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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Heisman Watch List

Heisman Trophy

And now we come to one of the most fruitless and frustrating portions of preview season: the preseason Heisman watch list.

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, Jameis 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.

Winston, as you can expect, will be the favorite heading into the 2014 season. Is there, though, another Jameis out there this year? Let’s take a snapshot look at the reigning winner as well as 20 players, in alphabetical order so as not to (gasp!) offend anyone, who could snatch the trophy from the preseason front-runner.

JAMEIS WINSTON, FLORIDA STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 257-of-384 passing (66.9%) for 4,057 yards, 40 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 88 carries for 219 yards (2.8 yards per carry) and four touchdowns
QUICK HIT: There’s really not much to say here that hasn’t already been said.  Winston was the best player in college football last season, and also happened to play on the best team for good measure.  He’s lost a couple of weapons, but twice as many returned to go along with the obligatory growth of some of the younger skill players who should see their roles expand in 2014.  Also remember that Winston was in his first year as a starter; if his skill-set makes even a nominal jump, look out Archie Griffin… especially if he can avoid the negative off-field headlines.

AMEER ABDULLAH, NEBRASKA, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 281 carries for 1,690 yards (6.0 ypc) and nine touchdowns; 26 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Unbeknownst to quite a number of people I’d suspect, Abdullah, not Melvin Gordon (see below) or anyone else, led the Big Ten in rushing last season.  As you can see by his receiving numbers, he’s quite adept at coming out of the backfield as well.  If you’re looking for a Heisman darkhorse, you could do worse than focusing on Abdullah as he will be the focal point of the Cornhuskers’ offense yet again..

RAKEEM CATO, MARSHALL, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 298-of-499 passing (59.7 %) for 3,916 yards, 39 touchdowns, nine interceptions; 99 carries for 294 yards (3.0 ypc) and six touchdowns
QUICK HIT: The first of two players on this list from non-Power Five conferences, and the one who has the best chance of crashing the December New York City Heisman party as a finalist.  The 2013 stats speak for themselves, and should do nothing but improve in 2014.  What separates Cato from the rest of the “have-not” pack is his team: there’s a very good chance that Cato and the Herd roll through the regular season unbeaten, and do so very, very easily.  Will the fact that exactly zero of the 12 opponents come from Power Five conferences impact Cato’s chances?  Possibly, but if the quarterback jabs voters in the face with a left-right combo of stats and team success, they won’t have a choice but to pay attention.

MIKE DAVIS, SOUTH CAROLINA, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 203 carries for 1,183 yards (5.8 ypc) and 11 touchdowns; 34 receptions for 352 yards
QUICK HIT: One of the most underrated players in the country at any position, Davis will get the opportunity, especially early on, to carry more of the offensive workload as Dylan Thompson establishes his footing as the full-time starter for the first time.  As with Abdullah, his work in the passing game is an overlooked facet that provides an extra dimension for his offense — and another consideration for voters.

MELVIN GORDON, WISCONSIN, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 206 carries for 1,609 yards (7.8 ypc) and 12 touchdowns; one reception for 10 yards
QUICK HIT: Gordon may not have led his conference in rushing as mentioned earlier, but he did lead the country in yards per carry for those backs with at least 200 carries.  In fact, he was one of just two running backs in the country who had 200-plus carries and averaged over seven yards a carry, with the other being Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde (7.3).  With running mate James White (1,444 yards, 13 touchdowns) off to the NFL, the path is cleared for Gordon to double-up on his 2013 production — and I’m only slightly exaggerating.

TODD GURLEY, GEORGIA, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 165 carries for 989 yards (6.0 ypc) and 10 touchdowns; 37 receptions for 441 yards and six touchdowns
QUICK HIT: An injury cost this Bulldog three games in the month of October.  When healthy — and he’s expected to be just that to start the season — he’s arguably the most talented back in the country.  Add in Georgia being one of a handful of SEC teams breaking in new quarterbacks, and Gurley should be at or near the top of most Heisman watch lists throughout the season.

CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG, PENN STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 231-of-392 passing (58.9%) for 2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 49 carries for -68 yards (-1.9 ypc) and four touchdowns
QUICK HIT: One of just two true sophomores on this list, Hackenberg flourished under QB guru Bill O’Brien.  With O’Brien off to the NFL, how will Hackenberg handle new head coach James Franklin and an entirely different offensive system?  Based on watching a kid who just oozes talent and confidence, I’m guessing he’ll adapt just fine, thank you very much.

BRETT HUNDLEY, UCLA, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 248-of-369 passing (67.2%) for 3,071 yards, 24 touchdowns, nine interceptions; 160 carries for 748 yards (4.7 ypc) and 11 touchdowns; one reception for seven yards and a touchdown
QUICK HIT: All Hundley has done in two seasons as the Bruins’ starter is throw for over 6,800 yards and 53 touchdowns, all while completing a ridiculous 67-percent of his passes (nearly).  Oh, and he’s added more than 1,100 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns on the ground for good measure.  If he’d have been putting up those numbers for a team that played in a conference east of the Mississippi, you could be looking at the biggest challenger to Winston’s crown.  Instead, you’re looking at a player still fighting for the respect he richly deserves.  Hopefully voters look west and beyond their narrow focus on a certain Duck if Hundley continues to put up the numbers he has.

MYLES JACK, UCLA, LB/RB
2013 STAT LINE: 75 tackles, 11 passes defensed, two interceptions, one return touchdown; 38 carries for 269 yards (7.0 ypc) and seven touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Jack is the other of the two true sophomores.  As a true freshman, he was a two-way highlight machine, finishing fifth on the Bruins in tackles while landing behind only Hundley in rushing touchdowns.  If Jack goes both ways again this year — and that appears to be the plan — and does it all season, there’s little doubt he’ll be on the tip of many a Heisman voter’s tongue come November.

DUKE JOHNSON, MIAMI, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 145 carries for 920 yards (6.3 ypc) and six touchdowns; four receptions for 77 yards; 14 kick returns for 396 yards (28.3 yards per return)
QUICK HIT: A devastating ankle injury cost Johnson the final five games of last season and sidelined him for all of spring practice as well.  Johnson, at 100-percent, can put scores on the board rushing, receiving and in the kick-return game.  A healthy Johnson will be a factor in both the ACC and Heisman races, especially given the very unsettled nature of The U’s quarterback situation.

CHUCKIE KEETON, UTAH STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 136-of-196 passing (69.4%) for 1,388 yards, 18 touchdowns, two interceptions; 55 carries for 241 yards (4.4 ypc) and two touchdowns
QUICK HIT: The second of just two non-Power Five conference players on the list.  Also one of the ones coming off a significant injury, one suffered in the sixth game of the year that cost the Aggie senior more than half the season.  If he can get back to the form he displayed in 2012… if USU can maintain its presence as a 10-win(ish) mid-major… if he can put on a show in Knoxville against Tennessee in the opener… if those three things take place, you never know.  Watching a potential mid-major between Keeton and Cato develop would be fascinating, though.

TAYLOR KELLY, ARIZONA STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 302-of-484 (63.4%) for 3,635 yards, 28 touchdowns, 12 interceptions; 173 carries for 608 yards (3.5 ypc) and nine touchdowns
QUICK HIT: If I were a gambling man, I’d bet you I’d put a little bit of money on Mr. Kelly and his 100/1 odds for the 2014 Heisman.  Call it a hunch.  Kelly has been flying underneath the national radar the last two seasons; entering his third year as a starter, he’s ready to break out and become a household name.  Again, a hunch.

TREVOR KNIGHT, OKLAHOMA, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 79-of-134 passing (59%) for 819 yards, nine touchdowns, five interceptions; 67 carries for 445 yards (6.6 ypc) and two touchdowns
QUICK HIT: This one may be the first real stretch in the group, so much so that I think I just felt something pop.  Which Knight will show up this year, the one who had issues hanging on to the job in his first season as a starter or the one that torched Alabama for 348 yards passing and four touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl?  From this vantage point, I’ll say somewhere in between, with a big jump the deeper we get into 2014 and on into the 2015 season.

SEAN MANNION, OREGON STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE:
QUICK HIT: One of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country statistically in 2013, Mannion was hamstrung by one simple fact — his seven-win Beavers were just a fair-to-middling squad.  If OSU can get closer to 10 wins than five, and Mannion can put up similar numbers — won’t be easy with the loss of Brandin Cooks — he should be on the radar through October and on into November.

MARCUS MARIOTA, OREGON, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 245-of-386 passing (63.5%) for 3,665 yards, 31 touchdowns; four interceptions; 96 carries for 715 yards (7.4 ypc) and nine touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Simply put, Mariota is one of the best — THE best in my opinion — quarterbacks in college football.  You’ve heard all of the well-deserved superlatives, so there’s no need for me to drop to my knees as well.  He’ll be a factor in the Heisman race from Game 1 through Game 12 and on into the Ducks’ (expected) appearance in the Pac-12 championship game.

NICK MARSHALL, AUBURN, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 142-of-239 passing (59.4%) for 1,976 yards, 14 touchdowns, six interceptions; 172 carries for 1,068 yards (6.2 ypc) and 12 touchdowns; one reception for 35 yards
QUICK HIT: Marshall’s first season as a starter wasn’t statistically overwhelming, but it was deadly in its efficiency.  Marijuana citation aside, Marshall is said to have had a very good offseason, improving his throwing mechanics and becoming more and more comfortable in Gus Malzahn‘s offense.  If true, and if the passing aspect of his game improves, that could prove to be bad news for the SEC in general and the West specifically.

BRAXTON MILLER, OHIO STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 162-of-255 passing (63.5%) for 2,094 yards, 24 touchdowns, seven interceptions; 171 carries for 1,068 yards (6.2 ypc) and 12 touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Miller improved in nearly every statistical category in his third season as a starter.  Entering his fourth year, it’s time for the 2013 preseason Heisman favorite to take the next step, which means becoming more of a passing quarterback and less of a running one.  A greater threat in the passing game while maintaining the “holy crap, he may take off” aspect of his run threat would prove to be a lethal combination that not many quarterback’s possess — and not many coordinators would stand a chance of counteracting.

TY MONTGOMERY, STANFORD, WR
2013 STAT LINE: 61 receptions for 958 yards (15.7 ypc) and 10 touchdowns; 36 kick returns for 1,091 yards (30.3 ypr)
QUICK HIT: Montgomery’s long-shot candidacy may have suffered a fatal blow before it even started as shoulder surgery leaves him questionable for the first two games of the year.  One missed game would all but end the candidacy; two missed games would kill it for a receiver.  Still, I felt, given the immense two-way talent Montgomery is, he at least deserved a mention.

BRYCE PETTY, BAYLOR, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 250-for-403 passing (62%) for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns, three interceptions; 94 carries for 209 yards (2.2 ypc) and 14 touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Along with Winston, Miller and Mariota, Petty is widely viewed as a quarter of the four-headed Heisman favorite.  While the passing yards and touchdowns certainly catch the eye, the fact that Petty threw just three picks in 403 attempts is enough to drop the jaw to the floor.  Art Briles‘ system just chugs along — at warp speed — year after year; don’t expect anything to change in Petty’s second year as the Bears’ triggerman.

KEENAN REYNOLDS, NAVY, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 68-of-128 passing (53.1%) for 1,057 yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions; 300 carries for 1,346 yards (4.5 ypc) and 31 touchdowns
QUICK HIT: How could you not put a player like Reynolds on a list like this?  Yes, the Midshipmen have somewhat of a penchant for running the ball and utter disdain for throwing it, which means Reynolds won’t have the gaudy passing stats that catch a voter’s attention the way a set of jingling keys catches a toddler’s.  Still, any player with 31 rushing touchdowns — 31!!!!!! — in a single season deserves a shout-out.  Especially one who comes from one of our nation’s great service academies.

T.J. YELDON, ALABAMA, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 207 carries for 1,235 yards (6.0 ypc) and 14 touchdowns; 20 receptions for 183 yards
QUICK HIT: This bruising back has it all: speed, power, change of direction and surprisingly soft hands for a man his size.  He’s everything Nick Saban wants in a running back.  What he doesn’t have?  Sole ownership of the Tide’s running game load, the kind of ownership that would allow him to put up eye-catching numbers, because of the presence of Derrick Henry.  The reality is Henry is too good of a back and too much of a weapon to not utilize, which means Yeldon could still be one of the most Heisman-worthy players in the country and not have the stats to show it.  Such is life on Five-Star Island.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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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

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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Nick Saban, winner of four national titles, says he should have won four more

Nick Saban

Winning a national championship is hard. Winning two can be even harder. Three or four? Nearly impossible in today’s world, but Alabama head coach Nick Saban has been the coach to have done it four times (one with LSU, three with Alabama). Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has three under his belt (two with Florida, one with Ohio State) and is looking for a fourth this season as well. Saban has proven capable of amassing enough talent to have a national title contender on an annual basis, but has ended the year with a postseason loss each of the past two seasons. That does not sit well with the Crimson Tide head coach, who said in a radio interview yesterday he feels he should have won four more national titles.

“We haven’t finished the season in the last two seasons like we’d like,” Saban said to ESPN’s Paul Finebaum (per Atlanta Journal-Constitution). “People talk about you won four national championships. Well, I feel like we’ve had good enough teams to win eight. So I feel like we failed four times. I feel like I failed four times.”

Alabama had a chance last season as the top seed in the new College Football Playoff. The Tide were turned aside by Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl semifinal game. The previous season Alabama missed a chance to play for the national title when Auburn stunned them in the Iron Bowl with the Kick-Six, knocking Alabama out of the SEC Championship Game out of the SEC West and relegating Alabama to a Sugar Bowl match-up with Oklahoma instead. You might say Alabama was one win away from a national championship each of the past two seasons. Alabama may have been a favorite against Jameis Winston and Florida State in the final BCS National Championship Game two seasons ago, and Alabama may have been a favorite against Oregon in last year’s College Football Playoff national championship game.

Saban also reflected on his coaching future while on air with Finebaum. He showed no sign of contemplating retirement, suggesting if he is in good enough shape to play golf for 16 more years, he should be able to coach as well. Saban will turn 64 years old this October.

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Could Sun Belt futures of Idaho, New Mexico State be in doubt?

Have you or anyone you know ever had one of those moments where you say something out loud during a conference call thinking your line is on mute – only it’s not? Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson may be fighting that feeling right now.

In a conference call heralding the addition of Coastal Carolina, Benson acknowledged far west members Idaho and New Mexico State could be on the chopping block.

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In his defense, Benson only acknowledged the obvious. Considering the Big 12 and ACC-led legislation allowing leagues to hold title games outside the 12-plus team, two-division structure should pass before Coastal Carolina joins the conference in 2017, adding a 12th team for the sake of holding a conference championship game makes about as much sense as…. having your conference footprint spread from Moscow, Idaho to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

That’s not to say the Vandals and Aggies should go packing their bags, however.

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Still, chalk that decision up to a commissioner throwing cold water on a line of questioning that he himself opened.

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Georgia (finally) receives approval for indoor facility

Georgia Southern v Georgia

For years, Georgia’s indoor facility was like that swarm of African killer bees you heard about as a kid: rumored to be on its way, though no one ever actually laid eyes on it.

Well, the bees have arrived.

The University of Georgia athletics board has approved construction on a $30 million indoor facility, to break ground after the 2015 season. The facility will run 140 yards long, 80 yards wide and 76 feet high.

Previously, the Dawgs bussed to the Atlanta Falcons facility when Mother Nature deemed necessary, a wart on the program coaches say was used against Georgia on the recruiting trail.

“I know he is excited for this day to come,” athletics director Greg McGarity said of head coach Mark Richt. “He is chomping at the bit to send renderings to prospects and team members and the coaching staff. And now we’ve got that done.”

“I know our competitors are not going to say nothing bad about the coaching staff here, they’re not going to say nothing bad about the people here because it’s a great place,” defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said last November. “One thing they’re going to say is, and that they’ve always said is, ‘How important is football at Georgia if they don’t have an indoor practice facility?’ Well they won’t be able to say that anymore.”

Half of the $30.2 million will come through the department’s reserve fund, and the other half through fundraising. Construction is expected to be complete “hopefully early on” in 2017.

“Getting the $15 million raised as quickly as possible would be optimal,” Georgia president Jere Morehead told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Here’s hoping the Dawgs can keep those bees out.

 

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