Brett Nottingham, Josh Nunes, Kevin Hogan

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 23 Stanford

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2011 record: 11-2 overall, 8-1 in Pac-12 (1st-tie North)

2011 postseason: Fiesta Bowl (41-38 OT loss to Oklahoma State)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 7/No. 7

Head coach: David Shaw (11-2 overall in one season at Stanford)

Offensive coordinator: Pep Hamilton (third season at Stanford, second as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 18th rushing offense (210.6 ypg); 22nd passing offense (278.7 ypg); 8th total offense (489.3 ypg); 7th scoring offense (43.1 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: six

Defensive coordinator: Derek Mason (third season at Stanford, second as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 3rd rushing defense (84.4 ypg); 95th passing defense (253.2 ypg); 26th total defense (337.6 ypg); 30th scoring defense (21.9 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: seven

Location: Stanford, Calif.

Stadium: Stanford Stadium (50,000; grass)

Last league title: 1999

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
Despite the one huge loss, there are several positives for the Cardinal heading into the post-Andrew Luck era.  1,000-yard rusher Stepfan Taylor (no relation) came back for his senior season. Almost the entire front seven from the top statistical defense in the Pac-12 returns as well. Additionally, Jim Harbaugh built a program with an eye toward sustained and long-term success, and his successor, David Shaw, has continued the philosophy ingrained by his predecessor. Such a tack will help the Cardinal weather the annual personnel attrition, although some departures most certainly hurt more than others.

The Bad
Speaking of which, how do you replace a player like Luck who has meant everything to the program the past three seasons? Not easily, obviously. Making the task of replacing the Heisman runner-up and consensus All-American all the more difficult is also being forced to adjust to the loss of two All-American offensive linemen. Add in being forced to travel to Pac-12 North rival and preseason Top 5 Oregon, and 2012 has the makings of a rebuilding season — at best — for the Cardinal.

The Unknown
Of course, this all goes back to Luck yet again.  Charged with the unenviable task of replacing one of the greatest quarterbacks in the school’s history will be either sophomore Brett Nottingham (pictured, No. 7) or junior Josh Nunes (No. 6). The former is the perceived front-runner heading into camp, although either one could emerge with the job. Thanks to what should once again be a very solid run game and above-average defense, neither should have to shoulder the load carried by Luck, although some resemblance to the former QB certainly wouldn’t hurt the Cardinal’s chances in the Pac-12.

Make-or-break game: vs. USC, Sept. 15
While this may not be a make-or-break game when it comes to the Pac-12 North, it will prove to be a very good gauge for where the inexperienced quarterbacks stand against the best the conference as a whole has to offer. Last season with Luck at the helm, it took the Cardinal three overtimes to finally put away the Trojans in Los Angeles. While sans Luck this season, the Cardinal does actually catch a break on at least one front as they will host the Trojans in mid-September.

Heisman hopeful: running back Stepfan Taylor
Given the situation at quarterback, especially early on in the season, Taylor should expect to both literally and figuratively carry an even greater percentage of the Cardinal’s offensive burden this year.  With 242 attempts last season, Taylor rushed for 1,330 yards and touchdowns while adding 25 catches and two touchdowns in the passing game.  Expect those numbers, particularly the amount, to increase exponentially as a new signal-caller is eased into his role as a first-time starter.

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Former Baylor walk-on RB Silas Nacitas takes his game abroad

Northwestern State inebacker Adam Jones (3) gives chase as Baylor's Silas Nacita (31) fights his way into the end zone for a score late in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 70-6. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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The past year has been quite a ride for running back Silas Nacita. The former Baylor walk-on is now playing football in Germany after signing a contract with the Marburg Mercenaries.

“Signed a contract today with a professional football team in Germany,” Nacita announced on his Instagram account. “When I said I’d go anywhere to play, I meant it. It’s obviously not the NFL, but this is the opportunity that is in front of me. I have always wanted to travel the world, but because of football I haven’t been able to. Now, because of football, I’ll have that chance. Furthermore, and most importantly, I’ll have the opportunity to answer Jesus’ call to go into all the world and preach the gospel! Upon receiving my college degree, it’s off to Marburg. I’m excited for this next step in my crazy journey!”

For those who do not remember, Nacita was ruled to be an ineligible player by Baylor last spring after accepting help from a friend. After being bounced out of Baylor, Nacita took off for the NAIA, where he once again ran into some eligibility hurdles.

Helmet sticker to Sports Illustrated.

SEC wants to keep Michigan spring football practices out of the south

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2015, file photo, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh calls for a flag in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Maryland in College Park, Md. Michigan and Florida both entered the season hoping to revive storied programs that had begun to look more pedestrian than they were accustomed to. Enter Wolverines coach Harbaugh and Gators coach Jim McElwain, who both brought their own style and approach to the sidelines in their first seasons on the job. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File
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Don’t say I didn’t warn you this was coming. Last week when we learned Jim Harbaugh plans to bring Michigan’s spring football practices to Florida for a week over Michigan’s spring break, I suggested this was news that would not sit well with coaches from the ACC and SEC. Here we are now and the SEC is asking the NCAA to prevent Michigan from following through on their spring break plans.

The SEC has reportedly asked the NCAA to block teams from holding spring practices over that school’s spring break, according to CBSSports.com. The timing speaks for itself, as it comes less than a week after Harbaugh confirmed the spring practice plan to travel to Florida.

“Our primary reaction [is] that, in the face of the time-demand conversations, we’ve got one program taking what has been ‘free time’ away,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said to CBS SportsDennis Dodd. “Let’s draw a line and say, ‘That’s not appropriate.'”

Sankey and the SEC have asked the NCAA to make a ruling on this situation “as soon as possible.”

There are no NCAA rules about holding spring football practices off campus or out of state. Spring football games are a different story than practices. What Harbaugh has announced falls within the NCAA rules. The SEC company line will be to address the issue of plauyer safety and well-being by suggesting practicing over spring break reduces the down time for players, but it doesn’t take a bloodhound to sniff out the truth behind the request to the NCAA.

The SEC is not necessarily scared of Harbaugh and Michigan. The conference is afraid this will be a trend that catches on with programs throughout the north that can afford to pick up and travel south for a full week in the cold days of March. The last thing the SEC wants to see is half or more of the Big Ten and perhaps other programs located in the north planting flags in their borders for a week.

The question the SEC should be asked is if they would have the same concerns over spring break practice times if it was North Dakota State or Montana traveling south for a week in Florida. You can probably guess the answer to that.

Kyle Allen rips Texas A&M’s post-Johnny Manziel culture

This Sept. 26, 2015 photo shows Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen standing on the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas in Arlington, Texas. Kyle Allen is headed to Houston. Cougars coach Tom Herman announced the transfer on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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There was a time when being a part of the Texas A&M family was what Kyle Allen wanted out of his college experience, but his quick departure from the program raised more than a few eyebrows. The culture around the Aggies program following Johnny Manziel turned out to be something Allen was not comfortable being a part of, which is why he opted out and transferred to Houston.

“I think the culture was a big part of it, and I think that stems from Johnny’s era there — the way that they let Johnny and [others] act there,” Allen said in an interview with Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. “They [could] do that and still win games because they had Johnny … and five offensive linemen playing in the NFL right now.”

“A lot of people were riding off that, ‘I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday.'”

Allen’s statements and explanations about his time in College Station shed some light on the state of the program under Kevin Sumlin, who himself has come under some heat in the last few months after losing both Allen and Kyler Murray to transfers after the regular season (Allen transferred to HoustonMurray ended up at Oklahoma). Given how much Texas A&M is paying Sumlin, the bar has been raised and the Aggies have struggled to live up to the hype it has generated the past couple of years without Manziel. As Allen describes it, Texas A&M’s players were going in too many different directions to allow Texas A&M make any run for an SEC division championship.

“When you don’t have players like Johnny and [others] there anymore, you have to really come together as a team and scrap for wins,” Allen said. “We had a lot of people who were talking about the same goal but weren’t all committed and on the same page to get to that goal. For you to win in the SEC — especially the SEC West — 10 games a year and be a controlling powerhouse in that conference, you can’t have a bunch of people going different ways.”

Allen wasn’t done. He also seemed to take a shot at Sumlin and the Texas A&M coaching staff.

“Everyone wasn’t in a straight line. Everyone was going this way, this way, this way. We had a ton of talent there. I think that, once you get all the right coaches there and get the vision right, you can do a lot of things.”

There are always two sides to every story, of course.

Duke dual-threat QB Thomas Sirk suffers ruptured Achilles tendon

Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk (1) looks to pass against North Carolina during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk will be out of offseason workouts indefinitely after suffering a ruptured left Achilles tendon this morning. The school announced via Twitter he is scheduled for surgery on Wednesday.

Sirk led the Blue Devils in passing in 2015 with 2,625 yards and 16 touchdowns while completing 58.8 percent of his pass attempts. Sirk was also intercepted eight times and was a bit of a mobile threat for Duke. Sirk rushed for 803 yards and eight touchdowns, both good for leading Duke’s rushing attack last season.

In the absence of Sirk, that should give Parker Boehme, a redshirt sophomore, and Nicodem Pierre, a freshman in 2015, a chance to get some extra reps in spring football practices. Duke is scheduled to open spring football practices on March 5, which is later than the team has typically opened spring practices. Duke is not scheduled to have a traditional spring game but will have a spring football event on April 9.