Skip to content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It cost $8.78 million for Auburn to buyout Gene Chizik and staff

Auburn v Georgia

Auburn wanted to buyout the contract of former head coach Gene Chizik so badly the school was willing to carve out $8.78 million just to move on. According to a report from Al.com, Auburn set aside nearly that much to buyout the contracts of Chizik and the assistant coaching staff before bringing Gus Malzahn back to Auburn.

As reported, Auburn was originally prepared to spend $11.09 million to buyout the various contracts but the total was reduced as coaches found jobs elsewhere. Chizik, who led Auburn to a national championship just four seasons ago, received a buyout of $7.5 million to account for the remainder of his money owed on his contract. Auburn will pay Chizik a little more than $200,000 per month through the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

The remainder of the $8.78 million in buyout money was reserved for former assistant coaches Scot Loeffler, Brian VanGorder and Trooper Taylor. All three coaches have received their final buyout payments.

Auburn worked in the red last year, but with the buyout costs starting to trim down and with a nice boost from revenue sharing through the addition of the SEC Network, Auburn should be in decent shape a year from now.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Southern Miss CB caught in horribly executed armed robbery

Southern Miss v Nebraska

Police say a Southern Mississippi football player has admitted he had a role in planning an armed robbery. Defensive back Ed Wilkins was one of two men involved in the criminal planning, and now he has been indefinitely suspended by the school while the legal process plays out. The university is also investigating the situation. The Sun Herald was first to report the story.

Wilkins and his alleged accomplice, Michael Bailey, were booked in a county jail Friday evening, according to The Sun Herald. A bail was set for each at $75,000.

“This is a serious matter,” Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken said in a statement. “Ed has been removed from the program while we gather additional information.”

The details from a police report state Wilkins and Bailey had a plan to go to a residence in search of money and drugs. Police responded Friday morning to an armed robbery in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and discovered Bailey, who told officers he was just visiting some former roommates to smoke marijuana. Wilkins had reportedly entered the residence with a handgun equipped with a laser and wearing a ski mask while demanding money. When police arrive don the scene, Wilkins was found hiding in a car across the street.

What a masterful plan at work.

Wilkins started nine games for Southern Miss last season, recording 39 tackles and one interception.

Helmet sticker to Dr. Saturday.

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top

Pete Carroll’s contract double-standard logic with Marshawn Lynch

USC v California

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is having a bit of a stand-off with management off the defending Super Bowl champions. Lynch has two years remaining on his contract with the Seahawks but is holding out from training camp to deliver his message to the team. Head coach Pete Carroll got involved by making a statement that comes off a little hollow considering the source.

“It’s a contract for a reason. We made a decision and it was signed, by us and by them,” Carroll said, via USA Today. “We expect them to honor their contract just as we will. We’re going to honor it and we expect them to do the same.”

Oh, that’s rich.

While coaching at USC, Carroll signed a contract extension in December 2005. The new contract would have kept Carroll in charge of the USC Trojans through the end of the 2010 season. The only problem is Carroll saw an opportunity to return to the NFL with the Seahawks. Oh and by the way, that return to the NFL came with a healthier paycheck as a result.

Is this the pot calling the kettle black? Maybe to an extent, although the situations really are a bit different.

In his defense, Carroll had done just about everything he could at USC, winning a BCS championship and another AP national championship while building one of the top programs of the BCS Era by bringing it back to life, even if for a short period of time. Sure, it was slapped with NCAA sanctions for violations that occurred under his watch, and that is fair to mention as well. Carroll has been outspoken about his belief that USC was punished too harshly by the NCAA, but the top level of a football coach’s profession is in the NFL, and Carroll was ready to take another crack at it. The situation and timing were right to move to the NFL when Carroll did.

Even if it meant not honoring the contract he had signed.

Permalink 5 Comments Back to top

AP: TCU’s Devonte Fields surrenders to warrant

Texas Tech v TCU

The future of TCU defensive end Devonte Fields appears to be a bit sketchy at best. The former Big 12 defensive player of the year surrendered himself to authorities after a misdemeanor warrant was issued.

The Associated Press reported Fields surrendered to Tarrant County authorities Thursday afternoon and was released shortly after posting bond of $3,5000. Fields has not been formally charged but could be facing up to one year in jail for a Class A misdemeanor assault. As previously reported, Fields was being investigated for allegedly threatening a woman with a gun.

TCU announced a separation from Fields while the investigation was ongoing earlier this week. Fields allegedly pointed a gun at an ex-girlfriend and threatened to “blast” her during a shouting match after punching in a window.

Nothing about this sounds good, especially in light of a number of stories floating around the football world this week regarding violence aimed at women. It has not been a good week for football players and women, that’s for sure.

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top

Report: Oklahoma’s 5-star RB Mixon “involved in serious altercation”

Photo credit: Rivals

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, a five-star member of the Class of 2014, was out celebrating his 18th birthday, when something went horribly wrong. According to information reported by SoonerScoop.com, Mixon was involved in a serious altercation that required Norman police to respond early Friday morning.

Charges have not been issued by police at this time. Police reportedly want to review security camera footage that may have caught the incident before making any decisions. As of now, details of the incident are a bit limited due to the fact that one or more of the people tied to the police report are juveniles.

Here are some of the early details reported by SoonerScoop.com, the Oklahoma affiliate for Rivals;

Norman police responded to an incident at Pickleman’s Gourmet Café in Norman at 2:39 a.m. on Friday. A spokesman for Pickleman’s gave no comment on the situation.

A synopsis of the report suggests aggravated assault and battery.
​ ​
Sources indicated Mixon was not arrested at the scene as officers wanted to study security footage of the incident before filing any charges.

The incident report obtained by SoonerScoop contains limited information, as one or more juveniles is involved. A spokesman for OU is aware of the incident and issued the following statement:

“We are aware of the matter and it is under internal review.”

Oklahoma is aware of the situation and allowing the legal investigation and process to play out before commenting any further. Mixon was rated a five-star running back by Rivals in the Class of 2014. Rivals also ranked Mixon as the number one overall running back in the country.

Photo credit: Rivals

Permalink 6 Comments Back to top

Report: Clemson WR Peake undergoes knee surgery

Georgia v Clemson Getty Images

The 2014 season may get off to a late start for one Clemson wide receiver. Charone Peake underwent what Clemson is calling minor knee surgery Friday, and the rehab could mean he will have to miss the first week of camp before the 2014 season.

“Charone was having a great summer, but tweaked a knee on Wednesday making a reception,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney in a release, obtained by CBSSports.com. “The surgery was successful and his ACL is fine. He will probably miss the first week of practice and then we will go from there. We expect him to play against Georgia in the season opener.”

Peake saw his 2013 season end prematurely with a torn ACL in the second game of the season. Fortunately, the NCAA granted Peake an extra year of eligibility as a result. Peake was to be competing for a starting job at wide receiver for the Tigers this season.

Helmet sticker to CBSSports.com.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Quick updates on CFB Playoff contender win totals

BCS National Championship - Florida State v Auburn Getty Images

How comfortable are you that Florida State will win 12 games this season? What about Alabama winning 11 games? Some new win total betting lines have been posted in Las Vegas by Wynn Las Vegas, and betting expert David Purdum made note of the schools most often discussed as a contender for the College Football Playoff this season.

Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and Ohio State have been tied to various favorite-labels as College Football Playoff contenders. Oklahoma is also in that conversation. Purdum added the Sooners are set at 10.5 for the win total…

Are any of these numbers worth taking a shot on with your money?

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

All Steve Addazio wants is the next Tim Tebow at BC

Steve Addazio

If there is one college football player that is most responsible for the elevation of Boston College head coach Steve Addazio, it has to be Tim Tebow. Now, as Addazio looks to build off a decent start at Boston College, the former Florida assistant coach is keeping a watchful eye out for the next Tim Tebow. Is that too much to ask?

“When I saw Tim Tebow, I watched him play in high school and will never forget it,” Addazio said to Jared Shanker of ESPN.com. “To me your quarterback has to have the ‘it factor,’ and I’ve never seen a guy with the ‘it factor’ more in my life. It was oozing off his uniform. I saw him put his whole team on his back and win. He was going to lead and win championships.”

There is little to dispute just how motivational and influential Tebow was to the BCS championship teams at Florida. The Heisman Trophy winner may not have been the best quarterback, but he found ways to help his team win some big games along the way. No matter what you might think about Tebow’s overall football legacy, his time at the college level will leave him as one of the all-time greats. Finding a player of that caliber is a rarity, but if Addazio and his staff can keep working and convince a player of that caliber to come to Boston College to be the next Tebow or Matt Ryan or Doug Flutie it could go a long way. Coincidentally, Flutie’s nephew, Troy, is a quarterback on the Eagles roster.

“I talk to our staff all the time about this,” Addazio said. “We got to be right about this. One of those young guys needs to be a guy that can win a championship for you. If you don’t do that, you struggle.”

Permalink 4 Comments Back to top

Penn State may have a new AD ready to introduce

Nebraska v Penn State

Now that we have reached into Friday afternoon, it seems as though news is starting to slow down. That is not quite the case in State College, Pennsylvania, where it appears Penn State is ready to introduce to the world its new athletics director. A media memo sent out Friday afternoon confirmed there will be a press conference scheduled for Saturday afternoon in the media room at Beaver Stadium. The memo says the purpose is to “make an announcement on a personnel decision within Intercollegiate Athletics.”

Penn State president Eric Barron will open the press conference, but given the timing of the press conference just days before Big Ten media days in Chicago and Penn State’s current athletics director set to step down next week, it just makes too much sense.

It was just over a month ago when it was announced Penn State athletics director David Joyner would be stepping down from his position. Joyner will be resigning from the position effective August 1. The next AD will be taking over a program that sees two more years remaining on a football postseason ban, unless the NCAA amends the sanction terms. As far as football is concerned, the worst may be behind Penn State at this point. The NCAA has already turned over some lost scholarships and a new head coach, James Franklin, is in place and doing terrific work in recruiting.

The Big Ten football media day will get underway on Monday in Chicago.

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top

Strong message at Texas; RB Bergeron is gone

Marqueston Huff, Joe Bergeron

If there was one thing the Texas football program needed, it was a focus on discipline and getting a toughness back. That is what makes head coach Charlie Strong a terrific hire for the program after cutting ties with Mack Brown. Strong’s message to the team was put on display once more Friday morning with news of senior running back Joe Bergeron being dismissed from the roster.

Bergeron is the seventh player to be booted from the Texas football program since Strong arrived on his saddle in Austin. That number has skyrocketed in the past week with four others being dismissed this week. Running back Jalen Overstreet and defensive end Chevoski Collins were also dismissed by the program on Thursday for various violations, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrell Meander were also suspended by Strong on Thursday as a legal situation stemming from an alleged sexual assault.

Bergeron had been sent home from spring practice earlier this year, so seeing Strong come to this decision may not be quite a shock, although the head coach did sing the praises of the running back during a spring tour. Strong has said from day one as the Texas head coach he needed to make some changes to overhaul what could be a sleeping giant of a program at this point. Strong has always been focused on discipline and he does not waste time coddling players, which is a little bit of the dose of reality seemingly needed in Austin.

Bergeron was third on the team in rushing in 2013, accumulating 362 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 13 games.

Don’t mess with Texas? Don’t mess with Strong, that much is for sure.

Permalink 29 Comments Back to top

Media covering Big Ten picks Ohio State as the favorite, Wisconsin in west

Urban Meyer

The Big Ten is late in the media day circuit, getting started on Monday in Chicago, but we already have a favorite from the media; Ohio State.

The Buckeyes were named the media favorite in a media poll organized by The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, with members of various organizations spread across the Big Ten’s footprint casting their votes and predictions for each Big Ten division and conference champion. There is no formal media poll organized by the Big Ten, so the Cleveland-based newspaper has taken on the responsibility of giving Big Ten fans a preseason poll that swung and missed on the outcome a year ago (nobody picked Michigan State, but that happens). Ohio State received 23 first-place votes to win the Big Ten’s new east division. Defending Big Ten champion Michigan State received the other 10 first-place votes in the east and finished second in the preseason poll. Michigan and Penn State followed, respectively. Big Ten newcomer Maryland was picked to finish fifth in the east, followed by Indiana and the other Big Ten rookie, Rutgers.

The Big Ten’s west division was a bit more open according to the poll voters. Wisconsin came out on top with 15 first-place votes, but Iowa comes in a somewhat surprising second place with 11 first-place votes. Nebraska finished third with five first-place votes and one voter gave Northwestern (fourth in the preseason poll) a first-place vote. Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue round out the west division.

Ohio State received 19 out of 29 votes to win the Big Ten. Michigan State received nine votes and Nebraska received one vote. Wisconsin received no votes to win the Big Ten despite being picked to win the west division.

You can see the full unofficial preseason media poll for more voting results.

Permalink 11 Comments Back to top

Baylor’s Art Briles admits to interest in Texas vacancy

Art Briles

When a dream job comes along, few reasonable people would likely fault anyone for exploring the possibility of leaving all that you have built behind to take the new opportunity. Fortunately for Baylor, their head coach shrugged aside the idea of coaching at Texas this past offseason.

Baylor head coach Art Briles took over the desolate and often hopeless program prior to the 2008 season after a successful stint as a head coach at Houston. Briles was asked to do what seemed to be impossible; turn Baylor football into something worth respecting in the Big 12. After starting out his career in Waco with identical 4-8 seasons, the building blocks were starting to form a foundation and Baylor broke through with a 7-6 record in 2010, the first winning season for the Bears since 1995 in the old Southwest Conference. The next season Robert Griffin III exploded on the scene to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Baylor to a 10-win season, a top 25 finish and the first bowl win for the school since the 1992 season. Last year Baylor won the Big 12 championship and played in the Fiesta Bowl. As far as stock is concerned, Briles may have peaked and could have cashed in.

This is why it only makes sense that Briles would not only be one of the top candidates for the vacancy in Austin, once Texas found a way to move on from Mack Brown, but Briles also had an interest in the job. Was Briles interested? You bet. Yesterday while moving through the ESPN car wash with a stop on the Paul Finebaum radio show, Briles admitted as much.

Briles, of course, chose to stay where he is at Baylor at a big time for the program. The Bears are coming off the first Big 12 championship in school history, appear to be a threat once again in the conference and move into a brand new football stadium this season. Times are good for Baylor. Briles is a big reason why, and it is nice to see someone choose to stay put to see through it all, especially when it is very likely Texas could have made Briles a wealthier man for years to come.

Texas may not have nabbed Nick Saban from Alabama, but the Longhorns ended up with a pretty good coach anyway by hiring Charlie Strong away from Louisville.

Permalink 7 Comments Back to top

SEC Network’s Time Warner deal increases launch viewership to 60 million

A cable truck returns to a Time Warner Cable office in San Diego, California

Things continue to be developing smoothly for the SEC Network, just weeks away from going live on the air. After successfully putting together deals with Comcast and COX Networks, the new network has added another big name to the cable distribution line-up; Time Warner. Just for good measure, the SEC Network has added Bright House Networks to the mix as well. The total potential reach for the launch of the SEC Network is now expected to total an estimated 60 million homes.

John Ourand of Sports Business Daily broke the news about the agreement, which was later confirmed by a release from the SEC Network on Thursday.

“We know we have customers who want the SEC-ESPN Network, and are pleased to bring it to them,” said Andrew Rosenberg, Senior Vice President of Content Acquisition for Time Warner Cable. “This deal will help ensure that fans and alumni of SEC universities won’t miss any important games.”

“By delivering the SEC Network across Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks’ nationwide footprint, including key markets within SEC territory, we are meeting the demands of fans while also adding value to customers’ video subscriptions in advance of the network’s launch next month,” said Sean Breen, Disney and ESPN Media Networks senior vice president of affiliate sales.

There is still one giant hurdle remaining for what is already being praised as a masterful launch for the network; DirecTV. There is also some growing concern about ESPN’s involvement with the SEC Network and the College Football Playoff, as expressed by Bart Doan on The Student Section, but as far as preparing for a grand debut, ESPN has been hard at work at the negotiating table to make sure everything is lined up for the launch of the new network. It may just be a matter of time before there is a deal with DirecTV signed by all parties. At this point, DirecTV would be wise to not be labeled as the one provider without the network.

The SEC Network will launch on August 14.

Permalink 11 Comments Back to top

Four Cincy players forced to retire, QB Legaux working his way back

Cincinnati v Louisville Getty Images

The playing careers for a pair of Cincinnati players have come to an end as a result of a car crash last September. Wide receivers Mark Barr and Javon Harrison will no longer play football due to injuries suffered in a tragic auto accident that claimed the life of offensive lineman Ben Flick.

In addition to Barr and Harrison, Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville confirmed to Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer that safety Marcus Foster and defensive back Drake Burns will also no longer be able to play football. All four players will remain on scholarship.

Harrison was listed in stable condition once taken to a hospital following the accident, but Barr was placed in critical condition. Barr was released from a hospital nearly a month later.

In more positive injury news out of Cincinnati, quarterback Munchie Legaux is making some good progress on his return to football. After suffering a devastating knee injury early last season, Legaux was granted an extra year of eligibility and he is looking to make it count. Tuberville expects Legaux to be in uniform and available to practice once the Bearcats open training camp. With Gunner Kiel stating his case for the starting job in the spring, Legaux may have to be at 100 percent and work to win the job back once he is.

Permalink 5 Comments Back to top

Larry Scott already stumping for Pac-12 champ in playoff

Larry Scott

As to be expected, the past couple weeks of conference media days has brought a number of tired debates back to the surface. Among them has been the debate over eight-game conference schedules or nine-game schedules. For the Pac-12, the answer is simple. Commissioner Larry Scott addressed the benefits of having a nine-game conference schedule as college football moves into the College Football Playoff era this fall.

“We know that there will be continued controversy and debate, but the clear statement has been made that strength of schedule is going to be a determining factor in figuring out which of the four teams ought to be competing in that playoff,” Scott said during his state of the Pac-12 press conference this week at the Pac-12 media day event in California. The College Football Playoff selection committee will be placing an emphasis on strength of schedule when determining its rankings and choosing which four teams will be selected to participate in the College Football Playoff. the Pac-12 has opted to go with a nine-game conference schedule in part to raise the overall strength of schedule for the conference. Of course, it also makes it easier to schedule for all Pac-12 schools when they only have to fill three non-conference spots as opposed to four. The Pac-12 also backed out of a conference-wide scheduling agreement with the Big Ten that would have raised the strength of schedule for both conferences.

Scott chose to focus on the depth of the Pac-12 in 2014, a wise strategy considering the national respect for Oregon, Stanford and UCLA along with the rising expectations for programs like USC, Washington and Washington State. With some quality depth, the Pac-12 could be the most entertaining conference to watch this fall, so folks on the east coast may have to prepare for some late nights. The Pac-12 also has a chance to impress on a national level with some key non-conference match-ups.

“This year the Pac‑12, again, has scheduled a very tough non‑conference slate that includes 13 games against bowl teams from a year ago,” Scott said. “Highlights of our non‑conference match‑ups this year include five games against Big Ten opponents – Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Rutgers and Illinois. We’ve got three games against Notre Dame this year – Stanford, USC, Arizona State all playing against Notre Dame, and of course UCLA’s match‑up in Dallas against Texas early in the season.”

But Scott’s final remark about the schedule was one with a slight aim at the ACC and SEC. Both the ACC and SEC will play eight-game conference schedules. Whoever comes out on top of the Pac-12 is likely to have a decent shot at playing in the College Football Playoff, which Scott is already stumping for as best he can.

“Here it is with the most competitive nine‑game conference schedule in the nation, our champion will be incredibly well‑positioned in this first-ever historic College Football Playoff.”

Some power conference is going to get left out of the four-team playoff, if not more. Scott clearly believes his conference should not be on the outside looking in.

Permalink 9 Comments Back to top