PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins throws a  pass against the Virginia Cavaliers at the Rose Bowl on September 5, 2015 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 34-16.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Getty Images

CFT Previews: Playoff Darkhorses

8 Comments

How does one define a Playoff darkhorse?

Washington would have been a perfect example… eight months ago. The Huskies do have a good defense, a promising quarterback and a smart coaching staff, seemingly the building blocks of a team set to make a big jump in 2016. But eight months of people separately talking themselves into Chris Petersen‘s Huskies has congealed into a team coming off a 7-6 season now being overrated heading into the actual season.

So, no, in my book, Washington is not a playoff darkhorse. Not anymore. Neither is Houston. Or Tennessee.

Here’s a brief look at teams that could actually take us all by surprise this fall:

Florida: Remember how good the Gators were before Will Grier got suspended and everything fell apart? The Gators started 6-0 before a respectable 35-28 loss at LSU, then rebounded with a 27-3 thrashing of Georgia in the Cocktail Party before the offense spent November and December struggling mightily just to hit 20 points. But with another year under Jim McElwain, Florida should be deeper and much less Treon Harris-y. And then there is the fact that winning the SEC East places a team automatically just 60 minutes away from the Playoff.

Louisville: Bobby Petrino has his roster in a better position than anyone anticipated upon taking over for Charlie StrongLamar Jackson was a revelation at quarterback last season, and should only improve after a full off-season taking starter’s reps. Florida State comes to Louisville for an upset-ready noon kick on Sept. 17.

UCLA: No one’s going undefeated in the Pac-12, but an opening day win at Texas A&M would forgive an in-conference slip-up. USC, Arizona and Arizona State should be in transition years, and there’s a strong chance Stanford, Washington and Oregon beat each other up in the Pac-12 North. Jim Mora has done a nice job re-stocking the shelves in Westwood, starting with possible future No. 1 pick and Heisman darkhorse Josh Rosen.

Former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham could follow Bears OC to a new job

WACO, TX - OCTOBER 24: Jarrett Stidham #3 of the Baylor Bears runs against Darian Cotton #23 of the Iowa State Cyclones in the second half at McLane Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

College football recruiting has kicked into full gear the past few weeks and one of the more interesting decisions this month that could have a big impact on next season is finding out which school former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham will be playing for in 2017.

The signal-caller threw for 12 touchdowns and over 1,200 yards after taking over as the Bears starter midway through last year but he opted to transfer away from the program this summer when Art Briles was fired as the result of a sexual assault scandal at the school. While many have considered SEC schools such as Auburn, Texas A&M and Florida to be the favorites to land the coveted junior college QB, there may be another school that is in the running too: whichever program hires Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.

“KB is my dude,” Stidham told ESPN.com. “I’m super tight with him. I still talk to him all the time. I’m still waiting to see what happens with him and where he might go and just take it into consideration.”

It remains to be seen if new head coach Matt Rhule will retain the younger Briles but it seems unlikely given the events in Waco the past six months and the school likely wanting a complete divorce from the previous regime. Kendal Briles own job prospects seem a bit unknown given everything at play but it could be an interesting combination for a head coach looking to jump start an offense.

There’s always talk of package deals in college basketball but this would be a potential one in football that may draw some interest.

RB Jordan Cronkrite to transfer from Florida

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 24: Jordan Cronkrite #32 of the Florida Gators heads for the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown reception against the Tennessee Volunteers in the second quarter at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

And that’s the way it was, at least as it pertains to the Florida portion of Jordan Cronkrite‘s collegiate playing career.

Thursday, the Gators announced that Cronkrite has been granted permission to pursue other opportunities.  The release from his scholarship will afford the running back the opportunity to transfer elsewhere.

If that elsewhere is at the FBS, the sophomore would have to sit out the 2017 season.  He’d then have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018.

Cronkrite was a four-star 2015 recruit who was rated as the No. 34 player at any position in the state of Florida.

As a true freshman, Cronkrite ran for 157 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries.  This past season, he carried the ball 31 times for 145 yards and a touchdown.  His 20 receptions were fourth on the Gators.

Oregon president takes thinly-veiled shot at Brady Hoke

CORVALLIS, OR - NOVEMBER 26: Defensive coordinator Brady Hoke of the Oregon Ducks dresses his players during the third quarter of the game against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Corvallis, Oregon. The Beavers won 34-24. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

Brady Hoke had a miserable one-and-done at Oregon, and this piling on just adds to it.

Brought in to turnaround the Ducks’ defense, Hoke instead was in charge of one of the worst units in the country.  Their play, in very large part, helped bring an abrupt end to Mark Helfrich‘s three-year tenure in Eugene.

Helfrich was officially replaced by USF’s Willie Taggart earlier this week.  The boss of Taggart’s boss, UO president Michael Schill, had one piece of advice and one piece of advice alone for his new head football coach.

Can we take that as confirmation that Hoke won’t be retained by the new regime?  At least statistically, though, the president has a point, no matter how clumsily or ill-advised it may have been.

Out of the 128 teams listed on the NCAA’s official stats website, the Ducks were 126th in scoring and yards allowed; 121st in third-down percentage and rushing yards allowed; 117th in turnovers forced; and 114th in passing yards. Last season, the Ducks were 114th in scoring and 116th in yards.

And Taggart’s defense this season? The Bulls were 86th in scoring defense and 120th in yards allowed.  So, there’s that.

Malik Zaire pens thank-you note to Notre Dame students, staff

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 10: Malik Zaire #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish throws a pass in the second half against the Nevada Wolf Pack at Notre Dame Stadium on September 10, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A week after his departure from Notre Dame was revealed Malik Zaire has gotten down to saying goodbye.

In a letter to The Observer, the university’s student newspaper, Zaire thanked “the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be.” The notes comes a week after the quarterback was given an unconditional release from his Irish scholarship.

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Zaire expects to graduate in December, meaning he’d be eligible immediately at whatever FBS program he ultimately lands. The senior has already or will visit North Carolina and Wisconsin. Pittsburgh is also believed to be in play as well.