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The success of any college football offense starts in the trenches. Although the skill positions and quarterbacks get all of the attention, it’s the five players up front that set the tone for the rest of the offense.
The SEC is never short on talent in the trenches, and 2015 features two teams – Arkansas and Georgia – that could have the nation’s best overall group. The Bulldogs have a slight edge over the Razorbacks in Athlon’s offensive line rankings, but there’s very little separating these groups.
Related: SEC 2015 Predictions
Ranking the SEC’s Offensive Lines for 2015
Returning Starters: 4
It’s a close call for the No. 1 spot between Georgia and Arkansas. A slight edge goes to the Bulldogs over the Razorbacks, as new Georgia line coach Rob Sale inherits four starters from a unit that led the way for rushers to average 5.5 yards per carry in 2014. This group also allowed only 12 sacks in eight SEC contests. Guard Greg Pyke is a first-team All-SEC selection by Athlon Sports for 2015, while the tackle spots are anchored by seniors John Theus and Kolton Houston.
Returning Starters: 4
As mentioned with Georgia, very little separates Georgia and Arkansas in SEC offensive line rankings for 2015. The Razorbacks return four starters, including All-America candidates in guard Sebastian Tretola and tackles Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland. In SEC games last season, Arkansas averaged four yards per carry and allowed only 12 sacks. In just three years in Fayetteville, coach Bret Bielema has already assembled one of the nation’s top offensive lines.
Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team
Returning Starters: 3
Center Reese Dismukes will be missed, but coach Gus Malzahn should feel confident in the offensive line’s ability for 2015. The Tigers return three starters, with right tackle Avery Young the best of the bunch. But this group should receive a huge boost with the return of guard Alex Kozan from injury, along with the emergence of Ole Miss transfer Austin Golson at center. Sophomore Braden Smith is another promising player for this unit.
Returning Starters: 3
With question marks about the quarterbacks, the strength of LSU’s offense will be its rushing attack once again. Standout left tackle La’el Collins will be missed, but three starters are back, including guard Vadal Alexander and right tackle Jerald Hawkins. Both players should be in the mix for All-SEC honors.
Related: SEC 2015 Predictions
Returning Starters: 2
Alabama’s offense returns only two starters. That’s the bad news. But the good news is the two returning starters – center Ryan Kelly and left tackle Cam Robinson – are among the nation’s top offensive linemen. Even though this unit will have three new starters in 2015, it’s safe to assume the Crimson Tide will have one of the nation’s best offensive lines. Redshirt freshman Ross Pierschbacher is a breakout candidate at guard, while senior Dominick Jackson is slated to take over at right tackle after playing in eight games last year.
Returning Starters: 4
Missouri’s offensive line played better throughout the course of 2014, and this group should be in the top half of the SEC with four returning starters. Center Evan Boehm is the unit’s best player, and senior guard Conner McGovern was critical in the second-half improvement after switching from right tackle. The addition of junior college recruits Tyler Howell and Malik Cuellar bolster the depth.
7. Texas A&M
Returning Starters: 3
Will the Aggies make it four years in a row with a lineman going in the first round of the NFL Draft? Maybe not, but there’s a solid group for new line coach Dave Christensen to develop. Center Mike Matthews is the best of the group, while senior Joseph Cheek and guard Germain Ifedi return as starters. The development of the left side – Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eluemunor are the early favorites to start – will be critical for the Aggies in 2015.
8. Ole Miss
Returning Starters: 5
This unit could be among the most-improved lines in the SEC in 2015. All five starters are back for coach Hugh Freeze, including standout left tackle Laremy Tunsil and four seniors with experience in the SEC. Tunsil is recovering from a leg injury suffered in the Peach Bowl but is expected to be at full strength by the opener. True freshman guard Javon Patterson is a name to watch in 2015.
Returning Starters: 3
The left side of South Carolina’s line must be revamped after stalwarts Corey Robinson (left tackle) and A.J. Cann (guard) expired their eligibility. There’s a good core to build around in 2015 with the return of right tackle Brandon Shell and guard Will Sport. But who will step up to replace Cann and Robinson? With a new starter at quarterback, having a steady offensive line would be a huge plus for coach Steve Spurrier.
Returning Starters: 4
If Tennessee wants to challenge for the SEC East title, this group must take a step forward in its development. The Volunteers had zero returning starters going into 2014 and this unit struggled to get on track. In eight SEC games, the line allowed 28 sacks (most in the conference), and Tennessee rushers averaged only 3.5 yards per carry. Improvement is expected with four starters back, and the overall depth is better with another stellar recruiting class.
Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team
Returning Starters: 2
Rebuilding the offensive line is the top challenge for coach Dan Mullen this offseason. Last year’s group helped rushers average five yards per carry and allowed just 15 sacks in league play. Gone are three standouts, including All-SEC guard Ben Beckwith, left tackle Blaine Clausell and center Dillon Day. The good news is Mullen and this staff have recruited well, so there’s capable replacements waiting to emerge. Senior Justin Malone is the anchor, but junior college recruit Martinas Rankin is a player to watch.
Related: SEC 2015 Predictions
Returning Starters: 4
The Wildcats gave up 36 sacks in 2014, but with four starters back, improvement is expected in 2015. Center Jon Toth is the anchor for coach Mark Stoops, while guard Zach West should be in the mix for all-conference honors this season.
Returning Starters: 4
Despite four returning starters last season, Vanderbilt’s offensive line struggled. The Commodores averaged only 3.3 yards per carry in SEC games and allowed 21 sacks in 12 overall contests. With four starters back once again for 2015, there’s hope for improvement for new coordinator Andy Ludwig. Junior Andrew Jelks and center Spencer Pulley need to be the anchors for this group.
Returning Starters: 1
This is the biggest concern for new coach Jim McElwain. Only one starter returns (Trip Thurman), and overall depth and proven bodies are in short supply. FCS transfer Mason Halter and true freshman Martez Ivey are likely to play a huge roles this season. The Gators showed improvement here under line coach Mike Summers last year, but he will have his hands full in 2015.
College football coordinators have a huge impact on their team in any season. And it’s no secret that hiring good coordinators and retaining them is critical to the long-term success of any head coach. Changing coordinators or a promotion of an assistant into the play-calling role can also provide a boost for any team or provide a fix for a struggling unit.
Every year there’s a new crop of coordinators emerging into the national spotlight or primed for a promotion. Which coordinators are on the rise or which ones could be in the mix to be a head coach in the coming years?
Here’s a few names to watch from the Power 5 ranks and a couple of coordinators from the Group of 5 teams to monitor in 2015.
(Photo of Arkansas' Robb Smith courtesy of Razorbacks Communications)
Power 5 Coordinators on the Rise
Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
In just two years at Wisconsin, Aranda has established himself as one of the Big Ten’s top assistants. Under Aranda’s direction, the Badgers have finished No. 2 in the conference in scoring defense in back-to-back years. Additionally, Wisconsin ranked No. 8 nationally in fewest yards per play in 2013 and gave up only 4.9 yards per play in 2014. Prior to the last two years in Madison, Aranda was a defensive coordinator for one year at Utah State and two seasons at Hawaii.
Chris Ash, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State
Ash was hired by coach Urban Meyer to work as the co-defensive coordinator with Luke Fickell last season. And the hire paid dividends for the Buckeyes’ defense, as this unit allowed only 22 points per game en route to a national championship. Ash also coordinated defenses at Arkansas and Wisconsin and is known for his work with defensive backs. Ohio State’s secondary showed significant progress under Ash, giving up only 17 touchdown passes after allowing 31 in 2013. Additionally, the Buckeyes cut down on some of the big plays that plagued this unit in 2013.
Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor
With Philip Montgomery departing to be the head coach at Tulsa, Briles will assume the controls of Baylor’s high-powered offense. The former Houston receiver has worked on his father's (Art) coaching staff in Waco since 2008 and called the plays in the Cotton Bowl against Michigan State. Although the Bears came up short on the scoreboard, the offense averaged 7.9 yards per play against a rugged Michigan State defense.
Related: Big 12 2015 Predictions
Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Florida
Collins is known as the “Minister of Mayhem,” and the Georgia native left Starkville to coordinate Florida’s defense under new coach Jim McElwain. Under Collins’ watch, Mississippi State held opponents to 23 points per game in 2013 and 21.7 in 2014. The Bulldogs also ranked second in the SEC with 37 sacks last year. Prior to his stint with Mississippi State (2011-14), Collins also worked at FIU (2010), UCF (2008-09) and Alabama (2006).
Josh Conklin, Defensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh
Conklin has been on a fast rise through the coaching ranks, and the Wyoming native was picked by defensive guru Pat Narduzzi to run Pittsburgh’s defense in 2015. Prior to his hire with the Panthers, Conklin spent two years at FIU and guided the 2014 defense to a No. 3 finish in points allowed in Conference USA and 33 forced turnovers.
D.J. Durkin, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan
Jim Harbaugh is one of the nation’s top coaches and offensive minds, but the former Michigan quarterback will have plenty of help from a standout defensive staff. Veteran assistant Greg Mattison remained in Ann Arbor, while Durkin was hired from Florida to coordinate the defense. Durkin worked closely with Will Muschamp from 2010-14 in developing a Gators’ defense that was consistently among the best in the SEC. Prior to the four-year stint at Florida, Durkin worked for three years at Stanford under Harbaugh.
Mike Elko, Defensive Coordinator, Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons are in rebuild mode under second-year coach Dave Clawson. The defense was a bright spot for Clawson last season, as despite a non-existent offense, Wake Forest gave up 26.4 points per game and held opponents to 5.2 yards per play. Elko followed Clawson from Bowling Green and coordinated the Falcons’ defense to a No. 1 rank among MAC defenses in fewest points allowed in 2013.
Related: ACC 2015 Predictions
Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon
Oregon’s offense hasn’t missed a beat since Chip Kelly left for the NFL. Having a quarterback like Marcus Mariota certainly helps, but Frost has emerged as one of the nation’s top play-callers. The Ducks averaged 45.4 points per game in 2014 and have recorded back-to-back seasons of at least seven yards per play.
David Gibbs, Defensive Coordinator, Texas Tech
Texas Tech is consistently among the Big 12’s best on offense, but the defense has experienced its share of struggles and gave up 41.3 points per game in 2014. However, coach Kliff Kingsbury took a big step in addressing the defensive needs by hiring David Gibbs from Houston. In Gibbs’ tenure with the Cougars, the defense ranked among the best in the American Athletic Conference in fewest points allowed and generated 73 turnovers from 2013-14. Gibbs should be the right hire to get Texas Tech’s defense on the right track.
Doug Meacham, Co-Offensive Coordinator, TCU
Meacham was one of the nation’s top coordinator hires in 2014 and made a huge impact on TCU’s push for a playoff spot. The Horned Frogs offense struggled in 2013 by averaging only 25.1 points per game. But Meacham’s hire immediately paid big dividends for coach Gary Patterson, as TCU ranked second in the Big 12 by averaging 46.5 points per game last year. Additionally, the Horned Frogs averaged 6.7 yards per play in 2014. Meacham also improved Houston’s offense in his one year with the Cougars, guiding the 2013 attack to an average of 33.2 points per game.
Related: Big 12 2015 Predictions
Scottie Montgomery, Offensive Coordinator, Duke
David Cutcliffe is the mastermind behind Duke’s offense, but Montgomery was promoted to the offensive coordinator role after a one-year stint as receivers coach in 2013. Prior to the 2013 season, Montgomery spent three years with the Steelers and worked from 2006-09 as an assistant at Duke.
Mike Norvell, Offensive Coordinator, Arizona State
It’s only a matter of time before Norvell gets a chance to run a Power 5 program. The 33-year-old offensive coordinator has been a key cog in Arizona State’s rise under coach Todd Graham. Norvell has worked for the last three years as the Sun Devils’ play-caller and previously spent time with Graham at Pittsburgh and Tulsa. Arizona State has averaged at least 38 points per game in each of Norvell’s three years in Tempe.
Barry Odom, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri
After three years at Memphis, Odom is returning to a familiar place: Missouri. The Oklahoma native played with the Tigers from 1996-99 and later coached under Gary Pinkel in Columbia from 2003-11. Memphis showed dramatic improvement under Odom and limited opponents to 19.5 points per game in 2014. Odom has big shoes to fill after Dave Steckel left to be the head coach at Missouri State. However, Odom is a top-notch hire and should keep Missouri’s defense performing at a high level in 2015 and beyond.
Related: SEC 2015 Predictions
Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia
In just two years, Pruitt has already moved into the conversation as one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation. Pruitt coordinated Florida State’s defense in its 2013 national championship season and led the nation by holding opponents to just 12.1 points per game. In Pruitt’s first year at Georgia, the Bulldogs held opponents to 4.8 yards per play and 20.7 points per game. Pruitt is also regarded as an excellent recruiter.
Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma
Bob Stoops overhauled his staff after a disappointing 8-5 season last year, and Riley was handed the keys to the Sooners’ offense. Riley’s background is in the Air Raid offense, as he worked under Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 2003-09 and joined Ruffin McNeill’s staff at East Carolina as the play-caller from 2010-14. Under Riley’s direction, the Pirates averaged 40.2 points per game in 2013 and led the American Athletic Conference in passing yards per contest in 2014.
Mike Sanford, Offensive Coordinator, Notre Dame
Sanford has only been an offensive coordinator for just one season (2014), but the Virginia native is highly regarded assistant. Under Sanford’s watch last year, Boise State led the Mountain West by averaging 39.7 points per game. Additionally, the Broncos averaged 6.5 yards per play and ranked among the nation’s best in red zone offense. Prior to Boise State, Sanford spent three years at Stanford (2011-13) and also worked one year (2010) at WKU.
Kalani Sitake, Defensive Coordinator, Oregon State
When Gary Andersen was hired at Oregon State this offseason, he turned to a familiar name to coordinate the defense. Sitake worked with Andersen at Southern Utah in 2003 and at Utah from 2005-08. The Hawaii native comes to Corvallis after spending six years as the Utes’ defensive coordinator. Utah led the nation with 55 sacks in 2014 and led the Pac-12 in scoring defense (20.2 ppg) in 2011. The combination of Andersen and Sitake should be a huge addition for an Oregon State defense in rebuild mode in 2015.
Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator, Penn State
Shoop was regarded as one of the nation’s top assistant hires last season, and the Pennsylvania native helped Penn State lead the Big Ten in scoring defense and rank No. 3 nationally in yards per play allowed. Shoop also worked under Penn State coach James Franklin at Vanderbilt, and the Commodores held opponents under 25 points per game in all three seasons (2011-13). Shoop also has stops on his resume at William & Mary, UMass, Columbia, Boston College and Army. The Pennsylvania native is one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation.
Robb Smith, Defensive Coordinator, Arkansas
Bret Bielema has a good track record of hiring assistants. And it’s no surprise Bielema hit a home run when he hired Smith to coordinate Arkansas’ defense last season. After a one-year stint in the NFL with the Buccaneers, Smith returned to the collegiate level and transformed the defense into one of the best in the SEC. The Razorbacks allowed only 19.2 points per game and gave up only 28 points over the final four contests. Prior to his 2014 season at Arkansas, Smith also worked from 2009-12 at Rutgers and from 2002-08 at Maine.
Group of 5 Coordinators on the Rise
Kevin Clune, Defensive Coordinator, Utah State
Clune is back at Utah State after a one-year stint at Hawaii. He replaces Todd Orlando, who left Logan for a chance to coordinate Houston’s defense. Clune’s one year with the Rainbow Warriors brought marked improvement to their defense. Hawaii allowed 38.8 points per game in 2013 but gave up only 26.8 under Clune. Prior to the one-year stint at Hawaii and working from 2009-13 at Utah State, Clune also spent time as the defensive coordinator at Weber State and Southern Utah.
Tyson Helton, Offensive Coordinator, WKU
Helton assumed controls of WKU’s offense in 2014, and the Florida native’s first opportunity to call plays at a FBS program was a huge success. The Hilltoppers averaged 44.4 points per game in 2014 and ranked second nationally by averaging 374.3 passing yards per game.
Related: Conference USA 2015 Predictions
Brent Key, Offensive Coordinator, UCF
Key is regarded for his work on the recruiting trail, and the Birmingham native will take over play-calling duties for the Knights in 2015. Key has worked on UCF’s staff since 2005 and played at Georgia Tech under coach George O’Leary.
Todd Orlando, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Houston
Orlando was hired by Tom Herman to coordinate Houston’s defense after a successful two-year run at Utah State. Under Orlando’s watch, the Aggies led the Mountain West in scoring defense and fewest yards per play allowed in back-to-back years. The Pittsburgh native also has stops in his career as a defensive coordinator at FIU and UConn.
Nick Rolovich, Offensive Coordinator, Nevada
Rolovich – the former Hawaii quarterback – is in his four season coordinating the Wolf Pack offense. Nevada’s best season under Rolovich’s watch took place in 2012, as the Wolf Pack averaged 37.8 points per game and 6.2 yards per play. The California native will be tested in 2015 with the departure of quarterback Cody Fajardo.
Related: Mountain West 2015 Predictions
Tyson Summers, Defensive Coordinator, Colorado State
After spending one season as the defensive coordinator at UCF, Summers headed out west to work with Mike Bobo at Colorado State. The Knights’ defense held opponents to just 19.2 points per game last year and limited American Athletic Conference teams to just 3.9 yards per play.
Bryant Vincent, Offensive Coordinator, South Alabama
Vincent is back at South Alabama after a one-year stop at UAB. The Kentucky native guided the Blazers to a No. 4 finish in Conference USA scoring offense last season, and a 5.5 mark in yards per play. Vincent will be working with a few familiar faces from UAB, as quarterback Cody Clements and standout offensive lineman Cameron Blankenship transferred to Mobile for their senior year.
The ACC Atlantic was Florida State's playground last year, as the Seminoles dominated their way to an ACC title and a College Football Playoff berth. So which team is Florida State’s biggest threat this season? If you look at the Las Vegas win totals, then you'll see several contenders to the throne.
When deciding which direction to go on a preseason win total, the schedule is broken down in terms of definite wins, definite losses and toss-ups. Most of the conference games are in the toss-up category, especially ones on the road. This preview will tell which teams have value and which ones you should probably stay away from altogether.
There is a distinct defensive feel to the teams on this side of the ACC with several offenses that may struggle to score much at all. Wake Forest and Syracuse will pretty much be relegated to the spoiler role.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook
(Over 5.5 wins -135...Under 5.5 wins -105)
Record Last Year: 7-6, 4-4
Returning Starters: 9 (3 on offense, 6 on defense)
Offense: Run, run and run the ball some more. Tyler Murphy is gone and so is the biggest threat outside of Jon Hilliman. The running back had 13 touchdowns last year. The main problem for this unit is that the whole offensive line needs to be replaced. This team averaged 129.3 yards per game passing last year. It won't get much better this year.
Defense: The front line returns three starters on a defense that allowed just 94.5 yards per game on the ground. The secondary could be a bit of an issue with just Justin Simmons returning. The senior did have 76 tackles and two INTs last year.
Schedule: Fenway Park will be the venue for a tilt against Notre Dame in November. Before then the Eagles host Maine, Howard and Northern Illinois out of conference. Five of the first six are at home with four of their last six outside of Chestnut Hill.
Selection: This one's real tough for me. I've done several run-throughs of the Eagles’ schedule and have come up with five and six-win seasons. They could easily lose to Northern Illinois on Sept. 26, but could also get the win against NC State or Florida State in Chestnut Hill. Boston College also could spell trouble for visiting Virginia Tech on Halloween. Stay away from either side for this one.
(Over 8.5 wins -180...Under 8.5 wins +140)
Record Last Year: 10-3, 6-2
Returning Starters: 6 (4 on offense, 2 on defense)
Offense: Deshaun Watson needs to stay healthy for this group to go anywhere. He's such a dynamic quarterback who will have weapons in Mike Williams and Artavis Scott on the outside. Wayne Gallman is solid in the backfield although the line will need some time to gel. Watson may be on the move early this season until the front five comes together.
Defense: Stephone Anthony and Vic Beasley are gone from last year's third-ranked defense. The only two returnees are in the secondary with Mackensie Alexander and Jayron Kearse. A lot of new names are going to be asked to make a lot of plays.
Schedule: Clemson should start fast with home games against Wofford and Appalachian State. The Tigers play five of their first six in Death Valley including hosting Notre Dame. Clemson closes out the season by hosting in-state rival South Carolina, which has gotten the better of the Tigers during Dabo Swinney’s tenure.
Selection: This one goes over the win total, but it's because of the way the schedule breaks for the Tigers. The home-friendly start allows them to fill the holes before some road games late. I think they trip up at Louisville on a short week, at NC State and either against South Carolina or Miami potentially. I was trying to get to eight wins, but couldn't do it.
(Over 9.5 wins -120...Under 9.5 wins -120)
Record Last Year: 13-1, 8-0
Returning Starters: 10 (3 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Everett Golson comes to save the day as the Seminoles try to fill Jameis Winston's shoes. Dalvin Cook is a good place to start in the run game after rushing for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman. The pass catchers are all athletic although none are proven commodities like the departed Rashad Greene or Nick O'Leary. The line has just one returnee, but there are some solid JUCOs there.
Defense: Jalen Ramsey was an All-American and he leads a real good secondary. If Reggie Northrup can stay healthy then the linebackers will be fine with Terrance Smith there as well. And don’t forget about kicker Roberto Aguayo, who is a game-changer.
Schedule: The non-conference schedule features Texas State, South Florida, Chattanooga and a road game at Florida. The Seminoles have ACC road games at Boston College, Wake Forest, Clemson and Georgia Tech.
Selection: The over is the play here. Despite the many losses on this team, the schedule is too easy. There just aren't too many places where this team could slip up. These Seminoles aren't as good as last year's squad, but they'll take care of business with most of the teams on this slate.
(Over 7.5 wins -145...Under 7.5 wins +105)
Record Last Year: 9-4, 5-3
Returning Starters: 7 (3 on offense, 4 on defense)
Offense: Plenty of losses on this side of the ball with the three top wideouts and three offensive linemen all gone. There are a lot of question marks here that the team will have to answer. Arguably four candidates are vying for the quarterback position with each having their own strengths. This will be one to watch during training camp.
Defense: This was the sixth-ranked defense overall last year. They have to replace everyone in the secondary although two of the players that are likely to start are transfers who started at Georgia. Sheldon Rankins had eight sacks last year and will be depended upon again this year.
Schedule: The season opens with a game against Auburn in Atlanta in which Louisville will be the underdog. Add in home contests against Houston and Samford as well as a road tilt at Kentucky and you've got an intriguing non-conference slate. The Cardinals have a pair of two-game road trips.
Selection: The thinking here is there's real good value with the under. One of the reasons is because of the uncertainty at QB. Whomever they decide on is going to have some issues. All of the games away from Papa John's Stadium are going to be tough and I think the rough October slate takes a toll on the Cardinals.
(Over 7.5 wins -105...Under 7.5 wins -135)
Record Last Year: 8-5, 3-5
Returning Starters: 14 (7 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Jacoby Brissett is back and he put up 26 total touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions last year. He's going to have an array of running backs led by Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes. David Grinnage will be a nice piece at TE to throw to especially until the Wolfpack develop some other weapons.
Defense: The secondary will be led by Hakim Jones. The defensive backs may need to cover their receivers a little more as the front line develops. Mike Rose (5 sacks) is the only key contributor back up front.
Schedule: The Wolfpack have home games against Troy and Eastern Kentucky before road tilts at Old Dominion and South Alabama. None of those should provide any trouble before the grind of conference play. NC State gets road games at Virginia Tech and Florida State.
Selection: The over is a pretty good wager here. With a weak non-conference slate and games at home against Louisville, archrival North Carolina and Clemson, NC State should be able to pick up enough wins to go over this total. You could wait a little bit and hope more money comes in on the under and you get the over at EVEN money.
(Over 4.5 wins -125...Under 4.5 wins -115)
Record Last Year: 3-9, 1-7
Returning Starters: 7 (4 on offense, 3 on defense)
Offense: Terrel Hunt is back and he figures to be asked to do a lot with a lack of talent around him. Hunt is not only the leading returning passer, but also the leading returning rusher. The line returns three starters. There are intriguing weapons in Brisly Estime and Ashton Broyld.
Defense: There's a lot that needs to be replaced from a respectable defense last year. Marquez Hodge and Ron Thompson had two sacks each last season while Julian Whigham and Antwan Cordy each picked off a single pass in 2014.
Schedule: Syracuse opens the season with four in a row at home. The Orange take on Rhode Island, Central Michigan and LSU in the Carrier Dome while traveling to South Florida in early October. Conference play has them taking on Florida State, Louisville, Clemson and NC State over a four-week span.
Selection: Syracuse should start 3-0 before the season takes a plunge. There are winnable games at South Florida and Virginia as well as the season-ender against Boston College at home. Small lean to the over although I wouldn't feel comfortable with either side.
(Over 3.5 wins -125...Under 3.5 wins -115)
Record Last Year: 3-9, 1-7
Returning Starters: 13 (6 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: This unit scored in the single digits three times last year. They have a lot back, but will it matter? Tight end Cam Serigne is a solid receiving option for John Wolford. Head coach Dave Clawson is very good with offenses so this group should be better than last year.
Defense: Kevin Johnson is gone and that's a big hole as Wake Forest finished 12th in the nation in passing defense in 2014. Still, the majority of the front seven are back from a team that held four teams to 20 points or less last year.
Schedule: The non-conference slate features Elon, Army, Indiana and Notre Dame. Three times the Demon Deacons have two straight road games. They also have a late bye, which could help them get some focus for the finishing stretch in November.
Selection: Ever-so slight lean to the over although Wake Forest needs to get all the wins it can in September. Army is always a tough trip, but the Black Knights aren't returning too many players. Indiana at home could be a win as well, as the Hoosiers have their own weaknesses. The Demon Deacons get some tough teams at home in conference and I think they pick someone off before all is said and done.
— 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 @MidMajorMatt.
Music, like sports, sparks debate, creates discussion and can even lead to heated disagreements.
But both are unquestionably a huge part of American culture. So Athlon Sports has decided to combine two of our favorite things — rock and roll with college football.
What if our favorite football programs were rock and roll bands? Every Power 5 team will be represented, so if you don’t see your favorite band or school here, keep your eyes peeled.
Here are the 14 ACC schools and Notre Dame as rock bands:
Boston College: The National
Sort of like Georgia Tech, you know exactly what you are going to get. It will be slow and a little depressing but once it clicks you will appreciate it much more. They have a distinct identity that is consistently good without ever reaching greatness.
Clemson: Kings of Leon
Both have been downright unstoppable at times but consistently get in their own way. You think they are really good but you’re never really sure. Both are led by outspoken and occasionally intense and controversial leaders.
Extremely well thought of by the media and the experts who are in the know. But are sort of just there, playing noise in the room while people are focused on other things. Complex and organized and very, very smart, but definitely no championships.
Florida State: Justin Bieber
No one has a more rabid and vocal following — especially on Twitter — than the Beebs and the Noles. The fans are crazy passionate and will do anything to support their guys. Both are astronomically successful but so easy to hate from the outside.
Georgia Tech: Pink Floyd
Slow, methodical and precise. The structures are complex, layered and intentionally hard to follow. Yet, somehow it’s just beautiful to behold and consistently solid over a long period of time in a variety of locations.
Louisville: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Big and badass when each dominated its former genre (Big East) before transitioning into mainstream (ACC) slowly but eventually with success. Has shown major staying power and extraordinary talent with some volatile leadership and a love of black and red color scheme.
Miami: Guns n’ Roses
Brash, loud, audacious and a little filthy. This group rocked the universe and dominated the scene when it was at the top of the mountain but its time may have come and gone. They are just biding their time for Slash to return.
NC State: Zac Brown Band
A Southern country rock group that is way more talented than you might think and the live performances are among the best atmospheres in their genre (the ACC). The staying power is clearly there despite some bad years. And when it hits, it’s as popular and catchy as anything on the market.
North Carolina: The Doors
Consistently overrated and extremely self-destructive. Brilliantly talented folks who just can’t get out of their own way. After watching the show, you wonder why they weren’t better than they actually were.
Notre Dame: Elton John
They are sophisticated, classy and educated — and will tell you about it as much as possible. The presentation is glitzy and glamorous and mostly elite in the 70s and 80s — with a slight one-hit resurgence in the modern era.
Pitt: Mumford & Sons
An adaptive former rock-a-billy group (Big East) trapped in alt-rock body (Big Ten) living in a mainstream pop world (ACC). No one is really sure what genre they belong in, but, like Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino, that first album way back in the day had some seriously awesome stuff on it.
Syracuse: Billy Joel
A dominant New York force for a long period of time but people have quickly forgotten just how elite he was back in the day. May never get his voice back and had some serious internal problems for a long period of time.
Virginia: Eric Clapton
Really good rising to the top before rock and roll changed around them (by adding Florida State). A rock elitist who has no problem stealing your wife and then writing a Hall of Fame song about it — despite being sort of overrated in its modern form for the last 20 years.
Virginia Tech: Bob Dylan
Brilliant, consistently good for a long period of time but have seen much better days in terms of on-field performance. Respected in the highest regard, talented and beloved by their faithful followers. However, possibly not understood nationally among the youngest generation.
Wake Forest: The Lumineers
It’s smart and beautiful stuff but always a little lacking in strength and depth. The success seems to have been short-lived and they were really, really hot for about a two-year window.
Two of the biggest blindside hits fifth-year quarterback Joel Stave has absorbed during his career at Wisconsin occurred off the field.
The first came in December 2012 when news broke that coach Bret Bielema was leaving the Badgers for Arkansas. Two years and six days later, Bielema’s replacement, Gary Andersen, sent shock waves through Madison and beyond by bolting for Oregon State.
For a 23-season stretch starting in 1990, Wisconsin had two coaches: Barry Alvarez for 16 seasons, followed by Bielema, Alvarez’s hand-picked successor after he slid into the athletic director’s seat. The program was the picture of stability.
Now, Stave and some other veterans on the roster are set to work under their third coach in four seasons. That figure doesn’t include Alvarez twice filling in as interim coach in bowl games. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind here,” Stave says.
The first person Alvarez thought of after Andersen delivered his bombshell was Paul Chryst. A week later, Chryst was officially hired by his alma mater. Alvarez can sleep easy at night knowing Chryst isn’t going to surprise him with a phone call that he’s leaving for greener pastures: Chryst grew up in Madison, played for the Badgers in the 1980s and had two stints as an assistant coach at Wisconsin, including a successful run as the program’s offensive coordinator from 2005-11.
“With Coach Chryst coming back, you can tell he wants to be here,” senior linebacker Joe Schobert says. “This is his dream job. I think he’ll be here for a long time. He certainly seems like he wants to be here.”
Related: Buy the 2015 Big Ten Football Preview
• • •
That Bielema and Andersen didn’t share that same feeling has been difficult to process for Alvarez and the Wisconsin fanbase. Alvarez had several chances to leave after turning the Badgers from a doormat in the Big Ten to a program that won three conference and Rose Bowl titles in a span of seven seasons, but he turned down each opportunity and continued to build his legacy in Madison. He hired Bielema with the idea he’d be in it for the long haul, and he felt the same way about Andersen.
“When I’ve hired people I’ve always thought this is a destination job, but people change,” Alvarez says. “People don’t always see things the same way or have different visions, and that’s OK. That’s what makes the world go ’round.”
Bielema’s departure was particularly painful to Alvarez because the two were close. Alvarez didn’t even know Bielema was flirting with Arkansas until the deal was done. While Bielema’s move was stunning, it was understandable on some levels.
Setting up base in a region that ruled college football for the better part of a decade — at least until Urban Meyer resurfaced at Ohio State — gave Bielema access to a fertile recruiting area and more money for himself and his assistants. Yes, it’d be difficult to navigate through the powerful SEC West Division, but Bielema figured he had a better chance of winning a national title with the Razorbacks than the Badgers.
Related: Big Ten 2015 Predictions
Andersen, on the other hand, left people scratching their heads with his decision to leave Wisconsin for Oregon State, which has reached double-digit wins only twice in program history, hasn’t been to the Rose Bowl in five decades and, oh yeah, has to compete with a national powerhouse located 50 miles down the road in Eugene.
So why did Andersen choose to leave Wisconsin on the heels of leading the Badgers to a Big Ten West Division title with an impressive recruiting class on the way? A big reason was his frustration with Wisconsin’s admission policies, which are more rigid than some other Big Ten programs.
“It’s been well (documented) there were some kids I couldn’t get in school,” Andersen told CBSSports.com. “That was highly frustrating to me. I lost some guys, and I told them I wasn’t going to lose them. I think they did what they were supposed to do (academically), and they still couldn’t get in. That was really hard to deal with.”
At his previous stop, Utah State, a significant chunk of Andersen’s roster was filled with junior college transfers. Wisconsin had had only a handful of junior college players under Alvarez and Bielema. There were also high school prospects whom Andersen had to turn away due to academics. Missing out on one in particular — highly touted defensive tackle Craig Evans, from the Madison suburb of Sun Prairie — “really bothered” Andersen, Alvarez told the Wisconsin State Journal. Not only did Evans, who had orally committed to the Badgers, change his mind when it became apparent he wouldn’t be admitted to Wisconsin, but he also ended up at Big Ten rival Michigan State instead.
Related: Wisconsin 2015 Preview and Prediction
“That’s not Wisconsin’s fault,” Andersen, speaking of his old school’s admission policies in general, told CBSSports.com. “That’s Wisconsin’s deal. ... I want to surround myself with those kids I can get in school.”
Chryst, for his part, embraces the academic aspect to Wisconsin. Part of that comfort level had to do with the fact that he lived it, both as a student-athlete and as an assistant. Chryst views Wisconsin’s academic profile as a strength, not an obstruction.
“I think I believe it because I’ve been around it,” Chryst says. “Now, I think I’m still finding out, how has it changed? Because nothing really ever stays the same. But I believe in the concept of it. It will reduce your pool of recruits. But all that matters in recruiting is that those guys are the right fit for this place and they can have success. And I think those types of guys that find Wisconsin appealing because of the football and the academics and the town and all the things that go with it, those that truly know it and embrace it, that’s a good starting point.”
• • •
A visitor to Chryst’s office in mid-April, four months after he took the Wisconsin job, might have thought he was on his way out the door. The shelves were practically empty, and so were the walls for the most part, giving the room a sparse feeling.
There was also the matter of Chryst spending the spring sleeping in an extra room at his mother Patty’s home. “You picture this 50-year-old guy down in the basement,” Chryst says.
But don’t be fooled. Chryst’s wife Robin stayed behind in Pittsburgh until the couple’s son Danny finished his senior year in high school. She planned to relocate to Madison in June, when the high school sweethearts could begin the process of moving into their new home.
As for the lack of decorations in his office, part of that is due to Chryst’s no-frills personality, and part of it is simply a matter of priorities. Making his base camp more aesthetically pleasing falls somewhere near the bottom of a long to-do list during the early stages of taking over a program that has been to a bowl game in 20 of the past 22 seasons, with nine double-digit win totals and six trips to the Rose Bowl during that stretch.
As coaching transitions go, this one was certainly made easier by the fact that Chryst knows the lay of the land on campus, has a good working relationship with the high school coaches in the state and doesn’t need introductions to boosters and most of the school’s administration. People are familiar with Chryst. “Except for the ones that matter the most,” he says, “and that’s the players. So we’re still trying to figure that out. I think that’s one of the things we had to accomplish in the spring — us knowing them, and equally them getting to know us.”
One advantage for Chryst: Veterans such as Stave who were around in 2011, Chryst’s final season as offensive coordinator, could provide a good scouting report on their new coach to the younger players on the roster. It’s easy for players’ trust to be damaged when they’ve been burned by coaches leaving for other programs, but Alvarez quickly found someone who didn’t view the Wisconsin job as a stepping stone.
“He loves this place,” senior fullback Derek Watt says of Chryst, who went 19–19 in three seasons at Pittsburgh. “It’s home for him. I think he’s focused on the here and the now and is just going to do everything he can for this program. I don’t think we have to worry too much about where his mindset is at.”
The greatest coach in NFL history — the architect of the Green Bay Packers and the namesake of the league’s championship trophy — died 45 years ago this September.
Though more than four decades have passed since Lombardi last coached a game, he remains a giant in the game’s history and an icon for leadership in and out of the sports world.
At the time of this 1989 remembrance of Lombardi, the coach was 20 years removed from his final game as head coach of the Washington Redskins.
The writer, Tim Cohane, knew Lombardi at Fordham University, where Cohane was a sports information director and Lombardi was a graduate and an assistant coach. Cohane, the sports editor of Look magazine from 1944-65, shared stories of Lombardi’s drive from early in his career, his struggle to find his first head coaching job and his rarely seen humorous side.
The Lombardi I Knew
A Block of Granite with a Soul
By Tim Cohane
Originally appeared in Athlon’s 1989 Pro Football Preview
Ironically, since his Green Bay dynasty would do most to perpetuate the legend of the Seven Blocks of Granite, Vince Lombardi was the least publicized man of that immortal Fordham line.
As Fordham’s sports information director two years ahead of Lombardi — graduated in 1935, two years ahead of Lombardi — I often heard coach Jim Crowley say, “He is the most underrated player on our team. Smart. You never have to tell him anything twice. Dedicated. He always gives 100 percent. And tough.”
In one game with Pittsburgh, a lethal elbow caused him to play most of 60 minutes with a mouthful of blood. Afterward, Dr. Gerry Carroll, Fordham’s team physician, sewed 30 stitches. In a spring practice scrimmage, a blow that punctured the wall of Lombardi’s stomach forced him to live for weeks on cream and poached eggs. But he kept scrimmaging. He also donated his teeth.
Looking back on it 30 years later, Lombardi mused: “It was nothing compared to what the Packers have played with. Dave Hanner was an outstanding defensive tackle against the Bears 10 days after an appendectomy. We had to tear the jersey from Bart Starr, whose shoulder and ribs were racked with pain. Offensive guard Jerry Kramer played with enough serious injuries to make the medical books.
“And we had not copyright on playing with pain. All pros do it. The game is not for men with low pain tolerance. Nor is it for those with a temperament unfit to accept punishment and discipline. To weed out the unfit is a coach’s duty to the fit.”
Lombardi’s own attitude toward pain was matched by his dedication as a scholar; the deepest roots in his ability to motivate lay in his talent for teaching. It became clear when he was a dean’s list student in the Bachelor of Arts course, graduating cum laude.
The respect for discipline, which he inherited from a father perhaps even stronger-minded than himself, was further molded at West Point under Lombardi’s idol, Coach Earl H. “Red” Blaik, whom he worked under as an offensive coordinator from 1949 through ’53. “If you think you see a military precision in the Packers,” Lombardi said, “you are right. It came from ‘The Old Man’ through me.”
Blaik and Lombardi first came together by a coincidence in which I had a part. As sports editor of LOOK, I was at the Biltmore Hotel in New York for the 1948 Eastern College Athletic Conference meeting and went to dinner with Blaik, whom I had first met at Dartmouth 14 years before.
“Sid Gillman, our line coach, is leaving to become the head coach at Cincinnati,” Blaik said. “I found out this year that we need two line coaches for two-platoon football. I’ve got the defensive man lined up: Murray Warmath. But I’m looking for an offensive man. Know anybody?”
“This is strange,” I said. “About two weeks ago I had a call about a young fellow who is an assistant at Fordham and wants to move ahead. He was a smart, competitive guard there for Jim Crowley. His position coach was Frank Leahy. He was also an honor student.
“As a high school coach at St. Cecilia in Englewood, N.J., his teams won seven championships in eight years. He also taught Latin, chemistry and physics. He’s about 35. He’s smart, tough, a madman for work and a born leader. I think he’s your kind of cat. His name is Lombardi. Vincent Lombardi.”
“Send him up to see me,” said Blaik.
From the start Lombardi impressed Blaik. Curious, I phoned Blaik for his reaction, and he delivered to me the best sum-up of Lombardi I ever heard: “He’s a rough soul.”
In 1949, with Blaik delegating offensive responsibility to Lombardi, the Cadets won the Lambert Trophy (champions of the East) with a 9-0 record highlighted by snapping Michigan’s 25-game winning streak, at Ann Arbor, and by defeating Navy 38-0 in a game that was a clinical showcase of two-platoon efficiency. Blaik was quietly delighted with “Conquering Longbeard,” as the Latin roots for Vincent Lombardi translate.
“But he has a vile temper,” Blaik said. “He becomes profane on the field.” Blaik lectured him: “We just don’t do it that way here. You can’t talk that way to cadets.” Blaik tamed him. For a while.
The Packers sometimes felt Lombardi was the first cousin to the Wild Man of Borneo. “I have a naturally explosive temper that I’ve never been able to subdue wholly,” he admitted. “And a seething impatience. In a way, it’s a good thing, maybe. I’ve often wondered whether it’s my greatest strength — or weakness. But I feel the chances are that if I were otherwise, I wouldn’t be as effective.”
We spent many hours together at the academy. Because of our Fordham background, I wanted badly for him to succeed, and he knew it. Our relationship indulged strong differences of opinion. One developed into a juvenile shouting match following an Army victory over Fordham that resembled two pirate crews at work with dirks and cutlasses. I maintained that Army had been the instigator, while Vince blamed Fordham. Naturally, he was working for Army.
Mostly, though, we had laughs. As a gag, I used to pick an annual silly All-America, named for Bull Pond where Blaik, his staff and a few friends used to camp each August, their only time off. The Bull Pond heroes included Ugh, storied guard from Carlisle, who transferred from Geronimo’s Finishing School in Oklahoma; tackles Excalibur Slim of King Arthur’s Knight School and Yak Blubber of the Igloo Institute of Electrical Appliances; ends Chuckles Axemurder of Bedlam Hall and Nero Fiddle of Hook and Ladder No. 7; and guard Oscar Upchuck of Old Nausea.
Even after Vince left Army to serve as the New York Giants’ offensive coach under Jim Lee Howell, 1954 through ’58, I used to read the Bull Pond team to him by phone because his bellowing, infectious laughter was funnier than the team. In 1958, we decided to pick an all-time Bull Pond team, and votes were solicited by mail. Lombardi mailed me his selections with the following letter, dated June 24, 1958:
As you will see from my note, the 1957 team was by far the best. I often wish it were possible to see them play as a unit under the great all-time coach, Blaik Von Leahy of South Bend on the Hudson.
Selecting the all-time team was comparatively simple except for the guard positions. Ugh, of course, stands put. But it took a great deal of thought to pick Oscar Upchuck over Heinrich Schnorkel of Unterwasser U. I guess, however, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for old Upchuck.
With best wishes
After Giants practices, Lombardi used to love to read the Bull Pond selections to Howell, Tom Landry and the rest of the staff. Howell told me on a plane once that they looked forward to it. So I guess I wasn’t the only madman involved, nor was Lombardi.
In those years, the Giants were winning or regularly contending for the pro title, usually against the Cleveland Browns, coached by Paul Brown. From those games, Lombardi and Brown developed a deep mutual respect.
Meanwhile, Vince was ready to be a head coach, had long been ready and was aching for his chance. Some jobs opened to him that he recognized as posing impenetrable road blocks. So he turned them down. The jobs he did go after passed him by. In some of them I was his unofficial ambassador, with portfolio but without success.
General Hubert Harmon, first superintendent of the Air Force Academy, was with me at the bar in Mama Leone’s restaurant in New York one night. He said he was looking for a head coach. I recommended Lombardi. (This was probably the early 50s while Vince was still at The Point.)
On the 20th Century train en route to the 1956 Notre Dame-Oklahoma game at South bend, I met by chance with the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, former ND president, whom I’d known for 10 years. At dinner, he confided that they might want to replace Terry Brennan in a couple of years, which they did, and asked me to recommend a successor. “Unless you want a graduate,” I told him, “you can’t go wrong with Vince Lombardi.”
When Southern California was considering at successor to Jess Hill, who was about to succeed the retiring Bill Hunter as athletic director, Braven Dyer, Los Angeles Times writer and Trojan historian, asked for a recommendation. I cited Lombardi. “He’ll make it tough on Notre Dame, UCLA and everybody else,” I said.
Same when Bill Leiser, San Francisco scribe and Stanford almnus, discussed a successor to Chuck Taylor, who was moving up to athletic director at Palo Alto.
Why they all passed him by, I have no idea. Perhaps because he had been a head coach only in high school. Perhaps because his talents were known mainly among the pros and among relatively few college people. Vince always suspected his name might have something to do with it.
Once night in the mid-1950s after a Rose Bowl game, we drove out to a restaurant in the San Fernando Valley and kicked it around for about three hours.
“I know I can coach,” Lombardi brooded, “but the right people never seem to know. I’m 43 now. I’m not getting any younger. Maybe I’ll never get my chance.”
That just couldn’t be. Finally the door opened in 1959, when he was 46. The once mighty Green Bay Packers had taken a lease on Skid Row. Jack Vainisi, then business manager, was empowered to search out a new coach. For advice he went to men he knew would know. Bert Bell, the NFL commissioner. Paul Brown. Red Blaik. From all he got he same answer: Lombardi.
Within three years Skid Row bloomed into the Palace Gardens, which Kramer later dubbed Camelot. Five world champions in seven years. A dynasty that erupted from a dynamo. Twenty years later, the Lombardi Packers remain the standard by which all the great modern teams are measured. It would be silly to categorically call Vince the all-time best. But did or will anyone ever leave a greater impact?
I used to get to Green Bay a couple of Sundays a year, and I never saw Lombardi team lose. Afterwards, we’d go out to dinner with friends, his only in-season relaxation. We’d have a few scotches. We’d render a duet of “The Fordham Run,” unmelodious but loud. Or he’d ask me to recite his favorite poem: Grantland Rice’s tribute to the Granites. It was titled “Old Gibraltar.”
As with many geniuses, complexity rode position to Lombardi. He could be domineering, arrogant, abrasive, harshly realistic. He could also be conciliatory, courtly, kind and sentimental. He could be ruthless. Yet, in his acceptance speech at the first testimonial in Green Bay after his first world title, he shocked his audience by breaking down into tears. They had never suspected this side of him.
Almost invariably, the old Green Bay heroes of Lombardi’s day agree that his relationship to them was that of a harsh but deeply caring father, an amalgam of fear, respect, hate and love. He was the first coach, this menace pacing the sidelines, who ever attributed the success of his team to the players’ love for one another.
At dinner after a 1961 game with the Bears, I saw Jim Ringo, who felt he had played poorly at offensive center that day despite the victory, approach Lombardi like a prodigal and receive encouragement. (Three years later, when Ringo sought to negotiate a contract through an agent, Lombardi traded him before sundown.)
As the championships piled up, so did the pressures. Strong as Lombardi was physically, he blacked out a couple of times. After he gave up smoking, he began to put on the weight. All this contributed to the bad press he called down himself in his later years with The Pack. He must have been at his worst the day he answered Arthur Daley, Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist of The New York Times and a fellow alumnus, “Arthur, how can you ask a stupid question like that?”
Next time we were together, I chided him: “With your mind and will and success, this situation with the writing media is not making you look very smart.” He replied: “You are right. I’ve got to mend some fences.” Which he did.
The labeling of Lombardi as the arch-apostle of “winning is everything” is inaccurate, but it was his own fault. “I never meant that,” he said. “I meant that a total commitment to winning is everything.” He didn’t make that clear enough to enough people.
Although the story has been told thousands of times, it can’t go unmentioned in the recollections of a friend. As a boy, Lombardi studied five years for the Catholic priesthood before he decided he did not have a vocation. But he remained an almost daily communicant.
“Prayer has always been necessary to me,” he said. “It was part of my upbringing. Without it, I never could have taken the pressures of coaching.” Publicly, however, he tried to steer interviewers away from the subject of his religion.
After The Pack bounced Oakland around 33-14 in the 1968 Super Bowl game, Lombardi resigned as coach but stayed on as general manager. After one year, however, he accepted the challenge of rebuilding the Washington Redskins. He got off a promising start with a 7-5-2 record but was stricken by cancer and died Sept. 3, 1970.
There is still a host of memories around (my) house. Files full of clippings. Magazines. Books. The Packer blanket and 1961 world championship tie clasp, shaped like a football. But I guess my favorite is the postcard of the Coliseum he sent me from Rome the winter of 1962: “Having a beer and pizza at the half. The score: Lions 8, Christians 7.”
Anyone can have bad results at a lackluster college football program. Even Bear Bryant or Nick Saban might have trouble staying above water at a program in a bad recruiting era, little tradition and scant resources.
However, it takes a unique situation for someone to struggle at a place sitting in good recruiting territory, with a championship tradition and ample backing from fans and administration.
Granted, the pressures of coaching at top programs aren’t for everyone. The pressure to win every game — and answering to media and fans when it doesn’t happen — isn’t realistic.
These are the coaches who struggled to great proportions despite the advantages that come at top programs. These are the coaches who missed bowl games where it should be really, really tough to miss bowl games. We are considering great programs to be among the leaders in win percentage during since the Associated Press poll began in 1936.
One thing to note: We are only listing coaches who were hired after a program reached national prominence. Thus, pre-Nick Saban coaches at LSU or pre-Howard Schnellenberger coaches at Miami, for example, were not considered.
1. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Record: 15-21 (.417) from 2010-12
A Nick Saban disciple and the son of one of the SEC’s greatest coaches, what could go wrong? Pretty much everything. Dooley inherited a program damaged by Lane Kiffin’s lone season, but Dooley set the Volunteers further back by going winless against ranked teams, winless against SEC teams in October and 2-14 in the SEC his last two seasons. Quotable, yes. Great hair, yes. Good coach, not really.
2. Joe Kuharich, Notre Dame
Record: 17-23 (.425) from 1959-62
Gerry Faust, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis are remembered with more vitriol than Kuharich, but that’s a product of recent memory. Kuharich took over six seasons after Frank Leahy’s tenure and never had a winning season in four years at Notre Dame despite having talented teams at the height of Notre Dame’s popularity.
3. Gerry Faust, Notre Dame
Record: 30-26-1 (.535) from 1981-85
Imagine any major program hiring a high school coach these days. Plenty of programs have hired high school coaches as assistants, but head coach? No way. That’s what Notre Dame did when it replaced Dan Devine with Faust, coach at powerhouse Cincinnati Moeller. The gamble was predictably a failure, but at least Notre Dame could keep the high ground by giving Faust a full five seasons. Subsequent coaches wouldn’t be able to say the same.
4. John Blake, Oklahoma
Record: 12-22 (.353) from 1996-98
An assistant for Barry Switzer and former Sooners player, Blake knew better than to repeat the mistakes of his predecessor Howard Schnellenberger, but that didn’t help him win games. Blake had never been even a coordinator, and it showed as the Sooners went 8-16 in the Big 12. At least his recruits were the centerpieces for OU’s 2000 national championship team under successor Bob Stoops
5. Howard Schnellenberger, Oklahoma
Record: 5-5-1 (.500) in 1995
Schnellenberger had one of the most puzzling tenures in college sports in his lone season at Oklahoma. He built Miami into a national power in the 1980s and brought Louisville to relevance, but Oklahoma fans were turned off by Schnellenberger’s dismissiveness of Sooners history — especially after Oklahoma finished 1995 with three straight blowout losses.
6. John Mackovic, Texas
Record: 41-28-2 (.592) from 1992-97
Mackovic started to rebuild Texas after the David McWilliams era with three consecutive bowl games and a Big 12 title game appearance between 1994-96. But his fate was sealed on Sept. 12, 1997 with a 66-3 loss to UCLA at home that became known as “Rout 66.” Mackovic went 4-7 his final season despite having Ricky Williams in his backfield.
7. Mike DuBose, Alabama
Record: 24-23 (.511) from 1997-2000
DuBose followed national championship coach Gene Stallings to go 4-7 in his first season thanks in part to NCAA sanctions. Though DuBose led the Tide to a 10-3 season and top 10 finish in 1999, he went 3-8 the following year and was the coach during major NCAA recruiting violations.
8. Mike Shula, Alabama
Record: 26-23 (.531) from 2003-06
Perhaps Shula was doomed from the beginning. Alabama fans were wounded by the sudden departure of Dennis Franchione to Texas A&M just as NCAA sanctions were levied. Shula wasn’t even on the radar until Washington State coach Mike Price was fired amid scandal before his first game. Shula went to the Cotton Bowl in 2005 but otherwise became the first Alabama coach since the pre-Bear Bryant days to have three non-winning seasons.
9. David McWilliams, Texas
Record: 31-26 (.544) from 1987-91
Aside from a 10-2 season and Southwest Conference championship in 1990, McWilliams had a lackluster tenure at Texas on the heels of the Darrell Royal and Fred Akers days. McWilliams’ time at Texas was doomed when the Longhorns went 5-6 after reaching the Cotton Bowl a year earlier.
10. Ray Goff, Georgia
Record: 46-34-1 (.574) from 1989-95
Goff had the unenviable task of taking over for the best coach in Georgia history. He had two losing seasons and two 6-6 seasons in six years, but his greatest sin was ushering in an era of futility against Florida. Goff lost his final six meetings against the Gators, the start of a 1-13 stretch in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
11. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
Record: 15-22 (.405) from 2008-10
Michigan swung for the fences when it tried to shake up its square-jawed image by hiring spread-offense acolyte Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia. The experiment was a failure as the offense was dismal in a 3-9 season in Rodriguez’s first year, the worst for Michigan in 46 years. Michigan improved in his final two years, but Rodriguez became the first coach to leave Michigan with a losing record. RichRod has taken West Virginia and Arizona to major programs, making his struggles at Michigan that much more perplexing.
12. Tyrone Willingham, Notre Dame
Record: 21-15 (.583) from 2002-04
Willingham was Notre Dame’s second choice after George O’Leary resigned after it was discovered his resume contained false information. It seemed for a time to be a good break for Notre Dame when Willingham’s first team started 8-0. The Irish went 13-15 thereafter. Willingham became the first Notre Dame coach fired after only three seasons.
13. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame
Record: 35-27 (.565) from 2005-09
Notre Dame was outclassed in two BCS games in Weis’ first two seasons, but at least the Irish were back in the national consciousness. Weis looked like an offensive genius by leading Brady Quinn to several Notre Dame passing records and the Heisman presentation, but the bottom fell out in 2007 with a 3-9 record and the Irish’s first loss to Navy since 1963. Considering his ability to collect a buyout from two schools, he's smarter than all of us.
14. Paul Hackett, USC
Record: 19-18 (.514) from 1998-2000
The journeyman coach put up journeyman results in his three seasons at USC, going 5-11 in the Pac-10 in his final two years. In his three-year tenure, Hackett became the first USC coach in 41 years to never go to the Rose Bowl.
15. Bill Callahan, Nebraska
Record: 27-22 (.551) from 2004-07
Frank Solich’s 58 wins in six season was not enough to keep him employed at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers tried to move away from their traditional option by bringing in Callahan from the NFL ranks, but a 5-6 season in 2004 ended Nebraska’s streak of 35 consecutive bowl games. The pro-style offense eventually caught on, but big wins never did as Nebraska bookended his tenure with a 5-7 season in 2007.
16. Randy Shannon, Miami
Record: 28-22 (.560) from 2007-10
The decorated defensive coordinator never could match Miami’s level of success the Hurricanes had while Shannon was an assistant or a player. The Hurricanes’ decline that began under Larry Coker was hastened under Shannon. The Canes went 5-7 in his first season, including a 48-0 loss to Virginia in the final game at the storied Orange Bowl.
17. Will Muschamp, Florida
Record: 29-21 (.580) from 2011-14
Muschamp went 11-2 in his second season, losing in the Sugar Bowl to Louisville. The rest of his tenure was an offensively challenged comedy of errors. Muschamp's Florida teams endured a losing season for the first time since 1979, lost to an FCS school for the first time in school history and lost to Vanderbilt for the first time since 1945.
18. Ron Zook, Florida
Record: 23-14 (.621) from 2002-04
Zook inherited the Heisman runner-up (Rex Grossman) when Steve Spurrier left and never more than eight games as the Gators coach. The tenure included two losses to Ole Miss (albeit led by Eli Manning), a loss to Mississippi State and three unranked finishes. The Zooker could recruit, though.
19. Lane Kiffin, USC
Record: 28-15 (.651) from 2010-13
USC went 10-2 with a win over Oregon despite a bowl ban in 2011, raising the stakes for 2012. The Trojans, though, went from preseason No. 1 to 7-6 with a loss in the Sun Bowl to Georgia Tech. A listless performance on offense in 2013 prompted his abrupt ouster less than 12 hours after a loss to Arizona State. A hot start under interim coach Ed Orgeron has become a further indictment on Kiffin’s tenure.
20. Gary Crowton (26-23 at BYU), Dan Hawkins (19-39 at Colorado) and Keith Gilberston (7-16 at Washington)
We can debate if BYU, Colorado and Washington are “great” programs, but all had won national championships and were viable winners when the three coaches above took over. BYU and Washington have recovered to a degree, but both programs are long ways off from winning national championships again.
For Athlon Sports, the offseason is one of our favorite times of the year.
Of course, we enjoy the season as much as any crazed college football fan, but the bread-and-butter for Athlon since 1967 has been helping readers prepare for the season, helping them get to know the teams and players they need to watch.
This is the time of year we get to share our preseason annuals, our national edition and regional previews for five conferences. Countless hours of study and work from dozens of individuals went into the 2015 editions, and we still have room for debate on the outlook for every team.
Of course, Athlon isn’t the only publication out there. And just like anyone we like to compare how everyone evaluates the season ahead. Here’s how the top 25 and conference champions shook out in the various publications.
We’ll continue to update the grid as more rankings are released through the offseason.
|2015 Preseason College Football Rankings|
The pressure is definitely intense during the NBA Finals, and it has been wearing down key players on both teams. Steph Curry is the latest victim of the moment, suffering from dehydration last night following Golden State’s win. The victory puts them within one of their first NBA Championship since 1975.
Curry put in an impressive showing last night, scoring 37 points in 42 minutes. The Warriors have needed all they have gotten out of the MVP, especially going up against Lebron James, a four-time MVP, who has also been playing extra time and effort. Though severely dehydrated and in pain, Curry quickly received a fluid treatment and will be back for Game 6 tomorrow in Cleveland.
Cleveland point guard Matthew Dellavedova also notably had to receive treatment after Game 3, after clearly going max effort in extended time. This series has required certain players to give extra time on the floor, which has clearly left an impact on them.
Look below as an exhausted Steph Curry takes in the win:
Michigan and Mother Nature do not go hand in hand. A few years back, the two-mile speedway had its Sprint Cup race postponed not once but twice due to persistent summer rain showers. This year, the track saw its 200-lapper shortened, put out of its misery with 138 laps complete, after four red flags for downpours. The last thunderstorm flooded parts of the speedway, forcing the track to clear out the grandstands while setting up a makeshift Victory Lane ceremony for winner Kurt Busch.
The end result wasn’t pretty, stoppages stripping the race of much of its rhythm and intrigue. It didn’t help Kevin Harvick dominated, pulling away for long stretches, when things did get going to the point no one else was able to challenge. If it weren’t for a broken valve stem, cutting the air out of one of Harvick’s tires, we’d be talking about the No. 4 car taking the field to task once again.
Could NASCAR have made it better? I think postponing the race, which is what many were calling for, was the wrong call. The forecast called for “pop-up” showers and there was no 100 percent guarantee they would keep popping up at the wrong time. That’s a whole lot different than trying to wait out a “wall” of precipitation that was falling for several hours at a time. In between the rain were long stretches of sunshine; push the race back until Monday and angry ticket-paying fans would remember that, wondering why they didn’t try harder. Yes, the Nielsen TV ratings will suffer but so would track attendance in future years if fans who couldn’t go Monday felt the race should have been run a longer distance.
Sunday reminded me of a rain-delayed, regular-season baseball game where the end-goal is simply just to “finish.” The problem is, there’s 162 of those for each team; in NASCAR, just 26 regular-season races before the Chase make the impact of a throwaway event that much greater. I understand the disappointment surrounding that. But it’s hard enough for the sport to fix its rules package; I don’t see them finding a way to control Mother Nature anytime soon.
Through The Gears we go…
FIRST GEAR: Busch Battles Back
Kurt Busch, months off a three-race suspension for domestic violence accusations, showcased some growing maturity at Michigan. Friday, his No. 41 Chevy was torn to shreds, a practice crash forcing out a backup car in a move that would have left Busch miserable in recent years. Instead? He put his trust in crew chief Tony Gibson the backup car would be just as good, if not better.
It certainly helps when Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick is rolling out a winning setup. But the bottom line is Busch kept his composure, believed in himself and was in position to capitalize when Harvick’s day went south before the rains came.
“It was a fantastic group effort,” the driver said. “That shows you the depth of Stewart-Haas Racing. It gives every crew member that much more confidence to know that we’re doing things right.”
Busch, who now has two wins, is guaranteed a spot in the Chase during a year where some wondered if he’d even end up with a ride. If not for a flimsy caution at Fontana, combined with a few big breaks at Bristol, he’d be tied with Jimmie Johnson atop the season victory list. Harvick is the top title contender at SHR but it’s days like these that remind you not to count Busch out.
SECOND GEAR: Kyle’s Rollercoaster Weekend
It was a weird weekend for the Busch brothers, bookending the field at Michigan as younger Kyle wound up dead last. The victim of perhaps NASCAR pushing a restart, running the cars as rain was falling, Busch hit a slick spot off turn 4, lost control and pounded the wall with his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota. The 43rd-place finish cost him dearly in the points, leaving him 173 behind 30th-place Justin Allgaier with 11 races remaining. That means Busch needs to gain 16 points a race, possible but not no longer probable, as his comeback bid has been bit by bad luck.
It was a shocking turnaround just a day after Busch reached Victory Lane in NASCAR’s XFINITY Series. He did it in his first start, impressive considering the No. 54 Toyota over there has not been as strong as recent years. That alone tells you Busch’s talent is pushing 100 percent; unfortunately, he needs factors outside his control to fall in place with it. So far, not so good on that front, as two DNFs (add last month’s Dover wreck) are starting to cloud his 2015 Chase potential.
THIRD GEAR: Larson’s Gamble Gone Wrong
Perhaps the only drama, aside from Harvick’s flat tire Sunday, concerned Kyle Larson’s failed bid for victory. Larson’s crew chief, Chris Heroy kept the No. 42 Chevrolet on track after Harvick’s incident, hoping against hope rain they knew was coming would happen before the car ran out of fuel. In the end, they came up three laps short, a green-flag stop leaving them 17th and oh-so-close to a surprise performance that would have launched them right into the Chase.
“Hey, I applaud my guys for trying,” Larson said. “We are pretty deep in points so we have to take risks like that.”
Here’s the cool part for Larson; that’s not necessarily true. He’s pulled within 39 points of a fading Ryan Newman and is 40 behind B-level Aric Almirola for a Chase spot. It’s certainly conceivable, considering the strength of the equipment behind him, the sophomore could make a run over the final 11 races. I wouldn’t feel too comfortable if I was either of those two men, especially as Clint Bowyer has closed in as well (just 12 and 13 points back of the pair, respectively).
FOURTH GEAR: Rules Package, Come Quickly
The first three laps at Michigan featured three on-track passes for the lead. After that? Zilch. Nada. Nothing. The rest of the 17 lead changes came as a result of green-flag pit strategy, a strong bottom groove making even restarts easy for the leader to stay out front.
Rumors persist NASCAR is debuting a new rules package, reducing downforce for these cars, as early as Kentucky next month. We should hear something over this coming week, one of the sport’s few “off weekends” for Sprint Cup racing until November. Owners keep complaining about the cost of new rules, but with what we saw Sunday? Getting new cars out there isn’t a recommendation – it’s a necessity. Follow-the-leader, aerodynamic racing is out of control to the point fans will walk away if it persists much longer.
Kevin Harvick’s 29th-place finish was just his second outside the top 10 all season. It’s also the second straight week someone has suffered from a broken valve stem. Paul Menard had the same issue at Pocono. In both cases, the drivers kept from wrecking but it’s a problem to keep an eye on as the pressure of pit stops – one of the few areas you can gain track position easily – keep increasing… Sunday was a major step forward for Carl Edwards’ program. Leading 41 laps, the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota ended up 12th and was generally a top-5 car most of the race. The key has been qualifying; Edwards has started top 10 in each of the last five events, including his winning Coca-Cola 600 performance… Roush Fenway Racing must be ready to throw its hands up in frustration. While Trevor Bayne got lucky, pit strategy catapulting him to a season-high ninth place, their one Chase hopeful, Greg Biffle, ran an awful 36th. Two of his three worst finishes this season have come at RFR’s former strongholds, here and at sister two-mile track Fontana. When underfunded drivers like Cole Whitt, Josh Wise and Landon Cassill are blowing by you at this type of track, that’s a problem.
— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
After winning the Super Bowl in dramatic fashion, with a seemingly improbable victory, Patriots owner Robert Kraft awarded his team with the biggest rings in NFL history. It is a small sum for an impressive victory and overall season, but nothing is small about the ring itself.
The ring itself is decorated with 205 diamonds, which create an image of the Patriots’ four Lombardi trophies with their logo in the middle. Around the diamond middle, the words “World Champion” are in bold letters. One side of the ring shows the score of the Super Bowl game, the Super Bowl logo, their season record, and the quote “Do your job”. The other side is personalized with the name of the recipient, years of other Patriots’ Super Bowls, and Gillette Stadium. The inside of the ring reads, “We are all Patriots”.
These were given out at a festive celebration held at Robert Kraft’s home. Take a look at the ring for yourself:
Urban Meyer is serious about the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. So serious, that he made a woman wearing blue do pushups.
The Buckeyes head coach spoke at the Ohio State Football Women's Clinic and specifically told the ladies not to wear blue or mention that dreaded "M" word. One woman didn't listen, and it resulted in some pushups.
@Lombosco Took place at today's OSU Women's Football Clinic. Coach Meyer said no blue allowed. Lady had a blue tank.— Rebecca Momany (@Kohlb12) June 14, 2015
@Lombosco Coach gave her a new shirt in exchange for 10 push ups. It was an awesome day with the OSU coaching staff and 800 ladies.— Rebecca Momany (@Kohlb12) June 14, 2015
Not even the ladies are exempt.
(Source: College Spun)
The Kansas City Royals are currently dominating the All Star vote, and a lot of people are not happy about that. Seven players are slated to make the starting All Star team, potentially with more if this voting surge continues. To many, it may seem ridiculous that so many players are making it from one team, even when there are plenty of other great choices.
But that’s not how it works in baseball, and Royals manager Ned Yost made that clear when asked about it. Yost told the USA Today, "There's nothing wrong. Vote! The votes are the votes. If you don't like it, go out there and vote. Our fans have gotten out and voted.”
Royals fans must be voting a lot, considering they are one of the smaller market teams. In terms of Facebook likes, they rank 22nd with around 939,000. Meanwhile, the New York Yankees rank first with over 8 million likes.
With a social media campaign like this, it's no surprise why they are dominating:
#VoteRoyals (@Royals) June 15, 2015
Parking in spaces that are marked or designated for certain individuals is never a good idea.
And it’s always a bad idea to block a college football coach in his parking spot. After all, most coaches work long hours and burn the midnight oil.
Thanks to running back Warren Ball, we are finding out Urban Meyer likes to block in anyone who parks in his space. Planning on leaving? Looks like this person will be waiting a while. And it's safe to say they won't be in Meyer's spot again.
What happens when you park in Coach Meyer's spot lol blocked in until he leaves pic.twitter.com/ujU6ufMvnX— Warren Ball Jr. (@WarrenB_) June 15, 2015
WEWS News Channel 5 has a gem on their hands with weatherman Mark Johnson.
Everyone's new favorite weatherman gave us yet another colorful take on the NBA Finals, this time it was the lack of officiating that happened in Game 5.
The Warriors went on to win and take a 3-2 series lead, but just imagine how crazy he'll go if they end up winning it all. That's one forecast that people can't wait to see.
Athletes often pay homage to their colleges and love showing their support for them when they can. However, David Price seems to take it to another level with his support of Vanderbilt University, where his storied career led to him being drafted first overall in 2007. With the Commodores in the College World Series, Price had planned a trip to their opening game.
However, a rain delay of almost two hours in the fifth inning put a damper on his plans, which he took to Twitter in an anxious rant. After the Tigers game finally ended, the former Cy Young Award winner raced to the airport and jetted to Omaha in time for the baseball game. He took in the game, gave an interview, and took selfies with fans. Meanwhile, the Vanderbilt game also had a rain delay in the 6th inning, causing the game to be suspended until today. Price didn’t seem to care though, later exclaiming his joy on Twitter.
Take a look at David Price's adventure via Twitter:
Had to sit through 2 weather delays today in 2 different states...I don't care if vandy is losing 3-0 it was well worth it!! #brotherhood— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) June 15, 2015
With only a few unsigned prospects left in the 2015 class, recruiting analysts can begin to evaluate the top classes. But this year might make it a little more difficult than in years past. The top prospects of this class have not chosen the national powerhouses as in previous years, instead opting to sign with the underdogs. So with that, could the college basketball recruiting landscape finally be leveling out enough to provide more contenders for this year's national championship?
In 2014 the top class belonged to Duke, who was able to bring in four of the top 25 players in the ESPN 300 led by No. 1 overall prospect C Jahlil Okafor and No. 4 overall G Tyus Jones. Kentucky finished in a close second by also bringing in four of the top 25 led by No. 6 overall prospect F Trey Lyles. North Carolina would finish with the third-best class after bringing in three of the top 25 players, a trio led by No. 8 overall SF Justin Jackson. Kansas was right behind the Tar Heels for the third spot, but would finish fourth with its crop led by No. 3 overall prospect F Cliff Alexander. But the surprise of 2014 was UNLV, as Running Rebels were able to secure three prospects in the top 50 led by G Rashad Vaughn (No. 19 overall).
Let's fast forward to the 2015 class and look at how these powerhouse programs fared. Duke was able to continue its momentum, landing four prospects in the top 25, starting with No. 3 overall F Brandon Ingram. But other fellow blue bloods weren't as fortunate. Kentucky was looking forward to another great class filled with superstars, but for once John Calipari and his staff were unable to close the deal on many. Kentucky still was able to land two of the top 25 — No. 2 overall C Skal Labissiere and No. 13 G Isaiah Briscoe — but weren't able to replace all the talent that has already departed Lexington. No. 7 overall prospect Chieck Diallo and No. 12 C Stephen Zimmerman were able to give Kansas and UNLV, respectively, a boast in the rankings, but both teams were only able to land one other top 50 prospect each. The big loser in this class was North Carolina, as the Tar Heels were unable to land any prospects in the top 50, due in large part to concerns about potential NCAA penalties stemming from the university's wide-ranging academic scandal.
While all the big-name programs were trying to continue their recruiting success, a few unexpected schools rose to the challenge and lured talent to their respective institution. LSU was a winner this year by bringing in two of the top-15 prospects led by No. 1 overall F Ben Simmons, but the Tigers weren't the only rising team in this class. Cal was also able to land two top prospects, No. 4 overall G Jaylen Brown and No. 8 overall Ivan Rabb. Texas A&M was arguably the biggest winner by bringing in three of the top 50 prospects, led by No. 27 overall C Tyler Davis and No. 31 F Elijah Thomas. This success propelled the Aggies to their first top 10 class in over a decade. Florida State, Indiana, Marquette, Maryland, Mississippi State, Purdue, South Carolina and Villanova also were each able to land a top-15 prospect in this class while Memphis, Texas, and Washington were able to land multiple top-50 prospects.
The 2015 class was able to show that the top prospects aren't just looking at the powerhouses anymore and this trend will likely continue when the 2016 class starts to take shape. There have already been major surprises this cycle with Georgia, Harvard, Rice, Georgia State and Texas A&M building momentum early in the process, but will these influxes of highly regarded talent be enough for any of them to derail the powerhouse teams from adding another national championship to their collection?
Duke showed everyone what a No. 1-ranked class can do for a program but even the Blue Devils must admit the college basketball recruiting landscape is changing and the underdogs are building momentum for future classes.
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.
It’s been a busy week for the MLB’s top prospects. Over just the past seven days, four of the league’s most anticipated players made their debuts, including Carlos Correa (SS, Astros), Byron Buxton (OF, Twins), Vincent Velasquez (P, Astros), and Francisco Lindor (SS, Indians). Not only did they come up, they also made some memorable moments rather quickly.
Carlos Correa made his first hit on a reversed call, then crushed a monstrous home run in his second game. Byron Buxton went 0-4 in his first game, but scored the winning run after reaching base in the ninth inning. Vincent Velasquez, the lone pitcher in this group, gave his team five innings of scoreless baseball, but took a no-decision in the game. And Francisco Lindor tripped rounding first base after collecting his first Major League hit that should have been a double.
These four newest additions to the league make up part of a 15-player list of prospects that have debuted this year, presumably with plenty more coming the remainder of the season.
Watch a couple of the notable highlights below:
Coaching in the college football ranks is no easy task. The pressure to win and produce at a high level is higher than ever before. And as a result of the pressure, programs can’t wait for five seasons to give a coach time to produce a winning record. Getting the hire right is critical to any college football program.
Change in any college football offseason is inevitable. There will be coaching changes after the 2015 season. So what names might intrigue athletic directors when jobs open up?
Let’s take a look at 15 college football coaches on the rise, followed by a few other names to know this year.
15 College Football Coaches on the Rise for 2015
Craig Bohl, Wyoming
2014 was a rebuilding year for Wyoming, so it was no surprise Bohl and the Cowboys struggled last season. But the long-term outlook in Laramie is promising for this coaching staff. Bohl went 104-32 in 11 years at North Dakota State, which included three consecutive FCS national championships from 2011-13. With nine starters returning in 2015, progress could be slow for Bohl this year. However, there’s a strong track record of success, and Wyoming hit a home run when it lured Bohl away from North Dakota State.
Related: Mountain West 2015 Predictions
Matt Campbell, Toledo
The Rockets are still looking for their first MAC West title under Campbell, but there’s no doubt the 35-year-old coach has this program headed in the right direction. Toledo is 26-13 under Campbell’s watch and is coming off its best record in MAC play over the last three years. The Rockets are Athlon’s pick to win the MAC West in 2015, and Campbell should have Toledo positioned to win at least eight games for the fifth time in six seasons.
Related: MAC 2015 Predictions
P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan
Fleck was hired to energize Western Michigan’s program and get the Broncos back into contention for MAC championships. So far, it’s safe to say Fleck has succeeded in both of those areas, as Western Michigan is among the favorites to win the MAC in 2015. The Broncos went 1-11 in Fleck’s debut, but were one of the most improved teams in college football last season. Western Michigan went 8-5 and made its first bowl appearance since 2011. Fleck is known as an ace recruiter, as this program has reeled in the No. 1 recruiting class in the MAC in back-to-back years.
Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
Transitioning from the FCS to FBS ranks with a new coach is supposed to be difficult. However, Georgia Southern crushed that narrative last season. In Fritz’s first season, the Eagles went 9-3 and recorded a perfect 8-0 mark in Sun Belt play. And Georgia Southern was much closer to double-digit wins than some may realize, as the Eagles lost to NC State and Georgia Tech by a combined five points. Prior to taking over at Georgia Southern, Fritz was a successful coach at Sam Houston State (40-14) and Central Missouri (97-47).
Related: Sun Belt 2015 Predictions
Justin Fuente, Memphis
Memphis hit rock bottom after a dismal two-year stint under Larry Porter from 2010-11. But thanks to Fuente, the Tigers needed just one season to match Porter’s two-year win total, as Memphis improved to 4-8 in his debut.The Tigers followed up with a 3-9 showing in 2013, albeit in the tougher American Athletic Conference after leaving Conference USA. Memphis then had a breakthrough 2014 campaign in Fuente’s third year, as the Tigers went 10-3 and finished No. 25 in the final Associated Press poll. Memphis has a few holes to fill going into 2015, but the Tigers will remain a factor in the American Athletic Conference with Fuente at the helm.
Bryan Harsin, Boise State
It’s hard to find a coach that’s better suited to guide the Boise State program than Harsin. The Boise native also played quarterback for the Broncos and was an assistant with the program from 2001-10. After Chris Petersen left for Washington, Harsin returned to Boise State after one year as Arkansas State’s head coach. The Broncos went 12-2 in Harsin’s debut, won the Fiesta Bowl over Arizona and finished No. 16 in the final Associated Press poll. With a strong core of talent in place for 2015, Boise State should be the top Group of 5 program this season.
Related: Mountain West 2015 Predictions
Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette
Hudspeth was the highest-ranked coach from a Group of 5 program in Athlon’s 128 coach rankings for 2015. Over the last four years at UL Lafayette, Hudspeth has recorded a 36-16 record and four consecutive bowl wins. The Ragin’ Cajuns have won exactly nine games in each of Hudspeth’s four years and went 7-1 in conference play last season. Prior to UL Lafayette, Hudspeth made stops as an assistant at Mississippi State, Navy and Delta State and went 66-21 as North Alabama’s head coach from 2002-08.
Related: Sun Belt 2015 Predictions
Lance Leipold, Buffalo
Jim Harbaugh grabbed the offseason attention as college football’s best coaching hire, but Buffalo’s decision to hire Leipold shouldn’t be overlooked. Leipold was ultra-successful in a stint at Wisconsin-Whitewater, guiding the Warhawks to 109 wins from 2007-14. Additionally Wisconsin-Whitewater won six Division III Championships under Leipold’s watch. The Wisconsin native also has stops in his career as an assistant at Nebraska and Wisconsin (graduate assistant).
Related: MAC 2015 Predictions
Pete Lembo, Ball State
The seven losses suffered by Ball State in 2014 were the most in Lembo’s coaching tenure, but the New York native is still one of the top coaches in the Group of 5 ranks. Lembo is 30-20 in four years with the Cardinals, including a 10-3 mark in 2013. Ball State also has two bowl appearances under Lembo. Prior to coming to Muncie, Lembo went 35-22 at Elon and 44-14 at Lehigh, with three combined FCS playoff appearances among the two programs.
Tom Herman, Houston
Herman has been on a fast track through the coaching ranks and was a key cog in Ohio State’s run to the national championship last season. The story for the Buckeyes in 2014 was no secret, as the offense never missed a beat despite losing its top two quarterbacks. Herman did a good job of preparing Cardale Jones over the last three games of the season, and the California native landed his first FBS head coaching opportunity at Houston. Herman is no stranger to the state of Texas, as he has stops in his career at Rice, Texas State, Sam Houston State and Texas as an assistant. Prior to calling the plays for the Buckeyes from 2012-14, Herman was the offensive coordinator at Iowa State. Houston is a program with potential. There’s a new stadium and a fertile recruiting territory to tap into. Herman should be a home-run hire for the Cougars.
Chad Morris, SMU
Morris is one of the brightest offensive minds in college football. The Texas native has been on a fast rise through the coaching ranks due to his offensive acumen, as he was hired to coordinate Tulsa’s offense in 2010 after a lengthy stint (1994-2009) in the high school coaching ranks. After one year with the Golden Hurricane, Morris was hired by Dabo Swinney to fix a Clemson offense that ranked 10th in the ACC in scoring in 2010. The Tigers ranked first or second in the conference in scoring offense in three out of Morris’ four years calling the plays. Additionally, Morris was a key cog in Clemson’s turnaround, as the Tigers won at least 10 games in each of his four years in Death Valley. With his ties to Texas and background on offense, Morris should help spark a SMU program that has only four bowl appearances since 1985.
Matt Rhule, Temple
Looking for a sleeper team in the American Athletic Conference this year? Keep an eye on Temple. Rhule is just 8-16 in his two seasons with the Owls, but this program improved its win total by four games from 2013 to '14. And Rhule’s 2013 team wasn’t quite as bad as the win tally suggested, as the Owls lost six games by 10 points or less. Rhule replaced Steve Addazio after he left to be the head coach at Boston College and has the program in good shape headed into 2015.
Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State
Georgia Southern grabbed most of the attention and headlines last season, but Appalachian State’s first year in the FBS ranks shouldn’t go unnoticed. The Mountaineers went 7-5 and finished 2014 on a six-game winning streak. Satterfield has only been at the helm for two years and went 4-8 in his debut after replacing legendary coach Jerry Moore. Satterfield played quarterback for Appalachian State from 1991-95, and he’s got the program trending up entering the 2015 campaign.
Matt Wells, Utah State
Utah State has been one of the most unfortunate teams when it comes to injuries over the last two years. However, despite injuries to a few key players, the Aggies are 19-9 in Wells’ two seasons and have recorded back-to-back bowl wins. Wells worked under Gary Andersen from 2011-12 as an assistant and was promoted to the top spot after Andersen left for Wisconsin. Wells should have Utah State in the mix to win the Mountain West title once again in 2015.
Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion
Thanks to Wilder’s coaching, Old Dominion has been on a fast rise through the college football ranks. The Monarchs restarted their football program after a 69-year absence in 2009. Old Dominion went 17-5 in its first two seasons and played in the FCS playoffs in 2011-12 with double-digit wins in both years. The program transitioned from the FCS ranks to the FBS level and went 6-6 in its debut last season. Wilder also runs a high-powered offense, which averaged 34 points per game behind star quarterback Taylor Heinicke last year. Wilder will have to retool the roster with Heinicke out of eligibility, but the Monarchs are a team on the rise in Conference USA.
Related: Conference USA 2015 Predictions
Other Names to Watch
Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
Arkansas State has experienced its share of coaching turnover in recent years, as Anderson’s 2014 season marked the fifth consecutive season with a new head coach in Jonesboro. Anderson went 7-6 in his debut and should have Arkansas State among the teams to beat in the Sun Belt this year.
Dino Babers, Bowling Green
Babers has a wealth of experience in his career at several programs, and the former Baylor assistant has spent the last three years as a head coach. In two years at Eastern Illinois, Babers went 19-7 with two playoff appearances. And despite losing starting quarterback Matt Johnson in the season opener last year, Bowling Green won the MAC East and finished 8-6.
Neal Brown, Troy
Brown is one of the nation’s youngest head coaches at just 35 years old. The Kentucky native has stops on his resume as an offensive coordinator at Troy, Texas Tech and Kentucky, along with previous experience as an assistant at UMass, Sacred Heart and Delaware. This season will be Brown’s first as a head coach in the FBS ranks.
Jeff Brohm, WKU
Brohm had big shoes to fill after the departure of Bobby Petrino but guided WKU to an 8-5 record last season. The Hilltoppers are Athlon’s pick to win Conference USA in 2015.
Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois has remained the team to beat in the MAC in Carey’s two years in DeKalb. The Huskies are 23-6 under Carey – with only one loss in conference play – and claimed the 2014 MAC championship. Carey inherited plenty of talent from former coach Dave Doeren and has maintained success so far. Now, the challenge for Carey is to show he is capable of recruiting and building success at Northern Illinois for the long haul.
Bill Clark, UAB
Even though UAB doesn’t have a football team in 2015, Clark deserves a mention in this space. The Alabama native went 11-4 with Jacksonville State in 2013 and guided UAB to a 6-6 mark in '14. The Blazers showed tremendous progress in Clark’s first season, and he should be the right coach to rebuild the program once it returns to FBS play.
Doc Holliday, Marshall
Holliday has rebuilt Marshall’s program back among the best in Conference USA. After Mark Snyder failed to lead the Thundering Herd to a season of more than seven wins, Holliday is 23-5 in his last two years and has three bowl appearances under his watch. Holliday was known for his recruiting ability when hired at Marshall, but he’s proven he’s more than just a good recruiter.
Joey Jones, South Alabama
Jones has built the South Alabama program from scratch, taking over in Mobile after spending time at Birmingham-Southern for two seasons. The Jaguars are 37-28 in six seasons under Jones, and most importantly, the program continues to show progress in each season at the FBS level. South Alabama is also coming off its first bowl appearance in program history.
A lot of people are catching flack for being Cavaliers fans considering that many of them weren't before LeBron James came back.
Jimmy Kimmel is out to expose those people with another hilarious edition of "Lie Witness News." If you thought Warriors "fans" weren't real fans, get a load of these people.
One lady sounded so convincing with her "that's so funny we were just talking about that at lunch" line.
Music, like sports, sparks debate, creates discussion and can even lead to heated disagreements.
But both are unquestionably a huge part of American culture. So Athlon Sports has decided to combine two of our favorite things — rock and roll with college football.
What if our favorite football programs were rock and roll bands? Every Power 5 team will be represented, so if you don’t see your favorite band or school here, keep your eyes peeled.
Here are the 14 SEC schools as rock bands:
One of the most powerful bands of its time, which has been extremely successful and popular for a long period of time. They are big, loud, extremely talented but also obnoxious and whiny at times. Hall of Famers but really, really like to get their way.
Arkansas: Allman Brothers Band
True southern, classic, kickass rock and roll with some historically elite songs. However, they were at their best a long time ago and both had a meteoric rise to power halted by a tragic motorcycle accident.
Auburn: Johnny Cash
When it’s good, it is revolutionary, earth-shattering, industry-changing brilliance — even if a little dark at times. When it’s bad, it’s arrested, divorced, thrown in jail or rehab and generally upset at the more powerful and successful industry power (Alabama/Columbia Records).
At its best, these two have produced some of their respective industries' greatest hits and changed the way fans viewed the game. But when it goes bad, the train wreck is something you just can’t take your eyes off of — and, generally, they both just look ridiculous on a regular basis.
Georgia: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Even the name Heartbreakers fits (SEE: SEC Championship Games). This is a really solid, consistently good quality product over a long period of time that got a ton of talent from Florida.
Kentucky: Will Smith
He’s not exactly rock and roll but he fits here. Smith, like Kentucky, is more well-known for something other than music (football). And his music was really fun and well-liked — but only like two songs/years.
LSU: Black Sabbath
A very successful program with an extremely rabid fanbase that goes over the top to celebrate their favorite people, including a leader who is a little strange. Which football program is most likely to bite the head off a bat, do a line of ants and be involved in the dark arts?
Mississippi State: Blue Oyster Cult
A one-hit wonder that is loaded with cowbell. To be fair, that one-hit wonder (Dak Prescott) is as beloved, popular and influential as any song of its time. And it spawned this.
Missouri: Elvis Costello
Who makes dorky cool better than Mizzou? A very talented and technically sound group that seems to consistently be underrated and never fully appreciated. And neither really fits personality-wise into the genre (punk or the SEC) that they seem to be placed.
Ole Miss: KISS
How they look and dress is extremely impressive and important. The loud and awesome party pretty much overshadows everything else — like the play on the field. Very important in history for a variety of reasons but never really one of the best musical talents of their time.
South Carolina: Hootie and the Blowfish
Both have been really, really big but only for a very short period of time and never considered the best in the business even at their height. The most famous and influential member is also better known for his work elsewhere.
Tennessee: Pearl Jam
They were at their best in the 1990s when they were grungy and a little rough around the edges. The entire program will always be slightly overshadowed by one elite superstar. However, the band has been largely boring and absent since the turn of the century despite the large fanbase and respected history.
Texas A&M: Lynyrd Skynyrd
Southern rock in its truest form with the most rabid followers who don’t take no for an answer. However, they are extremely self-destructive and never considered the best at what they do. Both were at their best when playing something related to Alabama despite being from a different conference originally.
Vanderbilt: Rage Against the Machine
Incredibly intelligent and well educated but only good for 2-3 albums because egos were too big and creative differences caused everyone to leave - whether it was for Penn State or Audioslave.
The Patriots are Super Bowl champions and it seems like the party hasn't stopped since the night they won. The "Summer of Gronk" seems to be a year-round party and Tom Brady just can't stop smiling.
The champs received their rings and partied the night away with Wiz Khalifa, who ironically is a Steelers fan. That didn't stop the Pittsburgh rapper from dancing with Rob Gronkowski, Robert Kraft, Brady and the rest of the Patriots.
Brady dancing to "Trap Queen" is a sight many never thought they would see.
Here are the most important and interesting stats you need to know about the ACC in 2015:
72.3%: That Boston College runs the ball
Among the leaders in the nation, Boston College ran the ball 72.3 percent of the time on offense. The Eagles ran 878 offensive plays and threw just 243 passes. The 635 rushing attempts were 10th nationally and fifth among Power 5 teams.
4.03: Clemson’s nation-leading yards per play allowed
The Tigers led the nation by a wide margin with just 4.03 yards allowed per play. The next highest-rated ACC defense was Louisville at 4.75 (11th). The problem, however, is that nine of 11 starters are gone from the Tigers' defense, including five of the top six tacklers.
41.0: Number of tackles for a loss allowed by Duke
The Blue Devils led the nation in one key category: tackles for a loss allowed. Duke gave up a nation’s best 41.0 tackles for a loss all year in 2014, making it one of just four teams in the nation to allow fewer than 50.0. Virginia was second in the ACC with 53.0 tackles for a loss allowed.
8-0: Florida State’s record in one-score games
After winning by an average of 42.3 points per game in 2013, the Seminoles barely won games in '14. The Noles were 8-0 in games decided by one score due in large part to Jameis Winston’s fourth-quarter heroics. Winston was 7-0 last fall in one-score games, setting an unreachable precedent for Sean Maguire or Everett Golson.
18: Consecutive bowl games for Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets have been to 18 consecutive bowl games — the last five under George O’Leary, six under Chan Gailey and all seven of Paul Johnson’s tenure. It helps when you have the No. 1 most efficient offense in the ACC at 6.72 yards per play (eighth nationally).
9: Times Bobby Petrino has won at least 8 games
Bobby Petrino has coached at three different programs in 10 seasons — five at Louisville, four at Arkansas and one at Western Kentucky. Only once, his first at Arkansas in 2008, has he won less than eight games (5-7). Seven of those 10 seasons featured at least nine wins. Petrino also is 5-0 against Kentucky as Louisville's head coach.
3,198: Brad Kaaya’s Miami freshman passing record
The star sophomore from Miami is poised for a huge career in Coral Gables if his first year was any indication. Kaaya set a Miami freshman record for passing yards (3,198) and touchdowns (26) but nearly set all-time school records. Bernie Kosar owns the all-time single-season school record with 3,642 yards and Steve Walsh owns the TD record with 29. Both could fall in Kaaya’s second season.
5.32: North Carolina points per possession inside the 40 allowed
Finishing drives or stopping drives are one of the biggest metrics used to analyze teams by the new wave of advanced college stats. And North Carolina was the worst team in the nation at stopping drives. The Tar Heels were dead last in the NCAA with 5.32 points allowed per opponent’s trip inside the 40-yard line. For perspective, Virginia Tech led the ACC and was second nationally at 3.05 points per opponent’s possession inside the 40 allowed.
127: NC State points allowed to top three Atlantic Division teams
NC State is picked fourth in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State, Clemson and Louisville this preseason. The Wolfpack were 7-0 a year ago when giving up 30 points or less. However, against the best teams in the division, NC State allowed 42.3 points against the Noles, Tigers and Cardinals. NC State also gave up 56 to Georgia Tech, the pick to win the Coastal Division.
243: James Conner, Tyler Boyd combined YFS/game
Miami’s Duke Johnson led the ACC in yards from scrimmage per game with 159.5 but Pitt’s James Conner (141.2) and Tyler Boyd (101.8) were second and third — and the top two returning to the ACC. Freshman Chris James (35.4) was the next highest producer of yards from scrimmage for the Panthers last season.
1984: Last time Syracuse didn’t have a 1,000-yard passer until 2014
The Orange went without a 1,000-yard passer for the first time since 1984. Needless to say, the offense was atrocious, scoring just 17.1 points per game. That number ranked 121st in the nation and ahead of only Wake Forest among Power 5 teams. It was the lowest-scoring output for the Orange since 2007.
2005: Last time Virginia won a bowl game
Mike London is squarely on the hot seat entering 2015 despite showing improvement last fall. He’s been to one bowl game — the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl — in his five-year tenure. The Cavaliers' win over Minnesota in the Music City Bowl following the 2005 season was the last postseason win for the Wahoos.
17: Virginia Tech losses over the last three years
Unlike their in-state rivals from Charlottesville, the Hokies have been to 22 consecutive bowl games. However, after a remarkable run of eight straight 10-win seasons, the Hokies have dropped back into the middle of the ACC pack. This team has lost either five or six games in three straight, totaling 17 defeats over the last three years.
36.8%: Wake Forest rushes stopped for no gain
Wake Forest led the nation in two really bad categories. On 36.8 percent of rushes, the Demon Deacons were stopped for no gain or lost yards. Additionally, Wake Forest led the nation with 127.0 tackles for a loss allowed for a nation’s worst 536 yards.
J.J. Watt always strikes me as a no-nonsense type of guy.
On the field, the Texans star doesn't let much get by him and he seems to be the same way off the field. When someone on Twitter made a remark about Watt being a 2-star recruit coming out of high school, he had no choice but to respond.
I just unfollowed @JJWatt because he was not a 5 star. This is a 5 star club only.— Archie Goodwin 10X (@Hoodratfuneral) June 13, 2015
Watt was probably ok with losing this follower.
Dormady has already displayed a solid grasp of the Vols playbook and executed it well in the spring. And Jennings brings an athletic dynamic to the offense unmatched by the other two, but Jones may be the best fit for the current Tennessee offense in the long term.