Dabo Swinney

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 16 Clemson

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2013 record: 11-2 overall, 7-1 in ACC (2nd in Atlantic division)
2013 postseason: Orange Bowl vs. Ohio State (40-35 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 8/No. 7
Head coach: Dabo Swinney (51-23 overall; 51-23 in 6 years at Clemson)
Offensive coordinator: Chad Morris (4th season at Clemson)
2013 offensive rankings: 56th rushing offense (175.62 ypg); 9th passing offense (332.9 ypg); 9th total offense (508.5 ypg); 8th scoring offense (40.2 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 4
Defensive coordinator: Brent Venables (3rd season at Clemson)
2013 defensive rankings: 53rd rushing defense (155.69 ypg); 16th passing defense (200.6 ypg); 24th total defense (356.3 ypg); 24th scoring defense (22.2 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 7
Location: Clemson, South Carolina
Stadium: Memorial Stadium (81,473; Grass)
Last conference title: 2011

At first glance it may look as though Clemson is likely to be in a bit of rebuilding mode after losing some talented players (including Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Roderick McDowell) but the Tigers return more seniors in 2014 than any previous season in the Dabo Swinney era. This year’s senior class needs eight wins to set a new school record for wins by a recruiting class, and that certainly looks attainable this season. Cole Stoudt is ready to take over the responsibility as starting quarterback after playing the role of Boyd’s understudy each of the past three seasons. The strength of Clemson could actually come on the defensive side of the football, with a deep defensive line led by defensive end Vic Beasley, who had 13 sacks last season. This Clemson team may not be as good as they have been in recent seasons, but Swinney’s recruiting in recent years have assured Clemson of a very good team once it gets going.

Clemson plays in the same division as Florida State. With as far as Clemson has come in recent seasons, the bar has been set to a height that may not be able to be cleared by Clemson this season, in part because they happen to play in the same division as the best team in the country (and defending national champions, and Clemson has to play on the road in Tallahassee). It could be a rough start for this Clemson team with road games at Georgia and Florida State in September, so it may be unfair to truly judge Clemson until later in the season. Clemson should be one of the best teams in the ACC by the end of the season, but they will likely be playing from behind Florida State the entire way.

How much will Clemson have in the tank at the start of the season. As just referenced above, the Tigers are going to be thrown right into the fire in September with rod games at Georgia, a team some expect to compete for the SEC East and perhaps even the SEC championship this fall, and later at Florida State, defending ACC and national champions and looking prime for a repeat bid out of the gate. Clemson could very well lose those two games, but will they be able to at least make them look respectable? No coach or player will take much solace in a lose, but proving worthy of going toe-to-toe with Georgia ad Florida State regardless of the outcome could go a long way in setting the tone for the remainder of the season. Clemson beat Georgia last year in a wild game at home, but failed to show up for the home game against the Seminoles. Revenge is one thing, but respect is an entirely different aspect.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. South Carolina
Regardless of what happens against Georgia or Florida State in September, the time has come for Clemson to prove it can compete with and beat South Carolina. Even Clemson’s best teams the past few years have been crippled by their in-state rivals from the SEC. Clemson has lost this game five straight years, and those games have not been all that close either. Each game has been decided by a minimum of 10 points, giving Steve Spurrier and his program some in-state bragging rights. Clemson gets this year’s meeting at home, and it would be a great way for the Tigers to put a bow on what could turn out to be a double-digit win season.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: Defensive end Vic Beasley
We know that defensive players are probably never going to win the Heisman Trophy, but it should not go without mention just how good Vic Beasley is for the Tigers. He could have joined Boyd and Watkins in the NFL Draft this past spring but he opted to return for one more year at Clemson, and that is fantastic news for the Tigers. If he gets off to a fast tart in high-profile games at Georgia and Florida State, and helps Clemson’s defense lead the way to victories in each, then the campaign will quickly emerge as the latest defensive hopeful to snag the Heisman.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)


Navy’s Army-Navy Game uniforms won’t give up the ship

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Navy lost a chance to play for the American Athletic Conference this past weekend with a road loss at Houston, but the Midshipmen will still get a chance to close out the regular season with a win. They will be doing so in quite a unique style.

On Monday, Navy took to social media to show off their specially designed “Navy Fleet” uniforms and hand-painted helmets that will be worn for the annual Army-Navy Game next week. We have seen individually hand-painted helmets before, but never quite like this. The helmets to be worn will pay tribute to seven historic battleships in the United States Navy, and each player will have a different ship on their helmet depending on their position.

Here is the helmet design breakdown, as explained by Navy:

  • Linebacker: Cruiser- Provides anti-air defense and packs the biggest punch of Naval surface ships representative of the linebackers on the Navy football team
  • Defensive Back: Destroyer- Known for significant fire power, speed, and anti-missile defense as are Navy’s defensive backs
  • Wide Receiver: Submarine- Predominantly utilized as blockers, wide receivers play a key role in driving the Navy rush attack, taking on a stealth-like persona as they blend into the rhythm of the offense but bring significant fire power when called upon, just like a Naval submarine
  • Lineman: Amphibious Assault Ships- Just as a lineman’s job is the create a hole for a running back or linebacker, these ships are utilized to establish the “beach head” that enables the invading force to gain access and ultimately accomplish their objective
  • Quarterback: Aircraft Carrier- The QB of the Naval Fleet, the aircraft carrier is the ultimate decision maker; the “quick strike” weapon of the Naval fleet
  • Running Back: Littoral Combat Ship- Like running backs, these fast and nimble ships can navigate through both crowded shallow and deep waters
  • Kicker/Special Teams: Minesweeper- Much like the specific task of the Navy special teams, this small ship has a unique mission of identifying and eliminating mines

Compared to some of the uniforms Navy has worn in the past for the Army-Navy Game, these are certainly more unique. I’m personally a fan more of some of the more recent uniforms worn, but I certainly cannot wait to see what these uniforms look like in person.

Army and Navy square off in Philadelphia on Saturday, December 12.

Report: Michigan QB Jake Rudock could play in bowl game

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We do not yet know which bowl game Michigan will be playing in this bowl season, but the outlooks appears promising for quarterback Jake Rudock and his chances to play in the postseason game.

Rudock was knocked out of Michigan’s weekend loss to rival Ohio State after being on the wrong end of a Joey Bosa takedown. The play ended up spraining an AC joint in Rudock’s non-throwing shoulder, according to a report by Dan Murphy for ESPN.com. Murphy reports Rudock is expected to still be healthy enough to play for the Wolverines by the time a bowl game comes around.

Rudock has been a steady addition to Michigan’s offense under new head coach Jim Harbaugh. The Iowa transfer came to Ann Arbor and won the starting job and has been a rock for the offense. In 12 games, Rudock completed 64 percent of his pass attempts for 2,739 yards and 17 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

Michigan should be playing in a New Years bowl game in the Big Ten line-up. Which bowl game may have to be sorted after figuring out which Big Ten team (or teams) will be participating in the College Football Playoff and Rose Bowl. The winner of this weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game between Iowa (Rudock’s previous school) and Michigan State will be very likely to be in the four-team playoff. The loser will likely head to the Rose Bowl to represent the Big Ten. Ohio State’s possibility of sneaking into the playoff appears to be quite a long shot that would require both Clemson and Alabama to lose this weekend in their respective conference championship game, but the scenario is still on the table. After those three are sorted, Michigan will be one of the top Big Ten bowl participants.

Matt Campbell wants to bring greatness to Iowa State

Matt Campbell
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Nobody will argue the idea Matt Campbell is taking on a tall order to make Iowa State a respected football program in the years to come. Campbell, introduced as the new head coach of the Cyclones, addressed the difficulties that will come with building something at Iowa State.

“My job is to grow the foundation and build it to an elite level,” Campbell said at his introductory press conference Monday. “Change happens, but greatness is a choice. From this day forward, every decision I make will be to bring greatness to Iowa State.”

Iowa State is a perennial cellar-dweller in the Big 12, but it has its moments. The Cyclones have had three straight seasons with no more than three wins under former head coach Paul Rhoads. With Campbell on board, Iowa State will hope to pick up the offense to the level Campbell had working for him at Toledo. Campbell’s offensive background is the kind of profile Iowa State needed in a Big 12 conference that continues to open things up offensively. In a conference with Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, offense is key.

“You can’t just talk greatness, you have to show it,” Campbell said. “Every hand that touches this program has to show that.”

“When you have success, you are always tweaking and adjusting. The foundational principles of growth do not change.”

Campbell’s first mission will to assemble a coaching staff around him. Campbell did not offer a suggestion which way he will go with that task but did comment on the quality staff he leaves behind at Toledo that is now preparing for one final game during the bowl season. Current members of the coaching staff at Iowa State will be given an opportunity to stay on board if Campbell feels they can continue to play a role under his direction. No final decisions will be made before Campbell evaluates the current staff.

Chip Kelly says he never met to discuss USC vacancy

Chip Kelly

Whether you chose to believe him or not, at least Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is officially on the record. During his regularly scheduled Monday press conference in Philadelphia, Kelly said he never met with anybody to discuss the previously vacant head coaching position at USC.

Alright then. So at least that’s that. (But what about his agent?)

USC filled the head coaching position this morning by officially announcing Clay Helton will remain the head coach after serving as the interim head coach following the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian earlier this season. Kelly, the former head coach at Oregon, has had his name attached to multiple coaching rumors at the college level since he left for the NFL, including Texas and Florida before this position at USC opened. Kelly has stood firm on his public statements about not having any interest in a college job, but that never seems to silence the fun hypothetical discussions about his probable eventual return to college football.