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

ACC preview, vote

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

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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.