CFT Previews: National Signing Day

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National Signing Day is upon us once again. Or, as it might as well be known now, the day Nick Saban and Urban Meyer bash everyone’s head together one more time. The next class of All-Americans, of Heisman Trophy winners, of future stars and wacky headlines becomes official on Wednesday, and no one truly knows which players will ultimately belong where. And that’s the magic of it all.

Let’s dive right into some storylines.

– Nick or Urban? Urban or NickHeading into Wednesday’s festivities, Alabama and Ohio State are in a neck-and-neck duel for the best class according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Alabama holds a slight lead with 310.26 total points to Ohio State’s 308.78, but Ohio State (94.62) holds the edge over the Tide (93.01) in per-player average. Alabama owns five 5-stars and 14 4-stars among its 24 commitments, while Ohio State has landed five 5-stars and 13 4-stars among its 20 pledges.

– A Smart blueprint. The harbinger of Saban’s ultimate dominance came on Signing Day in 2008 when, after a 7-6 debut, Alabama inked a No. 1 class in its first full cycle under the new staff. Kirby Smart was there for that rise, and now he’s repeating the script in Athens. After an 8-5 debut campaign, Smart’s first full class has leaped from No. 8 to No. 3 nationally, per 247 composite. With two 5-stars and 18 4-stars among its 23 pledges, Georgia won’t likely catch Alabama or Ohio State but is a safe distance away from Michigan for the No. 3 ranking.

– Texas becomes the No Star State. In a year that should give longtime observers flash backs to the dark days of the 1990’s, only four of the top 20 players in the state of Texas are committed to in-state schools. In fact, Ohio State may sign as many Texas blue-chippers as the in-state schools combined, with No. 1 defensive back Jeffrey Okudah, No. 1 linebacker Baron Browning and No. 1 running back J.K. Dobbins already in the fold and an outside shot at landing No. 1 overall player Marvin Wilson. At present, only linebacker Anthony Hines (Texas A&M) and offensive lineman Jack Anderson (Texas Tech) are committed to in-state schools among the state’s top-10 players.

– Is Signing Day going to be… boring? Only 17 of the national top 100 players of the 247 composite ranking are uncommitted as of this writing. Among the top 25, only Wilson (an LSU lean) and Georgia linebacker Aubrey Solomon (Michigan or Alabama) remain uncommitted. Though the headliners may not offer much in the way of suspense, there are still plenty of second- and third-tier players lining up for our entertainment on Wednesday. If we’re lucky, perhaps one will announce his school choice while riding on the back of a dolphin.

Penn State K Joey Julius no longer with the team

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Joey Julius was everyone’s favorite kickoff specialist last season. Sadly, he won’t be your favorite kickoff specialist in 2017.

At Big Ten media days on Monday, the Nittany Lions unveiled their 2017 roster and Julius was not on it.

Listed at 5-foot-10, 258 pounds, Julius announced in May he would seek treatment for an eating disorder.

“I have been struggling over the last couple months with my eating disorder,” he announced at the time. “It got to the point where I had to return to St. Louis to seek further treatment at the McCallum place. Recovery is a wonderful and beautiful thing that I am working on returning too.”

Julius handled 93 kickoffs for the 2016 Big Ten champions, averaging 62.1 yards per kick with 45 touchbacks. His kickoff average ranked 47th nationally, and his 48.4 touchback percentage was 40th in FBS. Julius made 10-of-12 field goals and 20-of-24 extra points in 2015 before ceding the job to Tyler Davis last season.

 

Urban Meyer on College Football Playoff loss to Clemson: That ship has sailed, it’s gone

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Ohio State may have won the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship, but its most recent trip to the postseason tournament was not nearly as much fun. The Buckeyes were blanked by eventual national champion Clemson, 31-0. Asked whether or not that plays into the mental approach to the upcoming 2017 season, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer suggested that loss is no longer thought about.

“That ship has sailed. It’s gone,” Meyer said. “Professionally, it changed how we do some business on offense, and we’re moving forward.”

Ohio State has added former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as offensive coordinator, with Meyer noting that Wilson is the first offensive coordinator to be brought into Meyer’s program as a head coach (all others have been promoted from within). Meyer acknowledged that more of the offensive management has been put in the hands of Wilson, which supports the thought that things have changed with the offense in 2017.

Ohio State is a heavy favorite among media members covering the Big Ten to win the conference this season, and the Buckeyes will likely be viewed as a playoff contender. Regardless, how last season ended has to leave an empty feeling that needs to be fulfilled this fall, whether Meyer wants to use it as fuel or not.

“It’s the back of everyone’s mind,” Meyer said. “Whether I use that in training camp or not is to be determined.”

Jim Delany announces Big Ten’s new six-year deal with ESPN and FOX; BTN heading to Hulu and YouTube

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As the Big Ten opened up its media day event in Chicago, commissioner Jim Delany brought with him an announcement regarding the future of the conference’s television package. Delany announced the Big Ten has reached a deal on a restructured television package with broadcast partners ESPN, FOX and CBS Sports (for basketball) and an extended deal with Big Ten Network that runs through 2032. And he had more to share a swell.

The exact terms of this new deal have not been disclosed at this time, but it would stand to reason the Big Ten will continue to turn a nice profit through their deals with both ESPN and FOX (and CBS Sports for basketball).

But Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman had some other news to share as well.

In addition to a new six-year contract with ESPN and FOX for regular season coverage of football (and FOX with the Big Ten Championship Game), Delany also announced the Big Ten Network will be heading to Hulu and YouTube TV, making the network more accessible to those consumers who continue to cut the cord on their TV providers. While there are still plenty of cable subscribers available to reach and the majority of TV viewers are still using cable to watch their TV, the trends are more and more leaning toward the cord-cutting methods.

Big Ten Network will be adding a handful of former Big Ten stars to its football coverage; James Laurinaitis, Braylon Edwards, and Corey Wootton. Big Ten Network, now in its 10th year of operation since launching as the first conference-branded network, will also be creating content for regional sports outlets, like an Ohio State show on SportsTime Ohio. The BTN will also work with ESPN to air a special series following new Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck and BTN’s Big Ten Elite program will chronicle the 2016 Big Ten champions, Penn State.

Report: Wisconsin and Notre Dame discussing Soldier Field series

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Notre Dame and Wisconsin have not met on the football field since 1964, but that drought in the series could come to an end in the somewhat near future. The Chicago Tribune reports the two schools are discussing plans for a potential football series that would be played in Chicago’s Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

Why Soldier Field? Why not?

Notre Dame last played in Soldier Field in 2012 when they played Miami as part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series of games traveling around the country. The Shamrock Series has also made stops in San Antonio, New York, Arlington, Indianapolis, and Boston. There is no Shamrock Series game in 2017, but it is expected to return in 2018 (playing Navy in San Diego). Notre Dame has never lost a game in Soldier Field. Wisconsin has also played in Soldier Field. In 2011, the Badgers dominated Northern Illinois.

Of course, the contrarian view here wonders why two programs with fantastic football environment s would want to abandon their locales in Madison and South Bend to play a game in Chicago. The obvious answers here are that it is easier to schedule one game on a neutral field and it tends to be more financially motivated to do so. Until an agreement is announced, it is just speculation to suggest both Notre Dame and Wisconsin will receive a nice paycheck out of playing in Soldier Field once or twice (or more).

Ideally, having Wisconsin and Notre Dame agree to a home-and-home deal would be the way to go, or a three-year deal with a home-and-home series and a neutral site game in Chicago. But we’ll just have to wait and see

Soldier Field hosted a 2015 Big Ten game between Northwestern and Illinois and the Illini are going to be hosting USF in Soldier Field in 2018.

From a Big Ten scheduling standpoint, a game against Notre Dame would satisfy Wisconsin’s non-conference scheduling requirement to include a game against another power conference program in whatever season or seasons the Irish appear on the schedule. Wisconsin currently satisfies that scheduling requirement in 2018 and 2020-2025. The non-conference schedule is full in 2019, meaning the Badgers need a road game against USF or a home game against Central Michigan or North Texas to be given approval from the Big Ten (or work out a deal to slide Notre Dame into that schedule. Notre Dame currently has a schedule vacancy on September 7, 2019, which is when Wisconsin is scheduled to play Central Michigan, but the Irish have a full 12-game schedule in place for the 2019 season.

The bottom line is whenever this scheduling arrangement is announced, it may not be happening until 2020 at the earliest.