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Iowa’s 2013 recruiting class

Kirk Ferentz AP

(Below are the bios released by Iowa on the new members of its 2013 recruiting class.)

Nathan Bazata (BUDGET-uh)
Defensive Line
6-2, 280, Freshman
Howells, Nebraska (Howells HS)
High school honors – – Nominated for Gatorade Football Player of the Year as a senior . . . named Division I Player of the Year by Huskerland Prep Reports . . . earned fi rst team all-state and all-district honors as a senior, being named honorary captain . . . was first team all-state as a sophomore and junior as well . . . Career – – four-year letterman as defensive lineman and team captain as a senior as prep team posted 47-3 record in four seasons . . . helped prep team win state championships as a freshman and sophomore, while placing as runner-up as a junior and reaching quarterfinals as a senior . . . recorded 45 tackles as a senior, including nine QB sacks and 11 tackles for loss, with one touchdown on a recovered fumble . . . collected 91 tackles as a junior, with 24 tackles for loss and nine QB sacks, along with a safety . . . had 118 tackles as a sophomore, with 10 tackles for loss, four QB sacks and one safety . . . 71 tackles, including fi ve tackles for loss and two QB sacks as a freshman . . . also four-year wrestling letterman and earned three letters in track, throwing both shot and discus.
Personal – – Born 7/15/94 . . . open major . . . parents are Laurie and Dan Bazata . . . member of prep Honor Roll . . . high school coach was Mike Speirs.

Ike Boettger (BOT-gir)
Tight End
6-6, 235, Freshman
Cedar Falls, Iowa (Cedar Falls HS)
High school honors – – Selected to compete in 2013 Iowa Shrine Game . . . named first team all-state by Des Moines Register and Iowa Newspaper Association as a senior . . . first team all-conference and all-metro honors as a senior . . . was fi rst team all-metro as a junior . . . Career – – played tight end, wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back as a prep while earning two letters . . . helped prep team post 22-4 record as a junior and senior, reaching state semifinals each season . . . had 33 receptions for 452 yards and four touchdowns as a senior . . . on defense registered 61 tackles, five QB sacks, six pass break-ups and two fumble recoveries . . . in seven games as a junior quarterback, completed 58-95 pass attempts for 750 yards and nine touchdowns, with one interception . . . team captain in both football and basketball . . . three-year basketball letterman, earning second team all-conference in basketball as a junior.
Personal – – Born 10/05/94 . . . given name is Isaac . . . business management major . . . parents are Kris and Tim Boettger . . . member of prep Honor Roll with a 3.5 career GPA . . . high school coaches were Pat Mitchell and Brad Remmert.

LeShun Daniels (Luh-SEAN)
Running Back
6-0, 215, Freshman
Warren, Ohio (Harding HS)
Hawk-Item – – Attended Harding HS as a junior and senior after attending Dekalb, Ill. HS as a freshman and sophomore.High school honors – – Earned first team all-state, all-district, all-county and all-conference honors as a senior . . . named Lake Erie League Player of the Year as a senior . . . all-county first team as a junior . . . honorable mention all-conference and all-area as a sophomore . . . Career – – earned three letters in football and four in track . . . rushed for 1,614 yards and 15 touchdowns on 261 attempts as a senior as team posted 9-2 record . . . rushed 165 times for 908 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior . . . totaled 243 yards and one touchdowns on KO returns as a junior . . . rushed 88 times for 406 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore at Dekalb HS, helping team reach playoffs for first time in over 20 seasons . . . team captain as a senior . . . earned all-state honors on 400-meter relay team as a junior . . . football team captain as a senior . . . ranks fourth in career rushing yards at Harding HS.
Personal – – Born 6/04/95 . . . pre-physical therapy major . . . parents are Alicia and LeShun Daniels . . . member of National Honor Society and prep Honor Roll . . . high school coach was Steve Arnold.

Colin Goebel (GO-bul)
Offensive Line
6-5, 280, Freshman
Lisle, Illinois (Naperville North HS)High school honors – – Earned prep All-America honors and was selected to compete for Team USA in International Bowl . . . fi rst team all-state and all-conference as a senior . . . first team all-state and all-conference as a junior, while being named conference Offensive Lineman of the Year . . . named to Chicagoland Underclassman All-Area team as a freshman and sophomore . . . Career – – earned three letters as offensive and defensive lineman, helping prep team reach state playoffs three straight seasons . . . also lettered two years prep wrestling team.
Personal – – Born 8/04/94 . . . Health Services major . . . parents are Gail and Brian Goebel . . . earned academic all-conference recognition . . . high school coach was Sean Drendel.

Brant Gressel (GRES-uhl)
Defensive Line
6-2, 280, Freshman
Centerville, Ohio (Centerville HS)
High school honors – – Earned all-state honorable mention honors as a senior, along with being first team all-conference and all-district . . . first team all-conference and honorable mention all-district as a junior . . . Career – – helped prep team post 30-14 record over four years, while advancing to state playoffs in three seasons . . . team captain as a senior . . . collected 38.5 tackles as a senior, including 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 QB sacks . . . also had two recovered fumbles and one forced fumble and one pass break-up in fi nal season . . . 34 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a junior, while also collecting two recovered fumbles, one caused fumble and two blocked punts . . . also competed for prep baseball team.
Personal – – Born 1/17/95 . . . engineering major . . . parents are Lisa and Tony Gressel . . . . two-time scholar athlete as a prep . . . high school coach was Ron Ullery.

Andre Harris
Wide Receiver
6-0, 170, Freshman
Kirkwood, Missouri (Kirkwood HS)
High school honors – – First team all-state as a senior . . . first team all-conference as a junior and senior . . . Career – -played both wide receiver and defensive back for prep team that posted three-year record of 34-5 . . . prep team reached state semifi nals as a sophomore, lost in championship game as a junior and won state title with perfect 13-0 record as a senior . . . totaled 600 receiving yards and five interceptions as a senior, scoring 11 touchdowns . . . totaled 300 receiving yards and four interceptions as a junior, scoring four touchdowns . . . team captain as a senior . . . also competed as a sprinter for prep track team.
Personal – – Born 8/04/95 . . . open major . . . parents are Tausha and Aaron Harris . . . high school coach was Matt Irvin.

Josey Jewell
Linebacker
6-2, 200, Freshman
Decorah, Iowa (Decorah HS)
High school honors – – Named to Des Moines Register Elite named as all-area Player of the Year by Cedar Rapids Gazette/KCRG-TV as a senior . . . first team all-district as a junior and senior . . . second team all-district as a sophomore . . . Career – – three-year letterman as linebacker and running back . . . helped prep team post 34-6 record in three seasons . . . team reached state playoffs as a sophomore, was state runner-up as a junior and won state title with perfect 14-0 record as a senior . . . recorded 62 solo tackles and 38 assists as a senior, with one interception and two recovered fumbles . . . 86 solo tackles and 58 assists as a junior, with one interception and one fumble recovery . . . 42 solo stops and 24 assists as a sophomore, with one interception . . . career totals include 190 solo tackles and 120 assists . . . as a senior rushed 166 times for 1,314 yards and 21 touchdowns, along with 11 receptions for 91 yards and 15 punt returns for 250 yards and a touchdown . . . 150 rushing attempts for 1,475 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior, with six receptions for 43 yards and one touchdown . . . gained 451 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns on 96 carries as a sophomore . . . football team captain as a senior . . . also competed in basketball, baseball and track throughout prep career . . . all-conference and all-district in discus as sophomore and junior . . . placed 18th in discus at state championships as a junior . . . all-conference in shuttle hurdle relay as a junior, placing 12th at state meet . . . first team all-conference and third team all-state in baseball as a junior as prep team finished as state runner-up.
Personal – – Born 12/25/94 . . . environmental studies/business major . . . parents are Paula and Bobby Jewell . . . member of National Honor Society . . . earned academic all-district recognition.

A.J. Jones
Wide Receiver
6-3, 190, Freshman
Dallas, Texas (South Oak Cliff HS)
High school honors – – Earned second team all-district honors as a senior . . . Career – – helped prep team post 19-3 record as a junior and senior, advancing to state playoffs each season . . . team captain as a senior . . . recorded 23 receptions for 390 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior . . . also lettered in basketball and track.
Personal – – Born 1/22/95 . . . given name is Anjeus (Ahn-JAY-us) . . . sports management major . . . parents are Krashawn Cloud and Herbert Jones . . . high school coach was Emmett Jones.

John Kenny
Linebacker
6-2, 215, Freshman
Carmel, Indiana (Carmel HS)
Hawk-Item – – Enrolled at Iowa for spring semester and will take part in spring practice. High school honors – – Named to Indianapolis Star Super Team as a senior . . . earned fi rst team all-state and all-conference honors as a senior and junior . . . Career – – helped prep team post three-year record of 31-5, including state championship as a junior . . . recorded 98 tackles as a senior, including 14 tackles for loss and four QB sacks, while also collecting four forced fumbles, one recovered fumble and two blocked kicks . . . collected 120 tackles as a junior, including 19 tackles for loss, eight QB sacks, four forced fumbles, four recovered fumbles, one touchdown and one blocked kick . . . 86 tackles as a sophomore, with 12 tackles for loss, six QB sacks, two forced fumbles and one recovered fumble . . . team captain as a senior . . . also lettered in lacrosse and hockey.
Personal – – Born 6/20/94 in Charlotte, N.C. . . . open major . . . parents are Debbie and Shawn Kenny . . . . carried a 3.2 prep GPA . . . high school coach was Kevin Wright.

Desmond King
Defensive Back
5-11, 185, Freshman
Detroit, Michigan (East English Village Prep)
High school honors – – Earned first team all-state honors . . . also first team all-city and named to Dream Team as a senior . . . first team all-state and all-city as a junior . . . first team all-city and second team all-state as a sophomore . . . Career – – established Michigan high school record with 29 career interceptions . . . set school record for career rushing yards . . . rushed for 2,360 yards and scored 33 touchdowns as a senior . . . recorded 56 tackles and seven interceptions as a senior . . . rushed for 1,610 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior, with 49 tackles and 12 interceptions on defense . . . rushed for 811 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore, with 44 tackles and 10 interceptions on defense . . . team captain as junior and senior . . . competed on three teams that advanced to state playoffs, including regional championship as a senior . . . helped prep team post three-year record of 32-6 . . . four-year letterman in track, competing in sprint events and relays.
Personal – – Born 12/14/94 . . . mass communications major . . . member of prep Honor Roll and Principal’s List . . .. . . mother is Yvette Powell . . . high school coach was Rod Oden.

Derrick Mitchell
Wide Receiver
6-1, 190, Freshman
St. Louis, Missouri (Vashon HS)
High school honors – – Selected to compete in Illinois vs. Missouri all-star game . . . third team all-state as a senior . . . fi rst team all-conference and conference Athlete of the Year as a junior and senior . . . Career – – played wide receiver, defensive back, quarterback and running back . . . helped prep team advance to state playoffs as a senior . . . totaled 712 rushing yards, 468 passing yards and 205 yards on KO returns while scoring 14 touchdowns as a senior . . . scored 17 touchdowns as a junior, with 518 rushing yards, 277 receiving yards and 302 yards on KO returns . . . collected 39 tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery as a junior . . . as a sophomore had 17 receptions for 338 yards, while collecting 31 tackles on defense . . . football team captain as a junior and senior . . . also competed on varsity teams in basketball, baseball and track as sophomore, junior and senior.
Personal – – Born 8/18/95 . . . open major . . . father is Derrick Mitchell, Sr. . . . member of Honor Roll all four years as a prep . . . high school coach was Reginald Ferguson.

Jonathan Parker
Running Back
5-8, 175, Freshman
St. Louis, Missouri (Christian Brothers HS)
High school honors – – Second team all-conference, all-metro and all-state as a senior . . . second team all-conference as a junior . . . Named Special Teams Player of the Year as sophomore and senior . . . Career – – played running back, wide receiver and linebacker, as well as returning kicks . . . helped prep team reach state playoffs for three seasons, posting a 24-2 record his fi nal two years . . . team posted undefeated record in conference play for three straight seasons . . . rushed 162 times for 1,111 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior, along with 16 receptions for 213 yards and one score . . . rushed 125 times for 982 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior, with 10 receptions for 264 yards and two touchdowns . . . as a sophomore had 83 rushing attempts for 600 yards and eight touchdowns, with two receptions for 35 yards . . . career KO return totals include 18 returns for 555 yards (30.8 average) and two touchdowns . . . team captain as a senior . . . also competed in basketball and track.
Personal – – Born 3/01/95 . . . business major . . . mother is Shirley Wilson . . . high school coach was Scott Pingel.

Damond Powell
Wide Receiver
5-11, 180, Junior
Toledo, Ohio (Rogers HS)
Snow, Utah CC
Junior College – – Attended Snow Community College in Ephraim, Utah . . . helped team post 11-1 overall record as a sophomore and No. 2 national ranking . . . honorable mention all-America and All-WSFL as a sophomore . . . 41 receptions for 1,231 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore . . . led the nation in yards per reception (30.0) and ranked third in yards per game (102.6) . . . junior college coach was Tyler Hughes.High school honors – – Named second team all-district and first team all-city as a senior . . . Career – – earned three letters as wide receiver . . . team captain as a senior . . . helped prep team reach state playoffs while posting a 9-3 record as a junior . . . also lettered in basketball (four) and track (two) . . . three-year basketball team captain . . . as a senior led team to Final Four in state tournament, earning Mr. Basketball honors for the state of Ohio.
Personal – – Born 10/31/92 . . . business major . . . parents are Nikita and Damond Powell, Sr. . . . high school coach was Rick Rios.

Malik Rucker (muh-LEEK)
Defensive Back
6-0, 170, Freshman
Minneapolis, Minnesota (Robbinsdale Cooper HS)
High school honors – – Earned first team all-conference and all-metro honors, as well as being named conference defensive MVP as a senior . . . first team all-conference and all-metro as a junior . . . honorable mention all-conference as a sophomore . . . Career – – three-year letterman as defensive back and receiver, while also returning kicks and punts . . . helped prep team post 9-3 record as team captain as a senior after reaching playoffs as a junior . . . recorded 83 tackles as a senior, including 60 solo stops . . . forced five fumbles and had three interceptions, scoring one touchdown . . . as wide receiver had six receptions for 157 yards and two scores . . . also recorded 83 tackles as a junior, with two forced fumbles and two interceptions . . . had one punt return for a score . . . recorded 20 tackles as a sophomore . . . also competed in basketball and track.
Personal – – Born 6/25/95 . . . open major . . . mother is Chanda Smith Baker . . . high school coach was Willie Howard.

Nic Shimonek (SHIM-oh-nik)
Quarterback
6-4, 196, Freshman
Corsicana, Texas (Mildred HS)
High school honors – – Finalist for state Player of the Year as a senior . . . honorable mention all-state as a senior and junior . . . named district and area Offensive Most Valuable Player while earning first team honors as a junior and senior . . . first team all-district and all-area as a sophomore . . . honorable mention all-district as a freshman . . . Career – – led prep team to runner-up finish in Texas Class 2-A Division II as a senior, helping team post 13-2 overall record . . . passed for 2,714 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior, completing 160-252 passes, with just six interceptions . . . rushed for 850 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior . . . as a junior completed 193-291 attempts for 2,939 yards and 37 touchdowns, with three interceptions, while also rushing for 220 yards and nine touchdowns . . . team posted 13-1 record in junior season, reaching state semi-finals . . . completed 139-243 attempts for 1,885 yards and 21 touchdowns as a sophomore, with nine interceptions . . . as a freshman completed 64-143 attempts for 673 yards and six touchdowns, with 11 interceptions . . . helped team reach state playoffs as a freshman and sophomore . . . career totals included 8,211 passing yards and 97 passing touchdowns . . . holds school and area passing records for career completions, yards and touchdowns . . . team captain as a senior . . . also four-year letterman in basketball and baseball.Personal – – Born 8/22/94 . . . business/engineering major . . . parents are Tresa and Kenny Shimonek . . . carried over a 3.75 prep GPA . . . high school coach was Patrick Harvell.

Reggie Spearman
Linebacker
6-3, 225, Freshman
Chicago, Illinois (Simeon HS)
High school honors – – First team all-state as a senior and
named to Team USA . . . named first team all-city and All-Chicago Public League as a senior . . . Career – – helped prep team earn city championship three straight years . . . team won Chicago Prep Bowl at Soldier Field as a senior, posting a combined 21-5 record his last two seasons . . . recorded 120 tackles as a senior, with 12 QB sacks and two interceptions . . . team captain as a senior . . . also competed for prep track team.
Personal – – Born 8/17/96 . . . sports management major . . . parents are Belinda and William Spearman . . . high school coach was Dave Culbreath.

Akrum Wadley (ACK-rum)
Running Back
5-11, 170, Freshman
Newark, New Jersey (Weequahic HS)
High school honors – – Second team all-state as a senior . . . named Essex County Player of the Year as a senior . . . first team all-conference, all-city and all-county as a senior . . . first team all-conference as a junior while being named offensive Rookie of the Year . . . Career – – played both running back and defensive back, while also competing in basketball and track as a prep . . . helped team post 9-3 record as both a junior and senior, reaching state championship game each season . . . team captain as a senior . . . holds school record for touchdowns in a season . . . 105 rushing attempts for 1,548 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior, along with 11 receptions for 153 yards and two scored . . . totaled 371 yards and four touchdowns on special teams, including 95-yard return in state championship game . . . recorded two QB sacks and a fumble recovery on defense.
Personal – – Born 3/13/95 . . . communications major . . . parents are Sheronda Phelps and John Wadley . . . high school coach was Brian Logan.

Solomon Warfield
Defensive Back
6-0, 185, Freshman
Lorain, Ohio (St. Edward HS)
High school honors – – Earned first team all-Ohio honors as a senior . . . Career – – helped prep team post 15-0 record and claim state title as a sophomore . . . recorded 81 tackles as a senior, with one interception, five pass break-ups and one forced fumble . . . four-year football letterman, while also competing for prep track team.
Personal – – Born 12/09/94 . . . business major . . . parents are Vernita and Ryan Warfield . . . high school coach was Rick Finotti.

Sean Welsh
Offensive Line
6-3, 285, Freshman
Springboro, Ohio (Springboro HS)
High school honors – – Named Offense-Defense All-America as a senior . . . earned second team all-state honors as a senior, along with being first team all-district, all-conference and all-division . . . named to All-Ohio first team by JJ Huddle/Muscle Milk . . . first team all-division as a junior and second team as a sophomore . . . named first team all-area by Dayton Daily News as a junior and senior . . . Career – – earned four letters in football as offensive and defensive lineman . . . team captain as a senior, helping team post perfect 10-0 record.
Personal – – Born 10/13/94 . . . business/marketing major . . . parents are Deb and Matt Welsh . . . . earned Principal’s List and Scholar-Athlete honors four straight years . . . high school coach was Ryan Wilhite.

Derrick Willies (WILL-eez)
Wide Receiver
6-4, 205, Freshman
Rock Island, Illinois (Rock Island HS)
High school honors – – Selected to participate in fourth annual International Bowl . . . first team all-conference as a senior in only season at Rock Island HS . . . first-team all-conference and second team all-state as a junior at Burlington, Iowa HS . . . Career – – recorded 56 receptions for 877 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior . . . 57 receptions for 934 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior . . . team captain as a junior . . . set high school career records for receiving yards and touchdowns and single game records for yards and receptions . . . also played end and safety on defense . . . competed in track (hurdles, sprints) and basketball as a prep, winning 300-meter dash state title as a junior.
Personal – – Born 10/12/94 in Banning, Cal. . . . engineering major . . . parents are Mandie and Derrick Willies . . . . member of prep Honor Roll . . . high school coach was Bryan Stortz at Rock Island HS.

Jon Wisnieski (Wiz-NEW-ski)
Tight End
6-5, 220, Freshman
West Des Moines, Iowa (Dowling HS)
High school honors – – Names to elite all-state first team and all-district first team as a senior . . . honorable mention all-conference as a junior . . . Career – – member of state championship team as a sophomore . . . helped prep team post 18-6 record in final two seasons, reaching state playoffs each season while playing tight end and linebacker . . . team captain as a senior . . . recorded 24 receptions for 234 yards and four touchdowns as a senior . . . eight receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns as a junior . . . recorded 36 tackles, with one interception for a touchdown, as a junior . . . also lettered in both basketball and baseball.
Personal – – Born 9/21/94 . . . business major . . . parents are Barb and Dave Wisnieski . . . . earned academic all-state honors for football . . . member of National Honor Society . . . member of prep Honor Roll . . . high school coach was Tom Wilson.

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Clemson’s leading returning rusher, Zac Brooks, lost for season

Zac Brooks, A.J. Marshall AP

This one will leave a mark.

Already charged with the task of replacing its five most potent offensive weapons from a year ago, Clemson will now have to replace an expected replacement for the lost production as Zac Brooks has been ruled out for the entire 2014 season due to injury.  Specifically, the running back suffered an unspecified foot injury during practice Monday night.

The head coach acknowledged the loss of Brooks is a big one.

“Zac was having an outstanding camp and was ready for a terrific year,” said Dabo Swinney in a statement. “The plan is for Zac to sit out this year due to the injury and come back next year as a red-shirt junior. This is a big loss because he is such a reliable player in all phases of the game. He knows the offense inside and out.”

In 2013, Brooks had 48 carries for 246 yards, a total that was third on the team. The good news for the Tigers is that there’s still talent in the backfield in the form of true freshman Adam Choice, junior C.J. Davidson, redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman and senior D.J. Howard.

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Two arrested Zips stripped of scholarships, still on team

Johnny Robinson, Jeremy Gallon

An off-field incident earlier this offseason will prove costly for a pair of Akron football players. Literally.

In a brief statement Tuesday, head coach Tommy Bowden announced that safety Johnny Robinson (pictured) and cornerback Donte Williams have had their scholarships stripped from them and will be forced to pay their own way through school. However, the players are still a part of the team and returned to practice this week.

Robinson will not start the opener against Howard, Bowden added.

A third player involved in the incident, running back Bryan Green, remains on scholarship and is listed on the team’s official roster.

In early June, all three were arrested by Summit County (Oh.) sheriff’s deputies and charged with aggravated rioting, which is a felony. Additionally, Robinson was charged with aggravated menacing while Williams was charged with obstructing and resisting arrest as well as being accused of fleeing the scene.

The felonies were ultimately reduced.

The incident occurred outside of an Akron McDonald’s two months prior to the arrests. The three players were part of a group of a dozen individuals arrested and charged in connection to the McBrouhaha.

The players had been suspended indefinitely by Bowden.

Over the past three seasons, Robinson has started 25 of the 34 games in which he’s played; 19 of those starts came the past two seasons. His two interceptions were tied for third on the team in 2013, and his 61 tackles were fourth on the team the year before.

Williams started three of the six games in which he played in 2013 as a junior.

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Washington schedules two future series with Michigan, BYU

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Washington is doing its part to continue what’s been a nation-wide push from (most of) the Power Conference members to strength their future out-of-conference matchups.

In that vein, UW announced Wednesday they have scheduled a pair of future home-and-home series with Michigan and BYU. The Wolverines will travel to Seattle Sept. 5, 2020, while UM will play host to the Huskies Sept. 18, 2021, in Ann Arbor.

Prior to that series, the Huskies will play host to BYU Sept. 29, 2018, and will travel to Provo on Sept. 21, 2019.

“We are excited about our future football schedules,” Huskies athletic director Scott Woodward said in a statement. “Our goal is to win championships, and we will continue to work to supplement our challenging Pac-12 slate with games that are both exciting for our fans and beneficial for our program.”

UM and UW have faced each other 12 times previously, with four of those matchups coming in the Rose Bowl. UW and BYU have played nine times, the last coming in 2013 in the Fight Hunger Bowl.

UW also announced that, “due to conflicts with its Big Ten Conference schedule, Wisconsin was forced to cancel its two games with the Huskies, previously scheduled for 2018 and 2021.”

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UM’s Jake Ryan, three others added to Lott watch list

Jake Ryan AP

Just when you think you’re done with these watch lists for another year, they pull you back in.

Back in May, the Lott IMPACT Trophy released its initial watch list consisting of 42 players.  Tuesday, the award that’s given annually to the defensive player who has the biggest IMPACT — Integrity, Maturity, Performance,Academics, Community and Tenacity – on their teams both on and off the field added four names to that group, including one player each from the ACC, Big Ten, Conference USA and Pac-12.

Below are those players:

Xavier Cooper, Washington State, DL
Christian Covington, Rice, DL
Anthony Harris, Virginia, S
Jake Ryan, Michigan, LB

The most interesting names in that quartet are the last two.

Ryan suffered a torn ACL during spring practice last year and was limited to just eight games in 2013, including five starts. The year before, however, he was one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten as he started all 13 games and led the Wolverines in tackles as well as tackles for loss. In 2011 as a redshirt freshman, he started 11 games.

UVa’s Harris, meanwhile, led the nation in interceptions last season with eight.

Good to see the Lott people realized they made an oops in not including Ryan and Harris on their initial watch list.

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Okla. St. transfer Wes Lunt officially named Illini’s starting QB

Wes Lunt

Earlier this month, as part of CFT’s preseason previewpalooza, Wes Lunt was named as one of the key transfers entering the 2014 season.

With the news today, the quarterback will officially get the chance to prove just how key he is.

In a move that’s been expected since spring practice, head coach Tim Beckman announced today that Lunt has been named as the Illini’s starting quarterback. Lunt had been involved in a nominal competition with Reilly O’Toole and Aaron Bailey, although his experience and big arm gave him a decided edge over the competition.

On the whole, the experience may have been the biggest factor.

Lunt was named Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback after spring practice in 2012 as an early enrollee true freshman and started the first three games of the season before being sidelined with an injury.  He came back to start two more games before another injury sidelined him again.

Following a spring practice last year in which he had apparently slipped down the depth chart, Lunt decided to transfer from the Cowboys.  He moved on to the Illini in June of 2013 and sat out the season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Illinois opens the season Aug. 30 at home against Youngstown State.

(Photo credit: Illinois athletics)

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CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 9 Baylor

Bryce Petty

2013 record: 11-2 overall, 8-1 in Big 12 (1st in conference)
2013 postseason: Fiesta Bowl vs. UCF (52-42 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 13/No. 13
Head coach: Art Briles (78-60 overall; 44-32 in six years at Baylor)
Offensive coordinator: Philip Montgomery (6th season at Baylor)
2013 offensive rankings: 13th rushing offense (259.7 ypg); 5th passing offense (359.1 ypg); 1st total offense (618.8 ypg); 1st scoring offense (52.4 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: six
Defensive coordinator: Phil Bennett (3rd season at Baylor)
2013 defensive rankings: 38th rushing defense (145.4 ypg); 34th passing defense (214.9 ypg);  28th total defense (360.3 ypg); 36th scoring defense (23.5 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: four
Location: Waco, Texas
Stadium: McLane Stadium (45,000; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2013

THE GOOD
The Baylor Bears are the Lamborghini of college football offenses. Last season, the Bears’ offense was ranked No. 1 overall and averaged 618.8 yards per game. To put that number in perspective, the Oregon Ducks finished 2nd overall in total offense and they averaged 53.8 less yards per contest. That is truly an astonishing number. It’s possible the Bears’ offense will be better in 2014. Quarterback Bryce Petty enters his third year as a starter. Five of the team’s top six receivers also return. Three offensive linemen are back, with a near 400-pound monster replacing one of the departing starters. And running back Shock Linwood was nearly as good as Lache Seastrunk when given the opportunity to carry the load. In the two games Linwood carried the ball more than 20 times, he rushed for at least 182 yards. To top it all off, the Bears added a pair of four-star recruits at wide receiver with K.D. Cannon and Davion Hall. The Bears’ offense is simply a well-oiled machine that will be nearly impossible to slow down this season.

THE BAD
When a team’s offense throws the ball all over the yard while operating at a breakneck pace, opponents will try to keep pace. Baylor took a big step in the right direction on defense last season, but the lasting impression of that unit will be sacrificing 556 yards to the UCF Knights during a 52-42 loss in the Fiesta Bowl. Each time Baylor made a comeback, the defense let them down. And the team now has to replace all but two starters from that game, four of which are currently on NFL rosters. Maybe a complete overhaul was needed. But there is always something to say about continuity within one unit of a football team. Baylor isn’t starting from scratch. They’re talented up front with both starting defensive tackles back for another season and the enigma known as Shawn Oakman at defensive end. Two key players, middle linebacker Bryce Hager and defensive end Jamal Palmer, will be asked to assume leadership roles as the rest of the defense continues to grow and improve around them.

THE UNKNOWN
With strength of schedule once again being an emphasis for determining the top teams in college football, the Bears fall short. Baylor suffers from a weak non-conference schedule. The Buffalo Bulls, which finished 8-5 and second in the MAC East last year, is the best non-conference opponent on the Bears’ schedule. Even when the Big 12 conference schedule is factored into the equation, the Bears only face two teams ranked in the preseason polls. A single loss could spell doom for the Bears. An undefeated run through conference play may be Baylor’s only chance to be named one of college football’s final four in the first College Football Playoff. Would that even be enough for the committee to vote the Bears into the tournament over a one-loss SEC or Pac-12 team?

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Oklahoma
Baylor is still the new kid on the block with the shiny new toys. Whereas Oklahoma remains the Big 12’s neighborhood bully. As the two teams enter the season, the Sooners are considered national title contenders, while the Bears are still scratching and clawing to prove they can be an elite program over the long haul. This particular game is crucial for Baylor. The Bears have beaten the Sooners two years in a row. The Sooners, however, enter the season as the favorites to win the Big 12 and ranked in the Top 5 of both the AP and Coaches’ Polls. Another victory in Norman will clearly establish Baylor as the team to beat in the Big 12 this year and moving forward.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: QB Bryce Petty
The thought of Baylor ever truly replacing quarterback Robert Griffin III was unimaginable. Yet, Petty quickly escaped RG3’s shadow and continues to build a legacy of his own. When RG3 won the Heisman Trophy in 2011, he threw for 4,293 yards, 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. In 2013, Petty’s numbers were quite similar. The current Baylor quarterback passed for 4,200 yards, 32 and a microscopic three interceptions. While RG3 had decided advantages in overall accuracy and rushing yardage, Petty led Baylor to a better overall record (11-2) and a higher average per completion (16.8 yards). Due to the success of these two quarterbacks, Baylor is now considered a national contender. And in Briles’ explosive offense, the Bears’ starting quarterback has a chance to be in the Heisman conversation.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Kent State’s Jason Bitsko found unresponsive, passes away

Jason Bitsko

Sadly, there’s some terrible and tragic news coming out of Kent, Oh., this afternoon.

In a release Wednesday, Kent State announced that offensive lineman Jason Bitsko died unexpectedly this morning.  According to the school, Bitsko was found unresponsive in the bedroom of his off-campus apartment shortly before 9 a.m.

Police believe he passed away from an undetermined medical issue.

Bitsko was just 21 years old.

“Kent State University and the entire Kent community mourns his passing,” said athletic director Joel Nielsen in a statement. “We are heartbroken by the news of Jason’s death. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, teammates and everyone whose lives he touched.”

“Our players, coaches and everyone involved with our team are hurting because he was family,” head football coach Paul Haynes said. “As a team, we will come together and get through this one day at a time.”

The school added in its release that Bitsko would’ve been entering his fourth year with the Golden Flashes and that he would’ve been the starting center this coming season.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to everyone impacted by Bitsko’s way-too-early death.

(Photo credit: Kent State athletics)

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Four-star 2015 QB: ‘being mentored by Braxton Miller, that’d be awesome’

Torrance Gibson

Could Braxton Miller‘s devastating season-ending injury actually have a positive impact on the recruiting trail for Ohio State? That could very well be the case.

As a fourth-year senior who had yet to use his redshirt season, 2014 was set to be Miller’s final year of eligibility. The shoulder injury — or reinjury as the case may be — changed all of that, with Miller vowing to come back from the non-contact injury and return to the Buckeyes in 2015.

In tandem with that, Torrance Gibson, a top 2015 quarterback recruit, currently has OSU as his top choice of myriad interested schools. The fact that Miller would likely be around if/when Gibson arrived in Columbus next year? That appears to have done nothing but further cement OSU’s positioning as Gibson’s leader.

“Being mentored by Braxton Miller, that’d be pretty awesome,” Gibson told the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Ari Wasserman during a telephone interview shortly after the announcement on Miller’s injury. “Being mentored by one of the best quarterbacks that ever came to Ohio State, man that would be something. It would be great if I decided to go to Ohio State.”

Gibson is rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals.com and is the No. 6 quarterback in that class according to Scout.com.  He is expected to announce his verbal commitment Oct. 20.

In Late May, Gibson released a Top Seven ($ link) that consisted of Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Miami and UCF. Tennessee and Auburn were his two favorites at the time.

However, a visit to Columbus in July ($ link) flipped his order of preference, with Ohio State jumping to the lead. That’s where they’ve stayed the past couple of weeks — and where they’ve apparently solidified themselves on the strength of the Miller gloom and doom.

“Nothing has changed, Ohio State is still the leader,” the player told the paper.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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FAU to name field after Howard Schnellenberger

NCAA Football - Florida Atlantic vs Kansas - September 3, 2005

And it’s about damn time.

Nearly three years after retiring, the man who was largely (mainly) responsible for the creation of the FAU football program is finally being honored, with the university announcing that the field at FAU Stadium will henceforth be known as Howard Schnellenberger Field.  Schnellenberger coached the Owls for the first 11 years of their existence before announcing prior to the season that 2011 would be his final year in coaching.

A ceremony will be held prior to the Sept. 13 home opener against Tulsa to honor Schnellenberger.

“I am humbled beyond belief that the University would bestow this great honor on the Schnellenberger family, and me personally,” said Schnellenberger in a statement. “This is probably the highlight of my coaching career. Thanks to the FAU Board of Trustees, the University, the fans, the players and the coaches that were an integral part of this.”

With the Owls, Schnellenberger had a 58-74 overall record.  Schnellenberger’s finished with a career mark of 158-151-3 that included stops at Miami and Louisville.  Included in that total is the 1983 national title he won with the Hurricanes.

And, now that he’s been honored by the football program he built from scratch, it’s time for the College Football Hall of Fame to rid itself of the archaic and asinine rule that’s keeping a more-than-deserving coach from being honored.

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Louisville’s Lyn Clark transfers to FCS program

Lyn Clark

When it was reported over the weekend that Lyn Clark was leaving Louisville, the initial speculation was the linebacker would end up at Tulane. While the state turned out to be correct, the specific program and level of football weren’t.

Northwestern State, located in Natchitoches, La., announced Tuesday that Clark has transferred into the football program. Because the Demons play at the FCS level, the New Orleans native will be eligible to play immediately in 2014.

Prior to a scrimmage this past Saturday, UofL head coach Bobby Petrino confirmed that Clark had asked for and been granted a release from his scholarship.

Clark, a two-star member of the Cardinals’ 2013 recruiting class, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season. He had been working as a No. 2 linebacker throughout spring practice and on into summer camp.

Counting 2014, he’ll have four years of eligibility remaining.

As it turns out, Clark wasn’t the only former FBS player added by NSU. Former Navy quarterback Nick Fabrizio was added to the roster as well. Fabrizio is a legacy addition, being the son of former Demon quarterback Rob Fabrizio (1984-86) and brother of junior linebacker Robert Fabrizio.

Unlike Clark, Fabrizio will be forced to sit out the 2014 season. He’ll have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.

(Photo credit: Northwestern State athletics)

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Syracuse’s starting TE set for surgery

Boston College v Syracuse

Whether or not Syracuse has a starting skill player on offense for all, some or none of the 2014 season remains to be seen.

Josh Parris, the school announced Tuesday, suffered what was described as a lower-body injury during a recent practice session. As a result, the tight end will be forced to undergo surgery to repair the unspecified injury Wednesday.

How long and the number of games Parris will — or won’t — miss is still to be determined.

Head coach Scott Shafer did say the team was hopeful Parris would make a speedy recovery, although there are no guarantees.

“He’s got a little clicking in his knee, so we got it checked out, had a little cartilage thing,” Shafer said. “Hopefully it’s something (doctors) can just go in and clean up and get him back quickly.”

Parris caught 13 passes for 90 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The 6-2, 252-pound redshirt sophomore would’ve will enter the 2014 season as the Orange’s starting tight end.

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Optimistic Urban Meyer opens up on Braxton Miller injury, impact

Urban Meyer, Braxton Miller

If you were expecting a sullen and despondent Urban Meyer in the wake of the Braxton Miller injury, you will be sorely disappointed.

Wednesday morning, the Ohio State head coach, during an interview on the Mike & Mike Show, made his first public comments since yesterday’s announcement.  While acknowledging “your gut starts to hurt” when ” a member of your family [goes] down,”  Meyer was optimistic about the future of his squad, which, prior to Miller’s season-ending injury, was viewed by many as the Big Ten favorite and potential playoff qualifier.

I think we’re going to be a very good team,” the coach said in quotes transcribed by the Columbus Dispatch. “Has my thought changed? Not at all. …

“Our guys have responded [positively to the injury news].”

Meyer also praised Miller for his attitude since the injury, which has seemed to have an impact — a positive one — on the entire team.

“The best thing is Braxton’s reaction,” Meyer said. “Braxton has a big smile on his face, is out at practice, is talking to our quarterbacks. I’m telling you, he’s a grown man. That’s credit to him, his family and his high-school coach, Jay Minton.”

The quarterback who’ll likely lean on Miller, the quasi-coach, the most is T.J. Barrett.  The redshirt freshman has never played a down at the collegiate level let alone attempted a pass.  He’s expected to get the start, at least in the opener against Navy,  ahead of Cardale Jones.

Miller will be looked upon to provide a veteran presence for Barrett, one who can be both a mentor and a coach all in the same package.  Meyer’s going to do his part as well, scaling back the offense and tailoring it to Barrett’s skillset.

“We’re not at this point going to ask him to throw that post corner on the field a 35-yard route on a seven-step drop,” Meyer said as an example of tailoring the offense for Barrett. “He’s not made for that yet.”

The Dispatch pointed out that “the offense under Barrett is likely to resemble what it looked like when Kenny Guiton took over when Miller was injured early last year.”

Miller suffered a knee injury in the first quarter of the Week 2 win over San Diego State and was replaced for the remainder of that game as well as the next two by Guiton.  Guiton totaled 13 touchdowns — 12 passing — in those three games before Miller returned for the win over Wisconsin.

The difference between Barrett and Guiton?  Guiton was a senior with at least some playing experience before being tossed into the fray.  Neither Barrett nor OSU has that luxury this time around, with Barrett’s acclimation to the game at this level likely going a long way in determining whether or not, as Meyer stated, the Buckeyes are a very good team at season’s end.

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Ex-Tide RB Dee Hart injures ankle, could miss CSU’s opener

Mississippi v Alabama Getty Images

Despite a different location nearly 1,500 miles across the country, Dee Hart still can’t shake the injury bug.

During Colorado State’s scrimmage Tuesday, the running back went down with an ankle injury. While it’s not believed to be serious, it could keep Hart out of the Rams’ season opener Aug. 28 against in-state rival Colorado.

Hart, a transfer from Alabama, is expected to be a significant contributor and perhaps a starter despite his brief period of time with the team. That is, if he can shake the health curse he’s dealt with the past couple of years.

In July of 2011, Hart suffered a torn ACL that forced him to miss his true freshman season.  After rehabbing that injury, Hart tore the ACLin the same knee during an October win over Ole Miss last year and, obviously, missed the remainder of the season.  While Hart is returning yet again from injury, he’ll be doing so on the other side of the ball.

Because of the combination of injuries and the talent at the position, the former five-star recruit finished the Tide portion of his career with just 43 carries for 166 yards and a touchdown.

In February of this year, Hart was arrested and charged with giving false information and possession of marijuana. It was revealed at that time that Hart hadn’t been a part of the team since shortly after the Tide’s Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Big Ten

Purdue v Wisconsin

As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

BIG TEN EAST

1. Michigan State (Last year: 13-1; beat Stanford in Rose Bowl)
Michigan State will have the best defense in the Big Ten, despite losing some key players from 2013. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will figure out how to get the most out of his defense and players like defensive end Shilque Calhoun and safety Kurtis Drummond will help make that task easier. The defending champs will be unlikely to start so slow on offense this season, as they did in 2013, with quarterback Connor Cook back and seasoned (and most importantly, confident). Michigan State’s offense should be balanced and reliant on the run with Jeremy Langford coming off 1,422 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Getting Ohio State at home is key as far as Big Ten play is concerned, but a week two trip to Oregon could keep the Spartans playing catch-up in the playoff discussion from the start.

2. Ohio State (Last year: 12-2; lost to Clemson in Orange Bowl)
Here’s the thing with Ohio State. With or without quarterback Braxton Miller, Ohio State may still be the best team in the Big Ten this season, but with Miller lost for the entire season the idea of Ohio State running through the regular season unscathed becomes much less likely. In a season that was expected to be layoff or bust, the Buckeyes may have already gone bust, but this is still a talented team that could be favored in every game of the season, with the likely exception of a road trip to East Lansing in early November. JT Barrett will take over under center, lacking much experience and with a fraction of the potential of a healthy Miller, but the Buckeyes will find some ways to make it work. Afterall it is not as though the rest of the roster is lacking for players ready to leave their mark. Look for Ohio State to get a bit tougher on defense this season, with Michael Bennett anchoring the defensive line and Noah Spence on the edge after serving a suspension.

3. Michigan (Last year: 7-6; lost to Kansas State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
Is this the year Brady Hoke turns the Michigan trends back in his favor? Only a handful of players on the roster now were not recruited by his staff, so his stamp is officially on this Michigan football program. The addition of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier comes with high expectations for improving the offense, which was dismal at times in protecting quarterback Devin Gardner and protecting the football. This was a team on the brink of losing at home to Akron but a play away from taking out Ohio State. You try figuring this Michigan team out. Moving tight end Devin Funchess to wide receiver was needed to improve the receiving position and should work well, and the running backs look to improve as well. Michigan’s defense is in the most in need of improving, cutting down on big plays allowed being the biggest concern. Adding star recruit Jabrill Peppers at defensive back could give a boost in that area.

4. Penn State (Last year: 7-5)
The James Franklin era gets underway with great enthusiasm but lingering concerns over roster depth. Penn State will have the talent at positions to do some good things and win a game they probably shouldn’t along the way (Ohio State and Michigan State at home?), but the depth concerns to lose a game they probably should not (Indiana in Bloomington, again?). The light at the end of the tunnel is there for Penn State, which is good news. Penn State also has one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation with sophomore Christian Hackenberg. Offensive line concerns are legitimate of course, as they have been for years, but if Hackenberg stays healthy the offense can be effective. The defense on the other hand, could use some playmakers and some more brute force up front to bring pressure on opposing QBs and close down running lanes.

5. Maryland (Last year: 7-6; lost to Marshall in Military Bowl as ACC member)
Maryland receives no favors on the schedule in their debut season as a member of the Big Ten, but the Terrapins join the new conference with possibly the best wide receiver unit in the conference. Stefon Diggs has the ability to break open a big play at any moment, and he plays in a division that sees some weaknesses in secondaries all over (except Michigan State). And do not forget about Levern Jacobs and Deon Long. Maryland’s biggest concern is keeping quarterback C.J. Brown upright to be able to get those receivers the football. The defense hit walls against explosive offenses in 2013 but returns a good number of upperclassmen, which is usually nice. A fourth-place finish is not all that unrealistic, but probably a reach for Maryland in 2014.

6. Indiana (Last year: 5-7)
The Hoosiers have an offense that is capable of giving every team in the Big Ten some fits. Credit head coach Kevin Wilson for making that happen since he arrived in Bloomington, but the defense is not a unit that will cause much fear on a weekly basis. The Hoosiers averaged 38.4 points per game last season, but the defense allowed 38.8 points per game. If the defense can just improve a little bit, then the Hoosiers should be seriously thinking about making plans for a postseason bowl game. It could be a rough start with the schedule though with road games at Bowling Green and Missouri. Getting to six wins may be a reach for Indiana unless they can get off to a good start. Running back Tevin Coleman could become one of the top running backs int he Big Ten.

7. Rutgers (Last year: 6-7; lost to Notre Dame in Pinstripe Bowl)
Rutgers is going to have a tall mountain to climb in year one in the Big Ten. Rutgers must go on the road to Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State and hosts Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Getting to six wins to return to the postseason is a reach for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers does add Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator, which should result in some better scheming and preparation, but Gary Nova is still the best option at quarterback and Rutgers has lost some key players over the last couple of years. Experience is thin. The defense could be picked apart by most teams n the schedule, which should be a constant area of focus for Rutgers.

BIG TEN WEST

1. Wisconsin (Last year: 9-4; lost to South Carolina in Capital One Bowl)
The Badgers fell shy of playing for yet another Big Ten championship last season, but now in a new division it looks as though Wisconsin has the easiest road to travel back to Indianapolis this fall. The Badgers will be led by one of the top running backs in the country, Melvin Gordon, and have a schedule worthy of legitimate playoff consideration if things go their way. A season-opening game against LSU in Cowboys Stadium is far from impossible and a home game against Bowling green should deserve more respect than it may get. Avoiding Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State in crossover games is nice too. On offense there is a need to see some players step up to support Gordon and quarterback Joel Stave needs to be a bit more consistent. The defense will be good, not great, but needs to find a way to create more turnovers in 2014.

2. Iowa (Last year: 8-5; lost to LSU in Outback Bowl)
The Hawkeyes may not dazzle with their style of play, but it should be effective enough to make a realistic run to an appearance in the Big Ten championship game. The Hawkeyes are anchored on the offensive line by left tackle Brandon Scherff and the rest of the line should do well in creating space for running back Mark Weisman. Iowa’s offense is designed to win some ugly games, and the defense should be capable of allowing for that to happen. Defensive tackle Carl Davis will lead the way up front along with defensive end Drew Ott. Iowa allowed just 18.9 points per game last season. The most challenging game on the schedule before late November may be a road game at Pittsburgh, but Iowa ends the regular season with Wisconsin and Nebraska at home on back-to-back weeks, with the division potentially on the line and Iowa in control of its own path.

3. Nebraska (Last year: 9-4; beat Georgia in Gator Bowl)
Nebraska will also have one of the top running backs in the Big Ten and the nation with Ameer Abdullah, but the Cornhuskers have some work to do in improving the supporting cast to become a top contender in the Big Ten. The Huskers will have some help on the defense with Randy Gregory entering the season as one of the top defensive ends in the conference, but Nebraska’s defense is a long time removed from the great defenses of the past. Bo Pelini‘s team has been consistent with the win total, but inconsistent on a game-to-game basis at times. With road games at Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa, it looks like Nebraska could be staring at another nine-win season.

4. Minnesota (Last year: 8-5; lost to Syracuse in Texas Bowl)
Head coach Jerry Kill has done a tremendous job with building something at Minnesota, but the bar may have been reached by the Gophers for now. Minnesota needs to see big leaps from multiple positions in order to make a run at a top three finish in the west division. Minnesota needs consistency out of the quarterback position from Mitch Leidner. Running back David Cobb should help take some pressure off Leidner, but there will be a time when Minnesota needs a big third-down completion. The schedule is a challenge as well, with a road game at TCU and back-to-back road games in conference play at Nebraska and Wisconsin to end the regular season.

5. Northwestern (Last year: 5-7)
The Wildcats were a trendy pick by many in the west division throughout the offseason, but the late departure of Venric Mark and the loss of wide receiver Christian Jones will take a big toll on Northwestern’s offense, which was to be the strength of the team for head coach Pat Fitzgerald. That is a lot of offensive production lost by the Wildcats, and that does not even account for a new full-time starting quarterback in Trevor Siemian. Fortunately, Siemian is not without some experience in this offense without Mark, with Treyvon Green playing a solid role last fall. On defense, linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo will rack up the tackle numbers but the rest of the defense can be exposed and the special teams break in a new kicker and punter.

6. Illinois (Last year: 4-8)
What will save head coach Tim Beckman? Three years in, Illinois needs to make a push for a postseason game if the heat is going to be turned down on Beckman’s job security. To get there, the Illini defense needs to improve in a hurry. The Illinois defense was shredded routinely last season and the offense was unable to keep up. Adding quarterback Wes Lunt after sitting out the 2013 season should help stabilize the offense, and should help the Illini keep up with the opposition, but the defense needs to find away to come up with some turnovers after not being able to last fall. re there six wins on the schedule? Yes, but it will be a battle to get there until the defense starts showing signs of improvement.

7. Purdue (Last year: 1-11)
There is nowhere to go but up for Purdue, hopefully. A trip to the postseason is a dream at this point, but the Boilermakers should make some improvements this fall. Head coach Darrell Hazell is in year two and the team should be starting to find its identity. On offense, Purdue managed just 14.9 points per game last season and the defense allowed 38.0 points per game. What should the realistic goal for Purdue be in 2014? Getting an extra touchdown per game and cutting one on defense would be a nice way to go. It still will not result in a winning season, but it would be a huge step in the right direction.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Michigan State over Wisconsin

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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USC could be without starting guard for opener

Khaliel Rodgers

With the season opener exactly 10 days away, USC could be at less than full strength along the offensive line.

Starting guard Khaliel Rodgers, the school confirmed late Tuesday night, suffered a sprained knee during practice this week. He is expected to be sidelined for a period of 10-14 days.

With the opener against Fresno State set for Aug. 30, Rodgers’ availability for the game is, obviously, very much up in the air.

A four-star member of the Trojans, Rodgers’ was rated as the No. 1 guard in the country by Rivals.com and the No. 51 player at any position in the country. The 6-2, 295-pound Rodgers took a redshirt as a true freshman, but has been working with the first-team offense at right guard throughout summer camp.

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