CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 16 Clemson

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2013 record: 11-2 overall, 7-1 in ACC (2nd in Atlantic division)
2013 postseason: Orange Bowl vs. Ohio State (40-35 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 8/No. 7
Head coach: Dabo Swinney (51-23 overall; 51-23 in 6 years at Clemson)
Offensive coordinator: Chad Morris (4th season at Clemson)
2013 offensive rankings: 56th rushing offense (175.62 ypg); 9th passing offense (332.9 ypg); 9th total offense (508.5 ypg); 8th scoring offense (40.2 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 4
Defensive coordinator: Brent Venables (3rd season at Clemson)
2013 defensive rankings: 53rd rushing defense (155.69 ypg); 16th passing defense (200.6 ypg); 24th total defense (356.3 ypg); 24th scoring defense (22.2 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 7
Location: Clemson, South Carolina
Stadium: Memorial Stadium (81,473; Grass)
Last conference title: 2011

THE GOOD
At first glance it may look as though Clemson is likely to be in a bit of rebuilding mode after losing some talented players (including Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Roderick McDowell) but the Tigers return more seniors in 2014 than any previous season in the Dabo Swinney era. This year’s senior class needs eight wins to set a new school record for wins by a recruiting class, and that certainly looks attainable this season. Cole Stoudt is ready to take over the responsibility as starting quarterback after playing the role of Boyd’s understudy each of the past three seasons. The strength of Clemson could actually come on the defensive side of the football, with a deep defensive line led by defensive end Vic Beasley, who had 13 sacks last season. This Clemson team may not be as good as they have been in recent seasons, but Swinney’s recruiting in recent years have assured Clemson of a very good team once it gets going.

THE BAD
Clemson plays in the same division as Florida State. With as far as Clemson has come in recent seasons, the bar has been set to a height that may not be able to be cleared by Clemson this season, in part because they happen to play in the same division as the best team in the country (and defending national champions, and Clemson has to play on the road in Tallahassee). It could be a rough start for this Clemson team with road games at Georgia and Florida State in September, so it may be unfair to truly judge Clemson until later in the season. Clemson should be one of the best teams in the ACC by the end of the season, but they will likely be playing from behind Florida State the entire way.

THE UNKNOWN
How much will Clemson have in the tank at the start of the season. As just referenced above, the Tigers are going to be thrown right into the fire in September with rod games at Georgia, a team some expect to compete for the SEC East and perhaps even the SEC championship this fall, and later at Florida State, defending ACC and national champions and looking prime for a repeat bid out of the gate. Clemson could very well lose those two games, but will they be able to at least make them look respectable? No coach or player will take much solace in a lose, but proving worthy of going toe-to-toe with Georgia ad Florida State regardless of the outcome could go a long way in setting the tone for the remainder of the season. Clemson beat Georgia last year in a wild game at home, but failed to show up for the home game against the Seminoles. Revenge is one thing, but respect is an entirely different aspect.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. South Carolina
Regardless of what happens against Georgia or Florida State in September, the time has come for Clemson to prove it can compete with and beat South Carolina. Even Clemson’s best teams the past few years have been crippled by their in-state rivals from the SEC. Clemson has lost this game five straight years, and those games have not been all that close either. Each game has been decided by a minimum of 10 points, giving Steve Spurrier and his program some in-state bragging rights. Clemson gets this year’s meeting at home, and it would be a great way for the Tigers to put a bow on what could turn out to be a double-digit win season.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: Defensive end Vic Beasley
We know that defensive players are probably never going to win the Heisman Trophy, but it should not go without mention just how good Vic Beasley is for the Tigers. He could have joined Boyd and Watkins in the NFL Draft this past spring but he opted to return for one more year at Clemson, and that is fantastic news for the Tigers. If he gets off to a fast tart in high-profile games at Georgia and Florida State, and helps Clemson’s defense lead the way to victories in each, then the campaign will quickly emerge as the latest defensive hopeful to snag the Heisman.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

 

WR son of Jerry Rice commits to Colorado over Michigan, Oregon, Arizona State

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Next up in the latest installment of “You Know You’re Getting Old”: Jerry Rice.

Or, more to the point, the son of the former San Francisco 49er great and NFL Hall of Famer, with Brenden Rice announcing Tuesday evening on Twitter that he has verbally committed to play his college football at Colorado.  The wide receiver chose Mel Tucker‘s program over three other finalists in Arizona State, Michigan and Oregon.

At one point in the recruiting process, it appeared Rice was ticketed for Oregon; Arizona State then became the front-runner over the summer.  Official visits to Michigan and Colorado further clarified the process, with the trip to the latter, for CU’s come-from-behind win over Nebraska, seemingly sealing the deal.

“Coach Tucker’s enthusiasm really stood out,” Rice told 247Sports.com. “He is only loud when he needs to be and it was great to be able to see him in the locker room at that game against Nebraska. It was just different and it gave me goosebumps. I think I could run through a brick wall for that guy and it definitely makes me feel like that vision is something special.”

The 6-2, 204-pound Rice is a three-star 2020 prospect, rated as the No. 70 receiver in the country and the No. 12 player at any position in the state of Arizona.

West Virginia loses ex-Alabama LB VanDarius Cowan to season-ending injury

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Suffice to say, VanDarius Cowan‘s second season in Morgantown after leaving Tuscaloosa hasn’t gone as planned.

In late August, it was confirmed that Cowan would have to sit out the first four games of the 2019 season because of unspecified eligibility issues.  After serving that suspension, Cowan made his WVU debut in the Oct. 5 loss to Texas; a week later, the linebacker suffered a knee injury in the loss to Iowa State.

Tuesday, first-year head coach Neal Brown announced that Cowan underwent surgery and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.  The specific nature of the injury wasn’t divulged.

Cowan was originally a four-star member of Alabama’s 2017 recruiting class.  In July of last year, he was dismissed by the Crimson Tide after being charged with misdemeanor assault.  A month later, he landed at West Virginia.

The Florida native sat out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.

In less than two full games this season, Cowan was credited with six tackles and a sack.

Weather postpones Game 4 of Astros-Yankees, pushing Ohio State-Northwestern from FS1 to Big Ten Network

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UPDATED 1:21 PM ET: Due to the weather-forced change in schedule for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, Friday night’s Ohio State-Northwestern game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

The game had originally been scheduled to air on FS1.

Kickoff time for the Big Ten clash is still set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

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This isn’t exactly optimal.

Due to the forecast of inclement weather, Major League Baseball announced that Game 4 of the American League Championship Series Wednesday night between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees has been moved to Thursday night.  That means Game 5 of the ALCS, originally scheduled for Thursday night, has been pushed to Friday night and will be televised on FS1, with first pitch set for 7:08 p.m. ET.

So, why is news on the postseason of a stick-and-ball sport appearing on a college football website?

Ohio State is scheduled to travel to Evanston to square off with Northwestern Friday.  On FS1. With kickoff set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

The ALCS is airing on FS1 because FOX is televising its newly-acquired WWE Friday Night Smackdown franchise, so a network broadcast won’t be possible for the Big Ten matchup.  More than likely, the game will air on either the Big Ten Network or FOX business.

As of this posting, neither the conference nor FOX has offered up exactly where the game will air.

Regardless of how it ultimately plays out, this will be a huge black eye for a league that shouldn’t be hijacking high school football’s night in the first place, regardless of how few games there are on Fridays (for now).

Wake QB Jamie Newman’s status for Week 8 to be determined

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The defense wasn’t the only side of the ball that ran into injury issues during Wake Forest’s first loss of the 2019 campaign.

An injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder knocked Jamie Newman out of the Week 7 loss to Louisville. An on-site X-ray, as well as other further testing, showed no significant structural damage to the joint.

As Wake looks to bounce back from that loss against Florida State Saturday, though, the sophomore’s status is officially to be determined.

“He’s kind of day-to-day,” head coach Dave Clawson said. “He got hurt at the end of the second quarter. We had X-Rays to try and eliminate the worst thing that could have happened to him and that was eliminated. He was able to return. He’s sore and we’ll just take it day-by-day and see how he feels later in the week. It’s been one practice and we’ll have a better feel later in the week.”

“And we won’t share that when we know it. I don’t have to,” Clawson added, presumably in a middle-school-boy-at-recess voice.

This season, Newman leads the ACC in passing yards (1,772), passing touchdowns (17) and passer rating (160.7).  He’s ninth, tied for sixth and 17th nationally in those respective categories.

Should Newman be unable to go against the Seminoles, Sam Hartman would get the nod.  In relief of Newman this past weekend, the sophomore threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as the Demon Deacons nearly pulled off a stunning comeback on the Cardinals.

Last season as a true freshman, Hartman started the first nine games before going down with an injury, opening the door for Newman to take over the job.