Mid-Summer 2016-17 Bowl Projections

With the Fourth of July holiday in the rear view mirror, a fresh college football season is on the horizon.
By the end of the shortened work week, we will be just seven Fridays away from the Hawaii-Cal season opener, and we are approaching a mere eight Saturdays away from the first weekend action of the new season.
So how will the 2016-17 postseason take shape?
Here are my very early projections of where your favorite program could land. As always, these predictions are subject to change and will look different than my post-spring Top 25, which was more of a power rankings than anything else. In addition, there is always more studying to do, so I’m likely to re-slot some teams before the season begins as I become more familiar with 2016 depth charts, quirks in the schedules, etc.
The College Football Playoff
Semifinal—Dec. 31 Peach (Atlanta): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 TCU
Semifinal—Dec. 31 Fiesta (Glendale): No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Ohio State
Championship—Jan. 9 (Tampa): The winners of the two semifinals meet
The CFP Selection Committee New Year’s Six bowl games
Dec. 30 Orange (Miami): Clemson (ACC) vs. Notre Dame (Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame)
Jan. 2 Rose (Pasadena): Michigan (Big Ten) vs. Stanford (Pac-12)
Jan. 2 Sugar (New Orleans): Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. LSU (SEC)
Jan. 2 Cotton (Arlington): Tennessee (At-Large) vs. Houston (At-Large)
The rest of the bowl slate
Dec. 17 Cure (Orlando): East Carolina (AAC) vs. Troy (Sun Belt)
Dec. 17 Las Vegas (Las Vegas): Boise State (MWC) vs. Utah (Pac-12)
Dec. 17 Camelia (Montgomery): NIU (MAC) vs. Appalachian State (Sun Belt)
Dec. 17 New Mexico (Albuquerque): Western Kentucky (C-USA) vs. New Mexico (MWC)
Dec. 17 New Orleans (New Orleans): Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Georgia Southern (Sun Belt)
Dec. 19 Miami Beach (Miami): Memphis (AAC) vs. Central Michigan (MAC)
Dec. 20 Boca Raton (Boca Raton): Tulsa (AAC) vs. Marshall (C-USA)
Dec. 21 Poinsettia (San Diego): BYU (BYU) vs. Air Force (MWC)
Dec. 22 Potato (Boise): Ohio (MAC) vs. Colorado State (MWC)
Dec. 23 Bahamas (Nassau): UConn (AAC) vs. Toledo (MAC)
Dec. 23 Armed Forces (Fort Worth): Washington State* (Big 12) vs. Navy (Navy)
Dec. 23 GoDaddy (Mobile): Western Michigan (MAC) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt)
Dec. 24 Hawaii (Honolulu): FIU (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MWC)
Dec. 26 Quick Lane (Detroit): NC State (ACC) vs. Indiana (Big Ten)
Dec. 26 St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg): Georgia Tech (ACC) vs. Temple (AAC)
Dec. 26 Independence (Shreveport): Duke (ACC) vs. Mississippi State (SEC)
Dec. 27 Military (Annapolis): Syracuse (ACC) vs. Cincinnati (AAC)
Dec. 27 Holiday (San Diego): Michigan State (Big Ten) vs. Washington (Pac-12)
Dec. 27 Heart of Dallas (Dallas): Maryland (Big Ten) vs. Southern Miss (C-USA)
Dec. 27 Cactus (Tempe): Texas (Big 12) vs. Arizona (Pac-12)
Dec. 28 Texas (Houston): Baylor (Big 12) vs. Arkansas (SEC)
Dec. 28 Russell Athletic (Orlando): Miami, FL (ACC) vs. West Virginia (Big 12)
Dec. 28 Pinstripe (New York City): Pitt (ACC) vs. Northwestern (Big Ten)
Dec. 29 Birmingham (Birmingham): USF (AAC) vs. Missouri (SEC)
Dec. 29 Belk (Charlotte): North Carolina (ACC) vs. Auburn (SEC)
Dec. 29 Alamo (San Antonio): Oklahoma State (Big 12) vs. USC (Pac-12)
Dec. 30 Arizona (Tucson): San Diego State (MWC) vs. Georgia State (Sun Belt)
Dec. 30 Sun (El Paso): Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. Oregon (Pac-12)
Dec. 30 Liberty (Memphis): Texas Tech (Big 12) vs. South Carolina (SEC)
Dec. 30 Music City (Nashville): Penn State (ACC/Big Ten) vs. Texas A&M (SEC)
Dec. 31 TaxSlayer (Jacksonville): Louisville (ACC/Big Ten) vs. Georgia (SEC)
Dec. 31 Citrus (Orlando): Iowa (Big Ten/ACC) vs. Ole Miss (SEC)
Jan. 2 Outback (Tampa): Nebraska (Big Ten) vs. Florida (SEC)
TBD Foster Farms (Santa Clara): Wisconsin (Big Ten) vs. UCLA (Pac-12)
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

2016 Post-Spring Top 25

With the calendar flipping to May and spring practices completed for programs across the country, it’s time to take a look at the National Football Post’s post-spring Top 25.
1. Alabama: Nick Saban’s defending national champs aren’t going anywhere, as the reload continues in Tuscaloosa. Blake Barnett, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Jalen Hurts will try to win the starting job under center, but it may not matter who is the starter because the Tide are loaded on defense.
2. Florida State: The biggest question for the Seminoles is whether Deondre Francois or Malik Henry can beat out senior Sean Maguire for the starting quarterback gig. We know that Dalvin Cook will remain a beastly and productive running back after setting the single-season school record with 1,691 rushing yards, but the ‘Noles need to be able to make big plays through the air. The defense will feature new starters, but safety Derwin James leads a talented unit.
3. LSU: It was ridiculous that Les Miles had to deal with the “hot seat” drama late last season, but that’s the world of big-time college football that we live in these days. The Tigers certainly enter the new season with high expectations, as a boatload of veteran talent returns. Leonard Fournette recorded a school-record 1,953 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns last year, but can Brandon Harris or Purdue transfer Danny Etling provide a steady force under center? I’m convinced that Harris is poised for a strong ’16 campaign.
4. Tennessee: Is this the year for the Vols? Butch Jones led his team to six straight victories to close out last season, and most of the main pieces are back from that squad, including linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and cornerback Cameron Sutton on defense and quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd on offense. The defense is deep and experienced, but can the offense be more explosive and pick up bigger chunks of yardage in bunches?
5. Baylor: Quarterbacks Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham return to an offense that should be stocked again with leading rusher Shock Linwood and a receiving corps that is still deep despite the losses of Corey Coleman and Jay Lee. The defense is undergoing a bit of a rebuild, but coordinator Phil Bennett’s unit should be steady enough to complement the explosive offense.
6. Clemson: The Tigers nearly captured the national title last season, and they’ll have a chance to win one this year behind stud quarterback Deshaun Watson, who could be the top overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. He’ll be surrounded by weapons such as running back Wayne Gallman and wide receiver Mike Williams, who was lost to a neck injury last season. We saw how good the Tigers were defensively last year despite losing a ton of talent to the NFL, but can that level of play be sustained after returning just four starters from the ’15 unit and losing cornerback Adrian Baker to a torn ACL in March? Three defensive backs left early for the draft, and pass rushers Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson also departed.
7. Michigan: Jim Harbaugh has put his stamp on the Wolverines faster than most had expected, so expectations are very high for the ’16 squad. Star defender Jabrill Peppers will be used as a hybrid linebacker by coordinator Don Brown, so his athleticism will be depended upon when facing teams with spread elements. Offensively, can former Houston signal-caller John O’Korn lead the unit as well as Jake Rudock did last season?
8. Notre Dame: Brian Kelly and his offensive staff must decide on a starting quarterback after junior Malik Zaire and sophomore DeShone Kizer both proved capable of carrying the load. Kizer was thrown into a difficult situation but managed to help the Irish to a 10-win season after Zaire was hurt early in the season at Virginia. The team certainly lost top-level talent in this past weekend’s NFL Draft, but the cupboard isn’t bare in South Bend.
9. Oklahoma: The Sooners made the College Football Playoff last season, but they didn’t have the Orange Bowl experience that many had expected. Baker Mayfield is back to run the offense, which should continue to be efficient under coordinator Lincoln Riley. Mayfield completed over 68 percent of his throws last season, while Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon combined to rush for over 2,500 yards. But can the defense replace the level of play that performers such as Zack Sanchez and Eric Striker provided? Tests against Houston and Ohio State will answer that question early in the season.
10. Stanford: The Cardinal reached their third Rose Bowl in four seasons in ’15, but longtime starting quarterback Kevin Hogan is gone. However, do-everything Christian McCaffrey, who notched 3,864 all-purpose yards last season, returns for another Heisman Trophy run. The question is whether Ryan Burns or Keller Chryst will be able to do enough through the air to complement McCaffrey’s game.
11. Ohio State: Urban Meyer seems to do his best work with young squads, and the ’16 version of the Buckeyes will indeed feature youth. The program lost 15 starters from last year’s one-loss team, but keep in mind the national championship team from two years ago was short on experience. It helps that this will be J.T. Barrett’s offense again.
12. Houston: Tom Herman put together a magical first season as a head coach, as the Cougars earned a berth to the Peach Bowl where they handled Florida State. Can Greg Ward Jr. (3,936 yards of total offense and 38 total touchdowns in ’15) and an opportunistic defense (35 takeaways last fall) actually compete for a College Football Playoff berth in ’16? The schedule may allow for it to happen, as UH opens against Oklahoma and hosts Louisville.
13. Georgia: Kirby Smart landed his dream job in Athens, and he inherits a team loaded with talent. When will true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason get his chance to run the offensive show? Greyson Lambert may get the call against North Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, but Eason will see the field very soon. Oh, and star running back Nick Chubb is expected to be at full strength after tearing knee ligaments last October.
14. Michigan State: The Spartans will be replacing Connor Cook at quarterback with either Tyler O’Connor or Damion Terry, and whoever wins the battle will be working behind a line that lost some key pieces. However, the backfield is deep, and the defense is filled with experience such as defensive end Malik McDowell, linebacker Riley Bullough and safety Demetrius Cox.
15. TCU: The Horned Frogs showed a lot of resiliency throughout last season, including in the team’s bowl game. Injuries decimated the squad, but Gary Patterson still notched 11 wins. Foster Sawyer and Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill are battling to replace prolific signal-caller Trevone Boykin, and a lot will be expected of the winner of that QB derby because the offense only returns three starters.
16. Ole Miss: The Rebels lost some top talent to the NFL, as head coach Hugh Freeze has to replace 12 starters from a team that helped the program to its first 10-win season in 13 years. Quarterback Chad Kelly is back after setting program records for total offense and total touchdowns, but he’ll need some help from the running back corps.
17. Louisville: Bobby Petrino brings back an electric quarterback and an experienced defense. There’s no question that Lamar Jackson needs to be more consistent and efficient through the air, as he completed just 54.7 percent of his passes and tossed eight interceptions last fall. However, the sophomore nearly ran for 1,000 yards and had 11 TDs on the ground. Can he consistently resemble the player we saw go off in the Music City Bowl? Former TCU linebacker Devonte Fields paces the defense and had 11 sacks and was a force against the run last fall.
18. Iowa: The Hawkeyes were a goal-line stand away from making the second College Football Playoff, but longtime head coach Kirk Ferentz was still able to lead the program to its first Rose Bowl in 25 years. Can the Hawkeyes prove that 2015 was not a fluke? They have a chance with quarterback C.J. Beathard, who proficiently led an offense that was more wide open in ’15.
19. USC: Clay Helton had the interim tag removed from his title, but can he navigate a tough schedule and the high-stakes pressure of being in the Los Angeles spotlight? The Trojans open up the season against defending national champion Alabama, and either junior Max Browne or redshirt freshman Sam Darnold will be under center. Offensive weapons abound, but can the defensive line hold up for an entire season?
20. Washington: The Huskies are a sleeping giant in the Pac-12 under Chris Petersen. The team closed ’15 strong, and the duo of quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin will pace the offense. How much time will junior cornerback Budda Baker see at wide receiver? The defense returns a lot of key players from a unit that led the Pac-12 in scoring defense and total defense.
21. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys bring back a lot of experience from a team that won 10 games in ’15, although the Pokes did drop their final three contests of the season. Better offensive line play is needed, as OSU ranked 113th in the FBS in rushing yards per game and allowed 32 sacks. Road trips to Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma loom.
22. Florida: Jim McElwain claimed an SEC East title in his first season in Gainesville, and he’ll need to find a quarterback if the Gators want to repeat and put up a better fight than they did in their showcase games to close the ’15 campaign. Luke Del Rio is the favorite to start at quarterback, and plenty of talent remains on defense.
23. Boise State: Bryan Harsin has taken over play-calling duties on offense after coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz left for NC State, while linebackers coach Andy Avalos was promoted to defensive coordinator to replace Marcel Yates, who left for Arizona. Quarterback Brett Rypien passed for 3,353 yards with 20 touchdowns as a freshman, while running back Jeremy McNichols grounded out 1,337 rushing yards and 20 scores.
24. North Carolina: The Tar Heels advanced to the ACC title game and gave Clemson fits before ultimately falling short. Still, Larry Fedora led the program to its first 11-win season since 1997. UNC made a dramatic improvement on defense last year, so a similar effort will be needed along with stability at quarterback with Mitch Trubisky, who is replacing the prolific Marquise Williams.
25. Miami (FL): New head coach Mark Richt inherits Brad Kaaya, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and has logged consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons. We don’t know what the future holds for running back Mark Walton (DUI charge), who had a team-high nine touchdowns last season. But Joseph Yearby ran for 1,002 yards in 2015.
Under consideration:
Washington State
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

Michigan lands pledge from Heisman finalist's brother

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff are not letting up on the recruiting trail.
Just under two weeks after the Wolverines put together a Top-5 recruiting class for the 2016 cycle, the program landed a commitment Monday night from blue-chip quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, who is the younger brother of Stanford’s Heisman Trophy finalist Christian McCaffrey.
The 6-5, 200-pound Class of 2017 Colorado product tossed 27 touchdowns against just four interceptions in 2015 while leading Valor Christian High School to the Colorado Class 5A football championship. He also ran for 592 yards and 13 more scores.
McCaffrey is considered the nation’s No. 2 pro-style quarterback in 2017, according to the 247Sports Composite.
Michigan brought in signal-caller Brandon Peters this past National Signing Day, so McCaffrey certainly is not shying away from future stout competition. The son of former Denver Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey becomes the fifth player in the Wolverines’ 2017 class, joining running back Kurt Taylor, tight end Carter Dunaway, offensive tackle Ja’Raymond Hall and cornerback Benjamin St-Juste.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

Miami (FL) fires Golden

Miami (FL) fired head coach Al Golden following the program’s biggest loss in its history.
Hurricanes athletic director Blake James made the announcement Sunday evening. Tight ends coach/run game coordinator Larry Scott will be the team’s interim head coach.
“Coach Golden has led our program through some very difficult times and he has done so with class, integrity and a true desire to see our students succeed on the field, in the classroom and in the community,” James said in a release. “However, we have a proud tradition of excellence at Miami, not just in football but in all sports, and we want to compete for ACC and national championships. I simply believe that now is the time to bring the Hurricane Family together and rally behind our young men.”
Golden, who never was able to defeat Florida State as Miami head coach, finished his ‘Canes career with a 32-25 mark (17-18 in the ACC) over four-plus seasons in Coral Gables. The final nail in the coffin was a 58-0 home loss Saturday to Clemson, which dropped the ‘Canes to 4-3 on the season.
“On behalf of my family I want to thank the University of Miami for a tremendous opportunity,” Golden said in a release. “I believe in what we are doing and how we are doing it and we have some outstanding young men in our football program. Though this moment is difficult, we wish the Canes the best of luck going forward.”
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

NFP Top 25

Let’s take a look at the National Football Post’s newest Top 25.
1. Ohio State (8-0) [1]
2. TCU (7-0) [2]
3. Michigan State (8-0) [3]

4. Baylor (7-0) [4]
5. LSU (7-0) [6]
6. Alabama (7-1) [7]
7. Clemson (7-0) [9]
8. Notre Dame (6-1) [10]
9. Stanford (6-1) [11]
10. Oklahoma (6-1) [12]
11. Iowa (7-0) [13]
12. Oklahoma State (7-0) [14]
13. Memphis (7-0) [15]
14. Florida State (6-1) [5]
15. Utah (6-1) [8]
16. Florida (6-1) [16]
17. Michigan (5-2) [17]
18. Temple (7-0) [18]
19. Toledo (7-0) [20]
20. Houston (7-0) [21]
21. Ole Miss (6-2) [22]
22. Duke (6-1) [23]
23. Mississippi State (6-2) [25]
24. UCLA (5-2) [NR]
25. Wisconsin (6-2) [NR]

The next five: Georgia (5-2), Pitt (6-1), BYU (6-2), Texas A&M (5-2) and Boise State (6-2).
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

NFP Top 25

Let’s take a look at the National Football Post’s newest Top 25.
1. Ohio State (7-0) [1]
2. TCU (7-0) [2]
3. Michigan State (7-0) [3]

4. Baylor (6-0) [4]
5. Florida State (6-0) [5]
6. LSU (6-0) [6]
7. Alabama (6-1) [7]
8. Utah (6-0) [8]
9. Clemson (6-0) [9]
10. Notre Dame (6-1) [12]
11. Stanford (5-1) [13]
12. Oklahoma (5-1) [15]
13. Iowa (7-0) [18]
14. Oklahoma State (6-0) [17]
15. Memphis (6-0) [21]
16. Florida (6-1) [11]
17. Michigan (5-2) [16]
18. Temple (6-0) [20]
19. Texas A&M (5-1) [10]
20. Toledo (6-0) [22]
21. Houston (6-0) [25]
22. Ole Miss (5-2) [14]
23. Duke (5-1) [24]
24. Cal (5-1) [NR]
25. Mississippi State (5-2) [NR]

The next five: Georgia (5-2), UCLA (4-2), BYU (5-2), Texas Tech (5-2) and Pitt (5-1).
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

South Carolina's Spurrier to retire

Steve Spurrier is hanging up his visor.
The Head Ball Coach is walking away from South Carolina, according to a report from Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated. Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Shawn Elliott is expected to be named interim head coach on Tuesday.
The 70-year-old Spurrier is in midst of his 11th season with the Gamecocks. After a brief stint in the NFL, Spurrier returned to college football and built South Carolina into an SEC contender, culminating in three straight 11-win seasons from 2011 to 2013. But the team won just seven games last season and sits at 2-4 this fall, with all four losses coming against SEC foes. Spurrier has never had a losing season as South Carolina’s leader, and the team was bowl-eligible in his first 10 seasons.
Spurrier won the 1996 national championship and six SEC titles at Florida, where he coached for 12 seasons. The former quarterback played his college football in Gainesville from 1963 to 1966 and won the Heisman Trophy for his play in his final season.
He began his coaching career with the Gators in 1978 as the quarterbacks coach and served in the same role at Georgia Tech the next year before becoming Duke’s offensive coordinator in 1980. After becoming the youngest coach in professional football when he took over the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits, he came back to Duke for his first head-coaching job in college football in 1987. He was named the ACC coach of the year twice while in Durham, and he left the school with a 20-13-1 mark. After a 122-27-1 record with the Gators, Spurrier resigned and took the head gig with the Washington Redskins.
Spurrier has a combined record of 228-89-2 at Duke, Florida and South Carolina. He is the Gamecocks’ all-time winningest coach with 86 victories.
It’s safe to say that college football won’t be the same without Spurrier.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

USC fires Sarkisian

USC has fired head coach Steve Sarkisian.
One day after placing him on an indefinite leave of absence, athletic director Pat Haden terminated the contract of the head coach effective immediately. Clay Helton will continue as the interim head coach.
The following is a statement from Haden:
“After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately.
“I want to thank Clay Helton for stepping into the interim head coach role, and I want to add how proud I am of our coaching staff and players and the way they are responding to this difficult situation.
“Through all of this we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well being.”
Sarkisian went 12-6 in less than two seasons as head coach. The Trojans went 9-4 last season and started 3-2 this year.
The question now is whether or not Haden will be around to pick the next permanent head man at ‘SC.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

NCAA suspends Florida's Grier

Florida quarterback Will Grier has been suspended for the rest of the season for violating NCAA rules.
The Gator tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The positive test has an automatic suspension of one calendar year from the NCAA, which would mean he would not be eligible to return until Florida’s seventh game of the 2016 season. The test was the result of something the signal-caller took over the counter that he did not get approved by Florida trainers, according to Grier at Monday’s news conference. The school plans to appeal the suspension.
The Davidson, N.C., native has thrown for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns against just three interceptions this fall. Florida travels to LSU for a showdown of unbeatens on Saturday.
Grier became the first Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009 to pass for more than 200 yards in three consecutive games, and his completion percentage (65.8) ranks first in the SEC.
With Grier out, sophomore Treon Harris will likely start for head coach Jim McElwain’s team. He started the season opener before giving way to Grier, but he was also suspended earlier this season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Harris has appeared in two games this season and thrown for 269 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

Georgia's Chubb out for the year

Georgia running back Nick Chubb was lost for the season when he suffered a significant injury to his left knee in Saturday’s game against Tennessee, including damage to multiple ligaments and cartilage but not the ACL, the school announced Sunday.
Chubb remains hospitalized for observation and is expected to undergo surgery within the next two weeks. The Bulldogs said a full recovery is expected.
The star Bulldog was injured on the first play from scrimmage on Saturday, when he took a handoff to the left side of the field and landed awkwardly on his left leg as he was tackled out of bounds.
Chubb had rushed for at least 100 yards in a school-record 13 straight games. He ranks second in the SEC this season with 745 rushing yards and has seven rushing touchdowns. He also averages 8.2 yards per carry.
Sophomore Sony Michel replaced Chubb and recorded 145 yards on 22 carries. Keith Marshall also received touches, rushing five times for 24 yards.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.