CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 24 Louisville

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2011 record: 7-6 overall, 5-2 in Big East (1st-tie)

2011 postseason: Belk Bowl (31-24 loss to North Carolina State)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked

Head coach: Charlie Strong (14-13 overall, 14-12 in two seasons at Louisville)

Offensive coordinator: Shawn Watson (second season at Louisville, second as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 93rd rushing offense (121.5 ypg); 74th passing offense (211.5 ypg); 103rd total offense (333 ypg); 98th scoring offense (21.9 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: seven

Defensive coordinator: Vance Bedford (third season at Louisville, third as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 10th rushing defense (100.5 ypg); 68th passing defense (227.4 ypg); 23rd total defense (327.9 ypg); 17th scoring defense (20.1 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: seven

Location: Louisville, Ky.

Stadium: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (55,000; FieldTurf)

Last league title: 2011 (co-champs with Cincinnati and West Virginia)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
Every year I have a feeling that I’m rating a team way too low — see Auburn, 2010 — and this year the Cardinals are the team I simply, for whatever reason, couldn’t pull the trigger on a higher ranking and will likely regret it at season’s end. With 14 starters returning from a very youthful squad and West Virginia leaving for the Big 12, the ‘Ville is clearly the class of the Big East in 2012. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who started as a true freshman last season, is a superstar in training and in possession of a ceiling as high as any player at his position in the country. A defense that was well above average is expected to see nothing but improvement with seven returning starters.

The Bad
Two of the first three games of the new season are home contests against Kentucky and North Carolina, while road trips to defending Conference USA champ Southern Miss and Big East rival (for now) Pittsburgh as well as a home game against USF await in late September/mid-October. For a team as young as the Cardinals will be yet again, it could be a rough start to the season — or just the seasoning the squad needs to go back-to-back in the Big East.

The Unknown
Last season, West Virginia was the clear preseason front-runner in the Big East. This year, it’s Louisville. How that status as the hunted instead of the hunter is handled will be a fascinating dynamic to watch play out, especially, again, given the baby-faced makeup of the roster.

Make-or-break game: vs. USF, Oct. 20
I agree with the esteemed Phil Steele: USF should be the surprise team in the Big East and may loom as the Cardinals’ biggest obstacle to a conference title. The ‘Ville traveled to the Bulls and came out with a 10-point win in the regular-season finale that helped land the Cardinals a co-Big East title. Another win, this one at home, over the experienced Bulls would go a long ways toward securing another title.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
While 14 touchdowns vs. 12 interceptions doesn’t exactly scream Heisman candidate, there’s no denying the talent Bridgewater possesses and how much potential the sophomore has still yet to tap into.  Charlie Strong and his coaching staff did a masterful job easing the true freshman into his role as a first-year starter, never allowing Bridgewater to throw more than 30 passes in a single game until the Belk Bowl loss to North Carolina State that saw the ball in the air 43 times. This year, however, expect to see more — much more? — of the offensive load to shift to Bridgewater’s right arm, which as a result should lead to a vast statistical improvement.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Maryland confirms two grad transfer additions, including ex-Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson

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Mike Locksley‘s reshaping of his initial roster at Maryland continues, with a pair of previously expected additions officially coming to fruition.

Tuesday afternoon, the Terrapins confirmed that quarterback Josh Jackson and tight end Tyler Mabry have joined Locksley’s football program.  Jackson comes to College Park from Virginia Tech, Mabry from Buffalo.

As they have graduated from their respective universities, both Jackson and Mabry will be eligible to play immediately in 2019.  Jackson has two seasons of eligibility remaining, while Mabry has just one.

After going through a tumultuous offseason, Jackson began 2018 as the Hokies’ starting quarterback only to suffer a season-ending injury in mid-September.

As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Jackson started all 13 games for the 9-4 Hokies. He passed for 2,991 yards and ran for another 324 yards while accounting for 26 touchdowns — 20 passing, six rushing.  The passing yards were the most for an FBS freshman that season, while the touchdowns passes were the second-most at this level.

Given the fact that he’ll be immediately eligible, Jackson will head into summer camp as the favorite to lay claim to the Terrapins’ starting job under center.

The past three seasons, Mabry has totaled 567 yards and three touchdowns on 60 receptions.  The Michigan native totaled 27 catches for 230 yards and two touchdowns this past season for the Bulls.

Mabry and Jackson are two of four FBS transfers Locksley has added this offseason, joining Virginia Tech wide receiver Sean Savoy (HERE) and Ohio State linebacker Keandre Jones (HERE).

After pulling out of transfer database, Auburn WR Kolbi Fuqua no longer with Tigers

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Never mind that initial never mind.

In early April, it was reported that Auburn wide receiver Kolbi Fuqua had entered the NCAA transfer database; nearly a month later, that first never mind arose as it was reported that Fuqua had pulled his name from the portal, seemingly signaling a desire to remain with the Tigers. Monday, however, an AU official confirmed that Fuqua is no longer a part of Gus Malzahn’s squad.

247Sports.com‘s Brandon Marcello writes that “Fuqua did not return to the Auburn football program following the conclusion of spring practices, a source close to the team tells Auburn Undercover. The circumstances surrounding his departure are not clear.”

The development comes a little over a week after Auburn added a commitment from Zach Farrar, a wide receiver who began his collegiate career at Oklahoma but heads to The Plains from the junior college level. Farrar comes to the Tigers with two years of eligibility he can begin using immediately this coming season.

A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2018 recruiting class, Fuqua was rated as the No. 28 player at any position in the state of Alabama. Fuqua played in one game this past season, and didn’t catch a pass in that very limited action.

JUCO next step for LSU transfer Dominic Livingston

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When Dominic Livingston announced in mid-February that he would be transferring from LSU, the defensive tackle indicated that the move was being made so as to be closer to his home in Texas because of unspecified family issues.  Monday, Livingston followed through on that plan of attack.

Speaking to 247Sports.com, Livingston confirmed that his collegiate playing career will continue at Kilgore College.  A community college in Kilgore, Texas, Livingston’s new college football home is roughly 200 miles from his hometown of Houston; his old home of Baton Rouge is roughly 270 miles from that same hometown.

Not surprisingly, Kilgore told the same website that he “will play a semester at Kilgore and go from there,” an obvious indication that he expects to be back at the FBS level in 2020.

If that is indeed the case, Kilgore would have three years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2020 season.

A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2018 recruiting class, Livingston was rated as the No. 38 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 74 player at any position in the state of Texas.  As a true freshman, Livingston appeared in exactly one more game than I did.

Illini DE who suffered severe spinal injury speaking, eating and sitting up

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There is some positive news when it comes to a distressing situation that developed over the weekend.

Illinois true junior defensive end Bobby Roundtree sustained what was described as a severe spinal cord injury in a swimming accident Saturday and underwent surgery a day later.  According to the Associated Press, Roundtree is progressing well following the surgery and, while he remains hospitalized, is speaking, eating and sitting up.

Several members of the Illini football program, including Lovie Smith, traveled to Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, Fla., to be with the injured player.

“Bobby Roundtree is exactly what you want in a student-athlete,” a statement from the head coach began. “He is a hard worker, dependable, a dedicated student and a leader.

“This is devastating to his teammates, the entire Fighting Illini family and his family and friends. We will give Bobby all the support possible as he battles through his recovery. Please keep Bobby and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Roundtree, who played his high school football in Largo, Fla., has started 20 games the past two seasons since coming to the Illini as a three-star member of their 2017 recruiting class.  This past season, the 6-5, 245-pound end led the Illini in tackles for loss with 12.5 and pass breakups, and was second in sacks with 7.5 and quarterback hits with four.

For that, the media named Roundtree honorable mention All-Big Ten for the 2018 season.