CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 20 TCU

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2011 record: 11-2 overall, 7-0 in MWC (1st)

2011 postseason: Poinsettia Bowl (31-24 win over Louisiana Tech)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 14/No. 13

Head coach: Gary Patterson (109-30 overall in 12 seasons at TCU)

Offensive coordinator: Jarrett Anderson (16th season at TCU, fourth as co-OC); Rusty Burns (fourth season at TCU, first as co-OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 19th rushing offense (208.6 ypg); 63rd passing offense (231.6 ypg); 28th total offense (440.2 ypg); 9th scoring offense (40.8 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: six

Defensive coordinator: Dick Bumpas (Ninth season at TCU, ninth as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 25th rushing defense (123.8 ypg); 60th pass defense (223.6 ypg); 32nd total defense (347.4 ypg); 28th scoring defense (21.5 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: seven

Location: Fort Worth, Texas

Stadium: Amon Carter Stadium (45,000; grass)

Last league title: 2011 (MWC)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
The starting quarterback returns. So does four of the top five rushers from 2011 as well as the top four in receiving yardage. In other words, an offense that finished in the top 10 in scoring is loaded once again, which is a good thing as the Horned Frogs will be spending its first season in the offensive-leaning Big 12.

The Bad
Inexplicably, a TCU defense that hadn’t finished outside the top 10 in points allowed since 2005 plummeted to 28th in that category in 2011. While TCU returns seven starters from that unit, the Horned Frogs did lose two top linebackers whose departures will make an impact. Heading into the Big 12, the last thing the Horned Frogs need is issues on the defensive side of the ball, although 2011 could very well be considered an aberration given Patterson’s defensive track record at the school. The defense isn’t the only concern, either, as TCU must also replace three starting offensive linemen.

The Unknown
As is the case with West Virginia, Missouri, Texas A&M and others, TCU will be adjusting to a newer — and more rugged — conference home this season. How quickly the Horned Frogs  adapt to their new surroundings will go a long way in determining how much — or how little — success they will have in their inaugural campaign in the Big 12.  As TCU will be moving to its fifth different conference since 1995, we’re guessing that they have this league-swapping down to a science.

Make-or-break game: at Texas, Nov. 22
What better way to enter a new conference than to knock off the state’s bell-cow football program on Thanksgiving Day?  Certainly games against the likes of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are important, but putting a Longhorns notch in the belt as TCU attempts to get a foothold in its new league would do wonders for the Horned Frogs.  Especially if TCU can help spoil what’s projected to be a rebound season for the ‘Horns.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Casey Pachall
Andy who? In his first year as the replacement for Andy Dalton, all Pachall did was throw for nearly 3,000 yards and totaled 27 touchdowns — 25 passing, two rushing — in leading the Horned Frogs to an 11-win season.  Given the amount of skill players that are returning, Pachall should be in line for a statistical improvement in 2012, which should vastly improve the odds of the junior being mentioned on at least the periphery of the Heisman discussion. Provided he can test clean, of course.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Michigan RB declares Wolverines actually beat Ohio State last year

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No. 9 Ohio State heads to No. 24 Michigan on Saturday (noon ET, FOX) looking to protect its 5-game winning streak against That Team Up North. According to Michigan running back Karan Higdon, though, it’s Michigan that’s looking to protect its claim over the scoreboard.

Higdon surely remembers last year’s game well. He was there, after all, carrying three times for five yards. However, it was actually Ohio State who won the game, 30-27 in double overtime. The game was incredibly close, as the score indicates. Michigan would have won if not for a pair of Wilton Speight disasters at the goal line, the first an interception that Malik Hooker returned for a touchdown to give Ohio State a 7-3 lead and the second a goal line fumble that ruined Michigan’s chance to take a 17-7 lead.

As we know, Ohio State fought back to win by this much. How much? Jim Harbaugh shows us below.

Higdon figures to have a much greater impact on this year’s game. He’s the Wolverines leading rusher 874 yards and 10 touchdowns, and ran for 200 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries in Michigan’s most recent home game, a 33-10 win over Minnesota.

Here’s hoping, for his sake, that he can have an impact on an actual Michigan victory this time around.

Finalists announced for a number of individual awards

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The final week of the regular season is upon us. Heck, some teams still have two games to play between now and bowl season. Still, it’s awards season in college football, and the petty matter of actual games won’t get in the way of the pageantry.

Let’s dive right in.

Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
Bradley Chubb, NC State
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Michael Gallup, Colorado State
David Sills V, West Virginia
James Washington, Oklahoma State

Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player)
Bradley Chubb, NC State
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Josey Jewell, Iowa
Ed Oliver, Houston
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Butkus Award (best linebacker)
Devin Bush, Michigan
Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
DeShon Elliott, Texas
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Josh Jackson, Iowa

John Mackey Award (best tight end)
Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
Mike Geisicki, Penn State

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)
Daniel Carlson, Auburn
Dominik Eberle, Utah State
Matt Gay, Utah

Maxwell Award (best overall player)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Outland Trophy (best interior player)
Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Ed Oliver, Houston

Ray Guy Award (best punter)
Michael Dickson, Texas
J.K. Scott, Alabama
Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah

Wuerffel Trophy (best community servant)
Blaise Taylor, Arkansas State
Courtney Love, Kentucky
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame

Winners will be announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards show in Atlanta, Thursday, Dec. 7 on ESPN.

Kentucky loses TE C.J. Conrad to foot injury

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Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad has been lost for the season to a lisfranc injury in his left foot, head coach Mark Stoops announced Monday. He will undergo surgery to correct the issue on Tuesday.

Though he caught just 16 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns on the season, Conrad was Kentucky’s leading receiver this season. The junior caught one 17-yard pass in Big Blue’s 41-38 defeat of Louisville last season.

With Conrad, a junior, out, Kentucky will turn to senior Greg Hart and/or sophomore Justin Rigg at tight end, though the Louisville Courier-Journal notes that both have battled injuries of late.

Kentucky will close the season against Louisville in Lexington on Saturday (noon ET, SEC Network) and in a to-be-determined bowl game.

Joey Jones steps down as South Alabama head coach

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There’s never a good time to lose a football game 52-0, but even by that scale it’s an especially bad thing to lose 52-0 in a game you had to win to keep your bowl hopes alive to a team so disgusted by its own season that it fired its head coach a month ago.

That’s what South Alabama did on Saturday in dropping a 52-0 decision to Georgia Southern, giving the Eagles their first win of the season.

And on Monday, South Alabama announced head coach Joey Jones will resign following the Jaguars’ Dec. 2 finale at New Mexico State.

“There comes a time in every program where there is a need for change.  For this program that I love so much, that time is now,” Jones said in a statement.  “One of the proudest days of my professional life was being the named the first head coach at South Alabama.  Today is difficult, but it is the right step for me, my family and for this football program.”

Jones is the only head coach South Alabama has ever known, hired Feb. 15, 2008. He led the Jags for three seasons as an FCS Independent before joining the Sun Belt in 2012, taking the club to bowl games in 2014 and 2016.

The loss Saturday dropped the program to 4-7 this season, ending hopes of returning to a bowl game for the first time in the program’s short history.

“Joey Jones is the father of our football program.  He, his wife Elise and his entire family put their arms around the program and committed to its establishment and growth,” said AD Dr. Joel Erdmann.  “He has placed South Alabama Football on strong footing, which is something he and his family can be very proud of and we sincerely appreciate.  His good, hard work and commitment will forever be recognized.”