Minnesota

Boykin not sharp, but No. 2 TCU gets by Gophers

19 Comments

All that matters is getting a win, and it rarely matters how you get it. No. 2 TCU (1-0) opened the season on the road Thursday night, but they did so with quarterback Trevone Boykin having some off moments that helped allow Minnesota (0-1) to hang around. Fortunately, TCU’s defense was up to the task, holding their Big Ten hosts to fewer than 300 yards of offense until late in the game in a 23-17 win.

It was not the cleanest effort from TCU, with a pair of turnovers, Boykin’s pass completion percentage leaving room for improvement, and eight penalties. One thing to take from this game is TCU head coach Gary Patterson now knows what he needs to work on. Still, TCU went on the road and shut down a team some feel is capable of making things interesting in the Big Ten West Division this season. The Gophers have plenty of time this season to help boost TCU’s body of work in the long run, and Jerry Kill has now seen how much work he still needs to do.

Boykin completed 26 of 42 pass attempts for 246 yards and a touchdown. He also added 86 rushing yards and a touchdown to help make his night look a little more productive. His lone touchdown pass came in the first quarter on an 11-yard pass to Josh Doctson, putting TCU up 10-0 after one quarter of play. Minnesota was left playing catch-up the rest fo the night and never cut the lead down to fewer than seven points. Boykin ran 19 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to put the Horned Frogs up 17-3.

Minnesota’s offensive leaders had little to show. Mitch Leidner completed 16 of 30 attempts for 158 yards. Rodney Smith led the ground game with 88 yards and a touchdown.

Next week Minnesota will head to Fort Collins, Colorado to take on Colorado State. The Rams are coming off one of the more successful seasons in program history but could have a much different look this season. Jim McElwain left the program to coach Florida, which opened a spot for former Georgia assistant Mike Bobo to take the helm. Colorado State lost a number of key players. Minnesota’s secondary should be tested by Rams receiver Rashard Higgins, who accumulated 1,750 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall. Colorado State opens the season at home against Savannah State, so they should be 1-0 when the Gophers come to town.

TCU will return home to open the home schedule next week against Stephen F. Austin. things should be pretty easy going for the Horned Frogs next week and thew week after at home against SMU. TCU opens Big 12 play later this month on the road against Texas Tech.

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Big Ten Predictions

13 Comments

As the 2015 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC) and HERE (Big 12) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

BIG TEN EAST

1. Ohio State (14-1 in 2014; beat Oregon in College Football Playoff title game)
For the forseeable future, you can pencil in Urban Meyer‘s Buckeyes as the class of the both the division and conference, as well as an annual contender for a playoff spot thanks to the one-two combination of the coaching staff and its recruiting prowess.  Last year, Meyer thought his Buckeyes were a year away from contention… and all they did was run through Wisconsin, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon in the postseason to claim the inaugural CFP championship.  What can OSU do for an encore?  Given the returning talent, they could very well be the eighth team since the Poll Era began (1936) to go back-to-back — provided they can get past, among others, the very stout, tremendously talented and extremely motivated team directly below this blurb.

2. Michigan State (11-2; beat Baylor in Cotton Bowl)
The Spartans have several positives going for them entering the 2015 season, from one of the best offensive and defensive lines in the conference to one of the best quarterbacks in the entire country in senior Connor Cook to one of the most underrated head coaches in Mark Dantonio.  There’s every reason to think that the Spartans, ranked fifth in the preseason, will remain in that neighborhood for a sizable chunk of the season.  Losing defensive mastermind Pat Narduzzi, now the head coach at Pittsburgh, could negatively impact the season, as could the schedule: three of MSU’s toughest games are on the road (Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan) while they also play host to a Top Ten in Week 2 in Oregon.

3. Michigan (5-7)
Yes, I’m drinking the Jim Harbaugh-flavored Kool-Aid already, and there are two good reasons as to why.  One, and look no further than what he did at Stanford, he is one of the best coaches at any level of football.  In the five years prior to his arrival on The Farm, the Cardinal won just 16 games; in Harbaugh’s four years heading the program, and taking over a one-win squad, the win total jumped to 29.  Secondly, he and his staff aren’t exactly coming into the kitchen with a bare cupboard.  In 2013 and 2012, UM’s recruiting classes were ranked fifth and seventh nationally and second in the Big Ten, respectively, according to Rivals.com. Even in 2014, amidst much speculation that Brady Hoke was as good as done, he still pulled in a class that ranked 31st in the country and fourth in the conference.  The talent is there, the coaching there, so there’s no reason to think that an immediate improvement won’t be there as well.

4. Penn State (7-6; beat Boston College in Pinstripe Bowl)
The biggest thing the Nittany Lions have going for them this season, the thing that could have them too low in this East prediction?  Their schedule.  They will be heavily favored in all six games — three conference, three non-conference — before traveling to Ohio State in mid-October, plus the scheduling gods gave them Illinois and Northwestern as their cross-divisional games this season.  Should the defense, as expected, remain one of the best in the conference, and Christian Hackenberg can overcome any crisis of confidence caused by a subpar offensive line — he was sacked 44 times in 2014, a season in which he tossed more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (12) — the Nittany Lions could very well increase their win total from a year ago.

5. Maryland (7-6; lost to Stanford in Foster Farms Bowl)
Relatively speaking, and compared to much of Randy Edsall‘s first four seasons in College Park, the Terps got off to a rousing start in 2014, winning five of their first seven games.  They then limped home with a 2-4 finish, punctuated by a 24-point loss to Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl.  Like it or not, The Terps could very well be back in rebuilding mode, what with just 10 returning starters on both sides of the ball and a schedule that includes road trips to West Virginia, Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State as well as a home game against West power Wisconsin.  Given that combination, getting back to a bowl game would serve as a huge plus for Edsall’s program.

6. Indiana (4-8)
It’s very simple for the Hoosiers: either win and make a bowl game, or the program will be looking for a new head coach following the upcoming season.  In four years thus far, the Kevin Wilson experiment has netted just 14 wins, with seven of those coming against Power Five teams and six against conference members.  For IU to get back to a bowl game for the first time since 2007 — and just the second time since 1993 — they’ll need to take advantage of a slate that includes five very winnable games; if they can squeeze out an upset along the way, they could very well go bowling — and save Wilson’s job in the process.

7. Rutgers (8-5; beat North Carolina in Quick Lane Bowl)
If this particular prediction were to ultimately come to fruition, Rutgers would be the next Big Ten school looking for a new head coach.  Normally a coach that went 8-5 in the program’s first season in a Power Five conference wouldn’t even be remotely close to the hot seat, but Kyle Flood‘s recent off-field issue will place even more pressure on the fourth-year coach to win and win bigger than last season’s surprise total.  That, though, could prove to be an impossible row to hoe.  Not only do the Scarlet Knights return just 10 starters, they also lost 28 lettermen with varied amounts of experience and playing time, further exposing a glaring lack of depth compared to just one season ago.  Adding to the potential 2015 angst is that, in addition to the East heavyweights, RU also drew West stalwarts Nebraska and Wisconsin.  In fact, it’s conceivable and not even remotely out of the question that the Scarlet Knights could go winless in conference play.

BIG TEN WEST

1. Nebraska (9-4; lost to USC in Holiday Bowl)
The first season post-Bo Pelini in Lincoln is expected to be a breath of fresh air both on and off the field.  Mike Riley is a big reason for that, although how quickly the Cornhuskers adapt to his style of offense will likely determine whether or not this first-year prediction of success is overly optimistic.  NU was on the cusp of grabbing a divisional talent last season before dropping back-to-back November games against Wisconsin and Minnesota.  This season, the ‘Huskers get the Badgers at home, although they’ll have to make a mid-October trip to the Gophers.  One other question mark?  Replacing a handful of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.

2. Wisconsin (11-3; beat Auburn in Outback Bowl)
Whether it was Barry Alvarez or Bret Bielema or Gary Andersen, the Badgers merely locked and reloaded at running back, along the offensive line and on defense from year to year to year with great success.  Can they do the same under first-year head coach and former UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst?  The Badgers should again have one of the best defenses in the conference as well as one of the top running games in college football, although, again, the team will likely struggle to make gains through the air.  If they flip the script on the latter, though, they could be one of the most dangerous teams in the country and very well make it back to yet another conference championship game.  Another plus?  They avoid both Ohio State and Michigan State in the regular season, although they do have to travel to both Lincoln and Minneapolis.

3. Minnesota (8-5; lost to Missouri in Citrus Bowl)
How close were the Gophers to an absolutely epic 2014 season?  They held a four-point third-quarter lead in the regular-season finale against Wisconsin in a game that, with a win, would’ve meant a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship.  They lost that lead, then proceeded to lose both their bowl game (by double digits to Mizzou) and 12 starters, including leading rusher David Cobb, leading receiver Maxx Williams and their two most productive players on the defensive side of the ball.  Perhaps the best news?  They get both Nebraska and Wisconsin at home.

4. Northwestern (5-7)
Call this slotting a hunch.  Or a significant reach.  One of the two.  After going bowling for five straight seasons from 2008-12, the Wildcats have back-to-back postseason-less years from which they’re attempting to bounce back.  Returning 14 starters is a good start to the rebound; the schedule makers didn’t do the Evanston bunch many favors, though, as they’ll tackle Stanford in the opener, Duke and Michigan on the road as well as a home date against Penn State — and that’s in addition to the divisional games against Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.  While it won’t be easy, look for the Wildcats to get back to at least six wins and into a bowl game.

5. Iowa (7-6; lost to Tennessee in Taxslayer Bowl)
From 2002 through 2009, the Hawkeyes averaged nearly nine wins per season; in the five years since, they’ve averaged less than seven, and finished fourth or worse in the Big Ten in four of those seasons.  Last year, they didn’t beat a single FBS program that ended the year with a winning record.  Entering his 17th season at the school, and despite the lack of recent success, Kirk Ferentz has the benefit of a very loyal athletic department — and a hefty buyout that, in essence, handcuffs said department.  The 2015 season should serve up more of the same style of play on the field: running game-centric offense, brutish defense and just hanging around in games long enough and often enough to qualify for another third-tier bowl game.  How long the fair-to-middlin’ results will continue to be acceptable to the Hawkeye faithful — and boosters — remains to be seen.

6. Illinois (6-7; lost to Louisiana Tech in Heart of Dallas Bowl)
A two-game winning streak at the end of last season put the Illini into a bowl game and saved Tim Beckman‘s job; his alleged treatment of players, though, forced the athletic department’s hand and resulted in Beckman being dismissed exactly one week before the season opener.  Enter offensive coordinator Bill Cubit as the interim coach, although, from a projection standpoint, not much should really change. The Illini actually returns 15 starters — that’s in the top third of the Big Ten — including a starting quarterback in Wes Lunt who has the talent to be productive and thrive in this offensive system if he can only stay healthy.  Looking at the schedule, though, four wins seem to be a reasonable projection while five wins appears to be the best to which the Illini can aspire.  Should they get to 6-8 wins?  There may be no need to conduct a coaching search after all.

7. Purdue (3-9)
Let’s just get straight to the point.  Darrell Hazell has won a mere four games in his first two seasons in West Lafayette, including one lone win in Big Ten play.  His non-conference schedule this season includes Virginia Tech and a road trip to defending Conference USA champion Marshall, while there’s a better-than-average chance he will go winless in conference play for the second time in three years.  If the 15 returning starters can improve enough, there’s a chance the Boilermakers could, akin to a fat man shimmying into a pair of skinny jeans, squeeze its way into a postseason bid, which is likely the only way this branch of the Jim Tressel coaching tree gets another season.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Ohio State over Nebraska

Big Ten latest P5 to announce media days attendees

Leave a comment

The SEC has done it this week.  So has the ACC.  Now, it’s the Big Ten’s turn to do it.

The “it,” of course, is a Power Five conference releasing its list of player who will represent their respective schools at the annual preseason media event.  And that’s just what the Big Ten did, with the Midwestern conference revealing the 42 players who’ll represent the league’s 14 member institutions at the B1G Football Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago July 30-31.

From the conference’s press release:

The list of students scheduled to attend features 27 returning all-conference selections, including first-team honorees in Maryland’s Brad Craddock and William Likely, Michigan State’s Jack Allen and Shilique Calhoun, Minnesota’s Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Penn State’s Anthony Zettel and Rutgers’ Leonte Carroo.

Just five of the 14 teams in attendance will send quarterbacks, with none of those being QB-rich Ohio State: Indiana (Nate Sudfeld), Michigan State (Connor Cook), Minnesota (Mitch Leidner), Nebraska (Tommy Armstrong Jr.) and Wisconsin (Joel Stave).

This is, though, a conference that greatly respects veteran leadership as 36 of the 42 players are classified as seniors. The other six players are juniors.

Below is the complete list of Big Ten players attending football media days.

EAST DIVISION

INDIANA
Adarius Rayner, Sr., DL
Jason Spriggs, Sr., OL*
Nate Sudfeld, Sr., QB

MARYLAND
Brad Craddock, Sr., PK*
William Likely, Jr., DB*
Andrew Zeller, Sr., OL

MICHIGAN
Joe Bolden, Sr., LB
Jehu Chesson, Sr., WR
James Ross III, Sr., LB

MICHIGAN STATE
Jack Allen, Sr., C*
Shilique Calhoun, Sr., DE*
Connor Cook, Sr., QB*

OHIO STATE
Taylor Decker, Sr., OT*
Joshua Perry, Sr., LB*
Adolphus Washington, Sr., DT*

PENN STATE
Jordan Lucas, Sr., S*
Angelo Mangiro, Sr., C/G*
Anthony Zettel, Sr., DT*

RUTGERS
Leonte Carroo, Sr., WR*
Darius Hamilton, Sr., DT*
Keith Lumpkin, Sr., OL

WEST DIVISION

ILLINOIS
Josh Ferguson, Sr., RB
Ted Karras, Sr., OG*
Mason Monheim, Sr., LB*

IOWA
Austin Blythe, Sr., C*
Jordan Lomax, Sr., DB*
Drew Ott, Sr., DE*

MINNESOTA
Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Sr., DB*
Theiren Cockran, Sr., DE*
Mitch Leidner, Jr., QB

NEBRASKA
Tommy Armstrong Jr., Jr., QB
Nate Gerry, Jr., S*
Jordan Westerkamp, Jr., WR

NORTHWESTERN
Traveon Henry, Sr., S
Christian Jones, Sr., WR
Dan Vitale, Sr., SB*

PURDUE
Danny Anthrop, Sr., WR
Robert Kugler, Sr., C*
Frankie Williams, Sr., CB*

WISCONSIN
Michael Caputo, Sr., S*
Corey Clement, Jr., RB
Joel Stave, Sr., QB*

* indicates previous all-conference selection

Potential Maxx Williams successor for Gophers granted sixth year

1 Comment

It looks as if the potential, or even likely, successor to All-American tight end Maxx Williams will head into the 2015 season armed with another season in his back pocket.  Provided he can stay healthy, of course.

While Minnesota has yet to confirm it, Duke Anyanwu took to Twitter Tuesday to announce that his medical hardship waiver for a sixth season of eligibility has been approved by the NCAA. The tight end missed the entire 2014 season after sustaining a torn ACL during summer camp last August.  He also took a redshirt for his true freshman season in 2012 after tearing an ACL a first time.

The waiver means that, including 2015, Anyanwu will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

The 6-4, 239-pound Anyanwu has played in exactly one game for the Gophers, the 2013 season opener against Western Illinois. Despite his lack of experience or receptions at this level, and despite the injuries, Anyanwu is viewed as one of the favorites to replace Williams at tight end.

To buttress that potential front-runner status, Anyanwu had entered camp last year as Williams’ primary backup prior to his latest injury.

Alabama and Minnesota add former players to coaching staff

2 Comments

College football programs around the country continue to fill spaces on coaching staffs, and often that means bringing back former players to fill the final pieces. Alabama and Minnesota each added a former player from each respective program to fill a role in 2015.

Alabama has added former walk-on wide receiver Rob Ezell to the program’s support staff. Ezell was a part of Nick Saban’s program from 2007 through 2010. He comes to Alabama after serving the past two seasons as a graduate assistant at Colorado State, where he worked under former Alabama assistant Jim McElwain. Ezell is also known for a pretty spot-on impression of Saban.

At Minnesota, the all-time passing leader for the Gophers is joining the staff as a graduate assistant. Adam Weber will fill the vacancy as grad assistant, and it is expected he will work closely with the quarterbacks. Given his history with the program, that is not a bad strategy. Weber set school records for passing attempts (1,594), completions (909), passing yards (10,917) and touchdown passes (72).

“I really am excited to join such a great staff under Coach [Jerry Kill],” Weber said. “I’m just looking to be a sponge. It just seems like a great fit.”