E.J. Manuel

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 10 Florida State


2011 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in ACC (2nd-tie in Atlantic)

2011 postseason: Champs Sports Bowl (18-14 win over Notre Dame)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 23/No. 23

Head coach: Jimbo Fisher (19-8 in two seasons at Florida State)

Offensive coordinator: James Coley (fifth season at FSU, third as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 104th rushing offense (112.1 ypg); 33rd passing offense (257 ypg); 77th total offense (369.1 ypg); 39th scoring offense (30.6 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: six

Defensive coordinator: Mark Stoops (third season at FSU, third as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 2nd rushing defense (82.7 ypg); 20th passing defense (192.3 ypg); 4th scoring defense (15.1 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: eight

Location: Tallahassee, Fla.

Stadium:  Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium (82,300; grass)

Last league title: 2005

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
That defense the Seminoles possessed in 2011 was really good; with eight starters returning this season, and with the talent available to plug-in for the lost starters, it could be even better in 2012.  The loss of three-time tackles leader Nigel Bradham would be a significant blow for most teams, but it’s merely a blip for FSU; that’s how loaded this unit, at least on paper, will be.  Another good comes from the other side of the ball, with starting quarterback E.J. Manuel and most of Manuel’s top receiving targets returning.  Consistency hasn’t been a Manuel trademark, although he showed signs in the spring that he’s growing more comfortable in the Seminoles’ scheme.

The Bad
Chicken or the egg: were FSU’s struggles in the running game the result of a below-average line, or was the line made to look worse than what it actually was due to the backfield components?  The number of sacks given up by the line in 2011 would lead one to lean toward the former.  If the Seminoles have any hope of living up to yet another preseason of high expectations, head coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff must somehow, some way find a way to shore up the line.  A stifling defense can only do so much in today’s era of offensive fireworks.

The Unknown
Special teams were already a question mark, an unanswerable made even more pronounced by the dismissal of premier punt returner Greg Reid.  Reid was also a starting corner, meaning his departure leaves a hole in two units, although with the talent in the secondary the Seminoles’ possess, his loss will be felt more on special teams than on defense.

Make-or-break game: vs. Clemson, Sept 22
“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” the old chestnut goes.  In FSU’s and the ACC’s case, the best in 2011 was Clemson.  And, as both are in the Atlantic Division, the Seminoles will be forced to leapfrog the Tigers if it entertains any shot at claiming its first ACC title since 2005.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback E.J. Manuel
With just over 2,800 yards of total offense and a combined 22 touchdowns in his first year as FSU’s season-opening starter, Manuel is considered by some analysts to be on the verge of greatness at this level.  Inconsistency, however, was an issue last season.  With another offseason under his belt, however, Manuel and his coaches are confident the senior is ready to take his game to the next level, a jump that would most certainly place him squarely in the Heisman discussion.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Notre Dame AD: Brian Kelly ‘will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year’

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 01:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and his team wait to head on to the field for the start of the game against the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium on October 1, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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For those looking — or hoping — for Brian Kelly to be on the coaching hot seat, it appears you’ll have to wait another year or more.

Kelly’s Notre Dame squad, which began 2016 ranked 10th in the Associated Press Top 25, has had its fair share of issues on the field, stumbling to a 2-5 start that’s the program’s worst since 2007.  There have also been issues off the field related to those on-field struggles, with Kelly firing his defensive coordinator and throwing his players under the bus for good measure.  Former Irish football players have sounded off and taken aim as well.

Add it all up, and it had some thinking that Kelly might not be long for South Bend.  At least publicly, Kelly’s boss is emphatically putting the kibosh on such talk.

“Brian will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told ESPN.com earlier today. “I can tell you I continue to have complete confidence in Brian. … I get to see the program day in and day out and I continue to have great confidence in Brian and confidence in our future as a program.”

Kelly is in the midst of his seventh season at the school.  In the previous six, he’d led the Irish to a 55-23 mark.  Included in that total are a pair of 10-plus win seasons as well as an appearance in the BCS title game following the 2012 regular season.

In late January of this year, Kelly and the university reached an agreement on a six-year contract extension that runs through the 2021 season.

When did Nick Saban realize he missed college football? His ‘first press conference’ in Miami

Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban watches play   against the   Carolina Panthers   September 25, 2005 in Miami.  The Dolphins defeated the Panthers 27  to 24.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Yeah, he’s playing to, using the vernacular of the political season, his very fervent base, but it’s still not the least bit surprising.

When Nick Saban left LSU for the job with the Miami Dolphins in 2004, there were more than a couple of observers who were surprised the coach would leave the college game to get back into the NFL. When Saban, after infamously denying it, left the Dolphins to take the job at Alabama after just two seasons, there were more than a couple of observers who were not surprised the coach made such a decision.

Why? Because Saban just seemed like a coach who could relate better to — some would say control more — college players than those in the NFL. With Verne Lundquist serving as a guest on Saban’s weekly radio show Thursday night, the retiring college football broadcaster asked the Alabama head coach, al.com writes, “when in his Miami Dolphins tenure he realized he missed coaching college football?”

Saban’s answer was illuminating…

“Well, the day I landed in Miami and went to the first press conference,” Saban said. “I started to realize the difference between the NFL then and what the NFL was like before when I was in it with Bill Belichick from 1991-94 in Cleveland, before we had free agency, before the media had infiltrated sorta everything that was happening. I guess right then.”

… but not as illuminating as the coach, once again, addressing his version of the Drew Brees situation as it relates to the level control, or lack thereof, in the NFL compared to what he has in Tuscaloosa.

“When [the Brees situation] happened, I said I can’t control my destiny here,” Saban said. “I can’t control my destiny here. There’s too many things that, no matter how hard I work or no matter what I do, I can control my destiny better in college by working hard and making good choices and decisions and creating a good program for players. I think that happening made me lean back to coming back to college.”

Yes, Saban may have, in the eyes of some, unfinished business in the NFL. At 64 years old — he’ll be 65 Oct. 31 — don’t expect him, though, to at any point in the near or distant future to rectify that “hole” in his coaching résumé.

Long-time starting guard ruled out by Tar Heels for rest of season

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 17:  Quinshad Davis #14 and Caleb Peterson #70 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after a touchdown against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at Kenan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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As it turns out, the short-term hit North Carolina took to its offensive line last weekend will turn into a long-turn one.

Caleb Peterson (pictured, being uplifted) suffered a back injury earlier this month that kept him out of both the Virginia Tech (Oct. 8) and Miami (Oct. 15) games. Thursday night, the school announced that the offensive lineman will undergo surgery Friday at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas.

As a result, the senior guard will miss the remainder of the 2016 season. Peterson used his redshirt in 2012 and isn’t eligible for any type of waiver, meaning the 6-5, 300-pound lineman has likely seen his collegiate playing career come to an end.

In his Tar Heel career, Peterson had started a total of 42 games. He had a streak of 30 straight starts snapped when he missed the Tech game.

Following the 2015 season, Peterson was named second-team All-ACC by the league’s coaches.

In addition to Peterson, the football program also announced that Jonathan Smith underwent season-ending surgery Thursday to repair a fracture in his right foot. The freshman linebacker initially suffered the injury during practice in the week leading up to the game against the Hokies.

A three-star member of UNC’s 2016 recruiting class, Smith was rated as the No. 21 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 25 player at any position in the state of North Carolina. He had appeared in six games as a true freshman this season, and was credited with one tackle.

Beavers dealing with injury issues in their backfield

Oregon State running back Ryan Nall, right, looks back at California cornerback Darius Allensworth, left, during an 80-yard touchdown run in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)
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It’s looking more and more likely that Oregon State will be at less than full strength in their backfield when they line up against No. 5 Washington Saturday evening.

Leading rusher Ryan Nall aggravated a foot injury in last Saturday’s loss after just one carry and is officially listed as doubtful for the game against the Huskies. Nall did not practice Thursday and was still wearing a boot to protect the injured foot.

Additionally, Nall’s backup, Artavis Pierce, is dealing with a stinger and did not participate in the portion of practice open to the media, The Oregonian reported.

Nall currently leads the Beavers with 464 yards and six rushing touchdowns. He’s also third on the team with 13 receptions.

Pierce is second behind Nall with 262 yards.

If neither Nall nor Pierce are available, the bulk of the running game load would be shouldered by Tim Cook. The senior has carried the ball nine times this season for 22 yards.