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All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-ten-teams-nfl-draft-2005

If the national championship and potential preseason No. 1 ranking weren’t enough of a sign, Ohio State football is back on draft day, too.


Hard to believe, but the Buckeyes produced only one first-round pick (defensive end Cameron Heyward, selected 31st in 2011) in the draft between 2010 and 2013.


The Buckeyes had two first-round picks last season, the first time they had multiple first rounders since 2009. This year’s draft might not add too much to Ohio State’s first-round tally, but the wave is coming in 2016.


The question is how the rest of the Big Ten will be able to keep up.


Related: Which College Coach Has Produced the Most NFL Draft Picks?


For fans who are college football-centric, NFL Draft day is a chance for bragging rights and a sort of referendum on the relative talent levels for teams and conferences. Whether that’s fair or not is up for debate.


Here’s how teams in the Big Ten fared in the last 10 drafts, followed by a few observations.


*Data derived from Pro Football Reference


Big Ten NFL Draft Picks



 SchoolTotal PicksFirst Round2004-13 Record
1.521392-24 (.793)
2.42696-35 (.733)
3.39476-50 (.603)
T4.36484-46 (.646)
T4.36484-39 (.683)
6.34677-49 (.611)
7.27178-50 (.609)
8.22544-77 (.369)
9.21375-51 (.595)
10.20255-69 (.444)
11.19357-66 (.463)
12.12041-78 (.345)
T13.11154-71 (.432)
T13.11168-57 (.544)


• Another sign that the Big Ten is dominated by Ohio State — the Buckeyes have 10 more draft picks and seven more first-rounders than anyone else in the league the last decade. That’s probably as much a function of Ohio State being Ohio State and traditional powers (Penn State, Michigan, Nebraska) riding a roller coaster in recent years.


• Let’s continue to heap praise on Mark Dantonio at Michigan State. The Spartans won the Big Ten two years ago and played in a major bowl game last season, yet the Spartans have had only one first-round draft pick (cornerback Darqueze Dennard in 2014) under Dantonio.


• No surprise here: Four of Wisconsin’s last five first-round draft picks were offensive linemen (center Travis Frederick, guard Kevin Zeitler and tackles Gabe Carimi and Joe Thomas). The other was defensive end J.J. Watt.


• More fodder for Kirk Ferentz detractors: Iowa trails only Ohio State and Wisconsin in draft picks in the last decade. Outright Big Ten titles in that draft time frame: Ohio State (four), Wisconsin (two), Iowa (none).


• The floor in this league is actually pretty good. Minnesota and Northwestern have produced only 11 draft picks each in the last decade, but the Gophers and Wildcats have played in 13 combined bowl games for those draft classes. 


• Indiana is the only team in the Big Ten without a first-round pick in the last 10 drafts. The Hoosiers’ last first-rounder was wide receiver Thomas Lewis in 1994.

Ranking Big Ten Teams in the NFL Draft since 2005
Post date: Monday, April 27, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, UCLA Bruins, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/ucla-student-willingly-gets-tackled-linebacker-myles-jack-good-reason

Danny Siegel is campaigning to be a student representative at UCLA, so he decided to take a hit from linebacker Myles Jack.


Yes, you read that correctly.


Jack is a likely All-American linebacker in 2015 and one of the Pac-12’s top returning players. Needless to say, Siegel probably felt this one the next morning.


Election commercials are usually must-skip television, but we give this one a thumbs up.



UCLA Student Willingly Takes a Hit From Linebacker Myles Jack
Post date: Monday, April 27, 2015 - 11:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12-teams-nfl-draft-2005

If it seems the Big 12 is having a bit of an identity crises, that much is true in the NFL Draft, too.


Oklahoma and Texas are the powerhouses in the draft in the last decade. The Sooners and Longhorns have combined for 98 picks in the last 10 years. The other eight teams have combined for 135 during that span. 


OU and Texas have combined for nearly has many first-rounders (18) in the last 10 years as the rest of the league combined (19).


Yet Oklahoma and Texas are in trouble spots right now — Bob Stoops is coming off an eight-win season and cleaning house on his coaching staff; Texas is on Year Two of a new coaching staff.


Instead, TCU and Baylor are the top dogs in the league, and their draft day-performance is starting to show it, too.


Related: Which College Coach Has Produced the Most NFL Draft Picks?


For fans who are college football-centric, NFL Draft day is a chance for bragging rights and a sort of referendum on the relative talent levels for teams and conferences. Whether that’s fair or not is up for debate.


Here’s how teams in the Big 12 fared in the last 10 drafts, followed by a few observations.


*Data derived from Pro Football Reference


Big 12 NFL Draft Picks



 SchoolTotal PicksFirst Round2004-13 Record
1.579105-28 (.789)
2.41999-30 (.767)
3.24293-33 (.738)
4.23389-38 (.701)
5.22559-63 (.484)
6.17685-44 (.661)
7.15168-55 (.553)
8.15183-44 (.654)
9.10050-73 (.407)
10.9151-70 (.421)


• From the “that can’t be right” file: Oklahoma State has a mere 17 draft picks in the last 10 years? Maybe Mike Gundy and predecessor Les Miles deserve more credit in Stillwater.


• How about TCU at third in the league in draft picks in the last 10 years? It’s a distant third behind Oklahoma and Texas, but third nonetheless. West Virginia and Baylor are right behind.


• Of Baylor’s 22 draft picks in the last decade, 15 have come in since 2011, including four of the Bears’ five first-rounders.


• Kansas State’s more-with-less stereotype holds weight here. Kansas State’s first-round pick in the last 10 years wasn’t even recruited by Bill Snyder. No. 17 overall pick Josh Freeman played his entire college career for Ron Prince. Snyder’s last first-round pick was cornerback Terence Newman in 2003.


• Iowa State hasn’t had a first-round draft pick since running back George Amundson in 1973, the longest drought for a Power 5 conference team by 14 years.

Ranking the Big 12 Teams in the NFL Draft Since 2005
Post date: Monday, April 27, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-quarterbacks-2015

The ACC may not have a playoff contender with Florida State and Clemson each losing several key pieces off last season’s team, but this league will be intriguing with a solid group of quarterbacks returning to the conference in 2015. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson projects as the top passer in the ACC this season, as the talented sophomore is set to take control of a high-powered offense after shining in limited action last year.


Miami’s Brad Kaaya and Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas take the next two spots after Watson, but North Carolina’s Marquise Williams and NC State’s Jacoby Brissett aren’t far behind. And there’s some intrigue with the other quarterbacks on this list, especially in Tallahassee as Everett Golson is expected to replace Jameis Winston, and Duke’s Thomas Sirk in David Cutcliffe's offense.


To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the ACC for 2015.


Ranking the ACC Quarterbacks for 2015


1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Clemson will miss Chad Morris calling the plays, but the offense is in good hands with Watson and a deep group of skill players. Watson ranked as the No. 41 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite and threw for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns in eight appearances. Watson is recovering from a torn ACL but should be at full strength by this fall.


2. Brad Kaaya, Miami

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


There’s not much separating the No. 2 and No. 5 quarterbacks in the ACC this year. Based on pure talent, it’s hard to pick against Kaaya in this spot. He started all 13 games for Miami as a true freshman and threw for 3,198 yards and 26 scores. Kaaya’s supporting cast and offensive line is a question mark entering 2015, but he’s poised to take a step forward with another year to develop.


3. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Thomas is the perfect fit in Georgia Tech’s option offense. In his first year as the starter, Thomas led the team with 1,086 rushing yards and eight scores. In guiding the Yellow Jackets to a Coastal Division title, he averaged 5.7 yards per carry and finished the season with back-to-back 100-yard efforts. Thomas wasn’t asked to throw much, but he tossed 18 touchdowns to just six scores and connected on nine passing plays of at least 40 yards.


4. Marquise Williams, North Carolina

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Hip surgery sidelined Williams this spring, but if he’s 100 percent healthy by this fall, don’t be surprised if the senior ranks as high as No. 2 on this list. In eight ACC games last year, Williams passed for 2,021 yards and 14 scores to just five interceptions. Williams also led North Carolina with 783 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last season. 


5. Jacoby Brissett, NC State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Brissett is another quarterback that could easily rank higher on this list by the end of the 2015 season. In his first year as the starter at NC State, Brissett threw for 2,606 yards and 23 scores and rushed for 529 yards and three touchdowns. The Florida transfer will have a rebuilt receiving corps to work with in 2015 but is poised to improve off his solid 2014 campaign.


6. Everett Golson, Florida State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior


The outlook for Florida State’s 2015 quarterback situation changed when Golson decided to transfer to Tallahassee. As a graduate transfer, Golson is eligible immediately and will push Sean Maguire for the starting job. In two years of playing time with the Fighting Irish, Golson threw for 5,850 yards and 41 scores and added 581 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Picking up Florida State’s challenging offense will be Golson’s toughest task. Can he learn the complex Seminoles’ attack by September?


7. Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Voytik was steady in his first year as Pittsburgh starter, throwing for 2,233 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Tennessee native played better as the season progressed and threw only one interception over the final six games. Voytik has two of the ACC’s top skill players at his disposal in running back James Conner and receiver Tyler Boyd and one of the league’s best offensive lines. Voytik should take another step forward in his development under new coordinator Jim Chaney.


8. Reggie Bonnafon, Louisville

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Three quarterbacks received starts for Louisville last season, and the Cardinals will open the fall with four players vying for the top spot. Penn State transfer Tyler Ferguson is a name to watch, and Will Gardner is returning from a knee injury this fall, but all signs point to Bonnafon taking the first snap for Louisville in 2015. As a true freshman last year, Bonnafon completed 61 of 120 passes for 864 yards and five scores. The Kentucky native’s athleticism could be a huge asset for a Louisville offense replacing three starters on the line. With Bobby Petrino calling the plays and tutoring the quarterbacks, whether it's Bonnafon, Ferguson, Gardner or Will Bonnafon, Louisville's offense should be fine at quarterback in 2015.


9. Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Brewer experienced his share of ups and downs in 2014. After leading Virginia Tech to an upset win over Ohio State with 199 passing yards and two scores, Brewer tossed seven picks in the next three games and threw for less than 200 yards in four out of his last six contests. Quarterback play isn’t solely to blame for the Hokies’ offensive woes, as the offensive line has struggled, and young skill players were thrown into the mix last year. Brewer should benefit from another offseason to learn coordinator Scot Loeffler’s offense. But can the senior cut down on the interceptions and add more big plays (only nine completions of 30 yards or more)? If he can, Brewer will move up this list in 2015.


10. Thomas Sirk, Duke

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Intriguing. That’s the first word that comes to mind when examining Sirk’s potential in 2015. Coach David Cutcliffe is a noted quarterback guru, and Sirk played well in limited action last year. In 12 appearances, Sirk showed no ill-effects from an Achilles injury that ended his 2013 season, rushing for 238 yards and eight scores. He also completed 10 of 14 passes for 67 yards and three touchdowns. Considering Cutcliffe’s history and Sirk’s promising performance so far, he’s a quarterback to watch closely in 2015.


11. Terrel Hunt, Syracuse

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Hunt’s 2014 season was cut short by a leg injury in Syracuse’s 28-6 loss to Louisville in early October. Prior to the leg injury, Hunt was off to a slow start and only had one touchdown pass on 83 completions. He also completed 57.2 percent of his passes and finished with 983 yards. Hunt’s mobility is a good asset for Syracuse’s offense, and the senior has 792 yards on the ground over the last two years. The Orange has to find a spark on offense, and Hunt’s return could be what this unit needs after averaging just 17.1 points per game in 2014.


12. Matt Johns, Virginia

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior


In a bit of a surprise, Johns edged ahead of Greyson Lambert for Virginia’s starting quarterback spot this spring. Johns played in all 12 games and recorded three starts in 2014 and finished with 1,109 passing yards and eight scores. It’s a limited sample size, but Johns added some punch to the passing attack last year by connecting on seven plays – one more than Lambert had in nine starts – of 30 yards or more.


13. John Wolford, Wake Forest

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Wolford was thrown into the fire as a true freshman last season. And all things considered, it wasn’t a bad debut for Wolford. The supporting cast was a huge question mark for the Demon Deacons last year, as the rushing attack averaged just 1.3 yards per carry, while the line allowed 48 sacks (the most in the nation). Wolford finished 2014 with 2,037 yards and 12 touchdowns and completed 58.3 percent of his passes. The supporting cast remains a question mark, but the sophomore should be better in his second as a starter.


14. Darius Wade, Boston College

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


With only eight career pass attempts and experience in three games, Wade enters 2015 at the bottom of the ACC quarterback rankings. However, there’s plenty of promise with the sophomore in his first year as Boston College’s starter. Wade earned Delaware’s 2013 Gatorade Player of the Year honors and was a three-star recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite. Wade is a good fit in Boston College’s offense, but he is also working behind a line that lost all five starters and throwing to a receiving corps that needs more playmakers to emerge.  

Ranking the ACC's Quarterbacks for 2015
Post date: Monday, April 27, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-2015-ranking-quarterbacks

It's the most important position on the field and Super Bowls aren't won without them.


The quarterback has become the star of the biggest sport in American culture. It's why 12 of the last 16 NFL Drafts have started with a signal-caller. 


Yet, the two starting quarterbacks in last year's Super Bowl weren't highly touted NFL Draft prospects, as Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick and Russell Wilson was a third-round selection.


So while most of the draft talk this month has centered on Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, that doesn't mean there isn't talent elsewhere in this quarterback class.


Can Brett Hundley develop a down-the-field arm? Can Bryce Petty overcome his system moniker? Is Sean Mannion going to be the steal of this draft? Here is what you need to know about the 2015 QB class and how they stack up against one another.


1. Jameis Winston, Florida State (6-4, 232)

Stats: 26-1, 7,964 yds, 65 TDs, 28 INTs, 284 rush yds., 7 TDs


There isn't much to add to Winston's already over-covered career. He is the most pro-ready pocket passer an NFL Draft has seen since Andrew Luck. He flat out wins games (26-1 is pretty good) and delivered in the fourth quarter time and time again. His numbers dipped his senior season, but that is easily explained by a much tougher schedule, a much less talented supporting cast and a much brighter spotlight. His off-the-field maturity and decision-making are the only real reasons for concern. He was the best player coming out of high school at his position and all he did was win a Heisman Trophy, BCS title and two ACC championships.


Comp: Less mature, slower Andrew Luck


2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon (6-4, 215)

Stats: 36-5, 10,796 yds, 105 TDs, 14 INTs, 2,237 rush yds., 29 TDs


He wins big and he does it with class and efficiency. His numbers in just three seasons as a starter are freakish and his athletic ability is second to none in this QB class. He rarely turned the ball over and led his team to within one win of a national title. Is he a strong enough personality? Can he read NFL defenses pre-snap and adjust on the fly on his own? The first question may not be fair (or matter) but the second one is extremely important and justified.


Comp: Disciplined, mature Colin Kaepernick


3. Brett Hundley, UCLA (6-3, 227)

Stats: 29-11, 9,966 yds, 75 TDs, 25 INTs, 1,747 rush yds, 30 TDs


The record book at UCLA was completely rewritten by Hundley in three years as a starter. His production in both the passing and running game was obvious, but his 29 wins are No. 2 all-time in school history and that might be more important. UCLA had never won at least nine games in three straight seasons until Hundley and only twice before in school history had the Bruins won 10 games in back-to-back seasons. He has great size, great athleticism and played with a relatively mediocre supporting cast on offense. He will need to develop his downfield accuracy but he has all the tools to be a starting QB in the NFL.


Comp: Smaller Blake Bortles


Related: Top 10 Must-See NFL Games of 2015


4. Sean Mannion, Oregon State (6-5, 220)

Stats: 21-22, 13,600 yds, 83 TDs, 54 INTs, -806 rush yds, 2 TDs


One look at the stats and fans should understand what type of player Mannion is. He's a statuesque pocket passer with a huge frame and big arm. His 13,600 yards and 83 touchdowns are impressive but the 21-22 starting record (albeit at a tough place to win) and 54 interceptions can't be ignored either. Mannion could be a starter should he land in the right system, like say, under Bill O'Brien.


Comp: Less efficient Derek Carr


5. Bryce Petty, Baylor (6-3, 230)

Stats: 21-4, 8,195 yds, 62 TDs, 10 INTs, 338 rush yds, 21 TDs


He won a ton of games and delivered Baylor their only two Big 12 championships in school history. He's also a much better athlete than given credit for, and is tough as nails when it comes to taking hits and leading his team. Petty will get knocked for playing in Art Briles' system and he will need to be more accurate down the field to earn a starting spot on an NFL roster.


Comp: Less polished Teddy Bridgewater


6. Garrett Grayson, Colorado State (6-2, 220)

Stats: 19-16, 9,190 yds, 64 TDs, 27 INTs, 283 rush yds, 4 TDs


Grayson has a lot going for him. He won at a good clip under an pro-style offensive guru in Jim McElwain and was a major part of a program-changing turnaround. He posted big numbers, has a good frame and strong arm but will need to refine his delivery to become a starter on the next level. His level of competition is also questionable, however, his teams did upset Power 5 programs each year he started. Otherwise, Grayson could become a very capable NFL backup.


Comp: Less athletic Andy Dalton


7. Shane Carden, East Carolina (6-2, 221)

Stats: 25-12, 11,991 yds, 86 TDs, 30 INTs, 253 rush yds, 24 TDs


He throws a nice ball and posted big numbers and tons of wins for East Carolina — try 110 total touchdowns and 25 wins. Does he have an elite arm? Should his level of competition be a major concern? Was his offense a pass-happy, QB-friendly system? These are all fair questions, but he is a quality leader who should stick around in the NFL as a backup signal-caller.


Comp: Taller Chase Daniel


8. Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion (6-1, 213)

Stats: 31-13, 14,959 yds, 132 TDs, 37 INTs, 1,320 rush yds, 22 TDs


Talk about production. Few can match Heinicke's college stats but few played against more questionable competition than the ODU quarterback. The three-time captain is well-built but undersized and has little experience under center in a pro-style offense. Learning that style of offense and all of its intricacies is a major limitation on his upside. That said, he is accurate and makes good decisions and that might give him a chance to stick around.


Comp: Matt Barkley


9. Connor Halliday, Washington State (6-4, 198)

Stats: 10-18, 11,304 yds, 90 TDs, 50 INTs, -477 rush yds


Few players in history have posted the passing numbers that Halliday did under Mike Leach at Washington State. He isn't a great athlete, has been hurt periodically, didn't take snaps under center much and took way too many chances. However, he's got good feet and really understands the nuances of throwing the football. Should he land in a pocket-passing offense, he has a chance to stick.


Comp: Thinner Zach Mettenberger


10. Hutson Mason, Georgia (6-2, 207)

Stats: 11-4, 3,492 yds, 29 TDs, 7 INTs, -5 rush yds, 6 TDs


The deep sleeper of the group is a guy who only got one year of starting experience. However, Mason was extremely efficient with 21 touchdown passes and just four interceptions in his only year under center and he did it against the best conference in the nation. His overall lack of experience and arm strength are big concerns, but he has the size, is accurate, faced the best in college football and played in a pro-style offense. Watch out for Mason.


Comp: Matt Flynn

NFL Draft 2015: Ranking the Quarterbacks
Post date: Monday, April 27, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/how-did-nfl-drafts-top-50-prospects-rank-recruits

Years before the top picks were eligible for the draft, they were top recruits — or at least most of them — entering the collegiate ranks.


Below is a list of the star rankings, national rankings and position rankings of the top 50 prospects from the Athlon Sports 2015 NFL Draft preview magazine. Many like to argue that recruiting rankings don't matter, however, the data below further proves that rankings are an accurate indicator of future NFL success.


All rankings according to Nat'l = national ranking regardless of position, Pos. = national ranking by position. * - junior college prospect


Buy your 2015 NFL Draft magazine here


 NamePosTeamClassStarsNat'lPos.HS POS
1Jameis WinstonQB20125151D-QB
2Leonard WilliamsDT20124503SDE
3Marcus MariotaQB2011351322D-QB
4Amari CooperWR20124466WR
5Shane RayDE2011338515WDE
6Randy GregoryDE201131,18055WDE
7Andrus PeatOT20125304OT
8La'El CollinsOT2011532OT
9Ereck FlowersOT2012415717OT
10Mario Edwards Jr.DE2012521SDE
11Melvin GordonRB2012425822RB
12Kevin White*WR20133*13623WR
13Danny SheltonDT2011333123DT
14Trae WaynesCB201131,14388S
15Malcom BrownDT2012592DT
16Landon CollinsS2012572RB
17Brandon ScherffOT2010357940OT
18Dante FowlerOLB20124366WDE
19Eddie GoldmanDT20125103DT
20DeVante ParkerWR2011331147WR
21Jaelen Strong*WR20133*329WR
22Cameron ErvingOT2010380468DT
23Jake FisherOT2011335441OT
24Shaq ThompsonLB2012541S
25Alvin DupreeDE2011380646TE
26Arik ArmsteadDE20125141SDE
27Maxx WilliamsTE201231,03852TE
28Eli HaroldDE20124447WDE
29P.J. WilliamsCB201241188S
30Vic BeasleyOLB2010348322TE
31Carl DavisDT2010383870DT
32Benardrick McKinneyLB2011391249ATH
33Marcus PetersCB2011350937CB
34Sammie CoatesWR2011335251WR
35Nate OrchardDE20113832104WR
36Todd GurleyRB20124747S
37Tevin ColemanRB2012373042RB
38A.J. CannOG201041343C
39Rob HavensteinOT2010366733OG
40Hau'oli KikahaLB2010388042SDE
41Max VallesOLB2012399773ATH
42T.J. ClemmingsOT2010417715SDE
43Devin SmithWR2011332749WR
44Tre' JacksonOG201131,22383DT
45Markus Golden*DE20123*695ILB
46Grady JarrettDT201131,13176DT
47Lorenzo MauldinLB2011392658SDE
48Quinten Rollins**CB2010332462PG
49Cody PrewittS2011340320ATH
50Cedric OgbuehiOT2010411915OT

** - Quinten Rollins' rankings are actually basketball rankings as he wasn't a football player coming into college.


What we learned:


* Nine of the top 30 prospects were five-star recruits. In any one given class, there are roughly 30 five-stars. Basically, you have a 1-in-3 chance of becoming a top-30 prospect if you are a five-star recruit.


* 15 of the top 30 prospects were ranked in the top 10 nationally at their position coming out of high school.


* 20 of the top 50 prospects were four- or five-star recruits and ranked in the top 300 nationally. This group makes up roughly the top 10 percent (roughly 400 of 4,000) of any given recruiting class, but comprises almost 40 percent of the top 50 NFL prospects.


* Three players were junior college transfers and not a single two-star prospect was ranked as a top 50 NFL prospect.

How did the NFL Draft's Top 50 Prospects Rank as Recruits?
Post date: Monday, April 27, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech-unveils-new-alternate-helmets-2015-game-against-furman

Virginia Tech doesn’t deviate from its usual uniform combinations much, but the Hokies plan on wearing an alternate helmet for their 2015 matchup against Furman on Sept. 12.


The helmet was unveiled during Saturday’s spring game in Blacksburg.


Check out Virginia Tech’s new helmet for Military Appreciation Day on Sept. 12:



Virginia Tech Unveils New Alternate Helmets for 2015 Game Against Furman
Post date: Saturday, April 25, 2015 - 16:37
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/spurs-kawhi-leonard-named-nbas-defensive-player-year

The third-youngest Defensive Player of the Year in the history of the NBA has been named, and he is Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs.


Leonard, of course, won NBA Finals MVP honors less than a year ago, last June. He’s also a restricted free agent this summer, and the 23-year-old has built himself more than enough of a resume to prove that he’s worthy of a maximum contract from San Antonio.


Terrifying, amazing, relentless—choose your superlative. The lengthy wingman is a storm of judicial limbs and hyperkinetic full-court coverage who evokes Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen. Runner-up Draymond Green, of the Golden State Warriors, was hardly even upset by who he lost out to.


“Al Gore won the popular vote and didn’t get elected president, so I’m not gonna sit here and kill myself over not winning Defensive Player of the Year. We’ve got a bigger goal. That’s to win a championship,” Green said. “[Leonard is] a great defender. Phenomenal defender. He impacts the defensive end just as good as anybody in the league. So congratulations to him.”

The Spurs and Warriors, of course, could be on the league’s most compelling collision course, fated for a showdown in the Western Conference Finals.


But first Kawhi and Co. need to dispatch the Los Angeles Clippers in their first-round series, which the Spurs tied at 1-1 Wednesday night after an overtime victory in L.A. Game 3 is tonight in Texas, at 9:30 PM ET on ESPN, and could very well decide the momentum in the most interesting initial matchup of this season’s bracket.


Look for Leonard to continue proving his case as the game’s best defender tonight. Against the Clippers, he’s liable to stick Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, or just about anyone else if the situation calls for it—much to Lob City’s chagrin.


— John Wilmes

Post date: Friday, April 24, 2015 - 12:16
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12-college-towns-expert-poll

The old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” couldn’t be more true when it comes to ranking college towns.


Do you prefer larger metropolitan areas? Do you enjoy the isolated peace and quiet of a quaint small town? Cost of living, nightlife, food, culture, weather, surrounding geography and more go into evaluating a city.


Every college campus is unique and each one brings something different to the table.


When evaluating a bigger city like Seattle or Los Angeles against small towns like Eugene or Corvallis, personal opinions will vary greatly. So we had some fun asking Pac-12 experts to rank their favorite Pac-12 locations and here is what we learned:


The Voting Panel:


Anthony Herron, ESPN/Pac-12 Network

Pat Forde, Yahoo!

Scott Wolf, LA Daily News

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports

Dan Rubenstein, SB Nation

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports

George Schroeder, USA Today

Ryan Abraham,

Bryan Fischer,

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 11 points.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.15 (6)
Boulder, Colo. If you like the college town lifestyle, then there are few places in the world more perfectly suited for you than Boulder. Just north of Denver, the great outdoors offer more to do than nearly any place in the country. It got six of the possible 10 first-place votes. Craft brews are plentiful, the people are laid back and the scenery is second to none. When it comes to realignment, few towns fit in better with their new league than Boulder.
Seattle, Wash. Seattle, L.A., Tempe and Palo Alto all basically tied for second place behind Boulder. In Seattle's case, the weather can be drab but the landscapes are breathtaking and the fans are among the best in the conference when it comes to passion and support. The food scene is outstanding and the vibe is very laid back. Seattle is routinely voted one of the best places to live in this great nation. It got two second-place votes and three third-place nods. Where else can you tailgate on a lake?
Los Angeles, Calif. It's nowhere near what a true college town is and the difference even between the two campuses is vast. However, Los Angeles is the home for both the Bruins and Trojans and it offers things to fans and visitors that most college cities cannot. The glitz and glamour of the City of Lights is matched only by its beauty and phenomenal weather. Cost of living and traffic don't help, but the bucket list of things to do is literally endless. It got one second-place vote and three third-place votes.
4.44 (2)
Tempe, Ariz. The home of the Sun Devils might be the most polarizing campus town in the league. It got two first-place votes and two second-place votes, but also was ranked eighth by two panelists. The weather is great, the golfing is among the nation's best and the, uh, wildlife is eye-popping. Tempe is voted as one of the best party schools in the nation every year for a reason. And easy access to Phoenix is cool too.
5.47 (1)
Palo Alto, Calif. Just a few votes behind Tempe, Seattle and Los Angeles, Palo Alto offers a unique living experience. Silicon Valley grew up and around the campus on the south side of the Bay Area, as Stanford has become the central economic focus of the area. It's a rich area of forward-thinking, progressive individuals who also get to party in the big city. Where else could the genius of Erlich Bachman thrive?
Eugene, Ore. If you love the Oregon Ducks, doing things outside and NIKE gear, then Eugene is your spot. Six voters placed Eugene between fifth and seventh on the list, landing Oregon smack dab in the middle of the Pac-12 rankings. There is plenty of greenspace and the city is starting to develop.
Berkeley, Calif. This picturesque town isn't only home to the top public school in the nation, but also offers the lifestyle of a big city. It's the best of both worlds. The vibrancy of youth provides plenty of music, art entertainment and the Gourmet Ghetto comes highly recommended. If you don't like progressive thinking, it might not be your favorite place. Which is why it got a second-place vote and an 11th-place vote.
Tucson, Ariz. Just 60 miles from the Mexican border, Tucson is one of the bigger cities in the college world at over 500,000 people. It's also one of the more non-descript. There are plenty of outdoors, must-see spots and plenty of history/art museums, but there also is a reason it was ranked between seventh and 10th by seven of the 10 voters.
Salt Lake City, Utah This city has the lowest unemployment of any Pac-12 town. It's also cool enough to have hosted an Olympic Games (2002). The outdoor events are fantastic, the city has tons of history and the campus is surging into its Pac-12 chapter. It's also becoming more diverse with every passing year. This city might be more of an unknown for Pac-12 fans than the rest of the locales.
10.90 (1)
Corvallis, Ore. Certainly the most underrated town on this list, Corvallis got a first-place vote but still finished 10th. Known for outdoor activities surrounding the Cascade Mountains, the Beavers' home town is known for a high quality of living and (no joke) a high life expectancy. There isn't a ton going on within the downtown streets considering its small size (roughly 50,000), but it's very friendly.
Pullman, Wash. It's not easy to get to and there isn't much to do once you're there. At fewer than 30,000 people, it's one of the smallest college towns in the nation. It got eight last-place (11th) votes out of 10 with the other votes being for 10th and eighth.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Pac-12 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Ranking the Pac-12 College Towns (Expert Poll)
Post date: Friday, April 24, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-bulldogs-2015-football-schedule-and-analysis

After the best season in school history, many are asking one question: what sort of encore can be expected from Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs?


Mullen has recruited this roster into better shape than it’s been in decades and the return of Heisman candidate Dak Prescott cannot be overstated.


However, there are a lot of missing parts that need to be replaced and the schedule in the SEC West might be the biggest obstacle for Mullen and State to break through and reach Atlanta for the first time since 1998.


Related: Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Early SEC 2015 Preview


2015 Mississippi State Schedule


Bye: Week 9, * - Thurs.


1.Sept. 5Hattiesburg, MS
The gracious Mullen has played small teams on the road before and will do it again in the season opener (even if there is a heavy maroon tint to the crowd). The edge in this in-state rivalry actually belongs to Southern Miss (14-13), but it wasn't much of a game last fall with MSU winning 49-0. It marked the first time the two had played since 1990 and undoubtedly the fans in the state appreciate this matchup. 
2.Sept. 12Starkville, MS
This was an embarrassment in Death Valley last year, as Dak Prescott physically abused the Tigers. It was the first loss in the series for LSU since 1999 and the Bayou Bengals have won seven straight in Starkville.
3.Sept. 19Starkville, MS
A tune-up/breather game located between two SEC West Tigers is perfectly situated for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs beat Northwestern State in the only previous two meetings by a combined score of 81-0 in 1945-46.
4.Sept. 26Auburn, AL
In just the fourth week of the year, State fans will know a lot about their team with games against LSU and Auburn both taking place before October. The Tigers have won 11 of the last 14 meetings in a series traditionally dominated by Auburn. However, Dan Mullen has won two out of three by an average margin of 16.5 points. Dak Prescott vs. Jeremy Johnson? Yes, please.
5.Oct. 3College Station, TX
The all-time series is tied at four. These two met four times before World War II, have played three times in SEC play and met in the Independence Bowl in 2000. This has been a high-scoring affair over the last three seasons and the Aggies were embarrassed a year ago in Starkville. Texas A&M has never lost at home to MSU.
6.Oct. 10Starkville, MS
Troy once was a sneaky-good Sun Belt team but hasn't been the same in recent years. After facing three huge SEC West foes in the first month, back-to-back easy wins should be a welcome sign. State is 3-1 all-time against Troy with the lone loss coming back in 2001.
7.Oct. 17Starkville, MS
Manny Diaz Bowl A sneaky-good Bulldogs team last year put up big numbers on offense and created big plays on defense. Which is why Mullen re-hired Tech's defensive coordinator Manny Diaz this offseason. Technically, La-Tech has won two of the last three against Mississippi State — even if those games took place in 1996 and 2008 respectively. Still, this was a six-point MSU win in 2011 the last time they met. The Bulldogs are 8-3 all-time against, uh, the Bulldogs.
8.Oct. 24Starkville, MS
Last year's thrilling 45-31 win, due in large part to the efforts of now-departed running back Josh Robinson, evened the all-time series at 21 apiece. But it was also the sixth straight win by the Bulldogs over the Wildcats. Kentucky is improving but winning in Starkville will be a tall task and could give MSU three lop-sided wins in a row heading into the bye week and November.
10.Nov. 5*Columbia, MO
Mississippi State has yet to beat Missouri, but these two programs have only played each other twice. These games happened in 1981 and '84, so things are slightly different these days. A primetime Thursday night affair could feature the best two quarterbacks in the league in Maty Mauk and Prescott. This is a sneaky great late-season matchup.
11.Nov. 14Starkville, MS
Last fall, No. 1 Mississippi State entered Tuscaloosa and narrowly lost 25-20, eventually launching the Tide into the Playoffs. The roles could easily be reversed this season should the Tide get to this point unbeaten. Saban has won the last three trips to Starkville by a combined score of 75-17 with the last loss for the Tide in this series coming in 2007 in Davis Wade Stadium.
12.Nov. 21Fayetteville, AR
Arkansas owns a15-9-1 all-time series lead over the Bulldogs but Dan Mullen has reversed that trend of late. Mississippi State as won the past three matchups. The last two meetings have been physical, low-scoring brawls that were decided by one score each. Look for another huge late-season showdown between these two on Nov. 21.
13.Nov. 28Starkville, MS
Egg Bowl Dan Mullen has been solid against Ole Miss but the Rebels have won two of the last three against their archrival. The last four have gone the way of the home team so Ole Miss is looking to buck that trend in '15. The fate of the SEC West could be hanging in the balance in Dak Prescott's final regular season game.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview

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Mississippi State Bulldogs 2015 Football Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 24, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-hurricanes-2015-schedule-and-analysis

Miami hasn't been the big dog on the block in the ACC for more than a decade. 


But it doesn't mean that Al Golden doesn't have one of the most talented rosters in the ACC, as well as a rising star under center in Brad Kaaya.


The Coastal Division has been a wide-open free-for-all for the last few years and that doesn't appear to be any different heading into 2015. This means that there are plenty of speed bumps, but also plenty of opportunities for Miami this fall. And should things fall right, a division crown is well within reach.


Related: Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview


2015 Florida State Schedule


Bye: Week 4, * - Thurs., ** - Fri.


1.Sept. 5Miami, FL
Miami has faced Bethune-Cookman twice before and handled the Wildcats with ease both times. The Canes won by a combined score of 83-24 at home in 2011-12. Expect a smooth opener for Golden's squad.
2.Sept. 11*Boca Raton, FL
The only meeting between two rosters full of players who likely know each other very well was a 34-6 Miami blowout over the Owls in 2013.
3.Sept. 18Miami, FL
Historic Rivalry Aside from Nebraska's 41-31 win last season in Lincoln, this matchup has historically carried with it national title implications. The five previous meetings came in a national title situation beginning with the infamous two-point try to cap the 1983 season. Nebraska leads the all-time series 6-5. Both teams have eyes on a division crown in their respective leagues and a win in this game could catapult one into conference play.
5.Oct. 1**Cincinnati, OH
These two programs have met 12 times. Cincinnati won the first meeting 20-7 in Cincinnati in 1947. The Hurricanes have dominated since, winning the next 11, including a 55-34 drubbing last season in their first meeting since 1998. Gunner Kiel versus Brad Kaaya should be fun to watch.
6.Oct. 10Tallahassee, FL
Rivalry Game I Florida State was won five straight in this series, but the Hurricanes hung tough last year before losing by four points. Miami has played well in Doak Campbell over the years. Since 2000, the Canes are 4-3 in Tallahassee, including a close, four-point loss in 2011.
7.Oct. 17Miami, FL
Division Title Game I Both Tech and Miami have their sights set on wresting the Coastal Division crown from Georgia Tech. The Canes crushed the Hokies in impressive fashion last year in Blacksburg, but this game is located in tough territory schedule-wise, coming between FSU and Clemson. Al Golden is 2-2 against Frank Beamer's bunch while at Miami and the Canes lead the all-time series 19-13.
8.Oct. 24Miami, FL
Watson vs. Kaaya Clemson has to go on the road in crossover play after facing two physical running games (Georgia Tech, Boston College). These two haven't met since 2010 and Miami holds a 6-3 edge in the series, but Canes fans should be ready to be inundated with Clemson supporters in a game that could feature the best two quarterbacks in the ACC.
9.Oct. 31Durham, NC
Miami is 10-2 all-time against Duke and Golden is 3-1 against the Blue Devils since arriving in South Florida. This was a tightly-played 22-10 win for Miami last year at home, but The U lost ugly (48-30) the last time it visited Durham. How beat up are the Canes after three straight with the Noles, Hokies and Tigers?
10.Nov. 7Miami, FL
Prior to joining the ACC, Miami and Virginia had faced one another just once, in the 1996 Carquest Bowl. Virginia actually owns the ACC all-time series record with a 6-5 mark since, including taking four of the last five. The Wahoos embarrassed the Hurricanes 30-13 in Charlottesville a year ago and a loss at home to Virginia could cost Golden more than just the division.
11.Nov. 14Chapel Hill, NC
Elimination Game This game constantly seems to deliver since the duo landed in the same division. The series is 6-5 Miami in 11 ACC meetings with six games decided by one score. The Hurricanes crushed the Heels 47-20 a year ago and North Carolina will look for revenge at home this fall. 
12.Nov. 21Miami, FL
Division Title Game II If Miami gets to this point of the season still in contention in the Coastal; it's likely that this game would decide which team goes to the ACC title game. The Yellow Jackets own the all-time series 11-9 but Golden has been solid against Tech, going 3-1 during his time in the ACC. However, the Jackets took care of business last year 28-17 in Atlanta. Miami has won three straight over Tech in Miami.
13.Nov. 27**Pittsburgh, PA
Fans will look at this game on the schedule and perceive it as possibly the sixth- or seventh-most important game. The Hurricanes better not fall into that trap, however, as Pitt could be one of the more improved teams in the division. Don't be surprised if the Panthers are still in Coastal contention come Thanksgiving weekend. Pitt won 35-23 last year in Miami, snapping the Canes' eight-game winning streak over the Panthers.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Miami Hurricanes 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 24, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-updates-uniforms-and-unveils-new-spartan-themed-alternate

Michigan State’s green and white uniforms are some of the best in the Big Ten. And with spring practice wrapping up in East Lansing, the Spartans have decided to unveil their new uniforms for 2015.


There’s not a drastic change in the green/white combinations, but Michigan State will have a new alternate for 2015. According to Nike, the alternates were inspired by Spartan shields and the phalanx battle formation.


Check out Michigan State’s green and white uniforms and the new alternate:

Michigan State Updates Uniforms and Unveils New Spartan-Themed Alternate
Post date: Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 20:02
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/rajon-rondo-ruled-out-indefinitely-probably-done-dallas-mavericks

The Dallas’ Mavericks midseason trade for Rajon Rondo was a gamble, and their roll of the dice seems to have emptied their pockets this April.


The Mavericks ruled Rondo out indefinitely after their 111-99 loss to the Houston Rockets Tuesday night, which put them down 0-2 in the first round playoff series between the two Texas teams. Rondo played less than a minute in the second half of the contest, and his coach Rick Carlisle later suggested it was because of a back issue that was exacerbated by his falling, after attempting to draw an offensive foul on James Harden.


Carlisle, when asked if he expects Rondo to play in a Dallas uniform next season, said “No, I don’t.”


It would seem that there’s far more below the surface than an achy back. Rondo and Carlisle—like Rondo and all of his coaches—have had visible difficulty getting along for months, and the point guard’s performance on Tuesday left a lot to be desired in the effort department. His turnover for committing an eight-second violation (an almost never seen occurrence in the NBA) after dribbling the ball up court with little-to-no urgency was an especially telling moment.


Many NBA insiders have been projecting Rondo as a future teammate of Kobe Bryant’s, with the Los Angeles Lakers, for some time now. Given Rajon’s lack of cooperation as a Maverick and the unchecked megalomania of Bryant’s L.A. swan song, the prospect of seeing the two together makes one salivate in anticipation of the hubris-laden folly the pair would commit.


Carlisle is a disciplinarian, and strict at what he does. But most players fall quickly in line, because he maximizes their talents and rehabilitates all kinds of careers—but Rondo was too headstrong for his program. If he joins Kobe in Los Angeles, however, he won’t have the problem of needing to negotiate with anyone on the bench; Byron Scott holds much less power within the Lakers organization than his superstars do.


— John Wilmes

Post date: Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 19:31
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-razorbacks-2015-football-schedule-and-analysis

The first offseason for Bret Bielema was dramatically different than his second in Fayetteville.


Arkansas got back to a bowl game after a winless SEC campaign and fans and prognosticators alike are excited about the Hogs' potential in 2015. The roster is in great shape and the Razorbacks' identity makes them tough to face every weekend.


There are still question marks at key positions but the schedule in the SEC West might be the biggest obstacle to Bielema leading Arkansas back to the SEC Championship Game for the first time in nearly a decade.


Related: Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Early SEC 2015 Preview


2015 Arkansas Schedule


Bye: Week 7


1.Sept. 5Fayetteville, AR
Two previous meetings between UTEP and Arkansas led to two very lop-sided wins (by 32 points in 1989, 39 in 2010) for the Hogs. Expect a similar outcome in the season opener.
2.Sept. 12Little Rock, AR
Toledo is a feisty MAC program but won't be able to compete in the trenches with a team as big and physical as Arkansas. Look for a second-straight blowout for the Hogs to start the season in the first-ever meeting between the Rockets and Razorbacks.
3.Sept. 19Fayetteville, AR
These old-school rivals got things renewed a year ago and it was all Hogs. Arkansas' 49-28 win in Lubbock featured 68 rushing attempts, 438 yards and seven scores in the first meeting between the two programs since 1991. The Hogs have owned the all-time series 29-7.
4.Sept. 26Arlington, TX
Rivalry Restored One of the great aspects to TAMU landing in the SEC West is the renewed rivalry with Arkansas. This was a thriller last season, as Kenny Hill led a wild comeback in overtime. The Hogs lead all-time 41-27-3, but have lost three straight to the Ags. This is a huge early-season pecking order game in the West.
5.Oct. 3Knoxville, TN
A sneaky awesome early October matchup could feature two surging unbeaten programs. It will be the third physical matchup for Tennessee's defense in the first five weeks. The Vols are 13-4 all-time against the Hogs and haven't lost at home in the series since 1992 (the 1998 matchup needs no explanation). Arkansas won 49-7 in Fayetteville in 2011 in the last meeting.
6.Oct. 10Tuscaloosa, AL
Alabama has won eight straight in this series but last year's 14-13 win in Fayetteville is one neither side will ever forget. In fact, before the streak started, Arkansas owned an 8-7 series edge in SEC games. The last time these two met in Tuscaloosa, however, was a 52-0 beatdown. The Hogs should be able to keep it much closer this time around.
8.Oct. 24Fayetteville, AR
Upset Alert Regardless of how the coaches diffuse the rivalry, Gus Malzahn vs. Bret Bielema is a great coaching dynamic. And travelling to Fayetteville is always hard — especially, when it will be easy for Auburn to look ahead to Ole Miss. How Arkansas fares against both Alabama schools in back-to-back games (with an off-weekend between) will likely determine if it is a contender or not. Strangely enough, Hogs fans have to wait until Week 8 for the home SEC opener.
8.Oct. 31Fayetteville, AR
A Halloween tilt with lowly UT-Martin could be gruesome for the Skyhawks. Look for the backups to get plenty of reps as Arkansas prepares for one of the toughest Novembers in college football. 
9.Nov. 7Oxford, MS
Houston Nutt Bowl This time the revenge factor plays in Ole Miss' favor after getting crushed by Arkansas a year ago. This has been an extremely even series over the years despite the 30-0 score from last fall. The Hogs lead the series 32-28-1 and the two have split the last six meetings in Oxford.
10.Nov. 14Baton Rouge, LA
The Golden Boot One of the more underrated and always heated rivalries in the SEC West could be a big revenge spot for LSU. The Hogs thrashed the Tigers 17-0 in Fayetteville last season. LSU leads the series 37-21-2 all-time.
12.Nov. 21Fayetteville, AR
Arkansas owns a 15-9-1 series lead over the Bulldogs but Dan Mullen has reversed that trend of late. Mississippi State has won the past three matchups. The last two meetings have been physical, low-scoring brawls that were decided by one score each. Look for another huge late-season showdown between these two on Nov. 21.
13.Nov. 28Fayetteville, AR
This was a fantastic late-season showdown a year ago, no matter which rooting side you were on. The 21-14 win sent Mizzou to Atlanta with an East championship. These two have met only six times and the Tigers have won four of them. The last win for the Hogs over Mizzou came in the 2003 Independence Bowl.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Arkansas Razorbacks 2015 Football Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/marcus-mariota-vs-jameis-winston-whos-no-1-nfl-draft

Athlon Sports turned loose the scouting department on two superstar signal callers. Who should go No. 1 in the 2015 NFL Draft: Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston?


From Athlon Sports 2015 NFL Draft preview magazine:




It’s common knowledge that you win games by avoiding losing them. To help avoid losses, a quarterback must be a student of the game — have football intelligence and exercise split-second judgment. Both Winston and Mariota score highly in this area.

Winston and Mariota were asked to complete multiple on-the-field tasks in their respective and very different offensive schemes. They both read defenses, read coverages and reacted to blitzes, etc. Winston played in an NFL-friendly system, so in his evaluation a scout is basically comparing apples to apples. What we saw on Saturday has some carryover to Sunday.


Mariota played in a wide-open, fast-tempo offense that had multiple options on every play. He also processed information quickly by counting defensive numbers and then deciding to give the ball to a back, run it himself or throw to a perimeter receiver at the last second. Mariota excelled in the zone-read option but showed the capability to carry over his cerebral intuitiveness to the NFL.


Advantage: Mariota




Winston is an accurate passer in the pocket or when he rolls out, always ready to throw. He has a quick release and delivery. He carries the ball high with no wasted motion and can throw accurately with a defender in his face. He has down-the-field vertical accuracy. He sees the field and understands what he is seeing. He has good anticipation.


Mariota has a high completion percentage of hitting his receivers in stride with few adjustments. He has a natural feel in the passing game to read the play as it develops, instinctively and quickly. He uses his eyes to move the coverage. He spreads the ball around to a variety of receivers, backs and tight ends. Mariota demonstrated his ability to step up in the pocket and drive the ball down the field. He’s accurate on skinny post routes and throws the ball on a line when needed or lofts with touch over linebackers.


Advantage: Even


Arm Strength


Arm strength is somewhat overrated in the NFL, but ball placement is not. Winston and Mariota both have the arm strength to make all the key NFL throws. Both can attack the defense vertically.


Winston has a fastball that touched 95-97 mph as a reliever for the Seminoles’ baseball team, and he’s an MLB prospect as an outfielder. The big righthander has a rocket to throw deep and the ability to throw out routes from the opposite hash mark. He uses his body to throw the NFL’s toughest pass — the deep outside comeback.


Mariota has good arm talent to throw and complete the deep post on a line, go vertical down the middle or gun the outside routes. He gets the ball out quickly with good velocity and has the physical tools to play the position. He can laser the ball between the hashes.


Advantage: Winston




When Winston runs, he is strong and not easy to tackle. He has the ability to get positive yards when he pulls the ball down. He can elude a pass rusher and can throw off balance. He has vision, feel and natural running ability. When he escapes, he can make something happen by extending the play.


Mariota is athletic enough to be a free safety or a wide receiver. He also tops Winston as an extemporaneous runner when a play breaks down. Mariota has explosive movement skills, feet and the ability to avoid and escape a rush. He can make plays on the move to his right or left. He is sudden and quick in his movement. He can beat defenders one-on-one in the open field. He creates plays when out of the pocket with his elusiveness. Mariota is as good as it gets when improvising and extending a play.


Advantage: Mariota


Related: 2015 NFL Mock Draft


Poise in the Pocket


Winston’s game is to win from the pocket. His eyes are down the field. He doesn’t see the rush; he feels it. He can laser a ball in a tight window with a defender blitzing the “A” gap up the middle. He shakes defenders off in the pocket and shows good poise when he’s under duress. He has his feet under him with a good base, steps and throws. He played with a veteran offensive line for two years but lost his center for most of 2014, and that was problematic. Winston felt the pressure, stood in the pocket and made the throw while he smelled the blitzer’s breath.


Mariota bested Winston analytically in a study by Pro Football Focus, but he threw close to half the passes Winston threw. Winston had center problems last fall, but Mariota had to deal with eight different offensive line combinations in 2014. Mariota is deadly accurate when he has time to set his feet and read his progressions. He knows where to go with the ball, steps up and throws with timing and surgical accuracy. He slides laterally well in the pocket. Mariota is cool under pressure; he doesn’t get too high or too low and shows patience. He appears to run early at times if his receiver is covered.


Advantage: Winston


Leadership/Game Management


Winston is a natural-born leader who can be brash. He has swagger and bravado. He is a Pied Piper whom the team will follow. He is mentally tough and responds well to adversity. He has the ability to manage the team and inspire victory from the start of a game to the finish. Even when he makes mistakes, the team never feels they’re out of the game.


Mariota is cerebral and focused on the job at hand. He takes charge by example and inspires his teammates by his total dedication to football. He had a great command of a high-tempo spread offense and understands defensive tactics and strategy. He works at developing great feel and timing with his individual receivers. He is cool when under the gun and can carry a team on his back.


Advantage: Even


Clutch Third-Down Player


Winston is a big-game quarterback who consistently delivered in the clutch. He went 7–0 in games decided by seven or fewer points. During his Heisman Trophy-winning season of 2013, he completed 64.0 percent of his third-down attempts, and FSU converted a first down on 44 of his 75 third-down passes. 


Mariota had a career 36–5 record and threw at least one touchdown pass in every game he started. For his career, the Hawaii native threw 105 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions.


Advantage: Even




After doing my due diligence and feeling comfortable with my background research on Winston, I would draft him first because the No. 1 ability is availability. Winston is a bigger-framed player with more muscle mass than Mariota and is more durable. Additionally, Winston played college ball in an NFL-schemed offense. He knows how to climb the pocket while keeping his eyes down the field. He reads full-field route progressions. Winston is a pocket passer first, and that’s where you win in the NFL — in the pocket, not on the perimeter. All indications are that he wants to be great and is willing to pay the price for that greatness.


Winner: Jameis Winston


-by Dan Shonka, Ourlads Scouting Services

Marcus Mariota vs. Jameis Winston: Who's No. 1 in the NFL Draft?
Post date: Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/rockies-nolan-arenado-borrows-belt-9th

Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado was all over the field against the San Diego Padres. He made a couple of amazing defensive plays, including one in the seventh to save two runs:



At the plate, Arenado added two hits, a run and an RBI. But something happened while the ball was not in play that got people laughing. Arenado's belt broke in the bottom of the ninth while on the base path. Arenado walked to the dugout where head athletic trainer Keith Dugger kindly handed over his belt.

The Rockies went on to win 5-4 after rookie Daniel Descalso delivered the pinch-hit walk-off.

Colorado Rockies Nolan Arenado's belt breaks in the bottom on the 9th inning.
Post date: Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 10:51
All taxonomy terms: Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA
Path: /nba/thunder-have-fired-head-coach-scott-brooks

The NBA’s postseason may be front and center right now, but for many teams, a momentous offseason has also already begun.


Wednesday afternoon offered a telling reminder of that, when Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the Oklahoma City Thunder fired head coach Scott Brooks after seven years of service.


In his time leading Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Co., Brooks compiled a very impressive resume. As OKC’s only coach since the franchise immigrated from Seattle (where they were, of course, the SuperSonics), he had a .620 winning percentage in the regular season, and went to the NBA Finals in 2012, where the Thunder lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat.


He also led his team to two Western Conference Finals appearances in which they came up short, including a loss to the San Antonio Spurs last year — the team who went on to win the title.


Serge Ibaka missed the first two games of that series, and Durant missed more than half of this season. Westbrook missed most of the playoffs in 2013. Injuries, in short, have done a number to this squad that looked like a safe bet to win a championship, or even a few, not too long ago.


According to Wojnarowski, Brooks’ firing was not the result of missing the playoffs this season — the first time the Thunder missed that benchmark since 2009 — but was a decision made more with a long-term view for the team in mind.


Rumored replacement candidates are from the college ranks: Kevin Ollie of the University of Connecticut, and Billy Donovan from the University of Florida.


As for Brooks? He’s expected to land on his feet soon, as the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets are said to be interested in him as the man for their respective openings.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 10:46
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12-college-towns-expert-poll

The old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” couldn’t be more true when it comes to ranking college towns.


Do you prefer larger metropolitan areas? Do you enjoy the isolated peace and quiet of a quaint small town? Cost of living, nightlife, food, culture, weather, surrounding geography and more go into evaluating a city.


Every college campus is unique and each one brings something different to the table.


When evaluating a bigger city like Fort Worth or Austin against small towns like Lubbock or Stillwater, personal opinions will vary greatly. So we had some fun asking 12 Big 12 experts to rank their favorite Big 12 locations and here is what we learned:


The Voting Panel:

David Ubben, Fox Sports

Chip Brown,

Pat Forde, Yahoo!

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports

Blair Kerkhoff, KC Star

George Schroeder, USA Today

Chris Level,

Bryan Fischer,

Allen Kenney,

Tim Fitzgerald,

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 10 points.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.14 (10)
Austin, Texas There are few places in the world as cool as Austin — and they will tell you about it too. Great food, crazy awesome music and the only part of Texas that isn't table-top flat. The rolling hill country, boating and golf only add to the long list of stuff to do in the Lone Star State capital. There is a reason Austin got all but two first-place votes. Sixth Street is a must for a first-time visitor.
2.35 (1)
Fort Worth, Texas The massive metroplex in North Texas got one first-place vote and if big cities are your thing, there aren't too many options in the Big 12. The attractions in DFW are endless and well known — professional sports, Texas State Fair, bars, beers and honky tonks. If small town living is your thing, then Fort Worth won't suit you. TCU's hometown got six second-place votes and two third-place votes along with that one first-place selection.
3.43 (1)
Lawrence, Kan. It won't be confused with any of the other towns on fall Saturdays, but this town is extremely underrated nationally and got one vote as the Big 12's best town. The gorgeous campus is soaked in rich sports tradition (mostly basketball) and is just down the road from Kansas City. The personality is a bit eclectic and that makes hanging out in Lawrence a fun experience. The music scene here is excellent and the BBQ ain't bad either.
Norman, Okla. Sort of a mini-Oklahoma City, Norman got three third-place votes, but also was picked as low as ninth. The downtown area has plenty of charm and the small town streets are welcoming. Certainly, game days take this town to a different level unlike places like Lawrence. Campus Corner comes highly recommended.
Morgantown, W.V. The mountains are gorgeous. The campus is awesome on game day. The parties and nightlife are fantastic (insane is perhaps a more fitting descriptor). But it's not easy to get to for any long-distance travelers, which also is the case with many Big 12 outposts. However, outside of the university and the mountains, there isn't a whole lot else going on — which is why Morgantown was voted as high as second and as low as tenth.
Manhattan, Kan. The true outposts in the Big 12 will fill the bottom half of this league, beginning with The Little Apple. Some love the small town (it got a second-place vote) and others do not (two last-place votes). There are some killer breweries (at plenty of bars in Aggieville) and plenty of food spots but that's about it.
Lubbock, Texas It's 350 miles to Fort Worth or Waco, 340 miles to Norman and 370 miles to Austin or Stillwater — Lubbock's nearest Big 12 counterparts. It redefines middle of nowhere. It's got country music, dust and Texas Tech football. And it's much larger than outsiders would probably guess at nearly 250,000 residents. 
Stillwater, Okla. One of the smallest college towns in big-time college football at less than 50,000 people, Stillwater is a great party town but has little else to offer. To quote one expert on this panel, "Eskimo Joe's has been a Big 12 landmark" for more than two decades. So there's that.
Ames, Iowa A true college town, this might be the most bizarre ranking on this list. Ames is routinely ranked as one of the better places to live in the Midwest, complete with great small town living and some decent nightlife. It got two 10th-place votes and five ninth-place votes. For the record, I voted Ames fifth.
Waco, Texas The new facilities have changed the look and feel of this town but not enough to get it out of the Big 12 basement. Waco got four 10th-place votes and three ninth-place votes. Unless you are Chip or Joanna Gaines (or maybe John McClain), I'd suggest continuing up or down I-35 to Austin or DWF.

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Ranking the Big 12 College Towns (Expert Poll)
Post date: Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/former-fullback-kalani-sitake-defensive-coach-rise

One of football’s up-and-coming defensive coordinators got his start in the one of the most unlikely places — playing fullback for a school that was ground zero of the modern spread offense.


Kalani Sitake has been a defensive assistant in major college football for merely a decade, but he’s already one of the most intriguing names in the coaching ranks.


When the time came for the BYU fullback to enter the workforce in 2001, Sitake knew what he wanted to do, just not all the details.


“I just wanted to coach ball,” Sitake said. “I didn’t care where it was or what position.”


His first job was as a secondary and special teams coach at a junior college, not exactly the most logical landing spot for a guy who played offense under LaVell Edwards.


The gig lasted a year before he returned to BYU as a graduate assistant working with linebackers. During the first four years of his career at three stops, Sitake had coached defensive backs, linebackers, running backs, offensive line and tight ends.


That meant a ton of film study and a ton of phone calls to figure out the intricacies of each position.


“I’m kind of a football nerd where I try to watch as much film as I can on different schemes and different philosophies,” Sitake said. “I take a huge interest in learning as much as I can.


“When all your friends are football coaches, you just talk ball. Let’s say you’ve got a new position, it wouldn’t be hard to find a half a dozen guys who are willing to open up and share ideas.”


One of those would be Gary Andersen, who hired Sitake as running backs coach when Andersen was head coach at Southern Utah.


When head coach Kyle Whittingham and coordinator Andersen filled out their defensive staff at Utah following the departure of Urban Meyer to Florida in 2005, Andersen added Sitake as linebackers coach.


As Andersen left for his own head coaching job, Sitake had become one of the key figures in Utah’s transition from a Mountain West power to a solid Pac-12 program. Despite the step up in week-to-week competition, Utah had an above-average defense all four seasons in the Pac-12 under Sitake. 


The Utes led the Pac-12 in fewest yards per play in 2011, their first year in the league. They’ve led the league in sacks per game each of the last two seasons. They’ve ranked in the top three in the Pac-12 in fewest yards per carry in each of the last four seasons. Moreover, Sitake was the leader of many of Utah’s critical recruiting efforts.


He’d done enough to enjoy job security at Utah or eventually take a more high-profile coordinator position.


Instead, Sitake rejoined Andersen at Oregon State as defense coordinator. A lateral move was puzzling, particularly since Sitake left an $800,000 per year contract (including bonuses) on the table with Utah. Utes defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki also left for Oregon State.


The move was considered to be indicative of a rift between Whittingham and his athletic director.


Sitake bristles at the episode and the attention he’s received, in part, because of the move to Oregon State.


“Coaching isn’t rocket science,” Sitake said. “There are people that try to sit there and try to blow up their contribution to it. I’m nothing. I’m really nothing. I’ve been lucky to have great people around me and really good players.”


But there’s also good reason why Andersen hired Sitake — for a third time, mind you.


Andersen has called him “a great technician,” and his defenses have been praised for the fundamentals — rarely being out of position and tackling soundly. 


This may make sense given his background, but Sitake often takes his defensive cues from effective offense.


Sitake refers to “identity” for his defense the same way he speaks of identity for Edwards’ offense at BYU.


Today’s up-tempo offenses aren’t as complex as traditional pro-style offenses. Sitake wants his defense to be just as focused on execution, not complexity.


“It’s simple but it has a few variables where it could be perceived as difficult,” Sitake said. “There’s a saying that if you keep it simple, it will be clean football. You look at all this fast-tempo offense, there’s not a lot to it. It’s just simple but executed really well.”


At the same time, Sitake spends time teaching offensive concepts to his defensive players.


Maybe it’s old habit for the former fullback, but it’s also part of the grand plan.


“We spend a lot of time on defense teaching what the offense is trying to do,” Sitake said. “I really believe that if you teach them the other side of the ball, you’re not memorizing, you’re understanding.”


Photo courtesy of Karl Maasdam.

Former Fullback Kalani Sitake is a Defensive Coach on the Rise
Post date: Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/ranking-nbas-best-players-who-missed-playoffs

Athlon Sports looks at the NBA’s most impressive stars to miss this year’s playoffs—usually for reasons beyond their control. 


5. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns

The Suns’ dynamic point guard was the last man standing after the team underwent a dramatic shift at the trade deadline. A trio of big-time ballhandlers—Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas—was more than just a folly in the name of novelty; the unusual arrangement actually worked for a while, and had Phoenix improbably in the Western Conference playoff hunt for much of the season. But Dragic’s dissatisfaction with how often he was seeing the ball crescendoed to the point that he demanded a trade in February, and was sent to the Miami Heat. Thomas, too, was shipped off—to the Boston Celtics. Bledsoe remained with Brandon Knight, who Phoenix acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks, but the change in his roster was too significant to acclimate to, and the Suns slowly faded from contention.


4. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

Drummond, like Bledsoe, was a victim of major change of context throughout the 2014-15 season. He had a historically impressive year on the offensive glass, seeming on certain nights as if his dominance as a second-chance creator was built into his team’s playbook. But the Pistons kept reshuffling their roster all season, so Andre’s brilliance was only augmented by a proper system during the more promising streaks of a very inconsistent year. Pistons coach and executive Stan Van Gundy should know by now, though, which player to build around as he moves forward.


3. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

“The Stifle Tower,” as they call him, was the NBA’s breakout player this winter. If the 22-year-old Frenchman isn’t already the best rim-protector in basketball, he’s certainly near the top of the race for that honor, going into next season. His Jazz took a few months to put him into the starting lineup in his second season—it took a trade of Enes Kanter, to the Oklahoma City Thunder, to truly pave the way for his spot. But once he paired with Derrick Favors in the front court, first-year coach Quin Snyder was able to position him as the anchor to a defense that was arguably the best in the league after the All-Star break. Don’t be surprised if you see Utah’s coming-out party rise to the level of playoff contention in 2015-16, with Gobert’s dominance down low as the glue to their success.


2. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Big Boogie is perhaps the most disheartening player in the NBA. An amazing talent who’s also a touchy personality, his situation in Sacramento has been rocky for every season he’s been there. DeMarcus has never been anything less than one of the most tantalizing, powerful forces around, as a center who can either steamroll you or beguile you with footwork and shooting range. But he’s had as many coaches as he has seasons with the Kings—and even more starting point guards—so his game hasn’t been able to blossom at the core of a winner. Culture matters in this league, and Cousins will continue to falter without a better basketball family around him. Is new coach George Karl the answer he’s been waiting for? Next year will tell.


1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Westbrook’s Waterloo will be spoken of in nonplussed tones for years. Russell’s insane season, highlighted by eleven triple-doubles, is only made more legendary by his team missing the playoffs. His ceaseless blitzes down the court were the must-see event in the game for two months or more, and the twinge of dissatisfaction we feel in his postseason absence is fitting for what’s going on with the dramatic, ever-changing Thunder. Once a promising title contender, OKC has turned into a rabbit hole of what-if scenarios after momentous trades and injuries, and increasingly intriguing battles with the media. Westbrook snarling that his 2015 scoring title “doesn’t mean [s—-]“ will go down as the iconic quote from an unforgettable season.


— John Wilmes

Post date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 15:54
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/usc-backup-quarterback-max-browne-using-2015-shine-2016

Come autumn at USC, all eyes will be on redshirt senior quarterback Cody Kessler and his pursuit of the Heisman Trophy. The spring, however, belonged to Kessler’s backup, redshirt sophomore Max Browne.


“Today was Max’s game,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said following the Trojans’ annual spring game on April 11.


The appetizer to USC’s 2015 season ostensibly became a preview of the ‘16 campaign, with Browne taking the majority of snaps. He threw 37 passes to Kessler’s 10, completing 24 of them for 251 yards and two touchdowns.


“Max Browne did what he’s been doing all spring long,” Sarkisian said. “He just comes in and he’s been making plays.”


The nation’s most coveted quarterback prospect in 2013, Browne has had plenty of time to get acclimated to being a college player. He was an early enrollee prior to his freshman season, making this past spring his third in the program.


“As far as the third spring goes, [2015 was] definitely the most successful one,” Browne said. 


Indeed, the Max Browne of April 2015 is well ahead of the Max Browne of a year ago. Even in the last few months, since the completion of USC’s 2014 campaign, Browne has improved his accuracy, harnessing his arm strength to put a softer touch on his passes, while reading the field more confidently in the pocket.


He even showed off the ever-so-slightest ability to run zone-read in the spring game, tucking a play-action fake before rolling out and finding JuJu Smith on the move for a touchdown.


Browne’s impressive spring game is just one step toward the bigger picture goals he said in December he was setting for his offseason.


“Just get more comfortable with the system, and as I get more comfortable, all the throws become second nature,” Browne said in the lead-up to USC’s Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.


Preparation for the postseason afforded Browne and his Trojans teammates 15 additional practices, which effectively served as a jumpstart to the reserve quarterback’s 2015 workouts.


“Getting all the second-team reps is huge. I try not to waste any,” he said. “These past few weeks have been huge getting reps, and the coaches have really focused on getting the young guys up to speed.”


Fast forward four months, and he appears to be on track.


“Being in the system a second year is huge and will pay dividends come fall,” he said.


If all goes according to plan this season, Browne will get live-game snaps in mop-up duty against some of the lesser competition on USC’s schedule. Then, in September 2016, he’ll make his first career start at AT&T Stadium against Alabama.  


That’s a long wait between starts: Browne’s last was Dec. 1, 2012, for Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash.


Not all 5-star quarterbacks would go almost four years from the end of their prep playing days until their first collegiate start, but Browne’s patience should pay off.


USC has a deep and young wide receiving corps looking to break out starting this season.


Smith is the top returner and most likely candidate to replace All-Pac-12 performer Nelson Agholor as the Trojans’ top option. Smith and promising slot receiver Ajene Harris are true sophomores. Speedster Steven Mitchell, a star of USC’s spring workouts and potential deep-ball threat, is a redshirt sophomore.


Add newcomers Isaac Whitney and 5-star prospect Iman Marshall – a possible two-way player in the same vein as Adoree’ Jackson – and Browne could transition into the starting role with one of the nation’s most experienced and deepest group of receivers.  


“Those guys are out there with me every day and so, I’m definitely getting chemistry with them,” Browne said.  


While the 2015 season is all about Kessler leading the Trojans in their pursuit of a Pac-12 championship, Max Browne will continue to develop in the background, readying for a smooth transition into 2016.


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

USC Backup Quarterback Max Browne Using 2015 to Shine in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/usc-trojans-2015-schedule-and-analysis

USC comes into a season in a familiar situation — the frontrunner to win its division.


Fans will add to that Pac-12 championship and College Football Playoff aspirations as well.


And with good reason. The Trojans have by far the best collection of players in the Pac-12.


But depth may still be an issue and navigating a schedule that could feature upwards of eight ranked opponents makes winning a league title incredibly difficult.


2015 USC Trojans Schedule


Bye: Week 4, * - Thurs., ** - Fri.


1.Sept. 5Los Angeles, CA
USC will begin its season as easily as any team in the nation with two cupcakes. Arkansas State isn't a terrible mid-major program, but shouldn't challenge the Trojans in any way. It's the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
2.Sept. 12Los Angeles, CA
Idaho will be even less competitive than the Red Wolves in Week 2. USC has won all eight meetings with ease over the Vandals. Considering what USC will face over the next two weeks, the Men of Troy deserve to ease their way into the season.
3.Sept. 19Los Angeles, CA
Pac-12 Title Preview I This hard-hitting physical contest has been one of the best rivalries in the Pac-12 for years. USC won the last two meetings on game-ending plays in the final minutes but Stanford had won four straight in the series prior. The last five meetings have been one-score games and it could easily be a preview of the Pac-12 title game.
4.Sept. 26Tempe, AZ
Instant Drama Wild things have happened lately when these two get together. Arizona State won on a historic Hail Mary on the game's final play last year and Lane Kiffin lost his job after losing to ASU the year before. The Sun Devils have won three of the last four but USC had won 11 straight prior. This game could decide the Pac-12 South Division race.
6.Oct. 8*Los Angeles, CA
Primetime Showdown The Huskies and Trojans get the national spotlight to themselves on a Thursday night. USC owns a 51-28-4 all-time record against UW and has won nine of the last 11 meetings. These teams haven't met since 2012. 
7.Oct. 17South Bend, IN
Historic Rivalry As good a rivalry as there is in college football, Notre Dame leads the all-time series 45-35-5. USC smoked the Irish 49-14 in Coach Sark's first shot at the Irish but the Trojans had lost three of the previous four meetings with Brian Kelly. The 2015 meeting could feature two top-10 teams vying for a Playoff spot. Sounds good to me.
8.Oct. 24Los Angeles, CA
USC is 9-4 all-time against Utah and had won the first three meetings since the Utes entered the Pac-12. However, late-game heroics from Utah in last year's 24-21 victory resulted in just the second win in the series for the Utes since 1916. Only once has Utah won in L.A. — also in 1916.
9.Oct. 31Berkeley, CA
Upset Alert The Men of Troy have owned their northern rivals, maintaining a 67-29-5 all-time advantage. USC has won 11 straight in the series with the last loss coming in 2003 in Berkeley (when some guy named Aaron Rodgers was the QB for Cal). The Bears are improving and proved that last year with just an eight-point loss to the Trojans. USC needs to be on upset alert.
10.Nov. 7Los Angeles, CA
One of the best games of 2014 out West was USC's 28-26 win, as Zona missed a game-winning field goal to end the game. USC has won two straight, four of the last five and 11 of the last 13. So while it sounds like USC has owned the series, these games have been incredibly competitive. Eight straight games have been decided by one score or less.
11.Nov. 13**Boulder, CO
In four Pac-12 meetings, Colorado has allowed 195 points to the Trojans in four losses. But CU's struggles against the Trojans extend beyond their brief history as divisional foes. In fact, the Trojans are 9-0 all-time against the Buffaloes and 2015 probably won't change this trend.
12.Nov. 21Eugene, OR
Pac-12 Title Preview II USC and Oregon could enter this game undefeated with both division titles, a Pac-12 title and potential Playoff berth hanging in the balance. Oregon should be playing its best football and will be looking for revenge for what took place the last time the Trojans paid a visit to Autzen Stadium - a thrilling 38-35 USC victory in 2011. Otherwise, Oregon has won three of four meetings with the most recent one occurring in 2012.
13.Nov. 28Los Angeles, CA
City of Lights Rivalry The longtime intra-city rivalry has been a game of streaks. UCLA won eight straight from 1991-98 before USC won seven straight from 1999-05 and then five straight from 2007-11. Yet, UCLA has won the last three by double-digits. The season finale could also be a South Division championship game.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Pac-12 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

USC Trojans 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/jameis-winston-explains-crab-leg-hook-befuddled-jim-harbaugh

The NFL Draft interview process is going to be interesting for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who is a contender for the No. 1 spot.


Among other off-field concerns Winston will need to address is the incident when he was cited for the theft of crab legs from a Tallahassee, Fla., Publix.


In a conversation with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch aired on ESPN’s Draft Academy, Winston attempted to explain his side.


This may not have helped.


Harbaugh, the former coach of the San Francisco 49ers, advised Winston to keep his response short and sweet — “I did something wrong, I’m sorry, and I learned.”


Winston, though, wanted to explain that the crab legs weren’t stolen; they were a hook up.


Here’s the video, the transcript and some editorial notes.



Fisch: I know there’s a story with the snow crabs or stone crabs or whatever it might have been, but you left it out when Coach asked you if you had any issues. I wouldn’t leave it out.


(ed. note: Stone crab is a Miami Beach fine dining staple and essentially localized to the famous Joe’s Stone Crab. Fisch did some good eating while offensive coordinator at Miami.)


Winston: Oh. Oh, man. Yeah.


Harbaugh: Stone crabs? (ed. note: Is this the first time Harbaugh has heard of this? That reaction says yes.)



Fisch: Whatever the whole theft thing was at Publix or whatever it might have been. I don’t know the whole — I just know it happened. That’s the elephant on the room for you. Everyone’s going to want to know what happened.


(ed. note: The crab legs are not the elephant in the room.)


Winston: OK.


Fisch: Don’t by accident just talk about the BB gun and your high school coach crying and forget about the fact that everyone on SportsCenter read about that incident because then it looks like you’re covering it up or you're hiding it.


(ed. note: Fisch mimics the ESPN crawl.)



Harbaugh: If you don’t want to go into it — “I screwed up. I f---ed up. Learned from it.” Be as serious as a heart attack.


Winston: How am I supposed to handle, like, if I just got them for free. Just say I messed up?


Harbaugh: If someone gave them to you for free? So what happened. Explain that to me. You got them for free? Explain that to me.


(ed. note: Harbaugh leans in as if he's the coach of the team potentially drafting Winston.)



Winston: A week before was my buddy’s birthday, and we got a cake and we met a dude inside Publix and he said anytime you come in here I got you. That day we just walked out. He hooked us up with that. When I got crab legs, I did the same thing. He just gave them to me and I walked out. Someone for inside the store had told the security that I didn’t pay for them, and that’s how the whole thing started.


Harbaugh: OK. Then, put that in a nice... Keep that in a tidy box. “I got some crab legs and people at the store reported that I didn’t pay for them. And they were right. I didn’t pay for them, and I f---ed up. I shouldn’t have been taking anything for free. I’ve learned.”

Jameis Winston Explains Crab Leg "Hook Up" To Befuddled Jim Harbaugh
Post date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 11:12
Path: /college-football/ranking-acc-college-towns-expert-poll

The old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” couldn’t be more true when it comes to ranking college towns.


Do you prefer larger metropolitan areas? Do you enjoy the isolated peace and quiet of a quaint, small town? Cost of living, night life, food, culture, weather, surrounding geography and more go into evaluating a city.


Every college campus is unique and each one brings something different to the table. And the ACC's collection of towns is extremely unique.


When evaluating big cities like Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh or Boston against a small town like Blacksburg, personal opinions will vary greatly. So we had some fun asking ACC experts to rank their favorite ACC locations. Here is what we learned:


The Voting Panel:


Wes Durham, FOX Sports/ACC Network

Mark Packer, SiriusXM College Sports Nation

Tony Barnhart, AJC/SEC Network

Julius Hodge, ACC Digital Net

Bud Elliott,

Jon Meterparel, IMG Sports-Boston College

Mark Ennis, ESPN 680-Louisville

David Hood,

Amanda Busick, College Sports Reporter

Jerry DiPaola, Pitt Trib Review

Lachlan McLean, Sports Talk 840-Louisville

Nate Mink,

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 14 points.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.41 (6)
Charlottesville, Va. It's got historic tradition and beauty. It's got a great party scene. It's located in a beautiful part of the country. The campus is gorgeous, the downtown mall is a blast, the vineyards are excellent and the presidential tradition is everywhere. It's hard not to get caught up in the rich vibe when visiting Virginia's campus. Be sure to check out Edgar Allen Poe's Room. Charlottesville got six first-place votes, by far the most of any ACC locale.
2.42 (1)
Chapel Hill, N.C. There is just a lot going on in Chapel Hill. The architecture is awesome, the weather is great and the natural scenery and outdoor activities are fantastic. The food is among the nation's best for a small town and the bar/music/art night scene is as good as any in the Southeast (check out Franklin Street). Chapel Hill barely missed out being voted the No. 1 town in the ACC with eight votes in the top three. 
3.47 (3)
Clemson, S.C. How many towns are named after the university? Formerly known as Calhoun, the town voted to change its name to Clemson in 1943. This represents all that is a small college town. The passion is what gives Clemson the best stadium in the league, the best gameday atmosphere and the most interwoven city. It's got great food joints and Lake Hartwell is always a good time. It's also a quick drive to three different states. Clemson got more first-place votes than any town not named Charlottesville.
4.69 (1)
Tallahassee, Fla. Considered one of the better "college towns for grownups," Tallahassee tends to keep people around. It's much larger than the average college town at over 300,000 residents, but has that medium-sized charm. Geography allows for plenty of beach life to shine through and there are endless festivals, dining and night attractions for visitors. The Florida state capital is the top city in the second tier according to the voting.
5.87 (1)
Raleigh, N.C. The most underrated stadium and gameday experience in the ACC is probably in Raleigh. The town loves its Wolfpack and it loves to party — which is probably why it got one first-place vote (and why people keep telling me to try Cook Out). It also was voted 10th or worse in the ACC by four different panelists. Check out Glenwood Ave. and Fayetteville Street. A trip to Raleigh for a sporting event is surely a good time. It's also one of three ACC towns that can claim a Stanley Cup, if that counts for anything?
Louisville, Ky. Of all of the big cities in the ACC, Louisville has the most charm. Wrapped by the Ohio River, there is tons to do, no matter what your fancy. Churchill Downs is a must-see while a developing area south of town known as Bardstown Road is as vibrant as any city south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Breweries, boating, golf, a growing music scene (SEE: Forecastle) and more make Louisville the best big city in the ACC.
Blacksburg, Va. If you want a truly small town located in the middle of the mountains, Blacksburg is your place. Few towns embody the vibe and feel of the campus like the architecture of Virginia Tech. The stone buildings are gorgeous and the mountains offer plenty to do outdoors. If you prefer city life, this isn't your cup of tea, which is why the Hokies' hometown was ranked as high as second by one panelist while four others voted it outside of the top 10.
Atlanta, Ga. The capital of Georgia is a polarizing city for sure. The traffic is downright miserable, the city itself goes on forever in every direction and the fans generally haven't supported many sports teams. Yet, the urban lifestyle is a big draw for many and the food scene is among the best in the nation. Short trips to beaches and mountains offer plenty of easy access to outdoor activities. It's not for everyone but there is a reason the metro areas boasts over five million residents.
9.113 (1)
Miami, Fla. Coral Gables itself is small village located just south of the sprawling metroplex that is Miami. The night life and allure of beach living in Miami is a huge draw for some (it got one first-place vote) but there is very little that is unique about campus life at The U. Which is why it was ranked last by two voters. For the record, this is the only town in the Power 5 with a first-place AND last-place vote.
Durham, N.C. The third-ranked city within the triangle was voted as highly as fourth by two voters and was voted last by another — which seems to be a theme among all ACC towns. At 250,000 residents, Duke's hometown is right in the middle in terms of size in the ACC as well. It's not as big as Raleigh and it's not as cool as Chapel Hill.
Pittsburgh, Pa. It's a big city and it has all of the advantages of traditional big cities. Huge infrastructure, technology growth as well as professional sports teams can overwhelm the university and its role within the community. Let's face it, the Panthers will always be the second-most important football team in the Steel City.
Chestnut Hill, Mass. If this were strictly based on Boston, it would be hard to imagine it falling this far down the list. Boston is a fantastic city with vibrant energy and steeped in American history. However, eight miles down the road is Chestnut Hill. While gorgeous, the campus is sort of an after-thought within the city (sort of like the sports teams). Still, it's hard to believe living on the outskirts of such an extraordinary city could rank as the 12th-best place in the ACC. It got four last-place votes.
Winston-Salem, N.C. The fourth-most desirable location of the North Carolina ACC schools is Winston-Salem. While the other three form the triangle of education and basketball, W-S is located just west of Greensboro, far from both the Smoky Mountains and the Outer Banks. It got three last-place votes, but also was voted as high as fifth.
Syracuse, N.Y. There is a reason that Syracuse's population has been dropping every decade since the 1950s. The weather is brutal for most of the year and its located in the middle of upstate New York — which is sort of close to Lake Erie, right? To quote one Athlon employee from New York, "It's a poor man's Rochester."


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Ranking the ACC College Towns (Expert Poll)
Post date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: 2014 schedule, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/10-must-see-nfl-games-2015-season

Are you ready for some football? Well, NFL fans still have to wait four and a half months until kickoff, but at least we know the games we have to look forward to. The 256-game regular season schedule has been laid out, and there is certainly no lack of intriguing matchups. While the “must see” label often comes down to a matter of personal preference, here are 10 games that caught this football fan’s eye along with five other matchups that shouldn’t disappoint.


1. Seattle at Green Bay (Week 2)

No disrespect to the reigning Super Bowl champions (who are well represented on this list), but it’s the NFC Championship Game rematch that has my full attention. The Seahawks and Packers actually played each other twice last season, both times in Seattle, but it’s the final five minutes of January’s memorable playoff game that no one, especially Green Bay, will ever forget.  While some faces (Hello Jimmy Graham!) have changed, the principals remain in place for this early-season treat.


2. New England at Denver (Week 12)

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are certainly no strangers to each other, as this will be their 17th head-to-head meeting. Brady holds an 11-5 edge in their rivalry, so you know Manning and company would like nothing more than to knock off the reigning champions in front of their home fans. Besides being a matchup of two of the AFC’s best teams, it’s also possible this could be the last pairing of two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.


3. Dallas at Green Bay (Week 14)

Dez Bryant and the Cowboys return to the scene of the catch, I mean, no catch. Rules interpretations aside, Dallas won’t have DeMarco Murray to run the ball against the Packers and keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense on the sidelines. While not as important as a playoff game, the outcome of this contest could have a huge hand in determining the eventual NFC playoff picture.


4. Denver at Indianapolis (Week 9)

Peyton Manning took care of his Indianapolis homecoming last season, but could this be his final game in the place where his Hall of Fame career started? And there’s also the small matter of the Colts having beaten the Broncos at home in the playoffs last season.


5. Seattle at Dallas (Week 8)

The Cowboys went into CenturyLink Field last season and used their running game to control the clock and beat the Seahawks on their own turf. Seattle will get the chance to return the favor at AT&T Stadium and won’t have to worry about DeMarco Murray putting up 115 yards rushing again. However, Dallas’ stellar offensive line is still around, as are Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. The Seahawks will have their own new wrinkle, All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham. Should make for an entertaining Sunday afternoon in Jerry Jones’ house, no?


6. Philadelphia at Dallas (Week 9)

The Eagles and Cowboys will first get together in Week 2, but it’s the second act of  this NFC East rivalry that will feature the aforementioned Murray’s much-anticipated AT&T Stadium debut as a visitor. OK, while Cowboys fans probably aren’t looking forward to seeing No. 29 in an Eagles uniform (especially if Darren McFadden struggles), you know Murray has this game circled on his calendar.


7. New England at Indianapolis (Week 6)

The Patriots beat the Colts twice last season by a combined score of 87-27. In fact, in four career matchups, Andrew Luck has lost by at least three touchdowns to Bill Belichick’s team. So why should this game be any different? Well, Luck and the Colts will get the reigning champions on their turf, and this is not the same New England team that thumped them 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game. And it probably goes without saying that the officials at Lucas Oil Stadium will do whatever it takes to ensure that all the footballs are not only properly inflated, but also remain that way.


8. New England at Dallas (Week 5)

Potential Super Bowl 50 preview? Perhaps, but regardless of whether either or both teams end up playing in San Francisco in February; this is one of the more intriguing AFC vs. NFC matchups on the ’15 slate. And are there any more hated teams in the NFL than the Patriots and Cowboys?


9. Pittsburgh at New England (Week 1, Thursday)

The reigning champions kick off defense of their title (as well as the 2015 season) at home against a team with Super Bowl aspirations of their own. Unfortunately, while the Ben Roethlisberger vs. Tom Brady dynamic will be intact, there will be no backfield battle between Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, as both are presently suspended for the opener. Don’t get me wrong, this should still be a quality, entertaining game, but DeAngelo Williams vs. James White/Travaris Cadet/pick a Patriot just doesn’t have the same juice as Bell vs. Blount.


Related: Do the Pittsburgh Steelers Really Have the Toughest NFL Schedule in 2015?


10. Philadelphia at New England (Week 13)

Offensive mastermind (same would say mad scientist) Chip Kelly vs. defensive genius (and future Hall of Famer) Bill Belichick. What’s not to like about this coaching chess match in early December? And who knows, there may even be another Tim Tebow sighting at Gillette Stadium. Maybe.


Five Other Intriguing Matchups

(chronological order)


New York Jets at New England (Week 7)
Darrelle Revis got his Super Bowl ring with the Patriots last season, and promptly went back to the Jets for $70 million over five years. Will Tom Brady challenge the solitude of Revis Island?


Green Bay at Denver (Week 8)
It may seem hard to believe, but Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning have never faced each other, even though the two have combined for 359 career starts. As long as both stay healthy, that will change come the night of Nov. 1.


Buffalo at New York Jets (Week 10, Thursday)
Rex Ryan comes back to the Big Apple. Enough said, unless you’re looking forward to a potential Matt Cassel vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick QB duel.


Denver at Chicago (Week 11)
New Bears head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase host their former employer, which also happens to be the same team that drafted Jay Cutler 11th overall in the 2006 draft. Oh and Peyton Manning also beat Chicago in Super Bowl XLI for his only ring. How’s that for payback-driven storylines?


Buffalo at Philadelphia (Week 14)
LeSean McCoy back in the City of Brotherly Love. Forget the reception from Eagles fans, how will McCoy and Chip Kelly greet one another?

10 Must-See NFL Games in 2015 Season
Post date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 10:00