Author: Ben Kercheval

ACC Championship - Virginia Tech v Clemson

CFT Predicts: the ACC


As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the ACC.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig Ten, Pac-12

Atlantic Division

1. Clemson (Last year: 11-2; beat LSU in Chick-fil-A Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Tigers shook their ‘Clemsoning’ curse and previous Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia by going 11-2 and beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

So why are they ranked here?
Offense, offense, offense. And some offense sprinkled in. Quarterback Tajh Boyd is a legitimate Heisman candidate and he’ll have Sammy Watkins to throw to for a third straight year. Watkins had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2012 — at least by his standards — because of a variety of issues, from a suspension to injuries, but he still finished second on the team in receiving yards. His touchdown production should rise again after getting in the end zone just four times.

Anything else?
The defense improved under first-year coordinator Brent Venables. With as good as the Tigers offense projects to be, there’s more wiggle room on that side of the ball. Also, can Clemson finally beat South Carolina after dropping four straight games?

2. Florida State (Last year: 12-2; beat NIU in Orange Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The ‘Noles won the ACC and beat NIU in the Orange Bowl. They also pulled their annual head-scratcher by losing to North Carolina State. The circle never ends, it seems.

So why are they ranked here?
Talent isn’t a question Tallahassee, but there are a lot of new faces. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston has a ton of upside at the quarterback spot, it just remains to be seen at this point how he handles his first year as starter. Wide receiver depth is becoming an issue too. The defensive line loses two pass rushers in Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner, but that’s an area stacked — almost unfairly — with capable players.

Anything else?
Florida State had a whopping 11 NFL draft picks in April, but Jimbo Fisher also had to replace roughly half his coaching staff. That’s a lot of turnover and it’ll be interesting to see how players and coaches jell this year.


CFT Predicts: the Big 12

Gary Patterson

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Big 12. 

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig TenPac-12

1. TCU (Last year: 7-6; lost to Michigan State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Thanks to injuries, dismissals and attrition of various varieties, the Horned Frogs tossed a lot of young players into their first Big 12 fire and still managed to win seven games. Included in the list of new faces was quarterback Trevone Boykin, who played out the final two months of the season while Casey Pachall dealt with substance abuse issues. Of all the success Gary Patterson‘s had in Fort Worth, 2012 may have been was his best coaching job, and a young defense buckled down in the final month of the season.

So why are they picked here?
Most of them youngins mentioned above are back. The offense should be fine no matter which quarterback, Pachall or Boykin, takes the field. And they’ll have options at their disposal too. Running back Waymon James averaged nearly 10 yards per carry in two games before going down with a season-ending knee injury. In that vein, TCU’s backfield had its fair share of injuries, but when healthy, it should flourish alongside a solid receiving unit.

And that defense? It should be the best in the conference with just about everybody coming back (minus linebacker and second-leading tackler Joel Hasley).

Anything else?
Some departures just before, and around the start of, preseason camp have put a dent in the offensive line and linebacker units. Defensive end Devonte Fields will miss some early-season action as well. But Patterson is well-respected around these parts and he’s shown as recently as a year ago that he can coach around injuries. Also, the Horned Frogs have some intriguing road games at Oklahoma (Oct. 5), Oklahoma State (Oct. 19) and Kansas State (Nov. 16) that should provide tough tests. Going to Lubbock in the early portion of the season (Sept. 12) and Ames in November (Nov. 9) aren’t always picnics, either.

2. Texas (last year: 9-4; beat Oregon State in Alamo Bowl)
What happened last season?
Texas experienced about as many ups and downs as a nine-win team could possibly go through in one season. The Longhorns got taken to the woodshed (again) by Oklahoma and still couldn’t find a way to beat Kansas State, but a come-from-behind win against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl cleansed the football palate just enough to make the offseason bearable. The offense, led by quarterback David Ash, was inconsistent and the defense exhibited too many breakdowns in fundamentals and tackling. 

So why are they picked here?
That’s a handsome question considering there wasn’t a lot praise being doled out in the 2012 recap. But the simple answer is Texas brings back among the most experienced group of starters not just in the Big 12, but in the country. There’s no denying the skill position talent on offense, where receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley should be complemented by the deepest backfield in the conference. If the defense can improve even a little — getting Jordan Hicks back should help — this team has the potential to be dangerous.

Anything else?
Yeah, about that Mack Brown. Two BCS championship appearances (and winning one) would normally eliminate Brown from being mentioned as a concern, but media members in Big 12 country didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in him when they picked Texas to finish fourth in the conference this year. I’m a little more convinced Texas will ascend to the top, or near the top, of the Big 12, which should be wide open this year. But if Brown can’t make it happen this year, it’s hard to see him hanging around much longer.


Saturday offseason one-liners

Bo Pelini
1 Comment

Some links from around college football on a Saturday… 

Breaking and important: Les Miles was almost in a SyFy movie called “Ghost Shark”. Instead, we’re left with the shattered dreams of what could have been.

— Speaking of acting, you have to hand it to Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. He was 100 percent committed in this prank he pulled on his players.

–The status of Kansas offensive lineman Pearce Slater is muddy at this time.

The Oklahoman examines the gamble of picking Trevor Knight as OU’s starting quarterback.

— Michigan State will be picking a starting quarterback on Monday.

— Wisconsin and Northwestern recently showed off some new lids for this season. These look pretty sharp.

— TCU has some new alternate unis as well.

— “Lane Kiffin, Ice Cream Man” is probably a horror film waiting to happen (you’re welcome, Hollywood).

— Oh, hello there, former Alabama football player Eddie Williams.

Goodbye from Ben

North Texas v LSU

Hey, all.

There’s really never a good lede for something like this, and if there was, it’d probably be self-indulgent anyway. So, here it is: yesterday was my last day at CFT. Beginning today, I’m moving on to a new opportunity in my career (and if you’re looking for more information, you can find it on my Twitter account).

You’ll still see some conference previews over the next day or so with my byline on them like some sort of ghost of college football past, but this is my last post.

I’m sad to be leaving CFT and NBCSports. I’ve had three tremendous years here and there are a lot of people who are responsible for that. Rather than spend (most of) my last post on CFT talking about me, I’d like to take a few moments and acknowledge them.

First, I have to thank my loving family and friends, who have given me their unconditional support and understanding while I chase the dream.

Thank you to Mike Florio and Larry Mazza. They’re two of the brightest, hardest working gents I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. They were there from Day 1 and gave me a chance out of faith. I am forever thankful to them.

Thank you to Tom Seely, Rick Cordella, Mike Miller, all the news desk guys and gals, past and present. There are some truly great people at NBC and I can’t say enough about how much fun they’ve been to work with over the years.

Thank you, John. Y’all, he’s more than my boss. He’s become a dear friend and I’ll cherish that for the rest of my life. I feel blessed to have had such a solid working and personal relationship with him. There were days when we’d literally email each other at the same time about the same site-related things. It was beyond creepy.

Finally, thank you. Yes, you. Thank you for reading, for making CFT a part of your day… or week… or whenever it is you visit. I appreciate it and I know John appreciates it. We haven’t always agreed on things, and that’s okay because you all have continued to be so loyal to this site. That alone rises above everything else. I mean, there were days when I could barely construct a sentence with a proper subject-verb agreement — yet y’all kept on comin’ back anyway.

I’ll certainly miss it here. CFT has been such a big part of my life over these last three years. It’s one of the first things I see in the morning and usually the last thing I shut down before I go to bed. Naturally, there is a sense of ownership I’ve gained from all of this. Moving on is definitely going to take some getting used to, but I will always look back on my time here fondly. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross again some day.

Until then, and with tears unapologetically welling up in my eyes, I say be good to each other, enjoy the season, and go Mean Green.

Signing off,


CFT Predicts: the Pac-12

David Yankey, David Shaw, Shayne Skov

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Pac-12.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SEC, Big Ten

Pac-12 North

1. Stanford (Last year: 12-2; beat Wisconsin in Rose Bowl)
What happened last season?
Though Stanford lost arguably the best quarterback to ever pass through the program in Andrew Luck, the Cardinal did something it couldn’t when Luck and Jim Harbaugh were on The Farm: win the Pac-12. David Shaw is quickly ascending the list of best college coaches in the country. I mean, the guy did a Ted Talk. Clearly Stanford is big-time now.

So why are they ranked here?
The Cardinal are experienced and there really aren’t many glaring weaknesses on either side of the ball. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is undefeated as a starter and has a solid offensive line and running game that brings back Tyler Gaffney. The defensive front seven returns plenty of starters too, including linebacker Shayne Skov. This is a solid team all around.

Anything else?
Things get a little more interesting schedule-wise in the second half of the season. The Cardinal play UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon in consecutive weeks before ending the year against Cal and Notre Dame. Weather that schedule and Stanford will absolutely be in the national title discussion. And I’d like their chances of winning it all (meaning, by rule of the jinx, they’ll go 8-5 and OMG I’m so sorry, you guys [sad face]).

2. Oregon (Last year: 12-1; beat Kansas State in Fiesta Bowl)
What happened last season?
Another BCS win for the Ducks would end up being the final game for coach Chip Kelly, who left for the NFL shortly thereafter. But the important story line here is that the one-point safety happened and we are all now better off as humans for seeing it.

So why are they ranked here?
The Pac-12 North looks like it could play out in a similar fashion to the SEC East, where Georgia and South Carolina could be slotted in either order as 1A or 1B. Oregon is actually the preseason favorite to win the North (and the league’s championship game) — albeit by the slimmest of margins — but if it comes down to it, I’m going to go with Shaw over first-year coach Mark Helfrich.

Anything else?
There’s a lot of national focus on Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel as far as as quarterbacks go, but keep an eye on Marcus Mariota. This redshirt sophomore was efficient in his first year as a starter, throwing for 32 touchdowns to just six interceptions while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. He has great size (6-foot-4 and 211 pounds) and athleticism.