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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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UCLA and Cincinnati planning future home-and-home series

UCLA Virginia Football, Tim Harris

UCLA and Cincinnati have never played each other in football, but that could be about to change. A future home-and-home series could be in the works.

According to a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the two schools are close to putting together a home-and-home series that would be played in 2019 and 2020. The exact dates of those games have not been reported, and may not be known until the contract is finalized.

The scheduling of these games would have some nice perks for both sides involved. UCLA would get a chance to play on the road in the state of Ohio, a state that tends to be ripe with college football talent. Cincinnati would get two games against a power conference opponent and a trip to the west coast, which is always nice even if just for a business trip or a game.

There is no power conference scheduling requirement for UCLA as a Pac-12 member, and Cincinnati is likely to be one of the top Group of Five programs for years to come if it pays to its potential. Of course, if things go well for Cincinnati, the Bearcats might — MIGHT — even be a power conference program by the time this series comes around. For that to happen, the Big 12 may have to come calling though and there is still no sign that will be happening in the near future.

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Texas A&M chancellor throws more cold water on A&M-Texas revival

Texas Longhorns vs Texas A&M Aggies

When it comes to the Texas-Texas A&M series revival, it seems the coaches want it but the powers that be have no genuine interest. Case in point, the most recent comments from Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp on Friday.

“My sense is with the 12th Man – we’ve got new friends,” Sharp said, according to The Houston Chronicle. Those new friends he is referring to reside in the SEC West. Apparently it is enough to fill any void previously filled by Texas on the schedule.

“That would be a decision made by regents … (some) day,” Sharp said. “We haven’t had any more discussions about that.”

And that is the problem. The people who truly matter with having this discussion continue to avoid each other, either out of pride or spite or whatever reason you want to come up with.

There will come a day when Texas and Texas A&M get back together on the football field, it is just a matter of when that day finally comes. The SEC requiring all members to schedule at least one game against another power conference program would seem to help the cause to revive the in-state rivalry, but the Aggies have that covered through 2021, so any need to get Texas on the Texas A&M schedule is not there for some time.

And so the waiting game continues…

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Report says Jalen Collins “failed multiple drug tests” at LSU

Jalen Collins, Ryan Timmons

Over the last few years there has been a good handful of players from LSU who have been questioned about or have been tied to various degrees of drug concerns.

Now you can add former cornerback Jalen Collins to the list of Tigers with some drug use baggage traveling with them, just as the NFL Draft is about to get underway next week.

Albert Breer of the NFL Network reported via Twitter on Friday Collins failed multiple drug tests while in college…

There are two key pieces of information we are missing from this. First, we do not know exactly how many drug tests were reportedly failed by Collins. Second, we do not know when these supposed failed tests occurred. What we do know is Collins appeared in 13 games in each of LSU’s past three seasons, at least according to CFBStats.com.

As noted by Bryan Fischer on NFL.com, this news of failed drug tests does not seem likely to affect the draft stock for Collins in the NFL Draft. Collins still has plenty of talent that NFL teams are going to be interested in acquiring, and sometimes talent prevails over what seem to be minor drug concerns.

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Nick Saban says Alabama must regain mojo and identity

Alabama Football - Saban Presser: Spring Practice 6

One of the most recognizable brands in college football has an identity crisis on its hands. That seems to be the vibe coming from head coach Nick Saban, who is already dropping a reality check on his program following a second straight postseason ending with a loss and a spring that lacked the kind of development Saban would have preferred to see.

We need to get our mojo back … we need into get our identity back,” Saban said Thursday to a group of media on a caravan tour stop in Huntsville, Alabama (via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

He’s not wrong. Alabama is not exactly falling off the surface of the college football world, but more is expected from Alabama, its fans and its coaches. An SEC championship is nice, as is a victory over Auburn, but Alabama is thinking about national championships. It has been a whole three years since Alabama’s last title. It is quite a drought for Tuscaloosa.

“We used to be a team nobody wanted to play,” he explained. “We’ve had a few distractions with the last couple years that I think have affected how we’ve finished the season.”

Alabama is still a really good football team, but the intimidation factor has been diminished in recent seasons for a variety of reasons. First, the Crimson Tide have become vulnerable in some areas on defense, and teams excelling in offense have taken note of that. But the bar is set incredibly high at Alabama, rightfully so given a handful of national titles in recent seasons.

Saban has a way of giving his team a reality check, and it appears now is one of those times. Alabama may very well be one of the preseason favorites and among the top-ranked teams in the nation when the preseason polls start coming out this summer, but Saban is not one who will buy into it and wants to see his team earn that accolades.

This is not the first time Saban has played this tactic, nor will it be the last.

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Extension makes Gary Pinkel SEC’s 10th $4 million coach

Gary Pinkel

Following a second straight SEC East Division championship in just its third year in the SEC, Missouri has extended the contract of head coach Gary Pinkel and rewarded him with a nice bump in pay. Pinkel’s contract has been extended through 2021 with a guaranteed salary of $4.02 million.

Cha-ching.

The investment in Pinkel seems to have been a long time coming, as Pinkel may have exceeded many expectations for Missouri since making the transition from the Big 12 to the SEC.

Pinkel was hired by Missouri in 2001 after a successful stint at Toledo. Since arriving in Columbia, Pinkel is 113-66 with six bowl victories, including three in the last four seasons. After going 5-7 in Missouri’s first season in the SEC after leaving the Big 12, Pinkel coached Missouri to two consecutive SEC East Division championships and appearances in the SEC Championship Game.

If you are wondering how many coaches are left in the SEC not receiving $4 million, the number is apparently down to four; Jim McElwain (Florida), Derek Mason (Vanderbilt), Mike Stoops (Kentucky) and Butch Jones (Tennessee).

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Vols WR Von Pearson a suspect in alleged rape investigation

TaxSlayer Bowl - Iowa v Tennessee

Tennessee wide receiver Von Pearson is a suspect in an alleged rape investigation in Knoxville, the Knoxville Police Department said Friday afternoon. Pearson has not been charged with any crimes at this time, and the police are currently investigating the story.

According to The Knoxville News Sentinel, the incident in question was reported early Friday morning and police have interviewed the alleged victim and several potential witnesses. Police have already contacted the Sexual Assault Center as the investigation gets underway.

Pearson was Tennessee’s second-leading receiver last fall behind Pig Howard. Pearson recorded 393 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 11 games.

This is not the first time this spring a Tennessee player has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Earlier this month offensive lineman Coleman Thomas had a felony theft charge dismissed. Former defensive lineman Michael Sawyers was soon charged with the same offense. Sawyers was actually dismissed from the team in February by head coach Butch Jones for a violation of team rules.

Tennessee’s spring game is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Given this recent report, it may be safe to assume Pearson will not participate in it as the legal process plays out. At this time, Tennessee has not issued any statement on the situation or Pearson’s status with the program.

UPDATE (6:27 p.m.): Tennessee has suspended Pearson from all team activities.

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Baylor and TCU getting return on investments in Briles, Patterson

Art Briles, Gary Patterson

It may be safe to say Baylor and TCU are getting what they paid for with Art Briles and Gary Patterson, respectively. The head coaches of the co-Big 12 champions in 2014 were each paid at least 2.5 times what they made just a few short years ago according to documents cited in a USA Today report Friday afternoon.

According to the report by USA Today, TCU paid Patterson a base salary of $3.5 million in 2013, which was roughly tripled from his 2008 salary. In all, Patterson received a total compensation of $3.9 million. Briles was paid a base salary of $3.6 million in 2013 by Baylor, or 2.5 times what he was paid in 2009 by the university. Briles received a total compensation of $4.2 million.

There is no question the impact each of these coaches has had on their respective programs. Briles (55-34 at Baylor) has successfully turned Baylor from a perennial cellar-dwelling candidate in the Big 12 to a regular threat to win the conference. Baylor has won at least a share of the Big 12 championship each of the past two seasons, although the Bears are still looking for their first BCS/New Years Six bowl victory after two straight losses in the postseason. Baylor’s success has come at a good time with the Texas Longhorns struggling as a program, relatively speaking.

Patterson (132-45 all-time) has been the man in charge of the TCU football program through plenty of changes in the realignment scene. Under Patterson TCU has competed in Conference USA, the Mountain West Conference and now the Big 12, with a brief detour heading toward the Big East in the process. Patterson has coached TCU to a top 25 finish in all but five seasons since taking over as head coach in Fort Worth in 2001 (he was an interim coach in 2000 for TCU’s bowl game). Patterson has led TCU to a Rose Bowl victory and a Peach Bowl victory, and in 2015 the Horned Frogs are expected to be a top national championship contender.

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Cal cutting ties with Pierre Ingram following solicitation of prostitute

California v Northwestern

Cal will not be bringing back receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Pierre Ingram in a move that is probably not to be unexpected.

Ingram’s contract is scheduled to expire on April 30. Cal will not be renewing the contract after Ingram was arrested earlier this month for solicitation of a prostitute. He was immediately placed on administrative leave, and now the program is going to wipe its hands clean of him entirely.

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Report: Old Big East rivals Syracuse and UConn getting back together

Florida State v Syracuse

The rivalry between Syracuse and UConn was one of the best things about the old Big East. Well, in basketball at least. The rivalry never really reached the same height of animosity or excitement in football as it did in basketball, but the two schools are reportedly working on plans to begin a home-and-home football series in the future.

Brett McMurphy of ESPN reports (via Twitter) are putting the finishing touches on a pair of games between 2016 and 2018. Per McMurphy, UConn would host the Orange in 2016 and Syracuse would host the Huskies in 2018. Specific dates have not been reported or confirmed.

Syracuse will not meet its ACC power conference scheduling requirement with this series, but the requirement has already been met for 2016 with Notre Dame in MetLife Stadium and 2018 against the Irish in South Bend.

UConn leads the all-time series between the two schools, with a 6-3 edge over nine games. The series started in 2004 after UConn upgraded from FCS to FBS and joined the Big East. Syracuse left the crumbling Big East for the ACC in 2013, and UConn stayed a part of the conference as it morphed into the American Athletic Conference. Syracuse won the most recent meeting between the two schools in 2012 with a 40-10 victory.

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North Dakota State brings new meaning to “championship drive”

North Dakota State team

It is Friday afternoon, which tends to mean things can get a little slow as we head into the weekend. Fortunately, North Dakota State decided to have a little fun and make some people smile* with this photo of its four national championship trophies going for a Friday drive.

Judging by this photo, seen on the North Dakota State Facebook page, the national championship trophies are practicing safety first by wearing their respective seatbelts.

NDState-Trophy-Drive

North Dakota State won the 2014 Division 1 championship by defeating Illinois State. The previous year the Bison defeated Towson for the national title, and the previous two years saw North Dakota State beat Sam Houston State for the championship. North Dakota State’s championship drive will continue this season as the Bison will likely be the team to beat once again in the land of the FCS. North Dakota State will not play any FBS opponents in 2015, but a trip to Iowa is on the schedule for 2016. The 2015 season will kick off against Montana on August 29 in Missoula, Montana.

* With the possible exception of fans of Sam Houston State, Towson and Illinois State. Apologies to you.

Helmet sticker to Reddit.

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NCAA: Oklahoma State did not fail to monitor football program

Oklahoma State did not follow its drug testing policy and allowed the Orange Pride to host prospective student-athletes. The result? A one-year probation, the suspension of the Orange Pride program and $8,500 in fines on top of university-imposed recruiting restrictions.

The NCAA released a statement outlining the mild sanctions handed to Oklahoma State Friday afternoon. The violations are the result of a previous investigative story published by Sports Illustrated last year. The report was quick to be torn to shreds from any number of critics of the evidence and information reported, and perhaps the severity of the original report can be summed up best by the light punishment extended by the enforcement hand of the NCAA.

The NCAA opened its investigation into Oklahoma State following the publication of the Sports Illustrated story. The investigation included a review of over 50,000 emails and about 90 different interviews with current and former student-athletes, coaches, staff members and boosters. The end result was the NCAA determined many of the allegations reported by Sports Illustrated were unfounded, according to the NCAA statement. But Oklahoma State did not get off without some criticism.

Accusations the program did not follow its drug testing program were confirmed by the NCAA, stating suspensions for players violating the banned substance rules had suspensions determined on a case-by-case basis. This led to five players competing on the field in seven games they should have been suspended. There was no mention of which games were included, nor is there a mention of vacating any victories. Instead, part of the $8,500 in fines includes a $500 payment by Oklahoma State for each of the seven games a player should have been suspended.

On the recruiting side of the punishment, Oklahoma State self-imposed a reduction in coaches participating in off-campus evaluations by one and the reduction of total evaluation days by 10 in the fall and spring through the 2015-2016 calendar.

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Trollin’ Jim Harbaugh invites ALL coaches to Michigan football camp

Michigan Football Spring Game

If you are not following Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh on Twitter, you should probably take care of that right now. At the end of a week that has been filled with talk and debate about satellite camps, Harbaugh took to Twitter to extend an open invitation to all college football coaches to join he and his staff in Ann Arbor this summer.

It is already being considered a Grade-A troll move, and there is likely no coincidence it looks that way.

Just this week we have been talking about comments from Alabama’s regarding the ridiculousness of satellite camp rules, the perception of a loophole being exploited by northern coaches (in addition to Harbaugh, Penn State’s James Franklin and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly have taken advantage of the satellite camp rules). Folks in the ACC are not pleased either, but willing to adapt. The NCAA is also expecting to address the satellite camp discussion in the football rules oversight committee.

One question that should be asked is how many coaches from the Big Ten will accept the open invite? Imagine the scene if Mark Dantonio or Urban Meyer or Franklin showed up in Ann Arbor to work at the camp. It is an open invite after all.

This much we know; coaches from the ACC and SEC will not be sending in any R.S.V.P. replies, although they are invited to be a keynote speaker by Harbaugh. Their conferences do not allow for that possibility.

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ASU’s Todd Graham says scheduling cupcakes is un-American

Todd Graham

Keep this in mind the next time Arizona State schedules an easy opponent. Todd Graham, head coach of the Sun Devils, says scheduling easy games is un-American. God bless Todd Graham.

Graham’s comments on non-conference scheduling stem from a discussion regarding the College Football Playoff, which has many believing the emphasis on strength of schedule will help the game overall. It will, unquestionably. If the goal is to see more attractive games between power conference programs, then fans should benefit from the College Football Playoff era with schools not wanting to be left out of the playoff at the end of the year the way Baylor was in 2014.

“We need to consider what the fans want,” Graham said, according to AZFamily.com. “Fans don’t want to see you schedule four easy wins, then get two conference wins to get into a bowl game. That’s un-American.”

For the record, Arizona State has a game scheduled against Cal Poly this season and Northern Arizona in 2016. The Sun Devils also have a game against Texas A&M in Houston this fall and a home-and-home with Texas Tech starting in 2016.

But just as you start to think Graham is speaking for America with his thoughts on non-conference scheduling, he then takes a turn toward communism on other thoughts regarding scheduling.

“Here’s the issue with college football. It should be equal for everybody,” said Graham. “Everybody should play nine conference games. Why nine games instead of eight? Because you play one more conference game that your fans want to see instead of scheduling a team that no one wants to see because you’re scheduling wins and don’t want to be out of the four-team playoff.”

Before we had debates over satellite camps, we had debates over eight-game vs. nine-game conference schedules. Simply put, what works well for one conference does not necessarily make for the best scheduling approach for the other. The Big 12’s nine-game schedule makes sense for a 10-member league. The Pac-12 plays a nine-game conference schedule and the Big Ten has joined the nine-game party. Meanwhile the ACC and SEC remain with eight-game conference schedules, but with the non-scheduling requirement to schedule at least one game against another power conference opponent.

Some things in college football should be equal for everybody. Non-conference scheduling does not need to be one.

Helmet sticker to House of Sparky.

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Hugh Freeze’s spring game idea is not new, and it’s not likely to happen

Hugh Freeze

The spring football season is drawing to a close with a decent handful of teams in action this weekend. Every spring seems to have one idea come up as a new and innovative idea, but it really is not new at all. The idea of having teams play a scrimmage against another school is back in the discussion thanks to Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, who endorsed the idea this week.

I would love to see us be able to scrimmage another team,” Freeze said in a radio interview in Nashville, according to The Clarion-Ledger. “That way you can go ones on ones, twos on twos, threes on threes – really get something out of it.”

Freeze’s idea sounds good, and has some merit. Again, this is nothing we have not heard before, especially in recent years. Having the opportunity to go up against another team can have benefits as you can see how players react in certain situations against players and schemes they may not have seen during the spring practices. It also allows for an opportunity to work on some skills and potential game plans against certain styles of offenses or defenses. But the odds of getting a pair of FBS programs together, even if allowed by the NCAA, is not the most feasible idea due to financial requirements. So what does Freeze recommend?

“Maybe even adopt a charity. Maybe it’s a 1-AA opponent that you don’t play in the regular season,” Freeze suggested. “I think there would be a lot of interest in something like that. I wish we could do something like that.”

This is an idea that would have more traction than a scrimmage against another FBS program. There could be some benefits to take from this as well, on both sides. We already see this kind of exhibition idea in college basketball, with Division 1 programs often scrimmaging with a Division 2 school before officially opening the regular season. This would be the equivalent, and it would be entirely optional. What do you think? Would you be more interested in seeing a school like Ole Miss take on an FCS opponent in a spring scrimmage as a replacement for a traditional spring game or scrimmage?

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No college football abroad in Ireland in 2016

Penn State and UCF opened the 2014 season in Ireland in the Croke Park Classic last season, and it seems it might be the last college football game played in Ireland for at least a few more years. Plans for a potential game in 2016 have been put on ice, and economics are apparently to blame.

“The strength of the dollar against the euro means that the staging of the game at Croke Park was no longer viable for the Association without significant support from government agencies,” a statement from the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland said. That financial support was nowhere to be found for the 2016 plans.

This brings a disappointing end to the planning for the next college football game in Ireland, but it appears the writing had been on the wall. The 2016 event, long rumored to include ACC opponents Boston College and Georgia Tech, was supposed to be formally announced on St. Patrick’s Day, but never was. That led many following the developments of the game to believe the game may not happen at all. The planning involved with a game like this requires plenty of time to plan and budget for all parties involved, and the delaying of an announcement did not look good.

So as things stand now, Boston College and Georgia Tech will move forward with the expectation of playing their regular season meeting on American soil. Boston College is scheduled to host the Yellow Jackets, although the exact date of the game has not been determined by the ACC (the ACC will not release the 2016 schedule until early next year). The rumored plans originally suggested Boston College and Georgia Tech would meet in Ireland later in the season as opposed to a season-opening game like Penn State and UCF played in 2014.

Does this mean college football will never return to Ireland? That is probably not the case, especially since ACC commissioner John Swofford has said before he would like to see the conference explore overseas opportunities in the future. A return to Ireland should not be considered out of the mix, just not in 2016.

Helmet sticker to BC Interruption.

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