CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 18 Wisconsin

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2013 record: 9-4 overall, 6-2 in Big Ten (2nd in Leaders Division)
2013 postseason: Capital One Bowl vs. South Carolina (34-24 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 22/No. 21
Head coach: Gary Andersen (39-35 overall; 9-4 in 1 year at Wisconsin)
Offensive coordinator: Andy Ludwig (1 year at Wisconsin)
2013 offensive rankings: 8th rushing offense (283.77 ypg); 94th passing offense (197.1 ypg); 18th total offense (480.8 ypg); 27th scoring offense (34.8 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 6
Defensive coordinator: Dave Aranda (1 year at Wisconsin)
2013 defensive rankings: 5th rushing defense (102.54 ypg); 17th passing defense (202.5 ypg); 7th total defense (305.1 ypg); 6th scoring defense (16.3 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 3
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Stadium: Camp Randall Stadium (80,321; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2012

Wisconsin has a very favorable draw in the Big Ten scheduling this season, with no Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan or Penn State. The Badgers also get Nebraska at home late in the season, but must travel to Iowa the following week, and I have already suggested how dangerous that can be for Wisconsin. The running game should be as strong as it ever is in Madison with Melvin Gordon set to carry the load behind four returning starters on the offensive line (Kyle Costigan, Rob Havenstein, Tyler Marz and Dan Voltz). Wisconsin’s season starts off with an early test against LSU in Houston, but the Badgers could be looking at a 10-win season and should be the favorite in the Big Ten west to reach the Big Ten championship game.

Wisconsin has had one of the more underrated defenses in recent years, but this is a bit of a rebuilding year for the Badgers on defense. Wisconsin returns just three starters from last season and must rebuild the entire front seven.  Having to replace so much in the first game of the season against LSU could make a difficult take slightly more challenging. Wisconsin may feel comfortable with Joel Stave at quarterback, but the Badgers also need to find their new go-to receiver after losing Jared Abbrederis. The top four receivers on the team have moved on since last season, leaving some uncertainty in the open field for now.

Just how good can Wisconsin be? Is this a Badgers team that will challenge Ohio State or Michigan State for the Big Ten championship in Indianapolis, or will this be a team more likely to play in the Capital One Bowl or Outback Bowl? There is nothing wrong with Orlando or Tampa, but the Badgers will have a chance to prove themselves worthy of being in the same conversation as the Buckeyes and Spartans early on if they can show something against LSU.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Nebraska
The season opener against LSU will certainly be the highlight of the 2014 Wisconsin schedule, and for good reason, but the more realistic make-or-break game will come at the other end of the schedule. With back-to-back November games against Nebraska and Iowa, the Badgers will likely have to do no worst than spit the two in order to earn a trip back to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game. Getting a win out of the way against Nebraska before heading to Iowa would be wise and could prove to be the deciding factor in the Big Ten West this fall.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: Running back Melvin Gordon
We will be highlighting top players from each team in our preseason top 25, but Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender. Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, and that was while splitting time with James White (1,444 yards, 13 touchdowns). With White gone, Gordon’s production may actually increase and challenge the numbers put up by Montee Ball in 2012 or 2011. Of course, getting Gordon some rest when possible could be key for the success of Wisconsin this fall as well.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Florida’s athletics facilities upgrade scheduled to be completed in 2021

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Dan Mullen is just breaking in his new office chair, but it will be a few more years until the new head coach to truly be able to get comfortable in his new digs. The University of Florida is scheduled to begin a complete overhaul of the athletics facilities in Gainesville this summer. When it is complete, a brand new state-of-the-art football training facility will be among the highlights of the $130 million project.

The new football facility is planned to occupy a space currently used by Florida’s baseball stadium. WOrk on the football facility will have to wait until the baseball program can move into its new stadium that is part of the renovation plans at Florida.

“With the change in facility locations for both baseball and football, we will now adjust the sequencing for these projects,” Florida AD Scott Stricklin said in a press release, according to Gridiron Now. “Baseball will need to be built first, which will allow us to repurpose the current baseball site and put the stand-alone football complex in that space.”

The new football training facility will take up a good chunk of the renovation costs with an estimated price tag of $65 million for a 130,000 square foot structure. Florida won’t have to wait until 2021 to use the facility, however, as the Gators should be expected to be able to start using the new complex as early as 2019 while the construction and renovation continues.

Michigan high school coach shuts doors to EMU football following shutting down of athletic programs

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Eastern Michigan University made some tough decisions this week when it cut four athletic programs. Although cutting football was not deemed to be an option by AD Scott Wetherbee, the decision is already having some ramifications for the football program moving forward as one high school in the state of Michigan says the Eagles are no longer welcome on their premises.

Noel Dean, who coaches both the football and wrestling programs at Lowell High School, stated in a public letter addressed to EMU head coach Chris Creighton that he will no longer welcome Creighton or anyone else associated with EMU to his high school for recruiting purposes if the university goes through with cutting the wrestling program. Dean also issues a warning to Creighton in the letter, suggesting it may not be long before the university takes another hard look at the value of the football program.

“I can’t stand by and not take a stand against what is happening at EMU with the wrestling program,” Dean wrote in his letter, which was shared by Michigan Grappler. “Wrestling contributes too much to the fabric of our schools systems in Michigan (a guy from South Dakota might not get it), but if I stick to the facts on this. wrestling is only a bone to keep people happy FOR NOW. They are coming for you next.

“If this goes through, you and your staff will not be allowed in any one of our buildings.”

That is most certainly a hard line in the sand putting EMU on notice. If one school in the state of Michigan decides to close its doors to EMU and this message spreads throughout the high school coaching community in the state of Michigan, EMU would be in some serious trouble.

Helmet sticker to The Detroit Free Press.


Ed Warinner goes from $250K Michigan analyst to $525K U-M line coach

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Ed Warinner‘s bank account might want to consider sending Jim McElwain a thank-you note.

In January of this year, Warinner left Minnesota to take a job as a senior offensive analyst at Michigan. However, a month later, McElwain was added as U-M’s wide receivers coach; in an unsurprising twist to that move, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Tim Drevno officially stepped down from his twin posts eight days after McElwain’s hiring and ultimately ended up back at USC.

McElwain, as had been widely expected before he was officially added to Jim Harbaugh‘s coaching staff, took over Drevno’s coordinating duties. Warinner, meanwhile, was officially named as Drevno’s replacement as line coach earlier this month.

According to, Warinner has signed a two-year contract that will pay him $525,000 in 2018 and $550,000 in 2019. His scheduled salary for his role as an analyst with the football program? A “measly” $250,000.

Warinner spent the 2017 season as the offensive line coach and running-game coordinator at Minnesota. Prior to that, He was the line coach at Ohio State from 2012-16. In 2015, he added the title of co-offensive coordinator.

Dad: Tua Tagovailoa had surgery for broken finger on throwing hand

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And now we know a little more of the rest of the story.

Tuesday, after Alabama had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his left (throwing) hand. It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

Wednesday, it was reported that the injury was believed to be just a sprain and that Tagovailoa could return to practice soon; Thursday, that came to fruition, although Tagovailoa was only back on a limited basis.

Friday brought further perspective, with Tagovailoa’s father telling KHON-TV in their home state of Hawaii that his son underwent surgery to repair a broken index finger on his left hand.  Galu Tagovailoa told the television station that the injury was the result of a “freak accident.”

Tagovailoa, who suffered the injury after hitting his hand on a teammate, underwent surgery that same night, this past Tuesday.

While he heals from the procedure, Tagovailoa will wear a protective glove on the hand.  For the time being, he’ll essentially be limited to footwork drills and the like.

It’s unknown when Tagovailoa, who is in the midst of a battle with two-year starter Jalen Hurts, will be cleared for full participation.  According to the station, however, his parents expect him to be back before Alabama’s spring game April 21.