Big 10 Championship Game - Wisconsin v Michigan State

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 9 Wisconsin

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2011 record: 11-3 overall, 6-2 in Big Ten (1st-tie in Leaders)

2011 postseason: Big Ten championship game (42-39 win over Michigan State); Rose Bowl (45-38 loss to Oregon)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 10/No. 11

Head coach: Bret Bielema (60-19 in six seasons at Wisconsin)

Offensive coordinator: Matt Canada (first season at Wisconsin)

2011 offensive rankings: 11th rushing offense (235.6 ppg); 61st passing offense (234.3 ypg); 14th total offense (469.9 ypg);  6th scoring offense (44.1 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: four

Defensive coordinator: Chris Ash (third season at Wisconsin, second as DC); Charlie Partridge (fifth season at Wisconsin, second as co-DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 60th rushing defense (152.8 ypg); 4th passing defense (163.6 ypg); 15th total defense (316.4 ypg); 13th scoring defense (19 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: six

Location: Madison, Wis.

Stadium: Camp Randall Stadium (80,321; FieldTurf)

Last league title: 2011

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
Having Montee Ball back for another season certainly falls under the category of good, especially in a conference like the Big Ten.  Not only is Ball back, but two of the teams in the Leaders Division — Ohio State and Penn State — are ineligible for the conference title this season, which means the Badgers will merely have to “stave off” challenges from the likes of Illinois, Indiana and Purdue — combined 2011 Big Ten wins: six, the same number as Wisconsin — in order to punch its ticket to Indianapolis for a second consecutive conference title game appearance.

The Bad
Of the nine assistants on Bielema’s 2011 staff, just three will be on the sidelines in 2012.  Such turnover is almost unheard of in one offseason, especially for a program as successful as Wisconsin’s.  Also on the returning front, just four 2011 starters are back for another season.  Among the personnel departures are one-year quarterback rental Russell Wilson and two All-American offensive linemen, although the latter is not much of a worry as the Badgers churns out linemen like the state does cheese.

The Unknown
Which model Danny O’Brien will the Badgers get this season, the 2010 Hummer or 2011 Edsel?  During his true freshman season under Ralph Friedgen, O’Brien was a freshman All-American for Maryland.  Last season, under first-year Terps coach Randy Edsall, O’Brien regressed considerably as he threw more interceptions (10) than he did touchdowns (seven) just a year after throwing eight and 22, respectively.  Thanks to Ball and a plethora of returning backfield talent, O’Brien, as was the case with Wilson to an extent last season, will be asked to merely manage the offense.  Less on-field pressure, plus being free of the burden that led to his transfer from Maryland to Wisconsin earlier this year, has me believing the 2012 O’Brien will be much, much closer to the 2010 model.

Make-or-break game: at Nebraska, Sept. 29
The Badgers took the Cornhuskers to the woodshed in Nebraska’s first-ever game as a Big Ten school, waxing the ‘Huskers to the tune of 48-17 in Madison.  This season, Wisconsin will travel to Lincoln and the ‘Huskers will be eyeing revenge.  Thanks to the Leaders Division circumstances listed above, the Badgers will have a little buffer when it comes to the conference even if they drop this game.  If they entertain any hope of making a run at a national title, however, this game is absolutely critical, as is a matchup with Michigan State a month later.

Heisman hopeful: running back Montee Ball
A 2011 finalist for the award, Ball finished fourth in the voting and was rewarded with a trip to New York City.  Anything less than that in 2012 would be surprising and, on some level, disappointing as well.  While his name will likely litter every preseason Heisman projection, he did enter summer camp under a cloud of uncertainty.  Ball suffered a concussion in what was described as an “unprovoked attack” by multiple assailants and will be held out of at least the early portion of camp.  If the head injury would happen to linger into the regular season and force Ball to miss a game or games, his Heisman hopes would, obviously, take a significant hit.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Reports: A&M bringing back Jim Turner as O-line coach

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 17:  Offensive line coach, Jim Turner, of the Miami Dolphins coaches his players before their game against the San Diego Chargers at Sun Life Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Wednesday brought word that Texas A&M’s defensive line coach was hired for the same job at Indiana.  The dawn of a new day has brought word that Kevin Sumlin has addressed his line vacancy on the other side of the ball, and with a very familiar face at that.

Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com was the first to report that Sumlin has decided to bring Jim Turner back as his offensive line coach.  FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Turner would replace Dave Christensen, who “parted ways” with the program earlier this month.  According to 247Sports.com, Turner “was chosen over former Tennessee Titans offensive line coach Bob Bostad and current McNeese State offensive line coach Eman Naghavi” to be Christensen’s replacement.

Turner spent the 2008-11 seasons as the line coach at A&M under Mike Sherman.  After Sherman’s firing in December of 2011, Turner followed the ex-Aggies head coach to the Miami Dolphins, where the former was the line coach and the latter the offensive coordinator.

After two seasons with the NFL club, Turner was fired after getting swept up in the maelstrom that was the Dolphins’ bullying and harassment scandal.  Turner subsequently filed a lawsuit claiming “his reputation and career have been unfairly affected” by the reports commissioned by the NFL.

Turner spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons “in private business” before being hired earlier this year to be the line coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Irish WR Corey Robinson elected Notre Dame student body president

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 18:  Corey Robinson #88 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reacts to a touchdown that was called back for pass interference late in the fourth quarter during their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Regardless of how you feel about Notre Dame, this is really a rather impressive and refreshing story.

Late last month, we noted that Irish junior wide receiver Corey Robinson had tossed his hat into the campus political ring and was running for student body president.  Election Day on the South Bend campus was Wednesday, and it was officially announced Thursday morning that Robinson, the son of NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson, was the winner of the race and has been elected as the university’s student body president.

The first day in office for Robinson, along with vice president-elect Becca Blais, is April 1.

“It feels very humbling to be able to be announced the president and vice president of Notre Dame,” Robinson said according to the school’s student newspaper. “It’s [definitely something] we’ve been dreaming about for a long time, and to be able to be here and lead the student body is just something I am very thankful for.”

Robinson totaled 16 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown last season. With the departures of four of the Irish’s top five pass-catchers, Robinson is being counted on to be an integral part of the squad’s passing game in 2016.

When he announced his candidacy, Robinson addressed the time demands the new position would entail and how it should have minimal impact on the football side of his life.

“This spring, all of our practices are in the morning, so we practice from six in the morning until 10 a.m., and the rest of the day is free, and I have one class a day, no class on Fridays. In the summer, same kind of thing — we only practice for two hours a day, and I’m going to be here every day, all day, so that’ll be easy as well. I’m only taking one class,” Robinson said.

“In the fall, we practice to 2:30 to 7, so anything between those hours, I can’t participate in, but the rest of the day, I’m free. I’m going to have three or four classes … and the way my schedule works, only football and student body, so that way, I’ll be able to be fully invested in both, in those two aspects.”

‘Bama officially announces Derrick Ansley as DBs coach

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A handful of days after Nick Saban had reportedly filled a hole in his Alabama coaching staff, the Tide officially brought out the shovel Wednesday.

The football program confirmed in a press release that Derrick Ansley has been hired by Saban to coach the Tide’s defensive backs.  Ansley will replace Mel Tucker, who left last month to take the job as defensive coordinator on Kirby Smart‘s new Georgia staff.

This is a return home of sorts for Ansley as he spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons at Alabama as a graduate assistant.

“We are very happy to have Derrick and his family back at Alabama,” Saban said in a statement. “Derrick did an outstanding job when he was with us as a graduate assistant, and he has a very good understanding of how we run our program and what is expected. He is a bright young coach, and he will be a great addition working with the defensive backs. We also believe he will be a tremendous asset to our staff in the recruiting process.”

Ansley had spent the past three seasons at Kentucky, the first two as cornerbacks coach and the last in charge of the entire secondary. Just prior to leaving for the Tide, he had been named as the Wildcats’ co-defensive coordinator.

His first job at the Power Five the defensive backs coach at Tennessee (2012).

USC: Pat Haden ‘stable… resting comfortably at local hospital’

Steve Sarkisian, Pat Haden
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Following up on reports of a “health event” involving outgoing USC athletic director Pat Haden, the university offered up a release Wednesday night on the administrator’s condition.

According to a release, Haden is in stable condition and “resting comfortably at a local hospital” as of late last night.  The 63-year-old Haden undergoing medical testing, but “plans to be back soon watching his Trojans in action.”

“He thanks all for their concern,” the release added.

Early Wednesday afternoon, reports surfaced that Haden nearly collapsed outside of Heritage Hall and was treated by paramedics called to the scene. Shortly thereafter, per reports, he was taken to the hospital via ambulance.

In the release, the university clarified the chain of events:

Haden was walking back from an on-campus meeting this morning and felt lightheaded, similar to how he felt at the Notre Dame game last October. He sat down outside Heritage Hall and the athletic department’s medical personnel attended to him. Haden was alert and talking as he walked under his own power up to his office in Heritage Hall. Medical personnel continued to attend to him there before transporting him to his doctor off campus.

A similar episode prior to the Notre Dame game last season prompted Haden to step down from his position as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee. Lingering health issues played a role in his decision earlier this month to step down as USC’s athletic director later this year.