CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 20 Texas

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2013 record: 8-5 overall, 7-2 in the Big 12 Conference (4th in the Big 12)
2013 postseason: Alamo Bowl vs. Oregon Ducks (30-7 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: Not ranked
Head coach: Charlie Strong (37-16 overall; 1st year at Texas)
Offensive coordinatorJoe Wickline (1st year at Texas)
2013 offensive rankings: 36th rushing offense (196.2 ypg); 79th passing offense (212.5 ypg); 64th total offense (408.7 ypg); 65th scoring offense (29.3 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: seven
Defensive coordinator: Vance Bedford (1st year at Texas)
2013 defensive rankings: 83th rushing defense (183.1 ypg); 53rd passing defense (224.2 ypg);  68th total defense (407.2 ypg); 57th scoring defense (25.8 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: eight
Location: Austin, Texas
Stadium: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (100,119 capacity; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2009

THE GOOD
Texas is absolutely loaded with talent from the top of the roster to the bottom. It’s only been two years since the Longhorns were putting together Top 5 recruiting classes. And Texas should benefit from those top recruits becoming upperclassmen. Running back Malcolm Brown, linebacker Steve Edmond, cornerback Quandre Diggs and defensive tackle Malcom Brown were elite recruits now expected to be leaders of the team. The talent on the roster is there to mold. It simply comes down to finding the right scheme and place said talent in the position to succeed. That’s where a new coaching staff can come in, have instant success and win at a high level even with the same team that’s struggled to win more than eight games the past four seasons.

THE BAD
Last season, the Louisville Cardinals finished as the top defense in college football. The Cardinals staff is now taking over at Texas, and they inherit a Texas defense that played far below expectations in recent seasons. The argument can be made that Texas plays in the wide-open Big 12 conference, which features some of the most explosive offenses in college football and skews the stats. Yet, Texas’ defense last year was substandard even for the Big 12. The Longhorns didn’t finish better than fifth in the conference in any of the major defensive statistics. The one area on defense the team excelled in 2013 was getting to the quarterback. Unfortunately, the team’s top sack artist from a year ago, Jackson Jeffcoat, has departed for the NFL and will be replaced by junior Shiro Davis. Bookend Cedric Reed returns as does the ultra-talented Malcom Brown. The Longhorns’ new head coach, Charlie Strong, hangs his newly fashioned 10-gallon hat on playing tough and fundamentally sound defense. The talent is there for the new staff to exploit. The coaches must simply develop the available talent to play at a much higher level than they’ve grown to expect in recent years.

THE UNKNOWN
There is a new sheriff in town and his last name is Strong. A multitude of questions comes along with the departure of Mack Brown after 16 seasons as the Longhorns’ head coach. Strong has already begun to answer some of those questions. The new coach immediately displayed strong leadership when he either dismissed or suspended multiple players, which included four projected starters. Recruiting appears to be picking up in recent weeks. These moves, however, are merely the first indications of Strong’s performance. Strong and his staff will need to build off their current momentum and ride it into the season. Strong proved to be a highly successful head coach at Louisville. But can he improve the Longhorns’ stagnant offense? Can Texas’ defense play to Strong’s standards? Will the young talent on the roster develop and reach their potential? As Strong answers questions, more will continue to come until he quiets the rabble with strong team performances each and every Saturday.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Oklahoma
The Red River Rivalry is important every year, but it’s exponentially so this season. When the Longhorns meet the Oklahoma Sooners on Oct. 11, it’s a chance for Strong to make a statement. Mack Brown won his last game against the Sooners, and the team did so in an impressive fashion. If Strong falls short, the negative comparisons will automatically commence. While Brown’s Longhorns upset the 12th ranked Sooners a year ago, Oklahoma is regarded as Top 5 program this fall. Strong can set the tone during this game and prove he was the right choice for the job by taking out Texas’ bitter rival.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: RB Malcolm Brown
While Texas’ roster is supremely talented, potential Heisman candidates are limited (to put it kindly). None of the players currently on the roster have lived up to their lofty status coming into Austin as recruits. Malcolm Brown is the closest of the bunch. The running back has shown the ability to take over games for stretches and be a dynamic runner. Last season, Malcolm Brown led the team with 904 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He was at his best late in the season with three straight games of 128 yards or more. If quarterback David Ash can play at a higher level and consistently threaten defenses in the passing game, Brown could explode for massive rushing totals. And the University of Texas could have its first Heisman Trophy winner since Ricky Williams.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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.

Texas Tech regents approve $20 million football facility renovation, may expand alcohol sales at stadium too

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Seemingly like clockwork, when a Power Five school hires a new head coach they typically will wind up improving facilities in some fashion shortly thereafter. Consider that the case at Texas Tech following the ouster of Kliff Kingsbury and the recent hire of Matt Wells to lead the football program.

The school’s board of regents met on Thursday down in Lubbock and among the agenda items was approving a $20 million renovation to the team’s football facilities. As is nearly always the case in the state, the project was naturally approved and will move forward, per the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, as soon as Wells is able to sign off on any changes he wants to the plans:

That wasn’t the only football-related move on the agenda for the Red Raiders however, as athletic director Kirby Hocutt put in his pitch to open up beer and wine sales at Jones AT&T Stadium as soon as the upcoming season.

As noted above, there are numerous Big 12 schools who have opened the taps in general seating areas over the years. Oklahoma State was the most recent to do so in 2018 but it’s been brought back at Texas and West Virginia, among others, to great success (i.e. $$$) the past few years.

Holy Cross AD reportedly set to take same position at Air Force after lengthy search

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Air Force appears to finally have their man to lead the Falcons’ athletic department.

Some eight months after former AD Jim Knowlton departed for California, it appears the program is on the verge of plucking Holy Cross AD Nathan Pine to fill the same position in Colorado Springs. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette first reported the news.

Col. Jennifer Block has served as interim athletic director in the wake of Knowlton’s departure but it’s clear that the Air Force has always wanted to keep a civilian in the top post long term. To that end, this will be the first time the Falcons’ AD will be hired and paid under the umbrella athletics corporation at the school, per the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Pine has a lengthy background out West despite spending the past five years leading the Crusaders. An Oregon State alum, he has worked for the Beavers and fellow Pac-12 program California as well. In addition, he’s made stops at Maryland and, funny enough, academy rival Army too.