CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 21 Nebraska

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2013 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in Big Ten (2nd in Legends Division)
2013 postseason: Gator Bowl vs. Georgia (24-19 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: Unranked/No. 25
Head coach: Bo Pelini (82-58 overall; 82-58 in 7 years at Nebraska)
Offensive coordinator: Tim Beck (7th season, 4th as offensive coordinator)
2013 offensive rankings: 19th rushing offense ( 215.69 ypg); 97th passing offense (196.7 ypg); 59th total offense (412.4 ypg); 48th scoring offense (31.9 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 8
Defensive coordinator: John Papuchis (7th season, 4th as defensive coordinator)
2013 defensive rankings: 54th rushing defense (156.08 ypg); 32nd passing defense (214.6 ypg); 39th total defense (370.7 ypg); 49th scoring defense (24.8 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 7 
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
Stadium: Memorial Stadium (92,000; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 1999

THE GOOD
Nebraska is going to run the ball, perhaps better than any team in the Big Ten. Not only do the Huskers return Ameer Abdullah, but they also have Imani Cross and Terrell Newby. The three combined for over 2,400 rushing yards in 2013. When Nebraska does want to take to the air though, having Kenny Bell on the verge of rewriting the school record books is a nice luxury to have.

THE BAD
The ball control concerns have plagued Nebraska each of the past two seasons. Nebraska has lost 38 fumbles the last two seasons, which is incredible when you consider Nebraska has played 27 games in that span. That is almost one and a half fumbles lost per game, nevermind how many fumbles Nebraska has had but recovered.

THE UNKOWN
Nebraska may have position players on offense in pretty good shape, but the offensive line is hitting a reset button this fall. That does not mean it will be shaky, but it does suggest there is going to be some time needed before the unit really starts to gel. How much time will that take? The line will have some upperclassmen on the line but the experience is thin at best. It is worth having some concern about for Nebraska fans, but the Huskers have a pretty good track record when it comes to linemen. The faster the line can come together, the better for Nebraska, obviously. Games against Miami and Michigan State will be difficult hurdles if the offensive line is not together.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Michigan State
Nebraska is going to get what could be an entertaining home game against Miami form the ACC in September, but the true measuring stick for the Huskers will come in the first weekend of October. That is when Nebraska heads to East Lansing to take on the defending Big Ten champions, Michigan State. The Huskers may very well return home with a loss in that game, but how they perform against that caliber of defense could be an indicator for what to expect for the rest of the season. After Michigan State the Huskers get a bye week to spend some time learning and reviewing what has worked and what has not to that point. The Michigan State game could give some positive signs for the second half of the season or it could set up what could be a rough two months ahead in Lincoln.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: RB Ameer Abdullah
This one is easy. Running back Ameer Abdullah is considered one of the best in the Big Ten (along with Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin) and the nation. Last year Abdullah led the Big Ten in rushing with 1,690 rushing yards but he entered the endzone just nine times. That could very well change a bit in 2014 as Abdullah takes on even more of a workload, if you can believe that. With the quarterback situation in a bit of a transition, Abdullah should be counted on time and time again to lead the offense. Fortunately, this is something he should be able to handle more often than not.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Report: FIU RB Shawndarrius Phillips played entire 2018 season while being wanted on domestic violence warrant

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This isn’t a good look for Butch Davis or his Florida International football program — or law enforcement.  At all.

According to the Miami Herald, FIU running back Shawndarrius Phillips was arrested Wednesday for domestic battery by strangulation.  The arrest stemmed from a June incident involving an ex-girlfriend, for which an arrest warrant was issued Aug. 24 by a Broward County court.

WSVN-TV in Miami writes that “Phillips was set to leave for the Bahamas for a bowl game with the team when officers picked him up on an outstanding warrant.”

Phillips saw action in 11 of the Panthers’ 12 games this season, which means the true junior played the entire 2018 regular season while being wanted on a domestic violence charge.  Other than “we have no comment at this time,” an FIU spokesperson has declined to comment on the report, including whether or not the football program was aware of the situation prior to Wednesday’s arrest.

As noted by the Herald, and as is the case as of Friday morning, Phillips’ name is still listed on FIU’s official online roster.

The newspaper also detailed the events of June 17 that led to Phillips’ arrest this week:

[The ex-girlfriend] said a discussion about who she was dating a month after their breakup turned physical when Phillips, who lists at 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds, began choking her with his right hand.

As she struggled to speak or even breathe, she said, “Phillips got her on her feet and walked her back towards his couch until she fell back on the couch,” according to the affidavit.

Scratching his hand, she said, did no good and he remained atop her. She claimed Phillips got off her, saying, “Don’t you ever speak to me or my family again.” He then ordered her out, saying, “If you don’t leave, I’m going to break your jaw.”

Phillips’ 393 yards and four rushing touchdowns were both third on the Panthers this season.  His 117 yards in a 63-24 win over UMass Sept. 15 marked a career-high and was the first time he had passed the century mark in his three seasons.

Gus Malzahn: ‘Was never told I had to change my contract to keep my job’

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So much for that particular storyline.

Late last month, it was reported that Gus Malzahn would be forced to accept a reduced buyout$32 million per his contract — to remain for his seventh season as Auburn’s head football coach.  That report came just a day or so after Bob Stoops‘ name was attached to the job, which the retired former Oklahoma head coach vehemently pushed back against.

In his first meeting in front of the media since that speculation surfaced, Malzahn addressed the talk head-on and left no gray area as to his view of his situation on The Plains.

“A couple things I wanted to clear up that are out there,” the head coach said by way of al.com. “First of all, my contract has not changed one bit. I was never told I had to change my contract to keep my job. I have the support of our athletic director and president. There’s nobody hamstringing me from doing our job.”

In early November, athletic director Allan Greene publicly stated that Malzahn would be the Tigers’ head coach in 2019; this past Monday, in his first public comments since the reports surfaced, Greene reaffirmed his support.

“To confirm, Coach Malzahn is dedicated to this program and he has my support as we work together to move forward,” the AD said in a letter published on the school’s official athletics website. “Our discussions are ongoing, and we will focus on evolving in all facets of the program to achieve better and more consistent results.”

In six seasons at Auburn, Malzahn has posted a 52-27 record overall and a 28-20 mark in SEC play.  After making it to the BCS championship game in his first season, the Tigers have reached double-digits in wins just one season (10-4 in 2017).  After entering this year ranked in the Top 10, AU ended the regular season at 7-5.

Florida, USF tweak future series to move game at Raymond James Stadium up to 2021

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While we came awfully close to seeing Florida play an in-state squad from the AAC (ahem, UCF) this postseason, we’re guaranteed just such a matchup down the road when the Gators hook up with USF for a previously scheduled three-game series. While that 2-for-1 was put on the books back in May, it was just announced by the schools that they’re making a change already.

According to a release, the single game that USF is responsible for at Raymond James Stadium has been shifted up to 2021 instead of the 2023 date originally agreed upon. The pair of games at the Swamp in Gainesville will remain on the docket for 2022 and 2025 so this is just a slight tweak to the series.

The moves help the Gators fill out their (more near-term) future schedules a bit more as they have just a single opening in 2021 after the Bulls adjusted their end of the series. In-state foes USF and Florida State are, however, all that’s on the docket for Florida starting in 2022 and beyond so AD Scott Strickland has some work to do over the coming months and years on that front.

The flip side is that USF has quite the slate of difficult opponents in 2021, with the home-game in Tampa against Florida sandwiched between trips to BYU and N.C. State in the same season. The team does have one more non-conference opening that year, which you would assume would wind up being a lower-level school at home.

NDSU promotes Matt Entz to replace new Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman

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North Dakota State is sticking with what works. Namely, that includes promoting from within.

The program announced on Thursday that defensive coordinator Matt Entz will indeed become the Bison’s next head coach in the coming weeks, taking over the job from new Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman after he was hired by the Big 12 school earlier this week.

“Having watched Matt as the defensive coordinator for the past five years, I knew he possessed the qualities to be the head football coach at North Dakota State: leadership, integrity, toughness, and a sincere appreciation for the history and tradition of Bison football,” ,” AD Matt Larsen said. “I’m eager to work with Coach Entz and his staff as they continue building upon the championship tradition of Bison football.”

This will be Entz’ first head coaching gig and comes after serving the past five years as NDSU’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Prior to joining Klieman’s staff, he found plenty of success as a DC at previous stops with FCS Western Illinois and Northern Iowa.

“Great things happen to great people, and I am so happy for the Entz family,” Klieman added. “Matt is the right guy for the job. I know the Bison will have unbelievable success. The program is in great hands.”

Both Klieman and Entz will remain in their current roles with NDSU until the conclusion of their FCS playoff run before moving on to their new gigs. The former had been promoted once Craig Bohl left for Wyoming a few years ago and that’s worked out just fine for the Bison so it appears the school has no qualms at going back to the well and doing the same thing with the latter. Entz certainly understands expectations around the ol’ Fargo Dome going forward, which includes this weekend’s upcoming semifinal game against South Dakota State.