Image: Rakeem Cato

CFT predicts: Conference USA

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I have a secret. I’m actually quite sad Conference USA as we know it today will be no more by 2013. Central Florida, Houston and SMU will all be departing for the Big East and taking their places will be FIU, Louisiana Tech, North Texas and UT-San Antonio (UNC-Charlotte and Old Dominion join in 2015).

Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

But 2012 should be another fun year for C-USA, though it may not have that one team making waves nationally like Houston did last season. Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how Conference USA should shake out:

(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)

East Division

1. Marshall (last season: 7-6; won Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl) 
The Thundering Herd overachieved in 2011 and came thisclose to securing the East title. Sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato looks like the real deal, and even though I’ve never been a huge believer in Doc Holliday as a coach, there’s no denying his recruiting prowess.

2. East Carolina (last season: 5-7) 
One down year and East Carolina gets back near the  top of the East standings. The Pirates return most of their starters from a year ago, but the 2012 schedule is tough early with three straight road games that could set the tone for the whole year. A season-ending game at Marshall could decide the East.

3. UCF (last season: 5-7) 
Things went south quickly for the Knights last season. After a 2-0 start, UCF didn’t win consecutive games for the rest of the season. The program was sanctioned by the NCAA this offseason, which includes a bowl ban for 2012. Even if George O’Leary gets back to above .500, he might be gone after this year — unless he gets back to nine or 10 wins.

4. Southern Miss (last season: 12-2; won Hawaii Bowl) 
The defending C-USA champions will dip this year with only a dozen or so returning starters combined with a completely new coaching staff. The good news is the Golden Eagles don’t have to play Houston or Tulsa.

5. UAB (last season: 3-9) 
Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee starts his tenure at UAB with a tall task ahead. The team returns just 11 starters, but among them are key offensive pieces. Things will be rough in McGee’s first year, but not as bad as …

6. Memphis (last season: 2-10) 
One of college football’s worst programs also breaks in a new coach with ex-TCU co-offensive coordinator Justin Fuente. Fuente has to move forward without quarterback Taylor Reed. Outside of a season-opening game against Tennessee-Martin, the Tigers may not win another game for the rest of the year.

West Division

1. Tulsa (last season: 8-5; lost Armed Forces Bowl) 
Tulsa has fielded a deceptively good football for the past couple of years. The Golden Hurricane went 10-3 in 2010 under Todd Graham and followed that up with an 8-5 campaign a year ago with an excruciating out-of-conference slate. Nebraska transfer Cody Green is eligible to play this season.

2. Houston (last season: 13-1; won TicketCity Bowl)
The Cougars lose a lot in quarterback Case Keenum and coach Kevin Sumlin. The passing game, Houston’s bread and butter, takes a hit, but leading rusher Charles Sims is back. Sumlin built a solid program at Houston that new coach Tony Levine won’t see much of a drop off in his first year.

3. SMU (last season: 8-5; won BBVA Compass Bowl) 
June Jones almost went to Arizona State this offseason … and then he didn’t. The Mustangs should be glad, and the team has picked up former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who will be able to play right away.

4. Rice (last season: 4-8) 
David Bailiff‘s stock at Rice is dropping. After a 10-3 season in 2008, the Owls haven’t won more than four games in the last three seasons. Bailiff promises Sam McGuffie will be more involved in the offense this year.

5. UTEP (last season: 5-7) 
Like Bailiff, Mike Price‘s seat is getting warm. Price hasn’t finished with a winning record with UTEP since 2005. The Miners return 13 starters from a year ago, but the 2012 schedule is pretty tough from beginning to end.

6. Tulane (last season: 2-11)
Whereas Rice and UTEP may be getting new coaches after this year, Tulane is entering Year 1 with Curtis Johnson. The wide receivers coach for the New Orleans Saints since 2006, Johnson is an interesting hire. While Johnson knows the area and should be able to recruit, the rebuilding process for the Green Wave will take a while.

CFT’s C-USA champion: Tulsa

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Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ‘em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.

ACC
Big East
Big Ten
Big 12
MAC
Mountain West
Pac-12
SEC
Sun Belt
WAC
Independents

Ohio State won the NFL Draft’s first round, and Ole Miss lost it

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Ezekiel Elliott #15 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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After a win in the Great Satellite War of 2016 earlier Thursday, the Big Ten continued its winning streak into the night as Jim Delany‘s conference claimed the most selections in the NFL Draft’s first round.

Ohio State led the way with five selections, one short of 2004 Miami’s all-time record. Joey Bosa was first off the board to the Chargers at No.3, followed immediately by Ezekiel Elliott to the Cowboys at No. 4. The pair became the first teammates selected in the top five since Sam BradfordGerald McCoy and Trent Williams were selected in the top four in 2010. Cornerback Eli Apple joined Elliott in the NFC East in going to the Giants at No. 10, and Taylor Decker trailed six picks later to the Lions. Linebacker Darron Lee rounded out the night for the Buckeyes when he went to the Jets at No. 20.

Ole Miss trailed Ohio State with three first-round selections, but the night was anything but a win for Hugh Freeze and the Rebels, not after Laremy Tunsil was shown on Twitter smoking from a bong, then admitting in a press conference to taking money from coaches. Tunsil, once projected as the No. 1 overall pick, fell to the Dolphins at No. 13. Laquon Treadwell was chosen by the Vikings at No. 23, and Robert Nkemdiche headed west to the Cardinals at No. 29.

Most selections by team
5 – Ohio State
3 – Ole Miss
2 – Florida, Notre Dame

Other storylines of note:

– SEC shut out at the top: Thanks in large part to Tunsil’s slide, the SEC did not dent the big board until Georgia’s Leonard Floyd went to the host Bears at No. 9. It was the conference’s longest wait to join the Draft since 2006, when Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler was the SEC’s ice breaker at No. 11 overall. Still, the SEC was the most frequent player on Thursday night.

Most selections by conference
1. SEC – 8
2. Big Ten – 6
3. ACC – 4
3. Pac-12 – 4
5. Big 12 – 3
6. American – 2
7. Conference USA – 1

– Chip Kelly‘s Pac-12 love affair continues: After loading up on Pac-12 players in Philadelphia, the new 49ers head coach double-dipped into his old stomping grounds by nabbing former Duck DeForest Buckner at No. 7, then trading back into the first round to nab Stanford guard Joshua Garnett in the Chiefs’ spot at No. 28.

– Quarterbacks at the top, again: Jared Goff became California’s first No. 1 selection since 1975, but the Big Game rivalry’s second in four years. Overall, quarterbacks have gone No. 1 overall 14 times since Peyton Manning entered the league in 1998.

The full list:

  1. Los Angeles Rams — Jared Goff, California
  2. Philadelphia Eagles — Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
  3. San Diego Chargers — Joey Bosa, Ohio State
  4. Dallas Cowboys — Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
  6. Baltimore Ravens — Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
  7. San Francisco 49ers — DeForest Buckner, Oregon
  8. Tennessee Titans — Jack Conklin, Michigan State
  9. Chicago Bears — Leonard Floyd, Georgia
  10. New York Giants — Eli Apple, Ohio State
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
  12. New Orleans Saints — Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
  13. Miami Dolphins — Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
  14. Oakland Raiders — Karl Joseph, West Virginia
  15. Cleveland Browns — Corey Coleman, Baylor
  16. Detriot Lions — Taylor Decker, Ohio State
  17. Atlanta Falcons — Keanu Neal, Florida
  18. Indianapolis Colts — Ryan Kelly, Alabama
  19. Buffalo Bills — Shaq Lawson, Clemson
  20. New York Jets — Darron Lee, Ohio State
  21. Houston Texans — Will Fuller, Notre Dame
  22. Washington Redskins — Josh Doctson, TCU
  23. Minnesota Vikings — Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
  24. Cincinnati Bengals — William Jackson III, Houston
  25. Pittsburgh Steelers — Artie Burns, Miami
  26. Denver Broncos — Paxton Lynch, Memphis
  27. Green Bay Packers — Kenny Clark, UCLA
  28. San Francisco 49ers — Joshua Garnett, Stanford
  29. Arizona Cardinals — Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
  30. Carolina Panthers — Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
  31. Seattle Seahawks — Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M

After his Instagram account was hacked, Laremy Tunsil admits taking money from a coach

Mississippi v Vanderbilt
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One of the most bizarre stories in NFL Draft history is unfolding in real time Thursday night, as former Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil‘s social media accounts are turning his evening into a living nightmare.

Ten minutes before the Draft opened, a video posted to Tunsil’s Twitter account showed him taking a massive bong hit.

Tunsil, at one time slated as a No. 1 pick, slid all the way to the Miami Dolphins’ selection at No. 13.

Moments after Tunsil’s selection, the person behind his Instagram account posted screenshots of text messages that purportedly show him asking Ole Miss staffers for money.

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The first set of texts, from the spring of last year, purportedly shows Tunsil asking the recipient, “Coach I need help paying my rent.” To which “Mr. John” says, “See Barney next week.”

Later, he asks “Mr. John” for $305 to pay his mother’s rent. The recipient says, “I thought we agreed on an amt (sic)- that number keeps changing.” The post is captioned “Coach freeze and the whole ole miss program are snakes. They cheat!”

Ole Miss employs a John Miller as assistant AD for football operations, and a Barney Farrar as assistant AD for high school and junior college relations.

To be clear, these texts don’t prove anything and could easily be faked. But Tunsil’s own words will be harder to dispute.

Tunsil missed seven games of the 2015 season, with a loaner vehicle reportedly at the center of the NCAA’s inquiry. Ole Miss has delayed releasing its response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations, and perhaps we now know why.

SEC shut out of Top 8 for first time since 2006

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Laremy Tunsil #78 of the Mississippi Rebels scores runs in a touchdown during the second quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Before you SEC fans throw your tomatoes at the screen, remember this: it’s not news when the Pac-12 gets shut out of Top 8.

But it hasn’t been a good day so far for the SEC. After losing the Great Satellite War of 2016 earlier today, the SEC saw eight picks come and go until one of its own had his name called. It was the longest drought to open the draft since 2006, when Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler was the league’s top pick at No. 11.

The full list:

  1. Los Angeles Rams — Jared Goff, California
  2. Philadelphia Eagles — Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
  3. San Diego Chargers — Joey Bosa, Ohio State
  4. Dallas Cowboys — Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
  6. Baltimore Ravens — Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
  7. San Francisco 49ers — DeForest Buckner, Oregon
  8. Tennessee Titans — Jack Conklin, Michigan State
  9. Chicago Bears — Leonard Floyd, Georgia

And, yes, Laremy Tunsil‘s free fall surely had a lot to do with it.

Another milestone has already been hit as Bosa and Elliott became the first teammates to go in the top five since Oklahoma’s Sam BradfordGerald McCoy and Trent Williams all went in the top four in 2010.

Jared Goff becomes first Cal No. 1 pick since 1975, second Pac-12 No. 1 in four years

at Stanford Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Palo Alto, California.
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As expected, the Los Angeles Rams selected California quarterback Jared Goff with the first overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft Thursday night in Chicago, thereby re-launching their franchise with a new face to lead the club to glory — and all that good stuff.

We’re here to examine the college implications of Goff as the No. 1 pick, of which there are many. Cue the minutiae!

– Goff is California’s first No. 1 overall selection since Steve Bartkowski, also a quarterback, went to the Atlanta Falcons in 1975.

– He’s the second Pac-12 No. 1 overall pick in the last four years, the first since Stanford’s Andrew Luck went to the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. The last before him? USC’s Carson Palmer to the Bengals in 2003.

– Goff is the Pac-12’s 16th overall No. 1 pick; 11 of those 16 have been quarterbacks. The last non-quarterback Pac-12 player to go No. 1 overall was USC wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson to the New York Jets in 1996.

– Goff is the 14th quarterback to go No. 1 overall since Peyton Manning‘s selection in 1998. All other positions combined? Five. Each of those five players played on the offensive or defensive line. Coincidentally, Johnson is also the last skill player to hear his name called first overall.

– Each of the last three No. 1 picks (Jadeveon ClowneyJameis Winston, Goff) was an early-entry.

– The Power 5 conference with the longest No. 1 pick drought: the Big Ten. No Big Ten player has been the NFL’s top pick since Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long went No. 1 to the Miami Dolphins in 2008.