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 

Utah State continues filling holes on Matt Wells’ Aggies staff

Matt Wells
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Departures had left Matt Wells with myriad openings on his Utah State coaching staff.  Earlier this week, Wells filled one hole on the offensive side of the ball; a day later, he turned to the defensive side.

The university confirmed Wednesday that Julius Brown has been added by Wells as cornerbacks coach.  Brown had spent the past two seasons as the secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Mountain West rival Boise State.

Brown, who played his college football with the Broncos, and his alma mater reportedly parted ways earlier this year.  The Idaho Statesman reported at the time that “[i]t was unclear if Brown’s departure would be termed a resignation or a firing.”

Prior to his first tenure at BSU, Brown was a secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Arkansas State (2013) and cornerbacks coach at Troy (2012).

“We are excited to add Julius to the Aggie football family,” said Wells. “He brings a lot of experience to our staff and team as both a secondary coach and former defensive back, and also has a reputation as an outstanding recruiter. He possesses key knowledge of the Mountain West that will aid us moving forward in our quest to win a conference championship.”

With the hiring of Brown, Wells still has a need for running backs and tight ends coaches as well as special teams coordinator.

Texas confirms it will ‘part ways’ with DBs coach Chris Vaughn

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Head coach Charlie Strong of the Texas Longhorns at Cotton Bowl on October 11, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Following up on reports that surfaced earlier today, Texas head coach Charlie Strong has confirmed in a statement that Chris Vaughn is no longer a member of his Longhorns coaching staff.

“Chris did a tremendous job for us,” the statement from Strong began. “He’s a terrific football coach and a great person.  However, circumstances have put us in a position that we are going to part ways.”

While those circumstances weren’t specified, it’s believed they’re tied to the NCAA’s investigation into the Ole Miss football program.

From 2008-11, Vaughn was an assistant under Houston Nutt with the Rebels.  One report in connection to Vaughn’s ouster at UT stated that “the facts against Vaughn [in the Ole Miss case] ‘were damning,'” while another said the “NCAA has a ‘thick file’ on Vaughn.”

Vaughn had spent the past two seasons as Strong’s defensive backs coach.  While his two-year contract had expired late last month, he had an option for a third year that, prior to the Ole Miss developments, was expected to be picked up by the football program.

Miss. St. confirms Maurice Linguist’s addition to Dan Mullen’s staff

STARKVILLE, MS - SEPTEMBER 19:  Head Coach Dan Mullen of the Mississippi State Bulldogs on the sidelines during a game against the Northwestern State Demons at Davis Wade Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Starkville, Mississippi.  The Bulldogs defeated the Demons 62-13.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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For the third time this offseason, Dan Mullen has added a new face to his Mississippi State defensive staff.

The latest addition is Maurice Linguist, who the school confirmed Thursday has been hired as to coach the safeties for the Bulldogs. Linguist had spent the past two seasons as Iowa State’s defensive passing game coordinator.

“Maurice is a very sharp person with a bright future in the coaching profession,” a statement from Mullen read. “His knowledge of the game is exceptional, while his teaching and communication skills will resonate well with our players. We are happy to have him in Starkville and look forward to the impact he will make on our team.”

“I am excited to be a part of the tradition that Coach Mullen has established in his tenure here at Mississippi State,” Linguist said. “It’s a privilege to be a Bulldog, to coach in the Southeastern Conference and to mentor the dynamic safeties we have on this team.”

Linguist’s first on-field job at the FBS level came at Buffalo in 2012-13, holding the same job title he had at ISU. After finishing up his playing career at Baylor — as a safety he was team MVP and honorable mention All-Big 12 selection — he began his coaching career at his alma mater as a grad assistant in 2007.

The 31-year-old assistant has also spent time on staffs at Valdosta State (2008, defensive backs/special teams) and James Madison (2009-11, safeties).

Linguist joins Peter Sirmon (defensive coordinator) and Terrell Buckley (secondary) as coaches Mullen has hired over the past three weeks.

Ole Miss NCAA case to cost Texas assistant his job?

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 05:  The Texas Longhorns mascot "Bevo" is walked onto the field before the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 5, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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It appears the tentacles of an NCAA investigation centered in Oxford could ultimately have an impact on Austin as well.

247Sports.com was the first to report that Texas and defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn are expected to part ways.  The recruiting website writes that “[i]t is unclear whether Vaughn will resign or be fired.”

Subsequent to that initial report, multiple media outlets have reported the same.

It surfaced late last month that the Ole Miss football program, the subject of an NCAA investigation, had received a Notice of Allegations from The Association regarding alleged violations in three sports, including football. There were 28 total violations spread out amongst the sports, 13 of which reportedly involved football — with nine of those occurring since Hugh Freeze took over for Houston Nutt in December of 2011.

Vaughn was a member of Nutt’s Rebels coaching staff from 2008-11 when four of the alleged NCAA violations occurred, and from which his current employment issue currently stems:

Vaughn, who was an assistant at Ole Miss six years ago, may have been implicated in part of the NCAA allegations recently levied against Ole Miss.

Vaughn coached for the Rebels from 2008 to 2011 and served as the team’s defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator. Sources tell Horns247 the facts against Vaughn “were damning.”

And then there’s this ominous-sounding Twitter update from Brian Davis of the Austin-American Statesman:

Vaughn has spent the past two seasons with Charlie Strong and the Longhorns, and has been a key recruiting component for the program.  In between his stints at Ole Miss and Texas, Vaughn was the cornerbacks coach at Memphis from 2012-13.