Skip to content

CFT Preseason Top 25: three in a row, Roll Tide Roll

Alabama head coach Saban is doused with Gatorade after they defeated Notre Dame in the NCAA National Championship college football game in Miami AP

I have some good news and bad news for you, Tide Nation.

The good? In the 2011 edition of CFT’s preseason Top 25, I predicted the Tide would rise again and claim its second BCS title under Nick Saban; five months later, Alabama did just that. The bad? More times than not, my preseason prognostications are historically and prodigiously horrendous… and that doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

In 2009, 2010 and 2012, Oklahoma, Florida and USC, respectively, ranked as CFT’s preseason No. 1. Five losses later for the Sooners and Gators, and six for the Trojans, none of those three finished the season ranked in either the final Associated Press or coaches’ poll. The eventual BCS champions those seasons — Alabama (2012), Auburn (2010) and Alabama again (2009) — were ranked No. 3, No. 15 and No. 19 by CFT in the preseason.

So, will 2013 be CFT’s Nostradumbass norm for the Tide, or will the 2011 exception take hold? Or, will the Tide fall somewhere in between? More than anyone else, and based on my track record, I don’t have a clue; that’s why they play the games, as the saying goes.

And that’s why, for better or worse and for posterity’s sake, the complete 2013 edition of CFT’s fifth-annual preseason Top 25 appears after the jump.  By conference, you’ll find six teams from the SEC — all in the Top 12 — five from the Big 12, four each from the Big Ten and Pac-12, three from the ACC and one apiece from the AAC, MWC and Independents.

I’d ask y’all to be some semblance of kind and/or gentle in the comments section, but there’s really no point…

1. Alabama
2012 record: 13-1 (won BCS title game, won SEC championship game)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 1 (coaches’ poll); No. 1 (Associated Press)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 1 (coaches’ poll); No. 1 (AP)

The Tide returns 13 starters from last year’s back-to-back BCS title squad, which the esteemed Phil Steele says is the team’s second-highest number of returnees since 2007. That’s all well and good, but Alabama’s 2013 season can be narrowed down to two titanic matchups: at Texas A&M Sept. 14 in an attempt to avenge their lone loss in 2012, and Nov. 9 vs. LSU in Tuscaloosa. Win both, and the Tide is on the fast track to an SEC title-game appearance and a shot at an unprecedented third-straight BCS title and four in five years. As they proved the past two seasons, though, even one loss in conference play won’t derail their title hopes. This team may not have the star power of the other title-winning Tide teams, but it has the potential to be one of the best, if not the best, of the Nick Saban era.

Ohio State Introduces Urban Meyer2. Ohio State
2012 record: 12-0 (no bowl game due to NCAA sanctions)
Final 2012 rankings: ineligible (coaches’); No. 3 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 2 (coaches’ poll); No. 2 (AP)

We could talk about returning starters (nine offense, four defense) or that one starter from each side of the ball will be suspended for various lengths of time to begin the season (starting running back Carlos Hyde for three, All-American cornerback Bradley Roby for at least one), but the reality is that the Buckeyes’ season can be summed up in one word: schedule. As in “pastry-soft schedule.” Their non-conference slate consists of Buffalo, San Diego State, Cal and Florida A&M, with just one of those (the Golden Bears) on the road; the Aztecs at 9-4 were the only one of the four that won at least four games in 2012. Just three teams on their 2013 schedule (Michigan, No. 17; Northwestern, No. 22; Wisconsin, No. 23) are currently ranked in the AP Top 25. In fact, OSU will likely be favored in every single game this season, and will be expected by many to carry a 23-game winning streak into The Game, to be played this season in Ann Arbor. Look out for the Oct. 5 trip to Evanston, though; that game has “trap” written all over it.

3. Stanford
2012 record: 12-2 (won Pac-12 championship, won Rose Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings No. 6 (coaches’); No. 7 (AP):
2013 preseason rankings: No. 4 (coaches’); No. 4 (AP)

Entering his third season at Stanford, David Shaw has done nothing but build upon and, in some cases, improve the foundation laid by Jim Harbaugh. With 23 wins in two years on The Farm, Shaw has helped push expectations to the point where anything less than 10 wins would be considered a down season for the Cardinal. With one of the top defenses in the country and a more-experienced Kevin Hogan under center — and drawing four of their toughest on-paper games at home (Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame) — Stanford should once again hit that mark and be in the BCS title mix. Replacing Stepfan Taylor would normally be a cause for concern, but possessing an offensive line that’s annually one of the best in the country will make even a by-committee approach a successful tack for the running game.

4. Louisville
2012 record: 11-2 (Big East champion, won Sugar Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 13 (coaches’); No. 13 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 9 (coaches’); No. 9 (AP)

Last year at this time, I was writing that I had the feeling, ala Auburn in 2010, that I was rating Louisville too low when I pegged them as the No. 24 team in CFT’s preseason Top 25. That won’t happen again this year. Not after watching the Cardinals roll through an 11-win season in Charlie Strong’s second year that included a route of SEC East runnerup Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Not armed with the knowledge that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, not Jadeveon Clowney, could very well be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. And definitely not after factoring in the combination of returning starters (six offense, 10 defense) and a schedule that includes exactly zero teams currently ranked in either of the two major polls. Talent-wise, the Cardinals might not be the No. 4 team in the country at the moment; given the experienced talent they do possess plus their current placement in the rebuilt and evolving American Athletic Conference — they’ll move to the ACC in 2014 — there’s no reason, other than inexplicably stubbing their toes against the likes of Rutgers of UCF or (shudder) Kentucky, Louisville can’t and won’t head into the 2013 postseason carrying an unblemished record.

5. Georgia
2012 record: 12-2 (lost SEC championship game, won Capital One bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 4 (coaches’); No. 5 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 5 (coaches’); No. 5 (AP)

In its attempt to get back to a third consecutive SEC championship game, Georgia has several challenges awaiting them. The Bulldogs’ first two SEC games are against top-12 teams, No. 6 South Carolina and No. 12 LSU. Fortunately for UGA both of those games are at home, although a season opener against No. 8 Clemson that should play a role in the BCS race is on the road. A defensive unit that was above-average in most categories nationally last year returns just three starters, and, especially in the secondary, has been bitten by the injury/suspension bug. The offense, on the other hand, returns nine starters from a unit that was one of the most explosive in the SEC. After that brutal opening gauntlet against ranked opponents, the Bulldogs’ schedule softens a bit and becomes much more manageable over the remainder of the year. In other words, by the end of September, we’ll know what if any type of presence the Bulldogs will have on the national stage at season’s end.

6. Oregon
2012 record: 12-1 (T-1st Pac-12 North, won Fiesta Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No 2 (coaches’); No. 2 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 3 (coaches’); No. 3 (AP)

What I think is that Mark Helfrich is going to be a very, very good head football coach at the FBS level. What I know is that, if Chip Kelly hadn’t bolted Eugene for the NFL in the offseason, the Ducks would be sitting closer to No 1 than they are right now given the amount of talent returning this year. And that’s no slight to Helfrich; rather, that’s a show of respect for the absolute machine Kelly built in the Northwest section of the collegiate football landscape. That said, it would not surprise at all if Helfrich pulled a Shaw: take over for an NFL-bound coach at a Pac-12 school and the program not skip a beat. Speaking of which, UO’s conference season and national title hopes could, for the second straight year, come down to one game. On Nov. 7, the Ducks will travel to Stanford on a Thursday night looking to avenge its only loss of the 2012 season, a 17-14 overtime heartbreaker to the Cardinal in Eugene. However, when you can bring the likes of Marcus Mariota, DeAnthony Thomas et al, you have to like your chances, whether it’s at home or on the road. And whether you’re replacing the man who took the program to the next level.

7. ClemsonChick Fil A Bowl Football
2012 record: 11-2 (t-1st, ACC Atlantic, won Chick-fil-A Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 9 (coaches’); No. 11 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 8 (coaches’); No. 8 (AP)

Open against No. 5 Georgia and close against No. 6 South Carolina, with a conference matchup against No. 11 Florida State thrown in the middle for good measure that could again determine the Atlantic’s representative in the ACC title game? A good numbers omen for the Tigers is that they have made the ACC title game in odd-numbered years under Dabo Sweeney; with this being 2013, and with the Seminoles visiting the East Coast version of Death Valley, that bodes well. Well, that and the presence of Tajh Boyd under center, a plethora of weapons at his disposal and a defense that’s improved exponentially since the bowl embarrassment against West Virginia to end the 2011 season. Whether Clemson can take that next step remains to be seen, especially with that trio of games littered throughout the season. This might, though, be Swinney’s best chance to get Clemson its first national championship in over three decades.

8. LSU
2012 record: 10-3 (T-2nd SEC West, lost Chick-fil-A Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 12 (coaches’); No. 14 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 13 (coaches’); No. 12 (AP)

Remember how I said earlier that there are times when I feel like I’m underrating a particular team? There are also times when the opposite is true — and this is one of those times. While LSU does return a respectable 10 starters from the double-digit-win team of a year ago, they were also hit hard by early departures for the NFL as a whopping 10 players with eligibility remaining left the program. Normally the strength of the team in both talent and experience, the Tigers will be forced to replace eight defensive starters. including all four defensive linemen and two of three linebackers. While the defense readjusts — notice I didn’t say rebuild — the offense and its eight returning starters, led by Zach Mettenberger, may have to shoulder a bit more of the responsibility than it’s been accustomed to. Fortunately, after the opener against No. 20 TCU, the Tigers get a bit of a scheduling breather before facing Georgia in late September which will allow the defense to grow for a stretch run that includes games against Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M.

9. Texas A&M
2012 record: 11-2 (T-2nd SEC West, won Cotton Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 5 (coaches’); T-No. 5 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 6 (coaches’); No. 7 (AP)

After a normal offseason coming off such a smashing debut in the SEC in 2012, A&M would seemingly be comfortably slotted inside the Top Five of most if not all preseason polls. Of course, it was no normal offseason; we won’t rehash everything, or even anything, involving star quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, but suffice to say a cloud of NCAA uncertainty still hangs over College Station just days before the start of a new season. If Manziel can maintain his eligibility… if the Aggies can pull off a repeat in their rematch with Alabama the third weekend of the season… if both of those things happen, the sky appears to be the limit for A&M’s SEC encore. That may be easier said than done, especially when it comes to the Tide, who have had an entire offseason to adjust to what Manziel and Kevin Sumlin’s offense brings to the conference table.

10. Oklahoma State
2012 record: 10-2 (T-3rd Big 12, won Heart of Dallas Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings:  unranked in both polls
2013 preseason rankings: No. 14 (coaches’); No. 13 (AP)

With the quarterback position unsettled — Mike Gundy will head into the opener without a starter in name among Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh — I may be inflating the value of the Cowboys’ 2013 stock. But, with 15 returning starters and a favorable schedule that hands the Cowboys Baylor, TCU and in-state rival Oklahoma in Stillwater, the table is set for OSU to claim the Big 12’s BCS berth in the final year of the current system. The quarterback situation, though, bears watching; if Gundy hopes to get the Cowboys back to the top of the conference, either Chelf or Walsh needs to grab hold of the job sooner rather later. And preferably before the Oct. 19 game against the Horned Frogs.

11. South Carolina
2012 record: 11-2 (Third SEC East, won Outback Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 7 (coaches’); No. 8 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 7 (coaches’); No. 6 (AP)

South Carolina doesn’t need Mike Davis, the newly-minted starting running back, to be the next Marcus Lattimore; it needs the combination of Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson to improve their production in the passing game to the point where the field opens up and it seems like there are a whole bunch of Lattimores running around. The Gamecocks’ passing game has ranked 57th (2012) and 95th (2011) nationally the past two years, and hasn’t finished better than 44th (2010) the past five years. Either Shaw, entering his third season as the starter, or Thompson must take their play to the next level in order to break their SEC divisional title drought. There’s only so much that preseason Heisman contender Jadeveon Clowney and a defensive unit ranked in the top-13 nationally in total and scoring defense can do without a little help from the other side of the ball. And they’d better do it quick as they travel to Athens the second weekend of the season in a conference game that will set the tone for the year.

Jeff Driskel12. Florida
2012 record: 11-2 (T-1st SEC East, lost Sugar Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 10 (coaches’); No. 9 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 10 (coaches’); No. 10 (AP)

Florida has the running game, the defense and the special teams — save for replacing Caleb Sturgis — to be an elite team. Much like their SEC rival Gamecocks, though, there are question marks surrounding the passing game. Enter Jeff Driskel, the quarterback who Gator coaches have publicly and privately raved about throughout the offseason, praising the strides he’s made in becoming a more complete passer. An expected jump in performance by Driskel could portend well for the Gators’ fortunes, especially with road games against LSU, Georgia and South Carolina on tap in the conference and Miami out of conference. Or that daunting scheduling gauntlet could doom UF’s season. One of the two.

13. TCU
2012 record: 7-6 (T-5th Big 12, lost in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: unranked in both polls
2013 preseason rankings: No. 20 (coaches’); No. 20 (AP)

TCU easily carries the worst 2012 record out of any team I’ve ranked thus far, so this might be going out on a limb a bit placing the Horned Frogs inside the Top 15 — but it’s not exactly a thin one. TCU returns 16 starters, including Casey Pachall. While Gary Patterson has yet to commit to the rehabbed quarterback as his starter, Pachall is expected to be under center when the season opens against LSU. Over the past two seasons, Pachall is 15-2 as a starter; in games that Pachall doesn’t start, the Horned Frogs are 3-6. Coincidence or not, TCU is a better team with Pachall in charge of the offense. Add the senior’s return to a defense that returned to expected levels in 2012, and TCU should be in solid shape to contend for its first Big 12 title in its second season in the conference.

14. Florida State
2012 record: 12-2 (ACC champion, Orange Bowl winner)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 8 (coaches’); No. 10 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 12 (coaches’); No 11 (AP)

As the loquacious George W. Bush once oh-so-eloquently stated, “Fool me once, shame on me; fool me… you can’t get fooled again.” Such is my feeling in regards to Florida State. Each of the past three seasons I’ve proclaimed FSU to be “back,” only to be let down to one degree or another. Yes, the 12-win season last year was the program’s best since 1999, but the inexplicable midseason misstep against North Carolina State effectively crushed a season that began with such promise, especially after the win over Clemson two weeks before. In addition to replacing half the starting 22 — including the underrated and undervalued EJ Manuel at quarterback — Jimbo Fisher was forced to replace two-thirds of his coaching staff throughout the offseason. While that seems like a lot to overcome in one offseason, the talent is still there and Fisher is a helluva football coach. Just don’t expect me to proclaim “they’re back” again until after they actually are.

15. Michigan
2012 record: 8-5 (2nd Big Ten Legends, lost Outback Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: unranked (coaches’); No. 24 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 17 (coaches’); No. 17 (AP)

Devin Gardner with half of a season under his belt, ready to become even more of a passer already than Denard Robinson ever was? Check. A top-20 defense that returns a sizable chunk of its productivity? Check. A schedule that gives them Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Check. A shot at its first Big Ten title in nearly a decade? Hold that check. Certainly there’s a shot — even a good one — but inexperience along the interior of the offensive line, replacing a couple of key defensive starters — linebacker Jake Ryan should be back no later than mid-October from a torn ACL — and depth at wide receiver could prove problematic, at least for the short-term. Again, the schedule is favorable, but road trips to Michigan State and Northwestern in November bear watching.

16. Notre Dame
2012 record: 12-1 (lost in BCS title game)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 3 (coaches’); No. 4 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 11 (coaches’); No. 14 (AP)

Prior to May 25 of this year, Notre Dame appeared primed for a return to the Top Ten of the polls — at least — coming off its BCS title game appearance. They had eight starters from a top-ten defense coming back, and six starters returning from an offense that had shown steady improvement. After May 25, the number on the latter side dipped to five as starting quarterback Everett Golson left school due to “poor academic choices,” casting a pall over the Irish’s prospects for the 2013 season. The good news at the position is that there’s an experienced hand to take over, with Tommy Rees expected to take back over the starting job — he was named the starter in June — and hold on to it as long as he can take better care of the football. Making the task all the more daunting is a schedule that includes Michigan and Stanford on the road and Oklahoma, BYU and USC at home. Based on everything, another 10-win season would be a positive for the Golden Domers.

17. Boise StateColorado State v Boise State
2012 record: 11-2 (T-1st MWC, won Las Vegas Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 14 (coaches’); No. 18 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 19 (coaches’); No. 19 (AP)

Seven straight seasons, and in 10 of the last 11, Boise State has reached double digits in wins. Thanks to an ever-improving Mountain West Conference — yes, that’s actually happening — and a solid non-conference schedule, the Broncos streak of 10-plus wins could face a very stiff test. On paper, BSU’s toughest conference games this season will come against Fresno State, Utah State and San Diego State, and all three of those will be on the road. Additionally, the Broncos have to travel to Washington in the season opener and then to BYU in late October in non-conference action. While it’s not exactly an SEC-level meatgrinder, that’s actually a very, very solid slate and will prove to be a good test for Joe Southwick, with a season of starting under his belt, and a young but talented defensive unit. If the Broncos get back to a BCS bowl this year, there should be no wailing and gnashing of teeth as the Lil’ Program That Could will have earned it.

18. Oklahoma
2012 record: 10-3 (T-1st Big 12, lost Cotton Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 15 (coaches’); No. 15 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 16 (coaches’); No. 16 (AP)

Expected by some (most) to go with the Belldozer as Landry Jones’ replacement, Bob Stoops stunned some (most) by opting for redshirt freshman Trevor Knight as his starting quarterback over Blake Bell — and that decision could leave OU vastly underrated heading into the 2013 season. By all accounts, Knight is every bit the factor in the running game as Bell, and already twice the passer even as he has never attempted a pass at the collegiate level. With a veteran offense behind him that returns seven starters — including four offensive linemen — Knight will have plenty of support in his first season as a starter. Defense is another story, however, as the Sooners return just four starters from last year’s 10-win team. The schedule is a challenge, too, with trips to Notre Dame, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State in the offing for Knight, although the latter three won’t come until after the eighth game of the season.

19. UCLA
2012 record: 9-5 (won Pac-12 South, lost Holiday Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: unranked in both polls
2013 preseason rankings: No. 21 (coaches’); No. 21 (AP)

The loss of all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin can be somewhat minimized by the combination of a bevy of talented — but inexperienced — running backs as well the continued improvement of Brett Hundley, who in his first year as a starter quickly became one of the best young quarterbacks in the college game. What can’t be minimized is an absolutely brutal conference schedule: at Stanford and Oregon in back-to-back weeks in October, then at USC to close out the season. Mix in a non-conference road game against Nebraska the second weekend of September, and the Bruins path back to the Pac-12 championship game, let alone the periphery of BCS title talk, is rife with landmines.

20. Baylor
2012 record: 8-5 (T-5th Big 12, won Holiday Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: unranked in both polls
2013 preseason rankings: unranked in both polls

Call this one a hunch. All Baylor did was win five of their last six games last season over the likes of, among others, No. 1 Kansas State, No. 23 Oklahoma State and No. 17 UCLA. Its only loss in that span was by eight points on the road against No. 12 Oklahoma. The Bears will return 12 starters, although Bryce Petty will be in his first season as a starting quarterback as he attempts to replace Nick Florence, who quietly did an outstanding job replacing Robert Griffin III. Given Art Briles’ track record with players at that position, and with the presence of Heisman sleeper Lache Seastrunk in the backfield, that should be the least of the Bears’ worries. After giving up over 800 yards and 70 points to West Virginia early on in 2012, and relative to the rest of the Big 12, the Bears’ defense actually showed improvement as the season wore on. If that improvement continues, the Bears could and should be a factor in the Big 12 race through November.

21. Nebraska
2012 record: 10-4 (lost Big Ten championship game, lost Capital One Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 23 (coaches’); No. 25 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 18 (coaches’); No. 18 (AP)

Losses by a combined 53 points in its last two games took some of the luster off of what was arguably Nebraska’s best and most complete team under Bo Pelini. Still, with eight starters, including quarterback Taylor Martinez, returning, the offensive side of the ball should be no cause for worry. A defense that brings back just four starters from last year’s unit, however, is. The fact that the Cornhuskers’ toughest road game is at Michigan in early November — and that they avoid both Ohio State and Wisconsin (accounted for two of their losses in 2012) — bodes well for the ‘Huskers finally getting over the hump and winning its first Big Ten championship. If they can get past the B1G’s Big Two, of course.

22. Arizona State
2012 record: 8-5 (T-2nd Pac-12 South, won Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: unranked in both polls
2013 preseason rankings: unranked in both polls

Todd Graham is building something for the long haul in the desert, provided he’s in the desert for the long haul of course. The Sun Devils return their starting quarterback, two top running backs and eight starters from a defense that finished second in the Pac-12 and 14th nationally in scoring. The offensive line, despite the loss of two starters, has the chance to be one of the top units in the conference. The depth and experience at wide receiver is a concern, as is a schedule that includes conference road games against Stanford and UCLA and nonconference matchups with Wisconsin and Notre Dame. In the end, though, No. 22 may be too low of a start for the Sun Devils.

Mack Brown23. Texas
2012 record: 9-4 (T-3rd Big 12, won Alamo Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 18 (coaches’); No. 19 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 15 (coaches’); No. 15 (AP)

And now we come to the portion of the rankings program where I get the most vitriol tossed in my general direction. Sorry, I’m not buying it. Not yet. Yes, Texas returns a whopping 19 starters, easily the most in the Big 12 and one of the top totals at the FBS level. Yes, David Ash may be the best quarterback in the conference (which may say more about the Big 12 than Ash). Yes, there’s the sense that, with all of the talent UT possesses, the Longhorns are primed for a return to the national stage for the first time since 2009. That’s the thing, though. There’s always talent in Austin thanks to top recruiting classes year-in and year-out. Translating that on-paper talent into on-field success has been the problem over the past three seasons. Until Mack Brown and his coaching staff can turn those clippings into winnings, I’m officially from Missouri when it comes to the Longhorns.

24. Miami
2012 record: 7-5 (T1st ACC Coastal, ineligible for postseason)
Final 2012 rankings: ineligible (coaches’); unranked (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: unranked in both polls

Self-imposed sanctions kept Miami from an ACC title game date with Florida State in 2012, but that won’t be an issue this year. And neither will the competition in the Coastal, which continues to languish behind the upper-echelon of the Atlantic talent-wise. With Virginia Tech racked with injuries and a shell of its former 10-wins-annually self, North Carolina and Georgia Tech looks to be the Hurricanes’ only significant competition in the division. While the ‘Canes will be forced to travel to Chapel Hill in a game that could very well decide the division’s representative in the conference title game, they get the Yellow Jackets at home. The fact that they return 18 starters — tied with Boston College for the ACC’s most — sends all signs pointing to The U appearing in their first-ever ACC Championship game.

25. Northwestern
2012 record: 10-3 (3rd Big Ten Legends, won Gator Bowl)
Final 2012 rankings: No. 16 (coaches’); No. 17 (AP)
2013 preseason rankings: No. 22 (coaches’); No. 22 (AP)

Yes, the nerds make it into CFT’s Top 25 ahead of, among others, defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin… and for good reason. By all accounts, this is Pat Fitzgerald’s most talented team in his seven years in Evanston, with 15 starters coming back from last year’s 10-win squad — the program’s first double-digit win total since 1995. Fitzgerald’s biggest problems might be, one, expectations (with Fitz, complacency won’t be an issue) and, two, the schedule. After avoiding Ohio State and Wisconsin last year, the Wildcats get them both (Buckeyes at home, Bucky in Madison) as well as a road trip to Nebraska. Conversely, NU drew both Michigan and Michigan State at home. While one wouldn’t expect a repeat of the 10-win season, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if/when it happens.

Permalink 21 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Alabama Crimson Tide, American Athletic Conference, Arizona State Sun Devils, Atlantic Coast Conference, Baylor Bears, Big 12 Conference, Big Ten Conference, Boise State Broncos, Clemson Tigers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Bulldogs, Independents, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Michigan Wolverines, Mountain West Conference, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Oregon Ducks, Pac-12 Conference, Rumor Mill, South Carolina Gamecocks, Southeastern Conference, Stanford Cardinal, TCU Horned Frogs, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Top Posts, UCLA Bruins
yo

B1G redemption? Indiana stuns Mizzou in Columbia

Nate Sudfeld, Tevin Coleman AP

Rightfully so, the Big Ten has been kicked around for its poor and embarrassing performances in 2014, looking very much like the Power Five conference that won’t have a seat at the College Football Playoff table at season’s end.

At least for one weekend, however, the skies were bright and sunny across the Midwest in general and in Columbia in particular.

In a stunning turn of events, Indiana took homestanding and defending SEC East champion Missouri to the carpet and headed back to Bloomington with an impressive 31-27 win.  The game-winning score came with 22 seconds left on a three-yard touchdown run from D’Angelo Roberts.

It’s the Hoosiers’ first win over a ranked opponent since 2006, a 31-28 victory over No. 15 Iowa.  It was the Tigers’ first loss for the 2014 season.

The defeat was not well-received by arguably the SEC’s biggest media cheerleader.

Tevin Coleman, who came into the nonconference matchup leading the nation in rushing yards per game, ran for 132 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for another 57 yards in the win.  Coleman has now scored a rushing touchdown in 12 straight games, tying the school record set by Anthony Thompson in 1988-89.

The two teams were nearly identical statistically, with No. 18 Mizzou holding a slight 506-493 advantage in total offense.

The IU win was a microcosm for what was a wildly successful Week 4 for the Big Ten, especially going by the very low standards set through the first three weeks of the season.  Of the nine games involving B1G teams that have been completed, that conference has won all nine.  A 10th team, Minnesota, is up on Fresno State 17-7 late in the third quarter.

It’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows for the league, however, as Michigan is getting embarrassed 26-10 by Utah in the Big House in a game that’s been delayed by weather while Illinois is losing to Texas State 21-19.

Still, after the rough start, this was just the elixir needed for the wounded and bleeding conference.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Lane Kiffin gets last laugh as Alabama rolls past Florida

Lane Kiffin

Love him or hate him, Lane Kiffin is making a positive contribution to the Alabama Crimson Tide offense.

No. 3 Alabama rolled up 645 yards of total offense during its 42-21 victory over the Florida Gators.

While Alabama has been known as a run-first, methodical offense during head coach Nick Saban‘s tenure, the team’s new offensive coordinator has his unit rolling during Alabama’s 4-0.

The performance was impressive on many levels.

First, Kiffin added tempo which created explosive plays for the Crimson Tide. Alabama had two touchdown passes of 79 yards or longer in the first quarter.

Second, the offensive coordinator is doing exactly what a good coach does. He’s putting his quarterback in a position to succeed. The tempo and overall play calling helped first-year starter Blake Sims post a career day with 445 passing yards and four touchdowns.

Third, Kiffin is getting the ball to his play-makers. Amari Cooper is arguably the best wide receiver in college football. The junior wide receiver was targeted numerous times and finished the game with 10 receptions for 201 yards, which was third-best effort in Alabama history. Cooper would have broken Julio Jones‘ single-game receiving record if he didn’t have two big plays called back due to penalties.

The wide receiver shouldn’t expect his load to decrease as the season continues, though:

Finally, Alabama is still a balanced attack. Members of the Crimson Tide ran the ball 52 times. And Kiffin found a way to distribute the ball between multiple talented running backs. Derrick Henry led the team with 20 carries for 111 yards. T.J. Yeldon also had 18 carries.

All of this was accomplished against a very talented Gators defense. Excellent play calling simply exploited Florida’s weaknesses. After this drubbing at the hands of Alabama, the temperature of Florida head coach Will Muschamp‘s hot seat continues to rise.

Kiffin, meanwhile, makes Alabama’s offense as dangerous as it has ever been under Saban.

Permalink 2 Comments Back to top

BYU keeps undefeated season, Playoff push alive, but reckoning day is coming

Taysom HIll

No. 21 BYU defeated Virginia 41-33 at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, moving the Cougars to 4-0 and giving them a nice resume-builder over an ACC program that will almost certainly play in a bowl this December. When it comes time to fill the non-playoff New Year’s Six bowls, the selection committee running the College Football Playoff will like this one.

Impressive as this win was on the surface, it also highlighted why BYU won’t go undefeated and won’t be around when those Playoff discussions occur.

First, the obvious: penalties. BYU committed 12 of them, docking themselves 133 yards. This was an increase from the 10.7 flags per game the Cougars usually average, the second most in college football. These aren’t the 2001 Hurricanes. This team is not talented enough to overcome this kind of self-hatred.

The defense isn’t good enough, either. BYU allowed Virginia to run 111 plays (57 passes/44 rushes) and convert 10 of 22 third downs, meaning the Cavaliers sat on the ball for nearly 41 minutes on Saturday. Two quarterbacks played for the Hoos, and both were effective. Greyson Lambert started the game and threw for 188 yards and rushed for 49 more with a touchdown. After he left with a leg injury, Matt Johns entered the game and completed 14-of-23 pases for 139 yards and a touchdown, and sprinkled in three rushes for 22 yards.

Twice BYU needed one stop to effectively end the game, and twice Virginia scored touchdowns. The first came after a Taysom Hill touchdown pass put BYU up 34-19 with 10:17 to play. Virginia immediately marched 75 yards in 2:11 to pull within 34-26. Adam Hine took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards to make the score 41-26, but Virginia possessed the ball again with 5:21 to play, and methodically moved 98 yards in 13 plays to again pull within one score.

That’s not what championship (err, undefeated independent) defenses do.

Hill had an impressive day in the short time he was on the field, connecting on 13-of-23 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns while also leading the BYU ground attack with 17 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. He remains a treat to watch, an all-terrain vehicle in shoulder pads.

Sadly enough, though, the team around him isn’t good enough or disciplined enough to send him to New York to watch someone else win the Heisman Trophy.

BYU takes next week off before hosting Utah State on Friday, Oct 3. It’s not clear when this team is getting beat, maybe by the Fighting Chuckie Keetons, maybe six days later at Central Florida, maybe at Boise State on Oct. 24, or maybe not until the finale at California on Nov. 29. Reckoning day is coming, though.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Blake Sims quiets critics as Alabama leads Florida at halftime

Southern Miss v Alabama Getty Images

If one half of play is any indication, there is no longer a quarterback competition in Alabama.

The No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide are leading the Florida Gators 21-14 at halftime in a sloppy affair. In the first half, there were multiple fumbles, an interception, dropped passes and busted coverage.

But the play of Alabama’s senior quarterback, Blake Sims, was the bright spot.

Sims is 17-of-23 passing for 335 yards and three touchdowns. The Alabama quarterback made the right decisions throughout and capitalized on poor defensive play by the Gators. Sims found junior Kenyan Drake racing down the sidelines for an 87-yard touchdown connection. Later in the quarter, the senior signal-caller completed a 79-yard touchdown pass to the dynamic Amari Cooper.

Due to Sims’ outstanding play, junior Jake Coker didn’t see the field in the first half. Considering the current score and how well Sims is playing, no one should expect Coker to receive any repetitions in the second half.

Although, Alabama head coach Nick Saban wasn’t entirely thrilled with Sims play. The fiery coach tore into his quarterback when he fumbled the football in the second quarter.

Florida, meanwhile, isn’t getting close to the same level of play from their quarterback. Jeff Driskel. The Gators’ signal-caller is 5-of-17 passing for 53 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Gators defense, though, made plays to keep the team in the game. If the Florida’s defense can prevent big plays in the second half, Florida has a chance to steal a game from Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Otherwise, Alabama has been the better team sans the turnovers. Saban surely tore into his team at halftime. We should all expect Alabama to play sound football during the second half.

Permalink 5 Comments Back to top

Virginia leads BYU 16-13 after mistake-filled first half

Greyson Lambert

No. 21 BYU’s quest to post an undefeated regular season and nab an at-large spot in the College Football Playoff appears to be standing on tenuous ground. The Cougars trail visiting Virginia 16-13 after a mistake-filled first half.

BYU has committed eight penalties for 85 yards, committing critical mistakes to both end its own drives prematurely and extend drives for the Cavaliers. In a related story, BYU has committed the second-most penalties in college football this season. For its part, Virginia is on pace to draw 11 flags for 100 yards.

Virginia opened the game with a 47-yard kickoff return by Darius Jennings. After (you guessed it!) a pass interference penalty on Virginia’s first snap and a 37-yard run by quarterback Greyson Lambert, Virginia was on the BYU 1-yard line less than 30 seconds into the game. Lambert punched it into the end zone two plays later.

It’s been a good first half for Lambert and the Cavs, but it could have been better. They settled for three Ian Frye field goals in the second quarter, the first after setting up a 1st-and-goal at the four and getting stuffed on third down from the one. Lambert hitting on 15-of-27 passes for 145 yards, but he closed the half by completing only four of his final 14 throws for 37 yards and an ugly interception. He’s added four carries for 48 yards and the Cavs’ only touchdown.

Taysom Hill has completed 7-of-11 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown and added seven rushes for 29 yards, but much of his progress has been deleted or negated by bad penalties. Like, multiple 15-yard flags on the same drive type of penalties. Or delay of game flags after dead ball situation penalties.

That Type of undisciplined play will get to Bronco Mendenhall and company at some point, possibly today.

BYU gets the ball to open the second half.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Duke Blue Devils remain undefeated as ACC play looms

David Cutcliffe

The Duke Blue Devils continued their winning ways Saturday.

The reigning ACC Coastal champions are 4-0 after a 47-13 victory over the Tulane Green Wave in Durham, North Carolina. It’s the program’s first four-game winning streak since the 1994 campaign.

To put Duke’s accomplishment into perspective — the last time the Blue Devils started the season 4-0 Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” was the No. 1 single on Billboard’s Top 100.

And the Blue Devils have won in an impressive fashion. The combined score of Duke’s four victories is 174-46.

Despite the impressive start to the season, Tulane exposed a major weakness for Duke as the team prepares for ACC play next weekend.

The Blue Devils front seven didn’t hold up against Tulane’s massive offensive line and rushing attack. The Green Wave gained 215 yards on the ground. Duke was simply overwhelmed at the point of attack, and it’s clear the team sorely misses the presence of defensive captain and starting middle linebacker Kelby Brown, who tore an ACL during fall camp.

Green Wave receivers also dropped a pair of touchdowns, which could have made the game much closer than the final score indicated.

Even with these concerns, the Blue Devils are dynamic at the skill positions and physical along the offensive line. Senior Laken Tomlinson is one of the top guards in the nation, and wide receiver Jamison Crowder is undersized but impossible to cover in short areas.

How the team performs on a weekly basis usually falls on quarterback Anthony Boone. The senior signal-caller is a strong running threat, but he’s an inconsistent passer. Against Tulane, Boone was 15-of-27 passing for 181 yards and an interception.

A 4-0 start is yet another feather in coach David Cutcliffe‘s cap as he continues to build a strong foundation at Duke. Yet those four wins came against Elon, Troy, Kansas and now Tulane. Next week will be very different when Duke enters ACC play against the Miami Hurricanes and their dynamic running back Duke Johnson.

The schedule won’t get any easier for the Blue Devils this season, but Duke’s players can enjoy their unblemished start and the fact they accomplished something that hasn’t occurred in 20 years.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Maryland heads to Big Ten play on a high note

Tim Harris, Stefon Diggs

Maryland will make its Big Ten debut next week with a road trip to Bloomington, Indiana to play the Hoosiers. The Terps will certainly be heading into their new conference schedule on the right foot after getting the big plays to go their way in defeating  Syracuse 34-20 on the road Saturday afternoon.

C.J. Brown passed for 271 yards and two touchdowns and Brandon Ross (97 yards, 1 touchdown) and Marcus Leak (93 yards, 1 touchdown) each came close to 100-yard days. Stefon Diggs may not have had a big stat game but was a key contributor as well with six catches for 56 yards and some work on special teams and the running game. The Maryland offense has shown some good things in non-conference play that should carry over to Big Ten play. But the Maryland defense is going to have to get better.

Despite losing, Syracuse piled up nearly 500 yards of offense against Maryland (roughly 115 more yards than Maryland accumulated). It was big plays that helped Maryland overcome the yardage battle. Maryland had a 90-yard touchdown (Brown to Ross) and an interception returned for an 88-yard touchdown by William Likely. Maryland avoided turning the football over and forced two turnovers in the game. For Syracuse, preventing costly mistakes will be a key area focused on in practice before getting ready to dive into ACC play.

Syracuse first needs to make sure they can count on quarterback Terrel Hunt throwing the football. He completed just half of his attempts against Maryland for 219 yards, but he also added a team-high 143 rushing yards and a touchdown. Syracuse also had a good day from running back Prince-Tyson Gulley with 138 rushing yards and an average of 9.9 yards per carry. The potential is there for Syracuse’s offense if they can put it all together.

Syracuse will face Notre Dame in MetLife Stadium next week, which sort of qualifies as an aCC game with Notre Dame’s relationship with the ACC. But the Orange will officially get started with ACC play the following week against the team that replaced Maryland in the conference, Louisville.

Permalink 11 Comments Back to top

Virginia Tech comes from ahead to lose

Georgia Tech v Virginia Tech Getty Images

It was just two weeks ago Virginia Tech was being praised for their effort against Ohio State in Columbus. Really, it was that recently the Hokies were ranked in the top 25 and looking like a strong contender in the ACC, or at least the Coastal Division. Two weeks later the Hokies have lost two straight games on their home field. Last week it was East Carolina holding on for a victory. This week it was the Hokies coughing up a fourth-quarter lead and going down in division play as Georgia Tech snuck out of Blacksburg with a 27-24 victory.

Virginia Tech lost the lead twice in the fourth quarter. Georgia Tech took its first lead since the opening score when Paul Davis returned an interception of Michael Brewer 41 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The extra point gave Georgia Tech a 17-16 lead, but it lasted just a few minutes. On the ensuing possession, it was Brewer who got a lucky bounce on a fumbled football. Brewer had the loose ball find its way to him and he was able to run for a 21-yard touchdown with the defense mostly out of the picture. A two-point conversion gave the home team a 24-17 lead midway through the quarter.

Georgia Tech looked cooked on a 4th and 15 situation but pulled together a big first down play out of a timeout that seemed costly at the time. After completing the first down the Yellow Jackets again took to the air as Justin Thomas connected with DeAndre Smelter for a 31-yard touchdown with 2:03 to play. After converted a 4th and 15, why not go for broke, right? It paid off, and from there Georgia Tech’s defense waited for another mistake to pounce on. They got it on Virginia Tech’s next drive. Brewer made a poor decision on a pass and was picked off by D.J. White on the first play of the drive. The turnover gave Georgia Tech a free possession at the Virginia Tech 40-yard line. Using their time management to perfection, Georgia Tech methodically moved into field goal position for Harrison Butker. Butker sent a routine 24-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired, giving Georgia Tech the win and a spot in first place in the ACC Coastal Division.

Virginia Tech will play their third straight home game next weekend. Western Michigan will make the trip to represent the MAC, and Virginia Tech will return to ACC play with another key ACC Coastal Division battle the following week against North Carolina. The road trip to Chapel Hill kicks off a crucial three-game stretch for Virginia Tech in division play with games at North Carolina, at Pittsburgh and then at home against Miami. That could easily give Virginia Tech a chance to rebound and grab a firm hold of the division, which is something no team in this division has really been able to do in recent seasons. Georgia Tech is just getting started with their key division stretch. After taking next week off, Georgia Tech will host Miami and Duke before visiting North Carolina and Pittsburgh.

Georgia Tech is just getting started with their key division stretch. After taking next week off, Georgia Tech will host Miami and Duke before visiting North Carolina and Pittsburgh.

Permalink 4 Comments Back to top

QB change helps Iowa rally for road win at Pitt

Mark Weisman

Iowa’s (3-1) offense needed a spark in the second half. Perhaps a quarterback change was just what the Hawkeyes needed to avoid a second straight loss. C.J. Beathard replaced Jake Rudock in the second half in Pittsburgh and was effective and accurate as Iowa battled back form a double-digit halftime deficit to hand Pittsburgh (3-1, 1-0 ACC) its first loss of the season. Iowa held on for a 24-20 victory on ACC soil, getting a good afternoon started for the Big Ten.

Beathard breathed new life into the Iowa offense in the second half, but the Hawkeyes also managed to get an advantage on the ground at the line of scrimmage as well to muscle their way downfield at times. Mark Weisman carried the offense on the ground with 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Iowa did well spreading the ball around as well with 10 different players catching a pass and no player catching more than two passes.

Does this mean Iowa now has a quarterback controversy? That will be something to keep an eye on. It sure felt like this may have been a permanent change for Iowa, which will be aided by the fact Iowa escaped with a win. Had Iowa lost this game, Jake Rudock‘s job may not have been pulled just yet. And, in fairness, Kirk Ferentz may give Rudock another chance again next time out, perhaps with a shorter leash.

Pittsburgh running back James Conner led all players with 155 rushing yards, but when it came time to make a stop it was Iowa’s defense that forced the Panthers from counting on Conner and take to the air. James Conner led all players with 155 rushing yards, but when it came time to make a stop it was Iowa’s defense that forced the Panthers from counting on Conner and take to the air.

Next week will mark the opening of conference play for Iowa. The Hawkeyes will remain on the road to take on Purdue in another early kickoff. Pittsburgh will play one more non-conference game, again at home. The Panthers will welcome Akron, with the Zips making their second trip to Pennsylvania this season. Akron previously played on the road at Penn State in week two. Pittsburgh will return to ACC play the following week at Virginia.

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top

Maryland gets the big plays to go their way in first half at Syracuse

C.J. Brown

After losing at home on a last-second field goal to West Virginia last week, Maryland is looking to rebound on the road against a brief, one-time conference foe. Up in the dome in Syracuse, Maryland holds a halftime lead on the Orange, 31-13.

Maryland has been finding success through the air in the first half. C.J. Brown has completed seven of 12 passes for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Brandon Ross had the big offensive play of the half with a 90-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Marcus Leak has added 81 yards on three catches as well for the Terps. It was an 88-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Maryland’s William Likely  toward the end of the first half that gave Maryland quite the cushion and turned the momentum of the game heading to the break 180 degrees in favor of the road team.

Syracuse has shown plenty of ability to take control of this game, but has to avoid mistakes in the second half. The Orange have outgained Maryland 362-276 in total offensive yards. Big plays have just been the story of the game for Maryland and have gone against Syracuse.

Permalink 8 Comments Back to top

ECU slaps receiving yards leader with two-game suspension

Cam Worthy, Kyshoen Jarrett

Just a couple of hours prior to a big in-state showdown, East Carolina’s receiving corps has taken a significant hit.

In a press release, ECU announced that Cam Worthy has been suspended for the next two games.  The reason given? A school student code of conduct violation, which stemmed from, the release stated, a late-summer verbal disagreement between Worthy and another male student on campus.

The punitive measure means Worthy will miss today’s game against North Carolina as well as the Oct. 4 game against SMU, which serves as ECU’s AAC opener. He’ll be eligible to return for the Oct. 11 game against USF

“Since I arrived at ECU we have always had a strong disciplinary response to any actions by our players,” head coach Ruffin McNeill said in a statement. “Cam is an outstanding young man with an exemplary record as a student and representative of our football program. His family has been involved and fully supportive throughout this process as has our entire football family.”

Worthy currently leads the Pirates with 302 receiving yards. His 11 receptions are good for third.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Georgia Tech’s late TD sets up tense second half in Blacksburg

Brewer

Looking to rebound after a loss at home last week against East Carolina, Virginia Tech is looking to open its ACC portion of the schedule on a good note.  So far, so good for the Hokies. Virginia Tech leads Georgia Tech 16-10 at the half in Blacksburg.

Georgia Tech opened the scoring in this one with a 43-yard field goal by Harrison Butker in the first quarter, but Virginia Tech looked to take control from there. The Hokies scored back-to-back field goals with Joey Slye doing the honors and Marshawn Williams capped a 10-play drive with a six-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for a 13-3 lead. It all looked good for Virginia Tech going to halftime with a double-digit lead, but Georgia Tech strung together a seven-play drive over 70 yards capped by a touchdown run by Justin Thomas. Instead of going to the half up 13-3, Virginia Tech instead holds a six-point edge following a last second field goal by Slye.

Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer has been picked off once but has completed 16 of 22 passes for 188 yards as well. The running game has not found much room to work with against Georgia Tech’s defense, so it may be up to Brewer keeping things moving in the second half in order to hold off Georgia Tech.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

James Conner already with 100-yard afternoon as Pitt leads Iowa

James Conner

If you were looking for a match-up of a pair of sleeper picks in their respective conferences, you might have found it in western Pennsylvania this afternoon. Iowa was widely considered a trendy pick in the Big Ten heading into the season, but the Hawkeyes are coming off a loss at home last week against in-state rival Iowa State. This afternoon they take on a Pittsburgh team that has played well early on and has every bit a chance to win an up-for-grabs ACC Coastal Division. This game may not be generating much buzz, but it has been somewhat entertaining in the first half, with Pittsburgh holding the halftime advantage, 17-7.

Iowa and Pittsburgh have similar offensive philosophies, for the most part. Iowa is typically pretty good running the football, when healthy, but it is Pittsburgh that is excelling on the ground this afternoon. James Connor already has a 100-yard afternoon with 100 yards and a touchdown. Connor is averaging 5.9 yards per carry so far against the Hawkeyes and he is getting an extra push to move the piles at times as well.James Connor already has a 100-yard afternoon with 100 yards and a touchdown. Connor is averaging 5.9 yards per carry so far against the Hawkeyes and he is getting an extra push to move the piles at times as well.

Iowa turned the football over early on with a rather humorous interception when Damon Powell failed to keep his hands on a deep pass. the ball nearly slipped through his hands before his attempt to recover actually redirected the football straight into the hands of Pittsburgh defensive back Lafayette Pitts.

Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock came back later to try a pass down field, with much more success, but he has not been as locked in and accurate as his Pittsburgh counterpart, Chad Voytik. Voytik is not racking up the passing yards but he is finding receivers with consistency (12-of-14, 130 yards) and letting the running game take care of the rest. If Iowa cannot force Voytik to make some uncomfortable throws or slow down the running game, they could be heading home with a loss.

Permalink 2 Comments Back to top

Jameis Winston suspension hasn’t changed playoff picture yet

Jameis Winston

With Jameis Winston going from a half-game suspension to a full game suspension, the ramifications appear to be pretty significant for Florida State. The Seminoles still have plenty of talent across the roster and remain a double-digit favorite at home tonight against Clemson, but if you choose to let your imagination run wild then you can see how the impact of this suspension could be pretty wide-spread. But don’t waste your time. It is not exactly that complicated.

Let’s let this play out in a completely hypothetical situation. Clemson edges Florida State tonight and the Tigers are now in control of the ACC Atlantic Division. Clemson obviously has a leg up in the hunt for an ACC Championship Game appearance and the Tigers host North Carolina, North Carolina State and Louisville in the next three games. That gives Clemson a nice advantage, but it is far too early to suggest Clemson is a lock to win all three. Regardless, Clemson would have the head-to-head tiebreaker in their favor over Florida State.

If Florida State ends the season 11-1 and does not get a chance to compete for the ACC title, that could potentially be a concern when it comes time for the College Football Playoff selection committee to choose which four teams get in the playoff. How much will the committee weigh a conference championship? How will they view Florida State at 11-1, with Winston back on the field (supposing he is on the field, of course)? Keep in mind, Clemson even as an ACC champion may not be a lock either after losing to Georgia in week one. If Clemson loses to South Carolina, then you have a two-loss team as ACC champion.

This could be welcome news to a school like Michigan State and whoever comes out of the Big 12 (Oklahoma or Baylor, most likely). If you believe the SEC champion and Pac-12 champion are guaranteed to be in, the fight for the other two spots will be tense. Florida State has seemed like a lock for one of the spots, but now a loss could jeopardize that idea. I’m not so sure Florida State gets left out if they go 11-1 though. But if Clemson goes 12-1 with the ACC title, that outlook changes in a hurry.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind though. It’s not even October yet. It may just be best to stop speculating who is in and who is not for now. Just allow the games to play out and let the selection committee do its job. Until we see how the committee actually works, it is pointless to suggest what they are thinking at this time.

Permalink 16 Comments Back to top

Can Bowling Green score another B1G victory?

The MAC enters this weekend with a 3-5 head-to-head record against their big brother conference form the same region, the Big Ten. With three more games on the schedule today, the MAC has a chance to take a winning record or split against the Big Ten this regular season. It is still unlikely with two of the match-ups pairing Eastern Michigan against defending Big Ten champion Michigan State in East Lansing and UMass visiting Penn State. The Spartans are not taking EMU for granted, and Wisconsin should not be taking Bowling Green for granted either. The Badgers host the Falcons in the early portion of the day, and they may face the stiffest test out of the three Big Ten-MAC pairings this afternoon.

In today’s posting from Tom Oates for the Wisconsin State Journal, Oates points out just how good of a test this is for Wisconsin. Wisconsin has made a transition from the big, stalwart style of play that has been symbolic of Wisconsin and Big Ten football for years and moved to a smaller, lighter brand of football under head coach Gary Andersen. This has been exposed by a team like LSU but should be fit for combating a team like Bowling Green. The Falcons are known to open things up on the offensive side of the football the way that is becoming more and more common around the country. Andersen has seen this style of play and is aware of the increasing popularity of the up-tempo and wide-open offensive movement. That is what makes Saturday afternoon’s game in Madison so intriguing.

“In my opinion, in today’s day and age of football, the way it’s changed, you have to be able to get into a package where you can get three corners on the field or four corners on the field, or even have a safety come down and play linebacker,” Andersen said this week.

Bowling Green is the defending MAC champion and still a strong candidate to come out of the MAC East despite losing starting quarterback Matt Johnson for the year due to injury. Last week James Knapke passed for 395 yards and three touchdowns in a home win against another Big Ten team, Indiana. Wisconsin will be a different beats altogether for Bowling Green, but the Falcons should feel confident in their abilities against the Badgers.

Permalink 5 Comments Back to top