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.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Antonio Callaway among Gators reportedly set to face felony charges

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If one report is accurate, things are about to get very real for a couple of members of the Florida football team.

Citing unnamed sources, thereadoptional.com reported overnight that “Antonio Callaway, Jordan Smith, and one other player are likely to be arrested on charges of felony grand theft, with the possibility of further misdemeanor charges being tagged on, according to a lawyer representing one of the players.” That trio is part of the group of nine Gator football players who have been indefinitely suspended in connection to the misuse of scholarship money in general and, specifically, for making improper charges on their student debit cards at the school bookstore and then selling those items for cash.  The Read Optional has further added that the players then claimed that the debit cards had been stolen.

In addition to Callaway, a junior wide receiver, and Smith, a redshirt freshman defensive lineman, the other suspended players include junior defensive end Keivonnis Davis, sophomore defensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones, freshman linebacker James Houston, freshman linebacker Ventrell Miller, junior running back Jordan Scarlett, freshman offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort and redshirt freshman wide receiver Rick Wells.

Charges against the three players, one of whom is unnamed, are expected to be filed later on this week, next week at the latest.  It’s also expected that the other six players will be arrested as well.

Restitution for the debit card scheme has already been made, the website noted.

The off-field trouble for the football program doesn’t end there, however, as The Read Optional is also reporting that a separate investigation into players using stolen credit cards is underway.  From the website:

This morning, we reported that several players were also being investigated in a separate credit card fraud case being run in conjunction by the Gainesville Police Department and the University of Florida Police Department.

Both police departments uncovered the stolen credit card details from the same victim while operating its own individual investigations — the GPD into Jordan Smith paying his rent with stolen credit card details; and the UFPD into the student debit card scheme, an investigation that broadened over time.

The investigation into the stolen credit card information is ongoing, with other student-athletes to be interviewed on Wednesday.

All nine players remain indefinitely suspended from the football program and, based on this report, they will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Baker Mayfield, what derailed Sooners’ 2014 season? ‘I blame Katy Perry’

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Well, that explains it.

Oklahoma began the 2014 season a perfect 4-0 and was ranked fourth in the country before heading into Fort Worth for a showdown with No. 25 TCU. ESPN‘s College GameDay was in Oxford for the huge Alabama-Ole Miss matchup, with Katy Perry serving as that weekend’s epic guest picker.

At one point during the show, the pop singer famously — or infamously if you’re an OU fan — very seductively hit on Trevor Knight, telling the Sooners’ starting quarterback to “call her.”

Knight waited four months before publicly acknowledging the offer. Coincidentally or not, OU, including the 37-33 loss to TCU, went on to finish out the 2014 season on a 4-5 skid, including a 40-6 pasting at the hands of Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Knight missed three of those nine games because of injury, throwing nine interceptions in the six games he did play in after throwing three in his first four pre-Perry flirtation.

Monday, Baker Mayfield, the Sooners’ current starting quarterback who was a transfer from Texas Tech during that 2014 season, was asked what OU’s downfall that year was.

I blame Katy Perry,” the 2017 Heisman front-runner said.

Way to go Katy. Or Trevor, for not immediately following up with a call and triggering the jinx that killed OU’s season.

That said, I’m fairly certain neither the call for action or the inaction to the call for a call had anything to do with the Sooners’ collapse that season.  A defense that gave up more than 30 points in each of the losses, as well as once in one of the wins, though, is certainly a prime and more realistic suspect when it comes to laying blame for the collapse.

One final note: Katy Perry is easily Top 3 when it comes to all-time GameDay guest pickers.  And that’s not up for debate.

Nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2015 granted release from Auburn

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One of the top players in the Class of 2015 will reportedly ply his football wares elsewhere.

As reported by 247Sports.com‘s Brandon Marcello and subsequently confirmed by al.com, Byron Cowart requested a release from his Auburn scholarship at some point Monday.  Tuesday morning, the former reported, that release was granted.

There’s no word yet on what stipulations were attached to the release, or the reasons behind the original request.

Regardless of the why, there’s little doubt the defensive lineman’s on-field play failed to live up to his recruiting pedigree.

A consensus five-star signee, Cowart was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 while 247Sports.com had Florida product as the No. 3 player overall on its composite board.  In 26 career games, Cowart was credited with 15 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.  He was one of four Tigers arrested for marijuana possession in May of last year.

This past spring, Cowart was moved from end to tackle in an attempt to jumpstart his career.  In three games at his new position this season, he had three tackles and half a tackle for loss in three games.

‘Highly questionable’ Florida CB Duke Dawson plays vs. Kentucky

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Duke Dawson suffered a head injury in Florida’s wild win over Tennessee in Week 3.  On his personal Twitter account, the Gators’ most veteran cornerback indicated that he will play in Week 4 against Kentucky despite the injury.

Dawson’s head coach, though, tapped the brakes on that notion.

Jim McElwain has, at least for now, labeled the fifth-year senior as “highly questionable” for the matchup against the unbeaten Wildcats in Lexington. The door, though, is not completely closed.

We’ll see where that is as we go throughout the week,” the head coach said.

Dawson started seven of the 12 games in which he played last season. He returned an interception for a touchdown in the season-opening loss to Michigan, then had a key interception in the win over rival Florida.