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The MAC enters another year with familiar faces at the top of the projected standings, but could there be a changing of the guard in the West Division? Northern Illinois has won six consecutive West Division titles and is positioned for another run at the MAC Championship with 12 returning starters. However, Western Michigan is a team on the rise behind coach P.J. Fleck, and the Broncos host Northern Illinois on Oct. 8 for a game that could decide the division winner. New coach Jason Candle isn’t expected to make many changes at Toledo, and the Rockets remain squarely in the mix for the West Division title.

 

The picture is murkier in the East Division. Ohio is Athlon’s pick to win this division, but Bowling Green and Akron aren’t far behind. And it may not take a 7-1 or 6-2 record to win the East. The Falcons have to replace quarterback Matt Johnson, the Zips lost key players on both sides of the ball, and the Bobcats also have to find an answer under center. Athlon’s projections have the top three teams from the East tied at 5-3 for the league title, with Ohio – the projected champion – checking in at No. 91 nationally.  

 

Five Key Questions That Will Shape the MAC in 2016

 

1. Will Northern Illinois Win its Seventh West Division Title in a Row?

Dominant. It’s a simple word, but it’s the best way to describe Northern Illinois’ run in the MAC West over the last six years. The Huskies have claimed six straight trips to the MAC title game and earned three conference titles in that span. And under coach Rod Carey, Northern Illinois has lost only three conference games since 2013. While last season’s six losses were the most since 2009, there’s no reason to panic in DeKalb. Injuries were largely to blame for last year’s losses, including a season-ending ailment to starting quarterback Drew Hare in early November. With Hare back under center, the Huskies should own one of the MAC’s top offenses once again. Additionally, new coordinators Kevin Kane (defense) and Mike Uremovich (offense) should provide a spark on both sides of the ball. However, there are obstacles for Carey’s team to overcome. The Huskies lose three All-MAC performers on defense, and two first-team all-conference linemen depart on offense. The schedule also features a road game at Western Michigan, and the home date against Toledo was moved to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.   

 

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2. Western Michigan or Toledo in the West?

While Northern Illinois has owned the MAC West over the last six seasons, Athlon is picking against the Huskies in 2016. It’s a close call at the top, but Western Michigan and Toledo are Athlon’s pick to take the top spots in the West. Why Western Michigan? The Broncos host both the Rockets and Huskies this season – a critical scheduling note after all three teams tied at 6-2 at the top of the league in 2015. Western Michigan also returns eight starters from a dynamic offense. Quarterback Zach Terrell is the MAC’s top signal-caller, and receiver Corey Davis should be an All-American pick in 2016. Additionally, Western Michigan has recruited well under coach P.J. Fleck, and this program has been trending up over the last two seasons. While Matt Campbell was a rising star at Toledo, new coach Jason Candle will keep the Rockets in contention for the MAC title. A deep backfield and standout line leads the way on offense, while the addition of graduate transfers Earl Moore (DT) and Jeremi Powell (LB) add talent to a defense that returns only four starters. Another tight race at the top of the division should be expected, but Western Michigan’s favorable home slate should help this program earn its first trip to the MAC title game since 2000.

 

3. Is there a Clear Favorite in the East Division?

Not at all. The MAC’s East Division was one of the toughest leagues to sort out in Athlon’s prediction meetings for the magazine. Bowling Green has won the last three East Division titles, but the Falcons have a new coach (Mike Jinks) and lose standout quarterback Matt Johnson and receivers Roger Lewis and Gehrig Dieter. Jinks should keep a similar offensive style in place, but he’s never been a head coach or coordinator at the FBS level. Akron has made progress under coach Terry Bowden and is coming off the best season in program history. However, the Zips return only six starters and must replace five starters on the offensive line. With uncertainty at Akron and Bowling Green, Athlon’s pick to win the East is Ohio. The Bobcats haven’t had a losing record since 2008 and are a steady winner under coach Frank Solich. Ohio isn’t without its share of personnel concerns, as a quarterback must emerge, and the secondary needs to find three new starters. However, the Bobcats host Bowling Green and Akron and won’t have to play Northern Illinois or Western Michigan from the West Division in crossover play.

 

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4. Central Michigan…a Sleeper in the MAC West?

The balance of power in the MAC is clearly slanted to the West Division for 2016. The league’s top four teams reside in that division this year. Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan are considered the top three teams, but Central Michigan shouldn’t be overlooked. Under first-year coach John Bonamego, the Chippewas tied for the MAC West title at 6-2 in league play last season. Central Michigan is aiming even higher in Bonamego’s second year, and the return of quarterback Cooper Rush should keep the Chippewas within striking distance of the top three. Rush is surrounded by a deep group of receivers, and the ground attack should improve with a full year from running back Devon Spalding. Additionally, the defense returns seven starters, with the line getting a boost from Joe Ostman’s return from injury. Central Michigan has to play at Northern Illinois and Toledo, but rival Western Michigan visits Mount Pleasant. The Chippewas are just a step behind the top three in Athlon’s overall power rankings for 2016. However, Rush is capable of carrying this team to the MAC title game.

 

5. Miami and Buffalo on the Rise?

As mentioned above, there’s not a clear favorite in the East Division. And with the uncertainty and personnel question marks surrounding Ohio, Akron and Bowling Green, could a surprise team emerge to win the division? If so, keep a close eye on Buffalo and Miami. The RedHawks have made steady progress under coach Chuck Martin, and with 13 returning starters, this team is poised to challenge for at least a .500 mark in conference play. Miami needs to settle on a quarterback, but a favorable schedule should allow the RedHawks to easily exceed last year’s three wins. Lance Leipold was one of the top head coach hires from 2015, and the future for the Buffalo program is still bright after a 5-7 record last season. Quarterback Joe Licata must be replaced, but the Bulls should be solid on defense and have promising pieces – quarterback Tyree Jackson and running back Jordan Johnson – to build around on offense. 

 

MAC 2016 Team Previews

East Division
 

National

Rank:

98 97 113 118 112 91
West Division
 

National

Rank:

116 88 124 80 79 69

 

Visit the  to order a copy of the 2016 National College Football Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 128 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year. 

 

 

MAC Football 2016 Predictions
         
East Division
Rank Team   Projected MAC Record Projected Overall Record
1

(No. 91)

5-3 7-6
.
2

(No. 97)

5-3 6-6
.
3

(No. 98)

5-3 6-6
.
4

(No. 112)

3-5 4-8
.
5

(No. 113)

3-5 5-7
.
6

(No. 118)

1-7 3-9
.
         
West Division
Rank Team   Projected MAC Record Projected Overall Record
1

(No. 69)

6-2 9-4
.
2

(No. 79)

6-2 8-4
.
3

(No. 80)

6-2 8-4
.
4

(No. 88)

5-3 7-5
.
5

(No. 116)

2-6 3-9
.
6

(No. 124)

1-7 3-9
.
         
MAC Championship
 Western Michigan over Ohio 

 

MAC 2016 Superlatives and Season Predictions
 

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Mark

Ross

David

Fox

 
Offensive POY

Corey Davis

WR, WMU

Corey Davis

WR, WMU

Kareem Hunt

RB, Toledo

Kareem Hunt

RB, Toledo

Defensive POY

Shawun Lurry

CB, NIU

Shawun Lurry

CB, NIU

Shawun Lurry

CB, NIU

Shawun Lurry

CB, NIU

Coach of the Year

P.J. Fleck

WMU

P.J. Fleck

WMU

P.J. Fleck

WMU

John Bonamego

CMU

Coach on Hot Seat

Paul Haynes

Kent State

Paul Haynes

Kent State

Paul Haynes

Kent State

Paul Haynes

Kent State

Top Freshman

Keishawn Watson

WR, WMU

Matt Falcon

RB, WMU

Tyree Jackson

QB, Buffalo

Keishawn Watson

WR, WMU

Top Newcomer

Warren Ball

RB, Akron

Tee Shepard

CB, Miami

Warren Ball

RB, Akron

Earl Moore

DT, Toledo

Sleeper Team Miami Miami Akron Central Michigan
Top Coordinator Hire

Brian George

DC, Toledo

Tim Daoust

DC, Ball State

Brian George

DC, Toledo

Brian George

DC, Toledo

Key Position to Watch WMU DL WMU DL WMU DB WMU DB
Hardest to Evaluate Bowling Green Bowling Green Bowling Green Ohio
Coach on the Rise

P.J. Fleck

HC, WMU

P.J. Fleck

HC, WMU

P.J. Fleck

HC, WMU

Jason Candle

HC, Toledo

Must-See Game

Toledo at 

W. Michigan

Toledo at

W. Michigan

W. Michigan at

Illinois

Toledo at

W. Michigan

Breakout Player

Jordan Johnson

RB, Buffalo

Teo Redding

WR, BGSU

Alonzo Smith

RB, Miami

Devon Spalding

RB, CMU

Comeback Player

Pat O'Connor

DL, EMU

Joe Ostman

DL, CMU

Drew Hare

QB, NIU

Drew Hare

QB, NIU

 

Ranking the MAC's Coaches for 2016

 

1. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan

2. Frank Solich, Ohio

3. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois

 

 

Ranking the MAC's Top Five Quarterbacks for 2016

 

1. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan

2. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan

3. Drew Hare, Northern Illinois

4. Thomas Woodson, Akron

5. Logan Woodside, Toledo

 

MAC's Top Five Non-Conference Games for 2016

 

1. Western Michigan at Northwestern (Sept. 3)

2. San Diego State at Northern Illinois (Sept. 17)

3. Western Michigan at Illinois (Sept. 17)

4. Georgia Southern at Western Michigan (Sept. 24)

5. Toledo at BYU (Oct. 30)

 

Key Coordinator Hires for 2016

 

1. Brian George, Defensive Coordinator, Toledo

2. Kevin Kane, Defensive Coordinator, Northern Illinois

3. Tim Daoust, Defensive Coordinator, Ball State

4. Mike Uremovich, Offensive Coordinator, Northern Illinois

5. Neal Neathery, Defensive Coordinator, Eastern Michigan

 

Top Incoming Freshmen ()

 

1. Matthew Falcon, RB, Western Michigan

2. Tony Poljan, QB, Central Michigan

3. Stefan Claiborne, S, Western Michigan

4. Spencer Kanz, OL, Western Michigan

5. Armani Posey, DB, Bowling Green

6. Matt Little, QB, Western Michigan

7. Tristian Pipp, LB, Western Michigan

8. Eric Rogers, LB, Western Michigan

9. Keevon Harris, ATH, Ohio

10. Dontre Boyd, CB, Western Michigan

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Braden Gall, David Fox and Mitch Light are back in the booth talking the latest in college football.

 

- Did the Big 12 get it right by adding a conference championship game? What are the benefits and drawbacks of a 13th data point? How should the new divisions be divided?

 

- How good of a job is Baylor? Where does it rank nationally and within the Big 12? Where did it rank before Art Briles?

 

- Will Art Briles ever work again in college football? The guys disagree on this one.

 

- Did Mississippi State miss a chance to make a difference with Jeffery Simmons? What number of games would have been the right number to suspend Simmons?

 

- New Vegas odds are out for the 2016 national championship and the guys offer up their best bets and favorite long shots.

 

Check out the .

 

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Send any ideas, questions or comments to  @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email . The podcast can be found on  and our .

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The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry has produced plenty of memorable moments throughout its history, and the battle on Nov. 26 should have plenty at stake, as the East Division title and a spot in the College Football Playoff could be up for grabs. With Jim Harbaugh taking over in Ann Arbor, the intensity in this rivalry has only increased over the last two years. The Wolverines took a step forward last season and should be even better in 2016 with 14 returning starters. The Buckeyes aren’t hurting for talent, but coach Urban Meyer’s team has to retool on both sides of the ball. That task is made easier with the return of quarterback J.T. Barrett and talented options at each level on the defense.

 

While most of the preseason attention is focused on Ohio State and Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State – the two division winners from 2016 – shouldn’t be overlooked. The Spartans suffered some key personnel losses, but coach Mark Dantonio should have this team back in the mix for 10 wins. The Hawkeyes return one of the nation’s top defenders in cornerback Desmond King and enter the season as the clear favorite in the West Division. Wisconsin has the talent to push Iowa for the top spot, but the Badgers face a brutal schedule in coach Paul Chryst’s second year in Madison. Nebraska could be the biggest threat to the Hawkeyes if Mike Riley’s team quickly retools on the defensive line and cuts down on the turnovers after a minus-19 margin in 2015.

 

Five Key Questions That Will Shape the Big Ten in 2016

 

1. Ohio State or Michigan in the East Division?

Michigan State shouldn’t be overlooked in the Big Ten East, but Michigan and Ohio State are favorites in this division for 2016. How much separation is there between these two teams? Not much. In Athlon’s projected 128 rankings for 2016, Ohio State is picked to finish No. 3 overall, while Michigan checks in at No. 5. The Wolverines took a big step forward in Jim Harbaugh’s first season, increasing their win total by five games after a 5-7 mark in 2014 and finishing No. 12 in the Associated Press poll. And Michigan wasn’t too far from a playoff bid last season after losing two games by seven points or less, including the last-second loss to Michigan State. The Wolverines need to find a quarterback to replace Jake Rudock, but the rest of the team is in good shape. New coordinator Don Brown guides one of the nation’s best defenses, while the offense features an improving line and one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps. Ohio State has significantly more question marks this preseason than the Wolverines, but Urban Meyer has recruited as well as any coach in the nation. There’s plenty of talent in place for the Buckeyes – it’s just unproven. J.T. Barrett is the unquestioned starter at quarterback, and a full offseason as the No. 1 option should help the junior return to his freshman form. The defense returns only three starters, but there’s not much concern for this unit. New co-coordinator Greg Schiano inherits one of the nation’s top linebackers in junior Raekwon McMillan and a pair of standout ends in Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard. What could be the deciding factors in the Ohio State-Michigan battle to win the East? The Buckeyes host the Wolverines on Nov. 26 – plenty of time for Meyer’s team to reload – and there’s a clear edge at quarterback with J.T. Barrett over John O’Korn or Wilton Speight.

 

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2. How Fast Will Michigan State Reload?

As mentioned above, Michigan State shouldn’t be overlooked in the Big Ten East Division. However, the Spartans have several key personnel issues to address from a team that finished 12-2 and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff in 2015. On offense, the line has to be retooled following the departures of Jack Conklin and Jack Allen, a new No. 1 receiver must emerge, and quarterback Connor Cook expired his eligibility. Defense has been a strength for Michigan State under coach Mark Dantonio, and there’s a strong foundation in place with five returning starters. Shilique Calhoun will be missed at defensive end, but tackle Malik McDowell is back to anchor the line of scrimmage, and linebacker Ed Davis and cornerback Vayante Copeland return from injury. With Dantonio at the helm, Michigan State is better equipped to handle personnel losses and reload quicker than in previous years. Additionally, the Spartans host Michigan and Ohio State in two games that will define where this team stacks up in the East Division. Michigan State may not match last year’s 12 wins but another double-digit victory total isn’t out of the question.

 

College Football: Breaking Down Athlon’s 2016 Top 25



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3. Can Nebraska or Wisconsin Push Iowa for the Top Spot in the West?

Probably not. The Hawkeyes may not replicate last year’s run into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, but Kirk Ferentz’s team is still the best in the Big Ten West. Quarterback C.J. Beathard is the Big Ten’s No. 2 quarterback behind Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, and there’s a solid stable of backs to lean on until a few playmakers emerge at receiver. The defense limited opponents to 20.4 points a game last season and returns eight starters, including All-America cornerback Desmond King. Another huge boost to Iowa’s division title hopes is a favorable schedule. The Hawkeyes catch Michigan in crossover play with the East Division, but Iowa does not have to play Ohio State or Michigan State, while Nebraska and Wisconsin visit Iowa City. Wisconsin finished a solid 10-3 under new coach Paul Chryst last year and has enough returning talent to win the division. However, the Badgers face a brutal schedule and enter fall practice with uncertainty at quarterback. Nebraska might be the Big Ten’s biggest wild card team for 2016. The Cornhuskers weren’t as bad as their 6-7 record indicated in 2015, and better luck in the turnover department (minus-19 last year) and close games should equal improvement in the win column. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong is back and is surrounded by one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps. But second-year coach Mike Riley has some big question marks to address on the defensive line. Nebraska should be better in 2016, but Iowa has the best collection of talent and favorable schedule to win another West Division title.

 

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4. Is Penn State on the Right Track in James Franklin’s Third Year?

High expectations surrounded James Franklin when he replaced Bill O’Brien in Happy Valley prior to the 2014 season. Through two years, Franklin is 14-12 at Penn State, but he has reeled in three consecutive top 25 recruiting classes. With the talent level on the rise and a full allotment of scholarships, things aren’t all bad in Happy Valley. Sure, Franklin needs to show progress in the win column, but the Nittany Lions return 14 starters, including one of the Big Ten’s top running backs in Saquon Barkley. Additionally, the hire of Joe Moorhead as the new play-caller should spark the offense, and the promotion of Brent Pry to coordinator to replace Bob Shoop should keep continuity on defense. Franklin’s biggest concern in 2016 is the development of quarterback Trace McSorley, as well as a rebuilt defensive line. The schedule certainly isn’t easy, but Penn State could exceed seven wins for the first time since 2012.

 

5. Which New Coach Will Have the Biggest Impact in 2016?

The Big Ten has four new coaches in 2016: Lovie Smith (Illinois), Chris Ash (Rutgers), Tracy Claeys (Minnesota) and D.J. Durkin (Maryland). Smith is arguably the most interesting hire of the 2016 cycle, as the former Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach returns to the college ranks for the first time since 1995. However, Smith inherits a team that finished 5-7 last season and has significant question marks from a defense that returns only four starters. Minnesota hopes Claeys picks up where Jerry Kill left off and continues to elevate the program within the West Division. Claeys also wasted no time putting his stamp on the program with changes to the staff this offseason. Durkin and Ash face an uphill battle in the East Division against Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, but both coaches appear to be the right hire. Ash has arguably the toughest path to success in year one, while Durkin inherits a team that should have more talent than last year’s win total suggested. However, the Terrapins have a major question mark at quarterback, and there are few guaranteed wins in Big Ten play. 

 

College Football: Others Receiving Votes



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Big Ten Team Previews for 2016

East Division
 

National

Rank:

55 66 5 13 3 39 87
West Division
 

National

Rank:

74 19 60 31 45 95 33

 

Visit the  to order a copy of the 2016 Big Ten Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 14 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year. 

 

Big Ten Football 2016 Predictions

         
East Division
Rank Team   Projected Big Ten Record Projected Overall Record
1

(No. 3)

9-0 12-1
.
2

(No. 5)

8-1 11-1
.
3

(No. 13)

7-2 9-3
.
4

(No. 39)

5-4 7-5
.
5

(No. 55)

3-6 6-6
.
6

(No. 66)

2-7 5-7
.
7

(No. 87)

1-8 3-9
.
         
West Division
Rank Team   Projected Big Ten Record Projected Overall Record
1

(No. 19)

7-2 10-3
.
2

(No. 31)

6-3 8-4
.
3

(No. 33)

5-4 7-5
.
4

(No. 45)

4-5 7-5
.
5

(No. 60)

3-6 6-6
.
6

(No. 74)

2-7 4-8
.
7

(No. 95)

1-8 3-9
.
         
Big Ten Championship
 Ohio State over Iowa 
 
Big Ten 2016 Superlatives and Season Predictions
 

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Mark

Ross

David

Fox

Braden

Gall

 
Offensive POY

J.T. Barrett

QB, Ohio State

J.T. Barrett

QB, Ohio State

J.T. Barrett

QB, Ohio State

J.T. Barrett

QB, Ohio State

J.T. Barrett

QB, Ohio State

Defensive POY

Jabrill Peppers

LB, Michigan

Jabrill Peppers

LB, Michigan

Jabrill Peppers

LB, Michigan

Jabrill Peppers

LB, Michigan

Jabrill Peppers

LB, Michigan

Coach of the Year

Urban Meyer

Ohio State

Urban Meyer

Ohio State

James Franklin

Penn State

Jim Harbaugh

Michigan

Jim Harbaugh

Michigan

Coach on Hot Seat

Darrell Hazell

Purdue

Darrell Hazell

Purdue

Darrell Hazell

Purdue

Darrell Hazell

Purdue

Darrell Hazell

Purdue

Top Freshman

Mike Weber

RB, OSU

Nick Bosa

DL, OSU

Austin Mack

WR, OSU

Mike Weber

RB, OSU

Mike Weber

RB, OSU

Top Newcomer

Hardy Nickerson

LB, Illinois

John O'Korn

QB, Michigan

John O'Korn

QB, Michigan

John O'Korn

QB, Michigan

John O'Korn

QB, Michigan

Sleeper Team Nebraska Nebraska Penn State Minnesota Nebraska
Top Coordinator Hire

Don Brown

DC, Michigan

Don Brown

DC, Michigan

Don Brown

DC, Michigan

Don Brown

DC, Michigan

Greg Schiano

Co-DC, OSU

Key Position to Watch Ohio State WR Ohio State WR Ohio State WR Michigan State DL Ohio State OL
Hardest to Evaluate Penn State Penn State Nebraska Nebraska Wisconsin
Coach on the Rise

D.J. Durkin

HC, Maryland

D.J. Durkin

HC, Maryland

Don Brown

DC, Michigan

Harlon Barnett

Co-DC, MSU

D.J. Durkin

HC, Maryland

Must-See Game

Michigan at

Ohio State

Michigan at 

Ohio State

Michigan at

Ohio State

Michigan at

Ohio State

Michigan at

Ohio State

Breakout Player

Sam Hubbard

DL, OSU

Mike Weber

RB, OSU

LJ Scott 

RB, Mich. State

Curtis Samuel

WR, OSU

Sam Hubbard

DL, OSU

Comeback Player

Corey Clement

RB, Wisconsin

Corey Clement

RB, Wisconsin

Ed Davis

LB, Mich. State

Vayante Copeland

CB, Mich. State

Ed Davis

LB, Mich. State

 
Ranking the Big Ten's Coaches for 2016

 

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

 

 

Grading the Big Ten's New Coach Hires for 2016

 

1. D.J. Durkin, Maryland (A-)

2. Lovie Smith, Illinois (B+)

3. Chris Ash, Rutgers (B-)

4. Tracy Claeys, Minnesota (C+)

 

Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2016

 

1. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

2. C.J. Beathard, Iowa 

3. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska

 

 

Big Ten's Top 10 Players on the Rise for 2016

 

1. Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

2. LJ Scott, RB, Michigan State

3. Brian Allen, OL, Michigan State

4. Nick Gates, OT, Nebraska

5. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB, Illinois

6. Shannon Brooks, RB, Minnesota

7. Markell Jones, RB, Purdue

8. Grant Haley, CB, Penn State

9. Jonathan Crawford, S, Indiana

10. Grant Newsome, OL, Michigan

 

Related:

 

Big Ten's Top 10 Non-Conference Games for 2016

 

1. Ohio State at Oklahoma (Sept. 17)

2. Wisconsin vs. LSU (Green Bay, Sept. 3)

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

4. Oregon at Nebraska (Sept. 17)

5. Penn State at Pitt (Sept. 10)

6. BYU at Michigan State (Oct. 8)

7. Iowa State at Iowa (Sept. 10)

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

9. Duke at Northwestern (Sept. 17)

10. North Carolina at Illinois (Sept. 10)

 

Big Ten's Key Coordinator Hires for 2016

 

1. Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan

2. Greg Schiano, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State

3. Tom Allen, Defensive Coordinator, Indiana

4. Joe Moorhead, Offensive Coordinator, Penn State

5. Walt Bell, Offensive Coordinator, Maryland

 

Related:

 

Big Ten's Top Incoming Freshmen for 2016 ()

 

1. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan

2. Nick Bosa, DL, Ohio State

3. Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State

4. Michael Menet, OL, Penn State

5. Jonathon Cooper, DE, Ohio State

6. Ben Bredeson, OL, Michigan

7. Shane Simmons, DL, Penn State

8. Demario McCall, RB, Ohio State

9. Brandon Peters, QB, Michigan

10. David Long, CB, Michigan

11. Terrance Davis, OL, Maryland

12. Devin Asiasi, TE, Michigan

13. Austin Mack, WR, Ohio State

14. Lamar Jackson, DB, Nebraska

15. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

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Before each college football season, Athlon Sports hears from readers wanting to know why one team was favored over another in our preseason rankings. Why this team was ranked so high or that team so low.

 

Some of these questions are in — um — colorful language.

 

That’s why Athlon takes you inside our decision process for some of the biggest questions you ask. Believe it or not, some of these questions are the ones we grappled with through our rankings meeting.

 

Here are the questions we anticipated about our .

 

The Athlon Sports 2016 Big Ten Preview is 

 

 

What separated Ohio State and Michigan?

 

Not much. It was basically a choice between the upstart program with a ton of momentum vs. the old guard that lost a bunch of talent but still possesses a loaded roster. Michigan was one of the surprise teams in the nation last season, winning 10 games overall and recording a 6–2 mark in the Big Ten. We must keep in mind that the Wolverines were fortunate to beat Minnesota (29–26) and Indiana (48–41, 2OT). But we also can’t forget that the loss to Michigan State came on one of the flukiest plays in the history of college football. Jim Harbaugh will have a good team — he always does — but the Wolverines still lag behind Ohio State in overall talent. There are questions at quarterback and some significant holes to fill at linebacker (though Jabrill Peppers’ move to a hybrid backer/safety spot could alleviate some of those concerns). Ohio State needs to replace some elite talent — only six starters return — but Urban Meyer has been stockpiling top-five recruiting classes. Talent will not be an issue in Columbus. Experience might, but it’s a positive that J.T. Barrett will be back to run the offense after sharing the position in 2015 with Cardale Jones. One more reason to like the Buckeyes: Michigan visits Columbus on Nov. 26. 

 

Why isn’t Michigan State, with a 22–2 Big Ten record the last three years, considered more of a contender?

 

Michigan State has made a habit of defying preseason expectations, but this figures to be the season the Spartans take a step back in the Big Ten. The defense should be able to survive some key personnel losses, but the offense must replace quarterback Connor Cook as well as two all-conference linemen. Also, Michigan State might not have been as good as its gaudy record — and spot in the CFB Playoff — suggests. Six of their 12 wins in 2015 came by seven points or fewer, including two against Big Ten lightweights Purdue (three) and Rutgers (seven).

 

 

 

Was Iowa the easy choice in the West?

 

Iowa is far from the sexiest pick, but in the end it was the smartest (we hope). The Hawkeyes return many of the key players who contributed to their 12–0 regular-season run. Among them is quarterback C.J. Beathard, who battled through various injuries yet was still productive in his first season as a starter. There’s also the schedule, which is once again very kind. Kirk Ferentz’s team does not play Ohio State or Michigan State and gets four of its five toughest opponents at home — Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska. The trip to Penn State, which comes after a bye, is by far Iowa’s most challenging road game. We gave serious thought to Nebraska (more on the Huskers to follow) and some thought to Wisconsin, but all signs continued to point to Iowa.

 

Which team was the toughest to project?

 

Nebraska. There’s no denying that Mike Riley’s first season in Lincoln did not go well: The Cornhuskers went 6–7 overall (3–5 in the Big Ten) and lost four games at Memorial Stadium. But there might not have been an unluckier team in college football. Nebraska opened the season by losing on a Hail Mary to BYU and then proceeded to lose five Big Ten games by an average of 4.6 points, including three losses by two points or fewer. Yes, two of those came against Illinois (on an inexcusable coaching blunder) and Purdue (when the Huskers were without starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong), but this team could very easily have won more games. The talent level at NU isn’t up to par with the top teams in the Big Ten East, but the Huskers are good enough to compete with Iowa and Wisconsin for supremacy in the West. This team could win the division, or — if the bad luck and coaching mistakes continue — finish as low as fourth. 

Teaser:
Explain Yourselves: Athlon Answers Questions About 2016 Big Ten Predictions
Post date: Wednesday, June 8, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-fcs-preseason-top-25-2016
Body:

North Dakota State is playing in the first FCS game of the season.

 

It might be foolish not to believe the Bison will be playing in the final game as well.

 

Having won an NCAA-record five straight national titles, the Missouri Valley Football Conference power doesn’t appear to be letting up.

 

Related:

 

But those giving chase come prepared this season. Sam Houston State, Northern Iowa, Richmond and last year’s national runner-up Jacksonville State – teams the Bison have come to know on the Road to Frisco (Texas) in recent playoffs – return standout quarterbacks and veteran teams. They are the No. 2 through 5 teams in the Athlon Sports FCS Preseason Top 25.

 

North Dakota State, which opens the season Aug. 27 by hosting Charleston Southern in the FCS Kickoff, is ready to take on all challengers.

 

(2015 record in parentheses)

 

1. North Dakota State

(13-2, 7-1 Missouri Valley)

There’s no complacency in Fargo even after the FCS dynasty made it five straight national titles — an NCAA all-division record. With 14 returning starters, the Bison are favored to continue the amazing run. Their punishing defense, led by linebacker Nick DeLuca and defensive end Greg Menard, flattens opponents. Four returning starters on the offensive line will do the same for King Frazier and a deep stable of running backs. Quarterback isn’t a question mark even after Carson Wentz’s graduation because Easton Stick was 8-0 as a redshirt freshman while Wentz was sidelined. The Bison are 71-5 since 2011.

 

2. Sam Houston State

(11-4, 7-2 Southland)

All that’s left for the Bearkats is a national title — they’ve reached the semifinals in four of the last five seasons. Playoff standout Jeremiah Briscoe is the starting quarterback after Jared Johnson left for UTSA as a graduate transfer, while running back Corey Avery dominates. Coach K.C. Keeler seeks stronger defense, and defensive end P.J. Hall will be happy to oblige.

 

3. Northern Iowa

(9-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley)

UNI is ready to stand up to North Dakota State in the Missouri Valley race and beyond. The Panthers’ two returning 1,000-yard rushers, quarterback Aaron Bailey and running back Tyvis Smith, work behind a veteran offensive line. Their defense was hit hard by graduation, but defensive end Karter Schult is back to terrorize opposing quarterbacks.

 

4. Richmond

(10-4, 6-2 Colonial)

Junior Kyle Lauletta was No. 2 in the FCS in passing yards (3,598) and combines again with wide receiver Brian Brown. The 2015 national semifinalist Spiders are even more experienced on defense with linebacker Omar Howard and safety David Jones (nine interceptions) among eight returning starters.

 

5. Jacksonville State

(13-2, 8-0 Ohio Valley)

Coach John Grass bulked up the schedule (LSU, Coastal Carolina and Liberty) after reaching the national championship game. All-America quarterback Eli Jenkins is returning from shoulder surgery, and his go-to target, Josh Barge, is the Gamecocks’ all-time receptions leader. Defensive end Darius Jackson and linebacker Joel McCandless lead a retooled defense.

 

College Football: Big 12 adds title game, Vegas odds and Jeffery Simmons



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6. Charleston Southern

(10-3, 6-0 Big South)

Coach Jamey Chadwell appears destined for a bigger job, but there’s an immediate task at hand. The Buccaneers’ record-setting defense returns defensive end Anthony Ellis and linebacker Solomon Brown, and a bruising run game features seniors Darius Hammond, Mike Holloway and Ben Robinson.

 

7. Chattanooga

(9-4, 6-1 Southern)

The Mocs seek a fourth straight SoCon title, but three-time league Offensive Player of the Year Jacob Huesman is gone, leaving lefthander Alejandro Bennifield to take over at quarterback. The nucleus remains strong with running back Derrick Craine (1,251 yards) and defensive end Keionta Davis (13.5 sacks) coming off Mocs single-season records.

 

8. South Dakota State

(8-4, 5-3 Missouri Valley)

A standout Jackrabbits team will usher in the inaugural season at 19,340-seat Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. The quarterback platoon of Zach Lujan and Taryn Christion will feed the ball to wide receiver Jake Wieneke and tight end Dallas Goedert. The defense is strong up the middle with tackle Cole Langer.

 

9. Coastal Carolina

(9-3, 4-2 Big South; FCS Independent in 2016)

The Chanticleers may struggle to get top-25 support from voters as the former Big South power transitions toward the FBS in 2017. Touchdown machine De’Angelo Henderson will carry the rushing load after the loss of veteran quarterback Alex Ross.

 

10. The Citadel

(9-4, 6-1 Southern)

Offensive coordinator-turned-head coach Brent Thompson will keep the triple option humming. In QB Dominique Allen and backs Tyler Renew and Cam Jackson, the Bulldogs return three players who gained more than 750 yards. The defense features shutdown corner Dee Delaney.

 

11. Illinois State

(10-3, 7-1 Missouri Valley)

All eyes are on sophomore quarterback Jake Kolbe and a running back committee as they take over for the dominating duo of Tre Roberson and Marshaun Coprich, respectively. The other nine offensive starters return, including big-play wide receiver Anthony Warrum.

 

12. Eastern Washington

(6-5, 5-3 Big Sky)

Wide receiver Cooper Kupp, the 2015 Walter Payton Award Winner, has 58 total TDs in his career. But for the Eagles to rebound from a subpar season, quarterback Jordan West needs more consistency and the defense must tighten for — gulp — an opening stretch of Washington State, North Dakota State and Northern Iowa.

 

13. William & Mary

(9-4, 6-2 Colonial)

Physical defense is a staple with the Tribe, but this season quarterback Steve Cluley, tailback Kendell Anderson and wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon will create an offensive mindset. Placekicker Nick Dorka and punter Hunter Windmuller provide a leg up on special teams.

 

14. James Madison

(9-3, 6-2 Colonial)

With his team desperate for playoff success, new coach Mike Houston is keeping the high-powered spread attack, which gets big production from running backs Khalid Abdullah and Cardon Johnson and wide receiver Brandon Ravenel. Linebacker Andrew Ankrah and cornerback Taylor Reynolds fuel the defense.

 

15. North Dakota

(7-4, 5-3 Big Sky)

After being one of the last teams left out of the postseason in 2015, the Fighting Hawks are motivated. They also have super sophomore John Santiago, the Big Sky’s leader in all-purpose yards, and a schedule that doesn’t include Eastern Washington, Montana and Portland State. Playoffs? Indeed.

 

16. Montana

(8-5, 6-2 Big Sky)

Another tough schedule awaits second-year coach Bob Stitt, whose Grizzlies roared with impressive wins in 2015 (including North Dakota State). Quarterback Brady Gustafson’s passing numbers are as big as his 6'7" frame. All-Big Sky defensive tackle Caleb Kidder is one of only three returning starters on defense.

 

17. McNeese State

(10-1, 9-0 Southland)

There is continuity following Matt Viator’s departure to ULM because defensive coordinator Lance Guidry gained the top job. His defense, anchored by 6-foot-2, 335-pound tackle Isaiah Golden, was among the nation’s best last season. Junior running back Ryan Ross is ready for a huge season.

 

18. Towson

(7-4, 5-3 Colonial)

The addition of former Oregon quarterback Morgan Mahalak may be just what two-time 1,000-yard rusher Darius Victor and a veteran offense need. The seniors, who barely missed last year’s playoffs, were freshmen for the 2013 FCS national runners-up.

 

19. Western Illinois

(7-6, 5-3 Missouri Valley)

New coach Charlie Fisher inherits another rugged schedule, but quarterback Trenton Norvell, wide receiver Lance Lenoir and linebacker Brett Taylor are among 17 returning starters. Last season, the Leathernecks became the first 6-5 team to receive an at-large playoff bid.

 

20. Villanova

(6-5, 5-3 Colonial)

Coach Andy Talley, who guided Nova to the 2009 FCS title, enters his 32nd and final season. Dual-threat quarterback Zach Bednarczyk expects to build off his rookie season, and 6-foot-7, 275-pound defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon will have a finishing touch as a senior.

 

21. Portland State

(9-3, 6-2 Big Sky)

Beware, San Jose State and Washington, the Vikings took down two FBS programs and had a six-win improvement last year. Portland State lost a lot of key players, but 2015 FCS Coach of the Year Bruce Barnum is glad quarterback Alex Kuresa isn’t one of them.

 

22. Youngstown State

(5-6, 3-5 Missouri Valley)

After the Bo Pelini era opened to a disappointing record, the Penguins seek their first playoff bid since 2006. Senior defensive end Derek Rivers already holds the school record with 26 career sacks, while running backs Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb also expect big senior campaigns.

 

23. Colgate

(9-5, 6-0 Patriot)

Nine starters return on each side of the ball after the Raiders won two playoff games to reach the national quarterfinals. Senior quarterback Jake Melville is a dual-threat, and wideout Alex Greenawalt is a breakout candidate.

 

24. Northern Arizona

(7-4, 5-3 Big Sky)

Sophomore Case Cookus might be hard-pressed to improve on last year’s 37 touchdown passes — an FCS freshman record — but the return of wide receiver Emmanuel Butler (15 TDs) provides a good start. The Lumberjacks were only 2–4 on the road last season.

 

25. Eastern Kentucky

(6-5, 5-2 Ohio Valley)

Quarterback Bennie Coney can dominate a game and will have support from a healthier Ethan Thomas at running back. Missing the playoffs doesn’t sit well with the Colonels, so new coach Mark Elder was brought in to get them back there.

 

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

 

(Top photo by Richard Svaleson/NDSU)

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Preseason FCS Top 25 for 2016
Post date: Wednesday, June 8, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: recipe, Life
Path: /life/double-smoky-ribs-bacon-bourbon-bbq-sauce
Body:

There's nothing like grilling some BBQ ribs during the summer. Rib + bacon + bourbon, this is for sure a recipe you'll want to check out:

 

Kitchen gadgets: medium saucepan, small bowl, grill

 

Ingredients (makes 8 servings):

3 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs, (8 ribs), or pork back ribs

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 large handfuls apple or hickory wood chips, soaked for 1-2 hours

 

Ingredients for bacon-bourbon bbq sauce:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 12-oz bottle chili sauce (1 cup)

1/2 cup peach preserves

1/3 cup bourbon

1/3 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

 

Time commitment: 20 min of prep, 90 min of cook time

Total time: 1 hour, 50 min

 

To make BBQ Sauce:

  1. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels, leaving fat in saucepan. Let bacon cool. 
  4. Add onion to saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 4 minutes.
  5. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in chili sauce, peach preserves, bourbon, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and molasses.Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low.
  6. Simmer, stirring often, until reduced by about one quarter, 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Finely chop cooled bacon and stir into sauce; add hot pepper sauce. Let cool. Makes about 2 1/2 cups sauce. Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. 


To make ribs:

  1. Mix paprika, sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper together in small bowl.
  2. Season ribs with paprika mixture. Let ribs stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes. 
  3. Prepare an outdoor grill for indirect cooking with medium heat, about 350 degrees F. 


For a gas grill: Use a smoker box or create one using small, shallow aluminum foil pan. Remove cooking grates. Preheat grill on high. Turn one burner off. Place disposable aluminum foil pan over a burner, adding 1 handful of drained chips. Replace grates. 

For a charcoal grill: Place large disposable aluminum foil pan on one side of charcoal grate and fill with 1 quart water. Build fire on opposite side, and let burn until coals are coated with white ash. Spread coals in grill opposite pan and let burn 15-20 minutes (you should be able to hold your hand about 1 inch above the grate for about 3 seconds). Add 1 handful of drained chips to coals. Position cooking grate in grill. 

 

  1. Lightly oil grill grate.
  2. Grill ribs with indirect heat, with the lid closed, for 30 minutes.
  3. Add remaining drained chips to box or coals.
  4. Grill, with lid closed, turning occasionally, until tender, about 1 hour more. (On a charcoal grill, add more charcoal as needed to maintain temperature, leaving grill lid open for a few minutes to help charcoal ignite.)
  5. During the last 15 minutes, brush ribs with some of the sauce, turning every few minutes to glaze.
  6. Transfer to platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot with remaining sauce, if desired. 

 

Recipe provided by . Check out their site for more delicious grill recipes.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/nfl-twitter-account-hacked-tweets-death-roger-goodell
Body:

Someone got the best of the NFL.

 

The twitter account of the league was hacked and it's got all of the twitterverse in an uproar. 

 

 

Remain calm commissioner fans, Goodell is still kicking.

 

 

The culprit is still at large.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 12:52
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/ragin-cajuns-workout-might-make-wall-sit-legs-quiver-louisiana-lafayette
Body:

Leg days are brutal.

 

Louisiana-Lafayette is taking it to a whole other level. The Ragin' Cajuns will have problems walking for about a week after this one.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 12:49
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /life/pork-and-chorizo-burgers-pineapple-and-sriracha
Body:

A game day staple, the burger never fails to satisfy any hungry tailgater. This recipe will surely get everyone excited. 

 

Kitchen gadgets needed: small bowl, food processor, large knife, grill, meat thermometer

 

Ingredients (makes 6 burgers):

8 ounces smoked spanish chorizo, links with the casings removed

1 pound ground pork

1/3 cup bread crumbs, dried

1 large egg, beaten

2 scallions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 fresh pineapple rings, cut about 1/2-inch thick

6 hamburger buns, preferably sweet Hawaiian style, split

fresh cilantro leaves, as garnish

 

Ingredients for sriracha aioli:

1/2 cut mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press

1 teaspoon sriracha chili sauce

 

Time commitment: 15 min of prep, 10 min of cook time

Total time: 25 min

 

Steps:

To make aïoli:

  1. Mix mayonnaise, garlic and Sriracha sauce together in small bowl.
  2. Set aside. Extra aioli can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

 

To make burgers:

  1. Finely chop chorizo in a food processor or with a large knife.
  2. Gently mix together ground pork, chopped chorizo, breadcrumbs, egg, scallions, red pepper, garlic and salt.
  3. Shape into 6 patties about 3/4-inch thick. Refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  4. Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat, about 450 degrees F. 
  5. Lightly oil grill grate.
  6. Grill burgers, with the lid closed, for 5 minutes.
  7. Turn burgers, and add pineapple to grill.
  8. Finish cooking burger until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees F. on a digital meat thermometer (about 4 to 5 minutes more), turning once or twice, until hot and seared on both sides.
  9. Grill pineapple rings until browned on each side. Remove from grill. 
  10. Toast buns on grill, about 1 minute.
  11. Build burgers on buns with 1 1/2 tablespoons aïoli, 1 pineapple ring, and cilantro leaves to taste. Serve immediately. 

 

Recipe provided by . Check out their site for more delicious grill recipes.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /life/cuban-style-pork-burgers
Body:

A burger is a staple in any tailgate or game day celebration. This time though, we're making Cuban Style Pork Burgers. Here's the amazing recipe:

 

Kitchen gadgets needed: food processor, large knife, grill, meat thermometer

 

Ingredients (makes 6 burgers):

8 ounces smoked spanish chorizo, links with casings removed

1 pound ground pork

1/3 cup bread crumbs, dried

1 large egg, beaten

1 small yellow onion, minced

1/3 cup green bell pepper, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

6 hamburger buns, split

6 tablespoons thousand island dressing

2 cups shoestring potatoes, or potato sticks

6 green lettuce leaves

 

Time commitment: 15 min of prep, 10 min of cook time

Total time: 25 min

 

Steps:

  1. Finely chop chorizo in a food processor or with a large knife.
  2. Gently mix together ground pork, chopped chorizo, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, green pepper, garlic and salt.
  3. Shape into 6 patties about 3/4-inch thick. Refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  4. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat, about 450 degrees F. 
  5. Grill burgers, with the lid closed, for 5 minutes.
  6. Turn and finish cooking for 4 to 5 minutes more, until cooked through or until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees F on a digital meat thermometer. Remove from grill. 
  7. Toast buns on the grill, about 1 minute per side.
  8. Build burgers on buns with 1 1/2 tablespoons dressing, 1/3 cup shoestring potatoes and one lettuce leaf. Serve immediately. 

 

Recipe provided by . Check out their site for more delicious grill recipes.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: recipe, Life
Path: /life/korean-pork-chops-gochujan-marinade
Body:

With the summer season upon us, here's an Asian twist on some traditional pork chops to get your grill going:

 

Kitchen gadgets needed: measuring cups, whisk, large bowl, medium bowl, large sealable bag, grill

 

Ingredients (makes 4 pork chops):

4 9-ounce porterhouse (bone-in loin) pork chops, 1 inch thick

1 scallion, finely chopped

4 tablespoons gochujang, also known as korean chili paste

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons asian sesame oil

2 tablespoons chinese rice wine, or dry sherry

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

 

Ingredients for Asian Slaw (optional):

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon korean chili flakes, coarsely grounded 

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon asian sesame oil

1 14-oz bag coleslaw

1 cup carrots, julienned or shredded

2 scallions, finely chopped

 

Time commitment: 20 min of prep, 10 min of cook time

Total time: 30 min

 

Steps:

To make Asian slaw:

  1. Whisk rice vinegar, ground hot red pepper, soy sauce, garlic and salt together in large bowl.
  2. Gradually whisk in vegetable and sesame oils. Add coleslaw, carrots and scallions and mix well.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 6 hours.

 

To make marinade:  

  1. Whisk first 9 ingredients (excluding pork) together in medium bowl.
  2. Pour into one-gallon sealable plastic bag.
  3. Add pork chops, coating pork in marinade.
  4. Close bag and refrigerate, turning bag occasionally, for at least 2 and up to 6 hours. 


To make pork:

  1. Prepare outdoor grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat, about 450 degrees F.  
  2. Brush grill grates clean.
  3. Remove pork from marinade – do not shake off excess marinade. Discard remaining marinade.  
  4. Grill, with grill lid closed, turning once, until the internal temperature reads between 145 degrees F. (medium rare) to 160 degrees F. (medium) on a digital meat thermometer, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and let rest 3 minutes. 
  6. If making with Asian slaw, divide slaw among 4 dinner plates. Top each with a chop and serve immediately.

 

Recipe provided by . Check out their site for more delicious grill recipes.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-2016-oregon-ducks-schedule
Body:

grew into one of Pac-12 football’s two pace-setters since 2009, splitting four of seven conference championships with rival Stanford in that time.

 

But with roster turnover and new, growing threats from divisional foes Washington and Washington State, the Ducks face arguably their most difficult path to the top of their conference yet.

 

Related: 

 

With 11 games against Power Five conference competition, and more road games in Pac-12 play than home contests, Mark Helfrich’s bunch must navigate some rocky waters in 2016. Here are Oregon’s 12 regular season games ranked from easiest to most difficult.

 

12. Sept. 3 vs. UC Davis

Oregon traditionally hosts an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision early in the season, but such opponents are not necessarily equal. To wit, perennial Big Sky Conference title contender Eastern Washington gave Oregon a handful last season in Eugene.

 

Don’t expect the same of a UC Davis team, coming off an 11th-place finish in the same Big Sky.

 

11. Sept. 10 vs. Virginia

Virginia makes the cross-country trek to Eugene for new head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s second game at the helm. This is the return date of a 2013 encounter, wherein the Ducks left Charlottesville 59-10 winners.

 

The Cavaliers are rebuilding under Mendenhall, so don’t expect much of a fight when they visit Autzen Stadium.

 

10. Nov. 26 vs. Oregon State

Rarely can one expect to see an in-state rivalry game rank so poorly when assessing a schedule -- especially a rivalry as contentious as the Civil War. Though the Ducks have won eight in a row, the Beavers have a knack for giving their counterparts all they can handle, as last year’s surprising 52-42 outcome demonstrates.

 

Consider this ranking a testament to the overall strength of Oregon’s schedule more than a slight on Oregon State, though the Beavers are facing a monumental rebuilding project in head coach Gary Andersen’s second season.

 

9. Sept. 24 vs. Colorado

Here’s where things start to get interesting. Colorado’s a program showing consistent improvement under head coach Mike MacIntyre, and the Buffaloes should reach their first bowl game since 2007 this season. When a potential postseason squad ranks just ninth in a preseason strength of schedule outlook, it says a lot about the team’s docket.

 

Last year in Boulder, the Buffs gave Oregon their most competitive game since joining the Pac-12 five years ago.

 

8. Oct. 29 vs. Arizona State

Last season’s meeting in Tempe produced one of the most dramatic finishes of the entire college football campaign. That game set an impossibly high standard, especially given the uncertainty awaiting Arizona State in the campaign to come.

 

The Sun Devils experienced mass turnover on the roster, as well as the departure of numerous assistant coaches, most notably offensive coordinator Mike Norvell (now the head coach at Memphis). Arizona State should take a step back in the Pac-12 South this year.

 

7. Oct. 21 at Cal

Once a program jockeying with Oregon on the way to the conference’s mountaintop, Cal fell well behind in the late 2000s. Sonny Dykes has made strides in his first three years, but the Golden Bears still look up at the Ducks.

 

Cal enters 2016 starting a new quarterback for the first time since Jared Goff assumed the reins in '13. The Bears’ outlook is shrouded in uncertainty as a result. With the weeknight kick and home-field advantage, however, this remains one of the iffier dates on Oregon’s schedule.

 

6. Sept. 17 at Nebraska

Oregon sees a coach it knows well in Mike Riley, the longtime Oregon State leader, entering his second year at Nebraska.

 

The Cornhuskers endured some growing pains adjusting to new schemes, but finished the year with an impressive win over the Ducks’ Pac-12 mate, UCLA. Nebraska should be better than its sub-.500 finish of 2015, and a raucous crowd is sure to welcome the Ducks into Lincoln for one of the most interesting non-conference dates of the 2016 calendar.

 

5. Nov. 5 at USC

Oregon’s rise to prominence in the Pac-12 came at the expense of USC, the conference’s standard bearer for the previous decade.

 

The Trojans return a talented lineup, particularly on offense. USC features one of the best offensive lines and wide receiver corps in the nation. Despite some uncertainty on defense, a bevy of 4-and-5-star talent should be up to speed by the time Oregon visits L.A. Coliseum.

 

4. Oct. 1 at Washington State

Washington State shocked the Pac-12 last October, beating the Ducks in a double-overtime thriller at Autzen Stadium. That victory served as an important launching point for the Cougars’ best season since 2003.

 

Washington State’s 2016 team looks to be even better, a legitimate contender for the Pac-12 North with talented quarterback Luke Falk leading the way, and the Cougars get the benefit of home-field advantage.

 

3. Nov. 12 vs. Stanford

Oregon-Stanford has grown into the preeminent game on the Pac-12’s late-season calendar. The Ducks’ win last November on The Farm effectively kept the Cardinal out of the College Football Playoff -- consider it a receipt for the 2012 season.

 

Though the Pac-12’s top two teams for seven years straight, both face question marks ahead of the 2016 campaign. This year’s installment in the burgeoning series carries significant implications not only for the season to come, but the direction of the changing Pac-12 North.

 

2. Nov. 19 at Utah

Nothing more profoundly crystallized the shift in power structure within the Pac-12 last season than Utah’s demolishing of Oregon at Autzen Stadium. It was a perfect storm of a good Utah team playing near-flawless football and exploiting some badly wounded Ducks.

 

While a repeat of last year’s thorough deconstruction seems unlikely, Kyle Whittingham has another good lineup in 2016, and the always-boisterous Rice-Eccles Stadium audience gives Utah a considerable home-field advantage.

 

1. Oct. 8 vs. Washington

Thirteen years. It’s been 13 years since a Washington team has beaten an Oregon squad, a mark indicative as much of the Ducks’ prowess in that time as it is the Huskies’ underachievement.

 

The 2016 Washington Huskies are, on paper, the program’s best incarnation since '01, when they were coming off a Rose Bowl run.

 

More than a decade’s worth of bragging rights and serious implications to the Pac-12 North rest on an early-season date, at a juncture in the season Oregon could still be finding its identity.

 

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

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on Oregon's College Football Schedule in 2016
Post date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/sun-belt-football-2016-predictions
Body:

The three-team battle between Arkansas State, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern should provide plenty of intrigue for the Sun Belt in 2016. The Red Wolves are the defending Sun Belt champions after finishing 2015 with a perfect 8-0 mark in conference play. However, Arkansas State’s spot at the top of the league will be tested this fall. Appalachian State returns 16 starters from last year’s 11-win team and features the Sun Belt’s top quarterback in Taylor Lamb, along with a deep group of talented running backs. Even though a new coach takes over at Georgia Southern (Tyson Summers), the Eagles won’t miss a beat in the win column. Headlined by quarterbacks Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw, and running back Matt Breida, the offense will challenge for the nation’s lead in rushing yards once again.

 

The second tier of the Sun Belt is surrounded in some mystery. Troy looks like a team on the rise under second-year coach Neal Brown, while UL Lafayette hopes to rebound after a disappointing 4-8 mark last season. South Alabama has a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but the Jaguars have enough promising pieces to return to a bowl in 2016. Georgia State might have the fewest question marks in the second tier of teams, but the Panthers are also replacing quarterback Nick Arbuckle.

 

Idaho and New Mexico State showed progress last season and could take another step forward in the win column this fall. The Aggies are led by running back Larry Rose III, while the Vandals return eight starters from an offense that averaged 30.3 points a game in 2015. Texas State and ULM are expected to finish at the bottom of the league, as both programs begin rebuilding projects under new coaches.

 

Five Key Questions That Will Shape the Sun Belt in 2016

 

1. Is the Sun Belt a Three-Team Race for the League Title?

Yes. Appalachian State has made a quick transition to the FBS level under coach Scott Satterfield, and the Mountaineers fell just short of winning the league in 2015. After a 7-1 mark in conference play last season, Appalachian State could make a run at a perfect league record in 2016. The Mountaineers won’t have to play Arkansas State – the projected No. 2 team in the Sun Belt – but have road trips to Troy and Georgia Southern. And it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Satterfield’s team give Miami all it can handle on Sept. 17. Appalachian State is Athlon’s projected Sun Belt champion, but Georgia Southern and Arkansas State aren’t too far behind. The Red Wolves have a favorable league slate – no Appalachian State and a home game against Georgia Southern – and seem to have a capable replacement for Fredi Knighten at quarterback in former Oklahoma signal-caller Justice Hansen. Coach Blake Anderson also landed a couple of talented transfers to fill some of the personnel voids on both sides of the ball. Georgia Southern is 14-2 in Sun Belt play since joining the FBS level, but there’s some mystery in Statesboro with new coach Tyson Summers. The new coaching staff won’t change too much on offense with the return of dynamic running back Matt Breida and two capable quarterbacks in Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw. However, the passing attack has to perform a little better, and the defense needs to be revamped in the back seven for the Eagles to win the league in 2016.

 

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2. Troy…A Team on the Rise?

Neal Brown inherited big shoes to fill in replacing Larry Blakeney at Troy. The former offensive coordinator for the Trojans is one of the youngest coaches in the nation and finished 4-8 in his debut with the program last season. While the Troy finished with a losing mark, there was progress under Brown’s direction. The Trojans won three out of their last six games and lost three conference games by six points or less. With 14 returning starters – including one of the league’s top quarterbacks in Brandon Silvers – Troy should be able to push for the program’s first bowl trip since 2010. Jordan Chunn’s return from injury fills a void at running back, and seven returning starters provide a solid foundation on a defense that ranked third in the Sun Belt in fewest points allowed (28.3) last year. The schedule doesn’t provide much margin for error, but Troy should find a way to get to six wins in Brown’s second season.

 

3. Will UL Lafayette Rebound After a 4-8 Record?

Even though UL Lafayette had significant personnel losses to address, Mark Hudspeth’s team seemed like a safe pick at the top of the league in 2015. The Ragin’ Cajuns watched their streak of four consecutive nine-win seasons and bowl trips end with a disappointing 4-8 mark last year. UL Lafayette enters 2016 with question marks on both sides of the ball, but Hudspeth’s team should rebound back into the postseason. The Ragin’ Cajuns are led by standout running back Elijah McGuire, and sophomore Jordan Davis provides a promising option at quarterback for an offense that scored only 26.4 points a game in 2015. While all eyes this offseason are on the quarterback position, the defense has to take a step forward after giving up 5.96 yards per play last season. UL Lafayette has one of the Sun Belt’s best rosters in terms of talent, and Hudspeth is too good of a coach for this team to miss out on a bowl once again.  

 

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4. Georgia State – the Sun Belt’s Wild Card Team?

When Trent Miles took over as Georgia State’s coach in 2013, he inherited a program in need of major repair. The Panthers were short on talent, depth and lacked the overall direction to complete in the Sun Belt. After three years, it’s clear Miles has this program moving in the right direction. After a 1-23 start at Georgia State, Miles began his third year with a 2-6 record. However, the Panthers finished 2015 on a tear by winning their final four regular season games, including a 34-7 victory over Georgia Southern. Another bowl bid isn’t out of the question for Georgia State, but Miles has to find a replacement for standout quarterback Nick Arbuckle. Outside of replacing Arbuckle, the Panthers’ overall depth chart is in relatively good shape and features the Sun Belt’s top receiver in sophomore Penny Hart. If a replacement emerges for Arbuckle, our prediction of Georgia State at No. 6 is probably too low.

 

5. Rebuilding at Texas State and ULM

Texas State and ULM finished at the bottom of the Sun Belt last season, but both programs took a step forward with their new coach hires for 2016. ULM is turning to former McNeese State coach Matt Viator, while Texas State picked Everett Withers (James Madison head coach) as its next leader. Both programs face an uphill battle in 2016, but the future looks bright for the Bobcats and Warhawks. Viator won 78 games in 10 seasons at McNeese State and inherits an offense with promising pieces, including quarterback Garrett Smith and receivers Ajalen Holley and Marcus Green. However, Viator loses a ton of talent on defense and must patch an offensive line that surrendered 38 sacks in 2015. Texas State has recruited better than ULM in recent years, so there could be more talent in the program than last year’s 3-9 record would suggest. Quarterback Tyler Jones is a good building block for Withers, but the supporting cast features a lot of question marks. Additionally, Texas State returns only four starters from a defense that gave up 39.2 points a game in 2015. 

 

2016 Sun Belt Team Previews

             
 

National

Rank:

58 78 81 110 119 107
   

National

Rank:

126 120 115 122 102  

 

Visit the  to order a copy of the 2016 National College Football Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 128 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year. 

 

Sun Belt 2016 Football Predictions

         
Rank Team   Projected Sun Belt Record Projected Overall Record
1

(No. 58)

7-1 9-3
.
2

(No. 78)

6-2 8-4
.
3

(No. 81)

6-2 7-5
.
4

(No. 102)

4-4 6-6
.
5

(No. 107)

4-4 6-6
6

(No. 110)

4-4 6-6
.
7

(No. 115)

4-4 5-7
.
8

(No. 119)

3-5 4-8
.
9

(No. 120)

3-5 3-9
.
10

(No. 122)

2-6 3-9
.
11

(No. 126)

1-7 2-10
.

 

Sun Belt 2016 Superlatives and Season Predictions
 

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Mark

Ross

David

Fox

 
Offensive POY

Matt Breida

RB, Ga. Southern

Matt Breida

RB, Ga. Southern

Matt Breida

RB, Ga. Southern

Taylor Lamb

QB, App. State

Defensive POY

Ja'Von Rolland-Jones

DL, Ark. State

Ja'Von Rolland-Jones

DL, Ark. State

Ja'Von Rolland-Jones

DL, Ark. State

Ja'Von Rolland-Jones

DL, Ark. State

Coach of the Year

Scott Satterfield

App. State

Scott Satterfield

App. State

Scott Satterfield

App. State

Neal Brown

Troy

Coach on the Hot Seat

Doug Martin

NMSU

Doug Martin
NMSU

Doug Martin

NMSU

Paul Petrino

Idaho

Top Freshman

Tyler Tutt

RB, Tex. State

Jalin Buie

RB, South Alabama

Dontrell Allen

CB, UL Lafayette

Darian Anderson

WR, Ga. Southern

Top Newcomer

Dee Liner

DL, Ark. State

Chad Voytik

QB, Ark. State

Dee Liner

DL, Ark. State

Dee Liner

DL, Ark. State

Sleeper Team Troy Troy UL Lafayette Troy
Top Coordinator Hire

Frank Spaziani

DC, NMSU

Frank Spaziani

DC, NMSU

Frank Spaziani

DC, NMSU

Buster Faulkner

OC, Ark. State

Key Position to Watch App. State WR App. State WR App. State WR App. State WR
Hardest to Evaluate UL Lafayette UL Lafayette South Alabama Georgia State
Coach on the Rise

Scott Satterfield

App. State

Blake Anderson

Arkansas State

Scott Satterfield

App. State

Scott Satterfield

App. State

Must-See Game

App. State at

Ga. Southern

App. State at

Ga. Southern

Ga. Southern at

W. Michigan

App. State at

Ga. Southern

Breakout Player

Brandon Silvers

QB, Troy

Matt Linehan

QB, Idaho

Shaedon Meadors

WR, App. State

Justice Hansen

QB, Ark. State

Comeback Player

Jayshawn Jordan

S, Idaho

Jordan Chunn

RB, Troy

Tyler Rogers

QB, NMSU

Tajhea Chambers

LB, Ark. State

 

Ranking the Sun Belt's Coaches for 2016

 

1. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State

2. Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette

3. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State

 

 

Grading the Sun Belt's New Coach Hires for 2016
 
1. Matt Viator, ULM (B+)
2. Everett Withers, Texas State (B-)
3. Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern (B-)
 
 
Sun Belt's Top Five Players on the Rise for 2016
 
1. Dee Liner, DL, Arkansas State
2. Xavier Johnson, RB, South Alabama
3. Rashad Dillard, DL, Troy
4. Garrett Smith, QB, ULM
5. Shaedon Meadors, WR, Appalachian State
 
Sun Belt's Top 10 Non-Conference Games for 2016
 
1. Georgia Southern at Western Michigan (Sept. 24)
2. Miami at Appalachian State (Sept. 17)
3. Appalachian State at Tennessee (Sept. 1)
4. Toledo at Arkansas State (Sept. 2)
5. Georgia Southern at Ole Miss (Nov. 5)
6. Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech (Oct. 15)
7. Troy at Clemson (Sept. 10)
8. Arkansas State at Auburn (Sept. 10)
9. Troy at Southern Miss (Sept. 17)
10. Boise State at UL Lafayette (Sept. 3)
 
Sun Belt's Key Coordinator Hires for 2016
 
1. Frank Spaziani, Defensive Coordinator, New Mexico State
2. Buster Faulkner, Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas State
3. Randall McCray, Defensive Coordinator, Texas State
4. Mike Collins, Defensive Coordinator, ULM
5. Brett Elliott, Offensive Coordinator, Texas State
6. Kane Wommack, Defensive Coordinator, South Alabama
7. Matt Kubik, Offensive Coordinator, ULM
 
Top Incoming Freshmen ()
 
1. Darion Anderson, WR, Georgia Southern
2. Michael Jackson, WR, Georgia Southern
3. Jalin Buie, RB, South Alabama
4. Kelvin Lucky, DE, Troy
5. Drew Wilson, OL, Georgia Southern
6. Monquavion Brinson, CB, Georgia Southern
7. Riley Cole, LB, South Alabama
8. Zo Bridges, LB, Troy
9. Dontrell Allen, CB, UL Lafayette
10. Lawrence Edwards, OL, Georgia Southern
Teaser:
Sun Belt Football 2016 Predictions
Post date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/sec-football-2016-predictions
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After a two-year drought, the SEC is back on top. Sort of. The SEC really never left its spot as college football’s No. 1 league, but Florida State (2013) and Ohio State (2014) gained control of the national title and prevented the SEC from extending its dominance after winning seven straight titles from 2006-12.

 

Alabama has won four out of the last seven national titles and is Athlon’s pick to win it all in 2016. The Crimson Tide need to find a new quarterback and patch the offensive line, but the defense and ground attack can carry Nick Saban’s team to the SEC title. LSU, Tennessee and Ole Miss are all playoff contenders and projected by Athlon to finish in the top 10 for 2016.

 

Outside of Tennessee in the East Division, Georgia and Florida rank as top 25 teams for 2016, with uncertainty surrounding Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Missouri and South Carolina in the next tier. The East is also home to the league’s three new coaches – Barry Odom, Missouri, Kirby Smart, Georgia and Will Muschamp, South Carolina.

 

In the West Division, LSU needs to find a quarterback to push Alabama at the top, while Ole Miss can lean on quarterback Chad Kelly to alleviate the departures of Robert Nkemdiche (DL), Laremy Tunsil (OL) and Laquon Treadwell (WR). Arkansas could be a top 25 team if Austin Allen provides steady play at quarterback, with Texas A&M and Auburn in the next tier. Mississippi State is projected to finish seventh in the West, but Dan Mullen’s team won’t slip too far – even after losing arguably the best player in school history (Dak Prescott).

 

Five Key Questions That Will Shape the SEC in 2016

 

1. Are Tennessee and Alabama the Clear Favorites to Win the SEC?

Barring a surprise upset or two, it seems likely Alabama and Tennessee will meet twice during the 2016 season. Sure, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia and Florida could surprise and win their division, but on paper, the Crimson Tide and the Volunteers will be heavy favorites to meet in Atlanta. These two teams also have a regular season matchup on Oct. 15 in Knoxville, as Tennessee will be looking for its first victory over Alabama since 2006. While Athlon’s projection of the Volunteers to finish No. 7 in 2016 surprised some fans around the SEC, this is Butch Jones’ best team in Knoxville and it would be a major disappointment if Tennessee didn’t win the East. The Volunteers return 18 starters, the overall depth and talent has improved thanks to the recruiting efforts of this coaching staff, and the defense will take a step forward with the addition of coordinator Bob Shoop. Alabama isn’t without question marks, but it’s hard to pick against a team that has the nation’s best collection of overall talent. Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris are capable of keeping the ground attack performing at a high level with Derrick Henry off to the NFL, and the receiving corps could be the best in the SEC. And as usual in Tuscaloosa, the defense will rank among the nation’s best – if not No. 1.

 

Related:

 

2. Georgia and LSU – the Wild Card Teams of the SEC?

As mentioned above, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Georgia or LSU made it to the SEC Championship. However, in Athlon’s prediction meetings, Georgia and LSU were regarded as the toughest teams to project for 2016. Talent certainly isn’t an issue for either program, but the Bulldogs have a new coaching staff, uncertainty at quarterback and a rebuilt front seven on defense. While Mark Richt won a lot of games in Athens, a fresh start under Kirby Smart may not be a bad thing. Will Georgia have an easy transition to Smart and the new staff? Or will the transition take a season? At LSU, the preseason storylines sound rather familiar. With Leonard Fournette leading the way, the Tigers have one of the nation’s best ground attacks. Additionally, the defense – directed by new coordinator Dave Aranda – is loaded with speed, athleticism and talent. However, how much can LSU squeeze out of its passing game and quarterback Brandon Harris? The Tigers don’t need a ton of production out of the passing attack but improvement is essential to beating Alabama for the SEC West title.

 

College Football: Breaking Down Athlon’s 2016 Top 25



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3. Quarterback Play

It’s safe to say 2016 isn’t shaping up to be a banner year for quarterback play in the SEC. Only two teams – Ole Miss (Chad Kelly) and Tennessee (Joshua Dobbs) – enter the season with a clear answer at quarterback. Considering the question marks surrounding this position, it’s easy to see why there’s a lot of uncertainty (more than usual) in the SEC predictions. How quickly will Jacob Eason emerge as Georgia’s starter? How much of an upgrade is Luke Del Rio over Treon Harris at Florida? LSU needs Brandon Harris to take the next step in his development for the Tigers to challenge for the SEC title. Alabama also has uncertainty at quarterback, but the Crimson Tide are two-for-two under coordinator Lane Kiffin in finding the right answer at this position. Austin Allen is slated to replace his brother (Brandon) at quarterback for Arkansas, while Auburn and Texas A&M are expected to turn to a transfer this season. Just how questionable is this position right now? LSU’s Brandon Harris or Georgia’s Jacob Eason are the leading candidates to be the No. 3 quarterback in this league entering fall practice.

 

Related:

 

4. Pressure Building at Auburn and Texas A&M

How quickly the outlook for Gus Malzahn and Kevin Sumlin has changed over the last couple of seasons. Auburn played for the national championship in Malzahn’s first year but slipped to 8-5 in 2014 and regressed to 7-6 in 2015. And perhaps even more troubling for Malzahn? His side of the ball – the offense – averaged only 22.1 points in SEC games last season. While Auburn has recruited well, major improvement in the win column is unlikely in 2016. The offense enters the season with uncertainty at quarterback and an unsettled receiving corps, while the defense needs to take a step forward under new coordinator Kevin Steele. Adding to Malzahn’s challenge in 2016 is a schedule that features road trips to Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia and a home date against national title contender Clemson. Sumlin’s career path at Texas A&M is similar, as the Aggies posted 20 wins over his first two years, followed by back-to-back 8-5 campaigns. Fixing a porous defense was Sumlin’s top priority after the 2014 season. The addition of John Chavis paid dividends in 2015, and this unit should take another step forward in 2016. However, Sumlin’s biggest concern is the offense. Quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray transferred prior to the Music City Bowl last year, and the Aggies will be relying on Oklahoma graduate transfer Trevor Knight as the starter for new coordinator Noel Mazzone. Both teams have the talent to easily exceed their preseason expectations. However, neither team will rank among the top 25 in the nation without an answer emerging at the quarterback position.

 

5. Sorting Out the Bottom of the SEC East

The tiers in the SEC East are pretty clear for 2016. Tennessee is the heavy favorite to win the division, with Georgia and Florida vying for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. After that? It’s a tossup. Very little separates Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Missouri for next four spots. Kentucky and Vanderbilt tied for fourth in the division last year at 2-6 in league play, while South Carolina and Missouri tied at 1-7. A similar scenario should play out in 2016. The Wildcats are Athlon’s pick to emerge out of that four-team group for the No. 4 spot, as Mark Stoops’ team has a favorable home schedule – Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt – and should improve on offense with the addition of new play-caller Eddie Gran. Vanderbilt and Missouri are strong on defense, but both teams enter the year with question marks on offense. South Carolina has plenty of work to do under new coach Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks return only seven starters, and top linebacker Skai Moore was recently ruled out for the year due to injury. With question marks at quarterback and few proven skill players, all signs point to 2016 as a rebuilding year for Muschamp and the new staff.

 

College Football: Others Receiving Votes



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SEC 2016 Team Previews
East Division
 

National

Rank:

20 16 56 62 63 7 57
West Division
 

National

Rank:

1 26 35 9 41 10 28

 

Visit the  to order a copy of the 2016 SEC Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 14 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year. 
 

SEC Football 2016 Predictions

         
East Division
Rank Team   Projected SEC Record Projected Overall Record
1

(No. 7)

6-2 10-3
.
2

(No. 16)

5-3 9-3
.
3

(No. 20)

5-3 8-4
.
4

(No. 56)

3-5 6-6
.
5

(No. 57)

3-5 5-7
.
6

(No. 62)

2-6 5-7
.
7

(No. 63)

1-7 4-8
.
         
West Division
Rank Team   Projected SEC Record Projected Overall Record
1

(No. 1)

7-1 12-1
.
2

(No. 9)

6-2 10-2
.
3

(No. 10)

6-2 9-3
.
4

(No. 26)

5-3 8-4
.
5

(No. 28)

3-5 7-5
.
6

 

(No. 35)

3-5 6-6
.
7

(No. 41)

2-6 6-6
.
         
SEC Championship
Alabama over Tennessee 

 

SEC 2016 Superlatives and Season Predictions
 

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Mark

Ross

David

Fox

Braden

Gall

 
Offensive POY

Leonard Fournette

RB, LSU

Leonard Fournette

RB, LSU

Leonard Fournette

RB, LSU

Leonard Fournette

RB, LSU

Leonard Fournette

RB, LSU

Defensive POY

Myles Garrett

DE, Texas A&M

Myles Garrett

DE, Texas A&M

Myles Garrett

DE, Texas A&M

Myles Garrett

DE, Texas A&M

Jamal Adams

S, LSU

Coach of the Year

Nick Saban

Alabama

Nick Saban

Alabama

Kirby Smart

Georgia

Nick Saban

Alabama

Butch Jones

Tennessee

Coach on Hot Seat

Les Miles

LSU

Gus Malzahn

Auburn

Kevin Sumlin

Texas A&M

Mark Stoops

Kentucky

Mark Stoops

Kentucky

Top Freshman

Jacob Eason

QB, Georgia

Jacob Eason

QB, Georgia

Jacob Eason

QB, Georgia

Jacob Eason

QB, Georgia

Jacob Eason

QB, Georgia

Top Newcomer

Trevor Knight

QB, TAMU

Alex Ross

RB, Missouri

Trevor Knight

QB, TAMU

Trevor Knight

QB, TAMU

Luke Del Rio

QB, Florida

Sleeper Team Arkansas Kentucky Arkansas Auburn Florida
Top Coordinator Hire

Dave Aranda

DC, LSU

Dave Aranda

DC, LSU

Bob Shoop

DC, Tennessee

Dave Aranda

DC, LSU

Dave Aranda

DC, LSU

Key Position to Watch Alabama OL Tennessee WR Georgia LB Arkansas RB Alabama OL
Hardest to Evaluate LSU Georgia Texas A&M LSU Georgia
Coach on the Rise

Dave Aranda

DC, LSU

Dave Aranda

DC, LSU

Dave Aranda

DC, LSU

Geoff Collins

DC, Florida

Kirby Smart

HC, Georgia

Must-See Game

Alabama at

Tennessee

Alabama at 

Tennessee

Alabama at

LSU

Alabama at 

LSU

Alabama at

LSU

Breakout Player

Arden Key

DL, LSU

Bo Scarbrough

RB, Alabama

Cece Jefferson

DL, Florida

Bo Scarbrough

RB, Alabama

Minkah Fitzpatrick

CB, Alabama

Comeback Player

Nick Chubb

RB, Georgia

Harold Brantley

DL, Missouri

Nick Chubb

RB, Georgia

Nick Chubb

RB, Georgia

Nick Chubb

RB, Georgia

 

Ranking the SEC's Coaches for 2016

 

1. Nick Saban, Alabama

2. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

3. Bret Bielema, Arkansas

4. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

5. Butch Jones, Tennessee

 

 

Grading the SEC's New Coach Hires for 2016

 

1. Barry Odom, Missouri (B+)

2. Kirby Smart, Georgia (B+)

3. Will Muschamp, South Carolina (C+)

 

 

Ranking the SEC's Quarterbacks for 2016
 
1. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
2. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
3. Brandon Harris, LSU
4. Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
5. Jacob Eason, Georgia
 
 
SEC's Top Players on the Rise for 2016
 
1. Arden Key, DL, LSU
2. Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn 
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
4. Jacob Eason, QB, Georgia
5. Da'Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama
6. Cece Jefferson, DL, Florida 
7. Chris Westry, CB, Kentucky
8. Keith Ford, RB, Texas A&M
9. Trent Thompson, DL, Georgia
10. Terry Godwin, WR, Georgia
 
 
SEC's Top 15 Non-Conference Games for 2016
 
1. Ole Miss vs. Florida State (Sept. 5 - Orlando)
2. Alabama vs. USC (Sept. 3 - Arlington)
3. LSU vs. Wisconsin (Sept. 3 - Green Bay)
4. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 26)
5. Georgia vs. North Carolina (Sept. 3 - Atlanta)
6. UCLA at Texas A&M (Sept. 3)
7. Arkansas at TCU (Sept. 10)
8. Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (Sept. 10 - Bristol)
9. Clemson at Auburn (Sept. 3)
10. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 26)
11. Kentucky at Louisville (Nov. 26)
12. Georgia Tech at Georgia (Nov. 26)
13. Missouri at West Virginia (Sept. 3)
14. Mississippi State at BYU (Oct. 14)
15. Appalachian State at Tennessee (Sept. 3)
 
Key Coordinator Hires for 2016
 
1. Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, LSU 
2. Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator, Tennessee
3. Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
4. Jim Chaney, Offensive Coordinator, Georgia
5. Eddie Gran, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Kentucky
6. Noel Mazzone, Offensive Coordinator, Texas A&M
7. Kurt Roper, Co-Offensive Coordinator, South Carolina
8. Kevin Steele, Defensive Coordinator, Auburn
9. Travaris Robinson, Defensive Coordinator, South Carolina
10. Peter Sirmon, Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi State
 
 
Top 25 Incoming Freshmen (from 247Sports)
 
1. Greg Little, OL, Ole Miss
2. Shea Patterson, QB, Ole Miss
3. Jacob Eason, QB, Georgia
4. Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
5. Ben Davis, LB, Alabama
6. Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia
7. Mecole Hardman Jr., WR, Georgia
8. Lyndell Wilson, LB, Alabama
9. Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
10. McTelvin Agim, DL, Arkansas
11. Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
12. Kristian Fulton, DB, LSU
13. Rashad Lawrence, DT, LSU
14. Benito Jones, DL, Ole Miss
15. Antonneous Clayton, DL, Florida
16. Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn
17. Tyrie Cleveland, WR, Florida
18. B.J. Emmons, RB, Alabama
19. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
20. Nate Craig-Myers, WR, Auburn
21. Chauncey Gardner, DB, Florida
22. Saivion Smith, DB, LSU
23. Antwuan Jackson, DL, Auburn
24. Deontay Anderson, DB, Ole Miss
25. Feleipe Franks, QB, Florida
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SEC Football 2016 Predictions
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All taxonomy terms: College Football, News, Magazines
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Before each college football season, Athlon Sports hears from readers wanting to know why one team was favored over another in our preseason rankings. Why this team was ranked so high or that team so low.

 

Some of these questions are in — um — colorful language.

 

That’s why Athlon takes you inside our decision process for some of the biggest questions you ask. Believe it or not, some of these questions are the ones we grappled with through our rankings meeting.

 

Here are the questions we anticipated about our .

 

The Athlon Sports 2016 SEC Preview is

 

 

Was there any thought to picking any team other than Tennessee in the East?

 

Not really. The Volunteers, from a talent and experience standpoint, are clearly the best team in the SEC East. They have the right quarterback (Joshua Dobbs) in place — which gives them a huge advantage over every other team in the division — complemented by an outstanding running back duo and what should be an improved offensive line. The defense was solid last year and should be even better thanks to the addition of Bob Shoop as coordinator. There are a few reasons for concern, however. The schedule is very difficult once again: The Vols play Alabama (home) and Texas A&M (road) from the SEC West and visit Georgia, which figures to be their biggest challenger in the division. Also, this program will be under immense pressure to win big in 2016. Last year, Tennessee did not play well in crunch time, losing well-documented leads against Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas. How the Vols handle the spotlight, and the expectations that come with it, will go a long way in determining just how successful this team can be.

 

 

Kentucky is No. 4 in the East. That seems a bit high for a program that has won four SEC games in the past four seasons.

 

Yes, that does seem a bit lofty, but the prediction makes more sense when you consider that Kentucky has the most forgiving league schedule of the four teams jockeying for fourth place in the SEC East. The Wildcats host South Carolina and Vanderbilt — two games they should be favored to win — and they also get Mississippi State at home. That could be three wins right there, and three wins could be enough to edge out Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Missouri for fourth place. But it’s not just about schedule. Mark Stoops recruited well early in his tenure at UK, and the program is stocked with solid talent, most notably at the skill positions. Also, we can’t forget that this team was very close to winning several more games in 2016; the Cats lost by five to Florida, three to Auburn and four to Vanderbilt. A play here or there would have resulted in another win or two and a trip to a bowl game. We don’t expect Kentucky to be a factor in the SEC East race, but this is a team that should return to the postseason for the first time since 2010.

 

LSU has been a trendy pick as a national title contender in the offseason. How close were the Tigers to edging Alabama for the top spot in the SEC West?

 

Not too close. LSU will have a ton of talent — but talent has not been the issue in Baton Rouge. The Tigers have signed top-six recruiting classes in four straight seasons yet have a 14–10 record in the SEC since the start of the 2013 season. During that same stretch, Alabama is 21–3 in the SEC — including three wins over LSU. So while LSU has the makings of a really good team in 2016, there are more than enough reasons not to jump on the bandwagon and label this team as a legitimate national title contender.

 

Mississippi State has averaged 3.7 SEC wins per season under Dan Mullen and has yet to finish in last place under his watch. Still, the Bulldogs are the pick for last in the SEC West for the second straight season. Why?

 

It’s safe to say that our expectations for this program — as it relates to the finish in the division — would be much higher if it played in the SEC East. But the Bulldogs find themselves swimming in the brutal waters of the toughest division in football. And while they’ve continued to prove the prognosticators wrong, especially last year, the Dogs make the most sense at No. 7 this season. Through improved recruiting, MSU might be better positioned than in previous years to overcome some key personnel losses, but it’s tough to ignore the fact that the team must replace arguably the best player in school history (Dak Prescott) at the most important position (quarterback) on the field and that the top wide receiver (De’Runnya Wilson) and most talented defensive player (Chris Jones) are also gone.

Teaser:
Explain Yourselves: Athlon Answers Questions About 2016 SEC Predictions
Post date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-15-best-coaches-under-40-2016
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Last season was a banner year for the under-40 coaching set.

 

Justin Fuente coached his last season in his 30s by winning nine games at Memphis and then taking the Virginia Tech job. Kirby Smart landed one of the best jobs in college football at Georgia and then won a national title as Alabama’s defensive coordinator. Willie Taggart may have saved his job with an 8-5 season at USF. Kalani Sitake landed his dream job as BYU’s head coach.

 

All four will start the 2016 season after hitting the big 4-0, so they’re moving off this list.

 

There remain plenty of head coaches and coordinators in their 30s who will make a major impact in college football this season. Two of them (Matt Campbell and Kliff Kingsbury) are in the Big 12 alone, and that doesn’t count two offensive coordinators (Lincoln Riley and Sonny Cumbie) who could add to their stash of conference championship rings.

 

In other conferences, 35-year-old P.J. Fleck will be in contention for a MAC title. Bryan Harsin is looking to win his second Mountain West championship at Boise State.

 

A number of other under-40 coaches are in tough rebuilding jobs or seeking their first head coaching gig.

 

All ages are as of Sept. 1, 2016

 

All editions of the Athlon Sports college football 2016 preview magazine are .

 

1. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan head coach

Age: 35

Fleck has already been a hot commodity for also-ran Big Ten programs. It seems Fleck, a former Greg Schiano assistant, is going to pick his spot for a jump to a major job. Of course, what he’s got going now at Western Michigan is pretty good. After starting 1-11, the Broncos are 16-10 overall and 12-4 in the MAC the last two seasons. Fleck already has the reputation of a , and he’s lapped the MAC in recruiting the last three cycles.

 

2. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech head coach

Age: 37

Kingsbury is 19-19 overall and 10-17 in the Big 12 since his return to Texas Tech. Despite a 7-6 record in 2015, there were signs the Red Raiders are ready to make a move. Texas Tech beat Texas and Kansas State in back-to-back weeks in November after recording just one November win (over Iowa State) in Kingsbury's first two seasons. The Red Raiders are starting to improve their defense. Tech has proven it can beat the Big 12’s lower class. Time to start putting fear in the league’s contenders.

 

3. Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach

Age: 36

Campbell has been on the ascent almost as soon as he took over at Toledo for a bowl win in 2011. In four seasons, Campbell never took the Rockets to the MAC title game, but he finished with fewer than nine wins just once, going 7-5 in 2013. Toledo has ranked in the top four in the MAC in yards per play every year since 2010, when Campbell became offensive coordinator. Iowa State hopes Campbell will bring a dose of energy to one of the toughest Power 5 jobs in the country.

 

College Football: Big 12 adds title game, Vegas odds and Jeffery Simmons



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4. Bryan Harsin, Boise State head coach

Age: 39

The Broncos’ 9-4 finish and 5-3 mark in the Mountain West in 2015 were not what Boise State fans are accustomed to seeing. The bar is set plenty high, but there’s plenty of evidence that Harsin can more often than not cross it. Boise State is just two years removed from a 12-2 season, a Mountain West title and a win over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. True, four losses and losing to New Mexico and Air Force is seldom-visited territory for a Boise State coach, but there was plenty of silver lining last season. Harsin beat his mentor, Washington coach Chris Petersen, in the opener, and the Broncos crushed Northern Illinois 55-7 in the Poinsettia Bowl.

 

5. D.J. Durkin, Maryland head coach

Age: 38

Few coaches have a better pedigree than Durkin. He a native of Youngstown, Ohio, (a coaching hotbed that counts the Stoops family among others) and has spent most of his career under Urban Meyer (at Florida) and Jim Harbaugh (at Stanford and Michigan). In his last three years as a defensive coordinator with the Gators and Wolverines, his units have finished no lower than 14th in total defense. Durkin surely has picked up a ton of organizational know-how from Meyer and Harbaugh that he’ll need to apply at Maryland.

 

6. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma offensive coordinator

Age: 32

Even before arriving at Oklahoma, Riley was on course for a breakout. Air Raid coordinators tend to be on the fast track to big-time coordinator and head coaching jobs — Riley backed up Kliff Kingsbury and B.J. Symons at Texas Tech and served under Mike Leach for six years. Riley hit his stride in his fourth season as East Carolina’s offensive coordinator, improving the Pirates from 56th in total offense to 25th and finally fifth. In his first season at Oklahoma, the Sooners improved from 25th to seventh and reached the College Football Playoff.

 

7. Dave Aranda, LSU defensive coordinator

Age: 39

Aranda’s creative defenses have made him one of the nation’s top coordinators over the last four years. Three of his last four teams at Wisconsin and Utah State have ranked in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed per play. A move to LSU puts him at the helm of enviable defensive talent. The sky’s the limit if the Tigers make a run at the SEC and national titles.

 

8. Sonny Cumbie, TCU co-offensive coordinator

Age: 35

Along with Doug Meacham, Cumbie has been credited with a major shift in TCU’s offensive philosophy to a no-huddle spread. The move turned the Horned Frogs into one of the top three teams in the Big 12 the last two seasons. Meacham is the playcaller, but Cumbie — a former Texas Tech quarterback — was courted by Texas in their OC search.

 

9. Mike Norvell, Memphis head coach

Age: 34

Two of Todd Graham’s former offensive coordinators are head coaches now: Gus Malzahn (who went to Auburn as OC) and Chad Morris (who went to Clemson). Norvell didn’t have as much notoriety as the other two, but he’s been with Graham every step of the way from Tulsa to Pitt to Arizona State.

 

10. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina head coach

Age: 38

Montgomery has only coached two places — Duke on two separate stints and with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Having bosses like David Cutcliffe and Mike Tomlin isn’t a bad start. He’s a stickler for details and discipline, which is necessary to even the odds at a place like Duke.

 

College Football: Breaking Down Athlon’s 2016 Top 25



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11. Barry Odom, Missouri head coach

Age: 39

A former Missouri player, Odom worked his way from administrative roles to defensive coordinator under Gary Pinkel. Even as he ran a standout defense at Memphis, he seemed like a natural fit to take over for his mentor. He probably didn’t think it would be this soon and under difficult on- and off-field circumstances.

 

12. Neal Brown, Troy head coach

Age: 36

Troy went only 4-8 in Brown’s first season, but the Trojans improved over the course of the season. Troy went 3-3 in the final six games and took Appalachian State to overtime on the road during that span. A former offensive coordinator at Troy, Texas Tech and Kentucky, Brown actually had more success on the defensive side of the ball.

 

13. Mike Sanford Jr., Notre Dame offensive coordinator

Age: 33

Sanford was already well traveled before he landed on the staff at Notre Dame. He coached at Western Kentucky under Willie Taggart for a year, at Stanford for three under David Shaw and at Boise State for a year under Harsin. At Notre Dame, Brian Kelly has his hands all over the offense, but the Sanford deserves some of the credit for the quick development of Deshone Kizer and C.J. Prosise last season. Kelly’s offensive coordinators have had little trouble getting head coaching jobs, but they have not been particularly successful. Sanford may break the mold.

 

14. Walt Bell, Maryland offensive coordinator

Age: 31

In Bell’s two seasons as Arkansas State’s offensive coordinator, the Red Wolves led the Sun Belt in total offense in conference games. He got his start under Larry Fedora at Oklahoma State, Southern Miss and North Carolina.

 

15. Tee Martin, USC offensive coordinator

Age: 38

The quarterback of 1998 national champion Tennessee has been moving up the coaching ranks from high schools to Kentucky to the offensive coordinator post. He’s been in demand as a recruiter, but this will be his first season as a playcaller.

 

College Football: Others Receiving Votes



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Teaser:
College Football's 15 Best Coaches Under 40 for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-miami-hurricanes-schedule-2016
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The ’ 2016 season is a beginning of a new era in a couple of ways. The program hired Mark Richt in order to return the program back to its glory years of the 1990s and early 2000s. On Sept. 3, the Hurricanes also will start playing in newly renovated New Miami Stadium, formerly Sun Life Stadium (among other names).

 

Related:

 

Despite finishing the 2015 season with an 8-5 record, many people believe the Hurricanes could play in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte as soon as this season under Richt’s guidance. The main reason for optimism around the program is because of junior quarterback Brad Kaaya.

 

In his first two seasons at Miami, Kaaya has not only become one of the ACC’s best quarterbacks but also one of its best players. If he can improve on his numbers (16 touchdowns, five interceptions) from a year ago and remains healthy, expect the Hurricanes to remain in contention in the ACC Coastal race throughout the season.

 

Related:

 

Taking a look at Miami’s 2016 schedule, it is more difficult than last season’s slate. Yes, the Hurricanes won’t have to play defending ACC champion Clemson in divisional crossover play, but the team adds Notre Dame, Appalachian State and NC State to its schedule.

 

Here are Miami’s 12 regular season games ranked from easiest to most difficult:

 

12. Sept. 3 vs. Florida A&M

Miami will begin its season against the Florida A&M Ratters, which were one of the worst teams in the FCS a season ago. Florida A&M is coming off of a 1-10 showing that included nine losses by double digits.

 

This is a perfect game for Kaaya and the Hurricanes’ offense to establish a good rapport with each other. A game against the Ratters also should give the defense under new coordinator Manny Diaz a lot of confidence as the schedule will only get tougher from this point.

 

11. Sept. 10 vs. Florida Atlantic

This game is a rematch from last season when the Owls from Conference USA trailed the Hurricanes by just three points (20-17) at the half. Miami would go on to outscore FAU 24-3 for a more comfortable 44-20 outcome.

 

FAU has posted back-to-back 3-9 seasons under head coach Charlie Partridge, but four of the Owls’ losses last season were by seven points or fewer. While FAU improved its defensive ranking from 110th in 2014 to 70th last season, Miami should have a relatively easy time defeating the Owls once again.

 

10. Nov. 12 at Virginia

Much like the Hurricanes, the Virginia Cavaliers also will have a new head coach in hopes to return their football program back to respectability. Bronco Mendenhall left BYU to take over in Charlottesville.

 

Virginia finished 4-8 in 2015, but appears to have hit a home run in landing Mendenhall. It will likely take some time for the Cavaliers to become a major player in the ACC. This is a game Miami should win easily.

 

9. Oct. 1 at Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech had a disappointing 2015 season as the Yellow Jackets finished with a 3-9 record and failed to make a bowl appearance for the first time since 1996.

 

Georgia Tech should produce better results in 2016 because the team has recovered from key injuries and welcome back quarterback Justin Thomas for his senior season. Last season in head coach Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense, Thomas threw for 1,345 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

 

If Thomas if can return to his 2014 form where he threw for 18 touchdowns and rushed for 1,086 yards and eight touchdowns, the Yellow Jackets could contend in a wide-open ACC Coastal.

 

8. Nov. 26 vs. Duke

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has raised the bar in Durham. Before his arrival, the Blue Devils would have just been happy with a six-win season. Now, fans expect the football team to contend for ACC Coastal Division titles.

 

Quarterback Thomas Sirk tore his Achilles during a Feb. 9 conditioning workout and his status this season is unknown. Without Sirk, it could be hard for the Blue Devils to contend.

 

7. Oct. 20 at Virginia Tech

For the first time since 1986, Frank Beamer will not be patrolling the Virginia Tech sideline. Former Memphis head coach Justin Fuente is now the man Hokie fans hope will lead them to a fifth ACC championship.

 

Virginia Tech has traditionally played Miami tough, especially in Blacksburg. The Hokies’ offense has some good skill position players returning in Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips, Bucky Hodges and Travon McMillan.

 

6. Sept. 17 at Appalachian State

Appalachian State’s transition to FBS has been a success so far. In 2015, the Mountaineers finished 11-2 and received their first-ever bowl invitation, beating Ohio 31-29 in the Camellia Bowl.

 

Miami will be traveling to Boone, N.C., to face the Mountaineers on their home turn in an interesting out-of-conference matchup. This will not be an easy game for the Hurricanes, especially on the road.

 

5. Nov. 19 at NC State

Dave Doeren enters his fourth season as the NC State head coach. Last season, the Wolfpack finished 7-6 and lost to Mississippi State in the Belk Bowl.

 

The Wolfpack be starting a new quarterback in Jalan McClendon. Getting running back Matt Dayes back from injury will help their offense. Dayes rushed for 865 yards in eight games.

 

NC State is a tough opponent in Carter-Finley Stadium, so the Hurricanes will have to be on upset alert.

 

4. Oct. 15 vs. North Carolina

Last season, the North Carolina Tar Heels gave eventual College Football Playoff runner-up Clemson all it could handle in the ACC Championship Game before losing 45-37. This season, Mitch Trubisky steps in at quarterback for the departed Marquise Williams.

 

North Carolina’s defense has always been a question and this is an area Miami should be able to take advantage of in this matchup. The two teams have split the season series the last four years with the Tar Heels winning last year’s game 59-21.

 

3. Nov. 5 vs. Pittsburgh

By the time this game is played it could have significant impact on the outcome of the ACC Coastal race. The Panthers will get back 2014 ACC Player of the Year running back James Conner back after missing all of last season while battling Hodgkin lymphoma.

 

Head coach Pat Narduzzi has given the program a bolt of new energy following a stretch of mediocrity. Sixteen starters return for the Panthers in 2016, so Pittsburgh could be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of Miami playing in its first ACC Championship Game.

 

2. Oct. 29 at Notre Dame

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be one of the two preseason national championship contenders that the Hurricanes will face this season. Despite returning only eight starters, the Fighting Irish should have a productive team, especially on offense where they have averaged 33.5 points per game over the last two seasons.

 

It is a rivalry game so anything can happen, but it will be tough for the Hurricanes to go into South Bend, Ind., and come out with a victory.

 

1. Oct. 8 vs. Florida State

Miami’s game against Florida State is important for a number of reasons. The Seminoles have been the No. 1 team in the state of Florida since 2013 and the Hurricanes have not beaten their archrival since 2009.

 

The last two games in this series have been very tight. In 2014 at home, the Hurricanes led the Seminoles for most of the game until a late touchdown put Florida State ahead to stay in a 30-26 hard-fought victory. Last season, the Seminoles defeated the Hurricanes in another hotly contested battle, this one in Tallahassee.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on Miami's College Football Schedule in 2016
Post date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: American League, MLB
Path: /mlb/mlb-june-what-watch-american-league
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The calendar has flipped to June and we are almost two months into the 2016 season. For the most part, the season is still too young for teams to distance themselves in the division races — aside from the Cubs in the NL Central — but even then, being up by almost 10 games in the first week of June isn’t anything to write home about, yet.

 

In the American League, the division standings are even tighter, especially in the AL East and Central. With the official start of summer just around the corner, the dog days of the long season are upon us. Here are a few things to watch in the AL in June.

 

AL Central Scramble

 

The White Sox burst out of the gate in April, winning 17 games and were 13 games over .500 on May 9. The new-look offense, led by Todd Frazier, and the starting pitching carved its way through the first 30-plus days of the season. But since May 9, the Sox have been sputtering, going just 6-17 and enduring losing streaks of four and seven games.

 

The one bright spot during the Sox’ downturn is the dominance of southpaw pitching duo Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. Each are in the top seven of the AL in ERA with Sale pacing leading the way in wins (nine) and WHIP (0.94).

 

The White Sox’ crash has perfectly coincided with the Royals’ revival. The reigning World Series champs opened the season with an unenthusiastic 12-11 record in April before finding their rhythm in May (17-11) and taking over first place in the division. The Royals have done this with minimal help from their starting pitching as Yordano Ventura, Chris Young and Kris Medlen all have inflated ERAs of 4.82 or higher, while also dealing with injuries to stalwarts like Mike Moustakas (ACL) and Alex Gordon (broken bone in wrist).

 

Thanks to a four-game sweep over the weekend, the Indians have passed the Royals and currently hold a game and a half lead atop the division entering Monday’s action. And Cleveland has accomplished this despite losing two outfielders to PED-related suspensions (Marlon Byrd, Abraham Almonte) and the never-ending recovery of the oft-injured Michael Brantley. The shortage of outfielders and Cleveland’s ability to stay in the division hunt could make them big trade deadline buyers in about a month.

 

The Tigers are possibly one of the biggest underachieving teams in baseball thus far and it could cost manager Brad Ausmus his job before long. The offense has been fine, but the starting pitching has been inconsistent.  Newly acquired Jordan Zimmermann has been great, but everyone else in the rotation has been unsettling. Justin Verlander has improved as of late, dropping his ERA from a season-worst 6.49 on May 3 to 3.97 following his win on Sunday. But Mike Pelfrey’s ERA sits at 4.76, Anibal Sanchez (3-6, 6.67 ERA in 11 GS) recently was removed from the rotation, and the bullpen’s collective ERA (4.70) is 27th in MLB. If the Tigers have any chance of keeping up with the rest of the division, the pitching is going to have to keep up with the bats.

 

Red Hot Red Sox

 

The Red Sox were supposed to be an improved team from their last-place effort in 2015, and the biggest improvement was supposed to come from the starting rotation. The Sox currently find themselves atop the AL East with a game and a half lead over the Orioles. But Boston’s boost hasn’t come from the overhauled starting rotation. The $217 million arm of David Price has yet to find his groove, posting a 4.88 ERA in his 11 starts so far, while Rick Porcello and Clay Buchholz have had their own struggles.

 

Boston’s offense has been the driving force behind the resurgence, led by the new version of the “Killer B’s” – Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. But perhaps the biggest surprises at the plate have come from the Red Sox’ established veterans.

 

Much was made about Hanley Ramirez making the move from left field to first base. Ramirez has responded, hitting .282/.345/.397 after a disappointing 2015.

 

David Ortiz, in his farewell season, may be putting together an MVP campaign. Big Papi is mashing, hitting .340 with 16 home runs and leading the league in doubles (26), RBIs (54), slugging percentage (.732), OPS (1.156), OPS+ (202), and total bases (142) — leading many to speculate if this is in fact Ortiz’s final season.

 

The mix of budding superstars and veterans contributing in the daily lineup has made this offense an absolute force to be reckoned with. Currently, the Sox lead the majors in runs scored, batting average, hits, doubles, RBIs, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, and total bases.

 

Boston enters this week tied with Baltimore for first in the AL East, although one up in the win column (33 vs. 32). The Red Sox just finished a stretch of 10 games against the Orioles and the third-place Blue Jays, in which they went 4-6.  Following a three-game set at home against Baltimore June 14-16, Boston won’t face either division rival until mid-August. Which team will be able to take advantage of this extended break?

 

Oakland Trade Bait

 

Typically, July is the time for wheeling and dealing — and while it might be a little too early for most teams to pull the trigger on a blockbuster, it’s never too early to speculate. And the White Sox have already made the first move, trading for San Diego’s James Shields in an effort to bolster their starting rotation.

 

Out in the AL West, Oakland is in last place, sitting at 25-32 and nine and a half games behind Texas. The A’s appear primed to sell and have several potential trade chips that should generate plenty of interest. With the New York Mets struggling offensively and without third baseman David Wright for the foreseeable future, a move for Danny Valencia could be a possibility. Valencia, 31, is playing under a one-year deal and is putting together his best numbers, hitting .343 with a .968 OPS.

 

The A’s top two pitchers also could be in the mix for a big trade. Rich Hill, 36, has made the most of his first season as a full-time starter since 2007. Hill, who will be a free agent after the season, will be a hot commodity come July as many early contending teams, including the aforementioned Red Sox, are in need of starting pitching help.

 

But perhaps the crown jewel of the July trade deadline will end up being A’s ace Sonny Gray. Gray has struggled to start the season, posting a 5.77 ERA, and went on the disabled list on May 22 with a strained trapezius muscle. But he returned to the mound on Sunday, giving up just one run over five innings in a no-decision against Houston. If Gray is able to rediscover his All- Star form, his trade value should go up. Only 26 years old, a healthy and effective Gray would command a massive return should Oakland decide to trade its young ace, who is under control until 2020. The Red Sox, Cubs, Tigers and Dodgers are just a few of the teams that could use Gray’s services and figure to at least place a call to the A’s at some point to find out the asking price.

 

— Written by Jake Rose, an avid baseball fan who also is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter .

Teaser:
MLB in June: What to Watch in the American League
Post date: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-top-50
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There’s no denying the is home to the best football players in the world. But when it comes to the best of the best, who is king of the gridiron? Quarterback may be the glamor position of the league, but does it also lay claim to the league’s top player?


To answer that question, Athlon Sports teamed up with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services to not only rank NFL players by position for our , but also to come up with an overall top 50 list. Not surprisingly, quarterbacks dominate the top five, as Cam Newton, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have combined to win five NFL MVP awards while starting eight Super Bowls.

 

While all that hardware and those multiple Super Sunday appearances are impressive, it’s not enough to dethrone the No. 1 player on our list. Last season, J.J. Watt joined Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor as the only players in history to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times. Watt has claimed the honor in three of the past four seasons and is without question not only the top defender in the league currently; he’s the top player period.

 

Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.

 

2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I  I I I

 

NFL’s Top 50 Players for 2016

 

1. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston

Collected his third NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in four years after leading all defensive linemen in sacks (17.5), quarterback hits (50), tackles for a loss (29) and passes defended (eight).

 

2. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina

Collected 48 of 50 votes to win the NFL’s MVP award for the 2015 season. The athletic competitor passed for 35 touchdowns and ran for 10 more scores.

 

3. Tom Brady, QB, New England

The future NFL Hall of Famer and 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback responded in the face of adversity with 4,770 yards passing and 36 touchdowns. He was intercepted only seven times. Will serve a four game suspension to start the 2016 season.

 

4. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay

Had a blip on the career radar in 2015 after losing prime target Jordy Nelson. His 60.7 completion percentage was the lowest in his eight years as a starter.

 

5. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh

Set single-season franchise records in receptions (136), yards (1,834), 100-yard receiving games (nine) and receiving yards per game (114.6). Set a franchise record with at least 110 catches three straight years.

 

6. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England

The unanimous first-team All-Pro had 72 catches for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Tom Brady and Gronk have connected on 64 career touchdown passes, most by any pass-catch duo in team history.

 

7. Khalil Mack, DE, Oakland

The first player named to the AP All-Pro first team at two different positions in the same season, linebacker and defensive end. Only J.J. Watt tallied more sacks than the versatile and explosive playmaker.

 

8. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta

Earned his second straight Pro Bowl selection after leading the NFL with 1,871 yards and tying Antonio Brown with 136 receptions. He scored eight times.

 

9. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh

He missed the second half of the 2015 season with an MCL tear, but before the injury, the Pro Bowl-caliber back was averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 92.7 yards per game.

 

10. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina

The instinctive warhorse recorded 118 tackles in the regular season and added 29 more in the postseason.

 

11. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle 

Was voted second-team All-Pro in 2015. He’s smart, quick and reactive. Athletic and competitive in his play.

 

12. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota

The workhorse led the NFL with 1,485 yards with over 20 carries per game. He scored 11 times and averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

 

13. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh

With Antonio Brown and a healthy Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers can score on anyone. Big Ben holds numerous career franchise passing records.

 

14. Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland

A nine-time Pro Bowl player and a six time first-team All-Pro in his nine years in the NFL. A total package of size, flexibility and explosiveness.

 

15. Von Miller, OLB, Denver

The Super Bowl MVP has been franchised by the Broncos as they work on a new long-term contract. In five years, Miller has gotten to the quarterback 60 times and has forced 16 fumbles.

 

16. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona

A big and physical corner who was voted to his fifth straight Pro Bowl. The durable athlete has not missed a start since being drafted in 2011.

 

17. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle 

Since entering the NFL, Thomas has been one of the most dominant safeties in the league and leader of the Legion of Boom. An intense, focused and physical player.

 

18. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans

The 15-year veteran averaged 7.8 yards per attempt and had 10 games of over 300 yards passing. It was the fifth time in his career he has done so.

 

19. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati

Is the first Bengal to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first five seasons. Ranked eighth in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,297, averaging 15.1 yards per reception.

 

20. Josh Norman, CB, Washington

The first-team All-Pro corner signed with the Redskins after Carolina released him from the franchise tag. The competitive corner totaled 56 tackles and defended 19 passes.

 

21. Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas

Was the first offensive lineman Jerry Jones selected in the first round since he purchased the Cowboys in 1989. The strong, athletic knee bender is the prototype for future NFL tackles.

 

22. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle 

Wilson has won 46 regular season games, more than any quarterback in his first four years in NFL history.

 

23. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles

The Pro Bowler was second among all interior defenders with 69 tackles, including 11 sacks. Has been a force since Day 1 in the league.

 

24. Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets

Registered 12 sacks and defended seven passes in 2015 en route to his first Pro Bowl berth.

 

25. Justin Houston, OLB, Kansas City

May miss part of the 2016 season rehabbing his knee from February surgery. He exploded with 22 sacks in 2014 after collecting 26.5 sacks in his previous three years in the league.

 

26. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston

Has started 48 straight games since being drafted in 2013, recording 239 receptions, 3,533 yards and 19 touchdowns. He is averaging 14.8 yards per reception over his career. Earned first Pro Bowl berth in 2015.

 

27. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego

Rivers is the franchise leader in career completion percentage and passer rating. He completed a career-high 437 passes in 2015.

 

28. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants

Backed up his record0setting rookie campaign with a more impressive second year. He had 96 receptions, 1,450 yards (15.1 per catch) and 13 touchdowns.

 

29. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Detroit

The relentless and talented ascending defender racked up 14.5 sacks on his way to his first Pro Bowl berth in 2015. He earned second-team All-Pro honors.

 

30. Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati

The quick-twitch and high-motor Atkins returned to form last season. Had 11 sacks, tying for the most in the league among interior linemen.

 

31. Jamie Collins, OLB, New England

Recorded eight tackles and sacked Peyton Manning twice in the AFC Championship Game at Denver. Forced five fumbles in 2015.

 

32. Kawann Short, DT, Carolina

Worked and pushed his way to 55 tackles and 11 sacks last fall. The power player delivers an explosive jolt to the blocker with his hands.

 

33. Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay

The dynamic Pro Bowl pass rusher added to his overall game by playing inside linebacker the past year-and-a-half and made all the defensive calls. He has 67.5 sacks in six years.

 

34. Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver

Played in 79 regular-season games and started 63 times in his first five season with the Broncos. He had 12 interceptions in that span. Second-team All-Pro in 2015.

 

35. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina

Dependable and consistent, Olsen caught 77 passes for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015. He has played in 142 consecutive games.

 

36. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Miami

After signing a huge contract in 2015, Suh had a large target on his back, but fought his way through double- and triple-teams to register 61 tackles and six sacks.

 

37. Mike Daniels, DE, Green Bay

Is one of the Packers’ featured interior rushers in the team’s nickel sub packages. The short but explosive leverage defender consistently pressures opponents’ quarterbacks.

 

38. Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City

Has spent his entire 10-year career with the Chiefs, recording 86 sacks and forcing 32 fumbles. Started out as a 4-3 defensive end before moving to outside linebacker.

 

39. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay

Re-signed with the Bucs as an unrestricted free agent in 2016. Only Peterson rushed for than his 1,402 yards in 2015.

 

40. Malcolm Jenkins, S, Philadelphia

A playmaker who earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2015. He posted career and team highs with 109 tackles, three forced fumbles and 10 passes defended.

 

41. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City

The explosive back has rushed for 7,220 yards and caught 283 passes heading into the 2016 season. Suffered a season-ending knee injury for the second time in his career in ‘15.

 

42. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver

Joined Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt and Jerry Rice as the only players in NFL history with four consecutive years of at least 90 catches and 1,300 receiving yards.

 

43. Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona

The angular but explosive edge defender has consistently been one of the top defensive linemen in passes defended over the past five years.

 

44. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati

Led the Bengals with a career-best 13.5 sacks. The long-armed defender also earned a Special Teams’ Player of the Week award by blocking a key field-goal attempt versus the 49ers.

 

45. Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia

Will make a position scheme move from a 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 tackle. Regardless of the alignment, Cox closes off running lanes as an impact hitter and pressures the quarterback.

 

46.  Eric Berry, S, Kansas City

Has been elected to four Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro pick in 2015 in his first year back after overcoming cancer.

 

47. Derrick Johnson, ILB, Kansas City

The 11-year veteran earned his fourth Pro Bowl bid by registering 116 tackles this past season. Has totaled 990 tackles and defended 68 passes over his

career.

 

48. Delvin Breaux, CB, New Orleans

Suffered a serious neck injury and did not play football in college. Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Saints and started all 16 games in 2015. One of league’s emerging stars.

 

49. NaVorro Bowman, ILB, San Francisco

Led the NFL in tackles during the 2015 season with 154 — a remarkable total after sitting out 2014 rehabbing from a severe knee injury.

 

50. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angles

Voted the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, Gurley exploded on the field with 146 yards on 19 carries during the fourth week of the season and hasn’t looked back.

Teaser:
2016 NFL Player Rankings: Top 50
Post date: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 11:00
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Path: /life/muhammad-alis-kindness-was-legendary
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The classic boxing film, Requiem for a Heavyweight, opens with aging journeyman Louis “Mountain” Rivera (Anthony Quinn) being knocked out by an up-and-coming prospect as a group of legends that include Jack Dempsey, Barney Ross and Willie Pep watch from a television in a bar. When Mountain has a tough time getting up, his opponent rushes over to check on him. The fighter was a young Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, and that was America’s first glimpse of his kindness to others.

 

Ali, who passed away June 3 of pneumonia, was the most recognizable and perhaps, most controversial, athlete of the past 50 years. However, throughout his magnificent life, Ali’s grace to others never wavered. Publisher Malcolm S. Forbes made the famous statement, “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” Ali lived it.

 

Ali’s former personal physician and cornerman, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, was so moved by the boxer’s kindness that his book, Muhammad Ali: A View from the Corner, is chock full of stories of his acts of generosity, including one of him picking up a college student hitchhiking in the rain and then paying his fare home. He would always tell Pacheco that doing nice things only takes a few seconds, but mean so much to others.

 

Detractors of Ali’s kindness often point out his cruel treatment of fighters, most notably his verbal abuse of Joe Frazier and his savage ring beating of Ernie Terrell for refusing to call him by his new name. It is important to note that he reconciled with both fighters in retirement, and that they are exceptions to the norm. Numerous boxers who faced Ali enjoyed warm relationships following their careers. For example, he watched George Foreman street preach in Houston in the 1980s. When Ken Norton was in a near-death car accident in 1986, he woke up in hospital room one evening to Ali sitting by his bed doing magic tricks.

 

I never had a chance to meet Ali, despite his numerous visits to the Washington, D.C., area. The District has many people who crossed paths with “The Greatest,” from his political activism to his fights in Landover, Md., to his advocacy for world peace.

 

One of my favorite stories came from an individual who attended a dinner about 10 years ago in which Ali was a guest of honor. He had brought a book of Ali photos and approached one of his handlers with low expectations to see if “The Greatest” could sign it. To his surprise, the handler told him to wait a moment and then ushered him up to Ali’s suite. He sat with Ali, who went through the book and pointed to pictures that brought out great memories. That kind of generosity is rare in people with fairly normal lives, much less some who had his demands at the time.

 

Ali once said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” It is fitting that he lived in a mansion for most of his life. Rest in peace, Champ. You were one of a kind.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at .

 

(Top photo courtesy of )

Teaser:
Muhammad Ali’s Kindness was Legendary
Post date: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 10:45
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The American Athletic Conference was college football’s top Group of 5 league in 2015 and retains that spot once again in 2016. Eight teams from this conference earned bowl eligibility last season and a similar total should be expected this fall. Additionally, the bottom of the league should improve with new coaches at UCF (Scott Frost) and Tulane (Willie Fritz).

 

Houston capped a standout debut by coach Tom Herman with a 13-1 record and a victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl last year. The Cougars begin 2016 right where they ended 2015 – at the top of the American Athletic Conference and the No. 1 team from the Group of 5 ranks. Quarterback Greg Ward leads a dynamic offense, while the defense owns the best front seven in the conference. Houston also opens 2016 with a marquee opponent (Oklahoma) at a neutral site (NRG Stadium). The matchup against the Sooners is a huge opportunity for the Cougars to make a statement in Week 1. Navy, Memphis and Tulsa should be bowl teams from the West Division, while improvement is expected at SMU in Chad Morris’ second year.

 

While Houston is a clear favorite in the West Division, the top of the East features a tight battle between USF and Temple. The Owls won the East last year, but the Bulls are Athlon’s pick to win the league crown in 2016. Additionally, there’s intrigue at Cincinnati with one of the AAC’s top offenses, while UConn is making steady improvement under coach Bob Diaco.  

 

Five Key Questions That Will Shape the AAC in 2016

 

1. Houston’s Playoff Hopes

Making the College Football Playoff as a team from the Group of 5 ranks won’t be easy. However, Houston enters 2016 with legitimate playoff hopes after a 13-1 record and an impressive win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl last year. Preseason polls don’t factor into the committee’s rankings, but it certainly doesn’t hurt Houston to be ranked anywhere in the 10-20 range this offseason, and the Cougars have two huge opportunities – Oklahoma and Louisville – to earn marquee wins. Even if Houston wins both of those games, an undefeated record is no guarantee. The Cougars play at Cincinnati, Navy and Memphis in conference play. Additionally, Tom Herman’s team has a few personnel concerns to address. The secondary loses three starters, including standout cornerback William Jackson III, and the offense has a few voids to fill at the skill positions. Transfer Duke Catalon should step into the starting role at running back, with Oklahoma State transfer Ra’Shaad Samples sliding into the receiving corps to replace Demarcus Ayers. Even with a few question marks to address, Houston will have a chance to win all 12 of its regular season games with Herman leading the way, along with another dynamic year out of quarterback Greg Ward.

 

Related:

 

2. Temple vs. USF in the East Division

USF dominated Temple in the head-to-head matchup (44-23) last season, but the Bulls fell one game short of winning the East. Despite missing out on the division crown, USF showed marked improvement in coach Willie Taggart’s third season and the program is clearly trending up entering 2016. Even though Temple loses its share of key players – including standout linebacker Tyler Matakevich – the division race will be tight once again. USF has the division’s best overall collection of talent, along with two standouts returning on offense in quarterback Quinton Flowers and running back Marlon Mack. The biggest question mark for Taggart has to be the rebuilding effort on both lines of scrimmage, and the schedule in conference play isn’t kind to the Bulls with road trips to Cincinnati, Temple and Memphis. The Owls suffered key losses at each level on defense, but coach Matt Rhule’s team is set on offense with the return of quarterback P.J. Walker and running back Jahad Thomas. USF is Athlon’s pick to win the East Division, but not much separates the Bulls and Owls in the projected final standings for 2016.

 

3. Will Cincinnati Rebound After a Disappointing 2015 Season?

Cincinnati was widely considered the favorite in the East Division last preseason and arguably the top team in the league. However, the Bearcats slipped to 7-6 overall and recorded just a 4-4 mark in league play. The seven-win season snapped a streak of four consecutive years with at least nine wins. While the defense ranked near the bottom of league in points allowed and total defense, Cincinnati’s biggest problem in 2015 was its minus-19 turnover margin. Considering the Bearcats lost three league games by eight points or less, small improvement in the turnover department could result in a jump of at least two wins in 2016. The defense returns seven starters and should show some improvement this fall. However, Cincinnati’s hopes of winning the East rest with an offense that averaged 33.8 points a game in 2015 and returns two proven quarterbacks in Gunner Kiel and Hayden Moore.

 

Related:

 

4. Navy, Tulsa and UConn…Three Sleepers to Watch?

South Florida, Temple and Houston are picked by most to be the top three teams in the American Athletic Conference for 2016. But what happens if any team out of that trio takes an unexpected step back? Keep an eye on three teams: Navy, Tulsa and UConn. The Midshipmen have to find a replacement for quarterback Keenan Reynolds, but coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team won’t suffer too much in the win column. Expect Navy to reload on offense behind new quarterback Tago Smith, while the defense could pick up some of the slack with six returning starters. Tulsa has a favorable crossover schedule against the East Division (East Carolina, UCF and Cincinnati) and returns six starters from one of the league’s top offenses. Quarterback Dane Evans headlines the Golden Hurricane attack for coach Philip Montgomery, and the return of Keevan Lucas from injury should alleviate the loss of Keyarris Garrett at receiver. However, for Tulsa to take a step forward in the West Division, the defense has to improve. The Golden Hurricane surrendered 39.8 points a game last year and gave up nearly 300 passing yards a game. UConn took a step forward in coach Bob Diaco’s second season, guiding the Huskies to a six wins and a bowl trip. Diaco’s team should be even better in 2016, as six starters return from a defense that led the AAC in fewest points allowed, while the offense returns nearly intact and can only improve after averaging only 17.2 points a game last season.

 

Follow the Athlon Sports' college football team on Twitter: ,

 

5. How the New Coaches Perform?

The American Athletic Conference already had a solid collection of head coaches in place, but this group got deeper over the offseason with the hires of Scott Frost (UCF), Mike Norvell (Memphis), Scottie Montgomery (East Carolina) and Willie Fritz (Tulane). Fritz is one of the top overall hires for the 2016 cycle and provides a boost for a program that has only five winning seasons since 1988. Frost comes to UCF after seven years at Oregon, including the last three as the program’s offensive coordinator. The Knights have more talent in the program than last season’s 0-12 record would suggest, and Frost’s up-tempo, no-huddle attack on offense should utilize more of UCF’s skill talent and help quarterback Justin Holman regain his 2014 form. Justin Fuente guided Memphis to 19 wins from 2014-15 and brought significant improvement to a program that was among the nation’s worst under Larry Porter. Fuente set the bar high, but the Tigers won’t slip too far under Norvell. Finding a replacement for quarterback Paxton Lynch is priority No. 1 for Norvell, but there’s enough talent to push for another winning mark in 2016. Montgomery has learned from one of the best in Duke’s David Cutcliffe and inherits a team that just missed on a bowl appearance in 2015 with four losses by seven points or less. The Pirates need to find stability at quarterback, but Montgomery has a deep group of skill players at his disposal and six returning starters on defense. All four coaches could have some tough moments in year one, but the future looks bright for Montgomery, Norvell, Fritz and Frost.

 

American Athletic Conference 2016 Team Previews
East Division
 

National

Rank:

54 77 94 37 52 100
West Division
 

National

Rank:

15 83 67 101 117 84

Visit the  to order a copy of the 2016 National College Football Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 128 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year. 

 

 

American Athletic Conference Predictions for 2016

         
East Division
Rank Team   Projected AAC Record Projected Overall Record
1

(No. 37)

6-2 9-4
.
2

(No. 52)

5-3 8-4
.
3

(No. 54)

5-3 8-4
.
4

(No. 77)

4-4 6-6
.
5

(No. 94)

3-5 4-8
.
6

(No. 100)

1-7 3-9
.
         
West Division
Rank Team   Projected AAC Record Projected Overall Record
1

(No. 15)

8-0 11-2
.
2

(No. 67)

6-2 8-4
.
3

(No. 83)

4-4 7-5
.
4

(No. 84)

4-4 7-5
.
5

(No. 101)

2-6 4-8
.
6

(No. 117)

0-8 2-10
.
         
American Athletic Conference Championship
Houston over South Florida 

 

American Athletic 2016 Superlatives and Season Predictions
 

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Mark

Ross

David

Fox

Braden

Gall

 
Offensive POY

Greg Ward

QB, Houston

Greg Ward

QB, Houston

Greg Ward

QB, Houston

Greg Ward

QB, Houston

Greg Ward

QB, Houston

Defensive POY

Jamar Summers

CB, UConn

Jamar Summers

CB, UConn

Steven Taylor

LB, Houston

Steven Taylor

LB, Houston

Jamar Summers

CB, UConn

Coach of the Year

Tom Herman

Houston

Tom Herman

Houston

Tom Herman

Houston

Tom Herman

Houston

Tom Herman

Houston

Top Freshman

Ed Oliver

DL, Houston

Ed Oliver

DL, Houston

Ed Oliver

DL, Houston

Ed Oliver

DL, Houston

Ed Oliver

DL, Houston

Top Newcomer

Duke Catalon

RB, Houston

Ra'Shaad Samples

WR, Houston

Duke Catalon

RB, Houston

Riley Ferguson

QB, Memphis

Riley Ferguson

QB, Memphis

Sleeper Team Cincinnati Tulsa Cincinnati Tulsa Temple
Top Coordinator Hire

Doug Ruse

OC, Tulane

Kenwick Thompson

DC, ECU

Zac Taylor

OC, Cincinnati

Tony Petersen

OC, ECU

Chris Ball

DC, Memphis

Key Position to Watch Houston DBs Houston DBs Houston DBs Houston DBs USF DL
Hardest to Evaluate Memphis Memphis Memphis Navy Memphis
Coach on the Rise

Willie Fritz

Tulane

Willie Fritz

Tulane

Willie Fritz

Tulane

Todd Orlando

DC, Houston

Willie Fritz

Tulane

Must-See Game

Houston vs.

Oklahoma

Houston vs. 

Oklahoma

Houston vs.

Oklahoma

Houston at

Cincinnati

Houston vs. 

Oklahoma

Breakout Player

Dontrell Hilliard

RB, Tulane

Duke Catalon

RB, Houston

Arkeel Newsome

RB, UConn

Duke Catalon

RB, Houston

E.J. Levenberry

LB, UConn

Comeback Player

Keevan Lucas

WR, Tulsa

Philip Nelson

QB, ECU

Justin Holman

QB, UCF

Justin Holman

QB, UCF

Keevan Lucas

WR, Tulsa

 

Ranking the American Athletic Conference's Coaches for 2016

 

1. Tom Herman, Houston

2. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

3. Willie Fritz, Tulane

4. Willie Taggart, South Florida

5. Matt Rhule, Temple

 

 

Grading the American Athletic Conference's New Coach Hires

 

1. Willie Fritz, Tulane (A+)

2. Mike Norvell, Memphis (A)

3. Scott Frost, UCF (B+)

4. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina (B-)

 

 

Ranking the AAC's Top Five QBs for 2016

 

1. Greg Ward, Houston

2. Quinton Flowers, USF

3. Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati

4. Dane Evans, Tulsa

5. P.J. Walker, Temple

 

Five Players on the Rise for 2016

 

1. Duke Catalon, RB, Houston

2. Bruce Hector, DL, South Florida

3. Dontrell Hilliard, RB, Tulane

4. Yiannis Bowden, LB, East Carolina

5. Tago Smith, QB, Navy

 

American Athletic Conference's Top Five Non-Conference Games

 

1. Houston vs. Oklahoma (Houston, Sept. 3)

2. Louisville at Houston (Nov. 17)

3. Florida State at South Florida (Sept. 24)

4. Temple at Penn State (Sept. 17)

5. Navy vs. Army (Baltimore, Dec. 10)

 

Six Key Coordinator Hires for 2016

 

1. Doug Ruse, Offensive Coordinator, Tulane

2. Kenwick Thompson, Defensive Coordinator, East Carolina

3. Zac Taylor, Offensive Coordinator, Cincinnati

4. Jack Curtis, Defensive Coordinator, Tulane

5. Glenn Thomas, Offensive Coordinator, Temple

6. Raymond Woodie, Defensive Coordinator, South Florida

 

Top Incoming Freshmen ()

 

1. Ed Oliver, DL, Houston

2. Karamo Dioubate, DL, Temple

3. Courtney Lark, WR, Houston

4. Darnell Salomon, WR, USF

5. Craig Watts, DB, USF

6. Dredrick Snelson, WR, UCF

7. D'Eriq King, QB, Houston

8. Aaron Dowdell, OL, UCF

9. Jordan Carmouche, LB, SMU

10. John Tate, DL, Memphis

Teaser:
American Athletic Conference 2016 Football Predictions
Post date: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News, Magazines
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Before each college football season, Athlon Sports hears from readers wanting to know why one team was favored over another in our preseason rankings. Why this team was ranked so high or that team so low.

 

Some of these questions are in — um — colorful language.

 

That’s why Athlon takes you inside our decision process for some of the biggest questions you ask. Believe it or not, some of these questions are the ones we grappled with through our rankings meeting.

 

Here are the questions we anticipated about our .

 

The Athlon Sports 2016 ACC Preview is 

 

 

What gave Florida State the edge over Clemson?

 

We spent more time, thought and energy on this pick than any other this season. This is no exaggeration: This was Athlon’s toughest pick in a division or conference in several years. Not only are Florida State and Clemson incredibly close in our eyes, but the winner of the Atlantic has the edge in the ACC as a whole and has an excellent shot at the CFB Playoff. In the end, we still had both FSU and Clemson in our national top four. The arguments boiled down to this: One team has Deshaun Watson; the other one is loaded at every other position. We ended up picking Florida State due in part to the experience factor with nine returning starters on offense and six on defense. Deondre Francois should stabilize the quarterback position enough so the offense isn’t so reliant on Dalvin Cook. Clemson has recruited back-to-back top-10 classes, but Florida State has stacked three consecutive top-five national classes. We’re giving Clemson the benefit of the doubt that the Tigers’ D will be solid again, but 13 freshmen and sophomores on the two-deep defense is a concern. Clemson overall has the easier schedule, but Florida State gets the all-important head-to-head at Doak Campbell Stadium.

 

How many teams did you seriously consider for the Coastal Division title?

 

As usual, the ACC Coastal is one of the most difficult divisions to pick in the country. Three teams — North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech — received serious consideration for the division title. A look at our national rankings of those three teams, all between Nos. 22 and 29, shows how close this was. And even then, our staff considered Pittsburgh, ranked 38th nationally, to be a legitimate sleeper for the division. The X-factors in the division will be the new coaches, particularly Mark Richt at Miami and Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech. Richt should bring a steady hand to Miami that’s been lacking as predecessor Al Golden had been under pressure for two years, and Fuente brings offensive credibility back to the Hokies. Virginia Tech has an immediate advantage as the only Coastal team to avoid Clemson, Florida State and Louisville from the Atlantic.

 

 

In the end, what gave North Carolina the edge in the Coastal?

 

We could argue that the Tar Heels were the safest pick in the division. North Carolina went 8–0 in the ACC last season (helped by avoiding Clemson, Florida State and Louisville) and has an entrenched coaching staff. Quarterback Marquise Williams is gone, but we’re confident UNC will still put up points like Larry Fedora’s offenses always do. New QB Mitch Trubisky walks into a great situation with Elijah Hood at running back and an offensive line that’s second only to Clemson in the ACC. The defense still has its holes, but coordinator Gene Chizik already worked wonders by improving this unit from terrible to adequate last season.

 

The top three in the Atlantic Division seem clear. Is there a team among the bottom four of that division that could surprise?

 

Louisville is the clear No. 3 in the division, and, frankly, could be better than any team in the Coastal. NC State, Syracuse, Wake Forest and Boston College last season went 0–20 against Florida State, Clemson, Louisville and the entire Coastal Division. We don’t think that’s going to happen again. Dino Babers brings a shot of energy and instant offense to Syracuse. With 15 returning starters, Wake Forest is inching back to respectability under Dave Clawson. Boston College should be significantly improved on offense with Kentucky transfer Patrick Towles at quarterback and Jon Hilliman healthy at running back. Of those four teams, only NC State, without quarterback Jacoby Brissett, is in a position to regress.

Teaser:
Explain Yourselves: Athlon Answers Questions About 2016 ACC Predictions
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The ACC is two-for-two in the College Football Playoff era. Clemson followed up Florida State’s playoff trip in 2014 with a run to the national title last season, as the Tigers defeated Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and fell just short against Alabama in the championship game. Clemson is loaded for another run at the title in 2016, but Dabo Swinney’s team will have company at the top of the league. Florida State finished 10-3 in a rebuilding year last fall, and with a roster full of experience and talent in place, the Seminoles are poised to challenge for the national championship. Jimbo Fisher’s team has to settle on a quarterback, but all of the other pieces are in place for Florida State to return to the College Football Playoff.

 

The Atlantic is a two-team race at the top between Clemson and Florida State, but this division also features Louisville – a team capable of finishing in the 10-15 range this year – and three other projected bowl teams in Wake Forest, NC State and Boston College. Syracuse is Athlon’s pick to finish seventh in the Atlantic, but the Orange should show improvement under new coach Dino Babers.

 

North Carolina is the pick in the Coastal, with Miami, Virginia Tech and Pitt up next in the second tier. Georgia Tech’s regression to 3-9 last season was a huge surprise, but the Yellow Jackets should rebound back into a bowl game this fall. Duke has made major strides under coach David Cutcliffe and should challenge for a fifth consecutive trip to the postseason. However, a tougher schedule and an injured quarterback (Thomas Sirk) won’t make it easy on the Blue Devils. Virginia is projected to finish seventh in the Coastal under new coach Bronco Mendenhall. The Cavaliers enter 2016 with significant question marks on both sides of the ball. 

 

Five Key Questions That Will Shape the ACC in 2016

 

1. Clemson vs. Florida State

The Clemson-Florida State debate for the No. 1 spot in the ACC was by far the toughest of Athlon’s prediction meetings for the 2016 magazine. The Seminoles eventually got the nod as the projected ACC champion, but these two teams are really 1A and 1B. What separates Florida State from Clemson? Not much. The Seminoles have the better overall roster than the Tigers, more depth on defense, and host Dabo Swinney’s team on Oct. 29 in Tallahassee. However, Clemson has a clear edge at quarterback with Deshaun Watson retuning, and the junior signal-caller is surrounded by the nation’s top receiving corps, standout running back Wayne Gallman and an offensive line that returns three starters. While Florida State’s quarterback situation is a mystery, it’s safe to assume this position won’t be any worse than it was last year. Assuming redshirt freshman Deondre Francois is as good as advertised, the offense should be more explosive through the air, providing a little balance to go with running back Dalvin Cook. Clemson should be favored in its 11 games outside of the matchup at Florida State. However, the Tigers’ hopes of a repeat trip to the ACC title game likely rests on how quickly a young defense rebuilds once again, as well as the trip to Tallahassee. The Seminoles may lose a game in conference play somewhere along the way, but Athlon likes Florida State to edge Clemson for the division title.

 

Related:

 

2. Can North Carolina Go Back-to-Back in the Coastal?

The Coastal Division hasn’t had a repeat team in the ACC Championship Game since Virginia Tech went to Charlotte in 2010-11. Nothing in the Coastal seems to go according to plan, but it’s hard to pick against the defending champs – North Carolina – in 2016. Mitch Trubisky should be a capable replacement for Marquise Williams at quarterback, and coach Larry Fedora has assembled one of the league’s top supporting casts. Running back Elijah Hood should push for first-team All-ACC honors behind an offensive line with four returning starters. Scoring points shouldn’t be a problem for North Carolina, but the defense is still a concern. This unit showed some improvement under new coordinator Gene Chizik last year and features one of the ACC’s top cornerback duos in M.J. Stewart and Des Lawrence. However, the Tar Heels have to get tougher against the run after giving up 247.4 yards a game in 2015. Another obstacle in a repeat bid for the division title is the schedule. North Carolina trades Wake Forest for Florida State in crossover play and has a road trip to Miami. 

 

College Football: Breaking Down Athlon’s 2016 Top 25



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3. How Do You Sort Out the Middle of the Coastal Division?

North Carolina is Athlon’s pick to win the Coastal, but there’s not a ton of separation between the Tar Heels and Miami in the projected standings. North Carolina is projected to finish 6-2 in league play, while the Hurricanes headline the second tier at 5-3. However, Miami will have plenty of competition for the No. 2 spot in the Coastal. If the pieces fall into place, Pitt or Virginia Tech could pass the Hurricanes in the final standings. The Panthers had a solid debut (8-5) under Pat Narduzzi last season and return 16 starters for 2016. The defense should take a step forward this year, but Pitt has to find a replacement for standout receiver Tyler Boyd. New coach Justin Fuente’s background on offense should help a Virginia Tech attack that struggled under former coordinator Scot Loeffler. The Hokies also have a favorable league schedule for Fuente’s debut. There’s no Clemson, Florida State or Louisville in crossover play, while Miami visits Blacksburg on Oct. 20. The Hurricanes have their share of concerns – secondary, offensive line and overall improvement on defense – but the addition of Mark Richt as the new coach and quarterback Brad Kaaya’s return should be enough to edge Pitt and Virginia Tech for the No. 2 spot in the Coastal.

 

4. Louisville is a Sleeper Team to Watch

It’s no secret Clemson and Florida State are the heavy favorites in the Atlantic Division this season. While it would be a major surprise to see a team outside of the Tigers or Seminoles from the Atlantic in Charlotte this December, Louisville is a team that could play spoiler in 2016. The Cardinals finished 2015 by winning six out of their last seven games and returns 16 starters this year. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is one of college football’s top rising stars and should benefit from a full offseason to work as the starter under coach Bobby Petrino. Jackson is also surrounded by a deep supporting cast, and the offensive line should improve after surrendering 44 sacks in 2015. Replacing standout end Sheldon Rankins won’t be easy, but the Louisville defense returns standouts at each level and features one of the nation’s top linebacking units. The Cardinals catch Florida State in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in mid-September. Could Louisville deal an early blow to the Seminoles’ national title hopes? Or could the Cardinals pull an even bigger upset in Death Valley against Clemson on Oct. 1?

 

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5. ACC Hits a Home Run With New Coach Hires

The ACC was arguably the biggest winner of the offseason coaching carousel. All four programs hiring a coach – Virginia, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Miami – earned high marks in their search. Not only are the individual programs big winners in the carousel, but the conference as a whole took a step forward. Having better teams and coaches only increases the entire profile of the ACC on a national level. Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente was , but he has big shoes to fill in replacing Frank Beamer. Dino Babers has brought some much-needed energy to Syracuse, and his up-tempo, spread offense should give the rest of the Atlantic fits. Bronco Mendenhall is an interesting fit at Virginia, but he’s a proven winner from his stint at BYU and is an underrated defensive coach. Miami may not win a national title under Mark Richt, but the program should take a step forward under his watch. All four new coach hires should have a positive impact on their teams for 2016 and in the future. 

 

College Football: Others Receiving Votes



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ACC 2016 Team Previews

Atlantic Division
 

National

Rank:

65 4 2 18 59 75 64
Coastal Division
 

National

Rank:

53 49 27 21 38 72 29

 

Visit the  to order a copy of the 2016 ACC Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 14 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year. 

 

 

ACC Predictions for 2016

         
Atlantic Division
Rank Team   Projected ACC Record Projected Overall Rank
1

(No. 2)

7-1 12-1
.
2

(No. 4)

7-1 11-1
.
3

 

(No. 18)

5-3 9-3
.
4

(No. 59)

3-5 6-6
.
5

(No. 64)

3-5 6-6
.
6

(No. 65)

2-6 6-6
.
7

(No. 75)

2-6 4-8
.
         
Coastal Division
Rank Team   Projected ACC Record Projected Overall Record
1

(No. 21)

6-2 9-4
.
2

(No. 27)

5-3 8-4
.
3

(No. 29)

5-3 8-4
.
4

(No. 38)

4-4 7-5
.
5

(No. 49)

3-5 6-6
.
6

(No. 53)

3-5 5-7
.
7

(No. 72)

1-7 3-9
.
ACC Championship
Florida State over North Carolina 
 
 

ACC 2016 Superlatives and Season Predictions

 

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Mark

Ross

David

Fox

Braden

Gall

 
Offensive POY

Deshaun Watson

QB, Clemson

Deshaun Watson

QB, Clemson

Deshaun Watson

QB, Clemson

Deshaun Watson

QB, Clemson

Deshaun Watson

QB, Clemson

Defensive POY

Derwin James

S, FSU

Derwin James

S, FSU

Devonte Fields

LB, Louisville

Devonte Fields

LB, Louisville

Derwin James

S, FSU

Coach of the Year

Jimbo Fisher

Florida State

Jimbo Fisher

Florida State

Jimbo Fisher

Florida State

Mark Richt

Miami

Justin Fuente

Va. Tech

Coach on Hot Seat

Paul Johnson

Ga. Tech

Dave Doeren

NC State

Paul Johnson

Ga. Tech

Dave Doeren

NC State

Dave Doeren

NC State

Top Freshman

Deondre Francois

QB, FSU

Deondre Francois

QB, FSU

Dexter Lawrence

DL, Clemson

Deondre Francois

QB, FSU

Dexter Lawrence

DL, Clemson

Top Newcomer

Jerod Evans

QB, Va. Tech

Patrick Towles

QB, BC

Gerald Willis

DL, Miami

Jerod Evans

QB, Va. Tech

Patrick Towles

QB, BC

Sleeper Team Virginia Tech Wake Forest Pitt Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
Top Coordinator Hire

Manny Diaz

DC, Miami

Eliah Drinkwitz

OC, NC State

Manny Diaz

DC, Miami

Manny Diaz

DC, Miami

Bud Foster DC, Virginia Tech
Key Position to Watch Clemson DB Clemson DB Clemson DL Clemson DB Miami OL
Hardest to Evaluate Miami Miami Virginia Tech Virginia Tech Miami
Coach on the Rise

Justin Fuente

Virginia Tech

Dino Babers

Syracuse

Justin Fuente

Va. Tech

Pat Narduzzi

Pitt

Dino Babers

Syracuse

Must-See Game

Clemson at

Florida State

Clemson at

Florida State

Clemson at

Florida State

Clemson at

Florida State

Clemson at

Florida State

Breakout Player

Josh Sweat

DE, FSU

Josh Sweat

DE, FSU

Mitch Trubisky

QB, UNC

Josh Sweat

DE, FSU

Kendall Joseph

LB, Clemson

Comeback Player

James Conner

RB, Pitt

James Conner

RB, Pitt

James Conner

RB, Pitt

Mike Williams

WR, Clemson

James Conner

RB, Pitt

 
Ranking the ACC's Coaches for 2016

 

1. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

3. Bobby Petrino, Louisville

4. David Cutcliffe, Duke

5. Mark Richt, Miami

 

 

Grading the ACC's New Coach Hires

 

1. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech (A+)

2. Mark Richt, Miami (A+)

3. Dino Babers, Syracuse (A+)

4. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia (B+)

 

 

Ranking the ACC's Quarterbacks for 2016

 

1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

2. Brad Kaaya, Miami

3. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

4. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina

5. Deondre Francois, Florida State

 

 

ACC's Top Five Players on the Rise for 2016

 

1. Derwin James, S, Florida State

2. Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State

3. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

4. Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

5. Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson

 

 

ACC's Top 10 Non-Conference Games for 2016

 

1. Ole Miss vs. Florida State (Orlando, Sept. 5)

2. North Carolina vs. Georgia (Atlanta, Sept. 3)

3. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 26)

4. Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (Bristol, Sept. 10)

5. Miami at Notre Dame (Oct. 29)

6. Louisville at Houston (Nov. 17)

7. Clemson at Auburn (Sept. 3)

8. Virginia Tech at Notre Dame (Nov. 19)

9. Penn State at Pittsburgh (Sept. 10)

10. Pittsburgh at Oklahoma State (Sept. 17)

 

Key Coordinator Hires for 2016

 

1. Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator, Miami

2. Matt Canada, Offensive Coordinator, Pitt

3. Eliah Drinkwitz, Offensive Coordinator, NC State

4. Brian Ward, Defensive Coordinator, Syracuse

5. Ben Albert, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Duke

 

Top Incoming Freshmen (from 247Sports)

 

1. Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson

2. Levonta Taylor, CB, Florida State

3. Tavien Feaster, RB, Clemson

4. Landon Dickerson, OL, Florida State

5. Baveon Johnson, OL, Florida State

6. Malik Henry, QB, Florida State

7. Brian Burns, DE, Florida State

8. Tre Lamar, LB, Clemson

9. Trayvon Mullen, DB, Clemson

10. Shavar Manuel, DL, Florida State

11. Shaq Smith, LB, Clemson

12. Sam Bruce, WR, Miami

13. Janarius Robinson, DL, Florida State

14. Dontavious Jackson, LB, Florida State

15. Xavier Kelly, DE, Clemson

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ACC Football 2016 Predictions
Post date: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 10:00
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Year 11 with the Tigers was almost a curtain call for head coach Les Miles in Baton Rouge. The “Mad Hatter” bumped up his win total in 2014 from eight to nine last season but committed the deadly sin of losing to Alabama — again — a defeat that started a three-game tumble igniting the flames on Miles’ proverbial hot seat.

 

If history should repeat itself, expect the Tigers to win at least 11 games this season, as seen in 2010 after Miles posted eight and nine victories in 2008 and ‘09. Miles has two things going for him that could propel the Tigers to the elite status they reached in 2007 or ‘11: 1) the West should be down this season and 2) LSU is absolutely loaded with talent.

 

The Tigers not only have potential Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette and his 1,953 rushing yards back for another season but also have 17 total starters returning, nine on offense and eight on defense.

 

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Year 12 for Miles could be another banner year, making athletic director Joe Alleva look like a genius for not dropping the axe on his embattled head coach at the end of the 2015 regular season. On the flip side, injuries and poor play under center by returning starting quarterback Brandon Harris could bring about an end to an era in Baton Rouge for Miles and company.

 

Based on recent history, returning talent, and game location, the following is a breakdown of LSU’s 12 regular season games from easiest to toughest.

 

12. Nov. 19 vs. South Alabama

The Jaguars from the Sun Belt Conference went 5-7 last season and did not have a good showing against Nebraska (48-9) or NC State (63-13) in the process. Given the late-season timing between the Arkansas and Texas A&M contests, South Alabama should be worn down from a long season and the Tigers will be looking ahead to a road trip to College Station. LSU will look to put this one away in the first quarter.

 

11. Oct. 15 vs. Southern Miss

The Golden Eagles have some fight in them after posting a 9-5 record in 2015. Do not expect Southern Miss to challenge LSU but don’t look for them to roll over early either. Southern Miss challenged Mississippi State in the 2015 season opener before falling 34-16 and kept the final score close against Nebraska, putting up 21 points in the fourth quarter before losing 36-28.

 

10. Sept. 10 vs. Jacksonville State

Depending how healthy the Gamecocks are, this could be a bigger challenge for LSU than the fans, players or coaching staff than your typical FCS vs. SEC matchup would appear on paper. Jacksonville State led Auburn 10-6 at halftime last season in Jordan-Hare Stadium before succumbing 27-20 in overtime.  Jacksonville State went on to finish 13-2 with the second loss coming in the FCS national championship against North Dakota State.

 

9. Oct. 1 vs. Missouri

Life for Missouri Tiger fans is finally about to get rough in the SEC. In Missouri’s first two SEC campaigns (2013-14), the Tigers posted 12 and 11 wins and claimed the SEC East title each season.  The prevailing thought had to be the SEC is not that difficult of a conference. However, everything came crashing down last season as Gary Pinkel retired following a 5-7 finish. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom takes over as the new head coach but the main problem still remains – no offense.

When Missouri travels to Death Valley, this will be just the second time the two programs have met on the field. Mizzou won the previous meeting in 1978 (20-15).

 

8. Sept. 24 at Auburn

From the outside in, Auburn seems to be in the midst of a rebuilding project that may need to be extended into 2017. The Tigers went 7-6 a year ago, 2-6 in SEC play. Auburn has 11 starters returning, six on offense and five on defense. The red flag for Gus Malzahn is the uncertainty in the pocket. Neither Sean White nor Jeremy Johnson has showed he can lead the team, leaving an opportunity for junior college transfer John Franklin III to win the job. The other problem for Malzahn’s high-scoring offense is a lack of returning talent at the skill position spots.

 

Auburn could surprise but expect LSU to romp like it did in Baton Rouge a year ago when home team tore the other Tigers apart, 45-21.

 

7. Sept. 17 vs. Mississippi State

Every year Dan Mullen does more with less in Starkville, like last season when he surprised the nation with a 9-4 campaign after losing a lot of top talent off of his 2014 team. Mississippi State is in the same boat again primarily because quarterback Dak Prescott is gone to the NFL. The Bulldogs do have 13 starters back, six on offense and seven on defense, making this club a dangerous team if solid play is found at quarterback.

 

The schedule works well for the Bulldogs, opening with South Alabama, at home against South Carolina and then visiting Death Valley. After that it’s UMass, Auburn, BYU, Kentucky and Samford. Expect Mullen and staff to go all in against LSU hoping to jump out to an 8-0 start.

 

6. Sept. 3 vs. Wisconsin (Lambeau Field)

Let’s see... opening game of the season, against Wisconsin on the Green Bay Packers’ home field, and with a national audience watching. It’s no stretch to say this SEC vs. Big Ten clash is the epitome of a tone-setting game. A loss would not only knock LSU out of national title contention right out of the gates, it also would put a very difficult spin on the season as soon as it’s getting started.

 

The Badgers went 10-3 last season but in a smoke and mirrors kind of way. The only Big Ten titan they faced was Iowa, losing 10-6, skipping out on Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State. The other key to this game is a common foe. Alabama beat Wisconsin 35-17 to open last season at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Miles is always compared to Nick Saban, so expect LSU to pour it on and make a statement if the Tigers are able to against the Badgers.

 

5. Nov. 24 at Texas A&M

LSU’s end-of-season road contest against the Aggies could very easily be the most difficult game depending on how the Ws stack up on the schedule. Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has led the Aggies to back-to-back implosions, running off three starting quarterbacks in the process.

 

The Aggies have seven starters back on defense and coordinator John Chavis calling the shots. If Sumlin can stay out of Noel Mazzone’s way on offense, Texas A&M, once again, could be dangerous. The trouble on offense, besides running the ball with any consistency is replacing a starting quarterback and starting running back. If the talent is there, by season’s end this should not be a problem.

 

If the Aggies’ season is a sinking ship with Sumlin potentially on his way out, the feather in the cap could be a home win against LSU, potentially knocking the Tigers out of the Playoff picture. LSU snuffed out Texas A&M’s offense last season in a 19-7 victory, but everything was falling apart behind the scenes for the Aggies. This encounter could be different, but don’t expect it.

 

4. Nov. 12 at Arkansas

LSU fans may hate losing to Alabama but Arkansas has been just as much a thorn in the Tigers’ paw. Since 2007, the Razorbacks lead the series 5-4, including two straight wins. The Razorbacks have benefitted from the schedule, facing LSU right after the Alabama game in consecutive seasons. This has resulted in the Tigers having to navigate back-to-back physically demanding and emotionally exhausting games against run-oriented offenses. If LSU loses for a third consecutive year to the Hogs, don’t be surprised if some backroom negotiations are made to shift the schedule going forward.

 

Arkansas could play spoiler at home if LSU comes into Fayetteville too high after beating Bama. The Hogs also have nine starters back on defense, which held Fournette to 91 yards rushing last season.

 

3. Nov. 5 vs. Alabama

Make no mistake, this is the biggest game of the season for LSU, but this is a ranking of the toughest games not the biggest or most important games. All things hedge on LSU being healthy when the Crimson Tide roll into Baton Rouge. This may be the year Miles ends his five-game losing streak to Nick Saban, dating back to the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.

 

Alabama should be down after losing a ton of talent to the NFL with 11 total starters back, six on offense and five on defense. Alabama always reloads but LSU, along with Fournette, will seek revenge for last season’s 30-16 loss in Tuscaloosa, which started the Tigers’ painful three-game slide. Fournette had a season-low 31 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown against the Tide’s stout defense.

 

The toughest part of Alabama’s schedule will be behind it when the Crimson Tide make their trek to Death Valley. Both teams come off a bye, but Alabama will have just finished a stretch of games against Kentucky, Arkansas (road), Tennessee (road), and Texas A&M. LSU’s slate leading up to this game is much easier overall, especially if the Tigers can get past Florida and Ole Miss.

 

2. Oct. 22 vs. Ole Miss

By all accounts, Ole Miss could be in trouble in 2016, and in more ways than one. The Rebels have just five starters back on defense and four on offense. However, one particular returning starter on offense could make all the difference in the world. While every other team in the SEC West is replacing its quarterback, Ole Miss returns 4,000-yard passer Chad Kelly.

 

Kelly played well against LSU last season, throwing for 280 yards, two touchdowns and no iinterceptions. Kelly is the only proven returning quarterback LSU will face this season, making this contest noteworthy. The success of the Rebels against LSU rests on Kelly’s capable arm.

 

1. Oct. 8 at Florida

No one really expected that much out of Florida in Jim McElwain’s first season yet he led the Gators to a 10-4 record and the SEC East title. Florida has 12 starters back, a number that is split evenly on offense and defense. One minor note, 2015 starting quarterback Treon Harris is returning but he moved to wide receiver, making this another year Gator fans enter a season wondering what kind of production they will get in the pocket.

 

What could make this game so important? It is a swing game (game No. 6) for both teams and it will be played in the Swamp. Florida gave LSU all the Tigers could handle a year ago before falling 35-28 in Baton Rouge. One key to the game is how the Gators fare against Tennessee (Sept. 24) with Vanderbilt sandwiched in between. If the Volunteers romp on the Gators, this may give LSU confidence about notching an easier than expected road win.

 

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, . Follow him on Twitter .

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on LSU’s College Football Schedule in 2016
Post date: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 09:30
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For dozens of coaches and players in college basketball, the last few weeks have been nerve-wracking.

 

After the season, 117 underclassmen entered their names into the NBA Draft. A majority of these players needed more information on whether to hire and agent and test the pros or to return to school. In the end, 57 will return to college (though not necessarily the same one for which they played in 2015-16).

 

The coaches, too, have been left wondering what kind of roster they might have in 2016-17 and if they would need to continue to recruit or pursue transfers to fill a roster spot.

 

Now that all the decisions have been made, Athlon Sports taking a quick look ahead for 2016-17.

 

1. Duke (25-11, 11-7 ACC)

Top Returners: G Grayson Allen, G Luke Kennard, F Amile Jefferson, G Matt Jones, F/C Chase Jeter

Newcomers: F Harry Giles, F Jayson Tatum, G Frank Jackson, C Marques Bolden (all freshmen)

Buzz: Duke had little drama around the NBA Draft early entry deadline as Player of the Year contender Grayson Allen didn’t put his name in at all. A star-studded freshman class makes Duke the clear No. 1 heading into 2016-17. An additional year of eligibility for Amile Jefferson is an added bonus.

 

2. Villanova (35-5, 16-2 Big East)

Top Returners: G Josh Hart, G Jalen Brunson, F Kris Jenkins, G Phil Booth, F Mikal Bridges

Newcomers: C Omari Spellman (freshman)

Buzz: Josh Hart’s decision to return to school means Villanova has a legitimate shot for back-to-back national titles. Losing Ryan Arcidiacono’s leadership and experience hurts, but second-year point guard Jalen Brunson was a five-star talent as a recruit.

 

3. Kentucky (27-9, 13-5 SEC)

Top Returners: G Isaiah Briscoe, F Derek Willis, G Dominique Hawkins, F Isaac Humphries

Newcomers: G De’Aaron Fox, F Bam Adebayo, G Malik Monk, F Wenyen Gabriel (freshmen)

Buzz: Isaiah Briscoe returned to school, giving Kentucky at least one key piece returning from last year’s squad. Forward Marcus Lee elected to transfer rather than return to another crowded situation in the frontcourt. As usual, Kentucky brings in a loaded recruiting class with five top 25 prospects.

 

4. Kansas (33-5, 15-3 Big 12)

Top Returners: G Devonte Graham, F Landen Lucas, G Frank Mason, G Svi Mykhailiuk, F Carlton Bragg

Newcomers: G Josh Jackson, C Udoka Azubuike (freshmen)

Buzz: Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden are gone, but this is a Bill Self team. There’s more than enough to contend for another Big 12 title behind a veteran backcourt. The Jayhawks also added the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2016 in shooting guard Josh Jackson.

 

5. Oregon (31-7, 14-4 Pac-12)

Top Returners: G/F Dillon Brooks, G Tyler Dorsey, F Jordan Bell, G Casey Benson

Newcomers: F Kavel Bigby-Williams (junior college), G Dylan Ennis (transfer from Villanova)

Buzz: Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey both put their name in the draft, and both returned. The high-scoring Ducks will be the favorite to repeat as Pac-12 champions and should be able to set their sights even higher.

 

6. North Carolina (33-7, 14-4 ACC)

Top Returners: G Joel Berry, F Isaiah Hicks, F Justin Jackson, F Kennedy Meeks, G Theo Pinson

Newcomers: C Tony Bradley, G Seventh Woods (freshmen)

Buzz: Losing double-double machine Brice Johnson and senior Marcus Paige drops the ceiling a bit. The Heels will look to Justin Jackson to be the team’s next star.

 

7. Virginia (29-8, 13-5 ACC)

Top Returners: G Devon Hall, G London Perrantes, F Isaiah Wilkins

Newcomers: F Austin Nichols (transfer from Memphis), G Kyle Guy, G Ty Jerome (freshmen)

Buzz: Losing Malcolm Brogdon hurts, but Tony Bennett teams remain steady despite changing personnel. Having London Perrantes leading the way and adding Austin Nichols in the frontcourt will keep the Cavs in ACC contention.

 

8. Xavier (28-6, 14-4 Big East)

Top Returners: G Trevon Bluiett, G Edmond Sumner, G Myles Davis, F J.P Macura

Newcomers: F RaShid Gaston (transfer from Norfolk State)

Buzz: The return of Trevon Bluiett means Villanova will have a worthy foil atop the Big East standings. The Musketeers return their top three scorers from last season and add an efficient scorer in RaShid Gaston.

 

9. Arizona (25-9, 12-6 Pac-12)

Top Returners: G Allonzo Trier, G Kadeem Allen, C Dusan Ristic

Newcomers: G Terrance Ferguson, G Rawle Alkins, F Lauri Markkanan, G Kobi Simmons (freshman)

Buzz: The return of shooting guard Allonzo Trier was huge. Adding guard Terrance Ferguson in April gives the Wildcats a recruiting class loaded with four five-star prospects.

 

10. Indiana (27-8, 15-3 Big Ten)

Top Returners: C Thomas Bryant, G James Blackmon, F Collin Hartman, G Robert Johnson, F OG Anunoby

Newcomers: G Curtis Jones, F De’Ron Davis (freshmen), G Josh Newkirk (transfer from Pittsburgh)

Buzz: James Blackmon returned to school, Troy Williams did not. The big question will be how the Hoosiers replace veteran point guard Yogi Ferrell. Getting Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby back means IU can contend for the Big Ten title.

 

11. Michigan State (29-6, 13-5 Big Ten)

Top Returners: G Eron Harris, G Lourawls Nairn, F Gavin Schilling

Newcomers: F Miles Bridges, G Josh Langford, G Cassius Winston, F Nick Ward (freshmen)

Buzz: Losing a top three of Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello will hurt. Eron Harris and Tum Tum Nairn are poised to lead the backcourt, and Tom Izzo brings in a top-five recruiting class.

 

12. Wisconsin (22-13, 12-6 Big Ten)

Top Returners: F Nigel Hayes, F Vitto Brown, F Ethan Happ, G Bronson Koenig, G Zak Showalter

Buzz: The return of Nigel Hayes means Wisconsin brings back almost all of the team that went 13-4 after Jan. 12.

 

13. Purdue (26-9, 12-6 Big Ten)

Top Returners: F Caleb Swanigan, C Isaac Haas, F Vince Edwards, G P.J. Thompson

Newcomers: G Carsen Edwards (freshman), G Spike Albrecht (transfer from Michigan)

Buzz: Caleb Swanigan elected to return to school, giving Purdue a pair of elite big men in Swanigan and Isaac Haas. Adding Spike Albrecht from Michigan gives some aid to a lackluster backcourt.

 

14. Louisville (23-8, 12-6 ACC)

Top Returners: G Donovan Mitchell, G Quentin Snider, F Mangok Mathiang, F Raymond Spalding, F Deng Adel

Newcomers: G Tony Hicks (transfer from Penn), G/F V.J. King (freshman)

Buzz: Forward Chinanu Onuaku left for the draft, meaning the Cardinals must replace their top three scorers (Damion Lee and Trey Lewis were Nos. 1-2). Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider will lead a backcourt-oriented team.

 

15. SMU (25-5, 13-5 American)

Top Returners: G Sterling Brown, G Shake Milton, G Ben Moore

Newcomers: F Semi Ojeleye (transfer from Duke)

Buzz: SMU was a solid top-25 team all year despite the postseason ban. The Mustangs must replace point guard Nic Moore, but return three players who averaged double figures.

 

16. Iowa State (23-12, 10-8 Big 12)

Top Returners: G Deonte Burton, G Monte Morris, G Matt Thomas

Buzz: With Fred Hoiberg gone one year and Georges Niang the next, Iowa State can’t help but fall back to the pack. Morris is still an elite distributor running the show.

 

17. Creighton (20-15, 9-9 Big East)

Top Returners: G Maurice Watson, F Cole Huff, G Isaiah Zierden, F Zach Hanson, G Khyri Thomas, F Toby Hegner

Newcomers: G Marcus Foster (transfer from Kansas State)

Buzz: Maurice Watson quietly averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists last season. The Bluejays should be a bounce-back team after returning a veteran-laden squad and adding point guard Marcus Foster from K-State.

 

18. Maryland (27-9, 12-6 Big Ten)

Top Returners: G Melo Trimble, F Damonte Dodd, G/F Jared Nickens

Newcomers: G Anthony Cowan, G Kevin Huerter, F Justin Jackson

Buzz: Maryland never really clicked as a national championship contender last season, but with point guard Melo Trimble returning to school, the Terrapins are a solid top-25 squad. Losing seniors Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman, junior Robert Carter and one-and done big man Diamond Stone is notable, but the Terps have a top-10 recruiting class coming in.

 

19. UCLA (15-17, 6-12 Pac-12)

Top Returners: G Bryce Alford, G Isaac Hamilton, G Aaron Holiday, C Thomas Welsh

Newcomers: G Lonzo Ball, F T.J. Leaf (freshmen)

Buzz: Steve Alford is under pressure after a losing season in his third year with the Bruins. Four double-digit scorers are back from last year’s team, but more important: Point guard Lonzo Ball and forward T.J. Leaf are top-20 signees.

 

20. Saint Mary’s (29-6, 15-3 West Coast)

Top Returners: C Evan Fitzner, F Calvin Hermanson, C Jock Landale, G Emmett Naar, F Dane Pineau, G Joe Rahon

Buzz: Every key player returns to a team that beat Gonzaga twice during the regular season and claimed the West Coast Conference title.

 

21. Gonzaga (28-8, 15-3 West Coast)

Top Returners: G Josh Perkins

Newcomers: C Zach Collins (freshman), F Johnathan Williams (transfer from Missouri), G Nigel Williams-Goss (transfer from Washington)

Buzz: Josh Perkins is the only returning player who averaged more than 6.6 points per game last season. Nigel Williams-Goss was a highly recruiting point guard before he landed at Washington, and Williams averaged 11.9 points and 7.1 rebounds during his last season at Mizzou.

 

22. Oklahoma (29-8, 12-6 Big 12)

Top Returners: G Dante Buford, C Khadeem Lattin, G Jordan Woodard

Newcomers: F Kristian Doolittle, G Kameron McGusty, G Austin Grandstaff (transfer from Ohio State)

Buzz: The Sooners all too often went as Buddy Hield did. They’ll have to learn to win without him in 2016-17.

 

23. Dayton (25-8, 14-4 Atlantic 10)

Top Returners: G Charles Cooke, F Dyshawn Pierre, G Scoochie Smith, F Kendall Pollard, G Kyle Davis

Newcomers: F Josh Cunningham (transfer from Bradley)

Buzz: The Flyers return their top five scorers and add Cunningham (7.9 points, 7.5 points in the Missouri Valley). Dayton had a solid top-25 season last year before running into Final Four-bound Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

 

24. Virginia Tech (20-15, 10-8 ACC)

Top Returners: F Zach LeDay, G Seth Allen, G Justin Bibbs, G Chris Clarke, G Justin Robinson, F Kerry Blackshear Jr.

Buzz: The rebuild is nearly complete for Buzz Williams in Blacksburg. The Hokies upset Virginia in January closed the ACC regular season with five consecutive wins, including Pitt and Miami. The Hokies return seven of their top eight players.

 

25. UConn (25-11, 11-7 American)

Top Returners: G Rodney Purvis, C Amida Brimah, G Jalen Adams

Newcomers: G/F Terry Larrier (transfer from VCU), G Alterique Gilbert, F Juwan Durham (freshmen)

Buzz: The Huskies still have a solid inside-outside duo with Rodney Purvis and Amida Brimah. Kevin Ollie adds two top-50 prospects for a run at the AAC title and another Tourney bid.

Teaser:
An Early College Basketball Top 25 for 2016-17
Post date: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 09:00

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