Urban Meyer

CFT Predicts: the Big Ten

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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 Big Ten.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SEC, Pac-12

Leaders Division

1. Ohio State (Last year: 12-0)
What happened last season?
Urban Meyer‘s first year with the Buckeyes was flawless, at least as far as things go in the win-loss column. Though Ohio State had no postseason to look forward to thanks to NCAA sanctions, it went undefeated during the regular season. That’s propelled OSU to become one of the preseason favorites to appear in the final BCS championship.

So why are they ranked here?
The more appropriate question would be why wouldn’t the Buckeyes be ranked here? Meyer is easily one of the best in the game and quarterback Braxton Miller is now the betting favorite to win the Heisman. There are some concerns along the defensive front for this team, but it doesn’t have the appearance of something that will be an insurmountable problem.

Anything else?
The Game against Michigan can go either way, but there’s really only one spot I can potentially see Ohio State slipping. That would be an Oct. 5 game at Northwestern. The Wildcats enter 2013 with some hype (there’s something you don’t type everyday) after winning 10 games last year.

2. Wisconsin (Last year: 8-6; lost to Stanford in Rose Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Badgers can thank the NCAA for getting to the Big Ten title game as both Ohio State and Penn State watched from home. The Badgers struggled with offensive consistency throughout the year even though Montee Ball was among the leading rushers in the country. 

So why are they ranked here?
Gary Andersen takes over for the departed Bret Bielema. Though Ball is gone and the quarterback situation needs to be figured out, this is a veteran team with some recognizable names still around like running back James White and receiver Jared Abbrederis. The bigger concern lies on defense, which will be moving to more of a 3-4 this year.

Anything else?
The Badgers avoid Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska this season. It may not help Andersen win the Leaders Division in his first year, but it should help with a few more W’s. Also, QB Tanner McEvoy has started getting some looks at receiver and should help in that department.

3. Penn State (Last year: 8-4)
What happened last season?
Bill O’Brien took over what felt like an impossible situation and won eight games with the Nittany Lions. The crowning achievement of a season that surpassed many expectations was the development of quarterback Matt McGloin, who is now getting some buzz in the pros with the Oakland Raiders.

So why are they ranked here?
Penn State is a little bit of a wildcard this year. Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson are battling it out for the starting quarterback job, and this defense loses some key leaders from a year ago including linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. What we’re banking on is some more O’Brien magic with a quarterback who was not on last year’s roster.

Anything else?
There are some young defenders that Penn State fans should be excited about. Defensive end Deion Barnes was the conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2012.

4. Purdue (Last year: 6-7; lost to Oklahoma State in Heart of Dallas Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Getting to the postseason wasn’t enough for Danny Hope, who was let go last November [“Hope-less” pun goes here] [hates self for it]. Alas, the mustache just wasn’t good enough.

So why are they ranked here?
Darrell Hazell was considered a good hire for the Boilermakers, but he has a lot of work ahead of him in 2013. Rob Henry, a veteran guy, has been named the starting quarterback, but he last played meaningful snaps in 2010. The rest of the offense should feature a lot of newer faces, though there is talent there.

Anything else?
Things could get off to a rocky start for Hazell. Looking at the schedule, there are only a couple games the Boilermakers figure to have a chance to win. Things ease up at the end of the season, which could pave the way for some momentum heading into 2014.

5. Indiana (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Kevin Wilson got the Hoosiers to four wins. The offense showed consistent ability to score points and Indiana almost knocked off Ohio State in a shootout. 

So why are they ranked here?
It doesn’t appear offense is going to be a concern for IU, and Wilson has three capable quarterbacks from which to choose in Cameron Coffman, Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld. The defense returns many of its starters from a year ago. The problem is that unit finished among the worst in rushing defense and scoring defense last year. The Hoosiers can score with most, so if they can make some stops and force some turnovers they’ll be in a position for an outside shot at a bowl game.

Anything else?
Roberson didn’t have much of a chance to showcase his athletic potential after going down with a season-ending leg injury early in the year. He’s a valuable weapon though, so it’ll be interesting to see if/how Wilson utilizes him if he doesn’t regain the starting job.

6. Illinois (Last year: 2-10) 
What happened last season?
Tim Beckman‘s first year with Illinois went poorly as the Illini won just two games and had a few brutal losses to Michigan, Ohio State and Northwestern.

So why are they ranked here?
There are a lot of players returning on offense, including quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, but this was also a group that barely scored more than two touchdowns a game last year. Beckman hopes that hiring former Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit as offensive coordinator will help in that department. Still, a brutal schedule from start to finish may be too much for the Illini to see any real improvement in the win-loss column.

Anything else?
Beckman took a veiled shot at former Illini coach Ron Zook earlier this summer by suggesting he left the cupboard bare when he was fired two seasons ago. Still, there’s already mounting pressure to win in Beckman’s second year.

Legends Division

1. Nebraska (Last year: 10-4; lost to Georgia in Capital One Bowl)
What happened last season?
Like every other year under Bo Pelini, Nebraska was good. But, like most years, the Cornhuskers couldn’t get over the conference championship hump. Instead, Wisconsin founds its mojo and hung a cool 70 points on the blackshirts on their way to Pasadena.

So why are they ranked here?
Good question. There’s been no indication so far that Nebraska can take the next step under Pelini and get to a BCS bowl. Yet, somehow, here I am giving them another chance because I can’t quit ’em. The offense should be one of the best in the Big Ten with a core group of playmakers coming back, including Taylor Martinez, running back Ameer Abdullah, and receiver Kenny Bell. The defense will be young, but if it can just play well enough, Nebraska will be back in the Big Ten championship.

Anything else?
The Legends Division may not take form until November. Nebraska plays Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State in consecutive weeks.

2. Michigan (Last year: 8-5; lost to South Carolina in Outback Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Wolverines’ win total dipped and there were some cringeworthy losses to Alabama, Notre Dame and Nebraska. And, yes, to point it out again, Ohio State beat Michigan. Though Denard Robinson got hurt and finished the season as a running back, fans got a glimpse of what the Devin Gardner era may look like.

So why are they ranked here?
There are plenty of quality players for the Wolverines — Gardner, Fitz Toussaint, and Jeremy Gallon just to name a few. But depth is definitely a concern, especially at quarterback. Linebacker Jake Ryan is currently trying to make his way back from a knee injury and is projected to return around midseason.

Anything else?
Brady Hoke has yet to lose a home game in Ann Arbor, so conversely a majority of his seven losses have come on the road. And there will be some tough road games for the Wolverines: at Penn State and at Michigan State. Trips to Northwestern and Iowa could be tricky as well.

3. Michigan State (Last year: 7-6; beat TCU in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
What happened last season?
Sparty went 6-6 in the regular season, primarily because of the team’s inability to win close games.  Five of MSU’s six losses came in games decided by a touchdown or less.

So why are they ranked here?
While we certainly hope Mark Dantonio goes #B1G and plays four quarterbacks at the same time, Andrew Maxwell is likely the starter — for now, at least. The offense has some some good wide receivers returning, but tight end Dion Sims and running back Le’Veon Bell are gone. If it can’t find any sort of constancy, the defense will be relied upon once again to keep the Spartans in a position to win. That’s certainly possible, but Sparty’s O can’t be “Sparty No!” again and reasonably expect to win the division.

Anything else?
Like the other Legends Division favorites, November is an important month for the Sparans, who do not have to play Ohio State, Penn State or Wisconsin. If the offense can get going, this can be a dangerous team with one of the highest ceilings in the conference.

4. Northwestern (Last year: 10-3; beat Mississippi State in Gator Bowl) 
What happened last season?
As crazy as it may sound, Northwestern was three combined quarters away from being undefeated in the regular season. Still, 10-3 and a January Bowl win is always respectable. And it’s Northwestern. 

So why are they ranked here?
For the first time since the invention of the forward pass, the Wildcats have some legitimate preseason hype. That can only be attributed to what an incredible Job Pat Fitzgerald has done at not only building the program, but maintaining continuity among staff and players. Offensive line is a concern this year, but Kain Colter returns as the centerpiece of the Wildcats offense.

Anything else?
Northwestern gets Ohio State and Wisconsin in back-to-back weeks in October. As mentioned above, this is a team that could knock off the Buckeyes. The divisional schedule is difficult too and there’s some question as to whether Northwestern can take the next step as a program. This would be the year to do it though.

5. Iowa (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Kirk Ferentz suffered his first losing season since 2006 and the Hawkeyes dropped their last six in a row.

So why are they ranked here?
Scoring points has been difficult for Iowa recently and keeping a healthy running back has been even harder. Quarterback James Vandenberg is gone and there are questions at that position. Defense should be fine with a solid linebacker unit returning. The most important objective (besides win) is for offensive coordinator Greg Davis to get more out of this offense, which ranked among the worst scoring units in the country a year ago.

Anything else?
Kirk Ferentz has an enormous buyout, but another losing season — and Iowa’s schedule isn’t very forgiving — could have the program thinking harder about a change anyway.

6. Minnesota (Last year: 6-7; lost to Texas Tech in Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas) 
What happened last season?
Jerry Kill‘s team saw a three-game turnaround that got the Gophers back to a bowl game — and Minnesota almost won. But Texas Tech came from behind to beat UM in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

So why are they ranked this year?
The Gophers went through three quarterbacks last year and still won six games. The last one to starting time, sophomore Phillip Nelson, should take the field first for Minnesota this season. Chemistry in the passing game could be a question with A.J. Barker gone and Andre McDonald missing part of preseason camp due to suspension.

Anything else?
Getting back to a bowl isn’t out of the question for Minnesota, especially with a favorable out of conference schedule. Climbing up the Legends Division ladder is another story, but there are a few opportunities late in the year to steal a win at home from what will likely be a favored opponent when Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin come to Minneapolis.

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John Taylor‘s prediction:

Leaders
1. Ohio State
2. Wisconsin
3. Penn State
4. Indiana
5. Purdue
6. Illinois

Legends
1. Michigan
2. Nebraska
3. Northwestern
4. Michigan State
5. Iowa
6. Minnesota

Ben’s Big Ten champ: Ohio State
John’s Big Ten champ: Ohio State 

Maryland adds Tyler Bowen to staff as OL coach, reassigns Dave Borbely to off-the-field role

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 08: Head coach DJ Durkin of the Maryland Terrapins reacts in the first quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium on October 8, 2016 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Spring practice is just around the corner but Maryland coach D.J. Durkin is still tinkering with his coaching staff.

The school announced on Saturday afternoon that Fordham offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen is joining the Terps as the team’s new OL coach. Bowen is no stranger to the program, having played for the school for three years before becoming a student assistant coach for then-head coach Ralph Friedgen in 2010. He also served as a graduate assistant with the Terps for two seasons.

That’s not the only move being made by Durkin however, as former offensive line coach Dave Borbely is remaining in College Park. According to the school’s release, the coaching veteran will remain on the staff — but in an off-the-field role as Special Assistant to the Head Coach.

Adding Bowen as an on-field coach is the bigger news for the program though. With current Maryland OC Walt Bell still calling plays, the two should be an interesting mix and give the Terps two bright young offensive minds to lead that side of the ball as the team tries to build on a surprising turnaround season from 2016.

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield arrested in Arkansas

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 10:  Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners walks off the field after a 24-17 loss against the Texas Longhorns during the 2015 AT&T Red River Showdown at Cotton Bowl on October 10, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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They always say a quiet offseason is a good offseason in college football. That appears as though it will not be the case for  Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops this year however.

According to booking information and a preliminary police report released by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Arkansas, Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield was arrested early Saturday morning and charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and fleeing the scene.

The report also states that Mayfield was booked at 8:21 a.m. CT on Saturday morning and released at 11:07 a.m. A preliminary hearing on the case has been scheduled for 8 a.m. in Fayetteville District Court on Monday.

Mayfield has been a star for Oklahoma the past two seasons in leading the team to back-to-back Big 12 titles. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist a season ago and is expected to be a front-runner for the award in 2017 as a senior.

An Oklahoma statement on the matter said they are aware of the matter but are still gathering information. The Sooners are set to begin spring practice on March 21st and open the season against UTEP before traveling to Ohio State the second week of the year for what is likely a top five showdown.

UMass hires Ed Pinkham as defensive coordinator

HADLEY, MA - SEPTEMBER 17:  The Massachusetts Minutemen run onto the field prior to the game against the FIU Golden Panthers at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Hadley, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
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After floundering on defense the past three years, UMass’ change at the top on that side of the ball is official.

The football program, via a press release, announced Saturday that Mark Whipple has signed off on Ed Pinkham as his new defensive coordinator.  Pinkham replaces Tom Masella, who was ousted last month after three years on the job.

Whipple and Pinkham have a previous working relationship, serving on the same staff at New Hampshire in the late eighties.

“I’ve known Ed since we worked together at UNH,” Whipple said in a statement. “I have tremendous respect for his approach and how his defenses have always played. He brings a wealth of knowledge at the FBS level. He’s an outstanding recruiter and great leader of young men. I couldn’t be more excited about the future of our program as we head into winter conditioning and spring practice.”

Pinkham had spent the past three seasons as the coordinator at Western Michigan.  Last season, the Broncos finished 16th nationally in scoring defense at 19.5 points per game.

The Minutemen in 2016 were 108th in the same category at 35.5 points per game.  The previous two seasons, they were 93rd (31.4) and 105th (33.0).

“I’m extremely excited to be back in New England and renewing relationships with coaches I’ve worked with in the past at previous stops,” Pinkham said. “I coached against UMass so I’m aware of the strong football tradition that exists here. I’m excited to play a role in achieving the goals that we set as a staff and as a program.”

Pinkham has also served as the coordinator at Rutgers (2009-10) and as secondary coach at Minnesota (1989-91) during a coaching career that began in 1975.

‘Insensitive, regrettable comment’ leads Jon Reschke to transfer from Michigan State

EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 28: Christian Hackenberg #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions passes while under pressure from Jon Reschke #33 of the Michigan State Spartans in the first half of the game at Spartan Stadium on November 28, 2015 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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An offseason of discontent continues in East Lansing, with another likely starter leaving Michigan State amidst head-scratching circumstances.

In a statement, Jon Reschke announced that he has decided to transfer out of the Spartans football program.  The reason? “Over a month ago, in an argument and a brief moment of anger, I lost control of my emotions and made an insensitive and totally regrettable comment involving a former teammate,” the linebacker wrote.

Just what that comment was and to who it was directed was not detailed.  Below is Reschke’s statement, in its entirety.

Over a month ago, in an argument and a brief moment of anger, I lost control of my emotions and made an insensitive and totally regrettable comment involving a former teammate. In so doing, I have hurt and offended countless number of people, and for that, I am deeply sorry. If I could take my comment back, I would do so in a second.

“I have addressed my teammates and coaches and while many understand my actions were totally uncharacteristic of who I am, the hurt still lingers. Therefore, after discussions with coach Dantonio and other members of the staff, we have mutually decided that I will complete my degree and seek the opportunity of a graduate transfer for my final year of football.

“To the entire Spartan Nation, to all of my teammates past and present, to coach Dantonio and the entire coaching staff, to all the trainers, managers and administrators – I offer my sincere apology and I thank you for the greatest four years of my life. I will always cherish the friendships, the memories and the journey. There is no doubt in my mind that the Spartan Dawgs will rise up and again return to being one of the strongest programs in college football. Forever Go Green, God Bless.

After starting all 14 games for the Spartans in 2015, Reschke started two of the first three this past season before an ankle injury knocked him out for the remainder of the year.  The junior missed the season opener because of another injury.

He had been expected to reassume his starting role this coming season prior to the off-field incident.

Earlier this monthThiyo Lukusa, the projected starter at right tackle, announced that he was leaving not only the football team but the sport, citing a loss of love and passion for the game.  Additionally, three unidentified football players as well as a football staffer were suspended amidst sexual assault allegations.