Skip to content

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

Permalink 18 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Articles, Atlantic Coast Conference, Boston College Eagles, Clemson Tigers, Duke Blue Devils, Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Maryland Terrapins, Miami Hurricanes, NC State Wolfpack, North Carolina Tar Heels, Pittsburgh Panthers, Rumor Mill, Syracuse Orange, Top Posts, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons
yo

Minnesota, UCLA added to Fresno State’s future slates

Fresno State v UCLA Getty Images

Last week, Alabama confirmed reports of a future game with Fresno State. This week, the Left Coast FSU confirmed a couple of additional future games with Power Five programs.

In a press release, Fresno announced that it has reached an agreement for a one-off game with UCLA. Additionally, an agreement has been reached for a home-and-home series with Minnesota.

The Bulldogs’ game against the Bruins will take place in Los Angeles on Sept. 18, 2021, three years after a previously-announced game between the two programs will have been played. The series with the Gophers will involve a trip to Minneapolis for a Sept. 8, 2018 game, with a Sept. 7, 2019, return game in Fresno scheduled to conclude the contract.

“These games reflect our future scheduling philosophy as we look to find consistency over a 10-year period where we can create opportunities to bring in necessary income for the athletic department while also being able to showcase Fresno State football across the country,” FSU athletic director Jim Bartko said in a statement. “We will always look to balance our schedules with a mix of big-time opponents coming into Bulldog Stadium for the Red Wave to see.”

Fresno and Minnesota have never met in football. Fresno and UCLA have met eight times previously, with the latter holding a 6-2 edge in the series; the former, though, has won the last two — 17-9 in the 2003 Silicon Valley Bowl in 2003, 36-31 in a 2008 road win.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Court says LSU lawsuit vs. John Chavis will stay in Louisiana

John Chavis

Things may not be looking all that great for LSU in the headlines lately, but things certainly have gone slightly better in the courtroom. The victory came against former defensive coordinator John Chavis, in that the lawsuit filed by LSU against Chavis will continue while another legal battle between Chavis and Texas A&M is ongoing.

“The court is concerned there is any way the Texas court can keep this case,” State District Judge Timothy Kelley said, according to The Advocate, with regard to the lawsuit in Texas. “I don’t see how they can have jurisdiction.”

Last November Chavis and LSU reached an agreement for a one-year contract extension. Not long after that though, Chavis packed his bags and headed to Texas A&M instead. His hiring at Texas A&M was made official in February. Now LSU is pursuing a $400,000 buyout from Chavis, which the former defensive coordinator says he is not on the hook for. Chavis believes Texas A&M owes LSU that six-figure buyout. Texas A&M thinks Chavis should pay it. It’s a bit complicated.

Right now the parties involved are having a legal battle to determine which state will get to host the lawsuit, which is the legal equivalent of flipping a coin for home-field advantage. Eitgher way, LSU is going to get paid $400,000. It is just a matter of that money comes directly from Chavis or Texas A&M. Or perhaps some sort of settlement could come into play, with Chavis and Texas A&M each paying some part of a reduced buyout. Who knows where this goes from here.

Permalink 4 Comments Back to top

Academic leaders question Oregon’s football budget

Rose Bowl - Oregon v Florida State Getty Images

We all have come to a pretty general understanding that sports drives revenue for universities, with football bringing the most money into the university. No athletic program generates as much income as Oregon (thanks Nike!), but academic leaders in Eugene would like to see more of that money be put to academic uses.

“Our administration needs to take more responsibility to fully exploit the opportunity that our athletic department provides — on behalf of our students, our faculty and our institution,”former business school dean Dennis Howard said Friday, per The Register-Guard. He was not alone in challenging Oregon officials to think hard about how the budget will be formed.

“It would be really good if we were all in this together and the athletic department was trying to help the rest of the university,”Oregon economics professor Bill Harbaugh said.

Oregon football really cashed in this past year with an appearance in the College Football Playoff championship game, not to mention the revenue share it receives from the Pac-12 and any money funneled in through its relationship with Phil Knight of Nike. The problem some have with all of the money coming in through Oregon athletics is every dime of it is spent on athletics.

“They have $98 million in revenue and, strangely, exactly $98 million in expenses,” Howard explained. “If you look back year after year, you will find that revenue and expenses match up almost to a penny. … When they get extra TV revenue, they do what they just did in February. They go to the president and the Board of Trustees and the coaches and the athletic director get raises, so expenses go up.”

There is something to be said for a football program that is capable of being self-sufficient in its operations, and it is far better than operating in the red on an annual basis. But how much should Oregon’s athletics department be contributing to the academic side of things? There may be no perfect answer to this question.

Permalink 11 Comments Back to top

LSU dismisses DT Trey Lealaimatafao following bar fight arrest

Les Miles

There will be no team vote when it comes to the status of defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao at LSU. Les Miles has sent him packing.

In a brief statement released Monday afternoon, LSU announced Lealaimatafao has been dismissed from the team by Miles. The statement confirmed the dismissal is a reaction to an off-field incident involving Lealaimatafao previously reported.

“Trey is no longer a member of our football team,” Miles said in his brief statement. “We have gathered information on this incident and we feel it’s best for us to part ways.”

Earlier this month Lealaimatafao was arrested and charged for simple battery and simple robbery. The incident allegedly occurred in the parking lot of a bar in Baton Rouge. According to the original reports, Lealaimatafao beat another man unconscious and punched that alleged victim’s girlfriend in the face. As if that was not enough, he also allegedly picked the male victim’s pockets before fleeing.

Permalink 13 Comments Back to top

With attendance plummeting, Akron president says he “would not have built that stadium”

Terry Bowden, Kyle Pohl

When Akron opened the doors on InfoCision Stadium in 2009, the university likely did not expect to see such a poor draw in home attendance just six years later. Now there is almost nowhere to go but up.

The NCAA football attendance records show Akron had a total of 55,019 fans come out to see an Akron home game. That would be really good for the Zips if it were just for one game. It wasn’t. That was the total home attendance for Akron for the entire 2014 season. As noted by The Akron Beacon Journal, that is roughly half of the total home attendance from the 2009 season for Akron, which also included six home games. And to show you the complete other end of the spectrum of college football in the state of Ohio, Ohio State set an all-time spring game record of 99,391 fans at this year’s spring game. The drop in attendance has caused Akron president Scott Scarborough to admit he may have gone a different way if he was involved in the past planning.

I would not have built that stadium,” Scarborough said to The Beacon Journal. InfoCision Stadium was built with a price tag of $61.6 million, part of an expansive $300 million project across the university. Make no mistake about it, Akron was in need of a new football stadium after playing years in the old Rubber Bowl, a venue that was off-campus and cost more to maintain than projected with an on-campus stadium. It should be noted Scarborough was not a member of the Akron community at the time the stadium plans were approved. He was the Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration at The University of Toledo and Medical Center.

So what was to blame? It’s not really that hard to figure out when you go back and look at Akron’s record in previous seasons. After winning just three games in 2009, Akron had back-to-back-to-back 1-11 seasons, a stretch that included a coaching change to bring in Terry Bowden. The past two seasons have shown signs of improvement, with two straight 5-7 seasons heading into 2015.

It is also worth mentioning the MAC’s schedule includes a number of weekday games later in the season. That resulted in two Tuesday night games at Akron in November, which is a tough time slot to attract fans to games. The 2015 schedule should be better for Akron fans though, with five home games played on a Saturday, and that includes a home game against Pittsburgh.

Permalink 6 Comments Back to top

Ex-UCLA QB Asiantii Woulard on his way to USF

Nevada v UCLA Getty Images

Weeks after announcing his intention to transfer from UCLA, quarterback Asiantii Woulard has reportedly found a  new place to call home. The Winter Park, Florida product will be heading a bit closer to home, as Woulard announced he will transfer to USF.

“Decided to come home and play at the University of South Florida,” Woulard said on Twitter. “No past regrets at all, but looking forward to a new beginning in Tampa!”

Woulard will be forced to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he will be eligible to compete for the starting job in Tampa starting in 2016.

Permalink 3 Comments Back to top

A quick review of this year’s realignment changes in college football

NCAA Football Navy Midshipmen vs Army Black Knights

In just two more days the latest round of college football realignment changes will become official. Don’t worry, the changes happening this season will barely move the Richter Scale compared to the seismic changes in past years. The realignment phase has died down in recent years, although we are keeping eyes on the Big 12 just in case. July 1 is the date on the NCAA calendar when any realignment changes become official, so it is worth reviewing just what changes are happening for this season so you are not confused later on.

There will be no changes in the power conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC), but there are some minor modifications in the Group of Five. Here they are.

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

The conference with Big East roots will welcome Navy to the brotherhood this fall. The Midshipmen will be setting course for conference membership for the first time in program history after over a century as a football independent. With Navy now on board, the American Athletic Conference will have 12 football-playing members, split into two separate divisions and begin playing a conference championship game. The conference championship game will be played at the campus of the division champion with the best conference record (don’t worry, there are tie breakers in place).

AAC East: UCF, Cincinnati, UConn, East Carolina, South Florida, Temple

AAC West: Houston, Memphis, Navy, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa

CONFERENCE USA

Conference USA will officially put UNC Charlotte in the conference football schedule this season, but of course there will be no UAB in 2015. UAB’s short-term decision to shut down the football program has since been reversed, but the damage had already been done. The Blazers have no program to field in 2015, and they may not return until 2017. So in the meantime Conference USA will have 13 members on the football field. In a way, Charlotte will replace UAB for the 2015 season in the East Division. Everything else will pretty much be the same in Conference USA.C-USA East: FAU, FIU, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, UNC Charlotte, Western Kentucky

C-USA East: FAU, FIU, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, UNC Charlotte, Western Kentucky

C-USA West: Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Rice, Southern Mississippi, UTEP, UTSA

MAC

No changes in the MAC this season, but this is the last season UMass will be scheduled to be an associate member in the conference. There has been no update on what the Minutemen will be doing in 2016 and beyond, so stay on the lookout for news on that front.

Sun Belt Conference

Again, no changes to mention for the Sun Belt Conference, but it is worth mentioning Georgia Southern and Appalachian State will be elihgible for postseaosn play this season should they meet the NCAA postseason win minimum during the regular season. Georgia Southern won the Sun Belt Conference championship last season but was prohibited from playing in the postseason due to the transition restrictions for programs moving up from FCS to FBS.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

SEC SIDs pick Auburn vs. Georgia for SEC title

NCAA Football - Aurburn vs Georgia - November 12, 2005

Alabama may be the defending SEC champions heading into the 215 season, but it is their Iron Bowl rival that is receiving the most praise and favorite label in the SEC in most college football circles this offseason. The addition of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator is one of the most noteworthy assistant coaching changes this year, and the Tigers return some good talent on the field in 2015. Now, according to their hard-working sports information directors that make the lives of college football media types so much easier on a daily basis, Auburn is the favorite to play for the SEC title in 2015. Their opponent? Georgia.

All 14 SIDs in the SEC were polled by Al.com, and Auburn received three first-place votes and three second-place votes from the seven ballots from SEC West representatives. Alabama received an equal number of first-place votes and one fewer second-place vote. Georgia was a more clear favorite in the other division, receiving six of seven first-place votes. Missouri was the lone program receiving the one first-place vote not awarded to the Bulldogs. Missouri has played in the SEC Championship Game each of the past two seasons representing the SEC East. As noted by Al.com, SIDs could not vote for their own school.

If these predictions hold true, we will get a preview of the SEC Championship Game in mid-November. Georgia will visit Auburn on November 14.

Auburn and Georgia have 10 combined appearances in the SEC Championship Game, but have never faced each other in Atlanta.

Permalink 10 Comments Back to top

Notre Dame RB Greg Bryant reportedly will be suspended for September

Greg Bryant, Brian Walker

With Everett Golson in Tallahassee and Malik Zaire the Captain Jack Sparrow of the offense, Notre Dame should be expected to run the ball quite a bit this fall. Rising junior running back Greg Bryant won’t be a part of that equation in September.

The former five-star recruit will be suspended likely for the first four games of the season, according to Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson. Irish247 first reported Bryant’s suspension and the four-game ban.

If Bryant’s suspension — which has not been announced by Notre Dame — is indeed for four games, he’d miss Sept. 5 vs. Texas, Sept. 12 at Virginia, Sept. 19 vs. Georgia Tech and Sept. 26 vs. UMass. The first game in which he’d be eligible to play would be a pivotal matchup against Clemson Oct. 3 in South Carolina.

While the optics of suspending a former big-time recruit aren’t good, there’s reason to think Notre Dame can absorb his absence with the backfield combination of Zaire, Tarean Folston and C.J. Prosise. In a 31-28 Music City Bowl win over LSU, those three players handled 46 of Notre Dame’s 51 carries and totaled 244 of its 263 yards.

Prosise began cross-training at running back during spring practice and possesses the big-play ability Notre Dame’s been trying to coax out of Bryant since he arrived on campus two summers ago. Folston is a steady, reliable back who doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses to his game. And Zaire is a read option whiz with a physical, downhill running style.

It’s also worth noting Notre Dame’s entire wide receiver corps returns from last year, headlined by Will Fuller and his 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Bryant rushed 54 times for 289 yards and three touchdowns in 2014 as he largely was stuck behind Folston and Cam McDaniel on the Irish depth chart.

Permalink 8 Comments Back to top

Utah State dismisses top WR/returner JoJo Natson

JoJo Natson

The news when it comes to the Utah State football program isn’t limited to an automobile accident.

The Aggies announced very early Monday morning in a press release that JoJo Natson has been dismissed from the football program.  Not surprisingly, the reason for the dismissal is your garden-variety violation of unspecified team rules.

“We are extremely disappointed anytime we have to make a decision regarding the future of one of our student-athletes,” head coach Matt Wells said in a statement. “We will continue to support JoJo as he moves forward in his career.”

Natson’s forced departure will serve as blow to both the Aggies’ offense and special teams.

Last season, Natson’s 51 receptions and 504 receiving yards were second on the team. For that, he was named honorable mention All-Mountain West.

Additionally, Natson earned first-team All-MWC honors as a punt returner as he ranked first in the conference and tied for third in the nation with two punt returns for touchdowns, and first in the MWC and 10th in the nation in punt returns (11.7 ypr).

Oh, and, for good measure, Natson carried the ball 50 times for 498 yards (10.0 ypc) with three touchdowns in 2014.

And then there’s this tidbit from the school: “Natson… was the only FBS player in the nation during both the 2013 and 2014 seasons to record multiple touchdowns rushing, receiving and returning as he had three rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns and two punt return touchdowns as both a sophomore and junior.”

Suffice to say, he — and his production — will be missed.

Permalink 3 Comments Back to top

Two USU Aggies released from hospital following car wreck

Paul Piukala Taylor Graham

Thankfully, there’s some additional good news coming out of a potentially tragic situation.

In a press release, Utah State announced that two of its football players, senior defensive lineman John Taylor and redshirt defensive lineman Adewale Adeoye, were released from a hospital Sunday afternoon.  Adeoye and Taylor were two of five individuals injured in a car wreck late last week.

Two of the other three victims, defensive linemen Travis Seefeldt and redshirt junior Edmund Faimalo, are football players and remain hospitalized, as does former USU softball player Sara Vasquez.  The extent of the injuries sustained by anyone involved in the accident has yet to be released.

“First and foremost, thank you to everyone who has had these five Aggie student-athletes in their thoughts and prayers, including numerous representative from the Mountain West Conference and its member institutions,” said USU interim Athletics director Jana Doggett in a statement. “We also want to thank the first responders and all of the medical personnel who have worked so tirelessly to provide the best care possible to our family members. Everyone associated with Aggie Athletics, from its coaches, student-athletes, administrators, boosters and fans, are extremely thankful for the good news we have heard over the past two days on the condition of those involved in the accident. They are truly blessed.”

There remains no word on what impact the incident will have on the availability for the upcoming season of any of the players involved.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Continuing Penn State series ‘a priority’ for new Pitt AD

Scott Barnes, Patrick Gallagher

While most, if not all, of the Pittsburgh fan base — and college football as a whole, really — would like to see the resumption of the Backyard Brawl, it’s an in-state rivalry that tops the to-do list of the new head of Pittsburgh’s athletic department.

Back in May, the head coaches at Pitt and Penn State, Pat Narduzzi and James Franklin, respectively, called for extending the Panther-Nittany Lion rivalry beyond the four-game series, which begins in 2016 and was announced back in 2011. The former’s boss agrees with that sentiment.

In wide-ranging interviews with both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Scott Barnes, who started as Pitt’s new athletic director earlier this month, stated that the first phone call he made in his new post was to his counterpart at Penn State, Sandy Barbour. The discussion? Ensuring that she knows he considers the football series between the two programs a priority.

“Penn State, for us, we want to play that game as long as we can, home-and-home,” Barnes said. “We’re working hard to try to move that forward.”

While resuming the rivalry with West Virginia “is an important factor,” Barnes said, “Penn State’s a priority.”

Pitt and Penn State have a pair of home-and series scheduled for 2016-2019. The series, first played in 1893, has been on hiatus since 2000, a 12-0 win for Pitt at Three Rivers Stadium. Penn State, however, leads the all-time series 50-42-4.

Pitt and WVU, meanwhile, have squared off 104 times on the gridiron, with the first coming 1895. That series went on hiatus after the 2011 season when WVU moved from the Big East to the Big 12 and, a year later, Pitt from the same conference to the ACC.

There has been talk of resuming that rivalry, although nothing yet has come to fruition on that front.

“We’ve talked to Pitt, but they’ve got a lot going on, because they’re trying to get Penn State back on their schedule…they’re trying to figure out when they can squeeze us in,” then-WVU AD Oliver Luck said in the summer of 2013. “Their AD and I just talked last week, so we’re trying to get that set up. It’s all about dates. I think it will get done, but it’s all a matter of when.”

Oddly enough, it was announced two months after Luck made that statement that WVU had reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series (2023-24) with… Penn State, of course.

Permalink 34 Comments Back to top

Jim Harbaugh to throw out first pitch at Detroit Tigers game

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics

Hey, if it’s good enough for Penn State’s James Franklin (twice, actually) and Urban Meyer of bitter rival Ohio State (in the Big Apple after an appendectomy) this offseason, it’s good enough for the newest and most visible Michigan Man.

Sunday afternoon, mlive.com is reporting, the Detroit Tigers confirmed that Jim Harbaugh will throw out the first pitch prior to Tuesday’s game at Comerica Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The online newspaper writes that “[t]he first-year Michigan coach is an admitted fan, and has shown an interest in the game in his short tenure in Ann Arbor.”

That fandom of the sport of baseball was on full display back in March as Harbaugh served as the first-base coach of the Oakland A’s during a spring training game.  The interest in the stick-and-ball game shouldn’t be all that surprising.

In addition to his current sport, Harbaugh played baseball at Palo Alto High School before signing with the football Wolverines. “Harbaugh said he was [a] .400 hitter until he started following [the] teachings of Charlie Lau,” the San Francisco Chronicle‘s John Shea tweeted. “He stopped hitting, turned to football.”

And, on a completely unrelated note, the 2015 FBS season officially kicks off in exactly 67 days…

Permalink 2 Comments Back to top

J.T. Barrett’s dad thinks Braxton should be starter heading to camp

J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller AP

When it comes to Ohio State’s much-discussed and dissected three-headed quarterback competition, some in the media and most non-OSU fans view Braxton Miller almost as an afterthought.

Most of the attention as to who will guide the defending College Football Playoff champions has been centered on J.T. Barrett, who got the Buckeyes to the cusp of a Big Ten title and playoff berth, and Cardale Jones, who won all three of his postseason starts to help give his team the national championship, with the former being the betting favorite of one Vegas wagering insider.  That very same player’s dad, though, has a different view of who the starter should be, at least entering summer camp.

“Of course I would love to see my kid start, but for me it always goes back to who was first,” Joe Barrett, J.T’s father, told Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch. “If Braxton hadn’t gotten hurt, I would still be waiting for my baby to get the chance to play. I was thankful J.T. got that chance … and we were all blessed that he was ready to compete, but like I have told everybody, I don’t want to see my kid take a position because of the misfortune of someone else.

“In other words, Braxton should get that position back, then everybody else should go try to take it from him.”

Or put another way, Joe Barrett doesn’t believe anyone should be Wally Pipp’d, even if it would be advantageous for his son. The thing is, all three have the type of résumés that screams “starter!”

Miller was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons before reinjuring his throwing shoulder during summer camp last August and sidelining him for all of the 2014 season. Barrett, who took over the Buckeyes’ offense in Miller’s absence, accumulated a Big Ten-record 45 total touchdowns — 34 passing, 11 rushing — before a leg injury in the regular-season finale against Michigan prematurely ended his redshirt freshman season.  That opened the door for Jones, the redshirt sophomore with the NFL-ready rocket launcher for an arm who stunned the college football world by leading the Buckeyes to wins over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game; Alabama in the CFP semifinal; and Oregon in the CFP championship game.

Jones, though, was the only one healthy enough to fully participate in spring practice, the first sessions since offensive coordinator Tom Herman took the head-coaching job at Houston.  Both Barrett and Miller are expected to be 100-percent healthy for the start of fall camp.

Head coach Urban Meyer has declined to list a pecking order at the position heading into that camp, although the hope is that a starter will be named at some point in mid-August and allows the winner three weeks or so to fully prepare for the Labor Day night rematch with Virginia Tech.  Whether Barrett gets the opportunity to avenge OSU’s lone 2014 loss — and redeem himself for the 9-of-29 passing and three interceptions in the loss — remains to be seen, although it seems, at least right now, that player’s father feels he should have to earn the job back.  And that’s exactly how it should be as whoever goes under center for the Buckeyes in the opener against the Hokies should have to earn that right, not be handed the job because of past performances.

Here’s to guessing that’s exactly how Meyer and his coaching staff will allow the situation to play out.

Permalink 11 Comments Back to top

USU Aggies injured in car wreck upgraded to stable condition

Colorado State vs Utah State

A potentially tragic situation appears to have taken a turn for the better.

Saturday night, Utah State announced via a press release that four of its football players “are improving” and are currently listed in stable condition at a local hospital following a two-vehicle wreck. According to reports, the unnamed driver of the SUV in which the seatbelt-less football players were riding pulled out in front of a semi at an intersection and was broadsided by the tanker truck, which was hauling 52,000 pounds of milk at the time of the accident.

The five occupants of the SUV, which included a former female USU student-athlete as well as the football players, had initially been reported as being critically injured.

“The fact that they didn’t have seatbelts on, getting T-boned by a semi truck, they’re just lucky they’re alive,” a Utah Highway Patrol official told Salt Lake City’s FOX affiliate.

The injured football players were senior defensive lineman Travis Seefeldt (pictured, right), senior defensive lineman John Taylor, redshirt junior defensive lineman Edmund Faimalo and redshirt defensive lineman Adewale Adeoye. The fifth occupant was former USU softball player Sara Vasquez, whose eligibility expired this past spring.

“I’ve seen all four of our guys today and gotten reports back from Sarah that (she’s improving), but all of those guys are stable and trying to rest and recover,” head coach Matt Wells told the Logan Herald Journal. “Bottom line is they’re in a lot of pain and discomfort, but they’re very fortunate and we all are fortunate that they’re alive and they’re going to be OK eventually.

The school’s release states that none of those injured have been released from the hospital. There’s no word on what if any impact the injuries sustained in the wreck will have on the players’ availability for the 2015 season.

Seefeldt and Taylor exited spring practice as projected starters for the Aggies.

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top