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Orangeyes Daily Articles for Monday For Football


No recent Cali or Iggy awards; Mr Irrelevant
Aug 15, 2011

Welcome to Earth's Rotation Day!

The fact that the earth rotates on its axis is common knowledge today, but until the mid-nineteenth century, it was merely conjecture. French physicist Jean-Bernard-Léon Foucault, commonly known as Léon Foucault or Jean Foucault, is known for proving through his experiments that the earth rotates on its axis.

On January 8, 1851, Foucault performed an experiment in the cellar of his home, in which he swung a five-kilogram weight attached to a two-meter-long pendulum. He put sand underneath it to mark the pendulum's path, allowing him to see any changes in it. He observed a slight clockwise movement in the plane—the floor, and thus the earth, were slowly rotating; the pendulum kept its position. His experiment showed that the earth rotated on its axis. No longer was it just a hypothesis.

Shortly thereafter he demonstrated his findings. He sent out invitations to members of the French Academy of Sciences, and they attended a demonstration on February 3, 1851, at the National Observatory in Paris. Here Foucault showed his findings with an eleven-meter long pendulum.

SU News

The Juice Online - Podcast: Flaherty says new Syracuse coaching staff doing a 'great job' (; podcast; Flaherty)

Syracuse football has continued to stay hot on the recruiting trail, landing several high-profile transfers, and on Saturday, 2024 four-star defensive back Marcellus Barnes Jr. committed to the Orange.

The recruiting momentum under new head coach Fran Brown has not been lost on the alumni base, and we spoke with former Syracuse linebacker Jake Flaherty on today's The Juice on the Cuse Podcast, presented by Rivals and Bleav. Flaherty appeared in 48 games for the Orange between 2005-08 and was elected team captain in his senior season.

"They're doing a good job getting out there and we're seeing that now with some of the recruits we're getting," Flaherty said. "The fact that we have a Ohio State quarterback who led a team to being 11-1, I think they're doing a great job."

Flaherty also discussed an open invitation that Brown extended to Syracuse football alumni. Brown plans on hosting four practices that alumni can attend.

"I know there are some guys who commented on the lack of accessibility to the program after they left and not being able to go to closed practice," Flaherty said. "It sounds very welcoming and the one thing I've gathered from this guy, he's just a straight shooter and he's keeping it real."

We also preview Syracuse basketball's upcoming matchup with Boston College and discuss potential starting lineup changes.

Why Did Kyle McCord Choose Syracuse? (; Frank)

It seemed like a fantasy when the rumors were swirling that Kyle McCord, the quarter at Ohio State, would transfer to Syracuse. Those two programs do not usually get mentioned in the same sentence, and we haven’t heard from McCord about his decision… until now. He appeared on The QB Room Podcast and had a lot to say about everything that has gone on recently.

Kyle McCord x QB Room
— The QB Room (@QBRoomPodcast) January 3, 2024

“At the end of the day, Ohio State had to make a business decision that they felt was best for them, and I had to do the same thing,” McCord said. “And unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be for next year. But at the end of the day, I felt like I put together some solid games, had some good tape, so I was confident when I went in the portal, I would find a good home.”

In terms of what Syracuse pitched to the New Jersey native, it seems pretty lofty, but that is the mentality that Fran Brown and his staff are taking when it comes to recruiting. They will have to prove it on the field come September, but right now, it’s all about connections and knowing each other.

“I’ve known Fran Brown since I was in middle school,” McCord said. “I played football in South Jersey. He’s a South Jersey guy. He told me, when I was in 7th grade, ‘You’re going to be special, man, wherever I am I want to be your coach.’ … Once I got in the portal he was the first one to get in touch with me, early in the morning calling me.”
... (SI; McAlister)

Syracuse football is set to host several recruits this weekend for official visits. Here is a list of who we have confirmed will be on campus. Note that there is at least one more expected to make the trip, but we have not confirmed him yet. As we do, he will be added to the list.

Player: Aaryn Parks
Position: Offensive Line
Height/Weight: 6-4, 301 lbs
School: Oklahoma (Transfer)
Notable Offers: Unknown

Player: Micah Mazzccua
Position: Offensive Line
Height/Weight: 6-5, 325 lbs
School: Florida (Transfer)
Notable Offers: Arkansas

Player: Shunmarkus Adams
Position: Offensive Line
Height/Weight: 6-4, 330 lbs
School: Navarro Community College (JUCO)
Notable Offers: Toledo, UTSA, Louisiana Tech, South Florida

Player: Joshua Miller (Committed to Syracuse)
Position: Offensive Line
Height/Weight: 6-4, 300 lbs
School: Georgia (Transfer)
Notable Offers: Auburn

Player: Michael Nwokocha
Position: Defensive Tackle
Height/Weight: 6-4 290 lbs
School: Tyler Community College (JUCO)
Notable Offers: Arizona State, Georgia, Houston, Indiana, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Purdue, TCU, Tennessee, West Virginia,

Player: Da'Metrius Weatherspoon (Committed to Syracuse)
Position: Offensive Line
Height/Weight: 6-7, 335 lbs
School: Howard (Transfer)
Notable Offers: Pittsburgh

Player: Dion "Tank" Wilson (Committed to Syracuse)
Position: Defensive Tackle
Height/Weight: 6-5, 300 lbs
School: New Mexico State (Tranfer)
Notable Offers: Rutgers, Texas A&M

Three of the visitors listed above are committed to the Orange. They gave a verbal prior to taking the trip. Of note, HBCU All-American offensive lineman Da'Metrius Weatherspoon visited Pittsburgh on January 3rd, the same day he announced his commitment to Syracuse. It seems he announced either while on his way to Pitt for the visit or while already there. Either way, this is the Orange's chance to seal the deal there as the Panthers continue to recruit him.

Three way-too-early Kyle McCord bold predictions after transferring to Syracuse football (; Meyer)

LOL. The first one wasn't exactly bold Nick...

The Syracuse football team showed some good things before stumbling to a 2-6 Atlantic Coast Conference record, 6-7 overall on the season.

The Orange's new head coach Fran Brown just hired an NFL name to a key position on his coaching staff. Ohio State football transfer and quarterback Kyle McCord shared why Syracuse won him over in the transfer portal sweepstakes this past offseason.

Last season, Syracuse football got a solid if unspectacular season from starting QB Garrett Schrader, apart from the impressive backflip mid-game shown below vs. the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader lined up as a WR and hit a backflip in the middle of the play
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) November 11, 2023

In 2024, the Orange will look to further establish their identity as a free-flowing and dangerous ACC team with nothing to lose and everything to prove.

McCord may be a perfect fit for Coach Brown's program considering he's in the same boat heading into the 2024 season.

With that in mind, here are three Kyle McCord predictions for this fall and beyond:

1. Kyle McCord Will Win the Starting Job with Syracuse football-

McCord will have to beat out expected challengers Carlos De Rio-Wilson and Braden Davis and start off the season and Syracuse's top quarterback.

McCord's absence was clearly felt in Ohio State football's 14-3 loss to Missouri football in the Cotton Bowl this postseason, along with star wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

The former Buckeyes signal caller won't have Harrison Jr. this season to bail him out, but he will have a fired up supporting cast and a chance to start over from scratch in upstate New York.

2. Ohio State football transfer McCord Will Throw For More Than Six Interceptions-

The change of scenery could be the best thing that ever happened to McCord, but it could be a rocky road in the early going.

McCord will struggle to adapt at times and throw more than the six interceptions he threw last season, which also was Schrader's total with Syracuse football last season.

McCord is a smart guy and a quality leader. He will need some time to mesh with his new Syracuse teammates, learning their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies en route to becoming the program's new leader at the quarterback position.

The 6-foot-3, 215 pound Mount Laurel, New Jersey native will need plenty of time to fit into the puzzle that Coach Brown is putting together, but it will be worth it in the end.

3. Kyle McCord Will Lead Syracuse football to a Bowl Game-

Syracuse football hasn't been a major player in the world of college football, either in terms of wins and losses or clout, since Donovan McNabb roamed the sidelines in upstate New York.

McCord doesn't have McNabb's running ability or explosive skills in the passing or running games, but he will provide a steady hand, leadership and work ethic that his teammates can rally around and emulate.

McCord threw for 24 touchdowns in Ohio State Coach Ryan Day's offense last season. He wasn't the big play guy Day expected from the times of CJ Stroud, Cardale Jones, JT Barrett and others, but he was a fine quarterback in his own right.

If McCord can get the maximum effort and results from his teammates this season, or something close to it, expect to see the Orange back in a bowl game in 2024-2025.

It might not be a New Year's Day bowl game and it might not be the College Football Playoff, but it will be a start for a team that went 6-7 last season and will be breaking in both a new coach and a new field general.

Keeping Up With The 315 1-5-24 (ESPN; radio; The 315)

Brian Higgins opens the show recapping a busy day of Syracuse football news, including his take on how Orange fans should feel about Jeff Nixon being named the SU OC officially. Then, he spins the Wheel of Red and chats SU men’s basketball before The Man Who Sorta Knows hands out his gambling picks for the weekend.

Mike McAllister "The 315" 1-5-24 (ESPN; radio; The 315)

Mike McAllister joins Brian to discuss the latest news regarding Syracuse football recruiting, including his thoughts on the chances the Orange land some of the high profile guests this weekend and Marcellus Barnes.

Nixon Tapped to Lead Orange Offense - Syracuse University Athletics (

Jeff Nixon, a 27-year coaching veteran at the collegiate and professional levels, has been tapped to be Syracuse's Offensive Coordinator and Running Backs Coach by head coach Fran Brown.

Nixon, who currently is serving as the running backs coach for the New York Giants, boasts 14 seasons in the NFL across five franchises, with collegiate stops at Baylor and Temple, among others.

"I'm beyond blessed and ecstatic to be coaching at the prestigious Syracuse University," Nixon said. "I want to thank Coach Fran Brown and the rest of the Syracuse athletic administration for this once in a lifetime opportunity for my family and I. Can't wait to get started. Go Cuse!"

In his first season with the Giants, he has helped Saquon Barkley to be fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game, among players who have played in five-or-more games, despite the star back missing three games this year. Before joining New York, he spent the previous three seasons on the Carolina Panthers' staff in various roles, including serving as offensive coordinator in the final five games of the 2021 season.

"Jeff Nixon is very intelligent, we got a chance to work together at Baylor and some of our best years on offense were with him. He really knows how to score," Brown said. "He's an offensive mind, period, he knows how to coach every position. He's coached special teams, running backs and tight ends in the NFL and has coached nearly every position there is. He knows how to score from all areas. If you go and watch him, he's good in the red zone, he's good in open field and backed up coming out. He's a real competitive guy. I'm happy to call him a friend, but I'm also happy that he decided to come and work here."

Last season, Nixon was the Panthers' assistant head coach. The team finished 10th in the NFL in rushing yardage (130.0 yards per game), despite the midseason trade of star running back Christian McCaffrey. D'Onta Foreman led the franchise with a team-high 914 yards.

He coached running backs the prior two seasons in Carolina. With McCaffrey limited to 10 total games due to injury over that span, he mentored rookie Chuba Hubbard to lead the Panthers in rushing in 2021 with 612 yards and five touchdowns. In 2020, he helped Mike Davis have a career-best season, topping 1,000 scrimmage yards for the first time and notch a team-high eight total touchdowns.

Nixon joined the Panthers after a three-year stint as Baylor's co-Offensive Coordinator and play caller. In 2019, the Bears finished with an 11-win season, an appearance in the Big XII Championship game and Allstate Sugar Bowl. While running the offense, the unit averaged 431.2 yards per game and ranked 17th nationally in scoring offense (35.2 points per game).

The prior season, Baylor finished 22nd in the FBS in total offense (459.1 yards per game). His first season in Waco saw Baylor finish in the top-25 in passing offense, averaging 280 yards per game. Quarterback Charlie Brewer earned Big XII Freshman Offensive Player of the Year under Nixon's guidance, starting a career that saw him finish second all-time at Baylor in career passing yards.

Baylor also hsd a pair of offensive players drafted in his tenure. Wide receiver Jalen Hurd was taken in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft by San Francisco and fellow receiver Denzel Mims was selected in the second round a year later by the Jets. Wide receiver Tyquan Thorton (2022 – second round – Patriots) and Trestan Ebner (2022 – sixth round – Bears) also played the first half of their careers under Nixon before being drafted.

Before returning to college football in 2017, Nixon spent 11 consecutive years in the NFL. In 2016, he coached tight ends for the 49ers. From 2011-15, he coached the Dolphins' running backs, working with Reggie Bush, Lamar Miller and Jay Ajayi, among others. Bush's best NFL season came under Nixon in 2011, when he ran for 1,086 yards and six touchdowns. Three years later, he helped Miller run for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns, while the Dolphins ranked second in the NFL in yards per carry (4.69).

His time in Miami came after a four-year stint coaching in Philadelphia, working with both the Eagles' offense and special teams units. He worked closely with All-Pro running backs Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy, as well as All-Pro fullback Leonard Weaver. On special teams, Nixon helped DeSean Jackson become one of the NFL's top return men. In three of his four seasons in Philly, the Eagles reached the playoffs, including an NFC Championship Game appearance in 2008.

Before his NFL tenure, Nixon had stops at Temple (2006), University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2003-05), Shippensburg (1999-02) and Princeton (1998). He served as the running backs coach at each stop, adding tight ends and special teams in his stop at Chattanooga. While with the Mocs, he helped develop Eldra Buckley into an All-American before his five-year NFL career. He also mentored eventual All-Pro fullback John Kuhn at Shippensburg.

Nixon began his coaching career at Penn State in 1997 as a student assistant. A native of New Brighton, Pa. and State College, Pa., Nixon played running back for two seasons at West Virginia (1993-94), before transferring to Penn State, where he earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Academic Team. He earned a bachelor's degree from Penn State in 1998 in elementary education and a master's degree in education administration from Shippensburg in 2003.

Kyle McCord shares impact Syracuse's schedule had on decision to transfer there (; Kosko)

Kyle McCord
found himself quite the situation at Syracuse when he made his transfer decision. The former Ohio State quarterback admitted he looked at the Orange’s schedule and saw an opportunity.

Looking at it on paper, there’s a good chance, as long as Syracuse’s talent is as touted on the field, that the Orange could get off to a rocking start. As McCord put it, this team could be just a quarterback away.

It seems like new head coach Fran Brown and company found their guy.

“Yeah, I mean, they said with the guys that they’re gonna bring in, some of the guys they got coming back you know, we’re gonna be able to make a serious run at it,” McCord said on The QB Room. “And their recruiting pitch was you know, listen, we’re a quarterback away from being a serious contender in the ACC this year. And I was like, I looked at the schedule, and I saw it and I think it’s true. You know, I think there’s definitely an opportunity for us to go out there and win some games.”

The first two games look like Syracuse wins: Ohio and Holy Cross. But those are the only two with official dates at the moment. There are also contests against UConn and Boston College. Not to mention Cal on the road after that for a new ACC challenge.
... (SI; McAllister)

Syracuse football has landed a commitment from four star Chattanooga (TN) McCallie School cornerback Marcellus Barnes. Barnes jumped on the Syracuse radar shortly after Fran Brown was officially introduced. An official visit was quickly scheduled and that trip sealed the deal. Barnes made the announcement on Saturday during the first quarter of the All-American Bowl on NBC. Barnes is expected to enroll later this month and participate in spring ball.

Following the commitment, the official Syracuse football X (formerly Twitter) account posted the addition of Barnes. That means he signed during the earlier period but announcing his inclusion in the class was held so that Barnes could make his intentions public during the All-American Bowl.

Previously, Barnes listed Georgia and Ole Miss as his top two and he was looking to visits to each school prior to National Signing Day. Coach Brown was his lead recruiter at Georgia, but the 6-1.5, 170 pounder also had strong relationships with Will Muschamp and Kirby Smart. Syracuse, though, got the first crack to make a big impression and did enough to earn his commitment.

Former Virginia Tech commit Marcellus Barnes is headed to Syracuse (; Roche)

In November, Marcellus Barnes de-committed from Virginia Tech and reopened his recruitment. It really was not a surprise as he had been in contact with other programs following giving Hokies head coach Brent Pry his decision.

“This has been on my mind lately, and after talking to my family about it, opening things back up is what we feel is best for me,” Barnes said in November. “I have not been able to get back to Blacksburg and I have been taking other visits, so I wanted to re-think things and make sure of my decision in December.”

After opening his recruitment back up, on Saturday, Barnes announced his new commitment and it's one where the Hokies will see him next season in ACC play.

Marcellus Barnes picks Syracuse

During the All-American Bowl Saturday, Barnes on TV annunced that he will attend Syracuse next season over attending Georgia and Mississippi.

You didn't think we were finished did you?

The moment @Marcellus_jr officially announced he #Commit2Cuse during the @AABonNBC
— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) January 6, 2024
It's not a surprise that Barnes is choosing the Orange as during his recruitment, new Syracuse coach Fran Brown recruited him while he was an assistant coach at Georgia, forming a connection with the talented player. Barnes will see Virginia Tech in 2024 when the Hokies travel to Western New York to play the Orange. He is the latest of talented players that have committed to Syracuse making them a real threat in the ACC next season and the seasons to come. The Orange have also been hitting it big in the transfer portal, including adding former Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord.

Syracuse Football: ‘Something special’ at ‘Cuse, says 4-star commit Marcellus Barnes Jr. (itlh; Adler)

Syracuse football landed a massive pledge on Saturday afternoon in 2024 four-star cornerback Marcellus Barnes Jr. At the same time, the Orange program picked up some tremendous national exposure.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Barnes selected the ‘Cuse over Southeastern Conference schools Georgia and Ole Miss.

Georgia, by the way, had won the past two national championships. Ole Miss had a terrific 2023 season and should finish within the top 10 of the final rankings for this term.

Barnes, a top-200 national prospect in the senior class, committed to Syracuse football on Saturday afternoon during the All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

It was a wonderful moment for the ‘Cuse, and the broadcast team spent a couple of minutes speaking about the Orange, its strong 2024 cycle, and the program’s coaching staff, led by head coach Fran Brown.

New commit Marcellus Barnes Jr. raves about the Syracuse football staff.

Barnes received a scholarship offer from the ‘Cuse in early December, around the same time that Brown was officially introduced by SU Athletics as the Orange’s new head coach, replacing Dino Babers.

Brown, most recently, was the defensive backs coach at Georgia, and while there, he heavily recruited Barnes, a standout senior at The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn., who previously had given a verbal commitment to fellow Atlantic Coast Conference school Virginia Tech.

Syracuse University’s ‘Otto’ to get its own official bobblehead (; Hatch)

In honor of National Bobblehead Day on Jan. 7, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum has released new limited edition bobbleheads, including one that Central New York can recognize.

Starting Friday, Jan. 5 through Monday, Jan. 8, anyone can buy an officially licensed Syracuse Orange Bobblehead featuring the one and only Otto the Orange.

Produced by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, the Otto bobblehead will be available for a limited time as there are only 2,023 bobbleheads in stock. Bobbleheads are $35 each plus an $8 flat-rate shipping charge per order, making them a perfect gift for an Orange fan.

According to the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, Otto first arrived on the scene in the early-1980s.

The mascot was simply known as “The Orange” until 1990 when the name Otto first came into use. It was Syracuse cheerleaders who are accredited for coming up with the name while attending a summer cheerleading camp in Tennessee.

Otto was recognized as the official mascot of Syracuse University in December 1995 by Chancellor Buzz Shaw. Inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame on Aug. 12, 2023, Otto is generally recognized as one of the most popular college mascots.

Minnesota to hire Syracuse special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky (; Ruane)

ESPN’s Pete Thamel is reporting that the Minnesota Golden Gophers are set to hire Syracuse special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky to the same position.

It was reported earlier this week that Rob Wenger would be stopping down after seven years at Minnesota as the special teams coordinator under head coach P.J. Fleck.

Ligashesky is a 38-year coaching veteran who has spent the past two seasons at Syracuse following a one-year stint at Bowling Green and five seasons at Illinois. Prior to that, he had a 15-year stretch of coaching special teams in the NFL, with stops in Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, St. Louis, Denver, Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Houston.

He and Fleck coached together with the Buccaneers.

In his first year with the Orange, Ligashesky oversaw a kickoff return unit that ranked third nationally with an average of 26.1 yards per return. Syracuse return specialist Trebor Pena also finished second in the ACC and 23rd nationally in combined kick return yardage (508) and ranked in the top 20 in punt return average (8.7 yards per return).

What UNM's new football assistants are set to make — and how it compares to previous compensation (; Reider)

Bronco Mendenhall’s guaranteed five-year, $6 million deal to coach at New Mexico — with a list of substantial incentives — made him the highest-paid public employee in the state of New Mexico.
But what about his staff?
With contracts available via UNM’s website, UNM’s 10 on-field assistants are set to make a combined $1.8 million throughout their first season. UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez has previously said the assistant salary pool under Mendenhall did not increase; the Lobos’ previous coaching staff under head coach Danny Gonzales made $1,910,000 in 2023.

A look at the compensation and the adjustments made:

Jason Beck (offensive coordinator)

Compensation: $400,000/year; contract runs from Feb. 1, 2024 to Feb. 28, 2026
Comparison: Former offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent made $350,000 per year on a two-year deal last season. Vincent is now the head coach at University of Louisiana-Monroe.

Nick Howell (defensive coordinator)

Compensation: $400,000/year; contract runs from Dec. 13, 2023 through Feb. 28, 2025
Comparison: Former defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Troy Reffett made $300,000 last season after being elevated to take on coordinator duties in the wake of Rocky Long’s departure.

Shane Hunter (special teams coordinator, linebackers)

Compensation: $200,000/year; contract runs from Dec. 13, 2023 through Feb. 28, 2025
Comparison: Former special teams coordinator Jamie Christian made $195,000 while linebackers coach Jake Rothschiller made $100,000 in 2023.

Famika Anae (offensive line)

Compensation: $125,000/year; contract runs from Dec. 13, 2023 through Feb. 28, 2025
Comparison: Former offensive line coach Cam Blankenship made $170,000 last season.

Kirk Garner (running backs)

Compensation: $100,000/year; contract runs from Dec. 13, 2023 through Feb. 28, 2025
Comparison: Former running backs coach Heath Ridenour made $150,000 last season.

Matt Johns (tight ends)

Compensation: $125,000/year; contract runs from Dec. 13, 2023 through Feb. 28, 2025
Comparison: Former tight ends coach Joe Scelfo made $170,000 last season.

Jan Jorgensen (defensive ends)

Compensation: $125,000/year; contract runs from Dec. 13, 2023 through Feb. 28, 2025
Comparison: UNM did not have a defensive ends coach in 2023.

Charles Mack (defensive backs)

Compensation: $100,000/year; contract runs from Dec. 13, 2023 through Feb. 28, 2025
Comparison: UNM split defensive backs coaching roles in 2023, with former safeties coach David Howes making $165,000 and the aforementioned Reffett, the former defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach, earning $300,000.

Micah Simon (wide receivers)

Compensation: $100,000/year; contract runs from Dec. 13, 2023 through Feb. 28, 2025
Comparison: Former wide receivers coach Cornelius Williams made $190,000 last season.

Donte Wilkins (defensive line)

Compensation: $125,000/year; contract runs from Dec. 13, 2023 through Feb. 28, 2025
Comparison: Former defensive line coach Jerome Haywood made $120,000 last season.

ACC News (; Lassan)

The 2024 college football season doesn't officially start until August, but it's never too early to look ahead and project the Top 25 rankings for next year. Georgia takes the top spot in the Way-Too-Early Top 25 for '24 by Athlon Sports, as coach Kirby Smart's team looks to return to No. 1 after stumbling in the SEC Championship against Alabama. The Crimson Tide check in at No. 2, with SEC newcomer Texas at No. 3.

The Big Ten and SEC take the next chunk of teams in the rankings, as Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Ole Miss, and Missouri headline the next tier. The Wolverines are a tough team to rank this early with the Jim Harbaugh to NFL rumors, as well as quarterback J.J. McCarthy also a candidate to jump to the next level. With the new 12- team playoff format in place, teams like Ole Miss, Missouri, Oklahoma, Clemson, Arizona, and Kansas State have a chance to make some noise in '24 for the expanded format.

With the transfer portal, recruiting, coaching changes, and more moves to come this offseason, this list could look a lot different by April and then by August. But with some clarity about rosters for next fall, here is Athlon Sports' Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2024:

College Football's Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2024

1. Georgia
The Bulldogs fell short in their quest for a three-peat national championship run thanks to a loss in the SEC Championship to Alabama. The '24 season could be a revenge tour of sorts as coach Kirby Smart's team looks to get back to the top of college football with a difficult slate that includes road trips to play Alabama, Ole Miss, and Texas. Quarterback Carson Beck returns after a standout debut, and the Bulldogs reloaded the supporting cast through the portal with key additions in running back Trevor Etienne (Florida) and at receiver with Colbie Young (Miami) and London Humphreys (Vanderbilt). Smart has a few holes to fill on defense, but as usual, this group will rank among the best in the nation.

2. Alabama
Quarterback Jalen Milroe returns after a breakout season, and as usual, talent isn't in short supply elsewhere on the roster in Tuscaloosa. Rising star Justice Haynes should get an extended look at running back in '24, while improvement is needed at receiver and up front for the offense to reach its full potential. Alabama's defense has holes to fill after losing linebacker Dallas Turner and cornerbacks Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold early to the NFL Draft. However, help is on the way from the portal in the form of lineman LT Overton (Texas A&M) and cornerback Domani Jackson (USC). Also, safety Caleb Downs is back after a standout freshman campaign.

3. Texas
The Longhorns are positioned well to navigate their debut season in the SEC in '24. Whether it's Quinn Ewers or Arch Manning at quarterback, Texas will have one of the conference's top offenses. Jonathon Brooks is off to the NFL, but Cedric Baxter and Jaydon Blue return to anchor the backfield. Houston transfer Matthew Golden and Johntay Cook II (and potentially Adonai Mitchell) round out the key contributors at receiver to go along with a standout offensive line. Coach Steve Sarkisian has some retooling to do at every level on defense. However, top-notch recruiting from the high school or transfer ranks (Clemson safety Andrew Mukuba added for '24) should prevent a major drop in production here.

4. Michigan
The Wolverines are going to lose a ton of key contributors from the '23 team and coach Jim Harbaugh could take a job in the NFL. But for now, Michigan ranks high on this list for the potential of quarterback J.J. McCarthy returning, as well as a defense that features elite cornerback Will Johnson and standout linemen Kenneth Grant, Derrick Moore, and Mason Graham.

5. Ohio State
The Buckeyes head into '24 with more offensive uncertainty than usual under coach Ryan Day. Despite losing Marvin Harrison Jr. to the NFL, Ohio State's receiving corps is still loaded with talent. However, uncertainty surrounds a quarterback battle that features Kansas State transfer Will Howard, Devin Brown and freshmen Air Noland and Lincoln Kienholz. Additionally, the offensive line has to take a big step forward for Day's team to return to the top of the Big Ten. Ohio State's defense allowed only 11.2 points a game in '23 and should be strong once again with linemen Jack Sawyer and Tyleik Williams anchoring this group.

6. Oregon
The Ducks have all of the pieces in place to win big in their Big Ten debut. Oklahoma transfer Dillon Gabriel should ensure a smooth transition from Bo Nix at quarterback, and coordinator Will Stein received good news when receiver Tez Johnson passed on the NFL for another season in Eugene. Running back Bucky Irving will be missed, but Jordan James and Noah Whittington is a potent one-two punch in the backfield. Also, the offensive line should be among the best in college football. Coach Dan Lanning's defense needs to plug a few holes on defense, but linebacker Jeffrey Bassa passed on the NFL for another season in college, and Jahlil Florence is a rising star at cornerback.

7. Ole Miss
Running back Quinshon Judkins' decision to enter the transfer portal is a setback, but Ole Miss is still primed for a run at the 12-team CFB Playoff in '24. Quarterback Jaxson Dart headlines an offense that averaged 35.1 points a game and is also slated to return No. 1 receiver Tre Harris (985 receiving yards in '23) and adds South Carolina transfer Juice Wells. A much-improved defense is likely coming to Oxford next year, as coach Lane Kiffin has assembled a standout haul of transfers that includes lineman Walter Nolen (Texas A&M) and linebacker Chris Paul Jr. (Arkansas).

8. Missouri
The Tigers are coming off their best season (11-2) since an 11-win campaign in '14. Coach Eli Drinkwitz's squad lost a few key contributors after the Cotton Bowl - namely running back Cody Schrader, tackle Javon Foster, cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine, linebacker Ty'Ron Hopper, and defensive end Darius Robinson - but don't expect Missouri to slip too much in the preseason rankings. Quarterback Brady Cook and receivers Luther Burden III and Theo Wease are back and additional help to restock the depth chart is on the way from the recruiting trail and transfer portal.

9. Penn State
The Nittany Lions have won double-digit games five times since '16 but have yet to earn a CFB Playoff trip. The expanded 12-team version should help Penn State reach that goal in '24, and coach James Franklin's squad could climb higher on this list if quarterback Drew Allar takes a step forward in his development under new play-caller Andy Kotelnicki (former Kansas offensive coordinator). Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen are back as a standout duo in the backfield. Replacing left tackle Olu Fashanu and developing difference makers at receiver is a priority for this offense to take off in '24. New defensive coordinator Tom Allen inherits a unit that limited teams to 13.5 points a game last year. There are holes to fill up front and in the secondary, but the Nittany Lions should still be strong on this side of the ball.

10. Notre Dame
New additions to the coaching staff and from the transfer portal should help the Fighting Irish contend for a CFB Playoff spot in '24. Coach Marcus Freeman's ability to land Mike Denbrock as offensive coordinator from LSU was a big-time move, especially as the team looks to break in another transfer (Riley Leonard from Duke) at quarterback to go with a revamped receiving corps. Replacing standout tackles Joe Alt and Blake Fisher won't be easy. A defense that limited opponents to 15.9 points a contest won the offseason thanks to the return of safety Xavier Watts and lineman Howard Cross III for another year.

11. Tennessee
If you are looking for one of 2024's top breakout players, look no further than Knoxville with former five-star prospect Nico Iamaleava taking over at quarterback for Joe Milton. Iamaleava had an impressive debut in the Citrus Bowl win over Iowa, which only increased the hype and anticipation on his '24 season. The California native is supported by an offensive line that will largely return intact, as well as a solid cast of skill players that includes running backs Dylan Sampson and Cameron Seldon and receivers Bru McCoy and Chris Brazzell II (Tulane transfer). Tennessee's defense has made progress in recent seasons under coordinator Tim Banks, but this unit still has room to improve after giving up 5.83 yards per play in SEC contests in '23. Edge rusher James Pearce is one of the SEC's top returning defenders.

12. Oklahoma
After a four-game jump in wins from coach Brent Venables debut ('22) to '23, the Sooners are equipped to handle the big transition to the SEC next fall. Rising star quarterback Jackson Arnold flashed potential in a start in the Alamo Bowl and will benefit from a full offseason to work as the No. 1 option. With plenty of options at running back and receiver, the biggest concern for new play-caller Seth Littrell is a completely revamped offensive line. Oklahoma's defense held opponents to 23.5 points a game last year - down from 30 a contest in '22. The return of linebacker Danny Stutsman is a huge lift for this group as it looks to improve again in '24.

13. Clemson
With Florida State losing a big chunk of talent from the ACC Championship team from '23, coach Dabo Swinney's Tigers are likely to open '24 as the favorite to win the conference. After averaging only 23.6 points a contest in ACC play, Swinney hopes another offseason for quarterback Cade Klubnik under coordinator Garrett Riley will help to elevate the entire production of this group. Helping to ease the pressure on a developing offense is another standout defense in Death Valley. Linemen Peter Woods and TJ Parker and linebackers Wade Woodaz and Barrett Carter headline the top returners next season.

14. LSU
Fixing a struggling defense was the top offseason priority in Baton Rouge, and coach Brian Kelly wasted no time in dismissing four members of his staff shortly after LSU's bowl game. The Bayou Bengals aren't hurting for talent in the front seven, but the secondary has experienced its share of turnover and injuries in recent years. If Kelly can find the right mix on the staff and address some of the needs in the portal, then LSU can push once again for a top-10 finish. Quarterback Jayden Daniels and receivers Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas leave big shoes to fill, but the offense should still be prolific behind a standout offensive line and new signal-caller Garrett Nussmeier.

15. Utah
The return of quarterback Cam Rising after missing all of the '23 season due to injury puts Utah at (or near) the top of the list of favorites in the new Big 12 next fall. Rising wasn't the only player that missed significant time for the Utes last year and those ailments certainly played a role in coach Kyle Whittingham's team dipping to 8-5 after beginning '23 with Pac-12 title aspirations. Some improvement should be anticipated from an offensive line that returns mostly intact, and the defense is always a strength in Salt Lake City.

16. Arizona
The Wildcats were one of college football's biggest surprises in '23. After winning just six games in coach Jedd Fisch's first two years, Arizona jumped to 10-3 and nearly earned an appearance in the Pac-12 title game with a 7-2 mark in league play. The emergence of quarterback Noah Fifita (2,869 yards and 25 TDs) and the passing game with Tetairoa McMillan and Jacob Cowing on the other end was a big reason for the breakout year. Also, the Wildcats improved significantly on defense. After giving up 36.5 points a game in '22, this unit allowed only 21.1 last year. With the bulk of the defense slated to return, another step forward is within reach.

17. Florida State
2024 is likely to be a rebuilding year for coach Mike Norvell, but the 'Noles aren't going to completely disappear from the ACC Championship or CFB Playoff race. Landing Oregon State and Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei to start at quarterback was a good bridge option to the team's younger signal-callers. A couple of portal additions are needed to restock depth at running back and receiver, but the 'Noles should have one of the better lines in the ACC next fall. Patrick Payton, Darrell Jackson, and Joshua Farmer headline the list of key players returning in the trenches, while coordinator Adam Fuller has work to do to restock at linebacker and in the secondary.

18. Washington
The Huskies are set to lose several key pieces off the '23 team that played for the national championship, including quarterback Michael Penix Jr., receiver Rome Odunze, and a couple of key cogs on defense. However, expect coach Kalen DeBoer to reload and find a way to keep this team in the playoff mix. Mississippi State transfer Will Rogers is expected to replace Penix under center, and California transfer Jeremiah Hunter should fill the void at receiver. The Huskies will return one of the Big Ten's top offensive lines. Improving the defense is a priority this offseason, with the overall picture of returning personnel and strengths likely to clear after the national championship and some portal additions.

19. Kansas State
Coach Chris Klieman must replace a couple of members (including star guard Cooper Beebe) from K-State's outstanding offensive line - next fall. However, the excitement level about the Wildcats' offense next year is running high, as rising star quarterback Avery Johnson takes over and promising weapons in running back DJ Giddens and receiver Jayce Brown return. A defense that held opponents to 21 points a game in '23 has some retooling to do. However, K-State's schedule is very favorable with Arizona, Kansas, and Oklahoma State all coming to Manhattan.

20. USC
Expectations at USC in '24 will be drastically different than the ones that placed coach Lincoln Riley's team in the mix for a playoff spot last year. With quarterback Caleb Williams off to the NFL and question marks about a porous defense, the Trojans will be picked in the middle of the Big Ten. New projected starter Miller Moss had a strong showing in the Holiday Bowl to give Riley confidence about his quarterback room for '24. Also, Riley's track record suggests the offense won't be too big of an issue - even if it isn't as productive as the last two seasons. For USC to surprise in its Big Ten debut, the defense must show marked improvement under new coordinator D'Anton Lynn. The Trojans have a handful of key portal additions on the way to help this side of the ball, but it may take some time for the scheme and talent to mesh to generate improvement.

21. Kansas
The Jayhawks took another step forward under coach Lance Leipold with a 9-4 record in '23. That mark is even more impressive when you consider starting quarterback Jalon Daniels missed nearly all of the season due to injury. Daniels is back for '24 and is among the nation's top returning quarterbacks. New play-caller Jim Zebrowski has some retooling to do in the trenches, but running back Devin Neal (1,280 yards) and the top contributors at receiver are back. Kansas is making steady progress in fixing a porous defense in recent years. The good news for Leipold: The bulk of the two-deep is returning and another step forward should be expected in '24.

22. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys rallied from a 2-2 start to a trip to the Big 12 title game in 2023. Coach Mike Gundy's squad is arguably in better shape for '24, as quarterback Alan Bowman will return after he was granted an additional year of eligibility, and standout running back Ollie Gordon II (1,732 rushing yards) is also back. The offensive line is slated to return intact, and No. 1 receiver Brennan Presley (101 catches) passed on the NFL for another season in Stillwater. The Cowboys have room to improve on defense (28.6 points a game allowed in '23), but the bulk of the lineup is slated to suit up again in '24.

23. Louisville
A favorable schedule and the arrival of new coach Jeff Brohm helped to propel Louisville to its first appearance in the ACC Championship and the program's first double-digit win season since '13. The Cardinals have one of the top portal hauls in the nation joining in time for '24, which includes quarterback Tyler Shough (Texas Tech), receivers Ja'Corey Brooks (Alabama) and Caullin Lacy (South Alabama), and running back Don Chaney (Miami). The defense allowed only 21.3 points a game last year and will return standout lineman Ashton Gillotte (14.5 TFL) after he passed on the NFL Draft to return to Louisville.

24. Iowa
Despite losing cornerback Cooper DeJean, don't expect coordinator Phil Parker's defense to miss a beat in '24. This unit also received good news after the regular season when linebacker Jay Higgins and cornerback Jermari Harris opted to return next fall. The Hawkeyes should be able to lean on this group until the offense finds its footing under a new coordinator. Also, in addition to deploying a better scheme and play-caller, the offense will benefit from the return of quarterback Cade McNamara and tight end Luke Lachey from season-ending injuries.

25. NC State
Coach Dave Doeren has been a model of consistency in Raleigh with six seasons of eight or nine victories over the last nine years. Replacing the production and leadership of linebacker Payton Wilson isn't going to be easy. However, the Wolfpack landed one of the top quarterbacks in the portal (Grayson McCall) and return rising star receiver Kevin Concepcion after a standout freshman season.

The Next Five

26. Miami If the 'Canes can find a quarterback to work behind a standout offensive line, then coach Mario Cristobal's team should be able to push for a finish in the top 25. Receiver Xavier Restrepo opted to return instead of declare for the NFL Draft, and the defense is anchored by rising star end Rueben Bain and linebacker Francisco Mauigoa.

27. Texas A&M
New coach Mike Elko should do a better job of getting the most out of Texas A&M's roster than Jimbo Fisher did over the last couple of seasons. Look for quarterback Conner Weigman to thrive under new play-caller Collin Klein. If the pieces fall into place, the Aggies should finish '24 in the top 25.

28. Virginia Tech
The Hokies surged at the end of the '23 season with a 5-2 mark over their final seven games. With nearly everyone back and an offseason to develop around quarterback Kyron Drones, coach Brent Pry's squad should get preseason top 25 consideration.

29. SMU
The schedule is tougher with the Mustangs on the move from the American to the ACC. However, coach Rhett Lashlee's squad should be in the mix for a top-25 finish, especially with quarterback Preston Stone returning to full strength after suffering from a season-ending leg injury late in the '23 campaign.

30. West Virginia
Neal Brown entered '23 on one of the hottest seats in the nation but proceeded to direct the Mountaineers to a solid 9-4 season. Quarterback Garrett Greene and running backs Jahiem White and CJ Donaldson lead an intriguing West Virginia team for '24.

The Next Tier

Appalachian State
The Mountaineers return the bulk of their starting two-deep and should be the early favorite to win the Sun Belt in '24.

Provided quarterback play is better, the Tigers should improve in coach Hugh Freeze's second year.

Boise State
After a strong finish as the team's interim coach and a Mountain West title victory over UNLV, Spencer Danielson will get his chance to put his stamp on the program as the full-time coach. Running back Ashton Jeanty is one of the best in college football.

Iowa State
The Cyclones return most of their roster in '24, including quarterback Rocco Becht, receiver Jayden Higgins, and running back Abu Sama.

Quarterback Kaidon Salter's decision to transfer clouded Liberty's early standing in the top 25. The Flames should still be a heavy favorite to win Conference USA in '24.

The Tigers can make a run at the top spot among Group of 5 programs with quarterback Seth Henigan returning in '24.

Texas Tech/TCU
Don't be surprised if the Red Raiders or Horned Frogs emerges as a contender in the Big 12.

Quarterback Michael Pratt must be replaced, but new coach Jon Sumrall inherits a strong foundation from a program that went 23-5 over the last two years.

Not only are the Bruins transitioning to the Big Ten with a question mark at quarterback, coach Chip Kelly's squad must replace defensive standouts off the edge in Laiatu Latu, Gabriel Murphy, and Grayson Murphy.

How big of a jump will the Badgers make in their second year under coach Luke Fickell?


Virginia Tech Football: ESPN has fascinating take on the Hokies' for 2024 (; Roche)

Following a 41-20 win over Tulane in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27, the Virginia Tech football team heads into the offseason with a ton of momentum for 2024. The Hokies will get a whole offseason with a lot of key players for next season getting a full offseason together and the hopes are high around Blacksburg. And if we're being serious, why not?

Head coach Brent Pry has got a lot of key players to come back, they have added some very good talent in the transfer portal and they have some incoming freshmen who look ready to make an impact next season.

Just how high are the hopes? It feels like for the first time in nearly a decade that the program is heading, wait, dare I say soaring, through the rebuild and primed to play a big role in 2024 in the ACC. This year they went 5-3, which allowed them to become bowl-eligible after starting the season 1-3 in their four non-conference games.

Hopes appear to not only be high around the program and more importably the fanbase, but it looks like the national media is catching on and ESPN has high expectations for Pry's club next fall.

ESPN expects Virginia tech to have a "resurgent season" in 2024

In a recent ESPN article, Andrea Adelson has high expectations for the Hokies in 2024.

"What Virginia Tech did in a 41-20 victory over Tulane in the Military Bowl sent a clear message to those paying attention to both the rise and fall of this program: The Hokies will be ACC title contenders in 2024.

Once a shoo-in to play in ACC championship and BCS games under Frank Beamer, it is no secret Virginia Tech has fallen on hard times over the last decade. Though a 7-6 record is not quite to the standard Beamer set, the growth Virginia Tech showed in Year 2 under Brent Pry simply cannot be ignored. Nor can the optimism after the Hokies won their first bowl game since 2016."

ACC recruiting rankings: How every team finished National Signing Day (; Hughes)

A multitude of ACC programs landed a wealth of talent during the early signing period this week, as the conference tied the Big Ten with the second-most top 10 recruiting classes in the nation. The conference boasts four other top 30 classes while all 17 programs, including newcomers SMU, Cal and Stanford, ranked in the top 100.

There was no shortage of action during Wednesday's signing period, and the ACC was right in the thick of things. Miami came away as arguably the biggest winner, flipping elite defensive linemen Justin Scott (Ohio State) and Armondo Blount (Florida State) to surge up the rankings.

Two of the ACC's three newcomers finished in the bottom four of the conference's recruiting rankings, giving little assurance the West Coast schools will be worthwhile additions during the conference realignment era. ACC mainstays, Duke and Syracuse, experienced late movement under new head coaches.

Here is where every ACC program ranks nationally in the 2024 recruiting cycle according to the 247Sports Composite:

National Ranking:
Boston College's recruiting efforts have steadily declined since signing the ACC's No. 6 class in 2022. The Eagles finished with the No. 11 class in 2023 and rank dead last in 2024.
16. SMU
National Ranking:
The lowest-ranked of the ACC newcomers, SMU has the fewest commits in the conference (10) and ranks No. 11 in average rating per commit (86.87).
National Ranking:
The Cavaliers haven't signed a top 60 class since 2021, and at No. 77 in the national rankings, they're on pace to have their worst finish in more than a decade.
National Ranking:
Like SMU, Cal isn't bringing much talent to the ACC next season. The Bears failed to sign a four-star in their 17-man class and have the third-lowest average rating per commit at 86.57.
National Ranking:
Louisville finished with the fourth-best class in the ACC last season, so it's a little surprising to see the Cardinals so low in the rankings. The class doesn't feature a player ranked in the Top247 but does boast three four-stars. Jeff Brohm and company are attacking the portal and have put together the No. 3 class.
12. DUKE
National Ranking:
It's been a revolving door for Duke's commits since Mike Elko left for Texas A&M. Manny Diaz has gained several players, lost some others, and ultimately has put together a class that's near identical to last season in terms of points (191.8/191.78)
National Ranking:
This class is par for the course for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have landed 21 commits, all three stars, and rank No. 15 in average rating per commit (86.18).

National Ranking: 45
"The 2024 cycle has been an absolute roller coaster for Syracuse," as CuseNation's James Finneral put it. The Orange parted ways with Dino Babers this offseason to make way for Fran Brown, who has put together a strong class minus several decommitments. Brown reeled in four-star edge rusher KingJoseph Edwards on Tuesday over offers from Alabama, Auburn and Colorado. He's Syracuse's second-ranked recruit in the class. Four-star Jamie Tremble headlines the Orange's class, the program's highest-ranked tight end commit in the modern recruiting era.

Friedlander: ACC's most likely College Football Playoff contenders in 2024 - Saturday Road (saturdayroad. com; Friedlander)

If there’s any consolation to Florida State getting shut out of the College Football Playoff, forcing the Seminoles to wonder “what if” as they sit at home watching or avoiding Monday’s championship game between Michigan and Washington, it’s that a similar snub won’t happen next year.

With the bracket expanding to 12 teams with automatic bids to the 6 highest-rated conference champions, an undefeated ACC champion won’t have to worry about getting left out in the cold again.

Can FSU overcome massive losses on both sides of the ball to right a wrong and finally get its shot at playing for a national title? Or will someone come out of nowhere and make a surprise run the way Louisville did this season?

Only time will tell. But for now, here’s a look ahead at the ACC’s most likely College Football Playoff contenders in 2024:

Florida State

Mike Norvell and his staff have a lot of work to do this offseason. To quote Playoff committee chairman Boo Corrigan, the Seminoles will be a significantly “different team” next season than the one that went 13-0 and won the ACC championship. But it will also be a different – and better – unit than the skeleton crew that got shellacked by Georgia in the Orange Bowl.

For as much talent as FSU lost, there’s still a nice core around which to build. ACC Championship Game MVP Lawrance Toafili will be back to fuel the ground attack as is promising young receiver Destyn Hill and explosive return man Deuce Spann, who will get more of an opportunity to contribute to the offense with the departures of Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson.

The offensive line will be anchored by returning starters Darius Washington and Robert Scott at tackle while on the other side of the ball defensive end Patrick Payton and safety Shyhein Brown are poised for breakout seasons.

Norvell has already proven his ability to recruit talented players that fit off the transfer portal. And he’s already scored 2 wins with the addition of Georgia pass rusher Marvin Jones Jr., and quarterback DJ Uiagalelei as the replacement for departing star Jordan Travis.

As long as the Seminoles get the Uiagalelei who stood out for Oregon State this year and not the DJU who struggled and was eventually benched at Clemson, FSU should be in a position to make another serious run at the Playoff.


The Tigers took a while to get their act together. But once they did, they finished strong by winning their final 5 games – including a revenge victory against rival South Carolina and a dramatic come-from-behind Gator Bowl triumph against Kentucky.

If that path sounds familiar, it should. It’s similar to the one FSU used to build momentum for its undefeated run to the ACC title a year later. While Dabo Swinney’s crew won’t be blessed with as many returning starters as those Seminoles did, there’s still plenty of talent remaining – led by quarterback Cade Klubnik on offense and linebacker Barrett Carter on defense.

Swinney has already bolstered a suspect receiving corps by signing a pair of highly-rated pass catchers on early signing day. Transfers could supplement the rebound.

Clemson has gone 3 seasons without getting into the Playoff and Tyler from Spartanburg and the rest of the natives in the Upstate of South Carolina are starting to get restless. We won’t have to wait long to see what the Tigers are made of. Their 1st game out of the gate will be against Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

NC State

Dave Doeren made lemonade out of lemons this season in winning 9 games with an offense devoid of playmakers other than freshman KC Concepcion, a midseason quarterback controversy and other distractions.

Determined not to be in a similar situation in 2024, Doeren has upgraded his roster significantly with some impressive transfer pickups since the end of the season. He addressed his quarterback situation with the addition of Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall. He bolstered his running attack by bringing in Jordan Waters from rival Duke and provided Concepcion plenty of help in the receivers by recruiting Ohio State’s Noah Rogers and Wake Forest’s Wesley Grimes off the portal and a haul of talented freshmen on national signing day.

There are holes to fill on defense with Butkus Award-winning linebacker Payton Wilson, along with starting corners Aydan White and Shyheim Battle all heading out the door. But with respected coordinator Tony Gibson re-upping for another 3 seasons, star defensive end Davin Vann and a slew of young linebackers returning, there’s reason for optimism that State will once again be among the ACC’s best.

The biggest obstacle State will have in becoming a serious championship threat could be history. As the Law of the Wolf reminds us, the Wolfpack’s best seasons usually happen when the expectations are the lowest. That won’t be the case in 2024.

Virginia Tech

Beyond the usual suspects, including perennial disappointments Miami and North Carolina, there’s always one team every year that emerges from the pack to mount an unexpected challenge for the league title.

In 2023, that team was Louisville.

Jeff Brohm’s team will face a difficult challenge to repeat that 10-win success next season because of attrition and a more challenging conference schedule. That leaves the door open for the Hokies to become the ACC’s next sleeper success story.

All the elements are there. Brent Pry’s team improved by 4 wins from his debut year in Blacksburg, going 7-6 and finishing strong by beating rival Virginia in the regular-season finale and Tulane in the Military Bowl by a combined score of 96-37. And virtually every key player on both sides of the ball has decided to return.

It’s a list that includes dual-threat quarterback Kyron Drones, leading rusher Bhayshul Tuten and top receiver Jaylin Lane on offense, while a defense that allowed the 2nd-fewest yards in the league returns its leader in sacks (Antwaun Ryland-Powell), interceptions (Dorian Strong) and tackles (Keli Lawson) while adding one of the nation’s top transfers in Duke defensive tackle Aeneas Peebles.

Tech also has a favorable schedule that avoids Florida State and has Clemson coming to Lane Stadium to go along with a soft nonconference slate of Vanderbilt, Marshall, Old Dominion and Rutgers.

Brett Friedlander recaps the college football season, previews ACC hoops for '23-'24 (soundcloud; podcast; WLNI)

College sports columnist for Saturday Road, Brett Friedlander joins The Sportsline to talk bowl season and ACC men's basketball, including what the NCAA could do to fix college football's calendar problem, on why he thinks the ACC is stronger in basketball this season compared to previous years, and why he's not sure what to think of the UVA Cavaliers hoops team in '23-'24.

2023 Avg Attendance by School (RX; HM)

2023 Avg Attendance by School

Here are the average attendance numbers for each FBS team, grouped by new 2024 conference:

2023 Season

With the season ending, here's one final update from the NCAA on avg. home crowds for #FBS and top #FCS teams:

It's fascinating to see how they line up in their forward-aligned conferences, and we're all looking forward to 2024!
— Tony Altimore (@TJAltimore) January 6, 2024


The top 3 ACC schools - Clemson, Florida State, and Notre Dame - averaged between 77,600 and 81,300 fans per game. that's good enough for 5th, 6th, and 7th in the Big Ten (surprised?). However, in the SEC, those numbers would rank 10th, 11th, and 13th.
The top 2 Big XII teams - BYU and Iowa State(!) - would rank 5th and 6th in the ACC, below the three above plus Virginia Tech, and above NC State and the rest. Another way to look at that: VT would be the #1 attendance team if it were in the Big XII, and NC State would be 4th.
Louisville was 6th in the ACC, but in the Big XII they would fall to 8th! That's not what I would have expected, but there's a possible explanation as Texas and Oklahoma were still in the Big XII this season. Let's see how that league does without the two big dogs next Fall.
The three incoming ACC members - Cal, Stanford, and SMU - would rank 11th, 15th, and 18th (dead last) in ACC attendance. To be fair, SMU got those numbers with a very lackluster G5 schedule (although that should have been offset by the gaudy win-loss record).

Applying My CFP Ranking System to 2023 (RX; HM)

Applying My CFP Ranking System to 2023

Perhaps the biggest complaint against the CFP is the lack of a quantifiable ranking system.

Back in 2019 I came up with a point system for ranking the CFP participants. It rewards playing and beating more P5 teams, and punishes teams for losing:

+2 points for a win over a P5 or ND,
+1 point for a win over a G5 or other FBS indy
zero points for a win over an FCS
minus 1 point for a loss to any FBS team
minus 2 points for any loss to an FCS team.
From "Rx: Better CFP Selection Process"
Given that scoring system, how would the top teams have been ranked this year? (Note: in cases of ties, I ranked them in the same order as the CFP Selection Committee ranked them):


5Florida State233
7Ohio State187

Bottom Line:

My system would have put FSU in and left Alabama out. It also would have ranked Washington ahead of Michigan (the Huskies had a tougher schedule and still wont them all).
My system would have given us these match-ups:

Rose Bowl: Texas vs. Washington (same)
Sugar Bowl: Florida State vs. Michigan

Rx: Play-Calling Videos (RX; HM)

Rx: Play-Calling Videos

Here are three excellent videos from "Thinking Football" about football play-calling strategy...

The Current Meta Suffocating NFL Offenses

The Current Meta Suffocating NFL Offenses
It's about stopping modern passing attacks with combination coverages.

How Motion Breaks Defenses

The NFL’s Latest Evolution
On the other hand, you can attack the defense with motion.

Why You Should NEVER Punt

Why You Should NEVER Punt | FOOTBALL THEORY EP.1 | Ft. Kevin Kelley
Explains why your team should almost NEVER punt (and field goals are an absolute last resort).

Posted 15 hours ago by
Hokie Mark

On 2nd Thought: Travel for Cal/Stanford (RX; HM)

On 2nd Thought: Travel for Cal/Stanford

Two schools located in Northern California are about to join the ATLANTIC Coast Conference. That's weird, isn't it? Now if we were following the news when the decision was made to add them, we know by now that the ACC made it a point to minimize travel for existing teams... but what about the newbies?

Let's compare their new travel situation to their old one. What were road trips like as a member of the Pac-12, and how does that compare to life in the ACC?

Driving distances
Calford to...miles
U of Oregon560
Oregon St606
Arizona State739
U of Utah771
U of Arizona842
U Washington844
Washington St905
U Colorado1286
So. Methodist1712
U Notre Dame2242
U Louisville2352
Georgia Tech2455
Florida State2538
Clemson U2570
U Pittsburgh2610
Virginia Tech2693
Wake Forest2715
Duke University2792
U N Carolina2792
N C State U.2815
U of Virginia2825
Syracuse U.2827
U of Miami3023
Boston College3127

Yes, I listed driving distance to make a point. The only driveable games for Cal and Stanford were each other - and that doesn't change.

Yes, the closest ACC team will now be further than the furthest Pac-12 team used to be - but when you have to fly to get there, so what? A nonstop flight from San Francisco to Denver takes 2:45; nonstop to Dallas is 3:26. Fly all the way to Boston, it's a 5:40 flight. I suppose losing almost 3 hours each way is something, but it's not the end of the world.
A bigger handicap for Cal and Stanford will be the time zone difference. If the trip itself takes 3 hours, and they're flying across 3 time zones, that's a 6-hour difference from the time they take off to the time they land. That could take some getting used to!

Former Penn State football target, starting ACC LT enters transfer portal (; Chapman)

The Penn State football team will need to replace both starting tackles ahead of the 2024 season. The depth has been developed over the 2022 and 2023 seasons but there’s no guarantee that all of the underclassmen are prepared to be starters. A new opportunity has presented itself for the Nittany Lions. Diego Pounds, the starting left tackle for the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2023, has entered the transfer portal.

Should Penn State reunite with this ACC starting LT in the portal?

Diego Pounds was a three-star prospect in the 2021 recruiting class. He officially entered the transfer portal on January 4th after playing as the starting LT for UNC in 2023. You have to keep in mind how challenging the 2021 recruiting process was for coaches all over the country. With the COVID-19 restrictions, many players could not visit campuses or even meet in person with coaches and staff members.

So, Pounds, a native of Raleigh, NC, made a safe decision by committing to North Carolina, and he has played there since the 2021 season. The Penn State football team did offer him a scholarship, but he never visited Penn State, according to his 247sports recruiting profile.

There was a time during his high school recruitment when many had Diego Pounds penciled in as an eventual member of Penn State's 2021 recruiting class. Didn't turn out that way.
The Nittany Lions don't have any remaining offensive linemen from 2021 recruiting class.
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) January 4, 2024

Offensive Tackle Rotation at Penn State

Olu Fashanu and Caedan Wallace have made their decisions to declare for the 2024 NFL Draft. We saw during the Peach Bowl Drew Shelton, who made starts during his freshman season in 2022, play left tackle. Caedan Wallace did suit up and play a few series against Ole Miss.

However, it was Anthony Donkoh who stepped in at right tackle when Wallace was off the field. Those two are the likely leaders at both tackle positions. But don’t count out 2023 five-star prospect Jven Williams either next season. At the end of the day, Penn State has the depth, but the starting experience would be helpful by adding Pounds.

Florida AG Moody Demands ACC, ESPN Agreements In FSU Football Snub (tampafp. com; Borges)

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody sent a public records request Thursday to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) demanding the college athletics organization immediately turn over public records currently being withheld from Florida State University (FSU).

Moody is seeking the release of the conference’s “ESPN Agreement” and several other agreements, amendments, and documents crucial to FSU’s legal battle to leave the ACC.

Moody’s office says the conference is refusing to turn over the documents—instead demanding that FSU officials travel to North Carolina to view the documents in secret and under ACC supervision.

Moody said, “One of Florida’s top universities is facing the possibility of forfeiting more than half a billion dollars, and the ACC is refusing to hand over the agreements at the center of this astronomical financial penalty. They are unlawfully keeping these documents locked away in North Carolina. However, North Carolina and Florida state laws are clear that these agreements are public records and must be handed over immediately. Today, I am taking action to ensure FSU and the public are able to review these agreements.”

The agreements and amendments are at the center of FSU’s legal battle to leave the ACC—and are the basis for a reported $572 million in forfeited media rights, unreimbursed broadcast fees, and a conference exit fee.



New York spend $103 million building a semiconductor factory in DeWitt that it leased to NexGen Power Systems. (Rick Moriarty | Moriarty |

Why New York’s bet on a $100 million microchip factory in DeWitt went bust again (PS; Moriarty)

New York took an extraordinary gamble when it built a $100 million microchip factory in a Syracuse suburb at taxpayer expense, and its recent failure was entirely predictable, a critic of government subsidies for businesses says.

“I can’t think of a riskier project to build on spec than a microchip plant,” said Greg Leroy, executive director of Good Jobs First. “It would be extremely risky for the private sector to do that, and even more risky for the public sector to do that.”

That risk only grew worse when New York picked NexGen Power Systems, a start-up in a quickly evolving market without a proven track record, to move into the state factory seven years ago.

Today, the high-tech factory financed by New York taxpayers is sitting vacant in DeWitt. Just before Christmas, NexGen closed its doors and laid off its workers.

When it comes to attracting a tenant for the costly microchip factory, the state struck out twice.

First, New York spent $90 million on the high-tech factory just to have its first tenant, a California-based LED light maker called Soraa, walk away without ever moving in.

Then New York tried to recover by filling the building with NexGen, an unproven startup with few or no customers. NexGen committed in writing to creating 290 jobs by the end of 2025 in exchange for a $13.37 million state grant.

Now the state is searching once again for a tenant.

It’s a debacle the state should have seen coming from the get-go, Leroy said. Building a factory in hopes of attracting a solid tenant is by its nature risky, and it’s something that the private sector would not do, Leroy said.


See what Niagara Falls, NY will look like in the future; new design renderings released (PS; Hernandez)

In the heart of Niagara Falls, New York, two ambitious development projects, the Great Lakes 360 at the shuttered Niagara Gorge Museum and the Niagara Falls Heritage Gateways Project, will bring transformation to an area that has languished for years.

Set to be completed in spring of 2024, Western New York’s Great Lakes 360 project will transform the vacant Niagara Gorge Discovery Center into a living museum showcasing wildlife of the Niagara River and the larger Great Lakes ecosystem. Visitors will be able to view native turtles, amphibians, insects, and fish in 15 new exhibits.

The Great Lakes 360 project at the Aquarium of Niagara will take the shuttered Niagara Gorge Discovery Center and transform it into a living museum with 15 new exhibits.Aquarium of Niagara | Provided photo

According to the Niagara Gazette the Aquarium of Niagara acquired its neighbor, the old discovery center, in 2022. This will be the first biggest expansion project in the aquarium’s 57-year history, increasing the number of exhibits by 40 percent.

The aquarium development won’t stop there. WGRZ reported that the USA Niagara Development Corporation has approved an additional $18 million expansion plan, adding a 16,000-square-foot, double-level building and multi-lot property at 535 — 579 Second St., across from the main aquarium building’s parking lot.

With the Second Street expansion there will be room for new and traveling exhibits, an event space, playground, gift shop, cafe and more.

Once the Great Lakes 360 project launches this year, the Aquarium of Niagara hopes to break ground for the first stage of their two-phase expansion.

Also breaking ground in 2024 is the $12 million Niagara Falls Heritage Gateway Project which aims to connect the downtown area with Niagara Falls State Park with a walking path.

Announced last year by Governor Kathy Hochul, the Heritage Path will consist of several checkpoints that link together the numerous cultural, historical and natural assets of downtown Niagara Falls.

The proposed 1.6 mile path will form a loop connecting the north and south ends of Niagara Falls State Park, through downtown. Along the way visitors will be informed about history of the area from its indigenous peoples, pivotal role in the Underground Railroad, and the spectacular cascades of Niagara Falls.
1. Thanks for the links!

2. I don't mind the Hokies contributing one CB, but that's enough; if you want more players, go snooping around Rutgers or Maryland!
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