, LSU and Arkansas — and two of those are on the road. Also, I’m still waiting for a program-defining win from Dan Mullen.

6. Texas A&M (last season in Big 12: 7-6; won Meineke Car Care Bowl) 
Kevin Sumlin made a promise that Texas A&M will “fight its ass off” this season. Awesome. So will every other team. The Aggies may be changing conferences, but the things that win football games don’t. A&M does have the chance to start off right by hosting Florida on Sept. 8, but there’s nothing fun about A&M’s schedule starting Sept. 29. There’s too much turnover for Sumlin and Co. to contend for a West title right away.

7. Mississippi (last season: 2-10) 
It’s going to be a tough first year for Hugh Freeze. I’m not convinced all the JUCO players in Mississippi could help the Rebels, either. A soft non-conference schedule might help build some confidence for the Rebels, but 2012 has the looks of a winless conference record.

CFT’s SEC champion: Alabama

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

Penn State confirms dismissal of DT Kamonte Carter

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nittany Lion, the mascot of Penn State, rallies the team while in the endzone during the NCAA football game against Nebraska at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania on September 14, 2002. The Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Nebraska Huskers 40-7.  (Photo by Rick Stewart /Getty Images)
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As NFL teams are busy adding former college football players, one program at this level is busy turning one of its current players into a former one.

Earlier today, 247Sports.com reported that Kamonte Carter had been dismissed from the Nittany Lions for violating unspecified team rules.  A short while later, the football program confirmed the development.

And, according to the school, the redshirt freshman defensive tackle was on the receiving end of James Franklin‘s boot more than a week ago.

“Kam Carter was informed on April 21 that he is no longer a member of the Penn State football team for a violation of team rules,” the university said in a statement. “We appreciate Kam’s contributions to the program and wish him success in the future.”

Carter was a four-star member of the Nittany Lions’ 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Maryland and the No. 238 player overall in 247Sports.com‘s composite rankings.  The 6-4, 305-pound lineman took a redshirt as a true freshman.

The Centre Daily Times writes that Carter “was expected to see some time in the defensive line rotation this fall as a backup.”

Monte Seabrook becomes second Utes receiver to transfer this year

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 20:  Utah Utes cheerleaders and mascot Swoop (R) run with flags as they celebrate the team scoring a touchdown against the Colorado State Rams during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 20, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utah won 45-10.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Yes, two Utes.  Happy?  Feel better?

Back in February, Delshawn McClellon announced on Instagram that he had decided to transfer out of the Utah football program.  Fast-forward two months and another player from the same positional group has taken to social media to announce a change, with Monte Seabrook confirming on his personal Twitter account that he too is transferring from the Utes.

It’s believed Seabrook’s decision was triggered by a desire for a better opportunity at playing time.

Seabrook began his career with the Utes as a defensive back before moving on to running back and ultimately settling in as a receiver. After playing in eight games as a true freshman, Seabrook didn’t see the field at all in 2015.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah’s coaching staff is helping Seabrook find a new program with which to continue his career.

Oregon to wear ’16 uniforms in spring game — 1916 uniforms

1916 Oregon Ducks
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Oregon, for better or worse, has become (in)famous for its vast collection of futuristic uniforms and the various combinations that annoy the living hell out of purists and dammit what have I told you kids about my lawn.

Instead of the standard look ahead, however, the Ducks are giving a nod to the past this weekend.

Oregon will take the field this afternoon for their annual spring game, and the players will do so with uniforms that pay homage to the 1916 version of the Ducks. That team went on to appear in the football program’s first Rose Bowl game at the end of that season and are certainly deserving of this type of nod.

I could take or leave the Nike-fied duds — the school’s original color scheme I’d begrudgingly acknowledge I like if I allow my inner fashion designer to grab the keyboard — but I could really get behind the sub-nickname “Webfoots” gaining traction and wider usage.

Report: Baylor’s Art Briles pulled in nearly $6 million in pay for 2014

WACO, TX - OCTOBER 24: Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles watches his team before the Iowa State Cyclones take on the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
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Myriad off-field issues have dogged Art Briles‘ Baylor program of late, but at least the Bears head coach can take comfort in the fact that he’s very well compensated.

As Baylor is a private university, they are not forced to release coaching salaries, although those details are available via federal tax returns. The last known salary for Briles was $3.6 million for the 2013 calendar year; according to the tax returns for 2014 obtained by USA Today, Briles salary for that calendar year jumped to more than $5.3 million.

When all of Briles’ compensation is taken into account, he earned just a shade over $5.9 million for 2014.

In the USA Today coaching salary database for 2015, Briles would’ve been the highest-paid coach in the Big 12, ahead of Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.4 million).  He also would’ve been the third-highest paid head coach in all of college football, trailing only Alabama’s Nick Saban ($7.087 million) and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($7.004 million) in total compensation.  Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, at $5.86 million, sits in that No. 3 spot.

Per the tax returns obtained by the website, Briles earned $540,000 in bonuses and incentives; how those were broken down wasn’t detailed in the returns.  Briles received another $28,000 in retirement and other deferred compensation, as well as $5,000 in apparel from Nike.

As for the lag in the numbers for Briles and why the 2015 financials are not available, USA Today explains it thusly:

Because private schools are organized as non-profit organizations, they must annually file a tax return that includes information about the pay of their most highly compensated employees. Although the returns mostly cover fiscal years that involve parts of two calendar years, the IRS requires that the compensation reporting cover the most recently completed calendar year.

Due to the complexity of their returns, large colleges and universities routinely take filing extensions that result in a significant time lag between the period covered by their most recent return and the date they file.

Baylor’s new return covers a tax year from June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015, making 2014 the most recently completed calendar year.