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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Big Ten Predictions

Purdue v Wisconsin AP

As the 2014 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 Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

BIG TEN EAST

1. Michigan State (Last year: 13-1; beat Stanford in Rose Bowl)
Michigan State will have the best defense in the Big Ten, despite losing some key players from 2013. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will figure out how to get the most out of his defense and players like defensive end Shilque Calhoun and safety Kurtis Drummond will help make that task easier. The defending champs will be unlikely to start so slow on offense this season, as they did in 2013, with quarterback Connor Cook back and seasoned (and most importantly, confident). Michigan State’s offense should be balanced and reliant on the run with Jeremy Langford coming off 1,422 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Getting Ohio State at home is key as far as Big Ten play is concerned, but a week two trip to Oregon could keep the Spartans playing catch-up in the playoff discussion from the start.

2. Ohio State (Last year: 12-2; lost to Clemson in Orange Bowl)
Here’s the thing with Ohio State. With or without quarterback Braxton Miller, Ohio State may still be the best team in the Big Ten this season, but with Miller lost for the entire season the idea of Ohio State running through the regular season unscathed becomes much less likely. In a season that was expected to be layoff or bust, the Buckeyes may have already gone bust, but this is still a talented team that could be favored in every game of the season, with the likely exception of a road trip to East Lansing in early November. JT Barrett will take over under center, lacking much experience and with a fraction of the potential of a healthy Miller, but the Buckeyes will find some ways to make it work. Afterall it is not as though the rest of the roster is lacking for players ready to leave their mark. Look for Ohio State to get a bit tougher on defense this season, with Michael Bennett anchoring the defensive line and Noah Spence on the edge after serving a suspension.

3. Michigan (Last year: 7-6; lost to Kansas State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
Is this the year Brady Hoke turns the Michigan trends back in his favor? Only a handful of players on the roster now were not recruited by his staff, so his stamp is officially on this Michigan football program. The addition of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier comes with high expectations for improving the offense, which was dismal at times in protecting quarterback Devin Gardner and protecting the football. This was a team on the brink of losing at home to Akron but a play away from taking out Ohio State. You try figuring this Michigan team out. Moving tight end Devin Funchess to wide receiver was needed to improve the receiving position and should work well, and the running backs look to improve as well. Michigan’s defense is in the most in need of improving, cutting down on big plays allowed being the biggest concern. Adding star recruit Jabrill Peppers at defensive back could give a boost in that area.

4. Penn State (Last year: 7-5)
The James Franklin era gets underway with great enthusiasm but lingering concerns over roster depth. Penn State will have the talent at positions to do some good things and win a game they probably shouldn’t along the way (Ohio State and Michigan State at home?), but the depth concerns to lose a game they probably should not (Indiana in Bloomington, again?). The light at the end of the tunnel is there for Penn State, which is good news. Penn State also has one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation with sophomore Christian Hackenberg. Offensive line concerns are legitimate of course, as they have been for years, but if Hackenberg stays healthy the offense can be effective. The defense on the other hand, could use some playmakers and some more brute force up front to bring pressure on opposing QBs and close down running lanes.

5. Maryland (Last year: 7-6; lost to Marshall in Military Bowl as ACC member)
Maryland receives no favors on the schedule in their debut season as a member of the Big Ten, but the Terrapins join the new conference with possibly the best wide receiver unit in the conference. Stefon Diggs has the ability to break open a big play at any moment, and he plays in a division that sees some weaknesses in secondaries all over (except Michigan State). And do not forget about Levern Jacobs and Deon Long. Maryland’s biggest concern is keeping quarterback C.J. Brown upright to be able to get those receivers the football. The defense hit walls against explosive offenses in 2013 but returns a good number of upperclassmen, which is usually nice. A fourth-place finish is not all that unrealistic, but probably a reach for Maryland in 2014.

6. Indiana (Last year: 5-7)
The Hoosiers have an offense that is capable of giving every team in the Big Ten some fits. Credit head coach Kevin Wilson for making that happen since he arrived in Bloomington, but the defense is not a unit that will cause much fear on a weekly basis. The Hoosiers averaged 38.4 points per game last season, but the defense allowed 38.8 points per game. If the defense can just improve a little bit, then the Hoosiers should be seriously thinking about making plans for a postseason bowl game. It could be a rough start with the schedule though with road games at Bowling Green and Missouri. Getting to six wins may be a reach for Indiana unless they can get off to a good start. Running back Tevin Coleman could become one of the top running backs int he Big Ten.

7. Rutgers (Last year: 6-7; lost to Notre Dame in Pinstripe Bowl)
Rutgers is going to have a tall mountain to climb in year one in the Big Ten. Rutgers must go on the road to Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State and hosts Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Getting to six wins to return to the postseason is a reach for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers does add Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator, which should result in some better scheming and preparation, but Gary Nova is still the best option at quarterback and Rutgers has lost some key players over the last couple of years. Experience is thin. The defense could be picked apart by most teams n the schedule, which should be a constant area of focus for Rutgers.

BIG TEN WEST

1. Wisconsin (Last year: 9-4; lost to South Carolina in Capital One Bowl)
The Badgers fell shy of playing for yet another Big Ten championship last season, but now in a new division it looks as though Wisconsin has the easiest road to travel back to Indianapolis this fall. The Badgers will be led by one of the top running backs in the country, Melvin Gordon, and have a schedule worthy of legitimate playoff consideration if things go their way. A season-opening game against LSU in Cowboys Stadium is far from impossible and a home game against Bowling green should deserve more respect than it may get. Avoiding Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State in crossover games is nice too. On offense there is a need to see some players step up to support Gordon and quarterback Joel Stave needs to be a bit more consistent. The defense will be good, not great, but needs to find a way to create more turnovers in 2014.

2. Iowa (Last year: 8-5; lost to LSU in Outback Bowl)
The Hawkeyes may not dazzle with their style of play, but it should be effective enough to make a realistic run to an appearance in the Big Ten championship game. The Hawkeyes are anchored on the offensive line by left tackle Brandon Scherff and the rest of the line should do well in creating space for running back Mark Weisman. Iowa’s offense is designed to win some ugly games, and the defense should be capable of allowing for that to happen. Defensive tackle Carl Davis will lead the way up front along with defensive end Drew Ott. Iowa allowed just 18.9 points per game last season. The most challenging game on the schedule before late November may be a road game at Pittsburgh, but Iowa ends the regular season with Wisconsin and Nebraska at home on back-to-back weeks, with the division potentially on the line and Iowa in control of its own path.

3. Nebraska (Last year: 9-4; beat Georgia in Gator Bowl)
Nebraska will also have one of the top running backs in the Big Ten and the nation with Ameer Abdullah, but the Cornhuskers have some work to do in improving the supporting cast to become a top contender in the Big Ten. The Huskers will have some help on the defense with Randy Gregory entering the season as one of the top defensive ends in the conference, but Nebraska’s defense is a long time removed from the great defenses of the past. Bo Pelini‘s team has been consistent with the win total, but inconsistent on a game-to-game basis at times. With road games at Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa, it looks like Nebraska could be staring at another nine-win season.

4. Minnesota (Last year: 8-5; lost to Syracuse in Texas Bowl)
Head coach Jerry Kill has done a tremendous job with building something at Minnesota, but the bar may have been reached by the Gophers for now. Minnesota needs to see big leaps from multiple positions in order to make a run at a top three finish in the west division. Minnesota needs consistency out of the quarterback position from Mitch Leidner. Running back David Cobb should help take some pressure off Leidner, but there will be a time when Minnesota needs a big third-down completion. The schedule is a challenge as well, with a road game at TCU and back-to-back road games in conference play at Nebraska and Wisconsin to end the regular season.

5. Northwestern (Last year: 5-7)
The Wildcats were a trendy pick by many in the west division throughout the offseason, but the late departure of Venric Mark and the loss of wide receiver Christian Jones will take a big toll on Northwestern’s offense, which was to be the strength of the team for head coach Pat Fitzgerald. That is a lot of offensive production lost by the Wildcats, and that does not even account for a new full-time starting quarterback in Trevor Siemian. Fortunately, Siemian is not without some experience in this offense without Mark, with Treyvon Green playing a solid role last fall. On defense, linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo will rack up the tackle numbers but the rest of the defense can be exposed and the special teams break in a new kicker and punter.

6. Illinois (Last year: 4-8)
What will save head coach Tim Beckman? Three years in, Illinois needs to make a push for a postseason game if the heat is going to be turned down on Beckman’s job security. To get there, the Illini defense needs to improve in a hurry. The Illinois defense was shredded routinely last season and the offense was unable to keep up. Adding quarterback Wes Lunt after sitting out the 2013 season should help stabilize the offense, and should help the Illini keep up with the opposition, but the defense needs to find away to come up with some turnovers after not being able to last fall. re there six wins on the schedule? Yes, but it will be a battle to get there until the defense starts showing signs of improvement.

7. Purdue (Last year: 1-11)
There is nowhere to go but up for Purdue, hopefully. A trip to the postseason is a dream at this point, but the Boilermakers should make some improvements this fall. Head coach Darrell Hazell is in year two and the team should be starting to find its identity. On offense, Purdue managed just 14.9 points per game last season and the defense allowed 38.0 points per game. What should the realistic goal for Purdue be in 2014? Getting an extra touchdown per game and cutting one on defense would be a nice way to go. It still will not result in a winning season, but it would be a huge step in the right direction.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Michigan State over Wisconsin

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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After sitting out 2014, Temple WR Anderson ruled eligible for 2015

Robby Anderson

Temple’s offense should be getting back a key contributor this fall, and he should be well rested. Robby Anderson, who was not with the Owls in 2014, has been ruled eligible to play again this fall.

Temple head coach Matt Rhule learned of the eligibility update from the NCAA Monday evening as he and other Temple representatives were gathering in Rhode Island for the start of American Athletic Conference media day festivities.

“I am elated,” Rhule said (per Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com). “I love the kid and just on a personal level, even when it looked like he wasn’t coming back, I maintained a relationship.”

Anderson was not enrolled at Temple last season, so he worked on improving his academic standing with junior college classes. After completing junior college requirements, Anderson enrolled back at Temple for summer classes. The NCAA approved of his academic improvement and ruled him eligible as a result.

Anderson led the Owls in receiving in 2013 with 791 yards and nine touchdowns. If he can mimic that level of success, he should once again be the top target for Temple quarterback P.J. Walker this season. Temple has a chance to have a successful season this year with a respected defense and growing and maturing Walker under center leading the offense. If Anderson steps right in to be the go-to receiver after sitting out the 2014 season, Temple’s potential could be worth monitoring in the American Athletic Conference.

Temple will open the season at home on September 5 against Penn State.

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SMU adds former Gamecock to defensive line

Pharoh Cooper, Cody Gibson, Deon Green, Rory Anderson

SMU enters the 2015 season with a new head coach in Chad Morris and plenty of room for improvement across the roster. The defensive line may have just gotten a little better on Monday, thanks to the summer arrival of a former South Carolina Gamecock.

Deon Green has formally been added to the roster at SMU, as evidenced by his inclusion on the team’s official roster Monday. Green missed out on playing in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to a knee injury that required surgery and a good amount of rehab work. He appeared in just two games in 2013 and recorded just four tackles for the Gamecocks last fall. He made the decision to transfer in January and was one of many South Carolina players to do so.

Green was a three-star recruit out of high school. The Orlando native will finally have a chance to compete and play a key role on his new team. SMU’s defense was 113th in the nation in total sacks, 117th against the run and 124th in tackles for loss last season. For reference, there were 128 FBS programs last season.

Helmet sticker to The Dallas Morning News.

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Assault charges filed against Ex-Utah CB Dominique Hatfield

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - Utah v Colorado State Getty Images

The latest development in the off-field saga surrounding former Utah Ute defensive back Dominique Hatfield comes in the form of formal police charges. Hatfield has been charged with misdemeanor assault stemming from his involvement in a fight during a party in July. A police investigation is still ongoing.

A probable cause statement accuses Hatfield of refusing to stop rolling marijuana after being asked to stop. As the exchange escalated, Hatfield and others allegedly grabbed the victim and striking him in the face and other parts of the body, per a report from KSL.com. The victim had cuts on his face and nose as well as some bruising around the eyes, shoulder and back.

Utah recently dismissed Hatfield from the program amid the initial allegations and connection to the fight. The dismissal followed an initial suspension from the team, and was based on information gathered related to the incident. Despite being dismissed, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham seemingly left the door open for a possible return to the program for Hatfield. How this latest information changes that outlook is probably not very promising.

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Pitt suspends WR Tyler Boyd for season opener

Tyler Boyd

One of the top offensive players in the ACC will have to sit out the season opener. On Monday, Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi announced the suspension of wide receiver Tyler Boyd from the September 5 home game against Youngstown State. Sophomore defensive lineman Rori Blair will also sit out the game due to disciplinary action.

“In addition to their game suspensions, Tyler and Rori have been, and will continue to be, subject to internal discipline and accountability,” Narduzzi said in a released statement. “The situations were very disappointing and both young men have expressed their regret. Our expectation is that each of them, as well as our entire team, will learn from their mistakes and be better for it moving forward.”

Boyd was given 12 months probation following a driving under the influence charge back in June. He was suspended by the program and has since been allowed to return to the team. Boyd led the ACC in receiving with 1,261 receiving yards last fall and was named to the All-ACC preseason First Team at the recent ACC media day event in North Carolina.

The absence of Boyd will likely have a minimal impact on Pitt’s chances to win the season opener, which will also be the debut of former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini with his new program. Having Boyd out of action is a blow to Pitt’s offense, but hardly enough of one that should put the Panthers at risk of losing to the Penguins in the first game of the season. Youngstown State did topple the Panthers in 2012 though, so who knows!

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Braxton Miller shows off his ridiculous new ability to catch footballs

Braxton Miller

One of the big storylines we have been following this offseason is the status of Braxton Miller. Deciding to stick at Ohio State rather than pursue a transfer to play quarterback somewhere else, Miller has been working hard at preparing himself for a new position in the Buckeye offense this season. Miller showed off some of his new skills in the latest viral video that is sure to make the rounds on the college football Internet, as all Instagram highlights seem to do.

In this latest short video clip, we see Miller on the practice field in Columbus holding onto five footballs. While holding onto the multiple pigskins, Miller extends his right arm in the air to snag one more. Miller has yet to catch a pass in his time at Ohio State, but that will change this season as he moves around the offense, and he may even play some punt return. One Instagram video cannot offer any true scouting report, but it certainly should help generate some buzz about Ohio State’s newest receiver and/or punt returner.

Unfortunately, the embed code seems to have a problem with this site, but you can check out the catch on Miller’s Instagram profile.

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Helfrich claims Oregon was only playoff team with random drug test, but report says otherwise

Mark Helfrich

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich suggested his Ducks were the only one of the four College Football Playoff teams to be tested for drugs by the NCAA leading up to the postseason mini-tournament. That seemed odd, and perhaps it is now being proven otherwise.

Wide receiver Darren Carrington was suspended last postseason for failing an NCAA drug test before the College Football Playoff. An appeal by Oregon before the championship game was denied by the NCAA, and now it remains to be seen how much playing time Carrington might miss this fall. During the Pac-12 media days last week, Helfrich used the Carrington suspension as the crux of his argument for each power conference to be playing by the same set of rules, in which he stated Oregon was the only one of the four playoff teams to be randomly drug tested.

“If one team is tested in the College Football Playoff, everybody should be tested in the College Football Playoff,” Helfrich said, as quoted by The Oregonian. It turns out all four teams — Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Oregon — were administered random drug tests by the NCAA. That is what Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports is reporting Monday, citing an anonymous source. If Feldman’s report carries any weight — and given the reputation of Feldman, it should — then whoever fed Helfrich that information should have some explaining to do to the head coach of the Ducks.

What players were and were not tested is not known, other than Carrington of course.

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LSU loses No. 1 recruit in Class of 2017 (for now), but track record suggests Tigers win it back

Les Miles

When a recruit from a recruiting class two classes away commits from a school it is rarely much of a shock. This one is a little bit different. Dylan Moses, the nation’s top-rated recruit in the Class of 2017 and a Baton Rouge native, has decommitted from LSU. The top-ranked recruit from Baton Rouge backing away from LSU? That seems odd.

Moses took to Twitter to explain the decision he and his family came to recently, in which he stressed this being a once in a lifetime opportunity that he wants to live out to the fullest. And who can blame him? As talented as he is, Moses will be given star treatment wherever he goes while on the recruiting trail, and we should all be so lucky to receive such treatment from any college football program you wish. He did say, at one point, LSU remains his No. 1 school on the list (and having his cousin, Corey Raymond, on the coaching staff certainly helps).

LSU has been in on the recruiting of Moses for a while now. Moses was extended a scholarship offer from Les Miles in 2012 just after starting high school. LSU extending (and accepting) offers from the youngest talent on the recruiting boards is nothing new, and episodes like this should not be unexpected. Recruiting is a tense process for any player to go through.

Moses is ranked by Rivals as the number one athlete in the nation, and the number two overall player in the Class of 2017. He is also the top-rated recruit in the state of Louisiana, just for good measure. As you might suspect, Moses holds offers from a ton of programs from coast to coast, including Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Tennessee, USC and so many more.

LSU may still land the commitment of Moses. The last time the top recruit in the state of Louisiana did not go to LSU was in the Class of 2012, with Alabama swaying Landon Collins away out of Geismar (much to the dismay of his mother). Since 2002, LSU has not landed the top recruit from within the state just three times. Quarterback Robert Lane committed to Ole Miss in 2003 and running back Joe McKnight ended up at USC in the Class of 2007. So the track record is good for LSU, as the Tigers have been dominant with in-state talent over the last decade.

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Notre Dame’s (and Cincinnati’s and Maryland’s) new uniforms from Under Armour revealed

Arizona State v Notre Dame football

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish joined the handful of programs ditching Adidas in search of a new uniform and apparel partner, leading the Irish to Under Armour. On Monday, we finally got a glimpse at the new look for the Irish as designed by Under Armour. Fortunately for the purists out there, not much has changed for Notre Dame’s signature look.

As you can see, the basic look is unchanged. Gold helmets, blue uniforms with white number sin gold trim and gold pants. The pants have the “ND” logo on the left hip and the Under Armour logo on the right. One noticeable addition is the block lettering of “IRISH” on the sleeve, but this comes on the shirt underneath the jersey and not the actual jersey (thankfully). All that remains to be seen now is how Under Armour handles Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series uniform this fall. The Irish have made a habit of wearing a specially designed uniform for the Shamrock Series game, and this season is expected to be no different. This year’s Shamrock Series game will be played in Fenway Park, home of baseball’s Boston Red Sox, against Boston College. 

Notre Dame was not the only Under Armour partner to show off the new look for 2015. Cincinnati introduced its new look for the fall…

And of course, Maryland shared a look at its home all-red uniform, complete with state pride flag helmet…

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LSU has revolving door of defensive linemen, Maquedius Bain on way out

Les Miles

LSU’s defensive line took a bit of a hit just days before getting set to open fall camp. LSU defensive end Maquedius Bain took to Twitter Monday afternoon to announce he is leaving the Tigers, thanking LSU for a wonderful experience.

While not a starter on the LSU defensive line, Bain was expected to provide some solid depth in the trenches, as noted by The Advocate. Bain recently switched positions for the Tigers, moving from defensive tackle to defensive end this spring. He was one of the players recently reinstated by LSU head coach Les Miles on Friday, along with quarterback Anthony Jennings and defensive back Dwayne Thomas. Despite being reinstated, Miles suggested in a statement there would be a review for possible in-house punishment. Bain, Jennings and Thomas were all connected to an unauthorized entry incident, but the alleged victim requested for any charges to be dropped.

But there is some good news for LSU’s defensive line concerns. Defensive tackle Mickey Johnson has decided to stay put at LSU after missing the spring practice season. Johnson had been reported to consider a transfer out of the program.

LSU is scheduled to open fall camp later this week.

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ESPN’s GameDay pulling double duty in Week 1 and returning to Army-Navy Game

College GameDay

College football is getting so close we are starting to smell it. Today’s sweet and savory reminder of just how close we are to the start of a new year comes from ESPN with the announcement of the first College GameDay traveling road show of the season. No surprise here, but it will be setting up shop in Fort Worth, Texas leading up to the season opener between Alabama and Wisconsin.

But ESPN will not stop with just the season-opening clash between the Crimson Tide and Badgers. The show will also broadcast from Blacksburg, Virginia on Monday leading up to the Labor Day primetime affair between Virginia Tech and the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. Virginia Tech, in case you needed to be reminded, handed Ohio State its only loss last season. Both games, naturally, will air on ESPN networks (Alabama-Wisconsin on ABC, Ohio State-Virginia Tech on ESPN).

But wait, there’s one more GameDay surprise. For the second straight season, GameDay will wrap up its season-long pregame coverage from the Army-Navy Game. This year’s game will be back in Philadelphia after being played in Baltimore last season. The last time GameDay broadcast from Philadelphia was in 2002 prior to an Ivy League contest between the Penn Quakers and Harvard Crimson.

The last time GameDay broadcast from Philadelphia was in 2002 prior to an Ivy League contest between the Penn Quakers and Harvard Crimson.

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UNC reinstates DB Malik Simmons, who failed to show up in court

Jamison Crowder, Malik Simmons

North Carolina defensive back Malik Simmons did not appear in court Monday morning when his name was called for a misdemeanor citation for resisting a public officer and possession of marijuana. Where was he? Football practice, as he has now been reinstated by the program to resume football activities.

Simmons was indefinitely suspended by head coach Larry Fedora on July 24 following his second arrest of the summer. Simmons reportedly resisted arrest and later paid a $1,000 bond to be released from holding. Simmons had previously been charged for a misdemeanor marijuana possession offense, which was why he was due in court Monday morning. Fedora confirmed Monday Simmons has been reinstated by the program.

Fedora said UNC is now “waiting to see the thing play out,” before making any other decisions regarding the future of Simmons in Chapel Hill. However, lifting the suspension would seem to indicate there is a good feeling not much else will come of this legal infraction.

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Rutgers wide receiver Leonte Carroo says he’s the best in the Big Ten

Leonte Carroo

This season the Big Ten will have some pretty talented wide receivers, but none will be better than Leonte Carroo of Rutgers. At least, that’s what he says.

“I’m the best receiver in the Big Ten,” Carroo said at Big Ten media day, per Asbury Park Press. “I say that confidently. I say that proudly.”

Carroo has every reason to talk a big game. Last season Carroo was named to the Big Ten’s First Team offense by the voting media. Carroo finished second in the Big Ten with 1,086 receiving yards and third in the conference with 10 touchdown receptions. One of the two players with more touchdown catches in the Big Ten was Ohio State’s Devin Smith, who had the benefit of playing in 15 games during Ohio State’s postseason run to record his 12 touchdowns. Michigan State’s Tony Lippett had 11 touchdown catches last season. Both Smith and Lippett were seniors, making Carroo the Big Ten’s leading receiver back in 2015 in the touchdown department. Carroo was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list this preseason.

Carroo contemplated leaving Rutgers after last season to enter the NFL Draft, but he returns to the Scarlet Knights with no regret on his decision.

“I was sitting there and I was stuck on the TV knowing I could’ve been in the draft,” Carroo said. “Receiver after receiver after receiver was getting drafted and I was just like, ‘I wonder where I would’ve fell in this draft.’ It didn’t make me think I should’ve went. It just motivated me to be hungry to get there next year.”

Opposing Big Ten defenses will have their hands full trying to contain the 6′-1″ wide receiver from Rutgers, but he is just one of three starters returning to the Rutgers offense this season. There should be times when he Carroo will have to carry the offense early on as everything settles into place for the program.

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In defense of the FCS

Andrew Bonnet, Blake Slaughter AP

The FCS doesn’t exactly have a good reputation when its three letters are brought up by Power Five conferences and teams.

The Big Ten last week forbade its members from scheduling future games against FCS opponents. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly likes to call games against FCS teams — the Irish have never played against an FCS opponent — “glorified byes.” Fans of teams vying for a playoff spot roll their eyes when Alabama plays Western Carolina in the penultimate week of the regular season.

But not all FCS games are created equal. And it’s not always a bad thing to play a team from college football’s third tier (since there’s a clear difference between the Power Five and rest of FBS at this point).

Consider this: Of the top 100 teams in Jeff Sagarin’s 2014 ratings, 14 played at the FCS level. Twenty-four FCS teams ranked higher than the worst Power Five team (Wake Forest, No. 125). Powerhouse program and four-time reigning champion North Dakota State (32) finished higher than the two teams that played in the Fiesta Bowl (Boise State, 36; Arizona, 37). The team that narrowly lost to NDSU in the FCS Championship, Illinois State (41), ranked better than nine ACC programs.

It’s hardly uncommon for an FCS team to jump up and beat a Power Five team on a given week. NDSU beat an FBS team every year from 2010-2014, including a 20-point thrashing of Iowa State in Ames last year. Oregon transfer Vernon Adams made a name for himself in 2013 when, with Eastern Washington, he engineered a shootout win over Oregon State.

All FCS games are not created equal, obviously. There are plenty of bad FCS teams that find their way on to Power Five schedules. Ole Miss didn’t deserve any credit for blowing out Presbyterian (No. 166 in Sagarin), 48-0, last November.

But there’s a difference between playing an FCS team in September and one in November. Because FCS teams are only allowed 63 scholarships — 22 fewer than FBS teams — a lot of these teams have awfully thin depth in November. Nobody’s suggesting one of these FBS teams could, in its current state, move up a level and compete in the Big Ten or ACC.

“We like the stage, we like the challenge of playing that big FBS game,” NDSU coach Chris Klieman said earlier this year, “but to do it nine or ten weeks in a row like a Big 12 or a Big Ten level, I think we’d get beat up too badly.”

In a one-off game in September, when their best 22 players are probably healthy, FCS teams provide just as tough a challenge as some group of five doormats. The upper-echelon FCS programs are often tougher wins than low-to-mid level Power Five teams, too.

Should a Power Five team, one holding loads of cash and more scholarships, ever lose to an FCS team? No. But it happens, and it’s not always an embarrassment.

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Arrest to cost Purdue’s Gelen Robinson at least two games

Gelen Robinson, C.J. Beathard

As it turns out, Gelen Robinson‘s off-field issue will cost him on the field as well.

Head coach Darrell Hazell has confirmed that the defensive end will miss at least the first two games of Purdue’s 2015 season because of his June arrest for drunk driving.  Based on what happens during summer camp, Hazell said, the suspension could extend to up to four games.

Purdue begins the 2015 season with a road trip to defending Conference USA champion Marshall, then follows that up with home games against Indiana State, Virginia Tech and Bowling Green.

In late June, Robinson was arrested on charges of operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or more and illegal possession of an alcoholic beverage.  The charges triggered a violation of a prior diversion agreement with the courts.

As a true freshman last season, Robinson played in 10 games. His four tackles for loss were sixth on the team, while his two sacks were good for fourth.

Entering camp, Robinson is viewed as a likely line starter, once his suspension has been served of course.

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Deferred prosecution for one Gator dine & dasher

Eastern Michigan v Florida Getty Images

While his $40 worth of “free” food and beverages could end up costing him nearly $300, Caleb Brantley, provided he can be an upstanding citizen for the foreseeable future, will see his legal slate erased cleaned in short order.

The Gainesville Sun has reported that Brantley “has signed a deferred prosecution agreement with the State Attorney’s Office.” The agreement stems from an incident the Fourth of July in which he and teammate Adam Lane were cited for defrauding an innkeeper of less than $300. Specifically, the two players were part of a group that ran up a $90 tab at a Gainesville bowling alley and left the establishment without settling up.

Per the terms of his deferred prosecution, Brantley (pictured, No. 57) will be required to pay $100 for the cost of prosecution, donate $100 to a charity or perform 10 hours of community service and pay $50 for the cost of investigation to the Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, the defensive tackle will be required to repay his portion of the tab, which came to $42.34.

Lane has been offered deferred prosecution as well, although that deal has yet to be finalized. The running back is responsible for $16.93 of the tab.

Brantley was a four-star member of the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class who took a redshirt as a true freshman. In 2014, he played in 12 games with one start. That one start came in the Birmingham Bowl win over East Carolina.

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