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CFT 2018 Preseason Previews: The Big Ten

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For the first time in the brief history of the College Football Playoff, the Big Ten found itself without a playoff representative last season. But in 2018, the conference appears to be stocked with teams worthy of being on the playoff radar as the season begins and there are a handful of programs in the early stages of turning things around and growing with fresh new leadership over the past couple of seasons. Whoever comes out on top of the Big Ten will certainly have earned it given the road any school will have to travel to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game, but will it end up being enough to justify waving the Big Ten flag in the College Football Playoff?

Ohio State has made the most trips to the playoff among Big Ten programs, including winning the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship, but the season begins with a dark cloud flying above Ohio Stadium with head coach Urban Meyer serving a three-game suspension. Fortunately, Ohio State should be in good position to weather the storm thanks to young offensive stars like J.K. Dobbins running the ball and Dwayne Haskins anointed as the starting quarterback. But it will be the defense, led by Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones on the defensive line, that carries Ohio State early on, including a road trip to Arlington to play TCU. Ohio State’s playoff bubble could hinge on the September schedule with the TCU game and a road trip to Penn State at the end of September.

Penn State was maddeningly close to making the playoff last year, but losing two games by a combined four points in back-to-back weeks leaves the football program hungry for more. And with Ohio State and Michigan State each coming to Happy Valley early in Big Ten play, James Franklin‘s Nittany Lions have a chance to make some noise early on despite a significant amount of turnover on defense and key losses on the offense. Despite the changes, having the Big Ten’s top quarterback in Trace McSorley should allow for some smooth transition while the rest of the pieces come together. Miles Sanders will not be Saquon Barkley, but he may not have to be running the football. Penn State’s best offensive line depth in years should be noticeable and a home schedule that also brings Wisconsin to Beaver Stadium puts Penn State in position to make a playoff case of their own.

Elsewhere in a stacked East Division is, of course, Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. Harbaugh may have the Big Ten’s top defense with players like Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich on the ends of the line and Lavert Hill playing corner. and the hope is transfer quarterback Shea Patterson will be a dramatic improvement for the entire offense. An early trip to Notre Dame should be a good litmus test for what the Wolverines will do this season. Meanwhile, Michigan State will continue to chug along and be a factor in the East race with 19 starters back from last year’s team.

Wisconsin has become the easy pick in the West Division, and they are a popular pick once again this season as the most reliable program in the West. But they are not without some potential hurdles as well. A challenging road schedule (Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State… Purdue?) and just three returning starters on defense to go with questionable quarterback consistency from Alex Hornibrook is a lot to counter-balance the expected strong running game led by a monster offensive line paving the way for sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor, a popular preseason Heisman Trophy favorite. The West is littered with programs in rebuilding modes like Minnesota, Purdue and now Nebraska with Scott Frost, but Northwestern is always ready to pull an upset or two and this could just be one of those years where Iowa makes a run.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

BIG TEN EAST DIVISION

  1. Penn State
  2. Ohio State
  3. Michigan State
  4. Michigan
  5. Maryland
  6. Rutgers
  7. Indiana

BIG TEN WEST DIVISION

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Iowa
  3. Northwestern
  4. Minnesota
  5. Nebraska
  6. Purdue
  7. Illinois

IN SHORT:

Ole Miss confirms addition of Navy transfer Jake Springer

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Ole Miss has looked to a service academy to significantly bolster its football roster.  Officially.

Back in mid-March, Jake Springer signaled his intention to transfer from Navy by entering the NCAA transfer database.  A little over three months later, the striker utilized Instagram to announce that he had committed to the Ole Miss football team.

Two weeks after that social media revelation, Ole Miss confirmed that Springer has signed and been added to the Rebels football roster.  It was initially thought that Springer would be headed to the Rebels as a graduate transfer.  Instead, the school confirmed he’ll have to sit out the 2020 season.  The 2021 season will be his final year of eligibility.

Springer was a two-star member of the Class of 2017 for the Midshipmen.  His recruiting pedigree, though, belies the potential for production he brings to Ole Miss football.

After playing in six games as a true freshman, Springer saw action in a dozen in 2018.  He started four of those contests, intercepting a pair of passes in that action.  The Missouri product had a breakout season in 2019, starting 10 games for the Midshipmen.  He led the team in both tackles for loss (16) and sacks (eight).  The latter total is tied for third-most in academy history, the former tied for the fifth-most.

Following the regular season, Springer was accorded second-team All-AAC honors.

While he played a hybrid linebacker/safety (striker) position at Navy, Springer is expected to make his mark in the secondary for the SEC school.

Illinois LB Joseph Thompson enters the transfer portal

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Illinois has been on the right side of the football portal throughout the offseason.  Now, Lovie Smith‘s crew finds themselves on the wrong end.

First reported by Rivals.com, Joseph Thompson has entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed that the defensive back is intent on leaving the Illinois football program.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Thompson was a three-star member of the Illinois football Class of 2019.  The Chicago native was rated as the No. 27 recruit regardless of position in the state of Illinois.  As a true freshman, Thompson didn’t appear in any games and took a redshirt.

On the positive side for the Illini? Illinois has added seven transfers to its football roster this offseason.  Five of those have come from Power Five programs.

In mid-March, ex-Alabama linebacker Christian Bell tweeted that he was moving on to the Illini. Shortly thereafter, we noted that an FCS All-American offensive lineman had opted to transfer into the Illinois football program. New Mexico State wide receiver Desmond Dan did the same.  As did Miami wide receiver Brian Hightower.  And Mississippi State offensive lineman Brevyn Jones as well in early May  And Louisville defensive back TreSean Smith last week mid-May.  And Cal defensive tackle Chinedu Udeogu that same month.

Report: Oklahoma wants to move its 2020 opener up a week, to Aug. 29

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While seemingly everyone in the sport is looking to push games back, Oklahoma is actually looking to move its football opener up.

Oklahoma is currently scheduled to open the 2020 college football season at home in Norman against FCS Missouri State Sept. 5.  According to The Oklahoman, however, OU is looking to move that matchup up a week, to Aug. 29.  Reportedly, the FCS school is amenable to such a move.

The reasoning behind such a waiver?

OU athletic director Joe Castiglione’s rationale in this pandemic-stricken year is that moving the opener would give OU an off week after each of its first two games, which could be valuable with the testing of players for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

With constant testing and the subsequent contact tracing for those exposed, teams face a season with frequent quarantines and isolation of players who either have the virus or have been exposed to it.

At the moment, Oklahoma is scheduled to face Tennessee at Memorial Stadium Sept. 12.  Then coming off a bye, OU would travel

All of this, of course, is contingent on there actually being non-conference games in the sport.  The Big Ten was the first conference-only scheduling domino to fall.  The ACC and Pac-12 are expected to follow suit.  The Sooners’ conference, the Big 12, likely won’t make a decision on that front until the end of this month.  The same goes for the SEC as well.

Five-star 2020 Georgia signee Broderick Jones reportedly injured in motor bike accident

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There’s a health concern involving one of the crown jewels of the Georgia football Class of 2020.

With Auburn in hot pursuit, Broderick Jones confirmed back in February that he had signed with Georgia football. The offensive lineman stated on National Signing Day he is “a Georgia boy” and “wanted to be close to home so my family could support me.“

Now, though, 247Sports.com is confirming that Jones suffered “a lower leg injury related to an accident involving a motor bike.” No details surrounding the accident have been revealed, although the website noted that it didn’t happen in the last couple of days.

It’s expected that Jones will be recovering for multiple weeks, perhaps up to two months. As of yet, the Georgia football program has not commented on the development.

The No. 3 recruit regardless of position in the state of Georgia, the 6-5, 298-pound Jones is the No. 2 offensive tackle in the country.  On the 247Sports.com composite, he’s listed as the No. 11 prospect overall in the Class of 2020.  Only one signee in this year’s class for the Bulldogs, cornerback Kelee Ringo, was rated higher.

While Jones verbally committed to UGA in April of 2018, the departure of line coach Sam Pittman for the head job at Arkansas in December caused some concern.  In January, Jones took an official visit to Arkansas.  He took another to Illinois that same month.

With the Bulldogs, the expectation is that Jones will slide into a starting job as a true freshman.  Provided there is a season, of course.