CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 13 LSU

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2013 record: 10-3 overall, 5-3 in SEC (third in SEC West)
2013 postseason: Outback Bowl vs. Iowa (21-14 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 14/14
Head coach: Les Miles (123-45 overall; 95-24 in nine years at LSU)
Offensive coordinator: Cam Cameron (second season)
2013 offensive rankings: 29th rushing offense (202.3 ypg); 44th passing offense (251 ypg); 35th total offense (453.3 ypg); 23rd scoring offense (35.8 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: six
Defensive coordinator: John Chavis (sixth season)
2013 defensive rankings: 35th rushing defense (143.2 ypg); 13th passing defense (197.5 ypg);  15th total defense (340.7 ypg); 21st scoring defense (22 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: seven
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Stadium: Tiger Stadium (102,321; grass)
Last conference title: 2011

THE GOOD
The good when it comes to the LSU Tigers is usually the following: powerful running game and dominating defense.  2014 is not expected to be any different.  Sure, the Tigers lost their leading and No. 3 rushers, but Nos. 2 and 4 — Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard — return.  Oh, and there’s the addition of one of the most touted running back prospects in a decade or more, 2014 five-star signee Leonard Fournette — he could immediately make anyone and everyone say “Jeremy Hill who?” given the immense talent he possesses.  Among the returning starters are four offensive linemen, three of them seniors, which bodes well for both the revamped running game and whoever the new starter under center will be.  The defense returns seven starters from a group that finished inside the Top 20 in total defense and just outside the Top 20 in the most important statistical category: scoring defense.  LSU has won 10 or more games in seven of Miles’ nine years in Baton Rouge, including each of the last four seasons; given the amount of returning talent and the deep recruiting classes brought in year after year — all but two of those classes in the Top 10, none outside the Top 18 — don’t expect that win total to dip below double-digits in 2014.

THE BAD
As is ofttimes the case with the Tigers, it’s the departures, early and otherwise, that constitute a negative.  On offense, LSU lost its starting quarterback, top two wide receivers and nearly 1,800 rushing yards.  Defensively, the Tigers must replace its top two defensive tackles, although they grow athletic, dominant tackles on trees down on the bayou.  All of the departures, especially offensively, could make for choppy, uneven play early on; fortunately, after the opener against Wisconsin in Houston, LSU has a four-game stretch that consists of three games — Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State — that are essentially scrimmages that actually count.  The first conference tilt comes in the fourth game against Mississippi State (Sept.20); the first true conference test comes two weeks later against Auburn, which gives Les Miles and his coaching staff what they hope will be plenty of time to work out the kinks.

THE UNKNOWN
As is the case up and down the SEC, the quarterback position is a big unknown.  With Zach Mettenberger‘s departure, Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris — not necessarily in that order — will battle to take over as the starter.  While Jennings has the edge in experience — he served as Mettenberger’s primary backup in 2013 —  Harris came out of spring practice looking as the slight leader in the eyes of some observers.  Regardless of which player wins the job, LSU will, as it always does, rely heavily on a force-of-nature running game and ask its quarterback to be a mistake-free(ish) game manager.  Can either, though, come up big in the passing game when the need inevitably arises?  That question can’t and won’t be answered for several weeks on down the road.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Auburn, Oct. 4
Given how the series has played out over the last few years — and how important it’s been in both the conference race and national chase — I was extremely tempted to go with the Alabama game Nov. 8.  Instead, I’ll go with the road trip to Jordan-Hare a month earlier.  After all, The Plains Tigers are the defending SEC champions and BCS runner-ups, making them the first measuring stick (sorry, Badgers) for just where the Bayou Bengals are as a team.  With the two Tiger teams and the Tide all coming off a season in which they won 10 or more games — and with Texas A&M expected to dip a bit given the offensive departures and defensive attrition — most expect the SEC West to come down to, essentially, a three-team round-robin tournament.  The first of the three all-important games is LSU-AU; how that game plays out could go a long way in determining the division’s rep in the SEC title game.  Then again, Auburn lost to LSU last year and still stood atop the league at season’s end, so…

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: running back Leonard Fournette
The past two Heismans were won by a redshirt freshman for the first two times in the history of the award.  Could a true freshman ever break through that stiff-armed ceiling?  It seems doubtful, but Fournette certainly looks the part.  Fournette is a highly-touted five-star member of LSU’s most recent recruiting class, rated as the top running back in that class; the No. 1 player in the state of Louisiana; and the No. 4 player at any position in the country.  He’s a mountain of a man-child already at 6-1, 230 pounds, yet he’s one of the fastest players on the Tigers team.  His ability is off the charts; whether that ability translates into immediate on-field results is unknown, but don’t be surprised if he’s not at least on the periphery of the Heisman discussion at some point this season.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Report: CMU RB Berkley Edwards, brother of Braylon, heading to Michigan

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Berkley Edwards, the younger brother of former Michigan standout Braylon Edwards, is apparently following in his brother’s footsteps. According to a report from The Michigan Insider, Berkley Edwards is planning on transferring from Central Michigan to walk on with the Wolverines.

Edwards will be using a sixth year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to play his final season for the same program his brother and father Stan Edwards once did.

Edwards began his college career at Minnesota in 2013. He spent one year as a redshirt and later sat out the 2016 season as a transfer to Central Michigan. Edwards was a part of the Central Michigan special teams unit last season and has previously handled rushing duties at Minnesota. At Michigan, Edwards will likely fill a spot on the depth chart at running back and special teams, although his role is expected to be as a reserve option for each as he gets started with the Wolverines.

Edwards will be eligible to play for Michigan this season. Michigan has not formally announced the addition of Edwards to the football program at this time.

Two Western Michigan players medically disqualified

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Western Michigan running back Matt Falcon just can’t seem to catch a break, it seems. After injuring his knee last season, Falcon has been medically disqualified to play for the Broncos this fall, according to a Battle Creek Enquirer report. Western Michigan will also be without redshirt freshman defensive lineman Dezmond Lance, who has also been medically disqualified.

Falcon redshirted for Western Michigan in 2016 under former head coach and current Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck. Falcon came to Minnesota after being offered a medical scholarship at Michigan after a second ACL injury in his senior year of high school. He injured the same knee during camp prior to the 2017 season and managed to make just one appearance for the MAC program. Falcon rushed for 37 yards on 10 rushing attempts.

Due to his injury history, Falcon was likely only to play a reserve role in the running game for Western Michigan this fall. Regardless, not being able to contribute this fall has to be disappointing for a player that was once rated as a four-star recruit in high school. In terms of his eligibility, the time to petition for a medical exemption for an extra year of eligibility could eventually be on the table for Falcon, although that does not need to be decided just yet.

Junior defensive back Brad Tanner has also been confirmed to have left the program.

Big Ten revenue distribution hits $51 million

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The Big Ten continues to roll in gigantic piles of money. Details on the Big Ten revenue distribution for the past year were uncovered from a budget spreadsheet from the Michigan Board of Regents, in which it was revealed Michigan received a revenue distribution of $51 million from the Big Ten for the past fiscal year.

It is currently projected the Big Ten distributions will rise to $52 million for the next year, according to Detroit News reporter Angelique Chengelis (via Twitter).

That’s a nice payday for all parties involved and was to be expected given the recent changes to the Big Ten media partnerships. Last year, the Big Ten began making regular season games available to FOX in addition to its current partnership with ESPN and, of course, the Big Ten Network. That expansion of the media deal appears to have paid off for the Big Ten and should continue to fuel the revenue allotment for the next year as the deals with FOX and ESPN continue. The Big Ten’s revenue distribution the previous year was $36.3 million.

The Big Ten revenue distribution of $51.1 million eclipses the average $41 million distributions received by SEC members. It also continues to pace well ahead of the other power conferences; Big 12 members received $36.5 million, ACC members received between $25.3 million and $30.7 million, and Pac-12 schools received $30.9 million. For the sake of comparison, the American Athletic Conference recorded a total conference revenue of $74.47 million for the past year.

It’s good to be in a power conference. It’s even better to be in the Big Ten and the SEC, apparently.

UPDATE: As a reminder, Maryland and Rutgers will not receive a full revenue distribution until the 2020-2021 year. Nebraska was eligible for a full distribution for the first time as a Big Ten member, however.

Bowlsby suggests we may not actually be getting “more” bowls in 2020

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The college football bowl schedule may see some new bowl games beginning with the 2020 season, but Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby says that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more bowl games on the schedule. In a podcast interview with the Associated Press, Bowlsby noted the bowl structure is being worked on in order to raise the standards for a bowl game to exist and reflected on how recent changes to the bowl system could impact the current or future bowl line-up.

“We want ti to be an open marketplace. We want the market to dictate how many bowl games there are,” Bowlsby said to AP college football writer and AP Top 25 College Football Podcast host Ralph Russo. “We think it will arrive at a place of equilibrium. I think it a local organizing committee of a bowl would be very poorly advised to go into a season with one side of their game or both sides of their game open, but there are some circumstances under which that could exist.

It was recently reported three new bowl games could be added to the 2020 bowl calendar, including potential bowl games in Chicago and Myrtle Beach. As Bowlsby explains, just because a bowl game or two (or three) could be added, that won’t necessarily mean the number of bowl games will increase. Some bowl games currently in existence could cease to operate in the future due to the NCAA’s modified bowl certification process.

Bowlsby stressed the changes being made to ensure a bowl game is able to operate without digging any holes for the bowl committee and local community. Bowlsby also emphasized the recent limits on how many bowl tie-ins a conference can lock down and how that may impact how a bowl game manages itself.

The ACC and SEC are limited to 10 bowl tie-ins, the Big Ten limited to eight, and Pac-12 gets seven and the Big 12 is restricted to six bowl tie-ins. Limits for the non-power conferences have also been established. On top of that, the Pac-12 recently made a conference rule that will prohibit 5-7 teams from participating in a postseason bowl game even if a school would be invited due to APR scores to fill any vacancies.

“We think we are going to be less likely to go into the 5-7 pool than we’ve been in the past.”

Basically, if you see a bowl game struggling to draw ratings and sell tickets, it could be in some danger.

You can listen to the full interview to hear Bowlsby discuss the bowl future as well as the new transfer rule HERE.