CFT predicts: the Sun Belt

1 Comment

Like other non-power conferences, the Sun Belt will be getting a different look in the near future. Florida International and North Texas are out to Conference USA, while Georgia State and Texas State will enter in 2013.

FIU is the preseason favorite for the second consecutive year and Arkansas State will have a new coach in former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how the Sun Belt should shake out:

(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)

1. Florida International (last season: 8-5; lost Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl) 
Mario Cristobal continues to be the hot coaching commodity, but he turned down Rutgers for another year with FIU. The Golden Panthers are the favorite to win the league this year despite losing receiver T.Y. Hilton.

2. Arkansas State (last season: 10-3; lost GoDaddy.com Bowl)
The Red Wolves have Gus Malzahn as the coach to replace Hugh Freeze. They do not, however, have former Auburn running back Michael Dyer joining them this year, next year or any year. Dyer was dismissed from the team last month after another run-in with the law.

3. Western Kentucky (last season: 7-5) 
Willie Taggart is doing great things at Western Kentucky, and he’ll keep the momentum going this year despite losing the most productive running back in the conference last year in Bobby Rainey. The Hilltoppers have a tough schedule to start, but could end strong.

4. Louisiana-Lafayette (last season: 9-4; won New Orleans Bowl) 
Mark Hudspeth is quickly making a name for himself as one of the hot name coaches in college football. However, the Ragin’ Cajuns return only 12 starters and need to replace practically their entire defense.

5. Troy (last season: 3-9)
The Sun Belt had belonged to Troy for the past couple of years, but a 3-9 campaign last season was an eye-opener. The Trojans could pass the ball, but not much else and were statistically one of the worst teams in 1-A (FBS) football in 2011. The return of nine offensive starters and 15 overall should help.

6. Louisiana-Monroe (last season: 4-8) 
Things should get bad and fast for Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks do have Brent Leonard coming back at receiver, but ULM also has to replace more than half their defensive starters from a year ago.

7. North Texas (last season: 5-7)
Dan McCarney was able to pull UNT out of the dark ages and lead the Mean Green to the most wins  in a season since 2004. UNT has lots of returning starters, but they do lose their key running back, Lance Dunbar. Also, North Texas plays just five home games this season.

8. Middle Tennessee (last season: 2-10) 
The Blue Raiders have been trending down since 2009, but Rick Stockstill isn’t on the hot seat just yet. Another year like 2011, though? Things could be warming up. Like North Texas, MTSU only plays five home games this year.

9. Florida Atlantic (last season: 1-11) 
Legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger has had better departures than the one he had at FAU. Ex-Nebraska assistant Carl Pelini will try to get the Owls back into the postseason and has added former Ohio State and Alabama wide receiver Duron Carter. 

10 South Alabama (last season: 6-4 in FCS) 
South Alabama, already a Sun Belt basketball member, finally makes its football debut. Even in a mostly terrible league, the Jaguars will struggle despite a relatively soft non-conference schedule.

—————————

Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ‘em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.

ACC
Big East
Big Ten
Big 12
Conference USA
MAC
Mountain West
Pac-12
SEC
WAC
Independents

Jim Thorpe Award reveals 14 semifinalists for 2018 honor

Getty Images
Leave a comment

You know how I know we’re getting close to the end of another regular season? Award semifinalists are being announced.

The first major award to do as such is the Jim Thorpe Award, with the trophy going to the nation’s top defensive back announcing a 14-player list of semifinalists. None of this year’s group were finalists or semifinalists for an award claimed last year by Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The SEC leads the way with three of the 14 semifinalists, followed by two apiece from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. Two Group of Five conferences, the AAC and Conference USA, have one each. Notre Dame is the lone independent to make the in-season cut.

Miami, LSU and Texas are the lone teams with two semifinalists — Michael Jackson Jr. and Jaquan Johnson for the Hurricanes; safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Greedy Williams (pictured) for the Tigers; and cornerback Kris Boyd and safety Caden Stearns for the Longhorns.

Nearly half of the announced semifinalists (six) are seniors. Another three each are juniors and sophomores, while there is one freshman — the Longhorns’ Stearns.

As far as specific positions, eight are corners and six are safeties.

Below is the entirety of the players eligible to claim the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award:

Ugochukwu Amadi, Oregon, Safety, Sr.
DeAndre Baker, Georgia, Cornerback, Sr.
Kris Boyd, Texas, Cornerback, Sr.
Nate Brooks, North Texas, Cornerback, Sr.
Grant Delpit, LSU, Safety, So.
Richie Grant, UCF, Safety, RSo.
Lavert Hill, Michigan, Cornerback, Jr.
Michael Jackson, Sr., Miami (FL), Cornerback, Sr.
Jaquan Johnson, Miami (FL), Safety, Sr.
Julian Love, Notre Dame, Cornerback, Jr.
Amani Oruwariye, Penn State, Cornerback, Sr.
Taylor Rapp, Washington, Safety, Jr.
Caden Sterns, Texas, Safety, Fr.
Greedy Williams, LSU, Cornerback, So.

Duke loses starting LT to fractured ankle

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Duke’s fairly astonishing spate of injuries to starters shows no signs of abating anytime soon.

The Blue Devils announced over the weekend that Jaylen Miller underwent surgery Sunday morning to repair a fractured right ankle. Miller suffered the injury in Saturday’s loss to Virginia.

As a result, the redshirt sophomore offensive tackle will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2018 season.

Miller had played in all seven games this season, starting each of the last three contests at left tackle. Those were the first starts of his career. Prior to this season, the 6-3, 310-pound Miller had played in just two games.

Miller’s ankle is just the latest in a long line of injuries that have hit the Blue Devils this season. From the football program’s release:

Miller becomes the 11th Blue Devil with starting experience to miss at least one game this season due to injury, joining running back Brittain Brown, cornerback Michael Carter II, defensive tackle Edgar Cerenord, cornerback Mark Gilbert, center Zach Harmon, safety Jordan Hayes, quarterback Daniel Jones, defensive end Drew Jordan, safety Jeremy McDuffie, linebacker Koby Quansah and wide receiver Aaron Young.

Report: USC starting QB JT Daniels expected to play vs. Arizona State

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Could it be much ado about nothing?

With starter JT Daniels in concussion protocol and his backup, Matt Fink, nursing three broken ribs, it was appearing somewhat likely that USC would be forced to turn the offense over to No. 3 quarterback Jack Sears. According to one report, however, the redshirt freshman may not be needed this weekend after all — at least to start with.

Obviously, the Trojans’ quarterback situation/predicament will be fluid throughout the rest of the week leading up to the Week 9 matchup with Arizona State this Saturday and possibly not decided until we get closer to kickoff.

Daniels, the true freshman who has started every game this season, suffered his head injury in the loss to Utah this past Saturday. Fink injured his ribs in the same game.

Sears, meanwhile, has not attempted a pass in his collegiate career.

Warde Manuel essentially claims ‘SCOREBOARD!’ in latest Michigan-Michigan State salvo

Associated Press
2 Comments

The most recent public pissing match between a pair of in-state rivals shows no sign of abating anytime soon.  At all.

To recap:

In response to that statement, U-M athletic director Warde Manuel released his own statement Monday night.  In it, Manuel began by writing about a pregame conversation with his MSU counterpart, Bill Beekman, that he preferred to keep private.  To end it, Manual not-so-discreetly declared “SCOREBOARD!” on his rivals.

“It is a great rivalry between two Michigan Universities, and the focus should remain on the game, the way it’s played and,” wait for it… “the final result.”

Well played, Mr. Manuel.  Well played.

I had a conversation on the field with Michigan State Athletic Director Bill Beekman prior to the game regarding the situation that occurred during pregame warmups. My preference is to keep that conversation and any further discussions between us. I will work with our staff and the conference to see how this situation can be prevented from happening in the future. It is a great rivalry between two Michigan Universities, and the focus should remain on the game, the way it’s played, and the final result.