Before the long wait for college football, a first look at next season’s top teams

By Patrick Stevens, Special to The Washington Post The 2017 college football season is complete, with Monday’s national championship game in Atlanta the final chapter of a story that began with Florida State as a national title contender, Notre Dame the butt of an offseason’s worth of 4-8 jokes and more than a few long-term questions about the long-term fate of several Southeastern Conference coaches. Well, Florida State fell apart, Notre Dame authored a 10-win season and a half-dozen SEC schools have a different program leader than this time last year. Sometimes, change is easy to predict; other times, not so much. It’s a long, cold offseason (relatively shorter for those who obsess over spring football), and it’s not too early to take a stab at a top 25 (plus a half-dozen more) for next fall. Arizona, which probably would have cracked this list without any instability, is a bit of a wild card after Rich Rodriguez’s firing. Also missing is Florida Atlantic, but after an 11-3 season, it would be unwise to bet against the Conference USA champion Owls or Coach Lane Kiffin’s ability to draw attention to himself. That last part’s a given, of course. But there are 31 teams below, all of which have the benefit of having a zero in the loss column for most of the next eight months as the focus shifts to 2018. 31. Texas A&M (7-6 in 2017): All eyes on College Station and Jimbo Fisher, the 75 Million Dollar Man himself. If he can win multiple conference games in November, that would be a win in and of itself. 30. Iowa State (8-5): Owners of the nation’s most successful 8-5 season this past fall, the Cyclones will try to repeat their strong showing as Matt Campbell heads into his third year in Ames. 29. Missouri (7-6): If quarterback Drew Lock turns pro rather than play his senior year for the Tigers, ignore this projection. But life in the SEC East isn’t that arduous, and Missouri did win six in a row before a bowl loss Continue Reading

Cyclones football: 10 defining moments of Iowa State’s 2017 season

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Iowa State's 2017 football season was conveyor belt of memorable moments, each week providing some new challenge or storyline. From a crazy position change and an unexpected move at quarterback to upsets and close calls, there were plenty of unforgettable times. "I think I'm 38 now," said Iowa State coach Matt Campbell. "I feel like I'm 68 after this season."With an 8-5 season in 2017, Campbell put Iowa State on the national map, became one of the most sought-after coaches in college football and delivered some of the biggest wins in program history. But despite all the success, there were plenty of trials and tribulations. And the journey to one of Iowa State's most successful seasons had plenty of roadblocks. "Yeah, it’s unique with, I think, a lot of the challenges that came our way," Campbell said. "They’ve been unique. There are no books to tell you how to handle those situations, I think you have to always put your team and the football (players) as the No. 1 priority in making decisions. I think there were a lot of those along the way this year, but at the end of it, our staff and the leadership in our locker room had the ability to handle it and the maturity to handle it." Here are 10 moments that defined Iowa State’s season: IOWA STATE 21, MEMPHIS 20: What we learned from the Liberty Bowl win A spring decisionDuring Iowa State’s final game of the 2016 season, Joel Lanning tallied just one snap. The rush into the end zone didn’t even count though. A penalty wiped out the play, Lanning returned to the sidelines and Iowa State never used him again. That would never happen again.When Iowa State coach Matt Campbell looked back on the game, he realized he had to find ways to use Lanning in 2017. Lanning began the 2016 season as the starting quarterback but eventually had to share snaps with Jacob Park. When the season was over, Park was the starter and Continue Reading

Faculty Protest Texas Football Coach’s Raise

There is no state in the union more synonymous with football than Texas. From the Dallas Cowboys to the unbeaten Texas Christian University Horned Frogs and Texas Longhorns, to Friday Night Lights, pigskin has long defined the Lone Star State. Yet one group is determined that in a time of serious economic crisis, football know its place: the faculty at the University of Texas, Austin. In the face of withering media criticism, they deserve our support. Following an undefeated season and a trip to this week’s Bowl Championship Series national championship game, the University of Texas System Board of Regents upped coach Mack Brown’s total compensation from $3 million to $5 million a year. In response, the Faculty Council voted to condemn the raise as “unseemly and inappropriate.” Why would it critique a raise for the man who has led UT football to national glory and millions of dollars in television, alumni and bowl revenue? Here’s why. At a time when Texas football is doing remarkably well, the rest of the campus is tightening its belt. The UT Tuition Policy Advisory Committee has recommended that undergraduate tuition increase 4 percent a year for the next two years–true, it’s nowhere near as bad as 32 percent at the University of California, but in a recession that’s small comfort. Departments across the campus are feeling the pinch and being asked to make significant budget cuts–$5 million in liberal arts next year alone. Layoffs and hiring freezes have been announced in several departments. At every turn, academic priorities find themselves, for lack of a better term, sidelined. Predictably, the sports media have been out front and center defending these priorities. Former Washington Redskin All-Pro Lavar Arrington addressed the faculty on his radio show, saying, “Hundreds of thousands of people don’t show up to watch you teach.” Edwin Bear on Bleacher Report wrote in an article subtly Continue Reading

TCU and Baylor unhappy, but college football playoff committee gets it right

There are plenty of angry folks today in Fort Worth and Waco and who can blame them? The Texas Christian University Horned Frogs and Baylor Bears — teams with rather impressive resumes — were left out of college football’s first four-game playoff. TCU had the third spot heading into the final vote and rolled to a 55-3 victory Saturday over Iowa State. Baylor also won Saturday night, and had already beaten TCU this season. Both Big 12 co-champs had legit claims to the third or fourth spots in the playoff, but will not be playing for a shot at the national championship. Instead, Urban Meyer and his Ohio State Buckeyes, a team that was No. 16 — three spots behind Baylor and nine behind TCU — when the first rankings were released on Oct. 28, were the ones making playoff plans Sunday. All three teams are undefeated since the first rankings came out, but a 59-0 rout over overrated Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Saturday night was the final push the Buckeyes needed. It may not seem fair that one big win on the final weekend can put a team over the top, and it’s hard to fathom how TCU could win by 52 points and still drop three spots in the rankings, but the bottom line is this: The powers that be in college football got it right (how often can we say that?). The first two teams in the playoff are no-brainers. Alabama is the best team in the country, Oregon is a solid No. 2. Say what you want about Florida State’s close wins (was that really a penalty on Notre Dame?; they had to rally to beat Miami and only beat Georgia Tech by two points), but the Seminoles are the defending national champs and the only unbeaten team in the rankings. How could they not be in? “Nos. 1, 2 and 3 were clear-cut,” committee chairman Jeff Long said a few minutes after the selections became official. “And Ohio State was a clear-cut over five and Continue Reading

College Football Countdown | No. 37: Texas Christian

If you can't beat 'em then join 'em, or some such. After the worst season of the program's otherwise sterling run under Gary Patterson, TCU has stepped up the drawing board to remake its image – giving the offense a much-needed facelift in an effort to catch up with the Big 12.The Horned Frogs have embraced the Air Raid: Patterson hired two new offensive coordinators, Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham, with the former once a record-setting quarterback under Mike Leach – not the father of the Air Raid, but perhaps the system's crazy uncle – and the latter fresh off a single stint at Houston, where the scheme took flight under Dana Holgorsen, Kliff Kingsbury and Kevin Sumlin.It was time for an overhaul. Last season's offense finished second-to-last in the conference in total offense, ahead of just Kansas, and ranked ninth in interceptions, ahead of only Texas Tech. The latter is misleading: TCU tossed 17 interceptions – against 14 touchdowns, by the way – in 419 attempts, a woeful ratio; the Red Raiders tossed 18 picks in 714 attempts.Onward and upward go the Horned Frogs – up, up and away, perhaps, behind an offense that fits snugly into the Big 12's trend toward high-flying offensive explosiveness."You work experience into a new offense," Patterson told USA TODAY Sports in July. "It's an offense that's simpler than what we ran before, so we're excited. I talked a lot to the (Texas A&M) coaches, because they went with the transition from a play-action, run team to throwing the football."TCU, like West Virginia, will implement the new Air Raid, one that features a distinct twist on the time-honored tradition of pitch and catch. Holgorsen, for example, part of the new breed, began adding an up-tempo feel to the Air Raid in 2008; as we enter 2014, most Air Raid offenses value quantity on nearly an equal plane as quality.To Patterson, the impact is felt on two fronts: TCU's offense joins the party, for starters, but the Horned Frogs' Continue Reading

Drug sting at TCU nabs 17 students, including several Horned Frogs football players

FORT WORTH, Texas — Authorities arrested 17 students in a sweeping drug sting at Texas Christian University on Wednesday, a bust that included four members of the Horned Frogs football team. Police said those arrested were caught making "hand-to-hand" sales of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and prescription drugs to undercover officers. They said the bust followed a six-month investigation prompted by complaints from students, parents and others. "There is no doubt," TCU Police Chief Steve McGee said at a morning news conference. Police said they had not determined whether any of the players were selling to other athletes. Chancellor Victor Boschini suggested the four players' involvement was not a sign of a larger issue. "I don't think it's a football problem," Boschini said. Still, the arrests stunned the campus community, coming just one day after a thrilling overtime victory by the men's basketball team and less than 24 hours after TCU released its football schedule for next season, its first in the Big 12 Conference. TCU has an enrollment of about 9,500 students. "There are days people want to be a head football coach, but today is not one of those days," coach Gary Patterson said. "As I heard the news this morning, I was first shocked, then hurt and now I'm mad." Three key defensive players on the team were arrested: Linebacker Tanner Brock, the leading tackler two seasons ago, defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and cornerback Devin Johnson. The other player is offensive lineman Ty Horn. Officials said the students had been "separated from TCU," but it wasn't clear if the players had been kicked off the team. "I expect our student-athletes to serve as ambassadors for the university and will not tolerate behavior that reflects poorly on TCU, the athletics department, our teams or other student-athletes within the department," athletic director Chris Del Conte said. "Our student-athletes are a microcosm of society and unfortunately that Continue Reading

Big East football gets stronger by adding TCU, but could lead to end of league as it stands today

The Big East made a proactive move to upgrade its shaky profile and protect itself from future defections Monday with the announcement that Texas Christian University would become a member in all sports. The Horned Frogs, a private school with an enrollment of 9,142 in Fort Worth, Tex., just completed their second consecutive perfect football season in the Mountain West Conference. TCU (12-0) is third in the weekly BCS standings and at the very least is headed to the Rose Bowl. If either Auburn or Oregon - the two teams ranked ahead of the Horned Frogs - slips Saturday, the Frogs could wind up in the national championship game. TCU will begin Big East play in 2012-13. That should pacify the league's football coaches, who were seeking to become more competitive with the SEC, Pac-10, Big 12 and Big 10. They got their wish. The Big East not only adds a strong football program, but also gets a foothold in a major TV market and access to the fertile recruiting fields of Texas. Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon, a TCU alum, confirmed he had initiated contact between his alma mater and the Big East. Dixon was with TCU AD Chris Del Conte at a homecoming event Sept. 18 and spoke about the fact the Big East wanted to add another member. He gauged TCU's interest and then contacted Big East commissioner John Marinatto. Once the Frogs took off in the rankings and the Big East struggled, it became a matter of need for both parties. TCU gives Big East football a much-needed infusion of credibility. The Frogs also provide Big East football with the security of knowing the nine-team league won't blow up if the Big Ten, which meets next week, decides to continue to expand. As long as that possibility exists, Pitt, Syracuse and Rutgers will remain in the Big Ten's sights. The addition of TCU also creates the growing possibility the football schools may eventually feel a 17-team league is too unwieldy and break away and form their own all-sports league. There is no Continue Reading

Texas Christian University’s Horned Frogs invited into The Big East: source

In a move designed to prop up a weak football conference, The Big East has convinced TCU to leave the Mountain West and join the league as an all sports member, sources told the Daily News early this morning. Commissioner John Marinatto and Associate Commisioner in charge of communications John Paquette both flew to Dallas yesterday for the official announcement at 1 p.m. today.The Horned Frogs, a small private school located in Ft. Worth, are currently the No. 3 ranked team in the BCS standings and are set to at least play in the Rose Bowl this January after completing a perfect 12-0 record. If either Auburn or Oregon lose this Saturday, there is a strong chance TCU will be in the national championship game Jan. 10 at Glendale, Arizona.A timetable for the Frogs' entrance to the league has yet to be determined, but this will mean the football AD's will get a ninth team they are looking for to form a balanced schedule. It will also give TCU what it wants-- a chance to play in a BCS automatic qualifying conference. None of the football AD's, which drove this expansion, seems to mind that every other sport will have to travel half way across the country for road games. They just view it as a price of survival.The Big East has been taking criticism this season because it has no teams ranked in to Top 16 of the BCS standings and there is a good chance UConn-- a four loss team-- will represent the league in the BCS, most likely playing the Big 12 champion in the Fiesta Bowl.For all we know, this could be just the first domino to drop in expansion. With TCU, the league now has 17 teams. The Big East has offered Villanova a chance to join in football, b ut the Philadelphia school seems to be dragging its feet about a decision and there is always a chance the Big East could invite Central Florida or even re-invite Temple to create a 10th football team and an 18th team in the league.There is also a chance the football schools could eventually break away and form their own Continue Reading

Red River Rivalry confirms TCU is better than Texas, which falls to Oklahoma, 28-20, at Cotton Bowl

DALLAS - Ordinarily, the Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma, which is played annually at the sold-out Cotton Bowl on the state fair grounds, is the biggest college football event in this area. The winner of this game has gone on to capture the Big 12 championship and entrée into a lucrative BCS game in nine of the past 11 years. But eighth-ranked Oklahoma's 28-20 victory over Texas Saturday was just another indication the Longhorns are not the best team in this football-crazed state. Texas Christian University, a small school of 12,000 from nearby Fort Worth that is known for Sammy Baugh and its unique Horned Frog mascot, owns that distinction, although Texas fans throughout the state seem reluctant to admit it. TCU, which climbed to fifth in the AP Top 25 and is 5-0 following a 27-0 victory at Colorado State Saturday, is the elephant in the room, a mid-major powerhouse, much like Boise State, from a non-BCS conference no one in the Big 12 wants to talk about. We'd love to see TCU play Texas on a regular basis either here or at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. But it's not going to happen. Texas has no interest in scheduling the Horned Frogs. The Longhorns are the biggest brand name in the Southwest, if not the country. They have Notre Dame-like clout in scheduling and can determine who they want to play in-state. Texas feels it gains nothing from playing a team like TCU, which could not only beat the Longhorns but could also hurt them long-term in recruiting in this talent-rich area. Texas seems much more comfortable scheduling a team like Rice. TCU, which has played in four conferences - the Southwest, WAC, Conference USA and Mountain West - in the past 20 years, would love to join the Big 12. But the Frogs have no chance of ever getting the necessary votes for admission if the league expands. The Big 12 feels Texas and Texas A&M already control the TV sets in this area and has no interest in sharing revenue with a team that has trouble Continue Reading

News’ College Football Preview: Preseason Top 25 rankings

Remind us never to underestimate Florida coach Urban Meyer again, having watched him coach Utah to an unbeaten season in 2004 and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Pitt, and then lead the mighty Florida Gators to national championships in 2006 and 2008. This could be his best team ever, with at least eight players - QB Tim Tebow, C Maurkice Pouncey, TE Aaron Hernandez, WR/KR Brandon James, DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Joe Haden and S Ahmad Black - who could make somebody's All-American team. Repeating is never easy, especially in the rugged SEC, but Meyer's players are excited about the possibilities. "Three national championships and a chance to rewrite history," Spikes said. "It would be a great thing, a chance to be remembered forever, go down in the books as one of the greatest teams ever."Here is the Daily News Preseason Top 25 (2008 records in parentheses):It may be hard to believe, but this Gators team could be better than last year's national champions. Florida, which won two national championships in the past three years, is a dynasty in the making. Innovative coach Urban Meyer has an embarrassment of riches after senior QB Tim Tebow and senior LB Brandon Spikes both passed on the NFL draft. Tebow, a three-year starter, is college football's MVP. Spikes is the best player on a loaded defense that returns every member of its two-deep roster. Look for TB Chris Rainey to replace Percy Harvin as the team's biggest game breaker.The Sooners merit a slight edge on Texas in the Big 12 because Bob Stoops persuaded Heisman Trophy-winning Sam Bradford to return for his junior year while TE Jermaine Gresham, DT Gerald McCoy and OT Trent Williams also stayed in school. OU should be sufficiently motivated for a rematch against Florida in the BCS title game after its loss to the Gators last January.QB Colt McCoy came back for his senior year to win a national championship, and both he and sixth-year senior WR Jordan Shipley can make the Longhorns' passing game sizzle. Continue Reading