CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 8 Auburn

3 Comments

2013 record: 12-2 overall, 7-1 in SEC (1st in West division)
2013 postseason: BCS title game vs. Florida State (34-31 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 2/No. 2
Head coach: Gus Malzahn (21-5 overall; 12-2 in one year at Auburn)
Offensive coordinator: Rhett Lashlee (second season); Dameyune Craig (second season as co-coordinator)
2013 offensive rankings: 1st rushing offense (328.3 ypg); 106th passing offense (173 ypg); 11th total offense (501.3 ypg); 12th scoring offense (39.5 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 7
Defensive coordinator: Ellis Johnson (second season); Charlie Harbison (second season as co-coordinator)
2013 defensive rankings: 62nd rushing defense (162.1 ypg); 100th passing defense (258.6 ypg); 86th total defense (420.7 ypg); 48th scoring defense (24.7 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 6
Location: Auburn, Ala.
Stadium: Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451; grass)
Last conference title: 2013

THE GOOD
No one was able to control the Tigers’ powerful rushing attack and, even with the departure of its leading rusher, that’s expected to continue on into 2014 and the second season in Gus Malzahn‘s fast-paced, relentless offense.  Having Nick Marshall, expected to be much improved in the passing-game aspect, in his second season as a starter should help soften the blow that was running back Tre Mason‘s departure for the NFL.  As AU goes from the hunter to the hunted, it’ll be incumbent on Marshall to take that next step, one his head coach feels he’s ready to do.

THE BAD
When you have as magical ride as AU did last season there’s not a whole heck of a lot of bad going on, but the defense was, at the very least, suspect during that run to Pasadena.  They were in the bottom half of the country in yards allowed per game, although they were in the top half in the most important stat: points allowed.  That, though, was only good for eighth in the SEC.  In fairness, it was the Tigers’ first season under coordinator Ellis Johnson, so the expectation is that just based on familiarity with the scheme the defense will improve.  The good news is that there’s really nowhere for that group to go but up, especially as it relates to the rest of the SEC.  There’s also the little matter of the schedule as AU has conference road games scheduled for Mississippi State (Oct. 11), Ole Miss (Nov. 1), Georgia (Nov. 15) and Alabama (Nov. 29) to go along with a non-conference tilt at underrated Kansas State.  AU won’t sneak up on anyone this season, so they will get every team’s best, most concentrated shot, especially on the road.

THE UNKNOWN
(Writer’s note: pardon me while I repeat myself)
There’s no way around it, no way to tap-dance whilst whistling past the biggest question when it comes to AU football in 2014 — did the Tigers use a couple of years (decades?) worth of luck in their magical, unexpected, inexplicable ride to the BCS title game?  Even the biggest homer out on The Plains would have to admit that the Tigers were “fortunate” to end the season where they did.  Of their 12 wins, six were decided by eight points or less.  In four games — Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama — they were trailing with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.  The Georgia (“Prayer at Jordan-Hare“) and Alabama (“Kick-Six“) wins immediately earned nicknames for the sheer improbability of the endings.  There’s little doubt that Malzahn has, very quickly, turned AU around from the three-win embarrassment that was the final season of Gene Chizik in 2012.  How much was sheer luck, the kind of once-a-decade (or two) happenstance that simply can’t repeat itself?  Regardless of the answer — I’m guessing the talent is sufficient so as to make the question mostly moot — Malzahn’s Tigers will be one of the more fascinating squads to watch throughout the 2014 season.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Alabama Nov. 29
As Auburn and Alabama are expected to be the class of the SEC West, it only makes sense to put the season-ending Iron Bowl in this slot.  Last year’s dramatic, last-second win over the Tide that propelled the Tigers into the SEC championship game and, ultimately, the BCS title game was one of the most exhilarating and improbable in the storied history of the rivalry.  UA will have revenge on its mind as the Tide looks to get back on the national championship stage after its one-year sabbatical in 2013.  More than likely, the winner of this game will claim the West’s spot in the SEC championship game and, perhaps, a spot in the four-team playoff.  So, yes, this will be one of the more anticipated games of the year — provided both teams can make it to the game unscathed, of course.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: Quarterback Nick Marshall
Marshall’s first season as a starter wasn’t statistically overwhelming — less than 2,000 yards passing, just 14 touchdown passes — 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 — as evidenced by his 1,068 yards rushing and 12 rushing touchdowns, he’ll continue to get his on the ground — that could prove to be bad news for the SEC in general and the West specifically. Thanks to the departure of their leading rusher, the Tigers will likely lean even more heavily on both Marshall’s arm and legs; as far as his Heisman chances go, that’s certainly good news.  Hell, one teammate has even already called his stiff-armed shot for Marshall, so he’s got that going for him.  Which is nice.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

UNC banned Miami’s turnover chain creator from contact with Tar Heels

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
Leave a comment

With the Miami Hurricanes roaring up the rankings, much attention has been directed at their new signature, the turnover chain. The turnover chain has had its own feature stories written about it in recent weeks, and the creator of that new signature sideline piece of art has become more well known because of it. According to a report from The News & Observer, however, that same jewelry artist has also been banned from having any contact with players from UNC.

According to the report, Anthony John Machado was contacted by the University of North Carolina in 2010 to request he disassociate with any Tar Heel player. The timing of the letter is not coincidental, as the university was under investigation for alleged violations within the football program connected to alleged improper benefits.

UNC on Oct. 25, 2010, sent a letter of disassociation to Machado addressed to his store, A.J.’s Jewelry, in Cutler Bay, Fla. In the letter, Dick Baddour, who was the UNC athletic director at the time, wrote that Machado’s “involvement with one of our student-athletes has led to the NCAA declaring one of student-athletes permanently ineligible.”

The school at one point returned some jewelry provided by Machado to an unnamed student-athlete. The investigation conducted that led to the request to Machado was also the one that led to the dismissal of former Tar Heel Marvin Austin, who had commented on a party lifestyle in Miami that caught the attention of the university.

The expiration date on that request to not have contact with UNC players has since expired, although it is unknown if any UNC player has been in contact with Machado at any point since 2010.

Kansas State WR Dalton Schoen to miss Oklahoma State game

Photo by John Weast/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Still with a chance to make some rumblings in the Big 12 title hunt, Kansas State will be down a wide receiver as they look to challenge Oklahoma State this week. Dalton Schoen will miss the Oklahoma State game with a reported broken collarbone.

The original report from The Wichita Eagle, the sophomore wide receiver broke his collarbone last week in a game against West Virginia. The injury, if accurately reported, would very likely be a season-ending injury. the chance of returning to a bowl game is unknown.

Schoen has caught 23 passes for 470 yards and three touchdowns this season.

Idaho prepares Kibbie Dome for FBS swan song

Getty Images
4 Comments

On Saturday, the Idaho Vandals will host their final game as an FBS member in the Kibbie Dome, the lovable little domed stadium that had a bit of a cult following. With the Vandals preparing to make an unprecedented move down to the Football Championship Subdivision, the Kibbie Dome is not going anywhere, but the chance to appreciate it for its quirkiness as an FBS stadium is now or never.

What makes the Kibbie Dome unique is it was actually originally constructed as an outdoor stadium. The concrete structure became the home to Idaho football in October 1971 over the site of the school’s previous football stadium. After the 1974 season, however, the stadium was enclosed with a rood that mimics the look of an aircraft hanger. That led to quite a unique atmosphere that trapped the sound inside the stadium and made the gameday scene fell more compact. The stadium only ever held 16,000 fans for football, although it set a record with nearly 20,000 fans for a home football game against Boise State in 1989.

The Kibbie Dome was Idaho’s version of Syracuse’s Carrier Dome, in that it served multiple purposes. In addition to football, the Kibbie Dome has hosted basketball and other sporting events like track and field and tennis. Unlike the Carrier Dome, however, the Kibbie Dome was designed to let in natural sunlight. Some more modern dome stadiums with a larger budget have incorporated similar lighting features in more recent years, which suggests the Kibbie Dome was actually ahead of its time in one way.

For years, the Kibbie Dome has been the smallest stadium in the FBS. That is no longer be the case, courtesy of Idaho’s opponent this weekend. The new title of smallest FBS stadium will belong to Coastal Carolina. Brooks Stadium currently has a seating capacity of 15,000, although Coastal Carolina’s jump up to the FBS will lead to eventual stadium upgrades and renovations that should increase the capacity to some degree.

Farewell, Kibbie Dome. It was fun while it lasted. May the memories continue in the FCS.

Boise State losing one-time starting corner Reid Harrison-Ducros to transfer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the third time since the 2017 season kicked off, Boise State is losing a player to transfer.

The father of Reid Harrison-Ducros (pictured, No. 27) confirmed to the Idaho Press-Tribune that his son has left the Broncos football team and will transfer. The cornerback met with Bryan Harsin Thursday morning to inform him of the decision to move on, with the head coach granting him a release from his BSU scholarship.

“This tears me up,” Gary Harrison-Ducros told the Press-Tribune. “We love everything about Boise, the faculty, geography, and oh my gosh the community and fans. However, Reid wants to be on the field and he believes he has to pursue that goal somewhere else.

“We will follow and support BSU always. I am keeping my tattoo and we’ll always bleed blue, we’re just expanding the HD family to another campus.”

A three-star member of the Broncos’ 2016 recruiting class, Harrison-Ducros played in 10 games as a true freshman. After starting the first four games of the 2017 season, he lost his starting job and has played sparingly since.

Previously, a pair of little-used wide receivers, Julian Carter and Bryan Jefferson, parted ways with the football program as well.