CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 21 Boise State

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2011 record: 12-1 overall, 6-1 in MWC (2nd)

2011 postseason: MAACO Bowl Las Vegas (56-24 win over Arizona State)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 8/No. 6

Head coach: Chris Petersen (73-6 in six seasons at Boise State)

Offensive coordinator: Robert Prince (fourth season at Boise State, first as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 40th rushing offense (171.9 ypg); 11th passing offense (309.4 ypg); 9th total offense (481.3 ypg); 5th scoring offense (44.2 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: three

Defensive coordinator: Pete Kwiatkowski (seventh season at Boise State, third as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 17th rushing defense (110 ypg); 43rd passing defense (210.8 ypg); 16th total defense (320.8 ypg); 12th scoring defense (18.7 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: two

Location: Boise, Idaho

Stadium: Bronco Stadium (37,000; FieldTurf)

Last league title: 2010 (WAC co-champs with Hawaii and Nevada)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
With TCU’s departure for the Big 12, the Broncos are the undisputed kings of the Mountain West ahead of its 2013 move to the Big East. Additionally, the program was able to stave off yet another offseason of multiple attempts by other schools to pry Petersen out of Boise. And those are indeed good things, because …

The Bad
The Broncos return five starters total — three on offense, two on defense. Included in those 17 lost starters are the greatest quarterback in the school’s storied history (Kellen Moore); its leading rusher (Doug Martin); leading receiver in yards and touchdowns (Tyler Shoemaker) along with another starter at the position; three starting offensive linemen; the top four tacklers from 2012; and the entire starting defensive line. To say the Broncos will be a bit wet behind the ears this season would serve as a massive understatement.

The Unknown
Just how the Broncos will replace the on-field production and, perhaps more importantly, the off-field leadership Moore brought to the table will likely be the most significant factor in determining if Boise State can win 10-plus games for the seventh consecutive season under Petersen.  Joe Southwick is expected to emerge from the four-man competition and grab hold of the unenviable task of stepping into Moore’s immense shoes.  Certainly having some experience returning at receiver and along the line and will help ease the transition for Southwick — or whomever earns the starting job.  Unfortunately for the Broncos, there will be a very steep learning curve for the signal caller.

Make-or-break game: at Michigan State, Aug. 31
Yep, with all of the greenness at nearly every position, Boise will open the season against hands-down the most talented team they will see all year long during the regular season– and on the road, no less.  The rest of the non-conference schedule (Miami of Ohio, BYU and Southern Miss) will be manageable, while the conference slate is a multi-layered cupcake.  The game against the Spartans, however, will show whether the Broncos are ready to maintain its presence on the national stage — or if they’ll take a one-year hiatus as they gain some much-needed experience.

Heisman hopeful: None
With Moore and Martin out of the picture, there’s no one on the Broncos’ roster, at least at this point in time, who would merit even a leaping, stretching inclusion.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

Mountain West preview, vote

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.