CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 1 USC

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2011 record: 10-2 overall, 7-2 in Pac-12 (1st in South)

2011 postseason: ineligible due to NCAA sanctions

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 6/ineligible

Head coach: Lane Kiffin (25-13 overall; 18-7 in two years at USC)

Offensive coordinator: Kennedy Polamalu (third season)

2011 offensive rankings: 51st rushing offense (162.6 ypg); 15th passing offense (294.2 ypg); 21st total offense (456.7 ypg); 16th scoring offense (35.7 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: eight

Defensive coordinator: Ed Orgeron (third season)

2011 defensive rankings: 18th rushing defense (111.4 ypg); 102nd passing defense (263.3 ypg);  54th total defense ( 374.7 ypg); 45th scoring defense (23.6 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: seven

Location: Los Angeles

Stadium: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (93,607; grass)

Last conference title: 2008

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
What’s not to like about USC in 2012?  Coming off a two-year bowl ban and a 10-win season to close out the postseason NCAA sanctions, the Trojans are AP’s preseason No. 1 and are loaded for Bear… and Duck and Bruin and Buffalo and, well, you get the point.  One of the most glaring weaknesses was at the running back position, and that hole was filled in late July by transfer Silas Redd, the 1,000-yard rusher from Penn State who will be eligible immediately and will be expected to play a significant and pivotal role from the get-go.

The Bad
Thanks to the NCAA sanctions, USC is limited to 75 scholarship players this year, so injuries/suspensions/etc. will be critical as depth is not the Trojans’ strong suit.  Already this offseason, they’ve lost starting defensive end Devon Kennard to a pec injury that could prove to be the season-ending variety.  One of those types of injuries the Trojans can withstand; a handful or more?  Given the roster situation, USC is simply not built to withstand and overcome myriad injury issues.

The Unknown
Speaking of injury issues, All-American wide receiver Robert Woods has been dealing with his own ankle situation since last season.  He underwent surgery in the offseason, missed spring practice and, is participating in camp but not quite at 100 percent.  Whether that injury issue bleeds into the regular season remains to be seen, although, fortunately for the Trojans, receiver is one of the few positions on the roster capable of withstanding a loss of this magnitude.  Provided George Farmer’s own injury issue isn’t a long-term deal either, of course.

Make-or-break game: vs. Oregon, Nov. 3
No offense to Stanford or UCLA (chuckle) or Notre Dame, this is the game Kiffin & Co. will have circled on their calendars — and probably have had circled since the curtain closed on the 2011 season.  As winners of the past three Pac-12 titles, the road to a conference conference championship runs straight through the school in Eugene.  If as expected both squads hold serve through the first two months of the season, an early-November match-up of 8-0 teams could very well be in the offing — as well as a preview of a Pac-12 title game that would be rife with BcS implications  The good news for the Trojans is that the regular-season game will be in Los Angeles.  The bad news?  The Trojans have dropped two of the last three to the Ducks —  including Oregon’s last trip to the Coliseum in 2010.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Matt Barkley
Forget the best Heisman hopeful for USC; the senior will likely be the preseason favorite of the vast majority of Heisman prognosticators.  And it’d be hard to blame them. Barkley is coming off a season in which he threw for more than 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns versus just seven interceptions in nearly 450 attempts, made a surprise decision to return for his senior season and will lead arguably the best team in the country — it’d be an upset if Barkley weren’t the leader heading out of the clubhouse.  Add that to weapons at the receiver position — don’t forget Marqise Lee is also in the mix — that are criminal in at least a dozen states, the addition of Redd and all of the attention USC will garner in the preseason, it goes without saying that Barkley will be the lead dog in the hunt for the Heisman.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

Pac-12 preview, vote

Pac-12, SEC, Big Ten well-represented in Super Bowl, Nebraska’s Super Bowl streak hits 25

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The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles have clinched their spot in Super Bowl LII in Minnesota in two weeks after capturing the AFC and NFC championships, respectively, on Sunday. With Tom Brady (Michigan, Big Ten) and Nick Foles (Arizona, Pac-12) leading their teams into the Super Bowl, the Pac-12, SEC, and Big Ten will be well-represented in the big game this season.

A total of 29 players from the Pac-12 will be on the Super Bowl rosters for the Patriots and Eagles, as well as 28 players from the SEC and 27 from the Big Ten. Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network shared the conference numbers on Twitter, which the Pac-12 will surely take pride in.

When it comes to the school by school breakdown, it is the Stanford Cardinal that come in at the head of the Super Bowl class this season with five players on the Super Bowl rosters.

The official account for Stanford football on Twitter has a different official count for the Super Bowl, however.

Nebraska also has three players in the Super Bowl and will continue to carry the longest active streak of consecutive years with at least one player playing in the Super Bowl.

You can watch all of these former college football players play for the Super Bowl championship in two weeks on NBC on Sunday, Feb. 4.

Early betting lines see Alabama open as massive favorite against Louisville

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The start of a new college football season is still a good distance away, which means taking any action on opening lines you may come across now is not for the faint of heart. However, it is never too early for some to place some wagers on the upcoming season, and initial opening lines from one sports book are making Alabama, Oklahoma, and Ohio State heavy favorites in their respective season openers next fall.

As relayed by Brett McMurphy via Twitter, 5Dimes has released a handful of opening lines for some games of interest in Week 1 of the 2018 season. Among them is Alabama’s season opener in Orlando against Louisville. The defending national champion Crimson Tide are opening as a lopsided 29.5-point favorite against the Cardinals, who begin a season without NFL-bound and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Alabama would have been a considerable favorite against the Cardinals even if Jackson was coming back next season, but to be a nearly 30-point favorite against a team like Louisville is incredible.

Other heavy favorites will include defending Big Ten champion Ohio State giving 31 points to Oregon State in Columbus and defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma spotting Lane Kiffin and FAU three touchdowns in Norman. Of note, Miami is also a one-point favorite against LSU in their season opener in Arlington, Texas, and Auburn is a four-point favorite against Washington in Atlanta.

Kevin Sumlin is a 7.5-point favorite in his coaching debut with Arizona against BYU and Texas is a 10-point favorite on the road against Maryland (Maryland topped the Longhorns in Austin in last season’s Week 1 matchup). Notre Dame is a slight two-point favorite against Jim Harbaugh and Michigan in their Week 1 primetime contest (7:30 p.m. on NBC, for those wondering).

See any early lines you like? Or will you be holding off until closer to the start of the season to put your money where your mouth is?

After leaving Michigan State, Hunter Rison lands at K-State

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Less than two weeks after leaving East Lansing, Hunter Rison is headed a little bit further west to continue his collegiate playing career.

On his personal Twitter account this weekend, Rison revealed that he “will be furthering my athletic and academic career at Kansas State University.” The announcement came nearly a dozen days after Rison’s father, former Michigan State wide receiver Andre Rison, confirmed during a radio interview that his son would be transferring from his alma mater, citing a desire for more playing time.

After sitting out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws, the wide receiver will have three years of eligibility remaining.

Rison was a four-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 46 receiver in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Michigan. The 5-11, 200-pound Rison was one of four four-star recruits signed as part of MSU’s February 2017 recruiting class.

As a true freshman, he caught 19 passes for 224 yards. In the September loss to Notre Dame, he set career highs in receptions (four) and receiving yards (73).

Former Ohio State assistant leaving Minnesota for Michigan

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An assistant with history on one side of The Game rivalry is headed to the other side. reportedly.

FootballScoop.com first reported that Minnesota’s Ed Warinner (pictured, center) is leaving Minnesota to take an unspecified job at Michigan. SI.com‘s Bruce Feldman subsequently confirmed the initial report.

While the Wolverines have not yet confirmed the addition of Warinner, the coach’s updated Twitter profile indicates that he’s now at U-M. As Jim Harbaugh already has his allotment of 10 on-field assistants, it appears likely that Warinner will serve as some type of offensive analyst.

Warinner spent the 2017 season as the offensive line coach and running-game coordinator at Minnesota. Prior to that, He was the line coach at Ohio State from 2012-16. In 2015, he added the title of co-offensive coordinator.