Some thoughts on Ohio State and being No. 1

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The last time Ohio State opened a season as the top-ranked team in college football was in 2006. That should change this September when the defending national champions from Columbus start the new season in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech, the only team to hand the Buckeyes a loss last fall. With all of the talent coming back to the squad this season, Urban Meyer should see Ohio State receive its first No. 1 ranking since his arrival that did not come at the end of the postseason.

Ohio State won the national championship last season despite never being the top team in the AP Top 25 at any point during the season. That may sound odd, but it is not quite as rare as you might think.

In 2010, Auburn was close to pulling off the same feat. The Tigers, with Cam Newton at quarterback, worked its way up the polls all season long. The Tigers were given the No. 1 ranking by the Associated Press only after defeating Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn carried that number one ranking to the BCS Championship game against Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks. Oregon had previously been ranked No. 1 by the AP voters, yet lost the top spot to Auburn despite not losing. Florida pulled off a similar feat in 2007, with Meyer’s Gators (and Tim Tebow) grabbing the top spot in the poll after knocking off the previous No. 1, Alabama, in the SEC Championship Game.

But when was the last time a national champion earned the top AP ranking only after winning it all? You only need to look back to the 2011 season.

Alabama entered the 2011 season ranked No. 2 in the AP poll, and it seemed the Crimson Tide were destined to be in that position. Preseason No. 1 Oklahoma had not lost a game but slipped to No. 2 in the polls behind Alabama’s division rival, LSU. LSU took over the top spot in the poll after defeating three top 25 teams in its first four games (including No. 3 Oregon on a neutral field and road games against Mississippi State and West Virginia). Alabama moved down to No. 3 but moved back up to No. 2 to set-up that season’s edition of the Game of the Century against the Tigers, which turned out to be a field goal kicking contest (we know Alabama does not fare well in those). Alabama stayed in the hunt though and managed to sneak into the BCS Championship game to face the SEC champion LSU Tigers, and the rematch went the way of Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. Alabama was given its first No. 1 ranking in the AP poll at the conclusion of the season, the first time they held the top spot in the poll all year.

Ironically enough, this also happened a few years prior and it did so with an Ohio State and Urban Meyer connection.

In 2006, Ohio State entered the year as the preseason No. 1 in the AP poll. Jim Tressel and his Buckeyes proved worthy of the top billing all season long, knocking off two No. 2 teams in the process (Texas and Michigan) and a pair of other top 25 programs (Penn State and Iowa) while Troy Smith went on to win a Heisman Trophy. Meanwhile, Meyer had something special brewing in Gainesville, with Florida floating around inside the top 10 all season long, just waiting to strike. After putting away Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game (and No. 2 USC was upset by UCLA), the Gators chomped on Ohio State’s championship dreams in the BCS Championship Game. The victory earned Florida a postseason No. 1 ranking from the AP, the only time all season Ohio State had not held down the top spot.

So what did Florida do the next season? The Gators started the next season ranked No. 9 by the AP voters and finished the season 9-4. But that Florida team was not quite as loaded as Meyer’s Buckeyes should be entering this upcoming season. If Ohio State finishes this upcoming season with just nine wins, it would be a complete shock.

Other Recent Close Calls

Florida State’s 2013 national championship season did not see the Seminoles ranked atop the AP poll until the ACC Championship Game, where newly crowned No. 1 Florida State took over the throne from snake bitten Alabama (Kick-Six!) just before facing Duke in the ACC Championship Game.

In 2012, Alabama held the top spot in the polls for the majority of the season until Johnny Manziel and SEC newcomer Texas A&M stunned the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Alabama reclaimed the top spot in the polls after demolishing Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game.

Wisconsin receiver Aron Cruickshank transfers to Rutgers

Wisconsin receiver Aron Cruickshank is transferring to Rutgers.
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Former Wisconsin wide receiver Aron Cruickshank may be leaving the Badgers, but he will remain in the Big Ten. Cruickshank announced he is transferring to Rutgers.

Cruickshank confirmed his transfer to Rutgers with a post on his Instagram account on Saturday afternoon. According to NJ.com, Cruickshank was making an official visit to Rutgers this weekend. The visit must have gone well because he announced his transfer decision on the same day. Cruickshank announced his entry to the transfer portal earlier this month.

This is a nice addition for new (again) Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. If the hiring of Schiano was supposed to entice more talent in and around The Garden State to want to stay close to home to play Big Ten football, then the transfer decision of Cruickshank is an encouraging start for the Scarlet Knights. Cruickshank is a Brooklyn, New York native, and Rutgers does love to attach itself to the New York metropolitan region.

Cruickshank appeared in all 14 games played by Wisconsin in the 2019 season, including all 12 regular-season games, the Big Ten championship game, and the Rose Bowl. Cruickshank was used mostly on special teams with 23 kickoff returns for 674 yards and two touchdowns. Cruickshank had one of his kickoff touchdowns in the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon. He returned four kickoffs for 194 yards in the game. He also returned one kickoff to the house earlier in the season at Nebraska.

Cruickshank will have to sit out the 2020 season due to NCAA transfer rules. That will leave the former Badgers receiver with two years of eligibility beginning in 2021.

Texas brings Jay Boulware home from Oklahoma

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Jay Boulware is crossing sides in the Red River Rivalry… again. Boulware officially joined the Texas coaching staff on Saturday, the school announced. Boulware will be the special teams and tight ends coach for the Longhorns.

“Jay is a proven, accomplished coach and special teams coordinator who as a former Longhorn and Texas native, has deep roots in our state,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said in a released statement. “He also has extensive experience coaching in the Big 12, having spent a decade in our league, and has worked with teams that have competed at the highest level, including a National Championship team at Auburn in 2010.”

“I’ve been watching this program from afar since the day I left there in the spring of 1997, and I’ve always had it in my mind that I would like to come back someday and help Texas win a National Championship,” Boulware said in his released statement.

Boulware comes to Texas from rival Oklahoma. Boulware coached with the Sooners from 2013 through last season and was a part of multiple Big 12 championship teams and a program that participated in the College Football Playoff each of the past two seasons. Boulware was Oklahoma’s special teams and running backs during the last seven seasons. HE previously coached tight ends at Texas, NIU, Arizona, Utah, and Auburn.

Boulware started his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Longhorns in 2014. He eventually was named tight ends coach and spent three seasons with his alma mater (Boulware played offensive tackle for Texas in 1991 and 1992). His coaching stops have included Northern Illinois, Arizona, Stanford, Utah and Iowa State, where he joined Gene Chizik and followed him to Auburn. In 2013, Boulware was hired by Wisconsin to be a part of a new staff being compiled by Gary Andersen, but he left the Badgers for Oklahoma just months later.

Clemson DT Xavier Kelly announces entry to transfer portal

Clemson redshirt junior Xavier Kelly will leave Clemson as a graduate transfer.
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Defensive tackle Xavier Kelly will no longer be a part of the Clemson football program. The redshirt junior announced he has entered the NCAA transfer portal and will look for another school to wrap up his collegiate career.

“I have never shied away from hard work or a challenge. My time at Clemson was a challenge that I happily accepted, [and I] worked hard to be the best defensive lineman, teammate and student I could be,” Kelly said in a statement shared on his Twitter account on Saturday afternoon.

“With this being said, I have decided to enter the transfer portal and continue my football career elsewhere. It is an honor to be able to say that I graduated from Clemson. Clemson will always have a special place in my heart.”

Kelly was listed third on the Clemson depth chart for one of the team’s two defensive tackle positions. Kelly appeared as a backup option behind freshman Tyler Davis and redshirt sophomore Jordan Williams. Kelly appeared in 10 games in the 2019 season and recorded a total of six tackles with credit for half of a sack. Kelly did not play in either of Clemson’s game sin the College Football Playoff.

In 2016, Kelly was involved in a moped accident that resulted in stitches. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said at the time Kelly was not wearing a helmet when somebody crashed into his moped.

By entering the transfer portal, Kelly is free to have contact with any other college football program interested in recruiting him. As a graduate transfer, Kelly will be able to use his final year of eligibility in 2020 and will not have to sit out the 2019 season.

Bob Shoop and Brian Jean-Mary join Michigan coaching staff, Jay Harbaugh promoted to special teams coordinator

Brian Jean-Mary and Bob Shoop are the newest members of Michigan's coaching staff.
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Michigan has officially introduced two new defensive assistants to the staff. Brian Jean-Mary and Bob Shoop were added to the defensive side of the coaching staff on Saturday as Michigan continues to retool its coaching staff this offseason.

According to the release from Michigan on Saturday, Shoop will take on the role of safeties coach for the Wolverines. Jean-Mary will serve as linebackers coach. In addition, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh promoted his son, Jay Harbaugh, to special teams coordinator. Harbaugh will continue to coach the running backs as well.

“I am excited about the addition of Brian and Bob to our defensive coaching staff,” said Harbaugh. “Brian and Bob are well-respected, experienced coaches who represent great fits for the University of Michigan. Both coaches have experience coordinating some of the best defenses in the country, and their development of all-conference and future NFL players throughout their careers will benefit our program and student-athletes. Michigan Football looks forward to having Brian, Bob and their families join the University family.”

Jean-Mary joins the Michigan program after three seasons with former USF head coach Charlie Strong at USF. Jean-Mary has been a longtime assistant under Strong, coaching with Strong at Louisville and Texas prior to USF.

Shoop previously was the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State. This will mark a return to the Big Ten for Shoop. Shoop previously coached at Penn State under James Franklin. Shoop went to Penn State with Franklin after three seasons at Vanderbilt. Shoop left Penn State for Tennessee after the 2015 season and coached the Vols defense for two seasons for former Tennessee head coach Butch Jones. Shoop and Penn State also carried on a bit of a legal squabble over Shoop’s contract and his exit from the Nittany Lions. Shoop took a job at Mississippi State when Joe Moorhead was hired (in the same coaching carousel that saw a coaching change at Tennessee and the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt, a former defensive coordinator himself).