CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 16 Virginia Tech

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2011 record: 11-3 overall, 7-1 in ACC (1st in Coastal)

2011 postseason: ACC title game (38-10 loss to Clemson); Sugar Bowl (23-20 OT loss to Michigan)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 21/No. 18

Head coach: Frank Beamer (251-121-4 overall, 209-98-2 in 25 seasons at Virginia Tech)

Offensive coordinator: Bryan Stinespring (23rd season at VT, 11th as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 28th rushing offense (186.9 ypg); 66th passing offense (226.1 ypg); 35th total offense (413 ypg); 57th scoring offense (27.9 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: three

Defensive coordinator: Bud Foster (26th season at VT, 18th as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 14th rushing defense (104.1 ypg); 31st passing defense (200.6 ypg); 10th total defense (304.6 ypg); 7th scoring defense (17.6 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: nine

Location: Blacksburg, Va.

Stadium: Lane Stadium (66,223; grass)

Last league title: 2010

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
For eight straight seasons, and 11 of the past 13, the Hokies have finished the season with at least 10 wins; with nine returning defensive starters from a Top 10 unit in 2011, you might as well go ahead and pencil in nine straight 10-plus win seasons.  A possible reason to reach for the Sharpie?  Quarterback Logan Thomas, a player who for whatever doesn’t get a lot of run nationally but is nonetheless an absolute star at the position.  The schedule also sets up nicely, with ACC home games against Georgia Tech, Florida State and Virginia

The Bad
Gone is running back David Wilson, who set the school’s single-season rushing mark last season.  Also gone are four starting linemen, three top receiving threats, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.  That’s a significant amount of turnover in one offseason, especially at the skill positions.  Oh, and there’s also the fact that two of the toughest conference games on the slate come on the road — at Clemson and at Miami in back-to-back weeks.  Perhaps it’s time to back off the Sharpie and put the pencil back firmly in hand.

The Unknown
To be blunt, who the hell is going to replace the production lost with Wilson’s departure?  Between him and third-leading rusher Josh Oglesby — Thomas was second with 469 yards — the twosome combined for 2,080 of the 2,147 non-Thomas rushing yards; both are no longer Hokies.  The top three players on the depth chart entering summer camp are some combination of Michael Holmes, Martin Scales, J.C. Coleman and Daniel Dyer.  That quartet combined for a total of 30 yards and as many touchdowns as I had in 2011.  In fairness, Holmes redshirted as a true freshman last season while Coleman was an early enrollee member of Tech 2012 recruiting class.  The point still stands, however — the running back position is the biggest question mark for the Hokies entering the 2012 season.  Well, that and the offensive line, which is a potentially lethal 1-2 combo for Beamer and his Hokies.

Make-or-break game: vs. Florida State, Nov. 8
The Hokies reside in the ACC Coastal, and their stiffest competition is some combination of apathy, boredom and lack of resistance.  Miami and Virginia are likely a year or two away from serious contention; Duke is, well, Duke; North Carolina is on probation and thus ineligible for the postseason.  That leaves the Hokies with Georgia Tech, and leads me to the Seminoles of the Atlantic as the most pivotal game for the Hokies’ 2012 future on the national stage.  The best news for the Hokies is they get the Seminoles in Blacksburg.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Logan Thomas
As I hinted at above, I’m borderline astonished at the lack of attention Thomas gets nationally.  As a sophomore last season, Thomas set school records with nearly 3,500 total yards and 30 total touchdowns.  The ceiling is high for a player as talented as Thomas; expect him to reach that this season even as he will be surrounded far and wide by inexperience.  And, Hokie fans, enjoy him while you can as he’s not long for Blacksburg as the NFL is already sniffing around the immense potential.

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Division II, Division III and NAIA title games set while FCS heads into semifinals

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Outside of a thrilling Army-Navy game and the Heisman ceremony, it was an empty Saturday at the highest level of college football.

But no so at the lower levels.

The divisional playoffs are cranked into high gear. Let’s take a brief look at where everything stands in each division.

FCS

Top-seeded and defending champion James Madison needed a last-second field goal to survive visiting Weber State, 31-28, on Friday night, while No. 5 seed South Dakota State routed New Hampshire, 55-14.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed and winner of five of the last six national titles North Dakota State walloped Wofford, 42-10 in Fargo. No. 6 seed Sam Houston State outlasted upstart Kennesaw State, 34-27, to send the Bearkats into their fifth semifinal game in the last seven years.

Semifinals: No. 5 South Dakota State at No. 1 James Madison — 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPNU; No. 6 Sam Houston State at No. 2 North Dakota State — 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2.

Division II

No. 4 seed West Florida traveled north and upset top-seeded Indiana (Pa.), 27-17 on Saturday, to send the Argonauts into their first championship game. No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce fended off the option attack of No. 3 Harding (Ark.), 31-17, putting the Lions in their first title game as well.

National championship: No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. No. 4 West Florida — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Division III

In a similar dynamic to FCS, the defending champion is on a collision course with the traditional champion. In the first semifinal, defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) blanked Brockport (N.Y.), 24-0. The Crusaders will make their third trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, looking to win their second title.

In the other semifinal, Mount Union (Ohio) overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 43-40. The Purple Raiders will play in their 20th Stagg Bowl — all of them coming since 1993, and 19 of them since ’96 — with a shot at their 13th national championship. However, Mount Union has won just — “just” — two national championships since 2009.

National championship: Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) vs. Mount Union (Ohio) — 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN at Salem Stadium in Salem Va.

NAIA

The NAIA was off this weekend, taking a break in between last week’s semifinals and Saturday’s national championship. Defending champion Saint Francis (Ind.) out-gunned previously-undefeated Morningside (Iowa) 43-36 in the first semifinal, while Reinhardt (Ga.) held off undefeated Southern Oregon, 37-34 in double overtime.

National championship: Saint Francis (Ind.) vs. Reinhardt (Ga.) — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3 at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Minnesota lands commitment from 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle

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P.J. Fleck is going to need a bigger boat.

Minnesota has landed a commitment from the largest recruit on record, as 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle Daniel Faalele has committed to the Gophers. Faalele made the announcement on his Twitter page on Saturday night.

A 3-star recruit, Faalele is rated as the No. 29 offensive tackle in the country, according to 247Sports. He listed 20 offers, including from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.

As the story goes, Faalele did not find football; football found him. He was discovered by a recruiter from Hawaii working out at a gym in his native Melbourne, Australia. He attended a Michigan satellite camp in Australia and played this season — his first season in pads — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

In making the trip from the Land Down Under to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Faalele will be joined by a pair of IMG Academy teammates in offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap, Jr., and quarterback Zack Annexstad, who also committed to Minnesota on Saturday.

Those pledges now give Minnesota the 26th best recruiting class in the country and the sixth best in the Big Ten — but the No. 1 class in the Big Ten West — in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Minnesota’s class may not be the best in the country, but it’s among the biggest — both in size (the Gophers have 25 pledges thus far) and stature.

Texas A&M suspends DT Zaycoven Henderson amid felony gun charges

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Texas A&M defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson was suspended amid multiple felony charges on Saturday.

As detailed by Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News, witnesses say Henderson pointed a rifle at one person outside College Station’s Campus Village Apartments and threatened to kill two others and allegedly threw the gun out of a fleeing car as police arrived on the scene. The car was later tracked down by College Station officers, who discovered marijuana in the car.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, tampering with evidence and marijuana possession. The first charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in a prison. The second is a third-degree felony and the third is a misdemeanor.

He was booked into the Brazos County (Texas) jail at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Texas A&M has suspended Henderson indefinitely, which really only lasts one game as the senior from Longview, Texas, was set to close his Aggies career in the Belk Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 29 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Henderson made 35 tackles with five TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 12 starts this season. He was honored as a member of Texas A&M’s senior class at the annual team banquet earlier this weekend.

UCLA reportedly hires Paul Rhoads as defensive backs coach

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Chip Kelly has reportedly hired one of the most respected men in the business to his staff. According to a report from Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman, Paul Rhoads is on his way to Westwood to coach UCLA’s defensive backs.

Rhoads spent the past two seasons at Arkansas, the first as defensive backs coach and the second as defensive coordinator in addition to his duties with the secondary. He’s best known, of course, for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, where he took the Cyclones to three bowl games and created this viral moment before any of us knew what “going viral” went.

In addition to Arkansas, Rhoads also owns defensive experience at Auburn, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, Pacific, Ohio State and Utah State.

UCLA finished last season ranked 74th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 57.1 percent completion rate for 7.3 yards per attempt with seven interceptions against 18 touchdowns.