Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron throws on the run in front of LSU Tigers cornerback Ron Brooks during their NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in New Orleans

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 3 Alabama


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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Bovada still puts Ohio State second behind Alabama in title odds

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 22:  Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes walk to the field from the locker room before the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 22, 2016 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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I tried (in vain) to explain to my Ohio State-leaning family and friends that Saturday’s loss to Penn State wasn’t the end of the world.  Sunday, Kevin explained as much.

Tuesday, one wagering website revealed it doesn’t see the postseason sky falling on the Buckeyes, either.

In its latest set of odds, has placed the Buckeyes at 9/2 to win the 2016 College Football Playoff.  While that’s longer odds than the 11-4 OSU was getting a week ago, just one team sits ahead of them: Alabama at 8/5, slightly shorter odds than the 9/4 the Tide got last week.

Michigan (6/1), Clemson (7/1), Louisville (9/1) and Washington (9/1) are the only other teams to receive single-digit odds.  The Wolverines, at 7-1 Oct. 18, are the only one of that quartet of teams to see their odds shorten.

Below is the complete set of 2016 College Football Playoff championship odds, again courtesy of


Brian Kelly ‘disappointed’ AD had to offer public vote of confidence

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish yells at a referee during a game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Notre Dame Stadium on September 26, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Umass 62-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Dreaded or not, most people would appreciate  public display of support from their bosses.  Brian Kelly, though, is not most people.

With Notre Dame off to its worst start since 2007, many an observer opined that Kelly could be on the hot seat this year, and most certainly will sit on it heading into next season.  With speculation swirling, Jack Swarbrick looked to put the kibosh on such talk.

Brian will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year,” the Irish athletic director said last week. “I can tell you I continue to have complete confidence in Brian. … I get to see the program day in and day out and I continue to have great confidence in Brian and confidence in our future as a program.”

Kelly had, to say the least, an interesting response to Swarbrick’s public backing.

“Well I was disappointed actually,” the coach told Matt Fortuna of “But anytime that your athletic director has to come out and say that, as a head coach you’re disappointed that any kind of comments like that have to be made. So I didn’t ask him, that was his decision, but I clearly understand what he was doing. He was probably sick and tired of being sick and tired, too.

“But for me it’s disappointing, certainly, that you have to make those comments.”

After a 10-1 start to the 2015 season, the Irish have lost seven of their last nine games.  Included in that is a 2-5 start to a 2016 season that’s seen Kelly fire his defensive coordinator and throw his players under the bus for good measure.  Former Irish football players have sounded off and taken aim as well.

Emails indicate LSU thought Florida was using hurricane to duck playing Oct. 8 game

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 17:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers prepares to run the ball against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Well, this has the potential to get mildly interesting.

With Hurricane Matthew bearing down on the area, the LSU-Florida game originally scheduled for Oct. 8 in Gainesville was initially postponed.  A week later, the SEC announced that the game had been rescheduled for Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge after South Alabama (LSU) and Presbyterian (UF) agreed to be bought out of their respective game contracts for that date.

Some, though, initially thought that UF was looking to duck playing LSU after the latter offered to host the Gators that October weekend; play in Gainesville either Sunday or Monday; or even having the game played at a neutral site.  In that vein, through a public records request, WRBZ-TV in Baton Rouge obtained interoffice emails from LSU which showed the athletic department staff, as well as regent R. Blake Chatelain, was “frustrated with the handling of the postponed football contest against Florida earlier this month.”

In particular, athletic director Joe Alleva intimated that Florida didn’t want to play, period, because it would potentially help the Gators in their divisional race.

From the television station’s report:

Although, in an exchange with Chatelain, Alleva suspected Florida knew avoiding a game with LSU secured their spot in a playoff.

“… If they lose they would lose the east. Their schedule is easier than Tennessee (sic) if they wanted to play we would be playing here or there,” Alleva wrote after Chatelain questioned why Florida would want to avoid a game with the Tigers.

Chatelain wrote, “Florida would want to play as much as us… Would they not?”

Alleva initiated the conversation with Chatelain by writing, “This is a joke” when he forwarded news of the SEC announcing the Georgia-South Carolina contest had been delayed a day for the storm.

“What a joke,” Michael Bonnette, the communications director for LSU Athletics, chimed in.

Around that time, it was thought that Florida could gain an advantage over SEC East rival Tennessee by playing one fewer conference game and potentially claiming the division and a spot in the conference championship game by virtue of a better winning percentage than UT despite losing in the head-to-head matchup.  However, in announcing the rescheduled game, the SEC revealed that both LSU and Florida would have been ineligible to compete for the SEC title this season had the game not been played.

Arizona RB Nick Wilson ‘out for an extended period of time’

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 15: Running back Nick Wilson #28 of the Arizona Wildcats stiff arms defensive back Marvell Tell III #7 of the USC Trojans during the second quarter of the college football game at Arizona Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. USC won 48-14. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
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With four losses in a row, Arizona’s season is quickly taking on water, and this development certainly won’t help.

It’s believed that Nick Wilson sustained some sort of injury to his right knee in the Week 8 loss to USC.  The specific nature of the injury hasn’t been detailed; however, head coach Rich Rodriguez indicated that it’s an injury that will sideline the running back for a significant number of games.

Wilson’s 320 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns are tops among Wildcat backs this season. However, he’s rushed for just 66 yards the last five games — he had been dealing with an ankle issue — and doesn’t have a touchdown in that span.

Wilson’s latest injury continues the depth issues the Wildcats have experienced in the backfield. Late last month, J.J. Taylor, still third on the team in rushing with 261 yards, suffered a broken left ankle and is out for the year.

Given the injuries, Rodriguez is down to using converted wide receivers and walk-ons at the position. From

With recently converted running back Tyrell Johnson also less than 100%, wide out Samajie Grant is listed as a co-starter at running back with Zach Green. Grant had been splitting reps between wide receiver and running back the past few weeks, but all indications are that he has been getting all his reps in the back field.

Walk-on Brandon Leon is listed as the third string running back. He had his first collegiate carries late against USC, carrying 4 times for 18 yards.

Grant is currently tied for second on the team… in receptions with 19.  Green’s 164 yards rushing are fifth on the team.