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All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime, News
Path: /college-football/lynn-swann-usc-southern-california-trojans-athletic-director-experience-pittsburgh-steelers
Body:

Southern California has always had a flare for the dramatics.

 

The Trojans named former alum and Steelers legend Lynn Swann as their new Athletic Director, and people were a little confused to say the least. His lack of experience made him a surprise choice for USC, but sometimes it's not what you know, it's who you know. 

 

 

Once news broke, it's safe to say there was a lot of head scratching.

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 13:44
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/nike-drops-best-kobe-bryant-commercial-ever-farewell-los-angeles-lakers-phil-jackson
Body:

There has been a ton of farewells for Kobe Bryant, but Nike just blew them all out of the water.

 

The Lakers legend gets the proper send-off in a love/hate-filled commercial featuring Phil Jackson, Paul Pierce, and others who haven't been on the best side of Bryant's game-winners.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 11:48
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /nba/charles-barkley-doesnt-think-warriors-will-win-nba-championship-steph-curry
Body:

Sometimes it feels like Charles Barkley is just paid to say outlandish things. 

 

On Inside the NBA, Barkley made it known that he is not picking the Warriors to win the championship. The team could break a regular season record of 72 wins, but that doesn't phase Chuck in the least. 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 11:36
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-toughest-non-conference-college-football-schedules-2016
Body:

The looks to make some noise this season with some high-profile, non-conference matchups against the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. Will the conference hold its head above water or will it crumble under pressure and lead many around the nation to declare the Big Ten dead before mid-September?

 

Related:

 

Below is a look at the non-conference games each Big Ten team will play this season, ranking each respective team's slate from toughest to easiest. Keep in mind this season the Big Ten moves to a nine-game conference schedule, which means teams only have three non-conference games to fill as opposed to the four they have had for years.

 

1. Ohio State

Sept. 3 vs. Bowling Green

Sept. 10 vs. Tulsa

Sept. 17 at Oklahoma

 

Ohio State takes the top spot in this year’s non-conference scheduling ranking on the strength of having to go on the road to take on defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma. The Sooners, coincidentally enough, also have the . The Buckeyes also open at home against the defending MAC champions for a little in-state fun, and Tulsa was a bowl team a year ago too.

 

2. Michigan State

Sept. 2 vs. Furman

Sept. 17 at Notre Dame

Oct. 8 vs. BYU

 

Michigan State has a solid argument for the most difficult non-conference schedule with a road trip to rival Notre Dame in mid-September and an early October matchup at home against stingy BYU, but the Spartans open at home against a cupcake to lose some ground overall compared to the Buckeyes.

 

3. Wisconsin

Sept. 3 vs. LSU (Green Bay, WI)

Sept. 10 vs. Akron

Sept. 17 vs. Georgia State

 

Wisconsin arguably has the , but the non-conference schedule is front-loaded with LSU at Lambeau Field as the season opener. Akron could give Wisconsin a scare, but the Badgers should get through their two home games in non-conference play without too much trouble.

 

4. Illinois

Sept. 3 vs. Murray State

Sept. 10 vs. North Carolina

Sept. 17 vs. Western Michigan

 

The Lovie Smith era will face a couple of good challenges against last year’s ACC Coastal Division champion North Carolina (who torched the Illini at Chapel Hill a year ago) and feisty Western Michigan out of the MAC. A split in those two alone might be promising for Illinois, but the season opener should be a good walkthrough opportunity.

 

5. Nebraska

Sept. 3 vs. Fresno State

Sept. 10 vs. Wyoming

Sept. 17 vs. Oregon

 

The home game against Oregon should be a ton of fun, and it comes at a good time for the Huskers with the Ducks having stepped back a little from their national title contending status in recent years. Two home games against Mountain West opponents will be against teams that combined for five wins last year.

 

6. Penn State

Sept. 3 vs. Kent State

Sept. 10 at Pittsburgh

Sept. 17 vs. Temple

 

Penn State renews its rivalry with Pittsburgh on the road in week 2, and the Panthers should be a good test for a new-look Nittany Lions offense. Temple also abused Penn State last year, but the Owls come to State College with a less experienced defense this time around.

 

7. Rutgers

Sept. 3 at Washington

Sept. 10 vs. Howard

Sept. 17 vs. New Mexico

 

Rutgers opens the year on the west coast against a potentially rising and trendy Washington team, but follow that up with favorable home matchups against Howard and New Mexico. Getting to Big Ten play at 2-1 should be expected.

 

8. Northwestern

Sept. 3 vs. Western Michigan

Sept. 10 vs. Illinois State

Sept. 17 vs. Duke

 

Northwestern may end up being too low on this list if Western Michigan and Duke remain competitive this fall, but for now the Wildcats can sit right here thanks to having Illinois State bog them down. Northwestern also gets all three of these games at home, which should diminish some of the difficulty.

 

9. Purdue

Sept. 3 vs. Eastern Kentucky

Sept. 10 vs. Cincinnati

Sept. 24 vs. Nevada

 

Purdue faces some good tests from Cincinnati, a potential American Athletic Conference (AAC) contender, and Nevada, coming off a bowl season. The Boilermakers get each at home, which is a benefit after getting an FCS opponent in the opener. If Darrell Hazell is going to change the narrative, going 2-1 is not an impossible feat for a struggling Purdue program.

 

10. Minnesota

Sept. 1 vs. Oregon State

Sept. 10 vs. Indiana State

Sept. 24 vs. Colorado State

 

The Gophers get three home games in non-conference play, and they very well should be thinking of going 3-0 in them. Opening at home against a Pac-12 team is nice, but the Beavers went 2-10 last fall. Colorado State may have hit its peak a couple years ago, but the Rams should still be a threat in late September.

 

11. Iowa

Sept. 3 vs. Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 10 vs. Iowa State

Sept. 17 vs. North Dakota State

 

Yes, Iowa does get an FCS opponent on the schedule in mid-September, but it’s North Dakota State. The Bison have won each of the past five FCS national titles and have taken down a handful of FBS opponents in recent years, so this is not one to blink at. The defending Big Ten West champs should manage to pick up two wins against their other non-conference opponents though, and then we’ll see what happens against North Dakota State.

 

12. Michigan

Sept. 3 vs. Hawaii

Sept. 10 vs. UCF

Sept. 17 vs. Colorado

 

Michigan’s schedule helps make it a legitimate Big Ten contender this season, and it begins with a very favorable non-conference slate in Ann Arbor. It begins at home against Hawaii (3-10 in 2015), continues against UCF (0-12) and concludes against Colorado (4-9). This is hardly 1994 Colorado, and the Wolverines could put together a string of early-season blowouts to make a quick rise in the polls, wherever they start. Will they be hollow victories, or confidence boosters for Big Ten play?

 

13. Indiana

Sept. 1 at FIU

Sept. 10 vs. Ball State

Sept. 24 vs. Wake Forest

 

The Hoosiers open the season on the road against FIU (which actually hosts two Big Ten teams to start the year; see Maryland below), and the non-conference slate follows with two home games against woeful Ball State and Wake Forest. Sure, Indiana plays an ACC team, but the Demon Deacons are the ACC’s Purdue. Indiana should be flying high with a 3-0 record between non-conference contests.

 

14. Maryland

Sept. 3 vs. Howard

Sept. 9 at FIU

Sept. 17 at UCF

 

Nobody in the Big Ten has an easier non-conference schedule than the Maryland Terrapins, even with two road games. They begin at home against Howard and then make back-to-back road trips to Florida for games against FIU one week and UCF the next. You can argue those back-to-back trips make this a more difficult non-conference schedule than Indiana’s but playing an FCS opponent at home holds Maryland below Indiana. The Hoosiers also get a bye week to work with, while Maryland gets a short week for its game at FIU and plays three straight before its bye.

 

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

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's Toughest Non-Conference College Football Schedules in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/michigan-wolverines-2016-football-schedule-and-analysis
Body:

The  enter 2016 with as much hype and expectations as any team in the country after posting a 10-3 record last season, including a blowout victory of Florida in the Citrus Bowl.

 

Related:

 

The schedule sets up very nicely for the Wolverines with five straight homes games to start the year, and eight games in all at the Big House. Of course, the outcome for most of Michigan’s seasons come down to how they perform in two games – against Michigan State and Ohio State.

 

Survive those games and the Wolverines could be looking at their first-ever trip to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indy. 

 

2016 Michgian Wolverines Schedule

 

Bye: Week 7

 

Wk Opp. Date Location
1. Sept. 3 Ann Arbor, MI

Hawaii marks the first of five consecutive homes games for the Wolverines to open the 2016 season, and should give Jim Harbaugh’s charges little trouble to start the year. This will be the first-ever matchup between the two teams in the Big House.

2. Sept. 10 Ann Arbor, MI

UCF should be much improved after finishing 2015 winless for the second time in 11 years, primarily due to new head coach and former Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost bringing his up-tempo offense to Orlando. The Knights better hope they get a win in Week 1 to end that winless streak, though, because it is not coming against the Wolverines.

3. Sept. 17 Ann Arbor, MI

If former Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb was the starting quarterback, the Buffaloes may have had a shot in this one. But he is looking elsewhere to play next season, leaving major question marks at quarterback for Colorado. The Wolverines are 3-1 all-time against the Buffs.

4. Sept. 24 Ann Arbor, MI

The Wolverines’ defense dominated Penn State in their meeting last year, holding the Nittany Lions to just 207 yards of total offense. Will the same occur in 2016? Limiting stud sophomore running back Saquon Barkley will be the key to duplicating last season’s dominant defensive effort.

5. Oct. 1 Ann Arbor, MI

The Badgers and Wolverines have played against each other a total of 63 times during their long history of being conference rivals, but have not faced off since 2010. Michigan leads the all-time series by a wide margin (49-14), but Wisconsin has won the last two. 

6. Oct. 8 Piscataway, NJ

After losing to Rutgers in the team’s first-ever meeting back in 2014, the Wolverines put a beatdown on the Knights last season, piling up 487 yards in the 49-16 blowout victory. This encounter should be no different with Rutgers installing a new head coach and new systems on both sides of the ball.

8. Oct. 22 Ann Arbor, MI

Will the Wolverines be looking ahead to the following week’s crucial matchup against the Spartans? Doubtful, especially with this being Michigan’s Homecoming game. Other than rivals Michigan State and Ohio State, the Illini have been one of Michigan’s most frequent opponents, meeting a total of 94 times with the Wolverines winning 69 of those games.

9. Oct. 29 East Lansing, MI

The in-state rivalry has been fairly one-sided the past eight years with Sparty winning seven of those contests. The tide seems to be turning as far as recruiting goes, but will that translate to the field? Michigan State figures to have its quarterback situation settled at this point in the season, and being at home will be a major advantage.

10. Nov. 5 Ann Arbor, MI

Albeit in nasty, rainy weather, the Michigan defense held the Terps to just 105 yards of total offense in the 28-0 victory last season in College Park. Both teams should know each other well in this year’s meeting, with former Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin now the head man for Maryland.

11. Nov. 12 Iowa City, IA

The Wolverines and Hawkeyes last played back in 2013 and Iowa has won four out of the last five matchups. Both teams are expected to be in the thick of the conference race at this point in the season, so it wouldn’t surprise to see this one under the lights in prime time.

12. Nov. 19 Ann Arbor, MI

Michigan has completely dominated the all-time series with the Hoosiers with a .859 win percentage in their 64 total meetings (55-9), including last year’s 48-41 thrilling overtime victory. The Wolverines have won the last 20 games against the Hoosiers and 2016 should be no different with Indiana breaking in a new starting quarterback and running back.

13. Nov. 26 Columbus, OH

Last year’s version of “The Game” did not go as expected for Harbaugh and the Wolverines as the Buckeyes ran the ball up and down the field en route to a 42-13 trouncing in Ann Arbor. The Buckeyes lost a ton of talent to the NFL on both sides of the ball, but Ohio State recruits as well as anyone in the country and will be fully-stocked once again. This matchup could very well decide who heads to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game.

 

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

Teaser:
Michigan Wolverines 2016 Football Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/ranking-all-30-managers-major-league-baseball-2016
Body:

The 2016 season is underway, and managers across the game are busy devouring scouting reports and stat sheets, watching pitch counts, calling for sacrifice bunts, and orchestrating double switches in an effort to win games – or, in some cases, to simply keep their jobs.

 

Related: 

 

While the role of a big league manager can be overstated, as in-game strategy isn’t nearly as important to the outcome of a particular game or a full season compared to the level of talent he has at his disposal, one decision can directly impact whether a game is won or lost.

 

With that in mind, here is a ranking of all 30 MLB managers for 2016.

 

Note: Career records referenced are through 2015 season

 

30. Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners

Career Record: 1st season in Seattle

 

It’s far too early to tell whether or not Servais will be a good or bad manager, but the first-year skipper ranks No. 30 on our list because he has the least amount of experience – and is therefore the most unknown – among this year’s new crop. Servais hasn’t managed at any level, but was chosen by longtime friend and current Seattle general manager Jerry DiPoto to replace Lloyd McClendon to lead the Mariners in 2016. Servais will have the benefit of a talented roster, as well as veteran big league manager Manny Acta on his staff, which should help his transition to the bench.

 

29. Andy Green, San Diego Padres

Career Record: 1st season in San Diego

 

Green has never managed in the big leagues, but he has a strong track record for success at the minor league level that includes a Pioneer League title in 2012 with the rookie league Missoula Osprey and two Southern League Manager of the Year awards when he skippered the Double-A Mobile BayBears in 2013 and ‘14, which helped him earn a promotion to third base coach in Arizona. Green, 39, has the toughest hill to climb among first-year managers, but he has a very bright future and could very well shoot up this list in the coming years.

 

28. Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers

Career Record: 1st season in Los Angeles

 

There are no easy jobs for a first-time major league manager, but taking over the Los Angeles Dodgers may be one of the toughest. With one of the largest payrolls in baseball, not to mention being located in one of the biggest markets in the country, the pressure is on to win and win now. Of course, that also means that Roberts will have an advantage compared to other first-year managers because the roster is already talented, and the farm system is well stocked.

 

27. Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers

Career Record: 61-76 (.445), 2nd season in Milwaukee

 

Called on to replace Ron Roenicke early in the 2015 season, Counsell enters his first full season as the manager of the Brewers. He had never managed, and instead took over after a stint in the club’s front office. Don’t expect Counsell to work miracles in 2016, but he has a strong analytics background that should come in handy as the small-market Brewers rebuild.

 

26. Bryan Price, Cincinnati Reds

Career Record: 140-184 (.432), 3rd season in Cincinnati

 

It’s not a good sign when a manager is best known for an expletive-laden blowup at the media, but that’s the case for Price, who enters 2016 following two largely disappointing seasons at the helm of the Reds. Injuries and trades hurt last season, but a 64-98 record (second worst in baseball) was a major disappointment. Entering the last year of his contract and having been handed a roster projected to finish at the bottom of the NL Central, it would be a minor victory if Price lasts the entire season in Cincinnati. It would be a miracle if he hangs on to his job through to the end of the rebuilding cycle.

 

25. Pete Mackanin, Philadelphia Phillies

Career Record: 90-104 (.464), 2nd season in Philadelphia (37-51)

 

This is Mackanin’s third stint as a manager in the majors, though he’s never skippered a team through an entire season. In 2005, he spent 26 games on the bench for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and then was the Reds manager for 80 games in ‘07. A member of the Phillies staff since 2008, Mackanin took over for Ryne Sandberg in Philadelphia with 88 games to go last season and was able to make the team more competitive even as the front office traded away veterans and brought up rookies. As a result, Mackanin was offered the opportunity to stay with the rebuilding Phillies and should complete his first full season at the helm.

 

24. Walt Weiss, Colorado Rockies

Career Record: 208-278 (.428), 4th season in Colorado

 

One of a manager’s most important responsibilities is handling his pitching staff, and there is no tougher task than doing so in Colorado. Last season, the Rockies posted a 5.04 ERA, which ranked last in the National League. And, despite the presence of one of the best fielders in the game in third baseman Nolan Arenado, Colorado ranked among the worst defensive teams in baseball. The pitching and fielding woes are more of a front office issue than any major shortcomings on the part of Weiss (and the altitude certainly doesn’t help), but the Rockies haven’t had a winning season since 2009. Weiss may need to post a .500 or better record to keep his job.

 

23. Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox

Career Record: 297-351 (.459), 5th season in Chicago

 

While the White Sox have posted disappointing losing records in three straight seasons, Ventura has helped Chicago improve its win total in each of the last two years. However, the club has underachieved and Ventura has been criticized for his in-game strategy – specifically how he has overextended his starting pitchers as a whole, and rookie Carlos Rodon in particular – as well as his team’s inefficiencies in almost every other area. If the White Sox don’t challenge for a playoff spot, the front office may run out of patience with the former star player-turned-manager.

 

22. Brad Ausmus, Detroit Tigers

Career Record: 164-159 (.508), 3rd season in Detroit

 

Ausmus looked like a good manager in 2014 when he guided the Tigers to 90 victories in his first season at the helm. Having some of the game’s brightest stars – Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander specifically – certainly helped. However, when Cabrera and Verlander both missed time due to injury in 2015, Ausmus’ reputation took a hit as Detroit limped to a 74-87 finish. A former catcher, Ausmus also has received criticism for the way he handles his pitching staff, especially by leaving starters in too long. Rumored to be on the chopping block late last year, Ausmus survived, but 2016 is a make-or-break campaign.

 

21. Chip Hale, Arizona Diamondbacks

Career Record: 79-83 (.488), 2nd season in Arizona

 

Two years ago the Diamondbacks won just 64 games – the fewest in baseball - and entered the 2015 season with largely the same roster and understandably modest expectations. However, Hale helped to give the club a jolt in his first year as manager, as the team improved to 79-83. He has a quick trigger with pitchers (particularly with relievers) and bunts more than some would prefer, but Hale pushed many of the right buttons last year, and with an improved roster, Arizona could contend in the NL West this season.

 

20. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays

Career Record: 80-82 (.494), 2nd season in Tampa Bay

 

Anyone would have had a difficult task replacing Joe Maddon in Tampa, but Cash did as well as could be expected in his first season as the manager of the Rays. In fact, Cash won more games in his first season (80) than Maddon (61), and even improved Tampa Bay’s record by three wins compared to Maddon’s final year (77) with the Rays. The youngest manager (38) in the majors, Cash showed great instincts for the job while dealing with injuries to a thin pitching staff and a couple of puzzling late summer trades. He has a bright future ahead of him.

 

19. Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves

Career Record: 701-664 (.513), 6th season in Atlanta (425-385)

 

Many things have changed over the past two years as the Braves entered a full teardown and rebuild. However, Gonzalez returns for his sixth season on the bench after succeeding the legendary Bobby Cox. It’s never easy to replace a Hall of Famer, and Gonzalez has taken a lot of heat from fans during his tenure, specifically for the way Atlanta has struggled down the stretch – dating back to an historic collapse in his first season in 2011.

 

But, Atlanta’s 2015 breakdown wasn’t Gonzalez’ fault as injuries and trades took their toll. The Braves got off to a surprisingly strong start last year, and were 42-42 after 84 games, which earned Gonzalez a contract extension, but working with a depleted roster, Gonzalez and the Braves went 25-53 the rest of the way. With the franchise still in transition, expectations are modest for 2016, but Cox and the rest of the front office appear content to keep Gonzalez in the fold over the full rebuilding effort.

 

18. Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins

Career Record: 83-79 (.512), 2nd season in Minnesota

 

Molitor’s first season as a big league manager was a surprising success. Though the Twins struggled down the stretch, Molitor guided a young club to a strong start – a 50-40 record through 90 games – and secured the first winning season for the franchise since 2010 after four straight campaigns of 92 losses or more. Players respect Molitor’s Hall of Fame playing career, and he’s done a good job of relating to a young clubhouse while also embracing much of the analytics popular with small-market front offices.

 

17. A.J. Hinch, Houston Astros

Career Record: 175-199 (.468), 2nd season in Houston (86-76)

 

Hinch’s second opportunity to manage at the big league level went much better than his first, when he left the Arizona front office to lead the Diamondbacks, only to be fired after 212 games without the benefit of a full season. Last year, Hinch was tabbed to succeed Bo Porter in Houston. Hinch utilized his assets – including a Cy Young winner, a strong bullpen and talented, young lineup – well and immediately helped the Astros climb out of the AL West cellar to claim a Wild Card spot earlier than almost anyone anticipated.

 

16. Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins

Career Record: 446-363 (.551), 1st season in Miami

 

Believe it or not, the Los Angeles Dodgers never won three straight NL West titles until Mattingly came along, yet he never appeared fully comfortable in Dodger blue and decided to walk away at the end of last season. He wound up in Miami, and can hopefully give some stability to a franchise that has gone through eight skippers in five seasons, including last year’s somewhat embarrassing experiment with general manager Dan Jennings swapping his executive role for a uniform. Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez give Mattingly two remarkable building blocks, but time will tell whether or not he can turn the Marlins into a consistent winner without the huge payroll he benefitted from in Los Angeles.

 

15. Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers

Career Record: 88-74 (.543), 2nd season in Texas

2015 AL Manager of the Year

 

Banister inherited a Rangers team that lost 94 games in 2014. The first-year manager didn’t get off to a sparkling start with the club, which went just 9-16 start in its first 25 games and sat nine games out of first place in the AL West on July 22, but Banister helped turn the club around and win the division with a red-hot 45-25 finish. As a result, Banister was named AL Manager of the Year. It was just the fifth time in history that a first-year manager received the honor.

 

14. John Farrell, Boston Red Sox

Career Record: 400-410 (.494), 4th season in Boston (246-240)

2013 World Series champion (Red Sox)

 

It’s difficult to get a read on Farrell. One of just six active managers to win a World Series ring as a skipper, Farrell has posted three losing records in his other three years in Boston, and also failed to finish above .500 in his two seasons with the Blue Jays. Last year, Farrell missed time as he underwent cancer treatment and the team played its best under bench coach Torey Lovullo, posting a 20-15 record after Farrell took leave on Aug. 25. Lovullo, who signed a two-year contract extension over the winter, is the obvious heir apparent should Farrell’s health continue to be an issue, or if the team underachieves again under his watch.

 

13. John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays

Career Record: 557-542 (.507), 9th season in Toronto

 

Gibbons led the Blue Jays to the AL East title in 2015, which was the first division title and playoff appearance for the franchise since back-to-back World Series wins in 1992-93. In his ninth season on the bench in Toronto (and in his second stint as skipper), Gibbons benefitted greatly from the acquisitions of Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowititzki and David Price (as well as the development of sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in earlier years). However, he also helped groom a young crop of talented contributors such as Kevin Pillar, Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez to get Toronto over the hump.

 

12. Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics

Career Record: 886-862 (.507), 6th season in Oakland (393-354)

2007 NL Manager of the Year (Diamondbacks)

2012 AL Manager of the Year (A’s)

 

Despite last season’s disappointing 68-94 season, Melvin was given a two-year contract extension through the 2018 season and remains one of the most respected managers in the game. Last season’s team struggled more from a lack of talent from trades gone wrong – specifically the one that shipped eventual AL MVP Josh Donaldson to Toronto – than Melvin forgetting how to manage. A true extension of the front office, Melvin works well with GM Billy Beane and is quite capable of guiding Oakland back to the right side of .500 – so long as Beane and the rest of the decision-makers give him enough to work with.

 

11. Dusty Baker, Washington Nationals

Career Record: 1,671-1,504 (.526), 1st season in Washington

1993, ’97, 2000 NL Manager of the Year (Giants)

 

Baker has had some success as a first-year manager. In 1993, Baker’s first season as a major league skipper, he guided the Giants to 103 wins. He also led the Cubs to 88 victories in his first season in Chicago, and though he got off to a much slower start in Cincinnati (74 wins in 2008), Baker eventually turned the Reds into contenders in the NL Central and claimed two division titles while managing the club to 90 or more wins three times in six seasons.

 

Though Baker wasn’t the Nationals’ first choice (Bud Black was offered the job, but reportedly turned down a low ball, one-year contract), he could turn out to be the right choice. Baker has a history of overseeing superstars in tough clubhouses, which might come in handy in Washington. And, though Baker has faced his fair share of criticism over the years, he has a winning history and is expected to be an improvement over Matt Williams when it comes to managing within the game. The hope is that Baker can help the talented Nationals reach their full potential.

 

10. Terry Collins, New York Mets

Career Record: 838-850 (.496), 6th season in New York (394-416)

 

Collins has long been seen as a good, but not great manager. But, after overseeing four consecutive losing seasons with the Mets, Collins turned the corner by guiding New York to the World Series in 2015. As a result, Collins earned a contract extension. Great players have a big impact in making a manager look good, and as long as Collins has the benefit of the most talented starting rotation in baseball at his disposal, he’ll continue to be one of the top 10 skippers in the game.

 

9. Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals

Career Record: 925-971 (.488), 7th season in Kansas City (468-469)

2015 World Series champion (Royals)

 

It’s very rare for any manager to survive a complete rebuilding process and come through on the other side with a world championship. However, Yost did exactly that with the Royals. Yost, who oversaw three losing seasons from 2010-12 before helping the club post a winning record in each of the last three years, also did it while being often criticized by Royals fans and baseball analysts for riding his starting position players too hard, and pulling his starting pitchers too quickly. Of course, things have worked out very well as Kansas City has won two consecutive AL pennants and won it all in 2015.

 

8. Joe Girardi, New York Yankees

Career Record: 813-636 (.557), 9th season in New York (735-561)

2006 NL Manager of the Year (Marlins)

2009 World Series champion (Yankees)

 

The Yankees haven’t been to the postseason since 2012, yet Girardi seemingly has more job security than his predecessor, Joe Torre, ever did. Part of the reason is that Girardi has been able to lead New York to a winning record in each of his eight seasons on the bench in the Bronx despite being handed some of the weakest rosters in recent franchise history. In 2015, the skipper received great praise for handling the club’s pitching staff – much as he did as a longtime catcher. Of course, the longer the Yankees go without a World Series title, the more heat Girardi will likely face from fans.

 

7. Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels

Career Record: 1,416-1,176 (.546), 17th season in Los Angeles

2002, ’09 AL Manager of the Year

2002 World Series champion

 

Few managers are able to survive clashes with the club general manager, but Scioscia – who has been at the helm for the Angels for 17 consecutive seasons, which gives him the longest-running tenure among his peers – outlasted Jerry DiPoto last summer. DiPoto was actually the third general manager of the Scioscia era, which includes a World Series title and seven trips to the postseason (though only one over the past six years).

 

An old-school manager whose resistance to advanced analytics was a factor in the tug-of-war with DiPoto, Scioscia has always helped himself by putting together a strong staff, and he’s also long been one of the best at helping groom his coaching staff for managing opportunities. Two more potential candidates return this year in Bud Black and Ron Roenicke.

 

6. Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals

Career Record: 375-273 (.577), 5th season in St. Louis

 

The Cardinals are arguably the most consistent franchise in MLB, and Matheny has been a big part of that consistency over the past five seasons. Matheny has guided the Cardinals to the postseason in each of his first four seasons on the bench – a first in big league history. He helped the club win the National League pennant in 2013 and won 100 games last season, giving St. Louis the best record in baseball, as well as a third straight NL Central title. During that span, the 46-year-old Matheny has utilized a young and ever-evolving roster. He’s not perfect, and has drawn criticism from the analytics community for sub-optimal bullpen management, but it’s hard to knock the overall results.

 

5. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates

Career Record: 965-1,004 (.490), 6th season in Pittsburgh (431-379)

2013 NL Manager of the Year (Pirates)

 

An old-school manager at heart, Hurdle may have changed more over the last four seasons than any other manager in baseball. Hurdle has embraced the front office’s desires to capitalize on its meager payroll capabilities by relying heavily on analytics – particularly on defense – to snap a 20-year string of losing. Now, the Pirates are on a different kind of streak: the club has made three consecutive trips to the playoffs.

 

Combined with his strong presence in the clubhouse, and his history of success in Pittsburgh and previously Colorado (where he led the Rockies to the World Series), Hurdle is one of the top five managers in the big leagues.

 

4. Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles

Career Record: 1,340-1,242 (.519), 7th season in Baltimore (461-409)

1994 (Yankees), 2004 (Rangers), ‘14 (Orioles) AL Manager of the Year

 

Showalter has had success in each of his four stops as a skipper, having earned Manager of the Year honors with three separate clubs and winning 100 games with the Diamondbacks in 1999. In Baltimore, Showalter helped the O’s snap a streak of 14 straight losing seasons with a 93-win campaign in 2012 and a trip to the postseason. Baltimore hasn’t had a losing season since, but was dangerously close at 81-81 last year. Showalter is one of the best in baseball when it comes to handling a bullpen, and he has a reputation for extreme attention to detail that helps his teams overachieve on the field.

 

3. Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians

Career Record: 1,287-1,142 (.530), 4th season in Cleveland (258-227)

2013 AL Manager of the Year (Indians)

2004, ’07 World Series champion (Red Sox)

 

Francona suffered through four losing seasons as the manager of the Phillies from 1997-2000, but earned a reputation as one of the best skippers in baseball with the Red Sox – and rightly so. In his first season in Boston, Francona and the Red Sox broke through for the franchise’s first World Series title since 1918, and added another three seasons later.

 

Francona fell out of favor in 2011 despite never winning fewer than 89 games with the club and after a year off landed in Cleveland where he promptly guided the Indians to their first winning season and playoff appearance in six years. Though the Tribe have posted dwindling win totals over the past two years, Francona has the Indians in position to make it back to the postseason in 2016.

 

2. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants

Career Record: 1,702-1,682 (.503), 10th season in San Francisco (751-707)

1996 NL Manager of the Year (Padres)

2010, ’12, ’14 World Series champion (Giants)

 

A surefire future Hall of Famer, Bochy has more World Series titles than any other active manager in baseball and he’s only now capping his first decade on the bench in San Francisco. Prior to joining the Giants, Bochy led the Padres to the 1998 NL pennant and won three NL West titles in 12 years. While he has had plenty of talent at his disposal, including Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, Bochy also has a tendency to do less with more by getting the most out of his young players and is a master when it comes to managing a bullpen.

 

1. Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs

Career Record: 878-794 (.526), 2nd season in Chicago

2008, ’11 AL Manager of the Year (Rays)

2015 NL Manager of the Year (Cubs)

 

With an out-of-the-box approach to the job by utilizing the talent at his disposal creatively in the lineup and in the field, Maddon helped turn the Tampa Bay Rays from a stumbling expansion franchise into a formidable contender in the American League. In his first year in Chicago, Maddon quickly helped the Cubs win 20 more games in 2015 than they did the previous season, winning NL Manager of the Year honors in the process.

 

Maddon has more talent at his disposal thanks a Cubs front office that is forward thinking like the Rays but with much, much deeper pockets. With a young, star-studded roster guided by Maddon, the sky is the limit for the Cubs in 2016 and beyond.

 

— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter .

 

(Joe Maddon photo courtesy of )

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-2016-football-schedule-and-analysis
Body:

is coming off a 12-1 2015 season that culminated in a 44-28 victory over Notre Dame in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl. Heading into the 2016 season, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer faces a challenging schedule, with over half of his roster comprised of freshmen and redshirt freshmen (44 out of 85 scholarship players).

 

These players, while inexperienced, are tremendously talented and were heavily recruited. For the Buckeyes to be discussed in the Big Ten Conference race, and the national championship conversation, Meyer and the Ohio State fan base will have to hope these players are quick learners.


Related: 

 

2016 Ohio State Buckeyes Schedule

 

Bye: Week 4

 

Wk Opp. Date Location
1. Sept. 3 Columbus, OH

Bowling Green opens up the 2016 season with its first visit to Ohio Stadium since the 2006 season. This game will be the debut of new Falcons head coach Mike Jinks. Jinks was formerly the assistant head coach/running backs coach for Texas Tech.

2. Sept. 10 Columbus, OH

Week two will be the first-ever meeting between Ohio State and Tulsa. Tulsa comes off a 2015 season that saw the Golden Hurricane go 6-7 and finish fourth in the American Athletic Conference's West Division.

3. Sept. 17 Norman, OK

Barometer Game Ohio State travels to Norman, Okla., for the first time since 1983. This potential primetime matchup will give Ohio State fans an idea if the young Buckeyes will be able to keep pace with the Sooners, a squad that is coming off of a College Football Playoff appearance.

5. Oct. 1 Columbus, OH

Former Ohio State assistant coach Chris Ash makes his return to Columbus with his new team. Ohio State has defeated Rutgers the last two seasons by an average score of 53-12.

6. Oct. 8 Columbus, OH

Indiana has played Ohio State tough the last two seasons, with impressive offensive performances. Ohio State has not lost to Indiana in Ohio Stadium since 1987, when Meyer was a graduate assistant under former Buckeyes head coach Earle Bruce.

7. Oct. 15 Madison, WI

The last time Ohio State and Wisconsin met was in 2014 for the B1G championship when the Buckeyes routed the Badgers 59-0. Camp Randall Stadium always is rocking whenever the Buckeyes come to town, and this game should not be any exception.

8. Oct. 22 State College, PA

Ohio State survived a double overtime win over the Nittany Lions in their last visit to Beaver Stadium. It would not be surprising if Penn State designates this game as a "white out" affair against the Buckeyes.

9. Oct. 29 Columbus, OH

Northwestern makes its first trip to Ohio Stadium since the 2007 season, a 58-7 Buckeye victory. Northwestern is coming off a 2015 season that saw the Wildcats go 10-3 and finish second in the B1G's West Division.

10. Nov. 5 Columbus, OH

Nebraska is coming off a disappointing 6-7 season under Mike Riley. The Cornhuskers should be a contender for the B1G West Division in 2016.

11. Nov. 12 College Park, MD

Maryland will be trying to get back to winning football under new head coach D.J. Durkin. Like Chris Ash, Durkin also is a former Meyer protégé, having coached under Meyer at Bowling Green and Florida.

12. Nov. 19 East Lansing, MI

Revenge Game Ever since Meyer became Ohio State's head coach in 2012, these games against the Spartans have been close, physically taxing, and pivotal as it relates to the conference race. These teams have split their past four meetings.

13. Nov. 26 Columbus, OH

The Game Superlatives always abound (“That Team Up North,” Rivalry Game, etc.) when it comes to this contest. With Jim Harbaugh rapidly improving the Wolverines, this could be the matchup that determines the B1G's East Division champion.

 

— 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 .

Teaser:
Ohio State Buckeyes 2016 Football Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Tennessee Volunteers, SEC
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-2016-football-schedule-and-analysis
Body:

A standard of excellence is slowly making its way back to Knoxville under Butch Jones. And with it, come soaring expectations from a hungry fan base anxious to once again compete at college football’s most elite level. Following a strong finish to the 2015 season, culminating in yet another dominant bowl victory, the Vols appear to be poised to compete for SEC supremacy in 2016. For the first time, in a long time, Tennessee is actually favored to win the SEC East.

 

While the Volunteers should be optimistic about their chances of getting to Atlanta, and possibly even further, the path to success for the Volunteers in 2016 features plenty of obstacles. After all, there is no such thing as an easy road when you compete in the SEC. The middle of the Vols’ schedule showcases a gauntlet of four consecutive games that could prove to be as difficult as you will find on any schedule for the upcoming season. It includes back-to-back road games against Georgia and Texas A&M, sandwiched between home games against the Vols’ two biggest adversaries, Florida and Alabama.

 

The good news is that Tennessee’s 2016 schedule should prove to be slightly more forgiving than last season. The Vols only have to leave the state of Tennessee three times all year, and both Florida and Alabama must travel to Knoxville. The 2016 schedule also features a fairly easy out of conference slate. The “Battle at Bristol” matchup against Virginia Tech being the lone exception. Here now is a more in-depth look at the Tennessee Volunteers 2016 football schedule.

 

2016 Tennessee Volunteers Schedule

 

Bye: Week 8

 

Wk Opp. Date Location
1. Sept. 3 Knoxville, TN

The Volunteers kick off their 2016 campaign against former FCS power Appalachian State in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The Mountaineers are coming off a very impressive inaugural season at the FBS level, going 11-2, including a victory over Ohio in the Camelia Bowl. While Appalachian State returns multiple starters from 2015 and should not be taken lightly, the Volunteers still hold every conceivable advantage possible in this match up. It should serve as a nice tune-up for the “Battle at Bristol.”

2. Sept. 10 Bristol, TN

Batte at Bristol Bristol Motor Speedway will serve as the “neutral” setting for the ninth-ever meeting between Tennessee and Virginia Tech (Vols are 5-3 all-time in the series). The “Battle at Bristol” also will provide the backdrop for a historical night, as college football’s single-game attendance record will be shattered with well over 150,000 spectators expected. The Hokies will enter the marquee matchup with plenty of question marks under first-year head coach Justin Fuente. That said, Fuente’s aggressive, up-tempo style should provide the Vols with their first real test of the 2016 season. 

3. Sept. 17 Knoxville, TN

The Vols return to Knoxville for their second meeting all-time with the Bobcats. The two teams last met in 2009 with Tennessee earning a tougher than expected 34-23 victory. Tennessee should have a much easier route to victory this time around, and the timing couldn’t be better. The relatively easy matchup should provide the Vols with an opportunity to rest some of their top players down the stretch, enabling some of the younger guys to gain some valuable experience in the process. This could be crucial as the Vols embark on the most difficult part of their schedule.

4. Sept. 24 Knoxville, TN

Critical SEC Opener This will be the most pivotal game on Tennessee’s schedule for 2016. This matchup also serves as the first of a daunting four-game stretch that will define the Vols’ 2016 season for better or worse. If the Volunteers have any hope of making it to Atlanta, they must get past the enormous stumbling block that has plagued them for the last 11 seasons. Tennessee should have all of the advantages necessary to finally break the curse against the Gators, but as Vol fans are well aware, advantages for Tennessee in this matchup have a tendency to mysteriously go up in smoke.

5. Oct. 1 Athens, GA

SEC East Division Championship Game? Athens will provide the backdrop for Tennessee’s first real road test of 2016. At this point, Tennessee should have a pretty good idea of what they are in store for against the Bulldogs under first-year head coach Kirby Smart. Tennessee will have the advantage in terms of experience, but it is a pretty safe bet that a talented Georgia team will be hungry for revenge after falling to the Vols in Knoxville last season. This will be a critical test for the Volunteers, and one that could very well decide who represents the East in the 2016 SEC Championship Game.

6. Oct. 8 College Station, TX

First Visit to Kyle Field This will mark the first time ever that Tennessee and Texas A&M square off in SEC play. It also marks the first time that the Vols will make a trip to College Station. Despite a turmoil filled offseason for Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies, which saw the program’s top two quarterbacks transfer, Texas A&M returns plenty of firepower on both sides of the football. The addition of Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight should ease the burden at quarterback as well. The Volunteers could very well be the favorite heading into this game, but they will certainly have their hands full, playing in one of the most challenging atmospheres in all of college football. Side note:  A Tennessee victory here would be the first against an SEC West opponent since 2010. It would be the first road win for the Vols against an SEC West foe since 2007.

7. Oct. 15 Knoxville, TN

Third Saturday in October The good news is that the Volunteers return most of their starters from a team that gave Alabama all it could handle last season in Tuscaloosa. Home-field advantage also bodes well for the Vols’ chances in 2016. Not to mention, the Crimson Tide will be losing plenty of star power to the NFL. All of that being said, if we know one thing about Nick Saban, it’s that he doesn’t rebuild, he reloads. Alabama will no doubt feature a roster that proves just as formidable in 2016 as the one Saban won the National Championship with last season. This matchup becomes even more challenging when you take into consideration the toll that Tennessee’s three previous games is likely to take on the team.

9. Oct. 29 Columbia, SC

Following a much-needed bye week, Tennessee will return to the gridiron for a road game against divisional foe South Carolina. The Vols have won each of the last three meetings against the Gamecocks, playing the role of spoiler in both 2013 and ‘14. South Carolina will be looking to return the favor under new head coach Will Muschamp, but Tennessee should make easy work of a South Carolina team that looks to be short on impact players.

10. Nov. 5 Knoxville, TN

There really isn’t much to say about this matchup. The Vols should be able to put it on cruise control against its first true cupcake opponent of the season. The only positives for Tennessee Tech will be the fat check waiting for them at game’s end, and the short ride home. Otherwise, the Golden Eagles are clearly outmatched in every way possible.

11. Nov. 12 Knoxville, TN

Mark Stoops is slowly but surely improving the Wildcats’ roster, but if the last two seasons are any indication, he has a long way to go to catch up to the Volunteers. Tennessee has pounded Kentucky in each of the last two meetings by a combined score of 102-37. A further look back at this series will do even less for the Wildcats’ confidence with the Vols winning 31 of the previous 32 meetings. Tennessee should have little trouble adding to its dominance over Kentucky at home.

12. Nov. 19 Knoxville, TN

Gary Pinkel’s Tigers served as a real thorn in the side of Tennessee in each of their first three seasons in the SEC. A thorn that the Vols were finally able to remove with a 19-8 victory in Columbia last season. As a new era begins for Missouri football under current head coach Barry Odom, there are more questions than answers for the future of this program. The Tigers should once again field a solid defense, but a terrible Mizzou offense in 2015 does not appear as though it will be much improved. Tennessee should have its way with the Tigers at home.

13. Nov. 26 Nashville, TN

Vanderbilt had a nice little run against Tennessee, but this historically one-sided affair appears to quickly be returning to its normal state in favor of the Vols. The Commodores are expected to improve in Derek Mason’s third season, but in terms of talent and depth, they are severely lacking in comparison to the Vols at this point. It also doesn’t help matters that Tennessee fans will likely outnumber Vandy fans by a 2-to-1 ratio in their own stadium this year, and that figure is probably being generous to Commodore fans.

 

— 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 .

Teaser:
Tennessee Volunteers 2016 Football Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/robert-horry-embarrasses-tracy-mcgrady-espn-nba-rings-championships
Body:

It's always tough when you're a great NBA player who didn't win a championship.

 

While Tracy McGrady and Robert Horry were on ESPN, something awkward happened. Horry, who won 7 rings, was asked if he could loan T-Mac one of them since he never won one.

 

Horry's response, "Nah, dog you gotta earn it."

 

T-Mac's face after that was perhaps the saddest thing you'll see on television this year.

 

 

It was harsh but it's not that much worse than when McGrady went on television wearing a suit looking like he stole it from Shaq's closet.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 16:36
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/rock-surprises-arian-foster-mom-video-instagram-hbo-ballers
Body:

Arian Foster may be a big star to us, but on this day he was just a guy trying to do something nice for his mom.

 

On the set of HBO's "Ballers", Foster got to chat with The Rock and even got him to send a video to his mom who's a big fan of his. The best shout out she could ever receive.

 

 

Upon seeing the video, her reaction was priceless. She did her best to play it cool but couldn't hold back any longer. No one blames you, Mama Foster.

 

 

A video posted by feeno (@arianfoster) on

 

She's set for the next 3 Mother's Days.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 15:45
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/tyrann-mathieu-death-threats-new-orleans-saints-will-smith-arizona-cardinals
Body:

In light of Saints legend Will Smith's death, more people are speaking out about the plight of New Orleans.

 

Tyrann Mathieu now plays for the Cardinals, but has strong ties to the city. Having grown up there, Mathieu went to LSU and now says he can't even go back there for days at a time because of how dangerous it is. The Cardinals star went on a mini-twitter rant after hearing news of Smith's death, calling the suspect a "coward," and is now receiving death threats because of it.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 14:11
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/clemson-unveils-new-uniforms-awesome-video-tigers-deshaun-watson-tradition-paw
Body:

Changing an already good-looking uniform can be a recipe for disaster. 

 

Clemson's uniforms have always been a fan favorite so you might be thinking, what could they do to improve it? The answer is tipping their hats to the old-school look while keeping it modern at the same time. Genius.

 

Bigger numbers and subtle changes to the Tiger paw are the highlights of the change.

 

 

Recreating history is what the Tigers are going for, and with this new look they might do just that.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 11:39
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/nick-saban-says-coaches-age-recruiting-alabama-crimson-tide
Body:

Age is just a number according to Nick Saban.

 

The Alabama coach is just as young as he feels. On paper, he's 64, going 65 in October, and says that other coaches are using his age against him when it comes to recruiting.

 

"I'm not looking to get out," Saban told . "I'm really not, even though I know that's going to start being talked about more now. What I have noticed is that it's the first time people are starting to say to recruits, 'He won't be there the whole time you're there,' because of my age. Does that really impact your ability to stay good? I don't know. But if it did, it would make you say, 'Well, what's up with this?' My philosophy is that I'm going to be here for as long as I feel I can be effective, impact the players, help them be more successful in life and continue to have a successful program."

 

Saban and Alabama have been one in the same for a long time now, and that's the way he sees it in the near future. 

 

"I think you get to station in your life, whether it's family or relationships, a combination of all the above, that you just feel like you're entrenched," Saban continued. "You can't even visualize being somewhere else, and that's where I am right now."

 

As long as Saban can be effective with the Tide, he'll be sticking around. Judging by the last championship, that could be a while. 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 11:12
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-top-25-toughest-schedules-2016
Body:

The true measure of a team's strength of schedule cannot be determined until the regular season approaches its end. That said, some schedules stand out as obviously better than others before a game is ever played.

 

The 2016 college football season opens with one of the best single days in the sport's history, which sets a fitting tone for the fall to follow. Some of the most likely College Football Playoff contenders face the sport's most difficult schedules.

 

1. USC

The most difficult schedule in the 2016 college football season, if not one of the single most treacherous slates in recent memory, welcomes Clay Helton to his first campaign as USC's full-time head coach.

 

The Trojans open with defending national champion Alabama, end with rival Notre Dame and draw the . USC sees North division opponents Stanford and Washington both on the road.

 

2. Oklahoma

Bob Stoops has ample opportunity to reinforce his "Big Game" nickname in 2016. The docket opens with a bang in H-Town, where the Sooners face reigning Peach Bowl champion and likely preseason top 20 opponent Houston in an in-name-only neutral-field contest at NRG Stadium in Houston.

 

The Houston game may not get the buzz it deserves by virtue of the Sooners hosting Ohio State a couple weeks later, but the Cougars are dangerous. Just ask Florida State.

 

One of the two best non-conference slates in all of college football is simply a prelude to the Big 12's nine-game round-robin.

 

3. Wisconsin

The Badgers could call it a season at the midway point, and would have already played a more taxing schedule than most of the nation. Wisconsin opens with LSU at Lambeau Field, gets 2015 bowl participants Akron and Georgia State to round out non-conference play, then jumps into the Big Ten season with Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa all in succession.

 

Three of those games are on the road.

 

It eases up ever-so-slightly on the back-half of the Badgers' schedule, but not before dates with Nebraska and Northwestern in Big Ten West competition.

 

4. Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish open 2016 on the national stage with a rare Sunday game at Texas.

 

Notre Dame will rarely exit that stage, playing high-profile dates against historic rivals Michigan State, Stanford, Navy and USC, and drawing Duke and Miami as part of its ACC affiliation.

 

5. Stanford

Stanford's played some of the more ambitious schedules in college football of late, and 2016 is no exception. After opening with the Big 12's Kansas State, the Cardinal jump into Pac-12 Conference action immediately.

 

Customary California crossovers against USC and UCLA highlight Stanford's matchups with the South, while trips to both Oregon and Washington should be for North supremacy. Tucked amid the drive to repeat in the Pac-12 is the annual contest against Notre Dame.

 

6. Ohio State

A trip to Oklahoma in the non-conference schedule looms large, but Ohio State draws quality teams from the Group of Five in Tulsa and Bowling Green. The latter beat two Big Ten opponents a season ago.

 

The Big Ten East looks to be loaded, and the Buckeyes must travel to both Michigan State and Penn State. Divisional crossovers with Nebraska and at Wisconsin only add to a meaty schedule.

 

7. Florida State

Juxtapose Florida State's recent run of success out of the ACC against the oh-so-prevalent chest-thumping emanating from SEC country. It's only right these two, proud sides would meet in a collision course.

 

Florida State opens with the SEC's Ole Miss, then concludes the regular season against the conference's defending East division champion, Florida. Upstart South Florida also looms on the non-conference slate.

 

In the ACC, Florida State draws Miami and Louisville on the road, and hosts Clemson in a late-season showdown that could have College Football Playoff implications -- again.

 

8. Rutgers

A cross-country trek to face a rising Washington team opens Rutgers' challenging 2016 season appropriately enough.

 

The Scarlet Knights have just five road games, but they are doozies. In addition to the visit to Husky Stadium, Rutgers goes to Ohio State and Michigan State. The Buckeyes and Spartans headline an all-around deep and challenging Big Ten East, wherein Rutgers looks to be the low team heading into 2016.

 

9. Kansas State

Opening at defending Rose Bowl champion Stanford kicks off K-State's grueling road itinerary. In Big 12 Conference play, the Wildcats travel to Oklahoma, Baylor, West Virginia and TCU.

 

That's one of the most brutal road schedules in college football, and demonstrates the true challenge of the Big 12's round-robin schedule.

 

10. Nebraska

Oregon's visit to Lincoln highlights the Nebraska non-conference season, but the real fun of the Cornhuskers' 2016 slate begins in the back half.

 

Nebraska draws one of the nation's most brutal stretches, going to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa in three of its final five contests.

 

11. Alabama

The Crimson Tide's season opener against USC headlines a loaded Week 1, and sends Alabama into a schedule dotted with several tough tests away from Tuscaloosa.

 

While the rest of the non-conference schedule is truly meh -- Nick Saban's alma mater, Kent State, and customary late-season FCS opponent Chattanooga join Western Kentucky -- the SEC schedule more than makes up for it.

 

The rematch with Ole Miss comes on the road early in the season, the road game at Tennessee is back on the third Saturday in October, and the always difficult trip to LSU kicks off November.

 

12. Auburn

Auburn doesn't leave the Plains until Oct. 8. In that time, however, the Tigers host Clemson, LSU and Texas A&M.

 

After that challenging, early-season stretch, Auburn gets to spend much of its second half of the campaign on the road. The Tigers go to Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama all in the final weeks of the regular season.

 

13. Texas

Return dates against Notre Dame and at Cal make for one of the nation's better non-conference dockets. If the Longhorns open with two losses, as they did against the same two opponents a year ago, the nine-game Big 12 schedule gets especially vexing.

 

Texas benefits from drawing some of the more daunting conference foes at home -- Baylor and TCU, for example -- but opening with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could send the Longhorns into a tumultuous final half of the campaign.

 

14. California

A trek to Australia to play Hawaii kicks off Cal's 2016 football odyssey.

 

The Golden Bears host Texas later in the non-conference season, but a trip to defending Mountain West Conference champion San Diego State offers plenty of intrigue.

 

Cal's Pac-12 slate starts with an unknown in Arizona State, but ramps up on the back end over a stretch that includes Oregon, USC, Washington, Stanford and Washington State.

 

15. BYU

Credit BYU athletic department brass for cultivating a schedule not only worthy of a power-conference program, but one more daunting than that which most power teams will face.

 

BYU opens with Arizona, the first of three Pac-12 South opponents on the slate in September. The Cougars mix it up with foes from the SEC (Mississippi State), Big Ten (Michigan State) and Big 12 (West Virginia) -- not to mention quality Group of Five matchups with Boise State, Toledo and Cincinnati.

 

Even Southern Utah, the lone FCS opponent on the docket, made the playoffs a season ago.

 

16. UCLA

UCLA hits the road twice for major, out-of-conference tests, first at Texas A&M, and later at BYU. Jim Mora's Bruins will certainly be battle-tested entering a wide-open Pac-12 South race -- and they'll need it.

 

Though UCLA misses out on tough crossovers like Oregon and Washington, the Bruins must travel to Washington State. They get Stanford, Utah and USC at home, but don't sleep on a road trip to Colorado late in the season.

 

17. Texas A&M

Texas A&M played some thoroughly unimpressive non-conference schedules its first few years after joining the SEC, but ramped it up last year with a neutral-field date against Arizona State. This year, UCLA visits the Lone Star State from Pac-12 country.

 

These Pac-12 crossovers add an element of intrigue to an Aggie schedule already posing challenges inherent in the SEC West. Texas A&M goes to Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State this year, and draws SEC East favorite Tennessee in a cross-divisional showdown at Kyle Field.

 

18. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech's non-conference schedule ranks among the nation's very best. The Hokies travel to Notre Dame in November for the marquee matchup in this year's ACC affiliation for the Fighting Irish, but a September date with Tennessee promises to command even more attention -- record-setting attention, even.

 

Virginia Tech's matchup with Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway is expected to draw an American attendance record. The Hokies' performance against a Volunteer bunch expected to contend for the SEC crown will set the tone for Justin Fuente's first season succeeding legendary Frank Beamer.

 

In the ACC, Virginia Tech avoids both Florida State and Clemson, but draws North Carolina, Duke and Pitt on the road.

 

19. Ole Miss

Opening in Orlando against Florida State, Ole Miss dives headlong into arguably the most difficult September in all of college football.

 

The Rebels see Florida State and Alabama in the span of just three weeks. That's a College Football Playoff-caliber docket before the summer officially ends.

 

The meat of Ole Miss' road itinerary comes midway through the campaign, with trips to LSU, Arkansas and Texas A&M all tucked into the SEC slate from October to mid-November.

 

20. Michigan State

The renewal of Michigan State's historic rivalry with Notre Dame highlights the reigning Big Ten champion's non-conference schedule, but don't overlook an intriguing date with BYU.

 

Around two dates against independent opponents (Notre Dame, BYU), Michigan State also plays a tough league docket. Michigan State benefits from drawing many of its more challenging dates at home; Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan all visit East Lansing.

 

21. Clemson

Clemson's Week 1 visit to SEC country for a tiger-tastic showdown with Auburn kicks off last year's national runner-up's new campaign in style.

 

Clemson's performance on the Plains will set the tone for its pursuit of another College Football Playoff berth. With Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson back in the mix, the Tigers will be preseason favorites to do just that. However, they have to navigate a map that includes road trips to Georgia Tech and Florida State.

 

22. LSU

Like many of its SEC West brethren, LSU plays three non-conference games that are less than awe-inspiring. The one that is, however, is truly so. The Tigers' journey to Green Bay to face Wisconsin in Big Ten country is landmark.

 

LSU bookends its season opener, which is effectively a road game, by visiting Texas A&M in Week. The road contest to close out vs. the Aggies comes just a few weeks removed from a double-dip of Alabama at home and Arkansas on the road.

 

23. Syracuse

Several decades ago, Syracuse had an intense rivalry against Week 1 opponent and 2015 FCS Playoffs participant Colgate. The Raiders and Orange are in much different places now, and the reigning Patriot League champions are likely the least challenging team on Syracuse's tough schedule.

 

The rest of the non-conference slate includes a neutral site game against Notre Dame (in East Rutherford, N.J.) and a home date with South Florida, which should contend for the American Athletic East division crown in 2016.

 

Syracuse travels to Clemson in conference play, the start of a daunting, four-game stretch to close out the campaign. NC State, Florida State and Pitt also are tap for the Orange in November.

 

24. Iowa State

Matt Campbell gets to see plenty of the Big 12 in his first half-season as Iowa State head coach. The Cyclones play away from Jack Trice Stadium against TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas before their bye week in mid-October.

 

In that same, first-half stretch, Iowa State travels to Iowa and gets Baylor at home. Even Week 1 opponent, FCS counterpart Northern Iowa, has been a problem for the Cyclones in recent years. It could be a rocky first two months for the new regime.

 

25. Houston

Houston has a prime opportunity to make the Group of Five's first case for the College Football Playoff, opening the season in an ostensible home game against reigning Big 12 champion Oklahoma.

 

Of course, the Cougars have zero margin for error if they're to crash the Playoff party. That means winning a late-season showdown with what should be an improved Louisville team, and drawing American Athletic Conference contenders Cincinnati and Navy on the road.

 

— 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

Teaser:
Ranking College Football's Top 25 Toughest Schedules for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-2016-football-schedule-and-analysis
Body:

The tasted a lot of success in 2015. An title. An Orange Bowl victory. A spot in the national championship game.

 

But there is one major goal that was left unclaimed. And on Sept. 3, the Tigers will begin their quest for the national title that escaped them this past January.


Related:

 

2016 Clemson Tigers Schedule

 

Bye: Week 8

 

Wk Opp. Date Location
1. Sept. 3 Auburn, AL

Season-Opening Tiger Fight Opening with an SEC West opponent on the road is not exactly easing into the schedule. If Auburn finds an answer to its quarterback question, this could be a nasty battle of Tigers.

2. Sept. 10 Clemson, SC

Quarterback Brandon Silvers returns from the Trojans’ 45th-ranked passing offense. But they lose hybrid linebacker Tyler Roberts, their biggest playmaker on defense, so stopping the Tigers’ potent offense will be a problem.

3. Sept. 17 Clemson, SC

The warm-up game that often comes in week one occurs in week three as the Tigers match up against the FCS team from Orangeburg. This will be a good respite before ACC action commences the following Thursday.

4. Sept. 22 Atlanta, GA

ACC Opener = Trap Game? A short week is never good in preparing for the Jackets’ option attack. But with South Carolina State as the previous opponent, Clemson should have no problem getting ready for Paul Johnson, Justin Thomas and the Georgia Tech ground game.

5. Oct. 1 Clemson, SC

A dangerous game against a dangerous team. Louisville returns just about all of its offensive production, headlined by rising sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson, and most of the defense as well. It helps Clemson that the Tigers have a few extra days to prepare and the game is at Death Valley.

6. Oct. 7 Chestnut Hill, MA

Boston College had a miserable 2015 season, going winless in ACC play. Head coach Steve Addazio will have his team motivated to play and the defense will again be strong despite losing a few key components. But the Eagles will again be challenged offensively and Clemson can score on anyone.

7. Oct. 15 Clemson, SC

The Wolfpack are always a pesky foe for any top team. Clemson knows that from last year as NC State gave the Tigers some difficulties on Halloween. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett needs to be replaced but running back Matt Dayes and the bulk of a strong defense returns.

9. Oct. 29 Tallahassee, FL

ACC Game of the Year? Once again, this will probably be the game of the year in the ACC and will have ramifications for College Football Playoff positioning. The Tigers will have a week off before visiting Dalvin Cook and the Seminoles.

10. Nov. 5 Clemson, SC

Syracuse enters 2016 with a new head coach and a new offensive style. And though they bring just about everyone back on defense, the nation’s No. 99 team in total defense will find it difficult to slow down the Tigers.

11. Nov. 12 Clemson, SC

This ACC crossover game marks just the second time the Panthers and Tigers have met. In 1977, Pittsburgh closed its season by beating Clemson 34-3 in the Gator Bowl.

12. Nov. 19 Winston-Salem, NC

The Demon Deacons relied heavily on freshmen and sophomores in 2015 and that experience should pay off next fall. Paying off in a way that they are able to knock off the Tigers is another story, however.

13. Nov. 26 Clemson, SC

This year’s Palmetto State battle will be held in the upstate. After losing five in a row to the boys from Columbia, Clemson will be looking to win its third straight in the bitter rivalry.

 

— 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 .

Teaser:
Clemson Tigers 2016 Football Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-2016-football-schedule-and-analysis
Body:

At , the football schedule is always one that takes the team from coast to coast, playing in all parts of the country. The 2016 schedule is no exception, as the Irish go to the west, southwest, southeast and northeast as well as playing their home games in the Midwest.

 

In accordance with its ACC agreement, Notre Dame will battle five teams from the conference. The Irish also will play three teams that are annually on their schedule. In addition, the Irish will welcome the return of a traditional foe to the schedule after a two-year absence.

 

Related: 

 

2016 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Schedule

 

Bye: Week 8

 

Wk Opp. Date Location
1. Sept. 4 Austin, TX

Texas Payback? It was recently announced that the game between the Irish and the Horns will be played on Sept. 4, making it essentially a stand-alone game on the Sunday before the NFL regular season opens. Texas will be seeking to avenge last year’s 38-3 defeat in South Bend.

2. Sept. 10 Notre Dame, Ind.

Former Irish assistant Brian Polian brings the defending Arizona Bowl champs into Notre Dame Stadium for the second time in school history. Nevada returns one of its two 1,000-yard rushers in James Butler along with quarterback Tyler Stewart.

3. Sept. 17 Niotre Dame, Ind.

Spartans Return to South Bend After a two-year hiatus, Michigan State is back on Notre Dame’s schedule. The 2015 Big Ten champion and College Football Playoff participant will have to replace quarterback Connor Cook, wide receiver Aaron Burbridge and six starters from a rugged defense. But head coach Mark D’Antonio has built a program that is tough year in and year out.

4. Sept. 24 Notre Dame, Ind.

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe was scheduled to be the Irish quarterbacks coach under Charlie Weis in 2005. But a health issue forced his resignation before the first game of that season. A now healthy Cutcliffe has built the once moribund Duke program into a perennial bowl contender.

5. Oct. 1 East Rutherford, NJ

For the second time in three years, the Irish go to the Meadowlands to play a road game against Syracuse. Orange quarterback Eric Dungey should make progress under new head coach Dino Babers, but it’s the development of the Syracuse defense that will determine its success level in 2016.

6. Oct. 8 Raleigh, NC

After opening the home schedule by playing the Wolf Pack, the Irish trek to Raleigh to play the Wolfpack in week six. The two teams have met up just once, when Philip Rivers led NC State to a 28-6 win in the 2003 Gator Bowl.

7. Oct. 15 Notre Dame, Ind.

Cardinal Clash None of the last four games between the Irish and the Cardinal have been decided by more than a touchdown, with the home team winning each time. Christian McCaffrey would like his Heisman resume to include a big game at Notre Dame.

9. Oct. 29 Notre Dame, Ind.

While this may not have the same fire as the Notre Dame-Miami games of the late ‘80s, new head coach Mark Richt should breathe some life into the Hurricanes’ program. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has some weapons in running back Joseph Yearby and wide receiver Stacy Coley.

10. Nov. 5 Jacksonville, FL

Notre Dame and Navy will butt heads for the 90th time, with Jacksonville, Fla., being the locale on this occasion. Keenan Reynolds will no longer be the Navy quarterback, something that makes fans of many teams (including Notre Dame) very happy.

11. Nov. 12 San Antonio, TX

The Irish go back-to-back with the service academies when they play Army in the annual Shamrock Series game. The Cadets are coming off a disappointing 2-10 season that ended with a 21-17 loss to Navy.

12. Nov. 19 Notre Dame, Ind.

This will be the first-ever contest between the two proud programs. The Hokies are another team ushering in a new era, with Justin Fuente replacing Virginia Tech legend Frank Beamer as head coach.

13. Nov. 26 Los Angeles, CA

Trojan Tussle It’s an even-numbered year and that means that Notre Dame will wrap up its regular season with a trip to Southern California to play the Trojans. By this point in the season, USC’s new quarterback will have plenty of experience but will still lean heavily on a ground game led by Ronald Jones.

 

— 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 .

Teaser:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2016 Football Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/very-early-college-basketball-top-25-2016-17
Body:

Even as Villanova is still basking in the glow of its first national championship since 1985 and fans are catching their breath after a wild NCAA Tournament, it’s still a good time to start looking ahead.

 

This upcoming season is a little bit different for those of us in prediction land, as we have even less of a picture than we’ve had in recent years.

 

The NCAA returned to its old stance regarding the NBA Draft, allowing underclassmen to start the evaluation process and return to school, as long as they do not hire an agent.

 

Many freshmen, sophomores and juniors have already ended their eligibility by hiring agents, but many others are leaving us playing the waiting game as they work through the possibilities.

 

That said, the most important news for the top 25 came from a player staying in school. Grayson Allen didn’t even test his prospects in the NBA Draft, meaning a National Player of the Year favorite will return to school. He’ll join a star-studded recruiting class that makes Duke the easy call as preseason No. 1 at this point.

 

Here’s a snapshot of the landscape for 2016-17 — at least until the deadline for underclassmen to return to school on May 25.

 

1. Duke (25-11, 11-7 ACC)

Key Returners: G Grayson Allen, G Luke Kennard

Departures: F Brandon Ingram, F Marshall Plumlee, G Derryck Thornton

Wild Card: F Amile Jefferson

New Arrivals: F Harry Giles, G Frank Jackson, F Jayson Tatum

Buzz: The return of National Player of the Year contender Allen solidifies Duke as the preseason No. 1. The arrival of the No. 2 recruiting class gives Duke six five-star prospects on its roster, not including Allen.

 

2. Kentucky (27-9, 13-5 SEC)

Key Returners: G Isaiah Briscoe, F Marcus Lee

Departures: G Jamal Murray, F Skal Labissiere, F Alex Poythress, G Tyler Ulis

New Arrivals: F/C Bam Adebayo, G De’Aaron Fox, F Wenyan Gabriel, G Malik Monk

Buzz: Expect more the same at Kentucky. Ulis, Murray and Labissiere are headed to the draft. They’ll be replaced by the top recruiting class in the country. Fox and Monk are top-five talents in an elite 2016 class.

 

3. Villanova (35-5, 16-2 Big East)

Key Returners: G Phil Booth, F Mikal Bridges, G Jalen Brunson, F Kris Jenkins

Departures: G Ryan Arcidiacono, C Daniel Ochefu

Wild Card: G Josh Hart

New Arrivals: C Omari Spellman

Buzz: The Wildcats lose the inside-out duo of Arcidiacono and Ochefu. Brunson, a five-star guard in 2015, will see more time at the point, and Bridges flashed his potential in the run to the title. If Hart returns, Jay Wright's team will be in the mix again.

 

4. Kansas (33-5, 15-3 Big 12)

Key Returners: G Devonte Graham, F Landen Lucas, G Frank Mason, G Svi Mykhailiuk

Departures: F Perry Ellis, G/F Brannen Greene, G Wayne Selden, F Jamari Traylor

Wild Cards: F Carlton Bragg, F Cheick Diallo

New Arrivals: C Ukoka Azubuike, F Josh Jackson, F Mitch Lightfoot

Buzz: Losing veterans like Ellis, Selden and Traylor is a concern, but Kansas is able to reload as well as any program in the country. The backcourt will lead the way, but KU will need its young frontcourt to contribute immediately. Adding five-star freshman Josh Jackson a week after the title game was a major get.

 

5. Oregon (31-7, 14-4 Pac-12)

Key Returners: F Jordan Bell, G Casey Benson

Departures: F Dwayne Benjamin, F Chris Boucher, F Elgin Cook

Wild Cards: G/F Dillon Brooks, G Tyler Dorsey

New Arrivals: F Kavel Bigby-Williams

Buzz: Brooks will be a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate after averaging 16.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season. Dorsey was an unsung hero as a freshman. If both pull out of the draft as expected, Oregon is the Pac-12 favorite and a Final Four contender.

 

6. Virginia (29-8, 13-5 ACC)

Key Returners: G Devon Hall, G London Perrantes, F Isaiah Wilkins

Departures: G Malcolm Brogdon, F Anthony Gill, C Mike Tobey

New Arrivals: G Kyle Guy, G Ty Jerome, F Austin Nichols

Buzz: Losing Brogdon is a major blow on both ends of the court. Gill’s departure shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Virginia under Tony Bennett has replaced major players before, so the system should be trusted. This is Perrantes’ team now, but Nichols, a former Memphis Tiger, could be the most important transfer in the country.

 

7. North Carolina (33-7, 14-4 ACC)

Key Returners: G Joel Berry, F Isaiah Hicks, F Justin Jackson, F Kennedy Meeks, G Theo Pinson

Departures: F Brice Johnson, G Marcus Paige

New Arrivals: C Tony Bradley, G Seventh Woods

The national runners-up have enough veterans returning to contend, but the Tar Heels will need to find a new guy who can take over a game late with Johnson and Paige gone. Jackson is the next man up.

 

8. Xavier (28-6, 14-4 Big East)

Key Returners: G Myles Davis, F J.P. Macura, G Edmond Sumner

Departures: G Remy Abell, F James Farr

Wild Cards: G Trevon Bluiett, F Jalen Reynolds

New Arrivals: F RaShid Gaston

Buzz: Bluiett’s decision on whether or not to enter the draft will determine if Xavier is a Big East title contender again or merely a solid NCAA Tournament team.

 

9. Indiana (27-8, 15-3 Big Ten)

Key Returners: G James Blackmon, C Thomas Byrant, F Collin Hartman, G Robert Johnson,

Departures: F Max Bielfeldt, G Yogi Ferrell, G Nick Zeisloft

Wild Cards: F OG Anunoby, F Troy Williams

New Arrivals: G Curtis Jones, F De’Ron Davis, G Josh Newkirk

Bryant’s decision to stay for his sophomore year is huge. If Anunoby and Williams make the same call, Indiana could be the Big Ten favorite. Newkirk, a Pittsburgh transfer, takes over Ferrell’s point guard spot.

 

10. Michigan State (29-6, 13-5 Big Ten)

Key Returners: G Eron Harris, G Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn, C Gavin Schilling

Departures: F Matt Costello, G Bryn Forbes, F Denzel Valentine

Wild Cards: F Deyonta Davis

New Arrivals: F Miles Bridges, G Josh Langford, G Cassius Winston, F Nick Ward

Buzz: Few teams lose more than Michigan State’s Valentine, Costello and Forbes. The Spartans’ backcourt of Nairn and Harris should emerge next season, and Tom Izzo brings in four top-50 freshmen.

 

11. Arizona (25-9, 12-6 Pac-12)

Key Returners: G Kadeem Allen, G Allonzo Trier, C Dusan Ristick

Departures: F Ryan Anderson, C Kaleb Tarczewski, F Mark Tollefsen, G Gabe York

Wild Card: G/F Terrance Ferguson

New Arrivals: G Rawle Alkins, F Lauri Marrkanen, G Kobi Simmons

Buzz: Trier’s return is key as Arizona replaces veterans Anderson, York and Tarczewski. Three top-50 recruits join a team that should contend in the Pac-12 again.

 

12. Louisville (23-8, 12-6 ACC)

Key Returners: F Deng Adel, G Donovan Mitchell, G Quentin Snider

Departures: F Damion Lee, G Trey Lewis

Wild Card: F/C Chinanu Onuaku

New Arrivals: G Tony Hicks, G/F V.J. King

The draft decision of Onuaku will loom large. If he returns, he could average a double-double. Former Penn guard Hicks will fill the void left by Lewis alongside Snider and Mitchell.

 

13. Wisconsin (22-13, 12-6 Big Ten)

Key Returners: F Vitto Brown, F Ethan Happ, F Nigel Hayes, G Bronson Koenig, G Zak Showalter

Departures: None

Buzz: The Badgers went 13-4 after Jan. 12, upsetting Xavier in the second round. Everyone returns from a team that will have all of 2016-17 under head coach Greg Gard.

 

14. Texas (20-13, 11-7 Big 12)

Key Returners: G Eric Davis Jr., G/F Tevin Mack, G Kerwin Roach

Departures: G Javan Felix, C Prince Ibeh, F Connor Lammert, C Calvin Ridley

Wild Card: G Isaiah Taylor

New Arrivals: G Andrew Jones

Buzz: If Taylor returns to school, he’ll be the senior leader on a team with up-and-coming talent in sophomores Davis, Mack and Roach. Despite the loss to Northern Iowa in the NCAA Tournament, Texas finished the season in fine form, beating Oklahoma and West Virginia down the stretch.

 

15. Syracuse (23-14, 9-9 ACC)

Key Returners: F Tyler Lydon, G Malachi Richardson, F Tyler Roberson

Departures: G Trevor Cooney, F Michael Gbinije

New Arrivals: G Tyus Battle

Buzz: Syracuse will try to ride the wave of its surprising Final Four run. Lydon and Richardson need to carry their star status through the entirety of the season.

 

16. SMU (25-5, 13-5 American)

Key Returners: G Sterling Brown, G Shake Milton, G Ben Moore

Departures: F Markus Kennedy, G Nic Moore, F Jordan Tolbert

New Arrivals: F Semi Ojeleye

Buzz: The postseason ban is over, and SMU should contend in the American again. Losing Moore leaves a major void at point guard. The arrival of Ojeleye, an import from Duke, keeps Larry Brown’s transfer pipeline moving.

 

17. USC (21-13, 9-9 Pac-12)

Key Returners: F Bennie Boatwright, G Julian Jacobs, C Nikola Jovanovic, G Jordan McLaughlin, G Elijah Stewart

Departures: F Katin Reinhardt

Buzz: USC will return four players who averaged double figures from a team that improved from 3-15 in the Pac-12 to 9-9. The goal in Andy Enfield’s fourth season will be to keep a consistent level of play into February and March.

 

18. Seton Hall (25-9, 12-6 Big East)

Key Returners: G Khadeen Carrington, C Angel Delgado, F Desi Rodriguez, F Ismael Sanogo

Departures: G Derrick Gordon

Wild Card: G Isaiah Whitehead

New Arrivals: G Myles Powell, G Jevon Thomas

If Whitehead returns, the Big East Tournament champs would bring back all five starters. Powell, a standout shooter, and Thomas, a former starter at Kansas State, will look to fill the void left by Gordon.

 

19. Oklahoma (29-8, 12-6 Big 12)

Key Returners: G Dante Buford, C Khadeem Lattin, G Jordan Woodard

Departures: G Isaiah Cousins, G Buddy Hield, F Ryan Spangler

New Arrivals: F Kristian Doolittle, G Kameron McGusty, G Austin Grandstaff

Buzz: Hield’s supporting cast showed its limitations at times last season, so Woodard and Lattin will need to take a step forward. Grandstaff, a transfer from Ohio State, will try to fill the biggest perimeter shooting void in the country.

 

20. Purdue (26-9, 12-6 Big Ten)

Key Returners: F Vince Edwards, C Isaac Haas, G P.J. Thompson, G P.J. Thompson

Departures: G Rapheal Davis, C A.J. Hammons

Wild Card: F/C Caleb Swanigan

New Arrivals: G Carsen Edwards

Buzz: Keeping Swanigan is the key piece. His return would mean Purdue returns three of its top four scorers. The freshman Edwards could take over point guard duties.

 

21. Iowa State (23-12, 10-8 Big 12)

Key Returners: G Deonte Burton, G Monte Morris, G Matt Thomas

Departures: F Jamel McKay, F Abdel Nader, F Georges Niang

New Arrivals: G Donovan Jackson, F Emmanuel Malou

Buzz: The return of Morris at point guard will give Iowa State a fighting chance in the Big 12. No more Niang lowers the bar. Transfers, this time JUCOs, will continue to play a role.

 

22. Notre Dame (24-12, 11-7 ACC)

Key Returners: F VJ Beachem, F Bonzie Colson, F Matt Ryan, G Steve Vasturia

Departures: F Zach Auguste, G Demetrius Jackson

New Arrivals: G Temple Gibbs

Beachem, Colson and Vasturia were all double-digit scorers last season, but losing a point guard and a double-double machine is significant.

 

23. Gonzaga (28-8, 15-3 West Coast)

Key Returners: G Josh Perkins

Departures: G Kyle Dranginis, G Eric McClellan F Domantas Sabonis, F Kyle Wiltjer

Wild Cards: C Przemek Karnowski

New Arrivals: C Zach Collins, F Johnathan Williams, G Nigel Williams-Goss

Buzz: Gonzaga will be a new-look team from the Wiltjer-Sabonis-Pangos squads of the last two years. Transfers Williams (from Missouri) and Williams-Goss (from Washington) will be a standout inside-out duo.

 

24. Saint Mary’s (29-6, 15-3 West Coast)

Key Returners: C Evan Fitzner, F Calvin Hermanson, C Jock Landale, G Emmett Naar, F Dane Pineau, G Joe Rahon

Departures: None

Buzz: The Gaels swept Gonzaga during the regular season but didn’t have enough on the non-conference schedule to earn an at-large bid after losing to the Bulldogs in the WCC tourney. With everyone back, Saint Mary’s should make another run.

 

25. UCLA (15-17, 6-12 Pac-12)

Key Returners: G Bryce Alford, G Isaac Hamilton, G Aaron Holiday, C Thomas Welsh

Departures: F/C Tony Parker

New Arrivals: G Lonzo Ball, F T.J. Leaf

Buzz: UCLA’s first losing season since 2010 has Steve Alford feeling the heat. This season will be key to his long-term future in Westwood. With only one notable loss (Parker) and two top-20 recruits arriving, UCLA will have to turn things around immediately.

Teaser:
A Very Early College Basketball Top 25 for 2016-17
Post date: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Overtime
Path: /overtime/david-ortiz-gets-emotional-his-daughter-sings-national-anthem-boston-red-sox
Body:

David Ortiz doesn't show a lot of emotion, but sometimes he just can't help himself.

 

During the Red Sox home-opener on Monday, the 15-year-old daughter of Big Papi sang the National Anthem and he was the proudest guy on the field.

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 14:28
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/cardale-jones-sounds-ncaa-ohio-state-university-quarterback-buckeyes-twitter-nfl-draft
Body:

Cardale Jones is one of probably many student-athletes to be done with the NCAA. 

 

The Ohio State quarterback is ecstatic to be heading into the NFL Draft and far away from the NCAA and its rules that he says, "controlled lives" with its rules. 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 13:20
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/ucla-quarterback-josh-rosen-cap-hat-f-trump-quarterback-bruins-donald
Body:

Josh Rosen makes his stance on the upcoming election known. 

 

While at the Trump National Golf Club, the UCLA quarterback sported a "F— Trump" cap. Well, that's one vote Donald won't be getting.

 

 

A photo posted by Josh Rosen (@josh3rosen) on

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 11:54
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Overtime
Path: /overtime/chicago-cubs-locker-room-makeover-renovation-wrigley-field
Body:

The Cubs and Wrigley Field just remind you of old school baseball, but they're putting a new spin on it.

 

After renovating the outfield bleachers last season, it's the team's locker room that's getting a facelift. It's just the right mix of new and old.

 

 

It's a change from the old-school atmosphere of the Cubs, but the guys seem to love it.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 11:11
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Oakland Raiders, NFL
Path: /nfl/5-perfect-2016-nfl-draft-fits-oakland-raiders
Body:

It isn't often that an team that finishes 7-9 and doesn't make the playoffs is the talk of the offseason, but the Oakland Raiders have been in the news a lot lately. Oakland has been one of the most active teams in free agency, having already signed linebacker Bruce Irvin, guard Kelechi Osemele, safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback Sean Smith, just to name a few.

 

While the Raiders have done a lot to address the needs of their team, there are still positions that the team will look to upgrade during the 2016 NFL Draft. Oakland will select No. 14 overall in this year's draft and here are five potential players that would fit perfectly for their team.

 

1. Vernon Hargreaves III, cornerback, Florida

Yes, the Raiders signed Smith line up on the opposite side of David Amerson, but the team could use another corner to man the slot. Hargreaves would be an excellent fit for the Raiders if he happens to slide to No. 14, especially since former first-round pick D.J. Hayden is entering the final year of his rookie deal.

 

What Hargreaves lacks in size (5-10, 204) he makes up for with quickness and route recognition. He is also great in man-to-man coverage, as Hargreaves knows how to jam a receiver and change his route at the line of scrimmage.

 

If Hargreaves is there when the Raiders make their pick in the first round, the team has to jump at the opportunity to add this intriguing talent to their roster.

 

2. Mackensie Alexander, cornerback, Clemson

There's a good chance Hargreaves won't be there when the Raiders pick, so the team may have to go in a different direction at corner. While many experts have Oakland selecting Eli Apple from Ohio State, Alexander from Clemson would be a better pick.

 

Like Hargreaves, Alexander isn't tall (5-10), but possesses the quickness and technique required to become a great cornerback. Alexander also is great at anticipating opposing routes. Playing in the slot for Oakland would give him the opportunity to learn how to play in more zone coverages, something he didn't do a lot of at Clemson.

 

3. Kentrell Brothers, inside linebacker, Missouri

After seeing Curtis Lofton struggle at the inside linebacker position, the Raiders definitely could use an upgrade. While Reggie Ragland will likely be available at No.14, the Raiders could wait until the second round to select a linebacker. If they do wait until the second day of the draft, Kentrell Brothers from Missouri could be a possible target.

 

Brothers has good size and he is an excellent tackler in the open field. Last season for the Tigers, Brothers recorded 152 tackles, which led the nation. He also averaged 12.7 tackles per game, which also was No. 1 in the country.

 

While Brothers doesn't have great speed, his tackling ability would fit in well in the Raiders’ defensive scheme.

 

4. Alex Collins, running back, Arkansas

While Latavius Murray rushed for 1,066 yards and six touchdowns in 2015, the Raiders still finished 28th in the league in rushing (91.1 ypg) and 24th in rushing touchdowns (7).

 

There are some quality running backs in this year's draft, which include Collins. In 2015, Collins rushed for 1,577 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior for the Razorbacks.

 

Collins is a strong, north-south runner that won't avoid contact with defenders. He also has the patience to wait for a hole and then explode through it.

 

Collins appears to be a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield and a decent pass blocker as well. He does need to work on his ball security, as he had 16 career fumbles at Arkansas. Collins would be a great option for the Silver and Black in the third round.

 

5. Chris Jones, defensive tackle, Mississippi State

Oakland ranked 13th against the run last season, While that's not terrible, it could improve. Jones is a guy that would fit in well with the Raiders’ 3-4 scheme.

 

In 13 games for the Bulldogs in 2015, Jones recorded 44 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks. Because of the season he had, Jones was named a second-team All-American by Pro Football Focus.

 

Jones has a big (6-6. 310) body and a quick initial first step. He uses his active hands to attack offensive lineman to get through the line.

 

Jones is still raw in a number of areas, but he can give the Raiders solid snaps in run-stopping situations immediately. He would be a quality pick in the third round for Oakland. 

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Five Perfect 2016 NFL Draft Fits for the Oakland Raiders
Post date: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ncaa-closes-imaginary-set-flood-gates-camp-ban-while-opening-real-one
Body:

The NCAA: Protector of Student-Athletes Everywhere. At least that’s the tagline they want you to swallow hook, line and sinker while passing a ban on college football satellite camps.

 

For those of you just tuning in, Big Ten schools such as Michigan and Nebraska were setting up shop in SEC and ACC country. This didn’t sit well with either conference and it didn’t help that Jim Harbaugh used every streamer and firework to make sure the Maize and Blue’s camps were an opportunity athletes couldn’t afford to pass up.

 

The Pac-12, Big 12, Sun Belt and Mountain West conferences added their votes to the aforementioned duo, hammering the final nail in the coffin by a 10-5 vote.

 

ESPN’s that the NCAA’s support of the ban was because of “the colleges’ inability to control their coaches on the recruiting trails. Basically, it would turn summer recruiting into the wild, wild West by allowing all of these staffs to basically go all over the country, specifically into the south to set up these camps.”

 

Let’s face it, when the SEC shakes its head in disapproval, the people at the head of the table take notice and when it can get a Power Five conference like the ACC to back it up, two heavyweights can’t be ignored.

 

Alabama’s Nick Saban is against the camps, suggesting that they could start springing up all over in densely populated areas. "It sounds like a pretty ridiculous circumstance for me for something that nobody can really determine [if] it have any value anyway,” he told AL.com

 

Unfortunately for Saban, the merit of satellite camps has already been determined.

 

Nebraska signed a young man out of Miami by the name of DiCaprio Bootle. He’ll be joining a plethora of new secondary members this fall and the only reason he’s a member of the Huskers’ roster is because he attended one of the Big Red’s satellite camps.

 

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops also expressed disappointment with the decision because without the camps, junior offensive guard Jonathan Alvarez out of Mesquite, Texas, who made 10 starts last season would’ve never been discovered. Interestingly, the Sooners’ own Big 12 conference gave a thumb down to the satellite camps.

 

Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm put what the camps offered best when he said, “We always enjoyed the reach that our satellite camps provided us across the region. They allowed more players to interact not only with our coaches and staff, but to interact with coaches from other programs in our area.”

 

Of course, the NCAA couldn’t help but show amazing hypocrisy by deregulating text messages in the same meeting. This means any head coach, assistant coach, graduate assistant or intern can bother a recruit literally 24 hours per day.

 

Yes, you read that correctly. Heaven forbid the Bootles and Alvarezes of the world be discovered when they otherwise wouldn’t, but let already-knowns be bombarded with texts to the point where every recruit will carry a burner phone.

 

Supposedly this is all going to help coaches not have to work so hard, too. Here’s the cold, hard truth: If a coach wants to win big at the FBS level, they are going to have to work harder than the next man. The NCAA isn’t doing a service to anyone because the next man is already working 18 hours and slamming Red Bulls like he gets paid by the can.

 

With Twitter, recruits have a firewall. They can choose to talk to whomever they like whether it’s a fan or a coach, but now their cell phone number can be blitzed at 3 a.m., the caller faces no repercussions and the prospect just has to deal with it.

 

How does this benefit the actual student-athletes at all? It doesn’t.

 

This was at best a bumbling effort by the NCAA to look like it was leveling the playing field and at worst blatant kowtowing to the SEC and ACC.

 

At this point one step forward, two steps back would be a refreshing change. This time, the NCAA drunkenly stumbled backwards into a dumpster.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Golf, Overtime
Path: /overtime/espn-mark-schlereth-cam-newton-jordan-spieth-collapse-masters-2016-press-conference-super-bowl
Body:

Jordan Spieth had a pretty bad collapse during the 2016 Masters and everyone noticed, but it was what happened after the loss that some people seemed to want to talk about.

 

ESPN's Mark Schlereth wasn't going to let a chance go by without bringing up Cam Newton and the infamous Super Bowl press conference... from February. Yes, it was a while ago but evidently it's all Schlereth thinks about. 

 

 

 

Schlereth then went on a mini-rant to defend himself, which is never a good idea because he's been accused of not liking Newton in the past.

 

 

 

No one can deny Schlereth was a good player in his day, but the arrogance of saying "he should respect men like me" is the kind of thing that makes people not like him. Well, that and the "know-it-all" attitude he displays on ESPN daily. 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 09:46
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football
Path: /college-football/5-thoughts-clemson-spring-game-2016
Body:

More than 50,000 showed up at Memorial Stadium on Saturday to watch the Orange take on the White in the annual Spring Game. With expectations running sky high coming off of last year’s ACC title and coming up short against Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, those in attendance got a look at what head coach Dabo Swinney will have at his disposal in 2016.


Related:

 

Most of the signs were positive coming out of Saturday’s tilt. Here are five thoughts on Clemson five months out from the Sept. 3 season opener against Auburn.

 

1. Deshaun Watson Looked Good...

And so did backup Nick Schuessler. Everyone knows what Watson can do, so seeing how the reserves performed was more important. Schuessler went 14-of-21 for 133 yards and a touchdown while looking more comfortable than Kelly Bryant, his closest challenger for the No. 2 spot. While Schuessler will never be confused with Watson or Bryant running the ball, he did show some ability in the zone read game. But it was his accuracy and timing in the passing game that set him apart from Bryant.

 

2. Receivers Not Named Artavis Scott Making Plays

First off, Scott did make things happen. But like Watson, Scott's a given. What was more encouraging were the plays made downfield by his position mates. Hunter Renfrow had a great day with five receptions for 85 yards and the game’s first touchdown. Trevion Thompson’s six catches led both teams. And Ray-Ray McCloud, after averaging just 8.7 yards per catch last season, showed his big-play ability by getting deep and hauling in a 61-yard touchdown pass from Watson.

 

3. Kendall Joseph

The Clemson defense loses several major contributors and while middle linebacker B.J. Goodson’s departure may fly under the radar nationally, the people wearing orange know how vital he was to the unit’s 2015 success. Joseph is next in line at the Mike position and if Saturday is any indication, he is ready to go. Joseph finished with seven tackles and he not only made plays; he made impactful plays.

 

4. Cordrea Tankersley Assuming the Top Corner Position

Clemson needs young players to become disruptive members of the secondary. But this team also needs Tankersley to embrace the role as the leader of the defensive backfield and become a shutdown corner. Tankersley had a very good 2015 season, but he also had Mackensie Alexander covering the other side of the field. This year it will be on the senior from Beach Island, S.C., to match up with the opposition’s top target. On Saturday, he showed why the Clemson coaching staff is optimistic that he can do the job. From getting physical on a swing pass early in the game to blanketing Scott on another, Tankersley lived up to expectations.

 

5. Special Teams Adventures

The third phase of the game was not one of Clemson’s strong suits last fall and Saturday was full of special teams inconsistencies. Greg Huegel made a 31-yard field goal, Alex Spence made one from 21 yards away, and Scott had a couple nice returns. But the opening kickoff flew out of bounds, McCloud had a punt miscue that led to him getting tackled inside the five-yard line, and Spence missed an extra point and a short field goal. The Sept. 3 season opener is a ways away, but Clemson needs to clean up this aspect of its game.     

 

— 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 .

Teaser:
5 Thoughts on the Clemson Spring Game
Post date: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 09:30

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