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All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/coca-cola-600-charlotte-preview-and-fantasy-nascar-predictions-2016
Body:

’s Coca-Cola 600 was once a grueling endurance test, a marathon of attrition in which step one toward Victory Lane was making sure your engine didn’t blow. But despite being the sport’s longest race by 100 miles, the four-hour marathon that blends into the night isn’t the DNF land mine it used to be.

 

Let’s compare. A little over 20 years ago, Ken Schrader had the best car in the 1995 Coca-Cola 600 only to blow his motor down the stretch. That was part of 14 DNFs spread over 42 cars – one-third of the field – in a race that produced a first-time winner, Bobby Labonte. Just three cars wound up on the lead lap in an event that produced only seven cautions despite its longevity.

 

Last season, Labonte’s former organization, Joe Gibbs Racing, captured the Coca-Cola 600 trophy again with Carl Edwards. But Edwards presided over a race that saw 39 of its 43 cars make it to the finish line. Of those four that wound up in the garage, just three were due to engine failure (and none by a Chase-contending team.) A whopping 16 cars still ended up on the lead lap despite a similar number of caution flags compared to 1995 (eight this time around).

 

The evolution of technology, it seems has changed the game. While the extra 100 miles certainly produces a mental test for the driver, providing an edge to the veterans who have been through that type of grueling marathon, crew chiefs are breathing a little easier these days. Chances are if your favorite stumbles down the stretch on Sunday it’ll be his own fault, or perhaps poor strategy, instead of a random piece that broke in half.

 

2016 Coca-Cola 600

 

Time: 6 p.m. ET (Sunday)

Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway (Charlotte, NC)

TV: FOX

Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90

 

Who’s at the Front: Joey Logano

On Memorial Day Weekend a year ago, Logano and his Team Penske No. 22 Ford were sitting pretty. The youngster already had a Daytona 500 win to this credit, sat third in the standings and was looked at as a championship contender. This year, he’s gotten off to a bit of a slow start, leading just 113 laps to date and sitting winless, eighth in the standings. But Logano prevailed during the sport’s great exhibition last weekend, the Sprint All-Star Race, amidst confusing rules and a hard-fought battle with Kyle Larson. That produced momentum, resulting in a front-row starting spot (second) for Sunday’s race. And did I mention Logano won the last race held at Charlotte in the fall?

 

Honorable mention goes to the pole sitter, Martin Truex Jr., who had the best car at the sport’s last intermediate track race (Kansas) and is anxious to get that first win of 2016. Both drivers aren’t listed in the fantasy section this week but are great alternate picks for Sunday’s roster.

 

Who’s at the Back: Jimmie Johnson

Charlotte was once called Lowe’s Motor Speedway and for good reason: Johnson was dominant there. His seven career victories include three Coca-Cola 600s in a row at one point (2003-05) along with a fourth added in 2014. But Johnson ran 40th in this race last year and enters the weekend sputtering. He’s run 22nd, 17th and 25th in the last three points-paying events, was a virtual non-factor down the stretch in the All-Star Race, and caused a multi-car wreck at Dover after a weird transmission issue where the car stuck in gear. Hendrick Motorsports appears a step, maybe two behind Joe Gibbs Racing and they won’t make up that ground until their flagship team, the No. 48, gets back on track.

 

News Briefs

 

After extensive deliberation and voting Wednesday NASCAR’s 2017 Hall of Fame Class was announced. Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons will be enshrined in a January ceremony at the Hall in Charlotte. Former Martinsville Speedway owner H. Clay Earles was honored with the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions in NASCAR.

 

Among the five, three are car owners (Hendrick, Childress and Parks). Martin, the sport’s perennial runner-up, finished second in the championship standings five times and was second in the infamous 2007 Daytona 500. He’s not the bridesmaid this time, though joining a class where 18 Cup car owner championships are represented by the trio above along with a 1973 Cup Series driver’s title won by Parsons. Parsons, who later went on to have a successful broadcasting career with ESPN/ABC, NBC, and TNT, was a former taxi driver who went on to win 21 times at the Cup level, including the 1975 Daytona 500.

 

Just four months into the new rules package NASCAR is tweaking with aerodynamics once again. Another package will be tested during two regular season races, Michigan in two weeks and Kentucky in early July. The changes reduce the spoiler height from 3.5 to 2.5 inches along with a reduction in splitter size to try and reduce downforce and increase passing in the turns. By all accounts, major teams have caught up on the offseason adjustments and their progress may have produced a more mundane event held at Kansas earlier this month. Despite the difficulty of making in-season rule changes NASCAR is trying to remain vigilant with the realization less grip is promoting more exciting competition.

 

No NASCAR drivers will participate in the vaunted “Indy double” this season. The 100th edition of that open-wheel race will run with minimal NASCAR connections. In the past, drivers like Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, and the now-retired John Andretti were among those to try 1,100 miles of racing in one day. Brian Vickers, who subbed for Stewart earlier this year, was seeking an Indy ride but sponsorship did not materialize for the event.

 

Celebrity Sighting: New Hall of Famer Mark Martin will drive the pace car before Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. Martin, who last won the big race in 2002, will be making his first public appearance since Wednesday’s announcement of his upcoming induction.

 

NASCAR By The Numbers

 

1

Driver to win from the pole this season in 12 races. Carl Edwards was the only one to accomplish the feat at Bristol earlier in the spring.

 

11

Cars that failed to finish at Dover. Only Talladega (12) produced a higher number of DNFs so far this season.

 

Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)

 

Top Tier

 

Defending Coca-Cola 600 winner may not come in running on all eight cylinders after getting spun out at Dover two weeks ago. But in the past nine Charlotte races he’s finished no lower than 11th, including that 2015 win in the sport’s 600-miler, and a whopping six consecutive races with one lap led. That bonus point could make the difference for you when it comes down to a league nail-biter at the end of your segment.

 

Once upon a time, Charlotte was one of ’s worst tracks but the tune has changed significantly since an alignment with Stewart-Haas Racing. Since moving to the No. 4 car in 2014, Harvick has raced here six times, coming up with two victories and no finish worse than ninth. It’s become perhaps the most dependable track to start him these days outside of Phoenix.

 

Middle Tier

 

wrecked in last week’s All-Star Race and hasn’t shown a ton of speed thus far in Charlotte. That said, he’s earned seven straight top-20 finishes at this track during points-paying events and it’s an oval that produced his first ever Cup Series victory back in 2002. With teammate red hot lately it’s only a matter of time in this team-driven environment before that information slips over into the No. 1 camp and significantly helps them. I think he’s a safe pick for Sunday.

 

Bottom Tier

 

Don’t trust past results when looking at whether to start Trevor Bayne. The Roush Fenway Racing driver hasn’t earned a career top 10 at Charlotte but his No. 6 Ford is suddenly showing speed and taking major steps forward each week toward becoming a contender. Winning the first segment of the Sprint Showdown last week, Bayne showed a little aggression and is gaining confidence with better setups. He’s a good dark horse selection to score a top 10 if you need a week off from counting on superstar rookies Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney.

 

What Vegas Thinks

Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch all have 6/1 odds . Defending Coca-Cola 600 champion Edwards stands at 8/1.

 

What I Think

Martin Truex, Jr. had the best car a few weeks ago, plagued at Kansas by a loose wheel. It’s about time the No. 78 team stops shooting themselves in the foot and this 600-miler has a tendency to produce surprise winners. I’m going Truex.

 

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site . He can be reached at or on Twitter .

 

(Photo by )

Teaser:
Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Preview and Fantasy NASCAR Predictions
Post date: Friday, May 27, 2016 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-basketball-football-ncaa-hugh-freeze-ban-scholarships-rebels-coaches
Body:

Amid the Baylor/Art Briles scandal and before the Memorial Day weekend, Ole Miss decided to drop some news.

 

The Rebels have self-imposed a postseason ban in women's basketball and reduced scholarships for football by double digits. Ole Miss officials stated, in a 154-page response to the NCAA, that the school "accepted responsibility for the violations that occurred and self-imposed meaningful penalties."

 

According to the report, "The terminations of four coaches, including the only two involved head coaches still employed when the violations were discovered; the disassociation of every involved booster; a post-season ban in women's basketball; a double-digit reduction of scholarships in the football program; a significant reduction in off-campus evaluation days and official and unofficial visits in football and track and field; violation-specific rules education across all involved sports; and a $159,325.000 financial penalty."

 

 

 

Ole Miss was accused of 28 NCAA violations back in January. The school also asked to delay its after the Laremy Tunsil draft night drama.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, May 27, 2016 - 11:33
Path: /college-football/picking-starter-case-and-against-each-fsu-quarterback
Body:

The quarterback position is the most scrutinized position in football, but the answer as to who assumes it for might not be known until the late parts of fall camp.

 

Related: 

 

FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher has been lauded for his ability to develop quarterbacks. Since becoming the school’s head man in Tallahassee in 2010, Fisher has had three different signal-callers go on to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. That list includes 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and 2015 No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston.

 

For the second straight offseason however, who occupies that position is largely unknown. Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson got the nod early last season, but Sean Maguire had overtaken him by the end of the year. Will Maguire ultimately be Fisher’s guy come Labor Day this year or will Fisher look to a younger face? Here’s the case for and against each of the Seminoles vying to start under center:

 

Sean Maguire (Redshirt senior)

 

The case for: Maguire has the experience edge over each of his fellow competitors and he has won big games for the Seminoles. For his career, Maguire has completed nearly 58 percent of his passes and is averaging a respectable 7.6 yards per attempt.

 

As a redshirt sophomore in 2014, Maguire rallied FSU past Clemson in a nationally televised contest by passing for more than 300 yards and a touchdown in place of the suspended Winston. Maguire was the starter for the Seminoles last season in a 27-2 rivalry victory at Florida. Maguire has the arm strength and the respect of his teammates, but whether or not that’s enough to get the starting nod remains to be seen.

 

The case against: Despite the big arm and big edge experience, Maguire is a virtual statue in the pocket. Though his career interception rate isn’t extraordinarily high, Maguire has a tendency to force passes into tight coverage. Although he was playing on a bad ankle, Maguire left a bad taste in Seminole fans’ mouths with four interceptions in the 38-24 Peach Bowl loss to Houston.

 

In the three biggest games Maguire started last season (Clemson, Florida, Houston), the now redshirt senior was a combined 52-for-101 (51 percent completion rate) with three touchdown passes and five interceptions.

 

Deondre Francois (Redshirt freshman)

 

The case for: Francois is probably the best athlete at the quarterback position and he had the chance to show off his wheels during the spring game, rushing for 37 yards on six carries.

 

While Francois would provide some mobility, his biggest strength is still his right arm. Francois is incredibly poised for a redshirt freshman and throws with good accuracy and touch. In April’s spring game, François finished 20-for-33 passing for 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

 

The case against: Though most were left impressed with Francois’ spring game performance, he did throw two interceptions that were clearly avoidable, including one in the end zone. Francois also had a fumble overturned against an FSU defense that wasn’t completely made up of scholarship players.

 

Francois also lacks experience is the shortest (6-1) of Florida State’s four scholarship quarterbacks. The Seminoles open the 2016 season against four bowl teams from a season ago in the first five games with three of them coming away from Tallahassee. Against a tough slate, FSU may want to go to the more experienced signal-caller. It’s true that Jameis Winston led the Seminoles to a national championship as a redshirt freshman, but players of the Heisman winner’s caliber don’t come around every day.

 

Malik Henry (Freshman)

 

The case for: An early enrollee this spring, Henry had the best spring game passing performance of any Florida State quarterback. Henry completed 15 of his 22 attempts for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Henry also has a strong arm and throws a beautiful ball. Henry seems to be a heady kid as well, showing no ill effects of picking up what’s a fairly complex offense in a fairly timely manner.

 

The case against: Henry might be too raw when it comes to playing quarterback for head coach Jimbo Fisher. In fact, the Seminoles haven’t started a true freshman under center since 1985 and it’s not like that decision has come back to hurt them. At only 185 pounds, Henry also is a bit on the lean side and might not hold up over the long haul of the season.

 

J.J. Consentino (Redshirt sophomore)

 

The case for: Consentino might be the biggest long shot for Florida State, but at 6-foot-4 and nearly 240 pounds, he has size and arm strength similar to Jameis Winston. Consentino is 5-for-10 passing for 27 yards in his career.

 

The case against: With Everett Golson not traveling with the team and Sean Maguire temporarily sidelined with a foot injury, Consentino had the look of a deer in the headlights during Florida State’s Peach Bowl loss to Houston – his first real meaningful action. Consentino didn’t seem to have much pocket awareness and looked hesitant to make throws. The fact that this is Consentino’s third year in the system and that he has fallen behind younger players at the position also is troubling.

 

— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of . Like The Daily Nole on and follow Mike on Twitter .

Teaser:
Picking a Starter: The Case For and Against Each FSU Quarterback
Post date: Friday, May 27, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-sun-belts-college-football-coaches-2016
Body:

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for the Sun Belt:

 

Ranking the Sun Belt's College Football Coaches for 2016

 

1. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State

Replacing a coaching legend like Jerry Moore wasn’t easy for Satterfield, but the former Appalachian State quarterback has settled in and emerged as the top coach in the Sun Belt. Satterfield went 4-8 in his debut with the Mountaineers in 2013 but guided the program to a 7-5 mark in its first year at the FBS level. Appalachian State fell just short of a Sun Belt title last season with an 11-2 record and also earned the program’s first bowl victory with a 31-29 win over Ohio in the Camellia Bowl. Prior to taking over as the head coach at Appalachian State, Satterfield worked from 1998-08 as an assistant under Moore and also had short stints at Toledo (2009) and FIU (2010-11).

 

Related:

 

2. Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette

Hudspeth opened his tenure at UL Lafayette with four straight 9-4 campaigns and four consecutive trips to the New Orleans Bowl. Even though the Ragin’ Cajuns had personnel losses to overcome for 2015, this program wasn’t expected to suffer too much in the win column. However, Hudspeth’s team slipped to 4-8 and finished the year with a four-game losing streak. Was 2015 just a small speed bump for Hudspeth? The guess here is yes, as the Ragin’ Cajuns should rebound back into a bowl this fall.

 

3. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State

After cycling through four different full-time head coaches in four years, Arkansas State has stability at the top. Anderson enters his third season with the Red Wolves and has guided the program to back-to-back bowl appearances and a 16-10 record. Arkansas State claimed the Sun Belt title last season and begins 2016 as one of the favorites to win the league crown once again. Prior to Arkansas State, Anderson worked for two years under Larry Fedora at North Carolina and also has stops on his resume as an assistant from Southern Miss, UL Lafayette, MTSU and New Mexico.

 

4. Trent Miles, Georgia State

Georgia State is the second program Miles has brought significant improvement to in a short amount of time. He took over at Indiana State in 2008, and after a 1-22 mark through the first two years, Miles guided the Sycamores to 19 wins from 2010-12. Miles was picked as the second coach in Georgia State program history and inherited a team in need of major repair. The Panthers were still transitioning to the FBS level and were short on depth and overall talent. This program has made significant strides over the last three seasons, as Miles guided Georgia State to a 6-7 record last season and an appearance in the Cure Bowl. Even though Miles’ record in Atlanta is just 7-30, he’s a coach on the rise for 2016.

 

Related:

 

5. Joey Jones, South Alabama

Jones was instrumental in getting South Alabama’s football program started and also guided the Jaguars to the FBS ranks in 2012. South Alabama went 7-0 in its first season in 2009 and finished 16-4 over the next two years. The Jaguars moved to the FBS ranks in 2012 and struggled to a 2-11 finish. However, Jones quickly brought the program up to a competitive level, recording back-to-back six-win seasons from 2013-14, including the program’s first bowl trip in 2014. The Jaguars slipped to 5-7 last year, but Jones should have this team back in the mix for a winning mark in 2016.  

 

6. Neal Brown, Troy

Expect to see Brown move up this list over the next few seasons. In his debut at Troy, there were signs of progress for the Trojans, as this team finished 4-8 overall and 3-5 in league play. Brown is a disciple of the Air Raid offense and learned under two of the best offensive minds in Mike Leach and Tony Franklin. Prior to taking over as the head coach at Troy, Brown spent two years as Kentucky’s play-caller (2013-14) and three seasons as Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator (2010-12). Additionally, he also worked as an assistant under Larry Blakeney at Troy from 2006-09. Brown’s first year was promising, and more progress should be notable in 2016.

 

Related:

 

7. Matt Viator, ULM

ULM quietly made one of the best coaching hires of offseason in Viator. The Louisiana native takes over in Monroe after a successful 10-year run at McNeese State. From 2006-15, Viator guided the Cowboys to a 78-33 record and five appearances in the FCS playoffs. Additionally, McNeese State did not have a losing record in Viator's tenure and posted three seasons of double-digit victories. 2016 could be a struggle for ULM, but Viator should help this program take a step forward over the next few years.

 

8. Everett Withers, Texas State

Withers was a long-time assistant at a handful of stops before landing his first full-time head coaching opportunity at James Madison in 2014. Over the last two years, Withers guided the Dukes to an 18-7 record and led the program to back-to-back playoff berths. Prior to James Madison, Withers worked as an assistant under Urban Meyer for two years at Ohio State and also worked as the interim coach at North Carolina in 2011. He also has stops as an assistant at Minnesota, Texas, Southern Miss, Louisville and in the NFL with the Titans. Texas State finished 3-9 last year, but there’s a lot of promise for this program with Withers at the helm. 

 

Related:

 

9. Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern

Willie Fritz set the bar high for Tyson Summers. Fritz helped Georgia Southern transition to the FBS level, as the Eagles finished 18-7 over the last two years and lost only two conference games in that span. Summers has never been a head coach at the FBS level, but he’s a Georgia native and has previous coaching experience at the school as an assistant (2006). Summers also has stops on his resume from stints at UAB, UCF and Colorado State. Georgia Southern returns a strong core of talent for 2016, so Summers will be expected to keep this team near the top of the Sun Belt.

 

10. Paul Petrino, Idaho

Idaho has made some progress under Petrino’s watch. After winning two games from 2013-14, the Vandals finished 4-8 last season and could push for a .500 record in 2016. Petrino’s also deserves credit for the developing the offense, which averaged 30.3 points a game in 2015. However, Petrino’s job isn’t going to get any easier over the next two years, as the Vandals are dropping to the FCS level after the 2017 campaign. 

 

11. Doug Martin, New Mexico State

This is a tough job, and Martin’s outlook at New Mexico State is only getting tougher with conference uncertainty. The Aggies are slated to be a FBS Independent in 2018, which is not an easy road for a program that has only one winning record since 2000. Martin is 7-29 in three seasons at New Mexico State, but there was progress in 2015. The Aggies finished 3-9 overall but won three games in conference play and lost four by nine points or less. With 11 returning starters – including one of the nation’s top running backs in junior Larry Rose – the Aggies could push for a .500 mark in league play.  

Teaser:
Ranking the Sun Belt's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Friday, May 27, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-macs-college-football-coaches-2016
Body:

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for the MAC:

 

Ranking the MAC's College Football Coaches for 2016

 

1. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan

Fleck is known for his energy and ability to recruit. However, through three seasons at Western Michigan, Fleck is proving to be more than a coach that just wins on signing day. After a 1-11 record in Fleck’s first season (2013), the Broncos are 16-10 over the last two years. Additionally, the program is coming off back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history. Fleck also guided Western Michigan to its first postseason win by defeating MTSU 45-31 in the Bahamas Bowl last year. With 13 returning starters back for 2016, Western Michigan should challenge for its first trip to the MAC title game since 2000.

 

Related:

 

2. Frank Solich, Ohio

Solich is the dean of MAC coaches and enters 2016 with a 138-80 record in his career. Solich guided Nebraska to a 58-19 record from 1998-03 and was hired at Ohio in 2005. The Bobcats are 80-61 under Solich and only have two losing seasons since his arrival. Additionally, Ohio has played in six bowl games over the last seven years and recorded three trips to the MAC title game since 2006. Solich isn’t flashy, but he’s brought consistent success to the Bobcats.

 

3. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois

Carey inherited big shoes to fill from Dave Doeren in 2012. Doeren guided Northern Illinois to a BCS bowl appearance that year, with the Huskies losing 31-10 in the Orange Bowl to Florida State. The program hasn’t slipped under Carey’s watch, as Northern Illinois is 31-11 and has three trips to the MAC title game over the last three seasons. The Huskies finished 8-6 last year, but the program was hit hard by injuries at the quarterback position. Carey should have Northern Illinois back in the mix to win the MAC once again in 2016.

 

4. Terry Bowden, Akron

Bowden guided the Zips to a breakthrough season in 2015. Akron won eight games – the most in school history – and claimed the program’s first bowl victory (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl). Bowden is 19-30 through four seasons at Akron, but the program has showed marked improvement under his watch. After a 1-11 debut in 2012, the Zips finished 5-7 in back-to-back years before the 2015 breakout campaign. Prior to his stint at Akron, Bowden went 29-9 at North Alabama, 47-17-1 at Auburn, 45-23-1 at Samford and 19-13 at Salem.

 

Related:

 

5. John Bonamego, Central Michigan

Considering Bonamego had never coached anything other than special teams since 1999, his hire came as a surprise at Central Michigan. However, Bonamego quickly showed he was capable of keeping this program near the top of the MAC, as the Chippewas gave Oklahoma State all it could handle in the season opener. Central Michigan finished 7-6 in Bonamego’s debut, which included a victory over MAC West champion Northern Illinois and a three-point loss at Syracuse. With a full offseason to put his stamp on the program, Bonamego should keep the Chippewas trending up in 2016.

 

6. Lance Leipold, Buffalo

Leipold was one of the top coaching hires in the 2015 carousel, leaving Wisconsin-Whitewater after guiding the program to a 109-6 mark from 2007-14. Winning at the FBS level would require a few adjustments for Leipold and his staff, and the Bulls finished 5-7 in 2015. However, Buffalo just missed out on a bowl after losing three games by five points or less. Year one was just a small speed bump for this staff. The future is still bright for the Bulls with Leipold at the helm. 

 

7. Chuck Martin, Miami, Ohio

Miami is one of the MAC’s top jobs, but the RedHawks have fallen on hard times. However, Martin seems to have this program moving back in the right direction. After an 0-12 record in Don Treadwell’s last season (2013), Martin is 5-19 over the last two years, but the RedHawks were more competitive in 2015 and return 13 starters for 2016. Prior to Miami, Martin went 74-7 at Grand Valley State and guided the Lakers to three Division II titles.

 

Related:

 

8. Jason Candle, Toledo

Candle is one of the rising stars in the Group of 5 coaching ranks and should move near the top of this list over the next few seasons. Candle’s career path is similar to former coach Matt Campbell, as both played at Mount Union before later coaching with the Purple Raiders as an assistant, followed by a stop in Toledo in the same capacity. Candle was promoted to head coach after Campbell left for Iowa State. The Rockets won’t miss a beat with Candle in charge.

 

9. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan

Eastern Michigan is arguably the toughest job in college football. This program has only season of more than two wins since 2009, with the last winning record coming in 1995. Considering the lack of success by the program in recent years and the roster situation he inherited, immediate success wasn’t going to be easy for Creighton. Through two years, Creighton is 3-21 overall and 1-15 in conference play. But prior to Eastern Michigan, Creighton went 42-22 at Drake, 63-15 at Wabash and 32-9 at Ottawa.

 

10. Paul Haynes, Kent State

After a 9-26 record through three seasons, Haynes is entering a critical 2016 campaign. The Golden Flashes had a standout defense in 2015, but the offense averaged a paltry 9.1 points in MAC games last year. Fixing the offense is Haynes’ top offseason priority if Kent State wants to win more than four games for the first time in four seasons. As a former player and assistant with the Golden Flashes, Haynes certainly knows what it takes to win at this program. However, the pressure is starting to build after last year’s 3-9 record.

 

Related:

 

11. Mike Neu, Ball State

Neu – a former Ball State quarterback from 1990-93 – returns to Muncie as the program’s head coach in 2016. Neu has garnered a variety of experience over the last 18 seasons, spending time as a head coach in the Arena Football League (New Orleans), as a college assistant with Tulane (2012-13) and in the NFL with the Saints (2014-15). While Neu is a former Ball State player and had a one-year stint as a graduate assistant with the program, this is his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level.

 

12. Mike Jinks, Bowling Green

Bowling Green hit a home run with its last coaching hire (Dino Babers), and the program is hoping Jinks keeps the Falcons at the top of the MAC East. Jinks’ hire came as a surprise to most, as he had only three seasons as an assistant (Texas Tech) at the FBS level prior to his hire in Bowling Green. Additionally, Jinks has never worked as a coordinator at this level. His only experience as a head coach came in the high school ranks, spending one year at Burbank High School (2005) and a handful at Cibolo Steele (2006-12). Considering Jinks’ stint at Texas Tech came under Kliff Kingsbury, the transition on offense from Dino Babers’ attack should be minimal.

Teaser:
Ranking the MAC's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Friday, May 27, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/kirk-herbstreit-disrespect-baylor-bears-football-coach-campus-espn-sportscenter
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One thing we're learning from the Baylor fallout is how much of a family the program was.

 

There's a "protect what's ours" mentality surrounding the Bears which, ironically, is what landed us here. On SportsCenter, Kirk Herbstreit spoke a bit about the "all for one" mantra of the team. The college football analyst says he spoke negatively about the team before his visit and was immediately called out by one of the coaches. That lead to "hooting and hollering" from the players that rallied around one another.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 14:16
All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/5-coaching-candidates-replace-art-briles-baylor-2017
Body:

Art Briles’ tenure at Baylor ended on Thursday, as the 60-year-old coach was fired as a result of the findings from the Pepper Hamilton investigation into football program and athletic department. With Briles out, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will serve as the program’s head coach for the 2016 season. While Bennett has previous head coaching experience and is a veteran assistant, it’s unlikely the program will keep this current staff in place after this season. Instead, a full house cleaning of the staff is likely in order.

 

Who might take over as Baylor’s coach for 2017 and beyond? Here are a few names to watch as the 2016 season progresses.

 

Five Potential Candidates for Baylor in 2017

 

Sonny Dykes, head coach, California

Dykes is 14-23 at California, but the Golden Bears have made significant progress under his watch. After a 1-11 mark in 2013, California improved to 5-7 in 2014 and 8-5 in 2015. Prior to taking over in Berkeley, Dykes went 22-15 at Louisiana Tech and also worked as an assistant at Arizona, Texas Tech and Kentucky. Despite a contract extension after the 2015 season, an opportunity to coach back in his home state of Texas could be appealing to Dykes. 

 

Willie Fritz, head coach, Tulane

Fritz is entering his first year at Tulane, but the Kansas native has ties to the state of Texas from a stint as an assistant at Sam Houston State and later as the program’s head coach from 2010-13. Fritz went 97-47 at Central Missouri from 1997-09 and guided Sam Houston State to a 40-15 mark over four years, which included back-to-back trips to the FCS Championship. Fritz helped Georgia Southern transition to the FBS level in 2014 and went 17-7 over the last two years with the Eagles.

 

Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie, Co-Offensive Coordinators, TCU

TCU’s offense has made significant progress under Meacham and Cumbie, averaging over 40 points in each of the last two years. Meacham is the team’s play-caller, but both coaches are rising stars after helping the Horned Frogs’ offense emerge as one of the best in the Big 12. Prior to his stint at TCU, Meacham also has previous experience in the Big 12 after a stop at Oklahoma State (2005-12). The one downside: Neither coach has FBS head coaching experience.

 

Chad Morris, head coach, SMU

Morris is another rising star to watch in the coaching ranks and has deep ties to the state of Texas. The Dallas native worked from 1994-09 as a high school head coach at five different Texas high schools and later spent one season at Tulsa (2010) as the team’s offensive coordinator. After four years at Clemson, Morris was hired at SMU and went 2-10 in his debut. He’s one of the nation’s top offensive minds and should move up the FBS coaching ladder over the next few years.

 

Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma

Riley’s arrival at Oklahoma sparked immediate improvement for the Sooners’ offense in 2015, and it’s only a matter of time before the Texas native gets a chance to run his own program. Under Riley's direction, the Sooners averaged 43.5 points a game last season. Prior to taking over in Norman as the play-caller, Riley worked for five years at East Carolina and also had a stint at Texas Tech (2007-09) under Mike Leach.

Teaser:
5 Coaching Candidates to Replace Art Briles at Baylor in 2017
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 13:26
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/top-10-mlb-memorial-day-2016-uniforms
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On Memorial Day,  will honor those who have lost their lives in service of their country. As part of the league-wide observance, all 30 teams will wear specially designed caps and jerseys.

 

This marks the eighth consecutive year in which MLB and New Era have partnered together to create a special cap for teams to wear. It's also the fourth consecutive year in which Majestic has designed the matching jersey. This year's edition features a new woodland camouflage design licensed by the United States Marine Corps, while the Blue Jays' uniform will feature the distinctive Canadian Forces CADPAT design. The Memorial Day uniforms are part of this year's special event looks, which were . Teams wore pink-centric uniforms on Mother’s Day and will don special uniforms for Father’s Day and the 4th of July as well.

 

Related:

 

Besides the uniforms, MLB plans to participate in the National Moment of Remembrance at ballparks on Memorial Day, and teams will conduct moments of silence and special pregame ceremonies. Additionally, MLB will donate a portion of its licensed Memorial Day uniform royalties to Welcome Back Veterans as well as the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services' "Support Our Troops Fund" on behalf of the Toronto Blue Jays.

 

Even though all 30 teams will be utilizing the same camouflage-influenced design elements, which ones will wear it best? Here are the 10 (in alphabetical order) we think will stand out on the diamond on Memorial Day. 

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

 


Baltimore Orioles

 

 

Chicago Cubs

 

 

Cleveland Indians

 

 

Kansas City Royals

 

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

 

 

Oakland A's

 

 

Philadelphia Phillies

 

 

St. Louis Cardinals

 

 

Toronto Blue Jays

 

 

(Photos courtesy of , where you can find the complete gallery of Memorial Day and .)

Teaser:
Top 10 MLB Memorial Day 2016 Uniforms
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/james-franklin-has-no-more-excuses-penn-state-2016
Body:

It took a couple of years, but James Franklin is finally in position to leave his stamp on the football program. A strong contingent of Nittany Lions fans are unwilling to accept the idea Penn State has been in a rebuild mode since Franklin’s hiring following the departure of Bill O’Brien to the NFL, but there is no better way to describe the state of the program than by suggesting Franklin took over a rebuilding project. Franklin has generated some recruiting momentum in his time in State College, and the 2016 season will be used as the first true litmus test for what Franklin has to offer.

 

Related:

 

For the first time since taking the job, Franklin is essentially out of excuses. Franklin took over a team in the midst of a postseason ban and reduced scholarship totals. He inherited an offensive line in shambles. He inherited a quarterback many deemed not the right fit for his offensive philosophy. For the most part, those were some issues Franklin had no choice but to plow through for better or worse. The result? A 14-12 mark over two seasons with plenty of work to do to improve the offense, which Franklin does shoulder some of the blame for with his staff decisions.

 

He has already made a switch at offensive coordinator by firing John Donovan and . Moorhead will have the luxury of playing with a deeper offensive line, the position arguably hurt the most by the abbreviated NCAA sanctions against the program. The line has padded its depth with three respectable recruiting classes under Franklin, and it is not as though it could get much worse at this point.

 

Penn State also breaks in a new quarterback after three polarizing seasons of Christian Hackenberg, now in the NFL with the New York Jets. To some, the early departure of Hackenberg comes across as addition by subtraction, a point supported by the rally backup Trace McSorely orchestrated against Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl this past January. This may prove to be true, but that also accounts for an improved offensive line and a better offensive scheme cooked up by the coordinator. McSorely may not even be the answer at quarterback, but it will finally be a QB that Franklin brought in.

 

As the Penn State program begins to put the impact and effects of the sanctions behind them, the pressure to start showing progress under Franklin is pretty high in 2016. Penn State went 7-6 in each of the past two seasons, with one bowl victory. This is now a program that has gone six full seasons without hitting 10 wins in a single season, a stretch not seen in Happy Valley since the 1960s. It’s true, there were some very strenuous circumstances holding the program down, but the time for those excuses has reached an expiration date. Penn State is still a good distance behind Big Ten championship-caliber programs like Ohio State and Michigan State, but it some degree of progress on the field this fall will be  expected to restore faith in Franklin’s ability to lead the program to that kind of pedigree.

 

Considering Franklin managed to go back-to-back seasons with nine wins at Vanderbilt before being hired by Penn State that is not a lot to ask, even with a that includes games against Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Pittsburgh and a Temple team that is no longer intimidated by the Nittany Lions.

 

Fans have every right to expect more from Penn State in 2016. The bar for success should now be raised. Seven wins should be unacceptable for Franklin and Penn State, but if that is the win total at the end of the season then there will be some obvious glimmers of hope along the way.

 

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for , and hosts the . Follow him on Twitter .

Teaser:
James Franklin Has No More Excuses for Penn State in 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/art-briles-fire-baylor-bears-football-tweets-sexual-allegations
Body:

Baylor is reportedly cutting ties with head football coach Art Briles after eight seasons together.

 

Amid the sexual allegations involving multiple football players, the school is firing the coach for somewhat allowing things to happen and not taking much of a stand to prevent them.

 

 

 

 

Briles had an 65-37 record during his time at Baylor. Players on the team didn't take the news too well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's the last text Briles sent to his players before his dismissal. 

 

 

Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is expected to be named interim head coach.

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 11:57
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/12-college-football-playoff-sleeper-teams-2016
Body:

Defining a “sleeper team” for the College Football Playoff isn’t easy. The definition of a “sleeper team” can vary among fanbases, and each preseason prediction or ranking has different views on the upcoming season. While certain teams on this list may not be sleepers to everyone, Athlon Sports has tried to identify 12 teams who could make a surprising run to the College Football Playoff. The usual suspects – Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame – will be in the mix for a spot in the top four. However, the 12 teams mentioned below are ones who could steal the headlines throughout the year in the midweek rankings, pull an upset or two that impacts the top four or rates in December as a potential surprise in the final results. 

 

College Football's Playoff Sleepers for 2016

 

Georgia

Florida was the SEC’s biggest surprise last season by winning the East Division in Jim McElwain’s first year. Could the Bulldogs get a similar bump in 2016? While Mark Richt won a lot of games in Athens, a fresh start and a new coaching staff isn’t necessarily a bad thing for this program. Kirby Smart has a lot to prove in his first year as the head coach, but he hired a standout staff and managed to keep five-star freshman quarterback Jacob Eason in the fold. Eason’s development, the health of running back Nick Chubb and the improvement of the offensive line under Sam Pittman are three areas to watch on offense this season. The defense returns only five starters and features a revamped front seven. However, there’s no shortage of talent waiting to emerge. The schedule is also in Georgia’s favor. Tennessee has to visit Athens, and the Bulldogs have a bye before playing Florida in Jacksonville.

 

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Houston

Tom Herman set the bar high in his first season, guiding the Cougars to a 13-1 finish and a victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl. However, an even better season could be in store for Houston in 2016. The Cougars return 11 starters, including dynamic quarterback Greg Ward and transfers Duke Catalon (RB) and Ra’Shaad Samples (WR) add firepower at the skill positions. The defense allowed only 20.7 points a game in 2015 and returns a strong core of talent in the front seven. A plus-21 turnover margin won’t be easy to replicate, but Houston should be favored in at least 10 of its regular season games. The only two matchups it could be an underdog? Oklahoma in the opener in Houston and the Nov. 17 showdown against Louisville. Making the playoff as a Group of 5 team isn’t easy, but the Cougars already have an advantage by starting 2016 high in the polls and there’s two huge opportunities on the schedule to build a playoff resume. Houston needs to finish the regular season 13-0 to have a shot at the playoff in 2016.

 

Iowa

The Hawkeyes were a goal-line stand away from winning the Big Ten title and a playoff spot last season. And with 13 returning starters back for 2016, another run at the top four isn’t out of the question. Coordinator Greg Davis needs to find a few playmakers at receiver for quarterback C.J. Beathard, but the offensive line is one of the best in the Big Ten, and there’s a solid trio of backs leading the way on the ground. The defense is loaded with eight returning starters, including standout cornerback Desmond King and linebacker Josey Jewell. Another reason to like the Hawkeyes? The schedule. Iowa does not play Ohio State or Michigan State in crossover play and catches key conference matchups against Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin in Iowa City.

 

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Louisville

Clemson and Florida State are projected to be playoff teams in most preseason polls, but if there’s a team that could derail the Tigers or Seminoles in the ACC – it’s Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals. Louisville won six out of its last seven games last season and three of its five losses in 2015 came by seven points or less. Dynamic sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson is one of college football’s rising stars and is due for a breakout year after a full offseason to work under Petrino. The Cardinals also return a host of proven skill players, and the offensive line should improve with three starters back. The defense has ranked among the ACC’s best in each of the last two seasons and should be strong once again with eight returning starters. Devonte Fields and Keith Kelsey could be the best linebacker duo in the nation. If Louisville wants to challenge for a playoff bid, it should know where it stacks up by Oct. 2. The Cardinals host Florida State on Sept. 17 and travel to Clemson on Oct. 1. 

 

North Carolina

Larry Fedora’s fourth season in Chapel Hill resulted in a breakout year. The Tar Heels won the ACC’s Coastal Division with an 11-3 record and a perfect 8-0 mark in the regular season in conference play. The No. 15 ranking in the Associated Press poll was the program’s first finish in the top 25 since 1997. North Carolina should open 2016 as the favorite in the Coastal, but there are a few roadblocks to a repeat. The schedule is tougher this season, and the Tar Heels still need more improvement out of their defense. While there are question marks, there is reason to believe North Carolina could be a better team in 2016 than it was last year. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a rising star in the ACC, and running back Elijah Hood returns after rushing for 1,463 yards last season. Additionally, four starters are back on the offensive line, and the receiving corps is among the best in college football. Question marks remain about the front seven, but the secondary boasts a talented cornerback duo in M.J. Stewart and Des Lawrence. As mentioned above, there’s little doubt the schedule is tougher. North Carolina has to play Georgia in non-conference play and catches Florida State in a crossover game with the Atlantic. However, those games offer an opportunity for the Tar Heels to pick up marquee wins and play their way into the playoff conversation.

 

Oregon

Most preseason rankings indicate the Pac-12 is on the outside of the College Football Playoff picture for 2016. However, there’s plenty of time for a playoff contender to emerge. Oregon has won at least 10 games in seven out of the last eight seasons and just missed hitting the double-digit mark in 2015 with three losses by one score. Despite the departure of coordinator Scott Frost to UCF and a new quarterback taking over, the Ducks will have a high-powered offense once again. Running back Royce Freeman headlines a deep backfield, and there’s no shortage of playmakers at receiver. Shoring up the offensive line and deciding on a quarterback – FCS transfer Dakota Prukop or Travis Jonsen – are the biggest question marks for coach Mark Helfrich. The addition of Brady Hoke as the defensive coordinator should help a unit that surrendered 37.5 points a game last year. While the Ducks have road trips to Utah, USC and Washington State in league play, Stanford and Washington have to visit Eugene.

 

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TCU

Oklahoma is widely considered the favorite in the Big 12, but a repeat trip to the College Football Playoff could be derailed by TCU. The Horned Frogs have won 23 games over the last two seasons and will be anchored by a standout defense and a talented group of skill players for 2016. Quarterback Trevone Boykin leaves big shoes to fill, but Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill and sophomore Foster Sawyer are talented options and should keep the offense performing at a high level. Even if TCU’s offense doesn’t match its scoring average from 2015 (42.1 ppg), the defense could carry this team to 10 wins. Seven starters are back from a unit that improved throughout 2015, while end James McFarland, cornerback Ranthony Texada, safety Kenny Iloka and linebacker Sammy Douglas are back from injury. With Oklahoma and Oklahoma State visiting Fort Worth, the Horned Frogs will have a chance to surprise in the Big 12.  

 

UCLA

USC might have more overall talent than UCLA, but coach Jim Mora’s team has a few significant advantages over their crosstown rival. The Bruins return the Pac-12's most-talented quarterback (Josh Rosen), have a better coaching situation and feature a more favorable schedule. Rosen had a standout debut as a true freshman last fall and should be even better as a sophomore in 2016. Mora is tweaking the offense to help Rosen’s development, and the Bruins’ supporting cast is anchored by sophomore running back Soso Jamabo and standout left tackle Conor McDermott. Stopping the run was a challenge for the defense last season, but there’s hope for improvement with eight starters back, and the return of Eddie Vanderdoes from injury. UCLA will have a chance to prove right away it belongs in the playoff conversation. The Bruins play at Texas A&M to start the 2016 season and also play at BYU and host Stanford in the month of September. But the schedule gets a little lighter after that stretch, with Utah and USC visiting Pasadena in the second half of the season.

 

Washington

Entering Chris Petersen’s third season at the helm, expectations are rising for the Huskies. After an 8-6 record in Petersen’s debut (2014), Washington finished 7-6 last season. While seven wins may not seem like much, the Huskies were considered a top 25 team in advanced metrics. It’s easy to see where Washington could saw marked improvement this fall, as 17 starters are back, including talented sophomores Jake Browning (QB) and Myles Gaskin (RB). Browning was impressive as a true freshman last season, and the return of big-play receiver John Ross from a knee injury should bolster the passing attack. Despite losing a couple of key players from the 2014 unit, Washington’s defense led the Pac-12 in fewest points allowed (18.8 ppg). This unit could be even better in 2016, anchored by a secondary that features All-America candidates Sidney Jones (CB) and Budda Baker (FS). The schedule isn’t overly daunting, but the Oct. 8 trip to Oregon could play a huge role in deciding the winner of the Pac-12 North. Petersen’s rebuilding plan is on track entering year three. The Huskies are poised for a big jump in the win column – and the national polls.

 

Three Longshots

 

BYU

A lot would have to go right for a team outside of Notre Dame or a Power 5 conference to make the College Football Playoff. However, BYU is a team to watch in 2016. The Cougars have a challenging schedule with six Power 5 opponents, including games at Michigan State, Utah and a home matchup against UCLA. New coach Kalani Sitake has personnel concerns to address on both sides of the ball this offseason, but two proven quarterbacks – Tanner Mangum and Taysom Hill – are back to lead the offense. If BYU finishes 12-0 with its 2016 schedule, it has to earn consideration for the playoff.

 

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Nebraska

Nebraska’s 6-7 record in coach Mike Riley’s first season was a disappointment, but final victory tally wasn’t as bad as it seemed. The Cornhuskers had bad luck on their side with a minus-12 turnover margin, which played a huge role in the team’s six losses by eight points or less. Bad luck usually turns around into good fortune the next season, so Nebraska could pick up a couple of wins just by showing some improvement in turnover margin. But that’s not the only reason to like the Cornhuskers in 2016. The offense returns six starters, including quarterback Tommy Armstrong and one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps. The schedule isn’t too daunting, and Nebraska hosts Oregon in a key non-conference game, with road trips to Ohio State and Iowa on tap. Reloading on both lines of scrimmage will be critical if the Cornhuskers want to challenge the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten West Division.

 

Utah

UCLA and USC are the preseason favorites in the Pac-12 South, but don’t overlook Kyle Whittingham’s team in 2016. The Utes are coming off their best season (10-3) since joining the Pac-12 and inked the No. 37 recruiting class by the 247Sports Composite in Feburary. That’s the program’s highest finish on the recruiting trail since 2012. It’s no secret the strength of Utah rests with its ground attack and defense. The Utes lose standout running back Devontae Booker, but senior Joe Williams is a capable replacement, and the offensive line is one of the best in the Pac-12. Both starting linebackers must be replaced, but the defensive line and secondary are among the best in the nation. Improving the offense is a must if Utah wants to challenge for the South Division title. Junior college quarterback Troy Williams and freshman Tyler Huntley will push Brandon Cox for the starting job in the fall. The Utes have to play at UCLA this season, but USC, BYU, Washington and Oregon all visit Salt Lake City.  

Teaser:
12 College Football Playoff Sleeper Teams for 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-american-athletic-conferences-college-football-coaches-2016
Body:

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for the American Athletic Conference:

 

Ranking the AAC's Football Coaches for 2016
 

1. Tom Herman, Houston

The H-Town Takeover for Herman and Houston’s football program is officially underway. In Herman’s first season, the Cougars won the American Athletic Conference, finished with a 13-1 record and defeated Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. And with a strong core of talent returning for 2016, Herman has Houston positioned as the top Group of 5 program once again this season. Herman was regarded as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches prior to his hire with the Cougars. Herman worked as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer from 2012-14 and was an instrumental part of the Buckeyes’ 2014 championship team. Herman also has stops as a play-caller at Iowa State, Texas State and Rice. Herman is the top coach from the Group of 5 ranks.

 

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2. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

Navy embarked on a new era for its football program in 2015 by joining the American Athletic Conference. However, the change from being a FBS independent to a conference member didn’t have any impact on the Midshipmen. Niumatalolo guided Navy to a school-record 11 wins last season and finished No. 18 in the final Associated Press poll. Under Niumatalolo’s direction, the Midshipmen are 68-37 since the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl and have only one season of fewer than eight wins.

 

3. Willie Fritz, Tulane

Tulane made one of the offseason’s best coaching hires by bringing Fritz to New Orleans after a successful two-year stint at Georgia Southern. From 2014-15 with the Eagles, Fritz went 17-7 and helped the program complete a successful transition to the FBS level. Prior to taking over at Georgia Southern, Fritz guided Sam Houston State to 40 wins from 2010-13 and back-to-back appearances in the FCS Championship (2011-12). He also coached at Central Missouri from 1997-09, recording a 97-47 mark in that span. Fritz has been a winner at each coaching stop and should continue that track record at Tulane over the next few years.

 

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4. Willie Taggart, South Florida

Taggart was feeling the pressure to produce after a 6-18 start to his tenure at South Florida. But Taggart certainly eased concerns about the direction of the program with an 8-5 mark and a trip to the Miami Beach Bowl last year. The 8-5 record improved Taggart’s overall mark at USF to 14-23, and the Bulls should start out 2016 as the favorite to win the American Athletic East Division. Prior to taking over at USF, Taggart went 16-20 in three years at WKU, which included back-to-back 7-5 campaigns. After a slow start to his tenure, Taggart seems to have this program trending up for 2016 and beyond.

 

5. Matt Rhule, Temple

Rhule delivered a breakout season for Temple in 2015, as the Owls tied a program record with 10 victories. Temple finished 10-4 overall last year and claimed the American Athletic East Division title. Rhule is no stranger to success at Temple, as he worked as an assistant under Al Golden from 2006-10 and again for one year with Steve Addazio (2011). Rhule also has one season of experience in the NFL, working with the Giants’ offensive line in 2012. After three years at Temple, it’s clear Rhule is one of the top coaches in the Group of 5 ranks.

 

6. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati

After back-to-back 9-4 seasons, Tuberville slipped to 7-6 in his third year at Cincinnati. The win total regression was largely due bad luck with a minus-19 turnover margin. A quick rebound to nine wins again wouldn’t be a surprise for the Bearcats, as there’s a track record of success for Tuberville. He went 20-17 at Texas Tech from 2010-12, 85-40 at Auburn from 1999-08 and 25-20 at Ole Miss from 1995-98. In Tuberville’s 20-year coaching career, he’s had only four seasons with losing records. 

 

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7. Bob Diaco, UConn

Offense seems to be the focal point for a league that features coaches like Houston’s Tom Herman, SMU’s Chad Morris and Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery. However, defense leads the way at UConn with Diaco in charge. The New Jersey native was regarded as one of the nation’s top assistants during a stint as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator (2010-13) and helped the Fighting Irish reach the national championship game in 2012. Diaco went 2-10 in his debut (2014), but the Huskies showed improvement in 2015 by finishing with a 6-7 record. Diaco is building a stellar defense in Storrs, and with a little improvement by the offense in 2016, UConn could push for seven or eight wins this fall.

 

8. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa

Chad Morris and Tom Herman garnered most of the offseason attention among the coaching hires in the American Athletic Conference last year, but Montgomery quietly pieced together an impressive debut. Tulsa went 6-7 last season, which represented a four-game improvement from 2014. Prior to taking over as Tulsa’s head coach, Montgomery worked as an assistant under Art Briles at Houston (2003-07) and again at Baylor from 2008-14. Montgomery is a sharp offensive mind and should have Tulsa back in contention for a bowl trip in 2016.

 

9. Chad Morris, SMU

Expect to Morris move up this list in future seasons. The Texas native took over at SMU after spending four years guiding Clemson’s offense (2011-14). The Tigers’ offense emerged as one of the nation’s most-explosive attacks under Morris’ direction, including back-to-back seasons (2012-13) by averaging over 40 points a game. SMU finished 2-10 in Morris’ first season on the job, but the Mustangs should take a step forward in 2016. Prior to Clemson, Morris worked at Tulsa for one year (2010) and was a high school coach at five different stops from 1994-2009.

 

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10. Mike Norvell, Memphis

Justin Fuente leaves big shoes to fill at Memphis after a 19-6 record over the last two seasons. However, Mike Norvell was one of the rising stars in the assistant ranks and should keep this program trending up for 2016 and beyond. Norvell worked as an assistant under Todd Graham at Tulsa (2007-10), at Pittsburgh (2011) and from 2012-15 at Arizona State. Norvell called the plays all four seasons for the Sun Devils, guiding the offense to an average of at least 34 points every year. Fuente set the bar high, but Norvell is an outstanding hire for this program.

 

11. Scott Frost, UCF

After a winless 2015 campaign, a new regime and direction should be a huge positive for UCF. There’s no shortage of potential for this program, and Frost’s background on offense and history with Oregon should attract plenty of recruits to Orlando. Frost arrives at UCF after spending seven seasons with the Ducks. He spent the last three years there as the team’s play-caller, guiding the offense to a top-10 finish in scoring each season. This is Frost’s first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level, but there’s a lot to like about this hire for UCF.

 

12. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina

Montgomery has been on a fast rise through the assistant ranks and lands at one of the better jobs in the American Athletic Conference for his first FBS coaching opportunity. The North Carolina native started his coaching career under David Cutcliffe at Duke from 2006-09 as a wide receivers coach and later spent three years (2010-12) with the Steelers in the same capacity. Montgomery returned to Duke in 2013, spending one year as a receivers coach before a promotion to offensive coordinator in 2014. This is Montgomery’s first head coaching opportunity, but he’s learned under one of the top FBS coaches (Cutcliffe) and his background on offense should be a good fit at East Carolina. 

Teaser:
Ranking the American Athletic Conference's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/missouri-valley-strong-enough-6-fcs-playoff-teams
Body:

The Missouri Valley Football Conference could become the first FCS conference to have five playoff teams in three consecutive seasons in 2016. But the preeminent conference in the FCS appears strong enough to take its success to a higher level.

 

The MVFC could gain six playoff bids — one-quarter of the 24-team field — which would be a first.

 

Behind five-time reigning national champion North Dakota State, the MVFC has 18 playoffs wins over the last two years, when its playoff qualifiers have matched the FCS single-season record previously held by CAA Football. The CAA had five in both 2007 and ’08 when the field was only 16 teams deep, then again in 2011 when there were 20 qualifiers.

 

So the 10-team Missouri Valley would love to take the standard to a higher level.

 

Related: 

 

“It would take a perfect storm for any conference to exceed five playoff teams in a single season,” said Missouri Valley associate commissioner Mike Kern, “but if it were to happen, the MVFC is poised to be the first.”

 

To gain six qualifiers in 2016, the MVFC will likely need to dominate non-conference opponents in the way it has done the last two regular seasons, but particularly 2014, when it posted a 23-1 record against non-conference FCS teams in the regular season.

 

A quick start to the season is vital because the 10 Valley teams will continually knock each other off in conference action, which will lower records and decrease the candidacy of teams for at-large playoff bids.

 

However, Western Illinois’ schedule was so impressive last season that it became the first 6-5 team to earn an at-large bid. The only other five-loss team to gain one was Indiana State, another Valley program, when it was 7-5 heading into the 2014 playoffs. Both teams validated their selections by winning first-round playoff games.

 

In 2016, let’s start with the obvious: North Dakota State will be one of the MVFC playoff qualifiers.

 

The Bison have separated themselves while setting not just an FCS record, but an NCAA mark, for consecutive national championships. Six might be their number this year as well as head coach Chris Klieman returns 14 starters to a team which will have a superb run game, defense and home-field advantage inside the Fargodome, and even an experienced quarterback because redshirt sophomore Easton Stick went 8-0 as a starter last season while Carson Wentz, No. 2 overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, sat out with a broken wrist.

 

The next wave of teams includes Northern Iowa, South Dakota State and Illinois State – all potential top-10 programs and similar in that they should have excellent offenses and will have to prove they haven’t lost too much on defense. All three teams have been eliminated by North Dakota State in one of the last two postseasons, including Illinois State in the 2014 national championship game, when the MVFC became the first FCS conference to field both finalists.

 

Western Illinois expects to build on last year’s success with the return of 17 starters, while Youngstown State has an experienced team that has been on the playoff doorstep in recent years. Last year, the Penguins joined the five playoff qualifiers in the top 30 of the NCAA’s Simple Ratings System, which is similar to the college basketball RPI.

 

Indiana State’s playoff bid has been hurt severely by quarterback Matt Adam sitting out this season to improve his academics. That has opened the door to South Dakota to be a dark horse under new coach Bob Nielson, who led Western Illinois to the playoffs last year.

 

Only Southern Illinois, the former MVFC power which is rebuilding its program, and Missouri State, whose only win last year was against a Division II team, don’t appear ready to contend for playoff bids.

 

That leaves eight possible hopefuls. Six making the playoffs from the FCS’ strongest conference isn’t out of the question.

 

— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for . He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter .

 

(Top photo by Richard Svaleson/NDSU)

Teaser:
Missouri Valley Strong Enough for 6 FCS Playoff Teams
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Magazines
Path: /college-football/10-ways-first-issue-athlon-proves-sec-never-changes
Body:

If you’re one of the lucky college football fans out there who has already picked up this year’s Athlon Sports SEC preview (and if you haven’t, ), you may have noticed a notable anniversary.

 

This year’s SEC preview is the 50th edition Athlon has published. Back in 1967, the first issue of what became Athlon focused primarily on the SEC and Southeastern football. Over the years, we’d added editions featuring other conferences and sports, but in 1967, our bread-and-butter has been college football in the Southeast.

 

To mark our 50th edition, we’re looking back at Athlon’s early days. Over the next weeks and months, we’ll show off some of our archives — the good, the bad and the unintentionally funny.

 

For those of us who weren’t around back then, this is quite the illuminating exercise, if only because so little seems to have changed in 50 years.

 

In 1967, the SEC was then in its classic 10-team lineup — no South Carolina or Arkansas, never mind Texas A&M or Missouri. A year earlier, Florida quarterback Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy, the SEC’s first Heisman winner since LSU’s Billy Cannon in 1959 and last until Auburn’s Pat Sullivan in 1971.

 

The league also was in a relative national title drought. Alabama won a split national title with Michigan State in 1965. An SEC team wouldn’t win another championship until Alabama split the title with Notre Dame in 1973.

 

The league’s coaching lineup was dotted with legends: Bear Bryant was entrenched at Alabama, Vince Dooley was just getting started at Georgia, and John Vaught was entering his twilight years at Ole Miss.

 

This is a bygone era, but some things never change. Here are few clips from that first issue of Athlon that prove as much.

 

1. The SEC was already trolling the Big Ten

 

 

Long before satellite camps were the SEC’s way to needle a Big Ten team, Athlon put it right on the cover.

 

“The Really Big Ten” sure seems like an attempt to throw shade on the conference up north.

 

2. We were tired of Alabama being great

 

 

From this headline, it seems like there was a bit of Alabama fatigue even then. Even fans of the SEC might be a bit tired of Alabama being so darn good.

 

By 1967, Bryant had already led Alabama to national titles in 1961, ‘64 and ’65. He’d add three more titles in ’73, ’78 and ’79. The Tide had won at least a share of three straight SEC titles heading into the 1967 season and were Athlon’s preseason favorite. And guess what? The defense in Tuscaloosa was dominant.

 

3. We picked Alabama to win the league

 

 

Athlon’s pick of Alabama to win the SEC in 1967 probably wasn’t a great omen. Tennessee ended up winning the SEC that year.

 

So, yes, we were a little off even in our first issue.

 

4. Florida has a quarterback problem

 

 

“Florida seeks QB” could have been a headline in every issue of Athlon since 2009, only the main heading would have been “Come Back Tim Tebow.”

 

5. A prominent player for a prominent school had off-field questions during the offseason

 

 

Every season seems to have a key player or two who is an offseason liability. Some players are knuckleheads. Some are dealing with more critical issues.

 

In the past, the Johnny Manziel circus was the offseason storyline, and one that would become more serious in his pro career. This year, Alabama is dealing with legal issues surrounding Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson.

 

Back in 1967, these kinds of issues tended to be less public, but we nonetheless knew something was going on.

 

Coming off of his first full season as a starter, then-Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler was suspended during the offseason. He was already a star in his own right as the MVP of the Sugar Bowl and his record-breaking accuracy, which by the way was a whopping 64.9 percent on 114 passes in 1966.

 

The Snake, of course, played in 1967, passing for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns on the way to an 8-2-1 season and trip to the Cotton Bowl.

 

6. An eight-team playoff was already on people’s minds

 

 

We’re entering the third year of the College Football Playoff, but coaches were talking about it even in 1967. And administrative types were worried about how payouts might impact the respective conferences (sound familiar, Big 12 fans?).

 

The “proposed NCAA playoff” mentioned here was courtesy of then-Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty. The Spartans coach noted the popularity of the early Super Bowls and thought the college game was falling behind with its traditional bowl games. It was no coincidence that in 1966 Alabama (11-0), Michigan State (9-0-1) and Notre Dame (9-0-1) all finished undefeated but only the Irish claimed a national title.

 

Daugherty’s vision was for an eight-team tournament that would start in November on the home field of teams ranked higher in the polls and end in the middle of December. The plan, though supported by many prominent coaches, was disregarded thanks to pressure from the bowls and television executives and resistance from administrators.

 

7. The SEC was “too tough”

 

 

Today, fans from the SEC like to think players from the Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC and Big 12 could never withstand a full season in the SEC.

 

Back in 1967, even SEC freshmen weren’t tough enough for the SEC.

 

8. LSU also is seeking a quarterback

 

 

“LSU needs a quarterback most of all.” There’s another phrase that’s all too familiar in 2016.

 

Auburn, too, wasn’t satisfied with its starter early in the 1966 season, a storyline that’s familiar to the Tigers fans who watched Jeremy Johnson last season. That ill-fated ‘60s QB, Larry Blakeney, ended up getting moved to the secondary and then coached at Troy for more than 20 eyars.

 

9. SEC teams were looking to technology for an edge

 

 

Remember when coaches texting recruits was considered a major breakthrough? That was thanks to then-Florida coach Urban Meyer in the mid-2000s.

 

Now, we have Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin tweeting bitmojis and Texas A&M recruits calling out assistants on social media.

 

Those computers in 1967? Tennessee coach Doug Dickey used them to produce scouting reports. “Within 10 or 15 minutes, the computer will show an opponent is likely to do on third and 3 on his own 35,” this article read.

 

10. Vanderbilt was still waiting for its big moment

 

 

Unfortunately for the Commodores, James Franklin wouldn’t be born for another five years.

Teaser:
10 Ways the First Issue of Athlon Proves the SEC Never Changes
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/dale-hansen-art-briles-failed-women-baylor-bears-football-assault-unplugged
Body:

Dale Hansen is a pretty tough Texas sports anchor.

 

The WFAA 8 anchor has laid into Greg Hardy among many other hot topics, and has his sights set on Baylor's Art Briles. During his famed Unplugged segment, Hansen says the Bears' football coach has failed women at Baylor, and he's shocked that more people aren't tired of the lack of actions the coaches take to protect them.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-mountain-wests-college-football-coaches-2016
Body:

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for the Mountain West:

 

Ranking the Mountain West's Football Coaches for 2016

 

1. Troy Calhoun, Air Force

Air Force has been a consistent winner under Calhoun’s watch, and the program is coming off its first trip to the Mountain West Conference title game. The Falcons won the Mountain Division last year and lost by three points on the road at San Diego State in the conference title game. Calhoun has recorded a 67-50 mark since replacing Fisher DeBerry in 2007. Air Force also has eight bowl appearances under Calhoun and just one season of fewer than six wins. Calhoun is also the Mountain West’s longest-tenured coach and the 18 victories over the last two years is the best mark by the program since posting 22 from 1997-98.

 

Related:

 

2. Rocky Long, San Diego State

With a fertile recruiting area in its backyard, San Diego State has been considered a sleeping giant. After having some sporadic success from 1986-2009, this program took a big step forward in 2010 with a 9-4 mark in Brady Hoke’s second year with the Aztecs. After Hoke left for Michigan, Long was promoted to the top spot. Under his watch, San Diego State continues to climb even higher in the Mountain West. The Aztecs have earned four consecutive bowl trips and finished 2015 by tying the school record with 11 victories. Long also worked as New Mexico’s head coach from 1998-08, guiding the program to a 65-69 record with five bowl trips. He’s also regarded as one of the top defensive minds in the Group of 5 conferences and should have San Diego State in contention for 10 (or more) wins in 2016.  

 

3. Bryan Harsin, Boise State

The bar is set high at any program whenever nine wins is considered a disappointing year. That’s the standard set at Boise State, as the Broncos are one of the top Group of 5 programs and should challenge for the bowl spot in the New Year’s Six on an annual basis. Harsin did just that in year one, finishing 12-2 with a victory over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl in 2014. However, the Broncos slipped to 9-4 last year and lost the division title to Air Force. Don’t expect Boise State to be under 10 wins for too long, as Harsin has this program on the verge of a quick rebound in 2016.

 

Related:

 

4. Matt Wells, Utah State

Last season’s 6-7 record represented Utah State’s first losing mark since 2010. Even though the six victories was a disappointment, this program has progressed significantly after recording zero winning seasons from 1998-2010. Wells is 25-16 over the last three years and has not finished lower than second in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division. Additionally, Utah State has played in three consecutive bowl games. Injuries and turnover in the assistant coach ranks have hit the program hard over the last couple of seasons, but the Aggies are still in good shape with Wells on the sidelines.

 

5. Craig Bohl, Wyoming

Bohl is just 6-18 through two years at Wyoming, but there’s no reason to panic. After all, this is the coach that went 104-32 at North Dakota State and won three consecutive national championships from 2011-13. It’s only a matter of time before Bohl has Wyoming back in the mix for winning seasons, and 2015 was clearly a rebuilding year with youth littering the depth chart on both sides of the ball. Progress in the win column could be minimal in 2016, but Bohl is still the right coach for this program.

 

6. Bob Davie, New Mexico

Davie inherited a mess after Mike Locksley’s three-year stint at New Mexico. The Lobos won just three games from 2009-11, but this program showed immediate improvement under Davie’s watch, finishing with a 4-9 mark in 2012. After winning 11 games through the first three seasons, Davie had a breakthrough 2015 campaign. The Lobos finished 7-6 last year and claimed the program’s first bowl trip since 2007. 

 

Related:

 

7. Brian Polian, Nevada

Following Chris Ault wasn’t easy, but Polian has stabilized the program after a 4-8 debut in 2013. The Wolf Pack have recorded back-to-back 7-6 records and finished 2015 on a high note by beating Colorado State in the Arizona Bowl. Prior to taking over at Nevada, Polian was an assistant from 2005-09 at Notre Dame and at Stanford from 2010-11. He’s regarded as a good recruiter and has the Wolf Pack positioned for improvement with the return of nine starters on offense in 2016.

 

8. Mike Bobo, Colorado State

Bobo had big shoes to fill in Fort Collins last season. In 2014, Jim McElwain guided Colorado State to a 10-3 mark and an appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl. But with some key personnel losses to overcome and a tough schedule, the Rams dipped to 7-6 in Bobo’s first season. However, Colorado State wasn’t too far from matching the 2014 win total, as the program lost three games by five points or less, including a three-point defeat against rival Colorado. After spending most of his coaching career at Georgia and as a first-time head coach, Bobo is still learning on the job. However, the future looks bright for Colorado State with Bobo at the helm.

 

Related:

 

9. Ron Caragher, San Jose State

Caragher hasn’t had the easiest of paths in his two stints as a head coach. He replaced Jim Harbaugh at San Diego but guided the Toreros to a 44-22 mark from 2007-12. Under Caragher’s direction, San Diego recorded at least eight wins in four out of his six seasons. He left San Diego to replace Mike MacIntyre at San Jose State – just one year after the Spartans won a school-record 11 games in 2012. Through three seasons, Caragher has compiled a 15-22 mark at San Jose State but guided the program to a bowl trip last year. With 15 starters returning this fall, Caragher should have his best team since taking over at San Jose State.

 

10. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State

DeRuyter appeared to be one of college football’s rising stars in the head coach ranks after a 20-6 start to his tenure at Fresno State. During that two-year run, the Bulldogs claimed a share of the conference title in 2012 and won the league championship outright in 2013. However, replacing Derek Carr has been a challenge. Fresno State is just 9-17 over the last two seasons and slumped to 3-9 in 2015 – only the fourth time since 1969 the program has won fewer than four contests. Can DeRuyter get this program back on track?

 

11. Tony Sanchez, UNLV

Hired from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Sanchez was one of the nation’s most intriguing first-year coaches in 2015. The Rebels finished 3-9 in Sanchez’s debut – a one-game improvement from 2014 – but lost four games by eight points or less, a clear sign the program is trending in the right direction. Sanchez also reeled in the Mountain West’s No. 4 recruiting class in the 2016 247Sports Composite and is positioned to push for a .500 mark in conference play in 2016.

 

12. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

After the disappointing four-year run under Norm Chow, Hawaii’s program is in good hands with Rolovich. The California native has plenty of work to do over the next few seasons, but there’s not a better coach to rebuild the Rainbow Warriors into a consistent winner. Rolovich played at Hawaii from 2000-01 and also coached in Honolulu as an assistant under Greg McMackin from 2008-11. Since 2011, Rolovich has worked at Nevada as the offensive coordinator. This is Rolovich’s first opportunity to be a head coach and it’s not an easy job. However, the Rainbow Warriors should show improvement over the next few seasons.

Teaser:
Ranking the Mountain West's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/peta-lsu-captive-live-mascots-tiger-mike-vi-animal-advocate
Body:

After hearing LSU's live mascot, Mike VI, was been diagnosed with terminal cancer, PETA felt it was time to step in.

 

The animal rights organization, along with LSU Animal Advocates,  calling for the school to stop using captive mascots. The letter states the damaging effects of having an animal caged, saying they could suffer psychologically when they are stressed and confined.

 

"People today realize that orcas don't belong in tanks, elephants don't belong in circuses, and tigers don't belong in cages in stadiums," Rachel Mathews, a member of the PETA Foundation, said. "PETA is calling on LSU to honor Mike VI and spare future tigers a lifetime of misery by ending the live-mascot program for good."

 

The letter goes on to state the tigers are being deprived and the only decent thing to do would be to stop the practice. A school spokesperson responded by saying they were focusing on Mike VI at the moment and it may not be the best time to dive deep into new mascot talk.

 

"This is not the time to discuss football season or a new tiger mascot. We are focused on Mike's health and well-being at this time."

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 10:59
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-utah-can-be-dark-horse-pac-12-contender-2016
Body:

has moved up the South ladder each of the last two seasons. Can the Utes take the final step toward claiming a division title in 2016?

 

The door is wide open to move forward. Utah returns a fearsome defense loaded with playmakers up front and in the secondary. The Utes do have holes to fill at the offensive skill positions, but every other Pac-12 South title contender also has some reloading to do on offense or defense. If Utah's offense finally lives up to its potential in 2016, the Utes could become virtually unstoppable.

 

Related:

 

Here are five reasons why Utah can emerge as a Pac-12 South contender again in 2016:

 

1. Depth in the Trenches

Few teams in the nation, let alone the Pac-12, can match Utah's depth, experience and talent up front on both sides of the ball. The Utes return all but one starter on the offensive line from last season, led by senior right tackle J.J. Dielman – an All-Pac-12 second-team selection in 2015. Garrett Bolles, the nation's top junior college prospect in the 2016 class, also projects to be a major contributor on the offensive line.

 

Utah has to replace departed senior Jason Fanaika and graduate transfer Stevie Tu'ikolovatu on the defensive line. It should not be a problem with Kylie Fitts, Lowell Lotulelei, Pita Taumoepenu and Hunter Dimick all back for another season. They played a big role in leading a Utah rush defense that led the Pac-12 a season ago (108.6 yards per game). Fitts, in particular, led the Utes with seven sacks and paced the Pac-12 with four forced fumbles.

 

2. Promising Offensive Playmakers

Utah will be breaking in new full-time starters at both quarterback and running back this fall. Both players have potential to make the offense a bigger threat than in past seasons.

 

Joe Williams currently leads a loaded backfield, which also includes a healthy Troy McCormick. Williams stepped in late last season after a knee injury sidelined Devontae Booker. He rushed for 399 yards and three touchdowns over the final three games of 2015 and finished the season with 477 yards on 104 attempts.

 

Troy Williams is the favorite to start at quarterback with four-year starter Travis Wilson graduated. Williams, a transfer from Santa Monica (Calif.) College, threw for for 2,750 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. He sat out the bulk of spring camp with an arm injury, but is expected to be fully healthy in time for fall camp. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Cox and true freshman Tyler Huntley are also in the mix.

 

Related:

 

3. New Receivers Coach

Utah has plenty of new faces in the receiving corps. The biggest addition, though, might be on the coaching staff.

 

Guy Holliday, who came over to the Utes from BYU during the offseason, brings a track record for getting the most out of his receivers. In his 23-year coaching career, Holliday has sent 21 players to the NFL. BYU's passing offense ranked in the top 30 each of his final two seasons in Provo and Holliday tutored Cody Hoffman, the leading receiver in BYU history. That's welcome news for a Utah team that got inconsistent production from its receivers throughout the 2015 season.

 

4. Strong Secondary

Four starters return in Utah's defensive backfield and all of them are proven disruptive forces. It should help bolster a pass defense that only ranked ninth in the Pac-12 last season (258.2 yards per game).

 

Marcus Williams led Utah, and ranked second in the Pac-12, with five interceptions. The junior free safety also is the team's top returning tackler with 66 tackles a season ago. Dominque Hatfield, a senior, also has a good nose for the ball. He chipped in four interceptions in 2015, including a 46 yard pick-six against BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.

 

5. Aussie Punter Pipeline

One of Utah's biggest weapons in recent seasons has been its punting game. Two-time Ray Guy Award winner Tom Hackett could flip the field with precision and played a critical role in many close wins for the Utes.

 

Hackett, a unanimous consensus All-American, graduated and has taken his talents to the NFL. The Utes have another Australian punter waiting in the wings. Mitch Wishnowsky, a sophomore, joins Utah from Santa Barbara (Calif.) College. He averaged 39.8 yards per punt – with a career-long of 77 yards – as a freshman in 2014 before sitting out last season.

 

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter

Teaser:
5 Reasons Why Utah can be a Dark Horse Pac-12 Contender in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/pair-potential-blackshirts-there-taking-nebraska-summer
Body:

By now, most fans are familiar with Stevie Tu'ikolovatu’s name even if they can’t pronounce it. It appears that Tu'ikolovatu will take his 6-foot-1, 320-pound frame to one of three schools as a graduate transfer following his departure as a member of the Utah Utes.

 

Alabama, USC and Nebraska are all in the mix, but the Cornhuskers seemingly give him the best bang for his travelling buck. Already married and with a two-year LDS mission under his belt, Tu'ikolovatu no doubt wants to up his NFL stock. Who better to work with than former 12-year NFL veteran John Parrella, Nebraska’s new defensive line coach?

 

Even better, he’d nearly be guaranteed to start from day one as the and run defense is currently a major question mark. A rock solid 320 pounds, the mammoth ex-Ute would demand double-teams, just as Parrella would no doubt love.

 

While he may be familiar to Husker Nation by now, a new name has popped up: defensive end Raveon Hoston. The Los Angeles Valley College prospect now has a Nebraska offer and would be an immensely fortunate get for a defensive line that could use every bit of help it can get on the outside.

 

 

Hoston is a late academic qualifier for the 2016 cycle, would have two seasons of eligibility and – like Tu'ikolovatu – would look like a near lock at clinching a starting defensive end spot. His would likely be opposite sophomore Freedom Akinmoladun.

 

It’s a testament to this coaching staff that they’re not content to rest on their laurels while potential problem solvers like these two athletes could help strengthen an area of extreme need.

 

Not only that, but if the Huskers do get both wrapped up for the 2016 season, this allows younger players who’d have to step up in a big way immediately some breathing room and even more time to ease into their eventual roles which are likely to slowly increase as the year goes on.

 

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to like his follow him on Twitter () and on Periscope ().

Teaser:
Pair of Potential Blackshirts There for the Taking for Nebraska This Summer
Post date: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 10:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-podcast-others-receiving-votes-2016-athlon-top-25
Body:

Athlon Sports last week released its season. Now, it’s time to look at the teams that just missed the cut.

 

These are teams that we could see on the fringes of the top 25 this season or perhaps even contending for a division in a Power 5 conference. On this week’s podcast, co-hosts Braden Gall and David Fox go conference-by-conference looking at teams ranked 26-50.

 

This includes teams like Arkansas, Miami, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Washington State, Nebraska, Utah, Wisconsin, Texas, Auburn, Penn State and many, many more.

 

What are these teams’ strengths and weaknesses and what would need to happen for these teams to crack the top 25?

 

Reminder: All of Athlon’s rankings and team previews are available in this year’s preseason magazines, which can be purchase  or on newsstands everywhere.

 

 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to  @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email . The podcast can be found on  and our .

Teaser:
College Football Podcast: The Others Receiving Votes in the 2016 Athlon Top 25
Post date: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Houston Texans, J.J. Watt, NFL, Monthly, Life
Path: /life/jj-watt-pretty-fly-big-guy
Body:

J.J. Watt, 27, is 6’5” and 290 pounds, with 34” arms and shoulders as wide as his summer cabin in Wisconsin. But when he’s not lifting weights or crushing quarterbacks, the Houston Texans D-lineman and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is a pretty stylish guy. We chased down Watt to talk about what he wears after he takes off his football pads for the offseason.

 

How would you describe your personal style?

I’m athletic most of the time. When I do dress up I try to keep it clean cut. I don’t go terribly outlandish with it. I have before, but I’d say more recently I just try to keep it classy.

 

So you’re not going to wear the zebra-print pants Cam Newton wore on the flight to the Super Bowl?

I’m not sure you’re gonna catch me in zebra-print pants anytime soon. I think Russell Westbrook has changed the game a little bit, he’s made the outlandish outfit stylish. I won’t say never, but it’s fairly unlikely you’ll see me in zebra-print pants.

 

What kind of accessories do you wear? Sunglasses? Hats? Watches?

I do sunglasses from time to time. I casually wear hats every day, I like hats. I’m not a huge watch guy, not an accessory guy in general. I don’t really do all of the flashy stuff, I like to let the outfit speak for itself and let my self-confidence speak for itself.

 

How important is it for you to balance comfort with style?

It’s extremely important. When you’re on the road, you travel Saturday, you play a game Sunday, and then have to put the same clothes back on after the game. You don’t want something that’s going to wrinkle. You don’t want something that’s going to sweat through. You want something extremely comfortable that also looks good.

 

What type of shirts do you wear?

hits it on the head every single time. It’s perfect for what I need. I can throw it in my bag and it doesn’t wrinkle. I can wear it on the plane after a game. I don’t have to get it tailored, don’t have to get it dry-cleaned. It just made my life a lot easier.

 

Wait, you don’t get your shirts tailored? I would assume for a man your size that tailoring would be pretty important.

Tailoring for me is the only way I’d been able to go until Mizzen+Main. (Editor’s Note: Watt has ownership stake in the Dallas-based company.) Their 2XL Slim fits me perfectly. It’s crazy, because I buy almost nothing off of the rack. The ability for them to have my size is awesome.

 

You said you wear a 2XL Slim (XX-Large Trim Fit)?

Yeah, I was surprised at the slim myself, trust me.

 

You were under recruited out of high school, a two-star player. Now you’ve cemented yourself as a three-time NFL defensive player of the year. What advice would you give to kids with big dreams whose reality may not match those dreams right now?

It happened through hard work. It is a crazy story, to get to where I am now. It’s just daily commitment. There’s no magic pill, there’s no overnight success. There’s no one tip I can give to anyone. It’s just daily commitment to your goals. You have to have your big goal, but more important than that is, what are you going to do today to make that broad vision more possible? That’s the biggest thing that I tell people — what are you going to do today to make your dream come true? It sounds cliché and it is, but that’s the truth. Whatever you can do each minute of today to make your dream that much closer to being reality, that’s what it takes to be successful.

 

What’s your daily routine in the offseason? Walk me through a day. When do you get up? How many meals do you eat? What do you eat? What kind of exercise do you do?

I wake up probably at 6:30 every day. I eat breakfast, then I drive to the gym. I’m at the gym for probably three hours. I go home and eat lunch, generally either answer emails and do some business or take a nap after my morning workout and lunch. Then I will eat another meal and work out again. A lighter workout at the personal gym in my house. Then I’ll eat, answer emails or hang out with friends. Then I’m in bed by about 9:30, 10 o’clock at the latest in the offseason. That’s generally how my day goes, five days a week. Then there’s obviously the weekend and travel. There are times where I have business stuff that I travel for. For the most part when I’m here in Wisconsin that’s what my day looks like.

 

What do you typically eat for breakfast? Is it a big breakfast?

Breakfast is my biggest meal of the day. It’s my favorite meal of the day, I love breakfast. I load up on breakfast. Today I ate oatmeal, eggs, banana, apple, orange, milk, orange juice, water. I had wheat toast, one with peanut butter and one with seedless blackberry jam. That was my breakfast. My breakfast is generally around 1,500 calories a day.

 

Do you have any dietary restrictions you go by? Do you eat red meat? What’s your philosophy as far as feeding the fire?

I eat red meat. I know what my body needs and I’m not crazy about checking every single label and measuring everything out. I do understand how to eat properly and I understand what my body needs. If it’s something I normally eat, I’ll find the healthiest version of it out there. If it’s oatmeal, find the healthiest version of oatmeal out there and make sure that I get that. Same with milk, or for bread I go out there and find the healthiest whole wheat grain bread. I just try to make sure the stuff I’m eating is quality. Like pasta, I eat whole wheat pasta. Just making sure that I eat the best quality that I can. It takes a lot of food to fuel an athlete’s body, so I make sure I get enough. You have to make sure you get enough and get it at the right times. Then the little things like hydration, sleep and stretching. They’re boring and that’s why they’re often overlooked. Those are the things that can really make a difference for an athlete.

 

What’s an underrated exercise?

I think the things that are underrated are the boring things. I think rolling out every single day, hydrating properly is very underrated. I think sleep is very underrated, as well. Those are the things I tell my brothers, kids that ask me for advice, or even teammates. Training is extremely important, and there are things I can tell you about training, but outside of training is what I’ll tell people. Things like rolling out, stretching, sleeping and hydrating are the most important things you can do.

 

You mentioned recently that you would like to coach high school football when you retire. Tell me about that…

Definitely. My high school football coach had a profound impact on my life and my career. I still talk to him all the time. I want to have that impact on somebody’s life. I don’t really have an interest in coaching at any level higher than that. I like the high school level, I think you can mold young minds at that age. You can help kids reach their dreams, whether it’s football or not. Whatever it may be. I think you can help motivate and teach those kids morals and values that can help them far beyond the football field. That’s what I’d like to do.

 

What are your goals for this upcoming season?

I just want to do whatever I possibly can to help my team be successful. Every single day. Whether that’s being a leader or an outstanding personal performance, however I can help my team be successful that’s what I want to do.

 

Is there anything you’re adding to your game or focusing on this offseason?

This offseason is all about recovery and getting back from my injuries. Back to where I was and then above that level. It’s been going really well so far. It’s more about watching my film, and understanding my game and how I can improve that. It’s not necessarily adding things, it’s understanding what you do well and need to continue to do, then what you need to improve upon. I don’t think there’s one specific thing I’m adding, it’s more understanding how to utilize my game more successfully.

 

Are there any all-time greats or even current players whose film you watch?

Over the course of my career I’ve watched a bunch of the all-time greats. Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Deacon Jones and guys like that. L.T. (Lawrence Taylor) and Howie Long, a bunch of greats that came before me. You try and find the bits and pieces of their games that they do best and piece them all together. You got Howie Long’s rip, Reggie’s everything, Dwight Freeney’s spin move, stuff like that. You try to find guys that were really successful at one thing and try to add all of those things to your game.

 

What about opponents? Is there anyone who gives you trouble or is particularly challenging one-on-one?

Everybody in this league is challenging. Every single day. That’s why a sack is so special because it’s so darn hard to get. Everybody is good in this league. The difference between good, great and the best in this league is so small. Every week is a challenge, every guy you face is a challenge. I wouldn’t be able to say one guy is harder than the other, every guy in this league is hard to beat. Doesn’t matter who you’re going against, that’s why it’s so special when you do have success.

Teaser:
Houston Texans D-lineman J.J. Watt talks fashion and football
Post date: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 14:23
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/josh-rosen-blasts-ncaa-ucla-under-armour-shoe-deal-quarterback
Body:

UCLA has signed a 15-year, $280 million contract with Under Armour. 

 

This is the largest apparel deal in the history of college sports. With money like that you would think they could kick a little back to the players. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen heard the news and took to Instagram to send this out. 

 

There's no guessing which side of the debate Rosen is on, fitted with the caption "We're still amateurs though ... Gotta love non-profits #NCAA"

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/5-fantasy-football-team-name-generators-you-should-try
Body:

As fantasy football has evolved over the years, so too have the multitude of clever, witty and obnoxious team names. It's almost as important to have the best and/or , as it is to win your , ! or daily fantasy league. Okay, that’s not true, but you certainly don’t want to be the boring guy with the lame team name (that’s right, we are talking to you, guy who uses his own name!). That being said, it can be a difficult task to come up with a creative name that will impress your competitors and friends alike. Not to worry, you are in luck. We scoured the internet to come up with five of the best fantasy football team name generators to lend you a helping hand. At the very least, they should provide you with some inspiration to come up with something cool and unique on your own.

 

Sports Unlimited offers a pretty unique experience in that you can choose to generate a name based on your favorite NFL team or you can choose to use one of their thousands of randomly generated names. It could probably use a little updating in terms of some of the player's names, but you can still find some real gems. You can try it out here or  to visit their site.

 


 

We were able to generate some pretty funny names using the Razzball team name generator. You simply choose from a list of five clever adjective categories, which include: NFL Themes, Goofy Adjectives, Agitated Adjectives, Crayola and Mail Order Catalog Colors or Non-pro City Names. You then choose from seven different categories to create the noun for your team name, these include: Sounds Dirty But Isn't, War Terms, 80s Villains, Wrestling Moves, Hair Bands, Items That Include Ground Meat or Non-college Mascot Animals. The generator then combines your choice of category in the adjective and noun sections to come up with what should be a clever team name. Try it as many times as you like or until you come up with something that you love by clicking  or by clicking on the link above. Razzball also has team name generators for other fantasy sports.

 

Much like the Razzball generator, The Fake Football Team Name Generator creates names based on a two-part system. The categories in part one include: NFL Players, Annoying Sports Analysts, Ruthless Synonyms, Incompetent Synonyms, Large Synonyms, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Place Names or Mouth Sounds. The categories for part two include: Just Gross, NFL Team Names, Fishing Flies, Professions and Game of Thrones. You just choose a category from each section, click generate name, and voila!, your team name will appear. It may take a few attempts, but there are definitely some great names to be had using this generator. Give it a shot by clicking on the link above or by clicking

 

The teamnames.net generator has plenty of options. You can choose from a list of pre-determined names. You can have it generate a random name for you. You can also input things such as a country, city/state or a color to work in combination with the name generator. Many of the names generated using these categories can be kind of generic and hokey, but if you are looking for something a little more edgy, there is an option entitled "anything else" that will allow you to input a keyword of your own choosing to help generate a name. Based on some of the keywords we attempted in the "anything else" section, there are absolutely no filters. This is also a nice feature because it allows you to personalize it and become part of the process. You can try it out by clicking or by clicking on the link above.

 

You aren't going to find anything super edgy or on the obnoxious side with this generator (at least not that we could find), but it will probably serve its purpose for some of the younger fantasy footballers or someone that isn't looking to push the envelope too far. The FF Toolbox fantasy football name generator will give you a selection of 25 names to choose from right off the bat, which you can refresh as often as you would like at your leisure. It can also generate a name for you based on a drop box that includes several categories. In addition, there is an option that allows you to filter names by using specific letters of the alphabet. Again, most of the names generated on this site tend to be on the generic side, but we ran across a few that could inspire something unique provided you put a little thought into it. Check it out by clicking or on the link above.

 

— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-washington-state-can-be-dark-horse-pac-12-contender-2016
Body:

Football has risen from the dead in Pullman, Wash. For the first time in a decade, enters a season with a real chance to make some serious noise in the .

 

Related:

 

The Cougars are coming off their first winning season in 11 years. With so many pieces in place for 2016, delivering a satisfying encore should not be a problem. Washington State is not favored to win a Pac-12 North title with Oregon, Stanford and Washington all expected to have strong seasons. But things do line up for the Cougars to act as a spoiler.

 

Here are five reasons why Washington State could be a dark horse Pac-12 North contender in 2016:

 

1. Easy schedule

Washington State has arguably the . UCLA, Oregon, Washington and Arizona all visit Pullman this year. Stanford is the only truly challenging Pac-12 road game for the Cougars. Outside of conference play, Washington State's toughest game is a trip to Boise State.

 

2. Luke Falk is an elite QB

When Mike Leach has the right quarterback to run his Air Raid offense, it is practically unstoppable. Luke Falk is that quarterback. In his first full season as a starter a year ago, Falk torched one defense after another. The former walk-on totaled 4,561 yards and 38 touchdowns through the air while completing 69.4 percent of his passes. If Falk stays healthy, expect to see more of the same in 2016.

 

Related: 

 

3. Receiver depth

Not only is Falk back, but so is the bulk of his supporting cast. Only one of Falk's top receivers from 2015 graduated. The Cougars got an extra boost when leading receiver Gabe Marks opted to return for another season instead of declaring for the 2016 NFL Draft. Marks is a true playmaker. He led the Pac-12 with 15 touchdown catches in 2015 while posting 1,192 receiving yards.

 

4. Sound running game

Running doesn't normally factor into pass-happy offenses under Leach. He is usually content to let quarterbacks throw until their arms fall off. That may change a little this season. Washington State has a stable of experienced and talented backs who can take a little defensive pressure off Falk. Freshman James Williams looked impressive in spring camp. He will join a trio of returning backs in Gerard Wicks, Jamal Morrow and Keith Harrington. Wicks led the group a year ago with 610 rushing yards on 5.7 yards per carry.

 

5. Winning culture now in place

Last season, the Cougars finished with nine wins for the first time since 2003. It also marked the second time in three seasons Washington State reached a bowl game under Leach. The program has finally risen from the abyss where it sank after Mike Price left Pullman more than a decade ago. Leach has the right players in place for his system and confidence is sky high now that these players know they can win in the Pac-12.

 

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter

Teaser:
5 Reasons Why Washington State can be a Dark Horse Pac-12 Contender in 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Virginia Tech Hokies
Path: /college-football/why-justin-fuente-will-succeed-virginia-tech
Body:

Frank Beamer may not have been the father of Hokie football, but he is the person that brought into national prominence. Now Justin Fuente steps into the role as the head coach in Blacksburg and he knows that following a legend is never easy.

 

But the time was right for a change at Virginia Tech and the hiring of Fuente was on point as well. While it’s impossible to predict what will eventually happen, there are plenty of reasons for the Hokies to be bullish on the future.

 

Related: 

 

Fuente is not just a winner; he’s also a program builder. When he was hired at Memphis following the 2011 season, Fuente was inheriting a team that had won just five games in three years. Moreover, other than a modicum of success in the mid-2000s under Tommy West, Memphis had accomplished very little in its football history.

 

Fuente brought an energy and excitement to the program that was felt immediately. Of course, it’s not unusual for optimism to arise when a new coach comes to town. But it was how the good feelings about Fuente lingered even after beginning his tenure with 4-8 and 3-9 seasons. His message was clearly understood by everyone involved and there was no doubt that the close losses that occurred in 2013 would eventually become wins.

 

In 2014, it all came together. Quarterback Paxton Lynch popped as a redshirt sophomore and the Tigers won 10 games for the first time in school history. Despite losing eight defensive starters from that Miami Beach Bowl championship team, Fuente guided Memphis to nine wins and the Birmingham Bowl last fall. Yes, Lynch remained but so did the attitude that Memphis was a winning football program.

 

While Fuente had a couple of fabulous seasons at Memphis, he also is aware that he does not know everything. He wants a new, electric energy around the program while still remaining in touch with the history and tradition of Virginia Tech. A sign that he truly understands how embracing the past can in certain ways aid the future is his decision to retain a member of the previous administration.

 

Many coaches would have come into Virginia Tech and cleaned house, getting rid of all the assistant coaches and bringing in those familiar with the new system. With many around the Virginia Tech community clamoring for defensive coordinator Bud Foster to replace Beamer, some coaches might have been threatened and felt the need to eliminate that lingering shadow. But not Fuente. He is secure enough to realize that his best chance for success is to have an experienced coach running the defense and Foster is one of the best in the country.

 

With Foster remaining in place, Fuente will spend much of his time doing what he does best: designing a potent offense. A noted quarterback guru that coached Andy Dalton at TCU along with developing Lynch into a high NFL Draft pick, Fuente also believes in a balanced attack. Virginia Tech has struggled on offense in recent years with inconsistent quarterback play and a sluggish running game being two of the main causes. Those two areas, with the help of a hopefully improved offensive line, are where strides should be made in short order.

 

Virginia Tech loses a considerable amount of talent, especially off the defense, and the that features . Winning right away will not be easy.

 

But Fuente is building a new culture the same way he did at Memphis. And when it is complete, victories will come in bunches.

 

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the  for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter .

 

(Justin Fuente photos by Dave Knachel - Virginia Tech Athletics)

Teaser:
Why Justin Fuente Will Succeed at Virginia Tech
Post date: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 11:45

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