Atlantic Coast Conference

COLUMBIA, SC - AUGUST 28: Kenny Hill #7 of the Texas A&M Aggies drops back to pass South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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TCU, Auburn, others name starting quarterbacks

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Game week is upon us, which means it’s time for those mired in quarterback derbies to declare a winner. At least for Week 1.

A number of announcements have come down the pike of late, so we funneled them all into one post here.

First, TCU announced that Texas A&M transfer and short-lived Heisman favorite Kenny Hill has beaten Alamo Bowl hero Foster Sawyer to win the Horned Frogs’ starting role next Saturday against South Dakota State.

“He’s in as good a shape as I’ve ever seen him,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Stronger, faster than he was coming out of high school. I mean, he’s done a great job of re-doing himself.”

Auburn has the unenviable task of opening against college football’s best quarterback in Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and the player charged with that task will be Sean White. The one-time Tiger starter reclaimed his role by beating former Florida State quarterback and Last Chance U. star John Franklin III and incumbent Jeremy Johnson.

“It feels really good,” White told Auburn Undercover. “I feel blessed to be in this position, and I feel responsible to lead this team against Clemson. I’m happy coach put this responsibility on me and my teammates believe in me. I feel like they have a reason to believe in me. We’ll be ready to go come Saturday.”

At Wisconsin, Bart Houston will lead the Badgers on the field as they open against LSU at Lambeau Field. In what may be a savvy karma play, head coach Paul Chryst selected Houston, a fifth-year senior named after Packers legend Bart Starr, over redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. “I felt like Bart did everything he needed to do and earned the right to get the start,” Chryst said in a release.

At Virginia Tech, new head coach Justin Fuente tabbed Jerod Evans as his starter over fifth-year senior Brenden Motley and true freshman Josh Jackson. A Dallas native and Trinity Valley College transfer, Evans is the first JuCo transfer to ever win the Hokies’ starting gig. Fuente indicated more than just Evans will play in the Hokies’ opener opposite Liberty.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Fuente said, via the Roanoke Times. “We have a lot of development, a lot of coaching, a lot of mentoring left to do with all three.”

Finally, Fresno State selected redshirt freshman Chason Virgil over Ford Childress and Kilton Anderson to start as the Bulldogs open at Nebraska. For Virgil, the announcement comes at the end of a sordid saga after Mississippi State pulled his scholarship offer late in the recruiting process.

“He earned the job. It wasn’t that we’re just selecting somebody,” Fresno head coach Tim DeRuyter said of Virgil, via the Fresno Bee. He clearly separated himself. If you look at the statistics, he had over twice the throws and less than half of the interceptions of any of the guys that were close to him. The longer we were in the system, the clearer it became.”

CFT Previews: Playoff Darkhorses

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)
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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.

CFT Previews: Playoff Predictions

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 19: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes prior to the game Northern Illinois Huskies at Ohio Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images)
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The College Football Playoff barrels into its third year of existence this fall. So far, everything has played perfectly to form: eight bids, eight conference champions. But threats to the status quo lurk. Notre Dame is capable of crashing the party, as is Houston. And there is the threat — and inevitability — that one conference gets two teams in the dance.

Let’s shake some things up.

Behold, CFT‘s super-official, extra-serious College Football Playoff projections:

Peach Bowl: No. 1 Florida State (13-0, ACC champion) vs. No. 4 Michigan (11-1, at-large)

Florida State romps through the regular season, tested only by a 10-point win over Clemson, an eight-point win over Louisville and a three-point squeaker over Florida at the close of the regular season. Michigan, meanwhile, builds momentum with five straight home games to open the season, leading to a cathartic road win at Michigan State and another over Big Ten West champion Iowa. Like 2006, Michigan heads to Columbus for a showdown with national title implications on the line. And, like 2006, the Wolverines fall, but two-loss champions in the Big 12 and Pac-12 allow Jim Harbaugh and company to become the first at-large berth in CFP history.

Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Alabama (12-1, SEC champion) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (12-1, Big Ten champion)

Each team follows its own beaten path to the Playoff. Ohio State overcomes an early loss at Oklahoma to romp through the rest of their schedule, which closes with back-to-back-to-back wins over ranked teams in Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa to close the regular season. Alabama, meanwhile, doesn’t lose until a raucous upset at Tennessee on the second Saturday of October but, for the third year in a row, the Tide ripped through the second half of their schedule — Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn — culminating in a revenge win over Tennessee for the SEC championship and CFP golden ticket.

So, there you have it. There’s basically no point in playing this season now, right?

Tim Beckman steps down from volunteer post at North Carolina

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 16:  Head coach Tim Beckman of the Illinois Fighting Illini gives instructions to his team against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Champaign, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Tim Beckman will no longer volunteer with North Carolina’s football program, it was announced Thursday night.

Head coach Larry Fedora indicated Wednesday his friend and former Illinois head coach was worth the cyclical round of bad press, but this statement from his boss indicated the decision was never run up the proverbial flag pole. Said UNC chancellor Carol Folt:

“When I first learned yesterday that Coach Larry Fedora had invited former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman to serve as a volunteer with the football program, I was surprised and disappointed. The decision for Mr. Beckman to withdraw from his volunteer position was the right thing to do, and moving forward I don’t expect this situation to recur. I continue to put a great deal of trust in Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham and Coach Fedora to educate and develop our student-athletes and to ensure we meet the high standards we all expect at Carolina.”

Fedora agreed, or at least it was decided for him that he would agree.

“Tim will no longer serve as a volunteer with our program. I brought Tim here to help a friend gain experience from our staff, but after meeting with him today, we agreed his presence had become too much of a distraction.”

Added Beckman:

“I appreciate the opportunity Coach Fedora gave me to stay connected to the sport and be around one of the best staffs in the country.  His willingness to help a friend was a benefit both personally and professionally.  I do not wish to be a further distraction to the team or University and I will no longer serve as a volunteer at UNC. I wish Larry and the program nothing but success going forward.”

Beckman was forced out at Illinois nearly a year ago today after an investigation by a Chicago law firm uncovered a culture of player mistreatment, where Beckman and his assistants routinely pressured players to play through major injuries, and belittled and threatened those who would not.

Beckman sat out the 2016 season, and now he’ll sit out the ’17 campaign as well.

Alabama claims top spot in preseason FWAA-NFF Super 16 poll

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 13:  Amari Cooper #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates scoring a touchdown against Southern Miss Golden Eagles with Cam Robinson #74 of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Make it a trifecta for the defending champions.

Just like the AP and Coaches’ polls, Alabama will enter the season as the No. 1 ranked team in the Super 16 poll, a joint venture between the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. (Full disclosure: both myself and CFT‘s Kevin McGuire are voters. I had Florida State at No. 1; Kevin chose LSU.)

The Super 16 poll mirrored both major polls as well by placing Clemson at No. 2, Oklahoma at No. 3 and Florida State at No. 4. The Super 16 mirrored the AP by selecting LSU over Ohio State to round out the top five.

The full poll:

  1. Alabama — 657 total points (26 first-place votes)
  2. Clemson — 628 (9)
  3. Oklahoma — 543
  4. Florida State — 542 (4)
  5. LSU — 510 (3)
  6. Ohio State — 468
  7. Michigan — 404 (1)
  8. Stanford — 343
  9. Tennessee — 330
  10. Notre Dame — 305
  11. TCU — 172
  12. Ole Miss — 171
  13. Michigan State — 168
  14. Houston — 160
  15. Washington — 111
  16. UCLA — 73

Iowa, Georgia, Oklahoma State and Oregon rounded out the leaders among the Also Receiving Votes crowd.