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Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald wins Nagurski Award

Aaron Donald AP

Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald claimed the Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Monday night in Charlotte, as the Football Writers Association of America’s tabbed him the national Defensive Player of the Year.

Donald, also the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year, leads the country in tackles-for-loss with 26.5. By comparison, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had 20.5 the year he finished fourth in the Heisman balloting.

“It is truly a blessing,” Donald said. “All of the hard work did pay off. I am truly honored.”

The four other Nagurski finalists were cornerback Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State, cornerback Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State, linebacker C.J. Mosley of Alabama end Michael Sam of Missouri.

Donald, a senior, is Pittsburgh’s first defensive player to win a national individual award since Hugh Green in 1980.

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Cardale Jones doing fine after release from hospital

Cardale Jones

Any time a player is rushed to a hospital it is cause for concern. Fortunately for Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, there is no need to be too worried about his health. After being rushed to a hospital late Wednesday night for treatment of severe headaches, Jones has been released and is back with the team.

“Cardale Jones was examined last night at the OSU Wexner Medical Center,” a statement from Ohio State’s athletics department said Thursday morning. “He was released from the center following the examination and he is doing fine today.”

Headaches are always a cause for some alarm, especially with the increased awareness of concussions and concussion symptoms in football. Head trauma treatment has improved in great strides over the years, but detecting possible concussions can still be tricky. From the information released so far though, a concussion does not appear to be a concern for Jones, who led the Buckeyes on an improbable postseason run last season to win the Big Ten and national championships.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has not confirmed publicly who his starting quarterback will be Monday night when the Buckeyes open the 2015 season on the road at Virginia Tech. Jones and J.T. Barrett are the last two options standing after Braxton Miller switched positions this offseason.

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CFT 2015 Preseason Preview Repository

books in library room AP

As you may have noticed, we’re getting very, very close to the start of yet another college football season, one that’s set to be one of the most wide-open and eventful as any in the last handful of decades. As you may have also noticed throughout the month, two of us — myself and Kevin — are the midst of offering up, and actually finishing up, myriad preview material for said college football season.

With the FBS season opener at hand just a few hours from now, and as a service to you, our dear and loyal readers, we’ve created this page for all of y’all’s convenience, with all of our previews linked out from this one handy, dandy spot.

Enjoy, come back often and, most importantly, click away like your life depended on it.  Or drink beer and watch actual football instead of just reading about it.  One of the two.

Aug. 17 — Six-Pack of Storylines
Aug. 18 — Top 25
Aug. 19 — Impact Freshmen
Aug. 20 — Key Transfers
Aug. 21 — Heisman Watch List
Aug. 24 — Coaching Hot Seat
Aug. 25 — 10-Pack of Top Games
Aug. 26 — Playoff Predictions
Aug. 26 — Playoff Darkhorses

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Aug. 27 — ACC
Aug. 28 — Big 12
Aug. 31 — Big Ten
Sept. 1 — Pac-12
Sept. 2 — SEC

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Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan coaching debut is an awfully hot ticket

USC v Utah Getty Images

The eyes of college football will train toward Salt Lake City tonight, but if you want to get a last-minute ticket to Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan coaching debut against Utah, you’ll have to pay up.

Granted, there are only 39 tickets left on StubHub.com as of this sentence being written, but the cheapest way to get into Rice-Eccles Stadium is to pay $245 for a standing room ticket. That makes it one of opening weekend’s priciest tickets, coming in at No. 2 in the week’s top five (with the cheapest ticket listed):

Notre Dame-Texas: $264
Utah-Michigan: $245
Virginia Tech-Ohio State: $170
Western Michigan-Michigan State: $125
Louisville-Auburn: $92 (Georgia Dome)

(Worth noting, if you buy a last-minute ticket to Notre Dame-Texas, good luck finding a reasonably-priced hotel in the South Bend/Michiana area).

The Utah-Michigan game is the only one on this list that doesn’t feature a ranked team. Everybody must be pretty psyched to see Harbaugh pair some khakis with a maize and blue shirt/sweater.

Looking for value? Head to Texas and get in the door for what could be a sparsely-attended neutral site game between Alabama and Wisconsin for $60 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. That only about 40,000 tickets have been sold for that game makes it even more disappointing we’ll never get a shot of Nick Saban standing on the sidelines while Camp Randall jumps around.

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Tennessee will once again checker-out Neyland Stadium

Florida v Tennessee

Last year was so successful, Tennessee is going to do it again.

Tennessee fans started a grassroots effort to check-out Neyland Stadium last season, giving a fresh and unique spin on the whole concept of decking the entire crowd out in one uniform color. This even goes beyond the stripe-out efforts that have started to crop up around the country. The movement caught fire and Tennessee’s athletics department helped finalize the final efforts to make it a reality. Now they are ready to give it another whirl.

Though it had been speculated as a likely event, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones confirmed today Tennessee will deck the fans out in the coordinated orange and white for the home game against Oklahoma on September 12.

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LSU adds second Super Bowl-esque halftime show

Aloe Blacc

Forget about laser light shows and well-choreographed halftime shows by marching bands. LSU is attempting to raise the bar when it comes to halftime entertainment.

Fans attending LSU home games this season will be treated to two shows more likely to resemble a Super Bowl halftime concert than a traditional college football halftime show with the band or bands taking the field. Earlier this week LSU announced a performance by One Republic at halftime of the October 17 game against Florida. Today came another halftime performance announcement. Aloe Blacc has been added to the line-up this season, with a November 14 halftime performance when LSU takes on Arkansas.

“Another Saturday in Tiger Stadium just got bigger,” said Don Green, president of College Live LLC, in a released statement. “It is very exciting to bring great artists into Tiger Stadium to play with LSU’s Golden Band from Tigerland. These unique performances will only add to the reputation of Tiger Stadium being one of the greatest places to watch football.”

Well, some traditionalists may be well-suited to bicker with that last statement from Green. These types of halftime shows tend to detract from the football game itself, but we’re not exactly ready to leap into a world where every week college football teams are going to have Super Bowl-elaborate performances. And at least it makes for a unique experience for the folks in the LSU marching band, right?

Give LSU credit. In an age where college football administrators are focused on finding new and creative ways to enhance the gameday experience as attendance issues continue to grow, LSU is thinking outside the box by bringing in live performers for fans to enjoy, some more than others. Although Aloe Blacc is scheduled to perform a song titled “I Need A Dollar,” which feels oddly appropriate given the nature of college football these days.

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Temple’s P.J. Walker gains maturity as he preps for Penn State

P.J. Walker

It is not often Temple enters a season with high expectations, but that appears to be the case with the Owls in 2015. Though other teams may be favored to make a run in the American Athletic Conference (Cincinnati is the preseason favorite), many have been lauding Temple’s returning experience this fall. No team can match the experience Temple brings back in 2015 with 10 defensive starters and seven more on offense set to return. It is what Temple does with that experience that matters most, and head coach Matt Rhule feels his quarterback, P.J. Walker, is ready to take the next steps entering his third year under center.

“In the history of Temple, there are only a couple of guys that have been bowl-eligible quarterbacks,” Rhule said in a story published by CSN Philly. “To me, it’s just taking the next step and it’s just one simple thing and one simple thing only: don’t turn the football over as much.”

Walker had 15 interceptions last year, so Rhule’s concern is valid. Fortunately, Rhule also sees improvement in his quarterback in practices.

“You see a totally different kid maturity-wise,” he said. “Not that he was an immature kid; he just understands more and more of the game. He is a winner. My point to him was keep winning. He got us to six wins. Now make the next jump.”

Rhule will see his quarterback put to the test on Saturday afternoon. Temple opens the season at home against Penn State, which should bring a strong defensive secondary to Lincoln Financial Field.

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Florida QB Treon Harris gets the start, but Grier will play too

Florida Spring Game

Florida used to be known for playing multiple quarterbacks, and it helped Steve Spurrier take the Gators to an elite status and helped Urban Meyer win his first national championship. New Gators coach Jim McElwain may not have that kind of quarterback pool to swim in down in Gainesville, but he will continue this Florida tradition to open the season. Well, technically.

McElwain announced today Treon Harris will be the starting quarterback for the Gators when they host New Mexico State on Saturday. Will Grier will also get some playing time though.

“This is still a painting in progress,” McElwain explained. “This is two guys pulling in the same direction to help this football team.”

Like a handful of teams around the country, there simply is no clear winner in the quarterback competition at Florida just yet, so seeing what each can do in a live game situation can be critical. This holds especially true at Florida with a brand new head coach who has not previously worked with either player during the course of the regular season.

Harris played in nine games last season for the Gators, in which he completed 49.5 percent of his pass attempts for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns with four interceptions thrown. Grier was a four-star dual-threat quarterback recruit for Florida in the Class of 2014. Despite enrolling early at Florida in 2014, he did not play last season and was able to save the season with a redshirt.

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Kyle Flood fires back at latest incriminating story

Kyle Flood

Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is none too pleased about anonymous sources from Rutgers leaking information about an investigation to the media. Whether he violated university policy or directions or not, Flood has a legitimate gripe.

Earlier today NJ.com reported the latest developments on the investigation involving the head football coach, in which Flood is accused of intentionally going around the backs of academic support staff instructions to contact a professor at the university directly with regard to the eligibility of one of his players. After initially declining to comment on the latest story earlier in the day, Flood let it pour out.

As transcribed by CoachingSearch.com;

“Let me ask this question before I respond: What you’re saying to me is, that a process that I’ve been told from the university not to comment on was commented on by people from the university?” Flood said. “I’m going to continue to respect the process, and I won’t have any further comment until the end of the process.”

Again, whether Flood was in the wrong or not with his alleged actions, he absolutely has a right to be upset about this development. If he was given instructions not to comment on the investigation, then nobody else from the university should have shared pertinent information either. The fault here is not on the report from NJ.com or any other outlet that followed up with commentary on the report, but on the anonymous sources that shared the information.

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TCU defense will be down two players against Minnesota

Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl - Mississippi v TCU Getty Images

The names of two defensive players not playing the season opener at Minnesota have not been confirmed by head coach Gary Patterson, but the release of the Horned Frogs’ depth chart seems to draw some conclusions. Defensive end James McFarland and cornerback DeShawn Raymond were not listed on the depth chart for the season opener, which would seem to strongly suggest which two players will not be available for the game, for whatever reason or reasons that may be.

Patterson offered no information regarding the identities of the two players he said will miss the game, saying only “You’ll find out when we get to game time.”

McFarland was TCU’s leading sack master last fall with seven sacks. His defensive efforts earned him MVP honors in TCU’s blowout win over Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl. McFarland did miss some practice time this spring as he worked to get his foot back in good order. Whether an injury is the reason McFarland may not be available is unknown, as Patterson has designed.

If nothing else can be learned from a batch of the season’s opening depth charts, it is that coaches do not like to tip their hands. the number of quarterbacks listed with “or” by their names has become a bit of a humorous trend as coaches look to hide as much information as possible entering the first games of the season, and this is no different.

TCU’s defense is actually one of the bigger questions for the Horned Frogs this season, which seems to go against the grain when it comes to a Patterson-coached team. But even without a couple of players for the opener, it is expected Patterson will find a way to figure enough out on defense to give TCU a chance to make a run in the Big 12 and perhaps the playoffs.

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Nebraska’s Mike Riley accused of fostering sexually violent culture that led to rape in 1999

Mike Riley

Well, this is certainly among the last things Nebraska head coach Mike Riley would have liked to see just days before starting a new season at his new job. A former student at Oregon State has filed a Title IX lawsuit that blames Riley of failing to address an allegedly sexually violent culture at Oregon State, which allegedly led to a rape back in 1999.

According to a report from The Oregonian, the woman filing the lawsuit claims she was raped on October 9, 1999 while a freshman at Oregon State. According to the alleged victim’s story, she attended an off-campus party, passed out and was escorted to an apartment she claims some Oregon State football players lived. It is there she claims to have been raped.

“She was being sexually assaulted by the young man who had offered her the beer,” the suit says. “She was unable to move her arms or legs to fight back. She faded back out of consciousness.”

The alleged victim filed a report in the next 48 hours to an Oregon State sexual assault counselor and claims that counselor attempted to persuade her to thinking she consenting to the sexual interaction. The suit claims that counselor attempted to prevent the victim from pursuing any other assistance on the manner. This lawsuit now intends to correct a wrong that allegedly happened more than a decade ago, and Riley has been thrown into the mix as well. The alleged victim was inspired to come forward after a previous report on another victim surfaced in 2014, in which that woman claimed to have been raped by two Oregon State football players in 1998 in the same apartment complex.

Riley is accused of not addressing the culture of his football team with regard to sexual violence. While he ultimately is not responsible for the action of players under his watch, it is his responsibility to ensure his players are aware of the consequences for putting the football program in a negative light. The sad reality is, whether Riley is to blame or not for what occurred at Oregon State, there is no telling how many of these sorts of cases are out there hidden in the shadows by victims on campuses across the country. The awareness has certainly grown in more recent years, but the turn of the century was a completely different environment, and the decades going back likely have more dark tales that may never be told.

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Report: Kyle Flood defied Rutgers academic support staff

Kyle Flood

Last week it was reported Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood was being investigated for alleged impermissible contact with a university faculty member. The latest twist in this story suggests Flood may have done so despite being advised not to do so by academic support staff members.

A new report from NJ.com cites multiple unnamed university officials in saying Flood was instructed by academic support staff not to make contact with a professor to inquire about the academic standing of one of his players, reported to be cornerback Nadir Barnwell. The university is investigating an email allegedly from Flood from a private account. But the scope of the investigation is focused more on the possibility Flood tried to work around the process regarding academics and football, not simply just that Flood used a private email to contact a professor.

While only one side of the story, the story painted by the NJ.com is none too flattering to Flood’s involvement with the status of Barnwell. Per the report, academic support staff had been communicating with a professor of Barnwell’s since May with regard to his academic standing. Flood was kept apprised of the situation, which is customary for an academic support staff and coach. However, one source to NJ.com suggests Flood attempted to intervene directly with the professor with regard to Barnwell’s eligibility despite the academic support staff handling the situation.

Per NJ.com’

“The communication with him was clear as to the status of Nadir’s grade and he still decided he could fight it,” said one official, who claimed Flood “had a long paper trail of information” and still contacted the professor.

Another official said: “It was already done and everybody in the program knew it. Kyle was told, ‘It’s done, leave it alone.’ ”

If found guilty of violating university protocol, the punishment for Flood could range from something as light as a reprimand to as severe as the termination of his contract. The Big Ten already had one coach fail to reach the start of the new season. The chances a second loses his job before kickoff are probably pretty small.

Flood responded to the initial report last week by saying the accusations insulted his integrity. When given an opportunity to respond to this latest development in the story, Flood did not comment out of respect for the university process.

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Washington State and C. Michigan to tangle in 2019 & 2021

Washington State and Central Michigan have agreed to a future home-and-home series that will see the Pac-12 and the world of MACtion cross paths. That could be a lot of fun, but we will have to wait for this particular series to begin.

Washington State will visit Central Michigan on September 14, 2019. Central Michigan will make the return trip two years later on September 4, 2021. Barring any potential bowl meetings before 2019, the 2019 meeting will mark the first in the series history between the two schools. The addition of Central Michigan to the 2019 schedule also completes Washington State’s non-conference portion of the schedule. The Cougars will also host Northern Colorado (Sep 7, 2019) and BYU (Oct 12, 2019). Central Michigan still has two vacancies to fill in 2019 and three in 2021. The Chippewas play at Wisconsin the week before hosting Washington State in 2019.

The series was put together by athletic directors Bill Moos (WSU) and Dave Heeke (CMU), who were former colleagues at Oregon in the past (according to The Seattle Times).

Unlike the ACC, Big Ten and SEC, the Pac-12 does not require its members to schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent. BYU does count toward satisfying those requirements though in each of those conferences, so if the Pac-12 did adopt a similar policy the Cougars would be in the clear by having BYU on the schedule in 2019.

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Clemson AD: ACC needs to prove itself on the field (again)

Steven Duggar, Thomas Brittle

For years the message from ACC commissioner John Swofford was the conference needed to win big game against other top conferences on the field. Despite some good results in recent years, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich says the conference will once again have to change the narrative circling its conference by winning big game son the field.

“I think the ACC is a very, very good league. In some ways, it’s underrated,” Radakovich said in an interview with ESPN.com. “But like everything else, you need to go out and do it on the field. You’ve got to win games.”

The ACC went 4-7 in bowl games last season, which included losing seasons in head-to-head bowl matchups against the Big Ten (0-2), Pac-12 (0-2, including Florida State’s College Football Playoff loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl) and the SEC (1-2). The ACC did win its only bowl match-up against the Big 12 with Clemson demolishing Oklahoma. The ACC also ended the regular season with four wins against SEC rivals, which should not be forgotten.

“We’re only [a year] from having a national champion, and Florida State obviously made the playoff last year. Our program has done well,” Radakovich explained. “Georgia Tech always seems to be in the mix and obviously did a great job last year in their bowl game. Virginia Tech traditionally has done very well. Louisville is a team that needs to be reckoned with. And Miami with all their history and tradition is one that everybody is waiting for them to get back to the Miami of old. So I think the league as a whole is still very, very good. But you have to prove it on the field.”

The importance on an entire conference winning big games in the regular season showed its value last season. The Big 12 had co-champions in Baylor and TCU with identical 11-1 records. One of the biggest criticisms of the Big 12 was the overall body of work, not just for Baylor but the conference as a whole. The Big 12 lacked key victories in non-conference games outside of TCU beating Minnesota and Oklahoma topping Tennessee. Not only is a school’s individual body of work important when assessing playoff contenders, but the conference’s overall reputation can help push a team into the playoff when push comes to shove. It is why you are already hearing some ask the question of whether or not a 2-loss SEC champion should still have a spot reserved in the postseason dance this fall. It is a question worth asking because the SEC has raised the bar and has a number of high-quality non-conference matchups lined up to fall back on.

But narratives are not part of the equation in the selection committee’s meeting rooms, says Radakovich.

“As a member of the playoff committee, people came in and had done their homework and had looked at the leagues they were first assigned to look at, and college football in general. They all came in prepared to talk about each team. There were no narratives brought into the room.”

What narratives won’t be discussed by the selection committee this season? We’re going to find out soon enough.

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Rutgers to name starting QB… at halftime?

Kyle Flood

By default we already know who the starting quarterback will be for Rutgers in the season opener against Norfolk State. Hayden Rettig has already been reported to be the starting quarterback for the Scarlet Knights in the first game of the season while Chris Laviano sits out the first half of the game. Laviano was suspended by the program for a violation of team rules in late August, but he — along with wide receiver Leonte Carroo — will be eligible to return to the game in the second half.

This is when Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is expected to announce his quarterback decision for the 2015 season.

“Hayden Rettig is the starting quarterback,” Flood said, according to NJ.com. “We’re going to evaluate the first half and we’ll make a decision at halftime as to how we’re going to proceed.”

Rettig and Laviano had been competing for the starting job as Rutgers looks to replace Gary Nova. There had been no real separation in the competition out of the spring and over the course of the summer, and it would seem the first-half suspension has not put much jeopardy in Laviano’s chances to claim the starting job. Opening against an FCS program is always a good opportunity to play multiple quarterbacks if there is still a question to be answered at the position, and Rutgers has some time to work through the situation before entering Big Ten play.

It might be good for Flood if he can get it figured out a little bit earlier though as Washington State is scheduled to pay a visit in Week 2. The Cougars are known to move the ball through the air with Mike Leach at the helm, and Washington State is looking to avenge last season’s wild season-opening loss at home to Rutgers. Rutgers visits Penn State in Week 3 to open the Big Ten schedule.

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CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: SEC Predictions

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As the 2015 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC), HERE (Big 12) and HERE (Big Ten) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

SEC EAST

1. Georgia (10-3; beat Louisville in Belk Bowl)
There is one certainty when it comes to the East: UGA will not finish lower than third, a low-water benchmark for each of Mark Richt‘s 14 seasons in Athens that has included five division titles — none since 2012, though.  They return the most talent of any team in the division, although the fact that they opted for Grayson Lambert as the starting quarterback has me second-guessing my prediction.  It’s been a decade since UGA’s last SEC championship, and if they’re going to get back to that level they’ll have to do so with a schedule that includes both Alabama and Auburn as well as a road trip to Tennessee.  Still, anything less than an East title and a spot in the SEC championship game would be decidedly disappointing — and would lead to yet another offseason of “is it time to go in another direction?” speculation.

2. Tennessee (7-6; beat Iowa in Taxslayer Bowl)
Am I a year early with this lofty projection?  Possibly, especially given the team right below them.  Still, there’s no denying that Butch Jones has stuffed his talent cupboard after the barren years under his predecessor, Derek Dooley.  The Vols closed out last year on a positive note, going 4-1 down the stretch — the lone loss coming by eight to Mizzou — capping it off with an impressive 45-28 win over the Hawkeyes in the bowl game.  That final flourish coincided with Josh Dobbs‘ ascension as the starting quarterback.  With the scintillating playmaker poised to build off his first season at this level, the Vols could very well challenge both UGA and Mizzou for East supremacy.

3. Missouri (11-3; beat Minnesota in Citrus Bowl)
“Here we go again, denigrating the two-time defending East champion Tigers.” — the two Mizzou fans who frequent this site, probably.  And, actually, that’s an understandable reaction, given how the Tigers have been the class of the division the past two seasons.  They’re also one of the few teams in the conference that returns its starting quarterback.  Still, there are concerns along the defensive line — they return just five starters on that side of the ball, period — and their schedule doesn’t do them very many favors as they play at Georgia and Arkansas as well as play host to Mississippi State.  It wouldn’t shock me, though, if Mizzou made it three straight titles.  In fact, the only thing that would shock the system is if they finish outside the top three in the division.

Continue reading »

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