Articles By Braden Gall

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It’s a cliché for a reason and it’s survived more than 2,000 years for a reason.

 

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” — which some say first originated in 3rd century B.C. — applies to most subjective arguments hundreds of years later. Especially, when it comes to ranking things in the college football world.

 

Ranking past teams, current coaches, logos, uniforms and pretty much anything else that can be bantered about on a message board is, by definition, subjective. Part of what makes college football great (in my opinion) is a vibrant college campus on Saturdays in the fall. Nowhere else in sports is the pageantry, passion and connectivity of a sports team and its fans more obvious than at a great college football game.

 

Colorful tailgating with eclectic menus, picturesque college towns, massive ear-shattering crowds, unique and historic traditions all make college football games special. And varied.

 

Fans can float to a game in Seattle or Knoxville, eat anything under the sun in Baton Rouge, watch an entire team touch a small stone before sprinting down a hill in Clemson and so much more.

 

Athlon has polled 15 experts in an effort to rank the best college football stadiums and game day atmospheres in the nation. Some, like me, value the tailgating experience, the surrounding area and the intimidation factor of the crowd. Others value the traditions steeped in decades of experience. While others only care about home-field advantage.

 

There is no right or wrong answer. Athlon tabulated the ballots, giving each No. 1 vote 10 points all the way to one point for a No. 10 vote. Here is what we learned:

 

The Panel:

 

Tim Brando, SiriusXM/Fox Sports

Bruce Feldman, Fox Sports

Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports

Dan Rubenstein, SB Nation

Bryan Fischer, NFL.com

Travis Haney, ESPN

Kevin McGuire, NBC Sports
Jeremy Fowler, CBS Sports

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network
JC Shurburtt, 247Sports

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Mike Huguenin, NFL.com

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM

 

The Results:

 

StadiumSchoolPointsBallots
1. Tiger Stadium12013
2. Ohio Stadium10515
3. Autzen Stadium6412
4. Kyle Field619
5. Bryant-Denny Stadium487
6. Notre Dame Stadium479
7. Neyland Stadium436
8. Sanford Stadium4212
9. Husky Stadium367
10. Beaver Stadium317

ORV: UCLA (30), Auburn (30), Clemson (30), Florida (28), Michigan (28), Wisconsin (23), Army (19), Nebraska (13), USC (11), Oklahoma (5), Virginia Tech (4), Texas (3), Air Force (2), BYU (1), South Carolina (1), Stanford (1)

 

Listen to Athlon Sports' latest Cover 2 College Football podcast:


What we learned:

 

• LSU’s Tiger Stadium, which is going through a major upgrade this offseason, was on all but two ballots and ran away with top billing. Death Valley received seven first-place votes, the most of any team in the nation by a wide margin. Notre Dame Stadium and Neyland Stadium were the only other buildings to receive more than one first-place vote. Tiger Stadium was ranked No. 1 or No. 2 on 11 of the 15 ballots.

 

• Ohio Stadium, affectionately known as The Horseshoe, was the only stadium to be on every single ballot. The Buckeyes' home turf was a clear No. 2 and was the only building even close to LSU. It only got one first-place vote from the panel but was no lower than seventh on any ballot.

 

• Kyle Field in College Station could easily become the best place to watch a college football game in the very near future. The Aggies' home venue finished fourth, well behind OSU and LSU and just behind Oregon, but with new renovations underway to make it one of the largest buildings in the nation, Texas A&M could easily jump to the top of this list. It was a fantastic place to see a game well before TAMU joined the SEC or upgraded the building.

 

• Oregon and Washington have underrated venues among most fans but these media experts don’t think so. Both the Ducks' and Huskies' fabulous, high-tech digs landed in the top 10 among experts, ranking third and ninth nationally. Both are extremely scenic and both have produced big winners in the past. Oregon finishing third in the overall rankings might be the biggest surprise of the voting.

 

• S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C. People are tired of hearing it but part of the reason the SEC is the best conference in football is the venues. Five of the top 10 and seven of the top 13 hail from the SEC while eight total stadiums received at least one vote. Interestingly enough, Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium was on less than half of the ballots but was no lower than fifth, while Georgia’s Sanford Stadium was on 12 ballots but was higher than seventh only twice. Florida, South Carolina and Auburn also received votes.

 

• Small(er) stadiums can be charming for a variety of a reasons and Army’s Michie Stadium is a perfect example. It only seats 38,000 people but it landed on three ballots and got one first-place vote for reasons mostly other than football. Overlooking the Hudson River, there are few sights in college football like the West Point cadets marching into a football game on a fall Saturday.

 

• Seven different buildings got a first-place vote. LSU (7), Tennessee (2) and Notre Dame (2) got the majority of the votes but The Rose Bowl, Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ohio Stadium in Columbus and Michie each got one first-place vote as well.

 

• Where is the ACC? Clemson was voted as the top choice to catch a game in the ACC but was tied for 11th overall nationally. Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium was the only other ACC venue to receive a vote (21st).

 

• Nebraska and Oklahoma seem to be the most "underrated" buildings to receive a vote but there are some names I was surprised not to see in the voting. The buildings I was most surprised to see go without a single vote: Doak Campbell (Florida State), Razorback Stadium (Arkansas) and Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium (Ole Miss).

Teaser:
The Top Stadiums in College Football: Experts Poll
Post date: Monday, July 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-ten-stats-you-need-know-2014
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Here are Athlon Sports' favorite, most important and most interesting Big Ten statistics you need to know about in 2014:

 

0-0: Big Ten teams in the BCS title game not named Ohio State

Nebraska's 2001 national championship game appearance doesn't count for the Big Ten (although, the Big Ten would probably be fine with the Big 12 keeping that one). So other than Ohio State's BCS win in 2002 and losses in 2006 and '07, no other Big Ten team made a showing in the BCS National Championship Game. Some compare conferences by overall depth, focusing on the top of the standings, be it quantity or quality. But at the end of the year, only one conference can be called a champion and the Big Ten did it one time during the BCS' 16-year run. Five different SEC teams made 11 total national title appearances during the BCS Era. Other teams around Ohio State need to elevate themselves to national contention if the Big Ten wants to keep pace with the nation's best. Hiring coaches like James Franklin at Penn State is a great start.

 

$44.5 million: Projected new Big Ten payout

Recently, the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier reported that the projected payout to Big Ten schools each year from the conference will be a staggering $44.5 million in 2017-18. That's nearly double the league's current and nation-leading $25.7 million payout. Jim Delany added both Maryland and Rutgers not to improve the play on the field immediately but to grow the Big Ten's footprint into population-rich areas. He knows his league is facing stagnant population growth — by far the worst of the major five leagues — and by expanding east into talent-rich areas of the country, he hopes his league will be able to elevate both the Terps and Knights to a new level of competition.

 

5.4%: Population growth in the Big Ten footprint

Before moving to Fox Sports recently, Stewart Mandel reported in Sports Illustrated that the Big Ten's biggest obstacle isn't Nick Saban or the SEC but rather slowed regional population growth. The Big Ten footprint is slated to grow by just 5.4 percent in population by 2030, a number well behind the other four major conferences. The Pac-12 is projected to grow the most, projecting a whopping 28.9 percent growth by 2030. The SEC is second at a projected 25.9 percent growth. The Big 12 isn't far behind at 22.4 percent and the ACC is fourth at 18.6 percent growth. As CFBMatrix.com shows, overall population is directly tied to recruiting base as well as TV contracts. Any way the numbers are sliced, the Big Ten is lagging significantly behind the other major leagues in one of the most crucial statistical categories.

 

42: Wins for Michigan State in the last four years

Among Big 5 schools, only Oregon (47), Stanford (46), Alabama (46), Florida State (45), LSU (44) and Oklahoma (43) have won more games over the last four years than the Spartans. That's more wins than Clemson, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame or Auburn, to name a few, and the same number as Ohio State and South Carolina. Mark Dantonio finally broke through last fall, winning a school-record 13 games and claiming both the Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships. Replacing over half of his defensive production will be a tall order, especially with massive road showdowns in Eugene and Happy Valley looming (as well as a visit from OSU), but fans around the country shouldn't expect a significant step back from Sparty in 2014. If anything, Dantonio has proven he can plug holes quickly on both sides of the ball.

 

Listen to the latest Cover 2 College Football podcast:

 

18-8: James Franklin's record the last two years

People are obsessed with James Franklin moving from the SEC to the Big Ten and Athlon Sports might be just as guilty as anyone. Penn State made it into the preseason Top 25 and is picked to win 10 games behind the leadership of its new head coach. The detractors will point to offensive line issues in Happy Valley — a concern that is warranted — and that Franklin has yet to prove himself on the biggest of stages. However, the latter argument holds no water. Franklin led Vanderbilt to unprecedented levels of success. The Commodores had never been to three consecutive bowl games, hadn't won eight games in back-to-back seasons since 1926-27 and hadn't ever beaten Florida, Georgia and Tennessee in the same season. Franklin did all of that in Nashville during his three seasons leading Vanderbilt. Now, he comes home to The Keystone State where his charismatic persona, progressive thinking and verbal sparring matches will transform Penn State from a traditional program with elite history to a forward-thinking national powerhouse. Franklin's is a personality that the Big Ten desperately needs.

 

48.7%: Wisconsin's opponents winning percentage from 2013

Only two Big Ten teams will play a schedule in 2014 that posted a combined record under .500 a year ago. Wisconsin (48.7%) and Iowa (49.3%) play, statistically, the worst schedules in the Big Ten this fall as both will avoid Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State in crossover play. Using last year's win-loss records to determine overall strength of schedule has many flaws, one of which is the volatile nature of college football rosters, but there is a reason why Athlon Sports is projecting the Badgers and Hawkeyes to finish 1-2 in the Big Ten West Division. Both have extremely manageable schedules that set up very well for a run at a Big Ten title game.

 

6,584 and 64: Braxton Miller total yards and TDs under Urban Meyer

Few players fit into their coach's scheme better than Braxton Miller does with Urban Meyer's spread. In each of the last two seasons under Meyer, Miller has thrown for at least 2,000 yards, rushed for at least 1,000 yards, scored 64 total touchdowns and led his team to a 24-0 record in the regular season. Miller's passer rating, completion percentage and yards per carry has gone up in three consecutive seasons. For his career, Miller has accounted for 84 total touchdowns and has thrown just 17 interceptions. Should he stay healthy and continue his developmental trend, Miller has a shot to land in New York at season's end.

 

3.3: Yards per carry for Michigan's rushing offense

Rich Rodriguez and Michigan averaged 5.6 yards per carry on offense — good for fifth in the nation — during his final season in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines' rushing proficiency has gotten worse every season since he departed. In his first year, Brady Hoke's offense averaged 5.2 yards per carry (16th nationally). That number dropped to 4.8 yards per carry in 2012 (38th nationally) and plummeted to 3.3 yards per carry a year ago. Michigan ranked 115h nationally last year in rushing average, ahead of only Purdue in the Big Ten and only a few other Big 5 teams (Virginia Tech, Washington State, Wake Forest). Hoke's top two returning rushers are Devin Gardner (2.9 ypc) and Derrick Green (3.3 ypc). Needless to say, Doug Nussmeier's first order of business is to fix the Maize and Blue rushing attack.

 

4: Nebraska's losses every year under Bo Pelini

How could it be any other number? Sure, Ameer Abdullah is the nation's leading returning rusher from a year ago at 130.0 yards per game, but that's boring compared to Bo Pelini's remarkable streak of six consecutive seasons with exactly four losses. To lose exactly four games in each of his six seasons at Nebraska seems borderline impossible in the volatile modern college football landscape. And Pelini has done it every way imaginable. He went 6-1 down the stretch and nearly beat national runner-up Texas in the Big 12 title game in 2009. He won the last four and six of seven in his first year in '08 as well. He lost the final two games of the year in '12 in ugly fashion and three out of the last four in '10. He methodically alternated wins and losses down the stretch in both '11 and '13. Most teams in the nation would take nine or 10 wins every season. But expectations in Lincoln have been of the national championship variety for decades, so the relationship between Pelini and his fan base will once again be one of the most fascinating to watch in the nation. Especially, if the Huskers finish third in the division with an 8-4 record this fall. 

 

15.9: Yards per touch for Stefon Diggs

Maryland's receiving corps could be the best in the Big Ten — if it stays healthy. Both Stefon Diggs and Deon Long were lost to season-ending injuries last fall and both are slated to return this summer to full strength. Long is a solid player who was averaging nearly 70 yards receiving per game through seven contests but getting Diggs back could mean the difference in a bowl game or not for the Terps. On 176 career touches, Diggs is averaging 15.9 yards per play and has totaled 2,808 all-purpose yards in just 18 career games. He catches passes (88 rec.), runs the ball (27 att.) and returns both kickoffs (37 att.) and punts (24 att.). Randy Edsall needs his star playmaker in the lineup for a full season.

 

527.9: Yards allowed per game by Indiana

Kevin Wilson has led the Big Ten in passing in each of the last two seasons, averaging over 300 yards per game in both seasons. No Big Ten team had topped 300 yards passing per game for a season since Northwestern and Purdue did it in 2007. So offense isn't Wilson's problem entering a critical fourth season in Bloomington. The defense ranked 123rd in the nation last year at over 527.9 yards allowed per game — ahead of only Cal (529.6) and New Mexico State (549.5). Indiana hasn't been to a bowl since 2007 and hasn't won a bowl since '91, so if Wilson expects to end those droughts this season, he and his revamped defensive staff will have to make major strides with a unit that allowed 6.7 yards per play last year (117th nationally).

Teaser:
Big Ten Stats You Need to Know for 2014
Post date: Monday, July 7, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/auburn-football-2014-schedule-analysis
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The 2013 Auburn Tigers storybook season was one for the ages.

 

Auburn hired Gus Malzahn, went from worst to first in the SEC, played in a thrilling and heartbreaking BCS National Championship Game and most believe the offense could be even better in 2014.

 

Just don’t use the word “lucky” around War Eagle fans. But that is what Auburn was last year en route to two rivalry wins and an SEC championship. In fact, almost every championship team in every sport needed some factor of luck to win its title.

 

So the offense could be just as good and the defense — which gave up over 420 yards per game last year and over 35 points per game in November — could show improvement. But will the bounces go the Tigers’ way again?

 

With a dramatically improved schedule, a repeat as SEC champs will be extremely difficult but isn’t out of the question.

2014 Auburn Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Auburn Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 28
2.Sept. 6
3.Sept. 13Bye
4.Sept. 18at 
5.Sept. 27
6.Oct. 4
7.Oct. 11at 
8.Oct. 18Bye
9.Oct. 25
10.Nov. 1at 
11.Nov. 8
12.Nov. 15at 
13.Nov. 22Samford
14.Nov. 27at 
Perfect Start

The Auburn Tigers should be 2-0 heading into the first off weekend of the year on Sept. 13. The developing rivalry between Malzahn and Arkansas' Bret Bielema is fun to watch off of the field but likely won’t be very competitive on it. So Auburn figures to be 2-0 with extra time to prepare for a brutal road trip to Big 12 outpost Kansas State. The Xs and Os coaching chess match between Malzahn and Bill Snyder figures to be fascinating to watch on a Thursday night in primetime. This game will teach fans of both teams a lot about their team very early on.

 

Home cooking

In the heart of the schedule, Auburn will get three marquee SEC showdowns at home. LSU (Week 6), South Carolina (Week 9) and Texas A&M (Week 11) will all have to visit The Plains in a span of five games. The Tigers are looking for revenge of their own against LSU and will get an extra week to prepare for South Carolina with a bye weekend in Week 8. Both will be physical bouts where the last guy standing will win. And getting the Aggies late in the year isn’t an enviable position to be in for any SEC team, as Texas A&M should be one of the more improved teams over the course of the season.

 

Magnolia State Swing

There may not be a team in the nation that plays a tougher road schedule in the country than the Auburn Tigers. The tricky test in Manhattan is one of the tougher non-conference games the SEC will play all season. But package that with four tremendously difficult road games in the SEC and the Tigers will be lucky to stay in playoff contention. Two road trips to the Magnolia State to face both Mississippi State (Week 7) and Ole Miss (Week 10) come on the heels of physically taxing games against LSU and South Carolina. A 3-0 record in the first three road trips of the year would be a huge success for Malzahn.

 

Revenge Games

After three already tough road games, Auburn will have to face Georgia and Alabama on the road over the final three weeks of the season. Malzahn will be very aware of the revenge that will be at stake in both games and both will come away from the friendly and fortunate confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium. There is no telling what the standings will look like when these two games roll around, but fans can bet these rematches will carry significant weight in both the SEC and potential national championship races. 

 

Related: 2014 Auburn Tigers Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

Auburn could be better in 2014 and still not win the SEC title. The road slate is one of (if not the) toughest slate in the nation with five potential top 25 games taking place away from The Loveliest Village. The offense should be as good, if not better, and the defense should take small steps forward. But to repeat as SEC champs and earn a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff, the Tigers will likely need a few more lucky bounces. It may not be reasonable to expect more fortuitous breaks like Auburn got last year, but they may need them to repeat as SEC champs this fall.

Teaser:
Auburn Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, UCLA Bruins, Pac 12, News
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There are some who believe the Bruins will be playing for the national championship come January.

 

Should UCLA earn a playoff berth in the debut edition of the College Football Playoff, there will have been no doubt about its merit. The Bruins are poised to play at least six preseason Top 25 teams with a shot at playing possibly three top 10 teams by season’s end.

 

The offense is still led by all-everything quarterback Brett Hundley and should some playmakers develop around him, the Bruins should once again be one of the top offensive units in the nation. The defense is incredibly talented and maturing every month.

 

With coaching stability and a talented returning corps, UCLA should be ready to face one of the toughest schedules in the nation this fall.

 

2014 UCLA Schedule Analysis

 

2014 UCLA Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 30at 
2.Sept. 6
3.Sept. 13 (Arlington)
4.Sept. 20Bye
5.Sept. 25at
6.Oct. 4
7.Oct. 11
8.Oct. 18at 
9.Oct. 25at 
10.Nov. 1
11.Nov. 8at 
12.Nov. 15Bye
13.Nov. 22
14.Nov. 28
Leaving the West Coast 

Virginia was bad last year. Like, really bad. But they also upset BYU in Week 1 at home in bad conditions. UCLA should roll through the Cavaliers (and Memphis in Week 2) but Mora is likely looking for crisp performances in both games before a Texas-sized showdown in the Lone Star State in Week 3. The Bruins should expect a heavy Burnt Orange crowd in Arlington when UCLA faces Texas. The Horns will have already faced BYU and will be battle-tested under new coach Charlie Strong. A win for either could vault that program into the national spotlight very quickly while a loss could end all playoff hopes for the other. No pressure.

 

Early Pac-12 tests

Before UCLA gets doormats Cal and Colorado at the end of October, the Bruins will have to face a three-game stretch against the defending South Division champs on the road and the preseason Pac-12 favorite at home. The road team has won the first two meetings between Mora and Arizona State and a visit to Tempe won’t be an easy way to break into conference play. Should the Bruins return victorious — and beat Utah at home — then a potential top-5 matchup with Oregon in the Rose Bowl could steal national headlines. Once again, UCLA could be facing a playoff elimination game.

 

Not an easy November

After facing Texas, Arizona State and Oregon in the first two months, UCLA gets no breaks in the month of November. Arizona at home is manageable but the other three tests will be especially difficult. A road trip to Washington has “letdown alert” or “looking ahead” written all over it, as crosstown rival and South Division contender USC comes to town the next game. To top it off, UCLA will have to face two-time defending Pac-12 champ Stanford at home in the season finale. The only comfort for Mora over the final month is that three of the four games come at home and that there is an off weekend before the brutal two-game stretch to end the season.

 

Related: 2014 UCLA Bruins Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

The Bruins could be sitting at 10-0 with four or five marquee Top 25 wins entering the final two weeks of the season. And it all could be for naught. The margin for error in the Pac-12 this year is going to be razor thin and a two-loss team may not reach the playoffs. UCLA has the talent, the leadership and the coaching to be one of the best teams in the nation, but surviving this incredibly perilous slate unscathed seems rather impossible. However, an 11-win regular season and Pac-12 title is well within reach.

 

Teaser:
UCLA Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-toughest-college-football-schedules-2014
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The importance of scheduling in college football cannot be overstated. Sure, coaching, rosters and even a little bit of luck play bigger roles in determining championships in the NCAA ranks. But scheduling in college football plays as big a role as any of those other factors.

 

Non-conference play varies greatly from team to team. So, too, do home and road slates — especially for the championship-deciding, rivalry-bragging, marquee showdowns. And the important bye weekends also play a large role in ironing out win-loss records in any given season.

 

So taking all of the above into account, which team has the toughest schedule in the Big 12 in 2014 and how has that impacted our 2014 Big 12 Predictions.

 

* - indicates neutral site game

 

1. West Virginia Mountaineers

Non-Conference: Alabama*, Towson, at Maryland

Big 12 Road: Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas, Iowa State

Opponents ’13 Record: 97-59 (62.1%, 12th)

 

Things aren’t going to be easy in Morgantown for embattled coach Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers play one of the toughest non-conference slates with Alabama in Atlanta to start and a trip to Maryland in Week 3. Wrapping up September is a home date with Oklahoma, all but assuring a 1-3 start to the season. The slate alternates home and road dates over the final two months but features few winnable games with the exception of Kansas at home and Iowa State on the road. Even with five home Big 12 games, West Virginia boasts the toughest schedule in the league in 2014.

 

2. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Non-Conference: Florida State*, Missouri State, UTSA

Big 12 Road: Kansas, TCU, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma

Opponents ’13 Record: 86-65 (56.9%, 32nd)

 

Starting the season with the defending national champions is literally as hard as it gets, but the rest of the early schedule is manageable. The two other non-conference games are sure-fire wins and the month of October should provide at least three wins. Texas Tech at home (Week 5) and at TCU (Week 8) are two massive swing games in the first half of the season. The importance of an early run for the Pokes cannot be overstated because the second half of the schedule is as tough as it gets in the Big 12. Ok-State will face the top four teams in the league in succession to end the year, including road trips to Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma. 

 

3. Kansas State Wildcats

Non-Conference: Stephen F. Austin, Auburn, UTEP

Big 12 Road: Iowa St, Oklahoma, TCU, West Virginia, Baylor

Opponents ’13 Record: 79-72 (52.3%, 65th)

 

Facing the BCS runner-up at home is a brutal battle in the non-conference but both KSU and Auburn will have two weeks to prepare for the Thursday night showdown. An early road trip to the always pesky Cyclones in the previous game needs to be a win for Bill Snyder’s bunch. Following what should be an easy win over UTEP in Week 5, Kansas State gets no breaks until deep into November. The Wildcats will face Texas Tech, Oklahoma (away), Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU (away) over a six-week span before finally getting a “breather” in Morgantown. A home game with rival Kansas should be merely a tune-up for a road trip to Baylor. In all, Kansas State could face three top 10 teams, including the top two in the Big 12 on the road, and could face four more potential Top 25 teams as well.

 

4. Texas Longhorns

Non-Conference: North Texas, BYU, UCLA*

Big 12 Road: Kansas, Oklahoma*, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State

Opponents ’13 Record: 89-63 (58.6%, 26th)

 

The Longhorns and new coach Charlie Strong play the toughest non-conference slate of any team in the league but both will be in the state of Texas, as BYU comes to Austin and the UCLA game is in Arlington. Texas also has to face Big 12 bowl teams (and Achilles heels) Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech on the road. This, of course, doesn’t include the annual showdown with archrival and Big 12 front-runner Oklahoma. There is one solid home game with TCU and one huge home game with Baylor, otherwise, the majority of the Horns' Big 12 showdowns will come away from the 40 Acres. This schedule has plenty of chances for marquee wins and plenty of chances for major disappointments.

 

5. Iowa State Cyclones

Non-Conference: North Dakota State, at Iowa, Toledo

Big 12 Road: Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas, TCU

Opponents ’13 Record: 97-57 (62.9%, 7th)

 

According to last year’s records, Iowa State will play the toughest schedule in the league. However, everyone knows last year doesn’t count. The non-conference schedule has three very tricky games against North Dakota State (who beat Kansas State in Manhattan last year), archrival Iowa (on the road) and MAC West Division front-runner Toledo. Additionally, TCU and Texas both figure to be improved and both of those will come on the road. Lastly, season ticket holders in Ames should be either very excited or very worried about ’14 as Kansas State (Week 2), Baylor (Week 5), Oklahoma (Week 10), Texas Tech (Week 13) and West Virginia (Week 14) all visit Jack Trice Stadium this fall.

 

6. Kansas Jayhawks

Non-Conference: SE Missouri State, at Duke, Central Michigan

Big 12 Road: West Virginia, Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State

Opponents ’13 Record: 86-66 (56.6%, 38th)

 

First, not getting to face Kansas in Big 12 play makes it hard to find wins for the Jayhawks. Second, Kansas is very unlucky in that Duke is playing the best football of its entire existence, making a perfect 3-for-3 in non-conference play unlikely. Third, beleaguered coach Charlie Weis will face three of the best four teams in the league — Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State — on the road. This could be construed as a positive as the ‘Hawks aren’t likely to be competitive in those games and maybe getting more winnable games at home is the right recipe. TCU, Iowa State or Oklahoma State are spots for upsets at home. No matter where the games are being played, however, wins are going to be extremely tough to come by for a team picked to finish last in the Big 12.

 

7. TCU Horned Frogs

Non-Conference: Samford, Minnesota, at SMU

Big 12 Road: Baylor, West Virginia, Kansas, Texas

Opponents ’13 Record: 87-65 (57.2%, 30th)

 

The non-conference schedule is very manageable with a rivalry game against SMU looking easier by the day and a sneaky good bout with Minnesota coming at home. TCU should start 3-0 and then things heat up in a big way. TCU hosts both Oklahoma schools packaged around a road trip to Baylor to start October in brutal fashion. The second half of the schedule, however, provides plenty of chances for important wins in key swing games, like Texas Tech and Kansas State at home. The Horned Frogs will face four teams picked to finish in the bottom half of the league in the final six weeks. Minus a Thanksgiving road trip to Austin, TCU faces a very workable second half schedule in ’14.

 

8. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Non-Conference: Central Arkansas, at UTEP, Arkansas

Big 12 Road: Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU, Iowa State, Baylor*

Opponents ’13 Record: 74-75 (49.7%, 81st)

 

Two teams in the Big 12 will face a schedule whose opponents combined for a sub-.500 record last year and the Red Raiders are one of them (Oklahoma is the other). Arkansas could be a tricky clash of offensive tempos but Texas Tech should be perfect in non-conference play before Big 12 play begins with two tough road trips to Stillwater and Manhattan. Otherwise, Texas Tech won’t face any of the top three Big 12 teams on the road. Both Texas and Oklahoma come to Lubbock and the battle with Baylor is being played again in Arlington. The only problem is that all three of those games will take place in the final four weeks of the year, making another second half slump a concern for Kliff Kingsbury. This is a very manageable slate overall and Tech could be soaring into the final month with some marquee showdowns coming at home late in the year.

 

9. Baylor Bears

Non-Conference: SMU, Northwestern State, at Buffalo

Big 12 Road: Iowa State, Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas Tech*

Opponents ’13 Record: 78-72 (52.0%, 67th)

 

Baylor really faces a two-game schedule in 2014 and both will come on the road. Texas and Oklahoma both host the Bears, but Baylor has handled both programs with ease of late (especially, last year). Revenge against Oklahoma State and a tough game with Kansas State will be served in the friendly confines of brand-new McLane Stadium and a tricky game with Texas Tech comes in Arlington. Outposts in Ames and Morgantown should have Art Briles worried as well, however, Baylor dropped 144 points on Iowa State and West Virginia combined last year. With an easy non-conference slate and just two Top 25 games in the league, Baylor is poised to roll through another schedule.

 

10. Oklahoma Sooners

Non-Conference: Louisiana Tech, at Tulsa, Tennessee

Big 12 Road: West Virginia, TCU, Texas*, Iowa State, Texas Tech

Opponents ’13 Record: 71-78 (47.6%, 93rd)

 

As the team predicted to win the league, Oklahoma has one distinct advantage over every other team: It doesn’t have to face Oklahoma. It also gets Texas on a neutral site — one Bob Stoops has dominated — hosts the Baylor Bears (who have never won in Norman) and plays a very simple non-conference schedule. There is a lot to like about the Sooners' slate as the toughest road test of the year will take place in either Fort Worth or Lubbock. Of the top four teams picked to finish in the top half of the league, Oklahoma will play three of them at home (Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State) and gets Texas in the Cotton Bowl. There is a reason Oklahoma was picked to win the league and land in the College Football Playoff.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News, World Cup
Path: /overtime/what-if-americas-greatest-athletes-played-soccer
Body:

You want to know why the United States never has a shot at winning the World Cup?

 

It has nothing to do with our love of capitalism or that many believe the sport is boring. It has nothing to do with our country lacking athletic ability or other nations simply being superior humans.

 

The answer is simple. With no disrespect to Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan or Claudio Reyna, the best athletes in the country grow up dunking basketballs, hitting fastballs and tackling running backs.

 

So imagine what our Men’s National World Cup team would look like if this country’s greatest athletes had grown up kicking a soccer ball for hours everyday instead?

 

Assuming that no current men’s soccer players are eligible — because Howard would probably still make the starting line-up — Athlon Sports took a shot at projecting our starting line-up if everybody in the US played soccer and only soccer.

Men's National Team Starting Line-Up:

 

 

Full 23-man roster:

 

Starting Forward: LeBron James, F, Miami Heat
Starting Forward: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions

Back-up: A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Back-up: Justin Gatlin, Track & Field

 

Offensive Midfielder: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Offensive Midfielder: Mike Trout, OF, LA Angels
Offensive Midfielder: Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City Thunder

Back-up: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Back-up: Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints

Back-up: Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

 

Defensive Midfielder: John Wall, G, Washington Wizards

Defensive Midfielder: Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks

Back-up: Patrick Peterson, DB, Arizona Cardinals
Back-up: Jon Jones, MMA
Back-up: Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs

 

Defender: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers

Defender: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Houston Texans

Defender: Kawhi Leonard, F, San Antonio Spurs

Back-up: Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Back-up: Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay Bucs
Back-up: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans

 

Goalkeeper: Jonathan Quick, G, LA Kings

Back-up: Dwight Howard, C, Houston Rockets

Teaser:
What if America's Greatest Athletes Played Soccer?
Post date: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 11:39
Path: /college-football/complete-history-big-ten-realignment
Body:

Conference realignment reached a fever pitch a few years ago and it caused great headaches for fans and coaches across the nation.

 

The dollars and “sense” of conference realignment blazed a path through college football for a few years following the turn of the century, however, teams shifting leagues for greener pastures isn’t a new phenomenon.

 

The Big Ten was created in 1896, is the oldest Division I collegiate conference in the NCAA and is adding two new teams this July in Maryland and Rutgers. Did you know the University of Chicago was a founding member? Or that Michigan was kicked out of the league for a decade?

 

The point is conference realignment has been happening for over 100 years of college football, and, while the process escalated to dizzying speeds recently, it’s not even close to ending. Want some proof? Here is a complete look at the history of the Big Ten conference and how realignment has shaped the league over time.

 

The Commissioners:

 

John Griffith, 1922-44 (died in office)

Kenneth “Tug” Wilson, 1945-61

William Reed, 1961-71 (died in office)

Wayne Duke, 1971-89

Jim Delany, 1989-present

 

The Timeline:

 

1896: The Big Ten is formed as the first major collegiate conference of universities. Purdue president James Smart is credited with spearheading the decision to regulate and control intercollegiate athletics. The seven founding members were the University of Chicago, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin. Lake Forest College attended the 1895 meeting that eventually spawned what was then referred to as the Western Conference, but it did not join the league.

 

1899: Iowa and Indiana both join the Big Ten Conference three years after its inception. It was then commonly called the Big Nine. Both Iowa and Indiana would begin athletic competition the following year. Interestingly enough, Nebraska petitioned to join the league the same year (and would again request an invitation in 1911 to no avail).

 

1908: Michigan was voted out of the conference due to rules issues. The Wolverines failed to adhere to league-wide regulations and were subsequently ruled inactive.

 

1912: Ohio State joins the league.

 

1917: After Michigan was finally allowed back into the conference after its decade-long hiatus, the term Big Ten became an instantly popular way to refer to the conference.

 

1946: Due to the on-going World War in Europe, the University of Chicago had de-emphasized athletics in 1939 by discontinuing its football program. By 1946, Chicago withdrew from the league. The Big Ten went back to being referred to as the Big Nine.

 

1950: Michigan State is invited to join the Big Nine and does so to return the total number of league institutions to ten. The term Big Ten was re-adopted at this point. It would begin athletic competition in 1953.

 

1987: Technically, the league had been named the “Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives.” But since ICFR doesn’t roll off the tongue, the league officially changed its name to The Big Ten when it was incorporated as a non-profit business entity.

 

1990: After remaining unchanged for four decades of success, the Big Ten voted to expand to 11 schools and asked Penn State to join. The Nittany Lions, who were denied entrance into the Big East in 1982, were happy to oblige. It would begin Big Ten athletic competition in 1993.

 

2010-11: Nebraska applies for Big Ten membership and is unanimously approved as the league’s 12th institution. Nebraska played its first Big Ten conference schedule the following year and the league splits into two divisions to accommodate the Cornhuskers. Additionally, the Big Ten plays its first league championship game in Indianapolis.

 

2014: As the College Football Playoff Era begins, so too, does a new edition of the Big Ten. Maryland and Rutgers join the conference in all sports, pushing the league to a record 14 members. The divisions have been renamed the West and the East and will feature seven teams each. Both the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights will play in the East Division and both extend the B1G footprint into the coveted, population-rich Northeast. Lastly, Johns Hopkins University is actually joining the Big Ten as a men’s lacrosse member only. Officially, JHU has won 44 lacrosse national championships since being founded in 1883.

 

Big Ten's BCS Bowl Record: 13-15*

Big Ten's BCS National Championships: 1-2

* - including any vacated appearances
 

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Teaser:
The Complete History of Big Ten Realignment
Post date: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/the-entire-complete-history-acc-realignment
Body:

Conference realignment reached a fever pitch a few years ago and it caused great headaches for fans and coaches across the nation.

 

The dollars and “sense” of conference realignment blazed a path through college football for a few years following the turn of the century, however, teams shifting leagues for greener pastures isn’t a new phenomenon.

 

Did you know that South Carolina was a founding member of the ACC or that the league was created as an offshoot of the Southern Conference? The ACC was created in 1953 and has gone through more changes in the last 10 years than any of the other major leagues. Since 2004, the ACC has added six new football programs to its ranks, including 2014 with the addition of Louisville and the subtraction of Maryland. And that doesn't include the partnership with Notre Dame, whose annual schedule includes five ACC opponents starting this season. 

 

The point is conference realignment has been happening for over 100 years of college football, and, while the process escalated to dizzying speeds recently, it’s not even close to ending. Here is a complete look at the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference and how realignment has shaped the league over time.

 

The Commissioners:

 

James Weaver, 1954-70

Robert James 1971-87

Eugene Corrigan, 1987-97

John Swofford, 1997-present

 

The Timeline:

 

1953: After losing a multitude of members to the SEC in 1932, the once massive (23-member) Southern Conference loses eight key members to the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The SoCon had a league-wide ban on postseason play and this is why many believe the ACC got started to begin with. Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina and, a few months later, Virginia became the charter members.

 

1971: South Carolina decides to leave for independence, but would later join the SEC in 1991.

 

1978: After only containing seven teams for most of the '70s, Georgia Tech leaves the Metro Conference for the greener pastures of the ACC.

 

1991: Also from the Metro Conference, Florida State’s decision to join the ACC might have been the most important maneuver in ACC history. The Noles went on to dominate the league for the first decade and it played in the first three BCS National Championship Games (1998-2000). The league’s two national titles during the BCS Era (1999, 2013) and all four appearances in the game were produced by the Seminoles.

 

2004: Miami and Virginia Tech both officially join in the summer of 2004. Adding the two football powers gives the ACC two more viable national championship football programs to package with FSU.

 

2005: Boston College comes aboard, giving the ACC 12 teams and the opportunity to split the conference into two divisions and host a title game.

 

2011: In an effort to get out in front of the curve, John Swofford continues to stabilize his league by adding two more Big East powers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, to the group. The ACC technically expanded to 14 before any other major power conference.

 

2012: Founding member Maryland becomes the first such ACC program to jump ship in the modern rounds of realignment. The Terrapins desired more league stability and a much bigger payday and got both with the decision to move to the Big Ten. To counter the loss of Maryland, Swofford moves quickly to find a replacement and settles on Louisville. To top it off, the ACC also adds the highly coveted Notre Dame brand to the conference in all sports except football.

 

2013: In a shrewd legal move by the conference, the ACC signs a "Grant of Rights" deal locking in ownership of media rights for all member institutions. This is a simple but effective way to keep teams from leaving the ACC in the short term. From now until the end of the GOR contract (2027), if a school leaves the league, the ACC will retain the media rights, effectively rendering the move to another league fairly pointless. Additionally, Syracuse and Pittsburgh make their debuts in the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports while Notre Dame begins ACC play in every sport except football.

 

2014: The Maryland Terrapins officially begin play in the B1G while Louisville officially begins play in the ACC. Notre Dame will begin playing five games a year against ACC foes on the gridiron.

 

ACC’s BCS Bowl Record: 5-13

ACC’s BCS National Championships: 2-2

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Teaser:
The Entire and Complete History of ACC Realignment
Post date: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, NC State Wolfpack, News
Path: /college-football/nc-state-football-2014-schedule-analysis
Body:

Things didn't go as planned in Dave Doeren's first season in Raleigh. 

 

The Wolfpack didn't win a game in the ACC and lost four times to programs inside the state of North Carolina (Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina and East Carolina). So why would a program that didn't win a game a year ago and essentially finished fifth in the state have so much optimism heading into 2014? 

 

Doeren and his staff are entering their second season, ideally, giving this program much-needed stability from an established business culture standpoint. He has 12 returning starters and a former big-time SEC recruit under center in Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett. 

 

Lastly, NC State also has a very manageable slate to navigate this fall.

 

2014 NC State Schedule Analysis

 

2014 NCST Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 30
2.Sept. 6
3.Sept. 13at 
4.Sept. 20Presbyterian
5.Sept. 27
6.Oct. 4at 
7.Oct. 11
8.Oct. 18at 
9.Oct. 25Bye
10.Nov. 1at 
11.Nov. 8
12.Nov. 15
13.Nov. 22Bye
14.Nov. 29at 
Stack up wins early

For a team that didn’t win a game in ACC play and won just three times all year, NC State should be excited about the start of the 2014 season. Georgia Southern, Old Dominion and Presbyterian have to be wins and all will take place in the first four weeks of the year. The lone non-conference game that could provide some difficulty is South Florida on the road in Week 3. There is a good chance NC State starts the year with four straight wins and should that happen, a bowl game is well within reach.

 

Atlantic powers

Within the division, Florida State, Clemson and Louisville seem to be a cut above the rest. NC State will face all three — including both the Tigers and Cardinals on the road — over a four-week span from Sept. 27 to Oct. 18 with a home date with Boston College mixed in. Two wins in that span would be considered a huge success and a 1-3 mark is more likely. However, if things play out the way most expect, the Wolfpack could be sitting at five wins entering the final month of play.

 

Finish the year strong

It won’t be easy but NC State could enter November needing just one win to reach the postseason. And the schedule in the final month of the year sets up very well to provide that one (or more) much-needed victory to reach bowl eligibility. Road trips to Syracuse and North Carolina won’t be easy but aren’t overly taxing either while home games with Wake Forest and Georgia Tech could also be winnable. This is a very manageable final month that could shake things up in the Atlantic Division.
 

Related: 2014 NC State Wolfpack Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

NC State is an intriguing team to track this preseason. Doeren is a respected coach and new quarterback Jacoby Brissett should be a major upgrade under center. The schedule is extremely manageable minus a few inevitable divisional battles with traditional powerhouses. If NC State can win the games it is supposed to and can steal a swing game or two (Boston College, Georgia Tech, for example), then the Wolfpack could produce not only a bowl team this fall but also perhaps a winning overall record. 

Teaser:
NC State Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Friday, June 27, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-football-2014-schedule-analysis
Body:

Bret Bielema has draw a lot of attention during his short tenure at Arkansas. 

 

After a winless first season in the SEC and various off-the-field headlines concerning pace of play and one particular head coach at Auburn, it's safe to say that the majority of this attention has not been positive.

 

But Bielema understands what he has gotten himself into. He understands the deep and treacherous waters of the toughest league in the nation. And to his credit, he is sticking with his game plan — the same one that won him three consecutive Big Ten championships at Wisconsin. 

 

Arkansas should boast one of the best running games in the SEC, but that doesn't mean the Hogs will be able to move out of the SEC West cellar. This team should be improved in Bielema's second season, but will that translate into wins with one of the toughest schedules in the league this fall?
 

2014 Arkansas Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Arkansas Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 28at 
2.Sept. 6Nicholls St
3.Sept. 13at 
4.Sept. 20
5.Sept. 27 (Arlington)
6.Oct. 4Bye
7.Oct. 11
8.Oct. 18
9.Oct. 25
10.Nov. 1at 
11.Nov. 8Bye
12.Nov. 15
13.Nov. 22
14.Nov. 27at 
Rough start

The Razorbacks have the unenviable task of taking on the defending SEC champs on the road in the season opener. It would be a brutal game even if there wasn’t a budding rivalry between the two head coaches, so fans can be assured that Auburn’s Gus Malzahn won’t overlook the winless Hogs in Week 1. After a guaranteed win over Nicholls State in Week 2, the Hogs take to the road again to face pass-happy, up-tempo Texas Tech and Red Raider cult hero Kliff Kingsbury. Bielema will have to face two of the fastest offenses in the nation in the first three weeks and a 1-2 record is more than likely against the BCS runner-up and a former Southwest Conference rival.

 

Must-wins and home cooking

There aren’t many wins to be had on Arkansas' schedule so the must-win games carry even more importance for Bielema. Northern Illinois and UAB at home in Weeks 4 and 9 are obvious must-win situations and the Hogs should handle both with ease. In between, however, the Hogs will face Texas A&M in Arlington, Alabama in Fayetteville and Georgia in Little Rock. While not all of the games are true home games, Arkansas won’t play a true road game between Sept. 13 (Week 3) and Nov. 1 (Week 10). This gives the Razorbacks a chance to pull an upset and just one victory against either the Aggies or Bulldogs could create momentum for a team that failed to win an SEC game last year.

 

Divisional swing games

The Razorbacks played well at times a year ago despite losing all eight SEC contests. The Hogs fought valiantly against Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU. In 2014, there are three divisional swing games that could provide Arkansas with a much-needed boost of confidence heading into the offseason. Road trips to begin and end November at Mississippi State and Missouri respectively will be tough, but a win in either isn’t out of the question. Between those two road trips are hugely important home games within the division against Ole Miss and LSU. Both are winnable for Arkansas and a solid finish to the season with just one or two upsets could mean the difference between a forgettable season and one that features a bowl trip.

 

Related: 2014 Arkansas Razorbacks Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

Arkansas was winless in the league last year for a reason. The Hogs weren’t very good. That said, this team lost the final three games of the season by a grand total of 21 points — against quality teams — and played well in other contests (Rutgers, Texas A&M). If the Razorbacks can develop some balance on offense, pull an upset or two at home in swing games (LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia) and snag a critical road win against lower-tiered SEC West teams (Mississippi State, Texas A&M) then there is an outside, albeit extremely outside, chance Bielema can get this team to a bowl game.

Teaser:
Arkansas Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-football-2014-schedule-analysis
Body:

It's hard to believe that West Virginia is just two seasons removed from hanging 70 on Clemson in an Orange Bowl win. 

 

But after an atrocious 4-8 record in 2013, the luster has clearly worn off of head coach Dana Holgorsen's resume in Morgantown. The deterioration of the program — most specifically the offense — has been alarmingly rapid and has led to major question marks about Holgorsen's future.

 

Needless to say, this is a critical year for Holgorsen and West Virginia. Does the schedule set up for a return to the postseason or does it appear Mountaineers fans will endure another brutal season on the gridiron?

 

2014 West Virginia Schedule Analysis

 

2014 WVU Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 31 (Atlanta)
2.Sept. 6Towson
3.Sept. 13at 
4.Sept. 20
5.Sept. 27Bye
6.Oct. 4
7.Oct. 11at 
8.Oct. 18
9.Oct. 25at 
10.Nov. 1
11.Nov. 8at 
12.Nov. 15Bye
13.Nov. 20
14.Nov. 29

Big, bad blue bloods

West Virginia picked the worst possible time to play a season opener against the SEC in the Georgia Dome. The first game of the year against Alabama was scheduled years ago but no one could have foreseen this type of mismatch. Bama enters the year No. 2 in the nation and the SEC front-runner while West Virginia is coming off its worst season since 2001. Then, three weeks later, the Mountaineers must face Big 12 front-runner Oklahoma in Morgantown. According to Athlon Sports' preseason rankings, West Virginia will face two of the projected four playoff teams in the first four weeks of the year.

 

Steve Slaton Bowl

With an easy win over Towson scheduled for Week 2, a huge non-conference game with Maryland looms large in Week 3. The Terps rolled over WVU last year 37-0, have changed leagues to the Big Ten and get the Mountaineers at home. This game should provide an example of just different the direction of both programs are heading. So with Alabama and Maryland both on the schedule, a 1-2 non-conference record might be the best case scenario for WVU.

 

Home swing games

If there are going to be some wins for the embattled Holgorsen in the Big 12, they are likely to come at home (See: Oklahoma State last season). Kansas, Baylor, TCU, Kansas State and the Sooners will all have to make the long and circuitous trip to Morgantown. West Virginia should win two of those contests with an outside shot at a third win from this quintet of games. The road slate is extremely tough and if the Mountaineers want to improve on last year’s 2-7 Big 12 record, they will have to get work done at home.

 

0-for-Road

West Virginia won one game on the road last year (at TCU) and that came in overtime against one of the worst offenses in the league. A winless record on the road in 2014 could be very possible. Holgorsen has to face Maryland, Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma State and Iowa State on the road — four of which beat the Mounties in Morgantown a year ago.
 

Related: 2014 West Virginia Mountaineers Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

The overall direction of the West Virginia program is concerning. The 4-8 overall record was the worst win total since Rich Rodriguez won only three games in his first season back in 2001. Unfortunately, things don’t appear to be in place for the Mountaineers to post a dramatic turnaround. The non-conference schedule is extremely difficult and the road slate within the Big 12 is going to be brutal. One non-conference win, one or two home Big 12 wins and one road conference victory might be too much to expect and that would barely match last year’s four-win total.

Teaser:
West Virginia Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/stanford-football-2014-schedule-analysis
Body:

David Shaw is now a two-time defending Pac-12 champion. 

 

Stanford has established itself as one of the premier programs west of the Mississippi after an unprecedented run of success over the last half decade. But Shaw is facing something he hasn't really had to face during his brief time leading the ship in Palo Alto. He is facing stability issues for the first time.

 

He must replace a host of elite starters on defense while also breaking in a new defensive coordinator. And he must do so in what could be the best conference in the nation. 

 

The Cardinal will face one of the toughest schedules in the nation this fall and should they land in the playoff or win a third straight league crown, they will have earned it.

 

2014 Stanford Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Stanford Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 30UC Davis
2.Sept. 6
3.Sept. 13
4.Sept. 20Bye
5.Sept. 27at 
6.Oct. 4at 
7.Oct. 10
8.Oct. 18at 
9.Oct. 25
10.Nov. 1at 
11.Nov. 8Bye
12.Nov. 15
13.Nov. 22at 
14.Nov. 29at 
Right out of the gate

The Cardinal face both UC Davis and Army in the first month, but in the first four weeks of the season, Stanford also will play two of the five most important games of the year. The first will feature USC at home in just Week 2 and the other will come on the road against a divisional foe who beat them the last time it visited. Stanford lost to Washington in Seattle two years ago on a Thursday night and the Huskies have only gotten better since then. A win over Stanford would be the first marquee victory for new UW coach Chris Petersen. The good news for David Shaw is the off weekend prior to the game, giving the staff two weeks to prepare for Washington.

 

Sweep of October?

Stanford will play four opponents in the month of October that it played and beat last year five times. Stanford smoked Arizona State (twice) and Washington State last year but snuck past both Oregon State (20-12) and Notre Dame (27-20). The two easier games will come at home, but a return to the Pac-12 title game location in Tempe could prove to be a major hurdle to repeating as Pac-12 champs. The road trip to Notre Dame is a huge game of national importance and could carry playoff implications, but means nothing to the Cardinal’s Pac-12 title hopes. The focus should be on the Sun Devils in October.

 

On the road in November

Three of the final four games for Stanford will come on the road and two of those feature the two teams Athlon Sports is predicting to play in the Pac-12 title game. Stanford won the last time it visited Oregon and will start a nasty final month of the season with arguably the biggest game of the year in Eugene. A third straight win over the Ducks all but gives Stanford the North Division. A road trip to UCLA — should the Cardinal top Oregon — could hold a College Football Playoff berth in the balance before what could be a rematch the following week in Levi’s Stadium. In between are two easy games with Utah at home and Cal on the road — even if The Big Game is an important rivalry tilt. Stanford has beaten Cal four years in a row and has won the last two by a combined score of 84-16.

 

Related: 2014 Stanford Cardinal Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

The Cardinal have their goals set on repeating as Pac-12 champs and securing a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff. Should Stanford make it through the Pac-12 slate unscathed or with just one loss, this team will have earned the right to play for the national title. According to Athlon Sports’ preseason Top 25 rankings, David Shaw’s bunch will play the Nos. 6, 7, 13, 14, 16 and 24 teams in the regular season alone, with a likely rematch against one of its South Division foes in the Pac-12 title game. A 10-2 record would be extremely respectable but likely won’t win the league or score a playoff berth.

Teaser:
Stanford Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12-stadiums-2014-experts-poll
Body:

Ranking anything in sports is subjective. We may all agree on certain things — like Michael Jordan is better than Kobe Bryant or that Lambeau Field is better than the Edward Jones Dome — but for the most part, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Ranking college football stadiums is not only subjective but also extremely intricate. General atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, the surrounding campus and the college town should all be considered when trying to rank college football stadiums.

 

Basically, there is no right or wrong answer. Athlon Sports polled Big 12 experts and asked them to rank their favorite Big 12 stadiums based on all of the above factors. Here is how things shook out:

 

The Voters:

 

Dan Hawkins, SiriusXM (@CoachHawk)

Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star (@BlairKerkhoff)

Chip Brown, HornsDigest (@ChipBrownHD)

Allen Kenney, BlatantHomerism (@BlatantHomerism)

Bill Connelly, SB Nation/Football Outsiders (@SBN_BillC)

Chris Level, RedRaiderSports (@ChrisLevel)

Geoff Ketchum, OrangeBloods (@gkketch)

Sean Callahan, HuskerOnline (@Sean_Callahan)

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports (@AthlonSteven)

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM (@BradenGall)

 

The Results:

 

 DHBKCBAKBCCLGKSCSLBG
1. Oklahoma2111112111
2. Texas1232241222
3. Oklahoma State3523623353
4. Texas Tech8464834644
5. Kansas State4356376477
6. West Virginia5645568536
7. Baylor687104105865
8. Iowa State107879510988
9. TCU7998789799
10. Kansas9101091097101010

 

The Stadiums:

 

 
1. Memorial Stadium, Oklahoma

Opened: 1925 Capacity: 82,112

Easily the top spot to catch a game in the Big 12, Norman’s college football palace provides the loudest and most passionate fan base in the league. Regularly drawing over 100 percent capacity proves that. A recent round of renovations have added 8,000 seats, a massive new brick-lined video board, new luxury suites, a new press box and beautiful brick exterior. Large gaps in the end zone seating keep the capacity below that of a certain archrival in Austin, but the atmosphere in Oklahoma is more electric.

 

2. Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium, Texas

Opened: 1924 Capacity: 100,119

Everything is actually bigger in Texas and the Longhorns' stadium tops the Big 12 based on sheer size. It isn’t the loudest 100,000 fans in the nation, but the building is arguably the most imposing facility, as it dwarfs most every other stadium in the Big 12. After the most recent run of extensive exterior construction, the amenities are second to none in the league as well. Plans are also in the works to expand the south end zone that will push DKR’s capacity to upwards of 112,000 fans — which would make it the nation’s largest stadium. And finally, located in the heart of one of the world’s best cities, fans have a long list of attractions while pre- and post-gaming on Saturdays.

 

 

3. Boone Pickens Stadium, Oklahoma State

Opened: 1920 Capacity: 60,218

The Cowboys' home stadium got a massive facelift, new additions, extra seats and a beautiful new façade in the last few years. The single-tiered, true horseshoe building is now flanked on the west by a 146,000-square foot, state-of-the-art facility that contains all of the Pokes' football operations. The brick and mortar exterior creates a massive set of exterior columns that majestically climb above the Stillwater skyline. There isn’t a bad seat in the house and when packed, BPS is as raucous as any place in the nation. Keeping the seats full during down times as well as the overall lack of size is what keeps this gorgeous facility from competing with Texas or Oklahoma.

 

4. Jones AT&T Stadium, Texas Tech

Opened: 1947 Capacity: 60,862

Mike Leach had his issues departing Lubbock but he is largely responsible for the consistent growth and development of Texas Tech’s home venue. The stadium was improved and upgraded in 2005 (luxury suites, parking garage), '07 (master plan), '08 (Spanish façade), '09 (6,000 east side seats) and '13 (new jumbotron). The atmosphere is electric and the facilities have advanced dramatically from over the last decade. The trip to Lubbock makes getting to a game slightly more difficult than even some of the other Big 12 outposts.

 

5. Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Kansas State

Opened: 1968 Capacity: 50,000

It’s small on three sides and has some quirky lines, but Bill Snyder Family Stadium will rock when the Wildcats are rolling. Like Iowa State, this building was over capacity on average two years ago as K-State clinched its first Big 12 title since 2003. A 2006 renovation expanded seating in the north end zone and also upgraded the locker rooms. It isn’t the biggest or fanciest building in the conference, but this place generally over-delivers on game day.

 

 

6. Milan Puskar Stadium, West Virginia

Opened: 1980 Capacity: 60,000

When it comes to rabid, passionate supporters, the Mountaineers are much closer to SEC levels rather than Big East or even Big 12. And the surrounding mountains of Morgantown are a fantastic setting for a college football Saturday. That said, the building isn’t one of the nation’s biggest and the stadium itself is a fairly straightforward facility that likely could use another round of renovations.

 

7. McLane Stadium, Baylor

Opened: 2014 Capacity: 45,000

For six decades, Baylor called Floyd Casey Stadium home. It wasn’t on campus, wasn’t normally filled and lacked stylish character or modern amenities. So after the three best years of football in program history, Art Briles and the Bears will open a brand-new, on-campus facility in 2014. McLane Stadium, in honor of business magnate Drayton McLane, cost $250 million and will be expanded from 45,000 to 55,000 in the near future. The plans look gorgeous and if Baylor keeps winning, the fans could make this one of the better places to watch a game in the Big 12. Track the construction progress in real time with McLane Cam.
 

 

8. Jack Trice Stadium, Iowa State

Opened: 1975 Capacity: 55,000

Iowa State is home to one of the most underrated home atmospheres in the nation in a building named after Iowa’s first black athlete. The passion of the fans cannot be questioned, as the Cyclones outdrew their capacity in 2012 on a team that barely reached the postseason the last two years. In the works are future expansions of the south end zone and east concourse that will move capacity to 61,000, making it the third biggest venue in the Big 12. The move will upgrade the facilities across the board and will add an upper deck to the end zone by August 2015.

 

9. Amon Carter Stadium, TCU

Opened: 1929 Capacity: 45,000

TCU completely rebuilt its home venue following the 2010 season. The $164 million renovation changed the quaint, worn-down stadium into a state-of-the-art football facility that provides more room to grow in the near future. The beautiful Southwestern art deco blends with the new football facilities as well as the popular design trend in the DFW area. The building is brand new and fans showed up in force last year (over capacity) but it is still small and will take time to build up the long-term tradition and pageantry that exists throughout college football’s blueblood venues.

 

 

10. Memorial Stadium, Kansas

Opened: 1921 Capacity: 50,071

A poor home win-loss record (212-203-16), the old-school athletic track circling the field and simple styling make this the worst venue in the conference. The last major upgrade took place over a decade ago, the attendance is fairly small and the building itself lacks tradition and character.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12 Stadiums for 2014 (Experts Poll)
Post date: Monday, June 23, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-football-2014-schedule-analysis
Body:

Quick, which Pac-12 team had the best record in the league last year?

 

It wasn’t the defending champion Stanford Cardinal and it wasn’t the Oregon Ducks. It was the Sun Devils of Arizona State who posted the best record in the league a year ago, losing just once in the regular season.

 

Todd Graham has obviously done a masterful job in just two years at the helm in Tempe. He has an excellent third-year starter returning under center in Taylor Kelly and a host of big-play weapons with which to surround him. But Graham also has to replace eight all-conference defensive starters.

 

So while Arizona State is a team that has grown accustomed to playing in marquee showdowns out West, many believe that a brutal schedule packaged with a totally rebuilt defensive depth chart will make repeating as Pac-12 South champs extremely difficult.

 

2014 Arizona State Schedule Analysis

 

2014 ASU Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 28Weber St
2.Sept. 6at 
3.Sept. 13at 
4.Sept. 20Bye
5.Sept. 25
6.Oct. 4at 
7.Oct. 11Bye
8.Oct. 16
9.Oct. 25at 
10.Nov. 1
11.Nov. 8
12.Nov. 15at 
13.Nov. 22
14.Nov. 29at 
Ease into things 

The beginning of the season for Todd Graham should be a welcome sight. His brand-new defense won’t really be tested by Weber State or New Mexico in the first two weeks. And while Colorado should be much improved on offense, the Sun Devils should be capable of handling the Buffaloes in Boulder in Week 3. Arizona State, which gets an off weekend after the first three games, topped the Buffs 54-13 a year ago.

 

South Division Round-Robin

While USC and UCLA won’t play until much later in the year (Nov. 22), Arizona State will face its top two competitors in the South Division in back-to-back weeks as the calendar flips to October. The Bruins come to town to renew a developing coaching rivalry between Graham and Jim Mora. The road team has won both meetings between the two coaches and the combined scores of the two games is 81-78 (ASU). The following week, ASU must visit USC. While Graham single-handedly removed Lane Kiffin from power a year ago in Tempe, his Sun Devils were smoked the last time they visited The Coliseum (38-17). These two games could decide the entire season for Arizona State and they will happen in a two-week span early in the year.

 

Brutal October

On the heels of facing UCLA and USC — the top two teams picked in the South Division — Arizona State is fortunate to get an off weekend, because the Devils will have to face Stanford (home) and Washington (road) in the last two weeks of October. So over a five-week span, Arizona State will face four of the five best teams in the league, missing only Oregon. A 2-2 record might be considered a huge success, especially if those two wins come against the Bruins and Trojans.

 

Stretch run offers no breaks

After the bye week in Week 7, Arizona State literally won’t have a break in the schedule. The Sun Devils will play seven straight games to end the year. The good news is there are plenty of winnable contests in the month of November. Utah and Washington State at home are must-wins while two road trips to pesky Oregon State and in-state rival Arizona will be difficult. The lone marquee showdown in the final month is a bout with Notre Dame — who comes to Sun Devil Stadium on Nov. 8. Graham’s squad could win four, possibly five, games in the final month if the defense rounds into form and it could make ASU one of the hotter teams in the nation at the end of the season.
 

Related: 2014 Arizona State Sun Devils Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

Arizona State should be happy it eases into action in 2014 with three guaranteed wins to start. This should allow the defense some time to develop, as so many new faces will dot the starting lineup.  After that, however, things get really salty as the heart of the 2014 schedule will make or break the Sun Devils chances to repeat in the South. Three wins over a four-game span from Sept. 25 to Oct. 25 will likely decide the division race. Should Arizona State make it through the October gauntlet, this team could surge down the stretch. There are tricky but winnable games in November and even a loss to Notre Dame wouldn’t hurt a Pac-12 title run. Fans should know all they need to about ASU’s title hopes before Halloween.

Teaser:
Arizona State Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-toughest-schedules-2014
Body:

Over the past few seasons, when Athlon Sports sat down to predict our SEC East final standings there has been one factor that seems to have been the deciding factor.


Scheduling.

 

We caught a lot heat in 2011 when we picked the Georgia Bulldogs to win the East over the South Carolina Gamecocks. Especially from those clad in Garnett and Black. The same could have been said about picking the Bulldogs in 2012. The Dawgs had the easier path to the SEC East title those years and the ever-so-slight difference in scheduling played a huge role in earning Mark Richt and Georgia a trip to Atlanta in both 2011 and ’12.


In 2014, as the SEC enters the College Football Playoff Era, the schedules don’t seem nearly as imbalanced. And it makes projecting the SEC virtually impossible. Of the main contenders — Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Auburn — Alabama has the easiest slate, South Carolina gets the most critical home schedule, Georgia gets only three home SEC games and Auburn has the toughest road schedule and crossover opponents. 


With the football season fast approaching, Athlon Sports has ranked the toughest schedules in the SEC and how it impacted our 2014 SEC Football predictions.

 

1. Tennessee Volunteers

Crossover: at Ole Miss, Alabama

Non-conference: Utah St, Arkansas St, at Oklahoma, Chattanooga

Opponents' '13 Record: 101-54 (65.2%, 3rd)


The Vols will have to battle one of the toughest slates in the nation this fall. They will play one of the Mountain West and Sun Belt frontrunners and the Big 12 frontrunner in non-conference action. Tennessee also will have to travel to Georgia, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt while hosting Alabama, Missouri and a Florida team it hasn’t beaten in nearly a decade. This team could be dramatically improved overall in 2014 and could still easily lose seven games for a sixth time in seven years.

 

2. Arkansas Razorbacks

Crossover: Georgia (Little Rock), at Mizzou

Non-conference: Nicholls St, at Texas Tech, N. Illinois, UAB

Opponents ’13 Record: 103-54 (65.6%, 1st)


According to last year’s records, the Razorbacks will face the toughest schedule in the nation. While using last year’s win-loss totals to predict strength of schedule has numerous flaws, it does appear on paper that Arkansas will have the toughest road in the SEC West in 2014. To start, a road trip to defending SEC champ Auburn in Week 1 and a long, circuitous trip to Texas Tech in Week 3 both loom large. Once SEC plays really begins, it’s hard to find wins on the schedule. The Hogs will face Texas A&M, Alabama and Georgia in a four-week span and then a murderous November arrives with little hope for an upset: at Mississippi State, LSU, Ole Miss and at Mizzou. Crossover play for Arkansas could feature the best two teams in the East as well.

 

3. Auburn Tigers

Crossover: South Carolina, at Georgia

Non-conference: San Jose St, at Kansas St, La. Tech, Samford

Opponents ’13 Record: 93-60 (60.8%, 16th)


The Tigers should ease into the ’14 slate with two winnable games to start and an open date in Week 3. But after that, there are few breathers for the defending SEC champs. A road trip to Kansas State, a visit from LSU and a trip to Starkville makes the transition from September to October very difficult. Then, Auburn will likely have the toughest set of crossover opponents in the entire SEC this fall, as the Tigers will face South Carolina at home and go to Athens to take on Georgia — both in the second half of the season. Mixed in is a road trip to Ole Miss and a home date with Texas A&M. Lastly, the Tigers will have to defend their Iron Bowl win on the road against Alabama in the regular-season finale.

 

4. Kentucky Wildcats

Crossover: at LSU, Mississippi St

Non-conference: UT-Martin, Ohio, ULM, at Louisville

Opponents' '13 Record: 98-55 (6th)


Normally, if you are going to be a bottom feeder in the toughest league in the nation, non-conference slates and crossovers are supposed to help. But a 3-1 record out of SEC play might be a best case and one win against either LSU or Mississippi State from the West seems unlikely. Toss in the usual laundry list of brutal divisional games with all the SEC East blue bloods and making a bowl seems virtually impossible. Since Kentucky doesn’t have to play itself, its schedule is one of the toughest in the nation.

 

5. Florida Gators

Crossover: at Alabama, LSU

Non-conference: Idaho, E. Michigan, E. Kentucky, at Florida St

Opponents' '13 Record: 91-62 (59.5%, 22nd)


The Gators do get three marquee SEC showdowns at home and three non-conference foes not named the Seminoles should result in be three lock wins. But overall, this is a nasty stretch with both Alabama and LSU in crossover play and a road trip to Florida State to cap the year. From Week 4 to 12, Florida will face Alabama, Tennessee and Vanderbilt on the road with LSU, Missouri and South Carolina at home as well as Georgia in Jacksonville. Luckily, both off weekends will fall within that seven-game stretch.

 

6. Texas A&M Aggies

Crossover: at South Carolina, Missouri

Non-conference: Lamar, Rice, at SMU, ULM

Opponents ’13 Record: 100-55 (64.2%, 5th)


The Aggies play nobody of note in the non-conference schedule with the possible exception of SMU in Dallas. And it’s a good thing Texas A&M scheduled those four wins because the league slate is absolutely nasty. The Aggies get Ole Miss, Mizzou and LSU at home and could pull an upset or two — especially because both Tigers will visit College Station late in the year. But one of the toughest away slates in the SEC leaves little room for error with road trips to Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State. Texas A&M should be 4-1 entering October but there are only a handful of winnable games after that for Sumlin's depleted and inexperienced roster.

 

7. Ole Miss Rebels

Crossover: at Vanderbilt, Tennessee

Non-conference: Boise St, ULL, Memphis, Presbyterian

Opponents ’13 Record: 89-63 (58.6%, 26th)


Boise State is a tough start to the season but Chris Petersen is in Seattle now and that makes that game dramatically less difficult. A matchup with Vanderbilt on the road and UL-Lafayette at home creates a difficult start to the year. However, three tricky games to start means lots of breathers late in the year — i.e., Tennessee at home, Memphis, Presbyterian, at Arkansas and two bye weeks in the final 10 weeks. However, mixed in will be showdowns of epic proportions as Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State all come to Oxford during that span. Road trips to Kyle Field and Tiger Stadium fall in October as well. This is a tough schedule with key swing games at home, winnable but tricky non-conference tilts and two really brutal SEC road trips.

 

8. LSU Tigers

Crossover: at Florida, Kentucky

Non-conference: Wisconsin, Sam Houston St, ULM, New Mexico St

Opponents ’13 Record: 82-71 (53.6%, 57th)


Playing Wisconsin and Florida would normally make for an extremely difficult schedule. However, the Badgers are coming all the way down to Houston and are rebuilding on defense while Florida posted the worst season in school history a year ago. And the rest of the non-conference and crossover schedule (Kentucky) is very easy. So how does the home-road SEC West slate shape up for the Tigers? Road trips to Arkansas and Texas A&M come late in the year but those should be the worst two teams in the division while back-to-back visits to Auburn and Florida to start October loom large. The good news is LSU gets Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State at home and those three games could determine division pecking order more so than any other game minus Auburn.

 

9. South Carolina Gamecocks

Crossover: Texas A&M, at Auburn

Non-conference: East Carolina, Furman, South Alabama, at Clemson

Opponents' '13 Record: 96-59 (61.9%, 13th)


South Carolina and Georgia have eerily similar schedules. Both play Clemson out of conference and both play defending SEC champ Auburn in crossover. Carolina, however, has to play both Tigers on the road whereas the Bulldogs get both of those striped opponents at home. That said, Carolina gets three critical home SEC East games with contenders Georgia and Missouri as well as Tennessee in addition to Texas A&M. Road trips to Vanderbilt and Kentucky are manageable but a trip to Gainesville — while UGA gets Florida on a neutral field — also makes South Carolina’s schedule slightly more daunting.

 

10. Georgia Bulldogs

Crossover: at Arkansas, Auburn

Non-conference: Clemson, Troy, Charleston Southern, Georgia Tech

Opponents' '13 Record: 92-61 (60.1%, 19th)


Only getting three home games in SEC play hurts but two road trips to Arkansas and Kentucky shouldn’t be too difficult. Non-conference games with Clemson and Georgia Tech will be battles but both come at home to bookend the season. Home games with Tennessee and Vanderbilt are very winnable and a rematch of the Prayer at Jordan-Hare will come Between the Hedges. Two road trips to South Carolina and Missouri could decide the East championship, however, as these three teams appear to be the top SEC East contenders. The good news is the Dawgs get a bye week to prepare for their trip to Columbia, S.C.

 

11. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Crossover: at Kentucky, Vanderbilt

Non-conference: Southern Miss, UAB, at S. Alabama, UT Martin

Opponents ’13 Record: 80-71 (52.9%, 62nd)


Like Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs won’t challenge themselves in non-conference play like some of the bigger programs. Which is good, considering the normally brutal SEC West round-robin Mississippi State faces each year. Home games with Texas A&M (Week 6), Auburn (Week 7), Arkansas (Week 10) and Vanderbilt (Week 13) are all winnable and could feature three, possibly four, league victories. Road tilts with LSU and Alabama will be difficult and a rivalry game in Oxford is always tough, but the saving grace for Dan Mullen (and what makes this schedule lighter than others in the league) is two very winnable crossover games and four likely wins in the non-conference. It’s not just the defensive depth chart and development of quarterback Dak Prescott that makes the Bulldogs an intriguing team to follow entering ’14, it’s also a relatively lenient SEC schedule.

 

12. Alabama Crimson Tide

Crossover: Florida, at Tennessee

Non-conference: West Virginia, FAU, Southern Miss, W. Carolina

Opponents ’13 Record: 71-79 (47.3%, 95th)


Alabama should breeze into conference play with three very winnable non-conference games (and one more in November). Crossover play against two powerhouse programs that have fallen on hard times in the Gators (home, Week 4) and Vols (road, Week 9) also gives the Tide a fortunate break in 2014. Add in a home game in the Iron Bowl against Auburn and the Tide looks poised for a perfect record at home. A road trip to Baton Rouge — a rivalry where the road team has consistently played well — and Ole Miss are the only other tricky games on the schedule — and Alabama gets two weeks to prepare for both games. This 12-game slate has three (maybe four) marquee games on it and two of those will come at home with the other two coming after the bye weeks. A 10-win season is almost a guarantee in Tuscaloosa.

 

13. Vanderbilt Commodores

Crossover:  Ole Miss, at Mississippi State

Non-conference: Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern, Old Dominion

Opponents' '13 Record: 78-73 (51.6%, 69th)


Getting both Mississippi schools in crossover play normally would be a blessing but not in 2014 as the two Magnolia programs are improved and confident. The non-conference schedule, however, might be the easiest of any team in the nation. Other winnable games like Tennessee at home and Kentucky on the road makes getting to a bowl game a likely possibility. But winning games against traditional powers Georgia and Florida like it did last year seem to be a much taller order this time around. And that doesn’t include a road trip to Missouri and a home game with South Carolina. There are plenty of upset chances and winnable contests for the Dores this fall.

 

14. Missouri Tigers

Crossover: at Texas A&M, Arkansas

Non-conference: South Dakota State, at Toledo, UCF, Indiana

Opponents' '13 Record: 84-67 (55.6%, 43rd)


As far as crossover and non-conference scheduling among the SEC East contenders, Missouri might have the easiest slate. A visit to Texas A&M in November won’t be easy but the Aggies and Razorbacks could be the worst two teams in the West. The non-conference slate has some solid competition but nothing Mizzou shouldn’t be able to handle with relative ease. The key for the Tigers will be the road slate against South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and the Aggies — despite last year’s win-loss records. A huge, potentially division-deciding game against Georgia comes after a bye week and at home. The Tigers should be perfect at home and in the non-conference slate (8-0) so if they can knock off either South Carolina or Florida on the road, Mizzou could easily repeat as SEC East champs

Teaser:
Ranking the SEC's Toughest Schedules in 2014
Post date: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-ten-stadiums-2014-experts-poll
Body:

Ranking anything in sports is subjective. We may all agree on certain things — like Michael Jordan is better than Kobe Bryant or that Lambeau Field is better than the Edward Jones Dome — but for the most part, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
 

Ranking college football stadiums is not only subjective but also extremely intricate. General atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, the surrounding campus and the college town should all be considered when trying to rank college football stadiums.
 

Basically, there is no right or wrong answer. Athlon Sports polled Big Ten experts and asked them to rank their favorite Big Ten stadiums based on all of the above factors. Here is how things shook out:
 

The Voters:


Gerry DiNardo, Big Ten Network (@GerryDiNardo)
Eddie George, SiriusXM/Fox Sports (@EddieGeorge2727)

David Jones, Harrisburg Patriot-News (@DJonesHoop)

Herb Gould, Chicago Sun-Times (@HerbGould)

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network (@BTNTomDienhart)

Kevin McGuire, NBC Sports (@KevinOnCFB)

Sean Callahan, HuskerOnline.com (@Sean_Callahan)

Kevin Noon, BuckeyeGrove.com (@Kevin_Noon)

Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network (@BTNBrentYarina)

Mike Griffith, MLive.com (@MikeGriffith32)
Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports (@AthlonSteven)

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM (@BradenGall)
 

The Results:

 

 GDEGDJHGTDKMSCKNBYMGSLBG
1. Ohio St112122111111
2. Nebraska244515322223
3. Wisconsin721233244434
4. Penn St433441553542
5. Michigan657354465356
6. Iowa365666636765
7. Michigan St5712777777677
8. Minnesota81268108888888
9. Illinois13889991012109911
10. Maryland911131411101191213109
11. Northwestern1210910131191314101414
12. Rutgers10910131212131411111213
13. Indiana11141112141312119121312
14. Purdue14131411814141013141110

 

The Stadiums:


 

1. Ohio Stadium, Ohio State

Opened: 1922 Capacity: 102,329

There is little doubt that the Horseshoe is the Big Ten’s best place to watch a game. A great nickname, awesome traditions, tremendous fan support, elite level of success, High Street and the Banks of the Olentangy make Ohio Stadium a bucket list destination for fans of every team. And with a new video board, audio system and LED lighting, Ohio State boasts one of the top college football venues in the nation. Watching the "Dotting of the I" before a Buckeyes game is something all college fans should experience. Finishing in the top five in average attendance every year doesn’t hurt either.

 

Listen to the latest Athlon Sports Cover 2 podcast:

 

2. Memorial Stadium, Nebraska

Opened: 1923 Capacity: 91,000

Towering over the sprawling Lincoln campus, Memorial Stadium rises high into the horizon for all Big Red faithful to see. The façade of Memorial Stadium is extremely intimidating to those down on the field and the crowds are the most committed in the nation. This venue has been sold out since 1962. (1962!) The latest round of multimillion-dollar expansions grew this college football cathedral by nearly 10,000 seats and is even more luxurious.

 

3. Camp Randall Stadium, Wisconsin

Opened: 1917 Capacity: 80,321

Madison is routinely considered one of the nation’s most enjoyable college towns. Nestled between two picturesque lakes, the downtown campus “jumps around” on fall Saturdays. The brat haze that floats over State Street and down Regent Street ushers fans through a gorgeous campus and into the House that Barry built. Camp Randall got its name from its time as a Civil War army base in the 1800s long before Big Ten athletics were created. Wisconsin has consistently poured money into renovating its prized gem of a stadium over the years, with some finishing touches still yet to come. One of the nation’s best game day atmospheres is only getting better with time.

 

 

4. Beaver Stadium, Penn State

Opened: 1960 Capacity: 106,572

From a massive city like Columbus to a sleepy college town like State College, Beaver Stadium nearly matches The Horseshoe’s every facet. Penn State’s home stadium is as intimidating as any in the nation — especially when 100,000 fans are all wearing white. Massive, boisterous crowds steeped in rich tradition and history make the Nittany Lions’ home games a sight to behold. And climbing nearby Mount Nittany is a right of passage of sorts for all who attend a game at Beaver Stadium.

 

5. Michigan Stadium, Michigan

Opened: 1927 Capacity: 109,901

The biggest stadium in the nation is located in Ann Arbor, Mich. It was capable of holding upwards of 80,000 people at the time it opened, making it well ahead of its peers in terms of sheer size and capacity. Built down into the ground, the massive bowl doesn’t tower over the land or hold in the sound like some of its 100,000-seat brethren, however, the renovations completed in 2010 installed new luxury boxes, added a massive video scoreboard and thousands of club seats. These changes have contained the noise to some degree and made The Big House more inhospitable to opposing teams and more majestic to the Maize and Blue faithful.



 

6. Kinnick Stadium, Iowa

Opened: 1929 Capacity: 70,585

Formerly Iowa Stadium, the name changed in 1972 when a local sports writer convinced the powers that be to rename the building after former Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick. The Hawkeyes' home field took its current shape in 2006 when an $86 million renovation added a new press box, video scoreboard and built permanent seating in the south end zone, complete with upgraded amenities. The no-frills, straightforward seating can be as loud as any stadium in the Big Ten and the famous pink visitors’ locker room only adds to the building’s rich tradition.

 

7. Spartans Stadium, Michigan State

Opened: 1923 Capacity: 75,005

Entering the 2012 season, Michigan State has put together an extremely respectable 70 percent winning percentage (341-142-13) at home since taking up residency in Spartan Stadium. The perfectly symmetrical walls of Spartan Stadium are the last of the Big Ten’s “big” stadiums. Renovations completed in 2006 upgraded the luxury suites, club seats, concourses and amenities and added The Grand Entrance, a sharp looking glass and brick façade that welcomes Green and White faithful each Saturday.

 

8. TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota

Opened: 2009 Capacity: 50,805

The newest building in the Big Ten is home to the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. The on-campus, outdoor facility opened in 2009 and cost roughly $300 million to build. Seating capacity can be expanded to 80,000, which is one of the reasons why the Gophers' home also will host the Vikings the next two seasons while a new downtown stadium is under construction. The west end zone is open air, holds a massive HD video board and provides a scenic view of downtown Minneapolis. “The Bank” or “Gopher Hole” has dramatically improved the game day atmosphere for home games and provides Minnesota an on-campus home of its own for decades to come. The amenities are also among the league’s best considering it’s the newest building in the conference.

 

 

9. Memorial Stadium, Illinois

Opened: 1923 Capacity: 60,670

The exterior of Illinois’ facility has always had a classic and traditional feel that welcomes home and road fans. But prior to 2008, this facility lacked the passion and intensity of the bigger Big Ten buildings. However, a brand new press box and luxury suites on the West side coupled with 10,000 new seats in the north end zone have helped rebuild the Memorial experience. The multimillion-dollar video board, new sound system, ribbon video boards and new commemorative lettering on the press box wrapped up the latest round of renovations and has only added to the game day experience.

 

10. Byrd Stadium, Maryland

Opened: 1950 Capacity: 54,000

Dr. H.C. Byrd was a multi-sport athlete and University of Maryland alumnus who went on to coach the football team and also served as university president. The building, nestled at the foot of campus’ North Hill, has gone through various rounds of renovations (1995, '04, '07, '09). Although it has taken time for the building to round into form, the improvements, including upper decks seating, presidential suite and state-of-the-art scoreboard, make Terps games much more enjoyable today than just 15 years ago.

 

 

11. Ryan Field, Northwestern

Opened: 1926 Capacity: 47,130

Formerly Dyche Stadium, the Wildcats' home stadium was renamed Ryan Field in honor of Patrick G. Ryan, who was the chairman of the Board of Trustees at that time. The unique gentle curves of the stadium allow for great sight lines and few bad seats. Located in northeast Chicago along Lake Michigan, the Evanston campus offers plenty for fans to enjoy. However, similar to Duke or Vanderbilt, this venue struggles to match the rabid intensity of bigger, more powerful athletic departments.

 

12. High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers

Opened: 1994 Capacity: 52,454

This on-campus facility grew from 41,500 seats to its current capacity after an extensive round of additions in 2009. The Knights use a signature two-tone green field turf for football games and the atmosphere performed well in signature moments — see Jeremy Ito’s field goal in 2006. It lacks a great name due to corporate sponsorship, but its symmetry, fan support and view of the Raritan River give it a lot of upside with an influx of Big Ten dollars expected in the near future.
 

 

13. Memorial Stadium, Indiana

Opened: 1960 Capacity: 52,959

The Hoosiers’ home field is one of the few in the nation that has remained largely unchanged throughout the years. The signature, solitary press box rests gently atop the single-tier bowl nicknamed “The Rock.” A rare 2009 renovation expanded seating slightly, added the brand new Hall of Champions athletic facility and enclosed the north end zone. Bloomington is an awesome college town and Memorial offers the homely experience of a laid-back Midwestern campus. But until the team can win at a higher level more consistently, The Rock won’t be nearly as intimidating as most places in the league.

 

14. Ross Ade Stadium, Purdue

Opened: 1924 Capacity: 62,500

Purdue’s home stadium could be the next Big Ten stadium to get a makeover. It has plenty of tradition, a rich history of elite players and has provided plenty of upsets — just ask Ohio State. But an upper deck on the North and East sides as well as a facelift for the amenities would go a long way to improving the status of this once-proud venue. The rumored additions would balance out the currently western heavy feel to the building — due to the massive press box and luxury suites towering over the single-bowl facility. Winning more games, of course, would go a long way to pushing forward these potential renovations.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten Stadiums for 2014 (Experts Poll)
Post date: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 07:15
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Life is good in Tallahassee right now.

 

Jimbo Fisher is the commander in chief of the reigning national champions, has a Heisman Trophy winner returning under center and will face another extremely manageable schedule in the inferior yet improving ACC.

 

Florida State enters the College Football Playoff Era with one of the best rosters in the nation and the experience of winning it all a year ago. And while the ACC as a whole is improving around the Seminoles, the path back to the national title game appears to be paved with easy wins.

 

In fact, if there is one team most likely to reach the inaugural playoff bracket, it would be the Noles. No team in the nation boasts a better combination of talent, experience, coaching and scheduling than Florida State.

 

2014 Florida State Schedule Analysis

 

2014 FSU Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 30 (Arlington)
2.Sept. 6The Citadel
3.Sept. 13Bye
4.Sept. 20
5.Sept. 27at 
6.Oct. 4
7.Oct. 11at 
8.Oct. 18
9.Oct. 25Bye
10.Oct. 30at 
11.Nov. 8
12.Nov. 15at 
13.Nov. 22
14.Nov. 29
Challenging yourself

Give a lot of credit to Florida State for scheduling one of the toughest out-of-league slates in the nation in 2014. Oklahoma State won the Big 12 in 2011 and was one play away from winning the crown again last year and Florida State will open with the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. Notre Dame will come to Tallahassee in the middle of October and a much-improved Florida team visits Doak Campbell Stadium for the annual Sunshine State rivalry. Can the Seminoles handle all three — and The Citadel — with ease? Sure, but it’s one of the most impressive non-conference schedules in the nation.

 

ACC road upset alert watch

Florida State and Fisher had been knocked prior to 2013 for losing focus on the road from time to time (See: NC State in 2012). The Noles overcame that hurdle last year with convincing wins over Clemson, Florida and Pitt on the road. However, Florida State will once again have to guard against a letdown on the road in the ACC in 2014. Fisher leads his team back to Raleigh to face NC State and also will have to face Louisville, Miami and Syracuse on the road. All four are projected bowl teams this fall.

 

Jam-packed with wins

While Oklahoma State and Clemson, for example, have been traditionally strong programs of late, many teams on the Noles' schedule are going to be “down” this fall. The Tigers are breaking in an entirely new offense and the Pokes lost more than two dozen senior contributors. Boston College, who gave FSU its toughest test last year in Chestnut Hill, isn’t going to be nearly as good without Andre Williams. And both Miami and Louisville are replacing their quarterbacks. Additionally, FSU will get two weeks to prepare for both the Tigers and Cardinals. So while the schedule looks really solid on paper, frankly, it’s packed with a lot of potential blowouts (again).

 

Toughest game?

The question many are asking about Florida State’s schedule in 2014 is which team has the best chance to upset the Noles? Notre Dame and Florida appear to be the most talented teams on the schedule this fall and both should be much improved from a year ago, as both welcome back star quarterbacks from 2012. That said, both games take place in Tallahassee and both teams will be hard-pressed to keep up with Jameis Winston and company. 

 

Related: 2014 Florida State Seminoles Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

The schedule sets up very nicely for Florida State to return to the national championship game — or, at the very least, land in the College Football Playoff. This schedule is much tougher this year than last, especially on paper, but deeper analysis of normally marquee games — Oklahoma State, Clemson, Louisville, Miami, Florida — shows that the Noles should be a heavy favorite in every game they play this fall. Notre Dame will likely give FSU its toughest test of the year (maybe Florida), but with that game taking place at home, it’s hard to see Florida State losing in the regular season. Some bizarre bout of complacency — which has happened in the past — looks like the only thing that could derail the Noles' defense of their national championship.

Teaser:
Florida State Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-football-2014-schedule-analysis
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Al Golden is entering a critical fourth season at The U.

 

In the face of nasty NCAA allegations, Miami’s head coach has done solid work to rebuild his program through recruiting and roster turnover. But the Hurricanes are still lagging well behind consistent ACC powers Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech.

 

The defense improved ever so slightly a year ago but still has a long way to go to return to the Miami glory years of the early 2000s. The offense has plenty of dynamic skill weapons but is sorely lacking at the quarterback position. And the schedule isn’t jam-packed with wins like maybe Golden wishes in private moments.

 

Golden is widely respected as a head coach but his 22-15 record in three years isn’t what most Miami fans expect from their once powerhouse program. So while the 2014 schedule is going to be plenty difficult, it also means there are plenty of chances for more marquee wins — a la the Florida Gators a year ago. 
 

2014 Miami Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Miami Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Sept. 1at 
2.Sept. 6Florida A&M
3.Sept. 13
4.Sept. 20at 
5.Sept. 27
6.Oct. 4at 
7.Oct. 11
8.Oct. 18Bye
9.Oct. 25at 
10.Nov. 1
11.Nov. 8Bye
12.Nov. 15
13.Nov. 22at 
14.Nov. 29
Season-opening revenge

Miami is accustomed to playing on Labor Day night and Golden will have to lead his team into a hostile environment to kick off the 2014 regular season. Louisville pounded Miami 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl to end last season and no doubt it left an extremely sour taste in the mouths of Canes fans and players. Now, as the Cardinals begin their first season in the ACC, it’s not only a revenge game in the season opener on national television, but is a conference game. No pressure, Al.

 

Non-conference build up

The U will face Florida A&M and Arkansas State at home in Weeks 2 and 3 and both should be convincing wins for Miami. But a road trip to Lincoln to face Nebraska in Week 4 provides a second brutal away test in the first month. The Huskers and Hurricanes have played for three national titles since 1983, and while much less is on the line in ’14, this game cannot be overvalued for either coaching staff. Miami wraps up September with a home game against Duke — who beat the Canes 48-30 a year ago. A 3-2 mark to start the year might be considered a successful first month.

 

October road trips

The schedule doesn’t exactly lighten up in the month of October with two road trips to historically tough locales in Atlanta (Oct. 4) and Blacksburg (Oct. 23). Miami’s trips to take on the ACC’s Tech schools will be packaged around a testy, home, non-conference game with American Athletic Conference favorite Cincinnati. Miami will face one of the toughest first two months of the season of any team in the ACC. The only respite comes on Oct. 18 when The U will get two weeks to prepare for the potential Coastal Division-deciding showdown with the Hokies. Additionally, Miami will play seven straight games to begin the season before the off weekend on Oct. 18.

 

November is at home (at least)

Golden and the Canes will have to get work done in the first two months of the season because the final four weeks will feature three extremely tough games. Miami will host North Carolina, Florida State and Pittsburgh — all of whom could be improved in 2014 over a year ago (yes, even FSU). The only breather comes in Charlottesville on Nov. 22.
 

Related: 2014 Miami Hurricanes Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

Frankly, this is one of the hardest ACC schedules in recent memory. Not only does Miami have to play two tough non-conference games and the normally impossible to predict divisional round-robin, but gets to face arguably the top two teams from the Atlantic Division as well. This team could easily contend for a berth in the ACC title game and has the talent to show big improvement, but this schedule doesn’t afford Golden many slip-ups. Miami could be a better team in 2014 than it was last fall and yet post a worse record. 

Teaser:
Miami Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/baylor-football-2014-schedule-analysis
Body:

Art Briles and Baylor are about to find out what it’s like to be the hunted rather than the hunter. After winning their first-ever Big 12 championship and landing in their first BCS Bowl, the Bears in Waco now have a massive bull's-eye on their backs.

 

Bryce Petty is back after a remarkable first season under center, so the offense (as usual) should be in great shape. But the defense must replace a host of veteran starters who are responsible for the greatest three-year run in school history.

 

The overall talent on this roster has been elevated but replacing leadership and toughness along the line of scrimmage will be a tall order while facing an improved Big 12 conference. 

 

2014 Baylor Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Baylor Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 31
2.Sept. 6Northwestern St
3.Sept. 13at 
4.Sept. 20Bye
5.Sept. 27at 
6.Oct. 4at 
7.Oct. 11
8.Oct. 18at 
9.Oct. 25Bye
10.Nov. 1
11.Nov. 8at 
12.Nov. 15Bye
13.Nov. 22
14.Nov. 29 (Arlington)
15.Dec. 6

Non-conference beatdown

Baylor scored 69 points in a win over Wofford, 70 points in a win over Buffalo and 70 more against UL Monroe in three non-conference games last year. While the Bears aren’t likely to score 209 points against SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo, the odds any of Baylor’s non-conference games are close in 2014 are slim and none. Bryce Petty may not even have to play in the second half of a game until a road trip to Iowa State in Week 5 — against whom Baylor put up 71 points last season.

 

Big 12 outposts

Ames, Iowa, isn’t the only obscure Big 12 outpost Baylor must visit in 2014. The Bears must make the long and circuitous trek to Morgantown as well. Both places shouldn’t be that scary after Iowa State and West Virginia combined for 17 losses a year ago, but strange things happen to good teams in both Jack Trice and Milan Puskar Stadiums. With two other road showdowns dotting the schedule (more on that in a second), Baylor must hold serve in both Ames and Morgantown.

 

Austin and Norman

The Big 12 championship will likely be decided on Oct. 4 in Austin and Nov. 8 in Norman. Baylor has to face both Big 12 powers on the road this fall and a loss in either trip could cost the Bears any chance of defending their league championship. Baylor has never won in Norman in 11 tries dating back to 1974 and is just 2-21 all-time against Oklahoma. The Bears are 9-48-2 all-time in Austin and lost 56-50 in the last trip to the 40 Acres. That said, Baylor is the defending champ and has won three of four against Texas overall and two of the last three against the Sooners. In those seven games (5-2), Baylor has scored 39.7 points per game.

 

Down the stretch they come

The final four games of the season are going to be brutal for the Bears. The home-and-home with the state of Oklahoma — at Oklahoma in Week 11 and hosting Oklahoma State in Week 13 — at least comes with an off weekend between the two showdowns. The season then ends with a neutral site battle with high-powered Texas Tech and a home visit from Bill Snyder and Kansas State. Baylor will face the 2010, '11 and '12 Big 12 champs during the final four games of the season. 

 

Related: 2014 Baylor Bears Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

The Bears will get three bye weekends this year but the schedule looks to be much more difficult in 2014. Repeating as Big 12 champs will likely mean Baylor will have to accomplish things it has never done before — namely, win in Norman, Okla. The non-conference slate is extremely easy and is a nice tune-up for a team breaking in a lot of new faces, but the road schedule in the league is very difficult and the final month of the season looks to be as dangerous as any team in the nation. The Bears should be competitive in every game and could push for a playoff spot but repeating as Big 12 champs looks like a very tall order.

Teaser:
Baylor Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12-stadiums-2014-experts-poll
Body:

Ranking anything in sports is subjective. We may all agree on certain things — like Michael Jordan is better than Kobe Bryant or that Lambeau Field is better than the Edward Jones Dome — but for the most part, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Ranking college football stadiums is not only subjective but also extremely intricate. General atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, the surrounding campus and the college town should all be considered when trying to rank college football stadiums.

 

Basically, there is no right or wrong answer. Athlon Sports polled Pac-12 experts and asked them to rank their favorite Pac-12 stadiums based on all of the above factors. Here is how things shook out:

 

The Voters:

 

Rick Neuheisel, Pac-12 Network/SiriusXM (@CoachNeuheisel)

Bryan Fischer, NFL.com (@BryanDFischer)

Chris Huston, HeismanPundit.com (@HeismanPundit)

Kyle Ringo, The Daily Camera (@KyleRingo)

Dan Hawkins, SiriusXM (@CoachHawk)
Greg Hansen, Arizona Daily Star (@GHansen711)
Ryan Nece, UCLA Bruins (@RyanNece)
Ryan Thorburn, Register-Guard (@RyanThorburn

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports (@AthlonSteven)

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM (@BradenGall)
 

The Results:

 

 RNBFCHKRDHGHRNRTSLBG
1. Oregon2112111111
2. Washington1226232222
3. UCLA3441395433
4. Colorado510534711354
5. USC12338683546
6. Cal656491110675
7. Utah787510478109
8. Arizona State899771041167
9. Arizona471112115610911
10t. Stanford9612951297118
10t. Oregon State111210118289810
12. Washington State101181012612121212

 

The Stadiums:



 

1. Autzen Stadium, Oregon

Opened: 1967 Capacity: 54,000

There is a long list of players who have claimed they’ve never heard a louder atmosphere than the Ducks' home building. Tales of the tunnel shaking in the pre-game ceremonies only add to the already amazing Saturday experience despite a smaller capacity. Smooth design lines, a beautiful setting, signature, two-tone green field turf and loads of backing from Nike money make Oregon’s home stadium one of the nation’s top venues.
 

Listen to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 college football podcast:

 

2. Husky Stadium, Washington

Opened: 1920 Capacity: 70,138

Technically, the rebuild was a renovation but it might as well be considered a new stadium. With a breath-taking view of Lake Washington, new Husky Stadium is one of the finest facilities in the nation. The $250 million “facelift” actually dropped the capacity ever so slightly, but the building kept its trademark cantilever roofs that trap sound and make the venue one of the Pac-12’s loudest. Seattle has excellent fan support for its football teams (including its MLS Sounders) and U of W faithful will flock to this luxurious and picturesque football cathedral for years to come.

 

 

3. Rose Bowl, UCLA

Opened: 1921 Capacity: 92,542

There may not be more hallowed ground in college football than the Rose Bowl. Historically, some of sports' greatest moments have happened within these walls — five Super Bowls, multiple World Cup matches, BCS national title games and, of course, the Granddaddy of Them All. So Bruins home games, at times, fail to live up to the epic reputation of the venue — there were roughly 20,000 empty seats per game in 2012 for a team that won the Pac-12 South championship. The building also deserves to get knocked for being 30 minutes from campus. That said, visiting the Arroyo Seco Park Area for a game, with mountains on the horizon and the Brookside Golf Course next door, is a one-of-a-kind experience. Massive renovations have been underway for months and are updated monthly here.

 

4. Folsom Field, Colorado

Opened: 1924 Capacity: 53,750

When the Buffs are good, this is one of the greatest places to watch a game in the nation. It certainly needs a facelift and the accommodations need upgrading across the board, but few places can match the beauty of Boulder, Colo., on Saturdays. Named after former coach Fred Folsom, rowdy fans have poured into this building for nearly a century.

 

 

5. Los Angeles Coliseum, USC

Opened: 1923 Capacity: 93,607

The biggest venue in the Pac-12 is home to the Men of Troy. The massive, intimidating Coliseum has all the quirks and character of the best venues in the nation, which is why this building has hosted the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl and the World Series. And when the Trojans are rolling, it is an impossible place for the visiting team to win in. That said, USC doesn’t feature one of the louder 90,000-seat atmospheres in the nation, and, in certain sections, the sheer size of the building can distance the fans from the action. Otherwise, the weather is amazing and the scenery (in all senses of the word) gorgeous and new luxury on-field suites in the end zone could offer a unique viewing perspective.

 

6. Memorial Stadium, Cal

Opened: 1923 Capacity: 62,717

This venue was in dire need of an upgrade and the administration has done a great job refurbishing one of the more unique stadiums in the Pac-12. The $321 million renovation took two years but, Memorial Stadium re-opened in 2012 and the project was hailed as a rousing success. The entire West Side was demolished and rebuilt, the field was lowered to improve sightlines and the East Side amenities were totally overhauled. Earthquake engineering and Tight Wad Hill, where students climb trees to watch the game, give this building some extremely unique character.
 


7. Rice-Eccles Stadium, Utah

Opened: 1998 Capacity: 45,017

The building was completely torn down and rebuilt in 1998 after being deemed unworthy of hosting events for the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. Since then, the building and its fans have watched the school outgrow the Mountain West and leap into the deep and powerful Pac-12 waters. Named after donors Robert L. Rice and George and Dolores Eccles, the building is regularly at capacity and the offers the Wasatch Mountains as a fantastic backdrop. The longer this team plays in the Pac-12, the better Saturdays will get in Rice-Eccles.

 

8. Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State

Opened: 1958 Capacity: 66,000

This building is a bit older than some of the others and has plenty of empty seats, but Sun Devil Stadium has provided many excellent Saturday evenings. The crowd is one of the most beautiful in the nation and climbing nearby Tempe Butte is a right of passage for many. It also is one of the league’s largest venues and consistently led the conference in attendance in the '80s. Future renovations are underway and have begun with removing roughly 6,000 seats in the north end zone to create flexibility for future additions/upgrades.

 
9. Arizona Stadium, Arizona

Opened:1928 Capacity: 51,811

When the team is playing well, this place can get loud. The recent $378 million renovation project added a new video board, upgraded team facilities and football offices while expanding seating in the north end zone. The Wildcats' home sits 2,430 feet above sea level in the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains. The three-tiered stadium has a long-standing reputation for bizarre late-season upsets and crazy endings.
 


10t. Stanford Stadium, Stanford

Opened: 1921 Capacity: 50,000

The Farm isn’t the biggest or loudest place to watch a game but there is much to like about Stanford Stadium. The amenities are second-to-none and the state-of-the-art building is located among groves of eucalyptus and oak trees on one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. If the building were bigger, and the fans louder, Stanford Stadium would be ranked higher among its peers.

 

10t. Reser Stadium, Oregon State

Opened: 1953 Capacity: 45,674

Quaint Reser Stadium has very few empty seats on Saturdays. Recent renovations gave Oregon State faithful one of the biggest video boards in the nation, expanded seating in the end zones, hip upgrades to the East Grandstand and improved amenities. Future plans also call for more growth, targeting a 55,000-seat capacity by 2015. After all, the Beavers need to keep pace with the in-state Ducks.

 

12. Martin Stadium, Washington State

Opened: 1972 Capacity: 32,248

During a big game, Martin Stadium will pop to life and make fans forget the building is the smallest in the league. Or that it’s located in the Pac-12’s most distant outpost. The building has a metallic feel and getting to campus is virtually impossible, but the Cougars' faithful hold their own during critical moments (see Washington game last year)

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12 Stadiums for 2014 (Experts Poll)
Post date: Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-acc-stadiums-2014-experts-poll
Body:

Ranking anything in sports is subjective. We may all agree on certain things — like Michael Jordan is better than Kobe Bryant or that Lambeau Field is better than the Edward Jones Dome — but for the most part, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Ranking college football stadiums is not only subjective but also extremely intricate. General atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, the surrounding campus and the college town should all be considered when trying to rank college football stadiums.

 

Basically, there is no right or wrong answer. Athlon Sports polled 12 ACC experts and asked them to rank their favorite ACC stadiums based on all of the above factors. Here is how things shook out:
 

The Voters:


Wes Durham, ACC/Fox Sports Net (@WesDurham)

David Hood, TigerNet.com (@MDavidHood)

Mark Ennis, ESPN 680 Louisville (@MarkEnnis)

David Glenn, ACC Sports Journal (@DavidGlennShow)

Greg Barnes, InsideCarolina (@InsideCarolina)

Jerry DiPaola, Pitt Tribune-Review (@JDiPaola_Trib)

Gary Ferman, CaneSport.com (@CaneSport)

Bob Ferrante, BleacherReport (@BobFerrante)

Adam Powell, TarHeelIllustrated.com (@HeelIllustrated)

Nate Mink, Syracuse.com (@MinkNate)

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports (@AthlonSteven)

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM (@BradenGall)

 

The Results:

 

SchoolWDDHMEDGGBJDGFBFAPNMSLBG
1. Clemson111112321111
2. Florida State222221213223
3. Virginia Tech333345132332
4. Louisville644933654545
5. NC State456477845954
6. Georgia Tech57105844610777
7. North Carolina7677569117666
8. Virginia101256681278488
9. Syracuse121014899596121010
10. Miami881110121010814101211
11. Pitt91191110111110131399
12. Boston College11912121314712981112
13. Wake Forest13148131113131311141313
14. Duke141313141412141412111414

The Stadiums:



1. Memorial Stadium, Clemson

Opened: 1942 Capacity: 81,500

Dubbed “Death Valley” by the late Presbyterian coach Lonnie McMillan after watching his teams get thumped by the Tigers for years, CMS has been home to historic moments and raucous crowds for more than 70 years. The fifth-oldest venue in the ACC, this college football cathedral witnessed the first meeting between father and son head coaches (Bowden Bowl I) and is filled with timeless traditions. One of the most well known, of course, is the rubbing of “Howard’s Rock.” One legend has it that Memorial Stadium set the record for the loudest college football stadium at 133 decibels in 2007. Current Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney certainly likes the comforts of home. He is 31-5 at Memorial Stadium during his five years as Clemson's head coach.


Listen to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast:

 


2. Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State

Opened: 1950 Capacity: 82,300

Named after former Florida State president Doak S. Campbell, The Doak is known for its vicious football teams and gorgeous student section. It was renamed in 2004 as Bobby Bowden Field, and a nine-foot statue and three-story stained-glass window of the legendary coach were added to the facilities. The Noles are 267-86-4 all-time in the largest stadium in the ACC and, interestingly enough, the gorgeous brick façade makes DCS the largest continuous brick building in the United States. The cowgirls go crazy when Chief Osceola rides in on his steed and plants his flaming spear into the 50-yard line before each home game.
 


3. Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech

Opened: 1965 Capacity: 65,632

The beautiful venue is the largest stadium in the Commonwealth of Virginia and Frank Beamer is 55-10 at home during his career in the ACC and 32-9 in Lane Stadium while a member of the Big East. The Highty Tighties, Marching Virginians and “Enter Sandman” get the crowd riled up before every home game as players rush out from the tunnel slapping a slab of Hokie Stone en route to the field. Aside from the boisterous crowd (and excellent football team), part of what makes this venue so intimidating is its altitude of 2,057 feet above sea level — making it the highest stadium in the Eastern United States.

 

4. Papa John’s Stadium, Louisville

Opened: 1998 Capacity: 55,000

The “Pizza Box” was opened in 1998 with just one level and roughly 42,000 seats. The very serious $63 million expansion in 2006 added over 13,000 seats, an upper deck and various suites and luxury boxes. The stellar row of cabooses behind the stadium is ideal for tailgating in style and is extremely convenient. As support for the team grows — moving to the ACC will help immeasurably — the need for more seats is likely to generate another round of expansion. Some plans are calling for 80,000 seats, which would make PJS one of the largest and loudest in the ACC.

 

 

5. Carter-Finley Stadium, NC State

Opened: 1966 Capacity: 60,000

Two unique aspects to Carter-Finley Stadium that add to its value are that fans are allowed to leave and re-enter the stadium — I wonder what they do in the parking lot? — and that it has the smallest clearance between the stands and the field in the ACC. The crowds are right on top of the field and it makes it difficult on opposing teams. This venue has some of the better fan support and one of the better atmospheres in the league.

 

6. Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech

Opened: 1913 Capacity: 55,000

The ACC’s oldest venue is located right in the heart of downtown Atlanta and was built for just $15,000 a century ago. Originally named Grant Field, Georgia Tech renamed the venue in 1988 Bobby Dodd Stadium after the legendary Tech head coach. Many changes over time — Astroturf and the demolition of the South Stands and the 2003 expansion, for example — have made this stadium an ever-changing home for the Ramblin’ Wreck. And when the 1930 Ford Model A Sport coupe and Buzz the Yellow Jacket come flying across the field, the Bobby Dodd faithful erupt.

 

7. Kenan Memorial Stadium, North Carolina

Opened: 1927 Capacity: 62,980

One of the most picturesque places to watch a football game, Kenan Stadium was named after dairy farmer and 1894 UNC graduate William Kenan. It is the second-oldest football venue in the ACC, and could be, in the very near future, the ACC’s nicest as major renovations are underway. The “Blue Zone” turned the horseshoe into a complete bowl with premium seating and innovative features while upgrades to the overall stadium facilities across the board made the fan’s experience one of the best in the conference (as long as fans are at the game).

 

 

8. Scott Stadium, Virginia

Opened: 1931 Capacity: 61,500

Located on one of the most historic and culturally rich campuses in the nation, the Cavaliers' home is named after former university rector Frederic Scott. The signature white columns and grassy hill in the Northwest end zone are flanked by Monticello Mountain and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Scott Stadium has been witness to many historic ACC contests — namely, the Warrick Dunn goal-line stand. The Wahoos’ stadium is the seventh biggest and fourth oldest in the ACC.

 

9. Carrier Dome, Syracuse

Opened: 1980 Capacity: 49,262

If one can get past the fact that a dome named after a HVAC corporation doesn’t have air conditioning, the Orange’s home has plenty of character to offer. Nicknamed “The Loud House,” the Cuse’s home has a Teflon-coated, fiberglass inflatable roof that is one of the loudest in the nation. However, while it has been home to many historic showdowns and is the nation’s largest basketball arena, the Carrier Dome has seen better days and is failing to reach capacity on a regular basis.

 

10. Sun Life Stadium, Miami

Opened: 1987 Capacity: 80,120

The building is 25 minutes from campus and the fans don't exactly pack the bleachers to watch the 'Canes. While the building has the amenities of a stadium capable of hosting an NFL franchise and college football's title game, it lacks the connectedness most campus locations produce. It's a nice place to play a football game but it's distant, half-filled and devoid of character.

 

 

11. Heinz Field, Pitt

Opened: 2001 Capacity: 65,050

From an amenities standpoint, few college stadiums can match the posh NFL home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Panthers' swanky digs, of course, come with the stigma of being the “other” team that plays at Heinz Field. While the venue has a great view of the Ohio River and features state-of-the-art technology, it isn’t located on campus, features roughly 20,000 empty seats each game and the home locker room doesn’t have Pitt Panthers logos plastered all over it.

 

12. Alumni Stadium, Boston College

Opened: 1957 Capacity: 44,500

The Eagles had been one of college football's most overachieving programs until recently. Not surprisingly, the team's struggles on the field have likewise resulted in a dip in attendance in the stands. Alumni Stadium can be a difficult place to play when it comes to big-time games (see College Gameday in 2009). However, it's tough to draw crowds to Chestnut Hill and when the team struggles, so does the stadium.
 

13. BB&T Field, Wake Forest

Opened: 1968 Capacity: 31,500

To Wake's fans' credit, there are typically never a ton of empty seats in BB&T and the recent round of upgrades have improved the fan's experience. However, failing to draw more than 30,000 fans per game in a major conference makes this venue inferior to the massive coliseums of the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12. The tailgating is picturesque and offers the quaintness of a homely, small-town college campus. But Wake Forest home games will never be confused with those in Columbus, Norman or Tuscaloosa.

 

14. Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke

Opened: 1929 Capacity: 33,941

Attendance has gotten better under the David Cutcliffe regime due in large part to winning more games. However, the stadium has seen its fair share of blowouts — and sparse crowds. The Duke faithful will pack Cameron Indoor long before filling Wallace Wade.

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Year One after Johnny Manziel begins in College Station in a few months. How will Texas A&M, the fans and Kevin Sumlin survive without their beloved superstar under center this fall?

 

While this team is expected to take a small step back in 2014, the positive vibes and overall trajectory of this program is something Aggies fans should be excited about. Sumlin has stacked two solid recruiting classes atop one another and a third appears to be in the works. But those young four- and five-star athletes need time to develop and learn how tough life in the SEC can be.

 

The offensive line and skill weapons should be solid once again but the defense could again be one of the league’s worst and the quarterback position is certainly a question mark (at least, until Kyle Allen starts to develop).

 

This is a team that was just 4-4 in SEC play a year ago with the great Johnny Manziel under center, with Jake Matthews protecting the blindside and with Mike Evans stretching defenses. So with a brutal conference slate on the docket for 2014, it’s hard to see Texas A&M repeating or improving upon that .500 benchmark without those three first-round draft picks on offense.
 

2014 Texas A&M Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Texas A&M Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 28at 
2.Sept. 6Lamar
3.Sept. 13
4.Sept. 20at 
5.Sept. 27 (Arlington)
6.Oct. 4at 
7.Oct. 11
8.Oct. 18at 
9.Oct. 25Bye
10.Nov. 1
11.Nov. 8at 
12.Nov. 15
13.Nov. 22Bye
14.Nov. 27
Unlucky opener

The SEC Network wanted Texas A&M and South Carolina to start the season and that is really bad news for the Aggies. The season will start on the road in one of the toughest places to play in the league against a team that’s won 11 games in three straight years and returns its entire offensive line and star running back. Take the Gamecocks and lay the points.

 

No worries in the non-conference

Despite the nasty first weekend trip to Columbia, S.C., the non-conference slate for TAMU will provide four wins. Lamar, Rice and UL Monroe all have to visit College Station and the Aggies have to visit SMU in Dallas. Texas A&M should be a heavy favorite in all four and there is no reason for Sumlin and company to lose any of their non-conference games this fall.

 

October in the West

Four of the first five SEC games will be played away from Kyle Field. After a trip to South Carolina, TAMU won’t play another SEC game until taking on rival Arkansas in Arlington, Texas, in the final week of September. Then road games with key West Division opponents Mississippi State and Alabama take place in Weeks  6 and 8 respectively. The lone home game is a critical one, as Ole Miss comes to town in Week 7. After all of that, Texas A&M gets an open date (Week 9) and UL Monroe (Week 10) before a nasty and important final three weeks of the season.

 

Home cooking

The game with Ole Miss cannot be overvalued and a road trip to Auburn looks daunting, but the final two weeks will feature two massive upset opportunities as Missouri and LSU come to town in the final two weeks of the year. The development of the quarterback and defense should allow for at least one home upset (possibly two) and a win over either Mizzou and LSU could push Texas A&M over .500 on the season. An off weekend between the two home dates helps and the LSU game will take place on Thanksgiving as a new tradition gets started in College Station.

 

Related: 2014 Texas A&M Aggies Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

The key for Texas A&M’s ’14 season is likely the trio of key home swing games with Ole Miss, Missouri and LSU. If the Aggies can win all four non-conference games, handle Arkansas in Dallas and pull an upset or two at home late in the year, the momentum for this program heading into 2015 could be sky high. The road schedule in the SEC is as tough as any team in the nation will face within their league (Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi State) and just one win on the road could make this season look a lot different (8-4, let’s say).

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Texas A&M Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
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Ranking anything in sports is subjective. We may all agree on certain things — like Michael Jordan is better than Kobe Bryant or that Lambeau Field is better than SunLife Stadium — but for the most part, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Ranking college football stadiums is not only subjective but also extremely intricate. General atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, the surrounding campus and the college town should all be considered when trying to rank college football stadiums.

 

Basically, there is no right or wrong answer. Athlon Sports polled 12 SEC experts and asked them to rank their favorite SEC stadiums based on all of the above factors. Here is how things shook out:

 

The Voters:


Tim Brando, SiriusXM (@TimBrando)
Dan Wolken, USAToday (@DanWolken)

Steven Godfrey, SBNation (@38Godfrey)

Billy Liucci, TexAgs.com (@BillyLiucci)

Josh Ward, MrSEC.com/The Sports Animal (@Josh_Ward)

Jon Cooper, SaturdayDownSouth (@JonSDS)

Seth Emerson, Macon Telegraph (@SethEmerson)

Barrett Sallee, BleacherReport (@BarrettSallee)

Reed Carringer, FootballTimeInTennessee (@FootballTimeMag)

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports (@AthlonMitch)

David Fox, Athlon Sports (@DavidFox615)

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM (@BradenGall)

 

The Results:

 

StadiumsTBDWSGBLJWJCSEBSTNMLDFBG
1. LSU312211111411
2. Texas A&M255363382232
3. Georgia421445496144
4. Tennessee144758245363
5. Alabama667122653559
6. Florida898636534825
7. Auburn936574729786
8. South Carolina5714897867978
9t. Arkansas10810989910116107
9t. Ole Miss7103111011117810910
11. Missouri111311121110101210131111
12. Miss. State12129101212121112111312
13. Kentucky131113131413131314121213
14. Vanderbilt141412141314141413141414

The Stadiums:
 


1. Tiger Stadium, LSU

Opened: 1924 Capacity: 100,000

Be it the vast and unique tailgating menu or Richter Scale-registering fans, few places in the nation can send chills down your spine like Tiger Stadium. As one of the loudest and most rabid atmospheres in the nation, LSU boasts one of the most daunting home-field advantages in college football — especially at night. A $70 million renovation is underway to push Tiger Stadium’s capacity to 100,000, only furthering a hallowed reputation as one of the nation’s top venues. There is a reason Tiger Stadium got eight first-place votes in our poll.
 

Listen to Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast:

 

 

2. Kyle Field, Texas A&M

Opened: 1904 Capacity: 102,500*

If things progress the way Texas A&M faithful believe, Kyle Field is poised to become arguably the best football stadium in the SEC. Once the $450 million renovation is completed prior to the 2015 season, the Aggies' home stadium will be the largest in the SEC (102,500). That said, the home of the 12th Man is no joke today as it stands. Three towering decks of screaming fans urge their team on through choreographed cheering and rich traditions. Despite having hosted only a dozen SEC games, Kyle Field is currently the oldest venue in the conference.
 


3. Sanford Stadium, Georgia

Opened: 1929 Capacity: 92,746

It may not be the SEC’s biggest or loudest stadium, but it is the most beautiful. The Bulldogs' home stadium is located in the heart of the plush greenery of the gorgeous Athens campus. The famed privet hedges line the field and separate the Georgia fans from the action on the field with style that matches the dolled-up student section. Mark Richt is 68-14 “Between the Hedges” and has his team poised for another perfect home slate in 2014.

 

4. Neyland Stadium, Tennessee

Opened: 1921 Capacity: 102,455

Named for former head coach General Robert Reese Neyland, the biggest venue in the SEC has, at one time or another, been the biggest college football stadium in the nation. Recent renovations have transformed the once dilapidated exterior into a brick Big Orange cathedral. Towering over the winding Tennessee River and attendant Vol Navy, Neyland’s double-deck, totally enclosed seating makes it one of the loudest places to watch a game in the nation.
 

 
5. Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama

Opened: 1929 Capacity: 101,821

Legendary head coach Bear Bryant and former university president George Denny lent their names to one of college football’s most intimidating home venues. Alabama is 231-52-3 since opening the building in 1929, and Nick Saban is 36-6 at home during his tenure. In front of the most dedicated fans in the nation, the Crimson Tide routinely bring opponents to their knees with ear-shattering support (just as long as the opponent is a good one).

 

6. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida

Opened: 1930 Capacity: 88,548

Dubbed "The Swamp" by Steve Spurrier in the early 1990s, no stadium in the nation has a better nickname. And when the Gators are rolling, few places in the nation are as intimidating as a hot and humid Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Unique sightlines and design subtleties give BHGS plenty of character and gives the team a huge home-field advantage. From 1990 to 2009, the Gators had the best home field record in the nation at 113-13. When it comes to noise and success, The Swamp is among the game’s preeminent locations to watch a game.
 


7. Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn

Opened: 1939 Capacity: 87,451

The Tigers' football stadium is named after Shug Jordan, the winningest coach in school history, and Cliff Hare, a member of Auburn’s first-ever football team and former president of the Southern Conference. Beautiful and historic murals on the east-side exterior as well as freshly planted “War Eagle” flowers in the end zone give this venue plenty of character. And when “Nova” (War Eagle VII), the team’s live golden eagle mascot, flies into the friendly confines, the Auburn faithful explode into a pre-game frenzy.

 

8. Williams-Brice Stadium, South Carolina

Opened: 1934 Capacity: 80,250

Recent upgrades to the tailgating areas and stadium itself have elevated Williams-Brice into the upper echelon of SEC venues. “The Cock Pit” has signature lighting high above the upper deck on either side of the field and each home game begins with the playing of the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey," giving South Carolina one of the best pre-game reputations in the nation. Steve Spurrier has built WBS into one of the impossible places for visitors to win, posting a 32-3 mark at home over the last four seasons.
 


9t. Donald W. Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium, Arkansas

Opened: 1938 Capacity: 72,000

One of the most underrated home atmospheres lies just a few miles north of the Ozarks in Northwest Arkansas. After massive renovations in 2001, “DWRRS” grew to accommodate some of the most dedicated fans in the nation. The nation’s second-largest video board (167 feet wide) was added just last year to the North end zone, and additional planned renovations will push this stadium to 80,000 seats in the very near future. Arkansas’ all-time record at their home stadium is a solid but uninspiring 166-81-2. The trademark “Woo Pig Sooie” chant can be heard echoing across campus during each home game in the fall.

 

9t. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss

Opened: 1915 Capacity: 60,580

Can Ole Miss figure out a way to move The Grove inside Vaught-Hemingway? The world’s greatest pre-game tailgate takes place just a few yards away from the comparably small, but no less enjoyable, stadium. So while the third-oldest venue in the SEC hasn’t been all that daunting to opposing teams over the years, it does house what may be the most beautiful fan base in the nation. Everyone should attend at least one tailgate in Oxford, Miss.
 


11. Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium, Missouri

Opened: 1927 Capacity: 77,000

Missouri is doing everything it can to make its atmosphere and gameday experience match its big-time SEC rivals. In 2013, Mizzou faithful were greeted with a brand new luxury suite tower to the West and tweaks to the historic north hill beyond the end zone. The famous rock “M” emblazoned hill was moved closer to the field to get fans closer to the action and create more concourse space. In 2014, fans will be met with a completed upper bowl on the East side of the stadium adding nearly 6,000 new seats.

 

12. Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State

Opened: 1914 Capacity: 61,337*

The Bulldogs averaged more than 100-percent attendance the last two years and this is one of the reasons why Mississippi State has planned yet another expansion to Davis Wade Stadium. The $75 million work has taken two years and will be completed before the 2014 season and should add roughly 6,000 new seats*. The North end zone will be sealed off and a high-definition video board will be installed. Opposing fans and teams have grown to despise playing in front of the piercing collection of cowbells.
 


13. Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky

Opened: 1973 Capacity: 67,692

When this team is good, Big Blue Nation is as loud and passionate as any stadium with less than 70,000 seats in the nation. Despite winning just two games last year, this team drew 59,472 fans per game. This venue has witnessed some historic moments — i.e., the Bluegrass Miracle — and Mark Stoops hopes he can build on his first season. It also has one of the cooler names of any stadium in the nation. 

 

14. Vanderbilt Stadium, Vanderbilt

Opened: 1922 Capacity: 40,350

The new brick façade and back-to-back-to-back winning seasons have helped build up the Dores' home atmosphere. However, the tiny alumni base and single-tiered stadium lacks the pageantry and passion of every other SEC venue. Vandy will always have a tough time selling out and competing in attendance numbers compared to the SEC's bluebloods. However, being located on beautiful West End with plenty to do within walking distance, there is still plenty to enjoy on gameday in Nashville.

 

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Paul Chryst has been to the postseason in each of his first two seasons at the helm in Pittsburgh. He won six games in his first tour and upped the total to seven a year ago — even if the statistical data was actually worse, especially on defense.

 

But with four starters back along the offensive line and some elite skill weapons on the outside (See: Tyler Boyd), Pitt’s offense has a chance to be the best it has been since at least 2009. This is Chryst’s bread and butter, of course, as the quarterback guru and offensive mastermind has more tools to work with than in either of his first two seasons.

 

This is why fans and media critics are bullish on the direction of the Panthers' program. This team has a chance to be the big surprise in the ACC Coastal Division, but talent and coaching are just two of the reasons energy is surging through The Steel City.

 

The schedule also plays a prominent role in projecting Pitt for a big breakthrough this fall.


2014 Pitt Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Pitt Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 30Delaware
2.Sept. 6at 
3.Sept. 13
4.Sept. 20
5.Sept. 27
6.Oct. 4at 
7.Oct. 11Bye
8.Oct. 16
9.Oct. 25
10.Nov. 1
11.Nov. 8Bye
12.Nov. 15at 
13.Nov. 22
14.Nov. 29at 
Non-conference opportunity

Pitt should be able to roll through Delaware (Week 1), FIU on the road (Week 3) and Akron (Week 5) in non-conference play. But a win over Iowa at home, a Big Ten West Division contender, would not only give Pitt a perfect 4-0 record outside of the ACC but would give the Panthers loads of momentum heading into October.

 

Starting unblemished

There is a good chance Pitt could start the year 6-0. The first two ACC games of the year will be at Boston College (Week 2) and at Virginia (Week 6). Not only are those both very winnable games — BC will be taking a small step back this year — but Pitt will then finish the season with four of its last six at home. Iowa, along with the Eagles and Cavaliers, won’t be easy games but Pitt could be favored in all three. This means Pitt will be a favorite to win the first six games of the season. A 5-1 start is more likely but 6-0 isn’t out of the question, in which case, all bets are off in the Coastal Division race.

 

Crossover play

One of the reasons there is a lot to like about Pitt this year is the crossover play with the Atlantic Division. Florida State, Clemson and Louisville are all absent from the schedule, while Boston College and Syracuse show up. It’s not NC State (predicted sixth) or Wake Forest (predicted seventh), and both Cuse and BC are pegged to get to a bowl game, but as far as crossover play goes, this is a pretty manageable twosome.

 

Coastal round-robin

Pitt will get three key divisional games at home this year. Duke, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech all have to visit Heinz Field this year in consecutive games (there is a bye week between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech), giving Chryst a shot at making a run at the divisional crown. The Panthers scored 58 on Duke in a bizarre three-point win while both Tech schools handled Pitt with relative ease. Chryst’s offense scored just 19 points total against the Jackets and Hokies. If Pitt can win two out of the three, Panthers fans could be eyeing nine or 10 wins.

 

November road trips

Pitt lost to both Miami (41-31) and North Carolina (34-27) at home last year and if the Panthers want to compete in the division, it will have to likely win at least one of these two November games. Both will take place on the road in the final three weeks of the season. These two games may be the toughest two tests of the entire season for Pitt and a win in either one of them could make for a special season.

 

Related: 2014 Pitt Panthers Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

There is a lot to like about the Panthers' schedule. There are enough challenges to prove Pitt is a quality team without having to face any superpowers. The schedule is easily compartmentalized with an intriguing and favorable six-game start to the year before three straight home games within the division. The final three weeks of the season feature the toughest two road trips against two division contenders. Is nine or 10 wins within reach for Pitt? Yes, but an 8-4 season is more likely and would have to be considered a step in the right direction.

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Clemson outlasted Georgia in Death Valley late on a Saturday night on the first weekend of action to open the 2013 college football season. UCLA overcame a 21-point, first-half deficit to beat Nebraska in Lincoln. Miami upset Florida, signifying the beginning of the end for the 2013 Gators. Notre Dame played epic games with Stanford, USC, Michigan, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Arizona State. And speaking of the Sun Devils, no one will forget what happened at the end of the Wisconsin game (the clock may still be ticking).

 

Every year, college football delivers delicious non-conference appetizers before league play opens up across the nation. As the College Football Playoff era begins in 2014, the value and importance of non-conference games have escalated exponentially.

 

At season’s end, there will be a host of one- and two-loss teams who believe they have earned the right to compete in the postseason. Yet, not all one-loss teams are created equally and a huge way to compare teams from totally different regions could eventually come down to non-conference scheduling. Who did you play out of your league? How did you perform out of your league?

 

A marquee non-conference win could (and likely will) be the difference between playing for a national championship or getting relegated to a glorified exhibition game (people call these bowl games).

 

Here are the most important, most anticipated, must-see non-conference games of the 2014 season:

 

1. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6)

It cannot be overstated what a win for Michigan State in this game would mean for the Big Ten. So Oregon cannot overlook the rebuilt Sparty defense early in the year or the Ducks could be knocked out of playoff contention by Week 2. The schematic chess match between Marcus Mariota and Mark Dantonio's defense should be fascinating to watch. It's a classic Big Ten-Pac-12, offense-defense showdown that should feature two top 10 teams. It should be the best non-conference game of the year regardless of conference.

 

2. Notre Dame at Florida State (Oct. 18)

Florida State’s toughest regular season test in 2014 may come from the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame has the talent, gets its signal-caller back under center and could be on a roll by mid-October. Few games in the nation will feature two more powerful brands with more at stake than when Brian Kelly brings his team south to Tallahassee. Very few teams have what it takes to challenge the defending champs but Notre Dame is definitely one of them. These two have met seven times with FSU taking five games, including the last two meetings in 2003 and '11.

 

3. Stanford at Notre Dame (Oct. 4)

This historic rivalry has been elevated in recent years after a memorable overtime goal-line stand for Notre Dame in 2012 and a physical 27-20 victory for Stanford a year ago. Only four times have both teams been ranked at the time of the meeting (28 total games) and three of those have come in the last three years. A fourth straight meeting of two ranked teams is likely to happen again this year and a playoff berth could be on the line this time around.

 

4. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 29)

As far as deeply entrenched rivalries and overall importance of the game to the national landscape go, it's hard to argue the Palmetto State season finale won't be one the biggest non-conference games in the league. Carolina and Steve Spurrier are eyeing an SEC East title and possible playoff berth, so a loss to the Tigers for the first time since 2008 would be crippling to those hopes. If the Tigers' offense develops quickly, this could be another top-15 matchup.

 

5. LSU vs. Wisconsin (Aug. 30, Houston)

From a pure entertainment standpoint, the Tigers-Badgers semi-neutral field battle in Houston might be the one to watch in '14. This game will feature what should be two equally matched opponents, both of whom are expecting to compete for division titles in their respective leagues. The winner is buoyed right out of the gate with a top 20 win, the loser may be out of the national title picture after just 60 minutes of football. LSU and Wisconsin feature two of the best power running games in the land and this game will be a throwback showcase for both.

 

6. Texas vs. UCLA (Sept. 13, Arlington)

UCLA has Pac-12 South Division title hopes and possibly more as Brett Hundley enters his third season under center. Texas will be three weeks into the Charlie Strong Era in Austin and will provide a nasty early-season test for the Bruins on a “neutral field” in Dallas. The Longhorns will be a much more disciplined and focused team under the new regime and both teams have outside chances at landing a spot the college football playoffs. An early-season slip up must be avoided for both programs.

 

7. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29)

This was a blowout a year ago but Florida expects to be much improved and the historic Sunshine State rivalry could hold national championship implications for the Seminoles. Florida may have the best roster of any team Florida State will face in the 2014 regular season so fans should expect a much closer bout this time around — as long as the Gators' coaching staff is still intact by season's end.

 

8. Auburn at Kansas State (Sept. 18)

Gus Malzahn's offense led by Nick Marshall, four returning offensive line starters and a deep receiving corps faces Bill Snyder's defensive wizardry on the road on a Thursday night. Both teams will have extra time to prepare for the primetime mid-week meeting and both will be contenders for their respective conference championships. From a coaching standpoint, it doesn't get much better than Malzahn vs. Snyder.

 

9. Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)

Last year's meeting was an epic offensive showdown that featured elite playmakers and provided a memorable experience for everyone. This year, Clemson's defense is its strength while Georgia returns nine starters on D. With two new quarterbacks for both teams, expect a sloppier performance from both offenses in the first week of the season — which could be equally as entertaining. Each team has an outside shot at playoff contention so this season-opening meeting is monumental for both teams.

 

10. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 29)

The battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh will take place for the 86th time in 2014 with both teams eyeing a trip to the postseason. The Irish lead the series 45-35-5 — including the vacated 2005 USC victory — and Notre Dame has won two straight and three out of four overall. Both teams enter the season ranked in the top 15 and by season’s end, each could be positioned to play for a national championship. Which means, only one is likely to get that chance once they meet on the final weekend of the regular season.

 

11. Army vs. Navy (Dec. 13, Baltimore)

It has no bearing on the national landscape and neither team plays a “conference” schedule, but the annual bout between Army and Navy has to be recognized. The two have met 114 times with Navy holding a 58-49-7 edge in the all-time series, including a 12-game winning streak. There is a reason this game stands alone on its own weekend (Week 16, technically) and attending this patriotic and emotional contest should be on every fan’s sports bucket list.

 

12. Notre Dame at Arizona State (Nov. 8)

It’s not a traditional rivalry like USC or Stanford but a visit from Notre Dame in early November is must-see TV for all college football fans. The Irish beat the Sun Devils 37-34 a year ago in Arlington, giving Notre Dame a perfect record in three total meetings with Arizona State. Todd Graham’s defense is going through a major overhaul this offseason but should be settling in by the time Brian Kelly’s offense gets to Tempe. Expect fireworks from both sides.

 

13. Michigan at Notre Dame (Sept. 6)

There is rich history and tradition between these two programs, and with the game going the way of the dodo bird, this meeting has more meaning. These two teams are breaking in three new coordinators, most importantly, Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. He will be pitted against new Irish defensive mind Brian VanGorder as both units have questions entering the season. A win for Brady Hoke entering Big Ten play can’t be overvalued, while a victory for Brian Kelly could place Notre Dame into playoff contention.

 

14. BYU at Texas (Sept. 6)

A revenge opportunity for the Burnt Orange players and a chance for Charlie Strong to land his first big win as the head coach. Especially, the way quarterback Taysom Hill and the Cougars abused the Longhorns' rushing defense a year ago. Hill is going to be even better this year so stopping that ground attack is still going to be a tall order. This Texas team will be more physical and more fundamentally sound this fall and the game is on the 40 Acres. No matter what happens, though, this is appointment viewing early in the year.

 

15. Boise State vs. Ole Miss (Aug. 28, Atlanta)

The sneaky good matchup in Atlanta features two rising stars on the sidelines in Hugh Freeze and Bryan Harsin. Both offenses should be electric on the fast track in the Georgia Dome and both teams think of themselves as conference contenders. The quarterback play for both teams will be fascinating to watch.

 

16. Miami at Nebraska (Sept. 20)

From an intrigue standpoint, few non-conference games in college football will feature two more powerful brands than this Week 4 meeting in Lincoln. These two have met in multiple national title situations, including four Orange Bowls and three national title games. The last two meetings were a Miami beatdown in the BCS title game in 2001 and a Nebraska national championship-clinching win in the 1995 Orange Bowl. And, of course, who could forget the 1984 Orange Bowl and the most infamous two-point conversion attempt in college football history.

 

17. Virginia Tech at Ohio State (Sept. 6)

The Hokies will once again have an elite defense led by well-respected coordinator Bud Foster. This is the reason Virginia Tech is the front-runner to win the Coastal Division and face Florida State in the ACC title game. Ohio State is a top playoff contender and is breaking in a new offensive line, so facing the Hokies' defensive line is a great early measuring stick for Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes will be a clear favorite in this game and a decisive win could give OSU a critical non-conference win over a quality opponent.

 

18. Louisville at Notre Dame (Nov. 22)

Bobby Petrino has a few marquee showdowns on his schedule this fall and the biggest one might be a trip to South Bend in late November. The meeting will mark the first time in history that these two programs have ever met despite being just four hours apart. The matching of offensive wits between Petrino and Brian Kelly will be a thing to behold and must-see TV.

 

19. Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (Aug. 30, Arlington)

Oklahoma State won the Big 12 title in 2011 and was one drive away from a second conference crown a year ago (they also smoked the Baylor Bears at home). However, with massive departures, the Pokes are in rebuilding mode and playing the defending national champs in Week 1 is a recipe for disaster. Still, any time two big programs get together in the season opener in Jerry’s World it’s something the nation needs to watch.

 

20. North Carolina at Notre Dame (Oct.11)

Much like Louisville and Florida State, North Carolina has a shot at a headline-making, non-conference win if it can go into South Bend and pull the upset. The Tar Heels may not have the same talent as the Seminoles or the coaching of the Cardinals, but North Carolina should be fairly competitive in mid-October. The Heels are 2-16 all-time against the Irish but won the last meeting 29-24 in Chapel Hill in 2008.

 

21. Georgia Tech at Georgia (Nov. 29)

Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate featured one of the most thrilling finishes of 2013 (unfortunately for Tech). The Jackets coughed up a 20-point lead and eventually lost in double overtime. Paul Johnson has one win in six tries against the Dawgs, as Tech has lost 12 of 13 against their in-state rival. A season-ending win over Georgia cannot be undervalued for Johnson and could knock UGA out of playoff contention.

 

22. Northwestern at Notre Dame (Nov. 15)

From a regional standpoint, this game has tremendous intrigue. The Irish have dominated the Wildcats, winning 37 of 47 total meetings. That said, the last time these two met was a historic 17-15 win for the Wildcats in 1995 — a win that propelled the traditional Big Ten doormat into a historic Rose Bowl season. Pat Fitzgerald’s squad should be much improved, especially by the middle of November.

 

23. BYU at Boise State (Oct. 24)

These two Western powers have only met four times in history, including a 37-20 Cougars win last year in Provo. It was the first loss for Boise State against BYU. This season's meeting in late October also serves as the third consecutive year these two programs have met. New Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin will be in the middle of his first Mountain West season and Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill will be looking to build a potential Heisman Trophy resume with a great road performance. This game will feature more shades of blue than any one football game should possess.

 

24. Kentucky at Louisville (Nov. 29)

Mark Stoops is making Kentucky more relevant every day and his team should be at its best by season's end. Bobby Petrino will be wrapping up his first season back in Louisville. With in-state recruiting battles growing more fierce by the day, the Wildcats-Cardinals matchup just gets that much more intriguing.

 

25. Iowa at Pitt (Sept. 20)

Pitt is going to be one of the most improved teams in the ACC this year and will give Iowa all it can handle at home in Week 4. The Hawkeyes are spying a run at a Big Ten West Division title and Paul Chryst is very familiar with Kirk Ferentz from his time at Wisconsin. This would be a huge win for a team on the rise against a quality foe at home.

 

26. Tennessee at Oklahoma (Sept. 13)

It may not be all that close of a game but any time two major power brands like the Vols and Sooners get together, it's must-see TV. Trevor Knight and Oklahoma enter the year thinking Big 12 championship and postseason bid. Butch Jones and Tennessee are slowly working their way out of the worst slump in program history. There is a lot on the line for both coaches and both teams.

 

27. Minnesota at TCU (Sept. 13)

Jerry Kill and Gary Patterson are two of the most well respected coaches in the game today. Minnesota is coming off an eight-win season and wants to prove it can sustain some level of success, while TCU is projected to be a much better team in 2014. This game may not look like a great matchup on paper but by season’s end, one of these two teams will have a really good non-conference win.

 

28. Iowa State at Iowa (Sept. 13)

This is a passionate in-state rivalry that has been played 61 times (Iowa leads 41-20). The Hawkeyes won easily in Ames a year ago but lost 9-6 the last time these two met in Iowa City (2012). This game has seen high-scoring overtime affairs (44-41 in 2011) and low-scoring defensive battles. Fans never really know what they are going to see when these two get together.

 

29. Arkansas at Texas Tech (Sept. 13)

Fans in Lubbock and Fayetteville may learn all they need to know about the both teams in Week 3. Should Bret Bielema's team play well in Lubbock or even pull the upset, then Arkansas could be a much bigger factor in the SEC than expected. If not and Kliff Kingsbury out tempos the Razorbacks, it could signal a long year for Pig Sooie and a sign of things to come for Tech. The old Southwest Conference ties make this one of the more intriguing matchups of the year.

 

30. Nebraska at Fresno State (Sept. 13)

The week before Nebraska welcomes Miami to Memorial Stadium, Bo Pelini will have to take his team on a long road trip to Southern California. Fresno State is breaking in a new quarterback but is still considered one of the best teams in the Mountain West. Pelini needs to be sure his squad doesn’t look ahead to the Hurricanes or the Bulldogs will jump up and bite him

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Top 30 Non-Conference Games to Watch in 2014
Post date: Monday, June 16, 2014 - 07:15

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