Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-football-coaching-jobs-2015-expert-poll

Is it easier to win at USC or UCLA? How about Oregon, Stanford or Washington?


Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?


These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.


So Athlon Sports asked some respected Pac-12 minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 12 jobs were available?


The Voting Panel:

Anthony Herron, ESPN/Pac-12 Network

Jon Solomon, CBSSports

Pat Forde, Yahoo!

Scott Wolf, LA Daily News

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports

Dan Rubenstein, SB Nation

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports

George Schroeder, USA Today

Ryan Abraham,

Bryan Fischer,

Ralph Russo, AP

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 12 points. The points are a great indicator of what tier your program is in within the conference.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.13 (13)
Like Ohio State in the Big Ten and Texas in the Big 12, USC dominated the voting by landing all 13 first-place votes. The money is huge, the location is nearly perfect, the rich recruiting base is unmatched, and the history of success is second to none in the league. With the exception of cost of living and the distracted nature of the L.A. market, this job has no weaknesses.
Two decades ago, the Ducks would have been ranked behind UCLA and Washington among others. Yet, the big business of sports and the flash of NIKE money have tangibly increased the Ducks' status not only in the Pac-12 but nationally. Eugene boasts the best stadium/fans in the conference and the facilities are some of the most impressive in the nation. In-state recruiting isn't all that fertile but few brands carry as much clout nationally as Oregon. The Ducks scored all but one second-place vote.
Like Texas A&M or Clemson, there are few excuses for UCLA not to be great. All of the same positives USC enjoys help the Bruins as well. The difference is lack of support and commitment from the administration over time (which is getting better). This has long been a basketball school first. Yet, UCLA has been a sleeping giant for years and Jim Mora may finally be waking the beast. UCLA got six third-place votes and one second-place vote.
The only home atmosphere out West that rivals Autzen Stadium is Husky Stadium. Some of the league's best fans and one of the nation's most picturesque venues/campuses makes UW an extremely desirable gig. Financial support doesn't seem to be a problem and in-state recruiting is adequate (although, not elite). This program has won a national title in the last 30 years and has all of the needed advantages to return to those heights. The Huskies got four third-place votes.
Arizona is a quality state for talent and dipping into California is par for the course at ASU. The stadium keeps getting better, the facilities are improving annually and the fans are, uh, gorgeously supportive. Does this program have the same national appeal and clout of those above it? No. But can Arizona State win at a high level consistently in the Pac-12? You bet.
There are major positives about working in Palo Alto but there are major hurdles as well. The prestige of the job is world renowned and the campus is an easy sell not only to the glut of in-state recruits but also nationally. The facilities are strong as well. However, the fan support won't ever match the bigger programs in the sport and sports aren't always a top priority among the powers that be at Stanford.
Arizona won't ever be confused as a Pac-12 power but it has done an excellent job of competing over time. The recruiting base is excellent but being able to lure outside prospects to the desert is important for any head coach in Tucson. There isn't any big-time tradition of gridiron success, but the stadium is slowly but surely becoming competitive with the bigger boys in the league. Zona isn't an easy job to peg, which is why it was voted as high as sixth and as low as 10th.
Cal is the premier public institution in America and is located in a great area to live and recruit. The facilities used to be an issue but have been renovated lately. There is a lot to like about this job but it has struggled to reach the upper tier of the league for the better part of a century. This program has just two Pac-12 titles since 1958 for a reason.
Going from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 is a tangible move that greatly impacts the national standing of the Utes' program in a positive way. Utah and the surrounding states are underrated for producing talent and the stadium is slowly but surely getting to a point where it can be mentioned as one of the better venues in the league. However, all of these aspects were tops in the Mountain West and are middle of the pack in the Pac-12. It's an uphill battle to get Utah on par with the elite jobs in the Pac-12 South.
The fall from national championship to 10th in the Pac-12 took less than 30 years for Colorado. Most of that stems from lack of support from the administration. The facilities are in desperate need of upgrading and support for the head coach has been questionable in recent years. That said, if new rounds of upgrades to all of the above were to happen, it could help the Buffs return to relevance. When good, the fans are excellent but tend to be a fickle bunch in a town with loads of other things to do. 
The stadium has been upgraded but still lags behind the Pac-12's best in terms of intimidation factor and size, while the facilities pale in comparison to their in-state big brother from Eugene. Getting recruits to Corvallis is extremely difficult as well. This job is better since Mike Riley rebuilt it but there is a reason OSU has won one conference title since 1954.
Everything that applies to Oregon State also applies to Washington State. Except, the Cougars have upgraded facilities but the fan support (when good) isn't as good. Pullman is an extremely difficult place to acquire talent despite some pockets of success over the years.


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Ranking the Pac-12's Football Coaching Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-2015-schedule-and-analysis

The last two seasons haven't ended the way Nick Saban would like. Two poor showings in the Superdome in New Orleans have left a bad taste in the Crimson Tide's mouth.


So as if Alabama needed any extra motivation, this group should be extra focused this fall. The Tide will have one of the best collections of players in the nation and Saban is still the best coach in the land. 


That doesn't mean Bama's work isn't cut out for it this fall. With a schedule loaded with ranked opponents, rivalry games and playoff contenders, Saban's bunch will have to earn their way into the postseason.


Related: Ranking the SEC's Best Football Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)


2015 Alabama Crimson Tide Schedule


Bye: Week 9


1.Sept. 5Arlington, TX*
Non-con Showdown These two powerhouse programs have met just once in history — a 15-0 Badgers victory in Madison way back in 1928. This isn't a vintage UW roster but will still present unique challenges. Look for the epic Big Ten-SEC showdown to go the way of the heavily favored Tide.
2.Sept. 12Tuscaloosa, AL
The home opener will be the third meeting all-time between Middle Tennessee and Alabama. Bama won easily in 2005 in Tuscaloosa and snuck past the Blue Raiders 39-34 back in 2002.
3.Sept. 19Tuscaloosa, AL
Revenge Game Ole Miss heads to Tuscaloosa fully aware of the revenge the Tide will have in mind. The Rebels have lost 12 straight in T-Town dating back to 1988 and had lost 10 straight overall until the 23-17 thriller in Oxford last fall. That said, both teams will be highly ranked (and likely unbeaten) in this early-season clash that will send shockwaves through the West Division by Week 3.
4.Sept. 26Tuscaloosa, AL
Quick, want to win a bar bet? Who owns the edge in the all-time series between Alabama and UL-Monroe? Technically, it's tied at 1-1 but Bama fans will never forget Saban's bizarre loss to the Warhawks at home in 2007 (21-14). The 2006 meeting has been vacated but was a 41-7 Tide victory. Think Saban has forgotten what happened? (My heart goes out to ULM in this one.)
5.Oct. 3Athens, GA
Atlanta Preview? For the first time since 2008, the Crimson Tide will visit Sanford Stadium. Mark Richt is 3-2 against Alabama, but the Tide has won two straight in the series, including one of the most unforgettable SEC title games in recent memory. This could be a preview of the SEC title game that could once again lead to a Playoff berth.
6.Oct. 10Tuscaloosa, AL
Alabama has won eight straight in this series but last year's 14-13 win in Fayetteville is one neither side will ever forget. In fact, before the streak started, Arkansas owned an 8-7 series edge in SEC games. The last time these two met in Tuscaloosa, however, was a 52-0 beatdown. The Hogs should be able to keep it much closer this time around.
7.Oct. 17College Station, TX
Must-See TV This was an obliteration last season when Alabama stepped on Texas A&M's neck 59-0 in an eye-opening win for the Tide. The two previous SEC meetings between Kevin Sumlin and Saban, however, were fantastic battles totaling 144 combined points. Have the Aggies closed the gap enough to compete at home against the mighty Tide?
8.Oct. 24Tuscaloosa, AL
This Saturday in October The historic SEC rivalry has been a series of streaks for decades. Alabama is currently on an eight-game winning streak over Tennessee, including five consecutive blowouts. Bama has won those five by an average of 28.4 points per game. However, this will be the best Vols team the Tide has faced since '09. 
10.Nov. 7Tuscaloosa, AL
Saban-Miles X One of the best rivalry games in college football every year could once again be an instant classic. Bama has won four straight over LSU and Saban is 6-3 in his career against Miles. Of those nine meetings, six were decided by one score or less. This could be an early November elimination game.
11.Nov. 14Starkville, MS
Last fall, No. 1 Mississippi State entered Tuscaloosa and narrowly lost 25-20, eventually launching the Tide into the Playoffs. The roles could easily be reversed this season should the Tide get to this point unbeaten. Saban has won the last three trips to Starkville by a combined score of 75-17 but has experienced defeat in Davis Wade Stadium. The last loss for the Tide in the series came in 2007 on Scott Field in Starkville. 
12.Nov. 21Tuscaloosa, AL
It's about time programs like Alabama (and the rest of the SEC) stop scheduling lower-tier teams in November. Cupcakes in September are perfectly acceptable but this is November 21. It will be ugly and actually could hurt Bama's standing with the selection committee. It's the first meeting between the two programs, if that means anything to anyone.
13.Nov. 28Auburn, AL
Iron Bowl The rivalry of all rivalries usually puts more than just state bragging rights on the line. No one will ever forget what took place on The Plains the last time these two met in Auburn. Bama leads the all-time series 43-35-1. The Tide has won two of the last three at Auburn, but the Tigers are 8-4 all-time against Bama in Jordan-Hare. There is a good chance the SEC West, SEC and a Playoff spot could hang in the balance in this one.


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Alabama Crimson Tide 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2015-football-schedule-analysis

Never before has scheduling been a bigger issue than the 2014 College Football Playoff.


The committee clearly took a stance on Baylor’s weak non-conference matchups and it cost the Bears a chance at the national championship. A perceived lack of quality wins also has long been an issue for Big Ten champions. It hurt Michigan State two years ago and nearly cost Ohio State last fall. With a glut of intriguing non-conference games against top-level Power 5 teams, that shouldn't be an issue this fall — at least, not in the deep East Division.


Scheduling is a huge part of Athlon Sports’ process of making predictions as well. Here is what you need to know about the Big Ten’s football schedules in 2015.


East’s best game: Michigan State at Ohio State (Nov. 21)

Ohio State snapped Michigan State’s 14-game Big Ten winning streak with a 49-37 victory by hanging 568 yards on Mark Dantonio’s defense. It was revenge for the B1G title game defeat the year prior. An East Division and Big Ten title as well as Rose Bowl or Playoff berths could be hanging in the balance once again when these two meet late in November. This could easily be replaced by Ohio State's visit to Ann Arbor the following week.


West’s best game: Wisconsin at Nebraska (Oct. 10)

The dairy-fed Big Red from Madison have put up 129 points on the corn-fed Big Red from Lincoln in their last two meetings. The Badgers have won three of four Big Ten meetings, but the Huskers' lone win came in Lincoln. The Big Ten West will likely be determined in this Big Red battle.


Best crossover: Michigan State at Nebraska (Nov. 7)

Wisconsin avoids each of the top four from the East and Nebraska plays just one. Michigan State-Nebraska has been an intense battle in all four conference meetings since the Huskers joined the league, including a wild Taylor Martinez-led rally in East Lansing three years ago. These two are separated by 21 total points over the last three meetings.


Other crossovers to watch:

With the balance of power titled heavily towards the East and Ohio State avoiding both Wisconsin and Nebraska, there aren’t a lot of intriguing crossover games. Minnesota at Ohio State could be fun. Maryland at Iowa isn’t terrible. Wisconsin at Maryland is probably the second-most intriguing crossover in a league devoid of quality crossover matchups.


East's toughest schedule: 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.


East’s easiest schedule: 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.   


West’s toughest schedule: 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.


West’s easiest schedule: 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.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big Ten Preview

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Top 10 Non-conference games:


1.Sept. 12
2.Sept. 5*
3.Sept. 7
4.Sept. 3
5.Sept. 19
6.Sept. 7
7.Nov. 28
8.Sept. 19
9.Sept. 3*
10.Nov. 7

* - neutral site

2015 Big Ten Football Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-football-coaching-jobs-2015-expert-poll

Is it easier to win at Texas or Oklahoma? How about Big 12 newcomers West Virginia and TCU?


Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?


These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.


So Athlon Sports asked some respected Big 12 minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 10 jobs were available?


The Voting Panel:

David Ubben, Fox Sports

Ralph Russo, AP

Jon Solomon, CBSSports

Chip Brown,

Pat Forde, Yahoo!

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports

Blair Kerkhoff, KC Star

George Schroeder, USA Today

Chris Level,

Bryan Fischer,

Allen Kenney,

Tim Fitzgerald,

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 10 points. The points are a great indicator of what tier your program is within the conference.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.15 (15)
Texas might be the best job in America as all 15 panelists voted UT as the best job in the Big 12. The resources are second to none in college football as is the in-state talent. Certainly, there is pressure to win but nowhere in the country are there more advantages to national success than Austin — which is also one of the best cities in the country as well.
Oklahoma got all 15 second-place votes and is largely considered on the same plane as the Longhorns. Being outside of the Lone Star State and in a less vibrant town are the only things that keep OU from the top spot. Facilities and fan support are among the nation's best and history suggests the Sooners rarely fail to compete at a high level. This program has no weaknesses.
The Pokes were voted the top second-tier program in the Big 12 behind Texas and Oklahoma. Oklahoma State has massive financial resources (one, at least) and recruits north Texas as if it's an in-state territory. The Cowboys got nine of the possible 15 third-place votes and was voted no lower than sixth. There is much to like about this program but it's clearly not on the same operating level as the two big boys in this league.
By going from the Mountain West to the Big 12 by way of the Big East, few programs in the nation have elevated their stock as much as TCU. There are countless reasons why being in the Big 12 is better (namely, money and clout) and being in the Big 12 has allowed for natural advantages — like in-state recruiting talent, for example — to flourish on a bigger stage. The stadium won't ever be elite or seat 100,000, but there is a lot of upward mobility for the Horned Frogs. TCU got four third-place votes.
Much like TCU, Baylor has elevated its stock by building a fantastic new stadium and state-of-the-art facilities. These are tangible ways to improve a coaching job long-term and few in the country have seen a bigger boost in the last half-decade than the Bears. And also like TCU, it's allowed Baylor to take advantage of a rich in-state recruiting base better than ever before. Baylor got two third-place votes and five fourth-place nods.
If Morgantown was located closer to the Big 12 fray, it would probably be the fourth-best job in the league. It has a much longer history of success and much better fan support historically than both Baylor and TCU. However, it's an extreme outpost even within a league full of outposts. The facilities also are in desperate need of upgrading, but the stadium is impossible to play in due in large part to great fans. This is an underrated job — if you can get there. 
Both Spike Dykes and Mike Leach proved that you can win consistently in Lubbock. But it takes a special breed to be successful out on the West Texas plains. Texas is loaded with athletes but it's tougher to get players to Lubbock than other Lone Star State Big 12 locales. The stadium and fan support continue to grow and have been solidly consistent over the last two decades. Yet, there's a reason Tech has won just two conference titles since 1955 — and one was a 6-6 campaign that featured a five-way tie.
The last of the "quality" jobs in the Big 12 can be very deceiving. Kansas State is an extremely difficult place to win but Bill Snyder has covered up a lot of warts. In-state recruiting is highly questionable unless you are targeting JUCOs. The campus isn't bad and the stadium isn't small but it hardly compares to the bigger venues in college football. The facilities are solid as well but not elite. No coach since Pappy Waldorf has posted a winning record at KSU — except Snyder. And many of those tenures were extremely ugly.
Of course Iowa State and Kansas tied for the worst job in the Big 12. Iowa State has better fan support and a better home atmosphere and comparable facilities. However, Lawrence is easier to recruit to and might be slightly easier to win at — both Glen Mason and Mark Mangino were competitive. The Cyclones got six 10th-place votes while the Jayhawks got nine. However, Kansas got a seventh- and eighth-place vote (the best for either school), which made up the difference and led to a dead heat in voting.
SEE: Iowa State.

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Ranking the Big 12's Football Coaching Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-football-coaching-jobs-2015-expert-poll

Is it easier to win at Florida State or Clemson? How about North Carolina or Miami?


Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?


These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.


So Athlon Sports asked some respected ACC minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 14 jobs were available?


The Voting Panel:


Wes Durham, FOX Sports/ACC Network

Mark Packer, SiriusXM College Sports Nation

Tony Barnhart, AJC/SEC Network

Chris Low,

Bob Ferrante,

Ralph Russo, AP

Bud Elliott,

Joe Lanza,

Paul Myerberg, USA Today

Mark Ennis, ESPN 680-Louisville

David Glenn, The David Glenn Show

David Hood,

Jerry DiPaola, Pitt Trib Review

Nate Mink,

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM

The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 14 points. The points are a great indicator of what tier your program is in within the conference.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.17 (15)
Ever since joining the ACC, Florida State has been the league's most dominant program. The Noles have a great recruiting base, rich history of elite success, a powerful national brand and one of the better gameday atmospheres in the league. The facilities are getting better and the only drawback is slight financial instability in the athletic department. There are very few cons in Tallahassee and it's why FSU got 15 of the possible 16 first-place votes.
The more you study Clemson the more you wonder how it went 20 years without a conference crown. Death Valley is the best place to play (or live) in the ACC and the support from both administration and fans is second-to-none in the league. It's also centrally located between the fertile recruiting grounds of Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. The Tigers got 14 of the possible 16 second-place votes.
Frank Beamer has slowly but surely elevated this program from regional afterthought to ACC powerhouse by way of the Big East. The facilities are great and Lane Stadium is a sight to behold on Saturdays. The campus is gorgeous but isolated and Virginia is stocked with talent but is over-recruited by both the ACC and SEC. The Hokies were ranked third, fourth or fifth by all but one voter. It's not an elite job but it's stable and safe.
4.70 (1)
Miami is an interesting case study in pros and cons. On the positive side, the Hurricanes offer as much upside as any program in the nation, winning national titles in three different decades and have the easiest access to elite prospects of any program in the nation. But fan and administrative support is inferior to any nationally elite programs and the home-field advantage is non-existent. This is why The U was the only other team to get a first-place vote — and was voted ninth twice.
One of the quicker risers in college football (due in large part to the accomplishments of Tom Jurich) checks in as a top-five ACC job after just one season. Facilities continue to surge upwards towards big-time college football but are not on an elite level quite yet. The same could be said about the recruiting base — it's solid, but Louisville must look outside the region to build a roster. There is a lot to like about the Cardinals' post but it still has some work to do to be a nationally revered gig.
Now that Clemson has reestablished itself as an ACC power, the mantle of underachiever falls to Chapel Hill. As far as location, recruiting base, stadium, facilities and brand power, UNC is on par with most conference foes. However, the fans can be fickle (and obsessed with the round ball) and there is little track record of high-level success. This is a program that should be winning 8-9 games every season with the many advantages it boasts. Yet, it hasn't won an ACC crown since 1980. This job has more to offer than, say, Louisville, but hasn't been able to prove it on the field.
There are certain obstacles one must clear to win at Tech. First, the city of Atlanta is a poor sports town and produces less talent than one might assume in a market dominated by its SEC brethren from Athens. Academic standards can also hinder success. But this program has consistently been competitive despite some more interesting hires. 
Boasting the most underrated gameday atmosphere in the ACC, NC State is one of the better second-tier programs in the league. The recruiting base is rich and the facilities are among the league's best. But this program seems mired in the middle of the league, last winning a title in 1979 and posting just six winning seasons in ACC play since 1990. The Wolfpack were voted as high as sixth (three times) and as low as 11th.
Since Florida State joined, no program has watched its stock slip more than Virginia. The once-proud program has a fertile recruiting base to cull, a gorgeous campus and stadium with passionate fans. But this program has struggled to deliver, as it's won just two ACC titles in its 57-year league history. The strict academic standards likely have kept this program from vaulting into regionally elite status.
The last of the quality jobs in the ACC, Pitt offers some unique points to this discussion. The Panthers play in a posh building in a football-crazy town but will always be second fiddle to the Black and Gold. The Keystone State was once extremely productive when it comes to football talent but has seen population trends shift South, West and East. It is the lone rust-belt program geographically, so while there are unique advantages there are also unique disadvantages as well. Moving up to the ACC is a big positive but the glory days of Dan Marino, Hugh Green and Tony Dorsett are long gone.
Don't let the job David Cutcliffe has done fool you, winning at Duke is nearly impossible. At best, it's the third-best job in the state in an area that is focused on hoops and has academic restraints. The fan support and overall interest just isn't there — from fans or boosters. How else could a team win a division title and only average 26,000 fans?
There are many hurdles to clear to win at BC. There isn't enough talent in the Northeast to keep BC competitive with the Florida State's of the world and luring players North from down South is easier said than done. Facilities and fan support aren't among the league's best either. However, there is something to be said about the consistency this program has experienced in the past — which is why three voters had the Eagles at ninth.
Just 15 years ago, this ranking would be absurd. This once-proud program was a national power with elite facilities, fan support and brand recognition. Yet, as population trends continue to move away from the Northeast and Cuse's once state-of-the-art stadium becomes more outdated, winning has gotten more difficult. And the fans aren't coming out like they used too. It's impossible to recruit to upstate New York and the move to the ACC hasn't opened up a Southern pipeline like anticipated. Finally, Syracuse administration clearly are more committed to basketball.
There just is nothing that sets Wake Forest apart from anyone else in the ACC. It's not the top program in the state — it's third at best. It's not the best academic school in the ACC. The facilities are solid but uninspiring. Fan support is extremely questionable on most Saturdays. Winston-Salem is a nice play to live, but otherwise there is little upside here. The Demon Deacons have posted three winning seasons in a row only once (2006-08) since the early 1950s and have won just one ACC title since 1970.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview

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Ranking the ACC's Football Coaching Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-ranking-secs-football-jobs-2015

Is it easier to win at Alabama or LSU? Georgia or Florida?


Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?


These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.


So Athlon Sports asked some respected SEC minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 14 jobs were available?


The Voting Panel:


Tim Brando, FOX Sports

Dari Nowkhah, SEC Network

Tony Barnhart, AJC/SEC Net

Greg McElroy, SiriusXM/SEC Net

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Chris Low, ESPN

Steven Godfrey, SB Nation

Wes Rucker, 247Sports

Dan Wolken, USA Today

Laura Rutledge, SEC Network

Chad Withrow, 104.5 The Zone-Nashville

Kayce Smith, ESPN/SEC Net

Seth Emerson, Macon Telegraph

Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report

Josh Ward, WNML-Knoxville

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 14 points.


RkJobVotes (First-place)Avg.
1.48 (6)3.0
It's hard to argue with the success, support, stability and upside of Alabama. The Tide boasts arguably the most rabid fanbase in the nation (which also might be the only negative), massive financial advantages and sits in the heart of fertile recruiting territory. There is a reason Bama has won 24 SEC titles. With six first-place votes, Bama was voted the best job in the SEC. 
2.52 (6)3.25
Located in the richest recruiting lands in the nation, Florida has more built-in advantages than almost every other program in college football. The facilities might need some work but this program has a rich history of success, one of the best home venues in the land and a fanbase that is as intense as any in the country. There are no excuses not to be good at Florida and it's why the Gators tied Bama with six first-place votes in our poll. 
3.53 (1)3.31
The Peach State is clearly the No. 4 state in the nation for producing talent while Florida, Virginia, Alabama and the Carolinas aren't long trips from campus. Sanford Stadium is an elite home building, the facilities are fantastic and the fans are crazy about their Dawgs. Living in one of the best college towns in the nation doesn't hurt either. Georgia was voted no lower than sixth by anyone. 
4.54 (1)3.38
There is very little difference between Georgia and LSU and the voting proved that out. LSU is located in a rich recruiting landscape with Texas next door and Tiger Stadium provides what many believe is the best home atmosphere in the nation (in big games). If food is your thing, there are few better places in the US to live than Baton Rouge. Like UGA, LSU was voted no lower than sixth by anyone and both tied for the lead with four second-place votes. 
5.76 (1)4.8
The recruiting base is second to none. The facilities and stadium are among the nation's best because the Aggies' athletic department is as powerful (and rich) as any program in college football. This program has largely underachieved for long stretches as it hasn't competed for national titles like the other programs high on this list but that could all be changing now that it's in the SEC. College Station isn't exactly a destination location either. 
Despite being No. 2 in the state, Auburn has proven it can win at an elite level over a long period of time. The town is sleepy and extremely small but the fans are rabid and the support is enviable. The facilities have been upgraded and are on par with most of the nation's best while Jordan-Hare is downright intimidating on Saturdays. 
The Vols have long battled an issue with in-state recruiting but that is beginning to improve slowly but surely. The facilities, stadium and fan support are as good as Florida's or Alabama's and the history of winning dates back for decades. Knoxville is a blossoming town just outside some of this country's most beautiful outdoor locations as well. You can win a national title at Tennessee. 
8.134 (1)8.4
South Carolina has little to no history of success but has shown it has the makings of a powerful program. The fan support has always been excellent despite traditionally bad football teams. The stadium is one of the best in the nation, the athletic department has proven it wants to provide the necessary support financially and the recruiting base is fertile. However, the complete lack of high-level winning keeps this job from being elite. The Gamecocks were the most polarizing program in this poll, getting one first-place vote, a third-place vote and five votes of 10th or worse. 
Maybe underrated nationally, Arkansas has all the pieces of an elite program. It's got fantastic fan support (albeit divided geographically, at times) and an extremely underrated home stadium. It's got a history of national success — before arriving in the SEC. It's the biggest sports brand in the state. Arkansas lacks elite-level, in-state talent, but dipping into Texas has long been a tradition for Hogs coaches. However, ranking fifth in the division makes winning on a national scale a major challenge. 
There are plenty of challenges to winning big at Ole Miss. The stadium, while solid, lacks the size and stature of the big dogs in the SEC. The state of Mississippi produces some elite-level recruits but still has a very small population base to pull from. Facilities have been upgraded of late but there is a reason Ole Miss hasn't been a real factor in the SEC since the 1960s. Hugh Freeze might be changing all of that, however. 
Mizzou is a tough place to win big, which makes the job Gary Pinkel has done even more amazing. There is some solid in-state talent but not as good as most in the SEC. The stadium and fans are solid but not as good as most in the SEC. The history of success and winning is solid but not nearly as good as most in the SEC. There is a lot to like about this job but there is nothing elite about it — although, Columbia is a very underrated place to be. 
It is the hardest job in the hardest division in football. Starkville isn't exactly a destination locale either. But the facilities have been upgraded and the stadium keeps getting bigger. The state produces its share of talent but is constantly being picked over by bigger programs (Bama, LSU, etc.). There is a reason no head coach has left Starkville with a winning SEC record since 1953. 
Obviously, it is hard to win at Kentucky but there is a lot to appreciate about this gig. First, the pressure to win is lower here than almost everywhere else in the league. Second, Commonwealth Stadium can be a great place to coach when things are going well. Lastly, it can recruit homegrown prospects and the state of Ohio better than any other SEC program. If you don't mind battling up hill in the East and playing second fiddle to whoever is the basketball coach, Lexington can be a solid place to coach. 
The only program of its kind in the SEC. Vanderbilt is the only academic-focused institution in the conference and it has the worst fan support because of it. There is no track record of success for a reason. That said, Vandy has proven it can pay coaches well and Nashville is one of the best cities in the country. And let's face it, the pressure to win isn't on par with any of the other SEC jobs. All but three of the 16 votes placed the Dores 14th. 


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Expert Poll: Ranking the SEC's Football Jobs in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-ranking-big-tens-football-jobs-2015

Is it easier to win at Ohio State or Michigan? Wisconsin or Nebraska?


Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?


These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.


So Athlon Sports asked some respected Big Ten minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 14 jobs were available?


The Voting Panel:


Gerry DiNardo, Big Ten Network

Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune

Adam Rittenberg, ESPN

Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network

Kevin McGuire, College Football Talk

Sean Callahan,

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network

Herb Gould, Chicago Sun-Times

Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network

Kevin Noon,

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first place vote was worth one point and a last place vote was worth 14 points.


1.11 (11)
Ohio State landed all 11 first place votes. Huge money, huge fan support and a huge track record of winning. There is only one B1G team that's played in the national title game since 1997.
Michigan got nine of the 11 second-place votes as clearly the No. 2 job in the Big Ten. The stadium has been updated and history has proven you can win big. The Wolverines are the only other B1G team to win a national title since the 60s.
Despite the recent scandal, Penn State still offers huge upside and a chance to win a national championship and arguably the best stadium/fan support in the league. A drop in talent in the state has hurt the program slightly, but with two second-place votes, PSU is clearly a top tier job in the league.
The second tier in the Big Ten is Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan State. The Badgers have some issues with admissions and facilities but those things are being addressed. A gorgeous campus, stadium and elite fan support has elevated this job into national prominence. However, coaches have left for a reason and the instate talent isn't overwhelming.
The Huskers stock has dropped nationally but Lincoln is still a great place to coach. Unbelievable facilities and fan support make winning here easier than most places. However, the pressure to win no longer matches the current difficulties this program faces in recruiting.
This program has elevated it's stock in the last ten years by proving it can sustain high-level success. Nothing about this program is elite but there are no weaknesses — other than being located in an area that is producing less talent than ever before.
The Terps tied with Iowa as the clear middle-tier jobs in the Big Ten. Maryland has a rich recruiting base and the support of an apparel company backing them up every step of the way. The stadium, fan support and history isn't as rich as Iowa's but is solid nevertheless.
The fan support is there. The stadium is electric. And there is some history of success in Iowa City. However, there isn't a lot of talent in-state or in the region and expansion has dropped Iowa a few spots down the B1G hierarchy.
The Fighing Illini have seen better days. There is rich pockets of success and the state has some talent, however, the support from fans and administration is lacking compared to the Big Ten big boys. There is a reason Illinois has two outright league titles since the early 1960s.
The Gophers have a brand new stadium and a beautiful downtown setting. However, it's hard to get recruits to The Twin Cities and the program won't ever be confused with the bigger, more powerful jobs in the B1G. It's a tough sell.
The recruiting base is solid and it's the top progam in one of the country's biggest cities. However, the academic school won't ever provide the Saturday atmosphere like a Penn State or Ohio State. It takes a special coach with special ties to stick it out longterm in Evanston.
Possibly the most underrated program on this list, many have believed for a long time that Rutgers has plenty of upward mobility. Greg Schiano proved that by building through the rich instate recruiting base. There is zero tradition and the athletic department has seen better days.
Few programs in the nation appear to have as few advantages as Purdue. The facilities aren't special, the talent base is lacking, West Fafayette isn't exactly a destination and there are only one real pocket of success (Joe Tiller).
The Hoosiers have started to invest more in football of late but this will always be a basketball-first program. There isn't a large pool of talent to cull and Indiana is the third-best football program in the state. There is a reason winning here is so hard.


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Expert Poll: Ranking the Big Ten's Football Jobs in 2015
Post date: Monday, April 13, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-rebels-2015-football-schedule-and-analysis

There is some serious excitement in Oxford entering 2015. And for good reason.


Hugh Freeze has built this Rebels roster to a point where it can compete against the best in the country. It’s in better shape than it’s been in decades.


There are still question marks at key positions but the schedule in the SEC West might be the biggest obstacle for Freeze and Ole Miss’ first-ever SEC Championship Game appearance.


Related: Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Early SEC 2015 Preview


2015 Ole Miss Schedule


Bye: Week 11


1.Sept. 5Oxford, MS
This will be a prototypical, season-opening warm-up. Ole Miss has never faced UT-Martin and the Skyhawks should present little opposition.
2.Sept. 12Oxford, MS
These two will meet on the field for the third time in their respective histories, and all of these matchups occurring since 2010. Ole Miss won both previous meetings. The teams combined for 159 points in two games.
3.Sept. 19Tuscaloosa, AL
Revenge Game Ole Miss heads to Tuscaloosa fully aware of the revenge the Tide will have on mind. Ole Miss has lost 12 straight in T-Town dating back to 1988 and had lost 10 straight overall until the 23-17 thriller in Oxford last fall. 
4.Sept. 26Oxford, MS
After losing three straight to the Dores from 2010-12, Ole Miss has won two in a row. This included a 41-3 drubbing last fall in Nashville. Strangely enough, Vanderbilt has won three straight in Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium.
5.Oct. 3Gainesville, FL
Prove-It Swing Game Crossover play is always huge in SEC play and heading into The Swamp on Oct. 3 is a huge prove-it moment for Ole Miss. The Rebels own a 12-10-1 all-time record against Florida and fans will never forget the win over Tim Tebow and company in Gainesville in 2008 — which also was the last meeting between the two programs. In fact, Ole Miss has won two straight at Florida and three of the last four overall
6.Oct. 10Oxford, MS
This marks the first-ever meeting between the Aggies of New Mexico State and Ole Miss. That's all. Nothing else to see here, move on.
7.Oct. 17Memphis, TN
Until a late push in the fourth quarter, Memphis went toe-to-toe with Ole Miss in Oxford last season. This is a quality AAC program that sits just 85 miles from Ole Miss' campus. These two have met 60 times with the Rebels holding a 48-10-2 edge.
8.Oct. 24Oxford, MS
Must-Win Situation Ole Miss was extremely impressive in College Station last year in the 35-20 win. It was the Rebels' first victory over the Aggies in seven all-time meetings. Texas A&M has won both SEC matchups in Oxford. This game starts a streak of five huge SEC West games.
9.Oct. 31Auburn, AL
Elimination Game One of the most painful losses in the history of the program a year ago could be one of the most important games in the nation this season. Auburn leads the series all-time 29-10, and has won nine of the last 11. The last win for Ole Miss on The Plains came in 2003. 
10.Nov. 7Oxford, MS
Houston Nutt Bowl This time the revenge factor plays in Ole Miss' favor after getting crushed by Arkansas a year ago. This has been an extremely even series over the years despite the 30-0 score from last fall. The Hogs lead the series 32-28-1 and the two have split the last six meetings in Oxford.
12.Nov. 21Oxford, MS
Rivalry Game The bye week comes at a huge time for Ole Miss, as the Rebels head into back-to-back rivalry games to end the year. The Rebels should have beaten LSU in Baton Rouge a year ago and will be looking for revenge this time around in Oxford. These two have split the last six meetings.
13.Nov. 28Starkville, MS
Egg Bowl Dan Mullen has been solid against Ole Miss but the Rebels have won two of the last three. The last four have gone the way of the home team so Ole Miss is looking to buck that trend in '15. The fate of the SEC West could be hanging in the balance in Dak Prescott's final regular season game.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview

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Ole Miss Rebels 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 10, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-2015-football-schedule-and-analysis

Georgia and Mark Richt will once again be the front-runner to win the SEC East.


He’s got an elite roster that fits his offensive style and a defense that finally appears poised to be one of the nation’s best.


However, part of why Georgia hasn’t won an SEC title since 2005 is because of how difficult the schedules are in the best league in America. For the Dawgs, with both Auburn and Alabama on the slate, 2015 won't be any different.


Related: 2015 Georgia Spring Football Preview


2015 Georgia Bulldogs Schedule


Bye: Week 8


1.Sept. 5Athens, GA
For the first time in a while, the Bulldogs will open with a traditionally easy opponent. Georgia has played ULM three times and all three were blowouts in Athens. The combined score? 156-16.
2.Sept. 12Nashville, TN
Georgia has won 18 of the last 20 meetings between these East Division foes, including a 44-17 blowout last fall. However, Richt will be looking for revenge after what took place in the UGA's last trip to Nashville — which ended painfully in a 31-27 loss to the Dores.
3.Sept. 19Athens, GA
Pure Entertainment From an entertainment factor, few SEC east rivals put on a show better than these two. With the exception of one-sided wins in 2012 and '03, this has been a close game every season since Richt took over. South Carolina has won four of the last five overall and is 2-2 in its last four trips to Athens.
4.Sept. 26Gainesville, FL
No, this isn't Georgia Southern, Southern Miss, Southern California or Southern Methodist. It's just Southern. The Jaguars have never faced Georgia and likely won't appreciate the final score.
5.Oct. 3Athens, GA
SEC Title Preview? For the first time since 2008, the Crimson Tide will visit Sanford Stadium. Richt is 3-2 against Alabama but Bama has won two straight in the series, including one of the most unforgettable SEC title games in recent memory (2012). This could be a preview of the SEC title game that could once again lead to a Playoff berth.
6.Oct. 10Knoxville, TN
East Rivalry As should be the case with a historic rivalry that dates back to the 1899, the Vols and Dawgs are tied all-time 21-21-2. This game has featured some serious dramatics, as both sides remember what happened at the end of the epic overtime thriller in Knoxville two years ago.
7.Oct. 17Athens, GA
What is quickly developing into a quality SEC East rivalry, Mizzou and Georgia have watched the road team win all three conference meetings. The Tigers won 41-26 en route to an SEC East title the last time they visited Athens, but Georgia repaid the favor in style 34-0 last season in Columbia.
9.Oct. 31Jacksonville, FL
Cocktail Party In what could be considered Will Muschamp's last stand, the Gators inexplicably dominated the Dawgs 38-20 last fall. These two rivals are 4-4 in their last eight, as UGA owns the all-time series record 49-41-2 — which, of course, is debated by both sides. This could be a de facto SEC East title game.
10.Nov. 7Athens, GA
Georgia has won 16 of the last 18 and has won five straight in the series. Kentucky is improving but hasn't been able to stop Georgia's offense in any capacity of late, allowing 42.8 points per contest during the five-game losing streak.
11.Nov. 14Auburn, AL
Deep South's Oldest Rivalry An epic and often entertaining rivalry that started way back in 1892 is tied at 55-55-8 all-time. Both teams are eyeing an SEC title and possible Playoff berth so this game should carry even more importance than usual — which is normally a lot.
12.Nov. 21Athens, GA
Georgia Southern isn't your average November cupcake. The Eagles proved they belonged in the FBS ranks by winning the Sun Belt in their first season last year, they run a brutal option offense to stop and feature a roster full of kids who likely grew up wanting to play for Georgia. This is trickier than fans imagine.
13.Nov. 28Atlanta, GA
Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate The only good thing about facing Georgia Southern's triple option is that it will help prepare the Dawgs for the Yellow Jackets. Tech snapped a five-game losing streak by topping Georgia 30-24 in Athens last year. Richt will be out for revenge in a game that could possibly hold Playoff implications for both teams. UGA leads the series 64-40-5.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview

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Georgia Bulldogs 2015 Football Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 10, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/conference-championship-game-doesnt-solve-big-12s-problem

It appears that a rule forcing a college football conference to have at least 12 teams and two divisions to hold a championship game will be nullified by 2016.


Fans across the Big 12 are ecstatic.


But the Big 12 didn’t get left out of the College Football Playoff because it didn’t play a conference championship game.


Baylor got left out because the Playoff Committee thought — rightly so, as it turns out — that Ohio State was the better team. (A horrendous non-conference schedule didn’t help the Bears’ case.)


Fans want to believe that all it would’ve taken to get Baylor into the Playoff was a Big 12 title game.


But what if Baylor had lost?


Then a Big 12 Championship Game would have actually hurt the Big 12.


There is some preconceived notion that adding a championship game would automatically help the Big 12. History shows us that this couldn’t be further from the truth.


Related: 2015 Big 12 Schedule Analysis


In fact, SEC commissioner Roy Kramer came under heavy scrutiny in 1992 when he implemented college football’s first conference title game in the SEC. Had Alabama’s Antonio Langham not intercepted a Shane Matthews pass and returned it 27 yards for a game-winning touchdown, Kramer would have been destroyed by fans and media for costing his conference and the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide a chance at the national championship.


Big 12 fans should know all about this heartbreak.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview

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In 1996, Nebraska was poised to play for a national championship after an unbeaten Big 12 season. But a historic fourth-down conversion from Texas in the Big 12’s first-ever title game dropped the Huskers from national championship contention.


Again in 1998, Kansas State was going to play in the first-ever BCS Championship Game after No. 2 UCLA lost to Miami. Yet, the unbeaten Wildcats lost in double overtime to Texas A&M, relegating Bill Snyder’s bunch to the Alamo Bowl.


Texas was headed to the 2001 national championship game because No. 2 Tennessee lost to LSU in the SEC title game. But the Horns couldn’t finish the deal, losing 39-37 to Colorado in the Big 12 title game. The Longhorns lost a shot at the national title because of the Big 12 title game.


And the most painful example, the 2007 Missouri Tigers. Gary Pinkel’s bunch entered the Big 12 title game ranked No. 1 in the nation with a clear path to the BCS title game. But the Sooners smoked the Tigers 38-17 and the Big 12 watched a two-loss LSU team win the BCS title.


It isn’t just the Big 12 that has been hurt either. Had Ohio State beat Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten title game, the undefeated Buckeyes would have played Florida State in the final BCS title game. But alas, Connor Cook happened.


Just like the Longhorns in 2001, the Tennessee Vols were a victim of the same crime that same year. As was Georgia in ‘12, Florida in ‘09 and Alabama in ’08 — all teams poised to play in the BCS title game had they not lost in a conference title game.


Does a championship game make boatloads of revenue? Does it create a fanatical season-finale atmosphere? Is it must-see TV? Can a title game give a team one extra huge win for its resume? Check, check, check and check.


Does a championship game give your favorite conference a better chance at making the College Football Playoff?


The answer is pretty clearly no... not every year.

Conference Championship Game Doesn't Solve Big 12's Problem
Post date: Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-tar-heels-2015-schedule-and-analysis

Larry Fedora is entering a critical season in Chapel Hill.


The Tar Heels are 13-11 in ACC play in three seasons with him at the helm and it’s a big reason why he made a big switch on defense. Gene Chizik is now running the unit in an effort to produce the same way the defense has under Fedora.


The bad news is the schedule isn’t easy and the defense needs fixing. The good news is nine of UNC’s 12 tilts will come inside the state and the Tar Heels have one of the more talented rosters in the ACC.


Related: Cover 2 College Football Podcast: 2015 ACC Preview


2015 North Carolina Schedule


Bye: Week 6; * - Thurs. 


1.Sept. 3*Charlotte, NC
SEC-ACC These two haven't played often since 1991 (twice) but there is plenty of history to keep this rivalry going. South Carolina has won both meetings since the Cocks joined the SEC but North Carolina holds a 34-18-4 advantage all-time.
2.Sept. 12Chapel Hill, NC
North Carolina A&T has never faced its big brother from Chapel Hill so energy levels should be running high for the Aggies in Week 2. Don't expect a close score, however.
3.Sept. 19Chapel Hill, NC
This marks just the third meeting ever between the Big Ten and ACC programs. The Heels won both previous get-togethers in 1971 and '87. Watch for Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt to test that reworked UNC defense.
4.Sept. 26Chapel Hill, NC
Joe Flacco isn't walking through that door anytime soon for Delaware. The quality FCS program would need a Flacco-esque performance to go into Chapel Hill to win.
5.Oct. 3Atlanta, GA
Elimination Game Tech won the division last year and might be the front-runner again this fall. But it's North Carolina that won the showdown last year (48-43), snapping a five-game losing streak to the Jackets. The winner takes control of the Coastal Division.
7.Oct. 17Chapel Hill, NC
This has been a back-and-forth affair in the ACC over the last decade. The Deacons pulled off the upset in 2012, winning 28-27 in Winston-Salem. In fact, Wake Forest has won three out of four and five out of eight against the fellow triangle program. Watch out for revenge from UNC this fall.
8.Oct. 24Chapel Hill, NC
One of the longest played series in the nation has gone the way of the Heels of late. North Carolina has won five straight (relatively easily) in a series that has featured 119 games. Virginia was closer last year (28-27) than it had been since its last win in 2009.
9.Oct. 31Pittsburgh, PA
The heart of the Tar Heels '15 schedule begins with a road trip to The Keystone State. This has been a wild series in the ACC befitting a Halloween date. The Heels have won both game by one score.
10.Nov. 7Chapel Hill, NC
Rivalry Game I Duke-Carolina is special no matter the sport. But with Duke's recent success on the football field, this gridiron battle has been elevated significantly. The Heels snapped a two-game losing streak to Duke with a convincing 45-20 win in Durham last season.
11.Nov. 14Chapel Hill, NC
Elimination Game II This game constantly seems to deliver since the duo landed in the same division. The series is 6-5 Miami in 11 ACC meetings with six games decided by one score. The Hurricanes crushed the Heels 47-20 a year ago and North Carolina will look for revenge at home this fall.
12.Nov. 21Blacksburg, VA
North Carolina has beaten Tech just twice in 11 tries since the Hokies joined the ACC — and one of those (2009) has been vacated. Frank Beamer has owned this series, including double-digit wins in each of the last two seasons.
13.Nov. 28Raleigh, NC
Rivalry Game II Dave Doeren made his presence felt last year by putting a whipping on rival North Carolina 35-7. Fedora had won his first two meetings in the rivalry. The Pack has won seven of the last nine meetings.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview

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North Carolina Tar Heels 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-2015-schedule-and-analysis

Florida State still might be the top dog in the ACC.


The Seminoles clearly boast the most talented roster in the conference and have a proven leader in head coach Jimbo Fisher. 


But this league is getting better around FSU and there are more concerns with the Noles’ depth chart than fans in Tallahassee have seen in years.


Needless to say, there are plenty of speed bumps this team will need to navigate if it wants to win a fourth consecutive ACC title.


Related: Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview


2015 Florida State Schedule


Bye: Week 4, * - Fri.


1.Sept. 5Tallahassee, FL
The season opener features a quickly improving program under Dennis Franchione in the Sun Belt that has never faced Florida State. The Bobcats aren't ready to compete with FSU but this is way more interesting than, say, Savannah State.
2.Sept. 12Tallahassee, FL
These two in-state rivals have met only twice in history, splitting meetings in 2009 and '12. The Bulls sparked their eight-win season with a 17-7 win in Tallahassee in '09 while Fisher cruised to an easy win in Tampa four years later. Willie Taggart has improved USF in two seasons but the Bulls will be a heavy underdog in Doak Campbell.
3.Sept. 18*Chestnut Hill, MA
Florida State has won five straight in the series but the last time these two teams met in Massachusetts, BC nearly pulled the upset over the eventual national champ. Steve Addazio has done well with the Eagles but this Friday night tilt could be one-sided as Boston College enters the year in rebuilding mode.
5.Oct. 3Winston-Salem, NC
Long gone are the days when Wake Forest won three in a row over the Noles. While the Deacons topped FSU in 2011, the Noles have pulverized little Wake Forest ever since. Florida State has won by a combined score of 154-6 in the last three meetings. Expect more of the same.
6.Oct. 10Tallahassee, FL
Rivalry Game I Florida State was won five straight in this series as well, but this rivalry has been much closer than Wake Forest. This was a four-point game last year and Miami has played well in Doak Campbell over the years. Since 2000, Miami is 4-3 in Tallahassee, including a close, four-point loss in 2011.
7.Oct. 17Tallahassee, FL
Florida State is 13-2 all-time against Louisville and this year the rebuilding birds must come to the panhandle. However, they've only played once since Louisville topped the Noles in 2002 — an epic 42-31 road win for FSU last year.
8.Oct. 24Atlanta, GA
ACC Title Preview? A potential rematch of last year's title game could also be a preview of this year's title match. The triple option is always tough to stop and Tech returns most of its offense. This is the first regular season meeting between the two since Tech won in 2008-09. Those are the only two wins for Georgia Tech in the series in 16 tries since 1975.
9.Oct. 31Tallahassee, FL
Syracuse beat FSU 37-21 in 1966. Florida State has won every meeting since (7-0), including a 97-23 combined score in two ACC games. The Orange are potentially the worst team in the Atlantic Division and the Noles could use a breather before heading to Clemson the next week.
10.Nov. 7Clemson, SC
Atlantic Division Championship Clemson has been the top team in the Atlantic Division not named Florida State for quite some time now. The Tigers were one fumble away from winning in Doak Campbell last year and get the Noles at home in '15. That said, the last time these two met in Death Valley, Florida State rolled to a 51-14 win. These two have split the last 12 meetings.
11.Nov. 14Tallahassee, FL
This rivalry has been sneaky good... in Raleigh. This year's bout comes in Tallahassee, however, where FSU has been excellent against NC State. The Noles have won four straight over the Pack at home by a combined score of 155-69. NC State is getting better but isn't ready to knock off the big dog on the road.
12.Nov. 21Tallahassee, FL
Talk about an SEC-style warm-up. Chattanooga is nothing more than a tune-up and breather between a tough final month and a trip to The Swamp.
13.Nov. 28Gainesville, FL
Rivalry Game II Fisher has won four of his five meetings with Florida — which snapped a six-game losing streak under the previous regime. Interestingly enough, this game has been much closer in Tallahassee. Fisher is 2-0 in Gainesville with wins by 24 points ('10) and 30 points ('13).


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview

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Florida State Seminoles 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/byu-cougars-2015-schedule-and-analysis

Bronco Mendenhall has never had a losing season at BYU.


He’s grown accustomed to winning, posting five seasons with at least 10 wins during his decade-long career in Provo.


But a move to independence has increased scheduling difficulty and has led to three straight 8-5 seasons.


The good news in 2015 is dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill appears poised to return to form. The bad is one of the toughest schedules Mendenhall has faced since BYU left the Mountain West four years ago.


2015 BYU Cougars Schedule


Bye: Week 9, * - Fri.


1.Sept. 5Lincoln, NE
Sneaky Good Opener Generally, Week 1 is the best weekend of non-conference action nationally and this one in Lincoln is sneaky good. BYU and Nebraska have never played, but the blues and reds will look great on the turf of Memorial Stadium.
2.Sept. 12Provo, UT
These two western powers have played five times total, but will play for the fourth straight season this fall. BYU is just 1-4 in the series but the Cougars' lone win came the last time they met in Provo, 37-20 in 2013.
3.Sept. 19Los Angeles, CA
The Bruins and Cougs have met 10 times total with UCLA winning seven of these matchups. However, BYU has won the past two meetings (2007-08), including a 59-0 drubbing the last time they met. The Cougars are 1-3 all-time in Pasadena against the Bruins.
4.Sept. 26Ann Arbor, MI
Remember When? BYU fans shouldn't have any trouble remembering the only meeting between the Cougars and Wolverines. BYU topped Michigan 24-17 in the 1984 Holiday Bowl en route to a 13-0 record and the program's only national championship.
5.Oct. 2*Provo, UT
The Cougars topped the Huskies 35-10 in last season's opener in Connecticut in the first-ever meeting between the two programs. UConn will attempt to exact revenge in Provo this time around.
6.Oct. 10Provo, UT
East Carolina is replacing a lot of talent but has been a solid program for years and will be a tough out. This marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs, which are separated by 2,235 miles.
7.Oct. 17Provo, UT
QB Showcase Much like ECU, Tommy Tuberville and the Bearcats are always a tough out and should be once again in 2015. This game in particular could be must-see TV because of the potential Taysom Hill/Gunner Kiel quarterback duel.
8.Oct. 24Provo, UT
What can you really say about a historic first-ever meeting between BYU and... Wagner?
10.Nov. 7San Jose, CA
A team BYU is pretty familiar with, Mendenhall has split two career meetings with San Jose State. These teams have squared off 16 times with BYU winning 10. However, the Spartans won the last time they met — which also was in San Jose.
11.Nov. 14Kansas City, MO

Not-so Neutral Field BYU will face Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City in a "neutral field" tilt. The crowd figures to favor the black and gold in what should be a great late-season meeting. The only other time these two teams have met on the field was in the 1983 Holiday Bowl, which BYU won 21-17.

11.Nov. 21Provo, UT
BYU and Fresno have played each other nine times, but the last meeting was back in 1998. This has been a high-scoring affair with the loser posting at least 21 points in five straight matchups.
13.Nov. 28Logan, UT
Rivalry Game The heated in-state rivalry game will cap Mendenhall's 11th season in Provo. He's 6-2 all-time against the Aggies, but saw his team fall 35-20 last year in Provo. BYU leads the series 46-35-3.
BYU Cougars 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-2015-schedule-and-analysis

James Franklin enters his second season in Happy Valley with his work cut out for him.


The quarterback position is settled and the defense should be in good shape under star coordinator Bob Shoop, but his offensive line and running game are still major question marks.


There is a lot to like about this team considering it claims one of the best rosters in the league, but it won just twice in Big Ten play last year and is facing another brutal East Division schedule.


Related: 2015 Penn State Spring Football Preview


2015 Penn State Nittany Lions Schedule


Bye: Week 11


1.Sept. 5Philadelphia, PA
The in-state rivalry has been played 43 times and the Owls haven't won since 1941. Penn State owns a 39-3-1 record all-time, but this Matt Rhule-coached Temple team is much better than Phily has seen in years.
2.Sept. 12State College, PA
These two met in 1900 (Buffalo won) and 2007 (Penn State won) but that's it. Look for Penn State to try to get the ground game going against a team that ranked 78th against the run a year ago.
3.Sept. 19State College, PA
The sneaky good Northeast and now Big Ten East rivalry has been played 25 times with PSU winning 23 of the meetings. This was an instant classic a year ago after a Christian Hackenberg rally. Rutgers last defeated the Lions in 1988.
4.Sept. 26State College, PA
The Aztecs will be a long way from home — try 2,541 miles — when they travel to State College for the first time in school history. In fact, this will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
5.Oct. 3State College, PA
One team runs the ball like crazy and the other one can't run it at all. This long-time East Coast matchup has been played 25 times dating back to the 1800s. Penn State is 13-10-2 all-time against the Knights but has won every meeting (9-0) since 1966.
6.Oct. 10State College, PA
Penn State has dominated this series since moving to the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions are 17-1 all-time again the Hoosiers, with the only loss coming two years ago in Bloomington.
7.Oct. 17Columbus, OH
Eastern Heavyweights The Buckeyes' toughest challenge en route to their national title last season was an overtime win over PSU in Happy Valley. Ohio State holds the series lead 17-13, has won three straight and five of the last six. However, Penn State is actually 2-2 in its last four trips to Columbus.
8.Oct. 24Baltimore, MD
Budding Rivalry Much like Rutgers, this rivalry should continue to blossom as James Franklin looks to recruit the DC/Maryland corridor. Until last year's 20-19 win, the Terps hadn't beaten Penn State since 1961. The Lions brag a 35-2-1 all-time mark against Maryland.
9.Oct. 31State College, PA
Revenge Game I A shocking late-season loss (16-14) in Champaign helped get Illinois to a bowl. Penn State can't afford to lose this game again in 2015. The Lions are 17-5 vs. the Illini all-time, including 8-1 at home.
10.Nov. 7Evanston, IL
Revenge Game II Losing at home to a team that failed to make a bowl game was no way to start Big Ten play a year ago for Franklin. Look for Penn State to exact revenge in Evanston this year — a place where the Lions have won three straight.
12.Nov. 21State College, PA
Should Penn State win this rivalry game and survive most of the Big Ten schedule, they could be in a good spot heading into the final weekend. Michigan is one of only a few B1G programs with an all-time winning record against Penn State (11-7). Penn State won 18-13 in Ann Arbor a year ago.
13.Nov. 28East Lansing, MI
Land Grant Trophy One of the most bizarre rivalry trophies in college football is on the line when these two meet in the regular-season finale. Additionally, grasp of the all-time series record also hangs in the balance, as the two have split 29 previous meetings (14-14-1).


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big Ten Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Penn State Nittany Lions 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/cover-2-college-football-podcast-2015-sec-early-preview


Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan go in-depth with an early 2015 SEC conference preview.


Does the balance of power in the SEC West still lie in the State of Alabama or has the State of Mississippi taken control? What do the guys make of the coaching changes and quarterback issues for LSU and Texas A&M? Or is Arkansas ready to challenge for the division?


How does a new coach and improving roster at Florida and Tennessee change they way the East is perceived? Is Georgia the clearcut frontrunner? And what about those pesky Mizzou Tigers — the two-time defending East champs?


Related: SEC East 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Related: SEC West 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings


The fellas touch on every team and how the predictions might shake out in the SEC in 2015.

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonSteven or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Cover 2 College Football Podcast: 2015 SEC Early Preview
Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 11:27
Path: /college-football/big-12-2015-football-schedule-analysis

The Big 12 isn’t the best conference in college football but it sure is one of the most entertaining.


Baylor-TCU might have been the best game of the year regardless of conference. Oklahoma-TCU wasn’t far behind. Both the Bedlam Series and the Red River Shootout were extremely heated. And any game played in Morgantown felt like it ended in thrilling fashion.


Because everyone plays everyone, the Big 12 is guaranteed another collection of instant classics in 2015.


Here is what you need to know about the Big 12’s football schedules this fall:


Biggest Games of the Year:


1. Baylor at TCU (Nov. 27)

High-powered, high-scoring throwdown decided the Big 12 championship last year. This tilt shouldn’t be any less important in 2015.


2. TCU at Oklahoma (Nov. 21)

The Sooners — more specifically Trevor Knight — will be looking for revenge after losing a thriller off a pick-six last fall. This one could decide the Big 12 title.


3. Oklahoma vs. Texas (Oct. 10, Dallas)

The Red River Shootout (I refuse) is always one of the biggest games of the year regardless of conference. Especially, with both teams likely picked in the upper half of the league.


4. Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (Nov. 28)

Who could forget how the Bedlam Series ended last year. With both programs eyes a run at a Big 12 title, this rivalry could carry serious weight in ’15.


5. Baylor at Oklahoma State (Nov. 21)

To win a title, the Bears may have to do something they haven’t done since 1939 — win in Stillwater. And on the season’s penultimate weekend, nonetheless.


Related: 2015 Big 12 Spring Preview and Power Rankings


Toughest Road Slate: West Virginia

Not only does West Virginia have to travel the farthest of any Big 12 program every year, it has to face the league’s best this fall. The Mountaineers draw TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Kansas on the road this fall. At least, Texas and Ok-State come to Morgantown.


Easiest Road Slate: Oklahoma State

The Pokes have a very manageable road slate in the Big 12 this fall with trips to Texas, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State. In fact, if Oklahoma State is picked fourth in the league (which is very possible), every road trip in the Big 12 will be played against a team picked behind them in the standings. Kansas State gets honorable mention with trips to Austin, Stillwater, Lubbock and Lawrence.


Five Big 12 Home Games: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Kansas


Five Big 12 Road Games: TCU, West Virginia, Iowa State


Texas and Oklahoma play on a neutral field every year in the Cotton Bowl. Texas Tech and Baylor have started playing their series in Arlington. Frankly, it’s a trend that needs to continue for all Big 12 teams because it solved the home-road split in a nine-game conference slate. The other six teams need to get on board.


Upset Alert: Baylor at Kansas State (Nov. 5, Thurs.)

The biggest four games of the year for Baylor come in the final four weeks. But before that (and after a bye), the Bears must go into Manhattan and win on a Thursday night. Beware of Bill Snyder Family Stadium.


Upset Alert II: TCU at Oklahoma State (Nov. 7)

TCU will be focused on Oklahoma and Baylor in the final two weeks of the year all season. The Frogs will have a few extra days to prepare but Ok-State could be playing its best ball by November and TCU should be unbeaten.


Season-Ticket Special: Oklahoma State

The Pokes have arguably the best home slate in the Big 12. It may not translate into wins but season ticketholders in Stillwater are going to get their money's worth. Rival Oklahoma, the top two teams in the league in Baylor and TCU and both programs from Kansas have to visit Boone Pickens Stadium. Kansas State also gets a juicy home slate with TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Iowa State coming to town.


Beware of the Committee: Baylor

With SMU, Lamar and Rice in the non-conference, Baylor could once again see its weak out-of-conference resume hurt it come playoff time. This was the issue with the Bears last season (and that game in Morgantown), so Art Briles needs to address this moving forward.


Top Non-Conference Games:


1.Sept. 5
2.Sept. 12
3.Sept. 3*
4.Sept. 19
5.Sept. 26
6.Sept. 19
7.Sept. 12
8.Sept. 19
9.Sept. 19
10.Sept. 12


2015 Big 12 Football Schedule Analysis
Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-2015-schedule-and-analysis

A new era of football begins in Lincoln this season as Mike Riley takes over at Nebraska.


The Huskers boast the best roster in the division and could be considered the front-runner in the West. Since joining the Big Ten, Nebraska hasn't gotten any favors from the schedule and that could once again be an issue in 2015.


If Riley's bunch makes it to the B1G title game, however, it will have earned it and could have an outside shot at a playoff spot.


Related: 2015 Nebraska Spring Football Preview


2015 Nebraska Cornhuskers Schedule


Bye: 12, * - Fri.


1.Sept. 5Lincoln, NE
Sneaky Good Opener Generally, Week 1 is the best weekend of non-conference action nationally and this one in Lincoln is sneaky good. BYU and Nebraska have never played, but the blues and reds will look great on the turf of Memorial Stadium.
2.Sept. 12Lincoln, NE
For the second straight week, the Huskers will face a team they've never played before. South Alabama is a tricky out after reaching a bowl game a season ago.
3.Sept. 19Miami, FL
Historic Rivalry Aside from Nebraska's 41-31 win last season in Lincoln, this matchup has carried with it national title implications. The five previous meetings came in a national title situation beginning with the infamous two-point try to cap the 1983 season. Nebraska leads the all-time series 6-5.
4.Sept. 26Lincoln, NE
These two have met only five times (all since 1999) and Big Red faithful will never forget what took place in 2004. Southern Miss' lone win in the series came in a 21-17 upset in Lincoln. The Huskers have crushed the Eagles in two meetings since (2012-13).
5.Oct. 3Champaign, IL
Nebraska hasn't lost to Illinois since 1924 and is 9-2-1 all-time in the series. As Big Ten foes, the Huskers outscored the Illini 84-33 in two blowout wins the last two seasons. This will be the first visit to Champaign since 1986.
6.Oct. 10Lincoln, NE
Big Red Clash A huge divisional showdown between what should be the top two teams in the West could decide one half of the B1G title game by early October. The Badgers have won four of the last five meetings, but are 0-3 all-time in Lincoln. Nebraska has allowed 129 points in the last two meetings.
7.Oct. 17Minneapolis, MN
Road Test Possibly the biggest road game of the year for Mike Riley's bunch. This old-school Midwest rivalry has been rekindled since NU joined the Big Ten and last year's heart-breaking loss at home was an instant classic. The Huskers won every meeting from 1963-2012 (16 games) but have now lost twice in a row to the Gophers.
8.Oct. 24Lincoln, NE
Weird things happen when these two get together. Nebraska leads the all-time series (6-2), but this budding rivalry has seen its share of bizarre occurrences. The Wildcats impressed in Lincoln in 2011, Taylor Martinez erases a 12-point fourth-quarter lead in Evanston a year later and, of course, the Hail Mary of '13. Buckle up, folks.
10.Oct. 31West Lafayette, IN
These two have met a total of three times, as Nebraska has crushed the Boilermakers twice since joining the Big Ten. Purdue has been outscored 79-21 in the past two matchups.
11.Nov. 7Lincoln, NE
Season-Defining Moment Nebraska could still win the West and the Big Ten title if it loses this game, but how it plays in this game will define the Huskers '15 campaign. The last three meetings have been exciting and close. The Cornhuskers won the first seven meetings in the series but have lost the last two get-togethers. 
11.Nov. 14Piscataway, NJ
Trap Game There will be a lot of red on the field in New Jersey when Nebraska plays its first-ever game in Piscataway. Rutgers fell 42-24 a year ago in Lincoln and appears to be trending in the wrong direction, but NU will be coming off a massive battle with MSU the previous week.
13.Nov. 27*Lincoln, NE
Rivalry Game Nebraska exacted some revenge on Iowa a year ago with a thrilling comeback in Iowa City. The Big Red is 29-13-3 all-time against Iowa and has won three of the four meetings since moving to the B1G. However, the only loss came in a 38-17 embarrassment in Lincoln two years ago.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big Ten Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Nebraska Cornhuskers 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Florida State Seminoles, Oregon Ducks, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-2015-why-pro-days-are-completely-useless

The only thing worse than the NFL Combine is a pro day.


It’s like the Combine but with home-field advantage. And no defense.


Jameis Winston’s 2015 pro day was rather uneventful and did very little to change his stock as the presumptive No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. That’s good because a pro day shouldn’t do much of anything to anyone’s stock.


Winston completed 92-of-102 passes against air and a few household cleaning items.


A week earlier, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota drew mixed reviews during his workout at the Ducks’ facility.




The short answer is nothing.


Related: 2015 AFC Team Needs


Winston is still a big-armed, NFL-ready pocket passer with above average athleticism, a track record for winning games and questionable off-the-field decision-making skills.


Mariota is still a quiet, unassuming, electric athlete with a strong arm but very little experience reading defenses and running a pro-style offense.


We pretty much knew all of this stuff because, get this, we watched them play college football.


The lesson here is that pro days actually mean less than the Combine. At least at the Combine, you have an equal measuring stick for every player from around the nation regardless of exercise or conference or position.


A pro day is a contrived group of drills using teammates and coaches that are extremely well-known in the comfort of a familiar facility against no opposition whatsoever.


Need more?


I give you JaMarcus Russell and Teddy Bridgewater.


According to NFL Network scouting guru Mike Mayock, Russell produced “the best pro day I’ve ever seen.” Throwing a football 70 yards through some goalposts on one knee is extremely impressive but I have yet to see it happen in a game. But his pro day workout cemented Russell atop the 2007 NFL Draft.


Mayock touted Bridgewater’s pro day as “average at best” with “a lot of flutters and a lot of inaccuracy.” It caused Bridgewater to drop to the last pick of the first round last spring.


Related: 2015 NFC Team Needs


Russell went 7-18 as an NFL starter in three seasons, throwing 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions while completing just 52.1 percent of his passes. That’s epically bad for a No. 1 overall draft pick.


In just 12 career starts, Bridgewater has nearly matched Russell’s career stats and has clearly proven he belongs under center in the NFL. He won six of his 12 starts as a rookie, throwing 14 touchdown passes and completing 64.4 percent of his passes.


Russell was a freakish athlete with a huge arm and tendency to turn the ball over. Bridgewater is a tough leader who helps his teams consistently win games.


But no one needed a pro day to see that. No, all you needed was a TV and some free time on Saturdays.

NFL Draft 2015: Why Pro Days Are Completely Useless
Post date: Thursday, April 2, 2015 - 12:09
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-2015-football-schedule-and-analysis

Expectations are soaring into the summer for the Tennessee Volunteers.


Butch Jones has had as big an influx of young talent in the last two years as any team in the nation. Which is why so many might be quick to prematurely mention his team as a possible contender in the SEC East.


Either way, Big Orange Nation will get its money's worth in 2015 with a schedule loaded with marquee games


Something Rocky Top hasn't been accustomed to in years.


Related: 2015 Tennessee Spring Football Preview


2015 Tennessee Volunteers Schedule


Bye: Week 7


1.Sept. 5Nashville, TN
The first-ever meeting with the Falcons should be a nice warm-up for the Sooners. That said, Bowling Green could test the Vols' defense after averaging 432.9 yards and 30.0 points per game last year.
2.Sept. 12Knoxville, TN
Marquee OOC Showdown The Sooners topped the Vols 34-10 in Norman last year in just the third meeting between the two blueblood programs. In Knoxville, an upset for Tennessee wouldn't be a shock and could catapult the Big Orange into a big 2015 campaign.
3.Sept. 19Knoxville, TN
This game gives Tennessee a well-timed, lower-tier opponent between two physical showdowns. This will be the first-ever matchup against Western Carolina, one that should have the Vols healthy and ready for a huge trip south to Florida.
4.Sept. 26Gainesville, FL
Elimination Game The once vaunted SEC rivalry appears to be on the way back into national relevance, as the winner could become the top challenger to Georgia in the East. The Gators have won 10 consecutive meetings and haven't lost at home to the Vols since 2003.
5.Oct. 3Knoxville, TN
A sneaky awesome early October matchup could feature two surging unbeaten programs. It will be the third physical matchup for Tennessee's defense in the first five weeks. The Vols are 13-4 all-time against the Hogs and haven't lost at home in the series since 1992. Arkansas won 49-7 in Fayetteville in 2011 in the last meeting.
6.Oct. 10Knoxville, TN
Divisional Showdown Georgia was lucky to escape Neyland Stadium the last time it visited and Butch Jones' group hasn't forgotten. The Dawgs have won five straight in the series but the all-time series is tied 21-21-2. The winner likely takes control of the East.
8.Oct. 24Tuscaloosa, AL
Third Saturday in October The historic SEC rivalry has been a series of streaks for decades. Alabama is currently on an eight-game winning streak over Tennessee, including five consecutive blowouts. Bama has won those five by an average of 28.4 points per game.
9.Oct. 31Lexington, KY
Tennessee has won 30 of the last 31 meetings with the Wildcats, but the last four in Lexington have been tight, including Kentucky's lone win since 1984. Mark Stoops' squad is getting better but couldn't hang with the Vols a year ago in a 50-16 loss.
10.Nov. 7Knoxville, TN
Butch Jones is 2-0 against Steve Spurrier, including a historic, comeback win in Columbia last season. Tennessee leads the all-time series 24-7-2 but the series has been very even for a decade, as the two have split the last 10 matchups.
11.Nov. 14Knoxville, TN
Cupcake Alert Like many SEC teams, the Vols host a cupcake in November. The Mean Green have faced the Vols once in history — a 21-14 Tennessee win in Knoxville in 1975.
12.Nov. 21Columbia, MO
A budding SEC East rivalry has gone the way of the Tigers every time these two have met. Mizzou has won all three meetings with the Vols by a total score of 111-72. The only meeting in Columbia was a 31-3 drubbing two years ago.
13.Nov. 28Knoxville, TN
The in-state rivalry has long been a one-sided affair for the Vols (74-29-5). But the Dores have been extremely competitive of late, winning in both 2012 and '13 and losing a close one to Big Orange (24-17) last year. Tennessee generally gets Vandy's best shot every year.
Tennessee Volunteers 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Thursday, April 2, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-2015-spring-football-preview

Bill Snyder is a mad scientist when it comes to building a roster and developing talent.


His challenge this offseason for Kansas State might be one of his biggest, however, as the Wildcats lose a glut of elite senior leaders.


Will Kansas State likely outperform their preseason expectations anyway? Probably. But that will require more wizardry from Snyder this spring.


Related: 2015 Big 12 Spring Primer and Power Rankings


5 Storylines to Watch in Kansas State’ Spring Practice:


1. Who replaces Jake Waters at quarterback?

Waters wasn’t an elite talent but he was a great leader and consistently willed his team to wins. He must be replaced this spring. Joe Hubener will have the first crack at earning the starting job as he brings a similar skill set to the table as Waters and previous starter Collin Klein. However, Jesse Ertz and early enrollee Alex Delton will be in the mix this spring.


2. Find pass catchers

Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton both topped 1,000 yards receiving last season, the first time a WR duo had done so in Kansas State history. Both are gone along with dependable tight end Zach Trujillo. Kody Clark has some upside and played well in a supporting role last fall. Deante Burton, Judah Jones, Stanton Weber and Andre Davis should all get plenty of looks on the outside. Someone needs to step up as KSU looks to find dependable pass catchers.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


3. Plug holes in the front seven

End Ryan Mueller and leading tackler Jonathan Truman are both gone along with tackle Valentino Coleman and linebacker Dakorey Johnson. Mueller will be the toughest one to replace, so finding a pass rusher is a top priority this spring. Jordan Willis needs to take the next step. There are plenty of linebackers on the depth chart prepared to step in and fill voids — Will Davis, Elijah Lee, Charmeachealle Moore — but setting the depth chart this spring is key. 


4. Find a consistent running game

All-American center B.J. Finney needs to be replaced up the middle on an offense that ranked just 104th nationally in rushing offense last year. Cody Whitehair and Boston Stiverson return to the left side of the line but this unit must improve on the ground. Leading rusher among running backs Charles Jones is still around, but there is no experienced depth behind him. Settling the O-line, finding some backs and getting a push up front needs to be a focus this offseason.


5. Junior college contributors

Snyder has made a living on providing instant depth with junior college transfers during his time in Manhattan. Kansas State didn’t enroll a single JUCO prospect this spring, but a large group that failed to contribute much last season could be ready to step into prominent roles. The aforementioned Davis, offensive lineman A.J. Allen, nose guard Terrell Clinskcales and cornerback Jesse Mack could be the top names to watch from a ’14 class that included nine JUCOs.


Pre-Spring Outlook on Kansas State:


Kansas State is always better than most expect. But this team has major holes to fill at key positions after losing historically great players. Quarterback and the defensive front seven are big areas of concern but there are options in the cupboard for Snyder. Should these two areas come into focus, the Wildcats could once again surprise in the Big 12.

Kansas State Wildcats 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, April 2, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-2015-spring-football-preview

For the second time in five seasons, Oregon came up 60 minutes short of a national championship.


This time the Ducks have to rebuild without arguably the greatest player in the history of their program. Five starters are back on defense and seven are back on offense, but the loss of Marcus Mariota obviously cannot be understated.


Mark Helfrich still might have the team to beat in the Pac-12 but will have to address some major issues with his roster this spring if he wants to win a second consecutive conference title.


5 Storylines to Watch in Oregon’s Spring Practice:


1. Keep the seat warm

Vernon Adams threw for 10,438 yards, rushed for 1,232 and accounted for 121 touchdowns in three years at Eastern Washington. He’s likely Oregon's next starting quarterback but won’t show up until June. That leaves Jeff Lockie, Morgan Mahalak and Taylor Alie to run the offense this spring. Having a backup plan ready before Adams arrives would be advised. Keep an eye on true freshman early enrollee Travis Jonsen as well.


2. Fill massive gaps along the line

Hroniss Grasu, Hamani Stevens and Jake Fisher all earned All-Pac-12 honors and all three must be replaced this spring. Tyler Johnstone returns to anchor the unit but the rest of this group is extremely inexperienced and unproven. Look for guys like Doug Brenner, Matt Pierson and Jake Pisarcik to step into bigger roles this offseason. This might be the biggest concern for Helfrich this spring.


3. Develop the secondary

Veterans Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Troy Hill are gone at cornerback while Erick Dargan departs at safety. And the backups stepping into bigger roles are very young. Reggie Daniels needs to be a leader while Tyree Robinson, Chris Seisay, Khalil Oliver and others will need to step up. Even true freshman early enrollee Ugo Amadi and former wide receiver Charles Nelson could see first-team reps this spring. 


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Pac-12 Preview

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4. Defensive line rotation

DeForest Buckner is back for Oregon and could be the best player on the entire roster. He likely won’t be a part of spring ball, as he recovers from an unknown leg injury, so Don Pellum needs to establish a defensive line rotation. This unit is stacked with depth but needs to replace Arik Armstead and Sam Kamp while accounting for Buckner’s absence. Alex Balducci and Tui Talia are excellent veterans, but the rest of the unit needs to be organized this spring.


5. Keep playmakers happy

Oregon has a lot of guys who will touch the football this fall and keeping them all happy will be important. Organizing the workload in the backfield is an enviable task with Royce Freeman, Thomas Tyner and hybrid Byron Marshall returning. Bralon Addison returns after missing all of last year with a knee injury and will fight for reps with a deep collection of young playmakers on the outside. There is only one football and the Ducks have 8-10 guys who could be stars with the ball in their hands.


Pre-Spring Outlook on Oregon:


The Ducks are loaded with young talent and are returning a core group of players who have won a ton of games. But critical positions — quarterback, offensive line and defensive back — are glaring concerns for Helfrich and staff that need to be addressed this spring. In a brutal conference with loads of quality programs, the Ducks might still be considered the front-runner, provided they can answer a few questions this spring.

Oregon Ducks 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-sec-wests-toughest-college-football-schedules-2015

Let’s get one thing clear right away. There is no such thing as an “easy” schedule in the SEC.


When putting together Athlon Sports' college football preview magazines 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.


Related: Ranking the SEC East's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2015


So who has the toughest schedule in the SEC West this fall?


* - neutral site


1. Arkansas

Non-Con: UTEP, Toledo, Texas Tech, UT Martin

West Home: Auburn, Mississippi St

West Road: Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Texas A&M*

Crossover: at Tennessee, Missouri


How about the toughest road schedule in the SEC: Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee and neutral field against Texas A&M in Arlington. Getting Auburn, Missouri and Mississippi State at home is nice but this SEC slate is brutal. The non-conference slate isn’t overly taxing but still features a Big 12 opponent (who can score points).


2. Alabama

Non-Con: Wisconsin, MTSU, ULM, Charleston So.

West Home: Ole Miss, Arkansas, LSU

West Road: Texas A&M, Mississippi St, Auburn

Crossover: at Georgia, Tennessee


Crossover play for Alabama might be the toughest of any team in the West, and Wisconsin could be the best non-conference game in the division as well. With both Auburn and Georgia on the road, battles against the top two challengers to the Tide’s SEC title will come away from home. However, road trips to Texas A&M and Mississippi State could feature the worst two teams in the division. Huge swing games (Ole Miss, Arkansas, LSU) will come at home.


3. Ole Miss

Non-Con: UT Martin, Fresno St, New Mexico St, at Memphis

West Home: Texas A&M, Arkansas, LSU

West Road: Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi St

Crossover: Vanderbilt, at Florida


The non-conference schedule has two tricky, but beatable foes with Memphis and Fresno State on the schedule. Crossover play against Vanderbilt and Florida is, at worst, a split. The road slate in the division is what might keep Ole Miss from winning the West, having to visit Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State. Fans also get two big revenge games with LSU and Arkansas at home this year.


Related: SEC West 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings


4. Texas A&M

Non-Con: Arizona St*, Ball St, Nevada, W. Carolina

West Home: Mississippi St, Alabama, Auburn

West Road: Ole Miss, LSU, Arkansas*

Crossover: South Carolina, at Vanderbilt


The Aggies-Sun Devils season opener is just awesome — but very difficult. Only having two true road games in the division helps. The best two teams in the league likely have to visit College Station (Alabama, Auburn) and crossover play with the Gamecocks and Commodores is the easiest of any team in the West. Texas A&M will leave the state of Texas just three times all year.


5. LSU

Non-Con: McNeese St, at Syracuse, E. Michigan, W. Kentucky

West Home: Auburn, Arkansas, Texas A&M

West Road: Mississippi State, Alabama, Ole Miss

Crossover: at South Carolina, Florida


The non-conference slate is very manageable and crossover play works in LSU’s favor as well this year with Florida visiting Death Valley. Three road games in the division to Starkville, Tuscaloosa and Oxford, however, keep LSU from having the easiest slate in the West. Add a marquee home schedule with two revenge games (Arkansas, Auburn) and cap it all off with Texas A&M.


6. Auburn

Non-Con: Louisville*, Jacksonville St, San Jose St, Idaho

West Home: Mississippi St, Ole Miss, Alabama

West Road: LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M

Crossover: at Kentucky, Georgia


Louisville is a salty start to the season but this year’s Cardinals team doesn't have the look of a vintage Bobby Petrino squad. All four SEC road trips will take place against teams that are all likely picked well behind the Tigers in the preseason standings. The three biggest games of the season (Ole Miss, Alabama, Georgia) all take place on The Plains.


7. Mississippi State

Non-Con: at So. Miss, Northwestern St, Troy, La. Tech

West Home: LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss

West Road: Auburn, Texas A&M, Arkansas

Crossover: Kentucky, at Missouri


The non-conference slate will once again offer up four should-be wins for Mississippi State. Crossover play could feature two bottom-half teams in the East. And three of the top four teams in the West will likely have to visit Starkville. There is no schedule that is easy in the West, but State gets the nod here for the purpose of this exercise.

Ranking the SEC West's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2015
Post date: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/cover-2-college-football-podcast-2015-big-ten-early-preview


Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan go in-depth with an early 2015 Big Ten conference preview.


The Big Ten enters a season as a defending champ for the first time since 2002 and only the third time since 1968. However, could a repeat be more likely than you think?


Who are the top challengers to the Buckeyes in the East? How does Michigan State move forward without former defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi? Can James Franklin address issues along the O-line at Penn State? And what sort of impact can Jim Harbaugh make in his first season at Michigan?


In the West, potential front-runners Wisconsin and Nebraska each welcome a new head coach. Who can make their mark quicker? Can Jerry Kill keep working miracles in the Twin Cities? Where is the breaking point for Iowa and Kirk Ferentz? 


The fellas touch on every team and how the predictions might shake out in the Big Ten in 2015.

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonSteven or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Cover 2 College Football Podcast: 2015 Big Ten Early Preview
Post date: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/mlb-expert-poll-who-best-clutch-hitter-baseball

Your favorite team is down by a run in the bottom of the ninth. There is a runner at second base. There are two outs. And it's game seven of the World Series?


Who do you want at the plate?


Athlon Sports has polled 10 experts from around Major League Baseball in an effort to figure out who is the best clutch hitter in the game.


Related: MLB Expert Poll: Who do you want on the mound in Game 7?


A first-place vote earns five points and a second-place vote earned four points — so on and so forth with a fifth-place vote earning one point. Below are the voters and results, including first-place votes and number of ballots.

Here is who our experts voted the best clutch hitter in the game today.


The Voters:


Tyler Kepner, NY Times

Andy Baggarly,

Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

John Tomase, WEEI

Juan Rodriguez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun Times

Bill Plunkett, Orange County Register

C. Trent Rosencrans, Cincinnati Enquirer

Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jack Magruder,


The Results:


 PitcherTeamPoints (1st)Ballots
1.Miguel Cabrera31 (4)8/10
2.Mike Trout28 (1)9/10
3.Andrew McCutchen18 (1)6/10
4.Giancarlo Stanton125/10
5.David Ortiz10 (2)2/10
6.Pablo Sandoval9 (1)2/10
7.Buster Posey62/10
8t.Robinson Cano52/10
8t.Paul Goldschmidt52/10
8t.Joey Votto52/10
8t.Troy Tulowitzki5 (1)1/10
12t.Victor Martinez41/10
12t.Adrian Beltre42/10
14.Jose Abreu32/10
15t.Matt Carpenter21/10
15t.Jose Altuve22/10
17.Aramis Ramirez11/10


The Analysis:


Miggy at the bat

Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers' slugger and career .320 hitter, was on eight of 10 ballots and is considered by our MLB experts as the best clutch hitter in the game today. The two-time MVP and 2012 AL Triple Crown winner topped the Angels’ Mike Trout — who was on more ballots (9-of-10) — by a slim margin. Cabrera, by the way, is only a career .278 postseason hitter despite his .364 mark last year. Trout has one career postseason hit in three career postseason games.


Lots of first-place votes

What is most interesting, however, is the amount of players who received a first-place vote. Among our 10 voters, six different players were voted as the best clutch hitter in the game. In fact, Troy Tulowitzki and David Ortiz ONLY got first-place votes while Andrew McCutchen and Pablo Sandoval — who is a career .344 postseason hitter — each also got a first-place nod.


BoSox should be good come October

The Red Sox are picked by many to win the AL East due in large to their lineup. Should they make it to October, this lineup should have no issues getting clutch hits. Boston and Detroit are the only two teams with two players receiving votes but the Sox boast the fifth- and sixth-best clutch hitters in the game in Sandoval and Ortiz. Add to this duo Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez and manager John Farrell has a lineup built for postseason success.


Guys I’d be happy with:

There are more than a few guys on this list I’d be just fine with having at the plate with the game on the line who weren't in the top five. Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Buster Posey, Robinson Cano are all names I’d feel excited to have in the batter’s box with Game 7 hanging in the balance.



Jose Altuve is the defending AL batting champion won’t ever be a slugger but is one of the best pure hitters in the game. He hit .341 last year, is a career .302 hitter and has the speed to beat out plenty of infield grounders in a bottom-of-the-ninth situation. He was just 15th on this list. Meanwhile, I love Giancarlo Stanton and rarely miss one of his at-bats. But he's a career .271 hitter and has never played in the postseason. If my squad is down by two and needs a home run, he's my guy. But he might be overrated at No. 4 on this clutch list.


Names not on the list:

A quick look at the active career batting average list shows that three of the top four active hitters didn’t get a single vote. No. 2 Joe Mauer (.319), No. 3 Ichiro (.317) and, most shockingly, No. 4 Albert Pujols (.317) didn’t get a single vote. Additionally, other active top-15 career hitters Matt Holliday (7), Ryan Braun (8), the aforementioned Ramirez (10) and Pedroia (11), and David Wright (15) didn’t get a vote either.


MLB Expert Poll: Who is the best clutch hitter in baseball?
Post date: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-2015-schedule-and-analysis

Ohio State is the defending national champions and has a schedule that should allow the Buckeyes to defend their title with relative ease.


Urban Meyer has one tough road game in conference, will play two of the worst teams from the Big Ten West Division and has one revenge game on the road in the non-conference. And Ohio State boasts what is by far the best roster in the Big Ten.


Otherwise, the 2015 schedule sets up nicely for the Buckeyes to get back to the College Football Playoff. 


Related: 2015 Ohio State Spring Football Preview


2015 Ohio State Buckeyes Schedule


Bye: Week 9, * - Mon.


1.Sept. 7*Blacksburg, VA
Revenge Game The Hokies shocked the world with a two-touchdown win over Ohio State in Columbus last year. What could be an ugly revenge match at Lane Stadium on Monday night will be just the second all-time meeting between the two programs.
2.Sept. 12Columbus, OH
The home opener in The Shoe will feature a wildly overmatched Warriors squad from The Islands. It will be the first time these two teams have ever played.
3.Sept. 19Columbus, OH
The second of three home non-conference tilts against Group of Five teams should be the "toughest." The Huskies are 0-1 all-time against OSU, but have proven to be one of the nation's best "mid-major" programs.
4.Sept. 26Columbus, OH
A final non-conference tune-up at home should provide plenty of chances for young players to get their feet wet before Big Ten play. This also will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
5.Oct. 3Bloomington, IN
The Buckeyes have won 20 consecutive games over Indiana and haven't lost to the Hoosiers in 22 tries. A 41-7 drubbing by Indiana in 1988 is the last time Ohio State lost to the Hoosiers. That said, this could be Kevin Wilson's best team in Bloomington.
6.Oct. 10Columbus, OH
Ohio State won 52-24 in College Park a year ago in the only meeting between the now divisional opponents. This rivalry may take some time to develop.
7.Oct. 17Columbus, OH
Larry Johnson Bowl II These two played an overtime classic in Happy Valley last year in Larry Johnson's first season away from Penn State since 1996. Johnson's Buckeyes have won three straight in the series but have only a slim 16-13 series edge in 29 all-time meetings.
8.Oct. 24Piscataway, NJ
Much like Maryland, Ohio State has faced its new division foe only once in history. That was a 56-17 drubbing in Columbus a year ago.
10.Nov. 7Columbus, OH
The Gophers played valiantly against OSU a year ago but that was in Minnesota in the snow. Expect a much more lopsided affair with the Buckeyes' toughest crossover opponent coming to Columbus this time around. Ohio State is 43-7 all-time against UM and has lost to the Gophers just once since 1981.
11.Nov. 14Champaign, IL
Look Ahead This isn't expected to be a vintage Illini squad, but there have been plenty of upsets and close calls in this series. Ohio State has won seven straight over Illinois and could be looking ahead to its two biggest games of the year. (But probably not.)
12.Nov. 21Columbus, OH
East Division Championship Game The best two teams in the league over the last half-decade will battle in Columbus on the season's penultimate weekend. These two rivals have alternated wins in five consecutive games, including a 10-7 Sparty win the last time they played in Columbus.
13.Nov. 28Ann Arbor, MI
Rivalry Game This season's meeting will have added juice with the addition of Jim Harbaugh. Michigan leads the all-time series 58-46-6, but Ohio State has dominated with wins in 10 of the last 11 meetings. It's always closer than the experts think and nothing would make Michigan fans happier than to knock an unbeaten OSU from the playoff picture on the final weekend.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big Ten Preview

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Ohio State Buckeyes 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - 10:30