CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 17 Ohio State

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2011 record: 6-7 overall, 4-5 in Big Ten (4th in Leaders)

2011 postseason: Gator Bowl (24-17 loss to Florida)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked

Head coach: Urban Meyer (104-23 overall, first season at Ohio State)

Offensive coordinator: Tom Herman (first season at OSU, first as OC); Ed Warriner (first season at OSU, first as co-OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 27th rushing offense (191.1 ypg); 115th passing offense (127 ypg); 107th total offense (318.1 ypg); 81st scoring offense (24.5 ypg)

Returning offensive starters: seven

Defensive coordinator: Luke Fickell (11th season at OSU, first as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 50th rushing defense (141.5 ypg); 14th passing defense (182 ypg); 19th total defense (323.5 ypg); 27th scoring defense (21 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: nine

Location: Columbus, Ohio

Stadium: Ohio Stadium (102,329; FieldTurf)

Last league title: 2010 (co-champs with Michigan State and Wisconsin)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
A total of 16 starters returning from a season that the Buckeyes had to navigate its way through without long-time coach Jim Tressel.  In comes two-time BcS-winning coach Urban Meyer, injecting some much-needed enthusiasm and optimism to a program dealing with NCAA sanctions.  Part of that enthusiasm and optimism, especially from Meyer, comes from Braxton Miller, the true sophomore who showed flashes of brilliance in his first season as a starter at this level in 2011.  The best part when it comes to Miller may be — likely will be — yet to come as his dual-threat ability is a hand-in-glove fit for Meyer’s spread offense.  Add in a defense was above average in 2011 and returns nine starters in 2012, and you have a team hellbent on playing spoiler early — or very late in the season as the case may be — and often.

The Bad
Regardless of how well the Buckeyes adapt to Meyer and his new coaching staff, OSU will be ineligible for the postseason — Big Ten championship game and a bowl game — thanks to NCAA sanctions levied for the actions of the previous regime.  Keeping his squad focused on improving throughout the season — especially for what will be their bowl game, The Game vs. Michigan — will be Job One for Meyer & Co.

The Unknown
How much of an impact will Jordan Hall’s freak injury impact the running game?  Last season’s third-leading rusher was expected to provide half of a 1-2 RB punch with Carlos Hyde, but the senior cut the bottom of his right foot from stepping on a piece of glass.  That injury could have Hall, listed as the No. 1 RB on the depth chart prior to his injury, out through the middle of September if not longer.  While it’s certainly far from devastating, watching how Hyde and sophomore Rod Smith handle the running-game workload will be interesting to say the least.

Make-or-break game: vs. Michigan, Nov. 24
In a normal year, The Game would be the make-or-break game for either side.  With Ohio State on probation and ineligible for the postseason of any kind, The Game becomes The Postseason for the Buckeyes in 2012.  As if it needed an additional layer of importance, there’s the fact that the Wolverines dropped the Buckeyes 40-34 last season, snapping a streak of seven straight wins — six, technically — over its bitter That School Up North rivals.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Braxton Miller
A year away from entering any type of meaningful Heisman discussion, Miller is nonetheless the only current Buckeye with the type of talent to merit inclusion on even the periphery of the talk.  As a true freshman last season, Miller led the Buckeyes with 714 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, while also throwing for 13 touchdowns and tossing just four interceptions.  He was limited to just 157 pass attempts under interim head coach Luke Fickell; with Meyer at the helm and with that year’s worth of on-the-job training, expect that number to double and, potentially, place his name on the lips of Heisman voters.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images
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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.