CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: SEC Predictions

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As the 2015 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC), HERE (Big 12) and HERE (Big Ten) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

SEC EAST

1. Georgia (10-3; beat Louisville in Belk Bowl)
There is one certainty when it comes to the East: UGA will not finish lower than third, a low-water benchmark for each of Mark Richt‘s 14 seasons in Athens that has included five division titles — none since 2012, though.  They return the most talent of any team in the division, although the fact that they opted for Grayson Lambert as the starting quarterback has me second-guessing my prediction.  It’s been a decade since UGA’s last SEC championship, and if they’re going to get back to that level they’ll have to do so with a schedule that includes both Alabama and Auburn as well as a road trip to Tennessee.  Still, anything less than an East title and a spot in the SEC championship game would be decidedly disappointing — and would lead to yet another offseason of “is it time to go in another direction?” speculation.

2. Tennessee (7-6; beat Iowa in Taxslayer Bowl)
Am I a year early with this lofty projection?  Possibly, especially given the team right below them.  Still, there’s no denying that Butch Jones has stuffed his talent cupboard after the barren years under his predecessor, Derek Dooley.  The Vols closed out last year on a positive note, going 4-1 down the stretch — the lone loss coming by eight to Mizzou — capping it off with an impressive 45-28 win over the Hawkeyes in the bowl game.  That final flourish coincided with Josh Dobbs‘ ascension as the starting quarterback.  With the scintillating playmaker poised to build off his first season at this level, the Vols could very well challenge both UGA and Mizzou for East supremacy.

3. Missouri (11-3; beat Minnesota in Citrus Bowl)
“Here we go again, denigrating the two-time defending East champion Tigers.” — the two Mizzou fans who frequent this site, probably.  And, actually, that’s an understandable reaction, given how the Tigers have been the class of the division the past two seasons.  They’re also one of the few teams in the conference that returns its starting quarterback.  Still, there are concerns along the defensive line — they return just five starters on that side of the ball, period — and their schedule doesn’t do them very many favors as they play at Georgia and Arkansas as well as play host to Mississippi State.  It wouldn’t shock me, though, if Mizzou made it three straight titles.  In fact, the only thing that would shock the system is if they finish outside the top three in the division.

4. Florida (7-5; beat East Carolina in Birmingham Bowl)
The good news for Florida?  They return seven defensive starters.  The bad?  They return only four on the other side of the ball, although, given that the Gators finished 93rd in total offense, that number of returnees might actually be viewed as a potential positive.  With Will Muschamp gone, there seems to be a breath of fresh air in The Swamp under new head coach Jim McElwain.  It may take the former Alabama coordinator a year to get his SEC feet back under him, but the Gators should show immediate improvements both offensively and in the won/loss column.  Playing at Missouri, at LSU and at Georgia in back-to-back-to-back games should, though, temper any talk of an East title right out of the gate for McElwain.

5. South Carolina (7-6; beat Miami in Independence Bowl)
The Gamecocks could very well match or exceed their win total from a year ago and still find themselves in the bottom half of the division as, as evidenced by their postseason performance in 2014 (5-0), the East appears to be on a slight uptick.  There are two main concerns for the Ol’ Ball Coach: one, the play of first-year starting quarterback Connor Mitch and, two, a front seven that was gashed for 212.1 yards rushing per game, a number that was 13th in the 14-team SEC and 105th nationally.  To help rectify the latter problem, Steve Spurrier brought in Jon Hoke as co-defensive coordinator.  On the former front, solid play from Mitch, combined with an improved running game with multiple contributors, could leave me low-balling the ‘Cocks projection-wise.

6. Kentucky (5-7)
Despite all of the noise over Mark Stoops‘ recruiting prowess, it still seems as if, at least in the here and now, the best UK can hope to aspire this season is a middle-of-the-road team in the East at best.  Stoops has taken a program that won seven games total in the two years prior to his arrival to one that’s, well, won seven games in his two seasons.  There’s no doubt, though, that Stoops has raised the talent level in Lexington.  The question is, with a schedule that includes road games against South Carolina, Mississippi State and Georgia as well as a home date with West power Auburn and annual nemesis Florida (28 straight losses to Gators), can Stoops get the program back to its first bowl game since 2010?  If he does, toss some Coach of the Year votes his way.

7. Vanderbilt (3-9)
There’s no question Vandy will finish in the East cellar.  The only question is, will Derek Mason make it to Year 3 as the Commodores’ head coach?  A good man and a solid football coach, Mason has somewhat fallen victim to the expectations created by James Franklin‘s time with the Commodores.  Vandy does return 16 starters, a total that’s tied for second in the conference behind Tennessee’s 18.  I hope Mason gets another season (or two) despite yet another basement finish; hopefully the university’s administration feels the same way as Mason has the kind of program-building potential that should be supported, not prematurely ditched.

SEC WEST

1. Auburn (8-5 in 2014; lost to Wisconsin in Outback Bowl)
I’m particularly bullish on the Tigers, and the reason for that is, essentially, the addition of one man to the football building.  With Gus Malzahn in the house, AU could roll out of bed and put a Top-20 offense on the field.  Defense, though, is another matter entirely — or was.  Potentially.  The pass defense was abysmal in 2014, giving up the third-most yards per game in the conference.  Enter Will Muschamp, who, despite his abject failure as a head coach at Florida, remains one of the top defensive minds in the country.  It would be stunning if the Tigers didn’t finish in the top half(ish) of the conference in nearly every major defensive statistical category.  And, if that happens, AU is poised for a return to the national stage.

2. Alabama (12-2; lost to Ohio State in CFP semifinal)
If they can stay healthy, the Tide, one of four playoff teams a year ago, will, once again, have a rock-solid running game and a top-notch defense.  That leaves the same question mark as this time a year ago: the quarterback position.  Regardless of which quarterback earns the job for the first time in his career, they will have one obstacle Blake Sims didn’t a year ago: replacing the production lost with stud Amari Cooper‘s departure, a wide receiver who served as the ultimate security blanket for a first-year starter.  If Jake Coker/David Cornwell/Alec Morris can give offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin just average, game-manager play at the position, the Tide is set-up to once again be contenders in the division, conference and nationally.

3. LSU (8-5; lost to Notre Dame in Music City Bowl)
Seemingly every year, the Tigers’ preseason projections and in-season hopes hinge on improved play at the quarterback position.  For 2015, it’s lather, rinse, repeat under center.  Despite the loss of coordinator John Chavis, the Tigers will once again field one of the most talented defenses in the country.  The skill-position players on offense are as good as any at the FBS level, which brings us right back to the quarterback.  The job this camp has been won by Brandon Harris; if the sophomore can just, well, not be 2014 Anthony Jennings, the Bayou Bengals will challenge Auburn and Alabama for West supremacy.  If he can’t, and another season implodes?  The same questions asked of Mark Richt will be asked of Les Miles at season’s end.

4. Arkansas (7-6; beat Texas in Texas Bowl)
The Razorbacks are the Volunteers of the West: the go-to pick for a team on the rise and looking to surprise.  At least when it comes to the Hogs, that appears to be a promising bet, albeit one with a significant and daunting scheduling asterisk.  Last season, the Razorbacks lost four of their 2014 SEC games by a total of 22 points, with two of those coming on the road and one in overtime.  That and 15 returning starters has led to rampant optimism in and around Fayetteville.  Playing the role of Debbie Downer is the schedule, which features road games against Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU and an improved Tennessee as a well as a home date with reigning East champ Missouri.

5. Ole Miss (9-4; lost to TCU in Peach Bowl)
The Rebels were one of the toasts of college football through the first two months of the 2014 season, going 7-0 in an opening half that included an upset of Alabama.  They then lost four of their next five against Power Five teams, punctuated by a 39-point beatdown in the bowl game.  Despite that stumble to the finish, there’s a reason for a modicum of optimism as Hugh Freeze will be able to pencil 16 returning starters into his lineup, including nine on the offensive side.  It’ll be that side of the ball that determines the Rebels’ 2015 fate as they will once again field a top-tier SEC defense.  Playing at Alabama, at Auburn and at Mississippi State, a second-tier spot in the West seems to be, once again, the best the Oxford bunch can aspire to this season.

6. Texas A&M (8-5; beat West Virginia in Liberty Bowl)
Most discussions of A&M’s prospects for the 2015 season begin and end with the defense — specifically, the run defense.  The Aggies finished the 2014 season 109th nationally in rushing yards allowed, ending the regular season by giving up 363, 335 and 384 yards on the ground to Auburn, Missouri and LSU, respectively. Akin to what Auburn did on The Plains, A&M brought in one of the top coordinators in the game, swiping John Chavis away from LSU.  The Chief’s presence alone should assure a marked improvement defensively, especially when it comes to stopping the run.  After taking over for a benched Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen showed enough promise as a true freshman to be confident that the offense is in good hands.  The opener against a very good Arizona State will prove to be a solid litmus test for how far all three phases of the team have to go before entering conference play three weeks later.

7. Mississippi State (10-3; lost to Georgia Tech in Orange Bowl)
Beginning in mid-October and on into early November, the Bulldogs were sitting atop the college football world as the No. 1 team in the country. Nine months later, they’re being forecast by numerous entities, myself included, to finish at the bottom of the West.  More than anything, that’s a testament to the top-to-bottom strength of the division.  It’s also, though, an acknowledgement that MSU lost a plethora of talent: only three teams at the FBS level — Kansas and UT-San Antonio (six) and South Alabama (five) — return fewer starters than their seven.  One of the seven, at least, is starting quarterback and Heisman contender Dak Prescott, so that gives the Bulldogs a fighting chance.  Still, it will be a tough row to hoe for Dan Mullen‘s squad to again reach double digits.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Auburn over Georgia

Texas tailback depth takes a hit again as Daniel Young becomes latest to suffer injury

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Tom Herman’s tailback depth has gone from good to nothing in the span of about two weeks of preseason camp.

On Friday the school announced that backup RB Daniel Young had suffered a “significant” high ankle sprain and is expected to be sidelined for the next several weeks.

That’s a big issue for the Longhorns faithful because just last week, leading returning rusher Keaontay Ingram exited the team’s scrimmage early due to a minor knee injury. While there’s hope that he can return to action by the time the opener against Louisiana Tech rolls around, finding healthy bodies is a pressing concern.

Senior Kirk Johnson is already out the next several weeks and fellow backup Jordan Whittington, who is new to the position, has been dealing with a groin injury recently. Add in center Zach Shakleford’s foot injury and UT is certainly a bit beat up before the season has even started.

While Texas can probably get past the Bulldogs without issue, that mega-matchup with LSU during Week 2 in Austin looms even larger for the ‘Horns offense.

NCAA cites Mississippi State for academic misconduct, docks Bulldogs scholarships among other things

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The NCAA is king of the Friday news dump but announcing sanctions on an SEC program on the eve of the college football season certainly takes things to the next level either way.

In this case the association announced they had hit Mississippi State over academic misconduct related to a department tutor taking classes for some 10 football players.

Per a news release:

The university and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that the former tutor completed multiple assignments, exams and, in some instances, nearly the entire course for student-athletes. The university determined the activity violated its academic misconduct policy.

As a result of the academic misconduct, the agreement said eight football student-athletes and the men’s basketball student-athlete competed while ineligible.

There were a myriad of penalties levied against the school for the infractions across multiple sports. On the gridiron, the most relevant were a fine of $5,000 + 1% of the football budget, a loss of two scholarships for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years, no unofficial visits for one home game each of the next three years and a reduction of recruiting days among other things.

Obviously nothing to the level of what the NCAA handed out at Missouri for somewhat similar violations but a level slightly above a wrist slap on the grand scale of infractions.

Mississippi State opens their season next Saturday against UL-Lafayette in New Orleans.

CFT’s 2019 Preseason Top 25

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Ready for yet another meaningless and useless preseason poll? Too bad, you’re getting one anyway.

As we have done each and every season around this time of the year, CFT has compiled its annual preseason Top 25 rankings. And, as has been the case each and every time, we’ve used the same tried and true formula: collect individual Top 25s from each of our esteemed staffers — this year it’s again Zach Barnett, Bryan Fischer, Kevin McGuire and myself — as well as a couple of other individuals who prefer to remain anonymous and mash them all together to form an initial Top 25, at which point I manipulate the numbers to ensure that I piss off as many fan bases as humanly possible.

As Clemson and Alabama have combined to win each of the last four national championships, and faced each other in the finale of the 2018 season, is it a surprise at all that they will begin the 2019 campaign at 1-2 in CFT’s Top 25?  Almost one year ago to the day, we pegged Clemson and Alabama as the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the country; nearly five months later, the Tigers manhandled the defending champion Crimson Tide for its second title in three years.  Our Nos. 3-5 teams last year were Georgia, Ohio State and Wisconsin, respectively; they finished the season, in order, tied for seventh, third and (gulp) unranked.  The other two playoff teams from 2018, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, began last season as our Nos. 8 and 15 teams, respectively.

As for previous years in which we proved we are essentially a collective Nostradumbass?

Back in 2017, Ohio State sat at No. 1, followed by No. 2 USC, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Alabama and No. 5 Penn State.  Just one of those teams, the 2017 national champion Crimson Tide, qualified for the playoffs, while the others in our Top Five, the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions, Trojans and Seminoles, finished fifth, eighth, 12th and unranked, respectively.  And the other three teams that actually qualified for the playoffs?  National runner-up Georgia was No. 14 in our 2017 preseason Top 25, while Clemson was No. 9 and Oklahoma was right behind them at No. 10.

In 2016, we had Oklahoma as our preseason No. 1; the Sooners went on to finish 11-2 and third in the country, although they ended the regular season just shy of another berth in the College Football Playoff.  The four teams that did earn playoff berths, national champion Clemson, national runner-up Alabama and semifinalists Ohio State and Washington, began the 2016 season ranked fourth, second, 11th and seventh, respectively, in our preseason Top 25 two years ago.

The year before that, we had Ohio State, TCU, Oregon, Auburn and Michigan State Nos. 1-5; only playoff semifinalist MSU finished the regular season in the Top Five. 2015 national champion Alabama was No. 7 in our preseason rankings — just behind Arizona State, incidentally — while the team the Crimson Tide beat for the title, Clemson, was 14th. Oklahoma, the other of the four College Football Playoff semifinalists in 2015, came in at No. 16 in our friendly neighborhood poll.

All that said, below is CFT’s 2019 preseason Top 25.  Below that is a poll in which you can vote as to which team you feel should start the season No. 1 — or if there should even be a preseason No. 1. Below that is where you may complain and/or whine and/or moan and/or bitch about how disrespected your team and/or conference is.

Enjoy. And complain/whine/moan/bitch away at your leisure.

NO. 1 CLEMSON
2018 RECORD/FINAL ASSOCIATED PRESS RANKING: 15-0/No. 1

Not only do the defending national champions return a wealth of talent — eight starters on offense and 22 returning lettermen on defense, with nearly half of the preseason All-ACC team made up of Tigers — but just two teams on their 2019 schedule (No. 12 Texas A&M, No. 22 Syracuse) are currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.  With Heisman Trophy favorite Trevor Lawrence triggering what should again be an explosive offense, the stage is set for yet another return to the College Football Playoff — even as they must replace seven starters on the defensive side of the ball.

NO. 2 ALABAMA
2018 RECORD/FINAL AP RANKING: 14-1/No. 2

Nick Saban spent an offseason unlike any other he’s experienced in Tuscaloosa — or anywhere else for that matter.  Of the 10 coordinators/assistant coaches who were on the Crimson Tide’s staff at the beginning of the 2018 season, only three will return for the 2019 season.  Not only that, but Saban will have to replace nearly half of his starters on each side of the ball, although Tua Tagovailoa, provided he can stay upright and healthy, will return under center.  The season-ending matchup with Auburn on the road could, once again, determine the West’s representative in the SEC championship game, although a mid-October trip to College Station against what should be an improved Texas A&M squad shouldn’t be overlooked.

NO. 3 GEORGIA
2018 RECORD/FINAL AP RANKING: 11-3/T-No. 7

You’ll have to pardon Georgia if there is still a bit of a hangover after how the Bulldogs’ 2018 season ended.  First, UGA blew a 28-14 third-quarter lead on Alabama in the SEC championship game that cost them a spot in the College Football Playoff, then got Bevo’d by Texas by a worse-than-it-looked score of 28-21 in the Sugar Bowl.  That said, they have a three-year starter at quarterback in Jake Fromm, although, like their heavyweight SEC counterpart Alabama, Kirby Smart will have to replace almost half of his starters both offensively and defensively.  A late-September home game against Notre Dame should provide an early clue as to where UGA stands nationally — or how far they need to go to keep pace with ‘Bama.

NO. 4 OKLAHOMA
2018 RECORD/FINAL AP RANKING: 12-2/No. 4

Oklahoma lost Heisman-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield following the 2017 campaign, then proceeded to put up another double-digit win season and Top Five finish in 2018; it’ll be lather, rinse and repeat on the stiff-armed replacement front in 2019 as Heisman-winning quarterback Kyler Murray left Norman early for the NFL following the 2018 season.  Into the quarterbacking fray steps transfer addition Jalen Hurts, who would love nothing better than to get a shot at his former school, Alabama, in the playoffs.  On the one hand, the Sooners return eight starters on defense, and have a new coordinator in the highly-respected Alex Grinch; on the other, they must replace the vast majority of an offensive line that claimed the Joe Moore Award for the best unit in the country, as well as top wideout Marquise Brown.  There is one sign, courtesy of a reader imploring us to not put his beloved Sooners in the top spot, that this could actually be OU’s year: Two quarterbacks with the initials of “JH” — Josh Heupel (2000) and Jamelle Holieway (1985) — have previously won national championships while starting for the Sooners.

NO. 5 OHIO STATE
2018 RECORD/FINAL AP RANKING: 13-1/No. 3

How do you replace a man who went 83-9 overall (54-4 in conference play) in seven seasons, finished first or tied for first in the Big Ten East every year he was in Columbus, and claimed Ohio State’s first national championship in over a decade? That is THE™ overriding question for Buckeye Nation as Ryan Day is chargeed with what some would say is THE™ unenviable task of replacing THE™ retired Urban Meyer (for now) in Columbus.  THE™ good news for THE™ first-time head coach is that OSU brings back eight starters on one of THE™ top defenses in THE™ conference as well as getting Michigan State and Penn State at home in THE™ Horseshoe, although they will have to travel to Ann Arbor to face hated rival Michigan in THE™ regular-season finale.  How quickly acclimated Georgia transfer Justin Fields becomes with THE™ offense and THE™ pressure of replacing THE™ prolific Dwayne Haskins at quarterback will go a long way in determining how big THE™ Game will be this season.

(WRITER’S NOTE: Click HERE for THE™ explanation.)

NO. 6 LSU
2018 RECORD/FINAL AP RANKING: 10-3/No. 6

Don’t tell anyone but, after years of wandering aimlessly through the signal-calling desert, it appears LSU has at long last (gasp!) found an answer at quarterback in Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow.  Coming off an above-average first campaign in Baton Rouge, Burrow will be the triggerman of what’s expected to be an even more (gasp!) 21st-century aerial attack thanks to an under-the-radar addition this offseason in the form of New Orleans Saints staffer Joe Brady as passing-game coordinator.  Eight starters return on each side of the ball, which is a good thing when viewed through the prism of having to go on the road to face Alabama and Texas.

NO. 7 MICHIGAN
2018 RECORD/FINAL AP RANKING: 10-3/No. 14

I’m not saying Jim Harbaugh is on the coaching hot seat, but I am saying his hindquarters should be feeling fairly warm — and for good reason.  One of the highest-paid head coaches in college football, Harbaugh’s Wolverines have finished third, third, fourth and tied for first in the Big Ten East his first four seasons back home in Ann Arbor.  The finish last season provided some optimism heading into the 2019 postseason, although those hopes should be tempered by the reality that Harbaugh is just 2-6 against his school’s chief football rivals — he’s never beaten Ohio State in four tries and is 2-2 against “little brother” Michigan State.  Scheduling-wise, there’s good news on the rivalry front as U-M gets both MSU and OSU at home, although they’ll face stiff road trips to Madison and Happy Valley in the span of a month.  The Wolverines should be improved, perhaps even enough to climb back onto the national stage, but if they don’t and continue to lag behind the hated Buckeyes…

NO. 8 TEXAS
2018 RECORD/FINAL AP RANKING: 10-4/No. 9

Texas is back!?  One of these seasons, that longstanding proclamation/question rivals derisively use at UT’s expense will come to fruition.  The latest reason for hope amongst Longhorn Nation was the finish to the 2018 season in which UT bullied a seemingly disinterested Georgia squad in the Sugar Bowl to put the finishing touches on the football program’s first 10-win season since 2009.  The reality, though, is that the Tom Herman‘s Longhorns return just eight starters — five on offense, three on defense.  By mid-October, we should have a good handle on this year’s version of the “Texas is back!” narrative as UT will face LSU, Oklahoma State, West Virginia (in Morgantown) and Oklahoma in a five-game stretch the first half of the season.  If they can handle that rigorous stretch with, say, just one loss, it’d be fair to say they are back — and probably back for another shot in the Big 12 championship game as well.  Personally, given the lack of experienced players returning, I think Texas sitting inside the Top 10 of any preseason poll is way too high, but time will tell on that front.

NO. 9 NOTRE DAME
2018 RECORD/FINAL AP RANKING: 12-1/No. 5

Last year, in cautiously making the case for Notre Dame being ranked 15th, I wrote that “[t]he last five times the Irish had a chance for back-to-back 10-win seasons, they won four (2016), nine (2013), three (2007), five (2003) and six (1994) games.” So, of course, the Fighting Irish went out and won a dozen games — the first time the program won 10 or more in consecutive seasons since 1991-93 — and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff for the first time ever.  This season, the Irish will be forced to replace their leading rusher, receiver and tackler — they return 13 of 22 starters overall — and have three significant road trips on tap each month of the regular season: Georgia in September, Michigan in October and Stanford in November.  If they can successfully navigate those three away tests, and take care of business with the rest of the schedule, they could very well find themselves punching yet another playoff ticket.

NO. 10 FLORIDA
2018 RECORD/FINAL AP RANKING: 10-3/T-No. 7

After an abominable 4-7 season led to Jim McElwain‘s departure, Florida won 10 games for the first time since 2015 in Dan Mullen‘s first season as head coach in Gainesville last year. Arguably Mullen’s most impressive job during that initial campaign in The Swamp was turning Feleipe Franks into an above-average quarterback; coming off a year in which he threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns, Franks will see his top six reception leaders returning to the Gators this season.  The defense, which was 21st nationally and sixth in the SEC in points per game at 20.4, returns eight starters as well.  The conference schedule-makers didn’t do them very many favors at all, though, as their league cross-over games are against Auburn and LSU, with the latter matchup being played in Death Valley.

NO. 11: Utah — Every year around this time, there is always one team I fear that I have ranked way too low; the Utes are that team this season.
NO. 12: Texas A&M — Conversely, A&M might be a team ranked too high, if for nothing more than its schedule: road games against Clemson, Georgia and LSU (the latter two to close out the regular season) as well as Alabama and Auburn at home. If Jimbo Fisher matches or exceeds the nine wins from a year ago, that’s Coach of the Year stuff right there.
NO. 13: Washington — Besides having to replace the football program’s all-time leading passer and rusher along with a whopping nine starters on defense, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
NO. 14: Penn State — The two biggest road tests Penn State will face this season come at Ohio State and at Michigan State; the last time that happened, in 2017, the Nittany Lions lost both (by a combined four points) and missed out on a trip to the Big Ten championship game.
NO. 15: Oregon — If Oregon can get past Auburn in the opener, and with Heisman contender Justin Hebert directing a potentially explosive offense, the Ducks have the kind of talent to make a serious run at a Pac-12 title — if not more.  Speaking of AU…
NO. 16: Auburn — If Auburn is to get back on the national stage — and get past rival Alabama in the process — the Tigers will do so with a true freshman triggering the offense as five-star 2019 signee Bo Nix was named as AU’s starting quarterback this week.
NO. 17: Wisconsin — In his first two seasons at Wisconsin, true junior Jonathan Taylor has rushed for an astounding 4,171 yards; if he were to put up 2,235 yards this season, he would surpass San Diego State’s Donnell Pumphrey (6,405) as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher in just three seasons.
NO. 18: Iowa State — If it weren’t for Utah — and three straight games against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas in late October/early November — Iowa State would be the team I feared I have placed too low.
NO. 19: Michigan State — As is normally the case, Michigan State should field an above-average defense. How far the Spartans go, therefore, will be determined by how dramatically one of the worst offenses in the country a year ago — they were 125th out of 129 teams in scoring at 18.7 points per game — improves in 2019.
NO. 20: Iowa — The Hawkeyes have won fewer than seven games just once in the last 11 years — 4-8 in 2012 — a streak that stretches back to the 2008 season.  In eight of those 11 seasons, they have won seven, eight or nine games.  Ferentz gonna Ferentz, most seasons.
NO. 21: Syracuse — Under Dino Babers, Syracuse won 10 games in 2018 after winning a combined eight the two years before, and yet I can’t for the life of me figure out if they will challenge Clemson or sink back to sub-.500 football.
NO. 22: Miami — Tate Martell losing out on the starting quarterback job at The U — bailing on the first practice after the announcement for good measure — and getting work in at wide receiver after leaving Ohio State because he wouldn’t compete with a high-profile transfer might be my most favorite thing of the 2019 offseason.
NO. 23: Cincinnati — After winning just eight games combined the previous two seasons, Cincinnati won 11 in Luke Fickell’s second year with the program in 2018, setting the stage for the Bearcats to be a favorite (the favorite?) to claim the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid in 2019.
NO. 24: Mississippi State — I’m just going to be totally blunt here: If it were solely and completely up to me, Mississippi State would not be in this particular Top 25. There, I said it. Bitch and whine at your leisure below.
NO. 25: Army — To paraphrase Maj. Gen. Jefferson Gregory, ‘Merica, dammit.  The Black Knights are coming off the winningest season in academy history and have played in a bowl game three straight years for the first time ever. They will face a huge test in Week 2 as they square off with Michigan in the Big House.

Syracuse announces addition of Canadian WR Kevin Mital

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Dino Babers went north of the border for the latest addition to his Syracuse football roster.

Late Friday morning, Syracuse announced that Kevin Mital has officially joined the ACC football program.  The wide receiver comes to the Orange from Montreal’s Collège André-Grasset.

Earlier this month, the NCAA Clearinghouse granted Mital a waiver giving him collegiate eligibility in the United States.  Since then, the player and the program have been awaiting a student visa to be granted and his admission to the university confirmed.

Mital is expected to compete immediately in a receiving corps that lost Devin Butler to transfer and Ed Hendrix to yet another injury.

As noted by the Syracuse Post-Standard, Mital is the third Canadian Babers has added this offseason, joining offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron and linebacker Geoff Cantin-Arku.