CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 14 Michigan State

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2011 record: 11-3 overall, 7-1 in Big Ten (1st in Legends)

2011 postseason: Big Ten title game (42-39 loss to Wisconsin); Outback Bowl (33-30 win over Georgia in 3 OT)

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

Head coach: Mark Dantonio (62-39 overall, 44-22 in five seasons at Michigan State)

Offensive coordinator: Dan Roushar (six seasons at Michigan State, two as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 78th rushing offense (137.9 ypg); 41st passing offense (252.5 ypg); 56th total offense (390.4 ypg); 37th scoring offense (31 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: four

Defensive coordinator: Pat Narduzzi (six seasons at Michigan State, six as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 9th rushing defense (100.5 ypg); 11th passing defense (176.9 ypg); 6th total defense (277.4 ypg); 10th scoring defense (18.4 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: eight

Location: East Lansing, Mich.

Stadium: Spartan Stadium (75,005; grass)

Last league title: 2010 (co-champs with Ohio State and Penn State)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
Eight starters from a defense that finished sixth and 10th nationally in total defense and scoring defense, respectively?  Yeah, that’s pretty good.  The Spartans also return talented experience in the backfield as well as four-fifths of its starting offensive line, which should give first-year quarterback starter Andrew Maxwell time to adjust to his new role as the triggerman of Michigan State’s offense.

The Bad
Despite the returning talent in the backfield and along the line, the Spartans must still find a way to replace four of its top pass catchers in 2011, all of whom combined for a total of 202 of Michigan State’s 288 receptions last season.  One saving grace for the receiving corps is DeAnthony Arnett, the transfer from Tennessee who was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA.  As a true freshman at Tennessee last season, the former four-star recruit caught 24 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns, so he adds some much-needed experience, limited as it is, at the position.

The Unknown
After four years of outstanding leadership off the field and production on it, the Spartans are entering uncharted territory in Year One of the post-Kirk Cousins Era.  Exit Cousins and enter Maxwell, the top-rated quarterback in the Class of 2009 who has played sparingly since coming to East Lansing thanks to the presence of Cousins.  If Maxwell would’ve made it through an entire set of spring practices this wouldn’t be as much of an unknown; unfortunately, a knee issue kept him out the last two weeks of spring and cost him valuable reps.  That bump in the road aside, Maxwell certainly possesses the talent to keep the Spartans in Big Ten contention, especially if it’s in his head that he needs to be Maxwell v1.0 and not Cousins v2.0.

Make-or-break game: vs. Michigan, Oct. 20
This one’s the mother of all no-brainers, or at least an aunt.  Not only are the two schools bitter in-state rivals, but both, along with Nebraska, are expected to serve as the front-runners for the Legends title, which the Spartans captured en route to an appearance in the Big Ten’s inaugural championship game.  Last season at home, the Spartans came out on the winning end of a 28-14 score.  This season, Michigan State must make the trek to Ann Arbor to face a team with even higher expectations, if it is to extend its winning streak to in the series to five games.

Heisman hopeful: running back Le’Veon Bell
Bell has a couple of things going in his favor.  First, after being named starter in the middle of October, Bell ended up leading what up until then was an anemic Spartans’ rushing attack with 948 yards and 13 touchdowns.  Secondly, with a first-year starter under center, Bell should shoulder a hefty portion of the offensive workload, especially early in the season.  Add the two together, and the junior is likely to put up the type of numbers that generally grab the attention of Heisman voters.

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West Virginia WR David Sills V to return in 2018

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Watch out Big 12, because West Virginia has a very dangerous combination confirmed to be returning in 2018. Days after quarterback Will Grier announced his intention to return to Morgantown for another season, his top wide receiver says he will be there too. David Sills V announced his decision to return for the 2018 season on Monday, giving West Virginia the most potent passing combo in the Big 12 heading into next season.

“After talking with my family and my coaches and taking time in prayer, I have decided to return for my senior season at West Virginia University,” Sills said in a released statement. “I look forward to our bowl game and having another year with my teammates here in Morgantown. It is important to me to finish what I started in the classroom and help our program win a Big 12 championship. WVU holds a special place in my heart, and I am looking forward to seeing what this team can accomplish next year.”

Sills V caught 60 passes for 980 yards and a nation-leading 18 touchdowns this season for West Virginia, leading to being named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and multiple All-American nods.

“David proved this year that he can be one of the best receivers in college football,” West Virginia head football coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Another season will help him improve in all areas, and I know our fans will be excited  to see him team up with Will Grier for another year.”

Bovada likes Alabama to beat Georgia, but Oklahoma has odds in their favor

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Alabama has long been considered the favorite to win the national championship in college football according to Bovada this season, and that is not exactly changing with the College Football Playoff here. But if the Crimson Tide get paired up with Oklahoma, Alabama could be playing the role of underdog.

The latest odds released for each possible College Football Playoff national championship scenario have been updated by Bovada, and they continue to bode well for Alabama if they end up facing Georgia in Atlanta. Alabama is a 7/2 favorite against Georgia, while Georgia has been given 25/4 odds to beat the Crimson Tide. Georgia also has 13/2 odds against Clemson, while the Tigers have been given 4/1 odds against the Bulldogs.

The odds continue to bode well for Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma, however. The Sooners have been given 6/1 odds against Alabama and 7/1 odds against Clemson should Oklahoma get by Georgia in the Rose Bowl semifinal to play for their first College Football Playoff national championship.

Here are the different odds for the College Football Playoff national championship as updated by Bovada on Monday morning;

  • Alabama over Georgia – 7/2
  • Alabama over Oklahoma – 4/1
  • Clemson over Georgia – 4/1
  • Clemson over Oklahoma – 6/1
  • Georgia over Alabama – 25/4
  • Georgia over Clemson – 13/2
  • Oklahoma over Alabama 6/1
  • Oklahoma over Clemson – 7/1

Which bet do you like the most?

Crunch time for Temple’s on-campus stadium plans approaching quickly

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For about as long as anyone can probably remember at this point, Temple has been flirting with the idea of building an on-campus football stadium to serve as the home of the Owls. With the current lease agreement to play games in Lincoln Financial Field now set to expire at the end of the 2019 season, the idea of building an on-campus stadium has reached a point where it may be now or never.

According to a report from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Temple is expected to provide an update on the potential plans for an on-campus stadium during a board of trustees meeting on Tuesday. With the construction of a possible 35,000-seat stadium structure expected to take between 18 and 24 months, time is beginning to be more of a factor moving forward. If plans for an on-campus stadium fail to move forward soon, then Temple must work with the Philadelphia Eagles to secure Lincoln Financial Field as a site for home games. According to a previous report from Philly Voice, the Eagles had been asking for a 30-year lease at $2 million per year and $12 million upfront. Temple has been paying $1 million per year for use of the NFL stadium and has called it home since the building opened in 2003. The original lease was a 15-year agreement with two options to tack on two additional seasons.

Temple’s on-campus football stadium has lacked the support from the Temple community and the surrounding neighborhood the stadium would potentially be constructed, making this a decision that does not come easily for the Owls and the university. Despite some recent good seasons out of the Temple football program, the Owls historically have not fared well with packing stadiums for games. Unless Temple is hosting Penn State or Notre Dame, Temple has struggled to be a draw that brings in many fans. The thought is having an on-campus stadium may make it more accessible for the Temple community for less-marquee games, but that is not a fail-proof strategy at this time for Temple either.

Temple’s issues with an on-campus stadium are not unique to the Owls. Even Miami has similar issues with playing home games in an NFL stadium off campus. Despite a strong season of football, Miami took a while to fill the seats until they were playing Notre Dame in November. But Miami has many advantages that Temple does not. And simply having an on-campus stadium does not immediately translate into national success. South Florida plays in an NFL stadium and they have fared well the past few years. Cincinnati has an on-campus stadium, yet they have continued to struggle. Regardless of where the team plays, it all comes down to simply having the best combination of staff and players. Having the best facilities possible is a big factor in recruiting both.

An on-campus stadium for Temple has its perks, but it is not a perfect plan according to those with concerns in the community. We’ll see if anything comes out of this latest board meeting, if the stadium idea remains on the agenda.

Oregon strikes big money deal to retain Jim Leavitt as defensive coordinator

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Oregon may have dropped the first game of the Mario Cristobal era on Saturday, but the Ducks came out of the weekend with reason to feel energized about the future of the program. According to a report from Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, Oregon has reached a deal with defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to keep him on the staff through the 2021 season.

As reported by Feldman, Leavitt will be paid $1.7 million per year for the next four seasons, making him one of the highest-paid coordinators in the country. LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is paid $1.8 million and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is paid $1.7 million according to a record of coaching salaries compiled by USA Today. Leavitt had been the 12th highest-paid coordinator in college football prior to this significant bump in pay to make him the third highest-paid coordinator in the country.

Keeping Leavitt in Eugene is a big win for Cristobal as he takes over the job as head coach. Leavitt had been expected to be a target of former Oregon head coach Willie Taggart as he assembles his new staff at Florida State. Leavitt had been discussed as a potential target for other jobs as well, with one report suggesting he may have been sought after as a replacement for Bill Snyder at Kansas State.

Leavitt played a big role in turning the Oregon defense around in just one season. Inheriting a defense that ranked 115th in the nation in 2016, Leavitt transformed the Ducks into the 32nd-best defense in the country this season.