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Coaches’ Seats Getting Warmer in Texas, Oregon

Texas Longhorn footballThe coaching carousel is accelerating in college football.

LSU fired Les Miles in week four after starting the season 2-2, including a loss to an Auburn team that began the year 1-2 but has since prospered. Interim coach Ed Orgeron has helped the Tigers regain their confidence with wins, including a 38-21 win against Ole Miss, but the real test is Nov. 5th against Nick Saban and Alabama.

Tommy Duff, Editor of THE KICKOFF, said, “To be honest, I have no idea what will happen at LSU. They should hire Orgeron, but I don’t think the administration wants to. If they beat Florida, Arkansas, and A&M, I don’t see how they don’t hire him. They won’t beat Alabama. The school administration wants more of a marquee name for recruiting purposes. However, LSU recruits itself because of the large amount of in-state talent, so I personally don’t think it matters.”

The SEC West picture has gotten more interesting with the wins by LSU and Auburn, signaling to Bama that it will have to actually earn the West after putting away Texas A&M last week. Auburn thrashed Arkansas 56-3, yet Duff doesn’t think Gus Malzahn’s job is safe just yet despite the dramatic turnaround.  “It’s Auburn. He’ll never be completely off the hot seat there,” Duff said. “They better stick to a coach for a while. But they have roared back to life and into SEC West contention.”

Texas Coach Charlie Strong is all but gone after the Longhorns are struggling for a third straight season. “Strong’s gone. They’ll get (Tom) Herman from Houston,” Duff predicted. Texas lost to Kansas State last week while Houston lost to SMU. “All Strong can do is just keep working hard to try and salvage the season. Houston was the toast of the football world after week one, now they are a playoff afterthought.”

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick expressed “complete confidence” in Brian Kelly despite the Fighting Irish being 2-5 as they go into Saturday’s game against Miami. The Oregon Ducks are also floundering at 2-5 after a double overtime loss at California, but will Mark Helfrich have had enough recent success to avoid the hot seat after losing five in a row this season? Duff doesn’t think so if they continue to lose.

“Oregon will fire Helfrich,” he said. “Notre Dame won’t fire Kelly.”

In addition to Miles at LSU, Florida International fired Ron Turner after an 0-4 start and Darrell Hazell got canned at Purdue. Fresno State fired Tim DeRuyter after a 1-7 start to the season and a six-game losing streak. Going forward, besides Strong and Helfrich, Steve Addazio at Boston College (3-4), Georgia Tech’s (4-3) Paul Johnson and UCLA’s (3-5) Jim Morrow may all want to dust off their resumes. Duff said the injury to UCLA QB Josh Rosen has put the Bruins on the back foot.

No one is questioning the security of Urban Meyer’s job at Ohio State despite the Buckeyes falling to Penn State and tumbling from #2 to #6 in the AP Top 25 and #8 in the Coaches Poll. They fell from #2 to #9 on the Kickoff Top 25.

On the other side of football fortunes, Duff said #10 West Virginia and unranked Syracuse are trending up on the Kickoff Thermostat. “The Orange have their first back-to-back wins of the season (against then #17 Virginia Tech and Boston College), with one major upset while the undefeated Mountaineers look like a Big 12 Title contender.” Syracuse faces Clemson on Nov. 5th while West Virginia plays Oklahoma State this weekend.

Like everyone else, Duff’s eyes will be on these games and the huge contests ahead this week. The Kickoff’s Games of the Week are #3 Clemson at #12 Florida State, #14 Florida vs Georgia, and #7 Nebraska at #11 Wisconsin.

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Copyright: philipus / 123RF Stock Photo

Looking Beyond Spring Games in College Football

Longer days and rising temps mean it’s time for spring football. This is when we shake off the dust from the wreckage of last fall and renew our hopes that the forthcoming version of our school’s team is destined to become a great one.

In our March issue of the The Kickoff, we listed the schedule for spring games, as well as giving Editor Tommy Duff’s insight into the recruiting wars. As we approach the later half of April, most teams have already had those spring games with thousands of alumni and fans converging on campuses for a look at things to come.

All eyes will be on the Alabama Crimson Tide to see if Nick Saban’s crew can reload and take home yet another trophy. They recently signed four 5-star players, including 3 ranked in the Kickoff Top 30 and eight ranked in the top 10 at their respective position out of 24 total signees. The Tide returns 11 starters this fall and are given 19/4 odds of defending their national championship, according to Sportsbook.

“Really, you can close your eyes and put your finger on the page, and you will undoubtedly choose a potential headliner for this recruiting class,” Duff said. “Most impressive, however, was the number of highly touted LBs Saban signed, led by 5-star Ben Davis.”

Duff also had praise for the recruiting efforts of Florida State, LSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, Ole Miss, Georgia, Southern Cal, and Auburn. Rounding out our Top 20 were Texas, Tennessee, UCLA, Florida, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Penn State, Stanford, Texas A&M, and Baylor.

Duff said Clemson, which came within five points of a national championship earlier this year, looks to be fierce again with Deshaun Watson returning and new talent added. “Dabo and Co. signed 2 players ranked in our Top 30 and 8 players ranked in the top 10 at their position, including the #2 overall prospect DT Dexter Lawrence and the #1 overall RB Tavien Feaster. Lawrence was the #2 overall prospect and will provide immediate help on the Tigers’ DL. Feaster is an electric playmaker who could’ve gone anywhere in the country and competed for playing time.”

Sportsbook gave Clemson 15/2 odds of winning the CFP this coming season. They start the campaign Sept. 2nd on the road against Auburn, which endured a massively disappointing season in 2016 but should perform better with Coach Gus Malzahn on the hot seat, signing two players rated in the Kickoff’s Top 30.

“Auburn was one of the big Signing Day winners, having multiple players commit on live television, and none may have been bigger than 5 star DT Derrick Brown,” Duff said. “The #1 rated player from the state of Georgia, he picked the Tigers over UGA and Tennessee. Juco DT QB John Franklin is expected to step in and compete for the starting job. Franklin played for the Seminoles for a season before transferring and is considered an excellent run/pass option at the QB position.”

LSU also looks to win the SEC West. Duff said the Tigers would have finished even higher than #3 in its recruiting class if Les Miles had not been surprisingly forced to deal with questions about his job security last season. “Regardless, LSU signed two 5 stars in our top 30 and 10 players rated in the top 10 at their position. The biggest news for LSU’s class has got to be the DB haul Coach Miles signed,” Duff said.

This time last year, everyone expected Ohio State to compete for the CFP. Coach Urban Meyer has added several players expected to be solid contributors in the years ahead.

Look for Michigan to make waves with Jim Harbaugh’s first full signing class, which included the #1 ranked recruit DT Rashan Gary, RB Kareem Walker and WR Eddie McDoom.

The Ole Miss Rebels have to replace WR Laquan Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, but they finished with the 7th rated class, with two players ranked in our Top 30, including the #3 overall prospect in OL Gregory Little.

Kirby Smart left Alabama to be head coach at Georgia, which pulled in 3 players in the Kickoff Top 30 and 5 players ranked at their position, including 4 wide receivers. Mark Richt, who left for Miami (FL), was undoubtedly disappointed when the Hurricanes lost two highly coveted prospects to Tennessee early on signing day.

A coaching change didn’t seem to hurt Southern Cal much either after the removal of Steve Sarkisian due to off-field issues and the promotion of interim Head Coach Clay Helton. The Trojans reeled in the #1 WR prospect in the nation, Tyler Vaughns.

These are just some of the new names you’ll probably be hearing this fall as college football teams look ahead to a blank slate and the championship hunt begins anew.

How did your team do on national signing day? Did anyone impress you during the spring game? Can anyone stop Alabama from running away with a fifth national championship since 2009? Talk to us on our Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn  pages.

Test your knowledge of college football every Thursday on Facebook as we present a trivia question. Answer correctly and you could be in the drawing for a free 2016 PDF/email subscription to The Kickoff.

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Rivalry Week Has Arrived

Iron BowlIt’s Rivalry Week in College Football and anything can happen.

When you’re facing your hated rivals, pride and braggin’ rights matter almost as much as championship runs. These are some of the greatest matchups in all of college football because they matter so much to the fans.

Auburn vs Alabama… Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State…  Ohio State vs Michigan… Clemson vs South Carolina… Georgia vs Georgia Tech…. Virginia Tech vs Virginia… North Carolina vs NC State… USC vs UCLA…

People will debate which rivalry is the most heated, but to most of us, this time it’s personal. What follows the expiration of time this weekend may be 365 days of teasing from “those” fans.

There’s another reason this is a special week. Keep reading below…

Bert Caldwell, one of the principle owners of The Kickoff, said big games against rivals should make predicting the outcome of the committee’s final rankings interesting.

“Top-ranked Clemson still has to play at South Carolina and No. 2 Alabama will play in Auburn in the Iron Bowl,” Caldwell said, noting that big rivalry games can inspire teams having bad seasons to rise to the occasion.

“One stumble and some teams could be out of it,” he said. “These teams are definitely not a lock on finishing where they are ranked now. The playoff committee will have a full body of work from these teams before making their final decisions.”

Speaking of which, it will be interesting to see what the College Football Playoff Committee decides November 24 following No. 3 Ohio State’s 17-14 loss to No. 9 Michigan State on November 21. TCU, Wisconsin and Houston are out after Week 12 losses.

In the Kickoff Top 25, we saw the Buckeyes drop all the way from No. 2 to No. 8, with Alabama advancing to No. 2 behind Clemson. Oklahoma jumped from No. 6 to No. 3 in our poll while Michigan State fills out the No. 4 spot. Baylor rounds out our Top 5 teams in the country this week.

Our Kickoff Games of the Week will be Oklahoma at Oklahoma State and Ohio State at Michigan.

This week we are also hearing rumblings that LSU may part ways with Les Miles, who has won a national championship and two SEC championships and averaged 10 wins per season, yet lost three consecutive games to Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, dropping out of the AP Poll on Sunday after winning their first seven games and having Playoff and Heisman buzz.

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To enter the drawing, visit


Ohio State-Michigan State Could Shake Up Playoff Rankings

Ohio State (No. 2 in the Kickoff Top 25, No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings) faces a test this weekend as it hosts Michigan State (No. 11 on the Kickoff Top 25, No. 9 in the CFP rankings) in one of our Kickoff Games of the Week. The Buckeyes lead the series 29-13, and we expect them to prevail again this week. We’ll see, though, as the kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 pm, televised on ABC.

ohio-state-michigan-stateAn Ohio State loss would shake things up in the Playoff picture. ESPN’s College GameDay will broadcast from Columbus Saturday morning, the first time on campus since 2010. Clemson (10-0) and Alabama (9-1) are ahead of Ohio State with Notre Dame (9-1) immediately trailing.

The Kickoff Top 25 has Oklahoma State (10-0) ahead of the Fighting Irish in the No. 4 spot. Their game against Baylor (8-1, No. 10) is our other Game of the Week. When hosting, as they are Saturday, the Cowboys have a 12-4 record, and Oklahoma State leads the series all-time 19-14. A look at the Kickoff Power Ratings suggests the Bears may leave disappointed, which would end their playoff hopes. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM in Stillwater with the game airing on FOX.

If you subscribe to The Kickoff, you have a powerful resource at your fingertips for making your weekly picks. It’s not too late to subscribe to the rest of the 2015 college football season. A 6 week subscription, which includes this week’s issue, is just $7.08. As mentioned above, there’s still a lot of football left to play. Visit to get a prorated subscription or call us at (423) 267-0953 if you prefer to do it that way.

Other big games worth checking out this weekend: No. 18 TCU at No. 7 Oklahoma, California at No. 11 Stanford, No. 15 LSU at No. 22 Ole Miss, No. 24 USC at No. 23 Oregon, No. 20 Northwestern at No. 25 Wisconsin, and No. 17 North Carolina at Virginia Tech in Frank Beamer’s final home game.

In this week’s issue of The Kickoff, we looked at last weekend’s upsets as Arkansas topped LSU, Oklahoma beat Baylor, Oregon topped Stanford, and Missouri beat BYU, among others. The Kickoff Thermostat showed Pittsburgh, Oregon and Iowa on the rise, with the stock of Auburn, Duke and Stanford falling.

In our Top 25, Alabama, Notre Dame, Houston, Northwestern, and Iowa jumped two spots. Michigan State, USC, Florida, and Arkansas jumped 3 spots. Oklahoma jumped 7 spots. Falling after last week’s upsets were Baylor, Stanford, LSU, and Utah, while BYU dropped out of our Top 25.

The Kickoff looked at the overall trends through last week, listed the complete FBS and select FCS schedules and standings, examined the average points allowed by teams and strength of schedule, broke down the conferences’ winning percentages, and offered Power Ratings for this weekend’s games. We also looked back to the rankings in November 1963, when Texas led the nation with a 9-0 record. In News and Notes, we recognized the superlatives of Ezekiel Elliot, Brandon Radcliff, Jake Ruddock, Derrick Henry, Jehu Chesson, Jordan Howard, Alex Collins, and Sterling Shepard.

This holiday season, The Kickoff is offering an Earlybird Special for those who get the jump on college football in 2016. For that relative who can’t get enough of the game, you can buy him (or her) an annual email/PDF subscription, which includes six pre-season issues and 17 weekly issues next fall – and you’ll get an email/PDF version for yourself or someone else at no additional charge! The cost is just $28 for 23 printed issues in the Email/PDF version.  As one of the most accurate prognosticators since 1951, The Kickoff is the perfect gift for someone who loves college football as much as you do! Visit to get the Holiday Special.

Watch this week for our announcement of an exciting new contest for new newsletter subscribers as well as existing subscribers.

Use the hashtag #thekickoff on Facebook and Twitter so we can follow your conversations about this week’s games.

Midseason Reflections on College Football Season

We are midway through the 2015 College Football Season and the stakes of each game are getting higher as we inch closer to the Playoffs!

Tommy Duff, Editor of The Kickoff, reflected on the season thus far and the challenges ahead for teams still in the hunt…

In the Oct. 19th edition of Kickoff Top 25, we had TCU and Ohio State replaced in the top spots by Utah and LSU. There were 14 undefeated teams in our Top 25, with single-loss Alabama ranked at No. 9. Our Strength of Schedule analysis in that issue showed that Ohio State played a schedule with the largest difference between their ranking and their average opponent ranking in 2015. This indicates that the Buckeyes may not have the “easiest” straight schedule, but in regards to their official rating, they have more of a schedule advantage than any other team in the country.

“Ohio State hasn’t looked good against lower rated teams and does not have any quality wins, plus they have two quarterbacks, which means they don’t have a quarterback,” Duff said. “TCU has been inconsistent. They only beat Iowa State (which had a 2-4 record) by 24 points last week. That’s the second time they’ve nearly been knocked off by a lower rated team.”

The Kickoff was high on Utah and LSU based on several factors, including wins against quality opponents in top-rated conferences, including the Tigers’ win over a Florida team that was undefeated until last week. “At this point, Utah has the most quality wins” over teams like Michigan, California, Arizona State and putting up 62 points against Oregon. Utah ended up losing Saturday to USC 42-24. LSU beat Western Kentucky 48-20.

In the Oct. 26 issue, LSU lept to the top of our Top 25 while Clemson jumped from No. 7 to No. 4. FSU, which lost a heartbreaker to Georgia Tech, fell from No. 8 to No. 15. Alabama moved up two spots after beating Tennessee in a close one. 

Duff said he expects the winner of the Alabama-LSU game to be in the Playoffs. “Leonard Fournette is one of the best players we’ve seen since Bo Jackson in terms of pure natural talent, speed and size. He just demolishes people, which is very rare. He hasn’t had less than 150 yards in a game all season. It is possible LSU is going to fall a bit in the ratings as their schedule eases up. When you look at strength of teams played, they benefitted from their opener against McNeese State being cancelled due to weather on Sept. 5th.”

In other words, we still have a lot of football left to play.

The weeks ahead will determine which coaches get pink slips or trophies. We’ve already seen Steve Spurrier and Steve Sarkisian leave their teams after 2-4 and 3-2 starts respectively. “I knew Spurrier wouldn’t last long with the way South Carolina was performing, but I was surprised he quit in the middle of the season,” Duff said.

Ohio State was atop our Preseason Top 25. Our No. 3 pick, Auburn, is perhaps the biggest shocker of the year, now at 4-3 and out of playoff contention after Saturday’s 4-Overtime game at Arkansas. The Tigers still have Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia, Idaho, and Alabama  remaining on their schedule.

“The media, including The Kickoff, bought into a lot of hype about Jeremy Johnson based on the limited amount of work he did last season as a starter, which looked fabulous and suggested he had better skills than Nick Marshall, but the kid lost his confidence after throwing interceptions, plus Auburn lost Carl Lawson, who was supposed to be their leader on defense and an All-American. Gus Malzahn forgot how important a mobile quarterback was in his system,” Duff said.

Comparing the preseason and last week’s Kickoff Top 25s, Oregon, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Arizona State, Boise State, and Tennessee, all have failed to meet their potential in 2015. Teams that haven’t disappointed so far include TCU, Ohio State, Baylor, Michigan State, Clemson, FSU, Oklahoma State, and Arizona.

Our games of the week last week were Clemson at Miami, FL and Tennessee at Alabama.

We went with undefeated Clemson, which enjoyed a 13.6 difference in Power Ratings with the 4-2 Hurricanes. “Clemson could be in the playoffs, as they have done their thing under the radar this season. They’ll need better quarterback play to get past Florida State on Nov. 7th,” Duff said. The Tigers shut them out 58-0, leading to Al Golden being fired this week.

We assigned the Crimson Tide (6-1) a 9 point difference in Power Ratings over the Volunteers. Duff expected the game to be a close one. “Butch Jones has taken the leash off Josh Dobbs and let him play his own game. Statistically, Tennessee ran the ball all over Georgia. Alabama’s defense is set up to stop a classic pro offense and has problems whenever they face a spread offense with a mobile quarterback,” he said. Bama ended up winning 19-14.

It’s not too late to get our Halftime Subscription so you can arm yourself with knowledge when you face off at your family’s Thanksgiving Dinner against your know-it-all uncle who went to that rival school! We have nine issues left to publish this season. Pay just $10.62 to get a Mid-Season Email/PDF Subscription ($19.58 for printed issues sent 1st Class mail to your home or office).  As the season progresses, we’ll lower the price weekly so you only pay for what’s left of the season. Hey, better late than never to get in the game! Email [email protected] to sign up today.

Also, test your knowledge of college football by participating in our Thursday Throwdown trivia on Facebook. We stumped quite a few people this week with our question about the 1985 Fresno State team that was the only unbeaten Division 1-A team in the country, ranked 16th in the Coaches Poll that year.

Talk to us this weekend while we watch the games. Which upsets are you expecting? How is your team doing so far this year? Sound off! Use the hashtag #thekickoff on Facebook and Twitter so we can follow your conversations.

Enjoy this weekend’s games. We’ll be watching alongside you.

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