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CFT Previews: The Big 12

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The 2015 season was a successful one for the Big 12. The league got into the College Football Playoff for the first time, overcoming the bitter denial of Selection Sunday 2014, but is still looking for its first title game appearance since 2009 and its first national championship since 2005.

Will this be the year it happens? Most likely, no. But will it be entertaining? You betcha.

A quick rundown of the conference as it enters the season.

  1. Oklahoma (11-2 overall, 8-1 Big 12 in 2015): The Sooners are your undisputed preseason favorites. The 2015 champs have college football’s most fearsome backfield and enough talent returning on defense to get the job done. Problem is, the poll position is exactly where this program doesn’t want to be. The last four times OU started the season in the top four nationally? A No. 15 finish, a No. 16 finish, and two finishes outside the rankings.
  2. TCU (11-2, 7-2 Big 12): A former Aggie (starting quarterback Kenny Hill) and a former Red Raider (offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie) will team up to try to lead TCU to its first undisputed Big 12 championship and Playoff appearance. Years where Gary Patterson has to re-tool are years where he’s most dangerous.
  3. Texas (5-7, 4-5 Big 12): Who would have ever thought it possible Texas could beat Oklahoma and Baylor — both away from Austin — and yet miss a bowl game? Such is life when you’re gutting a program to its studs and rebuilding all over. That’s all over now. Texas is no longer swimming upstream offensively with the hire of Sterlin Gilbert; it’s time to out-talent the teams below them and steal a game or two against those above them.
  4. Oklahoma State (10-3, 7-2 Big 12): Behind quarterback Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State has enough talent to be competitive in any Power 5 league. However, do they have enough, particularly up front, to actually win any of them? Another 10-win season in which they finish near the top of the table may be the best Mike Gundy and company can shoot for.
  5. Texas Tech (7-6, 4-5 Big 12): Much like Oklahoma State above them, Kliff Kingsbury has figured his formula out in Lubbock. Now it’s about maximizing it as much as realistically possible — particularly while Patrick Mahomes still wears black and red.
  6. West Virginia (8-5, 4-5 Big 12): It’s a big season for Dana Holgorsen. His teams have played explosive offense at times. They’ve also played solid defense at times. Problem is, they’ve never done both at the same time. With a new AD in town, it’s now or never for the Mad Scientist.
  7. Baylor (10-3, 6-3 Big 12): Look up what happened to 2011 Ohio State and 2012 Arkansas before you throw your peanuts at the screen. Baylor won’t fall all the way to those depths — their sheer offensive talent plus a repugnant non-conference schedule virtually guarantees a 5-1 start at worst. But take a look at who the Bears play after their Oct. 22 bye: at an improving Texas team, back-to-back games with TCU and Oklahoma, a feisty, physical K-State team, a shootout against Texas Tech, then a trip to frigid Morgantown. For a team starting the season with 72 scholarship players and a smoldering crater in their head coach’s office, this has the makings of a team that falls down a cliff over the second half of the season.
  8. Kansas State (6-7, 3-6 Big 12): I’ll be honest here. All of these predictions are educated guesswork for us media types, but K-State’s preseason ranking is actual guesswork. I wouldn’t be surprised if this team won five games, and I would be even less surprised if they won 10.
  9. Iowa State (3-9, 2-7 Big 12): Matt Campbell is in stage one of a rebuild, but expect the Cyclones to be a tougher out than this ranking indicates. Iowa State won’t start in its default No. 9 slot for much longer.
  10. Kansas (0-12, 0-9 Big 12): David Beaty should be Big 12 Coach of the Year if the Jayhawks win two games, and national coach of the year if they win three.

Jerry Jeudy, AJ Dillon, Eno Benjamin and more set for State Farm All-Star Football Challenge

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It may fly under the radar for most, but the 22nd annual State Farm All-Star Football Challenge is set to take place on Jan. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The skills competition will pit 24 college football stars in a team event. Among those participating in this year’s challenge will be Boston College running back AJ Dillon, Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, and Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Five teams representing each of the power five conferences will consist of players from those respective conferences: ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. A sixth team of “wild card” players will be comprised of players from the Group of Five or below. This year’s wild card players will come from the Mountain West Conference (Utah State QB Jordan Love, Boise State DE Curtis Weaver), Conference USA (FAU TE Harrison Bryant) and the South Atlantic Conference of Division 2 (Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger).

The individual events included in the competition are a quarterback accuracy contest, obstacle course, strength challenge, and a hands competition. A team event will complete the overall event.

TEAM ACC
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
Bryce Perkins, QB, Virginia
Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina

TEAM BIG TEN
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

TEAM BIG 12
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Carter Stanley, QB, Kansas

TEAM PAC-12
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington
Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah
Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State

TEAM SEC
Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Riley Neal, QB, Vanderbilt

TEAM WILD CARD
Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

TE Jordan Wilson to transfer from UCLA

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UCLA redshirt junior Jordan Wilson has announced he is leaving the Bruins. In a post on his Twitter account on Friday afternoon, Wilson announced he is entering the transfer portal with the intent of finishing up his collegiate career with some other program.

“[I’d] like to announce that I will be entering the transfer portal, graduating at the end of the Spring quarter, and playing my final year of eligibility somewhere else,” Wilson announced in a statement on his Twitter account.

The decision of Wilson to leave UCLA comes at an unfortunate time for the Bruins. Wilson was likely to be a starter at tight end for UCLA in the fall. Wilson is the third tight end to leave UCLA this offseason. Devin Asiasi previously made the decision to declare for the NFL draft a year early. Matt Lynch also stepped into the transfer portal. Now, UCLA has a wide-open competition for playing time at the tight end spot beginning this spring.

Wilson caught seven passes for 72 yards for UCLA in 2019. He will leave UCLA having caught 25 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns in the past three seasons. As a graduate transfer, Wilson will be eligible to play his final year of eligibility anywhere he ends up this fall.

USC nabs Todd Orlando from Texas Tech

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USC has a new defensive coordinator. The Trojans announced on Friday the school has officially hired Todd Orlando to fill the role of defensive coordinator. Orlando joins USC after coaching the past three seasons at Texas.

Orlando actually joined the Texas Tech program after being let go by Texas following staff changes with the Longhorns. Despite landing a job with the Red Raiders, Orlando remained a top target for USC head coach Clay Helton.

“We are excited to have Todd join our Trojan football program,” Helton said in a released statement. “He is an experienced and successful defensive coordinator who has made an impact everywhere he has coached. He brings a passion, energy, toughness and discipline to his coaching and those characteristics were evident in our discussions. His defensive system poses an extreme challenge to offenses.”

Orlando replaces Clancy Pendergast, who was let go by Helton amid USC’s own staff changes after a down 2019 season. As previously mentioned (HERE), Orlando actually had worse defensive numbers compared to what Pendergast coached with USC last season. However, a contrast of playing styles and offensive outputs between the schedule Texas faced in 2019 (including games against LSU and Oklahoma) and what USC faced could lead to some skewed figures.

Orlando’s first test as a defensive coordinator will be a monster. USC opens the 2020 season in Arlington, Texas against Alabama.

Cal loses assistant Gerald Alexander to NFL job

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Cal assistant coach Gerald Alexander is leaving to coach with the Miami Dolphins. Alexander confirmed in a message posted on his Twitter account he is heading to the NFL for a coaching opportunity. Multiple reports have confirmed it will be with the Miami Dolphins.

Alexander thanked Cal head coach Justin Wilcox for the opportunity to be a part of Wilcox’s first coaching staff at Cal.

Alexander joined the Cal program in 2017 and spent the past three seasons as a defensive backs coach for the program. He has played a role in helping to coach one of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12. He previously coached at Montana State, Indiana State and with Chris Peterssen at Washington. Alexander played for Petersen at Boise State.

This will mark a return to the NFL for Alexander. He previously played in the league for five seasons with the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, and, appropriately enough, the Miami Dolphins. Alexander was a second-round draft pick of Detroit in 2007.