CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 14 Michigan State

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2011 record: 11-3 overall, 7-1 in Big Ten (1st in Legends)

2011 postseason: Big Ten title game (42-39 loss to Wisconsin); Outback Bowl (33-30 win over Georgia in 3 OT)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 11/No. 10

Head coach: Mark Dantonio (62-39 overall, 44-22 in five seasons at Michigan State)

Offensive coordinator: Dan Roushar (six seasons at Michigan State, two as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 78th rushing offense (137.9 ypg); 41st passing offense (252.5 ypg); 56th total offense (390.4 ypg); 37th scoring offense (31 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: four

Defensive coordinator: Pat Narduzzi (six seasons at Michigan State, six as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 9th rushing defense (100.5 ypg); 11th passing defense (176.9 ypg); 6th total defense (277.4 ypg); 10th scoring defense (18.4 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: eight

Location: East Lansing, Mich.

Stadium: Spartan Stadium (75,005; grass)

Last league title: 2010 (co-champs with Ohio State and Penn State)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
Eight starters from a defense that finished sixth and 10th nationally in total defense and scoring defense, respectively?  Yeah, that’s pretty good.  The Spartans also return talented experience in the backfield as well as four-fifths of its starting offensive line, which should give first-year quarterback starter Andrew Maxwell time to adjust to his new role as the triggerman of Michigan State’s offense.

The Bad
Despite the returning talent in the backfield and along the line, the Spartans must still find a way to replace four of its top pass catchers in 2011, all of whom combined for a total of 202 of Michigan State’s 288 receptions last season.  One saving grace for the receiving corps is DeAnthony Arnett, the transfer from Tennessee who was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA.  As a true freshman at Tennessee last season, the former four-star recruit caught 24 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns, so he adds some much-needed experience, limited as it is, at the position.

The Unknown
After four years of outstanding leadership off the field and production on it, the Spartans are entering uncharted territory in Year One of the post-Kirk Cousins Era.  Exit Cousins and enter Maxwell, the top-rated quarterback in the Class of 2009 who has played sparingly since coming to East Lansing thanks to the presence of Cousins.  If Maxwell would’ve made it through an entire set of spring practices this wouldn’t be as much of an unknown; unfortunately, a knee issue kept him out the last two weeks of spring and cost him valuable reps.  That bump in the road aside, Maxwell certainly possesses the talent to keep the Spartans in Big Ten contention, especially if it’s in his head that he needs to be Maxwell v1.0 and not Cousins v2.0.

Make-or-break game: vs. Michigan, Oct. 20
This one’s the mother of all no-brainers, or at least an aunt.  Not only are the two schools bitter in-state rivals, but both, along with Nebraska, are expected to serve as the front-runners for the Legends title, which the Spartans captured en route to an appearance in the Big Ten’s inaugural championship game.  Last season at home, the Spartans came out on the winning end of a 28-14 score.  This season, Michigan State must make the trek to Ann Arbor to face a team with even higher expectations, if it is to extend its winning streak to in the series to five games.

Heisman hopeful: running back Le’Veon Bell
Bell has a couple of things going in his favor.  First, after being named starter in the middle of October, Bell ended up leading what up until then was an anemic Spartans’ rushing attack with 948 yards and 13 touchdowns.  Secondly, with a first-year starter under center, Bell should shoulder a hefty portion of the offensive workload, especially early in the season.  Add the two together, and the junior is likely to put up the type of numbers that generally grab the attention of Heisman voters.

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Maryland regents take control of football program investigations

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The University System of Maryland Board of Regents is taking over control of two investigations related to the Maryland football program, a statement from the regents said Friday evening. That decision was made following a unanimous vote by the regents on Friday.

“Earlier today, the Board of Regents was fully briefed by UMCP President Wallace Loh about the circumstances of [Maryland football player Jordan McNair]’s tragic death, about the actions that have been taken since, and finally about the alarming allegations that have emerged in the last week related to the football program,” Board of Regents Chair James Brady said in a released statement. “After a long and robust discussion, the board voted unanimously to assume responsibility for the investigations into these two separate issues. Our goal is to ensure that all system universities, including UMCP, are actively working to protect the health and safety of every student and to foster a supportive culture in which everyone can flourish.”

The two investigations currently ongoing at Maryland are connected to the response to the death of McNair and about the culture of the Maryland football program following a report detailing alleged intimidation by a now former strength coach working for head coach D.J. Durkin.

No decisions on the status of Durkin or any others within the Maryland football program or university have been announced at this time. More details about the board’s plans moving forward will be announced sometime in the next week, according to the released statement from the board of regents.

Urban Meyer investigation to be completed Sunday; report shared with Ohio State regents next week

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Around this time next week — or shortly thereafter — we should know whether or not Urban Meyer has a future as the head football coach at Ohio State.

In a statement released Friday evening, the university announced that the independent working group conducting the investigation into Meyer will wrap up its probe of the coach Sunday. That day falls directly in line with the expected 14-day timeline given by the university earlier this month.

Meyer’s fate won’t be known this weekend, however, as the investigators will compile a report based on the results of their investigation. When that report is complete, it will be shared with the university’s Board of Regents; the report is expected to reach the regents at some point next week.

From the university’s statement:

Following receipt, the working group will share the report with the Board of Trustees in an executive session to be held next week. As required by law, public notice of the meeting will be released at least 24 hours in advance. Following deliberations with the board, and appropriate time for consideration, President Michael V. Drake will announce his decision.

The decision will likely come down to either Meyer being fired or Meyer being suspended for X number of games to start the 2018 season, but staying on as the head coach. There’s a growing sense that there’s a much greater chance for the latter to happen than the former. Still, the board is expected to give significant weight to the investigative team’s findings, which will influence the direction in which the president goes.

Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 1 as questions into his handling of domestic abuse allegations made against his now-former assistant coach, Zach Smith, surfaced.  The university launched an investigation into Meyer’s actions the day after the head coach’s leave was announced.

Zach Smithfired by Meyer as OSU wide receivers coach July 23 in the wake of allegations that he abused his ex-wifeCourtney Smith, during their marriage, met with the investigative team on Tuesday of this week.  Courtney Smith, along with her attorneys, met with investigators the day before her ex-husband.

In a statement Aug. 3, Meyer claimed that he has “always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels.” Allegations of domestic abuse stemmed not only from Zach Smith’s time at OSU, but while he was on Meyer’s Florida staff in 2009 as well.

Meyer’s boss in Gainesville, former UF athletic director Jeremy Foleydeclined comment on that 2009 incident earlier this month.  Meyer’s current boss in Columbus, OSU athletic director Gene Smith, could also be in the university’s crosshairs as Zach Smith alleged that the AD contacted him about the allegations in October of 2015.

As of late last week, Gene Smith was on vacation but “available to speak with the investigative team.” Whether that happened or not hasn’t been confirmed either way.

Big Boi, T-Pain to perform after Florida State-Wake Forest game

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All fans attending Florida State’s home game against Wake Forest on October 20 will be treated to a postgame concert by Big Boi and T-Pain. The school announced the postgame concert on Twitter on Friday afternoon as a ticket incentive leading up to the start of the new season.

T-Pain is a native of Tallahassee, and his appearance after the FSU game will surely be well received by the local crowd. But here is where this gets a little interesting. Big Boi’s son, Cross Patton, is a running back recruit in the Class of 2019. Florida State is not in the hunt for Patton as a recruit, according to Rivals, as the unrated recruit is currently fielding offers from a handful of FCS and Division 2 schools at this time. A handful of FBS programs are listed on Patton’s Rivals profile, but it appears it is too early to get a feel for how his recruiting journey will play out.

Florida State has dabbled in musical entertainment surrounding its football program recently, so the addition of a postgame concert this fall is not at all out of left field. Previous music artists to perform in Doak Campbell Stadium have included Salt N Pepa, Vanilla Ice, and Cole Swindell.

Oklahoma to stripe Memorial Stadium for UCLA game

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Once again, Oklahoma is going to stripe Norman Stadium for a home game this season. As they did last year, Oklahoma will color coordinate the sections of their home stadium in school colors to keep the color coordinating fan trend in full swing this fall.

The game Oklahoma has chosen for this year’s stripe-out game will come early on September 8 when the Sooners host Chip Kelly and UCLA in Week 2.

Oklahoma will hope this year’s stripe out goes better than last year’s attempt. Oklahoma orchestrated a stripe out for the home game against Iowa State, which turned out to be the lone loss for the Sooners until the College Football Playoff. Iowa State stunned Oklahoma, 38-31.