CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 18 North Carolina

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2011 record: 7-6 overall, 3-5 in ACC (4th-tie in Coastal)

2011 postseason: Independence Bowl (41-24 loss to Missouri)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked

Head coach: Larry Fedora (34-19 overall, first season at North Carolina)

Offensive coordinator: Blake Anderson (first season at UNC, first as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 76th rushing offense (138.8 ypg); 36th passing offense (254.4 ypg); 53rd total offense (393.2 ypg); 56th scoring offense (28 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: eight

Defensive coordinator: Dan Disch (first season at UNC, first as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 27th rushing defense (123.9 ypg); 78th passing defense (241.3 ypg); 49th total defense (365.2 ypg); 56th scoring defense (24.8 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: five

Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.

Stadium: Kenan Memorial Stadium (62,980; grass)

Last league title: 1980

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
You ever have a gut feeling about something for no readily apparent reason?  Welcome to UNC at No. 18, y’all!!!  Actually, there are two valid reasons for their stunning — “Stupid’s more like it,” John Taylor’s inner voice said in off-the-record comments — inclusion in the Top 25, let alone the Top 20.  One, my supreme confidence in Larry Fedora as a head coach possessing the ability to right the listing Tar Heels football ship immediately.  And, two, the presence of quarterback Bryn Renner.  Aside from that?  It’s hard to explain the inexplicable.

The Bad
The schedule, for one, which features road trips to Wake Forest, Louisville, Miami and Virginia, and home dates with Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Georgia Tech.  It’s not exactly an SEC murderer’s row, but it will serve as a stiff challenge in Fedora’s first season. Then there’s this: 53rd/49th in total offense/defense, 56th in scoring offense and scoring defense in 2011. And there’s the fact that UNC has almost nothing to play for thanks to a postseason ban courtesy of the NCAA.  Remind me again why we’re here with the Tar Heels?  Oh yeah, the whole gut thing.  On a completely unrelated note, I obviously need to hit the gym way more than I normally do.

The Unknown
You could place at least a couple of things under this heading.  How the Tar Heels respond to the 180-mph Fedora.  How they respond to no shot at a postseason berth.  The unknowns are so numerous, in fact, that anyone including them in a preseason in a Top 25 is delusional at best or … dammit.  Never mind.

Make-or-break game: vs. Virginia Tech, Oct. 6
In the midst serving out their NCAA sanctions, the role of spoiler is the best to which the Tar Heels can hope to climb in 2012.  As the Hokies are the consensus pick to run away with the Coastal Division, the game in Chapel Hill will serve as UNC’s best opportunity to play the spoiler.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Bryn Renner
In his first year as UNC’s starter, Renner led the ACC in passing efficiency.  With Fedora onboard, nothing less than progress that may eventually, at some point in the season, be measured in leaps and bounds for the junior should be expected.  Last season, Renner completed over 68 percent of his passes for nearly 3,100 yards and 26 touchdowns, numbers that could/should improve in the new offense.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Duke starting safety Jeremy McDuffie out indefinitely after surgery on fractured thumb

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What we do know is that Duke will be without its starting piece of its defense.  What we don’t know is for how long.

The football program announced Wednesday that Jeremy McDuffie underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured right thumb.  The junior sustained the injury during a recent Blue Devils practice.

As a result of the injury and subsequent surgery, McDuffie will be sidelined indefinitely.

McDuffie transitioned from cornerback to safety this past spring. Entering summer camp, the defensive back had been listed as a starter for the Blue Devils.  The past two seasons, McDuffie had played in 24 games.

Duke opens the 2017 season Sept. 2 against NC Central.  They will kick off ACC play three weeks later on the road against North Carolina.

Albeit with a disclaimer, Jim Mora doesn’t see Josh Rosen leaving UCLA early for NFL

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Most expect Josh Rosen to be one of the first quarterbacks selected when the next NFL draft rolls around.  Rosen’s coach, though, doesn’t see the outspoken junior being a part of the pool of available draftees.

“My firm belief is that he will not leave,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora told Yahoo SportsPete Thamel over the weekend. “I don’t think he’ll leave. …

“I want a disclaimer, I have an option to change my opinion. But as we sit here right now, I can really honestly say I don’t think he’s going to leave.”

Mora’s proclamation comes less than two weeks before the Bruins kick off the 2017 season and around five months before draft-eligible early entrants have to officially file their paperwork with the NFL.

Rosen flashed brilliance as a true freshman in 2015, passing for nearly 3,700 yards and 23 touchdowns.  His sophomore campaign was marred by a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder that sidelined him for the final six games of the season.  Rosen has resoundingly rebounded from that health issue, and will head into the 2017 season 100-percent healthy.

Whether he enters the 2018 season 100-percent Bruin remains, his head coach’s confidence notwithstanding, highly unlikely or even doubtful, especially given his recent comments that football and school don’t mix.

Report: Call to escort service coincided with a Hugh Freeze recruiting trip

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Not surprisingly, more details are surfacing in Hugh Freeze‘s unceremonious exit from Oxford.

Freeze resigned as the head football coach at Ole Miss last month in part because of Jan. 19 phone call to an escort service that was initially deemed to be a misdial.  According to the Wall Street Journal, that call came a few hours after a university plane landed in Tampa, Fla., as part of a five-day, 13-stop recruiting trip.  On that plane was Freeze as well as other members of the Rebels football staff.

The discovery of the link between the call and recruiting trip came after a review of phone records and other documents.

After Freeze’s “resignation,” Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork described an unspecified pattern of personal misconduct that led to the coach’s departure.  Bjork somewhat expounded on that pattern to the Journal.

Although school officials had previously declined to characterize the alleged misconduct, Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said in response to questions from the Journal about Freeze’s travel that the university’s investigation uncovered “calls of a similar nature” over the course of several years, often matching up with travel logs showing the coach’s use of the school plane. The school said it examined his travel logs from peak recruiting times—often November, December and January—when Freeze would travel out of state, using the school plane and other public resources.

“When we say pattern, we are describing other phone numbers that when you Google them pull up similar type websites, services, however you would describe them,” Bjork said. “We took action swiftly.

Speculation of late has there being more, potentially much more, to Freeze’s forced resignation.  Only time will tell how much more will ultimately come out — especially if another former Ole Miss head coach’s lawsuit, kicked out of federal court for lack of jurisdiction, is revived in the state of Mississippi as expected.

Reports: ankle injury likely to keep WR Michael Pittman out of USC’s opener

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In his college football preview Bible, the great Phil Steele had Michael Pittman listed as one of three starting wide receivers for USC.  With the start of a new season a little more than two weeks away, Pittman doesn’t appear set to make that magazine projection come to fruition.

According to multiple reports, Pittman suffered an ankle injury during practice Tuesday and was taken off the field via a cart after having a boot placed on his left foot.  While X-rays taken post-practice showed no break or fracture, the sophomore has been diagnosed with the dreaded high-ankle sprain.

As a result, the Los Angeles Daily News writes that “[i]t seems unlikely he would be able to play against Western Michigan.” Rivals.com tweeted that the injury “[p]robably keeps him out of season opener.”

At least for now, the football program has yet to officially rule Pittman out for the opener.

Pittman was a four-star 2016 recruit, rated as the No. 9 receiver in the country.  As a true freshman last season, he caught six passes for 82 yards.