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Top five college football teams ready to go bust in 2019

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It may seem like Clemson’s thrashing of Alabama in the national title game was only a few months ago but as fresh in our minds as that contest was, it was last season. Hard as it is to believe but the 2019 campaign is almost here and it’s time to turn our attention from what happened last year to what could happen between the lines this fall.

As part of CFTalk’s 2019 College Football Preview, we’re exploring every nook and cranny of the sport before kickoff in Week 0. After exploring a few candidates to breakout and turn in a surprising run this upcoming season, we’re headed in the opposite direction with a number of candidates who could go belly up despite high expectations.

Without further ado, here are five candidates to go bust in 2019 and see some serious regression from a year ago:

UCF

The Knights want to be taken seriously like a Power Five program so we’ll give them that treatment here while discussing why they will come back to earth in 2019. There’s no doubt the program is still full of talent compared to their AAC peers, the conference has already started to catch up to the Knights on the field and that should continue this season. Their schedule is tougher with non-conference games against Stanford and at Pitt, plus Houston and at Cincinnati among others in league play. There’s some big question marks in the front seven and, chiefly, at quarterback. While there’s plenty of skill position on hand, starter Brandon Wimbush is still to be determined as a passer after his stint at Notre Dame and there’s virtually zero depth behind him until Darriel Mack Jr. returns. This will still be a pretty good team but it’s far from the great one many UCF fans have come to expect.

Washington State

Gardner Minshew was a revelation for the Cougars during their 11 win, top 10 campaign last season. He’s gone and while you can still pencil in whatever quarterback Mike Leach has being somebody who puts up stats, there’s little doubt Wazzu will miss Minshew’s leadership and, uh, moxieMax Borghi is one of the Pacific Northwest’s best-kept secrets but the team will also need to replace fellow tailback James Williams plus fill the void left behind by left tackle Andre Dillard on offense.The defense will be solid but extending winning streaks against Oregon and Stanford — to say nothing of ending the losing streak to rival Washington — will be a tough ask given how much more competitive the division and conference should be in 2019.

Northwestern

There’s a lot of hope that with former five-star/ex-Clemson QB Hunter Johnson under center, the offense has nowhere to go but up. Even if that’s the case in 2019 for the Wildcats, they’ll have to deal with a much improved Big Ten West making every game a fight during conference play and a tough non-conference trip to Stanford to open the year. Ohio State and Michigan State aren’t exactly easy cross over opponents either and the team has to go to Nebraska and Wisconsin this season. Even if the defense remains pretty good, Pat Fitzgerald’s group will have a tough time repeating their trip to Indianapolis.

Florida

The Gators will start the year in the top 10 of most polls but it has been a truly awful offseason for Dan Mullen the past few months. Arrests, transfers, sexual assault allegations… you name it, Florida probably has a name to go with it. To make matters worse, the team is perilously thin at two really key positions on either side of the ball, offensive line and in the secondary. Mullen and company did a terrific job in Year 1 but things figure to slide back a bit in Year 2.

Kentucky

Mark Stoops is bullish on his team and while there’s no doubt the program is on solid ground right now, it’s really hard to see anything but regression from their 10 win campaign a year ago after the departures of their best offensive and defensive players. And not just the best players from last season’s team, but some of the best in school history in LB Josh Allen and RB Benny Snell Jr. Add in a more competitive SEC East, a few pesky MAC teams in the non-conference slate and a return to their 2017 level shouldn’t be too surprising in Lexington.

Other Group of Five teams ready to bust: Buffalo, Temple, Fresno State, Troy, UAB

Mel Tucker hires familiar faces Jay Johnson and Harlon Barnett to Michigan State staff

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What’s old is new again at Michigan State.

Continuing a theme of either having ties to the school or his stint at Colorado, new Spartans head coach Mel Tucker confirmed a pair of hires for the program with some familiar names. Announced a little earlier on Thursday, former Buffs offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson was taking the same role in East Lansing.

“Jay is an experienced play caller and an expert quarterbacks coach,” said Tucker in a release. “He has a very innovative offensive mind. I was with Jay when he was at Georgia and really got to know him well there. He’s had success in the Big Ten before, calling plays at Minnesota. He runs a multiple offense with an emphasis on physicality, and he’s an aggressive play caller.”

Johnson joins OL coach Chris Kapilovic in coming over from Boulder. The former previously was with Tucker as an off-field analyst at Georgia prior to going to CU and served as OC at Southern Miss, Louisiana and Minnesota in recent years.

Perhaps the bigger news for Michigan State fans is the return of another name: Harlon Barnett. A former MSU player, he was a mainstay defensive staff member under ex-head coach Mark Dantonio and was defensive backs coach at the school for over a decade starting in 2007. He was elevated to defensive coordinator from 2015-2017 before taking the same position on Willie Taggart’s staff at Florida State.

In addition to the three names mentioned above, Tucker has also retained Ron Burton and former interim head coach Mike Tressel. Additionally, another former Spartan player, Courtney Hawkins, was named the team’s receivers coach.

Marshall and ECU move 2020 season opener to Week 0 to honor anniversary of 1970 tragedy

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You can add Marshall and East Carolina to the list of upcoming ‘Week 0’ games for the 2020 season after the two schools announced a date change for their matchup this year.

While television played a small role in the shift, the two programs sought an NCAA waiver to play on Saturday, August 29 as a way of honoring the 50th anniversary of the tragic plane crash of Southern Airways Flight 932 that claimed the lives of 75 people. The majority of those killed were part of the Thundering Herd football program who were returning from a game against the Pirates.

“We are grateful to Jon Gilbert and everyone at East Carolina University for their efforts in making this schedule change come to fruition,” Marshall AD Mike Hamrick said in a release. “Our people, our universities and our football programs will forever be linked by the tragedy that occurred 50 years ago. This change will allow a national audience to join us in paying proper respect to the 75.”

The incident was famously recounted in the movie ‘We Are Marshall,’ starring noted football fan (and Texas’ Minister of Culture) Matthew McConaughey.

The two programs have met a total of 15 times over the years and have three additional non-conference games set between 2021 and 2025.

Mike Leach and Nick Saban together highlight 2020 SEC Media Days schedule

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Set your calendars for this summer because the SEC preseason bonanza is set to be even more anticipated than it usually is.

The conference office in Birmingham announced the schedule for their annual Media Days event and all eyes in the college football world will be on it in 2020 with the addition of new coaches at a handful of the league’s schools.

The College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will play host to the festivities, which annually mark the official end of the long offseason and the beginning of a new season for the sport.

2020 SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS SCHEDULE

MONDAY, July 13

Florida – Dan Mullen

LSU – Ed Orgeron

Missouri – Eliah Drinkwitz 

TUESDAY, July 14

Georgia – Kirby Smart

Kentucky – Mark Stoops

Ole Miss – Lane Kiffin

Vanderbilt – Derek Mason

WEDNESDAY, July 15

Alabama – Nick Saban

Arkansas –  Sam Pittman

Mississippi State – Mike Leach

Tennessee – Jeremy Pruitt

THURSDAY, July 16

Auburn – Gus Malzahn

South Carolina – Will Muschamp

Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher

The highlight this year has to be Wednesday’s session that includes Saban answering questions about missing out on the College Football Playoff last year and the arrival of Leach to the throngs of media in the South at his first major appearance for Mississippi State. Having new Arkansas coach Pittman separating the two makes for a real murderer’s row of coaches that can give some quotes.

Don’t discount the day prior either with both Smart and Kiffin headlining things. The latter is no stranger to the event from his brief time at Tennessee too. Reigning national champion LSU and their newly rich head coach will also help kick things off on Monday. Player names will be announced later as well.

SEC Media Days is always quite the event in its own right. Adding in these new personalties to the already established names should make things even more exciting.

July can’t get here fast enough.

NCAA cites Pat Narduzzi, Pitt football for violations

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The NCAA announced Thursday that they’ve hit Pitt with several penalties related to violations for both their football and men’s basketball programs.

While hoops is the primary focus of the case, head coach Pat Narduzzi and the folks on the gridiron were not left untouched. Though the Panthers were certainly not hammered, they did receive a little more than a slap on the wrist as a result of some minor violations.

At the heart of the matter? Some coaches who were coaching when they were not supposed to be:

According to the agreement, the head football coach instructed or was present at the practice facility when three former quality control staff members performed coaching duties, resulting in the program exceeding the allowable number of permissible coaches. The university conducted adequate spot checks of the program, but the agreement said the violations were undetected in part due to the program’s practice of playing music to indicate when outside parties were present at the practice facility. Football quality control staff members reported that they would make sure they were not near student-athletes when hearing the music.

We’re guessing the fact that they had a scheme sophisticated enough to be changing music when people came in to the building during practice is why there were Level II penalties in the case instead of something even more under the radar. 

As a result, Narduzzi was hit with a show-cause order that will see him miss two days of practices in during the team’s upcoming preseason camp in August. He also already missed one week of off-campus recruiting prior to the most recent signing day. 

The program is also being forced to cut the number of coaches they have for a few hours and days during the spring.

All in all, nothing that will hamper the upcoming 2020 campaign that much but still more than just sending the coaches to a compliance meeting as you often see in similar cases. Pitt holds their annual Blue-Gold spring game on April 11 and begins the season on Sept. 5 against Miami (OH) at Heinz Field.