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Lane Kiffin flips wide receiver previously committed to Memphis

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Lane Kiffin is having a productive morning in his first signing day at FAU. On the heels of learning Kiffin managed to flip a JUCO wide receiver from heading to UCLA, Kiffin has apparently managed to flip another talented wide receiver to come play for the Owls.

Willie Wright of Jacksonville, Florida was heading to Memphis to play for the Tigers in the AAC, but now he will be lining up to catch passes in Kiffin’s offense in Boca Raton. Rivals rates Wright as a two-star prospect, although other recruiting services have him as a three-star prospect. Regardless, this is a decent addition to Kiffin’s first recruiting class at FAU.

In addition to handling wide receiver duties, Wright also has experience as a kick returner, which could be a role he takes on at FAU early on. Wright was one of the first players to receive an offer from Kiffin once he took over the head coaching job on a full-time basis, and he made an official visit in mid-January. He made one final official visit to Memphis on Jan. 27 as the recruiting battle went down to the wire.

A Look Ahead: CFT’s Way-Too-Early 2017 Top 25

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The last bit of confetti has barely settled onto the Raymond James Stadium turf and the carcass of the 2016 season isn’t even cold yet, and we’re already rolling out a way-too-early Top 25 for the 2017 season? Yep. Because that’s how we roll. Or something.

In our role as preseason Nostradumbass, the first 10 of CFT’s Top 25 consisted of No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Clemson, No. 5 LSU, No. 6 Notre Dame (ouch), No. 7 Washington (yeah us!), No. 8 TCU, No. 9 Michigan State (whoops) and No. 10 Tennessee. A little over 4¬Ĺ months later?

Three of the four playoff participants were in our Top 10; the fourth, Ohio State, was just outside at No. 11. While not No. 1, Oklahoma came into the postseason ranked seventh in the College Football Playoff Top 25, and will likely move up thanks to the 16-point Sugar Bowl win over No. 14 Auburn (not in our preseason Top 25). Florida State (No. 11), LSU (No. 20) and Tennessee (No. 21) were all ranked at least eight spots lower when the postseason began, but all three won their respective bowl games.

On the flip side, TCU, at 6-6, earned a bowl bid… and subsequently lost to finish under .500. And then there was Notre Dame and Michigan State, which combined to win a total of seven games so let’s just forget about that and move on.

The point of this whole review-before-we-look-ahead exercise? Preseason polls are meaningless — but not nearly as meaningless as polls produced nearly eight months ahead of the start of a new season. With that in mind, enjoy this way-to-early Top 25 that will put the “mean” in meaningless. And the “less” in it, for that matter.

Oh, and as always, feel free to complain/whine/moan/bitch away in the comments section below.

NO. 1 USC
WHY? As a redshirt freshman, Sam Darnold emerged as one of the most electrifying playmakers at the quarterback position in college football, and should, to the chagrin of opponents, get even better with a full offseason as the man at the position. ¬†Winning nine straight to close out the season doesn’t hurt either.
WHY NOT? There’s always at least one team that’s way overhyped — hello 2016 Notre Dame — and¬†the hoopla and attention proves to be too much for the young Trojans to bear.

NO. 2 ALABAMA
WHY? Nick Saban + top-ranked recruiting classes year-in, year-out + a burning desire to be the greatest there ever was at this level = a permanent spot inside the Top 10 as long as The Nicktator resides in Tuscaloosa.
WHY NOT? An NFL team (finally) entices Saban to go back and finish what he started — and abruptly ended — in the big boy league of football. ¬†It’s not going to happen, of course, but that’s about the only thing that could derail the Crimson Tide juggernaut — well, that and a Tiger named Deshaun.

Clemson v Florida StateNO. 3 FLORIDA STATE
WHY? The Seminoles are once again loaded with top-flight talent on both sides of the ball and at every positional unit, with Deondre Francois showing flashes in his first season as the starter of being one of the best young quarterbacks in the sport.
WHY NOT?¬†They face Alabama on a (ahem) neutral field to open the season, then travel to Gainesville to face Florida in the regular-season finale. ¬†In between, there’s a trip to Death Valley for their annual ACC Atlantic¬†grudge match with Clemson.

NO. 4 OKLAHOMA
WHY? With Baker Mayfield returning, and the rest of the conference still trying to play catch-up, the Sooners are clearly the cream of the Big 12 crop.
WHY NOT?¬†The twin backfield loses of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine can’t be overcome and Mayfield has to shoulder too much of the offensive burden. Plus, the¬†road trips to Ohio State, Baylor and Oklahoma State for Bedlam.

NO. 5 WASHINGTON
WHY?¬†They have a talented arm in quarterback Jake Browning, a very staunch defense and a schedule that’s very favorable, with the toughest road game being the trip to Stanford.
WHY NOT? They are losing a significant amount of talent that helped get them to the College Football Playoffs.

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State v ClemsonNO. 6 OHIO STATE
WHY? Given the personnel losses after the 2015 season, 2016 was thought to be a rebuilding year but turned into another playoff appearance.  The target was always the 2017 season for this young Buckeyes team, and a squad loaded with this much talent will be a factor throughout.
WHY NOT? J.T Barrett continues to regress as a quarterback despite Urban Meyer shaking up the top of his offensive coaching staff, and none of the other young quarterbacks are quite ready for prime time.

NO. 7 CLEMSON
WHY?¬†Despite losing a couple of pieces, Brent Venables‘ defense will once again be one of the best in the nation. ¬†The Tigers won 10 or more games in each of the three seasons prior to Deshaun Watson‘s arrival, so it’s far from a one-man show that Dabo Swinney has built.
WHY NOT? Losing Watson, a three-year starter at quarterback, proves to be too much as his replacement simply can’t handle the burden.

NO. 8 MICHIGAN
WHY? For all of his well-publicized off-field antics, Jim Harbaugh is simply one of the best head coaches in the sport and will settle for nothing less than getting his beloved Wolverines back into the national title discussion on an annual basis.  Wilton Speight was a breakout star in 2016 and should flourish despite the loss of his quarterbacks coach, while Don Brown continues to be one of the best defensive minds in the game.
WHY NOT?¬†Too much talent was lost to the NFL, and Harbaugh simply hasn’t gotten the requisite time to completely restock the cupboard in Ann Arbor to compete with the Ohio States of the college football world.

Oklahoma State v BaylorNO. 9 OKLAHOMA STATE
WHY? One of the best quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the country, Mason Rudolph and James Washington, eschewed an early shot at the NFL and returned for one more season in Stillwater.
WHY NOT? A defense that was 53rd in scoring as it was loses nearly half its starters, plus OSU will have to play at Pittsburgh, Texas and West Virginia.

NO. 10 PENN STATE
WHY? They return a bunch of talent from their Big Ten-winning squad, including Heisman contenders in quarterback Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley, and get Michigan, Nebraska and Pittsburgh in Happy Valley.
WHY NOT? They lost a very talented wide receiver in Chris Godwin and have to play at Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State.

NO. 11 STANFORD
NO. 12 AUBURN
NO. 13 TEXAS
NO. 14 LSU
NO. 15 WISCONSIN
NO. 16 LOUISVILLE
NO. 17 GEORGIA
NO. 18 WEST VIRGINIA
NO. 19 SOUTH FLORIDA
NO. 20 FLORIDA
NO. 21 KANSAS STATE
NO. 22 COLORADO
NO. 23 WASHINGTON STATE
NO. 24 SAN DIEGO STATE
NO. 25 OREGON

Peach Bowl First Quarter Recap: Washington strikes first, Alabama answers with authority

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The Pac-12 champion Washington Huskies may had a few butterflies at the start of the game with a poor kickoff return from John Ross and a quick three-and-out, but the Huskies struck first in the first quarter of a College Football Playoff semifinal matchup against SEC champion Alabama in the Peach Bowl. Jake Browning delivered a beautiful pass to Dante Pettis to cap the second offensive series of the game for Washington.

The touchdown pass from Browning was his 43rd of the season, setting a new Pac-12 record for most touchdown passes in a single season, breaking the previous record set by former Cal quarterback Jared Goff in 2015.

The Crimson Tide would respond on the ensuing possession by flexing some muscle up front. Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and Jalen Hurts all picked up yards on the ground for Alabama, with a key 16-yard gain by O.J. Howard through the air along the way before Scarbrough powered his way across the goal line to score a touchdown on the next drive.

Washington looked to be putting together a decent response of their own on the next drive, but a short pass to Ross was lost by the talented wideout and picked up by Alabama’s Jonathan Allen on Washington’s side of the field. Alabama holds the football at the start of the second quarter as a result.

One key position to keep an eye on as the game plays on will be Washington right tackle, true freshman Nick Harris. Harris has earned a starting role on the Washington offensive line as the season has gone alone, bu he has been given a massive test today against one of the best defensive front sin the nation today. There have already been a few rough moments on the edge.

Kicking woes, Kenny Hill miscues doom TCU in Liberty Bowl loss to Georgia

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In a microcosm of its entire season, TCU watched an immensely winnable game slip away thanks to mistakes in the kicking game and bad decisions by quarterback Kenny Hill, as the Frogs watched a 16-7 lead turn into a 31-23 loss to Georgia in the Liberty Bowl.

After Georgia staked a 7-0 lead, TCU took control of the contest when it ripped off 16 consecutive points over a 7-minute stretch, but should have stretched the run to at least 20 points. The Frogs got on the board with a 40-yard¬†Brandon Hatfield¬†field goal, then immediately took the ball back at the Georgia 21 when¬†Tipa Galeai¬†sacked and stripped¬†Jacob Eason. Hill (18-of-27 for 146 yards with two touchdowns plus 17 carries for 72 yards and a score)¬†raced in for a 10-yard touchdown dash one play later, but Hatfield’s ensuing extra point clanked off the right upright and ricocheted wide left.

After forcing two more three-and-outs, TCU added another touchdown when Hill hit¬†John Diarse¬†for a 10-yard score at the 9:15 mark of the second quarter. (Hatfield’s extra point was good this time.) After another Georgia three-and-out, Hill set the Frogs up with a 1st-and-10 at the Georgia 20 with a 45-yard rush, but a sack and an incompletion forced a 41-yard field goal — which Hatfield missed.

Hill compounded his sack by costing the Frogs another scoring opportunity late in the half, losing a fumble at the Georgia 44 with 30 seconds still remaining before the half.

Running back Kyle Hicks (15 carries for a team-leading 88 yards) opened the second half with a fumble of his own, handing Georgia (8-5) the ball at its own 48. The Bulldogs marched 52 yards in 12 plays, aided by another TCU special teams error when holder Brice Ramsey converted a 4th-and-6 with an 11-yard fake field goal rush. Eason hit Javon Wims for a 4-yard strike three plays later, putting Georgia on top 21-16.

TCU (6-7) see-sawed back in front when Hill and Diarse hooked up for their second score of the day, this one a 9-yarder with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter, but Georgia’s offense was fully alive after a first half stretch in which it registered four three-and-outs and a lost fumble. The Bulldogs moved 56 yards in seven plays to set up¬†Rodrigo Blankenship‘s 30-yard field goal to push Georgia back in front at 24-23 with 13:27 remaining.

Just like in the first half, Hill once again positioned the Frogs with a 1st-and-10 at the Georgia 20, but he once again took a sack he shouldn’t have taken on third down and, once again, Hatfield missed his ensuing 47-yard field goal. Georgia took advantage of the miscue, riding¬†Nick Chubb¬†most of the way on a 9-play, 70-yard march to push the lead to 31-23 with 2:48 left to play. Chubb and the Georgia running game came alive in the second half; the Dogs finished with 247 yards on 5.6 per carry after mounting only 49 yards in the first half. Chubb led the way with 17 carries for 142 yards and a score, while¬†Sony Michel¬†added 15 totes for 87 yards and a score. Eason hit 12-of-21 passes for 164 yards with two touchdowns and one fumble.

Needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to push the game to overtime — instead of simply a field goal to win without Hatfield’s missed kicks — TCU moved to the Georgia 44 when Hill’s 4th-and-4 pass to¬†Taj Williams¬†was broken up by Georgia’s¬†Deandre Baker.

The win lifts a struggling SEC to 2-4 in bowl play while the Big 12 falls to 3-2. The two conferences have split their two meetings thus far, with the rubber match between Oklahoma and Auburn coming in Monday night’s Sugar Bowl.

TCU leading Georgia halfway through messy Liberty Bowl

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TCU leads Georgia 16-14 midway through the Liberty Bowl after a half in which neither side can be particularly happy about.

TCU ripped off 16 consecutive points over a 7-minute stretch, but missed opportunities to add more. The Frogs got on the board with a 40-yard¬†Brandon Hatfield¬†field goal, then immediately took the ball back at the Georgia 21 when¬†Tipa Galeai¬†sacked and stripped¬†Jacob Eason.¬†Kenny Hill¬†raced in for a 10-yard touchdown dash one play later, but Hatfield’s ensuing extra point clanked off the right upright and ricocheted wide left.

After forcing two more three-and-outs, TCU added another touchdown when Hill hit¬†John Diarse¬†for a 10-yard score at the 9:15 mark of the second quarter. (Hatfield’s extra point was good this time.) After another Georgia three-and-out, Hill set the Frogs up with a 1st-and-10 at the Georgia 20 with a 45-yard rush, but a sack and an incompletion forced a 41-yard field goal — which Hatfield missed.

Georgia’s offense has been downright painful — except when it’s not. The Bulldogs mounted an 86-yard touchdown drive on their second possession and a 76-yard touchdown march on their second-to-last offensive touch, but squeezed five three-and-outs and a fumble around them. Eason has hit 9-of-16 throws for 155 yards and a touchdown, while¬†Sony Michel¬†has posted 29 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Hill has been his usual self, mixing the fantastic with the horrendous. He’s completed 7-of-11 passes for 62 yards and a touchdown and rushed 11 times for a game-high 55 yards and a score, but lost a fumble near midfield that allowed Georgia a¬†shot at a go-ahead 53-yard field goal on the final play of the half.¬†Kyle Hicks¬†has rushed eight times for 51 yards. The Frogs have out-rushed the Dogs 112-49.

TCU will receive to open the third quarter.