Gator Bowl - Ohio State v Florida

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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No. 21 Auburn rushes for 543 yards in 56-3 win over No. 17 Arkansas

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 22: Kamryn Pettway #36 of the Auburn Tigers runs the ball in the second quarter of the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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No. 21 Auburn (5-2, 3-1 SEC) rushed for more yards against No. 17 Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC) than any team has since before the turn of the century en route to a smashing 56-3 victory over the Razorbacks Saturday evening in Jordan Hare Stadium. When all was said and done, the Tigers racked up 543 rushing yards.

Kamryn Pettway led the ground attack with 192 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Eli Stove had a 78-yard touchdown run to boost his 94-yard day and Stanton Truitt rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns to add to Auburn’s wildly productive day on the ground. Quarterback Sean White was a part of the fun too, with 61 rushing yards and a score to go with his 77 passing yards and passing touchdown.

On the other side, Auburn’s defense never allowed Arkansas to get a running game going. The Razorbacks ran 31 running plays and managed just 25 rushing yards in the game. A combined loss of 14 yards were credited to Arkansas quarterbacks Austin Allen and Ty Storey. Allen was forced to leave the game in the first half due to an apparent knee injury but he returned after a brief absence. Rawleigh Williams III was the leading rusher for the Razorbacks with 22 yards on 13 carries.

Auburn also played a pretty clean game with just two penalties for 10 yards and no turnovers (Arkansas had two turnovers). The Razorbacks are going to have to think long and hard about this one, or simply put the game film in the trash and forget about it. Either way, there was no denying this was one of the worst losses Arkansas has experienced under Bret Bielema.

Arkansas will get a little extra time to prepare for their next game. The Razorbacks have a much-needed bye week coming up next weekend, giving them an extra week to prepare for a home game against Florida.

OK, so time to look forward for Auburn. Before you start looking to the end of the year with the Iron Bowl matchup with Alabama, Auburn has to go on the road next week to play Ole Miss. Yes, the Rebels may be a fringe top-25 team this season, but there is no question they can be a dangerous opponent. However, Auburn’s defense has been playing very well the past month and has now held each of their past four opponents to fewer than 15 points. Doing that against Ole Miss may be difficult, especially on the road, but Auburn is playing with confidence.

Alabama loses star safety/ace returner Eddie Jackson to broken leg

Alabama defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) returns a punt for a 79-yard touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. Alabama won 49-10. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
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Alabama’s win over Texas A&M came at a steep cost to both its defense and special teams.

Early in the fourth quarter of the 33-14 win, Eddie Jackson sustained an injury to his left leg and did not return.  Following the game, head coach Nick Saban confirmed that Jackson had suffered a broken leg.

As a result, both the senior’s season and his career have come to an abrupt end.

“Eddie was a fantastic player for us and a great leader,” the coach said in quotes distributed by the school. “I think he was an All-American player as a safety, at least in my book. We’re certainly going to miss him, but what a great player, what a great competitor, and what a great guy to have in this program for the time he’s been here.

“He’s done a fantastic job for us and I’m just sick for him and his family. I hate it that it’s one of the things about sports, all sports, and that we have to deal with sometimes as injuries. It’s unfortunate, especially when it happens to a great guy and a very, very good player. We’re certainly going to miss him.”

The loss of Jackson, who some consider the heart and soul of a very talented Tide defense, is a huge one.

Jackson had started the last 23 games at safety after starting 14 games at cornerback his first two seasons with the Tide.  The past two seasons, Jackson has returned three interceptions for touchdowns.  He’s also one of the best punt returners in the nation, having returned two for touchdowns this season.

Entering the 2016 season, Jackson was widely viewed as a likely first- or second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

Recent retiree Joe Williams runs wild in Utah’s win over UCLA

Utah running back Joe Williams, center, runs for a touchdown as UCLA defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley, left, linebacker Jayon Brown, second from left, and defensive back Jaleel Wadood, right, give chase along with Utah offensive tackle Sam Tevi during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo
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Apparently the grass can indeed be greener on the other side of retirement.

Two games into the 2016 season, Joe Williams announced his retirement from the sport because of unspecified health issues.  Less than four weeks later, the senior running back returned to a Utah squad just last week because of a backfield decimated by injury.

In his first game post-retirement, Williams ran for 179 yards in a win over Oregon State last Saturday.  A week later, Williams trumped that effort.

In the Week 8 win over UCLA, Williams ran for a career-high 332 yards and four touchdowns as Utah kept pace with Colorado in the Pac-12 South.  Williams had entered his brief retirement with 549 career rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns; the past two games, the senior has totaled 511 yards and five touchdowns.

Not surprisingly, Williams’ Week 8 performance set a couple of school records.

The win allowed Utah to keep pace with Colorado, with both the Utes and Buffaloes, thanks to a 10-5 win over Stanford, sitting at 4-1 in Pac-12 South play. Those two teams will meet in the regular-season finale in a game that could very well determine which team represents the division in the conference championship game.

USC, which handed Colorado its lone league loss, could also be factor in the divisional race as they sit at 3-2 on a bye this weekend.

Auburn running all over and around Arkansas, 28-3

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 22: A young fan of the Auburn Tigers cheers as the team takes the field before the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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It took one play for Auburn to put some points on the scoreboard, and the Tigers have yet to look back on Arkansas. Auburn holds a decisive 28-3 lead on the Razorbacks at the half. Auburn has run for 268 yards to just 26 yards on the ground by Arkansas.

Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen left the game in the first half with an apparent knee injury. He was helped off the field and replaced with redshirt freshman Ty Storey. Allen did return to the game.

Eli Stove (85 yards) took off for a 78-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play Auburn got to run after Arkansas was forced to punt on the game’s opening possession. Auburn’s second touchdown drive took a little longer (10-plays, 91 yards). Kamryn Petway (117 yards) finished off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead. Arkansas fumbled away the ensuing possession after just three plays, and Auburn capitalized with a Stanton Truitt touchdown run from 20 yards out.

It’s just been a mess of a first half by Arkansas, and the bad news is there is a second half to play.