CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 25 Iowa

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2013 record: 8-5 overall, 5-3 in Big Ten (3rd in Legends division)
2013 postseason: Outback Bowl vs. LSU (21-14 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked
Head coach: Kirk Ferentz (108-79 overall; 108-79 in 16 years at Iowa)
Offensive coordinator: Greg Davis (3rd year at Iowa)
2013 offensive rankings: 51st rushing offense (179.85 ypg); 95th passing offense (197.1 ypg); 85th total offense (376.9 ypg); 79th scoring offense (26.3 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 8
Defensive coordinator: Phil Parker (16th year at Iowa)
2013 defensive rankings: 19th rushing defense (128.38 ypg); 9th passing defense (174.7 ypg); 6th total defense (303.1 ypg); 9th scoring defense (18.9 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 5
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Stadium: Kinnick Stadium (70,585; Field Turf)
Last conference title: 2004 (split with Michigan)

THE GOOD
Iowa returns eight starters on offense, including quarterback Jake Rudock, leading rusher Mark Weisman, leading receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley and three offensive linemen.The schedule is also favorable by avoiding conference games against Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State. In addition, Iowa gets Wisconsin and Nebraska at home in what could turn out to be two crucial games in the Big Ten West at the end fo the season.

THE BAD
Although Iowa generally has a solid defensive unit, there are some holes to fill on that side of the football in 2014. Iowa loses six starters from last year’s team, including all three linebackers and a pair of defensive backs. Three of those lost defensive leaders accounted for 322 tackles last season. Four of the top five tacklers from last year’s team are gone, which means there is room for new players to step up into big roles this fall at Iowa. It is a considerable amount of turnover for the Hawkeyes defense, but Iowa will have some time to figure it all out before Big Ten play.

THE UNKNOWN
Is this an Iowa team that resurfaces every few years to make a Big Ten run when few are paying attention, or will this be another year of mediocre to slightly above average play? Health stability is always a concern for Iowa it seems and it could quickly derail any high hopes Iowa may have for this season. The schedule sets things up nicely for Iowa, but the Hawkeyes still have to prove they can grab a hold of things. Ball State may not be a pushover but they will not be Northern Illinois (which beat Iowa last season). Iowa State can always be a toss-up it seems, and a road game at Pittsburgh should be a good test before Big Ten play. Can Iowa get out of that early stretch without a blemish or will they be limping into Big Ten play already?

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Minnesota
Iowa’s schedule is very favorable when it comes to Big Ten play. As long as the Hawkeyes can avoid slipping up before November, the final two games of the season at home against Wisconsin and Nebraska could leave the Hawkeyes in control of the West Division championship. But before Iowa can worry about that they will have to come out of Minnesota with a win on November 8. If all goes to plan before then, this will be Iowa’s last real road challenge before entering the final stretch of the season. Iowa has won each of the previous two meetings with the Gophers by double digits, but they will not be able to get too confident this season with so much possibly on the line. Win and the Big Ten West could be theirs to lose. Lose and they will likely lose ground to Wisconsin and/or Nebraska with time running out.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: RB Mark Weisman
Weisman for Heisman? That may be a reach, but his importance to Iowa team this year is not to be taken lightly.  After leading the Hawkeyes in rushing with 975 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago, Mark Weisman appears to be ready to lead the charge on the ground once again this fall. When Iowa succeeds it is often because they have a talented running back in the backfield. Weisman may not be as high-profile as Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon or Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, but he should be expected to pile up some good yardage this season for Iowa.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Two-game suspensions for Louisiana Tech’s starting QB, star WR

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Suffice to say, Louisiana Tech’s offense will be at less than full strength when it takes the field in Week 12 later on today.

Thursday night, the Tech football program announced that three players, junior wide receiver Adrian Hardy, senior outside linebacker James Jackson and quarterback J’Mar Smith, have been suspended for Friday night’s game against Marshall.  Hardy and Smith will also be suspended for next Saturday’s road game against UAB.

Per the school, all three players were slapped with their respective suspensions because of violations of unspecified athletic department policies.

“This matter is being handled internally,” the program said in a statement. “Neither [head football coach Skip] Holtz nor athletic department officials will address this further.”

Smith is in his third season as Tech’s starting quarterback and has thrown for 2,483 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2019.  Smith will be replaced in the starting lineup by Aaron Allen, who has thrown nine passes this year and will be making the first start of his collegiate career.

Hardy leads the Bulldogs in receiving yards with 482 and is second in receptions with 39.

Tech is in the midst of an eight-game winning streak that has them sitting atop the West Division of Conference USA at a perfect 5-0.  Their only loss came in the season opener against No. 19 Texas.

Report: Florida State no longer considers Bob Stoops a candidate

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It appears you can put this particular piece of drama to bed.

In the days after Willie Taggart was fired as Florida State’s head coach, Bob Stoops‘ name was connected to the opening through various levels of speculation.  At one point, FSU’s athletic director, David Coburn, publicly stated that the current head coach and general manager of the XFL’s Dallas franchise is a candidate for the job; Stoops subsequently stated that “the rumors/reports of him being a candidate for the Florida State job opening are not accurate.”

Nearly two weeks later, and citing two sources familiar with the search, the Tallahassee Democrat is reporting that “Florida State has been in contact with representatives of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and does not consider him a candidate for its vacant football coach position.”

With the former Oklahoma coach out of the running — if he was even in the running in the first place — FSU could turn its attention to current FBS head coaches such as Memphis’ Mike Norvell, Penn State’s James Franklin and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell.  Interim head coach Odell Haggins is also drawing support from current Seminole football players to take over the job permanently.

Coburn has long maintained that the university is on track to have a replacement in place before the end of November.

Nick Saban says he suspended unnamed Alabama player for Miss. St. game for not going to class

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Let the sleuthing and/or Internet message-board speculating commence in earnest.

Thursday night on his weekly radio show, Nick Saban revealed that he had suspended one of his Alabama football players for this Saturday’s game against Mississippi State in Starkville.  The head coach even gave a specific reason for the suspension — the player didn’t go to class.

What Saban didn’t do?  Divulge the name of the player who has been suspended.

Alabama will be looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season last weekend against a Mississippi State squad that the Crimson Tide has beaten the last 11 times they have played, with the Bulldogs’ last win coming in 2007.  That, of course, was Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa.

Robert Mathis, Erik Williams part of the Black College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020

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A handful of the greatest Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) players — and an administrator and coach as well — are set to be honored for their collegiate gridiron exploits.

The Black College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday revealed six individuals who will be a part of its Class of 2020. Four of the inductees are former players — Earl “Air” Harvey (North Carolina Central), James Hunter (Grambling State), Robert Mathis (Alabama A&M) and Erik Williams (Central State).

Joe Taylor, a former coach at FAMU, Hampton, Howard and Virginia Union,  ex-MEAC commissioner Dennis Thomas will be officially inducted next February.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we congratulate the Class of 2020,” said BCFHOF Co-Founder and 2011 Inductee Doug Williams. “Everyone that has vote to determine the next class understands how difficult it is to only choose six. The Class of 2020 is a great representation of the talent that has come from Historically Black Colleges & Universities.”

Williams, a third-round pick in the 1991 NFL Draft, spent most of his professional career with the Dallas Cowboys, earning first-team All-Pro honors three times as an offensive tackle as well as being a part of three Super Bowl-winning teams.

The year after setting an FCS record with 20 sacks, Mathis was selected in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. In his 14 seasons with the Colts, Mathis was named to the Pro Bowl five teams and owns a Super Bowl ring as well.