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All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/troy-aikman-blasts-nfl-preseason-jordy-nelson-injury

No one likes NFL preseason games. Fans think they're a waste of time and everytime a fan-favorite goes down with an injury, the question of "do we really need them?" is asked again.


Troy Aikman is only the latest person to speak out about them. After the injuries to Jordy Nelson, Maurkice Pouncey, and Kelvin Benjamin, it's hard to find reasons to oppose his theory.





Aikman does make valid points that many are hoping the NFL is making note of. 

Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 11:12
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-south-carolinas-college-football-schedule-2015

In my early 1980s youth, I would always look forward to the annual football tab that The State and Columbia Record put out.


It wasn't because I was finally ready to hear about Sloan's Bears but rather because Bob Gillespie and whoever was covering Clemson that year would come out with preseason, game-by-game picks for the Tigers as well as the South Carolina Gamecocks.


Every football fan goes down their favorite team's schedule when it comes out and does a quick pick of the games; "North Carolina's a W. They moved up the Kentucky game this year? Georgia's probably an L," etc.


Now, I could read such an endeavor, usually with humorous comments attached ("there's always the chance Danny Ford's team gets locked in the locker room"), from the experts who would let me know what to look for that season.


We're not doing that in this article. First, because that's not what Athlon has instructed me to do. They've instructed me to rank the games on the Gamecocks' schedule in order of difficulty.


And second, because in 1982 The State/Columbia Record's football tab just nailed Clemson's schedule at the beginning of the year, picking the Tigers to go 10-1 when they finished 9-1-1. The only game picked incorrectly was a 17-17 tie to Boston College, quarterbacked by a then-unknown Doug Flutie — hardly an inexcusable blight on the record.


Gillespie, however, picked the Gamecocks to go 7-4 and make a bowl game. Instead, they went 4-7 and lost to Furman.


So, of course, in 1983 The State/Columbia Record had Gillespie revive his preseason picks for South Carolina while a new writer was found to pick the Clemson games. Oh, and the Record ceased publication five years later.


Considering the fact I wish to stay employed and Athlon wishes to stay in business, here's the schedule South Carolina will navigate in 2015, ranked in order of difficulty.


12. Nov. 21 vs. The Citadel

South Carolina's 38-35 loss to The Citadel in 1990 probably kept the Gamecocks out of a bowl game. If it happens this year, expect the same. The Bulldogs lost their leading rusher and quarterback from last year and return only two starters on defense. Besides, the days of Carolina losing to Division I-AA/FCS teams went out with Sparky Woods and Richard Bell.


11. Oct. 17 vs. Vanderbilt

In 2007 and ‘08, Vandy would take the wind out of South Carolina's sails by upsetting the Gamecocks and sent the message they weren't ready to be considered elite. Now the Commodores are sending the message they have never won an SEC championship and don't intend to any time soon. Ralph Webb rushed for more than 900 yards as a freshman last year, but so what?


10. Sept. 26 vs. UCF

The Golden Knights have had a nice 21-5 run during the past two seasons. In fact their only loss of 2013 came to the Gamecocks. This year UCF has to replace 13 starters from last season, its entire secondary, and even its athletic director. Quarterback Justin Holman throws too many picks and the Knights did not run the ball particularly well last season.


9. Sept. 12 vs. Kentucky

With new offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson the Wildcats will play a new, fast-break offense designed to keep the offense on the field for at least 85 plays. They'll also employ a new 3-4 defensive front. Kentucky put up 45 points on South Carolina last year, but are slated to start five sophomores and a freshman on offense and haven't won in Columbia since 1999.


8. Sept. 3 vs. North Carolina (in Charlotte, N.C.)

If there was a defense that was actually worse than the Gamecocks’ last season, it was North Carolina. The Tar Heels allowed at least 20 points in all of their games, 27 or more in 11, and ranked 101st or worse in all major defensive categories. Still, the Tar Heels went to a bowl game with an offense that returns dual-threat quarterback Marquise Williams and favorite receiver Ryan Switzer. The "Carowinds Bowl" is must win if the Gamecocks wish to have any sort of national prominence this season.


7. Oct. 3 at Missouri

Now it gets difficult. Athlon has the Tigers 27th in its preseason rankings, the Gamecocks 37th. Four seniors weighing more than 300 pounds return to the Tigers’ offensive line and quarterback Maty Mauk returns for this third year as a starter. But he has no experienced wide receivers to throw to. Three starters are gone from the defensive line. Can Missouri continue to produce quality pass rushers?


6. Nov. 14 vs. Florida

Let's face it, one of the reasons the Gamecocks have been able to contend in the SEC East in recent years is the demise of Florida and Tennessee, the two teams that ruled the 1990s. Oh, and the fact the Gamecocks have the Gators' former head coach. New Florida boss Jim McElwain has landed some quality linemen in Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson, but what will their immediate impact be? What this game may come to is how well the Gators' Vernon Hargreaves III, perhaps the best cornerback in the SEC, handles Pharoh Cooper, in a matchup that figures to be replayed at some point in the NFL.


5. Nov. 7 at Tennessee

In South Carolina's first season in the SEC, the magic of quarterback Steve Taneyhill upset Tennessee 24-23, effectively ending John Majors' career as the Volunteers’ head coach. Tennessee has never let the Gamecocks forget it, punishing the Gamecocks in the 1990s, and squeaking past them annually the following decade to keep USC under its thumb, and even ruining the Gamecocks' national championship aspirations two years ago on Marquez North's catch after South Carolina had finally passed them in the SEC pecking order. Make no doubt, even more than Clemson, THE VOLS ARE THE MUST-WIN GAME ON CAROLINA'S SCHEDULE AND ALMOST ALWAYS ARE. Butch Jones seems to have the Vols on the right track, but for now the program is still running on recruiting rankings instead of results. A third straight loss to Tennessee will likely insure South Carolina's place behind the Vols in the SEC East pecking order for the foreseeable future, a victory will likely change the hierarchy momentum and could give the Gamecocks a chance to win the division. 


4. Oct. 31 at Texas A&M

South Carolina was supposed to defend the honor of the SEC last Aug. 28 in the Aggies' conference debut. You know what happened. Now the Gamecocks must travel to College Station. Texas A&M has a new quarterback this season, a new running back, and a completely new set of linebackers, but by Halloween do returning starters from 2014 really matter? It's just so hard to get 52-28 out of one's mind.


3. Oct. 10 vs. LSU

This is not an unwinnable game for South Carolina. It's at home, the Tigers are coming off a 7-5 season, and they have inconsistency at quarterback (Anthony Jennings? Brandon Harris?). But LSU figures to be one of the best defensive teams in the country behind free safety Jalen Mills and linebacker Kendell Beckwith. Additionally, the Tigers are from the mighty SEC West and the Gamecocks also have only beaten LSU once (1994) since Paul Dietzel came from Baton Rouge to Columbia.


2. Nov. 28 vs. Clemson

It had appeared South Carolina had finally moved ahead of Clemson in state hierarchy. Five straight victories and being the member of the superior football conference have a way of doing that. But last year's 35-17 Clemson victory may have been a telling sign of the "You know, Steve isn't going to be there by the time you graduate" recruiting line. Good news for Gamecocks fans is the Tigers' top-ranked defense lost NFL draft first-round choices Vic Beasley, Stephone Anthony, along with seven other starters, and quarterback Deshaun Watson is injury prone. Bad news is Mike Williams and Artavis Scott might still both haul in 1,000 yards this year. A victory to knock the Tigers out of College Football Playoff contention would be sweet, but having both teams nationally ranked may be even sweeter.


1. Sept. 19 vs. Georgia

A South Carolina victory in this series doesn't always insure a great season. Brandon Bennett's touchdown in 1993 to beat the Bulldogs on the last play of the game looked like it was going to kick off a new era of prestige behind the aforementioned Tanneyhill, then a sophomore. Instead it kicked off a 4-7 season and the coach was fired. And last season's 38-35 victory didn't spark a run for a division championship. But more times than not — 1984, 1987, 2000, 2001, 2010-12 — a South Carolina victory against Georgia indicates a special season is on the horizon.


Georgia's the hands-down favorite in the SEC East. Nick Chubb may someday win a Heisman. The entire secondary returns. But there's a whole new defensive line and a new quarterback under center as well. A victory here and reports of the demise of Gamecocks football will be greatly exaggerated. A loss and well…


— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson has been a contributor to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 15 years. He has covered the Steelers, Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.

Ranking the Toughest Games on South Carolina's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-wide-receiver-rankings

Injuries are never a good thing, but especially when it involves a top-five fantasy wide receiver. Jordy Nelson's season-ending torn ACL is just not a blow to Green Bay, but also to the fantasy outlook for Aaron Rodgers and certainly the wide receiver landscape. Nelson's absence presents an opportunity for teammate Davante Adams to break out in a big way, but also keep an eye on Jeff Janis and rookie Ty Montgomery moving forward. Randall Cobb will replace Nelson as the Rodgers' No. 1 target, which results in him moving up a few spots higher in the top 10. Elsewhere, veteran Reggie Wayne signed a one-year deal with New England, but don't expect him and Tom Brady to repeat the production of Wayne's glory days when he and Peyton Manning were in Indianapolis. Julian Edelman remains the Patriots' No. 1 wide receiver (tight end Rob Gronkowski is Brady's No. 1 target), as Wayne's addition just adds even more uncertainty to the pecking order behind the top two.


Fantasy Football 2015 Wide Receiver Rankings

(Updated Aug. 25)


Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros
Fantasy Football 2015 Wide Receiver Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-quarterback-rankings

While quarterbacks themselves may have made it through the second week of the NFL preseason relatively unscathed, the position still felt the fantasy impact of yet another significant injury. Jordy Nelson's torn ACL, not only shook up the wide receiver rankings, it produced a swap at the top of the QB ones too. With the loss of his No. 1 target, Aaron Rodgers slips to second behind Andrew Luck, who led all players in fantasy points (Athlon scoring) last season, and has even more weapons at his disposal in 2015. The gap between the two is marginal, and chances are you should be in pretty good shape if you're fortunate to land either in your draft. This is just another example of the fantasy collateral damage, if you will, when it comes to a significant injury.


Fantasy Football 2015 Quarterback Rankings

(Updated Aug. 25)


Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros
Fantasy Football 2015 Quarterback Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/what-dalvin-cook-verdict-means-florida-state

Dalvin Cook has been found not guilty of battery, which will most likely open the door for his return to the Florida State football team. The University has lifted his suspension and he will likely be back on the practice field later today.


Related: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook Found Not Guilty of Battery; Reinstated to Team for 2015


This is great news for a program whose offense will look radically different than the past two years. Jameis Winston, of course, is in Tampa Bay and his two safety blankets – Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary – are in NFL camps as well. Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane along with Jesus Wilson are looking to develop cohesion with the new quarterback, whether that is Sean Maguire or Everett Golson.


While the passing game kinks are being worked out early in the season, Florida State would love to lean heavily on its running game. The Seminoles also have an inexperienced offensive line and one way for that group to gain confidence is for them to establish aggressiveness by run blocking.


FSU also will have a very talented defense. The last thing the coaching staff wants to do is put the defense in bad spots by turning the ball over, something that one of their quarterbacks did with regularity last season. Keeping the ball on the ground, especially early in the season as the entire team builds a belief in itself, will at worst keep the defense away from defending short fields.


With Texas State and South Florida as the first two games, the Seminoles probably would have run the ball a lot with Mario Pender, Jonathan Vickers and Jacques Patrick. Cook’s return will allow head coach Jimbo Fisher to use the ground attack in an even more dynamic way. That young line will gain even more confidence with the 1,000-yard rusher bolting through the holes that are opened.


In the same way that the quarterbacks will have to get in synch with the receivers, the offensive line will have to gel with the backs too. It is true that FSU should have no trouble in either of the first two games, regardless of who is in the backfield. But the more reps Cook can get before the season starts and in the first two contests, the more in tune he will be with his blockers, which will pay dividends later in the season.


Florida State has won the last three ACC titles and wants another this year. Despite having to replace departed stars, the Seminoles live by the Ric Flair adage that if you want to be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man. Getting back Cook is a huge boost in Florida State’s quest to be the man for another year.


— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

What the Dalvin Cook Verdict Means to Florida State
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Tennessee Volunteers, SEC
Path: /college-football/apples-siri-has-favorite-college-football-team-tennessee-volunteers

Tennessee fans have finally received the long awaited validation that their Vols are once again relevant in the landscape of college football. Unfortunately, it isn’t yet in the form of wins on the gridiron. However, they will be happy to find out that their iPhone is a fan of the Volunteers.


If you were to ask Apple’s Siri, “Who is your favorite college football team?” the response is this: “I always like to root for the underdog. I guess that makes me a fan of Tennessee right now.”


Just to be clear, all Siri equipped iPhones and iPads currently give the “Tennessee” response, regardless of fan affiliation or who owns the phone. In all actuality, Siri’s response is triggered as a result of the recently released AP pre-season top 25 college football rankings that will also accompany Siri’s reply on your iPhone screen.


Each week during the season, and in this case the pre-season, Siri will proclaim the team that resides in the 25th and final spot in the AP rankings as her favorite, proving that she's no fair weather bandwagon fan. Hence, the "I always like to root for the underdog" statement that Siri uses to preface her current allegiance to the 25th ranked Volunteers.


It is fitting that Siri prefers Tennessee at the moment with all the hype and fanfare surrounding the Vols heading into the season, and while she is not likely to remain loyal to Tennessee throughout the entire year, the important thing is that she bleeds orange now.


Related: Ranking the Toughest Games on Tennessee's College Football Schedule in 2015


Siri’s reply also makes for the perfect novelty for Vol fans who want all of their friends and family members who are fans of rival schools to know exactly who their phones are rooting for heading into the 2015 season. So, if you see a Vandy or Bama fan throwing their phone against a brick wall, you'll now know why.


— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McVey is a diehard Tennessee Volunteers' fan who loves singing "Rocky Top" every opportunity he gets. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS

Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer Daly Cantrell.


Here is what she had to say about the SEC's football logos:


1.TennesseeThe Volunteers’ power T is probably the best logo in the SEC for one reason: it’s so recognizable. The unique style of the T is unlike any other and who can forget that bright orange?
2.LSUI love that LSU finally realized its initials alone are very recognizable. This newer look is sleeker and not so busy. Though the LSU tiger is also very well known and loved, the Tiger is much better as a secondary logo in this case.
3.AuburnMy roommate is an Auburn grad and I can hardly stand the site of the mass amount of Auburn things in our apartment, but if you actually look at the logo, for what it is, then you’ll notice how well done it is. The pairing of AU is perfectly placed where both letters stick out, but also evolve into its own logotype. It has a great look and they do a good job not overdoing it.

The Commodores’ logo is flashy and fun. The gold and black keep sleekness to the logo and the white V really pops next to the black.

5.GeorgiaI actually really love the Georgia logo, but I also love the Green Bay Packers’ logo and they look identical. Georgia’s logo is perfectly clean, both in color combination and in the marriage of the G and the thin red oval.
6.Texas A&MThank you Aggies for beveling your T correctly. I can only hope some schools take notice of how well done this look is (cue Texas Tech).
7.Ole MissThis logo is near and dear to me, being an Ole Miss grad. I personally think it looks good on everything, but that’s just me finding sentiment in the logo (which I told myself I wasn’t going to do). If you really take a look at the logo for what it is, it could definitely be updated. The brush script font went out of style ten years ago, but I guess it just works for Ole Miss… or so I think.
8.AlabamaThe Crimson Tide’s logo is hard for me to take seriously because I think the Alabama A and the Atlanta Braves A are identical. One of the teams needs to claim it.
9.Mississippi StateI like the look of the Bulldogs’ power M. It has a great shape to it and the slabs of the typeface are not overdone. The ribbon adds a nice touch, but I do not think it is necessary to outline the entire thing in gray unless it is behind a dark color.
10.FloridaThe colors in this logo blend too much. The gator logo is very well designed, but I wish the gator popped a little more.
11.KentuckyThe Wildcats’ logo has improved a lot since their old one, but I wish the typeface did not look so stretched out. I liked the condensed look of the old one.
12.ArkansasThis logo has improved a lot throughout the years, but it could still take a more modern route. Animal logos do much better when they are more stylized.
13.MissouriMissouri has an aggressive logo. Toning it down a bit by taking off some of the detail would take this logo to another level.
14.South CarolinaGamecocks, you’ve got too much going on in your logo. It all starts to blur together and then it’s hard to see what it really is.
Ranking the SEC's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-preseason-top-200

Another weekend of NFL preseason action and, unfortunately, more significant injuries. The latest major fantasy-related casualty is Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who is out after tearing his ACL. Nelson's loss not only impacts the Packers' pecking order at the WR position, but also causes a slight shift among quarterbacks too. The good news is that the third preseason game is usually the last in which any key starters will get on the field prior to Week 1, but as we have already seen many times, injuries can happen in practice just as easily as in a game.


Fantasy Football 2015: Preseason Top 200

(Updated Aug. 25)


Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros
Fantasy Football 2015: Preseason Top 200
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/big-ten-football-breakout-players-2015

Projecting college football’s breakout players for any given season is no easy assignment. After all, each person has a different take on what a “breakout player” is, and college football is always home to several new faces throughout the season. While it’s difficult to label breakout players, the new stars of any season can have a huge impact on conference championship or national title races.


Related: Ranking the Big Ten's Top 15 Players for 2015


The balance of power in the Big Ten clearly resides in the East Division this season. Ohio State is the favorite to repeat, and Michigan State should be a top-10 team once again in 2015. While both programs return plenty of talent and experience, there’s no shortage of breakout candidates for either team. And for the seven teams in the West Division, the emergence of a few stars is critical with each team entering 2015 with significant personnel issues.


Who will be the new stars in the Big Ten this year? Here's a handful of names to watch:


Big Ten Breakout Players for 2015


C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa

Beathard was handed the keys to Iowa’s offense after the loss to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl, and the coaching staff hopes the junior sparks an attack that averaged only 28.2 points per game last season. Beathard has a stronger arm than former starter Jake Rudock and isn’t afraid to take chances. Additionally, Beathard can extend plays with his mobility. After completing 52 of 92 passes for 645 yards and five scores last season, all eyes are on Beathard to deliver in his first full year as Iowa’s starter.


Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana

Indiana’s passing attack ranked at the bottom of the Big Ten last season, but the Hoosiers are due for a quick turnaround with a healthy Nate Sudfeld at quarterback in 2015. Finding capable targets in the passing game is a must for coach Kevin Wilson. Cobbs played in all 12 games as a true freshman last season and caught seven passes for 114 yards. Expect Cobbs to easily exceed those totals as one of Sudfeld’s top weapons in 2015.


Related: Outrageous Big Ten Predictions for 2015


Mason Cole, OT, Michigan

Michigan’s offensive line has struggled over the last two seasons, but there’s optimism going into 2015. Jim Harbaugh’s arrival should help the entire offense improve, and line coach Tim Drevno was a key hire to bolster the play in the trenches. Cole started all 12 games for the Wolverines as a true freshman last season and is expected to anchor the line from the left tackle spot.


Michael Dieter, OL, Wisconsin

It’s safe to assume Wisconsin will field a strong offensive line once again in 2015. However, the Badgers are dealing with a few injuries and overall uncertainty about the position battles in the trenches this fall. There’s work to be done up front, but the coaching staff should feel secure in three positions (left tackle Tyler Marz, center Dan Voltz and Dieter at right guard). After a redshirt season in 2014, Dieter is poised to be a key cog in Wisconsin’s revamped line.


Related: College Football's Top 30 Offensive Lines for 2015


T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin

Two spots in Wisconsin’s linebacker unit are set with the return of Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert. Finding two other starters has been a key challenge this fall for coordinator Dave Aranda, but all signs point to Edwards claiming a starting job at the end of practice. The redshirt freshman had a strong spring and is expected to anchor the interior of the linebacking corps.  


Hank Ekpe, DE, Minnesota

The Golden Gophers may not have a household name up front this season, but this unit is quietly in the top half of the Big Ten’s best defensive lines. Ekpe has played in 23 career games and registered three tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks last season. Contributing to the low stat totals was trouble with a severe sinus infection, but all signs point to a big year from Ekpe in 2015. With an All-Big Ten candidate on the other side (Theiren Cockran), Ekpe should see plenty of one-on-one opportunities to get to the quarterback.


Mike Gesicki/Adam Breneman, TE, Penn State

Pencil in a tight end in the breakout category for Penn State. Gesicki showed promise by catching 11 passes for 114 yards in 12 appearances last season, and the 6-foot-6 target is due for an even bigger role in 2015. Breneman redshirted last year due to injury, but the touted recruit is ready for a bounce back campaign.


Related: Ranking the Big Ten's Starting Quarterbacks for 2015


Derwin Gray/Damian Prince, OT, Maryland

Gray and Prince are two reasons to be optimistic about improvement for Maryland’s offensive line in 2015. This duo was a key pickup on the recruiting trail for the Terrapins in 2014 and redshirted in their first season on campus. Gray suffered a shoulder injury in the spring, but he should return in September. This redshirt freshman duo should anchor the Maryland offensive line for the next few seasons.


Grant Haley, CB, Penn State

Penn State’s secondary should be among the best in the Big Ten this season. Coordinator Bob Shoop is making a couple of tweaks to this unit, as Jordan Lucas shifts from corner to safety, opening the door for Haley to start. He played in 13 games for the Nittany Lions as a true freshman last season, recording 18 tackles, one interception and two pass breakups.


Kiy Hester, SS/Blessuan Austin, CB, Rutgers

Rutgers’ secondary remains unsettled into fall camp, but two freshmen could see extended snaps or win a starting job. Hester – a transfer from Miami – and Austin are being counted on by coordinator Joe Rossi this season, as the Scarlet Knights return only one starter in the secondary, and the status of Nadir Barnwell is uncertain.


Josh Hicks/Robert Martin, RB, Rutgers

Rutgers’ backfield is quietly one of the deepest in the Big Ten. Paul James was off to a hot start last season but an ACL injury sidelined him for the rest of 2014. In James’ absence, Desmon Peoples, Josh Hicks and Robert Martin effectively carried the ground attack. While James is the lead back, he’s never played a full season of snaps. The duo of Hicks and Martin is a dynamic option for coach Kyle Flood, as both players averaged at least five yards per carry in 2014.


Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015


Godwin Igwebuike, S, Northwestern

Northwestern’s defense returns 10 starters from a unit that ranked seventh in the Big Ten in points allowed last season. With plenty of proven options, as well as talented youngsters like Igwebuike, improvement is expected in 2015. Igwebuike played in 11 games as a freshman last season, recording 51 tackles, three pass breakups and three interceptions. He should thrive in his first full year as a starter.


Jeff Jones, WR, Minnesota

Jones was a touted recruit at running back, but the redshirt freshman shifted to receiver this offseason. There’s an immediate need for playmakers at receiver, which should allow Jones to make an instant impact in 2015. There will be some ups and downs as Jones learns the nuances of the position, but he’s too talented to sit on the bench for a team that needs playmakers.


Markell Jones, RB, Purdue

Purdue must replace its top two rushers from an offense that averaged 162.4 yards per game on the ground in Big Ten play. Jones enrolled early after earning Mr. Football honors in Indiana and is projected to push for carries in a backfield featuring intriguing options in D.J. Knox, Keyante Green and Tario Fuller.


Jalin Marshall, WR, Ohio State

Marshall is suspended for the opener against Virginia Tech, but a one-game hiatus shouldn’t stop the sophomore from becoming an even bigger part of Ohio State’s offense this season. In 15 games last year, Marshall caught 38 passes for 499 yards and six scores. Additionally, he rushed for 145 yards and one touchdown and averaged 11.8 yards per punt return. Marshall could finish 2015 as one of the Big Ten’s top receivers.


Related: Ranking the Big Ten's Starting Quarterbacks for 2015


Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

The Spartans’ defensive line is one of the best in the nation, and this unit will only get better with McDowell’s emergence in 2015. As a true freshman last season, McDowell chipped in 15 tackles (4.5 for a loss) and 1.5 sacks. The Detroit native was a big-time catch for coach Mark Dantonio on the recruiting trail and is poised to claim a starting spot at tackle this fall. 


Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State

The Buckeyes already have two of the nation’s top linebackers in Joshua Perry and Darron Lee. Add in McMillan’s potential as a sophomore and it’s easy to see why this trio is among the nation’s best linebacker units. McMillan recorded 54 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a reserve last season and could push for All-Big Ten honors in his first year as a starter.


Terrell Newby, RB, Nebraska

Newby doesn’t quite have the starting job locked down, but he’s the frontrunner for carries with less than two weeks to go before the opener against BYU. In 13 games last season, Newby recorded 297 yards and five scores and caught eight passes for 45 yards. The junior has big shoes to fill with the departure of Ameer Abdullah. Nebraska will throw more under new coach Mike Riley, but there should be plenty of opportunities for Newby (or another Husker running back) to impress early in 2015.


Related: Maliek Collins ranks as one of CFB's Top 50 Players for 2015


Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Maryland

Ngakoue is just one of four returning starters for Maryland’s defense this season, and the junior is also a key cog in the transition to a 4-3 scheme. Ngakoue thrived at linebacker last year, recording 13.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks and 37 tackles. He’s charged with leading Maryland’s pass rush from the edge in 2015.


Montae Nicholson, S, Michigan State

Michigan State’s “No Fly Zone” has a few holes to fill this offseason. The Spartans lost standouts in safety Kurtis Drummond and cornerback Trae Waynes, and Pat Narduzzi is now the head coach at Pittsburgh. Nicholson should be one of the new stars for Michigan State’s secondary after recording 31 tackles in 13 appearances as a redshirt freshman. The sophomore should push for All-Big Ten honors.


Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan

Peppers was poised for a significant role in Michigan’s defense last year, but a season-ending leg injury ended his 2014 campaign after the third game. In limited snaps in 2014, Peppers recorded eight tackles and returned one punt for six yards. Peppers was a five-star recruit in the 2014 signing class and should be an impact defender for new coordinator D.J. Durkin.


Tegray Scales, LB, Indiana

Improving the defense is coach Kevin Wilson’s top priority this offseason. The Hoosiers allowed 36 points per game in Big Ten action last year and ranked last in the conference against the pass. Scales is the type of player Wilson needs to generate improvement on this side of the ball, as the sophomore is an impact defender and a potential difference maker. In 12 games last season, Scales recorded 46 tackles (4.5 for a loss), two sacks and three interceptions.


Miles Taylor, S, Iowa

Iowa’s secondary is relatively set with the return of cornerbacks Greg Mabin and Desmond King, along with senior Jordan Lomax at safety. One spot is up for grabs this offseason, with Taylor expected to fill the strong safety job. In 13 appearances last year, Taylor recorded eight tackles. The sophomore is known for his big hits, but he has to prove he can handle more of a workload at safety this fall.


Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015


Malik Turner/Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois

With Mike Dudek sidelined indefinitely with a torn ACL, Turner and Geronimo Allison are the top targets at receiver for quarterback Wes Lunt. Both players are poised for a jump in production with Dudek out, with Allison the favorite to lead the team in catches after grabbing 41 receptions for 598 yards last year. But Turner also showed promise, catching 25 passes for 256 yards, including 10 receptions over the final three games.


Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern

Walker quietly led all Northwestern defenders with nine tackles for a loss last season. Expect bigger and even better things from the sophomore in 2015, as he looks to build off a strong freshman season that resulted in 51 tackles and 1.5 sacks. 


Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois

Ward flashed potential last season and should build off a promising debut for the Fighting Illini in 2015. Of course, there’s one problem for the senior, as he is expected to miss two games due to a knee injury. In 13 contests last season, Ward recorded three sacks, 8.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. Assuming he returns at full strength, the senior will be a difference maker for the Illinois’ defensive front.


Dedrick Young, LB, Nebraska

Don’t be surprised if Nebraska turns to a true freshman to start at linebacker this season. Young enrolled in time to compete in the spring and is pushing for a starting spot alongside upper classmen Josh Banderas and Michael Rose-Ivey. Young ranked as a three-star recruit in the 2015 signing class by 247Sports. Even if he doesn’t win the starting job, Young will be a major contributor in the linebacking corps.

Big Ten Football Breakout Players for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-minnesotas-college-football-schedule-2015

Minnesota's football program has shown continuous improvement each year under head coach Jerry Kill. That improvement has raised the bar of expectations in some circles, as the Golden Gophers are being mentioned as a front-runner in the Big Ten West, despite losing two of the conference's most talented offensive weapons from a season ago.


The 2015 slate will present plenty of challenges for Minnesota in its attempt to win a division title and possible more. Matchups with a couple of top-5-caliber teams as well as some tricky road games are scattered throughout the schedule.


Here now are Minnesota's 12 regular season games, ranked according to degree of difficulty from easiest to most difficult.


12. Sept. 19 vs. Kent State

This will be the first home game of the season with no limelight or pressure on the Gophers. The early start should eliminate any butterflies and allow Minnesota to go out and take care of business as expected.


11. Sept. 26 vs. Ohio

Ohio will be the third consecutive Group of Five team the Gophers play to wrap up their non-conference schedule. They'll need to remain focused, as Ohio head coach Frank Solich has won bigger games against better teams. His Bobcats will be ready.


10. Sept. 12 at Colorado State

Win or lose against TCU to open the season, the Gophers will need to be mentally prepared for a road trip against a team that won 10 games a season ago. New head coach Mike Bobo is trying to instill a bit of "SEC toughness" in Colorado State. 


9. Nov. 21 vs. Illinois

Illinois' strength is going to be its passing game. Thankfully for Minnesota, the secondary may be the defense's best unit. Aside from being more talented than the Illini, Minnesota's style of play is conducive to a sound win in this one.


8. Oct. 10 at Purdue

The Boilermakers are going to be in the same boat as Illinois. Purdue's strength will be its offense, but it'll still be no match for the talented playmakers on Minnesota's defense. The Gophers should be able to win this game even with a pedestrian effort from their offense.


7. Oct. 3 at Northwestern

The Wildcats are consistently one of the tougher teams to read and predict. This game being the Big Ten opener doesn't make things any easier for Minnesota. The Gophers will be favored, but anything can happen in Evanston.


6. Oct. 31 vs. Michigan

The Wolverines are probably going to get back to the top of the conference under Jim Harbaugh, but it won't be in 2015. These two teams have similar talent in a lot of places, but coaching continuity in Minnesota and question marks at quarterback in Michigan both favor the Gophers in this one.


5. Nov. 14 at Iowa

Kinnick Stadium is never an easy place to place. It's even tougher under the lights with the fans dressed in all black. The Hawkeyes have enough talent on both sides of the ball to make this battle for the Floyd of Rosedale an interesting one.


4. Oct. 17 vs. Nebraska

Minnesota has beaten the Huskers twice in a row. Nebraska wants to end that streak in the worst way. New coach Mike Riley is likely going to field a much more composed version of the Huskers. They won't crumble when the chips are down, and this one won't be decided until the fourth quarter.


3. Nov. 28 vs. Wisconsin

These two teams are almost mirror images of one another. The Badgers are going through a coaching change, but in reality, that's not going to mean much in terms of strategy and attack. This could be the de facto Big Ten West Division title game.


2. Sept. 3 (Thursday) vs. TCU

The Horned Frogs could very well be the best team in the country. The Gophers are going to find out just how good TCU is in Week 1. This game will either serve as a measuring stick for how far Minnesota needs to go or an announcement to the nation that the Gophers have arrived.


1. Nov. 7 at Ohio State

Minnesota played the Buckeyes tough a season ago at home. This one could be different. Ohio State might be better than it was last season and the Buckeyes will likely be firing on all cylinders in November. Incidentally, this might be the first of two meetings between the teams in 2015.


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Ranking the Toughest Games on Minnesota's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 09:45
Path: /nfl/positives-and-negatives-new-orleans-saints-first-two-preseason-games

Two weeks ago, my enthusiasm over finally seeing the New Orleans Saints play football for the first time in eight months quickly turned to dismay. The Saints’ performance in their first preseason game caused me to dread the upcoming. The weakest link in the defense, the secondary, saw two players leave the game with injuries in the first quarter at Baltimore. The Saints piled up 16 penalties for 143 yards. The first-string defense allowed touchdowns during the Ravens' first two series.


Meanwhile, the offense went three-and-out during its first two possessions. Topping off the mountain of calamities, the defense gave up a first down on fourth-an- 20 in the final minute, allowing the Ravens to continue the drive toward the game-winning points. After the first quarter, I was already designing a paper bag to wear while watching Sean Payton's team this season.


Related: 5 Keys to the New Orleans Saints' 2015 Season


After awaking the next morning, the light of a new day provided some different perspectives. I watched a replay of the fiasco just to torture myself a little bit more. I halted my nearly completed headgear of shame for the upcoming season.


First of all, Drew Brees did not take a single snap during the game. The Saints will succeed in nothing on offense other than setting the NFL record for punts in a season if he misses multiple games due to injuries. He served the team in a more valuable fashion by riding the bench. Other conclusions in this same vein include these: water is wet, the sun rises in the east and soccer is boring.


Secondly, Marques Colston and C.J. Spiller never did appear for a single down. Both will serve as vital cogs in this offense. Therefore, their absences made this game an invalid evaluation.


Finally, the Saints did win the turnover battle 2-0. That was encouraging considering that a team that does not give away the ball while taking away two from the opponent will very rarely lose.


On Saturday, I watched the Saints' second preseason game. Once again, they lost the lead in the last minute to drop to 0-2. They flubbed two-point conversion attempts three times during the game. They turned over the ball after not having done so last week.


Despite the loss to New England, New Orleans provided more reasons for optimism:


1. The Saints' defense held the Tom Brady-led Patriot starters to three-and-out on their first three offensive possessions.
2. The Saints’ expected offensive starters scored a field goal then two touchdowns on their first three possessions.
3. The number of penalties was cut in half compared to the first game, costing the name just 88 yards.


In the final analysis, I remind Saints fans everywhere to avoid overreacting to two defeats in both preseason games. The team did show improvement in most areas compared to the first game. Also, preseason games are notorious for misleading fans and media into predicting glorious success or humiliating failure in the upcoming season. If only I can convince myself to follow my own advice.


— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Positives and Negatives from the New Orleans Saints' First Two Preseason Games
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Tennessee Volunteers, SEC
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-land-top-2017-qb-hunter-johnson

The Tennessee Volunteers received a boost to their 2017 recruiting efforts in the form of a big-time commitment on Sunday. Hunter Johnson, who is ranked as the No. 1 high school quarterback in the nation for the 2017 class, has pledged to take his talents to Rocky Top.


The 6-foot-3, 197-pound, pro-style signal-caller from Brownsburg High School in Indiana is a 5-star prospect according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. 247Sports also ranks him as the No. 11 overall player in the nation for the class of 2017, and he has already committed to play in the 2017 U.S Army All-American game.


Related: Tennessee Volunteers Secure Commitment From 2018 Legacy Cade Mays


Johnson claims more than 20 offers from some of the best schools in the country. He ultimately chose Tennessee over the likes of Notre Dame, Florida, Michigan, Miami, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Penn State to name a few. The home state Fighting Irish were believed to be Tennessee’s toughest competitor in landing Johnson. NC State also was named as a finalist.


Johnson, who is just now entering his junior year at Brownsburg, decided to make the early commitment in order to focus on his final two seasons of high school football and avoid the many distractions that accompany the recruiting process. He has visited Knoxville on at least six occasions, citing comfort level as the deciding factor in choosing the Vols. Johnson becomes the Vols’ first commitment for the class of 2017 and plans on enrolling early at Tennessee.


— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McVey is a diehard Tennessee Volunteers' fan who loves singing "Rocky Top" every opportunity he gets. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS

Tennessee Volunteers Land Top 2017 QB Hunter Johnson
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 09:15
Path: /nfl/injury-maurkice-pouncey-makes-cody-wallace-pittsburgh-steelers-starting-center

Normally after a Pittsburgh Steelers game the five key points of the contest are reviewed here. But Sunday's 24-19 victory against the Green Bay Packers was notable not so much in that it was only Pittsburgh's second preseason victory in its last 11 exhibition games, or that it ended a four-game August losing streak.


It was notable because of the injury factor, namely that center Maurkice Pouncey could be lost for the season with a broken left ankle. Pouncey's injury wasn't the only one the Steelers suffered. Last year's second-round draft choice, defensive end Stephon Tuitt, also suffered a left ankle injury, and backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, like Pouncey recently removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list, may be returning to inactivity after injuring his left hand.


The Packers also suffered potential season-defining injuries. Star wide receiver Jordy Nelson is out for the season after sustaining a serious right knee injury, while guard T.J. Lang suffered a concussion.


Calls to shorten or end the preseason will likely become more prevalent, and the standard Pittsburgh sense of panic has accompanied Pouncey's injury. He is, after all, a four-time Pro Bowler. But is it valid?


It's true Pouncey was injured and did not play in Super Bowl XLV or in the playoffs the following season. The Steelers lost to the Packers, 31-25, in the Super Bowl and to the Broncos, 29-23, in overtime in the Wild Card round of the 2011 playoffs.


Some have pointed to Pouncey's injury as a reason for the losses. But to blame these defeats on Doug Legursky is a bit much. Legursky did not allow the Howard Green hit of Ben Roethlisberger that resulted in Nick Collins' game-changing interception in the Super Bowl, nor did he cause the key fumble from Rashard Mendenhall in the third quarter.


In fact, despite playing catch-up for the entire game, the Steelers outrushed Green Bay, 126-50, and Green's hurry notwithstanding, Roethlisberger was only sacked once despite attempting 40 passes.


Against Denver, Isaac Redman ran for 66 yards on three carries through the middle of the line, and the Steelers outrushed the Broncos, 156-131. While Roethlisberger was sacked five times, one has to wonder if this is because of Legursky's blocking calls or a bum ankle suffered the previous month by Big Ben in a 14-3 victory against Cleveland. Two weeks before the playoff loss, Legursky had started at center against the Rams along with backup quarterback Charlie Batch, who was not sacked once.


Others pointed to the fact the Steelers started the 2013 season 0-4 after Pouncey was lost for the season in Week 1. But the final record of 8-8 was the same as the season before, and one has to wonder if this poor start was solely the result of Pouncey's right ACL and MCL injury or a continuation of the team's demise that saw them lose five of its last seven games in 2012 and all four preseason games in ‘13.


The man who will step in for Pouncey this season is Cody Wallace. The journeyman lineman, 30, played in 15 games last season and actually started the final four games of the 2013 season after Fernando Velasco, signed to replace Pouncey, was injured and lost for the season in the 12th game of the year. For the record, the Steelers allowed only three sacks in their final three games that year behind Wallace, all victories, after allowing 40 sacks in the previous 13 games.


While the running game averaged roughly four yards a rush in two games with Wallace as the starting center, the Steelers gained less than three in a frigid 30-20 victory against the Bengals in their 14th game, and more than five per carry in a 38-31 victory at Green Bay the following week.


Wallace played college football at Texas A&M and was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round in 2008. The Steelers are the sixth organization he's been with, but they thought enough of Wallace to give him a three-year contract in 2014. Now he’ll have a chance to earn his paycheck, as the trigger man for what should be one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses.


— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson has been a contributor to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 15 years. He has covered the Steelers, Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.

Injury to Maurkice Pouncey makes Cody Wallace the Pittsburgh Steelers' Starting Center
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/florida-state-rb-dalvin-cook-found-not-guilty-battery-reinstated-team-2015

Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is back with the team after a one-day trial on misdemeanor battery charges ended in a not guilty verdict.


According to a release from the school, Cook has been reinstated immediately and is eligible to practice. The sophomore is expected to open the 2015 season as Florida State’s No. 1 running back. Cook is one of the nation’s top rushers after an impressive freshman campaign and is a key piece of the Seminoles’ offense with the departure of quarterback Jameis Winston. Cook's return to the field is also a huge boost for a Florida State backfield that should be one of the best in the nation. In addition to Cook, the Seminoles have touted freshman Jacques Patrick and Mario Pender.


The sophomore running back was suspended after charges were filed in early July, putting his status in question for the 2015 season. However, any doubts about Cook’s playing status for the upcoming year have cleared, as the verdict has opened the door for a full return.



Florida State RB Dalvin Cook Found Not Guilty of Battery; Reinstated to Team for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/baker-mayfield-easy-choice-oklahoma-its-starting-quarterback

Oklahoma’s quarterback battle was one of the biggest in college football this fall, but the intrigue is over in Norman. On Monday, the Sooners announced Baker Mayfield edged Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas for the starting spot for the Sept. 5 opener against Akron.


The decision to pick Mayfield as the starter is really no surprise. The Texas Tech transfer was considered the favorite since the spring and remained at the top of the depth chart over Knight and Thomas.


Mayfield has traveled an interesting path to Norman. The Texas native was a walk-on to Texas Tech in 2013 and started seven games for the Red Raiders. Mayfield threw for 2,315 yards and 12 scores during the regular season but decided to leave prior to the Holiday Bowl. Mayfield appealed for immediate eligibility with the Sooners in 2014. However, that appeal was unsuccessful, and Mayfield sat out 2014 as a result of transfer rules.


The play of the offense is under the microscope for Oklahoma this season. The Sooners averaged 36.4 points per game last year but ranked eighth in the Big 12 in passing and needed a new identity and direction.


Coach Bob Stoops decided to hit the reset button on offense, hiring rising star Lincoln Riley to call the plays. Riley plans on implementing an offense similar to the Air Raid approach he learned at Texas Tech under Mike Leach, as well as the one he coordinated at East Carolina from 2010-14.


Mayfield is well versed in this offense from his time at Texas Tech and in high school at Lake Travis. Having a grasp of this scheme certainly helped in this battle, and the junior possesses the confidence and playmaking ability to help Oklahoma make a quick transition to the new scheme.


Mayfield isn’t shy about taking chances with the ball, but he’s also accurate. The junior doesn’t necessarily have to connect on big plays every week, just be accurate and distribute the ball to the playmakers on the outside.


While Mayfield is likely the best fit among the Oklahoma quarterbacks for the new scheme, the strength of this offense still resides with its running backs. Samaje Perine, Alex Ross and Joe Mixon form one of the top backfields in the nation.


Choosing Mayfield as the starter should come as no surprise for the Sooners. But here’s the big question for Oklahoma: How much will the offense improve under Riley this year? With a loaded backfield and talent at receiver, there’s reason for optimism. However, there are four new starters on the line and a transition in schemes.


Is Mayfield the right player to lead this offense? Or will Thomas and Knight play their way into snaps? The Sept. 12 date at Tennessee should be a huge barometer test for Mayfield, Riley and Oklahoma’s new offense. For now, everything suggests Mayfield is the right (and easy) pick.

Baker Mayfield an Easy Choice to be Oklahoma's Starting Quarterback
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 16:01
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/kyle-allen-named-texas-am-starter-break-out-2015

Several SEC teams opened fall practice with uncertainty at quarterback, but Texas A&M ended any controversy about its signal-caller with 10 days until its opener against Arizona State. On Monday, coach Kevin Sumlin picked sophomore Kyle Allen as the team’s starter over talented freshman Kyler Murray.


The decision to go with Allen should come as no surprise. The sophomore was the favorite to win the job and played well in his stint as Texas A&M’s starter. With the announcement out of the way, Allen has a chance to spend a full allotment of practices over the next two weeks as the starter for game preparation against the Sun Devils.


As a true freshman last season, Allen guided the Aggies to an upset road victory over Auburn, passed for 237 yards and three scores in a 34-27 loss to Missouri and threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns in the 45-37 win over West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl.


The Arizona native was a five-star prospect in last year’s signing class and showed plenty of promise in a limited run as the starter. With a full offseason to work in the No. 1 role, the sophomore should be ready to build off that success in 2015 and could challenge for All-SEC honors.


Murray was also a five-star prospect, ranking as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2015 signing class by 247Sports. The touted true freshman should see some snaps this year but picking Allen as the starter was the right move by Sumlin. With valuable experience gained last season, combined with an impressive finish to the season, the sophomore is poised to emerge as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks.


Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Texas A&M since joining the SEC. And with one of the nation’s top receiving corps and a solid offensive line in place, the Aggies’ offensive attack won’t be easy to stop for opposing defenses once again in 2015. Murray is a dynamic and intriguing talent, but naming Allen as the team's starter was the right (and easy) call for Sumlin.

Kyle Allen Named Texas A&M's Starting Quarterback, Poised to Break Out in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 14:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Pac-12, USC Trojans
Path: /college-football/steve-sarkisian-apologizes-drunk-behavior-usc-rally-trojans-coach

Fans of USC are fired up, but not nearly as much as Steve Sarkisian was during a team rally.


The Trojans head coach was assumed to be intoxicated while giving a little speech to pump up the crowd during USC's Salute To Troy.


"Get ready to [expletive] fight on baby," Sarkisian yelled.



Sarkisian issued an apology this morning.


"I sincerely apologize to my players and staff and to our fans for my behavior and my inappropriate language at our kickoff event Saturday night. I have a responsibility to all of them and I let them down. [USC Athletic Director] Pat Haden talked to me after the even about my actions and I assured him this will not happen again."


Haden also mentioned the encounter and wants Sarkisian to use it as a learning experience.


"I met with Coach Sarkisian and I expressed my disappointment in the way he represented himself and the University at our Salute To Troy event. While the details of our conversation will remain between us, I am confident he heard my message loud and clear."

Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 14:28
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/pat-narduzzi-ohio-state-stole-michigan-state-defense-won-championship-pitt

Ohio State are the champions and that's undisputed.


There are some people out there that happen to think they should be credited for the Buckeyes' title. Former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi told The Griff & Grinz Show that Ohio State's defense is eerily similar to that of Michigan State.


"Ohio State's facing the same problem (against offenses), because they stole our defense, too," Narduzzi said. "There's a lot of teams throughout the country. You go watch them, they're exactly us, whether they admit it or not."


Narduzzi says it's no coinciedence the Buckeyes' scheme changed at some point. It's no secret that Michigan State arguably had one of the best defenses in the country under Narduzzi.


"They're exactly us, and they weren't before. They won a national championship with the defense." 


Narduzzi is now the head coach for Pitt and we're eager to see if he has a scheme for others to "steal" or if the Panthers will be the ones winning the championship this season. 

Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 13:07
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer Daly Cantrell.


Here is what she had to say about the Pac-12's football logos:



I love a good script font that is gender neutral… and this logo does the trick. The color scheme along with the beautiful flow of the letters makes this logo top in my book in the Pac-12.

2.OregonThe Ducks' O displays simplicity at its finest. The font of the O has a great shape that gives it a different compared to your average O.
3.USCThe interlocking letters make this logo. That subtle detail in the crossing gives just enough detail to really bring this logo to the next level.
4.WashingtonThe Huskies’ W is so classic and sleek that it works.
5.UCLAThe Bruins’ logo is a classic take on a script logo. Underlining the letters make the logo stand out and gives a great softness to all the curves.
6.Washington StateA lot of creativity went into making this logo. The subtle WSU in the body of the cougar is a really cool concept.
7.ColoradoI really like the concept behind this logo, but I wish the CU was a little easier to read.
8.StanfordStanford’s S is extremely classic. The touch of white and red trim makes the logo.
9.ArizonaI like the concept, but I hate that two typefaces were made in the making of this. The inner A is too pointed for the slab serif A around it.
10.Arizona StateI am glad they finally dropped the words that used to be incorporated with this logo. The pitchfork has an edginess to it and is quite different to the rest the logos in college football.
11.UtahThis logo could be really cool, but the circle bothers me. The block U and feather detail is great, but it the circle gives an off-balanced feel.
12.Oregon StateI am just not a fan of the beaver... it looks like a blob.


Ranking the Pac-12's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-floridas-college-football-schedule-2015

Life in the SEC is always survival of the fittest. The conference has nine teams ranked in Athlon Sports’ 2015 college football preseason Top 25, which is more than any other conference. The Florida Gators are not one of these nine teams.


Florida is probably not ranked because of its 7-5 record last season and the transition the program is currently going through. The school fired head coach Will Muschamp last November and hired Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain to replace him.


Related: Setting First-Year Expectations for Florida's Jim McElwain


Experts don’t have high expectations for the Gators this season, as during SEC Media Days the team was picked to finish fifth in the SEC East. Despite the low expectations, could the Gators be one of the biggest surprises in the SEC?


Here’s Florida 12 regular season games ranked from the easiest to the most difficult matchup.


12. Sept. 5 vs. New Mexico State

The New Mexico State went 2-10 last season so the Aggies are the runaway choice for the Gators’ easiest game of the 2015 season. New Mexico State’s defense finished 113th nationally in 2014, so Florida should have an opportunity to score 50 points on the Aggies.


11. Nov. 21 vs. FAU

FAU’s strength is running the football, as the Owls have Jaquez Johnson and Jay Warren, who each rushed for more than 500 yards last season. The problem is stopping the run is a strength of the Gators, as the team finished 13th in in the nation in rush defense. This should make for quick work of the Owls.


10. Nov. 7 vs. Vanderbilt

A couple of years ago, a game against Vanderbilt would not have been considered an easy game by any means. But after an abysmal 2014 season, the Commodores will have a tough time winning in The Swamp.


9. Sept. 12 vs. East Carolina

East Carolina had a successful AAC debut last season, as the team finished 8-5, including victories over ACC programs Virginia Tech and North Carolina. The Pirates will have to replace two of their better players in quarterback Shane Carden and wide receiver Justin Hardy along with having a new offensive coordinator. With East Carolina rebuilding, Florida will be the favorites in Gainesville.


8. Nov. 14 at South Carolina

Steve Spurrier will have a tough time replacing his playmakers at South Carolina, as the team returns only four starters on offense. The defense has been rebuilt and revamped, but it doesn’t have enough game-changers to be a challenger in the SEC East. While it won’t be easy, Florida can go into Columbia and defeat South Carolina.


7. Sept 19 at Kentucky

Who could forget the Gators’ thrilling 36-30 overtime victory against the Wildcats last September? Kentucky got close to making a bowl game last season and Mark Stoops will have his team looking for revenge against the Gators.


6. Oct. 10 at Missouri

The Tigers have won two straight against the Gators, including last season’s 42-13 victory in Gainesville. The Tigers have some issues at wide receiver and on defense to figure out, but they should be in the thick of the SEC East race once again in 2015.


5. Sept. 26 vs. Tennessee

The last time Tennessee defeated the Gators was back in 2004, when George W. Bush was finishing his first term in office, “American Idol” was television's No.1 show and gas was only $1.85 per gallon. The Volunteers are many an analyst’s pick for SEC sleeper team this fall.  With 18 returning starters from a team that went 7-6 last season, Tennessee will be looking to break its 10-game losing streak against the Gators.


4. Oct. 17 at LSU

While LSU went a disappointing 8-5 last season, playing in Tiger Stadium is always a chore for any opponent. The Tigers should be improved with their 16 returning starters, including stud running back Leonard Fournette. Florida and LSU have traditionally played each other tough and this season probably won’t be any different.


3. Oct. 3 vs. Ole Miss

Ole Miss has enough talent to not only defeat Florida in The Swamp, but also to win the SEC West this season. Last season the Rebels went 9-4 and return plenty of NFL-caliber talent. If Ole Miss can find a quarterback to replace three-year starter Bo Wallace, watch out.


2. Nov. 28 vs. Florida State

The Florida vs. Florida State game is always one of college football’s most bitter and intense rivalries. The Seminoles have finished with 12 or more wins each of the last three seasons. While Florida State lost a lot of talent to the NFL, this will still be one of the toughest games on the Gators’ schedule.


1. Oct. 31 vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, Fla.)

Georgia's talent is as good as it has been in several years, but the Bulldogs have to find a quarterback. If they can settle on one guy, Georgia can not only win the SEC East, but they also can make a run at the College Football Playoff and perhaps a national title.


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Ranking the Toughest Games on Florida's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/kyle-flood-rutgers-enter-critical-second-season-big-ten

It’s not as if Rutgers has ever had any realistic expectations to be one of the premiere college football programs in the country, but joining the Big Ten amplifies everything for everyone involved. Both players and coaches are under immense scrutiny to not only perform at the highest level, but exceed expectations en route to soaring heights for their programs.


Greg Schiano brought Rutgers football back into the national spotlight in 2006, in what could be one of the most wild college football seasons in history, finishing 11-2 and beating Kansas State in a January bowl game. However since that memorable season the program has fallen back into mediocrity, going just 57-42 over the past eight years.


One thing Schiano brought back to the Scarlet Knights was a respect factor. A team that was once considered the worst program in all of college football, Schiano’s Knights were ranked in the preseason Top 25 in 2006, the first time in 30 years the program had seen a number next to their name.


But Schiano’s success with a once-moribund program didn’t go unnoticed, as he left following the 2011 season for the NFL as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Given what Schiano helped build, Rutgers felt it best to keep both structure and continuity in the program and decided to hire within by promoting longtime assistant coach Kyle Flood.


Flood, who has been with the program since 2005, saw immediate success in 2012, finishing 9-4 and tied for first in the then Big East Conference, ultimately losing in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The 2013 season was a rude awakening from Flood’s honeymoon campaign, as the Scarlet Knights finished below .500 at 6-7, missing out on a bowl game and landing near the bottom of the brand-new American Athletic Conference.


Last season, Rutgers’ debut in the Big Ten was viewed as both a surprise and a success, not only to those close to the program, but outside as well. A team that many national pundits expected to finish with double-digit losses, tallied an eight-win season. Their performance in Big Ten games was unimpressive, as all five losses in 2014 coming at the hands of conference foes, including blowout defeats against perennial powers Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska.


The Scarlet Knights’ first season in Big Ten play wasn’t all bad, however, as it also included victory over Michigan at home, and a nail-biting loss to Penn State early in the season in Happy Valley. Even with the mixed results, Rutgers and Flood put belief in a fan base that was otherwise skeptical about the team’s future success in a Power 5 conference.


The issue at hand is whether Flood can sustain and build on the success the program saw in year one as members of the Big Ten. Especially considering that Ohio State is the reigning national champion, and Michigan State appears to be knocking on the door of being a part of the College Football Playoff by season’s end. Not only is competition ramping up at a rapid pace in the conference, but recruiting also is expected to be at its most competitive moving forward with Jim Harbaugh returning to Michigan to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Buckeyes’ Urban Meyer and the Nittany Lions’ James Franklin.


Flood’s career 23-16 record, while nothing to be overly ashamed about, isn’t anything to be comfortable with either. His Scarlet Knights have a difficult schedule in 2015, with major road tests against the likes of Penn State early and then Wisconsin and Michigan in back-to-back in weeks to end October and open November.


One of Flood’s biggest marks against him is that while he can beat quality football teams, he loses, and sometimes in embarrassing fashion, to very bad football teams. In just his second year in 2013, he saw his team lose five of its final seven games after beginning the season 4-1, and only two of the teams the Scarlet Knights lost to that year finished their seasons with winning records. If Flood continues this discouraging trend, the whispers about his job security that are already circulating around Piscataway are only going to get louder with the pressure of competing in a power conference in a major television market hanging over the program’s head.


The 2015 season likely won’t be the battle axe that comes down on Flood’s head unless it’s an absolute abomination. If it’s anywhere other than on the field that’ll cost Flood his job, it’ll be in recruiting. According to’s Composite Rankings, Rutgers had the 24th overall recruiting class in the country in 2012; which would’ve been mostly credited to Schiano prior to his departure to the NFL.


In the three full years Flood has been the head coach, the program’s performance has steadily declined in the rankings, coming in at 50th (2013), 53rd (2014), and 55th during the 2015 cycle. If there’s any sort of silver lining from those gaudy numbers, it’s that Rutgers currently is on pace for a major improvement, as they currently sit 43rd in the country with National Signing Day still seven months away.


With another eight-win campaign for the Scarlet Knights, and even just two or three top recruits committing to the future of the program, Flood could begin to build what both fans and boosters are looking for — an annual Big Ten powerhouse.


While this upcoming season isn’t likely to be the be-all-end-all for Flood as the head coach, it’s certainly a crucial season. If there was a meter to gauge his hot seat ranking, one could argue that it’s a firm, very firm 6/10. That rating is purely contingent upon his success during the 2015 campaign.


Rutgers isn’t expected to dominate Big Ten competition, being that the Scarlet Knights are still basically playing with a roster built to compete in the AAC. But a few upset victories could really propel Flood and this program to new heights in a Power 5 conference. A few upset losses, however, and Flood could be in search of new employment, for better or worse. None of us will know until the games are played, but there’s reason for concern in the birthplace of college football, and the time is now for Flood to earn himself some job security.


— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for and has written for other sites, including and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.

Kyle Flood, Rutgers Enter Critical Second Season in the Big Ten
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/randy-moss-petite-direct-tv-commercial-nfl

Don't be like Petite Randy Moss, because his life is not at fun as the regular-sized one.


In a new commercial for DirecTV, we get a preview into the former NFL star's life, and what it would've been like if he would've chose cable. Spoiler: The outcome would not have been so good. 


Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 11:29
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/cris-carter-apologizes-telling-nfl-rookies-have-fall-guy-bridgewater-chris-borland

Leave it to the internet to make a big deal out of something said a year ago.


During a 2014 NFL Rookie Symposium, the former NFL star, along with Warren Sapp, talked to the rookies about all kinds of things and it was recently brought to light because of an ESPN profile of former 49ers player Chris Borland. He said the talk of the former player, later found out to be Carter, appalled him but he decided to stay because he didn't want to make a scene.


"Get yourself a fall guy. I was just sitting there thinking, 'Should I walk out? What am I supposed to do?'" Borland told ESPN.



Carter recently apologized for his comments, once they had come to light over the weekend.



Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 11:05
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-30-offensive-lines-2015

The offensive line is often the most overlooked position for any college football team. While the linemen in the trenches don’t get enough credit, they are often the most important piece to a successful offense. Flashy skill talent and quarterbacks take home all of the accolades and headlines, but neither position can thrive without a solid offensive line.


Which teams are strongest in the trenches heading into the 2015 season? Five SEC teams rank among college football's best lines, while Ohio State and Michigan State give the Big Ten two teams inside of the top three. 


Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015


How did we come up with these rankings? A couple of factors were considered. Depth, overall talent, production, level of competition and projected output in 2015 all factored into the rankings for the backfield. While some teams may have experienced a down year last season, having a different quarterback or a change of scheme can make a huge difference. These rankings reflect projection for 2015, not solely what teams have accomplished in 2014.


CFB's Top 30 Offensive Lines for 2015


1. Georgia

New line coach Rob Sale couldn’t ask for a better way to begin his tenure in Athens. This unit allowed only 12 sacks in SEC games and excelled in run blocking by clearing lanes for rushers to average 6.0 yards per carry. All-SEC center David Andrews will be missed, but Sale’s group is set with the return of rising star Greg Pyke at guard, along with the standout tackle duo of John Theus and Kolton Houston. Brandon Kublanow is the favorite to replace Andrews at center.


2. Michigan State

The Spartans boasted one of the nation’s top offensive lines last season, and this unit is only getting better with the return of four starters, along with the emergence of sophomore guard Brian Allen. Left tackle Jack Conklin and center Jack Allen headline a group that gave up only 11 sacks last season and allowed rushers to average 5.2 yards per carry. Senior guard Donavon Clark and right tackle Kodi Kieler anchor an experienced right side.


3. Ohio State 

After a shaky start to the 2014 season, no line in the nation progressed as much as Ohio State’s. The Buckeyes gave up seven sacks in the loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2 but allowed only 15 sacks in Big Ten games, and quarterback Cardale Jones was sacked once in the national title win over Oregon. Four starters are back, and the Buckeyes expect this group to be even stronger. Left tackle Taylor Decker and right guard Pat Elflein are the unit’s top performers and first-team Athlon Sports All-Americans for 2015. Jacoby Boren returns at center, while Billy Price (left guard) and Chase Farris (right tackle) round out the starting five.


Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015


4. Baylor

The success of Baylor’s high-powered offense starts in the trenches. Left tackle Spencer Drango considered an early jump to the NFL, but the three-year starter is back and is a first-team Athlon Sports All-American for 2015. Three other seniors join Drango up front, including guard Blake Muir and tackle Pat Colbert. Center Kyle Fuller started all 13 games last year and will push for all-conference honors in 2015. The coaching staff wants to develop more depth, but there are few concerns about the starting group. This unit gave up only one sack every 22 pass attempts and allowed Baylor rushers to average 4.5 yards per carry.


5. Arkansas

The Razorbacks return four starters from the nation’s largest offensive line. This unit cleared the way for rushers to average 5.1 yards per carry and allowed only 14 sacks in 2014. All five projected starters for 2015 weigh over 300 pounds, with converted guard Denver Kirkland slated to anchor the line at left tackle. Kirkland and Dan Skipper are among the SEC’s best up front, and the tackle duo will have plenty of support from the starters on the interior. Sebastian Tretola is a mauling 322-pound guard, and senior Mitch Smothers enters 2015 with 21 career starts. Sophomore Frank Ragnow is the only new starter for this unit. 


Related: SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015


6. Auburn  

The Tigers must replace standout center Reese Dismukes and guard Chad Slade, but this unit remains a strength for coach Gus Malzahn. Three starters are back, including tackle Avery Young and left tackle Shon Coleman. The return of guard Alex Kozan from a back injury should bolster the interior, while Austin Golson and Xavier Dampeer are locked into a tight battle to replace Dismukes at center. Promising sophomore Braden Smith is expected to start at right guard. This unit allowed only 10 sacks in SEC play last season.


7. LSU  

LSU’s passing offense is once again surrounded in mystery. However, there’s no doubt about the strength of the Tigers’ offense. The rushing attack should be among the best in the SEC and is anchored by rising star Leonard Fournette. The line is also a big part of LSU’s success on the ground, as three starters return from a unit that helped the Tigers average 224.5 rushing yards per game in 2014. Tackles Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins are among the best in the SEC, while Ethan Pocic (a returning starter) is penciled in at left guard. Freshman Will Clapp (center) and Garrett Brumfield (right guard) should round out the starting five.


Related: Ranking the SEC's Top 15 Players for 2015


8. Alabama  

The Crimson Tide’s offensive line is undergoing some renovations with the loss of three starters. However, line coach Mario Cristobal has plenty of talent to develop, while the two returning starters – left tackle Cam Robinson and center Ryan Kelly – are among the best in the nation at their position. Redshirt freshman Ross Pierschbacher is expected to start at left guard, while Bradley Bozeman and Alphonse Taylor are battling for snaps at right guard. Senior Dominick Jackson has the inside track at right tackle.


9. USC  

The Trojans need to settle on a starting five, but this unit has plenty of promise and talent leading the way for one of the nation’s top offenses. Solidifying the left tackle position is critical, as junior Chad Wheeler is working his way back from a knee injury suffered in 2014. Toa Lobendahn could start at left tackle if Wheeler isn’t ready, or the talented sophomore could shift inside to left guard. Max Tuerk is arguably the nation’s best center, while the Trojans also boast returning starters at right tackle (Zach Banner) and right guard (Viane Talamaivao).


Related: Ranking the Pac-12's Top 15 Players for 2015


10. TCU

Protecting quarterback Trevone Boykin won’t be a problem for TCU in 2015. The Horned Frogs return four starters from a unit that allowed 23 sacks in 13 games last season. Hala Vaitai missed time in the spring due to a shoulder injury, but the senior is penciled in at left tackle after starting on the right side last year. Center Joey Hunt is among the nation’s best, while fellow seniors Jamelle Naff and Brady Foltz round out the returning starters.


11. Stanford

12. Notre Dame  

13. Texas Tech 

14. Boise State  

15. Georgia Tech 

16. UCLA  

17. Missouri  

18. Texas A&M 

19. Ole Miss  

20. Oregon  

21. Pittsburgh  

22. Wisconsin 

23. Kansas State 

24. Indiana  

25. North Carolina 

26. Minnesota  

27. Oklahoma State

28. Michigan

29. Texas

30. Bowling Green

College Football's Top 30 Offensive Lines for 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-clemsons-college-football-schedule-2015

If you want to see the biggest games in the ACC, Clemson Memorial Stadium is the place to be in 2015. What looks like the most important game on the conference schedule, the Tigers versus Florida State on Nov. 7, will be played at Clemson. So will the highly anticipated clash with Notre Dame and the match up with Coastal contender Georgia Tech.


Related: The ACC's 5 Most Intriguing Non-Conference Matchups for 2015


Head coach Dabo Swinney and the Tigers do have some challenges on the road, including at Louisville and at North Carolina State. But Clemson catches a break this year. In the Tigers' pursuit of an ACC title — and a spot in the College Football Playoff — their biggest games are at home.


Here is a ranking of Clemson’s 12 regular season games, from easiest to most difficult.


12. Sept. 5 vs. Wofford

The Terriers will come to Clemson to open season, get beat in a bad way, and will go home with a very sizeable paycheck. 


11. Sept. 12 vs. Appalachian State

The Mountaineers return 20 starters from a 7-5 team and are poised to make noise in the Sun Belt. They won’t see anyone in the Sun Belt quite like Clemson.


10. Nov. 21 vs. Wake Forest

Wake’s questionable secondary will struggle to contain the Clemson skill players and the Deacons' offense should sputter against most everyone. The spot on the schedule makes this a slightly easier game than...


9. Nov. 14 at Syracuse

Wake should have a better team than the Orange. But this is a road game and the Tigers will be coming off their steel cage match with Florida State.


8. Oct. 24 at Miami

This isn’t about where this is on Clemson’s schedule; it’s about where it is on Miami’s schedule. The Canes’ four games leading up to the Tigers are Nebraska, Cincinnati, Florida State and Virginia Tech.


7. Oct. 17 vs. Boston College

Clemson has Notre Dame and then Georgia Tech prior to hosting the Eagles. BC’s tough front seven could give Clemson’s young offensive line some problems.


6. Sept. 17 (Thursday) at Louisville

Thursday nights at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium are never easy. Clemson does have two layup games before going to Louisville while the Cardinals will be tested by Auburn and Houston.


5. Nov. 28  at South Carolina

Last year, Clemson broke a five-game losing streak versus the hated Gamecocks. They are now looking to end a three-game skid at Williams-Brice.


4. Oct. 31 at NC State

The Wolfpack should be a balanced unit with a lot of returning starters. Plus, there is the danger of looking ahead to Florida State, something that is not recommended when venturing to Raleigh.


3. Oct. 10 vs. Georgia Tech

There will be a lot of hype when Notre Dame comes to Clemson seven days before Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets' veteran offensive line and their multiple-option attack could be an issue for Clemson’s inexperienced defensive front.


2. Oct. 3 vs. Notre Dame

Like Clemson, Notre Dame wants to be playing on New Year’s Eve in either Miami or Dallas. The Irish are used to all kinds of crazy environments, which is good for them because Death Valley will be a madhouse. 


1. Nov. 7 vs. Florida State

It’s not that the Seminoles are necessarily better than Notre Dame. It’s that this is the game that will probably decide the Atlantic Division and Clemson has bad memories of the Seminoles' last visit to the upstate.


— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Ranking the Toughest Games on Clemson's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 10:30