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All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-miami-hurricanes-can-win-acc-coastal-2016

When Mark Richt accepted the head coaching job at the University of Miami last December, many experts said he can have the competing for an championship as early as 2016. While Clemson and Florida State are the heavy favorites in the conference, Miami has an excellent chance to represent the ACC Coastal in Charlotte on Dec. 3.




One of the biggest reasons there’s so much optimism in Coral Gables these days is because of the number of starters that return from last season’s eight-win team. Nine starters on offense are returning in 2016, including all five offensive linemen from a year ago.


That along with these five other reasons are why the Hurricanes can win the ACC Coastal in 2016.


1. Brad Kaaya is back and healthy

Despite throwing for 3,238 yards, 16 touchdowns and only five interceptions, 2015 was a rough year for the Hurricanes’ signal-caller. The junior suffered a concussion in the 58-0 loss to Clemson, which was on the same weekend the head coach who recruited him to Miami (Al Golden) was fired. Once Kaaya returned to the field, it took him a few games to return to his previous form.


Now with Richt taking over play-calling duties this season, expect Kaaya to have the best season of his career, provided he remains healthy.



When he was the head coach at Georgia, Richt loved to run a lot of play action to open up deep ball opportunities and that fits Kaaya’s skill set very well. Now that Miami is finally running a scheme that puts Kaaya in the best position to win, the Hurricanes’ offense could be one of the best in the ACC, Florida State and Clemson included.


2. Hurricanes have a number of offensive playmakers

Besides Kaaya, Miami has a lot of other talented players that could shine in 2016. One of them is running back Gus Edwards. After missing the entire 2015 season because of a foot injury, Edwards was last month.


The junior from Staten Island, N.Y., rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown in the annual spring game as the most impressive running back in the scrimmage.


Also returning in the Hurricanes’ backfield is 1,000-yard rusher Joseph Yearby.


Miami will need talented wide receivers Stacey Coley, Braxton Berrios and Lawrence Cager to improve their play, but the potential is there.


3. The improving offensive line

To say Miami’s offensive line has been terrible the past couple of seasons would be an understatement. The horrendous play of the line played a role in Kaaya’s concussion against Clemson. While the offensive line appeared to have made some strides in the spring, that unit still has a lot of room for improvement.


One thing that was encouraging from watching spring practices was the team’s blitz recognition and reaction. Miami was often confused when defenses decided to blitz last season.


4. Defense should improve under Diaz

When Golden and former defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio ran their 3-4 defense during their regime, the team wanted to be bigger and stronger than the opposition’s offensive line. Under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, team speed is more of a priority than size.


During the spring, players such as Gerald Willis and Shaquille Quarterman appeared to be much lighter and faster when pursuing ball carriers.


It’s no secret that the Hurricanes’ defense was among one of the worst in college football in the Golden era. With Diaz now running the defense, there’s nowhere to go but up.


5. The schedule is favorable 

Miami will play its first two games (Florida A&M, FAU) at home before going on the road to Appalachian State on Sept. 17. In ACC play, the Hurricanes will not play Clemson this season, but they will face NC State in cross-division play on Nov. 19.



What helps Miami is both Florida State and North Carolina come to SunLife Stadium. Even if the Hurricanes were to lose to the Seminoles, a win over the Tar Heels, which have question marks of their own to address, could determine the winner of the ACC Coastal Division.


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley

5 Reasons Why the Miami Hurricanes Can Win the ACC Coastal in 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/5-things-need-happen-nebraska-be-top-25-team-2016

Consider 5Dimes Sportsbook to be a bigger fan of head coach Mike Riley than a few Big Red backers. 5Dimes has the Huskers sitting at an over/under of 9.5 wins for the upcoming season which would easily put them in 2016’s Top 25.




Here’s what they need to do to get there.


1. Tommy Armstrong Must Improve

Consider this to be No. 1 out of everything that absolutely must happen for the Cornhuskers to have the type of year they want. While Armstrong has a bevy of talented receivers, his feet are a more reliably dangerous weapon.


If he is going to continue heaving the deep ball, he has to up his accuracy or he’s handicapping his team with wasted downs. So far, he’s shown that he’s far better off hitting a 15-yard route and letting his receivers take over.


Using Armstrong as a dual-threat quarterback in the truest sense should bring wins and plenty of them. Keeping him to a sweet spot of 25 passes per game (30 tops) is the way to go if he can manage to get a hot hand and remain efficient.




2. Offensive Line Must Help Provide Balance

Despite being younger overall, this unit has the potential to not only keep Armstrong safe in the pocket but also provide running room for Devine Ozigbo, Terrell Newby and Mikale Wilbon.


Nick Gates and David Knevel at left and right tackle, respectively, looked fantastic this spring and Gerald Foster truly has come into his own at left guard. Tanner Farmer took over at the right guard spot, but the real question is who’ll play center?


Dylan Utter had been doing so through most of spring practice, but he didn’t participate in the Red-White Spring Game with redshirt freshman Michael Decker filling in and looking, well, really good in his place.


Regardless of who eventually claims the spot in the middle, this is a group that will be challenged to dig deep and find their inner road graders. Fortunately, they have what should be two relatively easy opponents in Fresno State and Wyoming as tune-ups before Oregon comes calling.


If they can open holes for their backs and keep Armstrong upright and able to scramble in space, good things are in the Huskers’ future.


3. Defensive Line Must Step Up

This statement nearly runs across the board. Defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun is poised for a big year, but new defensive line coach John Parella needs to find a complementary pass rusher.


In addition, Nebraska loses four defensive tackles with eligibility in Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine who are now on NFL rosters, Kevin Williams, who transferred to Michigan State, and Greg McMullen, who has hung up his cleats.


The good news is that Parella has quality talent to work with in Kevin Maurice, Mick Stoltenberg, brothers Carlos and Khalil Davis and Peyton Newell.


Parella’s going to earn his paycheck right quick.


4. Defense Needs to Get Back to Takeaways

Nebraska sat at a horrific minus-12 in turnover margin last season primarily thanks to Armstrong’s erratic passing. Regardless of whether or not he cuts down on interceptions, the Blackshirts need to get back to forcing the Husker offense back onto the field.


Creating fumbles and snagging interceptions must become far more frequent and the Huskers have recruited the types of athletes that can make this a reality. However, those plans need to materialize immediately.


5. Special Teams Must Be Reliable As a Whole

Drew Brown is as reliable as his brother when it comes to kicking and Sam Foltz is one of the best punters in the land. Nebraska will find someone electric to return kicks and punts either from the current roster or the crop of incoming recruits.


What needs to improve is the return game in its entirety. Special teams coordinator Bruce Read has already received a hefty dose of criticism after Nebraska ranked as one of the very worst teams in the country with 17.6 yards per kick return and a middling 10.4 taken back on each punt last season.


The Huskers have return threats at the ready, especially if De’Mornay Pierson-El comes back at 100 percent, but even he can’t take it to the house without proper blocking.


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

5 Things That Need to Happen for Nebraska to be a Top 25 Team in 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-conference-usas-college-football-coaches-2016

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 Conference USA:


Ranking C-USA's College Football Coaches for 2016


1. Jeff Brohm, WKU

In just two seasons at WKU, Brohm has quickly emerged as the No. 1 coach in Conference USA. Brohm was promoted to head coach in 2014 after Bobby Petrino left to return to Louisville. The Hilltoppers finished 8-5 in Brohm’s first year but claimed the Conference USA title with a 12-2 mark in 2015. Additionally, Brohm has emerged as one of the top offensive minds in the Group of 5 ranks. WKU has ranked inside of the top 10 nationally in scoring offense over the last two seasons and finished third nationally by averaging 7.23 yards a play in 2015. Even with quarterback Brandon Doughty off to the NFL, WKU’s program is in good hands with Brohm leading the way.




2. Doc Holliday, Marshall

Holliday is known for his recruiting prowess, but he’s doing more than just winning on signing day for the Thundering Herd. Holliday is 50-28 in six seasons and has guided Marshall to three consecutive years of at least 10 wins. The Thundering Herd won the 2014 Conference USA title and finished No. 23 nationally in the Associated Press poll. Additionally, Marshall is 4-0 in bowl games under Holliday’s watch. 


3. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech

Holtz’s three-year run at South Florida ended after a 16-21 record, but the rest of his resume as a head coach features plenty of highlights. After a four-year stint as an assistant at Notre Dame from 1990-93, Holtz was hired as UConn’s head coach and recorded a 34-23 mark in five seasons. With a chance to work under his father Lou Holtz, Skip returned to the assistant ranks in 1999 at South Carolina and remained with the Gamecocks until 2004. Holtz took over East Carolina’s program in 2005 and guided the Pirates to a 38-27 record and four consecutive bowl trips. While the stint at USF was a disappointment, Holtz is back on track with a 22-17 mark in three years at Louisiana Tech.




4. Rick Stockstill, MTSU

Consistent. That’s the best way to describe Stockstill’s tenure at MTSU. Since taking over the program in 2006, Stockstill has guided the Blue Raiders to a 64-61 record and has four bowl appearances over the last seven years. MTSU has a winning mark in league play over the last four seasons and has only one year of fewer than six wins since 2009. With one of the league’s top quarterback-receiver combinations (Brent Stockstill to Richie James) in place, 2016 could be the perfect opportunity for Stockstill to break through and win the Conference USA East title.


5. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion

Old Dominion is a program with a lot of potential, and Wilder has the Monarchs poised to challenge for a bowl bid in their third season at the FBS level. Wilder is the first coach at Old Dominion since the program returned to the gridiron in 2009. The Monarchs went 9-2 in their first season, followed by an 8-3 mark in 2010. Wilder led the program to an 21-5 record from 2011-12, which included back-to-back trips to the FCS playoffs. After finishing 8-4 in a transition year to the FBS level, Old Dominion is 11-12 over the last two seasons and just missed on a bowl appearance last year. Wilder should have the Monarchs in contention for a winning record this fall.


6. David Bailiff, Rice

With its tough academic standards, Rice is one of the toughest jobs in the Group of 5 ranks. While Bailiff has experienced his share of ups and downs since taking over in 2007, the program has won 53 games in nine years and made four bowl trips. Additionally, the Owls won the 2013 Conference USA title and have recorded two winning marks in league play over the last three seasons. After a 5-7 record last year, Bailiff will be looking to guide Rice to its fourth bowl in five years in 2016.


7. Jay Hopson, Southern Miss

Hopson is stepping into one of the most favorable roster situations of any first-year coach in 2016. Southern Miss returns 12 starters – including star quarterback Nick Mullens – from last season’s 9-5 team that claimed the Conference USA West Division title. Hopson has several stops as an assistant on his resume, including stints at Marshall, Ole Miss, Michigan, Memphis and Southern Miss. The Mississippi native was hired as Alcorn State’s head coach in 2012 and guided the Braves to a 32-17 mark in four seasons. With previous experience at Southern Miss, success in his only head coaching stop and ties to the state, Hopson looks like a good fit in Hattiesburg.




8. Sean Kugler, UTEP

Injuries hit UTEP hard last season, including an early season-ending ailment to standout running back Aaron Jones. As a result, the Miners slipped to 5-7 in Kugler’s third year on the job. However, UTEP is just one season removed from a 7-6 mark and a bowl appearance in 2014, and a quick rebound should be anticipated for 2016. Kugler is 14-23 in three seasons with the Miners.


9. Ron Turner, FIU

Turner wasn’t the most popular hire after Mario Cristobal’s firing, but FIU has increased its win total in back-to-back years after a 1-11 mark in 2013. The Panthers finished 4-8 in 2014 and nearly qualified for a bowl with a 5-7 mark last season. Turner also has prior stints as a head coach from stops at San Jose State (1992) and Illinois (1997-04). His all-time record as a coach is 52-87, but he did lead the Fighting Illini to a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2001. With 13 starters back, Turner has a good chance to lead FIU to a bowl game in 2016.


10. Charlie Partridge, FAU

Partridge was known for his recruiting connections in the state of Florida when he was hired as FAU’s head coach in 2014. As expected, the Owls have recruited well over the last three classes, and there’s a strong core of promising players in place for 2016. The on-field results have been slow for Partridge, as he’s posted back-to-back 3-9 campaigns to start his tenure. Prior to taking over at FAU, Partridge was an assistant under Bret Bielema at Wisconsin and Arkansas and also had a stint at Pittsburgh from 2003-07. This is his first opportunity to be a head coach, so it’s no surprise Patridge is still learning on the job entering year three.


11. Brad Lambert, Charlotte

Building a program from scratch isn’t easy. And it’s even harder to accomplish that goal by transitioning from the FCS to the FBS level. That’s the challenge facing Lambert at Charlotte, as the 49ers are 12-22 over the last three seasons, including a 2-10 mark in their first year at the FBS level in 2015. Prior to taking over as Charlotte’s head coach, Lambert worked from 2001-10 under Jim Grobe at Wake Forest. The fourth-year coach seems to have this program trending in the right direction.




12. Seth Littrell, North Texas

Littrell looks like a good fit at North Texas, but he inherited a team in need of a lot of help after a 1-11 record in 2015. Littrell comes to Denton after two seasons at North Carolina, working under coach Larry Fedora as the program’s offensive coordinator. Prior to North Carolina, Littrell worked as an assistant at Indiana, Arizona and Texas Tech. The Oklahoma native’s background with the Air Raid offense should help North Texas attract plenty of offensive talent into the program.


13. Frank Wilson, UTSA

Wilson is regarded as an ace recruiter, and his ability to attract talent to a program should be a huge benefit to UTSA. There’s no shortage of talent in San Antonio and the surrounding area, but the first-year coach has to prove he’s more than just a recruiter. Wilson has never worked as a head coach or a coordinator at the FBS level. His only experience as a head coach came in high school, leading O.P. Walker High School from 2000-03. 


(Photos of Jeff Brohm courtesy of )

Ranking Conference USA's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/eli-apple-mom-annie-espn-sunday-nfl-countdown-contributor-giants-rookie

ESPN is branching out when it comes to its talent.


The worldwide leader tapped Eli Apple's mom Annie for a new contributor role, and she happily obliged. 


"Annie caught our attention during the NFL Draft and when we met with her in-person at ESPN we were blown away by her relatability, her sense of humor and just how unafraid she is to speak her mind," an ESPN coordinator said. "Annie brings a very unique perspective as the mother of a current NFL player and as a fan, and we look forward to exploring a variety of different story ideas with her on Sunday NFL Countdown."



This is sure to liven up the show this fall. Annie even tweeted about her excitement. 


Post date: Monday, May 23, 2016 - 15:27
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-alabama-can-get-back-college-football-playoff-2016

Just when everybody thought they could finally write off last season after a 43-37 loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 19, the Crimson Tide reeled off 12 straight wins en route to a national championship. It was Alabama's fourth title in the past seven years. President Obama and Nick Saban have become quite familiar with one another.


So what now for Alabama? The Crimson Tide return only 11 starters from last year's championship team and will have to replace their starting quarterback and running back. It seems like this should be the year the Tide takes a step back, but haven't we been wrong in saying that for a few years now?


Truthfully, we know that Alabama reloads better than any team in football and we know the Crimson Tide will be in the mix to get back to the College Football Playoff in 2016. Why else would Alabama check in at ?




Here are five reasons why the Crimson Tide could very well end up with an opportunity to make it back-to-back national titles come January.


1. Big Uglies

Although long-time center Ryan Kelly and right tackle Dominick Jackson are gone, the offensive line is an area where Alabama has a ton of depth. The Crimson Tide return senior right guard Alphonse Taylor, and Ross Pierschbacher now has a full season under his belt. Pierschbacher will move from left guard to center to take over for Kelly. Having those two back will help Alabama tremendously in the running game, but it is the depth that will make the biggest difference. Alabama now has former prized recruits, such as Lester Cotton, Dallas Warmack and Brandon Kennedy eager to fill in. I would be remiss to not mention the situation with one of the best left tackles in the country, Cam Robinson, who is currently facing a felony weapons charge. Of course, it will benefit Alabama greatly on the field if Robinson is able to return. Regardless, this position group is a strength, which should help new running back Bo Scarbrough get rolling.


2. Wide Receivers

If the offensive line and running backs gel early, that will be great for Alabama. But, as strange as this may sound, Alabama may have to rely on its wide receivers to make plays early in the season. Of course, the Crimson Tide will need to settle on a quarterback, but fans should feel confident knowing offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will make that happen. Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett both have progressed well over the offseason. Whoever Alabama's starting quarterback ends up being should feel confident in his receiving corps. The star of the group, Calvin Ridley, is back after setting Alabama's single-season freshman receiving record with 1,045 yards last year. ArDarius Stewart, who was stellar in spring practice, and Robert Foster will join Ridley on the outside. As an added bonus, the Tide returns tight end O.J. Howard, the offensive MVP of last year's national championship game. It's safe to say Kiffin and Saban feel good about this group going into the fall.


3. Defense (Nick Saban)

Yes, Kirby Smart finally left the nest and went to Georgia to be the Bulldogs’ head coach, but make no mistake about it, this is Saban's defense. And it always has been. While there may be some loss of continuity with Smart's departure, everything should be just fine. Saban has built plenty of depth on the defensive side, and he'll still be calling the shots when it matters. Plus, Saban brought in Jeremy Pruitt as Alabama's new defensive coordinator, which some would argue is actually an upgrade. Pruitt was born in Alabama, played at Alabama, and has already coached at Alabama. There is plenty of familiarity. He will get to work with some incredible talent, including the likes of defensive end Jonathan Allen, who decided to hold off a year on the NFL Draft. Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson will lead the way for a relatively young defensive line. Alabama loses Reggie Ragland to the NFL, but still retains plenty of depth at linebacker. The secondary should be scary with Eddie Jackson, Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick coming back.


4. Griffith & Scott

Chances are Alabama will be in a few close games this fall with road trips to Ole Miss, Tennessee and LSU on the slate. The schedule really doesn't do the Crimson Tide any favors. Fortunately, Alabama will have an advantage over most of its opponents when it comes to special teams. Kicker Adam Griffith comes into his senior year after earning second-team All-SEC honors in 2015. Griffith has had some tough moments in his career, often struggling with consistency. But he's finally ready for a breakout year. His marked improvement last season supports that claim. After missing his first four field goals of the year, Griffith went 23-of-28, which included hitting all three of his attempts against LSU and going a perfect 5-for-5 against Auburn. Alabama also returns one of the nation's finest punters in JK Scott. Improving on his average yards per punt each week last season, Scott finished the year at 44.2 per kick. More importantly, he downed 25 of those inside the 20-yard line. Field position and clutch field goals late in games are two aspects of football that can't be overlooked.


5. Experience

Perhaps the most important reason Alabama has a chance to get back to the College Football Playoff is its experience in doing so. The Crimson Tide have made it to college football's final four in each of the past two seasons. The players on the team expect to be there and they know what it takes to make it happen. That is a real, intangible luxury that the Crimson Tide have over other teams. Alabama was tested in 2014 and ‘15, losing to Ole Miss early. But the Tide found a way to win the SEC championship both times, advancing to the Playoff each season. National championships are the standard in Tuscaloosa, and because of that, Saban and his players have figured out how to win when it matters most. There simply isn't a team in college football that is better on the big stage than Alabama. If the Crimson Tide can get through a gauntlet of a schedule either undefeated, or with only one loss, they will be right back where we're used to seeing them.


— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for . Follow him on Twitter .

5 Reasons Why Alabama Can Get Back to the College Football Playoff in 2016
Post date: Monday, May 23, 2016 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/space-jam-2-caused-sports-report-get-awkward-kron-anchor

"Space Jam 2" is already ruining lives and it's not even in production yet.


A television station in San Francisco was a part of an awkward exchange between a sports reporter and news anchor. Apparently Gary Radnich, the resident sports guy at KRON 4, was a little annoyed by the fact that news anchor Catherine Heenan covered that topic beforehand.


At one point Radnich mentioned that she should "stay in her lane." Awkward.



Radnich claims he was just kidding but if that's true, it was the performance of a lifetime.


Post date: Monday, May 23, 2016 - 11:40
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-florida-state-will-make-college-football-playoff-2016

Big things are expected of in 2016 as the Seminoles look to win at least 10 games for a fifth consecutive year, reclaim the and try to work their way into the College Football Playoff.


Those expectations are reflected in , where FSU comes in second behind only defending national champion Alabama.




The non-conference schedule for Florida State is one of the nation’s toughest and FSU has its questions at quarterback, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Seminoles will be one of the four teams to reach the third Playoff. Here are five reasons why Florida State will be one of college football’s final four teams standing:


1. Dalvin Cook

In a country loaded with talented running backs, including Stanford’s Christian McCaffery, Oregon’s Royce Freeman and Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine, FSU may actually have the nation’s best in Cook, a junior.


Behind an offensive line with four new starters, Cook obliterated the single-season FSU rushing record in 2015, going for 1,691 yards on the ground and 19 touchdowns. Making matters more impressive is that Cook battled a hamstring injury for most of the season and missed one contest and almost all of another.


At 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds, Cook is a complete back who can catch the ball out of the backfield, pick up the tough yards and outrun defenders to the goal line. Much of Cook’s damage a season ago came after contact.


2. Experience Up Front

What was a young position for Florida State last season will likely be one of its biggest strengths in 2016 as all five starters return along the offensive line.


Tackle Roderick Johnson (6-7, 307) is the best of the bunch and has . Guard Wilson Bell was the only other Seminole to start every game up front last season, but Kareem Are did enough in his nine games last year to earn third-team All-ACC honors from the conference’s coaches.


Alec Eberle will battle Corey Martinez and Ryan Hoefeld for the starting center spot while incumbent Brock Ruble and converted defensive end Rick Leonard will compete for snaps at right tackle. The Seminoles also have a lot of promising young linemen like Abdul Bello, Cole Minshew and Derrick Kelly who could see action this season.


3. Depth and Talent in the Secondary

Replacing Jalen Ramsey, the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, won’t be easy, but it is conceivable that the FSU secondary could actually improve in 2016. The Seminoles have a nice mix of youth and talent in the defensive backfield and are extremely deep.


Sophomore safety Derwin James is expected to while senior cornerback Marquez White performed admirably in his first season as a starter opposite Ramsey. Nate Andrews, a senior, has twice led the Seminoles in interceptions and junior Trey Marshall is back after missing the last half of 2015 with a bicep injury.


At the other cornerback position, Marcus Lewis made tremendous strides during the spring while Tarvarus McFadden, a sophomore, and incoming freshman Levonta Taylor are each former five-star prospects. Calvin Brewton, A.J. Westbrook and Carlos Becker are among other first- and second-year players who could make an impact.


4. The Pass Rush

After recording just 17 sacks in 2014, getting to the quarterback was a noticeable area of improvement last season. The Seminoles recorded 32 sacks and 24.5 of those, or about 77 percent, return this season.


The unit is led by DeMarcus Walker, who notched 10.5 sacks as a junior last season after tallying just one in each of his first two seasons in Tallahassee. Josh Sweat, a sophomore, is extremely talented on the opposite side of the line while the interior combination of Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas features two players capable of wreaking havoc.


The aforementioned James and linebacker Jacob Pugh both return after ranking second and third on the team in sacks with a combined 7.5.


5. Key Games at Home

Florida State will face four FBS schools that won at least 10 games a season ago, but fortunately for the Seminoles, none of them are on the road.


FSU will open the season in Orlando on Sept. 5 against an Ole Miss squad that was the only team to beat eventual national champion Alabama. The Rebels went 10-3 last year and defeated Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl.


The Seminoles also will face reigning ACC Coastal champion North Carolina on Oct. 1, reigning ACC champion and national runner-up Clemson on Oct. 29 and reigning SEC East champion Florida on Nov. 26. All three of those contests will be at home, where the Seminoles are 21-0 over the last three seasons.




- 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

5 Reasons Florida State Will Make the College Football Playoff in 2016
Post date: Monday, May 23, 2016 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-ohio-state-will-contend-college-football-playoff-2016

At first glance, it would make complete sense for a casual college football fan to dismiss as a College Football Playoff contender during the 2016 season. Think about the talent lost — 12 players chosen during the 2016 NFL Draft, including five in the first 20 picks. Every single player drafted was a significant contributor to Ohio State's 2014 national championship team.


Peer closer, and you will see why Ohio State fans are brimming with a quiet optimism heading into the 2016 season. It’s a sentiment that’s supported by the fact that Urban Meyer’s team is ranked .




Below are five good reasons why Ohio State could very well be in the running for another national championship, even with such

a dramatic talent exodus to the NFL.


1. The Strength of These Buckeyes...

Is in the middle on both sides of the ball. Fifth-year senior Pat Elflein resisted the opportunity to jump to the NFL, and moved to center. A two-time All-Big Ten selection at guard, Elflein plays with a toughness and nastiness along the offensive line that will solidify the unit. On the defensive side of the ball, junior Raekwon McMillan has emerged as one of the better middle linebackers in the country, qualifying as a Butkus Award finalist during the 2015 season. And another one of the strengths in the middle is at the quarterback position with redshirt junior J.T. Barrett, which leads me to this point...


2. There is No Quarterback Controversy in Columbus This Season

For all of the talk last summer and early fall about how the quarterback battle between Barrett and former Buckeye/current Buffalo Bill Cardale Jones would not impact the team, the inconsistent offensive results displayed by the 2015 Buckeyes said otherwise. Barrett is the unquestioned leader of the Buckeyes this season, and the offense will be completely focused around Barrett's strengths running an attack that should look more like 2014 than ‘15.




3. There is a Major Youth Movement in Columbus

And that is by necessity. More than half of the Ohio State roster is comprised of either redshirt freshmen or true freshmen, and head coach Urban Meyer has vowed to push his coaching staff to get the players ready to play and contribute this season. With recruiting classes that have been routinely ranked among the nation's best since Meyer arrived in Columbus in November 2012, these players are eager to show what they can do, if given the opportunity. This team will continue to get better and better each week of the 2016 season. Former Ohio State head coach John Cooper was fond of using an old Darrell Royal statement: "If a dog is going to bite you, it will bite you as a pup..." This is a young team, eager to show off its bite.


4. The Schedule is in Ohio State's Favor

Ohio State starts off with two home games, versus Bowling Green and Tulsa, before venturing to Norman, Okla., to take on the favored Sooners. Considering this game is in the third week of the season, Ohio State can use this game as a barometer of how it ranks against another highly-touted squad. Even if Ohio State loses, the Buckeyes can grow from this loss, rebounding in a manner comparable to what the 2014 squad did after the loss to Virginia Tech. Challenging games midseason are at night, on the road, at Wisconsin and at Penn State. Ohio State has to travel to East Lansing on Nov. 21, with revenge on the mind against the Spartans. The season concludes with "THE GAME" in Columbus, on Nov. 28 against Jim Harbaugh and "That Team Up North," the Michigan Wolverines. Look for the Wolverines to possibly be ranked higher when that game comes to pass. And that leads me to...




5. The Disrespect Card

Even if Ohio State is highly ranked by Athlon Sports, Meyer will seize upon the other publications and Web sites that do not view the Buckeyes in the same light, whether that’s in the the B1G or nationally. A master motivator, Meyer will repeatedly stoke the flames of disrespect and disregard within his squad, reminding them that the college football world does not believe these Buckeyes are ready to compete for the College Football Playoff this season.


Will Ohio State make the College Football Playoff after a one-year hiatus? For all of the reasons referenced above, I would not bet against Meyer and the Buckeyes.


— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for , a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter .

5 Reasons Why Ohio State Will Contend for the College Football Playoff in 2016
Post date: Monday, May 23, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football
Path: /college-football/5-players-need-step-clemson-tigers-2016

With a Heisman Trophy finalist surrounded by a slew of talented offensive skill players returning, nothing short of a return trip to the College Football Playoff will be deemed a success for . For some, the expectations may be even higher for the Tigers, which check in at .




The offense will put up huge numbers; that can be counted on. But there are a couple spots on the offensive line that are open, and for the second year in a row defensive coordinator Brent Venables will have several new starters on his unit.


Here are five Clemson Tigers that will be looked upon to do more this coming fall.


Jake Fruhmorgen, Offensive Tackle (6-6, 280)

In his only year as a true starter for Clemson, Joe Gore did a nice job at right tackle. Now the torch is passed to Fruhmorgen. The sophomore came to Clemson out of Plant High School in Tampa as a highly regarded prospect that was coveted by the likes of Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Notre Dame. After a year in the system, Fruhmorgen will team with classmate Mitch Hyatt in bookending what should be another very strong Clemson offensive front.


Taylor Hearn, Offensive Guard, (6-5, 330)

After redshirting in 2014, Hearn (above, right) spent much of last season as Hyatt’s back up at left tackle. But his size and physicality make him a better option inside and he will shift over to the guard spot next to Hyatt. Fruhmorgen and Hearn have a higher ceiling than the departing linemen and if they can smoothly adjust to their starting roles, this Clemson offense could be very, very explosive.


Jadar Johnson, Safety (6-1, 205)

The Orangeburg, S.C., product played in all 15 games last year and registered 15 tackles. With Jayron Kearse now with the Minnesota Vikings, the Tigers have a void at strong safety and Johnson is next in line. A senior, Johnson knows this is his final season to display his talents for Clemson fans (and NFL scouts). He was very impressive this spring and the Tiger staff is hoping that he serves as one of the defensive leaders.


Christian Wilkins, Defensive Tackle (6-4, 315)

Wilkins was very active as a true freshman and Clemson will be looking for even more this season. The Longmeadow, Mass., native has the ability to play outside depending on the situation but his agility for his size makes him a difficult player to deal with on the inside, especially on passing downs. With Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson now in the NFL, it’s unlikely that Clemson will get the same production from its defensive ends. So they will need Wilkins to emerge and ease the burden on Austin Bryant and the other outside linemen.




Kendall Joseph, Middle Linebacker (6-0, 230)

Joseph had an opportunity to be the starting middle linebacker going into 2015. But he was injured twice during fall camp and by the time he was healthy, B.J. Goodson had cemented his place as the Mike backer. Now 100 percent once again, Joseph is charged with replacing Goodson and his 108 tackles. The talent is there, but as the middle linebacker Joseph must also be the quarterback of a defense that will feature several new starters.


— 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 .

5 Players That Need to Step Up for Clemson in 2016
Post date: Monday, May 23, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-impersonator-takes-lebron-james-flopping-another-level-cleveland-cavaliers-brandon-armstrong

LeBron James is a good actor, and not just in Trainwreck.


The Cavaliers star has been accused of flopping on more than one occasion. NBA impersonator, Brandon Armstrong has taken James' flopping to the extreme in his newest video.


Post date: Monday, May 23, 2016 - 10:12
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-college-football-coaches-2016

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 leagues. Here are the results for the Big 12:


Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2016


1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

There’s very little separation among the top three coaches in the Big 12. Stoops returns the No. 1 spot in Athlon’s rankings after slipping down the list last season. After an 8-5 record in 2014, Stoops hit the reset button on offense and made significant changes to his staff. The moves paid off in a big way for Oklahoma, as the Sooners finished 11-2, won the Big 12 title and played in the College Football Playoff. The eight-win season in 2014 was only the fourth time in Stoops’ 17-year tenure Oklahoma won fewer than 10 games. Maintaining a high level of success at any program for nearly 20 years isn’t easy. But Stoops continues to push the right buttons and should have the Sooners in the mix to earn another trip to the playoffs in 2016.




2. Gary Patterson, TCU

As mentioned with Bob Stoops, there’s very little separation among the top three coaches – Stoops, Patterson and Snyder – in the Big 12. With that in mind, we wouldn’t disagree with a ranking that listed Patterson as the No. 1 coach from the Big 12. Patterson has been instrumental in TCU’s rise into a Big 12 title contender, recording a 143-47 record since becoming the program’s coach at the end of the 2000 season. The Horned Frogs have shifted conferences three times under Patterson but appear to be fully entrenched in the Big 12 after winning 23 games over the last two years. Not only is Patterson one of the nation’s top coaches, he’s also one of the best at developing talent and gameplans on defense. 




3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

An argument could be made for Snyder as the top Big 12 coach in Athlon’s 2016 rankings. The Wildcats are always a dangerous opponent with Snyder on the sidelines, and the 76-year-old coach has completely changed the outlook of this program. Prior to Snyder’s arrival in 1989, Kansas State had only two winning seasons since 1955 and just one bowl appearance in program history. After a 1-10 mark in 1989, Snyder went 5-6 in his second year and has won at least four games in every season since his debut. Snyder had a brief retirement in 2006, but he returned to the sidelines in 2009 and has guided Kansas State to six straight bowl appearances and recorded 21 wins from 2011-12. Considering how difficult of a job Kansas State is and the lack of success prior to 1989, it’s a strong testament to Snyder’s coaching ability for this program to have 193 wins under his watch.


4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State has emerged as an annual threat to win the Big 12 title under Gundy’s watch, and last year’s 10-3 mark represented the Cowboys fourth double-digit win season over the last six years. The 10-win season was capped by an appearance in the Sugar Bowl, giving Gundy 10 consecutive bowl trips. In 11 years guiding his alma mater, Gundy is 94-47 and is already the winningest coach in program history. The Cowboys finished No. 3 nationally in 2011 and have not experienced a losing season since 2005. 


5. Charlie Strong, Texas

With an 11-14 record through two seasons in Austin, the pressure is starting to build on Strong to turn things around. While Strong didn’t inherit a roster filled with talent, Texas is one of college football’s best jobs and the expectation level is certainly higher than six wins. After a 6-7 record in his first year, Strong went 5-7 last season and the losing mark prompted changes. Five new assistants were hired, including Sterlin Gilbert as the team’s play-caller on offense to bring a new spread, up-tempo approach to Texas. Strong has a track record of turning around programs, as evidenced by his 37-15 mark in four years at Louisville (2010-13). Assuming Texas continues to recruit at a high level and the offense improves in 2016, the future still looks bright for Strong’s long-term outlook in Austin.




6. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Holgorsen enters 2016 in an interesting position. Last season, the Mountaineers recorded their highest win total (eight) since joining the Big 12 in 2012. However, contract negotiations between Holgorsen and athletic director Shane Lyons ended earlier this spring. Holgorsen is not signed beyond 2017, so there’s some uncertainty about his future in Morgantown. Under Holgorsen’s watch, West Virginia is 36-28 overall and has played in four bowl games over the last five years.


7. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

Kingsbury is known as one of the nation’s top offensive-minded coaches and has Texas Tech trending up after a 7-6 mark in 2015. The Red Raiders went 8-5 in Kingsbury’s debut (2013) but regressed to 4-8 in 2014. However, Texas Tech had a solid rebound year last season and could challenge for a winning mark in Big 12 play in 2016. Prior to taking over as the head coach in Lubbock, Kingsbury engineered some of the nation’s top offenses at Houston and Texas A&M. At 36 years old, Kingsbury is still learning on the job and could move up this list in future seasons.


8. Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Campbell was an outstanding hire for Iowa State and easily one of the best coaching moves of the 2015-16 carousel. The 36-year-old coach comes to Ames after four full seasons (and one bowl game in 2011), earning a 35-15 record with the Rockets. Toledo did not have a losing season under Campbell’s watch and recorded bowl trips in three out of four years. Campbell has been on a fast rise through the coaching ranks and played his college ball at the ultra-successful Mount Union program. Iowa State is a tough job, so Campbell will find it tough to match is win total from Toledo on an annual basis. However, the Cyclones should take a step forward under Campbell’s direction and contend for bowl games on a consistent basis.


9. Phil Bennett, Baylor

Bennett is expected to work as Baylor’s interim coach for 2016 after Art Briles was dismissed in May. Bennett’s arrival in Waco helped the Bears’ defense improve over the last four seasons and he has prior experience as a head coach from a stint at SMU from 2002-07. Bennett went 18-51 with the Mustangs, which included a 6-6 mark in 2006. Considering all that’s transpired at Baylor over the last couple of months, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding this program headed into offseason workouts.


10. David Beaty, Kansas

Beaty inherited a program in need of a massive overhaul and finished his debut in Lawrence with an 0-12 record. The lack of success in 2015 was no surprise, as Beaty needs another recruiting class (or two) just to get this program competitive on an annual basis in the Big 12. In an effort to spark improvement on offense, Beaty is taking over the play-calling duties for the offense in 2016. However, the Jayhawks are likely staring at another double-digit loss season. Beaty is known as a good recruiter and his ties to the state of Texas should help in upgrading the program’s overall talent level over the next few years. Beaty still has plenty to prove in his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level and has to show he can build a program – not just recruit talent to Lawrence.

Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Monday, May 23, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12
Path: /college-football/can-oklahoma-sooners-live-lofty-preseason-expectations-2016

There’s a commonly held belief in college football circles that when expectations for  zig, the Sooners zag.


Preseason No. 1? Book your tickets for the Insight Bowl.


Starting the season at No. 20? Go ahead and print the Big 12 championship shirts.


Take last season, for example. After opening at No. 19 in the preseason AP poll, the Sooners gradually worked their way into a bid to the College Football Playoff.


This marks one of those years in which big things are expected of Bob Stoops’ team. OU consistently showing up in preseason top 10s, including , will undoubtedly have Sooner fans feeling antsy.




There are plenty of reasons to feel confident that the reigning Big 12 champs can buck the trend of falling short, though — stalwarts in the defensive backfield, a loaded group of running backs, talented receivers. Four in particular stand out.


1. The Sooners are getting stronger in the trenches

Considering the state of OU’s offensive line in 2015, the Sooners arguably made it to the postseason a year ahead of schedule. Freshmen Orlando Brown and Dru Samia bookended the tackle positions, and an unheralded sophomore, Jonathan Alvarez, held down the left guard spot.


That inexperience won’t be an issue for the unit this season. Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh will have three returning starters at his disposal, with Alvarez taking over for Ty Darlington at center. He’ll likely fill out the other two openings with upperclassmen such as third-year sophomore Alex Dalton or talented newcomers like junior college transfer Ben Powers.


Meanwhile, the lack of depth that once plagued OU’s defensive line has become a thing of the past. Despite losing all-conference performer Charles Tapper to the NFL, six players who factored into the DL rotation last season return. They include run stuffer Charles Walker, whose absence last year in the Orange Bowl versus Clemson significantly hamstrung the Sooners’ ability to slow down Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman.


Additionally, two of the jewels of OU’s ‘15 recruiting class, Neville Gallimore and Du’Vonta Lampkin, are ready to see some reps after redshirting.


2. Baker Mayfield

A returning starter at quarterback who finished in the top five of the previous year’s Heisman voting can’t hurt, right?


The former walk-on QB at Texas Tech erased any lingering skepticism about his skills right away last season. Acting as the catalyst to an offensive makeover under first-year coordinator Lincoln Riley, he proved to be a nearly ideal fit in the newly re-installed Air Raid.


The only real concern with Mayfield will be keeping him on the field. His scrambling style exposes him to his fair share of hits, and his history of concussions bears close watching. If he can make it through the year unscathed, though, the Sooners will likely have another spot in the Playoff.




3. Coaching continuity

New blood on a coaching staff isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Stoops hired four new assistants last year, and that seemed to work out well.


It’s also comforting to keep a good thing going. Aside from losing DL coach Diron Reynolds to Stanford, OU’s staff returns intact from ‘15. Importantly, Broyles Award winner Riley spurned overtures from suitors offering head coaching jobs to stay in Norman.


The Sooners should continue to benefit from a collection of assistants that demonstrated great chemistry in its first season together. These coaches should have an even better grasp of the strengths and weaknesses of their personnel now, too.




4. A quality kicking game

OU fans understand the perils of subpar special teams all too well by now. Kicking gaffes, in particular, have shifted a fair number of results to the wrong side of the ledger in Stoops’ nearly two decades in Norman.


Last year, Austin Seibert lived up to billing as the No. 1 kicker overall in the ‘15 recruiting class. In addition to converting 18 of 23 field goals and 70 of 72 extra points, he ably handled punting duties.


Barring a complete collapse, the Sooners should enter every matchups next season feeling confident that they have the edge in the kicking game.


— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter .

Can the Oklahoma Sooners Live up to Lofty Preseason Expectations in 2016?
Post date: Friday, May 20, 2016 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/people-blast-art-briles-twitter-truth-dont-lie-tweet-baylor-bears-football

In case you haven't heard, Baylor is in some hot water due to more details regarding .


Head football coach Art Briles is obviously not trying to draw attention to those issues, but he inadvertently did when he tweeted about the academics of the school with the hashtag #TruthDontLie.  



People were expecting him to say something about the allegations that include some of the student athletes, and they made no secret of their feelings.





These weren't even the worst of the tweets sent to the coach. People want answers but as of now, they won't get them from Briles.

Post date: Friday, May 20, 2016 - 11:25
Path: /college-football/will-michigan-live-preseason-hype-2016

Looking back, this offseason for the was not all that different from a year ago.


Satellite camps (I promise we won’t cover this below), quarterback competition and Jim Harbaugh at the forefront of everything Maize and Blue dominated the headlines yet again, and that will assuredly continue as we trudge through the summer months towards the start of the season.


But unlike Harbaugh’s first season, expectations are sky high that this year’s version of Michigan football can not only compete for a spot in their first Big Ten Championship Game, but also challenge for a place in the College Football Playoff.




The Wolverines came in at  and whether or not they finish the season near the top of the rankings will depend on a few things falling their way in 2016.


Why Michigan Will Meet (or Succeed) Expectations


  • The Stache

Those who follow the program had a general sense that former defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin would get a shot at a head coaching gig at one point. But in true Harbaugh form, he found a replacement that can only be looked at as an upgrade. Former Boston College defensive coordinator Don Brown was hired to replace Durkin after leading the Eagles to the No. 1 overall defense in college football in 2015. Boston College was sixth in pass defense last season and second to only national champion Alabama against the run.


Brown steps into a cushy situation with the Wolverines who return six starters on defense, including All-Big Ten defenders Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers, and potentially the best defensive line in the country that will go as many as eight deep. Brown will also get to work with the No. 1 recruit in the country next season in Rashan Gary who is versatile enough to start anywhere along the line.


If Brown can find some capable linebackers (more on that later), this is likely the best defense in the conference and will challenge the Alabamas of the world for the top group in all of the college football.


  • Supporting Cast

We will get into the quarterback concerns later on, but any trepidation regarding the position can be alleviated based upon the supporting pieces on that side of the ball, not to mention we have evidence of new quarterbacks thriving under Harbaugh's guidance as proven last season.


Whomever comes out as the starting quarterback in Week 1 will have an array of All-Big Ten talent across the board including 2015 first-teamer Jake Butt at tight end, the top receiver duo in the conference in Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, steady senior running back De’Veon Smith and an offensive line that features four returning starters.


All of the above pales in comparison, though, to having quarterback whisperer as a head coach in Harbaugh. I mean the guy turned Jake Rudock into an NFL Draft pick! You couldn’t ask for a better situation if you are a college quarterback.


  • The Schedule

There is a lot to like in regards to the Michigan schedule in 2016. The Wolverines open non-conference play against three lesser opponents in Hawaii, Central Florida and Colorado that combined for a 7-31 record in 2015. Michigan will stay at the Big House for the next two weeks as the open against Penn State and Wisconsin before hitting the road for the first time against Rutgers in its first national primetime game of the season.




The Wolverines return home to face Illinois for their homecoming game in what is likely to be a tune up for the following week against the Spartans. All in all, Michigan will leave the state just once before a Nov. 12 tilt against Iowa as the Wolverines close with two of three on the road.


Why Michigan Will Fall Short of Expectations


  • Quarterback Quandary

Headway was made during the spring as junior Wilton Speight vaulted into the lead to be the starting quarterback in 2016, but the competition is far from over as Harbaugh wouldn’t have it any other way.


What the spring did show us is that this will not be the three-horse race many originally anticipated. Senior Shane Morris is unlikely to be a factor in the competition as the majority of the reps he had in the team’s spring game were at wide receiver, leaving Speight to battle it out with former Houston transfer John O’Korn. Both have better physical traits than Rudock, but it will take more than that to win over Harbaugh and become the starting quarterback he wants to lead this offense. How this position performs in 2016 will dictate whether or not the Wolverines are a championship contender.


  • Linebacker Shortage

To say the Wolverines are short on linebackers would be an understatement. The top four linebackers who combined for 229 tackles from a season ago all exhausted their eligibility, leaving Michigan with just one true linebacker returning in junior Ben Gideon, who has not received considerable playing time other than on special teams.


To help with the transition, new defensive coordinator Don Brown will move Jabrill Peppers to strong-side linebacker, though the star junior will likely be moved around all over the field as he is the team’s best overall athlete on defense. Stepping in on the weak-side will be oft-injured senior Mike McCray, who entered this spring as healthy as he has been in years. Outside of those three, there isn’t another linebacker on the roster that has played meaningful snaps in a game. It will be imperative for the coaches to develop depth at the position this fall or one injury could hinder the defensive performance.


  • The Schedule

Whereas the schedule could be the reason Michigan reaches the heights it aspires to in 2016 as stated above, it also could be a hindrance. Yes, the Wolverines open their first three games against non-conference opponents who went a combined 7-31 last year. Yes, the Wolverines open with their first five games all at the Big House. And yes, the Wolverines only leave the state of Michigan once until mid-November.


That said, the season will really come down to how Michigan fares in three games – AT Michigan State, AT Iowa and AT Ohio State. And if recent success is any indication, the Wolverines could be in for a disappointment as they have just one win against each opponent dating back to 2010. If Harbaugh and company are to make it to Indy, they will, at the very least, have to win two of those three road games against arguably the three best teams in the conference. 


— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and current writer for . Be sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.

Will Michigan Live Up to the Preseason Hype in 2016?
Post date: Friday, May 20, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-college-football-coaches-2016

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 Pac-12:


Ranking the Pac-12's Football Coaches for 2016


1. David Shaw, Stanford

Stanford’s rigid academic standards are no secret, but the tough admissions and smaller prospect pool hasn’t stopped Shaw from transforming this program into a top 10-15 team nationally on an annual basis. Over the last five seasons, Shaw has guided Stanford to a 54-14 record, and the Cardinal finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll last year. Additionally, Stanford has claimed three out of the last four Pac-12 titles and has only one season (2014) of fewer than 11 wins under Shaw’s direction. Despite losing several key pieces from last year’s 12-2 team, Shaw’s leadership should ensure the Cardinal won’t slip too far in the national rankings.




2. Chris Petersen, Washington

Petersen’s record through two seasons in Seattle is only 15-12, but there are plenty of signs this program is on the right path. The Huskies went 8-6 in Petersen’s first year (2014) and finished 7-6 last season. Despite the slight decrease in wins, Washington was considered a . The seven-win 2015 campaign featured a handful of underclassmen in key roles and an additional year of experience should allow the Huskies to push for a breakout year and contend for the Pac-12 title. Prior to Washington, Petersen went 92-12 and claimed two BCS bowl victories in eight seasons at Boise State. Although it’s a small sample size, Petersen has already emerged one of the Pac-12’s top coaches.


3. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Whittingham’s stock continues to rise among Pac-12 coaches after leading Utah to a 10-3 record last season – the program’s best mark since joining the league in 2011. Additionally, the Utes have back-to-back finishes (2014-15) in the Associated Press poll for the first time since 2008-09. Whittingham has only two losing seasons in his Utah tenure and has four years of at least 10 wins, including a perfect 13-0 mark in 2008. Utah doesn’t recruit on the same level as South Division rivals UCLA or USC, but the Utes will always be a factor in the Pac-12 with Whittingham leading the way.




4. Mike Leach, Washington State

Entering his fifth year in Pullman, Leach seems to have Washington State poised to challenge for eight or nine wins on a consistent basis. After a surprising loss to Portland State in Week 1 last season, the Cougars rebounded by winning nine games and finished 6-3 in league play – the program’s first winning mark in Pac-12 action since 2003. Under Leach’s watch, Washington State is 21-29 overall and has played in two bowl games over the last four years. Success is nothing new to Leach, as he went 84-43 at Texas Tech from 2000-09. Leach is one of college football’s top offensive-minded coaches and returns one of the nation’s top quarterbacks for 2016 in Luke Falk. 


5. Todd Graham, Arizona State

High expectations surrounded Arizona State last season, but the Sun Devils finished with their lowest win total (six) in Todd Graham’s four years in Tempe. The 6-7 record last season was just the second losing mark in Graham’s 10-year career as a FBS head coach. However, it’s safe to assume Graham won’t allow Arizona State to be down for long. Graham has a strong track record of success at the FBS level, leading Rice to a six-game improvement in the win column in his only year with the Owls (2006), finishing 36-17 at Tulsa from 2007-10 and leading Pittsburgh to a 6-6 mark in one season (2011) with the Panthers.


6. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

A year after a Pac-12 South title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl, Arizona took a step back in the win column with a 7-6 overall mark and a 3-6 record in league play. The seven wins in 2015 were the fewest by Arizona under Rodriguez’s watch, but despite injuries to key players on offense, the Wildcats earned their fourth consecutive winning record. Rodriguez is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive minds and should get this program back on track over the next two seasons. Scoring points won’t be a problem for the Wildcats, but the defense has to improve. Rodriguez took steps to fix this unit in the offseason, hiring new play-caller Marcel Yates to highlight a revamped staff. Prior to taking over in Tucson, Rodriguez went 60-26 at West Virginia from 2001-07 and 15-22 in three years at Michigan.  


7. Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Life after Marcus Mariota wasn’t going to be easy, but Oregon’s 2015 season was hindered by an early-season injury to quarterback Vernon Adams. After a 3-3 start, Helfrich guided the Ducks to a 9-4 final record in 2015, which included road wins at Washington, Arizona State and Stanford. The nine-win season elevated Helfrich to 33-8 in three years at Oregon and an impressive 22-5 mark in Pac-12 play. Helfrich faces a couple of challenges in 2016, as the Ducks need to improve on defense and find a quarterback to replace Adams. The hire of Brady Hoke as the team’s new defensive coordinator should help, and Helfrich seems to have two capable quarterbacks in Dakota Prukop and Travis Jonsen. 




8. Jim Mora, UCLA

The Pac-12 has one of the nation’s deepest collections of coaches. Need evidence? Mora ranks eighth on this list, but a strong argument could be made for the UCLA head coach to rank higher after a 37-16 mark over the last four seasons. Under Mora’s watch, the Bruins have won at least eight games every year and claimed the Pac-12 South title in 2012. UCLA has some key players to replace from its 2015 team, but a favorable schedule and the development of sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen has this program poised to enter the 2016 season as the favorite in the South Division.


9. Gary Andersen, Oregon State

Andersen’s decision to leave Wisconsin for Oregon State came as a surprise. In his two seasons with the Badgers, Andersen went 19-7 and guided the program to a Big Ten West Division title in 2014. And prior to Wisconsin, Andersen went 26-24 at Utah State and finished his tenure in Logan with back-to-back bowl appearances. While Andersen’s hire came as a surprise, Oregon State’s 2015 performance was not. The Beavers were in clear rebuild mode last year and struggled to a 2-10 finish. Andersen has a track record of success but it’s going to take some time to get the Beavers back in contention for winning seasons.




10. Sonny Dykes, California

Coming off his best season at California (8-5 in 2015), Dykes has momentum and a contract extension on his side. The Golden Bears went 1-11 in Dykes’ first year with the program but improved to 5-7 in 2014 and recorded their first winning season since 2011 with a solid 8-5 campaign in 2015. Additionally, quarterback Jared Goff went No. 1 in the NFL Draft, which certainly doesn’t hurt Dykes on the recruiting trail. The Golden Bears also received good news in mid-May, as transfer quarterback Davis Webb is headed to California instead of Colorado. Repeating last year’s 8-5 mark will be tough, but Dykes has this program trending in the right direction.


11. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

MacIntyre inherited a mess and a program that went 4-21 from 2011-12 under former coach Jon Embree. There were no quick fixes in MacIntyre’s rebuilding effort, and the former San Jose State coach has made some progress over the last three seasons. The Buffaloes finished 4-8 in MacIntyre’s first year (2013), regressed to 2-10 in 2014 but finished 4-9 last season. While Colorado has been more competitive under MacIntyre’s watch, this program still has only two Pac-12 wins over the last three seasons. Prior to Colorado, MacIntyre went 16-21 in three years at San Jose State, including a 10-2 record in 2012.


12. Clay Helton, USC

Helton enters 2016 with plenty to prove and no shortage of pressure. After filling in as an interim coach for the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl and again last year after Steve Sarkisian was dismissed, Helton was promoted to the full-time job at the end of the 2015 regular season. Helton is 6-4 in his limited stint as the program’s head coach and guided USC to the Pac-12 South title last year. However, this is his first opportunity to be a head coach on a full-time basis – and he’s doing it at one of the nation’s top programs. Helton wasted no time putting his stamp on the program by overhauling the staff and finished strong on the recruiting trail by signing the No. 8 class in the nation in February. Helton doesn’t have the big-time name recognition that Lane Kiffin or Sarkisian brought to the program when they were hired. Could that be a good thing for USC? Only time will tell how this hire will work out.

Ranking the Pac-12's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Friday, May 20, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/10-fcs-vs-fbs-football-games-avoid-watching-2016

No doubt you’ve circled plenty of Saturdays on your calendar for this fall. is coming and not soon enough to its millions of fans.


The excitement often starts with early-season matchups between FBS and FCS programs, when the big boys in Division I have to be on guard. Last year, nine FCS teams topped the much-larger FBS.




While North Dakota State at Iowa and Eastern Washington at Washington are among the , there are some not to get excited about. Many times, the FCS team gets its payday and leaves with a lopsided defeat.


Ho, hum, take the bad with the great upsets.


Here are 10 FCS vs. FBS pairings (in chronological order) to return to sender in 2016:


Mississippi Valley State at Eastern Michigan (Sept. 2) & Rhode Island at Kansas (Sept. 3)

Let’s group these opening-weekend matchups together. Perhaps these teams should be playing each other, though, because the quartet combined for a 3-43 record last season.


UC Davis at Oregon (Sept. 3)

The visiting Aggies from the Big Sky Conference played hard last season and their 2-9 record may have been deceptive, but … huh, what? The Ducks won’t mind putting up 70 points to get their season going.

Savannah State at Georgia Southern (Sept. 3)

Granted, Georgia Southern is only in its third year on the FBS level, but it beat Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference program Savannah State 77-9 as an FCS program in 2013 and then 83-9 in ‘14. Since Savannah started playing FBS programs regularly in 2012, it has been outscored by an average of 62 points in nine bad losses.


Howard at Maryland (Sept. 3)

Two schools that are seven miles apart are meeting for the first time, but the gap between their programs is much greater. Howard’s only win last season came against Savannah State and the Bison were outscored 399-114 in 10 losses.

Nicholls at Georgia (Sept. 10)

The Colonels from the Southland Conference were riding a 22-game losing streak at one point last season. It might be a moral victory if they aren’t tackled into the hedges at Sanford Stadium.


Delaware State at Missouri (Sept. 24)

Traditional rivals collide, er, Delaware State heads west for a matchup nobody could have foreseen. The Hornets are coming off a 1-10 season and their two best returning players departed as graduate transfers.

Houston Baptist at Western Kentucky (Oct. 1)

This is the unfortunate-timing game. The Southland Conference visitor is still a young program and its first venture into the FBS comes against a once-struggling Western Kentucky program that is coming off a 12-2 season and Conference USA title.


Alabama A&M at Auburn (Nov. 19)

Nothing prepares Auburn for the Iron Bowl a week later quite like playing a struggling team from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, whose members haven’t beaten an FBS opponent since 1985.


Presbyterian at Florida (Nov. 19)

Presbyterian has the smallest undergraduate enrollment among FCS schools at about 1,200, nearly 50,000 less than Florida. Welcome to the Swamp.


— 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 .

10 FCS vs. FBS Football Games to Avoid Watching in 2016
Post date: Friday, May 20, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/cardale-jones-ezekiel-elliott-money-signing-cowboys-contract-25-million-dallas

Ezekiel Elliott is officially in the money.


The running back out of Ohio State signed his contract with the Cowboys, with nearly $25 million guaranteed, and with more money there's more problems. After the rookie running back tweeted a picture of his signing, out came those asking for a little something.



Former teammate Cardale Jones picked the perfect time.



The Buckeyes are known to stick together, so Elliott told him he'd have no problem obliging.



Post date: Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 13:57
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Tennessee Volunteers, SEC
Path: /college-football/yes-tennessee-volunteers-deserving-top-10-preseason-ranking-2016

Athlon Sports has the ranked in the top 10 in their annual for the first time in over a decade, coming in at . The Vols are also predicted as solid favorites to win the East in 2016.



While you could build a reasonable case as to why this No. 7 ranking is on the high side, you also could make a legitimate argument for the Volunteers to win the SEC outright and be ranked even higher. While there are many college football fans that will disagree one way or the other, including some Tennessee fans, the Vols lofty ranking seems highly justifiable.


It is no secret that Tennessee has struggled to be competitive in recent years, but if the last two seasons are any indication, Butch Jones most definitely has this team headed in the right direction. The Vols have improved each and every season under Jones, and the upcoming 2016 season appears to be the most promising yet.


Tennessee went 9-4 last season, losing all four games by a combined total of just 17 points. They were highly competitive against every team that they played, including tough losses to eventual national champion Alabama and fellow College Football Playoff participant Oklahoma.


Only a handful of Power Five teams return as many starters as the Volunteers with 18. Even fewer teams, if any, return the number of quality starters that Tennessee has coming back in 2016. Practically all of the statistical leaders from 2015 return on offense, including veteran quarterback Joshua Dobbs, highly touted running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, and four starters on an offensive line that paved the way to the second-highest rushing total in school history last season. The three-headed monster of Dobbs, Hurd and Kamara are a big reason why Tennessee is deserving of its preseason billing. The trio should combine to form one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in the nation in 2016.


This season appears as though it could also be a banner year for Tennessee on the defensive side of the football, giving further credence to Athlon’s top-10 projection. The Vols should field one of the best defenses in the SEC, if not the entire country, under the tutelage of new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. Players such as Derek Barnett, Cameron Sutton and Jalen Reeves-Maybin all have the tools necessary to become All-Americans. You add in the breakout potential of players such as Darrin Kirkland Jr., Corey Vereen, Kahlil McKenzie, Justin Martin, Todd Kelly Jr. and Jonathan Kongbo, to name a few, and you have the makings of a potentially elite defense.


Tennessee’s biggest obstacle for 2016 will be a tough SEC schedule that includes facing off against heavyweights Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama in consecutive weeks. If the Vols can make it through this four-game gauntlet relatively unscathed, they will be more than deserving of a top-10 ranking or better at season’s end. One positive is that they get to play both Florida and Alabama in the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium, and for the first time, in a long time, all of those games can be considered winnable.


Another obstacle facing the Vols is their lackluster downfield passing attack. While Dobbs is one of the best signal-callers in the nation when it comes to making big plays with his legs, big plays through the air have been few and far between during his first three years on campus. A potent rushing attack and great defense may be enough to carry Tennessee through the SEC East, but a complementary downfield passing game is crucial to winning the SEC outright and garnering serious Playoff consideration.


The good news is that there are plenty of potential playmakers in the receiving corps. Wide receivers Josh Smith, Josh Malone and breakout candidate, Preston Williams, all have the necessary skill sets to step up and fill that void if they can remain healthy.  As do, tight ends Ethan Wolf and Jason Croom, to go along with a host of talented newcomers. If the Vols can develop some semblance of an effective downfield passing attack, the sky is the limit for Team 120’s potential. That being said, they still have to prove it on the field, and until they do, the naysayers have every right to hold it against them.


Tennessee was very close to turning the corner in 2015, so logic alone dictates that improvement is inevitable for a more experienced and talented team that returns practically all of its top players. The Vols finished with a respectable 9-4 record, they were highly competitive in every game, and they scored a dominant bowl win over a higher ranked opponent to cap off a solid 2015. When you factor in an additional year of experience, solid depth at every position and yet another offseason of strength and conditioning, it becomes fairly clear why Tennessee is projected to win the SEC East and finish the season ranked inside the top 10.


Sure, this offense has a few question marks related to the passing game. But try naming a team in college football that doesn’t have question marks heading into the 2016 season, including the six ranked ahead of the Volunteers. Tennessee will obviously need to avoid any additional off-the-field distractions and stay relatively injury free in order to maximize its potential, but the Volunteers have as much talent, experience and quality leadership as any team in the country heading into 2016. The Vols are well deserving of Athlon’s preseason top 10 ranking.


— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McVey is a diehard Tennessee Volunteers' fan who loves singing "Rocky Top" every opportunity he gets. Follow him on Twitter .

Yes, the Tennessee Volunteers are Deserving of a Top 10 Preseason Ranking in 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/5-players-need-emerge-notre-dame-fighting-irish-2016

Anyone that paid attention to this year’s NFL Draft realizes that lost a bunch of talented players. Seven players were selected by teams while were another five were signed on as undrafted free agents.


That leaves a lot of holes for the coaching staff to fill before this coming fall. But such is the life of a top-level college football program. With those vacancies come opportunities for the next wave of players that can make contributions for the Irish, which are ranked .




The development of these five players will go a long way in determining the success level of the 2016 Irish.


Sam Mustipher, Center (6-0, 305)

The left side of the offensive line should be dominant with Mike McGlinchey moving over from right tackle and Quenton Nelson returning at left guard. The starters on the right side have yet to be determined with four guys battling for the two openings. The bridge in between is Mustipher. Many expected a fierce position battle between the junior from Good Olney, Md., and Tristen Hoge. But it became apparent shortly after the end of last season that Mustipher would be given first crack at the spot and he locked it down with a strong spring. Despite being the backup to Nick Martin in 2015, Mustipher’s potential is evident and has led to his inclusion on the Rimington Award Watch list.


Alize Jones, Tight End (6-5, 240)

Jones came to Notre Dame with great fanfare and he undoubtedly expected more than the 13 catches he had as a freshman. But with Will Fuller, Amir Carlisle, Chris Brown, and probably Corey Robinson moving on, there will be plenty of passes to haul in this fall and Jones’ talent is undeniable. The Las Vegas native can provide versatility by spreading out to a receiver position or lining up as a true in-line tight end. Notre Dame would love to get back to establishing the tight end as a dangerous weapon and Jones has the capability of being a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.


Jerry Tillery, Defensive Tackle (6-7, 310)

It’s been quite a ride for Tillery since arriving at Notre Dame. Most recruiting experts projected him as an offensive tackle, but the coaching staff started him out on defense. His performance last spring gave the Irish faithful hope that he could contribute right away, something he did to start the season. But he appeared to hit the freshman wall and his production tailed off.  He was then suspended for the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State for violating team rules. Through it all, the freshman became a television star of sorts for his role on the Showtime series chronicling Notre Dame football. This spring his performance was a bit uneven and the Irish staff is looking for more consistency as he moves to the 3-technique position that was occupied by Sheldon Day.


Nyles Morgan, Middle Linebacker (6-1, 245)

Morgan is another player that came to Notre Dame with considerable hype. After filling in at the end of the 2014 season due to injuries at middle linebacker, the hope was that he would earn more playing time as a sophomore. But that didn’t happen. Now, with Joe Schmidt gone and thin numbers at linebacker, Morgan must sink or swim. The early signs have been positive and defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder raved about Morgan’s efforts this spring. With defense being a big concern going into 2016 and middle linebacker being such a vital position on the unit, Morgan needs to play well if the Irish hope to contend for a Playoff spot this fall.


Shaun Crawford, Cornerback (5-9, 180)

The Lakewood, Ohio, product impressed everyone last August at least until a torn ACL ended his freshman season before it even began. His rehab went well and this spring he was back at it with some limitations. He wore a no-contact jersey for the spring game, but he was still around the ball making plays. It will be interesting to see how he is used by Van Gorder and head coach Brian Kelly. The corner spot opposite Cole Luke is open but Crawford’s small stature may make him a better fit covering slot receivers as the nickel back. Either way, Crawford will be on the field a ton for Fighting Irish this year.


— 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 .

5 Players That Need to Emerge for Notre Dame in 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-college-football-coaches-2016

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 Big Ten:


Ranking the Big Ten's Football Coaches for 2016


1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

With 50 wins, a national championship and three top-five finishes in the Associated Press poll in the last four years, Meyer continues to set the bar high for success in the Big Ten. Ohio State is 50-4 overall under Meyer’s watch and has lost only one regular season league contest over the last four years. Success at a high level is something Meyer has experienced at each stop in his coaching career. In two years at Bowling Green, Meyer guided the Falcons to a 17-6 record and went 22-2 in two seasons at Utah. At Florida, Meyer won 65 games in six years and claimed two national titles (2006 and 2008). Despite heavy personnel losses in 2016, Meyer won’t allow Ohio State to slip too far in the win column, which should allow the Buckeyes to compete for another playoff bid this fall.




2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

As expected, it didn’t take long for Harbaugh to return Michigan back among the nation's best. The Wolverines finished 10-3 in Harbaugh’s first season – a five-game improvement from the previous year. Additionally, the 10 wins last season nearly matched the program’s combined victory total from 2013-14 (12). And the expectation level is high going into 2016, as the Wolverines are picked among the favorites to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Prior to Michigan, Harbaugh won 44 games in four seasons with the 49ers, transformed Stanford into a top-five team over four years and also went 29-6 at San Diego. Winning at a high level (and right away) is nothing knew for Harbaugh.


3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Dantonio has elevated Michigan State to new heights and the Spartans have emerged as an annual contender for the Big Ten title. Under Dantonio’s watch, Michigan State is 87-33 since 2007 and claimed the conference title for the second time in three seasons in 2015. Additionally, last year’s 12-win campaign resulted in a trip to the College Football Playoff. Dantonio has guided the program to at least 11 victories in five out of the last six seasons and has only one losing record (2009) in his tenure in East Lansing. The Spartans lose a handful of key players from last year’s playoff team, but Dantonio should keep Michigan State among the top 10-15 teams in the nation.




4. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Ferentz’s tenure at Iowa seemed to be at a crossroads entering 2015. After an 11-2 finish in 2009, the Hawkeyes failed to win more than eight games in a season over the next five years, which included a 4-8 mark in 2012. And after a 7-6 record in 2014, Ferentz’s seat was starting to warm. However, Ferentz and Iowa responded with a school-record 12 wins, fell just short of winning the Big Ten title and made the program’s first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1990. Since taking over in 1999, Ferentz has recorded a 127-87 record and has only one losing season since 2001.


5. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

A quick peek at Northwestern’s year-by-year history provides plenty of insight into why Fitzgerald deserves a spot among the Big Ten’s top coaches. The Wildcats have made 12 bowl trips in program history, with six coming under Fitzgerald’s watch. Additionally, two of the program’s four double-digit win seasons occurred in Fitzgerald’s tenure. Overall, the former Northwestern linebacker has guided his alma mater to a 70-56 record and two top 25 finishes in the Associated Press poll. Winning at Northwestern isn’t easy, but Fitzgerald has transformed this program into a consistent bowl team.


6. James Franklin, Penn State

After a 24-15 three-year stint at Vanderbilt, high expectations surrounded Franklin’s arrival at Penn State. However, improvement has been tough to come by for the Nittany Lions over the last two seasons. Penn State has posted back-to-back 7-6 records under Franklin, but the program was still digging out from recent NCAA sanctions. Entering 2016, Penn State’s overall depth has improved with back-to-back top 20 signing classes, and Franklin is attempting to fix the offensive woes by hiring Joe Moorhead as the program’s new play-caller. Franklin didn’t have the instant success most predicted at Penn State, but there’s still plenty of time for the third-year coach to get the Nittany Lions closer to Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State in the Big Ten East pecking order.


7. Mike Riley, Nebraska

A 6-7 record in his first season at Nebraska certainly isn’t what Riley had in mind. However, a deeper look at the Cornhuskers’ 2015 season shows this team wasn’t far from eight or nine wins. Six of Nebraska’s seven losses came by eight points or less, with the close defeats largely fueled by a minus-12 turnover margin. With small improvement in the turnover department, the Cornhuskers should be able to rebound back into the right side of the winning column in 2016. Prior to Nebraska, Riley went 93-80 at Oregon State – one of the Pac-12’s toughest jobs – and also spent time in the NFL as a head coach with the Chargers. And here’s another positive sign for Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are off to a great start on the recruiting trail for the 2017 signing class. Riley didn’t inherit a team stocked with depth and was hit by some bad luck last year. 2016 should provide some better insight into the direction of this program under Riley’s watch. 




8. Kevin Wilson, Indiana

Things are looking up for Indiana after the Hoosiers reached the postseason for the first time in Kevin Wilson’s tenure. After a 1-11 debut in 2011, Indiana has made progress under Wilson’s watch, finishing with at least four wins in each of the last four seasons. That may seem like a small feat, but this job is the toughest in the Big Ten East and has only two bowl appearances since 1994. Indiana has been more competitive under Wilson, and he was rewarded with a contract extension at the end of the 2015 season. Additionally, the program is investing more into facilities and stepped up in assistant salaries to hire Tom Allen as the program’s new defensive coordinator. The Big Ten East isn’t forgiving, but Indiana will be a tough out for the rest of the division with Wilson continuing to push this program to improve over the next few years. 


9. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

Chryst had a solid debut in his return to Madison, as the Badgers finished 10-3 and capped the 2015 season with a victory over USC in the Holiday Bowl. Chryst is entrenched in the program, as he’s a Madison native, played his college ball with the Badgers and spent time as an assistant at Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez in 2005 and with Bret Bielema from 2006-11. However, Chryst will be tested in 2016, as Wisconsin takes on a brutal schedule, including a non-conference game versus LSU and crossover matchups in Big Ten play against Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. Prior to taking over for Gary Andersen at Wisconsin, Chryst went 19-19 in three years at Pittsburgh. So far, so good for Chryst at his alma mater.


10. D.J. Durkin, Maryland

Durkin was considered one of the rising stars in the assistant ranks over the last few seasons and lands at a program (Maryland) with some upside. The Ohio native comes to College Park after one season at Michigan, where he coordinated a Wolverine defense that ranked third in the Big Ten in fewest points allowed. Prior to Michigan, Durkin worked for five seasons at Florida and also spent time at Stanford (2007-09) and Bowling Green (2005-06). Durkin has a lot of work ahead in 2016 after Maryland finished 3-9 last year. However, Durkin hired a good staff and should be able to utilize his experience as an assistant under two of the nation’s best coaches – Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh – to help Maryland improve over the next few seasons.




11. Lovie Smith, Illinois

Even though the timing (March) was unusual, new athletic director Josh Whitman wasted no time putting his stamp on the program. On his first official day on the job, Whitman fired Bill Cubit and made a standout hire by bringing Smith to Champaign. While Smith hasn’t coached in college since 1995, he brings plenty of name value to Illinois, which should add credibility on the recruiting trail. In 11 seasons as a head coach in the NFL, Smith went 89-87 and guided the Bears to a Super Bowl appearance in 2006. It may take a year for Smith to adjust to the collegiate ranks, and he’s already getting a late start due to the March hire. However, he hired a good staff to ease the transition and there’s plenty of potential for this program to improve in the Big Ten West.


12. Chris Ash, Rutgers

The Big Ten East Division is one of college football’s toughest divisions, and Rutgers is facing an uphill battle to compete with Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State on an annual basis. But after making more headlines for off-field news than actual on-field results in 2015, this program took a step in the right direction by cleaning house in the athletic department. New athletic director Patrick Hobbs picked Ash as Kyle Flood’s replacement, and the Iowa native seems to be the right fit for the Scarlet Knights. Ash is well versed in the division after spending the last two years at Ohio State as a co-defensive coordinator and he also has a prior stop in the Big Ten from three seasons at Wisconsin (2010-12). Ash also has stops on his resume from stints at Arkansas (2013), Iowa State and San Diego State. This is his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level, but Ash has worked for one of the nation’s best coaches (Urban Meyer) and seems to have the right blueprint and long-term vision to help this program.




12. Tracy Claeys, Minnesota

Jerry Kill’s sudden retirement was a setback for a Minnesota program that enters 2016 with four consecutive bowl trips. But the Golden Gophers are hoping to continue Kill’s success with one of his long-time assistants – Tracy Claeys. The Kansas native worked under Kill for 20 years and also served as the program’s interim coach in 2013 and once again in 2015. Under Claeys’ watch, Minnesota finished 2-4 over its final six games last season, including a 21-14 victory over Central Michigan. However, the Golden Gophers were competitive against Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin. Claeys has big shoes to fill in replace his mentor, but Minnesota returns 14 starters and has a favorable schedule that should allow the program to reach at least six wins in 2016.


14. Darrell Hazell, Purdue

Purdue is a tough job, but Hazell looked like the right coach to help this program take a step forward when he was hired in 2013. Prior to becoming the head coach for the Boilermakers, Hazell worked at Ohio State under Jim Tressel as an assistant from 2004-10 and went 16-10 at Kent State (2011-12), including an impressive 11-3 season in 2012. But success at Purdue has been tough to come by for Hazell. The Boilermakers are just 6-30 over the last three years and have only two Big Ten wins in that span. Hazell is on the hot seat entering 2016, but there’s some optimism with 16 returning starters and new coordinators on both sides of the ball.

Ranking the Big Ten's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Pittsburgh Panthers, News
Path: /college-football/pitt-brings-back-script-logo-and-unveils-new-uniforms-2016

In a popular move among its fanbase, Pittsburgh is turning back the clock and making the move to its “Pitt” script as its full-time logo for 2016. One of the final pieces to the puzzle in the logo transition are new uniforms for its teams, including the football program for the upcoming year.


On Wednesday night, Pitt unveiled its new uniforms for 2016, with coach Pat Narduzzi .


Here’s a look at the Panthers new uniforms for 2016:


Pitt Brings Back Script Logo and Unveils New Uniforms for 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/celebrities-get-easy-cam-newton-question-wrong-jeopardy-anderson-cooper-panthers-quarterback

Sometimes us sports lovers get caught up in our little world, we forget other people aren't into them as much.


On a special celebrity-filled edition of Jeopardy! that notion became very clear. The clue was set up for an easy Cam Newton question, but no one could get it.


"We don't do sports."


Anyone could've guessed Newton and, if by some chance it would've been wrong, there would've been less judgment.


Post date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 12:11
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Stanford Cardinal, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/why-stanford-cardinal-will-or-wont-win-pac-12-championship-2016

won its third championship in four seasons last year. In some ways, the 2015 crown proved to be the Cardinal’s most impressive.


Stanford flipped the script from the previous two title runs under head coach David Shaw. Whereas the 2012 and '13 teams relied on top-tier defense to set the tone, with a methodical offense that bordered on plodding, last season's squad was explosive.


Having a fourth-year starting quarterback, Kevin Hogan, leading the offense certainly factored into the Cardinal’s 37.8-point per game eruption (No. 18 in FBS). But make no mistake, the face of Stanford's high-powered attack was Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey.


McCaffrey capped his starring sophomore season with a bang in the Rose Bowl Game rout of Iowa, where he scored a touchdown on his first touch of the game. Fans tuning in to watch the Cardinal in 2016 will expect more of the same.


With McCaffrey back and Shaw still on the sidelines, Stanford remains a front-runner in the Pac-12’s championship race despite losing some key pieces. The , behind only No. 11 Washington among Pac-12 teams in the Athlon Sports Preseason Top 25.


Why Stanford Will Win the Pac-12 in 2016


In two words? Christian McCaffrey. In five words? Christian McCaffrey and David Shaw.


OK, so that might be oversimplifying things somewhat. As good and as multifaceted as McCaffrey was in 2015, becoming just the third player in NCAA history to score five ways in one season, football remains a team game. Stanford needs a total team effort to overcome a competitive Pac-12.


As has often been the case under Jim Harbaugh and later Shaw, Stanford boasts an impressive defense. Three of the team’s top four tacklers are gone - Blake Martinez, Aziz Shittu and Kodi Whitfield - but returners Dallas Lloyd, Quenton Meeks and Peter Kalambayi ensure minimal drop-off.


Similarly, the offensive line loses Outland Trophy winner Joshua Garnett. Replacing top-flight line talent has been of no issue for the Cardinal though, and Shaw said he was pleased with the unit’s overall progression during the course of spring practices.


The fundamental cornerstones on which Stanford’s recent success were built remain largely intact. For another program to take the conference crown, it must figure out how to unseat the Cardinal.


Why Stanford Won’t Win the Pac-12 in 2016


Hogan’s value to Stanford football may not have always received the attention nor the respect it deserved. Following last December’s Pac-12 Championship Game, however, Shaw said the four-year starter belonged on the Cardinal's version of Mount Rushmore with predecessors John Elway, Andrew Luck and Jim Plunkett.


There’s no overstating Hogan’s importance to Stanford during its three-title run. Likewise, there’s no overstating how important it is for either Keller Chryst or Ryan Burns to perform adequately in Hogan’s stead.



Whether Chryst or Burns, Stanford’s next quarterback must succeed without top receiving weapons Devon Cajuste and Austin Hooper. Cajuste, a wide receiver, and Hooper, a tight end, filled the Cardinal’s typical quota for big targets. Their presences on the field a season ago opened things up for McCaffrey to do his damage.


The process of replacing some critical playmakers begins with the Cardinal facing a .


Stanford’s early-season kicks off with home games against Kansas State and USC, then a difficult double-dip in Pac-12 play against UCLA and Washington. Each of those first three conference games come against teams also appearing in the .


That first month could make or break Stanford’s aspirations for a fourth conference title in five years. For a team breaking in youngsters in key roles, that’s less than ideal.


— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of . Follow him on Twitter

Why Stanford Will (or Won't) Win the Pac-12 Championship in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-ole-miss-can-win-sec-west-2016

Alabama is the perennial favorite, once again, to win the West. It gets old hearing that every year, but the Crimson Tide have earned it. Then there's LSU, a team that couldn't possibly be more loaded headed into the fall. Call the Tigers this year's "trendy" pick if you will.


So what about ? The Rebels seem to have fallen off everyone's radar since most of their top players have either graduated or moved on to the NFL. After all, Ole Miss does return only nine starters from last year's squad. But I'm here to tell you there's reason to hope in Oxford. Not only are the Rebels ranked , they could end up atop arguably the toughest division in college football when all is said and done. Here are five reasons Ole Miss can win the SEC West in 2016.


1. Quarterback Play

It all starts with the quarterback and than Ole Miss. Despite losing Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell to the NFL, the Rebels will still bring back their most dynamic offensive playmaker. Chad Kelly was the Sugar Bowl MVP and threw for a whopping 4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns over the course of the 2015 season. Kelly also was second on the team in rushing, piling up 500 yards on the ground. His return this fall should make it a bit easier for new players on the offense to ease into position. Ole Miss fans should be joyous as well, because an elite quarterback can be a total difference-maker in the college game.




2. Rebels Have Alabama's Number

In order to win the SEC West, a team must first knock off Alabama. That has pretty much become a prerequisite at this point. Ole Miss has done just that in the past two seasons. In fact, the guy mentioned above looked like an NFL quarterback in last year's 43-37 win for the Rebels, throwing for more than 340 yards and three touchdowns. The only problem is the Rebels have been unable to seal the deal down the stretch after beating the Tide the last two years. Ole Miss is as talented as any team in the SEC, but needs to figure out how to have that same intensity week to week. Hey, at least the Rebels have Nick Saban figured out... for now.


3. Accumulated Depth

When trying to win a division title, it doesn't hurt to have a stockpile of players who are already familiar with the system. Under head coach Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss has been able to reach new heights in recruiting. As a result, the Rebels have a deep roster, even with the superb 2013 class now headed off to the NFL. The 2014-16 recruiting classes for Ole Miss finished 15th, 17th, and 6th, respectively, in 247 Sports' Composite Team Rankings. Plus, Freeze and his staff have proven their ability to develop those players. Because the talent level hasn't fallen off much, there is good reason to believe Ole Miss still has plenty of guys capable of helping the team get to Atlanta.


4. Defense

Since Freeze's first season in Oxford back in 2012, a lot of the talk has been centered on Ole Miss' high-powered offenses. While it has been fun to watch, it also is important to remember that defense has won the Rebels a ton of games. It's a bit scary to think that Ole Miss is only bringing back nine starters on the entire team this fall, but most of those guys coming back are defenders. Talented defensive back Tony Conner returns from injury to help out a young secondary. Also, defensive end Marquis Haynes is back to anchor the defensive line. Even though some of the familiar faces are gone, there is still reason to be excited about the potential on the defensive side of the ball.


5. Manageable Schedule

First off, let's be clear. This schedule isn't easy. But it's manageable, meaning it really does set up well for being . And it's not like Ole Miss is at a disadvantage in trying to win the West, since every other team in the division plays basically the same opponents. The Rebels kick off SEC play against Alabama, but luckily they get FCS member Wofford the week before. It's nice not having Alabama at the end of a gauntlet. Ole Miss will face a difficult test against Georgia the next week. But before going on the road in SEC play at Arkansas and LSU, the Rebels get a bye week to recover from the first half of the schedule. After that, it shouldn't be too bad. The toughest game in November is at Texas A&M and Ole Miss should be able to tune up for that one against Georgia Southern.


— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for . Follow him on Twitter .

5 Reasons Why Ole Miss Can Win the SEC West in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, UCLA Bruins, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/why-ucla-will-or-wont-win-pac-12-championship-2016

Since Jim Mora's arrival as head coach in 2012, has lingered achingly close to the Pac-12 title.


The Bruins appeared in the 2012 Championship Game and came a last-minute field goal away from forcing overtime. In 2013, a stalled, final drive against Arizona State denied UCLA a return to the championship. The Bruins' 2014 pursuit ended with a final-week upset loss to Stanford.


Last season marked the first notable regression of the Mora era, with the Bruins failing to win at least nine games for the first time. Any number of factors could have contributed to UCLA's tumble: the early-season loss of Myles Jack to a knee injury, starting a true freshman at quarterback, inconsistency on both sides of the ball.


Expect a bounce-back in 2016. A multitude of key players return, some taking on new roles thanks to philosophical changes implemented by Mora's staff. The forecast for the 2016 season is very much reminiscent of Los Angeles for 300-plus days per year, calling for sunny skies in the form of a , best among the Pac-12 South.


That means, if all goes according to plan, the Bruins will return to the Pac-12 Championship Game.


Why UCLA Will Win the Pac-12 in 2016


Josh Rosen debuted at quarterback about as spectacularly as a true freshman can last year. Despite some inevitable growing pains, Rosen put together an impressive first season with 23 touchdowns and 3,670 yards passing. He also set a UCLA record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception (245). 


A new offensive philosophy, implemented by new coordinator Kennedy Polamalu, accentuates Rosen's greatest strengths. With more snaps from under center, a tighter offensive line formation and increased use of tight ends and fullbacks, the sophomore should flourish in Year 2.




As much as Rosen benefits from a tweaked scheme, sophomore running Soso Jamabo could . The second-year power-back scored four touchdowns and averaged 6.1 yards per carry for 416 in total, playing a complementary role to Paul Perkins.


Mora said after spring practices concluded in April that Jamabo was growing into his role as the primary back nicely. 


UCLA's defense builds around one of the deepest secondaries in all of college football. So rich are the Bruins in that phase, former cornerback Ishmael Adams moved to wide receiver this spring to help out on that side of the ball. UCLA can easily weather the loss with a bevy of talent returning: Tahaan Goodman, Jaleel Wadood, Denzel Fisher, John Johnson, Randall Goforth. All are potential difference-makers on the back line.


The Bruins also feature some pop on the line, thanks to the returning Eddie Vanderdoes. The former 5-star recruit missed much of 2015 due to injury, but is back in the fold in the middle. Complementing him on the outside is the talented Takkarist McKinley, one of the Pac-12's leading candidates for a breakout season.


Why UCLA Won’t Win the Pac-12 in 2016


The inevitable peril of recruiting and cultivating NFL talent, which UCLA has done exceedingly well even before Mora's arrival? Losing and replacing NFL talent.


While Jack's injury last September gave the Bruins an unfortunate head start in preparing for life without him, UCLA no longer has tackle Kenny Clark plugging the middle defensively. Clark developed into one of, if not the best run-stopping interior defenders in the nation.


Even with Clark, last year's UCLA run defense ranked 98th in the nation, surrendering just under 200 yards per game. Take him away, and coordinator Tom Bradley has work to do to prepare UCLA for the bevy of ground-based attacks his defense will see in 2016.


Conversely, the passing game is the question mark on the other side of the ball. While Rosen's skill set is better suited to Polamalu's scheme than the system Noel Mazzone employed a season ago, the quarterback must find reliable targets.


With the departures of Jordan Payton, Thomas Duarte and Devin Fuller, UCLA loses 60 percent of its total receiving production in 2015. That's to say nothing of leading rusher Perkins, who also was a constant threat as a pass catcher.


The emergence of new weapons proves just as paramount to the success of UCLA's offense as any improvements Rosen makes from Year 1 to Year 2.


UCLA's road back to the Pac-12 Championship Game also in the league. The Bruins travel to Texas A&M and BYU early on in the non-conference, then draw Arizona State, Stanford and Washington State in the first half of league play. All three beat the Bruins a season ago.


— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of . Follow him on Twitter

Why UCLA Will (or Won't) Win the Pac-12 Championship in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 11:00