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CFT 2017 Preseason Previews: Playoff Dark Horses

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I was in charge of picking Playoff dark horses last year and did… pretty darn decent. After exempting myself from selecting Washington (who, obviously, made the Playoff) I selected Florida, winner of the SEC East, Louisville, who was in the hunt into November and UCL…. let’s just move on.

Here’s a look at who will be this year’s Washington, this year’s Louisville and, yes, probably this year’s UCLA.

Wisconsin: The Badgers are college football’s most consistent bet to be good and not great. That will likely be the case again this year, but Wisconsin’s schedule is tailor-made for a 2015 Iowa-like run. The Badgers get five of their first seven at home, and their next two games after that are road trips to Illinois and Indiana. After that, Iowa and Michigan come to Madison before the regular season finale at Minnesota. The Gophers should be better under P.J. Fleck than they were with Tracy Claeys, but Wisconsin owns a massive mental edge in this series with 13 straight wins. As long as Wisconsin wins two of its three games against Nebraska, Michigan and Iowa (and only the first is on the road, remember) they’ll be back in Indianapolis, where only an anything-can-happen 60 minutes will stand between Paul Chryst and a Playoff berth.

TCU: It seems every time we forget Gary Patterson is one of the very best coaches in the game, he reminds us in a big way. So let’s look back to the last two times Patterson finished under .500, and then what happened the year after. In 2004, TCU went 5-6. A year later the Frogs finished 11-1, won the Mountain West Conference in their first year in the league and closed the year with the first of Patterson’s top-10 final rankings. In 2013, TCU stumbled to a 4-8 mark and roared back to a 12-1 2014 season, narrowly missing the Playoff but ending the year at No. 3 in both polls. TCU went 6-7 in 2016, and return one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country in Kenny Hill. If quarterbacks coach and play-caller Sonny Cumbie can coax the bad plays out of time, TCU will be a factor yet again.

Notre Dame: Yes, yes, save your jokes. Notre Dame went 4-8 last season. Last year is over. Brian Kelly has refocused himself to the job, and helped himself out greatly by hiring Mike Elko to fix his defense, one of the absolute best hires of the offseason. Brandon Wimbush is a star in the making at quarterback, and the schedule is difficult without being impossible.

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history

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The sports world, including college football, has essentially screeched to a halt as countries around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there’s a dearth of college football news as spring practices have all but been canceled at every level of the sport. And there’s even some concern that the health issue could have an impact on the 2020 college football campaign.

In that vein, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on March 27, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2018

THE HEADLINE: Les Miles says he still wants to coach but is trying his hand at acting in the meantime
THE SYNOPSIS: Less than nine months after this headline ran, Mad Hatter the Actor became Mad Matter the Coach again as Miles took over the Kansas football program. In the first season under Miles, the Jayhawks went 3-9. One of those wins, over Texas Tech, was one of the most Mad Hatter wins ever. Miles was also the first KU coach to start a season 2-1 since 1997.

As an aside, the last time Kansas won more than three games in a season? 2009, when they won five.  Chew on that.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Penn State trustee says he’s ‘running out of patience’ with ‘so-called victims’ of Jerry Sandusky
THE SYNOPSIS: It takes a special level of douchiness to go here.  Yet that’s what Albert Lord did.  Or, as we wrote: “With Baylor seemingly running away with the title of most embarrassing university in collegiate athletics, a Penn State trustee has said ‘hold my beer.'”

THE HEADLINE: Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-month contract EXTENSION
THE SYNOPSIS: Three years later, and even with Mark Dantonio‘s retirement, Michigan State is still knee-deep in the Curtis Blackwell situation.  Whether they’ll be knee-deep in an NCAA situation is to be determined.

2016

THE HEADLINE: Mich. St. releases statement on four-star signee Auston Robertson
THE SYNOPSIS: This player was the genesis for the off-field issues still facing the Michigan State football program.

2015

THE HEADLINE: PHOTO: Ohio State has a Michigan fire hydrant near its vet school
THE SYNOPSIS: College football.  The sport’s rivalries.  Still the best.  Ever.

2013

THE HEADLINE: Longtime Alabama AD Mal Moore passes away at age 73
THE SYNOPSIS: The 73-year-old Moore’s passing came less than a month after he stepped down because of health issues.  Moore had been the AD since 1999.

2011

THE HEADLINE: Fickell to take over for Tressel during five-game suspension
THE SYNOPSIS: After Jim Tressel abruptly resigned in May of that year because of his NCAA issue, Luke Fickell took over for the 2011 season at Ohio State.  He was ultimately replaced as head coach by Urban Meyer.  Five years later, Fickell became the head coach at Cincinnati.

2009

THE HEADLINE: HAWKINS PREDICTS 10 WINS FOR COLORADO*
THE SYNOPSIS: In his third season at Colorado, Dan Hawkins went on to win three games post-prediction.  After five wins the following season, Hawkins was fired.

(*Yes, back in the day, we used to scream out our headlines at our readers in all-caps. The move to NBC a couple of months later mercifully ended that practice.)

USC beats out Alabama, LSU, others for four-star RB Brandon Campbell

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Facing a must-win season — if the season is even playedClay Helton has added a talented piece to his future USC roster.  If he’s still the Trojans’ head coach come next year, of course.

On his personal Twitter account Saturday night, Brandon Campbell announced that he has committed to playing for Helton and his USC football program. According to 247Sports.com, the running back opted for USC over a list of finalists that included Alabama, LSU, Penn State and TCU.

That same site noted that Florida was also a consideration until Reynolds dropped the Gators this past week.

Campbell is a four-star 2021 prospect. He is rated as the No. 22 back in the country. The Katy, Tex., product is also the No. 49 player in the state regardless of position.

Campbell is the fifth commitment for USC this cycle. He’s the third four-star recruit to verbal. Quarterback Jake Garcia is the only five-star commit.

With the commitment, USC now holds the No. 2 class, behind Oregon, in the Pac-12 on the 247Sports.com composite. Overall, the Trojans are 13th nationally according to that same metric.

USC and Oregon, incidentally, are the only Pac-12 schools in the Top 20 currently. The Big Ten far and away leads all conferences with eight Top 20 classes currently, followed by the SEC’s four, ACC’s three and Big 12’s two. Football-independent Notre Dame (No. 6) is in the group as well.

Washington announces death of former player, coach Jim Lambright

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Jim Lambright spent nearly his entire adult life in Husky purple and gold, and the Lambright family announced Sunday that that life has ended.

“I’m deeply saddened by the news of Coach Lambright’s passing,” Washington AD Jennifer Cohen said in a statement. “Coach Lambright is synonymous with Husky football and he gave so much to this program both as a player and coach. My love for the University of Washington was sparked during Coach’s tenure on our football staff and I’m grateful for the impact he had on so many. I’d like to extend heartfelt condolences to his family, former players, teammates and coaches.”

An Everett, Wash., native, Lambright was an all-conference defensive end for the Huskies from 1962-64. He then moved into coaching as an assistant at Fife High School in Tacoma and then at Shoreline Community College north of Seattle.

His former coach Jim Owens called Lambright home in 1969, and he remained on Washington’s staff for the next 30 years.

Future Hall of Fame coach Don James retained Lambright in 1975 and promoted him to defensive coordinator in 1978, where he helped the Washington win six Pac-8/Pac-10 championships, three Rose Bowls and a share of the 1991 national championship.

Lambright was promoted to head coach upon James’ retirement in 1993, where he went 44-25-1 with a share of the Pac-10 title in 1995 and AP top-20 finishes in 1996 and ’97. He was relieved of duties after the 1998 season in favor of Rick Neuheisel.

“Coach Lambright was a legend at the UW, particularly when it came to playing the kind of physical, aggressive defense that his teams were known for,” said Washington head coach Jimmy Lake. “He was always supportive of the program that he loved so much. His impact on Husky football will not be forgotten.”

Lambright is survived by his daughter Kris, son Eric and two grandchildren. He was 77 years old. Cause of death was not revealed.

Patriarch of Hebert family dies of coronavirus complications

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Bobby Hebert, Sr., died Saturday due to complications of COVID-19, the family has announced. He was 81 years old.

Bobby, Sr., was the patriarch of the Hebert clan, a prominent football family in Louisiana.

Bobby Hebert, Jr., played quarterback at Northwestern State in the early 1980s — he was a teammate of Ed Orgeron‘s — before becoming the most decorated player in USFL history and a 12-year quarterback for the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.

Bobby’s grandson, T-Bob Hebert, played center at LSU from 2007-11. He was a redshirt on the Tigers’ 2007 title team and started on the 2011 LSU team that won that season’s SEC title and reached the BCS National Championship.

Bobby, Jr., is now an afternoon host for WWL-AM sports radio in New Orleans, and T-Bob hosts mornings for the ESPN Radio affiliate in Baton Rouge.

“You can be tough and the virus can still overwhelm you,” Bobby, Jr., said on WWL on Friday.

“I’m kinda numb and shocked. You get numb and then sometimes you don’t want to accept reality and what you are dealing with.”

Through tears, Hebert, Jr., described his father as a “fighter” who survived colon cancer, multiple strokes and a birth defect that required open-heart surgery.