CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 3 Alabama

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2011 record: 12-1 overall, 7-1 in SEC (2nd in West)

2011 postseason: BcS title game (21-0 win over LSU)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 1/No. 1

Head coach: Nick Saban (146-56-1 overall; 55-12 in five seasons at Alabama)

Offensive coordinator: Doug Nussmeier (first season)

2011 offensive rankings: No. 16 rushing offense (214.5 ypg); 69th passing offense (215.1 ypg); 31st total offense (429.6 ypg); No. 20 scoring offense (34.8 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: seven

Defensive coordinator: Kirby Smart (sixth season at Alabama, fifth as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: No. 1 rushing defense (72.1 ypg); No. 1 passing defense (111.5 ypg); No. 1 total defense (183.6 ypg); No. 1 scoring defense (8.1 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: four

Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Stadium: Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821; grass)

Last league title: 2009

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
Nick Saban’s a lot of things (insert various one-liners at your leisure), but he’s not someone who allows himself, his coaching staff or his players to make the same mistake again.  Coming off its BcS title following the 2009 regular season, the Tide consistently stubbed its toe on the way to a three-loss post-crystal season in 2010.  Coming off its second title in three years, Saban’s determined to keep a repeat of 2010 from happening again in 2012.  Could it happen again?  Of course, anything’s possible.  But, in the case, I wouldn’t bet on history repeating itself.

The Bad
If the Tide does party like it’s 2010, however, it will likely be because of a defense that led the country in nearly every major statistical in the run to another BcS title last season.  Gone from that suffocating defense are seven starters, including its top three tacklers and four of the top five total; its top two tackles-for-loss producers; and two of the three leaders in sacks.  Certainly, thanks to the bounty that is recruiting, there is plenty of on-paper talent that can fill the depth chart.  How fast those replacements can actually fill the sizable shoes left in the wake of departures, though, will determine whether a third title in four years is in the offing.

The Unknown
The defense wasn’t the only side of the ball impacted by departures.  The loss of running back Trent Richardson will certainly affect an offense that will be under the direction of a new coordinator — former Washington OC Doug Nussmeier.  While there’s plenty of talent in the backfield — starter Eddie Lacy and backups Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart and T.J. Yeldon — the addition of the pass-leaning Nussmeier could be a signal that Saban is ready to put more responsibility on the right shoulder of AJ McCarron.  The starting quarterback proved last season that he was more than capable of handling the responsibilities in a balanced offensive attack; if called upon — and that’s a big coaching if right now — can he handle a bigger responsibility in the passing game?  Stay tuned …

Make-or-break game: at LSU, Nov. 3
No offense to Arkansas or new SEC member Missouri or even non-conference foe Michigan, the game on both of these team’s schedules this season is a rematch of the BcS title game.  And the field-goal-laden regular season game that cost the Tide a shot at an SEC title.  Much like with the USC-Oregon game the same day, this contest has the potential to feature a pair of unbeaten, Top 5 teams if the schedule plays out as expected, although in this case it will likely determine which team represents its division in the conference championship game.  The bad news for the Tide is the fact that they will have to travel to Death Valley, a place where the Tide has won just once in its last four attempts.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback AJ McCarron
Should Saban decide to put more emphasis on the passing game, and should the Tide perform up to its preseason expectations, McCarron should at least merit considerations on the fringes of the Heisman discussion early on in the season.  In his first season as a starter last year McCarron completed nearly 67 percent of his passes, throwing for over 2,600 yards, 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions, finishing third in the SEC in passing efficiency.  With even a slight bump statistically, McCarron will likely find himself in the Heisman mix.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Pac-12, SEC, Big Ten well-represented in Super Bowl, Nebraska’s Super Bowl streak hits 25

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The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles have clinched their spot in Super Bowl LII in Minnesota in two weeks after capturing the AFC and NFC championships, respectively, on Sunday. With Tom Brady (Michigan, Big Ten) and Nick Foles (Arizona, Pac-12) leading their teams into the Super Bowl, the Pac-12, SEC, and Big Ten will be well-represented in the big game this season.

A total of 29 players from the Pac-12 will be on the Super Bowl rosters for the Patriots and Eagles, as well as 28 players from the SEC and 27 from the Big Ten. Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network shared the conference numbers on Twitter, which the Pac-12 will surely take pride in.

When it comes to the school by school breakdown, it is the Stanford Cardinal that come in at the head of the Super Bowl class this season with five players on the Super Bowl rosters.

The official account for Stanford football on Twitter has a different official count for the Super Bowl, however.

Nebraska also has three players in the Super Bowl and will continue to carry the longest active streak of consecutive years with at least one player playing in the Super Bowl.

You can watch all of these former college football players play for the Super Bowl championship in two weeks on NBC on Sunday, Feb. 4.

Early betting lines see Alabama open as massive favorite against Louisville

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The start of a new college football season is still a good distance away, which means taking any action on opening lines you may come across now is not for the faint of heart. However, it is never too early for some to place some wagers on the upcoming season, and initial opening lines from one sports book are making Alabama, Oklahoma, and Ohio State heavy favorites in their respective season openers next fall.

As relayed by Brett McMurphy via Twitter, 5Dimes has released a handful of opening lines for some games of interest in Week 1 of the 2018 season. Among them is Alabama’s season opener in Orlando against Louisville. The defending national champion Crimson Tide are opening as a lopsided 29.5-point favorite against the Cardinals, who begin a season without NFL-bound and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Alabama would have been a considerable favorite against the Cardinals even if Jackson was coming back next season, but to be a nearly 30-point favorite against a team like Louisville is incredible.

Other heavy favorites will include defending Big Ten champion Ohio State giving 31 points to Oregon State in Columbus and defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma spotting Lane Kiffin and FAU three touchdowns in Norman. Of note, Miami is also a one-point favorite against LSU in their season opener in Arlington, Texas, and Auburn is a four-point favorite against Washington in Atlanta.

Kevin Sumlin is a 7.5-point favorite in his coaching debut with Arizona against BYU and Texas is a 10-point favorite on the road against Maryland (Maryland topped the Longhorns in Austin in last season’s Week 1 matchup). Notre Dame is a slight two-point favorite against Jim Harbaugh and Michigan in their Week 1 primetime contest (7:30 p.m. on NBC, for those wondering).

See any early lines you like? Or will you be holding off until closer to the start of the season to put your money where your mouth is?

After leaving Michigan State, Hunter Rison lands at K-State

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Less than two weeks after leaving East Lansing, Hunter Rison is headed a little bit further west to continue his collegiate playing career.

On his personal Twitter account this weekend, Rison revealed that he “will be furthering my athletic and academic career at Kansas State University.” The announcement came nearly a dozen days after Rison’s father, former Michigan State wide receiver Andre Rison, confirmed during a radio interview that his son would be transferring from his alma mater, citing a desire for more playing time.

After sitting out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws, the wide receiver will have three years of eligibility remaining.

Rison was a four-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 46 receiver in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Michigan. The 5-11, 200-pound Rison was one of four four-star recruits signed as part of MSU’s February 2017 recruiting class.

As a true freshman, he caught 19 passes for 224 yards. In the September loss to Notre Dame, he set career highs in receptions (four) and receiving yards (73).

Former Ohio State assistant leaving Minnesota for Michigan

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An assistant with history on one side of The Game rivalry is headed to the other side. reportedly.

FootballScoop.com first reported that Minnesota’s Ed Warinner (pictured, center) is leaving Minnesota to take an unspecified job at Michigan. SI.com‘s Bruce Feldman subsequently confirmed the initial report.

While the Wolverines have not yet confirmed the addition of Warinner, the coach’s updated Twitter profile indicates that he’s now at U-M. As Jim Harbaugh already has his allotment of 10 on-field assistants, it appears likely that Warinner will serve as some type of offensive analyst.

Warinner spent the 2017 season as the offensive line coach and running-game coordinator at Minnesota. Prior to that, He was the line coach at Ohio State from 2012-16. In 2015, he added the title of co-offensive coordinator.