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Path: /college-football/10-fcs-vs-fbs-football-games-avoid-watching-2016

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


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




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


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


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


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

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


UC Davis at Oregon (Sept. 3)

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

Savannah State at Georgia Southern (Sept. 3)

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


Howard at Maryland (Sept. 3)

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

Nicholls at Georgia (Sept. 10)

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


Delaware State at Missouri (Sept. 24)

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

Houston Baptist at Western Kentucky (Oct. 1)

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


Alabama A&M at Auburn (Nov. 19)

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


Presbyterian at Florida (Nov. 19)

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


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

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

Ezekiel Elliott is officially in the money.


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



Former teammate Cardale Jones picked the perfect time.



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



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

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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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




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


Sam Mustipher, Center (6-0, 305)

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Shaun Crawford, Cornerback (5-9, 180)

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


Ranking the Big Ten's Football Coaches for 2016


1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

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




2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

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


3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

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




4. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

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


5. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

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


6. James Franklin, Penn State

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


7. Mike Riley, Nebraska

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




8. Kevin Wilson, Indiana

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


9. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

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


10. D.J. Durkin, Maryland

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




11. Lovie Smith, Illinois

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


12. Chris Ash, Rutgers

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




12. Tracy Claeys, Minnesota

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


14. Darrell Hazell, Purdue

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


"We don't do sports."


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


Why Stanford Will Win the Pac-12 in 2016


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


1. Quarterback Play

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




2. Rebels Have Alabama's Number

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


3. Accumulated Depth

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


4. Defense

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


5. Manageable Schedule

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


Why UCLA Will Win the Pac-12 in 2016


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


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




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


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


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


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


Why UCLA Won’t Win the Pac-12 in 2016


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Why UCLA Will (or Won't) Win the Pac-12 Championship in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/why-washington-huskies-will-or-wont-win-pac-12-2016

Expectations at their current level have not faced the in quite some time. Chris Petersen’s squad checks in at , tops among teams.




Washington hasn’t won a conference title since the 2000 season, a campaign that culminated in a dominating defeat of a Drew Brees-led Purdue squad in the Rose Bowl. Plenty of indicators point to this being the year the Huskies return as top Dawgs in the West.


Why Washington Will Win the Pac-12 in 2016


Petersen’s Boise State teams earned national recognition for employing trick plays, but the heart of the Broncos’ success almost always came on the defensive end.


With former Boise State defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski in tow, Washington’s tapped into the same defensive intensity.


The Huskies held opponents to an average of 18.8 points per game in 2015, 13th-best in the nation and tops in the Pac-12. That's not a misleading or a padded figure, either. Many of Washington's best showings came against some of the most explosive offenses in the nation.


Among some of the more noteworthy performances were holding USC to 12 points, Oregon to 26, Washington State to 10, and Arizona to just three.


Washington loses high-energy linebacker Travis Feeney and position-mate Cory Littleton, but the starting defense is otherwise intact. Safety Budda Baker has All-America potential anchors a loaded secondary, which got an impressive star-turn performance from cornerback Sidney Jones.


Despite losing just shy of 15 sacks from Feeney and Littleton, Kwiatkowski's defenses have always flourished with an aggressive pass rush. Look for a breakout season from linebacker Keishawn Bierria on the perimeter, and Elijah Qualls to make an impact on the interior.


Qualls was limited late due to an ankle injury, but at 100 percent, he's one of the best defensive tackles in the Pac-12. The defense shouldn't miss a beat, and the offense can build off a strong finish.


Washington took some time to find its identity when it had the ball, which is to be expected from a team starting true freshmen at quarterback and running back. But those early snaps helped Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin grow by season's end, manifesting in the Huskies dropping 44 points or more four times in their final six outings.


Behind a stout and experienced offensive line, Washington has a solid foundation around which to build. It's not the kind of offense that will blow away defenses with tempo, but the group's style and strength complements the defense nicely.


Both offensively and defensively, Washington's make-up is reminiscent of that of Stanford. If you're going to look like a conference foe, the winner of three of the last four league championships isn't a bad place to start.


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


The road to the Pac-12 championship passes through the North. Every league titleholder since expansion in 2011 came out of that division: Oregon in 2011 and ‘14, and Stanford in ‘12, ‘13 and ‘15.


Oregon and Stanford have indeed reigned supreme over the Pac-12, and count Washington among the Ducks’ and Cardinal’s subjects. The Huskies are a combined 1-9 against the kings of the conference in that time.


In fact, Washington’s losing streak to rival Oregon dates back to 2003. One of the first questions Petersen fielded at his introductory press conference in December 2013 centered on the Huskies' losing streak to the Ducks.


The coach joked, "Do we have to start that already?" But the time to answer the question is now.


Washington's 0-2 against Oregon in Petersen's first two seasons. A comeback effort fell short last season in the Huskies' best opportunity to score a win over the Ducks in quite some time.


Both teams feature different players and it's a different season, but that Oregon losing streak hangs around the Huskies' necks like a millstone.


The Stanford series has been more competitive. Washington scored a win in Seattle in 2012, and took the Cardinal to the wire on the road in ‘13. The series returns to the Northwest this year.


Those are two hurdles Washington must prove it clear to return to the pinnacle of the Pac-12 – and that's to say nothing of resurgent rival Washington State.


The Huskies thrashed an injury-depleted Cougar squad last November in Seattle, but this year's installment of the Apple Cup returns to Pullman.


A trio of games in the North should determine Washington's worthiness to represent in the Pac-12 Championship Game. It's a treacherous road, particularly with two trips away from Husky Stadium.


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

Why the Washington Huskies Will (or Won't) Win the Pac-12 in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-college-football-coaches-2016

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


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


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


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


Ranking the ’s Football Coaches for 2016


1. Nick Saban, Alabama

With three national championships over the last five years, the rest of college football is chasing Alabama and Nick Saban. Under Saban’s direction, the Crimson Tide have won 105 games since 2007 and are the only team to make the College Football Playoff in back-to-back seasons. Alabama has only lost more than one game in SEC play once since 2008 and has not finished outside of the Associated Press top 10 since 2007. There’s no question the bar is set high at Alabama and maintaining this level of success isn’t easy for any program. However, Saban is the unquestioned No. 1 coach in the nation and continues to reel in elite talent every year.




2. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Over the last few seasons, no team in the West has improved its standing nationally more than Ole Miss. Freeze is a big reason for the improvement, as he came to Oxford with a track record of success. Freeze went 20-5 in two seasons at Lambuth and finished 10-2 in his only year at Arkansas State (2011). It didn’t take long for Freeze to generate improvement at Ole Miss, as the Rebels increased their win total by five games in his first year. And after an 8-5 finish in 2013, Ole Miss continued its rise with a 9-4 record in 2014, followed by a 10-3 mark in 2015. The program has recorded back-to-back New Year’s Six bowl appearances and finished No. 10 in the Associated Press poll last year. While three NFL first-round picks must be replaced in 2016, Ole Miss is equipped to handle the transition with four straight top-20 recruiting classes.


3. Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Bielema inherited a program in need of repair after a 4-8 mark under John L. Smith in 2012. Establishing a foundation for success took a year, as the Razorbacks went 3-9 in Bielema’s debut, but there were signs of progress late in the 2013 season. Arkansas used that momentum to finish 7-6 in 2014, which included a 31-7 Texas Bowl blowout over Texas. And the Razorbacks took another step forward in 2015, finishing 8-5 and 5-3 in conference play and just outside of the top 25 in the final Associated Press poll. Considering how difficult the SEC West is, going from 0-8 in conference play (2013) to 5-3 (2015) is quite an accomplishment for Bielema. Entering 2016, it’s clear Bielema has this program trending up and on stable ground.




4. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Mississippi State is the toughest job in the SEC West, but the program has made steady progress under Dan Mullen’s watch. The Bulldogs have recorded six consecutive winning seasons and set a school record with 19 victories over the last two years. Additionally, Mullen has guided Mississippi State to six straight bowl games after the program recorded just one postseason trip from 2001-09. The Bulldogs also spent time as the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff committee rankings in 2014. Despite losing quarterback Dak Prescott and a couple of other key contributors in 2016, Mullen won’t let Mississippi State slide too far in the SEC West.  


5. Butch Jones, Tennessee

Tennessee has made steady progress over the last three seasons and is poised to win the SEC East in 2016. Jones is the driving force behind the improvement, as the Volunteers have increased their win total by two games in each of the last two years. Tennessee went 5-7 in Jones’ first season (2013) but rebounded to 7-6 in 2014 and finished 9-4 in 2015. Last year’s nine wins were the most for this program since a 10-win season in 2007. The Volunteers are also recruiting at a higher level, inking three consecutive top-15 classes after recording a No. 24 finish in 2013 and a No. 20 rank in 2012. Tennessee isn’t the first successful coaching stop for Jones, as he went 27-13 in three years at Central Michigan (2007-10) and finished 23-14 in three seasons at Cincinnati (2010-12).


6. Les Miles, LSU

Miles might be the toughest coach to rank in the SEC. He’s won 112 games in 11 seasons, guided LSU to the 2007 national championship and a No. 2 finish in 2011. However, Miles was nearly fired at the end of 2015 and the Tigers have not finished higher than No. 13 in the Associated Press poll over the last four years. That’s not ideal for a program that has the No. 4 roster in the nation and averages a over the last five seasons. Additionally, LSU is just 14-10 in SEC play in the last three years. With Leonard Fournette and a strong defense returning, the Tigers could win it all in 2016. However, after last year’s bizarre coaching drama and recent finishes, LSU – just like its coach – is one of the hardest teams to figure out this offseason.




7. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Malzahn’s tenure at Auburn started on a high note with a 12-2 record and an appearance in the national championship. The Tigers fell short of winning it all in 2013, but all signs seemed to point to this program as one on the rise. However, that hasn’t been the case. Over the last two seasons, Auburn is just 15-11 and needed a win over Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl to avoid a losing record (7-6). Additionally, the 2-6 mark in SEC play last year was the program’s lowest win total in conference action since 2012. Another problem spot for Malzahn was his side of the ball - the offense. The Tigers averaged 5.4 yards per play – the lowest of Malzahn’s tenure as head coach. With a declining win total in each of the last two seasons, 2016 is shaping up to be a critical year for Malzahn.


8. Jim McElwain, Florida

An argument could be made for McElwain to rank higher on this list after leading the Gators to a SEC East title and a 10-4 record in his first season in Gainesville. McElwain’s first year came with its share of obstacles, as Florida lost starting quarterback Will Grier to a midseason suspension and struggled on offense in the second half of 2015. Despite the offensive woes, the Gators still managed to hold onto the East title and head into 2016 as a projected top 25 team. Prior to Florida, McElwain went 22-16 at Colorado State, increasing his win total each year after a 4-8 debut in 2012. One area for McElwain to work on - recruiting. Florida has ranked No. 13 (2016) and No. 21 (2015) after three top-10 finishes from 2012-14.


9. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Sumlin has slipped on this list over the last few seasons, and 2016 will be an important year for the fifth-year coach. After an 11-2 finish in 2012, Texas A&M went 9-4 in 2013 and recorded back-to-back 8-5 campaigns. Additionally, the Aggies are just 11-13 in SEC play over the last three seasons and have not finished in the top 25 over the last two years. Sumlin’s program also suffered a setback with the departure of two talented quarterbacks – Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen – prior to last season’s bowl game. Graduate transfer Trevor Knight alleviates some of the concern under center, but the Aggies are also breaking in a new offense behind coordinator Noel Mazzone. Sumlin took a step forward by hiring John Chavis to coordinate the defense last year, and now it’s up to Mazzone to provide stability on offense.


10. Kirby Smart, Georgia

Smart patiently waited for his first opportunity to be a head coach, and the former Georgia defensive back lands at his alma mater after nine seasons at Alabama. While Smart is back at his alma mater, there’s plenty of pressure to win right away. After all, he’s replacing a coach (Mark Richt) who won 145 games in 15 seasons. The challenge for Smart is simple: Elevate Georgia into contention for playoff berths and be a consistent SEC title contender. That’s something that has eluded the Bulldogs in recent years, as the program’s last SEC title was in 2005. Smart certainly has the right background and experience to win big. However, this is his first opportunity to be a head coach and it comes at one of top 10 jobs in the nation.




11. Will Muschamp, South Carolina

Muschamp was fired at Florida after a 28-21 four-year stint from 2011-14, but he’s getting a second chance in the SEC. After one season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator, Muschamp was hired at South Carolina to replace Steve Spurrier. While Muschamp is certainly familiar with life in the SEC, he’s inheriting a program that needs major repair after a 3-9 2015 campaign. And it’s no secret the challenges of winning at Florida and South Carolina are different. Muschamp hired a good staff and is known as a good recruiter, but the access to talent is different at South Carolina. Muschamp will be better in his second stint as a head coach in the SEC. However, this job is more challenging than the one in Gainesville. 


12. Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Stoops is making progress at Kentucky, as the Wildcats have recorded back-to-back 5-7 finishes after a 2-10 record in 2013. However, while 2016 isn’t necessarily a make-or-break year for Stoops, getting to a bowl game is a reasonable expectation. The roster talent has improved over the last four years, with Kentucky recording four straight top-40 signing classes. Additionally, Stoops upgraded his staff with the addition of offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. With three winnable SEC games in Lexington, getting to 6-6 isn’t out of the question for Stoops in 2016. The fourth-year coach isn’t on the hot seat, but the pressure is starting to build.


13. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

After a rough 3-9 debut in 2014, Vanderbilt showed improvement in Mason’s second season with a 4-8 finish. The Commodores also went 2-6 in SEC play after a winless conference record in 2014. Mason’s decision to assume play-calling duties on defense helped to spur the improvement in the win column, as Vanderbilt limited opponents to 21 points a game and 5.2 yards per play. With the defense on track, Mason’s next goal is to generate more improvement out of an offense that managed only 15.2 points a game last season. If the offense takes a step forward, Vanderbilt could push for a bowl game in 2016.


14. Barry Odom, Missouri

Odom has the tough assignment of following Gary Pinkel at Missouri. Pinkel finished his career in Columbia with a school-record 118 victories and guided the program through a transition to the SEC. While Odom has big shoes to fill, he’s certainly up to the task. He’s a former Missouri player (1996-99) and later worked in Columbia as an off-field assistant with Pinkel from 2003-08, before coaching safeties from 2009-11. In 2012, Odom was hired at Memphis as the defensive coordinator and helped the Tigers engineer significant improvement on that side of the ball. Odom was hired as Missouri’s defensive signal-caller last year and led this unit to a No. 2 finish in the SEC in scoring defense. There’s no question about Odom’s ability to coordinate a defense. However, this is his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level.  

Ranking the SEC's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /life/ken-griffey-jr-and-ken-griffey-sr-speak

The greatest father-son duo in baseball, Ken Griffey Sr., 66, and Ken Griffey Jr., 46, have teamed up again to raise awareness for prostate cancer with . But anytime the two get together, stories start flying out of the park as far and fast as the 782 home runs they combined to hit during two remarkable baseball careers that spanned from 1973 to 2010.


Talk about your experience with prostate cancer…

Senior: I had four uncles that passed with prostate cancer, and there were four brothers and myself in my family. We knew we had a family history of prostate cancer, and my mother made sure we were aware of it, and we talked about it constantly in my house.


I didn’t get to chemo and all of that because I was diagnosed early. But it’s something when you go to your doctor, you have to talk about. A lot of men do not talk about prostate cancer. It’s a macho-type thing, they don’t want to talk about it because it’s embarrassing. We have to get men to the point where they speak up about prostate cancer.


How difficult was it to speak with your family about your diagnosis?

Senior: My wife and I were both diagnosed with cancer the same week, and she was diagnosed with colon cancer and I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was upset because she had gotten diagnosed, and she felt the same way when she found out I had been diagnosed with cancer.


How did you deal with the news of your mother and father being diagnosed?

Junior: It was tough. You have one mom and one dad and they both get diagnosed. It’s your parents, and you hear the word “cancer” and it makes it tough. During that time, baseball wasn’t high on my priorities list.


On a brighter note, you are going into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. Have you worked on your speech at all?

Junior: Well, I haven’t started yet, but I think I may have to start writing something down. My friends think I should recite Prince — “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…” (from 1984’s “Let’s Go Crazy”) — to start off my speech.


One of my friends I grew up with, he was like, “I’ll write your speech, and you’ll be done in 15 minutes.” It’s been fun listening to the guys that I’m close to talk about, “This is what you need to say,” like they’re up there with me. “You’re gonna start off with Prince, and then go into Earth, Wind and Fire.”


Senior: You’re going with the greats of the music industry.



You received a record 99.3 percent, or 437 of 440 possible votes, for the Hall of Fame. Should you have gotten 100 percent of the vote?

Junior: I worry about the 437 who did vote and not the three that didn’t. It isn’t that big of a deal. Everybody is putting emphasis on the negative, and I try to focus on the positive, that 437 guys said okay. I think that’s more important to me than the three that didn’t.


You still broke the record.

Senior: Yeah. It was one of my teammates who he took the record from too, Tom Seaver.


People have joked that you’re going to wear your cap backwards on your Hall of Fame plaque, what’s your reaction to that?

Junior: No it’ll be forward.


Senior: It’ll be backwards.


Junior: Eh, it’ll be backwards. Because I wore it so much backwards that backwards is forward.


Senior: He’s not sure, so it’ll be forward and backward and in between, he’ll figure it out one way or another. But I think it’ll be backward.


Senior, you had a unique perspective being a big league ballplayer and being on Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine,” a team chock full of Hall of Famers. When did you know that Junior would be, maybe not a Hall of Famer, but a big league regular and potential star?

Senior: When I couldn’t strike him out at age 14, that’s when I found out he had something special. I threw batting practice with him a lot in Yankee Stadium, on weekends he would fly up and I threw a lot of batting practice. When he told me when he was 12 that he wanted to be a major league player, then we looked at doing something different in terms of batting practice and how I threw it to him. I did everything I could possibly do to strike him out and when he hit 14 I couldn’t do it, so I knew he had something special.


You won two World Series with Pete Rose in Cincinnati. Should he be in the Hall of Fame?

Senior: Pete should be in the Hall of Fame no matter what. He had more hits than anybody. What he did out on the field is what he should be voted into the Hall of Fame for.


Junior, what was it like coming up to the big leagues with the Seattle Mariners and being on your dad’s team?

Senior: I was on his team, you gotta understand.


Junior: He made it easy. He made it real easy.


Senior: He was the man.


Junior: He said, “This is your team, I’m just happy to be here.” When he said that, that was all I needed to hear. And I had to cover his side of the outfield along with mine.


Senior: I covered every bit of three square feet in the outfield. I don’t care what he’s saying; I covered my portion of left field. The rest of it was on him.


Well, Junior had range…

Senior: He had a little bit of range. My range was good too. I covered three square feet; my range was excellent.


Junior: What he’s trying to say is he was Sabermetrics before Sabermetrics was even popular.


Senior: Watch your mouth, boy. Watch your mouth.



Maybe the coolest father-son moment in sports history came in 1990, when you two hit back-to-back home runs as teammates. What do you remember about that night?

Senior: The back-to-back homers was a situation where I already hit mine first. Harold Reynolds was on first base, and I’m rounding third base and I see (Junior) congratulating Harold and I come up and (Junior) congratulates me, but I knew his concentration level just changed. It went from one extreme to the highest level. You could see it in his eyes. I figured he was gonna try to do something a little different. I didn’t think that much of it because Harold and I were talking as we went back to the dugout. But Harold says, “You know if he hits a home run it’ll be the first time a father and son ever hit a home run together.” I said, “You gotta be kidding.” I wasn’t thinking that way.


Then I thought it would be impossible when he had a 3-0 count. I figured (Angels pitcher) Kirk McCaskill was gonna walk him, but then he takes a sinker and hits it out of left field and the rest is history. He was so excited when he got to me, he was probably more excited about that home run than all of the other home runs he hit his whole career.


We had a great time with it. I enjoyed myself playing with him. I found out what type of player he really was, because of the fact I didn’t see him play that much. All I heard from Seattle was, “this kid, this kid, this kid,” and when I got a chance to play with him I understood what they were talking about.


What’s your memory of that night?

Junior: Not embarrassed to say, as a son you always want to get validation from your dad. He touched home plate and he said, “That’s how you do it, son.” As he gets older his story seems to vary and change.


Senior: My story stays consistent. With everything I said. He knows that (my home run) went further. He knows that. I hit mine to left centerfield, his just went down the line.


Junior: His went further. Mine went out faster.


Senior: Because you hit it to the shortest side of the field! You only hit it 310. Mine went over 450.


Junior: C’mon man! It didn’t go 450.


Senior: What do you mean it didn’t go 450?


Junior: It didn’t go 450.


Senior: You’re trying to tell me I’m telling a fib, man.


Junior: You have fabricated this story.


Senior: Being 66, I can say anything I want and it’ll be the truth.

Talking baseball, prostate cancer and the Hall of Fame with the father-son duo
Post date: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 17:31
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/enes-kanter-trolls-skip-bayless-after-thunder-win-warriors-espn-game-1

Skip Bayless doesn't have faith in a lot of things. One of them being the Oklahoma City Thunder. 


Before the series began, the outspoken host said he didn't see the Thunder winning one game against the Warriors. Bold predictions.



Evidently Enes Kanter saved that tweet and used it as motivation. The time to release it came after the Thunder took Game 1 in Oracle Arena.



Kanter should tweet this after each Thunder win this series. 

Post date: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 12:18
All taxonomy terms: AAC, College Football, Houston Cougars
Path: /college-football/houston-new-boise-state-can-tom-hermans-cougars-do-something-2016-broncos-never-could

Year one for Tom Herman as a head coach could not have gone too much better than it did in 2015. In his first job as a head coach, Herman led the to a 11-1 record in the regular season, a victory in the first (AAC) Championship Game and a Peach Bowl win over lorida State as the Group of Five representative in the New Year's Six. And to think this year Houston fans are thinking things could go even better in 2016.


As far as Group of Five programs go in 2016, Houston may be in a category of its own going in, as the Cougars enter the season . This is a , who figures to prosper in his second year under Herman. Houston also will add four-star running back Duke Catalon to the offense, which figures to lighten the load for Ward and the team returns seven starters on offense. The pieces for another run through the AAC are in place, but Houston is setting the bar higher and thinking bigger.




Houston is now what Boise State was under Chris Petersen, but the Cougars are in a much better situation moving forward than the Broncos could have ever dreamed. This is not a slight at the Boise State program, but more a reality of the seat Houston occupies in the current landscape of college football.


With one spot in the New Year's Six reserved for the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion, Boise State will continue to be in the conversation, but Houston is the best team playing in the best conference among Group of Five conferences. The American had a huge 2015 season with Memphis scoring a win over Ole Miss, Navy and Temple each cracking the Top 25 in the polls and Houston doing its thing on the field the way they did. No Group of Five conference could compare, especially the Mountain West Conference. For the time being, the AAC has a big leg up in the competition so long as it has a conference champion with at least 10 wins at the end of the season. The margin for error in every other conference is very small.


This does put the pressure on Houston though, and this is something we have not seen this program have to deal with under Herman. Houston played some big games in 2015, but the Cougars were never looking to live up to any hype last season. This year, everyone will be gunning for Houston, and nobody will take this team for granted.


Houston kicks off with the kind of game that can determine whether or not it will merely be playing for the Group of Five spot in the New Year's Six or, perhaps, something even bigger that no non-power conference program has managed to play for. The 2016 season begins at NRG Stadium in Houston against defending Big 12 champion and College Football Playoff participant Oklahoma. These are the kinds of games Boise State capitalized on to hit the ground running (See: Virginia Tech, Georgia, Oregon). Houston appears to have the tools needed to hang with Oklahoma, and maybe even take the Sooners down. A win against Oklahoma, and Houston will manage to raise the bar just a little higher and give fans a legitimate reason to start thinking about the College Football Playoff before playing a second game.




It may be rushing to get to that kind of conversation, but it will almost certainly be one worth having, especially if Houston can manage to score a second straight win against Louisville a few weeks later.


We have seen Little Engines try to prove they could hang and contend for a national title before, but none have managed to climb the hill all the way for one reason or another. Houston, with early wins against Oklahoma and Louisville, will bring back to life the talk about Cinderella making a run; only this time it could be a realistic scenario thanks to extra access with a four-team playoff. Boise State never had that chance. Neither did TCU nor Utah nor Northern Illinois (or Hawaii). But Houston could, even if it still is to be considered a long shot.


The challenge for Herman and Houston will be staying grounded. Maybe Oklahoma drops Houston back to Earth a little harder than expected. Whatever happens in the season opener, there will be plenty of time to either keep up the momentum or rebound, and neither will be that easy. The great unknown with Houston is how these Cougars will handle the pressure.


Given what we know about Herman and the Cougars though, they should be prepared as well as any to deal with whatever is thrown their way. This makes to take seriously, if it beats Oklahoma.


— 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 .

Houston is the New Boise State, but can Tom Herman's Cougars do Something in 2016 the Broncos Never Could?
Post date: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-college-football-coaches-2016

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


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


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




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


Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaches for 2016


1. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Fisher has returned Florida State to a spot among the nation’s elite. In six seasons under Fisher, the Seminoles are 68-14 and have won at least 10 games in five of those years. Additionally, Florida State won the 2013 national championship, made the College Football Playoff in 2014 and played in a New Year’s Six Bowl (Peach) last season. Fisher is not only a strong recruiter and a sharp offensive mind, he’s got an eye for identifying talent and moving players from one side of the ball to another or to a different position to find the best fit for their skill set. After winning 10 games in a rebuilding year, Fisher has Florida State poised to contend for a playoff spot and a national title in 2016.


2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Swinney continues to raise expectations at Clemson. The Tigers fell just short in their quest to win the national title last season and are loaded for another run in 2016. Under Swinney’s watch, Clemson has shed its underachieving label. The Tigers have won at least 10 games in each of the last five seasons and claimed the 2011 and 2015 ACC Championships. Swinney has surrounded himself with a good staff of assistants, including one of the nation’s top defensive minds in Brent Venables. Clemson’s recruiting is also trending up. The Tigers average a 13.2 finish nationally over the last five seasons, which is second in the ACC to Florida State (4.6).




3. Bobby Petrino, Louisville

If this list was just based on the X’s and O’s ability of a coach, Petrino would be ranked No. 2 in the ACC over Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. In his second stint with the Cardinals, Petrino – regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive-minded coaches – is 17-9 over the last two seasons and has Louisville projected to for 2016. Petrino also has stops on his resume from Arkansas (2008-11) and WKU (2013), with a four-year run at Louisville from 2003-06. Entering 2016, Petrino has the program on stable ground and poised to be a consistent top 25 team over the next few seasons.


4. David Cutcliffe, Duke

Thanks to Cutcliffe’s nine-year run with the Blue Devils, Duke is no longer an easy pick to finish in the cellar of the ACC Coastal. Prior to Cutcliffe’s arrival in 2008, the Blue Devils recorded 13 consecutive losing seasons. Cutcliffe guided the program to 15 wins in his first four years, before leading Duke to a 6-7 mark and a bowl trip in 2012. Since 2012, the Blue Devils are 27-13 and have played in three consecutive bowls, with an ACC Coastal title in 2013.


5. Mark Richt, Miami

Despite winning 145 games in 15 seasons at Georgia, Richt was dismissed at the 2015 regular season. While Richt won plenty of games at Georgia, a change of scenery (for both parties) and a return to his alma mater isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Richt seems to be energized by transition to Miami, and his return to Coral Gables should help this program take a step forward. The Hurricanes are still looking for their first trip to the ACC title game, and Richt should be the right coach to get this team back in contention for division titles and top 25 finishes. Another bonus for Miami in the coaching transition: Richt plans on calling the plays in 2016.




6. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

Fuente has big shoes to fill in replacing Virginia Tech coaching legend Frank Beamer. However, as Fuente’s four-year run at Memphis showed, he’s certainly capable of keeping Virginia Tech near the top of the ACC. Fuente inherited a Memphis program that was in disarray and won three games in the two years prior to his arrival. The Tigers showed steady improvement under his watch, winning four games in 2012 and transitioned to the American Athletic Conference in 2013. Memphis went 3-9 in the tougher AAC but finished 19-6 from 2014-15. The Tigers’ 10-win season in 2014 set a new program high for wins and also resulted in Memphis’ first top 25 finish in the Associated Press poll. Fuente is also regarded for his work with quarterbacks and played a key role in Andy Dalton’s development at TCU during his stint as the offensive coordinator from 2009-11.


7. Larry Fedora, North Carolina

Fedora delivered a breakout year in his fourth season in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels finished 11-3, won the Coastal Division and finished No. 15 nationally in the Associated Press poll. The 11-win season was a huge boost for Fedora after 6-7 mark in 2014. Fedora has a solid 32-20 record over the last four years and has never finished below .500 in ACC play. Prior to North Carolina, Fedora had a successful stint at Southern Miss, recording a 34-19 mark in four seasons. The Tar Heels face a tougher schedule and have a few key personnel question marks to address, but Fedora’s team opens 2016 as the favorite in the ACC Coastal. 


8. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

A case could be made for Johnson to rank higher among his ACC counterparts here, but the Yellow Jackets are coming off their worst season (3-9) since a 1-10 mark in 1994. Despite the disappointing 2015 campaign, Georgia Tech is 61-44 under Johnson’s direction and is just one year removed from winning 11 games and the Orange Bowl in 2014. Additionally, the Yellow Jackets have just one losing season (2015) in ACC play under Johnson. A quick turnaround in 2016 wouldn’t be a surprise with Johnson’s track record, as he went 62-10 in five seasons at Georgia Southern (1997-01) and 45-29 at Navy (2002-07) before landing at Georgia Tech in 2008.




9. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh

Narduzzi ranks ninth among his ACC counterparts for 2016, but the second-year coach should move up this list in future seasons. In his first year in the Steel City, Narduzzi led Pittsburgh to an 8-5 overall record and a second-place finish in the ACC’s Coastal Division. Three of the five losses last season were by a touchdown or less, with the other two defeats coming at the hands of Notre Dame and Navy (in its home stadium in the Military Bowl). Narduzzi has Pittsburgh trending in the right direction and should have this team positioned for another run at eight or nine wins in 2016.


10. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

Mendenhall might be one of the nation’s most intriguing coaches to watch in 2016. Virginia’s decision to hire Mendenhall to replace Mike London was arguably the biggest surprise of the offseason coaching carousel. Mendenhall has spent most of his career out west, including stops as an assistant at Oregon State, Northern Arizona, New Mexico and BYU. Mendenhall was promoted to head coach at BYU in 2005 and led the Cougars to 99 wins over the last 11 years. Mendenhall has a strong track record of success and is regarded for his work with defenses. However, the schedule will be tough on annual basis and adapting to a new recruiting area and conference opponents will require a transition period.


11. Dino Babers, Syracuse

Babers is one of the top coaching hires in the 2015-16 coaching carousel and comes to Syracuse after a successful two-year stint at Bowling Green. The Orange needed to get this hire right, as the program can’t afford to fall too far behind in the top-heavy ACC Atlantic. Under Babers’ watch, the Falcons won back-to-back MAC East titles and finished 18-9 from 2014-15. Prior to Bowling Green, Babers went 19-7 in two seasons at Eastern Illinois (2012-13) and also made stops as an assistant at Baylor, UCLA, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M and Arizona. Babers’ four-year stint at Baylor as an assistant under Art Briles proved to be one of the most influential stops in his career and helped the California native emerge as one of the nation’s top offensive minds. Babers led Bowling Green’s offense to an average of 42.2 points a game last season and also developed Jimmy Garoppolo into a NFL draft pick while at Eastern Illinois. Hiring Babers should help get Syracuse moving back in the right direction.




12. Steve Addazio, Boston College

After starting his tenure at Boston College with back-to-back 7-6 records, the Eagles regressed with a 3-9 mark in 2015. However, it’s unfair to penalize Addazio too much for last year’s record, as the Eagles were hit hard by injuries on offense and averaged only 9.1 points in ACC contests. Can Addazio quickly get Boston College back on track? The defense ranked among the nation’s best last year and still returns enough of a core (six starters) to prevent a huge drop in production. Additionally, the addition of transfer quarterback Patrick Towles should provide some stability to the offense. Prior to Boston College, Addazio went 13-11 in two years at Temple and also worked as an assistant at Florida, Indiana and Notre Dame.


13. Dave Doeren, NC State

Doeren replaced Tom O’Brien at NC State after a successful two-year stint at Northern Illinois and has made steady progress over the last three seasons in Raleigh. The Wolfpack went 3-9 in Doeren’s debut but rebounded with an 8-5 mark in 2014 and finished 7-6 last year. Additionally, NC State has recorded back-to-back bowl trips and has inked three consecutive top 50 recruiting classes. While there are signs of progress, Doeren is just 6-18 in conference play and has yet to defeat a Power 5 opponent that finished a season with a winning record. The 2016 schedule is challenging, and the Wolfpack have to break in a new quarterback with Jacoby Brissett out of eligibility. This fall should provide good insight into just how far this program has developed under Doeren’s watch.


14. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Clawson wasn’t going to be able to immediately turn around Wake Forest in his first two seasons, but there have been signs of improvement. The Demon Deacons are 6-18 under Clawson’s direction and have recorded back-to-back 1-7 records in ACC play. But the program’s depth and talent level is improving, as evidenced by four losses coming by eight points or less in 2015. Clawson is a proven winner from three prior stops – Bowling Green, Richmond and Fordham – and has a blueprint for getting Wake Forest back in contention for winning seasons. With a favorable schedule ahead in 2016, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Demon Deacons hit the six-win mark.

Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaches for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/steven-adams-monkeys-thunder-warriors-guards-espn-chris-broussard-interview-game-1

The Thunder shocked everyone by coming in to Oracle Arena and taking Game 1 from the Warriors, but that wasn't what everyone was talking about. 


During a post-game interview to ESPN's Chris Broussard, Thunder center Steven Adams talked about defending the Warriors guards, Adams called them "quick little monkeys."



After the game, Adams' mistake was pointed out to him and he quickly apologized.


"It was a poor choice of words, mate," Adams told . "I wasn't thinking straight. I didn't know it was going to upset anyone, but I'm truly sorry. It was just a poor choice of words. I was trying to express how difficult it was chasing those guys around."


Adams just came to America in 2012 when he began attending the University of Pittsburgh, and says the manner in which people speak in different countries varies. 


"It's just different, mate," Adams continued. "Different words, different expressions, and stuff like that. But they obviously can be taken differently, depending on which country you're in. In assimilating, mate, still trying to figure out the boundaries. But I definitely overstepped them tonight."

Post date: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 10:18
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/top-fcs-2017-nfl-draft-prospects-watch

Quarterback Carson Wentz has perhaps changed the public’s perception of FCS players, although NFL teams already knew about the talent.


FCS schools have been averaging about 18 selections per draft over the last decade and there were 20 players scooped up this year, with Wentz, the former North Dakota State standout whom the Philadelphia Eagles made the second overall pick, becoming the first FCS first-round selection since Joe Flacco (Delaware) in 2008.


Power Five Conference 2017 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch
I I I I  I  I


NFL scouts are always looking for hidden gems from the FCS level. Here are 10 draft candidates (in alphabetical order) who they are keeping a close eye on for 2017:


Keionta Davis, DE, Chattanooga (6-4, 260)

Davis, playing collegiately in his hometown, emerged last season from the shadow of former teammate Davis Tull, who won three straight Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year awards from 2012-14. Davis broke Tull’s single-season school record with 13.5 sacks, and his 17 tackles for a loss led the conference. He uses explosiveness and athleticism to get to quarterbacks, although coaches asked him in the offseason to shed some weight. He battled though injuries in 2014 and suffered an ACL tear as a senior in high school, so there will be concern there.


Nick DeLuca, LB, North Dakota State (6-3, 240)

Starring in NDSU’s five-time reigning national championship program brings added attention to DeLuca, but he’s earned it since becoming a starter late in his 2014 sophomore season. The All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first-team selection is bigger than past middle linebackers in NDSU’s vaunted defense, armed with a versatile playing style to defend against the run or the pass. He racked up 135 tackles as a junior – 54 more than any teammate – with eight passes defended, including two interceptions.


LaMichael Fanning, DE, Jacksonville State (6-7, 270)

Fanning, who turns 25 in October, is still awaiting word on a petition to the NCAA to gain a sixth season of eligibility. The former four-star prospect spent three years at Alabama, including a redshirt season, before transferring. He made the All-Ohio Valley Conference first team in 2014, but suffered an ACL tear in the first game of his senior season last year. He is a high-energy player with enough athleticism that Alabama tried him at tight end before moving him back to his natural position. If he doesn’t gain another season with Jacksonville State (the 2015 FCS national runner-up), Fanning will try to find his way onto an NFL roster this year.


Brady Gustafson, QB, Montana (6-7, 230)

He’s not the next Carson Wentz, but he’s taller than Wentz and led Montana to a season-opening win over North Dakota State last season. He needs more seasoning because he saw limited action until last season, and then a leg injury limited him to seven games. He threw for 1,984 yards and 12 touchdowns with nine interceptions, as the Grizzlies’ offense became pass-based. A drop-back quarterback, Gustafson lacks a big arm, but he’s a strong decision-maker and adept at working the field for his targets.


De’Angelo Henderson, RB, Coastal Carolina (5-8, 205)

“Hop,” as he is known to his teammates, uses his quickness to elude defenders. He returned to Coastal after seeking a 2016 draft evaluation through the NFL college advisory committee. Though small, Henderson is productive, running with a balanced style and catching passes out of the backfield. He holds the FCS record with touchdowns in 26 straight games, racking up 40 over the last two seasons. He is the Chanticleers’ all-time leader in rushing yards (3,479), carries (538), yards per carry (6.47), all-purpose yards (4,210) and all-purpose yards per game (102.7).


Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova (6-7, 275)

Here’s a pass rusher who doesn’t seem to have the statistics to be in the mix for the 2017 draft, but CAA Football coaches thought enough of him to select Kpassagnon to their all-conference first team last year. The late-developing player, whose father is from the Ivory Coast and mother from Uganda, has the same size of former Central Arkansas defensive end Jonathan Woodard, a Jacksonville Jaguars pick this year. Kpassagnon has only 60 career tackles, including 33 as a junior, when he also totaled 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss. He displays good foot movement and has a nice mix of speed and strength.


Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington (6-1, 210)

Kupp racked up 1,642 receiving yards and 19 touchdown catches as a junior yet neither total was a career high. This year, the 2015 FCS offensive player of the year figures to add many career receiving records to the seven he owns already. He ranks fourth in FCS history in receptions (311, 84 behind the record), second in reception yards (4,764, 486 behind) and second in TD receptions (56, two behind). His father Craig was a former NFL quarterback and grandfather Jake had a long NFL career as an offensive guard. Despite lacking blazing speed, Kupp works his release from different spots on the line of scrimmage and gains extra yards after the catch.


Javarius Leamon, OT, South Carolina State (6-6, 310)

A one-time Clemson recruit who didn’t qualify academically, Leamon has remained on the NFL radar while toiling in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. He is athletic and aggressive at the point of attack, with excellent length to finish blocks. Coaches believe Leamon’s biggest strength is the fluidity he displays in pass protection. He also plays in a program that produced two draft choices in 2016 – defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (third round, Pittsburgh) and tight end Temarrick Hemingway (sixth round, Los Angeles).


Corey Levin, OL, Chattanooga (6-5, 305)

A starter for three consecutive Southern Conference championship squads, Levin is comfortable playing either tackle or guard. He’s won the conference’s top blocking award twice and was a first-team All-American as a junior, when the Mocs had two rushers surpass 1,200 yards each. Athletic for his size, Levin needs to be more physical when finishing blocks, but he’s NFL-bound.


Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State (6-4, 250)

The athletic Rivers loves to study game film, so he reads offenses well. That prompted his Youngstown State coaches to move him around the field more often last season. Rivers’ ability to drop back into pass coverage and his size suggests he would be an outside linebacker at the next level. He’s made the All-Missouri Valley first team in each of the last two seasons and holds the school record for career sacks with 26. He has a trim body that should take on quality weight without losing speed.


— 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 courtesy of )

Top FCS 2017 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch
Post date: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/five-sun-belt-football-players-know-2016

The popularity and obsession of the big boys in college football - the Power 5 - has continued to rise. But there still are some very elite football players at the second tier of the FBS rankings - the Group of 5. The Group of 5 term refers to players from teams in the Mountain West, Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt and American Athletic Conference. While the coverage and exposure for teams in these leagues has improved in recent years, plenty of the stars from the Group of 5 conferences fly under the radar each preseason. Who are the names to watch in 2016 as players on the rise in the Group of 5 rankings? Here are five names to know now that spring ball has finished across the nation:


Five Sun Belt Football Players to Know for 2016


Larry Rose III, RB, New Mexico State

After earning third team All-America and first team All-Sun Belt honors last season, Rose earned a spot among the best running backs in the country. He led the conference in rushing yards (1,651) and went back-to-back seasons with rushing over the milestone of 1,000 yards. Additionally, Rose had three 200-yard rushing games which made him the only back in the league to do so in 2015. The all-purpose tailback has improved over the last two years and should have his best overall season in 2016.


Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State

Hart earned Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American accolades this past season. He tallied an impressive line of 71 catches, 1,099 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Hart was one of the most explosive receivers in college football last fall by hauling in seven catches that went over 40 yards. His ability to take the top off the defense will make life a lot easier for the Panthers’ new quarterback.


Latrell Gibbs, CB, Appalachian State

Gibbs emerged as one of the Sun Belt’s top defenders last season and showcased his playmaking ability with a 91-yard interception return to the house against Wyoming. The lockdown corner didn’t stop there, finishing 2015 with seven interceptions and 19 deflections on the year. Expect the junior to flourish as the anchor of the Mountaineers’ secondary next season.


Jay Ellison, DT, Georgia Southern

When a defensive tackle gets an interception, that just rinks of athleticism. Ellison did just that last year and then some by racking up 33 total tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. The 305-pound cog has a motor too by playing in 462 snaps last season. The Hamilton, Ga. native earned second-team All-Sun Belt last year and there’s no reason why he won’t do it again in 2016.


Xavier Woodson-Luster, LB, Arkansas State

Woodson-Luster was an all-conference selection last year and looks to repeat those honors going into the fall. He had a stellar performance last season against Louisiana-Lafayette, displaying his ability to play sideline-to-sideline when he tallied 14 tackles. The standout linebacker racked up 71 tackles (5.5 for a loss), one sack, two interceptions, six hurries, and two forced fumbles last season and will be the leader on the on the Red Wolves defense.

Five Sun Belt Football Players to Know for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/charles-barkley-takes-aim-sec-fans-espn-radio-alabama-nick-saban-lsu-florida-state-acc

Charles Barkley has an opinion on literally everything, and apparently people aren't tired of hearing it.


On ESPN Radio's the NBA analyst talked about basketball, but still found time to talk football as well. 


"I think that the SEC kind of makes you hate it because the fans are so obnoxious," Barkley said. "I can understand why people don't like the SEC. I think clearly it's by far the best football conference in the world and I think Danny [Kanell] will admit that. But I will admit this, the fans are the most obnoxious people. Alabama fans are the worst. Then you factor in Georgia fans — they're awful — Florida, LSU fans."


Barkley has never been one to bite his tongue on any subject. He may find that SEC fans are of a different caliber.


"I think Nick Saban is the greatest coach of all time in my opinion, and when I tell Alabama fans they're the most obnoxious fans in the world, you know what they say to me? They don't even say, 'No we're not.' They say, 'We're not as bad as those LSU fans.' They never take the time to say, 'We're not the most obnoxious fans.' They never try to defend themselves. When they say, 'We're not nearly as bad as those LSU fans,' they let you know just how bad they are."


Barkley is a SEC fan by default, having attended Auburn, but doesn't associate himself with those "obnoxious" fans of the conference. He also commented on Florida State playing in a "girl conference" which is the ACC.


Barkley clearly has no loyalty to any conference.

Post date: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 16:05
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-revo-sunglasses-fathers-day-giveaway

This Father’s Day, give dad a gift he will love.

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In addition to style and performance, Revo is the perfect gift for any dad who wants to give back. When you buy Revo sunglasses, Revo donates $10 per pair to the through the campaign to help prevent vision impairment and blindness in more than five million children and adults by 2020.  


Enter our sweepstakes below by signing up for our free newsletter! Want to increase your chances? Follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @AthlonSports, and mention us with the hashtag #ASRevo for a second chance at the prizes. All entries must be submitted by June 15, 2016 at 12:00pm EST. Good luck!


Post date: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 15:44
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/former-nc-state-player-blasts-russell-wilson-after-graduation-speech-wisconsin-kalani-heppe-wolfpack-badgers

Russell Wilson is the classic underdog story. Small quarterback making it to the NFL and all that jazz.


When the Seahawks quarterback was tapped to give the commencement speech at Wisconsin, the school he transferred to after NC State, and kept it completely honest about his journey to success. Wilson talked about his time with the Wolfpack, and how he was doubted by coach Tom O'Brien.


"The summer before my senior year of college, I'm playing minor-league baseball. I called by football coach at NC State and said, 'Hey coach, I'd like to come back for my senior year.' He told me I wasn't coming back. He said, 'Listen son, you're never going to play in the National Football League. You're too small. There's no chance. You've got no shot. Give it up.' Of course I'm on this side of the phone saying, 'So you're telling me I'm not coming back to NC State? I won't see the field?' He said, 'No son, you won't see the field.' Now this was everything I had worked for. And now it was completely got. If I wanted to follow my dream I had to leave NC State. I had no idea if I would get a second chance somewhere else."


Obviously once those comments got back to NC State, there would be some type of rebuttal. Former NC State player, Kalani Heppe, had some words to say about his old teammate.



Wilson apparently also embellished other parts of his speech regarding the NC State baseball team. 




NC State probably crossed Wilson off their graduation speakers list for the foreseeable future.

Post date: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 13:22
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/jeremy-shockey-warren-sapps-bankruptcy-papers-instagram-saints-bounty-snitch-nfl

In case you missed it, Jeremy Shockey and Warren Sapp still don't like each other. 


It all stems from the Saints bounty scandal and the back and forth the two had on Twitter, including after his arrest. Now there's more fuel being added to the fire. Shockey posted Sapp's bankruptcy papers on Instagram. 


Sapp has called Shockey a "snitch" and the posting of these papers won't help him shed that label any time soon.



Post date: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 11:47
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/program-instability-makes-usc-trojans-tough-rank-2016

The are an oddity; ’s version of Schrödinger's cat, if you will. Until they’ve played the game, it’s impossible to tell whether the team spirit and effort is alive or dead. It also makes them an extremely tough team to peg down in the rankings. If the metric is on-paper talent, USC belongs up there with the best in the nation. If the metric is results based on talent level, USC deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the “overrated” programs their fan base talks about so often.



This is not a slight at the Trojan team or their fans, whom would be the first to tell anyone that they have no earthly idea what they’re going to get when they tune in. Last year was as up and down of a season as the Trojans have had in recent memory and that includes those years with interim-interim coaches. USC was simply not good enough when it needed to be and downright awful at other times.


Athlon Sports coming into the 2016 season and it’s impossible to know whether this is too high or too low. Some of the tougher questions may be answered when the Trojans kick of their season in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, against defending national champion Alabama, but USC has shown out against highly ranked opponents before only to lose to teams most experts agreed the Trojans should have beaten. Simply based on a history of doing that alone, it’s important not to take too much or too little away from the Alabama game.


Lou Holtz once said that “you’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” USC epitomizes this famous quote in so many different ways. The Trojans were nowhere near as good as their 42-24 upset of then-No. 4 Utah, but they also weren’t as bad as their 41-22 shellacking against Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Trojans tend to nullify their positive progress with periods of mental frailty and self-inflicted mistakes.


Is USC too high at No. 23? Maybe, maybe not. The Trojans have done well to avoid any off-the-field issues over the summer, but the offseason is still young and it’s usually around July or August that USC has its setbacks with key players. This year’s offseason started with a painful reminder of what can happen when things really go wrong at USC.


Former USC tight end Bryce Dixon was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in a series of violent robberies with a former LSU lineman. The fall of Dixon is a worst-case scenario, but in the past five seasons USC has had numerous different players suspended or booted from the team for having stories just as outlandish as this one. The Trojans simply cannot keep allowing off-the-field distractions keep them from on-the-field success, and so far USC has done the exact opposite.


The Trojans will need a quiet offseason for a change. Even without those distractions, USC and September will be the worst of it. Aside from the Crimson Tide, USC also faces Utah State, Stanford and Utah. The only game USC plays at home during that stretch is against Utah State. If the Trojans come out of September with three or more wins, No. 23 might prove to be far too low.




Should the opposite become the case, USC may end up looking up at No. 23 from quite a ways down. This USC team is capable of finishing anywhere along the 0-4 to 4-0 during the first month of play and it would hardly be shocking to see most experts peg them to finish 2-2 on the month. That’s about what people have come to expect from the Trojans. Of course, which two teams they beat is really anyone’s guess.


In all likelihood, the best thing that could happen to USC during this stretch is a lower ranking. The lower ranking leads to fewer expectations and that seems to be when this team is at its best. Alabama will likely carry the burden of expectation entering into the season opener, but the Tide are also savvy enough to know that win or lose, there is still a long season and they’ll still have plenty of time to make an impression on the poll voters and College Football Playoff Committee.


The Trojans, on the other hand, are the type of team to get caught up in the moment and forget about everything else. It’s not hard to picture a world where USC beats Alabama to open the season and then mystifyingly loses to Utah State at home before getting pummeled on the road at Stanford and losing a shocker at Utah. In fact, there is probably someone out there placing a bet on that exact thing to happen.


Two of the keys to how USC fares this year will be new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and new offensive coordinator Tee Martin. While Pendergast is a trip down memory lane for USC, Martin is breaking in the position and the jury is out on exactly how good he will be. The Trojans didn’t have much of a choice in his promotion, it had simply become time to give him what he wanted or watch him walk out the door to another program. With the way Martin recruits, it’s something that USC could not afford to risk.


So now the Trojans make one last run at replicating the Pete Carroll era. New athletic director Lynn Swann is sure to deviate from the insular nature of predecessor Pat Haden, and has already spoken out on changes he plans to make. Swann did support the hiring of now full-time head coach Clay Helton, so at least USC will begin the season with an AD and a head coach on the same page. Whether or not they finish there will be something to watch.


The Trojans could be ranked anywhere and it could be justified successfully by the right person. A very loaded and talented team will be upgrading several significant positions this offseason and the resulting effect could be awe-inspiring. In truth, there are a lot of similarities between this team and the 2003 version that Matt Leinart took over upon Carson Palmer’s departure to the NFL. How USC manages that talent will invariably be the story of the season.


It has been for the last five years.


— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Webb is a recruiting analyst for BarkBoard, Scout’s Fresno State affiliate. A contributor to, Scout’s USC affiliate. He is also a regular guest and contributor for CFBHuddle. Follow him on Twitter .

Program Instability Makes the USC Trojans Tough to Rank in 2016
Post date: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-north-carolina-will-repeat-acc-coastal-division-champions-2016

Larry Fedora seems to be really building something special in Chapel Hill. In a world devoted to the ball that bounces from November to April, the Tar Heels football coach generated considerable interest in his team by winning the Coastal Division title and playing Clemson to the wire in the Championship Game.


With that success comes lofty expectations... and rightfully so. , which is in Athlon Sports' Preseason Top 25, is the favorite to emerge as the king of the Coastal again and here are five reasons why that will happen.


1. A Loaded Backfield

UNC finished the 2015 season as the 18th-best rushing team in the country and the key running back components return. Elijah Hood lived up to his five-star billing during his sophomore season, rushing for 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns. The 6-foot, 220-pounder will receive All-American consideration after being selected first team All-ACC last fall. T.J. Logan is back for his senior year, giving the Heels a reliable change-of-pace option when Hood needs a break.


2. Mitch Trubisky is Ready to Go

The junior from Mentor, Ohio, will not be the running threat that Marquise Williams was at UNC. But Trubisky showed last season that he is a very accurate passer. No one expects him to complete 85 percent of his throws like he did in 2015 now that he is the starting quarterback. But he has all the tools needed to succeed, those around him believe in his abilities, and he will be throwing to a talented wide receiver group featuring Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard and Mack Hollins.




3. A Veteran Offensive Line

The Tar Heels do lose star guard Landon Turner, but the rest of the unit is back, something that makes both Hood and Trubisky very happy. Jon Heck will be a four-year starter for the Heels and is coming off a second team All-ACC season. Guard Caleb Peterson also was selected to the All-ACC second team while center Lucas Crowley made the third team. All-ACC recognition may be in the future for left tackle Bentley Spain down the line. If UNC can successfully fill Turner's spot at right guard, North Carolina will have the best offensive line in the Coastal Division.


4. The Defense’s Second Year Under Gene Chizik

The performance of the defense last fall was a huge improvement over 2014. However, the previous year was so dreadful it was hard not to make strides. Chizik, who won a national title when he was Auburn’s head coach, fixed a big problem with the pass defense and now he must go to work to correct an ailing rush defense. North Carolina does need to replace some important front seven contributors. But there is talent in guys like Andre Smith, Dajuan Drennon and Jeremiah Clarke. And there also is a very smart defensive mind that knows his personnel a little better after a year in the system.


5. The Power Teams are Still in the Atlantic

Miami could be better under new head coach Mark Richt, and the could be said for Virginia Tech under Justin Fuente. Duke and Pitt should be solid and Georgia Tech can’t be as bad as it was last year. But the Coastal is still the weak half of the ACC. Not only do Clemson and Florida State reside on the other side, so too does a Louisville team that many project as the third-best team in the league. Despite the potential possessed by several Coastal teams, North Carolina is still the division's most talented team.


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

5 Reasons Why North Carolina Will Repeat as ACC Coastal Division Champions in 2016
Post date: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 10:30