John Swofford

Five questions for the ACC Football Kickoff

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The SEC had its fun with a four-day event, but the fun continues in the coming weeks. The ACC is the second conference on the summer media day schedule, and it gets started Sunday with players from each ACC school going through the circuit of interviews.

1. Who challenges Florida State in 2014?

The obvious answer would be Clemson, although the Tigers have some work to do after losing some explosive offensive leaders like Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, and we all remember how close Clemson was to Florida State a year ago. Clemson looks to have the best overall roster after Florida State, but the Tigers will have to make a trip to Tallahassee this season in what should be the game of the year in the ACC. The question is whether or not there is anyone aside from Clemson that can rise up and give Florida State a tussle.

Miami? Virginia Tech? More on those in a bit.

2. How will Louisville’s first season in the ACC go?

This is an interesting time of transition for the Louisville program. Charlie Strong built the football program up to compete at this level but is now looking to restore the pride in the Texas football program. Watching Teddy Bridgewater go up against Florida State and Clemson would have been great to see, but now the Cardinals have to replace him as well. Bobby Petrino has returned to the program and is already changing things up with all-black alternate uniforms for the season opener and ACC-debut against Miami. Petrino is also looking to prove his wild hog days are behind him and to prove he can keep Louisville among the leaders in the new conference. The future looks bright for Louisville athletics, and the Cardinals could be in the top half of their division. How they stack up against Florida State and Clemson will be just the right measuring stick needed.

3. What about the other Big East alums?

This will be year two in the ACC for Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Despite a good amount of skepticism (myself included), the ACC debuts for both schools went much better than anticipated. Both represented the conference well with postseason wins. This season there could be more coming together as well. Pittsburgh could make a legitimate run in the Coastal Division the way the schedule lines up.

As for the older Big East alums, Miami has still yet to play in an ACC Championship Game since joining the conference. Nobody would have predicted that when the Hurricanes joined the ACC a decade ago. Could this finally be the year? Virginia Tech has been much more successful, but the Hokies are looking to bounce back as well after finishing out of the AP Top 25 each of the past two seasons. The last time that happened was 1992. How do the Hokies and Hurricanes help raise the ACC’s profile? Wins in Big Ten stadiums would be a good start. Miami visits Nebraska and Virginia Tech travels to Ohio State. Boston College also gets to play USC at home after a tough bout in Los Angeles last fall.

4. Will people finally start respecting Duke, or is the magical ride over?

Duke will forever be a basketball school, at least according to Randy Edsall (probably), but the Blue Devils have been one of the more positive stories the past two years. David Cutcliffe has certainly had his work cut out for him, but despite reaching the ACC Championship Game last season there are still some doubts the success will be sustained. Duke has taken advantage of down years or roller coaster seasons at Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina (throw NC State into the mix if you wish), through no fault of its own, but another solid season would go a long way to erasing some doubts about the stability of the program.

5. Where does the ACC fit in the new era of college football?

Expect ACC commissioner John Swofford to discuss the looming age of autonomy, but will he echo the statements made by SEC commissioner Mike Slive threatening to leave the current NCAA structure entirely in favor of a new Division IV? What about potential talk about an ACC Network, using a similar model to the SEC Network? Changes are coming to college football with the new College Football Playoff. All of this will be brought up over the course of the media day festivities.

What do you want to see answered at the ACC Football Kickoff?

College Football Playoff: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington ready to chase championship

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  The Clemson Tigers with the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the first half during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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The College Football Playoff selection committee had to do a little bit more discussion to determine their top four this season than they may have had in the past two seasons, but a decision has been reached. Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Washington are this year’s selections for the College Football Playoff.

The College Football Playoff Four

No. 1 Alabama – The defending national champions are making their third straight appearance in the College Football Playoff. Alabama is the only program to appear in all three playoff tournaments under the new model.

No. 2 Clemson – The ACC champion Clemson Tigers are back in the playoff for a second straight season. Clemson fell in the championship game last year against Alabama. Will the experience of last season pay off for the Tigers in their second consecutive trip representing the ACC?

No. 3 Ohio State – The Buckeyes are looking for their second national championship under the College Football Playoff model. Ohio State becomes the first non-division and non-conference champion to play in the playoff.

No. 4 Washington – The Huskies are the only team making their first trip to the College Football Playoff, and they represent give the Pac-12 their second team in the playoff in three years. Oregon made the playoff in the first season two years ago. The Huskies enter the playoff with blowout wins against top 25 teams Washington State and Colorado.

The Matchups

Peach Bowl: Alabama vs. Washington – A nice little Steve Sarkisian storyline is hidden here, but Chris Petersen and Nick Saban have been two terrific coaches over their careers with time to prepare for big games. Alabama is Atlanta is a tough draw for Washington, but then again anybody would have had a tough draw against the Crimson Tide.

Fiesta Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State – A rematch of the Orange Bowl from a few years ago, with Clemson embarrassing Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes in the final season of the BCS formula. Ohio State loves making trips to the Fiesta Bowl, where they always seem to come out on top. Can they keep that going?

First Two Out

Penn State moved up to No. 5 in the playoff committee’s rankings, nudging just ahead of No. 6 Michigan. The Nittany Lions had a compelling argument for inclusion in the playoff but will take a trip to the Rose Bowl as a pretty nice consolation prize. Penn State will play either Colorado or USC. Michigan will now be heading to the Orange Bowl.

Big 12 misses out once again

The Big 12 has missed the College Football Playoff for a second time in three seasons. The four-team playoff model guarantees one power conference will be left out every year at a minimum, and the Big 12 once again took the short straw without a clear above-the-rest contender. Even a strong finish and run by the Oklahoma Sooners was not enough to overcome a tough September with losses to Houston and Ohio State. This should kick the tires on some heated discussions in Big 12 circles in the future.

The ACC, Big Ten and SEC have been represented in all three playoffs, with the Pac-12 earning two berths.

Report: Alabama QB Cooper Bateman plans to transfer

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 01:  Cooper Bateman #18 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks to pass against the Kentucky Wildcats at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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With Alabama seeing a rising star in freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, it should be no real shock Cooper Bateman would contemplate finding a new place to call home and throw the pigskin around next fall. According to a report this morning from AL.com, that is exactly what he will do.

A redshirt junior, Bateman ended the season sitting third on Alabama’s depth chart at quarterback despite starting off the spring as the most likely starter for the defending national champions. Not only did Bateman fall behind Hurts, but also Blake Barnett. Barnett opted to leave Alabama earlier this season and continues to search for a landing spot.

Al.com reports it is unknown or unconfirmed exactly when Bateman will formally leave the team. For now, there is uncertainty over whether or not Bateman will remain with the Tide during the upcoming playoff run. It is worth remembering players deciding to leave the Alabama program have been shown the door in not-so-flattering fashion in the past, so if Bateman is out then he may not be welcomed back.

Reports: Tommy Tuberville stepping down at Cincinnati

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 15: Head coach Tommy Tuberville of the Cincinnati Bearcats looks on in the first half against the Houston Cougars at Nippert Stadium on September 15, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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The writing appeared to be on the wall as the 2016 season continued to play out, but the end of the Tommy Tuberville era in Cincinnati appears to have been reached.

As reported by Football Scoop this morning, Tuberville has decided to step down as head coach of the program. USA Today has also reported this decision. The resignation comes at the end of a disappointing 4-8 season for the Bearcats, who once again fell well shy of a division championship in the American Athletic Conference. What is unknown at this time is how much of Tuberville’s buyout will be paid, as the date for a drop in his buyout terms was scheduled for later this week, dropping the buyout terms from $2.4 million to $1.5 million.

We also do not know if this is the end of Tuberville as a head coach. Perhaps a change of scenery would benefit Tuberville? Who knows. But the Cincinnati job now coming on the market puts an interesting job on the list of vacancies. Like Houston, the Cincinnati job appears to be one of the more attractive Group of Five jobs given what the university has invested in the program in recent years and has planned going forward. The Cincinnati program should be in a situation to compete annually for an AAC championship, despite what the past two years have shown. Early names floating around as potential names of interest include Western Michigan’s PJ Fleck (and yes, this would be a step up despite leaving Group of Five job for another) and Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm. Either would be fine additions for Cincinnati, but where Cincinnati falls in the pecking order with other suitors looking for a head coach is in question. The Cincinnati job may not quite be the Houston job, but is it better than Purdue? Baylor?

Every coach thinks differently about coaching jobs, so well wait to see where Cincinnati goes from here and what names are attracted to the job.

AP poll: Alabama runs the wire at No. 1, Penn State moves past Michigan

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates with his team after their 54 to 16 win over the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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The Alabama Crimson Tide have run the gauntlet of the regular season and conference championship weekend without losing an edge at the top of the Associated Press top 25 poll. The defending national champions started the season as the overwhelming favorite as the preseason No. 1 and they will enter the College Football Playoff as the top-ranked team in the AP Top 25. With not a whole lot going on outside a number of conference championship games, there was not much to change with the final AP Top 25 of the regular season, but Big Ten champion Penn State has moved ahead of Michigan.

The top four remained unchanged with Ohio State, Clemson and Washington holding form behind Alabama, respectively. Alabama, Clemson and Washington won their respective conference championships this weekend. Penn State moved up on the strength of a Big Ten championship game victory over No. 8 Wisconsin (down two spots). Michigan moved down one spot in the reshuffling despite a blowout victory over Penn State earlier in the season. Big 12 champion Oklahoma held on to the seventh spot in the AP poll, with No. 9 USC (up one) and No. 10 Florida State (up two) moving up this week.

There was one newcomer to the AP poll this week. No. 23 Temple moved into the poll in the final week of the season after upsetting Navy in the American Athletic Conference championship. The Owls and No. 25 USF are the two representatives from the conference this week, but each are well behind undefeated MAC champion Western Michigan. The 13-0 Broncos are No. 12 this week and are likely heading to the Cotton Bowl.

Here is the most recent AP Top 25, with Alabama receiving all 61 first-place votes.

  1. Alabama (61)
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. Washington
  5. Penn State
  6. Michigan
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Wisconsin
  9. USC
  10. Florida State
  11. Colorado
  12. Western Michigan
  13. Oklahoma State
  14. West Virginia
  15. Louisville
  16. Stanford
  17. Auburn
  18. Virginia Tech
  19. LSU
  20. Florida
  21. Iowa
  22. Pittsburgh
  23. Temple
  24. Nebraska
  25. USF