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CFT Predicts: the ACC

ACC Championship - Virginia Tech v Clemson Getty Images

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 ACC.  

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

Atlantic Division

1. Clemson (Last year: 11-2; beat LSU in Chick-fil-A Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Tigers shook their ‘Clemsoning’ curse and previous Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia by going 11-2 and beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

So why are they ranked here?
Offense, offense, offense. And some offense sprinkled in. Quarterback Tajh Boyd is a legitimate Heisman candidate and he’ll have Sammy Watkins to throw to for a third straight year. Watkins had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2012 — at least by his standards — because of a variety of issues, from a suspension to injuries, but he still finished second on the team in receiving yards. His touchdown production should rise again after getting in the end zone just four times.

Anything else?
The defense improved under first-year coordinator Brent Venables. With as good as the Tigers offense projects to be, there’s more wiggle room on that side of the ball. Also, can Clemson finally beat South Carolina after dropping four straight games?

2. Florida State (Last year: 12-2; beat NIU in Orange Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The ‘Noles won the ACC and beat NIU in the Orange Bowl. They also pulled their annual head-scratcher by losing to North Carolina State. The circle never ends, it seems.

So why are they ranked here?
Talent isn’t a question Tallahassee, but there are a lot of new faces. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston has a ton of upside at the quarterback spot, it just remains to be seen at this point how he handles his first year as starter. Wide receiver depth is becoming an issue too. The defensive line loses two pass rushers in Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner, but that’s an area stacked — almost unfairly — with capable players.

Anything else?
Florida State had a whopping 11 NFL draft picks in April, but Jimbo Fisher also had to replace roughly half his coaching staff. That’s a lot of turnover and it’ll be interesting to see how players and coaches jell this year.

3. Maryland (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Randy Edsall doubled his win total in year two with the Terps, but a linebacker was starting at quarterback by the end of the year because of injuries. Apparently, being a quarterback at Maryland can be equated to playing drums for Spinal Tap.

So why are they ranked here?
The quarterbacks are finally back with working knees and there is some talent on that side of the ball, namely wide receiver Sefon Diggs. Another running back will have to step up with Wes Brown being suspended for the year, though the running game in general needs to improve. The Terps also have to replace a sizable portion of their starting defensive front seven. Several of Maryland’s toughest games (Florida State, Virginia Tech) are on the road too.

Anything else?
It feels like wide receiver Deon Long has led the life of a traveled NFL veteran more than a college player, but he finally at Maryland. He was suspended this spring, but he should be a good addition to the passing game. He has the physical tools to make an impact, so he could be a player to watch.

4. Wake Forest (Last year: 5-7) 
What happened last season?
It was a tough season in hindsight for the Deacs when you consider they lost two games by an average of six points (against Maryland, Duke) that could have propelled them back into the postseason.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s some potential for this team, which returns a good portion of its starting 22 from a year ago. Tanner Price is a veteran quarterback and leading running back Josh Harris will be eligible to play in 2013. The problem is Wake Forest couldn’t find the end zone last year and were shut out twice. The defense wasn’t much better, but it does return eight guys from 2012.

Anything else?
There are plenty of manageable games on Wake’s schedule this year, including in the non-conference department. Getting back to a bowl is a realistic goal.

5. North Carolina State (Last year: 7-6; lost to Vanderbilt in Music City Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Though NC State hadn’t had a losing season since 2009, and despite upsetting Florida State, Tom O’Brien couldn’t keep his job. He’s replaced by former NIU coach Dave Doeren.

So why are they ranked here?
Turnover is rarely easy, and there’s a lot of it for the Wolfpack in 2013. In addition to a new coaching staff, this team loses quarterback Mike Glennon and, even though he had some disappointing moments in 2012, cornerback David Amerson. There’s plenty to be excited about with Doeren, but his first year could be rough.

Anything else?
If there’s one area of improvement to look for right away, it would be the ground game. NC State was among the worst rushing teams a year ago while NIU ranked 12th in the nation in that category. The offense does return its top two leading rushers from a year ago in Shadrach Thornton and Tony Creecy.

6. Syracuse (Last year: 8-5; beat West Virginia in Pinstripe Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Orange got off to a bit of a bumpy start, but won six of their final seven games in 2012. Two of those wins came in convincing fashion against Louisville and West Virginia.

So why are they ranked here?
The ‘Cuse lose coach Doug Marrone to the NFL and in comes Scott Shafer. The Orange are also entering a new conference with some key departures, including quarterback Ryan Nassib, wide receiver Alec Lemon and defensive back Shamarko Thomas — all leaders in their respective positions.

Anything else?
If there is one person to watch, it’s Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen. Though Shafer doesn’t plan on announcing a QB until the last possible moment, Allen is believed to be in a position to win the starting job. He played sparingly for the Sooners, but could be a key member of the offense for the Orange.

7. Boston College (Last year: 2-10)
What happened last season?
The Eagles won two games and Frank Spaziani got the long-awaited boot.

So why are they ranked here?
Former Temple coach Steve Addazio takes over and has, by all accounts, injected some energy into a program that desperately needs some. Whether that energy will turn into wins remains to be seen. This was an offense that couldn’t run the ball or score a year ago, but the passing duo of quarterback Chase Rettig and wide receiver Alex Amidon do give experience and play making ability to the passing game.

Anything else?
The front part of BC’s schedule is brutal, but there’s some room for the Eagles to make some noise toward the end of the year and build some momentum heading into 2014. The final two games against Maryland and Syracuse are on the road, but those aren’t impossible games to win.

Coastal Division

1. Miami (Last year: 7-5)
What happened last season?
The Hurricanes actually won a share of the Coastal Division, but they also self-imposed a postseason ban for the second straight year because of the ongoing NCAA investigation of the program.

So why are they ranked here?
Miami figures to have one of the more potent offenses in the entire conference thanks to the return of quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnsonwith the latter considered to be among the most exciting players to watch in the game. It’s the defense that has all the question marks for the ‘Canes. This was a team that was simply pushed around up front and gave up at least 40 points four times last year.

Anything else?
Give Al Golden credit. He’s identified the weakness on defense (not that it was too difficult) and recruited some immediate help. David Gilbert and Justin Renfrow join the team from Wisconsin and Virginia, respectively, and add an immediate boost along the defensive line.

2. North Carolina (Last year: 8-4)
What happened last season?
Like Miami, North Carolina had to watch the postseason from home thanks to a postseason ban. Unlike the Hurricanes, this was NCAA-mandated. Still the Tar Heels won eight games under first-year coach Larry Fedora.

So why are they ranked here?
There are two major departures from last year’s team: running back Giovani Bernard and offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper. Bernard received a bulk of the carries in the run game and had over 1,200 yards. So whether it’s one player — perhaps A.J. Blue – or a committee, that production will have to be replaced. But there are plenty of other playmakers on offense, including veteran QB Bryn Renner. Defense returns its entire secondary and should be an overall improved unit that fared well enough in Year 1 under Fedora.

Anything else?
UNC’s key stretch comes in the middle of the season. It starts with a road game at divisional opponent Georgia Tech and ends with another road game at North Carolina State. Get through that and a bulk of the Coastal Divsion contenders should be behind them by that point.

3. Virginia Tech (Last year: 7-6; beat Rutgers in Russell Athletic Bowl) 
What happened last season?
2012 was a disappointment by Virginia Tech’s standards. The Hokies needed overtime three times to pull out wins and there were some tough losses to Pitt and Cincinnati mixed in.

So why are they ranked here?
Primarily because health and depth are already concerns for Virginia Tech before a single regular season snap has been taken. Star cornerback Antone Exum will miss the season opener against Alabama and perhaps longer. The knee injury he sustained early this year was serious and there are few guarantees when it comes to a timeline for return. There’s been some attrition on both sides of the ball with various injuries and departures. If this team can get healthy as the season goes on, maybe it can make a run for the divisional title late in the season.

Anything else?
Scot Loeffler takes over as offensive coordinator. Quarterback Logan Thomas was, to say the least, inconsistent last year with just over a 50 percent completion rate and 18 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. He’s shown at times he can make tremendous throws, but he needs to be able to do it without a handful of bad throws and decisions in between. With Loeffler calling the plays, Thomas doesn’t need to throw for 4,000 yards — he just needs to play smarter.

4. Georgia Tech (Last year: 7-7; beat USC in the Sun Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Yellow Jackets backed their way into the ACC championship game, but embarrassed USC in the Sun Bowl. So, yeah. Georgia Tech came out ahead on that one.

So why are they ranked here?
Some key pieces of GT’s triple option are leaving, including Tevin Washington and Orwin Smith. But, Vad Lee moves in to take control of the offense, and he already saw plenty of game action last year. The defense ended up playing much better down the stretch last year after Al Groh was fired, so there’s definitely room to continue growing on that side of the ball.

Anything else?
Despite being a run-heavy offense, Georgia Tech has been known to have one big, physical receiver under Paul Johnson. Jeff Greene looked to be that guy until he left for Ohio State. Who will step up for the Yellow Jackets in that spot in 2013?

5. Pitt (Last year: 6-7; lost to Ole Miss in BBVA Compass Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Pitt got off to a tough start in Year 1 under Paul Chryst by losing to Youngstown State to start the season, but rebounded quickly by beating Virginia Tech in Week 3. The Panthers actually won and lost games in alternating pairs the entire way through the year before falling to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

So why are they ranked here?
After 14 years, 10 head coaches and 500 sacks, the Tino Sunseri era is finally over. Tom Savage, the former Rutgers quarterback who is also a veteran of the college game, enters 2013 as the starter. But there are a lot of concerns on offense, namely the running game. Ray Graham is gone and Rushel Shell, the running back figured to take bulk of the carries going forward, has moved on to West Virginia. Defense should be the strength of the team with defensive tackle Aaron Donald coming back along with a solid secondary that has safety Jason Hendricks, who led the team in tackles a year ago.

Anything else?
Pitt has the opportunity to make a huge first impression in the ACC if it can beat Florida State at home in Week 1. There are some tough games for the Panthers this season, including a road trip to Virginia Tech, and the Panthers are an unknown heading into ACC play.

6. Duke (Last year: 6-7; lost to Cincinnati in Belk Bowl)
What happened last season?
Duke became bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 under coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils ultimately lost a close game to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, but there was a lot to be happy with in 2012.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s little concern on offense. Even though quarterback Sean Renfree is gone, there’s a lot of buzz on Anthony Boone. Boone is a mobile guy who gives Cutcliffe another dimension to add to the offensive attack. If the ground game can improve, this is a team that could be tough to stop. Defense is a concern as it ranked among the worst in the country a year ago. The Blue Devils will probably find themselves in more than a couple shootouts this fall.

Anything else?
No matter where Duke finishes in the ACC this season, there’s something to be said for what Cutcliffe is building there. He’s had other opportunities to leave, and he’s chosen to stay. He’s one of the most well-regarded X’s and O’s coaches in the game and the Blue Devils should be in a position at the end of the year to possibly make it to a second straight bowl game.

7. Virginia (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Virginia got an early season win against Penn State when the Nittany Lions were struggling, and a late-season win over Miami. In between was when things were rough.

So why are they ranked here?
Mike London went with a coaching overhaul that brings in former North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien and Jon Tenuta as defensive coordinator. Defense should be the greater strength for UVA this year with a seasoned secondary. It’s the offense that needs work. Two quarterbacks from 2012 — Phillip Sims and Michael Rocco — are gone, so this is a team that will probably have to rely on its run game.

Anything else?
It’ll be interesting to see if Virginia can make strides with a restructured coaching staff, but wins could still be hard to come by with a tough schedule. BYU, Oregon and even Ball State make up a difficult non-conference slate, and the last four games against Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech is a rough way to end the year.

———————————————

John Taylor’s Prediction:

ATLANTIC
1. Clemson
2. Florida State
3. North Carolina State
4. Wake Forest
5. Maryland
6. Syracuse
7. Boston College

COASTAL
1. Miami
2. North Carolina
3. Georgia Tech
4. Virginia Tech
5. Pittsburgh
6. Virginia
7. Duke

Ben’s ACC champ: Clemson
John’s ACC champ: Clemson

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Nebraska uses Pelini’s heated comments to support decision to move on

Bo Pelini may be the head coach at Youngstown State now, but his final interaction with his previous players at Nebraska has certainly raised more than a few eyebrows. Pelini, rarely one to hold back his feelings, ripped into Nebraska Athletics Director Shawn Eichorst in a meeting with players held after he was relieved of his duties in Lincoln. He let loose, as the audio recording acquired by The Omaha World-Herald makes perfectly clear.

“A guy like (Eichorst) who has no integrity, he doesn’t even understand what a core value is,” Pelini told players, according to The Omaha World-Herald. “And he hasn’t understood it from the day he got here. I saw it when I first met with the guy.”

Pelini was just getting started.

“To have core values means you have to be about something, you have to represent something, you have to have something that is important to you,” Pelini added. “He is a f—— lawyer who makes policies. That’s all he’s done since he’s been here is hire people and make policies to cover his own ass.”

Pelini’s comments went on to become more vulgar and inappropriate for a family audience. Coaches are going to use some language you may not choose to use in front of children or your mother (you can listen to it here), but according to a follow-up statement from Nebraska this all put on display reasons why the university’s leadership felt it was time to move in a new direction.

Nebraska has not been able to officially confirm the recording is authentic or not, but a statement released following the original report expressed disappointment in Pelini’s choice of words and feelings and committed to the decision to remove him as head coach.

“If these comments were, indeed, spoken by Mr. Pelini, we are extremely disappointed, but it only reaffirms the decision that he should no longer be a leader of young men at Nebraska,” a statement from Nebraska reads.”His behavior is consistent with a pattern of unprofessional, disrespectful behavior directed by Mr. Pelini toward the passionate fans of Nebraska, employees of the university and, most concerning, our student-athletes. This behavior is not tolerated at the University of Nebraska and, among many other concerns, played a role in his dismissal.

“His behavior is consistent with a pattern of unprofessional, disrespectful behavior directed by Mr. Pelini toward the passionate fans of Nebraska, employees of the university and, most concerning, our student-athletes. This behavior is not tolerated at the University of Nebraska and, among many other concerns, played a role in his dismissal.”

Pelini’s tenure at Nebraska may be best known for the ability to win games but hitting a plateau without a conference championship. It will also be infamous for secret audio recordings that paint a negative picture getting out to the public.

But you can say this about Pelini. He’s an honest man and spits fire from his belly without hesitation. There is a certain level of respect that this trait may command.

Pelini now continues his head coaching career under a much dimmer spotlight at Youngstown State. Will comments like these prevent Pelini from returning to coach a program in the FBS again in the future? It is possible no AD will want to get mixed up with a hot head like Pelini, but he is a good coach and sometimes that is worth the risk. Just don’t upset him.

UPDATE (11:23 p.m.) - The Omaha World-Herald has released the full audio of Pelini’s meeting with Nebraska players. The audio does not come across nearly as hot-tempered as iniailyy suggested, but Pelini does not hold back in the state of Nebraska.

Listen to the audio here.

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Reports: WVU OC Shannon Dawson takes same job at Kentucky

Photo credit: West Virginia Athletics

West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson is taking his coaching game to Kentucky. The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Mountaineers will take on the role of offensive coordinator at Kentucky on the staff led by head coach Mark Stoops.

Football Scoop was among the first to report the coaching transition via Twitter. Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports followed up with a similar report shortly after via Twitter.

Dawson will have a chance to take on an increased role on the coaching staff at Kentucky. Instead of taking the lead of head coach Dana Holgorsen, Dawson will look to take charge with the offensive playcalling for the more defensive-minded Stoops in Lexington.

Dawson will have quarterback Patrick Towles to work with, and that should be a promising combination for the Wildcats. West Virginia was one of the top offensive teams in the Big 12 in the few years Dawson was the offensive coordinator. This season West Virginia averaged just over 500 yards per game and 33.2 points per game.

Kentucky’s offense showed some improvement this season, but the Wildcats need to improve on a SEC-worst red zone touchdown percentage and a poor third-down conversion success rate.

Dawson will reportedly continue in his role as offensive coordinator for West Virginia’s bowl game before moving to Lexington for his new job.

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Michigan raises stakes and goes all in on Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes

At this point in the coaching carousel one thing seems to be pretty clear. Michigan is waiting for a certain someone to become available, and they are willing to wait for the moment to be just right.There may be no other way to explain how Michigan would part ways with Brady Hoke a few days after the end of the regular season (a delay that seemed to confuse more fans than it calmed), when it was widely suspected another down season would spell the end of Hoke’s time in Ann arbor as early as last season, if not September or October.

So here we are, more than two weeks after Hoke was relieved of his duties, and the one top target on the dream list of many Michigan fans is now, reportedly, has received an offer from the Wolverines. Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, now has an offer valued at $8 million per year for six years according to Pro Football Talk. That is a lot of money. That is Nick Saban money, and then some.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network was one of the first to report news of the contract offer from Michigan to Harbaugh, via Twitter.

If these reports are accurate, Michigan is all in on the Harbaugh sweepstakes. At least Michigan is starting to show some signs of progress on the coaching search.

As Mike Florio writes on Pro Football Talk, if Michigan is willing to shell out that kind of money, the university is challenging other potential NFL opportunities to pony up to woo Harbaugh. Michigan certainly has the money, there is no doubt about that, although that seems like an awfully high amount of money to throw around. It suggests Michigan is both serious about luring Harbaugh back to school, and they are perhaps a little desperate to get this taken care of.

If Michigan does et Harbaugh at the price that is being reported, the Wolverines better hope it works out. And do not forget about the money being paid to a search firm for helping out with this process.

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Wisconsin makes hiring of Pitt’s Chryst officially official

Paul Chryst

The worst kept secret in this year’s coaching carousel is now out of the bag. Wisconsin has hired Paul Chryst, who had been the head coach at Pittsburgh. Wisconsin was expected to name Chryst the new head coach as soon as the vacancy opened up, but state law in Wisconsin prevented the school from extending any formal offers until Wednesday.

Chryst replaces Gary Andersen, who left Wisconsin for a lateral move to Oregon State after two years in Madison and one trip to the Big Ten championship game. Chryst may not have the accolades of a great coaching hire, he was .500 in his time at Pittsburgh, but there is much more to like about this coaching move at Wisconsin than the numbers would suggest.

Chryst is a Madison native, he played at Wisconsin for athletics director Barry Alvarez and he left Pittsburgh after a well-respected run as offensive coordinator under Bret Bielema. Now that he has a few years of head coaching experience under his belt, he arrives in Madison a more experienced option than he would have been immediately after Bielema left to coach Arkansas. His Wisconsin roots should play well with the fans and the Wisconsin program as well.

As for Pittsburgh, the search is now officially ongoing for its next head coach. Pittsburgh previously was reported to have reached out to former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. Whether Pittsburgh has any options out there that could come home in similar fashion as Chryst to Wisconsin remains to be seen, although it certainly would be nice to see Pittsburgh find its own stability at the position one of these years.

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Five-year old boy sent UAB his $1 allowance to try and help save UAB football

UAB FOOTBALL PROGRAM SHUT DOWN 12-2-14

When I was young I saved my allowance to buy baseball cards and Nintendo games. One five-year old in Ohio decided to spend his hard-earned allowance to try to save UAB football.

Bennett Williams, from Dublin, Ohio, is an Ohio State fan but adopted UAB as his second favorite team after thinking the logo for the Blazers was pretty cool. When word of UAB shutting down its football program made its way to the young boy, a will to do all he can to save the program led him to write a letter to the school, accompanied by his allowance money (one dollar). Every little bit helps, right?

The letter, as transcribed by Al.com, reads as follows;

“DEAR UAB. I LOVE OHIO STATE, BUT I THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE FOOTBALL, TOO. HERE IS ONE DOLLAR TO HELP! – BENNETT”

The letter did not go unread. UAB athletics department, Reid Adair, replied with thanks to Bennett for his letter and followed up by sending a nice little care package of UAB merchandise.

Bennett’s allowance may not have been enough to save the UAB football program, but it should do plenty to restore your faith in humanity.

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Neck condition ends career for Ohio State offensive tackle

Sometimes you just have to step away from football in order to ensure your own health and safety. Sometimes that decision is made for you by doctors. That is the case for Ohio Sate offensive tackle Kyle Dodson, who has been ruled medically ineligible to play for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State has announced that Dodson has a neck condition that will medically disqualify him from continuing to play football. Dodson was hoping to make a crack at the starting offensive line this season, but injury concerns took priority this season.

Dodson appeared in one game this season after backing up Jack Mewhort for the past two seasons. Dodson’s injury history started in high school with a back injury and shoulder surgery before arriving at Ohio State. The shoulder surgery held him back as a freshman once he arrived in Columbus. Unfortunately, that may have been a sign of things to come.

There is no word on whether or not Dodson will stick around with the team in some capacity, although in times and situations like these it is common to see players find some way to remain involved in some capacity. Here’s to hoping Dodson can remain a part of the Buckeyes program in some capacity, if he so desires.

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Key offensive Sooners should be ready for Russell Athletic Bowl

Samaje Perine

With the bowl season about the get started, Oklahoma is optimistic about the status of three key players on offense. Quarterback Trevor Knight, running back Samaje Perine and wide receiver Sterling Shepard are all expected to be available to play for the Sooners when they face Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Head coach Bob Stoops provided the optimistic update of his three main offensive ingredients on Wednesday. Knight was cleared to play in the bowl game last week. That has been the plan for a while, since Knight was knocked out of a game against Baylor in early November. Knight has missed playing time due to a neck injury, but a return for the bowl game was always the goal. Nothing appears to have changed on that front, and that is good news for Oklahoma.

Perine has been working through a sprained ankle that was suffered in Oklahoma’s regular season finale loss to Oklahoma State. The star freshman running back led the Sooners with 1,579 rushing ards and 21 touchdowns this season.

Shepard is one of Oklahoma’s top wide receivers. He has been out of action since suffering a groin injury on November 1. Shepard leads Oklahoma with 957 receiving yards and five touchdowns despite the injury slowing him down at times.

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Former winners Swinney, Patterson two of 12 finalists for Dodd Trophy

David Cutcliffe, Bill Curry

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and TCU’s Gary Patterson claimed the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Trophy in 2011 and 2009, respectively.  In 2014, both coaches are up for the same honor yet again.

Tuesday evening, the Dodd Trophy released its list of 12 finalists for this season’s version of the trophy.  Five of the dozen finalists coach in the SEC, with the ACC and the Big 12, with two apiece, the only other conferences with more than one finalist.

Three of the four coaches whose teams earned a spot in the College Football Playoff made the cut: Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Alabama’s Nick Saban.  The only playoff coach left out”  Oregon’s Mark Helfrich.

Of the 12 finalists, 11 hail from Power Five conferences.  The lone exception was Boise State’s Bryan Harsin.

Last year’s winner was Duke’s David Cutcliffe.  The winner of the 2014 Dodd Trophy will be announced in Atlanta during Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl week.

2014 Dodd Trophy Finalists

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Report: Oregon fears Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sustained serious knee injury

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

When it comes to the first-ever College Football Playoff, this could turn into a significant development.

According to Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sustained what’s believed to be a serious knee injury during practice Tuesday. Getlin writes that the “[c]oncern [is] it’s a torn ACL.”  Aaron Fentress of CSNNW.com subsequently confirmed the original report, adding that the player is “done for the playoffs.”

UO officials have yet to address Ekpre-Olomu’s status moving forward. The fear is, though, is that the senior will miss the CFP semifinal matchup in the Rose Bowl with Florida State.

If that were to happen, it’d serve as a significant blow to the Ducks.

Ekpre-Olomu was recently named first-team All-Pac-12, the third consecutive year its been accorded that honor, as well as a first-team Associated Press All-American. He’s started 40 straight games for the Ducks, and is viewed as a likely first- or second-round selection in next year’s NFL draft.

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Former ‘Bama RB Alvin Kamara officially a Vol

Alvin Kamara

In June, Alvin Kamara verbally committed to continue his collegiate career at Tennessee.  Six months later, the running back followed through on that verbal pledge.

Wednesday, UT confirmed that Kamara has signed with the Vols.  Today is the first day junior college players can sign with FBS programs; Kamara spent the 2014 season at the JUCO level.

It was confirmed in January of this year that Kamara would be transferring from Alabama after just one season.  During that one year in Tuscaloosa, Kamara racked up more suspensions (two) than carries (zero).  In February, Kamara was arrested on multiple misdemeanor traffic offenses.

Coming out of Norcross, Ga., as a four-star recruit, Kamara was rated as the No. 2 all-purpose back in the country in the Class of 2013.  He’s rated as a four-star prospect this go-around too.

Prior to settling on Tennessee, Kamara had also shown interest in Clemson and Georgia.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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USC will go bowling without starting DT Antwaun Woods

Colorado v USC Getty Images

An injury will leave USC’s defensive line at less than 100-percent for the postseason.

According to the Orange County Register, Antwaun Woods sustained what was originally described as a strained pec during practice this past Saturday.  However, the injury was more than a simple strain as Woods posted a picture of himself on Instagram laying in a hospital bed.

“Fresh outta surgery, I told Coach I’m ready to play, I got too much heart for this s***! I promise I’ll be back even stronger than before!” Woods wrote on the social media website.

Woods surgery

Despite saying he’s “ready to play,” the redshirt junior nose tackle is expected to miss the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl against Nebraska.

This season, Woods started 10 of the Trojans’ 12 games after starting six in 2013 and four in 2012.  He’s currently third among USC lineman in tackles with 37.

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North Texas hires Chris Cosh as DC

Chris Cosh

Lil’ Ben, this post’s for you.

At the end of the 2014 season, John Skladany retired as North Texas’ defensive coordinator.  A couple of weeks later, Dan McCarney has his replacement as UNT announced that Chris Cosh has been hire to take over the Mean Green defense.

Cosh spent the 2014 season as the University of Buffalo’s defensive line coach.

“Chris has a tremendous blend of experience and success and comes highly recommended by some of the most respected football coaches at both the collegiate and professional levels,” the head coach said in a statement. “He has a proven track record as a coordinator and linebacker coach in the Big Ten Conference, the SEC and the Big 12 and his reputation as a tireless recruiter precedes him. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Chris to the Mean Green family.”

Cosh has served as a coordinator for 16 of his 30 seasons in coaching, including time at Kansas State, Maryland, South Carolina, Michigan State, Illinois and USF.

(Photo credit: Buffalo athletics)

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Travin Dural puts off NFL, will return to LSU

Travin Dural, Brian Poole

More so than any other football program of late, LSU has been hit hard by early departures to the NFL.  At least on one front this year, however, the Tigers were spared such a hit.

In a conversation with Baton Rouge television sports reporter Michael Cauble Tuesday, Travin Dural confirmed that he will forego early entry into the NFL draft and return to LSU for another season.  A redshirt sophomore, Dural would be eligible for early entry into the NFL draft as he’s three years removed from high school.

LSU has lost 16 players to early entry the last two years, but, as noted by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the NFL has somewhat tweaked its procedures for this year’s class.

A maximum of five players from each school will receive a draft grade [from the NFL’s advisory panel] and the grades will be of three types: first round, second round or to return to school.

Regardless of the why, Dural’s return is a significant one.

In 2014, Dural was far and away the Tigers’ leader in receptions (37) receiving yards (758) and receiving touchdowns (seven).  The next closest was Trey Quinn‘s 17 catches and Malachi Dupre‘s 318 yards.

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Colorado State to interview UGA OC Mike Bobo for vacancy

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When it comes to Mike Bobo, the Georgia faithful has a love-hate relationship — a sizable chunk of them love to hate him.  Depending on how things go over the next few days, though, they might not have the offensive coordinator to kick around anymore.

Tuesday, speculation began bubbling just below the surface that Bobo was potentially a candidate to fill the head-coaching vacancy at Colorado State.  That speculation surfaced again Wednesday, with UGA athletic director Greg McGarity confirming that Bobo will interview for the CSU job.

Bobo informed head coach Mark Richt of the impending interview Tuesday, with Richt informing McGarity later that day.  Per 247Sports.com, “Bobo’s contract requires him to make higher-ups aware of legitimate interest from other employers.”

For those excited about a potential Bobo departure, you might want to tap the brakes on the excitement.

Bobo, a former Bulldog quarterback, has been a part of Richt’s staff since 2001.  At first solely the quarterbacks coach, Bobo was promoted to coordinator in 2007.

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Oliver Luck stepping down as WVU AD, taking job at NCAA

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In October of 2013, Oliver Luck was reportedly the top target for Texas in its search for a new athletic director.  While West Virginia held onto its athletic director then, it appears there’s no such luck, so to speak, this time around.

According to Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail, Luck will step down as WVU’s athletic director to take a position with the NCAA.  In confirming Casazza’s report, ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy tweeted that “Luck’s new position at NCAA will be second in command behind NCAA President Mark Emmert.”

An official announcement is expected at some point today.

Luck was hired by WVU in June of 2012, coming back to his alma mater from the private sector.  In the late seventies and on into the early eighties, Luck played quarterback for the Mountaineers.

Andrew Luck, Oliver’s son, is the starting quarterback of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.  As luck would have it, the NCAA’s offices are located in the city of Indianapolis.  Whether that had any impact on the elder Luck’s decision is unknown.

The impact of Luck’s departure won’t be limited solely to WVU. This year, Luck was one of the 12 members of the College Football Playoff selection committee.  Each of the Power Five conferences have one current athletic director on the committee; because of Luck’s new position, the Big 12 will be forced to find a replacement for 2015.

Look for Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione‘s name to be mentioned heavily in that capacity.

UPDATED 11:01 a.m. ET: The NCAA confirmed in a press release that Oliver Luck has been named as the executive vice president of regulatory affairs. The newly-created position is described as bringing “the national office regulatory functions – academic and membership affairs, the Eligibility Center and enforcement – under one umbrella.” “In particular,” the release stated, Luck “will be charged with developing stronger integration among regulatory staffs, improving efficiency and strengthening relationships with NCAA colleges and universities.”

“I am very pleased to have Oliver joining our team in the national office,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “He brings to us wide ranging, hands-on experience from across athletic, academic, and business worlds. Most important, his commitment to the success and well-being of our student-athletes is unquestionable. He has demonstrated that commitment on the ground and throughout his life. I’m anxious for him to get started with us.”

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