Christopher Crawford

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CFB Storylines of the Week

Friday, August 3, 2018


1. The biggest story of the week might be the biggest story of the summer, if not the entire year. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was placed on administrative leave on Wednesday as the school investigates claims by Courtney Smith that Meyer and several people close to Meyer were aware of a 2015 allegation of domestic violence against her ex-husband, former Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith. While Meyer is on leave, offensive coordinator Ryan Day will serve as acting head coach for the Buckeyes. A report from Brett McMurphy shows that Courtney Smith shared texts with several wives of coaches on the Ohio State staff -- including Meyer -- that include graphic images. Meyer fired Zach Smith, but denied having knowledge of the abuse allegations.


It goes without saying, but this could have huge implication for not only the 2018 season, but well beyond. Under Meyer, the Buckeyes have been a national power; winning a national championship and several Big Ten titles. If the school identifies that Meyer did, in fact, have knowledge of the abuse claims, there's a strong chance that Meyer will be fired, and they will be justified in that decision. We should have more information shortly, as the Buckeyes won't want this investigation bleeding into the start of the season.


2. It's already that time of year. The Coaches Poll was released on Thursday, and to absolutely no one's surprise -- well, almost no one's surprise -- Alabama ranks at the top, receiving 61-of-65 first-place votes.

 

Being the math experts you are, you'll note that means four teams didn't believe Alabama didn't belong in the top spot. Clemson received three votes and ranks second behind the Crimson Tide, and Ohio State also received a vote and ranks third. The 2018 runner-up Georgia Bulldogs rank fourth, and Oklahoma, Washington, Wisconsin, Miami, Penn State and Auburn round out the top 10. Boise State is the highest ranked Group of Five school at 22nd -- one spot ahead of self-proclaimed champion UCF. 

 

What exactly do these rankings mean? Well, that probably depends on how you see the glass. The half-empty person will say they mean absolutely nothing, and are just a way to sell games in the early part of the season. They'd also point out that coaches are either often way too high or way too low on their own prospective teams -- we all remember when Lane Kiffin voted his USC team in the top spot -- and the bias game -- particularly in the early part of the season -- is real. The half-full person would tell the half-empty person to lighten up, football is back, baby! He'd also secretly agree with the half-empty person.

 

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3. Washington signed one of the best classes of the Pac-12 last year, but it sounds like one of those commits won't step onto the field for the Huskies. Consensus four-star LB Ale Kaho has asked the Huskies to release him from his Letter Of Intent. The reported reasoning for the ask involves family issues, as both his aunt and uncle passed away in July, and there are reports that his parents are currently going through a divorce. Assuming Washington allows Kaho out -- and they should -- he'll likely look to transfer a school close to his home in Utah. It's worth mentioning that Kaho was originally committed to BYU before switching his pledge to the Huskies. The most important thing is obviously Kaho's mental health as he deals with this ordeal, but it's also worth noting that he was expected to compete for a spot in the linebacking corps for the Huskies. 

 

4. This is often the time of year where we find out whether or not players will be eligible to play or have to sit out the season, and Florida received good news when it was announced that Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes will be able to go for the Gators in 2018. Jefferson was one of several big-name players that left the Rebels after the sanctions against the school, and it's a big get for the Florida offense. He hauled in 42 passes for 459 yards in 2017 for Ole Miss. Grimes comes to Florida after transferring from Ohio State to get closer to family, and while the sophomore hasn't put up big numbers in his time with the Buckeyes, he also was stuck behind one of the most talented receiving corps in college football. Both Jefferson and Grimes should make the Gators passing attack better in 2018. To be fair, it couldn't get worse.

 

5. Georgia had arguably the best recruiting class in college football last year, and if they have a few more weeks like this one, they have a chance to earn that top spot again. The Bulldogs picked up four four-star or better players this week; led by five-star tailback John Emery Jr., ranked second among tailbacks in the 247 Sports composite rankings. They also received verbals from four-star outside linebacker Rian Davis, four-star athlete Makiya Tongue, and four-star JUCO DE Jermaine Johnson. With the big week -- and several other big-name commits before it -- Georgia now has the top-ranked group in the 247 Sports ranks. The scary thing is that the Bulldogs are still on several more big-name players. Is Kirby Smart building a dynasty?

 

6. More good news for the Bulldogs/bad news for their opponents involves one of those studs Smart recruited in 2018. Five-star freshman signing Zamir White has been cleared to practice after recovering from a torn ACL he suffered during his senior season at  Scotland High in Laurinburg, N.C. ""We'll just have to monitor his volume," Smart said. "But he's not going to be limited in any way. He should be able to do all drills, and he's just gaining confidence on that thing, on his knee. But the brace will just help him with that." White ranked 15th on ESPN's rankings, and the top overall running back. Because Georgia is absolutely loaded with tailbacks, the Bulldogs can play things safe with White. It's also worth mentioning that he can play in four games this year and still earn a redshirt.


7. Penn State didn't have the quantity of commits that Georgia did this past week, but they did get a quality one at a premium position. Four-star 2019 QB Michael Johnson Jr. announced he was committing to the Nittany Lions on Wednesday, picking PSU over offers from schools like Oregon State, Florida State, Miami and N.C. State. A 6-foot-3, 202-pound signal-caller, Johnson Jr. is considered one of the best dual-threat prospects in the country, and ranks sixth among quarterbacks of that ilk in Rivals rankings. With Trace McSorley leaving after the 2019 season, Penn State should have an open quarterback competition in 2019. James Franklin may not want a freshman starting for a team that should be a Big Ten contender, but with his reported speed and arm strength, he may give Franklin and the Nittany Lions the best chance of winning.

 

8. There are still several high-profile programs who have quarterback battles ongoing, and one of the biggest is the competition between Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond at Texas A&M. New Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters that the two are opening fall camp "even," and while there's certainly some coachspeak here, it also makes sense. Both are talented player that showed flashes in the 2017 season, but both had their share of issues. Starkel is the better passer, but Mond is able to make plays with his feet and might have more pure arm strength. We consider Starkel the favorite, but it shouldn't shock anyone if either gets the opening nod. It also wouldn't be a surprise to see both play early in the 2018 campaign.

 

9. Kareem Walker and Ahmir Mitchell were two high-profile commits for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines at running back and wide receiver, respectively. The two will likely be in the starting lineup together in 2018, but it won't be at Michigan. Both Walker and Mitchell have transferred to Fort Scott Community College in Kansas. Walker was a top 50 recruit for the Wolverines, but struggled with academic issues, and then struggled when he was on the field. This will be the third school for Mitchell, as he was booted from both Michigan and Rutgers for off-field issues. They'll both have a chance to reestablish their stock for FSCC in 2018.

 

10. It was a bit of a surprise when Keon Howard announced he was leaving Southern Miss earlier in July. We know now where he'll be continuing his football career, as Howard announced on Friday that he's transferring to Tulane. The junior quarterback made seven starts for the Eagles last year, and he threw for 1,191 yards with an 8/5 TD/INT ratio. He'll have to sit out the 2018 season -- assuming he's not granted a hardship -- but he should be able to compete for the starting job for the Green Wave in 2019. With the ability to make plays with his feet, he should be a solid fit for the Tulane offense.

  

 

Take it or leave it: An idea for the week


We posit -- USC is ranked entirely too high in the opening Coaches Poll. 

 

As I mentioned earlier, you can make an argument -- a darn good one -- that there shouldn't be a poll this early, anyway. But there is one, and it's tough for me to justify how USC deserves to be ranked 15th in country to begin the season.

 

And that's not to say that I don't think USC is talented. It'd be foolish to do so. Stephen Carr has the talent to be one of the best running backs in the country -- not just the Pac-12 -- and Aca'Cedric Ware and Vavae Malepeai give the Trojans one of the best groups in the conference. They also return several defensive stars including Porter Gustin and Cameron Smith. And, of course, the Trojans have young talent, because the Trojans are always going to have young talent. The school recruits itself.

 

But there are a lot of question marks here, as well, starting at the quarterback position. J.T. Daniels is a five-star signal-caller who oozes talent, but let's keep in mind that Daniels is supposed to be a senior in high school for Mater Dei. There's a big difference between facing Orange Lutheran, and, say, Texas. His competitors Matt Fink and Jack Spears don't exactly inspire a ton of confidence, either, with all due respect. 

 

And there are questions about who will catch the ball from whomever wins the job, as well. Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman are solid players, but they're not Deontay Burnett, who left for the NFL. USC will need either Velus Jones Jr. or incoming freshman Amon-Ra St. Brown to step up if they have a chance to compete for the conference title, maybe both. The offensive line wasn't great last year, and while it should be better in 2018, there are still question marks here. The defense should be okay, but they really struggled against the run in 2017, and there are some awfully good rushing attacks in the Pac-12 that they will have to face.

 

More than USC's faults, it's just really a case of justifying placing several talented teams below the Trojans. Would you really make Southern Cal a favorite in a neutral game against TCU or Mississippi State (the latter assuming Nick Fitzgerald is healthy). Are the Trojans that much better than Boise State or UCF? They could be -- and look, this is a poll that's based entirely on projection since we haven't seen these teams play a single down -- but it seems like there are a lot more questions than answers at this point for Clay Helton's squad.

 

I reserve the right to delete this article when USC wins the Pac-12. I just have my doubts they'll even be playing for the conference championship.



Christopher Crawford is a baseball and college football writer for Rotoworld. Follow him on Twitter @Crawford_MILB.
Email :Christopher Crawford



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