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CFT Predicts: The College Football Playoff

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The match-ups are set. Now it’s time to get down to what’s really important: our predictions for said match-ups.

For the second consecutive year, the CFT staff has predicted the CFP semifinals and finals. Here’s hoping this year’s effort goes better than our maiden voyage, when not one of us had Ohio State beating Alabama and claiming the crown.

John (@CFTalk)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 34-24
COTTON BOWL: Michigan State over Alabama, 31-30
TITLE GAME: Oklahoma over Michigan State, 48-24
BOTTOM LINE: Ohio State rolled to a national championship as a No. 4 seed in the first year of the College Football Playoff; it’s lather, rinse, repeat in 2015 as Oklahoma, the best team in college football over the last two months — sound familiar, OSU fans? — carries the momentum from the regular season on into the postseason and gives No. 4 seeds back-to-back titles.  Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (41 total touchdowns in 13 games) will certainly prove to be a stiff test for OU, but Baker Mayfield (42 total touchdowns in 12 games) has the offensive firepower to match, plus a defense that was 21st in points allowed (20.8 ppg) in the offensive-centric Big 12 (the Tigers were 18th at 20.2 ppg).  Michigan State’s resume is superior to that of Alabama’s, and the Spartans have arguably been the second-best team in college football over the last month and a half (three wins over teams ranked in the CFP top 14 in that span). The Spartans will find their Waterloo in the title game, however, as the Sooners are too good, too balanced to be denied. In the end, Bob Stoops channels his inner “Big Game” moniker and his Sooners will bring the hardware back to Norman.

Zach (@zach_barnett)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 41-38
COTTON BOWL: Alabama over Michigan State, 24-20
TITLE GAME: Oklahoma over Alabama, 35-24
BOTTOM LINE: I may be the dumbest person on Earth, but I’m picking Mark Dantonio and Michigan State to lose a close game to a top-5 opponent. The Spartans will be well prepared for Derrick Henry and Alabama’s ferocious front seven, but a Cyrus Jones punt return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter proves to be the difference. Oklahoma and Clemson stage an absolute fire-breathing classic in the Orange Bowl that sees Deshaun Watson vault his Tigers to the lead with 1:45 remaining, only to see Baker Mayfield find Sterling Shepard in the back of the end zone on 4th-and-goal from the 7-yard line with 18 seconds left to play. The title game proves what many of us think as the ball drops on 2016 as Oklahoma and Clemson appear to be a cut above the rest when the Sooners rally from a 17-14 halftime deficit to put the game away with three unanswered touchdowns over the course of the second half. A Henry breakaway touchdown with two minutes to play touches up the final score but cannot mask the fact that, for the second consecutive year, the committee didn’t get the seeding right on the outset.

Kevin (@KevinOnCFB)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 38-36
COTTON BOWL: Michigan State over Alabama, 23-20
TITLE GAME: Michigan State over Oklahoma, 31-20
BOTTOM LINE: In what should be an offensive shootout, Clemson should once again flex enough muscle against Oklahoma by the time the clock hits triple zeroes. Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield make for a great QB matchup, but Oklahoma’s ability to run the football with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon is what gives the Sooners a slight edge. Oklahoma’s revenge tour of 2015 wraps up with a wild win. Both Michigan State and Alabama will bring plenty of defense to make this a low-scoring affair. Michigan State will be put to the test trying to slow down Derrick Henry, but these Spartans do not back down against any body under Mark Dantonio. Michigan State has the decisive edge at quarterback with Connor Cook if he is healthy. If he is, Michigan State will win a second Cotton Bowl this calendar year and hand Alabama a second straight early exit against a Big Ten team. Michigan State will continue to play good, strong defense, but now they will be asked to stop two strong running backs. That could pose a problem a week after a grueling contest with Alabama. The travel may also come into play as Oklahoma looks to open things up in Lincoln Riley’s offense. Michigan State’s defense this a wall, but Cook has a winning recipe and Dantonio finally reaches the top of the college football world to further validate Michigan State’s place among college football powers, and the Big Ten wins a second straight national title.

J.J. (@JJStankevitz)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 37-35
COTTON BOWL: Alabama over Michigan State, 28-13
TITLE GAME: Oklahoma over Alabama, 41-31
BOTTOM LINE: A healthy Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine are enough to get the Sooners into the title game in what should be a high-scoring affair in South Florida. Derrick Henry wins the day as Michigan State’s offense sputters against a ‘Bama defense that should do well in facing a pro-style attack. I’m buying Lincoln Riley‘s spread over Kirby Smart‘s blitzes here. Mayfield has a big game to lead Oklahoma to the Big 12’s first title in a decade.

Randy Edsall had an oopsie moment on Twitter

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Being a head football coach that is connected on Twitter can lead to some unfortunate moments you’d like to have back. In the case of UConn head coach Randy Edsall on Monday evening, a possible quick retweet of a link definitely came at the wrong time.

In a flurry of retweets showing off the recently renovated locker rooms the UConn Huskies will be using, it seems Edsall may have accidentally retweeted a link to a story that essentially suggests UConn is passing on its chance to be a big-time college football program. A tweet briefly retweeted by Edsall linked to a column by Mark Blaudschun of College Sports Maven. In his column, Blaudschun wrote about the recent headlines about UConn leaving the AAC to join the Big East in basketball and leave the football program stranded in uncharted waters.

“But the issue of football remains and there is really no answer that can make UConn a major player in the wide world of big time college football,” Blaudschun writes. “The dye has been cast. Big time football at UConn, RIP.”

Certainly, had Edsall read the story, then he would have refrained from retweeting the story. It didn’t take long for Edsall to remove the retweet from his Twitter timeline either.

Edsall has been busy on Twitter over the last couple of days following the reports the school was setting up to rejoin the Big East for basketball without a concrete plan for what will happen with the football program.

When you are tweeting as often as Edsall has been while trying to keep the spirits up for the Huskies football program and their fans, an accidental retweet is easy to let slip by. Mistakes happen. Edsall corrected this one and moved on doing what he needs to do to keep UConn football moving forward regardless of where “forward” actually leads for the program.

The last time the Minnesota Golden Gophers won the national championship…

1960 Minnesota
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Things could be trending in a positive direction for Minnesota under the energetic leadership of P.J. Fleck. After a long string of years of up-and-down seasons ranging from poor to mediocre to the high of a nine-win season in 2016, Fleck and the Gophers surprised a few people in 2018 by pulling together a seven-win season highlighted by a long-awaited victory over Wisconsin and capped by a season-ending bowl victory in the Quick Lane Bowl. The bar is being raised a bit for the boat-rowing Gophers in 2019. The chance to compete for a national championship is still at the end of a great journey for the program, but that doesn’t mean those in the program can’t dream about being the ones to capture the first football national title for the school since 1960.

Minnesota, coached by the coach of the year Murray Warmath and led in the trenches by Outland Trophy winner Tom Brown, split the Big Ten championship with Iowa, although a 27-10 victory over the No. 1 Hawkeyes on Nov. 5, 1960 catapulted the No. 3 Gophers to the top spot in the AP poll. But the very next week, Minnesota was upset by Purdue, 23-14, and Minnesota dropped to No. 4 in the AP poll as a result heading into their final game of the regular season. Minnesota moved back up in the polls with a win against the rival Badgers and No. 1 Missouri being upset at home by Kansas, 23-7. As Big Ten champion, Minnesota traveled west to the play in the Rose Bowl, and they arrived in Pasadena as the No. 1 team in the AP poll as they prepared to face No. 6 Washington, champion of the Athletic Association of Western Universities (which would, of course, later evolve to the Pac-12 we know and love today). Despite already being declared the national champion for the 1960 season, Minnesota was upended by the Huskies, 17-7. Ole Miss would stake their claim to the national title following a 14-6 victory for the No. 2 Rebels over Rice in the Sugar Bowl (Ole Miss would be crowned national champion by the Football Writers Association of America).

Last National Title Season: 1960 (58 years and counting)

Who was President?

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the President of the United States the last time Minnesota claimed a national championship season, although 1960 was a time for change in the country in the United States. Perhaps one of the most famous presidential elections of all-time went down in the fall of 1960. Richard Nixon was taken down by Democrat John F. Kennedy.

As for the current Commander-In-Chief, Donald J. Trump was fresh into his teenage years in 1960 and was enrolled at New York Military Academy.

What was on TV?

1960 brought some classic television shows to the TV sets in a growing number of homes. Classics such as “Lassie,” “Dennis the Menace,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Jack Benny Show,” “Candid Camera,” “My Three Sons,” were among the programs across the three networks at the time (NBC, ABC, and CBS). “The Price is Right” was airing on NBC, although the show would later evolve a bit to become the game show you are more likely familiar with today.

Long before “The Simpsons,” it was “The Flinstones” ruling the ratings as a primetime animated show. Bugs Bunny also made a primetime appearance before making the move to Saturday mornings for the next four decades. And Shirley Temple and Glenn Miler had their own television shows at the time as well.

One show that finished its historic run on the airwaves was “I Love Lucy,” as stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz divorced after the final episode of the season in 1960.

What movies were hot?

Ben-Hur was an international winner as the top box office leader in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. But this was a year after the movie was released in the United States. State-side, it was Spartacus dominating the box office as the top movie of the year. Kirk Douglas had everyone shouting “I’m Spartacus!”

But this was also the year for the horror genre with the release of Psycho, directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. The Rat Pack also took to the big screen in the original Ocean’s 11, with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy David Jr., Joey Bishop and more.

What else happened in 1960?

Navy running back Joe Bellino is named the Heisman Trophy winner for the 1960 season. Bellino rushed for 834 yards and caught 17 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns for the Midshipmen in the 1960 season, leading Navy to a 9-2 record and No. 4 in the final AP poll of the season.

Aside from Minnesota and Iowa splitting the Big Ten crown, other conference winners in 1960 included Ole Miss (SEC), Arkansas (Southwest), Missouri (Big Eight), Utah State and Wyoming (Skyline Conference), New Mexico State (Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association), Yale (Ivy League) and Duke (ACC).

Current Minnesota head coach Fleck wasn’t born for another 20 years. Michigan coaching legend Bo Schembechler was an assistant coach for Woody Hayes at Ohio State. Former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno was an assistant coach with the Nittany Lions, still five years from becoming the head coach of the program. Nick Saban was seven years old.

The Minnesota Twins were still a year away from playing their first baseball game in franchise history and the Lakers were just moving west to Los Angeles from Minneapolis.

The AFL launched its league in 1960, with the Houston Oilers capturing the first league championship with a 24-16 victory in the AFL championship against the Los Angeles Chargers. In the NFL, it was the Philadelphia Eagles taking down Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers in the NFL championship game.

Bill Mazeroski clinches the World Series championship for the Pittsburgh Pirates with a walk-off home-run in Game 7 against the New York Yankees. The Boston Celtics won the NBA title against the St. Louis Hawks, and the Montreal Canadiens hoisted the Stanley Cup above their heads after a sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Young rising boxer Cassius Clay wins the gold medal in boxing at the Olympics in Rome, and Arnold Palmer won the Masters and U.S. Open for a couple of major tournament victories.

Outside of sports, 1960 was a significant year for the United States with the signing of the Civil Rights Act by President Eisenhower.

Elvis Presley was killing the music charts with the two top singles of 1960 with “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” Chubby Checker came in at No. 3 with “The Twist.”

Has time passed Minnesota by?

time has certainly flown by since Minnesota’s glory days. Since the 1960 season, the Gophers have managed to win eight games or more in a season just a handful of times. One came in the 1961 season, which ended with a Rose Bowl victory. the most recent one came in 2016, with three eight-win seasons in a four-year stretch. It is the best stretch of seasons over a four-year period for the Gophers since winning it all in 1960. The question is if it is possible for Minnesota to climb back to the top of that mountain ever again. While nothing should ever be considered truly impossible, the history and trends would seem to suggest it will be a very steep climb for the program.

The Big Ten has grown, literally, over the years by adding members and some members have created some buffer in how money is brought in and spent to improve their various programs. For Minnesota, keeping up with programs like Ohio State and Michigan is far more difficult to do today than it used to be even with resources like the Big Ten Network. But could Minnesota capture a Big Ten title and get back to the Rose Bowl? If the Big Ten sticks to a division structure and fields a conference championship game the way it is currently constructed, of course, it remains a possibility for Minnesota. It may not happen in 2019, although the Big Ten West could be up for grabs, but the Gophers could become a program that could strike lightning every now and then to reach the Big Ten championship game at the end of the season.

Minnesota hasn’t been to the Rose Bowl since 1961, so Gopher fans have been waiting quite some time to book that trip to Pasadena again.

Former Auburn RB and current Miami RB Asa Martin steps back in transfer portal

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Asa Martin is back in the transfer portal just months after leaving Auburn for Miami. The former Auburn running back reportedly is re-evaluating his options for the upcoming season, as reported by Matt Zenitz of Al.com, via Twitter.

By entering the transfer portal, Martin is free to have contact with any college football coach and program interested in adding him to their program. Martin is also free to withdraw his name form the portal at any time should he choose to stay at Miami.

Martin announced his intention to transfer out of Auburn in early December 2018, shortly after the conclusion of the regular season. Within the next two weeks, Martin was officially heading to Miami for the spring semester. Martin spent one season with the Tigers and appeared in five games, which disqualifies him from preserving a redshirt season under NCAA rules. Martin will still have to sit out the upcoming 2019 season per NCAA transfer rules.

Martin was a member of Auburn’s Class of 2018 as the No. 9 running back in the nation and the No. 6 player overall from the state of Alabama. Martin carried the football 13 times for 57 yards and caught two passes for 36 yards in a Tigers uniform last fall.

Where Martin goes from here remains anyone’s guess. Whether or not Auburn remains a possibility for a return is unknown as well. We’ll keep an eye out on the running back to see where his latest journey into the transfer portal sends him.

Former Florida LB Rayshad Jackson headed to UNLV

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Former Florida linebacker Rayshad Jackson will graduate transfer to UNLV, the player has announced.

“I would like to announce that I am finishing my last year of eligibility as a grad transfer at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas,” he wrote in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account on Saturday. “Go REBELS!”

A former 3-star recruit out of Miami, Jackson redshirted in 2015, then saw his playing time steadily increase in his three seasons on the active roster: nine games as a special teamer and reserve linebacker in 2016, 11 games with 14 tackles in ’17, and then a perfect 13 appearances with three starts as a redshirt junior last fall. Jackson collected 36 tackles, one pass breakup, three quarterback hurries and 0.5 tackles for loss.

Rather than see if he can climb the mountain to becoming a full-time starter as a fifth-year senior, Jackson elected to move on last month.

As a graduate transfer, Jackson will be eligible to play immediately, and Tony Sanchez‘s bunch will expect him to do just that. UNLV finished No. 118 nationally in yards per play and No. 120 in scoring defense en route to a 4-8 season in 2018.