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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Cincinnati, Western Michigan ink home-and-home series

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Cincinnati and Western Michigan have agreed to a 2-game home-and-home series, it was announced Monday.

The Bearcats will host WMU on Sept. 12, 2020, and Western Michigan will host Cincinnati on Sept. 10, 2022.

The programs have met three times prior. Cincinnati and Western Michigan also played a home-and-home in 1949-50; the Bearcats won both games by scores of 27-6. Cincinnati also won their meeting in the 2007 International Bowl in Toronto,  a 27-24 triumph.

Cincinnati already has road games lined up with Miami (Ohio) and Nebraska in 2020, with a Sept. 5 opener still to fill. Considering the Bearcats already have two MAC opponents and a Big Ten trip lined up, that game will almost certainly be a home game and likely against an FCS opponent. In 2022, Cincinnati will host Indiana and play Miami (Ohio) at the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, with their Sept. 3 opener still unfilled.

Western Michigan also has a road trip to Notre Dame on the schedule for Sept. 19, 2020, and does not have any other games slated for 2022.

USC AD Lynn Swann explains wins still trump strength of schedule

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For a long time, college football programs on the west coast have battled to overcome an east coast bias. USC athletics director Lynn Swann says that is still a hurdle USC faces to this day, which is why the Trojans go about trying to build as competitive football schedule as they can.

“Because of time zones, people on the East Coast aren’t really seeing us,” Swann said in a Q&A with The Orange County Register. “We have to play a tougher schedule. If the voters are going to look at four teams to be in the top four, the Pac-12 playing the Pac-12 won’t get it by itself.”

That comment alone could be received as a veiled (or not-so-veiled) shot at the rest of the Pac-12, but it is a fair comment to say, especially after the postseason the Pac-12 as a whole just had this past bowl season (it was… not very good). Swann’s comment though backs up the overall philosophy power conferences and programs within them have taken to heart since the introduction of the College Football Playoff, where strength of schedule is held in high regard and placed on a pedestal above most other factors to determine a playoff contender and separate them from playoff pretenders.

“We have to schedule teams and we have to have that very competitive schedule to be able to get that look,” Swann said. “And we’ve got to win those games. So it’s important to have Texas on the schedule. It’s important that Notre Dame is playing well and we play them and we beat them along the way.”

Scheduling attractive games is great, and it allows for a slightly wider margin for error, but recent history has shown that the strength of schedule does not act alone in getting a team into the playoff as much as actually winning games. The last two seasons have seen one-loss teams without a division championship invited to the College Football Playoff (Ohio State in 2016, Alabama last year). Last year, USC lost two games but won the Pac-12 championship but was largely left out of the conversation that involved Alabama and Ohio State.

“The committee who’s going to vote on this is going to look at strength of schedule. They’re going to look at how you win games,” Swann explained. “They’re going to look at a lot of factors. They’re going to look at the competition inside your conference, outside your conference, all those kind of things. It won’t ever be just one thing.”

USC has yet to play in a College Football Playoff and the 2018 season could be an uphill climb to get there with so many key losses from last season. Regardless, the Trojans continue to be improving with depth and scoring big wins to return to work their way back to the big championship stage.

Florida is opening spring practices to fans

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What’s one easy way to get fans on board with a new head coach? Invite them to practice.

Florida head coach Dan Mullen wants the doors to be open to fans to come watch the Gators practice during the first two spring practices the Gators will conduct next month. Seats will be limited at the practice field, of course, but Mullen seems optimistic this will help get the energy going for the program from the jump this spring, and that could potentially lead to a good crowd at Florida’s spring game to wrap up the spring practice schedule.

Florida is scheduled to begin their spring football practices on March 16. That practice and the next day will be open to fans to attend practice, which likely will lead to some personal interactions with coaches and players for any fans who take Mullen up on his offer. Florida’s spring game is scheduled for April 14.

Florida fans may be getting a chance to see a hard-working bunch of Gators. Early indications are Florida players are already claiming to be working harder than they have in years in the offseason workout routine.

But it won’t be just the fans that will be given some exclusive first-hand looks at the Gators this spring. Mullen will also look to extend an open invitation to Florida faculty and staff to some spring practices. Those dates are yet to be determined.

Helmet sticker to SEC Country.

Clemson commit wins free Chick-fil-A for a year

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Who doesn’t love a good meal from Chick-fil-A? Hopefully Clemson commit BT Potter does because he just won free Chick-fil-A for an entire year.

Potter was voted the Chandler Catanzaro Kicker of the Year, and to the victor go the waffle fries. In addition to a $1,000 scholarship, Potter will have a one-year supply of Chick-fil-A meals on the house. That could add up to a lot of chicken sandwiches for the second-ranked kicker in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals.

This wasn’t a contest won by asking for retweets on Twitter, but Potter did have Clemson fans come to his support by stuffing an online ballot box. Maybe Potter can use his Chick-fil-A year-long supply to hand out some milkshakes.

The best part about all this? There doesn’t seem to be any way for the NCAA to come in and ruin the fun, as there are no NCAA violations in play here. Score one for the good guys.

Potter, a native of South Carolina, committed to the Tigers back in June 2017.