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College Football News: The Kickoff Looks Back and Ahead

College Football News

College Football News: Regular Season Retrospective and Bowl Season Preview

With the regular season ending and bowl games starting, it’s time to reflect on where schools stand and what lies ahead for some of them. Kickoff Editor Tommy Duff offered his thoughts on 2018 college football. Our final regular season issue, the Bowl Wrap Up issue, will come out January 9th!

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Conference Championship Games Could Affect CFB Playoffs

The regular season ended with a bang as numerous coaches have been let go and the College Football Playoff picture is suddenly unclear with Alabama dislodged from the top spot. Auburn, Oklahoma and Wisconsin will all play in conference title games this weekend – if any of them lose, the job of the College Football Playoff Committee becomes more challenging. Would Georgia leapfrog Alabama if they were to somehow beat Auburn in convincing fashion this weekend?

Auburn’s Late-Season Surge

It’s remarkable that we’re having this discussion now. The Tigers were highly rated at the start of the season based primarily on potential with Quarterback Jarret Stidham, but most people wrote off Auburn as a Playoff contender after the Tigers blew a huge lead over LSU in Week 7, having also lost in Week 2 to the defending National Champion Clemson Tigers. In the span of three weeks, however, Gus Malzahn’s team has beaten the number one team in the country twice: The Georgia Bulldogs on November 11 and the Alabama Crimson Tide this past weekend. They face Georgia once again in the SEC Championship game this coming weekend in Atlanta. In the new Associated Press poll, Auburn jumped from No. 6 to No. 4, followed by Alabama at No. 5 and Georgia at No. 6. Alabama had held the top spot since the preseason.

“Those wins have Auburn amazingly in the playoff driver seat,” said Tommy Duff, Editor of The Kickoff college football newsletter. “Auburn will be in the Playoffs if (RB Kerryon) Johnson is healthy and they beat UGA. Alabama is still in a good spot. Oklahoma and Clemson are best positioned. Miami may be an outsider regardless of whether they beat Clemson. If Ohio State beats Wisconsin and Miami beats Clemson, then Ohio State is in.”

Changes in the CFB Polls

Clemson jumped from No. 4 to No. 1 in the AP Poll after blowing out South Carolina. Oklahoma is the new No. 2, followed by Wisconsin at No. 3. In the College Football Playoff rankings, Clemson is No. 1, Auburn is No. 2, Oklahoma is No. 3, and Wisconsin is No. 4. Rounding out the Top 10 are Alabama (which is trying to argue it still deserves to be in the Playoffs), Georgia, Miami (Fla), Ohio State, Penn State, and USC. In The Kickoff Top 25, we have undefeated Wisconsin in the No. 1 spot.

“Wisconsin is still in the Big 10, and it’s a Power 5 conference. We don’t like jumping teams for no reason,” Duff explained. “Clemson lost to a 4-8 Syracuse team. Oklahoma lost to a 7-5 Iowa State team. Throw out the losses and Auburn should be No. 1 on quality wins alone, but they lost to a Clemson team that lost to 4-8 Syracuse. Wisconsin doesn’t have a great win, but they have won every game they were supposed to. That’s how we see it at The Kickoff.”

Another upset last weekend was Miami (Fla) falling to Pittsburgh. The Hurricanes fell five spots to No. 7 on the AP poll. On the Kickoff Top 25, they fell from No. 3 last week to No. 7 this week.

Coaches Fired, Hired

The other huge news right now: The Coaching Carousel. Previously mentioned Arkansas canned Bret Bielema. Also dusting off the resume: Jim McElwain at Florida (replaced by Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen), Kevin Sumerlin at Texas A&M, Todd Graham at Arizona State, Tyson Summers at Georgia Southern, Mike Riley at Nebraska, Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss, Gary Andersen at Oregon State, Joey Jones at South Alabama, Butch Jones at Tennessee, Jim Mora at UCLA, and Sean Kugler at UTEP. Former Oregon Coach Chip Kelly was hired at UCLA.

Tennessee backed out of a memorandum of understanding with Ohio State Defensive Coordinator Greg Schiano after facing a backlash from the Volunteer faithful due to Schiano’s ties to Penn State during the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The Vols finished without a single SEC win this year, going 4-8 overall. Candidates for the job had to be looking at how Knoxville has cycled through three coaches in a decade, failing to win an SEC Championship since 1998 or win the SEC East since 2007.

“Tennessee is a mess,” Duff said. “Total meltdown in the athletic department. Apparently, Tennessee offers were too low. Florida didn’t get its first choice, but Mullen is the right fit. Arkansas is a mess too. Arkansas wanted to hire Gus Malzahn, but his success has left the brass there scrambling as there is little, if any, chance he would leave Auburn now. Ole Miss did the right thing.”

One possible replacement considered for Jones is North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren. Duff said the hire would be like a “rescue off the hot seat at NC State” where he is 33-30 in five seasons. The Wolfpack had an 8-4 record this season and reached No. 14 in the polls before losing late in the season to Notre Dame, Clemson and Wake Forest. “Brought to you by Little Currie, Jimmy Haslam and Peyton Manning, the brains behind the Greg Schiano and Butch Jones hires,” Duff added. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy rejected Tennessee on Tuesday. Duke’s David Cutcliffe also told Tennessee he was not interested, according to an ESPN report.

Texas A&M, which finished in 5th place in the SEC West, has lured Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State with a rumored 10-year deal worth $7.5 million per season. Fisher, who won the 2013 national championship at FSU, would become the third highest-paid coach per season in all of college football, trailing only Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban.

Duff said the current coaching turmoil in the SEC is “a direct reflection of Nick Saban’s domination. The SEC is so bloated that it’s now eating its own programs. Nobody else has gotten over the hump. Look at Malzahn. He was rumored to be on the hot seat – unfairly in my opinion – and then he beats Moby Dick and he’s a hero on the Plains.”

The Regular Season in Retrospect

Although Georgia may very well prevail against Auburn in a second game this season, their 40-17 loss to the Tigers magnified the lack of parity between the SEC East and West divisions this season.

It’s been a difficult season to judge performance based on teams played. Auburn, for example, lost to LSU, which Alabama defeated 24-10 on November 10th. However, the Tide struggled to beat the same Mississippi State team that Auburn beat 49-10 back in week 5. Georgia’s signature win this year was the week two win over Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish lost to Miami (FL) 41-8 on November 11th.

One could say that various teams have found ways to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” throughout the season. Some teams have been just plain awful and have fans just wanting to hurry up and set the refresh and rebuild button. The coaching changes we are seeing, as teams hope not to fall behind in recruiting, are a reflection of that.

Duff said LSU’s bet on Ed Orgeron paid off as the Tigers finished 9-3 to prove doubters wrong. The Kickoff doesn’t speculate on head coaches jumping to new programs, but there are coordinators who we feel are ready to move into the head coaching ranks. Some of the big names who may be considered for a head coaching vacancy include Jeremy Pruitt at Alabama, Kevin Steele at Auburn, Brent Venables and Tony Elliot at Clemson, Todd Grantham at Mississippi State, Manny Diaz at Miami, Tee Martin at USC, Jim Leavitt or Mario Cristobal at Oregon, just to name a few. We have a more extensive list in this week’s issue of The Kickoff.

Also included in Issue 14: A conference breakdown through issue 14, the FBS and FCS standings, complete regular season schedules and scores, a listing of the conference championship games ahead, our Top 25, our Games of the Week (AU vs UGA and Ohio State vs Wisconsin), plus overall trends, Division 1A FBS Expanded Standings, 2017 average margin of victory leaders, the 2017 Kickoff Power Rankings Spreadsheet, formula breakdown, news and notes, the Kickoff Thermostat, Top Assistant Coach Candidates, confirmed coaching changes, opening lines and Kickoff-recommended picks, and more.

In case you are wondering, The Kickoff was 7-5 against the spread on last week’s recommended picks, and we were 59-35 against the spread for the regular season.

The Kickoff has three remaining issues for this post-season phase, as well as 6 monthly issues covering recruiting, spring practice and transfers between February and July. You can still subscribe to have our valuable tool available by visiting

Hugh Freeze Phone Records Show Hundreds of Calls with Booster in NCAA Probe

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The headlines in college football…

Bleacher Report – Hugh Freeze Called Escort Service While on Ole Miss Recruiting Trip

Bleacher Report – Hugh Freeze Phone Records Show Hundreds of Calls with Booster in NCAA Probe

ESPN – Nick Saban: Did the best I could in communicating QB roles

Sporting News – College football Top 25: Best, worst case for every team – Bobby Bowden: ‘Wouldn’t surprise me for Florida State to eke it out’ against Alabama

Saturday Down South – Which QBs will exceed expectations or fall short in Year 2? SEC Network analyst makes his picks

Saturday Down South – Ole Miss has nothing to play for in 2017, which should make rest of SEC nervous

Saturday Down South – Ranking 10 most important people in Alabama’s decade-long dynasty

Saturday Down South – ESPN gives Alabama slim chance of entering CFP undefeated

Saturday Down South – Give them the ball: 1 player on every SEC team who needs more touches in 2017

Associated Press – Plenty of running backs, receivers could produce immediately

Associated Press – Lawyer: Baylor settles with woman who said rape was ignored

SEC Country – Notre Dame AD would ‘love to figure out’ how to schedule future game with Auburn football

Bleacher Report – 50 Names You Need to Know for the 2017 College Football Season

Associated Press – Georgia Tech kicks running back Dedrick Mills off team

Associated Press – Ex-Vanderbilt football player gets minimum 15 years for rape

ESPN – After Tebow and Dak, who’s next for QB guru Dan Mullen?

Curated by Steven Stiefel

The Kickoff: Thoughts on the College Football Season Ahead

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Our patience is nearly rewarded as we get ready for the start of another exciting season of college football action. Kickoff Editor Tommy Duff offered a few thoughts while preparing Issue One of the college football newsletter, arriving August 28th. The new and improved newsletter is adding two additional pages to the PDF version this year, available for a limited time as a Buy One Get One Free Subscription Special online.

The early lead to the College Football Playoff starts on September 2nd at Mercedes Benz Stadium. That game will be one of our Games of the Week, along with Florida vs Michigan and West Virginia at Virginia Tech.

“We will know quickly whether Alabama will live up to the high expectations as the Tide play FSU on a neutral field in their opening game,” Duff said. “It will be interesting to see as that game should tell us whether FSU is ready to take the next step and/or if years of recruiting at an elite level gives the Tide an advantage of filling holes with seasoned talent.”

Duff said defending National Champions Clemson could be right back in the playoff picture for 2017, but “they’ll need for their young talent to mature fast. Kelly Bryant is expected to take over at the QB position. On defense, Clemson will be strong up front with 5 of their front 7 back. They have an extremely tough early schedule, with Auburn and Louisville in the 2nd and 3rd weeks.”

An embarrassing loss to Clemson in the playoffs should give Ohio State’s 15 returning starters motivation, which they may need going into an early season matchup against Oklahoma. “It is always very difficult to project how a program will respond to the loss of a head coach as respected as Bob Stoops, but Oklahoma returns a load of talent, including All American Quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Oklahoma State game on the road becomes a lot more interesting with Stoops retired.”

Duff expects much from Southern Cal as they build upon a 9-game win streak and a victory in a Rose Bowl Classic. “Though their schedule isn’t easy, they play all their toughest matchups at home,” he said.

Penn State’s success last season surprised many. “Nobody saw them making it to the Rose Bowl Game, but now the faithful expect them to build upon that success, and the pieces are in place for them to do just that. Their most challenging games are in late October, though having Michigan and Ohio State in consecutive weeks is never ideal,” he said.

Other question marks heading into the new season:
• Can Ed Orgeron continue to right the ship at LSU with QB Danny Etling and RB Marion Guice as his main weapons?
• Will Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham finally give Auburn a proven efficient passer with a cannon under center who can make Gus Malzahn’s offense finally produce again?
• Can we expect some significant improvement in Mark Richt’s 2nd year at the helm in Miami?
• Will Richt’s old team, Georgia, be able to capitalize on a wealth of returning talent and avoid the last second meltdowns?
• How will the suspension of 7 players, including star WR Antonio Callaway, affect the Florida Gators in their opener against Michigan?
• Will defending Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson — the most electrifying college football player in the country last year – make Louisville one of the hottest teams in the country again after 3 losses to end the year left a sour taste?
• Will Michigan be able to replace the talent lost from their 10 win squad of last year before facing off against Penn State on October 21?
• Has Stanford’s rising junior Keller Chryst fully recovered from the ACL injury from last season’s Sun Bowl?
• Can Boise State prevail in week two, when they travel to Washington State, and enjoy one of those type years they perfected during the BCS era?
• What will Charlie Strong be able to do with a South Florida team with one of the country’s most manageable schedules and led by one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Quinton Flowers?
• What will be the impact of all of the turmoil on Ole Miss?
• Where will teams like Tennessee, Oregon, Texas A&M, and Arkansas end up after teams in the Top 25 start to fall?

Catch more of Duff’s Analysis of college football news and statistics in Issue One of The Kickoff, coming August 28th. Our prognosticator-in-chief gives his opinions each Friday from noon to 1 pm Eastern on WAAK 94.7 FM radio in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You can listen online at

The long wait for a new season officially ends at 1:30 pm Eastern on Saturday, August 26th as Oregon State and Colorado State clash at Sonny Lubick Field. Stanford, Rice, Hawaii, UMass, South Florida, San Jose State, Portland State and BYU also have games that day before the majority of FBS teams play on Thursday, August 31-Saturday, September 2nd.

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Just don’t wait because the season is almost underway!

UAB fans celebrate program’s return in spring scrimmage

UAB fans celebrate program’s return in spring scrimmage
Michigan St holds spring game under cloud of investigation
Oklahoma, Tennessee agree to matchups in 2020, 2024
The biggest workout warrior on every Way-Too-Early Top 25 football team
Can Las Vegas become a new destination in college football?
The ACC’s most versatile man, Derwin James, is back
How Michigan is working to replace Jabrill Peppers
Big Ten Backs Off Plan for Friday Football Games for Northwestern
QB Emory Jones ‘110 percent’ committed to Ohio State but visiting Southern powers
New Tennessee AD John Currie says Butch Jones ‘on the right trajectory’
Why 4-star Tyneil Hopper calls Auburn ‘a great fit’
4-star defensive line recruit Alfred Thomas has Georgia on top
2017 NFL mock draft: Big changes in the top 5
Six players with plenty to prove in spring practice

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Photo by Steven Stiefel

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