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

Temple adds future home-and-homes with BC, Duke, Maryland

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 5: Temple Owls fans celebrate during the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions on September 5, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Owls defeated the Nittany Lions 27-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Temple’s non-conference schedules will have a decidedly Power Five flavor to them in the future.

The AAC school announced Friday that it has reached agreements on future home-and-home series with a pair of ACC schools, Boston College and Duke, as well as one from the Big Ten, Maryland.  The series with BC and UofM both start in 2018 and both are on the road, with the Owls traveling to College Park Sept. 15 and to Chestnut Hill two weeks later.  The Blue devils will play in Philadelphia Sept. 14, 2019, to conclude the series, while the Eagles come calling September 18, 2021.

Temple will start their series against Duke with a road game to open the 2022 season Sept. 3, while the Blue Devils will make their way to Philly Sept. 16 the following season.

Temple and BC have faced each other 35 times since 1937, with the latter holding a decided 27-6-2 edge in the series.  The team’s last played in 2004, and the Owls’ last win came in 1999.  Maryland and Temple have squared off just eight times, the first coming in 1997 and the last in 2012.  The Terrapins have won seven of the eight, the only loss coming by 31 points at home in 2011.

Duke and Temple have never faced each other on the gridiron.

With this announcement, plus the recent announcement of a three-game series with Oklahoma, Temple will play 14 games against Power Five teams the next eight seasons.  Those will include, in addition to the aforementioned, games at Penn State (2016), at Notre Dame (2017) and a pair of home-and-home series against Rutgers (2020-21, 2022-23).

Status of both Boise State starting safeties up in the air for opener

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 12: Mitchell Juergens #87 of the Brigham Young Cougars catches this 4th down, 4th quarter go ahead touchdown between defenders Darian Thompson #4 and Dylan Sumner-Gardner #29 of the Boise State Broncos at LaVell Edwards Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Provo, Utah. BYU won 35-24. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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When Boise State opens its 2016 season in a little over a month, the Broncos could do so with a very depleted secondary.

An unspecified violation of team rules prevented Dylan Sumner-Gardner from playing in or even traveling to BSU’s Poinsettia Bowl win over Northern Illinois in late December. Chanceller James (pictured, No. 29), meanwhile, did not participate in the annual spring game for an unknown reason.

Both players are starting safeties for Bryan Harsin, and the head coach declined to state with any certainty whether one, both or none of the defensive backs would be on the field when they open the season Sept. 3 against Louisiana-Lafayette.

“It’s where it is right now, just with our team,” Harsin said according to the Idaho Press-Tribune when asked if the players would be facing any type of punitive measures for the start of the season. “I’ll kind of leave it at that.”

James started nine of the 13 games in which he played last season as a redshirt junior, finishing fourth on the Broncos in tackles with 55.  All told, he’s started 12 games the past two seasons.

Sumner-Gardner started the first four games of 2015 before sustaining a season-ending injury.  The junior played in 13 games as a true freshman in 2014.

Derwin James, FSU’s freshman All-American DB, undergoes ‘minor’ foot surgery

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 28:  Kelvin Taylor #21 of the Florida Gators attempts to run past Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles during the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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With rumors swirling around one of the top young defensive playmakers on Florida State’s roster, there’s some relatively positive news to report on that front.

Warchant.com reported that Derwin James did indeed undergo surgery on his foot two weeks ago to repair what was described as a small fracture.  The good news is that the procedure is described as being “minor” in nature.  Even better?  The timeline for a return of 4-5 weeks.

From the Rivals.com website:

With the start of football practice scheduled for August 9, which is right at four weeks following surgery, the Noles’ second-leading tackler from 2015 is expected to be able to participate. And he should be 100 percent recovered with no limitations in time for the second week of practice.

James was the most heralded member of FSU’s 2015 recruiting class, a five-star prospect rated as the No. 5 player overall on 247Sports.com’s composite board.  And, suffice to say, James lived up to the plaudits.

As a true freshman, James’ 91 tackles were second only to Reggie Northrup’s 94.  He was also second on the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (4.5).

For that, he was named a freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC.  This offseason, he was named to the Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award watch lists.

Family of LSU kicker injured in crash that killed Neb., MSU punters ‘sincerely appreciates outpouring of support’

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 08: Colby Delahoussaye #42 of the LSU Tigers kicks a field goal in the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide during a game at Tiger Stadium on November 8, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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A statement from Colby Delahoussaye expressed thanks for all of the thoughts and prayers he had received since the weekend.  Friday, his family expressed a similar sentiment.

On their way home from a kicking camp Saturday night, Cornhuskers punter Sam Foltz and ex-Spartans punter Mike Sadler were killed in a car accident as they were driving through a severe thunderstorm in Wisconsin.  Additionally, LSU placekicker Colby Delahoussaye, a backseat passenger in the Mercedes driven by Sadler, was injured in the crash that claimed the players’ lives.

In a statement, the Delahoussaye family said it “sincerely appreciates the outpouring of support for Colby since the accident” while also reminding people to “continue to pray for the families of Mike Sadler and Sam Foltz during this very difficult time.”

Our family sincerely appreciates the outpouring of support for Colby since the accident last weekend. The number of calls, emails and text messages that we have received from people throughout the country has been overwhelming and much appreciated. Colby is in good hands with treatment to his injuries and he’s making progress with his recovery.

“We ask that you continue to pray for the families of Mike Sadler and Sam Foltz during this very difficult time. Mike and Sam were wonderful young men who Colby had great admiration for. Please keep their families in your thoughts and prayers.

Delahoussaye sustained burns to his legs and lacerations that required stitches, but it’s the former injury that’s being credited with saving his life.

“All he remembers is that the fire was burning his leg and that woke him up,” Dwayne Delahoussaye, told the Baton Rouge Advocate. “He was knocked unconscious. The burning sensation revived him. That’s all he remembers. He doesn’t even know how he got out. He doesn’t know where he crawled out of.”

In 2013 and 2014, Delahoussaye, a senior walk-on with the Tigers, converted on a combined 24-of-29 field goal attempts.  He was replaced last season by Trey Domingue, who announced earlier this month that he was transferring from LSU after his scholarship wasn’t renewed before confirming this weekend that he’ll be continuing his collegiate playing career at Texas.

It’s unknown if Delahoussaye, expected to be the Tigers’ primary placekicker this season, will be healthy enough to participate in the start of summer camp, which kicks off early next month.