Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers
Path: /2015-lsu-tigers-football-schedule
Body:

The 2015 LSU football schedule kicks off in Baton Rouge, where the Tigers take on the McNeese State Cowboys. Viewers can watch the game at 6:30 p.m. CT on SECN Alt.  Here's a look at the team's entire season schedule.

 

DateOpponentLocationTime/Channel
9/5/15McNeese State Cowboys

Tiger Stadium

Baton Rouge, LA

6:30 p.m. CT

SECN Alt.

9/12/15Mississippi State Bulldogs

Davis Wade Stadium

Starkville, MS

8:15 p.m. CT

ESPN

9/19/15Auburn Tigers

Tiger Stadium

Baton Rouge, LA

2:30 p.m. CT

CBS

9/26/15Syracuse Orange

Carrier Dome

Syracuse, NY

TBA
10/3/15Eastern Michigan Eagles

Tiger Stadium

Baton Rouge, LA

TBA
10/10/15South Carolina Gamecocks

Williams-Brice Stadium

Columbia, SC

TBA
10/17/15Florida Gators

Tiger Stadium

Baton Rouge, LA

TBA
10/24/15Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Tiger Stadium

Baton Rouge, LA

TBA
10/31/15Open Date----
11/7/15Alabama Crimson Tide

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuscaloosa, AL

TBA
11/14/15Arkansas Razorbacks

Tiger Stadium

Baton Rouge, LA

TBA
11/21/15Ole Miss Rebels

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

Oxford, MS

TBA
11/28/15Texas A&M Aggies

Tiger Stadium

Baton Rouge, LA

TBA
Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC
Path: /2015-auburn-tigers-football-schedule
Body:

The 2015 Auburn football schedule kicks off in Atlanta, where the Tigers take on the Louisville Cardinals. Viewers can watch the game at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS. Here's a look at the team's entire season schedule.

 

 

DateOpponentLocationTime/Channel
9/5/15Louisville Cardinals

Georgia Dome

Atlanta, GA

2:30 p.m. CT

CBS

9/12/15Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Jordan-Hare Stadium

Auburn, AL

11:00 a.m. CT

SECN

9/19/15LSU Tigers

Tiger Stadium

Baton Rouge, LA

2:30 p.m. CT

CBS

9/26/15Mississippi State Bulldogs

Jordan-Hare Stadium

Auburn, AL

TBA
10/3/15San Jose State Spartans

Jordan-Hare Stadium

Auburn, AL

TBA
10/10/15Open Date----
10/15/15Kentucky Wildcats

Commonwealth Stadium

Lexington, KY

6:00 p.m. CT

ESPN

10/24/15Arkansas Razorbacks

D.W.R. Razorback Stadium

Fayetteville, AR

TBA
10/31/15Ole Miss Rebels

Jordan-Hare Stadium

Auburn, AL

TBA
11/7/15Texas A&M Aggies

Kyle Field

College Station, TX

TBA
11/14/15Georgia Bulldogs

Jordan-Hare Stadium

Auburn, AL

TBA
11/21/15Idaho Vandals

Jordan-Hare Stadium

Auburn, AL

TBA
11/28/15Alabama Crimson Tide

Jordan-Hare Stadium

Auburn, AL

TBA
Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /2015-notre-dame-fighting-irish-football-schedule
Body:

The 2015 Notre Dame football schedule kicks off in South Bend, where the Fighting Irish take on the Texas Longhorns. Viewers can watch the game at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Here's a look at the team's entire season schedule.

 

DateOpponentLocationTime/Channel
9/5/15Texas Longhorns

Notre Dame Stadium

South Bend, IN

7:30 p.m. ET

NBC

9/12/15Virginia Cavaliers

Scott Stadium

Charlottesville, VA

3:30 p.m. ET

ABC

9/19/15Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Notre Dame Stadium

South Bend, IN

3:30 p.m. ET

NBC

9/26/15UMass Minutemen

Notre Dame Stadium

South Bend, IN

3:30 p.m. ET

NBC

10/3/15Clemson Tigers

Memorial Stadium

Clemson, SC

TBA
10/10/15Navy Midshipmen

Notre Dame Stadium

South Bend, IN

3:30 p.m. ET

NBC

10/17/15USC Trojans

Notre Dame Stadium

South Bend, IN

7:30 p.m. ET

NBC

10/24/15--Open Date--
10/31/15Temple Owls

Lincoln Financial Field

Philadelphia, PA

TBA
11/7/15Pittsburgh Panthers

Heinz Field

Pittsburgh, PA

TBA
11/14/15Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Notre Dame Stadium

South Bend, IN

3:30 p.m. ET

NBC

11/21/15Boston College Eagles

Fenway Park

Boston, MA

7:30 p.m. ET

NBC

11/28/15Standford Cardinal

Stanford Stadium

Stanford, CA

TBA
Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, College Football
Path: /alabama-crimson-tide-2015-football-schedule
Body:

The 2015 Alabama football schedule kicks off in Arlington, where the Crimson Tide take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Viewers can watch the game at 7:00 p.m. CT on ABC. Here's a look at the team's entire season schedule.

 

DateOpponentLocationTime/Channel
9/5/15Wisconsin Badgers

AT&T Stadium

Arlington, TX

7:00 p.m.CT

ABC

9/12/15Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuscaloosa, AL

3:00 p.m. CT

SECN

9/19/15Ole Miss Rebels

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuscaloosa, AL

8:15 p.m. CT

ESPN

9/26/15ULM Warhawks

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuscaloosa, AL

TBA
10/3/15Georgia Bulldogs

Sanford Stadium

Athens, GA

TBA
10/10/15Arkansas Razorbacks

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuscaloosa, AL

TBA
10/15/15Texas A&M Aggies

Kyle Field

College Station, TX

TBA
10/24/15Tennessee Volunteers

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuscaloosa, AL

TBA
10/31/15Open Date------
11/7/15LSU Tigers

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuscaloosa, AL

TBA
11/14/15Mississippi State Bulldogs

Davis Wade Stadium

Starkville, MS

TBA
11/21/15Charleston Southern Buccaneers

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuscaloosa, AL

TBA
11/28/15Auburn Tigers

Jordan-Hare Stadium

Auburn, AL

TBA
12/5/15SEC Championship Game

Georgia Dome

Atlanta, GA

TBA
Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/bovada-releases-updated-heisman-odds-july
Body:

The 2015 college football season is just over 50 days away, and media days are just around the corner. And once August hits, teams will report to camp and start the official preparations for the upcoming season.

 

Bovada released Heisman odds earlier this offseason, but the sportsbook has updated its list on Wednesday.

 

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is now the favorite by Bovada, with Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott a close second.

 

Here’s the full list of odds:

 

Player/Position/TeamOdds
Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU6/1
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State7/1
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State10/1
Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn10/1
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia10/1
Cody Kessler, QB, USC12/1
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State12/1
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU14/1
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama16/1
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson16/1
Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State20/1
Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA20/1
Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma20/1
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State25/1
Everett Golson, QB, Florida State251
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State25/1
Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon33/1
Seth Russell, QB, Baylor33/1
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami40/1
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin40/1
D.J. Foster, WR, Arizona State40/1
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State40/1
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh40/1
Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech40/1
Jared Goff, QB, California50/1
Malik Zaire, QB, Notre Dame50/1
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State50/1
Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona50/1
Taysom Hill, QB, BYU50/1
Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State100/1
Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee100/1
Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina100/1
Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona100/1
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh100/1

 

Teaser:
Bovada Releases Updated Heisman Odds for July
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 16:56
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/nascar-balancing-risk-reason-after-austin-dillons-terrifying-wreck-daytona
Body:

Racing is a risky sport. No matter the size of the SAFER Barrier, the helmet on your head or the strength of the roll cage, safety can only go so far when you’re hitting speeds of 200 miles an hour down the straightaway. It’s been 14 years since NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt tragedy, the death of “The Intimidator,” but dark moments keep intimidating other racing series, worst nightmares too often becoming reality. Just ask Tony Stewart, whose car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. on-track following a sprint car incident last year. Take a look at off-road racing, where Robby Gordon struck and injured a fan last month. Or sneak a peek at IndyCar, which experienced its own tragedy with the death of star Dan Wheldon during its 2011 Las Vegas event and left the open-wheel circuit, one built around the Indy 500, wondering if it should keep on racing oval tracks — period.

 

Now racers at NASCAR’s top levels are well compensated, like most athletes. They understand the risks associated with what they do. But after yet another ugly Daytona wreck, this one in the wee hours of Monday morning, the near-death experience it created for driver Austin Dillon grew the risks too large for their paycheck. Suddenly, for daredevils whose success is based on confidence in their demeanor, staring five fan injuries in the face became marked with the type of emotion that can kill American motorsports.

 

Fear.

 

“That scared the hell out of me,” said Coke Zero 400 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. His crew, the first to reach Dillon’s wounded No. 3 car, was so shaken up they could care less about the victory.

 

“It was a frightening moment,” added runner-up Jimmie Johnson, who initially wondered if Dillon even survived.

 

“[NASCAR] got what they wanted,” eighth-place runner Ryan Newman told USA Today in a fit of frustration. “Cars getting airborne, unsafe drivers, same old stuff. They just don’t listen.”

 

The trauma expressed by these drivers, both in their faces and words tells you the NASCAR Driver’s Council could be convening for an emergency meeting this week. Will this wreck be the one that has them refusing to race at Daytona and Talladega, the only tracks who use the dreaded restrictor plates without major changes? In NASCAR’s defense, the safety equipment worked exactly like it should, keeping Dillon from serious injury while the catchfence ensured a 3,500-lb stock car wasn’t launched into the stands like a weapon. At the same time, CEO Brian France reiterated Monday there’s only so much the sport can do to minimize the danger.

 

“It’s a moving target,” he said on SIRIUS XM Radio. “It’s never simple. An accident like last night, boy, it takes your breath away and it should. But that’s auto racing. We’re working on solutions all the time to make racing safer and better.”

 

To a point, that’s a legitimate statement. The sport’s Research and Development Center will be hard at work on more safety changes, improvements NASCAR hopes to make for this fall’s Chase race at Talladega (the next one with plates). But after 27 years of using restrictor plates, initially a “temporary” solution for high speeds, the drivers are sounding like they’ve had enough. Jeff Gordon called the racing at Daytona a “video game,” only with actual human beings inside the cars risking their lives. Kurt Busch was so exasperated he was willing to take the plates off, running Daytona at a just-as-dangerous 230 miles an hour.

 

That’s the problem, really; since these plates came into effect, keeping speeds down at NASCAR’s fastest tracks there has been no better solution offered. What you get is drivers unable to escape, trapped together in some type of accordion circus where they’re running three-, four-, even five-wide at times. Unable to put some distance between themselves, it guarantees nearly every mistake will cause a multi-car “Big One” for the ages. Fans love the drama, or at least they did before the number of death-defying wrecks and overall destruction left them guilty, not giddy over this style of racing.

 

The drivers, who like to at least control their risk, feel helpless, like animals in a cage for entertainment. Who wants to spend their day at work being tortured? Where death could be around every corner? No wonder why the drivers are so upset. Back in 1987, the wreck that brought on plates in the first place tore down the catchfence at Talladega. We’ve seen that fence go down multiple times since then, a strong suggestion plates aren’t the solution but they all keep trotting on out there like a pack of sheep.

 

“I’m glad I only have one plate race left,” said Gordon Sunday night. “It just created chaos.”

 

For many others, such uncontrolled chaos has made one more plate race in this sport one too many. NASCAR has gotten plenty of publicity this week, Dillon appearing on NBC’s “Today Show” and trumpeting the excitement combined with their safety initiatives that kept him safe at Daytona. I just hope they realize how fine a line they’re walking; that conversation was far too close to not even happening after that early Monday morning disaster heading to the checkered flag.

 

Here’s what else to take away from Daytona as we cycle Through The Gears…

 

FIRST GEAR: Dillon OK To Race, Breathing A Sigh Of Relief

 

Dillon, who appeared on a NASCAR teleconference Tuesday talking about his wreck, maintained he’s none the worse for wear. Claiming “he’s been hurt worse in football,” a slightly bruised tailbone and a sore groin are the only remnants from a crash that left his No. 3 car in pieces from the start/finish line all the way through to the entrance of turn 1.

 

Related: Horrifying Austin Dillon Crash at Daytona (Video)

 

And how did Dillon’s family, including owner/grandfather Richard Childress react in the aftermath?

 

“The worst part for family members is you want to let them know you're OK after a wreck through the radio because they're listening, and the radio cord had ripped or something had ripped to make it — I could hear them but they couldn't hear me, so it was one of those deals where I knew they were upset and I felt bad because I couldn't get to them,” Dillon said. “I could hear in their voice, how scared they were, and they were saying, ‘Talk to me, Buddy, talk to me,’ and I couldn't respond to them, so that was just painful.”

 

Brother Ty, not at the racetrack, also gave Austin a dose of reality when they spoke by phone. The full-time XFINITY Series driver, known for being a “tough guy” was clearly shaken to the point Austin went to watch YouTube and see just how badly the wreck looked to the outside observer.

 

“You can see where a guy watching it from home not knowing how I was and the pit crew kind of running out to the car,” he said, “It was pretty dramatic right there for 30 seconds, 38 seconds or so.”

 

So what happens now? Dillon joined a chorus of drivers, including Kevin Harvick, who started the wreck up ahead by hitting Denny Hamlin in the left-rear, in that there need to be changes slowing the cars down in order to keep them from getting in the air. However, the most important point of all is Dillon, Hamlin, Harvick and 40 others will be racing at Kentucky with no one seriously hurt. None of the five fan injuries were serious (all have been treated and released) so NASCAR will now try and move on from one of the most horrific wrecks in their history.

 

SECOND GEAR: Hendrick, Earnhardt In A League Of Their Own On Plate Tracks

 

The wreck overshadowed a dominant Daytona performance, again by Hendrick Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt, who won his second straight plate race ,has now led 195 of his 204 laps this season at Daytona and Talladega. He led a HMS parade that was often 1-2-3-4 during the race as they somehow seemed to squeeze extra horsepower under a rules package that’s supposed to make it impossible.

 

Perhaps there’s a method to their madness, though. Talladega last fall saw both Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson lose a bid at advancing in the Chase by being in the wrong position late. Well, it’s hard to put yourself in a bad spot when you have 5-10 more horsepower than the rest of the field, right? You can stay up front, become difficult to pass and settle a playoff-advancing race amongst yourselves. Perhaps the only downside for HMS Monday morning is their two “vulnerable” Chase drivers, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, remained winless on the season. Gordon especially has struggled for speed at other tracks and would have liked a Chase-clinching victory with his farewell tour ramping up.

 

THIRD GEAR: Surprise Winners Wind Up Sitting In Garage

 

Daytona was supposed to be the race where an upset winner emerged from the pack. Last July, it was Aric Almirola of Richard Petty Motorsports and several others positioned themselves as early candidates this time. The problem? All wound up either inside the garage or shuffled back in the closing laps.

 

Almirola, involved in a mid-race wreck was never a factor (more on that in a moment). Landon Cassill, impressive with his single-car No. 40 effort got shuffled back to 13th by the checkered flag. Justin Allgaier suffered a similar fate, muscled out of line by Kurt Busch during the green-white-checkered finish (he wound up 18th). Casey Mears? He had electrical problems and struggled to simply stay on the lead lap at times during the event. The list goes on and on… Hendrick’s power combined with that poor luck left only 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne as the only surprise contender down the stretch. Bayne wound up ninth, his second top 10 in three races, but unfortunately had no other Fords to help him draft in the final few laps, leaving his No. 6 falling backwards at the checkers.

 

FOURTH GEAR: Kyle Busch Dodges Bullet While Painting Clear Picture In Chase

 

Almirola’s wreck, leaving the No. 43 car 34th in the final rundown helps up paint a clear picture inside the Chase. Suddenly, he’s on the outside looking in, Clint Bowyer of Michael Waltrip Racing pulling 24 markers ahead for the final playoff position on points. With Almirola not known for running up front outside of a few select events – he’s yet to lead a single lap this season – his bid for the postseason may be done.

 

Bowyer, then may be looking over his shoulder at whether Kyle Busch can muscle inside the top 30 in points and, in essence steal a spot. Busch, who has the Cup victory needed to qualify, hit the wall early at Daytona but battled back, using two of NASCAR’s “free passes” to earn laps back. Running 17th at the checkers, he moved within 128 points of Cole Whitt for 30th place and can take huge chunks out of that deficit in the tracks ahead. Kentucky, New Hampshire and Indianapolis leave teams like Whitt’s struggling to just run 30th so a few top 10s and Busch will be in position to capitalize.

 

OVERDRIVE

 

For Austin Dillon, it was a tale of two Daytonas. He won the XFINITY Series race the night before as the sophomore was continuing to build confidence in NASCAR’s minor leagues. Boy, what a difference 24 hours makes… NBC was widely praised for their coverage, the first live NASCAR telecast they’ve done since 2006. The problem? The race itself didn’t start until 11:42 p.m., suffering through a rain delay of nearly four hours. Wonder what TV executives thought of their $440 million-a-year package consisting of Sunday primetime rain-delay fill? Their first rating was a disappointing 2.6 in the Nielsens… Danica Patrick, in perhaps her last chance to make the Chase, was never up to speed. Involved in several wrecks, she broke a suspension, crashed out and now sits 79 points behind Clint Bowyer with nine races remaining. 

 

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
NASCAR: Balancing Risk With Reason After Austin Dillon's Terrifying Wreck at Daytona
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 15:15
All taxonomy terms: National League, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/did-fans-get-nl-all-stars-right
Body:

With the unveiling of the MLB All-Star Game starters for the July 14 Midsummer Classic at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, the fan vote always provides a little controversy. Take a look below at the National League starters and why they were or were not the best choice for the spot:

 

Related: Did the Fans Get the AL All-Stars Right?

 

Note: Statistics as of July 6

 

C: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (Got it right)

There’s little doubt that Posey is the best all-around catcher in baseball, and the Giants providing him some playing time at first base has only helped. Among all qualifying NL catchers, he ranks first in home runs, RBIs, average and OPS. He’s a solid defender, who also helps manage games for his pitchers well.

 

1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (Got it right)

There was really no challenge to Goldschmidt’s starting selection at first base, as he’s been arguably one of the league’s most complete players. At the plate, he's merely batting .348 with 20 home runs, 67 RBIs, and an astonishing OPS of 1.087, putting him well ahead of his peers. The Diamondbacks’ star, in essence, does it all.

 

2B: Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins (Got it right)

Every team needs a good leadoff hitter who can get on base and advance, and Gordon will bring this ability to the NL team. He leads his fellow second-sackers in both average (.339) and stolen bases (29), making him the NL team's best option to get things started. When he gets on base (which is often), he always a threat to advance.

 

SS: Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals (Got it wrong)

By no means is Peralta not worthy to start, but Brandon Crawford arguably seems to edge him out. While Peralta may pass the eye test because of his higher batting average, Crawford deserves the nod a bit more, highlighted by a WAR of 4.0, compared to Peralta’s 2.6. In addition, Crawford also has hit one more home run, scored three more runs, and driven in seven more than Peralta. Crawford's also considered a better defender by a reasonable margin.

 

3B: Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds (Got it right)

Sure Nolan Arenado could be argued for the spot, but playing in front of his home crowd in Cincinnati should be enough of a tiebreaker if any is needed for Frazier. The hometown hero, Frazier, leads all third basemen with 25 home runs and a .937 OPS. There’s enough of a gap between both players where Frazier fits the starting spot comfortably, but Arenado is putting together his own impressive season, leading the majors with 68 RBIs.

 

OF: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (Got it right)

If you have watched any amount of baseball this season, you don’t really need an explanation of why Harper is a starter. His ridiculous 1.185 OPS, 6.1 WAR, and 25 home runs make him the most obvious All-Star this year. At times, it seems like it is impossible to get him out. It actually may be.

 

OF: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (Got it right)

Sadly Stanton won’t be able to play because of a broken hand, but he has been the majors' most powerful hitter with an MLB-best 27 home runs and 67 RBIs. If he had been available, the combination of Harper and Stanton would have made a lethal power-hitting duo. Regardless, Stanton is one of the best young players in the game, and it already seems like he’s been gone for so long.



 

OF: Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals (Got it wrong)

While the injured Stanton really deserved his spot, Holliday has been out since June 8 and hadn’t done enough to make him worthy of a starting role. He had been hitting a solid .303 with .417 OBP, but he didn’t add much beyond that. A.J. Pollock, Joc Pederson, and Andrew McCutchen, each of whom was named as a reserve, all seem to be more viable options with more power and speed. 

Teaser:
Did the Fans Get the NL All-Stars Right?
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: American League, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/did-fans-get-al-all-stars-right
Body:

With the unveiling of the MLB All-Star Game starters for the July 14 Midsummer Classic at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, the fan vote always provides a little controversy. Take a look below at the American League starters and why they were or were not the best choice for the spot:

 

Related: Did the Fans Get the NL All-Stars Right?

 

Note: Statistics as of July 6

C: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (Got it wrong)

Perez certainly benefits from his success over the past few seasons and the Royals’ fanbase. He most benefits his own team with his defense, but he certainly provides some pop with the bat. However, Stephen Vogt has been a significantly better hitter and certainly more patient, drawing 40 walks compared to Perez's five free passes. In addition, Vogt's defense is nearly comparable and he has been a better pitch-framer. Yet, Perez still seems to be a very respectable starter and this will mark his second year in a row as the All-Star Game starter behind the plate.

 

1B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (Got it right)

There is no doubt that Cabrera deserves the starting nod, although he will be unable to participate due to a calf injury. The Tigers’ first baseman leads the AL in batting average (.350), while continuing to maintain power and patience at the plate. He remains one of the game's best players, as shown by his 10th All-Star Game selection.

 

2B: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Got it wrong)

Although Altuve is surely an All-Star-caliber player, Jason Kipnis of the Indians is just simply outperforming all other AL second basemen. While Altuve is batting .303, Kipnis is batting nearly 40 points higher with an MLB-leading 27 doubles. As Altuve dominated last year, Kipnis has been much better than previous seasons. Maybe it’s his track record (and playing in Cleveland) that cost him a starting spot.

 

SS: Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals (Got it wrong)

The Royals' fans got him into the All-Star Game, as there are several better options, namely Xander Bogaerts. He hasn’t done much to deserve this spot with only a .276 average, fourth among qualified AL shortstops. Meanwhile, Bogaerts is batting .302 with 18 doubles, 37 RBIs, and a .414 slugging percentage, pacing his peers in several categories. Escobar isn’t even a defensive upgrade over Bogaerts, who may even be a better defender.

 

3B: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays (Got it right)
The Blue Jays lead the MLB in runs scored by a lot, and that is much in part to Donaldson. As a result of his success, he not only led both leagues in votes received, he set a new record with more than 14 million. He leads AL third basemen in home runs (20) and is tied for the lead in doubles (20), while hitting .300. However, there should certainly be a debate between Donaldson and Manny Machado for who’s more worthy. They are certainly neck-and-neck in both hitting and fielding, so either player would make an excellent starter for the team. It’s much more of a snub that Donaldson got almost 12 million more votes than Machado though.



 

OF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (Got it right)

Trout is simply just one of the best pure players in the MLB, and he’s one of the easiest choices for this year's All-Star team. He excels in power, speed, and fielding, which contribute to making him one of the league’s most complete players. His .968 OPS is 50 points higher than any other AL outfielder, displaying his ability to get on base and get big hits.

 

OF: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (Got it wrong)
This one was probably the farthest off, as he solely benefitted because he is a member of the fan-favorite Royals. The outfield has the most options because it isn’t position-specific, and Gordon isn’t near worthy of the coveted spot. While he has a knack for getting on base, he has a low batting average coupled with decent power. There are plenty more worthy players, including J.D. Martinez and Brett Gardner. Either would fit well, where Martinez would provide very good power and Gardner would provide both pop and speed and be able to lead off.

 

OF: Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals (Got it right)

Of all the Royals players, Cain deserves it the most. The same arguments for Martinez and Gardner could be made over Cain, but his fielding separate him from the rest of the field. He hits for contact very well with great speed, leading AL outfielders in average and placing second in stolen bases. The Royals' fans help get this one right, and the AL will field an impressive outfield defense with Cain, Trout and Gordon chasing down fly balls.



 

DH: Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners (Got it right)

Even though he splits time in the outfield and at DH, Cruz very much earned his spot, beating Kendrys Morales by just over 300,000 votes. Cruz's .300 batting average, .907 OPS, and 21 home runs provide plenty of evidence for his power. The AL will certainly need his power, as Miguel Cabrera will not be available to play.

Teaser:
Did the Fans Get the AL All-Stars Right?
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: News, Olympics
Path: /olympics/micronesia-outscored-114-0-three-soccer-games
Body:

For the small nation of Micronesia, the new experiences of their soccer team seems to be just a bit more important than the games they played. Over the past few days, they have played three soccer matches for Olympic qualifying against Tahiti, Fiji, and Vanuatu. However, in the three games they played, they were outscored 114-0. Yes, you read that right. And yes, they play the same type of soccer as everybody else. In today’s earlier game, they were destroyed 46-0 by Vanuatu, another island nation.

 

The coach told reporters after the game that many of his team’s players had never traveled before, and they were just in the very early stages of soccer. It’s hard to fault such an inexperienced team for losing, but they lost at a historic rate. 

See some highlights below if you can bear to watch:

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 13:34
Path: /mlb/st-louis-cardinals-rookies-fetch-team-coffee
Body:

When you’re a rookie in the MLB, there are unwritten rules that you must follow as part of a rites of passage. For the St. Louis Cardinals rookies, that means getting some coffee for the rest of your team. Several rookie relievers were overseen in their uniforms at a Starbucks across the street from Wrigley Field, where they are facing the Chicago Cubs.

 

The Cardinals players will certainly need some coffee, after a rain-lengthened game last night and a doubleheader today. The players seemed to have fun with it though, snapping a selfie with smiles and thumbs up. Maybe they were allowed to get some themselves. 

See the rookies getting the coffee:
 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-state%E2%80%99s-loss-georgia%E2%80%99s-gain-class-2015-ol-mirko-jurkovic
Body:

Ohio State’s 2015 recruiting class lost one signee on Monday when Mirko Jurkovic announced he will enroll at the University of Georgia over an academic issue.

 

The Columbus Dispatch reported admission requirements were at the center of the change in schools. UGASports.com reported something different creating a he said, she said situation certainly to be used on the recruiting trail for years to come.

 

The other side of the story is Ohio State over signed its 2015 class, bringing in 27 recruits. If head coach Urban Meyer thought more kids would transfer, especially with the logjam under center, apparently not enough left the defending national championship team for playing time elsewhere, making Jurkovic the odd man out.

 

Jurkovic made the announcement official on Monday via Twitter:

 

 

Jurkovic was a 3-star recruit out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., when he committed to the Buckeyes in early December 2014. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound offensive lineman had ties to Big Ten country, originally hailing from South Bend, Ind., shocking some by heading to Ohio State.

 

The ties to the Big Ten went deeper when Jurkovic originally committed to Nebraska before de-committing on Nov. 30, just two days after officially visiting the Buckeyes, which led to his flipping to Ohio State.

 

When Jurkovic was initially going through the recruiting process many thought Notre Dame was the school to beat over the other 21 offers extended. Beyond growing up in South Bend, Jurkovic is the son of Fighting Irish All-American legacy Mirko Jurkovic Sr. The catch is Notre Dame never offered.

 

Of the 22 schools courting Jurkovic for the 2015 class, Georgia was not one of the programs either. Offers from Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wake Forest, Cincinnati, Maryland, South Florida, Mississippi State, and Missouri were extended, among others, but not Georgia or Notre Dame.

 

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

Teaser:
Ohio State’s Loss is Georgia’s Gain with Class of 2015 OL Mirko Jurkovic
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 12:50
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-lb-darron-lee-takes-few-jabs-michigan
Body:

The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry never stops - even in the offseason. With Jim Harbaugh coming to Ann Arbor, the annual battle between the Buckeyes and Wolverines is only going to increase in intensity and intrigue. Needless to say, the war or words between the two programs will never stop in the offseason.

 

Michigan announced on Monday its intention to switch apparel providers from Adidas to Nike in the 2016 season.

 

Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee took the opportunity to poke a few jabs in Michigan’s direction after the announcement:  

Teaser:
Ohio State LB Darron Lee Takes a Few Jabs at Michigan
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 12:28
Path: /college-football/pac-12s-10-most-underrated-players-2015
Body:

Every college football team has players most would consider underrated. However, defining underrated players is no easy assignment, as that term varies in meaning between fans and experts.

 

The Pac-12 should be an intriguing league once again in 2015. Oregon and USC top the list of favorites, but Arizona State, Stanford, Arizona and UCLA will be in the mix. And the depth of this conference extends to teams like Utah, California and Washington. Offense is usually the strength for the Pac-12, but this league has a good core of defensive talent in place for 2015.

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

With the 2015 season approaching, Athlon Sports wanted to take a look at some players deserving of more preseason accolades or discussion. In an effort to get to 10 names, we tried to stick to players that had yet to earn all-conference honors in their career. However, a few exceptions were made.

 

Pac-12's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015

 

Chidobe Awuzie, DB, Colorado

Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Colorado has never finished higher than 11th in scoring defense. Improving that side of the ball is a priority for new coordinator Jim Leavitt, and the Buffaloes return nine starters for 2015. Awuzie is slated to start in the nickel role for Leavitt, and the California native should thrive after recording 64 tackles in nine appearances last year. Awuzie also broke up eight passes in 2014. With Awuzie and cornerback Kenneth Crawley returning, Colorado’s secondary should take a step forward this season.

 

Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon

Starting as a true freshman in the trenches is no easy assignment. After all, most offensive linemen could use a full year in the weight room to develop to match the physical strength of opposing defensive ends or tackles. But Crosby was an underrated piece of Oregon’s offensive line last year. The Ducks were hit hard by injuries up front in 2014, yet this unit tied for fifth in the Pac-12 in fewest sacks allowed. Crosby finished last season with nine starts, including six consecutive to close out the year.

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

Joe Dahl, OT, Washington State

It’s no secret Washington State’s offensive line has to improve after allowing 68 sacks over the last two seasons. But improvement should be expected in 2015, as the Cougars return five starters, including an all-conference candidate in Dahl. The Montana transfer started all 13 games in 2013 and anchored the line with 12 starts at left tackle in 2014. Having solid protection on the blindside is critical in Washington State’s Air Raid attack, and all signs point to Dahl having a standout senior season.

 

Daniel Lasco, RB, California

The Pac-12 is loaded with talented running backs, as six players eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in 2014. While Utah’s Devontae Booker and UCLA’s Paul Perkins usually grab the spotlight, Lasco quietly rushed for 1,115 yards and 12 scores on 210 attempts in 2014. Additionally, Lasco caught 33 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns. California’s Bear Raid offense should have no trouble scoring points in 2015. While quarterback Jared Goff and the explosive passing attack generate most of the attention in Berkeley, Lasco should hit the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season.

 

Related: Pac-12 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Blake Martinez, LB, Stanford

Despite leading one of the nation’s stingiest defenses in tackles last year, Martinez only earned honorable mention all-conference honors in 2014. Expect the senior to be an even bigger focal point of the defense in 2015 though, as Stanford returns just four starters on this side of the ball. Not only did Martinez lead the defense in tackles, he also recorded seven for a loss, generated 4.5 sacks, picked off three passes and forced two fumbles in 2014.

 

Related: College Football's Top Transfers to Watch in 2015

 

Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA

UCLA’s offensive line had its share of ups and downs last season, as this unit gave up 40 sacks in 13 games. But there was noticeable improvement late in the year, as McDermott started the last seven games at left tackle. During McDermott’s stint anchoring the left side, UCLA went 6-1 and scored at least 30 points five times. In the 38-20 win over USC, the Bruins gave up only two sacks. With a true freshman taking over at quarterback (Josh Rosen), the offensive line has to step up in 2015.

 

Viliami Moeakiola, LB, Arizona State

Arizona State should have one of the Pac-12’s top linebacker groups in 2015, as Moeakiola, DJ Calhoun, Salamo Fiso, Antonio Longino and Christian Sam provide plenty of depth and talent for coordinator Keith Patterson. Moeakiola finished fourth on the team with 72 stops (10.5 for a loss), generated five sacks and one forced fumble last year. After earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors in 2014, expect Moeakiola to push for all-conference accolades in 2015.

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

Jared Norris, LB, Utah

Norris or fellow linebacker Gionni Paul deserves a mention in this space. Norris led the team in 2014 with 116 tackles and finished third on the team with 13 tackles for a loss. The California native also recorded four sacks and one pass breakup. Norris posted three consecutive double-digit tackle performances early in the year and finished with eight stops in the 45-10 blowout victory over Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

 

Will Parks, S, Arizona

Arizona’s defense has room to improve after allowing 451 yards per game last season, but there were a few bright spots for coordinator Jeff Casteel. Linebacker Scooby Wright is arguably the top defender in college football, and Parks had a breakout campaign in his first year as a full-time starter. Parks started all 14 games for the Wildcats and recorded 81 stops (13 for a loss), one sack, two interceptions and eight pass breakups. With some new faces stepping into the starting lineup around Parks, the senior should be the leader for Arizona’s secondary this season.

 

Related: Pac-12 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Kevon Seymour, CB, USC

With the emergence of star of sophomore Adoree’ Jackson, along with Seymour’s development, USC’s cornerback tandem could be among the nation’s best this season. Seymour started 11 games in 2014 and finished the year with 49 tackles, one interception and 13 pass breakups. The California native also started 11 games in 2013 and recorded 48 tackles and one interception. Seymour should push for All-Pac-12 honors this year. 

Teaser:
The Pac-12's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News, Magazines
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-2015-team-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Having watched the Jaguars win seven games during the first two years of the Dave Caldwell-Gus Bradley Era, owner Shad Khan wouldn’t have been faulted this offseason if he had publicly mandated a specific number of wins for 2015. A regime’s third season is usually prove-it-or-else time. But he has bypassed that request at every turn.

 

Still, Khan clearly expects more. More wins. More close games. More touchdowns. More takeaways. And he made his thoughts known when addressing fans in mid-February: “We owe (fans) better results on game day. I know that. Dave knows that. Gus knows that.”

 

Knowing that, Caldwell (the general manager) and Bradley (the coach) went to work. They shook up the coaching staff. They signed a slew of free agents, six of whom are expected to start. And they added an eight-player draft class that will feature at least two opening-day starters.

 

Buy the 2015 Athlon Sports NFL Preview Magazine

 

OFFENSE

The Jaguars reacted accordingly to a 3–13 season in which they didn’t score much (league-low 15.6 points per game), couldn’t run it (a misleading 21st), and didn’t protect the passer (league-high 71 sacks allowed).

 

In are offensive coordinator Greg Olson, offensive line coach Doug Marrone, tight end Julius Thomas, right tackle Jermey Parnell, center Stefen Wisniewski, running back T.J. Yeldon, slot receiver Rashad Greene and, potentially, left guard A.J. Cann. All of the changes are geared toward giving quarterback Blake Bortles every chance to be successful. In 14 games last year, Bortles showed an ability to extend plays (by sliding around the pocket) and equal parts athleticism/smarts by rushing for 419 yards without taking any major hits. The guy is a playmaker. The Jaguars need him to be a difference-maker.

 

The Jaguars hope that the newcomers, combined with the development of players such as  left tackle Luke Joeckel and the second-year receiving trio of Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns, can help Bortles produce an offensive revival. Joeckel has spent the offseason adding lower- and upper-body strength so he can more effectively smash opponents in the run game and hold up against them in the passing game. Houston has J.J. Watt, Tennessee has Brian Orakpo and Indianapolis has Trent Cole. Joeckel must be ready to face each of them twice within the AFC South.

 

Watch out for Robinson. He was on his way to 75 catches before being shut down after Game 10 with a foot injury. He’s not a blazer, but he knows how to find the first-down marker and the openings in zone coverage. The Jaguars prefer to keep Robinson, Lee and Hurns on the outside, which created a need to draft Greene, a prolifically productive player at Florida State (school-record 270 catches) who will play in the slot.

 

Success for the Jaguars’ offense will also center around three newcomers: Thomas, who had 24 touchdown catches the last two years for Denver and gives the Jaguars a red-zone component they’ve lacked for years; Parnell, who was a spot starter for Dallas but was given big money ($14.5 million guaranteed) to solidify a position that has been leaky for most of this decade; and Yeldon, the 36th overall pick who had two 1,000-yard rushing years at Alabama.

 

DEFENSE

The Jaguars were similarly flawed on defense last year, finishing 27th against the run and tied for last in interceptions (six). And the changes weren’t subtle. During the opening hours of free agency, defensive end Jared Odrick, outside linebacker Dan Skuta, cornerback Davon House and free safety Sergio Brown were signed to contracts worth a combined $32.1 million guaranteed. And then the Jaguars drafted pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr., free safety James Sample and defensive tackle Michael Bennett.

 

Fowler, though, tore his left ACL in the team’s first rookie minicamp practice and is out for the season. That leaves Odrick as the key newcomer up front. He will play the strong-side end spot, and the Jaguars hope he can be a better all-around producer than Red Bryant was last year. At the weak-side spot without projected starter Fowler, the rotation will include Chris Clemons, Andre Branch and Ryan Davis. Inside, Sen’Derrick Marks has developed into a productive, every-down tackle, but is rehabilitating from a late December ACL injury. Although ahead of schedule in late April, the guess is that the Jaguars will bring him along slowly so he can be ready for Week 1. But it’s likely he will see his playing time reduced while he works back into shape. The other starter, Roy Miller, is also coming off knee surgery but is expected to be full-go for camp.

 

The loss of Fowler could have a crippling effect on the Jaguars’ pass rush. Bradley and coordinator Bob Babich don’t call many blitzes (less than 20 percent in 2015), relying on a four-man rush to provide pressure. That may not be the best strategy this year.

 

Linebacker depth is a concern. The starters are set entering camp — Paul Posluszny in the middle, Skuta on the strong side and Telvin Smith on the weak side. But the Jaguars, who didn’t address the position in the draft, are in trouble if they have injury issues. Skuta and Smith are intriguing for different reasons. Skuta can rush the passer on third down, and Smith is simply around the football at all times. A key is Posluszny’s health. He missed the last half of 2014 with a torn chest muscle.

 

This is a huge season for strong safety Johnathan Cyprien, now in his third year in the league. “It’s time,” defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker says. Time for Cyprien to change games. Time for him to create turnovers. Time for him to be noticed. The Jaguars hope that settling on Brown or Sample at free safety will create more opportunities for Cyprien to play in the box. House was signed from Green Bay to bring experience to the cornerback spot, where he’ll lead Demetrius McCray, Aaron Colvin and Dwayne Gratz. Colvin could be the best of them. An ACL injury dropped him to the fourth round last year, but he played the final six games and showed flashes of being a playmaker in coverage.

 

SPECIALISTS

Kicker Josh Scobee, punter Bryan Anger and long snapper Carson Tinker will return for their 12th, fourth and third seasons, respectively, with the Jaguars. Scobee was 17-of-20 last year on field goals from under 50 yards, and Anger posted a net average of 39.6 yards. Where this unit will undergo some change is in the return game. Ace Sanders has had two years to give the punt return game a spark and hasn’t produced. The candidates to replace him are Tandon Doss (out last year with an ankle injury) and Greene, the rookie receiver. Running back Denard Robinson will get the first shot on kickoff returns.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

This entire season hinges on the Jaguars’ offense in general and the team’s early-season offense in particular. Can the players, chiefly Bortles, get up to speed with Olson’s offense? Can second-year receivers Robinson, Lee and Hurns take steps forward in their progress? Can Yeldon and Thomas emerge as much-needed playmakers? If all of that happens, a jump from three wins to maybe .500 could be in the offing.

 

Prediction: 3rd in AFC South

Teaser:
Jacksonville Jaguars 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News, Magazines
Path: /nfl/indianapolis-colts-2015-team-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay emerged from a demoralized locker room at Gillette Stadium after a 45–7 AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots and tried to offer reassurance.

 

“We’re close,” he said, despite evidence to the contrary. Heads shook in disbelief. Close to what?

 

It’s not just last January that sticks in the scarred psyches of this franchise and fans. It’s the previous January at Foxborough, Mass., as well, when the Colts were run over 43–22 by the Patriots in an AFC Divisional playoff rout.

 

The Colts have won 11 regular-season games in three consecutive years, and they’ve advanced one round farther in each of the past two postseasons. But they’ve been unable to survive the Patriots games. The defending Super Bowl champions visit Indianapolis again in 2015. If the Colts are going to take that next step, they must dethrone the champs, not just on Oct. 18 but in January.

 

Buy the 2015 Athlon Sports 2015 NFL Preview Magazine

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback Andrew Luck is coming off his best Pro Bowl season yet after leading the NFL with 40 touchdown passes. He’s got what is probably the best supporting cast in his four seasons with the additions of running back Frank Gore and wide receiver Andre Johnson and the first-round draft selection of wide receiver Phillip Dorsett to go with Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and the tight end tandem of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.

 

Luck spoke at the outset of offseason training activities about improving red-zone efficiency and cutting down on turnovers. He had 22 of the team’s 31 giveaways, almost double his number from the previous season. The Colts ranked 12th in touchdowns scored when driving inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. While 42-year-old kicker Adam Vinatieri is still a reliable three-point option, the NFL’s No. 6 scoring offense — at 28.6 points per game — could have put up more.

 

This next offense could be one of the league’s best, presuming Luck (100 sacks taken in three seasons) has time to spread the ball around to a receiving corps that improved despite 14-year star Reggie Wayne not being re-signed. Hilton and Dorsett are speed burners. Johnson, the Houston Texans’ all-time receiving leader, is determined to prove he has something left. The 33-year-old target provides size and experience. Gore, 32, is also motivated to show there’s still life left in his legs. Johnson and Gore came to Indianapolis because they thought the Colts gave them the best shot at an elusive Super Bowl ring. And they link that objective to Luck.

 

DEFENSE

Four losses to the Patriots during the three-year era of general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano have been by an average of 29 points. New England has scored 189 points, 47.3 per game, in those blowouts. So while the Colts own the AFC South Division and have progressed to near the top of the league in status, they have to figure out a way to stop or least reduce points scored by the Patriots.

 

Outside linebacker Trent Cole arrived via free agency from Philadelphia and should team with franchise all-time sack leader Robert Mathis to form one of the best league’s best pass-rush tandems. That is, if Mathis can get healthy. He missed all of last season due to a four-game suspension and Achilles tendon tear. The Colts’ 3-4 pass rush could still be formidable if Mathis needs time to find his stride. Outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome led the team with 6.5 sacks as a rookie, and outside linebacker Erik Walden had six.

 

But the problem in playoffs past started with run defense. The Patriots ran for 177 yards and three scores last time, after 234 yards and six rushing TDs the year before. Defensive end Kendall Langford comes over from St. Louis and should be a solid run stuffer. Defensive tackle Arthur Jones needs to stay healthy — he started just three of nine games due to an ankle injury. The Colts traded up in the fifth round to draft Stanford nose tackle David Parry, evidence that the team isn’t sold on Josh Chapman and/or Montori Hughes as the only run-plugging answer. Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson was drafted in the third round and was considered by many to be a steal, given his high-motor ability to get consistent backfield penetration in college.

 

Inside linebacker Nate Irving was signed away from Denver to provide a stronger run-stopping option inside. While D’Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman are tackling machines, Freeman is better suited for pass defense, blitzing and using his speed to run down ball carriers. The cornerback trio of Vontae Davis, Greg Toler and nickel back Darius Butler returns, but safety is a concern. Mike Adams, 34, made his first Pro Bowl last season. Dwight Lowery comes over from Atlanta, and hard-hitting Clayton Geathers was drafted in the fourth round. So the defense still has questions entering training camp.

 

SPECIALISTS

Vinatieri, punter/kickoff specialist/holder Pat McAfee and long snapper Matt Overton might be the league’s best triumvirate. Vinatieri made 30-of-31 field goals. He didn’t miss until the season finale. McAfee boomed an NFL-best 70 touchbacks (on kickoffs) and was third in net punting average at 42.8 yards. Overton is almost always on the mark with his snaps. Dorsett is expected to get a crack at returning. The Colts were tied for second in kickoff returns but 26th in punt returns. Josh Cribbs was released a day after Dorsett was drafted. Dorsett impressed the Colts with his Hilton-like speed — he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, then 4.27 and 4.29 at his pro day.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

If Irsay is to be proven prophetic and the Colts have enough to exorcise Patriots demons, a lot has to go their way. Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs would be a start. Good health, including Mathis and along the offensive line, would be key. It’s possible but unlikely that everything will go according to plan. It almost never does.

 

The offense should be undeniably potent. There’s just too much talent, and Luck is a star on the rise. The Colts will pile up points. The question is defense. It must be more like the team that stopped Peyton Manning and Denver on the road in the playoffs to have any chance against the Patriots. Granted, Manning was playing on one leg due to an injury, but the Colts didn’t allow a touchdown after the first quarter. That game has Irsay believing his team is close.

 

Irsay spoke after the draft about how he expected the Colts to win at least two Super Bowls during the Luck era. The 55-year-old owner is haunted by the regret of a Manning era that produced only one Super Bowl win. Irsay has said that the Colts should have won more with their previous franchise quarterback. Irsay’s expectation is to win back-to-back titles at some point. He considers such an accomplishment a testament to greatness. The next round of Patriots games awaits. Maybe the Colts have what it takes, finally, to be great. That’s a big maybe.

 

Prediction: 1st in AFC South

Teaser:
Indianapolis Colts 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News, Magazines
Path: /nfl/tennessee-titans-2015-team-preview-and-prediction
Body:

The Tennessee Titans hope that Year 2 of the Ken Whisenhunt regime will be markedly better than Year 1. In Whisenhunt’s first season as head coach, the Titans bottomed out, going 2–14 and losing their final 10 games.

 

And while the sparse crowds at LP Field — now Nissan Stadium — reflected just how far this franchise has fallen, it might not be the worst thing in the long run. Sinking to such low depths allowed the Titans to finally embrace a rebuild after several years of treading water with middle-of-the-pack records and no playoff appearances. Beginning with the drafting of 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota to build around at quarterback, the Titans could have real hope for the future for the first time in a number of years, though it may take some time for that hope to be realized.

 

Buy the 2015 Athlon Sports NFL Preview Magazine

 

OFFENSE

By drafting Mariota second overall, the Titans are banking that the former Duck can be a bird of a different feather when it comes to transitioning from Oregon’s hurry-up spread offense to a conventional pro-style scheme. Mariota has the physical skills, and the Titans were impressed most by his football acumen throughout the draft process. Still, there are basic components of playing the position — from the simplest things such as taking the snap under center and calling plays in the huddle to more complex components such as progressions — that will take time to master. Whisenhunt, who was rigid with scrambling quarterback Jake Locker a year ago, has promised to be more flexible to accommodate Mariota, who has already been penciled in as the starter over Zach Mettenberger.

 

At running back, the Titans appear to be in flux. Bishop Sankey, a second-round pick a year ago, disappointed with only 569 yards rushing, and veteran Shonn Greene was released in June, as the team appears willing to give fifth-round pick David Cobb every opportunity to handle the “big back” role. Sankey didn’t seem to have an extra gear as a rookie, while Greene was injured and inconsistent in two years in Tennessee. The wild card in the running back room is Dexter McCluster, signed to a free-agent deal a year ago and then wasted as the Titans never found a role for him. A Sankey/Cobb combination is probably what the Titans are hoping for as the season opens.

 

In the receiving corps, the Titans have done their best to upgrade a lackluster cast. Kendall Wright’s production dipped to just 57 catches after 94 in 2013, and Justin Hunter remains an enigma. The organization still believes Hunter has the talent to be an elite receiver, but he simply hasn’t shown the swagger that top-flight receivers display on the field. Enter second-round pick Dorial Green-Beckham, who seems to have plenty of that to go with a 6'5", 237-pound frame. Green-Beckham, a likely top-10 pick without his off-field issues, boldly says his goal is to score at least 10 touchdowns as a rookie. The Titans signed two former 1,000-yard receivers in free agency, adding Harry Douglas and Hakeem Nicks with the hope that both can bounce back after their production dropped dramatically in 2014.

 

Currently, the best weapon among the receivers is tight end Delanie Walker, the best free-agent signing of the Ruston Webster era as GM. Walker led the Titans with 63 catches for a franchise-record 890 yards receiving by a tight end. Not bad, considering that three different quarterbacks started last year. The Titans added journeyman Anthony Fasano as a free agent, in large part because Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson (released in June) were both injured last year.

 

The offensive line’s lone bright spot was 2014 first-round pick Taylor Lewan, who became a starter after Michael Roos was injured (and later retired). Right guard Chance Warmack, the 2013 first-round pick, finally started to show promise by year’s end. Other than those two, it was a disaster. Left guard Andy Levitre, who signed a $46.8 million free-agent deal in 2013, was too often handled at the point of attack and was plagued by penalties as well. Center Brian Schwenke, who has been average in his two years, finished the year on injured reserve. The Titans used seven different tackles a year ago, thanks to injuries. None of them was effective. Starter Michael Oher struggled and was released. The Titans did bring back Byron Stingily to compete with free-agent signee Byron Bell, who played poorly in Carolina last year. The Titans hope that third-round pick Jeremiah Poutasi can claim a spot in camp.

 

DEFENSE

The biggest move of the offseason for the defense wasn’t a player but a coach. Legendary defensive mind Dick LeBeau, a long-time friend of Whisenhunt, comes over after parting ways with the Steelers. Ray Horton still has the title of defensive coordinator, but LeBeau is calling the shots. Personnel-wise, the Titans needed upgrades after ranking 27th overall defensively and allowing 373 yards per game in 2014. Other than adding rookie Angelo Blackson on the defensive line, the Titans kept the status quo among the front three, where end Jurrell Casey is by far the best player. Nose tackle Sammie Hill is adequate, and Ropati Pitoitua, on the other end, is a decent run stopper, but not much as a pass rusher. End Karl Klug was re-signed and is a solid role player.

 

The Titans needed help at outside linebacker and signed Redskins free agent Brian Orakpo, who will help if he can stay healthy. They re-upped Derrick Morgan, who made a decent transition last year from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 linebacker. Avery Williamson, a 2014 fifth-round pick, was a nice find with 79 tackles. He will start alongside Zach Brown, lost for the year in Week 1 with torn pectoral in 2014. That drops veteran Wesley Woodyard into a reserve role.

 

The secondary got a makeover in the offseason. Safety Bernard Pollard, who missed most of last year with an Achilles injury, popped off about the organization and was released. Da’Norris Searcy was imported from Buffalo to take his place. He will start alongside Michael Griffin, who has lost a step but still plays OK if there is sufficient talent around him. At cornerback, Jason McCourty is solid on one side, and Perrish Cox comes over from the 49ers as an upgrade over Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who struggled badly last year in coverage. Nickel back Coty Sensabaugh is so-so, but the Titans seem to like young backup safeties Marqueston Huff and Daimion Stafford, who could contribute in certain sub-packages.

 

SPECIALISTS

The Titans made sure to re-sign reliable kicker Ryan Succop (19-of-22 on field goals), who came to the team after being cut by the Chiefs last year. Solid punter Brett Kern and long snapper Beau Brinkley received contract extensions as well. With Leon Washington not re-signed, McCluster should claim return duties. Seventh-round receiver Tre McBride or veteran Jacoby Ford could be options as well.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

The Titans have a long way to go before they can return to respectability. They have chosen Mariota to lead them there. The talented quarterback passes the eye test and has the smarts to give the Titans their first franchise quarterback since Steve McNair. But it will probably take some time as he adjusts to an NFL offense. Expect the Titans to be better in 2015, but they’re probably still another offseason away from contending.

 

Prediction: 4th in AFC South

Teaser:
Tennessee Titans 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /mlb/jon-lester-finally-gets-first-career-hit
Body:

Everybody knows that pitchers don’t hit well. But Jon Lester really did not for his entire career up until last night. After going hitless in his previous 66 at-bats, Lester laced a single off of former teammate John Lackey. The grounder ricocheted off of him and slowly rolled towards the shortstop. However, Lester ran in easily to first base to collect his first hit in 270 career games.

 

Every fan in attendance knew of Lester’s woes at the plate and applauded for him as if he hit a walk off home run. While the Cubs lost 6-0 in a rain-delayed game, at least they got to see some history. It was the longest hitless streak to start a career, but he actually has a pretty solid swing, and it was about time it worked. 

Watch the historic hit below:
 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News, Magazines
Path: /nfl/houston-texans-2015-team-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Coach Bill O’Brien knows he can’t expect the kind of improvement the Texans made in his first season, but it doesn’t mean they can’t challenge Indianapolis for the AFC South title and compete for a wild-card berth. Despite playing four quarterbacks and starting three, the Texans improved by an NFL-best seven victories to 9–7 and missed the playoffs on the last Sunday of the season. They added 13 veteran free agents and seven draft choices in an effort to increase firepower on both sides of the ball. They let go of the best player in franchise history, receiver Andre Johnson, and it better not backfire. They could have as many as eight new starters, including five on a defense that improved dramatically during a 4–1 finish that teased a football-crazed city that hasn’t had a team advance as far as the AFC Championship Game since the Oilers after the 1979 season.

 

Buy the Athlon Sports 2015 NFL Preview Magazine

 

OFFENSE

If the Texans won nine games with three different starting quarterbacks, imagine what they’re capable of accomplishing if they develop stability at the most important position.

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick (Jets) and Case Keenum (Rams) were traded, and they took eight of the nine victories with them. In the first two starts of his career, Ryan Mallett was 1–1 but underwent season-ending surgery on a torn pectoral muscle. His competition is Brian Hoyer, a journeyman who went 7–6 as a starter in Cleveland last season. Like Mallett, Hoyer played for O’Brien and offensive coordinator George Godsey in New England. Hoyer, the most mobile of the group, has just 17 games of starting experience, but that’s 15 more than Mallett. Last year’s fourth-round pick, cannon-armed Tom Savage, is still watching and learning.

 

Whoever wins the job will miss Johnson, who was released and signed with AFC South rival Indianapolis after 12 exceptional seasons in Houston. DeAndre Hopkins emerged as a bona fide No. 1 go-to guy  in 2014 with terrific ball skills and excellent hands. Opposite Hopkins, the Texans might take a receiver-by-committee approach. They have more candidates than the Republican party in third-round pick Jaelen Strong, veteran free agents Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington and holdovers Keshawn Martin and Damaris Johnson.

 

The coaches also need more production from the tight ends. Starter Garrett Graham and backups C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin combined for 32 catches. All have their strengths and weaknesses. Solving the quarterback issue might help the tight ends’ productivity.

 

O’Brien and Godsey like to run the ball as much as possible. Arian Foster, who battled a hamstring injury, and rookie Alfred Blue combined for almost 1,800 yards rushing and scored 16 touchdowns. The coaches need to do a better job of managing Foster’s touches. They used him as a receiver a lot, including in the slot, because he has such superb hands; but that exposed him to more punishment. Blue, a between-the-tackles runner entering his second season, should be able to take some of that load off Foster.

 

New offensive line coach Mike Devlin earned an impressive reputation with the Jets as someone who makes his players more physical and technically sound. As a group, the line played well, but individually, only right guard Brandon Brooks could pound his chest. He’s a mauler with nifty feet, and he’s improved every season. With long-time center Chris Myers having been released, Ben Jones moves from left guard. Xavier Su’a-Filo, last year’s second-round pick, should replace Jones. They need to develop depth they can count on, especially in the interior of the line.

 

DEFENSE

Did the defense finally figure out coordinator Romeo Crennel’s complicated system down the stretch, or was the impressive performance on that side of the ball an aberration? During their 4–1 stretch drive, they ranked fourth in points allowed, second in total defense and first in third-down conversions. Overall, the Texans set a franchise record by forcing an NFL-high 34 turnovers one season after they recorded 11, the fewest since the merger in 1970. Can the defense keep up that pace, especially if it has four or five new starters?

 

The most famous new face belongs to mammoth nose tackle Vince Wilfork, coming off another Super Bowl victory with New England. He plans to settle in next to J.J. Watt. Wilfork is supposed to tie up two blockers and stuff the run before turning over the pass rush to younger players such as Watt, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

 

Crennel used Watt in inventive ways — moving him up and down the line — but he needs help from the infirmary. Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who missed much of his rookie season with a knee injury, is coming along nicely from microfracture surgery, but he’s got a long way to go to be ready for the opener against Kansas City. When he gets back on the field, no one has a clue about how effective he can be or if he can stay healthy.

 

Inside linebacker Brian Cushing played most of last season, but he wasn’t the same three-down player he was before he underwent two knee surgeries. The coaches are hoping he’s regained his speed and agility.

 

It would elevate the defensive performance if outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus improved on last season’s career-low five sacks. He’s a weak-side rusher who must be more productive. He’s moving to the other side to take on tight ends. He sets the edge well and can drop into coverage, but he has to be more physical at the point of attack.

 

There’s been a revolving door at safety but not at cornerback, where Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are together for a fifth consecutive season. They play hard against the run, cover well and are seasoned veterans. Kevin Johnson, the first-round pick, should be the nickel corner.

 

One of the biggest free-agent acquisitions was free safety Rahim Moore. The coaches wanted more of a centerfielder, and Moore had four interceptions for Denver last season. He’s got range and brains and needs to become the captain of the secondary in place of Kendrick Lewis, who bolted for Baltimore after Moore was signed.

 

SPECIALISTS

There was nothing special about the Texans’ special teams last season, though kicker Randy Bullock (30-of-35 field goals, 130 points) and punter Shane Lechler (46.3-yard gross, 38.7 net) aren’t the problem. O’Brien is threatening to use starters if coverage and returns don’t improve. In a reserve role at Philadelphia, Chris Polk returned only 11 kickoffs but averaged 30.9 yards, including a 102-yard touchdown. Ideally, he makes the roster in the backfield and becomes a weapon on kickoff returns. If not, receivers Damaris Johnson and Martin can compete for the return job. Neither deserves it. The only thing the Texans can count on is long snapper Jon Weeks, who does an outstanding job.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

Missing the playoffs on the last day of the season means fans and media — as well as owner Bob McNair — are expecting the Texans to make the playoffs. It’s a reasonable expectation, but it won’t be realistic if they suffer injuries where they lack quality depth. This is a well-coached team with a lot of talent and a favorable schedule that has a good chance to improve on last season’s nine victories.

 

Prediction: 2nd in AFC South

Teaser:
Houston Texans 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/miami-lands-local-tewr-hurricane-legacy-michael-irvin-jr
Body:

All things have pointed to Miami in recent weeks for Michael Irvin Jr. The son of all-time Hurricanes’ and Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin Sr. transferred over the summer from Prestonwood Christian in Plano, Texas, to St. Thomas Aquinas in Broward County following in his father’s footsteps.

 

As of Monday the Class of 2016 tight end/wide receiver took another step towards following in his father’s footsteps verbally committing to the Canes and head coach Al Golden.

 

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound, pass-catching threat tore it up in the Dallas area over the past three years, amassing 2,784 yards on 224 catches with 34 touchdowns. Prestonwood played in back-to-back state championship games the past two seasons but Irvin wanted to test himself against some of the best competition in the nation and decided to transfer to the Miami area high school.

 

Before he left the state of Texas the 3-star prospect had 13 scholarship offers, choosing the Hurricanes over Michigan, Syracuse, Central Florida, Wake Forest, N.C. State, SMU, South Florida, Idaho, Bowling Green, North Texas, and Georgia.

 

St. Thomas Aquinas is absolutely loaded with FBS-caliber talent again this year. At least 11 players are expected to sign on National Signing Day with five players already verbally committed to FBS programs; Irvin (Miami), WR Sam Bruce (Miami), CB Dontye Carriere-Williams (Cincinnati), DB Frank Coppet (Vanderbilt), and WR Dominic Thieman (Illinois).

 

The recruit from St. Thomas Aquinas everyone is waiting on to commit is 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa, brother of Ohio State standout defensive end joey Bosa. The younger Bosa has offers from Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, South Florida, Ohio State, Boston College, Florida State, Florida and Miami.

 

Miami now has 22 verbal commitments to their 2016 recruiting class.

 

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

Teaser:
Miami Lands Local TE/WR, Hurricane Legacy, Michael Irvin Jr.
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: Funny, videos, Overtime
Path: /overtime/rob-gronkowski-david-ortiz-release-another-music-video-dunkin-donuts-turn-it-up
Body:

Of course one David Ortiz and Rob Gronkowski video isn't enough. 

 

Dunkin' Donuts has brought us another gem from Big Papi & Gronk called "Turn It Up." Yes, it's equally as bad as the first one but for some reason people love it.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 10:33
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-bowl-projections-2015
Body:

College football’s new playoff format was a huge success. The four-team playoff generated huge ratings and provided what the fans wanted in a postseason: A chance to settle it on the field.

 

As the second season of the playoff approaches, the bowl schedule has expanded to 41 overall games including the national championship. Additionally, the semifinals will be on Dec. 31 instead of Jan. 1. The Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl will host the semifinals, while the national championship will be held in Glendale, Ariz.

 

With the 2015 season less than 60 days away, it’s never too early to project how the bowl games and playoff pairings may look by December. 

 

2015 College Football Conference Predictions
 

Power 5: ACC Big 12 Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
 

Group of 5: American | C-USAMACMountain WestSun Belt

 

College Football 2015 Bowl Projections
BowlDateTie-InProjection
AutoNation CureDec. 19Sun Belt vs.
American
Georgia Southern vs.
UCF 
Gildan New MexicoDec. 19C-USA vs.
MW
 Louisiana Tech vs.
San Diego State 
Royal Purple
Las Vegas
Dec. 19MW/BYU vs.
Pac-12
 California vs.
Utah State 
Raycom Media
Camellia
Dec. 19MAC vs.
Sun Belt
 Appalachian State vs.
Akron 
R+L Carriers
New Orleans
Dec. 19MW vs.
Sun Belt
 UTEP vs. 
UL Lafayette 
Miami BeachDec. 21American vs.
C-USA
 WKU vs. 
Cincinnati 
Famous Idaho PotatoDec. 22MAC vs.
MW
 Bowling Green vs.
Nevada 
Boca RatonDec. 22American vs.
MAC
 East Carolina vs.
Toledo 
SDCCU PoinsettiaDec. 23Mountain West vs.
Army
 Colorado State vs.
Washington* 
GoDaddyDec. 23MAC vs. Sun Belt Arkansas State vs.
Western Michigan 
Popeyes BahamasDec. 24C-USA vs. MAC MTSU vs. 
Northern Illinois 
HawaiiDec. 24American vs.
BYU/MW
 Temple vs.
BYU 
St. PetersburgDec. 26C-USA vs. 
American
 Houston vs.
Marshall 
Hyundai SunDec. 26ACC/ND vs.
Pac-12
 Georgia Tech vs.
Arizona 
Zaxby's Heart of
Dallas
Dec. 26Big 12 vs.
C-USA
 Texas Tech vs.
Rice 
New Era PinstripeDec. 26ACC/ND vs.
Big Ten
 Virginia Tech vs.
Michigan 
IndependenceDec. 26ACC/ND vs.
SEC
 North Carolina vs.
Kentucky 
Foster FarmsDec. 26Big Ten vs.
Pac-12
 Minnesota vs.
UCLA 
MilitaryDec. 28ACC/ND vs.
American
 Louisville vs.
Navy 
Quick LaneDec. 28ACC/ND vs.
Big Ten
 Northwestern vs.
Pittsburgh 
Lockheed Martin
Armed Forces
Dec. 29MW vs.
Big Ten
 Maryland vs.
Air Force 
Russell AthleticDec. 29ACC/ND vs.
Big 12
 Notre Dame vs.
West Virginia 
AdvoCare V100
Texas
Dec. 29Big 12 vs.
SEC
 LSU vs.
Oklahoma State 
BirminghamDec. 30American vs.
SEC
 South Carolina vs.
Memphis 
BelkDec. 30ACC/ND vs.
SEC
 NC State vs.
Florida 
Franklin American
Music City
Dec. 30ACC/ND/Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Iowa vs.
Missouri 
National University
Holiday
Dec. 30Big Ten vs.
Pac-12
 Stanford vs. 
Penn State 
OutbackJan. 1Big Ten vs. 
SEC
 Arkansas vs.
Nebraska 
Buffalo Wild Wings
Citrus
Jan. 1Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Wisconsin vs.
Tennessee 
TaxSlayerJan. 2ACC/ND/Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Clemson vs.
Texas A&M 
AutoZone LibertyJan. 2Big 12 vs. 
SEC
 Mississippi State vs.
Texas 
Valero AlamoJan. 2Big 12 vs.
Pac-12
Arizona State vs.
Oklahoma 
CactusJan. 2Big 12 vs. 
Pac-12
 Kansas State vs.
Utah 
ArizonaTBAMW vs.
C-USA
 Miami* vs.
Indiana* 
    
Chick-fil-A PeachDec. 31At-large vs.
At-large

 Florida State vs.
Georgia 

FiestaJan. 1At-large vs.
At-large
 Boise State vs.
Oregon 
RoseJan. 1Big Ten vs.
Pac-12
 Michigan State vs.
USC 
SugarJan. 1SEC vs.
Big 12
 Ole Miss vs. 
TCU 
    
CottonDec. 31Playoff
Semifinal
 Ohio State vs.
Auburn 
OrangeDec. 31Playoff
Semifinal
 Alabama vs.
Baylor 
National ChampionshipJan. 11Cotton Bowl Winner vs.
Orange Bowl Winner
 Ohio State over
Alabama  

* According to our projections, these teams will fill at-large selections as some conferences will fail to fill their allotted slots.

Teaser:
College Football Bowl Projections for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/examining-overunder-2015-win-totals-sec-east
Body:

When it comes to the SEC, much of the focus on the nation's best college football conference is directed towards the West. That doesn't mean the East should be completely overlooked, however, as those teams went 5-0 in bowls last season compared to the West's not-so-impressive 2-5 showing. This season, Georgia has its sights set on dethroning defending division champion Missouri while Tennessee and Florida could be two of the more intriguing teams to watch in all of college football.

 

Related: SEC 2015 Football Predictions

 

For the purposes of this exercise, projected win totals are broken down into three categories — definite wins, definite losses and toss-ups. Most of the conference games will in the toss-up category, especially ones on the road. This preview will offer thoughts on each team and if there’s any value either over or under.

 

Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook

 

SEC East

 

Florida Gators

(Over 7.5 wins +110...Under 7.5 wins -150)

 

Record Last Year: 7-5, 4-4

 

Returning Starters: 11 (4 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense: With Treon Harris and Will Grier competing for the QB position, the rest of the unit figures to struggle. The offensive line will almost need to completely be replaced. An underrated addition to the offense is transfer tight end Jake McGee, who comes over from Virginia and will be a reliable target to whomever is under center.

 

Defense: Vernon Hargreaves III is one of the best corners in college football. He's part of a strong secondary. That unit could be tested with the issues up front of having to replace almost everyone.

 

Schedule: The season starts and ends with a pair of non-conference home games. In September Florida faces New Mexico State and ECU while the November slate features Florida Atlantic and in-state archrival Florida State. It's a very friendly schedule, although the Gators play at LSU in October.

 

Selection: I agree with the money move to the under. It's a friendly schedule, but the Gators probably won't win a single game outside of Gainesville. Jim McElwain has work to do with these guys.

 

Georgia Bulldogs

(Over 9 wins -135...Under 9 wins -105)

 

Record Last Year: 10-3, 6-2

 

Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)

 

Offense: Another uncertain quarterback situation. Georgia picked up a late transfer in UVA's Greyson Lambert who could just as easily win the job. Nick Chubb looks to build off of almost 1,600 rushing yards last year. He's a great playmaker to start with. Malcolm Mitchell is a solid WR to go along with a good offensive line.

 

Defense: Freshman Trent Thompson comes over as the No. 1 recruit according to 247Sports. Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins make for a solid group at linebacker. Plenty of eyes will be on the secondary to see if this group can keep things going after holding opponents to just 170.4 yards per game through the air last season. 

 

Schedule: Georgia hosts Louisiana Monroe, Southern, Georgia Southern and has its usual rivalry game against Georgia Tech, which is on the road. There's no real rough stretches for the Bulldogs, who don't have to deal with any back-to-back road games.

 

Selection: The lean is to the over although I came out with nine wins for Georgia. It's hard to get an accurate projection without a quarterback in place. Chubb figures to be in the mix for the Heisman all season.

 

Kentucky Wildcats

(Over 6 wins -105...Under 6 wins -135)

 

Record Last Year: 5-7, 2-6

 

Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)

 

Offense: Patrick Towles gets the call at quarterback after throwing for 14 touchdowns in 2014. Redshirt freshman Drew Barker is making a push and will probably see some time as well. The offensive line is almost intact which is good. Stanley Williams and Jojo Kemp are solid options at running back.

 

Defense: The Wildcats have some holes to fill with the departure of Bud Dupree. Trying to fill those shoes is Jason Hatcher, who was highly touted out of high school. Special teams are real good and could be a difference-maker in a close game.

 

Schedule: The Wildcats play six of their first eight at home. They host UL-Lafayette, Eastern Kentucky, Charlotte and Louisville out of conference. UK has just four road games all year long which will be big.

 

Selection: Even with the friendly schedule, six wins seems about right. Kentucky still has tough home matchups with Auburn, Tennessee, Missouri and Louisville. I think the Wildcats win maybe one or two from that group and that's why I see only six wins.

 

Missouri Tigers

(Over 7.5 wins -180...Under 7.5 wins +140)

 

Record Last Year: 11-3, 7-1

 

Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)

 

Offense: Dorial Green-Beckham is long gone and so is the depth at WR. At least the Tigers have Russell Hansbrough at RB and he put up over 1,000 rushing yards in 2014. Maty Mauk gets the call at QB and he's got the majority of his O-line back which will be a big help.

 

Defense: Losses up front will make things a bit difficult for the Tigers. At least they have an experienced secondary and Kentrell Brothers (122 tackles in 2014 ) at LB.

 

Schedule: Missouri gets SE Missouri State and UConn at home to go with a road tilt against Arkansas State and a neutral field game vs. BYU for its non-conference slate. The Tigers play three of their four November games in the state of Missouri.

 

Selection: The over is the right play here although not at this price. Watch that week two game at Arkansas State, as it could be an upset in the making. The Red Wolves are real good offensively.

 

South Carolina Gamecocks

(Over 7 wins -120...Under 7 wins -120)

 

Record Last Year: 7-6, 3-5

 

Returning Starters: 10 (4 on offense, 6 on defense)

 

Offense: Another SEC East team looking for help at QB. The Gamecocks' leading returning passer is wideout Pharoh Cooper, who threw eight total passes. Whomever is under center gets Cooper at WR and senior Brandon Wilds at RB. The right side of the OL is strong.

 

Defense: Jon Hoke comes over to try and fix this side of the ball. This team had just 14 sacks last year and will need to get a little more pressure on the QB.

 

Schedule: The Gamecocks take on North Carolina in Charlotte as well as UCF, Citadel and Clemson at home. They play five of their last seven at home and have some friendly stretches.

 

Selection: Small lean to the under. There's a chance if things don't break well that South Carolina loses both of their matchups with the ACC. I don't know if that's grounds for dismissal from the SEC, but it could be a rough year in Columbia.

 

Tennessee Volunteers

(Over 7.5 wins -210...Under 7.5 wins +160)

 

Record Last Year: 7-6, 3-5

 

Returning Starters: 17 (9 on offense, 8 on defense)

 

Offense: This side of the ball has some momentum after finishing 2014 with 185 points in the final five games. Dual-threat quarterback Joshua Dobbs was one of the catalysts for this offense. He's got Marquez North and Pig Howard to throw to. Von Pearson is suspended after some offseason trouble. Jalen Hurd will be complemented in the backfield by Alvin Kamara.

 

Defense: The Vols have the right pieces back for the 2015 season. Jalen Reeves-Maybin at LB goes well with Curt Maggitt, who is playing for NFL Draft status. This team beat up on Iowa in its bowl victory and will get plenty of pressure on SEC QBs.

 

Schedule: The Vols don't leave the state often to start the year out, as they take on Oklahoma and Western Carolina as well as a contest with Bowling Green in Nashville. The other non-conference game takes place in November when Tennessee hosts North Texas.

 

Selection: The over is the play here. I love the Vols as a major sleeper in this division. Butch Jones finished out 2014 well and has the pieces to make '15 special.

 

Vanderbilt Commodores

(Over 3 wins -170...Under 3 wins +130)

 

Record Last Year: 3-9, 0-8

 

Returning Starters: 17 (8 on offense, 9 on defense)

 

Offense: It was an ugly year for this side of the ball, as Vanderbilt averaged just 17.2 points per game. The Commodores rotated four different signal-callers last year and none were that effective. Ralph Webb rushed for almost 1,000 yards last season and will be counted on for even more production this fall.

 

Defense: Head coach Derek Mason takes over this side of the ball. Stephen Weatherly leads the way with 12.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. Almost the entire secondary is back, but this defense allowed 7.6 yards per attempt.

 

Schedule: The Commodores host Western Kentucky and Austin Peay while also playing at Middle Tennessee and Houston. As if it wasn't going to be a rough enough season, Vandy has a stretch of five road games out of six.

 

Selection: The under is a value here. I know Vanderbilt returns a lot of players from last year, but can the Commodores get back to respectability? Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and Houston are all challenges and remember this team nearly lost to Charleston Southern and UMass last year.

 

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

Teaser:
Examining the Over/Under 2015 Win Totals for the SEC East
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-acc-stadiums-2015
Body:

Last summer, Athlon Sports asked 12 ACC experts like Wes Durham, Mark EnnisDavid Glenn and more to rank their favorite stadiums in the ACC.

 

Based on general atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, surrounding campus and even scoreboards, here is how the voting shook out.

 

However, attendance is an increasing concern for all athletic directors and tweaks are made to college football stadiums every year. Using our expert rankings, here is a statistical breakdown and update of ACC stadiums and how they stack up against each other entering the 2015 season.



1. Memorial Stadium, Clemson

The fifth-oldest venue in the ACC, this college football cathedral — dubbed Death Valley — is rumored to have had the loudest crowd in college football history at 133 decibels. Dabo Swinney's stadium led the ACC in capacity percentage (100.3 percent) and finished in the top 15 nationally in attendance last fall. Swinney loves his home cooking, going 38-5 at Memorial Stadium during his six years as Clemson's head coach.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
194281,500 (2nd)81,752 (15th)100.3% (1st)86,092 ('99)

2. Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State

The Noles are 274-86-4 all-time in the largest stadium in the ACC and, interestingly enough, the gorgeous brick façade makes DCS the largest continuous brick building in the United States. Florida State led the ACC in attendance and finished 14th nationally with an ACC-best increase of nine percent. Jimbo Fisher's squad has won 14 straight at The Doak and are 31-4 in his five years in Tallahassee. The 99.9 percent capacity last fall was second only to Clemson.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
195082,300 (1st)82,211 (14th)99.9% (2nd)84,409 ('13)

 


3. Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech

The beautiful venue is the largest stadium in the Commonwealth of Virginia and Frank Beamer is 58-14 at home during his career in the ACC and 32-9 in Lane Stadium while a member of the Big East. Lane Stadium is one of just three ACC buildings to average more than 60,000 last year despite a 3-4 home record. Tech finished 27th nationally in attendance and fifth in the league in capacity percentage.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
196565,632 (3rd)61,157 (27th)93.2% (5th)66,233

 

4. Papa John’s Stadium, Louisville

The “Pizza Box” continues to grow seemingly every year after opening at just 42,000 seats with eyes on expansion to 80,000 in the near future. In just one season in the ACC, Louisville was third in the league in capacity percentage (96.3) and is just a few thousand fans per game away from being the third-largest average crowd in the ACC (was sixth in '14). This program, like its building, is soaring into Power 5 competition. 

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
199855,000 (9th)52,972 (39th)96.3% (3rd)55,428 ('14)

 

 

5. Carter-Finley Stadium, NC State

The crowds are right on top of the field with the closest seats in the ACC to the field. It led to the fifth-largest crowds in the league last fall despite coming off a winless ACC campaign in 2013. Carter-Finley also finished fourth in the league in percentage (94.5) each Saturday — one of just five programs in the league to average more than 90 percent.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
196657,583 (8th)54,398 (36th)94.5% (4th)57,583

 

6. Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech

The ACC’s oldest venue was built for just $15,000 over a century ago and is the oldest in major college football (FBS). Tech finished 44th nationally in attendance, which ranked eighth in the ACC. Paul Johnson is 34-12 in his career at Georgia Tech.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
191355,000 (9th)48,519 (44th)88.2% (6th)60,316 ('73)

Related: ACC Football Teams as Rock and Roll Bands
 

7. Kenan Memorial Stadium, North Carolina

One of the most picturesque places to watch a football game, Kenan Stadium is the second-oldest football venue in the ACC. In 2014, North Carolina finished fourth in the ACC in attendance behind only Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech. In fact, Kenan saw a six percent spike in attendance last fall, which ranked second in the league behind only the Seminoles (9 percent). Larry Fedora is 14-6 at home and 7-11 away from Kenan.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192763,000 (6th)54,667 (35th)86.8% (7th)62,000 ('97)

 

 

8. Scott Stadium, Virginia

It's one of the most historic and culturally rich campuses in the nation and has witnessed many memorable ACC moments. But despite showing major improvements as a team, the Cavs' home building produced poor numbers in 2014. Virginia's attendance finished 58th nationally and 11th in the ACC after a 15 percent drop from '13. It also ranked 13th in the ACC ahead of only Pitt in terms of capacity percentage at just 63.9 percent full each Saturday. Mike London is 18-18 at home.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
193161,500 (7th)39,320 (58th)63.9% (13th)64,947 ('08)

 

9. Carrier Dome, Syracuse

Nicknamed “The Loud House,” the Cuse’s home has a Teflon-coated, fiberglass inflatable roof that is one of the loudest in the nation. However, it's been a while since the Orange's home building was feared. The Carrier Dome ranked 10th in the ACC in attendance despite a nice six percent bump over 2013 and ranked ninth in the league in capacity percentage. Syracuse was 1-5 at home last season.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
198049,262 (11th)40,447 (57th)82.1% (9th)50,564 ('80)

 

10. Sun Life Stadium, Miami

The building is 25 minutes from campus and saw nearly 10,000 seats subtracted from its capacity this offseason — so the 80.3 percent capacity is more of a projection. That said, the 52,518 average attendance ranked Miami 40th in the nation and seventh in the ACC. Al Golden is 19-8 in four years at home but 11-3 over the last two years. This program needs a smaller, on-campus venue badly.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
198765,326 (5th)52,518 (40th)80.3% (11th)80,120 ('13)

 

 

11. Heinz Field, Pitt

From an amenities standpoint, few college stadiums can match the posh NFL home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, sharing a building with an NFL team has drawbacks as well. Pitt ranked dead last in the ACC at just 63.1 percent average capacity and saw a league-worst decline of 17 percent in attendance from 2013. The Panthers ranked 56th nationally in attendance last fall.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
200165,500 (4th)41,315 (56th)63.1% (14th)66,731 ('02)

 

12. Alumni Stadium, Boston College

It's tough to draw large crowds to Chestnut Hill, as the Eagles have largely overachieved for the better part of the last two decades but routinely rank outside of the top 60 in attendance. Boston College is 12th in the ACC capacity, 12th in average capacity (77.0 percent) and 12th in average attendance — which ranks 64th nationally. Steve Addazio, like many before him, has done good work at BC but is just 8-5 at Alumni Stadium.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
195744,500 (12th)34,270 (64th)77.0% (12th)44,500

 

13. BB&T Field, Wake Forest

To Wake's fans' credit, there are typically never a ton of empty seats in BB&T and the recent round of upgrades have improved the gameday experience. However, the Deacs ranked last in the ACC in attendance last fall — 83rd nationally — and were only slightly better in average capacity (8th at 86.4 percent). All three of Wake Forest's wins last season came at home.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
196831,500 (14th)27,210 (83rd)86.4% (8th)37,623 ('04)

 

14. Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke

Attendance has gotten better under the David Cutcliffe regime due in large part to winning more games. However, the stadium still ranks at the bottom of the ACC in most attendance categories. Wallace Wade is 13th in capacity in the ACC, 10th in average capacity (80.4 percent) and was 13th in attendance last season — ranking just 82nd nationally. It makes Cutcliffe's 15-6 home record over the last three years incredibly impressive.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192933,941 (13th)27,291 (82nd)80.4% (10th)57,500 ('49)

 

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC Stadiums for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/georgia-wr-malcolm-mitchell-channels-odell-beckham-jr-make-catches-his-back
Body:

Odell Beckham Jr. is making his case for the best hands in the NFL with this Instagram video posted yesterday.

 

 

And they wonder why I want it so bad, my brother gone eat up so I gotta do the same #RoyalSide @v.royalty.s

A video posted by Odell Beckham Jr (@iam_objxiii) on

 

What about the best hands in college football? Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell has that covered. Channeling his inner OBJ, Mitchell caught some passes on the ground.

 

 

@IAM_OBJXIII @v.royalty.s much respect and thank you for showing the way.

A video posted by Malcolm Mitchell (@money_mitch26) on

 

 

SEC teams are officially put on notice.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/sec-wild-card-players-2015
Body:

The SEC features many of college football's biggest names. These players are expected to lead their teams to victory each week through strong individual performances.

 

Then there's the "wild cards" which includes several different categories. Sometimes it's a do-everything, x-factor player. In other cases it may be a player flying under the radar who is poised to have a breakout season.

 

Here's a look at the SEC's "wild card players" on offense and defense for each team entering 2015.

 

SEC EAST

 

Florida Gators

 

Offense: Treon Harris, Quarterback/???

Will Grier is expected to win the quarterback battle in Gainesville, but that won’t stop Harris from making an impact in Florida’s offense. The dual-threat quarterback possesses the speed and natural ability to make a successful transition to wide receiver or aid in certain formations and trick plays as a passer.

 

Defense: Bryan Cox Jr., Defensive End

Cox has the opportunity to see more playing time after the departure of Dante Fowler Jr. The junior has the NFL pedigree to succeed and could see a spike in production with more reps at defensive end.

 

Georgia Bulldogs

 

Offense: Jeb Blazevich, Tight End

Blazevich had an impressive debut season, but was overshadowed by the dominance of fellow freshman teammate Nick Chubb. The 6-5, 232-pound tight end had 269 yards and two touchdowns on 18 receptions and was the Bulldogs’ third-leading receiver. Blazevich should add to his totals this season as he figures to serve as a security blanket for expected starting quarterback Brice Ramsey.

 

Defense: Trent Thompson, Defensive Tackle

Let’s be honest, the Class of 2015's top prospect is not going to spend his entire first season on the bench. Thompson has the best size/first-step combo of anyone on Georgia’s roster and the instincts and raw ability to be a Week One starter.

 

Related: College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2015

 

Kentucky Wildcats

 

Offense: Stanley "Boom" Williams, Running Back

Williams was Kentucky’s best running back in 2014, despite playing in a “back by committee” rotation. He led the Wildcats with 486 yards and five touchdowns, which included a 126-yard performance against Louisville — then the nation’s No. 2 rushing defense — in the Wildcats’ final game. The sophomore should see a bigger role in his second season and rank among the conference's best backs.

 

Defense: Matt Elam, Defensive Tackle

Elam entered his college career with high expectations. He rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 2 player in the Bluegrass State in 2014. The 6-7, 370-pound sophomore has the size to clog the line of scrimmage but must improve his stamina to be an every-down player.

 

Missouri Tigers

 

Offense: Maty Mauk, Quarterback

Mauk was the conference’s most disappointing quarterback despite his team winning its second consecutive SEC East Division title. In 2015, he will be without his four most productive receiving targets and needs to prove his worth as a dual-threat quarterback. Missouri’s success will rely on whether Mauk can live up to the lofty expectations he faced last preseason.

 

Defense: Charles Harris, Defensive End

Harris looks to become the next breakout Missouri defensive end to replace the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He had an early start when Shane Ray missed the majority of the SEC Championship Game due to a targeting penalty. But the sophomore needs to produce in order to step out of the shadow cast by Ray and former teammate Markus Golden.

 

South Carolina Gamecocks

 

Offense: Pharoh Cooper, Wide Receiver

Cooper is — by far — the best player on South Carolina’s roster. His addition to the list isn’t due to his expected value, rather that he’s the perfect example of an x-factor player. He led the Gamecocks in every statistical receiving category all while contributing as a passer and rusher in unique formations. Cooper will continue to emerge as a star in the SEC in his senior season despite the Gamecocks' lack of a proven passer.

 

Defense: Marquavius Lewis, Defensive End

South Carolina’s defensive line was abysmal in 2014. The Gamecocks ranked last in sacks and tackles for a loss among SEC teams. Enter Lewis, a four-star prospect with JUCO experience who should earn and an immediate spot in South Carolina’s starting lineup.

 

Tennessee Volunteers

 

Offense: Alton "Pig" Howard, Wide Receiver

Like Cooper, Howard aided his team in several areas all while leading in receiving yards. As a senior, the versatile wideout will head up a talented group of playmakers in what is expected to be an improved Vols offense. His value may be underrated playing alongside several former top prospects, but Howard is a consistent pass catcher that provides the Tennessee's offense with playmaking ability in multiple ways.

 

Defense: Curt Maggitt, Defensive End/Linebacker

Maggitt enjoyed his first full season since arriving in Knoxville in 2011. The redshirt junior led the Vols with 11 sacks in a hybrid role as a defensive end and outside linebacker. Maggitt opted to return for his final season at Tennessee and is expected to pair with sophomore phenom Derek Barnett to form one of the SEC’s top pass-rushing duos.

 

Related: College Football's Most Improved Teams for 2015

 

Vanderbilt Commodores

 

Offense: Johnny McCrary, Quarterback

McCrary will be Vanderbilt’s most important offensive player in 2015 following Patton Robinette’s retirement. The sophomore showed both glimpses of potential and struggles in his several starts. For better or worse, McCrary will be the biggest factor in whether Vanderbilt’s offense can find success.

 

Defense: Nigel Bowden, Linebacker

Bowden was one of the few bright spots for the SEC’s worst team. The redshirt freshman recorded a team-best 79 tackles despite battling injuries at season’s end. Bowden should continue his progress with head coach Derek Mason returning to his comfort zone as the team’s defensive coordinator.

 

SEC West

 

Alabama Crimson Tide

 

Offense: O.J. Howard, Tight End

Howard was expected to be one of the SEC’s best tight ends in 2014, but went without a reception in five of Alabama’s 14 games. He managed to finish fourth in receiving yards, but failed to record a single touchdown. Howard should see an increased role with the departures of Biletnikoff winner Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White.

 

Defense: Jonathan Allen, Defensive End

Allen was one of Alabama's best defensive linemen as a sophomore last season. He recorded 15 total tackles, three tackles for a loss, half a sack, a forced fumble and one QB hurry in 12 games. As a junior, he will be one of the team's leaders and could see a statistical increase.

 

Arkansas Razorbacks

 

Offense: Hunter Henry, Tight End

Arkansas loves to run the football, but when it passes, there’s a good chance it's going to Henry. The tight end had 37 catches for 513 yards and two touchdowns, which earned him honorable mention All-SEC honors. Henry should see more reps with the departure of A.J. Derby in a passing offense that puts an emphasis on the tight end and has question marks at wide receiver.

 

Related: 14 Position Groups Under Pressure in the SEC for 2015

 

Defense: Deatrich Wise Jr., Defensive End

Wise looks to replace one of the conference’s top defensive ends in former teammate Trey Flowers alongside JaMichael Winston. Many believe Wise has more playmaking ability which pairs well with the steady production of the experienced Winston. The duo should continue the Razorbacks’ success on the defensive line in 2015.

 

Auburn Tigers

 

Offense: Jeremy Johnson, Quarterback

Auburn’s offense is built to contend for a national championship. The Tigers have a plethora of talent at skill positions and should see an improvement on defense under new coordinator Will Muschamp. Johnson will be the biggest factor in whether the team reaches its full potential or comes up short of an SEC Championship Game appearance.

 

Related: Analyzing Auburn Quarterback Jeremy Johnson's Heisman Trophy Candidacy

 

Defense: Johnathan Ford, Defensive Back

Ford recorded a team-best 93 tackles from the safety position. He also added three interceptions, which tied for the second most among Auburn players. Ford’s tackling numbers may decrease playing behind one of the SEC’s best linebacking corps but he will still contribute as a versatile free safety.

 

LSU Tigers

 

Offense: Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings, Quarterback

Like Auburn, LSU has plenty of talent on offense. Unfortunately, the Tigers lack a quarterback with as much upside as Jeremy Johnson between Harris and Jennings. Neither player proved to be a consistent starter in 2014. The edge goes to Harris, whose lapses were blamed on a lack of experience as a true freshman and has a higher ceiling among the two passers.

 

Related: No Pressure: LSU's Season Will Hinge on Quarterbacks

 

Defense: Kevin Toliver II, Defensive Back

Toliver, a five-star prospect, joins an LSU defensive backs group that may be the best in the conference. The Tigers have depth, but he’s too talented not to be used immediately. Toliver should see playing time in different formations and could make an impact.

 

Mississippi State Bulldogs

 

Offense: Donald Gray, Wide Receiver

Mississippi State has a desperate need at wide receiver. The Bulldogs must replace top targets Jameon Lewis and Malcolm Johnson. Enter Gray who, despite a 5-9, 185-pound stature, recorded 55 receptions for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns at Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College.

 

Defense: Jamal Peters, Defensive Back

Peters is Mississippi State’s top prospect. He will be a favorite to compete for playing time after enrolling in June. Head coach Dan Mullen told The Clarion-Ledger in February that Peters “might be on the two-deep rotation” even before stepping on the field.

 

Ole Miss Rebels

 

Offense: Chad Kelly, Quarterback

Kelly’s personality alone earns him the reputation of a “wild card.” But his talent was too much for Ole Miss to pass up despite off-field altercations. Kelly has the opportunity to redeem himself in a talented Rebels offense that includes a potential first-round draft pick in Laquon Treadwell and the SEC’s top tight end, Evan Engram.

 

Defense: Robert Nkemdiche, Defensive Tackle

Nkemdiche was the nation’s consensus No. 1 high school prospect in 2013. He’s lived up to the hype as the anchor on a talented Ole Miss defense, but plays a position that lacks star power. Nkemdiche has the speed to play defensive end and the frame of a defensive tackle. In 2015, he will be a top-5 NFL prospect and should contribute to the Rebels’ success in several areas.

 

Related: Is 2015 Now or Never for Ole Miss in the SEC West?

 

Texas A&M Aggies

 

Offense: Speedy Noil, Wide Receiver

Noil had an exciting freshman campaign as both a wide receiver and return specialist. He led the Aggies with 1,418 all-purpose yards and 583 receiving yards, the third most among Aggies receivers. Noil’s receiving totals should increase with the departure of Malcome Kennedy and a full year of college experience.

 

Related: College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2015

 

Defense: Daeshon Hall, Defensive End

The addition of John Chavis will improve Texas A&M’s defense. We know Myles Garrett enjoyed a record-setting freshman campaign but Hall will also benefit from The Chief’s arrival. Hall bulked up to 260 pounds and is primed for a breakout season in 2015.

 

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.

Teaser:
SEC Wild Card Players in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 09:00

Pages