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.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Carson Lydon expected to leave Virginia Tech, transfer elsewhere

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a college football player has decided to leave his original home and look elsewhere.

The latest to be hit with attrition via a transfer is Virginia Tech, with the Hokies confirming speculation that Carson Lydon is no longer with the team and intends to transfer to an undetermined location.  No reason was given for the linebacker parting ways with the program.

Should Lydon decide to move on to another FBS program, he’d likely have to sit out the 2016 season, leaving him with three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning with the following season.

Lydon was a three-star member of the Hokies’ 2015 recruiting class coming out of high school in Florida.  In addition to Tech, Lydon held offers from, among others, Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke, North Carolina State, Rutgers and Syracuse.

As a true freshman last season, Lydon played in 11 games.

Miami suspends LB Juwon Young amidst luxury vehicle questions

CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 14:  T.J. Logan #8 of the North Carolina Tar Heels dives into the end zone for a touchdown as Juwon Young #51 of the Miami Hurricanes defends during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 59-21.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Earlier in the day, reports coming out of South Florida indicated that Juwon Young‘s time as a member of the Miami Hurricanes could be coming to an end.  While it’s not at that point yet, there has been one confirmed development on that front.

Early Friday afternoon, UM announced that Young has been indefinitely suspended from the football program.  The only stated reason was the vague “violation of department rules.”

According to a report, the suspension seemingly stems from the university’s investigation into a potential NCAA violation.  From the Miami Herald:

Multiple people inside the UM football program do not expect Young to be on the team this season. One source cautioned that he’s in limbo and it’s still possible he could return but he’s not in a good position.

The matter, according to a source, involved Young gaining use of a luxury vehicle from a car agency. It’s unclear if Young paid for the vehicle or if he intends to.

As for additional specifics for the suspension itself?

The Herald‘s report went on to note that star defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad is being investigated for his involvement with the same agency; as of now, Muhammad remains an active member of the program.

As UM’s NCAA probation doesn’t end for another four months, the university is looking to get as far ahead of this situation as possible.

Young appeared in 14 games the past two seasons, including 10 in 2015.

Muhammad, a redshirt junior, played in 12 games in 2015, leading the team in both tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (five).  He underwent a minor surgical procedure in late April to repair an issue in one of his knees.

Acquitted on all charges, return to CMU for Malik Fountain could be in the offing

EAST LANSING MI - SEPTEMBER 26: Malik Fountain #31 of the Central Michigan Chippewas makes the stop on Madre London #28 during the first quarter of the game on September 26, 2015 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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A legal victory in court could lead to one defender’s return to the Central Michigan football team.

Facing trial on four misdemeanor counts, Malik Fountain (pictured, No. 31) was found not guilty on all four counts by an Isabella County (Mich.) jury that took less than an hour to come to their decision. “In a move never seen before by defense attorney Joseph Barberi, jurors in the Malik Fountain trial filed out of the Isabella County Courthouse Thursday morning and hugged Fountain, his mother, father, sister and brother,” the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun wrote.

Fountain was arrested in April of this year and charged with two counts of assault, one count of aggravated assault and one count of jostling in connection to a December incident.

In the incident, Fountain was accused of hitting two women, one of whom claimed she needed surgery on her nose after being struck. One witness claimed another man threw a drink on Fountain and another individual and a fight broke out between the groups.

Fountain denied hitting any women during the imbroglio, and could’ve taken a plea deal on only the jostling charge but wanted to clear his name entirely by taking it to trial.

Based on the university’s student handbook, Fountain, indefinitely suspended since his arrest, would be eligible to return to the team immediately. However, that’s a decision that will be made after the player and his head coach, John Bonamego, discuss what to do moving forward.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Fountain played in all 13 games last season. His 67 tackles were third on the Chips, while his 4.5 tackles for loss were tied for second.

Transferring Tulsa DB J.R. Reed making Georgia his new home

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Earlier this week, thanks to another off-field incident, Georgia lost a defensive back. A couple of days later, UGA has reportedly gained a player in the same position group.

While nothing has been confirmed, Dawgs247.com is reporting that safety J.R. Reed has decided to transfer into first-year head coach Kirby Smart‘s program. Reed comes to Athens by way of Tulsa, where he spent his true freshman season in 2015.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, it’s expected Reed will have to sit out the 2016 season. He would then have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017.

Reed was a three-star recruit coming out of high school in Plano, Texas. He played in 13 games last season, and was listed as the co-starter on Tulsa’s depth chart exiting the spring this year.

Reed is also the cousin of Deangelo Gibbs, the No. 2 recruit in the state of Georgia for the Class of 2017 who has the Bulldogs as a potential future home.