Marcus Lattimore Danny Trevathan

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 11 South Carolina

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2011 record: 11-2 overall, 6-2 in SEC (2nd in East)

2011 postseason: Capital One Bowl (30-13 win over Nebraska)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 9/No. 8

Head coach: Steve Spurrier (197-75-2 overall, 55-35 in seven seasons at South Carolina)

Offensive coordinator: Spurrier

2011 offensive rankings: 25th rushing offense (192.1 ypg); 95th passing offense (181.5 ypg); 74th total offense (373.5 ypg); 42nd scoring offense (30.1 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: seven

Defensive coordinator: Lorenzo Ward (fifth season at South Carolina, fourth as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 45th rushing defense (136 ypg); 2nd passing defense (131.7 ypg); 3rd total defense (267.7 ypg); 11th scoring defense (18.4 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: six

Location: Columbia, S.C.

Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250; grass)

Last league title: 1969 (ACC)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
The Ol’ Ball Coach is back to being his “chatty” self, a sure sign that he’s very confident in the talent level of the eighth edition of his Gamecocks.  And, coming off an 11-win season with 13 starters on both sides of the ball back, Spurrier should feel confident.  South Carolina will also get what figures to be its prime SEC East competition, Georgia, at home as well as Arkansas, new SEC member Missouri and what should be a much-improved Tennessee squad.

The Bad
The whole of the schedule. Three of what will arguably be South Carolina’s four stiffest tests in 2012 will come away from the friendly confines of Columbia — LSU and Florida back-to-back in mid-October, and then the regular-season finale at Clemson.  The Gamecocks also open the season at Vanderbilt, which some are viewing as a trap game given the Commodores’ improvement under James Franklin.

The Unknown
Über-talented running back Marcus Lattimore is coming off a devastating ACL injury that cost him the last six games of his sophomore season.  Nearly 11 months removed from that injury, Lattimore is 100-percent healthy heading into summer camp.  The real test, though, will come once the regular season commences and that surgically-repaired knee is tested by the stout defenses that litter the SEC. A healthy Lattimore portends good things for the ‘Cocks; any type of setbacks, however, and quarterback Connor Shaw, in his first year as the full-time starter, could be forced to pick up the offensive slack.

Make-or-break game: vs. Georgia, Oct. 6
Sorry Gators, but the early-October matchup between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs will be widely viewed as the SEC East title game.  While the Gamecocks actually came out of the 2011 edition of this matchup with a three-point win, Georgia ripped off seven consecutive conference wins as South Carolina stubbed its collective toes against Auburn and Arkansas to hand the division to the Bulldogs.  This year, Georgia will be forced to travel to Columbia for what once again could/should be the game that decides the East’s sacrificial lamb representative in the SEC title game.

Heisman hopeful: running back Marcus Lattimore
The ACL injury previously addressed notwithstanding, Lattimore is primed for a junior season that should include plenty of Heisman hype.  In 20 career games, Lattimore has rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 27 touchdowns on the ground.  Lattimore will once again be expected to play the workhorse role, although Spurrier would be wise to ease the junior back into the role he’s held the past two seasons, especially early on in the season.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Ex-Oregon Duck QB landing at Towson

Quarterback Morgan Mahalak hands off to running back Lane Roseberry during the University of Oregon opening day of college football spring practice at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex in Eugene, Ore. Tuesday, March 31, 2015. (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Brian Davies)
AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Brian Davies
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Former Oregon quarterback Morgan Mahalak is heading to the FCS for a chance to compete for a starting job. Mahalak will join the Towson Tigers of the Colonial Athletic Association, where he will be eligible to play immediately starting this fall.

“We are happy that we have secured a commitment from such a talented young quarterback,” said Towson head coach Rob Ambrose in a released statement.  “Morgan brings a tremendous amount of potential and secures great competition at the quarterback position.”

Mahalak was released from his scholarship at Oregon in January, at his request. The former four-star recruit should be a nice addition for the Towson program. Mahalak had a tough time finding playing time in Eugene during his two seasons with the Ducks while Marcus Mariota was winning a Heisman Trophy and Vernon Adams was transferring to take the starting job for Oregon. Mahalak served on Orgeon’s scout team last season. With Oregon once again going the FCS transfer QB route this season with Dakota Prukop, it appeared unlikely Mahalak was going to get a chance once again.

Illinois adds Central Michigan to future schedule

Kent State running back Myles Washington (26) loses his helmet after being tackled by Illinois defensive back Chris James (12), defensive back Dillan Cazley (25) and defensive back Cedric Doxy (26) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Champaign, Ill. Illinois won the game 52-3. (AP Photo/ Stephen Haas)
AP Photo/ Stephen Haas
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For those planning ahead, Illinois has added a future game against Central Michigan to the 2022 football schedule. The Illini will reportedly host the Chippewas on September 24, 2022 in a one-game scheduling agreement. Illinois will pay Central Michigan $1.5 million for the game. The two schools have never faced each other on the football field, so this could very well end up being the first meeting barring any potential postseason matchups.

Big Ten teams are required to schedule at least one power conference opponent each year as part of its non-conference scheduling commitment. Central Michigan does not satisfy that commitment, but the Illini are already covered that season with a home game against Virginia. Illinois is scheduled to host Virginia from the ACC on September 10, 2022 in the second of a two-year home-and-home series. Virginia will host Illinois on September 11, 2021. Illinois has its power conference non-scheduling commitment fulfilled from 2021 through 2026, but will have to do some schedule tweaking if it is to satisfy the commitment before 2021. The Big Ten also already granted exemption status for some games due to schedules being booked years in advance. Illinois has their non-conference slate booked for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020 and has just one vacancy to fill in 2019.

Central Michigan has also added a future series against FAU. FAU will host Central Michigan on September 21, 2019 and Central Michigan will serve as host to the Owls on September 18, 2021.

Helmet sticker to the always schedule-aware FBSchedules.com.

Chad Morris building SMU with Texas recruits

SMU head coach Chad Morris, center, takes field with his team for warm ups before an NCAA college football game against Baylor, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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The rebuilding of SMU is a project that is no easy task. As Chad Morris gets ready for his second season on the job, he continues to do what he can to build a foundation based on Texas recruits. For the second straight season, SMU assembled a recruiting class consisting of only Texas recruits.

I’m extremely proud of that,” Morris said last week, per The Dallas Morning News. “You’ll hear a lot of talk about us being Texas tough.

“The toughest thing was trying to create the momentum that we had a year ago, especially coming off a season that wasn’t up to our standards. The majority of our kids were committed to us before the season ever started.

SMU is the only FBS program to land a recruiting class consisting of just players from the state of Texas over the past two recruiting classes. The state of Texas has always been a large and competitive recruiting state, and SMU is certainly facing some stiff competition left and right between traditional heavyweights like Texas and Texas A&M, emerging powers in Baylor and TCU and rising conference rival Houston in addition to other programs from the Big 12 and SEC and beyond making visits into the Lone Star state.

If restoring pride in the SMU program is going to succeed, installing a strong Texas connection is a smart way to go for Morris and the Mustangs.

“It was important for us to do that, to build that continuity, build that relationship with these guys,” Morris said. “The majority of them had big-time offers, so we were battling all the way up to the final hour.”

Tennessee artist pays tribute to Peyton Manning after Super Bowl win

Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning (18) celebrates after the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. The Broncos beat the Panthers 24-10.  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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It has become a Tennessee tradition to see The Rock painted before or after big games during the football season, but this week the noteworthy spot on Tennessee’s campus is simply paying tribute to Vol for life and two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Peyton Manning.

The artist who takes the time to paint The Rock is Payton Marie Miller, and she has become quite the sensation around campus with her artistic twist on Tennessee’s campus. Coming from a family with a strong rooting interest in the Vols, it is no coincidence her name is Payton.

“My dad is a huge Tennessee fan and one day my mom just randomly asked him if he liked the name Payton,” Miller explained in a profile story by Rocky Top Insider last year. “I think it was right after THE Peyton had just finished up at Tennessee and my dad jumped all over it.”

Here is what she did to The Rock for Senior Day last season…

Here are some of the other images of The Rock from last season…