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As the NFL readies for the start of training camps this week, the 2015 rookies will surely be the center of focus for many. Take a look at some of the most important first-round picks to watch during camp and the upcoming season (listed in draft order):

 

Related: 2015 NFL Training Camp Dates and Locations
 

Jameis Winston (QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, No. 1)

Winston has the perhaps most pressure out of any of the rookies this year to perform at the highest level. But at the same time, he might have some of the NFL's best weapons. With receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Winston has the potential to shine right away. Off-the-field issues seem to be a thing of the past now, and after two great college seasons, he already looks pro-ready. The Buccaneers desperately need him to be special. He was the No. 1 overall pick after all.


Marcus Mariota (QB, Tennessee Titans, No. 2 overall)

Coming from the high-paced Oregon offense, Mariota definitely has some adjustments to make in his transition to the NFL. Both the Titans and Mariota will have to get on the same page as to what is most comfortable for him and what works best for the team. He’s not the NFL prototypical pocket passer, but he is a playmaker, winner and true leader. There is no doubt that he will garner plenty of respect, but how long will it take him to get to his full potential. It also wouldn't hurt if Mariota and the Tians could finally put the finishing touches on his contract either.

 

Brandon Scherff (OT, Washington Redskins, No. 5)

The Redskins allowed the second-most sacks in the NFL last season, and much of that came about due to the inconsistent play at right tackle. They went through two starters during the year and are now hoping that Scherff can be the long-term answer. However, the former Iowa standout is making a move from left tackle to the right side, where he had some struggles during minicamp. This shift will take some time, but the Redskins will need him to be fairly settled in by Week 1.

 

Leonard Williams (DE, New York Jets, No. 6)

The Jets seemed to have a lot of depth at defensive end, but since Sheldon Richardson is suspended for four games, Williams could see plenty of snaps early on. So far, he has received early praise from fellow players and coaches. His playing time during the season will be interesting to watch, considering the Jets have one of the league’s best defensive lines. Williams will have plenty of time to learn and develop from some of the best defenders.

 

Kevin White (WR, Chicago Bears, No. 7)

Replacing Brandon Marshall will be no easy task for the Bears, but White provides both great size and speed at receiver. With Alshon Jeffery as Jay Cutler’s primary target, White should give the Bears another legitimate pass-catching threat and the potential to form one of the league’s best wide receiver duos this year. However, White suffered an injury at minicamp, so that should be something to keep an eye on when camp opens.

 

Todd Gurley (RB, St. Louis Rams, No. 10)

It’s been about eight months since Gurley tore his ACL, ending his junior season at Georgia after just six games. Gurley said he was aiming for a return by training camp, so the wonder is when he will be back, and how much will his surgically repaired knee limit him. The Rams have depth at running back, starting with Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham. They don’t need to rush Gurley back, but he is expected to play a big role in St. Louis' backfield this season.

 

Danny Shelton (DT, Cleveland Browns, No. 12)

After allowing a league-worst 141.6 yards rushing per game, the Browns drafted Shelton to make an immediate impact up the middle. Cleveland's defense needs to be stout all around, especially with plenty of concerns on offense. The Browns seem solid on the back end of their defense, so the hope is that Shelton can be a strong presence right away to boost the front line.

 

Marcus Peters (CB, Kansas City Chiefs, No. 18)

Immaturity got him kicked off the team at the University of Washington early last season, but his impressive play in the two prior years was enough to make Peters a first-round pick. But a year removed from football only creates wonder if there might be any rust. Yet, if he can play up to the talent he showed in college, the Chiefs will have gotten great value. The Chiefs were ranked second in the NFL against the pass last season, so there doesn't figure to be a lot of pressure on Peters for him to perform right away.

 

Bud Dupree (LB, Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 22)

For the third straight year, the Steelers took a linebacker in the first round of the draft. However, they hope they get more out of Dupree this year than their previous two picks (Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier), who have each dealt with injuries. On top of this, Dupree will be replacing Jason Worilds, one of the strengths of Pittsburgh's defense the last two seasons who retired unexpectedly. So not only will Dupree have to try and fill some pretty big shoes, he also must handle the pressure of being a high pick at a position that hasn't produced the best results in recent seasons.

 

Breshad Perriman (WR, Baltimore Ravens, No. 26)

After Torrey Smith left in free agency, the Ravens drafted Perriman to fill the void as the team’s deep threat receiver. Much like Smith early on, questions about Perriman’s hands have come up, as drops were certainly a problem in college. He has acknowledged this issue, and the team is focusing on fixing it. If the Ravens want to be successful on offense under first-year offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, they will need Perriman to live up to his draft status sooner rather than later.

Teaser:
NFL Rookies to Watch in Training Camp
Post date: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/setting-first-year-expectations-nebraskas-mike-riley
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Bo Pelini won at least nine games in each of his seven seasons as Nebraska’s head coach. But the standard in Lincoln is much higher than just nine wins a year. Mike Riley was hired away from Oregon State to elevate the Cornhuskers back into Big Ten title contention and return the program into a factor on the national scene once again. Nebraska has finished in the final Associated Press top 25 poll three times in the last four years. However, 24th was its highest finish. 

 

Riley has a different coaching style than Pelini, but will it translate into success at Nebraska? Riley’s ability to develop talent and find underrated prospects on the recruiting trail should help the Cornhuskers over the next few years. But is that enough to knock off Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin on a consistent basis?

 

Related: Ranking the Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Is Riley the right fit at Nebraska? Can he elevate the program to win Big Ten Championships? Let’s take a look at the former Oregon State coach and his outlook for 2015 and beyond.

 

Mike Riley’s Job History

 

2003-14: Oregon State – Head Coach

2002: New Orleans Saints – Assistant Head Coach/Secondary

1999-2001: San Diego Chargers – Head Coach

1997-98: Oregon State – Head Coach

1993-96: USC – Assistant Head Coach/OC/QB

1991-92: San Antonio Riders (WLAF) – Head Coach

1987-90: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) – Head Coach

1986: Northern Colorado – Defensive Coordinator

1983-85: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) – Secondary Coach

1977-82: Linfield College – Defensive Coordinator/Secondary

1976: Whitworth College – Graduate Assistant

1975: California – Graduate Assistant (Defense)

 

Key Obstacles to Overcome in 2015

 

Adapting to New Schemes

As with any coaching change, the biggest obstacle to immediate success is how quickly a team adapts to new schemes on both sides of the ball. Nebraska is switching to a pro-style offense, while Mark Banker plans on a more aggressive approach on defense. The transition on offense is a bigger obstacle for the Cornhuskers, as quarterback Tommy Armstrong has to become more of a pocket passer and rely less on mobility. The junior threw for 2,695 yards and 22 touchdowns last season and must increase his completion percentage after posting a 53.3 mark in 2014. Will there be a seamless transition to the pro-style attack on offense? Or will it take a year for the offense to adjust?

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Replacing Ameer Abdullah

There’s no doubt Nebraska will miss Abdullah in 2015. In 13 games last season, Abdullah rushed for 1,611 yards and 19 scores. Talent certainly isn’t an issue at running back, as Terrell Newby, Adam Taylor and Imani Cross are a capable trio to rely on in 2015. However, Abdullah was one of the best in the nation. Will the Cornhuskers match their production on the ground through the committee approach? Or will one of those players emerge as a consistent go-to option and keep the rushing game at a similar level (240.2 ypg in 2014)?

 

Linebackers

This is the biggest personnel concern for new coach Mike Riley. Nebraska does not return a player with a full season of starts from 2014. Senior David Santos was expected to anchor this group but transferred in June. The departure of Santos leaves juniors Josh Banderas (50 tackles) and Michael Rose-Ivey as the top options. Assuming Banderas and Rose-Ivey stay healthy, the Cornhuskers should be set at two of the starting spots. However, depth is a major issue here, with freshmen Dedrick Young, Luke Gifford, Adrienne Talan, Mohamed Barry and Tyrin Ferguson expected to push for snaps or crack the fall two-deep.

 

Team Strengths for 2015

 

Skill Position Talent

There’s no doubt Ameer Abdullah will be missed. However, Nebraska isn’t hurting for talent on offense. The ground attack could be more of a committee approach, and Terrell Newby, Adam Taylor and Imani Cross should be a capable trio. Assuming quarterback Tommy Armstrong settles into the new offense, there’s a lot of potential for the passing attack. Sophomore De’Mornay Pierson-El is one of the nation’s top all-purpose threats, and junior Jordan Westerkamp is back after catching 44 passes for 747 yards and five scores in 2014.

 

Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015

 

Defensive Tackles

Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine might be the nation’s most underrated duo at defensive tackle. Both played in 13 games last season and combined for 21 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks. Depth and proven options are short at defensive end for coordinator Mark Banker. It’s a bit of a cliché, but you have to be strong in the trenches to win in the Big Ten. Having Collins and Valentine is a good place to start for Banker as he searches for answers at defensive end.

 

Favorable Schedule

This aspect differs from the roster pieces mentioned above, but Nebraska has a favorable path to push Wisconsin in the Big Ten West. The Cornhuskers host the Badgers in a game that could decide the division title, along with home matchups against Michigan State and Iowa in November. The road trip to Minnesota won’t be easy, but the schedule could be a boost for Nebraska’s division title hopes. 

 

Roster Talent/Recruiting Trends

 

Nebraska's Roster Rank in the Big Ten for 2015: 3

 

YearConference RankNational RankThree-Star ProspectsFour-Star ProspectsFive-Star Prospects
20154311630
20146362220
20133221670
2012430980
20112161190

* All rankings from 247Sports Composite

 

Nebraska’s recruiting rank has consistently ranked in the top half of the Big Ten. However, what’s notable about the recruiting trends is the drop in four-star prospects. The Cornhuskers signed 24 from 2011-13 but have only five over the last two years. Can Riley reverse that trend going forward? 

 

Schedule Analysis

 

Crossover Games Versus East Division: at Rutgers, Michigan State

Bye Week: Nov. 21

 

Ranking the Toughest Games on Nebraska's Schedule

 

Four Critical Conference Games for Nebraska in 2015

 

1. Michigan State (Nov. 7)

2. Wisconsin (Oct. 10)

3. at Minnesota (Oct. 17)

4. Iowa (Nov. 27)

 

Best Non-Conference Game: at Miami (Sept. 19)

 

Final Analysis

 

Wisconsin is the consensus favorite in the Big Ten’s West Division. But how big is the gap between the Badgers and Nebraska? Maybe not as much as some think. The Cornhuskers rank No. 29 in Athlon’s projected final 2015 poll, while Wisconsin ranks No. 19. With a home game against the Badgers, the Cornhuskers have an opportunity in early October to stake their claim for the division title. A crossover matchup against Michigan State is difficult, but Iowa visits Lincoln this year. The schedule isn’t overly taxing. However, the adjustment to new schemes on both sides of the ball will define just how high Nebraska climbs in the Big Ten West. Can quarterback Tommy Armstrong adapt quickly to the new offense and become the necessary passer needed in the pro-style attack? Will the Cornhuskers fill the voids at defensive end at linebacker? Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, but the trends suggest this roster is the best in the West. However, just having talent isn’t going to win games. Nebraska got an upgrade when it hired Riley. But year one could have its share of growing pains with the transition on both sides of the ball. Eight or nine wins is a realistic expectation for the first year. If the transition is smooth, and Armstrong develops into an all-conference quarterback, 10 victories is certainly within reach.

 

Athlon 2015 National Projection: No. 29 nationally, No. 2 Big Ten West

Athlon 2015 Record Projection: 8-4, 5-3 Big Ten

Bovada Over/Under Odds: 8

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 8

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 8

Teaser:
Setting First-Year Expectations for Nebraska's Mike Riley
Post date: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/college-football-top-25-non-conference-games-watch-2015
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There is a lot that is still unknown about the College Football Playoff Committee.

 

One thing that was learned about the new postseason format in year number one is that the voters value strength of schedule. Teams have ramped-up non-conference scheduling almost instantly (See: No. 4 below) and the results are a healthy list of top-level games.

 

It may take a few full seasons for the new trends to take hold across the nation (like, say, in the Big 12) but that doesn't mean 2015 isn't loaded with great non-conference matchups.

 

 AwayHomeDate
1.Sept. 12

Two national title contenders finishing the back half of a home-and-home? Yes, please. The Spartans will be fired up at home and have revenge on their minds after the 46-27 loss in Eugene last fall. The winner will get a huge Playoff notch in its belt in what should be one of the best games of the year regardless of conference.

2.Oct. 17

The 87th meeting between USC and ND could carry a lot of Playoff weight if all goes according to plan for both. USC smoked the Irish in L.A. last season and is 5-1 in its last six trips to South Bend. However, that lone loss came in the Trojans' last visit two seasons ago.

3.Oct. 3
These two historic programs have only met twice. Clemson won the last meeting 16-10 in 1979 in South Bend. Two years earlier, Joe Montana led the Irish to a 21-17 victory in Death Valley in the battle of two top-15 teams. Both teams could be ranked in the top 10 when they meet Oct. 3 for the rubber match.
4.Sept. 5*
The modern Big Ten power and traditional SEC power have only met once in history, a 15-0 Badgers win at home in 1928. The fast track in Arlington, Texas, should help an already superior Alabama team. The Crimson Tide is a 10-point favorite over the Big Red. A win by Wisconsin would rock the college football world right out of the gate.
5.Sept. 12
Tennessee and Oklahoma have played three times. The Vols won in 1939 while OU took a 1968 meeting and a 34-10 outcome last season. The game last fall was closer than the 24-point margin and this year’s battle means a lot for both teams. Both have conference title aspirations and an early win over a ranked foe could catapult one into national conversations.
Related: SEC Football Teams as Rock and Roll
6.Sept. 5*

The Aggies and Sun Devils have never met before and fans on both sides should be thoroughly entertained throughout the pseudo-neutral site season opener. Two great offenses should light up the Houston skyline en route to a feather-in-the-cap non-con win.

7.Nov. 28

This should be a physical, hard-hitting affair once again. And both are Playoff sleeper teams. Stanford has won three straight in the series at home and four of the last six overall. Notre Dame needed an epic fourth quarter to beat the Cardinal 14-10 last fall in South Bend.

8.Sept. 5

Two of the top three winningest programs in college football history will do battle in the best true home game of Week 1. Notre Dame has won four straight and eight of the 10 total meetings all-time and is a touchdown favorite for the season opener. Both quarterback situations should be interesting to track.

9.Nov. 28

The Gators lead the Sunshine State rivalry 34-23-2 all-time, but the Noles have been the better team since Jimbo Fisher arrived. Florida State has won four of the last five, including his last two trips inside The Swamp.

10.Nov. 28
Paul Johnson's squad broke through with a huge 30-24 win over the Dawgs in Athens last season. It was just Johnson's second win in seven tries against the Dawgs and his first since beating Mark Richt in his first year in Atlanta in 2008. There is an outside chance both teams are poised to play in a championship game a week after the meeting. 
Related: ACC Football Teams as Rock and Roll
11.Sept. 19
The Jackets and Irish will be playing for the 35th time — 27 of which have resulted in Notre Dame wins. The last time these two met, however, Georgia Tech crushed the Golden Domers 33-3 in South Bend. There is a good chance both of these teams could reach 10 wins in 2015.
12.Sept. 7
National television on Labor Day Night to begin a national title defense sounds like fun to me. Bud Foster and one of the nastiest defenses in the nation will test whichever Buckeyes quarterback Urban Meyer decides to run out there. One coach desperately needs a national statement win and the other coach has major revenge on the mind after the Hokies' upset win last fall.
13.Sept. 5*
Bobby Petrino has won all 10 season openers but will have a tough time against the heavily favored Tigers. Louisville won the only previous meeting between the two programs, a 16-3 decision over Auburn in Birmingham back in 1974.
14.Nov. 28
The Tigers own a 66-42-4 all-time series lead but are coming off their first win in the rivalry since 2008. Clemson could be eyeing a Playoff bid in the season finale and will be looking for its first win in Williams-Brice Stadium since 2007. Dabo Swinney is 2-5 against Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks.
15.Sept. 3
There are few chances in the non-con this fall for the Big Ten to make a statement than on Thursday night to open the season in the Twin Cities. TCU will be a top-ranked team and is an 18-point favorite heading to TCF Bank Stadium. The Frogs stomped the Gophers 30-7 in Fort Worth last fall but Minnesota has won the only other meeting between the two — a 1974 victory in Minneapolis.
Related: Big 12 Football Teams as Rock and Roll Bands
16.Nov. 14*
A bizarre but interesting matchup of underrated coaches takes place at an odd time, halfway through November. The Tigers and Cougars have only played once before, a 21-17 BYU win in the 1983 Holiday Bowl. Taysom Hill vs. Maty Mauk late in the year sounds fun to me (if both can stay healthy).
17.Sept. 4
Chris Petersen returns to Boise in charge of a Pac-12 name brand that is in clear rebuilding mode. The blue turf won't be nearly as welcoming as the Broncos have eyes on another Mountain West title and New Year's Day bowl berth. The Huskies' major questions under center and on the D-line will have to be answered to leave Idaho with a win.
18.Sept. 19
Nebraska's 41-31 win in Lincoln last year broke the all-time series tie (6-5). Both teams should be good enough to make a run in their respective leagues but both head coaches need a marquee win (for different reasons). However, there is no national title on the line like in many previous Miami-Nebraska bouts.
19.Sept. 3
These two have only met three times with all three games taking place in Ann Arbor. Utah has won two of those meetings, including a 26-10 thumping of the Wolverines last season. On a Thursday night with Jim Harbaugh leading the way, this game should be much more intriguing. 
20.Sept. 26
Older fans of both sides will likely remember the first and only meeting between BYU and Michigan. The Cougars won the 1984 Holiday Bowl 24-17 en route to a national championship. The Maize and Blue will be finishing a brutal first month of the Jim Harbaugh era that features two Pac-12 foes and the Taysom Hill-led Cougars.
Related: Big Ten Football Teams as Rock and Roll Bands
21.Sept. 19
The Cougars and Bruins have played 10 times with UCLA claiming seven wins. However, BYU has won the last two meetings, including a 58-0 embarrassment in 2008. Jim Mora's defense will need to be on its toes early against an athlete like Taysom Hill.
22.Sept. 19
This could be a program-defining win for Sonny Dykes and Cal in Austin in Week 3. The Horns are at home and more talented (and can actually play defense) but quarterback Jared Goff is a superstar in the making and could set himself up for a nationally acclaimed season with a win in Texas. The Bears are 0-5 all-time against the Longhorns.
23.Sept. 3*
The Carolina Bowl has only taken place twice since 1991 with the South side winning both times (2007, 2013). The season opener features two defenses that are in desperate need of improvement if either team has any prayer of competing in their respective divisions.
24.Sept. 5
The color schemes alone will look amazing on the floor of towering Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. BYU and Nebraska get their seasons started in style in the first-ever meeting of the two national brands. Fans who are unfamiliar with Cougars dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill will learn all about him (if healthy) and Big Red Nation will get their first look at the Mike Riley-led Huskers.
25.Nov. 7

The Panthers and Irish have played each other pretty even, with Notre Dame winning seven of the 12 meetings dating back to 1999. The last six played in Pittsburgh have been split, including a memorable 28-21 Panthers upset win in the last tangle. 

Related: Pac-12 Football Teams as Rock and Roll Bands

* - neutral field

 

Best of the Rest:

 

Maryland at West Virginia, Sept. 26

Louisville at Kentucky, Nov. 28

Ole Miss at Memphis, Oct. 17

Texas Tech at Arkansas, Sept. 19

Miami at Cincinnati, Oct. 1

Iowa at Iowa State, Sept. 12

Boston College vs. Notre Dame, Nov. 21*

Pitt at Iowa, Sept. 19

Stanford at Northwestern, Sept. 5

LSU at Syracuse, Sept. 26

Teaser:
Top 25 Non-Conference Games to watch in 2015
Post date: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
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LSU TigersLSU’s win total in SEC play has declined for three straight seasons, and the Tigers are coming off an 8-5 campaign, which was the lowest overall victory total for the program since 2008. However, there’s no shortage of optimism for coach Les Miles’ team.

 

The Tigers are loaded with promising young talent, starting on offense with running back Leonard Fournette and receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre. On defense, LSU is anchored by sophomore tackle Davon Godchaux, junior linebacker Kendell Beckwith and defensive backs Tre’Davious White and Jamal Adams.

 

While the talent is there, LSU must adapt to a new defensive coordinator and generate more production from the passing attack.

 

The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Here’s a look at three reasons why LSU will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Tigers won’t finish in the top four.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Three Reasons Why LSU Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

1. Roster Talent

Recruiting rankings aren’t 100 percent accurate or the most effective way to evaluate a college football team. However, according to the final class rankings from the last five years, LSU ranks No. 4 in the nation in overall talent. The only teams ahead of the Tigers? Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State – the last three national champions. Assembling elite talent is only half of the battle for college coaches, as development and building successful schemes also come into play. LSU has the necessary talent in place to win a national title. Can the coaching staff squeeze big contributions out of the young players on this roster?

 

2. Best Secondary in College Football?

It’s a close call between Florida and LSU for the No. 1 spot as the best defensive backfield in college football in 2015. Even if the Gators edge the Tigers in most preseason ranks for best secondary, new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has an elite group. Two starters – cornerback Tre’Davious White and safety Jalen Mills – return from a unit that held opposing quarterbacks to just 10 touchdown passes last year. The two open spots in the secondary could go to elite recruits (safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Kevin Toliver II). And there’s no shortage of depth with Ed Paris, Donte Jackson, Rickey Jefferson and Dwayne Thomas competing for snaps.

 

3. Leonard Fournette

Fournette showed why he was arguably the best recruit in the 2014 signing class last season, rushing for 1,034 yards and 10 scores in 13 games. However, 187 carries simply isn’t enough work for the sophomore. Expect coordinator Cam Cameron to have Fournette more involved this year, and the New Orleans native will be running behind a line that returns three starters and should be among the best in the SEC. There’s no doubt Fournette has elite talent and will challenge for the Heisman if he has enough opportunities. Even with the question marks at quarterback, Fournette can carry LSU’s offense into SEC West title contention. 

 

LSU's 2015 Schedule

DateOpponent Athlon Projected Rank
for 2015
Projected Record
Sept. 5McNeese State--
Sept. 12at Mississippi State217-5
Sept. 19Auburn410-2
Sept. 26at Syracuse853-9
Oct. 3Eastern Michigan1271-11
Oct. 10at South Carolina377-5
Oct. 17Florida268-4
Oct. 24WKU699-4
Nov. 7at Alabama212-1
Nov. 14Arkansas168-4
Nov. 21at Ole Miss119-3
Nov. 28Texas A&M207-5

Three Reasons Why LSU Won’t Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. Quarterback Play

LSU’s quarterback position might be the biggest wild card in the SEC. In conference-only matchups last season, the Tigers averaged only 19.1 points per game. The passing attack ranked 13th in the SEC by averaging a paltry 140.6 yards a game in conference action. Additionally, LSU quarterbacks tossed only seven touchdowns in SEC games. While the Tigers don’t have to pass for 300 yards each week, improvement is a must here. Anthony Jennings had an off-field incident in the summer but is expected to be available for the opener. However, Jennings will be pushed by talented sophomore Brandon Harris. With a strong rushing attack and solid defense in place, the passing attack is the missing piece on a LSU roster built with enough talent to challenge for the SEC West title.

 

2. Discovering a Pass Rush

Athletic edge rushers with the ability to get to the quarterback seemed to be in abundance in Baton Rouge just a few years ago. The Tigers led the SEC with 38 sacks in 2011, but that number has declined significantly over the last few seasons. LSU recorded only 27 in 2013 and then dropped to 13th in the SEC by generating just 19 sacks in 2014. New coordinator Kevin Steele plans on utilizing more 3-4 looks this season, and this unit will be a work in progress with players adjusting to new positions and schemes. Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal are considered the favorites to start at end but combined for zero sacks in 2014. Could true freshman Arden Key push for snaps in the fall?

 

3. The November Schedule

Every schedule in the SEC is difficult. However, LSU’s slate in September and October is relatively manageable. Catching Mississippi State in Week 2 is ideal with the Bulldogs’ personnel losses, and Auburn has to visit Death Valley the following Saturday. However, take a look at the November stretch. LSU has to play at Alabama, followed by a physical affair against Arkansas the next Saturday, a road trip to Ole Miss on Nov. 21 and the regular season finale against Texas A&M (and former defensive coordinator John Chavis). That’s a tough four-game stretch for any team, especially without a bye week after physical affairs against Alabama and Arkansas. 

 

Final Verdict

 

On paper, it seems LSU has too much talent to finish 8-5 once again. However, it’s also fair to consider this team the biggest wild card in the SEC. The Tigers have the talent to win the SEC and earn a playoff spot. But there’s also enough question marks to finish 8-5. How high LSU climbs in the SEC West will depend on two factors: Quarterback play and the defensive line. In a brutal division, there’s little margin for error. Will those two areas emerge as a strength for Les Miles? Or will quarterback concerns hinder this offense once again?

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 15

Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 8-4 (4-4 SEC)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 8.5

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 8.5

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 8

Teaser:
Why LSU Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/rob-gronkowski-twerks-celebrity-family-feud-steve-harvey-robinson-deflategate
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The Summer of Gronk is one of the best things to happen to football when it's not in season.

 

Rob Gronkowski has been in music videos, freestyled in bars, and now he's on Celebrity Family Feud twerking like there's no tomorrow. 

 

To get him and the family hype, Gronk decided to drop a little freestyle before the show.

Unfortunately the Gronkowskis didn't win, but we'll always have this gem.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 09:22
Path: /college-football/why-michigan-state-will-or-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2015
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Michigan State enters the 2015 season on the back of two of the most successful campaigns in program history. Over the past five seasons, the Spartans have taken several steps toward the top of college football's national pyramid of prestige and established itself as one of the Big Ten's premier programs.

 

Related: Michigan State Spartans 2015 Preview and Prediction

 

Expectation for Mark Dantonio's team this fall vary depending on the site or publication you read. The team is once again expected to be among the best in the Big Ten — if not the country — by most accounts. The question remains, however, whether this group has what it takes to crack that all important final four at the end of the year and qualify for the College Football Playoff. Let's look at three reasons to believe these Spartans will and three reasons to believe they will not.

 

Three Reasons Why Michigan State Will Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. Connor Cook's Leadership and Grasp of the Offense

You can't put a value on quarterback and system continuity at any level of football. Michigan State has both in Cook. He has mastered Jim Bollman's offense over the last two seasons and become one of the elite signal-callers in the nation as a result of doing so. You can count on one hand the number of college teams who have a surefire, NFL-caliber quarterback under center. Michigan State is one of them.

 

Related: Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2015

 

2. Veteran Leadership on Defense

Defense has been the catalyst of Michigan State's recent rise to the elite ranks. The talent on the field this season should be on par with recent units. Shilique Calhoun, the All-Big Ten defensive end who will appear on just about every watch list for the awards he's eligible for, leads another stout unit that will feature seven senior starters. This is a group that is accustomed to winning at a high level with players who know their individual role in a proven system. Their experience should ease the transition for the two new defensive coordinators.

 

3. Parity in the Other Power 5 Conferences

The reality of the new Playoff selection system is that wins and losses still matter. Many — including myself — believe the Big Ten is a two-deep conference when it comes to actual national title contenders. The ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 all feature four or five teams capable of roughing up one another's records throughout the season to the tune of at least two losses. The puts Michigan State in a pretty favorable position, possibly able to lose the game to Ohio State and still make it into the final four without playing in the conference championship game.

 

Michigan State's 2015 Schedule

DateOpponent Athlon Projected Rank for 2015Projected Record
Sept. 4at Western Michigan817-5
Sept. 12Oregon810-3
Sept. 19Air Force837-5
Sept. 26Central Michigan1114-8
Oct. 3Purdue843-9
Oct. 10at Rutgers655-7
Oct. 17at Michigan347-5
Oct. 24Indiana606-6
Nov. 7at Nebraska298-4
Nov. 14Maryland576-6
Nov. 21at Ohio State113-0
Nov. 28Penn State328-4

 

Three Reasons Why Michigan State Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. The Departure of Pat Narduzzi

Narduzzi was the architect of Michigan State's elite defense, widely viewed as one of the best coordinators in the country. He has been replaced by two co-coordinators in Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel. Both have been with Dantonio for a while, which should help maintain continuity. We shall wait and see if two heads are better than one in East Lansing when it comes to scheming for a variety of offenses and looks as the season progresses. Until we have evidence to prove otherwise, I'd expect the loss of Narduzzi to cause some degree of regression — even if only temporary — in the Spartans' defensive performance.

 

2. The Ohio State Game

The Spartans will be underdogs in the matchup with the Buckeyes. As I mentioned earlier, I believe they can lose the game and still qualify for the College Football Playoff — but that depends on how they lose. A hard-fought, back-and-forth battle with the defending champion could leave people wanting more. A blowout loss at the Horseshoe in what is likely to be a nationally televised primetime game would be detrimental to Michigan State's title hopes.

 

3. Lack of Proven Offensive Weapons

As good as Cook is, he'll be without his three leading receivers and two leading rushers from a season ago. There will be a ton of pressure on guys like Aaron Burbridge and R.J.Shelton to replace Tony Lippett's production in the passing game. Meanwhile, the Spartans will rely on a committee of young and inexperienced running backs, hoping they can produce numbers similar to what Jeremy Langford did a season ago. It's tough to reload and play for a national title simultaneously, but that's what Michigan State will be attempting to accomplish on offense.

 

Final Verdict


Taking the Ohio State game out of the equation, Michigan State will need to run the table to stay in the College Football Playoff conversation throughout the season. The Spartans should be favored in every game on their schedule, but Oregon, Nebraska and Penn State all have the talent to give them trouble — if not beat them outright. Going 11-1 or 12-0 would be a monumental achievement given the slate before them. Even if Michigan State can beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten East, beating a Nebraska, Wisconsin or Minnesota in the Big Ten Championship Game would not be a slam dunk. Finishing the year undefeated or with only a single close loss is possible for this team. That said, there are too many hurdles to say that it's probable. Because of that, another fine season where the Spartans finish in the top 10 but outside of the final four is the likely outcome.
 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 7

Athlon’s Projected Final Record: (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 9.5

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 9.5

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 9.5

 

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

Teaser:
Why Michigan State Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/surfer-mick-fanning-survives-shark-attack-during-competition
Body:

Australian surfer Mick Fanning fought off a shark attack during the J-Bay Open in South Africa on Sunday. Not surprisingly, the competition was suspended following in incident. The entire ordeal was captured on live television. 

 

Fortunately, Fanning was uninjured. Here’s a video of the event as it unfolded. 

 

 

Following the incident, Fanning explained: “I was just sitting there, I was just about to star moving, and then I felt something grab, just get stuck in my leg rope. I instantly just jumped away, and then it just kept coming at my board. I was kicking and screaming.”

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, July 19, 2015 - 13:18
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-unveils-new-adidas-uniforms-2015-season
Body:

Miami officially joined forces with Adidas on Saturday night at the Fontainebleau’s LIV nightclub. The Hurricanes unveiled their new uniforms under the Adidas banner, and the new designs aren’t a drastic switch from the color scheme the program has used in previous years. Miami will have orange, white and green uniforms and alternate looks are expected during the year.

 

Even though the Hurricanes have made a few alterations to their uniforms in recent years, the “U” is still one of college football’s most recognizable helmets. While the color scheme didn't change much, these uniforms are much closer to the design the top Miami teams wore in the 1980s and 1990s.

 

Here’s an overview of Miami’s new uniforms with Adidas for 2015:

Teaser:
Miami Unveils New Adidas Uniforms for 2015 Season
Post date: Saturday, July 18, 2015 - 21:29
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/craig-sager-undergoes-treatment-leukemia
Body:

It's hard to imagine going through another NBA season without the bright and fun Craig Sager.

 

His son tweeted a picture of Sager receiving stem cells from him. Although his frame is smaller than most remember, the elder Sager is still putting up a fight and looks to be in good spirits.

 

 

One of the first to wish him luck was ESPN's Shelley Smith, who recently went through chemotherapy.

 

 

Get well soon, Craig. 

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, July 18, 2015 - 10:01
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/us-army-soldier-comes-defense-caitlyn-jenner-joey-vicente-espys-hero
Body:

People are still upset about Caitlyn Jenner winning the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.

 

Some people have resulted to calling her harmful names, but now she finally has someone coming to her defense. The person is Joey Vicente, an U.S. Army soldier. He's a hero in the eyes of Americans for doing all he does, and he isn't fond of the way the very people he's defending are treating Jenner.

 

Your negative opinions on Caitlyn Jenner and her deservedness of an award that you didn't even know about until a few...

Posted by Joey Vicente on Thursday, July 16, 2015

 

"Bigotry in any form is unacceptable and I guess I was just fed up with seeing people's offensive remarks about a person they know nothing about," Vicente told BuzzFeed News.

 

Vicente's post didn't take long to go viral.

 

"I posted what I posted because it's what I feel," Vicente said. "I joined the service and picked by job because I love helping people. I love positivity and I love my country."

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, July 18, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-lands-3-star-michigan-de-adetokunbo-ogundeji
Body:

Notre Dame added another recruit to its 2016 class despite the dead period getting a verbal from rangy defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji on Thursday.

 

When Ogundeji made his announcement few were surprised Notre Dame’s name was called. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound, rising star had narrowed his list of offers down to Pitt, Rutgers, Cal, Toledo, and Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish had received two unofficial visits from Ogundeji, on Jun. 18 and June 27, leading many to believe his commitment to Notre Dame was just a matter of time.

 

Other programs to offer the Walled Lake, Mich., talent included Oregon, Buffalo, and Miami (Ohio). Western Michigan almost landed a big one, receiving a verbal from the in-state prospect on Feb. 23. In the offseason more and more teams caught on to Ogundeji’s talents leading to a wider circle of opportunities and a parting of ways with the Broncos.

 

Ogundeji helped Walled Lake Central to a 9-4 record in 2014 and a run into the Michigan high school playoffs before falling to Clarkston 40-22.

 

Notre Dame now has 13 verbal commitments in its 2016 recruiting class. Ogundeji is the second defensive end commitment, joining Julian Okwara (Ardrey Kell HS, Charlotte, N.C.)

 

Notre Dame 2016 Verbal Commitment List

OG Parker Boudreaux, 6-4, 287 lbs, Bishop Moore Catholic, Orlando, Florida

WR Chase Claypool, 6-5, 205 lbs, Abbotsford HS, Abbotsford, British Columbia OT Liam Eichenberg, 6’6”, 290 lbs, St. Ignatius HS, Cleveland, Ohio

CB/WR Jalen Elliott, 6-1, 175 lbs, Lloyd C. Bird HS, Chesterfield, Virginia

LB Jamir Jones, 6-3, 230 lbs, Aquinas Institute, Rochester, New York

RB Tony Jones Jr., 6-0, 212 lbs, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Florida

OT Tommy Kraemer, 6-5, 305 lbs, Elder HS, Cincinnati, Ohio

CB Julian Love, 5-11, 175 lbs, Nazareth Academy, LaGrange Park, Illinois

DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji, 6-5, 225 lbs, Walled Lake Central HS, Walled Lake, Michigan

DE Julian Okwara, 6-4, 220 lbs, Ardrey Kell HS, Charlotte, North Carolina

SS Spencer Perry, 6-3, 200 lbs, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Florida

LS John Shannon, 6-2, 230 lbs, Loyola Academy, Wilmette, Illinois

WR Kevin Stepherson, 6-0, 180 lbs, First Coast HS, Jacksonville, Florida

 

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

Teaser:
Notre Dame Lands 3-star Michigan DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/video-old-footage-michael-jordan-1986-chicago-bulls-north-carolina-tar-heels
Body:

Michael Jordan was drafted by the Bulls in 1984, but decided to return to campus to finish his degree and play in a few pickup games.

 

His Airness was in prime form, seen here in 1986, and it showed. Of course Jordan couldn't visit anywhere without playing a little basketball. I'm sure there were a few tears from the opposing team when he yelled, "I got next."

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 14:47
Path: /college-football/lsu-rb-leonard-fournette-tops-sec-players-three-all-conference-selections
Body:

The Southeastern Conference released their preseason All-SEC football teams on Friday, putting LSU sophomore running back Leonard Fournette in rarified air. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound, bruising playmaker made all three SEC teams, as he was voted first-team running back, second-team all-purpose, and third-team return specialist.

 

Related: SEC Football 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Overall, Georgia running back Nick Chubb led the way with 189 total points followed by Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland (181), and Fournette (180).

 

South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper had the honored distinction of making multiple teams as well, earning second-team wide receiver and first-team all-purpose recognition. Texas A&M’s Speedy Noil was voted second-team return specialist and third-team all-purpose.

 

Other LSU players joining Fournette on the first team were offensive lineman Vadal Alexander and defensive back Jalen Mills. The Tigers did not place any other players on the All-SEC offensive second or third-teams.

 

Confirming the Tigers will be stacked on defense, linebacker Kendell Beckwith and defensive back Tre’Davious White were named to the second team and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux and defensive back Jamal Adams were selected as All-SEC third-team members.

 

Ole Miss led the way with three first-team offensive selections. Alabama topped out with three first-team defensive selections — Ragland, defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson and defensive back Cyrus Jones. Auburn placed two on the first-team defense — defensive lineman Carl Lawson and defensive back Jonathan Jones.

 

Podcast: Cutting through SEC Media Day Nonsense



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

First Team All-SEC

OFFENSE 
QB: Dak Prescott, Mississippi State 
RB: Nick Chubb, Georgia 
RB: Leonard Fournette, LSU 
WR: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss 
WR: D’haquille Williams, Auburn 
TE: Evan Engram, Ole Miss 
OL: Cam Robinson, Alabama 
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss 
OL: Vadal Alexander, LSU 
OL: John Theus, Georgia 
OL: Ryan Kelly, Alabama

 

DEFENSE 
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss 
DL: A’Shawn Robinson, Albama 
DL: Myles Garrett, Texas A&M 
DL: Carl Lawson, Auburn 
LB: Reggie Ragland, Alabama 
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia 
LB: Curt Maggitt, Tennessee 
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida 
DB: Cyrus Jones, Alabama 
DB: Jonathan Jones, Auburn 
DB: Jalen Mills, LSU

 

SPECIALISTS 
P: JK Scott, Alabama 
PK: Marshall Morgan, Georgia 
RS: Speedy Noil, Texas A&M 
AP: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina

 

Second Team

OFFENSE 
QB: Jeremy Johnson, Auburn; RB: Derrick Henry, Alabama, Jonathan Williams, Arkansas; WR: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina, De’Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State; TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas; OL: Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M, Dan Skipper, Arkansas, Denver Kirkland, Arkansas, Greg Pyke, Georgia, Mike Matthews, Texas A&M.

 

DEFENSE 
DL: Jonathan Bullard, Florida, Derek Barnett, Tennessee, Jonathan Allen, Alabama, Chris Jones, Mississippi State; LB: Kendell Beckwith, LSU, Leonard Floyd, Georgia, Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn; DB: Tony Conner, Ole Miss, Cameron Sutton, Tennessee, Will Redmond, Mississippi State, Tre’Davious White, LSU.

 

SPECIALISTS 
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M; PK: Elliott Fry, South Carolina; RS: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina; AP: Leonard Fournette, LSU.

 

Third Team

OFFENSE 
QB: Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee; RB: Alex Collins, Arkansas, Kenyan Drake, Alabama; WR: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia, Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M; TE: O.J. Howard, Alabama; OL: Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas, Alex Kozan, Auburn, Avery Young, Auburn, Brandon Shell, South Carolina, Evan Boehm, Missouri.

 

DEFENSE 
DL: Montravius Adams, Auburn, Jarran Reed, Alabama, Davon Godchaux, LSU, Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss; LB: Kris Frost, Auburn, Antonio Morrison, Florida, Kentrell Brothers, Missouri; DB: A.J. Stamps, Kentucky, Eddie Jackson, Alabama, Jamal Adams, LSU, Johnathan Ford, Auburn.

 

SPECIALISTS 
P: Jamie Keehn, LSU; PK: Austin MacGinnis, Kentucky; RS: Leonard Fournette, LSU; AP: Speedy Noil

 

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

Teaser:
LSU RB Leonard Fournette Tops SEC Players with Three All-Conference Selections
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 14:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/ronda-rousey-mayweather-jab-was-planned-year-advance-floyd-espy
Body:

Sometimes the right joke takes time to come to light.

 

Ronda Rousey's knockout of Floyd Mayweather at the ESPYS is still being talked about. Some people think it was spur of the moment, but she had been planning it for a year in advance. 

 

 

Back in July 2014, Mayweather was asked about Rousey and he claimed he didn't know who "he" was. Yes, he. Mayweather didn't even know if she was a man or woman. 


"I know for damn sure he knew who I was," Rousey told MMA.com "He was running against me for 'Best Fighter' that year and he had signed MMA fighters, so his feigned ignorance was meant to really be a snarky remark to me."

 

Rousey mentioned that had she not won the ESPY, she would've kept waiting.

 

"I waited a whole year to say something," Rousey said. "And you know what? If I didn't win 'Best Fighter' this year, I would have waited two years or three years."

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/cover-2-college-football-podcast-cutting-through-media-days
Body:

Conference media days are upon us, meaning we have a brand new batch of coach quotes to dissect and preseason rankings to dispute on the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast. On this week’s episode:

 

• What should we make of Nick Saban’s comments about his players receiving NFL Draft grades before the Sugar Bowl? Is this excuse-making or a sign that Saban has new challenges in preserving the Alabama dynasty.

 

• We discuss why the “SEC is overrated” talk out of SEC media days is overrated.

 

• We discuss impressive players from Georgia, and why the college game needs more of guys like Chris Conley and Malcolm Mitchell.

 

• TCU was an overwhelming favorite in the Big 12 media picks. We talk why that shouldn’t be quite as clear cut, and not just because Baylor is our pick in the league.

 

• Then, an age-old question: Cow or pig?

 

• Finally, a new segment that requires your participation: Kids’ Sports Questions. In the first installment, we seriously answer an 11-year-old’s question about Canadian basketball.

 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunesStitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Cutting Through Media Days
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 13:32
All taxonomy terms: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/should-russell-wilson-become-highest-paid-quarterback-nfl
Body:

The Seattle Seahawks are set to open training camp on July 31 and Russell Wilson is still not signed to a contract extension. So the question is – will this be the beginning of the end for Wilson in a Seattle uniform and is it time to panic if you are a Seahawks fan?

 

Related: Seattle Seahawks 2015 Team Preview and Prediction

 

This will not be the beginning of the end of Wilson in a Seahawks uniform if head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider don’t want it to be. With the ability to use a franchise tag on Wilson for the ‘16 and ‘17 seasons, respectively, time is still on the Seahawks side. However, the elephant in the room in this saga is Mark Rodgers, Wilson’s agent.

 

Rodgers, who has an extensive background in baseball, appears to have to look of a person who has one single goal — to make a name for himself as a football agent and do everything in his power to get Wilson to free agency in 2018. The benefit for Rodgers of getting Wilson to free agency is that the salary cap should be high enough to be able to get Wilson well over $30 million per season.

 

The risk is that if Rodgers doesn’t get his client signed to a long-term deal sooner, any sort of injury could have even larger ramifications. Along these lines, the argument could be made that the potential of Wilson getting hurt is higher risk heading into the 2015 season because the Seahawks will have a bit of a reloaded offensive line.

 

There’s little debate that Wilson has done more than enough to earn a long-term contract extension, but does he deserve to be paid more than guys like two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers? Absolutely not. Despite finding a way to win last season’s NFC Championship Game against the Packers, Wilson’s statistics were not pretty, as he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw four interceptions. If it wasn’t for the defense and a timely onside kick recovery by Chris Matthews,  a return trip to the Super Bowl would never have happened.

 

And there’s also the infamous play in the Super Bowl, where Marshawn Lynch did not get the ball as Wilson threw the game-clinching interception that cost Seattle a second consecutive Super Bowl. The question has to be asked does an elite quarterback like Rodgers or Tom Brady find a way to avoid the interception with either an incomplete pass or a touchdown? Yes. Even though the play call itself at the one-yard-line was inexplicable to begin with, Wilson still has to find a way to avoid the interception if he is truly worthy of being paid as the top quarterback in football.

 

Having said that if you give Wilson a contract in the range of approximately $105-110 million over five years with about $54-60 million guaranteed you should be able to protect yourself if you are the Seahawks while also being able to keep most of the core together. Anything more than that, even with the projected future increases in the salary cap, will be pushing it too far. When you have your guy at quarterback in the NFL the goal should always be to pay him well, but don’t be reckless.

 

Thus, for the Seahawks that means doing everything possible to put together a deal that pays Wilson at a high level but is not a team-crippling contract three or four years from now. If Seattle can stay disciplined in these negotiations with Wilson and get a deal done, it will set the franchise up very nicely for years to come to be a regular playoff and Super Bowl contender, as long as the Seahawks continue to draft well.

 

— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and also writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball.

Teaser:
Should Russell Wilson Become the Highest-Paid Quarterback in the NFL?
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /college-football/georgia-releases-hype-video-season-opener-ul-monroe-bulldogs-dawgs
Body:

Athens, GA on a college football Saturday is a special place to be. 

 

On September 5, the Dawgs will take on UL Monroe in their season opener. What better way to commemorate 50 days until kickoff than to give fans a taste of what they're going to see the whole season? 

 

Georgia is ready to get the season started and make its mark on the SEC.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 11:06
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/why-clemson-will-or-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2015
Body:

Clemson enters 2015 looking to reload after the departure of several key players from last year’s team. However, momentum in Death Valley remains strong, as the Tigers have won at least 10 games in four consecutive seasons. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is a Heisman contender, and there’s no shortage of young talent in the mix for a breakout season on both sides of the ball. Even with five returning starters for 2015, Clemson is one of the favorites to win the ACC

 

The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Here’s a look at three reasons why Clemson will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Tigers won’t finish in the top four.

 

Three Reasons Why Clemson Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

1. Deshaun Watson and a Loaded Group of Skill Players

It’s not far-fetched to suggest Deshaun Watson could be the nation’s best quarterback by the end of 2015. The No. 41 overall recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite lived up to the hype as a true freshman, completing 93 of 167 passes for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Watson also added 200 rushing yards and five scores. An ACL injury from November will be healed in time for the opener, and the sophomore is Athlon’s pick to be the first-team All-ACC quarterback in December. But it’s not just Watson leading the way on offense for Clemson. Sophomore running back Wayne Gallman is back after rushing for 769 yards last year, and the Tigers are loaded at receiver. Sophomore Artavis Scott and junior Mike Williams are the top targets for Watson, but freshman Deon Cain is too talented to sit on the sidelines. The offense should be explosive once again in 2015.

 

Related: ACC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

2. Talent Waiting in the Wings

Similar to Florida State, Clemson has a promising core of young talent waiting to emerge. But here’s the million-dollar question: How quickly will the young talent mesh? Can everything come together before the road trip to Louisville on Sept. 17? Or is the Oct. 3 date against Notre Dame more realistic? Using team recruiting rankings over the last five years, Clemson ranks as the No. 2 roster in the ACC. The five-year average among all 128 teams is 13.2, while Florida State has a 4.4 mark. The Tigers won’t have many senior starters this season, but that’s not a bad thing considering all of the talent in the freshman, sophomore and junior ranks.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

3. Schedule

It’s unfair to say Clemson’s schedule is easy, but the Tigers did catch a few breaks. Florida State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech all visit Death Valley this year, and coach Dabo Swinney’s team should be favored in its other crossover game with the Coastal (Miami). A road trip to Louisville in mid-September will be tough, and the rivalry matchup at South Carolina certainly won’t be easy. Clemson is 0-3 in its last three trips to Columbia and has won just one out of the last six meetings against the Gamecocks. 

 

Clemson's 2015 Schedule

DateOpponent Athlon Projected Rank for 2015Projected Record
Sept. 5Wofford--
Sept. 12Appalachian State908-4
Sept. 17at Louisville387-5
Oct. 3Notre Dame129-3
Oct. 10Georgia Tech188-5
Oct. 17Boston College566-6
Oct. 24at Miami437-5
Oct. 31at NC State399-3
Nov. 7Florida State911-2
Nov. 14at Syracuse853-9
Nov. 21Wake Forest824-8
Nov. 28at South Carolina377-5

Three Reasons Why Clemson Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. The Offensive Line

The Tigers had question marks up front at the conclusion of spring practice, and the concerns grew after Isaiah Battle declared for the NFL supplemental draft. With Battle leaving, Clemson returns only one starter (center Ryan Norton) and true freshman Mitch Hyatt will likely start at left tackle. Additionally, this unit wasn’t necessarily a strength in 2014. The Tigers allowed 27 sacks last season, while rushers only generated 3.5 yards per carry. With Deshaun Watson coming off a torn ACL, protecting the quarterback is even more essential for Clemson’s offense in 2015. This unit will be under the spotlight early in the year.

 

Related: Position Groups on the Hot Seat in the ACC

 

2. Too Many Holes to Fill on Defense

As mentioned above, it’s no secret Clemson has a plethora of promising young talent. However, will the personnel losses on defense be too much to overcome? The Tigers were hit hard with departures at each level. End Vic Beasley and tackle Grady Jarrett will be missed up front, the linebacking corps must replace Stephone Anthony, and the secondary lost second-team All-ACC cornerback Garry Peters. On the positive side for Clemson, coordinator Brent Venables is one of the best in college football. Junior end Shaq Lawson is a good place to start the rebuilding effort up front, and sophomore cornerback Mackensie Alexander is already one of the best in the ACC. However, can this unit count on bring contributions from true freshmen like Albert Huggins, Mark Fields and Christian Wilkins?

 

3. Departure of Chad Morris

This is the biggest x-factor surrounding Clemson in 2015. Chad Morris was one of the premier play-callers in college football and will be missed. Swinney promoted from within to fill Morris’ position, tapping Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott as co-coordinators. Elliott is expected to call the plays, and his first audition in the Russell Athletic Bowl (40 points against Oklahoma) was a huge success. However, developing a gameplan for a bowl with weeks to prepare is a different task than the grind of the regular season. How much will Morris be missed in Death Valley this year? If Elliott and Scott continue to keep this offense performing at a high level, Clemson will push Florida State for the ACC title. 

 

Final Verdict

 

The Sept. 17 game at Louisville will be a huge chance for Clemson to show its offensive line and rebuilt defense is up to the task of winning the ACC title. With Watson under center, combined with one of the best sets of skill talent in the nation, scoring points shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, Morris’ departure is something to watch. Athlon Sports picked Florida State to win the ACC in 2015 but little separates these two teams. The oddsmakers like Clemson around the nine-win mark this year. If that scenario plays out, the Tigers’ losses could look something like this: at South Carolina, Florida State and at Louisville. That’s reasonable. However, it’s also reasonable to expect Clemson to win all three of those games but lose against Georgia Tech or at NC State. The Tigers will be entertaining and explosive on offense. However, there’s just enough personnel concerns to miss out on a playoff spot.

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 14

Athlon’s Projected Final Record: (9-3, 6-2 ACC)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 9

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 9

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 8.5

Teaser:
Why Clemson Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/fred-biletnikoff-award-watch-list-missing-marquee-wide-receivers
Body:

The Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation did little to honor their award's namesake when the preseason Fred Biletnikoff Award watch list was released on Wednesday, as several marquee wide receivers expected to make a lot of noise on the collegiate gridiron in 2015 were missing.

 

Of the 48 names listed by 215 national journalists, broadcasters and former players, the overshadowing failure to include Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell, Auburn’s D’haquille “Duke” Williams, and Pitt’s Tyler Boyd is an embarrassment to the award. Both Boyd and Treadwell are selected as Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-Americans, with Williams landing on the second team.

 

Related: College Football 2015 All-America Team

 

In nine games last season Treadwell was as good of a receiver as anyone else in the nation. The numbers show 48 receptions for 632 yards with five scores, but he was the heart and soul of the Rebels’ offense and a tremendous run-blocker. Treadwell was stopped from a game-winning, last-minute touchdown against Auburn on a play that also ended his season. If he can bounce back from his leg injury, Treadwell will be one of the best in the nation.

 

Williams is another SEC wideout to watch out for in 2015. Williams was a JUCO transfer, who had to learn Gus Malzahn’s offense last season. He also had dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall and his run-first mentality under center. New starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson throws darts and should help expand the Tigers’ offense vertically and laterally, giving Auburn a true game-changing threat in the pocket, which in turn should present more stat-filling opportunities for Williams.

 

The omission of Boyd is perhaps the most embarrassing of all. Boyd has posted back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons for the Panthers, earning first-team All-ACC honors as a sophomore last season. After pulling down 78 passes for 1,261 yards with eight touchdowns, while averaging 98 receiving yards per game last season, he is now on a collegiate career track similar to that of another Pittsburgh great, Larry Fitzgerald. The big question for Boyd this season is will new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney help or hurt his cause?

 

Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins' presence on the list is noteworthy in that he was one of the three finalists for last year's award. Higgins led the nation with 1,750 receiving yards and 17 touchdown catches on 96 receptions as a sophomore last season. Higgins, Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White were the 2014 finalists with Cooper winning the Biletnikoff Award after leading the nation with 124 catches, which went for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns (second nationally in both categories).

 

As far as Higgins' 2015 outlook goes, his production might see a slight drop off with record-setting quarterback Garrett Grayson, starting running back Dee Hart, and head coach Jim McElwain all gone, but all may not be lost. When McElwain left for Florida Mike Bobo left his position as Georgia’s offensive coordinator to take over the Rams. Sophomore Nick Stevens has picked up the offense and Higgins does have running mate Joe Hansley on the other side of the field to help keep defenses honest.

 

Other notable players to watch as possible Biletnikoff Award semifinalists include TCU’s Josh Doctson (65-1,018-11), Western Michigan’s Corey Davis (78-1,408-16), and Baylor’s Corey Coleman (64-1,119-11).

 

The Biletnikoff Award has been presented to the top wide receiver in college football since 1994. Other notable winners include Randy Moss (Marshall – 1997), Antonio Bryant (Pitt – 2000), Larry Fitzgerald (Pitt - 2003), Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech – 2006), Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech – 2007, '08), and Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State – 2010, '11).

 

One thing to keep in mind, Treadwell, Williams and Boyd (and any other wide receiver not named) can be added to the watch list as the season progresses. The ten semifinalists will be announced on No. 16 and the three finalists will be named on Nov. 24. The winner will be revealed on Dec. 10.

 

Biletnikoff Award Watch List

 

Victor Bolden, Oregon State
Devonte Boyd, UNLV
Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan
Ryan Burbrink, Bowling Green
KD Cannon, Baylor
Leonte Carroo, Rutgers
Rashon Ceaser, Louisiana-Monroe
Corey Coleman, Baylor
Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
River Cracraft, Washington State
Jared Dangerfield, Western Kentucky
Corey Davis, Western Michigan
Josh Doctson, TCU
Travin Dural, LSU
Alex Erickson, Wisconsin
William Fuller, Notre Dame
Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
Donovan Harden, Georgia State
Carlos Harris, North Texas
Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
Ajalen Holley, Louisiana-Monroe
Cayleb Jones, Arizona
Corey Jones, Toledo
Isaiah Jones, East Carolina
Marcus Kemp, Hawaii
Roger Lewis, Bowling Green
Keevan Lucas, Tulsa
Byron Marshall, Oregon
Mitch Mathews, BYU
Teldrick Morgan, New Mexico State
Jordan Payton, UCLA
Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
Jalen Robinette, Air Force
Demarcus Robinson, Florida
Alonzo Russell, Toledo
Artavis Scott, Clemson
Hunter Sharp, Utah State
Tajae Sharpe, Massachusetts
Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
Thomas Sperbeck, Boise State
Nelson Spruce, Colorado
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
Michael Thomas, Ohio State
Shaq Washington, Cincinnati
Mike Williams, Clemson
Ron Willoughby, Buffalo

 

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

Teaser:
Fred Biletnikoff Award Watch List Missing Marquee Wide Receivers
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 10:30
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Path: /overtime/terrell-owens-skip-bayless-idiot-nfl-rich-eisen-show
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Terrell Owens is no longer a part of the active sports world, but some people in it still bother him.

 

While on The Rich Eisen Show, the former NFL wide receiver mentioned one ESPN personality and kept it real when describing him. Around the 9:00 mark, Owens says talks about just the kind of person Skip Bayless is.

 

"Skip is Skip," Owens said. "He's an idiot. Sometimes I literally was like, I was a good target for him. I think he needed to say my name to make himself relevant."

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 10:18
Path: /college-football/ranking-tough-games-michigan-states-college-football-schedule-2015
Body:

Despite the departure of a bevy of NFL talent and their defensive coordinator over the last couple of seasons, the Michigan State Spartans are still widely regarded as the second-best team in the Big Ten.

 

There is still plenty to be excited about in East Lansing, starting at quarterback. Senior signal-caller Connor Cook is expected to be one of the premier passers in the nation and the face of yet another Big Ten title run.

 

Related: Michigan State Spartans 2015 Preview and Prediction

 

The Michigan State schedule is a bit top-heavy, which means a couple of things. Most notably, it means there will be little margin for error — not just in those big games — but in games Mark Dantonio's team will be heavily favored in. The Spartans will need to take care of business and do so soundly each week if they want to stay in the College Football Playoff conversation.

 

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

 

12. Sept. 26 vs. Central Michigan

This is the first of two in-state matchups with MAC teams. Talent and home-field advantage should be enough to make this a lopsided win for the Spartans. Anything less would be cause for concern.
 

 

11. Sept. 4 at Western Michigan

It's rare for a high-profile team like the Spartans to open on the road against a "Group of Five" school, but that's exactly what's happening here. If this were anything but the first game of the season, I might be nervous. As it is, a more talented Spartan team has been prepping for this game all summer and likely won't be challenged in this one.

 

 

10. Oct. 24 vs. Indiana

Unlike last season, Indiana's strength on offense is more than likely going to be the passing game. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, that's been the strength of Michigan State's defense recently. Additionally, the Hoosiers don't have enough on defense to contain Connor Cook and Co.

 

 

9. Oct. 3 vs. Purdue

The Boilermakers get the nod over Indiana on the strength of what they return on offense. Purdue is likely to challenge Michigan State's defense with a more balanced attack. Be that as it may, this should still just be a tune-up for the Spartans as they prepare for the meat of the Big Ten schedule.

 

8. Nov. 14 vs. Maryland

This has trap game written all over it. The home contest with Maryland is sandwiched between road trips to Nebraska and Ohio State. It'll be a tough one for the Spartans to get hyped for, but their talent should be enough to get them through it.

 

 

7. Sept. 19 vs. Air Force

Preparing for Air Force is always difficult due to the Falcons' unique offensive attack. Making this even more difficult for the Spartans this season will be the fact that they will be coming off of a matchup with Oregon that will likely be an exhausting one — both mentally and physically. This game has a chance of being Michigan State's first surprise stumble of the season.

 

 

6. Nov. 28 vs. Penn State

There are two likely scenarios heading into this game: Michigan State is either coming off of a loss to Ohio State and could be vulnerable, or the Spartans just knocked off the Buckeyes and will have one more hurdle to clear in order to make it to Indy for the Big Ten title game. Either way, the Spartans will need to be focused to face Christian Hackenberg and a talented Penn State squad.

 

 

5. Oct. 10 at Rutgers

This is another trap game scenario. After three straight weeks of going through the motions against inferior teams, the Spartans must avoid looking past Rutgers before their trip to Ann Arbor. The Rutgers faithful will be pumped to welcome another Big Ten giant to their unfriendly confines - likely with either a white, red or black-out serving as the backdrop. Focus, again, will be key for Michigan State.

 

 

4. Oct. 17 at Michigan

Records won't matter in this one. Michigan fans will pack the Big House for Jim Harbaugh's first matchup against the in-state rival/little brother, hoping to once again claim dominance. It will be loud, emotional and grueling, regardless of the talent level on either side.

 

 

3. Nov. 7 at Nebraska

The Spartans were lucky to come out of their last two matchups against Nebraska with wins. Questionable calls/antics by former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini helped Michigan State in those games. They likely won't be so lucky this season, as Mike Riley brings a more focused and disciplined approach to the Nebraska program. The Huskers return the core of a team that won nine games and nearly knocked off USC in the postseason. The trip to Lincoln won't be an easy one for the Spartans in 2015.

 

 

2. Sept. 12 vs. Oregon

Marcus Mariota is gone, but plenty of talent remains on the Oregon roster. The Ducks are still a team loaded with speed on both sides of the ball. Michigan State will need to counter Oregon blow for blow and hope to wear the Ducks down with a power-running game late.

 

 

1. Nov. 21 at Ohio State

This is the No. 1 game on the Buckeyes' schedule as well. It's a season-defining contest for both teams, and they'll each try to dictate the tempo with different strengths. The Buckeyes will likely be favored, but Cook's leadership and the resiliency shown against Baylor in the bowl game last season are both reasons to believe the Spartans can win this one.

 

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

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on Michigan State's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 10:00
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If you're stepping to Ronda Rousey, you better come correct.

 

During the ESPYS, Cardale Jones sent a few tweets to the fighter and although she wasn't checking Twitter at that time, she did answer the next day. The Ohio State quarterback wasn't afraid to take his shots with Rousey, and she seemed to have fun with it.

 

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Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 09:31
Path: /college-football/top-15-sec-non-conference-games-2015
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The College Football Playoff Committee proved the general trend of tougher scheduling last fall. 

 

The SEC doesn't have nearly as much problem with scheduling, as its league schedules are the toughest in college football (along with the Pac-12). But to top it off, the SEC has more high-level non-conference games than any other league in the nation. 

 

Which is why the SEC might be the only league that could get a two-loss team into the College Football Playoff.

 

 AwayHomeDate
1.Sept. 5*

The modern Big Ten power and traditional SEC power have only met once in history, a 15-0 Badgers win at home in 1928. The fast track in Arlington, Texas, should help an already superior Alabama team. The Crimson Tide is a 10-point favorite over the Big Red. A win by Wisconsin would rock the college football world right out of the gate.

2.Sept. 12

Tennessee and Oklahoma have played three times. The Vols won in 1939 while OU took a '68 meeting and a 34-10 outcome last season. The game last fall was closer than the 24-point margin and this year’s battle means a lot for both teams. Both have conference title aspirations and an early win over a ranked foe could catapult one into national conversations.

3.Sept. 5*
The Aggies and Sun Devils have never met before and fans on both sides should be thoroughly entertained throughout the pseudo-neutral site season opener. Two great offenses should light up the Houston skyline en route to a feather-in-the-cap non-con win.
4.Nov. 28
The Gators lead the all-time series lead in the Sunshine State rivalry 34-23-2, but the Noles have been the better team since Jimbo Fisher arrived. Florida State has won four of the last five, including its last two trips inside The Swamp.
5.Nov. 28
Paul Johnson's squad broke through with a huge 30-24 win over the Dawgs in Athens last season. It was just Johnson's second win in seven tries against Georgia and his first since beating Mark Richt in his first year at Georgia Tech (2008). There is an outside chance both teams are poised to play in a championship game a week after this meeting. 
Related: SEC Football Teams as Rock and Roll
6.Sept. 5*

Bobby Petrino has won all 10 season openers but will have a tough time against the heavily favored Tigers. Louisville won the only previous meeting between the two programs, a 16-3 win in Birmingham back in 1974.

7.Nov. 28

The Tigers own a 66-42-4 all-time series lead but are coming off their first win in the rivalry since 2008. Clemson could be eyeing a Playoff bid in the season finale and will be looking for its first win in Williams-Brice Stadium since 2007. Dabo Swinney is 2-5 against Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks.

8.Nov. 14*

A bizarre but interesting matchup of underrated coaches takes place at an odd time, halfway through November. The Tigers and Cougars have only played once before, a 21-17 BYU win in the 1983 Holiday Bowl. Taysom Hill vs. Maty Mauk late in the year sounds fun to me (if both can stay healthy).

9.Sept. 3*

The Carolina Bowl has only taken place twice since 1991 with the South side winning both times (2007, '13). This season opener features two defenses that are in desperate need of improvement if either team has any prayer of competing in their respective divisions. 

10.Nov. 28
The Governor's Cup and in-state bragging rights hang in the balance for the 28th time and the 22nd straight season. Kentucky leads the all-time series 14-13 but has lost four straight to Louisville, including last season's 44-40 thriller in Papa John's Stadium.
11.Oct. 17
A regional rivalry could be a huge mid-season game for both teams. Memphis is coming off a 10-win season and played much better in Oxford last fall than the 24-3 score indicated. Ole Miss has won six straight in the series and is 48-10-2 all-time against the Tigers. Seven of Memphis' 10 wins in the series have come at home.
12.Sept. 19
Old conference foes reunited last season for the first time since 1991. Arkansas owns a commanding 29-7 all-time lead and added to it last year with an impressive 49-28 showing in Lubbock. The Hogs are better this year and at home. Good luck, Kliff.
13.Sept. 12
Florida beat East Carolina 28-20 in the Birmingham Bowl last season, adding intrigue and familiarity to an interesting early-season test for Jim McElwain. The new Gators coach has an elite defense but major questions on offense and ECU is a good enough program to scare a team as imperfect as Florida. The Gators won the only other meeting in 1983.
14.Sept. 26
Twenty years ago, the Orange would have been a huge favorite in this game. With LSU boasting as good a roster as anyone in the nation and Syracuse reeling under Scott Shafer, it's the Tigers who are the huge favorite. That said, it's a road game a long way from home against a Power 5 team. The all-time series is tied 1-1 and hasn't taken place since 1989 and never in the Carrier Dome.
15.Oct. 17

There are plenty of interesting Group of 5 games within the SEC but Mississippi State's might be the most intriguing. This is a team that needs impressive wins and a mid-October bout with a well-coached program picked to win its league could be testy.

* - neutral field

 

Best of the Rest:

 

Toledo vs. Arkansas, Sept. 12*

UL Lafayette at Kentucky, Sept. 5

Missouri at Arkansas State, Sept. 12

Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt, Sept. 5

Georgia Southern at Georgia, Nov. 21

Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee, Oct. 3

Teaser:
Top 15 SEC Non-Conference Games of 2015
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-wild-card-players-2015
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It could be a very special season in South Bend. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish return both leading receivers and their leading rusher from a season ago. The ultra-talented Malik Zaire takes over full-time under center behind an offensive line that returns three starters. Additionally, Zaire and Co. will have a defense that returns 10 starters from a season ago as a security blanket.

 

All that's left is to play the games — and win them, of course.

 

Related: Ranking the Toughest Games on Notre Dame's Schedule in 2015

 

Notre Dame's schedule is no joke, as the Irish take on three teams that will be in the hunt for their respective conference titles and possibly berths in the College Football Playoff. Given how we saw the new system work a season ago, the Irish will likely need to win every game on their slate in order to be considered for the Playoff. Aside from the obvious stars, four Notre Dame players will need to step up and have big seasons for that to happen.

 

Here are the "wild card" players for Notre Dame in 2015.

 

Durham Smythe, Tight End

After catching only a single pass in 2014, it looks as though the 6-4 Texas native will be stepping into that all important starting tight end role for the Irish. Notre Dame's skill players are going to get plenty of attention all season, making Smythe's ability to get open underneath and over the middle that much more important in the crunch. If he can be anything close to as productive as some of his recent predecessors — particularly in the red zone — the Irish could have one of the more explosive offensives in the nation.

 

Quenton Nelson, Guard

Starting for Notre Dame comes with plenty of pressure as it is. Starting as a freshman in the middle of the offensive line is an entirely different animal altogether. Nelson will be flanked by a talented left tackle and center, but he'll have to step up and be elite on his own for the Irish offense to fire on all cylinders. A lot rests on his ability to handle that pressure.

 

Joe Schmidt, Linebacker

Schmidt's phenomenal 2014 season was cut short by a month due to injury. His ability to bounce back and pick up where he left off will be key this season. He'll be surrounded by plenty of other talent and experience, but the guys in the defensive huddle will be looking to Schmidt to lead them by example in their quest for a title.

 

KeiVarae Russell, Cornerback

Russell returns to the Notre Dame starting lineup after missing all of 2014 because of an academic ban. With that behind him, he'll look to reclaim his status as one of the better cornerbacks in the country. He'll need to be exactly that, as the Irish's path to the College Football Playoff includes a couple of elite signal-callers capable of doing damage to any defense they face.

 

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

Teaser:
Notre Dame Wild Card Players for 2015
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 09:00
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Path: /overtime/jj-watt-helps-break-news-fan-going-be-father-houston-texans
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How did your significant other announce she was pregnant? However she did it, it wasn't as awesome as this.

 

A fan got the help of Texans star J.J. Watt to tell her husband that he's going to be a father.

 

 

Let's hope the father was as excited as Watt looks. 

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Post date: Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 14:41

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