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2014 CFT Preseason Preview: Playoff Primer & Predictions

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As you may have heard, we’re on the verge of a new era in college football.

Yes, 2014 will mark the first season since 1997 not played under the old and almost universally despised — and, thankfully, very much dead — Bowl Championship Series that had been used to determine an FBS champion.  Conversely, it will mark the first-ever four-team playoff dubbed, appropriately enough, the College Football Playoff, a system unveiled in June of 2012.

There are many questions and some trepidation as we enter a new frontier for the sport, one which will play for the right to hoist the Dr Pepper College Football Playoff trophy at season’s end..

Below I’ll attempt to answer some of those questions — and alleviate some of the fear and angst to some degree — some may have over the most exciting development in the game since the forward pass was legalized.  Take a deep breath, though; this is a long one.

WHAT
The College Football Playoff, a four-team — for now — mini-tournament that will feature two semifinal games played under the flag of a pair of so-called “contract bowls” and “host bowls,” with a stand-alone contest, having no ties to a current bowl other than potentially the venue, serving as the championship game.  A 13-person committee will determine the four playoff participants and seed them as well, with the No. 1 seed facing the No. 4 seed in one semifinal and the Nos. 2 and 3 squaring off in the other.

And, for those who are wondering: there is no rule that would prevent a team from one conference facing a team from the same conference in a semifinal game.  Nor is there a hard, fast rule that would preclude a rematch from the recently-completed regular season in a semifinal.  Of course, it’s possible the committee could steer the selections away from such scenarios — even by way of seeding — but there is no concrete rule in place that would prevent it.

Case in point on rematches and two playoff teams from one conference in one fell swoop?  Those associated with the CFP have already stated that, if this new system were in place last year, Florida State (#1 seed), Auburn (#2), Alabama (#3) and Oregon (#4) would have been the four playoff teams.  In other words, the SEC would’ve had two teams, including a non-champion, while the champions from the other two Power Five conference — Big Ten (Michigan State) and Big 12 (Baylor) — would’ve been shut out.  At least one Power Five conference will miss the playoff every year, and, as evidenced by last year, possibly two.  After X amount of time and missed playoffs, expect a conference or conferences to begin making noise very publicly about expanding the field to at least eight — and pushing their agenda that the system should consist of each Power Five conference champion to go along with three wildcards.

The initial phase of the CFP is a contract for 12 years in length — through the 2025 season — and for just four teams for those dozen seasons. However, many observers expect that, due to the lure of the almighty dollar and pissed-off leagues, the playoff will be expanded to eight teams at some point before the end of the 12-year contract.  If it doesn’t expand prior to the end of the first contract, just about anyone connected to the sport firmly believes it will be expanded for the beginning of the second contract.

MoneyAll three of the CFP games will be televised annually on ESPN, which paid in excess of $7 billion — that’s billion with a “b” — for the rights to the playoff for the entire length of the contract.  Roughly 75 percent of that money will go to the Power Five conferences and Notre Dame, which will split their cut up amongst their various members.  While the Non-Power Five conferences — the AAC, Conference USA, MAC, MWC and Sun Belt along with independents Army and BYU (Navy’s moving to the AAC in 2015) — will receive just a 25-percent(ish) cut of the billions, they will receive roughly five times as much per league as they did under the BCS.

In the first year of the CFP, the Power Five conferences are expected to make $50 million each, while the Non-Power Five conferences will share $75 million; in the final year of the BCS, those “mid-major” conferences split $15 million.  Over the course of the 12-year contract, the top five conferences are expected to receive an average of $90 million annually from the CFP.  By Year 12 of the first contract, the Power Five conferences are expected to see revenue in excess of $150 million per league.

Such a figure would be the starting point for Year 1 of the second contract, a starting point that would increase dramatically with the addition of four more teams and four additional (quarterfinal) games.

WHO
The “who” is the key, the linchpin, to the whole process.  How successful the CFP can end up being will in large part be determined by how the committee as a whole leaves its collective biases — or at least most of them, and as much as humanly possible — at the meeting room door.

As mentioned above, the committee that will select the four teams will consist of 13 members.  Five of those members will be current athletic directors from each of the Power Five conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, with Arkansas’ Jeff Long serving as the chairperson.  Below is the entire 13-member committee and their respective affiliations, with tenure expiration listed in parentheses:

*Jeff Long, Arkansas athletic director (February 2018)
*Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin athletic director (February 2017)
— Lieutenant General Mike Gould, former superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy (February 2016)
Pat Haden, USC athletic director (February 2016)
Tom Jernstedt, former NCAA executive vice president (February 2018)
*Oliver Luck, West Virginia athletic director (February 2017)
Archie Manning, former Ole Miss quarterback (February 2017)
Tom Osborne, former head coach and athletic director at Nebraska (February 2016)
*Dan Radakovich, Clemson athletic director (February 2018)
Condoleezza Rice, Stanford professor, former Stanford provost and former United States Secretary of State (February 2017)
Mike Tranghese, former Big East commissioner (February 2016)
Steve Wieberg, former college football reporter, USA Today (February 2018)
Tyrone Willingham, former head coach Notre Dame, Stanford and Washington (February 2018)

Earlier we mentioned committee members leaving their biases at the meeting room door; there are provisions in place that should, in theory, aid in that part of the process.  Specifically, a recusal policy, the terms of which the CFP describes as “a recused member shall not participate in any votes, nor be present during deliberations involving the team’s selection or seeding, but may answer factual questions about the institution from which the member is recused.”

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice

Of course, all five current athletic directors — denoted by asterisks above — will be recused when the conversation turns to their respective football programs.  Additionally, the following recusals were announced earlier this month:

– Lieutenant General Mike Gould, Air Force: the former superintendent of the Colorado Springs service academy.
Archie Manning, Ole Miss, former Rebels star quarterback who still maintains deep ties to the school and the football program.
Tom Osborne, Nebraska: former head coach and athletic director for the Cornhuskers
Condoleezza Rice, Stanford, current professor and former provost at the university

There is no conference-wide recusal policy, meaning that, for example, Long would be permitted to stay in the room if Alabama is being discussed.

Additionally, the 13 committee members receive no pay for their services, which will consist mainly of watching football and committee meetings.  The first in-person set of meetings will be Oct 27 (Monday) and Oct. 28 (Tuesday), with the first set of what are described as “interim rankings” released Oct. 28.  In-person meetings will be held every Monday and Tuesday thereafter, with the final set of meetings coming after the conclusion of the regular season, conference championship games included but excluding the Dec. 13 Army-Navy game.  The final set of rankings, including the seedings of the four playoff teams, will be released Sunday, Dec. 7.  There’s even a specific time for the release: 12:45 p.m. ET that Sunday afternoon.

The committee will also be responsible for slotting teams into the remaining four contract or host bowls that aren’t part of the semifinals a particular year.  The contract bowls are: Rose (Pac-12 vs. Big Ten), Sugar (SEC vs. Big 12) and Orange (ACC vs. Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame). The three host bowls are: Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A. If a conference champion from one of the contract bowls does not qualify for the playoff, they will be automatically slotted into their respective postseason game, provided it’s not a semifinal game that year. If conference champions from the contract bowls — more years than not this will involve multiple leagues — qualify for the playoffs, the committee would choose replacement teams.

The team with the highest CFP seeding will be placed in the closest semifinal game to it geographically.  For example, if Florida State is the No. 1 seed this year, they would go to the Sugar Bowl as that bowl is closer to Tallahassee than the Rose Bowl.  Same for a team like Alabama.  Should, say, Oregon earn the top seed, they would play at the Rose Bowl against the No. 4 seed, with the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds going to the Sugar Bowl.

As for the host bowls, the CFP “Frequently Asked Questions” describes it best, including how one Non-Power Five member will play in one of the marquee bowl games every year:

The highest ranked champion of the other five Football Bowl Subdivision conferences (the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt), as determined by the selection committee, will play in one of the six New Year’s bowls. Other available berths will be awarded to the teams ranked highest by the committee. The committee will assign teams to bowls.

When the Fiesta, Cotton and Atlanta bowls are not hosting semifinal games, their participants will come from three sources: (1) The highest ranked champion among the five conferences listed in the paragraph above, (2) conference champions that are displaced when their contracted bowls host semifinals and (3) the remaining teams ranked highest in the committee’s rankings.

How will the committee fill the slots in the marquee bowls? Again, from the FAQ:

The committee will assign teams to the non-playoff bowls to create the most compelling match-ups, while considering other factors such as geographic proximity, avoiding rematches of regular-season games and avoiding rematches of recent years’ bowl games.

Cowboys StadiumWHERE
The semifinals will rotate through six bowl games: the Rose (Pasadena, Cal.), Orange (Miami, Fla.), Sugar (New Orleans, La.), Fiesta (Glendale, Ariz.), Cotton (Arlington, Tex.) and Peach (Atlanta, Ga.). When those games don’t host a semifinal, they will serve as the so-called “marquee bowls.” The semifinals this season will be the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, with the semifinals moving to the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl for the 2015 season and the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl for the 2016 season before rotating back to the first two semifinal bowl games for the 2017 season.

The championship game will be bid out and played all across the country. The first stand-alone title game will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys and the Cotton Bowl. University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., was awarded the 2015 title game (played in 2016) while Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. submitted the winning bid for 2016 (played in 2017).

An announcement on the host stadiums for the 2017 and 2018 seasons likely won’t be made until sometime after the first CFP championship game is played in early 2015.

WHEN
The semifinal games will both take place either December 31 or January 1 of their respective years and on the same day, with the former serving as game days for the 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2024 and 2025 seasons and the latter for the 2014, 2017, 2020 and 2023 seasons.  For the 2014 season, the Fiesta, Orange and Peach bowls will be played Dec. 31, while the Cotton Bowl will be played Jan. 1, prior to the two semifinal games.

The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, incidentally, will be played on Jan. 1 every year, which is why most of the semifinal games will be played Dec. 31.

Below are the future dates for the 12 CFP championship games that have already been scheduled.  One thing to note is that every title game through this 12-year cycle will be played on a Monday night:

Jan. 12, 2015
Jan. 11, 2016
Jan. 9, 2017
Jan. 8, 2018
Jan. 7, 2019
Jan. 13, 2020
Jan. 11, 2021
Jan. 10, 2022
Jan. 9, 2023
Jan. 8, 2024
Jan. 13, 2025
Jan. 12, 2026

WHY
Manziel Money GIF
Money

HOW
Hope you brought a lunch, because the “How” could take a while.

First of all, we’ll give you the CFP’s official qualifier/disclaimer as to the selection process in which the four playoff teams will be decided:

Ranking football teams is an art, not a science. Football is popular in some measure because the outcome of a game between reasonably matched teams is so often decided by emotional commitment, momentum, injuries and the “unexpected bounce of the ball.” In any ranking system, perfection or consensus is not possible and the physical impact of the game on student athletes prevents elaborate playoff systems of multiple games. For purposes of any four team playoff, the process will inevitably need to select the four best teams from among several with legitimate claims to participate.

Now, with that out of the way, on to the meat & taters of the process.

As I noted up above somewhere, the committee will hold meetings every Monday and Tuesday and release a Top 25 every week, with the first set of rankings scheduled to be released Oct. 28. “How exactly will the committee arrive at its weekly Top 25?” you may be asking yourself. I’m glad you asked.

1. Each committee member will create a list of the 25 teams he or she believes to be the best in the country, in no particular order. Teams listed by three or more members will remain under consideration.
2. Each member will list the best six teams, in no particular order. The six teams receiving the most votes will comprise the pool for the first seeding ballot.
3. In the first seeding ballot, each member will rank those six teams, one through six, with one being the best. The three teams receiving the fewest points will become the top three seeds. The three teams that were not seeded will be held over for the next seeding ballot.
4. Each member will list the six best remaining teams, in no particular order. The three teams receiving the most votes will be added to the three teams held over to comprise the next seeding ballot.
5. Steps No. 3 and 4 will be repeated until 25 teams have been seeded.

It should be noted that, at no point in that five-step process, are committee members permitted to include any team from which they are recused on any of the lists mentioned above.

Of course, there were also notes attached to the five-step voting process (notes A-C dealt with recusals):

D. Between each step, the committee members will conduct a thorough evaluation of the teams before conducting the vote.
E. After the rankings are completed, any group of three or more teams can be reconsidered if more than three members vote to do so. Step No. 3 would be repeated to determine if adjustments should be made.
F. After the first nine teams are seeded, the number of teams for Steps No. 2, 3 and 4 will be increased to eight and four, respectively.
G. At any time in the process, the number of teams to be included in a pool may be increased or decreased with approval of more than eight members of the committee.
H. All votes will be by secret ballot.

There is one more important aspect of the CFP process that I haven’t mentioned yet which supersedes just about everything else mentioned thus far: criteria utilized by the committee members in their rankings. As previously noted, ranking football teams is more art than science, but there is some specific data on which the committee will lean.

The official CFP protocol states that the committee “will be instructed to place an emphasis on winning conference championships, strength of schedule and head-to-head competition when comparing teams with similar records and pedigree (treat final determination like a tie-breaker; apply specific guidelines).” Why pedigree — i.e. history, and whether said history is positive, negative or somewhere in between — should have anything to do with a specific year is a significant unknown.

Bill Hancock

Bill Hancock

Additionally, a company called SportSource Analytics will be providing the committee with an expansive and extensive statistical database on which to rely. Harkening back to the dark and dreary days of the BCS, CFP executive director Bill Hancock has stressed that analytics — i.e. computers — will not be a part of the equation. Rather, the committee will be receiving raw data that they, not a computer or company, will analyze and interpret for themselves.

“There’s no analytics,” Hancock said. “Obviously, the word analytics is in the company name, and they might be doing analytics for other clients, but not for us. There’s some hangover from the BCS days of people wanting the data to be manipulated or compiled. But we wanted just raw data. That’s what we asked for, and that’s what they’re giving us.”

In a similar vein, one piece of data that the committee is not permitted to take into account? Polls that are released before any games have been played, which means, technically, the Associate Press and coaches’ polls cannot be a part of the discussion. For that, we should all be thankful.

One piece of data that will be taken into account? “[R]elevant factors such as key injuries that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance.” In other words, if a star quarterback goes down early and that injury contributes to a loss or two but the team finishes strong down the stretch, that team will remain under consideration for a playoff slot. Conversely, if a star player or players goes/go down with an injury late in the season, that would be a factor that would permit the committee to disregard that team regardless of the record.  That’s a slippery slope, one that could come back and bite the committee specifically and the CFP as a whole.

Also, the CFP explains that “[c]omparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)” will be a principle that guides the committee.

The SwamiPREDICTIONS
So, with the minutia out of the way, on to the stuff that will cause the most bitching and/or whining and/or moaning: predictions!!!

If you look at most of these types of predictions, there is pretty much a consensus on three teams most feel will be a part of the four-team playoff field: last year’s BCS champion Florida State, Oregon and Alabama.  After that, it runs the gamut from Michigan State to Oklahoma to 2013 BCS runnerup Auburn to UCLA to South Carolina to Baylor as possibilities nationally.  Ohio State would’ve been a part of the discussion as well prior to The Injury, and could very well be a part of it by season’s end if they can get past MSU in East Lansing.

Below are how the four of us here at CFT see the first College Football Playoff playing out, with seeds, explanations and everything!  Enjoy, and unload on all/some/one of us below that:

KEVIN MCGUIRE
Rose Bowl: #2 Alabama vs. #3 Oklahoma
Sugar Bowl: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Oregon
Championship: Florida State vs. Alabama

Florida State enters the season as the team seemingly best equipped for a national title run. Now knowing what it takes to win, the Seminoles bring back a Heisman Trophy quarterback and a roster as deep as almost any in the country thanks to years of solid recruiting under Jimbo Fisher. In the same light, you have Alabama looking to prove it can plug in pieces to Nick Saban‘s program thanks to years of recruiting victories building a massively deep roster. No quarterback? Not yet, but somehow Saban will find a way. Oklahoma surged at the right time last season and enters the 2014 season a favorite in the Big 12, a conference not particularly deep in talent and obstacles this fall aside from a potent Baylor squad. Oklahoma should manage to wiggle out of the Big 12 and sneak in front of any champion from the Big Ten. The same holds true for Oregon, with the Ducks coming off a “down” year in Eugene, which seems silly to say when you look back at the 2013 season. The Ducks took a minor step back in a year of coaching transition, but Year 2 under Mark Helfrich should be better. When it comes down to the match-ups, I think Alabama is better suited for a rematch with the Sooners, if not just better prepared for it, and Florida State’s style will find a way to slow down Oregon’s offensive schemes, setting up what would be an epic Florida State-Alabama match-up for it all.

BRENT SOBLESKI
Rose Bowl: #2 Alabama vs. #3 Oregon
Sugar Bowl: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Wisconsin
Championship: Florida State vs. Oregon

To be the man, you got to beat the man. And Florida State is the team with the target on its back this season. The Seminoles should be ready for the challenge due to the amount of talent returning to this year’s roster. Florida State will likely cruise through the regular season and retain the No. 1 seed. It doesn’t mean the ACC’s best will be the best team in the country this season. Alabama and Oregon will be nipping at their heels. Alabama is always stacked and the SEC’s champion is essentially guaranteed to get a spot in the College Football Playoff. Oregon, meanwhile, will continue to put up points and receive elite play from its quarterback, Marcus Mariota. The fourth spot is completely up for grabs between the the champions of the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences. The Big Ten, in particular, is wide open after the devastating injury to Ohio State’s Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller. The Badgers should make a very good impression at the start of the season when they face the LSU Tigers, and their schedule should allow them to remain undefeated in Big Ten play before participating in the conference’s title game. Florida State would easily overpower the Badgers in the Sugar Bowl, though. And Oregon has the edge on offense and athleticism against the Crimson Tide. When the Ducks and Seminoles meet, the two best quarterbacks in college football will be on the field with the opportunity to will their team to the first national championship decided by the College Football Playoff.

JJ STANKEVITZ
Rose Bowl: #2 Alabama vs. #3 Oregon
Sugar Bowl: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Oklahoma
Championship: Florida State vs. Alabama

I really struggled with the No. 4 team here. I like UCLA more than Oklahoma, but UCLA plays a far tougher schedule with more than enough chances for a slip-up beyond Oct. 11’s showdown with Oregon. Braxton Miller‘s injury puts a serious dent in the Big Ten’s chances of getting a team in unless Michigan State can go to Eugene and win in Week 2. The rest of the SEC — Auburn, South Carolina, LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, etc — might eat itself alive. This isn’t to say I don’t like Oklahoma, but the Sooners get Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State at home and don’t have to worry about a conference championship game. Their path to the final playoff spot is far easier than other teams in the mix, so I’m going with them along with the ACC, SEC and Pac-12 champions.

JOHN TAYLOR
Rose Bowl: #2 Oregon vs. #3 Alabama
Sugar Bowl: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Oklahoma
Championship:  Florida State vs. Oregon

Heading into the season and at least on paper, most observers agree that Florida State, Oregon and Alabama, in some order, are the class of college football.  With Ohio State losing Braxton Miller to a season-ending injury, the fourth spot would now seemingly be up in the air.  I almost pulled the trigger on the biggest beneficiary of Miller’s injury, Michigan State, for the fourth seed before settling for an Oklahoma team that smacked Alabama around in the Sugar Bowl.  Well, that and I don’t see the Spartans getting past the Ducks early this season, which, combined with a Wisconsin loss to LSU, could damage whoever emerges as the champion of the Big Ten in the eyes of the playoff committee.  One additional note on potential semifinalists: if you’re looking for a conference that might have two teams represented in the CFP, look at the Pac-12, not the SEC.  Oregon is seemingly a given, and don’t sleep on UCLA.  They are a very, very underrated squad who could sneak in ahead of some of the other teams being mentioned as viable candidates for CFP spots — especially if the committee practices what it’s preaching in the preseason.  In the end, I see both Florida State and Oregon, the two most-talented squads in the country, trumping whichever team it is they face in the semifinals, setting the stage for an epic first-ever College Football Playoff title game.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Likely starting center abruptly leaves Cal football team

Ohio State v California Getty Images

Sonny Dykes will begin his third summer camp at Cal next week, and the head coach will do so without the projected anchor for his offensive line.

A school spokesperson confirmed to Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News that Matt Cochran is no longer on the Cal football team.  No reason was given for the abrupt departure, although the spokesperson did state that Cochran is still a student at Cal.

The junior’s brother, Aaron Cochran, is a sophomore offensive lineman for the Bears and remains a member of the team.

The past two seasons, Cochran has played in 13 games.  Four of those were starts, including three first three games at right guard in 2013.

With Cochran’s departure, a pair of redshirt freshmen, Addison Ooms and Michael Trani, are now the likely 1-2 at center on the depth chart.

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Report: ‘marijuana, academics’ led to OSU Four’s suspensions

Jalin Marshall

The world of college football received quite the jolt earlier Thursday when it was announced that four Ohio State Buckeyes, including All-American Joey Bosa, had been suspended for the opener against Virginia Tech because of unspecified violations of “Department of Athletics policy.”

A couple of hours later, we now somewhat know what those unspecified violations were.  Reportedly.

ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad reported via Twitter a short time ago that, per an unnamed source, the four suspensions involve “marijuana and academics.” In addition to Bosa, H-back Jalin Marshall, wide receiver Corey Smith and H-back Dontre Wilson were suspended as well.

Just who was suspended for what reason was not detailed by Schad.

Regardless of having a specific reason attached to a specific player, one parent of one member of the suspended quartet could not have been more supportive of the decision to mete out punishment.

I fully support Ohio State and I fully support my son,” John Bosa, Joey’s father, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Coach Meyer, to his character, has team rules and it doesn’t matter who breaks them.”

Another of John Bosa’s sons, five-star 2016 recruit Nick Bosa, verbally committed to OSU earlier this past week.

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Four key Buckeyes, including Joey Bosa, suspended for opener

Joey Bosa, Mitch Leidner

Just a short time ago, Ohio State received the first of what’s expected to be a string of No. 1 votes in preseason polls.  Now we learn that, when the Buckeyes take that No. 1 ranking into the opener, they’ll do so without a handful of key components.

In a press release, OSU confirmed that four players will miss the first game of the season, Sept. 7 vs. Virginia Tech: junior defensive end Joey Bosa, sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, senior wide receiver Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson. The only reason given was “violating Department of Athletics policy.”

The loss of Bosa will be most noteworthy nationally as the 2014 All-American is a consensus pick to similar squads entering the 2015 season. He’s also projected to be a Top Five pick in the 2016 NFL draft if he leaves OSU early, perhaps even the top pick overall.

The Columbus Dispatch writes that “[t]he Buckeyes likely will make do for the loss of Bosa by picking from a defensive end corps which includes sophomore Tyquan Lewis, who emerged in the spring as the new starter for the vacated spot on the other end of the line, redshirt-freshman Sam Hubbard, sophomore Jalyn Holmes and redshirt-freshman Darius Slade.”

Wilson and Marshall had split time at H-back prior to the former’s injury, which allowed the latter to become a breakout star and one of the most dangerous weapons on an offense loaded with them. In traveling to Blacksburg to face a tough Hokie defense, just how deep and loaded that group is will be tested.

Braxton Miller, who announced last week that he would be moving from quarterback  — probably — could very well be an option at the H-back in the opener, and even beyond.  Curtis Samuel, the primary backup to star running back Ezekiel Elliott, has been working , the Dispatch wrote, “almost exclusively at hybrid back in the spring as the coaches sought ways to get his speed and possible playmaking ability on the field more often.”

Smith is the Buckeyes’ second-leading returning pass-catcher among wide receivers, hauling in 20 passes for 255 yards last season.

Head coach Urban Meyer is expected to address this development as he takes to the podium for the Big Ten Media Days later this afternoon.

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Ohio State a near-unanimous No. 1 in preseason coaches’ poll

All State Sugar Bowl - Alabama v Ohio State Getty Images

Ever since Ohio State finished off its magical, and some would say improbable, postseason run by hoisting the first-ever College Football Playoff trophy, and with the talent it has returning, it’s been widely assumed that the Buckeyes would be ranked No. 1 entering the 2015 season by nearly major poll.

After the first release, OSU is on its way to doing just that.

In yet another sign that a fresh college football season is right around the corner, the Amway coaches’ poll was released late Thursday morning and — surprise! — OSU is ranked No. 1 in the country.  Perhaps the only real surprise is that the Buckeyes weren’t a unanimous selection, receiving “just” 62 of the 64 first-place votes.

The only others receiving first-place votes were preseason No. 2 TCU (one) and No. 3 Alabama (one). OSU holds a 112-point edge on No. 2 TCU; in last year’s preseason poll, Florida State held an 88-point edge on No. 2 Alabama.

Rounding out this year’s Top Five are No. 4 Baylor and no. 5 Oregon.  The lone 2014 playoff team outside of the Top Five is Florida State,. which will begin the year at No. 8.

Two SEC schools and one each from the Big Ten and Pac-12 finish up the initial Top Ten: Michigan State (No. 6), Auburn (No. 7), Georgia (No. 9) and USC (No. 10).

The coaches still loves themselves some SEC, with eight schools from that conference ranked in the Top 25.  The Pac-12 is next with six, followed by three each from the Big 12, Big Ten and ACC.

The highest-ranked Group of Five member is Boise State at No. 24.  Independent Notre Dame nearly cracked the Top 10, coming in at No. 11,

1 Ohio State 14-1 1598 (62)
2 TCU 12-1 1487 (1)
3 Alabama 12-2 1452 (1)
4 Baylor 11-2 1365
5 Oregon 13-2 1260
6 Michigan State 11-2 1230
7 Auburn 8-5 1103
8 Florida State 13-1 1057
9 Georgia 10-3 1026
10 USC 9-4 1014
11 Notre Dame 8-5 883
12 Clemson 10-3 838
13 LSU 8-5 727
14 UCLA 10-3 697
15 Ole Miss 9-4 668
16 Arizona State 10-3 577
17 Georgia Tech 11-3 573
18 Wisconsin 11-3 470
19 Oklahoma 8-5 407
20 Arkansas 7-6 377
21 Stanford 8-5 365
22 Arizona 10-4 299
23 Missouri 11-3 229
24 Boise State 12-2 190
25 Tennessee 7-6 166

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USC picked by media as preseason Pac-12 title favorites

Pac-12 Championship Game - UCLA v Oregon Getty Images

If the media is correct — and when are they ever wrong? — the Reign of the Duck will be a short one.

The results of the media’s preseason voting was released Thursday morning, with the voters determining that USC will win the 2015 Pac-12 championship.  The Trojans received 21 of the 44 first-place votes submitted.

USC was far from an overwhelming favorite, though, as Oregon, the 2014 conference champion, was named on 17 first-place ballots.  The only others receiving votes were Arizona State (three), UCLA (two) and Stanford (one).

Oregon and USC were overwhelming favorites to win their respective divisions, with the former receiving 37 first-place votes to win the North and the latter 32 to claim the South.  As when it came to the overall conference championship, just three other schools received first-place votes: Stanford, which received eight to win the North, and Arizona State and UCLA, which received seven and six votes, respectively, to win the South.

(Writer’s note: I have no idea why the number of votes for Pac-12 champion totals 44, while the votes for divisional champions totals 45.)

Pac-12 media Preseason Picks

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Arizona State the latest to unveil new uniforms for 2015

Arizona State Uniforms

The number of football programs that have unveiled new uniforms this offseason is in the double digits, so what’s one more?

The latest to do the unveiling is Arizona State, which last December announced a new agreement with apparel provider adidas.  And, in what will come as a surprise to some, or maybe even most people, there’s very little change from what ASU fans have become accustomed to over the past several years.

There are, though, some tweaks to the new duds, as the Arizona Republic noted:

These uniforms retained the fonts, “PT42″ crest and similar sleeve stripes from recent designs, but Adidas looked to enhance those components with a glossier, metallic accent. A larger pitchfork logo has also been added to the pants.

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B1G’s 11-strong ‘Players to Watch’ list released

Big 10 Championship Game - Ohio State v Michigan State Getty Images

Most conferences this time of the year release their preseason players of the year.  The Big Ten is not like other conferences.

Ahead of the start of the the B1G Media Days in Chicago Thursday afternoon, the Midwest league released what it calls its “Players to Watch” list.  This year’s list consists of 11 players — six from the West division and five from the East.  There is one more in the West than in the East due to a tie in the media voting.

While there are 11 players listed, just seven schools are represented as four members earned two players each: Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin.  The schools with just one each include Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State.

Interestingly, six of the 11 come from the defensive side of the ball while five come from the offensive.  Also, just one quarterback is represented, and that one wasn’t from Ohio State.

Below is the complete list of preseason honorees.

EAST DIVISION
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State

WEST DIVISION*
Drew Ott, DE, Iowa
Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska
De’Mornay Pierson-El, WR, Nebraska
Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
Michael Caputo, S, Wisconsin
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin

*Additional honoree due to tie

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Boise St. QB frontrunner (likely) to be eligible for opener vs. UW

Boise State at Air Force

After exiting the spring as Boise State’s front-runner to take over as starting quarterback, Ryan Finley put that status at risk after being charged with a pair of alcohol-related misdemeanors.  The speculation was, Finley could be facing the loss of playing time.

As it turns out, that couldn’t be further from the case. Probably.

“Because of what’s happened and where the court case is as well, absolutely,” Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin stated when asked if Finley will be eligible to play in the highly-anticipated opener against Washington Sept. 4. “And I’ll say this with absolute confidence: Ryan has done everything we’ve asked of him. I can’t ask him to do more than what he’s done. I’m proud of him.

“This is obviously disappointing, we all understand that, but if guys can make up for their mistakes and I believe he’s done that from our standpoint, then we’re good.”

Finley’s pretrial conference has been postponed until the end of September after originally being scheduled for the middle of July. Despite the fact that the legal case won’t be resolved before the start of the season, Harsin said “I feel like what I’ve asked and what he’s done, he’s done it, and we’ll let the legal process do their jobs.”

Harsin did allow that, should new, pertinent information related to Finley’s case surface as the legal process does its job, additional punishment could be in the offing.

“If there’s something else in there that I don’t know or there’s more too it, then yeah, there’s obviously going to be something that we have to do at that point,” the second-year coach said.

As Grant Hedrick’s primary backup in 2014, Finley completed 12-of-27 passes for 161 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

In addition to the redshirt sophomore Finley, the competition that began in the spring and extend on into summer camp includes redshirt sophomore Tommy Stuart, true freshman Brett Rypien and redshirt freshmanAlex Ogle. None of those three players have attempted a pass at the collegiate level.

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WMU the new home for Notre Dame grad transfer Anthony Rabasa

Wake Forest v Notre Dame Getty Images

Seldom used at Notre Dame, Anthony Rabasa hopes that will change for his final season at his new college football phone.

Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck has confirmed that Rabasa has joined his Broncos program and will play for WMU this coming season. As the defensive end has already received his degree from Notre Dame and is coming in as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Rabasa is expected to immediately join WMU’s defensive line rotation.

A three-star member of the Irish’s 2011 recruiting class, Rivals.com rated him as the No. 11 weakside defensive end in the country and the No. 54 player at any position in the state of Florida. After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, he played in two games in 2012 and five in 2013.

He didn’t see the field at all for the Irish in 2014.

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Seeing writing on QB wall, SDSU’s Nick Bawden shifting to FB

Bawden

After the first couple of spring practice earlier this year, Nick Bawden was third in San Diego State’s quarterback pecking order.  Exiting spring, he was at least fourth.

Now, as the Aztecs are about to embark on the start of summer camp, Bawden is off the quarterback depth chart completely.

Head coach Rocky Long confirmed to the San Diego Union-Tribune that, following the conclusion of spring practice, he gave Bawden a choice: switch positions or transfer somewhere else if he wanted to continue playing quarterback.  The 6-3, 220-pound Bawden decided to take one for his current team and agreed to move to fullback/H-back moving forward.

While Long’s not really certain about the fullback part of the equation, he praised Bawden for his selflessness in making the move.

“There are very few of those guys left,” Long told the Union-Tribune. “You appreciate those guys. I don’t know if he can play fullback. He’s a good athlete; he weighs 230 (officially, 220) pounds. Just the attitude … ‘I want to be on this team. Tell me where I can play and I’ll do the best I can.’ That’s great stuff.”

Bawden began the spring behind Kentucky graduate transfer Maxwell Smith and Oregon transfer Jake Rodrigues. He left behind those two as well freshman Christian Chapman.

As a true freshman last season, Bawden started two games in place of the injured Quinn Kaehler.  In those two games — one win, one loss — he completed 13 of 37 passes for 147 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  He also ran the ball 11 times for 43 yards.

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UCF wants DB recovering from gunshot wounds to sit this season

Tulsa v Central Florida

If George O’Leary gets his way, Chris Williams won’t see the playing field this coming season.

Earlier this month, Williams was shot twice the arm at a bar near the UF campus.  While the injuries weren’t life-threatening, the recovery time is sufficient that O’Leary wants to see the defensive back sit this one out — athletically and academically — instead of missing a month or more of the 2015 season.

“With that injury alone, [it] was a eight- to-10 week injury, so I would say, again, I’m leaning more toward medical withdrawal to stop his eligibility so he doesn’t have this year count and bring him back in January,” O’Leary said regarding Williams’ status. “The police are involved with what took place there, so it’s really their response, not mine as far as what transpired.”

Williams spent last season as a member of UCF’s scout team, using a redshirt year as a true freshman. In UCF’s spring game, Williams recorded 10 tackles and an interception, which was returned for 52 yards. Based on that performance, and the fact that the Knights are replacing all four secondary starters, Williams was being looked upon a likely starter.

Additionally, O’Leary acknowledged that wide receiver Taylor Oldham likely won’t return until October after sustaining a significant ankle injury during the spring. Oldham caught three passes for 35 yards as a redshirt sophomore in 2014, but, like Williams, was expected to be more of a contributor due to attrition at the position.

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Dismissed Auburn DE Elijah Daniel won’t play for Bo Pelini after all

South Carolina v Auburn

Back in mid-June, it was reported with 100-percent certainty that Elijah Daniel would be continuing his collegiate playing career for Bo Pelini at Youngstown State.  Monday, the first-year YSU coached said the odds of Daniel playing for the Penguins were “50-50.”

One day later, those odds were “0-100.”

Murray State announced in a press release that Daniel will attempt to revive his career Mitch Stewart‘s squad.  Because the Racers play at the FCS level, the defensive lineman will be eligible to play immediately in 2015 and have two years of eligibility remaining.

Daniel was dismissed by Auburn in early may following his late-April arrest on four counts each of theft of property and four counts of burglary.  One of the victims of the alleged crimes is current AU wide receiver Stanton Truitt.

According to Stewart, he’s being given his one and only chance with the program.

“I believe in second chances and last chances,” Stewart’s statement began. “I have told Elijah that we are willing to give him this opportunity, because I believe, large or small, everyone makes mistakes and most people are deserving of a second chance.

“But I also made it clear to him, that this is his last chance and that any further incidents like the one at Auburn would be met with an immediate dismissal from the team.”

Last season, Daniel played in all 13 games for the Tigers, making two starts.  His 17 quarterback hurries led the team.

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Mike Leach continues stumping for 64-team playoff

Mike Leach

Along with eccentric, Mike Leach is nothing if not consistent.

Even before a four-team playoff was approved in June of 2012 and implemented for the 2014 season, Leach was espousing the virtues of a 64-team playoff field, labeling such a size as “ideal.”  As part of the Pac-12 coaches turn through the ESPN car wash Wednesday, Leach stated, as he has one more than one occasion, that he’d like to see the playoff expanded beyond its current four teams.

And, yet again, Leach made the case for a 64-team field.

I don’t know why you don’t have 64 teams,” the Washington State coach said according to the World Wide Leader. “The notion of pinpointing and selecting four perfectly, well that’s not going to happen. That can’t happen effectively. …

“It’s remarkably easy. If you’ve got 64, there wouldn’t be a lot of debate. … It would be indisputable that it was settled on the field and somebody that wins playoff games accordingly deserves to be champion and there’s no debate. It would be great fun to watch — just like it is at all the other levels.”

The closest any level of football gets to Leach’s number is the FCS with 24 teams qualifying, up from 20 just a few years ago. The former Div. 1-AA, though, only plays 11 regular season games, with last year’s champion, North Dakota State, playing 15 games counting the playoffs.

For Leach’s proposal to work and garner any type of support, you’d have to get the most powerful conferences in the country to roll back the regular season even further, to 10 games, which would keep any team that made the title game in that size field at just 16 games played; Ohio State and Oregon, the two College Football Playoff championship game qualifiers, played 15 games and even that amount raised a bit of a ruckus from those concerned over player safety.

And even getting to that number, the 10 regular season games, is not as simple as waving a magic wand and getting all on board with wiping out two potentially lucrative regular season games as well as a lucrative conference championship game that benefits all league members.

Despite the CFP’s protestations to the contrary, the field will expand, sooner than later, from four to eight teams, and possibly even 16 on down the road.  Getting to Leach’s ideal number?  You never say never, but that will never happen in my lifetime.  Or the lifetime of my children, for that matter.

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Victim asks that charges against LSU QB, teammates be dropped

Anthony Jennings

At the SEC Media days earlier this month, head coach Les Miles was confident that a handful of his LSU players, including potential starting quarterback Anthony Jennings, would be back with the football team soon as their off-field issues were “approaching a resolution.”

As it turns out, the coach was potentially very prescient when it comes to this situation.

Wednesday afternoon, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore confirmed to a group of reporters covering a speech at the Baton Rouge Rotary Club that the victim in a case involving the LSU football players have asked that the preliminary charges against the trio be dropped. Moore, who has yet to formally charge the trio — Jennings, defensive lineman Maquedius Bain and defensive back Dwayne Thomas — stated that, if the case didn’t involve football players, it would likely be over and done with.

“If this was a regular case, take football out of it, if it just involved a regular LSU student, you wouldn’t have known it happened. It would routinely be dismissed,” the DA said. “I’m taking my time to get it right.”

Moore added “possibly next week” when asked when a resolution can be expected.

The three players were arrested in the middle of last month for unauthorized entry of an inhabited building. Essentially, it’s being alleged that the three went into the open apartment of another LSU student to retrieve items they claim were stolen the week before.

All of the players involved have been indefinitely suspended.

Moore was in attendance to the speech at the Rotary Club, with the keynote speaker being, of course, Miles. During the course of that speech, Miles jokingly directed a message involving his current players at the DA, which he quickly noted to the scribes covering wasn’t suitable for publication.

“I’m right with you. You hear me? As we have always operated, I’m on your schedule, Miles said as he pointed at Moore. “You tell me what you need to tell me, and I will operate accordingly. I promise you.”

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C.J. Reavis loses appeal, remains dismissed by Hokies

It appears that Virginia Tech’s secondary will indeed be without a likely starter heading into its season opener against defending national champion Ohio State.

In a series of tweets Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times confirmed that “safety C.J. Reavis lost his appeal of a student conduct hearing decision” on Tuesday and “remains dismissed from Virginia Tech.” Earlier this month it was reported that Reavis was no longer enrolled at the university following the completion of a student-conduct hearing.

There still has been no reason given for the student-conduct hearing, although Reavis’ attorney is far from pleased with the outcome of the appeal, intimating that his client may take legal action against Tech.

Reavis played in 12 games as a true freshman last season, mainly on special teams. After a strong spring, he was viewed as a likely starter at safety for the Hokies.

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