CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 22 Nebraska

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2011 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in Big Ten (3rd in Legends)

2011 postseason: Capital One Bowl (30-13 loss to South Carolina)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 24/No. 24

Head coach: Bo Pelini (39-16 in five-plus seasons at Nebraska)

Offensive coordinator: Tim Beck (third season at Nebraska, second as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 15th rushing offense (217.2 ypg); 104th passing offense (162.7 ypg); 66th total offense (379.9 ypg); 50th scoring offense (29.1 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: seven

Defensive coordinator: John Papuchis (fifth season at Nebraska, second as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 64th rushing defense (158.5 ypg); 18th passing defense (192.2 ypg); 37th total defense (350.7 ypg); 42nd scoring defense (23.4 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: seven

Location: Lincoln, Neb.

Stadium: Memorial Stadium (81,067; FieldTurf)

Last league title: 1999 (Big 12)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
The Cornhuskers return a total of 16 starters — two on special teams — which ties it with 11 other teams for 29th most in the country. The schedule sets up relatively favorably, with the ‘Huskers getting both Wisconsin (Sept. 29) and Michigan (Oct. 27) in Lincoln, although they do have to travel to Ohio State (Oct. 6 night game) and Michigan State (Nov. 3). After a solid debut season in the Big Ten, Pelini’s charges will be looking to make their mark on the conference race sooner rather than later.

The Bad
While the Cornhuskers return seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, they lost three of the best Blackshirts to the NFL. And that was on a defense that was fair-to-middlin’ in the first place; the Huskers nearly gave up as many points per game in 2011 (23.4) as it did in 2009 and 2010 combined (27.8). For a program used to defensive prowess — and for one looking to get itself back to national prominence — that’s unacceptable, although the odds that was merely an aberration are fairly good.

The Unknown
Taylor Martinez.  Entering his third season as Nebraska’s starting quarterback, one would think that there would be a fairly good handle on what Martinez will bring to the table.  One would obviously be wrong, although, based on the reports coming out of Lincoln this offseason, the light bulb may have gone on for Martinez.  All Husker Nation has to worry about is whether it dims before the start of the regular season.

Make-or-break game: vs. Wisconsin, Sept. 29
Last season in Madison, the Badgers laid a 48-17 woodshedding on the ‘Huskers in the program’s first Big Ten game. Nebraska will get Wisconsin first out of the conference gate again this season, although, as mentioned, this time the Badgers will be on the road. As was the case last year, the league opener will serve as a barometer for where the ‘Huskers are headed in 2012 — or how far they (still) have to go to catch the heavyweights in the Big Ten.

Heisman hopeful: running back Rex Burkhead
As one of the most unheralded backs in the country, Burkhead rushed for a team-leading 1,357 yards (16th in the country) and 15 touchdowns as a junior.  With uncertainty, at least early on in the season, over how big of an offensive load Martinez will be capable of handling, Burkhead will once again be looked upon to shoulder much of the heavy lifting on that side of the ball.  A long shot for a trip to New York City in December, let alone a Heisman win, Burkhead could sneak into the conversation with a solid start to the season, including a breakout performance in the nationally-televised primetime affair vs. Wisconsin.

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Report: North Texas adds FCS running back transfer

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North Texas is adding running back Loren Easly to the roster, according to a message posted to his Twitter account Saturday.

Easly spent the past two seasons at Stephen F. Austin, a member of the FCS Southland Conference. A Houston native, he appeared in 20 games over two seasons as a Lumberjack, carrying 213 times for 1,256 yards with 11 touchdowns while adding 17 catches for 139 yards.

Denton Record-Chronicle reporter Brett Vito confirmed the transfer on his Twitter account.

As an interdivisional transfer, Easly will be able to play immediately with two seasons of eligibility remaining.

He would join a backfield led by rising senior Jeffrey Wilson, who paced the Mean Green with 936 yards and 14 touchdowns on 169 carries in 2016.

Kansas AD Sheahon Zenger signs extension, vows to fix football

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Kansas athletics director Sheahon Zenger has signed an extension to remain on the job through the 2020-21 academic year, the school announced Sunday.

Zenger has been on the job since 2011, meaning the new deal will take him past the decade mark in Lawrence.

“Since Sheahon’s arrival in Jan. 2011, Kansas Athletics has enjoyed success on and off the field,” Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a statement. “I am confident that under Sheahon’s leadership Athletics will experience even more success in the coming years.”

Zenger did not hire Bill Self, but he did hire Charlie Weis, which cost KU more than $5.6 million in buyout money after he was fired for going 6-22 leading the Jayhawks from 2012-14.

David Beaty was since hired to run the program, who has infused an outlook brighter than his 2-22 record would suggest.

Zenger said the new contract will allow him to fix football. Via the Kansas City Star:

Under Zenger’s watch, KU has most notably added numerous construction projects, including Rock Chalk Park and the DeBruce Center, which houses the original rules of basketball. He has spoken previously about completing those ventures to “clear the deck” financially so focus could be placed on football and Memorial Stadium renovations — two things he now says are “really the top priorities for me in the next four years.”

“We want it to be a place that people just love to come to,” Zenger said of Memorial Stadium. “We have such history there. I think it’s the greatest setting in the nation for college football. We just need to get it to the point where it’s a place that’s just revered.”

The extension includes a raise from a base salary of $619,000 to $700,000.

Alleged victim of Tennessee WR Josh Smith threatens $3 million civil suit

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Earlier this month, Tennessee wide receiver Josh Smith was charged with domestic assault following an incident at an off-campus house with his roommate. Now, the roommate is seeking damages of $875,000. If that sum is not paid, then the alleged victim may bring a $3 million civil suit to the court.

According to Jimmy Hyams of WNML, Kennedy Foster suffered a broken nose, broken teeth and damage to his eyes and right ear in the incident earlier this month that led to the charges filed against Smith. Foster sent a settlement demand letter to the attorney representing Smith.

“I’m not accusing him (Foster) of extortion, but that’s what it looks like,’’ Smith’s attorney, Keith Stewart said according to Hyams. “Given my understanding that Mr. Foster’s attempts to press charges against Malcolm Stokes were unsuccessful, it seems his motives are clear.’’

“I think when the truth comes out, Josh will be exonerated,” Stewart said of his client.

The deadline for paying the settlement demand is set for May 30 (tomorrow) by 5:00 p.m. and is to be delivered in the form of a cashier’s check along with a letter of apology for the incident. If the Smith family does not pay the requested sum, the legal team for Foster will move forward with a $1.5 million lawsuit seeking compensatory damages and a $1.5 million lawsuit for punitive damages. How either will hold up in court remains to be seen.

How some college football teams are recognizing Memorial Day on Twitter

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It’s not Memorial Day until the social media teams at college football programs start pumping out branded Memorial Day messages on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. As expected, teams and conferences are busy at pumping out the social media content for their followers today. Here is a sampling of what has been seen so far.

If you have not already done so, please take a few minutes to read John’s annual Memorial Day post.