Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/14-sec-stats-you-need-know-2015

Here are the most important and interesting stats you need to know about the SEC in 2015:


1.5: Alabama’s points per trip inside the 40 margin

A measure of a team’s ability to finish drives on offense and stop drives on defense is points per trip inside the 40. Alabama led the nation with a plus-1.5 point margin last season. It was 20th nationally with 5.0 points per trip inside the 40 on offense and was sixth with just 3.5 points allowed per trip inside the 40 on defense.


5: Times Arkansas held an opponent under 70 yards rushing

Everyone knows about the Razorbacks' identity on offense, finishing 26th nationally at 218 yards rushing per game. But the defense held it’s own in a big way on the ground as well, holding five different opponents to less than 70 yards. This included Alabama (66), LSU (36), Ole Miss (63) and Texas (2).


329.8: Will Muschamp’s career worst yards allowed

In 12 seasons as a defensive coordinator or head coach, Muschamp has never allowed more than 329.8 yards per game, 5.3 yards per play or 23.7 points per game in any season. Auburn last year allowed 398.8 yards per game, 5.7 yards per play and 26.7 points per game.


5.42: Jim McElwain’s lowest offensive output

In eight years as a coordinator or head coach, McElwain’s lowest offensive output was 5.42 yards per play in his first season at Colorado State. During his three years in Fort Collins, the Rams posted an average of 6.31 yards per play with a high of 7.1 in 2014. Last season, the Gators averaged 5.24 yards per play and were even worse in 2013 (4.79).


Related: Complete 2015 SEC Preview and Predictions


8.7: Georgia’s field position margin

The Dawgs led the SEC and were fifth nationally with an average starting field position of the 34.5-yard line. The Dawgs also led the SEC and were third nationally in opponent’s starting field position at the 25.8-yard line. The 8.7 margin was good for third nationally and well ahead of the SEC’s No. 2 team, Tennessee (5.6, 12th).


11: Kentucky division wins against teams not named Vanderbilt

Since the SEC split into two divisions in 1992, the Wildcats have won just 11 games against teams not named Vanderbilt. Kentucky is 13-10 against the Dores but just 11-84 against Florida (0-23), Tennessee (1-22), Georgia (3-20), Missouri (0-3) and South Carolina (7-16).


50.0: LSU’s team completion percentage last fall

The Tigers had quarterback issues in 2014 to say the least. LSU finished 138-of-276 for the entire season, ranking 120th in passes completed (ahead of mostly option offenses). That 50.0 percent completion rate ranked just 122nd nationally, ahead of only Hawaii, USF, Miami (Ohio), Navy and Army.


1: Times Mississippi State has gone to five straight bowls

The 2014 season was a season of firsts for Mississippi State. It marked the first time in school history that the Bulldogs had been to five straight bowls. It also marked the first time in school history that they reached No. 1 ranking in the AP poll. In fact, Mississippi State spent four weeks ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation and won 10 games for only the third time in school history.


3: Fumbles lost by Missouri

The Tigers led the nation with just three fumbles lost last season, tied with Boston College and UNLV. Their 10 total fumbles ranked fourth nationally as well. Additionally, only Oregon (22) forced more fumbles than the Tigers (21). Needless to say, Gary Pinkel’s squad won the turnover battle last fall (+9).


1994: Last time Ole Miss allowed less than 4.67 yards per play

The Ole Miss Landshark defense allowed just 4.67 yards per play last fall, ranking seventh in the nation. The last time the Rebels allowed less than 4.67 yards per play was way back in 1994. With seven starters back on defense (and nine more on offense), Hugh Freeze could see his team repeat the feat in 2015.


Related: 2015 Preseason SEC All-Conference Teams


14.0: South Carolina QB sacks

Steve Spurrier has harped on it all offseason long. The Gamecocks have to get better at pressuring the quarterback or his putrid defense has no chance of improving. South Carolina ranked last in the SEC and 119th nationally with just 14.0 sacks — or just 1.08 per game. Spurrier is hoping he can get an instant impact from newcomer D-linemen Dexter Wideman and Marquavious Lewis.


5.7: Yards per play when Joshua Dobbs started

The Vols offense averaged just 4.5 yards per play during the first eight games of the season last fall. Tennessee was 3-5 and would have ranked 122nd nationally at 4.5 yards per play. Dobbs entered the starting lineup against South Carolina and the offense surged, averaging 5.7 yards per play and going 4-1 down the stretch — which would have been good for 57th nationally.


153.63: Kyle Allen’s QB rating over the final four games

Joshua Dobbs was great for Tennessee and Jeremy Johnson will be for Auburn, but don’t overlook Allen in College Station. The uber recruit took over the Texas A&M offense and cruised in the final month. His QB rating over the final four games was 153.63 — which would have ranked third in the SEC and 13th nationally. Allen completed 65.1 percent of his passes and posted an impressive 12:4 TD:INT ratio over that span.


-16: Vanderbilt’s turnover margin

Vanderbilt was both bad and unlucky last season at protecting the football. The Dores' minus-16 turnover margin was last in the SEC and 124th nationally. This was an astronomical swing from the James Franklin era, where the Dores were plus-7 in the turnover margin department in 2013. The minus-23 swing is virtually impossible to replicate and should improve in 2015.

14 SEC Stats You Need to Know for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/12-pac-12-stats-you-need-know-2015

Here are the most important and interesting stats you need to know about the Pac-12 in 2015:


67-7: Anu Solomon’s record as a starter

Arizona’s starting quarterback isn’t the most mobile and doesn’t have the best arm but he knows how to win. He went 57-3 with four state championships at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas and then 10-4 as a redshirt freshman with a division title in his first season at Arizona. His 3,793 passing yards and 28 touchdowns were freshman school records and he’s the first returning starter at QB for the Wildcats since Nick Foles came back in 2011.


414.3: Yards per start for Mike Bercovici

Few teams will ever feel as comfortable replacing a three-year starter than Arizona State with Mike Bercovici. The super-sub replaced Taylor Kelly against UCLA, USC and Stanford last year and not only held his own but excelled. He won twice and averaged 414.3 yards passing per start. He added nine touchdowns and just two interceptions in those three starts.


7.1: Colorado yards allowed per play in Pac-12 games

The defense is an issue in Boulder to say the least. Colorado allowed an absurd 7.1 yards per play against Pac-12 foes last fall. No other team in the nation allowed more than 7.0 yards per play against conference opponents. The Buffs were much better in non-conference play at 4.9 yards per play allowed.


42: TD passes allowed by Cal

The Bears gave up a nation’s worst 42 touchdown passes a year ago. It also gave up a nation’s worst 4,406 passing yards on a nation’s worst 356 completions. The 154.54 defensive pass efficiency wasn’t much better at 118th nationally. Jared Goff is awesome but this team won’t get much better unless its defense improves.


19.5: Time between Oregon snaps in 2014

Oregon ran one play every 19.5 seconds last year, the sixth fastest total in the nation and trailing only Arizona in the Pac-12. That was with Marcus Mariota calling the shots so Vernon Adams obviously has big shoes to fill. The good news is the backfield returns 2,330 yards rushing from Royce Freeman, Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall.


30-9: Gary Andersen’s record the last three seasons

A new era begins in Corvallis for more than one reason. Sean Mannion, the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer (13,600), is gone but so too is mainstay head coach Mike Riley. Andersen takes over after going 30-7 in his last three seasons, winning at least nine games in all three campaigns. Riley won at least nine games just four times in 14 seasons at Oregon State and only once (2012) since 2008.


3.9: Stanford points per trip inside the 40

In the advanced stats world, finishing drives is defined by points per trip inside the 40-yard line. And the Cardinal ranked just 109th nationally a year ago, scoring just 3.9 points per visit inside the 40. For comparison, Oregon led the Pac-12 and was second nationally with 5.3 points per trip inside the 40. The Cardinal were actually worse in the red zone, finishing 112th in red zone efficiency (73.7 percent).


29: Wins in Jim Mora’s first three seasons

UCLA is coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons. That has happened only twice before Mora’s arrival (1997-98 and 1987-88) and never have the Bruins reached the 10-win milestone three times in a row. In fact, 29 wins is a school record for wins over a three-year period. It is worth pointing out that Brett Hundley, who is now in the NFL, started all 40 of those games the last three seasons.


97.4: USC rushing yards allowed per game in Pac-12 play

USC infamously allowed 452 yards rushing against Boston College last year. However, no team in the Pac-12 was better against the run in the league than the Trojans. Against Pac-12 teams, USC led the league with just 97.4 rushing yards allowed per game, ranking fifth nationally. Only Clemson (91.8) and Louisville (93.1) were better among Power 5 teams.


1: Times Utah has had a 2,000-yard passer in the Pac-12

Travis Wilson did plenty of good things last year — like cut his interception rate down and play in all 13 games. But he also did something no Ute quarterback has been able to do since entering the Pac-12. He threw for 2,170 yards, marking the first time Kyle Whittingham has had a 2,000-yard passer since leaving the Mountain West.


44.0: Washington sacks lost this offseason

The Huskies were No. 2 in the nation last fall with 52.0 sacks as a team. Just 8.0 QB takedowns return to the roster after graduation and the NFL Draft lured a total of 44.0 sacks away from the roster. This team has issues at quarterback and along the offensive line, but no bigger problem than replacing all four starting defensive linemen.


-31: Washington State turnover margin under Mike Leach

The Cougars were downright pathetic at protecting (or stealing) the football last year. Washington State posted a minus-17 turnover margin in 2014, ranking 126th nationally. Mike Leach’s squad was minus-5 in 2013 and minus-9 in '12 for a grand total of minus-31 over his three-year tenure with the Cougars.

12 Pac-12 Stats You Need to Know for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/acc-college-football-teams-rock-and-roll-bands

Music, like sports, sparks debate, creates discussion and can even lead to heated disagreements.


But both are unquestionably a huge part of American culture. So Athlon Sports has decided to combine two of our favorite things — rock and roll with college football.


What if our favorite football programs were rock and roll bands? Every Power 5 team will be represented, so if you don’t see your favorite band or school here, keep your eyes peeled.


Power 5 Teams as Rock Bands: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC


Here are the 14 ACC schools and Notre Dame as rock bands:


Boston College: The National

Sort of like Georgia Tech, you know exactly what you are going to get. It will be slow and a little depressing but once it clicks you will appreciate it much more. They have a distinct identity that is consistently good without ever reaching greatness.


Clemson: Kings of Leon

Both have been downright unstoppable at times but consistently get in their own way. You think they are really good but you’re never really sure. Both are led by outspoken and occasionally intense and controversial leaders.


Duke: Radiohead

Extremely well thought of by the media and the experts who are in the know. But are sort of just there, playing noise in the room while people are focused on other things. Complex and organized and very, very smart, but definitely no championships.


Florida State: Justin Bieber

No one has a more rabid and vocal following — especially on Twitter — than the Beebs and the Noles. The fans are crazy passionate and will do anything to support their guys. Both are astronomically successful but so easy to hate from the outside.


Related: 2015 Complete ACC Football Preview and Predictions


Georgia Tech: Pink Floyd

Slow, methodical and precise. The structures are complex, layered and intentionally hard to follow. Yet, somehow it’s just beautiful to behold and consistently solid over a long period of time in a variety of locations.


Louisville: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Big and badass when each dominated its former genre (Big East) before transitioning into mainstream (ACC) slowly but eventually with success. Has shown major staying power and extraordinary talent with some volatile leadership and a love of black and red color scheme.


Miami: Guns n’ Roses

Brash, loud, audacious and a little filthy. This group rocked the universe and dominated the scene when it was at the top of the mountain but its time may have come and gone. They are just biding their time for Slash to return.


NC State: Zac Brown Band

A Southern country rock group that is way more talented than you might think and the live performances are among the best atmospheres in their genre (the ACC). The staying power is clearly there despite some bad years. And when it hits, it’s as popular and catchy as anything on the market.


North Carolina: The Doors

Consistently overrated and extremely self-destructive. Brilliantly talented folks who just can’t get out of their own way. After watching the show, you wonder why they weren’t better than they actually were.


Notre Dame: Elton John

They are sophisticated, classy and educated — and will tell you about it as much as possible. The presentation is glitzy and glamorous and mostly elite in the 70s and 80s — with a slight one-hit resurgence in the modern era.


Related: 2015 Preseason ACC All-Conference Teams


Pitt: Mumford & Sons

An adaptive former rock-a-billy group (Big East) trapped in alt-rock body (Big Ten) living in a mainstream pop world (ACC). No one is really sure what genre they belong in, but, like Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino, that first album way back in the day had some seriously awesome stuff on it.


Syracuse: Billy Joel

A dominant New York force for a long period of time but people have quickly forgotten just how elite he was back in the day. May never get his voice back and had some serious internal problems for a long period of time.


Virginia: Eric Clapton

Really good rising to the top before rock and roll changed around them (by adding Florida State). A rock elitist who has no problem stealing your wife and then writing a Hall of Fame song about it — despite being sort of overrated in its modern form for the last 20 years.


Virginia Tech: Bob Dylan

Brilliant, consistently good for a long period of time but have seen much better days in terms of on-field performance. Respected in the highest regard, talented and beloved by their faithful followers. However, possibly not understood nationally among the youngest generation.


Wake Forest: The Lumineers

It’s smart and beautiful stuff but always a little lacking in strength and depth. The success seems to have been short-lived and they were really, really hot for about a two-year window.

ACC College Football Teams as Rock and Roll Bands
Post date: Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/sec-college-football-teams-rock-and-roll-bands

Music, like sports, sparks debate, creates discussion and can even lead to heated disagreements.


But both are unquestionably a huge part of American culture. So Athlon Sports has decided to combine two of our favorite things — rock and roll with college football.


What if our favorite football programs were rock and roll bands? Every Power 5 team will be represented, so if you don’t see your favorite band or school here, keep your eyes peeled.


Power 5 Teams as Rock Bands: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC


Here are the 14 SEC schools as rock bands:


Alabama: Metallica

One of the most powerful bands of its time, which has been extremely successful and popular for a long period of time. They are big, loud, extremely talented but also obnoxious and whiny at times. Hall of Famers but really, really like to get their way.


Arkansas: Allman Brothers Band

True southern, classic, kickass rock and roll with some historically elite songs. However, they were at their best a long time ago and both had a meteoric rise to power halted by a tragic motorcycle accident.


Auburn: Johnny Cash

When it’s good, it is revolutionary, earth-shattering, industry-changing brilliance — even if a little dark at times. When it’s bad, it’s arrested, divorced, thrown in jail or rehab and generally upset at the more powerful and successful industry power (Alabama/Columbia Records).


Florida: Aerosmith

At its best, these two have produced some of their respective industries' greatest hits and changed the way fans viewed the game. But when it goes bad, the train wreck is something you just can’t take your eyes off of — and, generally, they both just look ridiculous on a regular basis.


Georgia: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Even the name Heartbreakers fits (SEE: SEC Championship Games). This is a really solid, consistently good quality product over a long period of time that got a ton of talent from Florida.


Kentucky: Will Smith

He’s not exactly rock and roll but he fits here. Smith, like Kentucky, is more well-known for something other than music (football). And his music was really fun and well-liked — but only like two songs/years.


LSU: Black Sabbath

A very successful program with an extremely rabid fanbase that goes over the top to celebrate their favorite people, including a leader who is a little strange. Which football program is most likely to bite the head off a bat, do a line of ants and be involved in the dark arts?


Related: 2015 Complete SEC Preview and Predictions


Mississippi State: Blue Oyster Cult

A one-hit wonder that is loaded with cowbell. To be fair, that one-hit wonder (Dak Prescott) is as beloved, popular and influential as any song of its time. And it spawned this.


Missouri: Elvis Costello

Who makes dorky cool better than Mizzou? A very talented and technically sound group that seems to consistently be underrated and never fully appreciated. And neither really fits personality-wise into the genre (punk or the SEC) that they seem to be placed.


Ole Miss: KISS

How they look and dress is extremely impressive and important. The loud and awesome party pretty much overshadows everything else — like the play on the field. Very important in history for a variety of reasons but never really one of the best musical talents of their time.


South Carolina: Hootie and the Blowfish

Both have been really, really big but only for a very short period of time and never considered the best in the business even at their height. The most famous and influential member is also better known for his work elsewhere.


Tennessee: Pearl Jam

They were at their best in the 1990s when they were grungy and a little rough around the edges. The entire program will always be slightly overshadowed by one elite superstar. However, the band has been largely boring and absent since the turn of the century despite the large fanbase and respected history.


Texas A&M: Lynyrd Skynyrd

Southern rock in its truest form with the most rabid followers who don’t take no for an answer. However, they are extremely self-destructive and never considered the best at what they do. Both were at their best when playing something related to Alabama despite being from a different conference originally.


Vanderbilt: Rage Against the Machine

Incredibly intelligent and well educated but only good for 2-3 albums because egos were too big and creative differences caused everyone to leave - whether it was for Penn State or Audioslave.

SEC College Football Teams as Rock and Roll Bands
Post date: Monday, June 15, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/14-acc-stats-you-need-know-2015

Here are the most important and interesting stats you need to know about the ACC in 2015:


72.3%: That Boston College runs the ball

Among the leaders in the nation, Boston College ran the ball 72.3 percent of the time on offense. The Eagles ran 878 offensive plays and threw just 243 passes. The 635 rushing attempts were 10th nationally and fifth among Power 5 teams.


4.03: Clemson’s nation-leading yards per play allowed

The Tigers led the nation by a wide margin with just 4.03 yards allowed per play. The next highest-rated ACC defense was Louisville at 4.75 (11th). The problem, however, is that nine of 11 starters are gone from the Tigers' defense, including five of the top six tacklers.


41.0: Number of tackles for a loss allowed by Duke

The Blue Devils led the nation in one key category: tackles for a loss allowed. Duke gave up a nation’s best 41.0 tackles for a loss all year in 2014, making it one of just four teams in the nation to allow fewer than 50.0. Virginia was second in the ACC with 53.0 tackles for a loss allowed.


8-0: Florida State’s record in one-score games

After winning by an average of 42.3 points per game in 2013, the Seminoles barely won games in '14. The Noles were 8-0 in games decided by one score due in large part to Jameis Winston’s fourth-quarter heroics. Winston was 7-0 last fall in one-score games, setting an unreachable precedent for Sean Maguire or Everett Golson.


18: Consecutive bowl games for Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets have been to 18 consecutive bowl games — the last five under George O’Leary, six under Chan Gailey and all seven of Paul Johnson’s tenure. It helps when you have the No. 1 most efficient offense in the ACC at 6.72 yards per play (eighth nationally).


9: Times Bobby Petrino has won at least 8 games

Bobby Petrino has coached at three different programs in 10 seasons — five at Louisville, four at Arkansas and one at Western Kentucky. Only once, his first at Arkansas in 2008, has he won less than eight games (5-7). Seven of those 10 seasons featured at least nine wins. Petrino also is 5-0 against Kentucky as Louisville's head coach.


3,198: Brad Kaaya’s Miami freshman passing record

The star sophomore from Miami is poised for a huge career in Coral Gables if his first year was any indication. Kaaya set a Miami freshman record for passing yards (3,198) and touchdowns (26) but nearly set all-time school records. Bernie Kosar owns the all-time single-season school record with 3,642 yards and Steve Walsh owns the TD record with 29. Both could fall in Kaaya’s second season.


5.32: North Carolina points per possession inside the 40 allowed

Finishing drives or stopping drives are one of the biggest metrics used to analyze teams by the new wave of advanced college stats. And North Carolina was the worst team in the nation at stopping drives. The Tar Heels were dead last in the NCAA with 5.32 points allowed per opponent’s trip inside the 40-yard line. For perspective, Virginia Tech led the ACC and was second nationally at 3.05 points per opponent’s possession inside the 40 allowed.


127: NC State points allowed to top three Atlantic Division teams

NC State is picked fourth in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State, Clemson and Louisville this preseason. The Wolfpack were 7-0 a year ago when giving up 30 points or less. However, against the best teams in the division, NC State allowed 42.3 points against the Noles, Tigers and Cardinals. NC State also gave up 56 to Georgia Tech, the pick to win the Coastal Division.


243: James Conner, Tyler Boyd combined YFS/game

Miami’s Duke Johnson led the ACC in yards from scrimmage per game with 159.5 but Pitt’s James Conner (141.2) and Tyler Boyd (101.8) were second and third — and the top two returning to the ACC. Freshman Chris James (35.4) was the next highest producer of yards from scrimmage for the Panthers last season.


1984: Last time Syracuse didn’t have a 1,000-yard passer until 2014

The Orange went without a 1,000-yard passer for the first time since 1984. Needless to say, the offense was atrocious, scoring just 17.1 points per game. That number ranked 121st in the nation and ahead of only Wake Forest among Power 5 teams. It was the lowest-scoring output for the Orange since 2007.


2005: Last time Virginia won a bowl game

Mike London is squarely on the hot seat entering 2015 despite showing improvement last fall. He’s been to one bowl game — the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl — in his five-year tenure. The Cavaliers' win over Minnesota in the Music City Bowl following the 2005 season was the last postseason win for the Wahoos.


17: Virginia Tech losses over the last three years

Unlike their in-state rivals from Charlottesville, the Hokies have been to 22 consecutive bowl games. However, after a remarkable run of eight straight 10-win seasons, the Hokies have dropped back into the middle of the ACC pack. This team has lost either five or six games in three straight, totaling 17 defeats over the last three years.


36.8%: Wake Forest rushes stopped for no gain

Wake Forest led the nation in two really bad categories. On 36.8 percent of rushes, the Demon Deacons were stopped for no gain or lost yards. Additionally, Wake Forest led the nation with 127.0 tackles for a loss allowed for a nation’s worst 536 yards.

14 ACC stats you need to know for 2015
Post date: Monday, June 15, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/beware-improving-sec-east-2015

The SEC West is the best division in college football. That was the case last year and again in 2015.


The Pac-12 South is probably a close second with the Big Ten East quickly gaining momentum.


But where does the SEC East rank? After multiple seasons of questionable on-field performance, it might be time to start looking at the SEC East differently.


College football is cyclical. The East dominated the SEC for the better part of the 90s and until LSU, Alabama and Auburn won BCS titles from the West.


Due in large part to elite coaching hires at schools like Mississippi State, Arkansas and Ole Miss as well as the addition of sleeping giant Texas A&M, the West has been the dominant division in college football.


Other than Tim Tebow’s Gators (2006, ‘08), no East Division team has won an SEC championship since 2005.


The East bottomed out in 2013. Florida and Tennessee, the two teams that dominated the league in the 90s, combined for 15 losses. Georgia lost five times and Kentucky won only twice. Missouri was a surprise division winner and both South Carolina and Vanderbilt had arguably their best seasons in history — which still involved six combined losses.


But using the same blueprint as the West — hiring great new head and assistant coaches — the East is beginning to show signs of life.


Related: 2015 Preseason SEC Football Preview and Predictions


With Jeremy Pruitt leading the defense for the second year, Georgia is once again a Top 10 preseason team. It would be ranked even higher than No. 10 in the preseason rankings if not for the brutal schedule. The Dawgs face two projected playoff teams from the West in Auburn and Alabama and get ACC Coastal Division frontrunner and defending champ Georgia Tech in non-conference play.


Tennessee is surging into Butch Jones' third season loaded with more young talent than almost any team in the nation. Should Joshua Dobbs develop into the star many think he’s capable of becoming, the Vols could easily outperform their No. 22 preseason ranking. This is a hot program that is clearly trending in the right direction.


In Gainesville, just add Jim McElwain and stir. The offensive guru should be able to fix many of Florida’s offensive woes and the defense under new coordinator Geoff Collins should be stifling once again. Keep in mind, the Gators had a win over Idaho cancelled last year and were one game away from winning the East. The cupboard isn’t bare in The Swamp.


The only known commodity about Missouri is that they will most certainly be better than where they are ranked in the preseason — which is still pretty respectable at No. 27. The hiring of Barry Odom once again proves Gary Pinkel is a wizard when it comes to assembling a coaching staff. Having Maty Mauk back for his second season under center is critical too.


The bottom of the division still has some work to do but there are even positive signs down there too.


South Carolina’s defense was atrocious last year but mostly because of inexperience. Of the Gamecocks top 25 tacklers last year, 18 were freshmen or sophomores and only four were seniors. There’s plenty there to work with for new defensive leader and old Steve Spurrier confidant Jon Hoke.


Mark Stoops quickly reenergized Kentucky on the recruiting trail, but most importantly, more than doubled his win total from Year 1 to Year 2. It’s well within reason to expect the Wildcats to continue getting better and make a bowl game this fall.


Vanderbilt only has one direction to go after an abysmal first season under Derek Mason. His defense should be much improved and that should allow him to improve his team’s win total in Year 2 as well.


Related: The SEC West if the Best Division in College Football


Vandy isn’t a good team, Kentucky and South Carolina have work to do and Florida is a long way from getting back to being Florida. But every team in this division could be better than it was last season with the possible exception of Mizzou — the one team that  is perennially underrated.


It’s not the SEC West or even the Pac-12 South but the SEC East is returning to form quickly and the rest of college football could find that out the hard way in 2015.

Beware of the improving SEC East in 2015
Post date: Friday, June 12, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/bad-quarterbacks-big-ten-west-championships

Traditionally, the Big Ten has had excellent quarterback play.


Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Brian Hoyer, Kyle Orton and Drew Stanton all threw for at least 1,700 yards in the NFL last season.


With Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg and the Ohio State triumvirate, the Big Ten’s passing game is in good hands again in 2015.


In the East Division, at least. Out West? Not so much.


Despite six returning starters, the West Division of the Big Ten could be the worst collection of quarterbacks in the country this fall.


And it could cost this division any hope at a Playoff berth or Big Ten championship.


The seven projected starters in the Big Ten West combined for 71 touchdown passes and 46 interceptions last year, and the six returning starters averaged less than 1,600 yards passing. This division completed just 54.9 percent of their passes in 2014 (767-for-1397). (To be fair, the seven projected starters did run for 22 rushing touchdowns last fall.)


Just for reference purposes only, Marcus Mariota scored 57 total touchdowns, threw four interceptions, completed 68.3 percent of his passes and totaled 5,224 yards of offense. Only one returning B1G West quarterback completed more than 56.5 percent of his passes, only one topped 2,000 yards passing, only one threw for at least 20 touchdowns and only one topped 3,000 yards of total offense.


Related: 2015 Big Ten Football Preview and Predictions


Is it fair to compare Joel Stave to a Heisman Trophy winner? Of course not. But to compete with the heavyweights from the East Division and push for a Big Ten title, someone in the West has to develop into more than just a mediocre quarterback.


Illinois’ Wes Lunt is probably the most gifted passer of the bunch and clearly produced the most last fall when on the field. He missed five full games but led the division at 220.4 yards per game. His 14:3 TD:INT ratio was also the best in the division as well, making him the best pure quarterback in the B1G West.


Unfortunately, he’s stuck in Champaign-Urbana without star receiver Mike Dudek.


As far as conference contenders go, Wisconsin and Nebraska don’t normally ask their quarterbacks to produce in a big way through the air. These programs have won a bunch of games on the back of a run-first identity. However, new head coaches Mike Riley and Paul Chryst are noted quarterback gurus who like to run pro-style offenses.


Does Tommy Armstrong fit Riley’s system? Can Stave be accurate enough to win the division? These are legitimate questions that are keeping the Huskers and Badgers from being mentioned as conference contenders this summer.

Armstrong’s experience and athletic ability likely gives him a chance at his best season and, with improved play, could make the Big Red the best team in the division. He's the division's returning total offense leader by a wide margin (3,400 yards), but is he good enough to master Riley’s complicated, pocket-oriented passing game and compete with the Ohio States of the world?


What about Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner or Iowa’s C.J. Beathard?


Both have some experience and both forced more touted individuals to transfer out of their respective programs. Both also enter summer camp surrounded by questions.


Related: Order one of 10 different 2015 Big Ten preview magazines here!

Leidner was a gamer last year, leading his team to some big wins over Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska. But he is wildly inaccurate and more of an athlete than a passer. Beathard has a big arm and Kirk Ferentz hopes his offense will be more dynamic with him under center. But he has one career start and has been banged up during his time on campus.


Both Minnesota and Iowa are good enough to challenge for the division but not without improved and consistent quarterback play.


That leaves Northwestern and Purdue. Both quarterback situations are complicated at best and concerning at worst. Austin Appleby is likely to win the job for the Boilermakers after stealing the gig from Danny Etling a year ago. He completed just 52.9 percent of his passes and threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10) and will have to hold off Etling this summer.


Sophomore Matt Alviti is the favorite to land the Wildcats' starting role in Evanston. He isn’t the thrower that big-bodied senior Zack Oliver is but is a much better athlete and commands the huddle well. Pat Fitzgerald has had a remarkable run of quarterbacks but, generally, they’ve had the ability to make things happen with their legs. This favors Alviti.


Needless to say, this isn’t a star-studded collection of quarterbacks. The Big Ten West has some great coaches and some great programs. But this division won’t be able to compete with the East Division much less the rest of the nation if it doesn’t do something about its signal-callers.


Proj. Big Ten West starting QBs '14 stats:
QBYearSchoolPass YdsTDINTComp. %Rush YdsTD
Wes LuntJr.1,76314363.4-800
C.J. BeathardJr.6455256.51560
Mitch LeidnerJr.1,79811851.545210
Tommy ArmstrongJr.2,695221253.37056
Matt AlvitiSo.00050.011
Austin ApplebyJr.1,149101152.91985
Joel StaveSr.1,35091053.4-700


Big Ten isn't "back" until West Division finds quality quarterback play
Post date: Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /overtime/timeline-pain-top-15-worst-cleveland-sports-memories

The Browns haven’t won an NFL championship since 1964. The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. The Cavaliers won their first NBA Finals game just X days ago in Game 2 of the 2015 championship series.


Needless to say, the professional sports fans in Cleveland have dealt with some serious heartache. Despite his best efforts, Lebron James wasn't able to get his city over the championship hurdle this season, losing in six games to Golden State in the NBA Finals. For what it's worth, the superstar should have been the MVP in a losing effort.


As a heavy underdog to the Dubs and without two star players, the loss isn't nearly as painful as some of the other gut-wrenching moments in Cleveland sports history.


Note: Cleveland fans, avert your eyes.


October 2, 1954

The Indians won 97 games in 1954, posting one of the best records in franchise history. Willie Mays made one of the most famous catches in baseball history in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the World Series. What most don’t remember, however, is that had Mays not made the play, the Indians likely would have returned home to Cleveland tied 1-1 in the series against the Giants. Instead, Cleveland was swept and lost Game 4 at home in front of 78,102 fans.


April 17, 1960

The Curse of Rocky Colavito haunted Cleveland for more than three decades. The Indians right fielder led the league with 42 home runs in 1959 but was inexplicably traded by GM Frank Lane to Detroit for Harvey Kuenn just before the ’60 season began. Colavito hit 139 home runs in four seasons for the Tigers while Kuenn played one year in Cleveland, hitting nine home runs. Cleveland didn’t finish within 11 games of first place again until 1993.


July 13, 1966

Many believe Jim Brown is the greatest running back of all-time. So his unexpected retirement at age 29 shocked the NFL and the city of Cleveland prior to the 1966 season. Brown was the NFL’s all-time leading rusher when he retired (12,312) and had just led the NFL in rushing (1,544) and touchdowns (17) in 1965 before hanging up the cleats for the silver screen. His Browns single-season rushing record of 1,863 is the oldest team record in the NFL today.


January 4, 1980

In one of the coldest games in NFL playoff history — try minus-36 degrees wind chill — the Browns turned in their first of many painful playoff home losses. The “Kardiac Kids” only needed a field goal to beat Oakland with time running out in the AFC Divisional round. But Brian Sipe threw a last-minute interception in the end zone that gave the Raiders the win 14-12. The famous call from head coach Sam Rutigliano was Red Right 88.


Related: Purchase your 2015 Cleveland Browns preview magazine here!


January 11, 1987

Infamously dubbed “The Drive,” the first of many painful John Elway memories for Cleveland fans took place 5:32 away from the Super Bowl. Elway drove the Broncos 98 yards to tie the AFC Championship Game at 20-20 with less than 40 seconds left. Denver earned a trip to the Super Bowl with a game-winning field goal in overtime, knocking off the 12-4 Browns in Cleveland — what many consider the best team in franchise history.


January 17, 1988

One year later, Elway and the Broncos were once again the culprit of the Browns' Super Bowl sorrow. Down by five points with 1:12 left to play on the nine-yard line in the AFC title game, Ernest Byner broke free off the left edge and appeared poised to go into the end zone. But he fumbled just shy of the goal line, Denver recovered and advanced to its second straight Super Bowl.


May 7, 1989

The Cavaliers won 57 games in the 1988-89 season, setting a franchise record for wins at the time. In the first round of the playoffs, Craig Ehlo gave the Cavaliers a lead over the Bulls with three seconds to play in the decisive Game 5 of the series. But Michael Jordan would begin to build his NBA legend with a play affectionately dubbed “The Shot.” The game-winning jump shot with no time remaining was the first of many painful Jordan-related memories for Cavs fans.


January 14, 1990

For the third time in four years, the Browns lost in the AFC Championship Game to Elway and the Broncos. After a low-scoring first half, the Browns entered the fourth quarter down 24-21. Elway outscored Cleveland 13-0 in the fourth quarter and moved on to the Super Bowl once again.


May 17, 1993

One year after losing to the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs got swept by Michael Jordan in the playoffs yet again. Jordan drilled a fadeaway jumper with two guys in his face to win Game 4 103-101 and finish off the series. It was the fourth of five times that Jordan would eliminate the Cavs from the playoffs.


Related: Game 1 Proves LeBron James Deserves the MVP Every Year


November 6, 1995

At a press conference at Camden Yards, Browns owner Art Modell announced that he was relocating the franchise to Baltimore for the 1996 season. Subsequent legal action eventually led to the creation of an entirely new organization named the Baltimore Ravens. “The Move” left Cleveland without football for an unfathomable three years.


October 26, 1997

Up there with The Fumble and The Drive and The Shot is Jose Mesa’s blown save three outs away from a championship in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. A costly Tony Fernandez error set up a game-tying sac fly by Craig Counsell. Edgar Renteria won the Series for the Marlins with a game-winning base knock in the bottom of the 11th inning.


January 5, 2003

The one and only time the second rendition of the Browns has been to the postseason it lost to Pittsburgh in truly Cleveland fashion. The Browns led the archrival Steelers 24-7 with just a few minutes left in the third quarter. Pittsburgh went on to outscore Cleveland 29-9 over the final 19 minutes. It’s the only playoff game the new Browns have played in since returning to the league in 1999.


October 21, 2007

After winning three straight games to take a 3-1 lead over the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, the Indians proceeded to lose three straight and the series. Boston outscored Cleveland 30-5 over the last three games. The Indians won 96 games in 2007.


May 11, 2010

In one of the most bizarre nights in pro sports, LeBron James spent his final home game in Cleveland missing shots, mishandling the basketball and looking generally uninterested. It was Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Boston took a 3-2 series lead with a 120-88 drubbing of the Cavs. James was 3-of-14 from the floor in 41:40 minutes of lethargic play. It was an eerie evening for Cavs fans and a precursor of what was to come a few months later.

July 8, 2010

“In this fall… this is very tough… in this fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.” It made money for charity and it eventually led to multiple championships for the Heat, but Cavs fan likely don’t care about any of that — or the poor grammar.

Timeline of Pain: Top 15 Worst Cleveland Sports Memories
Post date: Monday, June 8, 2015 - 11:17
Path: /college-football/stop-arguing-sec-west-college-footballs-best-division

The rest of the country doesn’t want to believe it but it’s true.


The Pac-12 has elevated itself into national prominence. The Big Ten is the reigning national champion and has added serious coaching cache over the last few seasons. The Big 12 is rolling in new television dough and the ACC is slowly but surely regaining form.


But the SEC is still the best conference in college football and the SEC West could be better in 2015 than it’s ever been before.


It all starts with the coaching, continues with talent and ends with victories.


Nick Saban and Les Miles have a combined five national titles and have played in the BCS title game or College Football Playoff six times since 2007. Saban (.802) and Miles (.780) are fifth and sixth all-time in SEC history in winning percentage and second (.780) and 11th all-time (.690) in league games.


Related: Don't listen to Nick Saban, the Bowls are fine


Auburn's Gus Malzahn is nipping at their heels. He’s won one national title as a coordinator and played for another as a first-year SEC head coach and ranks behind only Saban as the best current coach in the league.


Needless to say, their resumes speak for themselves. But the depth of coaching is what makes the SEC West so daunting. Bret Bielema has a losing record (10-15) at Arkansas but is a hot pick by many as the top challenger to the state of Alabama this fall and he won three straight Big Ten titles at Wisconsin before jumping ship to Fayetteville.


Kevin Sumlin has ushered Texas A&M into a new conference with a Heisman Trophy and a better winning percentage (.718) than every coach in College Station since 1928 with the exception of R.C. Slocum (.721).


Dan Mullen is doing things at Mississippi State that are unprecedented. No coach has left Starkville with a winning SEC record since Allyn McKeen in 1948. Mullen has led his program to its first AP No. 1 ranking and reached a bowl game in four (much less five) straight seasons for the first time in school history.


Related: SEC 2015 Predictions


In Oxford, Hugh Freeze is doing things only Johnny Vaught had accomplished. Only one Rebels coach since Vaught (David Cutcliffe) has posted a winning SEC record and only once since Vaught has Ole Miss entered a season ranked in the preseason AP top 15 (2009).


The Rebels are ranked No. 11 in Athlon Sports preseason Top 25.


That’s just the head coaches. John Chavis, Will Muschamp, Cam Cameron, Kirby Smart and Lane Kiffin are some of the best (and highest paid) coordinators in the nation.


Related: Buy your 2015 SEC preview magazines here!

It’s not just the elite-level coaching that makes this league so terrifying, however, it’s also the players. The SEC led all conferences at the NFL Draft for a ninth consecutive year in May and is a near lock to do so again in 2016.


All seven teams in the SEC West are ranked in the Top 26 in terms of raw talent. Six of the seven are ranked among the nation’s 22 most talented rosters.


This division is responsible for seven preseason first-team All-Americans and seven second-team preseason All-Americans.


One could argue the SEC West has the best quarterback (Dak Prescott), running back (Leonard Fournette, Derrick Henry), wide receiver (Laquon Treadwell, D’haquille Williams), tight end (Hunter Henry, Evan Engram, O.J. Howard), offensive tackle (Laremy Tunsil, Cam Robinson), offensive guard (Sebastian Tretola), defensive tackle (Robert Nkemdiche, A’Shawn Robinson), defensive end (Myles Garrett), linebacker (Reggie Ragland) and safety (Tony Conner) in the nation.


The SEC West may have the best player at almost every position… IN THE NATION.


This says nothing of how this division fared on the field a year ago. The SEC West went 28-0 in non-conference play with wins over Wisconsin, at Kansas State, West Virginia, at Texas Tech, Boise State and Memphis. This division lost a combined 25 regular season games a year ago — four to the SEC East and 21 to itself.


Related: Bowl games have no place in the College Football Playoff


(Don’t talk to me about bowl… ahem, exhibition games. I won’t count Arkansas’ romp over Texas if you don’t count TCU’s crushing of an injured and unmotivated Ole Miss. The only one that actually counts is Alabama’s loss to Ohio State.)


There is a reason that Mississippi State is picked last in the West and still ranked No. 21 nationally. There is a reason that two teams from this division are projected to make the Playoff.


This division isn’t the best because of some southern broadcasting media bias.


The SEC West is the best in football because it has the best coaches in the nation leading the best players in the nation on the best teams in the nation.

Stop the Debate: SEC West is College Football's Best Division
Post date: Monday, June 8, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA, News
Path: /nba/game-1-proves-lebron-james-deserves-nba-mvp-every-year

How is LeBron James not the MVP every year?


Steph Curry is probably one of the greatest shooters of all-time, like many have written over the last week, and a very deserving MVP winner. James Harden would have been totally acceptable as well.


But I don’t know how LeBron James isn’t the MVP of every court he’s ever stepped on. Maybe voters have developed a case of LeBron fatigue and they are just tired of giving it to the same guy.


The depleted Cavaliers lost in overtime in Game 1 of the NBA Finals to Golden State. David Blatt and Steve Kerr watched as James isolated his way to a career Finals high 44 points. He added eight rebounds and six assists as well.


The Cavaliers are grossly overmatched as a team against the Warriors and the only reason they are even playing right now is James. The only reason Game 1 went to overtime is because of James. The only reason Cleveland has any chance whatsoever to even win a game in this series is James.


With the only other meaningful player on the active roster, Kyrie Irving, in serious doubt for the rest of the series, James will have to work minor miracles to win a championship. Just getting this series past Game 5 might prove he deserves the MVP every year.


Curry was average but effective, scoring 26 points on 20 shots in 43 minutes, and the Warriors still won the game. The Cavs can’t have an off game from James.


Michael Jordan didn’t win every MVP because voters just felt like they needed to acknowledge other great players but he was the real MVP. That’s not a knock on Charles Barkley or Karl Malone, Jordan was just that good.


This isn’t a knock on Curry, James is just that good and is clearly more valuable to his team than anyone else in the league.

Game 1 Proves LeBron James Deserves the NBA MVP Every Year
Post date: Friday, June 5, 2015 - 11:34
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-toughest-college-football-schedules-2015

When putting together Athlon Sports' college football magazine and preseason Top 25 each year, a huge part of the process is scheduling. Non-conference games, crossovers, home-road splits and timing all play a role in determining order of finish.


And don’t forget that the College Football Playoff Committee made it very clear in its first season that it values scheduling.


So who has the toughest schedule in the ACC this fall? Who has the easiest path?


1. Georgia Tech

Not many teams favored to win a division have to deal with the toughest schedule in the conference but that is what Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets must do this fall. Tech will have to face the best two teams from the Atlantic Division in Clemson (road) and Florida State (home), as well as two potential top-10 teams in the non-conference in Notre Dame (road) and Georgia (home). Georgia Tech’s only comfort is that key swing games in the division (which is all of them, really) against North Carolina, Pitt and Virginia Tech do come at home.


2. Miami

Along with Georgia Tech, Miami must face both Florida State (road) and Clemson in crossover play — giving the Canes and Jackets the toughest interdivisional schedules in the ACC. Add to it road trips within the Coastal to Pitt, North Carolina and Duke and Al Golden must deal with one of the toughest ACC slates in the league. Top it off with non-conference games against Nebraska and at Cincinnati.


3. Clemson

With Georgia Tech and Miami in crossover as well as Notre Dame and South Carolina in non-conference, the Tigers face one of the hardest schedules in the ACC. Florida State has to come to Death Valley but road trips to Louisville, NC State, rival South Carolina and the Hurricanes offer plenty of speed bumps for Dabo Swinney. The only comfort for Clemson is that the three biggest games of the year (Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Florida State) come at home.


Related: Complete 2015 ACC Football Predictions


4. Virginia

No team in the ACC will play a tougher non-conference schedule than Virginia. Home dates with Notre Dame and Boise State as well as a long road trip to UCLA give the Wahoos three ranked foes before even reaching ACC play. Toss in a road trip to Louisville in crossover play and the toughest Coastal Divisional schedule (since there’s no Virginia) and there are few guaranteed wins for Mike London. Virginia will be favored in two games — William & Mary and Syracuse at home.


5. Wake Forest

Dave Clawson doesn’t get to face Wake Forest, so by definition, the Demon Deacons have one of the toughest schedules in the Atlantic Division. The only real winnable game in divisional play comes on the road at Syracuse. Facing Notre Dame, Army and Indiana in the non-conference isn’t crazy for Florida State but could be devastating for Wake Forest. The Deacs also get in-state rivals North Carolina and Duke from the Coastal Division.


6. Syracuse

Wake and Cuse play similar schedules but Syracuse’s big non-conference game comes at home (LSU) and crossover play could be slightly easier with Virginia and Pitt. Road trips in the division to Florida State, Louisville and NC State are impossible so Wake Forest and Boston College at home might be the best chances for wins for the Orange. Even road trips to South Florida and Virginia will be tough.


7. Boston College

Steve Addazio has three wins in the non-conference schedule and then Notre Dame. Crossover with Virginia Tech and Duke isn’t as tough as it could be but isn’t easy. Home games with Wake Forest and NC State provide chances for wins while getting Florida State at home is big for the turnstiles. However, road trips to Clemson and Louisville make competing in the division extremely difficult.


8. Louisville

The Cardinals must face two SEC foes in Auburn (Week 1, Atlanta) and Kentucky (road) and a split would be considered a success. Crossover with Virginia is great but a road trip to Pitt will be tough. Within the division, getting Clemson, Boston College and Syracuse at home provides opportunity while road games with Florida State and NC State will be exceptionally tough.


Related: 2015 ACC Football Schedule Analysis


9. Florida State

By definition, the Noles get one of the easier Atlantic Division schedules because they don’t have to play themselves. However, road trips to Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida could keep Florida State from making the College Football Playoff. Other key swing games with Miami, Louisville and NC State will come at Doak Campbell Stadium.


10. Virginia Tech

The non-conference slate is tough (Ohio State) but also provides chances for solid wins (East Carolina, Purdue). Crossover play will feature two tough but winnable games in the form of a road trip to Boston College and a home game with NC State. Getting Coastal Division contenders Pitt, North Carolina and Duke at home helps as well. However, the biggest game of the year could be the road trip to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech. There is no Florida State, Clemson or Louisville on the schedule this season.


11. NC State

The non-conference slate is comically easy for Dave Doeren and NC State: Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion and South Alabama. Crossover (at Virginia Tech, home vs. North Carolina) won't be easy, but a split is very reasonable. Key swing games with Louisville and Clemson come in Raleigh while winnable road games with Wake Forest and Boston College give the Wolfpack a shot at winning their division. The road trip to Florida State, however, likely keeps NC State from claiming the Atlantic.


12. Pitt

Facing Notre Dame and Iowa in the non-conference isn’t easy but the rest of the schedule sets up nicely for Pitt. There is no Florida State, Clemson or NC State on the schedule and road trips include visits to Syracuse and Duke. Two huge games in the division with Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech will come on the road but the schedule overall sets up for Pat Narduzzi’s first romp through a wide-open ACC.


13. North Carolina

South Carolina is the toughest opponent in the non-conference but that game will come in Charlotte. Crossover play with the Atlantic involves Wake Forest and at NC State — avoiding all three of the best teams in the division. Winnable games within the division with Miami, Virginia and Duke all come at home. Road trips to Georgia Tech, Pitt and Virginia Tech are the toughest games on the slate for Larry Fedora.


14. Duke

Northwestern at home is the toughest non-conference game on the schedule for the Blue Devils. Crossover with Boston College (home) and Wake Forest (road) is the easiest of any team in the ACC. And key division games with Georgia Tech, Miami and Pitt all come at home. A road trip to Virginia Tech might be the toughest game of the year for Duke.


Ranking the ACC's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2015
Post date: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-toughest-college-football-schedules-2015

When putting together Athlon Sports' college football magazine and preseason Top 25 each year, a huge part of the process is scheduling. Non-conference games, crossovers, home-road splits and timing all play a role in determining order of finish.


And don’t forget that the College Football Playoff Committee made it very clear in its first season that it values scheduling.


So who has the toughest schedule in the Big 12 this fall? Who has the easiest path?


1. Texas

The toughest non-conference game in the Big 12 this season is Texas' Week 1 trip to face Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. Add a rapidly improving Cal team and the Longhorns get the toughest non-conference slate of any team. The road schedule also includes Baylor, TCU and West Virginia (and Iowa State) as well as Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. The saving grace for Charlie Strong is that swing games with Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech come at home.


2. West Virginia

The Mountaineers boast the toughest road schedule in the Big 12 of any team in the league. West Virginia has to face the top three (Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma) on the road as well as always-tough Kansas State. It gets just four Big 12 home games and also has to play a quality Big Ten team in Maryland and a tricky mid-major in Georgia Southern.


3. Kansas

Memphis at home and Rutgers on the road are tough non-conference games for a first-year regime. Add to that road trips to TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas and there just aren’t many winnable games on this schedule. Iowa State on the road might be KU’s best shot at a Big 12 win. The home slate offers Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas State. This should be good to ticket sales, but not for wins.


4. Oklahoma

One of the toughest non-conference games in the Big 12 this fall is Oklahoma’s trip to Tennessee. The Sooners' league road slate is a mixed bag. The TCU and West Virginia games will come at home but huge showdowns with Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas (neutral) will come away from Norman. 


5. Iowa State

For most teams, a non-conference slate of Northern Iowa, Iowa and Toledo isn’t overly daunting. For Iowa State, it could be concerning. Mix in five road games in the Big 12 to some serious outposts (Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech) and the only chances for conference wins this fall likely come at home (Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU).


5. Texas Tech

Getting TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State at home is huge but the road games are brutal for Tech. Visiting Austin, Norman, Morgantown and Arkansas is downright nasty. Sam Houston State and UTEP are guaranteed wins (along with Kansas and Iowa State) and playing Baylor in Arlington offers some semblance of comfort. 


7. TCU

A road trip to Minnesota on opening weekend could be tricky, but the Gophers aren’t as good as last year’s team that got smoked in Fort Worth. Home games with Baylor, West Virginia and Texas are huge for the Frogs while five road games in the Big 12 create come upset chances. Trips to both Oklahoma schools, Manhattan, Kan., and Lubbock, Texas, could all be tricky. This isn’t one of the tougher slates but it’s not as easy as the three other contenders.


8. Kansas State

The non-conference schedule should provide three wins for Bill Snyder’s rebuilt Wildcats. Getting Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma and West Virginia at home makes pulling an upset very likely at some point during the year. Otherwise, the road schedule’s worst two trips come against a pair of teams (Texas, Oklahoma State) that went 6-6 in the regular season in 2014.


9. Baylor

The Bears should once again be concerned about a meaningless non-conference schedule — unless Chad Morris works some miracle at SMU. Road trips to TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State should be points of focus but the rest of the key games (Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia) come at home while Texas Tech happens in JerryWorld.


10. Oklahoma State

The easiest road slate in the Big 12 includes Iowa State, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Texas — all teams picked in the bottom half of the Big 12. The home schedule offers some huge chances at upsets with TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Kansas coming to Stillwater. And the three non-conference games are all walks in the park.

Ranking the Big 12's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2015
Post date: Monday, June 1, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/bowl-games-have-no-place-college-football-playoff

Nick Saban wants college football to focus more on the bowls.


His biggest fear is that the College Football Playoff is taking too much attention away from prestigious and historically significant games like the Poulan/Weed Eater Bowl.


With TV ratings soaring for bowl games and new games pushing the total number of bowls to 41, Saban and fellow bowl czar Bill Hancock couldn’t be more wrong.


However, Hancock’s beloved bowl system — one that was grandfathered into the Playoff structure via cronyism — should have absolutely nothing to do with the College Football Playoff.


Ignore the fact that 80 teams will be playing in bowls this year and that the “sanctity of the bowl system” is stronger than it’s ever been before. Start with the main reason college football is the best sport on the planet.


The pageantry that exists on campuses across the country on fall Saturdays is what separates the college game from the NFL. Other than the Green Bay Packers, who are publicly owned, where in pro sports are the fans and organization an interwoven community like in college football? The nostalgia of alumni returning to campus for games is a treasured ritual in American culture.


Why would the College Football Playoff want to remove one of the most critical aspects of the game from the postseason? It should want to showcase the amazing locations and historic venues while awarding the higher seeds with home-field advantage in the process.


Alabama and Ohio State in The Horseshoe? Yes, please. USC and LSU in Death Valley? Are you kidding? Texas and Florida in The Swamp? Hell yeah.


It sounds a lot better than Oklahoma and Michigan in Sun Life Stadium.


Related: Big 12 could easily get two teams into The Playoff


And what happens when the tourney expands to eight?


Can the Playoff honestly ask fans to travel to neutral-site games three weeks in a row immediately after returning home from a conference title game?


Just wait until a Playoff game features Stanford and Virginia Tech in Dallas and there are 20,000 empty seats in JerryWorld. Lane Stadium wouldn’t have that problem.


The gameday atmosphere would be better. Ticket sales are a known commodity and local economies would benefit (instead of bowl organizers). Friends and family of players and coaches would potentially be able to attend in greater numbers and it wouldn't cost them as much money either. The better team gains a legitimate advantage after earning it in the regular season.


Related: SEC, ACC can't complain about Satellite Camps


Even kickoff dates and times are being manipulated because the bowl system is involved.


The Rose Bowl has forced the majority of the Playoff games to New Year’s Eve because it refuses to budge off its hallowed New Year’s kickoff time slot.


If The Granddaddy of Them All wasn’t involved in the process, it wouldn’t be able to strong-arm the entire structure into doing what it wants. On the contrary, if the Rose Bowl were in danger of missing out on viewers, there is no doubt it would move its start time to guarantee ratings.


The powers that be want to protect the bowl system. They want to ensure that students get a celebratory trip to a “postseason” game, that fans get a farewell send-off to each season, that smaller schools get the national spotlight to themselves for one night and that TV partners are loaded down with meaningful inventory during the holiday season.


All of this is true and not one bit of it would change if the bowls were removed from the Playoff.

Bowl Games have no place in the College Football Playoff
Post date: Friday, May 29, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/top-15-college-football-quarterback-matchups-watch-2015

Michael Vick was first. Then Vince Young.


Then it was Tebow, RG3, Johnny Football and Super Mariota.


The super quarterback is a relatively new phenomenon in college football that changed the way game is played forever.


With new rules and new offensive innovation, the quarterback has become even more important — and it was already the most important position on the field.


Despite some major names leaving for the NFL, the 2015 season is loaded with elite QB matchups that could decide championships. Here are the best quarterback matchups to look forward to in ’15:


Note: This is based on pure athletic talent, raw entertainment value and potential gravity of the situation.


1. Connor Cook at Cardale Jones

Michigan State at Ohio State (Nov. 21)


Two potential first-round NFL draft picks will likely go head-to-head for the division, conference and potential national championship in the penultimate weekend of the year. Jones hasn’t taken a snap against a Spartans defense while Cook has topped 300 yards in two meetings with the Buckeyes.


2. Dak Prescott at Jeremy Johnson

Mississippi State at Auburn (Sept. 26)


Prescott is a Heisman candidate whose resume speaks for itself. Johnson is poised to explode onto the national scene in Gus Malzahn’s offense. With these two meeting in September, both should be unbeaten and ranked in the top 15. Both defenses will be better later, so this early-season matchup should provide plenty of chances for both signal-callers to make plays.


3. Christian Hackenberg at Connor Cook

Penn State at Michigan State (Nov. 28)


Hackenberg could be the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft or at least the first quarterback taken. He doesn’t have the support of the rest of the names on this list but his talent speaks for itself. Cook is a star in his own right who will spend his final season at MSU proving his first-round grade is accurate.


Related: Don't hate on the Big Ten for satellite camps


4. Cody Kessler at Mike Bercovici

USC at Arizona State (Sept. 26)


The de facto Pac-12 South championship game should feature the best two quarterbacks in the division and possibly the conference. This game was a scorcher last year that featured a successful Hail Mary, 510 yards and five touchdowns from the big-armed Bercovici. Kessler is a preseason All-American and has elite weaponry around him this fall. Buckle up, folks.


5. Cody Kessler at Jared Goff

USC at Cal (Oct. 31)


The first- and second-team All-Pac-12 quarterbacks meet on Halloween in the Bay Area this fall. While Cal isn’t going to contend, the aerial shootout between these two should be plenty entertaining. These are the top two most efficient returning passers in the Pac-12 after a combined 74 passing touchdowns and only 12 interceptions a year ago.


6. Brad Kaaya at Deshaun Watson

Miami at Clemson (Oct. 24)


These are two really special talents. Watson and Kaaya proved as freshmen last year that they belong among the nation’s best. Kaaya posted 3,198 and 26 touchdowns while Watson delivered 19 total touchdowns and two interceptions in just eight games. These two sophomores could take the ACC to a different level at the position.


7. Christian Hackenberg at Cardale Jones

Penn State at Ohio State (Oct. 17)


Both Jones and Hackenberg could be first-round picks and no one at either school will forget the epic battle between these two programs a year ago. Ohio State’s toughest test all year outside of Virginia Tech was Penn State. That said, the Bucks will be a heavy favorite at home.


8. Seth Russell at Trevone Boykin

Baylor at TCU (Nov. 27)


Russell is a first-time starter but there is no reason to think he won’t be electric in Art Briles’ system. He threw for 801 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception in backup duty last fall. In what could be the biggest game of the year in any league — one that featured 119 points and over 1,200 yards of offense last season — these two should put on a show.


Related: Big 12 could easily get two teams into the Playoff


9. Dak Prescott at Kyle Allen

Mississippi State at Texas A&M (Oct. 3)


Allen proved in the second half of the 2014 season that his five-star recruiting hype was warranted. He is now the clear starter in an offense loaded with elite playmakers and great schemes. Both defenses should allow for plenty of space for both to operate early in October.


10. Jeremy Johnson at Kyle Allen

Texas A&M at Auburn (Nov. 7)


These two guys are more projections than others on this list but few rivalries have been more entertaining over the last three seasons. Both Johnson and Allen are dripping with elite upside and both play in elite offensive systems. There is no reason TAMU-Auburn IV won’t be another high-scoring affair.


Related: SEC win total projections for 2015


11. Mike Bercovici at Jared Goff

Arizona State at Cal (Nov. 28)


USC's Cody Kessler gets the nod as the first-team All-Pac-12 signal-caller but Bercovici and Goff are hot on his tracks. Goff has blossomed into a potential superstar and Bercovici posted over 1,200 yards in three starts last fall. If the game held more importance, it would be higher on this list.


12. Cody Kessler at Vernon Adams

USC at Oregon (Nov. 21)


Oregon isn’t bringing in Adams from Eastern Washington to sit on the bench. So the question isn’t if he’ll start but it will be how good is he? He threw for over 10,000 yards, rushed for over 1,200, and accounted for 121 total touchdowns in three seasons on the FCS level. If he comes close to that, both his big-time matchups will outperform this ranking. This is a Pac-12 title game preview.


13. Trevone Boykin at Mason Rudolph

TCU at Oklahoma State (Nov. 7)


The first- and second-team All-Big 12 preseason quarterbacks will battle in Stillwater to begin November. Rudolph has the makings of a star and Boykin is already one. TCU won’t have many hurdles to clear this fall but a road trip to Oklahoma State might be one of the biggest of the year for Gary Patterson’s bunch.


Related: Don't listen to Nick Saban, the Bowl System is fine


14. Vernon Adams at Connor Cook

Oregon at Michigan State (Sept. 12)


As explained earlier, projecting Adams is difficult but he has the keys to a Rolls Royce offense and should be the guy taking snaps. Going into East Lansing and winning is much more difficult a task. Cook put on a show in a loss in Eugene last year and should be extra motivated in Week 2 at home.


15. Gunner Kiel at Taysom Hill

Cincinnati at BYU (Oct. 17)


It doesn’t feature a Power 5 team and it isn’t a conference game, but the fireworks will be on full display when the Bearcats visit the Cougars. Hill was scorching the earth before being lost for the season with a broken leg early in the year last fall. Kiel has blossomed into the five-star prospect he was supposed to become after 3,254 yards and 31 touchdowns as a sophomore.


 Road QBTeamHome QBTeamDate
16.Anu SolomonCody KesslerNov. 7
17.Justin ThomasDeshaun WatsonOct. 10
18.Mike BercoviciKyle AllenSept. 5
19.Justin ThomasBrad KaayaNov. 21
20.Taysom HillChuckie KeetonNov. 28
21.Seth RussellMason RudolphNov. 21
22.Everett GolsonDeshaun WatsonNov. 7
23.Anu SolomonMike BercoviciNov. 21
24.Dak PrescottMaty MaukNov. 5
25.Brad KaayaEverett GolsonOct. 10
26.Cody KesslerMalik ZaireOct. 17
27.Deshaun WatsonJacoby BrissettOct. 31
28.Vernon AdamsMike BercoviciOct. 29
29.Malik ZaireDeshaun WatsonOct. 3
30.Jared GoffVernon AdamsNov. 7
31.Joshua DobbsMaty MaukNov. 21
32.Keenan ReynoldsMalik ZaireOct. 10
33.Taysom HillMaty MaukNov. 14
34.Brandon DoughtyDriphus JacksonOct. 3
35.Everett GolsonJustin ThomasOct. 24


Top 15 College Football Quarterback Matchups to Watch in 2015
Post date: Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-toughest-college-football-schedules-2015

When putting together Athlon Sports' college football magazine and preseason Top 25 each year, a huge part of the process is scheduling. Non-conference games, crossovers, home-road splits and timing all play a role in determining order of finish.


And don’t forget that the College Football Playoff Committee made it very clear in its first season that it values scheduling.


So who has the toughest schedule in the Big Ten this fall? Who has the easiest path?


1. Rutgers

Rutgers must face five (possibly six) potential bowl teams from the East Division and gets the top two teams from the West (Nebraska, Wisconsin). It also faces two Power 5 teams in non-conference play (albeit Washington State and Kansas). It seems highly unlikely the Knights will return to the postseason.


2. Minnesota

Minnesota could face two potential Playoff teams with TCU in the non-conference and Ohio State in crossover. The Gophers also must face Michigan from the East. Add to that slate divisional dates with Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa and Jerry Kill is looking at an uphill battle in the West.


3. Michigan State

The Spartans will earn their way into the Big Ten title game or Playoff this year. Oregon and Penn State have to come to East Lansing but a trio of brutal road trips will likely decide the Spartans' fate: at Michigan (Oct. 17), Nebraska (Nov. 7) and Ohio State (Nov. 21).


4. Maryland

Crossover didn’t play out well for the Terps with Wisconsin and at Iowa on the slate for 2015. That goes along with facing the big four from the East: at Ohio State, at Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan. Even the non-conference has some tricky games with USF and at West Virginia.


5. Illinois

The home slate for Tim Beckman is brutal, featuring Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and a semi-neutral field tilt with Northwestern. The road trips aren’t much better as the Illini must visit Penn State, Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina in the non-conference. There isn’t a lot to like on this schedule other than a road trip to Purdue and three semi-easy non-conference home games.


Related: SEC, ACC have no right to hate on Big Ten for satellite camps


6. Michigan

The non-conference slate for Jim Harbaugh is no joke with a road trip to Utah and home games with BYU and Oregon State. The divisional slate will be tough enough with road trips to Penn State and Maryland as well as home games against Michigan State and Ohio State.


7. Indiana

There is no Missouri in non-con play this year so that is comforting. However, road trips to Penn State, Michigan State and Maryland will be tough along with home games with Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan.


8. Nebraska

Non-conference games with BYU (home) and Miami (road) are really juicy and not easy (but winnable). Crossover features a huge test with Michigan State but that one comes at home. Additionally, huge games with Wisconsin and Iowa come at home. The road trips in the B1G for the Huskers are Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue and Rutgers.


9. Northwestern

Games against Stanford and Duke in the smart kids non-conference round-robin will be tough to win. As will crossover games with Michigan and Penn State and divisional road tilts with Wisconsin and Nebraska. Key swing games with Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois (Chicago) and Purdue, however, come at home.


10. Purdue

The non-conference schedule wouldn’t be daunting for most teams but watch out for teams like Bowling Green, Marshall and, of course, Virginia Tech. Crossover with Michigan State on the road is brutal as are road trips to Wisconsin and Iowa. However, home games with Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana offer some chances for an upset.


11. Ohio State

The road trip to Virginia Tech will be testy but full of revenge for Ohio State. After that, the toughest road trip for the Buckeyes will be visiting Ann Arbor in the season finale. Otherwise, Michigan State, Penn State and Minnesota come to Columbus. There isn't a lot of meat here for Urban Meyer to add to his pizza.


12. Penn State

Penn State has four easy, winnable, non-conference games and gets really lucky in crossover play with Northwestern and Illinois. Yes, PSU must face Michigan State and Ohio State on the road. But, otherwise, the rest of the schedule is manageable in a very difficult division.


13. Wisconsin

Alabama in Week 1 is a flashing warning signal but the rest of this schedule is extremely manageable. There is no Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan or Penn State. Road trips to Nebraska (Oct. 10), Maryland (Nov. 7) and Minnesota (Nov. 28) is as tough as it gets for the Badgers.


14. Iowa

Wisconsin and Nebraska have tougher non-conference and crossover schedules. This gives the nod to Iowa as the easiest slate in the division despite having to face both Big Red foes on the road. The Hawkeyes could be favorites to win all four of their non-conference games and all four home Big Ten games.

Ranking the Big Ten's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2015
Post date: Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/big-12-could-easily-get-two-teams-college-football-playoff-2015

The Athlon Sports preseason top 25 is out and not one, but two conference champions were left out the College Football Playoff.


Florida State is picked ninth in the nation as the ACC champs with a projected record of 11-2. USC is ranked No. 6 in the nation and is picked to the win the Pac-12 over No. 8 Oregon.


Meaning, both the ACC and Pac-12 are picked to miss the 2015 College Football Playoff.


According to the preseason rankings, the SEC will be the evil villain once again, knocking a second conference from the postseason tournament. But that could just as easily be the Big Ten or the Big 12.


That’s right, Bob Bowlsby, the league that was left out in the cold last winter could be in a great position to get two teams into the postseason this year.


In fact, it could happen much easier than expected.


Baylor and TCU appear to be the class of the Big 12 once again after barely missing out on a Playoff bid a year ago. Both were deserving of being in the conversation, of course, but someone had to be left out and no one can legitimately argue that the four teams that got in didn’t deserve it.


Related: Athlon Sports Preseason Top 25: No. 3 Baylor Bears


Both look like nationally elite teams this fall and expect that motivation to work in favor of the Big 12 this fall.


The Bears, ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll, have 17 starters back and arguably the best combined line of scrimmage in football. Art Briles is stacked at the skill positions and his quarterback freight train will continue to roll with Seth Russell manning the controls.


Despite another weak non-conference schedule, an undefeated Baylor squad would easily make it into the College Football Playoff and a one-loss Big 12 champion Bears team would probably make the tournament as well.


TCU returns 15 starters, including 10 on offense — one of which is All-American quarterback Trevone Boykin. The defense has major holes to fill and those voids are the biggest reason the Horned Frogs are picked second in the Big 12 behind Baylor despite the game moving to Fort Worth this fall.


However, TCU is picked No. 5 in the nation and the first team left out of the Playoff according to Athlon's preseason Top 25. If Gary Patterson’s bunch loses only one game in close fashion to the Big 12 champion Baylor Bears — exactly like it did last year — then TCU has as good a shot at snatching a Playoff bid as any team in the land.


A one-loss TCU with wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and a road victory over Minnesota could easily give the Big 12 two Playoff representatives.


The same story could be written if the roles are reversed.


Related: Order your 2015 preseason magazine here!


If TCU goes 12-0 and Baylor’s only defeat is a narrow road loss against an unbeaten Horned Frogs team, both programs could easily slip into the postseason tournament.


Even if one of the two doesn’t go unbeaten and the pair ties atop the Big 12 standings again (each with only one loss), both would still be in excellent shape to make the Playoff.


Much of that hinges on how the other leagues fare. But with two Power 5 leagues — the ACC and Pac-12 — potentially lacking a clear-cut elite team, this fall is as good a year as any for one conference to steal two Playoff bids.


Not only is the Big 12 likely to get its champion into the Playoff, but it also may have the best shot at getting a second team in the final four. It’s really not far-fetched at all.


The irony of the entire situation is that if the Big 12 had a championship game this season, none of the above would be possible.

Big 12 could easily get two teams into the College Football Playoff
Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/dont-listen-nick-saban-bowl-system-just-fine

Don’t buy it.


Don’t buy what Bill Hancock is selling. Don’t buy what the conference commissioners are selling.


Certainly, don’t buy what Nick Saban is selling.


The Alabama Crimson Tide head coach has built up more than enough equity during his amazing career to have intelligent and respected opinions about his game.


But his latest comments about the College Football Playoff ruining the bowl system — what he claims he “fears the most” — couldn’t be further from reality.


What he “fears the most?” Really?


Not Gus Malzahn, not Ezekiel Elliott, not spread offenses, not his glaring weakness at quarterback.


But the BBVA Compass Bowl?


According to Saban, attention being removed from the Taxslayer Bowl is what keeps him up at night.


First, that’s more than difficult to believe. Second, it’s blatantly false.


Related: 5 Things I'd change about the College Football Playoff


Arkansas athletic director and chairman of the College Football Playoff Jeff Long couldn’t agree more.


"Well, I think sometimes coaches, particularly those at the highest level, I'm not sure how aware they are of what's really going on out there in the real world,” Long told Arkansas radio show Sports Talk with Bo.


The “real world” Long is referring to is television ratings and bowl expansion.


More people are watching bowl games than ever before. Remove the record-smashing playoff bowls from the equation — which lured roughly 90 million combined viewers for three games — and the average viewership for the remaining 36 bowls sits at over four million viewers per game (4,001,016 to be exact).


The lowest viewership in the 2013-14 bowl season — the last of the BCS Era — was the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which drew a paltry 332,000 viewers for the UNLV-North Texas showdown.


The lowest rated bowl game during the first Playoff season was the Camellia Bowl between South Alabama and Bowling Green, which drew more than three times the number of viewers at 1,110,000 sets of eyeballs.


Related: SEC, ACC have no right to hate Big Ten for satellite camps


Needless to say, fans are flocking to their televisions to watch the bowls like never before.


And how could the health of the bowl system be in question when the number of games continues to rise?


There were a record 39 bowls last year and not only is the system not suffering, but there is a chance that three more games will be added this fall.


That means 82 teams will play in a postseason game this season. It sounds like the bowl system is healthier than it’s ever been. Hell, bowl games are even being played outside of the country now.


Additionally, the College Football Playoff has increased the entire college football pie. With surging interest in the regular season and subsequent postseason tournament, the Playoff is elevating the entire sport to a new level of interest. Money is pouring into the sport from every angle at unprecedented rates.


Which, in turn, elevates interest and support for all 10 conferences, all 128 teams and all 42 bowl games.


Attendance numbers at bowl games are a concern but that isn’t anything that the entire sports world isn’t dealing with as well. Overall attendance numbers for big time college football were at record lows in 2014 and attendance at sporting events as a whole are reaching concerning benchmarks.


The in-home experience is more enjoyable and significantly more affordable than taking a family of four to the game — much less flying them to El Paso for a neutral field exhibition game.


That isn’t a bowl game problem, that’s a sports industry problem.


Generally speaking, head football coaches say things for a reason. What was Saban’s motivation behind these patently untrue and unfounded comments?


Maybe he’s just upset the entire world destroyed his team for losing to Ohio State on the biggest stage and no one cared nearly as much that Auburn lost to Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.


Don't listen to Nick Saban, the Bowl System is just fine
Post date: Friday, May 22, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/sec-acc-have-no-right-hate-big-ten-satellite-camps

The SEC has only itself to blame. You too, ACC.


Coaches (and fans) from both leagues have some serious diaper rash when it comes to "satellite camps."


But the SEC and ACC power brokers are directing their anger in the wrong direction. They have no right to get angry at the Big Ten or Urban Meyer or James Franklin.


Penn State's Franklin immediately began the Big Ten's hottest new recruiting philosophy as soon as he arrived in Happy Valley and it's totally legal. In the Big Ten, at least.


It has quickly caught on in the population-challenged Big Ten footprint as a way to get their brands in front of the best players from the South.


It's perfectly within the rules to "host" a football camp for elite prospects at small colleges throughout the rich fertile recruiting territory that is the Southeast for teams from the B1G. Just because the SEC doesn't allow it or, more importantly, doesn't need it has nothing to do with Franklin.


The SEC won't ever have the desire to run a satellite camp in Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota or Indiana. It doesn't need those players to survive. The Big Ten needs Southern talent to survive.


Related: 5 Things We'd Change About the College Football Playoff


The NCAA currently has no issue with the innovative recruiting practice and it shouldn't ever change the rule — especially not for the Big Ten. The SEC and ACC have voted on their own not to allow such practices. If your coaches don't like it, take it up with Mike Slive (or Greg Sankey after July 31) and John Swofford.


Because if there is one league that needs any advantage it can get when it comes to recruiting, it's the Big Ten.


Four- and five-star recruits aren't coming from the Big Ten footprint like they used to and, frankly, there are many natural disadvantages the Big Ten must overcome in order to compete with the Southern leagues.


For example, the SEC and ACC will never vote to allow official visits in the summer months because that would allow the Big Ten to showcase the gorgeous campuses that reside in places like Madison, Ann Arbor, Happy Valley or Columbus during the best time of the year.


No, the powers that be down South will always vote against moving official visits because visiting Gainesville in December is much more pleasant than visiting Minneapolis. But in July or August, I'd rather be in Madison.


Related: 10 Biggest Wildcard Teams in College Football in 2015


What's hilarious about the SEC/ACC outrage over satellite camps is the hypocrisy. The SEC has been bending recruiting rules for decades in an effort to win big — and it's worked — more than any other conference. The Big Ten or Pac-12 have rarely resorted to the ruthless tactics of the deep South.


That all changed with Meyer and Franklin, two former SEC coaching alums, who came home to roost in the Midwest. Be it recruiting committed athletes (which is commonplace in the SEC but ruffled Big Ten feathers at the time) or satellite camps, the duo has forced the rest of the Big Ten to elevate itself to a certain level on the recruiting trail. 


The result will be better athletes creating more competitive football teams for the entire conference.


Hate satellite camps all you want, Southern Man, but the fact of the matter is the SEC and ACC voted against their own best interests when each conference decided not to allow them. Not the Big Ten. Not the NCAA. Not Urban Meyer.


Don't blame James Franklin for simply doing what's in the best interests of his program.

SEC, ACC have no right to hate Big Ten for Satellite Camps
Post date: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/whats-ryan-tannehill-done-deserve-96-million-contract-miami

The only guy who likes the Ryan Tannehill contract extension more than Tannehill should be Andrew Luck. 


The Miami Dolphins locked up their starting quarterback with a massive $96 million deal that runs through 2020 — with $45 million guaranteed.


Tannehill had his best season a year ago under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, throwing for 4,045 yards and 27 touchdowns. The former Texas A&M wide receiver has started all 48 games under center since being selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft.


He's a great athlete, a quality member of the locker room and hasn't had a ton of support in South Florida by way of talent. A first-guy-in, last-guy-out player is exactly what any team wants under center. So he's clearly a good player. 


But is he the fifth-best quarterback in the world like his new contract indicates?


It's a lot of money for a guy with a losing record and two more years of team control left on the table. Only Drew Brees ($20.0), Peyton Manning ($19.2), Aaron Rodgers ($18.7) and Tony Romo ($17.1) are averaging more money per year than Tannehill now ($16.0).


The Dolphins' quarterback is just 23-25 overall in his three-year career and has 42 interceptions and 28 fumbles in those 48 games. His long-term value is still mostly unknown compared to the future of a guy like Luck.


Luck has already seen his option picked up by the Colts (duh!), keeping the No. 1 pick of the 2012 NFL Draft under contract for two more full seasons.


Indianapolis would have to be the dumbest franchise in the history of sports to allow Mr. Luck to walk, so an extension is all but assured for No. 12 in blue and white.


The same goes for Seattle's Russell Wilson, but it's Luck who appears to be the surefire Hall of Famer. If Tannehill is worth $96 million, how much is Luck going to cost? $120 million? $150?


And he'd be worth every penny. Is Tannehill worth the fifth-largest contract for an NFL quarterback?


The answer today is no chance.


How many franchises would trade their starter for Tannehill right now? Half a dozen? Buffalo, Cleveland, St. Louis and the Jets for sure and probably Chicago and Houston. But who else? Would the Vikings give up Teddy Bridgewater? Would Jacksonville swap Blake Bortles? Oakland and Derek Carr? 


Colin Kaepernick? Sam Bradford? Robert Griffin? Alex Smith?


No, Tannehill is a solid quarterback but has much left to prove. He simply hasn't done anything to prove he belongs in the same conversation as Brees, Manning and Rodgers.

What's Ryan Tannehill done to deserve a $96 million contract from Miami?
Post date: Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - 13:15
Path: /college-football/top-25-quarterback-head-coach-combinations-2015

The two most important pieces of any college football program is the head coach and the quarterback.


Elite leadership on the field and elite leadership on the sideline can carry a team to a division or conference championship. Not too many teams have won national championships without high-level talent at both positions.


Here are the best 25 quarterback-head coach combinations in college football in 2015:


1. Ohio State: Urban Meyer-Cardale Jones

Meyer might be the top coach in the land right now and no quarterback is hotter than Jones — be it on social media, in the playoffs or in the 2016 NFL Draft prospect rankings. The defending national champs are a default No. 1 until someone knocks them off. This is the best coach and quarterback in the Big Ten entering the season.


2. Mississippi State: Dan Mullen-Dak Prescott

Mullen has worked minor miracles in Starkville, reaching unprecedented heights at Mississippi State. Prescott is a second-team All-American and the best quarterback in the SEC. He may also be a first-round pick like only a few others on this list.


3. Michigan State: Mark Dantonio-Connor Cook

Few players and coaches mesh better from a personality and schematic fit. Cook embodies all that is Spartans football, is a natural leader and one of the top NFL prospects at his position. Big numbers and an upset of the Buckeyes could cement his legacy in Michigan State lore. This is the No. 3-ranked coach and No. 2-ranked quarterback in the Big Ten this fall.


4. TCU: Gary Patterson-Trevone Boykin

Ranked behind only Art Briles and Bill Snyder in the Big 12, Patterson reinvented himself last year by shaking up the offense and the result was a near Playoff berth and the creation of an All-American quarterback. Boykin accounted for 4,608 yards of total offense, good for fourth nationally last year and the top returning number in college football.


5. Penn State: James Franklin-Christian Hackenberg

The numbers and production won’t match this lofty ranking. However, Hackenberg could easily be the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and Franklin achieved things at Vanderbilt that no coach in school history had ever accomplished. If the O-line and running game come around, these two could soar through the Big Ten this year.


6. USC: Steve Sarkisian-Cody Kessler

Coach Sark is ranked as just the ninth-best coach in the Pac-12 but that is mostly due to the tremendous depth of talent this league has on its sidelines. Kessler is the most underrated player in the nation and the best signal-caller in a league stacked with great QBs. Should this duo win the Pac-12 or land in the Playoff, Sarkisian will move up the Pac-12 rankings.


7. Auburn: Gus Malzahn-Jeremy Johnson

Malzahn is a genius and is ranked ahead of multiple coaches with national championships in the SEC right now. Johnson, meanwhile, is poised for a huge season in an offense that churns out points and yards. In fact, Johnson is ranked behind only Prescott in the SEC entering the fall.


8. Arizona State: Todd Graham-Mike Bercovici

Graham was voted as the best coach in the Pac-12 by a narrow margin. Bercovici proved last season in mop-up duty that he is more than capable running the Sun Devils' offense and is a big-time playmaker of his own. His NFL stock should soar this year because of his cannon right arm and potential run at a Pac-12 title.


9. Clemson: Dabo Swinney-Deshaun Watson

If this was a Chad Morris-Deshaun Watson combination, it might be the best in the nation. Watson is that good when healthy and is clearly the best in the ACC. Swinney was voted as the sixth-best coach in the ACC and needs to prove he can do it again without Morris. Swinney is a great motivator and recruiter but how much game-planning and play-calling is he doing on Saturdays?


10. Arizona: Rich Rodriguez-Anu Solomon

RichRod has proven to be one of the game’s best minds and is a perfect fit in Arizona. He and his quarterbacks — be it Pat White or Denard Robinson or Solomon — have produced some special seasons and Solomon’s first in Tucson last year was no exception. Look for a slight regression this fall while the offense rebuilds, but huge things from this duo in two years.


Related: 10 Biggest Wild Card Teams in College Football in 2015


11. Cal: Sonny Dykes-Jared Goff

This one is sneaky good since Dykes ranked just 11th in the Pac-12 coaches rankings (again, mostly due to the incredible depth of talent out West). But Goff is getting NFL looks and will post monster numbers in his third year under center.


12. BYU: Bronco Mendenhall-Taysom Hill

If healthy, few players in the nation are as talented and productive as Hill. And Mendenhall has proven his worth over the long haul in Provo. He’s never had a losing season.


13. Baylor: Art Briles-Seth Russell

The best coach in the Big 12 churns out great QBs and Russell is just the next great one in a long line of elite Bears quarterbacks. Russell is already considered the third-best signal-caller in the league.


14. Georgia Tech: Paul Johnson-Justin Thomas

Johnson has won a ton of games and handful of division titles in Atlanta with his triple option offense. Thomas proved quickly last year that this team had just been missing a QB and that he might be the best one Johnson's had at Tech.


15. Navy: Ken Niumatalolo-Keenan Reynolds

Niumatalolo has posted just one losing season at Navy and has never lost to Army. Reynolds is already holds the NCAA record for career rushing touchdowns (64) by a quarterback and is just 13 behind Montee Ball for the all-time record.


16. Tennessee: Butch Jones-Joshua Dobbs

Jones has yet to win big but all signs are pointing to legit title contention in the very near future. His recruiting and CEO-manship alone make him a rising star. Dobbs, who has very little starting experience, is poised to become one of the SEC’s best in 2015.


17. Missouri: Gary Pinkel-Maty Mauk

Pinkel has the edge over Jones, his SEC East peer, winning both meetings and holding a 3-0 overall record against Tennessee. Pinkel also is one of the most respected minds in the game. Mauk, despite 3,021 yards of total offense and 27 total touchdowns, is still only scratching the surface of his ability.


18. Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin-Kyle Allen

Allen is a future pro and has elite-level upside and a bunch of talented wideouts to throw to this fall. His growth could be extraordinary this fall. Sumlin has made the Big 12 to SEC transition with ease, but isn't the hot commodity he was a few years ago (but still really good).


19. Miami: Al Golden-Brad Kaaya

Many are down on Golden but he got no favors when he took over the scandal-ridden Hurricanes program. Now, he has one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Kaaya “The Messiah” and the pressure is on to win.


20. Cincinnati: Tommy Tuberville-Gunner Kiel

This QB-coach combo is the frontrunner to win the American Athletic Conference. Kiel threw for 3,254 yards and 31 touchdowns in his first full season and is starting to deliver on his massive recruiting hype.


21. Notre Dame: Brian Kelly-Malik Zaire

22. Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy-Mason Rudolph

23. Utah State: Matt Wells-Chuckie Keeton

24. Stanford: David Shaw-Kevin Hogan

25. NC State: Dave Doeren-Jacoby Brissett

Top 20 Quarterback Head Coach Combinations in 2015
Post date: Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL, News
Path: /college-football/top-25-acc-2016-nfl-draft-prospects-watch

The 2015 NFL Draft is over and more than 400 players have begun the next chapter of their football careers.


So what better time than now to look ahead to next spring and the 2016 NFL Draft. Here are the top 25 ACC and Notre Dame prospects to watch in 2015:


1. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech (5-11, 195)

The Hokies' star coverman might actually be as good as Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III. The five-star recruit has started every game of his two-year career and is going to be an All-American entering '15

2. Ronnie Stanley, OL, Notre Dame (6-5, 315)

He's got the size and talent to be an elite blocker on the next level and has held his own very well against elite defensive talent (Leonard Williams, Stanford, LSU).


3. Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State (6-1, 204)

How many five-star recruits start all 13 games as a true freshman for a team that goes 14-0 and wins a national title? Ramsey is now an upperclassman, the veteran star of the Noles' defense.


4. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame (6-2, 235)

He can play inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end in a 3-4 or just about anywhere else on the field. He's a freakish athlete who will vault himself into the first round.


5. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pitt (6-2, 190)

He regressed as a sophomore but his freshman season was no fluke. He has excellent athletic ability and can run all of the routes in the stem. Look for a huge bounce-back season from the Panthers wideout.


6. Nate Andrews, S, Florida State (5-11, 210)

The less-heralded of the two star FSU safeties isn't any less talented. He's got great size and could be just as highly regarded as Ramsey come draft time.


7. James Conner, RB, Pitt (6-2, 240)

He’s a beast of tailback who is impossible to tackle with one defender. He rolled up 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns a year ago, showing he’s a true workhorse back.


8. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson (5-10, 190)

He’s just a redshirt sophomore but he showed why he was so highly touted coming out of high school. The star cornerback started all 13 games in his first season, earning freshman All-American honors along the way.


9. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson (6-3, 270)

He posted 34 tackles and 3.5 sacks as a backup last year. He will be asked to step into a massive role after the Tigers' D-Line lost so much this offseason. Look for Lawson to become a household name this fall.


10. Sheldon Day, DE, Notre Dame (6-2, 285)

One of the quickest of the Irish defensive linemen heading into ’15, Day posted 40 tackles, 7.5 for a loss and nine quarterback hurries last fall. He could be an undersized tackle or traditional defensive end depending on where he lands.


Related: 5 Things I'd Change about the College Football Playoff


11. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson (6-4, 210)

Williams blossomed a year ago into a star deep threat and is the next in a long line of elite pass catchers from Death Valley. He has great size and posted 1,030 yards as a sophomore.


12. Landon Turner, OG, North Carolina (6-4, 325)

The preseason first-team All-ACC lineman is one of the best interior blockers in the nation. According to UNC, Turner posted five games with at 10 knockdown blocks and is poised for a big senior season in Chapel Hill.


13. Devonte Fields, DE, Louisville (6-4, 240)

The former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year has dealt with major off-the-field issues but has gotten his second chance at Louisville. If he’s focused and committed to football, Fields could be a monster coming off of the edge for Bobby Petrino.


14. Nick Martin, C, Notre Dame (6-5, 301)

Martin moves back to center this fall and will be the pivot for the Irish O-Line. He could be the top center prospect in the country in next year’s draft class.


15. Dadi Nicolas, DE, Virginia Tech (6-4, 236)

Where he plays on the next level may impact his draft stock. He’s undersized for a true defensive end but would excel off of the edge as an outside backer in a 3-4.


Related: 10 Biggest Wildcard Teams in College Football in 2015


16. Deon Bush, S, Miami (6-1, 205)

He’s got great size and is the best defensive player in a Hurricanes uniform. He led the ACC with five forced fumbles and finished with 53 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions.


17. Terrance Smith, LB, Florida State (6-1, 231)

He battled injuries all season last fall and missed a bunch of time in the offseason nursing a turf toe issue. But Smith was a huge part of each of the last three ACC titles. He posted 86 tackles last fall.


18. James Burgess, LB, Louisville (6-0, 230)

When it comes to athletic ability, Burgess has rare talent. He flies around the field like a safety but is right at home attacking the running game. He’s not overly big but he plays bigger than his frame, collecting 71 tackles and 10.0 for a loss.


19. KeiVarae Russell, CB, Notre Dame (5-11, 190)

Academic issues sidelined Russell all of last season but he was getting preseason All-American love prior to the suspension.


20. Jayron Kearse, S, Clemson (6-3, 210)

The nephew of Jevon Kearse, Jayron’s athletic ability will be intriguing to the NFL. He made tons of plays last year, posting 60 tackles and two interceptions as a lanky sophomore.


Related: 10 Teams Guaranteed NOT to make the College Football Playoff


21. Jeremy Cash, S, Duke (6-2, 205)

He’s got great size and is incredibly well-coached. The All-American was the only defensive back in the nation to register at least 100 tackles (111), 10.0 tackles for a loss (10.5) and five sacks (5.5).


22. Jarron Jones, DT, Notre Dame (6-6, 315)

If he’s 100 percent healthy and focused, Jones has elite upside. He posted 40 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss, but is returning from a severe foot injury. He also needs to be more consistent.


23. Max Redfield, S, Notre Dame (6-1, 198)

The prized recruit blossomed last season as a leader in the Irish secondary. He finished second on the team with 68 tackles and has the speed-size combination the NFL is looking for.


24. Brandon Facyson, CB, Virginia Tech (6-2, 190)

He missed nine games last year with a shin injury and broke his leg in December. If he returns to form, the redshirt sophomore could be poised to return to his freshman All-American status.


25. Reggie Northrup, LB, Florida State (6-1, 226)

This is all projection, as Northrup is returning from a torn ACL in the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon. However, he was the leading tackler with 122 stops last year and has the talent to play on Sundays.


Best of the Rest:

26. Quinshad Davis, WR, North Carolina

27. Corey Robinson, WR, Notre Dame

28. Jabari Hunt-Days, DT, Georgia Tech

29. Tracy Howard, CB, Miami

30. Adam Gotsis, DT, Georgia Tech

31. Stacy Coley, WR, Miami

32. Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pitt

33. Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

34. Taquan Mizzell, RB, Virginia

35. Jamal Golden, S, Georgia Tech

36. Jon Heck, OT, North Carolina

37. Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State

Top 25 ACC 2016 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch
Post date: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/10-biggest-wild-card-college-football-teams-2015

The Athlon Sports college football preseason Top 25 countdown starts on Wednesday.


Predicting college football is an inexact science that’s more difficult to pinpoint than any other sport due to roster turnover, as well as the volatility when it comes to developing personnel and new coaches.


We use depth charts, recruiting rankings, stats, schedules, history, coaching and gut instincts to predict each conference to the best of our abilities. Getting it right is our top priority.


But that doesn’t mean that certain teams are darn near impossible to figure out. Here are the 10 biggest wildcard teams in college football entering our Top 25 countdown.



The Tigers are going to be one of the best teams in the ACC but how good could they be nationally? There is a lot to like about this team with star quarterback Deshaun Watson and overall depth that’s as talented as any team in the league. But this team only returns two starters on defense and four on offense. Lastly, offensive mastermind Chad Morris is now coaching at SMU. This team could be an ACC champion and Playoff contender — or 8-4.



A new coach alone makes a team tough to pinpoint in the preseason. But one without a starting quarterback and a lopsided depth chart makes it even tougher. There are loads of talent on defense but few proven players along the offensive line or under center. Most believe in this coaching staff and the SEC East is fairly wide open, but it’s tough to gauge how good the Gators will be in 2015.


Florida State

This is the most-talented team in the ACC and one of the top two or three rosters in the nation. But the offensive line is totally reworked, Sean Maguire is taking over at quarterback and only three starters are back on offense. The defense will be salty with seven starters back and a schedule that sets up for another ACC title run. But is this a Playoff team again or just a really good ACC team?


Related: The Top Running Backs in the ACC in 2015



There are 13 starters back for LSU as Les Miles once again boasts one of the top 10 collections of players in the nation. However, none of that is under center (for now) and he has to replace John Chavis as his defensive leader. The offense should run through uber-talented running back Leonard Fournette and the defense should be fine, but this team is trending in the wrong direction, faces one of the toughest schedules in the nation and has major QB concerns. This team could finish in any of the seven slots in the SEC West and it wouldn’t surprise anyone.



The Big Ten's West Division appears to be wide open and Nebraska has as good a shot of winning it as anyone else in the league. Six starters are back on both sides of the ball, including star power up front in the all-important trenches. Does new head coach Mike Riley have a quarterback that fits his system on the roster and can the Huskers overcome scheduling imbalance to win the West? Definitely. Could the Big Red lose to BYU, Miami, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan State? Also yes.


Related: 10 Teams Guaranteed NOT to make the College Football Playoff



Bob Stoops is coming off one of his worst seasons in Norman and, traditionally, his teams perform better when entering a season without expectations. This team won’t be picked by anyone ahead of Baylor or TCU but is the top challenger to the top two squads in the Big 12. If Baker Mayfield flourishes in Lincoln Riley’s system and six returning defensive starters improve, watch out for the Sooners.



Much of the Ducks' success in ’15 hinges on graduate transfer quarterback Vernon Adams and his ability to pick up the offense quickly in summer camp. The offense is downright sick, loaded with elite playmakers at nearly every position. The defense, in particular the secondary, has some major holes to plug. And Stanford is gaining significant ground in the Pac-12 North race this summer. Oregon’s ceiling is high, but are the Ducks a Playoff team or a Holiday Bowl team?



The talent is undeniably better and so is the team. But the defensive line is still very thin and the Vols play some of the best running teams in the nation. Dual-threat quaterback Joshua Dobbs should have better support up front along the line and at the skill spots but he has just a handful of starts under his belt. Can this team overcome a brutal schedule, exorcise some demons against Florida, Alabama or Missouri and contend in the SEC East? Or is this a five-loss team? The Big Orange’s youth makes this an interesting team to keep an eye on heading into the summer.



What do we know about Texas? Charlie Strong is an excellent coach who has a proven track record. His defense will be salty, physical and disciplined. And that the Longhorns have little to no offense. This team plays differently than anyone else in the league, making them interesting. But Tyrone Swoopes is still more liability than playmaker. With 11 starters back, this team is a total wildcard in the Big 12 this fall.


Related: 9 Quarterbacks Who Need to Transfer and the 9 Teams that Need Them



There are seven starters back on defense and seven back on offense, including the best quarterback in the Pac-12 in Cody Kessler. The roster has more recruiting star power on it than any other team in the league, and by a wide margin. But the schedule is nasty — especially, within the division, the Pac-12 South — and questions about the overall depth still remain. Can the coaching staff get the most out of the Trojans? If so, this team could make the Playoff. If not, USC could finish fourth in the division.

10 Biggest Wildcard College Football Teams in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/5-things-wed-change-about-college-football-playoff

The first year of the College Football Playoff was a resounding success.


Television pulled huge ratings. Athletic departments are richer and conference coffers are overflowing. The bowl games were showcased. The regular season was amplified.


And the fans got the postseason tournament they’ve wanted for decades.


But that doesn’t mean it can’t get better. Here are five ways to improve the College Football Playoff.


Expand to 6 (not 8)

The Playoff’s television contract is in effect for 12 years but no one in any position of power thinks the structure will stick for the full length of the deal. Expansion is coming whether we like it or not, it should just be six teams and not eight. Eight teams allow for three-loss teams to join the conversation and exclusivity is a good thing. Six teams fixes the “conference championship” argument and then some. The top two seeds get byes just like half of the NFL Playoff bracket. It's perfect and the Big 12 can't complain.


Use home sites

Get rid of the stupid bowl games. They mean absolutely nothing and have been grandfathered into a position of extreme power and wealth. The best part of college football isn’t a three-quarters full Superdome, it’s the pageantry of being on campus in the largest venues in American sports. It’s the Horseshoe. It’s the Big House. It’s Between the Hedges and in The Swamp. It’s Death Valley, the Capstone and the 40 Acres. Let’s showcase this part of the sport and award home-field advantage to the better teams while we're at it. Don’t listen to Bill Hancock, there are still 36 other bowl games that keep the sanctity of the bowl system intact. And can you really expect to ask fans to travel to three consecutive neutral site games?


Related: 10 Biggest Wildcard Teams in College Football in 2015


Make the title game truly national

Home sites shouldn't be used for the final tilt, however. This is a national championship game not a regional championship or a Southern championship. The Super Bowl is rotated throughout the country and is played in every region for a reason. This national championship belongs to everyone and should be played all over the place. Indianapolis, Detroit, New York, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area (Santa Clara to be exact) have all proven they can host massive sporting events. Every region of the country deserves to host this great spectacle.


Limit rankings release to three weeks

One of the only major complaints in the first year of the Playoff was the rankings release. It’s completely fabricated by ESPN to drive ratings and create discussion on Tuesdays. It was genius business but isn’t in the best interest of the sport. The rankings need three releases. One at the end of November, one the week before Championship Saturday and a final release on Sunday following.


Related: 10 Teams Guaranteed NOT to make the College Football Playoff


Semifinals on New Year’s Day

It’s not an issue yet because both semifinals in Year One fell on New Year’s Day. But the ’15 playoff will feature two games on New Year’s Eve. The Rose Bowl’s exclusive spot on New Year’s Day has forced other games to be moved to a far less viewable slot the night before. College football should own New Year’s Day every year like it did last season. Here is yet another reason to remove the bowls from the equation.

5 Things We'd Change About the College Football Playoff
Post date: Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/10-teams-guaranteed-not-make-college-football-playoff-2015

The Athlon Sports 2015 preseason college football top 25 countdown begins this Wednesday and hearts are already breaking across the nation.


Every season, the Athlon Sports Top 25 starts the national conversation about where teams’ expectations lay heading into camp.


Preseason Top 25 polls miss on teams — both good and bad. But one thing is true, your favorite team needs to be in the preseason top 25 to win a national championship.


No team since Georgia Tech in 1990 has won a national championship after beginning the season unranked. In fact, only two teams since 1990 have even played in a national championship game entering the season unranked: Notre Dame in 2012 and Auburn in 2013 — which needed more than one miraculous finish to get there.


The beauty of the College Football Playoff is that it has cast a wider national title net, but only four teams get in. Below are 10 power conference teams that are guaranteed NOT to be in the College Football Playoff and where they rank in the preseason:


Kansas (No. 103)

The Jayhawks lost 16 of their 22 starters from a year ago and are under new leadership. David Beatty was hired for his ability to recruit and the trail might be the only place Kansas will win in 2015. A winless Big 12 campaign is likely for the lowest-ranked Power 5 team.


Syracuse (No. 85)

Only seven total starters return for the Orange this summer. Scott Shafer’s squad is the lowest-ranked ACC team in the preseason polls and a repeat of last year’s 1-7 ACC record is likely. With LSU and USF in the non-conference, anything more than three wins might be considered a small victory.


Purdue (No. 84)

The Boilermakers showed slight signs of improvement last year in Darrell Hazell’s second season. But his record is 4-20 for a reason and this team lost six straight games to end the season. There are 16 starters back but only a few winnable games on the schedule.


Wake Forest (No. 82)

With 13 starters back and a second-year coach in Dave Clawson, there should be more optimism in Winston-Salem than other towns on this list. That said, Wake Forest wasn’t very competitive a year ago and anything over four wins in ’15 would be a success.


Vanderbilt (No. 79)

The Dores are the most talented team on this list but a nasty schedule and terrible offense make it nearly impossible for Vandy to compete in the SEC. There are 17 starters back so this team should be improved even if it doesn’t translate to wins. Keep in mind, Derek Mason was crushed by Temple and nearly lost to UMass and Old Dominion last year.


Related: Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015


Iowa State (No. 74)

Paul Rhoads may never get a fair shake because Iowa State is really tough place to win. With just four starters back on defense, stopping Big 12 offenses will be hard to do this fall. A win over Kansas might be the high-water mark for ISU in league play this fall.


Oregon State (No. 73)

The Beavers have a new coach (who is well respected) and just two starters back on defense and lost the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer. The schedule is downright ridiculous, both in the league and out, and more than one Pac-12 win could be considered a positive.


Colorado (No. 67)

This team is getting better under Mike McIntyre ever so slightly but not enough to take big strides in 2015. Playing 13 games may give this team an outside shot a bowl game but that is still extremely unexpected.


Washington State (No. 66)

Mike Leach’s team took a step back last year and now replaces Connor Halliday under center. The Cougars return 13 starters and their only saving grace is getting to face two other teams (Oregon State, Rutgers) on this list.


Rutgers (No. 65)

Only Virginia (No. 61) is a higher-ranked, “last-place” team in the preseason projections. After a bounce back to a bowl game last season, Kyle Flood’s squad returns just eight starters and faces the toughest schedule in the B1G.

10 Teams Guaranteed NOT to Make the College Football Playoff
Post date: Monday, May 11, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/top-25-big-ten-2016-nfl-draft-prospects-watch

The 2015 NFL Draft is over and more than 400 players have begun the next chapter of their football careers.


So what better time than now to look ahead to next spring and the 2016 NFL Draft. Here are the top 25 prospects that could be drafted from the Big Ten:


1. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State (6-4, 230)

He got no support from his running game or offensive line last fall, but Hackenberg has all the NFL tools to be the best QB prospect in the draft next year. He's a more athletic version of Eli Manning. It's hard to keep elite QBs from being the top pick.


2. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (6-4, 265)

The best pure pass rusher in this class, Bosa has already proven himself as one of the best in college football. He is likely to be avoided by most offenses in '15 so the numbers may not improve, but his stock won't go anywhere. He's one of the best players in the nation period.


3. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State (6-2, 235)

The freakish redshirt sophomore had a coming-out party in the College Football Playoff, earning MVP honors of the Sugar Bowl. He could blossom into the best linebacker in the nation due to elite speed, instincts and physicality.


4. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State (6-3, 218)

He's got the size, the arm and is an above-average athlete. He wins games and takes care of the football as well. He's a pure leader who could be on the only team capable of knocking off Ohio State.


5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (6-0, 225)

The top Heisman Trophy candidate entering the season was an absolute monster in the Playoffs. He carried his team to a national championship and should be the top back taken if he can stay healthy.


Related: Top 32 2016 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch


6. Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State (6-4, 255)

There is a good chance he's the starter for Ohio State when the season opens, and his overall arm talent is what makes him the best QB prospect on the OSU roster. And a second national title could cement his first-round status.


7. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State (6-5, 255)

Calhoun could have left school early last fall but elected to return. His stock can't change much but as long as he continues to deliver on his tremendous ability on a championship-level defense, he will be a first-rounder.


8. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State (6-6, 317)

He struggled some with Shawn Oakman (a potential first-round pick from Baylor) in the Cotton Bowl but has been Cook’s blindside anchor. He’s solid against both the run and the pass and will have a chance to lead MSU to a Big Ten title.


9. Joshua Perry, OLB, Ohio State (6-4, 254)

The tackling machine isn’t the flashiest or most explosive player on the Buckeyes' defense but he’s one of the most consistent. He led the national champs in tackles last year with 124 and added 8.5 for a loss and 3.0 sacks. There are few players at his position with his size.


10. Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska (6-2, 300)

Randy Gregory got all of the headlines but Collins developed into a star in his own right last fall as just a sophomore. The disruptive tackle posted 45 tackles, 10.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks — arguably a better season than Gregory. The sky is the limit for Collins.


11. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State (6-7, 315)

He’s a massive guy with a long frame who has excelled against some of the best in the business. This offensive line dominated in the national title game and against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.


12. Adolphus Washington, DL, Ohio State (6-4, 290)

With Michael Bennett and Steve Miller gone, more of the D-line onus will fall to this former big-time recruit. He’s got great size and length and makes more plays than the average tackle. He needs to prove he can be the focal point after 48 tackles, 10.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks.


13. Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State (5-11, 205)

The former five-star recruit finished second on the team in tackles last year (92) and has proven himself a playmaker in short order. He doesn’t have great size but has the elite athleticism that NFL pass defenses are looking for and he elevated his game in the Playoffs.


14. Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State (6-4, 278)

Getting Zettel back this season was a big win for defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and company. The big fellas clogged the middle for one of the best defenses in the league last fall, posting 42 tackles, 17.0 tackles for a loss and 8.0 sacks.


15. Kyle Carter, TE, Penn State (6-3, 240)

A trio of talented wide receivers and the departed Jesse James took the spotlight from Carter last fall. But make no mistake, he’s got NFL ability. He only caught 16 passes last season but fans in Happy Valley (as well as Mr. Hackenberg) are expecting a big leap forward in ’15.


16. Tyler Marz, OT, Wisconsin (6-5, 321)

The next in a long line of UW blockers with NFL upside. Guards and centers from Madison have had better careers in the NFL but Marz will lead what is once again one of the best running games in the nation.


17. Theiren Cockran, DE, Minnesota (6-6, 257)

He’s rangy and versatile. He can play outside backer in a 3-4 but has excelled as a true end for Jerry Kill. Should the Florida native blossom into an All-Big Ten player, his stock could soar come draft day.


18. Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin (5-11, 210)

Wisconsin knows how to run the ball and the next guy in line is Clement. He’s not as gifted as Melvin Gordon but could be just as productive. He’s rushed for 1,496 yards and 16 touchdowns on 7.0 yards per carry as a backup over the last two years behind Gordon.


19. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (6-2, 225)

Scouts aren’t sure what to make of Barrett. He’s a solid athlete with a solid arm and has great size but does he do anything at an elite, NFL level? There is no doubting his leadership and production, however, after 45 touchdowns in 12 games as a redshirt freshman starter last fall.


20. Dan Voltz, C, Wisconsin (6-3, 311)

The highly-touted center prospect enters his redshirt junior year as a Rimington Trophy watch list member. The former freshman All-American missed the second half of the season last year and if he can prove he’s fully healthy, he will move up this list quickly.


Related: Grading the First Round of the 2015 NFL Draft


21. Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota (6-0, 196)

Murray is an incredibly productive cornerback for the Gophers. He totaled 69 tackles last fall for a team one half of football away from winning its division. All Minnesota players are well-coached and he could be the best player on the team in ’15.


22. Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State (6-1, 200)

He’s smart, savvy, hard-working and very athletic. He’s long and rangy as well. Apple proved to be a big playmaker from the corner position. He registered 5.5 tackles for a loss, 10 pass breakups, three interceptions and 53 tackles.


23. Darius Hamilton, DL, Rutgers (6-4, 255)

He can play in multiple schemes but likely projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. Hamilton was one of the top recruits in school history and he delivered with 45 tackles, 11.5 for a loss and 6.0 sacks last fall. A step forward in ’15 could push him into the top three rounds.


24. Wayne Lyons, DB, Michigan (6-1, 193)

Folks in Ann Arbor will learn his name quickly after transferring in from Stanford. Lyons played in 41 games with the Cardinal, posting 126 tackles and three interceptions before coming to Michigan. He instantly makes this defense better and he is a potential All-Big Ten selection.


25. Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State (6-1, 212)

If Miller wants to put together a year of tape for NFL scouts, he will likely have to play wide receiver. He might be able to play QB for another college program, but he’s not an NFL signal-caller. But should he prove he can make the transition, his stock could rise quickly.


Best of the Rest:

26. Jordan Lucas, CB, Penn State (6-0, 198)

27. Leonte Caroo, WR, Rutgers (6-1, 205)

28. James Ross, LB, Michigan (6-1, 225)

29. Kyle Kalis, OL, Michigan (6-5, 292)

30. Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State (6-3, 210)

31. Blake Countess, CB, Michigan (5-10, 185)

32. Jack Allen, C, Michigan State (6-2, 295)

33. Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana (6-6, 300)

34. Michael Caputo, S, Wisconsin (6-1, 212)

35. Nick VanHoose, CB, Northwestern (6-0, 190)

36. Chris Carter, DT, Ohio State (6-4, 342)

37. Vincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska (6-3, 320)

38. Nyeem Wartman, OLB, Penn State (6-1, 236)

39. Sojourn Shelton, CB, Wisconsin (5-9, 180)

40. Alex Lewis, OT, Nebraska (6-6, 290)

Top 25 Big Ten 2016 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch
Post date: Friday, May 8, 2015 - 10:00