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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Cory Butler-Byrd ‘partially reinstated’ by Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 10: Wide receiver Trevor Davis #9 of the California Golden Bears catches a touchdown pass in front of Cory Butler-Byrd #16 of the Utah Utes during their game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
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And Cory Butler-Byrd‘s trek out of Kyle Whittingham‘s doghouse has officially commenced in earnest.

Monday, the Utah wide receiver pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal in connection to an incident last month in which he allegedly damaged police property.  The criminal mischief charge will be dismissed if he, among other stipulations, stays clean for the next year.

Butler-Byrd had been indefinitely suspended from the program since the initial incident.  Tuesday, the football program announced in a press release that “Whittingham has reinstated Cory Butler-Byrd to the team for practice and other team activities, effective immediately.”  However, he remains indefinitely suspended from participating in games.

“There is no timetable for his potential return to competition and he will not be available to the media for comment this season,” the release added.

After transferring to the Utes from the junior college ranks, Butler-Byrd began his FBS career as a cornerback.  He began the transition to receiver during the 2015 season, then exited spring practice this year as the starter as a slot receiver for the Utes.

Butler-Byrd started five games last season as a corner/receiver (three at CB, two at WR), intercepting three passes and catching one pass for a 54-yard touchdown.  He also returned eight kicks for 233 yards and a touchdown.

Raymon Minor reverses transfer course, returns to Virginia Tech

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 05:   A cheerleader runs a flag for the Virginia Tech Hokies across the field against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Georgia Dome on September 5, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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In mid-August, Virginia Tech announced that Raymon Minor had decided to leave first-year head coach Justin Fuente‘s Hokies football program and transfer elsewhere.  Exactly 11 days later?

Tuesday, Fuente confirmed that Minor has returned to the team and will play for the Hokies in 2016.  The linebacker won’t be returning on scholarship; rather, he’ll continue his career in Blacksburg as a walk-on.

It’s not clear what the impetus was for Minor’s change of heart.

247Sports.com had Minor rated as a four-star prospect in the Class of 2014, with the recruiting website putting him as the No. 19 athlete in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Virginia.  The only recruits rated higher than Minor in the Hokies’ class that year were safety Holland Fisher and running back Shai McKenzie.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Minor played in eight games last season.

PHOTOS: Nebraska unveils new chrome alternative uniforms

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Personally, I think Nebraska’s plain, simple, traditional uniforms were among the best in all of sports but alas, I’m not the target audience.  Nor have I been for 20-plus years.

Regardless, NU’s target audience is likely pleased this afternoon as the Cornhuskers, along with apparel supplier adidas, unveiled Tuesday what is being called Husker Chrome alternate uniforms.  The release states that the new uniforms are “inspired by the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, also know as the “Star City,” and “blend crisp, modernized design with a tribute to Nebraska’s clean, classic signature look.”

Translation: “we’re hoping these appeal to recruits and current players as well as our extremely loyal and rabid fan base.”

The helmets, for what it’s worth, aren’t really that bad. At all.  From the release:

As a tribute to the traditional aesthetic of the Cornhuskers football program, the helmet features a metallic red “N” logo on the sides and is accented with player numbers featured in metallic red and metallic chrome outlining on the back of the helmet, showcasing the Star City’s ability to shine.

The new uniforms, which you can see below, will make their debut for the Sept. 24 game against Northwestern in Lincoln.

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Michigan K Andrew David apparently transferring to TCU

FORT WORTH, TX - DECEMBER 06:  The TCU Horned Frogs mascot, "Super Frog" performs during the Big 12 college football game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Amon G. Carter Stadium on December 6, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Horned Frongs defeated the Cyclones 55-3. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Based on a couple of social media developments, it appears that TCU is gaining a placekicker/punter while Michigan is losing one.

On his protected private Twitter account, erstwhile UM kicker Andrew David changed his profile description to read, in part, “Texas Christian University Football.”  Additionally, someone who’s now apparently a former teammate of David’s took to Instagram to wish him well in his new home.

Neither football program have confirmed David’s departure/addition.

David took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after being expected to be a significant contributor on special teams immediately. Kenny Allen returns as the Wolverines’ primary placekicker after connecting on 18-22 field goal attempts and all 46 PATs last season, while UM also signed Quinn “Sleepover” Nordin this recruiting cycle. Nordin was the No. 1 kicker in the Class of 2016, and also averaged over 40 yards a punt in high school.