Skip to content

Analyzing Bob Diaco and the uphill climb at UConn

Bob Diaco AP

Kevin Ollie succeeded in pulling off an improbable run to a national championship last night for UConn basketball, but on the gridiron Bob Diaco has a much steeper climb just to get the Huskies back to respectability.

Diaco, who took over the program in December after spending the last four seasons as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, is tasked with the challenge of getting a team that floundered to a 13-23 record after longtime coach Randy Edsall left for Maryland. UConn football is still in its relative infancy, only being revived at the Division I level in 2000.

But Edsall showed winning in Storrs isn’t impossible — from 2007-2010, UConn won 33 games and made an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl — though it certainly is difficult. Connecticut and the Northeast aren’t fertile recruiting grounds, and that shows in UConn’s recruiting class rankings in the Rivals era:

2002: No. 104
2003: 88
2004: 99
2005: 80
2006: 86
2007: 65
2008: 71
2009: 76
2010: 84
2011: 102
2012: 78
2013: 65
2014: 117
Average ranking: 85.77

In 2014, the state of Connecticut produced just two three-star recruits (who didn’t sign with UConn). Massachusetts offers some more fertile recruiting territory, though Diaco will have to pry the state’s top players away from Boston College (which signed six of Massachusetts’ top 10 players in 2014).

But Diaco does have good recruiting connections in the Northeast and is a native of the talent-rich state of New Jersey. While at Notre Dame, Diaco signed a number of highly-recruited players from the area he’ll have to hit hard at UConn:

New Jersey: ATH Rashad Kinlaw (3 stars), S Elijah Shumate (4 stars), WR Bennett Jackson (3 stars)
New York: DL Jarron Jones (4 stars), DE Ishaq Williams (5 stars)
Massachusetts: OL John Montelus (4 stars)

Not all these guys panned out — Kinlaw, for one, was just kicked off Notre Dame’s football team last week — but Jackson was a two-year starter and senior captain as a cornerback, while Jones and Williams are likely starters on this year’s Irish squad.

Notre Dame, of course, is an easier sell to recruits that UConn. But plenty of Irish players loved playing for Diaco, raving about his energy on the practice field and enthusiasm for player development.

It’ll take a few years to find out if Chef Diaco’s cake at UConn tastes good (seriously, he loves that cake analogy). But if he can start pulling talent from the areas he did while at Notre Dame, he’ll at least give his proud basketball school some hope on the football field.

Permalink 4 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: American Athletic Conference, Rumor Mill, Top Posts, UConn Huskies
yo

USC could be without Tre Madden for a month

Arizona v USC Getty Images

Lost amidst the grandiose fabrication that became Josh Shaw‘s save-nephew-from-drowning heroics — and USC’s inexplicable decision to run with what turned out to be a whopper of a lie when they had their doubts — is a player on the other side of the ball could be out for a while as well.

Over the weekend it was reported that Tre Madden will be a game-time decision for the season opener against Fresno State Saturday.  The running back has been dealing with a foot injury, and was seen wearing a walking boot again Wednesday.

The opener could be the least of the Trojans’ worries as the Los Angeles Daily News reports that Madden could be out for a month because of the injury.

If Madden were to miss a month, he’d be sidelined for the opener this weekend, the Pac-12 opener against Stanford the following weekend and Boston College Sept. 13.  Following a bye, USC will tangle with Oregon State Sept. 27, which would be the likely return game based on the month timeline.

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

Should Allen be sidelined as it appears he will be, it would leave Allen and Justin Davis as the only two healthy scholarship running backs on USC’s roster.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Georgia State avoids first FCS upset of 2014

There were 16 games that saw a team from the Football Championship Subdivision defeat a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2013. We nearly saw the first one of 2014 Wednesday night, but Georgia State came through with a late field goal to slip past Abilene Christian in the Georgia Dome Wednesday night. Georgia State kicker Wil Lutz snuck a 26-yard kick through the uprights for a 38-37 victory Wednesday night in the first game on the FBS calendar this season.

The game was anything but pretty, but after 683 days since the last win, Georgia State will take it any way it can. Georgia State racked up 566 yards of offense, mostly off the arm of quarterback Nick Arbuckle. Arbuckle threw three touchdowns and led the Panthers on the game-winning drive while passing for 433 yards and four touchdowns. To get the win, Georgia State had to score more points than they did in any game in 2013.

This is Georgia State’s first season eligible for postseason play since moving up from the FCS. With one win now in the books, Georgia State now needs five more wins to become bowl eligible. Next up, New Mexico State next week in the Georgia Dome.

Was this up to par with the BCS Championship Game or last season’s Iron Bowl? Of course not, but the first game of the season gave us a back-and-forth game that went down to the wire and saw a program celebrate a long-awaited victory.

Welcome back college football. We missed you. We can wait for the next FCS upset.

Permalink 10 Comments Back to top

Eddie Jackson available for Alabama, if needed

Virginia Tech v Alabama Getty Images

Alabama is not going to rush cornerback Eddie Jackson back to the playing field, but he will be available for the Crimson Tide Saturday against West Virginia if he is needed. Head coach Nick Saban said he would prefer to proceed with caution with Jackson, who underwent knee surgery to repair a torn ACL in spring practice.

“I wouldn’t rule out the fact he can play in this game,” Saban said, per Al.com. “But I would rather go in to the game thinking we would use him if we needed to rather than pushing him in the game.”

Saban said Jackson was not cleared for football activity in early June, but he must be doing well enough to be an option in the season opener. For now, Jackson will occupy a back-up spot on the depth chart until he is ready to go full speed and prove ready for an increased role in the defense. Cyrus Jones is currently listed as a starter ahead of Jackson.

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top

Georgia State’s Joel Ruiz records first FBS TD of 2014

Trent Miles

Georgia State was pushed around by FCS Abilene Christian on the opening drive of the 2014 season, but the young defense stood tall inside the red zone and held the visitors to a field goal. The first touchdown of the season on the FBS calendar belongs to Georgia State.

Late in the first quarter in the Georgia Dome, Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle connected with Joel Ruiz for a 34-yard touchdown. Arbuckle was a JUCO pick-up for the Panthers, and early on he has looked promising (relatively speaking of course), although he has been intercepted already as well.

This is the first season Georgia State is eligible for postseason play since moving up from the FCS ranks. A win tonight leaves Georgia State just five wins shy of becoming bowl eligible.

Georgia State leads Abilene Christian 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.

Permalink 2 Comments Back to top

Alabama suspends starting linebacker for opener

Trey DePriest

Alabama is taking on West Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff on Saturday, but they will do so without a starting linebacker. Senior Trey DePriest has been suspended for the season opener for what is being reported as a minor NCAA infraction. Head coach Nick Saban announced the suspension Wednesday.

The details of the infraction have been unconfirmed, but playing DePriest while an investigation is ongoing would put any potential wins in jeopardy of being vacated down the line if it is ruled he would have been ineligible.

DePriest started 13 games last season with 65 tackles for the Crimson Tide and will be a starter for the team this season, pending the results of the investigation of course. According to Al.com, Alabama will start Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster at linebacker.

Permalink 4 Comments Back to top

USC suspends Josh Shaw indefinitely for fabricating story

Josh Shaw, Isaac Lapite

What started out as an uplifting story of heroism has now resulted in an indefinite suspension. USC has suspended cornerback Josh Shaw after the player admitted to university officials he did, in fact, exaggerate his heartwarming story.

Yesterday USC head coach Steve Sarkisian announced there was made aware of new information that may have contradicted the story shared by USC about Shaw. USC released a story about Shaw leaping into a pool from a second floor balcony to saving his nephew. In the process he hurt his ankles. USC admitted to being skeptical of the story, yet they published it anyway.

Now Shaw will be suspended for an undetermined amount of time for not being truthful to his team and school. The story he told led to the school being put in the awkward situation of having to pull and retract the original story which was universally received well and praised from coast to coast.

“We are extremely disappointed in Josh,” said Sarkisian in a statement released by USC. “He let us all down.  As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story.”

Police are investigating a break-in at an apartment that involves a “Josh Shaw,” although it has been unconfirmed that is targetting the USC player. As previously reported though, witness descriptions seem to suggest it is the same Shaw.

Permalink 40 Comments Back to top

UNC suspends four players for season opener

Ryan Switzer, Desmond Lawrence, Brian Walker

On the heels of news regarding a possible hazing incident, North Carolina has suspended four players for the 2014 season opener against Liberty. Cornerbacks Des Lawrence, M.J. Stewart and Brian Walker and linebacker Donnie Miles have been suspended one game each for what is simply being referred to now as a violation of team policy, according to WRAL. Head coach Larry Fedora announced the suspensions when meeting with the media Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re going to hold all of our guys accountable for everything they do on the field and off the field,” Fedora said. “We also have very high expectations for our guys in this program and they didn’t meet those expectations.”

Fedora was asked if the internal investigation by the university was completed. He said he was unsure if it was or not, but he was at a point where he believed he had enough information to make a decision on the status for those four players. This hurts UNC’s depth on defense for the season opener, which could become a factor against a decent FCS program like Liberty, but the Tar Heels should have enough on the field to avoid letting it harm them on the scoreboard in the end.

Walker played in all 13 games last season, recording 21 tackles and an interception. Lawrence appeared in eight games and had 11 tackles.

Earlier in the day it was also reported defensive lineman Ethan Farmer could be facing an academic eligibility issue. This comes following an offseason when two defensive linemen left the program.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Georgia State looking for first win in 683 days

Trent Miles

The first game of the FBS college football season kicks off tonight in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. It will be the first of an action-packed week in the dome, which will later host Boise State and Ole Miss on Thursday and Alabama and West Virginia on Saturday. But tonight will see Georgia State get it all started with a home game against Abilene Christian, an FCS program. The Panthers are looking to pick up the first win on the football field in 683 days.

Georgia State is opening the 2014 season with plenty to look forward to. The young program is entering just the fifth season in program history. This season is the first the school is officially eligible for the FBS postseason, needing six wins to become bowl eligible. This is a big deal for the program, which was put on a fast track to the FBS in the realignment madness of the past few seasons. Getting a win against Abilene Christian would be a significant step in the right direction for the Panthers, coached by Trent Miles. Despite being a classification level above their opponent, Miles believes his program will be tested Wednesday night.

“Abilene Christian brings in a winning mentality because they’ve had eight straight winning seasons,” Miles said. “They’ll be just as talented, if not more talented, than we are, so it will be a battle.”

Georgia State is in the Sun Belt Conference, a conference that welcomes a couple of new members from the FCS this fall. Former FCS powers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern make the transition starting this season. I am not sure it would be appropriate to suggest Georgia State is a step ahead of either newcomer as far as the state of the programs are concerned, but the Panthers have been recruiting with the intention of being in the FBS longer than both FCS transfers. Either way, Georgia State getting to six wins may not be entirely out of the question this season, but a young defense is going to be put to the test along the way.

Whatever happens tonight, it is good to have college football back.

A helmet sticker to the Reddit community for the information.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Report: Penn State could have bowl ban lifted… in 2015

The NCAA has already turned over lost scholarships to Penn State, and now it could be looking into lifting the postseason ban a little early as well.

The Sporting News cites a pair of sources with NCAA ties and reports Penn State could see the postseason ban lifted before the 2015 season, making the Nittany Lions eligible for a bowl game (and Big Ten Championship Game) starting next season. Per The Sporting News;

Two sources within the NCAA say Penn State, if it continues to “reach and go beyond” benchmarks set by the NCAA in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, will have a “strong case” to get its final year of postseason probation lifted.

As early as next week, George Mitchell, Penn State’s athletics integrity monitor, will release his second annual report on the state of the university’s athletics programs. The NCAA last year restored some scholarships after Mitchell’s first report that, according to one NCAA source, “reached well beyond expectations.”

The NCAA left the door open for this possibility last summer when the organization decided to reward Penn State for its efforts in adhering to guidelines set-up by the NCAA following the release of the Louis Freeh Report, the investigation into Penn State’s handling and response to the crimes of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The NCAA had George Mitchell assigned to check up and report on progress being made at Penn State over the course of the sanction period, and his recommendations have been helpful in influencing the NCAA’s handling of Penn State. That the NCAA would now be considering lifting the final year of the bowl ban is not much of a surprise, given the precedent already set during this unprecedented sequence.

Prior to the 2012 season Penn State was issued a four-year postseason ban, as well as stripped of scholarships, victories and issued a $60 million fine. The NCAA has been mixed up in various legal battles related to the punishment to Penn State ever since as well.

Permalink 22 Comments Back to top

Virginia Tech announces contract extension for Frank Beamer

Virginia Tech v Georgia Tech Getty Images

For those awaiting the start of the Bud Foster era in Blacksburg, you’re going to have to wait a little longer.

In a press release, Virginia Tech announced that long-time head coach Frank Beamer has signed a two-year contract extension.  Beamer is now signed through Jan. 1, 2019.

Beamer earned approximately $2.54 million in 2013, making him the fourth-highest paid head coach in the ACC.  There’s no word on whether the extension includes a bump in pay.

“We are pleased to be in a position to present Coach Beamer with this contract extension,” Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said in a statement. “Announcing before our home opener serves as a tangible show of support for the winningest coach in college football who does it the right way, continues our positive momentum in recruiting, and signals the stability of leadership in our program. His stamp on our football program, and our institution, is indelible. This well-deserved extension is a reward for 27 tremendous years, certainly, but also is based upon my observations and work with him these past seven months. His integrity and work ethic is even better than advertised and he still has that competitive fire and wants to move Virginia Tech forward. I believe in him and support him, his staff, and our team. We look forward to a successful 2014 season and beyond.”

The 67-year-old Beamer — he’ll turn 68 Oct. 18 — is getting set to enter his 28th season as head coach of the Hokies. He was also a football player at Tech in the mid- late sixties.

His 266 career wins are the most in the football program’s history and makes him the winningest active head coach at the FBS level. His list of accomplishments on the field is impressive: 21 consecutive bowl appearances, four ACC titles, five ACC Coastal Division crowns, three BIG EAST Conference titles, six BCS appearances, two “major” bowl victories and a trip to the national championship game. Under his guidance, the Hokies have finished in the Top 20 in 16 of the past 21 seasons, including four top-10 finishes during the last 10 years.

“As I’ve stated numerous times, the only job I desire is right here at Virginia Tech,” Beamer said. “My passion and commitment have been further energized with the arrivals of President (Tim) Sands and Whit Babcock and the leadership and vision they provide. I am appreciative of the confidence they continue to show in me and our football program. I can honestly tell you that our program currently stands atop a rock-solid foundation. This coaching staff is the best I’ve ever had. We’ve had an influx of talented, young student-athletes into our program and we’re hard at work recruiting more just like them. So, I’m confident in the character and talent of our coaches, players and support staff. Then, you see this impressive, state-of-the-art indoor practice facility on its way up, which shows the continuing dedication from this university, its people and our fans, and our future can only be bright. I’m proud of where we’ve been, and I’m extremely excited about where we’re going.”

Beamer, incidentally, will be 72 years of age at the end of the new extension.

Permalink 4 Comments Back to top

Ex-Canes four-star signee moves on to Texas Southern

Derrick Green

Because he was a non-qualifier, Derrick Griffin never was able to reach his immense potential at Miami.  Now, however, the talented player will get another chance, albeit it at a much lower level of football.

According to Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston, Griffin has enrolled at Texas Southern and intends to play for the FCS program.  Because he was an academic non-qualifier, however, he will have to sit out the 2014 season.

“Our summer-bridge program is set up to take incoming freshman that need additional help to become college ready,” athletic director Dr. Charles McClelland told the station. “Derek successfully participated in that program which is why he is now a full-time student at Texas Southern University.”

In order for Griffin to be eligible in 2015, he needs to earn 24 credits between now and then. Additionally, Berman wrote, “Griffin must also maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.0 during the next two semesters to also be eligible.”

Until then, he’s eligible to practice with his new teammates.

A four-star member of The U’s 2013 recruiting class, Griffin was rated as the No. 3 wide receiver in the country; the No. 5 player at any position in the talent-rich state of Texas; and the No. 42 recruit overall by Rivals.com. While he’s listed as a TE, the 6-6, 215-pound Griffin will be utilized as a receiver.  As late as early February Griffin was verbally committed to Texas A&M before flipping to Miami in the middle of that month.

“He can bring a lot of different things to the program,” TSU head coach Darrell Asberry said. “He’s a very exciting player.

“He’s a great young man, a great person. The kid has great, great athletic ability. So we just want to make sure we put him in the right position to make plays for us.”

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

Permalink 4 Comments Back to top

Report: USC doubted Shaw’s story from beginning

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - Fresno State v USC Getty Images

The fallout from an alleged act of heroism continues, with additional details slowly beginning to emerge.

Citing a source within the USC athletic department, USA Today‘s David Leon Moore is reporting “that a number of department officials spoke to [Josh] Shaw about his rescue story and expressed skepticism about it.” Shaw recently suffered what’s described as a pair of high-ankle sprain, which he told the school he incurred after jumping from a second-floor balcony to save his seven-year-old nephew from drowning.

The news surfaced thanks to the football program’s official website touting the act of bravery with a splashy headline and story below it. If there was doubt as to the veracity of Shaw’s story, why would a website affiliated with the school play up such a version when they knew it would go national and become huge news?

This report comes less than a day after multiple reports coming out of Los Angeles have established that a “Josh Shaw” could be wanted for potential questioning in connection to a possible break-in at an apartment a few miles from campus. It has not been determined that the Shaw in question is USC’s Shaw, although witness descriptions seem to fit.

Following practice Wednesday, head coach Steve Sarkisian again addressed the situation. After originally saying that the program was in the process of vetting Shaw’s story, Sarkisian now says he’s handed off that responsibility.  From the Los Angeles Times:

“It’s pretty clear there’s quite a few conflicting stories out there. Any information that we’ve been provided up to this point we’ve pushed along to campus authorities. We’re really going to let it play out in their hands. And quite honestly we’re in somewhat of a holding pattern so that’s where we’re at.”

When asked if he meant administrative officials or legal officials on campus, Sarkisian said, “Everything above me. In this day and age of college football and head coaches responsibility, I’d be foolish not to push everything up the ladder. And you know, I think we learned that a few years ago with a couple other high-profile coaches, so everything I’ve ever done when things come across my desk is to push them to campus authorities and let them do their due diligence. Then when things come back to me I can comment on them. But until then I don’t really have much to say on it.”

For the first time since the events unfolded, Trojan players were permitted to speak to the media.  Or, more specifically, defensive players Leonard Williams and Hayes Pullard.  Both players said they have not yet spoken to their beleaguered teammate, with the former stating that the team is “shocked” over the developments.

“All the players were just running into each other just asking what’s going on with the story, if its real or not, that’s all we really know. We were pretty shocked because Josh Shaw is a pretty loyal guy since he’s been here. I would never expect him to make up a story or something like that. So if it’s real or not … I would never expect him as a captain to be in that situation.”

Football-wise, Shaw, a starter, will be sidelined indefinitely because of the injuries he incurred… however he incurred them.

Permalink 7 Comments Back to top

Winston slight favorite over Mariota in Bovada Heisman odds

Jameis Winston AP

If Jameis Winston is going to go back-to-back in stiff-armed trophies at the end of the year, he’ll do so as the wagering favorite entering the season.

Just as it did with the College Football Playoff, Bovada.lv released its final set of preseason Heisman Trophy odds, with the Florida State quarterback the slight favorite at 9/2.  Those are the same odds Winston held back Aug. 5.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, however, has gained some ground on the reigning Heisman winner at 5/1; earlier this month, Mariota stood at 6/1.  He began the year, however, at 7/2.

Winston’s odds have also gone up since January, when they were at 2/1.

It’s at this point in the program where I’m compelled to remind you that, last year around this time, Johnny Manziel, fresh off becoming the first freshman to ever claim the Heisman, was being viewed as the co-favorite to become just the second-ever to stake his claim to a pair of stiff-armed trophies. AJ McCarron, still basking in the glow of becoming the first starting quarterback with back-to-back BCS title-game wins, was viewed as a potential challenger to Johnny Football. So too were Braxton Miller, Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater and a whole host of other players.

And then, of course, Winston happened. A 35-1 longshot last August, Winston went on to claim the 2013 Heisman in near-record fashion, joining Manziel as the only freshmen to win the award.  So, are there any potential Winstons in this year’s group?

Perhaps a teammate like running back Karlos Williams at 33/1.  Or, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato at 50/1, although it would take the alignment of myriad stars across several galaxies for the Non-Power Five conference player to earn a trip to New York City let alone win it.

Just one true freshman made Bovada’s cut: LSU running back Leonard Fournette at 33/1.  Back in early August, the much-hyped back was at 66/1.  Fournette also marks the first a true freshman, which has never won claimed a Heisman, to make an appearance on Bovada’s preseason odds.

Below are the full set of odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

Bovada Final 2014 Preseason Heisman Odds

Permalink 4 Comments Back to top

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Playoff Darkhorses

College Football Playoff Logo

The term “BCS busters” should be collectively erased from everyone’s memories.

It’s now time to figure out which teams have a glimmer of hope to rise from obscurity and claim a spot in the first College Football Playoff.

The Florida State Seminoles, Alabama Crimson Tide and Oregon Ducks are overwhelming favorites to participate in the inaugural playoff structure. But college football never quite works out like everyone expects.

Each team in the country is striving to be among the best. Only four will achieve this goal. Some have better odds than others. We here at CFT like to root for the underdog. As such, we’ll attempt to identify a team from each of the Power Five conference and one from the rest of the leagues that have an outside shot of playing with the big boys this season.

We advise not to bet on any of these teams, but they each have something that gives them a chance, albeit a slight one, to be a part of college football’s elite…

ACC: Virginia Tech Hokies
Any team that comes out of the ACC that isn’t the Florida State Seminoles should be considered a playoff darkhorse. The reasons the Hokies are primed to improve greatly from their 8-5 record last season are they are particularly talented and experienced along the offensive line and secondary. The enter left side of the Hokies’ offensive line, including center, is comprised of seniors. And right tackle Jonathan McLaughlin was named  second-team freshman All-American by College Football News. The Hokies’ ability to win in the trenches will improve the team’s running game from last year, particularly with sophomore running back Trey Edmunds ready to become the team’s workhorse. Plus, solid play from the offensive line will help Michael Brewer‘s transition after he transferred from Texas Tech. On the defensive side of the ball, the Hokies may have lost Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum to the NFL, but both of last year’s starting cornerbacks struggled with injuries. Sophomores Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller proved more than capable of stepping in and becoming play makers. Everyone will quickly learn whether or not the Hokies are a legitimate contender when they face a Braxton Miller-less Ohio State Buckeyes squad during the second week of the season. If Virginia Tech can go into the Horshoe and claim a major victory against the Buckeyes, the rest of the schedule is manageable, especially since it won’t face the Seminoles in regular season play.

Big 12 Conference: Texas Tech Red Raiders
Kliff Kingbury
‘s first season as Texas Tech’s head coach developed into a perfect example of style over substance. The excitement of a 7-0 start faded into five straight losses to end the regular season. Despite being as highly ranked as 10th overall, the Red Raiders couldn’t match up physically against the likes of the Oklahoma Sooners, Baylor Bears and Texas Longhorns. As Kingsbury continues to build the program in Year 2, the Red Raiders should be far more consistent. It starts at the quarterback position in the team’s Air Raid offense. Davis Webb started six of the team’s final eight games, and he was awarded the starting job during spring practice. Kingsbury played three different quarterbacks last and never found any consistency. Webb’s growth as a player during his sophomore season will only help the offense become more successful. Each of the linemen in front of Webb is experienced, and the receivers are expected to produce. The defense will continue to be a concern, but Texas Tech will enter each game under the assumption they can outscore any opponent. If the Red Raiders can navigate the Big 12 Conference, they’re toughest non-conference opponent is the Arkansas Razorbacks, who finished 3-9 last season. The opportunity is there for Texas Tech to take the next step as a program and potentially enter the national conversation.

Big Ten Conference: Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes will enjoy and possibly benefit greatly from playing in the Big Ten Conference’s new western division. Overall, the Big Ten Conference is wide open after the Ohio State Buckeyes lost Miller for the season. But that won’t matter for Iowa since they’re not scheduled to play the Buckeyes this season. Iowa not only avoids Ohio State, it won’t play the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans or Penn State Nittany Lions. The Hawkeyes cross-divisional opponents this season are the Indiana Hoosiers and Maryland Terrapins. And the team’s toughest non-conference opponent is the Pittsburgh Panthers. If the Hawkeyes don’t trip up during a game they’re expected to win — like we’ve seen previously in Kirk Ferentz‘s tenure — Iowa could cruise into the final two games against the Wisconsin Badgers and Nebraska Cornhuskers with an undefeated record. The Hawkeyes are then capable and possess enough talent on both sides of the ball to beat the primary opposition in their division. The Hawkeyes will do what they always do; they’ll run the football behind arguably the best offensive linemen in college football, Brandon Scherff, and they’ll play fundamentally sound football on defense. Their style of play leaves very little margin for error, but the season sets up perfectly for the Hawkeyes to have a little more wiggle room than they usually do.

Pac-12 Conference: Oregon State Beavers
Good quarterback play will grant a team the benefit of the doubt. Sean Mannion may not be an interesting as Florida State’s Jameis Winston or as dynamic as Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Mannion doesn’t even draw as much attention as UCLA’s Brett Hundley. Yet, Mannion is the country’s leading returning passer. Mannion threw for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns as a junior. The quarterback also has pieces around him. Last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner, Brandin Cooks, is now in the NFL, but the team still has a massive target at tight end in Connor Hamlett and its top two rushers, Terron Ward and Storm Woods, return. Another overlooked aspect of the Beavers is how experienced they are on defense. Nine of the team’s defensive starters are seniors. The final two starters are juniors. Some of those upperclassmen will be starting for the first time, but the ability to be in the system over a period of time learning the scheme gives them an advantage. The Beavers even benefit slightly from their schedule. The team’s non-conference schedule should be a cakewalk. Oregon State hosts the Oregon Ducks in this year’s “Civil War.” Trips to USC and Stanford are the biggest obstacles in front of the Beavers in their attempt to go to their first major bowl game since they defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Fiesta Bowl 13 years ago.

SEC: Ole Miss Rebels
The Florida Gators are a popular choice to be the surprise team emerging out of the SEC. However, the Rebels should be able to reap the benefits from head coach Hugh Freeze‘s ability to stockpile talent during the upcoming season. The Rebels will have to survive the SEC West, of course, which is no easy feat. The Rebels finished 2-4 in the division last season, and the Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers remain the teams to beat. Ole Miss, however, is littered with top talents primed to make a leap as a group. Former No. 1 overall recruit Robert Ndemkiche enters his second season in the program. He’s surrounded by senior edge rushers C.J. Johnson and Carlos Thompson and just nose tackle Isaac Gross. Sophomore Tony Conner quickly established himself as an intimidating presence in the secondary during his freshman campaign. On offense, sophomore Laremy Tunsil is one of the most physically talented left tackles in the SEC. Laquon Treadwell was an elite wide receiver recruit and made an instant impact as a true freshman. And senior quarterback Bo Wallace will lead the way. As the talent on this team continues to mature, the gap between the Rebels and the rest of the SEC West is quickly closing. If that same talent takes a major leap in their play this year, the Rebels could go from pretender to legitimate contender.

Best of the rest: Marshall Thundering Herd
One thing established during the BCS era was an undefeated team from the American Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference, Conference USA or MAC can work themselves into the national conversation. This year’s most likely candidate is Marshall. There are two reasons why the Thundering Herd can crash this year’s party. First, the team’s schedule is among the easiest in college football. The team should cruise to a 13-0 finish. Second, people love to see explosive offenses and elite quarterback play. Marshall head coach Doc Holliday has quietly built one of the most explosive offenses in college football.  The Thurndering Herd operates at a breakneck pace. Last season the team’s offense finished 12th in the country with an average of 500.4 yards per contest. And quarterback Rakeem Cato is absolutely electric. Over the past two seasons, Cato has thrown for 8,117 yards, 76 touchdowns. The combination of an undefeated record, explosive offense and a talented quarterback may be enough to insert Marshall into one of the playoff slots (even though it’s still highly unlikely).

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Permalink 2 Comments Back to top

‘Noles, Tide 1-2 in final Bovada CFP odds

Gambling neon sign, Las Vegas, USA

With the 2014 FBS season officially set to kick off tonight — yes, Abilene Christian-Georgia State and not Texas A&M-South Carolina — Bovada.lv has released its final set of preseason odds on winning the first-ever College Football Playoff.

In the previous set of odds released by the wagering website, both Florida State and Alabama were listed as the co-favorites to win the playoff at 11/2.  Heading into the season, however, it’s the Seminoles alone at 4/1, followed by the Tide at 5/1.

Those two are followed by Oregon at 15/2, followed by Auburn and Oklahoma at 10/1.  UCLA and Georgia are up next at 14/1 and 16/1.

Ohio State, which just a week ago in the wake of the season-ending injury to Braxton Miller saw its title odds plummet from 10/1 to 40/1, is back up to 20/1.  The Buckeyes are still ahead odds-wise of Michigan State (25/1), which is now viewed as the Big Ten frontrunner because of Miller’s injury.

Bovada sports book manager Kevin Bradley explained that, as it relates to the initial reaction to the Miller injury, there was “possibly an over-adjustment on our part as we saw an influx of bets on them within hours.”

The biggest jump among Top 25 was Wisconsin, which went from 33/1 to 25/1.  The biggest dip was, of course, OSU.

The longest odds listed?  Call at 1,000/1.  The shortest odds for a Non-Power Five conference member?  At 200/1, Marshall, which was off the board the last time odds were released.

In fact, the heard is the only “mid-major” listed.

Below are the full set of odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

(Note: teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same.)

Bovada Final 2014 Preseason Odds

Permalink 10 Comments Back to top