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CFT 2017 Preseason Previews: The ACC

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It was not so long ago ACC commissioner was setting the challenge to the entire ACC membership to start representing the conference better on the national stage in spotlight opportunities. In 2016, the ACC could not have done much better. The conference took all of the bragging rights with an impressive bowl record, the national champion (taking down the SEC champion in the process), and the Heisman Trophy winner. So, what does the ACC do for an encore?

ACC ATLANTIC

1. Florida State (10-3 in 2016; won Orange Bowl vs. Michigan)
After watching division rival Clemson capture back-to-back ACC crowns and play in two consecutive national championship games, the 2016 season appears to be Florida State’s time to ascend back to the top of the conference to wave the ACC banner in the College Football Playoff. Florida State, the preseason favorite in the ACC this fall, will have one of the most difficult schedules in the nation, starting with a season-opening tilt against Alabama in Atlanta. The offense must replace Dalvin Cook and hope Deondre Francois blossoms as a sophomore in an offense lacking in returning starters but not in potential and talent. FSU’s defense will be in much better shape at the start of the year with a loaded unit with plenty of starting experience, highlighted by safety Derwin James.

2. Clemson (14-1, ACC champion, won College Football Playoff national championship vs. Alabama)
To say Clemson football lost its identity with the departure of so many key players from their championship run would be a slight exaggeration. Dabo Swinney is still the coach and the Tigers will still be a talented bunch despite having big shoes to fill. Expect Clemson to take a slight step back, but the Tigers will still be in the way of Florida State. They even get the Noles at home. Early back-to-back tests against Auburn (home) and Louisville (away) will give an early idea of whether or not there is a championship hangover with Clemson. With a stacked offensive line in gear, whoever takes over at quarterback (likely Kelly Bryant) should be protected.

3. Louisville (9-4, lost Citrus Bowl vs. LSU)
After the way last season ended, the theme to the 2017 season for the Cardinals should be something along the lines of “unfinished business.” The Cardinals dropped the last three games of the season, including a 26-point loss at Houston, a three-point loss to in-state rival Kentucky and a 20-point setback against LSU in the bowl game. After the red-hot start Lamar Jackson and the offense got off to, the end to the year was stunning. Jackson still won the Heisman Trophy and the schedule sets up well for another hot start this fall. But three new offensive line starters must be filled and the offense must cut down on turnovers if Louisville is to make a push in the division.

4. North Carolina State (7-6, won Independence Bowl vs. Vanderbilt)
If there is one thing to like about NC State in 2017, it will be the amount of starting experience the team brings back. This is especially true on the defensive side of the football where a front four led by defensive end Bradley Chubb and three other seniors could cause problems for even the best offenses in the ACC. The offensive line is also looking to be in solid shape with veteran starting experience across the line to protect junior quarterback Ryan Finley. Dave Doeren is in his fourth year with the program, and this one could be his best team yet.

5. Boston College (7-6, won Quick Lane Bowl vs. Maryland)
Head coach Steve Addazio could find himself back on the hot seat at some point this season, even after seemingly cool the temperature with a positive finish to the 2016 season to take into the offseason. The Eagles return a good number of starters on both sides of the football, but the talent gap between Boston College and some of the other teams in the division and conference is telling. Dual-threat quarterback Anthony Brown, a freshman, could provide a spark to the offense, but expect the Eagles to keep pounding the ball in the hands of running back Jon Hilliman. On defense, Boston College has one of the top defensive players in the ACC in defensive end Harold Landry and an experienced defensive mid and backfield to rely on.

6. Syracuse Orange (4-8)
Dino Babers has started to put together a game plan for the Orange with the idea of having a long way to go to restoring pride in the program. With some glimpses at what could be coming for the Orange showed last season (including an upset of Virginia Tech), Babers can count on having a roster returning nearly all of its starters from a year ago on both sides of the football, including quarterback Eric Dungey and linebacker Zaire Franklin. If experience counts for something, then the Orange could be in decent shape to get back to a bowl game. Getting to the postseason will be a challenge. After three winnable games to start the season, Syracuse plays at LSU and later must play games at Florida State and Louisville. They also have a crossover game against Miami to worry about.

7. Wake Forest (7-6, won Military Bowl vs. Temple)
The Demon Deacons could cause some trouble for most teams on their schedule, but Dave Clawson will have to overcome a good amount of youth on the roster this season in order to coach the team back to a bowl game. Wake Forest has struggled to score with an offense that fails to protect its quarterback and a running game that can easily be stopped at the line. The good news is Clawson feels this is the best offensive line he has had since coming to Wake Forest, although depth will be a significant concern. But at least there won’t be rogue radio broadcasters trying to sell off and distribute Wake Forest’s game plan this season, hopefully.

ACC COASTAL

1. Miami (9-4 in 2016, won Russell Athletic Bowl vs. West Virginia)
Get ready to ask all of your college football friends a familiar question at some point this season. Is Miami back? The Hurricanes should take some steps forward as a program and could end up winning its first division since joining the ACC, but there is still a good amount of ground to makeup to be on the same level as Florida State and Clemson, and maybe Louisville. But in this division, anything could go. Miami will play some defense with linebacker Shaq Quarterman leading the charge, but the Hurricanes have a serious quarterback question following the loss of Brad Kaaya to the NFL. Florida State on the road is tricky, but home games against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech could be good.

2. Virginia Tech (10-4, ACC Coastal champion, won Belk Bowl vs. Arkansas)
The defending division champs could just as easily get back to the ACC Championship Game this season, especially if redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson brings some versatility to the offense in Year 2 under head coach Justin Fuente. The Hokies also have new starters at running back and tight end and a couple of spots on the offensive line, but the defense should be in solid shape with a load of experience at linebacker (hello there, Andrew Motupuaka). The Hokies have a tough November with road games at Miami and Georgia Tech and they draw Clemson in inter-divisional play. Regardless, this looks like a solid top 25 team.

3. Pittsburgh (8-5, lost Pinstripe Bowl vs. Northwestern)
The Pitt Panthers scored wins against the eventual national champions (Clemson) and Big Ten champions (Penn State), yet they lost a total of four games by seven points or fewer. Can the Panthers flip a few of those close calls the other way? Pitt must replace James Conner but running back Qadree Ollison can do some damage on the ground. Former USC quarterback Max Browne also takes over at quarterback with one of the top wide receivers in the ACC to throw to (Quadree Henderson). How it all comes together with a new offensive coordinator remains to be seen, and the schedule is not kind with non-conference matchups at Penn State and home vs. Oklahoma State and conference road trips to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech before closing out the year at home against Miami. But no Florida State, Clemson, or Louisville gives the Panthers as healthy a conference schedule as possible for a run to the division title.

4. Georgia Tech (9-4, won TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Kentucky)
Never underestimate a team coached by Paul Johnson. This is especially true when he returns a good number of starters. After closing out the 2016 season on a four-game winning streak, including a bowl victory over Kentucky, the Yellow Jackets are not to be taken lightly. In fact, Georgia Tech may be the best sleeper pick you will find in the ACC as they bring back the most experience in a division that always seems to be up for grabs. Georgia Tech’s running game will always be the strength of the team, which will help ease the pressure on a defense that is lacking in overall talent.

5. North Carolina (8-5, lost Sun Bowl vs. Stanford)
Everything about UNC appears to be a valid question this season. Can the defense keep improving under a new defensive coordinator? Can the offense work with a quarterback who struggled at times at LSU? Who is going to make plays for the team? After losing Mitch Trubisky to the NFL, the UNC Tar Heels will place the football in the hands of former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris this season. He may be handing off to a freshman running back with Michael Carter being molded to carry the load.Special teams is also a concern for UNC after losing key special teams players from last year like Ryan Switzer and T.J. Logan. This could be a rough season in Chapel Hill.

6. Duke (4-8)
The Blue Devils could look like a dangerous team as the season plays out, and there is a schedule that gives Duke an opportunity to turn some heads if they can manage to win a couple of home games against Northwestern and Baylor. But despite Duke’s recent trend of being a team that catches you off guard, the 2017 season could end up only marginally better in the win column than 2016 ended. David Cutcliffe will continue to develop quarterback Daniel Jones, but a lack of playmakers to throw the ball too means Duke’s offense won’t be likely to keep opposing defensive coordinators up all night leading up to a game. The defense returns linebackers Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles-Harris, but the defense has concerns across the field as well. Getting to a bowl game this season would be a major accomplishment for Duke in 2017.

7. Virginia (2-10)
Virginia may still be in good hands with head coach Bronco Mendenhall, but he realized fairly quickly how much work was needed to make the Cavaliers competitive again. Virginia will have to take some baby steps forward as a program in 2017, because the player development and recruiting is going to take some time before Mendenhall has Virginia even thinking about going to a bowl game. Virginia will have to rely on a veteran-led defense to keep games close, and the scheduling gods have given Virginia a break with no crossover games against Clemson and Florida State, but they do have to go to Louisville and they travel to Boise State for a non-conference matchup. Virginia also misses Notre Dame on the rotation this season. Quarterback Kurt Benkert will look to have a rebound season after a rough 2016 season.

ACC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Florida State over Miami

Ohio State, Ryan Day agree to three-year contract extension

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Not surprisingly, it will continue to pay to be the Ohio State football head coach.

Tuesday morning, OSU announced it has agreed to a three-year extension for Ryan Day.  The coach is now signed through the 2026 season.

It should be noted that the agreement is pending approval by the Ohio State University Board of Trustees.

According to the school, Day will make $5.375 million from Feb. 1, 2020 through Jan. 31, 2021. Additionally, OSU will make an employer contribution of $1 million to his retirement continuation plan on Dec. 31, 2020.  Day will then make $6.5 million in 2021 and $7.6 million in 2022.

“Increases to his compensation package after Feb. 1, 2023 will be determined by the director of athletics and approved by the Board of Trustees,” the school wrote.

In 2019, Day’s $4.5 million in guaranteed compensation was seventh in the Big Ten and 22nd nationally.

“Ryan Day’s management of this football program, from mentoring and leading our student-athletes in their academic pursuits and off-field endeavors to coaching them on the playing field, has been exceptional,” Senior Vice President and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director Gene Smith said. “I am appreciative of his work. And I want to thank President Michael V. Drake for his leadership and the Board of Trustees for its work with this extension.”

In his first full season as the Ohio State football head coach, Day guided the Buckeyes to a 13-1 record.  After winning the Big Ten title, Day became the first OSU coach in four decades to be named as the Big Ten Coach of the Year.  Ohio State football also returned to the playoffs for the third time in six seasons.

Day is actually 16-1 as a head coach.  With Urban Meyer suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season, the Buckeyes went 3-0 with Day as the acting head coach.

Spring football games schedule: Complete dates, times, TV options

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College football spring games? Certainly. Ready to watch? Probably (thanks to this spring football games schedule).

With the 2019 season fading into the rearview mirror, our attention has now turned to the 2020 campaign that, for now, seems far out on the horizon.  One of the first big steps in getting to next season, of course, is spring practice.  In most cases, those 15 spring practice sessions will culminate in some semblance of a spring game.

Below is a list of those college football spring games, complete with dates, times (Eastern) and, when appropriate, the television station on which they will be broadcast,

As of the initial posting, not all of the college football spring games and their dates have been released.  Some details, including times, are still to be determined as well.

This post will be updated as necessary throughout the next two months.

(Writer’s note: If any schools or fans of schools notice we’re missing already-available information, please shoot me the particulars at John.Taylor AT nbcuni.com)

March games

MARCH 5

Coastal Carolina, (other details to be determined)

MARCH 19

Arkansas State, 7:00 p.m.

MARCH 21

Charlotte, (other details to be determined)
San Diego State, 2:00 p.m.

MARCH 28

Western Michigan, (other details to be determined)
Tulane, 11:00 a.m.
San Jose State, 5:00 p.m.
Arizona State, 10:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network/Arizona)

April games

APRIL 3

Rice, (other details to be determined)
Buffalo, 3:00 p.m.
FIU, 6:30 p.m.
Georgia Southern, 7:30 p.m.
Georgia State, 7:30 p.m.
Vanderbilt, 8:00 p.m.

APRIL 4

Temple, (other details to be determined)
Troy, (other details to be determined)
Minnesota, noon
North Carolina State, 12:30 p.m.
Tulsa, 12:30 p.m.
South Carolina, 1:00 p.m. (SEC Network+)
UAB, 1:00 p.m.
Purdue, 2:00 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Clemson, 2:30 p.m.
UCF, 2:30 p.m.
Wake Forest, 3:00 p.m.
Louisiana-Monroe, 7:00 p.m.
Arizona, 8:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network/Arizona)

APRIL 9

Louisiana, (other details to be determined)

APRIL 10

Georgia Tech, (other details to be determined)
Cincinnati, 6:00
Texas Tech, 7:00 p.m.

APRIL 11

Cal, (other details to be determined)
Pitt, (ACC Network) (time to be determined)
Kentucky, noon (SEC Network+)
Ohio State, noon (Big Ten Network)
Mississippi State, 12:30 p.m.
Kent State, 1:00 p.m.
Utah, 1:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network/Mountain)
Auburn, 2:00 p.m.
Missouri, 2:00 p.m.
Eastern Michigan, 3:00 p.m.
USC, 3:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network/Los Angeles)
Stanford, 4:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network/Bay Area)
Boise State, 5:30 p.m.

APRIL 17

Army, (other details to be determined)
Memphis, (other details to be determined)
Indiana, 7:00 p.m. (Big Ten Network)

APRIL 18

Ball State, (other details to be determined)
Baylor, (other details to be determined)
Florida, (other details to be determined)
Florida Atlantic, (other details to be determined)
Georgia, (other details to be determined)
Kansas, (other details to be determined)
Louisiana Tech, (other details to be determined)
LSU, (other details to be determined)
Oklahoma, (other details to be determined)
Texas A&M, (other details to be determined)
UCLA, (other details to be determined)
USF, (other details to be determined)
UTSA, (other details to be determined)
Akron, noon
Bowling Green, noon
Michigan, noon
SMU, noon
Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
West Virginia, 1:00 p.m.
Miami of Ohio, 1:30 p.m.
Penn State, 1:30 p.m. (FS1)
Alabama, 2:00 p.m.
Middle Tennessee State, 2:00 p.m.
Nebraska, 2:00 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
North Carolina, 3:00 p.m. (ACC Network)
Old Dominion, 3:00 p.m.
Oregon State, 3:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network/Oregon)
Western Kentucky, 3:00 pm.
Virginia Tech, 3:30 p.m.
Michigan State, 4 p.m.
Tennessee, 4:00 p.m.
Florida State, 5:00 p.m.
Oregon, 5:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network/Oregon)
Ole Miss, 7:30 p.m.

APRIL 25

Arkansas, (other details to be determined)
Nevada, (other details to be determined)
Texas, (other details to be determined)
UMass, (other details to be determined)
Southern Miss, 1:00 p.m.
Marshall, 2:00 p.m.
Colorado, 3:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network/Mountain)
Washington State, 3:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network/Washington)
Rutgers, 4:00 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Washington, 6:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network/Washington)

Minnesota hires ex-Michigan State DBs coach Paul Haynes as CBs coach

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In filling a hole on his Minnesota football coaching staff, P.J. Fleck turned to an assistant with recent Big Ten experience.  And head-coaching experience on top of that for good measure.

The Minnesota football program announced Monday the hiring of Paul Haynes.  Specifically, Haynes will serve as the Golden Gophers’ cornerbacks coach.

Haynes will replace Rod Chance, who left the Minnesota football program earlier this month to take the job as cornerbacks coach at Oregon.

The past two seasons, Haynes was the defensive backs coach at Michigan State in his second stint with the B1G school.  For the five years prior to that, the 51-year-old Ohio native was the head coach at Kent State.

In those five seasons, the Golden Flashes compiled a record of 14-45 overall and 9-30 in MAC play.  In November of 2017, Haynes was officially relieved of his duties.

In 2012, Haynes was the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Arkansas.  From 2005-11, Haynes was on the staff at Ohio State.  After serving as defensive backs coach his first six seasons, Haynes was the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach in 2011.

Haynes’ first stint at MSU came in 2003-04 as defensive backs coach.  The year prior to that, he served in the same job at Louisville.

New Year’s Day, Minnesota football capped off a historic season with an Outback Bowl upset of Auburn.  The 11 wins were the program’s most since they won 13 in 1904.  Minnesota’s only other seasons with 10 or more wins came in 1900, 1903, 1905 and 2003.

The hiring of Haynes completes a reshuffling of Fleck’s coaching staff.

Mel Tucker adds two more assistants to first Michigan State coaching staff

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Less than two weeks after his hiring, Mel Tucker‘s first Michigan State football coaching staff is nearly complete.

Monday, MSU confirmed that Tucker has added Ross Els and William Peaglerc to his Spartans staff.  Els will serve as special teams coordinator, Peagler as running backs coach.

Tucker is very familiar with both of his new hires.

Els was the inside linebackers coach at Colorado for the past three seasons.  During Tucker’s Boulder one-and-done, the 30-year coaching veteran added special teams coordinator to his linebacking duties.

In 2016, the 54-year-old Els was the defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Purdue.  He also spent time on FBS staffs at:

  • Nebraska, linebackers coach/special teams coordinator/recruiting coordinator (2012-14)
  • Nebraska, linebackers coach (2011)
  • Ohio, assistant head coach/linebackers coach/special teams coordinator (2010)
  • Ohio, linebackers coach/special teams coordinator (2007-09)
  • Ohio, linebackers coach (2005-06)
  • New Mexico State, defensive coordinator/linebackers coach (2003-04)
  • New Mexico State, safeties/special teams coach (2001-02)

“Ross has been a Power 5 defensive coordinator and does an excellent job with special teams,” the new Michigan State football head coach said in a statement. “His attention to detail is outstanding and he’s a great teacher. He also develops great relationships with his players, which makes him a great recruiter as well. His experience will definitely help our staff.”

The 34-year-old Peagler, meanwhile, was the director of quality control for the offense last season at Colorado for Tucker last year.  The Clemson graduate has never been an on-field assistant at the collegiate level.

At Power Five programs, Peagler has served as a quality control assistant for offense at Minnesota (2016) and a graduate assistant at Georgia (2017).

“William has an excellent understanding of offensive concepts,” a statement on Peagler from the Michigan State football coach began. “He really gets it. He also has experience working with (offensive coordinator) Jay Johnson, and has been at some high-level programs, including Clemson and Georgia. He’s a multi-talented coach and I think he is a rising star.”

With the hirings of Peagler and Els, Tucker has officially added nine of his 10 on-field assistants.

The weekend before last, it was confirmed that Ron Burton and Mike Tressel would be retained.  Shortly thereafter, Chris Kapilovic officially followed Tucker to MSU from Colorado.  Last Wednesday, former first-team All-Big Ten wide receiver Courtney Hawkins returned to East Lansing to coach the same position he played for the Spartans.  A day laterJay Johnson was confirmed as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and Harlon Barnett was brought back as defensive backs coach.  A day after that, Tucker pried Ted Gilmore away from Wisconsin to serve as MSU’s tight ends coach.