CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 10 Stanford

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2013 record:11-3 overall, 7-2 in Pac-12 (1st overall in Pac-12)
2013 postseason: Rose Bowl vs. Michigan State (24-20 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 11/No. 10
Head coach: David Shaw (34-7 overall; 34-7 in three years at Stanford)
Offensive coordinator: Mike Bloomgren (4th season at Stanford)
2013 offensive rankings: 22nd rushing offense (207.4 ypg); 92nd passing offense (197.9 ypg); 69th total offense (405.5 ypg); 45th scoring offense (32.3 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: five
Defensive coordinator: Lance Anderson (8th season at Stanford)
2013 defensive rankings: 3rd rushing defense (89.4 ypg); 96th passing defense (253.8 ypg); 16th total defense (343.1 ypg); 10th scoring defense (19.0 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: seven
Location: Palo Alto, California
Stadium: Stanford Stadium (50,000; grass)
Last conference title: 2013

THE GOOD
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Everyone knows exactly what to expect of Stanford. The Cardinal will have a smash-mouth offense and a hard-nosed defense. Stanford overwhelms at the point of attack, and that won’t change any time soon. Stanford head coach David Shaw won’t allow the program to veer off course. When Shaw had to replace Derek Mason as defensive coordinator after four years with the program, the head coach promoted from within his coaching staff. Enter Lance Anderson as the new Willie Shaw Director of Defense. Anderson was originally hired when Jim Harbaugh took over the program. He’s coached the defensive line and linebackers. And now Anderson will provide stability to one of the most physical and intimidating defenses in the country. Continuity has become a staple of the Cardinal program.

THE BAD
There is no way to replace what Stanford lost when Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov and Ed Reynolds exhausted their eligibility and are now members of NFL teams. Skov led the team with 108 tackles. Murphy led the FBS with 15 sacks. And Reynolds was the team’s leader in the secondary. Junior Blake Martinez takes over for Skov, while senior A.J. Tarpley will become the leader of the defense. Senior Kevin Anderson will step in as Murphy’s replacement, but he only registered 1.5 sacks in 14 games last season. Kodi Whitfield will be the team’s new starter at safety. Each will live up to the team’s standards as well-coached and disciplined defenders, but it’s hard to imagine these three players replacing the production Stanford lost.

THE UNKNOWN
Since Harbaugh took over the program and Shaw replaced him, the big uglies have become Stanford’s calling card. Each week, whatever opponent Stanford plays absolutely knows they are going to get punched in the mouth by an overwhelming offensive line. Stanford plays with six or seven offensive linemen at any given time and situation. However, talent doesn’t always trump continuity up front. The Cardinal lost four of its five starting offensive linemen to the NFL after last season. Kyle Murphy (right tackle), Joshua Garnett (right guard), Graham Shuler (center) and Johnny Caspers (left guard) will replace Cameron Fleming, Kyle Danser, Khalil Wilkes and and David Yankey. The only mainstay is left tackle Andrus Peat, who just happens to be projected as first-round talent for the 2015 NFL draft.  Good offensive line play demands proper communication, technique and an understanding of what the man next to you is going to do each and every play. Stanford will once again feature a tremendously talented offensive line this season, but at what point during the season will this group completely gel and play at the level expected of them?

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. USC
This could easily be Oregon in this slot, but the Cardinal have beaten the Ducks two years in a row and the team will have the utmost confidence facing them again during the upcoming season. USC, meanwhile, was one of the Cardinal’s key losses last season. The Trojans were playing extremely well down the stretch and stole a 20-17 victory that was decided by a field goal with 19 seconds remaining in the game. The timing of Stanford’s meeting with USC this year is also important. The Cardinal hosts the Trojans the second week of the season with a national audience prepared to watch the game. The last time Stanford lost a game that early in the season was five years ago when it fell to Wake Forest 24-17. A win against the Trojans will help set the table in Pac-12 play and spur national conversation. A loss will likely place Stanford in the background as other teams programs roll through their early-season schedules.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: WR Ty Montgomery
Stanford doesn’t run an offensive scheme where a wide receiver (or any other skill position) will post the level of individual numbers necessary to win a Heisman Trophy. After all, Andrew Luck was the best  quarterback in the nation for two seasons, and he finished as the runner-up for the award twice. Montgomery, however, is one of the most dynamic offense weapons in college football. The wide receiver’s numbers are meager when compared to other receivers that play in spread offenses. Last year, Montgomery registered 61 receptions for 958 yards. While those numbers should be expected to improve during his senior campaign, Montgomery doubles as one of college football’s top kick returners. He was named a Walter Camp All-American as a kick returner. Stanford is expected to contend in the Pac-12 Conference again this season. Big plays from Montgomery in big moments might help Heisman voters overlook the fact he’ll never put up eye-popping numbers as a wide receiver. 

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

2018 LSU-Miami opener to be played Sunday night Labor Day weekend

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In October of 2014, it was confirmed that LSU and Miami would open the 2018 college football season against each other.  Nearly three years later, we have a date and time to go along with it.

It was announced Tuesday that the Tigers and Hurricanes will meet Sunday, Sept. 2, of next year at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET.  It was originally scheduled to be played the day before.

That matchup will be broadcast on ABC.

The opener will mark just the 12th meeting ever between the football programs, and the first since 2013.  This will also serve as the third-ever regular-season meeting between the ACC and SEC squads, with the last one coming way back in 1988.

The Tigers will be playing just their second game ever on a Sunday.  They last did so in 2002 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Maryland loses yet another QB to ACL injury, this one Kasim Hill

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I don’t even know if bubble-wrapping Maryland quarterbacks would help at this point.

This past Saturday afternoon, Kasim Hill went down with what appeared to be a very serious-looking injury to his right leg in the first quarter of the loss to UCF.  Three days later, it was confirmed that the true freshman has been diagnosed with a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2017 season.

Hill is the second Terrapins quarterback to suffer such a fate the first four weeks of the season.  In the second half of Maryland’s season-opening 51-41 upset of Texas, Tyrrell Pigrome went down with what was later diagnosed as a torn ACL, ending his 2017 season as well.

Unfortunately for the Terps, the injuries, ACLs in particular, haven’t been limited to just those two of late.

Hill will be replaced in the starting lineup by No. 3 quarterback Max Bortenschlager, who started one game last season for the Terps.  After replacing Hill, Bortenschlager completed 15-of-26 passes for 132 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the 38-10 loss to the Knights.  Prior to that, he had attempted just two passes this season, completing one of them for four yards.

Cornhuskers legend Dave Rimington tapped as interim Nebraska AD

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There were many who thought Nebraska’s now-former athletic director was disconnected from the university’s deep football history.  With today’s move, the athletic department has made a 180-degree turn.

NU announced Tuesday afternoon that Dave Rimington has been named as the interim athletic director.  Rimington replaces Shawn Eichorst, who was dismissed late last week after nearly five years on the job.

Rimington was one of the greatest college football centers in history, and, in 1981 and 1982 for the Cornhuskers, became the only player to win back-to-back Outland Trophy Awards.  In 2000, the Rimington Trophy was established to honor the most outstanding center in college football.

In 1997, he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame.

“I’m so pleased that we could count on Dave Rimington, who is a Husker through and through, to answer our call to lend his administrative expertise and unwavering support for Nebraska Athletics during this key time of transition,” chancellor Ronnie Green said in a statement. “I am confident that Dave will provide exceptional leadership as we move forward in our search for a new, permanent director of athletics.”

“I am humbled and grateful to accept this responsibility,” Rimington, one of 17 former ‘Huskers with their jerseys retired, said. “I look forward to working with the coaches, staff and student-athletes at Nebraska, which is a truly special place that has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of countless others.”

Rimington is currently the president of the New York-based Boomer Esiason Foundation, but will be taking a sabbatical from those duties.

Mike Leach: ‘I’m proud of this country and would stand for the anthem and respect the flag’

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Never one to back down from any issue in the past, at all, Mike Leach has publicly tackled the most polarizing issue facing the country in the here and now.

At a campaign rally in Alabama earlier this past week, the President Donald Trump let loose on those NFL players who have decided to use the National Anthem as a vehicle for protesting social injustice.  In essence, Trump called for those who participate in the demonstrations to be summarily dismissed.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump was quoted as saying. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’”

The NFL responded en masse over the weekend, with dozens upon dozens of players — and owners and coaches — taking part in protests further fueled by the POTUS’ fiery rhetoric.  In that aftermath, college football coaches, who don’t have to deal with the issue as most teams are in the locker room when the anthem is played, were asked about the situation.  Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh labeled Trump’s comments ‘ridiculous’ while advising him to “check the Constitution,” while Alabama’s Nick Saban described it as “a little painful” to see what “were unifying events (the pregame anthem)” when he grew up not being so much right now. “But I also respect everyone’s rights not to be censored in terms of the way they express their beliefs,” Saban added.

And then there’s Leach.

The Washington State head coach, who was a supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign, was asked if he had addressed the NFL protests with his team.  Showing once again he has no interest in biting his tongue, Leach stated that he’s not entirely clear what’s being protested, intimating that the protests during the anthem are the wrong place and wrong time for the point the players are attempting to make.  Even as Leach doesn’t know or understand what that point is.

“First of all, we’re in the locker room during the anthem, we’re together as a team,” Leach said according to the Seattle Times. “To me it’s not real clear what’s being protested – I haven’t heard a clear articulation of what’s protested or objected to. Me personally I’m proud of this country and would stand for the anthem and respect the flag. But with that said, I don’t know exactly what they’re objecting to.”

“But with that said, I don’t know exactly what they’re objecting to.”