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The most overlooked part of a hype video is the narration.
Michigan didn't want to take any chances, so they called on rapper and former Pimp My Ride host Xzibit to provide the voice for their hype video. The 2015 season can't get here soon enough.
Check it out here.
By the looks of things, Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines are anxious for the upcoming season.
Tarik Cohen has the physical ability many of us would kill to have.
The North Carolina A&T running back one-ups himself by doing a backflip while catching two footballs in mid-air. Boss.
Cohen at wide receiver this upcoming season doesn't sound like a bad idea.
Thirty-five seasons ago, the NBA instituted its 3-point arc. Much has changed regarding the details of this extra, ever-important stripe on the court, but the simple, essential truth of it has remained the same since then. One shot, much further from the rim, is worth three points instead of two.
Only more recently, however, has the value of the 3-point line been understood in exacting fashion. The dawn of analytics in the sport has given way to a re-imagination of court strategy across the league, with 2015 MVP Stephen Curry standing as the evolutionary zenith of how modern talent can fit into a new understanding of the parquet’s real estate. Teams are shooting more from beyond the arc than they ever have.
Lost in the discussion about the Year of the Three has been nuance. Old-school polemicists like Phil Jackson and Charles Barkley have very publicly bemoaned offensive styles that start at the perimeter and often end there, too; lane penetration and post play are still integral to the diet of a healthy contender, they say, and deep shooting should be little more than a peripheral benefit of a squad that looks to get to the rim first and foremost.
On the other side of the fence stands a pack of progress-obsessed analysts who readily laugh at Jackson and Barkley, insisting that they’re lost in the sands of time as the 3-point shot has become of singular, undeniable importance.
The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the more reasonable middle. Three-pointers are important: If you can’t shoot them at least at an average rate, you probably won’t be winning any NBA titles this century. But the fetish of the shot — particularly as it fills in as a metaphor of power for certain branches of thinking — often goes to extreme places in the wrong hands. The direction of play in this sport has been and always will be fluid, and while the upwardly trending nature of 3-point shooting teams is a powerful development, it is far from a permanent one.
— John Wilmes
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson may not be the first name that comes to mind when a person thinks of the University of Miami, but he's arguably the most famous.
The school that boast alums like Jeremy Shockey and Ray Lewis is giving a sneak-peek inside its football locker room. The locker room is called the "Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson locker room" and it's pretty awesome. Quarterback Brad Kaaya serves as tour guide of the facility.
The NFL and crime has unfortunately gone hand-in-hand.
PM Guardian made a cool inforgraphic for 10 of the worst criminals in the NFL. From Aaron Hernandez to Rae Carruth, these guys are not the nicest in the game.
The 10 Worst Criminals in the NFL, and Why You Can’t Rent to Them [INFOGRAPHIC]This infographic came from PM Guardian.com
NASCAR’s “new” Chase is changing the way we look at the course of a driver’s season. It used to be all 26 races were taken into account while judging success or failure. Now? Just one checkered flag will make the difference, both with shop morale and in the boardroom.
This week’s example is one Carl Edwards, victorious at Charlotte after a fuel mileage gamble stole the show at the end of NASCAR’s longest race. Those 600 miles have now turned the driver’s season into a success story. He’s got the playoff bid all sponsors are looking for, three-plus months to test for the postseason and that all-important Sprint Cup victory.
However, take a look at what Edwards’ season would look like under the “old” NASCAR point system, where there was no playoff and your year was judged over a full 36-race schedule. Edwards sits 16th in points, without a race finish better than 10th before Sunday’s Charlotte surprise. He had two finishes of 31st or worse, showed less speed than teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth while struggling at was once his biggest strength: intermediate tracks. This win, while a sure sign of a turnaround, still leaves him a whopping 161 points behind current leader Kevin Harvick. Without a NASCAR playoff, his goal would have been to finish 10th in points — not make a run to win it all at Homestead.
Instead, Edwards now has as much of a chance to take home that hardware as Harvick, who’s earned himself 11 top-10 finishes through the season’s first 12 races. Edwards, by comparison has only two, yet has the resources to compete well in a 10-race playoff. How would fans react if one of these inconsistent seasons somehow scrounges up the ability to pull a trophy out of their hat in the season finale?
NASCAR has had a postseason now for a dozen years. So why does it still always feel like it’s imperfect?
Through the gears we go...
FIRST GEAR: A New Team Beats a Former Friend
For Carl Edwards, Sunday’s win brought confidence his move from Roush Fenway Racing this offseason was the right one. Jumping to Joe Gibbs Racing this season has been a bit of a rollercoaster, but crew chief Darian Grubb knew the right strategy to pull down the stretch. The decision to stretch fuel in the No. 19 car left him battling with former teammate Greg Biffle of RFR down the stretch. It was probably Biffle’s best chance to make the Chase this season, putting up a strong fight until his No. 16 car lost fuel pressure over the final two laps of the race.
Now, Edwards can breathe a sigh of relief as a postseason bid is assured months before the pressure to earn one ramps up.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you’re a lot better off to go to the races in the position that we’re going to go now,” he said. “You go there a little more relaxed. I can let Darian and these guys work on what they’re good at, making the cars better and figuring out the communication… it’s a huge opportunity for us.”
Considering this veteran’s strength on 1.5-mile ovals, tracks which make up five of the 10 Chase races, this team cannot be counted out once the postseason begins in September.
SECOND GEAR: Joe Gibbs Racing Makes its Statement
Carl Edwards may have led the pack but Joe Gibbs Racing had plenty of other success stories at Charlotte. Denny Hamlin, although needing fluids after the race, was eighth and won the All-Star Race at the track the week before. Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch also finished inside the top 11 during the Coca-Cola 600.
While Hendrick equipment and chassis appear to still have more raw speed JGR is gaining on their rivals. They also now have three of their four drivers in the Chase, allowing them to focus on Busch and the No. 18 Toyota for much of the rest of the regular season. Busch, making his return this month, needs a win and to climb inside the top 30 in points in order to make the postseason like everyone else. His 11th-place result at Charlotte was a good start.
THIRD GEAR: Opposite Ends of the Spectrum for Stewart-Haas Racing
While they didn’t win Sunday, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick continue to run circles around the competition at intermediate tracks. Combined, they’ve led 715 laps at these 1.5- and 2-mile ovals, blowing away the rest of their competition. (Hendrick Motorsports, next in line has led just 292). But in the wacky world of Stewart-Haas Racing, all those moments up front have come from only Busch and Harvick. Know how many laps Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick have led during that stretch?
The inability for either driver to get going is puzzling considering how much success their teammates are having across the way. Patrick, after struggling All-Star Race weekend, was never a factor Sunday and ran 22nd, two laps off the pace. Her fourth straight finish outside the top 20 has dropped her five positions in the point standings, down to 18th and she’s now on the fringes of Chase contention. What will that mean for her NASCAR career as she sits sponsor-less for 2016? Will she be dumped or used elsewhere within the Stewart-Haas organization? (I.E. - Formula One)
As for Stewart, he could barely do better, clocking in 21st to remain a lowly 30th in series points. The three-time champion is now a whopping 134 points behind Paul Menard for a Chase spot with 14 races remaining. That means it’s “win or bust” as far as the postseason is concerned. At this rate, crew chief Chad Johnston should go radical with both strategy and setups. What’s the point of trying to run 15th instead of 25th? There’s still a chance for Smoke to salvage his season but it’ll have to happen at short tracks like Bristol or even the road courses of Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
FOURTH GEAR: Race to the Chase Redefined
Carl Edwards’ win didn’t just lock in a “bubble” driver into the postseason field; it also brought clarity to the Chase race entering the regular season’s second half. The Cup Series now has nine winners through its first 12 races, all virtually guaranteed a spot: Edwards, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. That leaves seven spots remaining for drivers to either win or get in on points.
Looking at the standings, there are three drivers who have flashed the speed to win and should do so within the next three months: Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, and Martin Truex Jr. Should Kyle Busch be able to break through, charging toward the top 30 in points, we’d have 13 of the 16 spots filled. That would leave Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola to fight for the final three spots based on points. Menard, last in that group, has a 40-point edge on Clint Bowyer, the next winless driver and has finally flashed the consistency this year to stay out in front.
What about other drivers not mentioned, like Bowyer, Danica Patrick, Greg Biffle, AJ Allmendinger and Kyle Larson? So far down in the standings, their path forward to the postseason is simple: Win. Win. Win. Trying to point their way forward, with just 14 races left, will be difficult based on their inconsistency to date.
We’ve said it many times in this space, but how much longer will Roush Fenway Racing put up with underperforming Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne? While teammate Greg Biffle ran second Sunday, neither Stenhouse Jr. nor Bayne were so much as sniffing the top 20 by the checkered flag… The 22 lead changes over 600 miles at Charlotte paled in comparison to the 37 made over Sunday’s Indy 500. No wonder INDYCAR beat NASCAR in Sunday’s ratings by a whopping 16 percent … Edwards, despite a history of success at intermediates had never won at Charlotte in a Cup car prior to Sunday night.
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
USC football stockpiled talented quarterbacks during its run of dominance in the 2000s, when current head coach Steve Sarkisian was an assistant to Pete Carroll.
Sarkisian is emulating that blueprint now, aggressively hitting the recruiting trail for quarterback prospects.
In the 2000s, the Trojans went from one Heisman Trophy winner, Carson Palmer, to another, Matt Leinart. Matt Cassell was at USC in the same era, and despite playing rarely, went on to a solid NFL career. John David Booty succeeded Leinart and played two underrated seasons as starter before turning over the reins to Mark Sanchez, whose 2008 was statistically similar to the Heisman campaigns of Palmer and Leinart.
Cody Kessler now heads into 2015, his third season as USC's starter, generating a fair amount of Heisman buzz himself.
It's a departure from Kessler's first season behind center, when he backed into the starting job as then-head coach Lane Kiffin scrambled for a replacement to four-year signal-caller Matt Barkley. The ensuing problems that emanated from Kiffin not having a ready-made line of succession ultimately hastened his firing.
Sarkisian has no such issue. When Kessler leaves the program after 2015, understudy Max Browne is primed to take over.
But after Browne, Sarkisian's aggressive quarterback recruitment strategy has USC stockpiling young playmakers. The most recent signing class featured a pair of 4-star prospects from the local prep scene: Ricky Town, a pro-style quarterback from Ventura's St. Bonaventure, and Sam Darnold, a dual-threat player out of San Clemente.
Besides the 2015 signees, USC also gained a verbal commitment earlier this month from 2016 4-star prospect Matt Fink of Glendora, Calif. Add in Jalen Greene, a redshirt freshman this season, and that's quite a logjam on the depth chart. However, even this hasn't dissuaded Sarkisian's efforts to land 5-star 2017 recruit Tate Martell, who currently plays for Las Vegas prep powerhouse Bishop Gorman.
While loading up on quarterback talent is a ploy from USC's strategy of years past, the type of quarterback being pursued by Sarkisian points to at least one significant philosophical departure.
Martell is just 5-foot-11, much shorter than the line of Palmer, Leinart and Sanchez, who all stood tall in the pocket. But while Martell won't draw comparisons to those USC greats of the past, he has already garnered a highly complimentary comparison from Steve Clarkson, who told Scout.com's Greg Biggins the 2017 prospect is reminiscent of Russell Wilson.
Likewise, Darnold may have the size of USC quarterbacks past, but his rushing ability is unlike anything the Trojans have ever employed. He carried for 785 yards and 13 touchdowns his senior season at San Clemente High School, per MaxPreps.com.
The diversity with which Sarkisian is building the USC quarterback corps should give the Trojans flexibility in scheme, tailoring the attack to the players rather than try to force a predetermined concept.
It's a strategy with which other programs around the Pac-12 have succeeded, including the last two Pac-12 South champions, Arizona and Arizona State.
Just one quarterback can play at a time, of course, and that's a harsh reality that has made transfers at the position an annual inevitability. USC parted with Aaron Corp in 2009, Max Wittek in '14, and is unlikely to keep every signal-caller it either already has on the roster, or is looking to add in the coming years.
But by building up the pool for competition, Sarkisian can cultivate a system of succession that functions seamlessly, much like a decade ago.
"Inside the NBA" is easily the most entertaining show because of the hosts.
Kenny "The Jet" Smith and Shaquille O'Neal took time from their schedule to play Mortal Kombat. A much-needed break. Smith won and then hit O'Neal with the finishing move in reality.
There goes that theory that O'Neal could beat Ronda Rousey in the ring.
Good news, everyone: Schedule-shaming works.
Those two weeks during the SEC schedule in November aren’t nearly as embarrassing as they used to be. Sure, every league team didn’t try to add another conference game or big-time out-of-conference game. But many of the FCS games that week have been traded out with Conference USA or Sun Belt teams.
They’re cupcakes for the most part, but it’s nice to see overmatched FCS teams depart schedules in September rather than setting up rivalry week.
In the final weeks of November, Conference USA replaces the SoCon as Florida faces FAU and Tennessee faces North Texas. Georgia is taking a bit of an in-state risk by hosting the option-running Sun Belt champion Georgia Southern. Missouri plays Southeast Missouri State early in the season but balances that with BYU in November.
Don’t worry for those of you who are for some reason fans of the SEC-FCS challenge, Alabama, South Carolina and Texas A&M are holding out with their own shameful games in November.
Shameful games here aren’t just ordinary power teams facing FCS competition. They’re they ones who are going out of their way to cross state lines to face a historically bad team from a Division with fewer scholarships and few resources.
In other words, they’re buying wins and ripping off their season-ticket holders.
And let’s be clear: We do not care about the circumstances of these particular games and if an opponent bought out of a series. Find a way to do better, we say.
1. Nov. 21: Charleston Southern at Alabama
Most of the SEC has been shamed into shedding its traditional November FCS opponent in November for Conference USA or Sun Belt opponents. Not Alabama. The Crimson Tide have played an FCS opponent in November every season since 2009, and the final scores have been predictably lopsided. As an opponent, Charleston Southern isn’t particularly shameful. The Buccaneers are 18-5 the last two seasons, a long way from 2011 when they went 0-11 with losses to Florida State at UCF that year. Alabama has been a consistent top-five team for eight seasons and continues to import an FCS team to face the week before Auburn. We’ve come to accept the late-season SEC tune-up game but Alabama has FBS candidates in arm’s reach — Troy, South Alabama and until this season, UAB.
2. Sept. 5: Norfolk State at Rutgers
If Rutgers continues this shameful series any longer, it should have a rivalry trophy. Rutgers has faced Norfolk State in 2007, 2010 and 2013, winning by a combined score of 128-0.
3. Nov. 14: Western Carolina at Texas A&M
Again, most of the SEC is ditching the November FCS opponent. A&M is bringing one from Cullowhee, N.C., to visit. And until last season, Western Carolina was an automatic win — for FCS teams. The Catamounts won 14 games from 2006-13 (and lost twice at Alabama). They went 7-5 last season. Still, Texas A&M is inviting and paying a team to travel nearly 1,000 miles for a likely rout.
4. Sept. 5: Savannah State at Colorado State
No list of shameful games would be complete without Savannah State, a woefully overmatched opponent FBS teams can’t help but schedule to start the season. In an 0-12 season, Savannah State faced three FBS opponents and scored two total touchdowns in garbage time against Middle Tennessee (61-7), Georgia Southern (83-9) and BYU (64-0). Savannah State has played seven FBS teams in three seasons, losing by a combined score of 490-26.
5. Sept. 5: South Dakota at Kansas State
On a streak of four consecutive FCS national titles, North Dakota State has defeated an FBS opponent in each of the last five seasons. One of those victims has learned the lesson and scheduled a lesser Dakota school. Former Wyoming coach Joe Glenn is 7-28 in three seasons with the Coyotes.
6. Sept. 26: Nicholls State at Colorado
Colorado is 10-39 in the last four seasons. Nicholls State is 6-40. One of which is in the Pac-12 and the other is in the Southland and getting a paid trip from Thibodaux, La., to Boulder, Colo. The Buffaloes need all the wins they can get, so this will suffice.
7. Sept. 4: Rhode Island at Syracuse
Syracuse may be fighting for bowl eligibility, so the Orange probably need to sweep this opening stretch against Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan. At 7-39 the last four seasons and no winning seasons since 2001, Rhody seems like a sure bet for 1-0 for Syracuse.
8. Sept. 5 Grambling State at Cal
Grambling State rebounded nicely with a 7-5 season under Broderick Fobbs last season, just a year removed from a 2-21 record in two seasons and a player revolt against the administration and the midseason firing of Doug Williams in 2014. Grambling rarely plays power conference teams but has traveled to Oklahoma State and Washington in recent years, both for loss by more than 40 points.
9. Nov. 21: The Citadel at South Carolina
Another SEC-FCS game in late November, but at least this is an in-state game with a little bit of history, most of it bad for The Citadel. South Carolina played The Citadel regularly until 1965. The Gamecocks have a 7-40-3 edge in the series.
10. Sept. 4: Weber State at Oregon State
Not long ago, Weber State could be competitive against some lesser FBS teams. Those days are over as the Ogden, Utah, school is 6-29 in the last three seasons.
11. Sept. 3: New Hampshire at San Jose State
New Hampshire is a solid FCS program, winning 10-plus games six times since 2004 and in each of the last two seasons. Not all of that was with Chip Kelly as offensive coordinator. The question is why New Hampshire has to go all the way to San Jose to get an FBS game. This is less shameful for the Spartans than it is for teams like Rutgers, Syracuse, UConn and Boston College.
12. Sept. 19 Austin Peay at Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt needs wins and knows it doesn’t have to look far to get one from the school up the interstate. Austin Peal is 1-23 in two seasons under its current coach. The Governors went 20-46 under his predecessor, 11-33 under the coach before him and 19-46 under the coach prior. Need we go on?
Ahh, photography. It can catch a split-second moment in time and turn it into a hilarious photo that can be interpreted the completely wrong way. And sports provides more of these moments than most other subjects--usually because there's a lot of sweaty dudes rolling around with each other and celebrating as only sweaty dudes know how. Here are 21 unintentionally funny sports photos that are hilarious even if you don't like sports.
The 2015 college football season is still a few months away. However, the news cycle never stops, and there’s plenty to keep the conversation going this summer.
Athlon Sports is counting down its rankings for 2015, while 5Dimes Sportsbook has released some early win total over/under odds for the upcoming season.
5Dimes’ win totals featured some interesting projections for Auburn, Tennessee and Alabama. Auburn was only 8.5, while the Crimson Tide is listed at 9.5 on the sportsbook.
With the win totals released, Athlon Sports is taking a look at all 14 of the SEC teams and whether we would take the over, under or push on the projections for 2015.
SEC Win Total Projections: Over, Under or Push
Braden Gall: Over
Jim McElwain alone adds a win or two for this offense, and this team was WAY closer to winning the East than folks remember last year.
Steven Lassan: Under
I like the Jim McElwain hire, and the defense should be strong once again. However, the offensive line is a major issue, and a redshirt freshman (Will Grier) is likely to start at quarterback.
Mitch Light: Under
The defense should be stout, but there are too many issues on offense to expect this team to contend in the East.
Braden Gall: Over
The Dawgs are the clear-cut frontrunner in the East and get a bunch of big games at home. This is the most complete team in the easier division.
Steven Lassan: Over
The passing game is still a question mark, but the Bulldogs have the best backfield and one of the top defenses in the SEC. Outside of games against Alabama and Auburn, I don’t see a loss on this schedule.
Mitch Light: Over
The conference schedule is very tough — Georgia plays both Alabama and Auburn — but Mark Richt has the most complete team in the SEC.
Braden Gall: Under
This team is improving under Coach Stoops, and Patrick Towles could will them to a push. But I'm going under with that schedule.
Steven Lassan: Push
I might be too optimistic on Kentucky, but a bowl seems reasonable for the Wildcats in 2015. Boom Williams is a breakout candidate at running back, and the talent level has improved on the recruiting trail. The finale against Louisville could be a must-win game to get to six.
Mitch Light: Over
Mark Stoops talented young core is a year older and should break through with the school’s first winning season since 2009.
Braden Gall: Over
When in doubt, take the over with Gary Pinkel. The defensive line is starting to become a concern, but Maty Mauk should improve and keep the Tigers in the East race.
Steven Lassan: Over
Never count out Missouri in the SEC East under Gary Pinkel’s watch. While I don’t think this team will win the division again, reaching eight wins is reasonable – if quarterback Maty Mauk plays better in SEC games.
Mitch Light: Under
We’ve been wrong about Missouri in the past, but this could be the year the Tigers take a step back in the East.
Braden Gall: Push
Run as far away from this one as possible. South Carolina should be better on defense but is lacking in star power.
Steven Lassan: Push
South Carolina’s defense can’t be any worse than it was in 2014. That’s the good news. The bad news? There’s uncertainty at quarterback, two key starters gone from the offensive line and a lack of proven receivers outside of Pharoh Cooper. Additionally, crossover games against LSU and Texas A&M are tough.
Mitch Light: Push
Other than Pharoh Cooper, the Gamecocks don’t have many (or any) difference makers on offense.
Braden Gall: Over
There are some key swing games — Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri — that could result in a push. I think they get over the hump in one of those.
Steven Lassan: Over
Tennessee is Georgia’s top challenger in the East. Yes, the schedule is tough, but the talent level is improving, Josh Dobbs is back for a full year under center, and the defense is trending up.
Mitch Light: Over
The Vols boast some of the top young talent in the league. As long as Josh Dobbs stays healthy, this is an eight-win team.
Braden Gall: Over
There aren't a lot of wins there but this defense should be legit. One SEC win gets you the over.
Steven Lassan: Push
The Commodores will be better in coach Derek Mason’s second season. But games against Western Kentucky and Houston aren’t guaranteed wins, and it’s tough to find a win in SEC play.
Mitch Light: Over
The Commodores’ non-conference schedule is tricky, but Derek Mason’s club will find a way to win at least four games.
Braden Gall: Over
This may not be a national title-type team at Bama but losing three times in the regular season seems highly unlikely with that talent and Nick Saban calling the shots.
Steven Lassan: Over
Alabama has won at least 10 games in each of the last seven seasons. There are some concerns – quarterback, receiving corps and secondary – but the Crimson Tide isn’t short on talent. Nick Saban will keep this team among the nation’s best in 2015.
Mitch Light: Over
This is far from a perfect team, but Alabama still has fewer weaknesses than 99 percent of the teams in the nation.
Braden Gall: Under
I love what Bret Bielema has done and this team will be in every game it plays. But it needs balance against an elite schedule to win nine games.
Steven Lassan: Under
This is one of the toughest picks on the board. Arkansas is due for better luck in close games and has two swing contests against Tennessee and Missouri from the East. If Dan Enos helps the passing attack improve, the Razorbacks could hit nine victories.
Mitch Light: Under
The Hogs are a top-20 team, but a brutal schedule will prevent them from winning nine or 10 games.
Braden Gall: Over
Take the over and run. This is the best bet on this SEC board. Athlon Sports has the Tigers making the playoff, so 11 wins is essentially a must for that to happen. And it could easily.
Steven Lassan: Over
Easiest pick among the SEC teams. Take the over. Auburn is due to rebound back into the national title conversation this year. The offense is explosive behind quarterback Jeremy Johnson, and the defense will improve with Will Muschamp calling the plays.
Mitch Light: Over
The Auburn offense, led by QB Jeremy Johnson, will be explosive. This is a legitimate national title contender.
Braden Gall: Under
Like Carolina in the East, there are just too many questions to bet on LSU in anyway. I'd punt this one with anything from six to 10 wins possible for the Tigers.
Steven Lassan: Push
LSU is the hardest team to figure out in the SEC this season. Talent isn’t the issue, but there’s massive uncertainty at quarterback and a new scheme (and personnel concerns) on defense. If all of the pieces fall into place, the Tigers could finish 9-3 or 10-2. However, matching last year’s win total seems more realistic.
Mitch Light: Push
It wouldn’t surprise me if this team went 10–2 or 6–6. Let’s split the difference.
Braden Gall: Over
They may not finish in the top half of the West but last place could easily win seven games. I'll give Dak Prescott credit for one extra win somewhere.
Steven Lassan: Push
Another tough call. Mississippi State is losing a lot, but there’s also talent waiting to step into the lineup. The Bulldogs will get better as the season goes along, and senior quarterback Dak Prescott could pull off an upset late in the year to push Mississippi State to eight wins.
Mitch Light: Push
The Bulldogs have a star at quarterback in Dak Prescott but suffered heavy personnel losses elsewhere.
Ole Miss: 8.5
Braden Gall: Over
This team is a QB away from being a national title contender and still could be without one. The Rebels are closer to Bama/Auburn territory than LSU.
Steven Lassan: Over
Even with the losses in the secondary, Ole Miss should have one of the nation’s top defenses. While the quarterback spot and rushing attack is a concern, the talent at receiver is better, and the offensive line is improving. I think Ole Miss could go 10-2 in 2015.
Mitch Light: Over
The Rebels are my sleeper pick to flirt with a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Texas A&M: 7.5
Braden Gall: Over
There is a lot of upside here in terms of talent and coaching. However, it's very young or new to campus. If I had to bet, I'd take the over but I'd stay away from the volatile Aggies.
Steven Lassan: Over
One team is going to exceed preseason expectations in the West. Texas A&M is a good sleeper pick, as the Aggies are dynamic once again on offense, and the defense will be better under John Chavis. A crossover schedule with Vanderbilt and South Carolina certainly helps.
Mitch Light: Under
The Aggies are loaded with talent, but do the math: Not every team can win eight in the SEC West.
This past January, the Atlanta Hawks looked to be leaders of an NBA revolution. Without a superstar or even many years together, they were working from a blueprint of selflessness and intelligence that was all but unbeatable. They put together a 19-game winning streak to go lossless in the month, and rode their mid-season dominance to 60 wins, the most in the Eastern Conference.
Today, many fans may be forgetting all that. The Hawks are merely LeBron James’ latest victim, after he and his Cavaliers swept them out of the conference finals and sent them home for the summer.
Even before Cleveland snuffed out their flame, though, Atlanta had looked like a shadow of their regular-season selves this spring. Injuries piled up for them quickly in the postseason. Some of them were bad enough to take players out for the year (Kyle Korver, Thabo Sefolosha), while the rest of them were just making their active players worse (DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Mike Scott).
Some may take the Hawks’ swift exit as a referendum on their formula. In at least one way, this is probably true: If nothing else, Atlanta peaked far too early. Had that brilliant team in January been up against LeBron, we would have been watching a terrific version of playoff basketball. But the Hawks didn’t have the resolve or stamina to keep up the blistering pace they’d set.
What this loss doesn’t do is prove that you need a superstar to go to the Finals. Had the Hawks played well, there’d be an argument there — but the performance they put in was an iteration of team basketball that lands well below the standard they’d set for themselves. Now, they face an uncertain future together.
Carroll and Millsap are both free agents this summer. Many have assumed both will be back to keep the Hawks’ front five together, because of the friendliness and cohesion thats visible among this cast. But neither player has ever made the kind of money that multiple suitors will show them this July, so we’ll have to wait and see how they react when that happens.
— John Wilmes
The 2015 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to project how the upcoming year will play out on the field. Athlon Sports has released its top 25 for this season and continues the countdown to September with a look at the teams ranked No. 26-128.
In the 26-40 range, there’s no shortage of intriguing teams or programs that could push for a spot among the top 25 by the end of 2015. Florida, Michigan and Nebraska are three programs to watch with first-year coaches, while Missouri just missed the top 25 after winning back-to-back SEC East titles. Oklahoma State is due for a rebound year after finishing 7-6 last year.
Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2015 season
College Football 2015 Projected Rankings: 26-40
Will Muschamp’s failure to identify an offensive coordinator or quarterback doomed him, leaving new coach Jim McElwain with a program that won just 11 games the past two seasons. The 53-year-old immediately set out to upgrade Florida’s offensive talent and address lagging facilities. Faced with a massive rebuild, McElwain will need time to field an SEC East contender at a school where championships were once the standard.
The Tigers boast solid experience at a majority of units on offense and defense, but they are young at defensive end and ultra-young at receiver, where they must replace all three starters for the second straight year. That seems like a lot to overcome in the battle for a third straight SEC East crown, but suddenly you don’t make much money betting against Pinkel.
28. Oklahoma State
With the loss of 28 seniors leaving an inexperienced cast to try and contend in the Big 12, the 2014 season always figured to be a rebuilding effort. And it played out as such, turning worse when injuries and a lack of depth left the Cowboys exposed.
But quarterback Mason Rudolph’s arrival, both to the lineup and as a key piece to the future, reversed course and momentum. Now there’s talk that Oklahoma State, like TCU a year ago, could rise from seventh place to the top of the Big 12 in 2015.
Nebraska won nine or more games in each of Bo Pelini’s seven seasons as coach. His overall record was 67–27. So Riley can expect to be held to a high standard. But he is considerably more engaging than his predecessor, which probably means there will be some degree of patience during the transition.
The non-conference schedule could be challenging, with an opener at home against BYU and a trip to Miami (Fla.) two weeks later. But the conference schedule is such that nine wins, even in transition, should be possible. Nebraska hasn’t won a conference championship since 1999. Winning one this year would be a stretch, though the Huskers should contend in the Big Ten West if the defense improves.
Arizona has won 26 games in coach Rich Rodriguez’s first three seasons, the most of any three-year period in school history. “I’m not saying we’re ahead of expectations,” says Rodriguez, “because we need to get deeper and tougher.” This is Rodriguez’s top group at Arizona, but it must play 12 weeks in succession without a bye.
Utah is getting closer. In their fourth season of Pac-12 membership, the Utes posted their first winning record (5–4) in conference play and competed favorably against nearly every opponent. Coach Kyle Whittingham likes the program’s trajectory entering its fifth season in the Pac-12. “We’ve taken a step forward every year with our depth and talent on the roster, one through 85,” he says. “It’s still a work in progress … but we feel like last year we made a lot of headway.”
In 2015, the Utes hope to overcome a lack of experience at receiver and in the secondary while counting on their senior quarterback to play more consistently as he completes an adventurous career.
32. Penn State
The Lions have addressed their glaring weakness, building depth and experience along a patchwork offensive line. They’ll still be young up front, with only one senior on the projected two-deep (two if you count incoming graduate transfer Kevin Reihner), but the line probably won’t be as big of a liability. On the opposite side of the ball, they return seven starters from what was, statistically, the Big Ten’s best defense last season.
Of Penn State’s six losses last fall, only two were by more than a touchdown. If the defense holds strong and Hackenberg gets a chance to show what he can do, it’s not hard to imagine the Lions turning a few of those close losses into close wins in 2015.
Charlie Strong is still rebuilding in many ways after replacing his offense as well as two assistant coaches (Strong fired receivers coach Les Koenning and tight ends coach Bruce Chambers) after one season. Strong brought in former Oklahoma co-OC Jay Norvell as receivers coach, and Traylor replaced Chambers.
The defense will undoubtedly be the strength again this year. Special teams must improve. But it will be the direction of an offense that averaged an anemic 21.4 points per game in 2014 that will determine the fate of the Longhorns this season.
With a schedule that includes road games against potential top-10 teams Notre Dame, TCU and Baylor, the quarterback play has to lead a turnaround in 2015 or the results could be very similar to last year’s 6–7.
If new coach Jim Harbaugh can keep Michigan’s offense from stepping on land mines while showing improvement week to week, the defense is good enough to push the Wolverines to at least eight victories. But if Michigan doesn’t find a quarterback who can protect the football, or get a serious push from its offensive line, the team may struggle to make a huge leap in Year 1 of the Harbaugh era.
35. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech is 22–17 overall and a .500 team in the league since 2012, prompting the uncomfortable conversation about how much longer revered coach Frank Beamer will walk the sideline in Blacksburg. A return to prominence would quash that talk, and with 16 returning starters, including a promising group of up-and-coming playmakers on offense and Foster’s usual great defense, Virginia Tech has a chance to challenge in the Coastal Division again. Another middling season, however, will only intensify the chatter that perhaps it’s time for Beamer to pass the torch.
36. West Virginia
With the exception of what seems to be a quirky 2013 campaign, coach Dana Holgorsen continues to crank out fine offenses. Pair that with what should be a solid defense — especially if you believe Tony Gibson, the unit’s coordinator — and the Mountaineers look like a solid a bowl team that isn’t quite good enough to contend for a conference title.
37. South Carolina
“Sometimes after you go 11–2 three years in a row, some people just assume, ‘We’re going to keep on winning,’ but it didn’t quite happen that way,” Spurrier says. “We were not a real strong team. We are by a long way not a finished product, but we’ve got time.”
The Gamecocks will be breaking in a new quarterback and rebuilding a defense that lost its morale along with a lot of games last year, so the time had better be well spent.
Louisville has lost considerable talent and undergone a coaching staff change over the last two seasons. Those are warning signs the program could take a step back in 2015, especially with a schedule that includes Auburn and Clemson in two of the first three games. The Cardinals need a quarterback to emerge, receivers to step forward, three new offensive linemen to step up and a rebuilt secondary to deliver to keep winning big. That’s a lot to ask.
39. NC State
NC State improved its win total by five games from 2013 to ’14. The Wolfpack hope to make another jump in 2015 with a veteran quarterback and seven starters back on defense. Another five-game improvement might be asking too much, but coach Dave Doeren won’t put a ceiling on the program’s progress.
The key to moving the momentum forward again will be replacing main parts up front on both sides of the ball. But with the return of quarterback Jacoby Brissett and a host of new talented recruits supplementing an already deep backfield, the Wolfpack have an opportunity to at least push Atlantic Division powers Florida State and Clemson.
After two consecutive 9–4 seasons and two bowl losses under Tuberville, some believe UC is running in place. The Bearcats did share the AAC title last year, but they lack a signature win in Tuberville’s brief tenure. Tuberville turns 61 in September, and he has not had a team finish in the final AP top 25 since 2007 (Auburn). The 2014 Bearcats don’t look like a top 25 team, either, but they should be considered the favorite in the East Division of the expanded American Athletic Conference. There are some issues on defense, but the offense, led by Kiel, will put UC in position to win eight or nine games once again.
Someone saying they can fight Ronda Rousey is something we don't hear everyday.
On "Inside The NBA," the guys from "Entourage" spoke a little about the fighter's cameo in the movie. That's when Shaquille O'Neal stepped out of the realm of possibilities by saying he could last 45 seconds with Rousey. Charles Barkley being himself said there was a joke there and once O'Neal got it, everyone had a big laugh.
If Shaq did end up losing to Rousey, that's one lost he'll never be able to live down.
Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are glamour positions in college football. While offensive linemen and defensive players are just as important to winning a title, it’s no secret the skill players and quarterbacks grab the attention and headlines. With that in mind, Athlon has ranked the top 25 triplets in college football for the 2015 season.
How did we compile the rankings? Ranking the trios by conference is the first step, and we used a formula by assigning points to the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers ranked within each league. It’s important to weigh talent, production against Power 5 opponents, overall balance among the three players and projection for the 2015 season.
College Football's Top 25 Offensive Triplets for 2015
1. Ohio State
QB: Cardale Jones
RB: Ezekiel Elliott
WR: Michael Thomas
Regardless of who starts under center for coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best trios. Jones is penciled in as the starter at quarterback after guiding Ohio State to a 3-0 record and a national championship in his short tenure under center. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 696 yards over the final three games of last year, and Thomas led all Ohio State receivers with 54 catches in 2014.
Related: Urban Meyer Ranks No. 1 Among Big Ten Coaches for 2015
QB: Jeremy Johnson
RB: Jovon Robinson
WR: Duke Williams
Gus Malzahn’s offense has averaged over 30 points per game in back-to-back seasons in SEC contests. The 2015 version of Auburn’s offense will be just as explosive, as quarterback Jeremy Johnson is a rising star, and there’s no shortage of skill talent, including All-America candidate at receiver Duke Williams.
QB: Seth Russell
RB: Shock Linwood
WR: Corey Coleman
Baylor has averaged over 40 points a game in four consecutive seasons. Good luck stopping the Bears in 2015. Even with quarterback Bryce Petty expiring his eligibility, Baylor is loaded with offensive talent. Russell has played well in limited action, and coach Art Briles has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks. Shock Linwood rushed for 1,252 yards and 16 scores last season, while the receiving corps is the nation’s best, headlined by Corey Coleman and KD Cannon.
Related: Baylor's Art Briles is the No. 1 Coach in the Big 12
QB: Trevone Boykin
RB: Aaron Green
WR: Josh Doctson
TCU’s offense showed major improvement under co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie in 2014. After averaging only 25.1 points per game in 2013, the Horned Frogs increased that total to 46.5 last season. Boykin also emerged as one of the nation’s most improved quarterbacks and opens 2015 as one of the favorites to win the Heisman. TCU has a solid crop of playmakers in place, including Aaron Green (7.2 ypc in 2014) and Doctson (11 TD catches).
Related: TCU's Trevone Boykin is the No. 1 QB in the Big 12
QB: Deshaun Watson
RB: Wayne Gallman
WR: Artavis Scott
Chad Morris will be missed as Clemson’s play-caller, but the Tigers should still have one of the ACC’s top offenses. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of the nation’s rising stars and will be at full strength from a torn ACL by this fall. Scott and Gallman showed promise as freshmen last season and depth is plentiful at running back and receiver.
Related: No. 14 Clemson Tigers 2015 Preview and Prediction
QB: Anu Solomon
RB: Nick Wilson
WR: Cayleb Jones
Arizona averaged 33.4 points per game in Pac-12 contests last season, and coach Rich Rodriguez’s offense could be even better in 2015. Quarterback Anu Solomon is returning to full strength after suffering from an ankle injury late in 2014. Wilson and Jones are among the Pac-12’s top playmakers.
QB: Vernon Adams
RB: Royce Freeman
WR: Byron Marshall
Marcus Mariota will be missed, but the Ducks offense should still remain among the Pac-12’s best. Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams replaces Mariota at quarterback, and Oregon’s running back and wide receiving corps are among the best in college football.
Related: Oregon Football Turns the Page from "Emotional" Ending
QB: Cody Kessler
RB: Justin Davis
WR: JuJu Smith
The only thing holding USC back from ranking No. 1 on among Pac-12 schools on this list is the committee approach at running back. Will someone step up as the go-to back in 2015? Cody Kessler ranks as the Pac-12’s best quarterback, and JuJu Smith should have a huge year as the Trojans’ top receiver.
Related: USC's Cody Kessler is the Pac-12's No. 1 QB for 2015
QB: Brandon Doughty
RB: Leon Allen
WR: Jared Dangerfield
With a loaded group of skill players and prolific senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, the Hilltoppers are the early favorites to win Conference USA. Doughty threw for 49 touchdowns last season and 4,830 yards, while Allen rushed for 1,542 yards on 272 attempts. Dangerfield led the team with 11 receiving scores and caught 69 passes.
QB: Jared Goff
RB: Daniel Lasco
WR: Kenny Lawler
The Golden Bears ranked No. 2 in the Pac-12 (conference-only games) by averaging 37.6 points per contest last year. Don’t be surprised if that number climbs even higher in 2015, as coach Sonny Dykes has a loaded receiver corps, one of the nation’s rising stars at quarterback in Jared Goff, along with an underrated running back in Daniel Lasco.
QB: Taysom Hill
RB: Jamaal Williams
WR: Mitch Mathews
BYU’s trio of Hill-Williams-Mathews could be ranked higher, but health is a question mark with two players. Hill missed the last eight games of 2014 due to a leg injury, while Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in November. Mathews led the team with 73 catches for 922 yards last season.
QB: Chad Voytik
RB: James Conner
WR: Tyler Boyd
Pat Narduzzi is known for his defensive acumen, but the first-year coach inherits some of the ACC’s top offensive talent. James Conner (RB) and Tyler Boyd (WR) are two of the nation’s top playmakers at their respective positions. Quarterback Chad Voytik played better in the second half of 2014 by tossing only one interception in his final six games.
Related: Pittsburgh's James Conner Ranks as the ACC's No. 1 RB
13. Florida State
QB: Everett Golson
RB: Dalvin Cook
WR: Travis Rudolph
Jameis Winston leaves big shoes to fill, but coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the nation’s best quarterback coaches. Sean Maguire started one game last season (Clemson) and finished 2014 with 339 passing yards on 25 completions. However, Everett Golson is transferring to Florida State and is considered by many to be the favorite to take the first snap of 2015. Cook averaged 141.3 rushing yards over the final three games of 2014, while Rudolph caught 38 passes as a true freshman.
Related: Florida State's Jimbo Fisher Ranks as the ACC's No. 1 Coach
QB: Joshua Dobbs
RB: Jalen Hurd
WR: Marquez North
Tennessee is on its way back into SEC East title contention under third-year coach Butch Jones. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs shined in the second half of 2014, and the junior will be surrounded by a young and talented group of skill players. Hurd leads the way in the Volunteers’ backfield, but junior college recruit (and former Alabama running back) Alvin Kamara is a player to watch in 2015. Receiver Marquez North was limited by injuries last season.
QB: Dak Prescott
RB: Ashton Shumpert
WR: De’Runnya Wilson
Mississippi State returns the SEC’s No. 1 quarterback in senior Dak Prescott. While running back Josh Robinson will be missed, there’s talent in place with Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams battling for carries. Wilson averaged 15.3 yards per catch in SEC games last year.
16. Notre Dame
QB: Malik Zaire
RB: Tarean Folston
WR: Will Fuller
With Everett Golson transferring to Florida State, this is clearly Zaire’s team. The promising sophomore is a good fit for coach Brian Kelly’s offense but has only 35 career pass attempts. Folston rushed for 889 yards and six touchdowns last year and will be pushed for time by Greg Bryant and C.J. Prosise. Will Fuller (1,094 yards) should be in the mix for All-America honors at receiver in 2015. Zaire’s performance will determine how high this trio rises.
17. Penn State
QB: Christian Hackenberg
RB: Akeel Lynch
WR: DaeSean Hamilton
Ranking Penn State at No. 2 among Big Ten triplets largely depends on how far the offensive line develops during the offseason. The Nittany Lions struggled up front in 2014 and prevented the offense from taking off in coach James Franklin’s first year. Improvement is expected up front, which should allow quarterback Christian Hackenberg to rebound after an up and down 2014 campaign. Akeel Lynch rushed for at least 75 yards in three out of his last four outings, while Hamilton – only a sophomore – is among the Big Ten’s top receivers.
Related: QB Christian Hackenberg Ranks No. 3 in the Big Ten QB Ranks for 2015
QB: Baker Mayfield
RB: Samaje Perine
WR: Sterling Shepard
Yes, the Sooners have a new scheme and coordinator (Lincoln Riley), but the offense is still going to rely heavily on one of the nation’s top backfields. Samaje Perine rushed for 1,713 yards and 21 scores as a true freshman in 2014, and he will have plenty of help from Joe Mixon and Alex Ross. Having a healthy Sterling Shepard at receiver should make a difference for new quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Related: Oklahoma Ranks No. 17 in Athlon's 2015 CFB Top 25
QB: Josh Rosen
RB: Paul Perkins
WR: Jordan Payton
Uncertainty remains at quarterback with the departure of Brett Hundley, but true freshman Josh Rosen is one of the top recruits in the 2015 signing class. Running back Paul Perkins led the Pac-12 with 1,575 rushing yards last season, and receiver Jordan Payton averaged 14.3 yards per reception in conference games.
20. Arizona State
QB: Mike Bercovici
RB: Demario Richard
WR: D.J. Foster
The Sun Devils have a balanced trio and could easily climb this list by the end of 2015. Bercovici has played well in limited action, and Richard is set to have a breakout year as Arizona State’s No. 1 running back. D.J. Foster will slide from running back to receiver to replace the production lost by Jaelen Strong.
Related: Arizona State's Todd Graham Ranks as the Pac-12's No. 1 Coach for 2015
21. Western Michigan
QB: Zach Terrell
RB: Jarvion Franklin
WR: Corey Davis
This trio anchored one of the nation’s most improved teams in 2014. Franklin rushed for 1,551 yards and 24 scores as a true freshman, and Davis was one of the nation’s top big-play threats at receiver by averaging 18.1 yards per catch. Terrell threw for 26 touchdowns and completed 67.9 percent of his throws in his first full year as Western Michigan’s starter.
22. Texas Tech
QB: Patrick Mahomes
RB: DeAndre Washington
WR: Jakeem Grant
Offense is always a strength for Texas Tech, and the Red Raiders are loaded with talent for 2015. Patrick Mahomes is likely to start over Davis Webb, and the sophomore should improve off a solid stat line as a freshman (1,547 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INTs). DeAndre Washington was the first 1,000-yard rusher in Lubbock since 1998. Jakeem Grant led the team in receptions and receiving yards last year.
QB: Brandon Allen
RB: Jonathan Williams
WR: Keon Hatcher
The Razorbacks improved their scoring average by 11.2 points per game from 2013 to 2014. Expect this unit to take another step forward under new coordinator Dan Enos, as Arkansas returns an experienced quarterback in Brandon Allen and the nation’s top running back duo in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams.
24. Bowling Green
QB: Matt Johnson
RB: Travis Greene
WR: Roger Lewis
Second-year coach Dino Babers wants to install a “Falcon Fast” offense in Bowling Green, and the Falcons averaged 30 points per game in 2014 despite losing quarterback Matt Johnson to an injury in Week 1. Johnson is back in 2015, and the offense is loaded with proven playmakers at running back and receiver. Greene rushed for 949 yards in 2014, while Lewis ranked third among MAC receivers with 1,093 yards.
QB: Gunner Kiel
RB: Mike Boone
WR: Mekale McKay
Kiel battled injuries last season but still threw for 3,254 yards and 31 scores in his first year as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback. The Notre Dame transfer will have plenty of playmakers at his disposal at receiver, and the backfield is set with Mike Boone (650 yards as a freshman), along with Hosey Williams returning from injury.
Just Missing the Top 25: Georgia, Texas A&M, Miami, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, NC State, Boise State, Utah State, Toledo, Arkansas State, Appalachian State
Meaning, both the ACC and Pac-12 are picked to miss the 2015 College Football Playoff.
According to the preseason rankings, the SEC will be the evil villain once again, knocking a second conference from the postseason tournament. But that could just as easily be the Big Ten or the Big 12.
That’s right, Bob Bowlsby, the league that was left out in the cold last winter could be in a great position to get two teams into the postseason this year.
In fact, it could happen much easier than expected.
Baylor and TCU appear to be the class of the Big 12 once again after barely missing out on a Playoff bid a year ago. Both were deserving of being in the conversation, of course, but someone had to be left out and no one can legitimately argue that the four teams that got in didn’t deserve it.
Both look like nationally elite teams this fall and expect that motivation to work in favor of the Big 12 this fall.
The Bears, ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll, have 17 starters back and arguably the best combined line of scrimmage in football. Art Briles is stacked at the skill positions and his quarterback freight train will continue to roll with Seth Russell manning the controls.
Despite another weak non-conference schedule, an undefeated Baylor squad would easily make it into the College Football Playoff and a one-loss Big 12 champion Bears team would probably make the tournament as well.
TCU returns 15 starters, including 10 on offense — one of which is All-American quarterback Trevone Boykin. The defense has major holes to fill and those voids are the biggest reason the Horned Frogs are picked second in the Big 12 behind Baylor despite the game moving to Fort Worth this fall.
However, TCU is picked No. 5 in the nation and the first team left out of the Playoff according to Athlon's preseason Top 25. If Gary Patterson’s bunch loses only one game in close fashion to the Big 12 champion Baylor Bears — exactly like it did last year — then TCU has as good a shot at snatching a Playoff bid as any team in the land.
A one-loss TCU with wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and a road victory over Minnesota could easily give the Big 12 two Playoff representatives.
The same story could be written if the roles are reversed.
Even if one of the two doesn’t go unbeaten and the pair ties atop the Big 12 standings again (each with only one loss), both would still be in excellent shape to make the Playoff.
Much of that hinges on how the other leagues fare. But with two Power 5 leagues — the ACC and Pac-12 — potentially lacking a clear-cut elite team, this fall is as good a year as any for one conference to steal two Playoff bids.
Not only is the Big 12 likely to get its champion into the Playoff, but it also may have the best shot at getting a second team in the final four. It’s really not far-fetched at all.
The irony of the entire situation is that if the Big 12 had a championship game this season, none of the above would be possible.
There's no telling when a Kodak moment will present itself.
After the Cavaliers took care of the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals, it was the perfect time. J.R. Smith tapped LeBron James to take a picture, and Tristan Thompson didn't want to be left out so he jumped in as well.
This is classic Smith.
Expect way more selfies from Smith if the Cavaliers win the championship.
Colin Kaepernick doesn't have the best timing, and isn't always the most sensitive.
Houston has been hit with bad weather recently and the 49ers quarterback took it upon himself to remind people that his "7torm is coming." Bad idea.
Kaepernick quickly deleted the link to the Instagram post, but the internet is just a bit quicker.
Kaepernick tried to smooth things over with another tweet.
No disrespect intended! Prayers up!— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) May 26, 2015
Some players shouldn't tweet. Ever.
Florida State is about to get a scary good running back.
Zaquandre White is set to suit up for the Seminoles in 2017, but we're getting a preview of what he plans to do in the garnet and gold. The North Fort Myers High School running back is staying in the state of Florida to dominate during his college career as well.
Champions are made in the offseason.
The Clemson football team is getting ready for the 2015 football season. The Tigers are putting in a lot of conditioning work in order to prepare. Cardio, strength, endurance seems to be on the agenda for Dabo Swinney's crew.
People are already backing their Heisman favorites.
Mekka Don has gone a step further and created a hype video for Ezekiel Elliott. The Ohio State running back is on the tips of everyone's tongue when it comes to the Heisman trophy this year, and with this video it's easy to see why.
The NBA’s head coach carousel looked like it might wait for Tom Thibodeau’s fate to be known, before it started turning. Now, not so much — suitor teams like the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans appear to be moving on in their searches, all but refusing to give the Chicago Bulls draft compensation for the right to Thibodeau’s contract.
The Magic seem to be on the verge of locking down the beta version of Thibodeau, in Scott Skiles. Skiles, who also coached the Bulls in addition to the Milwaukee Bucks, is known for a defense-first philosophy and an intense vision that’s suited for a young, eager roster like Orlando’s. In Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, they have a backcourt that’s a good coach away from providing some of the best first-line defense in the league.
Many Magic fans will groan at the hiring, if it becomes official — Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that Skiles “has clearly separated himself in the process.” There’s a rightful skepticism about Skiles, as his exits from Milwaukee and Chicago were both ugly, and his style has proven to wear on rosters over time. The ideal scenario for the long-term may be to only keep Skiles on board for two or three seasons, and find the more appropriate man once the Magic are ready to take the next step.
Regardless of what could happen in 2017 or 2018, though, the Magic are in an exciting place right now. Skiles doesn’t inspire the kind of galvanizing feel as Thibodeau might, but he has a history of success and will likely help this exciting young roster compete for postseason berths, and perhaps as soon as next season. If the Eastern Conference playoffs have taught us anything, it’s that things on the Atlantic half of the bracket are more than open for a new contender.
— John Wilmes
Zach LaVine is the king of dunking.
The 2015 Slam Dunk Contest champion has elevated his game to new heights. LaVine, along with PureSweatBasketball, shows that his game doesn't just end with basketball.
The touchdown alley-oop will soon be a new craze in all the school yards.
The Buckeyes finish the countdown where they ended last season at No. 1, but they’re also Athlon’s preseason No. 1 for the fourth time since our first rankings in 1976. Only three teams have been Athlon’s preseason No. 1 more than Ohio State — Florida State (eight times), USC (six) and Oklahoma (five).
Selecting a preseason No. 1 is no easy task. After all, no one spends a ton of time thinking about the preseason No. 2 or No. 3. The top spot has a special place. The preseason No. 1 is as much a prediction for the future — a national championship — as it is a starting point.
Does the preseason No. 1 always win the national championship? No. Far from it. Six of our preseason No. 1 teams have won the national title, but many more have come close, falling short by one game or one play. Half of our preseason No. 1 teams have finished in the top five. Only one, Lane Kiffin’s 2012 USC team, fooled everybody by earning preseason No. 1 honors and finishing unranked in the AP poll with a 7-6 record and a loss in the Sun Bowl.
You can’t win them all. Just don’t tell Ohio State.
|Year||Athlon Preseason No. 1||AP Finish, record, bowl result|
|2014||No. 5, 13-1, lost Rose Bowl|
|2013||No. 7, 11-2, lost Sugar Bowl|
|2012||NR, 7-6, lost Sun Bowl|
|2011||No. 1, 12-1, won BCS Championship Game|
|2010||No. 10, 10-3, won Capital One Bowl|
|2009||No. 3, 13-1, won Sugar Bowl|
|2008||No. 1, 13-1, won BCS Championship Game|
|2007||No. 3, 11-2, won Rose Bowl|
|2006||No. 11, 11-3, lost Fiesta Bowl|
|2005||No. 2, 12-1, lost Rose Bowl|
|2004||No. 1, 13-0, won Orange Bowl|
|2003||No. 3, 12-2, lost Sugar Bowl|
|2002||No. 21, 9-5, lost Sugar Bowl|
|2001||No. 3, 10-2, won Orange Bowl|
|2000||No. 5, 11-2, lost Orange Bowl|
|1999||No. 1, 12-0, won Sugar Bowl|
|1998||No. 2, 11-1, won Sugar Bowl|
|1997||No. 18, 8-4, won Aloha Bowl|
|1996||No. 9, 10-2, won Citrus Bowl|
|1995||No. 4, 10-2, won Orange Bowl|
|1994||No. 6, 10-2, lost Orange Bowl|
|1993||No. 1, 12-1, won Orange Bowl|
|1992||No. 4, 10-1-1, won Cotton Bowl|
|1991||No. 6, 10-2, lost Rose Bowl|
|1990||No. 4, 10-2, won Blockbuster Bowl|
|1989||No. 8, 9-2-1, won Rose Bowl|
|1988||No. 3, 11-1, won Sugar Bowl|
|1987||No. 3, 11-1, lost Orange Bowl|
|1986||No. 13, 9-3, lost Cotton Bowl|
|1985||No. 1, 11-1, won Orange Bowl|
|1984||No. 14, 9-4, won Liberty Bowl|
|1983||No. 2, 12-1, lost Orange Bowl|
|1982||No. 10, 9-3, lost Cotton Bowl|
|1981||No. 12, 9-3, won Bluebonnet Bowl|
|1980||No. 15, 9-3, lost Fiesta Bowl|
|1979||No. 2, 11-0-1, won Rose Bowl|
|1978||No. 9, 9-3, won Sugar Bowl|
|1977||No. 7, 10-2, lost Orange Bowl|
|1976||No. 6, 9-2-1, won Orange Bowl|
Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman was one of the most feared linebackers of his day, winning the 1987 Lombardi Award and earning consensus All-America honors in 1986-87. The decorated recruit made an immediate impression as a freshman in 1984, with a style described as “brutality” after his debut against Oregon State.
Athlon Sports spoke with Spielman before his sophomore season in this piece from our archives — two seasons before he was an All-American.
Originally published in Athlon’s Big Ten 1985 Annual
By Dick Fenlon
It bothers Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman to be called a sadist. But not enough to change his mind about football.
“At this level, it’s a game of survival,” says Spielman. “You hit your hardest, or you take a chance of getting hurt. I hit to put somebody out of the game, and I would expect the same thing from him. It’s clean, but when you hit somebody you try to knock him so he doesn’t get up. I don’t care what anybody says, it’s part of the game.”
Speaking to reporters in the locker room after the first game of his college career, Spielman put it even more bluntly. “When I hit somebody,” he told them, “and I see him hurting, just grimacing, it sends something through me that’s hard to explain. A bolt. A charge. You play to hurt somebody.”
Thoughts like those — frank, unfettered, uncensored — can get a guy in trouble. Talk about putting somebody out of the game, of hurting him, and a lot of minds turn immediately to players who have been put out of the game permanently. Chris Spielman says that’s not at all what he means, but when he volunteered his football philosophy after Ohio State’s opener with Oregon State last season, a general columnist in a Columbus newspaper concluded that there was something decidedly wrong with his approach to the game.
“Is This Youth Or Brutality?” the headline on Mike Harden’s column in The Columbus Dispatch asked. “It may be folly to seek reason and compassion from a game which is comprised, as Roy Blount once said, of grown men flying through the air in plastic hats,” wrote Harden. “That fact notwithstanding, Spielman’s words still had a distinctly ruthless, if not sadistic, ring to them.”
“It bothered me a little bit because I think I am a religious person,” says Spielman. “But that’s his opinion. Freedom of the press, I guess.”
And how, you may wonder, did Spielman come by his football philosophy. “I grew up with it,” he says. “I never had any kids my own age to play football with. They were all my brother’s age. When we played ball, I used to get the heck beat out of me. After a while, I didn’t like it. But if I wanted to keep on playing with older kids, I knew I had to be as tough as they were. So I just kept hitting as hard as could, and I wouldn’t back down for nothing. I’ve always been that way. It’s something you’re born with and grow up with.”
Spielman is the son of a football coach who is now a junior high school principal. He’s the younger brother of Rick Spielman, a junior linebacker at Southern Illinois. Chris grew up in Canton, Ohio, and played high school football in Massillon, where the sport itself takes on overtones of a quasi-religious nature.
When Spielman arrived at Ohio State, he was accompanied by a reputation uncommon even for Massillon blue chippers. Coach Earle Bruce said he was the best high school player he had ever seen. And everybody knew he was tough as iron.
Spielman had started every game at Massillon High and played both ways — as fullback and linebacker. Parade magazine named him the top high school linebacker in the country in 1983. Selected as the All-American Boy football player and pictured on the side of a zillion boxes of Wheaties, he stared at America from the shelves of every supermarket across the land.
When Spielman turned 17 on Oct. 11, 1983, he received more than 400 birthday cards from coaches and schools. That astounded even the football-hip Spielman. “Guys who didn’t know me from Adam were saying, ‘How are you doing?’” he says.
He visited five schools — Penn State, UCLA, Miami of Florida, Michigan and Ohio State. It came down to the last two. Some schools said he might be able to make it as a fullback, if that’s what he wanted, but he had no delusions about that.
“I think I was just an average back,” Spielman says. “If we needed a couple of yards, I’d say, ‘Give me the ball,’ and I’d put my head down and go.” But he know that average wouldn’t be good enough in college. “And I’d rather be the hitter than the hittee. It’s less painful.”
Naturally, Bruce was ecstatic when Spielman signed on. Then, in the Ohio High School North-South All-Star game after graduation, he suffered the first injury he could remember, an inversion sprain of his left ankle. He reinjured it in preseason practice. When Ohio State trainer Billy Hill handed Spielman the yellow slip-on that players not sound enough to take part in full practice wear and insisted he wear it for the day, he literally threw it back at him. Only grudgingly did he finally tuck it into his waist.
Even with no particular connotation, yellow is hardly Spielman’s favorite hue. “I’m glad to see you back,” Bruce wisecracked the next day. “I thought we changed our colors.”
By this time, Spielman had gained something of a reputation among older teammates. He wasn’t just the freshman linebacker with the big reputation and his mug on a cereal box. He was the gung-ho, flaky kid who just wouldn’t ease up, even in practice.
“They think I’m a little weird,” admitted Spielman at the time. “When I’m on the field, I’m weird. When I’m not, I’m just a normal 18-year-old freshman.”
When the Oregon State opener arrived, Spielman was beside himself. Not starting the first game of his life was bad enough. Getting in for only two plays in the first half was worse.
Finally, with Ohio State trailing, Spielman was inserted to blitz Oregon State quarterback Ricky Greene. In less than a half, Spielman had five tackles, five assists, two tackles for a loss, one sack, one forced fumble — and one victory put on ice. He was voted Ohio State’s Defensive Player of the Game. His career was on fast-start.
It didn’t stay in that gear for long. Spielman started the next two games, against Washington State and Iowa, but in the first quarter of a 45-26 rout of Iowa, he tore ligaments in his right ankle.
“It was a nightmare,” says Spielman. “I thought I had the strongest ankles in the world, and I never even taped them in high school. I was crushed. I didn’t know what to do. I sat out three weeks, and I told myself that if I had to crawl, I was going to play the next game against Michigan State.”
One of the student managers taped his ankles. Tight. If the tape had been around his neck it would have strangled him. Spielman figured that if the tape was tight enough, it would numb the pain, but by the time the game started, he could hardly walk. “Like a dumb, silly kid, I didn’t tell anybody.” he says. “I told them I was feeling great. Pretty dumb, huh?”
Pretty dumb. Three plays into the game, a Michigan State tackle landed on the sore ankle and he was out again. When the regular season ended a month later, Spielman was a part-time player, and with 12 tackles and 18 assists, ranked no better than 13th on the Ohio State hit list.
When the Rose Bowl game against Southern California began, he was still a substitute, but by this time, both of his ankles had had time to heal. He was also mentally ready.
“I wanted to play so bad, and I was determined to play the best game of my life,” Spielman says. “I don’t know if I did, and I hated losing, but my consolation was that I was satisfied with my performance.”
He had 12 unassisted tackles and three assists, and the 103,000 fans in the Pasadena gulch and a nationwide TV audience got an eyeful of just how good he can be when healthy.
Offensively for Ohio State this season, all eyes will be on senior tailback Keith Byars as he goes for the Heisman Trophy. Many of them will be on the 6-2, 225-pound linebacker Chris Spielman in his sophomore season.
“I set my goals high, both for me and the team,” he says. “For the team, I want to go back to the Rose Bowl and win, go 12-0 and be No. 1. For me, I’d like to be All-Big Ten.”
What about shooting for All-American?
Obviously Spielman is a first-things-first kind of guy. “In my junior year,” says Spielman. “I’d like to be an All-American. I think with a lot of hard work and experience I can be.”