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In surviving Northwestern, Urban Meyer passes Bob Stoops for most wins in first 15 years as coach

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It came a week later than expected, and was hardly easy, but Urban Meyer added another line to what will ultimately be a Hall of Fame résumé.

Coming off the upset loss to Penn State in Week 8, sixth-ranked Ohio State bounced back with a hard-fought 24-20 Week 9 win over stubborn Northwestern in Columbus. The Wildcats, who exit the game at 4-4, entered it as a nearly four-touchdown underdog and were looking for their first road win over the Buckeyes since 1971 and their first over the same team since 2004.

The Buckeyes jumped out to a 10-0 lead through the first quarter, only to see the Wildcats tie the game at 17-all in the third quarter.  A Curtis Samuel four-yard run with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game gave the Buckeyes the lead.  The Wildcats drove to the OSU three-yard line on the ensuing drive, but a pair of negative plays, including a backbreaking holding penalty, forced a field goal that cut the lead to four.

A J.T. Barrett pass for 16 yards to Noah Brown on third-and-8 and then a Barrett 35-yard run on third-and-10 helped bleed the clock as the Wildcats couldn’t get the ball back as the Buckeyes ran out the clock.

Barrett and the Buckeyes again struggled in the passing game, especially downfield, as Barrett’s 32 completions resulted in just 223 yards. OSU added 208 yards on the ground, with Mike Weber accounting for a game-high 87 of those.

The win officially marks the 161st win of Meyer’s stellar career, pushing him past Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops (160) for the most victories in the first 15 seasons as a head coach. Stoops had passed both Barry Switzer of Oklahoma (148) and Tom Osborne of Nebraska (147) a couple of years ago.

Of those wins, 57 have come at OSU while he picked up 65 at Florida. He also had 22 in two seasons at Utah and 17 in his two years at Bowling Green to start his head coaching career.

Meyer’s career winning percentage of .852 (161-28) is the best of any current head coach with at least 10 years of experience. All-time at the FBS level, he trails only a Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne (.881, 105-12-5), ND/Boston College’s Frank Leahy (.864, 107-13-9) and Bowling Green’s Doyt Perry (.855, 77-11-5). The all-time leader at any level? Mount Union’s Larry Kehres with just 24 losses and three ties in 359 games (.929) over 27 seasons at the Div. III power.

The only current head coach, with at least a decade of experience, in Meyer’s percentage area code is Washington’s Chris Petersen at .826 (114-24). Alabama’s Nick Saban is fourth in that category, behind Meyer, Petersen and Stoops (.792, 183-48).

And the worst in this particular area? Doug Martin, who has a career winning percentage of .304 as he has just 38 wins in 125 career games during his 11 years as head coach at both Kent State and his current job, New Mexico State.

Jim McElwain says Florida is heading to Texas to “beat the heck out of Michigan”

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It goes without saying that coaches will say what coaches say. Suggesting their team is on a mission to score a big win in front of fans clad in the school colors should not be taken for anything more than simply aiming to get a rise out of the fans. Mission accomplished for Florida head coach Jim McElwain, but possible bulletin board material for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Speaking before Florida students over the weekend, McElwain laid it out there by saying his Gators were looking to do one thing against Michigan; win with authority.

“We’re heading to Dallas here in a couple weeks to go beat the heck out of Michigan, and then come back to you guys,” McElwain said, according to SEC Country.

The Gators are opening the college football season next week in Arlington, Texas against the Michigan Wolverines of the Big Ten. Florida will be a bit undermanned with the recent suspension of seven players, including star wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Michigan also won the most recent meeting between the two schools, with Harbaugh’s Wolverines dominating McElwain’s Gators in the Citrus Bowl two seasons ago (41-7).

Michigan will be looking to reestablish its identity with a good amount of roster turnover this season, but the depth hit from the recent suspensions in Gainesville may help give Michigan an edge. Either way, we can only look forward to seeing how Harbaugh potentially responds once this claim from McElwain makes its way to Ann Arbor.

Roll Tide! Alabama tops preseason AP Top 25; OSU, FSU, USC receive first-place votes

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For the fourth time under head coach Nick Saban, the Alabama Crimson Tide will begin a college football season as the No. 1 team in the Associated Press Top 25.

The defending SEC champions received 52 first-place votes from the AP voters, easily pulling away from No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Florida State. Both the Buckeyes and Seminoles received first-place votes, as did No. 4 USC. But none of those schools received more than four first-place votes from the voters. Alabama and Florida State meet in Week 1 next week in Atlanta.

Defending national champion Clemson was left without a first-place vote, but still starts the year highly-ranked at No. 5. They are followed by Penn State, fresh off a Big Ten championship from last season. Defending Pac-12 champion and College Football Playoff participant Washington starts the year at No. 8, one spot behind the defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners with a first-year head coach in Lincoln Riley. Oklahoma travels to Columbus, Ohio to play Ohio State in Week 2. Wisconsin and Oklahoma State round out the top 10 in the preseason AP poll.

The lone Group of Five team in the preseason top 25 is USF, with new head coach Charlie Strong taking over the Bulls. Strong’s new team is ranked No. 19, a few spot s ahead of his old program, the No. 23 Texas Longhorns (now coached by Tom Herman).

The SEC leads the country with six teams appearing in the preseason AP Top 25, followed by the ACC and Big 12 with five ranked teams each. The Big Ten and Pac-12 each have four schools represented. No independent teams appear in the preseason top 25.

And here is the full AP Top 25 preseason poll, with first-place votes noted);

  1. Alabama (52 first-place votes)
  2. Ohio State (3)
  3. Florida State (4)
  4. USC (2)
  5. Clemson
  6. Penn State
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Washington
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Oklahoma State
  11. Michigan
  12. Auburn
  13. LSU
  14. Stanford
  15. Georgia
  16. Louisville
  17. Florida
  18. Miami FL
  19. USF
  20. Kansas State
  21. Virginia Tech
  22. West Virginia
  23. Texas
  24. Washington State
  25. Tennessee

Tennessee WR Josh Smith to miss start of season with broken collarbone

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Tennessee will be without wide receiver Josh Smith at the start of the season, including the season opener in Atlanta against Georgia Tech next week. Smith will be out of action for the next four to eight weeks with a broken collarbone.

This is the latest injury setback for MSith, who has had ankle surgery in the past as well as a groin injury in January. After catching 13 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown last season, MSith was expected to be a larger contributor to the offense this season as a slot receiver. That may eventually to prove true, but just how soon he can get back on the practice field, let alone a game field, remains to be seen.

At the minimum four weeks, Smith would likely not be returning to the field until a Week 3 matchup with UMass in Knoxville or the Week 4 SEC East battle with Georgia, also in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee has a bye week after the Georgia game to allow for an extra week of rest and recovery if needed. If Smith is out for a full eight weeks, his first game back for the Vols could potentially be the October 21 game at Alabama.

Smith also returned six punts last season for a total of 35 yards.

CFT 2017 Preseason Previews: Playoff Predictions

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Fair warning: CFT’s 2017 College Football Playoff predictions are boring

But, sometimes, reality is boring.

Alabama and Ohio State have pulled ahead of the pack in recruiting, return a number of players — or, at least, a large enough number to outflank the competition — and are still coached by Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. As such, our staff is picking (with one outlier) those two to square off for the 2017 national championship, with different views on how the title game goes down.

Kevin
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over Florida State
Sugar Bowl: Alabama over Penn State
CFP National Championship: Ohio State over Alabama

Bryan
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over Florida State
Sugar Bowl: Alabama over USC
CFP National Championship: Ohio State over Alabama

Zach
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over Stanford
Sugar Bowl: Alabama over Florida State
CFP National Championship: Alabama over Ohio State

John
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over USC
Sugar Bowl: Florida State over Alabama
CFP National Championship: Ohio State over Florida State