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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.

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Volcano continues to threaten Penn State-UCF game in Ireland

Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano AP

Earlier this week it was reported that a volcano 900 miles away in Iceland could have an impact on the Penn State-UCF football game in Ireland.  Specifically, an eruption and the ensuing ash cloud could prevent the two teams from traveling to the Emerald Isle as air travel would be restricted or downright shutdown.

While the volcano has yet to full erupt, it’s threatening to.

In the latest development, it appears that sub-glacial eruptions have already taken place.  From the Associated Press:

Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano began erupting Saturday under the country’s largest glacier after a week of seismic activity rattled the area with thousands of earthquakes, the country’s Meteorological Office said.

The eruption prompted Iceland to raise its aviation alert level to red — the highest level on a five-point scale — indicating the threat of “significant emission of ash into the atmosphere.”

Seismic data indicates that magma from the volcano is melting ice beneath the Dyngjujokull icecap on the Vatnajokull glacier, Met Office vulcanologist Melissa Pfeffer said.

As of right now, Iceland’s Civil Protection Department said, “[a]ll airports are open and flights are on schedule.” How long that remains the case depends on whether there’s a full-blown eruption. The AP wrote that “it could take up to a day for the ice to melt,” meaning a cloud of ash and steam could still be released into the atmosphere, “or the eruption might remain contained beneath Europe’s largest glacier.”

According to the Orlando Sentinel, UCF is planning on sending its equipment to Ireland at some point today, while the team and accompanying personnel will travel to the island Tuesday. The school told the Sentinel that while it “is aware of the eruption in Iceland and is monitoring the situation… they are working with their travel agency and have no plans to alter their travel schedule.”

And, if you’re interested in a live look at the volcano in question, click HERE.

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Petersen suspends one, dismisses another from UW Huskies

Derrick Brown

The new sheriff in town isn’t screwing around, in case his players haven’t previously noticed.

In a press release early Saturday afternoon, Washington announced that tight end Derrick Brown (pictured) has been indefinitely suspended from the football team by head coach Chris Petersen for violating unspecified team rules.  Additionally, defensive back Devon Washington has been dismissed from the football program for the same vague reason.

UW did state in the release that, “[t]o be clear, the disciplinary measures issued to Brown and Washington are the result of two unrelated matters.”

Brown is the only one of the two who had played for the Huskies, and that was just four contests the past three seasons. A three-star member of UW’s 2011 recruiting class, Brown originally came to the Huskies as a dual-threat quarterback. After throwing five passes his first two seasons, he moved to H-back during the start of summer camp in 2013. Prior to his suspension, he wasn’t listed on any two-deep depth charts.

As for Washington, he was a three-star member of UW’s most recent recruiting class.

(Photo credit: Washington athletics)

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UK WR to miss two games… after taking tennis ball to the eye

Kentucky v Vanderbilt

Well, this is one you don’t hear about every day when it comes to the game of football — a case of tennis eye costing a team a significant contributor.

Kentucky wide receiver Jeff Badet will miss at least the first two games of the 2014 season due to an eye injury he incurred recently. And, just how was the injury incurred? By, as previously reported here, an errant tennis ball.

Yep, the receiver took a tennis ball to the eye, with the aftereffects severe enough that it’ll cost him, at bare minimum, two games to start the season.

“We really believe catching tennis balls are great for eye-hand coordination,” said UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown. “It’s something (coach Hal) Mumme brought here when I was playing. Others have used it and I’ve used it and never had an issue. I’ve never heard of it being an issue for anybody else, either.”

Badet “has not practiced since I want to say the fourth or fifth day in camp,” Brown said, with the injury occurring two Tuesdays ago. The Wildcats’ first two games are against UT-Martin and Ohio University, at Commonwealth Stadium, so Badet’s availability isn’t critical.

Week 3, however, Kentucky travels to The Swamp to take on Florida. Head coach Mark Stoops intimated that Badet may not be available then, either.

“From what I understand, these injuries take some time, and we have to be very careful with that, that that type of injury,” Stoops said.

As a true freshman last season, Badet caught 22 passes for 285 yards.  During spring practice this year, Badet suffered a broken fibula, which had limited him during summer camp prior to the eye injury.

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SJSU suspends leading rusher for first two games

Jarrod Lawson AP

I’m not a head coach, nor have I ever slept at a Holiday Inn Express, but I wouldn’t think this would be the optimal way to head into the start of a new season.

San Jose State’s Ron Caragher announced Friday that Jarrod Lawson has been suspended for the first two games of the Spartans’ 2014 season. As a result, the running back will miss a home game against North Dakota and a road trip to Jordan-Hare to face Auburn. He’ll be eligible to return, following a bye weekend, for the game at Minnesota Sept. 20.

Other than “unspecified violations of team rules,” no reason was given for the rather significant punitive measures.

“He’s a great kid,” the head coach said. “He’s all into the ramifications and will do whatever to help the team. We look forward to his return.”

Lawson was easily the Spartans’ leading rusher last season, with his 788 yards easily outpacing Thomas Tuckers‘ 338. He’s also a threat out of the backfield, with 20 catches for another 223 yards in 2013.

The San Jose Mercury News does write, though, that Lawson “was expected to begin the year as a co-starter at running back along with… Thomas.”

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Venric Mark transfers to (West) Texas A&M

Vanderbilt v Northwestern Getty Images

A mere 10 days after he and Northwestern “parted ways,” Venric Mark has found a new college football home.

Speaking to ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad, Mark confirmed that he will use his final season of eligibility at West Texas A&M.  That was one of two Div. II schools Mark had considered, along with Northwest Missouri State.  He had also considered walking on at Texas Tech.

However, the latter option would’ve required him to file an appeal for a waiver that would grant him immediate eligibility as he’s one class short of graduating.  There were FBS programs willing to file the waiver, “[b]ut I couldn’t gamble with my last year with no guarantees,” Mark told Schad.

Mark, who is already practicing with his new teammates, mentioned Baylor, Texas State, Houston, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, SMU and Kansas as programs he looked into. Whether the interest was reciprocated is unclear.

As for choosing the D-II A&M, Mark said the proximity to his mom and an ailing grandmother proved to be a significant factor.

“This is an hour and half from my Mom. It’s the best fit,” Mark said.

In the middle of last week, it was announced that Mark had abruptly and surprisingly decided to withdraw from classes and transfer from Northwestern for “personal reasons.” That decision came a handful of days after it was announced the running back had been suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Mark, a redshirt senior, missed all but three games in 2013 due to injury and received a medical hardship waiver for the 2014 season.  In 2012, he led the Wildcats in rushing with 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns.

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Bobby Bowden not a fan of the dadgum College Football Playoff

Bobby Bowden AP

A couple of years ago, prior to the formation of the College Football Playoff, Bobby Bowden enthusiastically stated that he would be willing to serve on a hypothetical committee that would hypothetically determine the hypothetical playoff participants.

I would be willing to serve on it,” the Florida State coaching legend said in June of 2012. “I think ex-coaches have a lot of wisdom. I watch the games. And I watch the game films on my iPad.”

Fast-forward 26 months. The CFP is entering its first season, replete with a 13-member committee that will select the four playoff teams at season’s end. Bowden, though, is not a part of it. In fact, there are just three former FBS head coaches (Barry Alvarez, Tom Osborne, Tyrone Whittingham) who will serve on the committee.

Coincidentally enough or not, Bowden is now voicing fear and trepidation over the playoff system as it’s currently constituted.

“I always thought they got one and two right. Really people don’t care about three and four,” Bowden said while attending the kickoff luncheon in Akron, where his son, Terry Bowden, is the Zips head coach. “It’s going to give more teams an opportunity to play for the national championship, but I like it the way it was. I’m not sure it’s going to work. Maybe it will turn out better. …

“Now No. 5 is really upset. No. 5 says we should have been in that dadgum top four. That’s what three said. You get the same debate going on down the line.”

(Writer’s note: I’ve said it before and I’ll continuing beating it into the ground for as long as it takes: it’s progress that we will be arguing over the Nos. 4 and 5 teams instead of the Nos. 2 and 3. Just like it’ll be progress when — not if — the field is expanded to eight teams and we’re arguing over Nos. 8 and 9 and not Nos. 4 and 5.)

Bowden also expressed concern over access for the Non-Power Five conferences — the AAC, Conference USA, MAC (his son’s current conference), MWC and Sun Belt.

“I don’t like that. I liked it where Boise State had a chance, where smaller schools have a chance.” Bowden said. “Now they’re just [favoring] the rich people, the schools that have it all.”

OK, two things Coach Bowden.

One, no Non-Power Five school ever played for the BCS championship, so there’ll be no difference under the new system if it never happens. Two, with the CFP, the highest-ranked Non-Power Five team is guaranteed a spot in a marquee — think old BCS — bowl game. That was not the case under the old system. In fact, during the 16 years of the old system, just seven Non-Power Five teams qualified for a BCS bowl berth. And those came in six seasons (2004, 2006, 2008, 2009 (2), 2010, 2012). By the end of the 2021 season, more Non-Power Five teams will have played in CFP bowls in eight years than did in the entire 16-year history of the BCS.

Additionally, the Non-Power Five conferences will receive five times as much in revenue from the CFP than they did from the BCS.

In other words, the financial benefits and access are much greater and better, respectively, in a new vs. old comparison. Yes, it’s not a level playing field; thing is, it never was in the past, won’t be in the present and never will be in the future.

That said, a team like Boise State stands a better chance of winning a national championship now than under the BCS, if for nothing more than the fact that there are four slots open now on the road to a title instead of just two. Bump that field to eight and the little guys can once again be a yearly factor.

The CFP is far from perfect, but it’s a far piece better than the BCS.

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CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 6 UCLA

Washington v UCLA Getty Images

2013 record: 10-3 overall, 6-3 in Pac-12 Conference (2nd in South division)
2013 postseason: Sun Bowl vs. Virginia Tech (42-12 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 16/No. 16
Head coach: Jim Mora (19-8 overall; 19-8 in three years at UCLA)
Offensive coordinator: Noel Mazzone (3rd year at UCLA)
2013 offensive rankings: 35th rushing offense (196.6 ypg); 43rd passing offense (251.8 ypg); 38th total offense (448.5 ypg); 2oth scoring offense (36.9 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: nine
Defensive coordinator: Jeff Ulbrich (3rd year at UCLA)
2013 defensive rankings: 71st rushing defense (169.5 ypg); 40th passing defense (217.6 ypg);  54th total defense (387.1 ypg); 35th scoring defense (23.2 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: eight
Location: Los Angeles
Stadium: Rose Bowl (92,542; grass)
Last conference title: 1998

THE GOOD
The talent on UCLA’s roster makes the Bruins contenders in the Pac-12 Conference. The play of quarterback Brett Hundley can place the team in national title contention. Hundley is among the Top 3 quarterbacks in college football along with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Like Mariota, Hundley would have a first-round pick in May’s NFL draft if he decided to declare early. But he decided to stay in Westwood. The Bruins will gladly continue to build around their talented quarterback. Hundley is an impressive athlete at 6-3 and 226 pounds. Last season. Hundley threw for 3,071 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also led the team with 748 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. One of the reasons Hundley returned to UCLA for his redshirt junior campaign is to become a better overall quarterback. Hundley did improve his decision making through the final six games of last season. He only threw one of his nine interceptions after Oct. 26. As Hundley continues to develop his overall game, the Bruins will be the biggest beneficiary. And top-notch quarterback play is a key ingredient for any program ready to make the jump from being good to great.

THE BAD
UCLA head coach Jim Mora is a defensive coach by nature. It had to drive him crazy to see the Bruins play as poorly on defense as they did last seson. The Bruins actually finished fifth overall in the Pac-12 in total defense, but that is more an indictment of the overall defensive play around the league. The country’s 71st overall rushing defense simply isn’t good enough. UCLA wants to be able to compete with any team in the country. And it has to be better on defense. The team relied heavily on two talented freshmen, Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark, along the defensive line last season. Both should naturally improve during their sophomore campaigns. While the team’s starting front is talented, the depth is questionable beyond Ellis McCarthy. Players such as junior Kevin McReynolds, need to provide quality reps as part of the team’s defensive line rotation for them to improve significantly against the run. Isaako Savaiinaea will also be inserted into the starting lineup to replace Jordan Zumwalt at inside linebacker. UCLA knows what to expect of senior linebacker Eric Kendricks, but Savaiinaea’s play could prove to be the difference in the Bruins’ defense as a whole. The Bruins’ progression on the defensive side of the football should be the primary indicator how far the team can go this season.

THE UNKNOWN
UCLA’s offense line was in constant flux in 2013. The team used four different offensive line combinations throughout the season. The team actually changed its starting lineup in six of its last seven games. A lack of continuity up front will have a drastic effect throughout the rest of the offense. While this shouldn’t be a concern which lingers between seasons, the Bruins have already started off on the wrong foot with at least one significant injury along this year’s offensive line. Left tackle Simon Goines will miss at least the first two games of the season after he had bone spurs removed in his ankle Aug. 9. Malcolm Bunche, a Miami transfer, has 13 career starts at left tackle, and he is expected to slide into the spot vacated by Goines. Once Goines returns, the coaching staff will have shuffle the starting lineup. How many times will they have to do so this season? Will Bunche slide inside to guard once Goines is healthy or he remain on the blindside? The fact of the matter is UCLA won’t have their top offensive line on the field until week three of the season with very little practice time as an entire unit. Goines is expected to return just in time for one of the Bruins’ biggest games of the season against Texas. However, he won’t have much time to build a rapport with the rest of the unit. The only ones who will suffer if the offensive can’t gel quickly are Hundley and the rest of UCLA’s skill positions.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Stanford
It’s been six years since UCLA defeated Stanford. To put that time frame into context, the 2008 season was Rick Neuheisel’s first at UCLA. It was Jim Harbaugh‘s second with the Cardinal. Stanford has gone on to become one of the most successful and intimidating teams in the Pac-12 Conference. The Bruins, meanwhile, have searched for an identity and found one under head coach Jim Mora. This game will be Mora’s opportunity to truly put his stamp on the program. It’s the last game of the regular season. Both UCLA and Stanford are expected to be battling for an appearance in the Pac-12 championship game. Since the game falls on a Friday, both teams will have short practice weeks. The Bruins want to prove they’re among the Pac-12’s elite and a potential national championship contender. Stanford is as tough a team as the Bruins will face all season.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: linebacker/running back Myles Jack
Hundley is the obvious choice here. There is, however, a natural curiosity that will draw college football fans and Heisman voters to Jack. On one hand, Jack is one of the best young linebackers in college football. On the other, he is a dynamic runner when the Bruins decide to hand him the football. Last season, Jack was third on the Bruins’ defense with 49 tackles. He also added seven tackles for loss and 13 deflected passes while dropping in coverage. On offense, Jack led the team with an average of 7.0 yards per carry. He only ran the ball 38 times, yet he was second on the team with seven rushing touchdowns. And Jack accomplished these numbers as a true freshman. The “runningbacker” simply brings a completely different dynamic to both sides of the football. He’ll be expected to make the big play on defense in crucial parts of the game. And the team clearly favors him when they’re around the goal line on offense. The novelty of Jack playing both ways will draw interest from fans around the country. It’s his talent and ability to play at a high level on both sides of the football that will make him a legitimate Heisman contender.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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USC’s Tre Madden a ‘game-time decision’

Tre Madden AP

The latest update on one of USC’s top options in the running game is not a positive one.

Tre Madden has been dealing with a lingering toe injury he suffered early on in summer camp.  Head coach Steve Sarkisian said after practice Thursday that “[w]e’re taking every precautionary action we can to make sure that Tre is great and ready to go when his time is called again.”

Madden’s time doesn’t appear to be the opener against Fresno State in a week as Sarkisian said the running back is “probably a game-time decision.”  The coach’s declaration came after Madden, who has been wearing a walking boot on his right foot, missed yet another practice session.

The player hasn’t practiced with his teammates since a scrimmage Monday night, and visited foot specialists Thursday and Friday in an attempt to speed up the recovery process..

“When you start messing with a running back and his feet or his toes, his ability to push off, they just don’t overnight, all of a sudden, get better,” Sarkisian said. “We’re trying to maximize his rest. We’re trying to keep him off his feet as best we can to get him as healthy as quickly as we can and hopefully have him ready to go for next Saturday.”

The injury bug has dogged Madden throughout his Trojans career.

During the first five games last season, Madden rushed for 583 yards and three touchdowns.  The last eight, three of which he didn’t record a carry as he battled a hamstring issue, Madden totaled just 120 yards and didn’t find the end zone.  His 703 yards were second on the team to the 785 yards for Javorius Allen, who figures to be the Trojans’ bell cow in the running game this year.

During spring practice in 2012, Madden tore an ACL and missed the entire season.

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‘Failure to monitor’ adds two years to GaTech’s probation

Paul Johnson AP

Thank goodness we still have the NCAA on the lookout for the well-being of the sport.

The latest example?  Thursday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that “Georgia Tech has been censured by the NCAA for… failure to monitor” because of “a failure to keep records of phone calls and the rogue actions of a former football assistant coach.” That rogue coach is Todd Spence, who left the Yellow Jackets in January of 2012 after serving a one-game suspension for making impermissible phone calls to recruits.

While there was a “rogue coach” involved, it appears an incompetent — and former — compliance director is at the root of the latest NCAA issue.  Well, that and a broken and busted system, but that’s another topic for another day.

The NCAA’s two-year investigation, conducted with Tech’s cooperation, found multiple Level II violations, which are defined as a significant breach of conduct, committed in 2011 and 2012. Many stemmed from coaches on the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams unknowingly making impermissible phone calls to prospects. Coaches told the NCAA that they were acting under the incorrect instruction from a former Tech compliance director that they did not need to do so. Calls were often rendered impermissible due to a failure to follow a call-logging protocol.

In July of 2011, Tech was placed on four year’s probation and forced to vacate its 2009 ACC title in connection to impermissible benefits given to former star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas — and the school’s failure to cooperate with the NCAA investigation. This latest “egregious” act will tack on two more years of probation for Yellow Jacket football, which means the program will be sitting in the corner until the summer of 2017.  The school self-imposed the additional two years of probation.

“That is not something that sits well with me or with any of us here,” GT athletic director Mike Bobinski told the Journal-Constitution regarding the “failure to monitor” reprimand. “That’s not a good-sounding or good-feeling term. It’s not one we want to wear beyond this. As I told you before, it is clearly our intention this the last time we ever go down this road.”

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UofL’s DeVante Parker injures foot, to see specialist; WR tweets ‘I’m fine’

DeVante Parker, Jordan Streeter AP

This one has the potential to be a very significant blow to one of the most talented players in the country.

Late Friday night, Louisville sent out a press release announcing that DeVante Parker had suffered an injury to his left foot earlier in the day.  The release stated that the star wide receiver was examined by UofL team physicians, but will be sent to Charlotte “in the next couple of days” for further evaluation by Dr. Bob Anderson.

Dr. Anderson is a renowned orthopedic surgeon who specializes in ankle and foot injuries.  According to SBNation.com, “Anderson has recently seen and/or operated on Derek Jeter, Matt Schaub, Cam Newton and Julio Jones for their serious ankle or foot injuries.”

For his part, Parker attempted to downplay the growing gloom and doom hovering over Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

That’s all well and good, but a football program doesn’t send their star receiver out of state to see a foot specialist for a stubbed toe or athlete’s foot.

Perhaps the only silver lining in all of the uncertainty swirling around Parker is that, if he is sidelined for any length of time, the receiving corps is arguably the deepest unit the Cardinals have.  Then again, none of them will answer if you call out the name “Devante Parker.”

Last season, the 6-3, 211-pound Parker ended the year with 55 receptions for 885 yards and a school-record-tying 12 touchdowns. The last three years, Parker’s led the UofL in touchdown receptions. The last two, he’s led the team in both receptions and yards as well.

He’s widely regarded as one of the top receivers in the country entering 2014 after eschewing early entry into the NFL draft and returning for his senior season.

Louisville opens the season against Miami on Labor Day.

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NCAA denies Dorial Green-Beckham’s appeal

Dorial Green-Beckham

The fate of wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has been decided by the NCAA.

Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma in July after Missouri dismissed the talented receiver due to multiple off-the-field incidents. Oklahoma filed an appeal on Green-Beckham’s behalf last week. The NCAA officially denied the appeal Friday.

Oklahoma released a statement after the NCAA announced its decision:

“The University of Oklahoma has learned that the waiver request it entered on behalf of Dorial Green-Beckham has been denied by the NCAA. The University accepts that decision and will continue to provide the appropriate assistance to Dorial, just as it does with other students, in helping him grow personally from the many opportunities available to him at OU.”

Of course the University “accepts that decision.” It shouldn’t even be surprised by the outcome due to recent incidents with other members of its football team.

The tipping point for Green-Beckham at Missouri was an incident where he allegedly pushed a woman down a flight of stairs.

It’s the type of incident the University of Oklahoma publicly stated “takes very seriously its obligation in cases like this…”

The school suspended its leading tackler, Frank Shannon, for the season after sexual assault allegations.  The school did the same to running back Joe Mixon after he allegedly punched a woman in the face and caused four broken bones.

If the Sooners found a loophole — in this case, the run off rule — to allow Green-Beckham to play this season, the school’s actions would have been seen as highly hypocritical. Instead, all three players won’t be allowed to play during the upcoming campaign.

Make no mistake about it — the Sooners were hopeful Green-Beckham could play this season. He’s mega-talent at wide receiver. Instead, the team will have to rely heavily on Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and Derrick Woods.

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Maryland’s leading receiver, senior linebacker arrested

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman - Marshall v Maryland

The Maryland Terrapins may be without the team’s leading receiver from last season and a major contributor on special teams for an undetermined amount of time.

Junior wide receiver Levern Jacobs and senior linebacker Alex Twine were arrested Thursday on charges of second-degree assault. The original charges stem from an April 19 incident.

“We are aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering more information” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall told the Baltimore Sun‘s Matt Zentiz. “We take these matters very seriously. We will have no further comment at this time.”

Last season, Jacobs led the team with 47 receptions for 640 yards. Although, Jacobs wasn’t expected to start for the Terrapins this season due to Maryland’s depth at wide receiver.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do at the receiver position,” Edsall told InsideMDSports.com’s Josh Stirn at the start of fall camp. “We’ve got to step it up a bit. We’re not looking for receivers that can just catch the ball around here. This isn’t flag football. This isn’t a 7 on 7. We’ve got to have complete receivers. We’ve got to get our receivers to do that and our receivers have got to make sure that they listen to Keenan [McCardell] and do exactly what they ask them to do. If they do that with the talent they have, they can be very good. But we’re not there yet and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Jacobs current predicament will create more opportunities for his younger brother, Tavion Jacobs, who impressed the coaching staff this summer.

Twine, meanwhile, made 12 starts and played in 34 games since becoming a member of the Terrapins. Twine provides critical depth at linebacker while serving as Maryland’s special teams ace.

Due to Edsall’s reaction to the their arrests, both will likely face suspensions from the team.

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Five-star RB plans to stay at Oklahoma

Photo credit: Rivals

Joe Mixon isn’t leaving the University of Oklahoma.

Mixon was suspended from all football activities for a year Monday after the Cleveland County (Oklahoma) District Attorney’s office charged him with one misdemeanor count of an act resulting in gross injury.

The running back maintains his innocence in the matter, and the automatic question asked was whether or not he would remain at the school after its decision.

Mixon emphatically answered the question via twitter.

As part of the suspension, Mixon will not be allowed to participate in team activities and he will be excluded from the team’s roster. But Mixon can remain a student at the university and eligible for financial aid under the “appropriate conditions.”

Mixon’s presence would have been a boost to this year’s backfield. The Sooners, however, are not devoid of talent at running back. Sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross will be relied upon this fall, and Mixon will join the team’s stable of running backs in 2015.

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Ohio State’s plan to replace QB Braxton Miller

Urban Meyer

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is the answer to nearly every football question posed in today’s game.

Who did New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick consult to make his team more efficient during practice? Chip Kelly. How did the Oregon Ducks go from a unique team with flashy uniforms to a national title contender? Chip Kelly. Who is turning the NFL upside down with how he approaches every aspect of the game? Chip Kelly.

We could go on and on, but we won’t.

When Ohio State lost Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller for the season after re-injuring his throwing shoulder, head coach Urban Meyer was forced to reconsider his options on offense. The answer was simple. Chip Kelly.

Meyer has always been at the forefront of offensive innovation with his spread offense, but his goal is to be more like Kelly this season.

According to SI.com, the Buckeyes’ staff and players are often overheard saying, “We want to be the Philadelphia Eagles of college football.”

When asked directly whether or not Meyer will increase the team’s offensive tempo, the coach remained noncommittal.

“That’s a good question,” Meyer told SI.com. “That’s also to be determined. We’re prepared more than in the last two years. It’s the third year in the system.”

Traditional thinking says playing fast means an athlete is not thinking about what he’s doing. He’s just reacting. The Buckeyes operating at a faster pace with redshirt freshmen J.T. Barrett at quarterback instead of Miller would seem to be counterintuitive. That’s not actually the case.

While a faster tempo requires quicker decisions from the quarterback position, it also simplifies his reads and wears down defenses that can’t substitute and forces them into basic schemes.

Barrett has yet to be officially named the team’s starter, but he worked his way to No. 2 on the depth chart prior to Miller re-injuring his shoulder. Barrett he may be the perfect quarterback to play in this style of offense even if he’s not as physically talented as Miller.

“The best quarterbacks are great distributors, and I watch Peyton Manning and I’m in awe of the way he distributes the ball,” Meyer told ESPN.com‘s Austin Ward. “I thought (former Ohio State quarterback) Kenny Guiton was one of the best I’ve been around as far as getting the ball out quickly and distributing to playmakers and letting them run with the ball, let them make plays. That’s what my initial evaluation of J.T. is, he’s very good at that.”

Meyer should be able to devise an offense to get the ball out of Barrett’s hand quickly and allow the play makers around the quarterback to take over the game.

“In my 10 years here, this is the most explosive offensive talent, depth wise, that we’ve ever had,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told SI.com. “The 2006 team had a lot of offensive weapons. But depth wise, you just have to get the ball to the players and get out of the way.”

Kelly would certainly approve of this approach.

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ACC coach: Half league’s teams don’t have player that can start for FSU

Jimbo Fisher

How talented is Florida State’s team?

It’s talented enough to help build an inferiority complex around the rest of the ACC.

“According to one ACC coach, FSU is so stocked with talent across its depth chart that he believes about half the league’s teams do not have one player who would start for Florida State this year based on what he’s seen on film,” Bruce Feldman and Pete Thamel of FoxSports.com reported.

The Seminoles are absolutely loaded on both sides of the football. Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Jameis Winston, is back for his redshirt sophomore season. The team also returns eight players named to one of the All-ACC teams in 2013. And the 11 starters Florida State has to replace from last year’s squad will be filled with former highly-touted recruits that simply need an opportunity to showcase their talent.

The unnamed coach was right about half the league. A quick look at the preseason All-ACC team proves his point. Players from seven teams other than Florida State were bestowed with the honor.

Teams that didn’t have a representative were the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Pittsburgh Panthers, Virginia Cavaliers and Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Arguments could be made for Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd, North Carolina linebacker Norkeithus Otis, Virginia safety Anthony Harris and Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson but the coach’s point still stands.

The underlying theme of the comment is simple. Florida State will be favored to win every game it plays this season, and only one or two teams in the ACC even have a chance to upset the Seminoles as they attempt a second run to the national championship game.

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