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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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Former NCAA executive director Walter Byers dies at 93

Walt Byers

Walter Byers, the man who, for better or worse, created the modern NCAA passed away on Wednesday at his home in Emmett, Kan. He was 93. Byers’ son Fritz said the cause was a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream.

Byers famously left his post as an assistant sports information director for the Big Ten to become the NCAA’s first executive director at age 29 in 1951. The next quarter century saw Byers rapidly expand the NCAA – in terms of its membership, the revenue it took in, and its dominion over its athletes. He took what former NCAA employee and eventual Big 8 and Big Ten commissioner Wayne Duke called a “part-time” organization and nearly tripled its membership, from 381 universities upon his hiring to 1,003 upon his exit in 1987. The NCAA’s own rank and file grew as well, as the organization grew from a handful of employees at its Kansas City offices to 150  by the time of his retirement.

“He had to come up with structure for all kinds of athletics, team and individual, at the national level. Before him there was nothing,” Duke told the Associated Press.

Byers saw the value in televising college sports early on, selling a restricted slate of games to NBC for $1.14 million a year in 1952 according to the New York Times. Byers strategy of grouping NCAA football games together got the sport on television, but membership eventually fought to overrule the model he created. In 1984, Oklahoma and Georgia successfully sued the NCAA for control over their television contracts, creating the marketplace that eventually brought Notre Dame its standalone contract with NBC and created individual networks for the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 and Texas.

“It is virtually impossible to overstate the degree of our resentment,” Oklahoma president William Banowsky said at the time.

Byers made up that revenue by ramping up the NCAA Tournament, helping turn it into the billion-dollar enterprise it is today. “In my opinion he never received credit for his leadership in building that event,” said former NCAA Tournament administrator Tom Jernstedt. “In my mind he is the father of the NCAA basketball tournament and he doesn’t get the recognition for that.”

Byers was also credited with coining the term “student-athlete,” though he later rejected the amateurism model that to this day serves as the NCAA’s bedrock, admitting in his memoir Unsportsmanlike Conduct that the term was a defense mechanism allowing schools to avoid long-term liability for athletes’ disability benefits. “Whereas the NCAA defends its policies in the name of amateurism and level playing fields, they actually are a device to divert the money elsewhere,” he wrote.

By the end of his tenure, Byers considered the idea of creating an “open” division, similar to the Power Five autonomy legislation the powers that be are working through today. “I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that there has to be a major rearrangement on the part of the institutions of higher learning as to what they want to do with their athletic programs. I think there’s an inherent conflict that has to be resolved,” he said. “I’m not prepared to go into how an open division would work. But we’re in a situation where we, the colleges, say it’s improper for athletes to get, for example, a new car. Well, is that morally wrong? Or is it wrong because we say it’s wrong?”

Forever reluctant of the spotlight, Byers made few public appearances following his 1987 retirement, and even no-showed his National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame induction in 2009.

Byers leaves behind two sons, one daughter, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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After year-long study, Auburn won’t claim any more national championships

Jay Jacobs

For years – heck, eons – Alabama’s practice of claiming some, uh, dubious national championships has driven Auburn fans crazy. So much so, in fact, that last year the school launched a study into whether or not it should start claiming some bygone national championships of its own.

The results are in, and Auburn will keep its national championship total at two.

“We’ve earned what we’ve earned and people can count it different ways, but we’ve earned what we’ve earned,” Jacobs told Brandon Marcello of AL.com. “Those players on those teams, like me in 1983, it doesn’t matter if you hang a banner or not. I know what we did.”

The Tigers claim titles in 1957 and 2010, but the NCAA record books credits Auburn with championships in 1910, 1913, 1914, 1983, 1993 and 2004 as well.

This is the path the school should take. For one thing, Auburn was on probation during its undefeated 1993 regular season. For another, the school and its fans would instantaneously lose any moral high ground it claims over Alabama – whatever that’s worth – by following the Tide into handing itself retroactive titles. And even at that the Tigers would still be only halfway way to Alabama’s total.

No, better stick to the commonly recognized total and leave your rivals to wander in the realms of fantasy.

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American sets kick times for a number of ESPN-broadcasted games

Maryland v Connecticut

The season is getting ever closer. We crossed the double-digit barrier until FBS opening day this week, and on Wednesday the American announced a number of finalized kick times for games that will be shown on the ESPN family of networks.

The bulk of the games are opening weekend tilts, allowing the season to feel just that much closer, while the others are weeknight games.

Without further ado, here’s the full set of announced kick times (all times Eastern):

Thurs., Sept. 3: Villanova at Connecticut – 7:30 p.m., ESPN3/SNY
Fri., Sept. 4: Baylor at SMU – 7 p.m., ESPN
Sat., Sept. 5: Florida A&M at South Florida – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Alabama A&M at Cincinnati – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Towson at East Carolina – 6 p.m., ESPN3
Tennessee Tech at Houston – 8 p.m., ESPN3
Missouri State at Memphis – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Sat., Sept. 19: Furman at Central Florida – 6 p.m., ESPN3
Maine at Tulane – 8 p.m., ESPN3
Sat., Sept. 26: James Madison at SMU – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Fri., Oct. 2: Memphis at South Florida – 7 p.m., ESPN2
Thurs., Oct. 8: SMU at Houston – 8 p.m., ESPN2
Fri., Oct. 16: Houston at Tulane – 9 p.m, ESPNU
Thurs., Oct. 22: Temple at East Carolina – 7 p.m., ESPN2
Fri., Oct. 23: Memphis at Tulsa – 8 p.m., ESPN
Fri., Oct. 30: East Carolina at Connecticut – 7 p.m., ESPNU
Fri., Nov. 6: Temple at SMU – 8 p.m., ESPN2
Thurs., Nov. 19: East Carolina at Central Florida – 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Plan accordingly.

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Louisville DE Devonte Fields headed to trial for assault charge

Texas Tech v TCU

It feels like much more than a year has passed since Devonte Fields was set to anchor a TCU defensive front on the Horned Frogs’ quest to rebound from a 4-8 campaign. That all changed last July when the former Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year was accused of pointing a gun at his ex-girlfriend and threatening to shoot her.

He was “separated” from the TCU roster later that same day and never suited up in purple again. Fields announced a commitment to Louisville in February but now his Cards debut appears tenuous as Max Olson of ESPN.com reported Wednesday that Fields will see his day in court for last summer’s alleged crime.

As Olson reports, Fields will be put on trial for misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury to a family member, which carries up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The trial is set to begin June 17.

Fields has attended anger management courses in hopes of reducing his charges, but an agreement to dismiss the charges was not reached.

Pending results of the trial, Fields is set to enroll at Louisville in July. The Cardinals have not commented on the case.

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Former four-star OU QB Justice Hansen to transfer

Justice Hansen

Justice Hansen, a redshirt freshman Oklahoma quarterback from nearby Edmond, Okla., has announced his intention to transfer before appearing in his first game as a Sooner.

The former four-star recruit in the class of 2014 provided a statement to SoonerScoop.com explaining his decision to leave Norman. The site said Hansen will be given permission to transfer without restriction on his future destination.

I have done a lot of thinking, talking with friends and family, and most importantly, praying. In the end I feel it is in my best interest to move on from the University of Oklahoma and continue my football career elsewhere. I can’t thank coach Stoops, coach Riley and all the other coaches enough for how they have treated me during my time at OU.

I would also like to thank my teammates for pushing me and allowing me to be part of the family. The university was a great experience and I appreciate the opportunity. I had to proudly represent it. I wish nothing but the best for OU in the future. God Bless.

Hansen accounted for 7,298 combined passing/rushing yards and 85 touchdowns as a sophomore and junior at Santa Fe High School before seeing his senior season cut short due to an ankle injury.

Josh Huepel‘s dismissal from the staff likely played a role in Hansen’s decision, along with the presence of returning quarterbacks Trevor KnightBaker Mayfield and Cody Thomas. His departure creates an interesting conundrum for new OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley as Hansen was the Sooners’ only quarterback signee in 2014 and the program did not sign a signal-caller in its 2015 class.

10:04 p.m. ET update: Bob Stoops has released a statement on Hansen’s impending transfer.

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SEC to boost penalties for field rushing violations

Alabama v Mississippi

There are many things in football that fans love but players and coaches hate. Games marred by excess rain or snow come to mind. But top of the list is field rushing.

Rushing the field is one of the many things that separates college football from its professional counterpart. It’s an entirely collegial activity, the state of being so overjoyed by your men in pads that you don’t know what to do with yourself. If you’ve ever been to a game where a field was rushed, I can guarantee you’ll never forget it.

But it’s also incredibly dangerous for players and coaches – especially those on the losing side. And according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the SEC plans to up the fines it levies on schools whose fans violate its field-rushing rules.

“It’s an attempt to change behavior,” outgoing commissioner Mike Slive said from the league’s spring meetings in Destin, Fla. “I think we have changed it considerably, but there are still times when it happens. I think our folks felt the current fine structure is not sufficiently large enough to be a quality deterrent.”

At present, the SEC doles out $5,000 fines for a first offense, $25,000 for a second offense and $50,000 for each violation thereafter within a three-year period.

Slive wasn’t sure exactly how the penalty structure would change, but said the league would reach a consensus during this week’s meetings. The guess here is that the $5,000 fine goes out the window and the three-year snapshot is expanded to five or six.

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UCLA losing DB Jalen Ortiz to transfer

John Harris, Jalen Ortiz

Not surprisingly, we have yet another departure on the transfer train to feature.

The latest to see its roster pared is UCLA, Jalen Ortiz announcing Tuesday that he has decided to leave the Bruins and continue his collegiate playing career at an undetermined location.  The cornerback made what was a very gracious announcement on the same social media website that all the cool kids these days are doing such things:  Twitter.

A three-star member of UCLA’s 2013 recruiting class, Ortiz was rated as the No. 27 “athlete” in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Arizona.  In addition to UCLA, Ortiz held offers from, among others, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Boise State, BYU, Utah and Washington.

Ortiz spent his first season with the Bruins as a wide receiver, but moved to the defensive secondary for the 2014 season.  He played in 26 games the past two seasons — mainly on special teams — and caught four passes for 27 yards as a true freshman.

After sitting out the 2015 season if he ends up at another FBS program, Ortiz would then have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

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Nine cities bid to host 2018-20 title games

CFP Trophy AP

We don’t know yet which cities will play host to the College Football Playoff title games after the one following the 2016 season is played in Glendale, Ariz.  We do know, though, the pool out of which the host cities will be selected.

Wednesday, it was revealed that nine cities had placed bids to play hosts to the CFP championship games in 2018 (following the 2017 season), 2019 (2018 season) and 2020 (2019 season). Those cities include, in alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone, Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, San Antonio and Santa Clara.

All eight of those cities had previously had reports (HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE) attaching them to the bidding process for the upcoming games. Arlington, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, New Orleans, New York City, Orlando and Pasadena had also been mentioned as possibilities, although cities such as Arlington, Indy, Jax, NYC, Orlando and Pasadena all publicly decided against a run at this set of games.

Houston and Santa Clara were the only communities to bid on all three games.  Charlotte, New Orleans and San Antonio bid on two games apiece, the 2019 and 2020 games. The breakdown of the other cities and the years in which they’re interested are as follows:

2018: Atlanta; Houston; Miami/South Florida; Santa Clara.
2019: Charlotte; Detroit; Houston; New Orleans; San Antonio; Santa Clara.
2020: Charlotte; Houston; Minneapolis; New Orleans; San Antonio; Santa Clara.

The winning bids are expected to be announced later this year, likely during the 2015 season.

The first CFP championship game was held this past January at the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Tex.  The cities of Glendale, Ariz., and Tampa, Fla., will host the title games following the 2015 and 2016 seasons, respectively.

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Rutgers CB, accomplice netted $20 in alleged armed robbery

Kevin Snyder, L.J. Liston

Well, Bonnie & Clod, hope it is was worth it. Allegedly.

Over the weekend, Rutgers cornerback Darian Dailey, along with another male, was arrested in Florida and charged with robbery with a firearm. According to the victim, it was Dailey’s accomplice, Trazelle Johnson, who pointed what he thought to be a handgun at him.

And the financial haul Dailey (pictured, No. 33) and Johnson came away with? $20. Total.

As detailed by the nj.com, here’s what led up to the twin arrests:

Dailey, who was driving a black Dodge registered to his mother, and Johnson, the passenger, stopped the car directly in front of an 18-year-old who was riding his bicycle home from work just before 2 a.m. on Sunday, according to the warrant. Police said Johnson got out of the car with his face covered by a cloth and pointed what appeared to be a black semi-automatic handgun at the victim and asked, “What you got?”

After the victim said he had $20, Johnson said, “Hand it over,” according to the warrant. Dailey, 19, stood behind Johnson, 19, near the rear of vehicle during the exchange. Dailey and Johnson then got back into the car and drove away, according to the warrant.

The victim copied the car’s tag number and the vehicle was located by Manatee County Deputies a short time later. A black pellet gun (without red tip) was in plain view in the vehicle, according to the warrant.

The 19-year-old Dailey, who was home in Bradenton, Fla., when the incident happened, and Johnson were both held in lieu of $150,000 bonds. The former posted his bail Monday morning and was released, while the latter remains jailed.

In a statement released Sunday, head coach Kyle Flood said that [w]”e are aware of the situation and are gathering facts,” adding “[o]nce those facts are gathered, we will take the appropriate action.”

A two-star member of the Scarlet Knights’ 2014 recruiting class, Dailey took a redshirt as a true freshman. He’ll be expected to compete for playing time come summer camp — provided he can extract his cranium from his rectum, that is.

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Amidst controversy, Dabo Swinney cancels planned appearance

Florida State v Clemson Getty Images

Quite the ruckus was kicked up earlier this week when a report surfaced that Dabo Swinney is scheduled to appear June 2 at a fundraiser for the Palmetto Family Council, an organization described as being “dedicated to fighting against equality for the LGBT community and same-sex couples.”  Swinney was greeted by criticism in some corners and support in others who consider the PFC a pro-traditional marriage group.

A day later, the former corner prompted the Clemson head coach to blink.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Swinney announced that he has decided to cancel his appearance with the group.  In the statement, Swinney claimed he has “no association” with the PFC and that he “had no idea that I was being invited into a political controversy.”

Below is Swinney’s statement, in its entirety:

“I was recently selected by the Palmetto Family Council, an organization with which I have no association, as their ‘South Carolina Family Champion of 2015′ and was invited to receive this recognition at an event sponsored by the group on June 2. I had no idea that I was being invited into a political controversy. It was my understanding that the nomination and election for this award was based on the work done by our “All In Foundation” and the difference it is making in our community. My acceptance of this award was to be on behalf of all the volunteers that make our foundation a success. The work of our foundation is intended to build a better community and be a positive influence.

“Recently, my scheduled participation in this event has been perceived incorrectly as an endorsement of certain viewpoints and has entered the political arena. I have been out of town since last Thursday and am disappointed that this has become a distraction for me, my team and many others. I have been and continue to be very open about my personal beliefs. However, I do not inject those beliefs or the work of the foundation into the political process.

“I appreciate the recognition of my and the foundation’s efforts. However, after much thought, in order to avoid a distraction for the team and the entire football program, I’ve decided it is in the best interests of all involved that I not attend the event on June 2.”

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BC’s leading returning receiver won’t be, well, returning

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Boston College v Penn State Getty Images

Ground-and-pound Boston College exited spring light on production in what constitutes its passing “attack.”  Entering the summer workout phase, that part of the offense has taken a substantial and unexpected hit.

A school spokesperson confirmed to accsports.com Wednesday that wide receiver-turned-tight end Dan Crimmins is no longer on the Eagles football team.  No reason was given for the abrupt departure or if it was forced or voluntary, and the school has yet to confirm the move.

Whether the coaching staff’s decision to have Crimmins switch positions this spring played any role in the development, if it was indeed voluntary, is unknown.

What is known is that, if it holds, it’s a significant loss for BC.  Last season, Crimmins was second on the team in receptions (25) and receiving yards (305).  With Josh Bordner‘s departure, Crimmins was set to be the Eagles’ leading returning receiver.

That honor now falls to Sherman Alston, who went 16-175 in 2014.

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No FBS teams facing APR-related postseason bans this year

Louisville v Wichita State Getty Images

Around this time every year, people pretend to know precisely how the Academic Performance Report (APR) is calculated — and then pretend to care about the results.

In the NCAA system for measuring academic progress toward graduation, a school’s sports programs must each maintain at least a .930 APR (out of a possible 1.000) over a four-year period in order to maintain eligibility for postseason play in their respective sports.  A two-year score of .940 or above would also allow a program to be eligible for postseason competition if it was below .930 for the four-year period.

Last May, Idaho and UNLV were banned from postseason play in football because of their scores below the .930 benchmark, although the Rebels had their bowl eligibility reinstated after what was described as “score adjustments.”  Additionally, Oklahoma State was docked practice time because it failed to reach the minimum threshold.  The Cowboys avoided a postseason ban because its two-year average was half a point above the .940 standard.

Fast-forward 12 months, and no FBS programs are facing postseason ineligibility because of APR scores (link HERE), which this year are based on performances from the 2010-11 academic year through 2013-2014.  In fact, there are no FBS programs at any of the three levels of penalties in the NCAA’s APR structure, which is explained below:

Level One penalties focus on practice restrictions, allowing teams to use that time to focus on academics. Teams facing this penalty lose four hours and one day of practice time per week in season, replaced with academic activities. This year, 13 teams face this level of penalty.

Level Two penalties include the Level One penalty and a reduction of four hours of practice time out of season replaced with academic activities. This level also includes the elimination of the nonchampionship season or spring football. Teams without nonchampionship seasons face a reduced number of contests. This year, 11 teams fall in this category.

Level Three penalties include all Level One and Two penalties, plus a menu of potential additional penalties. These can include scholarship reductions; additional practice and contest restrictions; coach-specific penalties (including game and recruiting restrictions); restricted access to practice for incoming students who fall below certain academic standards; restricted membership; and potential multi-year bans on postseason competition. In 2014-15, four teams face this level of penalty.

There are five FCS programs slapped with postseason ineligibility for the 2015 season: Alabama State, Florida A&M, Gardner-Webb, Savannah State and Tennessee State.

Not surprisingly, Oklahoma State has the lowest APR of all Power Five programs at .934.  That is, though, an improvement over the previous four-year period that cost the Cowboys practice time.

UPDATED 2:22 p.m. ET: While not listed in the NCAA’s release on the list of football teams facing postseason bans, Idaho’s APR was once again well under the .930 threshold.  It’s unclear why the Vandals did not make the list of penalized teams, although we’ve reached out to both the school and The Association for clarification.

UPDATED 3:43 p.m. ET: Thew following is from a press release sent out by the Wisconsin sports information department.

The Wisconsin football team’s multiyear Academic Progress Rate of 998 is the top mark of all FBS teams in the country according to the NCAA’s release on Wednesday. The Badgers lead a top five that includes Northwestern (992), Duke (992), Michigan (990) and Stanford (987).

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Freeze: It’s time to turn a full-go Laquon Treadwell loose

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwy3zgy1mzy1nzrjzjrjmmi0zwu4nmq0yjlmngu1nje5 AP

When last we left Laquon Treadwell‘s recovery from a gruesome lower-leg injury, the wide receiver was expected to be ready for not only the start of camp but the beginning of summer workouts as well.

With Memorial Day, the unofficial holiday kickoff to the summer, in the rear-view mirror, there’s no more holding the reins back on Treadwell’s recovery.

At the SEC’s annual spring meetings in Destin Tuesday, Hugh Freeze was asked about Treadwell’s rehab progression. As far as the Ole Miss head coach is concerned, there are no limitations on the receiver moving forward.

“He desires to get back and even be better than he was,” Freeze said. “It’s a bit hard to keep him patient. It’s time to turn him loose, though. …

“We could have let him do some things in the spring besides some routes on there and all those things, but we didn’t. He’s ready to probably go and run and jump and catch balls to that he has his confidence come fall camp. He’s full-go now.”

Treadwell sustained a dislocated ankle and broken fibula as he was set to cross the goal line for what would’ve been the game-winning score in the early-November loss to Auburn.

Through nine games, Treadwell was easily the Rebels’ leading receiver, with his 48 receptions for 632 yards and five touchdowns tops on the team. Despite missing the last four games, Treadwell still led the team in receptions.

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Newly-certified Austin bowl won’t be played this season

Too Many Bowls

For those who feel there are waaayyy too many postseason games, you can now rejoice.  A little. And for a little while.

Earlier this month it was reported that three new bowl games had received certification from the NCAA for the 2015 season: Austin, Tucson and Orlando.  Combined with the 39 bowls from last year — that number includes the College Football Playoff championship game — there were to be a record 42 bowls for the 2015 season.

The key word there is were, though, as one of those newly-certified postseason matchups has decided to delay its debut.

The fact that the Austin Bowl was sans a sponsor likely played at least some role in the decision to push the postseason pause button. The game, though, is expected to be played following the 2016 season.

“We applaud their courage to explore it and have the courage to step back and make sure they had it right,” said Wright Waters, executive director of the Football Bowl Association, in a statement. “They can come back in a year to organize and reach out to key individuals in the community. It will be better in every way a year from now.”

In that inaugural game, teams from the AAC and Sun Belt are expected to square off.

The other two newly-certified games have sponsors: the Cure Bowl (Orlando) and Arizona Bowl (Tucson). The former will also feature an AAC-SBC matchup, while the latter will see teams from Conference USA and the Mountain West competing.

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Jimbo says FSU will have QB competition, not controversy

150527_MaguireGolsonSplit Getty Images

Exiting spring practice, Sean Maguire was the odds-on favorite to replace Jameis Winston under center for Florida State in 2015.  With the addition of Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson earlier this month, however, the Seminoles will find themselves with a somewhat unexpected quarterback competition when summer camp kicks off a couple of months down the road.

And, according to head coach Jimbo Fisher, he’s not going to allow that competition devolve into another “c” word.

“Controversy and competition is two different things. It’s competition,” Fisher told Ralph Russo of the Associated Press. “And players on the team, when a guy is a competitor and he does well — whether it’s Sean, it’s Everett, it’s De’Andre [Johnson], it’s J.J. [Consentino], it’s Deondre Francois — whoever is on our team, they’ll follow the guys who play the best, respond the best and lead them the best.”

Golson certainly has an edge over Maguire when it comes to the experience department, starting for the Irish for the better part of the 2012 and 2014 seasons, with an academic suspension sandwiched in between. Golson, though, struggled turning the ball over last season — while he threw for nearly 3,500 yards and accounted for a combined 37 touchdowns (29 passing, eight rushing),

Some have (wrongly) assumed that Golson will be handed the starting job. Fisher has stated that Golson was never promised the starting job during his recruitment. He also went out of his way to ensure Maguire that both he and the new addition to the roster will be given an equal shot at winning the job.

“I just wanted to be honest with him and explain to him my thought process as the head coach,” Fisher said. “I’m open with all of our players like that. There’s never going to be anything I’m doing behind your back.

“He took it very well. He asked, is it really an open competition? I said yes it is. He knows I’ve never lied to him or any of our players.”

The Seminoles will begin summer camp in early August. Fisher and his coaching staff will likely want to name Winston’s successor somewhere in the middle of that month, giving the starter 2-3 weeks of solo No. 1 work ahead of the Sept. 5 opener against Texas State.

Perhaps the best news for whoever wins the job? FSU opens the season with back-to-back home games against non-Power Five schools — USF to go along with TSU — before traveling to Chestnut Hill Sept. 18 to face Boston College (7-6 last season) in the ACC opener.  There’s also a bye week and an Oct. 3 road trip to Wake Forest (3-9) before the first “real” test of the season: a home game against in-state rival Miami Oct. 10.

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