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Michael Vick was first. Then Vince Young.

 

Then it was Tebow, RG3, Johnny Football and Super Mariota.

 

The super quarterback is a relatively new phenomenon in college football that changed the way game is played forever.

 

With new rules and new offensive innovation, the quarterback has become even more important — and it was already the most important position on the field.

 

Despite some major names leaving for the NFL, the 2015 season is loaded with elite QB matchups that could decide championships. Here are the best quarterback matchups to look forward to in ’15:

 

Note: This is based on pure athletic talent, raw entertainment value and potential gravity of the situation.

 

1. Connor Cook at Cardale Jones

Michigan State at Ohio State (Nov. 21)

 

Two potential first-round NFL draft picks will likely go head-to-head for the division, conference and potential national championship in the penultimate weekend of the year. Jones hasn’t taken a snap against a Spartans defense while Cook has topped 300 yards in two meetings with the Buckeyes.

 

2. Dak Prescott at Jeremy Johnson

Mississippi State at Auburn (Sept. 26)

 

Prescott is a Heisman candidate whose resume speaks for itself. Johnson is poised to explode onto the national scene in Gus Malzahn’s offense. With these two meeting in September, both should be unbeaten and ranked in the top 15. Both defenses will be better later, so this early-season matchup should provide plenty of chances for both signal-callers to make plays.

 

3. Christian Hackenberg at Connor Cook

Penn State at Michigan State (Nov. 28)

 

Hackenberg could be the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft or at least the first quarterback taken. He doesn’t have the support of the rest of the names on this list but his talent speaks for itself. Cook is a star in his own right who will spend his final season at MSU proving his first-round grade is accurate.

 

Related: Don't hate on the Big Ten for satellite camps

 

4. Cody Kessler at Mike Bercovici

USC at Arizona State (Sept. 26)

 

The de facto Pac-12 South championship game should feature the best two quarterbacks in the division and possibly the conference. This game was a scorcher last year that featured a successful Hail Mary, 510 yards and five touchdowns from the big-armed Bercovici. Kessler is a preseason All-American and has elite weaponry around him this fall. Buckle up, folks.

 

5. Cody Kessler at Jared Goff

USC at Cal (Oct. 31)

 

The first- and second-team All-Pac-12 quarterbacks meet on Halloween in the Bay Area this fall. While Cal isn’t going to contend, the aerial shootout between these two should be plenty entertaining. These are the top two most efficient returning passers in the Pac-12 after a combined 74 passing touchdowns and only 12 interceptions a year ago.

 

6. Brad Kaaya at Deshaun Watson

Miami at Clemson (Oct. 24)

 

These are two really special talents. Watson and Kaaya proved as freshmen last year that they belong among the nation’s best. Kaaya posted 3,198 and 26 touchdowns while Watson delivered 19 total touchdowns and two interceptions in just eight games. These two sophomores could take the ACC to a different level at the position.

 

7. Christian Hackenberg at Cardale Jones

Penn State at Ohio State (Oct. 17)

 

Both Jones and Hackenberg could be first-round picks and no one at either school will forget the epic battle between these two programs a year ago. Ohio State’s toughest test all year outside of Virginia Tech was Penn State. That said, the Bucks will be a heavy favorite at home.

 

8. Seth Russell at Trevone Boykin

Baylor at TCU (Nov. 27)

 

Russell is a first-time starter but there is no reason to think he won’t be electric in Art Briles’ system. He threw for 801 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception in backup duty last fall. In what could be the biggest game of the year in any league — one that featured 119 points and over 1,200 yards of offense last season — these two should put on a show.

 

Related: Big 12 could easily get two teams into the Playoff

 

9. Dak Prescott at Kyle Allen

Mississippi State at Texas A&M (Oct. 3)

 

Allen proved in the second half of the 2014 season that his five-star recruiting hype was warranted. He is now the clear starter in an offense loaded with elite playmakers and great schemes. Both defenses should allow for plenty of space for both to operate early in October.

 

10. Jeremy Johnson at Kyle Allen

Texas A&M at Auburn (Nov. 7)

 

These two guys are more projections than others on this list but few rivalries have been more entertaining over the last three seasons. Both Johnson and Allen are dripping with elite upside and both play in elite offensive systems. There is no reason TAMU-Auburn IV won’t be another high-scoring affair.

 

Related: SEC win total projections for 2015

 

11. Mike Bercovici at Jared Goff

Arizona State at Cal (Nov. 28)

 

USC's Cody Kessler gets the nod as the first-team All-Pac-12 signal-caller but Bercovici and Goff are hot on his tracks. Goff has blossomed into a potential superstar and Bercovici posted over 1,200 yards in three starts last fall. If the game held more importance, it would be higher on this list.

 

12. Cody Kessler at Vernon Adams

USC at Oregon (Nov. 21)

 

Oregon isn’t bringing in Adams from Eastern Washington to sit on the bench. So the question isn’t if he’ll start but it will be how good is he? He threw for over 10,000 yards, rushed for over 1,200, and accounted for 121 total touchdowns in three seasons on the FCS level. If he comes close to that, both his big-time matchups will outperform this ranking. This is a Pac-12 title game preview.

 

13. Trevone Boykin at Mason Rudolph

TCU at Oklahoma State (Nov. 7)

 

The first- and second-team All-Big 12 preseason quarterbacks will battle in Stillwater to begin November. Rudolph has the makings of a star and Boykin is already one. TCU won’t have many hurdles to clear this fall but a road trip to Oklahoma State might be one of the biggest of the year for Gary Patterson’s bunch.

 

Related: Don't listen to Nick Saban, the Bowl System is fine

 

14. Vernon Adams at Connor Cook

Oregon at Michigan State (Sept. 12)

 

As explained earlier, projecting Adams is difficult but he has the keys to a Rolls Royce offense and should be the guy taking snaps. Going into East Lansing and winning is much more difficult a task. Cook put on a show in a loss in Eugene last year and should be extra motivated in Week 2 at home.

 

15. Gunner Kiel at Taysom Hill

Cincinnati at BYU (Oct. 17)

 

It doesn’t feature a Power 5 team and it isn’t a conference game, but the fireworks will be on full display when the Bearcats visit the Cougars. Hill was scorching the earth before being lost for the season with a broken leg early in the year last fall. Kiel has blossomed into the five-star prospect he was supposed to become after 3,254 yards and 31 touchdowns as a sophomore.

 

 Road QBTeamHome QBTeamDate
16.Anu SolomonCody KesslerNov. 7
17.Justin ThomasDeshaun WatsonOct. 10
18.Mike BercoviciKyle AllenSept. 5
19.Justin ThomasBrad KaayaNov. 21
20.Taysom HillChuckie KeetonNov. 28
21.Seth RussellMason RudolphNov. 21
22.Everett GolsonDeshaun WatsonNov. 7
23.Anu SolomonMike BercoviciNov. 21
24.Dak PrescottMaty MaukNov. 5
25.Brad KaayaEverett GolsonOct. 10
26.Cody KesslerMalik ZaireOct. 17
27.Deshaun WatsonJacoby BrissettOct. 31
28.Vernon AdamsMike BercoviciOct. 29
29.Malik ZaireDeshaun WatsonOct. 3
30.Jared GoffVernon AdamsNov. 7
31.Joshua DobbsMaty MaukNov. 21
32.Keenan ReynoldsMalik ZaireOct. 10
33.Taysom HillMaty MaukNov. 14
34.Brandon DoughtyDriphus JacksonOct. 3
35.Everett GolsonJustin ThomasOct. 24

 

Teaser:
Top 15 College Football Quarterback Matchups to Watch in 2015
Post date: Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/college-football-2015-rankings-and-predictions-41-60
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The 2015 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to project how the upcoming year will play out on the field. Athlon Sports has released its top 25 for this season and continues the countdown to September with a look at the teams ranked No. 41-60.

 

The 41-60 range features two teams breaking in new coaches (Houston and Pittsburgh), along with a handful of midpack teams from Power 5 leagues. North Carolina, Miami, Boston College and Duke all appear in this position from the ACC, while Minnesota and Iowa are in from the Big Ten. Entering a crucial season under coach Mark Stoops, Kentucky is No. 55 in the 2015 rankings.

 

Follow @AthlonSports college football staff on Twitter: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Braden Gall (@BradenGall), David Fox (@DavidFox615), Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) and Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)

 

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128

 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2015 season

 

College Football 2015 Projected Rankings: 41-60

 

41. Pittsburgh

 

Seven years. Five coaches. Zero continuity. That is the storyline for Pittsburgh, which hired Pat Narduzzi in December. The situation is confounding and maddening to a fan base that’s been witness to a program mired in mediocrity. Whether Narduzzi can provide stability is unclear, but the former Michigan State defensive coordinator offers a snappy résumé as a career assistant. Under Narduzzi, Michigan State was the only school in the FBS to rank in the top 10 in total and rushing defense the past four seasons. He inherits a Panthers team that was the youngest in the nation with 81 underclassmen (53 freshmen and 28 sophomores). Fifteen starters return.

 

Pittsburgh features game-changers in running back James Conner and receiver Tyler Boyd, but a transition to a new coaching staff — again — and uncertainty at quarterback and on defense will surely create challenges.

 

Read the full 2015 Pittsburgh Panthers Team Preview

 

42. North Carolina

 

North Carolina's season depends heavily upon two factors: the health of quarterback Marquise Williams, and how much the defense can improve on last season’s disastrous results. The Tar Heels don’t look like a championship contender, but they have a couple of factors in their favor. One, they play in the ACC’s Coastal Division, so they don’t have to worry about league heavyweights Florida State and Clemson in the standings. And two, they don’t have to worry about Florida State and Clemson at all because they don’t play them (or Louisville, for that matter) this season. A winning season and another bowl trip are within reach, and any result substantially better than that could make new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik an appealing candidate for a head coaching job with another program.

 

Read the full 2015 North Carolina Tar Heels Team Preview

 

43. Miami

 

Few coaches in America occupy a hotter seat than Al Golden, who is 28–22 entering his fifth season. The Hurricanes lost four straight to finish 6–7 — UM’s third losing season in the last 35 years. He recruited well through a lengthy NCAA investigation, but fans howl that the program keeps sailing further and further from the glory years.

 

This year’s team is young, after losing a host of NFL-caliber talent, and has to battle a brutal October stretch that includes Florida State (in Tallahassee) and Clemson. The Canes haven’t played for the ACC title since joining the conference in 2004, and it doesn’t look like this will be the year.

 

The ‘U’ stands for ‘Underwhelming’ now, and if Golden doesn’t produce results this season, he might be looking for work elsewhere.

 

Read the full 2015 Miami Hurricanes Team Preview

 

44. Kansas State

 

On paper, Kansas State looks like it lost too many playmakers to match its win total from a year ago, but you can’t count out a Bill Snyder-coached team.

 

“It is obvious there were some critical elements in our program that we lost. When you lose the production that we had offensively, it certainly is sorely missed,” Snyder says. “From a defensive standpoint, we lost fewer people, fewer numbers. The dynamics are difficult, and they are every year. Some positions are a little harder to reconstruct than others. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

 

Read the full 2015 Kansas State Wildcats Team Preview

 

45. Minnesota

 

Jerry Kill was named Big Ten Coach of the Year last season, and he’ll need to work more magic this year against a schedule that includes TCU and Ohio State. The coaches are confident they have enough running back talent to replace David Cobb, but there’s no substitute for a dynamic tight end like Maxx Williams. Mitch Leidner was instrumental in all five Big Ten wins last year. He needs to be more consistent. If the offense finds a way, this won’t be a fun team to play.

 

“We’ve got a chance to be a really, really good football team,” Kill says. “We’re very athletic on both sides of the ball.”

 

The Gophers were picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten West last year but wound up pushing Wisconsin to a final-week showdown for the division title. The Gophers landed their first New Year’s Day bowl appearance since 1962, and more than 20,000 of their fans turned out to watch them play Missouri in the Citrus Bowl.

 

The fans want more. The Gophers haven’t defeated Wisconsin since 2003 and haven’t won a bowl game since 2004. If Kill can get those things done, his popularity will continue to soar.

 

Read the full 2015 Minnesota Golden Gophers Team Preview

 

46. Washington

 

For coach Chris Petersen’s second season, Huskies followers will lower their expectations. Just nine starters return. The defensive front seven must be almost completely rebuilt. A new quarterback needs to be broken in. Now the rebuilding really begins. Six or seven wins would be considered progress.

 

Read the full 2015 Washington Huskies Team Preview

 

47. California

 

Cal was one of the nation’s most-improved teams in 2014. But the Bears were far from satisfied after losing six of their final seven games to miss out on the postseason for the third straight year. “We could have taken the program to the next step,” receiver Kenny Lawler says, “but we just came up short.”

 

No one in the program will be happy with anything less than a bowl game and the chance to compete near the top of the Pac-12 North. Defense remains Cal’s great unknown, and the road schedule is daunting. But quarterback Jared Goff says the team is ready for something different. “There’s so much more confidence on our team,” Goff says. “Expectations are very high.”

 

Read the full 2015 California Golden Bears Team Preview

 

48. Texas Tech

 

In Year 3 of Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure, two things are very clear: The offense must find some consistency and the defense simply has to be better. The addition of coordinator David Gibbs should help stabilize the ailing defense, but all bets are off until they hit the field this fall. The big key, however, is at quarterback. The winner of the Patrick Mahomes vs. Davis Webb battle must play at a high level for Texas Tech to return to form.

 

Read the full 2015 Texas Tech Red Raiders Team Preview

 

49. BYU

 

BYU’s 2014 season did not end well. The loss to Memphis, followed by a postgame brawl, left the Cougars with regrets. The Cougars’ September schedule offers an opportunity for them to feel better about themselves and improve the outside perception of the program. Games with Nebraska, Boise State, UCLA and Michigan will go a long way toward defining BYU’s 2015 season. In an era when BYU is an Independent, coach Bronco Mendenhall is eager to make an impact. “We’re playing our way into contention and national recognition through the best opponents on the biggest stages, mostly away from home,” he says.

 

Read the full 2015 BYU Cougars Team Preview

 

50. Houston

 

A first-time head coach, Tom Herman brings credibility after winning a national title as the offensive coordinator at Ohio State. He’s spent the first several months on the job instilling a toughness that had been lacking in recent years. The Cougars have enough talent to compete in the AAC but will need to figure things out on the offensive line and develop across-the-board depth. A ninth bowl appearance in the last 11 years is certainly within reach.

 

Read the full 2015 Houston Cougars Team Preview

 

51. Utah State

 

Not even a plethora of key injuries derailed the Aggies from going to their fourth straight bowl game and emerging victorious for the third consecutive year. One has to wonder how good they could have been had they stayed healthy. Most of those athletes are back, and a strong recruiting class has been added.

 

With the success Utah State has enjoyed, several key assistants left for bigger schools. The Aggies will have new coordinators on both sides of the ball in Josh Heupel (offense) and Kevin Clune (defense), who was a position coach at USU several years ago. Coach Matt Wells believes the new coordinators have added to the program and brought a new and different enthusiasm.

 

Extending the school record streak of bowl appearances is nearly a given.

 

Read the full 2015 Utah State Aggies Team Preview

 

52. Duke

 

Duke will play the 2015 season amid signs of its revival. The quaint track at Wallace Wade has finally been removed, seating has been brought closer to the field and a new tower of luxury boxes will be under construction during the season.

 

As for the on-field product, the Blue Devils can show progress by managing to maintain their current status quo — a winning season and another bowl trip. There are probably too many question marks on offense to contend for the Coastal Division crown. But a manageable non-conference schedule (Northwestern is the biggest challenge) and avoiding Florida State, Clemson and Louisville in conference provides Duke ample opportunity to get to at least six wins and another bowl berth. The key may be David Cutcliffe’s ability to convince a team that’s won 25 games in the past three years that it still has something to prove.

 

Read the full 2015 Duke Blue Devils Team Preview

 

53. Iowa

 

It seems like with every strength that Iowa has, there is a weakness to offset it. Three starters return on the offensive line, but both tackles have to be replaced, including Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff. Both starters return at defensive end, but neither starter returns at defensive tackle.

 

C.J. Beathard is considered more athletic than Rudock, but he still is mostly unproven as a Big Ten starting quarterback.

 

Iowa has been average over the past three seasons with a 19–19 record. Expect more of the same from this team despite another favorable schedule.

 

Read the full 2015 Iowa Hawkeyes Team Preview

 

54. Navy

 

This is a new era for Navy, which joins the American Athletic Conference following more than a century as an Independent. The Midshipmen own a 34–27–1 record against current AAC members and have regularly played schools such as SMU, East Carolina and Tulane.

 

Veteran coach Ken Niumatalolo says capturing the conference championship has now been added to the annual goals of beating service academy rivals Army and Air Force to secure the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and qualifying for a bowl game.

 

 “I think joining a conference is something we had to do and will be good for the program over the long haul,” Niumatalolo says. “However, there is a lot of apprehension and nervousness because there are so many unknowns.”

 

Read the full 2015 Navy Midshipmen Team Preview

 

55. Kentucky

 

This is a critical season for Mark Stoops and Kentucky. The administration has given him the resources — huge raises for him and his staff, a $120 million stadium renovation that opens this fall and a $45 million practice facility under construction — and Year 3 is time to deliver results.

 

The positive vibes of a 5–1 start last fall vanished with the Wildcats’ 0–6 finish. But after three straight top-40 recruiting classes and three springs and summers to develop that talent, Stoops is confident the tide is turning. “Significantly better right now,” he says. “I think it’s hard to put into words exactly. I definitely feel like we’re developing them to be a winning football team.”

 

Read the full 2015 Kentucky Wildcats Team Preview

 

56. Boston College

 

Coach Steve Addazio has this program going in the right direction after taking over a 2–10 team and putting together back-to-back winning seasons. Still, the question remains whether or not the Eagles can take that next step and become a true contender in the ACC. The defense should give this team a chance, but an inexperienced offense may prevent any giant leaps forward.

 

Read the full 2015 Boston College Eagles Team Preview

 

57. Maryland

 

The Terrapins surprised everyone with a seven-win season out of the gate in their first Big Ten campaign. Okay, okay, Penn State and Michigan — two big Maryland road victims — weren’t exactly Penn State and Michigan last season, but the Terrapins still managed to finish 4–4 in league play.

 

Moving forward, there are so many variables in play — new quarterback, young but bigger and better offensive line, a new 4-3 defense and just two defensive starters back in the positions they played in 2014 — making the Terrapins a tough team to forecast. Say this at least: They’ve been resilient. Through devastating injuries (they’re just three years removed from a freshman linebacker playing quarterback, and a running back had to play wide receiver last year) and the major move to Midwestern football, the Terrapins have stayed on course, slow and steady.

 

Read the full 2015 Maryland Terrapins Team Preview

 

58. Northwestern

 

A sense of normalcy is back at Northwestern, and so is a sense of urgency. The Wildcats understand what a third consecutive bowl-less campaign would do to a program still fighting the pre-1995 loser label. Coach Pat Fitzgerald has arguably his most talented defense, and if the special teams meet his expectations, the season once again could hinge on reigniting the offense. A drop-prone receiving corps must take a step forward, and an inconsistent line must protect the new quarterback, but there are weapons such as Justin Jackson (RB), Christian Jones (WR) and Dan Vitale (TE).

 

Northwestern must navigate another tricky non-league schedule with Stanford and Duke but once again misses Ohio State and Michigan State in league play. “We’ve got to do the things winners do,” Fitzgerald says. “We’ve got to get that edge back.”

 

Read the full 2015 Northwestern Wildcats Team Preview

 

59. Memphis

 

After going 10–3 last season and claiming a share of the AAC title, the Tigers are poised to repeat those successes. With Paxton Lynch at quarterback, the Tigers will possess a potent offense, one capable of overcoming whatever a rebuilding defense allows. A running game featuring two physical, punishing backs could be potent. Defensively, the Tigers will have to find replacements for eight players, including two — Bobby McCain and Martin Ifedi — who will be playing in the NFL. How quickly the secondary develops in a pass-oriented conference could determine the team’s ability to repeat as league champs.

 

Read the full 2015 Memphis Tigers Team Preview

 

60. Indiana

 

This year matters for coach Kevin Wilson, who has yet to win more than five games in a season. With three years remaining on his contract, Wilson needs to deliver a bowl trip to earn an extension and love from Indiana’s modest fan base. With three home games and a trip to Wake Forest to open the season, the Hoosiers need a big start before sliding into Big Ten play against Ohio State. If quarterback Nate Sudfeld can stay healthy and the defense creates more turnovers, a six-win season is realistic.

 

Read the full 2015 Indiana Hoosiers Team Preview

Teaser:
College Football 2015 Rankings and Predictions: #41-60
Post date: Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-toughest-college-football-schedules-2015
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When putting together Athlon Sports' college football magazine and preseason Top 25 each year, a huge part of the process is scheduling. Non-conference games, crossovers, home-road splits and timing all play a role in determining order of finish.

 

And don’t forget that the College Football Playoff Committee made it very clear in its first season that it values scheduling.

 

So who has the toughest schedule in the Big Ten this fall? Who has the easiest path?

 

1. Rutgers

Rutgers must face five (possibly six) potential bowl teams from the East Division and gets the top two teams from the West (Nebraska, Wisconsin). It also faces two Power 5 teams in non-conference play (albeit Washington State and Kansas). It seems highly unlikely the Knights will return to the postseason.

 

2. Minnesota

Minnesota could face two potential Playoff teams with TCU in the non-conference and Ohio State in crossover. The Gophers also must face Michigan from the East. Add to that slate divisional dates with Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa and Jerry Kill is looking at an uphill battle in the West.

 

3. Michigan State

The Spartans will earn their way into the Big Ten title game or Playoff this year. Oregon and Penn State have to come to East Lansing but a trio of brutal road trips will likely decide the Spartans' fate: at Michigan (Oct. 17), Nebraska (Nov. 7) and Ohio State (Nov. 21).

 

4. Maryland

Crossover didn’t play out well for the Terps with Wisconsin and at Iowa on the slate for 2015. That goes along with facing the big four from the East: at Ohio State, at Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan. Even the non-conference has some tricky games with USF and at West Virginia.

 

5. Illinois

The home slate for Tim Beckman is brutal, featuring Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and a semi-neutral field tilt with Northwestern. The road trips aren’t much better as the Illini must visit Penn State, Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina in the non-conference. There isn’t a lot to like on this schedule other than a road trip to Purdue and three semi-easy non-conference home games.

 

Related: SEC, ACC have no right to hate on Big Ten for satellite camps

 

6. Michigan

The non-conference slate for Jim Harbaugh is no joke with a road trip to Utah and home games with BYU and Oregon State. The divisional slate will be tough enough with road trips to Penn State and Maryland as well as home games against Michigan State and Ohio State.

 

7. Indiana

There is no Missouri in non-con play this year so that is comforting. However, road trips to Penn State, Michigan State and Maryland will be tough along with home games with Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan.

 

8. Nebraska

Non-conference games with BYU (home) and Miami (road) are really juicy and not easy (but winnable). Crossover features a huge test with Michigan State but that one comes at home. Additionally, huge games with Wisconsin and Iowa come at home. The road trips in the B1G for the Huskers are Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue and Rutgers.

 

9. Northwestern

Games against Stanford and Duke in the smart kids non-conference round-robin will be tough to win. As will crossover games with Michigan and Penn State and divisional road tilts with Wisconsin and Nebraska. Key swing games with Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois (Chicago) and Purdue, however, come at home.

 

10. Purdue

The non-conference schedule wouldn’t be daunting for most teams but watch out for teams like Bowling Green, Marshall and, of course, Virginia Tech. Crossover with Michigan State on the road is brutal as are road trips to Wisconsin and Iowa. However, home games with Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana offer some chances for an upset.

 

11. Ohio State

The road trip to Virginia Tech will be testy but full of revenge for Ohio State. After that, the toughest road trip for the Buckeyes will be visiting Ann Arbor in the season finale. Otherwise, Michigan State, Penn State and Minnesota come to Columbus. There isn't a lot of meat here for Urban Meyer to add to his pizza.

 

12. Penn State

Penn State has four easy, winnable, non-conference games and gets really lucky in crossover play with Northwestern and Illinois. Yes, PSU must face Michigan State and Ohio State on the road. But, otherwise, the rest of the schedule is manageable in a very difficult division.

 

13. Wisconsin

Alabama in Week 1 is a flashing warning signal but the rest of this schedule is extremely manageable. There is no Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan or Penn State. Road trips to Nebraska (Oct. 10), Maryland (Nov. 7) and Minnesota (Nov. 28) is as tough as it gets for the Badgers.

 

14. Iowa

Wisconsin and Nebraska have tougher non-conference and crossover schedules. This gives the nod to Iowa as the easiest slate in the division despite having to face both Big Red foes on the road. The Hawkeyes could be favorites to win all four of their non-conference games and all four home Big Ten games.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2015
Post date: Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /nba/riley-curry-hijacks-stephs-press-conference-again-warriors-western-conference-finals
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By now Riley Curry has made her way into America's hearts.

 

The daughter of Warriors star Steph Curry is one of the best things about post game press conferences these days. Journalists claim children are a distraction, but some players have been distracted by much less

 

 

Let's face it, these things are boring. Any chance there is to breathe some life into these things, we should jump on it.

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 09:12
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/michigan-releases-awesome-hype-video-2015-season-xzibit-jim-harbaugh
Body:

The most overlooked part of a hype video is the narration. 

 

Michigan didn't want to take any chances, so they called on rapper and former Pimp My Ride host Xzibit to provide the voice for their hype video. The 2015 season can't get here soon enough.

 

 

 

Check it out here.

 

By the looks of things, Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines are anxious for the upcoming season.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 16:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-ats-tarik-cohen-catches-two-footballs-while-doing-backflip
Body:

Tarik Cohen has the physical ability many of us would kill to have.

 

The North Carolina A&T running back one-ups himself by doing a backflip while catching two footballs in mid-air. Boss.

 

 

Cohen at wide receiver this upcoming season doesn't sound like a bad idea.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 15:48
All taxonomy terms: Steph Curry, NBA
Path: /nba/3-point-shot-has-become-divisive-metaphor-nba
Body:

Thirty-five seasons ago, the NBA instituted its 3-point arc. Much has changed regarding the details of this extra, ever-important stripe on the court, but the simple, essential truth of it has remained the same since then. One shot, much further from the rim, is worth three points instead of two.

 

Only more recently, however, has the value of the 3-point line been understood in exacting fashion. The dawn of analytics in the sport has given way to a re-imagination of court strategy across the league, with 2015 MVP Stephen Curry standing as the evolutionary zenith of how modern talent can fit into a new understanding of the parquet’s real estate. Teams are shooting more from beyond the arc than they ever have.

 

Lost in the discussion about the Year of the Three has been nuance. Old-school polemicists like Phil Jackson and Charles Barkley have very publicly bemoaned offensive styles that start at the perimeter and often end there, too; lane penetration and post play are still integral to the diet of a healthy contender, they say, and deep shooting should be little more than a peripheral benefit of a squad that looks to get to the rim first and foremost.

 

On the other side of the fence stands a pack of progress-obsessed analysts who readily laugh at Jackson and Barkley, insisting that they’re lost in the sands of time as the 3-point shot has become of singular, undeniable importance.

 

The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the more reasonable middle. Three-pointers are important: If you can’t shoot them at least at an average rate, you probably won’t be winning any NBA titles this century. But the fetish of the shot — particularly as it fills in as a metaphor of power for certain branches of thinking — often goes to extreme places in the wrong hands. The direction of play in this sport has been and always will be fluid, and while the upwardly trending nature of 3-point shooting teams is a powerful development, it is far from a permanent one.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 14:36
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/take-tour-around-miami-dwayne-johnson-locker-room-ray-lewis-hurricanes
Body:

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson may not be the first name that comes to mind when a person thinks of the University of Miami, but he's arguably the most famous.

 

The school that boast alums like Jeremy Shockey and Ray Lewis is giving a sneak-peek inside its football locker room. The locker room is called the "Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson locker room" and it's pretty awesome. Quarterback Brad Kaaya serves as tour guide of the facility.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 14:12
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/nfl-10-worst-criminals-aaron-hernandez-ray-lewis-rae-carruth
Body:

The NFL and crime has unfortunately gone hand-in-hand.

 

PM Guardian made a cool inforgraphic for 10 of the worst criminals in the NFL. From Aaron Hernandez to Rae Carruth, these guys are not the nicest in the game.


NFL Criminals
The 10 Worst Criminals in the NFL, and Why You Can’t Rent to Them [INFOGRAPHIC]This infographic came from PM Guardian.com

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 13:10
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/carl-edwards-charlotte-triumph-proof-difference-one-sprint-cup-win-makes-nascar
Body:

NASCAR’s “new” Chase is changing the way we look at the course of a driver’s season. It used to be all 26 races were taken into account while judging success or failure. Now? Just one checkered flag will make the difference, both with shop morale and in the boardroom.

 

This week’s example is one Carl Edwards, victorious at Charlotte after a fuel mileage gamble stole the show at the end of NASCAR’s longest race. Those 600 miles have now turned the driver’s season into a success story. He’s got the playoff bid all sponsors are looking for, three-plus months to test for the postseason and that all-important Sprint Cup victory.

 

However, take a look at what Edwards’ season would look like under the “old” NASCAR point system, where there was no playoff and your year was judged over a full 36-race schedule. Edwards sits 16th in points, without a race finish better than 10th before Sunday’s Charlotte surprise. He had two finishes of 31st or worse, showed less speed than teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth while struggling at was once his biggest strength: intermediate tracks. This win, while a sure sign of a turnaround, still leaves him a whopping 161 points behind current leader Kevin Harvick. Without a NASCAR playoff, his goal would have been to finish 10th in points — not make a run to win it all at Homestead.

 

Instead, Edwards now has as much of a chance to take home that hardware as Harvick, who’s earned himself 11 top-10 finishes through the season’s first 12 races. Edwards, by comparison has only two, yet has the resources to compete well in a 10-race playoff. How would fans react if one of these inconsistent seasons somehow scrounges up the ability to pull a trophy out of their hat in the season finale?

 

NASCAR has had a postseason now for a dozen years. So why does it still always feel like it’s imperfect?

 

Through the gears we go...

 

FIRST GEAR: A New Team Beats a Former Friend

 

For Carl Edwards, Sunday’s win brought confidence his move from Roush Fenway Racing this offseason was the right one. Jumping to Joe Gibbs Racing this season has been a bit of a rollercoaster, but crew chief Darian Grubb knew the right strategy to pull down the stretch. The decision to stretch fuel in the No. 19 car left him battling with former teammate Greg Biffle of RFR down the stretch. It was probably Biffle’s best chance to make the Chase this season, putting up a strong fight until his No. 16 car lost fuel pressure over the final two laps of the race.

 

Now, Edwards can breathe a sigh of relief as a postseason bid is assured months before the pressure to earn one ramps up.

 

“I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you’re a lot better off to go to the races in the position that we’re going to go now,” he said. “You go there a little more relaxed. I can let Darian and these guys work on what they’re good at, making the cars better and figuring out the communication… it’s a huge opportunity for us.”

 

Considering this veteran’s strength on 1.5-mile ovals, tracks which make up five of the 10 Chase races, this team cannot be counted out once the postseason begins in September.

 

SECOND GEAR: Joe Gibbs Racing Makes its Statement

 

Carl Edwards may have led the pack but Joe Gibbs Racing had plenty of other success stories at Charlotte. Denny Hamlin, although needing fluids after the race, was eighth and won the All-Star Race at the track the week before. Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch also finished inside the top 11 during the Coca-Cola 600.

 

While Hendrick equipment and chassis appear to still have more raw speed JGR is gaining on their rivals. They also now have three of their four drivers in the Chase, allowing them to focus on Busch and the No. 18 Toyota for much of the rest of the regular season. Busch, making his return this month, needs a win and to climb inside the top 30 in points in order to make the postseason like everyone else. His 11th-place result at Charlotte was a good start.

 

THIRD GEAR: Opposite Ends of the Spectrum for Stewart-Haas Racing

 

While they didn’t win Sunday, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick continue to run circles around the competition at intermediate tracks. Combined, they’ve led 715 laps at these 1.5- and 2-mile ovals, blowing away the rest of their competition. (Hendrick Motorsports, next in line has led just 292). But in the wacky world of Stewart-Haas Racing, all those moments up front have come from only Busch and Harvick. Know how many laps Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick have led during that stretch?

 

Zero.

 

The inability for either driver to get going is puzzling considering how much success their teammates are having across the way. Patrick, after struggling All-Star Race weekend, was never a factor Sunday and ran 22nd, two laps off the pace. Her fourth straight finish outside the top 20 has dropped her five positions in the point standings, down to 18th and she’s now on the fringes of Chase contention. What will that mean for her NASCAR career as she sits sponsor-less for 2016? Will she be dumped or used elsewhere within the Stewart-Haas organization? (I.E. - Formula One)

 

As for Stewart, he could barely do better, clocking in 21st to remain a lowly 30th in series points. The three-time champion is now a whopping 134 points behind Paul Menard for a Chase spot with 14 races remaining. That means it’s “win or bust” as far as the postseason is concerned. At this rate, crew chief Chad Johnston should go radical with both strategy and setups. What’s the point of trying to run 15th instead of 25th? There’s still a chance for Smoke to salvage his season but it’ll have to happen at short tracks like Bristol or even the road courses of Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

 

FOURTH GEAR: Race to the Chase Redefined

 

Carl Edwards’ win didn’t just lock in a “bubble” driver into the postseason field; it also brought clarity to the Chase race entering the regular season’s second half. The Cup Series now has nine winners through its first 12 races, all virtually guaranteed a spot: Edwards, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. That leaves seven spots remaining for drivers to either win or get in on points.

 

Looking at the standings, there are three drivers who have flashed the speed to win and should do so within the next three months: Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, and Martin Truex Jr. Should Kyle Busch be able to break through, charging toward the top 30 in points, we’d have 13 of the 16 spots filled. That would leave Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola to fight for the final three spots based on points. Menard, last in that group, has a 40-point edge on Clint Bowyer, the next winless driver and has finally flashed the consistency this year to stay out in front.

 

What about other drivers not mentioned, like Bowyer, Danica Patrick, Greg Biffle, AJ Allmendinger and Kyle Larson? So far down in the standings, their path forward to the postseason is simple: Win. Win. Win. Trying to point their way forward, with just 14 races left, will be difficult based on their inconsistency to date.

 

OVERDRIVE

 

We’ve said it many times in this space, but how much longer will Roush Fenway Racing put up with underperforming Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne? While teammate Greg Biffle ran second Sunday, neither Stenhouse Jr. nor Bayne were so much as sniffing the top 20 by the checkered flag… The 22 lead changes over 600 miles at Charlotte paled in comparison to the 37 made over Sunday’s Indy 500. No wonder INDYCAR beat NASCAR in Sunday’s ratings by a whopping 16 percent … Edwards, despite a history of success at intermediates had never won at Charlotte in a Cup car prior to Sunday night.

 

— 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 tom.bowles@frontstretch.com or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Carl Edwards’ Charlotte Triumph Proof the Difference One Sprint Cup Win Makes in NASCAR
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 12:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/sarkisian-stockpiling-quarterbacks-uscs-future
Body:

USC football stockpiled talented quarterbacks during its run of dominance in the 2000s, when current head coach Steve Sarkisian was an assistant to Pete Carroll. 

 

Sarkisian is emulating that blueprint now, aggressively hitting the recruiting trail for quarterback prospects. 

 

In the 2000s, the Trojans went from one Heisman Trophy winner, Carson Palmer, to another, Matt Leinart. Matt Cassell was at USC in the same era, and despite playing rarely, went on to a solid NFL career. John David Booty succeeded Leinart and played two underrated seasons as starter before turning over the reins to Mark Sanchez, whose 2008 was statistically similar to the Heisman campaigns of Palmer and Leinart. 

 

Cody Kessler now heads into 2015, his third season as USC's starter, generating a fair amount of Heisman buzz himself.

 

Related: USC Trojans 2015 Preview and Prediction

 

It's a departure from Kessler's first season behind center, when he backed into the starting job as then-head coach Lane Kiffin scrambled for a replacement to four-year signal-caller Matt Barkley. The ensuing problems that emanated from Kiffin not having a ready-made line of succession ultimately hastened his firing. 

 

Sarkisian has no such issue. When Kessler leaves the program after 2015, understudy Max Browne is primed to take over.

 

But after Browne, Sarkisian's aggressive quarterback recruitment strategy has USC stockpiling young playmakers. The most recent signing class featured a pair of 4-star prospects from the local prep scene: Ricky Town, a pro-style quarterback from Ventura's St. Bonaventure, and Sam Darnold, a dual-threat player out of San Clemente.

 

Besides the 2015 signees, USC also gained a verbal commitment earlier this month from 2016 4-star prospect Matt Fink of Glendora, Calif. Add in Jalen Greene, a redshirt freshman this season, and that's quite a logjam on the depth chart. However, even this hasn't dissuaded Sarkisian's efforts to land 5-star 2017 recruit Tate Martell, who currently plays for Las Vegas prep powerhouse Bishop Gorman. 

 

While loading up on quarterback talent is a ploy from USC's strategy of years past, the type of quarterback being pursued by Sarkisian points to at least one significant philosophical departure. 

 

Martell is just 5-foot-11, much shorter than the line of Palmer, Leinart and Sanchez, who all stood tall in the pocket. But while Martell won't draw comparisons to those USC greats of the past, he has already garnered a highly complimentary comparison from Steve Clarkson, who told Scout.com's Greg Biggins the 2017 prospect is reminiscent of Russell Wilson. 

 

Likewise, Darnold may have the size of USC quarterbacks past, but his rushing ability is unlike anything the Trojans have ever employed. He carried for 785 yards and 13 touchdowns his senior season at San Clemente High School, per MaxPreps.com

 

The diversity with which Sarkisian is building the USC quarterback corps should give the Trojans flexibility in scheme, tailoring the attack to the players rather than try to force a predetermined concept. 

 

It's a strategy with which other programs around the Pac-12 have succeeded, including the last two Pac-12 South champions, Arizona and Arizona State.  

 

Just one quarterback can play at a time, of course, and that's a harsh reality that has made transfers at the position an annual inevitability. USC parted with Aaron Corp in 2009, Max Wittek in '14, and is unlikely to keep every signal-caller it either already has on the roster, or is looking to add in the coming years. 

 

But by building up the pool for competition, Sarkisian can cultivate a system of succession that functions seamlessly, much like a decade ago.

 

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of CFBHuddle.com. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

Teaser:
Sarkisian Stockpiling Quarterbacks for USC's Future
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /nba/kenny-smith-destroys-shaquille-oneal-mortal-kombat-inside-the-nba-game
Body:

"Inside the NBA" is easily the most entertaining show because of the hosts.

 

Kenny "The Jet" Smith and Shaquille O'Neal took time from their schedule to play Mortal Kombat. A much-needed break. Smith won and then hit O'Neal with the finishing move in reality.

 

 

There goes that theory that O'Neal could beat Ronda Rousey in the ring.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 12:14
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/12-most-shameful-college-football-games-2015
Body:

Good news, everyone: Schedule-shaming works.

 

Those two weeks during the SEC schedule in November aren’t nearly as embarrassing as they used to be. Sure, every league team didn’t try to add another conference game or big-time out-of-conference game. But many of the FCS games that week have been traded out with Conference USA or Sun Belt teams.

 

They’re cupcakes for the most part, but it’s nice to see overmatched FCS teams depart schedules in September rather than setting up rivalry week.

 

In the final weeks of November, Conference USA replaces the SoCon as Florida faces FAU and Tennessee faces North Texas. Georgia is taking a bit of an in-state risk by hosting the option-running Sun Belt champion Georgia Southern. Missouri plays Southeast Missouri State early in the season but balances that with BYU in November.

 

Don’t worry for those of you who are for some reason fans of the SEC-FCS challenge, Alabama, South Carolina and Texas A&M are holding out with their own shameful games in November.

 

Shameful games here aren’t just ordinary power teams facing FCS competition. They’re they ones who are going out of their way to cross state lines to face a historically bad team from a Division with fewer scholarships and few resources.

 

In other words, they’re buying wins and ripping off their season-ticket holders.

 

And let’s be clear: We do not care about the circumstances of these particular games and if an opponent bought out of a series. Find a way to do better, we say.

 

1. Nov. 21: Charleston Southern at Alabama

Most of the SEC has been shamed into shedding its traditional November FCS opponent in November for Conference USA or Sun Belt opponents. Not Alabama. The Crimson Tide have played an FCS opponent in November every season since 2009, and the final scores have been predictably lopsided. As an opponent, Charleston Southern isn’t particularly shameful. The Buccaneers are 18-5 the last two seasons, a long way from 2011 when they went 0-11 with losses to Florida State at UCF that year. Alabama has been a consistent top-five team for eight seasons and continues to import an FCS team to face the week before Auburn. We’ve come to accept the late-season SEC tune-up game but Alabama has FBS candidates in arm’s reach — Troy, South Alabama and until this season, UAB.

 

2. Sept. 5: Norfolk State at Rutgers

If Rutgers continues this shameful series any longer, it should have a rivalry trophy. Rutgers has faced Norfolk State in 2007, 2010 and 2013, winning by a combined score of 128-0.

 

3. Nov. 14: Western Carolina at Texas A&M

Again, most of the SEC is ditching the November FCS opponent. A&M is bringing one from Cullowhee, N.C., to visit. And until last season, Western Carolina was an automatic win — for FCS teams. The Catamounts won 14 games from 2006-13 (and lost twice at Alabama). They went 7-5 last season. Still, Texas A&M is inviting and paying a team to travel nearly 1,000 miles for a likely rout.

 

4. Sept. 5: Savannah State at Colorado State

No list of shameful games would be complete without Savannah State, a woefully overmatched opponent FBS teams can’t help but schedule to start the season. In an 0-12 season, Savannah State faced three FBS opponents and scored two total touchdowns in garbage time against Middle Tennessee (61-7), Georgia Southern (83-9) and BYU (64-0). Savannah State has played seven FBS teams in three seasons, losing by a combined score of 490-26.

 

5. Sept. 5: South Dakota at Kansas State

On a streak of four consecutive FCS national titles, North Dakota State has defeated an FBS opponent in each of the last five seasons. One of those victims has learned the lesson and scheduled a lesser Dakota school. Former Wyoming coach Joe Glenn is 7-28 in three seasons with the Coyotes. 

 

6. Sept. 26: Nicholls State at Colorado

Colorado is 10-39 in the last four seasons. Nicholls State is 6-40. One of which is in the Pac-12 and the other is in the Southland and getting a paid trip from Thibodaux, La., to Boulder, Colo. The Buffaloes need all the wins they can get, so this will suffice.

 

7. Sept. 4: Rhode Island at Syracuse

Syracuse may be fighting for bowl eligibility, so the Orange probably need to sweep this opening stretch against Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan. At 7-39 the last four seasons and no winning seasons since 2001, Rhody seems like a sure bet for 1-0 for Syracuse.

 

8. Sept. 5 Grambling State at Cal

Grambling State rebounded nicely with a 7-5 season under Broderick Fobbs last season, just a year removed from a 2-21 record in two seasons and a player revolt against the administration and the midseason firing of Doug Williams in 2014. Grambling rarely plays power conference teams but has traveled to Oklahoma State and Washington in recent years, both for loss by more than 40 points.

 

9. Nov. 21: The Citadel at South Carolina

Another SEC-FCS game in late November, but at least this is an in-state game with a little bit of history, most of it bad for The Citadel. South Carolina played The Citadel regularly until 1965. The Gamecocks have a 7-40-3 edge in the series.

 

10. Sept. 4: Weber State at Oregon State

Not long ago, Weber State could be competitive against some lesser FBS teams. Those days are over as the Ogden, Utah, school is 6-29 in the last three seasons.

 

11. Sept. 3: New Hampshire at San Jose State

New Hampshire is a solid FCS program, winning 10-plus games six times since 2004 and in each of the last two seasons. Not all of that was with Chip Kelly as offensive coordinator. The question is why New Hampshire has to go all the way to San Jose to get an FBS game. This is less shameful for the Spartans than it is for teams like Rutgers, Syracuse, UConn and Boston College.

 

12. Sept. 19 Austin Peay at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt needs wins and knows it doesn’t have to look far to get one from the school up the interstate. Austin Peal is 1-23 in two seasons under its current coach. The Governors went 20-46 under his predecessor, 11-33 under the coach before him and 19-46 under the coach prior. Need we go on?

Teaser:
The 12 Most Shameful College Football Games of 2015
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 12:12
Path: /overtime/21-most-unintentionally-dirty-sports-photos-web-2015
Body:

Ahh, photography. It can catch a split-second moment in time and turn it into a hilarious photo that can be interpreted the completely wrong way. And sports provides more of these moments than most other subjects--usually because there's a lot of sweaty dudes rolling around with each other and celebrating as only sweaty dudes know how. Here are 21 unintentionally funny sports photos that are hilarious even if you don't like sports.

Teaser:
<p> These photos caught athletes doing things we only see in the movies (dirty movies.)</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/sec-win-total-projections-2015
Body:

The 2015 college football season is still a few months away. However, the news cycle never stops, and there’s plenty to keep the conversation going this summer.

 

Athlon Sports is counting down its rankings for 2015, while 5Dimes Sportsbook has released some early win total over/under odds for the upcoming season.

 

5Dimes’ win totals featured some interesting projections for Auburn, Tennessee and Alabama. Auburn was only 8.5, while the Crimson Tide is listed at 9.5 on the sportsbook.

 

With the win totals released, Athlon Sports is taking a look at all 14 of the SEC teams and whether we would take the over, under or push on the projections for 2015.

 

SEC Win Total Projections: Over, Under or Push

 

East Division

 

Florida: 7.5

 

Braden Gall: Over

Jim McElwain alone adds a win or two for this offense, and this team was WAY closer to winning the East than folks remember last year.

 

Steven Lassan: Under

I like the Jim McElwain hire, and the defense should be strong once again. However, the offensive line is a major issue, and a redshirt freshman (Will Grier) is likely to start at quarterback.

 

Mitch Light: Under

The defense should be stout, but there are too many issues on offense to expect this team to contend in the East.

 

Georgia: 9

 

Braden Gall: Over

The Dawgs are the clear-cut frontrunner in the East and get a bunch of big games at home. This is the most complete team in the easier division.

 

Steven Lassan: Over

The passing game is still a question mark, but the Bulldogs have the best backfield and one of the top defenses in the SEC. Outside of games against Alabama and Auburn, I don’t see a loss on this schedule.

 

Mitch Light: Over

The conference schedule is very tough — Georgia plays both Alabama and Auburn — but Mark Richt has the most complete team in the SEC.

 

Related: Georgia's Nick Chubb is the SEC's Top Running Back for 2015

 

Kentucky: 6

 

Braden Gall: Under

This team is improving under Coach Stoops, and Patrick Towles could will them to a push. But I'm going under with that schedule.

 

Steven Lassan: Push

I might be too optimistic on Kentucky, but a bowl seems reasonable for the Wildcats in 2015. Boom Williams is a breakout candidate at running back, and the talent level has improved on the recruiting trail. The finale against Louisville could be a must-win game to get to six.

 

Mitch Light: Over

Mark Stoops talented young core is a year older and should break through with the school’s first winning season since 2009.

 

Missouri: 7.5

 

Braden Gall: Over

When in doubt, take the over with Gary Pinkel. The defensive line is starting to become a concern, but Maty Mauk should improve and keep the Tigers in the East race.

 

Steven Lassan: Over

Never count out Missouri in the SEC East under Gary Pinkel’s watch. While I don’t think this team will win the division again, reaching eight wins is reasonable – if quarterback Maty Mauk plays better in SEC games.

 

Mitch Light: Under

We’ve been wrong about Missouri in the past, but this could be the year the Tigers take a step back in the East.

 

South Carolina: 7

 

Braden Gall: Push

Run as far away from this one as possible. South Carolina should be better on defense but is lacking in star power.

 

Steven Lassan: Push

South Carolina’s defense can’t be any worse than it was in 2014. That’s the good news. The bad news? There’s uncertainty at quarterback, two key starters gone from the offensive line and a lack of proven receivers outside of Pharoh Cooper. Additionally, crossover games against LSU and Texas A&M are tough.

 

Mitch Light: Push

Other than Pharoh Cooper, the Gamecocks don’t have many (or any) difference makers on offense.

 

Tennessee: 7.5

 

Braden Gall: Over

There are some key swing games — Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri — that could result in a push. I think they get over the hump in one of those.

 

Steven Lassan: Over

Tennessee is Georgia’s top challenger in the East. Yes, the schedule is tough, but the talent level is improving, Josh Dobbs is back for a full year under center, and the defense is trending up.

 

Mitch Light: Over

The Vols boast some of the top young talent in the league. As long as Josh Dobbs stays healthy, this is an eight-win team.

 

Related: Tennessee Ranks No. 22 in Athlon's Top 25 for 2015

 

Vanderbilt: 3

 

Braden Gall: Over

There aren't a lot of wins there but this defense should be legit. One SEC win gets you the over.

 

Steven Lassan: Push

The Commodores will be better in coach Derek Mason’s second season. But games against Western Kentucky and Houston aren’t guaranteed wins, and it’s tough to find a win in SEC play.

 

Mitch Light: Over

The Commodores’ non-conference schedule is tricky, but Derek Mason’s club will find a way to win at least four games.

 

West Division

 

Alabama: 9.5

 

Braden Gall: Over

This may not be a national title-type team at Bama but losing three times in the regular season seems highly unlikely with that talent and Nick Saban calling the shots.

 

Steven Lassan: Over

Alabama has won at least 10 games in each of the last seven seasons. There are some concerns – quarterback, receiving corps and secondary – but the Crimson Tide isn’t short on talent. Nick Saban will keep this team among the nation’s best in 2015.

 

Mitch Light: Over

This is far from a perfect team, but Alabama still has fewer weaknesses than 99 percent of the teams in the nation.

 

Related: Alabama Ranks No. 2 in Athlon's Top 25 for 2015

 

Arkansas: 8.5

 

Braden Gall: Under

I love what Bret Bielema has done and this team will be in every game it plays. But it needs balance against an elite schedule to win nine games.

 

Steven Lassan: Under

This is one of the toughest picks on the board. Arkansas is due for better luck in close games and has two swing contests against Tennessee and Missouri from the East. If Dan Enos helps the passing attack improve, the Razorbacks could hit nine victories.

 

Mitch Light: Under

The Hogs are a top-20 team, but a brutal schedule will prevent them from winning nine or 10 games.

 

Related: Arkansas Ranks No. 16 in Athlon's Top 25 for 2015

 

Auburn: 8.5

 

Braden Gall: Over

Take the over and run. This is the best bet on this SEC board. Athlon Sports has the Tigers making the playoff, so 11 wins is essentially a must for that to happen. And it could easily.

 

Steven Lassan: Over

Easiest pick among the SEC teams. Take the over. Auburn is due to rebound back into the national title conversation this year. The offense is explosive behind quarterback Jeremy Johnson, and the defense will improve with Will Muschamp calling the plays.

 

Mitch Light: Over

The Auburn offense, led by QB Jeremy Johnson, will be explosive. This is a legitimate national title contender.

 

LSU: 8

 

Braden Gall: Under

Like Carolina in the East, there are just too many questions to bet on LSU in anyway. I'd punt this one with anything from six to 10 wins possible for the Tigers.

 

Steven Lassan: Push

LSU is the hardest team to figure out in the SEC this season. Talent isn’t the issue, but there’s massive uncertainty at quarterback and a new scheme (and personnel concerns) on defense. If all of the pieces fall into place, the Tigers could finish 9-3 or 10-2. However, matching last year’s win total seems more realistic.

 

Mitch Light: Push

It wouldn’t surprise me if this team went 10–2 or 6–6. Let’s split the difference.

 

Mississippi State: 7

 

Braden Gall: Over

They may not finish in the top half of the West but last place could easily win seven games. I'll give Dak Prescott credit for one extra win somewhere.

 

Steven Lassan: Push

Another tough call. Mississippi State is losing a lot, but there’s also talent waiting to step into the lineup. The Bulldogs will get better as the season goes along, and senior quarterback Dak Prescott could pull off an upset late in the year to push Mississippi State to eight wins.

 

Mitch Light: Push

The Bulldogs have a star at quarterback in Dak Prescott but suffered heavy personnel losses elsewhere.

 

Related: Mississippi State Ranks No. 21 in Athlon's Top 25 for 2015

 

Ole Miss: 8.5

 

Braden Gall: Over

This team is a QB away from being a national title contender and still could be without one. The Rebels are closer to Bama/Auburn territory than LSU.

 

Steven Lassan: Over

Even with the losses in the secondary, Ole Miss should have one of the nation’s top defenses. While the quarterback spot and rushing attack is a concern, the talent at receiver is better, and the offensive line is improving. I think Ole Miss could go 10-2 in 2015.

 

Mitch Light: Over

The Rebels are my sleeper pick to flirt with a spot in the College Football Playoff.

 

Texas A&M: 7.5

 

Braden Gall: Over

There is a lot of upside here in terms of talent and coaching. However, it's very young or new to campus. If I had to bet, I'd take the over but I'd stay away from the volatile Aggies.

 

Steven Lassan: Over

One team is going to exceed preseason expectations in the West. Texas A&M is a good sleeper pick, as the Aggies are dynamic once again on offense, and the defense will be better under John Chavis. A crossover schedule with Vanderbilt and South Carolina certainly helps.

 

Mitch Light: Under

The Aggies are loaded with talent, but do the math: Not every team can win eight in the SEC West. 

 

Related: Texas A&M's Kyle Allen Ranks No. 4 Among SEC QBs for 2015

 

 

Teaser:
SEC Win Total Projections for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /nba/after-being-swept-out-playoffs-cavs-what%E2%80%99s-next-atlanta-hawks
Body:

This past January, the Atlanta Hawks looked to be leaders of an NBA revolution. Without a superstar or even many years together, they were working from a blueprint of selflessness and intelligence that was all but unbeatable. They put together a 19-game winning streak to go lossless in the month, and rode their mid-season dominance to 60 wins, the most in the Eastern Conference.

 

Today, many fans may be forgetting all that. The Hawks are merely LeBron James’ latest victim, after he and his Cavaliers swept them out of the conference finals and sent them home for the summer.

 

Even before Cleveland snuffed out their flame, though, Atlanta had looked like a shadow of their regular-season selves this spring. Injuries piled up for them quickly in the postseason. Some of them were bad enough to take players out for the year (Kyle Korver, Thabo Sefolosha), while the rest of them were just making their active players worse (DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Mike Scott).

 

Some may take the Hawks’ swift exit as a referendum on their formula. In at least one way, this is probably true: If nothing else, Atlanta peaked far too early. Had that brilliant team in January been up against LeBron, we would have been watching a terrific version of playoff basketball. But the Hawks didn’t have the resolve or stamina to keep up the blistering pace they’d set.

 

What this loss doesn’t do is prove that you need a superstar to go to the Finals. Had the Hawks played well, there’d be an argument there — but the performance they put in was an iteration of team basketball that lands well below the standard they’d set for themselves. Now, they face an uncertain future together.

 

Carroll and Millsap are both free agents this summer. Many have assumed both will be back to keep the Hawks’ front five together, because of the friendliness and cohesion thats visible among this cast. But neither player has ever made the kind of money that multiple suitors will show them this July, so we’ll have to wait and see how they react when that happens.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 11:08
Path: /college-football/college-football-2015-rankings-and-predictions-26-40
Body:

The 2015 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to project how the upcoming year will play out on the field. Athlon Sports has released its top 25 for this season and continues the countdown to September with a look at the teams ranked No. 26-128.

 

In the 26-40 range, there’s no shortage of intriguing teams or programs that could push for a spot among the top 25 by the end of 2015. Florida, Michigan and Nebraska are three programs to watch with first-year coaches, while Missouri just missed the top 25 after winning back-to-back SEC East titles. Oklahoma State is due for a rebound year after finishing 7-6 last year. 

 

Follow @AthlonSports college football staff on Twitter: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Braden Gall (@BradenGall), David Fox (@DavidFox615), Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) and Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)

 

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128

 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2015 season

 

College Football 2015 Projected Rankings: 26-40

 

26. Florida

 

Will Muschamp’s failure to identify an offensive coordinator or quarterback doomed him, leaving new coach Jim McElwain with a program that won just 11 games the past two seasons. The 53-year-old immediately set out to upgrade Florida’s offensive talent and address lagging facilities. Faced with a massive rebuild, McElwain will need time to field an SEC East contender at a school where championships were once the standard.

 

Read the full 2015 Florida Gators Team Preview

 

27. Missouri

 

The Tigers boast solid experience at a majority of units on offense and defense, but they are young at defensive end and ultra-young at receiver, where they must replace all three starters for the second straight year. That seems like a lot to overcome in the battle for a third straight SEC East crown, but suddenly you don’t make much money betting against Pinkel.

 

Read the full 2015 Missouri Tigers Team Preview

 

28. Oklahoma State

 

With the loss of 28 seniors leaving an inexperienced cast to try and contend in the Big 12, the 2014 season always figured to be a rebuilding effort. And it played out as such, turning worse when injuries and a lack of depth left the Cowboys exposed.

 

But quarterback Mason Rudolph’s arrival, both to the lineup and as a key piece to the future, reversed course and momentum. Now there’s talk that Oklahoma State, like TCU a year ago, could rise from seventh place to the top of the Big 12 in 2015.

 

Read the full 2015 Oklahoma State Cowboys Team Preview

 

29. Nebraska

 

Nebraska won nine or more games in each of Bo Pelini’s seven seasons as coach. His overall record was 67–27. So Riley can expect to be held to a high standard. But he is considerably more engaging than his predecessor, which probably means there will be some degree of patience during the transition.

 

The non-conference schedule could be challenging, with an opener at home against BYU and a trip to Miami (Fla.) two weeks later. But the conference schedule is such that nine wins, even in transition, should be possible. Nebraska hasn’t won a conference championship since 1999. Winning one this year would be a stretch, though the Huskers should contend in the Big Ten West if the defense improves.

 

Read the full 2015 Nebraska Cornhuskers Team Preview

 

30. Arizona

 

Arizona has won 26 games in coach Rich Rodriguez’s first three seasons, the most of any three-year period in school history. “I’m not saying we’re ahead of expectations,” says Rodriguez, “because we need to get deeper and tougher.” This is Rodriguez’s top group at Arizona, but it must play 12 weeks in succession without a bye.

 

Read the full 2015 Arizona Wildcats Team Preview

 

31. Utah

 

Utah is getting closer. In their fourth season of Pac-12 membership, the Utes posted their first winning record (5–4) in conference play and competed favorably against nearly every opponent.  Coach Kyle Whittingham likes the program’s trajectory entering its fifth season in the Pac-12. “We’ve taken a step forward every year with our depth and talent on the roster, one through 85,” he says. “It’s still a work in progress … but we feel like last year we made a lot of headway.”

 

In 2015, the Utes hope to overcome a lack of experience at receiver and in the secondary while counting on their senior quarterback to play more consistently as he completes an adventurous career.

 

Read the full 2015 Utah Utes Team Preview

 

32. Penn State

 

The Lions have addressed their glaring weakness, building depth and experience along a patchwork offensive line. They’ll still be young up front, with only one senior on the projected two-deep (two if you count incoming graduate transfer Kevin Reihner), but the line probably won’t be as big of a liability. On the opposite side of the ball, they return seven starters from what was, statistically, the Big Ten’s best defense last season.

 

Of Penn State’s six losses last fall, only two were by more than a touchdown. If the defense holds strong and Hackenberg gets a chance to show what he can do, it’s not hard to imagine the Lions turning a few of those close losses into close wins in 2015.

 

Read the full 2015 Penn State Nittany Lions Team Preview

 

33. Texas

 

Charlie Strong is still rebuilding in many ways after replacing his offense as well as two assistant coaches (Strong fired receivers coach Les Koenning and tight ends coach Bruce Chambers) after one season. Strong brought in former Oklahoma co-OC Jay Norvell as receivers coach, and Traylor replaced Chambers.

 

The defense will undoubtedly be the strength again this year. Special teams must improve. But it will be the direction of an offense that averaged an anemic 21.4 points per game in 2014 that will determine the fate of the Longhorns this season.

 

With a schedule that includes road games against potential top-10 teams Notre Dame, TCU and Baylor, the quarterback play has to lead a turnaround in 2015 or the results could be very similar to last year’s 6–7.

 

Read the full 2015 Texas Longhorns Team Preview

 

34. Michigan

 

If new coach Jim Harbaugh can keep Michigan’s offense from stepping on land mines while showing improvement week to week, the defense is good enough to push the Wolverines to at least eight victories. But if Michigan doesn’t find a quarterback who can protect the football, or get a serious push from its offensive line, the team may struggle to make a huge leap in Year 1 of the Harbaugh era.

 

Read the full 2015 Michigan Wolverines Team Preview

 

35. Virginia Tech

 

Virginia Tech is 22–17 overall and a .500 team in the league since 2012, prompting the uncomfortable conversation about how much longer revered coach Frank Beamer will walk the sideline in Blacksburg. A return to prominence would quash that talk, and with 16 returning starters, including a promising group of up-and-coming playmakers on offense and Foster’s usual great defense, Virginia Tech has a chance to challenge in the Coastal Division again. Another middling season, however, will only intensify the chatter that perhaps it’s time for Beamer to pass the torch.

 

Read the full 2015 Virginia Tech Hokies Team Preview

 

36. West Virginia

 

West Virginia, which has been either 4–5 or 5–4 in two of its three seasons in the Big 12, should once again be in the middle of the pack in the league standings.

 

With the exception of what seems to be a quirky 2013 campaign, coach Dana Holgorsen continues to crank out fine offenses. Pair that with what should be a solid defense — especially if you believe Tony Gibson, the unit’s coordinator — and the Mountaineers look like a solid a bowl team that isn’t quite good enough to contend for a conference title.

 

Read the full 2015 West Virginia Mountaineers Team Preview

 

37. South Carolina

 

​South Carolina opened spring practice with a sense of urgency that may have been lacking last season.

 

“Sometimes after you go 11–2 three years in a row, some people just assume, ‘We’re going to keep on winning,’ but it didn’t quite happen that way,” Spurrier says. “We were not a real strong team. We are by a long way not a finished product, but we’ve got time.”

 

The Gamecocks will be breaking in a new quarterback and rebuilding a defense that lost its morale along with a lot of games last year, so the time had better be well spent.

 

Read the full 2015 South Carolina Gamecocks Team Preview

 

38. Louisville

 

Louisville has lost considerable talent and undergone a coaching staff change over the last two seasons. Those are warning signs the program could take a step back in 2015, especially with a schedule that includes Auburn and Clemson in two of the first three games. The Cardinals need a quarterback to emerge, receivers to step forward, three new offensive linemen to step up and a rebuilt secondary to deliver to keep winning big. That’s a lot to ask.

 

Read the full 2015 Louisville Cardinals Team Preview

 

39. NC State

 

NC State improved its win total by five games from 2013 to ’14. The Wolfpack hope to make another jump in 2015 with a veteran quarterback and seven starters back on defense. Another five-game improvement might be asking too much, but coach Dave Doeren won’t put a ceiling on the program’s progress.

 

The key to moving the momentum forward again will be replacing main parts up front on both sides of the ball. But with the return of quarterback Jacoby Brissett and a host of new talented recruits supplementing an already deep backfield, the Wolfpack have an opportunity to at least push Atlantic Division powers Florida State and Clemson.

 

Read the full 2015 NC State Wolfpack Team Preview

 

40. Cincinnati

 

After two consecutive 9–4 seasons and two bowl losses under Tuberville, some believe UC is running in place. The Bearcats did share the AAC title last year, but they lack a signature win in Tuberville’s brief tenure. Tuberville turns 61 in September, and he has not had a team finish in the final AP top 25 since 2007 (Auburn). The 2014 Bearcats don’t look like a top 25 team, either, but they should be considered the favorite in the East Division of the expanded American Athletic Conference. There are some issues on defense, but the offense, led by Kiel, will put UC in position to win eight or nine games once again.

 

Read the full 2015 Cincinnati Bearcats Team Preview

Teaser:
College Football 2015 Rankings and Predictions: #26-40
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Funny, NBA, Overtime
Path: /nba/shaq-says-he-could-take-ronda-rousey-oneal-inside-the-nba
Body:

Someone saying they can fight Ronda Rousey is something we don't hear everyday.

 

On "Inside The NBA," the guys from "Entourage" spoke a little about the fighter's cameo in the movie. That's when Shaquille O'Neal stepped out of the realm of possibilities by saying he could last 45 seconds with Rousey. Charles Barkley being himself said there was a joke there and once O'Neal got it, everyone had a big laugh.

 

 

If Shaq did end up losing to Rousey, that's one lost he'll never be able to live down.

 

Source: Fansided

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 10:19
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-offensive-triplets-2015
Body:

Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are glamour positions in college football. While offensive linemen and defensive players are just as important to winning a title, it’s no secret the skill players and quarterbacks grab the attention and headlines. With that in mind, Athlon has ranked the top 25 triplets in college football for the 2015 season.

 

How did we compile the rankings? Ranking the trios by conference is the first step, and we used a formula by assigning points to the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers ranked within each league. It’s important to weigh talent, production against Power 5 opponents, overall balance among the three players and projection for the 2015 season.

 

By Conference: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

 

College Football's Top 25 Offensive Triplets for 2015
 
1. Ohio State

QB: Cardale Jones 

RB: Ezekiel Elliott 

WR: Michael Thomas 
 

Regardless of who starts under center for coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best trios. Jones is penciled in as the starter at quarterback after guiding Ohio State to a 3-0 record and a national championship in his short tenure under center. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 696 yards over the final three games of last year, and Thomas led all Ohio State receivers with 54 catches in 2014.

Related: Urban Meyer Ranks No. 1 Among Big Ten Coaches for 2015

 

2. Auburn

QB: Jeremy Johnson 

RB: Jovon Robinson 

WR: Duke Williams 

 

Gus Malzahn’s offense has averaged over 30 points per game in back-to-back seasons in SEC contests. The 2015 version of Auburn’s offense will be just as explosive, as quarterback Jeremy Johnson is a rising star, and there’s no shortage of skill talent, including All-America candidate at receiver Duke Williams.

 

Related: Auburn's Gus Malzahn Ranks as the SEC's No. 2 Coach in 2015

 

3. Baylor

QB: Seth Russell

RB: Shock Linwood 

WR: Corey Coleman 
 

Baylor has averaged over 40 points a game in four consecutive seasons. Good luck stopping the Bears in 2015. Even with quarterback Bryce Petty expiring his eligibility, Baylor is loaded with offensive talent. Russell has played well in limited action, and coach Art Briles has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks. Shock Linwood rushed for 1,252 yards and 16 scores last season, while the receiving corps is the nation’s best, headlined by Corey Coleman and KD Cannon.

Related: Baylor's Art Briles is the No. 1 Coach in the Big 12

 

4. TCU

QB: Trevone Boykin 

RB: Aaron Green 

WR: Josh Doctson 
 

TCU’s offense showed major improvement under co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie in 2014. After averaging only 25.1 points per game in 2013, the Horned Frogs increased that total to 46.5 last season. Boykin also emerged as one of the nation’s most improved quarterbacks and opens 2015 as one of the favorites to win the Heisman. TCU has a solid crop of playmakers in place, including Aaron Green (7.2 ypc in 2014) and Doctson (11 TD catches).

Related: TCU's Trevone Boykin is the No. 1 QB in the Big 12

 

5. Clemson

QB: Deshaun Watson 

RB: Wayne Gallman 

WR: Artavis Scott 
 

Chad Morris will be missed as Clemson’s play-caller, but the Tigers should still have one of the ACC’s top offenses. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of the nation’s rising stars and will be at full strength from a torn ACL by this fall. Scott and Gallman showed promise as freshmen last season and depth is plentiful at running back and receiver.

Related: No. 14 Clemson Tigers 2015 Preview and Prediction
 

6. Arizona

QB: Anu Solomon 
RB: Nick Wilson 
WR: Cayleb Jones 
 

Arizona averaged 33.4 points per game in Pac-12 contests last season, and coach Rich Rodriguez’s offense could be even better in 2015. Quarterback Anu Solomon is returning to full strength after suffering from an ankle injury late in 2014. Wilson and Jones are among the Pac-12’s top playmakers.

 

7. Oregon

QB: Vernon Adams
RB: Royce Freeman 
WR: Byron Marshall
 

Marcus Mariota will be missed, but the Ducks offense should still remain among the Pac-12’s best. Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams replaces Mariota at quarterback, and Oregon’s running back and wide receiving corps are among the best in college football.

Related: Oregon Football Turns the Page from "Emotional" Ending

 

8. USC

QB: Cody Kessler 
RB: Justin Davis 
WR: JuJu Smith 
 

The only thing holding USC back from ranking No. 1 on among Pac-12 schools on this list is the committee approach at running back. Will someone step up as the go-to back in 2015? Cody Kessler ranks as the Pac-12’s best quarterback, and JuJu Smith should have a huge year as the Trojans’ top receiver.

Related: USC's Cody Kessler is the Pac-12's No. 1 QB for 2015

 

9. WKU

QB: Brandon Doughty

RB: Leon Allen

WR: Jared Dangerfield

 

With a loaded group of skill players and prolific senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, the Hilltoppers are the early favorites to win Conference USA. Doughty threw for 49 touchdowns last season and 4,830 yards, while Allen rushed for 1,542 yards on 272 attempts. Dangerfield led the team with 11 receiving scores and caught 69 passes.

 

10. California

QB: Jared Goff 
RB: Daniel Lasco 
WR: Kenny Lawler 
 

The Golden Bears ranked No. 2 in the Pac-12 (conference-only games) by averaging 37.6 points per contest last year. Don’t be surprised if that number climbs even higher in 2015, as coach Sonny Dykes has a loaded receiver corps, one of the nation’s rising stars at quarterback in Jared Goff, along with an underrated running back in Daniel Lasco.

 

11. BYU

QB: Taysom Hill

RB: Jamaal Williams

WR: Mitch Mathews

 

BYU’s trio of Hill-Williams-Mathews could be ranked higher, but health is a question mark with two players. Hill missed the last eight games of 2014 due to a leg injury, while Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in November. Mathews led the team with 73 catches for 922 yards last season.

 

12. Pittsburgh

QB: Chad Voytik 

RB: James Conner 

WR: Tyler Boyd 
 

Pat Narduzzi is known for his defensive acumen, but the first-year coach inherits some of the ACC’s top offensive talent. James Conner (RB) and Tyler Boyd (WR) are two of the nation’s top playmakers at their respective positions. Quarterback Chad Voytik played better in the second half of 2014 by tossing only one interception in his final six games.

Related: Pittsburgh's James Conner Ranks as the ACC's No. 1 RB

 

13. Florida State

QB: Everett Golson 

RB: Dalvin Cook 

WR: Travis Rudolph 
 

Jameis Winston leaves big shoes to fill, but coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the nation’s best quarterback coaches. Sean Maguire started one game last season (Clemson) and finished 2014 with 339 passing yards on 25 completions. However, Everett Golson is transferring to Florida State and is considered by many to be the favorite to take the first snap of 2015. Cook averaged 141.3 rushing yards over the final three games of 2014, while Rudolph caught 38 passes as a true freshman.

Related: Florida State's Jimbo Fisher Ranks as the ACC's No. 1 Coach

 

14. Tennessee

QB: Joshua Dobbs 

RB: Jalen Hurd 

WR: Marquez North 

 

Tennessee is on its way back into SEC East title contention under third-year coach Butch Jones. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs shined in the second half of 2014, and the junior will be surrounded by a young and talented group of skill players. Hurd leads the way in the Volunteers’ backfield, but junior college recruit (and former Alabama running back) Alvin Kamara is a player to watch in 2015. Receiver Marquez North was limited by injuries last season.

 

Related: Tennessee Ranks No. 22 in the 2015 College Football Top 25

 

15. Mississippi State

QB: Dak Prescott 

RB: Ashton Shumpert 

WR: De’Runnya Wilson 

 

Mississippi State returns the SEC’s No. 1 quarterback in senior Dak Prescott. While running back Josh Robinson will be missed, there’s talent in place with Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams battling for carries. Wilson averaged 15.3 yards per catch in SEC games last year.

 

Related: Mississippi State Ranks No. 21 in the 2015 College Football Top 25

 

16. Notre Dame

QB: Malik Zaire

RB: Tarean Folston

WR: Will Fuller

 

With Everett Golson transferring to Florida State, this is clearly Zaire’s team. The promising sophomore is a good fit for coach Brian Kelly’s offense but has only 35 career pass attempts. Folston rushed for 889 yards and six touchdowns last year and will be pushed for time by Greg Bryant and C.J. Prosise. Will Fuller (1,094 yards) should be in the mix for All-America honors at receiver in 2015. Zaire’s performance will determine how high this trio rises. 

 

17. Penn State

QB: Christian Hackenberg 

RB: Akeel Lynch

WR: DaeSean Hamilton
 

Ranking Penn State at No. 2 among Big Ten triplets largely depends on how far the offensive line develops during the offseason. The Nittany Lions struggled up front in 2014 and prevented the offense from taking off in coach James Franklin’s first year. Improvement is expected up front, which should allow quarterback Christian Hackenberg to rebound after an up and down 2014 campaign. Akeel Lynch rushed for at least 75 yards in three out of his last four outings, while Hamilton – only a sophomore – is among the Big Ten’s top receivers.

Related: QB Christian Hackenberg Ranks No. 3 in the Big Ten QB Ranks for 2015

 

18. Oklahoma

QB: Baker Mayfield

RB: Samaje Perine 

WR: Sterling Shepard
 

Yes, the Sooners have a new scheme and coordinator (Lincoln Riley), but the offense is still going to rely heavily on one of the nation’s top backfields. Samaje Perine rushed for 1,713 yards and 21 scores as a true freshman in 2014, and he will have plenty of help from Joe Mixon and Alex Ross. Having a healthy Sterling Shepard at receiver should make a difference for new quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Related: Oklahoma Ranks No. 17 in Athlon's 2015 CFB Top 25

 

19. UCLA

QB: Josh Rosen 
RB: Paul Perkins 
WR: Jordan Payton 
 

Uncertainty remains at quarterback with the departure of Brett Hundley, but true freshman Josh Rosen is one of the top recruits in the 2015 signing class. Running back Paul Perkins led the Pac-12 with 1,575 rushing yards last season, and receiver Jordan Payton averaged 14.3 yards per reception in conference games.

 

20. Arizona State

QB: Mike Bercovici 
RB: Demario Richard 
WR: D.J. Foster 
 

The Sun Devils have a balanced trio and could easily climb this list by the end of 2015. Bercovici has played well in limited action, and Richard is set to have a breakout year as Arizona State’s No. 1 running back. D.J. Foster will slide from running back to receiver to replace the production lost by Jaelen Strong.

Related: Arizona State's Todd Graham Ranks as the Pac-12's No. 1 Coach for 2015

 

21. Western Michigan

QB: Zach Terrell

RB: Jarvion Franklin

WR: Corey Davis

 

This trio anchored one of the nation’s most improved teams in 2014. Franklin rushed for 1,551 yards and 24 scores as a true freshman, and Davis was one of the nation’s top big-play threats at receiver by averaging 18.1 yards per catch. Terrell threw for 26 touchdowns and completed 67.9 percent of his throws in his first full year as Western Michigan’s starter.

 

22. Texas Tech

QB: Patrick Mahomes

RB: DeAndre Washington

WR: Jakeem Grant

 

Offense is always a strength for Texas Tech, and the Red Raiders are loaded with talent for 2015. Patrick Mahomes is likely to start over Davis Webb, and the sophomore should improve off a solid stat line as a freshman (1,547 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INTs). DeAndre Washington was the first 1,000-yard rusher in Lubbock since 1998. Jakeem Grant led the team in receptions and receiving yards last year.

 

23. Arkansas

QB: Brandon Allen

RB: Jonathan Williams

WR: Keon Hatcher

 

The Razorbacks improved their scoring average by 11.2 points per game from 2013 to 2014. Expect this unit to take another step forward under new coordinator Dan Enos, as Arkansas returns an experienced quarterback in Brandon Allen and the nation’s top running back duo in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams.

 

24. Bowling Green

QB: Matt Johnson

RB: Travis Greene

WR: Roger Lewis

 

Second-year coach Dino Babers wants to install a “Falcon Fast” offense in Bowling Green, and the Falcons averaged 30 points per game in 2014 despite losing quarterback Matt Johnson to an injury in Week 1. Johnson is back in 2015, and the offense is loaded with proven playmakers at running back and receiver. Greene rushed for 949 yards in 2014, while Lewis ranked third among MAC receivers with 1,093 yards.

 

25. Cincinnati

QB: Gunner Kiel

RB: Mike Boone

WR: Mekale McKay

 

Kiel battled injuries last season but still threw for 3,254 yards and 31 scores in his first year as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback. The Notre Dame transfer will have plenty of playmakers at his disposal at receiver, and the backfield is set with Mike Boone (650 yards as a freshman), along with Hosey Williams returning from injury. 

 

Just Missing the Top 25: Georgia, Texas A&M, Miami, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, NC State, Boise State, Utah State, Toledo, Arkansas State, Appalachian State

Teaser:
College Football's Top 25 Offensive Triplets for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-could-easily-get-two-teams-college-football-playoff-2015
Body:

The Athlon Sports preseason top 25 is out and not one, but two conference champions were left out the College Football Playoff.

 

Florida State is picked ninth in the nation as the ACC champs with a projected record of 11-2. USC is ranked No. 6 in the nation and is picked to the win the Pac-12 over No. 8 Oregon.

 

Meaning, both the ACC and Pac-12 are picked to miss the 2015 College Football Playoff.

 

According to the preseason rankings, the SEC will be the evil villain once again, knocking a second conference from the postseason tournament. But that could just as easily be the Big Ten or the Big 12.

 

That’s right, Bob Bowlsby, the league that was left out in the cold last winter could be in a great position to get two teams into the postseason this year.

 

In fact, it could happen much easier than expected.

 

Baylor and TCU appear to be the class of the Big 12 once again after barely missing out on a Playoff bid a year ago. Both were deserving of being in the conversation, of course, but someone had to be left out and no one can legitimately argue that the four teams that got in didn’t deserve it.

 

Related: Athlon Sports Preseason Top 25: No. 3 Baylor Bears

 

Both look like nationally elite teams this fall and expect that motivation to work in favor of the Big 12 this fall.

 

The Bears, ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll, have 17 starters back and arguably the best combined line of scrimmage in football. Art Briles is stacked at the skill positions and his quarterback freight train will continue to roll with Seth Russell manning the controls.

 

Despite another weak non-conference schedule, an undefeated Baylor squad would easily make it into the College Football Playoff and a one-loss Big 12 champion Bears team would probably make the tournament as well.

 

TCU returns 15 starters, including 10 on offense — one of which is All-American quarterback Trevone Boykin. The defense has major holes to fill and those voids are the biggest reason the Horned Frogs are picked second in the Big 12 behind Baylor despite the game moving to Fort Worth this fall.

 

However, TCU is picked No. 5 in the nation and the first team left out of the Playoff according to Athlon's preseason Top 25. If Gary Patterson’s bunch loses only one game in close fashion to the Big 12 champion Baylor Bears — exactly like it did last year — then TCU has as good a shot at snatching a Playoff bid as any team in the land.

 

A one-loss TCU with wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and a road victory over Minnesota could easily give the Big 12 two Playoff representatives.

 

The same story could be written if the roles are reversed.

 

Related: Order your 2015 preseason magazine here!

 

If TCU goes 12-0 and Baylor’s only defeat is a narrow road loss against an unbeaten Horned Frogs team, both programs could easily slip into the postseason tournament.

 

Even if one of the two doesn’t go unbeaten and the pair ties atop the Big 12 standings again (each with only one loss), both would still be in excellent shape to make the Playoff.

 

Much of that hinges on how the other leagues fare. But with two Power 5 leagues — the ACC and Pac-12 — potentially lacking a clear-cut elite team, this fall is as good a year as any for one conference to steal two Playoff bids.

 

Not only is the Big 12 likely to get its champion into the Playoff, but it also may have the best shot at getting a second team in the final four. It’s really not far-fetched at all.

 

The irony of the entire situation is that if the Big 12 had a championship game this season, none of the above would be possible.

Teaser:
Big 12 could easily get two teams into the College Football Playoff
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/jr-smith-interrupts-press-conference-take-selfie-lebron-james-and-tristan-thompson-cavaliers-eastern-conference-finals
Body:

There's no telling when a Kodak moment will present itself.

 

After the Cavaliers took care of the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals, it was the perfect time. J.R. Smith tapped LeBron James to take a picture, and Tristan Thompson didn't want to be left out so he jumped in as well. 

 

This is classic Smith.

 

 

Expect way more selfies from Smith if the Cavaliers win the championship.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 09:18
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/colin-kaepernick-apologizes-insensitive-instagram-post-san-francisco-49ers-houston
Body:

Colin Kaepernick doesn't have the best timing, and isn't always the most sensitive.

 

Houston has been hit with bad weather recently and the 49ers quarterback took it upon himself to remind people that his "7torm is coming." Bad idea.

 

 

Kaepernick quickly deleted the link to the Instagram post, but the internet is just a bit quicker.

 

 

Kaepernick tried to smooth things over with another tweet.

 

 

Some players shouldn't tweet. Ever.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 17:25
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/florida-state-commit-breaks-multiple-tackles-score-touchdown-Zaquandre-white
Body:

Florida State is about to get a scary good running back.

 

Zaquandre White is set to suit up for the Seminoles in 2017, but we're getting a preview of what he plans to do in the garnet and gold. The North Fort Myers High School running back is staying in the state of Florida to dominate during his college career as well.

 

 

Here is a look that does the run way more justice. #applypressure

Posted by Earnest Graham on Saturday, May 23, 2015
Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/clemson-summer-workouts-are-brutal-dabo-swinney-tigers
Body:

Champions are made in the offseason.

 

The Clemson football team is getting ready for the 2015 football season. The Tigers are putting in a lot of conditioning work in order to prepare. Cardio, strength, endurance seems to be on the agenda for Dabo Swinney's crew.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 15:06
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/mekka-don-creates-hype-video-ezekiel-elliotts-heisman-bid-ohio-state
Body:

People are already backing their Heisman favorites.

 

Mekka Don has gone a step further and created a hype video for Ezekiel Elliott. The Ohio State running back is on the tips of everyone's tongue when it comes to the Heisman trophy this year, and with this video it's easy to see why.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 14:00

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