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CFT 2018 Preseason Previews: Playoff Predictions

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Every season is a snowflake, in that each set of circumstances is unique to the dynamics and characters of that season and is unlikely to be repeated again. We saw Ohio State jump TCU in Baylor in 2014. The 2016 debate saw a 1-loss non-division champion (Ohio State) jump a 2-loss conference champion (Penn State), despite the non-champion losing to the champion. Last year we saw a non-division champion that lost its final regular season game (Alabama) fend off a 2-loss conference champion (Ohio State).

But one lesson has remained constant: talent wins out. The College Football Playoff has not been kind to the underdog. With the understanding that there’s really no such thing as a Cinderella in a system that selects excludes 126 of the 130 teams, the biggest upset we’ve seen is… Ohio State over Alabama in 2014? And given what we know now, that Buckeyes win wasn’t an upset at all. Only three “developmental” programs have reached the Playoff in four seasons — Oregon in 2014, Michigan State in 2015 and Washington in 2016. Oregon blew out an overrated Florida State team, then was blown out itself by Ohio State in the championship game. Michigan State lost to Alabama 38-0 in the 2015 Cotton Bowl. Washington was dusted 24-7 by Alabama in the 2016 Peach Bowl.

Meanwhile, Alabama has reached three straight title games. They played Clemson twice, and Georgia once.

Getting to the College Football Playoff is extremely hard for anyone to do. Winning it, for anyone other than the elite of the elite, has proven to be impossible. Such a reality appears in the CFT staff’s picks for the 2018 CFP field.

Kevin
Orange Bowl: Clemson over Penn State
Cotton Bowl: Alabama over Oklahoma
CFP National Championship: Alabama over Clemson

Bryan
Orange Bowl: Clemson over Wisconsin
Cotton Bowl: Alabama over Washington
CFP National Championship: Clemson over Alabama

Zach
Orange Bowl: Clemson over Washington
Cotton Bowl: Georgia over Wisconsin
CFP National Championship: Clemson over Georgia

John
Orange Bowl: Ohio State over Clemson
Cotton Bowl: Georgia over Washington
CFP National Championship: Ohio State over Georgia

Illini DE who suffered severe spinal injury speaking, eating and sitting up

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There is some positive news when it comes to a distressing situation that developed over the weekend.

Illinois true junior defensive end Bobby Roundtree sustained what was described as a severe spinal cord injury in a swimming accident Saturday and underwent surgery a day later.  According to the Associated Press, Roundtree is progressing well following the surgery and, while he remains hospitalized, is speaking, eating and sitting up.

Several members of the Illini football program, including Lovie Smith, traveled to Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, Fla., to be with the injured player.

“Bobby Roundtree is exactly what you want in a student-athlete,” a statement from the head coach began. “He is a hard worker, dependable, a dedicated student and a leader.

“This is devastating to his teammates, the entire Fighting Illini family and his family and friends. We will give Bobby all the support possible as he battles through his recovery. Please keep Bobby and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Roundtree, who played his high school football in Largo, Fla., has started 20 games the past two seasons since coming to the Illini as a three-star member of their 2017 recruiting class.  This past season, the 6-5, 245-pound end led the Illini in tackles for loss with 12.5 and pass breakups, and was second in sacks with 7.5 and quarterback hits with four.

For that, the media named Roundtree honorable mention All-Big Ten for the 2018 season.

Iowa State officially adds Arkansas’ leading receiver

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Matt Campbell has officially added an experienced and productive piece to his Iowa State passing attack.

La'Michael Pettway revealed via Twitter in mid-January that he would be transferring from Arkansas; nearly four months later, he used the same social media vehicle to deliver the message that he would be continuing his collegiate playing career at Iowa State.  Monday, it was confirmed by the football program that the wide receiver has officially enrolled in classes at the university.

As a graduate transfer, Pettway will be eligible to play immediately for the Cyclones in 2019.

“I think the biggest thing he brings is he gives a veteran presence to this receiver group,” the head coach said according to the Des Moines Register. “[T]he opportunity to get a guy that’s done it at a very high level against really high-end competition can just add some veteran-ness to a group where there’s a lot of youth.”

This past season, Pettway led the Razorbacks in receiving yards with 499 and receptions with 30.  His four receiving touchdowns were good for second on the team.

Prior to 2018, Pettway had totaled 102 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.

NFL Network to air 10 Conference USA games each fall

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The NFL Network and Conference USA struck a deal that will see the league air 10 C-USA games, starting this fall.

“While exploring new media options for football, NFL Network stood out as an excellent opportunity for national exposure,” C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “We look forward to showcasing our conference through their tremendous platform and reach.”

The contract runs for four years, and will see NFL Network air one game a week for 10 weeks.

“We are excited to showcase the next generation of NFL athletes to our fans on a weekly basis,” said Hans Schroeder, Chief Operating Officer of NFL Media. “Our fans crave live football, and partnering with Conference USA – a conference which boasts several Hall of Fame players – provides us with an excellent opportunity to do so.”

Specific game announcements will be named at a later date. It’s an important move for C-USA, who has seen more and more of its games moved off of TV and onto streaming platforms, such as ESPN Plus, Stadium and Facebook. The league also has a TV deal with CBS Sports Network.

June Jones resurfaces as XFL Houston head coach

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The last we saw of June Jones, at least in the continental United States, he was mailing it in as SMU’s head coach. After leading the Ponies to four straight bowl trips from 2009-12, Jones watched SMU slip to 5-7 in 2013, then walked out the door after losing the first two games of the 2014 campaign by a combined score of 88-6. (That SMU team would finish the ’14 season at 1-11.) It seemed the then-61-year-old had given football all he had to give, at least on a competitive level.

Jones took 2015 off, then spent 2016 in a semi-retirement gig as the offensive coordinator at a high school in Hawaii.

But Jones must have really missed football, because he gave up the Hawaiian life to spend the past two seasons as head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and now he’s back stateside as the head coach of the XFL’s Houston franchise.

“I’ve spent a few years coaching in Houston, and having a chance to return to be a head coach in the XFL is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Jones. “I had a really great time coaching in the CFL, but this new fresh opportunity to build a team from the ground up is extremely rare in this game, and I’m looking forward to working with Brian Cooper and our coaches to give football fans in Houston a team that’s truly exciting to watch and worthy of their support.”

He was formally announced in a press conference at the University of Houston, and the as-yet-unnamed club will play its games at the Cougars’ TDECU Stadium.

It will be the fourth different professional league Jones has coached in, following stints in the USFL and NFL, in addition to six-plus seasons at SMU and eight at Hawaii.

The eighth of eight head coaches to join the league, Jones will join a roster that includes Bob Stoops and former Michigan offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.