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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Michigan State, Washington round out future schedules with Utah State

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Needing to fill a single spot in some future schedules, both Michigan State and Washington have come calling to the Mountain West for an opponent. Utah State was happy to oblige.

Michigan State will host Utah State on September 1, 2018. The Aggies will travel to Washington on September 19, 2020. For their travels, Utah State will collect $2.9 million between the two games, according to FBScheduels.com ($1.4 million from Michigan State, $1.5 million from Washington).

The Big Ten and Pac-12 each use nine-game conference schedules, leaving three spots open for non-conference games. The Big Ten requires all conference members schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent (the Pac-12 has no such requirement of its members at this time), although exceptions are made. Utah State, as a member of the Mountain West Conference, would not satisfy that requirement for the Big Ten, but the Spartans already have a road game against Arizona State (Pac-12) on the schedule in 2018. Michigan State and Arizona State will play again in 2019 in East Lansing. Michigan State also has future power conference matchups with Notre Dame (2017, 2026, 2027) and Miami (2020, 2021). Michigan State will also play BYU in 2020 in Provo.

Washington has future power conference matchups with Rutgers (2017), Auburn (2018, in Atlanta), and Michigan (2020, 2021). The Huskies will also face Mountain West Competition from Fresno State (2017), Hawaii (2019), and Nevada (2027).

Utah State will face power conference opponents on the road in 2017 (Wisconsin, Wake Forest), 2018 (Michigan State), 2019 (Wake Forest, LSU), 2020 (Washington), and 2021 (Washington State). Utah State will also host Washington State in 2020 as part of a home-and-home deal. Utah State also has an annual series against BYU running through 2020.

Old Dominion hopes to “hit the ground running” on new stadium project

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Some fans of the Old Dominion football program may be getting a little impatient with the progress (or lack of) in the development of the football stadium, but Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig says things are coming along nicely and progress will start to be seen soon enough.

“Once we get the architects engaged, we’ll figure out what $55 million will buy in 2019 dollars,” Selig said, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “Then we’ll have an idea for how much additional money needs to be raised to support the project.”

Old Dominion is planning on tearing down Foreman Field at the end of the 2018 season and rebuild it with modern seating and amenities. The $55 million project remained on the books in the Virginia budget in February, allowing the university to move ahead with their plans. The first step is finding an architect to take on the job.

Because Old Dominion’s football stadium is among the smallest in the nation and will remain so even after the rebuild and renovations, the entire project is expected to move fairly swiftly once the work actually begins. Old Dominion isn’t building a grand football palace, so any concerns over the lack of updates on the stadium should be calmed.

If nothing else, the concerns raised about the lack of updates on the stadium renovations may just mean Old Dominion has some eager fans excited about the future of the program.

Baylor interim president to Texas senators: “We were not trying to cover up what happened at Baylor”

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Texas senators are taking aim at Baylor University and are hoping to persuade the university to be more open and transparent despite being a private university.

Baylor interim president David Garland faced criticism from senators during a hearing with the Senate Higher Education Committee on Wednesday regarding the coverup of rape accusations found throughout the football program in recent years.

“We were not trying to cover up what happened at Baylor,” Garland said to the committee. Unfortunately for Garland, that was far from enough to sway the senators on the committee from playing nice with him and Baylor University.

I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that for a minute,” Senator Kel Seliger replied, according to The Texas Tribune. “I don’t buy that for a minute. I think that is exactly what was going on.”

The exchange between the interim president at Baylor and the senator came during a hearing regarding a state bill that requires any school receiving more than $5 million in Tuition Equalization Grants from the state to comply with open records and open meetings laws in the state of Texas. Baylor, being a private university, believes it should not have to comply with the bill, which would open up the doors to more information regarding Baylor’s handling of vile accusations within its university and athletics department.

The exchange comes a day after Baylor moved to dismiss a lawsuit claiming 52 rapes over a three-year period occurred at the university.

If you thought the ugliness around the Baylor situation was going to be limited to athletics, you thought wrong. This is clearly a state-wide concern and battle now. And things are always bigger in Texas, right?

A&M-UCLA opener in 2017 moved from Saturday to Sunday

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Grab your calendars as there’s been a change to your opening(ish) weekend college football agenda.

Texas A&M road trip to UCLA is one of a handful of high-profile games that will help launch the 2017 season Labor Day weekend.  The game, which will be played at the famed Rose Bowl, had been originally scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 2.  However, it was announced Wednesday that the game will be pushed back to Sunday, Sept. 3.

The game will kick off at either 7:30 or 8 p.m. ET, with the actual time being determined at a later date.

This year’s game will serve as the back-end of a home-and-home series between the two schools.  The Aggies claimed a 31-24 win over the Bruins in overtime last season in College Station.

The 2017 season will actually commence the weekend of Aug. 26 with five games featuring FBS teams, including Stanford against Rice in Australia and Colorado State opening their new on-campus stadium against Oregon State.  The first full weekend kicks off the following Thursday — Ohio State-Indiana highlights that day’s lean slate — and continues with a handful of games the next day — hello Colorado-Colorado State, Washington-Rutgers and Utah State-Wisconsin among others.

The first full Saturday features the likes of Alabama-Florida State, Florida-Michigan, West Virginia-Virginia Tech, LSU-BYU, Louisville-Purdue, Cal-North Carolina, Maryland-Texas and South Carolina-North Carolina State squaring off Sept. 2.

A&M-UCLA is the only Sunday game, while Tennessee and Georgia Tech will close out the weekend at the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta Labor Day night that Monday.