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CFT Predicts: the SEC

Nick Saban AP

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the SEC. 

And while we’re at it, check out our other conference previews: Big Ten, Pac-12

SEC East

1.  South Carolina (Last year: 11-2; beat Michigan in Outback Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Gamecocks put together an 11-2 season for the second straight year — the first time in school history the program has accomplished such a feat. Yet, Steve Spurrier‘s team still didn’t make it to the SEC championship game despite handing it to SEC champ Georgia 35-7 in Columbia. Also, this happened. You may have seen it before on SportsCenter. 

So why are they ranked here?
South Carolina and Georgia have taken their respective turns representing the East division in the SEC title for the past three years, and it looks like 2013 will be two-team race between these two once again. The Gamecocks get the edge this time because of their defense, which features preseason Heisman candidate Jadeveon Clowney. But it’s not just the projected No. 1 NFL draft pick that makes this defense so good. Cornerback Victor Hampton and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles also return.

Anything else?
That’s a Clowney question, bro. But for real, the offense loses wide receiver Ace Sanders. However, the Gamecocks have a solid wide receiver group led by Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd. 

2. Georgia (Last year: 12-2; beat Nebraska in Capital One Bowl) 
What happened last season?
If only Chris Conley had been a few yards further, Georgia would have been playing in the BCS championship game. Still, 12-2 and a January bowl win aren’t too shabby. Despite getting blasted by South Carolina midway through the season, UGA still won the East division for the second year in a row.

So why are they ranked here?
The Bulldogs’ offense returns so many key players, including seventh-year senior quarterback Aaron Murray and running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. But conversely, it’s the defense that loses just about everyone. There’s plenty of talent on that side of the ball and Todd Grantham is considered one of the best in the business at defense coordinator, but there’s enough turnover to cost the Bulldogs the top spot in the East.

Anything else?
Georgia is the media’s favorite to win the SEC East this year, but the month of September could get the Bulldogs off to a slow start. Georgia faces four tough opponents to start the season: Clemson, South Carolina, North Texas* and LSU.

(*Kidding, obviously. But seriously #GoMeanGreen.) 

3. Florida (Last year: 11-2; lost to Louisville in Sugar Bowl)
What happened last season?
It wasn’t always pretty, but Florida won 11 regular season games with arguably one of the tougher schedules in college football. However, the Gators’ season ended in a Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville, something only our favorite Cardinals fan Mark Ennis could have foreseen.

So why are they ranked here?
This is where the Gators fit. The East will continue to be dominated by Georgia and South Carolina at least for another season, and there are some injury concerns on offense for Florida with wide receiver Andre Debose out for the year and running back Matt Jones out indefinitely with a viral infection. Quarterback Jeff Driskel is now a junior and should be a bigger part of this offense. On defense, this team needs to replace stars Matt Elam, Jelani Jenkins and Sharrif Floyd.

Anything else?
It doesn’t affect SEC records, but the Gators have two meaty non-conference games: the annual rivalry with Florida State and an early season game against Miami, a team some feel are flying under the radar.

4. Vanderbilt (Last year: 9-4; beat NC State in the Music City Bowl)
What happened last season?
Seven straight wins to end 2012 gave Vanderbilt its first nine-win season since 1915. James Franklin continues to do an outstanding job building the Commodores’ brand and is now quickly becoming one of the most intriguing coaches in the game.

So why are they ranked here?
That nine-win season? Yeah, Vandy returns 17 starters from that team a year ago. Leading receiver Jordan Matthews is back, but Chris Boydthe team’s second-leading receiver, is currently dealing with a legal issue related to a horrific rape allegation involving four former VU players. Still there should be plenty of firepower on offense and the defensive front seven should be a strength.

Anything else?
Vanderbilt’s next step is to knock off a SEC favorite. This team will have four opportunities to do so against South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Texas A&M. A season-opener against Ole Miss could also build some early momentum for the ‘Dores.

5. Missouri (Last year: 5-7) 
What happened last season?
Missouri’s first year in the SEC was, shall we say, eye-opening. The Tigers suffered their first losing season under Gary Pinkel in eight years thanks, at least in part, to the fact that quarterback James Franklin couldn’t stay healthy. Missouri’s only two conference wins came against Kentucky and Tennessee.

So why are they ranked here?
It’s not a stretch to think Mizzou can have, say, a two-game swing in the win column this season. The Tigers don’t have to play Alabama or LSU out of the West and there are about four winnable conference games on the schedule. Franklin has to stay healthy, which could again be an issue if the offensive line doesn’t come through. Running back Henry Josey returns after missing last season with a significant knee injury and one-time five-star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is a sophomore who needs to have a big year. A lot of previously unknown names are going to have to emerge as playmakers.

Anything else?
Pinkel has been the head coach of Mizzou for 13 years if you can believe it. And, if nothing else, the Tigers have been fairly consistent with winning records. But a new conference and a disappointing 2012 campaign has made the seat beneath Pinkel’s keister a little warm. If there’s not at least a little bit of a turnaround, or some reason to be excited about the future, Mizzou could be looking for another direction by year’s end.

6. Tennessee (Last year: 5-7)
What happened last season?
The Vols suffered their third straight losing season and Derek Dooley was punished by being demoted to the wide receivers coach for the Dallas Cowboys.

So why are they ranked here?
Butch Jones is a good coach and he should be the guy to finally get things turned around for Tennessee. He’s a natural with young people and players love him. That said, Neyland Stadium wasn’t built in a day — neither were UT’s shiny new facilities — and the Vols took a solid gut punch in the passing game with the departures of wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. Defense has been bad too. There’s a lot to fix and not a lot to work with right away.

Anything else?
The stretch between Sept. 21 (at Florida) and Oct. 26 (at Alabama) is ruthless and unkind. But winning one game against either the Gators, Georgia or South Carolina would go a long way for Jones no matter the final record.

7. Kentucky (Last year: 2-10)
What happened last season?
The Wildcats beat Samford and Kent State, the latter of which almost had a chance to make a BCS bowl appearance. Strange, indeed. Either way, Joker Phillips got canned.

So why are they ranked here?
If Tennessee is building things “brick by brick”, then Kentucky’s going to need some heavier materials. UK made an interesting hire with former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who is recruiting extremely well early. Signing Day 2014 is still a ways off and it’s yet to be seen if those efforts will pay dividends down the road. For now, the Wildcats have too much to improve upon to make a real dent.

Anything else?
The schedule the Wildcats go through doesn’t help. Road games against South Carolina and Georgia aren’t even the worst games — that distinction would belong to hosting Alabama on Oct. 12.

SEC West

1. Alabama (Last year: 13-1; beat Notre Dame in BCS championship)
What happened last season?
Oh, not much. The Tide won the SEC and then mercilessly beat Notre Dame in the BCS championship, giving Nick Saban his third national title in four years with Alabama. Of course, it wasn’t all perfect. Texas A&M came into Tuscaloosa in November and stunned the top-ranked team in the country 29-24. Saban has since been playing that game on loop around the football facilities because money isn’t the root of all evil — satisfaction is.

So why are they ranked here?
Unless the wheels inexplicably fall off or Saban takes his coaching talents to the pros, Alabama is in rolling along (see what we did–ah forget it) and there’s nothing anybody can do to stop it. We could talk about returning starters like A.J. McCarron or C.J. Moseley, or how the Tide’s schedule doesn’t feature any of the SEC East teams expected to finish at or near the top of that respective division. Those are all fine and well, but as long as Saban is wearing crimson, this program is going to be a perennial favorite.

Anything else?
Because college football black magic is very, very real, it should be pointed out again that Alabama has never have won a BCS title when ranked atop the preseason coaches poll. Guess where they’re ranked this year.

2. LSU (last year: 10-3; lost to Clemson in Chick-fil-A Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Tigers shocked the college football world by beating up on a much more talented North Texas team* to open the year and came thisclose to beating Alabama at home (tailback screen FTW!) on their way to a 10-win season. LSU lost by one point to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl as Tajh Boyd pulled off the toughest individual postseason performance of the year.

(*Kidding, obviously. But seriously #GoMeanGreen.) 

So why are they ranked here?
LSU is an interesting team who’s getting overshadowed by two other SEC West teams. Understandably, Alabama is the overwhelming favorite not only to win the West division, but to win the SEC and get back to another national championship. But the Tigers shouldn’t be counted out so quickly. Defense will always be a staple and Zach Mettenberger has all the tools to be an elite quarterback, he just has to put it all together. Ironically, perhaps his best game last season came in that agonizing loss to Alabama.

Anything else?
Les Miles‘ team has some big games this year, including road games against Georgia and Alabama, and a season-opener against TCU. This is a program that’s thrived in those environments over the last few years (sans a BCS title loss to Alabama in 2012). They’ll need to again if they want to knock off the preseason favorite.

3. Texas A&M (last year: 11-2; beat Oklahoma in Cotton Bowl)
What happened last season?
Kevin Sumlin started Johnny Manziel at quarterback and all of us — defenses, media members, all of us — looked like idiots. Also, Manziel won the Heisman as a redshirt freshman. Just as a reminder.

So why are they ranked here?
Manziel is back… maybe. In fact, this is probably one of the few predictions that actually deserves an asterisk next to it. With the NCAA reportedly investigating whether Manziel improperly received money for signing thousands of pieces of memorabilia, it’s possible he could face suspension. If he does, and depending when and for how long, the Aggies’ win total could dip tremendously. There are a lot of questions defensively even with Manziel in the lineup, and while I personally don’t believe the offseason “controversies” will affect Manziel’s play on the field, he still has a lot of growing to do as a quarterback.

Anything else?
Wide receiver Mike Evans burst on to the scene last year with over 1,100 yards as a freshman. All the talk is about Manziel, but Evans provides an athletic, big target to throw to in this offense. He could have an even bigger year as a sophomore.

4. Ole Miss (Last year: 7-6; beat Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Hugh Freeze made one of the bigger first-season splashes by leading the Rebels to a seven-win season and then pulling in one of the most impressive recruiting classes for 2013.

So why are they ranked here?
The Rebels are considered to be on the upswing, but the first half of their ’13 schedule is bordering on unfair. Ole Miss travels to Vanderbilt, to Texas in non-conference play, to Alabama, and to Auburn before finally catching a break and hosting Texas A&M and LSU. It seems impossible to get through that stretch unscathed, but if quarterback Bo Wallace cuts down on his mistakes (17 interceptions a year ago) and the defense can clamp down even a little (the Rebels gave up an average of 36 points in five losses to the aforementioned six opponents last season thanks in part to 66 points from the Longhorns), then this team should find itself with some quality wins headed into an easier second half of the schedule.

Anything else?
If you think Ole Miss has broken any recruiting rules, Freeze asks that you email compliance@olemiss.edu. Thanks and hotty toddy!

5. Auburn (Last year: 3-9)
What happened last season?
The Tigers failed to win a conference game and Gene Chizik, two years removed from winning a BCS championship, was fired.

So why are they ranked here?
Gus Malzahn, who was the offensive coordinator for Auburn when it won that national title over Oregon in 2011, returns to The Plains as head coach hoping to turn things around. There are plenty of guys returning on both sides of the ball… it’s just that neither side played particularly well. It’s not like there’s a lack of talent at Auburn, so if Malzahn and his coaching staff, which features veteran defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, can get the production out of their players in a way Chizik couldn’t, then there’s no reason this team can’t go bowling this year.

Anything else?
Nick Marshall, a former Georgia defensive back, will be the starting quarterback for the Tigers. Meanwhile, Kiehl Frazier, Auburn’s former starting quarterback, has moved to defensive back.

6. Mississippi State (Last year: 8-5; lost to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Things were looking good for Dan Mullen‘s team, which was 7-0 headed into a late October game against Alabama. That’s when it fell apart and the schedule got significantly harder. The Bulldogs lost 38-7 in Tuscaloosa and went on to drop five of their last six games, including a bowl loss to Northwestern.

So why are they ranked here?
Because the SEC West is arguably the deepest division in college football. It’s quite possible that six teams could be bowl eligible here. Quarterback Tyler Russell is back, but there will be plenty of new faces at wide receiver. Six starters return on defense, but in all, this is a relatively young team that will be tested when it faces South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama in consecutive weeks.

Anything else?
If Bulldogs center Dillon Day plays as well as he bowls, then MSU should have a spectacular season.

7. Arkansas (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Bobby Petrino drove his motorcycle off a road. John L. Smith then drove the BCS-ready Razorbacks into the ground. Hog fans didn’t take either particularly well.

So why are they ranked here?
Arkansas brings in a new coach in Bret Bielema, but loses quarterback Tyler Wilson, its top two leading rushers and receivers from a year ago. Defense was a major liability last season and will have to improve significantly if the offense doesn’t get going. And that schedule? Brutal. The Hogs may not win a game past September.

Anything else?
Freshman running back Alex Collins had some drama trying to Fayetteville, but in Bielema’s run-heavy offense, he could make a huge impact right away.

—————————————-

John Taylor‘s prediction:

East
1. Georgia
2. South Carolina
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Vanderbilt
6. Kentucky
7. Missouri

West
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Texas A&M
4. Ole Miss
5. Mississippi State
6. Arkansas
7. Auburn
Ben’s SEC champ: Alabama
John’s SEC champ: Alabama
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Seeing writing on QB wall, SDSU’s Nick Bawden shifting to FB

Bawden

After the first couple of spring practice earlier this year, Nick Bawden was third in San Diego State’s quarterback pecking order.  Exiting spring, he was at least fourth.

Now, as the Aztecs are about to embark on the start of summer camp, Bawden is off the quarterback depth chart completely.

Head coach Rocky Long confirmed to the San Diego Union-Tribune that, following the conclusion of spring practice, he gave Bawden a choice: switch positions or transfer somewhere else if he wanted to continue playing quarterback.  The 6-3, 220-pound Bawden decided to take one for his current team and agreed to move to fullback/H-back moving forward.

While Long’s not really certain about the fullback part of the equation, he praised Bawden for his selflessness in making the move.

“There are very few of those guys left,” Long told the Union-Tribune. “You appreciate those guys. I don’t know if he can play fullback. He’s a good athlete; he weighs 230 (officially, 220) pounds. Just the attitude … ‘I want to be on this team. Tell me where I can play and I’ll do the best I can.’ That’s great stuff.”

Bawden began the spring behind Kentucky graduate transfer Maxwell Smith and Oregon transfer Jake Rodrigues. He left behind those two as well freshman Christian Chapman.

As a true freshman last season, Bawden started two games in place of the injured Quinn Kaehler.  In those two games — one win, one loss — he completed 13 of 37 passes for 147 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  He also ran the ball 11 times for 43 yards.

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UCF wants DB recovering from gunshot wounds to sit this season

Tulsa v Central Florida

If George O’Leary gets his way, Chris Williams won’t see the playing field this coming season.

Earlier this month, Williams was shot twice the arm at a bar near the UF campus.  While the injuries weren’t life-threatening, the recovery time is sufficient that O’Leary wants to see the defensive back sit this one out — athletically and academically — instead of missing a month or more of the 2015 season.

“With that injury alone, [it] was a eight- to-10 week injury, so I would say, again, I’m leaning more toward medical withdrawal to stop his eligibility so he doesn’t have this year count and bring him back in January,” O’Leary said regarding Williams’ status. “The police are involved with what took place there, so it’s really their response, not mine as far as what transpired.”

Williams spent last season as a member of UCF’s scout team, using a redshirt year as a true freshman. In UCF’s spring game, Williams recorded 10 tackles and an interception, which was returned for 52 yards. Based on that performance, and the fact that the Knights are replacing all four secondary starters, Williams was being looked upon a likely starter.

Additionally, O’Leary acknowledged that wide receiver Taylor Oldham likely won’t return until October after sustaining a significant ankle injury during the spring. Oldham caught three passes for 35 yards as a redshirt sophomore in 2014, but, like Williams, was expected to be more of a contributor due to attrition at the position.

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Dismissed Auburn DE Elijah Daniel won’t play for Bo Pelini after all

South Carolina v Auburn

Back in mid-June, it was reported with 100-percent certainty that Elijah Daniel would be continuing his collegiate playing career for Bo Pelini at Youngstown State.  Monday, the first-year YSU coached said the odds of Daniel playing for the Penguins were “50-50.”

One day later, those odds were “0-100.”

Murray State announced in a press release that Daniel will attempt to revive his career Mitch Stewart‘s squad.  Because the Racers play at the FCS level, the defensive lineman will be eligible to play immediately in 2015 and have two years of eligibility remaining.

Daniel was dismissed by Auburn in early may following his late-April arrest on four counts each of theft of property and four counts of burglary.  One of the victims of the alleged crimes is current AU wide receiver Stanton Truitt.

According to Stewart, he’s being given his one and only chance with the program.

“I believe in second chances and last chances,” Stewart’s statement began. “I have told Elijah that we are willing to give him this opportunity, because I believe, large or small, everyone makes mistakes and most people are deserving of a second chance.

“But I also made it clear to him, that this is his last chance and that any further incidents like the one at Auburn would be met with an immediate dismissal from the team.”

Last season, Daniel played in all 13 games for the Tigers, making two starts.  His 17 quarterback hurries led the team.

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Mike Leach continues stumping for 64-team playoff

Mike Leach

Along with eccentric, Mike Leach is nothing if not consistent.

Even before a four-team playoff was approved in June of 2012 and implemented for the 2014 season, Leach was espousing the virtues of a 64-team playoff field, labeling such a size as “ideal.”  As part of the Pac-12 coaches turn through the ESPN car wash Wednesday, Leach stated, as he has one more than one occasion, that he’d like to see the playoff expanded beyond its current four teams.

And, yet again, Leach made the case for a 64-team field.

I don’t know why you don’t have 64 teams,” the Washington State coach said according to the World Wide Leader. “The notion of pinpointing and selecting four perfectly, well that’s not going to happen. That can’t happen effectively. …

“It’s remarkably easy. If you’ve got 64, there wouldn’t be a lot of debate. … It would be indisputable that it was settled on the field and somebody that wins playoff games accordingly deserves to be champion and there’s no debate. It would be great fun to watch — just like it is at all the other levels.”

The closest any level of football gets to Leach’s number is the FCS with 24 teams qualifying, up from 20 just a few years ago. The former Div. 1-AA, though, only plays 11 regular season games, with last year’s champion, North Dakota State, playing 15 games counting the playoffs.

For Leach’s proposal to work and garner any type of support, you’d have to get the most powerful conferences in the country to roll back the regular season even further, to 10 games, which would keep any team that made the title game in that size field at just 16 games played; Ohio State and Oregon, the two College Football Playoff championship game qualifiers, played 15 games and even that amount raised a bit of a ruckus from those concerned over player safety.

And even getting to that number, the 10 regular season games, is not as simple as waving a magic wand and getting all on board with wiping out two potentially lucrative regular season games as well as a lucrative conference championship game that benefits all league members.

Despite the CFP’s protestations to the contrary, the field will expand, sooner than later, from four to eight teams, and possibly even 16 on down the road.  Getting to Leach’s ideal number?  You never say never, but that will never happen in my lifetime.  Or the lifetime of my children, for that matter.

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Victim asks that charges against LSU QB, teammates be dropped

Anthony Jennings

At the SEC Media days earlier this month, head coach Les Miles was confident that a handful of his LSU players, including potential starting quarterback Anthony Jennings, would be back with the football team soon as their off-field issues were “approaching a resolution.”

As it turns out, the coach was potentially very prescient when it comes to this situation.

Wednesday afternoon, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore confirmed to a group of reporters covering a speech at the Baton Rouge Rotary Club that the victim in a case involving the LSU football players have asked that the preliminary charges against the trio be dropped. Moore, who has yet to formally charge the trio — Jennings, defensive lineman Maquedius Bain and defensive back Dwayne Thomas — stated that, if the case didn’t involve football players, it would likely be over and done with.

“If this was a regular case, take football out of it, if it just involved a regular LSU student, you wouldn’t have known it happened. It would routinely be dismissed,” the DA said. “I’m taking my time to get it right.”

Moore added “possibly next week” when asked when a resolution can be expected.

The three players were arrested in the middle of last month for unauthorized entry of an inhabited building. Essentially, it’s being alleged that the three went into the open apartment of another LSU student to retrieve items they claim were stolen the week before.

All of the players involved have been indefinitely suspended.

Moore was in attendance to the speech at the Rotary Club, with the keynote speaker being, of course, Miles. During the course of that speech, Miles jokingly directed a message involving his current players at the DA, which he quickly noted to the scribes covering wasn’t suitable for publication.

“I’m right with you. You hear me? As we have always operated, I’m on your schedule, Miles said as he pointed at Moore. “You tell me what you need to tell me, and I will operate accordingly. I promise you.”

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C.J. Reavis loses appeal, remains dismissed by Hokies

It appears that Virginia Tech’s secondary will indeed be without a likely starter heading into its season opener against defending national champion Ohio State.

In a series of tweets Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times confirmed that “safety C.J. Reavis lost his appeal of a student conduct hearing decision” on Tuesday and “remains dismissed from Virginia Tech.” Earlier this month it was reported that Reavis was no longer enrolled at the university following the completion of a student-conduct hearing.

There still has been no reason given for the student-conduct hearing, although Reavis’ attorney is far from pleased with the outcome of the appeal, intimating that his client may take legal action against Tech.

Reavis played in 12 games as a true freshman last season, mainly on special teams. After a strong spring, he was viewed as a likely starter at safety for the Hokies.

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Ex-Buckeye Jayme Thompson tweets he’ll continue career at Indiana

Jayme Thompson

Jayme Thompson may have left Ohio State, but, as it turns out, he hasn’t permanently left the Big Ten.

The former Buckeye defensive back posted a tweet to his personal Twitter account in which he revealed that he will be continuing his collegiate playing career at Indiana.  As Thompson spent the 2014 season at Iowa Western Community College, he will be eligible to play immediately for the Hoosiers in 2015.

And he will play against his former team as well as the Hoosiers will play host to the Buckeyes Oct. 3.

The Toledo, OH, high schooler was a four-star member of OSU’s 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 29 safety in the country and the No. 11 player at any position in the state of Ohio.  He missed all of his true freshman season due to a broken ankle, but had participated in spring practice the following year before deciding to transfer in mid-April of last year.

Prior to landing at IU, Kentucky, Louisville, Penn State, Rutgers and West Virginia — Thompson verbally committed to WVU before flipping to OSU — were rumored as potential destinations as well.

(Photo credit: Ohio State athletics)

UPDATED 7:01 p.m. ET: As it turns out, Thompson will be a part of IU’s 2016 recruiting class and will not play for the Hoosiers until next season.  He will spend the 2015 season at a JUCO.

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Chris Petersen ‘not looking forward to’ Boise game ‘because I recruited so many of those kids’

chrispetersen Getty Images

One of the best storylines heading into Week 1 of the 2015 season will be Washington’s road trip to Boise State, and not necessarily for what will happen on the field during those 60 minutes.

UW is coached by Chris Petersen, who is heading into his second year with the Huskies.  Petersen, of course, was the long-time — and very successful — head coach at Boise who had turned down multiple offers from more “prestigious” programs before finally pulling the trigger on a move from the Broncos to the Huskies in December of 2013.

While everybody else in the college football world is eagerly anticipating his return to Boise for the Sept. 4 Friday night game, the coach himself isn’t.

“I’m not looking forward to it because I recruited so many of those kids,” Petersen said during his time running through the ESPN car wash, adding that, when it comes to the kind of reception he’ll get for his homecoming, he understands the boo birds will be out.

“They’re fans, they’re gonna boo me,” said the coach. “But it’s such a great place.”

Petersen did dip his toes into the controversy over the Broncos’ Smurf Turf, all with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.

The game itself is likely causing as much or more trepidation for Petersen than the homecoming angle, though.

While both teams will be breaking in new quarterbacks, UW will be breaking in a new signal-caller behind an offensive line that returns just one starter from 2014.  Boise, meanwhile, returns all five line starters.

Combine that with eight returning starters from a Broncos defense that was above average in nearly every major statistical category — the Huskies return four on that side of the ball — and the game being played in Boise, and it could add up to a very long night for Petersen’s homecoming in more ways than one.

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After leaving Buckeyes to focus on med school dream, Frank Epitropoulos to walk-on at Mich. St.

Frankie Williams, Frank Epitropoulos AP

If you remember back to August of last year, Ohio State revealed that Frank Epitropoulos has decided to give up football to focus on academics. Specifically, the little-used wide receiver was leaving to “concentrate entirely on his biology and pre-med/pre-dental academic program.”

Nearly one year later, Epitropoulos is returning to play football — for one of OSU’s Big Ten East rivals.

Epitropoulos, whose father and uncle played for OSU, confirmed via Twitter on Tuesday that he has decided to resume his collegiate playing career for Michigan State.  Epitropoulos will be a walk-on for the Spartans who will be eligible to play in 2015 because he sat out the 2014 season.

Epitropoulos’ father confirmed to the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the receiver is still a pre-med student.  According to the dad, his son “got most of his hard stuff out of the way” during his brief sabbatical from the sport.

“To do how he did in school, and take the kind of classes that he took, I highly doubt that he’d been able to get the grades he needed,” John Epitropoulos told the Plain Dealer. “To try to go to medical school, you’ve gotta put yourself in a position to do that. There’s some minimal things you’ve gotta do, and that doesn’t guarantee you anything. I’m confident, and he said too, that he would not have been able to get the grades that he needed.

“That (football) part of his life slowed down so he would have a chance, because there’s no guarantee obviously. It’s very competitive. If you want to put yourself in a spot to do that, then that’s what you gotta do. I can tell you as a father, I’m fairly confident he wouldn’t have been able, or he would’ve had to switch his major out. To his betterment, he didn’t want to do that. That’s the right call for him.”

On the football field, Epitropoulos played in four games as a redshirt freshman in 2013. He had one career catch for six yards — vs. Purdue in early November

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Uncle Luke, coach trade Twitter barbs over 5-star FSU decommit

Isaac Nauta

On the field the Florida State-Miami rivalry is a shadow of its former self, with the Seminoles winning five straight; six of seven; and nine of 11.  The last time the Hurricanes won at least two in a row in the series was the end of a six-game winning streak that ran from 2000-2004.

Off the field and in the social media arena?  The rivalry is alive and well.

Late Tuesday morning, five-star 2016 tight end Isaac Nauta, the highest-rated offensive commit, along with quarterback Malik Henry, in FSU’s class next year, announced via Twitter that he had decided to decommit from FSU and reopen his recruitment.  In his tweet missive, he took what some took to be a vague slap at the current “culture” around the FSU football program, writing that “I have decommitted to make sure that I make the best possible decision for my future in becoming a man and developing as a student-athlete.”

To add insult to injury, Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, an unabashed and very public supporter of Miami football, took to the same social media website to take a jab at the FSU assistant who would’ve been/will be Nauta’s position coach, tight ends coach Tim Brewster.

Brewster, of course, responded with a reference to the date of the next meeting between the in-state rivals.

FSU, incidentally, is still ranked third for the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com.  The U, meanwhile, is ranked seventh.

As for 6-4, 235-pound Florida native Nauta’s future?  Florida, Georgia, Michigan and USC are all schools that are listed as “High” in the interest category.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Academic reasons cost USF its leading 2014 sacker

Derrick Calloway

USF released its updated depth chart ahead of the start of summer camp, and there’s one very noticeable absence.

Derrick Calloway is no longer listed as a member of Willie Taggart‘s squad.  According to the school, the defensive tackle has withdrawn from the university because of academic reasons.

It was noted by the school itself that Calloway could return to USF after 2015.

In 2014, Calloway’s three sacks led all Bull defensive linemen, as did his two quarterback hurries.  The Tampa Bay Times notes that, with Calloway’s departure, USF has just one defensive tackle on the roster with starting experience — Deadrin Senat, who has just two starts on his résumé.  Calloway himself had just three starts, all of which came last season as a sophomore.

(Photo credit: USF athletics)

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ECU gives projected starting guard Larry Williams the boot

Larry Williams

On yet another day of additional player movement, we’ll close shop for the night with one final departure.

East Carolina announced in a press release that Larry Williams has been dismissed by head coach Ruffin McNeill.  The dismissal comes after Williams was accused of violating unspecified team rules.

“It is always disappointing when someone is dismissed from the program, but there comes a time when an individual’s actions force the loss of a privilege, which in this case is being a part of our team,” McNeill said in a statement. “We all have the responsibility of being accountable.”

After redshirting as a true freshman in 2013, Williams played in all 13 games. Most of that action came on special teams.

However, the 6-4, 331-pound lineman was expected to head into summer camp as the projected starter at right guard.

(Photo credit: East Carolina athletics)

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Dismissed by Wazzu, Daquawn Brown expected to land at Fresno

Washington State v Stanford Getty Images

Nearly seven months to the day he was dismissed by Washington State, it appears that Daquawn Brown has found a landing spot.

According to FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman, Brown “is expected to be cleared to transfer to Fresno State.”  Because of NCAA transfer rules, Brown will be forced to sit out the 2015 season.

He would have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.

Back in late December, Brown was kicked off Mike Leach‘s football team.  While Wazzu never confirmed the dismissal, it was reported that it had involved, of course, a violation of unspecified team rules.

Brown started 11 of 12 games at cornerback in 2014, with the only start missed due to a second-half targeting penalty against Oregon State that kept him out of the first half of the Arizona State game.  He led the team in tackles with 82, and was named honorable mention Pac-12 following the regular season.

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QB Donovan Isom takes to Twitter to announce transfer from Utah

Isom_Donovan, Utah Football August 6, 2014 in Salt Lake City, UT. (Photo / Steve C. Wilson / University of Utah)

Utah’s quarterback meeting room will be one lighter when it enters summer camp than when it exited spring practice.

On Twitter Saturday evening, Donovan Isom tweeted out a photo of him wearing a Southeastern Louisiana uniform and helmet.  The quarterback confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune that he decided to transfer from Utah to be closer to his family in Louisiana.

Last month, his family’s home was destroyed by fire, which triggered his decision to leave the Utes.

Another factor in the decision could very well have been the depth chart at his position.  Not counting Isom, the Utes’ roster is littered with five quarterbacks, including the incumbent Travis Wilson as well as well as former Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson.

Isom was a three-star member of Utah’s 2014 recruiting class who took a redshirt as a true freshman.  He took part in the spring game, rushing for 42 yards on 11 carries and completing seven passes for 15 yards.

Because Southeastern Louisiana is an FCS school, Isom will be eligible to play in 2015.  Including this year, he’ll have four years of eligibility remaining.

(Photo credit: Utah athletics)

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Michigan ditching ‘Legends’ jerseys, will re-retire iconic numbers

Appalachian v Michigan

One of the more controversial and clunky decisions of the Dave Brandon era at Michigan will officially come to an end this season.

Tuesday afternoon, UM announced that it plans on re-retiring the uniform numbers of seven of its football legends: Gerald Ford (#48), Tom Harmon (#98), Ron Kramer (#87), Bennie Oosterbaan (#47) and the Wistert brothers (#11) — Albert, Alvin and Whitey.  The jerseys associated with what are dubbed the Michigan Football Legends will be taken out of circulation as well.

The re-retirement ceremony will take place Nov. 28 prior to the annual grudge match with rival Ohio State.

Additionally, the No. 21 worn by Desmond Howard in a career that included a Heisman Trophy will be officially retired during the same ceremony. The initial decision to begin unretiring the jersey numbers began nearly four years ago under Brandon, as mlive.com explained:

Brandon started the Legends program during Howard’s Hall of Fame ceremony in early 2011. At the time, Howard’s No. 21 was the only number to receive the “Michigan Football Legend” distinction. Any player wearing the No. 21 during this time (Junior Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon were the only two) donned a commemorative patch on their uniform and sat in a specialized locker honoring the “Legend” player.

However, over the next four years, Michigan slowly began to bring all of its previous five retired uniforms back out of circulation, handing them to individual players who were selected by then coach Brady Hoke.

Following Brandon’s ouster and under interim athletic Jim Hackett, momentum grew for the jersey numbers to be tucked back in their rightful places.

“During the search process for our new football coach, I had a meeting with the Michigan Football team, and they expressed their feelings associated with wearing these legendary jerseys,” Hackett said in a statement. “At one end of the spectrum they are awed by the legacy of the men that wore them, and at the other end of the spectrum, and as part of a team sport, they wondered why we would call attention to one of our team members. I brought this issue to our new head coach Jim Harbaugh. He agreed with me that it needed a review. I then talked to the families of these great Michigan players. I called them directly and laid out the paradox of seeing players as a team and the due respect to these individual great players.

“The right plan is to retire them and display them in Towsley Museum which is connected to Schembechler Hall. Because we don’t have the display area inside the stadium, we have found a high-profile area on the concourse where fans can see and honor these retired jerseys.”

The only current player who will be impacted by the move is Desmond Morgan, who has worn No. 48 since 2012.

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