CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 25 Virginia

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2011 record: 8-5 overall, 5-3 in ACC (2nd-tie Coastal)

2011 postseason: Chick-fil-A Bowl (43-24 loss to Auburn)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked

Head coach: Mike London (36-18 overall, 12-13 in two seasons at Virginia)

Offensive coordinator: Bill Lazor (third season at Virginia, third as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 52nd rushing offense (162.1 ypg); 56th passing offense (238 ypg); 46th total offense (399.8 ypg); 86th scoring offense (23.2 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: six

Defensive coordinator: Jim Reid (third season at Virginia, third as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 48th rushing defense (139.5 ypg); 45th passing defense (212.2 ypg); 40th total defense (351.7 ypg); 46th scoring defense (23.8 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: five

Location: Charlottesville, Va.

Stadium: Scott Stadium (61,500; grass)

Last league title: 1989 (co-champs with Duke)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
Winning five of six conference game had the Hoos eyeing a spot in the ACC title game heading into a home date with in-state rival Virginia Tech, although a 38-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Hokies ended any and all thoughts of a Coastal crown. The experience gleaned through that eight-win season, however, should serve Mike London and his players well as they look to build on that late-season conference momentum. The quarterback position seems in solid if unspectacular hands with the return of Michael Rocco. The backfield is also chock full of experienced backs, with three players capable of carrying the load at any given time.

The Bad
The conference road schedule, with trips to Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech on the slate. The non-conference schedule is no bargain, either, with a home date against Penn State and a road game at TCU in early-season offing. Add in a very suspect defense, and the Cavaliers could be traversing a rough road in matching last year’s win total.

The Unknown
As much as we love what London is doing in Charlottesville, we have to wonder if 2011 was a perfect storm that will be very difficult to repeat despite some significant inroads made on the recruiting trail. Of the Cavaliers’ eight wins, five of them came by a combined total of 15 points. Will the same breaks be caught this season? Given the schedule, the Magic 8-ball response at the moment would be a resounding “Reply hazy, try again.”

Make-or-break game: at Virginia Tech, Nov. 24
It’s been eight seasons and nearly nine years — Nov. 29, 2003, to be precise — since Virginia was able to beat its in-state rivals. As previously noted, all the Cavaliers needed to do to be the Coastal’s representative in the ACC title game last year was beat the Hokies the last weekend of November. That didn’t happen, of course, and now Virginia will be forced to travel to Blacksburg in its attempt to win just its second game in 14 attempts in a rivalry that dates back to the late 1800’s.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Michael Rocco
OK, this is a stretch. A significant stretch. But, if the defense is as suspect as we, well, suspect, the Cavaliers will be forced to score a lot of points just to stay in games let alone win ’em. And the triggerman of what’s expected to be a vastly improved offense is Rocco, who threw for nearly 2,700 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He must improve in the turnover arena — 12 picks in just 366 attempts — but, based on his work in the spring, should show improvements in all aspects of the position.

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Mark Richt tweets his best wishes to Georgia

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A new college football season is just about here (there will be actual college football played this week), and Miami head coach Mark Richt has plenty to look forward to with the Hurricanes. A show at coaching Miami to its first appearance in the ACC Championship Game is right in front of him, but Richt spent a quick moment on Twitter to extended his best wishes to his former program; the Georgia Bulldogs.

Richt recruited the majority of the players currently on Georgia’s roster, and by all accounts, Richt had as healthy a relationship with Georgia’s players than any coach could hope to have. With that in mind, there is no shock in seeing a coach of one program offer this kind of warm and fuzzy feeling to his former program. This is also not the first time Richt has wished Georgia well under new head coach Kirby Smart. In May 2016, Richt was praised for his classiness toward Smart and Georgia for the upcoming season just months after being fired.

Georgia parted ways with Richt following the 2015 season despite a long and successful tenure as head coach (although without as many SEC titles as some would have liked, and a lack of national title appearances during a run that saw the SEC dominate the BCS era). Richt was quickly hired by Miami, and this season Richt is expected to help lead the Hurricanes forward another step toward national prominence.

If there is a college football god watching from the skies above, then we will be blessed with a bowl matchup between Miami and Georgia. Richt said in December 2015 that he believes the two programs are on a collision course for a national championship.

There is a solar eclipse tomorrow, but Nick Saban has work to do

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Stores may be sold out of special solar eclipse glasses for what some are dubbing the Great American Eclipse on Monday, but Alabama head coach Nick Saban may be more likely to be found in his office preparing for a mega matchup to open the season next week.

Besides, Saban has seen how an eclipse works already because he is a devoted fan of The Weather Channel.

“I watch the Weather Channel every day,” Saban said Saturday, according to AL.com. “They’re already saying what it’s going to look like in every city in America. So, what’s going to be significant? Watch the Weather Channel and you’ll see what it’s going to be like in Portland, Oregon.”

That Saban sure is a curmudgeon, isn’t he? But that’s part of the legacy of Saban. Unless the eclipse can help Alabama win a game against Florida State in Atlanta next week, Saban has little time to worry about such nonsense. Otherwise, it is business as usual for Saban and Alabama. However, Saban will allow his players to take advantage of what is, for some, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“We’ll set it up so if the players want to go out there and get some sunglasses, I guess they can,” Saban said.

The eclipse is having a slight impact on some football practices around the country, including in the NFL. The Tennessee Titans, for example, have modified their practice schedule for Monday due to the eclipse and will organize a team party around the event.

“I thought what a cool thing to do, but then I thought I’d like them to finish practice and give them time to put the glasses on and really enjoy the experience,” Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said (per ESPN.com). “I wanted to be on the field when it happened, as a team, I thought it’d be a neat memory for these guys.”

Clearly, Mularkey is not watching the Weather Channel on a daily basis.

Kansas surprised four walk-ons with scholarships at Royals-Indians game

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There has been no shortage of videos and stories about walk-ons at various college football programs receiving scholarships by surprise. It is an annual tradition around college football during the offseason, and the fun and pure joy of the moment never gets old.

The Kansas Jayhawks took the game to a whole new level, and a whole new playing field this weekend.

Kansas took its football team out on Friday night to enjoy a Major League Baseball game between the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians. During the course of the game, four walk-on players — defensive end Mazin Aqi, offensive lineman Beau Lawrence, punter Cole Moos, and running back Reese Randall — were shown sitting next to each other on the video screen in Kauffman Stadium. As they were shown on the screen, a message popped up congratulating them on being awarded a scholarship.

Video of the players soaking in the moment and realizing they had just had their lives changed was captured by the Royals.

It sure beats the heck out of a stadium proposal.

Shane Buechele is almost Facebook official as starting Texas QB

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The college football season officially gets underway this week, but Tom Herman has another week to make some decisions about the starting quarterback for the Texas Longhorns. If he had to make that call right now, Shane Buechele would be getting the starting nod in Austin.

“I’ve said over and over again that if we played a game tomorrow Shane Buechele would start,” Herman told reporters on Saturday, seemingly a bit frustrated with the question once again being asked, according to The Dallas Morning News. “We’ll get a depth chart to make it Facebook official, I guess. Is that what we’ve got to do?”

It is expected Herman will make a decision on his starting quarterback within the next week ahead of Texas’ season opener at home against Maryland of the Big Ten. Buechele was the full-time starter for the Longhorns last season, but a new coach taking over at a program tends to wipe the slate clean to start from scratch. Buechele has faced his stiffest competition for the job from freshman Sam Ehlinger, who enrolled in January and was able to work with the team in the spring.

Whatever his decision ends up being, Herman has not been overly optimistic about his offense. Instead, Herman has been praising the defense as the key to the upcoming season. For a team that allowed 448.3 yards per game last season to rank seventh in the Big 12 in total defense, and 31.5 points per game (8th in the Big 12 ahead of only Kansas and Texas Tech), Herman is either suggesting the defense has taken some strides in practices this year or the offense really does have a long way to go.

It should probably not come as a great surprise Texas may be better off on defense, given the brief Charlie Strong tenure. Strong was always known more for his defense so the seeds for a reputable defense may have been planted in Austin prior to Herman’s hiring. Now it is up to Herman to get the offense in gear.