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No position in sports is more important than the quarterback position in football. NFL franchises can die a slow death if they miss on a quarterback through the NFL draft. In college, the time is short with quarterbacks, which makes landing a solid quarterback recruit on a regular basis both difficult and crucial. Some programs can do this better than others, of course, but landing a top-rated recruit is just half the battle. The other half is developing that player to be ready to make an impact. Sometimes players will take a year or two (or three or four) before reaching their full potential, but every now and then a program will get lucky and have a player capable of winning right away.

 

This is the beauty in ranking quarterback classes over time. There are some classes that are loaded with talented and accomplished passers at the college level, as well as the NFL. There are other classes that many not have the style points but had players have just as important a role in their respective programs as the next.

 

Two years Athlon Sports' Braden Gall took the time to . A lot has changed since then though, so it was time to take another look at some of the younger classes from that list, see how they have panned out, and then throw in the more recent recruiting classes before we even think about touching the Class of 2016 (maybe in two more years we can revisit that as well as the Class of 2017).

 

So now, with the benefit of a little more evidence and analysis to rely on, the time has come to rank each of the past 14 quarterback classes in college football against one another.

 

1. Class of 2006

 

The Stars: Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Case Keenum

 

The Best of the Rest: Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Greg McElroy, Todd Reesing, Nate Davis, Juice Williams, T.J. Yates, Ricky Stanzi, Thaddeus Lewis, John Skelton, Scott Tolzien, Nathan Enderle

 

The Class of 2006 remains the top quarterback class since the turn of the century, with a pair of Heisman Trophy winners (Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford) and three BCS national championships between Tebow, Bradford and Greg McElroy. The class also turned out some other talented quarterbacks that would go on to start in the NFL, namely Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker and Andy Dalton. This class also gave us Case Keenum at Houston, who under Kevin Sumlin and Art Briles went on to rewrite the NCAA record book.

 

2. Class of 2008

 

The Stars: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Collin Klein, Landry Jones, Darron Thomas, Blaine Gabbert, Nick Florence, EJ Manuel, Terrelle Pryor

 

The Best of the Rest: Mike Glennon, Seth Doege, Tyler Wilson, Colby Cameron, Sean Renfree, Ryan Nassib, Matt Scott, Zac Dysert, Alex Carder, Jacory Harris

 

The Class of 2008 gave college football two of its best quarterbacks of the 21st century with Baylor’s Robert Griffin III winning a Heisman Trophy and Stanford’s Andrew Luck perhaps being the best college signal-caller to never win a Heisman Trophy (he was a runner-up twice). The rest of the class had some good talent as well, including the likes of Blaine Gabbert, EJ Manuel and Terrelle Pryor. Manuel and Gabbert would go on to be first-round NFL draft picks, while Pryor’s collegiate career ended prematurely amid scandal at Ohio State. But talent-wise, the Class of 2008 had plenty to offer. The depth of the class sometimes gets overlooked but players like Darron Thomas, Landry Jones, Collin Klein, Nick Florence, Seth Doege, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib and more helped in this respect.

 

3. Class of 2011

 

The Stars: Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley, Kevin Hogan, Chuckie Keeton, Connor Cook, Rakeem Cato, Brett Smith

 

The Best of the Rest: Everett Golson, Jeff Driskel, Cody Kessler, Dak Prescott, Jake Rudock, Marquise Williams, J.W. Walsh, Trevone Boykin, David Ash

 

The last time this ranking was organized, the Class of 2011 checked in at fifth. Two years later, it was time to reassess where this class stands. This class developed two Heisman Trophy winners in Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota. The next tier consists of Teddy Bridgewater, Kevin Hogan, Brett Hundley, Connor Cook, Trevone Boykin, Dak Prescott and more. And in the past two years, the value and respect of some of the other members of this class have increased. Everett Golson led Notre Dame to a BCS Championship Game appearance and Boykin later led TCU to a share of the Big 12 title. This past season, Marquise Williams took North Carolina to the ACC Championship Game and Cook led his Spartans to the College Football Playoff as a Big Ten champion.

 

4. Class of 2009

 

The Stars: AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, Tajh Boyd, Derek Carr, Taylor Martinez, Denard Robinson, Jordan Lynch, Bryn Renner

 

The Best of the Rest: Logan Thomas, Keith Price, Zach Mettenberger, Brock Osweiler, C.J. Brown, Kolton Browning

 

You will be hard-pressed to find a legend in the Class of 2009, but there is no doubt this group served up some successful college quarterbacks. AJ McCarron led Alabama to a pair of BCS national championships. Aaron Murray provided some tremendous stability at Georgia at the position for the majority of his time in Athens. Geno Smith was a natural fit in West Virginia’s up-tempo, high-scoring offense, and Tajh Boyd helped Clemson turn a corner on its path to national championship contender. Dual-threat quarterbacks like Taylor Martinez and Denard Robinson were highlights waiting to happen with the ability to create plays with their feet, and Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch led the Huskies to a BCS bowl appearance. Matt Barkley was among the best passers in the west during a brief sanction phase for USC.

 

5. Class of 2007

 

The Stars: Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Mallett, Ryan Tannehill

 

The Best of the Rest: Chandler Harnish, Tyrod Taylor, Josh Nesbitt, Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Lindley, Dan Persa, GJ Kinne

 

Not only does the Class of 2007 feature a Heisman Trophy winner, but it also includes a Super Bowl champion with Russell Wilson (Newton has a chance to join him if he wins Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos). This is a quarterback class that produced eight that started at least one game in the NFL in 2015, including three playoff teams. Newton may be the crown jewel of the class, with a Heisman Trophy and a BCS national championship, but there is some good depth here. Kellen Moore was a Boise State legend and the winningest quarterback in college football history.

 

6. Class of 2003

 

The Stars: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Chris Leak, Paul Smith, Kevin Kolb, Dennis Dixon, Brady Quinn, Andre Woodson

 

The Best of the Rest: John Beck, John David Booty, Kevin O'Connell, Tom Brandstater, Matt Flynn, JaMarcus Russell, Drew Tate

 

Joe Flacco, a Super Bowl champion, and Matt Ryan are your top passers out of the recruiting class of 2003 when you take their entire careers into account. However, when it came to their collegiate careers, others shined more than both Ryan and Flacco. JaMarcus Russell out of LSU was a big guy who could do some damage with his arm on Saturdays, although he clearly did not pan out at the next level. Chris Leak helped Florida win a national championship while players like Brady Quinn and Dennis Dixon helped make Notre Dame and Oregon national title contenders. At Houston, Kevin Kolb flourished under Art Briles.

 

7. Class of 2010

 

The Stars: Bryce Petty, Blake Bortles, Taylor Kelly, James Franklin, Connor Shaw

 

The Best of the Rest: Tanner Price, Cody Fajardo, Devin Gardner, Stephen Morris, Tyler Bray, Sean Mannion, Connor Halliday, Chase Rettig, David Piland, Blake Bell, Shane Carden, Brandon Connette, Jake Heaps, Hutson Mason

 

Blake Bortles turned out to be the top star in the QB Class of 2010, after leading UCF to a Fiesta Bowl victory over Bryce Petty and Big 12 champion Baylor. Bortles went on to become the No. 3 overall pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. At Missouri, James Franklin helped lead the Tigers to some successful runs in the SEC East, including a pair of trips to the SEC Championship Game. Shaw’s legacy at South Carolina is unrivaled among passers. Petty was explosive at Baylor, as was Sean Mannion at Oregon State. In a similar fashion, Connor Halliday racked up big yardage numbers at Washington State under Mike Leach.

 

8. Class of 2002

 

The Stars: Vince Young, Troy Smith, Colt Brennan

 

The Best of the Rest: Drew Stanton, Omar Jacobs, Phil Horvath, Trent Edwards, John Stocco, Marcus Vick, Jordan Palmer, Drew Olson, Tyler Palko

 

One Heisman Trophy winner and another who should have won it but won the national championship with a performance for the ages. Vince Young at Texas led the Longhorns to a wild national title victory over USC, ending his career on a high note. At Ohio State, Troy Smith did win a Heisman Trophy and led the Buckeyes to a BCS Championship Game, but lost. Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan put up video game numbers in leading the Warriors to their lone BCS bowl appearance. This class also gave you Mike Vick’s younger brother Marcus, which was not quite as good as the original Vick experience, and Senior Bowl MVP Drew Stanton.

 

9. Class of 2005

 

The Stars: Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez, Zac Robinson, Dan LeFevour

 

The Best of the Rest: Riley Skinner, Tony Pike, Joe Webb, Sean Canfield, Mike Kafka, Levi Brown, Matt Grothe, Tim Hiller, Jarrett Brown

 

Colt McCoy’s career at Texas will likely go down as one of the most successful without the props and recognition to go along with it. McCoy never won a Heisman Trophy and his one trip to the BCS National Championship Game ended before it ever really got started with an early game-ending injury against Alabama. None of that takes away from the success McCoy did have at Texas, and the Longhorns have not been the same since his departure. This class also gave USC Mark Sanchez, who experienced brief success with the Trojans before leading the New York Jets to two AFC title game appearances. Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour was one of the early stars of #MACTION’s earlier days as well as one of the reasons Brian Kelly and Butch Jones are where they are today.

 

10. Class of 2012

 

The Stars: Jameis Winston, Maty Mauk, Taysom Hill, Trevor Knight

 

The Best of the Rest: Tommy Armstrong, Travis Wilson, Wes Lunt, Chad Voytik, Nate Sudfeld

 

The Class of 2012 wasted little time in having an impact on the field. Jameis Winston was a star from his first game and led Florida State to an ACC and BCS national championship in his first year as a starter, which also led to a Heisman Trophy. Taysom Hill at BYU became one of the top quarterbacks to pay attention to from the non-power conferences, while Trevor Knight led Oklahoma to a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama and became the twinkle in Katy Perry’s eye (for one year at least). Tommy Armstrong provided some memorable moments for Nebraska and Nate Sudfeld was a reliable option at Indiana, while Maty Mauk saw a promising start turn sour in the past year at Missouri.

 

11. Class of 2014

 

The Stars: Deshaun Watson, Brad Kaaya, DeShone Kizer, Kyle Allen

 

The Best of the Rest: Patrick Mahomes, Will Grier, Mason Rudolph, Brandon Harris, Jerrod Heard

 

This class is just now hitting its stride, and the top of the heap is a good one. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson just led the Tigers to an undefeated regular season and advanced all the way to the national championship game, where he put on a Vince Young Rose Bowl-esque performance in a losing effort against Alabama. Watson was a Heisman finalist and enters 2016 as one of the favorites. Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer has shown some sizzle as well, and Miami’s Brad Kaaya is widely regarded as one of the top quarterbacks on a mediocre football team. Otherwise, this might turn out to be a class of what ifs with Kyle Allen wasting little time leaving Texas A&M and Will Grier leaving Florida after a solid start following a suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

 

12. Class of 2015

 

The Stars: Josh Rosen, Ricky Town, Blake Barnett, Jarrett Stidham

 

The Best of the Rest: Kyler Murray, Brandon Wimbush, Lorenzo Nunez, Lamar Jackson, Travis Jonsen

 

The jury is still largely out on the talent coming through in the Class of 2015, but we already have some stars in the making. UCLA’s Josh Rosen took control of the Bruins' offense from day one and showed some tremendous promise. Across town, the Ricky Town show is just about to get started at USC, and Blake Barnett has the potential to be Nick Saban’s best quarterback recruit at Alabama. Baylor’s Jarrett Stidham was injured in his first season, but not before getting a taste of being a part of the Bears' explosive offense. Brandon Wimbush may have to wait for his time at Notre Dame, and Kyler Murray has already left Texas A&M, so there are some names that may take a little longer to find themselves.

 

13. Class of 2013

 

The Stars: J.T. Barrett, Christian Hackenberg, Davis Webb, Jared Goff, Anu Solomon

 

The Best of the Rest: Malik Zaire, Kenny Hill, Joshua Dobbs, Anthony Jennings, Sefo Liufau, John O’Korn

 

The Class of 2013 still has a little bit of time to shine, but it was already worthy of being bumped up in this updated ranking. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett is a big reason why, as he was not even mentioned in the previous ranking two years ago. Barrett arrived ready to go to battle for the Buckeyes, replacing an injured Braxton Miller and helping lead Ohio State into the College Football Playoff. A season-ending injury changed that outlook, but Barrett remains a Heisman hopeful in 2016. The trajectory of Christian Hackenberg took a hit in the past two seasons after a standout freshman campaign, but Pac-12 players Jared Goff and Anu Solomon have left their marks with their programs. This class also presented Malik Zaire, Kenny Hill, Sefo Luifau, John O’Korn and Joshua Dobbs. All are worth paying attention to in 2016.

 

14. Class of 2004

 

The Stars: Brian Brohm, Pat White, Brian Johnson, Graham Harrell, Daryll Clark

 

The Best of the Rest: Max Hall, Chad Henne, Curtis Painter, Stephen McGee, Brian Hoyer, John Parker Wilson, Erik Ainge, C.J. Bacher, Mike Teel, Rudy Carpenter

 

Daryll Clark led Penn State to a Big Ten championship and its second Rose Bowl trip since joining the Big Ten. Brian Brohm was a product of the Bobby Petrino offensive system at his hometown Louisville and Pat White helped lead the revival of West Virginia football as he tore up the Big East. Graham Harrell was one of many Texas Tech QBs to rack up big numbers during his college career. The impact this quarterback class had on the game was not much more significant than that, although players like Chad Henne, Brian Hoyer and Max Hall would have fine careers at Michigan, Michigan State and BYU, respectively.

 

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for , and hosts the . Follow him on Twitter .

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Ranking the Quarterback Recruiting Classes Since 2002
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For the third year in a row, the 's top seeds in the AFC and NFC will face off in the Super Bowl. While Super Bowl 50 will provide an appealing matchup, on multiple levels, between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, not every team that has vied for the Lombardi Trophy has been Super Sunday-worthy. In fact, previous versions of both the Broncos and Panthers didn’t exactly fit the bill when it came to championship-caliber.
 

Athlon Sports' 10 Worst Teams to Play in a Super Bowl

 

1. 1985 New England Patriots

Super Bowl result: Lost 46-10 to Chicago in Super Bowl XX

 

New England went 11-5 in the regular season to earn a wild card berth, getting hot at the right time. The Patriots won eight out of nine during one stretch and then rode their defense late in the season and in the playoffs. New England forced 16 turnovers in its three postseason victories, including six against Miami in the AFC Championship Game. An opportunistic defense carried an inconsistent offense all season long, at least up until the Super Bowl.

Despite taking an early 3-0 lead, Chicago scored 44 straight points and thoroughly dominated New England in posting the biggest victory in Super Bowl history at the time. For the game, the Patriots managed 123 total yards on offense, including just seven yards rushing, turned the ball over six times and gave up seven sacks.

 

2. 1979 Los Angeles Rams

Super Bowl result: Lost 31-19 to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIV

 

Credit Los Angeles for taking full advantage of its schedule and division, as the Rams (9-7) won the NFC West even though they beat only two teams that finished with a winning record. The offense was marginal, as their quarterbacks combined for a 19:29 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the regular season, and the team finished with a negative (-8) turnover differential.

In the postseason, Los Angeles downed Dallas 21-19 in the Divisional round thanks to a tipped pass that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown with 2:06 remaining. In the NFC Championship Game against Tampa Bay, the Rams' offense managed just three field goals, but that was more than enough thanks to a stifling defensive effort that held the Buccaneers to zero points, just five completed passes and seven first downs.

The first team to make the Super Bowl having won just nine games in the regular season, Los Angeles hung with defending world champion Pittsburgh for the first three quarters. The Rams held a three-point lead at halftime and went ahead by two in the third quarter, only to watch the Steelers score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 31-19 win. If not for three interceptions by Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw, Super Bowl XIV may not have ended up as close as it did.

 

3. 2003 Carolina Panthers

Super Bowl result: Lost 32-29 to New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII

 

This Carolina team mastered the art of winning the close one. Champions of the NFC South with an 11-5 record, the Panthers won just two games in the regular season by more than six points. Seven of the victories were by three points or fewer, as the team’s point differential was plus-21, or 1.3 per game. The Panthers out-rushed their opponents, but this was mainly due to the fact they had nearly 100 more rushing attempts. Still the ground game produced just nine rushing touchdowns (opponents had 10), while quarterback Jake Delhomme posted a 19:16 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

 

The Panthers seemed to get all of the breaks in the postseason, starting with a 29-23 double overtime victory in St. Louis in the NFC Divisional round. Carolina squandered an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead to the Rams that included St. Louis head coach Mike Martz opting to hold the ball for a game-tying field goal even though the Rams were inside the 20 with less than a minute remaining and still had one time out. Both teams missed field goals in the first overtime session, as John Kasay made his 40-yard attempt only to find out it didn’t count due to a delay of game penalty on the Panthers. He then missed the subsequent 45-yard attempt. Delhomme took matters into his own hand at the start of the second overtime period, hitting Steve Smith for the game-winning, 69-yard touchdown only 10 seconds into it. Carolina’s defense came up big on the road in the NFC title game against Philadelphia, injuring Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and picking off four passes in the 14-3 win.

 

Carolina’s reward for earning the franchise’s first NFC crown was a Super Bowl XXXVIII matchup with New England. The game was scoreless until 3:05 left in the second quarter, when the teams combined for 24 points, including a 50-yard Kasay field goal that cut the Patriots’ lead to 14-10 at the half. All the other scoring took place in the fourth quarter, including Delhomme’s game-tying touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl with 1:08 left, but Kasay proceeded to kick the ball out of the bounds. Tom Brady got the ball on the 40-yard line and six plays later, Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning 41-yard field goal with just four ticks remaining. While the final score may have been close, New England dominated the box score, outgaining Carolina by nearly 100 yards (481-387) and nearly doubling the Panthers in first downs (29 to 17).

 

4. 2008 Arizona Cardinals

Super Bowl result: Lost 27-23 to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII

 

The greatest season in Arizona Cardinals franchise history is largely the product of great timing and having all of the breaks go your way, at least up until the game that counts the most. Arizona won the NFC West with a 9-7 record that included a spotless divisional mark (6-0) thanks to one of the top scoring offenses in the league at 26.7 points per game.

The flip side of this, however, is the fact that the rest of the division went a combined 13-35, as the Cardinals beat just two teams in the regular season that finished with a winning record and stumbled into the postseason losing four of their final six games. A suspect defense (team outscored opponents just one point in regular season), caught a break in the Wild Card round when it got to face Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan making his first career playoff start on the road. The Cardinals then got plenty of help from Carolina’s Jake Delhomme, who tossed five interceptions at home in their Divisional matchup. Arizona claimed its first conference championship with a 32-25 home victory over No. 6 seed Philadelphia, thanks to a late Kurt Warner touchdown pass and despite being outgained by the Eagles (454 to 369).

In the Super Bowl, Arizona had its chance to completely cash in on all of its good fortune, fighting back from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit against Pittsburgh to take a 23-20 lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Warner to Larry Fitzgerald with less than three minutes remaining. Alas, it was not meant to be, as Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes in the end zone with 42 seconds left for one of the , much to the chagrin of the Cardinals and their fans.


5. 1994 San Diego Chargers

Super Bowl result: Lost 49-26 to San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIX

 

San Diego won the AFC West with an 11-5 record, and its losses were by seven or fewer points except for one. That one game, you ask? It was a 38-15 loss to San Francisco in Week 15. Foreshadowing perhaps? This was not a powerful team by any stretch, as the Chargers’ point differential (+75) translated into an average of less than five points per game, and the ground game averaged less than four yards per carry.

 

San Diego's defense carried the team throughout the season, and especially in the playoffs. The Chargers came back from a 21-6 halftime deficit to Miami in the AFC Divisional round, winning the game 22-21 on a touchdown pass with 35 seconds left followed by a missed 48-yard field goal by the Dolphins with one second on the clock. In the AFC Championship Game, San Diego trailed Pittsburgh 13-3 at one point only to take a 17-13 lead with 5:13 remaining. The Chargers needed one final goal-line stand with just over a minute left to finish the job, despite being outgained by a wide margin (415 to 226) and having the ball less than 23 minutes.

 

San Diego entered Super Bowl XXIX against San Francisco as the biggest underdog ever (18.5 points) and lived up to that billing. Steve Young threw four of his Super Bowl-record six touchdown passes in the first half, as the closest the Chargers ever were to the 49ers in this one was 14-7 late in the first quarter. The 49ers led 42-10 with less than five minutes left in the third before the Chargers scored two meaningless touchdowns. This game still holds the records for most combined points (75) and total touchdowns (10) in Super Bowl history, with the majority of the damage (49 and 7) done by game MVP Young and his 49ers.

 

6. 1987 Denver Broncos

Super Bowl result: Lost 42-10 to Washington in Super Bowl XXII

 

Denver took full advantage of a strike-shortened season, not to mention three games played with replacement players, to win the AFC West with a 10-4-1 record. Quarterback John Elway led one of the more productive passing offenses in the league, but the Broncos' rushing offense (3.9 ypc) lagged behind. The Broncos needed another miracle (see No. 8 below) to get past Cleveland in the AFC title game, this time at home. And just like what took place the previous season with "The Drive," the Browns delivered once again, as a late fumble sealed the Broncos’ 38-33 win and return trip to the Super Bowl. But Denver's third Super Bowl trip was anything but a charm. The Broncos jumped out to a 10-0 lead on Washington in the first quarter, only to watch the Redskins storm back with 35 points in the second quarter. Washington finished with a Super Bowl-record 602 total yards, including a record 280 yards rushing, in the rout. Denver was outgained by its opponent in all three of its playoff games, so perhaps the end result against Washington wasn’t all that surprising after all.

 

7. 1996 New England Patriots

Super Bowl result: Lost 35-21 to Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI

 

Before the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady reign began in New England, the head coach-star quarterback pairing was Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe. However, this Patriots team relied more on defense than offense, as it won the AFC East with an 11-5 record. Bledsoe did throw for more than 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in the regular season, but the defense allowed just as many yards through the air. New England's D was much more stout against the run, giving up less than 94 yards rushing per game, but its own ground attack fared even worse (92 ypg).

 

New England got a major break in the playoffs when Jacksonville upset top-seeded Denver (13-3) at home in the Divisional round. The Patriots then dispatched of the upstart Jaguars 20-6 at home to earn the franchise’s second AFC crown. Even though the offense sputtered against Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI, the Patriots hung around until the Packers scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter. Bledsoe threw four interceptions and the Patriots finished with a grand total of 43 yards rushing, as the Packers sealed the deal with MVP Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the latter part of the third quarter.

 

8. 1986 Denver Broncos

Super Bowl result: Lost 39-20 to New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI

 

Denver got off to a 6-0 start to the season, but finished just 5-5. Still the Broncos’ 11-5 record was good enough to win the AFC West, thanks to a defense that led the conference in rushing yards allowed. The problem for the Broncos’ offense, however, was that it only generated 27 more yards on the ground than their defense gave up. After getting by New England 22-17 at home in the Divisional round, quarterback John Elway orchestrated “The Drive” late in the fourth quarter in Cleveland to get the Broncos to their second Super Bowl. Unfortunately, this one ended like the franchise’s first big game appearance (vs. Dallas in Super Bowl XII in 1978), as the Broncos managed just 52 yards rushing and Elway got sacked four times (one went for a safety) in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

 

9. 1992 Buffalo Bills

Super Bowl result: Lost 52-17 to Dallas in Super Bowl XXVII

 

This Buffalo team maintained the Bills’ run in the AFC, capturing the East division title with a 11-5 record, powered by the NFL’s top rushing offense and third-ranked scoring offense (23.8 ppg). The defense was average in terms of where it ranked in points allowed, but generally got the job done. A third straight trip to the Super Bowl almost didn’t happen, however, as Buffalo trailed Houston 35-3 early in the third quarter of its wild card game. Backup quarterback Frank Reich, filling in for an injured Jim Kelly, orchestrated what became known as “The Comeback” with the Bills pulling out a 41-38 victory in overtime.

 

Buffalo then easily defeated Pittsburgh and Miami by a combined score of 53-13 to reach its third straight Super Bowl, this time against Dallas. The Bills held a 14-10 lead in the second quarter, only to watch the Cowboys score the next 17 points and pile on 21 more in the fourth quarter. As talented and good as this Dallas team was, Buffalo could ill afford to give the Cowboys many breaks, which the Bills certainly did. The Bills turned it over a Super Bowl-record nine times, including five fumbles, which led to 35 of the 52 points the Cowboys scored.

 

10. 2000 New York Giants

Super Bowl result: Lost 34-7 to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV

 

After losing two games in a row in early November, New York’s record stood at 7-4. Undeterred, head coach Jim Fassel guaranteed that this team would not miss the playoffs. He made good on that promise as the Giants won their last five, albeit just one of those victories came against a team that finished with a winning record, to capture the NFC East title.

 

Similar to Baltimore, their eventual opponent in the Super Bowl, this Giants team was built around defense. The G-Men held opponents to 15.4 points per game and less than 1,200 yards rushing total (72.3 ypg) during the regular season. This was especially the case in the playoffs, as the Giants yielded a total of 10 points in wins over Philadelphia and Minnesota, including shutting out the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game by holding them to 114 total yards and forcing five turnovers.

 

The problem for the Giants, however, was their offense and this was especially the case in Super Bowl XXXV against the Ravens. Baltimore’s defense, considered one of the best in the history of the game, kept the Giants’ offense scoreless, as their only points in the game came on a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ron Dixon in the third quarter. For the game, the Giants’ offense mustered a total of 152 yards and quarterback Kerry Collins was responsible for four (all INTs) of the Giants’ five turnovers.

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The finished off a successful season with a 9-2 bowl record as a conference. Alabama defeated Clemson in the College Football Playoff to win the conference's eighth national title in 10 years, capping off the postseason dominance. The SEC wouldn't be what it is without a conference-wide plethora of talent.

 

Related: 

 

A good majority of that talent is returning next season. With the likes of Leonard Fournette, Myles Garrett and Calvin Ridley, among others, coming back, 2016 should be another good year for the SEC. But first, let's take a look at 10 departures who will be immensely difficult to replace. Keep in mind, these aren't necessarily the best players leaving, but the toughest for their respective teams to go on without.

 

10 Toughest Players to Replace in the SEC in 2016

 

Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

Might as well start with the best, right? Henry won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award, Walter Camp Award, and found himself on just about every All-American team imaginable. He rushed for more than 2,200 yards and found the end zone 28 times. He was the key player in Alabama's national championship quest. In short, Henry was undoubtedly the best player in all of college football. He will be sorely missed.

 

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

As Treadwell prepares for a long career in the NFL, Ole Miss is scrambling to find a pass catcher to fill his shoes. Treadwell caught 82 passes last season and hauled in 11 touchdowns. He had 100 or more yards receiving in six games, which was instrumental in guiding the Rebels to wins over Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and Auburn. Treadwell, a member of Ole Miss' superb 2013 recruiting class, will leave Oxford alongside Robert Nkemdiche and Laremy Tunsil.

 

Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas

When Jonathan Williams went down just before the start of the season, it was clear that Collins would become the chief workhorse for the Razorbacks. Throughout a tumultuous campaign, he managed to pile up more than 1,500 yards on the ground, as well as 20 touchdowns. Collins rushed for 100 yards or more in all but three games. Kody Walker appears to be the only immediate replacement for Arkansas' second all-time leading rusher.

 

A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama

Alabama's defensive line was special last season, combining its usual run-stopping prowess with an equal ability to get after the quarterback. Robinson's main job was to clog up the interior, something he did well enough to become a finalist for the Outland Trophy. His best performance came against Mississippi State when he notched five tackles and 2.5 sacks. Even with its unique ability to recruit, Alabama will have a tough time replacing Robinson.

 

Kentrell Brothers, LB, Missouri

One of the most prolific tacklers in the SEC, Brothers provided a spark rarely seen in Columbia last season. In a season riddled with ugly offense and off-the-field drama, Missouri at least had a sure tackler. Brothers posted double-digit tackles in all but one game. He racked up 17 stops, a season high, in Missouri's 9-6 loss at Georgia. Brothers also had two interceptions against Arkansas State, which helped seal a 27-20 win in week two.

 

Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas

Hog fans, love him or hate him, your team wouldn't have won eight games without this quarterback. Allen took a lot of heat for errant throws at crucial points in some games, but in the overall picture he was a winner. In an overtime victory at Ole Miss, Allen threw for 442 yards and six touchdowns with a 73 percent completion rate. Over the past two seasons, he threw 50 touchdown passes and only 13 interceptions. Not bad if you ask me. Arkansas doesn't currently have much for quarterbacks waiting in the wings.

 

Related: 

 

Vadal Alexander, OT, LSU

Alexander was a first team All-SEC lineman, as well as a third team All-American. He was an absolute monster as a run blocker, accumulating more than 100 pancake blocks on the season. Pancake blocks are a stat that pretty much only linemen can appreciate. But there is probably another guy who greatly appreciated Alexander, that being Leonard Fournette. Alexander was a four-year starter for LSU.

 

Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

Sticking with the offensive linemen theme, there probably wasn't a more respected center in the country in 2015. Kelly won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's best center and never allowed a sack. Kelly was a three-year starter and a consensus first team All-American, blasting defenders out of the way for the Heisman Trophy winner. His departure, likely to the NFL, leaves Alabama with little depth at center.

 

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Simply put, the Gamecocks didn't get a lot of offensive production going last year. But how bad would things have been without Cooper? It is unfortunate that he played on such bad teams, because Cooper was one of the best wide receivers in recent memory in the SEC. On five occasions, he had more than 100 receiving yards, including a whopping 191 in an embarrassing loss to The Citadel. You really can't blame Cooper for that one.

 

Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

No, I didn't forget him. How could anyone forget such a special player? It isn't a stretch to think of Prescott in the same category as Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Peyton Manning. He is the definition of "tough to replace," as he guided the Bulldogs to 19 wins over the past two seasons. With nearly 12,000 total yards and more than 100 touchdowns in his career, the numbers pretty much say it all.

 

— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for . Follow him on Twitter .

Teaser:
10 Toughest Players to Replace in the SEC in 2016
Post date: Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/cam-newton-im-african-american-quarterback-scares-people-carolina-panthers
Body:

Cam Newton has never apologized for who he is. 

 

The Panthers quarterback talked to the media about the upcoming Super Bowl match-up with the Broncos, and said what others are perhaps too afraid to say.

 

 

 

"Now the true fans — they know what's up," Newton continued. "They're going to be supportive whatever happens... But people are going to judge and have their own opinion on certain things that I don't have control over nor does anybody else." 

 

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera mentioned that he doesn't understand why people are negatively drawn to Newton. 

 

"It's funny we still fight that battle based on what?" Rivera said later in the conference. "All he's done when he came in his rookie year... he had a dynamic rookie year. He was NFL (Offensive) Rookie fo the Year. He's been in conversations every year for awards. This year he's in the conversation for MVP. I still don't get why he has to be (criticized). And maybe there are some people out there who are concerned with who he is, which I think is terrible. I really do.

 

Rivera continued on the hopes that things will change as time goes on.

 

"You think in this time, this day and age, it would be more about who he is as an athlete, as a person more than anything else. Hopefully we can get past those things."

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 15:33
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL
Path: /nfl/former-iowa-star-tyler-sash-had-high-level-cte-new-york-giants-concussion
Body:

Tyler Sash, who passed away at the age of 27, was found to be at an advanced stage of C.T.E. 

 

According to , Sash's C.T.E. was reminiscent of the kind you would see in a much older football player. 

 

"The severity of the C.T.E. in Sash's brain was about the same as found in the brain of the former NFL star Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 43. 

 

Doctors grade C.T.E. on a severity scale from 0 to 4; Sash was at stage 2."

 

Sash's mother, Barnetta, spoke about the trouble her son was going through.

 

"My son knew something was wrong but he couldn't express it," Ms. Sash said. "He was such a good person, and it's sad that he struggled so with this — not knowing where to go with it."

 

Sash's mother also talked to The Times about the changes she saw in her son. He would often have minor temper flare-ups, memory loss, confusion states.

"Now it makes sense," Barnetta said. "The part of the brain that controls impulses, decision-making and reasoning was damaged badly."

 

Sash also had a couple of concussions in high school, as well as one during his playing days at Iowa. He was only 27 but with 16 years of high-intensity football activities, the consequences took a toll.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 12:57
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/gilbert-arenas-deletes-instagram-after-making-jokes-about-flint-residents
Body:

If you were on the fence about Gilbert Arenas, this just might push you over the edge.

 

The former Wizards star has said some and, surprisingly, he's not done yet. Arenas went on Instagram to express tasteless thoughts about the women in Flint, MI and the water they are forced to deal with. 

 

"Am I the only dude blocking any girl from Flint right now?" Arenas said.

 

He then proceeds to talk about how they've been bathing with dirty water. To see the unedited version of the Instagram posts, you can check it out .

 

A few hours later, the former NBA player deleted his entire Instagram account. If you ask most people, it's for the best. His latest antics are just a desperate attempt to stay relevant. 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 11:24
Path: /college-football/10-toughest-players-replace-pac-12-2016
Body:

The dust has barely had time to settle on the 2015 season, and in less than a month's time, the early phases of the 2016 season begin with the earliest of spring practices opening. Arizona takes the first steps into the 2016 campaign among Conference members, opening offseason workouts Feb. 10.

 

As the spring season gets underway, coaching staffs get a first impression of their fall rosters. Some noticeable gaps will be plainly evident, some bigger than others.

 

The Pac-12 says farewell to a host of outstanding players, but the following 10 may be the conference's most difficult to replace based on production and how adequately their teams at equipped to find a successor.

 

10 Toughest Players to Replace in the Pac-12 in 2016

 

(Listed in alphabetical order)

 

Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon

The Eastern Washington transfer spent less than a full season as an Oregon Duck, missing a chunk of his lone fall in Eugene due to a finger injury. However, in his limited time with Oregon football, Adams made a considerable impression.

 

He passed for 26 touchdowns against just six interceptions and rushed for another two scores. His play when at full strength — specifically in November when Oregon scored impressive wins over Stanford and USC — could haunt Ducks fans left to wonder how 2015 might have unfolded with him in the lineup all season.

 

Oregon's search for a new starting quarterback could very well spark that same feeling if none of the potential replacements shine this offseason.

 

Jake Brendel, OL, UCLA

Offensive line play at UCLA has gone through ups and downs over the last few seasons — more often down than up. However, through times of struggle up front, Brendel provided needed stability at center.

 

Brendel's not the only starter leaving the program this offseason. Guard Alex Redmond surprisingly declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft, but Redmond didn't have quite the same presence on UCLA's front five as Brendel.

 

DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon

No individual defensive player in the Pac-12 played a more central role to his team than Buckner. Lined up at tackle or end, Buckner was equally effective as the Ducks' chief run-stopper or primary pass rusher.

 

His 2015 numbers are staggering: 83 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks. The statistics alone only reveal a portion of Buckner's importance to Oregon's defense, as his ability to draw double-teams opened the field for teammates, as well.

 

Su'a Cravens, LB, USC

Cravens just might be the case study for players who are so good, they don't really need a position. Such was Cravens' role on the USC defense. Sure, he ended his career officially listed at strong-side linebacker, and he made an impact as the Trojans' most dangerous blitzing presence playing that role.

 

But Cravens was just as effective dropping back into pass coverage, losing nothing from his freshman season when he flourished at safety. Cravens' versatility allowed USC to operate through personnel limitations during 2013 and ‘14 campaigns when the roster was thin.

 

D.J. Foster, WR, Arizona State

Foster made an indelible impact on the Phoenix area football scene, first as a standout at Scottsdale prep powerhouse Saguaro, then as a four-year contributor at Arizona State.

 

Foster is a rare talent who thrived no matter what was asked of him. He functioned as a flanker his freshman season, took over for record-setting Marion Grice at the end of 2013 and into ‘14 as the Sun Devils' primary ball carrier, then established himself as the team's top pass-catcher this past season.

 

Players with the versatility Foster brought the Arizona State offense are rare.

 

Jared Goff, QB, Cal

Cal's return as a competitive program in the Pac-12 coincided directly with Goff's growth at quarterback. Goff is the only starter in head coach Sonny Dykes' three years at the helm of the Golden Bears, and his task of finding a new signal-caller coincides with the hunt for a new play-caller.

 

In addition to Goff, Cal parts ways with offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, who took the same position at Middle Tennessee State earlier this month. The record-setting Goff thrived in Franklin's wide-open variation of the Air Raid, passing for nearly 100 touchdowns in his three-year career.

 

Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford

Following Stanford's Pac-12 Championship Game defeat of USC in December, which landed the Cardinal their third conference championship in four seasons, head coach David Shaw made a bold proclamation.

 

He said Hogan, starter for all three of those conference titles, belonged on a hypothetical "Mount Rushmore" of Stanford's all-time great quarterbacks with Andrew Luck, John Elway and Jim Plunkett. Company does not get more exclusive, and Hogan's accomplishments set a high bar for the next Stanford quarterback. He also helped set the foundation.

 

"I had Ryan [Burns] and Keller [Chryst] check out the [defensive backs], and they always give me a report on the sideline," Hogan said. "They've been a great help for me; an extra set of eyes."

 

Gionni Paul, LB, Utah

The Miami transfer joined a loaded Utah defense and helped make it even better. Paul put together a 2015 season worthy of consideration for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, racking up 117 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, and perhaps most impressive, four interceptions.

 

Paul quickly established himself as a threat defending both the run and pass, a quality increasingly necessary of linebackers against the Pac-12's many up-tempo and spread offenses.

 

Joshua Perkins, TE, Washington

By season's end, Washington developed a consistent offense around the freshmen backfield pairing of quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. For the two months-and-change prior, however, the Huskies needed Perkins' veteran presence at tight end to provide stability.

 

Perkins finished 2015 as Washington's second-leading receiver, functioning as a red zone threat and via intermediate routes customary of a player his size and position. However, Perkins embodied the new wave of tight end capable of running deep routes like a wide receiver. That's an invaluable asset for any offense.

 

Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona

Arizona learned firsthand just how difficult replacing Wright would be this season, with the 2014 All-American sidelined for much of the campaign.

 

The Wildcats ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12, if not the nation, in nearly every defensive statistical category with Wright sidelined. The run defense suffered without his tenacious ball-hawking, and opposing quarterbacks operated from largely unfettered pockets without Wright bringing pressure.

 

He capped his standout career with a stellar performance in Arizona's New Mexico Bowl, proving one last time he's arguably the most difficult player to replace in the Pac-12's departing class.

 

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

Teaser:
10 Toughest Players to Replace in the Pac-12 in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /overtime/former-texas-am-trainer-claims-he-was-pressured-clear-players
Body:

When it comes to student-athletes, people would like to think that their safety comes first. 

 

A former Texas A&M trainer will appear on an upcoming HBO Real Sports special and his claims should be of no surprise to some. Karl Kapchinski was fired by the Aggies school in 2013 after giving them 31 years of his best effort. He's now going on the record saying that coaches from the football team pressured him to clear players to get back on the field before they were ready. In some cases, it lead to them getting injured even more.

 

Here's the transcript via the :

 

JON FRANKEL: Did you ever feel pressured to return a player to the field before you thought he was ready?

KARL KAPCHINSKI: I would say yes.

 

JON FRANKEL: Did you ever have a coach say to you, 'I need this kid back?'

KARL KAPCHINSKI: Yes. They would always, you know ten to put pressure on you to get good players back.

 

JON FRANKEL: Is there anybody you put back into a game and you said, ‘Mm, I wish I hadn’t done that?’
KARL KAPCHINSKI: Yes.


JON FRANKEL: Because it went against your better judgment, or because it resulted in the player limpin’ off the field two plays later?
KARL KAPCHINSKI: Because it resulted in the player having a subsequent injury.


JON FRANKEL: If you said to a coach, ‘Coach, I know we said it was gonna be four weeks, but we need an extra week.’ What would the coach say to you?
KARL KAPCHINSKI: You would be challenged on your character, your credentials. You know, maybe you were the wrong guy for the job.

 

Those are damning claims and it should be noted that Kapchinski filed a lawsuit against the school last year, claiming he was termination because of his age.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 10:32
Path: /college-football/where-did-college-football-teams-find-their-starting-quarterbacks-2016
Body:

Another season, another set of quarterbacks leaving campus due to graduation, to chase NFL stardom, or transferring in order to find more playing time elsewhere.

 

With stars like Jared Goff, Dak Prescott, Connor Cook and Christian Hackenberg and a total of more than 20 starters from Power 5 conference teams leaving college football, a new batch of signal-callers is set to fill their shoes.

 

But, where did those players come from?

 

Around this time last season, Athlon Sports projected the starting quarterbacks for every Power 5 program (schools in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC), in addition to Notre Dame and BYU, and found that they hailed from 26 different states. That number has increased to 28 this season, though three big states dominate the quarterback landscape.

 

The Big Three Reigns Supreme

It should come as no shock that Texas, California and Florida have produced the most quarterbacks in college football, as all three have a long history of generating many of the game’s greatest players. And, schools from all across the country flock to each state in hopes of landing a prized quarterback recruit.

 

Five Texas programs are expected to start quarterbacks that attended high school in the state, but Oklahoma, West Virginia, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue and Oregon have all dipped into the Lone Star State for their projected signal-caller too. As for the Ducks, Texas native Dakota Prukop started at FCS program Montana State before moving on to Eugene as a graduate transfer.

 

Only three of the 10 projected Power 5 starters from California stayed close to home, while players like Miami’s Brad Kaaya, Alabama’s Blake Barnett, Indiana’s Zander Diamont and Wisconsin’s Bart Houston rank among the quarterbacks that have made the 10 longest journeys to their destinations (see chart below).

 

Interestingly enough, all eight quarterbacks from the state of Florida expected to start for Power 5 programs in 2016 will do so out of state, including those that traveled far from home like Michigan’s John O’Korn and Pitt’s Nathan Peterman – both of whom transferred from other out-of-state schools (Houston and Tennessee, respectively).

 

Florida, Florida State and Miami each traveled more than 1,000 miles to find their quarterbacks – and in some cases, the players themselves traveled much, much farther. Luke Del Rio has the inside track to unseat Treon Harris as the starting QB for the Gators in 2016. Though Del Rio was actually born in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., he attended high school in Littleton, Colo., just outside of Denver. But Del Rio’s journey was even longer as he originally signed with Alabama out of high school, then transferred to Oregon State before finally making it to Gainesville.

 

The rival Seminoles and Hurricanes also went out of state for their starters, which is quite common for both programs.

 

Georgia on the Decline, While Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington Rise

Last year, California and Texas shared the national lead with 10 quarterbacks apiece among Power 5 conference starters. Looking ahead to the 2016 campaign, the Lone Star State took a slight lead with 11 – one more than California. Florida, which tied Georgia for third on this list last season (6), has seen its QB pipeline tally increase to eight looking ahead to the 2016 campaign.

 

Meanwhile, Georgia now has only three projected starters, which is the largest decrease compared to 2015, but the Peach State can still lay claim to Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is arguably the best quarterback, if not player, in the country. But, Georgia’s overall emergence as a QB hotbed took a hit, and the state is now tied with longtime producers Pennsylvania (which was shutout this time last year), and Ohio, as well as newcomer Washington – which, remarkably, produced Georgia’s projected starter, true freshman Jacob Eason. Washington also is the home of USC’s projected starter, Max Browne – an oddity given the Trojans’ location in the fertile recruiting grounds of Southern California.

 

Musical Chairs in the Pac-12

Each state in the Pac-12 footprint – Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington – has produced a quarterback expected to start for a Power 5 program. In the Pac-12 specifically, starters hail from Arizona, California, Utah and Washington – but they didn’t end up exactly where one might think.

 

Cal, Stanford, and UCLA all stuck close to home for their signal-callers, though USC’s Browne is some 1,153 miles from his Sammamish, Wash., home. Another Washington native, Sefo Liufau, ended up more than 1,000 miles away in Boulder playing for Colorado. As luck would have it, Washington and Washington State found their signal-callers in California (Jake Browning) and Utah (Luke Falk), respectively.

 

The Utes also found a quarterback in California (though Troy Williams attended junior college in Texas before heading to Salt Lake City), as did Arizona State, which plucked Manny Wilkins from Novato.

 

As for Oregon, the state produced Syracuse’s Eric Dungey, but the Ducks found new quarterback in Texas native Dakota Prukop, following a three-year stint at Montana State. As for rival Oregon State, Darell Garretson is an Arizona native, though the Wildcats’ top QB, Anu Solomon, hails from Las Vegas.

 

From Longest to Shortest

Former Stanford starter Kevin Hogan led the way on this last season for the longest journey from high school to college. The distance between McLean, Va., to Stanford’s West Coast campus is a lengthy 2,788 miles. This year, things are very different for the Cardinal.

 

With Hogan out of eligibility, Stanford’s front-runner to start under center is Keller Chryst, a 6-foot-5, 233-pound rising junior that completed five of nine passes last season for 59 yards and a touchdown. Chryst is a native of Palo Alto, Calif., the home of Stanford University.

 

10 Farthest Away From Home

QuarterbackSchoolMilesHometown
Eric Dungey2,791Lake Oswego, OR
Jacob Eason2,726Lake Stevens, WA
Brad Kaaya2,718West Hills, CA
Dakota Prukop2,233Austin, TX
Bart Houston2,092Dublin, CA
Zander Diamont2,048Los Angeles
Blake Barnett 1,987Corona, CA
Luke Del Rio1,752Littleton, CO
John O’Korn1,350Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Sefo Liufau1,284Tacoma, WA

Other Hometown Heroes

Chryst isn’t the only hometown hero slated to be a starting quarterback in 2016. Arkansas is expected to replace Fayetteville native Brandon Allen with his younger brother Austin, who has been No. 2 on the depth chart for two seasons. However, should Californian (Thousand Oaks) and former USC Trojan Ricky Town beat out Allen, the Hogs would have recruited a starter from 1,597 miles away.

 

At TCU, Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill has a great shot to replace Treyvone Boykin as the starter for the Horned Frogs. Hill, a Southlake native (25 miles from Fort Worth), will face competition from Foster Sawyer – a Fort Worth local.

 

Elsewhere, UCLA QB Josh Rosen’s Manhattan Beach home is roughly 16 miles from Westwood, and both Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner (Lakeville) and Iowa State’s Joel Lanning (Ankeny) can be back home in less than a half hour, depending on traffic.

 

10 Closest to Home

QuarterbackSchoolMilesHometown
Austin Allen0Fayetteville, AR
Keller Chryst0Palo Alto, CA
Josh Rosen16Manhattan Beach, CA
Kenny Hill25Southlake, TX
Mitch Leidner25Lakeville, MN
Joel Lanning27Ankeny, IA
Clayton Thorson35Wheaton, IL
Ryan Willis37Overland Park, KS
Chris Laviano70Glen Head, NY
Drew Barker76Burlington, KY

Projected 2016 Power 5 Conference*
Starting QBs by State

 

StateNo.Quarterbacks
Texas11Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Seth Russell (Baylor), Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech), Tommy Armstrong (Nebraska), Trevor Knight (Texas A&M), Kenny Hill (TCU), Jerrod Heard (Texas), Skyler Howard (West Virginia), David Blough (Purdue), Dakota Prukop (Oregon)
California10Josh Rosen (UCLA), Brad Kaaya (Miami), Jake Browning (Washington), Blake Barnett (Alabama), Keller Chryst (Stanford), Chase Forrest (Cal), Zander Diamont (Indiana), Bart Houston (Wisconsin), Troy Williams (Utah), Manny Wilkins (Arizona State)
Florida8Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Thomas Sirk (Duke), Nathan Peterman (Pitt), John Franklin III (Auburn), John O’Korn (Michigan), Perry Orth (South Carolina), John Wolford (Wake Forest), Dwayne Lawson (Virginia Tech)
Georgia3Deshaun Watson (Clemson), Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee), Elijah Staley (Mississippi State)
Ohio3Malik Zaire (Notre Dame), Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina), Tyler O’Connor (Michigan State)
Pennsylvania3Matt Johns (Virginia), Perry Hills (Maryland), Kyle Shurmur (Vanderbilt)
Washington3Jacob Eason (Georgia), Max Browne (USC), Sefo Liufau (Colorado)
Illinois2Wes Lunt (Illinois), Clayton Thorson (Northwestern)
Iowa2Joel Lanning (Iowa State), Jesse Ertz (Kansas State)
Kentucky2Drew Barker, (Kentucky), Patrick Towles (Boston College)
New York2Chad Kelly (Ole Miss), Chris Laviano (Rutgers)
Alabama1Justin Thomas (Georgia Tech)
Arkansas1Austin Allen (Arkansas)
Arizona1Darell Garretson (Oregon State)
Colorado1Luke Del Rio (Florida)
Idaho1Tanner Mangum (BYU)
Kansas1Ryan Willis (Kansas)
Louisiana1Brandon Harris (LSU)
Minnesota1Mitch Leidner (Minnesota)
Missouri1Drew Lock (Missouri)
Nevada1Anu Solomon (Arizona)
New Jersey1Sean Maguire (Florida State)
North Carolina1Jalan McClendon (NC State)
Oregon1Eric Dungey (Syracuse)
South Carolina1Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)
Tennessee1C.J. Beathard (Iowa)
Utah1Luke Falk (Washington State)
Virginia1Trace McSorley (Penn State)

*List also includes BYU and Notre Dame

 

— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Allen's work on college football can also be found on and . Follow him on Twitter .

Teaser:
Where Did College Football Teams Find Their Starting Quarterbacks for 2016?
Post date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-mvps-complete-list-super-bowl-i-xlix
Body:

Being named the MVP of the Super Bowl is one of the highest honors an NFL player can ever hope to receive. As Super Bowl 50 prepares to play out on Feb. 7, 2016, we look back at every MVP Trophy (known as the Pete Rozelle Trophy since Super Bowl XXV) in the history of the big game. Here is a complete list of every Super Bowl MVP, from I to XLIX. 

 

Super Bowl XLIII — WR Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh

Super Bowl I — QB Bart Starr, Green Bay
Super Bowl II — QB Bart Starr, Green Bay
Super Bowl III — QB Joe Namath, N.Y. Jets
Super Bowl IV — QB Len Dawson, Kansas City
Super Bowl V — LB Chuck Howley, Dallas
Super Bowl VI — QB Roger Staubach, Dallas
Super Bowl VII — S Jake Scott, Miami
Super Bowl VIII — RB Larry Csonka, Miami
Super Bowl IX — RB Franco Harris, Pittsburgh
Super Bowl X — WR Lynn Swann, Pittsburgh
Super Bowl XI — WR Fred Biletnikoff, Oakland
Super Bowl XII — DT Randy White and DE Harvey Martin, Dallas
Super Bowl XIII — QB Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh
Super Bowl XIV — QB Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh
Super Bowl XV — QB Jim Plunkett, Oakland
Super Bowl XVI — QB Joe Montana, San Francisco
Super Bowl XVII — RB John Riggins, Washington
Super Bowl XVIII — RB Marcus Allen, L.A. Raiders
Super Bowl XIX — QB Joe Montana, San Francisco
Super Bowl XX — DE Richard Dent, Chicago
Super Bowl XXI — QB Phil Simms, N.Y. Giants
Super Bowl XXII — QB Doug Williams, Washington
Super Bowl XXIII — WR Jerry Rice, San Francisco
Super Bowl XXIV — QB Joe Montana, San Francisco
Super Bowl XXV — RB Ottis Anderson, N.Y. Giants
Super Bowl XXVI — QB Mark Rypien, Washington
Super Bowl XXVII — QB Troy Aikman, Dallas
Super Bowl XXVIII — RB Emmitt Smith, Dallas
Super Bowl XXIX — QB Steve Young, San Francisco
Super Bowl XXX — CB Larry Brown, Dallas
Super Bowl XXXI — KR-PR Desmond Howard, Green Bay
Super Bowl XXXII — RB Terrell Davis, Denver
Super Bowl XXXIII — QB John Elway, Denver
Super Bowl XXXIV — QB Kurt Warner, St. Louis
Super Bowl XXXV — LB Ray Lewis, Baltimore
Super Bowl XXXVI — QB Tom Brady, New England
Super Bowl XXXVII — S Dexter Jackson, Tampa Bay
Super Bowl XXXVIII — QB Tom Brady, New England
Super Bowl XXXIX — WR Deion Branch, New England
Super Bowl XL — WR Hines Ward, Pittsburgh
Super Bowl XLI — QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis
Super Bowl XLII — QB Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants
Super Bowl XLIII — WR Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh
Super Bowl XLIV — QB Drew Brees, New Orleans
Super Bowl XLV — QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Super Bowl XLVI — QB Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants
Super Bowl XLVII — QB Joe Flacco, Baltimore
Super Bowl XLVIII — LB Malcolm Smith, Seattle
Super Bowl XLIX — QB Tom Brady, New England

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/who-are-10-greatest-players-never-play-super-bowl-2016
Body:

The Super Bowl may be the ’s biggest game, but only two teams get the opportunity to share this stage each season. Because of this, many of the game’s greatest players, including members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, were never given an opportunity to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Here are the 10 NFL legends who never got their chance to enjoy the Super Bowl spotlight.

 

Related: 

 

1. Barry Sanders, RB (1989-98)

Playoff record: 1–5

Best team: 1991 Lions (12–4 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)

Closest call: 1991 (NFC Championship Game, 41–10 loss at Redskins)

 

After winning his playoff debut 38–6 against the Cowboys, Sanders lost his next five postseason games. Shockingly, one of the most exciting players of all-time was limited to 13 or fewer carries in four of his six playoff contests. The only time No. 20 was given more than 20 carries, he ripped off 169 yards in a 28–24 loss to the Packers. Although Sanders ran wild every year on Thanksgiving Day, he never showed up to the party on Super Bowl Sunday.

 

2. Deacon Jones, DE (1961-74)

Playoff record: 0–2

Best team: 1967 Rams (11–1–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)

Closest call: 1969 (Divisional Round, 23–20 loss at Vikings)

 

The “Secretary of Defense” was known for head-slapping opposing offensive linemen, but the two-time Defensive Player of the Year must have been doing some head-scratching after retiring with zero playoff wins on three different teams — and zero Super Bowl appearances — despite an unofficial total of 173.5 sacks during his Hall of Fame career.

 

3. Dick Butkus, LB (1965-73)

Playoff record: 0–0

Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)

 

Arguably the greatest middle linebacker in history, Butkus played for George Halas — the legendary coach whose name graces the trophy awarded to the winner of the NFC Championship Game — and on the same team as Hall of Fame triple-threat playmaker Gale Sayers. Despite looking great on paper at the time and even better in historical hindsight, Butkus’ Bears were unable to make the playoffs, which is the first step toward advancing to the Super Bowl.

 

4. Gale Sayers, RB (1965-71)

Playoff record: 0–0

Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)

 

Butkus and Sayers were drafted Nos. 3 and 4 overall, respectively, by the Bears in 1965. But the Hall of Fame duo were unable to translate their individual achievements into team success. Sayers notched a record six TDs in a single game — with nine carries for 113 yards and four TDs, two catches for 89 yards and one TD, and five punt returns for 134 yards and one TD as a rookie — but failed to score even a single Super Bowl trip.

 

5. Earl Campbell, RB (1978-85)

Playoff record: 3–3

Best team: 1979 Oilers (11–5 record, lost in AFC Championship Game)

Closest call: 1979 (AFC Championship Game, 27–13 loss at Steelers)

 

The “Luv Ya Blue” bulldozer was unable to take down the powerful “Steel Curtain” during back-to-back AFC Championship Game losses. In two painful defeats at Pittsburgh, Campbell had a combined 39 carries for 77 yards (1.97 ypc), two catches for 15 yards, and zero TDs. Campbell’s two scoreless games against the Steelers were the only two playoff games in which he failed to find the end zone.

 

6. O.J. Simpson, RB (1969-79)

Playoff record: 0–1

Best team: 1974 Bills (9–5 record, lost in Divisional Round)

Closest call: 1974 (Divisional Round, 32–14 loss at Steelers)

 

Another victim of the mighty Steelers, the Juice had better luck than Campbell — with 18 touches for 86 total yards and one TD — but was unable to lead the Bills to victory in what would be his only postseason appearance. The actor and defendant never basked in the spotlight of the Super Bowl but he was seen by millions during his days as Lt. Nordberg in the "Naked Gun" franchise and his starring role in the Trial of the Century.

 

7. Eric Dickerson, RB (1983-93)

Playoff record: 2–5

Best team: 1985 Rams (11–5 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)

Closest call: 1985 (NFC Championship Game, 24–0 loss at Bears)

 

Upon first glance, the single-season rushing yards record holder posted solid playoff numbers. But take off the goggles and you’ll see that Dickerson’s 248-yard, two-TD outburst during a 20–0 win over the Cowboys in 1985 accounted for one-third of his career postseason rushing yards and half of his total TDs.

 

8. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB (2001-11)

Playoff record: 4–5

Best team: 2006 Chargers (14–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)

Closest call: 2010 (AFC Championship Game, 24–19 loss at Steelers)

 

Infamously sulking on the sideline, injured and wearing in a Darth Vader facemask and trench coat at New England — after just two carries for five yards — was clearly the low point of L.T.’s playoff career. Staying on the dark side, three of his five playoff losses were by margins of three points, one defeat came by four points and the most lopsided was a nine-pointer.

 

9. Tony Gonzalez, TE (1997-2013)

Playoff record: 1–6

Best team: 2003 Chiefs (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round)

Closest call: 2012 (NFC Championship Game, 28–24 loss vs. 49ers)

 

It took Gonzo 16 seasons to finally earn a playoff win. Then, with the Falcons holding a 17–0 lead over the 49ers in the NFC title game, it looked like the future Hall of Fame tight end would be punching his ticket to the Super Bowl and possibly riding off into the sunset as a champion. The massive comeback by the Niners would be the all-time great’s final playoff game.

 

10. Warren Moon, QB (1984-2000)

Playoff record: 3–7

Best team: 1993 Oilers (12–4 record, lost in Divisional Round)

Closest call: 1993 (Divisional Round, 28–20 loss vs. Chiefs)

 

Moon won five consecutive Grey Cups and was twice named Grey Cup MVP in the Canadian Football League. But in these United States south of the border, the former CFL champion was unable to translate his prior success to the NFL Playoffs. Moon’s waning moment came in the worst collapse in postseason history, as his Oilers watched a 35–3 lead evaporate into a 41–38 overtime loss against the Frank Reich-led Bills.

Teaser:
Who are the 10 Greatest Players Never to Play in a Super Bowl?
Post date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-football-conferences-after-end-2015-season
Body:

The goody bags have been distributed to the thousands of players who participated in the 41 bowls this postseason. The trophies for the dozens of winners of glorified exhibition games have been awarded. The two-plus weeks of college football excess have ended. Now, it is time to weigh the results to see how the 10 FBS conference fared against each other over the course of the 2015 season.

 

To do this, I apply my formula to rank the conferences according to a series of objective factors. These factors are used to calculate scores for all 10 FBS conferences. The criteria include:

 

1. Wins by each member of every conference when facing non-conference foes.
2. Games on the road are worth more than those at neutral sites or at home.
3. Victories versus other conferences’ champions or second-place teams/divisional winners count for more points.
4. Wins against FBS opponents have much more value than those against FCS members.

 

Below is how the 10 conferences measured up to one another at the conclusion of the bowl season and College Football Playoff. Each conference’s score is in parenthesis. For those curious about the scale of my formula, a perfect score for a conference is 3.188.

 

1. SEC (.848)

The SEC's champion won the national championship, beating the ACC’s and Big Ten’s champs in the process. Additionally, SEC members proved to be collectively superior to the other FBS conferences with regular-season victories over the eventual champions of Conference USA (Western Kentucky went 1-1 against Vanderbilt and LSU), the MAC and the Sun Belt. Spectacular bowl results, 9-2 to be exact, put the SEC back at the top of the ranking after the conference found itself in second place in October. The SEC had a winning percentage of 60 percent or higher versus all of the other FBS conferences during the season. The postseason success allowed the SEC to slip past the Big Ten and win by a nose in the final standings.

 

2. Big Ten (.845)

The mediocre bowl record (5-5) looks more awful than the numbers indicate. Both divisional champs, Iowa and Michigan State, were steamrolled in their bowls.  Two of the wins were by members with losing records. Nebraska and Minnesota only played in the postseason due to the absurd glut of bowls. Although the Pac-12 and SEC champions crushed the Big Ten's divisional champions, other members of the conference did defeat the runners-up from both of those conferences.

 

3. Pac-12 (.755)

A record 10 bowl teams from the Pac-12 produced a winning mark of 6-4, albeit with some bewildering results. The Pac-12 beat the divisional champs of Conference USA, the Mountain West and Big Ten. Arizona also went to Albuquerque and beat New Mexico on its own field.

 

However, the rest of the Pac-12 struggled in bowls played in their home states. Three members located in California played Big Ten members at a site inside the Golden State; but only one (Stanford in the Rose Bowl) defeated its Midwestern opponent. Both teams from Los Angeles lost to Big Ten teams while playing in San Francisco and San Diego respectively. Arizona State also lost a de facto home game versus a Big 12 team in a stadium within same metro area as the Sun Devils’ campus. How could anyone forget Oregon's astounding collapse against TCU in the Alamo Bowl?

 

4. Big 12 (.588)

Good news: The Big 12 won both games versus the Pac-12 and beat an ACC divisional champion. Also, the Big 12 champion was not excluded from the College Football Playoff this season.

 

Bad news: The Big 12 lost all three bowls versus the SEC to finish with a losing tally against the top conference. Oklahoma, the conference's champion was routed by Clemson in the second half of its College Football Playoff semifinal.

 

5. ACC (.530)

Clemson had a remarkable season. The Tigers had the only perfect record heading into the bowls and advanced to the national title game. However, most of the ACC bowl teams could not do their part to bolster the conference's reputation in the postseason.

 

The ACC won three of the four intra-state rivalries on Thanksgiving weekend. However, its members only won one of three bowls versus the SEC to finish 4-6 against their football-obsessed neighbors. The ACC only finished with a winning tally against one other conference in the bowls (1-0 versus the Big Ten). They also lost two of three bowls against the American Athletic Conference (AAC).                                                                                                                                       

 

6. American Athletic (.455)

All the hoopla over non-conference victories in October is a distant and irrelevant memory. A combined 0-5 mark versus Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West and SEC in the postseason buried those. The AAC proved itself as the top conference among the Group of 5. The AAC also showed that its cumulative strength remains far below that of any of the Power 5 conferences.

 

7. MAC (.377)

The MAC only won three of its seven bowls. Plus, the MAC summed up its inferiority to the conference with which it shares the Midwestern region. Central Michigan only missed playing in the MAC's conference title game due to a tiebreaker in four-way photo finish. The Chippewas went to a bowl in their home state. Despite playing only 157 miles from its campus, CMU lost to a 5-7 Big Ten team.

 

8. Conference USA (.303)

A respectable showing included winning both bowl games versus the AAC. Also, a Conference USA member, Louisiana Tech, beat the Sun Belt's champion. However, CUSA lost its only bowl against a Power 5 conference team.

 

9. Sun Belt (.229)

Fortunately for the Sun Belt, its members avoided playing anyone from the Power 5 in the postseason. With that in mind, the conference managed a commendable tally of 2-2. Both wins were against MAC members, including champion Bowling Green. 

 

10. Mountain West (.181)

The MW reinforced its second-class status compared to its upscale neighbors in the Pac-12. MW teams lost both bowls against the Pac-12. That includes New Mexico losing to Arizona, which was 6-6 entering the bowl game, on its own home field.

 

The Mountain West might have had a chance to improve its 3-3 postseason record had two members (Nevada vs. Colorado State) not been paired against each other in the Arizona Bowl. That is something that the NCAA and bowl executives must work together to avoid for all conferences in the future.

 

— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

 

(Top photo courtesy of )

Teaser:
Ranking College Football Conferences After the End of the 2015 Season
Post date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/2016-nascar-sprint-cup-schedule
Body:

The 2016 (NSCS) kicks off during Daytona Speedweeks on Feb. 13 with The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway. The Daytona 500, NASCAR’s equivalent to the Super Bowl, will take place the following week on Feb. 21. The 2016 season winds down on Nov. 20 with the Championship Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Homestead-Miami Speedway where the 2016 Sprint Cup Champion will be crowned. Below is a look at the entire , featuring the track, race, TV channel, start times and defending race winners.

 

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule

 

 

DateVenue/TrackRaceTVTime-ESTDefending Race Winner
Saturday, Feb 13Daytona International SpeedwaySprint UnlimitedFOX8:00pmMatt Kenseth
Sunday, Feb 14Daytona International SpeedwayDaytona 500 QualifyingFOX1:00pmJeff Gordon (pole)
Thursday, Feb 18The Daytona International SpeedwayCan-Am DuelFS 17:00pmEarnhardt Jr. & J. Johnson
Sunday, Feb 21Daytona International SpeedwayDaytona 500 FOX1:00pmJoey Logano
Sunday, Feb 28Atlanta Motor SpeedwayQuickTrip Folds of Honor 500FOX1:00pmJimmie Johnson
Sunday, March 6Las Vegas Motor SpeedwayKobalt 400FOX3:30pmKevin Harvick
Sunday, March 13Phoenix International RacewayGood Sam 500(k)FOX3:30pmKevin Harvick
Sunday, March 20Auto Club SpeedwayAuto Club 400FOX3:30pmBrad Keselowski
Sunday, April 3Martinsville SpeedwaySTP 500FS 11:00pmDenny Hamlin
Saturday, April 9Texas Motor SpeedwayDuck Commander 500FOX7:30pmJimmie Johnson
Sunday, April 17Bristol Motor SpeedwayFood City 500FOX1:00pmMatt Kenseth
Sunday, April 24Richmond International RacewayToyota Owners 400FOX1:00pmKurt Busch
Sunday, May 1Talladega SuperspeedwayGEICO 500FOX1:00pmDale Earnhardt Jr.
Saturday, May 7Kansas SpeedwayGoBowling.com 400FS 17:30pmJimmie Johnson
Sunday, May 15Dover International SpeedwayDover 400FS 11:00pmJimmie Johnson
Friday, May 20Charlotte Motor SpeedwaySprint ShowdownFS17:00pmClint Bowyer
Saturday, May 21Charlotte Motor SpeedwaySprint All-Star RaceFS 17:00pmDenny Hamlin
Sunday, May 29Charlotte Motor SpeedwayCoca-Cola 600FOX6:00pmCarl Edwards
Sunday, June 5Pocono RacewayAxalta "We Paint Winners" 400FS 11:00pmMartin Truex Jr.
Sunday, June 12Michigan International SpeedwayFireKeepers Casino 400FS 11:00pmKurt Busch
Sunday, June 26Sonoma RacewayToyota/Save Mart 350FS 13:00pmKyle Busch
Saturday, July 2Daytona International SpeedwayCoke Zero 400NBC7:45pmDale Earnhardt Jr.
Saturday, July 9Kentucky SpeedwayQuaker State 400NBCSN7:30pmKyle Busch
Sunday, July 17New Hampshire Motor SpeedwayNew Hampshire 301NBCSN1:30pmKyle Busch
Sunday, July 24Indianapolis Motor SpeedwayCrown Royal "Your Hero…" 400NBCSN3:00pmKyle Busch
Sunday, July 31Pocono RacewayPennsylvania 400NBCSN1:30pmMatt Kenseth
Sunday, August 7Watkins Glen InternationalCheez-it 355 at the GlenUSA2:30pmJoey Logano
Saturday, August 20Bristol Motor SpeedwayBass Pro Shops NRA Night RaceNBCSN8:00pmJoey Logano
Sunday, August 28Michigan International SpeedwayPure Michigan 400NBCSN2:00pmMatt Kenseth
Sunday, Sept. 4Darlington RacewayBojangles' Southern 500NBC6:00pmCarl Edwards
Saturday, Sept. 10Richmond International RacewayFederated Auto Parts 400NBCSN7:30pmMatt Kenseth
CHASE Round of 16     
Sunday, Sept. 18Chicagoland SpeedwayChicago 400NBCSN2:30pmDenny Hamlin
Sunday, Sept. 25New Hampshire Motor SpeedwayNew England 300NBCSN2:00pmMatt Kenseth
Sunday, Oct. 2Dover International SpeedwayAAA 400NBCSN2:00pmKevin Harvick
CHASE Round of 12     
Saturday, Oct. 8Charlotte Motor SpeedwayBank of America 500NBC7:00pmJoey Logano
Sunday, Oct. 16Kansas SpeedwayHollywood Casino 400NBC2:15pmJoey Logano
Sunday, Oct. 23Talladega SuperspeedwayAlabama 500NBCSN2:00pmJoey Logano
CHASE Round of 8     
Sunday, Oct. 30Martinsville SpeedwayGoody's Fast Relief 500NBCSN1:00pmJeff Gordon
Sunday, Nov. 6Texas Motor SpeedwayAAA Texas 500NBC2:00pmJimmie Johnson
Sunday, Nov. 13Phoenix International RacewayCan-Am 500(k)NBC2:30pmDale Earnhardt Jr.
CHASE Championship Round (4)    
Sunday, Nov. 20Homestead-Miami SpeedwayFord EcoBoost 400NBC2:30pmKyle Busch

 

- Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 15:34
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/2016-nascar-xfinity-series-schedule
Body:

The 2016  (NXS) kicks off Feb. 20 at Daytona International Speedway and winds down on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Below is a look at the entire NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule for 2016, featuring the track, race, TV channel, start times and defending race winners. 

 

2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Schedule

 

DateVenue/TrackRaceTVTime-ESTDefending Race Winner 
Saturday, February 20Daytona International SpeedwayPowerShares QQQ 300FS 13:30pmRyan Reed 
Saturday, February 27Atlanta Motor SpeedwayHeads Up Georgia 250FS 11:30pmKevin Harvick 
Saturday, March 5Las Vegas Motor SpeedwayBoyd Gaming 300FS 14:00pmAustin Dillon 
Saturday, March 12Phoenix International RacewayAxalta Faster, Tougher, Brighter 200FOX2:30pmJoey Logano 
Saturday, March 19Auto Club SpeedwayXFINITY 300FS 14:00pmKevin Harvick 
Friday, April 8Texas Motor SpeedwayO'Reilly Auto Parts 300FS 18:30pmErik Jones 
Saturday, April 16Bristol Motor SpeedwayXFINITY 300FS 112:30pmJoey Logano 
Saturday, April 23Richmond International RacewayToyotaCare 250FS 13:00pmDenny Hamlin 
Saturday, April 30Talladega SuperspeedwayTalladega 300FOX2:00pmJoey Logano 
Saturday, May 14Dover International SpeedwayXFINITY 200FOX2:00pmChris Buescher 
Saturday, May 28Charlotte Motor SpeedwayHisense 300FS 12:30pmAustin Dillon 
Saturday, June 4Pocono RacewayXFINITY 250FOX1:00pmNo Race in 2015 
Saturday, June 11Michigan International SpeedwayGreat Clips 250FS 11:30pmKyle Busch 
Sunday, June 19Iowa SpeedwayXFINITY 250FS 11:30pmChris Buescher 
Friday, July 1Daytona International SpeedwaySubway Firecracker 250NBCSN7:30pmAustin Dillon 
Friday, July 8Kentucky SpeedwayAlsco 300NBCSN8:30pmBrad Keselowski 
Saturday, July 16New Hampshire Motor SpeedwayLakes Region 200NBCSN4:00pmDenny Hamlin 
Saturday, July 23Indianapolis Motor SpeedwayLilly Diabetes 250NBCSN3:30pmKyle Busch 
Saturday, July 30Iowa SpeedwayUS Cellular 250NBCSN8:00pmRyan Blaney 
Saturday, August 6Watkins Glen InternationalZippo 200CNBC2:00pmJoey Logano 
Saturday, August 13Mid-Ohio Sports Car CourseMid-Ohio 200USA3:30pmRegan Smith 
Friday, August 19Bristol Motor SpeedwayFood City 300USA7:30pmKyle Busch 
Saturday, August 27Road AmericaRoad America 180NBCSN3:00pmPaul Menard 
Saturday, September 3Darlington RacewayVFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200NBC3:30pmDenny Hamlin 
Friday, September 9Richmond International RacewayVirginia 529 College Savings 250NBCSN7:30pmChase Elliott 
Saturday, September 17Chicagoland SpeedwayChicago 300NBC3:30pmKyle Busch 
  XFINITY CHASE ROUND OF 12    
Saturday, September 24Kentucky SpeedwayVisitMyrtleBeach.com 300NBCSN8:00pmRyan Blaney 
Saturday, October 1Dover International SpeedwayDrive Sober 200NBCSN3:00pmRegan Smith 
Friday, October 7Charlotte Motor SpeedwayDrive For The Cure 300NBCSN8:00pmAustin Dillon 
  XFINITY CHASE ROUND OF 8    
Saturday, October 15Kansas SpeedwayKansas Lottery 300NBCSN4:00pmKyle Busch 
Saturday, November 5Texas Motor SpeedwayO'Reilly Auto Parts ChallengeNBC3:30pmBrad Keselowski 
Saturday, November 12Phoenix International RacewayXFINITY 200NBC3:30pmKyle Busch 
  XFINITY SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP 4     
Saturday, November 19Homestead-MiamiFord Ecoboost 300NBCSN3:30pmKyle Larson 

Check out the .

 

 

— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 13:21
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/von-miller-says-intercepted-ball-tom-brady-feels-little-flat-afc-championship-broncos-patriots
Body:

Tom Brady will never move on from Deflategate. It's just a moment in sports history that people will never forget.

 

Von Miller intercepted a pass from Tom Brady in the AFC Championship and of course he kept the ball. After the Broncos win, Miller did a little showing off with the football and even cracked a joke that it feels "a little flat."

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 12:49
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /overtime/new-jersey-columnist-steve-politi-jim-harbaugh-word-means-nothing-michigan-wolverines
Body:

Another day, another Jim Harbaugh hot take.

 

This one comes from NJ.com columnist Steve Politi, who claims the Michigan head coach can't be trusted. After the drama with Erik Swenson and Rashad Weaver, the columnist took to twitter with a link (along with a very unflattering picture) to his latest piece on Harbaugh and his recruiting style.

 

 

In the article, for those who don't want to even give it a hate-click, Politi writes:

 

"What Harbaugh is doing at Michigan now is more than just a little creepy. It's unconscionable. For the second time in a week, Harbaugh has told a player who had previous pledged a commitment that, well, thanks for that but we can do better with someone else."

 

Why is Harbaugh and Michigan on a New Jersey writer's radar you ask? It's because Harbaugh is bringing in recruits from the state of New Jersey, and that could potentially cause a problem for Rutgers.

 

"You hope the players who are making that pledge to Michigan now are doing so with their eyes wide open," Politi said. "If Harbaugh can't keep his word on the recruiting trail, can he be trusted to do so once players get on campus?"

 

Politi ends with the fact that no college football coach is completely clean but, in his opinion, Harbaugh takes it to another level.

 

It will interesting to see if writers from the Detroit Free Press have a response waiting in the cue.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 12:03
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /2016-nascar-camping-world-truck-series-schedule
Body:

The 2016  (CWTS) kicks off Feb. 19 at Daytona International Speedway and winds down on Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Below is a look at the entire NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule for 2016, featuring the track, race, TV channel, start times and defending race winners. 

 

DateVenue/TrackRaceTVTime-ESTDefending Race Winner
Friday, February 19Daytona International SpeedwayNextEra Energy Resources 250FS 17:46pmTyler Reddick
Saturday, February 27Atlanta Motor SpeedwayGeorgia 200FS 15:30pmMatt Crafton
Saturday, April 2Martinsville SpeedwayAlpha Energy Solutions 250FS 12:30pmJoey Logano
Friday, May 6Kansas SpeedwayToyota Tundra 250FS 18:30pmMatt Crafton
Friday, May 13Dover International SpeedwayDover 200FS  15:30pmTyler Reddick
Friday, May 20Charlotte Motor SpeedwayNC Education Lottery 200FS 18:30pmKasey Kahne
Friday, June 10Texas Motor SpeedwayRattlesnake 400FS 19:00pmMatt Crafton
Saturday, June 18Iowa SpeedwayAmerican Ethanol 200FS 18:30pmErik Jones
Saturday, June 25Gateway Motorsports ParkDrivin' for Linemen 200FS 18:30pmCole Custer
Thursday, July 7Kentucky SpeedwayUNOH 225FS 17:30pmMatt Crafton
Wednesday, July 20Eldora Speedway1-800-CarCash Midsummer ClassicFS 19:00pmChristopher Bell
Saturday, July 30Pocono RacewayPocono Mountains 150FS 1TBDKyle Busch
Wednesday, August 17Bristol Motor SpeedwayUNOH 200FS 18:30pmRyan Blaney
Saturday, August 27Michigan International SpeedwayCareers for Veterans 200FS 11:00pmKyle Busch
Sunday, September 4Canadian Tire Motorsports ParkChevrolet Silverado 250FS 11:30pmErik Jones
Friday, September 16Chicagoland SpeedwayChicago 225FS 1TBDJohn Hunter Nemechek
Saturday, September 24New Hampshire Motor SpeedwayUNOH 175FS 11:00pmAustin Dillon
Saturday, October 1Las Vegas Motor SpeedwayRhino Linings 350FS 110:00pmJohn Wes Townley
Saturday, October 22Talladega SuperspeedwayFred's 250 powered by Coca-ColaFOX1:00pmTimothy Peters
Saturday, October 29Martinsville SpeedwayAlpha Energy Solutions 250FS 11:30pmMatt Crafton
Friday, November 4Texas Motor SpeedwayLonghorn 350FS 1TBDErik Jones
Friday, November 11Phoenix International RacewayLucas Oil 150FS 18:30pmTimothy Peters
Friday, November 18Homestead-Miami SpeedwayFord Ecoboost 250FS 18:00pmMatt Crafton

Check out the .

 

 

— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 11:49
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/cam-newton-no-different-your-favorite-nfl-quarterback-carolina-panthers-rodgers-palmer-manning
Body:

So you don't like Cam Newton? There's a lot of that going around now.

 

, , , and the list goes on in regards to the Panthers quarterback. The main "negative" point fans make about Newton is his arrogance. All of the dancing and smiling is really getting to football fans. They say it's "inappropriate" and "think of the children" but when you really think about it, don't other quarterbacks celebrate?

 

Aaron Rodgers has his "Discount Double Check" he uses when he's just gotten the best of his opponents.

 

Carson Palmer's repeated fist-pump and hip thrust.

 

What is the difference between those two and this one from Newton?

 

Rodgers and other quarterbacks are praised for their "passion" but Newton's is evidently too much.

 

Was Newton even on the general public's radar before the Panthers had an amazing 2015 season? Of course we all knew him, but he didn't seem to be a problem until he started winning. 

 

A few nights ago, someone mentioned me on Twitter and said that he couldn't root for a liar and a thief, even if he does give footballs to children. This guy is a Georgia fan and is referring to the trouble Newton was in for allegedly stealing a laptop. 

 

Is Newton the only college quarterback to get into trouble? No. But for some reason his slip-ups seem to still follow him. Johnny Manziel, Todd Gurley, Terrelle Pryor and others all were in a bit of trouble in college but for some reason all is forgiven with them. Perhaps because none of them are on winning teams. None of them were even close to having a season like the Panthers'. NFL players are still getting into trouble and people seem to forgive and forget when they want to. Are people diving into Peyton Manning's HGH allegations or is anyone still talking about Ben Roethlisberger's multiple run-ins with the law? Probably not.

 

Before you claim I'm campaigning for Newton just ask yourself one question; would you hate Cam Newton as much if he played for your team and they were on the brink of winning a Super Bowl? 

 

Newton has a chance to become just the third primary quarterback to win in college and in the NFL, if he should go on to win the Super Bowl. Instead of tearing him apart for every thing he does, shouldn't people acknowledge the work he's put in to get the Panthers where they are?

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 11:14
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/outrageous-predictions-super-bowl-50
Body:

This is it. The whole season comes down to one game. On one side, a young team still looking for respect, despite a 15-1 regular season record, led by a freak athlete at quarterback. On the other side of the field, a storied franchise quarterbacked by a legend who will likely bid farewell to the game when the clock hits zero. Plenty could happen on the field — and off of it.

 

Not only is the Lombardi Trophy at stake, but the game will likely be the most-watched sporting event in television history. That means everyone — not just the two teams on the field — will be pulling out all of the stops at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 7 to make sure we are talking about them the following Monday.

 

Outrageous Predictions for Super Bowl 50

 

Von Miller doesn't record a sack

This won't be because he isn't capable (had 2.5 sacks in AFC Championship Game), but more because of the role he'll play. Expect him to set contain more often than rushing Cam Newton. The last thing Denver wants is for Newton to leave the pocket and beat the Broncos with his feet. Additionally, tight end Greg Olsen is Newton's favorite target, and Miller will likely draw that coverage assignment several times throughout the game in an effort to limit Olsen's effectiveness as a security blanket.

 

Peyton Manning runs for two touchdowns

We saw flashes of what appeared to be healthy feet against New England. Don't be shocked to see Manning run a naked bootleg inside the five for a score and punch another one in via a quarterback sneak at the goal line. This is likely his last game. He'll sacrifice his body for a second ring.

 

Jonathan Stewart sets the Super Bowl rushing record

So much attention will be paid to stopping Newton, you'll likely see plenty of running room for Stewart — especially off tackle. The Bronco defense is built to get after quarterbacks in wide-open passing attacks. They haven't seen a running game or a running back like Stewart in quite some time. Additionally, you'll see Stewart get a bunch of carries late if Carolina has a double-digit lead like many already expect. Any way you cut it, Stewart is in line for a big Super Sunday.

 

John Fox makes a cameo in a Super Bowl commercial

I can't tell you what the ad will be about, but I can tell you that somebody is going to think it's a great idea to work a joke in about how the last two teams to cut Fox loose are now playing for the title. Look for an office setting where some exec is politely telling Fox that the record does show — regardless of his past success — that the company will be bigger and better simply by letting him go.

 

Seth Rogen makes out with Amy Schumer

We've all seen it. Rogen is shirtless, wearing tights next to Schumer in a beer ad, prepping for Super Bowl shenanigans. This is Super Bowl 50. It's the big one. One way or another, these "regular Joe" comedians are going to lock lips in an attempt to gross out America while somehow simultaneously sell beer. I can't wait (That's sarcasm).

 

Journey is going to crash the halftime show

It's the Bay Area. Journey is from the Bay Area. They're kicking off a tour in April. It's Super Bowl 50. Coldplay is going to bring them out during their performance. It's going to happen — don't stop believin'.

 

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

Teaser:
Outrageous Predictions for Super Bowl 50
Post date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Eat Like a Fan, recipe, Life
Path: /life/doritos-crusted-chicken-sliders
Body:

So your friends are coming over for the big game and you're looking to prepare something different. We've got you covered. These chicken tenders are breaded in and baked, so they have all the zesty kick without the grease.

 

Doritos-Crusted Chicken Sliders Recipe

 

INGREDIENTS: 
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins
1 bottle salad dressing (to marinate; Italian, Chipotle Ranch or plain old Ranch are great)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 eggs
1 bag flavored tortilla chips (we like Doritos)
1 package slider buns 1 head Bibb lettuce
1 bottle Ranch dressing


STEPS:
1. Halve the chicken tenderloins and place them in a gallon-sized resealable bag and coat with salad dressing. Let it marinate for 30 minutes or longer.


2. Preheat the oven to 350° F. As the oven heats, set up three bowls for breading the chicken. Fill the first bowl with a mixture of flour, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Crack eggs into the second bowl and whisk them together to create an egg wash. Smash Doritos and place them in the third bowl.


3. Dip each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, then the egg wash, then the crumbled Doritos. (You may need to sprinkle more chips on top to thoroughly coat each piece.) Place each breaded piece of chicken on a parchment-lined baking sheet.


4. Bake chicken in the oven for 27-30 minutes, or until fully cooked. (There should be no pink showing when you cut ‘em in half.)


5. Assemble the sliders: Cut each bun in half. Place a piece of lettuce on the bottom bun, then the chicken, then drizzle with ranch and top with the other half of the bun.

 

Recipe provided by . For even more great tailgate and party recipes, check out their .

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army West Point Black Knights, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/grading-college-footballs-first-year-coaching-hires-2015
Body:

’s coaching carousel is one of the most interesting aspects of any season. Coaches are under more pressure than ever before to win and win immediately. The rumor mill never stops churning either. Once one year ends, the hot seat and replacements talk heats up for the next offseason. 

 

It’s no secret coaching changes can have an instant impact on a problem, but some hires need a couple of years to rebuild a mess inherited from the previous staff. Winning right away as a new coach doesn’t necessarily guarantee long-term success, but it’s easy to get a read on the outlook for any coach after one season. With that in mind, Athlon Sports has ranked and graded the 15 coaching hires from the 2015 coaching carousel.

 

Houston’s Tom Herman and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh earned the highest marks from the 2015 season, with Florida’s Jim McElwain and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi taking the next two spots in our rankings. 

 

Let’s take a look at how the first-year coaches performed and grade their debut: 

 

Grading College Football's First-Year Coaches from 2015

 

1. Tom Herman, Houston

2015 Record: 13-1

 

It’s a close call between Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Houston’s Tom Herman for the No. 1 spot on this list. However, the edge goes to Herman after a 13-1 debut and a No. 8 overall finish in the Associated Press poll. Herman’s H-Town Takeover is well underway, as the Cougars tied the single-season record for most wins in school history (13), claimed a Peach Bowl victory over Florida State and won a conference title for the first time since 2006. Houston also scored a key road win at Louisville and easily handled Vanderbilt 34-0 in late October. Additionally, the only loss suffered in 2015 was the only game quarterback Greg Ward did not start (injury). With non-conference matchups against Oklahoma and Louisville next season, along with the return of Ward and the top recruiting class in the American Athletic Conference, Herman has Houston poised for another breakthrough campaign in 2016.

 

Final Grade: A+

 

Related: 

 

2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

2015 Record: 10-3

 

Harbaugh was widely considered the top hire in last year’s coaching carousel. And after one season in Ann Arbor, it’s clear Michigan with Harbaugh guiding the program is well on its way to becoming an annual threat to make the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines improved their win total by five games in Harbaugh’s first season, soundly defeated Florida (41-7) in the Citrus Bowl and lost two of its three games by a touchdown or less, including one of the season’s craziest endings in a last-second defeat against Michigan State. With an elite recruiting class coming to campus and 14 starters returning, Michigan will be picked near the top of the Big Ten and should be a top-10 team next fall.

 

Final Grade: A+

 

3. Jim McElwain, Florida

2015 Record: 10-4

 

McElwain’s first season at Florida was quite the roller-coaster ride. The Gators started 6-0 behind an impressive 38-10 victory over Ole Miss and a last-minute 28-27 win over Tennessee. However, the Gators season took an interesting turn in mid-October, as starting quarterback Will Grier was suspended for one year for violating NCAA policy. Florida’s passing attack never recovered with Grier out of the lineup, but the Gators still won the SEC East and finished 10-4 overall. The inconsistency of the passing attack was a big reason why Florida finished the year with three consecutive losses, but McElwain pushed several of the right buttons to guide the program to a SEC East title.

 

Final Grade: A

 

4. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh

2015 Record: 8-5

 

Instability at head coach has been a theme for Pittsburgh in recent years. The program has watched four different coaches and three interim appointments in bowl games pace the sidelines over the last six seasons. While none of that is good news for any program, Pittsburgh found the right man for the job in Narduzzi. The former Michigan State defensive coordinator went 8-5 in his first season in the Steel City and guided the program to a 6-2 mark (highest since joining the ACC) in league play. The Panthers also spent time in the Associated Press top 25 in 2015, the first time the program has reached that goal since 2010. After a period of instability, Narduzzi’s arrival has Pittsburgh trending up and poised to contend for the Coastal Division title once again in the coming seasons.

 

Final Grade: B+

 

Related:

 

5. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa

2015 Record: 6-7

 

Montgomery worked under Art Briles from 2003-14 at two different FBS jobs (Houston and Baylor), but the Texas native was a relative unknown when he took the top spot at Tulsa. While Montgomery played a key role in the development of the high-powered offenses at Houston and Baylor, the credit for the success went to Briles. But Montgomery is well on his way to earning national respect after an impressive debut as Tulsa’s head coach. The Golden Hurricane made a four-game jump in the win column in Montgomery’s first season, showed marked improvement on offense and earned a spot in the Independence Bowl. Montgomery is a promising up-and-coming coach to watch in 2016 and beyond.  

 

Final Grade: B+

 

6. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

2015 Record: 10-3

 

After three seasons as the head coach at Pittsburgh, Chryst returned to Madison to lead his alma mater. Chryst was only 19-19 in three seasons with the Panthers but was a good fit for the Badgers after Gary Andersen bolted for Oregon State. Chryst was solid in his return to the Wisconsin sidelines, guiding the program to a 10-3 record and a 6-2 mark in league play. One of the Badgers’ defeats came at the hands of national champion Alabama (35-17) and the other two (Iowa and Northwestern) were decided by a touchdown or less. Losing coordinator Dave Aranda was a huge blow for Chryst and a tougher schedule is on tap for 2016. Chryst’s biggest priority will be finding a quarterback and developing an offensive line that featured four freshmen starting in the Holiday Bowl.

 

Final Grade: B+

 

7. John Bonamego, Central Michigan

2015 Record: 7-6

 

Bonamego was a curious hire after Dan Enos’ late departure for Arkansas last season. His last coaching job in college was at Army in 1998 and his career as an assistant in the NFL was spent on special teams. But Bonamego quickly proved to be a solid hire for Central Michigan, as the Chippewas finished 7-6 and tied for the MAC West’s top spot at 6-2 in league play. Additionally, Central Michigan gave Oklahoma State (24-13) all it could handle, lost by three to Syracuse and defeated Northern Illinois – the MAC West champion. With a full offseason at the controls, Bonamego can make the necessary changes to build off last season’s success and continue to put his stamp on the program.

 

Final Grade: B

 

Related:

 

8. Mike Bobo, Colorado State

2015 Record: 7-6

 

Colorado State returned to the SEC for its next coach after Jim McElwain – a former SEC assistant – left to be the head coach at Florida. Bobo had a similar profile to McElwain as an offensive coordinator at a high-level program (Georgia), and this job (Colorado State) was his first opportunity to be a head coach. Bobo inherited 14 returning starters, but the program had transition in schemes on both sides of the ball and a new starting quarterback. The result was a 7-6 mark, which included two overtime losses – Colorado and Minnesota – against Power 5 opponents. The Rams finished the season on a high note by winning four out of their last five games. Bobo’s debut was solid, but he has plenty of work ahead in the spring with standout receiver Rashard Higgins off to the NFL and a handful of seniors departing on both sides of the ball.

 

Final Grade: B-

 

9. Mike Riley, Nebraska

2015 Record: 6-7

 

Nebraska’s athletic director Shawn Eichorst’s decision to hire Riley as Bo Pelini’s replacement came as a surprise, and the first-year coach received plenty of criticism after the Cornhuskers finished with their first losing record (6-7) since 2007. However, Riley’s first season had its share of bad luck and depth issues left behind by the previous staff. A minus-12 turnover margin was tough to overcome, especially since Nebraska lost six games by eight points or less. If the Cornhuskers eliminate some of the turnovers and quarterback Tommy Armstrong takes a step forward in his development, a few of the close losses should become wins in 2016. While the seven-loss season certainly left a lot to be desired, Nebraska ranked as the – only six spots worse than 2014. Coaches are expected to win and win big in Lincoln. But considering how close the Cornhuskers were to eight wins, Riley’s debut maybe wasn't as bad as the record indicated.

 

Final Grade: C+

 

Related:

 

10. Neal Brown, Troy

2015 Record: 4-8

 

Brown is one of the nation’s youngest coaches, but the Kentucky native was ready for this opportunity after working as an offensive coordinator at three different programs – Troy, Kentucky and Texas Tech – from 2008-14. In his first year at the helm, Brown guided Troy to a 4-8 mark – a one-game improvement from 2014. Advanced metrics also gave favorable ratings for Brown in his debut, as the Trojans jumped from 126 (2014) to 90 (2015) in the . Troy was closer to adding to the win total with three losses by six points or less, and both sides of the ball made improvement on the stat sheet.

 

Final Grade: C+

 

11. Tony Sanchez, UNLV

2015 Record: 3-9

 

UNLV is a tough job. The program has played in only two bowl games since 1995 and only one season (2013) has resulted in more than three wins since 2010. Needless to say, Sanchez inherited a rebuilding project and needs a lot of time to transform this program into a consistent bowl contender. Sanchez made the rare jump from high school (Bishop Gorman) to FBS head coach. After winning 85 games at Bishop Gorman, Sanchez went 3-9 in his debut but won a rivalry game (Nevada) and lost four games by eight points or less. The on-field improvement was notable in Football Outsiders’ F+ rankings, as the Rebels jumped from . Transitioning from the high school to the college ranks isn’t easy, but Sanchez hired a good staff and helped the program take a step forward in 2015.

 

Final Grade: C+

 

12. Lance Leipold, Buffalo

2015 Record: 5-7

 

Leipold was an ultra-successful coach at the Division III level, winning 109 games from 2007-14 and six national championships at Wisconsin-Whitewater. Few coaches in last year’s hiring cycle could match Leipold’s credentials, and the jump from Division III to the FBS level made this hire one of the more intriguing moves in the coaching carousel. Year one for Leipold at Buffalo produced more losses (seven) than he had during his eight years (six) at Wisconsin-Whitewater. However, the Bulls were just a few plays away from reaching the postseason. Buffalo gave MAC champ Bowling Green (28-22) all it could handle, lost by five against UMass, by three to Nevada and by 11 to MAC West champ Northern Illinois. The Bulls have a few holes to fill on both sides of the ball for 2016, but Leipold is bringing in a solid recruiting class and the players are more familiar with the schemes on both sides of the ball.

 

Final Grade: C

 

Related:

 

13. Gary Andersen, Oregon State

2015 Record: 2-10

 

A rebuilding year was expected at Oregon State in 2015. The Beavers returned only nine starters from a team that went 5-7 in 2014 and entered the season with question marks at the quarterback position. With that in mind, it’s no surprise Andersen’s debut resulted in a 2-10 record. The Beavers were simply outmanned on both sides of the ball. The offense ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring (19 ppg), and the defense was last in the Pac-12 in yards per play allowed (6.4). After winning 19 games at Wisconsin from 2013-14 and taking Utah State from 4-8 in 2009 to 11-2 and a top 25 ranking in 2012, it’s clear Andersen is the right coach to rebuild Oregon State. Unfortunately, rebuilding in the Pac-12 isn’t easy. The Beavers will be better in 2016 but are a year away from the postseason.

 

Final Grade: C

 

14. Chad Morris, SMU

2015 Record: 2-10

 

Morris was considered one of the top coaching hires last January, but success was hard to come by in his first year. The Mustangs finished 2-10 last season but made a jump from . While this team improved its win total by only one game from 2014 to 2015, there were signs of progress. SMU’s offense averaged 27.8 points – up from 11.1 in 2014. Morris has this program trending in the right direction and a solid recruiting class is on the way to Dallas to help the rebuilding project for 2016 and beyond. Better days (and seasons) are coming for Morris and the Mustangs.

 

Final Grade: C

 

15. David Beaty, Kansas

2015 Record: 0-12

 

Considering Beaty inherited a mess from the former coaching staff and a roster thin on overall numbers and talent, it’s unfair to place the blame for Kansas’ 0-12 record on his shoulders. The Jayhawks lost seven games by 30 points or more, ranked last in the Big 12 in yards per play allowed on defense and generated on offense and only one player (Fish Smithson) earned All-Big 12 honors. But there were a few positives for Beaty in his first season. Kansas nearly knocked off TCU (23-17) and Texas Tech (30-20) and a few freshmen – QB Ryan Willis, DT Daniel Wise and DE Dorance Armstrong – showed flashes of promise. Beaty needs a couple of recruiting classes to get Kansas back in contention for a bowl. 

 

Final Grade: C-

 
(Credit to /Stephen Pinchback for the top photo of Tom Herman)
Teaser:
Grading College Football's First-Year Coaching Hires for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/petition-cam-newton-out-centurylink-field-seahawks-panthers
Body:

The hatred for Cam Newton just does not stop. 

 

A Seahawks fan has created a petition to keep the Panthers quarterback out of CenturyLink Field. As of right now it's almost up to 800 signatures, 200 shy of the goal (although I'm not sure what reaching it will do).

 

The is called "Ban Cam Newton From Century link field #BantheCam". The plea to Seattle faithful reads as follows:

 

"Cam Newton is one of the most unprofessional, unsportsmanlike individual on the face of the planet. So I say for the 2016-2017 when the Panthers come to play in Seattle he should be banned from entering the stadium. This should teach him to put his arrogance in check."

 

Supporters are voicing their similar opinions saying Newton's "poor sportsmanship" isn't a good look for children to see. It sounds like upset Seahawks fans to those looking in from the outside. Hopefully this has nothing to do with their playoff loss to the Panthers but perhaps we'll never know.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 09:53
Path: /college-football/10-toughest-players-replace-acc-2016
Body:

It was a very enjoyable football season for the . Clemson very nearly ran the table, coming up just short to Alabama in the national championship game. Though North Carolina and Florida State were beaten in their bowl appearances, the Tar Heels were on the fringe of College Football Playoff contention entering the ACC title game and the Seminoles appeared in a New Year’s Six Bowl.

 

The conference returns a lot of talent for 2016, with Clemson quarterback . But to replicate this past fall, ACC teams will have to overcome some major departures as well.

 

10 Toughest Players to Replace in the ACC in 2016

 

Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

The 6-foot-3, 270-pound Lawson had a huge junior season making several All-American teams and boosting his stock to the point where he may be picked in the top 10 of the upcoming NFL Draft. His 24.5 tackles for lost yardage led the nation and he showed in the national championship game that he can be a difference-maker even when he is not 100 percent healthy.

 

Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State

Derwin James is the latest physical freak to inhabit the Florida State secondary. But the rising sophomore has big shoes to fill with the departure of Ramsey. Not only did the 6-foot-1, 202-pounder have the skill set to play anywhere in the defensive backfield, he was the eyes, ears and brains for the Seminoles' last line of defense.

 

Jeremy Cash, S, Duke

On the subject of brains, I give you Cash. The Blue Devils star was the leader of a stingy Duke defense once he arrived in Durham by way of Ohio State. During his three seasons at Duke, Cash piled up 332 total tackles and was largely responsible for helping the team be in a position to win its first bowl game since 1960 with a Pinstripe Bowl victory over Indiana in late December. Cash, who didn't play in the bowl because of a right wrist injury that required surgery, finished his Blue Devils career in style, as he was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

 

Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

When star running back James Conner was diagnosed with cancer and was lost for the season, everyone’s attention turned to Boyd. And the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder did not disappoint, hauling in 91 passes for 926 yards. It will be extremely difficult for Pittsburgh to replace Boyd’s production, especially since the team’s No. 2 receiver had just 26 receptions this past fall.

 

Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

Interestingly, Alexander never had an interception during his time at Clemson. Of course, it’s difficult to get picks when you’re not being challenged. That was the case as Alexander effectively locked down his side of the field each and every game for two seasons. Alexander’s value was evident by the way Alabama was able to throw the ball after he left the national championship game with an injury.

 

Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina

Tar Heel fans are excited about next year’s projected starter Mitch Trubisky. However, at this time last year we heard about how Jeremy Johnson was going to be an upgrade at quarterback for Auburn. Williams was second team All-ACC behind Clemson star and Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson after passing for 3,068 yards and running for 948. Trubisky may be great; Williams was great.

 

Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson

Dodd burst on the scene like a rocket after seeing limited playing time during his first three years at Clemson. Dodd had 24 tackles for lost yardage and 12.5 sacks during Clemson’s run to Glendale, Ariz. He lived in the Alabama backfield during the title game, registering three sacks among his five tackles for lost yardage. Clemson is now faced with the daunting task of replacing both Lawson and Dodd along the defensive line.

 

Landon Turner, G, North Carolina

A four-year starter and an Associated Press All-American his senior season, Turner was the rock of the Tar Heels’ offensive line. With Turner anchoring the line, North Carolina won 11 games and the ACC Coastal Division title thanks in large part to an offense that ranked 18th in the nation in both total yards and rushing yards per game and ninth in scoring. The Tar Heels are in good shape on offense for 2016 from a personnel standpoint, but no one will be able to replace what Turner brought both on the field and off of it over the past four seasons.

 

Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State

One of several former Florida Gator quarterbacks that found success elsewhere, Brissett was a very efficient passer during his two years as the Wolfpack starter. He threw for more than 2,600 yards in each of his two seasons and connected on 43 total scoring throws against just 11 interceptions during that time. N.C. State will have a solid core back in 2016, but for success to occur Jalan McClendon will have to do an adequate job replacing Brissett.

 

Matt Skura, C, Duke

Clemson will lose guard Eric Mac Lain and North Carolina will be without guard Landon Turner next fall. But the most valuable departing offensive lineman is the Duke center. Skura did for the offense what teammate Jeremy Cash did for the defense: he played tough, hard-nosed football and knew where everyone needed to be at all times.

 

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

Teaser:
10 Toughest Players to Replace in the ACC in 2016
Post date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/michael-oher-celebrates-panthers-win-blind-side-family-carolina-arizona-cardinals-nfc
Body:

Remember when Michael Oher said the movie ? That must be a thing of the past.

 

The Panthers left tackle celebrated the NFC Championship win with his real-life family. Looks like the movie and the pressure that came with it are light years behind him. 

 

Super Bowl Bound with this seasoned veteran!!!Michael Oherr GREAT job babe!! You are my MVP, All-Star, rock star and I'm so so so proud of you!!! Keep grinding! One more game! #KeepPounding #GoPanthers

Posted by on 

 

Oher put in the hard work all season with Cam Newton and the rest of the Panthers, and now has a chance to add a second Super Bowl ring to his collection. He won his first with the Ravens in 2013. After a stint with the Titans, he seems to have found a home in Charlotte.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, January 25, 2016 - 16:35
All taxonomy terms: Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, NFL
Path: /nfl/5-reasons-denver-broncos-will-win-super-bowl-50
Body:

The Denver Broncos are moving on to Super Bowl 50 after an impressive 20-18 AFC Championship Game victory over the New England Patriots, and will now face an even more daunting challenge in the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers. Many didn't give the Broncos a chance against the Patriots, but their defense turned in a dominating effort, capped off with a stopped two-point conversion at the end of the game that prevented overtime. 

 

The Panthers looked unstoppable in their 49-15 NFC Championship Game win over the Arizona Cardinals, but unstoppable offenses have been shut down cold in Super Bowls past. Do the Broncos have what it takes to pull off the upset and raise the Lombardi Trophy for the first time since 1998? 

 

Related: 

 

5 Reasons the Denver Broncos Will Win Super Bowl 50

 

1. Defense

After another middling performance by Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense, it's hard to see them keeping pace with the Panthers in a high-scoring affair. That's why Denver's defense is critical to keep the game close enough for its offense. It all starts with the impressive trio of Derek Wolfe, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, all of whom contributed to laying more hits on Tom Brady than he saw all season. However, a pocket QB like Brady and Cam Newton are completely different beasts, and instead of just pinning their ears back and rushing the passer, the Broncos’ front will need to be smart and contain Newton from getting outside of the pocket. The defense certainly has the speed and athleticism to counter Newton's other-worldly talent, but the MVP will still make his share of plays.

 

2. Super Bowl XLVIII Loss

The Broncos were embarrassed by the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII and many will predict Super Bowl 50 will play out similarly. But that experience should serve the veterans of Denver well in their preparation. If nothing else, the Broncos will go into the game as significant underdogs and that mindset is always helpful to a team. On the other side, this is Carolina’s first Super Bowl appearance in more than a decade. Will the Panthers know how to handle these next two weeks, which are loaded with distractions? Denver has been here before and should play relaxed knowing that no matter what things can't go worse than they did on the same stage two years ago.

 

3. Turnovers

Of course the Panthers trounced the Cardinals after getting seven turnovers, and the Broncos will know that's something they can't do. The Broncos have just one turnover in their two playoff games and have been safe with the ball after Manning threw 17 interceptions to just nine touchdowns during the regular season. If the Broncos can continue to be safe with the ball and not give the Panthers extra possessions they should remain within striking distance on the scoreboard.

 

4. Peyton Manning

Manning certainly is no longer the player he once was and after a brilliant first drive against the Patriots he and his offense didn't do much else the rest of the game, but you cannot discount a player with his experience and how his teammates will rally around him in what could possibly be the last game of his storied career. If Manning can make the safe throws and the Broncos can revive their running game that was largely shut down by New England, the Broncos can score enough points to win. But you can never rule out one of the best to ever play the game.

 

5. One-Game Scenario

The Panthers don't appear to have any major flaws while the Broncos got to the Super Bowl riding their defense and hiding their offense. Still, in a one-game scenario, you can throw just about everything out the window. Denver, despite its apparent weaknesses, still has an impressive collection of talent, capable of breaking open a game at any moment. With two weeks to prepare, the Broncos and their veteran coaches will have a plan in place that they believe in. If their players can execute and limit mistakes, it could be anyone's ball game. Super Bowls are often strange games unto themselves, and the veterans of Denver will know how to manage the ebb and flow of not only the build-up to the game, but in the game itself. If Carolina gets caught up in distractions or the game not unfolding as the blow out many will predict, the door will be wide open for a Broncos' victory.

 

— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of (), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.

 

(Photos courtesy of )

Teaser:
5 Reasons the Denver Broncos Will Win Super Bowl 50
Post date: Monday, January 25, 2016 - 13:30

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