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Thread: A Sneak Peek At CFB 2018 News/Views/Highlights !

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  1. #26  
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    The problem with ranking QB's is that you do not take into consideration incoming freshman that will probably start. J.T.Daniels of USC tops the list, but every year there seem to be 1-2 Freshmen QB's that no one has heard of that are Top 10 caliber. Who will it be this season besides Daniels, who some project to be the #1 Heisman candidate as a Junior in 2020, if he stays in school that long.
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  2. #27  
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    2018 ACC Preview
    June 19, 2018



    Route 66


    The 2018 ACC football season will be the 66th season for the conference. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Duke’s David Cutcliffe and Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson are the loop’s longest tenured coaches with 11 seasons each at their respective schools.


    Johnson leads the victory parade with 182 career wins, while Swinney’s 101-30 career record at Clemson stands out as the best mark.


    Florida State’s Willie Taggart is the only new coach in the conference this season. Taggart’s 47-50 overall mark is the only one in the league with a losing record.


    Chopping Wood


    According to the NCAA, Florida State will take on the most difficult schedule of all Power Five teams this 2018 season. The Seminoles’ foes were 97-56 (.643) last season, ranking FSU ahead of Nebraska (.628), Michigan (.627), Auburn (.618), and Texas A&M (.617).


    The Seminoles will take on a whopping 10 opponents that finished the season with winning records in 2017.


    Orange Bowl Roll


    Prior to Miami’s 34-24 loss to Wisconsin last season, the ACC had won the previous five Orange Bowl games, the longest winning streak for a conference in the Orange Bowl in 72 years.


    Note: Team write-ups are excerpts from the 2018 PLAYBOOK Football Preview Guide magazine, on sale at newsstands nationwide. The numbers following each team name represents the amount of returning starters on Offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback.


    BOSTON COLLEGE (Offense – *10/5, Defense – 6/3, 37 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: BAD GAS


    After ranking in the nation’s Top 10 overall defenses each of the previous two seasons, the Eagles’ stop-unit somehow had trouble stopping a fart in 2017. It flat out stunk and as a result, Boston College concluded its third 7-win season in the last four years. Complicating matters this year, they lost star DE Harold Landry as the 41st pick in this year’s NFL draft. However, they do get former leading tackler Connor Strachan back from an injury that caused him to miss the entire 2017 season. HC Steve Addazio does welcome back a loaded offense, one that improved 112 YPG in 2017, keyed by RB AJ Dillon who led all running backs in the ACC with 1,589 yards as a freshman last year. Facing 9 straight bowlers from Games 3-11, the Eagles will be hard pressed to snap an 8-year skein of seven or fewer victories in 2018.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Eagles are 1-9 SU and 2-7-1 ATS as home underdogs since 2014.


    PLAY ON: at Wake Forest (9/13)


    CLEMSON (Offense – *7/3, Defense – 8/4, 62 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: BUILT TO LAST


    The Tigers were so deep and talented last season, they were one of only four teams that did not start a single freshman. This on a team that is 40-4 the last three seasons, winning three ACC championships and a College Football Playoff championship, while making three CFP appearances. With 51 players selected the NFL draft in nine seasons under head coach Dabo Swinney, its no wonder he commands the 2nd highest salary ($8.5 M) in all of the FBS. And they are so deep and talented this season, they welcome back 62 lettermen – including 4 first-team All-Americans (the most in school history) as well as three 600-yard rushers. In addition 8 starters are back from a defense that ranked 2nd in scoring and 4th overall. Whew. Facing 7 straight bowlers to close out the season, the Tigers benefit from not playing consecutive away games for the third straight season.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Tigers have the longest current streak (85 games) without losing back-to-back games.


    PLAY AGAINST: vs. NC State (10/20)


    DUKE (Offense – *7/2, Defense – 8/3, 48 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: CUTTING EDGE


    One glance at the Blue Devils’ stat-logs below tells you all you need to know about their season in 2017: they were 7-0 SUATS in games when they won the stats (first four and final three) and 0-6 SUATS in games when they didn’t (middle games 5-10). Even with that midseason siesta, Duke earned a bowl bid for the fifth time in the last six years – despite facing a schedule that featured only one losing foe from the previous season. As we’ve alluded to in the past, head coach David Cutcliffe is widely recognized as a quarterback whisperer, having coached 11 QBs who either earned all-conference honors or led their school to a bowl game victory. That will be Daniel Lewis, last year’s Quick Lane Bowl MVP, this season.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE:
    Duke started a total of 28 different players last season – the fewest in the nation.


    PLAY ON: at Pittsburgh (10/27)


    FLORIDA STATE (Offense – *8/4, Defense – 4/2, 54 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: TAG, YOU’RE IT


    After losing a jaw-dropping 6 of their first 9 games to start the 2017 season, the Seminoles rallied with four straight victories to salvage a winning season for the 41st year in a row. But it wasn’t enough to retain Jimbo Fisher, who moved on to Texas A&M at season’s end. Fisher’s 85 wins in 8 seasons at FSU sets a mighty high bar for incoming coach Willie Taggart. Having QB Deondre Francois back following a season-ending injury in Game One last year is a great starting point. Good news is a ton of experienced young players return, including 95.8% of FSU’s total yards on offense. However, the Seminoles were still hit hard by player losses with 6 NFL defections (no team with more). Yes, SO B Cam Akers broke Dalvin Cook’s freshman rushing record last year (1,024 yards), but the fact that the Seminoles will take on nine foes which were in bowl games last season promises to make Taggart’s debut anything but cushy.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Notre Dame holds the college football record with 42 straight winning seasons from 1889-1932.


    PLAY ON: at Miami Florida (10/6) - *KEY as a dog


    GEORGIA TECH (Offense – *9/3, Defense – 6/3, 42 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: UNFINISHED BUSINESS


    It’s seldom you’ll find a team go 4-4 in conference play and fall short of bowl eligibility. Disgruntled Yellow Jackets’ head coach Paul Johnson realizes his crew became the first ACC team to do so since Virginia in 2006. FYI: The Cavaliers won 9 games the following season. The good news for the Yellow Jackets’ last season is they had the 2nd fewest penalties in the nation. However, it couldn’t overcome a stop-unit that ranked dead last in Red Zone Defense. Finally, from our research department: a total of 12 teams gained an average of less than one turnover per game last season. Only one had a winning record (7-6 MTSU). They went 41-102 combined. The Jackets were one of the dirty dozen, and Paul Johnson knows it.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: In his 16 years as an FBS head coach, Johnson’s teams have each averaged at least 5 Yards Per Rush per season while winning 8.5 games per season.


    PLAY AGAINST: vs. Virginia (11/4)


    LOUISVILLE (Offense – 7/4, Defense – 4/2, 47 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: PETRINO EXPOSED


    This was not a report Bobby Petrino looked forward to seeing. According to Fansided.com, from the Big Hit List, Louisville ranks #12 overall in teams hit the hardest by losses from last season. Among the losses are 2 NFL defections, 10 returning starters and 12 players from the 2-deep. The biggest loss, of course, is Heisman Trophy winning QB Lamar Jackson, who was the team’s leading passer (9,043 and 69 TDs) and rusher (4,132 and 50 TDs) over the last three seasons. The quarterback and running back tallies include 63 lost team starts with zero returnees. Complicating matters, the Cardinals will face 9 bowlers in 2018, including five in their last six games. Petrino will need to dig deep into his bag of scheming tricks, especially while taking on nine bowlers this season.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE:
    Bobby the Louse is 0-17 away versus AP Top 15 ranked opponents.


    PLAY ON: at Boston College (10/13)


    MIAMI FLORIDA (Offense – *7/3, Defense – 7/1, 41 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: RICHTER MAGNITUDE


    Despite the fact that the Hurricanes dropped each of their final three games of the season in 2017, including a crushing loss to Pittsburgh that snapped a nation-best 15-game win skein – and effectively KO’d the Canes from the CFB playoffs – UM managed to improve its record for the third straight year. Mark Richt is fully rooted in Miami and it’s showing fundamentally as Miami’s defense was No. 4 nation in Tackles For Loss as well as No. 5 in Turnover Margin (+1.00) last season. With the D-line undergoing massive changes with two senior graduates and two juniors opting out for the NFL Draft, the linebackers are the strength of the defense. Meanwhile, QB Malik Rosier returns after tossing for 3,120 yards and 26 TDs in 2017.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Mark Richt is 45-15 SU away in conference games in his career, including 34-4 as a favorite of more than 2 points.


    PLAY ON: vs. Pittsburgh (11/24) - *KEY


    NC STATE (Offense – *6/3, Defense – 3/0, 38 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: A SENIOR MOMENT


    With 22 seniors dotting the 2017 roster, it was a pivotal season for head coach Dave Doeren as Wolfpack seniors started 51.6% of the games last season. The team responded, enjoying one of its best seasons in school history winning 9 games, including the Sun Bowl. To put it in perspective, in 125 years of football, the 2017 squad was one of just six to win 9 or more games. Ten players earned All-ACC honors and the Pack finished with its highest national ranking in 15 years. Biggest loss is DE Bradley Chubb, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and No. 5 pick in this year’s NFL draft. However, redshirt senior QB Ryan Finley has decided to return for his final year of eligibility.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Wolfpack is 31-6 SU and 22-10-1 ATS in games in where they outgain their opponent under head coach Dave Doeren.


    PLAY AGAINST: as a favorite vs. Florida State (11/3)


    NORTH CAROLINA (Offense – *5/1, Defense – 8/3, 47 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: TARRED AND FEATHERED


    It all went to hell in a handbag for UNC head coach Larry Fedora last season. After losing star QB Mitch Tribusky as the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft in 2016, and failing to make necessary adjustments following DC Gene Chizik’s sudden retirement, the Tar Heels garnered a mere 3 victories after managing to win the stats in only three contests in 2017. As a result, they’ve now averaged 6 losses a season the last 4 years, no thanks to a rush defense that has surrendered an average 232 rushing yards in the process. Making matters worse, they must replace four starters on the OL. The good news is QBs Chazz Surratt and Nathan Elliott – who split duties last year – return in 2018.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Fedora is 12-1 SU and 11-2 ATS in regular season games versus opponents who were upset as a favorite in their previous game


    PLAY ON: at Miami Florida (9/27)


    PITTSBURGH (Offense – 4/2, Defense – 9/4, 49 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: RUSH HOUR


    A total of 15 redshirt freshmen made their collegiate debuts last season, six of which made starts. One of them was QB Kenny Picket, who engineered Pittsburgh’s 24-14 upset win over Miami in the season finale – the second of two wins for Pitt against No. 2 ranked foes under Pat Narduzzi the last two seasons. Speaking of whom, Narduzzi’s Panthers have rushed for 200+ yards 15 times, going 12-3 in those games. They have also held foes under 100 rushing yards 13 times, going 11-2 in those contests. Together, that’s a 23-5 mark. With nine starters back on defense, including the entire line, the formula to success this season is simple for these Cats: control the ground game. If they do that then three non-conference foes they’ll face in 2018 that went 34-5 combined last year will no have walks in the park.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: 21 of Pitt’s 24 losses under Narduzzi have occurred against teams that went on to play in a bowl game.


    PLAY ON: at North Carolina (9/22)


    SYRACUSE (Offense – *8/4, Defense – 6/3, 42 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: ONE STEP AT A TIME


    With 15 wins the last four seasons, including consecutive 4-8 efforts behind Dino Babers, the Orange appear to be stuck in quicksand. A closer look, though, spins a different tale. Not only did the Orange improve their stats on both sides of the ball last year, Syracuse amassed 5,476 yards last season, and 5,290 yards in 2016 under Babers, the second-and-third highest totals in the 128-year history of the program. In fact, of the three active quarterbacks with 5,000+ passing yards and 1,000+ rushing yards, Eric Dungey is the only one with more than 6,000 passing yards (Duke’s Daniel Jones and Ball State’s Riley Neal the other two members). If they can win early and often, a salty season-ending schedule - five bowlers in final five games - might not matter.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Syracuse will face three teams in 2018 that are coached by former Orange assistants: Boston College, Connecticut and Western Michigan.


    PLAY ON: vs. Florida State (9/15)


    VIRGINIA (Offense – 5/2, Defense – 8/1, 43 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: IT DON’T COME EASY


    After debuting at 2-10 in 2016, Bronco Mendenhall organized a dramatic turnaround from his first season with the Cavaliers to last year when he took his troops bowling for the first time since 2011. It wasn’t easy, though, as UVA finished 1-6 after a 5-1 start. And it won’t be easy this season as well with the offense taking a major hit to graduation, including QB Kurt Benkert, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons. The hope is dual-threat JUCO QB Bryce Perkins can fill his shoes (Perkins led his team to the NJCAA title game last year). Only four away games dot the schedule, but they face 9 bowlers, including 7 of them in their final seven games of the season. Ugh.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Virginia is 2-20 SU in its final two games of the season since 2007.


    PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Miami Florida (10/13)


    VIRGINIA TECH (Offense – *7/3, Defense – 6/3, 40 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: THIS BUD’S FOR YOU


    Eight true freshmen saw significant playing time for Tech in 2017. Included was QB Josh Jackson, whose 2,991 passing yards set a Hokies’ record and were the most by any FBS freshman in 2017. In addition, five of the top six rushers return in 2018. It’s noteworthy that the Hokies’ 25-game bowl streak is the longest in the nation, and the third longest in NCAA history. It’s also no coincidence that associate head coach/defensive coordinator Bud Foster has been on the VT staff for 32 seasons, making him the longest-tenured active coach at any FBS school. FYI: Tech owns 58 games of starting experience on the defensive line – the highest total of any group on the squad. Expect more of the same from last year’s 4th best scoring defense. In late breaking news, though, Virginia Tech announced CBs Adonis Alexander (academics – 15 starts) and JUCO transfer Jeremy Webb (Achilles tendon) will miss the season.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Hokies are 17-0 when leading at halftime under Fuente.


    PASS


    WAKE FOREST (Offense – 8/5, Defense – 6/2, 41 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: GIMME FOUR


    After ranking 12th or worst in the ACC in scoring the previous five seasons, an infusion of suddenly seasoned underclassmen helped the Demon Deacon explode in head coach Dave Clawson’s 4th season, averaging 35 points and 466 YPG. And with it Clawson has to consider ‘four’ his lucky number. He just completed his 4th season with Wake Forest in his 4th coaching stop. In his 4th season at Fordham, he led the Rams to a 10-2 season and a trip to the FCS playoffs. In addition, he took an 11-win Richmond squad to the FCS semifinals in this 4th year with the program. And at Bowling Green in his 4th season, his troops won 8 games en route to a bowl game.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Wake Forest had 11 players selected for 12 All-ACC positions and beat six bowl teams in 2017.


    PLAY AGAINST: at NC State (11/8) - *KEY
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  3. #28  
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    2018 Big Ten Preview
    June 26, 2018



    Bring It On


    Thirteen Big Ten teams – sans Rutgers - will square off against at least one non-conference team that participated in a bowl game last season, with 24 of all 39 non-conference games featuring opponents coming off bowl trips. Michigan State and Northwestern will each face bowl teams in all three of their 2018 non-conference contests.


    Counting conference and non-conference contests, every Big Ten team will face at least five teams that played in a bowl game last season. Nebraska leads the way with nine such contests, followed by Indiana, Michigan State and Northwestern with eight apiece.


    Back For More


    Ohio State and Wisconsin will look to repeat as division champions this season. The Badgers finished 9-0 to win the West Division for the second consecutive season and the Buckeyes completed the season with an 8-1 mark to claim the East Division, giving the Buckeyes at least a share of their sixth straight division title. Last season's divisional crowns marked the fourth for the Badgers and sixth for the Buckeyes.


    Bad Ass Bowlers


    Big Ten teams rolled in the bowl games last season, going 7-1 SU and 6-2 ATS. The only loss was Michigan’s mystifying disappearance against South Carolina. It reversed a lackluster 3-7 SU and 4-5-1 ATS effort the previous bowl season.


    Note: The numbers following each team name represents the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback.


    ILLINOIS (Offense - 8/4, Defense - 8/3, 41 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    BABY LOVE... AT BREAKNECK SPEED


    Lovie Smith went one better in 2017 when, after starting the second-most amount of freshmen in 2016 (29.2 percent of all starts), no less than 37.1% of all starts were made by freshmen last year – the most in the nation – including 31 first-time starters. Now, behind new OC Rod Smith, a long-time former offensive coordinator under Rich Rodriguez, who brings a fast-paced, run-often scheme, the Illini will hope RB Mike Epstein (who rushed for 350 yards in five games as a freshman before a season-ending injury last year) and fifth-year senior WR Mike Dudek (former Big Ten Freshman POY) can push the pace like a fast break basketball team. "I'm so excited for this offense," Epstein said. "I think it's an offense tailored to our skill guys.”


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Illinois is 3-37 SU and 14-26 ATS in its last forty Big Ten games versus .500 or greater opponents.


    PLAY ON: at Rutgers (10/6)


    INDIANA (Offense - 8/4, Defense - 4/1, 56 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    LEO THE LION


    Talk about a great hire, Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden insists, “Tom Allen is a great fit for IU. I really believe that Mike DeBord on the offensive side and Allen on the defensive side is unique. They are very experienced, thorough game-planning coaches.” Furthermore, L.A. Chargers OL Dan Feeney firmly believes that Allen has the mantra ‘LEO’, Love Each Other, working in his favor. "Everybody is buying into that.” Allen is also a devout Christian and a defensive strategist par excellence. Since his arrival, Indiana is the most improved team nationally in total defense (169.4 YPG). And that was on the heels of improving 11 PPG and 130 YPG in 2016. A school-record 13 Hoosiers earned all Big Ten honors in 2017. Color them dangerous.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Over the last 22 years, the teams for which Allen has been a member of the coaching staff have posted a combined 227-76 (.754).


    PLAY ON: vs. Purdue (11/24)


    IOWA (Offense - *7/3, Defense - 6/3, 45 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    A PIN IN THE BALLOON


    The signs of regression are in the air. The Hawkeyes lost 2 players to NFL defections, 11 returning starters have departed, and 14 players from the 2-deep are gone. Two Iowa defenders voted unanimous All-Americans are gone, including LB Josey Jewell (101.5 tackles), who was one of 5 starting seniors to depart from the defense. On offense, RBs Akrum Wadley and James Butler each graduated after combining for nearly three-quarters of the team’s rushing yardage in 2017. The good news is QB Nate Stanley had a 137.4 passing efficiency in the fourth quarter last season as the Hawkeyes outscored the opposition, 123-60, in the final stanza and overtime. Our concern is they have won 16 games the last two seasons despite being out yarded 27 YPG in the process.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Kirk Ferentz is the longest tenured FBS head football coach in the nation.


    PLAY AGAINST: at Illinois (11/17)


    MARYLAND (Offense - *8/4, Defense - 5/1, 48 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    WANTED: A NEW DJ


    The Terrapins most dynamic player, WR DJ Moore, opted to leave early for the NFL. The first-team All-Big Ten receiver led the conference in both receptions (80) and receiving yards (1,033) while pacing Maryland with 9 touchdowns. Meanwhile head coach DJ Durkin hopes to patch a defensive line that managed to produce only 16 sacks in 12 games last season (only two Power 5 conference teams, Nebraska and Oregon State, had fewer). Meanwhile, new OC Matt Canada (LSU) will look to ignite an offense that went backwards in 2017, ranking 100th or worse in three of the four major categories (scoring, total and passing offense). Interestingly, this will be Canada’s sixth school in the last eight years.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Terps are 0-9 SUATS following a win from Game Seven out the last five years.


    PASS


    MICHIGAN (Offense - *8/3, Defense - 9/3, 63 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    HOWLING AT THE MOON


    We warned last year that Michigan was in line for a fall in 2017. That’s because the Wolverines’ seniors had accounted for the highest percentage of starts of all FBS teams in 2016 (76.6%). It was a wickedly high number and meant that Jim Harbaugh would need to rely on a bevy of underclassmen to compensate for the losses. As a result, the baby Wolves are back with sharpened teeth as those same underclassmen accounted for nearly 50% of all starts made by UM last season, the 7th most in the nation. With three Big Ten revenge games on tap, and former Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson now behind center, look for a the Wolves to be howling in 2018.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The SU winner ‘In The Stats’ is 35-4 in UM games with Harbaugh as its head coach.


    PLAY AGAINST: vs. Maryland (10/6)


    MICHIGAN STATE (Offense - *10/3, Defense - 9/3, 49 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: BACK FOR MORE


    Featuring one of the youngest teams in the nation last year, the Spartans’ 10-3 effort marked the biggest single-season turnaround in MSU football history, capped off with a resounding 42-17 win over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. As a result, Michigan State brings back a plethora of starting experience (33 players) with confidence beyond compare that most coaches would die for. According to SB Nation, MSU has the most returning production of any team in the FBS. The Spartans are returning 239 starts (84 percent) out of a combined 286 possible starting positions from 2017’s offense and defense. The 19 position starters are second only to Kansas (20). It’s likely enough to make HC Mark Dantonio forget that all three of their non-conference games will come against bowlers.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Underclassmen accounted for 56.6% of MSU’s total team starts last season – the 4th most in the land.


    PLAY AGAINST: vs. Michigan (10/20)


    MINNESOTA (Offense - 7/3, Defense - 7/2, 40 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: ALL HANDS ON DECK


    As expected when taking over a program in the midst of a complete overhaul, new head coach P.J. Fleck’s boat sprung a leak last season. Through all the seepage, the Gophers managed to win every game in which they won the stats, while losing every game in which they were out-yarded. Surprisingly, they led the nation in Fewest Penalties (39) last season. Meanwhile, top-rated JUCO transfer QB Vic Viramontes appears set to take over. The strong-armed former Cal quarterback is a dual-threat option passer built like a linebacker with deceptive speed. He will operate behind an experienced OL that was pressed into action because of injuries last season. A mass exodus on the DL, though, means the lifejackets will need to be ready and standing by. FYI: Minny’s mighty 13-2 ATS mark as a conference dog of 7 or more points is noteworthy. But then again they were 13-0 ATS until Fleck arrived.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Fleck’s teams are 27-1 SU in their L28 games in which they’ve won the stats, including 16-0 the last 16.


    PASS


    NEBRASKA (Offense – 6/4, Defense - 8/3, 52 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    FROM ZERO TO HERO


    After mentoring the only team to ever go from zero wins to zero losses in just two seasons, and one of only two Power 5 schools (out of 13 openings) to hire a Group of 5 head coach in the offseason, Scott Frost finally returns to Nebraska where he won two Big Ten titles as a quarterback for the Huskers. He’ll also be looking to return Nebraska to its glory days as a storied football program. It won’t be easy, though, as the Huskers will take on the most bowlers (9) of all Big Ten teams this season, including all 5-road contests. That’s not promising for a team that was 2nd worst in the nation in Tackles For A Loss last season (3.7).

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE:
    Nebraska is 31-1 SU in season-opening games the last thirty-two years.


    PASS


    NORTHWESTERN (Offense - *7/4, Defense - 7/3, 61 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: PURPLE REIGN


    Coming off their second 10-win season in three campaigns, the Wildcats are one of two Big Ten teams (Michigan State the other) that will square off against postseason foes in all three of their non-conference games this year. Hopefully, SR QB Clayton Thorson returns healthy after tossing for nearly 6,000 yards and 37 TDs the past two seasons. QB coach guru Terry Shea insists the 6’ 4” Thorson has NFL skills and likely would have left early for the draft had he not suffered a knee injury in the Music City Bowl last season. The bigger hole is replacing RB Justin Jackson, the Wildcats’ all-time leading rusher (now with the San Diego Chargers). In addition, three new coaches have been added to the staff.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Pat Fitzgerald has never had a player selected in the first three rounds since taking over the program 12 years ago.


    PLAY AGAINST: at Michigan State (10/6)


    OHIO STATE (Offense - 7/3, Defense - 4/2, 49 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: ET TU BRUTE


    That Urban Meyer’s .851 winning percentage is the highest among active – and 3rd highest all-time (Knute Rockne .881 is No. 1) – of all coaches with at least 10 years of experience, speaks for itself. The Buckeyes won their 36th Big Ten title last season and will look to repeat as conference champions for the first time since last doing so in 2009. Having the nation’s strongest running back tandem in 1,000-yard rushers J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber (each gained 1,000 yards while starting every game as freshmen in 2017 and 2016, respectively) is a powerful weapon, to say the least. That and 229 career starts back on both sides of the ball makes Brutus a badass Buckeye this season.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: When Ohio State visits Maryland in November, it will mark only its 3rd back-to-back road game in four years.


    PLAY AGAINST: at Michigan State (11/10)


    PENN STATE (Offense - *8/5, Defense - 3/2, 39 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: SHADES OF THE PAST


    If it seems like James Franklin’s Penn State squads have closely resembled Joe Paterno’s glory teams its because they have. Last year was the first time since 1985 and 1986 that the Lions appeared in a second-straight New Year’s Six bowl game. And a 20-3 record in its last 23 games is the best span since going 20-3 from 1990-1995 – not to mention its 24.6 scoring differential in 2017 was tops in the nation. Big holes must be filled, though, with the loss of star RB Saquon Barkley to the NFL, as well as the void of 69.6% of games started by seniors last year. QB Trace McSorley (57 TD passes the last two seasons) helps fill some of the vacuum. Meanwhile, five new coaches have been added to the staff.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Of the 780 minutes played in 2017, Penn State only trailed for 37 minutes, 42 seconds.


    PLAY AGAINST: at Pittsburgh (9/8)


    PURDUE (Offense - *9/4, Defense - 4/1, 53 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: BOILER REPAIRED


    Safe to say that behind numbers that improved across the board on both sides of the ball, Jeff Brohm’s first season with Purdue last year was a total success. In fact, a 3-0 SUATS mark in the Boilers’ final three games banished an awful 0-12 SU and 5-7 ATS record established over the course of Purdue’s final three games the previous four years. And according to Ralph Michaels of Cal Sports, the Boilermakers snapped a 5-year streak of having played UNDER their season win-total. As a result they also increased attendance 13,433 per games last season – best of all Power Five teams. Unfortunately, seven of the eleven starters that led to a defensive resurgence for the Boilermakers are gone. Instead, Brohm must rebuild a front seven that improved over 100 rushing yards per game. A 9-win ATS season looks to be a reach this season.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Brohm is 14-0 SU and 13-1 ATS from Game Eleven out.


    PLAY AGAINST: as a dog vs. Wisconsin (11/17)


    RUTGERS (Offense - *7/4, Defense - 8/2, 42 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: ON THE BANKS OF A MUDDY RIVER


    Rutgers welcomes its 9th offensive coordinator, John McNulty, in as many years. He certainly has the experience and the potential to bring a spark to an offense that needs new life, having coached the likes of Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Gates and many others. His offense thrived in a previous stint with Rutgers (under Greg Schiano) when the Knights became the first team in FBS history with a 3,000-yard passer and two 1,000-yard rushers in 2007. The good news is the Knights will take on just six bowl foes this season. The bad news is they conclude the season with five of them. Fortunately, the defense has improved in both seasons under Chris Ash. It’s time for the offense to stand and deliver.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Rutgers has outgained 3 foes in 24 games under Ash: Kansas, Morgan State and Norfolk State.


    PLAY ON: vs. Illinois (10/6)


    WISCONSIN (Offense - *9/5, Defense - 4/1, 44 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: LOADED FOR BADGER The best news for Wisconsin this year is likely the absence of an Ohio State sighting on the schedule: the Badgers are 44-6 during the regular season since 2006 when they don't play the Buckeyes. More important, though, is the fact that 10 of UW’s offensive starters in the Orange Bowl are back. They also return 100% of their offensive line starts (including 3 All-Americans), 100% of their passing yards (QB Alex Hornibrook 20-3 as a starter) and 92.3% of their rushing yards (RB Jonathan Taylor 2,072 total yards). Plus, UW returns its kicker, holder, long snapper, punter and kickoff specialist from last year from a team that was No. 2 team in the nation in Time Of Possession last season. Lots to like about the Badgers this year.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Wisconsin and Penn State are the only Big Ten teams that have posted a winning season the last 13 consecutive years.


    PASS
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    2018 Big 12 Preview
    July 3, 2018



    Call Me Champ


    In its 22-year history, the Big 12 championship has been won by nine different schools... three of who are no longer members of the conference. The current Big 12 champion is the University of Oklahoma Sooners who have won the most championships with 11.


    From its formation in 1996 until 2010, the championship was determined in the Big 12 championship game. Following the departures of two schools in 2010, the conference discontinued the championship game in favor of a round-robin format to determine the champion. Today the teams reside in two divisions with the winners squaring off in a Big 12 title game to determine the league champ.

    Boomer Sooner



    Of the ten teams currently residing in the Big 12 only Oklahoma owns a winning record against all other foes, posting a 421-147-24 all-time mark. Only Texas (312-141-10) and West Virginia (36-31) sport overall winning records against the same ilk.


    Rival This


    There are currently eight ongoing rivalries in the conference, led by Kansas-Kansas State (Sunflower Showdown – 115 games), followed by Baylor-TCU (The Revivalry – 113 games), Oklahoma-Oklahoma State (Bedlam– 112 games) and Oklahoma-Texas (Red River Showdown – 112 games).


    Note: The numbers following each team name represents the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback.


    BAYLOR (Offense - *9/2, Defense – 9/3 52 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    MISSION CALLING


    When he came to Baylor from Temple, head coach Matt Rhule immediately signed 27 recruits. The Bears featured 54 different players that started at least one game last year – the most in the land. And with it, his 27 first-time starters in 2017 were the third most in the nation. As a result, the Bears return 93% (2nd nationally) of their offensive production, plus 88% of their defensive leaders, including 16 of the top 20 tacklers. In addition, the Bears inked five Division-1 transfers to the roster in 2018. So yes, the times are a-changing in Waco. However, while Baylor is a “mission team” in 2018 the fact is the Bears are just 1-17 in their last 18 regular season games.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: In Rhule’s first year at Temple the Owls were 2-10. They improved to 6-6 the following season.


    PASS


    IOWA STATE (Offense - *6/3, Defense – 6/2, 46 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    SOUP’S ON


    The Cyclones snapped a 4-year losing skid with an 8-win breakout season under 2nd-year head coach Matt Campbell last season. In the process, they defeated a school-record three ranked teams and made a Top 25 appearance for the first time since since 2005 – while winning their fourth bowl game in school history. With nine players back on offense who have seven or more career starts, and six starts back on defense who all earned conference honors, they appear to be in good hands. They institued the slogan “Win in The Dark” for 2018. The concept is simple. Games are won or lost in the offseason when nobody is watching. Remember... four of last season’s 5 losses came by a TD or less.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Seldom-used walk-on QB Kyle Kempt stunned Oklahoma as a 31-point dog in his first college start last season.


    PLAY AGAINST: vs. Kansas State (11/24) - *KEY as a favorite


    KANSAS (Offense - *9/3, Defense – 10/3, 61 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    ROCK PAPER SCISSORS


    The tenderfoot Jayhawks started only 8.7% of their games with seniors last season, the fewest in the nation. With only 3 wins in three seasons at Kansas, head coach David Beaty needs the seeds of consecutive Top 20 recruiting classes to start bearing fruit immediately. QB Peyton Bender started 8 games last season while becoming the fastest Wildcat quarterback to reach 1,000 passing yards in the school’s 127-year history. Still, with KU just 1-32 SU against FBS opposition under Beaty – and being forced to face 8 bowl squads in their final eight games of the season – they’ll need to win early and often in order to save his hide. Behind a suddenly experienced unit, look for the best season in Beaty’s tenure in 2018.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Kansas is 5-74 SU in conference games since 2009.


    PLAY ON: at Kansas State (11/10)


    KANSAS STATE (Offense - *8/4, Defense – 5/2, 37 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    YOUTH IS SERVED


    While slipping in the stats on both sides of the ball in 2017, the Wildcats also gave up claim to being the only team in the land to finish in the Top 15 in Red Zone offense for three straight years when they finished mid-pack (No. 63) last season. It was disappointing considering Bill Snyder had started the youngest team in his career at KSU in 2016 when underclassmen made 135 starts. The Wildcats then combined for 123 starts by sophomores (114) and freshmen (9) last season. The cardiac Cats notched three wins last year after trailing by 10-plus points – the most in school history. Snyder’s troops have also been the best team in the nation in non-offensive touchdowns the last 19 seasons, netting MORE THAN 2.5 more preseason than the yearly average. They also held their final 8 opponents under their scoring average last season. With a pair of 1K rushers in Alex Barnes and Justin Silmon back, a re-adjustment looks in store in 2018.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Bill Snyder is just the fourth person in the history of college football to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as an active coach.


    PLAY AGAINST: vs. Oklahoma State (10/13)


    OKLAHOMA (Offense - 6/3, Defense – 6/2, 42 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    LINCOLN LUXURY


    According to Fansided.com, from the Big Hit List, the Sooners are #16 overall with player losses from last year including 15 players from the 2-deep gone. It’s one reason they will turn to 43 freshmen players on the roster. The biggest loss, of course, was last year’s Heisman Trophy winning QB Baker Mayfield, the former walk-on and No.1 pick in this year’s NFL draft. His replacement is Kyler Murray, former Texas A&M quarterback and a high school legend in Texas. Lincoln Riley hired former Nebraska and Notre Dame DC, and UConn head coach, Bob Diaco in what may be the best offseason move made by the Sooners. That’s a really good move considering all three non-conference games are versus bowl foes.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE:
    Oklahoma is 124-27 in regular season Big 12 games since 2000. That’s 21 more wins than the next best school (Texas).


    PLAY ON: at Iowa State (9/15) - *KEY


    OKLAHOMA STATE (Offense – 5/2, Defense – 7/3, 39 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    TRUE COWBOY


    Mike Gundy has spent more than half of his life either quarterbacking or coaching at Oklahoma State. His team currently presides over the greatest success in the history of the program. Yes, he is a Cowboy through and through. However, he’ll need to replace record-setting QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington, the most lethal duo in OSU annals. Rudolph tossed for a whopping 13,618 yards and 92 TDs in four seasons, while Washington finished his career No. 7 all-time in the FBS with 4,472 yards and 39 TDs. Remember this before signing off on the 2018 Cowboys, though: OSU is one of only five schools to appear in every set of College Football Playoff rankings since 2015, joining Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE:
    The Cowboys are 11-0 SU and 10-1 ATS off consecutive wins versus an opponent off consecutive losses under Gundy.


    PLAY ON: at TCU (11/24)


    TCU (Offense - 5/2, Defense – 6/2, 44 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME
    : OVER THE HILL


    While no one left early for the NFL, no FBS team must replace more offensive starters this season than TCU, who tied UTSA with nine. Only Colorado State (15) must replace more total starters than the Horned Frogs, and only Navy (21) and UTSA (20) lost more seniors from their two-deep than did TCU (19). Included among the missing is QB Kenny Hill, who bailed the team out when Trevone Boykin left early for the NFL draft two years ago. Head coach Gary Patterson will once again leave the play calling to OC Sonny Cumbie, whose ground attack ran the ball 55% of the time last season. Meanwhile, Patterson will no longer coach the LBs this season, allowing him to concentrate solely on head coaching duties.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: TCU forced 55 TOs the last three seasons. The Frogs forced 100 TO’s the previous three seasons


    PLAY AGAINST: at West Virginia (11/10)


    TEXAS (Offense - *7/3, Defense – 6/2, 37 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    YOUNG HORNS


    After Texas started the 2nd most underclassmen in the nation in 2016, highly touted new head coach Tom Herman continued to proceed on a similar course in his debut with the Longhorns in 2017. As a result, UT freshmen have now started 138 games the last three seasons. With it, Texas landed 7 of the state’s top 10 recruits this offseason. Note that five of UT’s six losses last season came by 10 points or fewer, while four of them were by 7 points or fewer. Both of those marks were the most among Power Five Conference teams in 2017. Also, the Longhorns are the only program in college football to play 11 Power Five opponents in each regular season from 2015-18.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Longhorns head coach Tom Herman is 9-1 ATS in his career as an underdog.


    PLAY ON: vs. Maryland (9/1)


    TEXAS TECH (Offense - 7/5, Defense – 10/3, 85 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME:
    CHANGING OF THE TIDE


    Kliff Kingsbury was able to utilize the same starting lineup the final 11 games of the season last year. And while the Red Raiders’ prolific offense slipped mightily, Kingsbury will benefit from having all five OL starters, plus the bulk of the backups, returning in 2018. The headline-making news last season, though, was a DEFENSE that improved 110 YPG behind DC David Gibbs – from a team that had yielded 508 YPG collectively under Kingsbury prior to last year. For as improved as the Texas Tech defense was in 2017, expect the stop-unit to be even better this season. That’s because 10 starters (154 career starts) and 10 additional two-deep players are on Texas Tech’s list of defensive returners. It’s what happens when freshmen make 144 starts over the past four seasons. Now that’s a change.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: As a head coach and an OC, Kingsbury’s teams have ranked an average 6th in total offense in his career.


    PLAY ON: at Kansas State (11/17) - *KEY


    WEST VIRGINIA (Offense - *7/4, Defense – 6/3, 40 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: TIME WILL TELL


    SR QB Will Grier, the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, returns. He completed 250-of-388 passes for 3,490 yards and 34 TDs before a broken finger in the first quarter of the Texas game ended his promising season. Considering the fact that the Mountaineers bring a total of 303 starts back from last season’s squad, they are more experienced than they might appear on the surface. Included are Grier’s top two WR targets David Sills and Gary Jennings, who passed on the NFL for another season in Morgantown. However, a normally reliable stop unit could be a sticking point as they allowed a Big 12-worst 204 rushing YPG last season. In addition, WVU must also replace three senior starters from the secondary. Not having any consecutive road games will help but the team will only go as far as its revamped defense carries it.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Mountaineers are 13-4 SU and 14-3 ATS away against foes coming off a SU favorite loss.


    PLAY AGAINST: at Texas Tech (9/29) - *KEY as a favorite
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    Handicapping Penn State (9.5)
    July 4, 2018



    The Penn State Nittany Lions are coming off consecutive 11-win seasons under head coach James Franklin, so the bar is set high for Penn State heading into the 2018 regular season. The Nittany Lions are considered serious contenders to win the Big Ten title this season and they are given an outside shot to reach the College Football Playoff. The schedule is favorable for the Nittany Lions, as they get Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State at home, but a late season trip to Michigan won’t be easy.


    Let’s look at the schedule for Penn State for 2018 to see if they will go over or under their win total of 9.5 games.

    Penn State 2018 Regular Season Win Total

    Over 9.5 (-115)
    Under 9.5 (-115)


    2018 Penn State Schedule Analysis


    Sept. 1 vs. Appalachian State

    The home opener for Penn State may not be a cakewalk, as Appalachian State is one of the top teams in the Sun Belt. The Nittany Lions should have too much talent, but if Miles Sanders isn’t ready to replace Saquon Barkley and new offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne doesn’t have everyone on the same page, this game could be close.


    Sept. 8 at Pittsburgh
    The Panthers won just five games last season and lost 33-14 to the Nittany Lions in University Park. Perhaps this game will be closer, but Penn State should go to 2-0 on the season.

    Sept. 15 vs. Kent State

    This should be a rout, as Kent State is one of the worst teams in the MAC. They won just two games last season and they are no threat to Penn State.


    Sept. 21 at Illinois
    The Nittany Lions shouldn’t have too much trouble against an Illinois team that still isn’t very good. Illinois has won a total of five games the last two years and they don’t figure to win this one.


    Sept. 29 vs. Ohio State
    The first big test of the season for Penn State comes at home against the Buckeyes. There is a good chance this will be a matchup of unbeaten teams ranked in the top ten and it could decide who wins the Big Ten East.


    Oct. 13 vs. Michigan State
    This game won’t be easy, but the Nittany Lions get a bye after playing the Buckeyes and it is at home. The Spartans won at home last season, so revenge will be on the minds of Penn State players for this game.


    Oct. 20 at Indiana
    There is no question that this should be a letdown spot for the Nittany Lions. The question is whether Indiana is good enough for it to matter. The answer is probably not, so this should be a road win for Penn State.


    Oct. 27 vs. Iowa
    The Hawkeyes nearly upset Penn State last season at home, but this time around the game is at Penn State. The Nittany Lions should pull away to win a low scoring contest this time around.


    Nov. 3 at Michigan
    There is no doubt that this game won’t be easy for the Nittany Lions, as they rarely win at the Big House. They are just 1-7 in their last eight trips to Michigan. The home team has won the last two games in this series by at least 29 points.


    Nov. 10 vs. Wisconsin
    This is another very difficult game for the Nittany Lions, as the Badgers could be the top team from the West Division this season. Penn State has won five of the last six meetings against Wisconsin.


    Nov. 17 at Rutgers
    The last two games for Penn State should be pretty easy, as they get Rutgers and Maryland. Even at home, Rutgers should be no threat to Penn State.


    Nov. 24 vs. Maryland
    The regular season finale should be a rout, as Penn State has won the last three games against Maryland by a combined margin of 135-47.


    2018 Penn State Nittany Lions Regular Season Win Total Prediction


    Oddsmakers have the win total for Penn State at 9.5 and that is a really good number. The most likely scenario has the Nittany Lions going 9-3 or 10-2. We’ll lean toward 9-3 and under the total.
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    Handicapping Mich. State (8.5)
    July 5, 2018



    The Michigan State Spartans are coming off an impressive 10-win season that included wins over Michigan and Penn State. The Spartans return a lot of talent from last year’s squad, so head coach Mark Dantonio should have a team capable of challenging for the Big Ten East title this season.


    Michigan State’s season will once again come down to games against Michigan and Penn State in addition to a huge home game against Ohio State.


    Let’s look at the schedule for the Spartans for 2018 to see if they will go over or under their win total of 8.5.


    Michigan State 2018 Regular Season Win Total
    Over 8.5 (-115)
    Under 8.5 (-115)


    2018 Michigan State Schedule Analysis


    Aug. 31 vs. Utah State



    The opener for the Spartans takes place on a Friday night and it should be an easy win, as the Aggies are no threat to win on the road against a quality team.


    Sept. 8 at Arizona State


    This will be the first meeting between the teams since 1986. It will likely be a rude awakening for new ASU head coach Herm Edwards, as the Spartans have far more talent on both sides of the ball than the Sun Devils.


    Sept. 22 at Indiana


    The Spartans are coming off an early bye week. They should have no trouble on the road against an Indiana team that they have dominated through the years.


    Sept. 29 vs. Central Michigan


    The Spartans get another easy game, as they host Central Michigan. This series has been controlled by Michigan State since 2009 when they were shocked by the Chippewas. Michigan State has won the last three meetings by a combined 116-24.


    Oct. 6 vs. Northwestern


    The Wildcats have given Michigan State trouble, winning three of the last four meetings. That success should end here, as Michigan State is playing at home and has more talent than the Wildcats.


    Oct. 13 at Penn State


    The first of the three key games this season for Michigan State is on the road at Penn State. The Nittany Lions will be looking for revenge, as they lost at Michigan State on a last second field goal a year ago. Michigan State has won two of the last three games at Penn State.


    Oct. 20 vs. Michigan


    The Spartans get another huge test in East Lansing, as they host the Wolverines. This two week stretch will determine whether or not Michigan State is going to contend for a division title.


    Oct. 27 vs. Purdue


    This is a letdown spot for the Spartans, but the game is at home and Michigan State has won the last seven meetings in this series.


    Nov. 3 at Maryland


    The Terrapins beat Michigan State two years ago, but this year’s Spartan team is much better than the one two years ago. The Spartans have been held to 17 points in each of the last two games against Maryland but that shouldn’t be the case this time around.


    Nov. 10 vs. Ohio State


    This game might decide the Big Ten East title if the Spartans can take care of business earlier in the season. Ohio State had no trouble winning at home last season against the Spartans, but this game is at East Lansing.


    Nov. 17 at Nebraska


    This is a dangerous game for Michigan State, as it comes after a huge game against Ohio State and it comes against a Nebraska team that should have new head coach Scott Frost’s system fully in place. Nebraska won the last meeting by a score of 39-38 in 2015.


    Nov. 24 vs. Rutgers


    The regular season finale should not be any problem, as Michigan State is 4-0 against Rutgers since they joined the Big Ten. Michigan State has won the last two games by a combined margin of 89-7.


    2018 Michigan State Spartans Regular Season Win Total Prediction


    When you look at the schedule for the Spartans there are eight games that they should win and then four toss-up games. If the Spartans win the games they are expected to win, and win just one of those other four they will go over their win total of 8.5. That seems very likely, so over the total is the way to go with the Michigan State Spartans for 2018.
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  7. #32  
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    Mountain West Outlook
    July 5, 2018



    With six bowl teams and three bowls wins the Mountain West is coming off a solid season although the league has failed to provide a New Year’s six representative since Boise State won the Fiesta Bowl in the first season of the College Football Playoff system four years ago.


    Expectations are high for Boise State to be a team that could run the table to be in that conversation this season but this is a conference that has offered some surprises in recent years, including Fresno State’s rise to the West title last season after failing to win a FBS game the previous season. Here is an early summer look at the 12 Mountain West teams and the season ahead in 2018-19.


    MOUNTAIN OUTLOOK


    Boise State:
    Bryan Harsin is 42-12 at Boise State including posting an 11-3 record last season after defeating Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. Harsin’s name certainly has come up in consideration for major conference openings and that isn’t likely to change with another double-digit win season expected. Boise State takes on a few difficult non-conference games and will face a difficult draw from the West though the toughest conference games will be home games. Brett Rypien returns as one of the top passers in Broncos history but last year’s team took a big step back on offense and was led by a sound defense that was very tough against the run. That defensive success should continue with 10 defensive starters back in 2018 as the Broncos are the clear favorite in the division with the potential to emerge in the national conversation if they can win at Oklahoma State in September.


    Utah State: In what felt like a critical season for Matt Wells, Utah State rebounded with a steady season getting back to a bowl game and ultimately finishing 6-7 with an Arizona Bowl loss in overtime. The Aggies possess a veteran offensive line and sophomore quarterback Jordan Love showed some potential last season. The Aggies have an ideal scheduling draw in conference play missing the top contenders on the west side but they are one the road for the key Mountain division games which makes a rise to the top unlikely. Another bowl-eligible season looks possible with a pair of favorable non-conference tests and favoritism likely in all six home dates. Wells has seen his defense get worse each of the past two years and returning to the strong results from his first three seasons in Logan will determine whether or not the Aggies take a leap forward in 2018.


    Wyoming: Despite having a NFL draft pick at quarterback Wyoming had terrible offensive production last season, averaging only 288 yards per game in conference play. The Cowboys were outstanding defensively allowing only 17.5 points per game on the season and that unit keyed a second straight bowl bid and the program’s first bowl win since 2009. This year’s team should again dominate defensively with stars at every level of the defense. The offense could actually improve as well with a more stable offensive line helping the running game back to the success the Cowboys had as division champions in 2016-17. Wyoming has a pair of power five non-conference games plus drawing last year’s West champion on the road as there are some hurdles ahead in trying to match or surpass the eight-win count from last season. Boise State and Utah State will both have to head to Laramie for a potential edge as Wyoming is a threat in the Mountain race.


    Colorado State: Mike Bobo’s squad doesn’t return a great deal of experience for his fourth season in Fort Collins but a few notable transfers will put major conference talent in his offense. The Rams have made but lost bowl games every season under Bobo with three consecutive 7-6 campaigns. While expectations for a breakthrough are growing it will be a tough act to deliver in 2018. Colorado State does have a preferable draw of the West teams missing the top two threats but a very tough non-conference schedule with three power five dates will leave little margin for error in Mountain West play regarding bowl eligibility. Ultimately a Colorado State defense that surrendered 436 yards per game while going 5-3 in league games last season doesn’t look likely to be greatly improved.


    Air Force: After winning 10 games in 2016, that count was cut in half for Air Force last season, missing a bowl game for the first time since 2013. The Falcons lack proven depth on the offensive line which is always the key component of the option attack but top rusher and passer Arion Worthman returns. The pull from the West features three difficult games with two road tests vs. quality teams and the non-conference schedule is a bit tougher than expected with Army and Florida Atlantic coming off strong seasons. Air Force is 20-4 S/U at home the past four seasons and the Falcons will need to maintain an edge in Colorado Springs to have a successful season with most of the pivotal swing games coming at home.


    New Mexico: A great rebuilding run for Bob Davie collapsed last season as the Lobos fell to 3-9. Davie wound up suspended for a month in the winter surrounding misconduct allegations as New Mexico isn’t well positioned for a great season. There is some returning experience and this team lost a couple of very tight games last season to fall from 9-4 to 3-9. The schedule in 2018 is daunting with perhaps the three best West teams on the path and four very difficult home games in conference play. The Lobos have a talented young quarterback and the top rusher from last season back but the defense could slide backwards after two respectable seasons with capable defensive numbers. Ultimately a lot is adding up for potential problems for New Mexico to have a successful season and it won’t be a shock if the program looks to go another direction at some point.


    WEST OUTLOOK


    San Diego State:
    The Aztecs went 2-0 vs. the Pac-12 last season with a pair of early season upsets but after a 6-0 start, a pair of home losses ended a two-year run on top of the MWC. San Diego State also missed in bowl action losing to Army but Rocky Long has guided this team to a 32-9 record the past three years combined. Christian Chapman is back at quarterback but replacing record setting running back Rashaad Penny could be a challenge. The defense also loses a few contributors but this year’s squad is a threat to get back to the MWC title game. An opening game at Stanford could determine whether or not San Diego State could have more at stake this season. The quartet of road games in league play is daunting as another runner-up finish in the West is realistic as well.


    Fresno State: The Bulldogs delivered one of the most impressive turnarounds in college football history as veteran head coach Jeff Tedford turned in a 10-4 season at his Alma Mater after inheriting a team that went 1-11 the previous year. The Bulldogs improved dramatically on both sides of the ball and turned around a lot of close game fortune, winding up falling just short in the MWC Championship but winning the Hawai’i Bowl. Matching last season’s success will be difficult but much of last season’s roster is intact. The schedule is difficult outside of the conference with three perilous non-conference games plus having to play two of the top Mountain squads including making a trip to Boise. A lot went right for Fresno State last season and while the Bulldogs are still a threat in 2018 a slight slide back to the pack looks possible on the 2018 schedule.


    UNLV: The Rebels have improved in win-count by one each season under Tony Sanchez and a continuation of that pattern would get the Rebels in a bowl game for the first time since 2013. The schedule ahead features two non-conference road games that will be difficult to win as at least a 4-4 league campaign looks necessary which is the mark the Rebels hit last season. UNLV faces two of the lesser Mountain foes in its path and has a pair of winnable road games in the division. Returning talent on both offense and defense should lead a solid squad with quality in the backfield and a defense with veteran linebackers. The numbers need to get better defensively with 5.4 yards per rush allowed last season while the offense only scored 29 points per game despite posting 427 yards per game as more efficiency will be needed to complete the rise for a breakthrough campaign.


    Nevada: Jay Norvell had a disappointing first season at Nevada with the Wolf Pack dipping to 3-9 for the worst season for the program in more than a decade. Nevada allowed at least 30 points in all but three games as the defense has regressed in back-to-back seasons. The offense has capable numbers with Ty Gangi ultimately taking over and delivering a productive season but a program built on running the ball successfully needs more consistent results on the ground. Nevada has a fairly difficult MWC slate as the four home games will all be difficult and winning on the road has been a challenge with Nevada 0-6 in road games last season. The non-conference schedule also features two power five schools and a tough road game at Toledo as a season of improvement isn’t assured even with a low bar to reach and a decent group of returning players.


    San Jose State: Brent Brennan stepped into a tough situation but his first season in San Jose was a challenge with the Spartans outscored by 26 points per game on average with only a three-point win in the season finale a FBS victory for the team. Road games at Pac-12 powers will make September difficult and San Jose State isn’t likely to be competitive in four difficult road games in MWC play. The home dates offer some potential however and matching or topping last season’s win count is realistic even with the rebuilding still clearly a work in progress. Goals will need to be modest for the Spartans this season but several teams have been able to regroup quickly for a major turnaround in this conference in recent years.


    Hawai’i: The Warriors were a surprise bowl team in 2016 but fell to just 3-9 last season as Nick Rolovich enters his third season with growing unrest. His squad has lost several contributors due to transfers as this will be a very inexperienced team. John Ursua will be the leader in the receiving corps but there isn’t a lot of depth behind him in a system that relies on multiple receiver sets and efficient quarterback play remains a question mark. Defense was the weaker side of the ball last season as well and the three wins came vs. UMass, FCS Western Carolina, and San Jose State last season as competing with the top MWC teams looks unlikely. There are winnable games on the schedule and the Warriors avoid Boise State from the Mountain side while drawing preferable matchups at home.
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    Conference USA Outlook
    July 5, 2018



    Conference USA made some noise last season with Florida Atlantic dominating the conference with a 9-0 campaign and a dominant bowl win under the guidance of firebrand Lane Kiffin. UAB’s revival also provided a great storyline while Louisiana Tech, Marshall and Middle Tennessee State were also bowl winners as underdogs.


    EAST OUTLOOK


    This season the East discussion will again start with Kiffin and Florida Atlantic as he surprised many by not making a leap after one season to a major conference program. Here is a look at the seven teams in Conference USA East and an early outlook for the 2018 season.


    Florida Atlantic: The Owls outscored conference foes by an average of more than three touchdowns per game then winning the title game by 24 points and their bowl game by 47 points. The Owls will need to replace quarterback Jason Driskel but nearly the entire defense is back in action this season. The opening month offers three difficult non-conference games including games at Oklahoma and at UCF as the Owls will get a chance to shine in a bigger spotlight this season. The gap between FAU and the rest of the East was severe last season and that could be true again but the Owls will have to play three road games against the likely stronger teams in the division. The crossover draw of Louisiana Tech and North Texas is also a difficult pairing as FAU will earn a repeat title if they accomplish what they are heavily favored (-150) to do in this conference. Devin Singletary could emerge as a potential Heisman long shot if he can surpass his 1,900 yard 2017-18 season and should the Owls stun a re-tooling Sooners team in the opener (currently +21) this squad will be certainly be on top of the Group of 5 rankings.


    Marshall: Doc Holliday is 61-42 in eight seasons at Marshall including 5-0 in bowl games. The Herd bounced back from an ugly 2016 campaign to finish 8-5 last season despite going just 4-4 in conference play. Marshall lost those Conference USA games by a combined total of 19 points including a five-point loss in Boca Raton with the Herd out-gaining Florida Atlantic but struggling with turnovers. Marshall has a lot of starting experience back for the 2018 season however excellent quarterback Chase Litton is not among the returnees which will make ascending to the top of this division a challenge with a much more pass oriented offensive scheme than Florida Atlantic relies on. Marshall was fantastic defensively against the run last season allowing just 121 yards per game on 3.4 yards per carry and the Herd get to host both Middle Tennessee State and Florida Atlantic for a favorable division draw. Marshall also pulls UTSA and Southern Miss from the West for one of the better overall schedules in the conference as a return to the postseason looks likely for this team. A pair of games vs. the SEC and ACC in September also allows for marquee opportunities with the program picking up wins over Purdue and Cincinnati in the past three seasons.


    Middle Tennessee State: The Blue Raiders played much of the 2017 season with a backup quarterback and having Brent Stockstill for the entire season could make Middle Tennessee State a serious threat in Conference USA. Middle Tennessee State won four of its final five games including a bowl win over Arkansas State with the lone miss coming in triple overtime. Middle Tennessee State beat Syracuse last September and three SEC schools are on the schedule this season which will make the postseason margin of error much smaller than most of its division counterparts. The conference draw isn’t ideal as while the Blue Raiders will host Florida Atlantic, three of the four road games in C-USA play are challenging and they will also have to play one of the top west division threats in geographically misplaced UAB, though that game is the home finale. Facing seven road games and three power five games make the path to a great season difficult for the Blue Raiders but a lot of experience returns on both sides of the ball for a team that will be a threat to win in every conference game.


    Old Dominion: After a 10-win 2016 season Old Dominion slipped to 5-7 last year but after a 2-6 start the Monarchs picked up wins in three of the final four games. The five wins last season were of extremely low quality however and against top competition the Monarchs were out-classed with three losses by at least 30 points against the top tier of Conference USA. The offense took a huge step back last season from the 2016 numbers scoring just over 20 points per game but the returns could be stronger in 2018 with nine starters back in action. Old Dominion will need to win seven games to make a bowl game as they will play two FCS foes but a rebuilding Rice squad is part of the West draw and East Carolina is also on the schedule as it won’t be a shock if the Monarchs get back to a winning ledger. Old Dominion gets many of the key division race swing games at home and the returning roster should lead to better statistics on both sides of the ball after the team was soundly out-scored and out-gained last season.

    Western Kentucky:
    Mike White wound up with strong numbers at quarterback last season but the Western Kentucky offense dropped dramatically in production with a coaching change. Mike Sanford still got this team to a bowl game but it took some good fortune with several narrow wins. The offense has very little returning experience and production and making a fifth straight bowl game will be a great challenge for the Hilltoppers. Western Kentucky has road games at Wisconsin and at Louisville in non-conference play while also going on the road against three of Conference USA’s projected top teams. Pulling UTEP from the west is a plus while the home slate in league play is manageable but ultimately this program looks likely to land several tiers below the great squads of 2015 and 2016.


    Florida International: It was a season of redemption for Alex McGough and Florida International with an 8-5 2017 season led by Butch Davis in his first season ‘back’ in Miami. The long-time quarterback has departed however and the season ended with a lopsided bowl loss against Temple. The 2018 schedule offers many of the easiest conference games coming on the road while two power five non-conference tests will add to the loss column as a step backwards in record is likely. The offense lost top players at every position while the defense was gutted with the top four leading tacklers from last season departing. This was a fortunate team that went 4-4 in league play despite being outscored and out-gained by more than 50 yards per game on average. Florida International hasn’t had a winning road record since 2011 and the best opportunities this season will be in some of those road games. Ultimately this looks like a team that won’t be able to compete with the top division rivals.


    Charlotte: in three seasons in Conference USA Charlotte has just four league wins. The 49ers finished 1-11 last season and the lone win was an overtime result at home. There were a few close calls along the way but the offense managed just over 14 points per game on average for the season. Charlotte has a chance to surpass last season’s win count early this season as the opening month slate is favorable with four of the first six games at home without any overly demanding matchups. The 49ers don’t get to play any of the bottom West teams in the draw however and a road heavy late season schedule will take a toll. The program has been patient with Brad Lambert in his sixth season and improvement in record is likely this season though competing for a bowl bid likely will need to wait. This could be a very respectable defensive team but the offense isn’t going to be able to compete with the top teams in the conference.


    WEST OUTLOOK


    The West offers a muddled collection of teams with a case for five different squads to be on top. It won’t be a surprise if several teams wind up tied at 6-2 or 5-3 and tiebreakers are needed in the West in 2018 as there is no clear front runner as there is on the East side. Here is a look at the seven teams in Conference USA West and an early outlook ahead of the 2018 season.


    Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs made a major statement in bowl action with a 51-10 win over SMU in the Frisco Bowl. That win clinched a fourth straight winning season for Skip Holtz in Ruston and after slipping to just seven wins last season this year’s team has a chance to get back to the nine-win campaigns of the previous years. Facing two SEC teams on the road limits the overall ceiling for this group and the Bulldogs have to play at Florida Atlantic in the East draw as well to put several major hurdles on the slate. J’Mar Smith emerged as a quality playmaker at quarterback last season however and the running game has always been productive under Holtz. Last season’s defense was among the better units in Conference USA and it should remain a quality group in 2017. It likely won’t take perfection to win this division as the Bulldogs will be in the mix and they get to host one of the top threats in UAB.


    North Texas: The Mean Green improved by four wins last season and Mason Fine returns as likely the top quarterback in the conference coming off throwing for 4,000 yards with 31 touchdowns last season for a nine-win team. North Texas was the division champion at 7-1 last season but there were numerous close calls as the Mean Green only outscored foes by 21 points if you count the conference championship loss. Both league losses came to the same Florida Atlantic squad last season however but the Mean Green again draws the East favorite this season along with a capable Old Dominion team in the crossover games. Despite the strong record last season this wasn’t a quality defensive team but the Mean Green could flip a -11 turnover margin from last season as well. With five wins by seven or fewer points last season the 2017 squad was fortunate but having a great quarterback helps one win those types of games and the Mean Green are a threat for another solid season.


    UAB: After ending the football program for two years UAB returned as one of the feel-good stories of the season as Bill Clark led the team to an 8-5 record last season. UAB had a lot go right last season as the scoring and production numbers were more indicative of a .500 squad and four wins came by seven or fewer points. The West is clearly the lighter side of Conference USA however as there will remain favorable opportunities for wins and three of the four non-conference tests are also of the winnable variety. This year’s team has most of last season’s offensive production back in action and while the defense must replace a few key players this can again be a competitive team that can return to the postseason and compete for the division title. A good offensive line and a veteran quarterback can go a long ways as the Blazers could rise to the top of the West.


    Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles won eight games last season as Jay Hopson has kept the program in the postseason in both of his seasons in Hattiesburg. This will be one of the least experienced teams in the conference however even with the return of the two viable quarterback options for Southern Miss. This was a very respectable defensive team last season that was steady against the run and the pass but some of the numbers were built with a few dominant showings against the bottom of this division. Southern Miss will play one of the weaker schedules in the nation this season with only a September game at Auburn in the ‘certain loss’ camp as they avoid Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee State and will play games with Marshall and Louisiana Tech at home. This year’s team likely isn’t as strong as last season’s squad with the Golden Eagles posting fairly dominant numbers in a 6-2 league campaign but matching last season’s record isn’t out of the question with this slate.


    Texas-San Antonio: The Roadrunners finished with a winning record last season but they played just 11 games thanks to a hurricane-related cancelation. The schedule starts with a bang this season facing three power five teams in succession to open the season but it won’t be a surprise if UTSA can reverse course with three wins in a row after that. UTSA draws two decent teams from the East and has a fairly tough set of home games in league play for a squad with little returning offensive experience other than running back Jalen Rhodes. The defensive numbers from 2017 are eye-popping with just 17.0 points per game and 288 yards per game allowed albeit through what wound up being an extremely weak schedule. Losing a great deal of leadership from last season plus facing a more challenging schedule likely leads to a decline in San Antonio this season however the gap between the top five teams in this division isn’t likely to be substantial.


    UTEP: Dana Dimel is the new leader at UTEP after a long run as a Kansas State offensive assistant. Inheriting a 0-12 program there are obvious issues at UTEP but expectations will be quite grounded. UTEP managed only 12 points per game on average last season as clearly the worst offensive team in the country and the defense faced great strain as well despite keeping the team in a handful of games. There is a lot of player turnover on the roster but the opportunity for quick improvement is possible. Quarterback injuries plagued the team last season as the Miners had to dig far down the depth chart and the 2018 schedule offers a handful of promising opportunities with only a few games where UTEP has little chance to compete. Dimel won’t be able to deliver a miracle turnaround in year one but getting the team in the win column looks likely especially if a few transfers with potential live up to their billing.


    Rice: The Owls mad a change with David Baliff let go after more than a decade in Houston. The 1-11 season and four straight seasons of decline in record made the move justifiable especially with last season’s offense averaging only 16 points per game. The Owls had very little production in the passing game last season and making a quick improvement for the program will be challenge for new head coach Mike Bloomgren, a Stanford assistant since 2011 that doesn’t really have ties to the program or area. It will likely be a long transition season for the Owls although in this division there are opportunities for wins. Rice plays at Hawai’i and will play 13 games this season though seven of those games are on the road. Topping last season’s win count looks likely with numerous favorable chances including a FCS opener but there will likely be several lopsided losses as well as a marginal defense lost the top five tacklers from last season.
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    Sun Belt Outlook
    July 5, 2018



    The Sun Belt splits into two divisions this season and the conference could continue to grow in stature after a strong 3-1 bowl showing last winter, plus a marquee win over the SEC in the regular season. The conference has been a proving ground for major conference coaching candidates particularly in the SEC and now having a championship game to showcase the future is bright in the SBC.


    The Sun Belt trims down to 10 this season with the departure of New Mexico State (now an independent) and Idaho (now playing at the FCS level) and forms five-team East and West divisions. That count allows for a nice schedule with only one missed opponent on the league slate but also means some imbalance in the divisions and the schedules in the debut season of the division format.


    Appalachian State and Troy tied on top of the conference standings at 7-1 last season with those teams absent from each other’s schedules last season. This year they meet in the regular season finale with that matchup expected to decide the fate of the East division champion and title game representative. Arkansas State will be the overall favorite for the conference title as the clear frontrunner in the East.


    EAST OUTLOOK


    Troy:
    The Trojans wound up 11-2 overall last season and shared the Sun Belt regular season title. The scheduling draw in 2018 is favorable in the new division format as they won’t play West favorite Arkansas State in the regular season. The big matchup with Appalachian State will be on the road as will games with Georgia Southern and UL-Monroe as the Trojans will need to maintain Neal Brown’s 9-3 S/U road record from the past two seasons to continue as a threat for the league title. Non-conference tests early with Boise State and Nebraska will be telling with Troy delivering the headline-making upset over LSU last season. Troy also must replace prolific quarterback Brandon Silvers and the top two rushers from last season but many key players return from a defense that allowed just 18.5 points per game last season and was especially stingy against the run. The offensive line should remain first rate with three All Conference caliber returnees which could help ease the quarterback transition.


    Appalachian State: Scott Satterfield has turned in winning seasons in four straight years since the Mountaineers joined the FBS level, including a combined 30-9 mark the past three seasons with three straight bowl wins with an impressive 34-0 win over Toledo last season. The Mountaineers must replace highly productive quarterback Taylor Lamb, a four-year starter however as it will be difficult to maintain the recent production. Last year’s squad didn’t match the success of the 2015 and 2016 squads as they drew a very light schedule in the SBC and still had a number of a narrow wins vs. lesser teams. Jalin Moore returns to lead the rushing attack and Victor Johnson is one of the top offensive linemen in the conference but there are questions on the front-seven on defense while quarterback play will be closely monitored replacing a school legend.


    Georgia Southern: The Eagles won nine-games in both 2014 and 2015 but made a mid-season coaching change last season with interim head coach Chad Lunsford doing enough to earn the spot full time moving forward. This year’s team has a chance to make a big move forward after winning just two games last season as there were many competitive losses and this is one of the most experienced teams in the conference. The Eagles are a deep sleeper for the conference title as they will host the three Sun Belt favorites and the road schedule is manageable once a September game at Clemson is out of the way. With an upset or two a rise to bowl eligibility looks possible as Georgia Southern should get back to its winning ways of the first half of the last decade.


    Georgia State: The Panthers went 7-5 in Shawn Elliott’s first season in Atlanta, ultimately picking up the programs first ever bowl win with a Cure Bowl victory over Western Kentucky for a successful campaign. Most of the producers from last season depart however aside from top receiver Penny Hart who could be the top target in the conference. As one of the few pass-first teams in the conference the Panthers can be a tough matchup but this was an erratic squad that had a few ugly losses last season despite the winning final record. Georgia State has a very tough road schedule in conference play this season and falling back below.500 looks like the most likely scenario for a program that has alternated disastrous and moderately successful seasons the past four years.

    Coastal Carolina:
    Coastal Carolina won its first FBS game last season but then lost nine in a row before a pair of wins to close the season. Well regarded head coach Joe Moglia missed last season for medical reasons as this team should find its footing with better depth but the SBC draw is fairly difficult missing arguably the worst team from the West draw and facing a challenging quartet of league home games. Opportunities for wins aren’t plentiful for Coastal Carolina who had a massive statistical gap with the rest of the league in most areas but Moglia has done nothing but win since taking over the program as the Chanticleers could make a bit of noise.


    WEST OUTLOOK


    Arkansas State:
    The Red Wolves slipped to 7-5 last season for a second straight season of slight decline under Blake Anderson. Four of five losses last season came by single-scores however and Arkansas State looks like the clear frontrunner in the West. The Red Wolves don’t have to play Troy from the East draw and the roster returns most of last season’s offensive talent led by quarterback Justice Hansen. This squad out-gained its foes by 150 yards per game on average in conference play but the defense regressed form the 2016 results, finishing 6-2 in league play. A tough non-conference schedule will again take a toll but the Red Wolves are deserving of the top billing in this division and the conference overall.


    Louisiana-Monroe: Monroe could be considered a threat in the West if only for giving Arkansas State a battle last season with a loss despite scoring 50 points. The Warhawks improved dramatically on offense in Matt Viator’s second season and a lot of key players return for an expected 2018 breakthrough. Boosting the chances for success in the SBC slate is the absence of Appalachian State on the schedule however the Warhawks will be playing seven road games with the program going 4-25 S/U on the road the past four years combined. The defense allowed 532 yards per game last season as and two of the unit’s top players from last season are gone as shootouts will be the norm for this group.


    Louisiana: The Ragin’ Cajuns nabbed Billy Napier as their new head coach and it won’t be a shock if he is leading a SEC squad a few years down the road. A former Clemson and Alabama assistant he was the offensive coordinator at Arizona State last season and could have instant success in Lafayette. The Cajuns won five games last season and were competitive in most losses. The offense wasn’t the issue last season and will again be the strength of the team in 2018. The defense that allowed 40 points per game last season returns just three starters however. Winnable home games are ahead as getting back to a bowl game after last season’s absence looks possible but getting stops will be a challenge.


    South Alabama: Joey Jones had a number of big wins at South Alabama but provided inconsistent season results since the program joined the FBS level. He has been replaced by Steve Campbell who has been at Central Arkansas the past four years. The offense really took a big fall last season as the Jaguars offered adequate defense by Sun Belt standards last season. This year’s team has some returning experience on both sides and should be competitive despite going through a major transition. Ultimately all six road games look likely to be losses and a similar season to 2017 looks realistic.


    Texas State: The Bobcats have posted back-to-back 2-10 seasons under Everett Withers and this squad will again be rated towards the very bottom of the FBS ranks. There is some experience back and a couple of close misses last year offers some promise for improvement. Unfortunately the best opportunities for wins could be road games with some of the better SBC teams visiting San Marcos but there are a pair of winnable opportunities at home in non-conference play. A new quarterback takes over an offense that netted just 17 points per game however and competing with the high-powered offenses in this division will be a challenge. The defense has enough talent to keep this team in a few games as improving the win count slightly is possible.
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    CFB notebook: RB Harris considered leaving Alabama
    July 6, 2018



    Running back Najee Harris, who went to Alabama as one of the top running backs in the Class of 2017, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he considered transferring after his freshman year.


    The 6-foot-2, 227-pounder out of Antioch (Calif.) High School said he is sticking around because he believes the Crimson Tide offer him the best path to the NFL.


    "The only thing I can tell you is, I hope I'm on the field more," Harris said. "Last year was the worst feeling. That whole season was mentally challenging.


    " ... I'm so determined. I can't have fun unless I achieve my goals, or else I'll be thinking about that the whole time."


    Harris finished last season with only 61 carries for 370 yards, fourth on the team in both categories.


    After the season, Harris met with then-running backs coach Burton Burns and had two one-on-one conversations with Alabama head coach Nick Saban.


    Saban told Harris that he must polish his pass-blocking skills, but also said: "You're going to play a lot this year."


    Interestingly, quarterback Tua Tagavailova also considered leaving Alabama, but then both freshmen wound up playing key roles as the Crimson Tide rallied in the second half to beat Georgia 26-23 in overtime in the CFP national championship game.


    While Tagavailova got most of the credit after replacing starting quarterback Jalen Hurts and throwing three touchdown passes, Harris had six carries for 64 yards, including runs of 16, 35 and 11 yards.


    However, playing time still might not come easy for Harris, who is in a crowded backfield that includes senior Damien Harris and junior Josh Jacobs.


    -- Baylor University officials responded in court filings that former athletic director Ian McCaw's claim the school used black football players as scapegoats to cover up a sexual assault scandal is "blatantly false," the Waco (Texas) Tribune Herald reported.


    McCaw made the charge during a recent deposition in a lawsuit against the school that was filed two years ago by 10 women who allege Baylor mishandled their sexual assault allegations.


    "This lawsuit has become a never-ending fishing expedition based on outlandish conspiracy theories, rumors and speculation as part of a crusade to turn up any possible reason to attack Baylor," Baylor officials wrote. "The question in this lawsuit is whether any of the 10 plaintiffs were subjected to a sexually harassing education environment at Baylor in violation of Title IX."


    The school said McCaw had no personal knowledge of the matters being discussed.


    The attorney for the plaintiffs, Jim Dunnam, said McCaw's testimony is relevant because it illustrated how the university's actions to protect its brand increased the risk for female students at the nation's largest Baptist school.


    McCaw, who is white, testified June 19 after being subpoenaed, and excerpts from his testimony appeared in court documents filed about a week later by the plaintiffs' attorneys.


    During the deposition, McCaw said he was "disgusted" by the racism and the "phony" investigation document that Baylor issued in 2016 that leveled findings against the football program.


    McCaw added that he ultimately resigned because he didn't want to be part of a massive "cover-up scheme."


    Baylor was engulfed in a 2016 sexual assault scandal involving its football team that resulted in the firing of head coach Art Briles and the demotion of university president Ken Starr.


    The university has settled several other lawsuits from women who said their reports of sexual assault were mishandled or ignored.


    McCaw, now athletic director at Liberty University in Virginia, also was disciplined and resigned in June 2016.


    -- Junior quarterback Keon Howard is leaving Southern Mississippi.


    Howard announced on his Twitter feed that he made the decision "to not continue my education and football career at The University of Southern Mississippi."


    No reason was offered for the decision by Howard, who started seven games for the Golden Eagles in 2017 but did not appear in the final four games, losing the job to Kwadra Griggs.


    "I would like to thank the coaching staff, my teammates, staff members, student body and others who have supported me," Howard wrote. "I will not forget the moments spent battling at The Rock with my teammates and the loyalty from the fans in victory or defeat."


    Howard completed 56.5 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,199 yards with eight touchdown passes against five interceptions last season. He also rushed for 181 yards.


    Although he has one season of eligibility remaining, Howard did not announce any plans to transfer in his posting.


    --Defensive lineman Adam Shuler has yet to enroll at the University of Florida nearly a month after announcing he was transferring from West Virginia.


    Shuler was not listed on the Gators' latest updated roster because he is not enrolled in the school's Summer B program, which started Monday, the Gainesville Sun reported.


    A 6-foot-4, 275-pounder who appeared in 12 games for the Mountaineers in 2017, Shuler announced June 11 on his Twitter account that he was headed to Florida.


    Shuler was productive for West Virginia last season, registering 37 tackles, including 8.0 for loss, and 3.0 sacks. He appeared in 12 games as a redshirt freshman, posting 34 tackles and a sack.


    According to the newspaper, Shuler will have two years of eligibility remaining if he does eventually enroll for classes.


    --Jalen Watts-Jackson always will have a place in Michigan State history, but now he's ready to move on from football.


    Watts-Jackson said in March that he hoped to continue his college career as a graduate transfer, but now has decided to go in a much different direction.


    "I am going into the Air Force," Watts-Jackson told SpartanNation.com. "I was raised that it is a good idea to serve your country. I have family members that have served this county, including my dad. So I am excited to serve this nation."


    As a 5-foot-11, 184-pound freshman defensive back in 2015, Watts-Jackson scooped up a mishandled punt and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to give the Spartans a 27-23 walk-off victory over rival Michigan.


    However, Watts-Jackson sustained a broken hip during the ensuing celebration and his career with the Spartans never took off. The rest of his playing time in East Lansing, Mich., consisted of nine games in 2016. He made three tackles and returned a punt 13 yards.


    Watts-Jackson, a native of Detroit, plans to become an Air Force officer in the field of cyber systems operation and security.
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    CFB Notebook: Alabama reports one minor violation to NCAA
    July 7, 2018



    Alabama reported 13 secondary violations to the NCAA but only one involved the football program.


    The lone infraction by the football team was reported July 1, 2017, and was considered a minor violation, according to al.com.


    Per the report, an assistant coach for the Crimson Tide responded to an "unknown text message which resulted in impermissible communication with the parent of a 2019 prospective student-athlete."


    Last year, the university reported 22 secondary violations, including nine by the football program. In 2016, five of the 19 self-reported violations involved the football program.


    The Crimson Tide defeated SEC rival Georgia 26-23 in overtime in the College Football Playoff Championship Game in January. It was the school's fifth national title in the last nine years.


    --Wyoming linebacker Cassh Maluia was suspended for the season opener in the wake of his arrest a week ago.


    Cowboys coach Craig Bohl announced that Maluia will miss the game against New Mexico State on Aug. 25.


    Maluia was arrested June 30 in Laramie, Wyo., on multiple charges, including suspicion of driving under the influence. He also was charged with underage consumption of alcohol and driving without a valid driver's license.


    "Cassh Maluia will be subject to several disciplinary actions," Bohl said in a statement. "He will be assessed a one-game suspension for this coming season. ... We also view this as a learning opportunity, not just for Cassh, but for the rest of our team members."


    Bohn also noted that Maluia faces additional disciplinary action that will require mandatory counseling, the completion of an AWARE training program on campus and 50 hours of community service.


    -- West Virginia will not kick off the 2018 campaign for nearly two months, but the football program already is in midseason form -- at least on social media.


    The Mountaineers are going all out to promote returning starting quarterback Will Grier for the Heisman Trophy, launching a website devoted to hype his candidacy.


    The university touted the website -- http://www.grier7heisman.com -- on its athletics website along with the accompanying hashtag "willtowin."


    Grier, who started his college career at the University of Florida, passed for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns against 12 interceptions for West Virginia in 2017.


    A dislocated finger on his throwing hand, sustained Nov. 18 against Texas, forced Grier to sit out the regular-season finale against Oklahoma and the Heart of Dallas Bowl matchup against Utah on Dec. 26.
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    Handicapping Wisconsin (10)
    June 28, 2018



    Wisconsin had a very successful 2017 season, as they went 13-1, but it could have been a special season if they had not lost the Big Ten Championship Game to Ohio State. The loss cost the Badgers a spot in the College Football Playoff, but the Badgers did bounce back to beat Miami in the Orange Bowl.


    The Badgers return a lot of starters from last year’s squad including quarterback Alex Hornibrook, and the entire offensive line. If the defense comes together, especially a questionable secondary, the Badgers could be national title contenders again in 2018.


    Wisconsin Badgers 2018 Regular Season Win Total
    Over 10 (-120)
    Under 10 (-110)



    2018 Wisconsin Badgers Schedule Analysis


    Aug. 31 vs. Western Kentucky



    The regular season opener for the Badgers is an easy one, as they face a Hilltoppers team that was beaten 31-17 by Illinois last season. Very few teams go into Madison and win and Western Kentucky is not going to be one of them.


    Sept. 8 vs. New Mexico


    The second game should be just as easy for the Badgers, as the Lobos don’t have the defense to slow down the Badgers. Wisconsin should have no trouble going to 2-0.


    Sept. 15 vs. BYU


    This matchup might sound like a good one, but the Badgers won 40-6 in Provo last season. The Cougars should be better this season, but this game is in Madison and it should be a comfortable win for Wisconsin.


    Sept. 22 at Iowa


    The Big Ten opener for the Badgers is a dangerous one for Wisconsin. Iowa beat Ohio State last season and they nearly beat Penn State. The Badgers should have too much talent for the Hawkeyes, but this is not an automatic win.


    Oct. 6 vs. Nebraska


    The Cornhuskers have a new head coach in Scott Frost, so this game could be more interesting than it appears. The Badgers are at home and they are coming off a bye week, so they should get this win against Nebraska.


    Oct. 13 at Michigan


    The first big test of the season for Wisconsin comes at Michigan in mid-October. The Badgers won a tough defensive struggle last year at home and it might be a similar result this time around.


    Oct. 20 vs. Illinois

    This game comes at a good time for the Badgers, as they could have a letdown after the game against the Wolverines. It won’t matter in this game, because Illinois is a bad football team.


    Oct. 27 at Northwestern


    The Wildcats could be a contender this season in the Big Ten West, so this may not be a sure win for the Badgers on the road. Northwestern was very competitive last season in Madison, losing 33-24. Wisconsin probably has too much overall talent for the Wildcats, but this one could be tight.


    Nov. 3 vs. Rutgers

    The Scarlet Knights have been road kill in the Big Ten against top teams and it should be no different in this one as the Badgers roll to a big win.


    Nov. 10 at Penn State


    The Badgers won’t have to deal with Saquon Barkley this season, but Penn State is still a very good team and they are at home. The Nittany Lions have Trace McSorley and they have the offense to give Wisconsin trouble.


    Nov. 17 at Purdue


    The Badgers won an ugly 17-9 game last season in Madison. The Boilermakers shouldn’t be a serious threat if Wisconsin is focused, but keep in mind they are coming off the game against Penn State.


    Nov. 24 vs. Minnesota


    The Badgers have completely dominated this series in recent years, winning the last 14 meetings. This game is in Madison so the streak should go to 15.


    2018 Wisconsin Badgers Season Win Total Prediction


    The win total for the Badgers is listed at 10, so to go over that total the Badgers would have to go 11-1. There are two very difficult road games for Wisconsin at Michigan and at Penn State and a couple of tricky road games at Iowa and at Northwestern. The Badgers would have to win three of those four games to get to 11 wins and that might be too difficult. A 10-win season seems the most likely scenario for the Badgers.
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    Handicapping Ohio State (10.5)
    July 1, 2018



    The Ohio State Buckeyes are expected to be national title contenders in 2018, as Urban Meyer will try and get his team back to the College Football Playoff after missing out last season. The Buckeyes will have a new quarterback, but that may not be bad news, as J.T. Barrett was overrated. The Buckeyes will be very good upfront and they will have a great running game and they have some talented wide receivers. The Buckeyes are solid on defense, but they do have some questions in the secondary.


    Let’s look at the Buckeyes win total for 2018 and see if Ohio State will go over or under their total.


    Ohio State 2018 Regular Season Win Total - per BetDSI.eu
    Over 10.5 (-110)
    Under 10.5 (-120)


    Ohio State 2018 Schedule Analysis


    Sept. 1 vs. Oregon State

    The Buckeyes get a cakewalk in their opener, as the Beavers were sickening last season, going 1-11. The Beavers have a new head coach in Jonathan Smith and he is going to get a rude awakening in this game in Columbus.


    Sept. 8 vs. Rutgers
    This is another easy one for the Buckeyes, as they have beaten the Scarlet Knights the last two seasons by an average score of 57-0.


    Sept 15 vs. TCU (AT&T Stadium - Arlington, Texas)
    This will be the first test of the season for the Buckeyes and although it is technically a neutral site, the TCU campus is just about 30 miles away. The Horned Frogs went 11-3 last season and they are capable of giving Ohio State a game.


    Sept. 22 vs. Tulane
    This will be another easy one for the Buckeyes, as the Green Wave are coming off a 5-7 season in 2017. The Buckeyes might have a letdown in this one, which means they may not cover the big number, but they are going to win straight up.


    Sept. 29 at Penn State
    The Buckeyes pulled out a 39-38 win at home last season, while the Nittany Lions pulled out a 24-21 shocker at Beaver Stadium two years ago. This game could decide who wins the Big Ten East.


    Oct. 6 vs. Indiana
    The Hoosier played Ohio State tough for a while last season before losing 49-21 but that game was in Bloomington. This game is in Columbus and should be an easy Ohio State win.


    Oct. 13 vs. Minnesota
    The Gophers are coming off a 5-7 season and they pose no real threat to the Buckeyes. The teams last met in 2015 when it was Ohio State winning 28-14.


    Oct. 20 at Purdue
    This will be the first time since 2013 that Ohio State has traveled to West Lafayette. This could be a dangerous game for the Buckeyes, as Purdue has pulled off upsets in the past against Ohio State, most recently in 2011.


    Nov. 3 vs. Nebraska
    The Buckeyes will be coming off their bye week and facing a Nebraska team with first-year head coach Scott Frost. The Buckeyes have dominated this series of late, with wins by scores of 62-3 and 56-14 the last two years.


    Nov. 10 at Michigan State
    The Buckeyes rolled last season 48-3 at home, so the Spartans will be looking for revenge. This has been a pretty even series recently, and the Spartans are capable of winning this one at home.


    Nov. 17 at Maryland
    The Terrapins are getting better, but they are still not at the level of Ohio State and even at home, this will be a Maryland loss.

    Nov. 24 vs. Michigan

    The game of the season in the Big Ten could very well be the regular season finale. Harbaugh is still looking for his first win in his rivalry. The game in Columbus two years ago was a 30-27 double overtime win for the Buckeyes.

    2018 Ohio State Win Total Prediction



    The schedule really sets up pretty well for the Buckeyes in 2018. The Buckeyes have four games that will decide their season, the games against TCU, Penn State Michigan State and Michigan. If the Buckeyes win their other games as expected, they need to go 3-1 in those games to finish 11-1 and go over their win total of 10.5. There is a good chance that is exactly what they will do, so over the total is the way to go with the Buckeyes in 2018.
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    Surprise Team - Maryland
    June 26, 2018



    Maryland could surprise in Durkin's third year


    D.J. Durkin is entering his third season as the head coach at Maryland. His first two years have been plagued by injuries at the quarterback position.


    During his first year at the helm with senior Perry Hills as his starting QB, the Terrapins raced out to 4-0 record going into a road assignment at Penn State. The Nittany Lions were only ahead 17-14 when Hills went down with an injury, but they rolled to a 38-14 triumph after he was sidelined.


    Without its starting QB vs. Minnesota at home, Maryland couldn’t generate any offense in a 31-10 home loss. However, with Hills back the following week vs. Michigan State, the Terps captured a 28-17 victory. Next, they allowed a late third-quarter lead to get away in a 42-36 loss at Indiana. With a 5-3 record, Durkin’s bunch had a trio of Top-20 opponents on deck.


    The last thing it could afford at this point was another injury to Hills, but that’s exactly what happened at the Big House the following week. Michigan, ranked No. 2 at the time, rolled to an easy 59-3 win. With Hills out vs. Ohio State and at Nebraska, Maryland scored only 10 points and was the victim of three straight blowout defeats.


    Needing a win in the regular-season finale at home vs. Rutgers to go bowling, Hills returned and helped his team to 31-13 victory. Therefore, Maryland went 6-1 in the seven games in which Hills started and finished, although it did drop a 36-30 decision to Boston College at the Quick Lane Bowl.


    The 2017 campaign started with a huge splash, as Durkin’s team went into Austin and ruined the debut of Tom Herman at Texas. Maryland won by a 51-41 count thanks to a pair of special-teams TDs and a pick-six. The victory was slightly bittersweet, though, as QB Tyrell Pigrome and senior DE Jesse Aniebonam were lost to season-ending injuries.


    After trouncing Towson 63-17 in Week 2, true freshman QB Kasim Hill tore his ACL in the first quarter of a 38-10 loss to a UCF squad that would go on to finish 13-0. Maryland bounced back nicely at Minnesota, winning 31-24 as a 13-point underdog for a second victory as a double-digit road underdog.


    With a third-string QB for the rest of the year, however, things went South fast. Maryland managed merely one more win over Indiana at home, 42-39. The final tally was a disappointing 4-8 straight-up record and a 5-7 against-the-spread ledger.


    One way to view the current state of the program is that it has lost 15 of its past 21 games. Twelve of those 15 setbacks have come by double-digit margins.


    On the flip side, you could say that Durkin is 8-2 in 10 games when his starting QB has played an entire game. Now obviously, we know it doesn’t work like that and I almost feel as if I just channeled a little Butch Jones in the doctoring of that stat.


    Nevertheless, I do feel like Maryland is flying under the radar coming into 2018. There are three impact players returning from season-ending injuries sustained in early September. In addition, Durkin’s team welcomes three transfers who will immediately start on defense.


    Let’s start with the transfers, including LB Tre’ Wallace (Illinois), CB Marcus Lewis (FSU) and DE Byron Cowart (Auburn). Wallace is a grad transfer who was the Illini’s second-leading tackler in 2016 with 102 stops, and he was third last year (65) despite missing three games. In three seasons, Wallace has made 15 starts and recorded 188 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, six QB hurries, three forced fumbles, three passes broken up, 2.5 sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery. He can step in and replace starting middle LB Jermaine Carter, who had a team-best 90 tackles in ’17.


    When Durkin was Will Muschamp’s defensive coordinator at Florida, he helped recruit Cowart. The five-star DE was a UF commit before Muschamp was fired. He decided to go to Auburn, where he vastly underachieved in ’15 and ’16 before playing junior-college ball last year. Cowart gets a fresh start in College Park.


    As a sophomore at FSU, Lewis started five games and had 21 tackles, one TFL and a huge interception in the third quarter of a comeback win vs. Ole Miss in the season opener. He sat out last season as a transfer.


    Aniebonam enjoyed a breakout campaign in ’16, producing 46 tackles, nine sacks, five TFL’s, three QB hurries, one forced fumble and one PBU. He had 23 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three TFL’s as a sophomore. Aniebonam was a third-team preseason All Big Ten selection in Phil Steele’s preseason magazine going into ’17, and he’s garnered the same honor in Steele’s mag going into this year.


    The QBs, Hill and Pigrome, missed spring practice but are expected to compete for the starting job in August. Hill completed 18-of-21 passes for 230 yards and two TDs without an interception before getting hurt. He had rushed for 60 yards and one TD on 12 attempts. Pigrome had connected on 9-of-12 throws for 175 yards with a 2/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He had run for 64 yards and one TD on 11 carries.


    Maryland’s offensive line returns intact and has 105 career starts combined. Three of Durkin’s top-five recruits in his ’18 class were o-linemen who will provide depth. Steele’s mag ranks the Terps’ o-line as the third-best in the Big Ten and the country’s 11th-best.


    Maryland is deep at RB with its group ranking sixth in the Big Ten and 29th in the nation, according to Steele. Senior Ty Johnson has 2,129 career rushing yards and 17 TDs (14 rushing). As a sophomore in ’16, Johnson ran for 1,004 yards and averaged 9.1 yards per carry. He rushed for 875 yards and five TDs while averaging 6.4 YPC last season. Johnson also had a TD catch and a 100-yard kickoff return for a score.


    Junior RB Lorenzo Harrison is an experienced back-up who has 1,255 yards and a 5.6 YPC average in his first two years. Also, redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland is ready to contribute. McFarland was the (high) four-star prize of Durkin’s 2017 recruiting haul who had to redshirt while still recovering from a high-school injury.


    Maryland lost its best WR D.J. Moore, who was a first-round pick by the Carolina Panthers. But Tavion Jacobs returns after bringing down 47 receptions for 553 yards and five TDs in ’17. Jacobs, Johnson and OT Damian Prince, a former five-star recruit who has 30 career starts to his credit, are fourth-team preseason All Big 10 picks in Steele’s mag, while OT Derwin Gray is a third-team selection.


    Maryland plays in the toughest division in college football with Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State. Steele has the Terps’ schedule ranked as the country’s ninth-toughest. They have seven home games and five true road contests. The South Point Hotel in Las Vegas has Maryland’s season win total at five (‘under’ -125, ‘over’ +105).


    Instead of playing (at) Wisconsin and Northwestern from the other side of the league, Maryland faces Illinois at home, travels to Iowa, and takes on Minnesota for a third consecutive year.


    I think the Terps will be favored in five games – at Bowling Green, vs. Temple, vs. Minnesota, vs. Rutgers and vs. Illinois. They might be favored at Indiana, but that isn’t the best situational spot. Maryland is at Indiana on Nov. 10, sandwiched between home games vs. Michigan State and Ohio State. The Hoosiers have an open date beforehand and their previous game is on a Friday night at Minnesota (giving them another extra day of preparation).


    Are there any other potential wins? Well, Maryland is an 11-point home underdog for its opener vs. Texas. Sure, the Longhorns have the revenge angle, but that’s a game that went the Terps’ way on the road last season.


    Durkin’s club will be a heavy underdog in three games we can certainly mark as losses – at Michigan, vs. Ohio State and at Penn State (in back-to-back games to close the regular season). We will note, however, that Maryland does get two weeks to prep for the Wolverines and could be worth a look catching a ton of points.


    The other two games left on the slate are at Iowa and vs. Michigan State. These will undoubtedly be underdog situations, but I’m not sure upsets are completely out of the question if things (such as health and quality QB play) are going well.


    Whatever the case, Maryland looks like an underrated team if it can keep its QBs healthy. I’m not implying Maryland ‘over’ five wins (+105) will be a strong play for me (amount-wise), but I do expect Durkin’s luck to start turning the right way and for the Terps to be back in the postseason.
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    Quote Originally Posted by XSPower View Post
    Agree Mr. X....CNotes is a gold mine for CFB information.

    New guys, you should check out his tread everyday for CFB information.
    FAKE Sports Championships are like pennies, two-faced and worthless! Sad Central Florida...
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    2018 Conference USA Preview
    July 8, 2018



    We’re Back


    Conference USA welcomes the return of six 2017 individual award winners for the 2018 season. They include MVP Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic, Offensive Player of the Year Mason Fine, QB, North Texas, Special Teams Player of the Year Isaiah Harper, KR, Old Dominion, Freshman of the Year Spencer Brown, RB, UAB, and Newcomers of the Year Teddy Veal, WR, Louisiana Tech and Jalen Guyton, WR, North Texas.


    In addition, C-USA had six (6) individual leaders and three (3) team leaders in national statistical categories last season and each of those individual performers return for the 2018 season. Team leaders included FAU (No. 1 Interceptions-20), UTSA (No. 1 Fewest First Downs Allowed-166) and FIU (No. 1 Red Zone Offense-.976).


    It’s Us Again


    For the first time since the 2011-2012 season, Conference USA Football will feature the same configuration of teams competing for the league championship in consecutive years, each playing eight conference games, along with four non-league contests.


    In Your Face


    Conference USA teams never shy away from playing challenging non-conference competition and this season is no exception. Conference USA will face at least one opponent from each of the nine other FBS conferences in 2018 and a total of 22 games are scheduled against teams that played in a bowl game last season.


    Note: The numbers following each team name represents the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback.


    CHARLOTTE (Offense – *8/4, Defense – 10/3, 53 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO


    A major benefit of going full-youth is that after taking your lumps, there is generally only one way to go, and that’s up. Spring chickens turn into barnyard roosters and with it an air of hidden confidence is shaped. A young core of sophomores and juniors are now upper classmen. Head coach Brad Lambert, who learned as a 10-year assistant under Jim Grobe, rebuilt lines on both sides of the ball last season while breaking in the pimply faces. As a result, his job is on the line. Thus, two new coordinators will look to revive a potentially strong ground game while better stuffing the run. An imbalanced schedule that finds the 49ers meeting bowlers in 7 of their final 8 games could prove to be the turning point.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Since becoming an FBS school, Charlotte is 1-11 SU and 4-7-1 ATS in its final six games of the season.


    PLAY ON: vs. Florida Int’l (11/17)


    FLORIDA ATLANTIC (Offense – 5/2, Defense – 10/3, 47 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: LOOKING IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR


    Ask head coach Lane Kiffin about the trap of living off last season’s success – the best season in school history – and the coach says, “That team is over with. We made sure to understand this is a different team. We’re 0-0. That’s in the history books, a very special season. Just like the preseason rankings mean nothing.” A season-ending 10-game win skein was the catalyst. Having talented RB Devin “Motor” Singletary back is a good starting point. In addition, the defense returns 10 starters. Still, a salty schedule (all 6 road games against bowl squads) and a major bulls-eye on their back means another 11 wins are highly unlikely in 2018. Because, after all, last season is officially in the history books.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Owls are 7-19 SU in one-possession games since Howard Schnellenberger resigned, including 3-9 the L3 seasons.


    PLAY AGAINST: at Middle Tennessee (9/29)


    FIU (Offense – 7/4, Defense – 4/3, 55 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: BUTCH BALL


    Butch Davis’ return to south Florida last season was measurably impactful when FIU doubled its win total, and then enjoyed its best recruiting class in school history during the offseason. To put it in a better perspective, SB Nation’s Bill Connelly reported, “UCF went 13-0 and claimed a share of the national title. FAU won 11 games and its first CUSA title. FIU lost by a combined 113-41 to those in-state rivals… and then out-recruited both of them.” Granted, the Golden Panthers weren’t as good as their 8-5 record suggests since they allowed more YPG than they actually gained. They also benefited mightily by returning 85% of the production on both sides of the ball last season. Let’s see if the recruiting effort offsets a natural letdown.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: FIU is 12-1 SU and 10-3 ATS versus sub .333 conference foes without Ron Turner since 2010.


    PLAY AGAINST: at Old Dominion (9/8)


    LOUISIANA TECH (Offense – *8/4, Defense – 7/3, 52 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: SKIP TO MY LOU


    The hard-luck Bulldogs suffered three 1-point losses in 2017, and dipped to 7-6 after consecutive nine-win seasons, costing the Bulldogs a third division title in four years in the process. A 3-0 SUATS win skein left them playing their best ball of the season following a 41-point win over SMU in the Frisco Bowl. Meanwhile, Skip Holtz returns a good portion of last year’s nucleus (#30 nationally in returning production), including QB J’Mar Smith (143.5 passer rating away from home), four if its top five WRs, two all-CUSA OL, and the best player in the loop on defense in DL Jaylon Ferguson. Best of all, Holtz inked a whopping 16 three-star recruits this offseason. With Holtz in his sixth year with the program, the pieces are in place for a return to 9-win territory.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Holtz is 44-23-1 ATS as a dog in his career, including 20-2-1 ATS when coming off an ATS win of more than 8 points.


    PLAY ON: at Florida Atlantic (10/27)


    MARSHALL (Offense – 9/5, Defense – 9/4, 52 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: BACK TO THUNDERING


    Roll back the clock. The only Group of 5 program to record a third straight 10-win season in 2015, the Herd went from a thundering 33 wins in three seasons to a blundering 3 victories in 2016. Strangely, Marshall committed only 16 turnovers in 2016, the fewest for the program since it entered FBS waters in 1997. Shell-shocked, the Herd stormed back with 8 wins last season, including three losses during the final month of the campaign by a combined total of just 8 points. The challenge this season will be replacing QB Chase Litton (declared for the NFL draft, with Alex Thomson the likely successor) and both coordinators. Fortunately 9 starters are back from a defense that improved 113 YPG in 2017. That should make the Herd relevant again.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Marshall is 8-0-1 ATS at home with revenge against greater than .800 opponents.


    PLAY ON: at Florida International (11/24) - *KEY


    MIDDLE TENNESSEE (Offense – *8/3, Defense – 8/3, 47 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: BACK FROM THE ICU


    Let’s tell it like it is. Injuries wrecked any chance at improvement last season when both starting quarterback Brent Stockstill and star WR Richie James missed at least half of the season (the Raiders were 5-2 with Brent and 2-4 without him). QB Stockstill returns while James bypassed his final year of eligibility for the NFL Draft. Still, behind a deep squad, MTSU rates a solid chance to win the CUSA as the Blue Raiders return every running back and their top three wide receivers (other than James), along with two all-conference linemen on offense. Plus, six of the top seven defensive linemen, as well as three of four linebackers and five of eight defensive backs, are also back. Despite three road games at SEC schools that won 25 games last season, we’re on the Stockstills like Ozzie on Harriet.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: MTSU has been bowl eligible nine times in 12 years under HC Rick Stockstill, competing in seven bowl games.


    PLAY ON: at Vanderbilt (9/1) – KEY as a dog


    NORTH TEXAS (Offense – *9/4, Defense – 8/2, 44 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: FROM GREEN TO GO


    After inheriting a 1-11 team, head coach Seth Littrell has won 14 games and a division title in his first two years in Denton. How much of an improvement did the Mean Green make in 2017? Consider: after having gone 2-17 SU and 4-15 ATS away the previous three years, outyarded by 175 YPG, they proceeded to go 3-3 SU and 4-2 ATS while being outgained by only 29 YPG in road games last season. It’s what happens when you possess a Top 25 ranked offense. Those numbers are likely to ascend in 2018 behind JR QB Mason Fine (4,052 yards, 31 TDs last season), who has his top three WRs back, including walk-on Michael Lawrence – a likely NFL slot receiver – while being tutored by OC Graham Harrell, the ex-Texas Tech quarterback.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Mean Green are 36-6 ATS in games in which they score 32 or more points.


    PASS


    OLD DOMINION (Offense – *9/4, Defense – 7/3, 46 Lettermen)



    TEAM THEME: A WILD RIDE


    After their FCS debut in 2009, the Monarchs have suffered highs (10-win season in 2016) and lows. Through a series of injuries and inexperience, last year was taking on the appearance of the Titanic until a 3-1 finish literally salvaged the ship. Seventeen year-old true freshman QB Steven Williams stepped in and saved the day (71% completions in his last 3 starts with a 146.2 passer rating). He’s back, along with five OL with at least 10 career starts. In addition, four of last year’s five leading WRs, and leading RB Jeremy Cox (2,115 career yards) combine to form an offensive assault that promises to more than make up for last year’s 102-yard slippage. We’re putting the danger warning on Old Dominion. Beware.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Old Dominion has sold out all 60 home games in school history and has a 44-16 SU record in those games.


    PLAY ON: at Western Kentucky (10/20)


    RICE (Offense – *6/2, Defense – 5/2, 46 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: OWLS IN FLIGHT


    Following four straight years of regression, the David Bailiff regime at Rice is finally over. Somehow through it all, Bailiff recorded the 2nd most wins in school history. Replacing him is Mike Bloomgren, a former OC at Stanford. He’ll turn the keys over to SO QB Miklo Smalls, who stepped in late last season when the Owls offense improved from 13.1 PPG over their first eight games to 22.5 over the last four. New DC Brian Smith, a former Michigan DBs coach, must patch a defense that has allowed more then 36 PPG the last three seasons. It starts with a rush unit that has coughed up 200 rushing YPG at 5.2 yards per rush clip. A new voyage is about to begin.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Rice is 30-9-3 ATS as a conference home dog, including 16-1-2 ATS when taking less than 7 points.


    PLAY ON: vs. UAB (10/13) - *KEY as a dog


    SOUTHERN MISS (Offense – *5/3, Defense – 4/2, 42 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: BACKWARDS THINKING


    Last year we called for an uptick in the Golden Eagles program and they delivered the goods, improving their production both straight up and against the spread. The problem now, though, is the “Smith Barney” syndrome. Simply put, they didn’t ‘earn it’ as their overall stats declined on both sides of the ball. Compounding the issue, Jay Hopson was forced to go the JUCO route and will hope three-star transfer QB Jack Abraham beats out incumbent Kwadra Griggs. USM will lean heavily on a trio of returning WRs, including Korey Robertson, who had a breakout season in 2017 with 76 receptions, 1,106 yards and 12 TDS. Still, when reconstructed teams look to rely on JUCOs, the results seldom meet expectations.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Golden Eagles’ seniors started 59.4% of their games last season, the 3rd most in the nation.


    PLAY AGAINST: vs. Marshall (11/3)


    UAB (Offense – *10/4, Defense – 7/2, 55 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: YEAH, WE’RE BACK


    After closing the football program down for blasphemous reasons in 2015 and 2016, the Blazers re-emerged in a statement-making way last season. After going 6-0 at home, 6-2 in CUSA and fielding a 41st-ranked defense – and going bowling for only the second time in school history – it meant little losing 41-6 to Ohio U in the Bahamas Bowl. UAB was back and was indeed the feel-good story in college football last season (sorry, UCF, but you’ll need to get in line). The better news is the offense returns literally everyone and the defense is stacked. The bad news is a huge contingent of seniors will be gone after this season. Rest assured, Bill Clark’s troops will savor every moment, especially going up against the 2nd easiest schedule of all FBS schools in 2018 with foes going 57-91 (.385) last season.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Blazers are 7-1 ATS under Clark when facing an opponent coming off a win, including 5-0 ATS when UAB is coming off a loss.


    PLAY AGAINST: 11/3 vs. UTSA


    UTEP (Offense – *5/0, Defense – 6/2, 50 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: LONG IN THE TOOTH


    New Miners’ head coach Dana Dimel has been tasked with reviving arguably the worst program in the FBS, one whose offense gained a mere 230.5 yards and 11.8 points per game in 2017 – dead last. And if that isn’t bad enough, the UTEP defense allowed 446.6 yards and 36.8 points per contest. Egad. A 30-year veteran Dimel, is a former Kansas State assistant under Bill Snyder, as well as a former head coach at Houston and Wyoming. That Dimel, just 4-17 ATS as a conference favorite, hired 33-year veteran Mike Canales as his OC speaks volumes as Canales’ North Texas teams as OC under Dan McCarney finished No. 122 in offense in both 2014 and 2015. And this offense is worse. Meanwhile, 30-year veteran Mike Cox will run the defense.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Miners are 9-65-1 SU and 16-54-3 ATS in the last 75 games in which they have been outgained in the stats.


    PASS


    UTSA (Offense – 4/2, Defense – 6/3, 38 Lettermen)



    TEAM THEME: BEDROCK QUARREL


    It’s safe to say that UTSA will take the field with a massive chip on its shoulder. Not only did they measurably improve their numbers on both sides of the ball while leading all FBS teams in First Down Defense, they also finished No. 2 in fewest Passing Yards Allowed. In the process, they outgained 8 of their 11 opponents and finished with a winning record – only to peculiarly be shut out of a bowl invite. Faced with numerous personnel and coaching changes, they will need to heavily rely on that massive chip we alluded to. Leaving no stone unturned, our guess is the rebuilding Roadrunners may likely be referred to as the Slate Rock and Gravel Company this season. Yabba dabba doo.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Roadrunners are 2-19 ATS in SU conference losses.


    PLAY ON: at Southern Miss (10/20)


    WESTERN KENTUCKY (Offense – 4/2, Defense – 7/2, 55 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: MORE OIL, PLEASE


    Talk about a bummer. When WKU hired former assistant Mike Sanford as its new head coach last year, they were fully expecting to win the CUSA for a third straight season. After all Sanford, one of college football brightest offensive minds, returned SR QB Mike White from the nation’s top scoring offense. What he didn’t count on was the total disappearance of a rushing game that was MIA on both sides of the ball all season. The Hilltoppers’ dead-last ranked rush offense declined 124 YPG while its rush defense deteriorated 73 YPG. That’s a combined total of 197-degenerated rushing yards. As a result, they fell from 23-5 to 6-7 and recorded their first losing season since 2010. With White gone, Sanford is burning the midnight oil as you read this hoping his replacement – FR QB Kevaris Thomas – lives up to his billing.


    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: WKU has gone OVER its season win total five of the last six years.


    PLAY ON: at Florida Atlantic (11/10) *KEY as a dog
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    Auburn QB Stidham gets engaged
    July 8, 2018



    Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham has a number of memorable victories under his belt, however his greatest triumph came this weekend when he proposed to his longtime girlfriend.


    Stidham fell to one knee and proposed to Baylor soccer player Kennedy Brown in Lake Brownwood, Texas. Both members of the happy couple posted their happiness on Instagram.


    "She said yes and I get to marry the girl of my dreams. Here's to forever Kenn, I love you," the 21-year-old Stidham wrote on Saturday.


    In Stidham's eyes, her answer likely trumped Auburn's victories over Alabama in the Iron Bowl or top-ranked Georgia.


    The couple met while Stidham was a player at Baylor in 2015. He sat out a season at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas before transferring to Auburn in December 2016.


    Stidham started every game under center for the SEC West champion Tigers in 2017. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound redshirt sophomore passed for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, becoming the second Auburn quarterback to throw for 3,000-plus yards in a season.




    *******************************




    CFB Notebook: Alabama reports one minor violation to NCAA
    July 7, 2018



    Alabama reported 13 secondary violations to the NCAA but only one involved the football program.


    The lone infraction by the football team was reported July 1, 2017, and was considered a minor violation, according to al.com.


    Per the report, an assistant coach for the Crimson Tide responded to an "unknown text message which resulted in impermissible communication with the parent of a 2019 prospective student-athlete."


    Last year, the university reported 22 secondary violations, including nine by the football program. In 2016, five of the 19 self-reported violations involved the football program.


    The Crimson Tide defeated SEC rival Georgia 26-23 in overtime in the College Football Playoff Championship Game in January. It was the school's fifth national title in the last nine years.


    --Wyoming linebacker Cassh Maluia was suspended for the season opener in the wake of his arrest a week ago.


    Cowboys coach Craig Bohl announced that Maluia will miss the game against New Mexico State on Aug. 25.


    Maluia was arrested June 30 in Laramie, Wyo., on multiple charges, including suspicion of driving under the influence. He also was charged with underage consumption of alcohol and driving without a valid driver's license.


    "Cassh Maluia will be subject to several disciplinary actions," Bohl said in a statement. "He will be assessed a one-game suspension for this coming season. ... We also view this as a learning opportunity, not just for Cassh, but for the rest of our team members."


    Bohn also noted that Maluia faces additional disciplinary action that will require mandatory counseling, the completion of an AWARE training program on campus and 50 hours of community service.


    -- West Virginia will not kick off the 2018 campaign for nearly two months, but the football program already is in midseason form -- at least on social media.


    The Mountaineers are going all out to promote returning starting quarterback Will Grier for the Heisman Trophy, launching a website devoted to hype his candidacy.


    The university touted the website -- http://www.grier7heisman.com -- on its athletics website along with the accompanying hashtag "willtowin."


    Grier, who started his college career at the University of Florida, passed for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns against 12 interceptions for West Virginia in 2017.


    A dislocated finger on his throwing hand, sustained Nov. 18 against Texas, forced Grier to sit out the regular-season finale against Oklahoma and the Heart of Dallas Bowl matchup against Utah on Dec. 26.
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    Games to Watch - Week 1
    July 9, 2018



    Must Bet College Football Week 1 Odds & Picks


    The clock is now officially counting down as we draw ever nearer to the opening day of the 2018 college football season. Week 1 will kick-off on August 25th with a handful of games featuring lesser teams. The real action, though, gets underway on September 1st, as that is when the big guns will be taking to the field for the first time this year.


    The reigning champs, the Alabama Crimson Tide, will be out to once again defend their crown when they take on the Stanford Cardinal, and while many of the early favorites to win the National Championship have what appear to be slam dunk games, there are a few big ones on the schedule.


    So let’s get on college football mode, review the current odds listed at YouWager.eu and take a closer look at the must bet college football games for Week 1 of the 2018 season.


    Michigan Wolverines (-1 ) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish


    The honeymoon period for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan is now over, and there is now a sense that he needs to get this team to the playoffs this season. This is not to suggest that he is in the hot seat, but the warm and fuzzy happy times are certainly now in the rearview mirror. Picking up Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson will give the Wolverines an immediate upgrade at the QB position, and he will get a stern test in Week 1 with a visit to Notre Dame, a team looking to build on what was a very solid 2017. This is undoubtedly the game of the week, and I am looking at Michigan to get a big road win.

    Auburn Tigers (-2 ) vs. Washington Huskies



    If you're a big fan of hard hitting, defensive football, this may well prove to be the best game on the opening week calendar for you. The Auburn Tigers are sure to still me smarting after losing to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game last season, as that loss killed their playoff hopes. They will be looking to get things rolling early with a big win over a PAC-12 opponent that is about as defensively sound as it gets. This one should be an epic battle where points will be a premium, but I think it will be Auburn that does enough to get the win in this neutral venue match-up.


    LSU Tigers vs. Miami Hurricanes (-3)


    It was very nearly a year to remember for the Miami Hurricanes, with Mark Richt leading them to an improbable 10-0 start to the season before the wheels came off in the final 3 weeks of the season. There was always a feeling that this team was ahead of schedule, so this may actually be the year where they get better. We will find out very quickly, as they will open up at the AT&T Stadium in Texas with a neutral site game against the LSU Tigers, a team that always has one of the stingiest defenses in the league. I see a defensive struggle and a Miami win here.


    Alabama Crimson Tide (-25) vs. Louisville Cardinals


    While this match-up, which will be played in Florida, lost some of its luster with Lamar Jackson heading off to the NFL, it is still going to be interesting to see how the defending champions start the season. There is a little bit of a QB controversy in Alabama as we head into the new year, with Tua Tagovailoa staking his claim to the starting position by coming on in the second half of last season’s National Championship game and turning it around. While I certainly think Alabama will win this one, that big spread make me a little nervous.
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    CFB notebook: Alabama LB Lewis has torn ACL
    July 10, 2018



    Alabama linebacker Terrell Lewis sustained a torn ACL in his right knee last week, the school announced Tuesday.


    "Terrell Lewis suffered a torn right ACL last week while training," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said in a statement. "He underwent successful surgery today, and a timeframe for his return is unknown at this time."


    Lewis was projected to be a starter in the upcoming season. The torn ACL is the second significant injury Lewis has sustained in less than a year. He suffered an elbow injury in the season opener against Florida State that sidelined him 10 games last season.


    Lewis recorded 16 tackles and a sack during the final four games of the season. Lewis' injury comes one day after the Crimson Tide announced fellow linebacker VanDarius Cowan was dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules.


    --Iowa cornerback Manny Rugamba is leaving the school and plans to transfer.


    Rugamba, who will be entering his junior season, announced his decision via his Twitter account but offered no reason for his departure.


    "I would like to first thank the whole Iowa Coaching staff for the last two years of life lessons both on and off the field," wrote Rugamba. "The relationships that I've made are some that will last a lifetime. With that being said I have opened my recruitment and plan to transfer and find another home this fall."


    Rugamba started eight games as a sophomore in 2017 after sitting out the season opener due to a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules. He had 36 tackles and four passes defended.


    --USC wide receiver Joseph Lewis was released from jail after serving a 21-day sentence.


    Lewis, whose was freed on Friday, has been on suspension from the school since he was arrested in February in connection with two domestic violence incidents.


    In May, Lewis pleaded no contest in May to two misdemeanor counts of domestic battery with an injury. A school spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that Lewis remains off the team roster.


    As part of the plea agreement, Lewis still has to fulfill 36 months of probation, a one-year domestic violence treatment course and comply with a protective order to stay at least 100 yards from the victim, the newspaper reported.
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    A preseason quiz for FCS 2018
    July 10, 2018



    (STATS) - The arrival of conference media days this month marks the unofficial start to the college football season, so it's time to get in the FCS game.


    Sure, North Dakota State and James Madison have become the national powers, but how well do you know the national landscape?


    Our 10-question quiz about the fast-approaching season will show if you're in the end zone or punting.


    The answers follow, so don't scroll to them before it's time.


    QUESTIONS


    1. North Dakota State has won six of the last seven FCS national titles, tying for the most in history. Which program will the Bison try to break away from to establish a new record?


    2. Name the program that has dropped back to the FCS level from the FBS and the program joining the FCS from the Division II ranks? You need both answers right.


    3. For the ninth time in 10 seasons, an FCS program is playing the defending FBS champion. This year, the honor falls to which team: Charleston Southern or The Citadel?


    4. Jacksonville State has the longest conference winning streak in the FCS. Is it 28, 30 or 32 games long?


    5. This player led Division I in receptions per game and finished third in the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award voting last season. Who is this 2019 NFL Draft prospect?


    6. From the subdivision, only Montana and former FCS program Appalachian State have had more NFL Draft picks in the 2010s than this surprising program, which produced its sixth selection this year. Is it Maine, South Carolina State or Tennessee State?


    7. Let's see if you remember this question from last year: The FCS is played at 124 schools across 37 states and the District of Columbia. What is the most common nickname: Bears, Bulldogs or Tigers?


    8. "The Game" turns 135 in 2018. Where are Ivy League rivals Harvard and Yale playing this year's matchup?


    9. Who has thrown for the most touchdowns among returning FCS quarterbacks - Northern Arizona's Case Cookus, Samford's Devlin Hodges, Eastern Washington's Gage Gubrud or San Diego's Anthony Lawrence?


    10. The last three years, a coach has finished fifth, third and second in voting for the STATS FCS Eddie Robinson Award at two different schools. Who is he?


    ANSWERS


    1. Like North Dakota State, Georgia Southern won six FCS national titles, winning in back-to-back years three times. The Eagles now play on the FBS level.


    2. After 22 seasons on the FBS level, Idaho has returned to the Big Sky Conference. North Alabama is transitioning into the FCS from Division II, playing as an independent this season before joining the Big South Conference in 2019.


    3. City rivals Charleston Southern and The Citadel have a showdown in September, but The Citadel is the FCS team holding the date with defending FBS champion Alabama. The Bulldogs had the same opportunity against Clemson last season.


    4. Jacksonville State has won 32 straight games in the Ohio Valley Conference, last losing to Eastern Illinois and Jimmy Garoppolo in 2013.


    5. UC Davis wide receiver Keelan Doss averaged 10.5 receptions per game as a junior, catching 115 passes for 1,499 yards.


    6. With six NFL Draft picks in the 2010s, MEAC member South Carolina State trails only Montana and Appalachian State, which both have seven.


    7. Nine FCS schools share the Bulldogs nickname: Alabama A&M, Bryant, Butler, Drake, Gardner-Webb (Runnin' Bulldogs), Samford, South Carolina State, The Citadel and Yale.


    8. Harvard and Yale are meeting for the 135th time at Fenway Park on Nov. 17. It will mark the 50th anniversary of the epic 1968 meeting, which famously ended in a 29-29 tie.


    9. That was an impressive list of gunslingers, but, surprise, Anthony Lawrence from Pioneer Football League power San Diego has thrown 81 touchdowns - the most of returning FCS players.


    10. Mike Houston has been on the cusp of winning the Eddie Robinson Award, finishing fifth at The Citadel in 2015, then third and second, respectively, the last two years at James Madison. Each team won a conference title and JMU was the 2016 national champ.


    STARTER, BACKUP OR KEEP WORKING


    So how did you do?


    The questions were at a reasonable level. With six or more correct answers, consider yourself a starting player. Five right and you are on the two-deep. Less than half right, well, keep following the FCS.
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    Handicapping Seattle (9)
    July 10, 2018

    The Seattle Seahawks have won at least nine games in each of the last six seasons, but there are legitimate questions as to whether or not the Seahawks will have a winning record in 2018. The Seahawks are coming off a 9-7 season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011.


    The offseason didn’t go well for the Seahawks as they lost a number of high profile players, including Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Jimmy Graham. Let’s look at the schedule for the Seahawks for 2018 to see if they will go over or under their win total of nine.


    2018 Seattle Seahawks Regular Season Win Total
    Over 9 (-105)
    Under 9 (-125)



    2018 Seattle Seahawks Schedule Analysis


    Sunday, Sept. 9, at Denver Broncos



    The regular season opener for the Seahawks will not be easy, as the Broncos have a tough defense and an improved offense with Case Keenum under center. The last time the Seahawks played at Denver was in 2010 and it was a 31-14 loss. It may not be any different this time around.


    Monday, Sept. 17, at Chicago Bears


    The Seahawks could easily start the season 0-2, as the Bears are expected to be improved this season with Mitch Trubisky in his second season and this is a Monday Night game where the crowd will be all-in for a Chicago win.


    Sunday, Sept. 23, vs. Dallas Cowboys


    The Seahawks early season schedule is not easy and the Cowboys have a good offense led by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Could the Seahawks actually start the season 0-3?


    Sunday, Sept. 30, at Arizona Cardinals


    The Seahawks have actually done quite well in Arizona in recent seasons, as they are 4-0-1 in their last five trips. This already feels like a must-win game for Seattle in Week 4.


    Sunday, Oct. 7, vs. Los Angeles Rams


    The Rams are considered the best team in the NFC West, but this is a huge revenge game for the Seahawks, as they suffered their worst home loss under Pete Carroll last season.


    Sunday, Oct. 14, vs. Oakland Raiders (London)


    This is an interesting matchup in London, as the Seahawks take on an Oakland team coached by Jon Gruden. It is also a matchup against former teammate Marshawn Lynch.


    Sunday, Oct. 21 BYE


    Sunday, Oct. 28, at Detroit Lions



    Did you know that the last time the Seahawks played in Detroit it was in 2012, also on October 28th? The Seahawks will probably be road underdogs in this one, but they are definitely capable of winning in Detroit.


    Sunday, Nov. 4, vs. Los Angeles Chargers


    The Chargers are considered a serious contender in the AFC this season, but the Seahawks have won 11 of the last 15 meetings against the Chargers.


    Sunday, Nov. 11, at Los Angeles Rams


    The Seahawks will play six of their first nine games on the road this season and they may already be out of contention by the time they visit the Rams in November.


    Thursday, Nov. 15, vs. Green Bay Packers


    The Seahawks have home field advantage, but the Packers are considered one of the top teams in the NFC and both teams will be playing with short rest.


    Sunday, Nov. 25, at Carolina Panthers


    The Seahawks and Panthers always seem to play close games and most of the time the Seahawks come out on top. The Seahawks have won five of the last six meetings.


    Sunday, Dec. 2, vs. San Francisco 49ers


    This will be the first time the Seahawks will be seeing former teammate Richard Sherman in a 49ers uniform. If the Seahawks are still in contention, this will be a must-win home game.


    Monday, Dec. 10, vs. Minnesota Vikings


    This one takes place on Monday night, but the Vikings are considered the better team and it would not be a surprise to see them get the road win.


    Sunday, Dec. 16, at San Francisco 49ers


    This will be the second time in three weeks the 49ers and Seahawks will play. The Seahawks are 4-0 at Levi’s Stadium, winning by a combined margin of 88-42.


    Sunday, Dec. 23, vs. Kansas City Chiefs


    Is there any easy game on the schedule for the Seahawks in 2018? They have to play a Kansas City team that is considered one of the best in the AFC.


    Sunday, Dec. 30, vs. Arizona Cardinals


    The regular season finale for the Seahawks will be against the Cardinals and it will be the third time in the last four years the teams will close out the regular season against one another.


    2018 Seattle Seahawks Regular Season Win Total Prediction


    There are no soft spots on the schedule this season for Seattle and it is hard to see how they finish with a winning record. If you give the Seahawks the benefit of the doubt and everything goes right for them then a 10-6 season is possible, but if you think they are going to be worse on offense and much worse on defense, it is easy to see this team going 6-10. We’ll just split the difference, which means an 8-8 season and a team that goes under their win total of nine.
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    Future Bets - AFC West
    July 10, 2018


    Is the KC/Denver Run Atop this Division Over?



    Continuing on with my look at each NFL division for the upcoming year brings us to the AFC West today after covering the NFC's version of the West division last week. The AFC West appears the division most up for grabs from top to bottom according to the oddsmakers, as the gap between the favorite (L.A. Chargers) at +150, to the biggest underdog (Denver Broncos) at +500, is the smallest range of prices from top to bottom for any division.


    And with each team in the AFC West having to go through the tough tests that teams from both the AFC North and aforementioned NFC West bring, chances are we see this division being hotly contested for much of the year.


    Historically, the AFC West has been owned by either the Chiefs or Broncos this decade, as one of those two franchises have won this division every year beginning in 2010. Right now it's the Kansas City Chiefs who are the two-time defending champs, but they just made a big move at QB to go with their young face of the future in Patrick Mahomes.


    Denver – who owned this division when Peyton Manning was in town – made a QB switch this offseason too as they brought in Case Keenum as more of a stop-gap guy while they wait for their young guy in Paxton Lynch to develop. So could this actually be the year we see a different franchise win the AFC West for the first time this decade? I think it just might be...


    Odds to Win AFC West
    L.A. Chargers (+150)
    Kansas City Chiefs (+250)
    Oakland Raiders (+350)
    Denver Broncos (+500)



    These odds may be the most condensed of any division future numbers, but I'm not sure the final result will end up being these four teams entering December all with a chance. Kansas City (+250) and Denver (+500) I grouped together earlier because of the QB switches they made this off-season and I do believe they are valid points to consider here.


    Kansas City has more overall team talent but with Mahomes seeing his first significant time on an NFL field, chances are there will be some growing pains there. So more overall talent or not, I'm not sure the Chiefs deserve to be the second favorites here.


    Denver's case is almost under the classification of being “the same, but different,” as their QB change involves a more journeyman guy in Case Keenum who had some great success as a starter a year ago. He's the classic “game manager” QB that needs a great defense to survive, and while Denver's defense still does resemble their dominant unit of a few years back, they just don't really have the teeth or strike as much fear in opponents anymore.


    Offensively, Keenum is going to be counted on to produce more one way or another because he simply doesn't have the talent like Diggs, Thielen, Rudolph etc at all the skill positions that he had in Minnesota.


    Keenum signing a two-year deal does tell you a bit of what Denver thinks of both their chances this year and the developmental timeline of Lynch in that they really don't expect much from Lynch for at least another year, and Keenum's two-year deal gives him time to work up a level of comfort with his new teammates, system, surroundings etc and look to peak in 2019.


    So that leaves us with either Oakland (+350) or the Chargers (+150) as the 2018 AFC West winner and I really do believe one of these two teams will end up being division champs. As far as which one it is, I guess that's why they play the games on the field.


    In terms of which one I'm backing here, I do actually believe the choice is a lot clearer than these bunched up odds would have you suggest. To me, it's the Chargers or nothing this year as they've got the most continuity going on the field overall, have got to have some good luck coming considering the bad luck they've had the past few years in terms of injuries and being on the wrong end of plenty one-possession games, and were just a single win away from getting to the top of the mountain a year ago.


    If the Chargers can get bit a few fewer times by the injury bug and get a bounce or two to go their way in games that end up being victories, then the +150 price tag is more than enough value on what may be the best team in the division regardless, but is also the only one without any issues/distractions surrounding them.


    In Kansas City and Denver it's all about the QB situation and discussing whether or not KC got the right guy in Mahomes, how long before Lynch sees the field in Denver, and news fodder like that.


    For Oakland, it's all about the upcoming relocation to Las Vegas after this season and how will the players/fans react to this being the last year in the Bay. Adding in an (old) new coach in Jon Gruden doesn't exactly lessen the spotlight anymore on this Raiders organization in 2018, and teams with too much noise going on around them don't tend to succeed very often. Especially if that noise involves the team moving or potentially moving.


    Just looking back at recent history, we've already had a few teams play their “lame duck” year in a particular city and not really fare all that well. In the year prior to relocating back to L.A. (2015-16), the Rams finished with a 7-9 SU record in St Louis, while the Chargers final season in San Diego (2016-17) saw them finish with a 5-11 SU mark. Neither of those teams exactly “knew” they were leaving like Oakland does, but I'm not sure that matters as the “chatter” will still be there.


    It's not like the 1995 Cleveland Browns weren't affected by similar “chatter” when they went 5-11 SU before losing their franchise, as were the 1983 Baltimore Colts who finished 7-9 SU before vanishing in the night to Indianapolis. Relocation is a big distraction all the way around for an organization and I'm not looking to back Oakland in 2018 because of it.


    On the field, Oakland has the guys to for sure make a run at a division crown, I just think all the noise about leaving Oakland will swallow up this team too much for them to produce results at the level needed.


    The Chargers' Philip Rivers deserves another crack at making a run towards the Super Bowl and this Chargers team has the depth and talent to at least be considered a player in that realm in 2018. There are no more relocation issues to use as excuses for this team, and as long as guys like RB Melvin Gordon and WR Keenan Allen can get on the field for 16 games, this Chargers team is the one to beat in my eyes.



    Best Bet: L.A. Chargers to win division (+150)
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    Teams to Watch - NFC
    July 10, 2018



    Several up-and-comers made their move in the National Football Conference last season, and their offseason transactions have given them staying power. Five teams that didn’t reach the postseason in 2016 qualified last season, one of those being the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. Thus, Philly is the favorite to repeat as conference champions, but like we saw, anything can happen.


    It’s easy to go with the defending champs after posting a league-best win total and claiming their first Super Bowl title – with a backup quarterback no less. But it’s much tougher to win with a target on your back. And the NFC is stacked in 2018. The Rams reached the postseason for the first time in 13 years and strengthened their defense during the offseason to complement the NFL’s highest scoring offense.


    Minnesota landed Kirk Cousins in an effort to lift them to Super Bowl glory. And Green Bay will have two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers back behind center after they stumbled without him in 2017.


    NFC Odds


    Philadelphia Eagles +365
    Los Angeles Rams +498
    Minnesota Vikings +535
    Green Bay Packers +700
    New Orleans Saints +850
    Atlanta Falcons +1000
    San Francisco 49ers +1385
    New York Giants +1430
    Dallas Cowboys +1800
    Carolina Panthers +2300
    Detroit Lions +3150
    Seattle Seahawks +3500
    Washington Redskins +4000
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers +4350
    Chicago Bears +6300
    Arizona Cardinals +7200



    NFC TEAMS TO WATCH


    Philadelphia Eagles
    Current Odds: +365



    With all the contributing pieces returning, the Eagles are in a good spot for another run at a Super Bowl and they hit the board as the favorite at +365. Carson Wentz is back from his knee surgery that cost him the final few games of the regular season and the postseason run. Wentz led the offense with 33 touchdown passes before getting hurt in a Week 13 matchup with the Rams. And it looked like he took any championship hopes with him. Nick Foles got all the glory leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl win over the Pats, earning MVP honors along the way. And he’s back to help form the best quarterback duo in the league.Philly snuck up on the pack last season going from worst in the NFC East in 2016 to Super Bowl champions. With that comes the added pressure of trying to repeat while playing a first place schedule. Only one NFC team has repeated since 1998 and the field is as strong as ever. A good sign for the Eagles is that they don’t rely on one player. We saw them overcome the loss of Wentz, Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks to win it all last year.


    Atlanta Falcons
    Current Odds: +1000

    There is value with Atlanta at +1000 to win the NFC. The Falcons are the only NFC team to reach the postseason in each of the last two seasons and they are just two years removed from a Super Bowl trip. They led the league in scoring in 2016 only to have a significant drop last season under first year OC Steve Sarkisian. The addition of Calvin Ridley to go along with Julio Jones should put some pop back in the passing game and Sarkisian should feel more comfortable after taking over for Kyle Shanahan. This is his offense now. The scary part about the Falcons is their defense. Dan Quinn built a beast during his days in Seattle and he has Atlanta looking like a top unit. And that’s necessary in the NFC South.


    New Orleans Saints
    Current Odds: +850



    Fellow South member New Orleans also looks scary good heading into 2018. After three straight seven-win seasons, the Saints busted loose last year to win 11 games and the division. They have a solid group of young players acquired through the draft and Drew Brees is showing no signs of slowing down at his advanced age. They had the top two rookies from each side of the ball last season and the defense improved significantly. Brees needs to stay healthy since there is no Plan B in place yet, and the Saints could be a bargain at +850.


    Minnesota Vikings
    Current Odds: +535



    Minnesota landed the biggest free agent prize in Kirk Cousins and they could be the scariest team in the conference. The offense wasn’t poor under Case Keenum last season, but the addition of a high-caliber signal caller could be what gets them to their first Super Bowl since the 1976 season. The Vikings had the NFL’s stingiest defense last season and they’ve been strong under Mike Zimmer. They should again be good at stopping opponents. Cousins has a better supporting cast than he had at Washington with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs among the best pass-catchings duos in the league.


    Los Angeles Rams
    Current Odds: +498



    It was a season to remember for the Rams under first-year head coach Sean McVay. They had a seven-game improvement from 2016, won their first division title since 2003 and ended a 12-year playoff drought. Sustaining success is much tougher but the Rams have a core group that could rule the NFC West for a few years. Jared Goff and Todd Gurley had breakout years as the Rams went from the lowest scoring team in 2016 to the highest scoring club last season. Adding Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib will also help a defense that ranked 19th in yards allowed per game.
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    NFL notebook: Bills' McCoy denies domestic violence accusations
    July 10, 2018



    Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy denied accusations of domestic violence, child abuse, animal cruelty and performance-enhancing drug use in a statement posted on his Instagram account on Tuesday.


    Earlier on Tuesday, a woman posted a graphic image that showed McCoy's reported former girlfriend, Delicia Cordon, bruised and bloodied. The post also accused the 29-year-old McCoy of beating his dog until it developed kidney failure and "viciously" beating his son.


    "For the record, the totally baseless and offensive claims made against me today on social media are completely false," McCoy wrote. "Furthermore, I have not had any direct contact with any of the people involved in months."


    Police in Milton, Ga., released a statement in response to the incident, detailing how officers responded to a home invasion at 3:18 a.m. Tuesday, although McCoy was not mentioned by name.


    "The preliminary investigation indicates that this residence was specifically targeted by the suspect or suspects, and not a random incident," the statement read. "When officers arrived they found one victim who had been physically assaulted by a lone intruder. During the altercation, the suspect demanded specific items from the victim. An adult female victim was treated and released at North Fulton Regional Hospital. A second adult female victim also sustained a minor injury during the incident."


    --The NFL Players Association filed a grievance against the league's new national anthem policy.


    NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced in May that the league would enact a national anthem policy for the 2018 season that requires players and league personnel to either stand for the anthem or remain in the locker room. The policy subjects teams to a fine if a player or any other personnel do not show respect for the anthem.


    "Our union filed its non-injury grievance today on behalf of all players challenging the NFL's recently imposed anthem policy," the NFLPA said in a statement. "The union's claim is that this new policy, imposed by the NFL's governing body without consultation with the NFLPA, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights.


    "In advance of our filing today, we proposed to the NFL to begin confidential discussions with the NFLPA Executive Committee to find a solution to this issue instead of immediately proceeding with litigation. The NFL has agreed to proceed with those discussions and we look forward to starting them soon."


    --Former NFL cornerback Brandon Browner was charged with multiple felonies, including attempted murder.


    Police in La Verne (Calif.) also charged Browner with three other felonies -- robbery, burglary and false imprisonment -- in the wake of his arrest Sunday for allegedly breaking into a home of an ex-girlfriend who has a restraining order against him.


    Browner also faces two misdemeanor charges of child endangerment for allegedly attacking the victim with her two children present. He was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.


    A Super Bowl winner with both the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, Brown could face a possible maximum life sentence in prison if convicted.


    --Former Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander will not have to worry about one issue entering Wednesday's NFL Supplemental Draft.


    Alexander, one of five players available in the draft, received a clean bill on his drug tests, according to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network.


    There have been character concerns surrounding Alexander, who was dismissed from Virginia Tech in May due to academics. Alexander also was arrested on a marijuana-related charge in 2016, but he has passed all of his drug tests over the past eight months, Garafolo reported.


    Alexander, Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal and Mississippi State safety Brandon Bryant are considered the top players in the supplemental draft. Oregon State linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu and Grand Valley State running back Martayveus Carter are also available.


    --New Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper wants to create a more open "family" atmosphere in the wake of the troubles that surrounded previous owner Jerry Richardson.


    Tepper addressed this topic, the Richardson statue outside Bank of America Stadium and the team's coaching staff during Tuesday's introductory press conference with reporters.


    "I like to have an open environment. Where everybody feels safe like a family," said Tepper, the founder of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, based in Miami Beach, Fla. He paid $2.275 billion for the right to own the team.


    The Panthers came under fire in December when Sports Illustrated published a report alleging that Richardson was accused of racial and sexual harassment. The 81-year-old Richardson, who elected to sell the team amid a league investigation, was fined $2.75 million by the NFL on June 28.


    Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill weighed in on the recent alcohol-related arrest of general manager Steve Keim, vowing there will be consequences for what he termed "inexcusable" behavior.


    Bidwill told radio station KFYI on Tuesday that Keim made an "enormous mistake," referring to the general manager's arrest on charges of driving under the influence in Chandler, Ariz., on Wednesday.


    "First of all, I'm extremely disappointed," said Bidwill. "It's inexcusable. He did bring it to our attention right away that night and has been extremely remorseful and contrite. He's taken steps to make things right, but the reality is that there is a process in place that the league has and there are going to be consequences here."


    Keim could be subject to disciplinary action for a violation of the NFL policy on personal conduct. More details from the incident became available Tuesday with the release of the police report, which noted that Keim refused to participate in a number of sobriety tests. Keim willingly provided his name to officers, according to the report, but he identified himself as the team's director of security.


    --DeMarco Murray was quite complimentary of both fellow running back Derrick Henry and quarterback Marcus Mariota when asked about their respective futures with the Tennessee Titans.


    Murray, who was released by the Titans in March, addressed both players when talking to ESPN's Adam Schefter recently.


    "I think Derrick's a smart guy. He's a fast guy, very physical, athletic, and now that I'm not there I think he can hone in on being the guy," the 30-year-old Murray said, via Titans Wire. "And if they use him the right way and if he can consistently be the every down back, I think he has a great future, a bright future."


    Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur told reporters last month that the running game will remain the focal point of the offense with free-agent signee Dion Lewis joining incumbent starter Henry in the backfield.


    --Washington Redskins rookie running back Derrius Guice continued his generous offseason by surprising his mother with a new car.


    Guice, who was selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, shared a video on Twitter of his mother's reaction as he arrived at her Baton Rouge, La., home in a white Jaguar SUV with a bow on the hood.


    His mother, Beulah, could barely contain herself before her son christened the car with a bottle of champagne.


    Guice was raised by his mother after his father was murdered when he was young. The 21-year-old Guice's most recent gift comes on the heels of raising money for cancer research and taking random Redskins fans to the movies.


    --New Orleans Saints stars Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore are looking to elevate the bar after becoming the first teammates since 1967 to win NFL Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.


    "We talk about it all the time, we're just trying to be the best," the 22-year-old Lattimore said, via the New Orleans Advocate. "We won rookie of the year, now we're trying to win Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year."


    Lattimore, a cornerback, is focusing his attention on his technique as opposed to "training for the 40" at the combine like he did prior to the 2017 draft.


    "That process, the draft-combine-pro day, it's a tiring process," Kamara said. "It's hard, coming from college, transitioning from being an amateur to a pro. It's hard, there's some growing pains. I was learning as I go, but now I have some experience, I know how to manage my time."


    --Tony Romo may have retired from playing in the NFL, but that doesn't mean he is through with competitive sports.


    The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS analyst matched his old jersey number by breezing to a staggering nine-stroke win at the Racine Tri-Course Amateur Championship. He also won the tournament in 2004.


    "I stayed aggressive," Romo told The (Racine) Journal Times. "I took mostly conservative lines and aggressive swings, and that's the approach you take when you have a lead. When you're hitting it as solid as I've been hitting it, you can trust it -- commit to the swing and hit it.


    "I was able to do that throughout the week. It was hard to do when you're not hitting it where you're aiming, but I was (doing that) this week."


    -- New York Giants defensive tackle A.J. Francis went on a profane tirade on Twitter after the Transportation Security Administration allegedly left open the urn carrying his mother's ashes.


    Carrie Leanne Francis died on June 26, according to a post on her son's Instagram account. A.J. Francis posted a picture Monday of his clothes covered with what appeared to be ashes in his suitcase along with a notice of inspection from TSA.


    "Hey you (expletive) at TSA next time you (expletive) feel the need to go thru my mother's ashes for no reason, make sure you close it back so her remains aren't spilled on all my clothes... the least you pieces of garbage can do is your (expletive) job," the 28-year-old Francis said in a tweet.


    AskTSA responded to Francis' complaints with an explanation, apology and condolences.
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