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All taxonomy terms: College Football, News, Magazines
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-2016-preseason-college-football-top-25

Spring practice is over. The NFL Draft has come and gone. National Signing Day seems like it was eons ago. This is the time when the longest offseason in major sports is its most grueling. This is also when optimism flourishes, when no team has a loss and every team has a chance.


Athlon is here to help fill the days between now and that first college football game of the year. After all, it’s preseason magazine season.


All editions of the 2016 Athlon Sports college football preview are . Our 2016 annuals include the National preview of all 128 teams, regional editions for the SEC and Big Ten. Athlon is also the only magazine in 2016 with editions previewing the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12.


To celebrate the arrival of this year’s magazines, we’re releasing our top 25 for 2016*.


Stay tuned to for previews of each team, conference predictions and .


All of Athlon’s 2016 previews  and will be available on newsstands May 24.


Podcast: Breaking down the preseason top 25 with Athlon's Braden Gall and Steven Lassan


*Updated as of June 1


Athlon Sports 2016 Preseason College Football Top 25
1. The Crimson Tide suffered key losses on both sides of the ball, but this team reloads as well as any in the nation. Expect Nick Saban's team to lean on its defense and ground attack until the offense finds stability at quarterback.
2. : After winning 10 games in a rebuilding season, FSU is poised to challenge for the title. Most of the roster returns intact, but the Seminoles have to find a QB and replace cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Dalvin Cook is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman.
3. The Buckeyes have the fewest returning starters (six) of any Power 5 team. However, thanks to elite recruiting classes, Ohio State should be able to reload in a hurry. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Buckeyes can lean on J.T. Barrett until the rest of the pieces fall into place.
4. Even though the Tigers suffered heavy losses on defense, quarterback Deshaun Watson and the nation’s top receiving corps is more than enough to keep Clemson in the hunt for the national title.
5. Jim Harbaugh already has Michigan back among the nation’s top teams. The Wolverines have to find a quarterback, but this team can lean on its defense — led by new coordinator Don Brown — to push Ohio State for the Big Ten title.
6. The Sooners are a heavy favorite to win the Big 12, but there are potential landmines on a schedule that features road trips to TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia. If the voids on the offensive line and defense are filled, quarterback Baker Mayfield could carry Oklahoma to another playoff berth.
7. The Volunteers have made steady improvement under coach Butch Jones, and the pieces are in place to challenge for the SEC title. Tennessee returns 18 starters, including quarterback Joshua Dobbs and end Derek Barnett.
8. Brian Kelly’s team lost a handful of key players from last year’s 10-3 squad. But the Fighting Irish have a manageable schedule, two proven quarterbacks and enough of a foundation on both sides of the ball to push for 10 wins once again.
9. After coaching drama surrounding Les Miles at the end of 2015, LSU is loaded for a run at a CFP berth. As usual, the Tigers will lean on their ground attack and defense to carry the team. However, Brandon Harris and the passing game have to improve to win the SEC.
10. Hugh Freeze must replace three first-round picks, but the Rebels have recruited well enough to prevent a huge drop off. Chad Kelly is the SEC’s top signal-caller and there’s no shortage of options at receiver.
11. The Huskies are poised for a breakthrough year in Chris Petersen’s third season. Talented sophomores Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin are two of the Pac-12’s top players on offense, while the defense returns eight starters from a unit that allowed only 18.8 points a game last year.
12. Stanford has won three of the last four Pac-12 titles, but David Shaw’s team was hit hard by personnel departures. However, the Cardinal still has enough returning talent to challenge for the conference title — especially with running back Christian McCaffrey leading the way.
13. :  The Spartans have won at least 11 games in five of the last six years. Despite the loss of quarterback Connor Cook, end Shilique Calhoun and standout linemen Jack Conklin and Jack Allen, coach Mark Dantonio won’t allow Michigan State to slip too far in the rankings.
14. UCLA: Similar to rival USC, UCLA enters 2016 with its share of questions. However, the Bruins return the Pac-12’s top quarterback in Josh Rosen, and the schedule is more manageable than the Trojans’ brutal slate. The defense returns eight starters, and standout end Eddie Vanderdoes is back from injury.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Athlon Sports' 2016 Preseason College Football Top 25
Post date: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: AAC, ACC, College Football, Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-podcast-preseason-2016-top-25-release

Braden Gall and Steven Lassan break down every single team in the .


- How deep is the Pac-12 and how many teams could legitimately win the title? And will the "surprise" conference champ make the Playoff?


- Can the Big 12 bounce back after a rough showing in the first two years of the Playoff era. Is there a clearcut top four in the league vying for a championship and how close could this league come to missing the playoffs again?


- There are six teams in the SEC ranked in the top 25 but how many have a legit chance at winning the league and getting into the postseason?


- Seriously, how awesome could Florida State and Clemson be in 2016? And don't count out Louisville.


You can order your preseason .



Send any ideas, questions or comments to  @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email . The podcast can be found on  and our .

College Football Podcast: Official 2016 Top 25 Release
Post date: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 09:46
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army West Point Black Knights, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/15-biggest-wild-card-college-football-teams-2016

Kickoff for the 2016 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about rankings, predictions and previews for the upcoming year. For most college football fans, one of the annual traditions each summer is the trip to the newsstand to pick up a preview magazine. The good news? The wait is almost over. The 2016 Athlon Sports College Football Preview magazines officially hit the newsstands on May 24, but all five regional and the national editions are .


But that’s not the only bit of good news for college football fans. After studying depth charts, recruiting classes, schedules, stats and coaching hires or assistant movement, Athlon Sports will release its previews and rankings for the projected top 25 teams for 2016 on Monday.


Predictions for any conference and all 128 teams are an inexact science. And some teams are just a bigger mystery or a hard program to get a read on for the upcoming year. Which teams are the biggest wild cards and the toughest to rank for 2016? Here are 15 candidates:


15 Biggest Wild Card College Football Teams in 2016



Just how far has Baylor progressed under coach Art Briles? The Bears suffered massive losses in the trenches, as the offensive and defensive lines each have to replace four starters from last year. Despite the personnel turnover up front, Baylor has all of the pieces in place to be a top 10 team in 2016. Quarterback Seth Russell returns after missing the second half of 2015 with a neck injury, while the Bears are loaded with talent at the skill positions. How quickly can Briles find the right answers on the line of scrimmage?





The Gators were one of the SEC’s biggest surprises last season. In coach Jim McElwain’s first year, Florida overcame a midseason suspension to starting quarterback Will Grier to claim the East Division title and earn a 10-4 final record. While the Gators won the East, the offense struggled mightily without Grier under center. Florida failed to score more than 24 points in a game over the team’s final six contests and finished the year by averaging only 5.11 yards per play. The offense is once again a concern, as Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is expected to start at quarterback, and McElwain still has work to do on the offensive line. Even though cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, safety Keanu Neal, end Jonathan Bullard and linebacker Antonio Morrison will be missed, there’s a strong foundation in place on defense to prevent a drop in production. Florida’s place in the SEC East will be determined by how fast its offense develops. 


Florida State

Only two teams – Ohio State and Alabama – have recruited at a higher level than Florida State over the last five seasons. With a roster stocked with talent and 15 returning starters from last year’s 10-win team, the Seminoles are poised to rebound back into national title contention. Quarterback play is coach Jimbo Fisher’s biggest concern, but redshirt freshman Deondre Francois was one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2015 signing class and should be an upgrade over last year’s starters. And Francois’ transition to the starting role can be eased by the return of dynamic running back Dalvin Cook, a talented group of receivers and a defense that should be the best in the ACC. There’s no question Florida State has the talent to win it all in 2016. However, how quickly will Francois settle into the starting role? There’s also the schedule to contend with. The Seminoles play Ole Miss and Florida in non-conference play, travel to Louisville and Miami in ACC action and host Clemson on Oct. 29 in a game that should decide the winner of the Atlantic Division.





A new era begins at Georgia this fall, as Kirby Smart replaces Mark Richt after his 15-year tenure ended in November. Smart, a former Georgia defensive back, is no stranger to life in the SEC and has plenty of pressure to win right away. The Bulldogs recruited well under Richt’s watch, but Smart inherits a roster with question marks under center, on the offensive line and in the front seven on defense. True freshman Jacob Eason is a future star at quarterback, and it’s only a matter of time before he replaces Greyson Lambert under center. The other big question mark surrounding the offense surrounds the health of running back Nick Chubb after a serious knee injury in 2015. Chubb is expected to play in 2016, but how quickly will he return to his pre-injury form? If Eason quickly lives up to the hype, Chubb returns to 100 percent and the defense finds the right answers in the front seven, could Georgia challenge Tennessee for the SEC East title? 



On paper, LSU has the roster talent and returning personnel to win it all in 2016. However, a familiar theme surrounds the Tigers once again this offseason. The defense and rushing attack are strong, but LSU won’t push Alabama in the SEC West or contend for a playoff spot without improvement from its passing attack. In his first full year as the starter, Brandon Harris threw for 2,158 yards and 13 scores. However, he completed only 53.6 percent of his passes and ranked near the bottom of the SEC in yards per attempt (conference-only games – 6.8). With running back Leonard Fournette returning, and a defense that should rank among the nation’s best behind new coordinator Dave Aranda, LSU won’t need Harris to be drastically better to win the SEC. 



According to recruiting rankings, Miami has the roster over the last five seasons. However, the Hurricanes are just 21-19 in conference play in that span and are still looking for their first trip to the ACC title game. Are Miami’s fortunes about to change? The program took a step forward this offseason by hiring Mark Richt to replace Al Golden. Richt plans on calling the plays on offense and is tasked with helping quarterback Brad Kaaya elevate his game to the next level. The Hurricanes should be among the ACC’s best on offense, but question marks remain on defense. This unit surrendered 6.01 yards per play in league games and needs to retool in the back seven. This unit must get tougher against the run after giving up 200.6 rushing yards per game last year. Miami has the talent to win the Coastal in 2016. What type of impact will Richt have on this team?





The Cornhuskers had their share of bad luck in Mike Riley’s first season. Nebraska finished 2015 with a minus-12 turnover margin, which fueled the program’s six losses by eight points or less. After watching the bounces and good fortune go against the Cornhuskers last year, Riley’s team could see a quick turnaround by just eliminating some of the turnovers. There’s also a lot to like on offense, as quarterback Tommy Armstrong leads an attack that averaged 32.8 points a game in 2015 and returns one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps. However, the Cornhuskers have to rebuild the offensive line and suffered huge losses on the defensive front, including standout tackles Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine leaving early for the NFL. Road trips to Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State are challenging, but better luck in close games could result in Nebraska improving to 8-4 or even 9-3 in 2016.


Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish were just a few plays away from a trip to the College Football Playoff last season. While this team has a few significant personnel concerns to address and may not be as talented as the 2015 version, the schedule is manageable enough for Brian Kelly’s team to push for at least 10 wins. The quarterback battle between Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer will draw most of the offseason headlines, but the bigger question marks for Kelly on offense rest on the line and in the receiving corps. The defense surrendered 5.6 yards per play last season and must replace standouts Jaylon Smith (LB), Joe Schmidt (LB), Sheldon Day (DL) and KeiVarae Russell (CB). Can the talents of Kizer and Zaire overcome the concerns on defense? 


Ohio State

Ohio State’s six returning starters are the fewest among Power 5 teams for 2016. Returning starters isn’t necessarily the best gauge of success for any team, but it’s no secret the Buckeyes were hit hard by early departures to the NFL. However, replacing elite talent is nothing new for coach Urban Meyer. Ohio State has averaged a 4.2 finish nationally in the last five recruiting classes, so the drop off should be minimal. Additionally, there’s no quarterback controversy in Columbus this offseason, and quarterback J.T. Barrett should benefit from a full year to work as the starter. With emerging stars like Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard on the defensive line, along with standout linebacker Raekwon McMillan, new co-coordinator Greg Schiano should have no trouble keeping this defense at the top of the Big Ten. Overcoming the personnel losses is one thing, but Ohio State still has to contend with a schedule that features road trips to Michigan State and Oklahoma.





Let’s group all three Pac-12 North teams into one section. Stanford will be picked by most as the preseason favorite in this division, but the Cardinal have some big question marks outside of running back Christian McCaffrey. Is Keller Chryst ready to step up at quarterback? And how quickly will the offensive and defensive lines develop? Washington is poised for a breakthrough year under coach Chris Petersen. However, is it one year too early for the Huskies? Oregon’s streak of consecutive double-digit win seasons was snapped at seven last year. The Ducks aren’t hurting for skill talent, but Mark Helfrich’s team needs to make significant improvement on defense, and there’s uncertainty under center with FCS transfer Dakota Prukop holding an edge over redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen.



Oklahoma is a heavy favorite to win the Big 12 once again in 2016, with Baylor and Oklahoma State and TCU in the second tier. Out of that trio in the second tier, the Horned Frogs seem to have the most potential to surprise in 2016. After injuries and personnel departures hindered the defense early in 2015, this unit played better in the second half of the season and returns four key players from injury. TCU’s defense could be the best in the Big 12, which is critical with an offense returning only one starter and replacing quarterback Trevone Boykin. New quarterback (and Texas A&M transfer) Kenny Hill could hold the keys to the season. If Hill provides stability under center, the Horned Frogs could easily exceed their preseason projections.



The pressure is building on Charlie Strong after a 5-7 record last season, but some of the pieces are starting to fall into place for the third-year coach. New coordinator Sterlin Gilbert provides much-needed direction on offense, and true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele delivered a promising performance in the spring game. It’s no secret improving the offense is a must after Texas has ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 in back-to-back seasons. But until Buechele is settled under center, Gilbert can build an offense around talented running backs Chris Warren and D’Onta Foreman. Strong’s specialty is defense, and there’s room to improve after giving up 5.63 yards per play in 2015. While the line is thin on numbers, the back seven is headlined by a handful of promising sophomores, including linebacker Malik Jefferson and cornerbacks Holton Hill and Davante Davis. Texas isn’t ready to challenge for the Big 12 title, but there are signs this program is moving back in the right direction. How much improvement can the Longhorns make in 2016?



The Trojans have the , return a rising star at running back in Ronald Jones and the nation’s best receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster, while cornerback Adoree’ Jackson is one of college football’s best all-purpose players. So why is there doubt about USC in 2016? This is the program’s first full season under Clay Helton’s watch, and new offensive coordinator Tee Martin has never called plays for a full year. The Trojans also have to develop an answer at quarterback – expected to be talented junior Max Browne – and retool a defensive line that was hit hard by departures. As if the question marks at quarterback and on the defensive line weren’t enough to add doubt to this team’s potential,

15 Biggest Wild Card College Football Teams in 2016
Post date: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /life/grilling-frank-thomas

As a baseball player, Frank Thomas was known as the “Big Hurt” because of his size (6’5”, 240-plus) and the damage he could do as a hitter. A two-time AL MVP and Hall of Fame inductee, Thomas, 47, is taking his game from the batter’s box to the backyard grill, with his new cookbook, The Big Hurt’s Guide to BBQ and Grilling. We caught up with Thomas to talk grilling, beer and baseball.


Growing up, who manned the grill at family cookouts?

My dad. He was the master griller. He lived for the weekends. We didn’t have much, but on the weekends we had barbecue one of the days. He was a barbecue fanatic. My dad was the ribs king. Barbecue ribs. He was the master smoker. He could barbecue for 10 straight hours. He would sit in the back, put on his little radio and have fun slow-smoking barbecue all day.


Tell me about your restaurant, Big Hurt Brewhouse.

It started off because I wanted to have my own beer (Big Hurt Beer). Then, I’m a big food guy, so why don’t we give the beer a home at Big Hurt Brewhouse? Chicago is known for a lot of great, different restaurants with sports ties, so that’s how it all started. We have great food and beverages and people love it.


Who is your favorite hitter to watch these days?

(Detroit Tigers first baseman) Miguel Cabrera is my all-time favorite because he reminds me of myself so much. And for him to stay healthy so long, it’s great to watch him.


What’s your favorite baseball memory?

Getting into the Hall of Fame (in 2014). Baseball is such a long grind, and to be able to play 19 seasons in the big leagues is special, but it all comes to that final moment. I’m happy to say my final moment was getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame.


Grilled Lemon-Basil Pork Chops

“They used to call me ‘Pork Chop’ when I played football at Auburn,” says Thomas, a former two-sport star. “Down South, everyone fries their pork chops, but here’s a healthier version I’ve grown to love over the years. Make sure your pork chops are thick enough to stand up to the high heat.”


Serves 4

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/8 tsp. dried basil

4 thick-cut boneless pork loin chops

1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

3/4 tbsp. salt


1. Add lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and basil to a medium bowl, then whisk until blended.


2. Place pork chops in a large resealable bag, then pour in marinade and make sure chops are well covered. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.


3. Preheat grill to high.


4. Remove chops from marinade and pat dry, then season with salt and black pepper. Pour remaining marinade in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, then set aside to cool.


5. When your grill is hot, use tongs to dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and run them a dozen times across the grates. Cook pork chops over direct heat, basting frequently with cooled marinade, until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, about 5-7 minutes per side.

Tips from Hall of Fame baseball player, brewer and grill master Frank Thomas
Post date: Sunday, May 15, 2016 - 18:00
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /life/pick-6-our-favorite-things-may-2016

In each issue of Athlon Sports & Life, we pick six of our favorite things. They may be books, automobiles, games, gear, booze, apparel or whatever happens to be awesome. Here's what made our short list this issue: 


Trans Am SE "Bandit" Edition

When we saw Burt Reynolds pop up in a video (watch it below) promoting an updated version of his '77 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from the man-classic film "Smokey and the Bandit," we took notice. Turns out, we can thank the Trans Am Depot, which has exclusive rights to the Trans Am brand. The Tallahassee, Fla., based company will be rolling out 77 of these beauties, each with a tire-smoking 840 horsepower and an autograph from the Bandit himself. 
, $130,000


Craftsman 24 Volt 10-inch Cordless Chainsaw

To our surprise, this electric chainsaw is a beast. In an attempt to put it to the test, we set out to fell an 11-inch thick, 25-foot tall tree. It sliced through it with ease and made quick work of the branches without needing a recharge. Set-up was easy, and other than the occasional tightening of the blade, this wood cutter ran with zero trouble. The lithium-ion battery recharged in a little over an hour. For those do-it-yourselfers who need to take down a tree (within reason, of course) and keep branches at bay in their yard, look no further. 
, $130


Wilson C200 IronsWilson Staff C200 Irons

We can't heap enough praise on these irons. They helped us hit for more distance, had a great feel during our swing, and (best of all) were very forgiving. The "C", by the way, stands for "crossover" and is designed for players seeking a midsize head shape and moderate offset. The biggest difference from the previous C100 model is the new "Power Hole" construction, which features urethane-filled holes that surround the head completely, helping to maximize face flex upon impact, resulting in increased ball speed and distance. They're ideal for mid- to high-handicap golfers looking to improve their game. 
, $800

Filson's Dutch Harbor Watch

Strap this Detroit-born beauty to your wrist and the first thing you'll notice is the feel... not too heavy, not too light, just right. At 43mm, this 1950s dive-watch inspired timepiece, is perfectly sized for most wrists. While the stainless steel case means it's sturdy, we fell in love with the soft, brown leather strap that complemented the green rotating ring perfectly.  
, $800

Back from the Dead

This aptly-titled memoir from NBA legend Bill Walton recounts his devastating injuries (in 2008, he suffered a spinal collapse) and amazing recoveries, set in the context of his UCLA triumphs under John Wooden, his storied NBA career, and his affinity for music and the Grateful Dead. A must-read for any Walton fan. 
, $27 


Sports Detectives

This Smithsonian Channel show has us hooked, as private investigator Kevin Barrows and sports reporter Lauren Gardner search for missing memorabilia from history's greatest games and players. Viewers get to follow along as they travel the country on the hunt for Muhammad Ali's missing Olympic gold medal, Jim Craig's Miracle on Ice flag, Dale Earnhardt's first racecar, and other legendary items. Tune in Sunday nights to see if the detectives get their man, er, sports memorabilia.


Post date: Sunday, May 15, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/aaa-400-drive-autism-dover-preview-and-fantasy-nascar-predictions-2016

I used to hate the word association game they play to get you ready for the SAT. You know, those torturous questions like “Bread is to water as sky is to...” Sky is to what? I just look up at it every day and hope it doesn’t rain.


But for Dover, there’s a word association that clearly works. Altogether now; new rules are to Dover what water is to your survival. For years, no track had suffered more under the difficulties of aerodynamics than the track fondly known as the “Monster Mile.”  A track that once ate up cars for breakfast now has just enough grip to keep everyone fully fendered for all 400 miles. The problem? NASCAR’s dreaded aero push keeps them from running side by side combined with a Goodyear tire combination that just can’t hit. The result is this awfully slick, one-groove track that causes a lot of separation and single-file racing, thinning out a crowd that used to tick over 150,000 for this event.  Now, the local Firefly Music Festival is a potential bigger revenue booster for this independent track than a day at the races.


NASCAR needs to change that, fast or one of its big-market speedways will be down for the count. Seats have been reduced by nearly half and attendance during Friday’s rain-soaked activities was spotty. Can the Miles the Monster find his way... or face extinction in just a few short years?


2016 AAA 400 Drive for Autism


Time: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

Track: Dover International Speedway (Dover, DE)

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90


Who’s at the Front: Austin Dillon

We’ll take a break from the typical Toyota dominance at the front of the field, the likes of which we saw again at Kansas to highlight an up-and-comer quietly salvaging his reputation. Dillon, after two ho-hum seasons in Cup running Dale Earnhardt’s former No. 3 is starting to level up toward contender. Talladega two weeks ago featured a fascinating comeback; Dillon wrecked only to fight back to third driving a car held together by duct tape. At Kansas this past weekend, chemistry between driver and crew chief “Slugger” Labbe was on display; a car that started out like junk was molded into a solid sixth-place effort by the checkered. Dillon, now solidly inside the top 10 in points has put himself in position to make the Chase.


Who’s at the Back: Kyle Larson

The much-anticipated breakout season for Larson has turned straight to breakdown status. Larson, 23, has endured some rough luck, an innocent victim of Saturday’s late-race crash at Kansas after positioning himself for a top-5 result. But overall, the third time is definitely not the charm for a guy who envisioned championship dreams ala Jeff Gordon during his third year on tour in 1995. Larson sits 22nd in points by comparison, is nursing an average finish of 22.6 (the worst of his career) and you begin to wonder if the promising talent may be better off with a change of scenery. Hey, it worked for Joey Logano.


News Briefs


The Earnhardt name has become a family feud of sorts between Dale Earnhardt’s widow Teresa and stepson Kerry. Teresa wants Kerry to stop using the trademark for his own company, claiming it muddles the legacy of her late husband and Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Kerry, for his part doesn’t understand why using his own last name would be a trademark infringement. I think the masses don’t get it as it’s tough to see a family wound reopened with lawyers, lawsuits and money involved.


Ryan Newman has been mum on his future but it looks increasingly likely he’ll be seeking new work for 2017. Richard Childress Racing has committed to moving Ty Dillon up to Sprint Cup but doesn’t seem to have the sponsorship for a fourth car next year. That means they’ll stick with three and it’s highly unlikely brother Ty’s brother Austin or Paul Menard (who comes with millions in family money) will be forced out. Add in Newman’s contract, which expires in 2016 and even Encyclopedia Brown could figure this one out.


Toyota, Toyota, Toyota. Kyle Busch’s win last Saturday night at Kansas means Joe Gibbs Racing has taken six of the year’s first 11 races. They continue to be the dominant force three months into the year.


NASCAR by the Numbers



On-track pass for the lead at Kansas under green-flag conditions. The 16 lead changes during Saturday night’s race were the lowest for an intermediate oval this year.



Sprint Cup laps led for Kyle Busch this season, the most of any driver. He also leads the series in wins (three), top-5 finishes (nine), and sits second in points. Not bad for a guy who had zeros in all those categories last year after sitting out the first 11 races due to injury.


Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)


Top Tier


Other than at Phoenix no driver has been more dominant at a racetrack these days than at Dover. The six-time series champ has won seven races here since the start of the 2009 season and boasts eight top-3 finishes in the last 11 events. Last year’s 41st-place mechanical failure notwithstanding he’s as close to an automatic at any track you’re going to get. Whoever has him on the bench Sunday clearly isn’t paying attention in your league.


Harvick, for his part won Dover last fall and appears to be ticking upward at the Monster Mile. Last season produced 446 laps led, an average finish of 1.5 in two starts and well over half-million in winnings. He’s been tops in practice early in the weekend and in a race where track position is key the No. 4 car will start near the front. Don’t start him over Johnson but in a league with two “A” driver slots he’s a perfect fit.


Middle Tier


is still smarting from his Kansas loss last weekend. The No. 78 team had the most dominant car only for a loose wheel to shake loose their opportunity at Victory Lane. But Dover, a hometown track for Truex, offers a shot at redemption. It’s a track where he desperately wants to win and his Furniture Row Racing team led 131 laps last spring en route to a sixth-place finish. Momentum should carry over here.


No one thinks of a guy like at Dover, and for many years the veteran did nothing special here. However, last year produced a seventh and a fourth; that continued a pattern of four top-15 finishes at Dover within the past five races.  It’s not the worst pick in the world if you need to reach.


Lower Tier


Dover is typically not a good track for underdogs but keep your eye on Landon Cassill. He scored a top-25 finish last season with a woefully underfunded team and his new digs, the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports team, have been improving as of late. A top-25 finish or top 20 isn’t out of the question here if you need a breather from starting the most-used drivers in this “lower tier” like rookies Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott. Another rookie, Brian Scott was speedy in practice and might be worth a look.


What Vegas Thinks

Kevin Harvick is favored to win Sunday’s race... but just barely. The 6/1 odds edge Jimmie Johnson at 7/2 followed by Kyle Busch at 5/1. Matt Kenseth sits fourth at 8/1.


What I Think

Kevin Harvick has had enough runner-up finishes these past two years and comes in with something to prove. After Toyotas have been overshadowing his early 2016 performance I think Harvick comes out and stomps the field.


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


(Photo by )

AAA 400 Drive For Autism at Dover Preview and Fantasy NASCAR Predictions
Post date: Saturday, May 14, 2016 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /foyt

At 81, A.J. Foyt is still known as the toughest man to ever sit in a racecar. He survived crashes that would have ended most drivers’ careers. But he kept coming back… and winning.


Foyt won in every type of car from IndyCar to NASCAR, which he won the Daytona 500 in 1972, and stock cars, midgets, sprints, sports cars and Le Mans. He’s won 14 national titles and 172 major races in a career that spanned four decades and three continents.


But the Foyt name is most synonymous with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he was the first driver to ever win the Indianapolis 500 four times (1961, ’64, ’67 and ’77). As the owner of Foyt Racing, he won it again in 1999.


We caught up with Foyt to discuss the 100th running of the Indy 500: The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.


What is it that makes the Indianapolis 500 so special?

FOYT: It’s like the Kentucky Derby, it’s been there for many years and some of the races are great and some of them are bad, but it’s still the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That’s what makes it so great. I guess, tradition you just can’t beat.


Where does it rank among all of the other races you've been in during your career?

I would have to say it rates number one. I keep referring to the Kentucky Derby, but your horse can lose every race and if he wins the Kentucky Derby, he’s the Kentucky Derby winner. It’s the same way in Indianapolis. I won a lot of races all over the country, but there’s still only one Indianapolis. People all over the world know the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s a tradition and tradition you can’t buy.


What do remember from the first time you drove in the Indy 500?

That was probably the biggest thrill of my life. I always dreamed of it and when I was a little kid I used to listen to it on the radio. For me to be good enough, from Houston, Texas, where I still live and was born and raised, to qualify for the 500 was the biggest thrill of my life.


In 1977, you became the first to win the Indianapolis 500 four times. Is that a greater accomplishment than the longevity and the sustained success you had throughout your racing career?

To do something nobody’s ever done before, yeah, naturally you’re proud of that. Going back, it’s like the Triple Crown in horse racing. The whole world knows it. It ain’t just the local people.


I have a question that only an Indy 500 winner would know, after winning the Indy 500, is the milk you drink cold or warm?

Well, it ain’t ice cold.


The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an equally special track, is there anything about the track or race day that only a driver would know?

You can test all over the world and until you get there it seems like that track changes so much from the first day of practice to qualifying day to race day. It’s got a characteristic of its own. It seems like it’s never the same. One day to the other your can be handling great and the next day you can’t even hardly stay on the track. It’s just got a history like that.

Who's your pick to win this year's race?

I hope my team wins. That’s who I’m picking. I think we’re due for one.


How many Indy 500’s have you been to throughout your life and will you be there this year for the 100th running?

I hope I’m still around at the 100th running. I’ve been there since 1958 and I came there and sat up in Turn 2 in 1956 and 1957, but the first time on the ground trying to race was 1958. Yeah, I’ve gone every year. Even last year after I had open heart surgery. I didn’t go to a lot of the (other) races, but I did go to the Indy 500.


What’s the one piece of advice you’d give a spectator going to their first Indy 500? Besides the drivers’ seat, where’s the best seat at the track to watch a race?

Grandstand B is real good and Grandstand A. It’s according to what you want to see and (Grandstand) E is very good. I’ve got seats in all (three) of them, but if a person can get a ticket in either – I’d say – B or E, to me, you can see a lot.


Who's the greatest driver you ever raced against?

There were a lot of great drivers, so it’s hard to pick one that you had trouble racing with. Parnelli Jones is good. Mario Andretti. There were just a lot of great guys. I was just glad to be racing against them because they were good racers.


What makes a great race car driver?

Dedication and really putting your mind to it. 


Of all the different types and styles of cars you’ve raced, which was most fun?

The most fun I used to have was on a half-mile dirt sprint car. You had a lot of power and you had to control it with your foot. It was a lot of fun. Today these guys wouldn’t even know what to do if you put them in a sprint car. They wouldn’t know the front wheel from the steering wheel.


What do you think of today’s Indy Cars?

They’re about 1,000 percent safer than the old cars and the racetracks, they have safety walls. And the fuel is down to 18 gallons, where we used to carry 75 gallons, so when we hit the wall it was a pretty big explosion.


You've had a lot of serious wrecks and injuries – burns, broken bones, busted back, bruised aorta, etc. How does a driver mentally prepare to get back into the car and drive the way it takes to win?

The press would always write, ‘Can he come back or not?’ That’s what drove me. I just wanted to prove them wrong. 


How’s your health these days?

Right now everything’s looking good. I’m learning to walk again at 81 years old, but the last two-and-a-half years have been pretty rough on me. I had to have open heart surgery and then I got staph infection and they had to take the other new knee. I got new hips and I got knees and then that staph infection was probably one of the most terrible things you could ever have. I was unconscious for almost 10 days in the hospital and then I got bedsores. That’s been over a year ago and they’re about 99.9 percent healed up. It’s been a mess, but I’m gaining and I’m not going to give up.


That’s when it pays to be a hard ass.

(Laughing) I guess you have to be a fighter to live.


There are a lot of professional and college football players, who have expressed regrets after the fact, having gone through so many medical procedures and the mounting health issues; have you even questioned yourself or had any regrets?

No. I knew when I went into the game the chances, and if I had my life to live over I wouldn’t change one damn thing.


Do you miss driving a race car?

Yes, I do. I really do, but I know in my own mind there’s no sense thinking I’m 20-years-old. Time passes on and, like I say, since the day I retired and got out I’ve not sat back in one to drive.


Because you know you gave it everything you had to win as much as you could, does that make it easier to retire? You didn’t take races off. You didn’t half-ass it. Having no regrets makes it OK.

I told (my publicist) Anne (Fornoro) and them something yesterday and never told a writer or anybody, but I’m going to tell you. When I was running some of the Daytona 500 races in stock cars, I would be running along with them and would talk to myself. I would say, "Come on A.J. Let’s get with it." I was running up front with them, but I felt like I could give it more and I was sitting there stroking a little bit.



Yeah, and you’re the only writer I’ve told that to. I used to talk to myself there a lot. I didn’t do it in Indy Cars because I was always giving it 110 percent, but here sometimes you start following and drafting and you start stroking it. I’d start talking to myself. "Come on, you can do more than this."


Did it work?

Yeah, it worked. Sometimes I got in trouble, but I got out of trouble more than I got in.


Your name is synonymous with auto racing, I need to know, has being A.J. Foyt ever gotten you out of a speeding ticket?

Yeah. I think the funniest thing was, up in Pennsylvania, I was hustling one day going to Pocono and I passed an old brown Dodge that looked like crap. I wasn’t running that fast – maybe 75 or 80 – and all of a sudden I seen him put his hat on and I said, "Oh crap." He turned his lights on and I stopped. He come up and he said, "Who do you think you are A.J. Foyt?" I said, "Yeah," and he said, "Don’t you get smart with me." I’ll never forget that. 


One last question about Indianapolis, your grandson is married to the daughter of the Colts owner. Are you still a Texans fan or does that mean you have to root for the Colts?

You’re going laugh, but who I really like in football through the years was Tom Brady. Day in and day out I’m a Patriots fan. Yeah. … When Bum Phillips was with the Oilers, I really liked the Oilers but since then Texans ain’t really had nothing.


Interview by Keith Ryan Cartwright

Post date: Saturday, May 14, 2016 - 10:31
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Magazines
Path: /college-football/where-and-how-buy-2016-athlon-sports-college-football-previews

The moment we’ve been waiting for all year is here: The arrival of the . We’ve been working since the end of last season to get you ready for 2016, and now you can purchase all six editions today.


Every edition — the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and National magazines — is .


Can’t wait for the issue to get the magazine on newsstands on May 24? You can buy it online now.


Are you an SEC fan living in Big Ten country? A Big Ten fan living out West? Or do you just want to make sure you get your favorite team on the cover? All editions and covers featuring nearly every Power 5 team are available in the store.


Also, Athlon is the only magazine in 2016 with editions for the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12.


Below are some of the features you will find in this season’s Athlon Sports 2016 college football previews.



In the SEC edition, you will find:


• Six pages previewing each SEC team featuring exclusive scouting reports from opposing coaches and advanced stats.


• A look at the Alabama football dynasty and how it compares historically.


• An examination of the SEC-wide quarterback issues.


• A look at Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin and Les Miles as they’ve made their journey from hero to hot seat.



In the Big Ten edition, you will find:


• Four pages previewing each Big Ten team, plus Notre Dame, featuring exclusive scouting reports from opposing coaches and advanced stats.


• A play-by-play look at Michigan State’s epic drive to win the Big Ten championship.


• A new face on the Michigan defense.


• A look at new blood on the coaching staff at Penn State.



In the ACC edition, you will find:


• Four pages on each ACC team, plus four pages on Notre Dame, featuring exclusive scouting reports from opposing coaches and advanced stats.


• A Q&A with Clemson star Deshaun Watson.


• A profile of rising Florida State star Josh Sweat.


• A breakdown of new coaches at Virginia Tech, Miami, Virginia and Syracuse.



In the Big 12 edition, you will find:


• Six pages previewing each Big 12 team, featuring exclusive scouting reports from opposing coaches and advanced stats.


• An examination of the quarterback drought.


• Why TCU and Baylor are here to stay.



In the Pac-12 edition, you will find:


• Four pages previewing each Pac-12 team, plus Notre Dame and BYU, featuring exclusive scouting reports from opposing coaches and advanced stats.


• 10 storylines that will shape the Pac-12 in 2016.


In the national edition, you will find:


• Previews and rankings of all 128 FBS teams and all 10 conferences.


• An analytical breakdown of the teams that are certain to surprise in 2016.


• One-on-one Q&As with Heisman contenders Deshaun Watson of Clemson and Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma.

Where and How to Buy the 2016 Athlon Sports College Football Previews
Post date: Friday, May 13, 2016 - 15:27
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/oklahoma-city-school-district-fires-back-skip-bayless-twitter-thunder-warriors-espn-first-take

Skip Bayless never knows when to leave well enough alone. 


After the Thunder took down the Spurs to head to the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors, the outspoken personality had this to say about the matchup.



Bayless, who grew up in Oklahoma City, showed he wasn't playing favorites. The school district however, had some words for the "hometown hero."



People from the community were on board with the school of course.




On ESPN's First Take, Bayless doubled down on his stance.


"My mama taught me to be honest," he said. "And I'm just being honest. I think Golden State is much better than the Thunder. I'm sorry, OKC, but I love you."


Don't expect a hometown parade for the OKC native anytime soon.

Post date: Friday, May 13, 2016 - 15:21
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/toronto-blue-jays-vs-texas-rangers-may-13-15-series-preview-and-prediction

Somewhat of a rivalry was created last fall when the Texas and Toronto met in the American League Division Series in October. The series featured several major storylines that spanned two nations and two fan bases starved for a World Series championship.


Both the Rangers and Blue Jays used trade deadline deals late last summer to propel themselves into the postseason. The Rangers made the move to acquire Cole Hamels and bullpen help from the Phillies, while the Blue Jays brought in slugger Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies and lefty ace David Price from the Tigers, making them the favorite to win the American League pennant.


The 2015 ALDS was the most exciting series in baseball’s postseason last October, culminating in Jose Bautista’s infamous bat flip (…er, throw) after hitting a go-ahead three-run shot in the bottom of the seventh to win the series for the Jays. The benches would clear and fans’ tempers would flare, but at the end of the day the Blue Jays were moving on and perhaps a new AL rivalry was born.


The Jays and Rangers have already faced each other this season, a series in which Toronto took two of three from Texas at home. This weekend’s series, and perhaps baseball’s newest rivalry, kicks off tonight at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.


Toronto Blue Jays (18-18) vs. Texas Rangers (20-15)


Game Day Time (ET) Pitching Matchup
1 Friday, May 13 8:05 PM R.A. Dickey vs. Martin Perez
2 Saturday, May 14 8:05 PM Marco Estrada vs. Colby Lewis
3 Sunday, May 15 3:05 PM Aaron Sanchez vs. Cesar Ramos

3 Things To Watch


1. No Stroman? No Problem

Unfortunately, the Blue Jays’ energetic, young fireballer Marcus Stroman isn’t slated to pitch this weekend against the Rangers — however, he will graduate from Duke on Sunday, which is pretty cool in itself. Even without Stroman, Jays fans can relax no matter who toes the rubber this weekend in Arlington. That is outside of R.A. Dickey — you just never know with that knuckleball.


Dickey aside, Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez will be on the mound on Saturday and Sunday, and both have been pleasant surprises so far this season. Coming out of spring training, the big question mark for the Jays was supposed to be their starting pitching. But the starters, led by Stroman, have been great. Estrada has a 2.39 ERA and has surrendered only 10 earned runs in 31 1/3 innings, earning his $26 million extension. Sanchez has been just as good, posting a 2.58 ERA, 3.43 FIP in 45 1/3 innings pitched. If Dickey (5.18 ERA, 4.45 FIP) can somehow wrangle in his knuckleball, the Jays should be able to combat that dangerous Rangers lineup.


2. Time for Jays’ Offense to Fly
So far this spring, the Toronto offense that led the league in pretty much every major offensive category a season ago has yet to come alive — aside from reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson. Currently, the Jays are 16th in MLB in runs scored, 20th in hits, 21st in slugging and 26th in team batting average. The Jays don’t have to worry about facing Cole Hamels this weekend, and although Perez could prove formidable, Colby Lewis and Cesar Ramos are both susceptible to giving up big innings. Lewis does have a 3.20 ERA in 45 innings this season, but he is tied for second in the AL with nine home runs surrendered while Ramos is making only his second start of 2016, the other coming back on April 25


3. Rangers’ Infield Shines

Rare is the case that a team’s three best hitters are all infielders. With Josh Hamilton and Shin-Shoo Choo on the DL, and Ian Desmond, technically an infielder playing in the outfield, the Rangers are that rare case. Adrain Beltre (3B), Elvis Andrus (SS), and Rougned Odor (2B) are driving Texas’ offense this season.


Beltre has been arguably the most consistent player of his era, a career .285 hitter with 2,804 hits and 419 hom eruns. Beltre, 37, has continued his steady play this season with five home runs and a .282 average, all while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at third. Beltre’s friend, and sometimes dugout irritant, Andrus has been steady at the bottom half of the Texas lineup, hitting .282/.331/.466. But it is the emergence of Odor that has kept the Rangers in the thick of the AL West hunt. Odor, only 22, leads his team with 10 doubles and seven home runs, all while hitting .298/.327/.532 with an OPS of .858.


If Hamilton and Choo can provide some pop once they return, and Prince Fielder (.198/.260/.298) can find his stroke, the Rangers could turn out to be what the Blue Jays were in ’15 — an offense to be reckoned with.


Final Analysis


The Jays are still trying to find their stride. While their starting pitching has been really good, the offense and the two most reliable veteran bullpen arms (Brett Cecil and Drew Storen) have been lackluster. The Jays’ offense will have to try and keep up with the Rangers’ bats, an offense that scored 23 runs while winning three games against the red-hot White Sox earlier this week.


Prediction: Rangers win series, 2 games to 1


— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. Follow him on Twitter .


(Top photo courtesy of )

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers Series Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, May 13, 2016 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/tackling-misconceptions-mike-rileys-nebraska-offense

Hidden inside ’s 2015 6-7 record is the belief that Mike Riley’s offense can’t get the job done — period. The term “pro style” doesn’t play well in some areas of Husker Nation. Everywhere Cornhusker fans gather, a familiar paraphrase these days is “you can’t pass 40 times and win!” I’m going to prove those Big Red backers right, but I’m also going to show why Riley’s not out to do that in the first place.


You’re right about that much passing, Joe HuskerFan. Even the best of teams running an Air Raid offense aren’t looking at national championships any time soon. Usually if a team is using Knute Rockne’s invention to a heavy degree, it’s a bad thing.


Remember when Nebraska fell behind 21-9 to Purdue last season and Ryker Fyfe spent the remainder of regulation trying to playing catch up through the air? The end result: 48 pass attempts and a big, fat “L.”


Let’s take a bigger look at how so much passing can crush a team’s dreams.


I took the 25 Power Five signal-callers with the best quarterback ratings from 2015 and looked at how often they threw 35-plus times per game last year to see how that worked out. No, Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty didn’t make the cut. Only the gunslingers who face the best defenses in the country — most of the time — got the spotlight.


Out of 318 games played by these quarterbacks, 107 produced 35-plus passing attempt efforts. What does the record look like when 34 percent of those contests have that much heaving? A lovely 60 wins and 48 losses, which translates to a winning percentage of .556.


Sure, if you’re Texas Tech or Washington State, the Air Raid’s your bread and butter. If a team’s looking to win the College Football Playoff, other systems work far better and this is why Riley isn’t going for the pass-happy, basketball-on-grass effort that some Nebraskans think he is.


Take a team like Stanford, for example. The Cardinal are a lot like what the Huskers want to look like. A strong offensive line capable of paving the way for a successful rushing attack while also providing time for quarterback Kevin Hogan to make his reads. The comparison gets even better when taking into account that Austin Hooper, a tight end, hauled in 438 yards and six touchdowns.


Expect the Huskers’ Cethan Carter to have a similar impact in 2016 (if not a bigger one).


Now that we’ve established how Nebraska and Stanford aren’t all that different in terms of offensive philosophy, let’s note that Hogan didn’t do well once the Cardinal were forced to step away from what they’re good at.


When Hogan put the ball up 35 times or more, Stanford lost twice, their only setbacks of the season.


Think getting away from what you know can’t topple the best? Former Alabama quarterback Jake Coker had an off day last season and it cost Nick Saban’s crew. Coker put up more than 33 passes just once last season, and that was in a 43-37 loss to Ole Miss (45 attempts that day for those curious).


Looking closer to home, Tommy Armstrong wasn’t immune from this effect at all. In fact, he’s the perfect example of needing to work within a system that isn’t strictly pass-oriented for Riley’s bunch to be poised for ultimate success. Armstrong notched five 35-plus attempt games and claimed one win out of all of them: a way-too-close 36-28 victory over Southern Miss.


When working within a system that strives to take advantage of an effective running and passing attack, he did far better. In the seven other games he played in last season (missed one due to injury), Armstrong posted a 5-2 record, including a 3-0 run at the end of the season when the Huskers managed to get things humming thanks to a balanced attack featuring the speedy dual-threat Texan.


Besides, a coach that wants to use fly sweeps, reverses and fullback traps requires road graders on the offensive line, not guys who can hold steady for Air Raid Lite.


Armstrong doesn’t have to throw the ball 40 times per game and he shouldn’t, because that’s close to double what Nebraska likely wants to put up on what would be considered a “pass-heavy” day.


Long story short, it doesn’t matter if you’re USC, Stanford or even Alabama. Putting on a fireworks display of passing may take a team to a quality bowl, but it won’t get you crowned national champion anymore.


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

Tackling Misconceptions of Mike Riley's Nebraska Offense
Post date: Friday, May 13, 2016 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-quarterbacks-2016

The Big 12 is home to some of the nation’s top quarterbacks in 2016. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, Baylor’s Seth Russell and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph headline a top-heavy group of signal-callers in the conference, with West Virginia’s Skyler Howard and TCU’s Kenny Hill in the next tier. This group of quarterbacks could get deeper if Texas freshman Shane Buechele continues to develop after a strong performance in the spring game. 


How do the new starters in the Big 12 project with Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes? Athlon has ranked all 10 starters for 2016.


To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2016. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2016 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big 12 for 2016.


Ranking the Big 12's Quarterbacks for 2016


1. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


The combination of Mayfield and new coordinator Lincoln Riley provided a much-needed spark for Oklahoma’s offense last season. The Sooners averaged 43.5 points a game in 2015, which was their highest mark since 2008 (51.1 ppg). Additionally, Oklahoma led all Big 12 teams in scoring for conference-only matchups (47.2 ppg) last year. Mayfield threw for 3,700 yards and 36 scores but also showcased his ability to improvise and create plays with his legs by recording 405 yards and seven touchdowns on 141 rushing attempts. Mayfield won’t have standout receiver Sterling Shepard at his disposal this fall, but Oklahoma’s offense is still one of the best in the nation, and the senior quarterback returns to Norman as one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman.




2. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


The Big 12 got an early glimpse of Mahomes’ talent in a late-season stint as Texas Tech’s starter at the end of 2014. Mahomes tossed 14 scores over the final three games that year and torched Baylor for 598 passing yards in the season finale. Mahomes carried that momentum into 2015 and delivered a monster statistical year for coach Kliff Kingsbury. Mahomes led all Big 12 quarterbacks by throwing for 4,653 yards and tied for first in the league with 36 touchdown tosses. He also rushed for 456 yards and 10 scores on 131 attempts. Texas Tech has to fill a couple of key voids on the offensive line, while running back DeAndre Washington and receiver Jakeem Grant have expired their eligibility. However, that shouldn’t slow Mahomes this fall, as the junior should be one of the nation’s top 10 quarterbacks for 2016.


3. Seth Russell, Baylor

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Russell was on pace for a monster statistical year in his first season as Baylor’s starting quarterback, but a neck injury against Iowa State in late October sidelined the Texas native for the rest of 2015. Through seven games, Russell threw for 2,104 yards and 29 scores and tossed only six picks on 200 attempts. He was limited in spring practice but is expected to be fully cleared for contact by fall drills. If Russell returns back to full strength as expected, he should push Patrick Mahomes for the No. 2 spot on this list. And if Russell has any setbacks, Baylor’s quarterback position is in good hands with sophomore Jarrett Stidham. 




4. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Putting Rudolph at No. 4 among Big 12 quarterbacks for 2016 shows just how deep this conference is at the top in terms of talent under center. In his first full season as Oklahoma State’s starter in 2015, Rudolph threw for 3,770 yards and 21 scores and completed 62.3 percent of his passes. Additionally, Rudolph ranked second among Big 12 quarterbacks with 16 passing plays of 40 yards or more. A late-season foot injury slowed Rudolph in Oklahoma State’s final two games, but the junior is expected to return to 100 percent for 2016. Rudolph should challenge for a spot among the nation’s top 10 quarterbacks this season.


5. Kenny Hill, TCU

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Trevone Boykin leaves big shoes to fill in Fort Worth for the Horned Frogs. Co-coordinator Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie should keep TCU’s offense performing at a high level, but matching last year’s 11 wins will be tough unless Kenny Hill or Foster Sawyer provides stability under center. Hill is the favorite to start after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. In two seasons at Texas A&M, Hill threw for 2,832 yards and 24 scores and showcased his dual-threat capability by adding 193 rushing yards on 59 attempts. Hill is a good fit for TCU’s offense and has a deep group of skill players at his disposal. However, Hill has to prove his second-half struggles with the Aggies in 2014 are a thing of the past, as well as hold off Sawyer for the No. 1 spot in the fall.




6. Skyler Howard, West Virginia

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


In his first full season as West Virginia’s starter, Howard had his share of ups and downs directing Dana Holgorsen’s high-powered attack. In 13 appearances, Howard threw for 3,145 yards and 26 touchdowns and added 502 yards and six scores on the ground. However, Howard only completed 54.8 percent of his passes and tossed 14 interceptions. Those numbers need to improve for Howard to climb on this list in 2016. The senior does have momentum on his side this fall, as he closed out the 2015 season by torching Arizona State for 532 yards and five scores. Is Howard poised to take the next step in 2016?


7. Shane Buechele, Texas

2016 Year of Eligibility: Freshman


The quarterback battle in Austin between Buechele and Tyrone Swoopes is expected to continue into the fall. However, while spring game performances aren’t necessarily the best indicator of where any quarterback competition stands, it will be tough to keep Buechele on the sidelines after his performance on April 16. In Texas’ spring game, Buechele threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns on 22 completions. It’s a small sample size, but Buechele looks ready to be the No. 1 quarterback.


8. Joel Lanning, Iowa State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


New coach Matt Campbell has a good foundation in place on offense, as the Cyclones return two All-Big 12 candidates in running back Mike Warren and receiver Allen Lazard, while quarterback Joel Lanning returns after starting the final five games of 2015. Under Lanning’s direction, Iowa State recorded back-to-back 30-point performances against Oklahoma State and Kansas State, while defeating Texas 24-0 on Oct. 31. Lanning finished the season with 1,246 passing yards and 10 scores and added 330 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Campbell has a strong track record of success on offense at Toledo and should help Lanning’s development in 2016.




9. Jesse Ertz, Kansas State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Ertz was the victim of bad luck last year, as his 2015 season ended on Kansas State’s first offensive play from scrimmage against South Dakota. On a five-yard run, Ertz suffered a torn ACL and was sidelined the rest of the season. Joe Hubener and Kody Cook filled in admirably at quarterback in Ertz’s absence, but the Wildcats finished seventh in the Big 12 in scoring. Ertz is the frontrunner to start in 2016, with Hubener, redshirt freshman Alex Delton and true freshman Skylar Thompson also in the mix for snaps.


10. Ryan Willis, Kansas

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Willis was tossed into the fire as a true freshman last season and showed promise for coach David Beaty. In 10 games, Willis threw for 1,719 yards and nine scores. His best performance of the season came against Texas Tech, as Willis nearly led the Jayhawks to an upset win by completing 35 of 50 passes for 330 yards and two scores. With a full offseason to work under Beaty and coordinator Rob Likens, as well as the addition of transfer receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Willis should show improvement in his second year as the starter. 

Ranking the Big 12's Quarterbacks for 2016
Post date: Friday, May 13, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Funny, MLB, NBA, NFL, Overtime, NFL, NBA, MLB, Overtime
Path: /31-all-time-greatest-athletes-movies-2016

While most athletes are content to enjoy the limelight on the field of competitive sports, many have tried to bask in the bright lights of Hollywood. Here are 31 athletes who made their mark in the movies; some as classic characters in blockbusters and others in forgettable box office disasters.

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator (1984)
The four-time Mr. Universe and International Powerlifting Champion from Austria went on to become the greatest action hero of his — or any — generation. Schwarzenegger’s signature role was the Terminator sent back in time to assassinate Sarah Connor, the mother of unborn revolutionary leader John Connor. Although he speaks only 18 lines in the James Cameron classic, Arnold utters his most memorable quote — “I’ll be back.”
Other notable films: Conan the Barbarian (1982), Predator (1987), Total Recall (1990), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994)

2. Johnny Weissmuller, Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)
A five-time gold medalist swimmer and bronze medalist water polo player, Weissmuller starred in 12 Tarzan films from 1932-48. Although he was the sixth actor to portray the Edgar Rice Burrough character, Weissmuller added arguably the most important element to Tarzan — the ape-man’s ululating yell.

3. Jim Brown, 100 Rifles (1969)
Arguably the greatest running back () in history, Brown retired from the NFL during the prime of his career to become a movie star.


“To leave at 29 years old, MVP, having won the championship in ’64 and played for it in ’65,” Brown told Esquire in 2008. “To go into the movies and break the color barrier and be in a . To get to be in The Dirty Dozen with some great actors. To make more money in one year than you damn near made in nine years of football. Everything about it was ingenious.”

Other notable films: The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Running Man (1987), Mars Attacks! (1996), Any Given Sunday (1999)

4. O.J. Simpson, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991)
The Juice was a Heisman Trophy winner at USC and the only running back in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in only 14 games. But he was also the bumbling klutz Detective Nordberg in The Naked Gun franchise.

Nordberg: “All right, listen up everyone! I want you to calmly file towards the exits. That’s it, that’s it! Nobody runs, just walk. Single file. That’s it. Now if we just stay calm, no one’s gonna be harmed by the huge bomb that’s gonna explode any minute.”

But O.J.’s best acting scene came during his 1994-95 trial for double-homicide — when he was given black gloves and the stage in one of the greatest legal dramas ever.

Other notable films: The Towering Inferno (1974), The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)

5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Airplane! (1980)
From sky hook to fly boy, Kareem was co-pilot Roger Murdock — flying alongside a very Jerry Sandusky pilot played by Peter Graves — in the comedy classic Airplane! He also fought Bruce Lee during his film debut in Game of Death.

Roger Murdock: “Listen Kid! I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.”

Other notable films: Game of Death (1972), Fletch (1985)

6. Carl Weathers, Rocky (1976)
Before he was iconic heavyweight champion Apollo Creed in the Best Picture Academy Award-winning Rocky, Weathers played football at San Diego State, then four seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and the CFL’s B.C. Lions.

Apollo Creed: “Southpaw nothing. I’ll drop him in three. Apollo Creed meets the Italian Stallion. Now that sounds like a damn monster movie.”

Other notable films: Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Predator (1987), Happy Gilmore (1996)


7. Mike Tyson, The Hangover (2009)
The youngest fighter (20 years, 4 months, 22 days) to unify the heavyweight title belt (WBC, WBA and IBF), Iron Mike was a terror in the ring — going 37–0 before losing to Buster Douglas in Tokyo, in one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

A surreal caricature of a man, Tyson infamously did hard time, bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear, got a face tattoo and speaks with an effeminate voice that contradicts his baddest man alive persona. Already bordering on a fictional existence, Tyson took his act to the big screen, singing Phil Collins’ classic “In the Air Tonight” in the bachelor party flick Hangover.

Tyson: “By the way man, where you get that cop car from?”
Stu Price: “We, uh, stole it from these dumbass cops.”
Tyson: “Nice! High five there! That’s nice!”


Other notable films: Rocky Balboa (2006), The Hangover Part II (2011)

8. Bob Uecker, Major League (1989)
One of Uecker’s 14 career home runs in MLB was off of the legendary lefty Sandy Koufax. But the backup catcher was known more for his play-by-play commentary — both in real life as the five-time Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year with the Milwaukee Brewers and in film as the hard-drinking Harry Doyle with the Cleveland Indians in the Major League trilogy.

Harry Doyle: “So, here is Rick Vaughn, the one they call the ‘Wild Thing.’ So, he sets and deals. (Vaughn throws a wild pitch) Just a bit outside, he tried for the corner and missed. (Vaughn throws another wild pitch) Ball 4. (Vaughn throws another wild pitch) Ball 8. (Vaughn throws another wild pitch) Low, and he walks the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches. How can these guys lay off pitches that close?”

Other notable films: Major League II (1994), Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco (1996), Major League: Back to the Minors (1998)

9. Alex Karras, Blazing Saddles (1974)

An Outland Award winning defensive tackle at Iowa and a four-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL, Karras was the perfect fit for the horse-punching Mongo in the Mel Brooks wild Western satire Blazing Saddles.

Mongo: “Mongo only pawn … in game of life.”

Other notable films: Porky’s (1982), Victor Victoria (1982), Against All Odds (1984)

10. Andre the Giant, The Princess Bride (1987)
The 7’4”, 530-pound Frenchman was one of the greatest acts in WWF history before playing the lovable strongman running mate of Inigo Montoya in the rom-com fairy tale The Princess Bride.

Fezzik: “It’s not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.”

Other notable films: Conan the Destroyer (1984), Micki + Maude (1984)

11. Bubba Smith, Police Academy (1984)

“Kill, Bubba, Kill” was chanted by fans at Michigan State before Smith became the No. 1 overall pick of the 1967 NFL Draft. The 6’7” Smith was a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end with the Baltimore Colts and a member of the Super Bowl V champions and Super Bowl III runners-up. But to many, he was Lt. Moses Hightower of the Police Academy series.


Hightower: “I was a florist.”
Mahoney: “A florist?”
Hightower: “Yeah, you know, flowers and shit.”

Other notable films: Police Academy 2-6 (1985-89)


12. LeBron James, Trainwreck (2015)

When word got out that the NBA great had a prominent part in the Amy Schumer/Bill Hader romantic comedy, most sports fans were skeptical. But it didn't take long before we realized that King James nailed his role (in fairness, he was playing himself) and had us laughing along, thinking, "Wow, LeBron can act." Of course, we may change our mind when Space Jam 2 comes out.


13. Vinnie Jones, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

A real deal hooligan, Jones was a footballer who captained the Welsh national team before becoming a typecast movie tough guy.

Other notable films: Snatch (2000), Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000), Swordfish (2001), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

14. John Matuszak, The Goonies (1985)
“Tooz” was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft and a two-time Super Bowl champion (Super Bowls XI and XV) before playing the deformed “Sloth” in The Goonies.

Other notable films: North Dallas Forty (1979), Caveman (1981)

15. Jason Lee, Almost Famous (2000)

The former professional skateboarder has carved his way to becoming one of the top goofy-foot grinders in the acting game, turning a wicked 360 flip into mainstream big (and small) screen success.

Other notable films: Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997), Vanilla Sky (2001), Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007)


16. Cam Neely, Dumb and Dumber (1994)
“Kick his ass, Sea Bass!” has made its way into the vernacular thanks to the Hockey Hall of Famer who hockey-ed a loogie on Jim Carey’s hamburger in the cult classic.

Sea Bass: “What the hell? Who’s the dead man that hit me with the salt shaker?”

Other notable films: D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994), Me, Myself & Irene (2000), What’s the Worst That Could Happen (2001)

17. Roger Clemens, Kingpin (1996)

Clemens, like Neely, is an athlete-actor in Farrelly Brothers comedies. Another intimidator, Clemens plays the role of Skidmark, who doesn’t like it when he finds Amish bowler Ishmael dancing with his girl.

Ishmael: “Hi Mr. Skidmark.”

Other notable films: Cobb (1994), Anger Management (2003)

18. Ray Allen, He Got Game (1998)
Ray plays Jesus Shuttlesworth — Denzel Washington’s son, based loosely on the life of Stephon Marbury — in the Spike Lee joint He Got Game. The perky perks of college basketball recruiting, as well as its financially and politically charged shady side, are in the spotlight.

Other notable film: Harvard Man (2001)

19. Ray Nitschke, The Longest Yard (1974)
The iconic two-time Super Bowl (I and II) champion Green Bay Packers middle linebacker makes this Burt Reynolds original where the prison inmates play against the guards.
Other notable film: Head (1968)

20. Lawrence Taylor, Any Given Sunday (1999)

Another of the NFL’s all-time great linebackers stretches his acting chops by playing football in a film. Coached by Al Pacino, L.T. is a veteran risking his life to play another Sunday for the Miami Sharks.

Other notable films: The Waterboy (1998), The Comebacks (2007), When in Rome (2010)

21. Mike Ditka, Kicking and Screaming (2005)
One of two men to win Super Bowls as a player, assistant coach and head coach, Ditka may have been able to beat a Hurricane — according to Bill Swerski’s Superfans on Saturday Night Live — but he was no match for Will Ferrell.

22. Wilt Chamberlain, Conan the Destroyer (1984)

After scoring a record 100 points in a single NBA game, Wilt the Stilt teamed up with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Look out, ladies.

23. Jesse Ventura, Predator (1987)

Another Arnold Schwarzenegger castmate, “The Body” was hunting and hunted by a Predator monster in the jungles of Central America. The duo would go on to become governors, with Ventura taking over Minnesota and Arnold becoming the “Governator” of Call-ee-forn-ee-a.

Other notable films: The Running Man (1987), Demolition Man (1993), Batman & Robin (1997)

24. Terry Bradshaw, Failure to Launch (2006)

The four-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback plays the husband of Kathy Bates and father of Matthew McConaughey, a 35-year-old still living with his parents. Spoiler alert: Bradshaw bares all.

25. Brett Favre, There's Something About Mary (1998)
Cameron Diaz is a Niners fan, but Brett and Warren are friends.

Favre: “Hi, Mary!”
Mary: “Brett?”
Pat Healy: “What the hell is Brett Favre doing here?”
Favre: “I’m in town to play the Dolphins, you dumb ass.”

26. Dan Marino, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

Ray Finkle blames Marino — “Laces out!” — for losing Super Bowl XVII and ruining his career. The Jim Carey vehicle is funnier than Isotoner commercials, which is saying something.

27. Lance Armstrong, Dodgeball (2004)
After convincing Ben Still to Live Strong, Lance has since taken his ball and gone home.

Armstrong: “I’ve been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho, ESPN 8. I just can’t get enough of it. But, good luck in the tournament. I’m really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you’re gonna be late.”

Peter La Fleur: “Uh, actually I decided to quit, Lance.”

Armstrong: “Quit? You know, once I was thinking about quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer, all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and I won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying from that’s keeping you from the finals?”

28. Derek Jeter, The Other Guys (2010)
He’s a biracial angel.

29. Gheorghe Muresan, My Giant (1998)
The 7’7” Romanian sensation wasn’t just Billy Crystal’s giant, he was everyone’s giant.

30. Michael Jordan, Space Jam (1996)

Bugs Bunny owes us all an apology. You too, Michael.

31. Shaquille O'Neal, Kazaam (1996)
Shaq would probably spend all three of his wishes to wipe out this boombox genie flop.

<p> These are 31 athletes who also starred in movies, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 13, 2016 - 09:13
Path: /college-football/five-conference-usa-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 C-USA Football Players to Know for 2016


Nick Mullens, QB, Southern Miss

New coach Jay Hopson knows how important having an established passer is, and he has one of the best in the nation under center. Mullens threw for 38 touchdowns and 4,476 yards last season and is on pace to set numerous school records for his final season. The four-year starter will be the glue on the offensive side for the Golden Eagles. 


Taywan Taylor, WR, WKU

Overshadowed by All-American and NFL draft pick QB Brandon Doughty, Taylor will be a household name come this fall. The Biletnikoff Award Semifinalist ranked third nationally with 1,467 receiving yards and caught 17 touchdowns in 2015. Additionally, his explosiveness was put on display through a 17.1 yards per catch average. With all five offensive linemen returning, WKU’s new quarterback will have all day to let Taylor stretch the field once again.


T.J. Ricks, LB, Old Dominion

The standout middle linebacker led C-USA last season in tackles (47 solo, 76 assisted) and is one of only five returning players in the Group of 5 to average over 10 tackles a game in 2015. He was a semi-finalist for the Brandon Burlsworth Trophy, which is given to the best player that started his career as a walk-on. He’s come a long way from being a former non-scholarship athlete and should push for first-team all-conference honors this fall.


Trey Hendrickson, DL, Florida Atlantic

At 6-foot-4, 270-pounds, Hendrickson is a force to be reckoned with at the line of scrimmage. He led the conference in sacks last year with 13.5, which was tied for No. 2 in the country. The Apopka, Florida native also ended the year as the Owls' all-time single-season and career sack leader. Expect the defensive lineman to be in the discussion for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2016.


Jeremy Cutrer, CB, Middle Tennessee

Previously a JUCO blue-chipper at Mississippi Gulf Coast, Cutrer transitioned well to the FBS level last season. While playing cornerback and receiving snaps on special teams, the versatile athlete produced in a multitude of ways totaling 31 tackles (3.0 TFLs), a sack, three interceptions and 13 pass breakups. Middle Tennessee’s secondary is in good hands with Cutrer leading the way.

Five Conference USA Football Players to Know for 2016
Post date: Friday, May 13, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/five-mountain-west-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 Mountain West Football Players to Know for 2016


Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State

The freshman phenom dazzled last year by winning the Mountain West Freshman of the Year, Poinsettia Bowl Offensive MVP and earning first team all-conference honors. Rypien posted impressive numbers for being a first-year starter, totaling 3,353 passing yards and a 20-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Those statistics should only increase with five out of the seven top receiving targets returning for 2016.


Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State

The Las Vegas native considered an early departure to the NFL but decided to lead the Aztecs for one more season. Pumphrey, the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, can do it all by leading the team in rushing and receiving - not to mention throwing a touchdown in San Diego State’s 42-7 bowl victory over Cincinnati. The all-purpose superstar looks to carry that momentum into 2016 and help the Aztecs push for another school-record 11-win season.


Billy Freeman, TE, San Jose State

Not too many tight ends lead their team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. But the four-year starter from Mesa, Ariz. has done just that. Freeman was a John Mackey Award Semifinalist last season due to outstanding play on the field. He’s racked up 93 catches and nine touchdowns for his career, and chances are he’ll lead the Spartans in those categories again this upcoming fall. 


Kennedy Tulimasealii, DE, Hawaii

The reigning Mountain West tackles for a loss leader last year (18.5), Tulimasealii is back for more in 2016. He posted 63 total tackles (42 solo, 21 assisted) in 2015, which was third in the conference among defenders in the trenches. Expect the 285-pound lineman to anchor Hawaii’s defense which only returns two of their top six tacklers from last season. Tulimasealii is currently suspended from the team after an off-field incident this spring.


Weston Steelhammer, S, Air Force

Steelhammer is a well-rounded safety who can cover and bring the wood. He led the team in tackles (80) and interceptions (five) in 2015 and will only get better with another year under his belt. The Louisiana native was a two-sport athlete for the Falcons, but decided to give up baseball after his freshman year. Things have gone well for him since that change, as Steelhammer earned a spot on two watch lists (Jim Thorpe Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy) last season.

Five Mountain West Football Players to Know for 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/mark-richt-jesus-jeans-commercial-miami-hurricanes

The year was 1982 and everyone had a pair of Jesus Jeans (I'm guessing)... including a young Mark Richt.


The then-student at University of Miami starred in a commercial for the popular jean company. Word on the street is that Richt didn't get to keep the jeans so don't look for him in a pair on the sidelines this fall.


Post date: Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 10:43
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-quarterbacks-2016

The Pac-12 is known for producing its share of high-scoring offenses and standout quarterbacks. And the conference certainly isn’t hurting for talent under center in 2016, as Washington State’s Luke Falk and UCLA’s Josh Rosen return as the league’s top options. Falk will produce huge numbers in coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, while Rosen has all of the physical tools to be a first-round pick. The next group of quarterbacks in the Pac-12 features Washington’s Jake Browning, Arizona’s Anu Solomon, USC’s Max Browne and Oregon’s Dakota Prukop. 


How do the new starters in the Pac-12 project with UCLA's Josh Rosen and Washington State's Luke Falk? Athlon has ranked all 12 starters for 2016.


To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2016. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2016 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Pac-12 for 2016.


Ranking the Pac-12's Quarterbacks for 2016


1. Josh Rosen, UCLA

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


It’s a close call for the No. 1 spot in our Pac-12 quarterback rankings for 2016. Do you go with overall talent (Rosen)? Or do you go with production (Luke Falk)? There’s no wrong answer, but for now, let’s give the nod to overall talent and Rosen. As a true freshman last season, Rosen threw for 3,669 yards and 23 scores and completed 60 percent of his passes.




2. Luke Falk, Washington State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


As mentioned above, it’s a close call between UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Falk for the top spot on this list. With Rosen at No. 1, Falk is really 1B in Athlon’s early Pac-12 quarterback rankings for 2016. In his first full season as a starter in 2015, Falk shredded opposing defenses for 4,561 yards and 38 scores. Additionally, Falk completed 69.4 percent of his passes and shared first-team All-Pac-12 honors with California’s Jared Goff last year.


3. Jake Browning, Washington

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Browning is one of college football’s top quarterbacks on the rise for 2016. The California native started 12 games in a promising true freshman season in 2015 and threw for 2,955 yards and 16 scores. Browning also finished the year on a high note, connecting on 23 of 34 throws for 284 yards in Washington’s bowl victory over Southern Miss. With a full offseason to work as the starter, along with the return of big-play threat John Ross at receiver, Browning should develop into one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks.




4. Davis Webb, California

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


The Golden Bears had an extended quarterback battle in the spring to find a replacement for No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. However, coach Sonny Dykes and coordinator Jake Spavital found their quarterback in May, as Webb committed to California as a graduate transfer for the 2016 season. The senior transfers to Berkeley after three years at Texas Tech. During his three seasons with the Red Raiders, Webb threw for 5,557 yards and 46 scores. Webb should make a seamless transition from Texas Tech to California and is one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks for 2016.


5. Dakota Prukop, Oregon

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Oregon is tapping into the FCS ranks in hopes of finding a starting quarterback for the second year in a row. And after Vernon Adams had a successful one-year stint in Eugene, the Ducks are hoping to get similar production out of Prukop. The Montana State graduate transfer earned first-team FCS All-America honors by the Associated Press last year after accounting 3,822 total yards and 39 overall scores. While Prukop is the favorite to take the first snap of 2016, his place at the top of the depth chart isn’t set in stone after a good showing in the spring by redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen.


6. Anu Solomon, Arizona

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


After a breakout freshman season, Solomon’s development was slowed by injuries in 2015. In 11 appearances last year, Solomon threw for 2,667 yards and 20 scores and added 198 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Those totals were a step back from his 2014 numbers, which saw Solomon throw for 3,793 yards and 28 scores and rush for 291 yards and two scores. While the offseason should allow Solomon to get back to full strength, he’s also facing a push for the starting job from talented sophomore Brandon Dawkins.


7. Max Browne, USC

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Cody Kessler leaves big shoes to fill in Los Angeles, but new coach Clay Helton has two promising options to choose from at quarterback for 2016. Browne left spring with a slight edge over Sam Darnold for the starting job, and the former five-star prospect appears poised for a breakout year. Over the last two years as Kessler’s backup, Browne played in nine games and completed 11 of 19 passes for 143 yards. Helping Browne’s transition into the starting role will be a deep group of skill players, including All-America receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.




8. Sefo Liufau, Colorado

2016 Year of Eligibility: senior


Liufau is a tough quarterback to rank for 2016. While Liufau has showed flashes of promise and threw for 3,200 yards and 28 scores in 2014, he suffered a Lisfranc injury against USC last year and is still working to return to 100 percent by this fall. A redshirt season was a possibility, but with Davis Webb going to California, Liufau seems likely to return by the start of 2016.


9. Keller Chryst, Stanford

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Kevin Hogan’s leadership and overall impact on Stanford’s offense won’t be easy to replace in 2016. However, the cupboard at quarterback is far from bare for coach David Shaw. Three four-star prospects – Keller Chryst, K.J. Costello and Ryan Burns – are competing for the starting job, with Chryst holding an edge over Burns exiting spring practice. After a redshirt year in 2014, Chryst worked as Hogan’s backup last season and completed 5 of 9 passes for 59 yards and one score. Costello is likely to redshirt in his first year on campus.


10. Darell Garretson, Oregon State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Second-year coach Gary Andersen is looking for a spark on offense after the Beavers managed only 19 points a game in 2015. Garretson is eligible in 2016 after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. In two years at Utah State, Garretson threw for 2,586 yards and 18 scores and completed 63.1 percent of his passes. He’s the favorite exiting spring practice for the starting job, with true freshman Mason Moran and sophomore Marcus McMaryion just behind on the depth chart. Last season’s starter at quarterback – Seth Collins – is slated to move into an all-purpose role for 2016.




11. Manny Wilkins, Arizona State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Arizona State’s quarterback situation is still a mystery at the end of spring practice. While the Sun Devils may not have a clear No. 1 quarterback, coach Todd Graham has three talented options competing for the starting job. Wilkins – a four-star recruit in the 2014 signing class – worked as Mike Bercovici’s backup last season and appeared in four games, rushing for 55 yards on seven attempts. He’s considered the favorite, but redshirt freshmen Brady White and Bryce Perkins are also in the mix. Regardless of which quarterback emerges as the starter, the Sun Devils should be fine at this position.


12. Troy Williams, Utah

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Williams is back in the Pac-12 after one standout season at Santa Monica College. The California native originally signed with Washington out of high school and spent two years with the Huskies. In 2014, Williams played in five games at Washington and threw for 176 passing yards on 23 completions. After transferring to Santa Monica College in search of more playing time, Williams torched opposing defenses for 2,750 yards and 31 scores in 2015. Williams ranked as a four-star junior college prospect by the 247Sports Composite but missed part of spring practice due to a sore arm.

Ranking the Pac-12's Quarterbacks for 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-south-carolinas-college-football-schedule-2016

comes into the 2016 season off an ugly showing last year. The Gamecocks finished 3-9 with losses in seven of their last eight games (including a loss to The Citadel at home). But the team did at least show some signs of progress down the stretch after Steve Spurrier stepped down midseason.


Now, there’s a fresh voice in Columbia as former Florida coach Will Muschamp takes over a team that has a defense with seven starters returning, but will be without All-SEC-caliber linebacker Skai Moore, who is out for the season with a neck injury. The good news for the Gamecocks is that Muschamp has a pretty good track record when it comes to turning around defenses. Muschamp also will be looking to take advantage of a reasonable schedule to prove himself again as a head coach.




Here is a look at South Carolina’s 12 regular season games, ranked from easiest to toughest:


12. Nov. 19 vs. Western Carolina

The Catamounts from Cullowhee, N.C., are still in the process of building a football program. Last season, they took on two SEC teams, losing 55-10 at Tennessee and 41-17 at Texas A&M. Still, Western Carolina finished with a 7-4 record. Unfortunately, the Catamounts still don’t appear to have the roster to hang around with an SEC team. Then again, neither did The Citadel.


11. Oct. 22 vs. UMass

UMass should provide a bit more of a challenge for the Gamecocks, centered between Georgia and Tennessee on the schedule. The Minutemen nearly beat Vanderbilt in Nashville two years ago and will play three teams from the SEC this season. However, South Carolina will still have the luxury of a bye week to rest up before this game. It shouldn’t be too difficult.


10. Sept. 17 vs. East Carolina

Two years in a row, East Carolina has beaten Virginia Tech. In the past three years, ECU also has beaten NC State and North Carolina (twice). The Pirates are no stranger to competition. This could be a dangerous matchup for the Gamecocks, especially early in the season. At least it will take place in Columbia.


9. Sept. 24 at Kentucky

As the Gamecocks get into the meat of their SEC schedule, they will have to get past Kentucky, a team that has beaten them the past two years. Playing in Lexington will not be an easy chore, but with an expectedly better defense, South Carolina should still be favored. Kentucky brings back 13 starters from a 5-7 team and will be desperately seeking bowl eligibility.


8. Nov. 5 vs. Missouri

South Carolina hasn’t beaten Missouri since 2013. The Tigers won comfortably, 24-10, last year in Columbia. Missouri’s big problem last season as was an offense that struggled, including a stretch in which the unit didn’t produce a touchdown over a three-game span. Eight starters return on new head coach Barry Odom’s defense, so that unit looks to be stout once again. The Gamecocks should have an advantage on offense.


7. Sept. 1 (Thursday) at Vanderbilt

Opening the season on the road is never easy, but this one could be particularly difficult for Muschamp and company. Vanderbilt brings back 16 starters and has gotten progressively better under Derek Mason. The Commodores have plenty to be excited about. Yet, this game takes place in week one. There is usually a surprise factor involved in week one games, so who knows what will happen?


6. Sept. 10 at Mississippi State

As Mississippi State moves on from the Dak Prescott era, it will have a substantial void to fill. But the Bulldogs have plenty of offensive playmakers coming back and the quarterback situation appears to be fairly stable. This game could be a high-scoring affair in Starkville. Mississippi State hasn’t beaten South Carolina since 1999 when Jackie Sherrill and Lou Holtz were roaming the sidelines.


5. Oct. 1 vs. Texas A&M

At least the Gamecocks didn’t draw Alabama or LSU out of the West. Mississippi State should be beatable, and Texas A&M is currently surrounded by controversy on the recruiting trail. Also, one has to wonder what kind of relationship exists between the players and coaches after the Aggies lost two quarterbacks in the offseason. With that said, Kevin Sumlin’s offense will probably still be potent in 2016. This is a difficult matchup for a South Carolina defense trying to take the next step. 


4. Nov. 12 at Florida

It’s no secret that Florida wasn’t a great team by the end of last season. After Will Grier was suspended, the Gators’ offense was basically nonexistent, yet again. Still, Florida did enough to hang on and win the SEC East. The Gators beat South Carolina 24-14 in what was a pretty competitive game in Columbia. This time, the Gamecocks will have to travel to The Swamp for a tough contest. Spurrier should be in attendance.


3. Oct. 8 vs. Georgia

Over the past few seasons, South Carolina and Georgia have had some epic battles. However, last season was an exception. The Gamecocks’ decline began with a 52-20 beating at the hands of Georgia. The ‘Dawgs look to have an elite roster, but there will be some question marks in Kirby Smart’s first season. Typically, the home team fares well in this series. That’s good news for South Carolina.


2. Oct. 29 vs. Tennessee

Tennessee appears to be loaded headed into the fall. Expectations have skyrocketed for the Volunteers. It’s understandable when considering the Vols lost four games last season by a combined 17 points, then blasted Northwestern 45-6 in the Outback Bowl. South Carolina gave Tennessee all it wanted in November, only to fall 27-24 after a late-game fumble. Games between these teams are usually decided by a narrow margin.


1. Nov. 26 at Clemson

Rounding out the regular season, South Carolina will have its most difficult game on the road at Clemson. The Gamecocks put up a fight last year during rivalry week, but eventually lost 37-32. Clemson returns an abundance of talent on both offense and defense, including quarterback Deshaun Watson. South Carolina will have its work cut out for it against the team that played for the national championship last season.


— 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 .

Ranking the Toughest Games on South Carolina's College Football Schedule in 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/15-best-fbs-vs-fcs-football-games-2016

FCS teams upsetting FBS programs have come to be one of the leading storylines early in a season. Over the first few weekends, Cinderella fires up fans as if it’s March.


Three years ago, FCS teams took down FBS opponents 16 times – a single-season record. Last year, it was nine times, which is still a decent number.


In 2016, there are 113 opportunities for the FCS. All of the matchups involve the 11 FCS scholarship conferences – there are none involving the non-scholarship Ivy and Pioneer leagues – and the games, as usual, are in the lion’s den, hosted by the FBS schools.


Many of the FBS losses involve Group of Five teams, but Cinderella always lurks – in shoulder pads and cleats instead of a dress and high heels – and an upset of an FBS power program rocks college football.


Here are 15 marquee FBS vs. FCS matchups to keep an eye on:


15. South Carolina State at Clemson (Sept. 17)

Last year’s College Football Playoff runner-up is not going to lose to a MEAC program, but give credit to the visiting Bulldogs for taking on the challenge of three FBS matchups in a row, starting against UCF and Louisiana Tech. Coach Buddy Pough’s program just produced two NFL Draft choices, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and tight end Temarrick Hemingway, and may have one in 2017 with left tackle Javarius Leamon, who at one time was a Clemson recruit.


14. Lamar at Houston (Sept. 10)

Houston ranked eighth in the FBS in rushing defense last year, but here’s a challenge for the Cougars when they may not have their sea legs under them – Lamar All-America running back Kade Harrington rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season.


13. South Dakota State at TCU (Sept. 3)

The Jackrabbits got the jump on opening weekend a year ago with a victory at Big 12 member Kansas. They feature an All-America wide receiver in Jake Wieneke, who has two regular quarterbacks who get him the ball in Zach Lujan and Taryn Christion.


12. Youngstown State at West Virginia (Sept. 10)

No FCS coach likely fires up the opposing fan base quite like Youngstown State’s Bo Pelini, who was dumped after going 67-27 in eight seasons at Nebraska – yeah, right before the Cornhuskers went 6-7 last year. His Penguins, which won four FCS national titles in the 1990s under another controversial coach, Jim Tressel (now the YSU president), were competitive in a 45-37 loss at Pittsburgh on opening weekend last September.


11. Villanova at Pittsburgh (Sept. 3)

Speaking of well-known coaches, Villanova has a pretty good in Andy Talley, who begins his 32nd and final season with the Wildcats. He’s one victory shy of 250 wins as a college coach.


10. The Citadel at North Carolina (Nov. 19)

The Citadel pulled one of the bigger upsets for the FCS last year, dropping South Carolina, 23-22, behind its ball-control, triple-option offense. The Bulldogs return their top four rushers, led by quarterback Dominique Allen and fullback Tyler Renew.


9. James Madison at North Carolina (Sept. 17)

Uh... be on alert, North Carolina. Before the Tar Heels play a Citadel team that beat an FBS team last year, they face a James Madison squad that won at SMU. Oh yeah, the Dukes’ new coach, Mike Houston, arrived from The Citadel in the offseason.


8. Charleston Southern at Florida State (Sept. 10)

It seems fast-rising coach Jamey Chadwell has done everything at Charleston Southern except beat an FBS team. He’s 28-10 in three seasons with the defending Big South Conference champion Buccaneers, but that includes five losses against FBS competition.


7. Portland State at Washington (Sept. 17)

Portland State took down Washington State last season, now it will go for an Evergreen State sweep. The Vikings also beat a second FBS team, North Texas, a year ago behind 2015 FCS Coach of the Year Bruce Barnum.


6. Richmond at Virginia (Sept. 3)

The visiting Spiders shared the 2015 CAA title with James Madison and William & Mary, then went the furthest in the national playoffs by reaching the semifinals. They return a top passing combination in Kyle Lauletta-to-Brian Brown as well as eight defensive starters.


5. Northern Iowa at Iowa State (Sept. 3)

Been there, down that. This is Northern Iowa’s fifth visit to Ames this decade and it includes a one-point loss in 2011 and a 28-20 win in ‘13.


4. Chattanooga at Alabama (Nov. 19)

Former Southern Conference program Georgia Southern gained Alabama’s respect in 2011, and now the defending FBS national champion welcomes the three-time reigning SoCon champion. The visiting Mocs, though, are not exactly riding the Crimson Tide with an 0-12 all-time record against ‘Bama. But they have an NFL prospect in defensive end Keionta Davis.


3. Jacksonville State at LSU (Sept. 10)

During the regular season last year, the Ohio Valley Conference champion Gamecocks’ only loss was in overtime at Auburn. They’re not as strong after losing a top senior class, but dual-threat quarterback Eli Jenkins is coming off an All-America season in which he played through a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. He gets back JSU’s all-time leading pass catcher, Josh Barge.


2. Eastern Washington at Washington State (Sept. 3)

One-time FCS standout Jerry Rice should be asking Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp for his autograph because the All-American is rewriting all the record books. He’s already set 17 school records, eight Big Sky Conference records and seven FCS records. The total of his three career games against Pac-12 teams: 28 receptions for 510 yards and eight touchdowns.


1. North Dakota State at Iowa (Sept. 17)

Yes, the granddaddy of all the FCS vs. FBS matchups. The five-time defending national champion Bison also have won five straight games against the FBS (Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State, at Iowa State). Head coach Chris Klieman’s experienced squad has 14 returning starters and a power run game and defense that would impress any FBS coach. Hawkeyes, beware.


— 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 )

15 Best FBS vs. FCS Football Games in 2016
Post date: Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/high-school-lacrosse-players-killed-guinea-pig-team-bonding-ritual-grosse-ile-michigan

The Grosse Ile High School lacrosse team is making news for an incident that took place before a game.


A group of players killed a guinea pig in a "team bonding" pre-game ritual, and then proceeded to smear its blood on their bodies. All future games for the team have been suspended and at least 10 of the 18 members of the team are being questioned.



The Michigan community is in shock and say that no matter what punishment the school hands down it won't be enough, calling it "serial killer kind of stuff."


The school's superintendent, Joanne Lelekatch provided with this statement:


"In cases involving these circumstances, out first priority is to ensure that law enforcement has access to the information it needs to conduct its investigation... Once law enforcement has completed its investigation, we will be in a position assess the facts and circumstances and, if necessary, apply our student or athletic handbooks."


For now, the case remains open.

Post date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 12:57
Path: /mlb/new-york-mets-vs-los-angeles-dodgers-may-11-preview-and-prediction

The Dodgers and Mets are no strangers to one another. Last fall’s National League Division Series between the two teams will forever be known as Daniel Murphy’s coming out party. Now, Murphy is a member of the rival Nationals, and the Mets may be even better, especially offensively, than they were a season ago — a season that culminated with a World Series appearance.


The Dodgers are sitting just one game above .500, yet still lead the disappointing NL West by a full game. The biggest question mark coming into 2016 was the starting rotation. Outside of Clayton Kershaw, who did the Dodgers and new manager Dave Roberts have? After the Hishashi Iwakuma deal fell through, it looked like the Dodgers would have a thin starting rotation — until Kenta Maeda showed up.


New York Mets (20-12) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (17-16)


When: 10:10 p.m. ET (Wednesday)

Where: Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles)
Matchup: Noah Syndergaard (2-2, 2.58 ERA) vs. Kenta Maeda (3-1, 1.66 ERA)

The driving force behind the Mets’ magical run last season was their pitching staff. While Matt Harvey is still the biggest name in the rotation, Noah Syndergaard has taken over as the best arm on the staff. Syndergaard’s last three starts haven’t been typical Thor outings, posting a 4.42 ERA in only 18 1/3 innings of work.


The issue with Syndergaard isn’t his velocity or his lack of strikeouts. In fact, Syndergaard leads the league in fastball (97.8 avg. mph) and slider (91.7 avg. mph) velocity by a wide margin. Syndergaard’s strikeout numbers are great as well. He is currently striking out batters at a 32.2 percent clip, good enough for third in all of MLB, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio (11.50K/9 vs. 1.88 B/9) is not of this world. The recent problem with Syndergaard is his inability to consistently hit his spots, causing his pitch count to rise in the early innings. In his last three starts, Thor has totaled 302 pitches all without making it into the seventh inning.


On the other hand, Kenta Maeda has been a revelation for the Dodgers’ rotation. Maeda’s eight-year, $25 million deal is looking like an early bargain. Maeda, 28, spent his first six professional seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, but has transitioned to MLB seamlessly.


Maeda’s approach is the antithesis of Syndergaard’s. Where Syndergaard wants to blow hitters away with pure power, Maeda, is changing his spots and velocity to fool hitters — and it’s working. Maeda is currently posting a 1.66 ERA, 3.13 FIP, while stranding more than 90 percent of base runners, and he’s doing it all with an average fastball velocity that’s less than 90 mph. It’s still early, but Maeda has to be the front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year so far.




*In their first two games, the Mets and Dodgers combined for just 11 total runs. Currently, the Mets and Dodgers sit ninth and 10th in the NL in runs scored. With Syndergaard facing off against Maeda tonight and Clayton Kershaw taking the mound tomorrow, don’t expect a slugfest.


*Last night, Trayce Thompson hit a solo, pinch-hit, walk-off home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, smashing a fastball (clocked at 96 mph) from Mets reliever Hansel Robles. The long ball was Thompson’s second home run in as many games after hitting a two-run shot off Steven Matz on Monday night.


*Mets starting third baseman David Wright is scheduled to have a day off, while second baseman Neil Walker is expected to be back in the starting lineup after missing three games with a bruised shin.




The return of Walker gives the Mets a little more punch in the lineup, and I think Syndergaard gets back on track tonight at Dodger Stadium. The last time Thor took the mound in Chavez Ravine was actually the seventh inning of Game 5 of the NLDS last fall where he struck out the side. The Mets would hang on to knock out the Dodgers and cruise into the NLCS.


Prediction: Mets 4, Dodgers 2


— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. Follow him on Twitter .


(Top photo courtesy of )

New York Mets vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-uscs-college-football-schedule-2016

After a roller coaster of a season that had going through a coaching change, rebounding to win the Pac-12 South Division and finish with a loss to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl, the Trojans are hoping for some stability and a return to normalcy in 2016.


Clay Helton had the “interim” tag removed from his title right before USC played Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The 41-22 loss to the Cardinal and subsequent setback to the Badgers in the Holiday Bowl ended the Trojans’ season on a down note and it may be tough for Helton’s team to get off to a quick start this season.




Faced with the , USC opens its 2016 campaign with an historic game against defending national champion Alabama at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The good news is that it can only get easier from there on in for the Trojans. With that in mind, here are USC's 12 regular season games ranked from easiest to most difficult.


12. Oct. 27 (Thursday) vs. Cal

With an out-of-conference slate already consisting of Alabama and Notre Dame, Cal moves into easiest game territory simply by virtue of “someone had to finish last.” While USC has a ridiculous win streak over the Bears dating back to the early 2000s, that’s not the sole reason Cal is in this spot. The Bears’ massive losses on offense, including No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick quarterback Jared Goff, will be hard to overcome and the Trojans will be motivated coming off a bye week.


11. Oct. 8 vs. Colorado

Colorado has slowly been improving over the past couple of years and 2015 was the surest sign of a team about to put things together. The Buffaloes wound up in a bunch of one-score games, where they had a legitimate chance to win at the end. Head coach Mike MacIntyre is entering his fourth season as and he will be expected to produce. The Buffalo are 10-27 during his tenure, but only 2-25 in Pac-12 play. If MacIntyre doesn’t start improving on his conference win total, he may not be around next season, but Colorado has looked much more disciplined and focused under his guidance. It’s only a matter of time before the Buffs start giving USC a run for its money.


10. Oct. 1 vs. Arizona State

Head coach Todd Graham has been tearing it up on the recruiting trail, but coming up short on the football field. Though the Sun Devils have found various ways to frustrate the Trojans in his tenure, the same could be said going the other way. The better team usually wins the game and USC will have the better roster of talent in 2016. Whether or not the Trojans can stay healthy is a different story.


9. Nov. 12 at Washington

The Huskies are still finding their feet under head coach Chris Petersen, but the end product is starting to look more and more consistent, reminiscent of what he had at Boise. Quarterback Jake Browning had one heck of a freshman campaign while Washington returns plenty of other key players and contributors.


8. Oct. 15 at Arizona

Rich Rodriguez made some changes to the Wildcats this offseason in an effort to seriously compete with the stronger defenses of the Pac-12. The result has produced improvement on the recruiting trail, but time will tell if new defensive coordinator Marcel Yates can couple that with on-field success.


7. Sept. 23 (Friday) at Utah

The Utes are always game and things get tricky when USC plays during the week and on the road. The big question mark for Utah is what the offense will look like without quarterback Travis Wilson at the helm. The Utes may also be the beneficiary of the body-blow theory by Bruce Feldman, which is the physical letdown that usually happens to teams following a matchup with Stanford. This game ends an extremely daunting September slate for USC with matchups against Alabama, Utah State and at Stanford preceding this trip to Salt Lake City.


6. Sept. 10 vs. Utah State

The Aggies played the Trojans close last time and they get the benefit of being sandwiched between Alabama and Stanford. The Trojans do get to play this game at home, but the Aggies have been to the Coliseum before and head coach Matt Wells isn’t afraid of a physical contest. If the Helton era happens to start unceremoniously, Utah State could find itself on the right side of a significant upset.


5. Sept. 17 at Stanford

The Cardinal have simply battered the Trojans the last couple times they have played. Running back Christian McCaffrey has enough tape of him running wild on USC alone to package up and send to an NFL scout. The Cardinal will show no mercy on the new USC offensive coordinator, as head coach David Shaw will be all too happy to put Tee Martin’s football IQ and adjustment strategies on notice.


4. Nov. 19 at UCLA

Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen had about as good of a freshman season as one can have short of winning a national title. He took home a host of accolades, but more importantly he proved that the preseason hype was warranted. Rosen’s abilities will only continue to grow as he matures and UCLA has done well to recruit skill position players around him. If Rosen doesn’t fall victim to the infamous sophomore slump, UCLA should be more than capable of handing USC its traditional loss at the Rose Bowl in the Jim Mora era.


3. Nov. 26 vs. Notre Dame

The work head coach Brian Kelly has done with Notre Dame is nothing short of impressive. After a shaky start because of some public comments, Kelly has settled in and become the next beloved figure to guide the Irish. Last season might have been his magnum opus with all the injuries the Irish faced. The Irish are a stout defensive team with an offensive system capable of putting USC on its heels. They’ve proven up to the task in a boat race and a war of attrition. This game has always been tough, but Kelly has reintroduced the physical mindset into Notre Dame’s personality.


2. Nov. 5 vs. Oregon

The Trojans get this one at home, but that hasn’t really hindered Oregon in its last two trips to the Coliseum. The Ducks are not afraid of the bright lights and could be competing for the national championship should transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop live up to expectations. Oregon is another team that reloads and a November run-in with the Trojans could look mighty good to the College Football Playoff Committee.


1. Sept. 3 vs. Alabama (Arlington, TX)

Playing the defending national champions is always daunting, but when it’s a team like Alabama, the task gets even harder. The Tide do not rebuild, they reload and this year is expected to be no different.


Fortunately for USC, its hardest game shouldn’t be its most costly game. Win or lose, the Trojans will have a quality name on their resume come Playoff selection time. USC would much rather have the win, however, as it is 2-5 all-time against Alabama.


— 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 .

Ranking the Toughest Games on USC's College Football Schedule in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/omaha-man-sue-nebraska-huskers-stop-release-balloons-home-football-games-memorial-stadium

It's been a long-standing tradition at Nebraska home football games for balloons to be released after the team's first score. One guy is trying to put a stop to that.


According to the , a local man by the name of Randall S. Krause is suing the school to stop the balloons from being released because they are a threat to wildlife. His claim shows a balloon's effect on animals, but it doesn't directly tie those specific deaths to the Husker balloons.


"The mass release of Huskers balloons puts virtually all species of birds, turtles marine mammals and small animals ... in harm's way," the lawsuit states.


The suit also says children are in danger due to the balloons that land and become deflated, although it provides no example of this happening. 


"Children under 8 can choke or suffocate on deflated Husker balloons if they put them in their mouths."


Krause wants the court to declare the releasing of balloons illegal, although the school has been doing it since the 1950s. 

Post date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 10:47
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-quarterbacks-2016

The quarterback position in the is filled with uncertainty in 2016. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Iowa’s C.J. Beathard are easily the league’s top options, but the question marks begin at No. 3. Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong takes the third spot in Athlon's early rankings for 2016, with Illinois’ Wes Lunt checking in at No. 4. Armstrong and Lunt have the potential to finish the end of the season in the top four, but it won’t be easy to hold off Michigan State’s Tyler O’Connor, Michigan’s John O’Korn or Wilton Speight, Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson. 


How do the new starters in the Big Ten project with Heisman Trophy candidate J.T. Barrett and Iowa's C.J. Beathard? Athlon has ranked all 14 starters for 2016.


To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2016. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2016 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big Ten for 2016.


Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2016


1. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Ohio State’s offense struggled to find its rhythm at times last season, but this unit took a step forward in the final two games, scoring 42 points against Michigan and 44 against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. A big reason for the late-season improvement was Barrett’s return to the starting lineup over Cardale Jones. Barrett finished the year by recording 559 total yards in Ohio State’s last two games, giving him 1,674 total yards and 22 scores for the season. With Barrett a full year removed from his season-ending leg injury from 2014, and no quarterback controversy this spring, the junior should resemble the player that accumulated 3,772 total yards and 45 scores as a freshman.




2. C.J. Beathard, Iowa

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Beathard was one of the Big Ten’s breakout players last season and a big reason why Iowa nearly won the conference title and claimed a College Football Playoff berth. In his first full year as the starter, Beathard threw for 2,809 yards and 17 touchdowns and added 237 yards and six scores on the ground. The Tennessee native was efficient (61.2 percent) but also connected on his share of big plays, completing eight passes of 40 yards or more.


3. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Armstrong had his share of ups and downs in his first season under Mike Riley. In 12 appearances last year, Armstrong threw for 3,030 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 400 yards and seven scores. However, Armstrong needs to do a better job of eliminating turnovers and mistakes after tossing 16 interceptions last season. Additionally, increasing his completion percentage (55.2) would also help Nebraska’s offense take a step forward. Armstrong is one of the Big Ten’s most experienced quarterbacks returning in 2016 and is surrounded by one of the conference’s top receiving corps. 




4. Wes Lunt, Illinois

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


New coach Lovie Smith has plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball to get Illinois into a bowl this year. But the first-year coach has a good foundation in place on offense with the return of Lunt under center. Lunt played in all 12 games last season after missing time due to a leg injury in 2014. In 12 games in 2015, Lunt threw for 2,761 yards and 14 scores and completed 56.1 percent of his passes. New coordinator Garrick McGee should help Lunt take a step forward in his last season in Champaign, but the offense suffered a setback when receiver Mike Dudek was lost for the year again to a torn ACL.


5. Tyler O’Connor, Michigan State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Connor Cook leaves big shoes to fill in East Lansing, but the Spartans have two capable candidates competing for the starting job in Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry. This duo has already emerged in a tough spot for coach Mark Dantonio, as O’Connor and Terry shared snaps in Michigan State’s upset 17-14 win over Ohio State last year. O’Connor has completed 34 of 54 passes for 374 yards and four scores in his career and also possesses good mobility to add a running dimension under center. O’Connor is the favorite to start, but it’s also safe to assume Terry will see snaps in 2016.




6. John O’Korn, Michigan

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


O’Korn is penciled in here, but Wilton Speight made a push for the starting job at the end of spring. The battle to replace Jake Rudock under center for coach Jim Harbaugh is expected to continue deep into fall practice. O’Korn is eligible in 2016 after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. In two seasons at Houston, O’Korn threw for 4,068 yards and 34 scores. After a strong freshman campaign (3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns), O’Korn was benched after a slow start in his sophomore year and decided to transfer after the 2014 season.


7. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


A foot injury limited Leidner in spring practice, but all signs point to the senior returning to full strength for fall workouts. The Minnesota native enters 2016 with 29 career starts and will be working under new play-caller Jay Johnson. Leidner posted career-best numbers in passing yards (2,701) and touchdowns (14) last season and added 270 yards and six scores on the ground. The senior has improved over the last three years and should have his best overall season in 2016.


8. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


As expected, Thorson had his share of ups and downs in his first year as Northwestern’s starter. The redshirt freshman started all 13 games for the Wildcats and threw for 1,522 yards and seven scores, while adding 397 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Thorson was a four-star prospect coming out of high school and has the talent to emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks over the next few years. The sophomore is a good runner but needs to take a step forward as a passer (50.8 completion percentage in 2015) to move higher on this list in 2016.




9. Trace McSorley, Penn State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Penn State got an early glimpse of McSorley’s talent in the loss to Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl last season. After Christian Hackenberg was sidelined due to injury, McSorley completed 14 of 27 passes for 142 yards and two scores and ran for 31 yards on seven attempts against the Bulldogs. McSorley has never started a game and has only 40 career pass attempts entering 2016. He’s also working under new coordinator Joe Moorhead but is surrounded by a solid group of skill players, including running back Saquon Barkley and receiver Chris Godwin.


10. Bart Houston, Wisconsin

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Houston waited his turn behind Joel Stave and is the favorite to take the first snap for the Badgers in 2016. The California native has barely played over the last three seasons but saw extended action against Illinois in 2015, completing 22 of 33 passes for 232 yards and two scores. While Houston has the edge in experience, he will be pushed for snaps by redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. The battle between Houston and Hornibrook is expected to continue into the fall.


11. Richard Lagow, Indiana

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Lagow has big shoes to fill in replacing Nate Sudfeld in 2016. Sudfeld finished his Indiana career with the school record in passing yards and touchdowns and guided the program to a bowl trip last year. This will be Lagow’s third stop at a FBS program after starting his career at UConn, followed by a short stop at Oklahoma State before attending Cisco Community College. The 6-foot-6 passer has a transition period ahead as he adapts to the Big Ten. However, under Kevin Wilson’s watch, Indiana should find a way to get consistent production from its quarterbacks. 




12. David Blough, Purdue

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


How’s this for uncertainty? A different quarterback has led Purdue in passing yards in each of the last eight years. Can Blough provide stability under center? After taking over the starting job from Austin Appleby last season, Blough threw for 1,574 yards and 10 touchdowns. Blough should show improvement as a sophomore, but he will face a challenge for the starting job from redshirt freshman Elijah Sindelar.


13. Chris Laviano, Rutgers

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


New coach Chris Ash made one of the to coordinate the offense in 2016. While Mehringer’s overall direction and scheme should benefit the Scarlet Knights, this unit won’t improve without better play from its quarterbacks. Laviano played in all 12 games (11 starts) last season and threw for 2,247 yards and 16 scores. However, he also tossed 12 picks and failed to eclipse more than 165 passing yards in five out of the last five games. Chase Rettig will push Laviano for the starting job once again in the fall.


14. Perry Hills, Maryland

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Maryland quarterbacks tossed a whopping 29 interceptions and posted a dismal 47.2 completion percentage last year. Improvement should be noticeable under new coordinator Walt Bell in 2016, but can the Terrapins find a clear answer under center? Hills is the favorite to start after throwing for 1,001 yards and eight touchdowns and recording 535 yards and three scores on the ground. Maryland might not have an All-Big Ten quarterbacks this year, but Bell and the new coaching staff should get the offense moving in the right direction.

Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/five-american-athletic-conference-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 AAC Football Players to Know for 2016


Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida

In just two seasons at USF, Mack already ranks second on the school's career all-time rushing yardage charts. He followed a touted freshman season – 1,041 yards and nine scores – with 1,381 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015. Coach Willie Taggart and the talented tailback have the offensive firepower to bring an AAC crown to Tampa.


Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Standing at 6-foot-4, the prototypical wide out impressed many his redshirt freshman season. He tied Emmanuel Sanders - not a bad name to be mentioned with in the record book - for the school-record of most receiving touchdowns by a freshman with nine. Sutton also led the team in multiple categories: catches (49), receiving yards (862) and touchdowns caught (9). Expect offensive wizard coach Chad Morris to find more ways to get him the ball.  


Deyshawn Bond, C, Cincinnati

Ranked as the by CBS Sports for 2017 NFL prospects, Bond fits the mold to produce at a high level in the trenches. He was named to the Rimington Trophy Preseason Watch List for a second-straight season in 2015. The 6-foot-1, 291-pound linemen blocked for a Bearcats attack which ranked fifth nationally in total offense (559.4 ypg). Look for Bond to emerge as one of the AAC’s top offensive linemen in 2016.


Steven Taylor, OLB, Houston

Taylor earned second-team American Athletic all-conference honors and was one of only six Group of 5 players to record over 10 sacks last season. The Texas native filled the stat sheet as one of the leaders of Tom Herman’s defense, totaling 92 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, 12 hurries and a blocked kick. Herman and coordinator Todd Orlando will continue to look for ways to let Taylor shine on defense one last time in H-Town.


Jamar Summers, CB, UConn

Summers enjoyed a breakout season last year by showcasing his ball hawk ability with an AAC-best eight interceptions. For the second consecutive season, coordinator Anthony Poindexter has the best secondary in the conference. Led by Summers and Obi Melifonwu, they’ll strive to repeat leading the league in passing defense (189.3 ypg) and scoring defense (19.5 ppg). 


- Written by Lance Dozier

Five American Athletic Conference Football Players to Know for 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 09:00