CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 19 Florida

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2011 record: 7-6 overall, 3-5 in SEC (3rd in East)

2011 postseason: Gator Bowl (24-17 win over Ohio State)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked

Head coach: Will Muschamp (7-6 in one season at Florida)

Offensive coordinator: Brent Pease (first season at Florida, first as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 73rd rushing offense (143 ypg); 89th passing offense (185.7 ypg); 105th total offense (328.7 ypg); 71st scoring offense (25.5 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: seven

Defensive coordinator: Dan Quinn (second season at Florida, second as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 40th rushing defense (132.7 ypg); 7th passing defense (166.8 ypg); 8th total defense (299.5 ypg); 20th scoring defense (20.3 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: 10

Location: Gainesville, Fla.

Stadium: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548; grass)

Last league title: 2008

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
The Charlie Weis Era as offensive coordinator is over, replaced by former Boise State assistant Brent Pease.  Ask just about any member of Gator Nation and that will be the first … and second … and third, etc., thing mentioned if asked why they’re optimistic Florida will turn it around in the second season under Will Muschamp.  Well, that and the 10 starters returning from a unit that finished 8th and 20th in total and scoring defense, respectively, in 2011.  The schedule also bears mentioning as the Gators’ three toughest SEC games are all at home or at a neutral site — LSU and South Carolina in The Swamp, Georgia in Jacksonville.

The Bad
Did you not watch the Gators in 2011 or see the stats above? The offense was offensively bad, bordering on the criminal. Two of the few talented bright spots offensively for Florida — running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey — are gone.  Then again, so is Weis, so the slate is officially clean on that side of the ball.  And there is talent at the skill position.  And Weis is gone, too, so it might not be as bleak as first blush suggests.

The Unknown
One of the biggest and most talented reasons for such a staunch 2011 defense was the presence of defensive end/freak Ronald Powell.  Unfortunately, the junior tore an ACL during the spring and will be unable to make a return until, at the earliest, mid-October. The loss of a talent like Powell for half a season will have an effect; losing that talent for the entire season will indeed put a dent in what’s shaping up to be one of the best defenses in the SEC. Perhaps an even bigger unknown is at the quarterback position as Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel attempt to shake off the Weis malaise and solidify a position that’s been lacking since you-know-who blessed the Gainesville campus.

Make-or-break game: vs. South Carolina, Oct. 20
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Georgia could easily have been placed here, but the game against the Gamecocks will serve as the first real SEC East test for a team quietly holding increased expectations in its second season under Muschamp.  A 17-12 loss in Columbia last season will serve as additional motivation as the Gamecocks come to The Swamp.

Heisman hopeful: None
No apologies are really necessary, but, sorry, “Heisman hopeful” and “2012 Florida football” don’t even belong in the same library let alone in the same sentence.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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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.