CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 9 Wisconsin

Leave a comment

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

Big Ten preview, vote

Mark Dantonio gives cautious statement of support to MSU president Lou Anna Simon amid Larry Nassar scandal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Larry Nassar case has quickly become college sports’s biggest, ugliest scandal since the Jerry Sandusky fiasco at the early part of this decade. The longtime professor at MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and sports physician for the Spartans (he also held the same job for USA Gymnastics) has been accused of a long, systematic career of sexually assaulting young women while on the job for Michigan State — and not only that, but that Michigan State higher-ups were aware of Nassar’s behavior and did nothing.

Nassar’s trial — he pleaded guilty to more than 100 counts of sexual abuse of girls and young women — is in the sentencing phase now, where victim after victim has come forward to recount their abuse at his hands. You’ve probably seen Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman‘s testimony by now.

Michigan State’s Board of Trustees announced Friday that Lou Anna Simon would remain on as school president despite the school’s reported knowledge of Nassar’s crimes and the school being named alongside Nassar in a civil lawsuit. The Nassar scandal has cost Michigan State $10 million and counting thus far.

“As part of the Board’s oversight authority, we will retain independent external assistance to support our responsibilities to the university community and the public at large,” the board said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. “We continue to believe President Simon is the right leader for the university and she has our support.”

Though one Trustee has since called for president Lou Anna Simon‘s immediate resignation, she remains in place today. Which means Mark Dantonio has to talk about her.

As one of the two highest-profile employees — sitting alongside men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo — on the Michigan State payroll, Dantonio’s support or lack thereof of the school president matters.

And as of now, Dantonio supports Simon.

Speaking at the Michigan high school coach’s clinic in Lansing last week, Dantonio gave this cautious, begrudging statement. Via the Detroit Free Press:

“Well, obviously our hearts go out to the victims in this case. It’s a very, very difficult situation for them. It’s awful. I guess with that said, in 11 years of dealing with President Simon on so many different occasions and in so many different areas, I’ve always found her to be very reflective, very calm in the storm, very on-point. And I’ve always appreciated that about her. She’s much like a head coach. In my little world that I’m in – and I can’t control things at times – I would say she is in a very difficult and delicate situation. I really don’t think that I’m even qualified to talk on it, but I can only speak to my involvement with her and how she’s handled very difficult situations. I think she’s led from that perspective with Mark Dantonio and our football team.”

Though calling for your boss’s firing when the school’s board of trustees would be beyond the norms of the industry, one can imagine how much a call for Simon’s firing by the head coach of the football team would sway public opinion.

Late Colorado RB Rashaan Salaam’s Heisman sold for a record $400K

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A new record has been set, although it’s not one anyone is celebrating.

The Heisman Trophy of the late Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam has been sold at an auction for a record price of $399,608. That number beats out the previous record held by Bruce Smith, a 1941 winner out of Minnesota, whose stiffarm trophy sold for $395,240 in 2005. The winner of Saturday’s auction is not immediately known.

Salaam passed away in 2016 in a death that was ruled as a suicide. He was 42. His Heisman was put up for auction last month, with a target price of $300,000. CTE is believed to be a motivator in his suicide, and the record funds will be used to contribute to CTE research.

How Salaam’s trophy went up for auction in the first place is a point of considerable controversy. The official story is that Salaam sold his trophy in 2014 to a memorabilia collector — winners are officially prohibited from selling their trophies, though who’s going to stop them? — who sold it to Denver real estate investor Tyler Tysdal, who put it up for Saturday’s auction and says he has a signed letter of authenticity from the winner himself and an invoice. However, Salaam’s mother believes it was stolen.

“When we went to Boulder to bury Rashaan … I didn’t see it in his apartment,” Khalada said. “I thought it was in a restaurant or something. I thought it would pop up,” Khalada Salaam told CBS Sports. “It didn’t pop up.”

Salaam won the 1994 Heisman as a junior running back for Colorado. He rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns while helping the Buffaloes finish 10-1 with a No. 4 final ranking. He beat out Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter, Alcorn State quarterback Steve McNair and Penn State quarterback Kerry Collins for the honor.

Salaam entered the NFL draft in 1995, where he was selected in the first round by the Chicago Bears.

Report: Ryan Day considering leaving Ohio State to join former Buckeye’s NFL staff

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Former Ohio State linebacker Mike Vrabel is now the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, and one of his first moves as head coach will be to weaken his alma mater.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Vrabel wants to hire Ohio State quarterbacks coach Ryan Day as his offensive coordinator.

Day spent just a year at Ohio State and has never worked with Vrabel, but it’s his connection to another pair of major college football figures that has pointed the new Titans head coach in Day’s direction. Day spent his formative college years playing and working for Chip Kelly at New Hampshire, then re-joined him in the NFL as the quarterbacks coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers.

The Titans, of course, are quarterbacked by former Kelly protege and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

Mariota’s lack of progress is the reason Mike Mularkey was not retained in the first place, so Vrabel’s choice here is a significant one.

In his first season on staff, Day helped J.T. Barrett show significant improvement from his junior to senior seasons. After ranking 55th nationally in passing efficiency in 2016, Barrett leaped up to eighth this fall, connecting on 64.7 percent of his passes for 3,053 yards (8.2 per attempt) with 35 touchdowns against nine interceptions en route to winning the Big Ten and the Cotton Bowl.

Ohio State will have to replace Barrett heading into 2018, and now it seems like Urban Meyer may have to replace his quarterbacks coach on top of his quarterback.

You’re getting old part 9,374: Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne’s son commits to Boston College

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Today in ‘You’re getting old,’ part 9,374: Ron Dayne’s kid will soon play college football.

While it seems like just yesterday that the ‘Great Dayne’ was running wild at Wisconsin and winning the 1999 Heisman Trophy, the soon-to-be 40-year-old will be back in college football in a different light: as a dad. That’s because his son, Javian Dayne, just committed to Boston College as part of the class of 2018.

The elder Dayne amassed 7,125 yards on the ground over four seasons at Wisconsin, a mark that is more than any other player in college football history but good for second on the NCAA all-time list behind San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey due to the lack of counting bowl stats back in the day. The younger Dayne doesn’t have quite the same size and stats as his dad but wasn’t too shabby at Waunakee (Wis.) High in running for 4,269 yards and 56 touchdowns the past three years.

“I absolutely hated the process,” Javian told the Wisconsin State Journal of his recruitment. “I was one of those people who wanted to get it over with. I didn’t like the process at all. … We did a lot of traveling around.”

The six-foot, 200 pound recruit is listed as a two-star by 247Sports and was recruited heavily by the Eagles since November. He’ll have a tough time becoming the starter with A.J. Dillon coming off a 1,500 yard season as a freshman but could be in the mix with several others to see some carries early on with primary backup Jon Hilliman transferring to Rutgers.

Either way, the first time the cameras find Ron Dayne on the sidelines at a Boston College game watching his son will be yet another reminder that we’re all getting very, very old.