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The 2016 college football season is less than 100 days away, but the countdown to kickoff is officially underway. Athlon Sports’ 2016 College Football Preview annuals are already on newsstands across the county and available for order in the online store, . Each year, Athlon Sports produces regional preview magazines for the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, as well as a national edition with previews for all 128 teams.


Who will make the College Football Playoff and how will the 2016 season look by December? Athlon Sports has projected how the results will play out and ranked every team 1 to 128 based upon its finish for 2016. This ranking represents where we think teams will finish – not where they should start at the beginning of the season. 


Conference Predictions


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Athlon Sports Projected 128 Team Rankings for 2016
Athlon Sports 2016 College Football 1-128 Team Rankings
1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide suffered key losses on both sides of the ball, but this team reloads as well as any in the nation. Expect Nick Saban's team to lean on its defense and ground attack until the offense finds stability at quarterback.
2. Florida State: After winning 10 games in a rebuilding season, FSU is poised to challenge for the title. Most of the roster returns intact, but the Seminoles have to find a QB and replace cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Dalvin Cook is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman.

3. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have the fewest returning starters (six) of any Power 5 team. However, thanks to elite recruiting classes, Ohio State should be able to reload in a hurry. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Buckeyes can lean on J.T. Barrett until the rest of the pieces fall into place.

4. Clemson: Even though the Tigers suffered heavy losses on defense, quarterback Deshaun Watson and the nation’s top receiving corps is more than enough to keep Clemson in the hunt for the national title.

5. Michigan: Jim Harbaugh already has Michigan back among the nation’s top teams. The Wolverines have to find a quarterback, but this team can lean on its defense — led by new coordinator Don Brown — to push Ohio State for the Big Ten title.

6. Oklahoma: The Sooners are a heavy favorite to win the Big 12, but there are potential landmines on a schedule that features road trips to TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia. If the voids on the offensive line and defense are filled, quarterback Baker Mayfield could carry Oklahoma to another playoff berth.

7. Tennessee: The Volunteers have made steady improvement under coach Butch Jones, and the pieces are in place to challenge for the SEC title. Tennessee returns 18 starters, including quarterback Joshua Dobbs and end Derek Barnett.

8. Notre Dame: Brian Kelly’s team lost a handful of key players from last year’s 10-3 squad. But the Fighting Irish have a manageable schedule, two proven quarterbacks and enough of a foundation on both sides of the ball to push for 10 wins once again.

9. LSU: After coaching drama surrounding Les Miles at the end of 2015, LSU is loaded for a run at a CFP berth. As usual, the Tigers will lean on their ground attack and defense to carry the team. However, Brandon Harris and the passing game have to improve to win the SEC.

10. Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze must replace three first-round picks, but the Rebels have recruited well enough to prevent a huge drop off. Chad Kelly is the SEC’s top signal-caller and there’s no shortage of options at receiver.

11. Washington: The Huskies are poised for a breakthrough year in Chris Petersen’s third season. Talented sophomores Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin are two of the Pac-12’s top players on offense, while the defense returns eight starters from a unit that allowed only 18.8 points a game last year.

12. Stanford: Stanford has won three of the last four Pac-12 titles, but David Shaw’s team was hit hard by personnel departures. However, the Cardinal still has enough returning talent to challenge for the conference title — especially with running back Christian McCaffrey leading the way.

13. Michigan State: The Spartans have won at least 11 games in five of the last six years. Despite the loss of quarterback Connor Cook, end Shilique Calhoun and standout linemen Jack Conklin and Jack Allen, coach Mark Dantonio won’t allow Michigan State to slip too far in the rankings.

14. UCLA: Similar to rival USC, UCLA enters 2016 with its share of questions. However, the Bruins return the Pac-12’s top quarterback in Josh Rosen, and the schedule is more manageable than the Trojans’ brutal slate. The defense returns eight starters, and standout end Eddie Vanderdoes is back from injury.

15. Houston: The bar is set high for Houston after a 13-1 record in Tom Herman’s first season. The Cougars are the top Group of 5 team for 2016 and could climb into the playoff discussion with wins over Oklahoma and Louisville in non-conference games.

16. Georgia: New coach Kirby Smart inherits a roster filled with promising talent and one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits in Jacob Eason. However, running back Nick Chubb is recovering from a serious knee injury, and the defense features a revamped front seven.

17. TCU: TCU will be a dark horse contender in the Big 12. Only one starter returns on offense, but there’s a good foundation in place at the skill positions. The Horned Frogs are loaded on defense and return four key players who missed all or most of last year due to injury.

18. Louisville: The Cardinals finished the 2015 season by winning six of their final seven games. Bobby Petrino’s team should build on that momentum in 2016 with 16 returning starters and the emergence of dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson.

19. Iowa: The Hawkeyes were one of college football’s biggest surprises in 2015 and open 2016 as the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten West. Quarterback C.J. Beathard leads the way on offense, while the defense returns eight starters.

20. Florida: The defense is still among the best in the SEC, but Florida has to find some answers on offense after averaging 12.6 points over the final six games of 2015. Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is expected to start at quarterback.

21. North Carolina: New quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a rising star, and the supporting cast is among the best in the ACC. The defense showed some improvement under new coordinator Gene Chizik last year but has to get tougher against the run.

22. USC: Clay Helton’s first full season on the job features one of the nation’s toughest schedules, a quarterback battle and a completely revamped defensive line.

23. Oregon: The Ducks hope another FCS transfer (Dakota Prukop) is the right answer at quarterback. There’s no shortage of skill talent on offense, but the line must replace three starters. Brady Hoke is tasked with improving a defense that surrendered 37.5 points a game.

24. Oklahoma State: Mason Rudolph to James Washington should be one of the Big 12’s top quarterback-receiver combinations in 2016. However, for the Cowboys to match last year’s 10 wins, the offensive line and rushing attack have to improve.

25. Baylor: The dismissal of Art Briles as the program's coach has added a layer of uncertainty to Baylor for 2016. The Bears still have plenty of talent, but question marks remain on the line of scrimmage. Will interim coach Jim Grobe keep this team in the hunt for the Big 12 title?

26. Arkansas: Bret Bielema has to retool an offense that loses quarterback Brandon Allen, running back Alex Collins and a handful of other key players. However, the defense should take a big step forward with nine starters back. If Austin Allen settles in at quarterback, Arkansas could be a top 25 team.

27. Miami: Mark Richt's return to Miami is a much-needed boost for a program still looking for its first trip to the ACC Championship Game. Richt will handle the play-calling duties for the Hurricanes, and he inherits one of the nation's top quarterbacks in junior Brad Kaaya. With North Carolina and Florida State visiting Sun Life Stadium, Miami could surprise in Richt's debut.

28. Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin needs to show the program is still on track after an 8-5 2015 campaign. The quarterback position took a hit with the transfer of Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, but Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight should provide stability at the position. The defense took a step forward under first-year coordinator John Chavis last season and should be even better in 2016.

29. Virginia Tech: The Hokies hit a home run with the Justin Fuente hire, and the first-year coach should immediately help an offense that has experienced its share of ups and downs in recent years. Coordinator Bud Foster needs to restock the trenches, but Virginia Tech could crack the top 25 with improvement by its offense.

30. Washington State: Don't sleep on Mike Leach's Cougars in the Pac-12 North title race. Led by quarterback Luke Falk and receiver Gabe Marks, Washington State's offense will be one of the best in the nation. The defense showed progress under new coordinator Alex Grinch in 2015. With six starters back for 2016, another step forward is expected.

31. Nebraska: After a season filled with bad luck and close losses, Nebraska is due for a change in fortune in 2016. With quarterback Tommy Armstrong and a deep group of receivers in place, scoring points won't be a problem for the Cornhuskers. However, coach Mike Riley's team has significant question marks in the trenches.

32. Utah: The Utes will be a dangerous team in the Pac-12 South. Coach Kyle Whittingham's team is once again strong on defense and boasts a standout ground attack on offense. However, the passing game has to improve for Utah to win the division.

33. Wisconsin: Paul Chryst had a solid debut (10-3) in his return to Madison, but the road to double-digit wins is much tougher in 2016. The Badgers face a brutal schedule, and enter the season with uncertainty at quarterback and a new play-caller on defense.

34. Boise State: A year after winning the Mountain West and the Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos slipped to 9-4 in coach Bryan Harsin's second season. However, Boise State won't be down for long, as quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Jeremy McNichols anchor an explosive offense and provide enough firepower to win the Mountain West in 2016.

35. Auburn: The Tigers were one of the nation's biggest disappointments in 2015. Is a rebound year in store for coach Gus Malzahn? Auburn needs to find an answer at quarterback, while new coordinator Kevin Steele is tasked with improving a defense that ranked near the bottom of the SEC last season.

36. San Diego State: Rocky Long's Aztecs are the defending Mountain West champs and will be a tough out once again in 2016. Running back Donnel Pumphrey anchors the offense, while seven starters return from a standout defense. The Aztecs could win 11 games once again.

37. South Florida: The Bulls showed marked progress in coach Willie Taggart's third year. USF finished 8-5 in 2015 and returns 14 starters for 2016, including running back Marlon Mack. The Bulls are the favorite to win the AAC East this fall.

38. Pitt: Pat Narduzzi's first year in the Steel City was a success, and the Panthers are aiming even higher in 2016. Standout receiver Tyler Boyd must be replaced, but Pitt returns 16 starters, including standout safety Jordan Whitehead and senior quarterback Nathan Peterman. The combination of James Conner and Qadree Ollison is one of the nation's best backfield duos.

39. Penn State: James Franklin has recruited well, but the Nittany Lions are still looking for a breakout season under their third-year coach. With scholarship sanctions ending, the depth and overall talent level is improving in Happy Valley. Franklin needs to find a new quarterback and replace a couple of key faces on defense.

40. West Virginia: Is this a make-or-break year for coach Dana Holgorsen? With no long-term contract in place, Holgorsen is under a lot of pressure to win in 2016. The Mountaineers should have one of the Big 12's top offenses, but the defense features a revamped back seven. 

41. Mississippi State: Replacing the best player - Dak Prescott - in school history will be a challenge for coach Dan Mullen. However, Mullen has elevated this program, and the Bulldogs are better equipped to handle personnel losses than ever before.

42. Texas Tech: Dynamic offense, questionable defense. A similar theme is setting up for the Red Raiders in 2016. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is one of the best in the nation, but the junior has to work behind a revamped offensive line. If the defense improves, Texas Tech could exceed last year's seven wins.

43. Texas: The pressure is building on coach Charlie Strong, but the Longhorns have a promising core of young talent and some much-needed direction on offense under new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. The development of true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele and front seven on defense are the keys to Texas' 2016 season.

44. California: The addition of graduate transfer Davis Webb was huge for the Golden Bears in the post-Jared Goff era. With Webb in the mix, California gets a slight bump in Athlon's rankings for 2016.

45. Northwestern: The Wildcats were one of the Big Ten's biggest surprises last year, claiming 10 victories for the second time in four seasons. Pat Fitzgerald's team needs to improve on offense to reach that level in 2016, but the defense should be strong once again with six returning starters.

46. Arizona State: High expectations surrounded the Sun Devils last year, but the Sun Devils finished a disappointing 6-7. Todd Graham's team has a lot of question marks for 2016, as a new quarterback must emerge, and the defense has to get better against the pass.

47. BYU: New coach Kalani Sitake faces a challenging schedule in his first year in Provo, but the Cougars return 12 starters, including two standout quarterbacks in Tanner Mangum and Taysom Hill.

48. Kansas State: Injuries hit Bill Snyder's team hard last year, but the Wildcats still managed to get six wins and a bowl trip. With better luck in the health department and more consistent play at quarterback, Kansas State will be a dangerous team to watch in the Big 12 this season. 

49. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets had a surprising fall last season. After winning the Coastal Division and the Orange Bowl in 2014, Georgia Tech slumped to 3-9. Expect Paul Johnson's team to rebound back into a bowl and challenge for a winning record in 2016.

50. Arizona: Last season's seven-win mark was the lowest by Arizona under coach Rich Rodriguez. And if the Wildcats want to top that total in 2016, it will have to be on the strength of an offense that averaged 37.4 points a game last year. Rodriguez hit the reset button on defense, and this unit is in need of repair after giving up 35.8 points a game in 2015.

51. Air Force: With 13 returning starters, Air Force should challenge Boise State for the top spot in the Mountain West's Mountain Division. Coach Troy Calhoun has a deep stable of running backs at his disposal, and the defense should be strong with nine starters back.

52. Temple: After tying the school record with 10 victories last year, what will Matt Rhule's Owls do for an encore? With 11 returning starters, including quarterback P.J. Walker and running back Jahad Thomas, Temple should challenge for the American Athletic East Division title once again.

53. Duke: The Blue Devils have made significant progress under coach David Cutcliffe, but getting to a fifth consecutive bowl game won't be easy. Quarterback Thomas Sirk's status is uncertain due to an offseason Achilles injury, and there's a challenging road slate ahead on the schedule.

54. Cincinnati: After a disappointing seven-win season last year, the Bearcats hope to get back on track in 2016. Tommy Tuberville's team could show marked improvement just by having better luck in the turnover department (minus-19 in 2015). Quarterback Gunner Kiel also returns for his senior year.

55. Indiana: Replacing quarterback Nate Sudfeld won't be easy, but the Hoosiers are on the right track under coach Kevin Wilson. New quarterback Richard Lagow inherits a strong supporting cast, and new coordinator Tom Allen should help the defense take a step forward.

56. Kentucky: Mark Stoops' fourth year in Lexington is a critical one. The Wildcats have posted back-to-back 5-7 campaigns but are still looking for their first bowl trip under Stoops. With a favorable schedule and promising talent on both sides of the ball, Kentucky should be able to hit the six-win mark this fall.

57. Vanderbilt: The Commodores showed progress in coach Derek Mason's second year, and a bowl game isn't out of the question for 2016. The strength of Mason's team is once again the defense, and quarterback Kyle Shurmur is expected to improve with a full offseason to work as the starter.

58. Appalachian State: As last year's 11-win season showed, the Mountaineers made a quick transition to the FBS level. With 16 returning starters - including a deep stable of running backs - Scott Satterfield's team should edge Arkansas State for the Sun Belt title.

59. NC State: Earning a third consecutive bowl trip won't be easy for the Wolfpack in 2016. In addition to finding a replacement for quarterback Jacoby Brissett, NC State's schedule is tough, highlighted by a non-conference game against Notre Dame and road trips to Clemson, North Carolina and Louisville.

60. Minnesota: First-year (full-time) coach Tracy Claeys has a chance to make a good first impression on new athletic director Mark Coyle. With 14 returning starters and a favorable schedule, there's a good chance Minnesota exceeds last year's six wins.

61. Colorado: The Buffaloes are trending in the right direction under coach Mike MacIntyre. However, the schedule isn't easy, and there's uncertainty at quarterback after Davis Webb decided to transfer to California. Will Sefo Liufau return to full strength by September?

62. Missouri: The Tigers should be strong on defense once again. However, new coach Barry Odom's biggest task is generating improvement from an offense that averaged only 13.6 points a game in 2015. 

63. South Carolina: Will Muschamp has plenty of question marks to address in his second stint as a head coach in the SEC. The Gamecocks probably have more talent in the program than last year's 3-9 record would suggest, but only eight starters are back and both sides of the ball have significant holes to fill.

64. Wake Forest: Expect the Demon Deacons to take a big step forward in Dave Clawson's third year. The overall depth and talent level has improved over the last two seasons, and the schedule is favorable enough to challenge for six wins.

65. Boston College: Injuries hit Boston College hard last season, but the Eagles should rebound in 2016. The addition of Patrick Towles is an upgrade at quarterback, while the defense remains tough with six returning starters.

66. Maryland: D.J. Durkin is a good hire, but expectations should be tempered in year one. The Terrapins have question marks at quarterback and suffered key losses at each level on defense. 

67. Navy: The Midshipmen lose a handful of key players - namely quarterback Keenan Reynolds - but Ken Niumatalolo's team will be in the mix for a finish near the top of the American Athletic Conference's West Division.

68. Southern Miss: New coach Jay Hopson should keep Southern Miss at the top of Conference USA's West Division in 2016. Of course, it doesn't hurt the Golden Eagles return standout quarterback Nick Mullens and running back Ito Smith.

69. Western Michigan: Led by quarterback Zach Terrell and receiver Corey Davis, Western Michigan is poised to threaten Northern Illinois' run at the top of the MAC West. The Broncos have a few voids to fill on defense, but NIU and Toledo must visit Kalamazoo. 

70. MTSU: The Blue Raiders could be poised for a breakthrough season under coach Rick Stockstill. Quarterback Brent Stockstill and receiver Richie James form one of the top pass-catch combinations in the Group of 5 ranks. Also in MTSU's favor: No Southern Miss in crossover play and a home date against WKU.

71. Iowa State: Matt Campbell was one of the offseason's best hires, and the first-year coach inherits two of the Big 12's top skill players in running back Mike Warren and receiver Allen Lazard. Campbell's biggest concern is an offensive line that's thin on depth and proven starters.

72. Virginia: Bronco Mendenhall is an interesting fit at Virginia, and the former BYU coach inherits a roster with just 10 returning starters and question marks on both sides of the ball. Safety Quin Blanding should push for All-America honors.

73. Marshall: The Thundering Herd will be looking for their fourth consecutive 10-win season in 2016. Sophomore quarterback Chase Litton and visits by WKU and MTSU to Huntington could be enough for Doc Holliday's team to win C-USA's East Division.

74. Illinois: The Lovie Smith hire has created some much-needed energy around the program, but the first-year coach will have a tough time exceeding last season's five-win mark. The Fighting Illini have major voids to fill on defense, and top receiver Mike Dudek is out for the year due to a knee injury. Quarterback Wes Lunt should be one of the best in the Big Ten.

75. Syracuse: Dino Babers is one of the top hires for 2016, but the first-year coach inherits a team with a lot of question marks. The offense is led by promising quarterback Eric Dungey and big-play threat Steve Ishmael at receiver. The defense - especially in the trenches - is Babers' biggest concern.

76. WKU: Standout quarterback Brandon Doughty must be replaced, but the Hilltoppers are positioned for another run at the C-USA West Division title. A deep group of running backs leads the way for coach Jeff Brohm, and WKU boasts the conference's top offensive line.

77. UConn: The Huskies took a step forward in coach Bob Diaco's second year last fall. Expect more improvement out of UConn in 2016, as 15 returning starters provide plenty of optimism for Diaco. Cornerback Jamar Summers is one of the nation's top cover men.

78. Arkansas State: The Red Wolves return 13 starters from last year's Sun Belt title team, and coach Blake Anderson filled a few voids by adding a couple of talented transfers. Expect Arkansas State to push for the Sun Belt title once again.

79. Toledo: New coach Jason Candle should keep the Rockets near the top of the MAC West. Toledo returns a dynamic backfield - led by senior Kareem Hunt - and a standout offensive line to lean on in 2016.

80. Northern Illinois: With 12 returning starters and a healthy Drew Hare at quarterback, a seventh consecutive trip to the MAC Championship is within reach for Northern Illinois. A road trip to Western Michigan in early October could decide the winner of the MAC West Division.

81. Georgia Southern: New coach Tyson Summers inherits a team capable of winning the Sun Belt title. But transitioning to a new staff and schemes is never easy. The Eagles own one of the nation's top ground attacks with the return of Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw at quarterback, along with Matt Breida and L.A. Ramsby at running back.

82. Utah State: Chuckie Keeton expired his eligibility, but the quarterback position for the Aggies is in good hands with Kent Myers. It's a good thing Utah State returns nine starters on offense, as there's a complete rebuilding effort (three starters returning) on defense in 2016.

83. Memphis: Mike Norvell is a good hire at Memphis, but the first-year coach has a tough assignment this fall in finding a replacement for quarterback Paxton Lynch. The Tigers have a good collection of skill players and return eight starters on defense.

84. Tulsa: Scoring points shouldn't be a problem for the Golden Hurricane. Second-year coach Philip Montgomery returns standout quarterback Dane Evans and one of the American Athletic Conference's top receiving corps. Surpassing last season's win total rests with generating improvement on a defense that gave up 39.8 points a game in 2015.

85. Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs have big shoes to fill on offense with the departure of quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Kenneth Dixon. And there are plenty of voids to fill on defense with only three returning starters. Receiver Trent Taylor is one of the top players in Conference USA.

86. Nevada: An overhauled front seven on defense will be a tough test for coach Brian Polian, but the Wolf Pack will be explosive on offense with the return of nine starters. The one-two punch of James Butler and Akeel Lynch at running back provides plenty of support for steady quarterback Tyler Stewart.

87. Rutgers: Chris Ash looks like the right coach to help Rutgers take a step forward in the rugged Big Ten East Division. Year one is going to have its share of rough patches, as the Scarlet Knights have to find a quarterback and improve a defense that gave up 462 yards a game in 2015.

88. Central Michigan: Quarterback Cooper Rush and a deep group of receivers should keep the Chippewas in the mix for the MAC West title. However, road trips to Northern Illinois and Toledo won't be easy.

89. Colorado State: Mike Bobo's first season in Fort Collins resulted in a solid seven-win season. The Rams are aiming higher for 2016, but there's a lot of work to do on defense, and standout receiver Rashard Higgins left for the NFL. 

90. Oregon State: Year two of Gary Andersen's rebuilding project is underway in Corvallis. The Beavers could be more competitive in 2016, but it may not show too much in the win column. The addition of Utah State transfer Darell Garretson should provide stability at quarterback.

91. Ohio: The MAC East is one of the toughest divisions to predict for 2016. When choosing a favorite amongst uncertainty, it's better to default to Ohio - a program that hasn't recorded a losing record since 2008. Linebacker Quentin Poling anchors a defense that should be among the best in the MAC.

92. UTEP: Injuries hit UTEP hard last season, but the Miners should be poised for a quick rebound in Sean Kugler's fourth year. The return of running back Aaron Jones to full strength is a big boost for the offense, and a favorable schedule should allow for a trip to the postseason.

93. New Mexico: The Lobos had a breakthrough year in 2015. In Bob Davie's fourth season, New Mexico finished 7-6 and went to a bowl for the first time since 2007. And with 14 returning starters, the Lobos should push for another bowl trip in 2016.

94. East Carolina: The Pirates will be a team to watch under new coach Scottie Montgomery. Senior Isaiah Jones leads a dangerous group of skill players, and there's a solid foundation in place on defense with six returning starters. 

95. Purdue: With six wins in three seasons, coach Darrell Hazell is squarely on the hot seat for 2016. The return of 16 starters provides promise, but the Boilermakers need better play from quarterback David Blough and a struggling defense (36.5 points a game in 2015) to push for a winning season.

96. San Jose State: Last year's six-win season and bowl victory was a step in the right direction for the Spartans. Standout running back Tyler Ervin must be replaced, but the Spartans return 15 starters, including an All-Mountain West candidate at quarterback in Kenny Potter.

97. Bowling Green: New coach Mike Jinks has big shoes to fill in replacing Dino Babers. The Falcons have enough talent to win the MAC East for the fourth year in a row, but there's a lot of unknowns under Jinks - a coach who's never been a coordinator or head coach at the FBS level.

98. Akron: 2015 was a record-breaking season for the Zips. Terry Bowden's team set a program-high with eight wins and also claimed the first bowl victory in Akron history. Only four starters return for 2016, but the Zips should push for another postseason trip.

99. Kansas: David Beaty inherited a massive rebuilding project. The Jayhawks need another recruiting class or two to upgrade the program's overall talent level just to be competitive in the Big 12. Kansas should at least break into the win column in 2016.

100. UCF: The Knights have more talent on the roster than last year's 0-12 record would suggest. New coach Scott Frost should provide a much-needed boost to the offense, and this unit returns plenty of talented pieces, including quarterback Justin Holman and receiver Tre'Quan Smith.

101. SMU: Chad Morris has SMU on the right path, but the Mustangs are probably a year away from contending for a bowl game. The offense should be explosive behind quarterback Matt Davis and receiver Courtland Sutton.

102. Troy: The Trojans could surprise in the Sun Belt. Troy only won four games last year but showed improvement under first-year coach Neal Brown. Quarterback Brandon Silvers is a name to remember. 

103. FAU: Despite back-to-back 3-9 seasons under Charlie Partridge, the Owls have a talented core of young players in place. End Trey Hendrickson recorded 13.5 sacks last year and anchors a defense that held opponents to 28.8 points a game in 2015. 

104. Old Dominion: With 16 returning starters, the Monarchs are poised to push for the program's first bowl trip. The defense has room to improve, but Old Dominion returns nine starters on offense and has two proven quarterbacks in Shuler Bentley and David Washington.

105. FIU: Coach Ron Turner has to rebuild the defense, but the Panthers return nine starters on offense, including quarterback Alex McGough and running back Alex Gardner. 

106. UNLV: The Rebels showed progress under first-year coach Tony Sanchez in 2015. Don't be surprised if UNLV takes another step forward in 2016. Junior college recruit (and former Nebraska signal-caller) Johnny Stanton is an intriguing player to watch, and receiver Devonte Boyd is one of the best in the Group of 5 ranks.

107. UL Lafayette: After four straight 9-4 seasons, the Ragin' Cajuns slipped to 4-8 and no postseason trip for the first time under coach Mark Hudspeth. Can Hudspeth get this program back on track? Running back Elijah McGuire is one of the Sun Belt's top players, but the bowl hopes of UL Lafayette rest with the development of the defense and quarterback Jordan Davis.

108. Fresno State: After winning 11 games in 2013, the Bulldogs have won only nine contests over the last two years. There's pressure on coach Tim DeRuyter to show the program hasn't slipped in 2016. A revamped coaching staff provides some optimism, but the Bulldogs have big question marks on both sides of the ball.

109. Rice: After missing out on a bowl for the first time in three years, Rice hopes the return of 15 starters will be enough for a trip to the postseason. The Owls have to break in a new quarterback, and the defense needs to show marked improvement after giving up 35.8 points a game in 2015.

110. Georgia State: The Panthers took a big step forward in coach Trent Miles' third season with a 6-7 final record and the program's first bowl trip. The overall talent and depth has improved, but Georgia State has to replace standout quarterback Nick Arbuckle.

111. Army West Point: The Black Knights have only two winning seasons since 1996, but they are improving under third-year coach Jeff Monken. With 14 returning starters - including two promising quarterbacks in Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Carter - Army could push for six wins.

112. Miami, Ohio: The RedHawks are getting better under third-year coach Chuck Martin and could be a sleeper team to watch in the MAC East title picture. Martin needs to settle the quarterback battle between Gus Ragland and Billy Bahl, but Miami should have one of the MAC's top defenses in 2016.

113. Buffalo: The Bulls return only two starters on offense and enter the year with uncertainty at quarterback, but coach Lance Leipold's team should be able to push for a bowl game on the strength of a defense that returns eight starters.

114. Wyoming: Craig Bohl is the right coach to get Wyoming's program back on track. However, the Cowboys are in the midst of a youth movement and likely facing another uphill battle for wins in 2016. Running back Brian Hill is one of the top players in the Group of 5 ranks.

115. South Alabama: The Jaguars were unable to build off the 2014 season, which saw the program earn its first bowl bid. A return to the postseason is possible in 2016, but South Alabama needs to find a quarterback and navigate a tough schedule to get to six wins.

116. Ball State: New coach Mike Neu - a former Ball State quarterback - inherits some promising talent on offense, including quarterback Riley Neal and receiver KeVonn Mabon. The Cardinals could push for a winning record if the defense takes a step forward after giving up 35.8 points a game in 2015.

117. Tulane: The Green Wave made one of the offseason's best hires in Willie Fritz. 2016 looks to be a rebuilding year for Fritz, as Tulane has major question marks on an offense that returns four starters and lacks a proven quarterback. 

118. Kent State: The Golden Flashes boasted a standout defense in 2015, but the offense averaged only 13.1 points a game. Coach Paul Haynes needs to find a spark for this unit or the temperature on the fourth-year coach's seat is only going to increase.

119. Idaho: Last year's four-win campaign was Idaho's best since 2010. Quarterback Matt Linehan leads the way for an offense that returns eight starters. Improvement is needed from a defense that gave up 42.1 points a game last season.

120. New Mexico State: The Aggies were more competitive in 2015 and should take another step forward in 2016. Running back Larry Rose is one of the nation's best in the Group of 5 ranks. 

121. Hawaii: Nick Rolovich is a good hire, but the former Hawaii quarterback inherits a team that won only three games last season (and zero in conference play). The Rainbow Warriors need to find a quarterback, but a challenging schedule won't be easy to overcome.

122. Texas State: New coach Everett Withers inherits a team with only eight returning starters from last year's 3-9 team. However, the cupboard isn't entirely bare for Withers. Quarterback Tyler Jones is a capable triggerman for this offense, and there's probably more talent in the program than last season's record indicated.

123. UTSA: Frank Wilson is regarded for his work on the recruiting trail, but this is his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level. The Roadrunners have talent at the skill positions, and the addition of graduate transfer Jared Johnson should settle the quarterback spot. 

124. Eastern Michigan: The Eagles hope to show major progress in coach Chris Creighton's third season. With 15 starters back, EMU could equal its win total from the last two years (three). The return of end Pat O'Connor from injury should help a defense that gave up 42.1 points a game in 2015.

125. Charlotte: The 49ers should show some progress in their second year at the FBS level. Running back Kalif Phillips and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi are two under-the-radar performers for coach Brad Lambert, while former Miami signal-caller Kevin Olsen takes over at quarterback.

126. ULM: The Warhawks get high marks for the Matt Viator hire, but progress may be hard to find in 2016. The offense features talented sophomore quarterback Garrett Smith and one of the Sun Belt's top receiving corps. The defense must be overhauled with just two returning starters.

127. UMass: Life as a FBS Independent isn't going to be easy for UMass. The Minutemen return only six starters from last season's 3-9 team. Junior college transfer quarterback Andrew Ford and running back Marquis Young provide hope on offense.

128. North Texas: Seth Littrell is a good hire and should have the Mean Green competing for bowl trips over the next few years. However, there's a lot of work needed for 2016. Alabama transfer Alec Morris is an intriguing option at quarterback.


College Football 2016 Team Rankings 1-128
Post date: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/delta-airlines-flight-cleveland-cavaliers-win-nba-finals-golden-state-warriors

NBA conspiracy theorist aren't going to let this one go.


While traveling on a Delta flight, NBA reporter Dave McMenamin noticed an interesting tidbit on the in-flight entertainment. The airlines already claims the Warriors will win the championship. 



If Delta Airlines is correct, you have to wonder what other secrets they might know.

Post date: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - 09:37
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/most-shameful-college-football-games-2016

Not all games between major college football teams and their brothers in the lower division are created equal.


There’s plenty of evidence for this beyond just the handful of FCS-over-FBS upsets each year. Five-time FCS champion North Dakota State has a five-game winning streak against FBS competition that predates the Bison’s national title streak. One of the quarterbacks of those teams, Carson Wentz, went second in the NFL draft. FCS quarterbacks — like Vernon Adams and Dakota Prukop — have been coveted graduate transfers.


Then there is the other side of the coin: Power programs using FCS teams for easy wins, glorified scrimmages and schedule filler.


As usual, the games that make our most shameful game list are between Power 5 programs and clearly overmatched FCS opponents. Extra “shameful points” were awarded to FBS teams asking an FCS opponent to travel across state lines to do the deed.


It is also worth mentioning that we factored no extenuating circumstances in this ranking: We don’t care if this game falls in a tough part of the schedule or if the FBS school got into a bind making its schedule. These games are here and they’ll be ugly.


10. UC Davis at Oregon, Sept. 3

Scheduling out West can be tough, with only the Mountain West around for non-conference games. The Ducks are scraping the bottom of the barrel for a UC Davis team that is 4-18 the last two seasons. This will be a reunion of sorts — UC Davis coach Ron Gould is a former Oregon player and GA — but it won’t be an enjoyable one.


9. Missouri State at Kansas State, Sept. 24

Early in Bill Snyder’s tenure, Kansas State was renowned for its light non-conference schedules. Yet in recent years, Kansas State has faced Auburn, Miami (twice) and UCLA in September. The Wildcats open 2016 at Stanford. A game against Missouri State proves K-State can still find room for a patsy. Missouri State won only one game last season — against Division II Chadron State — and lost by a combined score of 140-14 to Memphis and Arkansas State.


8. Furman at Michigan State, Sept. 2

Furman went 4-7 last season but actually ranked higher in the Sagarin Ratings (No. 182) than Eastern Michigan (No. 184) last season. The shameful part of this game is Michigan State — winners of two of the last three Big Ten titles — importing an FCS team from South Carolina for a Friday night game to open the season.


T-7. Idaho State at Colorado, Sept. 10

T-7. Idaho State at Oregon State, Sept. 17

Idaho State is a regular for shameful games. And, yes, Oregon State and Colorado need all the wins they can get. Few wins are more automatic than Idaho State. The Bengals lost 52-0 to Boise State last season and 80-8 to UNLV a week later. Aside from an 8-4 season in 2014, Idaho State is 16-85 since 2006.


6. Austin Peay at Kentucky, Nov. 19

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops might need a game like this to get to bowl game and perhaps save his job. Of course, any sign of struggle against Austin Peay would be a red flag for Stoops. Austin Peay went 1-34 under former coach Kirby Cannon and replaced him with 30-year-old Will Healy.


5. Delaware State at Missouri, Sept. 24

Missouri brings in the second-best FCS team in Delaware for an easy September win. The Hornets have gone 3-20 the last two seasons. At least second-year coach Kenny Carter has plenty of major college experience as a former assistant at Louisville, Florida, Vanderbilt, Penn State, Pittsburgh and LSU.


4. Chattanooga at Alabama, Nov. 19

Chattanooga isn’t a bad team. Actually, the Mocs are pretty good. They’ve won three Southern Conference titles in a row and ranked No. 100 in the Sagarin Ratings last season — ahead of teams bowl teams like Akron, Colorado State, Nevada and Georgia State. The Mocs are a good enough team to upset a handful of FBS teams, and the SEC vs. FCS challenge in late November is a tradition at this point. But this is Alabama, and there’s nothing to gain from a game against an opponent the Tide beat by a combined score of 94-0 in 2009 and 2013.


3. Northwestern State at Baylor, Sept. 3

Northwestern State actually beat an FBS team in 2014, defeating Louisiana Tech 30-27 — a game that happened to be just two weeks after a 70-6 loss to Baylor. The result won’t be much different this year. Baylor can’t even grab a good FCS team for its annual routs against the lower division. Northwestern State has had just one winning season since 2004.


2. Nicholls State at Georgia, Sept. 10

Kirby Smart’s first six weeks as a head coach will be brutal: North Carolina, at Missouri, at Ole Miss, Tennessee and at South Carolina. The Nicholls State game is the breather his team will need, but it doesn’t make the game any less shameful. Nicholls State, a Southland Conference from Thibodaux, La., has lost 24 of its last 27 games. Five of its last six games against FBS competition have come by scores of 47-0 (ULM), 49-0 (Colorado), 77-3 (North Texas), 73-7 (Arkansas) and 70-7 (UL Lafayette).


1. Presbyterian at Florida, Nov. 19

If Steve Spurrier were to take a shot at Florida, it might go something like this: “You can’t spell BYE without Presbyterian.” Indeed, this game is a glorified bye week for the Gators in between the SEC finale against South Carolina and a road trip to Florida State. Presbyterian went 2-9 in 2015, finished 218th in the Sagarin Ratings, and scored more than 20 points only twice (23 against Campbell, 21 against Western Carolina) last season. Only two years ago, a decent Presbyterian team that finished 6-5 played three FBS teams, losing by a combined score of 145-3 to Northern Illinois, NC State and Ole Miss. Despite sharing a state with FAU, FIU, UCF and USF — not to mention a decent FCS program in Bethune-Cookman and legacy program in Florida A&M — Florida is importing a bad FCS team from South Carolina for an easy "W" in November.


The Most Shameful College Football Games of 2016
Post date: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/detroit-radio-shifts-blame-baylor-victims-sports-sexual-assault-tom-mazawey

Every day there's more and more talk about the Baylor sexual assault scandal. With more talk, comes more takes.


Detroit Sports 105.1 host Tom Mazawey talked a little about the scandal and how not too many people are talking about the victims' roles in this. Mazawey says in part if a woman is out drinking and heads home with a man, it's pretty much known that she will be sexually assaulted so don't be surprised if it happens.


Post date: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 14:11
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/massive-gator-roaming-florida-alligator-golf-course

Imagine going for a nice, relaxing game of golf and all of a sudden there's something right out of Jurassic Park roaming the course.


That's exactly what happened on this Florida golf course. Surprisingly the gator isn't new to the course, he shows up from time to time, and "doesn't bother anybody." It's about 15-16 feet long so the chances of it actually catching people is rather slim, but it's still an unsettling sight.


Post date: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 12:32
All taxonomy terms: BYU Cougars, College Football, Independents
Path: /college-football/case-byu-top-25-team-2016

Sizing up  football in 2016 is an interesting proposition. BYU says goodbye to Bronco Mendenhall, who won a lot of games in his 11 years in Provo, and the Cougars then say hello to first-time head coach Kalani Sitake, who makes up for his lack of head coach experience in the fact that he knows the culture of BYU football.


As for what some publications think in regards to BYU’s prospects for this coming season, the Cougars come in at No. 47 in Athlon Sports’ rankings of all 128 FBS programs.




The last two seasons BYU has flown up the rankings after quick starts that had the nation buzzing about the Cougars potentially being a College Football Playoff crasher. Obviously, BYU didn’t get anyone near the Playoff in 2014 or ‘15, but the Cougars have been acquiring some nice talent at the top of their roster and looked primed to make a splash with a difficult schedule this fall.


With BYU falling outside of Athlon’s Top 25, here is a case for why the Cougars could end up there before all is said and done.


1. Quarterbacks

How many schools around the country can say they have two quarterbacks who they feel not only can win a lot of games but also win enough to say you’re a top 25 team? Not many. BYU, however, is one of those teams.


Both Taysom Hill and Tanner Mangum would be quarterbacks that any school would love to have, BYU is blessed to have both and first-year offensive coordinator Ty Detmer will have the tall order of choosing who will be the starter during fall camp. Right now, Mangum has the upper hand because he was healthy during spring practices while Hill continues to recover from the foot injury he suffered in the season opener against Nebraska last year. If Hill is healthy in fall camp, I’d expect that he wins the job in camp and is BYU’s starter against Arizona on Sept. 3. Again, it’s a good problem to have.


When you look at BYU’s schedule in 2016, aside from the UCLA game, the Cougars have the edge at the quarterback position in every game. You also could make the case for BYU having the edge against UCLA as well. Mangum outplayed UCLA’s Josh Rosen in Pasadena a year ago. Rosen had his worst game as a Bruin against BYU.


BYU’s quarterbacks are as good as advertised and this alone might give BYU a strong enough case to be a top-25 team.


2. Foundation of winning and new energy

When Kalani Sitake took over he made it clear that BYU was not a program that was broken or needed fixing. Sitake knew that his current school had been winning a lot of games over the last 11 years under previous head coach Bronco Mendenhall. BYU is one of only 10 programs since 2005 to post a .500 record or better in all those seasons. Hard to ignore the success of the past plus a new excitement that BYU was sorely lacking in recent seasons.


3. Improved defensive line

BYU’s run defense last season was average at best. The Cougars gave up nearly 150 yards per game on the ground, and now BYU has to replace Bronson Kaufusi, who was taken in the third round by the Baltimore Ravens in last month’s NFL Draft. But don’t sleep on BYU’s defensive front, particularly the defensive line, this fall.


Ilaisa Tuiaki (aka “Coach E”) comes to BYU as the Cougars’ new defensive coordinator. Sitake brought Tuiaki with him from Oregon State. Tuiaki also had served as Sitake’s defensive line coach while the two were at Utah.


Sitake and Tuiaki have had success over the years, particularly at Utah, producing defensive linemen that went on to the NFL. BYU will be switching to a 4-3 scheme and the Cougars’ defensive linemen will be asked to do a lot more in Tuiaki’s defense, but the Cougars have the horses to do it. Travis Tuiloma is expected to man the middle and should flourish in this new scheme, and he will be paired with one of the nation’s top junior college transfers in Handsome Tanielu, who turned down the likes of Utah and Texas to play in Sitake and Tuiaki’s defense in Provo.


Any great college football team needs to be stout in the trenches and BYU should be much improved in that area this fall.


4. Schedule will pose great opportunities

BYU’s schedule in 2016 is a bear. It just is. The great thing for BYU assembling this in 2016 is that it’ll give the Cougars numerous opportunities to not only start the season like they have the past few seasons in the top 25 but also bounce back in and potentially finish the year ranked. BYU hasn’t been a part of the final AP Top 25 since 2009 when the Cougars finished 12th.




BYU plays six Power Five teams and a pair of programs in Cincinnati and Boise State that are jockeying for and feel worthy of a spot in one of the major conferences. If there was ever a year where you could say BYU has a schedule similar to a P5 team, this would be the year.


— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is publisher of Rivals' BYU site,, and also is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter .

The Case for BYU as a Top 25 team in 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-running-backs

In today’s pass-happy , it should come as no surprise that the role and status of the running back has changed. Consider that last season seven players rushed for at least 1,000 yards. Just five years ago that number was 17. Also, when Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott was taken with the fourth overall pick of this year’s draft he represented just the third running back taken in the first round in the past four drafts combined.


That doesn’t running backs are no longer valuable, but the skill set and job description certainly has changed. Even though Le’Veon Bell is recovering from a torn ACL, he still claims the top spot in Athlon Sports’ running back rankings, which were done in conjunction with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the The main reason? Bell is just a much a weapon in the passing game as he is taking the hand off with 107 receptions for nearly 1,000 yards over the last two seasons (22 games).


Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.


2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I I  I I I


2016 NFL Running Back Rankings


1. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

He missed the second half of the 2015 season with an MCL tear, but before the injury, the Pro Bowl-caliber back was averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 92.7 yards per game.


2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota

The workhorse led the NFL with 1,485 yards with over 20 carries per game. He scored 11 times and averaged 4.5 yards per carry.


3. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay

Re-signed with the Bucs as an unrestricted free agent in 2016. Only Peterson rushed for than his 1,402 yards in 2015.


4. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

The explosive back has rushed for 7,220 yards and caught 283 passes heading into the 2016 season. Suffered a season-ending knee injury for the second time in his career in ‘15.


5. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles

Voted the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, Gurley exploded on the field with 146 yards on 19 carries during the fourth week of the season and hasn’t looked back.


6. Matt Forté, N.Y. Jets

Signed by the Jets in the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. The 30-year-old back has been one of the most complete offensive players in the NFL the past eight years.


7. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina     

Led the Super Bowl runner-up with a career-high 242 carries. Ranks second in franchise history with 1,283 rushing attempts and 5,814 rushing yards.


8. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta

Earned his first Pro Bowl selection after rushing for 1,056 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 73 passes and tallied three more scores in 2015.


9. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo

Averaged 74.6 yards per game, fifth-best in the NFL in his first season in Buffalo. He added 32 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns. McCoy has 332 receptions in six-year career.


10. Lamar Miller, Houston

Averaged 4.6 yards per carry in Miami and was signed by the Texans as an unrestricted free agent. Miller has a lot of tread left on those tires, getting only 12.1 carries per game last season.


11. Chris Ivory, Jacksonville         

12. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay           

13. Frank Gore, Indianapolis       

14. Latavius Murray, Oakland       

15. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati

16. Darren McFadden, Dallas      

17. C.J. Anderson, Denver            

18. David Johnson, Arizona          

19. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati   

20. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee

21. Ronnie Hillman, Denver         

22. Alfred Morris, Dallas    

23. DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh         

24. T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville        

25. Dion Lewis, New England     

26. Rashad Jennings, N.Y. Giants         

27. Karlos Williams, Buffalo         

28. Mark Ingram, New Orleans    

29. Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland      

30. Duke Johnson, Cleveland     


2016 NFL Fullback Rankings


1. Mike Tolbert, Carolina

Was voted first-team All-Pro as the lead blocker for Jonathan Stewart and pass protector for Cam Newton. The utility back can do it all, including carry the ball and catch passes out of the backfield.


2. Patrick DiMarco, Atlanta

The second-team All Pro paved the way for Devonta Freeman’s success in 2015. He also caught 13 passes for 110 yards and scored twice.


3. Bruce Miller, San Francisco

Was a Pro Bowl-caliber player during the Jim Harbaugh era but was used only in spot duty in 2015. He excelled on special teams. Miller caught 10 passes for 135 yards last fall.


4. Marcel Reece, Oakland

Will start out the 2016 season on the suspension list for PEDs. When on the field, the ex-Washington Huskie catches the ball well and has good run-after-catch ability. He is a three-time Pro Bowl player.


5. John Kuhn, Free Agent

The road grader of a fullback has signed one-year deals with the Packers the last two years and has been an integral part of the special teams and Aaron Rodgers’ protector. 

2016 NFL Player Rankings: Running Backs
Post date: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/cavaliers-fan-loses-warriors-thunder-bet-eats-own-shirt-barbeque-finals-western-conference-finals

Bets are always fun... unless you're on the losing side.


One Cavaliers fan found out the hard way when he bet against the Warriors in their series against the Thunder. Reddit user, PARTYXDIRTYDAN said he would eat his shirt if the Thunder didn't win and we all know what happened in Game 7. 


Being a good sport, he owned up to the bet and dipped the shirt in some barbeque sauce. Yummy.


Post date: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 11:26
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-quarterbacks

Make no mistake, quarterback remains the “it” position in the . Not only is it the most popular one, it’s also the most scrutinized and arguably the most important when it comes to team success.


For poof of this, look no further than this year’s quarterback rankings. Athlon Sports’ rankings, which were done in conjunction with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the , are headlined by a trio of signal-callers who have two things in common – each has won a league MVP award and has led his team to the Super Bowl. In fact, the latter accomplishment applies to each of the top six on our list, a group that has combined to win nine times out 14 Super Sunday appearances.


Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.


2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I I  I I I


2016 NFL Quarterback Rankings


1. Cam Newton, Carolina

Collected 48 of 50 votes to win the NFL’s MVP award for the 2015 season. The athletic competitor passed for 35 touchdowns and ran for 10 more scores.


2. Tom Brady, New England

The future NFL Hall of Famer and 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback responded in the face of adversity with 4,770 yards passing and 36 touchdowns. He was intercepted only seven times. He is scheduled to serve a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season.


3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

Had a blip on the career radar in 2015 after losing prime target Jordy Nelson. His 60.7 completion percentage was the lowest in his eight years as a starter.


4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

With Antonio Brown and a healthy Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers can score on anyone. Big Ben holds numerous career franchise passing records.


5. Drew Brees, New Orleans

The 15-year veteran averaged 7.8 yards per attempt and had 10 games of over 300 yards passing. It was the fifth time in his career he has done so.


6. Russell Wilson, Seattle 

Wilson has won 46 regular season games, more than any quarterback in his first four years in NFL history.


7. Philip Rivers, San Diego

Rivers is the franchise leader in career completion percentage and passer rating. He completed a career-high 437 passes in 2015.


8. Carson Palmer, Arizona

Was voted to the second-team All-Pro squad after passing for a career-high 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns and averaging 8.7 yards per attempt.


9. Matt Ryan, Atlanta

Became the fifth-fastest quarterback to pass for 30,000 yards, accomplishing the feat in his 117th game. One of four passers to throw for 4,000 yards in each of the last five seasons.


10. Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants

Has not missed a start in 11 years. He is the franchise leader in passing attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and interceptions.


11. Tony Romo, Dallas     

12. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis    

13. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati          

14. Joe Flacco, Baltimore 

15. Kirk Cousins, Washington     

16. Matthew Stafford, Detroit        

17. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville    

18. Jay Cutler, Chicago     

19. Alex Smith, Kansas City         

20. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo    

21. Sam Bradford, Philadelphia  

22. Ryan Tannehill, Miami

23. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay

24. Derek Carr, Oakland

25. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota

26. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee  

27. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Free Agent

28. Brock Osweiler, Houston       

29. Blaine Gabbert, San Francisco

30. Josh McCown, Cleveland       

2016 NFL Player Rankings: Quarterbacks
Post date: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News, Magazines
Path: /nfl/athlon-sports-2016-nfl-division-picks-and-playoff-predictions

The NFL season never really stops as the league bounces from the regular season, the postseason, free agency, the draft, OTAs, minicamps, training camps and back to the regular season again.


We’re a month removed from the draft, most rookies have reported, and rosters are starting to be evaluated through the league.


Athlon has done its share of evaluation, too, and we’re ready to get you ready for the season ahead with the release of the Athlon Sports 2016 Pro Football Preview, .


To celebrate the arrival of this year’s NFL preview magazines, we’re releasing our division-by-division and playoff picks for the 2016 season.


All of Athlon’s 2016 previews are and will be available on newsstands on June 7.


  AFC East NFC East
  AFC North NFC North
  AFC South NFC South
  AFC West NFC West
AFC Playoffs NFC Playoffs
Wild Card Wild Card







Divisional Round Divisional Round





AFC Championship NFC Championship



Super Bowl LI


Athlon Sports 2016 NFL Division Picks and Playoff Predictions
Post date: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/coca-cola-600-charlotte-preview-and-fantasy-nascar-predictions-2016

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


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


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


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


2016 Coca-Cola 600


Time: 6 p.m. ET (Sunday)

Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway (Charlotte, NC)


Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90


Who’s at the Front: Joey Logano

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


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


Who’s at the Back: Jimmie Johnson

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


News Briefs


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


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


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


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


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


NASCAR By The Numbers



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



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


Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)


Top Tier


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


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


Middle Tier


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


Bottom Tier


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


What Vegas Thinks

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


What I Think

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


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


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

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


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


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




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


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

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




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


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


Sean Maguire (Redshirt senior)


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


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


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


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


Deondre Francois (Redshirt freshman)


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


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


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


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


Malik Henry (Freshman)


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


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


J.J. Consentino (Redshirt sophomore)


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


Ranking the Sun Belt's College Football Coaches for 2016


1. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State

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




2. Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette

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


3. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State

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


4. Trent Miles, Georgia State

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




5. Joey Jones, South Alabama

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


6. Neal Brown, Troy

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




7. Matt Viator, ULM

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


8. Everett Withers, Texas State

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




9. Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern

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


10. Paul Petrino, Idaho

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


11. Doug Martin, New Mexico State

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

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

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


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


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


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


Ranking the MAC's College Football Coaches for 2016


1. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan

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




2. Frank Solich, Ohio

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


3. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois

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


4. Terry Bowden, Akron

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




5. John Bonamego, Central Michigan

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


6. Lance Leipold, Buffalo

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


7. Chuck Martin, Miami, Ohio

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




8. Jason Candle, Toledo

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


9. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan

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


10. Paul Haynes, Kent State

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




11. Mike Neu, Ball State

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


12. Mike Jinks, Bowling Green

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

Ranking the MAC's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Friday, May 27, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/kirk-herbstreit-disrespect-baylor-bears-football-coach-campus-espn-sportscenter

One thing we're learning from the Baylor fallout is how much of a family the program was.


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


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

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


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


Five Potential Candidates for Baylor in 2017


Sonny Dykes, head coach, California

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


Willie Fritz, head coach, Tulane

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


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

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


Chad Morris, head coach, SMU

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


Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma

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

5 Coaching Candidates to Replace Art Briles at Baylor in 2017
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 13:26
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/top-10-mlb-memorial-day-2016-uniforms

On Memorial Day,  will honor those who have lost their lives in service of their country. As part of the league-wide observance, all 30 teams will wear specially designed caps and jerseys.


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




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


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


Arizona Diamondbacks


Baltimore Orioles



Chicago Cubs



Cleveland Indians



Kansas City Royals



Los Angeles Dodgers



Oakland A's



Philadelphia Phillies



St. Louis Cardinals



Toronto Blue Jays



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

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

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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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





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







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



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

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

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


College Football's Playoff Sleepers for 2016



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





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



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





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


North Carolina

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



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





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



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



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


Three Longshots



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





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



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

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

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


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


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


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


Ranking the AAC's Football Coaches for 2016

1. Tom Herman, Houston

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




2. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

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


3. Willie Fritz, Tulane

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




4. Willie Taggart, South Florida

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


5. Matt Rhule, Temple

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


6. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati

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




7. Bob Diaco, UConn

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


8. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa

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


9. Chad Morris, SMU

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




10. Mike Norvell, Memphis

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


11. Scott Frost, UCF

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


12. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina

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

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

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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


(Top photo by Richard Svaleson/NDSU)

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


1. The SEC was already trolling the Big Ten



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


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


2. We were tired of Alabama being great



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


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


3. We picked Alabama to win the league



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


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


4. Florida has a quarterback problem



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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


7. The SEC was “too tough”



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


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


8. LSU also is seeking a quarterback



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


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


9. SEC teams were looking to technology for an edge



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


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


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


10. Vanderbilt was still waiting for its big moment



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

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

Dale Hansen is a pretty tough Texas sports anchor.


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


Post date: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 12:15