Washington v UCLA

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 6 UCLA

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2013 record: 10-3 overall, 6-3 in Pac-12 Conference (2nd in South division)
2013 postseason: Sun Bowl vs. Virginia Tech (42-12 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 16/No. 16
Head coach: Jim Mora (19-8 overall; 19-8 in three years at UCLA)
Offensive coordinator: Noel Mazzone (3rd year at UCLA)
2013 offensive rankings: 35th rushing offense (196.6 ypg); 43rd passing offense (251.8 ypg); 38th total offense (448.5 ypg); 2oth scoring offense (36.9 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: nine
Defensive coordinator: Jeff Ulbrich (3rd year at UCLA)
2013 defensive rankings: 71st rushing defense (169.5 ypg); 40th passing defense (217.6 ypg);  54th total defense (387.1 ypg); 35th scoring defense (23.2 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: eight
Location: Los Angeles
Stadium: Rose Bowl (92,542; grass)
Last conference title: 1998

THE GOOD
The talent on UCLA’s roster makes the Bruins contenders in the Pac-12 Conference. The play of quarterback Brett Hundley can place the team in national title contention. Hundley is among the Top 3 quarterbacks in college football along with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Like Mariota, Hundley would have a first-round pick in May’s NFL draft if he decided to declare early. But he decided to stay in Westwood. The Bruins will gladly continue to build around their talented quarterback. Hundley is an impressive athlete at 6-3 and 226 pounds. Last season. Hundley threw for 3,071 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also led the team with 748 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. One of the reasons Hundley returned to UCLA for his redshirt junior campaign is to become a better overall quarterback. Hundley did improve his decision making through the final six games of last season. He only threw one of his nine interceptions after Oct. 26. As Hundley continues to develop his overall game, the Bruins will be the biggest beneficiary. And top-notch quarterback play is a key ingredient for any program ready to make the jump from being good to great.

THE BAD
UCLA head coach Jim Mora is a defensive coach by nature. It had to drive him crazy to see the Bruins play as poorly on defense as they did last seson. The Bruins actually finished fifth overall in the Pac-12 in total defense, but that is more an indictment of the overall defensive play around the league. The country’s 71st overall rushing defense simply isn’t good enough. UCLA wants to be able to compete with any team in the country. And it has to be better on defense. The team relied heavily on two talented freshmen, Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark, along the defensive line last season. Both should naturally improve during their sophomore campaigns. While the team’s starting front is talented, the depth is questionable beyond Ellis McCarthy. Players such as junior Kevin McReynolds, need to provide quality reps as part of the team’s defensive line rotation for them to improve significantly against the run. Isaako Savaiinaea will also be inserted into the starting lineup to replace Jordan Zumwalt at inside linebacker. UCLA knows what to expect of senior linebacker Eric Kendricks, but Savaiinaea’s play could prove to be the difference in the Bruins’ defense as a whole. The Bruins’ progression on the defensive side of the football should be the primary indicator how far the team can go this season.

THE UNKNOWN
UCLA’s offense line was in constant flux in 2013. The team used four different offensive line combinations throughout the season. The team actually changed its starting lineup in six of its last seven games. A lack of continuity up front will have a drastic effect throughout the rest of the offense. While this shouldn’t be a concern which lingers between seasons, the Bruins have already started off on the wrong foot with at least one significant injury along this year’s offensive line. Left tackle Simon Goines will miss at least the first two games of the season after he had bone spurs removed in his ankle Aug. 9. Malcolm Bunche, a Miami transfer, has 13 career starts at left tackle, and he is expected to slide into the spot vacated by Goines. Once Goines returns, the coaching staff will have shuffle the starting lineup. How many times will they have to do so this season? Will Bunche slide inside to guard once Goines is healthy or he remain on the blindside? The fact of the matter is UCLA won’t have their top offensive line on the field until week three of the season with very little practice time as an entire unit. Goines is expected to return just in time for one of the Bruins’ biggest games of the season against Texas. However, he won’t have much time to build a rapport with the rest of the unit. The only ones who will suffer if the offensive can’t gel quickly are Hundley and the rest of UCLA’s skill positions.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Stanford
It’s been six years since UCLA defeated Stanford. To put that time frame into context, the 2008 season was Rick Neuheisel’s first at UCLA. It was Jim Harbaugh‘s second with the Cardinal. Stanford has gone on to become one of the most successful and intimidating teams in the Pac-12 Conference. The Bruins, meanwhile, have searched for an identity and found one under Mora. This game will be Mora’s opportunity to truly put his stamp on the program. It’s the last game of the regular season. Both UCLA and Stanford are expected to be battling for an appearance in the Pac-12 championship game. Since the game falls on a Friday, both teams will have short practice weeks. The Bruins want to prove they’re among the Pac-12’s elite and a potential national championship contender. Stanford is as tough a team as the Bruins will face all season.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: linebacker/running back Myles Jack
Hundley is the obvious choice here. There is, however, a natural curiosity that will draw college football fans and Heisman voters to Jack. On one hand, Jack is one of the best young linebackers in college football. On the other, he is a dynamic runner when the Bruins decide to hand him the football. Last season, Jack was third on the Bruins’ defense with 49 tackles. He also added seven tackles for loss and 13 deflected passes while dropping in coverage. On offense, Jack led the team with an average of 7.0 yards per carry. He only ran the ball 38 times, yet he was second on the team with seven rushing touchdowns. And Jack accomplished these numbers as a true freshman. The “runningbacker” simply brings a completely different dynamic to both sides of the football. He’ll be expected to make the big play on defense in crucial parts of the game. And the team clearly favors him when they’re around the goal line on offense. The novelty of Jack playing both ways will draw interest from fans around the country. It’s his talent and ability to play at a high level on both sides of the football that will make him a legitimate Heisman contender.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Arizona State hires former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 07:  Head coach Todd Graham of the Arizona State Sun Devils runs out with teammates before the Pac 12 Championship game against the Stanford Cardinal at Sun Devil Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona. The Carindal defeated the Sun Devils 38-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona State has hired former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson to coach its offensive line, the Sun Devils announced Tuesday.

Henson spent seven seasons on staff in Columbia, the last three as offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and/or tight ends coach. His offenses helped the Tigers win the 2013 and ’14 SEC East championships, but their yards per play ranks plummeted from 13th to 125th in yards per play over his three years at the helm. Missouri rebounded to rank 31st in the first year under new coordinator Josh Heupel.

He spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst at Oklahoma State.

“Josh brings a tremendous background of winning championships at the highest levels,” says Graham.  “He was the offensive coordinator at Missouri and won back-to-back SEC East Championships.  He was the recruiting coordinator at LSU and was recognized as one of the nation’s top recruiters for his accomplishments there.  He helped LSU win the 2008 BCS National Championship.  Josh brings a wealth of knowledge of our system to our staff, in addition to being one of the finest recruiters in the country.  He will blend well with Chip Lindsey and Rob Likens.”

In addition to coaching the offensive line, Henson will serve as assistant head coach and run game coordinator. Former offensive line coach Chris Thomsen left for a position at TCU earlier this week.

“I am so happy to be at Arizona State University,” Henson said in a statement.  “One of the things that attracted me to ASU is that Coach Graham has a track record of winning wherever he’s been.  And he has a track record of developing young men.  Winning is important, but being involved in their lives is also what appeals to me.  I know a lot of members of the current staff and they have great things to say about the university and about the Phoenix area.  I came out here years ago as a guest of former ASU assistant football coach Johnny Barr and found it to be one of the best places in the country to live.  I am very excited to get started.”

Arizona State finished 112th in rushing, 119th in yards per carry and sacks allowed, and tied for 105th in tackles for loss allowed en route to a 5-7 campaign in 2016.

Oregon hires Mario Cristobal away from Alabama

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Assistant Head Coach/Tackles and Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator Mario Cristobal of the Alabama Crimson Tide cheers in the first half while taking on the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Oregon has hired Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal to serve as the Ducks’ co-offensive coordinator and run game coordinator, the Ducks announced Tuesday.

Though it was just announced today, this is a move that has been in the works for a while.

Cristobal enjoyed considerable success at Alabama, helping the Tide win the 2015 national title and finish as a runner-up in 2016. The Tide’s offensive line won the inaugural Joe Moore Award — given to the best offensive line unit — in 2015, and left tackle Cam Robinson took home the Outland Trophy this fall.

Cristobal is also known for his 6-year run as head coach at Florida International and is regarded as one of the best recruiters in college football.

The question, beyond if he can quote-unqoute fix a running game that ranked 27th this season after recording top-10 finishes seven of the past eight seasons, is if Cristobal can help Willie Taggart and a staff with a long track record of successfully recruiting Florida and either:

A) translate that success to the West Coast, where Oregon traditionally recruits, or

B) pull Sunshine State kids all the way across the country to Eugene.

Cristobal is listed as a co-offensive coordinator, which assumes Oregon will hire another co-offensive coordinator (and quarterbacks coach) to join Taggart’s staff.

Tuesday’s announcement did not indicate that Cristobal will call plays for the Ducks.

Frank Beamer headlines class of new CFP selection committee members

SHREVEPORT, LA - DECEMBER 26:  Head coach Frank Beamer of the Virginia Tech Hokies takes the field for pregame warmups prior to the Camping World Independence Bowl against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on December 26, 2015 in Shreveport, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Now three years into the new system, the College Football Playoff’s selection committee roster is beginning change.

Gone are Barry AlvarezCondoleezza Rice and Lloyd Carr (Carr had already stepped down for health reasons), and in are Ohio State AD Gene Smith, Robert Morris University president Dr. Chris Howard and former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, which the CFP made official on Tuesday.

Additionally, Kirby Hocutt had his 2-year stay on the committee extended through the 2017 season, and Bobby Johnson will stay through 2018. Hocutt and Johnson stepped in when Oliver Luck stepped away after taking a job with the NCAA and Archie Manning stepped down due to health reasons. Hocutt will again serve as committee chairman in 2017.

With Rice leaving, the CFP will consist entirely of men for the first time in its history.

“Frank, Chris and Gene will each bring a wealth of knowledge to the selection committee,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “All three played college football.  And they will continue the CFP tradition of committee members with high integrity and a passion for college football.

“We are also delighted that Kirby will return as chair. He did a tremendous job of leading and facilitating the committee’s deliberations, and he was also an excellent representative with the media and public.  Likewise, we are pleased that Bobby accepted our invitation to return. He is an excellent evaluator of teams and brings a valuable coach’s perspective.”

Smith has served as Ohio State’s AD for 12 years and served on a wealth of NCAA committees in that time, including a run on the Men’s Basketball Selection Committee.

“This is a tremendous honor and privilege to be appointed to this committee,” Smith said in a statement. “The sport of football has given so much to me and I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to be able to give back.”

Howard is a former Air Force player who was named the inaugural Campbell Trophy winner as the nation’s top scholar-athlete in 1990. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in politics from the University of Oxford and an M.B.A. from Harvard. Howard became the president of Hampden-Sydney College in 2009 — he was among the youngest college presidents in the country at the time — and took over at Robert Morris in 2015. Also a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Howard earned a Bronze Star for distinguished service in Afghanistan.

Beamer, of course, is a future College Football Hall of Fame coach who walked away from the game with 280 total victories and a 238-121-2 mark while serving as Virginia Tech’s head coach from 1987-2015. In addition to winning or sharing seven conference championships, seven top-10 finishes and an appearance in the 1999 BCS title game, Beamer shepherded the Hokies from a Division I-AA independent to the ACC.

“College football has been my life’s work, and I’m really humbled that I can still contribute to the game in this role,” Beamer said in a statement. “Hopefully the rest of the committee will be interested in my perspective. To join a group with so many great minds and such a diverse range of experience, I just want to pull my weight. The committee has an important role, and I’ll do everything asked of me to help rank the best teams in America for the right to compete for the national championship.”

Penn State DT Antoine White announces transfer to Albany

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Chris Laviano #5 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights is pressured by Antoine White #93 of the Penn State Nittany Lions in the second half during the game on September 19, 2015 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Penn State defensive tackle Antoine White will plug gaps and chase passers in a new destination next season. White revealed he will leave Happy Valley to play for Albany in 2017. As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, White would lose a year of eligibility if he left for an FBS school.

White announced the transfer on his Twitter account.

“My past 3 years at Penn State have been filled with so many great experiences as a student-athlete, in school, sports, as well as in life,” White wrote.

“I am forever grateful for all of these and I have built relationships that I know will last a life time.”

White collected 17 tackles with 1.5 sacks as a sophomore this fall. He was a second-team tackle for Penn State’s Big Ten championship squad in 2016 and was expected to assume the same role next season.