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For the second straight year, Tennessee is one of the hot names in the offseason as the Volunteers continue to gather steam. Last season, the Vols were a bit of a disappointment, but didn't have to be. They lost four games by one score or less as things just seemed to go wrong late in games. Florida and Georgia could be nipping at Tennessee's heels for the top spot in the East though with each team representing a different challenge.

 

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

 

Note: Over/under odds courtesy of South Point Casino

 

SEC East

 

(Over 7.5 wins -130...Under 7.5 wins +110)

 

Record Last Year: 10-4, 7-1

 

Returning Starters: 11 (5 on offense, 6 on defense)

 

Offense: A transfer will be under center with Luke Del Rio vying with Austin Appleby for the QB job. Whoever gets the call will have Antonio Callaway and Brandon Powell out wide. The departure of Kelvin Taylor means youth will be served at RB with Jordan Scarlett and Mark Thompson.

 

Defense: The loss of top cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will be felt although Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson are pretty good replacements. Even better for the secondary is the presence of a stiff front four that should get constant pressure on the quarterback.

 

Schedule: The Gators open up with a pillow start, hosting UMass, Kentucky and North Texas before two straight on the road. They play just four true road games and get LSU at home.

 

Selection:I agree with the money move to the over. My only hesitation will be quarterback, but there are enough pieces around the starter that the Gators should succeed.

 

(Over 8.5 wins -115...Under 8.5 wins -105)

 

Record Last Year: 10-3, 5-3

 

Returning Starters: 13 ( on offense, 5 on defense)

 

Offense: It all starts and ends with running back Nick Chubb, whose health will be the biggest question entering camp. It becomes an even bigger factor after Sony Michel got hurt this offseason. Brice Ramsey, Jacob Eason and Greyson Lambert make for an intriguing QB competition. We do know that Terry Godwin is the leading returning receiver back and the OL should be good.

 

Defense: Kirby Smart's influence will probably be felt here and he has a lot of work to do with the front seven. Tackle Trent Thompson needs to continue to grow up front. What we do know is that the secondary is very experienced led by safety Dominick Sanders.

 

Schedule: The 2016 campaign opens up with North Carolina in Atlanta before three of the next five are on the road. The rest of the non-conference slate consists of Nicholls State, UL Lafayette and Georgia Tech all at home. It's a friendly slate for the first-year head coach.

 

Selection: Slight lean to the over, but I'm not locking anything in yet with Georgia because of the uncertainty at QB and RB.

 

(Over 5 wins -110...Under 5 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 5-7, 2-6

 

Returning Starters: 13 (9 on offense, 4 on defense)

 

Offense: The run game figures to be strong with Stanley “Boom” Williams, Jojo Kemp and Mikel Horton in the backfield. Williams has been held out of any contact drills so far this offseason. The offensive line is pretty much intact with Drew Barker under center. He's got three of his top WRs back as well. This group should improve from being the 95th-ranked scoring offense in 2015.

 

Defense: This is where the problems begin with just four returnees. The player that is back with the most sacks from last year is Chris Westry, and he had one from the cornerback position. The depth chart is littered with youth so it could be a long year.

 

Schedule: The Wildcats play five of their first seven at home. They get Southern Miss, New Mexico State, Austin Peay and Louisville outside of SEC play. UK has just five true road games although two of those are Florida and Alabama.

 

Selection: I can see the Wildcats getting to .500 if things break right. The home schedule helps out, especially with Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and South Carolina the teams coming to Lexington. That said, the defense is going to have to improve as the year goes on.

 

(Over 5.5 wins -110...Under 5.5 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 5-7, 1-7

 

Returning Starters: 13 (5 on offense, 8 on defense)

 

Offense: Mizzou scored 10 points or less six times in 2015 so pretty much any additional production from this unit will be an improvement. New coordinator Josh Heupel will try to breathe life into this unit and help develop sophomore quarterback Drew Lock, who had twice as many interceptions (eight) as touchdown passes (four) last season. The run game figures to struggle with Nate Strong and Ish Witter leading the way. There is just one returnee up front.

 

Defense: The defense held up it's end of the bargain last year, holding teams to just 16.2 points per game. The front seven is pretty much back led by Charles Harris and Walter Brady as bookend DEs. The secondary could be a question mark although senior Aarion Penton holds down one corner spot.

 

Schedule: The Tigers have three of their first four at home although they begin with a road matchup against West Virginia. The rest of the non-conference slate is Eastern Michigan, Delaware State and Middle Tennessee. Missouri also plays at LSU and Florida.

 

Selection: I think Missouri's offense improves and is able to put more points on the scoreboard this year. I don't feel 100 percent confident on that claim, but the defense should be able to replicate what it did in 2015.

 

(Over 5 wins EVEN...Under 5 wins -120)

 

Record Last Year: 3-9, 1-7

 

Returning Starters: 8 (3 on offense, 5 on defense)

 

Offense: More questions at QB here with Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain leading the way. There's a lot of rebuilding going around the QB as well with RB and WR groups that are lacking returnees. New coordinator Kurt Roper has his work cut out for him. Someone needs to step up and emerge.

 

Defense: The loss of leading tackler and anchor Skai Moore to a season-ending neck injury cannot be understated. The All-SEC-caliber linebacker was the heart and soul of this defense, which likely will struggle to stop the run again this season. Special teams should be strong once again so that's one less thing to worry about.

 

Schedule: The Gamecocks open with two straight and three of their first four on the road. They host East Carolina, UMass, Western Carolina and play at Clemson in the non-conference. They also have a stretch of five straight at home (Oct. 1-Nov. 5).

 

Selection: I think five wins is a good number. The schedule is doable, but the lack of talent is not. New head coach Will Muschamp has his work cut out for him and there are too many question marks.

 

(Over 9.5 wins -110...Under 9.5 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 9-4, 5-3

 

Returning Starters: 18 (9 on offense, 9 on defense)

 

Offense: Joshua Dobbs, Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara return from a team that scored more than 35 points per game last year. While the ground game was strong the aerial attack lagged behind, averaging 198.6 yards passing per contest in 2015. Josh Smith and Josh Malone are back at WR as well as most of the O-line.

 

Defense: New coordinator Bob Shoop comes over from Penn State to coach this veteran bunch. There's talent on every level with DL Derek Barnett, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin and CB Cameron Sutton all back. I'm looking forward to seeing what sophomore lineman Kahlil McKenzie can do in the middle.

 

Schedule: Tennessee plays Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sept. 10 in one of the most intriguing non-conference games of the season. The Volunteers also host Appalachian State, Ohio and Tennessee Tech to make up their non-conference slate. The toughest stretch could be in October when the Vols play at Georgia, Texas A&M and South Carolina with a home matchup against Alabama mixed in.

 

Selection: It would be a disappointment if Tennessee didn't go over this total. Of course, Butch Jones’ Volunteers were disappointing last year. There are way too many winnable games at home with the tilts against the Hokies, Crimson Tide, Florida and Georgia representing the only challenges.

 

(Over 5 wins -110...Under 5 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 4-8, 2-6

 

Returning Starters: 12 (5 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense: Quarterback continues to be an issue with Kyle Shurmur expected to be the starter this season. He threw for just 583 yards last year, but was given the job during the offseason. Ralph Webb was able to rush for more than 1,000 yards despite the troubles at QB. Caleb Scott and Trent Sherfield are the two leading WRs. The offensive line could be an issue.

 

Defense: The Commodores were greatly improved on this side of the ball. They allowed just 21 points per game. The front seven will need to replace some big players, but the secondary should be a lot better. Special teams play was a massive issue so a new assistant coach was brought in to fix it.

 

Schedule: Vanderbilt opens the year with two straight at home before playing four of the next five on the road. The Commodores take on Middle Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Western Kentucky and Tennessee State out of conference.

 

Selection:I like what head coach Derek Mason has done at the school despite just seven wins in two seasons. The offense has to improve before I can be too optimistic though. I think five is a solid number although if there was value with the under I'd consider that more.

 

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

Teaser:
Examining the Over/Under 2016 Win Totals for the SEC East
Post date: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-non-conference-games-2016
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The moves to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016, meaning fewer non-conference battles to evaluate from the 14-team conference. Even though the number of non-conference tilts has been reduced, there are still some good quality matchups to put some of the Big Ten’s programs to the test.

 

Related:

 

If the College Football Playoff selection committee is going to continue to give some bonus points for playing a challenging schedule, then potential Big Ten Playoff contenders could be in good shape with the schedules in front of them this season. Pay particular attention to Sept. 17 when Big Ten teams take on the defending Big 12 champion as well as Notre Dame on the road, while one Big Ten division champion from a season ago takes on a mighty FCS powerhouse nobody should overlook.

 

The Big Ten will collectively have an opportunity to prove the conference may not be as down this year as some expect with contests against the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and even the SEC all in games that will take place away from a Big Ten campus. The bar has been raised, but can the Big Ten clear it in 2016?

 

Here are the top 10 non-conference games on the Big Ten schedule this season, along with a few other matchups to keep an eye on.

 

1. Ohio State at Oklahoma (Sept. 17)

This is quite possibly the biggest game of the season for the Big Ten (and perhaps the Big 12). J.T. Barrett will look to keep Ohio State’s offense chugging along as it fills some key holes in what amounts to a mid-September Heisman Trophy contender showdown with Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. The winning quarterback puts himself in firm position in the Heisman conversation, but more importantly, the winner of this game could eventually help determine if the Big Ten or Big 12 gets a spot in this season’s College Football Playoff.

 

2. Wisconsin vs. LSU (Lambeau Field, Sept. 3)

The game most people are looking forward to will be the second regular season neutral field matchup between Wisconsin and LSU. With the game taking place at historic Lambeau Field, the festive scene for the opening of the new season will be plenty of fun. Can Wisconsin hold off Leonard Fournette and the Tigers in the opener, unlike when the last time these two met in Houston two seasons ago? If the Badgers can, Wisconsin will score a nice victory for the Big Ten against the SEC out of the gate.

 

3. Michigan State at Notre Dame (Sept. 17)

The Spartans and Fighting Irish always make for an entertaining and competitive game, and this season should be no exception. A new-look Michigan State squad will have to be in full swing on the road in South Bend, Ind., as the Irish will try to spread things open offensively. Could we see any crazy plays this time? You just never know.

 

4. Oregon at Nebraska (Sept. 17)

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley is quite familiar with his mid-September opponent from the Pac-12. The former Oregon State head coach goes back to work against the Ducks, which are coming off a relatively disappointing season in 2015 and facing some questions heading into this fall. Oregon and Nebraska may have had rough seasons a year ago, but Nebraska will be put to the test of slowing down what should be a difficult offense.

 

5. Penn State at Pittsburgh (Sept. 10)

The in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt is finally renewed for the first time in 16 years, and it should be well worth the wait. The running back showdown between Saquon Barkley and Pitt’s James Conner is well worth watching as bragging rights are up for grabs. The importance of this game for Penn State is mighty, especially considering the Nittany Lions lost on the road in Pennsylvania last year at Temple. To do so again would be a tough blow to James Franklin’s “Dominate the State” mantra.

 

6. North Carolina at Illinois (Sept. 10)

With a new head coach, the reason for optimism is rising at Illinois. In Week 2 the Illini take on defending ACC Coastal Division champion North Carolina, and this will be no easy task. The Tar Heels ambushed a disoriented Illinois squad last year at Chapel Hill, 48-14. Smith may be a good defensive coach, but that is a big gap to close.

 

7. Rutgers at Washington (Sept. 3)

Coming off a wildly entertaining home-and-home series with Washington State, Rutgers shifts to the other Apple Cup opponent with a road game at Washington this season. The Huskies are a program on the rise in the Pac-12 and some feel Chris Petersen’s team could push Stanford for the North Division crown. New Rutgers head coach Chris Ash is taking over a rebuilding project and may not have his team ready to take down Washington on the west coast just yet, but if he did it would be a great victory for the Big Ten.

 

8. Duke at Northwestern (Sept. 17)

The Academic Bowl between Northwestern and the ACC’s Duke is part of a key slate in mid-September. Northwestern’s stingy defense will hope to slow down Duke’s sometimes big-play offense as the Wildcats go for a third straight win in the series against the Blue Devils.

 

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

FCS super-giant North Dakota State has a knack for taking down opponents from the FBS. The Bison have an impressive 8-3 record against teams from the next level up, and that includes a pair of victories against the Big Ten, both against Minnesota.  A year after topping Iowa State, the Bison return to the state of Iowa to take on defending Big Ten West champion Iowa. The Bison may have lost quarterback Carson Wentz to the NFL, but not even Iowa’s defense should overlook what North Dakota State will be capable of doing.

 

10. Western Michigan at Northwestern (Sept. 3)

Northwestern opens the season against Western Michigan, the prohibitive preseason favorite in the MAC. That means the Wildcats will have to be on top of their game against what could be a dangerous team. Western Michigan will bring a dynamic and experienced offense to Evans Field that should challenge Northwestern’s defense.

 

Best of the Rest

Fresno State at Nebraska (Sept. 3)

Bowling Green at Ohio State (Sept. 3)

Colorado at Michigan (Sept. 17)

Temple at Penn State (Sept. 17)

Cincinnati at Purdue (Sept. 10)

 

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to  and  as well as hosts the  Podcast. Follow him on Twitter  and Like him on .

 

(Top photo courtesy of )

 
Teaser:
Top 10 Big Ten Non-Conference Games of 2016
Post date: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated
Path: /college-football/jim-harbaugh-stars-rap-video-who-got-it-better-than-us-michigan-wolverines-bailey
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Jim Harbaugh definitely makes the most of the Wolverines offseason.

 

The Michigan head coach appears in rapper Bailey's new music video for "Who's Got It Better Than Us?" and it does not disappoint. The song centers around the Wolverines so it would make sense for Harbaugh to have a starring role. He should expect many more requests for cameos after this one.

 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 09:51
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated
Path: /college-football/best-fcs-games-2016-season
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Coaches and players try to say every game on their schedule is meaningful and counts the same as any other.

 

That’s true mathematically, but college football lives in the real world and there are specific games teams get up for even more just like the rest of us.

 

With the countdown on for the approaching college football season, here are the most anticipated conference matchups, non-conference matchups and FBS matchups for many of the top FCS programs in the nation:

 

Top 5 Conference Matchups

 

5. (tie) Colgate at Fordham (Nov. 5)

Pity the defenses in this explosive matchup between the last two Patriot League champions, which return veteran offenses. Last meeting: Fordham, 31-29 (2015)

 

5. (tie) Montana at Eastern Washington (Oct. 29)

There are many good matchups in the largest FCS conference, but these Big Sky rivals always highlight the date on their calendars. Last meeting: Montana, 57-16 (2015)

 

4. Chattanooga at The Citadel (Oct. 15)

Last year’s Southern Conference co-champs meet again. The Citadel got a look at the Mocs’ new starting quarterback a year early when Alejandro Bennifield threw a 75-yard touchdown pass on a game-opening trick play. Last meeting: Chattanooga, 31-23 (2015)

 

3. McNeese State at Sam Houston State (Nov. 5)

Defending Southland Conference champion McNeese State’s only loss last season occurred against Sam Houston State in the FCS playoffs. Last meeting: Sam Houston State, 34-29 (2015 playoffs)

 

2. Richmond at William & Mary (Nov. 19)

Last season, Richmond prevented rival William & Mary from winning an outright CAA Football title and knocked the Tribe from the playoffs in a two-week span. Last meeting: Richmond, 48-13 (2015 playoffs)

 

1. North Dakota State at Northern Iowa (Oct. 29)

The line of scrimmage will not be a place for the faint of heart. UNI ended the FCS dynasty’s record 33-game winning streak when they last squared off inside the UNI-Dome two years ago. Last meeting: North Dakota State, 23-13 (2015 playoffs)

 

Top 5 Non-Conference Matchups

 

5. Northern Iowa at Eastern Washington (Sept. 17)

UNI won last season’s game in Cedar Falls, extending its series lead to 6-0. Both teams will be playing their third tough opponent to open the season. Last meeting: Northern Iowa, 38-35 (2015)

 

4. Coastal Carolina at Jacksonville State (Sept. 17)

The first meeting between the FCS powers also is their last on the level because Coastal is moving up to the FBS next season. First meeting

 

3. Charleston Southern at North Dakota State (Aug. 27)

With Coastal Carolina gone from the Big South, the conference gets the national spotlight with the FCS Kickoff. The five-time national champion Bison are a little more accustomed to the bright lights. First meeting

 

2. Montana at Northern Iowa (Sept. 10)

Montana quarterback Brady Gustafson will pass against an entirely new UNI secondary. UNI’s two 1,000-yard rushers, quarterback Aaron Bailey and running back Tyvis Smith, will attack a Grizzlies defense that will have two returning starters. Last meeting: Montana, 48-10 (2011 playoffs)

 

1. Eastern Washington at North Dakota State (Sept. 10)

NDSU hasn’t lost a playoff game since the 2010 quarterfinals at Eastern Washington. The big problem for the visiting Eagles is they’re replacing their entire starting offensive line. Last meeting: Eastern Washington, 38-31 in overtime (2010 playoffs)

 

Related: 

 

Top 5 FCS-FBS Matchups

 

5. Richmond at Virginia (Sept. 3)

The Spiders will attempt to ruin the debut of new Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall. They haven’t had a lot of luck in the series (2-28-2) as they’ve lost four times to the Cavaliers since 2008. Last meeting: Virginia, 45-13 (2014)

 

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

Familiar foes meet for the 30th time. The Panthers suffered a one-point loss in 2011 and beat Iowa State, 28-20, in ‘13 before falling again last season. Last meeting: Iowa State, 31-7 (2015)

 

3. Jacksonville State at LSU (Sept. 10)

Maybe the national runner-up Gamecocks figure a visit to Death Valley can’t get any harder than playing North Dakota State. First meeting

 

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

EWU All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp has played three career games against Pac-12 teams and totaled 28 receptions, 510 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Sun Bowl champion Washington State lost to another Big Sky squad, Portland State, last September. Last meeting: Washington State, 24-20 (2012)

 

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

The Bison hope to extend a five-game winning streak against FBS competition (Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State and Iowa State). Iowa isn’t as strong as last year’s squad that started the season 12-0. Last meeting: Iowa, 59-0 (1947)

 

Related: 

 

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

 

(Top photo by University of Northern Iowa Athletics)

Teaser:
Best FCS Games of the 2016 Season
Post date: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/looking-back-ohio-states-2013-recruiting-class-part-three
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Upon his arrival at , head coach Urban Meyer’s initial recruiting class in 2012 consisted of 25 players. While Meyer had high hopes for his initial crop of Buckeyes, he also was far from satisfied.

 

He described that 2012 class as “pretty strong, but I wouldn’t consider that a great recruiting effort.” It was clear that Meyer was intent on making a splash with his next class. He wanted to sign a 2013 class that could compete for and win national championships. What he got was just that, as well as one that would impact future NFL Drafts.

 

of this series on Ohio State’s 2013 recruiting class showed the minimal impact caused by departures, as only three players from that group ended up leaving the program. took a look at the nine members who have contributed to the Buckeyes’ success these past several years, with several players still in the running to possibly become starters before their respective collegiate careers conclude.

 

Part three will discuss the 2013 recruits who were or have developed into starter starters for the Buckeyes. Several of these players have already moved on to the NFL, as Ohio State’s presence was clearly felt in this year’s draft.

 

These 12 players will be listed in the order that they verbally committed to Ohio State.

 

1. Jalin Marshall, WR

The second player to verbally commit to Ohio State in January 2012, Marshall was described by Meyer as "a young man that if he was a guy that wanted to play the game and wait till signing day to put the eight hats out there, he could have whatever many amounts of hats he wanted." Marshall redshirted in 2013, but was a key contributor to Ohio State in ‘14 and ‘15 as a wide receiver and special teams player. Marshall's best game as a Buckeye came against Indiana in 2014, when he scored four touchdowns to seal a victory, and clinch the Big Ten East Division for the Buckeyes. Marshall surprisingly declared for the 2016 NFL Draft with two years of eligibility remaining, and was not selected. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets.

 

2. Billy Price, OL

Price was recruited as a defensive lineman, but moved to offensive line after a redshirting in 2013. Price has been a starter at guard since the 2014 season, enters this fall as one of the projected returning starters, and still has one year of eligibility remaining. Price was named a freshman All-American by Athlon Sports and an Academic All-American by the Big Ten in 2014.

 

3. Eli Apple, CB

After redshirting in 2013, Apple earned a starting cornerback spot in ’14. A key member of the 2014 national championship team, Apple earned freshman All-American recognition by Athlon Sports. Last season, Apple was named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and was the 2016 Fiesta Bowl defensive MVP. With two years of eligibility remaining, Apple declared for the 2016 NFL Draft where he was selected 10th overall by the New York Giants.

 

4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB

Elliott verbally committed to Ohio State in April 2012, but wavered towards possibly flipping to Missouri as the 2013 National Signing Day approached. Fortunately for Ohio State, Elliott remained strong with his commitment to becoming a Buckeye. Elliott earned playing time as a true freshman in 2013, contributing as a running back and on special teams coverage. He took over in the backfield the next season, and served as the catalyst for Ohio State's march towards the national championship. In 2014, Elliott rushed for 1,878 yards rushing, the second-highest single-season total in school history (Eddie George, 1,927 yards in 1995), and named the MVP of the national championship game win over Oregon. Last year, Elliott racked up the accolades, including Big Ten Offensive Player and Running Back of the Year and he won the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football Award as the conference’s Most Valuable Player. He was a semifinalist for the prestigious Maxwell Award and was named second-team All-American by AP and FWAA. Elliott finished his career at Ohio State second on the all-time rushing list with 3,961 yards. Elliott declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft and was taken fourth overall by the Dallas Cowboys.

 

5. J.T. Barrett, QB

Meyer inherited Braxton Miller, Kenny Guiton and Cardale Jones at quarterback when he was named Ohio State's head coach in November 2011. Barrett was the first quarterback that Meyer and his coaching staff truly recruited. A knee injury that ended his high school career caused Barrett to redshirt in 2013. But it was a season-ending injury to Miller less than two weeks before the start of the 2014 season that thrust Barrett into the starting lineup. Despite a rocky performance against Virginia Tech in his second game, Barrett went on to set 19 records (17 Ohio State, two Big Ten) in leading the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title. For his efforts, Barrett won the Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year, Thomspon-Randle El Freshman of the Year awards and was named first-team All-Big Ten and a freshman All-American by USA Today, Scout.com and Athlon Sports.  An injury in the regular season finale against Michigan sidelined Barrett as Ohio State went on to win the Big Ten Championship Game and the inaugural College Football Playoff. Last season, Barrett alternated snaps with postseason hero Cardale Jones, until the former was named the starter near the end of the season. With Jones now in the NFL, Barrett is the unquestioned No. 1 on the depth chart and has one year of eligibility remaining after the 2016 season.

 

6. Joey Bosa, DE

As soon as he made his commitment official, Meyer was quick to label Bosa as “one of the best players in the country.” One scan of Bosa’s numerous accolades from his official Ohio State bio proves Meyer knew what he was talking about. A two-time consensus All-American, Bosa also was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 and took home the award for conference defensive lineman of the year twice in this three seasons. As a Buckeye, Bosa played in 41 games, started 37 times and ended his career ranked in the program’s top five in four marquee defensive categories: sacks (3rd, 26), sack yardage (4th, 177), tackles for a loss (4th, 50.5) and TFL yardage (4th, 247). Bosa had more stops behind the line of scrimmage during his three seasons than any player in the nation. His five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries also led to 44 Ohio State points, according to his bio. Bosa declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft where he was taken third overall by the San Diego Chargers.

 

7. Darron Lee, LB

Lee was an underrated recruit coming out of high school, earning his Ohio State scholarship through stellar performances in summer recruiting camps. Redshirted as an athlete in 2013, Lee moved to linebacker in ‘4, and immediately made an impact with a fumble recovery for a touchdown versus Navy in the season opener. Lee was a second-team Associated Press All-American in 2015 after earning freshman All-American honors in ‘14. Over the last two seasons, he ranked second only to Joey Bosa in tackles for a loss (27.5) and sacks (12). Lee also recorded 147 tackles, five pass breakups, 10 quarterback hurries, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries during that span. Lee declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft and was selected 20th overall by the New York Jets.

 

8. Michael Hill, DL

Hill played sparingly in 2013, resulting in a redshirt season. He appeared in eight games during the 2014 national championship season before becoming a starter last season. Hill is expected to start this fall, alongside 2013 classmate Tracy Sprinkle. Hill will have one year of eligibility remaining after the 2016 season.

 

9. Tyquan Lewis, DE

Lewis redshirted in 2013, but emerged as a contributor along the defensive line and on special teams the following season. Last season, Lewis started up front for the Buckyes, serving as the bookend to Joey Bosa. Lewis led the team in sacks with eight. He sat out spring practice due to shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, but is expected to start once he’s cleared to return. Lewis will have one year of eligibility remaining after the 2016 season.

 

10. Gareon Conley, CB

Conley originally committed to Michigan, but flipped to Ohio State late in the recruiting process, making it official in December 2012. After redshirting in 2013, Conley played extensively at cornerback and on special teams coverage in ‘14. Last season, Conley started opposite Eli Apple, finishing with 49 tackles, five pass breakups, two interceptions, and a blocked punt. Conley is slated to start this fall and will have one year of eligibility remaining after the 2016 season.

 

11. Dontre Wilson, H-Back

Wilson was a late addition to the 2013 class, flipping his original verbal commitment from Oregon after Chip Kelly departed for the NFL. At H-Back, Wilson plays a hybrid role within the Ohio State offense, as both a running back, receiver, and kickoff/punt returner. Small in stature (5-10, 195), Wilson's primary strength is in creating matchup problems for opposing defenses. Wilson has battled injuries over the last two seasons, which has limited his on-field impact to this point.

 

12. Vonn Bell, S

Bell was the last of the 2013 class to commit, signing with the Buckeyes on National Signing Day. A backup in 2013, Bell earned his first start in the 2014 Orange Bowl against Clemson. A full-time starter in 2014 and ’15, Bell’s Buckeyes tenure consisted of 42 games and 28 starts over three years. A first-team All-Big Ten selection last season, he also claimed first-team All-American honors from the AP, The Sporting News and SI.com. Bell ended his Ohio State career with 176 career tackles, 24 passes defended and nine interceptions. Bell declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft and was taken in the second round (61st overall) by the New Orleans Saints.

 

Of the 24 players that signed with Ohio State on Feb. 6, 2013, 21 have either stated or contributed to the Buckeyes’ success during their time on campus. That is a success rate of 87.5 percent, which is better than any other Ohio State recruiting class I have evaluated (since 2005), applying the "The Rule Of Thirds" criteria.

 

Of the 21 players who remained, 12 emerged as starters, with the possibility that others could eventually emerge as starters before the conclusion of their respective careers. And here is a tidbit that Meyer may not have anticipated when these players signed back in 2013 – three players from the same recruiting class would wind up among the top 10 players picked in the 2016 NFL Draft (Bosa, Elliott, Apple).

 

With the 2016 college football season rapidly approaching, the still have a chance to contribute positively in what has been arguably the greatest recruiting class in Ohio State's illustrious football history. It will bear watching throughout this fall how players such as Marcus Baugh, Tracy Sprinkle, Chris Worley and Corey Smith perform for the Buckeyes.

 

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Follow him on Twitter .

Teaser:
Looking Back At Ohio State's 2013 Recruiting Class (Part Three)
Post date: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /enter-chance-win-copy-batman-v-superman-dawn-justice-blu-ray
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Who knows what will happen when two of pop culture’s most iconic superheroes face off in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a comic book-inspired double bill?
 
From Director Zack Snyder comes v Superman: Dawn of Justice, starring Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman in the characters’ first big-screen pairing.

 
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Post date: Monday, July 18, 2016 - 13:15
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-2016-quarterback-rankings
Body:

While the days of daily college football appear to be over (sadly), the season-long game remains alive and well as we head into the 2016 season.

 

Over the course of the next week, rankings for each individual position will be rolled out to help you better prepare for the upcoming draft season. Below is the scoring system used to compile this list.

 

Passing Yards, 25 yards = 1 point

Passing TD = 4 points

Rushing Yards, 10 yards = 1 point

Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receptions = 0.5 points per reception

Receiving Yards, 10 yards = 1 point

Receiving TDs = 6 points

 

2016 College Fantasy Football QB Rankings

 

1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Not just the No. 1 quarterback, Watson is the consensus top overall player in all of college fantasy football in 2016. Last season, Watson led the Tigers to an average of 514 yards and nearly 40 points per game. And guess what? Most of that group returns intact for another go at a national title with Watson leading the way. The junior has his full arsenal of receivers returning, including senior Mike Williams, who missed most of last year with a neck injury. If you are lucky enough to snag the No. 1 pick in your fantasy draft this season, Watson is the sure-fire selection.

 

2. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

Mahomes is solidly in the No. 2 spot despite losing his top receiver from last season in Jakeem Grant. As a sophomore, Mahomes displayed surprising mobility, rushing for 456 yards and 10 touchdowns in addition to the typical gaudy passing numbers we all expect from a Texas Tech quarterback. The surrounding cast is not as experienced as last season, but the offensive system in place should allow for Mahomes to come close to matching his totals from a year ago.

 

3. Greg Ward Jr., Houston

How will Ward perform without his go-to receiver is the big question in 2016 as Demarcus Ayers departed early for the NFL Draft after accumulating 98 receptions and more than 1,200 yards last season. Not to mention, Houston loses its top three running backs from a year ago, as well as three starters along the offensive line. That said, Ward should top 1,000 yards rushing once again as he is the perfect fit in Tom Herman’s up-tempo offense, and there is enough talent leftover at wide receiver to avoid a significant drop-off.

 

4. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

No, this is not a typo. And no this is not just based upon Jackson’s Music City Bowl performance against Texas A&M in which he piled up 453 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. While it did take the combined effort of three quarterbacks in each season, Bobby Petrino’s offense has produced 3,000 passing yards since he returned to Louisvile in 2014. Jackson should be under center the entire way in 2016, leading to a projection of 3,000-plus yards passing and more than 1,000 yards rushing.

 

5. Luke Falk, Washington State

Falk was sensational in his first year as the full-time starter, throwing for 4,561 yards and 38 touchdowns, finishing among the top five in the nation in both categories. And he did this despite missing the season finale against Washington, in addition to leaving multiple contests early due to injury. So just think what kind of stats he can pile up if he holds up all season? Falk does lose his top red-zone threat in Dom Williams, but the Cougars return six receivers that caught 15 passes or more last season, including star wideout Gabe Marks (104-1,192-15 in 2015).

 

6. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

With Cardale Jones now out of the picture, this is once again Barrett’s team and Ohio State will be better off for it. In 2014, Barrett was exceptional with 34 passing touchdowns to go along with nearly 1,000 yards and 11 scores on the ground, but he was unable to duplicate those numbers as a sophomore due to the presence of Jones. The projection on Barrett is tempered a bit due to the numerous departures to the NFL on offense, but Urban Meyer teams Co. typically find a way to make it work. Barrett will have a bounce-back year.

 

7. Quinton Flowers, South Florida

Get used to hearing Flowers’ name if you follow college fantasy football because he is one of the top rising stars in the sport. In his first season as the full-time starter, Flowers impressed many by throwing for 2,290 yards and 22 touchdowns while adding another 991 yards and 12 scores on the ground. More importantly, he avoided mistakes, throwing just eight interceptions. With a talented supporting cast around him, including All-AAC running back Marlon Mack, look for Flowers to take another step in his development in 2016.

 

8. Chad Kelly, Mississippi

Kelly was everything Ole Miss could have hoped for last season, throwing for 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns, while adding another 500 yards and 10 scores on the ground. This season, the Rebels return just four other starters on offense and will be without the services of No. 1 wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who left early for the NFL. A slight drop-off is expected, but there are enough pieces remaining on offense for Kelly to remain in the vicinity of last year’s totals.

 

9. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma’s wide receiving corps limits Mayfield’s ranking for now, as he loses his top playmaker from last season in Sterling Shepard. Adding to that, the expectation is for Mayfield to run less as well with no proven backup behind him. Expect Mayfield to put up big numbers, but topping last season (3,700 yards passing/43 TDs) would be a stretch.

 

10. Seth Russell, Baylor

Earlier this offseason, Russell was in line to be the No. 1 quarterback taken in upcoming college fantasy drafts. But that was prior to the dismissal of head coach Art Briles, the architect of one of the most potent offenses in all of college football. Interim head coach Jim Grobe has utilized option-based offenses at his previous stops, which lends to the thought we could see the Bears incorporate the running game more this year, resulting in a slight drop in Russell’s stock. That and I don’t suspect Russell will be scrambling as much following last year’s neck injury.

 

11. Skyler Howard, West Virginia

Which Howard will we get in 2016? The one that threw for more than yards and five touchdowns in the Cactus Bowl win over Arizona State or the Howard that threw for at least one interception in nine consecutive games? This ranking is betting on the former as I think Howard will be at his best during his senior season on an offense that returns four out of its top five receivers and eight starters overall. Howard should come close to 4,000 total yards this season.

 

12. Matt Davis, SMU

Davis had an up and down first season with the Mustangs, but much of that was due in part to youth as SMU started four freshmen on offense last year. With nine starters returning, and another year in Chad Morris’ system, a big leap in production is expected from Davis. He should outdo last year’s passing totals (2,263-16-7) and possibly top 1,000 yards rushing as well.

 

13. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Rudolph did not have the breakout season many projected in 2015, but much of that was due to sharing time with backup J.W. Walsh. With Walsh now out of the picture, Rudolph should finally be allowed to thrive in this pass-happy offense. Having the Big 12’s top receiver in James Washington doesn’t hurt either. Expect Rudolph to top 4,000 yards passing and 30 touchdowns.

 

14. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina

Trubisky was impressive in his brief appearances last season, completing 85 percent of his passes and throwing for six touchdowns with zero interceptions. While not the runner that previous starter Marquise Williams was, Trubisky is thought of as a better passer and still has enough mobility to run if needed. He will surpass 3,000 passing yards with ease in 2016.

 

15. Dane Evans, Tulsa

We knew that Evans would improve his yardage and touchdown totals under the tutelage of new head coach Philip Montgomery (Art Briles disciple), but the now senior quarterback made tremendous strides in limiting turnovers, cutting his interceptions down from 17 to just eight last season. Evans will top 4,000 yards passing with ease in 2016 as he gets back his top receiver in Keevan Lucas, who missed most of last year due to injury.

 

16. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

At this point in time, Kizer looks to be the odds-on favorite to win the starting quarterback job for the Irish, though Malik Zaire will challenge him right up until Week 1. Brian Kelly has been known to rotate quarterbacks in the past, but I expect Kizer will receive the majority of the snaps in 2016, as he is the superior passer between the two. If that occurs, Kizer should top 4,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns.

 

17. Kenny Hill, TCU

Which Hill are we going to get in 2016 – the one that lit up South Carolina in the 2014 season opener for 511 passing yards and three touchdowns or the one that eventually lost his starting job mid-way through the season and wound up transferring? I am leaning towards the former as Hill has a similar skill set to former Horned Frogs starter Trevone Boykin, who threw for nearly 7,500 yards the past two years. Hill is a major wild card, but presents tremendous upside if he succeeds in TCU’s offense.

 

18. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee

Dobbs had his best season as a junior, upping his passing touchdowns to 15, rushing for 671 yards and 11 touchdowns, all the while cutting back on his interceptions (five). He will never throw for prolific passing numbers, especially with the two-headed monster behind him in Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, but if Dobbs can take another step throwing the football while also maintaining his numbers on the ground, it will be another good year statistically.

 

19. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska

Armstrong struggled at times in his first year learning Mike Reilly’s offense, throwing 16 interceptions, but made that issue a focal point during the offseason. Despite attempting more than 400 passes, Armstrong was still able to display his dual-threat ability, rushing for a career-high 400 yards and seven touchdowns. His senior season should be his best.

 

20. Mike White, Western Kentucky

White was in the midst of a four-way quarterback competition this past spring, but that number was trimmed when leading contender Nelson Fishback suffered a torn pectoral muscle that will keep him out 4-6 months. White, a former South Florida transfer who sat out last season, is the likely starter with Fishback on the shelf, and has the daunting task of replacing Brandon Doughty, the school’s all-time passing leader. White will likely not match Doughty’s 5,000 passing yards, but eclipsing 4,000 is an attainable goal in the Western Kentucky offense.

 

21. Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi

Mullens had a breakout season last year with 4,476 passing yards and 38 touchdowns. However, the senior quarterback heads into this season without his top two receivers (Mike Thomas, Casey Martin), as well as his head coach, as Todd Monken left to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator. It’s hard to imagine Mullens will replicate last year’s successes with so much uncertainty surrounding the offense.

 

22. Eric Dungey, Syracuse

It’s been a while since we have had a Syracuse player that was worthy of such fantasy relevance, but with new head coach Dino Babers now in charge, the Orange will be a hotbed for potential offensive stars. Dungey is first in line this year after combining for 16 total touchdowns and more than1,600 yards in just eight games last year. If Dungey can avoid injury (something he struggled with last season), he should top 3,000 total yards with ease in 2016.

 

23. Kenny Potter, San Jose State

After playing sparingly through the first five weeks of last season, Potter took over the starting job in Week 6 and finished the year with 1,984 passing yards and 22 total touchdowns. The former JUCO transfer had a span of three straight weeks of three touchdown passes, and had at least one rushing touchdown in six out of the last eight games. With running back Tyler Ervin now in the NFL, this is Potter’s offense.

 

24. Trevor Knight, Texas A&M

Knight looks to become the latest graduate transfer quarterback to have success at a different school. The former Oklahoma signal-caller has already been announced as the starter by head coach Kevin Sumlin following spring practices, and will have plenty of toys to work with as the Aggies return their top four receivers. New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is known for a more balanced version of the spread offense, but did produce a 3,000-yard passer in each of his four seasons with UCLA. That should continue this year.  

 

25. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan

Terrell enters his senior season without his trusted slot receiver in Daniel Braverman, who departed early for the NFL, but still is accompanied by possibly the top wideout in the country in Corey Davis (1,436 yards in 2015). If another receiver develops opposite Davis, Terrell should be able to match his 3,500 passing yards from a season ago.

 

26. Anu Solomon, Arizona

Health will be critical here as Solomon missed multiple games last season due to concussion issues. If kept upright, Solomon should be able to match his freshman year stats of 3,500-plus passing yards and another 200-plus on the ground. Finding someone to replace star receiver Cayleb Jones will help.

 

27. James Knapke, Bowling Green

Knapke received extensive playing time two years ago when former quarterback Matt Johnson suffered a hip injury in the 2014 season opener. Knapke started the remainder of the year and played well at times, throwing for 3,173 yards and 15 touchdowns. Former head coach Dino Babers left for greener pastures, but Mike Jinks is expected to retain the high-tempo offense that should suit Knapke well.

 

28. Tommy Woodson, Akron

Woodson took over the starting job in Week 3 of last season for an ineffective Kyle Pohl and never looked back, as he combined for 19 total touchdowns and threw for more than 2,200 yards the rest of the way. The junior should have a better assortment of weapons in 2016 with leading receiver Jerome Lane back, as well as Utah State transfer JoJo Natson.

 

29. Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee

This time last year we didn’t even know who would be starting at quarterback for Middle Tennessee. Fast-forward 365 days and the Blue Raiders have Stockstill, the head coach’s son and a sophomore who already holds the school’s single-season records for touchdown passes, passing yards and 300-yard games. Losing 1,000-yard wideout Ed’Marques Batties hurts, but Stockstill should have more than enough help from fellow sophomore Richie James to duplicate last year’s totals.

 

30. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

Fitzgerald does not have the starting job locked down yet, as senior Damian Williams provided stiff competition in the spring, but is the likely favorite to take over for Dak Prescott in 2016. As the primary backup to Prescott last year, Fitzgerald was impressive in his limited appearances, completing 78 percent of his passes and accumulating six total touchdowns. Fitzgerald won’t come close to matching Prescott’s numbers, but his dual-threat abilities and Mississippi State’s quarterback-friendly offense push him higher up the list.

 

31. Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State

32. Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech

33. Dakota Prukop, Oregon

34. Johnny Stanton, UNLV

35. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan

36. Chase Litton, Marshall

37. Brett Rypien, Boise State

38. Drew Hare, Northern Illinois

39. Davis Webb, California

40. Deondre Francois, Florida State

41. John Franklin III, Auburn

42. Tyler Jones, Texas State

43. Kent Myers, Utah State

44. P.J. Walker, Temple

45. Garrett Smith, ULM

46. C.J. Beathard, Iowa

47. Matt Linehan, Idaho

48. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech

49. Phillip Nelson, East Carolina

50. Josh Rosen, UCLA

 

— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football 2016 Quarterback Rankings
Post date: Monday, July 18, 2016 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/why-ohio-state-will-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2016
Body:

enters the 2016 season with more questions than the Buckeyes have had before at any time during Urban Meyer's tenure. Nine underclassmen joined last season's outgoing senior class in hopes of making it in the NFL. Some of them — including Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa — were among the most dominant players in college football over the last couple of years.

 

Related:

 

The end results of the mass exodus/player turnover in Columbus are the appearance of vulnerability and the hope that potential can quickly translate into production. Meyer has recruited as well as anyone in the country since he's been at Ohio State. That — combined with some key returnees — means Ohio State is likely to stay on or close to the top of the college football mountain in 2016. This also means that the Buckeyes will remain a target of opportunity for teams looking to impress the College Football Playoff Selection Committee with a quality win, so they'll have the full attention of every team on their schedule.

 

Three Reasons Why Ohio State Will Make the College Football Playoff in 2016

 

1. J.T. Barrett's Leadership and Playmaking Ability

You could make a case for Barrett as the best quarterback in all of college football. His skills are a perfect fit for what Meyer wants to do on offense, and it's safe to say Barrett has mastered the scheme. Between his arm, his quick feet and his unselfishness when it comes to distributing the football, Ohio State shouldn't have much trouble moving the chains and putting up points — regardless of the lack of name-brand talent in the offensive huddle.

 

2. Greg Schiano Helping the Defense

Schiano's hiring as associate head coach/defensive coordinator went a bit under the radar considering the caliber of coach he's been at the collegiate level. The man who is essentially responsible for putting Rutgers on the map steps in to help co-coordinator Luke Fickell coach an underrated defense with stars at every level. Look for Schiano to solidify a secondary that will be led by Garion Conley and improve a pass rush that will feature Sam Hubbard — a star in the making — and Tyquan Lewis, who was just named to the Nagurski Watch List. Having one of the top linebackers in the country in Raekwon McMillan roaming the field is just icing on the cake.

 

3. Special Teams Controlling Field Position

Elite special teams play is a silent contributor to Ohio State's success. The Buckeyes were able to force opponents to travel greater distances to score than any team in the country in 2016. The average drive against Ohio State started just short of the 25-yard line (24.8). Cameron Johnston — one of the best punters in the nation — was a big reason for that and he'll be looking to repeat his success in 2016. On the other side of the ball, Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson are both dangerous return men who should help the Buckeyes start drives in very good field position, just as they did a season ago when Ohio State began their average drive at the 34.5-yard line, which was third best in the nation.

 

Three Reasons Why Ohio State Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2016

 

1. The Loss of Star Power

We can downplay it all day, but the fact of the matter is that players like Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa and Von Bell are just special. Losing those guys as well as the other seniors and early NFL Draft entrants is going to impact the Buckeyes — especially early in the season. You can talk about recruiting rankings until you are blue in the face, but the reality is that nobody knows how anyone is going to pan out until a player is thrown into the fire. Talented as they have the potential to be, the Buckeyes are as raw as any team in the Big Ten heading into 2016.

 

2. The Schedule is No Cakewalk

The Buckeyes will still be figuring out who they are as a team when they visit Norman to face Oklahoma on Sept. 17. Later in the season, they travel to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State before finishing the season at home against a Michigan team that figures to be a national title contender. Going 3-2 in those five games would be quite an accomplishment for any team in the country. Unfortunately, no two-loss team has qualified for the College Football Playoff since its inception, and it's doubtful that changes anytime soon.

 

3. Factors Outside of Their Control

There are only four spots in the College Football Playoff. During the two years of its existence so far, one Power Five conference champion has been left out each time. It's only a matter of time until the Big Ten is on the short end of that stick. Strength of schedule, records and timing of losses all play a factor. If Ohio State runs the table, they probably have little to worry about. More realistically, however, is the possibility of being one of five or six one-loss Power Five teams. If that is the case, their College Football Playoff fate is out of their hands. The Buckeyes will need to sit back and hope that both they and their opponents have done enough over the duration of the 2016 season to impress the selection committee.

 

Final Verdict

 

The Buckeyes are at least as talented as every team on their schedule. The Oklahoma game might very well be the only game all season where Ohio State is not favored. Urban Meyer’s team could lose that game and go unbeaten in the Big Ten, with the toughest conference game (including the Big Ten Championship Game) being the home tilt against Michigan. Given that, going 11-1 in the regular season with a win in the conference championship game should be more than enough to get the Buckeyes back into the College Football Playoff. Even with the loss of talent, the 2016 Buckeyes will still be one of the most gifted teams to a man in the nation.

 

Athlon's Projected Final Ranking: 3

Athlon's Projected Final Record: (12-1, 9-0 Big Ten)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 9

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 9

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Teaser:
Why Ohio State Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2016
Post date: Monday, July 18, 2016 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/examining-overunder-2016-win-totals-mid-american-conference
Body:

The MAC has turned into quite the brand and a lot of it comes from the wild conference games that can be seen on almost any day of the week during the college football season. Last year the conference registered only three bowl wins in seven opportunities. There should be plenty of offense once again in 2016.

 

Related:

 

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

 

Note: Over/under odds courtesy of South Point Casino

 

MAC East

 

(Over 5 wins +105...Under 5 wins -125)

 

Record Last Year: 8-5, 5-3

 

Returning Starters: 6 (2 on offense, 4 on defense)

 

Offense:The Zips don't return much, but they dipped into the transfer market to help fix that. Warren Ball comes over from Ohio State. Quarterback Thomas Woodson will have former Utah State Aggie wide receiver/return specialist JoJo Natson to throw to. The real issue is up front where Akron has to replace all five starters.

 

Defense: Jamal Marcus and Se'Von Pittman are solid bookend defensive linemen to build around. DeAndre Scott had six interceptions last year. This group had the third-ranked rushing defense last year, allowing just 92.9 yards per game.

 

Schedule: Akron hosts VMI before playing at Wisconsin and Marshall. The Zips close out non-conference play at home against Appalachian State. They finish out with two of their final three at home, although Toledo and Bowling Green are the opponents.

 

Selection:I think five is about right although I tend to lean to the under. The offense will need time to gel while the defense will take a step back from it's successful stint last season.

 

(Over 7 wins -125...Under 7 wins +105)

 

Record Last Year: 10-4, 7-1

 

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

 

Offense: This team was fun to watch last year. They were the sixth-ranked scoring offense because of a ton of returnees and talent. This year that's not the case as former head coach Dino Babers is now at Syracuse while expected starting quarterback James Knapke attempted just 20 passes all of last season. The only stud receiver that's back is Ronnie Moore while Fred Coppet will get the carries.

 

Defense: After allowing nearly 500 yards per game in 2014, this side of the ball improved slightly. Linebackers Austin Valdez and Trenton Greene each are back and they figure to be around the ball after making 271 tackles combined in 2015.

 

Schedule: The Falcons play at Memphis and Ohio State to go with home matchups against North Dakota and Middle Tennessee. They also have four road games over five weeks from Oct. 8 to Nov. 9.

 

Selection: Slight lean to the under. Bowling Green gets the better MAC teams on the road and I'm not ready to say this defense will get a stop when it needs to. Even with the coaching change and all of the personnel losses these Falcons should still be fun to watch though.

 

(Over 5 wins -105...Under 5 wins -115)

 

Record Last Year: 5-7, 3-5

 

Returning Starters: 10 (2 on offense, 8 on defense)

 

Offense: There's a lot to rebuild here with the returnees coming on the offensive line. Tyree Jackson and Grant Rohach will battle for the QB job as Chris Merchant decided to transfer. This side of the ball will struggle with all the youth and inexperience.

 

Defense: The good thing is that coordinator Brian Borland's bunch will be improved. The front four is back along with Brandon Berry at linebacker. Cornerback Boise Ross was eighth in the country last year in passes defended.

 

Schedule: Albany opens things up again before contests at Nevada, home against Army and at Boston College. The toughest MAC games are on the road – at Northern Illinois, Ohio, Western Michigan and Bowling Green.

 

Selection: Five is a good number, but the lean is to the under. Buffalo should get two wins out of conference, but the Bulls could struggle with a lackluster offense in the high-powered MAC.

 

(Over 4.5 wins -125...Under 4.5 wins +105)

 

Record Last Year: 3-9, 2-6

 

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

 

Offense: The pieces are in place here for this team to take a step up from last year's 13.1 points per game. George Bollas and Colin Reardon are back along with Nick Holley and Johnny Woods. The offensive line is pretty much intact. 

 

Defense: This side of the ball was very good, allowing just over 350 yards per game. Nate Holley led the team with 141 tackles from his safety spot. End Terrence Waugh and cornerback Demetrius Monday also are back. There's a lot to like about Kent State's defense.

 

Schedule: The Golden Flashes play at Penn State and Alabama. They also host North Carolina A&T and Monmouth so it balances out. Kent State's toughest stretch is three of four on the road in October.

 

Selection: Lean to the over here as this team is going to be better on offense and that'll with pair nicely with a pretty good defense. The Golden Flashes might even steal one at home against Northern Illinois, Western Michigan or Ohio.

 

(Over 4 wins -125...Under 4 wins +105)

 

Record Last Year: 3-9, 2-6

 

Returning Starters: 13 (7 on offense, 6 on defense)

 

Offense: Good news, bad news here as Miami returns a bunch of players, but it's from a group that scored just 17.9 points per game in 2015. Quarterback Billy Bahl needs to cut down on the turnovers after 13 interceptions last year. He has an experienced WR group as well as a veteran OL.

 

Defense: The RedHawks’ defense wasn't very good last year. J.T. Jones is back with his 10 sacks as well as Paul Moses at linebacker. The secondary is pretty experienced with mostly juniors and seniors.

 

Schedule: Miami finishes with three of its final five on the road. The RedHawks play at Iowa and Cincinnati while hosting Eastern Illinois and Western Kentucky.

 

Selection: Four is a good number although I lean under here. The MAC East is filled with a ton of bad teams so it's hard to sort out which is going to have a good season. Offense figures to be an issue for the RedHawks once again in 2016.

 

(Over 7.5 wins +120...Under 7.5 wins -140)

 

Record Last Year: 8-5, 5-3

 

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

 

Offense: There’s some uncertainty at quarterback with J.D. Sprague coming off of offseason shoulder surgery. The team's top three receivers are back along with A.J. Ouellette at running back. Sprague has plenty of experience under center, but the shoulder is a concern.

 

Defense: I'm a fan of linebacker Quentin Poling, who could wind up the MAC’s defensive player of the year. Thankfully there's talent in the front seven because the secondary could be the weak point.

 

Schedule: Road games at Kansas and Tennessee are sandwiched by home dates with Texas State and Gardner-Webb. Ohio plays three of its final five on the road. 

 

Selection: The money move is right as the under is the play here. Head coach Frank Solich has done great things for Ohio, but he's got holes in certain places that might be tough to overcome.

 

 

MAC West

 

(Over 4.5 wins -110...Under 4.5 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 3-9, 2-6

 

Returning Starters: 14 (5 on offense, 9 on defense)

 

Offense: Quarterback Riley Neal is back under center and he figures to be busy as the team installs more offensive principles like the Saints use in the NFL with former New Orleans assistant and Ball State quarterback Mike Neu returning to take over at his alma mater. Wide receivers KeVonn Mabon and Corey Lacanaria will be asked to replace the production of the departed Jordan Williams. The offensive line could take time to come together with only one returning starter.

 

Defense: New coordinator Tim Daoust gets the task to try and improve one of the worst defenses in the FBS last year. Linebacker Sean Wiggins and end Joshua Posley were All-MAC players last season. The secondary returns largely intact so things should start to look up in Muncie.

 

Schedule: The Cardinals play three of their first four on the road, but they get three straight MAC games at home later on. The non-MAC opponents are at Georgia State, at Indiana followed by Eastern Kentucky at home then at Florida Atlantic.

 

Selection: I know it seems like a pattern here, but the under is the way to go. The Cardinals’ defense will hold this team back, plus the fact that they play in the stronger division.

 

(Over 7 wins -135...Under 7 wins +115)

 

Record Last Year: 7-6, 6-2

 

Returning Starters: 14 (7 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense: Quarterback Cooper Rush is back for his senior season along with running back Devon Spalding and wide receivers Jesse Kroll and Mark Chapman. The offensive line will be the key especially if the Chippewas can figure out the left side.

 

Defense: There's a lot to like here even though the front line is relatively new. Linebacker Malik Fountain and safety Tony Anneese are two veteran presences. Special teams also should be solid.

 

Schedule: Central Michigan hosts Presbyterian and UNLV as well as playing at Oklahoma State and Virginia for its non-conference slate. In MACtion, the Chippewas will travel to Northern Illinois and Toledo in back-to-back weeks in the middle of October.

 

Selection: I like the over. Rush is one of the best QBs in the conference and the right players are back on defense to make bowl eligibility an almost certainty.

 

(Over 3.5 wins EVEN...Under 3.5 wins -120)

 

Record Last Year: 1-11, 0-8

 

Returning Starters: 15 (7 on offense, 8 on defense)

 

Offense: Brogan Roback was the best QB the Eagles had last year and he's back. The offensive line should be strong with everyone back, but the WR group is relatively new. Eastern Michigan needs running back Shaq Vann to be solid in the backfield.

 

Defense: This side of the ball allowed more than 300 yards rushing per game in 2015. Sure the Eagles have plenty of returnees, but will any of them get better? Coordinator Neal Neathery comes over from UTSA and plans to try a 4-2-5 alignment.

 

Schedule: The Eagles host Mississippi Valley State before road tilts against Missouri and Charlotte. Eastern Michigan then gets Wyoming at home before three straight against the better MAC teams.

 

Selection: There are enough winnable games to go over this total, but I just don't know if this defense can make stops when it matters. Head coach Chris Creighton continues to have his work cut out for him at arguably the toughest job in FBS.

 

(Over 8.5 wins -105...Under 8.5 wins -115)

 

Record Last Year: 8-6, 6-2

 

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

 

Offense: Quarterback Drew Hare, RB Joel Bouagnon and WR Kenny Golladay are the senior leaders here. The Huskies scored more than 30 points per game last season and could approach that again in 2016.

 

Defense: The defense was mediocre last year although the Huskies did hold Ohio State to 20 points in September. The front seven has some experience back and with some health, this unit should be fine.

 

Schedule: Northern Illinois gets its away games in groups with a pair of back-to-backs and a finishing stretch of three outside of DeKalb. The good thing for the Huskies is three straight home games over a span that stretches from Oct. 15 to Nov. 1.

 

Selection: Only a lean to the over. There are some toss-up games that could go either way. There's a winning pedigree here which makes me think they can pull out close games.

 

(Over 7 wins -125...Under 7 wins +105)

 

Record Last Year: 10-2, 6-2

 

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

 

Offense: New head coach Jason Candle takes over for Matt Campbell (Iowa State) in Toledo and he's got running back Kareem Hunt to rely on. Hunt had 12 rushing touchdowns last year. Logan Woodside is back under center with Corey Jones and Cody Thompson out wide.

 

Defense: Getting pressure will be an issue for Toledo with just defensive tackle Treyvon Hester returning up front. The Rockets were porous against the pass and could repeat that in 2016 with safety DeJuan Rogers being the only returnee in the secondary.

 

Schedule: The Rockets play three of their first five on the road before three straight at home. In non-conference action, they get Maine and Fresno State in the Glass Bowl while travelling to Arkansas State and BYU. Overall, they play just five true road games.

 

Selection: I like the over. The offense will be near the top of the conference in a bunch of categories. If the defense can play just a bit better Toledo could end up taking the MAC West.

 

(Over 8.5 wins -130...Under 8.5 wins +110)

 

Record Last Year: 8-5, 6-2

 

Returning Starters: 13 (8 on offense, 5 on defense)

 

Offense: The run game figures to be the strength with both Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin back. It takes the pressure off quarterback Zach Terrell, who has his security blanket Corey Davis back. This offense will be fun to watch.

 

Defense: The Broncos’ defense may struggle at times. Safety Asantay Brown and linebacker Robert Spillane are the leaders. The secondary could feature a couple of freshmen.

 

Schedule: Western Michigan alternates road and home games until Nov. 8. The Broncos get Northern Illinois and Toledo at home, which could be big in deciding the eventual division champion in the West.

 

Selection: I like the over as I think Western Michigan will win this division. The offense will be tough to slow down in a conference that has a lot of shoddy defenses. It would be nice if head coach P.J. Fleck finally beat Northern Illinois though.

 

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

 

(Joel Bouagnon photo courtesy of Scott Walstrom-NIU Photography)

Teaser:
Examining the Over/Under 2016 Win Totals for the Mid-American Conference
Post date: Monday, July 18, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/sec-wild-card-players-2016
Body:

If you pay attention to football at all, or just college football in general, you probably already know names like Leonard Fournette at LSU, Myles Garrett at Texas A&M, and Chad Kelly at Ole Miss. Indeed, many of the SEC’s top players have million-dollar paydays waiting for them as presumed high 2017 NFL Draft picks just a few months down the road.

 

Related:

 

But many of the conference’s key contributors tend to fly under the radar. Yet, often it’s these guys, not the top stars, who seemingly come out of nowhere to help their teams win. Whether it’s batting away a crucial pass on third and long, or making a key “pull and kick” block on a defensive end, these players can be just as important as the future NFL players.

 

Here is a look at the SEC’s wild card players on offense and defense for each team entering 2016.

 

SEC East

 

 

Offense: Martez Ivey, Offensive Tackle

Florida didn’t have a lot of bright spots on offense last season, but the tackle position should be one the Gators feel comfortable about. Ivey, an Apopka native, played in all 12 games and started the last eight. He also was named to the SEC Coaches’ All-Freshman team. For an offense that desperately needs talented blockers and leadership, it will be nice to build around Ivey. He’s the kind of player that could anchor Florida’s offensive line in years to come.

 

Defense: Marcus Maye, Defensive Back

When discussing Florida’s secondary, everyone wants to talk about Jalen Tabor. But while all the spotlight was on Tabor, and Vernon Hargreaves III before him, Maye proved to be one of the SEC’s most underrated players. He finished fourth on the team with 82 tackles last season, and also broke up six passes. Perhaps the most important part of Maye’s game is his ability to scare opposing receivers. He was one of the SEC’s hardest-hitting safeties last season, forcing five fumbles.

 

 

Offense: Sony Michel, Running Back

Nick Chubb will be Georgia’s workhorse at running back whenever he gets healthy. However, nobody really knows when that will be, plus, he can’t do everything by himself. Michel has to be Chubb’s “Scottie Pippen,” if you will. Michel has proven his reliability in Chubb’s absence. While he will be recovering from a non-football related injury himself, Michel should be ready to go early in the season. The Bulldogs may need him to carry the load at times.

 

Defense: Dominick Sanders, Defensive Back

With pass rushers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins off to the NFL, Georgia may need its defensive backs to stick to receivers a couple more seconds on average this fall. Last season, Sanders led all of Georgia’s sophomores in tackles, with 48. He also led the team with six passes broken up. Now in his junior year, Sanders looks to be one of the Bulldogs’ top defenders. He was recently named to the Bednarik Award watch list.

 

 

Offense: Jojo Kemp, Running Back

Kentucky’s running game often relies on the big-play ability of Stanley “Boom” Williams. However, last season, Kemp had nearly as many carries (98) and amassed more than 500 yards on the ground with them. Williams and Kemp each had six rushing touchdowns. The Wildcats have an experienced offensive line returning, so they will need each of their running backs to contribute. Kemp is the one often overlooked, but Kentucky’s coaches chose him, among two other players, to represent the ‘Cats at SEC Media Days.

 

Defense: Marcus McWilson, Defensive Back

The Wildcats’ defense has been one of the SEC’s worst over the past couple seasons. Now, that unit has to replace a plethora of seniors. McWilson will be one of the most experienced returners on Kentucky’s defense. He had 66 tackles last year and was the only junior to finish in the top seven on Kentucky’s tackle charts. McWilson also is versatile enough to play the nickel back position.

 

 

Offense: Ish Witter, Running Back

Let’s face it. Mizzou’s running game, and the rest of the offense, was terrible last season. But as a sophomore, Witter was the Tigers’ leading rusher, finishing with more than 500 yards on the ground. That included 98 yards rushing in a key win over South Carolina. Additionally, Witter has shown some ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, finishing fifth in receiving yards. A lot of the Tigers’ offensive success will hinge on Witter’s ability to make plays.

 

Defense: Walter Brady, Defensive End

Missouri’s defensive line should be straight up nasty in 2016. Terry Beckner Jr. is back at defensive tackle after tearing his ACL last season and defensive end Charles Harris is one of the best in the country. The wild card? Look no further than Brady. He had 11.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks at the other defensive end spot last season. While opponents focus on double-teaming Harris, Brady can wreak havoc.

 

 

Offense: Lorenzo Nunez, Quarterback

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position at South Carolina. Connor Mitch decided to transfer and none of the players competing for the spot have a ton of experience. Nunez played in eight games last season and had the highest completion percentage (61.5) among those vying for the starting spot. He also was safer with the ball than Perry Orth, who threw nine interceptions.

 

Defense: Marquavius Lewis, Defensive End

South Carolina has a diamond in the rough in Lewis. The senior was one of only six players to start every game last season and amassed an impressive 45 tackles from the defensive end position. Lewis also finished second on the team with three sacks. He hurried the quarterback an additional six times, showing that he can be relied on as a pass rusher. The Gamecocks need all the help they can get on defense, and it will be nice to have Lewis as a consistent presence.

 

 

Offense: Josh Smith, Wide Receiver

Quite possibly the most underrated player on Tennessee’s roster, Smith brings reliability at the receiver position – an area where the Volunteers have a lot of talent, but are still unproven. Last season, Smith was one of quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ favorite targets, hauling in 23 passes for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but Tennessee had a much stronger presence on the ground. Simply put, Smith catches the ball when it is thrown his way, and that’s what Tennessee needs.

 

Defense: Corey Vereen, Defensive End

Derek Barnett is one of the best pass rushers in the SEC. But while Barnett has been a star in his first two years with the Vols, Vereen has proven himself as a solid presence off the other edge. He was third on the team in sacks last season (3.5) and led the team in quarterback hurries (8). This year, if Vereen can wrap up on a few more of those hurries, he should finish even higher on the SEC sack chart.

 

 

Offense: Kyle Shurmur, Quarterback

A 43 percent completion rate isn’t going to cut it in the SEC, but there’s a reason head coach Derek Mason named Shurmur the “clear-cut starter” at quarterback last week. Shurmur still has some growing to do, but he has the most upside of any of the Commodore quarterbacks. Filling in midseason in 2015, a young Shurmur showed some bright spots when he threw for 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Kentucky. In the final week of the season against rival Tennessee, Shurmur threw for a career-high 209 yards and three touchdowns.

 

Defense: Oren Burks, Defensive Back

Only a sophomore last season, Burks finished third on the team in total tackles with 59. Burks also broke up six passes and forced a fumble. Vanderbilt’s defense should be one of the SEC’s best once again this season, but it needs to continue to develop playmakers in the secondary. Burks is the kind of defender who can swat away a crucial pass when the game is on the line – and the Commodores certainly need those clutch players.

 

SEC West

 

 

Offense: Ross Pierschbacher, Center

It’s always easy to find stats on skill players and point out which ones make the biggest difference for a team, but how about a little love for the center position? Because at Alabama, that position matters a ton. From Barrett Jones to Ryan Kelly more recently, the Crimson Tide have had key leadership at the center position. Pierschbacher’s move from guard to center in the offseason signifies that the offensive staff has faith in his leadership ability. He’s not a bad blocker, either.

 

Defense: Ryan Anderson, Linebacker

Whether you look at Alabama’s defensive line, linebacker corps or secondary, chances are you’ll find a future NFL player somewhere. Anderson will be a senior for the Crimson Tide this season, and his experience likely will be a key factor in some games. Sharing the spotlight with Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster last season, Anderson contributed 37 tackles, but more importantly, got better as the season went along. He also had 10 quarterback hurries. We know Bama’s linebackers can stop the run, but Anderson can get to the quarterback as well.

 

 

Offense: Jeremy Sprinkle, Tight End

Everyone wants to talk about the fact that Arkansas will be without Hunter Henry at tight end this fall. And sure, Henry was a great player. But the Hogs aren’t short on tight ends. Sprinkle caught 27 passes for nearly 400 yards receiving last year, and also grabbed six touchdowns. He has to get better as a blocker in Arkansas’ usual smash-mouth offense, but when the Razorbacks go to the air, Sprinkle will be a popular target.

 

Defense: McTelvin Agim, Defensive End

Hope, Ark., (that’s also where former president Bill Clinton is from) native McTelvin Agim will be just a true freshman this season, but he is one of Arkansas’ most decorated signees in some time. Agim is a powerful, strong-side defensive end. A former 5-star recruit, Agim already has the build to push for playing time in the SEC. He will add depth, and probably more, to an already-stout Arkansas defensive line.

 

 

Offense: Alex Kozan, Offensive Guard

This season, Auburn likely will rely on its offensive line and running game more than it will the pass. The Tigers’ strength on offense lies on the offensive line and Kozan will anchor that group from the left guard position. New offensive line coach Herb Hand was extremely impressed with Kozan’s leadership in the spring, and it’s pretty clear that he makes the rest of the group better. Kozan is a first-team offensive lineman on Athlon’s 2016 All-SEC team.

 

Defense: Carl Lawson, Defensive End  

One would be hard-pressed to find a guy who is more eager to break out in 2016 than Lawson. In 2013, Lawson was a freshman All-American but since then, most of his college football career has been hampered by injuries. When he finally returned for seven games last season, Auburn’s defense was significantly better. Lawson is a major game-changer. He fits the definition of a wild card player, because he adds another element to Auburn’s defense – if he can stay healthy.

 

 

Offense: Derrius Guice, Running Back

Sort of how Chubb needs Michel at Georgia, Fournette needs Guice at LSU. Yes, Fournette is the star, and will certainly be in the Heisman Trophy conversation once again this fall. But Guice is a superb relief back. As a freshman last season, Guice finished in the top 20 in the SEC in rushing, despite getting only 51 carries. To put that in perspective, Guice averaged 8.5 yards per carry, while Fournette averaged only 6.5. It’s safe to say Guice is a big-play back.

 

Defense: Arden Key, Defensive End

There’s not exactly a shortage of defensive standouts on LSU’s roster this year, but Key could be a breakout star. He had five sacks as a freshman last season and one of his best performances of the year came in LSU’s 30-16 loss at Alabama. Key showed that he’s not afraid to get after the quarterback, and also has no problem getting around seasoned offensive linemen. Key should become a common fixture on LSU’s defensive line over the next two seasons.

 

 

Offense: Nick Fitzgerald, Quarterback

Being “the guy after the guy” is never easy, but people in Starkville should be happy about what the new quarterback brings to the table. First off, Fitzgerald is only a sophomore so head coach Dan Mullen has plenty of time to mold him. But the underclassman also performed well in limited action last season, completing 11 of 14 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. And like Dak Prescott, Fitzgerald also showed an ability to get the job done on the ground, rushing for three touchdowns.

 

Defense: J.T. Gray, Linebacker

As a sophomore last season, Gray had 65 stops, good for fourth on the team. Mississippi State returns six starters on defense, and Gray should emerge as one of the Bulldogs’ key tacklers. Gray performed well later in the season, notching eight tackles against Ole Miss, then another nine in the bowl game against NC State.

 

 

Offense: Damore’ea Stringfellow, Wide Receiver

Last season, Stringfellow was Ole Miss’ No. 4 receiver, but this year he will move into a more pivotal role in the Rebels’ passing game. With Chad Kelly back at quarterback, Ole Miss will assuredly air it out quite a bit and Stringfellow should be one of the top targets. He had 503 yards receiving last season and snagged five touchdown passes.

 

Defense: Kendarius Webster, Defensive Back

Webster returns in the Rebels’ secondary, and it’s a good thing. Ole Miss lost two important defensive backs in Trae Elston and Mike Hilton. Webster comes into the fall as one of the most promising young DBs in the SEC. He broke up 11 passes last season and defended 12. Webster also picked off a pass against Texas A&M and finished the year with 41 total tackles. Along with Tony Bridges, Webster looks to be a threat at cornerback for the Rebels.

 

 

Offense: Trevor Knight, Quarterback

It’s pretty obvious, but Knight is still a wild card because we just don’t know what we’re going to get from him at A&M. He was fantastic at Oklahoma through the first part of the2014 season, but Baker Mayfield ended up being the more viable option for the Sooners. We know that Knight is used to slinging the ball around and can scramble, so he should fit right in Kevin Sumlin’s offensive game plan. Only time will tell.

 

Defense: Armani Watts, Defensive Back

Arguably one of the SEC’s most underrated defenders last season, Watts knows how to impact a game. In his sophomore season with the Aggies, Watts led the team with 126 tackles. An astounding 83 of those were solo stops. His presence on the field is truly significant. Don’t be surprised if Watts is regarded as one of the SEC’s most feared safeties by the end of the 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 .

Teaser:
SEC Wild Card Players in 2016
Post date: Monday, July 18, 2016 - 10:30
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Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-breakout-quarterbacks-2016
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It’s no secret quarterback play is an integral part of every college football team and its hopes of winning a national title, contending for a conference championship or simply making a bowl. However, this position is also the most difficult one to judge, rank or evaluate. With the uncertainty and difficulty in evaluating this position, it should come as no surprise that a handful of names emerge as breakout stars during every college football season. 

 

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Who are the next breakout stars at quarterback for 2016? Athlon has compiled 25 names to watch, along with a few others to consider. 

 

College Football's Top 25 Breakout QBs for 2016

 

Just Missed: Tyler O’Connor, Michigan State; Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt; Alec Morris, North Texas; Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

 

25. Garrett Smith, ULM

New coach Matt Viator has plenty of holes to fill in his first year on the job. The Warhawks return nine starters, including just two on defense. While the defense will require some major renovating, ULM has pieces to work with on offense. Smith had a promising debut last season, throwing for 2,033 yards and 17 touchdowns in 10 appearances. He also added 250 yards and two scores on the ground. With a deep group of receivers in place, along with the addition of new coordinator Matt Kubik, Smith is poised to build off his freshman campaign in 2016.

 

24. Johnny Stanton, UNLV

UNLV only improved its win total by one game from 2014 to 2015, but the Rebels took a step forward in coach Tony Sanchez’s first year. And with 16 returning starters in place for 2016, there’s optimism for UNLV to make a push for a bowl this fall. Sanchez has recruited well, which includes a big commitment from Stanton in the 2016 signing class. The former Nebraska quarterback spent 2015 at Saddleback Community College and finished the year by passing for 3,471 yards and 27 scores and adding 747 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Stanton ranked as a three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite and could be the Mountain West’s top newcomer for 2016.

 

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23. Tago Smith, Navy

Replacing Keenan Reynolds isn’t going to be easy. However, as coach Ken Niumatalolo has done throughout his tenure, the Midshipmen will simply reload and push for eight or nine-win season. Smith is slated to replace Reynolds, and the Georgia native has fared well in limited action. The senior has played in 18 career games and completed 12 of 17 throws for 245 yards and four scores. Additionally, Smith has rushed for 294 yards and five touchdowns. He may not be as dynamic or as valuable as Reynolds, but Smith should be a solid starter for the Midshipmen.

 

22. Trace McSorley, Penn State

After two subpar years on offense, James Franklin hit the reset button this offseason. Joe Moorhead was hired as the team’s new coordinator, and former Minnesota assistant Matt Limegrover is tasked with improving a struggling offensive line. Moorhead is one of the Big Ten’s top assistant hires for 2016 and has to groom a new starter at quarterback with Christian Hackenberg off to the NFL. McSorley played well in limited action last season, completing 20 of 40 passes for 185 yards and two scores. Most of his playing time came against Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl after Hackenberg was lost due to injury. In that contest, McSorley completed 14 of 27 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns and rallied the Nittany Lions from a 24-3 deficit to a 24-17 game late in the fourth quarter. McSorley is still largely an unknown, but the new offense should be more quarterback friendly and there’s no shortage of talent at the skill positions. 

 

21. Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech

New coach Justin Fuente certainly has an eye for quarterback talent and developing players at this position. Under Fuente’s watch, Andy Dalton blossomed into one of the nation’s top quarterbacks at TCU, while Memphis’ Paxton Lynch was a first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Could Evans be Fuente’s next star under center? The Texas native ranked as a four-star junior college recruit in the 2016 signing class by the 247Sports Composite and heads to Blacksburg after throwing for 3,164 yards and 38 scores last season.

 

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20. Kenny Potter, San Jose State

Potter was a key pickup on the recruiting trail last year for coach Ron Caragher and was one of the driving forces behind San Jose State’s first bowl appearance in three seasons. As expected with any first-year starter, Potter had his share of ups and downs. However, Potter still finished the season with 1,984 yards and 15 passing scores and added 415 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. The California native also posted back-to-back 300-yard performances in late November and earned honorable mention All-Mountain West honors. With a full season to get acclimated to the FBS level, Potter is due for a breakout year this fall.

 

19. Riley Neal, Ball State

New coach Mike Neu arrives in Muncie after spending the last two seasons in New Orleans working with Drew Brees as the Saints quarterback coach. Neu has a lot of work to do, as he inherits a team that finished 3-9 last fall. However, Neu has plenty of promising pieces to work with on offense, starting with Neal under center. As a true freshman in 2015, Neal threw for 2,276 yards and 16 touchdowns and added 399 yards and two scores on the ground. Neal should easily surpass those totals under Neu’s watch and with a full season of starts.

 

18. Shane Buechele, Texas

Buechele isn’t guaranteed the starting job over Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard, but the true freshman made a strong impression in spring practice and heads into fall as the favorite to win the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. In the final spring scrimmage, Buechele led the way for the Longhorns’ offense, completing 22 of 41 passes for 299 yards and two scores. The Arlington native ranked as a four-star prospect and the No. 190 recruit nationally in the 2016 signing class by the 247Sports Composite. Buechele should be a good fit for new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s up-tempo attack.

 

17. Max Browne, USC

Browne still has to hold off redshirt freshman Sam Darnold for the starting job, but the junior left spring with a slight edge in the battle to replace Cody Kessler. Browne is a former five-star prospect and ranked as the No. 11 overall recruit in the 2013 247Sports Composite. The Washington native has only played in nine games through two seasons and completed 11 of 19 throws for 143 yards in that span. Helping Browne’s transition into the starting role is the Pac-12’s top offensive line, standout receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running backs Justin Davis and Ronald Jones.

 

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16. Keller Chryst, Stanford

Kevin Hogan wasn’t flashy, but he was a huge reason why Stanford claimed three out of the last four Pac-12 Championships. While it’s no secret Hogan will be missed, the Cardinal aren’t hurting for talent or options at quarterback. Chryst left spring with a slight edge over Ryan Burns for the starting nod, and the former four-star recruit worked as Hogan’s backup in four games last year, completing 5 of 9 passes for 59 yards and one score. With running back Christian McCaffrey returning, Stanford’s offense will run through its ground attack this fall. However, Chryst has a chance to blossom into a solid starter in his first full year under center for coach David Shaw.

 

15. Brandon Silvers, Troy

Second-year coach Neal Brown has Troy trending in the right direction, and the Trojans should contend for bowl and a spot among the league’s top teams in 2016. Silvers is a big reason for the optimism at Troy after throwing for 2,378 yards and 20 scores in 11 games last year. Additionally, Silvers posted three games of at least four passing touchdowns and finished the 2015 campaign by torching UL Lafayette for 320 yards in the season finale.

 

14. Mike White, WKU

WKU’s high-powered offense is looking for a new signal-caller after Brandon Doughty finished his eligibility with a huge senior season. White is the frontrunner to replace Doughty, and the South Florida transfer showed promise in limited action during his stint with the Bulls. In 11 appearances for USF in 2014, White threw for 1,639 yards and eight scores and connected on 12 passes of 30 yards or more. With a standout receiving corps and offensive line, as well as the opportunity to work with Jeff Brohm – one of the nation’s top coaches on the rise – White should keep the Hilltoppers’ attack performing at a high level.

 

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13. Austin Allen, Arkansas

The Razorbacks quietly led the SEC (conference-only games) in scoring offense (34.4 ppg) last year. The hire of Dan Enos as the program’s offensive coordinator paid huge dividends, and his arrival helped transform Brandon Allen into one of the league’s top quarterbacks. Can Enos work the same type of magic in 2016? The second-year coordinator has plenty of talented candidates on the depth chart to consider, but Brandon’s brother – Austin Allen – is the frontrunner. The Fayetteville native has played in eight games over the last two seasons and completed 9 of 19 throws for 188 yards in that span. Allen has a lot to prove in his first year as the starter. However, the Razorbacks have one of the SEC’s top coordinators in Enos, as well as a deep group of options at receiver.  

 

12. Dakota Prukop, Oregon

Whether it’s Prukop or redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen guiding the Ducks’ offense, it’s a safe bet to assume Oregon will once again rank near the top of the Pac-12 in scoring. After Vernon Adams emerged as one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks last season, the Ducks hope to strike gold with another FCS transfer under center. Prukop earned first-team All-America honors by the Associated Press in 2015 after accounting for 39 total scores and 3,822 yards for Montana State. The senior may not be the dynamic option through the air that Adams was, but he will be more of a factor on the ground. 

 

11. Kenny Hill, TCU

Pencil in the winner of TCU’s quarterback battle here. Hill is the favorite, but sophomore Foster Sawyer isn’t far behind. Hill inherited big shoes to fill at Texas A&M after Johnny Manziel’s early departure to the NFL and started the first eight games of 2014. In that eight-game stint, Hill threw for 2,649 yards and 23 scores, while rushing for 156 yards on 52 carries. Hill lost his starting job to Kyle Allen in 2014, but the Southlake, Texas native has a chance to rebound in a big way in Fort Worth. Co-coordinator Doug Meacham has transformed TCU’s offense into one of the best in the Big 12, and Hill’s transition into the starting role is eased by a cast of talented skill players.

 

Related:

 

10. Kent Myers, Utah State

Injuries pressed Myers into starting duty as a true freshman in 2014 and once again last fall. And in both years, Myers more than held his own and showcased the potential to be one of the Mountain West’s top quarterbacks. After season-ending injuries to Darell Garrettson and Chuckie Keeton in 2014, Myers threw for 866 yards and five scores and added 305 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Myers had an opportunity for extended action last season and led Utah State with 1,593 yards and 16 passing scores, while adding 357 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Myers enters 2016 as the unquestioned starter and should be one of the leaders for a Utah State offense returning nine starters.

 

9. Eric Dungey, Syracuse

Syracuse has ranked near the bottom of the ACC in scoring offense in each of the last three seasons, but help is on the way for 2016. Dino Babers is regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive-minded coaches and arrives at Syracuse after a successful two-year stint at Bowling Green. Under Babers’ direction, the Falcons averaged 42.2 points a game and ranked fifth nationally in passing offense in 2015. Dungey showed promise as a true freshman last fall, throwing for 1,298 yards and 11 scores. The Oregon native also showed an ability to make plays on the ground (351 yards and four rushing touchdowns) but needs to do a better job of avoiding contact after missing four games due to injury. Transitioning to Babers’ offense will take some time for Syracuse’s personnel, but Dungey should get better over the course of the season.

 

Related:

 

8. Chase Litton, Marshall

Litton supplanted Michael Birdsong as Marshall’s starting quarterback early in the 2015 season and never looked back. The Tampa native finished his true freshman campaign with 2,605 passing yards and 23 scores. Additionally, he tossed only eight interceptions and completed 60.1 percent of his passes. Litton closed the year with a solid performance (23 of 34 for 218 yards) against a stout UConn defense in the St. Petersburg Bowl and also threw for 486 yards in a 34-10 victory over Charlotte. Litton will only get better with more snaps and could lead Marshall back to the Conference USA title game in 2016.

 

7. Deondre Francois, Florida State

2015 was a rare down year for quarterback play at Florida State under coach Jimbo Fisher. However, this position has two promising freshmen – Francois and Malik Henry – and senior Sean Maguire returns after starting six games last year. Maguire missed spring practice as he recovered from an ankle injury suffered in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, allowing Francois and Henry to gain valuable reps as the No. 1 quarterback. Maguire is expected to return to full strength by the opener, but Francois is expected to unseat the senior for the starting nod. Francois was a four-star prospect in the 2015 signing class and was regarded as the No. 64 overall recruit by the 247Sports Composite. Assuming Francois wins the starting job, he won’t have much time to ease into the No. 1 role with an opener versus Ole Miss on tap.  

 

6. Brett Rypien, Boise State

Quarterback play is an annual strength for Boise State, but Rypien has the potential to be the program’s best passer since Kellen Moore. Although Rypien was the top recruit for the Broncos in the 2015 signing class, Ryan Finley opened the year as the starter. However, Finley was lost for the season with an ankle injury in the third game of 2015, giving the starting job to Rypien. The true freshman never looked back, throwing for 3,350 yards and 20 scores. He also completed 63.6 percent of his passes and earned Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors. Look for Rypien to emerge as the Mountain West’s No. 1 quarterback this fall. 

 

Podcast: SEC Media Days Jam Session



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Related:

 

5. Jacob Eason, Georgia

Greyson Lambert may open the 2016 season as Georgia’s starting quarterback, but the guess here is Eason ends the year at the top of the depth chart. The Washington native ranked as the No. 2 quarterback and the No. 5 overall prospect in the 2016 signing class by the 247Sports Composite. In his senior year at Lake Stevens High School, Eason threw for 3,585 yards and tossed 43 touchdowns to only six interceptions. The 6-foot-5, 211-pound passer has all of the tools to thrive in the SEC and emerge as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks over the next few seasons.

 

4. Davis Webb, California

With one season of eligibility remaining, and Patrick Mahomes entrenched as Texas Tech’s starter, Webb decided to leave Lubbock for an opportunity to start for his senior year. The Texas native originally committed to Colorado but changed his mind and landed at California in May. Webb’s decision to transfer to Berkeley alleviates some of the concern for coach Sonny Dykes at quarterback. After all, the Golden Bears lost Jared Goff – the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft – and had a group of inexperienced candidates vying for the starting job. Webb has plenty of experience (14 career starts) and played in a similar offense to California’s Bear Raid attack while at Texas Tech. In three seasons with the Red Raiders, Webb threw for 5,557 yards and 46 scores and completed over 60 percent of his passes from 2013-14. The Golden Bears have an overhauled receiving corps in place for 2016, but Webb has the physical tools and skill-set to rank as one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks this fall.  

 

Related:

 

3. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina

Despite losing Marquise Williams – the ACC’s second-team all-conference signal-caller last year – there’s not much concern about quarterback play in Chapel Hill. Trubisky has played well in limited action and inherits a loaded group of skill players and four returning starters on one of the ACC’s top offensive lines. Trubisky played in nine games last fall and completed 40 of 47 throws for 555 yards and six scores. He also showcased his mobility with 101 rushing yards and three touchdowns. And in 12 appearances in 2014, Trubisky completed 42 of 78 passes for 459 yards and five scores. While he doesn’t have a start in his career, all signs point to Trubisky thriving in his first season as the No. 1 quarterback for coach Larry Fedora. 

 

2. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino is known for his high-powered offenses and success with traditional drop-back quarterbacks. However, adapting to new schemes and talent is nothing new to Petrino, which makes the marriage of Jackson’s dual-threat ability with the Petrino scheme an intriguing storyline to the 2016 season. Jackson’s dynamic playmaking skills were on display last season, as he threw for 1,840 yards and 12 scores and led the team with 960 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. While Jackson is still developing as a passer, Petrino and his staff have a full offseason to build an offense and a gameplan around his strengths. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the ACC, especially after Louisville finished 2015 by winning six out of its last seven games.  

Related:

 

1. Jake Browning, Washington

Washington’s young offense took its share of lumps in 2015, but the Huskies are poised for a huge breakout in 2016. Browning was the prized recruit in coach Chris Petersen’s 2015 signing class and won the starting job prior to the opener against Boise State. Browning missed one game due to injury but still finished his freshman year with solid numbers. He completed 233 of 369 passes for 2,955 yards and 16 scores. Additionally, Browning’s 63.1 completion percentage ranked third nationally among freshman quarterbacks. Browning’s supporting cast is also expected to take a step forward, as the Huskies regain a valuable deep threat in junior John Ross (missed 2015 due to a knee injury). Browning’s continued growth and development is a big reason why Washington can win the Pac-12 this fall.

Teaser:
College Football's Top 25 Breakout Quarterbacks for 2016
Post date: Monday, July 18, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/15-tweets-prove-donald-trump-americas-worst-sports-fan
Body:

Donald Trump has made a surprising run to be the Republican nominee for President in 2016, and it’s no secret he knows how to utilize social media, specifically .

 

While general tweets about politics can create their own firestorm, Trump also has a collection of comments about sports. His sports interests are well publicized, as he played a key role in the USFL’s demise and recently tried to buy the Buffalo Bills.   

 

After reading Trump’s Twitter history, he seems to have some terrible hot takes, bad scouting, and a lot of contradictory statements. Which, of course, we thought we'd share.

 

Here's a look at 15 that grabbed our attention:

 

1. It doesn't appear Donald has too good of an eye for quarterback talent: 

 

2. Only Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon...

 

3. Donald tweets Penn State should suspend its team in 2012. And then takes a completely different tone a year later:

 

4. Tim Tebow was a great college quarterback. It was clear he was not a starter in the NFL:

 

5. The Jets are going to have a terrific season with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow? They finished the season 6-10 and tied for last in the AFC East:

 

6. That's right, the beginning of the end for the NFL. Of course, Donald decided to keep tweeting and watching the NFL over the last two years and tried to buy the Bills in that same span:

 

7. Manti Te'o and a fake controversy for the Heisman? Te'o was doing pretty good without any sympathy from voters and was already considered one of the top players in the nation:

 

8. For the 2016 Super Bowl, Trump decided to pick both teams:

 

9. He seems to know a lot about legal issues and suing to get a favorable ruling...and Brady still lost versus the NFL:

 

10. The NFL is definitely in trouble...according to Donald:

 

11. All of that time saved by not watching the NFL seemed to fuel that run to the White House:

 

12. Donald seems to have trouble with the facts here. According to a report in Sports Illustrated, the NFL's ratings aren't hurting at all. :

 

13. At least he's honest. Or didn't decide to pick both teams:

 

14. Sorry, Donald. Joe Flacco is not among the NFL’s top quarterbacks:

 

15. Really?

Teaser:
15 Tweets that Prove Donald Trump is America's Worst Sports Fan
Post date: Monday, July 18, 2016 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/looking-back-ohio-states-2013-recruiting-class-part-two
Body:

Back in February 2013, head coach Urban Meyer and his coaching staff were able to sign 24 players in a recruiting class that was ranked second in the country by . Of these 24 players, Ohio State only lost three to transfer or dismissal, meaning 21 players have either started for or contributed to Ohio State since 2013.

 

dealt with the departed players. Part two will focus upon those players who have been contributors to Ohio State, with the caveat that some of these players may even emerge as starters by the conclusion of the 2016 season. Those players will be listed below, in the order that they committed to Ohio State.

 

1. Cam Burrows, DB

Burrows was the first player to verbally commit to Ohio State's 2013 class. Burrows has seen playing time at both cornerback and safety, and has been a valuable special teams contributor. Burrows fractured a bone in his foot last October, which ended his season early. Burrows could be in the running for one of the safety positions this coming season.

 

2. Evan Lisle, OL

Lisle redshirted in 2013, and did not play during the ‘14 season. With so many talented offensive linemen on the Ohio State roster, the 2016 season may be a “now or never” moment for Lisle to emerge on the offensive line depth chart.

 

3. Marcus Baugh, TE

The old cliche about a cat having nine lives could be applied to Baugh's career at Ohio State. Baugh was cited twice for underage drinking, which landed him squarely in the coaching staff’s doghouse. Playing behind Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett, Baugh contemplated leaving Ohio State in 2014. Even though Baugh had only two receptions last season, Baugh enters the fall as the projected starter at the tight end position.

 

4. Tracy Sprinkle, DL

Like his teammate Marcus Baugh, Sprinkle has had his share of off-the-field troubles that nearly derailed his Ohio State career. After redshirting in 2013, Sprinkle was arrested and suspended in July 2014 for his involvement in a bar brawl. After the charges were reduced, Sprinkle was allowed back on the team. Sprinkle is in line to be a starter at defensive tackle for Ohio State, with another year of eligibility remaining.

 

5. Chris Worley, LB

Worley came from the traditional Ohio State pipeline of Cleveland Glenville as a safety, but moved to linebacker. Worley redshirted in 2013, and actually started at linebacker in the ‘14 season opener against Navy, although Darron Lee eventually won the starting spot. Entering the 2016 season, Worley is in line to be a starter, but faces competition from Jerome Baker.

 

6. Corey Smith, WR

Smith enters the 2016 season with his sixth year of eligibility. A rare junior college signee (played at East Mississippi Community College) to come to Ohio State, Smith redshirted in 2013. The following season, he emerged as a valuable contributor at wide receiver and special teams. A knee injury suffered in the Indiana game ended his 2015 campaign early. Smith has already graduated with a degree in African American and African Studies. Smith could possibly emerge as a starter at one of the wide receiver positions this season.

 

7. James Clark, WR

Clark signed with Ohio State on National Signing Day in February 2013. Clark was earning playing time as a freshman in 2013, until breaking his ankle against Florida A&M that September. He redshirted the rest of that season and has since played sparingly in 2014 and ‘15.

 

8. Trey Johnson, LB

Johnson's football career ended due to injury, but he was able to contribute before having to do so. Johnson actually lettered as a true freshman in 2013, before having to end his football career in January 2015 due to an arthritic knee condition. He served as a student assistant with Ohio State in 2015.

 

9. Donovan Munger, DL

Redshirted in 2013, Munger was able to contribute in 2014 and ‘15 along the defensive line. Munger started the 2016 BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame, but was forced to end his career due to a recurrence of a pulmonary embolism.

 

Of these nine players listed, Ohio State could accurately label each of them contributors. Several of them, such as Marcus Baugh, Tracy Sprinkle, Chris Worley and Corey Smith, could even vault themselves into the starter category by the end of the 2016 season. That means nine members (37.5 percent) of the 2013 recruiting class can be classified as contributors, once again exceeding the traditional "Rule Of Thirds."

 

Part three will examine the 2013 recruits who emerged as starters for the Buckeyes. Needless to say, there will be several notable and well-known names in this group.

 

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Follow him on Twitter .

Teaser:
Looking Back At Ohio State's 2013 Recruiting Class (Part Two)
Post date: Monday, July 18, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News, Magazines
Path: /college-football/why-james-franklin-smiling-face-critical-2016-season-penn-state
Body:

When James Franklin arrived at Penn State in January 2014, one of his priorities was to replenish some of the optimism that had dwindled amid the many doomsday predications that followed the NCAA’s imposition of severe sanctions in 2012 and the abrupt departure of his predecessor, Bill O’Brien.

 

Franklin pledged to do whatever it took to get the entire commonwealth excited about Penn State football again. He would recruit the state’s best players. He would field a dynamic, entertaining team. He would embrace social media to promote the program, using tools that Joe Paterno shunned and that even O’Brien seemed to regard with contempt, once referring to them as “Spacebook and Tweeter.” And that was just the beginning. “If people ask us to blow up balloons at their kid’s birthday party in the backyard, we’ll do that,” he said at his introductory news conference.

 

It’s now been two-and-a-half years since he made those pledges, and during that time it has become clear that the challenge was more complicated than it seemed in his first giddy days on the job. Yes, Franklin and his staff needed to build some enthusiasm for a program that had fallen from the ranks of the nation’s elite during the last decade of Paterno’s reign. But they also needed to temper expectations in a way that acknowledged the personnel shortcomings they had inherited when they took over. As Franklin discovered, the expectations never really crater at a school that ranks eighth all-time in major-college victories. And when they go unrealized, a panicky feeling sets in.

 

This feature and more on Penn State are available in the .

 

 

“It’s been our biggest challenge,” Franklin says. “I think it’s still our challenge moving forward, because there’s still work to be done. It’s something that, when you’re at a place like Penn State, you have to embrace. I love the fact that we have such high expectations, I do. I love that.

 

“I’ve heard from a number of people that I’ve been too positive,” he adds. “But I think there’s a fine line. We have to build excitement for the direction of the program and we have to build excitement for where we’re going, because we’re going there. There are signs of it all over the place. But as fans and as coaches and as players, it doesn’t always happen at the rate we want it to happen.”

 

It has perhaps been Franklin’s misfortune to coach in a conference where the sort of rapid transformation Nittany Lion fans desperately want has happened twice in the past four seasons — just not at Penn State. Ohio State went 12–0 in Urban Meyer’s first year on the job, while Michigan went 10–3 last fall in its first season under Jim Harbaugh. Those are the programs that serve as Penn State’s benchmarks, and when fans see them excel, they tend to ask: Why not us?

 

Here’s why not: Due to the NCAA penalties and the scandal that precipitated them, the Nittany Lions recruited only 19 players in 2012 and 17 in 2013, and not all of those prospects were Big Ten-caliber players. The team also lost nine players when the NCAA waived its requirement that transfers from Penn State sit out a year at their new schools.

 

Those shortfalls created holes all over the depth chart, but especially on the offensive front. When Franklin and his staff began examining the roster they had inherited, they found they had only nine scholarship linemen. One of those nine blew out his knee in spring practice, and the Lions went on to surrender 44 sacks while finishing last in the Big Ten in rushing yardage in 2014. Offensive line coach Matt Limegrover wasn’t at Penn State at the time — he was hired this past January to succeed Auburn-bound assistant Herb Hand — but he heard stories. “To try to run a program at the highest level with only nine scholarship linemen is almost downright scary,” he says.

 

The Lions were only marginally better last season, giving up 39 sacks and finishing 12th in the conference in rushing. So when the subject of Franklin’s 14–12 record comes up among Penn State followers, the conversation inevitably circles around to the offensive line.

 

Will Year 3 produce the turnaround for which those fans have been clamoring? Franklin is optimistic. “There’s reason for hope,” he says, and to bolster his case, he notes that Penn State now has six linemen with ample starting experience and a handful of three- and four-star prospects from the past two recruiting classes with the potential to push the upperclassmen. The Lions also have Limegrover, who previously served as offensive coordinator at Minnesota. And they have a fast-paced new scheme, masterminded by first-year offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, that Limegrover has described as “very offensive line-friendly.”

 

 

But there’s also reason to be wary. The Lions will be inexperienced at quarterback for the first time since Franklin took over. They need to rebuild their defensive front after losing three starters. They didn’t get quite as much help from their most recent recruiting class as they had hoped, with six players decommitting in the months leading up to National Signing Day. And they lost a key player — linebacker Troy Reeder — in a wave of transfers that struck the team in January.

 

Even before all of those developments, Franklin found himself walking back one of the pledges he made during his introductory presser: He will not be attending your special event, so don’t ask him to save the date. “I think people understood what I was saying. But 10 percent of the people thought I was being literal,” he said prior to the 2015 season. Those people were “inviting me to birthday parties, weddings, things like that.”

 

As for the other pledges — to dominate the state in recruiting, to fill Beaver Stadium’s 107,282 seats on a regular basis, to do everything in his power to turn Penn State back into an elite program — those are still operative.

 

For all the talk of tempering expectations, Franklin remains an optimist at heart. “What we’re trying to do is to make very thoughtful decisions about Penn State, about the direction we’re going and how we want to build it,” he says, “and I feel really good about that.”

 

— By Matt Herb

Teaser:
Why James Franklin is Smiling in Face of Critical 2016 Season at Penn State
Post date: Monday, July 18, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/new-hampshire-301-loudon-nascar-preview-and-fantasy-predictions-2016
Body:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. trumped the news cycle and surprised nation last night by announcing he won’t race at Loudon, N.H., Sunday. Earnhardt, suffering from concussion-like symptoms, didn’t feel well last weekend at Kentucky; antibiotics didn’t make the situation better and the driver’s neurologist has advised he shouldn’t race. The news follows two hard wrecks in three weeks, at Michigan and then at Daytona July 4th weekend.

 

For Earnhardt, it’s not the first race he has missed due to concussions. Regan Smith filled in during the fall of 2012 for two weeks. Earnhardt’s struggles with head injuries have been well documented, dating all the way back to at least 2002 when he raced with a concussion following a hard, serious wreck out in Fontana, Calif. Earnhardt’s move to the sidelines put his ability to qualify for the postseason in jeopardy. Still winless, he sits just 32 points above the Chase cutoff line and could miss another race next week in Indianapolis.

 

What should you make of this injury from a fantasy perspective? Earnhardt is worth stashing on the bench, should you have room despite the potential to miss multiple events. His return will leave the No. 88 team squarely on the Chase bubble, possibly in need of a win to make the postseason and increase their level of focus and aggression upon his return. Need proof? See: Kyle Busch (2015) and Tony Stewart (2016), both of whom have come back strong.

 

As for Earnhardt’s subs, the prospect of a coming-out-of-retirement Jeff Gordon running Indianapolis, a racetrack where he’s won a NASCAR-best five times, is especially intriguing. But that’s for next week. Earnhardt’s sub for New Hampshire, Alex Bowman, is a young man who’s a high risk fantasy option, considering his lack of top-tier opportunities in Sprint Cup.

 

Bowman, who’s raced 71 times at the Cup level for underdog organizations, has yet to score a top-10 finish. He’s gone 4-for-4 in top-10 finishes this year for JR Motorsports, running a part-time schedule in the XFINITY Series but that equipment is clearly superior to most cars running around him. Add in a best finish of 28th in four Loudon starts and Hendrick Motorsports will be happy to leave the weekend earning a top-15 result with Bowman and the No. 88.

 

That’ll keep him off your fantasy team, unless you’re desperate but for a sport in need of big news lately this unfortunate injury has raised NASCAR’s profile heading into one of the rare visits to the Northeast this weekend at the one-mile oval up in Loudon.

 

2016 New Hampshire 301

 

Time: 1:30 p.m. ET (Sunday)

Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Loudon, N.H.)

TV: NBC Sports Network

Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90

 

Who’s at the Front: Brad Keselowski

It didn’t take long for Team Penske, fresh off their 100th NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Daytona, to climb to all-time win No. 101. Keselowski, leading 75 laps at Kentucky, is now 3-for-6 at the newest track to hit the NASCAR schedule, winning an absurd 50 percent of the time he’s run there. Now, the driver goes for a trickier feat, attempting to win three straight races for the first time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career. With four victories overall this season, Keselowski leads all drivers and has entered his No. 2 ride into serious discussion versus four-car Joe Gibbs Racing as to who’s this year’s title favorite.

 

Who’s at the Back: Hendrick Motorsports

As , Hendrick has just two wins at the midway point of the season, both by Jimmie Johnson. The four-car team, nicknamed the “New York Yankees” of NASCAR based on their championship pedigree, has looked anything like a front-runner in recent weeks. Earnhardt is now sidelined while Johnson, the six-time champ, has wrecked three times in the last five races. Rookie Chase Elliott, while primed to make the Chase, has three straight runs outside the top 20 and the oft-criticized Kasey Kahne? He has yet to lead a lap all season.

 

News Briefs

 

Earnhardt’s concussion has brushed aside all other news this week. It’s hard to gauge this type of injury but the fact Gordon has already been tabbed on standby for Indianapolis is not a good sign. HMS refused to speculate on the long-term impact the concussion symptoms could have on Earnhardt’s career Friday while claiming there’s no decision yet on who would drive the No. 88 beyond Indianapolis. Bowman, apparently had been tabbed to relieve Earnhardt during Sunday’s race, but as the week wore on it was increasingly apparent the 40-year-old veteran wouldn’t even be making the trip.

 

Reigning Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch won himself another award this week. Busch won the fan voting to receive the “Best Driver” ESPY. The NASCAR star edged IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon, 2015 Formula One titlist Lewis Hamilton and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi, among others.

 

One week after another experiment with their “low low” downforce package at Kentucky, a race that received mixed reviews, NASCAR reiterated they won’t change the rules for teams during this year’s Chase. The “low low” rules may be run once more, perhaps at Michigan in August, but won’t be put into effect full-time until at least the beginning of the 2017 Cup Series season.

 

NASCAR by the Numbers

 

2

Straight top-10 finishes for Greg Biffle, the first time he’s accomplished the feat in the Cup Series since 2014.

 

866

Laps led by Martin Truex  Jr. at the season’s midpoint, a season high for the Cup Series and the best total of the driver’s career to date.

 

Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)

 

Top Tier

 

has a great chance to make it three straight trips to Victory Lane this Sunday. In the last nine races run at Loudon, he hasn’t finished worse than 12th and earned a victory there as recently as 2014. With Loudon one of the Chase tracks, championship contenders will be out to make a statement and there’s no reason to think Team Penske’s momentum will slow down. That means also becomes a strong pick with an average finish of 2.7 over the last three races at Loudon.

 

Middle Tier

 

, third at Kentucky, enters the weekend with momentum and has three career wins at New Hampshire. Newman, whose contract status with Richard Childress Racing remains in doubt for 2017, needs to go out and impress; he’s also sitting squarely on the Chase bubble. With five straight top-20 runs at this type of track the No. 31 team is a fairly safe bet to cash in.

 

Greg Biffle, posting the strong finishes mentioned earlier, also enters NHMS on a roll. This race is a track position affair and it’s the home track of Biffle’s Roush Fenway Racing co-owner, John Henry. Don’t be surprised to see RFR continue its recent resurgence and of the trio of drivers it’s Biffle, sponsored by NESN Fuel, who’s the strongest pick (he was fourth last fall).

 

Lower Tier

 

Once upon a time, Tony Stewart used to rule the roost up in New Hampshire. The winner at Loudon back in fall 2011 during a run to his third straight title, the best Smoke has run since up there is seventh place. But the No. 14 team has turned things around, posting a top 5 at Kentucky last weekend just two weeks after a stirring Sonoma victory. The summer has traditionally been when this veteran heats up; with Indy up ahead next week, along with Stewart’s labor of love at Eldora in the Truck Series. It feels like another strong performance is dead ahead.

 

Clint Bowyer is another driver who’s experienced Loudon success; he was sixth as recently as July 2014. This season has been openly frustrating for a veteran driving for underfunded HScott Motorsports. However, the last two weeks have produced a middling average finish of 16.0. Bowyer’s team, numbered 51 last fall, also was a potential top-10 car at Loudon last fall before former driver Justin Allgaier crashed out. Keep an eye on this car over the weekend; with pit strategy likely playing a role in this race, you never know.

 

What Vegas Thinks

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are tied atop the New Hampshire odds board at 5/1, according to VegasInsider.com but Brad Keselowski is close behind at 6/1. Among the longshots: Danica Patrick (300/1) and rookie Chris Buescher (1000/1).

 

What I Think

Brad Keselowski has proved the past two weeks that Team Penske is red hot. Drivers of his caliber add “three straight Cup wins” to their resume at some point and past success at New Hampshire makes him a favorite to finally do that on Sunday.

 

— 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 )

Teaser:
New Hampshire 301 at Loudon NASCAR Preview and Fantasy Predictions
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2016 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, Olympics
Path: /olympics/random-guy-tries-extinguish-olympic-torch-rio-brazil-torch-relay
Body:

People do unexplainable things every day, but this one takes the cake in recent memory.

 

As the torch relay continues to make its way through Rio, someone decided they had enough of it. A man can be seen coming virtually out of nowhere to extinguish the torch as it makes its way down the street. Kudos to the torch bearer for continuing until they got to the next person.

 

 

The reason for attempting to extinguish the torch is still unknown.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2016 - 14:22
Path: /college-football/breakthrough-2015-possible-springboard-more-washington-state
Body:

The most successful football season in 12 years at nearly derailed out of the starting gate.

 

"Here we go again," defensive back Parker Henry said, reminiscing on the sentiment that might very well have overtaken the Washington State locker room following Week 1.

 

Coming off a 3-9 finish in which head coach Mike Leach made sweeping personnel changes; Washington State dropped its 2015 opener against Football Championship Subdivision opponent Portland State. It was the program's first loss to a Big Sky Conference foe in more than six decades.

 

"If it had been a team in the past or a weaker team, I think we would've given in," Henry said. "But the team being how strong it was, with the corps of leaders we had and the coaching staff — what they instilled in us — we didn't really bat an eye.

 

"Things happen," he added. "Adversity happens. It's how you react."

 

Washington State reacted by ripping off nine wins in its ensuing 12 games, including road defeats of Arizona, Oregon and UCLA. The Cougars hosted Stanford deep into the season very much in contention for their first divisional title.

 

And while a narrow Cardinal victory denied Washington State a shot at the North, the program took a huge step toward regaining the relevance it enjoyed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Cougars appeared in a pair of Rose Bowls.

 

Before that point, however, Washington State needed some soul-searching.

 

"I sat in the showers for about an hour [after the Portland State game] and was thinking, 'I can't be doing this again,'" wide receiver Gabe Marks said. "[In the following days] I talked to [former Washington State Rose Bowl quarterback] Jason Gesser, and I was like, 'I literally don't know what more to do.'

 

"He was like, 'Keep doing what you're doing, and it will work out,'" Marks said. "A few weeks later, we got it rolling."

 

One takeaway the Cougars gained from that week was to not take any Saturday for granted. They couldn't be accused of taking any other opponent lightly for the rest of the season.

 

"It reminds you, it's hard to win a game in college football," Henry said. "It's never easy. You've really got to be fully invested every practice, every meeting."

 

It's an important sentiment to bear in mind on Week 1. Teams improve or taper off as a season progresses, in part because that opening weekend is the first time implementing certain strategies.

 

For Washington State, Week 1 of 2015 was its first under the defensive direction of new coordinator Alex Grinch.

 

One of the young, up-and-coming stars of the coaching ranks, Grinch's presence played a central role to Washington State's resurgence.

 

"It was a huge effect, and a positive one," Henry said of having Grinch "He's changed the whole culture of our defense and of our [defense] as a whole."

 

Known for its prolific passing attack out of Leach's signature air-raid scheme, Washington State staked its identity last season largely on that redefined defense.

 

Henry credited Grinch's "intensity," as well as the schematic changes introduced, though the Cougars faced "a learning curve."

 

The same was true of the offense — particularly Week 1 against Portland State.

 

Record-setting quarterback Connor Halliday's absence loomed large as the air raid was grounded to 17 points. A deluge of rain on the Palouse that afternoon didn't help, either.

 

"The air raid does not work well in the rain," Marks joked. "I've been telling everyone on campus that we need to start a petition to get a dome... Why don't we have a dome? Idaho has a dome and we don't."

 

The recently renovated Martin Stadium will not add a ceiling any time soon, but Luke Falk's emergence as a weapon on par with Halliday fueled the Cougar offense's improvement over the rest of the season.

 

Falk returns in 2016, and his No. 1 target, Marks, will have a chance to rewrite Pac-12 records in the coming campaign.

 

They set the foundation for a corps of eight returning starters on offense, giving Washington State one of the most experienced units in the conference. That alone is apparently not enough to wow Pac-12 media – the Cougars were tabbed fourth in the division's preseason poll Thursday.

 

But as last year's nine-win run demonstrates, it's not the preseason, nor even Week 1, that defines a contender.

 

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

Teaser:
Breakthrough 2015 A Possible Springboard for More at Washington State
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2016 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/usc-prepares-familiar-face-season-opener-against-alabama
Body:

When trots out onto the field on Sept. 3 at AT&T Stadium for its opener against defending national champion Alabama, a familiar face will be stalking the sidelines for the Crimson Tide.

 

Lane Kiffin.

 

The Trojans’ former head coach has rehabilitated his image in an impressive fashion after his abrupt departure from USC nearly three years ago. During his tenure as offensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa, Kiffin has rewrote the school’s offensive record book, coached a Heisman Trophy winner and was instrumental in helping the team capture another national title last year.

 

While some fans clad in cardinal and gold who will make the trip to Arlington, Texas, for the opener may still hold a little animosity toward the team’s former coach and the legacy he left Los Angeles with, that won’t exactly be the case for the man who now occupies Kiffin’s former job.

 

“It won’t be weird at all, I’m so thankful for the amount of football that he taught me during the time he was (at USC) and the opportunity he gave me to come to SC – I’ll never be able to repay him for that,” Trojans head coach Clay Helton remarked Thursday at Pac-12 Media Days. “One of the good things about Coach Kiffin is the way he treated his staff. He’s maintained relationships with all of us and was great to us as a staff.”

 

Helton was one of Kiffin’s key hires when building a staff back in 2010 and was eventually promoted to offensive coordinator during the latter’s final season in Los Angeles. Several other current USC coaches also were at one point hired by Kiffin and many of the team’s upperclassmen either played for, or were recruited by, their former head coach.

 

That could result in TV cameras capturing a few hand shakes and head nods with college football’s most infamous coordinator during warmups for one of the biggest non-conference clashes of the season in the first week of action. Still, there is plenty of understanding that while there will be a well-known face across the field in Kiffin, he’s on the other sidelines for a reason.

 

“I’m not really worried about him,” left tackle Zach Banner said. “He’s a great coach and a cool dude to be around but I’m not really worried about him during the football game.

 

“We could all care less (about Kiffin).”

 

Perhaps that’s because of the monumental task at hand for USC in taking on a loaded Alabama squad that will likely be no lower than third in any of the preseason polls and a two-deep filled with five-star talent at multiple positions.

 

“I can't tell you how excited we are to have the opportunity to play a defending national champion, to play one of the top head coaches in the history of this game in Nick Saban,” Helton added. “I think it's given us a little bit of a kick-start in the summer and really has made our football team have a little chip on their shoulder.”

 

Strange as it is to imagine a program like USC with a chip on its shoulder, it might not be as bizarre as seeing one coach wearing crimson instead of cardinal.

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at .

Teaser:
USC Prepares for Familiar Face in Season Opener Against Alabama
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/australia-trip-chance-cal-football-build-sports-fan-base
Body:

Offensive lineman Steven Moore is still learning about Australia ahead of his visiting Sydney for the 2016 season opener against Hawaii.

 

He knows enough to avoid the waters, he said at Thursday’s session of the Football Media Days at the Loews Hollywood Hotel.

 

“I know there are a lot of sharks. I’ve heard about that,” Moore said.

 

Indeed, the ocean surrounding the island nation is home to roughly 180 different species of shark.

 

But a different kind of Australian also will welcome Moore and his teammates Down Under next month, which he learned firsthand Thursday.

 

“I met a little kid in the hotel who’s from Australia who asked for my autograph,” Moore said. “He’s a huge college football fan. I didn’t know people in Australia are college football fans.”

 

The game that has grown into America’s most popular over the last decade or so is still quite foreign to the rest of the world. Its presence beyond the United States is growing incrementally every year, with games played overseas.

 

The video package shown at the opening of Thursday’s event touted “Pac-12 Globalization.” Last season, the conference sent the Washington basketball team to China for a matchup with Texas.

 

But basketball is wildly popular in China, and the Pac-12’s presence on the hardwood there merely capitalizes on a preexisting fascination. In the case of football’s expansion, Cal takes on a much different role.

 

“We’re bringing a whole different type of culture over there,” Moore said. “We’re representing the NCAA.”

 

Games on foreign soil have grown in popularity in the last few years. Ireland hosts its third regular season game since 2012 this year when Georgia Tech faces Boston College in Dublin.

 

Cal and Hawaii are taking it to the other side of the Pacific.

 

The Week 0 contest presents the two teams a chance not only to be goodwill ambassadors of the game, but to enjoy a wholly unique experience from any other college programs.

 

“It's going to be just a great opportunity for the guys to go experience something they'll probably never experience again the rest of their lives,” Cal head coach Sonny Dykes said.

 

The Golden Bears will see sights and experience the host country, but the reason for the trip — a game with Hawaii -- counts the same on their schedule as any of the other 11 dates.

 

To that end, Cal has to focus on the task at hand. That includes shaking off any jet-lag accrued on a 15-hour flight.

 

“We’ve got eight days to adjust,” Moore said. “By Day 2, we’ll be fine.”

 

That’s a good thing for the Bears, and for the viewing audience. With a strong showing, Cal football could leave Sydney with many more fans like the one seeking Moore’s autograph in Hollywood.

 

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

Teaser:
Australia Trip A Chance for Cal Football to Build Sport's Fan Base
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/pac-12-commissioner-says-conferences-players-dont-get-enough-heisman-respect
Body:

When Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders’ FBS record for all-purpose yardage but failed to take home the Heisman Trophy last season, a popular refrain was that the talented tailback would have held up the award had he not played so many late-night games.

 

The theory made some sense; given that eventual winner Derrick Henry from Alabama won five of six regions in the voting and was often seen in primetime during the Crimson Tide’s march to a national title. McCaffrey, on the other hand, was stuck with numerous 10:30 p.m. ET kickoffs despite his record-setting campaign.

 

commissioner Larry Scott, however, isn’t buying the idea that the lack of East Coast eyeballs was the reason why the Stanford star finished in second place.

 

“No one can say for sure, but I don’t think that would have made one iota of difference,” Scott said on Thursday from the league’s annual media days being held in Hollywood, Calif. “There were several games in primetime or during the afternoon. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota won the Heisman the year before with exactly the same TV schedule.

 

“The reason I say it so boldly, look at the zip codes of the Heisman voters and where they come and then look at how many of them didn’t even have McCaffrey on their ballot. I don’t care if you didn’t see McCaffrey play on TV a lot or not, can you imagine a credible Heisman voter not having McCaffrey on their ballot? What does that tell you about the Heisman voting process?”

 

Scott didn’t stop there however, even advancing the notion that players from his league face an uphill battle when it comes to garnering the right amount of respect nationally when it comes to voting for college football’s most prestigious individual trophy.

 

“There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a competitive disadvantage to a player from the Pac-12 to winning the Heisman based just on the zip codes of the voters and the fact that many of them are just not watching the game,” Scott said. “I would say there’s a Pac-12 disadvantage but there’s also a Stanford disadvantage I believe. There’s a certain image that Stanford has, not just nationally, but in our own conference.

 

“Toby Gerhart. Andrew Luck. Christian McCaffrey isn’t the first time in my short tenure of seven years that a Stanford football player did not get the respect they deserve. There’s a Pac-12 issue and there’s a Stanford issue.”

 

With Scott just steps away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, there were likely plenty of Cardinal fans who will nod their heads in agreement with his Rodney Dangerfield routine on this subject. 

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at .

Teaser:
Pac-12 Commissioner Says Conference’s Players Don’t Get Enough Heisman Respect
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/looking-back-ohio-states-2013-recruiting-class-part-one
Body:

On Feb. 6, 2013, head coach Urban Meyer addressed the media to discuss the recruiting efforts of the Ohio State coaching staff. "Our first year together as a coaching staff last year did not count because that was not a coaching staff. That was a bunch of guys coming together like a bunch of gypsies trying to find players anywhere we could find them. We did pretty good...This year it was a full cycle of recruiting. And I’m very impressed with our coaching staff."

 

My personal history when it comes to analyzing Ohio State recruiting classes goes back to 2005, when the new Buckeyes included the likes of James Laurinaitis, Brian Hartline and Malcolm Jenkins. That class was relatively small with 18 players signed, and was not highly rated by the recruiting analysts, but the coaching staff only lost three from that class due to transfer or academic issues, resulting in 15 who either started or contributed to Ohio State during their careers. This 83 percent success rate ranks that group highly in the unofficial "Rule of Thirds" concept that is applied to recruiting classes.

 

“The Rule of Thirds” is pretty simple — within any class, there will be approximately a third who will develop into starters as the coaching staff hoped and recruited, a third will be contributors in some fashion, and a third will not work out, leaving due to transfer, injuries or possibly disciplinary reasons.

 

For this exercise, I will review how the 2013 class ranked using the above criteria. For starters, no Ohio State should be surprised that the 2013 recruiting class ranks as one of the best in the program’s illustrious history. Ranked second in the country by in 2013 behind Alabama, this Ohio State recruiting class will be held in high regard for years to come by Ohio State fans. The 2013 recruiting class originally numbered 24 players. Entering the 2016 season, a whopping 87.5 percent of this class either started or contributed in some way on the field for the Buckeyes.

 

Part one of this series will look at the few players who eventually left the Ohio State program. I will address each player, why they left and where they are currently in order based upon when he verbally committed to the Buckeyes.

 

1. Jayme Thompson, S

Thompson was originally a verbal commitment to West Virginia, but decided to switch to Ohio State. Thompson redshirted in 2013, and requested a release from Ohio State in April 2014. After playing for Iowa Western Community College at the junior college level, Thompson signed with Indiana in December 2015. Thompson is listed as a redshirt junior on Indiana's roster on its athletics Web site.

 

2. Tim Gardner, OL

Gardner never even made it out of fall camp of his freshman year with Ohio State. Cited by Columbus police for obstruction of official business, Gardner was dismissed by Meyer in July 2013. Gardner eventually signed with Indiana, and played for the Hoosiers in 2015, after sitting out in ‘14 as a transfer. It was recently announced that Gardner would not be with Indiana for the 2016 season.

 

3. Mike Mitchell, LB

Mitchell was one of the highest-rated players in the 2013 recruiting class, ranked as the best high school player from the state of Texas. Despite Mitchell's lofty high school accolades, he redshirted at Ohio State in 2013. Mitchell decided to transfer to Texas Tech after his first season. He sat out the 2014 season per NCAA transfer rules, played for Texas Tech last fall, and then decided to transfer from Texas Tech after the season.

 

Out of 24 players signed, only three (12.5 percent) left the Ohio State program without any contributions. In comparison, the had 11 players of 25 signed (44 percent) who departed without any contributions.

 

Part two will look at the players Ohio State signed in February 2013 who have been contributors during their time in Columbus. Several of these players will have opportunities to not only contribute to Ohio State in 2016, but also emerge as possible starters this upcoming season.

 

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Follow him on Twitter .

Teaser:
Looking Back At Ohio State's 2013 Recruiting Class (Part One)
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/examining-over-under-2016-win-totals-big-tens-west-division
Body:

The West is going to be a fun race although Iowa could be the team best built to win it, again. The Hawkeyes will have to fend off challenges from Nebraska and Wisconsin among others. The other intriguing race will be for last place between Illinois and Purdue, most likely.

 

Related: 

 

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

 

Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 

 

Big Ten West

 

(Over 4.5 wins -120...Under 4.5 wins EVEN)

 

Record Last Year: 5-7, 2-6

 

Returning Starters: 9 (5 on offense, 4 on defense)

 

Offense: Quarterback Wes Lunt returns for his senior season and there's not a ton around him on this side of the ball. Malik Turner leads the way out wide. The offensive line is pretty set with the tackles and center back.

 

Defense: Illinois has a lot of its front line back as well as Taylor Barton at safety. New defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson has some work to do to keep this team at the level they played at last year (37th nationally in scoring defense).

 

Schedule: Illinois plays four of its first five at home with Murray State, North Carolina and Western Michigan representing the non-conference opponents. Michigan State and Iowa both come to Champaign this year.

 

Selection: I think there's a slight lean to the under. New head coach Lovie Smith has a lot to do in order to bring this team back after being away from the college game for 21 years. I definitely don't see the postseason in this team's future.

 

(Over 8.5 wins -110...Under 8.5 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 12-2, 8-0

 

Returning Starters: 13 (5 on offense, 8 on defense)

 

Offense: Key returnees make me optimistic that theHawkeyes will be solid on offense. Quarterback C.J. Beathard had just five interceptions compared to 17 touchdown passes in 2015. He's got wide receiver Matt VandeBerg and running back LeShun Daniels as his main weapons. The offensive line will be solid as well.

 

Defense: Desmond King is one of the best cornerbacks in college football. Linebacker Josey Jewell and his 126 tackles are back as well. This unit was 19th overall in scoring defense, giving up more than 24 points in a game on just three occasions.

 

Schedule: Miami (Ohio), Iowa State and North Dakota State are part of a three-game homestand to open up the season. The Hawkeyes play three of their next four on the road although those games are at Rutgers, Minnesota and Purdue.

 

Selection: Iowa's game against Michigan on Nov. 12 could feature two teams with just one or two losses. The Hawkeyes’ schedule is way too easy not to take the over.

 

(Over 6 wins -115...Under 6 wins -105)

 

Record Last Year: 6-7, 2-6

 

Returning Starters: 14 (7 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense: This group was putrid at times in 2015, scoring just 77 points over the first five games. Quarterback Mitch Leidner needs to improve his TD-to-interception ratio from the 14:11 he posted last season. He has wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky back as well as talented running back Shannon Brooks.

 

Defense: The Gophers have the right pieces in place to be a good defense. They were especially stingy against the pass last season, allowing just 179.5 yards per game through the air to finish 11th in the nation. The team will have to replace reliable punter Peter Mortell.

 

Schedule: Minnesota has four of its first five at home with Oregon State, Indiana State and Colorado State representing the non-conference slate. The Gophers do not play Michigan this year, but they do host Iowa for their annual tilt with the Floyd of Rosedale on the line.

 

Selection: Six is the right number. This team screams .500 unless Minnesota improves upon its 106th-ranked scoring offense. The schedule is easier than last year so an uptick in the win column is possible.

 

(Over 8.5 wins -120...Under 8.5 wins EVEN)

 

Record Last Year: 6-7, 3-5

 

Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)

 

Offense: Quarterback Tommy Armstrong gets one more year to lead Nebraska to a better bowl destination. Last year he threw 16 interceptions to 22 touchdowns while accounting for more than 3,000 passing yards. Running back Terrell Newby and wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp are his two best weapons. The biggest question mark is the offensive line.

 

Defense: Safety Nate Gerry quarterbacks the secondary after making 79 tackles last year. The front four will have to be completely rebuilt so coordinator Mark Banker has his work cut out for him.

 

Schedule: Much like the rest of the conference, Nebraska doesn't leave home for four of its first five games. The Cornhuskers take on Fresno State and Wyoming before a big tilt with Oregon. Their toughest stretch is towards the end with back-to-back road games against Wisconsin and Ohio State.

 

Selection: I think the under at even is worth a look. The Huskers have four tough road games and it’s possible they could lose all of them. Head coach Mike Riley is recruiting hard so this team may have its best years ahead of them.

 

(Over 6.5 wins -120...Under 6.5 wins EVEN)

 

Record Last Year: 10-3, 6-2

 

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

 

Offense: Running back Justin Jackson is going to have to continue to be the workhorse with sophomore quarterback Clayton Thorson under center. Jackson had 1,418 yards rushing last year despite some mediocre QB play. Thorson had just seven touchdowns to nine interceptions and his wide receiving corps in 2016 isn’t very experienced.

 

Defense: The Wildcats were really good defensively last year. They have two starters back in each level of the defense meaning they won't fall too far from where they were last year (12th nationally in scoring defense, 13th in total defense).

 

Schedule: Northwestern doesn't leave home in September, which means it will be on the road for most of the final stretch, closing things out with three road games over five weeks. Pat Fitzgerald’s team shouldn't be challenged out of conference with Western Michigan, Illinois State and Duke on the docket.

 

Selection: The over is a real good play here. Northwestern will aim to get off to a fast start after getting blasted by Tennessee in the Outback Bowl to close out the 2015 season. I think the schedule lays out nicely for the Wildcats to return to the postseason and possibly contend in the Big Ten West.

 

(Over 4.5 wins -105...Under 4.5 wins -115)

 

Record Last Year: 2-10, 1-7

 

Returning Starters: 16 (7 on offense, 9 on defense)

 

Offense: I really like running back Markell Jones, who ran for 10 touchdowns in 2015. He's back along with DeAngelo Yancey at WR to help an offense that was stuffed at or behind the line in 15.5 percent of its rushes. The offensive line gets three players back, but improvement is needed.

 

Defense: The Boilermakers return a lot from last year's defense that allowed almost 37 points per game. Lineman Jake Repogle had 14 tackles for a loss last year, but overall this was a group that struggled. The good thing is a lot of experience returns, but this unit as a whole has to tighten up.

 

Schedule: Continuing the trend, Purdue has all of its non-conference games at home, hosting Eastern Kentucky, Cincinnati and Nevada. The Boilermakers also get Iowa, Wisconsin and Northwestern at home.

 

Selection: I liked the over last year and it wasn't a winning side. I'm not falling for that again. Head coach Darrell Hazell's seat is hot after just six wins in his first three seasons. It may not get much better in 2016.

 

(Over 7 wins -110...Under 7 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 10-3, 6-2

 

Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)

 

Offense: Badger fans won't have to worry about the run game with Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale in the backfield. Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook should mount a spirited competition for the No. 1 quarterback job, although the former figures to have the edge because he’s a senior. The offensive line should be strong as usual.

 

Defense: Linebacker Vince Biegel gets one more year for the Badgers. The defense figures to take a step back after finishing first in the nation in points allowed and second in yards allowed last season because of the departures. Linebacker Joe Schobert and safety Michael Caputo are both gone.

 

Schedule: The Badgers are the only team in the Big Ten West to play a non-conference game outside of their own stadium, although they won't go far. Wisconsin will take on LSU at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., followed by Akron and Georgia State. The Badgers also must navigate the Michigan two-step on the road before hosting Ohio State.

 

Selection: Seven is a great number. The schedule strength is tougher than the rest of the Big Ten West. No one else plays a stretch as tough as at Michigan State, at Michigan, vs. Ohio State and at Iowa over a four-game span.

 

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

 
Teaser:
Examining the Over/Under 2016 Win Totals for the Big Ten's West Division
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-not-focused-missing-college-football-playoff
Body:

When the first edition of the College Football Playoff kicked off without a Big 12 team, the league found itself suddenly in the middle of an existential crisis.

 

Expansion was discussed time again and time again. Tie-breaking procedures were finagled and clarified. Money was dumped by the truckload into consultants and marketing campaigns. Eventually, — in a round-robin league, no less — was agreed upon just to give the Big 12 an extra boost when it came to making college football’s final four.

 

While getting left out of the College Football Playoff in 2016 was disappointing for the , the league isn’t gearing up to question everything about itself in the wake of conference champion Stanford missing out on a semifinal game.

 

“Standing here today, looking at the incredible depth from top to bottom in our conference, I am confident no other conference has as many good teams as the Pac-12 this season,” commissioner Larry Scott said on Thursday to open up Pac-12 Media Days in Hollywood, Calif. “I expect this is going to be as exciting and deep a season as the Pac- 12 has had.”

 

What remains to be seen is if that tune holds true among the national conversation in December. No school made it into the top 10 of and the number of tough non-conference games the Pac-12 has during Week 1 could put the league out of the Playoff race by the first Sunday of the season.

 

That doesn’t mean Pac-12 football won’t be worth watching, just that there’s quite the uphill battle to not be on the outside looking in (again) when the Selection Committee makes their picks.

 

“With only a four-team Playoff, of course you worry about teams beating each other up,” added Scott. “But the philosophy in our conference and amongst our schools has always been to schedule tough, take on all comers, and if a team deserves to be in the playoff, they will be.

 

“With the advent of the College Football Playoff, we know that in any given year, there will be teams with similar records, and a determining factor that the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will make is based on strength of schedule. So our conference very much prides itself for a variety of reasons on playing the toughest schedule.”

 

If it seems like Scott is already laying the groundwork to campaign the Selection Committee based on the depth of the Pac-12 later this year, that’s because he is.

 

Stanford was picked by the media to win the league for the first time in 56 years and is headlined by Heisman Trophy favorite Christian McCaffrey. Washington has become a trendy pick out West under Chris Petersen and the Huskies’ Pacific Northwest rival Oregon is re-tooling on defense with the addition of former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke.

 

Both USC and UCLA are, as always, stocked with four- and five-star talent. Washington State returns perhaps the most complete team during Mike Leach’s tenure on the Palouse as well. The conference is so deep that it seems entirely possible that the entire Pac-12 South will make an appearance in the Top 25 polls at some point.

 

But is there a great team among all the ones we think will be good in 2016? Somebody who can truly make a run at the national title?

 

It’s possible and there is no shortage of candidates as summer winds down and fall camps begin. Things out West are, however, complicated by the fact that the Pac-12 has a history of underachieving teams pulling off an upset that ruins national championship aspirations.

 

“The Pac-12 is more talented now than it ever has been in its history,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “That’s what makes it so difficult to defend.”

 

There were plenty of similar upbeat statements dished out on Thursday as the league officially kicked off the season. The Pac-12 appears confident of its place in the sport at the moment and there’s even an inkling outside the Hollywood Walk of Fame that that the conference could be the first one to sneak in a two-loss team into a semifinal at the end of the year.

 

The sky isn’t falling in the Pac-12 after getting left out of the Playoff last year but it will be interesting to see if such rosy, forward-thinking talk continues if Scott’s league finds itself on the outside looking in again in 2016.

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at .

 
Teaser:
Pac-12 Not Focused on Missing College Football Playoff
Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2016 - 16:15
All taxonomy terms: AAC, ACC, College Football, Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/podcast-sec-media-days-jam-session
Body:

Braden Gall and David Fox are back in Nashville after returning from SEC Media Days and a honeymoon respectively. We've got a complete breakdown as well official championship predictions from 23 of our closest friends.

 

- Was Dan Mullen the biggest loser from SEC Media Days in Hoover? Was Nick Saban out of line or right on point in his verbal match with PAAWWWLLL? Was Hugh Freeze prepared for tough questions?

 

- Which coach was the most impressive? Which coach was best prepared to handle the tough questions? And which coach surprised the most? Who do we love more: Bret Bielema or Barry Odom?

 

- Getting to know the players is THE best part of SEC Media Days and the 2016 class was no exception. Who were the most impressive players in Hoover? (And who do we wish was there.)

 

- Which team has the biggest chip on its shoulder? (This one was easy.)

 

- We asked 23 different media experts to make their official SEC championship game predictions public and we put all 23 into one podcast. Names like Marcus Spears, Pat Forde, Tony Barnhart, Stewart Mandel, Brett McMurphy, Andy Staples, Barrett Sallee, Laura Rutledge, Adam Zucker and more offer up official SEC picks in 2016. 

 

Check out the .

 

You can order your preseason .

 

 

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Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2016 - 15:44
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Conference USA's West Division may not be as talented as its East brethren, but it doesn’t appear to be as wide open as that side of the league either. Southern Miss should come out on top in the West rather easily although Louisiana Tech and UTEP may make things interesting.

 

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There are six teams in Conference USA's West Division. This article will apply the win totals from one Vegas casino and discuss if there is any value in these numbers. A selection is made based on the team's schedule, in which the games are broken down into three categories - easy wins, toss-ups and certain losses. Most conference games are in the toss-up category unless there is a clear difference in talent. 

 

Note: Over/under odds courtesy of South Point Casino

 

Conference USA West Division

 

(Over 7.5 wins +105...Under 7.5 wins -125)

 

Record Last Year: 9-4, 6-2

 

Returning Starters: 9 (6 on offense, 3 on defense)

 

Offense: Kenneth Dixon is gone, which means the offense will have to find weapons to get it rolling. Ryan Higgins figures to get the starting quarterback job with Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson out wide. Can't complain too much about the offensive line, but who is running behind them?

 

Defense: The Bulldogs are rebuilding on this side as well. The good thing is Xavier Woods returns at safety and he had 56 tackles and three interceptions last season. There is some continuity on special teams.

 

Schedule: Louisiana Tech plays three of its first four on the road. The Bulldogs’ non-conference opponents are Arkansas, South Carolina State, Texas Tech and at UMass, with the only home game being the one against the FCS opponent. In all they have seven games away from Ruston.

 

Selection: Slight lean to the under. I wanted to lean heavy to the under with all the personnel losses from 2015, but Louisiana Tech has a very easy conference slate. The Bulldogs will need Higgins to do a lot of the heavy lifting until the run game gets going.

 

(Over 2 wins -140...Under 2 wins +120)

 

Record Last Year: 1-11, 1-7

 

Returning Starters: 13 (7 on offense, 6 on defense)

 

Offense: One of the worst offenses in the country gets an Alabama graduate transfer in quarterback Alec Morris. He's going to struggle to move the ball despite having Jeffrey Wilson and three returning starters at wide receiver back. The offensive line wasn't very good last year.

 

Defense: I can't say much positive here as the team returns six starters from a group that allowed more than 40 points and 500 yards per game. Good luck co-coordinators Mike Ekeler and Troy Reffett.

 

Schedule: The Mean Green host SMU and Bethune-Cookman before road matchups with Florida and Rice. They also play at Army in mid-October amidst their C-USA slate.

 

Selection: I'd like to say there will be improvement, but I can't guarantee it. There are opportunities for wins, but I don't know if I can trust the defense to make enough stops.

 

(Over 6 wins +135...Under 6 wins -155)

 

Record Last Year: 5-7, 3-5

 

Returning Starters: 15 (7 on offense, 8 on defense)

 

Offense: Darik Dillard is going to be busy with Driphus Jackson not returning at QB. Only two returning receivers recorded at least 25 catches last year. The left side of the offensive line should be good.

 

Defense: It can only go up for the Owls after allowing the most yards per play in the nation (7.13). Ends Derek Brown and Brian Womac give coordinator Chris Thurmond something to build around up front.

 

Schedule: Rice plays three of its first five on the road. The Owls get Baylor at home as well as Prairie View A&M. They close out the season at Stanford.

 

Selection: Six wins seems about right. The shame of it is that I'd take the over at that price if I thought they could get there. The conference games represent most of Rice’s win chances with a road matchup against Army being a toss-up.

 

(Over 8 wins -110...Under 8 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year:

 

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

 

Offense: The Golden Eagles averaged almost 40 points per game last year and return three key pieces in QB Nick Mullens, RB Ito Smith and WR D.J. Thompson. The middle of the offensive line will be strong. Expect a small regression here.

 

Defense: One of the reasons for the great season was the defense. Southern Miss improved a bunch on this side of the ball and have key returnees in end Dylan Bradley and linebacker D'Nerius Antoine.

 

Schedule: Three of the first five games are at home although the opener is at Kentucky. It's winnable along with the next two at home against Savannah State and Troy. The final non-conference game is at LSU on Oct. 15.

 

Selection: I like the over. Even with the unexpected coaching change (Jay Hopson taking over for Todd Monken, who left for the NFL) I think the Golden Eagles are best team in the C-USA West and it may not be much of a battle. There appear to be too many sketchy defenses that Mullens and company should be able to take advantage of in 2016.

 

(Over 5.5 wins -115...Under 5.5 wins -105)

 

Record Last Year: 5-7, 3-5

 

Returning Starters: 15 (8 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense:The rare team that relies more on the run then the pass in college football. With running back Aaron Jones returning, that doesn't figure to change. Quarterback is a big question mark along with the WR group. As long as games are close, the running game stays in play.

 

Defense:The defense is moving to a 3-4 after running a 4-2 built around man-to-man coverage last season. Luckily Alvin Jones is back to man the linebacker corps. It's a veteran secondary that may have more pressure on it with the change in schemes.

 

Schedule:Four of the first six games are at home as the Miners open up with New Mexico State, at Texas and Army. UTEP has just five road games all year so this team could push for bowl eligibility.

 

Selection:I like the over. The run game is reliable and the defense is improved. The schedule lines up nicely for six or seven wins.< /p>

 

(Over 4 wins +105...Under 4 wins -125)

 

Record Last Year: 3-9, 3-5

 

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

 

Offense: The Roadrunners experienced some growing pains in 2015 with no returning starters and now have first-year head coach Frank Wilson at the helm. They averaged just 22.6 points per game. Now they return several players, including 1,000-yard rusher Jarveon Williams.

 

Defense: The front line is going to be strong as the unit continues to utilize a 4-2-5 alignment. There are a lot of juniors and seniors in the two deep.

 

Schedule: UTSA continues its run of strong non-conference slate with road matchups against Texas A&M and Colorado State to go with home games against Alabama State and Arizona State. Three straight on the road to start November will be a rough way to close out the season.

 

Selection: Four is a good number. The problem comes that most of the winnable games aren’t until late in the schedule. I know the Roadrunners are scheduling up for money purposes, but eventually they have to change that if they hope to make a bowl. They are getting closer though as the program continues to build.

 

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

Teaser:
Examining the Over/Under 2016 Win Totals for Conference USA's West Division
Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2016 - 11:30

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