Urban Meyer

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 4 Ohio State

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(It should be noted this preseason ranking was determined before news of Braxton Miller being lost for the season.)

2013 Record: 12-2 overall, 8-1 in Big Ten (lost to Michigan State in championship game)
2013 postseason: Orange Bowl (40-35 loss to Clemson)
2013 final AP/coaches ranking: No. 12/No. 10
Head coach: Urban Meyer (128-25 overall, 24-2 in two years at Ohio State)
Offensive coordinator: Tom Herman (3rd year at Ohio State), Ed Warinner (3rd year at Ohio State)
2013 offensive rankings: 5th rushing offense (308.64 ypg), 90th passing offense (203.3 ypg), 7th total offense (511.9 ypg), 3rd scoring offense (45.5 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 4*
Co-defensive coordinators: Luke Fickell (13th year at Ohio State), Chris Ash (first year at Ohio State)
2013 defensive rankings: 9th rushing defense (109.43 ypg), 112th passing defense (268.0 ypg), 47th total defense (377.4 ypg), 28th scoring defense (22.6 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 7
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Stadium: Ohio Stadium (104,944; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2010 (2009, outright)

THE GOOD
In a season that once appeared to be all about making the playoff or bust, the Buckeyes still look to have a very good shot at making a run at a Big Ten title despite losing starting quarterback Braxton Miller for the season. Losing Miller cannot be understated for the fortunes of this season, but more on that in a moment. What Ohio State does have is a roster that has been built by landing the top recruiting classes in the Big Ten each of the past four seasons, so the talent on the roster is not much of a concern for the Buckeyes as far as the Big Ten is concerned. One fo the downfalls of Ohio State last season was the defense not being strong enough to hold off a balanced opponent like Michigan State or slow down a potent offense like the one owned by Clemson. When push came to shove, Ohio State’s defensive line was the one being shoved in the clutch. That should change some this season with a focus on toughening up the defense. New defensive line coach Larry Johnson (from Penn State) will have an impact with the play of the defensive line, which could be the best in the Big Ten, with Michael Bennett and Joey Bosa up front and Noah Spence scheduled to return following a multi-game suspension. Ohio State’s opening games may be more difficult now, without Miller, but the Buckeyes should still be able to remain one of the favorites in the Big Ten’s East division.

THE BAD
The loss of Miller is without a doubt a major blow for Ohio State. Miller was Ohio State’s, and the Big Ten’s, best player when healthy and his contributions to the Ohio State offense will not be easy to make up. Miller was not only looking to improve with his passing abilities, but he was also the team’s leading rusher returning this season (1,283 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013). Ohio State should still be able to run the football this fall, but the loss of Miller has the potential to make Ohio State’s running game much less of a threat to opposing defenses. That is, until we see just how redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett adapts to his new responsibilities under center.

THE UNKNOWN
Ohio State has plenty of talent, but now head coach Urban Meyer is challenged to find a way to make everything come together in a different way than he may have been spending all summer doing. Meyer is a really good coach — one of the best in the country — but can he manage to keep Ohio State among the favorites for a playoff spot at the end of the year after losing Miller and lead running back Carlos Hyde (NFL) with a lack of significant experience in the backfield? Throwing an extra challenge into the equation this season is Ohio State does not have as easy a non-conference schedule to allow these things to be sorted out without concern. Ohio State faces a decent Navy team in the season opener in Baltimore, and then hosts a Virgina Tech team that should be improved this fall. A home game against Cincinnati could present a challenge to before getting into Big Ten play.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Penn State
The road game at Michigan State is still the highlight of the 2014 Ohio State schedule, and the non-conference slate should help show just what Ohio State will be this season. A road game at Penn State, in primetime, could be the first real challenge for the Buckeyes though, despite the Nittany Lions being a thin team when it comes to depth and Ohio State blasting their neighbors from the east 63-14 last fall. If Penn State stays healthy, they could pose a threat to Ohio State at home in a revenge situation. New head coach James Franklin has sparked the program a bit, and playing in front of 100,000 fans not cheering for you could be a challenge for a young quarterback like Barrett. Win this game, and Ohio State will prove to remain a top threat in the East.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: WR Devin Smith
Braxton Miller would have been the easy pick here, but with the quarterback ut of commission this fall the next best offensive player may end up being wide receiver Devin Smith. Smith should be one of the top receivers for the Buckeyes this fall as Ohio State’s leading returning receiver with 660 yards and eight touchdowns last fall.

* Not counting injured quarterback Braxton Miller

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Report: Arizona lineman Zach Hemmila’s death caused by toxic mix of prescription drugs

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 03:  Arizona Wildcats helmets display the #65 to honor offensive lineman Zach Hemmila who passed away in the off-season before the college football game against the Brigham Young Cougars at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Nearly two months after his tragic passing, a cause of death for Zach Hemmila has been confirmed.

Based on the autopsy report filed by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona Republic is reporting that the 22-year-old Hemmila’s death was the result of the combined toxic effects of two different prescription drugs. The two drugs, the Republic noted, were oxymorphone, an opiate painkiller, and alprazolam, an anxiety medication.

From the newspaper’s report:

Chewing tobacco was found in Hemmila’s mouth, according to the autopsy report. No intact pills were discovered in his gastrointestinal system. His lungs were “markedly congested,” per the report.

Hemmila passed away either very late on the night of Aug. 7 or early in the morning Aug. 8. A cousin discovered Hemmila’s body at the Arizona offensive lineman’s residence.

His death has officially been ruled an accident.

“Arizona Athletics continues to mourn the passing of Zach Hemmila,” a statement from the university said in response to the report. “We will honor the family’s request for privacy and support them in any way we can.”

Hemmila started six games last season. He was slated to start at center for the Wildcats this season.

The Wildcats will continue to wear a sticker the No. 65 to honor Hemmila for the remainder of the season.

LSU reinstates suspended starting D-lineman, but Leonard Fournette a game-day decision vs. Mizzou

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03:  Chikwe Obasih #34 of the Wisconsin Badgers tackles Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers during the second half at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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LSU received some good news and not so good news ahead of its first game without Les Miles on the sidelines in more than a decade.

On the latter news front, star running back Leonard Fournette is listed as a game-day decision for Saturday’s contest against Missouri because of a lingering ankle issue.  The All-American initially injured the ankle during a mid-August summer camp practice; then aggravated it against Wisconsin in the opener; sat out the Week 2 game against an FCS foe; and then aggravated it again in Week 4 against Auburn.

After leading the country in yards per game last season with nearly 163 yards per game, Fournette is currently 10th at 128.7. That total still tops the SEC.

On a more positive tip for the Tigers, interim head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed that starting defensive lineman Davon Godchaux has been reinstated to the program and will be permitted to practice with his teammates.  Whether he plays this Saturday remains to be seen.  Godchaux had been arrested on a pair of charges stemming from a domestic incident over the weekend, but the prosecutor in the case announced Tuesday that he would not be filing formal charges.

Godchaux has started all four games this season (26 in his career) and is fifth on the team in tackles.

Anthem-kneeling Cornhusker invited to meet with Nebraska governor

Neb. Gov. Pete Ricketts, left, and former Gov. Kay Orr unveil the state road projects that have been designated as major priorities over the next few years at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Three playing members of the Nebraska football program who knelt in protest during the playing of the national anthem Saturday faced significant — and some racially-charged — criticism for their actions, including one NU regent who wants the players removed from the program.  The state’s governor, Pete Ricketts (pictured, right), was highly critical as well.

“Generations of men and women have died to give them that right to protest,” Ricketts said. “I think the way they chose to protest was disgraceful and disrespectful.”

One of the NU kneelers, senior linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, took to Twitter to ask the governor to met with him and discuss the issues that led he and his teammates, freshmen Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal, to kneel in protest.

Late Tuesday night, Ricketts responded.

Imagine that, discussion, not rhetoric, on both sides of an issue. What a revolutionary concept.

Jimbo Fisher: ‘I love FSU. I plan on being here for a long time’

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminoles signals to his players during the game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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In the eyes of some, Jimbo Fisher left the door open for a departure from Florida State in his first public comments since LSU fired Les Miles.

I’m not talking about LSU. No I haven’t [had contact with the Tigers] and I’m not talking about it,” the head coach said Monday.

Two days later, Fisher, one of the wagering favorites to replace Miles, attempted to slam the door on a potential departure, although some will see his “plan on” qualifier as leaving the door propped open yet again.

“I love this university. I plan on being here for a long time,” Fisher said during Wednesday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference. “I love Florida State, and that’s all I’m saying. I’ll talk about myself and Florida State.

“Anything else is clutter, and does not concern me, and is not involving me.”

Fisher spent seven seasons (2000-2006) as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU before leaving for the same jobs — and the added title of head coach in waiting — at FSU.  Taking over for Bobby Bowden following the 2009 season, Fisher has guided the Seminoles to a 71-15 record in six-plus seasons, with 2013 ending with a national championship.

Last year as speculation centered on Miles’ tenuous status, Fisher was mentioned as a potential candidate then as well.  In fact, some reports had Fisher “intermediaries” in talks with LSU, although, obviously, nothing ever came of it if it indeed actually happened.